Sunday, January 31, 2010

Super Easy Puppy-Warmer! (Or Human-Warmer!)

This week I am taking a break from the E.A.T World challenge to share a very easy craft project with you. First, let me introduce to you the formerly-cold puppy who inspired this project - meet Squirmy Wormy:

Squirmy Wormy (that is his witness protection name) is my mother in law's furry companion. When it's warm outside, he loves running around like a wild dog, attacking fallen leaves, and sniffing along squirrel trails to his nose's content...

But when the temperature gets low, the poor little wiggly monster needs a little help staying warm. Enter the Super-Easy-Puppy-Warmer:

Rice Filled Bed Warmer (Trying to sleep)

There are lots of tutorials for microwaveable rice heat-packs/bed-warmers. I used this one as a guide. It's beautiful but it was a little too advanced for me to follow too closely. This very simple tutorial also helped a lot. And this one is also extremely easy, and so pretty! Because of my limited sewing skills, I made this microwaveable bed-warmer pretty much the same way I made those cat body-pillows for the shelter a few weeks ago.

Let's start, shall we?

Step 1- Start with two square or rectangular pieces of fabric. Make them as big or as small as you want the bed-warmer to be:

Step 2- Place one piece of fabric on top of the other and stitch them together, sewing along three of the sides. Leave one side open:

Step 3- Now that you've made a little bag, flip it inside out:

Step 4- Pour uncooked, long-grain white rice into the bag. Mine is half full, but I've seen some that are filled almost to the top. I just didn't want it to be too full and stiff in case Squirmy Wormy wants to sleep on top of it:

Step 5- Sew along the bag opening to seal it up. You will have to make a hem, and if your skills are as limited as mine, you might find this "How to Make a Simple Hem" article very helpful.

You're done! That was easy! The stitches aren't pretty but they are reinforced and sturdy, and that's all that matters.

Squirmy Wormy is a compulsive bed scratcher, so I cut up an old pair of pants (my readers from the U.K just chuckled) and used the fabric to make a protective case for the bed-warmer. It's a thick material, so he can scratch all he wants and the fabric won't rip. And it's a boring gray color, so it's not flashy and toy-like.

Rice Filled Bed Warmer (Stop taking my picture and go away!)

I made the gray case the same way I made the green rice bag, up to step three. The case is a few inches bigger so the rice bag can slide in and out easily when it's time to heat it up in the microwave. Why didn't I just make the rice bag with the thick gray material instead of making a case? Because the gray material isn't 100% cotton and I wanted to be safe. (more below)

Rice Filled Bed Warmer (Zzzzzzzz)

I am not a professional crafter or a pet expert, so use your own common sense and judgement, and do your own research if you decide to make a bed warmer for your pets... or for yourself!

General precautions and ideas that I gathered from the interwebs:

* The fabric that you use should be 100% cotton or another non-synthetic fabric that isn't a fire hazard when microwaved.

* I've read that it's best to put a mug of water in the microwave along with the bed warmer to keep the rice from drying out. This is what I do, just in case.

* Always carefully test the temperature on yourself to avoid burning your pup or kitty. Squirmy Wormy's bed-warmer takes 90 seconds to reach the right temperature. You will have to experiment with yours until you figure out how long you need to heat it up. Start with one minute and if it's not quite warm enough try microwaving it in 30 second increments until it's just right.

* If the bed warmer gets wet for any reason, cut the pouch open, throw away the rice, dry the empty pouch completely and refill it with new rice.

* Some people use feed corn (not popping corn!) or dry cherry pits instead of white rice as fillers.

* Keep an eye on your dog or cat when they're using their bed-warmer. The first time Squirmy Wormy saw his bed-warmer, he attacked it and scratched it and tried to use it as a chew toy for a few minutes, then he got over it.

Is that it? Did I remember to say everything I wanted to say? Probably not. I will update this post if I remember anything else. In the meantime, check out this human-warmer that I also made. Meow!

Bed Warmer (for humans!)

More E.A.T World coming up next week! Who wants to join me on a trip to Denmark? :)

Monday, January 25, 2010

E.A.T World: Cuban Arroz con Pollo and Flan de Coco!

One of my favorite TV shows of all time is I Love Lucy, and I do love Lucy! Arroz con Pollo (rice with chicken) was Desi Arnaz and his character Ricki Ricardo's favorite dish.

There is an episode where Ricky and Fred engaged in some extreme Arroz con Pollo buffoonery when they switched jobs with Lucy and Ethel (that famous candy factory episode). The boys are in charge of making dinner and it doesn't go very well. Fred makes a seven-layer cake that is as flat as a pancake, and Ricky's Arroz con Pollo is an epic fail. There is even a situation with a rice-volcano! You can catch a clip on YouTube, but I must warn you that there are two very realistic looking plucked-chicken props involved.

I did lots of research and found that there are many different versions of Arroz con Pollo. It looks like as long as you start off with a good sofrito, which is the base of this dish, you are probably going to end up with a great Arroz con Pollo. Some recipes call for sage, some call for cumin, and some call for beer, and of course all recipes call for chicken. None of those ingredients appealed to me, so I had to wing it using a few different recipes. This one, this one, and this one were the three main recipes that guided me through my Cuban adventure.

To make my sofrito, I sautéed chopped onion, green and red bell peppers, and fresh tomato in a little olive oil, then added my herbs and spices which were saffron, paprika, oregano, salt, and black pepper. I also sprinkled some nutritional yeast over the sofrito to help the saffron make the rice yellow. Garlic gives me heartburn so I had to leave that out. I loved this dish so much that I made four meatless versions of it. First up, Arroz con Pollo... sin Pollo. Arroz con Mushrooms... er... Arroz con Hongos!

E.A.T World: Cuba - Arroz Con Mushrooms

The mushrooms were marinated in some not-chicken broth with some oregano, paprika, garlic powder, and tamari, and then pan fried in a little olive oil. Next comes my tofu splurge of the week - Quinoa con Tofu:

E.A.T World: Cuba - Quinoa Con Tofu

Delicious, and it was probably my favorite adaptation. Version #3 is Millet con Gardein Chick'n Scallopini:

E.A.T World: Cuba - Millet con Gardein Chick'n

And last but not least comes the Couscous con Gardein Chick'n:

E.A.T World: Cuba - Couscous con Gardein Chick'n

The smell of the sofrito while it's cooking is indescribable! I wish you could smell this picture of the Quinoa con Tofu cooking in the sofrito and not-chicken broth...

E.A.T World: Cuba - Sofrito and Quinoa

That's plenty of savory goods-let's bring on the sweets! For dessert I made a Flan de Coco, or coconut flan. Here is the cheater version:

E.A.T World: Cuba - Goya Flan

E.A.T World: Cuba - Goya Flan

Almost flawless, isn't it? Yea, but that's because I didn't really make it. I bought a box of Goya Flan, added coconut milk to the mix and stuck it in the fridge until it was done. Voila! Flan.

E.A.T World: Cuba - Goya Flan

Ingredients from the box: Sugar, dextrose, calcium carragheen, salt, vanillin (an artificial flavor) and artificial color including FD & C yellow #5. Contains no eggs.

This flan wasn't bad, but Mr. Wing-It wasn't crazy about its odd texture. He didn't quite call it "goo", like Joey Tribbiani did on FRIENDS though.

After the non-challenge that was the Goya flan, I wanted to make my own from scratch. Off to the interwebs I went. There are lots of flan recipes out there, most of them for traditional egg based flan, and a few for silken tofu based flan. This is the recipe that I chose, but I really didn't want to use tofu because the silken variety isn't my favorite and I wanted it to be soy-free anyway. So, I was in the shower (this is where most of my lucid thoughts emerge from the brain jumble) trying to think of something to use instead of silken tofu, and some time between lather, rinse and repeat it hit me: Ricki! No, I did not want to put Ricki in my flan! I remembered that there is an outstanding custard recipe on her cookbook (Sweet Freedom) that calls for cooked millet. Eureka! That should work!

E.A.T World: Cuba - Millet Coconut Flan

It worked indeed! Definitely not flawless like Mr. Goya's flan was, but it was my very first, made-from-scratch, egg-free, dairy-free, and soy-free flan! The flan recipe from VegCooking worked perfectly swapping blended soft-cooked millet for tofu. I used coconut milk instead of soy milk and also added a pinch of turmeric for color.

E.A.T World: Cuba - Millet Coconut Flan

The millet based Flan De Coco had more texture than the Goya mix. It was a cross between flan and pudding, which caused Mr. Wing-It to very wittily name it "fludding". While Mr. Wing-It isn't exactly a fan of flan (there's a tongue-twister!), he preferred the millet version over the flawless Goya. Me? I loved the millet flan! With a little bit of cornstarch instead of agar flakes, I bet it would make a delicious warm millet pudding as well.

Today's delicious E.A.T World entry is brought to you by Krys! Check out this awesome Indian meal that she made for her vegan dinner co-op. Krys also visited Tunisia on the same blog post! She is so well traveled! :)

Krys' curry tofu, with tamarind lentils and samosa stuffed potatoes.
Need a napkin to wipe off the drool?

Visit Krys' blog Two Vegan Boys to find out more about her rockin' dinner co-op and to *awww* over her two little cutie patooties.

Next week I am taking a break from E.A.T World to share some puppy craftiness with you. I think. It all depends on the state of my fickleness. Adios!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

E.A.T World: Coxinhas and Brigadeiros in Brazil!

Greetings from Brazil! Yea, I know I'm just sitting here at home in my pajamas, but please humor me! :)

It's very nice here! The beaches are beautiful, though I wish everyone would stop staring at me as if I were some sort of alien. It's like they have never seen a person wearing onesie culottes and a bathing cap before.

Anyway, we just cannot go to Brazil and not listen to some cool Bossa Nova. If you would like to play some ambiance music and sway from side to side on your chair while you listen to The Girl from Ipanema, just hit play on the little gadget below. Sway. Sigh. Repeat.

(Sorry, the music widget doesn't seem to work anymore)

On to the food! After much research I decided to make some Coxinhas, which are Mock Chicken Drumsticks. Not mock chicken, but mock drumsticks. From Wikipedia: Coxinhas are "made from shredded chicken and spices (occasionally including Catupiry-style cheese), enclosed in wheat flour—variants made from potato or manioc are also common--batter, and deep fried. It is shaped to roughly resemble a chicken drumstick, and sometimes a toothpick is inserted where the bone would be."

E.A.T World: Brazil - Coxinhas

Wrapped in dough? Breaded? Fried? I'm in! Chicken? Mmmnothanks. I thought about making a mushroom filling, but after lots of self-debating I decided to go with a tofu filling. Mock, mock chicken drumsticks!

E.A.T World: Brazil - Coxinhas

The recipes that I used for inspiration are this one and this one. The step by step photos were very helpful, and even though both recipes are for traditional chicken coxinhas, they were very easy to adapt and use little tofu cubes instead.

The verdict? Meh. Coxinhas definitely have potential, but the dough was not enjoyable for me. Next time I will just make a pot pie dough/crust instead. The filling was very tasty, and you can't go wrong with a breadcrumb coating, but the dough was too... doughy.

The coxinhas were a mild disappointment, but the chocolates sure were heavenly!

E.A.T World: Brazil - Brigadeiros

Who wants some Brigadeiros? I cannot begin to tell you how deliciously addictive these are. They are soft and creamy and smooth and sweet and chocolaty and... *sigh*. They are little chocolate balls made with sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder, and butter. This was a big challenge because I had to make my own dairy-free condensed milk. Recipe here. I tried to make these a total of four times! Though I only made half a recipe each time. Hmmm. That still sounds pretty crazy.

The first time that I tried to make them they were a complete failure! The condensed milk didn't cook long enough, which caused the chocolate mixture to remain gooey and soft even after a whole day in the fridge. Not to worry, no food goes to waste here and after a wave of my magic wand they became a tiny batch of brownies.

The second time? Complete failure #2! I overcooked the condensed milk and the chocolate mixture became hard as a rock only after a few minutes in the fridge. Grrr!!! Not to worry, no food goes to waste here and after a wave of my magic wand they became a tiny batch of brownies. (Déjà vu!)

The third time? They were delicious... and perfect! But I had cheated and used a cacao baking bar instead of the cocoa powder. Don't judge, I was scared and beat down by the mighty condensed milk from hell. (this was my favorite batch by the way)

The fourth time? I followed the recipe very faithfully (using non-dairy ingredients), I used cocoa powder this time and they were a complete success. Fourth time is a charm!

The only thing that I didn't do was roll the brigadeiros in chocolate sprinkles, because I am not a fan of sprinkles. Whoa. Millions of children all over the world just *gasped* and they have no idea why. I rolled them in coconut flakes and drizzled some melted chocolate chips all over them.

E.A.T World: Brazil - Brigadeiros

I also dipped some in melted chocolate, no coconut...

So perfect for Valentine's Day! Ooey gooey inside...

E.A.T World: Brazil - Gooey Brigadeiro

My stay in Brazil was very productive and I leave this country as an expert brigadeiro maker. Even though the coxinhas weren't the most delicious thing I've ever eaten, they inspired me to play with the concept and try a different dough and different fillings.

Has the E.A.T World bug bit you yet? Check out Mike's first entry of awesomeness! If you are already acquainted with Mike's blog, Vegan for the People, then you already know that he is no stranger to delicious international cuisine. For E.A.T World, Mike started off in Vietnam with a very informative post about Pho that is full of mouth-watering pictures like this one:


OK, I have to get out of this beach before people start pointing and laughing. See you next time from my next destination! Here's a hint: Ricky Ricardo!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Introducing E.A.T World: Melange and Golatschen in Austria

Note: I moved the E.A.T World guidelines and banners to this post that also has a list of participants! 

After much consideration, I decided to start the E.A.T World challenge at the beginning of the alphabet and visit Austria. More specifically, Vienna. More specifically, a little sidewalk cafe. Any sidewalk cafe, as long as they serve Golatschen!

E.A.T World: Austria - Melange and Golatschen (Danish Pastries)

According to that trusty Wikipedia, the Golatschen AKA Danish pastry is "...said to originate from Vienna and is called wienerbrød..."Viennese bread" Denmark as well as Iceland, Norway and Sweden. In Vienna, however, the pastry is known as Golatschen..."

Is that confusing or what?!

I had never made Golatschen/Danish pastries before, so I needed to find a good recipe that didn't involve too much work in case I screwed it all up. I used this recipe from The Village Vegan for the dough, which was easy and idiot proof. The pastries were flaky and buttery, and they were nothing like a "sweet bread dough", which is what I was afraid I would end up with due to my pastry making inexperience. I also learned all about how to make the different shapes from Joe Pastry. Instead of using cream cheese for the classic cheese danish, I made a concoction of almond paste and oat-milk crème pâtissière. This is exactly what I meant when I said feel free to cook outside the lines for this challenge.

E.A.T World: Austria - Cream Golatschen (Danish Pastries)

E.A.T World: Austria - Bear Claw Golatschen (Danish Pastries)

My virtual visit to Austria was very enjoyable, and my taste buds were very pleased with the pastries and the coffee. The coffee that I chose was a Melange, which consists of coffee with milk and foam, and it's traditionally served with a little glass of water. I made my Melange with oat milk. How did I get it so foamy? With my new super-duper Aerolatte! This is my favorite way to drink coffee from now on. If it ain't foamy it ain't fo' me! Haha *snort* haha *snort* haha *snort*. Sorry.

E.A.T World: Austria - Melange Coffee With Aerolatte Foam

I intend to thoroughly take advantage of E.A.T World and learn how to cook something new for each entry. Instead of creating my own recipes, I will have to leave it all up to the all-knowing interwebs and my slow-growing cookbook collection. My latest addition to my mini-library is "La Dolce Vegan" that I was very lucky to win at a giveaway over at Kate's blog, The Reclusive Housewife! Thank you, Kate! Lucky? Me? It's so unusual!

Well, that's it for me. I'm signing off from my little sidewalk cafe in Vienna. I hope to see you somewhere around the world soon! *Jumps on an imaginary plane to Brazil*