Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Welcome to our home makeover: Outdoor Projects: Our Compost Bin & Our Fairy Garden

Project 1: Compost Bin

Ava and I love to garden and I wanted rich soil. My neighbor built us this compost bin. I have to be honest composting is still new to me. I am learning as I go but wanted to share the bin with you and some composting tips. I toss in my yard clippings (it is full right now!) and kitchen leftovers all veggies and fruit. The gaps between the wood slats let air circulate around the pile to keep odors at bay and ensure that wastes are breaking down; the front has a doors which makes it easy to turn the pile and remove compost when it’s ready to spread. 

There are many options for composting bins and you can even purchase one ready made for you if you do not want to build it yourself. 

This Old House has great instructions on a Compost Bin DIY or search the web for easier or cheaper options.

Tips for successful composting:
  1. Gather grass clippings and green yard waste but be sure to mix with the "brown" materials like leaves and shredded paper to add carbon. You will need both, but if you only add grass clippings your pile will compact and start to stink.
  2. Moisten dry materials as they are added.
  3. Do not compost meats or pet waste. Stick with food scraps and yard waste only.
  4. Avoid all pesticides and/or herbicide treated material.
  5. Turn your pile as much as you can. Each time you turn it will speed up the process.
  6. Add compost to your garden a few weeks before you plant. Let the compost have a chance to work into the soil. Try to mix it in and let it sit before you plant.
  7. Bugs, worms and most bugs are ok in your compost.
  8. Optional is to cover the top of compost with a tarp to keep it moist. When the material at the bottom is dark and rich in color, your compost is ready to use. This usually takes anywhere between two months to two years.
I have not used my compost yet but plan to come spring. Happy Composting! 

Project 2: Fairy Garden

Welcome to our humble Fairy Garden project. 
This project was inspired by a fairy garden door we saw on a hiking trip. 
In the middle of the forest we saw a tree with a little fairy door. 
Ava wanted to have her own fairy garden one day so for her 5th birthday we started one in our backyard.

It is very small and humble and we like it that way for now. 
We planted a few ferns and added some positive message stones. 
We will continue to add to our garden each season.

Our garden gnome traveled with us from our aunt's house in Brooklyn. 
He guards over the fairies. 

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Oh She Glows...Yummy Breakfast Ideas

On my quest for finding healthy and delicious breakfast recipes for my family I discovered Oh She Glows. Angela the creator of Oh She Glows is my new idol! All I have to say is amazing! Go see for yourself.

I had the delicious Pumpkin Gingerbread Smoothie this morning. It was amazing! Fall in a cup! I am trying the Chocolate Zucchini Muffins tomorrow hoping Ava Rose will not notice that I sneaked in veggies in these decadent muffins. The vegan Banana Foster Baked Oatmeal looks incredible. I plan on trying that one next weekend as well as the Vanilla Buckwheat Pancakes.

I found an incredible source that I needed to share with you. I hope you enjoy this site as much as I do.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Halloween Delightful Decor, Kids Tips, Spooky Treats and Do you Dare DIY

First you slice ‘em up. Feel free to rub a bit of lemon juice on them if they will be sitting out. Spreading nut butter on the middle to cover up the apple flesh – it hides a bit of browning

You can also core the apple and then slice in into quarters, but I found this method above made for better looking bites. Plus, you get to eat the leftover middle piece, which you will certainly want to take advantage of.

Now, spread on some jam or nut butter for the tongue and then push some slivered almonds in for the teeth. For a nut-free option, sunflower or pumpkin seeds can work in a pinch. Likewise, you could also use sunflower seed butter instead of peanut butter.

Apple Bites make for a festive, healthy, and seasonal addition to any Halloween table. 


Halloweegan Kicks Off With Leggy Whoopie Spiders!

(Gluten-Free and Soy-Free)

For the whipped ganache:

1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
7 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (it's about one heaping cup)

1. Bring the coconut milk and maple syrup to a boil and immediately remove from heat.

2. Add the vanilla and the chocolate chips and whisk as if your life depended on it! The chocolate should melt completely and it should become lovely and smooth, but if it's not happening you can warm it up for a few seconds while stirring or whisking constantly. 

Watch it carefully, you don't want burnt chocolate.

3. Refrigerate for a couple of hours or until it's completely cold. We will whip it later...

For the cookies:

1/2 heaping cup rolled oats
1/4 heaping cup dried unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup ground turbinado sugar or white sugar
2 tbsp tapioca starch
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup full fat coconut milk (at room temperature)
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter or other smooth nut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. Grind the oats and the coconut in a blender or food processor. I use my Magic Bullet with the short blade base. Sift them into a medium size mixing bowl. There will be a couple of tablespoons of gritty bits left in the sifter that you will discard, which is why you will need heapingness when you measure the oats and the coconut.

3. Add the sugar, tapioca, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, coconut milk, peanut butter, vanilla, and almond extract. Beat with an electric mixer for about 30 to 45 seconds.

4. Use a medium size (1.5 tbsp) cookie Scoop to drop one cookie onto the baking sheet and watch it for a few seconds. The soft batter should barely flatten itself on top, but it shouldn't spread more than a couple of millimeters. If it spreads too much. add a little more ground coconut. If the top doesn't flatten at all add a little more coconut milk. Don't worry about over mixing these, it's OK! When you're happy with your batter, scoop the rest of it onto the baking sheet leaving a couple of inches in between cookies.

5. Bake for 12 minutes. Gingerly remove the cookies from the oven without banging the baking sheet against the oven walls or rack or they might *de-poof*. Let them sit on the sheet for five minutes. Use a thin metal spatula to transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and let them come to room temperature.

To assemble the cookies:

1. When the ganache is cold and the cookies are at room temperature, use an electric mixer to whip the ganache. Beat on high for about a minute or until it looks soft and fluffy and the color changes from dark brown to a lighter brown. If it's too hard and it's refusing to whip, add a tablespoon of coconut milk. It shouldn't be too soft though, or it won't stay put between the cookies.

2. Test the ganache on a cookie: grab a cookie bottom-side-up, scoop a generous amount of whipped ganache on top, and top it with another cookie bottom-side-down. Gently press down the top cookie just a little to help the ganache spread toward the sides. If it spreads out too much and it runs down the sides of the bottom cookie, add 1 tablespoon of sifted powdered sugar plus 1/2 tablespoon of sifted unsweetened cocoa powder to the rest of the ganache and keep beating until well combined. Keep adding sugar and cocoa powder until it's firm enough. That's it! Finish the rest of the cookies and move on to the fun part - leg making!

To make the legs:

1. Set up your leg making station. Print out the leg pattern and tape it to a chopping board. Tape a piece of wax paper on top of the pattern, just big enough to cover it.

2. Melt about 1/3 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chippers in the microwave in a dry glass bowl. It took my microwave 90 seconds on medium power, stirring every 30 seconds, to melt the chips completely. Transfer the melted chips to a small ziploc bag and cut the tip off one of the bottom corners. Just a small cut, no more than three millimeters.

3. Ready? Fun! Squeeze the melted chocolate out of the little opening and onto the wax paper, drawing the legs as you squeeze. I knew this would be hard for me to explain, so I made a video of my hands making the spidery legs. Instead of dragging the chocolate against the wax paper, squeeze it out from about a half an inch above the paper and let the stringy chocolate fall on it as you draw the legs.

4. Take the whole chopping board to the freezer and let the chocolate harden for about five minutes. Remove from the freezer and gently peel off the legs using a thin metal spatula. Transfer the legs to a compulsively dry large plate. Repeat until you've made enough legs for 6 spiders.

5. Working quickly, because those legs will melt in your fingers if you dilly-dally, insert four legs into a side of one spider's creamy filling (insert the shortest tip into the filling) and four more legs into the opposite side. You'll notice that the pattern pint-out has four legs facing one way and four legs facing the opposite way, that is so that no legs look flat from the front.

Add eyes to them?

Combine 1/4 cup of powdered sugar plus 1/2 tablespoon of water and stir until well combined. It should be rather stiff, but if it's crumbly you can add a few more drops of water until it complies. Use a little ziploc bag with a cut-off corner again to squeeze the little eyes onto the tops of the spiders. At this point, you probably have a little leftover chocolate from all the leg making, use a toothpick to drop a tiny drop of chocolate in the middle of each eye. Warm up the chocolate in the microwave for a few seconds (though not in the ziploc!)

This adventure makes 6 (3 inches wide) Whoopie Spiders!

We found some TRICKS and TREATS on Pinterest. Check out our Halloween DIY board.

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