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a little bbq inspiration

summer is winding down here in chicago- the weather has cooled and we're finally getting some much-needed rain. but as much as i'm looking forward to warm drinks, cozy blankets, and pulling on plush socks knit by my grandmother, i'm not ready to say good-bye to summer yet. at least not before i get one more bbq in. here are some recipes from what was probably one of the best bbq menus i've put together- it was super tasty and SO EASY! i used grilled veggies as sides and toppings (instead of the usual raw lettuce/onions/tomatoes)- there's less to think about when everything just goes on the bbq (thus also amping up the yumminess quotient) and it makes sandwich combos pretty much endless (as well as highly customizable for those who are hesitant about tempeh/weirded out by mushrooms/etc). creamy coleslaw on my portobello burger? yes please!

bbq menu
bbq tempeh burgers with sweet potato (recipe from the first mess)
portobello cap burgers w/avocado
grilled veggies
coleslaw w/almond mayo
cantaloupe popsicles

bbq tempeh w/sweet potatoes 
(minimally adapted from the first mess based on what i had on hand. laura's tempeh & sweet potato sandwiches are pretty much perfect, so there's no point changing anything unless you're short on ingredients)
"burger" components:
1 block tempeh
2 medium sweet potatoes

2 tsp olive oil
1 yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
1.5 cups ketchup
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sriracha
4 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons vegetarian worcestershire sauce (or tamari if you're in a pinch)
*optional: 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

- slice your block of tempeh width-wise (so you have two thinner versions of your original block) and cut into desired shapes/sizes (larger for burgers, smaller for dinner rolls, triangles if you want to get funky with it). set aside.

- peel your sweet potatoes and slice them into 1/3" rounds. steam until "al dente" (or boil if you're in a super hurry). 

- while the potatoes cook make your bbq sauce: mince onion and garlic in a food processor until they form a chunky paste. heat a saucepan and add your olive oil, followed by your onion/garlic mixture. allow this to cook for about 2 minutes until onion chunks become translucent. add all remaining ingredients and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. 

- while your sauce simmers drain your sweet potato, let cool, and place on a serving plate with sides/burger toppings (below).

- pour warm bbq sauce over tempeh (you'll have extra sauce, which is perfect because it's so delicious that you're probably going to want to spread it on everything else). let marinate at least 30 minutes and then grill. 

3/4 head of cabbage (green, purple, or a combo), shredded
5 carrots, peeled and julienned/shredded
1 red pepper, diced
almond mayo to taste (recipe from lagusta's luscious)

- mix shredded cabbage, carrots, and diced pepper together with almond mayo. easy peasy!

cantaloupe popsicles
1 cantaloupe
sweetener to taste (i use maple syrup)

- another super easy recipe: peel the melon, cut into chunks, and blend. mix in sweetener if desired, and pour into popsicle molds. freeze 3 hrs.

sides and alternate burger toppings
for the grill:
portobello mushroom caps
roma tomatoes, halved
red onions, sliced into thick rings
corn on the cob

fresh arugula
sliced avocado

you'll also want to have the usual suspects on hand: buns, mustard, relish/pickles, ketchup. daquiris...


meet pete!

there's always room for pete-za!
meet our new kitty pete (or pete-za as we like to call him)! we adopted him from tree house last week (he's had his share of ups and downs so we're hoping to be his forever home) and we have fallen under the spell of his his elvis snarl and affectionate, enthusiastic head-butts! pete is a kitty with a heart of gold- so loving, trusting, and so desperate to befriend our stranger-shy klaus... 

"love me!"
klaus: "why does this guy follow me EVERYWHERE?"
pete: "i wonder if she wants me
to head-but her..."
learning to share space
klaus isn't a very adaptable cat, but we've caught her warming up to sweet mr. pete, even letting him lick her face and cheek (a HUGE deal for our typically skittish and ornery klaus). it may take a while for klaus to trust him, but we know in time they'll be buds. i mean, even klaus can't resist a face like this...

greener pesto

i'm one of those people who doesn't like to eat the same thing twice, so i'm always changing up and adding to recipes. pesto is a really easy recipe to customize- i've seen all sorts of variations online- and tonight i tweaked ours by adding more greens to it. don't get me wrong, i love the simplicity and earthiness of pesto, but sometimes it gets a little boring.

greener pesto
1 cup blanched kale
1/2 cup blanched parsley
2 cups raw basil
1/3 cup raw pepitas
1/3 cup raw almonds
4 cloves fresh garlic
1/2 to 3/4 cup cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil*
1 teaspoon himalayan pink salt
a squeeze of lemon juice

*or sub 1 fresh avocado for the olive oil (or use 1/3 cup oil & 1/2 avocado!)

- add all ingredients except olive oil to a food processor or vita-mix and blend, adding the olive oil slowly as everything blends. if you use avocado you can just add it with all the ingredients at the beginning. that's it- so easy!!

tonight we mixed the pesto into red pepper linguine and have plenty extra for sandwich-spreading and veggie-dipping. if you're not going to use it within a day or so i would recommend storing it in the freezer in a closed glass jar, with olive oil covering the top of the pesto so it doesn't oxidize. then whenever you want some you can scoop out just what you need! this is a great way to add pesto flavor to dips and sauces in winter when fresh herbs are scarce.


recovering my grandmother's dress form, part 1

my paternal grandmother passed away at the beginning of this year. more than a homemaker she was a master of domesticity who loved to take care of her family. from sewing to quilting to cooking to gardening and preserving, she had at least two sets of supplies (but usually more) for any craft that could interest you. over the past few years we had talked about me taking her dress form several times, and after her funeral i finally brought it home. it waited patiently in the corner of my living room until i decided to get on with the business of cleaning and re-covering it. grandma k hadn't moved it from her basement in decades and i knew it was going to be a project...
originally my plan was just to clean and cover what was there, but once i opened it up and saw what was inside- spider webs (and a live spider!), dust bunnies, and lady bug wings- i realized that i was going to have to pull off the fabric covering to make sure i wasn't leaving any dirt sandwiched between it and the frame. i'm so glad i did! there was a thick layer of dust underneath. but it was no match for my shop-vac (technically my husband's, but what's his is mine, right?)! i used the shop-vac hose to suck up dirt while i removed the fabric (turns out it was just glued to the inside of each segment so it pulled right off).
after vacuuming every inch, inside and out, i used a dry paintbrush to sweep out anything sandwiched between the bolts on the inside right into the shop-vac hose (the dry paintbrush-to-vacuum hose
so dirty!
maneuver is a great trick i learned from my mom, and it works really well to clean out the dust/cat hair that always finds its way into those tiny spots between the vertical pipes of steam radiators).
so now she's all clean and ready and waiting for me to find a little time for part 2: recovering her in some clean fabric. i have some (and by some i mean barrels) of grandma k's stockpile of remnants and yards and i'm thinking maybe i can cover her in some sassy patchwork- to crazy or just the right nod to grandma k? keep your eyes peeled for the next chapter- hopefully coming soon!


easy peasy lunch

whole wheat spaghetti with peas and almonds
so this is basically the easiest pasta dish you can make- one pot, four ingredients, under 15 minutes. i like to make this on days like today where i have and early lunch at home before work and want some leftovers to take with me for a snack since i'll be working until after dinner time. all of the ingredients can be subbed with other pastas/legumes/nuts/oils, so it's an easy one to make with whatever you have on hand. i was first introduced to the fantastic pasta-nut combo as a kid, when i used to spend a lot of time at my best friend kini's house. her parents made the most delicious dinners- i can still taste her dad's home-made bread, the salad dressing that i used to be allowed to dip my fingers in after all the salad was gone, and the sweet walnut whole wheat spaghetti her mom used to make. she would grind up walnuts and a bit of sugar in the food processor and toss that into spaghetti. the heat of the pasta would melt the sugar and help the walnuts stick to the pasta. yum! this recipe takes that idea and adapts it for spring, taking out the sugar to make it a little lighter, and adding peas for green freshness. all of the ingredients are high in protein and the whole wheat pasta and nuts are complex carbs, so this is a good meal to keep you fueled for a long time. 

whole wheat spaghetti with peas and almonds
2 portions whole wheat spaghetti (or pasta of your choice)
1 cup green peas (i used frozen, but fresh would be even better)
1 cup raw almonds (or pistachios or walnuts...)
1 teaspoon walnut oil (you could sub another nut or olive oil)

- cook pasta according to directions on the box.

- while the pasta cooks use a food processor to grind almonds until they become a coarse meal (you want them to look kind of sandy, with a few coarse chunks)

- about a minute before pasta is done turn off heat and add your frozen peas to the pot. let sit for 1-2 min and then use the lid of your pot to drain the pasta water (it's fine to leave a tiny bit of the starchy water in the pot- this will help your ingredients stick together).

- add almond meal and oil to the pot and stir to evenly distribute. salt to taste. voila! wasn't that easy?