Get Crafty 101: Envelope Liners

Envelope liners are a great touch to add to any snail-mail project, whether it's invitations, holiday cards, or just a thinking-of-you-and-wanted-to-do-more-than-message-you-on-FB note, they are a simple way to really personalize your project. For my sister's baby shower, I added striped and polka-dot liners to the invitation envelopes and loved the impact. Here's how to do it:

Xacto knife
cutting mat
straight edge
double stick tape
scissors or corner-rounder
text weight (24 lb) patterned paper

For a completely individual look, create your own pattern and print it on text weight paper.

First, I created a template for the liner, which will be positioned just inside the glue area and about a quarter inch within each side of the envelope. The template is made from an envelope that is the same size as the ones you will be lining.

Grab an envelope. If you need a guide, use a straight edge to draw a line just below the glue area, and then from the end of the glue area, about .25" inside the vertical side of the envelope, straight down to the bottom of the envelope, making sure it is parallel to the vertical side. Then use the Xacto to cut on this line and the horizontal crease of the bottom of the envelope, and you have your template. I eyeballed it and went straight to cutting.

As you can see here, my envelope has a rounded point on the flap, so I used a corner rounder to make my template match.

Next, use your template to trim your patterned paper to the proper shape. Place the template on top of the patterned paper, making sure it is oriented in the way you would like it to sit inside of your envelope, and trim around it. I stacked several sheets together to save time. It may also help to put something weighted on the center of the template to prevent it from shifting as you cut around it.

Again, since my envelope had a rounded point on the flap, I used a .5" corner rounder to match it. If you don't have one of these handy contraptions, pencil in a guide and use a scissor.

Now to adhere the liner to the envelope. Place three small pieces of double sided tape (preferably not yucked up pieces like in this photo) at the point and both sides just inside the area the liner will cover.

Then slip the liner into the envelope, position it properly, and press it to the tape.

Hold the liner in place and gently fold the flap so that the liner creases along with it.

Lastly, stuff your envelope and admire your handiwork!

No one may ever comment on your lovely liners, but I feel that it's these details that add to the overall presentation of handmade projects, making them look finished and something people will admire.

Mixing Bowl Brekka

After a 6 mile run in Prospect Park (yay!) a was in the mood for a BIG breakfast. I'm often in the mood for a BIG breakfast, so I picked up a BIG bowl from Fishs Eddy. Its actually a mixing bowl, perfect for the yummy concoctions I like to throw together, where things tend to fly over the edges of smaller bowls. I've been missing oatmeal, which I found out I'm having a food sensitivity to recently, so I thought I would try rolled spelt flakes. They don't get all creamy and gooey like oats do, but I figured out a way to solve that problem . . . tahini! Sounds a little weird, but it turned out really rich and tasty, especially with all the other stuff mixed in. Here's the recipe:

1 cup rolled spelt flakes
2 cups filtered water
3 tb (or more!) raw organic tahini
2 tb flax seed meal
1 ts cinnamon
1 cup frozen organic strawberries, thawed in warm water
1/2 square of 100% cocoa bakers chocolate
splash of homemade rice milk (optional)

The directions for the spelt flakes call for the spelt to be added to boiling water, but I have nicer, less watery results when I put the flakes and water in the pot and then bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes or more.

While the spelt cooks, put the frozen strawberries in a cup of warm water so they defrost a bit. Or use fresh. I choose frozen since the organic is reasonably priced at Whole Foods and I can stock up for those times I can't get to the grocery store as often as I would like. Unlike rolled oats, there will be water left in the pot with the cooked spelt, so spoon the spelt out into a mixing bowl and toss the excess water. Then add tahini and stir it up to make it rich and creamy. While it is still warm, add the bakers chocolate and strawberries and stir some more.

Finish things off with some flax and cinnamon and a splash of rice milk.

The rice milk wasn't necessary at all, but I had just made a batch using almond extract since I ran out of vanilla and it was so delicious I wanted to put it in everything! Grab a big ol' spoon and eat up!

Read about some of the health benefits of tahini here.

Dogs with Umbrellas, Scrapes & Bruises, and Kitchen Sink Fro-yo

This morning, as I made my way home on my morning run, I got distracted by a golden retriever walking down the street with a big red umbrella in his mouth, and I tripped and fell. It sucked. Except that the dog really wanted to make sure I was okay and enthusiastically licked my entire face. Three times. Aw. He was such a cutie and his owner was so kind, trying to make me feel like less of a putz by telling me that she's done the same many times ("You think that running makes you stronger, but you just end up tumbling more"). Damn those Park Slope slopes and uneven sidewalks and cute dogs that I can't resist smiling at instead of watching where I'm going! So now I have a scraped hand and a gash under my knee, which isn't so bad, just a little gross, but I had to limp home since the soft bit under my knee cap is what hit the ground. Yikes!

With the 10K just 2 weeks away, I was hoping to avoid any set backs, so I really could kick myself for this considering I shouldn't have even been running at that point. It was a 3 mile run, and I had done 3.25, so it was more than fine to walk the rest of the way, but after 2 blocks of strolling, I got bored and decided to run some more. Why not, right? Grrrr.

Of course, this little disruption made me feel entitled to a yummy post-workout treat. So into the Vitamix went whatever caught my eye and out came Kitchen Sink Fro-Yo. The first thing I thought of was that last pot of greek yogurt in the fridge, which was still there only because I've been trying to follow what is outlined in the Eat Right For Your Type Diet pretty strictly, as recommended by my nutritionist. My blood type is O and yogurt is a no-no. But I fell down and deserved a treat, right? Right! Then in went the cacao powder, cinnamon, vanilla, a cup of frozen strawberries AND a cup of the frozen butternut squash that was sitting right next to it, ground flax seed and even a date for sweetness, which is something else I'm sure I shouldn't eat because they are so high in sugar. I added a few ice cubes and then a splash of rice milk, just so the machine wouldn't burst into flames. After a minute or so of hard work by the Vitamix, I had creamy, delicious frozen yogurt with plenty of protein, which I took, (with ice for my knee) into bed and devoured.

After icing my knee and shin, it's just a little sore when I walk, particularly if I've been sitting for a while. Tomorrow's run is only 2 miles (I'll probably do 2.5) so hopefully it won't be enough to aggravate anything, but enough to keep it from tightening up. And I didn't break my I-pod, which was in my right hand, or land badly on the keys that were in my left hand. So, overall, not such a big bump in the road on the way to the 10K. Hope it's the last!

Sweet Potato Ice-Cream!

Today was the first day back to work after the long Labor Day weekend: the official End of Summer- boo hoo! It was dark, dreary and rainy when I woke up, but I looked forward to getting started this morning because not only was my run just an easy 2 miles (with some sprinting and weights for good measure) but I had plans, BIG plans, for my post-workout breakfast: Sweet Potato Ice-Cream!

Yesterday, with the oven preheated to 400 degrees F for a side of Oven Roasted Marrow Sticks with lunch, in went a few small sweet potatoes. Each of the sweet potatoes below is about 1 cup, which in my world is 2 servings of a high-starch veg. I used to wrap the potatoes in aluminum foil for baking because that's what my grandmother always did- and she was a food genius- but recently started feeling guilty about using all that foil, so I've been simply placing them directly on the top rack. They are still very sweet and delicious, but I do sometimes miss the moist skin and caramelized juices that accumulate inside the foil wrapper.

Once cooled, I cut 1 potato into several pieces and wrapped it in parchment paper, being sure the pieces didn't touch one another, then put it in the freezer. How cool is the multi-colored flesh of this potato? I've never seen that before! All night I thought about the best way to make it into sweet potato ice-cream. Did I want to spice it up or add sweetness, or did I want authentic sweet potato flavor? I absolutely adore sweet potatoes. They really are perfect all on their own, so I decided there's no need to mess with that, but just wanted to adapt it into something new. Here's what I came up with:

1 small baked organic sweet potato, cut into 5 or 6 pieces and frozen
4-5 oz full fat Coconut Milk
1 scoop plain or vanilla protein powder
2 TB organic ground flax seed
1 T vanilla extract
1/4 T cinnamon
5 or 6 ice cubes, made from filtered water

Place the ingredients in the Vitamix. Turn on, to 10 quickly, then to high and push the frozen potato and ice cubes into the blades with the tamper. The machine will work really hard, blending through the dense potato, but after a minute or so it will blend freely and 4 mounds will form. Turn the machine off and you have protein packed ice-cream with all the health benefits from the beta-carotene, phytonutrients, vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, fiber and more found in the scrumptious sweet potato. The ice-cream is super rich and creamy with an earthy flavor. The cinnamon isn't prevalent here, but adds to the depth of flavor. If you'd prefer to make this more along the lines of Sweet Potato Pie Ice-Cream, I'm sure more cinnamon, and some honey or brown sugar would do the trick.

This entire batch is 1 serving even though it contains 2 serving of sweet potato because my breakfast meal is 2 servings carb (the potato), 2 servings protein (the protein powder with 16 grams of protein per scoop). The GI of sweet potato gets pretty high once baked, so it's best to eat it with some fat, like the coconut milk in this recipe, to slow the conversion to glucose. The fat will also aid in the absorption of the beat-carotene. I recently tried a baked potato drenched in tahini with some Himalayan pink salt sprinkled over it- so awesome! And I don't really like tahini (too bitter) or add salt to my food, but it turned out to be a decadent combination, and it's good to switch up your fats. To keep the GI low, try boiling or steaming them instead. What's your favorite way to cook sweet potatoes? Do you dress them up or just take them as they are?

Chocolate Almond Brownie Batter

This was a very tasty mistake. I was trying to make a healthier kind of Nutella spread with almonds (not that hazelnuts are unhealthy) and dark chocolate and pretty much did, but then I threw some stuff in there that changed the texture completely. I ended up with this gritty, deep chocolate paste with hints of almond that completely brought me back to when I was a kid and would make Duncan Hines brownies and lick the bowl clean. Do you remember that stuff? Here's how to make your own grown-up version:

2 cups raw almonds
6 squares of Lindt 85% Cocoa Extra Dark* chocolate bar or about 15 grams dark chocolate of your choice
1 T organic vanilla extract
1 TB cold, unsweetened vanilla rice milk

Preheat the over to WARM. Place almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet and warm in oven for 10 minutes. Throw them into the Vitamix and turn the machine on, up to 10 quickly, then to high and process for 2 minutes, using the tamper to push the almonds into the blade. The nuts will release steam and the container will get very warm. You will first get almond meal, then butter. Turn off the Vitamix, add the chocolate squares and turn the Vitamix back on, up to 10 quickly, then to high and process for another minute, using the tamper to push the chocolate into the blade. Turn off the machine and add vanilla extract and cold rice milk. Turn the machine on and up to 8 or 9 and blend for 30 seconds or so. The mixture will be very thick, gritty, intensely chocolate and HOT. Carefully use a silicone spatula to scape out the batter into a jar and let cool, if you can wait, then devour!

I am going to try again to make a Nutella spread, which should only take adding the vanilla and rice milk to the container while the almonds warm in the oven, so they become room temperature, and then proceeding as above. What I think happened was the cold rice milk made the chocolate, which was extremely hot, seize and turned it gritty. Pretty neat.

Mid-morning snack of slice organic fuji apple and 2 scoops of Chocolate Almond Brownie Batter:

* I would prefer an organic chocolate, but Lindt's 85% cocoa has only 5 grams of sugar per serving- giving this entire jar of Brownie Batter only a bit more than 20 grams of sugar- plus no soy lecithin, and I like to avoid soy products. It's much easier to find a 100% cocoa bar that is organic with no sugar at all and no soy, but I can't handle that much cocoa yet!

Oven Roasted Marrow Sticks

What would you call this:

I call it a huge-ass zucchini. But maybe that's because I'm from Queens. EH's mom is visiting from London and when she saw it on the table she called it a marrow, hence the OVEN ROASTED MARROW STICKS recipe:

1/2 huge-ass zucchini, aka: marrow
2 to 3 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 big clove of garlic, crushed
2 or 3 TB grated parmesan cheese
the following is all to taste:
cracked black pepper
himalayan pink salt crystals
basil flakes
Mrs. Dash original
fresh basil
fresh thyme

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Slice the marrow into strips approx 3 inches long and anywhere from a quarter to a half inch thick, depending on your preference. The marrow is very starchy and has less seeds and no watery stuff on the inside like you find in a smaller zucchini. I just trimmed off the more pithy looking bits.

Place marrow sticks into a baking dish and drizzle extra virgin olive oil over them. Since the texture is quite like an eggplant, they will absorb the oil quickly, so as soon as you drizzle them starting tossing them around to coat all sides.

Now season: start by crushing the garlic over the dish, then add your pepper, salt, and other dried spices, all to taste, and toss around to coat the marrow.

Lastly, grate the cheese over the dish, or add 2 to 3 TB of grated cheese, then sprinkle the fresh thyme and basil over the top. Place the dish in the oven for 45 minutes or so, testing for tenderness.

These we very delicious and easy to make! I had mine with a turkey burger patty and EH had his with some left over Trader Joe's shredded pork, peas and a sweet potato (since I was putting the oven on, I threw a few sweet potatoes in there as well). They were a lot like seasoned potato wedges! Nice! I wonder though, since the marrow is so starchy, does it go on the list of more naughty veggies to be eaten more sparingly, like potatoes and pumpkin . . .

An hour after eating this lovely lunch I headed to the gym for my 3.75 mile run, which is on the schedule for day 1, week 2 of training for a 10k. Mistake. About a mile in, I had THE worst indigestion EVER. You know when it's so bad it's in your head, too? Ugh. I was extremely grateful that I had decided to stick to the treadmill and not run at Prospect Park today. It's pretty muggy and I can imagine it would have been a worse situation out there.

I really didn't think I was going to make it through, but I pushed and got there and even did some skipping after a minute or two of walking to bring the heart rate down. Have you ever skipped on a treadmill? It's a challenge! Try skipping at 4 mph or so and be really light on your feet, only touching down with your tippy toes. A minute or two could really make you sweat, depending on your activity/energy level, and you'll feel muscles working that you may not typically use. When was the last time you had a good skip? I love skipping and I am glad I lost enough self consciousness to start adding it to my workouts, because other than on the occasional late night walk down a dark, quiet residential street headed back from a movie at the Pavillion, it hadn't made too many appearances past the age 13.

Speaking of training and treadmills, what do you think of training for a race on a treadmill? I've read that plenty of people do it, and plenty of people hate it. Since I've never run a race before, other than at Kissena Park Day Camp, I'm curious to hear of other people's experiences.


Last night, EH and I strolled over to Carroll Gardens for an early dinner. I had picked up a Groupon for a meal at a wine and tapas bar on Court Street, Palo Cortado, and we were eager to give it a try- the menu looks fabulous! Unfortunately, when we arrived, it was closed. This isn't the first time that's happened either. A few Sundays ago, after a rain terrible storm (actually worse for us in Park Slope than Hurricane Irene), we trudged out with umbrellas and jumped puddles to get to the new Bareburger on 7th Ave, only to find it was not going to open that day. So disappointing, because we really do love food, and when we have our hearts and minds set on a particular fare, it's difficult to switch gears (Whaaa!).

With all the culinary choices on Court Street, we cut our moping short and decided to head over to Prime Meats. The last time we wanted to have dinner there, it was about a 2 hour wait so we skipped it, and here was our chance to have a go! I used to live a couple of blocks away from Prime Meats, and at that time, the restaurant wasn't fully opened. I did enjoy their chocolate bread and iced coffee on summer Sunday mornings, but I was a vegetarian- a recovering vegan, in fact- so I honestly never thought dinner there would be an option for me. Prime Meats is Germanic alpine cuisine, and I am part German, yet another reason I was really looking forward to the experience! Do you feel the same way, that taking part in food and drink that is part of your heritage adds something special?

EH and I were NOT disappointed. Being that it was early, maybe 6:30 or so, there was no wait for a table. The staff was very courteous and helpful, and the decor is nice- in the larger dining area there is a second floor balcony and skylight, which made it feel like we were in some one's house. Lots of wood and amber lighting and the typical Brooklyn tin ceiling in the smaller dining areas. There is a long menu of Six Point beer, wine and delicious sounding cocktails. Because I don't drink very much I went with the punch, which changes daily. It was made with green tea, vermouth, ... was served in a lovely little decorative clear glass tea cup, and was quite delicious!

I ordered the Grillerd Thuringer Bratwurst served with house-made sauerkraut, with a side of sauteed kale and EH ordered Pork Schnitzel (loin, breaded and fried) served with
home-made potato salad and a side of the braised red cabbage. We shared and devoured everything, including the little pot of tangy brown mustard served on the side. My seal of approval usually comes in the form of the statement, "We have to come back here with my family," and that's exactly what I said about 4 bites into this incredibly satisfying meal.

Frank and Frank, of Frankies Spuntino just next door, are the ones behind Prime Meats, as well. It's safe to say, these guys know what they're doing.