Monthly Archives: October 2010

Fall Stresstival

Lots going on. Kids had a soccer game yesterday at the ungodly hour of 5:30 pm. Am cooking the “vegan fare” for my kids’ school Fall Festival today. I sure hope there are some vegans attending! Spent too much time trying to figure out how to attach a bulbous styrofoam bodied bat to the back of a black t-shirt. And life. Let’s recap.

Okay. I was proud of this. Dinner from cutting board to table in 35 minutes. Vegetables/tofu/pasta, deeeeeep fried plantains in tomato sauce and glazed carrots. GLAZED CARROTS! Like rice pudding, i LOVED glazed carrots as a kid. So, I thought I would introduce my own spawn to the yum. "It tastes weird." "Can we just have them not cooked." Why do I bother?

Fry Shack! I am making kebabs for sale at the Fall Festival food court so the past 24 hours have involved a lot of high heat and coconut oil. The last time I made a big quantity of kebabs, the 2" stainless steel backsplash on the range got all ickity and commercial kitchen looking. I wasn't totally clueless that this would happen, which is why I went tile behind the cooktop. We had to use heavy duty oven cleaner to get the ick off and still, there are faint little rainbow puddle stains behind that oiled up burner. Of course, I find them charming. Anyway, Easy Off oven cleaner is not charming. So here's my little kitchen tip that I'm passing on to you: foil behind your fryer! Non-flammable and totally protects your stainless steel from tough to clean heat baked grease stains.

Birthday season is upon us and the baked goodies have been making an appearance at parties and in their classrooms. My kids gladly practice gastronomical abstinence in the face of such egged out treats, but I don't blame them for dropping a mention that they couldn't have any. So for the in school Halloween/Fall Festival today, I cranked out 50+ cupcakes for distribution in their classrooms. My daughter's teacher is very strict about no frosting and healthy eating, so I hope it all flies. The frosting is a super airy, light buttercream, slightly sweetened. Madhumati insisted on white frosting but I wanted to make it autumn-y so I did some extra frosting colored with turmeric. Originally I was going to use saffron, but to be honest, didn't want to spend my precious imported threads on kids that might just dump their cupcake in the trash. So, turmeric. Stinky, earthy turmeric. I mixed in some pure maple extract and cinnamon--that totally covered up the taste. But the smell? Well, it is Halloween!



Filed under baking, barbecue, kitchen, kitchen design, kitchen remodel, kitchen tips, sabjimata, seitan, vegan

High Style Budget Kitchen Remodel How To’s


High Style on a budget!

New post up over at Horton Brasses. Please check it out! Leave a comment! Tell my employer you love me!

Conveniently, the post is linked RIGHT HERE!


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Made in the USA

New blog post over at Horton Brasses. Check out all the American made options for your kitchen remodel and pretty pics of lights and shades from Schoolhouse Electric. XO


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Low Sugar Blues

What a day. What a low sugar day. I made stuff. Mixed results. Husband came home and told me not to go low sugar crazy. Etc.

Because I wanted my son to be full at lunch time, I warmed a skillet early this morning and began melting butter, to which I added a bit of sugar. Just a bit.

Caramelizing the sugar.

To the butter and sugar I added hazelnuts, sunflower seeds and cashew pieces. Plus a sprinkle of salt.

I turned the mixture out on a slab of butcher block to cool.

The boy was excited to find out this was going in his school lunch. The last time I made a version of this, I used pecans and a generous amount of sucanat and maple syrup. I was nervous how he would take this lower sugar version...

...and he loved it! Whew. He had a whole bunch for breakfast and I was happy to send him off to school with a full belly.

After dropping the kids at school and doing a little food shopping, I returned home to get some baked goods together and in the oven. This pumpkin pie has a whole wheat/coconut oil crust that isn't all that bad. The pie itself is fresh pumpkin (skin and all), a block of soft tofu, molasses, a smidge of sucanat, a pinch of salt and all those spices that make you think *autumn*...or *scented candle shop*. It tasted pretty meh but I think, after some fridge time, it is improving.

I thought I would get a jump on things and make some banana bread for soccer practice later in the week. I mixed buckwheat, spelt and whole wheat flour because, you know, going lower in your glycemic load should be a team sport! I also cut down the sugar by one third. Unfortunately, the bread was not done before I had to head out to my cupping appointment (does that make me sound like Ms. Goopy Gwyneth Paltrow or what!) so the loaves had a bit of concave pudding in the center. No matter. I just cut that part away and wrapped up the good stuff. The lower sugar banana bread passed the taste inspection by my kids, who had a few pieces throughout the afternoon. The pie, however, met mixed review. My daughter shunned it. My son ate it but told me he did so despite not liking it that much. And then he told me I should make two next for me and one for everyone else. My husband had a slice for dinner and said it was good. But next time he will have it with ice cream.


Filed under baking, kitchen, kitchen tips, sabjimata, Uncategorized, vegan

Strap It On!

Cross posted @ Horton Brasses Blog (under a different title šŸ˜‰ ).

My mother-in-law just left after a weekend visit, returning to her DC home. While staying with us, she and her husband admitted to feeling some kitchen envy for our new remodel. That being said, she is hesitant to tear out her 40 year old kitchen and trade up to something more contemporary. One of the things she doesn’t want to part with: the copper functional strap hinges adorning her cabinets. They have definitely retained their classic beauty, despite the years.

Now, I know most people are not running to the hardware store and clearing out the bins of strap hinges when it comes to updating their kitchen hardware. The majority of strap hinges tend to end up on barn doors and hope chests, bought by men who wear their Wrangler dungarees and plaid flannel shirts in a not so ironic way.

But does that mean you shouldn’t consider these bands of hand forged stylishness for your remodel? Of course not! You are not a kitchen trend follower but rather a style setter. How many European bar pulls must be tolerated to spite the expression of individual personality in the kitchen?

Sure, not every application may suit the strap hinge. You may feel that a complete kitchen outfitted in strap hinges….or even the strap hinge’s less lean cousin, the butterfly hinge….may be a bit too period for you. Still, you can use these traditionally styled, hand forged iron hinges to quirk up the joint–adding some visual interest to an otherwise standard and un-noteworthy space.

photo courtesy

This vintage Kohler sink photo should be added to the inspiration file of anyone contemplating a period kitchen remodel for an American farmhouse kitchen. The cast iron apron front sink is just one aspect of perfecting that early American look. Iron strap hinges decorate the cabinets and add beauty to the pared down decor of this functional kitchen.

An updated take on that same traditional style can be seen in this photo from Morgan Creek Cabinetry. All modern conveniences are on hand with a high end range and new fireclay apron front sink while keeping period inspired details like a beadboard ceiling and functional strap hinges mounted on the custom cabinetry.

The clean and modest kitchen of this British cottage rental has a neutral palette and limited cabinets. However, the pantry door adds charm to this otherwise staid space. The large strap hinges and iron knob elevates this cottage kitchen to the expectations of patrons by infusing it with a shot of authenticity amidst the contemporary utilitarian design.

This kitchen by Karin Blake, as it appeared in Architectural Digest, is a Ā tableau of simplicity, classic Americana and modern design. A mix of inset slab front drawers and wainscot doors, the vintage style lab stools, farm table and windsor chairs all add to the smooth, seamless allure of a style indicating New England old money when, in fact, this home is Malibu new construction. One of the key details that makes this look work are the barn-style cabinet doors finished with forged iron strap hinges.

While a Karin Blake kitchen may not be in your budget, such a look is definitely attainable with stock cabinetry and the right hinges, of course! Whether your cabinets are inset, overlay or frameless, you can rock this designer look by either using real functional strap hinges or dummy hinges. And don’t forget the other hardware to compliment your look. There are a variety of handles sized to create the perfect drama in your kitchen. At Horton Brasses, there are the oversizedĀ Suffolk Grips as well as the modestly sizedĀ Iron Grips.

And check out these matching knobs from Horton Brasses. Honestly, this stuff is not just for period kitchens! Imagine how appropriate these would look in some kind of industrial modern space. Like I said at the start of this post, ditch the European bar pulls, people! Nothing screams modern more than industrial. Just think lab coats and beakers and all that mad science that went on, marking a new era. Forged iron is not just barn. Below is a pic of a Ā kitchen from 1966 that merges the suburban colonial look with modern stylings. This should definitely get you thinking outside of your forged iron box!

photo courtesy

The above picture is a great find for anyone with an older home and a budget. There are many ways to update a kitchen, but if you cabinets are in good shape, the most cost effective way involves soap and water and maybe a fresh coat of paint. Strap hinges were definitely more popular in decades past, but hopefully this post will have you embracing your older hardware with a style savvy gaze. Or, even better, taking on that full remodel with courage to add some spark to your kitchen with some well chosen accent pieces. Karin Blake would be impressed!

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Eating for Two

As of today, I am 28 weeks pregnant. Some people would divide that by four and say I am seven months. Sounds good to me. I will be full term in 9 weeks but could have baby Bindu as far off as 14 weeks from today.

Last appointment I had to do the 1 hour glucose test and failed, much to my surprise. I thought gestational diabetes was for women having super-sized babies. This kid is teeny, measuring the same size that my daughter measured when she was in-utero. But, in my research, I did find that even women with small babies can be at risk. I had two risk factors working against me–a familial history of diabetes on both my bio mother and bio father’s sides and the very unattractive labeling of *Advanced Maternal Age* on my chart. Not cute.

Friday I took the 3 hour Glucose Tolerance Test, an evil, evil torture for pregnant women. I had to fast 8-10 hours before the test but, due to the time that I finished dinner the night before and the fact that the birth center had forgotten to fax over the order to the lab, I ended up fasting 16 hours before drinking the glucose drink. After a total of 5 blood draws and a huge sugar crash, I drove myself home in a comatose state before completely passing out for the remainder of the day. Would have been nice if someone tipped me off that I should not drive myself.

Today I got the good news! No gestational diabetes. However, this body is not perfect. My first blood draw exceeded the maximum count and the next two were borderline passing. Thankfully my final number put me under and in the clear. If I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes the home birth would have been off, the birth center would not be an option and I would be checking into the hospital when I went into labor. Disaster averted.

But the midwife did say I need to watch my sugar. Basically, we’ve discovered that I am predisposed to diabetes, so better to modify my diet now and avoid any diagnosis in the future. I am glad I have been tipped off but a little bummed out nonetheless. I thought 21 years as a vegetarian would save me from many health crises–especially those that are largely behavioral. Although I like to think I eat a healthy diet since fast food and processed packaged food are not on my menu, I have to admit that I do consume a lot of sugar. A lot of sugar.

Gone are the days of my carefree youth. I welcome in an era of whole grains and scant sweetener. The timing is perfect since the Gaudiya Vaishnava month of Kartik is right around the corner. This month is the mother of devotion and spiritual practitioners performing austerities throughout Kartik are rewarded with the opportunity to gain deeper appreciation and knowledge on their devotional path. Sounds great, right? Only I wasn’t really planning on performing any austerities. You know, other than being a host for this sweet little parasite that is sucking the life out of me taking over my body growing inside me.

For me, eating and cooking are huge pleasures. And, once I really think about it, I put sugar in practically everything! But my eating and my cooking–my main ways Ā of expressing love and spirituality–are in for an overhaul. Cooking will still go on, but my eating must become more ascetic. And my family will be along for the ride.

Let’s tour some recent foods cooked up in the Sabjimata kitchen:

Soccer team's snack--pizza roll. A no-no for my new diet, unless I switch to whole wheat flour.

Another soccer practice snack--Vegan blueberry muffins based on the PPK Vegan Cupcakes vanilla cake recipe. Another no-no.

Vegan chocolate cupcakes topped with non-vegan frosting. A no-no that I will most likely cave to when the occasion arises.

While getting some spices down from a cabinet in my laundry room, I ended up spilling a package of methi (fennugreek) seed. All over the unfinished concrete floor. Embracing the ethos of waste not want not, I swept up the seeds, wrapped them in a moist cloth and sprouted them for planting. Methi sak, as fenugreek greens are known in Hindi, will be a good bitter boost to my diet.

The fenugreek is coming up!

Although I did buy a variety of gorgeous pumpkin seeds, we decided to hold off planting them until we built some raised beds. But a couple of weeks ago I made a pumpkin pie and scattered the pumpkin seeds around the yard. Yesterday I noticed a few strong shoots sprouting up in our garden and feel it is a safe gamble to bet these pretty green plants are pumpkins to be.

Vegan bean bowl with brown rice. This has been the kind of stuff I have been eating throughout most of the pregnancy and seems like it will be what I will be eating throughout most of my life. I added a little tofu to this to please the husband. Additionally, I try to have iron rich greens with some acidic veggies--tomato and bell pepper--to aid in the absorption.

Another bean bowl minus the beans. That's what happens when you forget to pre-soak. This beanless bean bowl has spinach, tofu and plantain, which I suspect is not low glycemic.

These dishes are not at all austere for me. I tend to repeat the same spicing from bean bowl to bean bowl–salt, pepper, curry leaf, dry roasted cumin, turmeric and ginger. I’m definitely a creature of habit. I will be staying away from my morning cup of fair trade cocoa and all the baked goodies I make my family. Some things, like the pumpkin pie I plan on baking tomorrow, will be modified to include a whole wheat spelt crust and a super huge reduction in sucanat.

If you have any tips, suggestions or encouragement for a happy vegetarian low glycemic diet, please feel free to share!


Filed under baking, kitchen tips, sabjimata, vegan

Mixing Finishes

This post is cross posted on the Horton Brasses Blog.


Whether decorating a new home or snazzying up an older model, the question often arises as to whether or not it is okay to mix finishes. Maybe all the doorknobs in your house are a shiny brass but you had your heart set on satin nickel in the kitchen and oil rubbed bronze in the loo. Or maybe you just can’t decide between polished nickel and polished brass. And satin nickel. And milk glass. And want them all in one space–the super expensive kitchen you are remodeling. You want it to look finished and pulled together and are afraid mixing finishes will give you a final product more akin to a Home Depot kitchen showroom than the Crown Point Cabinetry website.

Well, rest your pretty little head. While it is true that most of the pics of kitchens you find online will make you believe matchy match match is gospel, some Google Image searching will turn up quite a few well executed examples of mixing finishes in the kitchen without looking like you outfitted your cabinets in salvage off of eBay. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Here are some real life worries regarding mixed finishes:

I am planning on stainless cabinet hardware but want to get an ORB faucet….will this look okay?

Can I mix matte bronze light fixture with satin nickel cabinet hardware?

Brushed nickel cabinet hardware, stainless steel sink and faucet…can I go dark bronze on the lighting?

These kinds of threads always pop up on the GardenWeb Kitchen Forum, possibly the most useful reference and interactive website when it comes to remodeling a kitchen. As you can see from visiting the linked threads, there are some traditionalists out there who probably go so far as to match their faucet to their saucepan. That definitely is playing it safe.

But mixing finishes is not a strenuous task best undertaken by design mavens only. Even us commoners can use our good sense to pull off a fabulous mixed finish space without looking mis-matched. Let’s call in some visuals!



This shaker-style kitchen from the Crown Point Cabinetry website shows stained wooden knobs, stainless steel hood/range/sink/faucet and a wrought iron chandelier. The result is positively un-quirky.




Another example from the esteemed custom cabinet maker Crown Point, painted wooden knobs, copper sink and wrought iron pendants. Three different finishes, one unique charm!



GardenWebber Cotehele's gorgeous kitchen remodel, complete with Horton Brasses dark antique cabinet hardware, stainless steel faucet and white fireclay sink.



From Souther Living, this kitchen shows the eclectic pairing of antique brass pendants, stainless steel appliances and oil-rubbed bronze cabinet hardware.



Bronze, stainless steel and brass finishes adorn this Nantucket kitchen featured in House Beautiful.



Above is a glimpse how mixing finishes can give a high end effect on a budget. This Ikea kitchen remodel, by DIY Gardenwebber Brickmanhouse, was done for under $20k. Finshes include glass as well as chrome bin pulls, fireclay sinks and a black chandelier. This kitchen definitely is an inspiration on many levels! For more pics and info, click here.

Below is my own personal favorite, which not so coincidentally happens to be my personal kitchen. I could bore you with the details: white enamel light fixtures, satin nickel and polished nickel hardware. And milk glass and crystal and antique brass. Satin nickel faucets as well as chrome w/brass. I could go on and on about the four different tiles, two different grout colors etc., but instead, you can look for yourself.

So, while I don’t want to squelch your creativity, let me share some guidelines (I use that word loosely) to help you ease your fear over mixing and matching your finishes.

1) Know your style. Defining your decorating style will give you a design neighborhood to work in and help you achieve a cohesive end product. Are you going for a cottage look? Is a vintage or period feel where you are headed? Or are you trying to create a sleek, modern space? Asking these questions early on will allow you to narrow down your style choices (bin pulls vs. bar pulls) and may also steer you towards certain finishes or away from certain finishes.

2) Look for natural divisions of space. Good design is organic and not over thought. Examine your space and determine where there are natural divisions or breaks. You may want to offset a work island from the perimeter cabinets with different hardware. Or maybe bring in a finish on a hutch or pantry cabinetry. Another way to visually divide up your space is to think in terms of horizontal layers. Ceiling fixtures, then sink/faucets then cabinet hardware. There are many ways to break up the space, adding reason and order to your varying elements.

3) Be practical! Don’t forget to find out what kind of care goes into the finishes you’ve selected. Most lacquered hardware won’t require much upkeep at all, but do your homework. And don’t rule out chrome faucets just because the rest of your kitchen is chromeless. I promise you, the shine of chrome, while being bluer than the pink tones of polished nickel, will not clash. There will be no pictures turning up in the press with your kitchen listed as a “Fashion Don’t.” I promise.

4) Don’t sweat the small stuff. This goes along with “be practical” but I feel it is de rigueur for any list of guidelines to include this cliche’. What I am thinking about here is your sink drain. Get chrome. Trust me. I don’t care if your sink is black or white or stainless or pink. Chrome is the most durable finish and perfect for water applications. I had a Brasstech satin nickel basket for my drain and within a month or so I had myself a two toned satin nickel/brass basket where the finish rubbed off. Of course, if that is your idea of mixing finishes, than go for it.

5) Fill your kitchen with what you love! Another cliche’? Oh, totally! This is actually one of the most over-simplified decorating advice I’ve come across, but still, on one level it works. Of course, if you are like me and find yourself completely adulterous to any one style, you’re on your own. Perfecting that bohemian, time traveler look is probably one of the most complicated styles to execute. But if you’ve made it this far down my list of guidelines and have honed in on a specific style, divided your space up visually and have some practical ideas for your choices, then I say you have enough parameters to pick out your faves and deck your kitchen out in those things. That’s what I did.

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