Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili

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I’ve been working on a Vegetarian Chili recipe for quite a while. After a lot of back-and-forth on the ingredients, and a bit of debate on slow-cooker vs. stew-pot, I finally settled on a recipe I was content with and put it to the test. I know, you’re thinking summer doesn’t exactly scream chili, but I decided to try this dish served cold with some tortilla chips. I am quite pleased with the results and am happy to share this recipe with all of you.

Vegetarian Slow Cooker Chili
Recipe from Handmade By Tracie

2 15-oz cans Red Kidney Beans
1 15-oz can Cannellini Beans
1 15-oz can Black Beans
1 15-oz can Diced Tomatoes
1 28-oz can Crushed Tomatoes (I prefer Tuttorosso as they’re nice and thick)
1 or 2 6-oz cans Tomato Paste (depending on how thick you want your chili)
1 32-oz box Pacific Organic Low-Sodium Vegetable Broth
1/2 cup Green Lentils (dried)
1/4 cup French Lentils (dried)
1 large Cooking Onion, diced
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Small Head of Celery, diced
4 Carrots, peeled & diced
1 Red Bell Pepper, diced
1/2 Green Bell Pepper, diced
1 Small Zucchini (or 1/2 large), diced
1 Small Yellow Squash (or 1/2 large), diced
1 Small Eggplant (or 1/2 large), diced
1 Small-Medium Sweet Potato, peeled & diced
3 Tbsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Paprika
1 1/2 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 1/2 tsp Salt
2 Bay Leaves
1 1/2 Rapunzel Vegan Vegetable Bouillon Cubes with Sea Salt
OPTIONAL:
Dried Chili Peppers, Red Pepper Flakes or Diced Fresh Chilis to kick this up from mild to spicy

Prep Note: Most of the vegetables were diced “bean size” except the squashes and eggplant which were a bit larger since they shrink down a little during the long cooking process.

Instructions: Add all cans to the slow cooker, saving one can of red kidney beans and tomato paste to add later. Add all vegetables and lentils to the cooker.

In a small bowl, mash your bouillon cubes with a fork. Add a little of the vegetable broth and mix together until the bouillon starts to break up. Add in the chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper and mix together to form a paste. Add more broth until you have a soupy consistency, then pour in your slow cooker. Add the rest of the broth to the slow cooker along with the bay leaves. Mix everything together and set your cooker to High. (Above is a photo of what your chili will look like before it starts cooking.)

Stir every couple of hours throughout cooking process.

Once everything has cooked down a bit and some of the liquid has evaporated, go ahead and add your last can of beans and some tomato paste to thicken the mixture.

Your chili will be ready after about six hours, or once it gets to the consistency you’re looking for. I wanted a thick chili so mine actually cooked for a full seven hours. The longer it cooks, the thicker it becomes and the more the flavors meld together.

Remove bay leaves before serving. Serve either hot (great with warm biscuits) or cold (great with tortilla chips).

Cooking Tip: After working with onions or garlic, wash your hands with some lemon to help neutralize the odor. After juicing a lemon for my tea or water, I usually toss the empty rind into the sink so it’s handy for such a situation.

This dish is very flavorful and quite filling. The texture is great and I dare say that if I gave a bowl of this to my meat-loving father, I don’t think he would even notice it was “missing” any meat! Personally I don’t like spicy food so this is a very mild recipe in the spice department, though it is still chock full of flavor. I added optional ingredients for those of you who love some heat. So, test this recipe out and come back to tell me what you think of it!

Embroidered Blocking Mat Storage Bag

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This week was the Summer Solstice for Earth’s Northern Hemisphere and we sure are feeling the heat here in the Northeastern United States! Temperatures of 98*F and plenty of humidity to go around.

As a knitter and crocheter, one of the final steps to finishing a piece is blocking. This does not need to be done with all projects, but definitely with some. For example, due to the pattern stitch and yarn used for this cream criss-cross scarf I made for my sister, you can see how the edges curl under a bit and the shape is not quite right. This is because the piece was never properly blocked to define the shape. I never block scarves, frankly because they are SO long that I don’t have a surface big enough to use for blocking!

Blocking boards are pretty expensive and normally I would make a board, but again – most pieces I don’t block are things like very long scarves and I didn’t want to take on a DIY task like that. Then I came up with a solution: foam floor mats! You know, the kind you fit together like a puzzle that you typically see all colorful on playroom floors or the black version on workroom floors? You can determine the size and the shape – and because they are foam they won’t mind getting a bit wet or being stuck with pins. I thought it was the perfect inexpensive solution for my blocking board problem. I settled on these double-sided blocks from Amazon: Norsk-Stor 240151 Reversible Recyclamat Multi-Purpose Foam Flooring, Multi-Color/Gray, 4-Pack


Photo Credit: Amazon.com

My birthday was in May and my parents are kind enough to get all of their kids a couple of things that we want or need every year, no matter how grown we become. This year when my mom asked what I wanted I sent her the link to these mats. In anticipation of their arrival I decided to make a storage bag for them. I knew that the mats would be sitting around gathering dust if I didn’t so I went ahead and stitched up a bag based on the measurements from Amazon’s website. It’s not a perfect fit, but it’s pretty close. I guess that’s what happens when you make a bag to fit something before you have the actual item you’re storing!

I used Kona Solid Cotton color Sand. It’s a very basic bag made of two fabric pieces sandwiched together, corner seams to make the base, and a few pieces of tonal velcro hand-stitched at the top hem for closure.

My favorite touch is the embroidered yarn ball that I decided to add. I went ahead and free-handed my sketch. Since this was a big item and I wanted some great texture I decided to embroider the piece with yarn instead of embroidery thread. I used 100% Cotton that I had in my stash (do you recognize the color from my niece’s worm pillow’s stripe?).

I love the golden yellow – it is bright and sunny and I think it complements the neutral fabric quite well. It also gives you a hint of the bright colorful mats that are stored inside.

For some interesting info about the Summer Solstice, check out this National Geographic article.

Firefighter (Oil Painting)

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Title: Firefighter
Year: 2000
Medium: Oil Paint on Canvas

This painting was inspired by my father who is fire chief in his town. I saw an image when flipping through one of his firefighting magazines and based it on that. I chose the size of my piece and started from scratch. I built the frame with stretcher strips, stretched the canvas (cotton duck), primed the canvas with gesso, then went to town with my oil paints.

There is something I really love about this image, the colors and the textures. What thoughts and emotions does it bring up for you?

How-To: Mason Jar Coin Bank

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I have several coin collectors tucked around my bookshelves, closets, dressers, etc. They take many forms including jars, tins, ceramic pots, jugs and various other vessels. Most of them are completely no-frills. About twice a year as they fill up I go through and empty them into my bank account where the funds hopefully purchase something fun like concert tickets, yarn or fabric splurges, a day trip out of town, etc. Other times the money goes towards something completely boring but necessary like bills. I have had a lot of loose change coming my way lately so I decided to take an empty mason jar I had sitting with my craft supplies and turn it into another little coin bank.

I decided on a nautical theme including a piece of my Anchors Away fabric from Dear Stella (one of my favorite fabric manufacturers at the moment). I have always loved anchors; I remember doodling them on my notebooks when I was little. Do you remember when we used to have those denim binders and drew all over them? They were “the” thing after Trapper Keepers went out of style. But back to the project…

Supplies you will need:
– Mason jar and rim, lid not needed
– Two scraps of fabric approximately 7″ x 7″
– Cardstock
– Double-sided tape or a glue stick is helpful!
– Scissors
– Ruler
– Pencil/Pen
– Any embellishments you would like (ribbon, cord, lace, etc). I chose cording to go with my nautical theme.

Step One: Trace the rim onto your card stock and cut it out – make sure it fits inside the rim before proceeding further. I cut two pieces and fastened them together with a little glue around the edge (no glue in the middle because we’ll be cutting the center). The double layer will make your top more durable. I used some scraps of card stock leftover from another sewing pattern that I made. I keep scraps in the back of my file for projects like this.

Step Two: With your ruler measure to find the center of the circle. I drew a line across the diameter and another line perpendicular. Then, using the center point and your diameter line as a guide draw a line 1.5″ across the center of the circle. I measured an old-school silver dollar at 1.25″. That was the largest coin in my nearest canister and I wanted to make sure there would be enough room to accommodate it. You can use a craft blade (or scissors if you feel confident) to cut a narrow opening in the center of your card stock – 1.5″ long as per your guide and just wide enough for a couple of coins to fit through at once.

Step Three: Cut your fabric squares to desired size (I think mine were around 7″ x 7″). You can put them on top of the jar with the rim to measure and see if the fabric is the size you want it to be. Fold your fabric in half with wrong side out, then fold it in half again to make a square. You will see your center point at one of the corners you just made. Make a tiny snip to mark your center. Unfold fabric so it is just folded in half. Now that your center point is identified and your center line is marked by the fold, it is easy to cut out your hole while fabric is folded. Hole should be just shy of the size of your card stock’s opening. My card stock’s opening was about 2mm larger than my fabric’s.

Step Four (optional): This step was very theme-specific. I took my navy cord and created a coil for the bottom of the jar. This would help to soften the sound as coins were deposited, and also protect the glass. I decided to sew rather than glue the coil. It takes more time, but it’s cleaner and more durable. Once finished, my coil was added to the bottom of the jar.

Step Five: Layer your card stock between your top and bottom fabrics, aligning the coin slot. I put a tiny bit of glue stick on each side of the card stock during this process. This wasn’t to permanently glue the pieces of fabric and paper together, just to help keep them secure during the top assembly. Once your lid layers are sandwiched, stick them in your rim (this ensures that the layers aligned as the pieces of card stock will guide your sandwich to the center). Place the entire piece on top of the jar, screw on the lid.

Step Six (optional): I tied around the lid a cord with a cute little knot. I took a match to seal the ends of my cord to prevent fraying and add some nice texture. Depending on your fabrics, you could use ribbon, a lacy bow, some twine, glue on buttons and gems or even leave the rim unadorned.

That’s it! Now you are ready to fill your stylish new bank. What are you going to splurge on once you’ve saved up some dough?

Linking up to:

Guest Spotlight: Handmade Summer Belt + Tutorial from Sew Paint Create

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Summer’s official start is not until June 20th, but I’m already feeling the spirit. I was the lucky recipient of a fabulous custom-made summery belt from fellow blogger Pétra of Sew Paint Create!

I was excited even when the up-cycled, bird-stamped, machine-stitched package arrived (completely my style). When I opened it and saw the belt things just got better. It was like pulling a piece of the sea out of the envelope. The fabric is lovely in its aquas, white and sea-toned greens.

The belt is lightweight, perfect for summer, and was made exactly to my size. Even on those days I can’t make it down the shore this summer I can take it with me in my wardrobe. Thank you Pétra!

The best news of all is that Pétra has posted a tutorial today on how to make this belt! Please be sure to visit Sew Paint Create to check out her great tutorial and while you’re there take a look at her quilting and other crafty endeavors.

WIP: Seed Stitch Blanket

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Hello. I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. It’s that time of year when everybody’s allergies are on overdrive, which for me and my “complex and narrow” sinus passageways (doctor’s words, not mine) means back-to-back sinus and ear infections. Kind of knocks a person out. Anyway, I figured I would at least give you a peek at one of my works-in-progress.

I am knitting this throw blanket in a classic seed stitch pattern. Since I’m using a worsted weight 100% cotton yarn but using chunky size 11 needles, I wanted to use a simple pattern that would highlight the texture of the yarn. This will be a warm, yet lightweight throw when it is complete.

I’ve never seen the sunset over the desert in person (only in photographs), but that is what I had in mind when I chose these yarns for the bottom band. I still have quite a ways to go with this blanket and have a few ideas in mind for how the rest of it will be finished. Stay tuned…

Alphabet Frames For Baby/Kids’ Rooms

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I recently received an invite to a 1 year old’s birthday party and I thought about how much she loves books and how she’s starting to speak. At the same time, I wanted to make a gift that she would have for years to come. This smart little cookie will be learning her ABCs before we know it, and I thought it would be cute to make a framed alphabet for her bedroom wall.

I picked out a frame I liked purely based on the shape. It didn’t matter if the frame was brown with red polka dots because I was going to paint it! The frame was actually bright shade of green. It got a layer of white paint, followed by a layer of gold paint, followed by another layer of white paint. Then I took a medium-grit piece of sand paper to it to bring out some of the gold for a touch of a distressed look. It’s hard to see how the frame came out with the photos shrunken for the site.

I picked out some patterned paper and cut it to the size of the frame, then laid out my letters, filling in with flower and button embellishments. Once I was happy with a basic layout I fastened everything to the paper then added more embellishments and final touches.

After making the first alphabet frame, I was asked to make another (for a friend’s baby shower). We had photos of the baby’s room, painted in pinks and greens. There was a wooden crib and furniture so we picked out a wooden frame to match and some paper to complement the room.

I added some ribbon to the embellishments on this frame and chose random letters to replace with my buttons and flowers (versus the frame above where I spelled out the child’s name).

The photos of this baby’s room really had a specific color scheme and I was able to incorporate all of the colors in here. There was also a floral theme with flowers painted on the walls so hopefully this alphabet frame will fit in nicely.

New York Crumb Cake

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I recently decided to make a crumb cake for my parents. They are both big fans. Anybody from New Jersey or New York knows that you need the right crumb to cake ratio for a successful crumb cake (apx 2/3 crumbs to 1/3 cake); this is something that many bakeries down the shore and up north have mastered. Crumb cake is one item I was surprised we didn’t have a family recipe for. We only have a variation that includes ricotta for a crumb/cheese cake. After searching around the internet for a bit I thought Martha Stewart’s recipe for New York Crumb Cake looked like it would be great for experimenting.

New York Crumb Cake
Recipe from Martha Stewart
Yield: Makes one 9″ by 12 1/2″ cake

2 Tbs canola oil, plus more for pan
4 Cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1/2 Cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/2 Cup milk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Cup packed light-brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Place rack in center of oven, and heat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly brush a 9-by-12 1/2-inch baking pan with canola oil, dust with flour, and tap to remove excess. Set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a second bowl, whisk together egg, milk, canola oil, and vanilla. Using a rubber spatula, fold dry ingredients into egg mixture.

Spread batter evenly into prepared pan, and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine remaining 2 1/2 cups flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Pour melted butter over flour mixture, and toss with a rubber spatula until large crumbs form. (Tracie’s note: You may want to work with your fingers a bit at the end to make sure you combine the mixture into as many large crumbs as possible. Any small crumbles will just fall right off of the cake and the rubber spatula will leave you with a lot of useless tiny crumbles.) Sprinkle crumbs over batter.

Transfer pan to oven, and bake, rotating pan after 10 minutes. Continue baking until a cake tester comes out clean, about 10 minutes more.

Transfer baking pan to a wire rack to cool. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Using a serrated knife or bench scraper, cut into 3-inch squares. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

I think the cake portion was pretty excellent; I could tell even as I spread the batter into the pan. The crumbs were okay, but something seemed a bit off with the consistency. Not sure if it was too much sugar, maybe? I think they will need a little more experimenting next go around. Overall, I think the recipe is a keeper.

Quinoa Two Ways

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Today presents quinoa salad two ways – one for the veggie lovers and one for the fruit & nut lovers. I had a package of Organic Arrowhead Mills quinoa in my pantry and decided to make the whole thing, then split the cooked results into two salads. Here are the results.

Quinoa Vegetable Salad
Recipe from Handmade By Tracie

1/2 pkg Arrowhead Mills Organic Quinoa
1/2 Red Bell Pepper, diced
1/2 Yellow Bell Pepper, diced
1/3 Seedless Cucumber, diced
1-2 Carrots, peeled and diced
Handful of Grape Tomatoes, sliced in 1/2
Little bit of red onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Fresh Basil, chopped
Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil
Salt + Pepper

Prepare quinoa according to package instructions. Once ready put in a mixing bowl and set aside to cool.

Add diced vegetables to bowl. Season with salt, pepper, fresh basil. Add minced garlic to bowl (note: if you prefer a more subtle flavor, you can add minced garlic to the quinoa while it is cooking instead). Drizzle olive oil on top and add balsamic vinegar to taste. Mix everything together.

Refridgerate and serve salad cold.

Quinoa Cranberry Salad
Recipe from Handmade By Tracie

1/2 pkg Arrowhead Mills Organic Quinoa
3/4 cup Whole Foods Dried Cranberries
1/2 cup Roasted Unsalted Whole Foods Cashews, coarselychopped
Little bit of red onion, minced
Juice of 1 Lemon
1/2 clove garlic, minced
Fresh Parsley, chopped
Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil
Salt + Pepper

Prepare quinoa according to package instructions. Once ready put in a mixing bowl and set aside to cool.

Add cranberries, cashews, and onion to bowl. Season with salt, pepper, fresh parsley. Add minced garlic to bowl (note: if you prefer a more subtle flavor, you can add minced garlic to the quinoa while it is cooking instead). Drizzle olive oil and a tiny splash of vinegar on top. Add lemon juice. Mix everything together.

Refridgerate and serve salad cold.

Note: I was out of fresh parsley when I made this so I substituted dried – definitely not the same. I imagine this would also be good with scallions instead of red onions.

Vegetarian Tortellini Salad

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I love Whole Foods for many reasons, one reason being that it is so easy to find Vegetarian cheeses there. Here’s my take on a super-easy Vegetarian tortellini salad.

Tortellini Salad
Recipe from Handmade By Tracie

1 pkg Whole Foods 365 Organic Frozen Cheese Tortellini
1/3 pkg Whole Foods 365 Organic Frozen Peas
1/4 cup Sundried Tomatoes
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Red Wine Vinegar
Dried Basil
Salt + Pepper
Whole Foods 365 Organic Vegetarian Parmesan

Prepare tortellini according to package instructions. I prefer mine al dente. Once ready put in a mixing bowl and set aside to cool. 365 brand tortellini is great as they use Vegetarian cheeses to stuff the pasta.

Save a tiny bit of the pasta water and add a vegetable steamer to the pot. Add the frozen peas, cover pot and steam for about 4 minutes. Once ready add the peas to the bowl with the pasta.

Take your handful of sun dried tomatoes (I prefer the “moist” tomatoes – not the hard ones) and cut into pieces. Add them to the mixing bowl.

Season the salad with freshly ground black pepper, your salt of choice (sea, kosher or table), and basil. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the pasta. Add a couple tablespoons of red wine vinegar. Sprinkle parmesan over the top and mix together. Note: You can get the 365 Vegetarian Parmesan either Grated or Shredded near the Fromagerie (in the case by the fresh mozzarella). You can also get Stravecchio Reserve in the Fromagerie if you like to grate your own – this is the Vegetarian version of Parmesan that is available in brick form at Whole Foods.

Place the salad in the refrigerator. Serve cold.