Friday, December 18, 2009

Reusable Gift Bags

Last year I decided to turn various bits of fabric that were leftover from projects, and which had been taking up space in my craft corner for at least 5 years, into gift bags.

I love them.

No paper to buy, wrap, and trash. No tape. The gift bags fold and take up very little space when stored. The ones I've made are lined and have a nice weight to them; lining fabric can also be scrap fabric, or from something like an old sheet (the flat ones never wear out like the fitted ones do). Bags can be pieced to highlight particular fabrics as well.

I've tried several different methods, including these:
Simple bag with ribbon tie
Unlined Drawstring Bag
Lined drawstring bag

Making one bag, from cutting the fabric to completing the drawstring, takes about an hour. Wrapping a gift takes 10 seconds.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dairy-Free Meals

This is for my friend Jennifer, who has to cook dairy-free for a while due to her infant's potential allergies. These are some ideas for easy dairy-free meals.

Just about anything you might have other than breakfast cereal, which you can of course prepare with soy or rice milk. Read labels as some nondairy "milks" contain a lot of sugar.

For pancakes or waffles, you can sub prepared nondairy milks in the recipe, or you can blend some cooked oatmeal or cooked rice with water and use that instead.

  • Use bean spreads such as hummus for sandwiches or wraps; bean spreads can be made from almost any bean with varied seasonings. For instance, try black beans with cumin and salsa, or white beans with lots of parsley. Add your favorite veggies.
  • Avocado sandwich
  • Hard-boiled egg or an egg sandwich
  • Leftover roast chicken or turkey sandwich
  • Bean and grain salads
  • Leftovers from dinner

  • Beans and rice (Use canned beans, or cook a big pot of beans and use it for several meals). There are many ethnic variations on beans and rice.
  • Pasta with sauce and veggies (Sunflower seeds or pine nuts add a big burst of flavor if you miss Parmesan).
  • Tacos or burritos, just as good without cheese. I like to make a big batch of taco filling and freeze it in meal-sized containers. Making your own beans is easy, too.
  • Stir-fry, and then fried rice with the leftover rice.
  • Roast chicken and some veggies. Try quinoa for a change of pace side dish.
  • Chili, stew, or soup and bread. If a soup recipe calls for lots of milk or cream, look for another recipe. Veggies have sufficient flavor on their own. My favorite veggie chili is from Cary Neff's book Conscious Cuisine, which our library has.
  • Make-your-own pizza. Pizza is different, but very good and a lot less greasy, without cheese. Call it if focaccia it doesn't look like pizza to you.
  • Sweet potato, white bean, and pepper tian. This is delicious.
  • Moosewood's Chili Burgers and some whole wheat rolls
  • Chicken sausages, sauteed peppers & onions, and rolls
Muffins (use juice or water in place of milk, applesauce, pureed white beans, or pureed oatmeal/rice in place of thick dairy stuff).
Hummus and pita bread

As I noted in a previous post, baking can be the most difficult. Try those substitutions, or look for dairy-free recipes. Oatmeal cookie recipes usually are dairy-free, for instance. Quick breads and muffins often use oil and no butter. If you need a cake, try making Six-Minute Chocolate Cake for the ultimate in fast and easy - seriously, it's easier than waiting in line at the grocery store.

Now - start experimenting!