Friday, December 23, 2016

Krampus??? Nay, KramPUSS for Dec's Nibblefest Art Contest "KRAMPUS" Theme!

New artwork!

Painted in oils upon a 10x7 2nd-hand wood plaque, "KramPUSS"

The theme for the month's Nibblefest Art Contest is "Krampus"

Vintage Austrian Krampus Greeting Card

And so did I paint a Krampus...???  

No indeed, what we have here is Krampus' even more rare and elusive cousin, the KramPUSS.


Gruss Von KramPUSS!  (Greetings from KramPUSS)

The following is my auction description:


This is my entry for this month's Nibblefest Art Contest (NFAC), the theme for December being 'Krampus'.  Painted in oils upon a 10"x 7" scallop-edged wood plaque, this unique and festive original is signed and ready to hang (Note to the winning bidder: As per the nature of oil paints, this piece may need just a little wee extra time (up to a week) to fully cure/dry before being safely shipped to its new home).    

Who is familiar with that fearsome Christmas creature of European tradition, The Krampus...?  

More or less Saint Nick's dark sidekick, the legendary Krampus makes his appearance to all the naughty children during the Yuletide season, according to Germanic folklore.  In vintage greeting cards The Krampus is pictured as a rather demonic-looking fellow, complete with horns, a long tongue and often even a switch in his hand -- all to keep those misbehaving youngsters in line.  And indeed, while the legend of Krampus isn't all that widely known outside the Alpine regions of Europe...., even LESS is known of the very secretive and elusive creature, "KramPUSS".  
As you can see, KramPUSS may not be quite as frightful as his cousin, Krampus, yet he still portrays several of the same iconic hallmark features.  And he wishes a Merry Christmas to all...!

 Here's hoping you enjoy my Nibblefest entry this month as much as I did painting it...!


Naughty Kittens, Beware The KramPUSS


Happy to say my little "KramPUSS" won the Big Chomp award in December's Nibblefest Art Contest 
-- a big shout out of thanks to all my lovely bidders...!


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

New E.A.Poe Tribute for Nov's NFAC Theme "SAME SUBJECT AS 1st ART SOLD ONLINE"

“Who has not, a hundred times,
found himself committing a vile or a silly action
for no other reason
than because he knows he should not...?”

~Edgar Allan Poe, 'The Black Cat'

My NFAC entry: a tribute in oils to E.A. Poe, painted upon a 12x8 cat-shaped wood plaque

After all my recent talk of gardening and cooking, we're now back to our regularly scheduled programming of arting and painting, as  Nibblefest Art Contest Week swings its way back 'round, once again.

November's Nibblefest theme is: "Same Subject as the First Art You Sold Online".  A bit of a different than the usual, no? After over a decade of monthly Nibblefest Art Contest themes, you can image how some of the more popular ones have made their trek around the block any number of repeated times. This one however is a first.   

Thus speaking of 'firsts', my first ever online art sale was for the November '08 NFAC theme, "Christmas Trees" (my very first NFAC entry) via Ebay.  But my first ever sale for the online marketplace *Etsy* was back in 2011, when I sold a wee, painted ACEO tribute portrait of the inimitable artist, Salvador Dali....: 

A 2.5 x 3.5 watercolor ACEO portrait of Salvador Dali, my 1st Etsy sale

 So I'm using this as my 'first'.  And indeed, I could certainly have painted another in a series of personal tribute portraits to Mr. Dali (as, for example, this one).  Instead, I chose to focus upon the fact that my first-ever (Etsy) sale was of a famous and historic, dead, white, artistic male.  Thus I'm entering Nibblefest this month with a tribute portrait of yet another famous and historic, dead, white, artistic male:  

Mr. Edgar Allen Poe.

"Poe's Black Cat"....

 I believe this is now something like my 5th or 6th in a series of Poe tributes (previous ones can be found here, here and here).  But he was actually painted a few months back....

On my easel, back in September

I'd been hoarding this particular thrifted, cat-shaped plaque (sort-of-similar-yet-very-different to this cat-shaped plaque from a few years back) for forever, waiting for another Nibblefest 'Cats' theme to come around again.  I was happy to finally have my chance this past September, for "Feline Nation".  Only unfortunately, I fished around so long for an actual concept to paint, during what was already a really busy month, that I ended up getting started so late in the game I couldn't quite finish in time to enter him properly (because One-Day Nibblefest auctions feel just too risky for me....!).  

Still, after posting him on social media, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a random invitation to display him for the month of October in a unique Halloween art show, called "Haunting at the Hive", at the Hive Gallery in Chester, New Jersey.  So that's where he ended up for the month of October.   Obviously I didn't make it to N.J. to see the exhibit myself, but oh, how I wished I could have -- if the photos and videos I saw of it were any indication, it looked really amazing. 

Some stills of my Poe from the show:
Photo Credit: Vicky Knowles

Photo Credit: Vicky Knowles

In any case, I  felt most honored indeed to be included with all those amazing and visionary artists.  A big thank you to The Hive...!

So as you can see, Mr. Poe has already covered some mileage under his belt (and soon I assume to cover even more).....

My auction description:

"Poe's Black Cat"

Is there a Poe fan in your life...?
My entry for this month's Nibblefest Art Contest (NFAC), the theme for  November being 'SAME SUBJECT as First Art Sold Online', features a portrait created in loving tribute to the esteemed 19th century American author, Edgar Allan Poe.  Painted in oils upon an old, found, 12" x 8" cat-shaped wooden plaque, this unique original is signed and ready to hang.   

“Who has not, a hundred times,
found himself committing a vile or a silly action
for no other reason
than because he knows he should not...?”

~Edgar Allan Poe, 'The Black Cat'

Years ago, my very first sale via the Etsy online art marketplace was a wee ACEO watercolor portrait in tribute to the artist, Salvador Dali (as seen in my photos).  As such I took this as my inspiration for this month's Nibblefest theme of "Same Subject as First Art Sold Online".  Only not literally another portrait of Mr. Dali himself, but rather the fact that the subject matter was of a famously known and revered, dead artistic white male.  This, my November Nibblefest entry, is of ANOTHER famously known and revered, dead artistic white male, the venerable Mr. Edgar Allan Poe. 

Mr. Poe wrote a well-known short story entitled, "The Black Cat" -- thus painting his portrait upon a cat-shaped plaque felt fitting indeed.  Here's hoping you enjoy my little tribute and Nibblefest entry as much as I enjoyed painting it...!



Happy to say my "Poe's Black Cat" won the Big Chomp award in November's Nibblefest Art Contest -- a big shout out of thanks to all my lovely bidders...!


Friday, November 11, 2016

"Freezer Dump Meal" Cooking Session #3

More Dumpery...!

5 more meals to add to my freezer stash, for a total of 20

Another "Freezer Dump Meal" cooking session!  

I made an additional five minimal-prep, (mostly) no-cook, McDougall-friendly meals to add to my stockpile this afternoon -- now making a grand total of 19 ready-to-cook meals awaiting in my freezer.

Before starting my session today, I took inventory of the ingredients I already had on hand.  I knew there were some batch-cooked chickpeas made last month that I'd thrown in the freezer thinking to use them somehow in the future.  Well, the future is now, so these were put into service.  I also had several butternut squash on hand, plus some frozen garden kale.  I browsed and looked up various Freezer Dump recipes online, comparing ingredients and targeting the ones that called for stuff I either already had on hand, or could easily substitute....  

Similar ingredients, but much different spice sets, so they should all taste fairly different!

I found four likely recipes featuring butternut squash (or in one case sweet potatoes, for which I subbed squash), and got to work.  No shopping was required in the making of these meals (which is great because ever since my daughter went off to college with our 2nd car, my husband and I are sharing a vehicle between us so I'm not making it to the store as often).  I was able to use what I already had at hand (and much of it from the garden) to save myself some money that way.  Plus time as well, by doing all the chopping, measuring and 'dumping' all at once (with little pre-cooking) when putting these together, assembly-line style.

5 future plant-based/no-oil meals, ready to go into the freezer. 

The first two bags from the left are the same and hold "Hearty Lentil Stew", by Super Health Kids.


"Freezer to Slow Cooker Pineapple Curry" with Chickpeas and Squash

As usual, I had to make a few alterations...:

The "Hearty Lentil Stew", by Super Healthy Kids recipe was already plant-based (nice!), but I did end up subbing chopped butternut squash for the sweet potatoes, what with squash being the star Veggie of the Day.  I also added a handful of chopped garden white potatoes the recipe *didn't* call for, since I have a tub of those and must make a concerted effort to use them before they go off.  (I'll confess I'm a little nervous about freezing the white potatoes because it goes counter to everything I've always read about freezing produce -- still, the people who routinely make these 'dump' type of meals swear it's fine!  Guess we'll find out).  I also added in some frozen, unidentified zucchini-like veggie that was given to me by a Pakistani friend, that I'd chopped and thrown in the freezer earlier in the season. I reduced the salt significantly, plus I added a cup or so of some homemade veggie broth I had on hand (to cover the white potatoes in the bag -- better for their overall freezing process I believe.  Fingers crossed!), and will add more on cooking day.  With all this and my additions, I think this stew should be 'hearty' indeed. Planning to serve it with bread or biscuits, and salad. 

Hearty Red Lentil Stew

For the "Autumn Harvest Soup with Butternut Squash, Kale and Farro", by Kalyn's Kitchen, I subbed the farro with soaked wheatberries I had frozen (tried sprouting them a few weeks ago without success, and they ended up in the freezer.  'Waste not/Want not', I always say-- glad to have found a use for them!).  I omitted the olive oil called for (avoiding oils), and used fresh chopped sage from my herb garden.  I used less squash than the recipe called for.  The kale was from what I'd previously harvested and processed earlier in the season (happy to find uses for that as well, because I have a bathtub full (see this post).  I added 3 cups of broth to the bag, and will add an additional 3 cups on cooking day (planning to serve this with bread, cornbread or biscuits)....

Autumn Harvest Soup with Kale, Squash and Wheatberries

The "Freezer-to-Slow Cooker Thai Pineapple Curry", by New Leaf Wellness,  was also happily already plant-based.  I used the previously batch-cooked chickpeas I had in my freezer, instead of canned.  I used canned pineapple chunks instead of fresh.  Instead of the coconut milk called for, I blended soy milk with a little dried coconut to hopefully get a little coconut-y flavor without a lot of added fat (definitely flying off the flight map here).  I also added a little frozen garden kale just to punch up the greens content -- plus to use some of the kale/collard bounty I have in the freezer.  Planning to serve this with brown rice.

  For the "Slow Cooker Thai-Inspired Butternut Squash and Peanut Soup", by Kalyn's Kitchen, I omitted the oil, and added some of those cooked/frozen chickpeas, plus a cup of my homemade veggie broth.  I used half the peanut butter called for, and added a T or so of PB2 powdered peanut butter.  I subbed soy sauce for the fish sauce, and used Korean red chili paste for the Thai red curry paste (not exactly the same, possibly not even close -- but whatever!).  Planning to serve this with rice or other grain.  

Looking forward to some easy, stress-free meal times..!

So there you have it.  I didn't time myself assembling these -- would have been tricky to do anyway because I was interrupted at several intervals (even driving my puppy to the local dog park at one point in the middle of it all), but I estimate it maybe took about 1.5 hours of actual hands-on time putting these 5 together...?  With a goodly chunk of that spent on the peeling and chopping of the squash and the onions.  But that's okay because for 5 nights in the near future (19 nights total with my other frozen dump meals.  And heck, maybe even 38+ if you count leftover nights...!) I'll be looking forward to super easy, healthy, economical and stress-free meal times....

I'll update with my impressions later when I actually give these a try.


Freezer Dump Cooking Session #1:

Freezer Dump Cooking Session #2:

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

"Freezer Dump Meal" Cooking Session #2

More 'Dumping'...!

10 more plant-based/oil-free, ready-to-cook meals for my freezer

My adventures in the McDougallizing (plant-based/oil-free) of "Freezer Dump Meals" experiments continues.

Meal assembly, in progress -- all 10 bags at once

 10 more minimal-prep, plant-based/oil-free 'dump' meals for my freezer, for a total of 14 meals (Freezer Dump, AKA as "Freezer-to-Slow Cooker", are meals that require minimal prep beyond peeling, chopping and measuring, with (mostly) raw ingredients 'dumped' into multiple bags assembly-line style, to be stacked and frozen until cooking day). 

The theme this time around the theme was Black Beans.  Being as that I like to be as cheap and health conscious as possible, I cooked up a huge batch from dry (rather than using canned) in my Instant Pot electric pressure cooker to use in all these meals.

Minimal prep, ready-to-cook
 In the middle we have four bags of "Salsa Verde Chicken", by New Leaf Wellness

I did have to make some significant modifications.

The 'Crockpot Vegetarian Black Bean Soup" recipe was already plant-based, which was nice.  However I used soaked-but-uncooked black beans, rather than the canned.  I plan to prepare this on cooking day in my Instant Pot for approx 7 minutes, then pureeing a bit with my immersion blender.  For the green onions called for, I harvested and chopped the last of my garden chives and garlic chives and used those instead. For the broth called for, I simply added the bean cooking liquid that was drained from the batch of beans cooked in bulk for all the meals. I also added some chopped garden carrot to each bag that the recipe did not call for. I plan to serve this on cooking day with either bread or cornbread, dumplings or polenta, plus a blob of homemade soy yogurt as a topping, and salad.

For the 'Salsa Verde Chicken', I made a big batch of my own homemade Salsa Verde from my recently harvested green tomatoes (see this post), instead of the jarred salsa called for. I omitted the chicken, subbing instead a scant cup of baked diced tofu cubes per meal, and bumping up the quantity of beans. The corn used was harvested from the garden and frozen earlier in the season. For the cream cheese called for in the original recipe, I'm planning to either add some of my own homemade soy yogurt, or make a batch of blogger Cooking With Plants 'Sunflower Seed Cream Cheese' -- adding either at the very end after cooking (or depending on how it tastes I might even omit it all together).  Without the meat (and with the beans pre-cooked) I figure this likely wont take nearly as long to cook as the recipe suggests.   In any case, I plan on serving this differently each time, with either baked potatoes or baked sweet potatoes, rice or spanish rice. 

For the "Cilantro Lime Chicken with Corn and Black Beans", I obviously omitted the chicken, instead subbing a few homemade 'breast of tofu' baked tofu chunks per meal, and bumping up the quantity of beans. The corn used I was garden harvested and frozen earlier in the season. I also added some chopped garden red tomato the recipe did not call for, because I still have lots on hand that need using up.  Without the meat (and the beans pre-cooked) I figure this likely wont take as long to cook as the recipe suggests, but, we'll figure that out. Am also planning to serve this differently each time: with tortillas and/or rice, mashed potatoes, polenta, etc etc.

 So will this all actually work and taste good...?  Who knows!  I do know I just love the convenience factor of this concept, and the time and money savings.  I really should calculate the cost of all these meals, though it can't be much between the dry, bulk-purchased beans, bulk-purchased tofu and free garden produce.   And it will be so great pulling these out on especially busy days and leave the cooking to my Instant Pot.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

"Freezer Dump Meal" Cooking Session #1

Down in the "Dumps"...?  Bavarian Red Cabbage Freezer Dump Meals

I've spent a lifetime cooking. 

Day in and day out, homemaking, working part time/homeschooling/freelancing and raising a family, the chore of meal planning always fell to me.  Which is fine, because in general I do enjoy cooking.  Well, for the most part I do.  Though it often feels like I'm trying to find a delicate balance between several factors when it comes to meal making.  I'm a health-nut, so I gravitate towards Whole Foods.  I'm naturally a cheap Frugalista, so I want to save costs and economize whenever and wherever I can.  Plus as much as I do enjoy cooking, I'm a busy person, with, at any given time, dozens of other things I could or should also be doing.  So I don't really want to be spending 
*ALL* of my time chopping, hanging over the stove, washing dishes and cleaning up.  Sure, there are days when I'm totally down with making long, drawn-out and complex meals, but others when I'm totally not.  And yet we still need to eat, and eat healthfully (and cheaply).  So it can be a quandary:  Convenience food items may seem like tempting time-savers, yet they are significantly more expensive.  Plus typically chock-full of chemicals and preservatives the more processing it goes through.  Plain, whole foods are more wholesome, and generally less expensive, but cooking entirely from scratch can eat up huge chunks of time if you let it.  My food budget, in addition to my time budget, are both limited.  So what's the solution...?

Well, I think I may have found one with the meal planning method known as "Freezer Dump Meals".  Which is a rather unfortunate moniker for a concept that is actually quite positive -- minimal-prep, mostly raw ingredients that are 'dumped' into freezer bags, which are then dumped into the freezer, to later be 'dumped' into the slow-cooker with little fuss on cooking day.  These meals, AKA "Freezer-to-Slow Cooker", are prepared assembly-line style -- getting all the washing, peeling, chopping and measuring (and clean up) out of the way and done at once.  With as little pre-cooking as possible.  Genius!

The thing is, I'm whole foods/plant based, and not only that, but oil-free as well.  When you look these particular 'Dump'-style recipes up online, you'll find a PLETHORA of icky animal ingredients, oils, or processed food items -- like canned soup, jarred sauces and dressings. I don't use any of these things, so it looks like I'm going to have to experiment heavily with altering existing Freezer Dump Meal recipes to suit my specific needs, and even make up some McDougall-friendly recipes of my own.  But that's okay, I'm up to the challenge.

And so I'm going to document my experiments here on my blog, for my own amusement and education.  

 And so we have here my first attempt.  I had a lot of garden red cabbage to use up, so I batch-prepped four "Bavarian Red Cabbage, with Apples and Onions Meals" :

Assembly Line Style

 Bavarian Red Cabbage (Freezer Dump Meal) :
(which I quadrupled to make 4 meals): 
 ~1 large head red cabbage, washed and coarsely sliced
~2 onions, coarsely chopped
~6 tart apples, cored and quartered
~6 T bacon grease or butter (Nope!)
~2/3 cup cider vinegar
~2 tsp salt
~3 T Sugar

Freezing directions:
Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl until well mixed, then transfer to a heavy-duty gallon-size freezer bag. Label with the name of the recipe, the date prepared, and cooking instructions. Lay flat to freeze.

Cooking Directions:
Thaw the frozen mixture. Spray the inside of the slow cooker with cooking spray (nope again!). Empty the contents of the bag into the slow cooker. Add 2 cups of hot water. Cover and cook on low 8 hours or on high for 3 hours. Stir well before serving.


 First I chopped all the cabbage, then the apples, then onions, then added the measured amounts of vinegar, salt and sugar (I subbed some of the sugar with a little grape juice) as required by the recipe, into each bag. It didn't take that long to assemble these (wasn't that much harder to put together 4 as opposed to 1.  And most of the work was the chopping), plus only the one-time clean up. On cooking day, weeks to months from now, I will throw a thawed bag into my slow cooker, adding some veggie sausage (which I intend to batch-make at a later date) -- to be served over wild rice and topped with a little homemade soy yogurt, for a complete meal. 

So I actually made a batch of this last year, at the end of the gardening season, using red cabbage that I'd harvested from the garden from a recipe I found in an ebook.  I guess I was feeling unsure of how it would turn out, so I made just the one bag.  Months and months later, I was anticipating an especially busy day where I was going to be out of the house for most of it.  I remembered the frozen "Bavarian Red Cabbage Meal" in the freezer -- fishing it out and cooking it up using the slow cooker function of my Instant Pot.  It turned out really yummy to me -- I am a fan of red cabbage anyway (the color cooked was the most intense purple, wow!), plus it made for such an easy meal for us that day.  Thus I felt confident in making up four more of these....

In any case, I'm intending to amass more Freezer Dump Meals like this -- pretty easy to do and a pleasant feeling knowing there is already something on hand all set and ready to go for especially those busy days...!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Yes, I 'Can'......

A bathtub full of garden greens, washing all at once....

Been a busy bee lately.... 

Tomatoes Galore....

As a person who tends to follow Voluntary Simplicity as just part and parcel of my own practical nature, when the opportunity arises to harvest an abundance of produce from a generous friend's big veggie garden, you most certainly take him up on it.  

When life hands you green tomatoes harvested before the Frost...:

I mean seriously, free food...?  Bring it on!  

One of a bunch of pumpkins....

As a self-proclaimed Frugality Nut, I get such a perverse charge out of the prospects of saving money....  


Not to mention I've also been doing my darndest this year to adhere to the Dr. John McDougall way of eating -- as in whole-foods/low-fat/no-oil/plant-based.  Which generally translates into a very starch and veggie-heavy meal plan (for the win!).   Thus, being able to have access to such lovely chemical-free (and FREE-free) veggies like this feels a little bit like manna from heaven....:

It was definitely a Pepper Year....

There is always a certain trade off however.  Because it will then mean a significant amount of effort to be spent processing all the bounty -- like a race against Time to get it all 'put up' and properly preserved, before it goes bad.  As I've said before in this blog, if there is anything this "Non-consumer Advocate" can't stand, it's waste.  Especially after all the effort of my friend to plant and grow his garden -- plus after my own working so hard in the hot sun (and humdity, oy) to pick it all, carry it hither and yon over the vast garden beds to the car, then schlep it all home and into the house.  So it really only makes sense to roll up one's sleeves..., and get to WORK. 


And so, in between my usual working, freelancing, teaching, etc...,

I've been cooking:

Cooking down tomato pulp....

Making Pumpkin Puree in my Instant Pot....

Delicious baked, seasoned Pumpkin Seeds....

And storing...:

Potatoes to last awhile....

And canning....:

Red Tomato Salsa

Where to put all this stuff?

Pizza Sauce, in progres....

Salsa Verde, Ketchup and Green Tomato Chutney

Homemade Tomato Ketchup, thick and rich, no?

And drying....:

Dehydrating Tomatoes

Drying tomato pulp in order to make seasoned, powdered soup base...

And pickling....:

Fermenting habeneros to make my own version of Sriracha Rooster Sauce

And freezing...:

Chopped peppers going into the freezer....

Future pizza toppers, and Fajitas....

Feeling corny....

The makings of Succotash....

Freezing tomato paste in ice cubes trays....

Green Beaners....

Pumpkin Puree frozen in muffin tins in half cup quantities -- practical, no?

Really a heck of a lot of work, whew.  
But now a nicely-stocked larder for the Winter 
-- so very worth it....!

In any case, I know this is primarily an art blog.  However I do also practice the "art" of 'Voluntary Simplicity' as much as I am able -- not just in my artwork (in which I do try to Reduce/Reuse/Recycle whenever possible), but in all aspects of my life.  There are a number of blogs regarding the Non-Consumerist lifestyle that I am following and subscribe to (including this one).  Reading what everyone is doing in their attempts to simplify and streamline, while adding quality and meaning to their lives, is enjoyable, and I find it inspiring within my own life.  Hence, in between featuring my artwork, I plan also to share my Frugal and Simple Living thoughts and actions, both hits and misses, in here....