Monthly Archives: March 2012

a minimalist in the kitchen: easy vegan oatmeal cookies

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A minimalist in most areas of my life, except the food department.  I love food and eating, and am on an adventure this year to eat better and healthier than ever before.  As much as I love food, I am all for simplicity in the kitchen – I like simple recipes with simple, whole food ingredients.  I’ll be posting a few of my favourites in the coming months, so stay tuned!

These cookies are so delicious.  In a word: yum.  Even if you aren’t vegan, you will appreciate the chewy, crispiness that these cookies offer.  And they take about a minute to put together.  Awesome.

The recipe below is my own adaptation of this recipe from Paris Pastry, who adapted their own recipe from Alicia Silverstone’ Kind Diet cookbook.  Once you get started doing a fair amount of cooking and baking, you might want to start making your own adaptations to recipes you find in cookbooks or on the internet – it’s a great way to eliminate ingredients you don’t have on hand or want in your diet, and add in other healthy alternatives.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of oats
  • 1 cup of whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup of maple syrup (I made these cookies with 1/2 cup, and I found them pretty sweet, so I will use less syrup next time!)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup of vegetable oil (I used 1/2 cup on the first go round, and will likely use less for my next batch)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line one baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Combine oats, flour, baking powder and baking soda in a medium sized bowl.
  3. Add maple syrup and vegetable oil, and stir to combine.
  4. Drop Tablespoon-sized amounts of cookie dough evenly spaced onto parchment lined baking sheet.  Be sure to keep the dough balls small, because these babies flatten out!  Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.
  5. Remove cookies from oven when they are golden brown and allow them to cool completely – I know this is hard, but they are so much crispier when they are completely cooled!
  6. Enjoy!

This recipe makes 24 cookies.

Why you don’t need to quit your job to be a happy minimalist

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This post comes from a place of honesty, not negativity.

I read a lot of blogs written by people who either already feel very comfortable living a minimalist lifestyle or are aspiring minimalists themselves.  Most of the time I find them to be inspirational.  A common theme in a lot of the writings of “professional” minimalists (as in, they write minimalist blogs for income) is that aspiring minimalists and readers should quit their jobs, and once you do that, you’ll be free!  Free as a bird!  Imagine how good it will feel!  Of course, it will feel good – you’ll get to sleep in all day and you won’t have to show up at the office.

But then reality will set in.  Maybe you won’t be able to make your car payment or your rent or your mortgage.  Or your family will get hungry.  And you certainly won’t be able to pay off any debts you might have without an income, which will further impede your goals of becoming truly minimalist and not being indebted to others.

If you are working toward living more minimally because you have a lot of debt and don’t want any such burden hanging over your head, that’s a commendable goal.  However, it’s pretty hard to achieve those sort of goals without any income.

Our family paid off our own mortgage in five years, and let me tell you, it was not while writing on a laptop from a beach in South America.  It took both adults in our family going to work every day, at jobs we’d held for the previous five years to make not only our down payment, but also our mortgage payments.  Had we quit our jobs, we certainly would not have been able to pay our mortgage, much less pay rent on a basement apartment in the expensive city we currently live in.

I think there’s a fine line between working to support an excessively consumeristic lifestyle, and working to pay down your debts, live simply, and meet your own and your family’s basic needs.  So when you see a post floating around the internet from a “Minimalist” claiming that quitting your job is easy, take their words with a grain of salt.  If you can’t stand your job, by all means, look for a new one.  If other aspects of your life are lacking, seek out a creative or social aspect to nurture.  But by all means, don’t walk into your boss’s office this morning and tell him, “Screw you, I quit!”  Because a lot of people can manage to find a job they really enjoy and not drive themselves to exhaustion by  putting in an excessive amount of working hours each week.

There is no easy solution to avoiding a highly consumptive lifestyle.  It takes months to form new habits and pay off old debts.  But there is no direct correlation between quitting your job and becoming a dyed-in-the-wool minimalist.  I wish I could tell you otherwise, but I’d be lying to you.

a minimalist in the kitchen: najib’s special cauliflower

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A minimalist in most areas of my life, except the food department.  I love food and eating, and am on an adventure this year to eat better and healthier than ever before.  As much as I love food, I am all for simplicity in the kitchen – I like simple recipes with simple, whole food ingredients.  I’ll be posting a few of my favourites in the coming months, so stay tuned!

I will admit, I have never been a huge fan of cauliflower.  In fact, I have only eaten it a handful of times in my adult life.  That is until recently.  A couple of years ago, a Lebanese restaurant specializing in vegan cuisine opened its doors around the corner from me.  All of the food super tasty, but my favourite item on the menu is a cauliflower dish that goes by the name, “Najib’s Special.”  Najib’s Special is essentially deep-fried cauliflower, tossed with a splash of lemon juice and a pinch of salt.  Words cannot express how delish this cauliflower is, but the idea of eating deep-fried anything on a regular basis is a bit of a turn-off to me.  So I decided to try another method, and pan-fried up some cauliflower in a little oil.  And, although not quite as amazing as the original, my own take on Najib’s Special turned out pretty yummy.  I highly recommend giving this recipe a try – not only is it delicious, it is truly minimalist, requiring only two ingredients!

Najib’s Special Cauliflower (inspired by Nuba‘s deep-fried version)

Najib's Special Crispy Cauliflower - photo courtesy of Sherman's Food Adventures

Ingredients:

  • One small head of cauliflower or half of one large head of cauliflower
  • 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil (I like canola or olive oil)
  • 2 teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice – optional
  • 1 pinch of salt – optional
Directions:

  1. Add 1 Tablespoon of vegetable oil to frying pan, warming over medium heat.
  2. After about a minute, add freshly washed cauliflower to frying pan and toss to coat with oil.
  3. Allow cauliflower to cook for about 15 minutes, tossing every 1-2 minutes to ensure even distribution.  Add second Tablespoon of oil about halfway through cooking time if you feel the cauliflower needs it.
  4. After cauliflower is suitable cooked and golden brown on all edges, remove from heat and transfer from frying pan to a bowl.
  5. Add lemon juice and salt to cooked cauliflower and toss to ensure even distribution (this step is optional as the cauliflower still tastes great without the lemon juice or salt!)
  6. Plate and enjoy!  Delicious served with a side of tahini sauce (2 Tablespoons) – the tahini gives the cauliflower a lovely, smoky flavour.
Serves 3 as a side, or 2 as an appetizer (or 1 if you are a fried cauliflower addict like myself).  Can also be incorporated into a wrap or a sandwich for an extra little pizzazz.  Also yummy with a sprinkle of cumin if you are feeling a little daring.  If you are in doubt, give this a try – I promise you will starting giving cauliflower a second look in the produce section.

problem solving, minimalist style: re-purposing the things you already own

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Sometimes I feel like my home is missing something or needing some help in the decorating department.  When I feel this way, I usually find myself window shopping in a store within the next day or so, searching out a particular item I have been hankering for that I am convinced will make my life easier/better/more pleasant.  I’ve been dreaming of a new duvet cover for our bed (we received a lovely, cozy duvet as a gift from my parents recently), as well as something to hold my small but special jewellery collection.  Last weekend I found myself setting out for a walk in the sunshine while my youngest dozed off in the stroller, and I stopped into several stores in the couple of hours I was out and about.  But I didn’t buy anything.

While looking for a duvet cover at one store, I realized how boring and plain most of the bedding being sold nowadays is.  Most of the duvet covers I came across were beige or off white.  Unfortunately, having children and a husband who likes to eat the occasional snack in bed (eek! I know!), white bedding is just not in the cards for our household.  As I left the store and walked down the street, I began thinking about the flat sheets my kids don’t use on their beds and how we might be able to transform them into duvet covers.  My mom is an excellent seamstress and can surely easily transform two large flat pieces of fabric into a fabulous duvet cover!  I’m also going to look in my basket of bed linens to see if we might be able to transform a couple of our larger sheets into a duvet cover for our own bed.

It never ceases to amaze me that every time I feel a need to buy something for my home, there is a good chance I already own something similar that can be used in its place.  A few other things I’ve repurposed lately:

  • Some silicone muffin tins that I bought sometime in the last couple of years that aren’t getting any love in the baking department have been repurposed into adorable bento lunchboxes for my kids to use when they are eating at home. I just could not get the hang of using silicone for muffin baking, and everything I baked when I used them tasted like silicone – ew!  So I’m thankful that these little babies have found an alternate purpose in my home, and one that my kids can get excited about!
  • A white serving dish that was stashed away in the upper regions of my kitchen cupboards gathering dust has been re-purposed into a jewellery/trinket catch-all on my bedroom dresser.
  • A small towel valet that I purchased years ago for one of our bathrooms to hang towels on has now been re-purposed to hold a few of the remaining pieces of jewellery I still own and am wearing regularly, particularly necklaces and bracelets.

Don't let the marketing fool you, this little stand works great for holding both towels AND necklaces!

How about you?  Do you have favourite belongings that serve a multitude of purposes?  Or do you have a couple of things in your home that were designed for a certain idea and you found them useful for other reasons entirely?  Do tell, I love a good hack!  Be sure to share in the comments.

project 333: colour, joy and inspiration

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Lately my Project 333 wardrobe is feeling a little gloomy.  When I left my house this morning, I didn’t realize I was dressed in black from head to toe until I got out to the street. I don’t think it can be argued that we all need a little inspiration sometimes.  I love seeing small, functional wardrobes in action, and if they’re fun, fresh and colourful, all the better!  I’ve whittled my way down to a small but functional wardrobe, but I feel sometimes as though I’m stuck in a rut when it comes to clothing.  One of my goals for the year is to try to remember that when I do have the opportunity to add something different to my wardrobe that I don’t stick with the same tired old shapes and colours.

I recently came across this amazing TED talk by Jessi Arrington, a Brooklyn designer and blogger at Lucky So and So.  Jessi is a passionate second-hand clothing shopper, and after delving into Jessi’s blog a bit further, I came across this post about how she recently decluttered over 400 items from her 500 piece wardrobe.  Wow, that’s a lot of clothes!  What I found most interesting about Jessi and her blog is her apparent passion for colour – for those of us who tend to wear a lot of black (some would say too much!), Jessi’s blog is a great reminder of how wearing colour can be so uplifting.  Knowing that wearing colour can improve my mood, I think it’s worthwhile to make a concerted effort to look beyond the blacks and greys in my own wardrobe, and reach for a splash of colour occasionally.

And an update on my efforts to buy nothing this year:  I will admit to buying a few clothing items for myself and my family this past month.  I’ve been fortunate enough to sell a ton of outgrown kids clothing recently on Craigslist, and have actually decluttered nearly 700 items from my home this year (in addition to the six THOUSAND things that left last year).  The kids needed new underwear, so I bought some.  I have been putting off buying a new winter jacket for the past two winter seasons, and when I found my dream jacket (and at half price!), I scooped it.  My city does have an excellent second hand market for many things, including clothing, but sometimes the time spent looking for a very particular item second hand does weigh heavily against the process.  However, I won’t be buying a new spring wardrobe, nor will I be shopping for summer wares later this year.  I’m planning to taking some clothing items to be updated, re-fashioned and altered to my mom when I go home for a visit this summer, and alterations (rather than shopping) will be top of mind.

Re-Fashion Vancouver 2012
Speaking of Vancouver’s second hand clothing market, an amazing second hand shopping opportunity is coming to our city!  Re-Fashion Vancouver is touted as a “spring cleaning sale” with lots of nearly new, used clothing in a wide variety of sizes.  The Re-Fashion event is taking place at the Roundhouse Community Centre in downtown Vancouver on Saturday, April 21, 2012.  If you’re interested in re-selling some of your own clothing, you can contact Re-Fashion here.

link love: not buying anything

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I heard this week from one of my favourite minimalist blogs about a blogger writing exclusively about buying nothing.  And he’s local to me!  Well, sorta.  Lots of inspiration at this blog for simple living, but here’s a few of my favourite posts (so far) from Not Buying Anything:

Reducing consumption reduces harm – It’s important we take the time to consider the environmental impact of our purchases, and whether we need to make certain purchases at all.

Putting our eco-footprint on a diet – I find having goals helps challenge my thinking and behaviour.  I’m striving to reduce my carbon footprint by living a less wasteful life – some of my goals include consuming less animal products, refusing wasteful packaging, and continuing to walk and use public transit in lieu of driving and flying.

Simplicity is Freedom – Simplicity really is freeing. Give it a try, you just might like it.

Reducing food waste – I’m creating a “just-in-time” household, in an effort for our family to reduce any unnecessary food waste.  We’re pretty good about eating leftovers and using food before it goes bad, but this blog post has a few extra great ideas on how to manage food waste.

Change for a dollar – A beautiful video on how a little kindness goes a long way.

Enjoy and Happy Tuesday! ❤