Friday, January 30, 2009

What's for dinner? Three Bean Chili with Cornbread Crumbles!

This is one of my favorite recipes - I make a batch of this almost weekly. It makes about 4.5 meals, after I make it I pack it in smaller containers and just grab one to take to work with me! This recipe is low fat and fairly low calorie - you could have a bowl of chili, a small side salad, and a fruit for about 300 cals. The best thing about this recipe is it is really difficult to screw up. I should know, I have tried every way I can! One time I forgot the beans entirely - I cooked the vegetables for about an hour and then realized! Not to worry, though, I threw the beans in and cooked it for another half an hour and it was SO good!

What you will need:
1 large (29-30 oz) can of Tomato Sauce
1 15 oz can Black Beans
1 15 oz can dark kidney beans
1 15 oz can northern (white) beans
1 tbsp canola oil
2 green peppers
4 roma tomatoes (or 2 bigger ones!)
1 large yellow/white/sweet onion
2-3 cloves of garlic
2 tsp chili powder
Dried red chiles (optional)

1) Start by chopping the garlic - I use a garlic press because I'm lazy, I would really recommend investing in one if you use a lot of garlic, it saves a lot of time! Then chop the onion. I like to keep the vegetables all around the same size so if you want a really chunky chili chop bigger pieces!
2) Put a dutch oven over a low to medium heat. Add the canola oil just so that the bottom of the pot is covered. Add garlic and onion and simmer uncovered for about 5 mins (until starting to soften). You can also add dried red peppers at this time if you wish - I like my chili pretty spicy so usually add about 4 of them (these are the small red chiles that you will usually find in the mexican aisle of your grocery store)

3) While the garlic and onion are simmering, start cutting up the green pepper. Add that when done. Then chop the tomato and add that! Now let the whole combination simmer uncovered for another 5 minutes or so.

4) While the vegetables are stewing away, start washing the beans. I dump them all together into a strainer and wash them really well (the "sauce" around canned beans is really high in sodium and we want to wash all of that salt away and leave behind the beautiful beans!). Once they are all washed you can dump them into the pot as well.
5) Now add the tomato sauce into the dutch oven.
6) And finally, add the chili powder. I usually go with a very generous (heaping) 2 tsp. Note here that if you wanted to add spice you could buy hot chili powder rather than adding the red chiles. I buy chili powder in bulk because I make this recipe so frequently and can only find mild chili powder in large quantities so that's why I do dried chiles!

7) Cover pot and bring chili to a light boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer covered for at least 45 minutes (I prefer an hour to an hour and 15 mins), stirring occasionally.
8) I test the chili for "doneness" by sampling a green pepper - I prefer my veggies to be pretty soft and the pepper is always the last to soften! If you prefer a crunchier chili you may want to stop cooking closer to the 45 min point.

9) If you put red chiles in, now is the time to fish them out. I like to count the stems when I put them in as they usually fall off and I want to make sure I got them all!
10) Serve right away or refrigerate/freeze!

I made cornbread to go with this meal, I cheated and used a kit - It was a Chili's restaurant cornbread kit which was amazing, really - very moist (I'm not a huge fan of dry cornbread). I crumbled some over the chili and had a small piece to the side as well!

Obviously with all the beans in this awesome chili, it is great for vegetarian or vegan folks. If you wanted to make this meal a source of complete protein, you could add some rice to the chili itself or serve it on a bed of rice.

The chili will keep well in the refrigerator, if you won't eat it within the week I would recommend freezing it. Bon appetit and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


So, I realize that many people may not have heard anything about the CPSIA law, but there is a blog-in about it today and I feel it is important for me to contribute. This law will obliterate any small business that was catered toward making things for children, especially if each item is unique. Though the law won't directly effect me, it will shut down many wonderful businesses on Etsy. I honestly hate to think about raising children in a time where the only things I could dress them in or they could play with are mass produced to the extent that the folks making it would be able to afford testing everything. Now, don't get me wrong, there is a problem with lead in the environment and I think it's great to try to decrease exposure but this is not the way to do it. I have attached a blurb created by two etsy sellers: Chichiboulie and WinklePots. This goes through how the law will effect our country as a whole as well as individuals. Currently there are many handmade supporters who are trying to get this law amended, if you are interested in doing something to help, check out the link to Etsy's Action Guide at the bottom of this posting.

"As parents and concerned citizens I’m sure most of us at one time or another have been confronted with the question of lead poisoning. But have you asked yourself what your government is doing to protect your children from lead contained in toys? The answer? They're banning toys, taking books from schools and libraries, hurting low income families, killing entrepreneurial spirit and risking putting the economy in an even greater depression than we've seen in decades. I'd like to introduce you to their solution: the CPSIA.

Do you know about the CPSIA? No? Then I ask you to take a few minutes to find out about it.

The CPSIA stands for Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, a new set of laws that will come into effect on 10 February, 2009 and will impact many, many people in a negative way. Make no mistake, this is very real. View it for yourself. If Forbes, the American Library Association and numerous other media are paying attention, perhaps you should too.

How will these new laws affect you? Well, here are a few examples:

To the Parents of Young Students:
Due to the new law, expect to see the cost of school supplies sky rocket. While those paper clips weren't originally intended for your student to use, they will need to be tested now that your 11-year-old needs them for his school project. This law applies to any and all school supplies (textbooks, pencils, crayons, paper, etc.) being used by children under 12.

To the Avid Reader:
Due to the new law, all children's books will be pulled from library and school shelves, as there is no exemption for them. That’s okay though, there's always television. Our children don’t need to learn the love of reading after all.
Article from the American Library Association

To the Lover of All Things Handmade:
Due to the new law, you will now be given a cotton ball and an instruction manual so you can make it yourself since that blanket you originally had your eye on for $50 will now cost you around $1,000 after it's passed testing. It won't even be the one-of-a-kind blanket you were hoping for. Items are destroyed in the testing process making one-of-a-kind items virtually impossible. So that gorgeous hand-knit hat you bought your child this past winter won’t be available next winter.

To the Environmentalist:
Due to the new law, all items in non-compliance will now be dumped into our already overflowing landfills. Imagine not just products from the small business owners, but the Big Box Stores as well. You can't sell it so you must toss it. Or be potentially sued for selling it. You can't even give them away. If you are caught, it is still a violation.

To the Second-Hand Shopper:
Due to the new law, you will now need to spend $20 for that brand new pair of jeans for your 2-year old, rather than shop at the Goodwill for second hand. Many resale shops are eliminating children's items all together to avoid future lawsuits.

To the Entrepreneur:
Due to this new law, you will be forced to adhere to strict testing of your unique products or discontinue to make and/or sell them. Small businesses will be likely to be unable to afford the cost of testing and be forced to close up shop. Due to the current economic state, you'll have to hope for the best when it comes to finding a new job in Corporate America.

To the Antique Toy Collector:
Due to the new law, you'd better start buying now because it's all going to private collection and will no longer be available to purchase. “Because the new rules apply retroactively, toys and clothes already on the shelf will have to be thrown out if they aren't certified as safe.”

To the American Economy:
Already struggling under an economy that hasn’t been this weak in decades, the American economy will be hit harder with the inevitable loss of jobs and revenues from suppliers, small businesses and consumers. The required testing is far too costly and restrictive for small businesses or individuals to undertake.

To the Worldwide Economy:
Due to this new law, many foreign manufacturers have already pulled out of the US market. You can imagine the impact of this on their businesses.

If you think this is exaggerating, here is a recent article from Forbes

And for those of you prepared to be stupefied and boggled, The New Law

Did you know? If this upsets or alarms you, please react."

If you want to do something about this, please check out Etsy's Action Kit. It is full of links and numerous ways to make your voice heard and get involved.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sorry about the Blog-cation!

I've been bad - very bad. I said on my Etsy page that I would continue to update my blog while on vacation. But I didn't! Honestly traveling took more time and effort than I thought it would and I decided against updating on the road. In the past few weeks I've been to Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, Norfolk Virginia, and Charlotte. Along with home to pick up the cats and Panda. I'm now back in Milwaukee and ready to delve into this blog thing headfirst again :)

I still have one week of vacation left which I'm thoroughly enjoying! Trying to get my life organized - from taking things we no longer want/need (and thus aren't likely to want to move with us in May!) to charity, to getting my finances in order, to working on the Etsy store and this blog and opening a Flickr account.

Speaking of my Etsy store, I re-opened shop as a "soft opening" on Friday as I didn't have the time or energy that day to list new items. I started listing items on Sunday and have a few new things to offer:

The Garden

This newbie is probably one of my favourites. Its scent is complex but smells mostly like a sweet melon (and so much more!). We took a bar of this on vacation with us and I loved every minute of every shower I took :) It was made to honor my Dad's vegetable garden...but honestly smells nothing like it which I'm ok with! Love it.

Anise Musk

So I decided to go with Anise Musk for this one instead of "Panda-Man's Anise Musk". I figured it was more straightforward. The bar itself carries a fairly strong black licorice scent (our apartment has smelled of anise for the past few weeks!), but in the shower it smells a bit more musk-y which I think is nice. This is definitely a niche bar - Coll doesn't care for the smell of anise but put it best when he said that it's something someone will be crazy about and buy 5 bars at a time. It's not something for everyone, but I like it.

7 bar pack

And finally the newest way to save money on my soaps - the 7 bar pack. I wanted to make sure this was my best deal so have offered free shipping on this item to US customers, and discounted all international shipping by $5 ($6 to Canada, $8 internationally!). I chose 7 bars because that's what I can fit in a flat rate envelope and it made sense to make a separate listing for it so customers can get the most bang for their buck :)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Sneak Peek - Spa Clean (?)

I just took this beauty out of the mold. Much like the other two batches of soap I have made recently, I have no idea what to name this one. I'm currently liking "Spa Clean" as it doesn't smell like anything in particular but reminds me of a nice clean but slightly exotic scent that you might find at a spa! The bar has a really clean soapy smell with deeper notes of ginger and orange. I added lavender to the bar in a light amount. I LOVE this one, but it is right there with The Garden (?) and Anise Musk (?) in that I really have to work on creative names and accurate scent descriptions!

Luckily for me, I have 2 full weeks to do so! Not only because all of the bars need time to cure, but I am leaving for more interviews and have a line of one-way flights all around the country eventually leading back to Wisconsin in the next week and a half. After that I will spend a few days at my parents house as they are watching the cats and Panda so I need to pick them up anyway and I will look for any "excuse" to spend a bit of time at home :)

I plan to spend some time during the coming weeks on the soap business. I need to order supplies (watch out Bramble Berry, here I come!), and work out a more firm business plan in the process. I have been reading suggestions from Anne-Marie Faiola's blog (founder of Bramble Berry which is my absolute favorite soap making supplier!) as far as business planning and vision and plan to use some of the tools she provides in thinking of where I want to go with my new business. I love her blog and think that her tips would benefit anyone who runs their own business (large or small!). Check her out here: .

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Sneak Peek - Panda-Man's Anise Musk

I have been absolutely terrible about blogging this week! I returned from Phoenix very very early Tuesday morning (read 12:30 am or so!), and just haven't found the time. I have some photos of Phoenix to share, but otherwise have been getting things together around the apartment in preparation for taking Kermit to my sister's house as they will be watching him while we are gone (my parents are watching the cats and Panda!), and my two upcoming weeks of travel.

I found time last night to make a batch of soap, and am planning to make another tonight - it's already midnight and I just want to go to bed, but I'm kind of committed at this point - if I don't make it tonight I won't be around to take it out of the mold! It's ok though - certainly not the first late or all nighter I've pulled in my lifetime!

The batch I made last night is tentatively called Panda-Man's Anise Musk. I might just go with Anise Musk, but we shall see!

It is a rather boring looking bar with a complex scent. The only extra I added other than fragrance is oatmeal. The scent is a combination of Anise, ginger/amber, and musk. I am interested to see what Collier thinks when he gets his nose on it tomorrow - I think it's probably the most man friendly bar I've made since Eucalyptus and Wasabi. My goal was to make a no-fuss no-muss kind of bar for a real tough guy.

Oooh, what a perfect time to officially introduce the inspiration! Since I'm waiting for lye to come down in temp anyway...


Panda is my 2.5 pound bunny - he's a true mutt of the bunny land, we think he's mixed somewhat with netherland dwarf, silver marten, and dutch. Maybe. I adopted him from the Wisconsin House Rabbit Society in 2004 as a roomie for Kiara. He was actually on loan from the WI HRS until Kiara decided he would be ok, it took about 4 months for me to finally convince them that living together wouldn't be so bad. It took maybe a year of living together before they finally fell in love. When Panda first moved in was also about the same time that Kiara was developing cataracts which subsequently turned into glaucoma. She was able to do ok with two eye drops and lots of love, but I think Panda really made her days something special. She passed away in May and I miss her terribly. Panda adapted well to not having her, I'm not entirely convinced that he was as bonded to her as she was him.

At any rate, prior to living here, Panda spent about a year at the WI HRS. He was there when I adopted my first bunny, and I thought he was the cutest thing! So little and SO curious. He was rescued from my hometown, the story as I understand it is that a woman living there opened her doors and set her home on fire. Apparently there were many animals, including bunnies, in the house - so the WI HRS went to the neighborhood and spent hours collecting the bunnies. Panda was a baby then so needed to be hand-fed, my understanding is that baby bunnies need to be fed at least once an hour if not sooner - so as you can imagine it was a lot of work! The Vet kept saying that Panda was so small that he wouldn't make it but he did. If they knew him as an adult they would never have doubted him. He's the most stubborn and demanding pet in the house. His favourite place is the loft on his cage - he spends half the day up there and will grunt and lunge at anyone who comes near. Very charming, ha ha. I wouldn't have him any other way.

One question I always get is how do the animals all do together? Aka "don't the cats eat the bunny?" Well, no, actually our household hierarchy is quite the opposite. Panda's the head honcho around these parts. When he is lonely he will go to Zazu as he knows Zazu will stay near him. When he wants to play he runs toward Shenzi then turns and darts away as he knows she will chase him. And he doesn't seem to care for Kermit much, but also has no fear. Our multi-species household is not much of a challenge anymore. The pets all figured out how to interact with each other and we just have to be half-alert for the very very occasional break in that order. But that is usually a cat (always Shenzi) out for dog blood situation, never to do with Panda. He's really scary for a little guy.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A bag o' fur

I thought I would update from Midway airport in Chicago as I have a half an hour or so before my flight takes off. I've had quite the morning - missing my flight in Milwaukee due to my misunderstanding of the whole 3 oz product container rules (I haven't flown for a while!). I missed my flight by 2 my options were to take a flight later in the morning to Atlanta and then wait stand-by for flights to Phoenix (which were all over-sold through tomorrow), or to check with other airlines and find if there were other alternatives that would still get me there today. SO, I ended up going with a flight out of Chicago with a layover in Denver. Collier came to pick up my larger bottles and transfer some of the product to smaller 3 oz bottles, we had breakfast, and I took the bus later in the morning. I'm hoping the rest of the day goes off without a hitch. I was going to go hiking today in Phoenix but I will have to delay that until tomorrow. Live and learn, and now I will be well-prepared for my other flights this month!

I got a parcel in the mail yesterday from Uniquely Yours! She is a fiber supplier on Etsy based in Michigan. She is the nearest fiber supplier I could find to Milwaukee who obtains her fibers locally and has them all processed locally. I ordered 4 oz of Alpaca from her as I am testing felted soap as a potential addition to my line. I like the idea of soap with a built-in washcloth that shrinks with use. I made my first bar last night - it's drying right now and Coll and I will begin testing when I get back. It's SO soft, I love it. I'm not sure Alpaca will be the right fiber to use, I see it done mostly with sheep wool but we shall see. I've also ordered some sheep fiber to try that as well. Eventually my friends/family members will receive a bar in the mail to try, ha ha...hopefully if I'm going to add these to my line they will be available in late spring/early summer once I perfect the method, find a consistent supplier, etc. Yay!

I had to laugh, though, yesterday. With 4 pets in the house we deal with a LOT of fur on a daily basis and I opened the package and realized that it was a bag of fur...and had to laugh. Granted it was shipped fast and in super cute packaging, but I am ordering something that is in ABUNDANCE in our home! Unfortunately I don't think people would be too excited about a Kermit felted soap....not quite the same idea.