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Following my Bliss

Hexes in a Row - 1930's feedsack repro prints  <3

Hexes in a Row – 1930’s feedsack repro prints ❤

When I was in college, I read a lot of Joseph Campbell.  I was an art major, which really meant I could indulge in whatever I wondered, craved or dreamt of.  My thoughts were fairly evenly split between science and religion, so naturally I loved Joseph Campbell.  One thing he said that has always stayed with me is, “follow your bliss”.  It is such a nice idea, but really did not feel practical.  I graduated from college swimming in student loan debt and holding a shiny new art degree…. sadly it wasn’t quite as marketable as the geo-physics program I started out in.  So I found a job working in engineering and dutifully paid my loans, not really loving my job and missing the days of submerging myself in my own thoughts while working out ideas and questions through art.  A little over a decade later I started having children; my husband and I knew I couldn’t return to work.  I wanted and needed to be home with our son.  I left the office and started an engineering based company out of the house.  It was great, I could be home with my child and help support our family… but again, I didn’t love it.  After about 4 years and another baby boy, this idea of following my bliss was feeling very important.  Putting food on the table is very important, but how can I teach my boys to be all they can be if I don’t give my own dreams a try?  So here I am, nearly 40, taking a leap, breaking myself from the known and comfortable to go after the things which set my mind moving.

Chevrons and Birds - this quilt has been floating around my head for quite a few years, it has changed and evolved but was really begging to be made.

Chevrons and Birds – this quilt has been floating around my head for quite a few years, it has changed and evolved but was really begging to be made.

I have a long history and deep love of fabric and sewing, the traditions, the history, the beauty and skill – I love all of it.  Much of my work in college was fabric based, it really is a part of who I am.  I have been designing quilts for years, most are drawn and never made, now I am giving myself permission to make them.  I have had an ESTY shop for a few years, I used it for invites.  Whenever I made an invite for my own family I would post it for sale on ETSY.  For the past few months I have been working on my quilts and slowly adding them to the ETSY shop.  I am writing out the patterns for sale as well – those years in engineering sure have come in handy in the pattern writing department!  I feel this endeavor can only have a positive outcome!  Of course, there will be work and the monetary gains are not quite are fast as in my former business but I now look forward to working each night and go to sleep dreaming of what I will do next!

I think I am beginning to understand what he meant when he said to “follow your bliss” and I am looking forward to each step!


I have started a facebook page for my ETSY shop, stop by and like it if you enjoy what you see! NinaLemon on facebook!

Blue Birds at my Window - This quilt was a turning point for me.  There was a lot of quiet reflection which led to an understanding of what I really love.

Blue Birds at my Window – This quilt was a turning point for me. There was a lot of quiet reflection which led to an understanding of what I really love.


A Simple Cold Rise Bread


I started making our daily bread a few months ago, I can be a bit of a control freak when it comes to the food my kids eat – especially my older son.  It can be difficult to find foods safe for his multiple allergies, so I make most things from scratch.  I have made bread in the past, but usually as a special occasion.  I enjoy the process, but it was long, involved and required me to plan my day around bread making.  A daily sandwich bread was one of the few things I bought ready-made, however it was difficult to find a bread without HFCS that was not made in a facility with tree nuts, peanuts, eggs (and our newest addition to the allergy list) dairy.   Our local grocer carried one brand of wheat bread safe for my son, but at $5 a loaf I knew I could do better.

Not only is this bread easy, but it really is delightful to walk into a kitchen smelling of warm bread – so much more satisfying than opening a plastic sleeve 🙂  An unexpected positive was that we now make smaller sandwiches .  The bread we had been buying had huge slices about 4″tall and 6″ wide, my pans are smaller resulting in a more reasonably sized slice.

I started with the basic white bread recipe in my Kitchenaid manual.  Up until now it had been stuffed in a drawer with all of the other appliance manuals I never look at,.  What me me check I have no idea, but I am glad it did because the recipe is simple, quick and I have been able to adjust it to our tastes very easily.  This recipe calls for a cold rise, you knead the dough in the kitchenaid, let it rest for 20 minutes, form it into a loaf and then set it in the fridge for 2-12 hours to rise.  All, I need is a 1/2 hour and then I can pop the uncooked loaves in the fridge until I am ready to bake, easy-peasy!

The original recipe called for all-purpose flour, sugar and butter; I replaced them with a mix of all-purpose wheat and bread flour, honey and coconut oil.

Here are the ingredients:

3.5 cups Bread Flour

2-4 cups All-Purpose Wheat Flour

3.5 tsp salt

3 packets or 2 tablespoons + 3/4 teaspoon Active Rise Yeast

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

2 tablespoons honey

2 cups very warm water (between 120 and 130 degrees)


Add the bread flour and 2.5 cups of the all-purpose flour, salt and yeast to your mixing bowl.  Mix on a low speed until combined.


Add the honey to your melted coconut oil.  It help to dip the measuring spoon in the oil before measuring out the honey.  Rather than waiting around as your honey slowly drips off the spoon, it will slide off of the oil coated spoon with ease.


Add the honey and oil mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing at a slow speed.


Mix at a slow speed and then, very slowly, add the hot water.


Continue to mix at a low speed until the dough forms into a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If you need to add additional flour, do so 1/2 cup at a time.  I rarely have to add anymore flour to the mix.  Knead with the dough hook for about 3-4 minutes.


Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel, then let it rest for 20 minutes.  The dough will rise slightly.


Divide the dough into two balls.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out each half into a rectangle shape.


Roll up each rectangle, as you would a jelly roll.  Tuck under the ends and place seam side down into a prepared bread pan.


Lightly brush the tops with the oil of your choice (I use coconut), cover loosely with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to rise for 2-12 hours.

Remove the uncooked loaves from the fridge and let rest for 10 minutes before cooking.  I turn the oven on to 400 as soon as I take the loaves out, it takes just about 10 minutes for it to pre-heat.


Bake at 400 for 35-40 minutes and transfer immediately to wire racks to cool.


A word of caution:

You may not want to leave the cooling bread within reach of a 4 year old as you go to nurse a baby ….or you may end up with the perfect loaf of bread for making croutons.


At first, I thought the damage was minimal, but his little fingers tunneled to both ends!  Ah well, the croutons were a nice treat 🙂

Onion Mushroom Soup for the awkward eater.

Mushroom Onion Soup

Break out those Kleenex, it is onion time!

I am a soup lover, huge soup lover. I can and have eaten it for breakfast, lunch and dinner pretty much daily.  It is warm and comforting, fast and easy – what more could you ask for in a food?

French Onion Soup is a Fav, but I am hugely uncoordinated so the huge chunk of toasted bread, (seemingly)  sealed to the top of the soup bowl usually results in my wearing my soup down my front.  To save my husband from the chore of more laundry (and to save myself from the excessive calories), I decided to go with a simple onion and mushroom soup.

This recipe is based on the French on Soup recipe in The Daily Soup cookbook, it is by far my most used cookbook.  I have not made a soup in this book that I did not LOVE!  I do typically reduce salt in the recipes and this time around I also nixed the oil.  Other changes are typically for pantry reasons.

So, what you need:

5 average size yellow onions

5 average sized red onions

1 tablespoon sugar

about 10 average white button mushrooms

12 cups unsalted veggie stock

2 tsp dried thyme

2 bays leaves

1 tsp kosher salt

pepper to taste

1 cup Marsala wine

3″ Parmesan Rind

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar

2 cloves garlic, minced.


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut up onions in thin slices.  Now cutting onions does not normally bother me, but this is A LOT of onions!  I tried the old candle trick, and while I wasn’t crying nearly as much as the last time I made this soup, sans candle, I still had to take some breaks!  Next time I may find a safety goggles or a full face shield.   …you think I’m joking, don’t you.

Onion Mushrooms Soup

Thinly slice your onions

Place the onions in a large roasting pans and sprinkle with sugar.  Add a bit of stock and roast for 1-1.5 hours, stirring every 15 minutes.  The original recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of butter and one table spoon of oil (I like coconut oil), if you go with the oil they will caramelize faster than with the stock.

Onion Mushroom Soup

Roast your onions for an hour or more until nicely browned, stirring every 15 minutes.

Slice your mushrooms and add to a hot stock pot with a little stock, stirring until they soften a bit.

Onion Mushroom Soup

Cook the mushrooms in a bit of stock.

Remove the onions from the oven and transfer the roasted onions to the stock pot and add, the thyme, bay leaves, S&P, turning to coat the veggies.  I also deglazed the roasting pan with some stock and added that into the stock pot.

Next add the Marsala, cook until all of the liquid is absorbed.

Add the remaining stock and Parmesan rind, bring to boil and then simmer, partially covered for about 30 minutes.

Onion Mushroom Soup

Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer, partially covered for 30 minutes.

Lastly, add, grated Parmesan, Balsamic Vinegar and garlic, heat through and enjoy!

Onion Mushroom Soup

Onion Mushroom Soup


Steamy Soup on a cool day.

Steamy Soup on a cool day.

Egg free, gluten free carrot cake

Egg free, gluten free, carrot oatmeal cake

Recently, my son watched an episode of Curious George where George makes a carrot cake.  He has been asking for carrot cake ever since!  It was a rainy and icky weekend in Upstate, NY – seemed like the perfect time to experiment! I have mentioned before that my son has several food allergies, his egg allergy is improving and as part of the “therapy” , we are supposed to give him baked goods with a small amount of egg in it.  I started out this recipe with egg, but was having difficulty with getting the baking time just right, as a result one of the test cakes resulted in a small allergic reaction.  He had one bite of a cake that contained one egg and ended up with hives on his back.  He didn’t seem to mind because it meant he got to hang out with Mom past his bedtime watching Shrek, while Mom made sure the benedryl was enough and the reaction didn’t get worse.  After that little episode I decided, no eggs in this cake!

Well, for this one it seems the third time was the charm!  We had a nice moist (and thoroughly cooked!) cake!  To top it off I added a lightened up cream cheese frosting, I reduced the sugar a bit and cut the cream cheese with nonfat greek yogurt.  My 3 year old happily licked the beaters, he didn’t seem to notice the change at all 🙂

So, here goes:

This cake can also be gluten free if you buy the proper oats.  Many oats are mixed with flour during processing there are some oats certified to be gluten free.


1.25 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup nonfat, plain greek yogurt

2/3 cups milk (I use 2%)

1.5 cups oat flour (it takes about 2 cups of rolled oats to make the oat flour)

2 tsp baking powder

1.5 tsp baking soda

0.5 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 cup finely grated carrots, packed (3-4 average sized carrots)

1 8oz can crushed pineapple, drained

1/4 cup mashed banana

1/3 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1 tablespoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the 1.25 cups rolled oats, yogurt and milk in a bowl and set aside to soak.

Mix them up and let them soak!

In another bowl, or large measuring cup, combine the oat flour (to make oat flour process rolled oats in a food processor or blender until they resemble a coarse flour), baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

Grate your carrots, using a fine grater.

In a third bowl combine the carrots, pineapple, banana, brown sugar, coconut oil and vanilla extract.  Add the carrot mixture to the soaking oat mixture and combine well. Next, add the oat flour mixture and combine.  The batter will be very thick.  Divide the batter between two greased 9″ round cake pans and bake for 20-23 minutes.

When the cake pans are cool enough to handle, turn the cakes out and cook completely on wire racks.

cooling cakes

Cream Cheese Frosting

This frosting is lighter and softer than your traditional cream cheese frosting.  To keep calories down, I chose to only frost the top and between the layers.  If you like more frosting on your cake you will want to double the recipe.


4 oz cream cheese at room temperature (you could probably use Neufchâtel  to lighten it up even further)

3 oz nonfat, plain greek yogurt

2.5 oz powdered sugar, sifted


I apologize for the lack of pictures here, just as we got to making the frosting my son heard his friend playing outside ….the baking pace had to be picked up a bit to get out and play!  Mixer shots, really aren’t all that exciting anyway 🙂

Add the cream cheese to the bowl of an electric mixer and whip until smooth.  Add the yogurt and continue to whip until well combined and smooth. Sift the sugar into the mixer bowl, starting out on a slow speed incorporate the sugar into the cream cheese mixture.  Once incorporated whip the frosting to desired texture.

Frost as desired!

Egg free, gluten free carrot oatmeal cake.

Here is the nutritional info for 1/12 of the cake:

and for 1/12 of the frosting recipe:

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

These muffins are a variation of the banana oatmeal muffins I posted recently.  I know I have mentioned pumpkin is a favorite in our house, well oats are another.  I go through a canister of oats every other week.  Even though it is still hot and humid here in Upstate, NY I am starting to think fall.  Soon it will be here, my favorite time of year!  What feels more like fall than a oatmeal and pumpkin, mmm.  These muffins make my 14 month old crazy, when I start to give him one, he starts jumping around in his chair!  I really hope it isn’t because these things are filled with natural stimulants; oats, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg are all stimulants.  On second thought, maybe I should feed him turkey and keep the pumpkin muffins for myself….

These guys can be gluten free is you buy the right oats.  Many oats are coated in flour during processing, however you can find gluten free oats if you wish.

Here goes!


1 – 1/4 cups rolled oats

1 – 1/2 cups oat flour (you can make oat flour by processing rolled oats in your blender or food processor)

1/2 cup plain greek yogurt, nonfat

2/3 cup milk (I use 2% because it is what the kids drink)

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1.5 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cloves

2 cups pumpkin puree

1/3 cup coconut oil (or your preferred oil)

1 egg

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

I use three bowls for this.  In your first bowl, combine the 1-1/4 cups of rolled oats with the yogurt and milk, set aside to soak.

Mix ’em up and let them soak!

Next, process your rolled oats in a food processor or blender until they resemble a coarse flour.

In a separate bowl (or large measuring cup) combine the oat flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.

In the third bowl add pumpkin puree, brown sugar, coconut oil, egg and vanilla extract, combine well.

Mix until nicely combined!

Add your wet ingredients to the soaking oats and mix well, followed by the oat flour mixture.  Mix everything together and then allow the batter to rest for a minute or two.

Prepare 24 muffin tins with paper liners or a light coat of oil.  Divide batter between the tins; I like to use an ice cream scoop – it is quick and neat!  If you have an left over spaces in the pan fill them with a little water to help everything heat evenly.

Bake for 12 minutes at 400 and the allow to cool on a wire rack.  I make my muffins kid sized, you could divide the batter among 12 tins to make larger muffins.

and the nutrition info, per kid sized muffin 🙂

Crunchy Granola bars – peanut free!

Crunchy, yummy granola bars!

My husband loves those Nature Valley Oats and Honey granola bars, unfortunately they are not safe to keep in the house because or our son’s allergies.  I have been trying to find a replacement for him but, I haven’t found any granola bars, crunchy or chewy, which are safe for us!  Luckily, I enjoy playing around in the kitchen!   I have been playing with different ideas for a few months, usually the bars are pretty good, good enough for the 3 y/o at least, but not the sweet granola my dear husband is craving!  These ones came together beautifully!  My husband, who is not impressed by much,  refused to share his granola bar with our 14 month old.  Who can say “no” to a little blonde, dimpled boy who is turning on the charm????  Apparently, the granola bars are that good!

These bars are peanut free, egg free and could easily be tree nut (sub out another oil for the coconut oil, or talk to your allergist, not all consider coconut to be a tree nut) and gluten free (you can buy certified gluten free oats and oat cereal).


2 cups rolled oats, toasted

1/3 cup rolled oats, untoasted

1/3 cup quinoa flakes (if you cannot find quinoa flakes, double the oats)

2/3 Cheerio type cereal

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/3 cup honey

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 cup coconut oil

1 tablespoon vanilla


To toast your oats, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spread the oats out on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, stirring them around every few minutes.

Spreading the oats out to be toasted

While the oats are toasting, add the untoasted oats and quinoa flakes to a food processor or blender and process until they become a course flour.  Next, add the oat cereal in the processor to break them up, just a bit.

Quinoa and oat flour mix with broken cereal bits

Combine the flour and cereal mixture with the toasted oats.

In a separate bowl, combine honey, brown sugar, coconut oil and vanilla.  Mix well.

Mix the wet ingredients in to the dry and combine.

Line a 9×13 pan with a sheet of parchment, press the granola mixture into the pan.   I like to use the smooth side of a meat mallet to really compress the mixture!

Compress those oats!

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until nicely golden brown.

Let the granola cool for about 10 minutes before cutting them into bars.


Pumpkin Oatmeal Waffles

Pumpkin Oatmeal Waffles with mixed berries

My 3 year old, Wilson, has been on a waffle kick; every morning he wants waffles and milk for breakfast.  Perhaps it was our recent addition of eggs into the waffles, making them far more yummy, but the same old waffle gets boring and is rather nutritionally lame!  I started looking at the recipe I use, from the yellow gourmet cookbook, it calls for 1.5 sticks of butter – that is a lot of butter!  In the past I have used applesauce as a sub for oil, so I thought, “why not pumpkin”?  We are major pumpkin lovers in this house, maybe even pumpkin worshipers.  It is such a yummy squash, savory or sweet, it is awesome.  I ended up dropping the butter completely and replaced it with 1/3 cup of coconut oil and 1 cup of pumpkin puree, I also replaced some of the wheat flour with oat flour.  After making this batch of waffles, I have been on a waffle kick right along with my son!

Here is what you do:


1.5 cups flour

1.5 cups oat flour (use a food processor to maker flour from rolled oats, it takes about 2 cups of rolled oats to make 1.5 cups of oat flour)

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1.5 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/3 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled

1 tablespoon vanilla

3.5 cups nonfat buttermilk, shaken

3 eggs lightly beaten


Combine dry ingredients in a bowl

Dry ingredients

In a separate bowl combine the wet ingredients

Mix the wet into the dry and allow to rest for a minute.  The batter will be slightly thick.  Scoop batter in a heated and greased waffle iron, I like to use an ice cream scoop!  Allow the waffles to cook for a minute or two beyond when the waffle iron stops steaming.

Enjoy your waffles with syrup, berries or on their own!  These waffles freeze very well!  I let them cool on a wire rack and then put in a ziplock bag to freeze.  Reheat in the toaster!

Pumpkin Oatmeal waffles with butter and maple syrup

..and the berries again, this is my favorite way to eat them!

Each waffle has about:

110 calories, 4 grams of fat (3 saturated), 24 mg cholesterol, 180mg of Sodium, 1g of fiber, 3g of sugars, 4 g of protein, 32% of Vit A, 8% of calcium, 1% of Vit C and 6% of iron.


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