Monday, January 25, 2016

Vegan Croque-Forestièr

Today's recipe is a vegan Croque Forestièr, which is more or less a French version of a grilled cheese sandwich.  This grilled cheese is quite decadent and certainly not one of those typical goodie goodie January recipes that's all fresh veggies and low fat.  

How can I explain this months recipe choice?  A few years ago when Spencer and I lived in Washington we likes having lunch at a small bakery in town.  And they made a wonderful Croque Forestièr.  I never had something quite like it and for the longest time I was wondering if I could create a vegan version.  Turns out it was not as difficult as I imagined it would be.

First, I asked Spencer to bake the potato bread.  If you can bake your own potato bread or find some in the store that would be ideal, however a good loaf of sourdough will suffice just as well.  Now let's start with the recipe and the ingredients you would need for it.

Béchamel Sauce Ingredients:  
  • 2 Tbsp. Grape Seed Oil
  • 2Tbsp. All-purpose Flour
  • 2 Cups Unsweetened Coconut Milk
  • 1/4 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • 1 tsp. Lemon Juice

Sandwich Ingredients:  
  • Potato Bread;  thick slices
  • 16 oz. Baby Bella Mushrooms;  sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. Oil
  • 1/2 tsp. Rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp. Thyme
  • 1 Tbsp. Parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt

Cheese Mixture Ingredients:  
  • 1 cup Vegan Gourmet Mozzarella Shreds
  • 1/4 tsp. Chili Powder
  • 1 Tbsp. Nutritional Yeast

  1. Heat the oven to 425 F. 
  2. To prepare the béchamel sauce, combine the butter, flour and nutmeg in a saucepan over medium heat.  Cook the mixture for about 2-3 minutes while stirring it constantly until it turns slightly brown.  Gradually whisk in the coconut milk and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and begins to pull away from the edges on the pan, 3-4 min.  The sauce should now have the consistency of thick pudding and stick to the spoon.  At this point, turn the heat off and season the sauce with a pinch of salt.
  3. Next, prepare the mushroom mixture.  Pour 1 tablespoon of cooking oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add mushrooms with rosemary, sage and parsley.  Cook for about 7 minutes until the mushrooms are browned and stir the mixture occasionally.  Once this happen add 1 teaspoon of salt which should cause the mushrooms to release their liquid.  Then turn off the heat and set the mixture aside.
  4. Now is also a good time to prepare the cheese mixture by combining the shredded vegan cheese, the chili powder and the nutritional yeast flakes in a small bowl.
  5. To assemble the sandwich, take the sliced bread and spread a thin layer of mustard on top.  Next, add a thicker layer of béchamel sauce on each slice of bread, making sure to spread the béchamel from corner to corner on each slice.  Now is also a good time to place the bread on the prepared baking sheet.  Top each slice with mushrooms and the cheese mixture.  Next, bake the sandwiches until cheese is melted and tops are starting to crisp, about 10 minutes.  Sprinkle some fresh chopped parsley over top and serve immediately.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Winter 2016 Capsule Wardrobe

I'm still in love with capsule dressing and I decided to continue Project 333 in 2016.  Getting ready in the morning is a breeze, I get much more use out of my stuff and I always feel good and confident because I'm sure that I love the pieces I'm wearing.  I look at the things in my capsule and I feel proud for owning and using it.  I'm happy, but I don't think anyone else noticed or cared.  Oh well...  it's okay.  I started capsule dressing for my own well being and it truly made my life a lot simpler and taught me that dressing up to go somewhere to impress someone is a weird concept.  I would rather look simple, comfortable and appropriate at all times.  No one else cares so much what I do or wear.  Actually, besides the people that read my blog nobody else even noticed that I was wearing the same few pieces again and again.  However, during the experiment of my first capsule wardrobe I got a better idea what I cared about.  And that is functionality.  I still have a lot of nice pieces but many of them are not practical. 

This also meant that putting together the second wardrobe was harder than I thought.  I still have a lot of frivolous stuff.  Most items in the storage box and my closet somehow don't make the cut when I ask "do I want this in my capsule for the next three months?" 
So, the plan for this year is to continue capsule dressing while keeping in mind that my wardrobe should be (1) simple, (2) comfortable and (3) versatile.  I have the feeling this will drastically change the piles of clothing that I own. 

Criteria for my practical wardrobe:
1) I enjoy very simple and classic designs and I love black, white, blue, red and a few jewel tones. 
2) To be comfortable clothes need to fit properly, serve the main function to keep me warm (because I'm easily cold and I am now ready to part with decorative fashion items), and the clothes should be made of a soft no-fuss materials. 
3) The pieces will have to work with other items in my wardrobe and be appropriate for work and "play".  

Minimalism is not defined by what is not there but by the rightness of
what is and the richness with which this is experienced.” 
- John Pawson

Already in December I started thinking about the next capsule wardrobe, scrutinizing any of the items that were no longer seasonally appropriate or broken and I also tried to find items that could keep me warm in even colder weather.  What a task.  And as much as I'm excited for a new year and a new season, it looks like I'm pretty much dressing the same as before.  Many of the pieces from my last capsule (if not broken) are making it into the winter capsule because it looks like I had selected my favorite things.  After three months of capsule dressing I feel like I made some good choices with my first capsule.  My only only worry is that I'm not so well prepared for the really cold winter months.  I pulled out the big plastic box that I had stored away and I actually could not stand to look into it.  The few winter clothes I had looked rather ratty, or it made no sense how thin they were or that the sweaters had 3/4 sleeves.  3/4 sleeves is a style that does not work for me.  I sorted through the box again.  
Finally, I went out and I bought a few new pieces with the purpose of keeping me toasty warm and comfortable.  I will mark the with a *.

Here is are lists of the items I culled from my capsule.
Some things from my last capsule broke and they were sorted out:
- work tote (strap broke in 3 spots, inside pocket was torn)
- black slacks (lost button, the seam around the zipper broke and the dryer left a big burn mark on the right leg)
maroon corduroy pants (fabric ripped on the derrière after 7 years and I could not figure out a discrete way to sew the big tear back together)

Some items are too light and thin for the freezing and snowy winter weather, even with layering, so I packed these pieces away:
- jean jacket 
- black blazer
- green parker
- lace dress
- red, white and blue striped dress
- chunky heel sandals
- black ballerina flats

Here is a list of the items I selected for the winter capsule:

TOPS (4)
1 - sleeveless red blouse
2 - sleeveless blue/green blouse
3 - white button down blouse with dark blue trim
4 - chambray button down shirt

5 - blue and white embellished sweater
6 - blue and red embellished sweater
7 - cream knit sweater*
8 - grey cardigan
9- patterned cardigan*

10 - black/blue wrap dress*
11 - denim dress*

12 - black peacoat*
13 - grey heated vest*
14 - fuchsia peacoat
15 - black fleece vest
16 - fleece pullover

17 - dark blue jeans
18 - black pants*
19 - grey slacks
20 - lace skirt
21 - black leggings 

22 - black chunky heel boots
23 - tan boots
24 - black riding boots*

25 - blue striped scarf
26 - black gloves
27 - black beanie
28 - red beanie
29 - jewelry: wedding ring/band, rose-gold watch, pandora bracelet, two pair of stud ear-rings, simple necklace

30 - grey work/camera bag*
31 - thin black belt

32 - ???
33 - ???

I will update how it goes this time around.  Here are links to my previous capsule posts: Fall 2015 Capsule Wardrobe and Outfits of October.
But for more information on the concept of Project 333 I recommend visiting Courtney Carver's website (linked here)!  

I hope everyone is having a good week.

♡ Nina