I’m feeling so special!

The 60-Day Project has gotten off to a delicious start!

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Look at those phenomenally-gorgeous mini-cupcakes that the dear Maggie of Dog Hill Kitchen made for my mum, aka Mammafish! Not only did Maggie put love, time and genuine effort into this sweet birthday gift, but she delivered them personally to my mother! I know not everyone lives close enough to bring her something sweet – heaven knows I can’t - and when Maggie said she was up for a “special delivery” I was just giddy with excitement. She even made them vegan! She also threw in a jar of her homemade quince jam made with organic quince from her father-in-law’s garden! Talk about an extended-family affair! Maggie’s got the recipe for the Strawberry-Topped Vegan Lemon Mini-Cupcakes up on her blog if you want to make some for your mother (or for yourself!).

Thanks again, Maggie! You are a real friend, and you made my mother’s (and father’s) day!

Riding the high from knowing how well this first surprise went and hearing the joy in my mother’s voice over the telephone, I stumbled upon two other (much less important) surprises! My humble little blog got two very special mentions this weekend and I’m feeling so snazzy-pants about it!

Erik Marcus featured my Vegan Spinach Pasta from the March Daring Bakers Challenge on Vegan.com! I must admit, I was feeling a little sparkly!

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And the Feeling Stitchy blog gave a special mention to my Little Bear which I literally just happened upon. I clicked on the blog and began scrolling down and was like, “hey, that bear looks like mine…it is mine!”. How flattering!

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I obviously wish that I had come up with this cute little bear, but anyone can stitch themselves one! Just visit Hillary Lang’s Wee Wonderfuls blog, and you can score yourself a free pattern, too!

We’re about to begin an exciting week! April is just a few days away, Friday is my mother’s birthday and I’m feeling really excited about getting gifty-projects ready  for Easter and Guppy’s birthday. Have a great week!

Homemade Vegan Pasta? Easy-Peasy! The Daring Bakers March Challenge : Vegan Lasagna

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When I gave up baking for Lent, I pretty much knew I’d have to forgo the March Daring Bakers Challenge. I don’t like missing challenges (I’ve only missed one), but figured I’d just make it at a later date. Imagine my joy and surprise when March’s challenge was announced and I saw we’d be making a savory dish, and for me, it fell under the category of “cooking” – so no missed challenge!

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

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I absolutely loved this challenge! It was fun, easy and I didn’t find it time consuming at all (though some of my fellow Dbers did). I usually have homemade tomato sauce in my freezer, and it just so happened to be time to replenish my stock, so the week before I made the lasagna I made about a 4 liters of homemade sauce. I think splitting the challenge into two parts – sauce and pasta – really cut down on my over-all time in the kitchen (or at least my perception of it!).

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This challenge pushed me to do something I’ve always thought about doing – make my own pasta from scratch! I make everything from scratch, but I’d never made pasta – until now. It was so easy and fun, I know I’m going to do it again and again.  I used the Bryanna Clark Grogan recipe for my spinach and it was a gem! Clear, easy to follow and a beautifully cooperative dough to work with. I think from start to finish from beginning the pasta to baking the lasagna the time was about 1h45mins.

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I believe that my ignorance allows for such fun and discovery in the kitchen. As I’d never made homemade pasta, I wasn’t afraid of it and didn’t really know what I was supposed to be doing or how, so I didn’t think I couldn’t do it “the right way” as I didn’t know what the right way was. I had fun, and so did Guppy who was so excited to learn that dough makes not only bread and cookies, but also pasta. It’s wonderful to help her see the way things are connected.

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And I just have to say, I was feeling like such a rock star with drying spinach pasta hanging about my kitchen. I know I was feeling the same emotions of pride and accomplishment that Guppy feels when she does something for the first time: “Look what I made, mumma!” (speaking of which, I need to send my mum this link so she can be proud of me, too!).

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I don’t make lasagna very often, but I know the next time I do I’ll be making this pasta! It was delicious, and everyone loved it!

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If you haven’t already stopped by The Daring Kitchen – home of The Daring Bakers and The Daring Cooks – you should! There are lots of great feature articles, cookbook reviews and feature members. Lot’s of good, clean fun for everyone!

W.I.P. Wednesday : Pin Cushions, Notebooks & Gifts

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How is your March Stitch-Along progressing? I can’t wait to see what you’ve all come up with. I’ll be featuring pictures and links to finished (or mostly finished!) projects in next week’s post, so if you’d like to be included, please send me an email with a picture by Monday, March 30th and I’ll get you in!

My Little Bear and Bunny have been pushed temporarily aside by a landslide of pin cushion madness :

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Side A

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Side B

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Side A

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Side A

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Side A

The B Sides are on the W.I.P. Wednesday Flickr Pool if you’d like to get your fill of pin cushion love. I used a sweet stamp I ordered from Japan (more on that soon) to stamp some of the fabric. I just love that little mushroom, and think it really works with the brown corduroy.

I don’t know why, I was just thinking I might need a supply of little gift. Always good to have on hand.

I’ve also tried playing with something new in the bookmaking/embellishing department :

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I should have taken more time with these pictures because they don’t do justice at all to the adorability of these notebooks. I applied some vegan felt to these faux-moleskines before adding embroidery and other appliqé. I’m in love with them, and forced myself to show them to you all because otherwise I’d have kept them for myself! Ha! Now I know I’ll send them off to good homes.

And this little bundle of goodness (finished off this weekend) is finally on its way to a Lovelie home in Ireland.

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A little felty-love pouch, felt heart, and some gourmet vegan chocolate handmade here in town. My sewing skills keep improving, so the longer it takes me to get something out, the better it ends up looking! Also included in the little package is this (feeble) attempt at a handmade card:

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The pattern (the second time I’ve stitched it, I really like it!) is from the great book that Natalia sent me for my birthday, as is the idea to use fusible interfacing to adhere it to the card. I really liked the way this looked plan to do more. I also sent her a Sweet Little Pin Cushion, because they are just too cute!
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Next Wednesday we’ll have a new featured Wipster for the month of April and a little March Stitch-Along round-up so don’t forget to stop by. I bet you can’t wait, I know I can’t! And I just know that April will be the month of the “Super Easy Child’s Pants Tutorial”. I can feel it in my bones people! Have a crafty week, and don’t forget to see what the other Wipsters are up to, and to check out our W.I.P. Wednesday Flickr Pool, too.

60-Day Project Update & Carmelized Onion and Potato Tart on Focaccia Crust

MAMMA FISH – AKA MY MUM – DO NOT READ THIS POST! AVERT YOUR EYES!!

I am just blown away by your amazing response to the 60-Day Project! Bianca said it well – we are a bit of a (blogging) family, and I am sincerely moved by your outpouring of interest and enthusiasm! I never dreamed this little idea would grow into such an adventure (Ricki – how did you know!). I don’t want to get overly sentimental here, but I am so energized by all this rockin’ Female Solidarity! Women from all over the globe (literally) getting together and getting it done! Right on, my Sisters! Where will we go from here? We could become the Undercover Global Birthday Squad – bringing birthday cheer to women everywhere! (I’m having a Roise the Riveter moment here…Sorry).

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This is going to be one of the best birthdays ever for my mother and I am so excited about getting things underway! I had no idea how many of you would be interested in participating, and I must admit I’m a little overwhelmed by your response! I’m not sure how I’m going to manage to make and send off little gifts to everyone – there are so many of you! I’ll be getting an email off to all the participants this weekend with the important details so we can get started – I don’t want to talk too much more about this here lest the secret be spoiled! Weeeee!

And now, a little food, because we can’t make birthday history with our tummies empty now can we?

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Hummm… here we have Caramelized Onion and Potato Tart on Focaccia. I wish I had a better picture, but both times I made this delectable dish it disappeared so fast I had a tough time snapping a picture! This is indeed a pre-Lent dinner, my baking fast is holding true, JFTR (just for the record).

I feel a little guilty tempting you with these succulent test recipes from the upcoming 500 Vegan Recipes, the stellar cookbook collaboration between Celine and Joni. The frustration you must feel not being able to make such yummies must be terrible! However, if you’re a sucker for punishment, do check out the 500 Vegan Recipes Flickr Group for more tempting deliciousness. You can marvel at the amazing food photography of the muy talented Celine! And hey! 500 Vegan Recipes is now available for pre-order, which may help you feel pro-active in appeasing your outrageous cravings!

Looking for some very special volunteers…the 60-Day Project

Mammafish (aka my mum) : Do not read this post. I repeat – avert your eyes and click away now!

WOW! YOUR RESPONSE HAS BEEN PHENOMENAL! I’M CLOSING COMMENTS ON THIS POST NOW BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW HOW I’M EVER GOING TO HAVE TIME TO MAKE GIFTS FOR ALL OF YOU! THANK YOU!

So here’s the deal kids – my dear, sweet Mammafish has a milestone birthday coming up very soon. I have been trying so hard to think of something unique and special to give her, because here’s the deal : she’s got 6 kids, and this is her 60th birthday, so she’s had her share of “oh, how sweet, another mug. I love it!” gifts. She has always been grateful in her motherly way, but I’d like to try and mix it up a little. I’m going to be honest : budget is a huge issue for me, and though I have had some fun ideas, nothing really jumped out at me and screamed “This is it!”.

Until now.

Introducing “The 60 Days of Gifts” project!

My genius plan (if I do say so myself) is to send my mum a series of gifts over 60 days – beginning on April 3 (meaning, I hope to have the first gift arrive by the 3rd, her birthday). We celebrate “Birthday Week” at the Fish household, meaning special favours for the birthday girl or boy for a week, but this is an amplified version!

I am planning on sending her a few special gifts from France, but I’m looking for a few very special volunteers to also send her a little something. Like what? Well, I’m thinking some nice chocolate, not a lot mind you – where not going for piling lavish gifts on the woman (though I would love to), but to have this wonderful wave of love washing little treasures into her mailbox. I mean, who doesn’t love receiving mail? And surprises? Or maybe something small and handmade like a beautiful card or an embroidered tea towel – just something small, sweet and sincere. Again, chocolate is always a good idea.

But Shellyfish, we all think you’re mum is probably cool and all, but why would we send her anything? I mean, she’s a total stranger, and we don’t even send our own mothers gifts often enough.

I am indeed picking up what you are laying down my friends. Here’s the deal, once my sweet mumma has received her little gift from you, I’ll send you a little something special from me. Ta Da!

What will I send you? I’m going to be honest, I’m not sure yet because I need to first see how many people want to play along, but it will be something handmade and not too heavy to ship from France. Or, I could reciprocate the favour and send some yummy French chocolate to you or your loved one of choice for a birthday at a later date (or right now, darn it!). I’m thinking maybe an embroidered notebook or something similar. I would also be open to suggestions. It’s like a kind of “Pay It Forward” except that the birthday girl doesn’t give anything – she just gets to receive lots of love from all over the world and feel very special.

Once I have an idea of how many people might like to play along, I’ll contact you and give you more specifics such as the date you need to send (or hand-deliver if you’re near-by) your little envelope of love out by – because we don’t want everything arriving on the same day! Just to be clear, she lives in the U.S.A., so that’s something to consider as far as shipping goes.

I’m really excited about this! I think it’ll be fun, and I especially hope it will be something very special for her. I can’t wait to see what your response is! Please feel free to comment me any questions and I’ll update the post to be more specific if need be.

Wwweeeeeeee!!!!!!!

W.I.P. Wednesday : Randoms

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Happy Wednesday, kids! I want to sincerely thank all of you for your comments on my article over at The Daring Kitchen. You’re all too cool for school, and that’s the truth. So there. Now, onto W.I.P. Wednesdayness!

I was able to get a little work done on this month’s Stitch-Along. I think these are the perfect size for my 6 month-old niece’s hands to hold, so I’ll be sending them off to her for Easter (meaning, I’d better get rocking on them if they are going to be finished and sent in time).

bunnyIn-progress Bunny. Note the terribly sloppy outline. I did get a “D” in neatness in the First Grade. Scarred for life, I tell ya.

little-bearFinished little Bear

If all goes well, I’m going to put some tinkley-bells in one, and hopefully some crinkly-sounding plastic in the other for some added fun. I’ll keep you posted.

I’m also trying to finish up some cupcakes for more notebooks like these. I’ve still got a few notebooks left, but I’ve got the materials together to make my own and I’m really excited about it! I’ll have camera in hand to get you a proper tute when the moment arrives. For now, here’s the in-progress cuppers :

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Did you notice those gorgeous French knots/sprinkles? I’m going French Knot crazy, and not just because I’m a Francophile. Honestly, I couldn’t figure them out until very recently (ie: bane of my embroidery existence). I started to think it was a seriously lost cause, but then I checked out Jenny Hart’s tutorial and it changed my life. Well, it changed my embroidery. Thing is, I’m not sure if I like the French Knot sprinkles, or the longer seed stitch ones I did before. Thoughts?

Before the holidays I promised a tutorial to show you how to make a pair of child’s pants sans pattern. Ture to my word, I had the opportunity to take some photos while making these :

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Sorry for the wonky color-scheme here – these are orange and white striped pants for Guppy, who seemingly overnight grew 3 centimeters (yet to be confirmed with our highly-scientific measuring in-the-doorway method later today) and is in major need of longer pants (or higher socks). I’d started working on her dress, but have put that aside for the more serious and practical business of pants. Please forgive my slapdash sticking pants on wall with a piece of painter’s tape mise en scène here (would have been more professional to actually get the legs and stripes to line up before I snapped the shot, hey?).

This is the most lovely fabric, which is a sailcloth-ish cotton twill (I’m not fluent in fabric yet, sorry) that I bought nearly a year ago at Ikea never dreaming I’d have the skillz to make pants! Had I known I would have bought more because I would love to have a pair of loungy pants like these – they look like acrobat pants and orange popcicles all at once. To me, anyway. I ended up having to slim the legs a little bit on these because Guppy wasn’t into the baggy look, but that wasn’t too difficult to pull off. If I can get over this sludge which had me bed-ridden all weekend (and up until today) and get all productive-organized-crawl out from under my pile of backlogged behindness, I’ll get the tutorial for next Wednesday. Maybe. I hope.

Have a crafty week, and don’t forget to see what the other Wipsters are up to, and to check out our W.I.P. Wednesday Flickr Pool, too.

Shameless Self-Promotion and Happy Mail

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If you enjoy reading food blogs, than chances are good that you’ve heard of The Daring Bakers -  you may even be a member. There have been some major changes happening with my favourite monthly baking rendez-vous and I am so excited to invite you to visit The Daring Kitchen. This brand new website is open to members and non-members alike and has lots of great weekly features like member spotlights, cookbook reviews and fun and informative food articles… like my new article that just went up yesterday on crêpes. So head over to the new site, check out the bells and whistles, read my article (duh!) and hey, if you haven’t already, why don’t you sign up to be a Daring Baker? Baking not quite your thing? Well, have no fear, because now you can sign up to be a Daring Cook! That’s right, we’re going to move our daring to the savory side of things, and as always Alternative Daring Cooks are more than welcome to help show the world that une cuisine sans cruauté is not just possible, it’s delicious! The first Daring Cooks challenge will be announced on April 17 so you have time to get in on the fun – head over to The Daring Kitchen and sign up today!

And now for some rather over-due Happy Mail thanks. First a big merci to Sophie of Her Heart, My Hands for this lovely loot  that I won (weeee!):

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My lovely package contained the most delicious-smelling shampoo and conditioner, an adorable pin cushion and a sweet card. My hair also thanks you because this stuff is just lovely.

And because lady luck has been smiling on me, here are the fantabulous handmade bulk bags made by the supercalafragalistc Amy (aka Tahinitoo) :

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These little bags are the perfect sizes for all my bulk and marché shopping needs! And because Amy is a sweetums she also added an adorable handmade card (that I had to wrangle back from Guppy. Shesh, kids.) and a super-cool patch from Herbivore (or was it Food Fight! Grr, I can’t remember now, must be nice to live in Portland, OR kids!) that I can wait to sew onto something fun!

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So thank you to Sophie and Amy: you are both adorable, talented and very generous. I’m sending you virtual hugs and kisses right now!

Larabars? No! Make your own raw goodness! Coconut Carob Banana Bread Bars

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I don’t want to offend any hard-core Larabar lovers out there. I really like them, and brought a bunch back from the US with me (though my stash was quickly depleted), but let’s face it kids – they are muy expensive, and you can make some similar tasting yummies at home.

Back in October during Vegan MoFo I posted this recipe for Raw Banana Bread Bars. They are yummy bars, but I was playing with the recipe, trying to come up with something new and a little more daring for breakfast. I really like the way these turned out, the ginger gives them just the right amount of sassyness, and coconut and carob are always happy together!

Raw Coconut Carob Banana Bread Bars

  • 130g raw almonds
  • 30g dried ginger (about 2 or 3 chunks)
  • 4 or 5 dehydrated bananas, chopped (these are soft, not the hard dried ones)
  • 60g unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons carob
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • a little water, as needed

In your food processor grind up the almonds first, then add the rest of the ingredients. You may need to add more or less water, depending on how dry your bananas are, and if you have carob issues you could swap it for cocoa powder of course.

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Once things are ground up to your liking and sticking together, they’ll need to set just a bit. I put mine in this cute little silicon flower mold – and I got 6. You could also just line a tupperware-type container with plastic wrap or parchment paper and press it flat with your fingers. I put mine in the fridge for the afternoon, then took them out and wrapped them individually for easier portability. I keep them in the fridge, and while I’m not a food Scientist, I’ve kept them for 2 weeks and they were still a-ok.

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I’m hoping to try a walnut variation on these, so I’ll let you know how that works out. Hope you’re having a lovely Saturday out there, kids!

W.I.P. Wednesday : Craftivism, The Mother Bear Project, Collaborating & Finished W.I.P.s

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Happy Wednesday! First off I’d like to share my finished W.I.P.s :

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On the left is the very cute Easter Rabbit pattern I tested for the very talented Tacha. He is adorable, a fun sewing project and a wonderful gift idea for all the little bunnies in your life. She’ll have the pattern for sale in her Etsy shop soon, and while you’re there, check out her “Animal Friends” fabric book patterns. They are really cute and fun to make! What you don’t see in the picture (uh, because I forgot to snap it!) is that he has a zippered-back and you can stow sweets and surprises in his tummy! Guppy was a little frustrated that it was going in a package and traveling far away…little does she know that if I’d managed to keep it a secret it was going to be for her!

In the middle is the finished my most recent Black Apple doll. I made the legs and arms extra long because they are easier to grasp with baby-hands. I like this pattern, but I keep changing it each time I use it. I just need to draft my own pattern I guess!

On the right is the first stuffed animal/doll I ever had – a “Three Little Pigs” cloth storybook is under his vest. I’ve had that on my shelf since Guppy was born, and it’s got me thinking recently : how fun would that be? To make a cloth doll and have a quilted two or three page story built into her body or clothes? I need to give this more thought…it’s like an “Idea In Progress”.

Have you gotten started on this month’s Stitch-Along? I’ve traced the pattern onto some fabric, but haven’t gotten much further than that. I chose a cream-coloured cotton twill for the embroidered part, but I’m not sure what I want to use for the backing fabric. Time to raid the stash. I’d like to give these to Guppy so I’m having to work on the sly…not always easy in a tiny apartment!

Since I’ve got you’re attention I’d like to share this Craftivism opportunity with you! I know many of you are masters of the knitting and crochet world. I hope to someday join you, but for now, I’m just watching from the sidelines…

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Anyway, I read about The Mother Bear Project on WhipUp, and it sounds like such an amazing project I just had to give them a mention here. This non-profit based in the U.S. provides crocheted and knitted bears to children in emerging countries who have been affected by HIV/AIDS. To some it might not seem like much, but I think that giving some handmade love to a child, showing them you care and that they do matter even if they are strangers, well, it’s the bee’s knees.

You can also read a very touching story (your eyes will get misty at the end) about a kick-ass woman named Phyllis Schmidt who has knit 100 bears for the project, and has started her second batch of 100. Oh, did I mention Ms. Schmidt is 93 years-old? I hope I am that cool when I hit my 90s.

There’s also a handful of Mother Bear Project knitting groups in the U.S. to check out, but even if you don’t knit, there are other ways you can help (donating materials, money, etc.), so get to it people!

Do you have any other links or stories about Craftivism opportunities? Let me know, I’d be happy to post them here. Have a creative week, and be sure to check in with the other Wipsters and our W.I.P. Wednesday Flickr Group for more inspiration!

Whatever Happened To Sunday Dinners : Indian night!

Things have been a little quiet around here, haven’t they? All is well, I’ve just been a very busy bee, mostly playing catch-up with things I *should* have been working on while on vacation. Since I spent my two weeks playing with Guppy (also on vacation) and crafting, well, my lesson plans needed some emergency attention last week! But I don’t regret it, though. A holiday is for resting, not working after all!

But let’s talk about the deliciousness! This is actually a little pre-Lenten Sunday dinner that I very purposefully scheduled before giving up baking. Two of my favourite bloggers, Jessy and Gail had me longing for some Indian cuisine, and I knew I had to try Gail’s Naan recipe before turning my back on all that is bake-able!

Good gravy, Marie! (I don’t actually know who Marie is. My mum used to say this when we were little and I think it’s funny.) These naan were out of this world, and so easy to prepare. They were really delicious, and I know I’ll be making them again once my Lenten baking fast has ended.

The most tragic thing about them is that I don’t have a picture to show you! I recently lost a folder o’ photos, much to my chagrin, but that’s the rock and roll life of a food blogger! But frustrating. Don’t despair, Gail has some scrummy pictures on her blog, so just go see hers!

Feeling like some Indian curry fantasticalness? Do try Jessy’s Chickpea-potato-tomato curry of deliciousness that is so amazing my mouth is actually watering just thinking about it! The name pretty much says it all, and it’s all good. I love recipes that call for things I have on hand, in addition to being healthy and tasty!

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I made another Jessy-inspired meal last night, too, which I will be blabbing about soon. Jessy!!! What would I do without you and your recipe index of sublime awesomeness!?

And with no segue at all, I just want to take a little moment and say thank you : thanks for your comments which bring me so much joy and insight, and thank you for your little messages of love and groovy-ness. I’m so thankful for this blogging community and all its brought me! You rule!