Monday, December 10, 2012

easy whole wheat zucchini bread

(The Cat Who Thinks She is a Dog got busted nibbling on a piece of zucchini bread)

1 regular-sized zucchini*
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
2 tablespoons regular (granulated) sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Cooking spray

(the ingredients. i failed at taking an after picture. amateur blogger indeed.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make sure to wait an extra 5-10 minutes after the oven indicates it is thoroughly heated. This ensures that opening the oven will not significantly lower the temperature inside. Spray a 9x3" baking pan with cooking oil. 

Thoroughly rinse the zucchini. Using the largest holes on a box grater, grate the zucchini, skin and all, and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the sugars, oil, eggs, and vanilla. 

In a small bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Ensure it is fully mixed, especially the baking soda and powder. Slowly add this to the egg mixture, stirring well. Adding it slowly will help minimize lumps, but make sure to smooth any that appear out. Add the grated zucchini and mix well.

Pour mixture into the baking pan, and spread it evenly. Bake for roughly 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 20 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack or tray for 10 minutes. Return to pan or place on a plate right-side up. Allow the bread to cool completely before slicing.

*note: I am from California and shop at farmers' markets. The produce I get my hands on is a bit larger than what is seen in colder / more extreme climates, especially winter stuff. Adjust vegetable ingredient sizes accordingly.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

quick note: music

(santa ynez, ca.)

As I was cooking up this recipe (which is beyond amazing, go make it now) and listening to Pandora, a bluegrass song came on that sounded awfully familiar. I thought I was just being nuts, but The Husband noticed as well and exclaimed, "Wow, this a cover of Yellow by Coldplay!" And right he was. Whether you love or hate Coldplay, take a couple minutes to check out Old School Freight Train - Pickin' on Coldplay. The "Yellow" cover is the best, in my opinion, but all the songs are fun and the interpretations of them are pretty neat. It came out in 2005, so I am clearly late to the party....but still worth a listen! Buy the album here

Thursday, December 6, 2012

holiday cheer

(The Cat Who Thinks She's A Dog, full of holiday cheer)

Personally, I love the holiday season, despite my general cynicism and crotchety demeanor. I love an excuse to select the perfect gift for each of my loved ones. I love dragging a tree home (aka having The Husband drag a tree home) and having the smell of pine fill my house. I love browbeating The Husband into hanging lights on the front of the house. I love making new ornaments every year, usually with a friend or family member (don't worry, the old ornaments get donated or repurposed). 

I have much to celebrate during this season, especially this year. However, not everyone feels the same way, for perfectly valid reasons. Times are tough, and life can be hard; pain and suffering (and family issues) do not, unfortunately, take a holiday. Sometimes you just don't feel that energy. However, for those that are healthy, mobile, financially stable(ish), and desiring to get out of their anti-holiday rut, here are a few ideas:

  • Be kind to yourself. Just because you're not a magical holiday elf full of cheer doesn't mean anything is materially wrong with you or your life. Instead of focusing on trying to be celebratory and energetic when you feel the exact opposite, just give yourself a break, go somewhere safe and quiet, do what you need to do to feel okay (within reason, let's keep to healthy coping mechanisms, mmmmk?). 
  • If you can, find things to be grateful for, and then go and express that appreciation in a way that feels right to you. 
  • If finances are difficult or the idea of choosing gifts for your loved ones sounds daunting, consider giving the gift of time. You don't have to have a special skill. I would love if someone gave me the gift of helping me purge my wardrobe and donate stuff I no longer wear. The only skill someone would need is the ability to slap me when I try to justify keeping a shirt I haven't worn for 5 years.
  • Buy a plant, not a Christmas tree. Feel smug when your plant lives and flourishes while bleary-eyed neighbors are dragging dead trees out to the curb in January.
  • Eat well. Eat healthy, satisfying, whole foods. It's amazing what eating healthily can do for one's mindset. Feel smug (and awesome) when everyone complains about the crap they've been eating nonstop.
  • Send a holiday card, packaged treats, or something similar to a local nonprofit. Try to focus on one that serves marginalized populations or deal with subjects that are still considered somewhat taboo by our society. The animal shelters will be inundated with cards, candy, and well-wishers, because society loves pets. However, the center that serves survivors of rape, domestic violence, the HIV-positive community, etc., may not receive much holiday cheer, if at all, from the community it serves. Sending a card thanking the staff for what they do is such a small thing that really, truly, raises morale.

(me decidedly not in the holiday spirit, France, 2007)

CHEESEFEST OVER. Happy holidays everyone.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

quick link - my new roots

My New Roots is one of my favorite healthy eating blogs. The author provides great recipes, as well the "science" behind why this type of food is healthy, the impact of processed foods on nutrition, etc. I am so grateful to have access to a wide variety of fresh, local, organic, and affordable produce, and My New Roots has helped me be braver with food and recipe choices, and thrilled with how tasty healthy food truly can be. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

meditation + technology

(The Funk Zone on a cloudy day, Santa Barbara)

As someone who tends to become anxious easily, meditation had always intimidated me. I did not think I was capable of shutting my brain off and finding that inner peace that had always been elusive to me. However, I tried Deepak Chopra's 21-Day Free Meditation Challenge (now over, sadly, but you can purchase the series here, and I also mention some FREE guided meditation audio sources below) as a desire to try, really try, to understand and practice at least the basic tenants of meditation. Shockingly, I loved it and immediately felt the calming effects of taking 15 minutes out of each day to participate in this challenge. While I chose not to purchase the meditation series (I'm super cheap), I firmly believe it was an incredibly effective introduction to meditation for beginners and would recommend it to anyone.

After the challenge was over and I was meditation audio-less, I was stumped. I may have completed the 21 days of meditation, but I wasn't ready or able to just sit back in a silent room and try to achieve that inner peace myself. I needed the verbal instructions to keep me on task, instead of letting my mind wander into worries and stresses. What's a hippie to do?

Answer: Spotify! For those of you who are not familiar with Spotify, you really should be. It is a free music player that functions more like iTunes than Pandora. You can search for songs, albums, artists, make playlists, look at friends' music, get recommendations, and so forth...all for FREE. The free version is a desktop-only program with some ads between songs. The paid version ($9.99 per month) gets rid of ads and allows you to utilize Spotify's mobile app, so you can rock out on your phone to your playlists for free. Not all music is on there (big, sad, missing one: The Beatles) due to copyright owners not allowing the music to be used by Spotify and the like, but I rarely notice the absence, even though my music taste runs towards the obscure.

(Goleta Beach Park near UCSB, on a cloudy day)

Deepak Chopra and The Chopra Center have quite a few albums available for your use. The 21-Day Meditation Challenge is on there, but without the truly inspiring introductory remarks Deepak makes in the paid version. However, the real winner (for me) has been The Soul of Healing Meditations. It is a guided meditation CD (remember, I need someone telling me to stop thinking, dammit) and is a great way to ease into the wonderful world of meditation. Another amazing guided meditation for encouraging sleep is Blissful Sleep with Deepak Chopra.

I am so grateful for my mind and body, and my desire to be my own sense of peace. Even if you don't take it seriously at first (I chuckled aloud during my first meditation attempt), try it a couple times. You have nothing to lose, and so much inner fulfillment to gain!

Thursday, November 29, 2012


The Olmstead Homestead consists of: a smug newly married couple and their cat who thinks she's a dog. After working 24/7 for a year to put on our own wedding, we are amazed at not only the huge amounts of free time we now have, but how completely incapable of being unproductive we now are. Hence, this blog.

Reed: The Husband. He will not want anything to do with this blog. Really, he doesn't even have Facebook. But he loves me so he will roll with it (or else). He puts my crazy schemes into action, and is marvelous with a power drill.

Stephanie: The Wife and author of this blog. I am a lazy hippie, except when I have a Grand Idea (usually regarding home projects). Then it's crunch time and no one is allowed to rest until the project is complete. I dream of owning my own home one day in our distressingly expensive city.

Fiona: The Cat Who Thinks She's A Dog. She chases her tail, plays fetch (pathetically but still), and loves to take over the bed while sleeping. Her lack of survival instincts, namely, the fact that she falls down, rolls on her back, and exposes her belly whenever she is startled, cause her to live strictly indoors.