Category Archives: DIY

Foodie Tuesdays: Indian Kidney Beans

I love making ethnic food. Especially when I have absolutely no idea what it is. Today, I tried something that I’ve never made before, and it was a winner. An empty-the-pot-and-ask-for-more winner. Kidney beans and rice with rajmah masala!

Sometimes, Indian food is a little to spicy for me– sometimes it is way too spicy for me. This, on the other hand, was the perfect amount of spicy and savory.

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I got the box mix last night from my neighbor. He was cleaning out his kitchen and offered me a bunch of cool spices and other yummy things– perks of having an awesome neighbor! If you don’t have as box mix, you can make your own rajmah masala from spices in your kitchen.

You will need:

  • Kidney beans (2 or 3 cans, or a package of dry beans, prepared)
  • Three cups of rice
  • Small onion
  • Tomato or tomato paste
  • Rajmah Masala, either packaged or:
    • Crushed coriander, salt, dry mango, pomegranate seeds, chili, cumin, musk melon, black pepper, slack salt, fenugreek leaves, cloves, mint, nutmeg, dry ginger, bay leaf, cardamom seeds, caraway, mace, cardamom green.
    • If you don’t have all the ingredients, no worries– go with what you have.

Prepare beans and rice.

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Mix all the spices together.

Chop onions, fry in a pan until golden brown. Add tomatoes.

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Add a tablespoon or so of the spice mix, stir until it forms a paste.

Mix the spices and onions into the beans. Let simmer for a few minutes.

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Serve beans over rice.

Foodie Tuesdays: Parrotfish Fajitas

Before you can begin to cook these deliciously fishy fajitas, you must obtain a fish. You could buy one at the grocery store, or you could catch one with your own rod and reel.

We spent today adventuring around our island home: first to the French side for fishing and snorkeling, and then to the Dutch side to see Fort Amsterdam. My parents gave me a waterproof phone case for Christmas, so while Ben caught fish for dinner, I caught fish on camera.

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Parrotfish

Ben caught a parrotfish, two glasseye snappers, and two doctor fish. Since ciguatera toxin is prevalent in our area, we checked online to make sure the fish are safe to eat. We threw out the snappers because they are high-risk ciguatera carriers. The doctor fish were tiny and rarely carry the toxin anyway, so we kept them. We were a little concerned about the parrotfish since it was over six inches, but it’s low-risk so we decided to try it. I guess we’ll find out in the morning if we’re OK; Ciguatera poisoning hits within twelve hours.

I think we’ll be alright.

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Once the fish were home and cleaned, it was time to start cooking.

To make the fajitas, gather your ingredients:

  • four
  • water
  • salt
  • oil
  • fish
  • bell peppers
  • onions
  • shallots
  • lemon
  • Spices: salt, pepper, cumin, garlic salt

My favorite tortilla recipe is from Taste of Home. I never buy tortillas from the store anymore! Mix 2 cups of flour, a little salt, 3/4 cups of water and 3 Tablespoons of oil. Let rest, roll out, and fry.

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Season fish with salt, pepper, and lemon.

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Slice onions, bell peppers, and shallots into thin slices.

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Put a quarter cup of oil in a flying pan and heat it to medium heat. Mix in seasonings to your preference. Fry veggies for a few minutes and then add whole fish.

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Yum, yum! Smelling good, now. Make some rice while you cook the fish and veggies. The onions should be caramelized.

Remove from heat and allow to cool. Break out the salsa.

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Remove the skin from the fish, flake off the meat, and pile it all on the tortillas.

Enjoy your fajitas!

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Eco-Friendly Christmas Tree for $0

Each year around the end of November, we are faced with the reality that CHRISTMAS IS COMING and we totally didn’t budget for it the way we should have.

For my family this year, this is due in great part to a giant international move that we were not planning on at the beginning of the year.

But as Christmas approached, we did not panic, and neither should you! Christmas does not have to be ridiculously expensive. I plan to post a few different money-saving ideas that living on student loans and freelance illustrating has driven me to dream up.

One great thing about being an international grad school family is that it makes you resourceful and inventive. And it’s actually a lot of fun!

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Today’s Christmas budget-saver is a 100% totally free Christmas tree. There are several ways to get a Christmas tree for free. You can grow it, cut one down in the woods, steal one from Walmart, or make your own. The first suggestion will take you about five years, the second is not kind to the forests and is also probably illegal, and the third is definitely illegal, although totally feasible. At least according to the Walmart cashier who subtly suggested it to us last year. I’m not sure if he was kidding or just didn’t want the hassle of going outside to ring it up.

I weighed my options. There are no Walmarts on our island to steal from,  no pine trees to cut down in the forest, and the only soil I own is in my dustpan, so I decided to make my own Christmas tree.

Here’s how I did it:

First, I gathered my materials.

  • I used the pole from a miniature flag (the kind that’s popular to attach to your car windows here on the island. I ripped off the flag, hung it on the wall, and just had the stick laying around). You can use anything long and skinny: a dowel, a skewer, etc. Sharpening the end to a point may be helpful, too, if it’s not already sharp.
  • A whole lot of paper and cardboard. I used about 5 old newspapers, a used notebook, a consumable book, two magazines, this year’s used-up calendar a big box and a bunch of little boxes. Even the box your toothpaste came in will work.
  • Scissors and possibly an exacto knife
  • A pen
  • A ruler (optional)
  • A large tin or something along those lines for the base
  • Decorations: String, tinsel, ornaments, ribbon, popcorn, shells, hairclips, etc.

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The next step is to anchor your pole. I just duct-taped it securely to a square of cardboard.
Now prepare to cut your paper. What size do you want your tree? The paper part of my tree is about 2 feet tall. It took me four hours to cut and stack the paper. The bottom layers of paper are a foot across. If you want a taller tree, cut larger squares. If you want a tiny tree, start with smaller squares.
Cut about half an inch of stacked paper to 12″ x 12″ or however large your bottom layer needs to be.
Pick up the first sheet of paper. Fold corner-to-corner and crease so that I makes a triangle. Do the same the other way so that you have a creased “X” on your paper. Where the lines intersect is the exact center of the paper. Use your pen to poke a hole in the center. Slide the paper onto the pole.
Repeat this until all your 12×12 paper is gone. Now, cut another stack of paper to about 11.75″ x 11.75.” Crease and slide the paper the same way you did before.
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Continue in this way. You’ll have to feel out the size changes as you go. If you want your tree tall and slim, you should decrease size of your paper less often and make more gradual decreases. I you want it shorter and fatter, decrease the size more often and make the decreases in paper size greater.
As you go, alternate the type of material you use. Be creative! Have fun with color and texture. Raid the recycle bin, check your pantry, and go through those stacks of paper you don’t need. I was amazed at how much recyclable material I found in our tiny one-bedroom apartment.
Leave a few inches of your pole paper-free. Slide the paper up to the top of the pole so that you can anchor the pole into the base.
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To make your base, fill your container (I used an empty Nido tin) full of beans, rocks, or sand. Create a hole in the top and stick the pole of your tree into it. Make sure to anchor and balance it.
Now is the most fun part! Time to decorate.
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Make a tree topper. I used tinfoil to fashion a star.
Use a needle, thread, and popcorn to make a popcorn strand.
I made woven paper heart ornaments. Directions coming in a future post.
The little pink hearts are made with clay mixed with cinnamon essential oil.
You can sew baubles directly onto the tree or hang them from a strand of popcorn/tinsel.
You’re finished! Congratulations. You have created a Christmas tree for free. Now, go enjoy a cup of hot cocoa. You deserve it after saving those trees and that money.
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