Saturday, January 26, 2013

DIY Clone! AKA Make Your Own Sewing Mannequin

How to build a sewing mannequin.
Sewing for yourself can be difficult. I have tried before and failed because it was impossible for me to pin something on myself and still be able to see it and manipulate it. I begrudgingly gave up, but always kept the dream. I have been working a bit with my sewing machine lately and have been learning quite a bit. I decided to take a look at the sewing books at the library a few days ago and found a great book! It is called Subversive Seamster: Transform Thrift Store Threads Into Street Couture by Melissa Alvarado, Hope Meng, Melissa Rannels, and photographer, Matthew Carden.  Not only does this awesome book show you how to take second hand clothes and turn them into unique and stylish new outifts, but it also explains how to make your own Sewing Mannequin, or as I began calling it; my DIY Clone. It only takes some simple materials, a friend, and a couple hours. Let's get to it!

  • ~2 Rolls of Duct Tape (I used about half of a huge roll. I am about a size 4-6/small.)
    • Cost:  $4.00 from a NYC hardware store
  • Scissors (Not your sewing scissors, you want to keep those nice and sharp.)
  • A friend to wrap you (or an awesome husband!)
  • A large and long t-shirt that you don't mind becoming a part of your new clone (I used a white men's undershirt, size small.) 
    • Cost:  $2.00 from Goodwill
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Batting/stuffing/filling (I used polyester fill from the nearby fabric store.)
    • Cost:  $9.00
So, for about $15, you can have your own silver replica. Not bad.


First Step: Put on the t-shirt and cover the neck area with some plastic wrap. You can secure it with a few pieces of duct tape. If the shirt does not cover enough of your arms or lower area, you can add plastic wrap here as well.

Step 2: Begin wrapping the duct tape around the bottom of the shirt. Leave about half an inch of plastic wrap or t-shirt at the bottom to give you room to work. Be sure that you overlap the ends of the tape when you bring them around. 

Step 3: Continue upwards until you reach just under the bust. Once there, cover each breast with a star shaped pattern of tape. Then, bring a long strip of tape diagonally from the top of one shoulder to the tape that is just under the breast. Do this for each shoulder. This will help to define your curves. (Note: My partner actually forgot this step, but mine turned out fine.) 

Step 4: Begin to tape vertically over the shoulders, from the back to the top of the breast stars. Once you have some wide "straps", begin covering the rest of the area, minus the sleeves and neck, however needed to cover the shirt in tape. Pay attention to the curves and make sure you are using the tape to highlight them, not hide them. 

Now is also a good time to take a permanent marker and place a small dot where your belly button is. This will help you when you are making clothes on your clone. You will be able to judge better where your new clothes will rest on you when finished. 

Step 5: Cover the arms and neck. Begin with the arms. (Hold out the arms a bit away from the body. This will make working with the mannequin much easier once finished.) Tape them firstly using vertical strips. Go from the shoulder tape to near the end of the shirt or plastic wrap. Be sure you don't tape the arms themselves! Your partner will not thank you when it comes time to remove it. Once you have the vertical tape, wrap another layer of tape horizontally. The vertical strips will help to keep the shape of the arms while preventing the cut off of blood flow to the arms. Your partner will appreciate this.

Once the arms are done, finish up the neck area. You want to be careful here as well. Look out for any stray hairs that may get stuck in the tape. You don't need to go too far up the neck, just enough to get the shape. You will be adding more to it later. 

At this point I felt a bit like a robot. 

Step 6: Very carefully cut off the clone. To do this, simply make one long cut all the way up the middle of the back. Watch out for skin, panties, and the bra strap. You really don't want to cut any of those!

Slip out of the clone and put your clothes back on. You may also need to use the bathroom at this point, depending on how long that all just took! 

Step 7: Tape up the back of your clone using a long, vertical strip of tape. You will be reinforcing this later. 

Step 8: Now you will be filling your clone with fill/stuffing. I found that it was easiest to do this with the clone upside down. 

To begin with, I covered the neck area with tape to close it shut nicely. You can shape it better once it is filled. This just keeps the stuffing inside of the clone while you work. Begin filling your clone with stuffing, pushing it down and keeping the shape as you go. 

Once you fill the arms, you can place a couple strips of tape over them as well to keep everything in place and shape. 

Continue stuffing until your clone is full. Make sure that you did not overstuff. Now is a good time to check the measurements; before you tape her up for good. If they are about the same, (they don't need to match perfectly, but closely),  you can close her on up by taping up the bottom. Then you can go back and fix the other openings. You can also secure the back strip of tape by covering it with small, horizontal pieces along the back.

Note: Before you close it up, you may want to insert some sort of stand. You can use whatever works, such as a lamp or microphone stand. (I didn't have anything at the time, so I haven't done this yet.) Place the stand inside of the clone, (from the bottom opening), make sure the height matches yours, and then secure with tape and close her up. This will make things much easier for you when you work with your clone. 

Finally, stand back and admire your work!

A finished sewing mannequin!

Be sure to thank your friend and help them to complete their own clone!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Vegan Coconut Milk Cheddar Cheese

Do you ever crave something cheesy but don't care for the processed alternatives that often take up space on store shelves?   If you are looking for a low cost and healthier alternative to processed cheese alternatives, I have got a treat for you.  Coconut Milk Cheddar!  It is quite easy to make at home and looks appetizing as well.

This recipe makes a great replacement for cheese.  The recipe below makes a good amount and can easily be halved.  It is a lot cheaper than using Daiya cheese, and makes an excellent topping for vegan burgers (such as beet burgers) or a nice topping for quesadillas or a taco salad.  Really, the possibilities are endless.   This cheese topping melts easily and is quite delicious  Enjoy!

Coconut Milk Cheddar


2 cans coconut milk (thick coconut milk works best)
3 tablespoons agar powder*
1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons tapioca starch*
1 teaspoon smoked paprika*
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes (this gives it more of a cheese taste)
Pinch of turmeric (gives it the color of cheese)


Boil the coconut milk until no longer separated.
2.  Add the white balsamic vinegar, agar flakes, and salt.
3.  If using agar flakes: Boil gently for 15. (see a, below)
4.  Add the remaining ingredients, one at a time while whisking. Cook for another 5 to 10 minutes.
5.  Remove from the pan and put in greased, flat-bottomed glass dish or on a parchment paper lined loaf pan.
6.  Let cool two hours. You can also stick in the fridge when cool and use later.  Slice and enjoy! (If it's refrigerated, you can actually grate it. It is somewhat slippery though).


a.  If using agar flakes, you will need to boil the mixture for an extra 15 minutes.
b.  Tapioca starch can be replaced with corn starch.  I recommend mixing the corn starch with a small amount of coconut milk in a small bowl before adding it to the boiling mixture.
c.  regular paprika works fine.

Homemade Vegan Beet Burgers

Lately I have been craving something that is quick, healthy, and has a natural taste.  I decided that beet burgers would do the trick.  Since my oven is under repair, I needed something that would work on a hot plate or on the range.  These delicious beet burgers were quite easy to make and tasted wonderful!

These beet burgers make an excellent replacement to store bought veggie burgers and are great for a vegan wanting the feel of a burger.  They are amazing on a whole wheat bun or bagel with Coconut Milk Cheddar Cheese.  You can also put these in a taco salad or make a "meatloaf" out of them.   Top with your favorite vegetables.  I recommend adding an avocado and some sauteed mushrooms. 

Beet Burgers


1 1/4 cups cooked brown rice (3/4 cup uncooked)
1 cup cooked lentils (cooled and drained)
1 cup shredded beets
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon thyme (Italian seasoning works fine as well)
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
1 teaspoon dry mustard
3 tablespoons very finely chopped onion*
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons smooth almond butter*
1/2 cup very fine breadcrumbs*
fresh black pepper as desired
Olive oil for the pan


1.  Peel the beets and shred them with either a food processor or blender.  Set aside.
2.  Pulse brown rice, lentils, and the already shredded beets about 15-20 times.  You will see that the mixture is starting to come together, looking somewhat like ground meat.
3.  Transfer the mix to a mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients (not the oil).  Mix very well (using your hands works the best).
4.  Put the mixture in the refrigerator for about 1/2 hour to chill.
5.  Preheat a pan with the oil to a medium-high heat. 
6.  Form the patties as desired.  You can use a cookie cutter, ice cream scoop, or just your hands.
7.  Cook the patties for about 10-12 minutes, flipping as needed.  Add cooking oil or spray as needed.

This is how the mix should look.
Frying the beet burgers.

(*) Substitutions:

a.  Onion powder works fine.
b.  You can replace with peanut butter or any other nut butter.  Tahini also works for a replacement.
c.  Panko breadcrumbs work well.  You could also use pretzel crumbs.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Crafty Halloween!

I'm not really one for Halloween, but this year I had a bit of time thanks to Hurricane Sandy. I've been wanting to work on my blog for quite some time, but with school, it's hard to keep up with everything. I'm sure my readers understand. Well the hurricane blew through and took almost all of my classes away this week. That and my ride around the city. ;) Anyway, it gave me a moment to get a little crafty and blog. Just what did we make? 
Why, Halloween ghosties of course!

And I wanted to share them with you all. Now your spooky night can be as adorable as ours!

Cheese Cloth
Cotton Balls
Length of Twine or yarn
Black Thread and a needle

Step 1: Cut and separate the cheese cloth.
Cut a length of cheese cloth that you will be using. The size depends on how many ghosts you want. Once you have a big piece, separate the cheese cloth so that it is only one layer. Cut the cheese cloth into squares. The size depends on how big you want your ghosties to be. 

Step 2: Shape your ghostie. Place the cotton ball in the center of the square. Fold the corners to touch each other, kitty corner. Wrap a small piece of twine or yarn around the ghostie's neck, right under the cotton ball. 

Step 3: Make the eyes. Put two small dots on the ghostie's face to mark where the eyes will go. If you have a big, black permanent marker and don't want to sew on the eyes, you can stop with the dots.

If you want to continue, sew on the eyes using black thread and a sewing needle. I made mine into little x's at my husband's suggestion. If you want, you can even make a mouth for an extra spooky touch.

Make as many ghosties as your heart desires!

Step 4: Decorate with your ghosties!

Enjoy your ghosties and have a safe night! 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Cilantro Lime Baked Tofu with Chipotle and Sesame

Ever since my first experiment with baking tofu, (see Rosemary-Lemon Baked Tofu), I've been excited to try different spice combinations. This one came about because I happened to have limes and cilantro on hand. I had already been toying with the idea of using my new chipotle powder to spice things up. I decided to use sesame oil to give it a bit of an Asian cuisine flavor to go with our Bahn Mi that we were planning on using this with.

If you are looking for tofu that tastes bright, yet spicy, this is it. This will probably be a new staple around here this summer. I'm already excited to make more!


  • ~14.25 oz. firm Tofu (It comes out to be 3/4 of a 19 oz. container.)
  • Juice of 1 Small Lime 
  • 1/2 teaspoon Lime zest (Use a vegetable peeler to get this from the rind after washing the outside of your lime and before cutting it. Be sure not to get the whitish under-layer. That can be bitter.) 
  • 2 Tablespoons Sesame Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce or Braggs Liquid Aminos (less if watching your salt intake)
  • 1/2 cup (lightly pressed down) Cilantro Leaves
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1/4-1/2 Chipotle powder (Depends on how spicy you like it.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground Black Pepper

1.) While your tofu is pressing, gather all of your ingredients. 

2.) Roughly chop the cilantro leaves and mince the garlic cloves. 

Halfway through adding the ingredients. Already looking great!
3.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mix all ingredients, minus the tofu, in a small bowl. 

4.) Pour into a shallow baking dish that will fit all of your tofu. 

5.) Once your tofu is done pressing, and cut how you like it, add it to the baking dish. Turn each piece to coat all sides with the marinade. Place in the oven. 

6.) Bake for 30-60 minutes. The longer it bakes, the chewier and more firm it will be. I bake mine for about an hour. Be sure to turn it once, about halfway through. 

7.) When finished, drain on paper towels to get rid of the excess oil. 

8.) Cool or chill and enjoy! You can eat it plain or use it in sandwiches, stir fries, noodle dishes, wraps, anything you care to.

I used mine in delicious Vegan Bahn Mi sandwiches and Vietnamese Spring Rolls. The recipe for those will be coming soon!

How to Press Tofu

When I really began playing around with tofu, I kept coming across recipes that told me to "press" my tofu. I didn't know what this meant and it sounded involved. Looking at the internet didn't help. I found all these crazy contraptions claiming to be needed for the procedure. Because of this, I often passed up recipes that sounded great, but didn't appeal to my laziness and frugality. I finally came across the directions for pressing tofu in one of my books. I couldn't believe how easy it sounded. Turns out it is a breeze and just takes 20 minutes at the start of the recipe. Many times I start the process and then get everything else that I need ready. Before I know it, my tofu is pressed and ready to go!

Have you been in a similar situation? Has "pressing" deterred you from discovering great new ways to use tofu? Don't let it happen any more. Nothing could be more simple or easy.


Cut your tofu however you wish. Wrap the tofu in a clean tea towel (save the environment!) or a few layers of paper towels.

Next, place a flat plate or cookie sheet on top. Rest a heavy object, or objects, on top. You may use a few large cans of tomatoes or a large book. Anything heavy works. Just make sure it is sturdy. Leave this pressing for about 20-25 minutes and then drain the liquid and rinse your towel.

Now, wasn't that easy? Ok, no more excuses: get pressing!

Indian Spiced Lentil Soup

I love comfort food any time of year and lentils are somehow very comforting to me. It's a bit strange really, because I hardly ever had them growing up. I think I love the earthiness of them. Combine that with tasty root veggies and I'm in heaven. Would you like to visit my little "Lentil Heaven"? Try this recipe!

Indian Spiced Lentil Soup

  • 2 Tablespoons corn, olive, or coconut oil (Corn will be more neutral, olive will be stronger but tasty, and coconut will give a great flavor.)
  • 1 small Onion (My husband doesn't care for onions much, so I use the small onion at the end of a green onion stalk. It gives it a more mild flavor.)
  • 1 Garlic clove, minced
  • 1 - 14.5 oz can Diced Tomatoes (Don't drain it!)
  • 1 teaspoon Ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 large or 2 small Carrots
  • 1 large Sweet Potato or Yam
  • 1 teaspoon ground Cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground Coriander
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon Cayenne or Chipotle powder (Adjust the heat to your preference.)
  • 1 3/4 cup dried Brown Lentils (I sometimes like to substitute 1/4 cup brown lentils for red lentils. It gives the soup more texture.)
  • 8 cups Vegetable Stock or Water (If using water, you may need to adjust your seasonings to taste a bit more.)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Optional: 1/4 cup fresh Cilantro Leaves for garnish

1.) Chop and mince all your ingredients and gather your spices. Rinse your lentils and open your can. Have everything at the ready!

2.) Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, sweet potato and carrots. Stir to mix.

3.) Cover and cook until softened the onion is softened. This will take about ten minutes. 

4.) Add the tomatoes and the juice. Stir in ginger, cumin, coriander and cayenne/chipotle. Add lentils and stock/water. Mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover again and simmer until the lentils and veggies are done. This should take about 40-45 minutes. Be sure to stir it occasionally. 

5.) If using the Cilantro, add it during the last 10 minutes of cooking. 

6.) Add salt and pepper to taste and adjust your seasonings.  

7.) Serve and enjoy a piece of "Lentil Heaven" here on Earth!