The Books-to-Buttons Project

The Books-to-Buttons Project | The Zen of Making

As planned, Jeremy and I spent a good portion of the afternoon searching for books to use in our books-to-buttons project. Our plan was to find graphically interesting books that were unlikely to be used in the future because of poor condition or outdated information (old science books and atlases), and to recycle them into new sets of buttons using as many of the pictures and pages as we could. With that in mind, we decided to forgo our walk through Brooklyn Flea this afternoon, and headed straight for our local used bookstore.

Unsure about what we would find, we managed to hit the jackpot: an old typography book, an illustrated children’s physics in motion book, and a dictionary of slang and unconventional English from 1961. The typography book yielded visually interesting buttons with multiple letters and odd fonts, and many of the physics buttons ended up being very funny, the drawings taken completely out of context. We didn’t make any buttons using the slang dictionary yet–it’s still in pretty good shape, and I’m considering keeping it around. Did you know that to “shoot the cat” means to vomit? Also, “cat-sticks” are skinny legs.

The buttons are coming along, though we only got through a fraction of the designs we picked out before calling it quits to get ready for bed. Once we get all of them made and sorted into sets, we’ll set up our Etsy store and make them available to anyone who is interested. Here are a couple of photos to give you an idea of the designs that we’re working with:

The Books-to-Buttons Project | The Zen of Making

The Books-to-Buttons Project | The Zen of Making

In case you were wondering:
Where do you buy a good button maker?
We got our button maker at American Button Machines, and couldn’t be more pleased with the quality. We initially made the purchase to make buttons for favors for our wedding, but have had no trouble finding good reasons to keep one in the house.

What are we doing with all that extra paper?
We have indoor composting in our kitchen, and will use the paper scraps as bedding for our worm bin.

Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?

Image via
Image via

I’m planning my project(s) for the weekend, and it’s definitely time to break out the button maker!

On Sunday, Jeremy (the husband) and I are heading over to Brooklyn Flea to see about scaring up some worn-out books with interesting pictures/designs to be used in a new set of buttons. Have no fear: In our projects, we only use tattered books that are beyond saving.

Mac & “Cheese” Like Mom Never Used to Make

Mac & Cheese Like Mom Never Used to Make | The Zen of Making

Every vegan gal has a longed-for favorite food from her pre-vegan days. You remember how it smelled, how it tasted, how your mother used to make it, how you ordered it from your favorite restaurant every year on your birthday, and how you can’t have it anymore. The problem isn’t simply finding a substitute, it’s finding a substitute that lives up to the memory.

As a kid, my primary food groups were Orange and White. I liked bread, potatoes, pasta, and cheese. I would gladly eat Orange and White in any combination, but the undisputed king of them all was macaroni & cheese. I loved it from a box, I loved it homemade, I loved it cold, I loved it hot, and I probably ate it at least once a day from kindergarten to college.

When I went vegan in my early 20s, I desperately missed my macaroni, and made it my goal to find a vegan mac & cheese recipe that actually tasted real. So, after years of trying, mixing, testing and tinkering, I present to you my potluck secret weapon:

Mac & “Cheese” Broccoli Bake

1 pound of the pasta of your choice, prepared
1 head broccoli, chopped and steamed
bread crumbs

1.5 blocks of Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet cheese flavor of choice, crumbled
1 can condensed tomato soup
soy milk to desired consistency
black pepper to taste
salt/seasoned salt to taste
1 tbs margarine
generous handful of nutritional yeast

In blender, combine Vegan Gourmet cheese, nutritional yeast, margarine, and tomato soup. Add soy milk until texture is smooth and thick, but not runny. Add black pepper and salt to taste.

In a large, greased baking pan or casserole dish, toss pasta with broccoli. Pour sauce evenly over the top, making sure that pasta and broccoli are evenly covered. Sprinkle bread crumbs over the sauce.

Bake at 350 F (325 if you’re baking in glass) for 30 to 45 minutes, or until cheese mixture bubbles and the top browns slightly.

Mac & Cheese Like Mom Never Used to Make | The Zen of Making

Eat it. It’s delicious.

Foods of Fall: Amish Bread, Garlic Lovers Bread, and “Cheesecake” Thumbprint Cookies

I’m the kind of gal who needs a project. If I don’t have something concrete to show for my weekend, it seems like I’ve been wasting time. This Sunday, I saluted the crisp arrival of autumn to Brooklyn by sashaying around my kitchen, listening to Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, and Ted Nugent (What?), and baking some of my cool-weather favorites. Hooray, bread and cookies!

I love bread. I love the stress relief of kneading, talking to the cats while the dough rises, the smell of a loaf coming out of the oven, the way it looks cooling on a rack, and, most of all, the taste of a still-warm slice smeared with a touch of earth balance. Needless to say, my husband and I rarely buy bread, because homemade is so easy to make, and tastes so much better than store-bought (and it nicely warms up a chilly NYC apartment). This weekend, I made Amish bread with my usual 2-loaf white bread recipe ( This is, by far, my favorite sandwich bread—it’s tender, a little bit sweet, fast, and very simple. For those inclined to tinker, this recipe is very forgiving—I usually substitute whole wheat flour for half of the white with no ill effects.

Because I make Amish bread every week or two, most of the preparation is done on auto-pilot, but I always double-check the temps and times to avoid Catastrophic Bread Fail. This time, as I innocently thumbed through the bread section of my recipe binder, Hannah Kaminsky’s Garlic Lovers Bread from Bitter Sweet Blog jumped out at me ( I’d been meaning to try it since last winter, but hadn’t gotten around to it because of the extra time and effort required. This bread is serious business: There are two heads of garlic in one loaf of bread. Two heads of roasted garlic.

I was torn. The yeast was already proofing for the Amish bread, and it would take at least half an hour to roast the garlic for the Garlic Lovers recipe. I hesitated for a moment, but then did what any lady of the kitchen would have done in my place: I tossed the garlic into the oven and decided that I’d just have to make 3 loaves of bread.

While I waited for the Amish bread to rise and for the garlic to cool, I strolled around the block to enjoy some of the beautiful fall weather (and to buy more yeast). Back inside—following a particularly satisfying Nuge solo and some air bass—I put the Amish bread into the oven and got to work processing the roasted garlic with margarine to make a paste for the Garlic Lovers. I barely resisted the urge to toast the closest carbohydrate and dig in.

After talking myself out of stopping the recipe at garlic “butter,” I gathered the rest of the ingredients for the dough. I’m a little snobby about hand-kneading (okay, really snobby), so the recipe’s suggestion to use my stand mixer and bread hook was met with a measure of suspicion, but I poured everything into the mixer bowl anyway. I was curious to see how the bread hook worked, and was pleased by how evenly mixed and texturally consistent the dough came out. It was definitely faster than kneading by hand.

With the Garlic Lovers dough mechanically mixed and rising on the counter, I moved on to my next task: Grinding up graham crackers for a batch of Vegan Cheesecake Thumbprint Cookies (a Hannah Kaminsky recipe from her book My Sweet Vegan). I usually don’t have time for such a labor-intensive cookie, but, with the afternoon stretched out ahead of me, I decided to go for it. Undeterred by the by the 3-step baking process and my unevenly heating gas oven, I managed to burn neither the cookies nor the filling. On a roll, I also made mini chocolate flower candies for decoration. Well worth the effort, this recipe manages to completely nail the ever-elusive vegan cheesecake. Yes, my friends, the “cheesecake” actually tastes like cheesecake.

Foods of Fall: Amish Bread, Garlic Lovers Bread, and Cheesecake Thumbprint Cookies | The Zen of Making

As the cookies cooled, I revisited the Garlic Lovers dough to have my first bread-braiding experience. I used the three rope method, which looked great, and rose perfectly to fill a standard bread pan. Quite pleased with myself, I put the loaf in the oven, and declared my Sunday a success.

A word to the wise: Do not make the Garlic Lovers bread with whole wheat flour. The whole grain will overpower the garlic, leaving you with a fragrant, but slightly bitter and not very flavorful bread. It’ll work just fine for sandwiches, but you won’t want to eat it plain. Consider yourself warned.

**If you click through a link to in this post, I will make a little money if you make a purchase. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.** 

Brooklyn-based DIY from a gal in granny glasses