Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February Craft: Rosette Headband

Since February was coming to a close very quickly, I needed to keep my resolution for one crafty thing a month. I wanted something simple that didn't involve a lot of expensive supplies or lots of cleanup. I'm hoping that I won't procrastinate this much in March, but then again who knows. I bought the stretchy headband in a pack at Michael's, and had the grey suiting material from some other projects. The rosettes are extremely easy (sorry I didn't shoot a tutorial this time)

First you cut a circle the size you want your finished flower. Next cut a strip of fabric somewhere between 1/2 inch- 1 inch wide (it doesn't need to be perfectly straight) and quite long... I didn't measure I just cut off the excess at the end. Tie a knot at one end and hot glue to the center of the circle. Now twist the fabric around the center knot and secure with hot glue. Tuck the end under the original circle, then glue them directly onto the headband or clips if you prefer. I'd suggest doing a practice flower if you're nervous, but keep in mind they aren't supposed to look perfect!

UP NEXT: Baby's room

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Slow Cooker Challenge: Week 4

This week was a turning point for me and the slow cooker, I actually looked forward to using it this week! I found this awesome recipe on Pinterest which linked to this Blog with quite a few recipes and mouth-watering pictures. When I told Justin I was making ribs his eyes lit up, he might have even started drooling a bit. I can't recall having ordered ribs before, I would definitely be intimidated to cook them without an easy recipe like this.

The recipe was adapted from: America's Test Kitchen Slow Cooker revolution

1.5 tbsp sweet paprika (I used smoked)
1 tbsp light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
S&P to taste (about 1 tsp each is what I used)
2 lbs pork baby back ribs (I had 2.4lbs) - leave the membrane on the ribs to help hold them together
1 cup barbecue sauce (I used Sweet Baby Rays)
Vegetable oil spray.

Mix together brown sugar, cayenne, paprika, salt, pepper, rub both sides of the ribs.

Spray the inside of the slow cooker with vegetable oil. Place the meaty side against the crock pot with the thicker end on the bottom. Top the ribs with BBQ sauce and cook on low for 6-8 hours ( I did 7 1/2 and I think they would have been fine at 6 1/2-7) I added a few tablespoons of beef broth to keep everything moist.

Remove the ribs from the Slow Cooker and pour the sauce through a strainer into a small saucepan. Reduce about 10 mins ( I added a bit more broth and bbq sauce)

  Brush sauce on bone side and broil for 3 mins, then flip and repeat on meaty side. Be sure the rack is about 10 inches away from broiler so the sauce doesn't burn.

Cut ribs apart and serve extra sauce on the side, with your favorite side dish. When I asked Justin what we should have with the ribs he immediately suggested homemade french fries.

Justin definitely enjoyed this dinner! He Mmmmmmmm-ed all the way through the meal, and said they were better than Famous Daves (what an awesome compliment!) He also said that he didn't think that we would be eating this good this early in our marriage. The ribs fell right off the bone and tasted wonderful!!! I was very impressed with myself. Our meal costs less than 15 dollars for both of us, which is less than you would spend at a restaurant for the same meal. So go on, make ribs at home and impress everyone!

COMING UP: baby's room, and countdown!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Slow Cooker Challenge: Week 3

So here it is week 3 of my challenge and I haven't gained the love for slow cooking that I thought I would. It is still hard for me to pick a recipe and to plan starting the cooker into my day. I chose this weeks recipe because it was made with simple ingredients, most of which I already have on hand. I found the recipe in a taste of home cookbook, accompanied by a full page picture of what it should look like. Here is the recipe tweaked to my liking:

Chicken Saltimboca
4 Chicken breasts
4 slices deli ham (I used 8 since mine were really thin)
4 slices Swiss cheese
1/4 C flour
1/4 C Parmesan cheese (grated)
1/2 tsp each of Salt & Pepper
Vegetable oil
1 can of Cream of Chicken soup (condensed, undiluted)
1/2 C Chicken broth

Hot Cooked Rice

Combine flour, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and set aside. First Butterfly chicken breasts and pound out to 1/4in thick. Lay a slice of ham and cheese on each piece and roll tightly securing with toothpicks. Roll each breast in flour mixture (the original recipe said chill for 1 hour, I didn't have that kind of time... I skipped right to the next step) Brown chicken in oil on all sides and transfer to crock pot. Mix soup and stock and pour over chicken. Cook 2 hours on High (Original recipe said 4-5 hours on low, but I was on a time crunch) until meat reaches an internal temperture of 170 degrees.

So here is the finished product, it wasn't as perfect as the picture in the cookbook. Justin tells me that it doesn't always have to be perfect... I think it should be.

 We shared our slow cooker meal with two of Justin's friends from California, Mark & Brian. All of the Boys really enjoyed the meal and had only good things to say. I liked it quite a bit more then I thought I would. I was weary of the cream of chicken soup as a sauce since I can't recall ever having it before. I think this recipe would be a great back-up freezer meal if you took the time to prep the chicken and combine the soup and stock. Another successful meal made, now we're looking forward to our slow cooker ribs.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Slow Cooker Challenge: Week 2

Here is my week 2 recipie, although it's now week 3 of my challenge. I am finding that it is a challenge to find recipies that I want to make in the slow cooker, I also have a hard time planning ahead to start it in the morning before I leave for work. This week when I asked Justin what I should make for my slow cooker challenge  he said Macaroni and cheese with a big smile, but after some hinting he approved the making of French Dip Sandwiches. I found a base recipie in a taste of home cookbook and modified it to suit our tastes and scaled it down so we didn't have lots of leftovers.

French Dip Sandwiches

I Boneless Chuck Roast (2-3 pounds) cut into large chunks (I did 5 large pieces)
1/4 C water
2 1/2 C Beef Broth
2 tsp Dried Basil
2 tsp Dried Oregano
2 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 Med Onion (sliced)
Hoagie rolls
Swiss Cheese

Put the meat in slow cooker putting onion slices underneath and inbetween the meat chunks. Top with herbs, seasonings, water, and broth. DON'T brown the meat befire putting it in the slow cooker, I've learned that the meat is more tender and falls apart better if it goes in raw. Cook on low for 7-8 Hours.

Pull the meat apart discarding the fat. Strain the juices. toast tolls so they're crusty and don't fall apart when you dip your sandwich.

I dipped the meat back in the juice before putting it atop the roll so it was extra juicy. I also topped the meat with swiss cheese and broiled it until melty.

Serve your sandwich with the meat juices for dipping and something on the side, we served leftover mashed potatoes alongside. These were really good! Justin liked it so much he wanted another half a sandwich after his first was gone (He LOVED that he had the juice for dipping) I loved the taste and the fast that it involved very little work.

UP NEXT: slow cooker stuffed chicken and RIBS!!!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Slow Cooker Challenge: Week 1

I knew trying to find a recipe I waned to try for the slow cooker would be difficult but I didn't think it would be this hard. I am kind of a picky eater, at least compared to most average Americans. My mom was not fond of certain foods and I therefore I am pretty biased too. I almost never use red meat (poor Justin) or fish, and try to use fresh ingredients as often as possible. I was browsing Pinterest one night and found a recipe for slow cooker macaroni and cheese. This is the recipe I used and here is my version.

1 1/2 Cup Milk
1 12oz Can Evaporated milk
1/4 Cup Butter (half a stick melted and brought to room temp)
3 Large eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Cups shredded Fontina cheese (I used Cheddar)
1/2 Lb. Elbow macaroni (boiled for 5 mins only)
1/2 Cup Parmesan cheese
pepper and other spices

I started by shredding the cheese, I bypassed the grater and went right for the food processor (my favorite kitchen gadget)

Spray the slow cooker or grease with olive oil then mix butter, eggs, milk, salt and evaporated milk and whisk till smooth.

Add the cheese (not Parmesan) and the noodles and mix to combine.

Top with Parmesan cheese and pepper (and other spices if you want) Cook on high for 30 mins. Switch to low and cook another 2-2 1/2 hours. The original recipe says that it should only sit on warm for 30 mins, I have no idea why but I'd follow it anyway.

When it was finished mine had quite a bit of oil or grease sitting on the top so I grabbed a paper towel and mopped all of the excess up. After that I browned about 1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs with a touch of olive oil and spread over the top of the macaroni.

My macaroni didn't quite look like the picture I had with the recipe. It made 4 really good sized portions, good for having people over! Justin said he'd give it an 8-9 out of 10, and then said he might want to change it to a 10 out of 10. Needless to say Justin put his stamp of approval on the recipe. I would give it a 7-8, I felt like it should have been more creamy. My favorite part was the really cheesy parts. Although I liked it I would probably still go with Kraft (even though it's terrible for you) because the prep and cook time is a lot more convenient.  All in all I would have to say another slow cooker success!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

January Craft: Memory Box

One of my goals for this year was to complete one creative/crafty project a month for the entire year. The project doesn't have to be big, time-consuming, or even expensive. I was having a really hard time deciding on what I would do this month. Originally I wanted to complete a sewing project, I even got out my fabric stash and stared at it for quite some time. My project finally came to me, a shadow box frame with memories from our honeymoon to Mexico.

Here are the supplies I used: A shadowbox frame, pictures, coins, cruise cards, a map of Puerto Vallarta, stamps, ink, scissors, sand, glass bottle, and double-sided tape.

Here is the finished project that I'm going to hang up in the bathroom, where the sand from our other destinations is displayed. I used the double-sided tape to attach everything to the frame backing. Just when I started to debate about putting the glass in the frame (if I did the bottle of sand wouldn't have fit) I stepped on it... and it shattered, so I decided I wasn't going to use the glass after all. This came together quickly and was relatively inexpensive since I received the frame as a gift for the wedding. I had hoped this resolution would keep my creativity alive in such a busy world. I can't wait to find inspiration for February!