March 4, 2015

Christopher and the Purple Crayon

My son recently celebrated his 5th birthday, and one of his gifts was the classic book, Harold and the Purple Crayon.  It left quite the impression on my little artist, and he wanted to make his own version of the book.  Here are pics of his book, with some notes to explain it along the way.  Enjoy.


While Harold starts with the moon, Christopher chose the sun.  Maybe it's because he's golden.


Apple trees

Sailboat


Picnic lunch

The hungry moose and porcupine get to eat the lunch leftovers.

Hot air balloon

Hot air balloon lands on the grass at Christopher's house.

February 8, 2015

One Pot Chicken and Rice


Oh little blog, how neglected you are!  I've been cooking and crafting away since the holidays, but not taking time to enter the fun details here.  This recipe is the perfect example.  I made it for the first time December 10th (according to the date stamp on the photo) and have easily made it a half dozen times since then.  Each time I have to go to the pin, rather than using my own tweaked notes!  Crazysauce.  So let's try to remedy that, shall we?

The original recipe comes courtesy of Natasha's Kitchen, and kudos to her for finding such a flavorful way to pull these common ingredients together.  I've tried other chicken and rice casseroles that included broccoli and cheese but somehow failed to come together as well as this one does.  I'm also happy to share that after just a couple times making this recipe, I was able to find the tweaks I needed to get it just right in my eyes.  One of those involves knife skills.  Fun!

One Pot Chicken and Rice

Prep time: 15 minutes  Cook time: 30 min
Serves: 4-6

Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, cut into matchsticks (skinny sticks, ~2" long; see tutorial here), though I prefer julienne
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, divided
  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 cup white wine, such as Chardonnay (or 1/2 cup water:1/2 cup chicken broth mixture)
  • 5 cups hot chicken broth (I usually warm it up in a separate pot, which makes this a two-pot meal, but you can microwave it, too)
  • 2 cups Jasmine rice
  • 1 head garlic, top and some of the peel cut off but leaving root in tact (see here)
  • 1/3 cup fresh curly parsley (not flat leaf), chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
Directions
  1. You definitely need to prep all of your ingredients beforehand!  Have them nicely laid out in the order you'll need them.
  2. Heat oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a dutch oven (large, heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid) on medium/high heat.  Stir in onion, carrots, and 1 teaspoon of the salt and turn heat down to medium.  Sautee until soft and golden, 8-10 minutes.  If onion begins to brown too quickly, turn heat down to medium/low.
  3. Add chicken, the other teaspoon of salt, pepper, and bay leaves.  Saute until chicken is golden all over, 5 minutes.
  4. Turn the heat up to high and add the white wine.  Boil down the wine, scraping the bottom, until most of the wine has evaporated (3-5 minutes).
  5. Add the hot chicken broth, then stir in the rice.
  6. Nestle the cut and partially peeled head of garlic into the center of the pot.  Bring to a rolling boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 15-20 minutes or until rice is fully cooked.
  7. Turn off the heat, scoop out the garlic head and discard, and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter until melted and incorporated.  Then stir in the parsley and 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese.  Serve with a small sprinkle of Parmesan on top.
Looks so great as it all cooks up!  I can taste it now.  Gaah!

January 4, 2015

Cheesy Pesto Rolls


I've been loving on recipes from How Sweet It Is for years now, and once again find another winner with this delicious pesto bread.  They're packed with flavor, an amazing balance of soft with crispy cheesy tops, and just right for sprucing up any dinner.
On a side note, this recipe makes the rolls from scratch.  You could easily use store-bought rolls and top them with the pesto and cheeses, but you won't get anywhere near the rich flavor and amazing texture you get with the from-scratch approach.

Cheesy Pesto Rolls

Makes: 14 large rolls  Total Time: 3 hours

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 packet (2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for work surface
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup basil pesto, divided (I bought a jar of pesto, but you can easily make some by blending fresh basil and olive oil in a blender or food processor)
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, plus more for topping
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 6 ounces fontina cheese, freshly grated
  • Chopped fresh basil for garnish
Directions
  1. Mix the warm milk and water in the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment.  Add the yeast and honey, then the olive oil.  Let stand until foamy (about 15 minutes).  Note: The foaming will be obvious.  If the mixture looks the same as when you started, your yeast may not be good.  If so, start again with another packet of yeast.
  2. Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons of the pesto, and 1/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese.  Mix on medium-low speed until just incorporated.  Switch to the dough hook, knead on low speed, and slowly add the remaining 1 cup of flour.  Mix on low speed for 5-6 minutes.  The dough should be slightly sticky but still pull away from the sides of the bowl.  If it's too sticky, slowly add more flour until silky in appearance.
  3. Oil a large bowl.  Turn out the dough into the oiled bowl, cover with a damp dish cloth, and set in a warm place (such as on top of a warm oven).  Let stand 1 1/2 to 2 hours until dough is roughly doubled in size.
  4. Lightly flour a work surface, gently turn your dough out onto the surface, and knead a few times.  Tear off 12-15 equal pieces of dough.
  5. Preheat oven to 350°.  Brush a large oven-safe skillet with melted butter.  Roll your pieces of dough into balls and place in the skillet.  Brush with the melted butter and sprinkle with the grated fontina cheese.  Spread the pesto on top and between the rolls.
  6. Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden and cooked through.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with some more parmigiano-reggiano cheese and chopped fresh basil.  Serve warm.
Little dough balls waiting for the pan.

Nestled in, topped with cheese and pesto.  Already smells great!

Loooook at that golden amazing wonderfulness!

Pro tip: Whenever you make something with a skillet in the oven, put an oven mitt on the handle when you take it out.  This way, when you inevitably reach for the handle, you touch the mitt and not the blazing hot handle.

Beautiful!


I don't care that I'm writing this at 9 am.  I want some RIGHTNOW.

December 11, 2014

Broken Herringbone Quilt: Work in Progress Part 5 (Final Part!)

For the FINAL installment in my Broken Herringbone Quilt series, we pick up where we left off in Part 4, and move on with the actual quilting and binding for this amazing quilt.

First, lay the quilt top on the batting.  Leave a good size excess past the quilt top in each direction (in this case, 2-3").  Trim excess past that.

Trimmed to make it manageable to work with but still leave extra.  As I quilt from the center outward, the quilt top will expand a bit so I need to know I'll have batting to quilt onto by the time I reach the edges.

Flip the quilt top and batting over and lay down the backing fabric.  For this quilt I just wanted a crisp white back.  I had to cut two pieces of fabric and sew them together to get the right length/width for my lap quilt.  The yardage just wasn't wide enough on its own straight from the bolt, and this is pretty common.
Fold the fabric in half over itself and spray the batting with spray adhesive. Carefully lay the backing fabric onto the sprayed portion of the batting, and repeat for the other side.  Flip the quilt over gently and spray the quilt top into place as well.

I didn't use adhesive on my first quilt and I can say it did make a difference while it retained its stick.  I took weeks to quilt this bad boy, though, so by the end the adhesive had worn off.  Maybe it's because I used this tacky spray instead of one specifically made for quilting.

Sprayed and smoothed out.  Now we pin!

It helps a lot to use these curved safety pins that reach down into the layers and then come back up so smoothly, rather than a straight safety pin.

I pinned in most of my herringbone rectangles, but I ran out of safety pins.  This proved troublesome later so I recommend you invest in a mountain of safety pins so you can pin each square/rectangle in your pattern.  You don't want things stretching out of place as you quilt.

Make sure your pins go all the way through the layers, too!  I'd periodically flip the quilt to make sure I saw them peeking through the backing fabric.

And now the quilting can commence!  I was delighted to realize I did in fact have a quilting foot that came with my sewing machine.  Especially with this pattern, the quilting foot was a LIFESAVER.  You can go in any direction without having to constantly stop, move the back button, restart, etc.

Laying out the quilt and starting in the middle of the quilt.  All the tutorials I read stressed how important that is.  So starting in the middle, I began tracing the white lines in my herringbone pattern.  I want that blank white back of the quilt to show the herringbone pattern clearly!

I've also learned to roll the excess quilt that I've already sewn or haven't yet sewn into this neat bundle under the sewing machine.  Just keep rolling/unrolling as you work and it makes that volume of fabric more manageable.

A little sneak peak of how tracing the herringbone pattern on the quilt top translates on the back of the quilt.

Quilting done!  Ermahgerd!  Time to trim the leftover batting, which you can see was pretty much what I started with.  Hmm.  Not sure if the stretching that takes place while quilting is as dramatic as I thought it was, but oh well.  Not a bother at all. :)

This point is so deceptive.  It's super exciting because it's SO CLOSE to done, but binding is no small feat.  Sigh.  Onward march.

I'm binding the fabric in navy blue, and I've already cut 5 strips that are 3" wide, and as long as the width of my lap quilt (WOF).  I need to attach the pieces end-to-end perpendicularly.  So step one is to attach the ends at an angle like this and pin in place.

Then draw a straight line across the diagonal where they meet.  Stitch in navy thread to be all coordinating and feel overly proud of yourself.

Cut off the part past your seam, leaving about 1/4" past the seam.

When you unfold, the strips are now attached at a diagonal.  My strips never lined up perfectly but I guess it's no big deal as you walk through the folds and everything that takes place with binding.

Once the strips are all sewn together, it's time to fold them in half (definitely iron so the fold stays put) and pin them in place along the edge of the quilt, raw edge lining up with the raw edge of the quilt.  You'll have a lot of excess binding at the beginning and end.

Just kind of pin that excess out of the way.  You'll need to carefully sew the beginning and end to each other when you finish up.  I have no hope of explaining that process well myself, so I'll just direct you to the tutorial I used here.

Once that's done you sew along the edges (1/4" seam allowance), and fold the fabric over to the back.  Hand stitch in place.

AND THEN YOU'RE DONE!  Eeeee!  Look at that herringbone design all over the back.  Ahhh.

Close up!

The quilt is done!  Time dance around the kitchen like a crazy person.  Post to FB about 2 seconds later.

I seriously love this quilt so much.  It looks beautiful and colorful and I love the patterns.  It's a great size for my 4-year-old son to snuggle up with, or even little me for that matter.  For my tall husband it just covers his lap when he's lounging on the couch and that's fine.  Big pat on my back for this one, and a mental note to enter it in the fair next summer. ;)

November 22, 2014

Ornament Wreath


 

I have been wanting an ornament wreath for years now.  Each fall/winter I see Pinterest blow up with these awesome looking wreaths, but I can never find inexpensive shatterproof ornaments to do it myself.  I'm also not ok with shelling out $100 for one of these store bought guys.  This year, I finally found it- $5 for a set of 12 shatterproof ornaments at Bed Bath & Beyond.  Yes!!!  And of course once I clued in to the term "shatterproof" I saw tons of listings on Amazon to get anywhere from 60 to 100+ of these bad boys.  Anyway, now that I'm in the know, I'm happy to share my great wreath with you.

Supplies

  • 4-6 dozen shatterproof ornaments
  • 2-3 dozen mini ornaments
  • Foam wreath form
  • Hot glue gun and glue
  • Knife
Directions
  1. Cut hole in wreath form large enough to fit the top of your large shatterproof ornament into (the part you normally put the hook in).  Put a dab of hot glue in the hole, and set the top of the ornament into the hole.  Hold a minute to set.  Repeat times a gajillion until the wreath form is evenly covered in larger ornaments.
  2. Hot glue a circle around the top of a mini ornament and glue into gaps between the large ornaments.  Repeat times a gajillion until gaps are well filled in.
  3. Hang!  Bow optional. :)
This really isn't a complex project.  The key is to varying the placement of your ornaments so they have a pretty organic flow and don't look like perfectly lined up rows of ornaments.  You want them to look random and bubbly, and you use those small ornaments to fill in the spaces so you don't see your wreath form underneath.  That's it!

First layer down.  Looking good!  The base is well covered, I alternated red and silver, shiny and matte, and the inner part of the wreath out to the edge.

Now we've got the mini ornaments layered on to fill in those gaps.  I even pulled out and rearranged and added more of the larger ornaments as I went.


Mini Ornament Christmas Tree

 

This is such a super cute, easy project you can do in less than 30 minutes.  A friend and I each made these at our recent Christmas crafting Pinterest party, and I love the end result.  This is a great decoration for the holidays, and I think it would even be a special gift.  Lots of wow for the beginning crafter.  :)

Supplies

  • 2-3 dozen mini ornaments
  • Picture frame or other solid surface
  • Hot glue gun and glue
  • Optional: Star ornament for the top of the tree, cut branch or twig for your tree stump, scrapbook paper presents under the tree, paint words onto the glass, draw on the glass with sharpie, etc.
Directions
  1. Remove the toppers from all of your mini ornaments.  Lay out ornaments in your pattern, arranging colors, matte vs shiny, etc. to get nice variation in your tree design.
  2. Hot glue the top of each ornament and glue onto the glass of your picture frame.  Hold in place a couple seconds until it sets.  Repeat until all ornaments are glued in place.
THAT'S IT!  Seriously, it can't get much easier than that!  Yes your ornaments will roll around a bit as you get things in place, and yes you may get some off-centered situations going, but it's all ok.  This craft is all about simplicity and not over complicating things.  Love it and display with pride!

Fab!