February 16, 2013

Crock Pot Short Ribs

Welcome to the World's Easiest Crock Pot Meal.  No browning the meat beforehand, and you could even do it with pre-chopped onion so you don't have to do a thing but dump stuff in your crock pot.  I say that's pretty perfect.  And despite my husband's abhorrence of anything made in a crock pot, I continue making things in it because seriously: easy in a pot.  On top of that, these short ribs are tender, have a unique flavor, and the recipe makes bonus sauce to dip bread* in: hit the winter sweet spot for me.  My hubby, not so much.  Oh well.  As I've said before- more for me!


  • 2 lbs beef short ribs
  • 1 1/3 cup pasta sauce
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 of a 1-lb bag of baby carrots
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • Mashed potatoes, rice, or any other side you want!
  1. Season the ribs with salt and pepper and set aside.
  2. Stir the sauce, wine, carrots, and onion in a slow cooker.  Add the ribs and turn to coat.
  3. Cover and cook on LOW for 7-8 hours (or HIGH 4-5 hours), until the ribs are fork-tender.  Serve with side as desired.
*May I recommend a nice rustic Italian bread, or if you're in luck, BEER BREAD, like we're having!  YUM.

February 15, 2013

Red Velvet Cheese Ball

I really love Wit and Whistle.  It's such a fun site and blog, and she shares the yummiest treats.  I've been dying to make her red velvet cheese ball, and with Valentine's Day found my excuse.  I whipped one up, smooshed it into a heart, and set my coworkers loose on it.  Success!

Look how adorable that is!  I was forced to be the one to "ruin" it by cutting it in the office.  There was a lot of ooing over the heart shape, and scoffing when I told them "no really, you have a ball, and you just smoosh it with your hands into a heart shape".  It's like playing with a big lump of clay in art class all over again.


  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups red velvet cake mix, dry
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • Assorted cookies and crackers (I used Nilla Wafers and chocolate graham crackers.  Nilla wafers were the best.)
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add in the red velvet cake mix and sugars, and beat until well incorporated.  
  2. Turn the mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours.
  3. Put the chocolate chips on a plate or in a shallow dish.  Take the cheese ball out of the fridge and unwrap one part, while keeping the other (and your hand) nicely protected in plastic wrap.  Carefully roll the exposed part of the ball on the chocolate chips, pressing slightly so they stick.  Then peel off the rest of the wrap and, holding the chocolate-chippy side, repeat the rolling/pressing process with the unfinished side.  Strategically mush chips into bare and not-as-chocolate-covered parts.
  4. If desired, mush into a heart.  Place your hands around the finished cheese ball and gently press your fingertips around the top to form a heart shape.  Flatten the ball slightly and repeat.  Press along the sides and coax it a bit to get a point at the bottom.  Keep pressing in at the top for the crease, flattening, and pressing the sides until you're happy.  Then check for bald spots and fill in with more chocolate chips, you fiend!
  5. Refrigerate until ready to serve.  I let mine sit out about 10 minutes before serving so the cream cheese would soften a bit.  You do need a knife or spoon to portion off parts of the ball/heart- the cookies and graham crackers aren't strong enough to just scrape directly.

DIY Barrettes

Last weekend I was down to the wire on some Valentine's Day crafts, when a friend pinned this perfectly-timed craft.  I already had everything that I needed!  Well... most everything...  I didn't have the double-bar barrettes used in the tutorial, so I had to make some adaptations.  I didn't get the cute braiding in the picture, but mine did still turn out nicely all the same!  And hey, for a 4-year-old niece, she'll either love them or hate them regardless of the level of effort I put it.  I'm being realistic here.  :)


  • Barrettes
  • Varying kinds of ribbon/yarn
  • Hot glue gun and glue
  1. Cut about a yard of each piece of ribbon/yarn you'll use on the barrette (I just made a length from my finger tip to my shoulder).  Place the barrette over the middle of the length of ribbon, and then alternate your ribbon colors back and forth over the barrette.
  2. Tie at end with a knot or bow to secure.  I then hot glued each end in place to hold it, and trimmed excess as desired.
[Alternatively, you can just wrap the ribbon around the barrette without any alternating action.  The middle one just has braided yarn wrapped tightly over the bar of the barrette.  Easy enough!]

February 9, 2013

Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

Are you dying for a decadent, rich dessert?  If you don't have the time/energy/crazy muscovado sugar for my chocolate tart, then let me recommend these bars, courtesy of the Food Network calendar.  Fluffy in the middle, crisp chocolate glaze on top, and O.M.G. the chocolate crust...  I'd love it all separately and together it's just delicious overload.  I recommend some vanilla ice cream to help cut some of the richness.  Also?  These were a LOT of fun to make.  Don't ask me why. I just really enjoyed it.

Totally warranted extreme close up.


  • 20 chocolate wafer cookies, or 2 cups of Teddy Grahams.  Wafers were not at Safeway but Teddy Grahams were, and I decided they'd suffice, which they did.  Wonderfully.
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely ground coffee beans (and I totally think you could up this to at least a teaspoon if not 2)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream, room temperature
  1. Go ahead and put all of your ingredients out on the counter.  Several should be at room temperature.  Preheat oven to 350°.  Line an 8-inch square baking dish with aluminum foil.  This will allow you to lift out the bars after they've cooled, so no cheating with nonstick spray on this one.
  2. Crust. Pulse all of the ingredients in a food processor until fine.  Press the crust into the prepared baking dish, covering the bottom completely and evenly.  Bake until the crust sets, 15 minutes.  By the way, it will smell amazing.
  3. Filling.  While the crust bakes, prepare filling.  Melt the chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl at 75% power, stirring at 30-second intervals, until melted.  This may take a bit over 2 minutes.
  4. Blend the cream cheese, sugar, and sour cream together in the food processor until smooth.  Scrape down the sides as needed.  Add the eggs and pulse until just incorporated.  With the food processor running, pour in the melted chocolate and mix until smooth.  Be on the lookout for lumps of unmixed cream cheese.  Try to get those lumps out!
  5. Spread the filling evenly over the baked crust.  Bake until the filling puffs slightly around the edges, but is still a bit wobbly in the center, 25-30 minutes.  Cool in the pan on a rack.
  6. Glaze.  Put the chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a medium microwave-safe bowl.  Heat the glaze at 75% power, stirring at 30-second intervals, until melted (about 2 minutes).  Stir the chocolate mixture until smooth, and add the sour cream.  Spread the glaze evenly over the warm filling.  Cool completely, cover with foil, and refrigerate overnight.
  7. Cut into 16 small bars or squares.  Serve chilled or at room temperature (I'm opting for chilled).  Store the bars, covered, in a refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Stuffed Shells with Cream Sauce

Oooooh goodness are these stuffed shells good.  They make me wish I'd been making stuffed shells forever. I never had them much growing up, so just don't think of them as a dinner option.  But when I saw this pin, they had to be mine.  I decided not to be intimidated by something with "Bechamel" in the title, and was encouraged when the actual recipe just called it "creamy white sauce".  :)
Now, the advice here is that all the time it takes to make the sauce is totally worth it.  So be patient!


  • 24 large pasta shells, prepared according to instructions, then rinsed and cooled
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Coarse sea salt

  • 30 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled finely
  • 3/4 cup shredded fontina cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 large eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled finely
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Shells. Bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil.  Add a tablespoon of olive oil and shells.  Make a few more than 24 so there are no tears over torn shells.  Cook according to package instructions.  Drain, rinse with cool water to stop the cooking and make them easy to handle, and arrange on a cookie sheet sprayed with Pam.  Set aside.
  2. Filling. In a large bowl, mix all of the filling ingredients until well incorporated.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  3. Sauce.  In a medium pot, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted.  Whisk in the flour until smooth.  Increase the heat to medium and cook until the mixture is golden and bubbly, stirring occasionally.  Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pot over medium heat, just to the point of boiling.  Stir the milk regularly and scrape the bottom of the pot so the milk doesn't burn.  Add the hot milk to the golden bubbly butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking constantly, until all added and the sauce is smooth.  Bring to a boil and cook 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally and being sure to scrape the bottom of the pot, until thickened and smooth.  Remove from heat and stir in the salt and cheese.  Set aside until ready to use.
  4. Fill the Shells.  Preheat the oven to 350°.  Spray a 9 x 13-inch pan with Pam.  Pour about 1 1/2 cups sauce into the bottom of the pan and tilt to coat evenly.  Fill the shells with the cheese mixture (about 1/4 cup each) and set them in the pan (I had 3 rows of 8 shells, plus a few extra nudged in).  Pour the remaining sauce evenly on top.  Sprinkle with Topping ingredients.
  5. Bake 30 minutes, or until the shells are hot all the way through and sauce is bubbling.
  6. Leftovers keep really well and taste excellent the next day!

February 3, 2013

Yarn-Wrapped Letters

Coming down the home stretch for Valentine's Day crafts.  I saw this pin the morning of the last pinterest party with my friends, too late to be all stocked up on the supplies.  I picked them up yesterday, though, and made my own letters in the afternoon and evening.  I love the way they look, and I'm also happy that I only did 2 letters.  ;)

  • Yarn in 3 different colors
  • Hot glue gun and glue
  • Scissors
  • Craft letters
(Pictures below)
  1. Figure out which parts of your letters won't be covered when you wrap the yarn vertically or horizontally.  For example, in my letters the tops and bottoms of the x couldn't be wrapped.  Cut 2-inch segments of yarn and glue directly to the top, leaving excess hanging over the front and back.  Trim the excess to be even.  Then run a strip of glue along the edge on the front and back and press the excess string down.  Pay attention to which colors of yarn you use, so that it will match with your ombre pattern.
  2. Wrap the vertical parts of the letter.  Glue strategically along the way.  Corners and diagonal surfaces may need a dab of glue to hold the yarn nicely in place.
  3. Wrap the horizontal parts of the letter.  Transition colors by leaving a long strand of color 1 loose while you start color 2.  After you have color 2 going an inch or so, wrap color 1 back around it to give the ombre look.  Glue the loose end to the back.
Getting all situated.  I used large white wooden letters from Michael's.

Step 1. Gluing the top of my x.  Cut small even strips of yarn, glue in place along the top, trim the edges to be even, and then glue the ends against the front and back of the letter.

My tricky spots glued in place and the vertical parts wrapped.

February 2, 2013

Reusable Shopping Bag Child's Apron

This simple little project will go down in my personal crafting history as the fastest saw it-pinned it-made it! time frame ever.  I saw this adorable pin this morning to convert a reusable shopping bag into an apron, ran out and got some blue ribbon while shopping for other crafting goodies, got home and made this bad boy in about 5 minutes.  Excellent!

Velcro on the shopping bag handle/neck piece so it can be adjusted as my son grows.

Ribbon sewn to the bag for apron ties.

My handsome devil model.  He's just shy of 3 and very tall for his age.  The apron reaches beyond his waist.

Side view.  Shortened neck strap using the velcro and the apron strings tied in place.

  • 1 vinyl reusable shopping bag- the kind with a slick surface, not the all-fabric kind
  • Scissors
  • 1 strip of velcro (1 scratchy strip and 1 soft strip)
  • Ribbon
  • Needle and thread
  1. Cut the front panel off of your shopping bag, leaving the shopping handle in place.  This will be your apron, and the handle will be the neck strap.  (Bonus- you can make a 2nd apron with the back panel!  I'm sending my 2nd one to my niece.)
  2. Fold the panel in half vertically, and cut a curve out of the corner to make it easier for your kid to move his/her arms while wearing.  Look at my finished pic to see the shape I mean.
  3. Stick velcro on the inside of the top of the bag loop.  See second picture for detail.
  4. Cut two 12" or longer pieces of ribbon.  Sew one end to the apron and leave the other loose.  Repeat on the other side.
  5. TA DA!  All done.  5 minutes, I swear!
Alternative ideas- if I had a sewing machine, I would have used the bag bottom as a pouch along the bottom of the apron.  I just don't have the patience to hand sew that much!  The original post trimmed the bottom with pom poms for her daughter, and frills for her adult-sized apron.  Also cute, but not so manly for my little kitchen helper, so I left his plain.  Share your pics if you make one!

February 1, 2013

Crepe Paper Rose Pomanders

So you know how sometimes Pinterest lulls you into thinking you have more skills than you really do?  This pomander was one of those moments.  I knew it would be time consuming going in.  I really did.  I thought I was making some good adjustments by making a smaller pomander than the one I pinned, and was still mentally prepped for it to take a while.  It was my big Pinterest Party Project, similar to Diana's heart hole punch tree.  I'm very happy with it in the end, and did make a second one in half the time when I actually followed the directions and made the bigger roses with 20" strips of paper instead of the 12" strips I used for the first one.  I just have to shake my head at the evil Pinterest plot to make me more productive than I set out to be, and myself for falling for it all the time.  


  • 1 roll of crepe paper (the kind you use for streamers for a party).  I got a large roll but think a regular one would be fine.
  • Hot glue and gun
  • Small styrofoam ball, paper mache fruit like the one in this pic (my personal budget-conscious choice), or other small round something to stick flowers to.  A tennis ball maybe?
  • Ribbon
  • Long pin
  1. Cut your crepe paper into 20" long strips.  About 60.  I'm not kidding!  I just did a batch of a dozen or so at a time.
  2. Fold the strip of paper in half (not to make it 10", but the other way, so you have a long skinny strip).
  3. Pinch one end of the strip between your thumb and forefinger, and wrap the paper around your finger tightly to get the bud started.  Then loosely wrap the strip around the bud, folding the paper over from time to time to get a petal look.  Tuck the end of the strip into the bottom of the rose and set aside.
  4. When you have about 10-15 flowers, glue them to your ball, starting at the top and working your way down.  Don't try to create perfect rings or lines with them- you want them to look randomly placed.  I recommend doing bits of this at a time so you can tell how many more roses to make.
  5. When your ball is completely covered in roses, fill in the gaps with small scraps of leftover crepe paper.
  6. Loop a long piece of ribbon, and pin the end to the pomander with a long pin.  Glue in place.

Crayon Heart Sun Catchers

I'm slowly but steadily trudging my way through the backlog of blog-worthy thing I've been up to the last couple weeks.  I've been busy!  Here's another one inspired by the recent Pinterest party.  A friend made these during the party, and gave me the leftover crayons and crayon shavings because I hold the dubious title of "only one with a kid" among that group of friends.  But hey- free crayons!  And even if I hadn't had some donated supplies, this would be a great way to recycle old broken crayons.

This project was fun, and messy, and a hit with the little guy, even though I may have lost some years off of my life because I was in constant terror that he'd touch the iron.  All's well that ends well, though.


  • Crayon shavings (use a pencil sharpener on crayons)
  • Wax paper
  • Newspaper
  • Ironing board
  • Iron
  • String

  1. Turn on your iron to very low heat.  Set aside.
  2. Cover your ironing board in newspaper.  You are going to make a mess.  :)
  3. Spread out a large sheet of waxed paper.  Sprinkle crayon shavings in a light layer.  If you use too many shavings in one spot, the heart won't be translucent in the light when you're done. Fold over wax paper, cover with newspaper, and lightly iron.  Peek at your waxed paper from time to time to see if the crayon is melting and spreading nicely.
  4. Set aside ironed wax paper mess and repeat with remaining wax paper and crayon shavings until you're all out of shavings.  Alternate colors, do gradations of the same color, play with it to see the different looks you can get. 
  5. When your melted crayon messes are all cooled off and the wax paper is stiff, cut out hearts shapes in different sizes.  Do NOT peel off the wax paper.  If you do, you'll just have exposed crayon that will flake apart and your heart will curl up.  The wax paper both keeps it all together and helps keep a firm shape.
  6. Poke a hole in the top of each heart and string up to a curtain rod in a window.
  7. Oooh and aaah at your artistic skills.
  8. Gently wipe down your iron with a wet paper towel or cloth after it has cooled, to make sure there's no color from the crayons.
  9. Sweep or vacuum up a bajillion little flecks of crayon shavings.  I warned you.
  10. Oooh and aah again.