November 30, 2011

Move Over Green Bean Casserole

I can count on one finger the number of dishes that I've ever learned from a professional cook.  And I'm not talking about the fat Italian guy in the chef's hat who makes canned ravioli. 

Jennifer Blakeslee, owner of Traverse City's The Cook's House (Mario Batali's favorite in the biggie) made the delicious green bean & gorgonzola side dish below for Christmas dinner a few years ago and I've been in l-o-v-e ever since.

To start having your own green bean love affair, check out the recipe below.

Fresh green beans
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Sea salt
Gorgonzola cheese

  • Snap the ends off your green beans and add to boiling water for 60-90 seconds. Don't over cook or they'll get soggy.
  • Strain and dump in to a bath of ice water to stop the cooking process. 
  • Dry the green beans with a towel and set on your serving platter.
  • Squeeze lemon juice over the green beans and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  • Top with gorgonzola cheese and serve!

Happy Holidays Mix

Nothing commemorates the birth of Jesus quite like some Bing Crosby blaring through your speakers! Check out my Happy Holidays Mix over on Spotify.  It features classic Christmas songs and modern covers from the likes of She & Him and Michael Buble, making it a great backdrop for tree decorating, cookie baking or simply keeping sane around your loved ones.  I can practically taste the eggnog now... 

November 29, 2011

Cross Stitch Christmas Ornaments

For all my fellow cross stitches out there, check out the super easy Christmas ornament project below!  It's a fantastic way to preserve your cross stitch projects and it also makes a cute little handmade gift.

Cross stitch whatever design you want, then hot glue inside your embroidery hoop, like below.

Trim the fabric from around the hoop, then set it on top of a piece of felt.  Trace around the outside of the hoop with a pen or pencil, then cut out the felt circle. 

Mount the felt on the back of the embroidery hoop with hot glue and then add a holiday ribbon to make in to a Christmas ornament!

PS: If you want to make this same little reindeer, here is the pattern I made

November 27, 2011

DIY Wrapping Paper Holder

Nothing frustrates me more than when my beautiful, often expensive rolls of wrapping paper get all bent, crinkled and damaged in my hall closet.  Various stores sell these wrapping paper organizers but if you're looking for a free way to keep your rolls in gift-worthy condition, try the garment bag trick below.  

A garment bag is the perfect size for holding your wrapping paper and nearly everyone has an extra one handy.  Simply lay the bag flat and slide the rolls in vertically.  Then just zip and hang neatly in your closet!

November 26, 2011

101 Uses For An Embroidery Hoop

Well, not quite 101, but I am kinda obsessed with some of the ideas below, which I curated for your enjoyment.  Most of the concepts simply involve stretching fabric across the hoop and mounting on the wall. It's a simple, affordable way to decorate AND you get to craft!

To make your own DIY embroidery hoop decor, hop on over to Create For Less to stock up on hoops and adorable fabric at on of the shops below: 

DIY Christmas Cards

"Happy what terrorists say.
Merry Christmas."

Making your own Christmas cards is easier (and less labor intensive) than you may think and is a thoughtful handmade keepsake that recipients are sure to love. Right now is also a great time to stock up on supplies since craft stores tend to deeply discount seasonal items going in to the holidays. 

Sample Supplies

For my first foray in to crafty cards, I went primarily with a glitter theme. It's not just for strippers and Ke$ha.

Using the Christmas punchers - jingle bells, snowflakes, holly, squares for making presents - I punched fun shapes out of glitter paper. I also found some gorgeous red velvet paper that worked nicely as a contrasting texture.

Arrange your various shapes on each card before you mount them with your glue gun or glue stick. Then, add accents like bows, stickers or ribbons.

You can also add hand-written messages on the front of your cards using silver and gold paint pens or buy rubber stamps to use with red or green ink pads.

Scrapbooking paper is also an inexpensive supply to incorporate.  The green trees below came on a single sheet and I just trimmed them down to a few smaller sections that would fit on my cards.

Add a finishing touch with Christmas themed postage stamps like the ones below from Zazzle.

November 23, 2011

Pick Your Pie Battles

I'm all about taking the occasional shortcut in life.  Sometimes I only half dry my hair before I go to work and throw it up in a cute messy bun.  Sometimes I don't wash fruit before I eat it.  And I always use pre-made pie crusts. Seriously, who likes making dough?!

In terms of store bough pie crusts, you really used to have only one choice: the ones that came in the frozen section and were invariably already cracked, with chunks of crust rattling around in the bag. Not pie-worthy. 

Now, Pillsbury has these amazing refrigerated ones that you just roll out and set inside your pie dish.  You even get to fold the edges over yourself and feather the rim with a fork to make your perfectly creased crust.  #simplepleasures

One thing I never take a shortcut on?  Pie filling.  I'm not talking about baking a pumpkin and scraping out the insides to make your own puree.  That's just insane.  The stuff in the can will do just fine.  So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here's a recipe that I'll be test driving tomorrow and that Ryan's Mom (one of the best cooks ever) swears by: Bourbon Pumpkin Pie.  It has bourbon in it and you can hardly go wrong with that! Happy Thanksgiving!

  • 1 Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust
  • 1 (15-ounces) can pure pumpkin
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

The Incredibly Simple Directions
  • Place your Pillsbury pie crust in your pie dish.  Do the crust feather move. 
  • Whisk together all ingredients and pour into the pie dish.
  • Bake until edge of filling is set but center trembles* slightly about 45 minutes (filling will continue to set as it cools). 
  • Cool completely. 

*Note: These were the exact instructions. I would never use the word tremble when describing a pie, unless I just ate the entire thing and was trembling with nausea.

November 22, 2011

Simple Succulent Terrariums

If - like me - you lack the proverbial green thumb, then succulents are the pet plant you've been looking for.  They require very little watering and only indirect sunlight. They are the low-maintenance girlfriend of botany.   So - you ask - what do you need to do to create your own gorgeous succulent arrangement?
  • Glass containers/vases
  • Cactus/succulent potting mix
  • Pebbles / rocks
  • Succulents
  • Newspaper

Step #1: Gather your supplies and lay them out on a layer of newspaper to help keep your home clean.

Step #2: Make sure that you have a nice variety of succulents - small, large, furry, prickly, rounded, get the point.

Step #3: Clean off the inside of your glass containers with Windex. Add a small layer of pebbles to the bottom of your container. This is nice for giving a layered look to your pieces but also provides drainage for the plants themselves.

Step #4: Add a healthy layer of soil on top of the pebbles. You can make this as large or smaller as you'd like, depending on how tall your plants are.

Step #5: Plant your succulents! I tried to crumble some of the packed soil off the bottom of them, then scooped a small hole to place the succulent in. Pack a little soil on top.

Step #6: Add a layer of pebbles on top of the soil and...voila, simple, beautiful succulent arrangements! Keep in indirect sunlight and water sparsely every 2-3 weeks.