Saturday, May 31, 2014

Summer Flower Garland

Okay, who's a fabric hoarder?  Go ahead--fess up. :) You are in good company, I assure you.

Good news!! I have a CURE for your problem. It is this fun and festive fabric flower garland! It is easy to make, and you can use up a bunch of those fabric remnants you've been hanging on to!

I found an EXCELLENT tutorial on how to make the flowers from Rox's World of Quilts.  She shows how to make two variations of this flower--I stuck with the second one for this garland. They are seriously simple. Once you make one, you will have the process down for the rest.

For measurement reference (so you know how many you can make with the fabric you have), each 1/4 yard of fabric makes 20 petals.  Each flower has 8 petals. Hopefully that helps!

Here are my flowers all made. I used hot glue to attach buttons or pom-poms to the front and a small piece of felt to the back.

Next,  line them all up in the order you want them to be in for the garland. 

Using heavy button thread (embroidery thread would work, too), sew through the back of  a couple of petal walls to string them up.  Push them along on the thread to arrange them as you'd like.

I love the change bright colors make on my drab fireplace!

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Purge the Pantry Trail Mix

I have what you'd call an "outdoorsy" family. We like to hike, bike, camp, and be in the woods.  

I also have a very HUNGRY family. And I love having snacks I can grab that I know will satisfy both their hunger and their taste-buds.   This trail mix does both, so it is a big winner!  

I am calling it "Purge the Pantry" Trail Mix because it is a great way to use up whatever you have in your pantry. For me, I needed to get some Cheerios eaten. I guess I've conditioned my kids (and hubby) to have too much of a sweet-tooth, so all the unsweetened cereal I buy goes untouched. 

I bought Cheerios at Costco recently, and they were just sitting in the pantry getting old; I needed to use them.  I also had several boxes of instant oatmeal packets that weren't going away fast enough.  A couple weeks ago, before we left for a hike,  I came up with a plan to combine the Cheerios with the oatmeal to make a snack mix, and it worked! Everyone loved it and asked for more!

It is super fast and easy, and it makes enough to fuel several kids for several outings!

 Here is your basic line-up: 6 cups of unsweetened cereal (Cheerios, Chex, Crispix, etc), 4 packets of flavored instant oatmeal, 1/2 cup liquid sugar (light corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, etc), 3 tablespoons of oil that is solid at room temp (butter, coconut oil). 

Add-ins: Pictured is just what I had in my pantry.  Your add-ins might include other nuts, dried fruit, M&Ms, chocolate chips (remember chocolate melts, though), pretzels, etc.  For mine, I added in about 1.5 cups of nuts and 1 cup of Craisins and raisins to the base recipe. What I love about this mix is it can be different every time you make it!

Here is the full recipe:

Purge the Pantry Trail Mix


6 cups of dry, not-sugary breakfast cereal (Cheerios, Chex, Crispix, etc)
4 packets of single-serving flavored instant oatmeal (I like the maple-brown sugar or cinnamon spice)
1/2 cup of liquid sugar (light corn syrup, honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, etc)
3 tablespoons of butter (or other oil that is solid at room temperature)
2-3 cups of add-ins: nuts, pretzels, dried fruit, etc.

Wax paper for cooling


1. Mix cereal, oatmeal, and any nuts or other dry ingredients in a large microwavable bowl. Set aside any dried fruit or chocolate to be added later.

2. Put liquid sugar and butter in a small microwavable bowl.  Microwave on high 30 sec to 1 minute (if it starts boiling pull it out). Stir until butter is all melted.  

3. Pour sugar-butter mix over dry mix and stir to coat.  Microwave this uncovered for 3 minutes, removing to stir every minute. 

4.  Stir any dried fruit into the mix.  Spread the mix on wax paper to cool.  Stir in chocolate add-ins after the mix has cooled.

5. Store in air-tight container or zipper-seal bags. 

Cooling on the wax paper.  This is a good time to take a taste!

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Key Lime Pie Bars

I love a good Key lime pie.  A good one.

But, alas, not all Key lime pies are good. I have had Key lime pies that are WAY too sweet, ones that leave a weird--almost bitter--aftertaste, and ones that have a decent texture, but hardly taste of the unique, fresh taste of Key limes at all.

Eight little Key limes appeared in my Bountiful Baskets (produce co-op) order this week, so I was compelled to come up with a way to use them. I decided I wanted to make a bar instead of a pie, and I wanted to bring coconut into the picture somehow, because lime and coconut are a match made in heaven. (Have you ever had a dirty Diet Coke??)

So I studied up on some of my recipes, and came up with a plan. And it turned out to be a good one!

I was especially excited about the filling. It isn't made from cream cheese (like many similar bars), so it doesn't have that cheesecake taste that can sometimes overwhelm citrus flavors. It is made from (drumroll...) cottage cheese!

STOP--don't leave this page. I PROMISE it is delicious. SOOOO delicious. My family gobbled it up. It bears no resemblance to cottage cheese whatsoever when the bars are complete. But, the mild taste of cottage cheese is such a better medium for carrying the tart, rich Key lime flavor than cream cheese would be.

And we can't forget the crust. Buttery, but not crumbly. A hint of coconut and vanilla.  It is the perfect companion to this filling.


Key Lime Pie Bars

Butter Coconut Crust:
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 egg yolk (save white)
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix butter, brown sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla until smooth.  Add flour and mix well. Stir in coconut.  Press into greased 8x8" baking dish. Bake 10 minutes. Cool.

1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon grated Key lime rind
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh Key lime juice
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg
1 large egg white

In a food processor, process cottage cheese 1-2 minutes, until smooth, scraping the bowl once. Add sugar and flour and process until incorporated. Add remaining ingredients and process until well blended.
Pour onto cooled crust.
Return to oven, and bake 30-35 minutes, until set. (Edges will be light brown)

Cool completely. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving.

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Slow Cooker Chicken Curry Dijon

I LOVE this meal. So does my family. So did the guests we shared it with last night.  I originally made this recipe up as a casserole several years ago when I was part of a moms group that met monthly to make a meal together.
However, as my family has grown and become busier, I make fewer casseroles and more slow-cooker meals. They are just so much more practical.

This recipe makes a DELICIOUS, saucy chicken curry with a fun kick from the spicy dijon mustard (NOT hot--my hubby is a total wimp about heat).  
I like to serve it over rice and have a couple of veggies or a salad on the side.  A good naan bread--which I noticed for sale at Costco recently--would be a yummy addition as well.

1. Gather your ingredients.
  The chicken doesn't have to be tenderloins. Any boneless, skinless cut will work. I actually did a mixture of the breast tenderloins and thighs this time. I've done just breasts in the past, and it works great.

2. Put the chicken in the slow cooker. It can be frozen or fresh. 

3. Mix together the rest of the ingredients, except the sour cream.

4. Pour the mixture over the chicken and stir it up a bit.  
5. Close the the slow cooker and cook on low 6-8 hours.

After 6-8 hours, it will look something like this.

6. Use a couple of forks to shred up the chicken in the slow-cooker. 

7. Add the sour cream and stir it well.  Turn off your cooker, but re-cover it until you are ready to serve it up.

So yummy!  
People who don't love curry, love this. 
People who do love curry, love it too!

Slow Cooker Chicken Curry Dijon 

2-3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken (frozen or fresh)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Beer & Brat Horseradish Mustard (or other Dijon mustard)
1/4 cup real bacon bits
1-2 tsp curry powder (I like about 1.5, but if I'm serving pickier guests, I stick with 1)
2/3 cup sour cream

1. Place chicken in slow-cooker. 
2. Mix rest of ingredients except sour cream. Pour this mixture over the chicken, and stir it around a bit.  
3. Cover slow-cooker, and cook on low 6-8 hours.
4. After time is up, shred the chicken while still in the slow-cooker.
5. Stir in the sour cream. Re-cover the cooker, and turn it off.
6. Serve over rice.

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Lovin' the Layers Skirt Tutorial

This skirt has been on my to-do list for a while. I have actually dreamed about the process I used. (Seriously.)  I had these 2 yards of fun orange fabric to use, but I wanted to get it right. I spent tons of time perusing Pinterest for a tutorial on how to make this, but I never found one that had the finished product I was looking for. 

Finally, after thinking, dreaming, and making a plan, I took the plunge. And I LOVE the result. And I had enough fabric left to make a little skirt for my little helper!

I began with 2 yards of 60" jersey knit fabric. My fabric was not heavy at all, which worked well to avoid a bulky-look with the many layers.

1. Measure your waist and cut a 12-inch wide strip of fabric the length of your waist measurement. Jersey-knit is very stretchy, so err on side of snug, not loose.  Sew this piece together at the short ends, right sides together.

2. Fold this piece in half length-wise, wrong sides together. This is your waistband. You can slip it on to see if you like how it fits.  Once you are satisfied, set it aside.

3. Now to the skirt.  Measure around the widest part of your hips/bum.  Add 8 inches to that measurement. Next determine the length you would like. You can use a skirt you own or wrap the fabric around your waist and mark with chalk where you want it to fall.  Now cut a piece of fabric that is the width  of your hips + 8" and as long as you would like the skirt to be. 

4. Fold and pin the length of this piece, right sides together. Sew her up.

5.Using the rest of the fabric, make 8-inch wide loops that  are the same circumference as the body of the skirt. I did this by making an identical skirt body and then cutting it into 8-inch sections. 

6. Pin one of the 8-inch loops to the top of the skirt body (right sides up on both). Be sure to line up the back seams. Sew this in place. No gathering stiches are needed for this skirt. :)

7. Cut 2 of the 8-inch wide loops lengthwise at an angle to look like this. If you need measurements--the short end is about 3 inches wide; the long end is 5 inches.

8. Now the fun begins.  Pin then sew one layer at a time to the body of the skirt. Make sure the layer above covers the top edge of the layer under it. Use the asymmetrical layers to off-set each other. I did 2 asymmetical layers after the first one, then another regular layer. I finished with another asymmetrical one.  Play with your design to get it just the way you want. 
And be sure to line up the seams on the back. 

9. Once the layers are all sewn on, it's time to attach the skirt to the waistband. I used the method I learned from V and Co.'s ruffle skirt. She explains and illustrates it well. I will explain below, but if you need further guidance, go check her tutorial out.
  Slide the waistband over the top of the skirt so it is circling the outside. The raw edges of the waist band will be next to the top edge of the skirt (which is double-layers because of the top tier of the skirt).  Pin the back seams together.  Then find the exact middle of the front of the skirt and of the waistband and pin those together. Now find the mid-point between the front and back of  both and pin at those points.  Continue to find the mid points between pins and keep on pinning. Your skirt will have lots of gaps. That is how to make this a nice, flowy skirt (and not skin-tight), without ever using a gathering stitch. 
Once you have pins at almost every inch around, sew the waistband on.

Turn the band back up, and you are done!

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