Saturday, December 12, 2009

Making a Bow out of Wired Ribbon

My Mother-In-Law always says I am the most awesomest gift wrapper ever.  (She better not look under the tree this year!)  Anyway, I always feel a lot of pressure to make her present the best wrapped of the bunch.  Not that she's the kind of person that would disown you or anything if her present didn't look perfect, but this is a woman who like to unwrap a present.  While my clan is ripping the paper as quickly as possible to reveal the present, she gently lifts the tape so that she can preserve the paper.  (Maybe she has a giant ball of wrapping paper in her basement cause I've never seen her reuse the paper?!) can buy some fancy gizmos at the craft store that will help you make a perfect bow, or you can do what I do and just grab any old CD or Book laying around.  You can use these bows for gift baskets, wreaths or of course presents which is what I am showing you here today.

I wrapped the present with this really cute foil wrapping paper from Hallmark (which I bought at Sam's Club)

Even though they say you shouldn't be all matchy matchy these days, I found a matching wired ribbon.  The dots were just too cute for me to resist and it was a great price so I bought it.  I tied the ribbon around the box like so, and secured it with a small piece of tape.

3.  I cut a big length of ribbon.  I'm going to guess about 4 1/2 feet since it was a little shorter than I am.*Sigh*  Than I grabbed the nearest CD.  (It happened to be my husband's:  The Who)  Tightly wrap the ribbon around the CD (or book, piece of cardboard...whatever you have handy) 

4.  Slide the ribbon off.  Keep it even and don't let it unravel.

5.  With a sharp pair of scissors cut the corners of.  All four of them. ( I know at this point you think you have ruined 4.5 feet or ribbon, but trust me this will work!)


6.  Next, and hopefully this will make sense, while keeping the ribbon in a loop, bring all the cut corners to the center.

Now if you want to make a bow for a wreath, a gift basket or such, you can tie the center with a small matching piece of ribbon or a piece of decorator's wire.  I am simply just going to attach it to the present I already wrapped.

Now it's time to fluff it all up into a poofy bow.  Starting on one side pull out a loop from the bottom then one from the top.  (I had five loops per side)  Then do the same thing on the other side.  The reason I love wired ribbon is because you can really manipulate it to the shape you want.


For the finishing touch, we just need to make the tails of the ribbon look pretty.  You can make these as long or as short as you like.  Fold the ribbon in half lengthwise:

Cut at a 45 degree angle:

Perfectly wrapped to give to your mother in law to patiently unwrap.

Love ya Mari!

Sorry my pictures aren't so great.  I'm not that great a photographer to begin with and I was hiding out in my bedroom while wrapping gifts.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Paula Deen's Pumpkin Pie

I'm always looking for a different take on Pumpkin Pie. Mainly because I don't like it - something about the texture.  I do love the smell of them cooking though!  Last year I made Libby's Pumpkin Rolls which are delicious but I didn't have a lot of time to dedicate to baking on this particular day.  I had a lot of cream cheese to use up so I really wanted to utilize that somehow.  Thanks to google, I found this recipe by Paula Deen.

Paula Deen's Pumpkin Pie

1  8oz package cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups canned pumpkin
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg plus 2 egg yolk slightly beaten
1 cup half and half *
1/4 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place dough into a 9 inch pie pan.**  Fit a piece of aluminum foil to cover the inside of the pie shell completely.  Fill the shell to the edges with pie weights or dried beans and place it in the oven.  Bake for 10 minutes, remove the foil and pie weights and bake for another 10 minutes or until the crust is dried out and beginning to color. ***

For the filling, in a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer.  Add the pumpkin and beat until combined.  Add the sugar and salt, and beat until combined.  Add the eggs mixed with the yolks, half and half, and melted butter.  Beat until combined.  Finally, add the vanilla, cinnamon, and ginger if using, and beat until incorporated.

Pour the filling into the warm prepared pie crust and bake for 50 minutes, or until the center is set.  Place the pie on a wire rack and cool to room temperature.

This pie was a big hit.  The texture ended up being a cross between a pie and a cheesecake.  Add some whipped cream on top and you have a delicious dessert!

* I didn't have any half and half but had some heavy whipping cream.  So I added 1/2 cup whipping cream and 1/2 cup milk.  
 ** I used a deep die pie plate.  If you are using regular pie plates/or shells you can probably make two pies from this recipe.  
*** I don't have any pie weights, so I pricked the pie crust with a fork, covered it tightly with the foil, baked for 10 mins, removed the foil and baked for another 10 mins.  It worked out fine.  Some reviews I read said you don't even need to bake the pie crust ahead of time.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Crock Pot Beef Stew

It's a yucky day today here in St Louis.  It's dark and raining and cold.  The kind of day that makes you want to curl up with a blankie and a cup of hot chocolate!  But one of my kiddo's has piano lesson's today so we must brave the elements.  On days where we are out and about in the evening I like to make a meal in the crockpot.  It cuts down on the temptation to just get fast food.

Today is the perfect day for a hot hearty Beef Stew!

Clair's Crockpot Beef Stew

1 pound beef stew meat
1/2 pound baby carrots
1 rib celery*
3 medium potatoes cubed
1 medium onion*
15 ozs beef broth
1 package gravy mix
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 teaspoon Worchesteshire Sauce
salt to taste
pepper to taste

If desired saute stew meat in some Olive Oil.  If you are in a hurry you can just throw it in the pot!!  Put in the beef broth and gravy mix and whisk together.  Throw in all the rest of the ingredients and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

*In my family almost everyone dislikes celery and onion, but I like the flavor they add.  I cut them in half so that they are easy to dish out.  If you plan on eating them as part of the stew cut them into smaller pieces.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Peach Cobbler

Every year Uncle Rick graciously hosts Thanksgiving.  Said Uncle Rick is my husband's aunts ex-husband.  (Follow along please people!)  No only does he invite my family of 5 but also includes my mother and stepfather.  So when he said he would like something peach for Thanksgiving dessert I was happy to oblige.

What to make though?  Obviously fresh peaches are not in season , and I sometimes find the store bought canned stuff to be too sweet,  so I decided on a Peach Cobbler.  I used some frozen peach slices and tried out this recipe from Paula Deen.

Paula Deen's Peach Cobbler

4 cups peeled, sliced peaches
2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup water
8 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups self rising flour
1 1/2 cups milk
Optional Ground Cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Combine the peaches, 1 cup sugar, and water in a saucepan and mix well.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

Put the butter in a 3 quart baking dish and place in the oven to melt.*

Mix remaining 1 cup sugar, flour and milk slowly to prevent clumping.  Poor mixture over melted butter.  Do not stir.  Spoon fruit on top, gently pouring in syrup.  Sprinkle top with ground cinnamon if using.**  Batter will rise to the top during baking.  Bake for 30 to 45 minutes. (Took a full 45 minutes in my oven)

Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream - Yummy! 
(Note to self:  Can some peaches when they are in season next year!)

*I made this again a few days later with apple instead.  I sprayed the baking dish with Pam and reduced the butter in half.

**I also added some freshly ground nutmeg.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Product Shout Out - The Foodsaver

If you have ever debated getting a Foodsaver?  Well, I LOVE mine!  I actually got a new one about three months ago.  I got it at Sam's Club for under $100.  My old one unfortunately died but it has served faithfully for 9 years so I definitely got my money's worth out of it.  I have one of the most basic models but even so it is an improvement from my previous one.  This one seals hands free (which is the best!!) and does better with sealing bags with moist food.  

If you don't store foods for long periods of time, a freezer bag will probably do the trick just fine, but if like me, you find a bag of something at the bottom of the deep freeze, the Foodsaver is a must have.  It really does keep things fresh for what seems like forever and there is never any freezer burn.  

It really can help you save money by buying in bulk and separating it into smaller portions.  A few days ago I bought a bunch of meat at Sam's to replenish Old Mother Hubbards Freezer.  

A 5 1/2 pound beef brisket which I divided into two.

Huge Boneless Pork loins were on sale.  I bought one that weighed about 7 lbs.  I divided this into:1 lb cubed boneless pork
6 boneless chops (approx 1 lb)
1 1b unsliced
2 - 1 lb 15 oz portions (I will use these to roast, or use in the crockpot.  I can make one just for our family, or two together if we are feeding guests)

Boneless, Skinless chicken was less than $2 a pound.  
2 - 1 lb bags of cubed chicken
2 - 1 lb 5 oz bags of chicken breasts (2 very large chicken breast in each bag)

Ground Beef (90% lean) was $12.27 for 4 1/2 lbs.
3 - 1 lb portions
2 - 8 oz portions (to use in spaghetti)
1 - 10 oz portion (just happened to be what was leftover)

So not only do I save money but I have perfectly portioned bags of food all labeled and ready to go.

Bacon and Chicken Farfalle

One time when I was sick, my dear friend Lynzee brought us some delicious pasta for dinner.  Everyone gobbled it up!  I asked her for the recipe and being the good friend that she is, she emailed it right over.  It's one of our favorites now.

I did adapt it a litte from the original recipe.  Originally it called for the chicken to be cooked in a mesquite marinade.  My kids thought the chicken tasted a "little weird."  The other thing I did is double the amount of sauce, cause around here a certain someone likes his pasta super saucy!  Also just for fun for the kids, I use the Piccolini Farfalle, which is basically just a mini bowtie pasta.  You could really use any pasta you have in your pantry.

Chicken and Bacon Farfalle

1 Box Farfalle Pasta
1 pound cubed cooked chicken
1 package bacon

2 tablespoon's flour
4  tablespoon's butter
3 cloves garlic finely minced
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup parmesean cheese 

Cook the bacon - We like it crispy and cut into bite size pieces.  You could even use cubed ham if you had leftovers you wanted to use.  Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.  While pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce.

Over low heat, melt the butter.  Sprinkle in flour and stir continously with a whisk.  You want the butter and flour to make a smooth paste.  Add in the garlic and then the heavy cream.  Bring to a boil and then lower the heat.  Add in the parmesean and stir until melted.  Add salt and pepper to taste and a dash of nutmeg.  Simmer for a few minutes.

At this point, I have to make a plate for my little one.  She likes chicken, bacon and pasta but doesn't like them all mixed up together.  

Drain the pasta, add in the cooked chicken and the bacon and pour in the sauce.  Mix it all up,  add a side of garlic bread and dinner is served!

This makes quite a lot of pasta.  Four of us all had generous portions, followed by seconds for the hubby and son.  There is probably still enough for two people to have lunch tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mini Office Space

I have an Office in our basement.  It has proper desks and office chairs and what not.  However, I find myself working upstairs a lot right out of the kitchen.  I'm a multi tasker you see, you can often find me monitoring something in the oven while on my laptop and chatting with my three year old while she plays playdough.

I use a small counter space in the kitchen as my mini office.  It can often become a catchall and look kinda messy.  The wall was also wallpapered.  In the rest of the kitchen I had put up tile but the tile didn't seem right for this area.

This is what it looked like:

As you can see it was a mess.  Wires running everywhere from routers and modems and phone lines.  I am a post it freak and I would just stick them to the wall.

During a quick trip to Michaels Craft Store, I found some Contact Brand Cork Paper.   It came on a roll and has a self adhesive backing.  Love the self adhesive part and it looked like it would be thin enough for me to cut without much hassle.  In fact I was able to cut it with my rotary fabric cutter.  

First I meausured and cut the main rectangular shape.  Then I measured the cut outs for the phone jack and outlets.  Then I simply pulled off the paper backing and pressed it to the wall.  An instant cork wall!

Not only does my mini office look so much better, but this is my kind of project.  The kind where you get instant gratification.  (Did I mention I'm not a patient person?)

Quick and Easy Spanish Rice

Dinner tonight was tacos.  My kids love tacos cause you pretty much get to build your own plate, definitely a bonus when you have three kids that like completely different things to eat!

I often make rice as a side for tacos or fajitas, and I have to admit I usually just make the boxed kind.  But I didn't have any on hand today and little time to go to the store so I decided to just make some.  It was so quick and easy, and I had all the ingredients right in my pantry so I think I will ditch the boxed stuff from now on.

(Could you just imagine Gordon Ramsey telling me to wipe the sides of that bowl?)

Quick and Easy Spanish Rice

2 tablespoons Oil
3 cloves Minced Garlic
1 1/2 cups White Rice
2 1/2 cups Chicken Broth
8oz can Tomato Sauce
1/2 teaspoon Onion Powder
1/2 teaspoon Chili Powder
1/2 teaspoon Cumin

In a large skillet, lighty saute the garlic.  (If you want to use diced onion instead of onion powder, throw in about 1/4 of one here)  Add in the rice and saute until light golden brown.  (About 5 minutes)  Remove from the heat and add in the tomato sauce and the chicken broth as well as your spices.  (If I was making this just for adults I would have thrown in some cayenne pepper)  Bring to a boil then cover and reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20 mins.   Top with some Chopped Parsley, Cilantro or some Shredded Cheese.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Yummy "Borrowed" Dinner

I had a plan to go to grocery store today, our larders are practically bare!  But for several reasons that didn't happen.  We ordered pizza yesterday, and my son had scouts tonight so I really needed to get something on the table.  I had some turkey Kielbasa  in the fridge and I remembered a recipe I had seen on my frined Jenny's Blog.  I remembered it because it had black beans in it which I love.

She calls it 3 Can Creole Dinner and it is something she created sorta by accident.  Well her mistake made what could have been a "bowl of cereal for dinner" into a yummy meal.

1 Hillshire Farms Turkey Kielbasa
1 can green beans
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can black beans
Cajun Seasoning to taste
2 cups white rice

Slice the Kielbasa into bite size pieces and saute in some olive oil.  (At this point I removed a little of the kielbasa for my son who is super picky)  Add in the canned goods and mix.  Add in some Cajun seasoning (I didn't measure, just added and tasted till it was to my liking.)  Bring to a boil and then simmer about 15 minutes.  I made some white rice in the steamer because it is always cooked to perfection that way.  I think this would be good on top of egg noodles too.

This made plenty for our family.  My son had plain Kielbasa and Rice, our toddler had plain rice LOL!  However, the rest of us (two adults and 1 child that eats like an adult) were very full and we even had leftovers.
Thanks Jenny - Hope you don't mind that I borrowed your recipe!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

I was cleaning out pumpkins in preparation of carving and my daughter asked me if we were going to keep the seeds.  I first I wasn't going to bother but one of the pumpkins had seeds that were practically sitting on top of the rest of that pumpkin goo so my daughter started collecting them.

Ciara loves doing anything in the kitchen so we washed the seeds and dried them.  We put a small amount of olive oil on a cookie sheet and then spread out the seeds on it.  Sprinkled them with some fresh ground sea salt and put them into the oven.  We baked them for 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven until they were crisp and golden.  (Give them a little stir about halfway through.)

A healthy little snack among all those sugary Halloween sweets!

Apple Crisp? Apple Crumble?

Ever since we canned our apples, my daughter Ciara has been dying to eat them.  I even bought some premade crust but for some reason was not in the mood for apple pie.  Due to illness in our house this week, dinner was just boring hot dogs so I decided to make a quick yummy dessert.  Based on what was in my pantry I decided on Apple Crisp.  Or is it Apple Crumble?  I'm not sure what the difference is.

Anyhoo.......I heated the oven to 375 degrees and then sprayed the bottom of a small casserole dish with Pam.  I poured in some of our homemade Apple Pie Filling. (A 1 pint jar) In a bowl I mixed together:

1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
 Then I cut in:
1/3 cup butter cubed

Topped the pie filling with the oat mixture and baked for 40 minutes.  Soo delicious with a scoop of whipped cream.  Yum!

This made just enough for our family of five since it is fairly rich.  If your family is bigger or if you want seconds or leftovers, I highly recommend doubling this recipe.

Fall Traditions, Apple Picking and Apple Pie Filling!

Every single year we have lived here, without fail, rain or shine we head out to Grafton to go pick apples and pumpkins at Eckerts.  We love the atmosphere of this farm.  We love taking a hayride into the apple orchards and out to the pumpkin patch.  The kids can pick out any pumpkin they want as long as they can carry it.  They love the fresh apple cider and of course funnel cake and kettle corn.  Yum!

Our youngest was a little cold when we got there and she didn't seem very enthusiastic.  As soon as we got out to the apple orchard and she realized she could pick apples (which she loves to eat) straight off the tree, she got super excited.

So we ended up with a bunch of apples.  More than we could possibly eat.

So I decided to make a batch of Apple Pie Filling and can it.

I washed, peeled and sliced all the apples.  If you are making a huge batch of this, a peeler and/or corer would probably come in handy, but being part irish and pretty handy with a paring knife I did mine by hand.  I like my apple to have a little bite to it and not be mushy so I cut mine in fairly large slices.  I also mixed up the two different varieties of apples we had.  I really like the end result of tart and sweet mixed together.

If you have never canned before take a visit to the USDA's site.  Some recipes may contain outdated or inaccurate information so check them against the guidelines provided on the site.

I used the following recipe:
9 cups water
1 cup cornstarch
4 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Peel, core and slice your apples.  I'm not sure how many pounds of apples I had.  I put the apples into a bowl of water with about a tablespoon of lemon in to keep them from going brown.

In a large pot mix together the water, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and bring to a boil.  In a separate bowl mix together the cornstarch and 1 cup of water.  Slowly add to the syrup mixture while stirring.  

Tightly pack your hot sterilized jars with the apple slices.  Pour the syrup over the apples.  You may want to use a flat utensil to scrape around the jar to get the syrup flowing and eliminate air bubbles.  Leave an inch of headspace at the top of the jar.  Seal your jars and process in a hot water bath for 20 mins.

 I was able to can 12 - 1 pint jars full of pie filling.  (I did have some syrup left over)  I think quarts would have been more practicle for my family of five but I only had pint jars on hand.

Hmm, Is it time to make pie yet?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

It was time for our annual Fall Festival at church where they serve baked potatoes and chili and I needed a sided to go with that.  I always try to fix something that my kids like cause they are picky eaters and that way I can guarantee that there is at least one thing they can eat.  I thought Mac and Cheese would be a good accompaniment but didn't want to take the boxed kind.  So I went online to find some recipes.  I love to read comments, but the problem is there are always mixed reveiws.  So I then decided to take key components from a different bunch of recipes and try that.  I would have to say that the end product resembles Paula Deen's recipe a lot.

4 cups cooked elbow macaroni  (2 cups uncooked)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 oz velveeta cheese (melted)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 cup milk (I used 2%)
1/2  tsp ground mustard
4 tablespoons butter cubed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Cook macaroni according to box instructions.  (Do not overcook)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease bottom of a 9 x 13 casserole dish.  In a large bowl mix together milk, sour cream, beaten eggs, butter, mustard, salt and pepper.  When macaroni is cooked, drain, return to pan and stir in shredded cheese right away. (You can save a little of the cheese to put on the top.)   Stir in the melted Velveeta cheese.  (I cubed the velveeta and then melted it in the microwave for about 1 minute)  Add a small amount of the hot macaroni mixture to the milk and egg mixture.  Stir and then add a little more.  Stir again and then add in all the rest.  (Not sure if this is necessary but I did it to temper the eggs mixture so it wouldn't break.)  Pour the mixture into the greased pan and bake for about 30 minutes.

My kids loved this.  I do not like that famous mac and cheese that comes in a box but I really like this.  That being said, this is nothing like that famous boxed mac and cheese.  This is a southern style baked Macaroni and Cheese that is creamy but resembles more the consistency of a quiche.  (Hmmm quiche, I love quiche!)

You could try this recipe with your favorite cheese or combo of cheeses.  You could even add in bacon, cubed ham or chopped broccoli to make it more of a meal instead of a side.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hours and Hours of Playdough Fun!

Ever since my two older ones have gone back to school, my little one has been a little bored at home by herself.  She is great company and I love to hang out with her but I also work from home, so its nice when she is entertained with something (other than TV!)

On Thursday while she was at preschool in the morning, I made her some homemade playdough.  It had been a while since I mixed up a batch so I had to dig through my recipe box.  The recipe is super easy and I made three batches in about 15 minutes.

1 cup flour
1/4 cup salt
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
1 pkg unsweetened kool-aid
1 cup water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

In a medium size saucepan mix all the ingredients together and stir over medium heat.  Keep stirring for a few minutes until the mixture forms a dough.  (Your arm will get a little workout here!)  When the dough balls up and separates from the sides of the pan its done.  Turn it out onto a heat safe surface and when it is cool enough to handle knead until nice and soft.

I made three batches and then I ran out of cream of tartar :(.  Each batch makes slightly over a pound of playdough.  I used Orange, Grape and Cherry KoolAid.  Not only do you get the great color but the playdough smells great too!

We got out the cookie cutters and my little one literally played from lunch until dinner.  After dinner she and her older sister played until bedtime.   Hours and Hours of fun!

I love so many things about this playdough:
  • All the ingredients are already in my pantry.
  • It smells great!
  • It's softer than store bought playdough therefore easier to roll out, especially for little ones.
When playtime is over, simply store it in an airtight container!

Friday, October 16, 2009

About me

My name is Clair and I have been married to my sweetheart Chris for 15 years! We have three wonderful children: Our son Riley who is 11, and two daughters, Ciara 8 and Ella 4. I consider myself a stay at home mom because I am lucky enough to get to work part time from home.

I love to do anything creative, whether it be cooking, sewing or scrapbooking.  I really enjoy blog hopping and get tons of inspiration from those of you that are truly crafty.

Most of all I love creating things that make my family happy and spending time at home with my husband and my favorite creations:  my kids!