Monday, March 21, 2011

Almost Married Monday- Love Chain Calendar

Happy Monday!
Here is a super easy and way cute way to count down to an event. I used to make these for Christmas, but this one is very special, and is counting down to my wedding day.


For this project you will need:

construction paper in your chosen color/s
tape or a really good glue stick - tape is faster
scissors
push pins- optional

You will start by cutting your paper into equal size strips along the short edge. It doesn't really matter how wide you make them, pick a size you like. An inch or so works nicely. 

Next, take one strip and curl it around so that both ends touch each other. Attach them with you glue or tape. If you use glue, note that you may need to clip the ends together until it dries. I started by using glue, but with the length of chain I wanted to make it was taking too long, so I switched to tape. 

Run a second strip of paper through your first loop, and attach it to itself in the same way you did the first. Continue until your chain is as long as you need.

It is really fun to play with colors and patterns. For my chain, I made the regular color orange, and added white links at each month from the wedding, as well as each week before the wedding during the last month. 

Each day leading up to your event you can remove one link, giving you a clear visual idea of how much longer  the wait will be! It helps to write dates on each link so you can be sure you haven't missed a day, and it is fun to write other important dates, like birthdays, on it too. 

When you are finished, hang it somewhere you will see it everyday with tape or push pins, and enjoy your personalized countdown calendar!



Monday, March 14, 2011

A little taste of spring!

There was a brief moment that almost resembled sunshine this afternoon so I rushed outside to take a picture of the lovely white and purple crocuses (crocusi?) blooming in my yard.  After the torrential rains we've been having, I'll take every reminder of spring I can get.


In the next few weeks, the daffodils and tulips I planted in the fall will also be blooming.  There are a few buds on the hydrangea bushes and the magnolia tree, and every where I go around the neighborhood, the cherry blossoms are starting to bloom in full force.  Spring is almost here!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thursday Feature: Coveted Crafts

On Thursdays, Dexter & Dinah will feature a new crafter/artisan whose works are handmade.

This Thursday's Coveted Craft isn't so much a craft as it is art.  A friend of mine directed me to Childlike Faith Studios' Etsy shop, with prints created by the talented artist Dallas Edman, who is based out of Coeur d'Alene.  These prints are really stunning, as well as affordable, so I wanted to share.  How gorgeous are the details in this piece, titled "Ducks in a Row"?

Ducks in a Row
I love the amount of detail that went into every wave.  I also love the detail in the grass and the smoke in this next print:

Engine that Could
There are certainly days where I feel like I'm not going to make it to the top of the mountain, so this would be a nice reminder that I need to work past that.  This next one I love just because it is so charming:

More Than a Fair Weather Friend
For more of Edman's beautiful work or to purchase a print, check out the shop.

Happy Thursday, Crafters!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Root Beer Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Coca Cola BBQ Sauce

If I had to cook tonight, we'd be in dire straights.  My energy is gone.  My only desire is to lay on my couch like a blob and watch last night's episode of Grey's Anatomy (yes, I'm still watching - I figured once I made it past the "Denny's a ghost!" season, it could only improve) and an episode or two of Secrets of a Restaurant Chef (I leeeerve Anne Burrell) before collapsing into bed.


Luckily, I am a blob who had, and is now full of, leftovers.  Delicious, tasty tasty leftovers, of root beer pulled pork sandwiches with Coca Cola BBQ Sauce.  





This is easily the easiest freakin' recipe I have ever made.  That was two "easys" in one sentence!  It does require a slow cooker and a lot of time, but the slow cooker does all the work.  You don't have to actually do anything to create the deliciousness (except lay like a blob on the couch watching Anne Burrell).  


Here's the process: you take some pork shoulder.  You put it in a slow cooker.  A sprinkling of salt and onion powder is totally optional.  You pour over a bottle of root beer, and set the slow cooker on low.  You go to sleep.  You wake up in the morning to the smell of sweet, meaty slow-roastedness (which, I might add, is super confusing when you just wake up).  You throw it in the fridge.  When you get home from work, you skim off the fat, and shred the pork, and add some BBQ sauce.  Preferably some BBQ sauce you made yourself, with another ubiquitous soda pop, Coca Cola, as its base.  Just to continue on the soda pop theme of the meal, you see.  






Voila.  Done.*  Root beer + time turns a tough, cheap cut of meat into easy smoky goodness.  How does it work?  MAGIC.  Magic should not be questioned.  


Root Beer Pulled Pork


Adapted from Allrecipes.com


I owe this recipe idea entirely to my friend Shannon, who brilliantly posted about her success with it on facebook.  The original recipe called for pork tenderloin, which is a much more expensive cut of meat.  For example, what is widely renowned as the best cut of meat on a cow, a filet mignon, is from the tenderloin.  (Yes, I also watch Julia Child with Jacques Pepin.)  So I replaced it with pork shoulder.  Pork butt would also work great.  As an additional note, I cooked mine for 10 hours, but next time I think I'll go for 7, so that I'm able to get a larger shred of the pork.  


2 pounds bone-in pork shoulder
1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle of root beer
Coca Cola BBQ Sauce (recipe below)
Hamburger buns
Optional: salt, onion powder.


The night before you want to eat it, place the pork shoulder in a slow cooker.  If desired, sprinkle with salt and a smidge of onion powder.  Pour the root beer over the meat, until just covered.  Cover and cook on low until well cooked and the pork shreds easily, 6 to 7 hours.  Keeping the pork in the ceramic liner of the slow cooker, place it in the fridge while you go off to work.  When you want to serve, skim off the fat; drain the remaining liquid well.  Remove any bones and large fat deposits; pull the pork a part.  Put back in the slow cooker on low or warm; add the BBQ sauce.  Serve over toasted hamburger buns with some quick-pickled onions (keep reading for the recipe!).  


Coca Cola BBQ Sauce


From Steven Raichlen


I love this recipe because it too is super easy and it can easily be made with things you probably already have in the pantry.  No need to buy the expensive bottles in the store when this takes less than 15 minutes to whip up.


1 cup Coca Cola
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Worcestershire
1 tsp liquid smoke
1/4 cup A-1 steak sauce
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper


Combine the ingredients in a heavy saucepan and gradually bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce the heat slightly to obtain a gentle simmer.  Simmer the sauce until reduced by 1/4, 6 to 8 minutes.  Add to pulled pork or, in the alternative, transfer to clean jars, let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until serving.  Mr. Raichlen says it will keep for several months in the fridge.  


Quick-Pickled Red Onions


*Somewhere in there before the "done" stage, I suggest quick-pickling some red onion to top off the pulled pork before you smoosh it between the pillowy mounds of a potato-bread hamburger bun.  Technically, this does raise the difficulty of the recipe, but only by a tenth of a percentage point, as quick-pickling onions involves two things: 1. Mixing a bunch of stuff in a bowl.  2. Slicing the onions and adding them to the contents of the bowl to sit for at least an hour.


From Smitten Kitchen, Adapted from Anne Burrell (Hey!  I knew I was watching her for a reason)


1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup cold water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 to 3 good shots of hot sauce (Tabasco or Sriracha)
1 red onion, sliced into very thin rings


Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl.  Let sit for at least an hour - a couple of hours or overnight makes it even better.  



Monday, February 7, 2011

Waste Not

I cannot stand wasting food.  Maybe it was drilled into me at Sixth Grade Camp, where if we left even a scrap of edible food on our plates, points were deducted from our cabin (all the cabins were in competition, you see).  Maybe it's just something that got passed down to me from grandparents who were born into the Great Depression.  Either way, unless it is growing mold, or so past its expiration date that not even I can justify using it, I have a very hard time tossing food.

When I do finally toss it, I try to keep as much as possible out of the trash.  Our compost is full of inedible fruit and vegetable scraps, and the birds in the front yard have gotten an old potato and a quarter of a sliced apple that never got eaten.  Onion tops, carrot peelings and the tops of celery all become stock for soup.  But a new challenge has recently arisen:

Bread.

My boyfriend buys bread whenever he goes to the store.  He's decided he's not a big fan of sandwich bread (which keeps almost forever if you keep it in the fridge); he likes the artisan breads.  You know, the kind that go stale in two days.  The kind that you need to make into something, like sandwiches or croutons, before they become so hard they'd smash your bones if they fell on your foot.

So, I've been making lots of sandwiches, and lots of salads with croutons.  But the two of us just can't seem to make our way through the end of the bread before the dreaded staleness sets in.

That's why I've resorted to a freezer bag of bread ends.  It looks like this:


And ends up like this, with the aid of my beloved food processor:


I once tried to make homemade bread crumbs in the blender.  It worked, but not before I started to fear that the blender was going to spontaneously burst into flames.  So I'd recommend using the food processor.

I used to scoff at homemade bread crumbs.  Especially for things like meatball recipes, which, it has been my experience, actually work better with the very fine texture of store bought.  But for recipes like this delectable cauliflower dish, or on the tops of homemade macaroni and cheese, they truly make all the difference.  Once I've turned that freezer bag of bread into bread crumbs, I put the crumbs in a Tupperware and throw them back in the freezer, where they are ready whenever I may need them.

The moral of this little post is to waste not.  Turn that trash into treasure!  Or something cliched like that.  But whatever you do, eat some homemade breadcrumbs, golden and crunchy with salt and butter.  You won't regret it.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cupcake Fondue

My wish came true, here's cupcake fondue!

As you may remember, I posted a link to Bake It Pretty's recipe for cupcake fondue, and was very excited to try it! I was unable to procure a fondue pot, but it was not necessary for this faux fondue. The icing does not need to be kept warm to stay a dippable texture. Please click the link above for the recipe, and check out my pictures below to see how my version came out! It makes an adorable spread. (Feel free to ignore the chocolate covered cashews, they were my neighbor on the dessert table!)


 The cute bowls came from the $1 bins at Target, and I filled them with all kinds and colors of sprinkles! I also offered two flavors of icing, one made with lemon juice and one with pomegranate juice. The lemon was a hit, but my fiancĂ©e said the pomegranate tasted like Fruit Loops!



Katherine's boyfriend was an eager volunteer when it was time to show the proper way to add sprinkles, and equally eager to taste the results!



 Simple to make, pretty to display, fun to eat, and delicious!
I will certainly make these again for another party.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Updating a Photo Mat with Paint

With all the wood paneling, I've been on a quest to make the living room brighter.  In high school, I made a reproduction of an old photograph of my mother, grandmother, and grandfather, which I hand colored and matted with a black photo mat.  I really love the photo, but the black mat made the room feel even darker:


So, inspired by a trick I'd seen in a Martha Stewart book, I decided to update the mat with acrylic paint to lighten up the corner of the room where it hangs, keeping a border of black around the inside of the mat to better frame the photo.

Materials:


Photo mat
Pencil
Ruler
Painter's or Scotch Tape
Scissors
Acrylic Paint
Paintbrush
Paper towels
Newspaper

1.  Decide how much of the original mat you would like to show.  Using your pencil and ruler, mark this distance at a couple of points on all sides of the frame - this will be your guide for when you put your tape down.









2.  Using the straight edge of your tape to mark off the part of the mat you don't want painted.  I used a pair of scissors and added more tape for the corner pieces.










3.  Mix your desired paint color (I mixed cream, which was a lot of white with one drop ochre yellow and one drop brown).  Put your mat under newspaper and apply the paint in a thin, even layer.  If you are going from a dark color to a light color, you will probably need to apply two to three coats; allow each coat to dry completely before adding the next coat.  (Make sure you rinse your brush thoroughly and keep it immersed in water between layers - acrylic paint dries quickly and your brush will be ruined if you allow it to dry on the brush.)



4.  When you have applied as many coats as you need and the paint is completely dry, carefully remove the tape.  If some of the paper mat starts to come up, try pulling the tape from a different direction.









5.  Put your photo back in the mat, put the mat back in the frame, and put the frame back on the wall - voila! Transformation completed!

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