Creative Mending and Altering

Adding leather straps to lenthen a dress at the shoulders

Inevitably the clothes we love the most get worn out, torn, or otherwise compromised. Other times we buy things we like, but get home to find that perhaps they are not the ideal fit, and then they sit in our closets for months or even years unworn. In these instances it’s good to get creative and learn to patch, mend, or alter what we have to avoid always tossing these items away and buying new.

The clothing industry leaves a pretty hefty carbon footprint, especially the “fast fashion” that we are accustomed to today. While I certainly love to shop and to have a great selection of pieces in my closet, I try to remain conscious of my clothing and not be too wasteful. For this reason, I have taken to mending clothes that need a bit of love, or altering pieces that might not be perfect for me (yet). It usually doesn’t take a lot of skill, can be a lot of fun, (sometimes a creative change can turn a regretful purchase into a unique favorite!) and helps to ease the strain on the earth and your wallet!

Today I thought I would share a few quick fixes that I have made in my wardrobe lately:
replacing a worn and stretched pocket
A favorite basic tee of mine (rumpled from neglect) had a worn and stretched out pocket. Using a seam ripper, I removed the old pocket and replaced it using a contrasting tiny floral fabric. I think its a cute and trendy makeover, and it’s now one of my favorite basic staples again!

a cute patch for torn jeans
Worn-in jeans make the perfect weekend attire, but rips and holes are not really my thing. Instead of the usual square, I gave these a tiny mushroom patch in a printed fabric. It might end up being a great conversation starter, or maybe just a cute pair of jeans for gardening. (In the interest of full disclosure, dear readers, these jeans also had a tear in the crotch, which I patched up in a more discreet fashion!)

lengthening a dress from the shoulders
I love this polka dot dress that I picked up from TJ Maxx last year, but after wearing it once, I decided it was a liiiiiittle too short for me, and so it was repeatedly passed up for a second wear. But I love the pattern and style so I decided to try a DIY fix: I added a few inches of length to the dress from the shoulders, by cutting the seam there, then sewing in a few strips of some leather trim! It actually gives the dress a little more interest, and I think I like it even better than before. Success!

Next up I plan to learn a bit about sashiko stitching and darning – to patch holes in knits. Check out our Pinterest page to see some of my recent inspiration.

Do you have any tricks for fixing fashion? I would love to hear more ideas!

 

Holiday Cranberry Sauce – Fruit Juice Sweetened

Homemade Cranberry Sauce with Orange no Sugar

Every year at my family’s Thanksgiving table, we have two cranberry sauces.  A homemade version from my grandma, and the sliced canned stuff for my sister – she just loved it.  Tart cranberries are a great addition to a holiday table, and are a perfect compliment to all of the savory side dishes, but the traditional jelly-types can tend to be on the sweeter side.  Instead of sugar, this recipe uses (unsweetened, but very naturally sweet) orange juice and zest, brightening the flavor of the berries while keeping their tartness.  Three ingredients (plus some spices) and 15 minutes…that’s all you need to pull this recipe together!

Cranberry Sauce with Orange Juice no Sugar

Ingredients:

-2 cups raw, washed cranberries

-½ cup fruit juice – I used blood orange, but anything sweet (orange, pineapple, even apple) will work

-zest of 1 orange

-½ t ground cinnamon

-¼ t ground nutmeg

-¼ t ground cloves

Instructions:

Heat the berries and juice in a sauce pan over medium heat, and stir often.  Once boiling, reduce to a simmer.  After 10 minutes, add the zest and spices, and cook for 5 more minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Cranberry Sauce No Sugar

Serve like a traditional cranberry sauce, as a yogurt or ice cream topper, on cornbread, or pancakes!  I mixed some in cream cheese, refrigerated overnight, and added to my morning oatmeal.  It was tart and delicious, and just a little bit really boosted the flavor of the oats. I think I’ll be experimenting with fruit sweetened recipes in the future.  Next time, try adding the cranberries in a batter instead of a topping!

Cranberry Orange Cream Cheese

 

DIY Pom Pom Trim Bracelet

DIY pompom trim bracelet

Today’s DIY was inspired by a bracelet I saw at Anthropologie a while ago, made of rope and brightly colored trim. I loved it, but when I saw it I immediately thought: “I could make that!” I remembered it the next time I was at my local fabric store and picked out a few supplies. It’s a bit like the cooler older sister of those embroidery thread friendship bracelets we all used to make as kids, but this one is much quicker to whip up, which is great because, like most of us, I have a lot less free time than I did back then *sigh*.

string and rope bracelet

You can find the supplies you’ll need at most craft or fabric stores, and there are TONS of different options for color and texture. I started with some white cotton rope cord, some pom pom trim, and a few different colors of embroidery thread to play around with. You will also need a couple jump rings and a lobster clasp.

The tools you will want to have on hand are: a pair of scissors, some small needle nose pliers, a bit of clear nail polish, and some scotch tape.

pompom trim bracelet tutorial

1) Cut the rope cord to the right length to fit around your wrist, plus 2 inches, then cut a piece of trim a bit shorter than that.
2) Wrap the ends of your cord with a bit of scotch tape to keep them from unravelling while you work!
3) Tie the end of your embroidery thread onto the cord, about an inch away from one end, then start wrapping snuggly around. Try to keep it in neat, slightly overlapping layers.
4) Once you have about an inch of cord wrapped, lay one end of your trim against the cord and begin to wrap the embroidery thread around both layers, binding them together. I wrapped two times around between each “pom”, but you can do this however you think looks best.
5) Keep going until you reach the end of the pom pom trim, then begin wrapping just the cord as before. Wrap for one more inch and tie off.

Attatching clasp

6) Put a small dab of clear nail polish onto where you’ve tied the knots to keep them secure.
7) To create the clasp closure, open up one of the jump rings and hook it through a few layers of the embroidery thread, then pinch it closed again.
8) Do the same on the opposite end, but this time add on the lobster clasp before closing.
9) Cut the scotch tape off of the ends, trim off any excess, and fluff out the rope cord! I like that it ends up looking like little tassels.

rope trim bracelet
I think this funky pom bracelet will make a great addition to my “arm party” stack. Cheers to DIYing instead of buying!

Cauliflower Quinoa Garlic Parmesan “Mac” & Cheese

Cualiflower Quinoa Garlic Mac and Cheese Bars

Cauliflower quinoa “mac” & cheese is a great alternative to a traditional au gratin holiday dish, or even a lighter side dish to be served with the leftover turkey the next day.  I used a larger baking dish, and spread the mixture out about ¾ inch thick, and cut it into bars. So far, I’ve eaten this dish with chicken, eggs, turkey, and roasted asparagus – it pairs well with everything.  Cheese and sneaky vegetables – who knew!!!

Cauliflower Quinoa Mac and Cheese Bake

Ingredients:

-1 head cauliflower

-¾ cup quinoa, dry

-8 oz. cheese (I used 50% reduced fat cheddar)

-1 cup milk (I used fat free)

-½ cup plain greek yogurt (I used 0%)

-shy of ½ cup grated parmesan cheese

-shy of ½ cup panko breadcrumbs, plain

-1t italian seasoning

-2T garlic onion puree

-cooking spray

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 375.  Start by cooking your quinoa in water (or broth) per the instructions on the package.  While that is cooking up, wash, chop, and “rice” your cauliflower.  To rice the cauliflower, place florets in a food processor and pulse until the cauliflower looks like, well, rice – it should be grainy and not too fine, so that it will be able to hold the cheese later on.  At this poiint, you can either quickly blanch the cauliflower to take away some of the crunch and flavor, or keep it raw.  I kept it raw because I like the flavor of cauliflower, and I thought it would be a great texture pair with the quinoa (I was right…but feel free to blanch if you don’t love the taste).  Grate your cheddar cheese, and season your breadcrumbs – set aside.  Next, add the garlic onion puree to the bottom of a pot, and heat over medium.  When the puree looks translucent and you can smell the garlic, add the milk and cheddar. 

Cauliflower Rice Mac And Cheese Healthy

As the cheddar begins to melt. add in the yogurt – stir, and heat until combined.  At this point, your quinoa should be done – remove from heat, and add to large mixing bowl.  When the cheese mixture is done, you’re ready to assemble.  Combine the quinoa and cauliflower, then fold in the hot cheese sauce.  Spray a glass baking dish (9×13) with cooking spray, spread the mixture evenly throughout, and press to remove any air pockets. 

Garlic Parmesan Cauliflower Quinoa Healthy Mac and Cheese

Sprinkle the top with the parmesan and seasoned breadcrumbs, and bake for 20 minutes or until the top starts to brown.  When its ready, remove from the oven and allow to cool before slicing into bars.

 Cualiflower Quinoa Garlic Parmesan Mac and Cheese

I made a lot of this dish my first go-around, and I was not dissapointed.  I ate some all week, and froze the rest – it reheats perfectly!

What To Do With: Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter

Get your TJ's Cookie Butter Fix!

In case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard: Trader Joe’s sells this amazing spread called cookie butter. It comes in several different varieties and is essentially pureed cookies in a jar, like peanut butter, but sweeter and with a destinctly dessert-y flavor. It’s addicting.

Yet, when I first tried some, I was at a total loss as to what to put it on. So, I ended up just eating it straight out of the jar with a spoon! I knew there had to be a better way, so I started to brainstorm. While I still eat the occasional spoonful from the jar (I’m sure I’m not alone!), today I’m here to share 4 quick and easy ways to get your TJ’s cookie butter fix!

Trader Joe's Cookie Butter

Trader Joe’s cookie butter comes in several forms. “Speculoos” Crunchy Cookie Butter is the original, and is made from a molasses type of cookie. It tastes a lot like gingerbread. Add some chocolate cookie to the mix and you’ve got the Cookie and Cocoa Swirl. The newest version is the Cookies and Creme Cookie Butter, which tastes very much like an Oreo. You will need one (or all) of these to start.

Cookie Butter Crescent Rolls:

Cookie Butter Crescent Rolls
First up are these sweet and buttery cookie butter crescents. They are a snap to make and require just two ingredients: a package of refrigerated crescent roll dough and some Speculoos cookie butter! Just spread some cookie butter onto each triangle of dough before rolling it up, then pop in the oven according to package directions. These would make a great morning treat if you are inviting some friends over for brunch!

Cookie Butter Rice Krispie Treats:

Cookie Butter Rice Krispy Treats
Add in a little cookie butter to make a “cookies and cream” version of the classic Rice Krispie treat. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large pot over low heat. Add in 4 cups of mini marshmallows. When the marshmallows are nearly melted, add in a few big spoonfuls of Cookies and Creme Cookie Butter, then swirl through. Pour in 6 cups of Rice Krispies cereal and stir until coated. Press the cereal mixture into a cake pan and allow to cool. If you want to add a little more cookie flavor, melt some extra cookie butter and drizzle on top! Yummmm!

Cookie Butter Caramel Popcorn:

Cookie Butter Caramel Popcorn
You can also use cookie butter to make a quick caramel coating for popcorn. First pop up a batch of plain popcorn. Then, in a small saucepan, heat 1/4 cup of honey and 2 tablespoons of sugar on low until melted. Add in 3 tablespoons of Speculoos Cookie Butter and stir until just combined. In a large bowl, drizzle caramel coating over popcorn and quickly stir to coat. Allow to cool and enjoy! Movie night anyone?

Cookie Butter Swirl Muffins

Cookie Butter Swirl Muffins
For these marbled muffins, I simply mixed some melted Cookie and Cocoa Swirl Cookie Butter into the batter. In keeping with our “quick and easy” theme, I just used a boxed chocolate chip muffin mix! You could pretty much swirl this stuff into any baked good made from a batter. I think pound cake or waffles would also be great options!

Cookie Butter is great stuff, and there are countless ways to use it. Share your favorite with us!

Arrabbiata Chicken Chili

Homemade Arrabbiata Chili

Growing up, my family would get together every sunday for dinner with my Grandparents.  As traditional Italians, the meal consisted of macaroni and gravy, with a simple side salad and some butter cookies for dessert.  Though the menu was the same each week, I had dozens of times to practice my macaroni:sauce:cheese ratio.  I quickly found out that I had an extraordinarily disproportioned plate, heavily emphasizing the sauce and cheese, and eventually exchanged my plate for a bowl.  Now, let the records show that I have nothing against pasta.  I eat it, covered in creamy bechamel, garlic wine, and rich vodka sauces.  But for some reason, I’d much rather ditch the pasta and just take a spoon to a full bowl of any/all red sauces.  That’s what inspired this dish – I needed to put together a recipe for a red sauce that was supposed to be eaten on it’s own, sans pasta.

Zucchini Mushroom Arrabbiata Recipe

Ingredients:

-1 lb ground chicken (or beef)

-2 cans san marzano peeled tomatoes

-half a small can of tomato paste

-2 large zucchini

-10oz mushrooms

-half a large onion

-2t minced garlic

-2t red pepper flakes

-2t dried italian spices

-fresh basil, 6-10 leaves

-salt & pepper

-olive oil

-cheese, to top

 

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 350.  While you’re waiting for the oven to heat, cut your basil, onion, zucchini and mushrooms, but keep the onions separate from the mix – place the basil aside for later.  Drizzle each vegetable with olive oil, and bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on the crunch you’d like to keep in your chili.  I baked the zucchini/mushroom combo for 10 minutes, and the onions for 30.  While the vegetables are cooking, fully cook the ground chicken in a large skillet, and set aside when done.  Once the onions are done, add them to a food processer with some minced garlic, salt, and pepper, and puree.  This, is an amazing secret.  This onion/garlic puree packs so much flavor into your recipe, and by roasting the onions before hand, you take away that onion bite that you don’t want in a sauce, and diffuses the garlic through the dish without using any powdered spices.  Try it.

Roasted Mushrooms and Zucchini Arrabbiata

Next, sautee the garlic/onion mixture with the tomato paste and the herbs in a large pot, for about 3-5 minutes, just until it’s all combined and the spices become fragrant.  Next, add the 2 cans of tomatoes, and break up the whole pieces with a wooden spoon.  Add in the chicken, vegetables, basil, and red pepper flakes, and stir.  Allow this to come together in a low simmer for about an hour – until fully heated through.  I don’t have a big enough pot to handle this amount of sauce, so I put all of the ingredients together in a crock pot and let the flavors meld on low for 3 hours.

Spicy Arrabbiata Chicken Chili

The result is amazing.  Chunky, hearty, spicy, and light chili-sauce that is good enough to stand on it’s own.  I topped each serving with some fresh basil and a combination of shredded parmesan and asiago cheese.  This recipe is easily adjustable to your preferences – add more spice or add eggplant as a meat replacement.  I can’t wait to share this one with my family!

Healthy Arrabbiata Recipe

DIY Critter Coffee Cozies

Owl coffee cozy

Today’s crafty project is for the coffee lovers… and the earth lovers too! These adorable reusable sleeves will help you keep some paper out of the landfill. They are easy to whip up, cheap to make, completely customizable and ridiculously cute. What’s not to love?!

DIY Critter Coffee Cup Cozies
I made an owl, a penguin, and a fox! I think they make pretty awesome morning coffee buddies.
DIY coffee cozy supplies

You will need:

– craft felt in a few different colors (depending on your choice of critter)
– embroidery floss and needle
– all purpose white glue
– a paper cup sleeve

How to make a felt coffee sleeve
Make one straight cut through the paper cup sleeve, and lay flat against a piece of felt. Using a piece of chalk (I used a black marker here so you guys could see it well in the picture!) trace the sleeve. Add about a half inch onto each end and whatever extra area you need for your animal shape. Cut out some felt features to make up your critter’s face and lay them out on top. It’s a good idea to sketch it out on paper first, then cut your shapes.

hand stitching felt

Using a needle and embroidery thread, attach the larger pieces with some decorative stitches. The smaller pieces can be added on with a dab of all purpose white glue. I like to keep the design bold and simple.

Add decorative stitching

Once your little creature is all stitched up, fold the whole piece in half so that the two ends line up. Stitch the ends together, then trim off any excess. You might want to wrap the sleeve around a paper cup before stitching to ensure a snug fit.

penguin coffee cup cozy

Throw one of these guys in your purse or car, and the next time you stop for your usual coffee shop order, you can skip the wasteful paper sleeve.

Know someone who deserves a special thank-you or just a pick-me-up? Wrap one of these up with a Starbucks gift card, and you have a sweet and thoughtful gift!

Starbucks Spinach Feta Wrap Copycat

Frozen Spinach Feta Starbucks Recipe

I love Starbucks, and with the re-opening of a location right next to my office, I’ve incorporated a grande coffee and spinach feta wrap into my weekday routine.  I initially tried the wrap because it was the healthier option available…now I just eat it because I love it!  Now, I’m not here to put a product down, or suggest that you shouldn’t eat Starbucks food or frequent the cafe – I still do!  I just needed to not be spending $8+ on breakfast every morning, when I knew I could prepare an equally tasty, but cheaper/healthier option.  Set out to make this happen, I took to the grocery store and kept things simple.  Spinach, feta, egg whites, and sun dries tomatoes are what the wrap is known for – I added some spices and artichokes for an extra tang and bold flavor.  Start to finish, this recipe takes less than 20 minutes, and makes 6 servings.  All for the price of one breakfast, this “wrap” can (almost) be prepared in the wait time it would take during coffee rush-hour.

Spinach Feta Sun dried tomato breakfast

Ingredients:

-6 whole wheat pita pockets (or wraps, of your choice)

-egg whites – about 2.5 cups

-sun dried tomatoes (not stored in olive oil) – I used 3 per wrap

-canned artichoke hearts, about 6

-10oz bag of baby spinach

-6oz fat free crumbled feta cheese

-up to 1T olive oil

-dried italian herbs

-salt & pepper

Sun dried tomato herbed feta artichoke spinach

Instructions:

Start by wilting your spinach in a hot pan, with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  In a separate pan, scramble your egg whites.  While your spinach and eggs are cooking, chop the sun dried tomatoes and artichokes, and mix about 2t of dried italian spices (parsley, basil, oregano) with the feta.

sauteed spinach feta sun dried tomato artichokes

If it’s not already crumbled, break it apart into smaller pieces.  Let the spinach and egg mixture cool, and portion out all ingredients into 6 servings.  When cooled, stuff the pita pockets with the ingredients, and enjoy!  I decided to freeze all 6 of my wraps as a to-go healthy breakfast option.  To freeze, prepare each pita, wrap in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil.  Store in large freezer bags and when you’re ready to eat them – remove the foil and microwave!

spinach feta wrap starbucks recipe

According to my calculations, each pita is 250 calories, with 3g fat, 28g carbohydrates (and 9g of fiber), and 26g of protein.  Compare it to the 290 calories, 10g fat, 33g carbohydrates (6g of fiber) and 19g of protein, and this is an amazingly healthy (and delicious) option…not to mention cheaper!

DIY Starbucks Spinach Feta Wrap

Homemade Chai Spice Blend

Homemade Masala Chai

Where we live, the weather is beginning to get colder and the sky is dark before I even leave the office for the day. Winter is fast approaching, and these are the evenings when I just can’t wait to get home, get comfy, and fix myself a mug of something hot… enter masala chai!

Masala chai is a spiced milky tea served hot and a little bit sweet. The recipe comes from India. “Chai” essentially just means tea, and “masala” is a blend of spices. I absolutely love this drink during cold weather, but I find the “chai latte” versions sold at coffee shops and in commercial mixes to be a little bit too sweet and not spicy enough. Lucky for me (and you), it’s really easy to brew this up at home. Once you stock up on the right spices, you can whip up a batch of the spice blend, pack it in a jar, and use it to make tea all winter long!

Masala Spices for Chai
There are many different variations on this spice blend, but almost all include black pepper, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves. I also include nutmeg in my version but there are many other flavors you can add, like anise or even vanilla. The photo above shows the spices I use in this recipe, with some loose leaf black tea in the center (clockwise from top right: black peppercorns, whole cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg).

In addition to these spices you will also need some basic black tea (loose or in bags, either will do!), whole milk, water, and a bit of sugar.

In a spice grinder combine:
– 1 1/2 tbsp black peppercorns
– 1 tbsp ground ginger
– 1 heaping tsp cardamom
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 1/4 tsp nutmeg
– 6 – 8 cloves

Chai Spice Mixture

Grind your spices up until you get a fine powder. Thats your chai masala! For one serving of chai, combine 1/2 cup of whole milk with 1/2 cup of water, and place in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1/4 teaspoon of your spice mixture and bring to a low boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to low, cover, and let simmer for about 10 minutes. (If you own milk frother, this is the perfect time to use it to get that signature “latte” foam!)

Strain tea
Next, place one teaspoon of loose tea or 1 teabag into a mug and pour the hot milk mixture on top. Let the tea steep for about 5 minutes, then strain or remove your tea bag. Sweeten to taste with a spoonful of sugar, and enjoy!

The rich, exotic aroma of this tea combined with the kick from the black pepper is a perfect pick-me-up after a long day or a great way to start a rainy weekend morning. I encourage you to give it a try and to make the spice blend your own! Once you arrive at the perfect ratio, a little jar of chai masala could even make a lovely gift for a friend!

Chai at home

Recipe Wall Re-style

Recipe Wall Frames

I love all things handwritten. When you write something down, it becomes much more meaningful, because it is intentional.  It takes longer to write things out by hand, and might even be the second or third draft of a well thought-out idea or expression that now becomes permanent.  Recipes are no exception.  They stay relevant through time, and represent moments from the past that were chosen to be remembered.

Instead of old pictures, I decided to ornament our staircase wall with old, framed recipes, handwritten by members of my family through multiple generations.  In a way, the recipes represent the same things the photos do –  snapshots of family memories and special traditions – but in my opinion, are even more special as they represent more than a single moment.  They spark conversation, and sentiment, lasting longer than an instance, and reminding us of the personalities within the snapshots.  They are a time, place, person, taste, and smell – they are voices and styles written on paper for all to share. Framed Recipe Wall

I wanted these recipes to be functional, and framing them was the perfect way to protect them so that they can be used and not stored in boxes.  Some of the recipes that I had were double sided – these required a little creativity to properly display.  I took glass from two identical sized frames, placed the recipe in between the glass, and held the glass in place by wedging pieces of paper towel rolls within the frame grooves.

Double Sided Glass Recipe Frame

I tried a few different mediums for this – straws, plastic, scrap fabric – but the cardboard worked the best.  I cut a small piece of the cardboard, folded it in half, and placed it in the frame so that the folded edge was displayed.  The fold was pretty key in holding the glass in place, as it allowed the cardboard edges to expand within the frame and create just enough pressure against the glass.  Using cardboard also allows you to change the recipe card, or re-use the frame.

Framed Recipe Wall Staircase Before and After

What better place to display my recipes than my kitchen staircase?