DIY Constellation Tights

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DIY Constellation Tights

I love wearing tights this time of the year, and printed tights are a fun way to liven up a drab winter wardrobe. Ever the do-it-yourself type, I recently decided to experiment with customizing my own pair, and what I ended up with is one of my favorite DIY fashion projects to date: starry CONSTELLATION TIGHTS! They’re fun and quirky and even easier to make then I anticipated.

The simple black and silver makes them easy to style with pieces you already have, but if you’re in need of ANY kind of fashion inspo, head on over to AU Gold Standard, the charmingly inspirational fashion blog run by our dear friend Ashley Urban in San Francisco! You’ll see these tights making a guest appearance there (I mailed her a pair).

painting on tights

Did I mention how easy it is to make your own printed tights!? (I’m seriously excited for the possibilities of this medium…) All you need to make a pair like these is a plain pair of tights, a fabric paint marker in a contrasting color, and some scrap cardboard. Heres how:

using fabric paint marker on tights

Lay your leg along a big piece of cardboard, roughly trace the length and shape, and cut this out. You’ll use this as a form to stretch out the tights while you paint on them

Working one leg at a time, stretch the tights over the cardboard form.

For the constellation pattern, I just looked up a chart of all the familiar star constellations, and sketched them onto the tights in a series of dots, lines and small star shapes.

Let each leg dry for an hour or so before removing it from the cardboard… and thats it!

DIY Printed Tights

I picked out all the astrological zodiac constellations, plus some other familiar patters like Orien and the Big Dipper. I made sure to feature my own zodiac constellation (Pisces) and Ashley’s (Saggitarius) front and center for each of our custom pairs!

I didn’t worry too much about the rest of the placement, I just kept adding stars and patterns until I filled up all the space on each leg. They may not have perfect astrological accuracy, but they sure are swanky!

hand-painted star tights

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Marsala Mushroom Bites

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Asiago Mushroom Appetizers

It’s DECEMBER?  I know I’m not the only one wondering where all the time has gone… after all of the plotting and planning for new recipes to try this year, the “end of the year” work push has left little time for experiments,   I wish there was another month to make the season Merrier and Brighter, amiright? That’s where these little bites come in handy – (basically) three ingredients, and about 25 minutes, and you’ve got a warm and hearty appetizer perfect for any celebration. 

Ingredients:

-4 pillsbury crescent rolls, uncooked

-10 oz. mushrooms

-1T butter

-about ¼ cup red wine, or a little less

-salt and pepper, to taste

-asiago cheese, or other bite-y cheese (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 350.  Stem, clean, and dice your mushrooms.  In a large sautee pan, heat 1T of butter over medium heat until the butter just starts to melt.  Add the mushrooms, stir, and sautee about 5 minutes.  Once the mushrooms start to brown completely, add the wine, and turn the heat to a simmer.  Allow the wine to reduce – this should take about 6-10 minutes – and remember to stir often.

Easy Mushroom Appetizer

While that’s going, open your crescent roll can and roll the dough on your counter.  Pinch the diagonal edges of the adjacent rolls together, and cut each 2-roll rectangle into 6 pieces.  Take each piece and lightly press into an ungreased/unlined mini-muffin tin, and wait on your mushrooms!

Sauteed Mushroom Pillsbury Bites

 When the mushrooms are done, allow them to cool for a few minutes so that they can absorb some of the sauce.  Then, take about a tablespoon or so of the mushrooms and place in each crescent rolled-mini muffin cup. I used a slotted spoon for this, so that there wasn’t too much liquid in each cup. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until brown.

I added some Asiago cheese shavings to a few of these little cups for an extra bite.  They are so buttery and delicious, and would make a great pair to a creamy soup, or an addition to your holiday apps spread!  I’m looking forward to making these again using leftover sauteed mushrooms after Christmas dinner…can’t wait!

Marsala Mushroom Bites

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Washable Pet Travel Mat

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flannel pet travel mats

We have been traveling a bit lately for the holidays, which means my two fur babies have had to book a stay in the kitty hotel. To make their trip a little bit cozier, I made them some warm flannel mats for their carriers. Since it’s been a while since we shared our last project for pets on What to do with Lemons, I thought I would share this easy DIY – in case anyone is looking for a way to show their favorite cat or dog some love this holiday season!

flannel pet sleeping mat
These travel mats have three layers quilted together: two sides of flannel with a towel in between, making them soft, warm, and completely machine washable! They are modeled here by my cat Lu, but they’re perfect for cats OR dogs (or rabbits or ferrets or whatever kind of companion animal you call your best friend)!
DIY washable pet mat
You will need: a large piece of flannel fabric (twice the size you want your finished mat to be), an old towel, and a sewing machine.

Start by cutting two pieces of flannel and one piece of towel to the size you would like your mat to be, plus about a half an inch on each edge. I cut mine into rectangles that fit nicely into a cat carrier.

DIY pet carrier blanket
Arrange the layers so that the two flannel pieces face right-sides-together, then lay the towel on top. Pin and stitch around three sides, leaving one of the shorter ends open. Next, flip right-side-out so that the towel is inside the two pieces of flannel and the pattern faces outward.

layered pet mat

sew a flannel mat for your pet carrier
Fold the raw edges under and pin in place, then top stitch along this edge to close.

Finally, stitch some quilting lines across the top to hold the layers in place. I sewed one line down the middle and two perpendicular lines going width wise, dividing the pad into six squares.
cat carrier blanket

These washable mats are great for inside a crate, on the floor, or laid over your pet’s favorite spot to sit (like the back of the couch!). Flannel fabric comes in so many fun colors and patterns it will be hard not to make a whole stack! They make a great gift for pets, pet lovers, or your local shelter!

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DIY Instant Oatmeal Packets

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Budget Friendly Instant Oatmeal Packets DIY 

Can you tell I love breakfast now? Well I do, and I will warn you, breakfast posts will not stop, especially now that warm breakfasts are a necessity.  It’s December, and with the wind chill off the water I’m lucky if I’m not an icicle by the time I walk to work.  Knowing that I’ve got a warm breakfast (and my handy french press) to look forward to makes a cold morning much easier.  Oatmeal is a great option for breakfast, and a great bargain at that!  You can always pick up plain oats at a great sale price at the market, which is good for my budget but not so much for my palate – plain oatmeal... not exciting.  But, with a few extra ingredients and hardly any time, you can turn those plain packs into delicious ways to start your day!

Ingredients:

-Instant Oatmeal (I used gluten free)

-Dried Fruit (I like to use the dehydrated kind)

-Spices

-Sugar (optional)

-Ziplock bags

DIY Instant Oatmeal Packets

Instructions:

Figure out what sort of flavors you’d like, and set spices/fruit aside.  I found a great deal on dehydrated apple/blueberry and strawberry/mango mixes…two large bags for $2!  The catch? They are marketed as “toddler food.”  Don’t knock it until you try it – you’re more likely to find a sale on kids food as opposed to the other brands, and it’s really the same thing.  My flavor combinations were blueberry lemon peel, apple cinnamon, and strawberry mango.  Once decided, label your bags and put just shy of half a cup of instant oats in each one. Next, add in about ¼ cup dried fruit, and 1t of spices.  Here’s the breakdown for my flavors:

Blueberry Lemon Peel: Blueberries, 1t dried lemon peel (can be found in the spice aisle)

Apple Cinnamon: Apples, 1t cinnamon with a few shakes of ginger, clove, and nutmeg

Strawberry Mango: Just the fruit!

I wouldn’t reccomend pre-sweetening your oatmeal packs – they won’t be professionally sealed like the traditional packs, and I think adding the sugar will reduce the shelf life of your oatmeal.

DIY Gluten Free Instant Oatmeal Packets

When you’re ready to eat, just prepare as if it were plain oatmeal!

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Creative Mending and Altering

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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!

 

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Holiday Cranberry Sauce – Fruit Juice Sweetened

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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

 

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DIY Pom Pom Trim Bracelet

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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!

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Cauliflower Quinoa Garlic Parmesan “Mac” & Cheese

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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!

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What To Do With: Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter

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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!

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Arrabbiata Chicken Chili

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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

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DIY Critter Coffee Cozies

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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!

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Starbucks Spinach Feta Wrap Copycat

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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

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Homemade Chai Spice Blend

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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

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Recipe Wall Re-style

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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?

 

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Happy Halloween! Plus Party Playlist

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Halloween Party Decor

Happy Halloween from What to do with Lemons!

It’s our favorite day of the year, so you know we’re excited! We are also pretty busy, so today, instead of a regular post, we put together a list of songs to get your Halloween off to a fun and festive start! You can add these to your party playlist to supplement the classics like Thriller and The Monster Mash. We promise it will set the best Halloween vibe. Happy Haunting, witches!

1) Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Heads Will Roll
2) Gnarles Barkley – The Boogie Monster
3) The Squirrel Nut Zippers – Hell
4) Kanye West – Monster
5) Shakira – She Wolf
6) Danny Elfman – Kidnap the Sandy Claws
7) Muse – Supermassive Black Hole
8) Talking Heads – Psycho Killer
9) Queens of the Stone Age – Burn the Witch
10) Bastille – Bad Blood
11) The Cranberries – Zombie
12) Fleetwood Mac – Black Magic Woman
13) Roky Erickson – Night of the Vampire
14) KC and the Sunshine Band – I’m your Boogie Man
15) Big Data – Dangerous

Let us know what you think, and tell us what songs are your Halloween favorites!

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Blood Bar: 3 Halloween Cocktails

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Frankenmelon Cocktail

1) The Frankenmelon:

This creepy concoction is a mash-up of flavors made with 1.5 oz of vodka, 1 oz of melon liquor, and topped off with 3 oz of ginger ale. Shake vodka and melon liquor over ice and strain into a chilled glass. Top with cold ginger ale and add creepy garnishes like a spider ice cube or a gummy worm.

To make the blood dripping rim, mix equal parts corn syrup and strawberry syrup in a small sauce pan. Boil on medium high for about 2 minutes. Allow this mixture to cool fully (it will thicken as it cools). Paint onto the inside rim of your glass using a spoon or small paint brush.

Blood Sample Vodka Shots

2) Blood Sample Shooters:

Spook your guests with these layered vodka shots that are made to look like separated blood samples. The “red blood cells” are made from raspberry puree and the “serum” from vodka mixed with a splash of orange juice.

To make, cook down some frozen raspberries along with a few spoonfuls of sugar over medium heat, just until the sugar dissolves. Blend to make a puree, then strain out seeds using a mesh strainer. Pour an inch or so of raspberry puree into the bottom of each test-tube shooter glass. Mix 1.5 oz of vodka with a small splash of orange juice, and slowly pour down the side of the tube to layer.

Halloween Shots
Serve these chilled. The raspberry puree acts as a kind of “chaser” for the vodka shot!

Blood Drop Gin & Tonic

3) Blood Drop

This one is an eerie looking twist on a classic gin and tonic. Prepare the blood-dripping rim the same way as described above, then pour 1 oz of grenadine into the bottom of the glass. Slowly pour 1.5 oz of your favorite gin (or vodka if you prefer) down the side of the glass to float on top of the denser layer of grenadine. Gently top off with Tonic water so as not to stir up the “blood drop” at the bottom.

The most fun part about this one is that tonic water will glow under a blacklight, making this classic combination perfect for a Halloween party! Cheers!

Blood Drop Glowing Cocktail

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Halloween Bar Snacks: Spicy Pumpkin Seeds Two Ways

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Halloween Bar Snacks

Did you know we’re having Halloween parties??!  Just because they’re in different places, doesn’t mean we can’t work on a dish together!  Hayley will be making some pretty spooky cocktails to serve her guests this weekend (stay tuned for the post!), and so I thought I’d come up with some festive snacks to go along with them.  Pumpkin seeds are a nutty tasting alternative to nuts, and take no time to roast, season, and enjoy!  I decided on a spicy cajun version and a sweet, pumpkin spiced version, but the options are truly limitless.  I recommend using the raw, green seeds in this recipe – they puff up like popcorn, and have a great crunch!

Ingredients:

-raw pumpkin seeds

-olive oil

-cajun spices

-butter

-ground cinnamon, clove, ginger, and nutmeg (or ground pumpkin spice)

-brown sugar

Spiced Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and take out two sheet pans.  For the hot-spiced seeds: Mix 2t of cajun spices with 1T olive oil for each cup of pumpkin seeds.  Pour over seeds, toss to coat, and spread out in sheet pan.  Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, tossing after 10.  For the pumpkin spiced seeds: Toss 1T of melted butter with 1 cup of pumpkin seeds, and bake just like the hot-spiced seeds.  Mix 2T brown sugar with a total of 2t pumpkin spice, and set aside.  When the seeds are toasted (20 minutes later), toss the warm seeds in the pumpkin spiced mixture, and enjoy!  The first time I made these, I mixed the butter and the sugar with the seeds so the sugars could “caramelize” in the oven for the entire 20 minutes…and by “caramelize,” I mean the sugar burned…not too flavorful.  Make sure you toss to coat the hot seeds in the sugar POST roasting!

Cajun Spiced Pumpkin Seeds Recipe

Sweet and salty…the perfect combination – recognize the glasses?

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Double Take: Halloween Photo Booth

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Halloween photo booth DIY

This year we will both be hosting Halloween parties…and on the same day! Naturally, we’ve been discussing our plans for the festivities, and how we could keep our friends entertained and in theme. We decided that the one thing almost everyone wants to do at a costume party is… take photos! You just have to document all those awesome get-ups, and with social media these days, you know those pictures are going to get shared all over! #Halloween. So being the crafty devils that we are, we thought we would each make a DIY “photo-booth” for our party goers!

We knew we would have drastically different interpretations of this idea, so it made the perfect subject for our October “Double-Take” feature! The two of us have always had very different styles when it comes to Halloween. One of us loves the scary stuff, the other one loves the cute! We’re betting you can probably guess who is who after checking out the final results.

Take One:

Halloween Photobooth Props

Katie made photo booth props so guests in costume can “dress up” like traditional halloween characters.

 

halloween photo booth props diy

I used colored foam sheets, long cardboard lolly-pop sticks, paint, glue dots, hot glue, scrap cardboard, and an x-acto knife. I started out by drawing a stencil of a mask on some scrap cardboard, and cut it out with an x-acto knife.  Using that as a template, I cut out different colors of foam for the main piece of the masks, and used glue dots to stick them together.  I painted the white lollypop sticks black, and fastened them to the masks using hot glue.  This was really simple, and really fun. I stuck with non-scary themed halloween characters…Frankenstein, a witch, cat ears, an owl, a pumpkin, and a skull (I also made a stencil for that one) – that’s how I do my halloween.  For a backdrop, I taped decorative sheets of card stock to our kitchen door, made and hung tissue paper-poofs on the side, and kept an old black frame near by as an added touch.  Can’t wait to see the pictures we take next week!

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Take Two:

Hayley made a blood-spattered backdrop and number placards so that party guests can take Halloween mugshots!

Halloween mug shot

I tend to go for a creepier Halloween aesthetic, full of spiders, blood, and skulls, so my interpretation of this project was just a little darker, but a lot of fun! I measured and painted lines onto a flat white sheet, then splattered it up with a generous amount of theatrical blood! For the ID signs, I cut a piece of black foam board into four rectangles and stenciled on some numbers and lettering in white paint. This “photo booth” will be great for group OR individual shots, and it documents the year and occasion right in the photo! All the different costumes will make for some interesting criminal mischief! Luckily I had a few hunky models around to help me test it out this week.

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What are you doing for Halloween this year? Snap a picture of your costume or Halloween DIY and tag us @whattodowithlemons with the hashtag #WTDWLemons ! We would love to see what you’ve made!

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Mini Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins

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mini pumpkin doughnut muffins

I know what you’re thinking: are they doughnuts or are they muffins? Well, they are a little bit of both! The taste of a doughnut with the moist texture of a muffin, and just a bit healthier because they are baked and not fried in hot oil. So good. So cute. How could anyone resist!? Here’s how to make them:

Ingredients:
(makes about 4 dozen)
– 3 eggs
– 1/2 cup canola oil
– 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
– 1/4 cup brown sugar
– 1 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp nutmeg
– 1/2 tsp ground ginger
– 1/4 tsp ground clove
– 2 tsp salt
– 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
– 1 3/4 cup flour
– super fine sugar and more cinnamon for coating

baking with pumpkin
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Place all ingredients except flour into a large mixing bowl and stir until well combined. Make sure no lumps of brown sugar remain. Add in flour, and stir until just combined.

rounded tablespoons
Spray a mini muffin tray with non-stick baking spray, then spoon your batter by rounded tablespoons to fill each cup. You’ll want them to be about 2/3 of the way full. Place them on the top rack of the oven and bake for 15 minutes.

While your first batch is baking away, mix up some cinnamon sugar coating in a large ziplock bag. Aim for roughly a 3:1 mixture of super fine sugar to cinnamon, but there’s no need to be precise.

perfectly imperfect
Remove muffin tray from the oven and allow to cool for a minute or two in the pan before dumping onto a wire cooling rack. They almost look like doughnut holes! Just a little less spherical.

While they are still warm, toss them in your bag of cinnamon sugar about 4 or 5 at a time and shake shake shake!

pumkin doughnut muffin bites
This is one of the easiest and tastiest pumpkin recipes I have tried so far! Be sure to sample a few while they are fresh and warm. I think they are best served aside a cold glass of milk or apple cider! Happy pumpkin season!

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour.

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Apple Butter Chicken Salad with Goat Cheese and Pistachios

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IMG_0015

Apple butter doesn’t always have to be spread on toast, or mixed in muffins or streusels.  When paired with the right ingredients – goat cheese, pistachios, persimmons, apple butter – you can enjoy the sweet cinnamon taste with any meal!  Here, I replaced chicken salad’s usual mayo binder with apple butter, added some herbed goat cheese to cut the sweetness, pistachios for an added crunch, and persimmons for texture.  Persimmons are a fruit that look like tomatoes, but are heartier and slightly sweeter – a great compliment to the soft cheese and crunchy pistachios.  Plus, they’re orange…and best in October! This salad is simple, fresh, and very fall.

IMG_0011

Ingredients:

-salad greens

-persimmons (or something in the orange color family…apricots?)

-tomatoes (I used kumato, but heirloom would also add nice color)

-goat cheese, room temperature

-raw, shelled pistachios

-cooked, shredded chicken

-apple butter

-dried herbs (I used oregano, parsley, sage)

-salt & pepper

IMG_0020

Instructions:

We’ll start with the herbed goat cheese.  Using a spoon, mix your goat cheese (1oz. per salad) with 1t dried spices – make sure you crush the dried herbs before you mix them in.  You can do this in advance, and let the cheese pick up the flavors for a few days.  Don’t like goat cheese? That’s fine – choose the cheese you like best.  A crumbly feta will still hold the herbs well, or if you’re not into herbs try a hard, shaved cheese like parmesan!  Take the shredded chicken, and mix in the apple butter.  I don’t like a ton of “dressing” on my salad, so I used about 2T.  Next, shell the pistachios, cut the persimmons, tomatoes, and lettuce, and plate your salad!

IMG_0014

This lunch makes Monday so much more bearable…can’t wait!

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3 Easy DIY Halloween Props

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Halloween Party

Katie and I are both hosting Halloween Parties this year. On the same day in fact, but almost two hundred miles apart! I love a well-themed party, so I’ve been busy with a few fun projects to ramp up my Halloween décor this year. Today I’m going to share a few really easy DIY Halloween props that will make your holiday display EXTRA spooky!

1. Blood Dripping Candles

DIY bloody candles
These gruesome blood dripping candles are very dramatic, and extremely quick and easy to make! Great news for horror lovers. To make them, you’ll need two white stick candles and one red stick candle. Simply light the red candle and hold upside down over a propped up white candle. Allow the red wax to melt and drip down the top and sides of the white candle. The candle sticks I used are cheap glass holders from the dollar store that I painted with black and silver for a wrought iron look.

2. Painted Branch Centerpiece

DIY Halloween Centerpiece
You can make a creepy looking centerpiece to liven up your Halloween table scape with just some bare branches from your yard and a can of black spray paint! Select some dry, spindly looking branches and give them a coat of black spray paint. Then prop them up in a vase with some kind of filler like spanish moss or dried leaves. For added effect, throw in some cobwebs, plastic bones or spiders, and a dark creature hanging from the branches.

3. Poison Apothecary Bottles

DIY Halloween prop poison bottles
You can easily make your bar or mantle into Snape’s potions class with some deadly looking DIY poison bottles. Gather some empty bottles and jars in varying shapes and sizes and give them an aged look with some craft paint and Mod Podge. Vintage looking labels can be found all over the internet (there are tons on Pinterest!). I just printed and cut mine out, then roughed up the edges and glued them onto the bottles. Finish off with some corks, twine, or creepy crawlies.

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What To Do With: Delicata Squash

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IMG_9673

Just like my Pumpkin Spiced Latte confession, I commit another Fall flavor faux pas annually that I guess I should own up to. I don’t like squash. Almost at all.  I LOVE pumpkin (a squash, I know), but that’s where I draw the line.  Butternut squash soup, bisque, gnocchi…not for me.  I used to be a huge spaghetti squash fan, but after eating so much of it last season it has to be cooked a certain way for me to like it.  So, when I saw this interesting squash in the grocery store I almost immediately passed it by.  But having never heard of Delicata Squash, (and it being on super sale in the store) I decided to buy a few and see what I could do with it.

To cook the squash, cut down the center and scoop the guts out with a spoon.  You can roast the seeds, or discard.  Place the squash on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake in a 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes if in halves, or 25-30 minutes if in smaller slices or dices.  Delicata Squash is much more mild in flavor than a butternut squash, and tastes more like a sweet potato.  I was pleasantly surprised!  Also, there’s no need to peel this squash – you can eat the skin!

1) Pureed Sweet Delicata Squash

I started off the squash experiment with something I thought would be safe – everything tastes better sweeter.  I roasted the squash with some molasses for about 30 minutes in a 400 degree oven, about 1T per medium squash.  After the squash cooled, I used a spoon to scoop the flesh away from the skin, added about another tablespoon of molasses, half a tablespoon of cinnamon, half a teaspoon of each nutmeg, ginger, and clove, and pureed in a food processor.  I was left with this wonderful fall spiced spread that I’ve added to yogurt, spread on toast, and used as a dip for some ripe pears.  This was so delicious, and very reminiscent of a pumpkin pie filling – maybe I’ll use the leftovers in a crispy pastry!

IMG_9695

 

2) Garlic Roasted Smashed Delicata Squash

This side dish was AWESOME.  Roast the squash the same as you would the sweet puree, but brush with olive oil and some garlic powder instead of molasses.  Cool, scoop, and mash with salt and pepper.  I really liked keeping some of the dish on the chunky side to add texture.  It’s even really great for those of us who eat with their eyes.  You get great color from the natural caramelization of the squash. This would make a great alternative to a traditional mashed potato or sweet potato bake for any fall holiday – it’s sweet AND salty, and so good!

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3) Roasted Delicata Squash “Fries”

After having success with two tasty dishes, I thought I should try to keep things simple and stick to the flavors of the squash itself.  I cut this raw squash in slices (less than half inch), brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with pepper, and baked it in a 400 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes, turning every 10.  These little “fries” were a perfect substitute to hash browns with my morning eggs.  They were semi-crispy on the outside and smooth and creamy on the inside.  I finished them off with a little grated parmesan and devoured immediately.  I couldn’t believe it – I actually found a roasted squash I liked!  I will definitely be making these again for a fall appetizer.IMG_9688

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DIY Skull Stud Earrings

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DIY skull earrings

If you know me, you know that I LOVE Halloween, and you probably also know that I have a lot of quirky jewelry. I made these little skull stud earrings recently and they are perfectly my style. They are a little bit Dia de los Muertos, a little Jack Skellington, and lots of fun! I’ll be wearing them all of October because I like to stretch my favorite holiday as long as I can. Scroll on to find out how to make them!

polymer clay earrings
To make a pair of your own you will need: white polymer clay, stud earring backs, all-purpose glue, black paint, and some clear polyurethane coating. Other fun paint colors or rhinestones are optional add-ons. You’ll need a few simple tools as well: a chopstick or dull pencil, a knife, a small paintbrush, q-tips, and an oven.

1) Start out by rolling two small spheres of clay, a little larger than a pea. Pinch each sphere slightly on one side and then flatten, making an oval shape that is wider on one end. The narrower end will be the jaw of your skull. Press in a bit on the bottom to flatten the “chin” of your skull shape.
2) Next, use a dull knife to create some “teeth” and two vertical “nostrils.” Use the chopstick to make two oval shaped indents for the eye sockets.
3) Bake these clay pieces according to the package directions.

DIY clay earrings
4) After your skull pieces are hardened and cooled, use a small paintbrush to fill in the features with black paint. Don’t worry about staying inside the lines, we will neaten things up in the next step.
5) Using a q-tip dipped in a bit of nail polish remover, gently buff off any paint on the raised surface of your skull, leaving only the indented features painted. If you want a glossy look, add a coat of clear polyurethane sealer on top.

attaching earring backs
6) Glue the earring posts onto the back of your clay skulls with an all-purpose glue. Once the glue is dry they’re all done! You could definitely try out other halloween shapes as well, like candy corns or black cats. The possibilities are endless.

Polymer clay skull earrings

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Quick Mulled Wine with Baked Spiced Oranges

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Quick Mulled Orange Wine

When we were at school, Hayley and I would go to a German festival with our friends and get a glass of hot, mulled wine.  It was spicy and sweet, and was the perfect drink to warm you from the inside out – it just tasted like fall!  I really wanted to make some for myself, but to be honest, I wasn’t really excited about making a syrup and stewing fruit.  Sometimes you just can’t wait for your wine!  This quick mulled wine combines warm spices with sweet baked oranges and is the perfect drink for a fall evening.  I also tried the oranges in hot passion fruit tea, and even ate some by themselves at work.  They are so, so good! The smell of the oranges baking in the oven brought back so many memories, and really got me ready for the season.  You’ve got to try this!!

Baked cinnamon orangesIngredients:

-fresh oranges

-whole cloves, 3 per orange wedge

-ground cinnamon

-dry red wine

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Wash then slice your oranges into six wedges.  Stick three whole cloves into the rind of each wedge, and place on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle cinnamon on both sides of the orange slices, and put in the oven.  Bake for 15 minutes, let cool just to the touch, then squeeze two wedges into a glass.  Place the squeezed wedges in the glass and pour your wine over top.  Enjoy immediately, or let soak overnight – both options are delicious!!

Spiced Oranges in red wine

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Bourbon Apple Hand Pies

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bourbon apple hand pies

Fall is the absolute best season for fresh baked goods. There’s something about the combination of rich warm flavors like pumpkin, cinnamon, apple, nutmeg, and brown sugar, that makes me feel at peace with the weather getting colder and the days growing shorter. My favorite fall flavor combination by far, is apple and bourbon. I come back to it in some form every year and it’s always a hit with my friends and family who “taste test” for me.

Did you know that whiskey cannot legally be labeled “bourbon” unless it is distilled in the United States? Strongly associated with the American South, Kentucky in particular, bourbon whiskey is a truly American spirit. Combine it with fresh, local apples and you’ve got a perfect match, both in flavor and sentiment (what’s more American than apple pie?).

baking with bourbonI usually make one or two whole Bourbon Apple Pies around this time of year, but this season I decided to try a mini hand-pie version, and I’m very happy with the results! Here is the recipe that I adapted, which can easily be adapted back to a regular pie! (Or just email me if you would like my recipe for a whole pie, I’m happy to share!)

for the crust:
(this will make enough dough for two full-sized double crust pies)
– 5 cups flour
– 2 tsp salt
– 3 tbsp white sugar
– 5 sticks unsalted butter (cold)
– 1/2 cup chilled vodka
– 1/2 cup ice water
– 1 egg for egg wash
– coarse sanding sugar
P.S. – This is double the amount of dough you will need for a traditional double crust pie, so if you are adapting this recipe for a regular round pie, just halve these amounts!

for the filling:
– 5 tart apples
– 3 tbsp bourbon
– 1 cup brown sugar
– 1 tbsp vanilla
– 2 tbsp corn starch
– 1 heaping tsp cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp nutmeg
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/3 cup milk
pie dough from scratch
Making a good pie dough from scratch can be tricky, but there are a few tips that will help you achieve a nice flakey and buttery crust: 1) Keep all of your wet ingredients nice and cold! The main reason for this is that you don’t want the butter in your dough to melt until it gets to the oven. If you have small, solid chunks of butter within your dough, they will melt in the oven, and release little pockets of steam, creating the flakiness we all love. 2) Replace some of the water in your dough with vodka. The alcohol will evaporate more quickly than the water so your dough will be less prone to sogginess. 3) Use the right tools. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a food processor to mix your dough. After all, our great-grandmothers were making amazing pies without one. My secret weapon is a hand pastry blender. I picked two of them up at a yard sale and now I’m not sure how I ever lived without them!

To make the dough: 1) Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. 2) Cut butter into chunks and add to the flour mixture. 3) Cut through with the pastry blender until well combined, keeping the butter in solid, pea-sized lumps. 4) Add cold vodka and water and fold in with a rubber spatula until homogenous dough forms. 5) Press dough into a ball, wrap in wax paper and chill in refrigerator for one hour.
bourbon apple pie filling
To make the filling: 1) Peel apples and chop into thin, small pieces. These are hand pies, so you want the apple pieces to be much smaller than in a traditional pie. 2) In a saucepan, combine bourbon, brown sugar, and vanilla and slowly bring to a boil. 3) Allow bourbon mixture to boil for a few minutes, stirring gently. This heating will start to caramelize the sugars to bring out a rich flavor and dark amber color (yum!). 4) In a large bowl, sprinkle the corn starch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt over the apples and toss to coat. 5) Pour on the bourbon mixture and milk and stir until apples are evenly coated.

roll, cut, and fill
To assemble hand pies: 1) Roll out dough out onto floured surface and cut out circles. These circles can be any size you want. Mine were about 4 inches in diameter and I simply used a plastic cup to cut them out! 2) In a small bowl, mix up an egg wash with one egg and a tablespoon or so of water. 3) Place a tablespoon of filling onto the center of one circle, and dab a bit of egg wash around the edge. 4) Cover with a second circle of dough, and press around the edge with a fork to seal together. 5) Cut a couple of slits into the top for steam to vent. 6) Brush each mini pie with egg wash and sprinkle some coarse sanding sugar on top.
egg wash and sanding sugar
Arrange your assembled pies onto a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake in a 425° F oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Allow them to cool and then watch them disappear!
flakey, buttery pie crust

 

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