Thursday, January 29, 2015

Easy Valentine Necklaces

This week I wanted to share our newest craft project, and my latest new favorite craft supply. It is no secret that I enjoy Mod Podge, but the Dimensional Magic is just a dream for creating fun necklaces like this. I just happened to find it while browsing Michael's recently.

I thought this would fit nicely into my little jewelry theme this month. Oh, the paper beads are coming along nicely, too. I should have my post about all the paper bead fun we had, next week.

But this week I wanted to show you how I created these necklaces with just a few simple items in about 5 minutes. It takes longer than that to dry, but they are so fast to create, you are going to love this!

I grabbed a package of blanks at the craft store. This little square happened to come in a set of 10 various shapes and ring blanks sold by Mod Podge.

I love the color of the blank so much, I didn't want to cover it up all the way. Originally I wanted to put a saying and objects onto the blank, but I found a stash of metallic heart confetti in the office and it just clicked.

Now, the Dimensional Magic Mod Podge comes in clear or glitter. I tried the glitter version, but I had a hard time getting the glitter un-stuck from the bottom of my bottle. Instead I decided to go "old school" and just bust out the glitter. This Smokey Quartz from the Martha Stewart Line really caught my eye.

So I dusted my blank with glitter and arranged a few hearts on the bottom. I wanted more depth to my piece, so I covered this layer with the Dimensional Magic.

Start squeezing on a paper towel, to get rid of any excess bubbles, then fill in the blank like a cookie with royal icing. Since I didn't want the glitter to be pushed around, I filled by going around the blank from the outside in.

Then I sprinkled a little more glitter on top of the Mod Podge and layed a few smaller hearts on the top.

I let these dry overnight, but they may need more time to dry, depending on how thick your piece is. This is the rectangular necklace I made for my daughter.

I love how easy the Mod Podge Dimensional Magic was to work with. Next I am going to be creating some fun rings for Valentine's Day gifts.

Have you tried Mod Podge Dimensional Magic? What would you create with it?

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Roasted Red Pepper and Tortellini Soup

Normally this time of year I would be cuddling up in front of the wood stove in the evenings. Armed with my favorite cup of tea and either a good book or a knitting project, that is how I relax at the end of the day. Sadly, our January here in Oregon has looked more like Spring.

I know, if you are currently snowed in, you have my sympathies. Feel free to ship a little of that to the West Coast.

I would love a little cold weather around here, a little snow on our mountains and a reason to break out my favorite soup recipes.

Well, despite the sunny warm afternoons, I am still determined to get my soup on. This week I wanted to dive right into a vibrant and flavorful Roasted Red Pepper and Tortellini Soup.

It is pretty simple, but ends up making a wonderful dinner soup.

The base is a simple roasted red pepper pureed soup.

Start with diced onion, carrot and garlic.

Then bring in the drained roasted red peppers, chicken stock, a bay leaf and a little salt and pepper. I like to save the rinds from my Parmesan cheese... and those may have jumped in the pot, too.

Really, who wouldn't want in on this little flavor party?

Once everything is softened and warmed through, I put it all through the blender. Don't forget to snag that bay leaf and anything left of the rinds.

Then I add more chicken stock, if needed, dump in the frozen tortellini and the baby spinach to wilt.

Then grab your spoons, because soups on!

Roasted Red Pepper and Tortellini Soup

You Will Need:

  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 c. chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 16 oz. jar of roasted red peppers, drained
  • Parmesan rinds *optional
  • 2 c. packed baby spinach
  • 2 c. frozen or fresh cheese tortellini
  • Parmesan cheese to garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste
Start by sauteing the onions and carrots in butter in your soup pot. When the onions are translucent, add the minced garlic and saute for another minute. Add the stock, bay leaf, red peppers and optional Parmesan rinds. Let the soup come up to a simmer, turn off the heat.

Transfer the soup to a blender and puree. Return the puree to your soup pot and add additional chicken stock, if necessary, to thin out your soup. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired. Bring the pot back up to a simmer and add the spinach and cheese tortellini. Simmer until the tortellini is done (as directed by the package) and the spinach is wilted.


What is your favorite Winter soup?
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Monday, January 26, 2015

Easy Weeknight Lasagna Roll-Ups

What dinners do you have planned for the week? Any comfort food in there?

I usually try to compile a mix of easy to make dinners, freeze-ahead meals and family favorites. Lasagna is usually reserved for the weekend - something that takes me longer than 30 minutes to make, but it is one we always enjoy. I mean, it is classic comfort food.

My love of lasagna may just surpass Garfield the cat's..

I remember for my 13th birthday, homemade lasagna was my dinner request. I have never been a fan of ordering it in a restaurant though, and frozen just can't compare. It has to be homemade and my Mom made the best.

Lasagna is also a great place to pack in some extra veggies. Whether I put sauteed eggplant in the sauce, spinach in with the ricotta, or layer on the squash or broccoli, there are so many fun ways to switch up the flavor and customize it. But again, usually creating a dish of lasagna takes me a whole afternoon. It is a delicious labor of love, but one I don't sign-up for often.

So while looking for the week's dinner inspiration I saw photos of lasagna roll-ups, I thought this might be a great chance to simplify my favorite. Even favorite recipes have room for updates, right? Maybe it is Winter talking, but I was really craving a cheesy classic.

This lasagna roll-up recipe is a great one if you want to make a whole bunch ahead of time and freeze small trays of it. Each roll or two is a simple serving perfect to pair with a salad, bread sticks or other vegetables.

This time around I went with simple fresh wilted spinach. I happened to have a couple of bags on hand. Why fresh over frozen? Just a personal preference, but sometimes the frozen spinach has hard stems. I always have a bag or two of baby spinach in the fridge. Use what is handy for you.  I saved myself some time by blanching it in the same water that I later cooked the pasta.

I like to boil the pasta early on  and let it cool slightly on a baking sheet sprayed lightly with non-stick spray. I used 12 noodles to fit in my casserole dish, but I always try to boil a few extra in case they break when I take them out.

I sauteed up a medium yellow onion along with sausage.

My favorite way to break up meat is with a potato masher. It makes quick work of the browning meat in smaller chunks.

Once my meat was browned, I added in my favorite jar of marinara. Let it heat through and it is ready to go.

Once everything is cooked and ready to go, assembly goes quickly. Just layer, roll, repeat. You can fill them as full as you wish, but you have to be able to transfer your roll into the casserole dish.

I had a ladle full of sauce in the bottom to keep the pasta from sticking and burning.

I put a single-layer of roll-ups in my pan and then topped with the remaining sauce and some shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

Then bake. It is that easy.

Mmmm... doesn't that look good?

Lasagna Roll-ups

You Will Need:

  • Lasagna noodles, about 12 or enough to fit your casserole dish
  • 1 bag of baby spinach
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jar marinara sauce
  • 1 c. sausage

  • 8 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 Tbsp. basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Start by putting on a large pot of water to boil and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Once the water starts to boil, blanch the baby spinach until wilted. Drain well in a colander and rough chop the spinach once it has cooled enough to handle. Set aside.

Start cooking the pasta as directed. Once cooked, remove from the boiling water and place, in a single layer, on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray to cool slightly.

In a large skillet, saute the diced onion in oil over medium heat with a pinch of salt. Add the sausage and break it up as it browns. Once the sausage is almost done cooking, add the minced garlic and finish browning. Once cooked, add the jar of marinara sauce and bring it up to a simmer. Warm through and turn off the heat.

In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg, 1/4 c. mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, and basil. 

To assemble, place a noodle on your work surface. Spread with ricotta mixture, a little wilted spinach and top with meat sauce. Spread a ladle-full of sauce in the bottom of your casserole dish. Roll up the filled lasagna noodle and place the seam-side down in the dish. Repeat until the dish is full. Top with remaining sauce and remaining cheese. Season the top with salt and pepper. 

Bake for 30 minutes or until the dish is warm and bubbly. 

To freeze ahead, before baking cover the casserole dish or disposable pan tightly and freeze instead. Enjoy!

What is on your menu this week? What is your favorite dish to make and freeze ahead for a busy night?
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Friday, January 23, 2015

Waking up My Creativity with Bigelow Tea

 This Bigelow #AmericasTea shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CollectiveBias

Motherhood is a 24/7 kinda job and it seems like there are never enough hours to get everything done, let alone squeeze in some moments of creativity for myself. 2015 is going to be my year to carve out a few minutes in each day to spend with my thoughts, ideas and creative pursuits.

Since the baby no longer wakes me up in the wee hours of the morning, I set my alarm to go off 30 minutes earlier. In the early morning the house is all mine. My only distractions are the cats looking for their breakfast.

One of my goals is to get more of time to finish a few in-progress knitting projects that have been haunting me for over a year and also tackle the crochet hook. I do better when I can concentrate and focus on the clack of the needles and rhythm of knit and purl. It is a refreshing way to start the day.

This week as I sat down to the Basketweave Baby Blanket pattern with a cup of American Breakfast from Bigelow Tea and an Egg and Sausage Breakfast muffin. I made a whole batch of breakfast muffins I froze ahead for quick fuel for the ahead. 

The tea is a new find, an enjoyable way to greet the day with 50% more caffeine in every tea bag. Because it contains the natural compound Theanine, I not only start my day with a little caffeine boost, but I also feel relaxed and ready to follow my creativity.

I was already a fan of Bigelow Tea, but the American Breakfast Black Tea and Black Tea and Honey are a new fun alternative to my morning cup of coffee. It was a great find at my local Walmart in the tea aisle. Just look for the red, white and blue packaging. 

Tea is my favorite way to start the day, but now I can also get that little extra boost my morning needs. Just enough to help me be ready when the kids start coming downstairs and my "Me Time" is over.

And as added incentive, Bigelow tea is giving back a portion of the proceeds from their American Breakfast Tea line purchase to support our U.S. service men and women. That is something my morning cup of inspiration usually can't boast. Learn more about the Tea for Troops program Bigelow has.

Of course, having a ready-made breakfast to go along with that perfect cup of tea also helps my morning run more smoothly. I make these Egg and Sausage Breakfast muffins at home in a big batch to pull out of the freezer as needed.

I like to cook my eggs fast, but keep them uniform. I used a whoopie pie pan and broke the yolks on each egg. You could also use ramekins or jumbo muffin tins, whatever you have on hand is fine. Bake them for around 25 minutes, or until they are cooked through.

After the eggs have cooked, I remove them from the pan and use the same pan to portion out and mold my sausage patties. I like a nice spicy breakfast sausage to add flavor to my breakfast muffin.

Then I toast the English muffins and lay them all out, assembly line style. I folded in the cheese corners so it doesn't make too much of a mess. Can you tell I like cheese? These breakfast muffins have both Provolone on the bottom and Colby Jack on top.

Egg and Sausage Breakfast Muffins

You will need:

  • 12 eggs
  • non-stick spray
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 12 English Muffins
  • Breakfast Sausage, formed into 12 patties
  • 12 slices of Provolone Cheese
  • 12 slices of Colby Jack Cheese

Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a whoppie pie pan with non-stick spray. Crack one egg into each well and break the yolk with the tip of a knife or fork. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the egg is cooked through.

Toast the English muffins and set the bottom halves out on a baking tray. Set the tops aside. Place a slice of Provolone Cheese on each muffin half. 

When the eggs are done, remove them from the pan and place on the muffins Use the pan as a guide to form your sausage patties. Cook the sausage patties through and place onto the muffin halves.

Top with Colby Jack Cheese and the other half of the muffin. 

Wrap each breakfast muffin in a deli sheet. The Deli sheets come in a handy size for wrapping, or cut parchment paper will also work. Wrap by folding over one corner, then the sides, and last fold over the front. Place all wrapped breakfast muffins in a freezer bag.

To reheat, microwave a sandwich for about a minute wrapped. Then open up the wrapper and open the sandwich in half and heat for another 30 seconds, or until the egg and sausage are warmed through. 


Now with those extra few minutes and added focus from my morning caffeine, I decided to make myself a new mug for 2015. Have you seen the cute Sharpie dot monograms on Pinterest? Well, after looking at a few of those I wanted to make myself a "Mom" mug for the morning.

The first things I grabbed were a blank white mug and some oil based Sharpies. 

With the Silhouette Cameo I cut "Mom" out of stencil material and then began dotting all around my cut-out. Really, does it get any easier?

I used 4 colors of the Sharpie oil markers. Then peeled off my stencil and baked the mug at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. I let the mug cool for a few hours before washing and using it. I am not sure that craft projects get much easier than this.

I just love how it turned out! You better believe people in my life will be getting their own Sharpie dot mug this year as a gift.

Can one cup of American Breakfast tea make me more productive? Only time will tell... So far, at least, I have a freezer full of breakfast muffins and a new mug to enjoy my Bigelow Tea favorites in. I consider that a win.

What would you do with more time for creativity?
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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Crafting with Kids - Air-Dry Clay Jewelry

Seems like I can rarely go shopping these days without my daughter asking if I will buy her a new necklace, bracelet or hair clip. I promise, she has quite a collection already and I am not one for whine-induced purchases.

So I decided it would be fun to teach her to make her own jewelry.

I actually have several different methods in mind, but first I wanted to start easy. I invested in a Crayola Jewelry Boutique set. It came with everything we needed to get started on making simple air-dry clay bead and pendants. It is rated for kids 6 and up.

The first thing I needed to do was set it up. That was easy. Then we dove right into playing with the model magic clay.

Now, I love working with Sculpey, this was more crumbly and the pigments were quickly absorbed into our skin. (Luckily it all washes out easily).  So before you get started, be sure to put down a cloth or wax paper to protect your table or counters.

We started with 4 colors, the three shown here and white. I like the built in storage option, but I have a feeling my kids will use it all up long before it has a chance to dry out.

My hope for our beading project is that we could start working on Valentine's presents. This method was definitely easy to do.

A small hole on either side of the station is for measuring out clay.

For swirling, it is suggested that we twist the clay colors together.

Then it goes in the middle to be pressed and rolled. This swirls the colors together. This also helps to keep the clay off of our hands. The top piece here comes off for easy cleaning afterwards.

This was my finished bead. Not quite as well-swirled as the box photos, but it still is unique and fun.

Then I poked a hole in my bead, and put it on the drying rack. Once it dried for 24 hours, it was ready to seal with clay sealant.

I let my daughter experiment and try out her own beads. I also showed her all the other shapes she could create for different effects.

She is really into the big, chunky sized beads like this.

Is she hooked? I think so. I like to think that all my kids have my crafting jeans. But, only time will tell. The air-dry clay beads were fun and easy to create. In fact, I am pretty sure my kids could spend an entire day making these beads.

Do you make jewelry? What type of jewelry making should we try next?

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