Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pin 151 & Pin 152

A trick AND a treat for Halloween!

First, the trick:
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Crock pot ravioli casserole.

I have totally over-thought this one. First--where is the ravioli??  This is farfalle. But it looks good and the recipe sounds good. I thought a crock pot dinner on Halloween would be the way to go to avoid the rush that comes in the evening. But when I started reading the directions I had to change my plan. You brown the ground beef and onion and then put it in the crock pot with the canned tomatoes and tomato sauce for 7 to 8 hours?? And you have to precook the pasta too??  That just seems excessive--and a little pointless. What is the crock pot for then if not just to keep it warm? I just couldn't bring myself to chop onion and brown ground beef at 8 this morning so I took a sharp detour on this one.

Ditch the crock pot. I started boiling water for the pasta in one pot and browning the onion and ground beef in the skillet. The pasta and beef finished almost simultaneously. I drained the pasta and added the beef and onion mixture to the pasta. I added the herbs, tomatoes and tomato sauce to the pot with the intent of simmering it together to develop some flavors. There was no where near enough liquid. I only used 1 lb of meat (recipe calls for 1 and 1/2 lb) and 12 oz of pasta (recipe calls for 16 oz) so I can't possibly imagine how this doesn't burn after 7 hours in the crock pot. I even had a little extra tomato sauce I had tossed in since I had two 8 oz cans (recipe calls for 15 oz).  I added an additional can of stewed tomatoes to try and spread the sauce a little. Due to the small amount of sauce, I couldn't really simmer it much so I just left it on the stove on medium-low long enough to heat it through. My grocery store was out of frozen spinach this week so I omitted it. I tossed in the cheese just before serving it up--on special Halloween plates, mind you.

I know that sounds like a lot of negatives for this recipe, but really, it was fairly tasty. I would put this in the category of kid food because it is pretty kid friendly. Not unlike a Hamburger-Helper sort of meal, but with better ingredients (i.e., no powder to mix sort of ingredients).  Both the boys ate it--which you probably know by now means it is a keeper. And it wasn't hard at all. Here is what I would change next time: While the beef and noodles are cooking in their separate pots, I would simmer the tomatoes, tomato sauce, and herbs together in a separate pot so the flavors can mingle before mixing them all together. I would use diced tomatoes instead of stewed tomatoes--mostly for their bite-sized quality and I would increase the tomatoes to at least two cans, if not three.

Total cost: $8 for 6-8 generous servings

Total time: Without using the crock pot I pulled this together in about 30 minutes.

Final verdict: It was an easy weeknight meal. I can't imagine how it would pull together in the crock pot. It just doesn't seem like there is enough liquid. However, it had a good flavor and I think if you allowed the sauce to cook on its own you really could get some nice flavors out of it. When our neighbor came trick-or-treating he said, "mmmm! Smells like spaghetti in here!" to which my husband replied, "Not spaghetti. Almost spaghetti." And this meal may be forever known as almost spaghetti. It's pretty accurate. . . if you changed the farfalle to spaghetti noodles, what would you get?

And now the treat:
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A little "candy corn" dessert. This just looked so refreshing to me! I dished up the pineapple and oranges into cups while the "almost spaghetti" cooked. When the boys saw them they just went gaga over the fact that I was making a dessert! Oh poor deprived children whose mother never makes dessert. Sir Lancelot's eyes lit up, he clapped his hands, and he cried out with glee, "Oh, momma! It's a HEALTHY dessert!!"  Wow. All this and they didn't even know about the whipped cream yet.

So after they gobbled up their plates of "almost spaghetti" with peas they were served up these little delicious items--now topped with whipped cream. Seriously, they were gone in 45 seconds. Before I had even had time to top my serving with a little whip and sit down Sir Lancelot was drinking the juice from the bottom of the glass.

Total cost: For four servings (two child sized, two adult sized) I used two medium sized cans of oranges, one large can of pineapple chunks. $3

Total time: 3 minutes to drain and dish

Final verdict: These were so good. And I don't feel guilty one bit for eating them. Winner. Sir Lancelot, you'll see these again, my dear. We've got a whole can of whipped cream to finish off.

Pin 150

Original pin:
Pinned Image

This fun adult tutu is sold on etsy at the link above for $395.00. I attempted to recreate this skirt for my Halloween costume this year. . .

I did not do this the easiest way, I am certain of that. That is just one of the consequences that comes along with sewing without a pattern.  This is the way I did it:

First I created an underskirt from a cheap black sateen. I took a length that was 1 & 1/2 times my waist, finished the edges to prevent running, and sewed it shut along the short edge so that I ended up with a big circle of fabric.

Next I pressed about a two inch casing along the top edge. I pressed it with RIGHT sides together so that the casing would fold down over the front of the skirt.

I had estimated 25 yards of tulle to create a tutu this full. I didn't want to do the cut-into-sections-and-knot technique of tutu making that is common with kid tutu's. I just couldn't bear the thought of cutting 25 yards of tulle into strips. So instead I started by measuring the length I needed to reach the floor from my waist. I measured this out in tulle and then zig-zag folded the tulle until it was about four to six thickness. I cut it off from the bold and stitched along the top to hold the zig-zag together. Once I had folded and stitched the tulle I then started gathering  See Pin 147 so read how I did that. So I ended up with 6 or seven sections of tightly gathered, layered tulle.

I started pinning the sections around the top of the skirt, lining up the edges of the tulle with the pressed fold of the casing so that the casing would fold down over the top of the tulle.

Turns out, 25 yards was not quite enough.
So I ran out and bought 10 more yards to fill the gap. Once it was filled I basted all the tulle in place. Then I folded the casing down and stitched it into place. I tried a few techniques with the elastic but I am only going to share the one that worked!

I took black 2 & 1/2 inch elastic and sewed it along the top of the casing. I created a sash, from the same cheap sateen, that was ridiculously long--but that is the way I like it. Then I slipped the skirt on, wrapped the sash around my waist about a million times and tied it in a bow. Here is the final reveal!

(I had fun taking these pictures! Even more fun when I started playing with the effects!)

Channelling the original pin model

 At our first Halloween party I popped on a tiara, some cobwebs, and a spider and went as a Spider Queen.
My little mermaid and me
Total cost: 35 yards of tulle, 2 yards of sateen, and a dollar store t-shirt = $50-ish. A little more than I generally spend for a Halloween costume, but way, WAY cheaper than the etsy version.

Total time: I couldn't even guess! This was a lot of playing around to see what worked. And handling 35 yards of gathered tulle is no small feat! It got so thick that it wouldn't fit under my machine foot. I broke 3 needles on this skirt!

Final verdict: So fun for Halloween. . . but I may be wearing it for every Halloween for the next decade! Whew! This was a project. But what girl doesn't want a giant, fluffy tutu?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pin 149

Original pin:
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Make your own tortilla chips in fun Halloween shapes. The take away here was the cookie cutter fun shapes for Halloween.

I have been making my own tortilla chips for some time now. I finally perfected the recipe just the way we like it that wasn't too crispy and wasn't too soft and wasn't too burnt-tasting. I usually only make them when I am making chicken tortilla soup. Since that was on the menu tonight I decided to jazz up our chips with some fun Halloween shapes. Below is my recipe, adapted from many, many, many attempts at finding just the right technique:

Tortillas (I usually prefer corn. Tonight I only had flour. Here's the thing--I but these giant bags of corn tortillas and then stash them in the freezer because I really only use them for these chips. I assumed I had some there but when I opened the freezer I only had flour tortillas there. They were a little stale but I just tossed the top tortilla out. Stale is okay because you are going to bake them anyway. I digress, back to the recipe)
Cooking spray
Salt (I like to use a sea salt grinder--it makes me feel a little gourmet)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut your tortillas to the desired shape. I usually just use a pizza cutter to make quick work of tortilla stacks into cute little triangles. Tonight I used the Halloween cookie cutters. This step definitely slowed me down here.

I'm not sure if it was because the tortillas were flour or because they were a little stale or a little frozen, but cutting them with my cookie cutters was not easy. Differently than dough or soft, fluffy bread, you can't really wiggle the cookie cutter to cut straight through the tortilla. This was going to take a long time to individually cut these chips for my whole hungry family. Time to get creative.

Hmmm. How can I solve this problem. I need some good, strong force. . . AHA! A hammer should do nicely. So I grabbed my meat mallet and gently pounded away at the edges of the cookie cutter with the smooth side of the mallet. I was careful not to use so much force as to crumple my cutters. (They are from the dollar store, you know.)

This technique worked so well I decided to save some time and pound through stacks of tortillas. I found that three-tortilla stacks were just the right size to cut multiple chips at once, yet still cut through all the layers. Four was too many and the bottom layer was never cut completely.
Oh the pounding drove my family crazy! My kiddos were trying to watch TV in the next room and they were fairly irritated by the pounding until they came to investigate what I was making. Then they got a little excited about it. If they were a little older I totally would have put them to work on this job.

That weird square one is a Frankenstein head.
Next I lined the chips on a cookie sheet and gave a light spritz of cooking spray followed by a few turns of the salt grinder. Into the oven they go! After 9-10 minutes I gave them a flip, a spritz of cooking spray, and put them back in. Watch carefully and bake an additional 3-7 minutes depending on your desired level of crispiness and browning.

Then I had to rush out the door to make it to a PTA meeting. I didn't get any fresh-out-of-the-oven pictures for you. However, I was lucky enough that my family saved some for me.

When I walked in the door an hour and a half later, the first thing my husband said to me was, "What did you do to those chips??" Uh-oh. Why? "They were the best batch you have ever made." I think it was because I used the flour tortillas instead of the usual corn tortillas. They were less like a chip and more like a cracker. Here's the thing with crackers--my boys (including my husband) love them.  I sometimes just don't buy them because they eat them up so fast and leave all those cracker crumbs EVERYWHERE! But these chips did have a nice flavor and the boys loved the Halloween shapes.

Here are a few after shots. You can see how they brown up nicely:

If you are here for the recipe, then I am sure that was the longest-winded recipe you have ever read. Let me remove all the commentary and just write it plain and simple for you here:

Tortillas (corn or flour)
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut tortillas to desired size and shape and place in a single layer on cookie sheet. Lightly coat with cooking spray and salt. Bake 9-10 minutes. Flip chips and lightly coat with cooking spray. Bake an additional 3-7 minutes, watch closely and remove at desired level of browning.

Do not be discouraged if it takes you a few batches to perfect this recipe. Tortilla brands and ovens are different. I recommend a hot oven. Preheat the oven and then let it sit an additional 10 minutes to allow it to get good and hot before you start baking these. I found that when I made multiple batches, the second and third ones were always better than the first because the oven temperature was more stable.

And if you don't like my recipe, go try the one at the link at the top--its a little different.

Remember the pin here was the Halloween shapes?

Total cost: $0 for stale, frozen tortillas and cookie cutters stashed away in the top of the cabinet

Total time: Cutting these out was time consuming--well compared to the old pizza cutter way. 20 minutes to cut enough to fill 1 & 3/4 cookie sheets

Final verdict: It was a fun way to add some holiday cheer. I wouldn't do this regularly. I do think that corn tortillas would cut much, much easier with the cookie cutters (and maybe fresh ones too??) I will probably do it again, but only around holidays! Cutting with cookie cutters always leaves scraps. I am not one to waste but since the tortillas were stale I didn't care too much. Baked chips are a great way to use up old tortillas before it is time to toss them!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pin 148

Original pin:
Pinned Image;21

A collection of fall soup recipes.

It is getting chilly around here. I am a Texas girl through-and-through. The minute the thermometer starts hitting the 50's I start thinking about Ugg boots and cranking up the furnace. I am raising a family of soup-loving boys so we are always looking for new soup recipes. I make soup at least once a week. I chose to go with the Tortellini Vegetable soup.

I don't usually change the recipe the first time I make it, but I felt pretty comfortable with this recipe. Here are the adjustments I made:

First, I increased the vegetables. If my kids are going to gobble up this soup I am going to use this to my advantage to get some extra vegetables in them. I used three zucchini and four carrots.

I used a full 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes. It was what I had available and I didn't want to waste the rest of the can.

I also used a 15 oz bag of frozen tortellini.

Total cost: I lost my receipt on this one. Sorry y'all. It wasn't expensive--if I were to guess, I would estimate I spent around $8-10. I had to buy everything except the onion. And using my ingredients yielded around 10 servings, 3/4 cup size. 3/4 cup sounds small for a soup serving, but this soup was very, very filling. I tried to go back for a second serving and ended up passing off the last half of my bowl to my son.

Total time: This is a good, fast, weeknight soup. 30 minutes to done.

Final verdict: This soup was enjoyed by everyone in my family. Glad I made so much because it did not last 24 hours in the fridge before all the leftovers were gone too! It was much more filling than I expected it to be and fairly low in calories. When I was serving it up for lunch the next day L shouted out, "Make sure you put lots of zucchini in my bowl!!"  It is definitely going in the rotation.

We served it up with that delicious one-hour French bread from Pin 144.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Pin 147

Original pin:
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A tutorial on how to ruffle using your sewing machine by toying with the tension settings.  Looks promising.

Especially in the face of 25 yards of tulle!!!
This is what 25 yards of tulle looks like when the 17 year-old cutting counter girl doesn't want to wrap the cut on a bolt and just bundles it for you and hands it over.
I'm not yet going to tell you what all the tulle was for, but just know for now that it needed to be gathered/ruffled. I had a few steps and cuts prior to the ruffling stage, but soon got to where this pin hopped in.  My machine is at least 30+ years old. I inherited it from my grandmother and it doesn't have a whole lot of fancy features. I wasn't sure if I had enough options available to make this one work.

This photo is actually about six layers of tulle going in to be ruffled.

Because it is black, it made the pictures a little hard to see, but look towards the back by the word "ruffles."
Yep, they were there. They weren't nearly as tight as the ones in the tutorial picture but I have a feeling it was due to the fact that I was using tulle and not a cotton fabric. The thread just slides right through the tulle and probably made it a little hard to pull at the ruffle.
Another shot at the fabric coming out the back of the machine.  The picture doesn't really do it justice. There were more ruffles than it appears.

Total cost: $0

Total time: Or should I say "Total time saved?"

Final verdict: The ruffles were not as tight as I was looking for, but I have a strong notion that that is due to the tulle rather than the machine or the technique. Thankfully, due to the tulle I was able to just give the threads a quick tug and tighten them up to where I wanted them. It worked and overall I would call the pin a success. I am keeping this trick around and can't wait to try it on some sturdier fabric.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pin 146

Original pin:
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I had a friend in need of some cheering up and just some all-around positive energy. This pin came to mind.

I headed out to one of my favorite bargain stores and scoured the shelves for yellow! Here is what I came home with:
Yellow butterfly sunglasses, Chicken Soup to Inspire a Woman's Soul, yellow silly sand, yellow pineapple bubbles, butterfinger, Sunkist Lemon Gummies, Juicy Fruit lip balm.
I also happened to have on hand a special yellow snack cracker that this person likes. I mod podged some yellow scrapbook paper to a mason jar lid and filled it up with the crackers. I couldn't find a good box for this so I went with a bucket. Then I couldn't find a yellow bucket. I went with a pretty blue and filled it with yellow tissue shred.
I packed all the items in the bucket and tied it with a big, yellow, polka dot bow.

Added a little tag to the handle:
And headed out the door to deliver it. Since I had the yellow shred in there and I didn't have a lid I didn't cut out sunshines to top it off with.

Total cost: Not saying--it was a gift!

Total time: 1 hour--shopping, mod-podging, and packing.

Final verdict: It brought a smile to her face--mission accomplished. She texted me later that the bubbles, lip balm, and sunglasses were a hit with the girls and made her day a little easier.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

T-shirt Makeover

The other day I was wearing the Peasant Shirt I made back at Pin 16.
I was thinking how easy it was and it really is a very comfortable shirt to wear. Then, like a lightening bolt, it hit me. Jersey knit. Let's make it from a t-shirt. I love, love, love t-shirt makeovers!

My favorite place to buy cheap t-shirts is at my favorite local dollar store. Availability is scattered, so if I see one in a color or size I like I usually just grab it.

I dug a black 2XL sized t-shirt out of the stash and went to work.
I cut a wide scoop neck from shoulder seam to shoulder seam. I also put a rolled hem on the sleeves.
I don't know why this picture looks so wrinkly. It wasn't that wrinkly.
I finished off the edge of the neck and then folded and pressed it under to create a casing. I threaded some 1/4 in baby elastic through the neck line (around 28 inches) and sewed it shut. After trying it on, I added a rolled hem to the bottom. I put it on and started creating looks. Look at all the ways I came up with to wear it:
Just on it's own. Relaxed fit, soft comfy jersey.
Spicing it up with some off the shoulder action!

I grabbed a black sash (back from Pin 132) :
Sash low on the hips

Sash at the waist, off the shoulder sleeves

Highest, empire waist, sash tied in the back
 Ahh! So many things to do with this one!

Total cost: $1

Total time: 45 minutes

Final verdict: Easy, breezy and versatile. I just got 5 looks for a dollar!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pin 145

Original pin:
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Also known as "The Austin-Fort Worth Headband" as this is what I did during the return trip. I know I said I wasn't pinning during our vacation, but I had to do something and I had limited supplies. I was flipping through my crochet board for inspiration when I realized I had everything (almost--we'll get to that) I needed to do this one.

The tutorial is fairly easy to follow with one exception. There is a mistake at the end of row two. If you scroll all the way down and read through the comments, you can figure out how to complete row two. Just a warning so you don't go crazy trying to figure out that step.

I didn't have a button with me so this is where I had to improvise. Instead of creating a button hole, I just slip stitched around the edge a few times to get to the other side to start the edging. When the band portion was finished, I made a chain a few inches long, threaded it through the hole at the end of each band, and then single-chained back down the foundation chain. I did this on each side to create ties. If you are going to do this without a button, shorten your foundation chain at the beginning of the band because you aren't going to need the overlap accounted for with the button.
The other thing I did a little differently was the edging. The original pattern calls for chain two, skip one stitch and slip stitch into the next. Repeat all the way around for the edging. I wasn't getting as much ruffly-looking edging as I wanted, so I chained three instead of two. Everything else was the same.
Not a great picture of the edging. Look at the top, the bottom edge is sitting crooked here.
All that is left is to wear it. It felt kind of hippie-vibe-ish so I tried to style it hippie-like:
 Not so sure I'm pulling it off. . . let's go to nature. Maybe I'll feel more hippie out there.
Umm. Not so much. I'm not much of a hippie.
This is how I am most comfortable wearing it but I feel like it makes me look a bit childish and less funky-cool like the original author.

What do you think? Can I pull of the relaxed hippie style or should I pass this one on to my niece?

Total cost: $0

Total time: Approximately 3 hours.

Final verdict: This one is going to take some getting used to. But it is so stinking cute on the original girl!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Fort Worth-Austin Road Trip Hat

The hubs and I took off to Austin for a few days (and nights) to celebrate making it past the 7 year itch. On Monday we marked 8 years of marriage. Woohoo!

I took off Pinterest-ing for the trip as well. However, my hands are always itching to create something and I needed something to fill the time down. We had to fight through all that UT traffic going home from the TX-OU game and I knew we could be in for a looonnngg drive.

Lately I've been looking for a cute hat that was not necessarily a "team" hat to wear. I hadn't found anything I liked so I decided to just make one. I was strolling around JoAnns the other day when I came across a plain utility cap. I thought for sure I'd be able to find you a picture of it plain, but I was unlucky. You'll just have to use your imagination.

Saturday night before we left I worked on some crochet flowers at girl's craft night. I did a little more talking than crocheting, so these flowers took a bit longer, but I did use the same tutorial as I did back at Pin 113. Then when we hit the road, I worked on the edging piece and then sewed all the pieces on. By the time we hit Austin proper I was sporting this fine fashion:

Total cost: I had to buy some extra yarn because I didn't have that dark gray color I wanted so I spent around $10 total

Total time: 6-ish hours. Remember, I started the flowers while chatting and drinking wine, so time wasn't really important.

Final verdict: I am happy with my new hat. It is a bit more feminine than just a plain team-style ball cap. The bill is shorter and the hat has a different style shape to it. I used it a lot because we had wind, rain, and an early morning departure today.

Stay tuned for the Austin-Fort Worth return trip. . .