Animal Instinct

15 Aug

As you have probably noticed over the past month or two, I have practically burned up my sewing machine’s motor with projects recently.

I decided it was time to transition to something that didn’t include fabric or needles or a pattern… wait a minute.

Dammit!

Ok, so embroidery has some of the same components as sewing, but it has been a welcome reprieve from sitting hunched over a sewing machine, stitching fabric together.

I downloaded this adorable pattern for the nursery and decided to make little animal portraits to frame and hang on the wall.

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I opted for a satin stitch instead of a traditional outlining stitch (like a split or back stitch). Here is a tutorial on how to do a satin stitch.

The project ended up coming out very well (for my first larger satin stitch endeavor). I had a few false starts (as in, I had to throw out and restart the fox three times – THREE times), but eventually got the kinks worked out. I would recommend outlining your work in a braided thread for a nice finished touch.

Don’t know how to embroider? Any pattern you pick up will include a quick lesson how to embroider and you’ll discover it’s incredibly easy.

Once finished, I used 8×10 frames and mats with a 5×7 opening. Frames and mats are from Michael’s.

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Baked Spicy Macaroni

12 Aug

I don’t know about anyone else, but when Sunday rolls around, I’m rarely prepared with a dinner dish in mind for that night. I’m still in weekend mode – and weekend mode does not include stops to the grocery store and slaving in the kitchen, let alone thinking about the upcoming week.

However, as my gram would say, sometimes you got to put on your big girl pants and deal with it (life? grocery store? not watching another Law and Order rerun?). So in my search for a good start to our dinner schedule, I found a pasta casserole dish from Giada DeLaurentiis. The dish seemed easy enough and tasty to boot. Annnnd, we weren’t disappointed. The meal was excellent and this dish will be making a regular rotation in our meals.

This dish makes enough for two meals – so be sure to freeze the leftovers for another night.

Baked Spicy Macaroni, c/o Giada Delaurentiis

Ingredients

1 lb elbow macaroni (I used whole wheat)
3 TBSP olive oil
1/2 lb assorted mushrooms, quartered
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, with juice
1 10 oz package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 C bread crumbs
1/2 C & 1/3 C grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 C & 1/3 C grated Romano cheese2 TBSP butter, softened, plus 2 TBSP cold butter (cut into pieces)
12 oz mozzarella cheese, cubed
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until tender, but still firm (about 8-10 minutes). Remove from heat and drain.

In a large pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic, mushrooms and onion. Cook until mushrooms are tender and onions are translucent, about 7 minutes. Add tomatoes, spinach and red pepper flakes and cook for another 5 minutes.

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In a small bowl, mix bread crumbs and 1/2 C each of Parmesan and Romano cheeses.

Take 2 TBSP of softened butter and spread on bottom of casserole dish. Sprinkle half of bread crumb/cheese mixture over butter.

Meanwhile, stir pasta, vegetable mix, nutmeg, and mozzarella cheese together. Add salt and pepper to taste.* Spoon into casserole dish and sprinkle remaining bread crumb/cheese mixture. Add remaining butter to top of dish.

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Bake for 35-40 minutes. Serve.

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*I added some milk to the dish so there would be moisture in it as it baked.

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Cardboard Safari

8 Aug

Our nursery’s theme is something along the lines of woodland creatures. So far I’ve only been working on sewing projects for the space, so up to this point it looks like a showroom for my novice skillz.

Yeah, that’s right.

Skillz with a Z. Get over it.

Anyway, the room is in dire needs of wall art. I have a few ideas in mind, but while ruminating on those, I came across Cardboard Safari.

This little business makes animal busts out of cardboard that you assemble and hang on your wall. Talk about whimsical fun!

Image c/o Cardboard Safari

Image c/o Cardboard Safari

So, I ordered a small buck bust for the nursery. When it arrived, I assembled it and it seemed…. unfinished.

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I contemplated what to do. Do I cover it with paper? Do I decorate it with a bedazzler?

I eventually opted for the high-risk route of painting it.

Paint + cardboard = certain disaster, right?

At first, I felt like I made a huge mistake. As in, I almost threw the whole thing into the garbage a few times. Each side took three layers of paint, and I was certain the whole thing would turn out terribly.

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However, I stuck with it. Tenacity, am-I-right?

I’m glad I did – the project actually turned out pretty well.

The moisture of the paint did warp one or two of the cardboard pieces just a tiny bit (where they bowed in a certain direction), but that was straightened out once painting was finished and I reassembled the bust.

I think the final result adds a fun element to the nursery.

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Chocolate Fudge Pie

5 Aug

If I were to retire from using Real Simple recipes, this would be the one to go out on.

Where are my laurels? I’m ready to rest on them, dammit!

I made this dessert for a mini housewarming party we attended at our friends’ house the other weekend. It turned out absolutely decadent and divine. To top it off, the recipe called for easy ingredients and was a cinch to put together.

Steve’s review? “This might beat out my favorite [lemon meringue]. I think I’ll request this for my birthday.”

Awesome. Considering I’ll have a newborn and grad school to contend with around his birthday, I can easily manage this pie.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACheck out that pie dish – isn’t it adorable? It was a gift from my in-laws a few Christmases ago. I normally keep it out on display (it would be a crime to hide it in a cabinet) but thought the dish suited the occasion. It did the job well!

Chocolate Fudge Pie, c/o Real Simple

Ingredients
1 store-bought piecrust, fitted into a 9-inch pie plate
6 OZ semisweet chocolate, chopped. Plus more shaved for topping.
1/2 C unsalted butter
3 eggs
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/2 C plus 3 TBSP granulated sugar
1 1/2 C heavy cream

Preparation
Heat oven to 375º F. Place the pie plate on a baking sheet. Prick crust with a fork and line with foil. Fill to top with dried beans. Bake until the edges are firm, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake until just golden, 8 to 10 minutes.

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Reduce oven temperature to 325º F. In a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter.

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Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs, salt, and ½ cup of the sugar until fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes.

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Fold a third of the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remainder.

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Pour the combined mixture into the crust and bake until puffed and beginning to crack, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool for 1 hour, then chill.

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Beat the cream with the remaining sugar until soft peaks form. Spread over the pie and sprinkle with the shaved chocolate.*

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*I recommend having the chocolate at least at room temperature to create really good shavings. A potato peeler will do the trick nicely.

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Lemon Bread

1 Aug

Oh CSA packages. Here they are, meant to make me a healthier person.

And yet, I take their bounty and douse them in sugar, butter, and other life-shortening ingredients.

The lemons we had from our last package were the only things left from the shipment. I know! It only took us three weeks to work our way to the bottom of the box.

So, of course the occasion calls for lemon bread.

Don’t question it. ANY occasion calls for lemon bread. Obviously.

Lemon Bread,c/o tasteofhome.com

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Ingredients
1 TBSP lemon rind
2 TBSP lemon juice
1 C sugar
1/2 C butter
2 eggs
1/2 C milk
1 1/2 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt

Powdered sugar
Lemon juice

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together sugar and butter. Add eggs, rind, and juice. Add baking powder and salt. Alternate adding flour and milk until dough is well mixed.

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Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes or until center is cooked all the way through. Cool for 10 minutes and then remove from pan.

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Prepare glaze with powdered sugar and lemon juice. Pour glaze over bread and serve.

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Recovering Crib Bumpers

29 Jul

Crib bumpers are one of those obnoxiously controversial items in the baby world. Whenever I utter the phrase “crib bumper” I feel like it should be followed up by this.

So, I am going to preface this post by saying I am not going to have the crib bumper (this again) and my baby in the crib at the same time. For those of you who live in fear of crib bumpers (yup), recognize that I am using it as a decorative item that will be in the crib when the baby is not. Save the lectures for someone who cares about your concerns. I’m pretty sure that is why Internet forums exist.

Now that my disclaimer is out of the way, I can proceed with my fun sewing project.

I have sat on this project for weeks and weeks. Mostly out of worry that I would irrevocably screw up the project and I’d be out of fabric and patience.

Ends up the project was substantially easier than I originally assumed.

The crib bumper came in four separate pieces, instead of my envisioned-single-super-long-impossible-to-work-with-piece.

That meant I was able to recover each section of the crib bumper as I would a throw pillow.

Recovering Crib Bumpers

What_You_Need_Crib_BumperStep 1: Iron fabric, measure it, and cut. You will need enough fabric to cover both sides of the bumper, plus the hem.

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Step 2: Pin fabric together. Remove ties from crib bumper, pin to fabric

You may need to iron your fabric again.

Crib bumpers come with ties already attached. To save yourself a step in making ties (unless you need to do a color match), cut the ties off the crib bumpers and pin them to your fabric. Make sure the ties are in between the fabric pieces, the ties going inward to ensure you sew the ties on correctly.

Step 3: Sew three sides of the fabric cover together. Leave one short end open.

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You may need to iron your fabric again (I know, right?)

Step 4: Stuff crib bumper into fabric cover. Close last end with a hidden stitch.

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Here is a tutorial on how to do a hidden stitch.

Done!

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French Green Beans with Garlic and Sliced Almonds

25 Jul

One of the items we have been receiving from our CSA in bulk are french greens. We get more than I know what to do with, which is usually just steam them and serve with a bit of salt and butter. It’s boring and not even very tasty.

Facing another two weeks with at least a pound of green beans, I turned to the trusty Internet for recipe suggestions. I found a recipe that was worth trying out (which means it looked easy and I had all the ingredients). The beans turned out delicious (or as Steve would say “they are good… you know… for beans.”) and were a cinch.

French Green Beans with Garlic and Sliced Almonds

Ingredients
1 lb green beans, rinsed
2-4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 C sliced almonds
2 TBSP olive oil
1/4 C chicken broth (or water)
Sea salt and pepper

Preparation

Put the green beans into a microwavable bowl and nuke for 4 minutes.

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium high heat. Add almonds and toast for about 1 minute. Add garlic and stir until it starts to brown, about another minute. Toss in green beans with chicken broth. Cover and simmer (low heat) for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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