Friday, November 18, 2011

Group #3 - Advent Calendar

Four more pockets stitched! These four sure turned out fun. My favorite of the bunch is definitely the Christmas lights. They are so cute!

Can you tell that the last one is a wise man? I think he needs a beard? Or something...he just feels like he is missing something. I can't really figure it out though so it may just stay the way it is. If you have any ideas on how to make him appear more "wise" then please let me know!

Now I have 12 down and 13 more to go! Almost halfway!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Group #2 - Advent Calendar

Here's the second batch of advent calendar pockets...

I have to admit that the milk and cookies is so far my least favorite one. The idea is so fun, but I think I just didn't quite execute it correctly. I think it would have turned out better if I had made the window cover the entire top portion of the square (maybe with 2 windows & 1 set of curtains?). I don't know. It might bug me enough to add some "wall paper" to the background. We'll see.

All of the other ones turned out great! I think the reindeer is adorable and I love the bell with music notes and the presents.

So far I am still going strong. I have been working constantly on this project, but I think that it will be slowing down soon for the Holiday travels. Hopefully I can still get it all done before December 1st!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sweet Mustard Chicken

A few weeks ago I was watching my friend's kids and saw this recipe open on her computer. I thought it sounded delicious so I decided to give it a go. I love honey mustard sauce, so I figured I would really like this recipe.

I did however substitute honey mustard for Dijon mustard because the Dijon mustard at the store I was at had white wine in it. I LOVED it with the honey mustard so I may actually just keep using that instead of the Dijon. Next time I have Dijon mustard that is free from white wine I will test it out to see if it is better.

I served our chicken with yummy mashed potatoes (which I made all by myself for the first time ever - and they were the best mashed potatoes I have ever had, go me!!!) and steamed green beans. The sweet mustard sauce was so tasty paired with the mashed potatoes and green beans. I think it would be even better with asparagus - well, everything would be better with asparagus.

So, next time you are in the mood for a little chicken, check out this saucy recipe. It will hit the spot!

Sweet Mustard Chicken Bake

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup Dijon mustard (or honey mustard)

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a shallow baking dish.

In a small bowl, stir together the honey, Dijon mustard, melted butter and pepper. Place chicken in the greased baking dish, and pour the honey mustard sauce over it.

Bake for 45 minutes in the preheated oven, basting frequently with the sauce, until chicken is firm and juices run clear.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Group #1 - Advent Calendar

My first 4 squares are ALL done! I am so, so, so excited about how they turned out. And seeing them done is getting me more and more excited to continue stitching my heart out.

I absolutely LOVE my little snowman! And the gingerbread house turned out so cute as well. The stocking is fun too! And you just can't go wrong with a beautiful snowflake right? It is so nice to begin seeing a finished product!

I have more pockets in the works and will be sharing more batches over the next week and a half or so. I must admit that each pocket takes a good 2-3 hours. Except for ones like the snowflake. That one only took about 45 minutes at most. The gingerbread house definitely took a good 3 hours. All of the little french knots just take time because you have to cut and re-knot and cut and re-knot quite a few times. It was all worth the time though.

And I must confess that I have been listening to Christmas music while working on this advent calendar. I am ashamed to admit it, but how can you work on something so festive and not enjoy some good tunes? Hopefully next year I will come to my senses and enjoy Thanksgiving fully before moving on to Christmas.

PS: If I find the time then I might come up with some Thanksgiving decorations for our home. However, I am guessing that next year will be the year for Thanksgiving decorations since we are headed out of town this weekend and won't really be able to enjoy any decorations that I make. We will see though. Happy Monday to you all!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Christmas Advent Calendar {My Life During November}

In honor of this fun date - 11/11/11 - I thought I would share my November project. It has pretty much taken over my entire life this month. I have been working on it every spare moment I can find. The initial idea for this project came from A Feathered Nest. She created a Christmas advent calendar two years ago that I LOVED. I didn't find it until last year at the end of November so I did not have the time to create my own version for Christmas. This year will be our first Christmas not visiting family so I thought it would be the perfect year to start a tradition of an advent calendar.

If you can believe it, I started this project way back in March. I gathered supplies and began cutting out the felt squares for the pockets (just the bases). Then a few months went by and I didn't do any work on it. In August I started cutting out some of the shapes for the images on each pocket. When I planned out my pockets I wanted to have a Christmas themed image on each one. Abby's version HERE had quite a few pockets that were darling, but they were just simple patterns/designs and I just didn't want to go that route. I wanted each square to be unique and I also wanted to bring in the religious aspect of Christmas more - since Christ is was Christmas is all about. I have been working just a little here and there ever since August on the cutting phase.

At the end of October I decided that I really wanted to finish it in time for Christmas this year. So I set out a schedule to finish it in one month. So far I am still on schedule to finish by November 30th. I hope I can make it!

Here are my squares at the first stage - just cut outs! This project will be entirely hand sewn. That is why it will be my life this month. I have been stitching, stiching, and stiching everyday for the past week and a half. I am so excited to see the finished project at the end of the month.

All 25 advent pockets. Remember, these are just the cutouts so they really don't look that great yet. The stitching is where the magic happens. Which is funny because I have NO experience with embroidery or hand stitching. Hopefully it all turns out good!

Snowman, Gingerbread House (I added this one), Bell (to symbolize music), Presents!

Stocking, Snowflake (my addition), Christmas Lights (inspired by the pictures of Abby's friend), and Mittens.

Milk and Cookies, Rudolph, Holly Leaves & Berries, Wiseman (all of these are Meagan originals except for the Holly Leaves).

Santa's Sleigh, Mary, and Christmas Tree (the sleigh and Mary are my additions).

Sheep, Gingerbread Man, and Angel.

Ornament, Birthday Cake (to celebrate Jesus' birth - I think this will help my son get more excited about celebrating Jesus' birthday), and Candy Canes.

Wreath, Cup of Hot Cocoa (another addition of mine), and Santa Clause.

And last, but not least, Baby Jesus in a Manger.

I am so excited to see these done with the stiching. Some of them are close so I will start sharing them next week. There's still time for you to make your own as well. So go gather your supplies and start sewing with me!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Corn & Cheese Chowder

This soup is YUMMY! It is a genius creation from The Pioneer Woman. Honestly, when I got the ingredients to make it I thought it would be good, but when we actually sat down to eat it I was amazed at how delicious it was. My husband kept going on and on about how much he loved it. Ree's pictures are a lot prettier than mine, and she served the soup in bread bowls (which I think I will do next time). Check out her photos HERE.

So next time you have corn you MUST make this soup! Especially now that it is chilly enough out to actually make soup without feeling guilty. (Although, I have never minded making soup in the Summer - soup is just good no matter when you have it!)

Corn & Cheese Chowder

4 Tablespoons 1/2 Stick Butter

1 whole Onion, Chopped

3 slices Bacon, Cut Into Pieces

3 whole Bell Peppers, Finely Diced (red, Yellow, Orange)

5 ears Corn, Kernels Sliced Off

¼ cups All-purpose Flour

3 cups Chicken Stock Or Broth

2 cups Half-and-half

1 cup (heaping) Grated Monterey Jack

1 cup (heaping) Pepper Jack

⅓ cups Sliced Green Onions

Bread Bowls

Preparation Instructions

In a large pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Cook onions for a couple of minutes. Add bacon and cook for another minute or so, then add diced bell peppers and cook for a couple of minutes. Finally, add corn and cook for a minute.

Sprinkle flour evenly over the top and stir to combine. Pour in broth and stir well. Allow this to thicken for 3 or 4 minutes, then reduce heat to low. Stir in half-and-half, then cover and allow to simmer/thicken for 15 minutes or so.

Stir in cheeses and green onions. When cheese is melted and the soup is hot, check seasonings. Add salt and pepper as needed.

Ladle into hollowed out boules and serve immediately.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Yogurt & Granola Parfait

This certainly is not a new/unique breakfast dish, but it is a simple, healthy, and yummy breakfast that I enjoy so I wanted to share it with you!

I've mentioned before that I am always looking for quick, healthy breakfast ideas so I thought I would post this one to remember.

Yogurt & Granola Parfait

Vanilla Yogurt
Granola (I buy mine at Trader Joe's)
Fresh Seasonal Fruit

Fill a glass with the following layers: yogurt, granola, fresh fruit. Then repeat the layers once more and drizzle the top with a little extra yogurt! So fast, so easy, and so delicious! I love this best with berries, but it would be yummy with mandarin oranges, kiwi, plums, grapes, canteloupe, or pretty much any fruit that you can think of. I was thinking this would even be good with an added layer of applesauce (or maybe replacing the yogurt with applesauce - now there's an idea to try).

So go grab your granola and throw this beauty together for your breakfast/brunch, or even for a mid-day snack!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Lemon Fusili with Arugula

Are you beginning to notice how much pasta we eat around here? I keep feeling like we eat too much. It is usually pasta or Mexican for dinner around these parts. I think this is because we don't eat very much meat. I can't seem to come up with anything meatless that is not pasta or Mexican. Occasionally we branch out and enjoy breakfast foods too. Does anyone have any good meatless recipes? Because I need help in the creativity department with my meals!

Anyway, this pasta is to die for. I was literally in LOVE with it and wanted to keep eating it all night. Now that I am posting it I am really craving it again. I l.o.v.e. the lemon cream sauce - it is yummy! Do yourself a favor and make this for dinner ASAP. Once you try it you will want to make it again and again.

Lemon Fusili with Arugula
Barefoot Contessa via Food Network

1 tablespoon good
olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 cloves)
2 cups heavy cream
3 lemons
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch broccoli
1 pound dried fusilli pasta
1/2 pound baby arugula (or 2 bunches of common arugula, leaves cut in thirds)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the garlic, and cook for 60 seconds. Add the cream, the zest from 2 lemons, the juice of 2 lemons, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until it starts to thicken.

Meanwhile, cut the broccoli in florets and discard the stem. Cook the florets in a pot of boiling salted water for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain the broccoli and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the package, about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain the pasta in a colander and place it back into the pot. Immediately add the cream mixture and cook it over medium-low heat for 3 minutes, until most of the sauce has been absorbed in the pasta. Pour the hot pasta into a large bowl, add the arugula, Parmesan, tomatoes, and cooked broccoli. Cut the last lemon in half lengthwise, slice it 1/4-inch thick crosswise, and add it to the pasta. Toss well, season to taste, and serve hot.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Edible Finger Paints

My little guy is starting to get to the point where he can enjoy finger paints. However, since he still puts everything and anything in his mouth we will be sticking to edible paints for quite a while.

We first tried pudding as our base! I whipped up some banana flavored pudding and then separated it into 3 bowls to add color. He mostly ate the pudding - it was snack time - but he did try a little bit of painting on the paper.

I've also seen people use vanilla yogurt as their base. I think we will give that a try next time we have a go, although I am guessing he will enjoy the pudding a little bit more since we don't give him sweets very often.

Does anyone else know of any edible finger paint recipes? If so please share!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Vegetable Lasagna

Wow! All I really have to say about this lasagna is WOW! It is extremely flavorful and has lots of yummy vegetables inside. This picture really does not do it justice, but the colors in this lasagna are beautiful.

This is really a delicious and healthy lasagna. You don't even need to add any side dishes because it is so full of nutrients all on its own. Although I love to add bread and fruit just to add variety to our meal! This is a great meal to make in advance (the night before, or the morning of) and stick in the fridge to pull out for dinner. I am guessing it would freeze great as well. I will have to try that out next time. Give this a try - you will not be disappointed and you may even find your children enjoying this sweet lasagna (it does taste very sweet)!

Vegetable Lasagna

1 box lasagna noodles
2 tbsp olive oil
1 whole medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 zucchini, diced
3 yellow squash, diced
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine vinegar (or white balsamic vinegar)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

30 ounces ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 lb. shredded Mozzarella cheese
extra Parmesan cheese for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and lay flat to dry on paper towels or clean kitchen towel. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add diced red peppers and saute for another minute or so. Add squash and zucchini and cook for a few minutes. Pour in white wine vinegar, add salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and stir. Pour in tomatoes. Stir to combine and let simmer for 20 minutes or so. Stir in chopped parsley.

In a separate bowl, combine ricotta, eggs, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.

To assemble, spread a little of the vegetable/tomato sauce in a lasagna pan. Layer four cooked noodles in the pan, slightly overlapping them if necessary. Spread 1/3 of the ricotta mixture on the noodles. Top the ricotta mixture with mozzarella. Spoon a little less than 1/3 of the veggie sauce mixture over the mozzarella cheese. Repeat the layering two more times, ending with a large helping of vegetable sauce and sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees, covered in foil, for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for another 5-10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes before cutting into squares and serving.

Serve with your favorite bread!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hot Air Balloon Costume

Here are the promised instructions on how to make your own hot air balloons for next years Halloween costumes.

These were so easy to make and relatively inexpensive for a Halloween costume. Total cost for 3 hot air balloons was $45! It also could have been a lot cheaper if I had purchased the balloon online ahead of time, but I just bought them at my local party store.

I first came across this idea on Pinterest. Here is the original image that I went off of.

There are also instructions here if you want to check them out as well. The original hot air balloon had ribbon on the balloon to make it look a little more like a hot air balloon - but I ended up just liking the plain colors the best for mine. If I had bought white balloons I think I would have been more likely to add ribbon.

To make your very own hot air balloons you will need:

36" Balloon (buy them online, they will be cheaper)
Basket (I found mine at Saver's and other second hand stores)
White/Off-White Rope (or thick yarn) - My rope was 50' and it was the perfect amount for 3
4 Brown Paper Lunch Sacks
4 Plastic Grocery Sacks
Glue Gun & Glue Sticks

1. Fill balloons with helium. You can do this at your local party store (it cost $5 just for the helium at my local store) or you can buy a helium tank at Target for $20 and fill them yourself).
2. Cut out the bottom of your basket so that you can step inside and pull it up around your hips/waist.
3. Measure a section of rope from you belly button up and over your shoulder to the middle of your back. Then cut a second section identical to it. Now you will have 2 lengths of rope that match (these will be your straps so that you can "wear" your basket).
4. Try on your basket and see where you would like your straps to attach and then mark it with a marker. Take a glue gun and attach both ends of your two ropes to the inside of the basket. I just eyeballed this part.
5. Grab your filled balloon and measure out a length of rope from the basket up to the balloon. Wear the basket while doing this to make sure that the balloon does not come too low and hit your head. You want the balloon to be floating above you. Once you have your length of rope then cut 2 more of the same so that you have a total of 3.
6. Glue one end of each of the 3 ropes to the inside of your basket. 1 in the very middle of the back of the basket, then the other two in between the front and the side. Together all 3 of them would form a triangular shape.
7. Tie the other ends of the 3 ropes to the base of your balloon. Make sure to pull them tight.
8. Cut the ribbon off of the balloon if there is one and wrap it around the rope to conceal it and make it look a little nicer.
9. Stuff 4 brown paper lunch bags with 4 plastic grocery sacks. Grab your rope/yarn (I used yarn on this part) and tie the lunch bags closed. Then tie the other end of your rope/yarn to the outside of the basket. (I just found holes where I could sneak yarn through and tied them onto the basket). You can cut the yarn at varying lengths to make the sacks hang a little bit more randomly. These end up looking like sandbags!
10. Take a picture of your totally awesome Halloween costume!

I hope someone seriously uses this costume in the future. It was a HUGE hit. Everyone we saw loved it! Thank you Pinterest for bringing this fantastic idea my way!