Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Cranberry Sauce

I thought I would get a head start on Thanksgiving and prep as much food ahead of time, starting with cranberry sauce! This is the perfect side to make a day or two ahead.

I started by rinsing 12 oz of whole cranberries.

Over high heat, I threw the cranberries in a medium saucepan and added 1 cup of apple cider.
Of course, you could add cranberry juice, orange juice, or apple juice.

I then added 1 cup of pure maple syrup (not pancake syrup!).

I kept an eye on the cranberries while I zested one orange. It yielded about 1 tbsp of zest, but you can add as much as you'd like. 

Lastly, I squeezed about 1 tbsp of orange juice and added it to the cranberries.

I stirred the berries and kept it over high heat until they started to boil.

Once the cranberries were at a rolling boil, I turned the heat to low and let it simmer for about 10 more minutes, or until the sauce was thick.

Once it cooled, I poured it into a storage container and stuck it in the fridge!

And if you happen to have leftovers, you could spruce up yogurt or oatmeal by adding some of the cranberry sauce!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dirty Rice

Will asked me to make dirty rice, and I had no idea what that entailed. So after some research, we threw ingredient ideas back and forth and came up with an amazing dinner idea!

I started by throwing 1 pound of ground chuck and 1 pound of mild italian sausage in a large non-stick skillet. I also got 2 cups of brown rice going in 4 cups of water in my rice cooker.

I then chopped up the rest of the ingredients! I used:
  • 1/2 - 1 cup fresh parsley
  • 3 baby portobello mushrooms
  • 2 stalks of organic celery
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
I minced everything to be around the same size for consistency.

After the meat was cooked through...

I added my beautiful vegetables. It already smelled amazing!

I held onto the parsley to add at the last minute. It tastes so amazing fresh!

I cooked the vegetables down and when the rice was done, I added it a meat and veggie mix. I added all but 1/2 cup of the rice because my skillet was about to overflow! I then added salt & pepper to taste.

Then I threw in the parsley.

A quick stir and we're done!

Filling and delicious! Can't ask for much more than that!

(Leftovers idea: Use the dirty rice as a filling for stuffed bell peppers! Just cut the tops off bell peppers and fill it to the brim with the dirty rice. Place the peppers in a baking dish. Then cap the peppers or pour your favorite marinara sauce over it and bake in a 350 degree oven for 55-60 minutes!)

If you make your own dirty rice -- feel free to share how it went and how it tasted! 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

DIY: Burlap Placecards

Can you see a theme in my recent posts? Burlap, folks. I'm obsessed with it right now.
For Thanksgiving, I wanted to make my own place cards instead of going out and buying them.

For this craft, I used:
  • Hot glue gun & glue sticks
  • Card stock
  • Scissors
  • Felt Pens
  • Ruler
  • Scorer/Box Cutter/Credit Card
  • Burlap (or whatever you want to embellish your place cards!)

I cut the card stock paper in 3in x 3 1/2in rectangles. I got about 6 place cards per 8x11in paper.
I then marked the halfway point on the 3 1/2in side, which is 1 3/4 in.

I then scored it across using my cutter/scorer template (Martha Stewart from Michael's). If you don't have one, you could lightly score the place card with scissors, bow cutter, or a credit card.

I then wrote out the names of my guests and then folded the place cards. Then, I cut little squares of burlap and then folded them in half. 

At this point, you could customize your place cards with whatever you'd like! For instance, I made my own place cards for my wedding and embellished them with buttons in our wedding colors:
(Aren't they super cute!?)

Okay, let's get back to business!

I took my hot glue gun and put it inside the burlap and then glued them on the place cards! They turned out so cute!

If you end up making your own -- let me know and share a picture!

DIY: Burlap Napkin Ring

I just bought napkins for the Thanksgiving meal Will and I will be hosting -- but I just couldn't find napkin rings that I liked enough to buy. I called my friend Aly who suggested I make them from paper towel rolls! I love that girl - she is so creative!

After some trial & error, here are my finished napkin rings:

  • Burlap, or fabric/ribbon
  • Glue gun & glue sticks
  • Marker
  • Tape measure
  • Box cutter
  • Scissors
  • Paper Towel Roll

I started by marking the paper towel roll at 1 inch intervals.

All marked up!

Before I cut the rolls with my scissors, I had to make a small incision with a box cutter.

After making the incisions, the roll was super easy to cut.

The roll yielded about 11 rings.

I cut about 3/4 inch wide chevron burlap ribbon about 20 inches long.

I started by putting a dab of glue inside the roll.

I then placed the ribbon inside and made sure it was secure.

I then wrapped it around, making sure it was tight.

Then I added another dab of hot glue and continued to wrap the roll, overlapping just a little.

All done!

They are the perfect size for the napkins!

I tried different burlap fabric I had. I found that the burlap that had a painted print held better than plain burlap. 

I think it would be so cute to make these again but with a solid ribbon color and then add buttons!

They looked amazing on the napkins! 

And the cost? Practically nothing! I had all the supplies at home :)

If you make your own, let me know how they turned out! Feel free to include pictures!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Oatmeal Cranberry Cheesecake Bars

I made these for a work Thanksgiving party (and some extra for us!) and they were a hit!

I started by preheating the oven to 350 degrees and then I sprayed a 9x13 inch pan with non-stick spray.

I then measured 2 cups of all-purpose flour and poured it in a large bowl.

In that same bowl, I added 1 1/4 cups of quick oats...

... and 3/4 cup of packed brown sugar.

I mixed the dry ingredients and then got started on the wet.

This recipe calls for 1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, but I didn't plan ahead and melted it on the stove in a small saucepan.

(Tip: Be careful when melting butter in the microwave. The water evaporates quickly and the fat causes the butter to explode. Use a cover if you use the microwave.)

I then added the butter...

... and mixed it with a hand mixer. You can use a stand mixer if you have one.

I set 1 1/2 cups of the crumb mixture aside for the topping.

I poured the rest of the crumb mix into the 9x13 pan.

I pressed the crust down and put it in the oven for 15 minutes.

To make the cheesecake filling, I started by putting 1/2 cup of sugar into the same bowl I used for the crumb mix.

I had added 12 oz (1 1/2 bars) of softened cream cheese before. 

I went ahead and creamed the cream cheese/sugar mix.

To the cream cheese layer, I included 2 tsp of fresh lemon juice.

I also added 1 tsp of vanilla extract and 2 eggs.

All mixed up!

In another bowl, I added a can of whole cranberry sauce...

... and 2 tsp of corn starch.

It's all ready!

After 15 minutes, the crust looks great!

I poured in the cheesecake layer and spread it evenly over the crust.

I then spooned the cranberry sauce over the cheesecake layer...

... and gently smoothed it over with a spatula (the back of a spoon will work too).

I then took the crumb mix that I set aside and sprinkled it oven the filling.

I threw it in the oven for 40 minutes and it came out smelling wonderful! Make sure you let the bars cool for at least 3 hours -- overnight would be better.

In the morning, I cut them up and put them on a cake pedestal. Yum!

If you try this recipe -- let me know how it worked and feel free to add a picture!