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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Grapevine Pumpkin

The weather could probably stand to cool down a little bit more before I would officially consider it fall, but I'm getting in the mood for fall decor. Fall is my absolute favorite season..... it has THE best food, holiday, colors, weather & decorating. I love September - November. After that, I'd like to fast forward to about May. Sigh........ if only. 

I should clarify that I love fall decor, but I do not like Halloween. I know. I'm one of those people. Notice above I said the best holiday {as in singular} which I consider to be Thanksgiving. I like pumpkins, gourds, crows, cornstalks and hay bales and all that stuff, but I don't like the witches, bones, skeletons, etc. that fall under Halloween decor. 

I came across this DIY Grapevine Pumpkin and thought it was really pretty and knew I had to make one. So I skimmed the scant directions to find out what I'd need, which is this:

6 - 6" grapevine wreaths
floral wire (I already had)
wire cutters (my wire was thin enough regular scissors worked fine)
glue gun (already had)
glue sticks (already had)
6"-8" branch that is 1-1/2" thick for your pumpkin handle (found out in the yard!)
plastic crow (optional, from the Dollar Store)

I bought my wreaths at Jo-Anns, they were 99 cents each. Cheap enough, but I also used 40% coupons on all but one wreath. Plus, at the time they also had a 15% off total purchase coupon too. Bonus! I originally bought 5 wreaths because of the 8 they had, 3 were kinda pretty sad looking.

Begin by unraveling the main vine that wraps the wreath, all but keeping about 1" wrapped. (Sorry for the blur, I was holding the camera with one hand & trying to push the button) Keep the vine you are unraveling and set aside.

Fan out the side that isn't wrapped. Mine really didn't fan out as well as I wanted them too. Or when they finally did, it was one that wasn't very full. Go figure.

Glue the wrapped side to the stick. Also use the floral wire to attach it if need be. I needed to. Do the same procedure to all the wreaths, spacing each one evenly.

I actually had to go back and get the last sad 3 wreaths because my original 5 were not fanning open very wide. It was when I went back the second time that I noticed in the entrance they had a display of ready made grapevine pumpkins for $19.99! Here they are, and they aren't as big as these either.

Use the unraveled wine vine (hmmm, can you tell I have a friend coming over any minute for Thirsty Thursday wine?) you set aside and wrap the wreaths to the inside of the pumpkin stick just for extra security.

If it will cooperate, you can also use the leftover vine to connect each wreath section to eachother to help it fan out. Mine wouldn't tie very well so I had to use my wire. But it was thin enough it's not so obvious.

Then, I added a bow with some ribbon I already had, and added my Dollar Store crow. The feet had little pieces of wire I could wrap around the vines.

Isn't it so cute?

I think the crow really makes it!

And that's all there is too it! Get your coupons ready & head on over to Hobby Lobby, Jo-Ann's or Michaels and get some grapevine wreaths! This project cost me less than $6.00, including the crow. You can't even get the ready made one for anywhere near that even with a 40% off coupon!

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Deep Dish Skillet Pizza

I love pizza. Usually not the kind that you eat with a fork and knife (and it really bugs me for some reason when people fold their pizza in half and eat it.) I don't know why, but it just looks gross to me. LOL (sorry honey!)

But I saw this deep dish pizza from Menu Musings and it looked sooooooo good. Good enough to break out the fork and knife. ;) I know I said in my ravioli post about how I don't think I'd make a good Italian wife, but I think I redeemed myself with this pizza. It was YUMMM. EEEE. Did I mention it has a cheese stuffed crust? Oh. YEAH!

I used the pizza crust /calzone recipe also from Menu Musings. The recipe was for calzones and said it would make 6, but for pizza, it took about half the dough. The other half I threw in the freezer for later. Don't feel guilty about using store bought/ready made crust if you want to save time. No judging here.

Pizza Dough (from Menu Musings of A Modern Mom)

1 cup warm water
1 pkg yeast
2 tsp sugar
2-3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp EACH oregano, basil & Italian seasoning
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp oil (I use Grapeseed oil)

In a microwavable bowl, mix water and yeast; add sugar. Add 1 cup of flour and mix well. After the first cup, add salt, cheese & herbs. Add remaining flour. Move to work surface and knead the dough 5-8 minutes, stretching & kneading until smooth. Add the oil to the bowl and put dough in bowl, flipping around to cover with oil. Cover with a damp kitchen towel, put in microwave on low power (setting 1) for 2 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes. Repeat until dough is doubled in size. (Mine was done after 2 rounds.)

After your dough has doubled, punch down and divide in half. Preheat your oven to 450. Roll out dough on a floured surface large enough hang over your pan. Freeze the other half of the dough or make 2 pizzas. :)

She suggests to oil the bottom of your pan to make your crust more crispy. (Personally, I am going to skip this next time as I didn't care for it.)

Now comes the fun part! Grab your string cheese (or cut up pieces if you have block cheese) and start rolling it in your crust.

This is just so genious, I tell ya! Go all the way around.

Next, grab your fixins'. I am going with pepperoni, green & black olives, feta and sun dried tomatoes. It makes my mouth water just typing it!

Fill the bottom with your meat first. Then I added my feta and sun dried tomatoes.

Next I added my olives. I love green & black olives on pizza!

And then a little bit of mozzarella cheese and my sauce. I used an 8 ounce can of tomato sauce from my pantry (I know, homemade would've been much better and I do have some frozen but I didn't plan ahead enough to have that ready.) There were so many other delicious flavors going on, the canned sauce was OK. But, I think the full 8 ounce can was too much. Next time I'd maybe use 3/4 of a cup.

Finally, go nuts with the cheese! Sprinkle some Italian seasoning on top if you feel so inclined.

Next, she says to heat your pan on the stove to get the crust going ahead of time. Like I said, next time, I'm skipping this step.

Throw in the oven and bake for 20-22 minutes. I watch it because I don't like my cheese to get too brown. Let it sit for about 10 minutes after taking it out to firm up before cutting it.

My "piece" pictures aren't as nice as hers because like I said, I think I used a little too much sauce but it still tasted awesome.And I didn't get many pictures of the slices, I was too busy eating!

It was just my hubby and I eating dinner. Enough left for his lunch tomorrow!

I will definitely be making this again very soon.
What are your favorite pizza toppings?
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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Handmade Linen Dishtowels

I like to make my own dishtowels. I was inspired by a dishtowel that I got in Shipshewana, IN when I went with my mom and I've never been able to find another one like it. It's a nice soft cream cotton with pictures of black kitchen gadgets all over it. I like it because my kitchen is black and cream and I rarely come across that color combination, it's usually always black with WHITE. It's the perfect towel to hang on my wall oven as it also serves a dual purpose - it's decor too. 

I started thinking about how I could make my own towels. I was at our local garden center in the gift shop and saw a dishtowel that said:

I thought that's cute, and would be very easy to make. So I went to Jo-Ann's and bought some nice linen and picked up some letter stencils. Washed it, which made it a nice soft cottony feel and got all ready to make my towels. I used my own that I liked so well as a template for size. I was going through my stencils when I decided to just do a monogrammed towel and add some ric-rac to give it a vintage feel. 

I started out by folding over all sides 1/4" twice and sewing for a hem. Then I stenciled my P and the frame and sewed the ric-rac.

So, the next one I decided to use one of my favorite sayings "Never Trust A Skinny Cook." I don't know why but I've always found that funny. 

Again, I cut my {pre-washed} linen out to be 20"x 27.5". 
There had been some time that had gone by since I made the first dishtowel, and so now I have a serger. I decided to just serge all edges instead of double fold and sew. I still did a 1/4" hem all around 4 sides.

Then I picked out my letter stencils and figured out my letters for each word and where they would be positioned on the towel. I then used black fabric paint to paint the letters. I like to use the Tulip brand.

I then just free-handed a dutch oven.

I wanted to add some color with my forest green accent color in my kitchen so I decided to add some stripes. I put a strip of tape right on the edge of my towel, and then another one 1" apart. I made sure my piece of tape was long enough to secure the towel to my surface so it wouldn't move.

Then I just started painting in between the 2 tape lines.

The paint bottle says to let it dry 4 hours flat. I let it dry an hour, then removed my tape and let it dry the other three. After 72 hours, then it can be washed.

See how nice it looks? It looks a little stiff right now because I can't wash it but after the 72 hours, then it will be all nice and soft again. 

And these wash up really nice. I've had the monogrammed one for almost a year and it's been washed countless times and is still in great shape. 

My other favorite saying? "Virgin wool comes from ugly sheep." Another one I find totally funny! My mom hooks wool rugs and when I was in my teens, she'd go to Vermont each year for rug hooking school. One year she brought back a frig magnet and it had that saying and I just think it's hilarious! I think it might be a bit much for a kitchen towel, maybe I will have to make a wooden sign with it. Take a peek here at some of the awesome rugs in my house she has done!

The possibilities are endless and very customizable when you are able to make your own. They'd make great bridal, wedding or housewarming gifts!

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Homemade Ravioli

I love pasta. But, I have this thing about paying for pasta at an Italian restaurant since it's so cheap to make yourself. Once in a blue moon I will agree to go to Olive Garden just so that I can have some yummy Fettuccine Alfredo that I don't have to make. And that blue moon usually only comes around when someone gives us a gift card to the joint.

Despite being on Pinterest, every once in a while I still like to go through my cookbook collection. One of my favorites is a cookbook that has both recipes and "hit" stories in it that my mom bought me called The Mafia Cookbook by Joseph "Joe Dogs" Iannuzzi. My hardcover 1993 version is no longer available, but there is a newer version called The Mafia Cookbook: Revised and Expanded that has more stories and 37 more recipes. Looks like this one is going really fast too as at the time I'm writing this, Amazon says they have one left! I've always been intrigued by the Mafia and that's why my mom thought I'd enjoy this. And right she was! My daughter has also lovingly nicknamed me J-Dogg, which I wasn't too fond of at first LOL. So, thumbing through my book - despite the stories that could make you lose your appetite - I was in the mood for one of my favorite pastas, either ravioli or tortellini. Since all you can pretty much get in the store are either only filled with meat or cheese, I decided it would be fun to make my own ravioli. Imagining the possibilities of what I could put inside them was making me giddy excited! So, I quickly ordered the  Regular Ravioli Mold Makes 2.0" Ravioli - Made in USA so I could make my own. And yes, you read that right, MADE IN THE USA! It looks like this:

 There was a little pamphlet that came with the molds that has a basic recipe for dough and one for a meat or cheese filling. I already had an idea of what I wanted to put in it, so I just used the basic dough recipe. Super easy - 2 cups flour, 2 eggs well beaten, 1/2 tsp salt and 2 Tbsp warm water. That's it!

All you have to do is put your flour & salt on your work space in a mound. Make a well in the center and add the eggs & water. At this point I was reaching for my camera to show you a picture because it looked pretty neat and all the sudden my water & egg started taking off running all over.... needless to say I didn't get a picture and tip: make sure your "well" is deep. ;) So I then dug right in mixing everything together. Add more water if need be to make the dough smooth and malleable. Knead it until smooth and then let it rest 15 minutes covered. I just covered with a clean cotton towel.

During those 15 minutes I decided to get my fillings ready. I wanted to do half ricotta cottage cheese (since that's what I had) with my homemade basil pesto and half with butternut squash (already had some roasted, mashed & frozen from last year in the freezer that I thawed.) So I poured my cottage cheese into a strainer over a bowl to get rid of most of the liquid. Then I added one of my pesto cubes I had thawed (again, made basil peso & froze in ice cube trays for whenever I wanted fresh pesto!) and added some Parmesan cheese.

For the squash filling, I added some fresh grated Parmesan and a pinch of nutmeg.

 So, I have my dough that's ready and my fillings prepared. Divide your dough into half or thirds, depending on how many raviolis you have in your mold. My dough recipe said it'd make 3 dozen. Now it's time to put those muscles to the test and roll out the dough. Sadly, I found out through this process I would not make a very good Italian wife as I'm too wimpy. It was really hard to roll out the dough thin enough with just a rolling pin. Suffice to say, I am now on the hunt for a good pasta roller. I'm thinking about the Norpro 1049R Pasta Machine, Red as the reviews were better than some I read and it seems to be sort of middle of the road model. Do you have a pasta roller to recommend?

 Anyway, roll the dough out thin as you can and make it at least as wide as the mold and twice as long.

Take the footed part of the mold and lightly spray it with cooking spray. Lay your dough across the top of it, matching the end of your dough with the end of the mold. 

Then take the dimpled mold and set it on top, pressing down to make the pocket indentations. 

My indentations sort of popped back up when I took the mold off but I could still see where they were and pushed them down a little bit gently with my fingers. I filled half with the squash and half with the cheese filling. I used about a teaspoon of filling for each one.

Then take a cup of water and dip your finger it in, and trace all around the edges of the mold and in between each ravioli. This will help seal the dough.

Grab the other end of your dough and fold it back over the filled molds.

Then take your rolling pin and roll over the mold from one end to the other, pressing hard enough to cut the dough. Roll it both the length and width.

Grab a cookie sheet and lightly flour it.  (Don't add wax paper like I did, just flour the pan.) Take your mold and flip it upside down for your raviolis to fall out.

If they aren't cut all the way, just take a knife or a pasta cutter (yes, I bought that along with my molds!) and cut them. 

Then, roll out more dough and do it all over again!

Once you have all your raviolis made, start a pot of salted water to boil. You don't need a rolling boil, but a mild boil is good. Add your pasta in batches, being careful not to overcrowd your pot. They will sink to the bottom when you put them in, and rise to the top when done, typically in about 2-3 minutes. It really depends on how thin you rolled your dough, but rising to the top will let you know.

When at the top, remove with a slotted spoon and put in a dish.

 See? You just made a batch of ravioli! How fun was that? 

Next, you get to decide what sauce to use. I had some plain sauce that I jazzed up by sauteing some garlic, onion, mushroom and tomatoes and adding that to it. Serve your sauce over your pasta and add some cheese.

Serve with any veggies, a salad and some garlic bread if you have some (which I didn't) so we just had a loaded salad with it.

Wasn't that fun? Next I want to make a spicy meat filling and another one with the cheese & my pesto as that was really good. And maybe some pumpkin filled ones for fall.... oooh, the filling possibilities are endless and it would be fun coming up with different flavored pasta dough too! Do you have a favorite ravioli recipe you'd like to share?

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