Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Dye Rice for Sensory Tubs and Projects

There are a million and one uses for brightly colored rice.  Mostly, I just wanted it for my kids to dig in for sensory bins.  I have seen other tutorials out there using rubbing alcohol to die the rice, but I really wanted to die the rice using something that if the kids happened to eat it....it would be a little safer than that.  After a while, I decided white vinegar should do the trick.  After all, it is used to die Easter eggs and it evaporates fairly quickly.

First things first...grab your supplies

1 c. uncooked white rice per color (we did 3; I use Zatarain's)
2 Tbsp white distilled vinegar per color
several drops food coloring each color

one small bowl per color
one sandwich sized bag per color
1 c. measure and 1 Tbsp measure
wax paper
shallow pans for drying

Ok!  Now that you have all of your supplies together, we can get started!

Measure 1 cup of rice into each sandwich baggie.  If Zatarain's rice is available in your area, I recommend using it over other brands.  It holds its form much better.

Set those aside until we finish mixing our colors.  In each small bowl, mix 2 Tbsp white vinegar with food coloring and stir well.  The color intensity will depend on how much food coloring you add, so if you like the colors bright, go a little crazy!  The color will be much lighter on the rice than in the bowl.  We used orange, lime green, and purple.

Now, dump one of these colors into each bag of rice.  You want to work these one at a time so that your rice doesn't get mushy.

Squeeze the air out of the bag, and seal it.  Then just squeeze and mash to your little heart's content until all of the rice is well coated in coloring.

Or you could get a little help like I did.

I think she was a little excited.

Once your rice is fully coated, dump it into a shallow pan lined with wax paper to dry.

Ours took about an hour and a half to dry completely.  Of course, I couldn't leave it alone...I kept going over and mushing on it every 20 minutes or so.

When you are done, you have brightly colored rice to make sensory bins or other projects with.  Trust me....you will see projects with this in the future.  I am LOVING this!

I mixed all of ours up for the project we'll be working on, but store yours however you are going to use it.

Let me know if you try this with your kids or use another method that you love.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Pot Roast Perfection

I LOVE LOVE LOVE my crock-pot!

There...I said it.  I mean it, too.  There is nothing better than doing a little prep work and tossing things into the pot in the morning and then returning home to a delicious smelling house and a crock-pot full of ready-to-eat goodness.  Some days, I pull out one of my million crock pot cookbooks. Others I just throw things into a pot and hope for the best.  One thing I can always count on being wonderful is a roast.  It seems like you can throw just about anything into a crock-pot with a decent roast and come out with an amazing meal.  

For this pot roast you will need the following:
1 - 3-4 pound beef roast (this was chuck roast on sale for $3.49 per pound)
5-6 whole carrots
2-3 stalks celery
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 Tbsp Rosemary Herb Mix Seasoning (I had this from Pampered Chef...you could just as easily use a pinch each of rosemary and thyme or whatever herbs you prefer)
1-2 c beef or chicken broth (I'm easy like that)
2 Tbsp flour or 1 Tbsp corn starch(optional)

First things first....bust out the crock pot!

Yours doesn't HAVE to be camouflage like mine, but I am convinced that it makes the food taste better!

I recommend using crock pot liners...they make life so much easier.  You just drop the liner in, cook inside of it, and when you are done you just remove the bag and wipe out the condensation from your crock pot instead of scrubbing.

Now that your crock-pot is all set up and ready to roll, you will need to start with your veggies.  Wash, peel, and cut your carrots.

Tip...instead of making cute, short little ch ch ch cuts I recommend using long fluid motion to peel.  It may not sound as cute, but it makes for less of a mess, less waste, and prettier carrots.

I just blew your mind with the upside down carrots, right?

Now if you are like me...when you get your 5 or 6 carrots out, there will be something like this left in your bag of carrots.

At this point, you have two options.....wash, peel, and eat....or wash, cut, peel and throw in the crock-pot.  I LOVE carrots with my roast, so I prepped them for the pot.

Make sure you remove the tops and the tippiest little ends of the carrots.  Now, I know these are not cut with the most perfect knife cuts in the world.  What would a good old fashioned pot roast be without some good rustic cut carrots?  Don't let perfectionism spoil this for you...have fun with it!

Now, you will start prepping your celery.  Give it a good wash and begin by removing the very bottom portion.

It will leave you with a cute little piece that looks like a flower....I'm saving mine for a project, so you'll see this little guy again.  If you aren't doing the project though, you can toss this piece.
Isn't he cute?!?!

Ok, enough of that!  Go ahead and continue cutting up your celery in slices as thick or thin as you like.  I cut all of my celery to save some for another recipe.

Put the portion of celery you plan to save for later into the fridge in a bowl with a lid or saran wrap.

Now, if you are like me, take a moment to remove the blueberry muffins from the oven....what? You didn't know you had muffins in the oven? It's ok if you don't.  We can't all be multi-taskers.

Toss your carrots and celery into your crock-pot.  How did I not get a picture of that?!?!  Anyway....

Now place your meat down directly on top of the vegetables.  Mmm...look at that cut of meat...this is gonna be great.

Sprinkle onto the meat your herb seasoning mix and your onion soup mix.

Now pour your chicken or beef broth down evenly over all of this.  I used about 1 1/2 c. chicken broth.

Now toss the lid onto the crock-pot and set it to low for 8-10 hours.

Go ahead at this point and wash the dishes up from everything we just did (muffins included) so that you don't have to do it later....go on...you know you need to.  Awe, heck, just throw them into the dishwasher.  I won't tell.

Now go serve the muffins to the children.

Well...the ones that are awake anyway...

And enjoy a big cup of morning happy.

Then go about your day.  The roast will start smelling delicious right away, but don't be tempted to lift the lid.  Leave that thing alone all day long!

When the day is done, and you are ready to serve your roast, go ahead and shred the meat with a fork.

If the gravy is too runny for your taste, you can thicken it up with an easy fix.  Remove a little bit of the liquid to a small bowl and add either 2 Tbsp flour or 1 Tbsp corn starch and mix well.  Return to the pot and stir in well.  This will thicken to a more gravy-like consistency.

Now just serve over rice or mashed potatoes...whichever you prefer.  In a pinch, we have even eaten it as is.

This pot roast turned out absolutely amazing. The baby was the only one who would let me have her bowl long enough to get a picture...everyone else was too busy scarfing this down!  The carrots turned out so tender, the celery melted away in our mouths, and the meat was so tender and juicy.  I can't wait to make this again.

Oh, and, FYI....this makes awesome leftover roast sandwiches!

I hope your family enjoys this dish as much as mine did.  If you try it, let me know!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Mother's Day Gift for the Cooking Momma

I have been oh so blessed to have a family full of cooking women!  They have seasoned my life with their knowledge about God, life, family, and food. This mother's day, I wanted to give them kitchen gifts with a personal touch.

I started by picking up some good quality, inexpensive bamboo cutting boards and utensil sets.  I used this method from another post of mine to put each lady's initial and decorative flowers on each utensil and their name and flowers onto the cutting boards.

Ok, and maybe a heart for each, too.  After all, we do want them to know we love them.
 Mimi's cutting board is looking so sweet!
 Here is one of grammy's spoons!

Next, I grabbed some of the flour sack dish cloths left over from our Pin Tuck Dish Towels and got to work putting ruffles on each one.  Granny Carol got pink paisley ruffles, Mimi got white ruffles, and Grammy got green ruffles.  I am posting a separate tutorial for the ruffled cloths, so stay tuned!

This is Granny Carol's completed set. If I have a little extra time between now and then, I am going to embroider something cute onto each dish towel.

We are also throwing in some of these cute little bead suncatchers that the kids made more of recently.

We are also wrapping each present in a special wrapping paper we created, but that is another post for another day.

I think each of these special ladies are really going to love their box of kitchen happies.

Let me know if you tried any of this for your Mother or another special lady in your life!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

FREE Window Valances from Bed Skirt

Welcome to Thrifty Thursday!  I have been meaning to do and post this for MONTHS and am just now getting around to it!  At Christmas, my mother bought my girls new bed things.  They came as "bed-in-a-bag" sets.  Each set had sheets, shams, pillowcases, and a bed skirt.  My girls have twin over full bunk beds, so the bed skirts can't be used.  I was bummed that the bed skirts were going to go to waste, but I held on to them just in case.  A few weeks later I was trying to decide what to do about window treatments in their room.  The prices on some of these things are CRAZY!  The thought ran through my head that "valances are just a long piece of fabric with a sleeve sewn in them!"  Then it hit me.  I could use the bed skirts to make window valances.  No money spent, no bed skirts wasted.  This made me happy, happy, happy!

The first thing you want to do is wash and dry the bed skirt to make sure all shrinking is done.  Now, separate the bed skirt fabric from the funky liner that goes under the mattress.  You will be left with three rectangle pieces (two long, one short).  You will need to use the long pieces for this project.  Set the short piece aside for another day or throw it in the scrap fabric stack.  The edge where it was connected to the liner will look like this.

You will then need to fold the edge in by two inches and iron a crease.  If you feel more confident using pins, pin the fabric in place.  It is up to you. Be careful as you are doing this, not to iron on the threads that connected the fabric to the liner.  These threads are plastic and will melt....STINKY.

From here, go ahead and sew a seam down the entire length of the fabric at about 1/4 from the raw edge.  This will make a sleeve for the curtain rod to slide through. Repeat these steps until the number of valances you need are completed. 

Now, just throw the curtain rod in and install!

Not bad for a 5 minute free project, huh?   Try it, and let me know how yours turn out!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Bathroom Step Stool for Under $2

For those of you who know me...I have a deep love for PROJECTS!  If I can tackle a new project or new hobby, I somehow feel so very accomplished.  My most recent hobby is carpentry....very light carpentry of course, but carpentry nonetheless.  I was browsing Ana White's website and found a building plan for this adorable little bathroom stepstool and couldn't resist.  This is just what I need at my house as I attempt to potty train one child and prepare to start potty training another.

Here is the link to her plans: http://ana-white.com/2012/01/plans/bathroom-helper-step

Here is what you will need: (I had everything on hand but the lumber)

2 1x2 boards @ 8 ft (94 cents a piece at my favorite blue store)
A power drill/screwdriver
1 1/2 inch wood screws
finish or paint of your choice
120 grit sandpaper

Even if you had to buy your sandpaper and screws, this would still cost you less than $10.

& if you are cutting your wood yourself...a saw, eye protection, and hearing protection

I had my boys at my favorite blue store cut my wood for me...they do it for free and it saves SO much time and cleanup.

Cut List:

5 @ 17 1/2 inches
2 @ 16 inches
4 @ 11 inches

Cut these in order for the best results.  I had a pretty nice sized scrap piece leftover.  You could use it for two additional 11 inch pieces if you wanted to make your stool a little taller, but I'll tell you where to do that as I tell you about the process.

Here's what you do:

Start by attaching two 11 inch pieces to the outside of your two 16 inch pieces, forming a rectangle frame.  Predrill all holes before attaching, and check for square after this step.

Attach your first slat to the top of the frame, predrilling holes.  There should be no overhang on the sides.

Next attach the slat on the complete opposite side in the same manner.  This will allow you to space the slats evenly between the two outside edges.

Install the remaining slats, evenly spacing them across your frame.  Then turn your work over.

Attach your remaining two 11 inch pieces as risers for the stool.  At this point, if you need for your stool to be higher, you would add an additional two pieces to the bottoms of these.  I felt this would be high enough for us.

Sand your project down and paint or stain as you choose.

VOILA!  You completed a bathroom step stool....and it cost you less than $2 to make!!

 My little man says no to pants much too often!  This stool is just the right size for him to get onto the potty or wash his little hands. 

Did you try this?  Post a pic or tell me about it!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Italian Chicken Pasta

So, no matter how hard I try to be organized and have a plan for dinner....sometimes it just doesn't work out that way.  Sometimes I realize at 4:45 that I haven't taken out anything to thaw or even given a thought to what I will prepare.  I'm sure that none of you have ever experienced this lack of preparation or planning, right?  Well...some pretty great recipes have been born out of these times at our house.  These are the times when I just start grabbing things from the pantry and throwing them together haphazardly until they make a dish.  This past week, I accidentally came up with a pretty great Italian Chicken Pasta that everyone has been begging for more of.  I just had to share it with you!

Here's what you need:
1 bag Penne pasta
2 cans white chunk chicken
1 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 15 ounce can italian fire roasted tomatoes
1 small can mushroom pieces

Yes, I know...canned everything!  That is what happens when you don't plan ahead.

Here's what you do.

Start out by preparing your penne pasta according to package directions.  Drain and set aside while you
Arprepare the sauce.  In a large, deep skillet, mix together chicken, tomatoes, Italian tomatoes, and mushrooms.  Heat until boiling.  Add noodles to skillet and continue cooking until bubbly.  Add cheese if desired and serve.

That was pretty easy, right?!?!  Now look at the yummy results!

I have already added this recipe to my next shopping/menu list.  The kids and husband gobbled it up!  We had just enough for lunch the next day for the babies and me.

I hope your family enjoys this as much as we did!

I LOVE LOVE LOVE these spoons!  The one pictured is from this set.  They just fit your hand really well.