Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Food Craft: Roasted Vegetable Pasta Salad

Welcome to another yummy food craft everyone, and HAPPY FRIDAY! This week I decided to take a step away from desserts and give you this yummy roasted vegetable and Orzo salad. It's great for picnics, tastes great hot, warm or cold and you can change it up with whatever veggies happen to be in season. It can be served as a side, or even as a whole meal itself, I'm a big fan. For this version of my pasta salad I use zucchini, roma tomatoes and an orange bell pepper as my veggies. If you want to do this gluten free, feel free to substitute quinoa or rice for the pasta (I'd recommend the quinoa as I have used it in the past with great results).

To make some yummy roasted vegetable pasta salad for yourself you will need:

1 small zucchini (about 8" long and 1-2" across)
1 medium Orange Bell Pepper
4 Roma Tomatoes
1 pound (16 ounces) Orzo, or other pasta

2 ounces chevre
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

You will start by washing, slicing and roasting your veggies. In good weather you can certainly substitute grilling for oven roasting your veggies, but alas, I am without a grill here in my tiny apartment, so slow roasting in my oven is what I had to do. I cut my tomatoes about 1/4" thick, the zucchini about 1/2" thick, and just cut my pepper into about 4 pieces. A very light drizzle of olive oil may be used on top once you arrange your veggies on a sheet pan, as well as a tiny bit of salt and pepper, you don't want to over season at this stage.

TIP: I hate cleaning my pans when I roast things, so I cover them with a layer of foil and just throw all the grossness away off of my pans when I am done.

Heat your oven to 225 degrees and roast your veggies for about 2 hours. You may want to flip your zucchini as it can get pretty dried out if you aren't watching. I always give the zucchini an extra little brush of oil to keep it from drying out.

Once your veggies are done, let them cool for about 20 minutes. You want to be able to get the skin off of your peppers and tomatoes without burning yourself (which will be very easy after slow roasting them by the way, fear not). Remove any skin (it will be shriveled on the outside of your veggies and look rather unappealing anyway) and then dice into your desired size. I generally don't dice up the tomatoes much as they fall apart on their own when stirring everything together at the end.

Prepare your orzo or quinoa according to your package and drain thoroughly. In a separate small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil and 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar to form an emulsion. Place your veggies, pasta and dressing together in a serving bowl and toss together. Add salt and pepper to taste, then a sprinkling of chevre. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Turn your photographs into Embroidery patterns

Hey everyone! I saw this iphone case online quite awhile ago. If you follow me on facebook, you've seen it already. It got me thinking: "what is the best way to make your own cross stitch patterns from photos you really love? I found this image of poppies in Tuscany, Italy on a stock backgrounds site and I really like it so I thought it would be the perfect candidate to try and turn into something you could cross stitch.

The process I use is pretty basic, all you need is a photograph, and a photo editing program you are comfortable with. I happen to have Photoshop (or rather, my husband does on his computer, and it's what I used in college so it's what I prefer). There are plenty of good photo editing programs out there though, you'll just have to poke around with them to find the tools I used here.

First, open your photo in Photoshop. I generally make a copy of my original image and then paste it into a new document, to make sure I don't accidentally ruin my initial image (Not that this has EVER happened before...). Once you have this new document, feel free to crop your image, adjust levels and do any other image tweaking you want before you turn it into a pattern for embroidery (you may not want all of your flat blue sky, etc). Once I have my image cropped how I like it, Go to your "filter" menu, select the "pixelate" tab, and go to "mosaic". This will break up your image into tiny squares. You can adjust the size of these squares to give as much or as little detail in your final image as you like. Keep in mind, each square will typically make one stitch in your pattern, so the smaller your squares, the more stitching you will be doing.

Here is what you will get once you apply your mosaic filter. As you will see, the image is slightly abstract when compared to the original, but you can still see the basic image. However, it can be pretty hard to differentiate squares from each other. You can deal with this a couple of ways. First, you can enlarge your image making the squares bigger and easier to see. This isn't the best solution, as depending on the original size and quality of your image it may become very blurry when you increase the scale. My method of choice involves using more filters!

Again, go to your filter tab. This time go to the "sharpen" tab. Each image varies a little, but you will likely use some combination of "sharpen", "sharpen edges" and "sharpen more" to define the edges of your squares so you may more easily read your new pattern!

At this point you can print your image onto paper, or if you want to be more green in your crafting, you can move your stitching to your computer desk and use your pattern from the screen (this can be handy as you can zoom in and out if you think it is still hard to follow your squares).

That's all there is to it! I'm sure there are many other people who have similar techniques. If you have any tips I'd love to hear them.

Happy Crafting!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Food Craft: Red Velvet Cake

Food craft time! This week's food craft is Red Velvet Cake, and I apologize for the pictures being not all that great, it really is delicious. So delicious in fact, I could not bother to wait until I had decent lighting to eat my yummy cake. I am sure we will all still have a good life despite my photographic shortcomings on this post. This is a yummy classic, and I have seen several variations, but this is the recipe I have come to use whenever I want a velvet cake.

To make your own delicious Red Velvet Cake at home you will need:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar
2 Tablespoons Red food coloring
2 teaspoons cocoa powder

To start, preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and prepare your cake pan(s). Two 9 inch pans is generally the standard*. Butter and flour them so you final cake doesn't stick. Set these aside.

Cream together your butter and sugar, set this aside. In one bowl, mix together all of your dry ingredients. In a second bowl, mix together all of the wet ingredients (I generally beat my eggs a little first before adding everything else).

Once you have your wet and dry bowls of ingredients start adding them to your butter and sugar in several alternating additions. First add 1/3 of your dry ingredients, then 1/3 of your wet. Mix your batter slowly and as soon as it is incorporated do you next addition until everything is mixed together.

Pour batter into your pans (you may need to smooth the top out evenly, this is a fairly thick batter).

Place into oven on center rack and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean.

*Baking time will vary depending on size of your pans, if you use 8 inch round pans it will likely be closer to 25-30 minutes, a sheet pan will be closer to 20 minutes. Be sure to check with a toothpick or knife to make sure it is done before removing from the oven.

Cool in the pans on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and allow to fully cool. Frost and enjoy!

Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1-8oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla flavoring
2 cups confectioner's sugar

Beat together butter, cream cheese and vanilla flavoring until smooth. Sift your powdered sugar and mix well until incorporated. Refrigerate for 5-10 minutes before frosting cake to firm up frosting (you could also add a little extra confectioner's sugar if you prefer).



Thursday, August 18, 2011

DIY Gift Card Envelopes

Hey everyone! I have been taking a bit of a mental health break this week (off at both jobs!) but I decided to share a quick and easy craft with you today because I just can't stay away! These are cute little office style envelopes for gift cards. There is a template available at the bottom of the post, feel free to grab it and manipulate it to any size you want in your favorite image program. While I make these to wrap up gift cards, they would also be great to make a little larger and gift recipe cards to your friends any time of year. If you have a lot of gift cards you send out at the holidays, now is a perfect time to get started on a little stash to have on hand as well. When making your template, I recommend printing it out on card stock as it is easier to trace around and will last longer than printing on regular paper. Also, the gift card envelopes I made are 2.25 inches x 3.5 inches final size. One of these days I will learn how to upload pdf files so you get things the right size to start, I swear! However, these envelopes are great for not only gift cards, but regular cards, thank you's and, as previously mentioned, wrapping up tasty recipe cards as well, so you will likely want to adapt it to any size you want.

To make your own gift card envelopes you will need:

Scrap book paper in your favorite patterns (one 12"x12" sheet will yield you 4 envelopes)
Embroidery Floss in your favorite colors
Xacto Knife
Pack of small buttons, various colors
Glue (any glue will work for this, so use what you have on hand or just buy a cheap all purpose glue. I generally spread mine thin with a paint brush, so a cheap one of those helps too but is not necessary)

If you don't want to buy paper, I would recommend using magazines or store catalogs. These often have at least some pages that are thicker, but if you like the images on the very thin magazine paper, I suggest using a piece of tape on the backside or your envelope where you will be sewing your button into place to help avoid tearing your paper (you could also glue multiple sheets together but that makes this project much more complicated than it needs to be). The magazine paper is an extra cute idea if you make your envelope go with your gift card: card to Pottery Barn? Make it out of one of their ads or a page from their catalog, etc.

Once you have your paper cut out in the size you want, I generally use my Xacto knife to score my folds (very gently, I really don't even push, just drag the blade gently across the paper). I score the "pretty side" of my paper, not the back. A ruler helps to keep your lines straight, if you don't trust yourself scoring the paper, you can also line up your ruler and fold against it to keep your folds crisp.

Then, I select my buttons (I generally use matching buttons on each envelope, but it is not necessary) and my embroidery floss. Sew your button into place as marked on the pattern. If you have small grommets, you can use card stock circles and grommet them into place, but again, not necessary. I try to buy special equipment as rarely as possible. When sewing your button onto the top flap you will want to sew it securely, tie it off and then rather than clip your remaining thread, sew back through to the outside of your envelope and tie a knot around the base of your button, then leave the remaining string so you can fasten your envelope shut.

Once you have your buttons attached, you will need to glue your two side flaps together. To do this, I use a small paint brush to apply a very thin layer of glue onto the back side of the shorter flap (the one with the button sewn onto it). I then fold the envelope closed, long flap down, shorter flap on top to secure them. Be sure not to use too much glue as you don't want it seeping out and sticking your envelope closed to the point it is unusable. Then, with a small amount of glue, close the bottom flap over the two side flaps. You will use the buttons and string to close your final envelope (yes, it is reusable!).

I hope you all enjoyed this tutorial and have fun making these little envelopes yourselves! If you have any questions, let me know, as this all makes sense to me I would love any feedback on steps I could make clearer or if more images are needed to illustrate the process. :D

Happy Crafting!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Food Craft: "Sugar Shock" Bars

It is Friday once again, and time for another food craft. This week's craft is easy, delicious and no baking is required!! It's also pretty rich, when we were kids my sister and I referred to these as "Sugar Shock" bars, though I'm pretty sure they were supposed to be called Reese's bars or chocolate peanut butter bars. They take very few ingredients, and including refrigeration, are done in about an hour. I will warn, you probably want to cut these into pretty small squares as a little goes a long way! Also, if you want to make these into peanut butter cups, I would recommend doubling the chocolate topping and using a mini muffin tin, with hand rolled peanut butter centers. Now on to the recipe!

To make your own delicious Sugar Shock Bars you will need:

1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter (you can use crunchy if you prefer)
1 3/4 cups confectioner's sugar
1 heaping cup brown sugar, packed
4 Tablespoons melted butter

For chocolate topping:
1 cup chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate bar of your liking)
4 tablespoons butter

Mix together your peanut butter, melted butter, and both sugars until well incorporated. Pat mixture into an even layer in an 8"x8" pan. No greasing is required as the peanut butter and butter in this "dough" will keep it from sticking. I generally use a glass baking dish.

In a microwave safe bowl, melt your chocolate chips and the other 4 Tablespoons of butter at 30 second intervals. For me, it generally only needs to be microwaved for 1 minute, I find that extra stirring after this much time will melt the chocolate without lumps, but if necessary place back in microwave at 10 second intervals after 1 minute of time has elapsed. Nothing is worse than scorched chocolate. :(

Spread your chocolate layer evenly over the peanut butter layer and refrigerate for one hour. I like sweet and salty desserts, so I sprinkled a pinch of flake salt over the top of half of my bars. This is totally optional. Store in refrigerator.

I have also seen recipes similar to this where a layer of shortbread (baked of course) is used on the bottom with the peanut butter and chocolate layers then on top, but It is August and I really try to avoid baking as much as possible. It just makes the apartment too HOT. Should you try it though, let me know how that works out :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Craftinomicon Newsletter

Hey everyone! I just realized the other day, that while I have had a tab up top for my newsletter for awhile now, I never actually made a post on here letting anyone know about it (palm to the forehead)! I have decided that it would be nice to make a monthly newsletter (the first one will be going out next week!) letting you all know what is coming up in the month ahead, as well as a recap of the best projects from the months past. Also included will be advanced info on any giveaways that may be happening, and item lists for any big projects that you may want to follow along with. I may even toss in an extra project or recipe that is not being included in the blog, you never know!

If you are interested in joining the mailing list just click the tab at the top of the page, or click here and put in your email address so you can keep up on all the crafty news!

I have been a little down in the dumps lately, so I apologize for the lack of crafty posting. I have been trying to find some ways to lift my spirits other than baking and crafting, as sometimes with the blog those things can end up feeling like chores as well if you are already in a sour mood. No one wants to eat baked goods that were made by someone whose heart is not filled with utter joy, they just don't taste the same!

What is your favorite non-crafty past time? I'd love to hear some suggestions to break me out of this funk!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday Food Craft: Blueberry Butter Cream

Welcome back for another food craft! Ok, this one isn't much of a food, it's a frosting only post! This is great on cakes, but also can be spread on your favorite cookies or dare I say graham crackers would be mighty tasty with some as well.

It is a pretty simple recipe, and great for Summer, especially right now as it is Blueberry season.

To make some of this yummy Butter Cream frosting at home you will need:

2 cups ripe blueberries
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon Vanilla flavoring
1 egg yolk (room temp)

To start, you will need to make a blueberry syrup. To do this just place your blueberries, granulated sugar and lemon juice into a saucepan over medium to medium low heat. Cook for approximately 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Your berries will open up and give out tons of yummy juice. You want to cook this down just a little bit and then pass the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, catching all the yummy blueberry goodness. Set this in the refrigerator to chill. This makes about 5-6 tablespoons of blueberry syrup.

In a separate bowl, cream together your butter, vanilla and egg yolk. Slowly add confectioners sugar until incorporated. Remove your blueberry syrup and add 3 or more Tablespoons (depending on taste--I used all of mine, yum!). Mix on high for about 30 seconds until incorporated, the frosting should be light and fluffy. Spread onto your favorite cake, cupcakes or cookies (cooled, of course).

I kept my cake in the refrigerator until it was gone, it keeps the frosting from getting all melty. Take it out about 30 minutes before you plan to serve.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Spoonflower Shark fabric contest!

What better way to celebrate Shark Week than a fabric design contest? Spoonflower is having a contest here and you can vote on your favorites including my hammerhead design. To see what mine looks like all printed out and ready to use, check out this post from earlier this week. I think this may be my favorite fabric design yet. Once again, the competition is tough, but you guys sure do show me some love and one of these days I think I'll make top 10. :D

Also, today is my wedding anniversary, so I hate to say it, but my Shark food craft may be taking a backseat this week to some yummy frosting I made for an anniversary cake. Maybe I'll shark it up food style for you guys next week, as I really did have a cute shark themed idea! It would be great for kids of all ages (even almost 30 year olds like me!).

Shark Plush

Here is a cute little felt shark project for you all. There is a template at the bottom of this post, you can resize it in your favorite image software to make a plush shark that is as large or small as you like! Also, upon looking at the pattern, I would say that if you make 2 of the top (main body) pieces large enough for a dog, you could easily turn this into the pug costume I showed yesterday with only a couple tweaks. What on earth would I use a felt shark for, you ask? Well, you could make several of these and turn it into a shark mobile, attach a magnet or pin back to a smaller version and you have those options as well. Or just give your sewing area or desk its own little shark invasion. Go nuts!

To make this shark you will need to cut out 2 of the main body pieces and one of the bottom pieces (the ones without the tail). As you can see from my picture, any color will do. I happened to fancy a green and magenta shark, you could certainly be more realistic. Add button eyes if you want, you could also embroider on some eyes, gills, etc. Add a mouth and teeth if you are so inclined. The pattern is simple, so lends itself to any embellishments you want to add yourself!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pug Attack!

I am working on some shark themed crafts, they will be on here tomorrow and Friday (I swear!) maybe even tonight if I get my butt in gear. I ran across these little shark outfits for dogs in an online search though, and I can't just not let you all see them. If I had a Pug it would be wearing one of these every day! The regular shark can be found here. I'm sure you could make something similar if you wanted to, but I do not have a dog so the whole measurement/pattern making aspect is lost on this for me. So sad.

My favorite of all sharks though is the Hammerhead. They just look so awesome. I mean, it has a hammer for a head! Totally sweet, right? I found this picture on Animal Planet, but could not for the life of me find where you can get one. If anyone should happen to stumble on to it, let me know and I'll pass the info on.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Shark Week!

It is Shark Week! I don't even have cable TV, but I think sharks are pretty great, so this week I plan on having a couple of Shark related crafts for all of you to enjoy (Shark food craft? yes, please!). Tune in for more sharky action as the week progresses, let me know some of your favorite sharky wares or crafts and enjoy the wonder that only comes one week a year.

I found this treasury on etsy to get your creative sharky juices flowing. Also, I made the Hammerhead shark fabric you see at the top of the post. Once again, I'm not sure what it is going to become but I absolutely love how it turned out. You can order some here or go to Spoonflower, upload an image and make your own!