Sunday, April 29, 2012

Easy Skirt & Matching Appliqued T-shirt

Okay, I'll admit it.  I do not sew to save money.  I sew because I enjoy it, and I don't mind spending some money on my hobby.  However, I actually ended up with a thrifty project, so I had to share it.

I found some material on sale at Walmart for $1.00 a yard.  I love brown with the blue, so I had to have it.  I decided to make skirts for my girls using this Simple Skirt Tutorial.  Before finding this tutorial on a friend's blog, I had not made skirts before, but now I have become almost addicted to it.  (Thanks for the link, Kathy!)

I discovered some matching blue t-shirts at Walmart, and I decided to spruce them up a little bit.  First, I folded the t-shirt and ironed it to find the middle.  I did not intend on centering my pattern, but I wanted to have an idea of where it was on the shirt.  I aimed for somewhere in the lower left quadrant of the shirt.

I applied Wonder Under to the back side of the fabric and cut out three flowers.  I cut a little past the white of the flower so that the white would still show after I finished appliqueing.  I ironed the flowers onto the shirt so that I could make them into a bouquet.  I also starched and ironed the area where I would be appliqueing to help give the fabric some stiffness.  Then I placed fray check around the edges of the flowers.  This also helps to give a little extra stiffness and prevent future fraying. 

I placed tear-away stabilizer behind the flowers and pinned it in place.  (I found out that there is iron-on tear away stabilizer. I ordered some to try the next time I attempt this kind of project.)

 Then I appliqued around the flowers with a 2.5 width zig-zag stitch at a .2 stitch length.

I used a disppearing ink marker to mark where I wanted the stems to go.  Then I used a short straight stitch to add "stems" to the flowers and sewed a bow over the stems.  I placed fray check on the ends of the ribbon.

I was a little nervous about appliqueing on the knit fabric.  I did not want it to stretch and look bad.  I found that if I used the stabilizer underneath to manuever the fabric instead of pulling on the fabric itself, it worked pretty well.  I liked being able to add a little "something" to the t-shirt to pull the outfit together.

So, the skirts cost me about a dollar a piece.  The shirts were less than four dollars.  So, I was able to dress all three of my girls for about $15.  Maybe I'm a little thrifty after all!

I had fun this one, and that's something worth smiling about!  Hope you enjoy this project, too!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Chicken Cordon Bleu Calzones

I adapted this recipe from Taste of Home's Best of 10 Years Cookbook.   This is one of my most-used cookbooks; I have used many of the recipes.  This dish has been one of our family's favorites.  It's fancy enough for company, and you can make it ahead and freeze it.  Less time in the kitchen, more time with guests!  I will admit that it is a little more prep time in this one than most of the recipes I post, but it is not hard.  Give it a try--I know you will think it's worth it!

Chicken Cordon Bleu Calzones

Four 4 oz. boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 Tablespoons butter or margarine
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/4 cups milk
1 Tablespoon minced fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from 17 1/4 ounce package)
4 thin slices deli ham
4 slices porvolone cheese

Heat oven to 350.  Place chicken breasts in 9 by 13 inch pan.  Cover with water.  Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes or until juices run clear.   Remove to a plate and let cool.  (I put in refrigerator to speed the process.)  Meanwhile, melt butter in small saucepan.  Mix cornstarch with milk and add to pan with seasonings.  Cook over medium heat until thick and creamy.  Place puff pastry on cutting board and roll out slightly.  (Increase area by one inch each direction.)  Cut into four equal rectangles.  Place a piece of chicken on top of each rectangle.  Follow with 1 - 2 tablespoons sauce, ham, and then cheese.  Fold corners in and pinch to seal (pictured below.)  Place on baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees 15 - 20 minutes or until puff pastry is golden brown. 

To store in freezer, wrap uncooked calzone in press and seal and place in ziploc bag.  To bake, do not thaw first.  Bake at 400 degrees 25 - 30 minutes or until puff pastry is golden brown.
I use a small whisk with the sauce to mix it up well.  The sauce is much more than you will need for one recipe--I freeze the extra and use it for the next time.
After chicken is cooked, place on plate and put in fridge of freezer to speed the cooling process.  You don't want to put hot chicken on the puff pastry--it will turn to goo!
I used a roller to flatten out the puff pastry a small amount--about one inch more.  Here are all the steps for assembling the calzones in one picture--sauce, ham, cheese.  Then fold the corners together and pinch.  Fold the sides up as much as you can.  Seal the folds well so they will not come undone when baking.
Ready to go in the oven!
Calzones are done when the puff pastry is golden brown.  I love how the cheese gets all toasty!  Hope you enjoy this one!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Lyla's Second Birthday

We celebrated Lyla's birthday with one of her favorite animals--cows!  She likes to call them "moo-moo's."
Of course, we had a cow cake.  See here for instructions on how to assemble this fun cake.  I definitely recommend freezing your cakes before working with them.
Happy Birthday to you!
Good thing big brother was there to help blow out the candle!
We enjoyed the cake with chocolate chip ice cream and homemade magic shell.  It was big hit!
When opening presents, Lyla had to have Papa open a toy car right away. She does like "woo-woo's"!
By the end of present time, she became quite adept at tackling the present.
The cake was not as pretty at the end!

Whole Wheat Waffles

I got this recipe for Whole Wheat Waffles from my mother-in-law.  It's pretty fast to mix up, and my kids love them!  Like their Daddy, they like their waffles with peanut butter on top!  I almost always make a double batch so that we have plenty of leftovers.  I pop some into the freezer, and some into the fridge in plastic bags.  To reheat, just put them in the toaster.  Talk about a fast and easy weekday breakfast!  Here's the recipe:

Whole Wheat Waffles

2 eggs
1 3/4 cup milk (I use a little more)
1/2 cup canola oil
2 cups whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt (I omit)

Heat waffle iron.  Beat eggs with mixer until fluffy; beat in remaining ingredients just until smooth.  Pour batter from cup or pitcher onto center of hot waffle iron.  Bake as directed in your waffle iron's instructions--usually takes about five minutes. 

Serve with peanut butter if desired and hot syrup!


Monday, April 16, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bars

The recipe for these delicious bars came from a dear neighbor lady named Barb.  Growing up, Barb attended almost all of our sports games and activities.  She always had a kind word for everyone.  Whenever I make this recipe, I think of her.  So, here it is:

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bars

1 16.5 ounce package chocolate chip cookie dough
1 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened (full fat or reduced fat work equally well)
1 egg
3/8 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Grease an 8 by 8 inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Pat a little over half of the cookie dough into the bottom of the pan.  Mix remaining ingredients until smooth.  Pour over the top of the dough.  Break remaining dough into small pieces and sprinkle over the top.  Bake at 350 degrees 35 - 40 minutes or until browned and center is set.  (I had to bake mine about 5 minutes longer)

Dough in the pan.
When I mix the cheesecake ingredients, I like to use my immersion blender.  It gets the cream cheese mixed up really well and makes the filling fluffy.
Pour cheesecake mixture over dough.
Ready for the oven.
You can easily double the ingredients to make a 9 by 13 inch pan of this for a bigger gathering or potluck.  You can substitute homemade cookie dough for the pre-made--it's just a bit stickier to work with; I usually grease my hands when using it.  Use a whole batch (using 2 1/4 cups flour) for the 9 by 13 inch pan or a half batch for the 8 by 8 inch pan.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cheerio Bars

Okay, let's face it:  peanut butter and chocolate are a great combination!  I think both these ingredients are contained in most of the desserts I make.  So I wanted to share another family favorite of ours--Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cheerio Bars.  I adapted this recipe from Matt's Aunt Emily's recipe for Rice Krispy Bars.  This was out of the Methodist Church cookbook.  It's rare that I try a church cookbook recipe that isn't a hit.  I mean, who's going to put a bad recipe in there? 

Anyway, these yummy goodies would be great for school lunches, picnics, or upcoming track meets.  (Peanut butter contains protein, right?)  They are quick to make and use mostly pantry staples (for me, at least!)  Here's the recipe:

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cheerio Bars

1 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter, divided
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
6 cups Cheerios
1 cup chocolate chips

Spray a 9 by 13 inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Place Cheerios in large mixing bowl. Combine 1 cup peanut butter, corn syrup, and sugar.  Place in microwave-safe bowl and cook on high power for two minutes, stirring after one minute.  (Microwave times may vary, mine is 1000 Watts.  You want the mixture to be a little bubbly.)  Stir into Cheerios and spread into pan.

Combine remaining peanut butter and chocolate chips in microwave-safe bowl.  Cook on high power for one minute, stirring after 30 seconds.  Stir until well-blended.  Spread on top of bars.  Refrigerate until chocolate is set.  (Sometimes I pop these in the freezer for a bit to speed the process!)

Looking good already.  To help spread the mixture, you can spray your rubber spatula with non-stick cooking spray.
Time to get this into the fridge so it will be ready to go by suppertime!
Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Enchilada Casserole

My friend Michelle served us her Enchilada Casserole the last time we were over at her house.  Of course, I had to get the recipe.  This comes together quickly--great for a weeknight meal.  It also makes a large casserole, so it would be perfect for entertaining as well!  Just let your casserole bake while you visit with your company! 

Here's the recipe:

Enchilada Casserole:

2 pounds hamburger
1  10 oz. can and 1  19 oz. can enchilada sauce
1/2 cup onion, optional
1 1/2 - 2 cups shredded Colby and Monterey Jack blend cheese
Flour tortillas  (amount depends on the size of your tortillas; probably about 8 - 10 medium sized)
1/2 cup sliced black olives, optional
Sour cream and salsa, optional

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Brown hamburger with onion if desired.  Add 1 cup enchilada sauce and 1 1/4 cups cheese to hamburger and mix well.  Place a small amount of sauce in the bottom of a greased 9 by 13 inch pan.  Dip tortillas in sauce and place in bottom of pan.  Layer half of the meat mixture on top.  You can add some shredded cheese on top if you like--I did!  Repeat layers.  End with tortillas on top.  Pour remaining sauce over the top and sprinkle with remaining cheese and olives, if desired.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until bubbly.  Serve with sour cream and salsa if you like!  Enjoy!

I put some sauce in a pie pan to dip my tortillas in.
I ripped the tortillas into smaller pieces to completely cover the bottom of the pan.
Looking good already!
Ready to cover and go to the oven.  Mine took about 40 minutes to get really nice and bubbly.
Time to eat!  My kids really enjoyed this casserole.  I will definitely be adding it to my list of favorites--hope you do, too!

Quick and Easy Fringed Fleece Blanket

Lyla had a cow-themed birthday party this year.  I decided to make her a cow print fleece blanket to go along with the theme.  I made her blanket with two yards of fleece fabric.  This is a nice size for hiding under, fort-making, etc.  It also will tuck under the mattress on a toddler bed.  To make a similar blanket for an infant, I recommend 1 1/4 yards of fleece.
Fold the fleece, lining up the selvage edges.  Place the fold on a line on your rotary mat, and use the fold to square up the edge.  (You will be cutting on the edge without the selvage here.)  Repeat for the opposite side.
Keeping the fabric folded, turn the fabric and cut off your selvage edges.
With the fabric still folded, cut a 3 inch by 3 inch square from each corner.
For cutting strips, I highly recommed a Quarter Cut cutting guide.  You can slip your rotary cutter into the groove that you want to cut and cover 12 inches of material at a time.  This is so much better than using your ruler to cut one strip at a time!  I place a length of masking tape at 3 inches so I have a guide on how far to cut my strips.  (I also have tape at 4 inches for other projects.)
Line up the bottom edge of the Quarter Cut with your material and cut your fringe.  I cut every 3/4 inch for this blanket, but an inch works well, too.  As you near the end of your material, you may need to adjust slightly so that you don't end up with a really skinny or really fat strip of material right at the edge.
Unfold your material and fold again, lining up your uncut edges.  Cut your fringe on this side.
And you are done!  See, I told you this was quick and easy.  Put this in your gift bag and mark it off your list!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Speedy Spring Dress

I found some material with shirring at the top and decided to buy some to make dresses for Anna and Lyla.  All you need to do is sew one seam and then add straps. I purchase 3/4 yard of fabric for each dress for my 4 and 2 year olds.
I just placed the fabric around Anna and marked where the seam should be.  I pinned the seam and cut off the extra material.  Then I sewed a 1/4 inch seam and finished the edge using an overlock stitch.  (Serging or zig-zagging would work as well.)
Here we are--almost a dress already!
I squared off my extra fabric and cut to 10 inches, about the length I needed for the straps.
Then I cut the fabric in half.
I overlock-stitched around the edges.  Then I pressed the sides in 1/4 inch and topstitched.  I ended up with 1 3/4 inch straps.
Then I pinned the straps on the dress.  You will want to be at least two inches from the edge, even though this looks like it's too far in.  Sew them on and try the dress on your little girl to make sure it fits.  At first, I put the straps too far toward the outside.  I had to move them, which added time to what should have been a very quick project.  After I tried the dress on, I needed to take the straps up a bit.  I just folded them over at the back where I had already stitched and sewed over it rather than remove the stitches and adjust.
On the second dress, I used ribbon for the straps.  (This was a much simpler option and caused less frustration for me!)  I folded the ribbon under about 1/4 inch, pinned and sewed the strap on.  I overlapped my stitches with the two rows of blue stitching already present on the dress.
For each strap, I used 16 inches of ribbon, which I thought would be plenty.  On my next dress, I think I will use a little more just to make sure I have some excess to work on.  Put the dress on your little girl, tie, and cut off the excess.  Then you are done!  I recommend putting fray check on the ends of the ribbon.

If you had enough leftover material, you could make longer straps from the material and tie them, or use bias tape.  Also, you could just attach straps to the front and tie behind the neck.
All in all, a fun and quick project.  I saw some similar material in longer lengths, so I will probably pick up some and make a dress for Maddie, too.  I think this would be a good first project for someone starting to sew--not a lot of sewing and fast results!
Now go chase the cat!

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