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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Week 49 : Homemade Candles

Crock Pot liners
candle making wax
decorative jars
candle dye
essential oils

LINE CROCK POT WITH LINER PRIOR TO THIS ACTIVITY!!!  Fill the jars with wax and set in Crock Pot, careful not to overcrowd.  Turn pot on HIGH and let sit until wax is completely melted.  If there is not enough wax to your liking, add more.  Add dye and fragrance of your choice.  Carefully remove from Crock Pot and set on cooling racks.  About 10-20 minutes after wax has started to cool, insert wicks.  Let sit for many hours.  Hope they don't catch on fire when you light the wick.

This looked like such a fun project.  "Easy as pie!" one website said!  Well, I've made many pies in my day and trust me...they are a whole lot easier to make!  I was so excited as I placed the jars in the pot and watched the wax begin to melt.  Easy.  I went to do something else and heard a "pop" from the Crock Pot- never a good sound.  Two of the jars had cracked down the side.  I immediately removed them and checked the other two.  They were just fine.  Lesson #1- don't overcrowd the pot, as I think this is why that happened. 

I was a bit impatient and began stirring the hot wax in an effort to get it to melt faster.  What was it my grandmother always used to say?  Oh yea- a watched pot never boils.  Lesson #2- patience is a virtue.  I believe this is the reason why my first round of candles looked like an experiment from the hills of Yellowstone!  No worries right?  Just throw them back in the Crock Pot, remelt them, and let them shape themselves. 

 Next, the wick.  Lesson #3- they don't have to be perfectly centered.  After putting the wick in and letting the candles cool further, I realized that they weren't perfectly I pulled them in an effort to fix that.  Well, in short, this resulted in me having to put the candles back in for round 3!  Somewhere between these rounds, a funny smell came from my kitchen that didn't smell like the lovely lavender I had chosen to scent my candles with.  I went into my kitchen and the Crock Pot was smoking.  Lesson #4- use a Crock Pot liner.  Wax apparently starts to smoke if it gets too hot.  I had simply lined my Crock Pot with just aluminum foil and some of the wax was spilled and leaked underneath, coming in contact with the actual pot itself.  And what a pain that was to clean up.  Thankfully, I put all these lessons together and went for another round.  Ahhhh, success.  This is why I have this blog- much like the jam fiasco, I had a Candle Catastrophe.  But, now you know the simple tips to help you avoid the same.  This is a perfect holiday gift giving craft!  (By the way, if you receive one of my creations this holiday season 1) count yourself lucky as there will only be a few ever made 2) give me a hug and know that there was a lot of effort put into it and 3) feel free to comment on the "unique-ness" of the product- I won't be offended!) 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Week 48 : Tortellini and Meatball Soup

1 lb. ground beef
1 egg
2 Tbs water
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 tea salt
1/8 tea pepper

32 ou beef broth
1 can Cannellini Bean, undrained
1 can diced tomatoes, Italian style, undrained
1 can stewed tomatoes, Italian style, undrained
1 small onion, finely diced
1/2 Tbs. Italian seasoning
1 bag frozen cheese tortellini
1 bag fresh spinach
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese

Mix all the ingredients for the meatballs and roll into bite sized balls.  Add broth, beans, tomatoes, onion, Italian seasoning and raw meatballs to Crock Pot.  Cook on LOW about 6-8 hours.  About 30 minutes prior to serving, add tortellini, spinach, salt and pepper.  Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese.

Let's start by talking about the meatballs.  The original recipe I found for this soup called for a bag of frozen meatballs.  Now, if you want to use those, I will not judge you.  I have used them before and in a quick pinch, they work great.  However, I am partial to homemade meatballs.  I have been rolling meatballs since before I could speak and even have grown up with the nickname "Meatball", given to me by my grandfather, so I know a bit about them!  If I was to provide the family recipe, I might be disowned, so I found this simple recipe online and think it is pretty tasty.  It also doesn't have the Italian seasonings in it, so they are pretty versatile if you want to use them for a different recipe.  A few tips for meatball success.  Patience is the key.  Know when you start making them that you are in for a long haul.  Good meatballs take time.  Take your time rolling them.  You want meatballs that are all the same size.  Towards the end of your rolling efforts, it is very easy to lose focus and make the meatballs bigger in an effort to finish faster.  Also make sure to apply enough pressure while you roll to make sure the meatballs are packed tight.  If they aren't rolled tight enough they will fall apart while cooking.  Never cook your meatballs in the oven.  They may dry out.  It takes a little longer, but drop the raw meatballs in your sauce, or in this case, soup and let them cook that way.  Next, leave the garlic out.  Garlic in the meat becomes a little too overpowering.  There are plenty of other seasonings, including garlic, in the sauce/soup that will flavor the meatballs as they cook.

The rest of this recipe is pretty self explanatory!  After stirring in the tortellini, add the bag of spinach and let it just sit on top for a little bit.  Stir before serving.  The recipe I found did not call for spinach, but I thought it sounded like a good addition to this soup, so, feel free to leave it out if you don't want it.  I used the frozen tortellini, but I'm sure you can use fresh as well.  Probably just won't need as much time to cook them at the end.  I suppose you could also leave the meatballs out and use meat and cheese ravioli, but that takes away the fun of making meatballs!  I am a bean lover, so I think next time I make this (and there will definitely be a next time) I will be adding another can of the Cannellini beans.  This is a warm, hearty meal in a bowl that is sure to be a new favorite in your kitchen!  (I know it is now one of my favorites!!)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Week 47 : Turkey Breast

1 turkey breast
white cooking wine
3-4 stalks of celery, cut in 2 inch pieces
1 onion, cut into large chunks
poultry seasoning
2 Tbs melted butter

Pour enough cooking wine to cover the bottom of the Crock Pot.  Place celery and onion on the bottom of the pot.  Place turkey breast on top and rub with seasonings.  Drizzle with melted butter.  Cook on LOW for 8 hours.

Happy almost Thanksgiving!  I thought it appropriate to post this the week before Thanksgiving just in case someone wanted to use it for the big day.  This turned out really good.  It is a perfect idea for those who aren't having an entire crew for dinner, but still want to enjoy all the fixin's.

The turkey breast I used was about a 7 lb bone in breast.  It was a tight squeeze into the pot, so, I wouldn't go much bigger than that.  I also had to put the celery and onions inside the cavity of the breast to make it fit.  Don't forget to wash the breast prior to putting it in the pot.  Depending on what brand you choose, you might still receive the present of the insides of the turkey with the breast, so just check for that little package that contains all those gnarly little organs.  Feel free to use whatever spices you want.  I was sifting through all of mine and came across the poultry seasoning.  Feeling a little unimaginative, I chose that one.  The flavor was delicious and it actually made my house smell like Thanksgiving!  The breast carved right up like a usual turkey would and the skin peeled right off.  As an after thought, I wish I would've remembered the Crock Pot liners for this recipe.  The carcass would be really easy to clean up if you could just tie up the bag and lift it out.  I ate this with just broccoli and wild rice, and of course, cranberries.  However, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy and green bean casserole would've gone nicely with this one!

So, if you aren't having an army big enough to eat a 24 lb turkey or if your oven is already full of other goodies, give this recipe a try.  I'm off to have a turkey sandwich now!  Enjoy!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Week 46 : Sticky Pigs

1 pkg hot dogs
1 lb bacon
1 small bag of brown sugar 

Wrap each hot dog with bacon and place 3 toothpicks to hold together.  Cut hot dog into 3 pieces.  Layer hot dogs and brown sugar in slow cooker.  Cook on HIGH for 4 hours or until bacon is crispy.

Warning: THIS RECIPE IS NOT LOW FAT!!!  But these tasty little nuggets are worth the extra few minutes on the treadmill!  What an excellent appetizer.  The original recipe called for slicing the hot dogs and bacon and then wrapping them, but I found wrapping the whole hot dog and then just cutting them with a scissors was pretty easy!  Now don't hold back- the WHOLE bag of brown sugar goes in here.  It looks like a ton when you first turn the Crock Pot on, but it eventually cooks down.  I served these to just a small crowd and there was an alarming amount missing by the end of the night!  I give credit to Julie Z. for passing this little bit of happiness on to me, but I have to give Laura M. credit for the name (named the morning after when she was cleaning her kitchen).  These are sure to please everyone.  In fact, Laura's daughter woke the next morning and asked if she could have some for breakfast.  Why not?  It's bacon!  And, really, who doesn't love bacon!?!? 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Week 45: Kayte's Kickin' Chicken

4 large chicken breasts
1 bottle of buffalo wing sauce
1 ou package ranch dressing mix
2 Tbs butter

Put all ingredients together in Crock Pot.  Cook on LOW for about 4-6 hours.  Remove chicken and shred.  Return to pot.  Serve on a bun with ranch dressing, celery sticks and potato chips!  Yum!

It is a rare thing for me to reach the bottom of the Crock Pot without giving away leftovers or freezing a Tupperware or two for later consumption.  Not with this...reached the bottom in a couple days!  This is a mixture of tangy and spicy that I just couldn't stop eating!  I originally made it with some pasta salad, but that turned out to be a little bit too heavy for me.  I think just some plain ol' potato chips would do the trick nicely.  Thank you so much to Kayte Q. for letting me share this recipe.  She was right- it's a winner!