Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Crafting: A Birds Nest Ring Pillow

Well, I'm finally getting around to posting the last of my DIY wedding projects. Only took me a little over a year — sheesh!

I will admit however, that what really lit the fire was the awesome DIY contest going on over on my favorite wedding blog, Ruffled. In addition to this project, I also submitted my previous tea bag tutorial and my tissue flower napkin rings, both of which you may remember seeing here. Up for the winning are three seriously awesome prizes so all my fingers are crossed that my craftiness pays off a little!

Anyways, back to the craft at hand. I created this nest 'pillow' for my wedding last September and was so pleased with how it came out. It was easy, quick and inexpensive and fit with my casual, natury decor perfectly.

Here's what you'll need:
Any size grapevine nest (I used 5")
Sheet moss
15" length of thin ribbon
Craft knife
Plastic eggs, silk flowers and feathers if desired

Most grapevine nests have some wire wrapping for stability, but if yours does not, loop a piece of wire up through the bottom and back down, flattening it on the bottom, to leave a small loop on the inside. You can even use a paperclip for this if you have no wire on hand.

Tuck one end of your ribbon through the loop inside the nest and set aside.

Cut a square of sheet moss larger than your nest, then trim into a circle that fits snugly into your nest.

Using a craft knife, cut a slit in the sheet moss and feed both ends of your ribbon up from the bottom.

Cover the back of the sheet moss with craft glue, pull the ribbon through until taut and press the moss into the nest.

At this point, if you'd like to add additional decorations, tie on your rings to gauge placement and then secure decorations such as plastic eggs, silk flowers and/or feathers with craft glue.

And voila! I told you it was easy :)

You can also attach a loop of thick ribbon or fabric to the bottom for a hand hold if desired and can easily customize the colors and decoration to match your specific decor.

Happy crafting!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In the Kitchen: Spicy Sweet Potato Chili

Do you know that sweet potatoes are a better choice nutritionally than white potatoes because they are lower in calories and higher in vitamins, nutrients and fiber? They leave you feeling fuller longer and are a good choice for diabetics as the high soluble fiber content helps lower blood sugar as opposed to white potatoes, a.k.a. blood sugar bombs.

If you've never been a fan of sweet potatoes, don't give up on them yet. Their expected taste is surprisingly transformed when cooked up with the other ingredients in this hearty autumn dish. Not a fan of the spice? You can leave out the jalapeno or substitute it with a mild poblano. You can also leave out the chicken and use vegetable stock to make this meal vegan friendly. You'll find a printable recipe card at the end of this post.

1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium red peppers, seeded and chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken, chopped
15 oz cannellini beans*
1 cup chicken stock
2 cups cold water
3 large or 4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons cumin
1 Tablespoon chili powder
pinch red pepper flakes
1 jalapeno, minced or 6 oz can diced green chilies

Optional garnish
sour cream
crumbled bacon
cheddar cheese

*You can use dried or canned beans for this dish. If using canned, drain and rinse them. If using dried, soak, rinse and cook them until partially tender before adding.

In a large pot, heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil over medium heat and saute the onion, red pepper and garlic until slightly tender.

Add the chicken and saute until opaque. Add the beans, stock, water, potatoes, jalapeno and spices. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Couldn't get much easier!

I enjoy this dish topped with sour cream, fresh scallions, a little cheddar cheese and when I have it on hand, some crumbled bacon — all of which alone or together work really well with the flavor of the chili. Serve it up with some maple pecan muffins or whole wheat cornbread and you have a hearty dish that'll warm you up through the winter months ahead!

And find more easy and delicious recipes here.