Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In the Kitchen: Cheesy Shell Lasagna

I've mentioned this recipe a few times and finally, here it is! I thought 
it was a little odd the first time I was cooking it but the results were surprisingly delicious and now I crave it. I'm not a fan of traditional lasagna, ricotta cheese kinda freaks me out, plus it's such a pain cooking those noodles, so this easy variation was perfect for me. You can modify the ingredients to suit your tastes (or make it meatless) and will find a link to a printable recipe card at the end of this post.

Prep Time: 30 min | Cook time: 40 min |  Serves 12

1lb ground meat (beef or turkey, meat optional)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced (I used minced garlic from a jar)
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
1 jar (14 oz) meatless spaghetti sauce
1 cup sliced mushrooms
8 ounces small shell pasta
16 oz sour cream
10 slices provolone cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

In a large/deep skillet, brown the meat (I use half turkey and half beef), onions and garlic until cooked through. Drain well.

Stir in the diced tomatoes, spaghetti sauce and mushrooms. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions, drain.

Place half the pasta in an ungreased 13x9 deep baking dish and top with half the sauce mixture. 

Next spread half the sour cream on top of the sauce and then 5 slices of provolone.

Repeat the layers of pasta, sauce, sour cream and provolone and add the mozzarella last on top. 

Cover with foil and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese begins to brown. Let stand about 10 minutes before serving.

Add a side salad and some garlic bread and you'd be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn't gobble this right up. If you're a fan of pasta and cheese, I definitely recommend you give this one a try. I'd love to hear what you think!

You can find more easy and delicious recipes here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Crafting: Ruffle Necklaces

I've been swooning over the Candace Ang ruffle necklaces I've seen in magazines, but since I don't have $200 to drop (and you probably don't either), today's project is an easy way to make one for yourself! It's fast, you don't need much and the results are just beautiful.

I used silk fabrics for this project but you could use any fabric that is thin enough to ruffle easily. Once you choose a fabric, you'll need to pick a chain. You can use a chain you already have, deconstruct a piece of vintage jewelry or you can buy lengths of chain from your local craft store, in which case you will also need a clasp and some jump rings.

You will start by cutting a strip of fabric and the size will be dependent on the chain you are using, how many ruffles you want and how big you want them. For the pink necklace, I used a smaller chain and wanted shorter 'tails', so I cut the fabric to 2". For the patterned silk shown above, I chose a chunkier chain so cut that piece to 2.5". The fabric was in half yard pieces so I left the length as it was at about 18".

Once cut, you can seal the edges of the fabric with Fray Block, Fray Check or another similar product, or heat seal them, if desired. I left the pink edges untreated because I don't mind a little fray!

Fold the fabric strip in half and pin in place.

Next you will sew a sleeve for the chain. Be sure to make it large enough for the chain to fit through will a little extra room. When sewing, leave about 6" of thread at the beginning and end and do not backstitch.

To create the ruffles, pull on the back thread (the bobbin thread) while scrunching up the fabric. It takes a little work to get the entire length ruffled but it will happen! I scrunched the fabric down to about a 7" length. Knot the ends of the strings and trim them flush.

Next you will feed your chain through the pocket. You can use a safety pin or bend a paper clip to help feed the chain and it works best to have a rounded edge at the front so it slips through the fabric easier. If you are using a vintage or existing chain, you may need to remove the clasp or closure from one end to fit it through.

Once the chain is through you can attach (or reattach) your clasp. You can find clasps and jump rings in different metal finishes at most craft stores and you just need one or two pairs of needle nose pliers. You then have your finished necklace! 

You can easily modify this design by using different sized fabric strips and different styles and sizes of chains, the possibilities are endless! Use luxurious silks and satins for a fancier look or try springy lightweight cotton prints for a more casual piece. You can also sew on embellishments such as pearls, bead, rhinestones or fabric flowers.

You could wear this necklace with a cocktail dress for a special occasion or with your favorite tshirt and jeans. It looks great worn as a choker like in the very top photo and also looks nice worn longer with a scoop neck shirt or off the shoulder top.

I have a couple more of these in different styles and sizes started that I did not have time to finish, but I will post some photos as soon as they are done. Maybe I'll even give one or two away! I'd love to hear if you try your hand at this project, I hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Crafting: Button Bracelets

Love buttons? Who doesn't?! Chances are, whether you are crafty or not, you have a stash of them laying around, or maybe an addiction to collecting vintage ones. Well today I have a simple project that will put them to good use, button bracelets! You can also use new buttons for this project, and these days there are so many cool ones available at your local fabric store, the design possibilities are endless.

What you'll need:
Elastic, 1/4" or 3/8" thick
Needle and Thread

I decided on a yellow and seafoam green color palette for my bracelet, using a mix of some chunkier vintage buttons I have collected and a few new ones I purchased to match. You can use a repeating pattern or all one-of-a-kinds and I think it adds interest to stack some of them, so keep that in mind when choosing your buttons. I also chose a gold thread that I thought would be a nice pop, but you can match your thread to each button or even use clear nylon thread.

Start by wrapping the elastic loosely around your wrist where you would like the bracelet to sit. Cut it to size with about 3/4" or so of overlap. Make a small mark on the elastic right past the overlap. I also find it helpful to mark the middle.

With the elastic laid flat as a guide, make a rough layout of your button placement to determine the design and how many buttons you will need. Do not include the end past your mark, see photo above for reference. You want the buttons to overlap each other a little so account for this when setting them out.

Once your layout is ready, you can sew the elastic together securely, forming the bracelet. I did this by hand but you can use a sewing machine if you choose.

Next, begin sewing the buttons in place, one at a time, starting at your marked center of the bracelet. Be sure to securely knot the thread after each button is attached. Above I show a method I find to be really easy and secure. Thread the needle up under the stitches, pulling the string through, then thread the needle through the resulting loop, under the thread closest to you and pull tight. Repeat this a few times.

As I mentioned, you want the buttons to overlap each other a bit so you do not see the elastic when you are wearing it. I find it helpful to just put one stitch through the button and try it on to make sure you like the way it is laying, then finish stitching it in place. As you go, you may also decide to change your button layout.

Continue adding buttons until you cover the bracelet and you're done! It may take a bit of adjusting to get them to fit properly toward the end, but just be flexible with your design. You can always move or replace a button pretty easily if needed since they are all sewn on separately.

I love this project because it's easy, inexpensive and a lot of fun. I also think these bracelets would make really sweet gifts, so if you're on my christmas list, you'll be getting one of these and some teabags

If you try your hand at this project, I'd love to hear about it! I'll also be starting a flickr group soon for sharing your own craft project photos, so I'll keep you posted on that. In the meantime, have fun crafting your own button bracelets!