Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Crafting on Scoutie Girl today!

I'm so excited to be a guest on one of my favorite blogs this week, Scoutie Girl!

Click here to check out my tutorial for crafting a keepsake ornament out of all the pretty holiday cards you received this season.

Happy crafting!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Crafting: A Ribbon Poinsettia Wreath

Today I have a fun holiday craft project that lends itself to so many applications, making ribbon poinsettias. I'll be showing you how to make a wreath out of them but you can also make single blooms or a small cluster to sew on a hat, wear as a brooch or to decorate your holiday gift packages.

What you'll need:
A styrofoam wreath form (I used an 8" for the finished wreath shown)
Satin or velvet ribbon, 1.5" width, various colors
Straight pins
Artificial flower stamen (or beads)
Thin craft or floral wire

When choosing a color scheme, you can go traditional Christmas with red, gold and pine green or try something different like yellow, goldenrod and seafoam green.

Start by wrapping your wreath form with ribbon. Secure the ribbon end with straight pins and wrap tightly around until completely covered. Secure end with pins. I used ivory ribbon but in hindsight, I think green would have looked nice as well.

To make the flowers, cut the ribbon end into a point. You can experiment with different angles of the point for slightly different sizes and shapes. Fold the ribbon over on itself and cut the other end to match the point. Also cut different length pieces for a variety of bloom sizes. I used ribbon pieces measuring 3" - 4" from point to point. You will need 3 cut pieces for each flower.

Note: Handle the ribbon with care as the edges will start to fray the more you work with it. You can also seal the edges with a fray block or similar product.

Fold each piece of ribbon in half, with the top on the inside, then fold each flap down in half. Hold with a straight pin and repeat with the other two pieces of ribbon. Place them on the same pin.

Holding all 3 'petals' together, wrap tightly around the center with wire and remove the pin. Then wrap around once in between each petal, this helps to spread them out a bit. Secure the wire at the back and trim loose ends. You can then shape the flower.

To make the leaves, cut a length of ribbon about 4.5" long. With the back facing up, fold on an angle at the center. Next fold the left tail shown above back behind the first fold. Pinch together at the bottom and secure with a piece of wire.

Note: I used a wired ribbon for the leaves because it was all I could find in the green I liked. It worked with no problems but you'll need ribbon without wire for the flowers.

To add the stamen, cut the tops off the artificial stamen and secure with clear craft glue. You can also glue or wire beads on as well.

Secure the flowers and leaves to the wreath using straight pins. I think it actually looked quite lovely with just 3 flowers and a leaf on the ivory wreath, so you can play around with different designs. You could also wrap a piece of thin red ribbon around the exposed ivory wreath for a cute candy cane effect.

You can hang the wreath from the wall on a nail or hook, or you can loop a ribbon around the wreath to hang it from on the wall or a doorknob. Aside from a lovely decoration, I think this would make a very special gift.

I'm making a larger 12" wreath in yellow and goldenrod for myself so I'll be sure to share some photos when it is complete. I'd love to hear what you think about this project and how it goes if you try your hand at making these little ribbon poinsettias. Happy crafting!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

In the Kitchen: Chocolate French Silk Pie

This delicious pie is a holiday staple in my family. Either my Mom or I make it every Thanksgiving, every Christmas, and if Tyler is lucky, he gets it on his birthday. I won't lie and say it's super easy to make, but it's not technically difficult. There are just a lot of steps and it takes some time, but the results are well worth the work. I make my own crust and my own whip cream, but you can easily use store bought. You will find a printable recipe card at the end of this post.

Prep time: 40 min | Chill Time: 5 hours | Serves 8 - 10

1 baked pastry shell
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces (6 oz)
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs yolks, beaten
3 tablespoons whipping cream
1 cup whipped cream

Beat two egg yolks in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a medium heavy saucepan combine 1 cup whipping cream, the chocolate pieces, butter and sugar.

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the chocolate is melted (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat.

Gradually stir half the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks. Add the egg mixture back to the remaining chocolate in the pan and continue cooking over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture starts to thicken (about 5 minutes or so).

Remove from heat. Stir in 3 tablespoons of whipping cream.

Place the saucepan in a bowl of ice water, stirring the mixture occasionally, until it begins to stiffen (about 20 - 30 minutes).

In the meantime, prepare your pastry shell. You can use homemade or store bought but it needs to be baked before you fill it.

When the chocolate is done chilling, transfer to a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes or until light and fluffy.

Spread the filling in your pastry shell, cover and chill for 5 - 24 hours.

Before serving, top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. I make homemade whip cream but you can use store bought, Cool Whip works good. I also use a deep dish pie pan when making this so I can get a good thick layer of whip cream.

Since Thanksgiving was a bit ravenous at our house this year, I didn't have the chance to get a pie slice photo before it was gone! Though I'm sure you can imagine how scrumptious it looks, and now you'll just have to try it yourself. I'd love to hear what you think!

And find more easy and delicious recipes here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Circle: My Favorite Gingerbread Cookies

The lovely Roxana of Illuminated Perfume recently invited me to be part of her holiday blogging collaborative and I just couldn't pass up this fun opportunity! It's a blog-o-rama Advent-ure which began on November 29, correlating with the first day of advent. Each day, a different blogger adds their sparkle to this gathering of light by sharing their thoughts and memories about scents and the holidays. Today I light a candle with my contribution and by Christmas Day, all the candles on the tree will be lit.

In true lillyella fashion, when I think of scents and the holidays, I think of food and crafting — my two favorite things! Does crafting have a scent, you ask? You bet it does! The aroma of bubbling hot glue, the smell of my sewing machine engine working at high speed, dried lavender, I could go on and on.

When it comes to food, that pretty much speaks for itself, but there is one scent that unmistakably says Christmas for me, and that's gingerbread. It's the only time of year I bake my favorite gingerbread cookies, which I now, in my seventh year of doing so, have my friends, family and neighbors asking for come December 1st.

The recipe is simple, but it's one I adapted and perfected over a few batches many years ago. The perfection lies in not overcooking them, but only if you like 'em soft and chewy. If not, this recipe isn't for you.


8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter, or shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Sift the dry ingredients into a small bowl and set aside. In a medium/large bowl, beat the butter with the sugar and molasses, then mix in the egg.

Add the sifted dry ingredients to wet mixture and mix well. Chill in the freezer for about an hour or in the refrigerator 2 hours.

Heat the oven to 350°. Roll out a portion of the dough about 1/4" thick on a lightly floured surface or silicone cooking sheet. Keep the remaining dough chilled while working.

Cut out with cookie cutters and and place on greased cookie sheets or sheets lined with silicone mats. Bake for 8-10 minutes (depending on cookie size) and don't overbake! They should be pretty soft when they come out and almost seem like they aren't done yet. That's the key to their deliciousness :)

Let cool completely before decorating with icing, candy pieces, powdered sugar or cinnamon and enjoy!

You can follow along with the rest of this collaborative blogging Advent-ure by visiting the Illuminated Perfume Journal each day to see the next contribution. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

In Valorie's Kitchen: Broccoli Stuffed Shells

Pasta. It's one of my favorite comfort foods and is so versatile. But being so full of calories in the ways I like to prepare it, I'm lucky if it makes the way to my dinner table more than once a week. I'm always looking for ways to make my pasta dishes more lean and/or more nutritious without serving a skimpy marinara over noodles because, hey, that gets old after a while.

One of my favorite pasta tricks is to use the Barilla Plus noodles which are made with whole wheat, omega-3 fatty acids, and egg protein for added nutritional benefits. The texture is way better than most of the other crumbly, whole-grain noodle varieties available, but it doesn't come in one of my favorite shapes: jumbo shells!

So when I make my favorite stuffed pasta dish, I have to settle for a reduced-fat filling and regular shells, but it's still full of good-for-you ingredients without a lengthy or complicated recipe.

15 ounce box of jumbo pasta shells
15 ounce carton of reduced-fat ricotta cheese
24 ounce jar of prepared marinara sauce
10 ounce package frozen, chopped broccoli (thawed)
4 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon each fresh basil and oregano leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon each dried), finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup grated, reduced-fat mozarella cheese
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 400° and then prepare the pasta shells according to package directions.

While they're boiling, combine the ricotta cheese, broccoli, mushrooms, seasonings, and 3 tablespoons of the marinara sauce in a bowl. Whisk these ingredients together until evenly mixed and set aside.

Spread about half of the remaining sauce evenly across the bottom of a shallow baking dish. This will give the shells a sauce to cook in and will also keep them from sticking to your dish.

Next, drain the cooked pasta shells and rinse them thoroughly with cool water and then shake off any excess moisture. They need to be cool enough to handle and not dripping wet.

Gently open each shell and spoon in 2-3 teaspoons of the filling. Do this carefully, as they are delicate and tend to rip easily.

Once filled, place each shell upright into your baking dish. Repeat until your dish is full.

Spread the remaining sauce over the shells. Cover evenly with the mozarella cheese and then sprinkle the Parmesan last. Bake uncovered at 400° for 25-30 minutes, or until the cheeses are melted and beginning to brown on top. Serve with your favorite salad.

Yields about 4 servings

> Click here for a printable recipe card.

I hope you enjoyed Valorie's contribution to the lillyella kitchen this week! You can browse more of Valorie's recipes on her site Kitchen Improv and find previous In The Kitchen posts here.

Stop back on December 22 for the last In The Kitchen post of 2009 where I'll share some delicious holiday drink recipes!