Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Crafting: Anthro Style Rope Necklace

The first thing I thought when I saw the Curls & Coils Necklace at Anthropologie was, ooo cute! Then the next thing I thought was, I can totally make that. But more importantly, I can totally make that for 1/8 of the $42 price tag.

The original design (shown left) was also a little large for my liking, so I was excited to modify the concept to my daintier and more structured tastes. And while I love the nautical fashion style, I have yet to really jump in, so this piece felt like the perfect place to start.

At first glance, the necklace looks to be made of rope, but upon inspection I realized it's actually made of soft cotton piping cord used for upholstery, which is much more pleasant on your skin than rope would be anyways!

A few basic materials and less than an hour of time are all you need to create your own Curls & Coils Necklace.

What you'll need:
Cotton Upholstery Cording (1.5 - 3 yards depending on how long & loopy you want it)
Transparent Nylon Thread
Buttons or beads for embellishment
End caps/cones
Craft glue
Wire or head pins and a clasp

While I used the same raw cotton style cording as the original necklace, you can find many sizes, colors and materials that would work equally as well. I especially love the satin cording and picked up some in a lovely mustard yellow that I think will be just awesome! I purchased all my materials at JoAnn Fabrics.

Begin by approximating your loop pattern and determining how much cording you will need. For reference, I used a 1.5 yard piece and had about 4" left on either end when I was done. Better too long than too short!

Be sure to leave a long enough tail before you start sewing your coils. Starting and ending on the back of the necklace, begin tacking your loops in place with a few stitches. It doesn't take much to hold it together and if you place the stitches in the 'grooves', you can't see them at all.

Next, decide on an arrangement for your embellishments and stitch them in place. I wanted mine a little less 'blingy' than the original so I used a plastic rose shaped button along with a simple gold metal one and one with a small rhinestone.

Once you finish sewing the loops and embellishments, determine the length you'd like the necklace and trim the ends about an inch shorter to account for the length the clasp will add.

To finish the ends, I used brass cones that I also found at JoAnn Fabrics. Using a ball end head pin or a piece of wire, fashion a loop on both cones for attaching the clasp.

Apply a few dabs of craft glue to the end of the cording and begin twisting into a point. Warning - this will make your fingers messy! Allow the glue to begin drying a bit and then continue shaping. You can also twist the cone onto the end to help shape it. Once you have a good point, apply a little more glue then twist the cap on, getting all loose ends tucked up underneath.

Add your clasp and voila!

Liven up a simple cardigan or sun dress or accent a nautical striped tank top. Soft and lightweight, this necklace is the perfect year-round statement piece!

You can also apply this idea to other accessories such as a bracelet or belt - get creative! I'd love to hear if you try your hand at this project and how it turns out. Happy crafting!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

In the Kitchen: Guacamole

Guacamole! I'll admit I've never liked the stuff, but it sure is fun to say, don't ya think? Say it again… guacamole! Ok, now that we've gotten that out the way, why am I making it if I don't like it? Well, I'm all for second chances, when it comes to food at least, and guess what? I liked it! Turns out most things are much more delicious when you make them from scratch with yummy, fresh ingredients. Who knew? ;)

This recipe has minimal, basic ingredients and is really easy to make — doesn't get much better than that, right? Read on for the how-to and find a printable recipe card at the end of the post.

2 ripe avocados (they should be firm, but yield to gentle pressure)
juice of half a lime
3 tablespoons red onion, finely diced
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, stemmed and chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash freshly ground pepper

Peel, pit and coarsely chop the avocados.

Add the lime juice, diced red onions, cilantro, salt and pepper.

Mix gently with a fork and (about to get technical here) smush to your chunkiness liking. You can also puree in a food processor if you like it smooth. Optionally, add two tablespoons fresh chopped tomatoes.

Serve immediately or place in an airtight container and chill in the fridge. Delicious with chips or on your favorite entrees, like these Hawaiian Tacos. Enjoy!

And find more easy and delicious recipes here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Valorie's in my Kitchen: Hawaiian Tacos

I had the great pleasure of hanging out with my 'cousin-in-law', Valorie, last week when she came in for a visit from Colorado. You may have seen her In the Kitchen posts here over the last few months so what did we do during her trip? Cook, of course! First we made a delicious homemade carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, which I will be posting soon, and on Sunday night Valorie shared a favorite of hers, Hawaiian Tacos! I'll let her take it from here…

Someone I knew once made me tacos with teriyaki-marinated chicken. Other than the teriyaki flavor, these were pretty standard tacos, but I remember the uniqueness of the Asian-style chicken in the Mexican dish and like it quite well. Maybe that’s what people mean by Asian Fusion? I’ve taken the idea of teriyaki-marinated chicken and blended it with pineapple, salsa, and cilantro. Yes, it sounds odd, but I’ve never met anyone who tried it and didn’t like it. You'll find a link to a printable recipe card at the end of this post.

Prep time: 30 min | Serves about 4

6-8 eight-inch corn tortillas
2-4 tablespoons canola oil
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
8oz can of crushed pineapple or pineapple tidbits
1/4 cup thick teriyaki sauce or marinade
shredded cheddar cheese
roasted, diced green Chile peppers
fresh cilantro, finely chopped
fresh lime wedges
sour cream, salsa, guacamole

If you have time, marinate the chicken in the teriyaki sauce and pineapple juice for 2-6 hours. Alternatively, add uncooked chicken, teriyaki sauce and the can of pineapple (with juice) to a nonstick skillet. Simmer over medium heat until chicken is cooked, liquid is evaporated, and sauce is thick and slightly sticky, about 20 minutes.

To prepare the tortillas, heat canola oil in a skillet over medium flame. Well-seasoned cast iron or non-stick finish works best, as stainless steel tends to stick and require more oil. Heat tortillas in canola oil for about 30 seconds on each side, or just until the tortilla forms air bubbles inside. Set aside on a paper towel to catch any oil.

Assemble tacos with chicken and pineapple mixture, cheese, fresh cilantro, green chiles, salsa, guacamole, sour cream and a squeeze of fresh lime juice (this really adds to it!). We couldn't find fresh, ripe avocados so had to pass on the guac this time, but I'll share my homemade recipe here soon.

Delicious with a side of black beans jazzed up with fresh cilantro, diced tomatoes, chopped green chilies and your favorite seasonings.

Pile high, fold and enjoy!

And find more easy and delicious recipes here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

In the Kitchen: Chicken Paprikash & Spaetzel

Everyone has their preferred method of making Paprikash and this one is my favorite. It's all about the paprika and uses no tomato products. It's rich and hearty, but pretty easy to make with very minimal ingredients. You can also adjust the recipe to cook up as much or as little as you want making it perfect for a holiday or get together or just for a weeknight meal. You'll find a link to printable recipe card at the end of this post.

2 chicken breasts (with skin and bones)
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 chicken bullion cubes
paprika (about 7 Tbsp)
flour (about 8 - 10 Tbsp)
8 oz sour cream
salt and pepper

Spaetzel (per batch):
1 cup flour
1 egg
1/3 cup water

Saute the diced onion and garlic in a deep skillet or electric fry pan with one tablespoon margarine and one tablespoon paprika.

Remove the skin from the chicken breasts and brown on each side.

Fill the pan with enough water to almost cover the chicken and add the bullion cubes. Simmer, covered, for about an hour. Flip the chicken as needed.

Remove the chicken (keep the liquid in the pan) and let cool. Debone and shred or chop.

To make the sauce, add flour slowly, continuously whisking over medium heat, until it begins to thicken. I end up using about 8 - 10 tablespoons. The flour may clump a bit at first but will break up and smooth out as you continue to whisk and the sauce heats up.

Once thickened, add the sour cream and stir until blended. Next add more paprika, salt and pepper to taste. I use about 5-6 tablespoons paprika. Add the shredded chicken back to the pan.

This is one of those recipes where nothing is too exact because quantities will depend on the size of your pan and your taste preferences, so sample often and trust your palette!

To make the spaetzel, you need one cup flour, one egg, and about 1/3 cup water per batch. I usually make 2 -3 batches at once per meal.

Stir ingredients until you have a semi moist doughy consistency. Using two spoons, drop small balls of the dough into boiling water.

When the spaetzel float to the top, they are done (usually about 5 min). Drain, then return to the pan and season with butter, salt and pepper to taste.

Serve and enjoy! You can also serve the paprikash over egg noodles, which is yummy as well.

The recipe makes quite a bit, it would easily serve 6 - 8 with leftovers to spare, but it stores well in the fridge or freezer. This serves the two of us twice, with leftovers, but I make the spaetzel fresh each time we have it. You can also make a smaller batch of paprikash by using less chicken and a smaller pan, just adjust all the ingredients as necessary.

And find more easy and delicious recipes here.