Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Felt Wine Bag and Ornament

My friend, Kelly, saw these adorable no-sew wine bags on "Under the table and dreaming" (bystephanielynn.com)

The bag is SUPER easy to make. I cut my "doubled over" felt to 16" x 6". (32" x 6" total.) The 16" worked well, but the 6" width was tight for the chardonnay bottle.

The ornaments take me a little longer. I didn't make my first flower as "full" as Stephanie did, and I regret that.  I made my first "pom" bigger than hers, and I regret that as well. :-P  Next time around, I'll use a smaller styrofoam ball for the pom and more petals for the flower.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Two Jolly Men

I don't remember where I got these cookie cutters.  Santa came in a set of 3 with a present and a reindeer.  I'm still recovering from a busy Thanksgiving while getting ready for a wedding this weekend.  I didn't go over the top with the "sides", but I did use some super cute snowman and gingerbread man picks from The Dollar Tree.  (They were part of a game, but for a dollar, I didn't care!)  I promise to use them again in December and show you.

The gingerbread man
(craisin & raisins)

(Thinly sliced mini marshmallows, dried blueberries, & craisin)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer Embellished

I've seen a few people do the "Mixer Makeovers."  I received an early Christmas present from my amazing hubby; he replaced my 10 year old KitchenAid with a new Professional 550.  I never saw a vinyl design that I *loved* until I ran across this one at Little Birdie Secrets' blog.  I was instantly inspired.  The subway art that I've seen at Wonderfully Wordy isn't quite me, and although I like the swirls, it wasn't quite right for me either.  So, I started playing with Sure Cuts A Lot from Craft Edge to see what I could really do with my Cricut Expression without buying EVERY Cricut cartridge known to man.  I went ahead and bought the Sure Cuts A Lot program after using the trial version.  I initially tried our initial and a more intricate damask, but it was just a mess when I cut the vinyl.  So, I played with it some more, and I created this damask with a free downloadable font "Damask Dings."  I merged some together in Photoshop, and I used another script for the initial.  I've already made spice sugar cookies and a pecan pie, and I LOVE the new mixer and the new embellishments!  Who knows, maybe I'll make a few of these as Christmas gifts....

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Thursday, November 18, 2010


If you shop at Costco, you may have tried a sample, seen, or purchased Tasty Bite's Madras Lentils.  They're fantastic.  My 5 year old LOVED them in the store.  Four packets come in a box.  Each packet is 2 servings and takes only 90 seconds to heat in the microwave.  However, I know how much lentils REALLY cost, and I had a hard time paying the premium for the convenience of these truly yummy nutrient-packed lentils and red beans. 
Yesterday, I took it upon myself to create something similar that I could easily freeze in Ziplocs and pull out when I needed the "convenience." We were very pleased with the outcome.  The crockpot makes this even easier, although a few steps do require the stove.

Dawn's Madras Lentils
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato puree
1 can chicken broth
1 bag dried red kidney beans
1 T garlic olive oil
4 T butter or Smart Balance
1 finely minced onion
2 C lentils
2 T cumin
1 tsp. thai red curry paste
cayenne, to taste
chipotle chili powder, to taste
1/2 - 1 C cream (or Cacique Crema Mexicana)
Soak beans according to package directions.
Place garlic olive oil, butter, and onions in a small skillet over medium heat.  Once the onions begin to soften, add the lentils and stir for another 2-3 minutes.  Salt as desired.
In a large crock pot, mix diced tomatoes, puree, chicken broth, pre-soaked beans and lentil/onion mixture.  Add 1 1/2 T cumin and Thai red curry paste.  Cook on high for 6 hours or on low for up to 12 hours.  Add chicken stock as needed.  I prefer mine to be thick like a chili, but some prefer it to be more like a stew.
Add remaining cumin, cayenne, and chipotle chili powder to taste.
Stir in cream, and serve!

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Apple Walnut Cinnamon Roll...Cupcakes?

I'm not sure I would truly classify these as cupcakes.  They are cinnamon rolls made in a muffin tin for all intents and purposes.  They are amazing though; something you would get from your favorite bakery.  You do need to make them ahead, or else get up in the middle of the night, if you anticipate eating them for breakfast. They are time intensive, but well worth it for the occasional splurge.

Apple Walnut Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes
(adapted by Dawn Earley from recipe by Stephanie Polack, as seen on PaulaDeen.com)
makes 24 cupcakes
Cinnamon Roll Ingredients
2 cups 2% or whole milk
1 tablespoon (.5 oz) active dry yeast
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
6 ½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 eggs
¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
For Brushing
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
Filling Ingredients
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons cinnamon
1 cup loosely chopped walnuts, toasted
2 cups finely chopped tart apples
Apple Cider Glaze Ingredients
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon apple cider
Heat the milk in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave for one to two and a half minutes, dependent on your microwave.  It needs to be hot enough to activate the yeast, but not so hot that it kills it. (100-110 degrees) 
Add the yeast followed by the sugar, and stir to dissolve.
Now add two cups of flour and the salt and beat for a full two minutes.
Add the softened butter and eggs and beat until the mixture is well combined.
Add the rest of the flour, half a cup at a time, and beat thoroughly after each addition.
Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a floured surface. Knead the dough for five minutes or beat on high speed with a dough hook, until it has become soft and elastic.
Put the dough in a large bowl, cover it with a kitchen towel, and let it rise in a warm area for 40 minutes. It will double in size.
Now turn the dough onto the counter and roll it out 1/2” thick into a rectangular shape. Use a pastry brush to spread half of the butter over the surface.
Now make the filling: Combine the sugars, cinnamon, pecans, and apples in a large bowl.
Spread this mixture over the dough, leaving a 1” border along 2 long sides.
Carefully tuck the dough over the filling and roll into a long log, starting on one of the long ends.
Cut the log into 24 pieces and place each inside one of the cups of a muffin tin lined with paper liners.
Cover the cupcakes with a towel and let them rise in a warm place for an additional 40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350ยบ. Brush the remaining butter evenly on the tops of the cupcakes and bake for 20 minutes. The tops will be a light golden brown.
Make the glaze: In a small bowl, stir to dissolve the powdered sugar in the apple cider. Drizzle this glaze over the cupcakes.
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Wine Tasting Birthday Party

One of my best friends had her birthday this week, and I threw a Zinfandel wine tasting party in her honor.  I was able to do most everything ahead of time (except cook the pasta), so it made for a fun night with friends and very little "work" during the party.  I bought the cheese at Costco, made the artichoke dipping sauces early in the day, made the spaghetti sauce and meatballs 2 days prior, and all of the tags and paper items in the week leading up to the party.  I got the petitfores from a local bakery: Simon Lee Bakery.  The tray is filled with wine corks that I had in a large vase, and I used a glass plate and 2 glass pedestals to create the main "centerpiece."  The tags are all made with 1 3/4" rounds of paper cut with the Cricut, and I cut the word circles with a 1 1/2" hand punch.  I glued the pieces for the cheese around toothpicks and tied on the wine bottle and glass tags with ribbon. (If you want for me to make these pieces for a party for you, feel free to contact me.)
We used 8 bottles of Zinfandel that I purchased from World Market and Costco.  They ranged in price from $7- $18 each.
Recommended cheeses for a Zinfandel tasting are aged cheddar, gruyere, brie, parmesan, and gouda.  I always have goat cheese and manchego on hand as well, so I added them to the list.  I served a rich spaghetti and dark chocolate petitfores as well.
The bottle on the left was The Watusi and was our least expensive wine ($7.)  All of the other wines were between $10-$18.  Cline, Brazin, Zinfatuation, Bogle, 7 Deadly Zins, Pellegrini, and Sausal.

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Acorn Bento and a Pumpkin Sandwich

I've been very busy this week trying to unpack from our annual Halloween weekend camping trip (washing EVERYTHING), completing volunteer projects for my son's school, being mom and all of the normal daily duties, visiting the in-laws, and preparing for one of my best friends' birthday next week.  I'm behind.  Here is a little bit of what lunch looked like for the rest of this week for our oldest.  (One day, I took a picture, but didn't take an extra as I always do, and it didn't save to the memory stick. Ugh.) 
Banana chips, raisins, homemade Chex mix
Pumpkin butter sandwiches on honey wheat bread with fruit leather accents (This cookie cutter came in the same set as the turkey and pumpkin from Hobby Lobby at 50% off.)
 The pumpkin sandwich.  I cut the pumpkin out with the cookie cutter, but left both pieces in the sandwich box.  I painted the pumpkin with a paintbrush dipped in food coloring and water. 
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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bento - Thanksgiving

Halloween is over and it's time to gear up for Thanksgiving!  I bought a set of 3 (turkey, pumpkin, acorn)cookie cutters with the silicone protectors at Hobby Lobby for 50% off yesterday. ($4 total.)  I painted the turkey with food coloring and put the sandwich in a regular sandwich container inside the Laptop Lunch system. I made the owl with a pumpkin cream cheese muffin, 2 Reese's Pieces, and a candy corn. Grapes, cheddar, carrots and ranch fill the rest of the large Laptop Lunch.
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Nutty Popcorn

My mom used to make "Nutty Popcorn" when we would go on trips.  It was a good snack that could provide fiber, protein, and satisfy a salty or sweet craving.  I've made a couple of additions to the recipe, but it's still a favorite.  I make this every time we go camping, and the bag always comes home empty.
12 C unsalted popped corn
1 C toasted whole almonds
1 C toasted pecan halves
½ C butter
½ C brown sugar
½ t vanilla powder (optional – this is Dawn’s addition)
½ t almond extract (optional – this is Dawn’s addition)
½ t salt

Combine popcorn and nuts. 
Melt butter. Stir in sugar, salt, vanilla powder and almond extract.  Cook about 30 seconds.
Pour over popcorn and stir.
Spread on jellyroll pan or cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes at 350 stirring once.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Pushing Up Daisies! Laptop Lunch Bento

Last time I did the "fingers and eyeballs", I did "sleeping with the fishes."  Today, it's "Pushing up Daisies."  After I took this picture, I realized that I hadn't put the headstone fruit leather over the pretzels and Cheez-Its, but the lunchbox was on it's way out of the door before I could grab the camera again.  I'm sure you get the idea even without it, but I wish I'd snapped a picture of it when it was complete.
This bento is in a Laptop Lunch box. (Coupon code "earleyfam" for 10% off AND a donation to area schools.)
The top left box holds cucumber discs that have the edges decoratively scraped, flower-shaped cucumber cut outs, halved cherub tomatoes, carrot slices, and ranch dressing dip. 
The top right container has grapes and "eyeballs" (peeled grapes.) 
The bottom left container has the turkey dog "fingers."  Directions can be found here.
The last container holds raspberry-yogurt-covered pretzels and white cheddar Cheez-Its (and a tombstone fruit leather cutout - not pictured.)

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sweet Potato Pecan Maple Bread Pudding

If that doesn't sound like autumn, then I don't know what does.  Maybe Apple Cider with Sweet Potato Pecan Maple Bread Pudding?  I ran across the recipe for the bread pudding on Bentobloggy.com, and I filed it away to try when I could.
Today, I could.  I nixed the cranberries when I made it, because it seemed like it had "enough" already.  It's good.  It's sweet, as you would expect from bread pudding, but not disgustingly sweet as some can be.  I suppose you could add more maple syrup if it's not sweet enough for you. 
I would recommend pureeing the sweet potato as opposed to just mashing it.  A stringy bite of potato is not welcome when enjoying bread pudding. 

Sweet Potato Pecan Maple Bread Pudding
Adapted from Bentobloggy.com

1 loaf cubed French or Challah bread (about 6 cups)
2 cups vanilla almond milk (or use heavy cream)
3 eggs
2 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes (I think pumpkin puree would also be good.)
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup maple syrup
First, trim the sweet potatoes from any "ugly" marks.  Steam or wrap them in foil to bake until cooked through.  Remove the skin, and puree.
Preheat the oven to 375.  In one large bowl toss the bread cubes with the almond milk until everything is coated and moistened and set aside for about 30-60 minutes.
In another mixing bowl, beat the eggs and then add the sweet potato, brown sugar, spices, vanilla, and salt.
(I actually prefer slightly more cinnamon and vanilla.)
Mix well.  Try to smooth as many of the lumps of potato out as you can.  It really helps if the sweet potato is at room temp when you begin.  If you need to, puree them.  You don't want stringy lumps.
Now, add the cranberries (if you use them) and fold into the sweet potato mixture.
Add the cubed bread to the large bowl and fold together until all the cubes are coated.  Make sure you use the large bowl.  Then you can put the entire mixture into your greased baking dish (Butter is recommended, but cooking spray will work) and even out.
Top with handfuls of chopped pecans....
Now at this point you can cover and refrigerate and bake the next day if you want.  When you're ready to bake, pop the dish into your 375 degree oven for 40-50 minutes.  It should still be slightly creamy in the middle and the top slightly crunchy.  If you like it firmer, continue baking for another 10-15 mins.  While it's still warm, drizzle maple syrup generously (or honey!) all over the top, and let stand for at least 30 minutes.
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Friday, October 22, 2010

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

I have been intending to make pumpkin muffins for about 3 days now.  This morning, I was determined to make them despite the madness in our home today (1 kid is sick, 1 has homecoming, the sheetrock/paint guys are coming to make some repairs, etc.)  I also decided to attempt these as an eggless recipe (replace each egg with 1 packet of plain gelatin and 2 Tablespoons of warm water.)  The muffins were amazing, BUT with the eggless option, they stuck to the wrappers (both silicone and paper) and created a "crust" almost where they touched the wrappers.  So, unless you MUST make them egg-free for allergy purposes, I would recommend using the eggs.  Next time, I will probably make the cream cheese portion egg-free and then split the muffin batter to do 1/2 with eggs and 1/2 without.
My little guy with the allergies was VERY anxious to have these out of the oven and in his mouth.  He ate 2 whole muffins, and I think he'll probably ask to eat them for lunch!  Happy 14 months, little man (and princess, too.)

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

adapted from AllRecipes


Cream Cheese Topping
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons brown sugar
Streusel Topping
4 1/2 tablespoons white whole wheat flour*
5 tablespoons white sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons chopped pecans
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups canned pumpkin
1/3 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease and flour 18 muffin cups, or use paper liners.
To make the filling: In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese until soft. Add egg, vanilla and brown sugar. Beat until smooth, then set aside.
For the streusel topping: In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, cinnamon and pecans. Add butter and cut it in with a fork until crumbly. Set aside.
For the muffin batter: In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Make a well in the center of flour mixture and add eggs, pumpkin, olive oil and vanilla. Beat together until smooth.
Place pumpkin mixture in muffin cups about 1/2 full. Then add one tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture right in the middle of the batter. Try to keep cream cheese from touching the paper cup. Sprinkle on the streusel topping.
Bake at 375 degrees F (195 degrees C) for 20 to 25 minutes.

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Laptop Lunch - Tortellini Bento

Our formerly great eater has become increasingly picky over the last year.  I hate that.  He loves pasta, but he wants it hot.  I made the tortellini in the morning just before school, and I added marinara and fresh tomatoes.  He eats lunch at 10:40, so I thought it might still be warm enough.  He disagreed.  I will need to use a thermos container in order to get him to eat soups and pastas.  The other containers hold raisins/dried bananas, animal crackers/fruit juice snacks, and popcorn.
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Monsterous Laptop Lunch

This "monster" in a Laptop Lunch box is by no means perfect, but my 5 year old figured it out which was good enough for me.  The top bin holds tomatoes and the "eyes" made of deli-sliced turkey, colby and cheddar cheese "sticks", and bell peppers. The "mouth" bin consists of 1 apple and almond sliver "teeth."  The other bins have white cheddar Cheez-Its, raspberry yogurt-covered pretzels, and popcorn.  I'd love to hear your ideas for how to make healthy "monsters!"

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010


For those of you who have joined my life or blog-world within the past year, then you may not have seen this one.  I attended an event last year, and thought these were adorable.  I made the ones pictured below. Just as I was about to take them in to my son's school and realized I hadn't snapped a picture yet, I took this one with my camera phone.  They are Rice Krispy treats cut into rectangles, covered in green icing, adorned with halved raisins or mini chocolate chip "eyes", trimmed Tootsie Roll "pegs", chocolate sprinkle "hair", and red gel "mouth" and "scar."  I haven't had a chance to make any yet this year, but I thought you may be interested in filing it away in case you needed to make a fun Halloween-themed snack this month.
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Thanksgiving Invitations

I saw some adorable invitations online, and I wanted them for myself.  Unfortunately, Thanksgiving invitations are not a budgeted item in our household!  I created these with fonts I had on my computer combined with the time it required to adjust the individual letter spacing to work for the layout, and I love them.  I added a ribbon, a bead, and a tag about the ribbon and bead.  On the invitation behind the tag is the same image of the tree without the gold ring or the writing around the perimeter of the tag.
If you want a printable with your own information, let me know, and if you are only changing the name, location, time, and RSVP information, I'll charge $6 for the customized pdf of 4 invitations.  This is for the "white" piece of the invitation only.  If you need for the pdf to include a background paper, let me know, and I will work up something custom for you.  If you need tags or stickers, let me know about that too!  I'll add the tags that I made to the blog later.

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