Tuesday, May 28, 2013

When a Tool Box is Better Than a Picnic Basket

We are blessed to live very near a beach and much of our summer is spent there. For years, I have struggled with every sort of picnic basket and large plastic bin for our cookout supplies. We cook out at the beach often and need matches, plastics, foil, silverware, all kinds of stuff. When we store it in a large bin, we have to sift through all the stuff trying to find what we need, and it's almost always at the very bottom.  Inspiration struck at Home Depot when I saw the large tool boxes. I begged to buy one ($15) but my husband assured me he had one he wasn't using. Sure you do ...
Actually, he did. Here's the before:

So I filled it with everything we need on a regular basis. It all fit beautifully, especially the top tray for the small things that always get lost. But it was still a little tool-y looking. So I got to work with my trusty vinyl cutter and, voila! We have a cook, organized, easy to transport box with our cookout supplies.

I think this will make a fabulous gift as well, very cool and very personal. Yay!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Rotisserie Chicken Stock Recipe: Pressure Cooker

If you are looking for a more flavorful chicken stock, something really satisfying, try this:

Note: I am relatively new to the word of pressure cookers. This one time kitchen staple is making something of a resurgence. I'm pretty sure my mom never used one but my grandma did. I did research before purchasing and using mine, an 8 quart stainless steel model. The recipes assume you have pressure cooker experience. If you don't, check this link out: http://missvickie.com/workshop/buying.html
There's a short learning period but the results are so worth the investment.

Pressure cookers use pressure (duh) to cook at very high temperature. Something like a roast will be fork tender in just an hour. Soups, my favorite, are richer and more flavorful than any soup I have made even with hours on the stove. This is my recipe for

Chicken Stock using a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket

1 fully cooked rotisserie chicken
2-3  32 ounce cartons of chicken broth. If you are eating some of the purchased chicken for a meal, use 2 cartons of stock. If the whole chicken is for soup, use 3 cartons.
1 chopped onion
1 T. olive oil
chicken seasonings you desire (I like rosemary and sage)

Saute the onion in olive oil until brown in the pressure cooker pot (not sealed). Take all of the meat from the chicken and put aside. Add the bones and skin to the pot. Don't worry about the fat from the skin, you can skim the stock after cooking. Pour in the broth. Add the seasonings and bring to a boil. Put the lid on the pressure cooker and seal shut. Once the steam is steady, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 30 minutes.
Remove the pressure cooker from the heat and let it cool naturally. The pressure button will release when it is safe to open.

Transfer the cooked stock to another pot, straining through a colander. Don't want bones and skin in the soup! I use the back of a large spoon to press all of the stock from the bone mess. Discard the bone mess.
Chop the chicken meat you removed from the bones and add to the stock.
Refrigerate until cool then skim the fat.
You now have the most flavorful base for a variety of soups!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Five Fresh Ideas for Flower Clips

Flower clips are one of the most versatile yet inexpensive ways to dress up almost anything. For the DIY Flower Clip, click here.

DIY Silk Flower Clips

Bright, lovely flower clips can be found in most women's accessory departments. Usually featuring a pin back, this pop of color brightens up plain-jane sweaters and jackets. I like to have assorted colors and sizes of blooms at the ready so instead of paying the big bucks, I make my own.

I don't use pin backs (although you could), I prefer clips. Here's what you will need:
Silk or fabric flowers (you can buy them singly or in a bunch at craft stores)
Green felt
Clips  There are a variety of clips available in the jewelry finding department of craft stores. They are very inexpensive.
Hot glue gun
Exacto or craft knife, scissors

Pull the bloom from the stem. There is a plastic-y connector. The keep the flower from coming apart, I use the hot tip of the glue gun to melt the plastic down flat.

Cut a rectangle of felt approx. ¾" x 2" (or whatever size will cover the back). Felt comes in a variety of shades of green. You can also use craft foam sheets, suede or fabric.

Squeeze hot glue across the back of the flower in an area slightly smaller than the felt. The TOP of the clip will be AGAINST the petals. Open the clip and lay the felt across then press onto the hot glue (caution ... HOT!) When the glue cools, the clip will stay in place.

To fancy it up even more, cut away the bulk of the plastic middle and hot glue in a button, bead or jewel.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Kid's Table: Make it THE Place to Sit!

To escape the stigma of the "kid's table," I decided to decorate this scaled-down table and chairs to make it the special place to sit for the little ones.
I started with an unfinished wood, child-sized table and chairs. I bought them at JoAnn's and assembly was required. The good news, the entire set was less than $50.
I decided on a leafy jungle theme. I am somewhat artistic but this design was super easy.

I started with an idea sketched on the table with pencil. The design consisted of varying sizes and shapes of leaves in different shades of green. Acrylic craft paint works fine. I used brown and tan for the monkey (or humkey, as Jack calls it), yellow for the bananas and two shades of red for the flowers. I use paper plates to mix paint. I looked around online for cartoon images as inspiration for the monkey and bananas.

For a design like this, it's best to paint the back, dark color first. The only area I left unpainted was the monkey because I was afraid the dark green would show through the light tan. I painted the table top and chair backs and legs with two coats of dark green acrylic craft paint.

For the leaves, I found some leaf designs on the internet and printed them as large as I wanted.

I used chalk to coat the back of the leaf image then turned it over and traced the leaf. Repeat with various sizes and shapes of leaves. The chalk wipes right off the surface for easy clean-up.

To keep the design simple and graphic, each leaf was a solid color, no shading. Overlapping leaves enhances the design, just be sure the lowest paint level is completely dry before moving on. The uppermost layers were the lightest shades of green. I used small leaves scattered on the chairs.

Next, I painted the shapes for the monkey and the bananas. To define them, I sued a Sharpie market to outline the shapes. I messed up a few times and painted over until I had it how I wanted.

For the chair seats, I sketched a large hibiscus using a photo from the internet. Again, using paper plates for mixing, I used a bright red and shaded with a darker red. I drew the style with a Sharpie then added yellow paint for the pollen sacs. Don't worry, it looks great from a distance even if imperfect up close.

I found that using large scale elements, even on a kid-sized table, gives the coolest look.

Once all painting was complete and thoroughly dry, I applied three coats of water-based sealant. For the finishing touch, I cut a section of raffia grass skirt material and hot glued it to the underside of the table like a table skirt.
I admit, these elements are likely not found together in a jungle, but this table and chairs have become the hot seat when kids come to our house!

Lemon and Pancetta Roasted Chicken

Lemon and Pancetta Roasted Chicken
A savory and flavorful twist on a simple roasted chicken.

You'll need:
1 large roasting chicken (NOT stewing chicken, I learned that the tough way)
Olive oil
1 large lemon
4 oz. chopped pancetta
Poultry seasoning
3 or 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
White wine, not too sweet (I like Pinot Grigio)
3 T. butter (optional)
2 T. capers (optional)

Large baking dish or roasting pan (I line with foil because I hate clean-up)
Oven preheated to 350°
Rinse and pat dry the chicken. Be sure all inside yuck is removed.
Using muscle, roll the lemon around on the counter to "loosen up" the juices. Make several small slices in the lemon by stabbing with a paring knife.
Rub olive oil all over the surface of the chicken, a nice "chicken massage".
Pour some white wine into the cavity of the chicken (and then pour a glass for yourself ...)
Squeeze the lemon over the chicken.
Place the lemon inside the cavity of the chicken along with the sprigs of rosemary.
Sprinkle poultry seasoning over the chicken and rub in.
Loosen the skin from the chicken and stuff pancetta under the skin, in the cavity and in the crevices.

Tie the legs together and tuck the wing tips under the chicken.
Add 1 cup of white wine to the baking dish.
Bake uncovered at 350° for 1½-2 hours or until the temperature reaches 170°.
Add the butter to the pan about 1 hour into cooking.
Spoon the juices over the chicken every half hour or so.

To serve, carefully remove the lemon and rosemary. You can cook the juices down or thicken to make a fabulous sauce. Add capers to the sauce if desired.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Pound Your Chicken!

In the big "What's for dinner?" picture, chicken appears often. I am a fan of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. No matter which recipe I use, I always Pound My Chicken (using a meat mallet). Here are the top 5 reasons you should always pound your chicken:
1. An even thickness allows for even cooking.
2. Pounding breaks down the fibers in the meat making it more tender.
3. The chicken appears larger, therefore, you feel like you are eating more!
4. Thin chicken cooks more quickly.
5. Feeling a little wound up? Pound it out!

I use a ziplock bag or plastic wrap to keep chicken parts from spraying across the kitchen. If a marinade is in order, pour it right in the ziplock bag.