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Friday, November 30, 2012

Kasie's Mom's Calzone Recipe - Guest Post

This is a guest post by my friend, Kasie Robinson.  Please check out her Artfire shop HERE.  She kindly wrote a guest post for me during a busy week.  I appreciate her input, and Kasie is quite a talented and funny writer.  

Here is her guest post and story. As she jokingly called it the title is:  Why I Can't Have Nice Things?  Enjoy!

I was asked by Michelle about writing a guest post and my first, immediate thought was nope, don’t know nothin’ ‘bout ‘nothing, got nothin’ to say, leave me be.  But then I thought of a recipe I could share.  Of course, in order to share the recipe, I have to tell a long, convoluted story about the drama surrounding that recipe in the last week.  People that know me know that all my stories are long and convoluted.  Unfortunately for them, they can’t skip ahead when I’m talking.  But you can.  Feel free to skip ahead.

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….early 1980s in rural northwestern Kansas, I took classes and belonged to a school club called DECA.  Distributive Education Clubs of America.  I didn’t know if those still existed but I found a website today and they appear to be going strong.  Go DECA!    Each year we got a sales kit full of little items to demonstrate and sell.  I don’t remember what all they had.  I remember a little imitation wood picture frame, a candle holder, an address book, a notepad.  Just stuff.  One of the items was a little cookbook to write recipes in.  My mother got each of us (me and two brothers) a little cookbook and wrote various favorite recipes in them to take when we left home.  I admit there are some recipes in that book I never used and a few I have used over and over and over and over and over and over in the 30 years I’ve had it. 

Until last month when I “lost” it.  I say “lost” because while I can’t find it anywhere, I am still hoping against hope it is in this house somewhere.  It’s not where it’s supposed to be.  It’s not anywhere I can think to look.  It’s gone and my heart is broken.  I’m almost afraid I might have set it down somewhere wrong and a furry beast knocked it into a trash can.   That may sound like a long-shot, but stranger things have happened. 

I can’t recommend enough that parents make up something like this cookbook for their kids.  Yeah, you can get recipes anywhere.  But there is something about “Mom’s” cooking that can’t be beat.  It’s a little slice of love and home that you can take anywhere with you.  Unless you’re an ungrateful wretch who loses it 30 years later. 

I can probably find most all of the recipes in that book somewhere else.  But they won’t be the same as “my” recipes.  And they won’t be in my mommy’s handwriting.  I have asked my mom to put together another little cookbook for me.  She has agreed although she doesn’t remember what all is in it either.  I can name off half a dozen recipes off the top of my head.  A few of them are VERY, VERY important.  My husband says, nonchalantly “oh it’s here somewhere.”  What he doesn’t realize is:  that cookbook contains the summer sausage recipe.  I can’t make it without it and it’s almost summer sausage time.  He’ll be getting a little more uptight here in a few weeks. 

The other thing about this book is:  Basically, I don’t cook.  Oh, I have a shelf of cookbooks.  I love to read recipes.  But I don’t cook.  There are a few things I can make and make well, and almost all of them are in that book and I have been making them since I was a kid.  Which is why they are in the book in the first place. 

The reason I noticed it missing now is because it was time to think of what I wanted for my birthday dinner and that recipe, the recipe I am sharing today, was in the cookbook.  It’s a fairly simple recipe but it makes more than just the two of us can eat, so we usually only make it when there are several of us around.  It’s a “special occasion” recipe for us but it doesn’t have to be for anybody else.    I don’t know where my mom got it, and last time I asked her, she said she didn’t remember either.  Although I’m sure it’s a common recipe, I haven’t seen it anywhere else. 

It’s probably not a cheap recipe and it’s not a healthy recipe (fried bread!), although I’m sure someone who knows what they are doing could make it more cheaply and more healthier.  But this is the way I know to make it and it’s yummy.    

IF YOU SKIPPED AHEAD, this is where you start now.  Enjoy!

Calzones (Meat Pies)

1 pkg Pillsbury hot roll mix (uses oil, water and 1 egg to mix)
1/2 lb hamburger meat (we use 1 pound)
1 garlic clove, crushed OR 1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp crushed oregano
1 cup ricotta cheese OR cottage cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 tsp salt
1 egg
8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese (will use only half, maybe)
Vegetable oil

(Note:  If you have a good bread recipe, you can probably make that in place of using the roll mix.  Because we use double the hamburger meat the recipe calls for and the roll mix has shrunk over the years, we always end up with more meat mixture than roll mix.  I also sometimes bulk up, but not double, the other ingredients for a little more flavor.)

Prepare roll mix and directed and let rise 45 minutes until doubled.  While that is rising, cook hamburger, garlic and oregano until brown.  Spoon off fat.  Stir in ricotta cheese and parmesan cheese, salt and egg; set aside.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; cover with bowl and let rise 5 minutes.  Cut dough into pieces and roll into 4 inch circles.  Spread with a few teaspoons of meat mixture and top with mozzarella.   Moisten edges with water and seal.

Place pies on cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise 5 minutes.

In heavy skillet over medium heat, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil to 370 degrees.  Fry pies until golden.    These are best served piping hot, in my opinion. 

I can’t tell you how many this yields because we cut them out into any old shape and size we like.  We probably usually get about a dozen out of each batch, with leftover meat mixture my husband puts in sandwiches later. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Broke Food - Quesadillas

It's down to the wire, payday's tomorrow, and you surf the fridge looking for something to eat.  The pickings might be slim.  Except.... you have a tortilla, some cheese, and a tiny package of leftover salsa from a fast food drive-through.  That's all you need!  You have all the ingredients for a quesadilla! 

I like the fold-over quesadilla method, but some like to make their quesadillas with two tortillas.  Since this is broke food (i.e., cheap, yummy, filling, and made from what you have on hand), we'll go with whatever you have in your fridge and cupboard.  Here is what I had, but see the recipe below to make a basic quesadilla: 

Basic Cheese Quesadilla
Tortillas (flour or corn; both work fine, but I prefer flour)
Shredded cheese or cheese slices, any kind
Butter, oil, Pam, or nonstick surface frying pan 
Whatever condiments you have in your fridge

Place butter or oil in a frying pan and allow to heat.  Make sure the surface of the frying pan is covered with the fat of choice. (If you're using a nonstick pan, skip this step, but I do prefer some type of fat to help the quesadilla brown on the outside.)  Place tortilla in the pan and allow it to heat well for about a minute.  Place cheese on 1/2 of the tortilla and allow to heat for a minute or two more.  Fold the tortilla over the cheese and press down gently with a spatula so that the tortilla touches the cheese and the cheese smooshes.  Allow to heat through for another second or two, and then remove the quesadilla to a plate. 

Slice into triangles and serve with any extra condiments you have in your fridge. I hoard salsa and sauce packets from fast food restaurants.  The salsa served with this was from my son's order from Taco Bueno 2 days ago, but I also have a love affair with Taco Bell's Fire Sauce. (Restaurants around here have a taco fixation, apparently, because we also have a Taco Mayo!)

If you have any extra proteins or veggies, you can add those to the quesadilla.  Ideas include: 
  • Leftover shredded chicken or beef
  • Cut up green onions or diced onions
  • Diced/sliced green peppers
  • Jalapenos
  • Diced bits of deli meat, such as chicken, turkey, or ham
  • Olives 
  • Guacamole (for a dip, or add it with the cheese if you don't mind it heated up)
  • Refried beans 
These are easy to whip out, and they're filling.  This was always what my grandmother made for me if I went to her house after school because it was easy for her to fix, and they were yummy!
Using what you have on hand can also make for some interesting combinations and use up small bits of leftovers that may be languishing in the fridge.  Put them with a little cheese, tortilla, and heat, then enjoy!  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Homemade Wax Melts or Tarts For Wax Warmers

Homemade wax tarts are a fun way to use up all those old bits and pieces of candles left when the wick burns down.  I also recycle my used tarts/wax bars from candle warmers.  

Start by gathering used candles and other bits of wax.  I have a canning jar into which I pour any wax from my wax warmers. For candles, I wait until they are completely burned, and then I have a candle warmer plate that I sit the jar on to melt the wax and pour into this jar.  

 All this wax can then be melted down by placing the jar in a pot and filling the pot part way with water, so that the water comes up the sides of the jar.  Allow wax to melt.  Then use a long plastic knife or spoon to stir the wax and blend scents and colors.  You can purchase wax colors to even out the colors, especially if you have a lot of varied colors.  When I made mine, I just left them as is because at the time I was making a banana bread scent, and they came out a dusty mauve color.  
Once the wax is melted, add extra scent, if needed.  This is in the candle supply aisle of your local craft store.  Blend well.  

Using tongs or a canning jar tongs, lift the jar out and then pour the wax into a regular-size muffin tin or mold.  This is my old, grungy muffin tin that I use for crafts.  Fill about 1/4 to 1/2 inch full. Allow to cool completely.  Once set, place the mold in the freezer for a few minutes, remove the tin, and invert the muffin tin over a plate.  The tarts should pop out. 

Voila! These fit perfectly into the bowl of most wax warmers.  

Store these in a zippered bag or other closed container.  Now you can design your own homemade tarts, with the scents you like best, and reuse your old candles and wax.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Chipotle Lime Chicken - Freezer to Crock Pot

Chipotle lime chicken is a zesty dish with bold flavors that compliment one another well.  Tomato sauce, cilantro, vegetables, and spices kick this up a notch beyond ordinary.  

Put this in the crock pot in the morning, and come home to a flavorful and satisfying meal without a lot of effort. 

Chipotle Lime Chicken

**This recipe makes two meals.  Cut ingredients in half to make just one recipe.**
8 boneless skinless chicken breasts 
Canadian/Montreal steak seasoning
2 cups diced onion
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped carrots
2  14 oz. cans tomato sauce
1/2 cup lime juice
2 tbsp minced chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
4 garlic cloves
3 Tablespoons dried cilantro

Divide chicken breasts into two 1 gallon zippered freezer bags.  Season both sides of each chicken breast liberally with steak seasoning.  Add remaining ingredients, squeeze air from bags, and seal.  When ready to cook, place frozen chunk in crock pot and cook on high for 4-6 hours or low 8-9 hours.  Serve over rice or noodles.   

Monday, November 26, 2012

Refrigerator Magnets or Necklace - Simple Gifts

So you're looking for something fun to make that's easy, unique, and can be personalized.  How about refrigerator magnets from glass pebbles?!  The glass pebbles can be purchased at Dollar Tree for $1.00 per bag for 14 oz., which is a lot of pebbles.  You might even have a few of these left over from prior craft projects, such as the hardware store jewelry from a prior post, and this is a great way to use up the remaining pebbles.

These can be personalized with funny sayings, photos, scrapbook paper, or definitions from an old dictionary.  Above is a collection of magnets featuring Mae West, two from a scrapbook paper collection, one photo of my son sitting in my father's lap, and one from the peace sign collection.  

Glue a magnet to the back for refrigerator magnets, or glue a bail to the back of a finished piece and string it on a chain to wear as a necklace pendant.  

  • Glass pebbles
  • Photos, scrapbook paper, typed sayings, or photos from a magazine.
  • Clear Tacky Glue craft glue such as this:  Duncan 239396 Aleenes Quick Dry in. Tacky in. Glue-4 Ounce (Google Affiliate Ad)
  • Mod Podge
  • Paintbrush or sponge applicator 
  • Packing tape (to seal items that are not color fast)
  • Glue-on magnets (You can use old magnets from business cards and calendars, but they must be a strong magnet, otherwise they will not hold the weight of the glass pebble.)

Pick out the photos or pictures you want to use.  Check how they look by placing the glass pebble over the photo.  The glass tends to act as a lens and magnify the picture a bit.  

 The flower on this chair is very pretty and makes a great focal point!

 Ooooohhhh, who lives in a pineapple under the sea?

The pattern on this shirt is very pretty and would make a wonderful collage of fall themed magnets or a pretty pendant! 

Once you have determined which photos look best, cut out a small portion of the item, leaving enough so that a bit sticks out on the side of the glass. 

Turn your glass pebbles over and coat them with a small bit of the clear tacky glue.  

If you are using photos or other printable items that have ink that would smear or bleed, now is the time to seal those between two pieces of packing tape. These are small photos of family members I printed on my printer and needed to seal so that the ink wouldn't bleed. 
Once the pebble is coated with glue, press it glue side down onto the face of the photo or item.  Press hard so that the glue spreads out and adheres to the entire photo.  Make sure you press firmly enough that there are no bubbles in the glue.  

Once adhered appropriately, flip these over, glass side down, and allow to dry for several hours.  Once completely dry, use scissors to trim away the excess paper.  Using a sponge applicator or paintbrush, apply a couple of thin coats of Mod Podge over the backs of the pebbles, allowing each coat to dry thoroughly.  Several thin coats are better than one large coat of Mod Podge.  Otherwise, strange things happen to the paper once it's very wet. Once dry, glue a magnet to the back.
To turn one of these into a pendant, skip the magnet and instead spray the back of the piece with clear spray paint to provide a waterproof finish.  Unfortunately, Mod Podge is water soluble, so if you sweat and it's next to your skin, the Mod Podge will dissolve.  So a coat or two of clear spray paint will seal this.  Once completely dry, adhere a glue-on bail to the back of the pendant, allow it to set, and string on a pretty chain!

See the photo above of the magazine page with the woman holding the dog.  The pendant above is made from the pattern on the chair in the photo!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Homemade Clorox Cleanup

I love Clorox Cleanup.  It cleans, it whitens, it disinfects, and it leaves a nice smell that is more than just the smell of bleach.  What I don't like is the price.  

I found a great recipe to make this wondrous cleaner at home at the blog HERE.  I modified the ingredient amounts just a little bit, but otherwise the recipe is just the same.  Best of all, it works just as well as the original product, but at a fraction of the cost. 

You will need: 
1 empty spray bottle 
1/2 Cup bleach
2 tablespoons dish soap 

Pour bleach into empty spray bottle.  Fill the bottle almost all the way full of water, leaving about 1 inch of room.  Then add the dish soap.  Insert the sprayer, seal the bottle, and then gently tip the bottle back and forth about 20-30 times to mix the ingredients.  If you add the dish soap and then pour in the water, your ingredients will bubble out, so it's best to fill the bottle then add the soap.  

*We have hard water, so it always requires a bit more cleaning ingredients than most recipes establish.  If you have relatively soft water (i.e., with very little mineral content), you might be able to reduce the bleach to 1/4 cup and the dish soap to 1 tablespoon.  

That's all it takes!  Now you can clean, freshen, and disinfect your counter tops, sinks, and bathrooms, but without all the expense! Happy cleaning!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fifteen Minutes or Less, Frump to Fab

My eldest brother was a stylist and cosmetologist.  When he was still alive, he frequently did fashion shows and passed on quick-fix ideas to me.  He had to make people fabulous with only minutes to spare and developed techniques that he depended upon to make it happen.  He passed these ideas on long ago, but I've found most of them to be rather timeless, and I've used them repeatedly to make my life easier. 

This is one that I've passed on numerous times, and with the holidays coming up, it's time for me to post this one yet again.  So here it is, the 15 minute Frump to Fab routine for when you MUST get out the door quickly and look fantastic. 

  • Crisp/starched white shirt  that is on the longish side to come over hips; leave untucked (You can even snag one of hubby’s button-downs, but leave the collar unbuttoned; any other solid-colored shirt will do in a pinch.) 
  • If no white shirt, try a button-up shirt over a tank top or camisole. Leave the shirt unbuttoned. 
  • Dark jeans or pants  (Boot cut or straight leg is preferable)
  • Heels (any type; boots, high heeled sandals, or pumps)

  • Chandelier/dangle/hoop earrings
  • Delicate necklace to peek out of shirt at neckline or, conversely, very long, flamboyant necklace to wear outside of collar with more understated dangle/post earrings....or no necklace at all.  Remember, less is more.

  • Piled up, sleeked back in a ponytail, or if not long enough for that, swept back away from the face with a headband or styled up and back away from the face.
  • Tip:  If your hair looks oily/greasy and you don't have time to shampoo try back combing near the hairline then spritzing with hair spray.  Most hair looks dirty because it separates into strings.  Back combing separates the strands and gives the illusion of fullness.  Hairspray usually contains alcohol and will serve to dry out/mop up some of the oil.  

Makeup:  This is the 3-minute makeup routine.  It assumes that each item is the correct shade for your complexion and is of good quality.  It doesn't have to be expensive.  It just needs to be in good condition.  You will need:
  • Foundation/powder
  • Blush
  • Eyeliner (black or brown; brown for daytime, black for night)
  • Mascara (black)
  • Lip Gloss/tinted gloss (you can use a dot of sparkly eye shadow in the middle of the lower lip along with Vaseline or even Crisco in a pinch)
  • If there is time, groom brows and shape them with a brow pencil or brow brush. 

Makeup instructions:   Dot foundation on forehead, both cheeks, tip of nose and chin.  Using both hands, blend over entire face, including eyelids and under eyes. Now’s not the time to be delicate; you’re in a hurry.  If you’re prone to circles under your eyes, use the slightly thickened foundation that is usually under the cap for concealer.  Lightly dust face with powder, if needed.  Next, apply blush to apples of cheeks, then lightly sweep blush over brow bones, toward outer corner of eye.  Line upper eye lids with liner at base of lashes and smudge slightly.  Line halfway under lower lid or omit.  Apply two coats of mascara.  Finish with lip gloss.   This gives a fresh-faced look and can be done in no time, but looks great.

Easy updo:   Pull hair up into a ponytail on top of head, and secure with an elastic band.  Apply mousse, a little gel, or even hairspray (in a pinch) to hair, even if it’s already dry.  Give it a short blast with a blow dryer if it’s still damp.  Use a small-barrel curling iron or the tiniest hot rollers you can find to make numerous curls.  Then, finger fluff curls, and grab chunks and pin into place around ponytail.  If middle part is short, leave curls to hang down in a cascade.  If no curling iron available, finger curl hair under in sections and pin in place around ponytail. 

The reason why this works is that it is a rather timeless, classic look.  A white or light-colored shirt over dark pants is  elegant, simple, and chic.  Leaving the shirt untucked covers any bumps, bulges, or things we'd rather hide, and gives a flowy look.  Piling hair up, and then using dangly/hoop earrings draws the attention upward.  If you use a long, flamboyant necklace, this elongates the look of the body and draws the eye up and down and provides a visually slimming effect.  Dark pants hide any lumps or bumps, and with wearing the shirt out, it can cover a waist band that might not fit so well at the top and provides, again, a visually elongated appearance.  The reason any heel works is that when we wear heels, we are forced to walk with our shoulders back, chest up, and head held up.  You can't slump in heels!  Our carriage and presentation can provide as much appeal as the rest of our appearance.  Ever seen someone walk into a room and immediately draw attention?  More than likely what attracted your attention is the way they carried and presented themselves, not necessarily flamboyant dress or makeup.... although some people have been known to draw a few gasps with a wild outfit!

As far as hair and makeup, here are the reasons for an updo:  Hair that is up and away from our face is more elegant and sophisticated than hair worn down.  You can hide a lot of hair flaws with an up-do.  It also reveals more of your face, which is important during a social event.  

The makeup routine above is fast and simple, and focuses on the main facial elements:  Eyes and lips. 

This is not the mega routine that's going to make you look like a fashion model.  It does, however, bring out your best attributes.  I try to keep basic elements around at all times because they're quick to pull together.  This method is just a way to be able to get going, have fun, and look fabulous without spending a lot of time.  

Now, go out and have a great time! 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Freezer to Crock Pot - Smothered Pork Chops

Crock pot smothered pork chops are a nice change of pace from the usual fried or grilled pork chop.  These come out tender and fall apart (as evidenced by the photo!).  This is a flavorful recipe that brings out the flavor of the pork chops while providing a satisfying and savory gravy to serve over noodles or toast.   

This was part of a post showing make-ahead crock pot meals.  See the original post  HERE.

Smothered Pork Chops
3-4 boneless pork tenderloins/chops 
1 large onion, cut into rings
1 can cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup
About 1 tablespoon Montreal/Canadian Steak seasoning 

4-6 peeled and sliced potatoes when ready to cook

Season pork tenderloins with steak seasoning, and layer with onions in 1 gallon zippered freezer bag.  Add cream soup and remainder of steak seasoning.  Squeeze air out of bag and seal.  Freeze.  When ready to cook peel and slice 4-6 potatoes and place them in the bottom of the crock pot.  Then place the entire block of frozen food on top of this in the crock pot and cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 6-8 hours.   Serve over noodles or toast. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am taking a day off today from blogging to be with family. I hope each of my readers has a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.  

I am thankful for my family, my health, and my faith.  

I hope each of you has a blessed Thanksgiving.  Posts will be back tomorrow!  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Simple Gifts - Hardware Store Jewelry

Need a fun, funky, and easy gift idea but don’t want to spend a lot of money?  You may very well have the things you need in your garage or junk drawer!  Here are two necklaces made from components from around the house or that are inexpensive purchases at any local hardware store. 

The first is a metallic, Victorian/steampunk inspired necklace.  Steampunk is known as “industrial Victorian,” as it combines elements of mechanical items, such as gears, wires, and circuitry with Victorian elements such as rhinestones, filigree, and delicate chains. 

The second is a Victorian pendant made with an iridescent glass pebble and hardware store items.  This is very pretty as a choker or short pendant worn on a ribbon.  

Metallic Victorian/Steampunk pendant
Items Needed
One 2 inch fender washer
One floral mirror mount (these are mounts used to hang mirrors in a bathroom)
One external tooth lock washer
One glue-on rhinestone or other flat-backed pretty item
One glue-on wire bail  (instructions on how to make these HERE)
E6000 glue
Ball chain and connector at least 20 inches (found in hardware or plumbing section)

INSTRUCTIONS:  Place fender washer on flat surface.  Glue mirror mount to washer with E600 glue.  Place glue along bottom of mount, just slightly inward from the outside edges to get a firm seal.  Allow to dry.  

Add lock washer to center of mirror mount.  Place glue along the area which will touch mirror mount the most.  Allow to dry. 

Add flat-backed rhinestone to center of lock washer, and allow to dry.    


Once all components are dry, flip washer over and glue bail to back.  In this photo I have the pendant propped up on a toothpick while drying.  Otherwise, if allowed to dry flat, the bail will tip backward, and pendant will not lay flat when attached to a chain.   


String on ball chain, cut to desired length, and wear!


Victorian Iridescent Glass Pendant
Items Needed
One large iridescent glass pebble (I bought these in a bag at Dollar Tree for $1 in the floral section)
One flower mirror mount
One glue-on flat backed rhinestone or other flat-backed item
One glue-on bail (instructions to make these HERE)
E6000 glue
Ribbon, silk cord, or dainty chain

 INSTRUCTIONS:  Glue bail to flat back of pebble and allow to dry. 

Using sandpaper or a nail file, rough up front domed surface of glass pebble slightly.  Check positioning of mirror mount on front of domed glass and use pliers to bend slightly and contour the mirror mount to the shape of the pebble.  Glue mirror mount to glass pebble and allow to dry.  

Glue flat-backed rhinestone to center of mirror mount and allow to dry. 

Place on ribbon, silk cord, or dainty chain and wear! 

The key to both of these pendants and necklaces is to use what you have on hand.  If you've seen something and the thought popped into your mind that it would make a pretty necklace, use it!  Instead of the mirror mount, you might have a pretty pearl button that came from a coat.  Use that!  Have a length of broken chain?  Use it to wrap the circumference of the button using glue.  Have an old broken watch with an interesting watch face?  Take the watch apart and carefully remove the watch face and use it in the place of the mirror mount.  See an old typewriter key that's flat and has an initial on it or words like "caps lock" instead of a letter?  Use that!   Have old bits of broken jewelry?  Use those.  Snip off broken parts and combine the elements by gluing them to the washer or a glass pebble.  The possibilities are endless and are as interesting as your imagination and junk drawer. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Freezer to Crockpot - Pepper Steak With Noodles

Pepper Steak with Noodles is a wonderfully rich dish that is easily made in the crock pot.  Put this on to cook in the morning, and come home to the wonderful aroma of peppers and spices.  This beef dish makes its own rich gravy, and is excellent served with noodles, over rice, or mashed potatoes.  

This recipe was originally noted in my post HERE, but I wanted to feature this as its own post, as this is one of our favorites. 
Pepper Steak
2-3 pounds beef stew meat or cut up round steak (See earlier post regarding saving on meat)
½ cup flour
1 tsp. pepper
1 large onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic (I use the already-minced garlic and use 2-3 teaspoons)
2 green/bell peppers, cut in strips
2 14 oz. cans Italian or plain diced tomatoes with ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 cubes beef bouillon or 2 Tbsp. beef bouillon granules
4 tsp. Worchestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. A1 steak sauce

Place flour and pepper in zippered freezer bag.  Shake to mix.  Add stew meat and shake to coat pieces thoroughly. Leave flour and meat in bag. Add remaining ingredients, remove air, and seal.  Cook on high for 4-6 hours or low 6-8.  Stir well before serving to allow sauce to blend and thicken.  Serve over noodles or rice.  

Monday, November 19, 2012

Simple Gifts - Homemade Glue-On Wire Bail for Pendants

 Glue-on bails are so much fun.  They can turn just about anything into a pendant to wear as necklace.  However, buying glue-on bails is expensive if you're trying to keep costs down.  There's an easier way.  Grab a spool of Artistic Wire jewelry grade wire from a craft store such as Hobby Lobby or Michael's and make your own!

I usually buy around 20 gauge wire in a nontarnish finish.  There are several colors, but I'm fond of the simple colors such as silver, gold, or aged brass. 

I'll be doing another post on Wednesday for hardware store jewelry as a  simple gift, and these glue-on bails make excellent parts of this project, so watch for the blog post! 

  • Approximately 6-7 inches of jewelry grade wire (I prefer Artistic Wire brand)
  • Wire snips
  • Needle-nose pliers wrapped with tape or round nosed pliers for jewelry making
  • An ink pen or pencil to serve as a mandrel to wrap the wire around
  • E6000 glue (to glue bail onto object). 
General information: Keep in mind the weight of the object this bail is going to be glued to.  If the object is heavier, you may want to use the double-loop technique for more strength.  If you wish to just use a single-loop bail, you may want to use a heavier/thicker gauge wire. 

INSTRUCTIONS FOR SINGLE-LOOP GLUE-ON WIRE BAIL:  Snip off approximately 6-7 inches of wire.  Straighten the wire and run it between your fingers several times to heat and soften the wire.  Eyeball  approximately the middle of the wire  and wrap it around your pen/pencil.  Twist it 3-4 times.  Make sure ends of wire are even.   You might need to snip off a little bit to get an even length.  

Next, begin curling the wires in a spiral either inward or outward.   Make the first curl around the end of the pliers.  

Then remove the pliers and use the flat part of the plier to grasp and turn the wire in circles to form a spiral.  I usually do at least 3 full spiral loops.  

Repeat this on the opposite side until the the spirals are even.  Do not curl too close to the loop so that you have  room to glue the spirals to the back of the object.  You'll need the "stem" part between the curls and the bail to show.  
Glue to the back of your object with E6000 and  allow to dry for a minimum of 4 hours... preferably 24 hours.  

INSTRUCTIONS FOR DOUBLE-LOOP GLUE-ON WIRE BAIL (Shown in top photo):  Snip off two sections of wire, approximately 6-7 inches long.  Loop both wires around the pen/pencil, then twist 3 times to form a stem.  Cut the tails of the  wire so that the  wire closest to the bail is shorter than the bottom wire.  Beginning with the top  wire, form spirals, as instructed in the single-loop bail instructions.  Use approximately 4 spirals for the top wire.  For the bottom wire, repeat, but make only about 3 spirals.  See photos above.   Curl either inward or outward, as your artistic inspiration fits.  Do not curl spirals too close to the stem of the bail, as the bail will be too close to the pendant.  You want to  have enough  room to glue the spirals to the  back of the item, have room for a small stem, and then the bail.  Once finished, remove the pen/pencil from the bail, straighten, and glue on  using E6000 glue.

These bails are so simple to make and can turn a plain item into something very elegant just by gluing one of these to the back.  If you have glass decorative marbles used as fillers for  vases, glue one of these to the  back for a simple yet elegant pendant!  Glue one to the  back of an interesting button.  Find a pretty rock that has been polished?  Glue a bail to that and wear it as a necklace!  The possibilities are endless.