Deer Head Silhouette Wall Art

DeerHeadArt6edit


Recently, we rearranged our living room. We’ve been in our current place for about two years now, and I guess that’s how long it takes before we start itching to rearrange and add new decor. Our TV used to be on the mantle (I know, terrible, but we don’t have a whole lot of options). It’s now in front of a window, which I’m not sure is much better, but we no longer have to strain our necks way up to watch movies and, the best part is that it opens up a huge new project space: a mantle to decorate! And, I am not taking this responsibility lightly.

AntiqueFrame

I found some old framed needlepoint woodland creatures that I’ve deemed mantle-worthy, but that still left about 3/4 of the space left to be filled. Thinking about keeping with the woodland theme, I rummaged through all the old frames, canvases, etc. I have lying around. I came across this wooden plaque (which are super cheap to pick up at Hobby Lobby) and a few frames. The plaque actually fit perfectly in one of the frames and I got the idea to make a faux deer head “mounted” on the plaque.

DeerHeadSupplies

This is a seriously easy project that’s fun and whimsical but visually bold. You could really use any image or colors, but I wanted to play off of the idea of (the animal-friendly version of) a mounted deer head, and I mounted the plaque to the outside of the frame, instead of to the back, to enhance this feeling.

DeerCutoutOnPlaque

You’ll need:

Wooden plaque
Silhouette of a deer ( I just googled it and printed out my favorite, found here)
X-acto knife
Self-healing cutting mat ( I love this one for small projects)
Pencil
Acrylic Paint (background color of choice, I went with black)
Silver or Gold Sharpie or paint
9001 or other high-strength adhesive
Antique frame

DeerHeadTraceSupplies

Paint wooden plaque desired color and let thoroughly dry. Make sure silhouette is properly sized for the plaque. Once you have the right size, cut on the image outline with an X-acto knife on a self-healing mat. Once your image is cut out, secure it with a few small pieces of tape to the plaque, so it doesn’t move around and trace with a pencil.

DeerHeadTrace1

Remove image and make any adjustments or artistic changes to the outline. Then, trace the pencil line with a silver or gold Sharpie. The silver and gold Sharpies have more of a paint-like quality to them, so I don’t recommend trying black or other colors. Fill in the outline once and let dry for a few minutes.

DeerHeadFilledIn

Going the other direction, add a second layer of Sharpie, using the side of the tip to sort of paint it on. Last, retrace the image to make sure the edges are clean. You can do any small damage repair with a black Sharpie. Once the plaque is dry, apply adhesive to frame where the plaque will be. Let the adhesive become tacky for a few minutes before pressing the plaque into place. Once in place, set a heavy stack of books or other objects on top of the plaque to bond. Let sit for a few hours. There you have it!

DeerHeadArt3

I know this will be a lovely addition to the the rest of the little creatures I’ve already got pegged for the wall. Stay tuned to get a view of the full mantle once it’s finished! 

 

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Pizza Monkey Bread


MonkeyBread
A wild thing has happened over the past week. The Cheesy Mexican Pull-apart Bread I posted a few months ago has apparently gone viral on Pinterest and the traffic on little blog has blown up exponentially in the last few days. So, if people are excited about savory monkey bread, I’ll keep pushing the limits! And now I give to you: pizza monkey bread. (Important side note: If this photo below does not make you want to drool, you are probably in the wrong place.)

PullApartMonkeyBread1

Andy and I planned to make this then sit down and attack it during the Grammys this past weekend. The attacking-it part we accomplished. The Grammys part we did not. We recently canceled our cable, and who knew you could only stream backstage interviews and ridiculous commentary, but not the actual thing? Do some people have two TVs going simultaneously to catch the hot backstage action, or does anyone actually watch just the backstage part (besides other sad cable-cancelers, of course)? The mysteries of life. We’re only glad we didn’t invite people over to watch them as we’d originally thought about. So, unfortunately, we were left with the entire loaf of this bread to ourselves. Which was dangerous. And insanely delicious.

pepperoni

Each little piece of this bread is perfectly crusty with crispy Parmesan on the outside and gooey and soft on the inside. It’s part stuffed crust pizza, part actual pizza and part something-more-delicious-than-pizza, even. More delicious than pizza? I know, I know, but that statement was not uttered lightly and I stand by it. You really have to try it for yourself. Mere words will not be able to describe the cheesy, gooey magnificence properly. This would make a perfect party appetizer… or dinner for 2 (before you call a doctor, no, we did not even come close to eating the whole loaf in one sitting, don’t worry). Now, let’s stop drooling and get to it!

PepperoniFilling

Ingredients

For the dough*:

3 7/8 cups white bread flour
2 T course semolina flour
1 package Fleischmann’s active dry yeast
2 heaping tsp. fine grain salt
5 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups water

For the rest:

12 oz. Mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 T Italian seasoning (add dashes of red pepper flakes if they are not included in the seasoning)
1/2 stick butter melted
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Marinara sauce, for dipping

You can really use whatever pizza fillings you like, but we used the following. Just be sure to completely drain and pat dry whatever ingredients you use.

Pepperoni
Black Olives
Sauteed mushrooms
Sauteed spinach

*If you are in a real time crunch or if making homemade dough scares the living bejeezus out of you, you can use biscuit dough or something similar that’s pre-made.

VeggieFilling

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Dough likes warm kitchens. Combine dry ingredients (flour, yeast, semolina, salt) in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using a bread hook, turn stand mixer onto its lowest setting. Slowly add oil and water. After liquid has been added, continue to mix at lowest speed for two minutes. Turn mixer to next highest speed and continue mixing for six minutes or until dough becomes firm and barely sticky.

DoughBalls

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently knead for two minutes. Form dough into a ball and place into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and a towel and let rest for one hour. While dough is rising, whisk together butter, oil and Italian spices.

RisenDough

Once dough has nearly doubled in size, lightly punch it down in the bowl. Pull off small pieces of dough from dough ball (slightly less than a tablespoon if you were to measure it), flatten the piece out into a circle and place toppings with mozzarella cube in the center. Pull edges of the dough around the toppings like a package and pinch together. Lightly roll with palm, so a more uniform sphere is created. Dip each piece in butter and spice mixture and drop into a bundt pan. (Sprinkle a little Parmesan into the bundt pan before you begin.) Once the bottom of the pan is covered with a layer of dough, sprinkle with 1/3 of the remaining cheese. Continue this process two more times (you will end with 1/3 of the cheese for the top once baked).

SaucePiece

Cover pan with a towel and let rise for another 45 minutes to an hour, once the dough nearly reaches the top of the pan. Place into the oven and reduce heat to 425. Bake for 20-30 minutes until top is dark golden brown and crispy. Let cool for 15 minutes and turn out bread onto serving platter. Top with remaining cheese and serve with marinara sauce for dipping.

PullApartMonkeyBread2

Eat this and you won’t even be slightly bummed that you canceled cable and missed the Grammys.

MonkeyBread2

 


Retro Valentine Votives

ValentineVotiveCauldron

I always seem to get into the Valentine’s day spirit pretty early. Not because I’m a particularly mushy person. Not because I love pink and glitter and stuffed bears and chocolate. Nope. It goes back to the fact that I have to have plenty of time to get Valentine’s crafts in. Every year growing up, I would make valentines for everyone in my class, my teacher, friends, and relatives. All completely homemade.This tradition went back to my great-grandmother and each year, my mother, brother and I would pore through heaps of paper doilies, glitter glue, sequins, buttons, ribbons and books with old Victorian photos we’d cut out and use.

Valentines

We would sit around our dining room table coming up with new variations on “Roses are red, Violets are blue…” only sometimes reusing what we had masterfully crafted in years past. And we would write each poem with care into the little construction paper heart cards covered in all kinds of lacy, heart-filled goodness. This was a real commitment, folks. And worth every second. The whole Valentine’s season just screams “be crafty!”— it is ingrained in me.

ValentineVotive2

Not until recent years have I continued to come across retro valentines with hilarious, corny and sometimes downright creepy sayings and characters. The last time I saw some in an antique shop, I knew I had to snatch them up, though I didn’t know what I’d do with them.

Since our Christmas decorations have come down (admittedly a little late) there has been a void of candles and mantle-type items. The fact that we have an odd amount of votives (or vases I use as such) and the inspiration of the weirdest of all valentines with a girl in a cauldron being cooked over a fire, I thought these would be the perfect use for the valentines.

ValentineModpodge2

All you need is:

Modpodge
a paintbrush
clear candle votives
old valentines or clippings
tissue paper (optional)

ValentineBack

Let’s get started:

First, wash the votives with hot soapy water and dry. Make sure your clippings or cards are cropped as you’d like them. For heavier stock paper that will be adhered to a round votive, it’s best curl the paper to the shape of the votive by placing your thumbs on the underside, index fingers on the top, and rolling your wrists outward to make the shape into an arc. The paper will begin to conform in the same manner as if you take scissors to a ribbon. This will prevent the heavier stocks from cracking or peeling away from the votive.

ModPodgeCanCan

Paint Modpodge onto the back of the valentine and stick the valentine to the votive. Starting in the middle, press the paper down in small motions, making sure to get out any air bubbles. Paint Modpodge over valentine and glass, going in one direction and paying special attention to the edges, where they are prone to curl up. If this is your first Modpodge experience, don’t be alarmed, it will dry clear though it looks white at first. Let dry completely, about 15-20 minutes. Cover with a second coat, let dry and viola! Mantle-ready.

ModpodgeTissuePaper

Another variation is to use tissue paper as a background to the valentine. In this case, paint one stripe of Modpodge the length of the vase or votive. Press tissue paper gently onto this strip. Continue to paint in strips around the votive, pressing the tissue paper gently down each time, all the way around. Cut off all but 1/4 in. of excess tissue paper at the top and bottom. Fold in the top and under the bottom, and Modpodge them into place. Cut off excess where the seam meets and Modpodge into place. The Modpodge will soak through the tissue paper, so allow to dry completely before touching, or it will tear. Once dry, cover the back of the valentine with Modpodge and add to the tissue paper covered votive. Cover entire votive with one coat of Modpoge. Allow to dry, then cover valentine portion with one more coat. There you have it!

ValentineVotives

I hate to play favorites, but the girl in the cauldron is really taking the cake on this one.


Spiced Tangerine Mimosa

Chilly weather calls for a whole different set of cocktail flavor profiles. Mulled, spicy undertones are perfect to warm you up this time of year. Oh man, do I love a good mulled cider or wine. But it’s still nice to have a pop of bright citrus every once in a while, too. Especially to balance out all of the rich and heavy comfort foods that abound this season. This drink is the best of both worlds. Not to mention, this is quite a good dose of vitamin c. And this is certainly the time of year to be loading up on that. Cheers to a cocktail for health! Who won’t drink to that?


An orange gives this drink an acidic, citrus-y zing and the tangerines provide a deep rich, almost cream-like flavor and consistency. The healthy dose of bitters brings the spice to the party and automatically winterizes this traditional brunch drink.

You’ll need:

1 orange
3 tangerines
Angostura bitters
Champagne
lemon peel for garnish

Juice orange and tangerines and strain to remove pulp and seeds. Fill the bottom of a martini (or other small cocktail) glass with 5-6 dashes of bitters. Add 2 oz. of juice and fill remainder of glass with Champagne. Garnish with lemon twist.

A little tip: twisting the lemon helps to release its oils and add even more of an aromatic quality to the drink. It’s best if you rub it around the rim before serving. Not to mention, it’s downright fun-looking.

Brunch won’t know what hit it.


Miss Swiss

Well, it’s cold out. Official sweater weather, if you will. Which I suppose is acceptable since we’ve now passed Thanksgiving. So, sweaters ahead!

This is one of my favorite winter sweaters because it hits all the important requirements: warm and practical, classic but fun. The black and white pattern gives this a timeless winter-y look while the shoulder frills make it a bit more of a statement piece.

Black skinny jeans are the perfect neutral item to set the sweater off. But, just when you’re worrying that too much black and white is getting boring, there’s a pop of green in these fun moccasins I picked up. Whew. Shoot, count my hair color in and I’m downright festive.

And when the cold, dry weather hits, my hair has a tendency to look like I put my finger in an electrical socket after taking off my scarf and coat. Haphazardly pinning up braids is a fun way to keep the hair in check. It’s a simple play on Swiss braids. I feel like between the updo and the sweater, I should be running round the Alps or at least drinking some hot cocoa.

Sweater: Modcloth, Pants: H&M, Shoes: Modcloth

Happy sweater weather!


Cheesy Mexican Pull-apart Bread

My husband makes this insanely good garlic and herb pull apart bread, based loosely on the recipe found here. He gets all kinds of requests to make it and when we take it to parties and it’s always a hit. Gooey, cheesy, dipped in marinara. Like savory monkey bread. Yuuuum.

But, in trying to think of ways to mix it up a little (even the best foods you can’t eat for every dinner party), we had a brainstorming session with our friends and the suggestion to try it Mexican-style and dip in in salsa and queso came up. Challenge accepted.

I don’t want to say this turned out better than the garlic Parmesan, but it was at least a tie. The sheer fact that it’s different than the usual cheesy breads out there definitely gives it an edge. The aromatic cumin with the earthiness and kick of the jalapenos mixed with the cheese and the crunchy-on-the-outside-soft-in-the-middle bread is just so pleasantly surprising. Why has no one made this bread before? (For the record, all similar recipes I found used refrigerated biscuit dough, so if you aren’t up to the task of making dough from scratch, you can still give this a whirl.) And then you dunk it in more cheese and salsa and the flavors are magnified, if that’s possible. Enough of my rambling. You’ll just have to try it for yourself and then you, too, can sit and wonder why this bread is not already a thing.

For the bread :

3 7/8 cups white bread flour
2 T course semolina flour
1 package Fleischmann’s active dry yeast
2 heaping tsp. fine grain salt
5 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups water

Spice Mixture:

1/2 stick butter, melted
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 T minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 1/2 tsp. onion flakes
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper

For layering:

3 T jalapeno pepper, diced
3/4 cup finely grated pepperjack cheese
3/4 cup finely grated sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Dough likes warm kitchens. Combine dry ingredients (flour, yeast, semolina, salt) in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using a bread hook, turn stand mixer onto its lowest setting. Slowly add oil and water. After liquid has been added, continue to mix at lowest speed for two minutes. Turn mixer to next highest speed and continue mixing for six minutes or until dough becomes firm and barely sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently knead for two minutes. Form dough into a ball and place into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and a towel and let rest for one hour. While dough is rising, whisk together butter, oil and next eight ingredients in a small bowl.

Once dough has nearly doubled in size, lightly punch it down in the bowl. Pull off small pieces of dough from dough ball (roughly a tablespoon if you were to measure it), dip each piece in spice mixture and drop into a bundt pan. Once the bottom of the pan is covered with a layer of dough, sprinkle with 1/3 cup of mixed cheeses and 1 T jalapenos. Continue this process two more times (reserving a little cheese for the top once baked).

Cover pan and let rise for another 45 minutes to an hour, once the dough nearly reaches the top of the pan. Place into the oven and reduce heat to 425. Bake for 16- 20 minutes until top is dark golden brown and crispy. Let cool for 30 minutes and turn out bread onto serving platter. Top with remaining cheese and serve with salsa and queso for dipping. (As a chef’s note, next time, we think it would be good to dice and saute red pepper and onions and jalapenos for the layering, too.)

We are currently taking requests for other out-of-the-box breads! Any suggestions?


Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

It’s a squash. No, it’s a bowl. No, it’s a squash bowl! And a mighty delicious one at that. Really, who doesn’t like to eat things out of edible bowls? Bread bowls, waffle bowls, and now, behold the acorn squash bowl.

I picked up an acorn squash knowing that I wanted to make it into a bowl for a cute little one-dish-meal. However, I didn’t find any recipes that: a.) were savory dinner recipes; b.) sounded wonderful; and c.) I had all the ingredients for on hand. The saga of my life. And thus, this delicious flavor-packed baby was born. It is so moist and savory and complex, I can’t get over it. I may just make it again next week.

And as if the incredible developed flavors and healthiness were not enough for me to talk you into making these, I would like to emphasize how quick and easy they are to make as well. I got home from work, prepped the squash and was putting it in the oven when my husband got home and I explained to him what my plan was. I wanted to get in a quick 30-minute workout, so he decided to take over chopping and sauteing and by the time I was done, I walked in the kitchen as he was stirring the veggies into the quinoa and loading up the bowls. (He’s quite the cook anyway, I’m just emphasizing the speed element here.) So, let’s get to it.

You’ll need:

one acorn squash
1 lb Italian seasoned ground turkey
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 large carrot, finely diced
1/2 red pepper, finely diced
1 small onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 T minced garlic
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme (1/4 tsp. if using dried)
1/4 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup Monterrey Jack or other mild white cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
1 T butter
salt
pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Slice the acorn squash long ways (stem up). For ease of cutting, microwave for 30 seconds first. Scoop out pulp and seeds. Lightly oil, salt and pepper the inside of the squash and place on a baking sheet flesh side up. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until tender.

While the squash is baking, brown the turkey in a skillet with a little oil. In another pan, saute vegetables, garlic and thyme in butter until tender. Salt and pepper to taste. Meanwhile, start cooking quinoa according to directions on box.

Once quinoa, vegetables and meat are cooked, stir vegetables, meat and both cheeses into quinoa, reserving 1/4 cup of Monterrey Jack for topping. Evenly mix the ingredients, then scoop and press spoonfuls of the quinoa mixture into the acorn squash.

Top bowls with remaining cheese and place under broiler for 2-3 minutes, until brown and bubbly. Let cool for a few minutes and serve.

I must warn you: quinoa makes for a very filling dish. Neither Andy or I could get through more than half of a serving. This ended up feeding us for six meals, which was just fine by both of us since it was so delicious. And this is one of those dishes that is honestly just as good leftover. A bonus is that the quinoa mixture can easily stand alone, too. Now, go throw together this dish in the amount of time it took you to read this. Enjoy!