Thursday, January 29, 2015

. . . Crockpot Baked Potato Soup . . .

I really am not a soup lover however a long time ago I found this recipe in a magazine and I decided to give it a try.  Oh my goodness, it was so good I couldn't believe it.  I always make it on the stovetop but last time I decided it sounded good I thought I might try it in the crockpot.  I'm so glad I did because it is so easy and nice to not have to worry about it all day.  It turned out perfectly and will now be the way I make it.

I hope you and your family enjoy this soup as much as we do.  It's kind of like eating a loaded baked potato in soup form.  Even my son loves it and he is a picky eater.  I think the cheese and bacon make it a kid friendly recipe!
You will need:
5 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
6 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
Ground black pepper to taste
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup grated cheddar 
Extras:
Sour cream
Grated cheddar
Package of bacon, cooked and crumbled
Diced green onions or chives
Peel and dice the potatoes into small cubes so they cook faster and it's easier to mash them at the end.  Place potatoes, chicken broth, garlic and pepper into the crockpot and cover.  Cook for 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high.  See recipe for my notes on how long I cooked it.
Chop up green onions for the garnish.  Also you will want to cook the bacon and crumble it while the potatoes cook.
When the potatoes are done cooking and are tender when you stick a fork into them use a potato masher or an immersion blender and mash them up until they are smooth and liquidy.
Add your milk or cream.  I used Half and Half to make it a bit richer.
Add the sour cream next
Add the butter
Last, but not least, add the sharp cheddar cheese.  Mix all the above together until it has melted and smooth.  Make sure the heat is down to warm so the cheese doesn't curdle.
This soup is sure to please!  Even for me not liking soup I could eat this regularly.  I am so glad it turned out in the crockpot as well since I've been making it on the stove for years.  Somehow it just seems easier to put it into the crockpot.
Serve with warm crusty bread and top with bacon, sour cream, cheese and green onions
 
Yummy in the tummy!
 




Crockpot Baked Potato Soup
5 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
6 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
Ground black pepper to taste
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup grated cheddar

Extras:
Sour cream
Grated cheddar
Package of bacon, cooked and crumbled
Diced green onions or chives

Place chopped potatoes, chicken broth, and garlic in large crockpot. Add ground pepper. Cover and cook for 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high or until potatoes are soft when pierced with a fork.  I used my crockpot on high for about 5 hours and then turned it down to low for a little longer and then switched to warm. 
Once potatoes are finished cooking turn the crockpot down to warm and use a potato masher or an immersion blender to "mash" the potatoes until smooth and creamy.   I used a potato masher and it worked beautifully.  Add milk, sour cream, butter, and grated cheese and mix until all ingredients are incorporated.  I like my soup a little richer so I used Half and Half instead of milk and used just over a cup to make it a little smoother.  Because of the dairy products you want to do this step at the very end or your cheese may get clumpy so don't leave the heat on for a really long time after you've added the dairy products.

Spoon soup into bowls and top with sour cream, grated cheese, chopped bacon, and green onions. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

. . . Polka Dot Cake Carrier . . .

Several years ago I received this Cake Carrier and love it but everything looks cuter with polka dots so it was time to give this little baby a makeover. 

I decided to use Decoart American Multi-Surface Satin Paint in girly colors that are also perfect for Valentine's Day.  If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you know Valentine's Day is on my mind so this cake carrier got covered in Valentine's Day colors too.  Really, I just look for any excuse to use Pink, Purple and Red in my decorating.
To make a Cake Carrier of your very own you will need:
Wilton Cake Carrier from Michael's
Decoart Americana Multi Surface Paint in the desired colors
Lots of ribbons or fabric scraps
Round Foam Pouncers or Stencils
*Patience


Americana Multi-Surface paint is available in Michaels. Visit the DecoArt Multi-Surface website for more crafting ideas and inspiration too. This little bottle of paint is perfect for so many surfaces!  You can use it on glass, wood, metal, fabric, most plastics and more.  It is for sure something you should keep in your crafting arsenal.  Check out their Metallic Colors too!

 To make the polka dots on the Cake Carrier the easiest way is to purchase these handy little Foam Pouncers from Martha Stewart Crafts at Michael's.  They come with multiple sizes in the package and they are great for making polka dots!  

Choose the size foam pouncer you want for your dots and "pounce" it in the paint color of your choice.  I usually dab it off a few times so I don't get any globs of paint on the item I'm painting.  Just gently press down to apply the paint in a perfect circle. 
  I used multiple sizes of these pouncers for this project.
 The nice thing about the foam pouncers is how easily they wash out and then just grab an old towel and dry them well and you can use them again immediately.  It is also very easy to realign them if they don't quite cover the first time.  For this project I did 2 coats of paint--I let the first coat dry and then went back and did a second coat and it was the perfect amount of paint.

 Once the Americana Multi Surface Paint dried it created the perfect look for this project.  I didn't want the circles to be too perfect or too dense in color so I really liked the coverage of this paint.  It was my first time using it but won't be my last.

 Once all the circles were dry I started cutting ribbon in about 6 inch pieces.  I used fairly thin ribbon but you could do this however you prefer.  Once all the ribbon was cut I started tying them onto the handle.  I didn't do any fancy knots...just a basic knot.  I squished my ribbons tight together so the handle was well covered and just alternated colors until it was completely covered.

 When the handle was complete I went back and cut the ribbons at different lengths.  Some were much shorter than others but that is what makes it fun!

  Once the ribbons are tied on and trimmed you are ready to fill the carrier up with cake or cupcakes!
 
 So cute and girly!

 Seriously, polka dots and ribbon make everything better!

 Of course I had to fill the carrier up with Valentine's Day Cupcakes too.  I cheated and ran to the store and got plain vanilla ones and then added my own cute heart sprinkles.

 This cake carrier would look so cute bringing your sweets to any function.

Be sure to follow Itsy Bisy Paper on 

Monday, January 19, 2015

. . . Takeout Style Fried Rice Recipe . . .

Years ago I started making Fried Rice and over time I finally have it tweaked to taste pretty darn perfect.  It's good enough that my husband and son ask for it quite frequently.  We usually grab a couple egg rolls from the Chinese Restaurant nearby and then add some shrimp or chicken to the rice and we have a very fast dinner that tastes delicious.  


I have never been a real big Chinese food eater but I love me some fried rice!  I was so excited the first time I made it and it actually turned out pretty good.  Not perfect, but not bad, so I kept trying.  I would tweak little things and most the time I felt like it was a fail but over time I have it down to just the way we like it.  The nice thing about this recipe is that you can make it work for your tastes.  If you want a little Sesame Oil added to it go for it or if you want to add some broccoli and sprouts or other veggies then go for it...you get my point.  It is one that works for you and your family.

You will need:
Cooked rice which is best if it's cold so I usually make it in the morning and then put it in the fridge.  I used Minute Rice and made 3 cups for this batch because we like it for leftovers.  You can adjust it to suit your needs.
Soy Sauce
1/2 bag of frozen peas and carrotts
Sliced Mushrooms
Green Onions
Kikomon Fried Rice Seasoning Packet which will be in the same section that you find gravy mixes and chili mixes etc.  Near the soups usually.
Any other meats, seafood or veggies your heart desires.
Sesame Oil to splash on at the end (I'm not a fan of Sesame Oil so I just put it on sparingly on individual servings)
 This Fried Rice Seasoning packet is a game changer.  It makes this rice so yummy!

First things first...dump your seasoning packet into a bowl and add 2 tablespoons of warm water and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and whisk it with a fork until it's pretty well combined.  It will still have some lumps and bumps but you want to get it as smooth as it will go.  I usually do this first and then let it sit to dissolve further while I cook the veggies.
You can't have fried rice without the egg can you?  I think not!  Crack the egg in a hot skillet coated with a little oil and scramble that bad boy up.  Once it's scrambled put it into a bowl to save for later. 

Add a touch more oil to the bottom of your pan and add your frozen peas and carrots.  I used a half of a bag but you can adjust this to work for your family.  Some people might not want all these peas and carrots while others may want an overload of them so whatever works for you then go for it!
Add your sliced mushrooms immediately to the peas and carrots.  If you are using other veggies go ahead and get them in there now so they have time to soften up.  I keep my heat at medium for this step but if they don't seem to be getting browned up bump up the heat just a tad.  I don't like my veggies mushy but I like them nice and soft so about 5 to 10 minutes of sauteing them or if you like them softer go longer or if you like them more crisp then do less.  See how this recipe works for you?  I love that!

While the veggies are frying up grab those pretty green onions and start chopping them up.  I add the white pieces directly to the veggies as I go and then save the green ends to add as a garnish at the end. 
If you have company coming or you just want to make your dish a little fancier then save some of the long pieces of the green onions and cut them into thin strips and place them over the serving of rice.  I'm fancy like that!  No, but really it does look nice it's just that my guys aren't going to really appreciate the beauty of adding that garnish so I don't typically do it.
Once the veggies are cooked up just the way you like them add in your cold or room temperature rice and mix to combine everything.  If you rice is cold then you might want to let it sit on the heat for about 5 minutes and stir it frequently so it heats up before adding the sauce.

Once the rice mixture has started heating up you will add your Fried Rice Seasoning liquid.  Stir it around really well to make sure it's getting all the rice coated.  I usually do this step and then take a little nibble of the rice to see if I like the flavor and if not then I add a little more soy sauce to bump up the flavor.  
Once the seasoning is just right for your tastes then add the scrambled egg and mix well.  That is it!  Easy as can be and you have restaurant style fried rice to serve your family!  
This recipe is easy to adjust the quantity you make as well.  If you are a small family make less rice and maybe only use a half or 3/4 of the seasoning mixture.  
See how those crisscrossed green onions dress it up just a bit?  I like doing this when we have this with company over.  Makes me look like a real pro...totally kidding.  
I am not a big meat eater so I usually don't add the meat or seafood directly to the rice but you can for sure do that.  I have made it both ways and I personally prefer having just the veggies and then having the meat on the side.

This rice will hopefully put some smiles on your family's faces like it does mine!



Takeout Style Fried Rice
www.itsybitsypaperblog.com

3 to 4 cups Cooked rice
*Best if it's cold so I usually make it in the morning and then put it in the fridge.  I usually use Minute Rice to keep things speedy and it always turns out perfectly.  You can adjust the quantity of rice to suit your needs.
2 to 3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
1/2 bag of frozen peas and carrotts
Sliced Mushrooms, optional and quantity will depend on your tastes
1 bunch of Green Onions, chopped
Kikkoman Fried Rice Seasoning Packet
 *sold in the same section that you find gravy mixes and chili mixes etc. (Near the soups)
Any other meats, seafood or veggies your heart desires
Sesame Oil to splash on at the end (I'm not a fan of Sesame Oil so I just put it on sparingly on individual servings)

Pour your seasoning packet into a bowl and add 2 tablespoons of warm water and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and whisk it with a fork until it's well combined.  Let this sit while you prepare the vegetables for the recipe.

Crack the egg in a hot skillet coated with a little oil and scramble it.  Once it's scrambled put it into a bowl and set aside for later.

Add a touch more oil to the bottom of your pan and add your frozen peas and carrots.  I used a half of a bag but you can adjust this to work for your family.  Add your sliced mushrooms immediately to the peas and carrots.  If you are using other veggies go ahead and get them in there now so they have time to soften up.  I keep my heat at medium for this step but if they don't seem to be getting browned up bump up the heat just a tad.  I don't like my veggies mushy but I like them nice and soft so about 5 to 10 minutes of sautéing them or if you like them softer go longer or if you like them more crisp then do less.  

While the veggies are frying chop up the green onions.  I add the white pieces directly to the veggies as I go and then save the green ends to add as a garnish to the rice at the end. 

Once the veggies are cooked up just the way you like them add in your cold or room temperature rice and mix to combine everything.  If you rice is cold then you might want to let it sit on the heat for about 5 minutes and stir it frequently so it heats up before adding the sauce.

Once the rice mixture has started heating up you will add your Fried Rice Seasoning liquid.  Stir it around really well to make sure it's getting all the rice coated.  I usually do this step and then take a little nibble of the rice to see if I like the flavor and if not then I add a little more soy sauce to bump up the flavor.  

Once the seasoning is just right for your tastes then add the scrambled egg and mix well.  That is it!  Easy as can be and you have restaurant style fried rice to serve your family! 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

. . . Flameless Candle Valentine's Day Makeover . . .

I'm in full Valentine's Day mode around here.  I love this simple little holiday for the colors and hearts and love and romance and sparkly things.  It might not really be a holiday but it's an occasion that I have always loved.  Maybe it's because it's the only time of the year that my guys don't fuss at me for decorating with PINK--my favorite color.  

We have lots of flameless candles and I love them because they last forever and they have remote controls that make them very easy to light up.  My favorite flameless candles are by Luminara but they are expensive so I can't go buying a bunch of colors so I just buy the basic colors and then make them over for each occasion we are celebrating.  The best thing about Luminara is that the flame moves and flickers just like a real candle.  I have yet to find any other flameless candle that looks as realistic!  You will fall in love with them.
You will need:
Baker's Twine or ribbon
Heart Shaped die cut hearts.  Mine are corrugated cardboard hearts from Hobby Lobby.
Flameless candles
Any other embellishments you'd like to add to your candles
 I picked up some chipboard hearts and used some red and white baker's twine I always keep on hand.  This is simply a way to recreate your candles for any occasion without ruining the candle.  If you don't mind making the candle permanent for that holiday you could use glue to add cute buttons or any other embellishment.  

 These Luninara candles are the best flameless candles because the wick moves to look like a real flickering candle.  I just love them!
 Simple and Sweet!

Valentine's Day is fast approaching so add a little pop of color to your house by adding some pink and red for the occasion!

Lve!

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