Archive for the ‘Crafts & Celebrations’ Category

8 DIY Vintage Suitcase Projects

Monday, June 30th, 2014

DIY-Vintage-Suitcase-Projects-Collage Suitcases are one item that you can always find at Goodwill. With that in mind, today’s post showcases 8 ideas for ways you can use vintage suitcases for your home. Whether you are upcycling the suitcases into new pieces or simply adding them to an empty corner in your home, suitcases can offer both beauty and storage to your home.

When my kids were small, I made a rainy day suitcase that was filled with items from Goodwill, craft supplies, and fun dollar store items that they used to look forward to when we were cooped indoors. I have long been a lover of this sweet item at Goodwill and after you see these ideas, I know you will too!

Check out these 8 DIY Ideas for Vintage Suitcases on the Goodwill Tips Blog!

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Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

As my children grow older, I strive to find more meaningful ways to celebrate holidays. The 4th of July has always been a burst of red, white, & blue through our home, but I can’t say that we have ever spent time together discussing the importance of this day and getting to know the heroes behind what makes the 4th of July so special. Today I want to share with you a fun way you can share about the 4th of July Heroes in your home and a fun way to incorporate their images in your home to make the day more meaningful and festive.

I partnered with Walmart on this project and all the materials you need for this can be found at their store.

To begin, you can select your 4th of July Heroes that you want to talk about. I found this great list for kids that I used to select our heroes to focus upon. I then headed to Wikipedia and found images of each of our heroes and converted them to black & white and saved them on my computer. If you would like to use the same heroes as us, here are the heroes we selected for our project.

George Washington

George Washington

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

John Hancock

John Hancock

Crispus Attucks

Crispus Attucks

John Adams

John Adams

Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Once you have your heroes selected, head to the Walmart Photo Site and upload the images there. In addition to having 1 of each image printed in 4×6, also add 1 set of wallets for each person.  If you send these to the one-hour lab, it will be less than $6 for all of them. While you are there, you can also pick up a package of mini-clothespins, a set of notecards for your kids to write on, supplies for this easy flag bunting, and this burlap wreath to decorate with. Since I already had these things in our home, it helps cut down on cost and storage for us this year.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Once you have your images, have kids select which person they are interested in discovering and have them find information about their 4th of July heroes. I challenged my kids to find one or two facts about each hero.  We also read about the first 4th of July and how different is from how we celebrate today.

I am embarrassed to say that I was learning right along with my children and soaking it all in as much as they were. Abigail Adams, for example, was one of our favorite people we learned about. Did you know that she had five kids that she cared for and homeschooled while her husband was away serving his country?  Not only was she passionate about women’s rights, but she was also passionate about equality for all people, whether they were black or white. She helped care for the soldiers in her home (feeding them and treating their injuries), and she even learned how to make her own gunpowder. Emily and I are big fans of Abigail Adams now and all she did for our country.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Likewise, my son loved John Adams and his fun fact was that he thought his teachers, “held him back.” Despite being held back from his true potential in grade school, he passed his entrance exams to Harvard and his parents, who were farmers, gave up several acres of their own farm land to pay for John’s schooling. And, boy, did that pay off! John Adams strongly supported independence from Britain, signed the Declaration of Independence, and negotiated the treaty ending the Revolutionary War. He later became the nation’s first vice president and second president.  This led to a great discussion about recognizing our true potential when sometimes others do not.

Did you know that Dr. Martin Luther King referenced Crispus Attucks in one of his speeches? He held him up as an example of black patriotism at the beginning of our nation’s history. Yet, we never knew anything about what he did for our country. I’m so glad we know now.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids
Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

If you have smaller kids, you can share simple facts and have them draw pictures. Clearly, the fact that Abigail Adams rocked it as a mom and had five kids was worthy of a picture. Make this time fun for your kids while acknowledging the sacrifices that so many gave up for our freedom.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Once we were done discussing our heroes, I incorporated these pictures into our holiday decor. I pulled some of the flags off of our bunting and switched them with pictures of our heroes.  I took the items off of my burlap wreath and clipped the wallet images with mini clothespins on the wreath. I hung this in the center of our mirror and added the flag & hero bunting around the frame of the mirror.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

I love these touches to our 4th of July decorating, but I love even more that my kids know about these patriotic heroes.  I hope this idea inspires you to learn more about this holiday and the heroes who made this day possible for all of us.

Happy 4th of July, friends!

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DIY Herb Garden and Garden Markers

Monday, June 16th, 2014

From our diy/craft contributor, Sarah Milne.

DIY Herb Garden with DIY Herb Markers
After a very long, cold winter here in Calgary, we’ve been graced with beautiful sunshine. I think we actually skipped Spring and went straight to Summer here. My children use every ounce of warm sun outside in the backyard jumping on the trampoline and blowing bubbles. And our yard work and landscaping projects are in full swing.

DIY Herb Garden Markers 2 ways
This past week, while my husband worked on building a bench and planter for our deck, the girls and I worked on our herb garden. The IKEA Socker plant stand is the perfect addition to our outdoor space, home to 10 potted herbs and 3 marigolds for each of my children. I purchased the full grown herbs because frankly, I’m impatient. The Socker was easy to build, stands next to our back door, and the base tucks under our vinyl siding for added support so it won’t topple over in a strong wind.

Above the stand, I spray painted some little letters I found on clearance at Michaels. They’re attached using some heavy duty outdoor double sided tape and so far, they’ve survived the heat and a handful of thundershowers.

IKEA socker herb wall

herbswall-5

DIY Herb Garden Markers Supplies
We crafted two sets of fun, DIY herb markers – one for keeps and one to gift. Here are the steps to create your own diy herb markers:

1. Herb Garden Markers : Monogram Popsicle Sticks

What you need:

Jumbo wooden popsicle sticks
Spray paint: we used bubble gum pink from our garage
Wooden letters: Michaels scrapbook section
Gorilla glue

What you do:

1. Spray paint the popsicle sticks. I only painted one side.
2. Let dry.
3. Glue monogram letters to the popsicle sticks to represent each herb. Luckily I hadn’t any duplicates with the same letter. Let dry.
4. You can also jot down what the herb’s full name is on the back of the stick using a sharpie.
5. Stick the garden markers in your herb pots.

DIY Herb Garden Markers 2 ways

2. Herb Garden Markers : Vinyl Flags

What you need:

Vinyl fabric
Wooden coffee stir sticks : dollar store
Spray paint: we used cream white from our garage
Ruler, paper, scissors, or fabric cutter
Sharpie
Gorilla glue or hot glue

What you do:

1. Spray paint the stir sticks. I only painted one side.
2. Let dry.
3. Create a triangle template for your flag from the paper.
4. Cut your triangles from your vinyl fabric using your template.
5. Write your herb names on each flag with sharpie. Let dry.
6. Adhere the flags to the stir sticks using gorilla glue or hot glue. Let dry.
7. Stick the garden markers in your herb pots.

DIY Chalkboard pot and DIY herb garden markers
We made this set with intentions of gifting them along with a potted herb. I painted a terracotta pot using chalkboard paint and doodled with a chalk marker. Such a sweet, reusable gift for the end of the school year or just because…

Gardening is a hobby I love sharing with my children. My oldest absolutely LOVES to help. The herbs are small and easy for her to take care of. She especially loves to trim a little off for dinners. My 3 year old checks our giant strawberry plant each morning to see if there’s any red ones to pick.

Happy Summer!

kids and gardening

 

DIY IKEA herb garden

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Restaurant Style Steak Recipe

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Restaurant Style Steak Recipe

If there is one thing I love, it is creating a restaurant experience in the comfort of my own home with a price tag that fits our budget.  Father’s Day is just around the corner one way you can really wow those amazing dads in your life is by creating this restaurant style steak recipe for an amazing culinary experience at home.

Walmart wanted me to showcase a fun recipe you could create for Father’s Day and I immediately thought of making Dad a delicious steak dinner. What says I love you more than a delicious New York Strip Steak or a beautiful Filet Mignon?

Today’s post is less recipe and more technique. The truth is, if you have a beautiful cut of meat, the last thing you want to do is mask that delicious flavor. A beautiful steak needs only to be dressed simply with a little oil, salt, pepper, and a butter finish to be more than worthy of your taste buds.

I had hoped to have a beautiful picture tutorial for you, but this steak cooks so quickly that I am going to type out my tips instead. Even with the tomatoes and roasted asparagus as our sides, we still will have dinner ready in about fifteen minutes!  That will be even less time than it would take to haul everyone in the car for a meal out, not to mention the incredible savings you will experience by dining at home.

Here are my personal recommendations for creating that perfect steak for Dad! 

Restaurant Style Steak Recipe

Pick the Right Type of Pan

Since we are need to sear the steak and then finish it in the oven, you want to make sure that you have a pan that can do this task well. I love a good heavy-bottom skillet that does not have a plastic handle or a cast iron skillet for this job. I bought one of these Lodge Logic 12″ cast iron skillets a couple of winters ago and it has been so good to me over the years.  This is definitely a work horse in my kitchen and it is also a great tool to use when outdoor grilling for delicate meats or when mixing up a big batch of fresh veggies so you don’t have to cook in a hot kitchen in the summer. It has truly been the best $20 I have ever spent and I know that you will feel the same way especially after cooking your steaks on it.

Let Your Meat Rest At Room Temperature

It is really important that you don’t put cold meat into your hot pan.  I like to pull my steaks out about thirty minutes before I plan to cook them and leave them on my counter. This helps to heat your steak more evenly and helps prevent the risk of your meat drying out before you have finished cooking it.

Get Your Pan Screaming Hot…Hotter Then You Think

If you want a beautiful sear on your meat, you need to be sure that your skillet is hot enough to add that beautiful caramelization on your meat. Turn your heat up to high with nothing in the pan for at least five minutes. When you place your meat in the pan it should stick and you should hear a nice sizzle on the outside. That’s exactly what you want to hear and see happening to your meat.

Dry & Season Your Meat Well

One of the best tools in your arsenal for creating the perfect steak is a paper towel. If you want a beautiful sear on your meat, you need the meat to be dry and not wet, otherwise you risk just having your meat steam in its own juices rather than sear. Dry the meat with a heavy-duty paper towel and then brush the steak with oil. I love canola oil and then season your meat simply with salt and pepper. Once your pan has to come to that screaming hot phase, drop your seasoned meat into the pan and let it sear for two minutes on each side.

Don’t Move Your Steak

Once you have dropped it in, the first thing I know I want to do is to shift the meat and take a peek at it. Just don’t. Let the meat get the golden sear it needs for two minutes on each side, giving it a beautiful crust on the outside, and keeping your meat perfectly pink on the inside.

Butter Makes Everything Better

A butter finish makes all dishes a little more beautiful, don’t you think? A dab of butter is a beautiful finishing touch to the steak before sliding it into the oven to finish cooking.

Avoid Overcooking

A meat thermometer is your best friend. I still rely on mine for my steaks. I love my steak to be medium rare, but cook it to the consistence that you love the most. Keep in mind that Rare is 120 degrees, Medium is 125 degrees, and Medium Well is 130 degrees.

Always Let Your Meat Rest

If you cut into your meat right when you take it off the pan, chances are that all the juiciness will just pour out on your cutting board or plate. Cover your steak with a little tin foil and let it rest for ten minutes before diving in.  I promise you will have a much more flavorful bite if you just wait the recommended amount of time.

asparagus 2 asparagus 3

I hope these steak tips help you and a great accompaniment to this steak is my Simple Roasted Asparagus. You can slide this in at the same time and temperature as your steaks and it should be ready in 10-12 minutes. I also added a side of the warmed tomatoes from this tomato appetizer we created last week!

Restaurant Style Steak Recipe

Restaurant Style Steak Recipe
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
A beautiful restaurant-style steak, perfect for celebrating any occasion. Once you follow the tips & techniques for a perfect steak, you will save a bundle on special occasion meals out.
Ingredients
  • 2 (10-ounce) filet mignon (you can double this recipe, just make sure you have a large skillet so all the steaks have room)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, optional
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Heat a large, well-seasoned cast iron skillet over high heat until very hot, 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, pat the steaks dry with a paper towel and brush them lightly with canola oil. Combine the salt and pepper on a plate and roll the steaks in the mixture, pressing lightly to evenly coat all sides.
  4. When the skillet is ready, add the steaks and sear them evenly on all sides for about 2 minutes per side, for a total of 10 minutes.
  5. Top each steak with a tablespoon of butter and place the skillet in the oven. Cook the steaks until they reach 120 degrees F for rare or 125 degrees F for medium-rare on an instant-read thermometer. (To test the steaks, insert the thermometer sideways to be sure you're actually testing the middle of the steak. Mine took 4-5 minutes to come to medium rare)
  6. Remove the steaks to a serving platter, cover tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.

 

 

Looking for more Father’s Day ideas? Check out these Monster Cookie Bars & Monster Printable Cards for Dad, this chalkboard cookie jar you can personalize for your favorite guy, or this beautiful candy bouquet we created for our Dad last year!! Happy Father’s Day!

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DIY Grilling Seasoning Mixes #grillmaster

Friday, May 30th, 2014

DIY Grilling Seasoning Mixes #grillmaster Father’s Day is just around the corner and when Kenmore asked me what I could create for a fun Father’s Day gift, I immediately knew that making some delicious grill seasoning mixes would be the perfect gift for this Father’s Day.  Today I wanted to share with you two easy DIY grilling seasoning mixes you can make and package up for your favorite dads!  DIY Grilling Seasoning Mixes #grillmaster DIY Grilling Seasoning Mixes #grillmaster We have created these beautiful printable grill seasoning jar labels for your Dad and you can snag all the recipes and details on how to create this fast gift on the Kenmore Blog today! I hope you love this fun food craft as much as I love sharing it with you!

Grab your FREE printable BBQ labels on our blog (just click that link to open). Head to the Kenmore Blog to grab our recipes for these delicious seasoning mixes!

 

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Brown Bag It! The Gift of a Meal (With a Free Printable!)

Monday, May 19th, 2014

free printable tag for meal gifting

“No act of kindness no matter how small is ever wasted.” ~Aesop

Sometimes the greatest gifts are the littlest of things. And random acts of kindness are beautiful and heart warming, not only as a recipient, but more so, when you give.

This post is inspired by a really great friend of mine whom I met at our kid’s kindergarten drop-off. I can definitely say that without her in my life these past 2 years, it would have been lacking tremendously. She is the kindest of souls.

Out of the blue, on a random day of the week, she made an extra meal for our family because she had enough ingredients. She popped by with dish and a little note that said “Bake at 350 for an hour. Enjoy!” I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Being a mom of 3, some days, I don’t even want to think about the next meal or dig through my pantry to see what I could possibly make! Of course, she didn’t think it was a big deal at all… but honestly, it made my week.

I returned the act of kindess last week when I popped by with a roast chicken meal from our grocery store. It wasn’t homemade, but it was a warm cooked meal that I know they certainly enjoyed. Even next day’s leftovers!

This back and forth got me thinking that I want to do this more often to unsuspecting mom friends who deserve a little mid-week break or pick me up. Hopefully this post will inspire you to do the same.

I’ve designed this fresh modern printable with a cute little poem to attach to your yums. Simply print a stack of them and have them handy when your eager kindness strikes. You can customize the printable with meal details, whether it’s homemade or store bought… and don’t dare forget dessert!

Download the Brown Bag It Meal Gifting tag here.

 

free printable bag tag for meal gifting

free printable tag for meal gifting
brownbagit-4

Download the Brown Bag It Meal Gifting tag here.

Oh, and we’d love to hear how you used these and the response you got!

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How to Make DIY Mojito Bath Salts

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014
How to Make Mojito Bath Salts

How to Make Mojito Bath Salts

Mother’s Day is just around the corner and I am so excited to share with you an easy DIY gift that any mother would love to receive. Today we are going to mix up an easy batch of Mojito Bath Salts that you can create with just a few items from your local grocer and craft store.

These Mojito bath salts incorporate everything we love in a delicious mojito drink, with lots of fresh lime and mint. To really increase the mint component in these, we are adding a little mint essential oil to the mix.

Head on over to the Kenmore Blog to grab your shopping list and instructions to make our DIY Mojito Bath Salts! And if you really want to WOW Mom (or at least if she is a mom like me), you can pair it with our recipe for The Perfect Mojito and a watercolor painting made with the Waterlogue app! That is a Happy Mother’s Day, indeed!

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How to Make a Succulent Centerpiece

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

How to Make a Succulent Centerpiece from MomAdvice.com

You may think, “Who am I reading? I thought she couldn’t take care of anything (even herself?)!  Well, surprise, SURPRISE, I am showing you an easy DIY succulent centerpiece today and wanted to share with you a few tips on caring for succulents. I think I got my confidence back this year after creating that terrarium for you all and now I think I am some kind of green-thumb-ish-person and I want to take you along on my journey. In all honesty, I worked many a summer in a greenhouse, but I had lost my love of plants when I started changing diapers, cleaning a house, and feeding a family. Maybe you felt the same way?   Today’s project was sponsored by Walmart and they asked me to showcase a fun creation you can make for your own backyard from their gardening department and I thought I would highlight a plant I am kind of crazy about right now…the succulent.

Painted Succulent Pictures

Have you seen a painted succulent before?  True green thumbs may cringe at the painted plants, but (as I illustrated above) I am a newbie to the houseplant world and I love anything that is painted. These succulents have been painted which I think can add a pop of color to your home or as an outdoor centerpiece for your outdoor table, as I am showing off today.

How to Care For Your Succulents

Succulents don’t need a lot to survive, but they do have some small requirements- a lot of light, thoughtful watering, and a little plant food every couple of weeks.

A  succulent is any plant with thick, fleshy (succulent) water storage organs. Succulents store water in their leaves, their stems or their roots. These plants have adapted to survive arid conditions throughout the world, from Africa to the deserts of North America.These plants can take many different leaf forms and plant shapes, including paddle leaves, tight rosettes, and bushy or trailing columns of teardrop leaves.

Light- 

The one requirement I worry about in my home is the lighting conditions because my house doesn’t get a ton of light in it. If you have a home with bright sunny windows, succulents are a perfect houseplant option.

Succulents prefer bright light, such as found on a south-facing window. Succulents will let you know if you are not putting them in an ideal location. Some species will scorch if suddenly exposed to direct sunlight. Their leaves will turn brown or white as the plant bleaches out and the soft tissues are destroyed. If the plant is not getting enough light, succulents will begin to stretch, with an elongated stem and widely spaced leaves. Many varieties of succulents will thrive outdoors in the summer and, depending upon your weather, this might be a better option.

Water-

Most people think that they don’t need to water their succulents very often, but in the Spring & Summer months, succulents actually need more water than they do in the Winter & Fall. Make sure to water your succulents often in the summer.  Allow the potting mix to dry between waterings, but do not underwater. During the winter, when the plants go dormant, cut watering back to once every other month. Really, the watering is probably the most tricky part about succulents!

Fertilize-

Make sure that you purchase some houseplant fertilizer while you are at the store. In the Spring & Summer months, fertilize your plant every two weeks.  Just make sure you stop fertilizing in the winter months.

How to Make a Succulent Centerpiece from MomAdvice.com

Now that we know all about succulents, let’s make a cute centerpiece for our outdoor table!

Supplies Needed

3-4 Succulents (painted or not)- these are priced at $6.88 each

Gold Spray Paint

White Spray Paint

Inexpensive Pizza Pan (this was just $.92)

Painters Tape

How to Make a Succulent Centerpiece from MomAdvice.com

Directions

1. Remove plant in plastic pot from the clay pot. Remove stickers. Hold your can 8 inches away from your surface and spray in a sweeping motion side to side with a slight overlap. It has always been my experience to go thin with the paint, allow it to dry, and then to add another layer for the best results and minimal drip. Allow the paint to dry for one hour.

2. Using your painters tape, tape off anywhere you would like to have some gold peeking through. You can do a paint dipped pot and do the bottoms, trim the top in gold, or create your own unique paint effect with geometric taping. Spray paint those parts gold and allow your pots to dry.

3. Finally, spray paint your pizza pan gold.

4. Once it is dry, pull everything together and display it on your outdoor table for a unique centerpiece.

How to Make a Succulent Centerpiece from MomAdvice.com

How to Make a Succulent Centerpiece from MomAdvice.com

How to Make a Succulent Centerpiece from MomAdvice.com

How to Make a Succulent Centerpiece from MomAdvice.com

Have any tips for succulent care or selection? Feel free to leave them here- I’d love to hear about your experience with these plants!

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How To Print Waterlogue Pictures

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

How To Print Waterlogue Pictures from MomAdvice.com.

I am so excited to share with you today’s tutorial on how to print Waterlogue images for easy and beautiful gifts for someone special in your life. With Mother’s Day just around the corner, the Waterlogue app is a great way to make beautiful watercolor prints for a favorite mama in your life.

Walmart challenged me to showcase a budget-friendly gift to give for Mother’s Day and I just knew that I had to show you how to do this so you can make beautiful images for a special lady in your life or as a gift to yourself. To get started, you will need to download the Waterlogue App ($1.99). The app is compatible with the iPhone, iPad, or iTouch. Once you have downloaded it, we can begin creating our art.

How To Print Waterlogue Pictures from MomAdvice.com.

How To Print Waterlogue Pictures from MomAdvice.com.

I took my kids in the backyard and had them pose for me. I wanted to get one of the back of them or a side angle. Although sometimes the app looks amazing with faces directly to the camera, I find that it can be a little tricky picking the right filter and I wanted to insure we had good success. I suggest trying a couple of different angles so you can play with the filters until you find the perfect one.

This is the picture that I took with my DSLR, but I did not make any edits to the image. I just wanted to make sure that it was nice and crisp for the app, but you can definitely just shoot with your iPhone too!

How To Print Waterlogue Pictures from MomAdvice.com.

To begin, tap on the camera to take a picture or import from your library. Since I took my photo with my DSLR, I emailed the photo to myself and then saved it to my phone to use for this. Next, you will want to select a filter. Each of the filters offers a different feel to your photos so have fun playing around with all the different options- there are twelve in all!

How To Print Waterlogue Pictures from MomAdvice.com.

As you scroll through the film strip at the bottom, you will have a couple of other options for making your picture. One is how dark or how light the brushstrokes are in your photo. Try out the different options before finalizing your picture.

How To Print Waterlogue Pictures from MomAdvice.com.

As you continue to scroll through the film strip, you will also see the option to select the size of the brushstrokes.  This is not the file size, this is just the size of the brushstrokes which can be a little confusing.

The final selection you can make on the film strip is if you would like a border or not on your image. I decided to leave the border off.

Click the HEART (above the filmstrip) to head to SETTINGS (you will need to scroll all the way to the other end of the options on the bottom row.  Click SETTINGS and then change your file size to LARGE.  From this menu you can SAVE TO PHOTOS or just click MAIL to email the file to yourself. 

How To Print Waterlogue Pictures from MomAdvice.com.

Once you have emailed the file to yourself you can open and print it just like a regular picture since it is in JPEG format.  Click the size of picture you want to print and simply print it on heavy-duty cardstock. You can find this over by the printer paper in the office supplies section of the store.

How To Print Waterlogue Pictures from MomAdvice.com.

Now that you have your picture,  you can place it in an inexpensive frame. I found these Better Homes & Gardens frames for a little less than $10 in the housewares. You will need to trim your image a bit, and you can use your removable mat to help figure out how to center and trim it. Place the picture inside and tie it with a little grosgrain ribbon for mom with an inexpensive bouquet of flowers.

How To Print Waterlogue Pictures from MomAdvice.com.

I hope you guys have the best time creating your own artwork and I hope this idea inspires you for an easy gift for someone special in your life!

For more great Mother’s Day gift ideas, check out these easy DIY Mother’s Day Gift Ideas!

Have you used the Waterlogue App before? What are you doing with this fun app?

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Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans from MomAdvice.com.

For years I have been wanting to make beans in the slow cooker, but was intimidated with the process. Beans in the slow cooker though are surprisingly easy and frugal to create in large batches for your family. Today I wanted to show you a foolproof and delicious recipe for Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans for all of your Cinco de Mayo fun, or as a frugal side dish for your next taco night. Today’s cooking tutorial is going to take you through the in’s and out’s of how to cook beans, how to freeze them, and then in the comments below you can share your views on bean preparation. Everyone has a theory, a trick, and a recipe. Let’s share what we know works best for us!

Bean Cooking 101

How to Cook Dried Beans

Why Should You Trouble Yourself With Dried Beans?

There is true convenience in grabbing a quick can of beans for your dishes out of your pantry. Although it is still a frugal staple, dried beans are oh-so-much cheaper and they have much more flavor than the canned variety. Dried beans typically cost two to three times less than canned beans and they have the added benefit of less sodium, more flavor, and can save you a lot of room in a small pantry. Did I mention that they can be made while you are sleeping in your slow cooker? Now that’s a beautiful thing.

When I posted that I was working on this on Instagram, many people commented on their techniques as well as their failures in cooking beans. I guess I am not the only one a little intimidated by the process. Now that I have made them though, I will be making this a regular habit because it saves me a lot of money and is a very filling protein for someone who is on a gluten-free diet and always hungry.

A Little Sorting Never Hurt Nobody

Once you purchase your beans, make sure you sort them out. Arrange dried beans on a sheet pan or clean kitchen towel and sort through them to pick out any shriveled or broken beans, stones or debris. This is not an all-day affair, just a quickly peek and move on to the next steps.

Rinse It, Rinse It Good

Always make sure you rinse your beans really well before beginning. Make sure you also rinse them well after our salt brine (below).

Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans from MomAdvice.com.

To Soak or Not to Soak

Sounds like a great Shakespeare line, doesn’t it? I know that many people skip the soaking process and opt to just throw them right into the slow cooker after a rinse.  I always consult the experts when it comes to cooking and according to Cook’s Illustrated, quick soaking can be effective, but their proven method of soaking beans in a brine, yields a bean that a girl can really be proud of.  Just as a brine on a bird can yield tasty results, beans can benefit from salt too. The salt soak prevents magnesium and calcium from binding to — and, subsequently hardening — the cell walls on your beans. When people  complain that they can never get the beans to soften, you can be assured that a brine can help with that, while maintaining the shape of your beans.

Cook’s Illustrated recommends, for 1 pound of dried beans (about 2 cups) dissolve 3 tablespoons of salt in 4 quarts of water. Add the rinsed beans and let them soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours. (If you’re short on time, quick-soak the beans: Place the beans in a large heatproof bowl. Bring 2 quarts of water and 3 tablespoons of salt to a boil. Pour the water over the beans and let them soak for 1 hour before draining and rinsing.)

As far as salting goes for your beans for seasoning though, it is advised to wait until the end and salt once they are cooked and season to taste. You also want to be sure that you are rinsing that brine off before you get started with your recipe.

Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans from MomAdvice.com.  Cook Them Low & Slow

Since beans need to be cooked low and slow, the slow cooker is ideal for cooking your beans. Once you have rinsed these after the salt brine, add them to your slow cooker along with liquid and seasonings of choice and turn your slow cooker on Low and head to bed.  Skip the addition of anything acidic though because the acid can prevent those beans from breaking down and it’s all about getting these beans to break down.

I cooked mine in my Ninja Cooker and set it for six hours and it set’s itself to warm after that.  The beans should take roughly six to eight hours to cook and slow cookers can be the ideal tool for cooking them. According to The Kitchn, it’s adviseable to pick a slow cooker that fits best with the amount of beans you are cooking. They advise that for small batches of beans, a pound or less, to rely on a 3 1/2-quart or smaller slow cooker. If cooking 2 pounds or more, you can use your 7-quart slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans from MomAdvice.com. Freeze Those Beans

Once the beans are done, divide them up into two cup portions in freezer bags and put them in the freezer.  You can now enjoy the savings all month long and enjoy these beans as a side or accompaniment to any of your favorite Mexican dishes.

I hope this tutorial helps and I can’t wait to read your own tips for cooking beans in the comments below! These would be delicious paired with my favorite 10-minute fish tacos, our chicken enchiladas (made with homemade enchilada sauce), my roasted corn salsa, and a tall margarita or mojito…just in case you are looking for a few great dishes for Cinco de Mayo!

Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans from MomAdvice.com.

SAFETY NOTE: If you are cooking kidney beans, boil them for 10 minutes before cooking. This neutralizes a toxin called phytohemagglutinin that can cause acute digestive distress.

Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Be sure to read our Bean Cooking Tutorial before you begin! These beans make the perfect side dish for any meal!
Ingredients
  • 1 pound dried black beans
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, or 2 cups fresh chopped tomatoes (ADD AT THE END)
Instructions
  1. Follow the instructions for sorting, rinsing, brining, and then rinsing again as I have outlined above.
  2. Put the drained beans into your slow cooker, then add the chopped garlic, broth, cumin, and chili powder. Stir well to combine.
  3. Set on LOW for six to eight hours in your slow cooker (see above for recommended slow cooker sizes based on pounds).
  4. Once they are done, stir in diced tomatoes and season.
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What’s your favorite way to cook beans? Any tips, tricks, or techniques that work well for you?

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