Sunday, December 28, 2014

Easy Crock Pot Makeover

A few months ago, my mom gave me an old crock pot that was passed around the family a bit, but no one needed it. It's not exactly the prettiest thing in the world, but I like that it's small and that Nick and I can use it for meals for the two of us, rather than pulling out our 5 quart crock pot.

I thought that using some leftover chalkboard paint from our coffee table project would be a fun way to spruce this baby up!

Here's what you need!
- 2 quart crock pot
- Rustoleum Specialty ChalkBoard Paint
- Paint brush
- Painter's tape or masking tape
- Chalk

Here's what you do!
- Tape off all the edges you want to keep free from paint.
- Paint it! After the first coat has dried for 4 hours, add a second coat. We only needed 2 coats for our crock pot.

- After the paint has completely dried, very carefully remove the tape. Have a razor handy to cut any edges that may cause your paint to peel up.
- Using a fine paint brush, tough up the edges if necessary.
- Allow the paint to dry for 3 days before conditioning it for writing. To condition the crock pot, you rub the side of a piece of chalk over the entire surface and wipe it clean with a damp rag or paper towel.
- Start writing! (And cooking!)

We tried doing a little research online to determine if the chalkboard paint is heat-safe, but we couldn't find much. So we decided to guinea pig this little project and are happy to report that it appears to work perfectly! I'm sure crock pot brands/styles will vary, but it seems like most of the heat in our crock pot stays in the crock itself and doesn't transfer to the outside/painted part. So no bubbling or peeling paint - all worked well!

Older crock pots like ours don't typically have removable crocks, so the entire crock pot has to be washed when we clean it. This means we'll likely have to recondition our paint frequently, but I see that as the only drawback!

Our new and improved crock pot is perfect for parties or pot lucks. I mean, how many times have you been to a pot luck and thought, "Hmm... I can't quite tell what's in that crock pot." Well with a little chalk you can make it plain as day right on the outside! This is also super convenient for labeling not only what your dish is, but if there's any dietary restrictions eaters should know about, i.e. "Contains nuts!" or in our case, "Dairy free!"

Have an old crock pot you'd like to give a makeover to? Give this method a try! And be sure to let us know in the comments, we'd love to see!

Sarah & Nick

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Morning Tofu Quiche

For Sarah and I, Christmas morning has always held the promise of two things: presents and a delicious breakfast. Often, that breakfast was some sort of sweet, sticky cinnamon bun or heavenly pastry. Luckily for us, our awesome parents have always taken the reigns and made sure we had something yummy to eat on Christmas morning, even if it meant waking up extra early to prepare it. This year, however, we wanted to come up with something that involved minimum morning work, but still gave us maximum deliciousness. This Simple Tofu Quiche we adapted from Minimalist Baker seemed like a perfect candidate, as we can get most of the prep work done the day before, and just pop it in the oven quick when we wake up Christmas morning!

Here's what you need:
- 4 cups frozen shredded hash browns (thawed, and dried with a paper towel)
- 2.5 tbsp. vegan butter (melted)
- Salt & Pepper
- 16 oz. block of tofu (we used extra firm)
- 3 tbsp. nutritional yeast
- 1/4 cup hummus
- 1/2 tbsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 bell pepper, chopped

Here's what you do:
The night or day before:
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees, and lightly grease a pie plate.
- In a medium bowl, mix together your shredded potatoes and melted butter. 
- Lightly salt and pepper your potato/butter mixture.

- With a spatula, press your potatoes into your pie plate, forming a crust. (Be sure to mold it up the sides of the plate as well, to hold all your filling in!)
- Place in the oven for 25 minutes, or until your potatoes brown all over. After it cools, cover and set aside until morning.
- While your crust is baking in the oven, prepare your veggies and wrap your tofu in paper towels to drain.

- Chop up whatever veggies you'll want in your quiche. (You can use anything! We only used onion and bell pepper. I chopped up the peppers with a knife, but someone complains that I never cut up the onion small enough so I had to use the SlapChop!)
- In a pan, heat some olive oil, and saute your veggies until soft. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

- In your food processor, combine your tofu, nutritional yeast, and hummus. It helps to break up the tofu into pieces so that it will all fit. Process until smooth - you may need to scrape the sides with a spatula a couple times.

- Once smooth, combine your tofu mixture and your veggies in a medium bowl. (Use the same bowl your hash browns were in to save on dishes!)
- This mixture can be covered and set in the refrigerator until morning!

The morning of:
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
- Spread your tofu/veggie filling into your pre-baked potato crust, and smooth with a spatula.
- Place in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the top browns and the tofu feels firm to the touch.

Topped with a little avocado and some sriracha or ketchup? OH YEAH! This would be perfect to get into the oven Christmas morning, go open gifts and have some coffee, and come back in 40 minutes to hot and ready breakfast! And on top of that, it's delicious and filling!

We hope everyone has a delicious day! If you're heading out of town for the holidays, we wish you safe travels and hope you have a wonderful time with friends and family!

Sarah & Nick

Friday, December 12, 2014

Tofu Stuffed Shells

Since deciding to eat a (mostly) vegan diet, Nick and I have become kind of tofu obsessed. I never thought I would utter (or type) those words in my life, but it's true. We've already shared our tofu scramble with you, but today we're sharing our tofu-take on a dish that you probably already know and love: stuffed shells!

We adapted this recipe from Oh She Glows and it makes about 6-8 servings, so feel free to cut in half if needed. We had about 35 shells, or two pie plates worth. Tons of leftovers for Nick and I, which is always good during a busy week!

This recipe is easy, delicious, and vegan. Want to give it a try?

Here's what you need!
- Marinara sauce (As much or as little as you want, we use almost an entire jar)
- 35-40 pasta shells (Since some may break, we cook the entire box)
- Olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 Spanish onion, diced
- 1 tbsp. dried basil
- 1 tbsp. dried parsley
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- 32 oz. (2 packages) firm or extra firm tofu, pressed dry
- 4 tbsp. nutritional yeast
- 1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice

Here's what you do!
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease a very large casserole dish or two pie plates.
- Cook pasta shells until al dente, drain, and set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add garlic and diced onion. Cook, stirring occasionally until onions are caramelized. Add in basil, parsley, and salt & pepper and stir.
- In a food processor, combine tofu (break into large chunks in order to fit) and lemon juice. Blend until creamy, like ricotta cheese.
- Add tofu ricotta to onions and mix in nutritional yeast. Stir until well combined and remove from heat.
- Spoon about 1 cup marinara sauce into each pie plate. Spread until the bottom of each dish is covered.

- Add about 2-3 tbsp. tofu ricotta mixture to each stuffed shell and place in dish with the shell opening up. Top shells with additional marinara sauce and any leftover tofu ricotta mixture.
- Cover dish(es) with foil and poke several air holes. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until heated through.
- Top with some additional parsley and vegan parmesean cheese (optional). Make some garlic bread too if you're feeling that. And eat!

This dish is so satisfyingly good. I absolutely love finding vegan recipes that are so similar to my favorite non-vegan comfort foods. If you're still on the fence about tofu, all I can say is give this dish a try - I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Happy cooking!

Sarah & Nick

Monday, December 8, 2014

Homemade Cookie Butter

Cookie Butter. Do you know about this stuff? If you don't, you need to familiarize yourself right now. After Sarah and I moved to Pittsburgh last year, we were fortunate enough to find an apartment about 1 mile from a Trader Joe's. At the time, we had no idea how significant this would be to our lives, but we soon ventured in and fell in love. One of TJ's biggest selling products is their Speculoos Cookie Butter, and for good reason. It is incredible, and it basically tastes exactly as it sounds; like liquid cookie gold that you can eat on ANYTHING.

A little while back, Sarah saw this post on A Beautiful Mess with a recipe to make your own cookie butter. Needless to say, we were all over it. Here is our version of some homemade cookie butter!

Here's what you need (Adapted from A Beautiful Mess; makes about one 16 oz. jar):
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk
- 1 package of cookies of your choice (we made 3 different kinds - chocolate chip, vanilla wafers, and Oreos)
- Food processor
- Water
- Jars for storage

Note: If using cookies that have icing in the middle, like Oreos or Nutter Butters, make sure you scrape out the icing before using.

Here's what you do:
- In your food processor, turn your cookies into crumbs. Just put them in, turn it on high and let it happen. 1 pack of chocolate chip cookies, 1 box of vanilla wafers, and 1 pack of Oreos (with the icing scraped out) all produced about one 16 oz. jar each, so there is really no need to measure out your crumbs. 

- In a medium sauce pan melt butter over medium heat.
- Once the butter is melted, stir in sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk.
- In a large bowl, slowly add your milk and butter mixture to your cookie crumbs, combining with a wooden spoon.

- Add only enough of your butter and milk mixture just until all your crumbs are sticking together and you can form a ball in your bowl. Don't add any more after that point (you may not use quite all of your mixture!)

- Your mixture may be a bit chunky or gritty. Don't worry, we'll smooth it out later!
- Set your stiff cookie mixture in the refrigerator to cool. (We let ours cool overnight, but you certainly don't need to cool it for that long.)
- At this point, you can decide how stiff or how smooth you'd like your cookie butter to be. Slowly add in very small amounts of hot water to your cookie butter, stirring until you reach your desired consistency.
- That's it! Now you just have to jar it! Or... just eat it right out of the bowl until it is all gone...

We thought that this would make a really great holiday gift idea in these chalkboard paint recycled jars. You can put your cookie butter on toast, pretzels, crackers, tortillas... you name it! It's delicious in any form, and I mean, come on... who doesn't like cookies? 

Sarah & Nick

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Confetti Wine Glasses

Happy weekend, everyone! We're back again with another project that we think would make a great gift idea for someone special this holiday season (less than three weeks to go - can you believe it?!) If you've missed our other ideas, you can catch them here, here, here, oh and here.

I'm a firm believer that everyone should have a set of wine glasses. Even if you think, "Blah! Ew, wine!" I still think it's necessary. You can find pretty inexpensive wine glasses and they're a great blank canvas for decorating as you wish! What's not to like?!

A few years ago I made a set of Anthropologie-inspired confetti speckled tumblers to house the q-tips and cotton balls in our bathroom by using nail polish and sealing them with clear spray paint. I've been eager to try this technique again on drinking glasses that would be food-safe and dishwasher-safe. Wine glasses are the perfect candidate!

Here's what you need!
- Stemless wine glasses (we used these)
- Permanent markers (we used these)
- Dishwasher-safe Mod Podge
- Paint brush

Here's what you do!
- Choose the colors you want to use on your glasses. We made a set of two red-orange-yellow glasses and two green-blue-purple glasses.
- Using each color, draw dots all over the flat bottom and the bottom 1/3 of your glasses.

- Pick 2-3 colors that you'd like to continue up your glass and begin fading the confetti. Draw dots all over the bottom 2/3 of the glass with those colors.

- Pick 1 color to add sporadic dots towards the top of the glass. Be careful to leave at least 3/4" at the top for drinking.

- Next, use a paint brush to coat the glasses with dishwasher-safe Mod Podge. Only Mod Podge up to the top of the dots. You do not want the Mod Podge to reach the top of the glass, as it is not food-safe.

- After the first coat has completely dried, add a second coat.
- Drink drink drink!

Seriously, how beautiful are these?! Though they're a little time consuming and your hand may get tired, they're really easy to make. I planned on making these only as gifts, but full disclosure, I'm keeping a set for myself because I just love them. (And more wine glasses on hand is never a bad thing!)

So in addition to being beautiful and easy to make, I love how versatile this project is too. You can choose from a variety of colors, and if the confetti style isn't your thing, you can make stripes or any other pattern you want!

Since we're only confetti-ing the bottom of the glasses and the marker and Mod Podge won't reach your mouth or (that delicious wine), they're safe to drink out of. AND since we coated these in that special dishwasher-safe Mod Podge, they can be put in your dishwasher too! I always prefer to hand-wash wine glasses anyway since they're fragile, but it's nice knowing the dishwasher is an option! Unfortunately our dishwasher is currently broken (wah wah wahhh) so we couldn't test that out, but the Mod Podge bottle states they are safe for the top rack!

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Have I convinced you guys to make these yet? If wine isn't your thing, give it a try on regular drinking glasses! Be sure to let us know if you give these a go and tag us in your Instagram photos - we'd love to see your creations!

Before we go - have you entered our Forever 21 gift card giveaway?! Myself and the lovely ladies who collaborated on our last post have teamed up to give away a $75 Forever 21 gift card! To enter, find the photo below on my Instagram account (@sawissinger), follow each blogger and tag 3 friends in the comments! That's all, yo!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Sarah & Nick

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Day Trip: A Christmas Story House & Museum

"You'll shoot your eye out!", "Aaah! 'Fra-GEE-leh!' It must be Italian!", "Naddafinga!"... I'm sure you know the movie - it only plays for 24 hours every Christmas Eve! Yes, we're talking about the holiday classic, A Christmas Story!

If you're not familiar with this 1983 film (how can you not be though?!), it tells the story of nine-year-old Ralphie Parker and his one Christmas desire - to receive a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. Much of A Christmas Story was shot in Cleveland, OH - a two hour drive from Pittsburgh. The Parker's house is located in the Tremont section of Cleveland's west side and was used for exterior and some interior scenes in the film. In 2004, the house was purchased by a private developer and restored to appear as it does in the movie. The house and an additional museum across the street are now open year-round for public tours.

This past weekend Nick and I were visited by my best friend, Juli, and I thought a quick day trip to visit the Christmas Story house would be the perfect way to start off the holiday season! For $10, you receive admission to the house, museum, and a huge gift shop packed with all of the leg lamps you can dream of! Here are a few photos from our trip!

Being able to explore the movie house was a lot of fun. Not only was it cool to feel like we were in their actual home from the film, but it was also great to check out all the awesome vintage-y decor. It is crazy to think about how much of the those same decorating trends are being revived today, and how inspiring much of the props were. (It gave us lots of new ideas of things to look for in thrift shops!)

If you live in the Western PA/Ohio area, this is a fun and unique way to spend a Saturday afternoon, especially around the holidays! I imagine that we visited during a pretty busy weekend (Saturday after Thanksgiving), but it did not at all feel overwhelming like some museums can. Both the house and museum are very small, so it doesn't take long to look at everything, but the staff are very talkative and eager to chat or answer any questions you may have! You can also take as many photos as you like, play around with the props, you name it!

On the day we visited, the actress who played the grouchy elf, Patty Johnson, was at the museum, talking to patrons about the film! We didn't stop to talk with her because there was a pretty big crowd around, but it was still pretty cool. You can see more photos and get more information about the A Christmas Story House here!

All in all, this was a super fun little day trip! I love that we live in an area where there are so many awesome places to visit that are just a drive away (next weekend we're visiting NYC!) Not only did we get to visit the filming location of one of our favorite Christmas movies, it was also cheap and really easy to do! And to top it all off, the Christmas Story house is only 1.8 miles from the Great Lakes Brewing Company! After an afternoon of fun exploring the house and museum, we were ready for refreshments and some delicious grub!

I hope this helps everyone get excited for the upcoming holidays! I know we are!

Sarah & Nick