Garden Greek Appetizer

Image: The Lovely Cupboard

With all of the holiday gatherings nearly over, Christine and I had to find one final dish to bring for Christmas eve with my family. We pulled out a dusty Pampered Chef recipe book and came across this delightful, cheesy Greek dip. It’s simple to make and rich with fresh flavors, and turned out to be a big hit at our family Christmas dinner; jaw-droppingly tasty! Yummy Greek Dip – this certainly is not the last time our taste-buds will be hearing from you!

Ingredients:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt (we used Greek yogurt, for obvious reasons)
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 medium cucumber, seeded and chopped
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 3+ pitted ripe olives, finely chopped (we used Kalamata olives)

Combine the cream cheese, feta cheese, yogurt, garlic and pepper in a large mixer bowl. Beat at high speed until smooth. Spread the cream cheese mixture in a round 10-inch dish. Chill, covered, until firm. Top with the tomatoes, cucumber, green onions and ripe olives. Serve with assorted party breads and crackers.

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Healthy Homeade Dog Treats

http://acozykitchen.com/homemade-dog-treats/
Image Credit: A Cozy Kitchen

Many of you already know about my totally healthy obsession with our dog Reese. If not, I’m sure if you read this blog long enough you will soon see what I mean. But, I feel like she deserves nothing but the best. So, she gets handmade doggie treats. Partly because I love her so much and partly because there is so much garbage in commercial dog treats. In hopes of extending her life and therefore mine. I make her these healthly, tasty dog treats. The best part is that they are also really affordable. All the ingredients cost maybe $10 bucks and you can easily make 6 batches yeilding over 100 tiny dog treats each. What a deal!

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup of dried skim milk
  • ¼  cup of corn meal
  • 1 tbls of beef bouillon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbls Parsley
  • 1tbs garlic powder
  • ¼ cup of water or chicken stock

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl
  3. Thoroughly stir until the dough becomes stiff
  4. Roll dough on a lightly floured surface, to 1/4″ thickness
  5. Cut the dough into ½’’ pieces. NOTE: If you have a large dog you can make larger pieces with a cookie cutter (I like bone shapes).
  6. Place onto the cookie sheets
  7. Bake 30-40 minutes. NOTE: The longer you cook them the crunchier they will become.

Spinach Burgers

I found a recipe for spinach burgers on Pinterest and was intrigued. My mind was overcome with questions. How to they stay together? Do they have a weird texture? Would they taste bland? The list went on and on. To the point where I figured we had to make them so I could sleep at night. The verdict? They were simply wonderful. They were easy to make, packed full of flavor, had great texture and were guilt-free. I really think you should give these a try.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of chopped spinach
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Directions:

  1. With your hands, mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Form into patties by hand or with a handy patty maker.
  3. Heat a non stick skillet over med-high and spray with cooking spray.
  4. Serve on a pair of buns, or fancy em’ up like we did with an over easy egg on top. NOTE: We thought these would make a great base for most foods. Like a filet of fish and rice combo would be a great addition. And for something simple, a couple simple squirts of Sriracha sauce would be fantastic. However you like it, these ‘burgers’ are delish.

Berry Merry Monogramed Letter

I thought I’d share a really simple DIY project that I found on Pinterest. The reason I like it so much is because it’s subtle/classic holiday decor. I’m kinda over the giant plastic lawn ornaments and reindeer sleighs. This tutorial is so easy I don’t even have step-by-step photos.

What you’ll need:

  • Wooden letter (or you could get fancy and cut one out of cardboard)
  • Glue gun
  • Glue sticks
  • Red berry garland (I got mine from Michael’s)
  • Scissors
  • Ribbon

Basically, all you have to do is cut off sections of the berries (because most are stuck together) and glue them on top of your letter. Then use individual berries to fill in the gaps. Once I was done, I tied a bow out of gold ribbon and hung it on my front door. Yep, that’s it. I’m telling you it’s that easy. I do have some tips that may help:

  • Start with creating a berry base and then go back and fill in the spaces.
  • You could paint your letter a similar color to the berries so you don’t see the background as easily.
  • If you don’t want to see your letter form at all then choose a very flat letter. You may even cut a letter out of cardboard.

I hope you enjoy this simple craft as much as I did! Merry decorating!

Snowball Christmas Wreath – The Tutorial

You may have seen an amazing yarn wreath in the Christmas post and wondered how I made it. You were weren’t you? Well, put your crafty pants on because we’re makin’ stuff! I found this image on Pinterest. If you don’t have an account with them…you need to. It is seriously the best place for inspiration on the internet. Don’t believe me? Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.  Anywho, when I saw this wreath I thought to myself, “I can totally make that.” And yes, I talk to myself in teenage girl mode and I don’t know why. So, I went over to Michaels to get the supplies that I needed.

What you’ll need:

  • Scissors
  • Hot glue gun
  • Hot glue sticks (I used a lot)
  • Wreath shape (I used a vine wreath)
  • 5 different colors of yarn
  • Styrofoam balls (small, medium, large)
  • Filler objects (seeds,  jewels)

Here’s the final product. I thought I’d grab your attention early and hopefully convince you that this tutorial is gunna be awesome. Just look how pretty, modern and fun this wreath is. You too can make one and here’s how. (Check out the gallery to see the step-by-step image instructions.)

  • Pick up one of the Styrofoam balls and pin down the end of the yarn with your thumb.

  • Start wrapping the yarn in circles. You can go all one direction to make it really neat. Or you can change directions and make it look more “natural.” I chose the natural look because it was easier than the one direction method.

  • Keep wrapping until you can no longer see the white Styrofoam anymore. For each color I wrapped: 1 large, 2 medium and 2 small. I did this because that’s how many balls came in a pack. But you can do whatever combo of small, medium and large that you want. NOTE: you could paint the balls before you start wrapping. This would make it easier to cover and use less yarn.

  • Once you’ve completely wrapped your Styrofoam in yarn you can cut the yarn. Grab the glue gun and put a pea size amount of glue on the ball and gently lay the cut end of the string into the molten glue. NOTE: I burned my fingers a few times before I realized I could cut the string long and then cut it short later after the glue dried.

  • Once the end of the yarn is secure we’re going to add another layer of glue on top of the cut string. This is just for extra hold. I made an “X” over the cut string with the glue gun.

  • Set that little guy aside while it dries and start on another one. Don’t worry! the string wont pop off because you let the origianl glue dry first.

  • Once you’re done wrapping all the Styrofoam balls it’s time to start assembling the wreath. As a side note, Reese loved lying in my pile of yarn balls while I worked.  I should have gotten a photo of that!

  • Deciding where to glue the yarn balls took me forever. But after a while I figured out a plan. Glue the 5 largest yarn balls evenly around the wreath.

  • Glue the 10 medium sized yarn balls around the 5 large ones. Then glue the 10 small sized yarn balls around wherever there’s a space that needs to be filled. NOTE: I made sure that the same colors weren’t too close together.

  • You’ll notice that there will be smaller spaces that are too small for a yarn ball but too big to be left alone. This is where I added my “filler object.” I chose gum tree seeds (those spiky balls that fall in the winter). But you could use anything like: broaches, smaller yarn balls, Christmas ornaments, snowflake paper cutouts… be creative.

Add some extra yarn loops at the top to hang it from your wreath door hanger. And viola! You’re done. You’ve got yourself a bonafide classy wreath that your neighbors will wonder where you got it. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial.

Just Another Pile of Leaves…

"I spent nearly two hours blowing the yard that day, until I ran out of both gas and daylight."

The season of autumn has been one of transitions for Christine and me: new jobs, marriage, moving into a new home. Apparently, the trees around our little house decided all at once they were tired of the changes, and so we were left with a thick layer of leaves all over the property. Knowing there would be some leaves to clear off the lawn, I bought a 18V battery-powered leaf blower a few weeks ago. However as the leaves began to fall and accumulate, I quickly realized I had to call in for backup from my father-in-law.

Actually, it was his backpack – the gas-powered, leaf-blowing variety – that saved the day. I assured Jeff that I had used one of these blowers before, but he still wanted to show me how to get it started. And I’m glad he did, because that was a very persnickety piece of machinery.

Here are the step-by-step instructions he walked me through: With the blower resting on the ground, first lay down the throttle arm as straight as it will go and move the throttle itself to the “running bunny” position. Then, flip the choke switch on the back to the “cold start” position and press the starter/lubricator several times. Finally, pull the crank cord.

For Jeff, the engine turned over on the first pull. He quickly switched the lever on the back to the running position and moved the throttle to the “walking turtle” position. Ready to go! He made it look so easy…

The tutorial went down at his house, and so I would have to start the blower on my own. Luckily, the engine was still warm enough to get it started without any hassle when I got it back to our place. I spent nearly two hours blowing the yard that day, until I ran out of both gas and daylight. I was able to get most of the leaves off of the grass, at least, but  left lots of giant piles on the fringes of our property that needed to be blown to the street.

Jeff brought the blower the following week and I was able to finish the job after a few more hours of work on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This time using up a tank and half of fuel, the chore was limited only by the setting sun and a final family meal of the holiday weekend. I was beyond grateful for the respite, although all signs from above suggest that our trees have a few more leaves to shed.