Archive of ‘How-to’ category

How to Make Homemade Tahini

If you’ve ever wondered how to make tahini, keep reading. This recipe for homemade tahini is easy to whip up in your food processor and will cost you a fraction of the cost of buying it in the store. 

how to make homemade tahini

Have you ever roasted your own peppers on your stovetop? It’s incredible easy and they taste so much better than the canned stuff. I do this a lot more in the summer when I have the time to devote to fancy things.

how to roast red pepper

This weekend, I read on David Lebovits’s site that you can do the same thing with eggplant before making baba ganoush in order to give it a smoky flavor. I decided to give it a whirl because I love a good baba ganoush. I make it a lot in the summer because we grow eggplants in our garden and the thought of smoky baba ganoush sounded too good to pass up.

fairytale eggplant growing in our garden

David warns you not to leave the eggplant on the stove for too long because the smoky flavor may become too strong for most folks. Well, I didn’t listen because I am not very good at following directions. Ever noticed there aren’t any baking recipes on this site? That’s why. The result? A baba ganoush that was Way. Too. Smoky. Just as he had warned. 

roast eggplant to give it a smoky flavor

As the eggplant was roasting, I started gathering the other ingredients I needed to make the baba ganoush. I needed garlic, lemon, chili powder, olive oil, and tahini. Gah! I was out of tahini. I considered substituting sun butter for the tahini and crossing my fingers when I saw a jar of sesame seeds in my cupboard. 

Woo! Homemade nut butters are made by whirling nuts in your food processor and adding a bit of olive oil until you get the desired consistency so it makes sense that tahini could be made just as easily.

I am super bummed that the baba ganoush didn’t turn out, but now I have 1/2 cup of tahini so I can experiment quite a bit before we are up to our eyeballs in eggplant!

Homemade Tahini
This recipe for homemade tahini is easy to whip up in your food processor and will cost you a fraction of the cost of buying it in the store.
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  2. 4-6 tablespoons olive oil
Instructions
  1. In a pan over medium heat, toast the sesame seeds until they are golden and fragrant. This took me about 7 minutes. Make sure you stir often because, like nuts, they can burn quickly.
  2. When the seeds have cooled, add them to your food processor.
  3. Turn the food processor on and add olive oil by the tablespoon until you get a smooth consistency. I used about 5 tablespoons.
  4. Store in an airtight container in your fridge.
Cucina Kristina http://cucinakristina.com/

Free Valentine’s Day Printables

Valentine’s Day is around the corner! I love Valentine’s Day and get pretty bummed out when people are negative about it. You do not have to have a significant other in order to spread some love on February 14. You can use this day to let a co-worker, friend, family member or neighbor know you are thinking about them.

Today I have pulled together five free valentine printables from around the web. These would not only make cute cards, but they would also make adorable artwork for a mantle or office desk. Enjoy and make sure to spread some love on Friday!

{You Are Just My Type} - via Kiki Comin 

valentine's day printable vintage typewriter

{Bee Mine Chalkboard Valentine} - via Entirely Eventful Day 

valentine's day printable Bee Mine Chalkboard

{You’re My Cup of Tea} – via Fancy That Design House & Company 

valentine's day printable cup of tea

{Tunnel of Love Ticket} – via Flamingo Toes

valentine's day printable ticket tunnel of love

{Today I Have Loved You For} – via Everyday Cheer

Note: This one is editable so you can fill in the number of days you are your honey have been together. How cute!

valentine's day printable

 Also, don’t forget about my Love is in the Air printable. It’s available for free here!

Love is in the Air paper airplane free valentine's day printable

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Love Is In The Air – Free Valentine’s Day Printable

Free Valentine's Day Printable - Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

I didn’t get it together in time to send out Christmas cards this year. The holidays are such a busy time in general and adding the stress (and cost!) of sending out Christmas cards is something I couldn’t do this year. I am trying to be better about keeping in touch and connecting with loved ones from afar in 2014.

You know what else I am trying to be better about in 2014? Not purchasing Groupons that I don’t use before they expire. Luckily, the value you paid for them is honored indefinitely, but I have a stack of expired ones that is too high to admit. As I was sifting through them, I came across one for Vistaprint. Vistaprint is pretty decent for inexpensive, quick projects and, since I had a Groupon for $30, I decided to design some Valentine’s Day cards and send those out in place of a Christmas card. 

I ended up ordering 100 because I figured I could get double use out of them and hand them out to my students and co-workers on February 14. The total with my Groupon came to just over $10, a steal! 

The design was inspired by my students. There is something whimsical and romantic about a paper airplane and I am making this design available for you! The wording on the inside simply reads, “Happy Valentine’s Day,” and there is more than enough space for you to write you own personal message.

The outside reads, “Love is in the air” and each PDF will print on a standard 8.5 inch x 11 inch sheet of paper. When folded and cut in half, it will give you a card that is 5.5 inches long and 4.25 inches high.

Happy Printing!

xoxo,

 

  Love is in the Air paper airplane free valentine's day printable

Download PDF: Love is in the Air – Front

Love is in the Air paper airplane free valentine's day printable

Download PDF: Love is in the Air – Inside

How To Shop For And Trim Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts. People love ‘em or hate ‘em. I, myself, am a sprout lover. I eat brussels sprouts two to three times a week. Sometimes I have them alongside eggs for breakfast and other times I have them as a side dish with dinner.

If you are a sprout hater, I beg you to try one of the recipes at the bottom of this post and surely you’ll change your mind! One of my favorite ways to enjoy them is browned in ghee and bacon fat, seasoned with salt and pepper, and tossed with dried cranberries and toasted almonds. Simple, colorful, and delicious.

How to Shop for Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are usually sold individually; however, during the fall when they are in season, sometimes they are sold on the stalk. How cool do they look on the stalk? I have unsuccessfully tried to grow brussels sprouts in my garden for the past two years. Perhaps this is the year! :-)

If your local grocery store or farmer’s market is selling the sprouts on the stalk, do not be intimidated! They are easy to remove and you do not need any fancy or special equipment to do so. 

Brussels sprouts grow on a stalk

To choose a “good” sprouts, pick them up and give them a little squeeze. The leaves should feel tightly packed especially around the base. You will be trimming off the bottom and if the leaves are loose around the stem, you’ll lose some of the good leaves along with the dirty ones.

Trimming brussels sprouts

How to Trim Brussels Sprouts

If you buy brussels sprouts on the stalk, you can snap them off by hand before you begin to trim them. I never wash brussels sprouts before I cook them. Is that gross? I don’t feel much of a need to wash them first because you end up removing all of the dirty outer leaves as you prep them for cooking. After you have removed the outer leaves, if you’d like to wash them, you can give them a quick rinse under cold water.

Trimming brussels sprouts

Trim a small portion off the bottom of the sprout. Some of the leaves may fall off on their own, that is ok. 

Trimming brussels sprouts

Pull the outer leaves off until you see lighter green, shiny leaves. You’ll also want to remove any yellow, bruised, or dirty leaves. 

Trimming brussels sprouts

Now, you are ready to cook them. You can roast them, grill them, sauté them, steam them, or pickle them. They are such a versatile veggie and so tasty when prepared correctly! In the picture below, I halved them, because I was about to toss them in olive oil, season them with this spice blend and roast them for 25 minutes at 375˚. 

Trimming brussels sprouts

Ready to tackle the sprout on your own? Check out these awesome brussels sprouts recipes:

How To Shop For And Store Fresh Ginger Root

Happy New Year! Can you believe it is 2014 already?! I remember Y2K like it was yesterday. Yikes. Let’s not talk about that!

Are you getting plummeled with snow? We are. Truth be told, I don’t mind snow and cold too much. The part about winter that I despise is the darkness. It is dark when I wake up, grey and gloomy all day, and dark before 5 p.m. nearly everyday for 5 months. Yuck! Who thought of that?!

Every year, I suffer from big time winter blues, but one thing that helps boost my mood is ginger. Ginger is an extremely aromatic root that adds a punch of flavor to both sweet and savory recipes. It pairs nicely with citrus and is used frequently in Asian cooking.

What Does Fresh Ginger Look Like?

Fresh ginger is a knobby root and is typically found next to other root veggies (example: beets, turnips, rutabagas, fennel, etc.) in the grocery store.

Fresh Ginger Root in the grocery store | cucinakristina.com

Fresh ginger root

Fresh ginger can be upwards of $4 a pound. In this photo, it was on sale for $1.99 a pound so I stocked up. 

Shopping for Fresh Ginger

Let’s say you are making a dish that calls for a 1-inch piece of grated fresh ginger. As you can see in the photo above, none of those pieces of ginger are an inch long. You’ll want to look for a piece that looks like this for two reasons:

How to pick ginger root at the grocery store

Look for smooth edges.

  1. You can easily break this larger piece into a smaller piece.
  2. The smooth edges are going to make it easier to peel. 

I always look for pieces of ginger with smooth edges because I use a vegetable peeler to peel fresh ginger. If you have a piece that is super knobby with a lot of nooks and crannies, you can scrape the skin off with a spoon

Fresh Ginger Root

These smaller pieces were broken from larger pieces.

You want the ginger root to feel firm and be free of any noticeable imperfections. When you break the pieces off, the scent of ginger should be strong. Sometimes, I break the pieces to test the freshness even if I intend on buying the entire larger piece.

Storing Fresh Ginger

When you get home, peel the entire ginger root. Put it in a freezer safe bag, squeeze all of the air out, and pop it in your freezer. It will keep in your freezer for up to six months.

Using Frozen Ginger

When you are ready to use your ginger, remove it from the freezer and grate it using a microplane or cheese grater. You do not need to thaw the ginger first. In fact, frozen ginger is easier to grate than fresh ginger. 

Now that you are a ginger expert, check out some of these recipes.

Refrigerator Snowman!

My refrigerator snowman has made a triumphant return! 

DIY Refrigerator Snowman

You could also do this on a door!

I saw this guy circulating around Pinterest last year and loved it! I originally pinned it from Hands On As We Grow. It’s a festive and inexpensive decoration to add to your holiday home. 

Materials:

  • Black construction paper
  • Orange construction paper
  • Holiday wrapping paper
  • Double-sided tape
  • Circular items for tracing

Instructions:

  • Eyes – 2 large circles. I used the outside rim of a quart sized mason jar lid.
  • Smile – 5 small circles. I used the inside rim of a pint sized mason jar lid.
  • Buttons – 4 medium circles. I used the outside rim of a pint sized mason jar lid.

1.  Trace your circles onto black construction paper and cut them out. If you do not have mason jars you can use any circular items. Last year, I used wine bottles and coke cans for tracing.

2.  Cut a triangle from your orange construction paper. 

3.  Stick them onto your fridge using double-sided tape.

4. To make the scarf, cut a rectangle from your holiday wrapping paper. Tape it at a slight angle onto your fridge.

Merry Fridge-mas! :-)

Check out my other Handmade Holiday posts:

DIY Glitter Reindeer

Ho, Ho, Ho! The holidays are upon us! I just love Christmas, don’t you? I have the easiest holiday craft to share with you that will brighten up your mantel. It is also inexpensive, which is a double bonus.

I got the idea from Daisy Dreaming and followed her instructions exactly. All you do is find an image (we both used this one from ManMade), cut it out, trace it onto your canvas, apply glue and glitter, and let it dry. Easy peasy!

This is the second craft in the Handmade Holidays series that I will be running throughout the month of December. Please share your holiday crafts with me! I’d love to see what you are creating as well.

DIY Glitter Reindeer
From Daisy Dreaming

Easy holiday craft for your mantel.

Handmade Holidays

Materials:

  • Canvas – I used an 11 x 14 canvas
  • Glitter
  • Mod Podge or glue
  • Scissors
  • Pencil (for tracing)
  • Any Holiday shape 

Instructions:

  1. Print and cut out your shape. 
  2. Trace your shape onto your canvas with pencil.
  3. Using a Qtip or paintbrush, fill in your shape with Mod Podge or glue.
  4. Cover your shape completely with glitter and let sit for a few minutes so the glitter can set. 
  5. Shake of the excess. You are going to have A LOT of leftover glitter. You may want to shake it onto a piece of newspaper (you can also use foil, parchment paper, or wax paper) so you can easily funnel the excess back into the bottle.
  6. Let it dry completely for a few hours and gently shake off any loose glitter over a trashcan. 

Check out my other Handmade Holiday posts:

DIY Advent Calendar

I don’t know about you, but I am obsessed with advent calendars. I love counting down to Christmas and usually scatter a few around the house every holiday season. I wanted to make an advent calendar this year, but was having a hard time coming up with treats to include each day. My husband isn’t a big sweets person, and I didn’t want to start every morning in the month of December off with a piece of chocolate. Although, thinking about it in retrospect that might not have been such a bad idea! :-)

Then, I found the coolest craft on Pinterest. Seriously. Coolest. Craft. EVER. Ready? DIY scratch-off cards! Thank you, Lindsay from The Story of Pat and Lindsay for this! How perfect! This is exactly the type of thing I was looking for. She has some really cute printable Christmas “lotto” tickets in her Etsy store. These would make super cute stocking stuffers! 

DIY scratch off cards

It works!

My husband and I dig trivia so I decided to make little trivia cards with a scratch-off box that revealed the answer. There are over 100 Christmas trivia questions here that range from historical trivia to movie trivia. 

To make the scratch-offs:

1. Cover the area you want to scratch-off with white crayon.

2. Mix 2 parts silver acrylic paint with 1 part liquid dish soap. Note: a little goes a long way!

3. Apply the paint over the white crayon and let dry completely. Depending on how thick you make your coats of paint, this could take a few hours. 

I also created little envelopes from wrapping paper to house the cards. Then, I used paperclips to fasten them to a piece of string and hung them above our window. 

DIY Advent Calendar

Christmas trivia

To make the envelopes

1. Start with a square piece of paper. I used a 6 in. x 6 in. piece of paper for this and it made a 4.25 in. x 3 in. envelope.  

DIY Advent Calendar

I used wrapping paper to make these, but any type of paper will do the trick.

2. Fold the edges into the center.

DIY Advent Calendar

advent

3. Fold the bottom up and tuck the corner flap into the envelope. Seal the sides with glue or double-stick tape. 

DIY Advent Calendar

Fold the bottom up

DIY Advent Calendar

Tuck the flap into the envelope.

4. Fold the top down and seal.

DIY Advent Calendar

advent

Custom envelopes!

DIY Advent Calendar

Custom envelopes!

This is the first craft in the Handmade Holidays series that I will be running throughout the month of December. Please share your holiday crafts with me! I’d love to see what you are creating as well.

Heart-Shaped Origami Bookmark

Hello, Internet! I have missed you. I have been MIA on the blog for the last six weeks because I have been furiously trying to find a job. I never dreamed it would be as hard as it was to get a teaching job, but I am happy to report that I will be teaching 7th/8th grade Language Arts come fall (read: in 2 weeks. Eek!). Woo hoo!

I have a pin board called For My Future Classroom. It was a space for me to collect a bunch of teaching-related ideas since I didn’t know what grade I would be teaching up until a few days ago. Now that I know, I have a new board called Teaching Middle School and have been furiously trying to weed through my old pins and find new pins. This got me thinking about the state of all of my other pin boards, and I went a little organization crazy. When I first joined Pinterest, I would pin things without verifying the content or the links. Thus, I had an unintentionally large collection of pins that led nowhere. Nothing is more frustrating than seeing a fabulous pin and having it lead to nowhere!

I spent a good amount of last week cleaning up my Pinterest boards. I worked very hard verifying links, writing meaningful comments on each images, and choosing engaging cover images. I still have a few boards to go through, but I am about 85% finished. I hope you enjoy my shiny, new, well-organized collection of pins!

While going through my Gettin’ Crafty board, I stumbled upon a pin for a heart-shaped origami bookmark.

Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com | heart shaped bookmark

I love reading!

I followed this video tutorial from The Cheese Thief using a piece of paper that I cut from a magazine advertisement. She recommends using a 4 inch x 4 inch square in her video, but I found this to be slightly too small to manage the smaller folds. I used a 4.5 inch x 4.5 inch square and felt that the extra half-inch really made things easier for my stubby fingers. :)

This bookmark is holding a spot in The New Rules of Lifting Supercharged, which I HIGHLY recommend if you would like to get stronger, leaner (or bigger if you are looking to add muscle mass), faster, and more fit.

Perfect, Crispy Bacon Every Time!

Bacon, bacon, bacon. Bacon is pretty tasty, but it makes a mess when you fry it up in a pan. This method is the BEST way to get perfect, crispy bacon every time. The clean up is also a snap, which is an added bonus.

Place bacon in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place in a COLD oven (do not preheat!) and bake for 15-17 minutes. Perfect, crispy bacon every time!  | cucinakristina.com

Mmmm!

Guess what? It took less than 20 minutes to make and clean up wasn’t a hot, dangerous disaster. It’s true! No greasy mess. No pouring hot bacon grease into an old soup can (although that is a fantastic way to add delicious flavor to anything you are frying or sautéing).

Start by completely covering a baking sheet in foil. It may take a few layers depending on the size of your baking sheet. I was using my toaster oven so I was able to cover my pan with a single layer of foil.

Lay bacon in a single layer on the baking sheet.

Place bacon in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place in a COLD oven (do not preheat!) and bake for 15-17 minutes. Perfect, crispy bacon every time!  | cucinakristina.com

Start with a COLD oven.

Place the baking sheet in a cold oven. Let me repeat that in case you glossed over it. DO NOT pre-heat your oven. Place the bacon in a cold oven, turn your oven to 425˚ and go do something else for 15-17 minutes. You’ll want to keep an eye on your bacon towards the end because it can burn rather quickly.

When the bacon is done cooking, remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer bacon to paper towels to drain immediately. This will stop the cooking process.

If desired, you can pour the bacon grease into an old soup can and save for other uses. Otherwise, let the grease cool and thicken for a few minutes before removing the foil. You can discard the foil with the grease intact and your pan will stay clean!

Place bacon in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place in a COLD oven (do not preheat!) and bake for 15-17 minutes. Perfect, crispy bacon every time!  | cucinakristina.com

Crispy bacon makes a perfect triple BLAT!

This is a great way to cook a large amount of bacon at one time. I used this method when I was preparing brunch for 10 people and it worked like a charm. I was able to make an entire package of bacon in less than 20 minutes!

If you need a way to use bacon slices other than alongside eggs here are some ideas. You can use crispy bacon to make sandwiches or you can crumble the bacon and add it to salads or soups. You can also top mashed or baked potatoes with bacon. If you are a sweet and salty type of person, you could make Maple-Bacon Crunch Ice Cream. Yum!

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