September 30, 2013

A Great Chili Recipe To Try

Finally the weather has cooled down enough in Alabama for us
to start thinking about having one of our favorite comfort foods...
CHILI!  It just so happens that one of our favorite friends and 
cook, Gordon, made his famous chili for a gathering
 we were at recently and generously shared his recipe. 
 I thought it was the BEST chili I had EVER had. 
He calls it "Chili G's". 

I usually don't put recipes on my blog because...
(Being an empty nester has it's advantages.)

I am sharing Gordon's recipe as a public service to all of you.

My husband, Tom Kat, on the other hand, loves to cook and
grill so he offered to make Gordon's chili for some out-of-town
guests that were stopping at our house on the way to a Fall
trip to the beach.  Tom Kat even staged this photo shoot of
(most) all of the chili ingredients...he even did the shopping.

Here is the recipe for "Chili G's":
1 lb. Jimmy Dean sausage
1 lb. lean hamburger meat
1 large onion
1 large bell pepper
2 - 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes (the ones
with basil, garlic & oregano are best)
1 14.5 oz. can black beans drained
1 14.5 oz. can pinto beans drained
1 14.5 oz. can great northern beans drained
1 beef bullion cube
Chicken broth (Kitchen Basics best)
Dash of lemon pepper
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tbsp. turmeric
1/2 bottle Heinz Chili Sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Chop onion and bell pepper and saute' in a little olive oil
until soft then set aside.  
Cook ground meat and sausage together. 
When it is almost done add turmeric
 and salt and pepper. Drain the flavored meats.  
Move the meats and vegetables to a crock pot and
add all other ingredients.  Taste for seasonings and adjust.
Cook for 4-6 hours in a crock pot (or you can cook it on
the stove in a covered pot for about 2 hours). 
Add more chicken broth at the end as desired. 

For a printable version of this recipe click on this link.
  At the VERY bottom on the page, in teeny tiny letters
click on the blue "print page" for a copy.
(sorry, I'm sure there is a better way but, like I said, I usually don't post recipes)

When I got up from my nap, Tom Kat had done all the chopping,
browning, draining, adding, flavoring, etc.  The house smelled
DIVINE with the smell of chili cooking in the crock pot.

He said that he could not find the tumeric and the northern
beans at the store (really?)...we just did without for this go-round. 

It was excellent (but not quite as good as Gordon's).

I did make a small contribution and fixed some cornbread.

So everyone LOVED the chili for dinner...'natch. 

We like our chili thick but you can add more chicken broth
to make it a little more soup-like (and to go further). 

Did I mention that this recipe cooking in the crockpot
(or on the stove) smells wonderful? It will make your family
really anticipate dinner the evening that you make it. 

We did have a little bit re-heats well too. 

It IS quite a few ingredients but, believe me, it is worth it!

September 2, 2013

How To Make A Deco Mesh Ruffle Wreath

Recently, I saw a deco mesh wreath that had the mesh 
attached in such a fun and fluffy way that I inspected it to see
how it was done.  Although I couldn't find a tutorial on the
 internet of how to make this wreath, I decided to give it a try. 
I don't know what it's official name for this type wreath is
 but for now I am calling it a "Ruffle Wreath" 
because the high mesh loops remind me of fluffy ruffles. 

The original wreath used a standard wire wreath form.
For the pink wreath an 18" form was used and for the 
blue wreath a 16" form was used.

It may not be necessary but I like to paint the wreath forms for
deco mesh wreaths in the main color of the mesh so it won't
be as obvious through the open weave of the mesh. 

It doesn't have to be a perfect paint job...just enough to 
break up the visual lines of the dark green wires.

In the past, I have used pipe cleaners (also known as 
chenille stems) to attach the deco mesh to wreath forms but 
the wreath I was attempting to copy had zip (or cable) ties 
attaching the mesh to the form.  I wasn't sure if that was a 
necessary element in making the wreath or not but I was 
afraid not to use them.  They are available in the electrical
department of home improvement or hardware stores. 

The wreath I wanted to copy used clear cable ties but I
 thought those were too expensive so I went the cheap-o
 route and got this pack of 200 assorted sizes for less than $5.  Sometimes Dollar Tree has zip ties in their hardware aisle.

I've never used cable ties before so I looked on the
 internet to find out how.  Here it is in a nutshell:

The color of the cable ties leaves a lot to be desired so they
got the same paint treatment as the wreath forms. 
Really, only a small portion of the cable tie needs to be
painted if the color bothers you too...on the smooth side
and near the head of the cable tie...that is all that might show.
I did three at a goes quickly...doesn't need perfection.

To start attaching the mesh to the wreath form gather/pinch
the mesh width-wise about 8" from the beginning of the roll.  
This leaves a "tail" that you will eventually pull to the back 
of the wreath form and attach.

This first round of mesh on the wreath is the 21" wide size. 

Keeping the mesh pinched, place it on one of the wires.
Attach the pinched mesh to the wire with the cable tie.
The head of the cable tie should be on the backside of the 
wire wreath form. Bring the tail of the cable tie around the
wire, on top of the pinched mesh, then again to the back. 
Be sure the smooth side of the tie is on the outside of the
loop and the ribbed side of the tie is on the inside. 
Push the tail through the head of the cable tie and pull
it until it holds the gather snugly on the wire. 

To keep the size of the poufs uniform, I found it 
reassuring to measure the mesh for this type wreath. 
For this larger wreath, the gathering/pinching spots 
along the mesh were 10" apart. 

I'm not sure the original wreath kept each color on a 
certain wire on the wreath form, but for this one I did...
well, I meant to...I made a couple of boo-boos. 
This first color of mesh was (mostly) on the third wire 
from the center.  Place your second gather of mesh about
two to three inches from the first attachment point and secure
it with a cable tie. Again the head and tail of the tie
will be on the backside of the wreath for aesthetics. 

You might want to not tighten the cable ties as much as 
they will go until you see all your poufs to determine if they
 need to slide a little bit one way or another along the wire. 

Here is the backside of the wreath after the first color of mesh:
Pull the beginning and ending tails to the back and 
secure them also. 

Here is the front of the wreath with one color:

The second color of mesh on this wreath is a pink and
white check.  It was gathered and attached on the second
wire from the center of the wreath form.  It is also a 20"
wide deco mesh.  The different colors were started and
stopped at different spots along the wreath form so the 
"tails" would not make one spot too bulky on the back. 

Here is the front after the second color mesh:

Really, it is very full with these two colors and you could 
very well stop here but I had some pink "window pane" 
mesh that I also wanted to add too.  

The 6" mesh was a better color match so I went with that. 
The length of mesh is shorter on the smaller width mesh roll
so I only put half as many poufs of it so I would have 
enough to go all around the wreath. It was attached to the
outside wire on the wreath form with the cable ties. 

In the end less then half of the solid pink roll was left, more 
than half of the pink and white check was left and even some
of the 6" roll was left.  

After the three meshes were attached the poufs were
fluffed and pulled in towards each other to integrate the colors.
When I was pretty happy with the way it looked, all
the cable ties were pulled as tightly as they would go to
secure the poufs/ruffles in place along the wires. 
The tails of the cable ties can be trimmed down on the back.

This wreath turned out to be about 22" wide...

...and a fluffy, ruffly 10" deep. 

You could certainly add more embellishments to 
personalize it for a certain person or color scheme. 

If you would like a smaller version of the ruffle wreath,
the basic techniques are the same, just use a smaller wreath form.

All of these deco mesh rolls came from Hobby Lobby.
They are the 21" wide version.  The regular meshes are 30 feet
 long and are $9.99 (but can be bought with a coupon or when
 on sale). The window pane meshes are $13.99 per roll.

Actually, I thought I had a roll of solid blue regular mesh
to use for this baby boy's wreath so it turned out a little
lighter than I had intended.  The blue and white check mesh 
was attached with cable ties to the third wire from the center.  

The length between gathers along this mesh was about 8".
The spacing between attachment points was 2-3" along the
wire.  Here is the first color halfway through:

I learned that it took about 60 cable ties to do a wreath going
 around three times (I used three colors but you don't have to).
Here is the back of the wreath after the first color:

The tails of this first color got tied down with twisty ties
'cause I didn't want to run out of cable ties for the poufs.

White mesh got added to the innermost wire of this wreath.

The white poufs were still 8" long and 2-3" apart along the wire.
Here is the wreath after the white mesh application:
The different color mesh poufs in the above picture have been 
more or less integrated with each other by pulling the poufs
towards each other and almost alternating the colors around 
the wreath. You could pull the poufs back from the center
more if you like a more open center. 

Then the blue window pane mesh was added along the 
outermost wire of the wreath form with cable ties. 

The window pane poufs were also integrated in with the
other meshes by pulling them in between the other colors.
When you are happy with the look of the wreath, pull
all the cable ties tightly and trim off their tails on the back. 

This wreath is about 20" across and about 10" deep.

Although I didn't measure what was left on the mesh rolls
when the wreaths were finished, I would say for 
this size wreath, allow about a half a roll 
(15 feet)  per each time around the wreath form. 

Other embellishments were added to this wreath to go
to a baby shower.  The mom may also use it on her 
hospital door when the baby actually arrives. 

The cable ties on the two wreaths above held really well
and did not slide along the wire after they were pulled tight.
I was curious, however, to see if the same ruffle effect 
could be achieved by using pipe cleaners to hold the poufs
in place instead of cable ties. 

Last year I never got around to making a Halloween wreath
so I decided to do the experiment with totally different colors
than the baby wreaths and get a head start on Fall decorating.

A 16" wire wreath form was painted black on the front
 then 20" wide black deco mesh poufs were added to
 the third wire with black pipe cleaners cut into thirds.

Even twisted tightly, the pipe cleaners allow the mesh to 
slide along the wire if they are not secured. One way to make
the pipe cleaners stay in place is to glue them onto the wire.

Another way is to use the left over "legs" of the pipe cleaners
and twist them along the wire.  Gluing is better if you have the time.

After the black, orange mesh was added to the outermost wire.

The orange mesh poufs (8" long, 2-3" apart on wire) were 
attached with pipe cleaners that had been cut into thirds.

Here is the wreath after the orange mesh had been added:

Michael's has started carrying a small supply of deco mesh
in the ribbon department.  The purple mesh came from there.
It was added on the innermost wire of the wreath form
with purple pipe cleaners.  Since you can see the different colors
of mesh more in this wreath, I wanted to show what the ruffle
wreath would look like if you wanted to keep the poufs more
separate and not pull them together and integrate them. 

Here is the wreath with the colors pulled together:

To give the wreath a quick finish for now, this glittery spider
on a web was added to the wreath.

So, yes, you can use pipe cleaners to attach the deco 
mesh poufs to the wire wreath form instead of cable 
ties to achieve the ruffle wreath look. 

Either way, when you make one of these wreaths for
yourself, you may have folks stopping to inspect it to
try to determine "how DID she get that look?" just 
like I did. 

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