Kitchen Concoctions

Monday, April 27, 2015

How To Make a Simple T-Shirt Necklace {Crafty Concoctions}

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ad #LongLastingScent #CollectiveBias 

Don't throw out those favorite old t-shirts! Transform them into a cute and stylish necklace with this easy, step-by-step tutorial. 

When I was little I wanted to help my Mom do everything. From taking care of my little brother and sisters, to helping cook dinner and set the kitchen table, to fold laundry. I followed my Mother around everywhere carefully studying her every move and mimicking each action.

My Mom, of course, picked up on this, and willingly let me help her. One chore that I starting helping with at a very young age, around 5 or 6, was folding laundry. With a big family like ours, laundry piled up quickly and often seemed never ending. Being young and eager to help, I was more than happy to help my Mom sort, wash and fold all our mounds of clothes.

Because of this, doing laundry is probably my favorite chore. I know what you are thinking, favorite chore?? But yes, out of all the household chores, laundry is probably the one I don't mind. I don't mind sitting and folding clothes while I watch my favorite TV show, and I certainly don't mind the way that my clothes feel straight out of the dryer, or that clean laundry smell. In fact, I love pulling out that favorite old t-shirt to put on and relax at the end of a long day while wrapping up in a soft, floral smelling blanket.

In addition to helping fold clothes and put them away, my Mom taught me to sew on lost buttons and mend holes in pants and socks. While I am all for sewing on a missing button to a favorite pair of paints, the socks were probably best just thrown away, but, I guess all that sewing taught me life skills and gave me humbling memories of my Mom! Since my Mom was so frugal, and we tried to “save” as many clothes we could, I have several of those “old” t-shirts that I can't seem to let go. They are just so soft and comfy! However, during our recent move, I decided I needed to get rid of some of the clutter and donated a lot of clothes. But some of those t-shirts I just couldn't part with and decided to get crafty with them and turn them into works of art.

T-shirt crafts are all the rage, specifically t-shirt scarfs and necklaces. So I decided to harness my inner crafting diva and finally put all those old t-shirts to good use. Since I don't wear a lot of jewelry, I love the look of a t-shirt necklace! They are simple yet can totally add a pop of color to a plain shirt or dress, making them the perfect accessory for spring and summer! Today I am sharing a simple version of the t-shirt necklace and hope to bring more t-shirt crafts to the blog soon.

How To Make a Simple T-Shirt Necklace
by Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions:
Printable Version
Project Time: 30 minutes Cost: Free-$5 Makes 1 necklace

Transform old t-shirts into cute and stylish necklaces with this simple how to! 

1 old t-shirt (any color)
Fabric scissors
Suavitel® Fragrance Pearls™ (in desired fragrance)
Suavitel® Liquid Fabric Conditioner (in desired fragrance)
Fabric Glue, if needed

1. Gather supplies.

2. Wash and dry t-shirts (according to package directions) using laundry detergent, Suavitel® Fragrance Pearls™ and Suavitel® Liquid Fabric Conditioner.

3. Once t-shirt is washed and dried, lay t-shirt on a flat work surface. Cut off the bottom hem of the shirt and discard.

4. Once the hem has been cut off, cut the body of the shirt horizontally into strips approximately one inch wide.

5. Continue cutting the shirt into long strips/loops until you reach the sleeves, then stop. Discard top half of the shirt to use for another craft.

6. One at a time, pull and stretch out the t-shirt loops, stretching until the fabric starts to curl.

7. After pulling each loop individually, gather up all loops and stretch them out together. 

8. Stack the stretched out loops on top of one another, so that all the T-shirt side seams are in the same spot. Pull out any of the loops that are significantly longer than the others and set aside. You will need to save at least two extra loops.

9. Using the fabric scissors, cut the two longer/extra loops open at the seam so that you have one long strip of t-shirt fabric. Cut off the seam at the end of the strip of t-shirt fabric.

10. Tightly tie the scrap piece of fabric around the stacked loops (cutting off any excess), near the exposed seams.

11. Tightly wrap the scrap piece of fabric around the knot, to hide the knot.

12. Continue wrapping the scrap piece of fabric around the gathered t-shirt fabric loops, being careful to cover all the exposed seams, and covering about two-inches of the necklace.

12. If the scrap piece of fabric is long enough, wrap the remaining scrap piece of fabric back over the two inches of wrapped necklace. 

13. Tie off the end of the scrap fabric that was used to create the decorative edge.

14. Carefully tuck the end of the scrap under the decorative fabric piece.

15. If the scrap piece of fabric is too short to tie off and tuck under at the end, use fabric glue to adhere the end piece to the decorative piece.

16. Repeat the wrapping process on the opposite side of the necklace, covering any additional seams, as needed.

17. Wear your fashionable DIY t-shirt necklace with your favorite outfit!

Since I love the smell of freshly launder clothes, washing the t-shirts, using in-wash scent boosters such as Suavitel® Fragrance Pearls™ and Suavitel® Liquid Fabric Conditioner, before crafting with them helps ensure the final necklace is clean and fresh smelling for a long time! In addition to helping my t-shirt crafts smell clean and fresh Suavitel® Fragrance Pearls™, available at Walmart (you can even get samples Suavitel® Fragrance Pearls™ attached to Suavitel® Liquid Fabric Conditioner at select stores), help make my clothes smell fresh and clean long after laundry day. Currently, the Suavitel® Fragrance Pearls™ come in two scents, Field Flowers and Lavender, and provide five times longer lasting fragrance. They may even get you loving laundry day just as much as I do!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Giveaway: Schlotzsky’s Gift Card and Prize Pack (Plus the New Viva l’Italia Menu)

Check out my review of the new Schlotzsky’s Viva l’Italia menu and be sure and enter the giveaway (that Schlotzsky’s so generously provided) to try it yourself below!

I have always been a lunch person. It is something I look forward to every day. I guess this started years ago when I worked my first office job, and I quickly looked forward to that magical hour in the middle of my day!

Big, hearty sandwiches have always been one of my favorite lunch (oh, who am I kidding, dinner too!) options. And one of my favorite sandwich shops (dating way back to those first office job days) has been Schlotzsky’s! That's why I was more than happy, more like giddy, when they reached out to me to try their new Viva l’Italia menu and share it with you all!

The new Viva l’Italia menu inspired by the tastes of Italy, is now available at all Schlotzsky’s. This Italian inspired menu consists of oven-baked pastas, gourmet pizzas and specialty Ciabatta sandwiches!

We recently tried two of the new Viva l’Italia sandwiches, The Caprese (which also happens to be vegetarian and pictured below)- with shredded mozzarella cheese, plump roasted tomatoes, mayo, crisp field greens, caramelized balsamic onions, basil pesto, and a sweet balsamic glaze, all sandwiched between a chewy Italian Ciabatta roll.

We also tried The Tuscan (pictured below)- with roasted turkey breast, gooey pepper jack cheese, fresh Roma tomatoes, field greens, crispy bacon, cilantro and a creamy chipotle aioli topped off with fresh avocado. All sandwiched between a chewy Italian Ciabatta roll.

The Caprese was hands down our favorite! It was light yet filling (perfect for the warmer spring weather) and had loads of flavor! I loved how fresh this sandwich was and can't wait to have it again. Other new Viva l’Italia menu items I am looking forward to try is the Italian Chopped Salad, Chicken Alfredo Pizza and Chicken Pesto Carbonara.

Now that I have made you all hungry how about a giveaway! Use the widget below to enter to win the following Schlotzsky’s prize pack:
  • One (1) $20 Schlotzsky’s gift card 
  • One (1) Schlotzsky’s water bottle 
  • One (1) Schlotzsky’s key chain 
  • One (1) Schlotzsky’s head phones 

Disclosure: This prize pack and gift card is provided by Schlotzsky’s. I was provided a gift card as well to help facilitate this review. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Peanut Butter M&M's® Cookies {Plus Four Tips for a Fun & Successful Game Night In}

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ad #GameNightIn #CollectiveBias 

Whip up a batch of these Peanut Butter M&M's® Cookies for all those peanut butter lovers in your life! Then get everyone together for a rousing and successful family game night!

Growing up we were big on family night. You know, simply one night a week where all the “extras” were put on hold. The extra chores, the extra activities, the extra errands. Since my Mom worked full time and had four kids to raise in her own, some weeks this was quite the task.

However, every week, sometimes on Sunday, sometimes on Monday night or sometimes on a Saturday morning, we made family “night” happen. Due to our schedules and budget, our family nights consisted of a variety of things, sometimes it was watching the latest movie on VHS or a visit to the local zoo. Other times we volunteered in our community or went to the park. But our absolute favorite was playing board games. It was an easy and affordable family activity we would all enjoy (despite the constant fights over who got to be banker every time we played Hasbro® Monopoly!). 

Since I firmly believe in the power of family night, I have continued this weekly tradition to this day, even though right now it is just the two of us. This may simply mean an evening walk or might mean inviting our friends and extended family over for some fun and a few laughs as we sit around and play games into the wee hours of the night!

I know I am not alone in my love for board games, and today I thought I would share a few tips for having a successful game night at home. Check out my tips below, plus a favorite game night cookie recipe!

Four Tips for a Fun and Successful Game Night In:

1. Make it a Tradition- Since my Mom started family game night with us when we were young, it quickly became a regular tradition! Today, we strive to have game night 2-3 times a month. This might mean just the two of us playing a favorite game together or inviting over several friends or extended family members to play an exciting group game. Selecting a specific night of the week/month (every Monday or every third Friday) will help make this a regular tradition in your home.

2. Select the Games- It is always a good idea to have a variety of games on hand. While building a collection of board games can be expensive, look for sales and coupons to get games at a discounted price. Also ask game night guests to bring their favorite games to the party to help add variety. When planning your game night, select games that are appropriate for your size group and the ages of the “gamers”. Many popular games have children's versions of those games geared for younger audiences. If you have a rather large group, consider playing the games in teams or breaking into smaller groups and allowing each group to play a different game. Playing games in teams is also a great idea for game night involving small children who might need assistance. Allow everyone to take turns choosing the games you will play, so everyone has fun playing a variety of games. While we love pretty much any board game, some of are favorites are classics like HASBRO® Jenga and Classic Monopoly, they require different skill levels and can accommodate two or more players.

3. Game Night Prep- While game night should be a fun and stress free event, there are some things to keep in mind when getting ready. Check all games to ensure you are not missing any crucial parts or pieces. Gather pens, paper, extra dice, timers, etc. to have on hand to keep score or in case you are missing these pieces. Set up and prep a designated “gaming” area. If you are having a large group over, bring out extra chairs and consider a game that does not require sitting at a table. For games like Monopoly, plan to set up at a large kitchen table with plenty of table space and chairs for the number of guests. Consider investing in card tables and folding chairs to accommodate large game night parties. If serving food, plan your menu and gather any necessary paper goods.

4. The Food- No game night, large or small, would be complete without a few snacks. Keep things simple by serving easy to prepare or store bought snacks and treats. Fruit and veggie trays, chips and salsa, soda, bottled water, cookies, brownies and candies, like everyone's favorite M&M's®, are always crowd pleasers.

For our latest game night with friends, I picked up Jenga, Monopoly, and a BIG Bag of M&M's® Peanut at my local Walmart. In addition to setting out a bowl of M&M's® for snacking, I decided to whip up a batch of cookies to enjoy while we played our games. These Peanut Butter M&M's® Cookies are the perfect cookie for all those peanut butter lovers out there. I start with my favorite peanut butter cookie then stuff as many M&M's® Peanut AND Peanut Butter I can inside. The end result is a soft yet crispy peanut butter packed cookie!

What are your favorite game night tips, recipes and games? 

Peanut Butter M&M's® Cookies
by Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions:
Printable Version
Prep Time: 20 minutes Bake Time: 10 minutes Yields: approximately 2 dozen cookies

Peanut butter cookies packed with both M&M's® Peanut AND Peanut Butter! 

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature 
1 cup creamy peanut butter
¾ cup granulated sugar, divided
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup M&M's® Peanut
1 cup M&M's® Peanut Butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large bowl, using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Add the brown sugar and ½ cup granulated sugar and beat until smooth. Add the egg, milk and vanilla and mix well.

Slowly beat in the flour mixture a little at a time, mixing just until combined. Stir in the M&M's® candies.

Place remaining ¼ cup granulated sugar in bowl. Using a cookie scoop or tablespoon, form the cookie dough into 1 inch balls and roll in granulated sugar. Place cookies onto ungreased baking sheets, leaving several inches in between for expansion. Using the palm of your hand, gently press the balls of cookie dough.

Bake at 350 degrees for 9-10 minutes, until cookies are set and starting to brown. Do not over bake. Cool on baking sheet for 1-2 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store cookies in an air tight container at room temperature for up to one week.

NOTE: M&M's® candies can be left whole or chopped for easier handling.

For more #GameNightIn ideas, recipes and inspiration click here. Also, be sure and grab this coupon for a $1.00 off one (38-ounce or larger) bag of M&M's® candies!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream Sandwiches

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ad #SensitiveSmiles #CollectiveBias 

Spring has most definitely sprung! And these Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream Sandwiches are rich and creamy and the perfect treat to cool off on a warm day! 

Early in my childhood we moved around quite a bit before settling into the house that I now call my childhood home and where my Mom still lives today. Since I was so young when we lived at all of those other houses, I have very few memories of these homes, but the memories I do have are very distinct.

Like the one house we lived in when I started Kindergarten and where we lived when my little sister was born. Or the house we lived in when I was real little, where I remember vividly watching Saturday morning cartoons with just my Mom (way before all my siblings came along).

Besides the home I grew up in, the house that I have the most memories of, was the house we lived in when I was in first grade. I loved that house for so many reasons! Because the next door neighbors had kids the same age as my sister and I; that we constantly played with. Because we didn't have a fenced backyard and our house backed up to an enchanting and mystical wooded forest. Because it was our first house in the city we would eventually call home.

One distinct memory I have of this house was the old school ice cream truck that would come around the corner, blaring that happy, sing-song melody, every Saturday afternoon. That magical song and the anticipation of an ice cold treat brought us running! And since we have such awesome parents, of course they would let us carefully flag down the ice cream truck, hand over our hard earned allowance and pick out a delicious frozen treat.

We loved this weekly ritual! That is, until that one time my tongue got stuck to my rainbow pop because it was so cold and my Mom had to run warm water over my popsicle to melt it and quickly rip it off. (imagine a scene from a popular Christmas movie... only real life and a popsicle not a metal flag pole...)

That was a sad, sad day in my youth. That traumatizing event really put a damper on my Saturday ice cream truck love, causing me to forfeit my weekly frozen treat for weeks. But I quickly got over it, because a few weeks later I was out flagging down that big, glorious ice cream truck, forking over all my hard earned allowance for another special frozen treat (just not a rainbow pop)!

To this day, ice cream and other frozen treats remain my absolute favorite special indulgence. However, now as an adult, it is not getting my tongue stuck to a rainbow pop that is raining on my ice cream day parade, it is sensitive teeth and gums. My sensitive teeth and gums have been a real problem the last few years, making it difficult to enjoy the foods I love, especially those frozen treats (super sad for a recipe developer/food blogger). Luckily, I recently discovered at my local Kroger store the Colgate Sensitive Toothbrush and Sensitivity Pen. The Enamel Toothbrush is designed with ultra soft bristles, to care for sensitive teeth and the Actis Enamel Pen blocks sensitivity at the source of pain. Simply: Brush, Apply, Go! (check your local Kroger or Kroger banner store for a digital coupon so you can try it too!). Since discovering this proactive way to take care of my teeth, I have been able to enjoy all the frozen treats I want (Smile.), like biting into one of these Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream Sandwiches without worry!

I have always loved a classic ice cream sandwich, that simple vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two soft, rich and chocolaty cookies; but who does classic anymore these days!?! While there are several steps involved, these “trashed up” ice cream sandwiches really are quite simple to make. I started with a rich and creamy cream cheese based ice cream custard, stirred in a chunky, homemade strawberry sauce and then sandwiched the frozen ice cream in between two crispy graham crackers to get that full strawberry cheesecake effect. This special frozen treat came out absolutely amazing and will definitely be a treat we make well into the hot summer months!

What is your favorite frozen treat?

Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream Sandwiches
Printable Version 
By Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions:
Prep Time: 25 minutes Cook Time: 10-12 minutes Chill Time: Overnight plus 4 hours Churn Time: 20-25 minutes Yields: 15-20 ice cream sandwiches

A rich, cream cheese based ice cream loaded with fresh, juicy strawberries all sandwiched between crisp graham crackers!

1 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs, beaten
1 ½ cups whole milk
1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
2 cups diced fresh strawberries
1 lemon, juiced and zested
15-20 whole graham crackers, broken in half

In a medium sized bowl, using an electric mixer, beat 3/4 cup sugar and softened cream cheese together until smooth and creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix well. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, bring the milk and cream to a simmer over medium-low heat. Let milk simmer for 1-2 minutes, then slowly beat approximately 1 cup of the hot milk into the cream cheese mixture. Pour the entire milk/cream cheese mixture back into the pan with the remaining milk. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook stirring constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon until the ice cream custard thickens slightly, about 5-6 minutes; being careful not to let the mixture boil as the egg will scramble. Remove from the heat and pour the hot ice cream custard through a strainer into a large bowl. Set aside to cool completely.

Meanwhile, heat a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add the strawberries, remaining ¼ cup sugar, lemon juice and zest. Let strawberries cook for 10-15 minutes, breaking up and mashing the strawberries with a wooden spoon or potato masher as they cook. Set aside to cool completely.

Pour cooled ice cream custard and strawberry sauce into separate containers. Cover and refrigerate overnight. After refrigeration, stir chilled custard. Churn custard in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions, about 20-25 minutes, until the ice cream is soft serve consistency. Stir in chilled strawberry sauce, blending until fully combined. Transfer ice cream to a freezer-safe container and freeze for at least 4 hours.

To assemble ice cream sandwiches, allow ice cream to soften to room temperature for 3-5 minutes. Line up graham crackers on a cutting board. Working quickly, scoop ice cream and place on half of the graham crackers. Top ice cream with remaining graham cracker halves. Serve immediately or wrap ice cream sandwiches individually in plastic wrap and place in a freezer safe plastic storage bag.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Cowboy Spaghetti

A hearty spaghetti dish, this Cowboy Spaghetti is full of crispy bacon, perfectly cooked ground beef and a smoky, fire roasted tomato sauce. 

After working years in the food and beverage industry, one thing that I have always thought was shocking was the fact that so many chefs don't actually cook for their families. I mean, I guess I get it. First the hours that most chefs work are prime time dinner hours, so obviously they would be at work most days during dinner time. But when asked, most chefs say that since they are in a kitchen all day, that when they are home, that is the last place they want to be.

I mean, let's be realistic. Most people dread the 5 o'clock dinner hour, especially after a long day at work. So wanting a break, from what you do to earn a living, is understandable. But unless you have worked in the industry or are the immediate family of someone who does, people kind of just expect that since you are a chef, recipe developer, food blogger, etc., that you don't mind hosting the big holiday celebrations and always have dinner on the table. No matter what.

And while I admit, that sometimes I feel the same way, for the most part I love being the holiday (or just because) party host and enjoy making dinner almost every night! Even though I do like having nights off, from all the planning, and grocery shopping, and cooking, and cleaning, for me there isn't another place I'd rather be than in the kitchen!

And..... with all that said (here is where I am being totally and completely honest.... I haven't cooked for us at all this week...), on those nights when eating out is not in the budget, and dinner has to be made and I am not particularly in the mood, I fall back on dinners like this.

This Cowboy Spaghetti is a great recipe to liven up that routine (read: boring) spaghetti night! There is a tad bit more work involved than just browning some beef and adding a jar of store bought pasta sauce, but really this spaghetti dinner is super easy to throw together and is one of our absolute favorites! It is hearty and robust and packed with things like bacon and mushrooms. Mushroom haters, don't be afraid! They are finely chopped and just help add to the heartiness of this dish! And what makes this pasta dish even better, it is humble enough for a quick weeknight dinner, or dressy enough to entertain family for Sunday supper!

One Year Ago: Cooking Basics: Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs (Plus Hard Boiled Egg Recipe Round-Up!)
Two Years Ago: Southwestern Sloppy Joes
Three Years Ago: Spring Chicken and Pasta Salad
Four Years Ago: Classic Egg Salad Sandwiches
Five Years Ago: Monkey Bread
Six Years Ago: Restaurant Review: Garcia's Cafe

Cowboy Spaghetti
Printable Version
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 25-30 minutes Serves 6-8

A hearty twist on traditional spaghetti with rich, smoky flavors. 

1 pound dry spaghetti
½ tablespoon olive oil
½ pound bacon, chopped
1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon steak seasoning
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (8-ounce) package mushrooms, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2-3 teaspoons hot sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon liquid smoke
½ cup beef broth
1/3 cup BBQ sauce
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 (29-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (28-ounce) can diced or crushed fire roasted tomatoes
½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 green onions, diced

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Once cooked to al dente, drain pasta and toss with ½ tablespoon olive oil. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer crispy bacon to a paper towel lined plate, and set aside. Drain off the excess grease, leaving just enough to coat the bottom of the skillet. Add the ground beef and steak seasonings. Cook beef for 5-6 minutes or until browned, using a spatula or wooden spoon to break meat apart as it cooks.

Add in the diced onions and cook until they are softened, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in minced garlic and diced mushrooms and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook for 1-2 minutes. Stirring constantly, stir in hot sauce, Worcestershire, liquid smoke, and beef stock. Cook for 3-4 minutes, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet. Stir in Italian seasoning, tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in half of the cooked bacon. Taste sauce and season, as needed, with salt and black pepper.

Toss cooked spaghetti with prepared sauce. Serve pasta topped with shredded cheddar cheese, diced green onions and remaining cooked bacon.

Serving Suggestion: Keep things simple with basic garden or Caesar salad and garlic bread!

Inspired by Taste and Tell and Mel's Kitchen Cafe 

Other recipes you might enjoy:
White Cheddar Mac 'n Cheese with Crispy Pepperoni Topping
Summer Squash Ribbon Pasta Salad with Sweet Corn and Avocado
Butternut Squash Skillet Lasagna
Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore
Cajun Chicken Pasta
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