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.

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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!

DIY Dry-Erase Love Note Board

For the "little things"

For the “little things”

Inspired by my DIY dry-erase board, I started surfing Pinterest to get other dry-erase ideas. I was looking for something that would help me organize my pantry when I found this adorable dry-erase love note board over at A Content Housewife.

My husband and I work opposite hours so he is usually sleeping when I leave for school in the morning and gone by the time I get home from the gym at night. This is such a cute way for us to stay connected throughout the week.

You’ll need:

  • 1 frame – I got mine at Michael’s on sale for $7
  • 1 sheet of scrapbook paper – $.50

The font I used was called “Loopi” and you can download it here.

I made this for Valentine’s Day, but it would be a great one-year anniversary gift since the first anniversary is paper!

It is fun to find your partner has changed the note!

It is fun to find your partner has changed the note!

How To: Cut a Pepper

This is a pretty typical Sunday night dinner in our house. We love fajitas. I make them by sautéing garlic, onions and peppers in olive oil then adding chicken flavored with and marinated in fajita seasoning from the Spice House. Simple and quick.

From left to right: chicken fajitas, tortillas, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, sauteed mushrooms, pico de gallo, and grilled green onions.

From left to right: chicken fajitas, tortillas (for hubs), cheese, sour cream, guacamole, sautéed mushrooms (for me since I don’t eat the tortillas), pico de gallo, and grilled green onions.

I usually make a double batch of the chicken and peppers along with a boat load of guacamole and pico de gallo so I can have the leftovers the next few mornings with eggs. Fajita omelette? Yes, please!

I can’t convince my husband to try Paleo with me for even two weeks so that’s why the tortillas are pictured here. However, this is Paleo-friendly as long as you eat everything a la carte. You could also serve this as a salad over a bed of lettuce greens with a bit of olive oil and fresh lime juice. When you make fresh pico and guacamole, you don’t even miss things like sour cream, cheese, or tortillas. I have to admit that even though cheese isn’t technically Paleo, it is the one item that I cheat with at times.

I have found that people really struggle with slicing and dicing peppers for meals like this. I can’t even recall where I learned this technique, but it is the best way to cup up fresh peppers. It’s makes it super easy to slice them into strips or dice them into cubes and you never have any of the little seeds flying about.

How to Cut a Pepper

Step 1

How to cut a pepper

Step 1

Step 1.5

Slice down the side of the pepper as close to the stem as possible.

Side view of step 1

Step 2

Now that you can see the inside, slice the other sides off avoiding the seeds.

Step 2

Avoid the seeds as you slice

Side view of step 2

Step 3

Notice the seeds are intact around the stem

Step 3

Repeat around the entire pepper

Step 4

Step 7

Discard the seeds

Step 5

Step 6

Slice into strips or dice into cubes

Easy peasy!

No-Cook Playdough

I never realized how difficult it can be to entertain a 3-year old for an extended period of time until yesterday. Apparently coloring on computer paper with a Bic pen and a highlighter is not a toddler’s idea of a good time. Who knew? I was frantically texting my best friend asking for quick craft ideas and she suggested making Playdough. GENIUS! Not only did the little guy enjoy helping in the kitchen, the dough kept him occupied for a few hours.

No-Cook Playdough - Cucina Kristina

Playing with Uncle Jesse

No-Cook Playdough - Cucina Kristina

Playing with homemade playdough

I didn’t have any food coloring, but as you can see, my nephew didn’t care. This went over infinitely better than my coloring idea, and took a few minutes to throw together. This would be such a fun rainy day activity!

No-Cook Playdough
Time: ~5 minutes

No-cook playdough recipe - Cucina Kristina

Our creations

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • Food coloring (optional)

Directions:

  1. Grab a little helper and combine all ingredients, except food coloring, in a bowl.
  2. Get messy! Mix by hand.
  3. Add food coloring until dough reaches desired color.

9 New Uses For Herbs

A friend of mine mentioned the other day that she wanted to start growing her own herbs because it would be cheaper than buying them every time she needs fresh herbs for a dish. For example, if a recipe calls for a sprig of rosemary, she will buy the tiny box of rosemary from the grocery store (these usually run about $3-$5 depending on the herb), use a sprig, and end up throwing the rest out because it goes bad before she uses it again. This got me thinking of ways to use up or preserve those fresh herbs.

I have been growing and drying my own herbs for years. Drying herbs is very easy and does not require any special equipment. All you do is bunch your herbs together and secure with a rubber band, then hang them upside down in a dark, dry place (closets work really well) and forget about them for a couple of weeks.

This bunch of sage is already dried, but you can see the rubber band at the top securing it together.

Cucina Kristina: Dried Sage

Dried Sage

I usually dry a bunch of different herbs at a time and hang them from one of those cheap hangers you get from the dry cleaner. I just twist the top apart, thread the rubber banded herbs onto the hanger, and hang them in my basement.

Cucina Kristina: Dry bunches of herbs on a dry cleaner hanger.

You can easily untwist these by hand.

Cucina Kristina: Dry bunches of herbs on a dry cleaner hanger.

Dried lime balm, pineapple sage, thyme, anise, and sage.

When I started this post, I only had a few ideas bouncing around in my head, but as I kept writing, the ideas kept coming. I’ve compiled a list of links and pictures of ways to use fresh and dried herbs. It’s a mix of my own ideas and links around the internet.

1. Make tea.

Fancy herbal teas can cost you a pretty penny. Why not dry those herbs and make your own teas? Simply boil water, add herbs, and steep for about 10 minutes. You could use fresh herbs to make tea, too. Nothing is stopping you!

2. Freeze fresh herbs.

When you think of preserving herbs, drying automatically comes to mind. However, you can also freeze them in their natural state for use throughout the year. There are three ways you can do this.

– The first is to freeze them whole. Spread individual leaves or sprigs onto a cookie sheet and freeze.

– The second is to use ice cube trays. Scoop 1 tablespoon of chopped herbs into each ice cube space and cover halfway with water and freeze. The herbs will float to the top, don’t worry. This is why you fill the tray only halfway at first. When frozen, cover the rest of the way with water and freeze again.

– The third is to freeze fresh herbs in olive oil. This idea from The Gardner’s Eden has been floating around Pinterest for a while, but I thought it was worth mentioning in case folks hadn’t seen it. I think it is a great idea. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it!

3. Make you own potpourri.

Once your herbs are dried, you can put them in a sash and use them to scent drawers or closets. You can also spread potpourri into a decorative bowl or dish and use around your home. If you’d like, you can mix in other scents. Add cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans, or dried citrus fruits. This idea works especially well with anise, rosemary, and lavender.

4. Infuse things.

You can infuse olive oil, vinegar, or butter. These would make great gifts for any occasion. If you get fancy jars, your olive oil and vinegar can double as kitchen decor.

5. Brighten up your home or office with a fresh herb bouquet.

The smell of fresh herbs seeps through the air as you work and has a very calming effect. Also, how cute would this be for a housewarming present or a hostess gift?

Cucina Kristina: Fresh herb bouquet

Rosemary, sage, and oregano. The scent is amazing!

6. Use fresh or dried herbs as gift toppers.

I did this for a kitchen themed bridal shower and used fresh rosemary and cinnamon sticks. I thought I was a genius when I came up with the idea, but it is already all over the internet. Sigh. Maya*Made has some great photos in her post on herbs as gift toppers.

7. Make your own spice blends, rubs, or mixes.

Here are some ideas that come to mind. Use equal parts of dried herbs. Be careful when you get into the powders as they tend to be strong. You can experiment, but in the case of powders less is more.

  • Italian herb blend: Rosemary, Oregano, Basil, Thyme, Sage
  • Scarborough Fair blend: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme
  • Steak/chicken rub: Oregano, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, paprika
  • Fajita mix: Oregano, cumin, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper

8. Make flavored simple syrups. Use in cocktails, mocktails, and sweet treats.

I found this awesome step-by-step tutorial from Oh My Veggies for basil simple syrup, but you could use this method for any herb. She also lists some uses for basil simple syrup to get your creative juices flowing.

9. Press herbs, frame, and use as artwork. 

We all probably pressed leaves at some point for a school project, right? Why not do the same with herbs? I’ve pressed many leaves and flowers in my day using the basic method I was taught during the 80’s. I’m sure it will work the same for herbs. Lay herbs flat between two pieces of newspaper. Place a few heavy books on them and wait about 2-3 weeks for the herbs to dry in their pressed shape. They can then be framed and hung in a kitchen.

Any other ideas? Please share!

How To Correctly Put a Lid on a Coffee Cup

Fall is in the air! As much as I miss living in California, there is no better place to be during the fall season than the Midwest. It is always sad to say goodbye to summer, but these things help make the transition easier:

  • College football season (Go Bears!)
  • Boots (I’m in love with these, these, these, and these!)
  • The smell of burning leaves
  • Sunday drives through the forest preserve
  • Apple picking, apple cider, apple butter, apple donuts
  • Canning the last of summer’s bounty (my new project this year)
  • Pumpkin carving & roasting the seeds
  • Oktoberfest & seasonal beers (Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale? Yes, please!)
  • Scarves and hats

and finally…. warm pumpkin-spiced coffee drinks! I can’t think of anything more amazing on a chilly autumn day than the smell of fall in my coffee cup. I’m dying to try this homemade version of a Pumpkin Spiced Latte from Averie Cooks using pumpkin puree and almond milk. How delectable does that sound?

Speaking of coffee, am I the only one that has major issues with coffee dribbling down the side of my paper coffee cup? I have coffee stains in my car, on my gloves, and on the front of countless shirts because of this. Little did I know there is a simple solution to this problem.

I was in Boston three weeks ago for the last leg of my honeymoon, and I stopped into Wired Puppy for my morning cup o’ Joe. At the sugar/creamer station, they had a photo tutorial explaining the proper way to put a lid on a to-go cup of coffee. Ever since following their directions, I have had zero coffee dribbles on the front of my shirt. This is seriously exciting news. I wish I knew this years ago.

How to Correctly Put a Lid on a Coffee Cup

Step 1: Find the cup seam.

Cucina Kristina: Cup Seam

Find the cup seam

Step 2: Put the lid on with the spout facing opposite the cup seam.

Cucina Kristina: Put the lid on with the spout facing opposite the cup seam and your beverave won't dribble down your shirt.

Put the lid on with the spout facing opposite the cup seam.

That’s it? Seriously? All I had to do was rotate the lid?! Does this mean I can finally have nice things? 🙂