Weekend Project: Create a Colorful Vertical Garden!

CreateLooking to dress up an old wood fence or add a little pizzazz to a drab outdoor wall? Create a vertical garden to add instant appeal and bright color! There are tons of vertical gardening ideas out there, but this one, courtesy of DIY Magazine, is easy to accomplish over a weekend.

herb-garden-inspirations7

Tools/supplies needed:

  • Terracotta pots
  • Painter’s tape
  • Spray paint
  • Flowerpot hangers
  • Wood screws
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Cordless drill
  • Wood screws

How to:

Using painter’s tape, tape off the rim of each pot. Coat with spray paint, following the manufacturer’s directions. Vary the color as desired.

diy-vertical-garden-on-a-fence-2

Secure pot hangers to the fence using a drill and wood screws.

diy-vertical-garden-on-a-fence-3

Put your pots on the hangers and you’re done. Now you just need to choose what to plant in them – herbs, flowers or any other plants you desire!

diy-vertical-garden-on-a-fence-4

 

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Filed under by Danielle, Create, In the Garden

Grandma’s Easter Bread

BakeEaster, like so many holidays, brings back fond memories of my childhood. Each year, my grandmother baked several loaves of this buttery, sweet bread. It was beautifully flecked with colorful confetti sprinkles and nestled in each “knot” of the braid was a pretty, pastel colored egg. Festive and delicious, too! She always made extra loaves so we’d have them for breakfast the next day, too. Like many of her recipes, this is one that I enjoy making for my family now. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Happy Easter!

Easter bread

Grandma’s Easter Bread
 
Ingredients
  • 4½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup butter, at room temperature
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup boiled water
  • ¾ cup scalded milk (cooled to room temperature)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 package yeast
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
  • Colored non-pareils for sprinkling on top
  • 3 colored, hard-boiled eggs
  • Beaten egg for brushing on top
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl using a hand mixer or in a stand mixer, mix the sugar, butter, salt and water. Add the milk.
  2. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup of warm water. Add to sugar mixture and mix well.
  3. Stir in the eggs and vanilla extract. Add flour, one cup at a time, until a smooth dough forms. If the dough seems too sticky, add more flour a little at a time. Cover the dough in the bowl (with a clean dish towel) for 1½ hours so it rises. Once it rises, beat it down. Divide the dough into 3 equal size balls.
  4. Roll out each ball of dough into a long, rounded piece. Braid the three pieces of dough together. Place the braided dough on a greased baking sheet. Nestle a colored egg into each of the three “knots” in the braid. Cover the braided dough with dish towels. Let it rise for another 45 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush dough with beaten egg. Sprinkle the non-pareils all over the top of the bread. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the bread becomes golden brown.

 

 

 

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Filed under Bake, by Danielle, Holidays

Eggplant Caponata Bruschetta

The Crafty Hostess: MakeCaponata is a classic Italian stew or relish, usually made with eggplant, capers, pine nuts, olives and tomatoes. It can be served as a side dish to fish or poultry and is also the ideal appetizer served on top of crusty, grilled or toasted bread. It can be made anytime of the year. However, this is one recipe to file away for the end of summer when you have a surplus of eggplant from your garden that you want to use up! And, it can be made a day or two beforehand and kept in the refrigerator, making it the ideal make-ahead dish!

caponata

(Recipe inspired by TheItalianDishblog.com)

Eggplant Caponata Bruschetta
 
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs. eggplant, cubed
  • 2 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 large can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup green pitted olives (or any type of olive that you like)
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • Drizzle of white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ currants
  • ½ cup toasted pine nuts
Instructions
  1. Place the cubed eggplant in a colander and toss well with the salt. Let the eggplant sit for about an hour. Do not rinse the eggplant. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place the eggplant on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and roast for 25 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, saute the chopped onions in ¼ cup of olive oil, gently, for about 5 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the olives, celery, vinegars and sugar and gently simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the roasted eggplant and stir until blended. Add in the currants. Add pepper to taste.
  4. Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan just until the become fragrant. Add them to the mixture. Stir gently to incorporate.
  5. If serving as bruschetta, slice and brush with a little olive oil. Toast or grill until golden brown. Top with a big spoonful of the caponata.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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See A Penny… Instant Tulip Trick!

CreateTulips are probably one of the most iconic spring flowers. They add instant color and seasonal appeal to any tablescape or floral arrangement. However, nobody wants to see a droopy tulip. Here’s a neat trick (courtesy of my sister-in-law, Rachel) to help keep your tulips standing tall!

Crafty Tip: Add a penny to the bottom of each vase/vessel. The penny slowly oxidizes the water so the tulips stay tall for a longer period of time!

tulips_before

Before the penny

tulips_after

After the penny

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Filed under by Danielle, Crafts, Home Decor

‘Fresh Baked’ Makes Its Debut!

BakeFresh Baked by The Crafty Hostess makes its debut today at a local fundraising event! Great news — if you live in the NY Metro/Tri-State area, look for The Crafty Hostess at a farmers marker or craft fair near you! I will be selling homemade baked goods, caramel popcorn, fudge, jams, jellies and more! Check back soon for the schedule of dates and locations.

Fresh Baked

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Filed under Bake, by Danielle

Garlic & Herb Infused Olive Oil

The Crafty Hostess: MakeIn the past, I’ve posted about homemade jams and giardinera (Italian pickled vegetables), which my sister-in-law and I enjoy making. Canning/preserving can be a little daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s so much fun for a foodie like me! Not to mention, nothing is nicer than giving friends and family your homemade creations. Most recently, we decided to try our hand at infusing olive oil. The result? Deliciousness! Use infused oil for a variety of things; dipping oil for bread, drizzle over chicken or fish, use as a marinade for vegetables… the possibilities are endless.

For this recipe, we used garlic, rosemary, sage and thyme, but feel free to experiment with any combination of herbs that you like. It’s always best to do your research before canning/preserving foods at home. Here are a few important things that we learned before infusing the oil:

  • It is critical that your garlic and herbs (or anything that you’re using to infuse the oil) is bone dry. If water is present in the oil, a bacteria can form, which can be harmful. Serious illness like botulism can occur if the bacteria is ingested. Please don’t let this scare you. As long as your bottles are dry and the herbs, etc. are completely dried and free of any moisture, your oil will be perfectly fine to consume. Unless you are planning to use the oil within a few days and are storing it in the refrigerator, this is critical.
  • Glass bottles with a cork top work best to preserve the oil and keep fresh for a longer shelf-life. We bought our bottles from a New Jersey home wine/beer-making supplier called Corrados.
  • When infusing oil, use high-quality, extra virgin olive oil.
  • Buying pre-packaged, dried garlic and herbs from the grocery store is perfectly fine to use. However, if you prefer to use fresh herbs and/or garlic, you will need to leave enough time to dry them out. Dehydrators work well, but can take a long time to dry (in some cases, several hours or days). Air drying herbs is another option. You can also use your oven to dry garlic and herbs. For drying times and instructions, it’s best to do some online research. Start with wikiHow and go from there.
  • Be sure your bottles are sterilized in the dishwasher before using. Again, it’s critical that the bottles are bone dry before filling them with oil.
  • Be sure that you select the right size bottle for the amount of oil that you’ll be making.

oil

oil bottles_2

(Yields 8 12-ounce bottles)

Ingredients:

Mixture of dried herbs like rosemary, sage and thyme

Dried garlic

3 liters of extra virgin olive oil

 

Supplies:

Glass bottles with corks (we used the “bar” corks that are shorter and easily twist in and out)

Large pot

Funnel

Ladle

 

How to:

Once the herbs and garlic are completely dry, you can begin making the infused oil. Pour all of the oil into a large pot. Add the herbs and garlic and gently simmer for 20 minutes. This allows the herbs and garlic to really permeate the oil. Carefully ladle the oil/herb/garlic liquid into the bottles using a funnel. Leave about one inch of headspace at the top of the bottle. Immediately insert the cork and push all the way down. Store the oil in a cool, dark place for at least 1-2 weeks before using. It’s perfectly safe to use the oil immediately, however, giving it 1-2 weeks to sit really allows the garlic and herbs to infuse the oil.

These bottles make such a beautiful gift! Tie a lovely ribbon around the neck of the bottle and attach a nice oil/bottle spout for easy pouring. You could also package the oil with a crusty loaf of artisan bread or crackers, cheese and dried fruits for an elegant hostess gift.

 

 

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Filed under by Danielle, Make

Super Easy, Super Flavorful Seasoning for Chicken-on-the-Grill

The Crafty Hostess: MakeNow that the snow has melted and I can finally access my barbeque grill without having to wear boots up to my knees (LOL), I’m excited to kick off the grilling season and enjoy the simplicity and taste of meats, vegetables and pizza cooked over an open flame. My go-to recipe for chicken on the grill is so easy, yet packed with tons of flavor. Best of all, you can season the chicken ahead of time and place in a large zip-top bag in the refrigerator until you’re ready to fire up the grill. It couldn’t be easier to get dinner on the table! Happy Grilling!

grilled chicken legs

Ingredients:

Chicken leg quarters (leg/thigh attached)

Lots of fresh garlic, minced

Lots of fresh rosemary, chopped

Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped

Kosher salt

Black pepper

Garlic powder

Onion powder

Olive oil

 

How to:

Using kitchen shears, remove the skin from the chicken. Feel free to leave the skin on if you enjoy it; it’s very tasty when it gets crispy on the grill. Rinse the chicken under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place the chicken in a large bowl.

Add the garlic, parsley, rosemary and all of the seasonings to the bowl. Drizzle a good amount of olive oil on the chicken. Mix well so the chicken is coated with all of the garlic, herbs and spices. Season liberally with salt and pepper. If making ahead of time, place in a zip-top bag and keep refrigerated until ready to grill.

chicken legs_prep

Grill on a gas grill, charcoal grill or even roast in the oven.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under by Danielle, Make

Personalized, Initial Wall Plaque

CreateMy friend Monica made this initial ‘C’ wall plaque to hang above the stairway that leads to her finished walk-out basement. I just loved it and wanted to share it with all of you. She made it herself with some supplies purchased at one of my favorite stores — Michaels! I had no idea she was so crafty!

Monica_letter wall plaque

Supplies needed:

Wood plaque/backboard, wood letter, wood fleur de lis/scroll (all purchased at Michaels)

Wood stain & applicator

Spray paint (two different colors)

Wood glue

How to:

Stain the larger wood plaque/backboard. Allow to dry completely. Using two different colors of paint, spray the scroll/decorative piece and the letter. Have fun with the colors that you’re using. If hanging in a kids room, go with brighter, cheerful colors. Allow all of the pieces to dry fully.

Using wood glue, attach the scroll/decorative piece to the plaque. Next, attach the letter on top of the scrolled piece. Again, allow to fully dry/set before hanging.

This makes a wonderful hostess gift, housewarming gift or gift for a newly married couple!

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Filed under by Danielle, Crafts, Create, Home Decor

Preparing Your Home for Spring Entertaining

CreateFor me, entertaining (during any season) is a state of mind. It’s not just about serving good food and drinks; it’s about creating an inviting, pleasant atmosphere for your family and guests to enjoy. To do this, I like to add touches of the season in every area of my home that guests will be present. For the spring season, I always try to lighten up my home décor accents and bring a little of the outdoors inside. Plants, flowers and color begin to emerge outside — and the inside of your home should follow suit. I like to think of it as shedding my home’s winter layer; coming out from under the heavier fall and winter coat. Here are a few pieces of inspiration to help you prep your home for this glorious season of rebirth — spring!

Begin outside. Greet guests with a smile! Adorn your front door with a colorful, textural wreath like one of these.

wreath1

Courtesy of Beautiful Nest

Buttoned_Up_Wreath_33

Courtesy of The O’Neil Sisters

LLH_HERBS_WREATH

Seen on OneKingsLane.com

 

Revisit your mantel. Use your fireplace mantel to set the stage for spring splendor!

Original_Mantel-Decorating-Layla-Palmer-Spring_s4x3_lg

Layla Palmer for HGTV

gray fireplace

Seen on zomdai.com

spring-mantel-ideas

Seen on theinspiredroom.net

 

Lighten up! Shed your home’s heavy linens, pillows, tablecloths and draperies and go with easy, breezy fabrics and vibrant colors.

Anodyne pillow from ashandanchor.com

Anodyne pillow from ashandanchor.com

 

Seen on designlike.com

Seen on designlike.com

Seen on LessThanPerfectLifeOfBliss

Seen on LessThanPerfectLifeOfBliss

 

Add cheery, seasonal accents to living/family rooms, bathrooms and kitchen/dining areas.

Seen on LessThanPerfectLifeOfBliss

Seen on LessThanPerfectLifeOfBliss

 

spring-decor-ideas-7

Seen on thebeautifulengland.com

Seen on LusHome.com

Seen on LushHome.com

colorful-bathroom-decor-interior

Seen on freshome.com

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Filed under by Danielle, Create, Entertaining, Home Decor

Vegetable Lasagna

The Crafty Hostess: MakeI entertained a few women for lunch a couple of weeks ago. I thought a nice lasagna, along with a tossed salad, would be perfectly satisfying. However, I wanted to keep it on the lighter side, so instead of making my typical chopped meat filling, I substituted sautéed vegetables. Delish for a ladies lunch or weeknight family meal!

vegetable lasagna_final

Ingredients:

1 jar marinara sauce (or make your own)

1 box Barilla lasagna noodles

1 medium zucchini

1 medium yellow squash

1 bag fresh baby spinach

1  large shallot, diced

About 15 ounces of ricotta cheese, at room temperature

1 bag shredded mozzarella cheese, about 4 cups

Grated pecorino or parmesan cheese

Olive oil

Salt, pepper

 

How to:

Wash the zucchini and yellow squash; pat dry. Chop into bite-sized pieces (quarter rounds are nice because they lay flat on the pasta). In a medium pan, sautee the shallot in olive oil. Add the zucchini and squash. Sautee until the vegetables begin to soften; add in the spinach and allow to wilt down. The vegetables should be tender, but not soft and mushy. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Boil the water for the lasagna noodles, adding salt and olive oil to the water (the oil will help the noodles from sticking together). Cook until just al dente. You don’t want the pasta to be overcooked or it will get too mushy in the oven. Drain well. In a small pot, heat your marinara sauce.

In a 9 x 13 glass baking dish, ladle some of the marinara sauce on the bottom. Begin layering the lasagna noodles. You can layer them the traditional way, which is by laying them lengthwise down the longest part of the baking dish. I layer them across the width of the dish, allowing them to hang over the sides of the dish, then I fold them all in at the end. However, this is not necessary (and it uses more of the noodles).

FIRST LAYER:

  1. Ladle sauce over the noodles
  2. Carefully place dollops of ricotta cheese on top of sauce; gently spread with a spoon or spatula
  3. Spoon some of the vegetable mixture on top
  4. Scatter a good amount of mozzarella on top, followed by a nice handful of grated cheese

REPEAT THE STEPS ABOVE FOR THREE-FOUR LAYERS (DEPENDING ON HOW THICK YOU LIKE YOUR LASAGNA)

vegetable lasagna_veg layer

Be sure to reserve enough marinara sauce for the very top layer of the lasagna. In a preheated 400 degree oven, bake the lasagna for about 30 minutes or until you can see the sauce beginning to bubble underneath the noodles. Allow it to sit out for at least one hour before slicing. I prefer to make my lasagna the day before, storing it in the fridge. It’s easy to reheat before I’m ready to serve it. Plus, it gives it a chance to really firm up, making it much easier to cut.

Crafty Tip: This is the perfect dish to make on a Sunday, then store in the fridge and reheat during the week for dinner. It also freezes very well.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under by Danielle, Make