Christmas, Craft Projects, DIY GIFT GUIDE, Gift Idea, Holiday, Pallet Projects, Quick and Easy Crafts

Wood Burning and Wooden Ornaments

My last holiday craft involving pallet wood also involved a new skill — wood burning!! I’d never successfully tried wood burning before, but I figured out what I’d been doing wrong and had a blast playing around with the new technique.

Before I got into the wood burning, I simply was making trees from the pallet wood. The first I made was a gift for my secret santa at work:

PalletTreeOrnament

I cut out the tree using my jigsaw, sanded it down, added a hole for the ribbon and colored the wood using the restor-a-finish product I always rave about. Cute, yes? My coworker loved it. I also gave him a Home Depot gift card — he and I love to chat about our ongoing projects. He’s my Home Depot buddy!

I made a similar tree for my godmother, but to girl it up a bit I painted gold dots all over it to look like ornaments.

Then I moved on to some simple wood burned ornaments. I tried it out on some scrap wood first:

Scrap Burning

After doing some research online, I learned that you can use a soldering iron as a wood burning tool. The only downside is the lack of interchangeable tips. I’d tried this before, but it turns out I didn’t let my iron get hot enough. This time I let it fully warm up — and that did the trick.

Once I’d tested it out on a few pieces of scrap wood, I started to make gifts for people. An “E” for the neighbors, an “S” for my mother-in-law and an “M” and “E” for Max and Eli, my friend’s sons.

Wood Burned LEtters

Let me back track for a sec — all of these are from scrap wood, which I liked a lot because pretty much none of my pallet went to waste. I sanded everything down before burning it.

OK, back to the burning… once I got designs I liked, I added holes for ribbon or wire. Some I stained, some I left natural.

MEandMax

My buddy Maz really liked his little “M.” OK, he obviously couldn’t care less about it… I just wanted to share our selfie 🙂

The letters I did were fairly easy (Minus the “S”) because they were all straight lines. Since my soldering iron was a longer flat tip, that was the only shape I could do. Lots of dashes, exes and straight lines.

I got the idea to use those shapes to make wood-burned Christmas tree ornaments. These were my favorite.

Small Tree

Large Tree

If you smell them, they smell like campfire! LOVE.

I gave my sister and her BF the larger ornament with the star. The other I selfishly kept for us. I added a lumberjack-esque ribbon to it, too.

Tree_Ribbon_Final

How adorable is that? It it cost me $0! The wood was scrap, the wire I add and the ribbon came off of a gift 🙂

Tree_Ribbon_On Tree

I love to make Christmas gifts and I think these were some of my favorites that I made this year.

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Recipes

Spicy Taco Soup

What I’m about to share with you is possibly one of the yummiest recipes of all time. That’s right, folks… it’s Spicy Taco Soup time.

I discovered this recipe years ago online and have since altered it to perfection. It is a staple in our house during the colder months and a staple at my mom’s house at Christmas time. It’s also way easy to make and not terribly bad for you. #Winning!

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs Ground beef/chicken/turkey: Use whichever meat you’d like and however much meat you like. I usually use 1.5 lbs because I like my soup to have a lot of meat in it.
  • 32 oz. Beef stock/chicken stock: Depending on whether you choose to make your soup with ground beef or ground bird, grab the corresponding broth to go with it. Also, I liked to get low sodium broth. It doesn’t affect the taste and it is way better for you.
  • 2 cans of petite diced tomatoes: Feel free to use petite diced tomatoes with green chillies or onions in it. Tomatoes must be petite!
  • 1 can of pinto/black beans: I use black beans in my soup and only one can. The original recipe I found online called for two cans of pinto and two cans of black beans. That was way too much for us. Grab low sodium beans if you can.
  • 1 can of sweet yellow corn
  • 1 cup chopped onion: Frozen or fresh works. You can add more if you’d like.
  • 1 cup chopped green/red/yellow peppers: Frozen or fresh works, and any color works! You can add more if you’d like.
  • 2 tbsp Red Pepper flakes
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • HOT SAUCE!!!: Add as much as you can handle 🙂

Directions:

In a frying pan, cook up the meat of your choice with the onions. Drain the grease.

In a large soup pot on medium to high heat, combine tomatoes (do not drain), corn (drain & rinse), beans (drain & rinse), peppers, red pepper flakes, and meat. Add in your broth (Note: I add a whole “box” of broth, but you can add however much you’d like. It will change the consistency of the soup. So, if you like chunky soup, don’t add too much. If you like a soupier soup, add all of it.)

Add hot sauce to taste.

Heat until hot! Serve with shredded cheese and sour cream on top — maybe even a few crushed up tortilla chips! Enjoy!

The best part about this soup is it is easily customizable without totally altering the taste. If you want more meat, add more. If you want less broth, add less. If you love green peppers but hate corn, the recipe will still turn out. I made it last night with three cans of petite tomatoes (total rebel, right?) and no green pepper (I forgot to buy them… oops!), and it was still delicious.

What are your favorite soup recipes? I also make a mean rustic tomato soup. Yummo. No soup beats my parents’ homemade chicken noodle, but Spicy Taco Soup is definitely my next favorite.

Craft Projects, Holiday, Life, Recipes

Homemade Applesauce

Wow.

What a busy weekend.

Saturday was a blur. I participated in the Trash to Treasure Green Craft Fair and had a great time. A big “thank you” to those who stopped by the fair, and an even bigger “thank you” to by best friend Dana, my sister and my mom for stopping by and keeping me company throughout the day. Fairs are exhausting and having you there to help was really great.

Sunday was a blur. We made applesauce. All. Day. Long.

Seriously. Emily and I got to Dad’s house around 8:30 a.m. and immediately got to work making applesauce. We worked hard all day long, finally finishing up at 5:45 p.m. The hard work was worth it because we ended up with 72 jars of homemade deliciousness.

If you ever want to try making applesauce, I totally recommend it. It’s hard work, but it is also fun, smells amazing and tastes even better than it smells.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Apples: Duh. We used 3 bushels of apples (Two bushels of Red Delicious; One bushel of Golden Delicious) for 72 jars. Depending on how many you want to make… well, you do the math.
  • Sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Brown Sugar
  • Alcohol: We used Brandy this year. In years past, my dad has used Amaretto. Try what you’d like. The Brandy is the bomb, though. I definitely recommend it.
  • Vanilla
  • Red Hots 
  • Candy canes 
  • Pears
  • Canned Cranberries
  • Canning jars/lids/rings
  • Pots
  • Knives
  • Apple Grinder

Making applesauce is a many-step process. First, clean your apples and take all of the stickers off. If you want some extra fun, toss your apples into the sink. It doesn’t matter if they bruise, and it is great fun throwing fruit!

It is also important to sanitize your canning jars. We ran ours through the dishwasher, but you can also boil them. Clean your rings and lids, too.

Once your apples are clean and your jars are ready to go, it is safe to start cutting up your apples. I cut my apples into quarters, slicing through the core. Then I cut out any seeds and halved the slice. Set your apples aside until you have enough to steam.

Put your apples into a pot and fill the bottom with a few inches of water. Since apples have a lot of water in them, you don’t need to fully boil them to make them mushy. A little steaming goes a long way.

For this part, we used a regular-sized kitchen pot and a larger stock pot so we could have two going at one time. Talk about efficient.

Once your apples are super mushy, it is time to put them through the apple grinder. I’m not sure if that is the official term, but if I had to hazard a guess I’d say it’s not. You get the idea though.

The “grinder” has three important parts to note. First, there is the top where you put the apples in and mash them down into the processor. You can fill the white tub all the way with apples, but be careful not to splash the water onto yourself because it is HOT! We learned this the hard way.

Next, there is the sieve where the applesauce comes out. That is the portion with the large bowl right underneath of it. Finally, above the smaller bowl is where the peels come out. This contraption is awesome and such a time saver since you don’t have to peel all of your apples!

Once we had enough apples steamed to start making sauce, we put pots and pots full of them through the grinder. A few tips: Be gentle when mashing the apples down into the processor because stuff will go flying. Also, send the peels through a couple of extra times before tossing them. You can get a little bit more applesauce out of them!

Once you have a big ol’ bowl full of applesauce, it’s time to add your extras in. We don’t measure in our family, so just add what seems right to you. It’s the Bauer way. Here are a few of the concoctions we came up with:

1. Plain Jane applesauce: Applesauce, sugar and cinnamon (We added red hots to most batches of this, too. And, sometimes we put in vanilla!)

2. Brown Sugar applesauce: Applesauce and brown sugar — hold the cinnamon

3. Boozy Sauce: Applesauce, sugar, cinnamon and Brandy (We also added red hots to this)

4. Peppermint Sauce: Applesauce, sugar, cinnamon, crushed-up candy cane and red hots

5. Holiday Boozy Sauce: Applesauce, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, Brandy, red hots and crushed-up candy canes (This one is AMAZING. Seriously, it’s so freakin’ delicious)

6. Pear Sauce: Instead of apples (or in addition to apples), do this same process with pears. Add sugar and cinnamon!

7. Cranberry Sauce: Applesauce, cranberries (send these through the grinder), sugar and cinnamon

For any of these recipes, you can sub out sugar with Splenda. That tasted great, too.

Once your applesauce is mixed up in your bowl, transfer it into a mason jar using the jar funnel and a ladle.

You can also add red hots to the top of the jar before adding your lid.

Here’s a few important things to remember. 1. Leave about an inch or so of head room at the top of your jar. Do not fill your jar to the tippy top. 2. Make sure there is no residue on the top or sides of your jar where your lid will seat or it will not seal properly. 3. As you make different batches of applesauce (one or two bowls = batch), write on the lids in permanent marker what type they are so you can tell later on.

As you are getting ready to can your applesauce, soak your sanitized lids and rings in hot water. This helps them seal to the jar.

Place your warmed lid on top of your jar, then the canning ring around it. Do not screw it on too tightly or your jar won’t seal. Then, place them into boiling water for 20 to 25 minutes.

When they’ve boiled long enough, grab your jabs using a jar grabber (again, probably not a technical term), and place them onto a drying rack or on a towel. Don’t place them directly onto a cool counter because the temperature differential could cause them to break.

Here’s the most important thing — make sure your jars actually seal! When you set them aside to cool they will often make a single popping sound as they seal. That is GREAT! How do you know if they are sealed? Well, if you can press on the lid and it moves up and down and makes a clicking sound, it isn’t sealed. A sealed lid won’t move much and will have seemingly been sucked downward into the jar. If your jar doesn’t seal properly, your applesauce will spoil. We had to re-seal a bunch of jars — definitely invest in real Ball Mason jars and lids and avoid cheap knock-offs. Our cheap lids didn’t seal well at all and we ended up redoing most of them using Ball lids instead.

Once your jars are sealed, store them until it is time to gift, gift, gift! Like I said earlier, we made 72 different-sized jars. I took home 27. SWEEEEET.

I plan on making labels for mine before I gift them to friends, family and coworkers for the holidays. I also hope to make this a family tradition each year. My Dad used to do it years ago and I finally got him to do it again this year and teach me and Em how… I really hope we keep this tradition going. I love family time and I love me some homemade applesauce.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and encourage you to check out my sweet video at the top of the post. Yes, it’s a goofy DIY by yours truly. I think it turned out pretty well!

Thanks for stopping by.

And seriously… try the Holiday Boozy Sauce. You won’t regret it 🙂