Friday, November 30, 2012

Whole Chicken in the Crock Pot: Part 1

I used to be afraid of whole chickens.

Okay, so I wasn't afraid of the chicken itself. I was afraid of buying and cooking it. I's a whole bird! Sure, it's a great value, but what the heck was I going to do with a whole bird? It was just so intimidating!

Then one day, I faced my fear. I decided to take a chicken home from the store without having a clue about what I was going to do with it once I got it there. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to cook. Now, a few years and many chickens later, whole chickens are one of my favorite things to prepare. And a crock pot makes cooking them a breeze!

I like to put vegetables in the crock pot with the chicken. That way, I don't have to cook a side dish once my chicken is done. (You could call this laziness, but I like to think of it as efficiency). Anyway, on to the cooking!

First, I cut up about 4 red potatoes, a few carrots, and an onion. I put half of the onion off to the side, and put the other half in the bottom of the crock pot with the potatoes and carrots.

Now, get your chicken out of the fridge, take it out of the package, and remove the yucky parts that are stuffed inside. You can save the innards for another recipe, if you choose, but I usually throw them straight into the trash.

Now it's time to give your chicken a bath! No, really. Rinse him thoroughly and then pat him dry with a paper towel.

For seasoning, I used a combination of garlic, oregano, basil, paprika, and salt this time around, but there have been times when I've only used salt and pepper. Still yummy. Use what you like.

Whatever you choose, rub it all over your chicken. Don't just sprinkle it on...massage it in. Be sure to get all over the outside of the bird and inside the cavity. I even lift the skin off the breast and reach in to rub the seasoning into the breast meat, too.

Once you're finished seasoning your chicken, put the remaining half of your onion into the cavity and place the chicken directly on top of the vegetables in your crock pot.

Now replace the lid, set your crock pot to low, and walk away. There is no need to add any liquid because the chicken will make its own juices as it cooks.

Bonus: by the time your chicken is done, your house will smell phenomenal!

I cooked this chicken for 7 hours. It was a larger chicken, though...just over 5 lbs. I know not everyone has a crock pot big enough to hold a 5 pound chicken, so be mindful that different size chickens and different types of crock pots will make cooking times slightly different.

If you're unsure whether or not your chicken is thoroughly cooked, use a meat thermometer. White meat is done when it reaches a temp of 165 and dark meat is done at 180 degrees. Be sure not to touch the bone with the thermometer when you're checking because the bone will be hotter than the meat.

Once your chicken is done, gently remove it from the crock pot. Be careful - the meat will likely be falling off the bone and the chicken might try to fall apart on you!

If you want to crisp the skin, you can put the chicken under the broiler for a few minutes. I don't usually do that, since I don't eat the skin, but it does make the finished chicken much prettier.

Now, remove the potatoes, onions, and carrots from the crock pot. They should be insanely flavorful after cooking in the chicken's juices all day.

Now, go enjoy your dinner!

(Don't forget to thoroughly clean your sink and any other surfaces you prepared your raw chicken on!)

Come back tomorrow and I'll tell you what I usually do with the leftover chicken....both the meat and the bones. Nothing goes to waste around here!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cheeseburger Cupcakes

I made these cute little cupcakes a few times this past summer. Once for my birthday, which fell on Memorial Day, and again for my 8 year old niece's birthday party a month later. They were a huge hit and I had a ton of people ask me how I did it, so I just have to pass it along!

To start, you'll need 24 yellow cupcakes and 24 little round brownies, and some red, yellow, and green cake decorating icing with decorative tips. I just used box mixes for the cupcakes and the brownies. The cupcakes were made exactly like the box says. For the brownies, I mixed up the batter according to the directions on the box. Instead of pouring the batter into a pan, though, I lined a couple of cupcake tins with paper liners and added about a half inch of batter into each of those. I only baked them for about 10 minutes or so...they cook fast when you're making brownies this small. Keep a close eye on them!

Remove the papers and cut the cupcake in half horizontally. This is your bun.

Put the brownie on your bun.

Now it's time for the icing. To start, use the flat tip to add your yellow icing. I didn't want a huge glob of icing on these, so I just made a square around the edges. If you're an icing lover, you can totally cover the whole brownie! (Hint: if you make a square, it really looks a lot like a slice of cheese.)

Next, put a small tip on the red icing and add some ketchup to your burger. Try to get close to the edges so you can still see it once you put the top on.

Time to add some lettuce! I used the flower icing tip and added a few dollops of green icing around the edges.

Replace the cupcake top and you're done!

And, since I seem to enjoy overdoing things, I took these little burgers one step further. When I made them for my niece's birthday party, I made sugar cookie fries to go with them. After all, what's a burger with no fries? They weren't hard to make at all. Just cut sugar cookie dough into square shaped cookies to bake them, then cut the finished cookies into strips. Put it all on a little paper tray with a scoop of ice cream, and you have a fun alternative to traditional cake and ice cream!

Random Rambling: Scary Scarecrow

The day after Thanksgiving is always the day we put away the autumn decorations and break out everything related to Christmas. This year, I was more excited than ever to take down the scarecrows and pumpkins. That excitement doesn't have anything to do with Christmas, though. That extra bit of excitement exists because, frankly, the scarecrow on my front door scares the bejeezies out of me.

See? Isn't he scary? Sure, he's got a cute hat, rosy cheeks, and a crooked little grin. But this little guy has been creeping me out since we first hung him up in mid-October. He's cute enough during the daytime, but he transforms into something else overnight.

Don't believe me? Look...

SEE??? This photo was taken from my living room. First thing in the morning, every morning for weeks, this is what I saw. When it was still dark in the house and the sun was coming up outside, that scarecrow was nothing more than a creepy silhouette that peeks through the window on my front door in an effort to make me pee my pants.

You would think I'd get used to it after a while, but that didn't happen. You would also think that if it bothered me that much, I would have taken it down. That didn't happen, either. In my twisted way of thinking, that would have been letting the scarecrow win. Yes, I know that's ridiculous...I embrace my inner crazy. But I refuse to do ANYTHING out of fear. So I left it up. And I kept getting scared.

But now it's time to celebrate! The scarecrow is tucked away nicely in a box down in the basement where I don't have to look at him, and this cute little snowman is now in his place.

Snowmen aren't nearly as scary as scarecrows.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

1 Ugly Dress = 2 Cute Tops

Refashioning old clothes is something Syd and I love to do. We have a blast going into thrift shops and searching for ugly items we think we can redeem. Here's an example of one such find.

Please note: When I first refashioned this dress, I had no idea I would be blogging about it. I didn't keep notes about exactly how I changed it, and I certainly didn't know anyone other than one friend would be seeing the pictures. This post will very likely be the only time you all will see me without makeup, phone in hand, and with my toilet in the background. If you see these things again - especially the phone in hand photo and the toilet lurking in the background - I give you full permission to tease and ridicule me as much as you desire.

Now that I got that out of the way, let's move on to the refashioning!

This is the dress I found at a thrift shop for $3.99. The dress itself is not exactly my cup of tea, but the print was okay and the material was super soft. I couldn't resist!

This dress makes me look so shapeless! That is NOT the look I tend to strive for!

The first thing I did was cut the dress in half. I took each side in just a little, changed up the neckline a bit, folded the the bottom of my new shirt under, and sewed down all my rough edges. This was the result.

Not bad, and I look like I actually have a waist again!

A few days later, I pulled out the bottom half of the dress. I really didn't want to take the easy route and turn it into a skirt. Honestly, I almost cut it up to make flowers out of it, but then inspiration struck. I decided to make a second shirt!

The top of the second shirt is actually the bottom hem of the original dress. I sewed it partially closed on each side, created armholes, and added some elastic to the bottom of the shirt. Here's what I ended up with:

This new shirt only took about 15 minutes to finish, and I absolutely love it!

So....whadya think? Did I successfully redeem that ugly dress?