Monday, April 30, 2012

Tales of Romance



A couple weekends ago, my hometown newspaper {Charlotte Observer} featured an article on Matt and I as part of their love story segment. It was so fun to pick up the Sunday paper and see ourselves in black and white! 

Ever wonder how it all began? Read for yourself!






For the online version, {CLICK HERE}

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Handy Homemaker Tips & Tricks VI

Here are 10 more easy {and budget friendly} tips and tricks for all you homemakers out there! 

1. Homemade Nontoxic Tub Scrub: Add one teaspoon of liquid soap and several drops of an antibacterial essential oil (such as tea tree, eucalyptus, rosemary, or peppermint) to one cup of baking soda. Add just enough water to form a paste, and use it with a sponge or brush to scour bathtub surfaces.

 

2. Add a small piece of plastic wrap under your lids to keep them from leaking while traveling


3. How to freeze your herbs {Click Here}


4. Recipe holder while cooking. Keeps your recipe stain-free and you won't lose it!


5. Use spaghetti noodles to light multiple candles, or wicks in hard to reach places.


6. Use ice cubes to remove dents from carpet


7. Make perfect grilled cheese sandwiches with a pair of baking sheets {instructions here}


8. Erase hard water stains with a lemon 


9. Homemade Cooking Spray: 1 part olive oil + 4-5 parts water, in a misting spray bottle


10. Homemade Lavender Spray: 2 cups distilled water + 1 oz (2 tbs) vodka or rubbing alcohol + 1/2 teaspoon lavender oil {full recipe here}


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Booker T’s East Side Hasher


What do you get when you add a bed of sweet potato hash browns, topped with two happy eggs frittata style, with your choice of local Grateful Growers pork sausage, turkey sausage, or soysage, then covered with melted cheddar cheese and green onions? Booker T’s East Side Hasher from Zada Janes.

Southern Living said it best, "In Zada Jane's, contemporary Charlotte has a funky all-day breakfast spot. Try one-of-a-kind creations like Booker T’s East Side Hasher…”

I couldn’t agree more, SL! Lucky for me, I live just 1.7 miles from my favorite corner cafĂ©, nestled in the heart of Plaza Midwood.  Zada Jane’s menu offers a unique mash-up of local, organic foods. However, my favorite menu item is Booker T’s East Side Hasher {I still haven’t made the connection to the historical figure}

I attempted to replicate my favorite breakfast dish in my own kitchen...and I was quite pleased with the results!

Here is how I pulled it off...
You will Need:
4 eggs, scrambled {or 6 egg whites}
1 cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese
3 strips of bacon {or sausage}, cooked and diced
2 medium sweet potatoes
green onions

Note: I used "fake bacon" from Morningstar.
Another note: I have been harvesting green onions for over 5 months. {CLICK HERE} to learn how to grow your own!

In a well oiled pan, cook your potatoes on medium high until nicely browned {about 5 minutes each side}. Meanwhile, cook your eggs frittata style: pour eggs into an oven-friendly pan. Cook for 4-5 minutes on stove top before placing in oven and broiling for 4-5 minutes. Eggs should be lightly browned and fluffy. 

{Optional: Sprinkle with fresh parsley}
Top with bacon, generously cover with cheddar cheese, and sprinkle green onions on top.
Side by side comparison...
 Not bad, right? It even tasted just as good!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Happy Birthday Carolina Charm!

It is hard to believe that one year ago, I wrote my very first post. 148 blog posts, 465 new followers friends, and 365 days later, I am celebrating my 1st Blogiversary! 

 

The blog world has truly been such a fun adventure for me. I have met so many new friends, tried new crafts and recipes, and documented life more than I ever have before.

From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU for following Carolina Charm. I am so humbled and appreciative of each and every one of you. Your sweet comments and emails continue to bless me daily. 

Anniversary celebration includes my new blog redesign, and of course some bubbly! 

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

DIY Gift Tag Tutorial

Thank you all for the sweet compliments on my gift wrap tutorial yesterday! A lot of you asked how I created the gift tag, so I am going to run you through a very simple tutorial...


 Step 1: Find a cute label. You can either purchase a sheet of labels from an Etsy shop, or download a template from Pinterest. I usually prefer Pinterest because most templates are free!
I did a quick search on Pinterest and found these cute {free} templates: 1/2/3/4/5

 *Note: I had my  pink lattice template custom made. Feel free to right click and save it!

Step 2: Upload template into Picnik a photo editing site. You may need to crop out the other labels or white space on the page.
*Note: I have heard great things about PicMonkey and Picasa for free photo editing.
Step 3: Add text to your label. I used GeosansLight font {size 36}.

Step 4: {Optional} Add a watermark by inserting a huge letter in your favorite font, then fading it. I used Henry Morgan Hand font {size 164}, then faded it 75%.

Step 5: Save and Print. To print as a "label size," select 3.5 x 5 in. prints in the "print options." 
*Note: the larger the print, the more risk of a grainy/pixelated look
Wanna know another secret? This is how I make all of my tent cards for party food, place cards for assigned seating, and framed signs for parties.
I hope this was helpful.  There is probably a much easier way to make your own labels, so if you have any tips or suggestions, please do tell

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Baker's Twine Gift Wrapping


Whether you're gift wrapping, crafting or tying up baked goods, baker's twine adds a fresh, yet nostalgic look to any project at hand! This clever {and simple} embellishment was the exact pizzazz I was looking for while wrapping a gift for my good friend, Brynn.

 
You Will Need:
Baker's Twine {any color}
Craft Paper {or newspaper}
Tape
Scissors
Gift Tag


1. Wrap gift in brown craft paper {or newspaper}
2. Measure and cut 3 pieces of baker's twine
3. Turn your wrapped package right-side-up and center the twine across the top. Wrap the ribbon around the package lengthwise and twist it in the center underneath the box. Bring the ends back up around the sides of the box.
4.  Tie the ribbon once in the center, then tie a bow. 
5. Add cute gift tag
6. Voila - extra special packaging!


That's a wrap!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Homemade Taco Seasoning




Have you ever read the ingredients label on your taco seasoning packet? Sadly, we average two taco dinners a week and I always assumed the ingredients were pretty straight forward, just a bunch of spices. I could not have been more wrong. In fact, store bought seasoning is riddled with MSG and full of other nasty things {like MILK SUGAR! Yes, MILK!}.

Just see for yourself!


So, I decided to make my own taco seasoning, using real ingredients. Not only can you control the ingredients of homemade taco seasoning, it tastes better and is much cheaper than store packets. 


Ingredients:
1/4 cup Ground Cumin
1/4 cup Garlic Powder
1/4 cup Chili Powder
1/4 cup Onion Powder
4 tbsp Crushed Red Peper

Directions: 
Mix all ingredients together! Store in freezer. 

Yields approximately 1.25 cups of taco seasoning {which is more than 10 packets of store bought taco seasoning}! 

Happy {healthy} Taco Night, Friends!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Cherry on Top Spring Cleaning

355 days ago, I wrote my first blog post under "Carolina Charm." For the next few months I kept my blog a secret for two reasons. One, I feared no one would be interested in following the ramblings of a "wanna-be southern belle," writing about my adventures in cooking, crafting, and wedding planning. The second reason was because I was painfully embarrassed by my horrendous "template design," which looked like a 4 year old played with my HTML code. 

A few months into blogging, I started begging Matt to let me splurge on a custom blog template. He laughed and agreed that if I ever reached 100 "followers" he would let me get my custom design. Well, within months I had surpassed 100 followers and was well on my way to 200! I am not sure who was more shocked, he or me! Not expecting to ever exceed 20 followers {all of which would be friends and family}, we re-negotiated at 1,000 followers and I used a free shabby template to tide me over. 

Well, a few days ago Erin at Living in Yellow revealed her new blog design and I knew I immediately needed to pay a visit {pun intended} to Cherry on Top Blog Shoppe. As luck would have it, Melissa was offering a Sidebar Spring Cleaning Special! So for my upcoming BLOGOVERSARY {in 9 days}, Matt purchased this great deal for Carolina Charm! 


Special Ends April 20th!


If you are looking for an affordable way to beautify your blog, I highly suggest working with the talented Melissa on a sidebar clean up! Stay tuned for Carolina Charm's spring cleaning to debut soon!
Happy Weekend, friends!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Eggplant Caprese

Eggplant is on sale this week at Harris Teeter, so I picked one up with plans to make eggplant parmesan for dinner. However, once I got home I decided I was no longer in the mood for eggplant parmesan, so I searched around Pinterest for other eggplant recipe options. Nothing really stood out so I decided to get creative. Without further adieu, I give you Eggplant Caprese!

 

The dish was given 4 thumbs up {2 from me + 2 from the hubs}. I will definitely be making this again.





Eggplant Caprese

Ingredients:
{1} large eggplant, sliced half inch thick
{6} tbsp olive oil
{5} tbsp balsamic vinegar
{2} cloves garlic, minced
{2} large tomatoes, sliced half inch thick
{1} cup spaghetti sauce {homemade sauce recipe}
{1} cup grated Mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper to taste 

Directions:
Pre-heat grill {or skillet} to medium high. In a large bowl, mix oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Generously brush the eggplant slices with mixture. Grill each side for 5 minutes. Place grilled eggplant slices on plate and spoon pre-heated pasta sauce over eggplant. Top with cheese. Garnish with basil. Serve warm.

Makes about 6 servings


{Optional: serve Eggplant Caprese on bed of spaghetti noodles}

Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How to Make a Layered Cake

Making a layered cake is fun, but it can also be extremely frustrating. Believe me, I have had my fair share of cracked and crumbled cake disasters. However, with lots of practice, and helpful tips from other bakers and bloggers, I am slowly perfecting my layer cakes. 
For my tutorial I used Sweetened with Honey's Carrot Cake Recipe {pinned here} and added a vanilla pudding cake filling. 
Step 1: Prepare your cake pans to make sure the cake slides out nicely after baking by using wax paper. Using the bottom of your cake pan as a stencil, trace and cut out wax paper to place in the bottom of your pan. Grease the bottom of the pan, add the wax paper, then grease the entire thing. Sprinkle the pan with four until the pan is completely covered. 
Step 2: Make the cake batter and pour an equal amount of batter in each pan so that each layer is the same height. 
Step 3: Bake your cake with perfectly level layers! There is no way to prevent your cake from slightly raising in the middle, however I learned {from Annalise} that you can reduce the heat from 350 degrees F to 300 degrees F and increase the baking time for a more even layer. The lower temperatures bake the cake slower, which prevents it from doming. A good rule of thumb when you reduce the temperature is to bake it for one and a half times as long as the recipe originally suggests. So if the recipe says 60 minutes at 350 degrees, it will take approximately 90 minutes at 300 degrees. But keep an eye on it! Check it periodically after the original suggested time to be sure you don’t over bake it.
Step 4: Let your cakes sit in their pans for at least 10 minutes. To remove your cake, first run a knife around the edge and turn them out onto a wire rack {wax paper side down on the wire}. Cool on the racks completely.
Step 5: Chill the layers in the fridge overnight in plastic wrap if you have the time. If not, chill for at least a few hours. 
Note: if your layers are still uneven, you can use a cake leveler to cut the tops.

Step 6: Unwrap the layers and prepare your icing and pudding {optional}. Your icing should be at a consistency where if you drop your spatula straight into the bowl, it should slightly bend one direction, not stick straight up. 

Note: you can use any flavor pudding mix, but make sure you do not purchase the instant mix. Make the pudding according to the packaged directions, using only half the milk that it calls for.

Step 7: Place your bottom cake layer on a cardboard round {so it is easy to transport to a cake stand later} and pipe along the rim of the cake to keep the pudding in place. 
Step 8: Spread on the pudding filling. Although icing is the most common {and easiest} filling, pudding is a great secret for making your cake a little less sweet. 
Step 9: Add your top layer, or repeat steps 7-8 until for each additional layer.
Step 10: Once all of your layers are stacked, it is time to frost the cake! Your first layer should be a crumb coat, a thin layer of icing that seals in any loose crumbs. Using an angled spatula, spread the icing over the top first, then the sides. Place cake in fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes to harden the icing, allowing for a smoother second coat. 
Note: To keep your icing crumb-free, always wipe crumbs off your spatula before dipping it back into the bowl.


Another Note: Using a cake turn table will make the icing process much easier! You can get a cake turn table at Walmart or Michaels for about $10 {I promise it's worth it!}

Step 11: Spread on the second coat of icing, and move cake to plate or stand. 
Step 12: Add the finishing touches using the back of a spoon while spinning the cake.
Step 13: Sprinkle cinnamon on top!
Enjoy your cake with family and friends!
The carrot cake I made for Easter 2012


I used a bunting printable {pinned here} as my cake topper


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