DIY: Personalized Burlap Pillowcase

As promised, here is the second Valentines gift that is easy, cheap, and oh so cute. 
(If you missed the first gift, you can find it hereThis can be extra special with a quote, saying, or verse that holds a special value to you and your valentine.  [This gift is great for any occasion because you can make it as personalized as you'd like!]

Fabric (I used burlap, but you can use a linen or cotton fabric as well)
Straight Pins
Sewing Machine


Measure your pillow.  (Mine is 12" x 16")  Determine amount of fabric to cut by multiplying the length of the long side (16")  by 2 (for front and back), and adding 4" for seam allowance and overlap. I cut my fabric 12" x  36".  

Because I used burlap, it didn't matter which way I laid the fabric, but if you are using a printed fabric, lay the fabric right side down with a short side towards you. For my pillow this was the 12" side. Measure and pin a 1/4 ".  Iron flat. On the other short side,  measure 1/2", pin, and iron. (This is the side that will show on the back of the pillow.) Sew both hems.

If you are using printed fabric, lay it with the right side up with the long side towards you. Fold the side with the 1/2" hem over  a little more than half-way. Fold the other side over so it overlaps the first side. Make sure your fabric measures from fold to fold the same as your pillow.
For my pillow, I folded each side over 9 1/2" and the fabric from fold to fold measured 16". Pin each side seam, and sew with a 1/2" seam allowance. Trim the seam allowance at each corner.

Turn each side right side out, and push the corners out.  Stuff in your pillow, and your just made your pillowcase!


Now onto the personalization.  I printed out my quote in a similar font and size as the letters on my stencil to better visualize the layout of my quote.  Then I tied yarn around my pillow as a one likes droopy words!  Use a sharpie and your stencil and color away!

You'll be done before you know it! :]

<3 Saleena 

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DIY: Valentine Light Bulb

Lucky for those of you who have procrastinated  yet to find a gift for your valentine, my husband and I celebrated V Day early this year, so I can show you a couple homemade gifts that are sure to be a hit and won't hurt your wallet.  :]  The first gift I made is featured in this post.  I was inspired, of course, but something similar I saw on pinterest!


Red thin gauge wire (available at craft stores)
Light bulb (any standard incandescent bulb with a regular size base will fluorescent or halogen bulbs)
Safety goggles/gloves
Scrap piece of wood or wood cube (craft stores usually sell wood for crafts and would have a small square or chunky piece that would work)
2 pins
Paper and pen (or type written message)
Wire cutters
Hammer and nail (optional- if you are using soft wood these are not necessary)
Hot glue gun


 Prepare a surface on a work table for hollowing out the bulb. I watched this video as a tutorial if you would like another demonstration than the one I put here. 

First, grip the  point and give it a good twist. You will free the brass contact break one of the wires leading to the filament.

Once the contact has been pulled out, carefully crack the glass insulator. The chips from this are quite pervasive, they get into just about anything in the area and they are razor sharp. Use caution.

Use the screwdriver to break the fill tube. 
You can now shake the filament assembly out of the tube.

Now the bulb needs a good cleaning!  I just used a paper towel and wire hanger.

And now you have a clear, cleaned out bulb!

 Now, cut a ten inch piece of wire to make a heart “filament”. Fold the wire in half to create a sharp crease, then unfold.

 About an inch from the crease, take both loose wire ends and loop both wires around to create the heart halves. Then pull both wires back down, overlapping the center of the crease and extending beyond the heart shape. You may want to tweak the heart halves a little to get heart shape that you like. Your heart should be about 1/2″ wide so it will fit through the base of the bulb pretty easily.

Take your filaments to your bulb and hold them up to see how long the stems need to be to have the heart filaments positioned in roughly the center of the bulb.  If your wood is soft enough, you should be able to poke the wire filaments down into the top of the wood and they will stay in position. If you are using a firmer wood, use a hammer and nail to create a small guide hole, then remove the nail and push the wire down into the hole. you may want to secure these with glue as well.

Fit your glass bulb over the filaments and glue the bulb down to the wood at the base with hot glue.  Use the pins to attach your love note or message to the front of the piece of wood.

And that's it!  Not only will your valentine love this homemade gift, but you can be proud of making it!  I know I was. :]  And don't let the disassembling of the bulb intimidate you...if was pretty simple. 

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Fresh Linguine with Cream and Garlic Sauce

If you know me at all, you know that I love a good bargain.  I frequent thrift stores and garage sales in hopes of finding treasures...quite often actually.  Fortunately for me (and my hubby)  I found a pasta maker for $10 last weekend! I definitely scored.  So I wanted to use it right away and found a recipe that would be perfect.


For Pasta:
2 cups flour
3 eggs

For Sauce:
1 cup milk, saved from poaching garlic for puree
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (1/4 tsp if you don't want it too spicy)
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves minced, or 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 head garlic
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Table salt and ground black pepper


        Pulse the flour in a food processor fitted with a steel blade to distribute and aerate it evenly. Add the eggs; process until the dough forms a rough ball, about 30 seconds. (If the dough resembles small pebbles, add water, 1/2 teaspoon at a time; if the dough sticks to the side of hte workbowl, add flour, 1 Tablespoon at a time, and process until the dough forms a rough ball.) 

Turn the dough ball and small bits out onto a dry work surface; knead until the dough is smooth, 1-2 m inutes. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for at least 15 minutes, up to 2 hours, to relax.  

While the dough rests, discard any loose skin on the garlic head.  Then trim off the top quarter, and discard. 

Roll out dough and  cut in five equal sections.   Then take the first section and roll it out as thin as you can. 

Using a manual pasta machine, roll out the dough even further.  I started on setting one and worked my way to setting five.

Once the dough is very thin, run it though the linguine maker. 

Make sure to lay the pasta flat, and keep them separated if possible.  This will ensure that they don't stick together when you cook them.  (If you have someone to help you with this, it will go a lot faster!)

Once you have your pasta laid out, place the garlic head cut side down into a small sauce pan.  Add one cup milk and let simmer for about ten minutes.

Remove garlic from milk (reserving the milk for the sauce) and place on a 8" x 8" piece of foil. Drizzle with olive oil.

Wrap garlic head in foil and place in over at 350 degrees for about 1 hour. 

Once garlic is done, remove from oven and let it cool for five minutes.  

Squeeze out all the the cloves and mash with a fork.

Bring reserved milk, cream, red pepper, and oregano to boil in a medium saucepan;
simmer, whisking constantly, until milk mixture reduces by half. Lower heat;
whisk in garlic puree until sauce emulsifies slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in
Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste; cover and keep warm.

 Meanwhile add 1 tablespoon salt and the linguine to the boiling water; boil
until linguine is just tender, 7 to 9 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving some of
the cooking water. Toss linguine with sauce. If the sauce is too thick to coat
pasta evenly, add the cooking water 1 tablespoon at a time. Serve with
additional finely grated Parmesan and ground black pepper.

This pasta was very light, and full of flavor.  The red pepper flakes gave it a kick, so be sure to reduce the amount if you don't care for spicy foods.  In the Cooks Illustrated cookbook, they mentioned that freshly made pasta doesn't re-heat very well, but Matthew and I both had it for lunch the next day, and it was just as good.  Hope you enjoy this dish!

<2 Saleena 
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Sweet, Sour, and Spicy Stir-Fried Orange Chicken with Broccoli with Cashews

I have a special place in my heart for asian cuisine; partly because its scrumptious and partly because I get to pull out those chopsticks!  Another plus? It's pretty simple to make.  Especially stir-fry.   This recipe is straight out of my Cook's Illustrated book, which I featured here. Hope you enjoy!


1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Chicken Stir-Fry:
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced thin
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoon  plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup unsalted cashews
1 1/2 pounds broccoli, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 medium scallions


Combine ginger, garlic, and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in small bowl; set aside.
 Combine soy sauce, sherry, and water in medium bowl; add chicken and stir to break up clumps. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes or up to 1 hour. Drain chicken in strainer; press out excess liquid.
 For the sauce: Whisk all ingredients in small bowl; set aside. 
Mix sesame oil, cornstarch, and flour in medium bowl until smooth. 

                           Toss chicken in cornstarch/flour mixture until evenly coated.

 Heat 2 teaspoons vegetable oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until smoking; add half of chicken to skillet in flat, even layer. Cook, without stirring, but gently separating pieces, until golden brown on first side, about 1 minute; turn chicken pieces and cook until lightly browned on second side, about 30 seconds. Transfer chicken to clean bowl. Repeat with additional 2 teaspoons vegetable oil and remaining chicken.
 Add 1 tablespoon oil to now-empty skillet; heat until just smoking. Add broccoli and cook 30 seconds; add 1/4 cup water, cover pan, and lower heat to medium-low. Cook broccoli until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes, then transfer broccoli to paper towel-lined plate. 
Add garlic/ginger mixture to skillet, increase heat to medium-high and cook, mashing mixture with spoon, until fragrant, sticky, and golden brown, 30 to 45 seconds, Return chicken to skillet and toss to combine. Whisk sauce to recombine, then add to skillet; cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is thickened and evenly distributed, about 1 minute. 

Off heat, add broccoli and cashews and stir to combine. Transfer to serving platter, sprinkle with scallions, and serve.

Serve this with white rice.

If there was anything I would change about this recipe it would be to add some orange zest.  The 1/4 cup orange juice didn't cut it and orange flavor was lost in the midst of all of the other flavors.  Other than that, it was great!

<3 Saleena
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Tomato and Almond Pesto with Penne

The great thing about this dish is how easy it is.  Seriously.  Throw everything into a food processor to get your sauce, and just cook the chicken and pasta separately and then you're done!  Who doesn't love simple meals with a quick clean up?  I altered this recipe a bit.  I put my changes in purple in case you'd like to leave them out, but I thought the additions made this recipe much better. 

1/4 cup slivered almonds 
12 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes  
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves ( +1/4 cup basil leaves)
1 large garlic clove , minced  (+ 1 garlic clove)
1 small pepperoncini, stemmed, seeded, and minced
1 tsp salt & 1 tsp pepper  
Pinch red pepper flakes  
1 can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
1 pound pasta 
2-3 chicken breasts

 Toast almonds in small skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until pale golden and fragrant, 2 to 4 minutes. Cool almonds to room temperature.

Process cooled almonds, tomatoes, basil, garlic, pepperoncini, salt & pepper, chicken stock and red pepper flakes in food processor until smooth, about 1 minute.

 Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula. With machine running, slowly drizzle in oil, about 30 seconds. 

Meanwhile, cook chicken in skillet and season with salt and pepper.  

Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain pasta and transfer back to cooking pot. Add pesto and chicken to cooked pasta and stir to combine!

And that's it!  SO easy.  And you can make this pesto up to three days before you use it.  Just cover with plastic wrap and pop in the fridge :]

<3 Saleena
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Nut-Crusted Chicken with Lemon and Thyme

I sure do love nut-crusted chicken.  Remember the almod, panko, and sesame crusted chicken?  This recipe is similar but has a twist.  Instead of the honey-mustard dipping sauce, this recipe calls for fresh squeezed lemon juice over top.  SO good. I got this recipe out of my Cook's Illustrated Cookbook, which means its easy and delicious :]

4 (6- to 8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, tenderloins removed, trimmed
kosher salt
1 cup almonds, chopped coarse
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest,
zested lemon cut into wedges
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon pepper

*Note: This recipe is best with almonds, but works well with any type of nut. And if using table salt, reduce salt amounts by half.


Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Set wire rack in rimmed baking sheet. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Using fork, poke thickest half of breasts 5 or 6 times and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Transfer breasts to prepared wire rack and refrigerate, uncovered, while preparing coating.

 Pulse almonds in food processor until they resemble coarse meal, about 20 pulses.

 Melt butter in 12-inch skillet over medium heat, swirling occasionally, until butter is browned and releases nutty aroma, 4 to 5 minutes. Add shallot and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring constantly, until just beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, add bread crumbs and ground almonds and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. 

Transfer panko mixture to shallow dish and stir in lemon zest, thyme, and cayenne. Place flour in second dish. Lightly beat eggs, mustard, and pepper together in third dish.
Working with 1 breast at a time, dredge in flour, shaking off excess, then coat with egg mixture, allowing excess to drip off. Coat all sides of breast with panko mixture, pressing gently so that crumbs adhere. Return breaded breasts to wire rack.

Bake until chicken registers 160 degrees, 20 to 25 minutes. Let chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving with lemon wedges.

 Make sure you don't forget to juice that lemon over top of your's divine.

I served this with a green salad, fruit, and garlic bread.

<3 Saleena 

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