Pull out your light, feminine favorites for spring

by Alicia Fischer, Communications @ Our Hands For Hope

Springtime is the perfect season to bring our your most feminine pieces for an elegant yet casual look. Pair your favorite, light blouse or shirt with a high-waisted skirt that cuts at the knee for a sophisticated look that can be worn day or night.

Throw on a few accessories like our popular yet versatile Flor scarf to add some layers and chunky jewelry with some color to tie it altogether.

What pieces are you most looking forward to wearing this spring?
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Calvin Klein Sheer Lace Blouse, Lord & Taylor, Moto Denim Midi Skirt by Topshop, Flor Scarf by Our Hands For Hope, Coppelia T-Strap Sandals by Anthropologie, Stone Frontal Necklace by Lauren Ralph Lauren, Nordstrom, Aztec Bangles by House of Harlow 1960, Nordstrom

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Get into Spring with flirty skirts and warm layers

by Alicia Fischer, Communications @ Our Hands For Hope

Spring is finally upon us, although it’s felt like it for quite a while here in California. To celebrate the official arrival of one of our favorite times of year, we’ve put together an outfit that still has some winter style but with shorter lengths and a couple pops of color to ease us into the season.

So instead of staying bundled up, switch to shorter layers like flirty skirts and lighter sweaters that are easy to take off when it’s warm, but can still keep you from getting cold if there’s a breeze.

Check out our newest choice of outfit for spring, featuring our Tina shrug.

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Black Godet Flippy Skirt by TopShop, Tina Shrug by Our Hands For Hope, H&M Jersey top, Raspy Platform Bootie by Steve Madden, Nordstrom,  Exalted Necklace by Nasty Gal, Baker Round Bracelet Watch by Marc Jacobs

How to Make Chiles en Nogada (Chiles Rellenos)

chiles rellenos, chiles en nogada, traditional mexican food, mexican peppers, how to roast peppers, how to seed a pomegranate

Step by step on how to make Chiles en Nogada (chiles rellenos with walnut sauce).

by Cinthya Rubio, Marketing and Communications Director @ Our Hands For Hope

During my last visit to Napa California, for an intense 3 months of one on one work with Terisa (aka The Alpaca Czar), a mutual friend opened her home and let me house-sit while she and her husband ventured off on a two month trip- with the condition of showing her how to make Chiles Rellenos (stuffed peppers) when she returned.

So,  she came back, we cooked, and the uproar of unhappy comments from my family back home came as well! “YOU DARE COOK SUCH DELICACIES  FOR OTHERS… WHEN ARE YOU COMING BACK HOME?!?!?!

Two weeks later I found myself back in Texas. With the holidays around the corner mum and I proclaimed that for 2013 we were going to host an #NoIdontWantTurkey Thanksgiving. So I decided to give the people what they wanted and have Chiles Rellenos as the main dish.

Like most social media nerds, I was posting pictures of the yummy food I was making with my mum. I was also watching the Facebook feed of what my friends were doing this Thanksgiving and ran across a post that said “If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share” W. Clement Stone. In a sense I was “sharing” by posting my pictures, but I wanted to make my sharing more meaningful… So without further ado, I bring forth my personal recipe for Chiles en Nogada!

For those of you that are wondering what these are, it is a staple dish in traditional Mexican cuisine. Basically it is a poblano chili stuffed with picadillo (meat, fruits, spices and aromatics cooked together), topped with a walnut cream sauce (hence the name “en nogada”- nogal is a Spanish word for the walnut tree), and garnished with pomegranate seeds. Once plated one can observe the three colors of the Mexican Flag: green for the poblano pepper, white for the walnut sauce, and red for the pomegranate.

Ok so here is what you will need:
Serves 8

8 poblano peppers*
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 cloves of fresh garlic **
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup of walnuts (or pecans)
1/2 cup of craisins (or raisins)
1 small onion chopped
1 large carrot chopped
1 large celery stick chopped
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
1/2 teaspoon of Mexican oregano
1 bouillon cube
4 eggs
dash of salt
1 cup of all purpose flour
1/4 cup of olive oil

for the walnut cream:
1 cup of walnuts (my mum prefers pecans!)
2 cups of water
1 tablespoon of butter
1 1/2 cups of Mexican crema (not sour cream)***
1/4 teaspoon of cumin
1 laurel leaf

1 pomegranate, seeded

*I do not know why but in some supermarkets poblano peppers are also called pasilla peppers, which I would consider WRONG since pasilla peppers are commonly known to be sold in dried form!

**Garlic grows in large papery heads. A novice mistake is to massively overgarlic things by following instructions incorrectly. Please remember that the large bulb of garlic you buy is NOT one ‘clove’. The whole garlic is called a ‘head’ or ‘knob’. Each small, individual segment of a garlic head is a clove. http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Cookbook:Garlic

***Mexican crema is not as sour or runny as sour cream and not as thick as creme fraiche. It has a sweetish, nutty flavor. You can find it in many supermarkets next to the cheese section.

roasting peppers, pasilla peppers, poblano peppers

How to Roast Peppers

First you need to wash the poblano peppers and then roast them (you need to do this to get rid of the tough skin and give it a smoky flavor)… if you have a gas stove, turn one burner on and with tongs hold the pepper over the flame, once you start hearing the skin of the pepper pop, rotate and continue grilling until the entire pepper is charred but not burnt! Stick the peppers in a plastic bag and seal, let them sit there so the steam helps separate the skin from the pepper. After a few minutes remove the peppers from the bag and start removing the skin, if pieces of the skin can not be removed do not worry. Here is a small video of how to roast a pepper on an open flame.

If you have an electric stove it is basically the same process but it takes a tad bit longer. At home we heat up a skillet and place the peppers on the hot surface, rotate to char each side and continue the process to remove the skin. Once you have done this you will need to make a slit on one side and remove the cluster of seeds. It is said that if you remove the white veins inside the pepper, it will not be spicy… being Mexican, this is frowned upon but hey I’m not here to judge!

Ok now that the peppers are ready, set aside and lets start on the picadillo.

meat stuffing, stuffing for chiles rellenos, picadillo

How to make the meat stuffing for chiles en nogada.

Heat up a cooking pan and add a tablespoon of olive oil to prevent the meat from sticking. Mince your garlic and add to the warm olive oil, once golden add both the pork and beef ground meat. I use both varieties because the pork helps avoid a dry picadillo and at the taste is better. While it is browning, add the cumin, oregano and the bouillon. Add the craisins and walnuts to the thoroughly cooked meat. Turn off the heat and add  the chopped carrots, celery, and onion. I add these three ingredients until the end because I do not like to over cook them and to add a tad bit of crunch to the picadillo.

Now that the picadillo is done, bring the peppers back and with a spoon fill them up with the picadillo. Do not overfill otherwise it will fall out when we batter up the peppers. Secure the opening with a toothpick. Set aside.

chiles rellenos, poblano peppers, stuffed peppers

Stuffing and Securing the Peppers

Next up is preparing the batter. You will need a mixer for this part of the recipe. Get your 4 eggs and separate the egg whites and the yolks. Put the egg whites in the mixing bowl, with the beater attachment whip up the egg whites at a high speed until stiff peaks are formed. Lower the speed and slowly incorporate the egg yolks and the dash of salt. Set aside.

In a shallow bowl put the flour and roll the peppers until lightly coated. While doing this, heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil in a pan. Once the oil is hot, get a pepper and dip in the egg batter until fully coated. Immediately place in the hot pan and cook each side of the pepper until batter turns light golden brown. Use the stem from the pepper to turn the pepper, you can use a fork to help turn it as well. Once cooked, set on a plate lined with paper towels to remove some of the excess oil. When you are finished with all the peppers, place in a casserole dish and pop in the oven at 250 degrees Fahrenheit to keep them warm until ready to serve.

flour, batter, fry, poblano peppers, chiles rellenos, chiles en nogada

Flour, Batter, Fry

While the peppers are in the oven we will make the nogal (walnut) sauce. Here at home my mum preferes pecans so we substitute the amount needed of walnuts with this nutty nut.

In a blender put the 1 cup of walnuts and 2 cups of water. Blend until it looks smooth and creamy. In a saucepan at medium heat add the butter. Once melted pour the blended walnuts into the saucepan over a strainer to remove any of the big pieces that might have not been blended all that well. Heat until it simmers, the butter and heat will help bring out the nuttiness of the sauce. Once it is simmering add the Mexican cream, cumin and laurel leaf. Continue heating until it comes to a light simmer.

nut sauce, walnut sauce, pecan sauce, nogal sauce, chiles en nogal

Walnut (pecan) Nut Sauce

While the sauce is simmering lets prep our pomegranate garnish. The easiest way to take the seeds out of a pomegranate is to cut the fruit in half, submerge in water and gently remove the seeds. Because my hands were wet during this process I couldn’t get pictures but do not fear, I found a great video that shows how to do it!

Once you have seeded your pomegranate you should have a nice amount of bright beautiful seeds!

pomegranate seeds, red pomegranate, seeds, fruit

Beautiful Red Pomegranate Seeds

Ok if you are still with me you have officially opened the door to so many Mexican Culinary recipes!! Once you make Chiles en Nogada you can make anything!!

Time to plate!

Take the chiles rellenos out of the oven, in a medium size plate, place one chili in the center. With a ladle pour walnut sauce over the chili, you want sauce to surround the chili without overflowing the well of the plate. Scoop up about 3 spoonfuls of  the pomegranate seeds and sprinkle on top. Voilà!

chiles en nogada, chiles rellenos, stuffed poblano peppers

Chiles en Nogada

How to Wash Your Alpaca Knit

By: Alicia Fischer, Communications @ Our Hands For Hope

Alpaca can be a bit intimidating to take care of, especially if you’re new to the fabric. But not to worry! It’s very easy to take care of your knits so that they retain their shape, softness, and look new after every wash.

Follow these tips for fool-proof ways to hand wash, dry clean, and store your new alpaca knit.

Hand Washing

Start with a clean sink filled with luke-warm water, about 80-85 degrees. Add a mild soap to the water (NEVER use chlorine bleach or Woolite, as these have a whitening base. Fragrance-free baby shampoos are perfect).

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Use the soap or shampoo to create bubbly suds.

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Swish your alpaca knit in the soapy water, careful not to pull, snag, or agitate it.
Soak for two to three minutes.

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Rinse in luke-warm water.
(Other water temperatures could cause the knit to shrink or sag).

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Remove any excess water by placing your item on a towel and gently blotting and rolling.
Avoid tightly wringing or twisting.

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Dry the item in a flat position and out of direct sunlight. Reshape to its original dimensions.

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Dry Cleaning

If you’re nervous about washing your knit yourself, you can take it to get dry cleaned. However, be sure to use a dry cleaner that is experienced in cleaning alpaca. Always show them any spots or stains, and ask them to use a fresh solvent in low heat with a process that does not involve tumbling.

Storage & Preservation

In order to get the best use out of your alpaca knitwear and to give it a long life, make sure that your items are completely dry upon storing. To prevent moths from going after alpaca, store your pieces in a sealed cedar chest, freezer (in a zip-lock bag — also kills any smells!), a plastic bin, or other moth-protected environment. Using mothballs with your knits is not recommended.*

DIY Lavender Sachet

DIY-Sachet-lavender-our-hands-for-hope-1

Lavender is ready to harvest and sachets make great gifts.
They are simple to make and have a practical purpose.
What you need:
Computer Printer Fabric. It’s one of the most fun materials to use. You can draw anything and transfer it to fabric instantly.
White cotton, cheese cloth, ribbons and lavender are the basic essentials for this project.
You can use any drawing or design. I sketched out our bird logo in black and white with a sharpie pen, then scanned it into the computer.
My hubbie colored it in with his Bamboo sketching pad, adding color and dimension to the design.
Notice the great ribbon I found AFTER the design was done.
How cool is that?

Print your finished art onto Computer Printer Fabric cotton following manufacturers instructions. There are lots of brands available now.
I choose the June Tailor brand.
The cotton is a great weight and light enough to allow the scent of the lavender to pass through without any of the seeds falling out.
Lay out your printing to maximize your design on the fabric.
I did mine at 16 vignettes per page.
Print and heat set with a hot iron.
Cut out your printed design into squares with pinking sheers 2 1/2″ x 2 1/2″.
Also cut:
2 Cotton squares 4″ x 4″
1 Cheesecloth square 3″x 3″
1 Open weave ribbon 4″
1 Decorative ribbon 6″
Layer the complete top layer only.
Leaving off one 4″ x 4″ cotton square and the 6″ decorative ribbon.
Stitch around the edge 1/8″ in to hold all layers together. See where the pin is.
Now lay completed sachet top, on top of the back 4″ x 4″.
Stitch around three sides at 1/2″ leaving the top edge undone.Pour in 1 tablespoon of fresh lavender.
Cloves or cinnamon sticks would be a great alternatives.
Tuck the decorative 6″ ribbon into the top leaving a loop to hang.
I allowed the ribbon to just fall to the back to give the back side some interest.
Stitch across the top through all layers.
This is a perfect, inexpensive gift for any occasion.
Wrap three to five together with a beautiful ribbon as a complete presentation.
These would make great gifts for wedding party favors, birthday party’s, house warming, or just plan fun.

Too cute DIY bracelets.

We found this great DIY and thought, “Wow, now that’s pretty stinkin’ cute!”

DIY-Easy-Summer-Bracelet

 Found it here; http://www.usefuldiy.com/diy-easy-summer-bracelet/

 

Event: Graduation

It’s graduation time.
Years of hard work are rewarded with a piece of parchment and a PARTY!
 
 
 
You can order personalized postage from Zazzle.com 
 
Print party invitations from Tip Junkie.
 Find lots of  free printables at Your Life Events.
 
 
Spend some time in the kitchen creating some fun deserts.
 Bakerella is always coming up with brilliant ideas. I love these mortar board candies. 
Plus, they are made from Reese’s…Yum,
 

You can use old books for table centerpieces.
The brown paper bag covers wrapped with a bright grosgrain ribbon reminds me of MY school days! 
There are more centerpiece ideas at  Thoughtfully Simple.
 
 
 Now what is the perfect gift for the graduate?
 
 Something that would be warm, cozy, and a memorable? 
Something to remind them of  home as they begin life away at college?
 
 
Cuddle Gram, of course!
 
Every time a Cuddle Gram is sold, Our Hands For Hope, LLC will gift a warm cuddly blanket to a child in need on your behalf.