Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Halloween!

I like this time of year. Leaves are changing into colorful fall colors and Halloween is here with all of it's candy galore. Yum! Along with those sugary goodness, comes the office goodies, and department potlucks. Maybe it's weird, but I kind of like those department potlucks, mostly because you get to try all sorts of different recipes and they're always so good. So, obviously, today we had our department Halloween potluck party. :-) Since it was to celebrate Halloween, the idea was to bring our favorite scary food. As a result, lots of creativity ensued. We had dirt, green goblin goo, graveyard brownies, eyeballs, and lots of other stuff.

I decided to bring Harry Potter themed stuff that I found online. I couldn't decide on what to bring, so I brought a couple of things. Here's what I brought
  • Cockroach Clusters
  • Acid Pops & Blood Pops
  • Parchment Scrolls
  • Butterbeer


Cockroach Clusters

  • Semi-sweet or Dark or Milk chocolate (whichever you want)
  • condense milk
  • Chow mein Noodles

Melt the chocolate with a little condense milk in the microwave in 10 sec intervals mixing after each interval til it's melted and smooth. Throw the chow mein noodles in, and spoon out onto wax or parchment paper then just let harden.

Acid Pops

  • Sour Blow Pops
  • Pop Rocks
  • Wax Paper
Unwrap the blow pops, spray lightly with water, let dry just a bit, then sprinkle pop rocks on, and wrap the pops in wax paper. I would do these as close to serving time as possible tho, because the pop rocks will loose it's pop-piness after contact with some water.

The Blood Pops were from the store, Harry Potter special Blood Pops.

Parchment Scrolls

I grabbed this from the pillsbury website. Easy recipe that has pretty much 3 ingredients. Crescent rolls, pesto, and roasted bell pepper. Here's the link to the recipe.

  • Cream soda
  • butterscotch ice cream syrup

Put about a cup of the cream soda in a glass, and several spoons of the butterscotch into the glass. Stir til the butterscotch has dissolved into the soda. Once dissolved, slowly add it back into the soda.

So, I hope you enjoy the Harry Potter foods, and have a great and fun Halloween!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Simple to Sew Cinch Bag

During the weekend, I made this cinch bag that I'm planning on using as a gift bag for one of the scarves that I made. This bag is super simple to make, even with my lack of sewing abilities. I think, if you can sew a relatively straight line, you'll be in really good shape. Let's get started.

1. Cut the fabric twice the size of the bag that you want to make. For this bag, I fold the fabric up and sew the sides, so keep that in mind if you get a fabric that should be a particular direction.

2. Draw where you're going to sew. I drew a line with a fabric pencil about 3/8" from the side edge. Here's where it's a bit different tho. On the top, we're going to keep a small part of the line unsewn for the cinch string, so we need to draw it as such. I draw the line from the top to 1" down. Skip about 1/2" then continue drawing the line all the way down. Draw the same line on the other side (left and right, not front and back).

3. Sew the lines that you drew. No mystery here... we just need to sew this straight line (or as close to straight as we can get it... following the line you drew actually makes it easier to sew a straight line. yay!

4. Spread apart and press down the edge that you sewn together. It's time to bring the iron out. You just need to flatten out the top part. This isn't a necessary step, but I've learned from making an apron (I'll post that later) that it sure does help. (You also don't use nearly as many pins... which leads to less ouchies).

5. Fold down the top about an inch all the way around the bag. Iron this down as well... why not, the iron is hot, and you have it out... might as well. The bag should still be inside out at this point.

6. Sew all the way around the bag about 1/2" away from the top edge. Be careful not to sew the other side of the bag in.

7. Invert the bag so that the outside is now outside, and obviously the inside is now inside. The bag is now done... well, for the most part. It can't be a cinch bag without the cinch string, right? The best news, however, is that the sewing part is now done. phew. Here's how the top side edge should look like. It's also where we're going to stick the string.

8. Thread the strings thru the cinch bag holes. Here, I'm using a thick and chunky yarn for string and a bobby pin to do the threading. To make the cinch bag truly cinch, it should close when you pull both sides of the string... therefore, I threaded the first string thru the first side of the bag, then through the second side of the bag, then knot the ends together.   Do the same with the second string, only start with the second side of the bag.

Ta Da! You're done! Super simple... see?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Halloween Special

With only one weekend left before Halloween, I thought I'd throw together several url's that I've stumbled upon thru my RSS reader or just web surfing. Enjoy!
Note: the pictures are carvings that I've done in previous years. Once I find the rest of my pictures I'll post a few more.

DIY: Haunted Books

More Spooky Halloween Projects

Food & Drinks

Monday, October 20, 2008

Deep Fried Cheese Sticks - Freezer Recipe

This is another freezer recipe we decided to try over the weekend. We’ve only tried it a few times, but so far we’ve enjoyed the ones we made. We did it in bulk so we can keep them at hand in the freezer. Here’s the recipe.

  • String cheese sticks. We had about 30, and each stick gives us 2 breaded cheese sticks.
  • Flour for dredging
  • Milk
  • Breadcrumbs

1. Cut string cheese in half

2. Dredge cheese with flour
3. Wet in milk
4. Roll in bread crumbs

5. Wet in milk again
6. Roll in bread crumbs again.
7. Bag them and put them in the freezer.

Fry when you’re ready to enjoy. Just keep an eye out. If it's in there for too long, the cheese will start to seep and it won’t be pretty. This is the part we’re still testing out... the temperature and time for the frying. I’ll update this when we figure it out.

Serve with marinara sauce (or some Ragu pasta sauce, which is what we use).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Freeze Ahead Beef Enchiladas

As a part of this weekend of cooking, we made some freeze ahead beef enchiladas. In the last couple of months, we’ve been interested in making freeze ahead meals for time saving purposes, as well as cost saving purposes. Here are some freeze ahead web sites if you’re interested.

Anyway, we decided to make some beef enchiladas. I doubt this is any sort of authentic, but it tastes great, so it’s become one of our favorites. The measurements here are for bulk cooking.

3.5 lbs ground beef
2 large green bell peppers minced
1 onion minced
2 pkg fajita seasoning
1 tbsp minced garlic
3 pkg (12 count) tortillas
2 large cans of green enchilada sauce (28oz)
1.5 large cans of refried beans
2 lbs mild cheddar cheese
5 - 12x8 aluminum pans

1. Brown the ground beef
2. Add onions and garlic
3. Add bell peppers. I used some from my garden, so there were some small red and yellow ones.
4. Add fajita seasoning stir and let cook for a few minutes til well integrated
5. Add some of the enchilada sauce (maybe half of the large can) then cook a few more minutes.
6. Remove from heat and let cool.
7. Once mixture is cool, set up the assembly line for the wrapping. It goes pretty fast with 2 people. It probably took us about 30 minutes to do all of them. We ended up with 4 trays(12 x 8) of 8 enchiladas each plus another that was almost full. A grand total of 38 enchiladas. (Yes, 38. A couple of the tortilla packages had a baker's dozen.)
8. Wrap the enchiladas. Start with tortilla, add a bit of beans, (we add a bit of hot sauce for some heat), add a little cheese, add the meat mixture, then wrap it by rolling it up and place in pan. Do that to each enchilada.
9. When the pans are full, put some green enchilada sauce on top (you want to moisten the tray, but make sure to share the goodness with the other trays).
10. Top the pans off with a nice layer of cheese.
11. Cover your pans with some foil and put it in the freezer. (You might also want to label your trays with directions, or dates, or whatever).

To reheat a pan:

Place the pan in a 400 degree F oven for an hour with a vented cover (poked holes on the foil, or a tented foil cover). Then uncover and bake for an extra 20 minutes to get the cheese a bit toasty.

That’s it. I hope you like it.

Filipino Empanadas

This weekend felt a bit like a cooking weekend. We decided to do some freeze-ahead meals for quick weekday lunches and dinners. Of the things we made, we made some filipino empanadas. These empanadas are like pocket meat pies. I made the dough in accordance to some site that I found, but unfortunately never bookmarked (ugh - sorry if this happens to be your empanada dough recipe.)

For the filling, I didn’t really follow a recipe and didn’t measure any of the ingredients. This is one of those recipes where you can play around with the amounts of the ingredients and it’ll taste good. Here’s the basic recipe that I followed.

For the dough:

  • ½ cup butter
  • 3 oz cream cheese
  • 1 cup flour
  1. cream butter and cream cheese together. It may help to microwave it for a few seconds first.
  2. Add flour, mix well.
  3. Wrap in wax paper, & refrigerate overnight

For the filling:

  • ground beef

  • minced onions

  • minced garlic

  • potatoes nearly minced

  • raisins

  • soy sauce, salt, pepper to taste

  1. brown the meat

  2. add onions and garlic, cook for a minute or two (til onions are soft)

  3. add the potatoes and raisins, stir

  4. add soy sauce, salt and pepper to taste.

  5. Cover and simmer for a few minutes (maybe 5 or so)

  6. remove from heat and let it cool down in pan (this will give the raisins some time to absorb some of that yummy meat sauce.

  7. When it has cooled down, strain the meat with a strainer and let it continue to strain overnight in the fridge.


  1. Take a piece of the dough (about 1 ½" size ball), and knead a bit to make the rolling out a bit easier. Have flour on hand for dusting, you’ll need to do that a lot. Roll out the small ball into a circle that is about 5" diameter and about 1/8" thick.

  2. Take a heaping spoon of drained filling on one side of the rolled out dough (but not too close to the edge).

  3. Fold over dough and pinch down the edge a bit. You can use a fork to pinch it down better.

  4. Place on cookie sheet and make more til you’re out of dough.
    (If you end up with some extra filling, eat it as is with some rice, it’s tasty).

  5. Brush a little beaten egg on top of each empanada for shininess.

  6. Cook empanadas in a 375 degree F oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or til golden brown.

  7. Let cool and enjoy!


  • You can freeze the cooled down empanadas in a freezer bag, to reheat just put in the microwave for a minute or so.

  • You can probably use a simple pie recipe, or even buy the pie dough from the store.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Magazine Gift Bows

I ran into this site a couple of months ago and have been itchin' to try it out. I finally had a chance to give it a whirl and I love making these things. :-) They're very easy to make, and a great re-use of old magazines. You start out with a magazine page and cut it into strips. I like using the full page ads as they don't have too much text in them. Also, once the Christmas season starts hitting the magazines, they'll help you get those Christmas colors for your bows on your Holiday gifts.

On these bows, I cut the page into 1/2" strips (I cut the strips above in half lengthwise). You'll also need a brad and something like a thumbnail (to be used for poking a hole). Take a strip, and shape it like a figure-8, as shown. Then use the thumbnail, to poke a starting hole for the brad in the middle of the figure-8. Poke the legs of the brad thru the hole. Make several more figure-8's and keep adding them onto the brad, behind the first. Once you've got a full bow, you can close up the brad (fold the legs down), and ta-da you'll never have to buy a bow again. The bows in the picture consist of about 6-8 strips of paper, but probably could have handled a couple more strips.

These are excellent reuses of magazines, but also a good basis if you want a particular design on a bow. You can print up that design and make the bows out of the printer paper. I tried to make one with one of those paper grocery bags, stamping on a design and then cutting them into strips. I had problems sticking them onto the brad, but aside from that it went pretty well, next time, thinner paper bags tho.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Tribute to the Summer Gardening Season

Now that it's starting to get cold, the baseball post-season is underway, and all the halloween/christmas displays are up in the stores, the summer is truly over. This year's summer garden produced a decent yield of veggies. I'm not exactly sure what we did different, but we ate pretty well from the garden. Our veggies consisted of potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis, carrots, cauliflowers, bell peppers, and onions. Here are some pictures that we took along the way.

I hope to try out a winter garden this year and will keep you posted of the outcomes.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pop-up Piggy Card

Today, Sunday, October 12th, my cousin's company is celebrating their 1st Anniversary. Her company, Chicharon Adventures, is a T-shirt company geared towards embracing and expressing diversity and culture. As their name may suggest, the company's logo happens to be a pig with an X on the forehead (Chicharon = pork rinds = pig).

To commemorate the event and the company's success as well as blessings of continued success, I decided to make her a card, and what more enjoyable than a pop-up card. I started with a design from this site: , one that I listed on my World Card Making Day post. The design was listed as their Happy Chinese New Year Pig Card... close enough. :-) After making the card as shown on their website, I decided to morph the Happy New Year Pig to the Chicharon Adventures pig. It worked out pretty well... above is the outcome. I also packaged it up with a nice ribbon as shown below. The pink card is where I held the message, as I was afraid I'd mess up the card by writing in it.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Quick Tip for Ribbon Storing

Here's a quick tip for storing your ribbons. (Unfortunately, they'll only work for the smaller ribbons). Use a pair of scissors and clip a small slit at the end of the ribbon roll (be careful to not cut the ribbon). Then slide the end of the ribbon into that slit. This will hold the end so that the ribbon will not unravel. You can make several slits around the ribbon so you can hold the ribbon no matter where the end falls.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Card Making - Christmas Cards

Here are some of the cards I made this past weekend. I used scrapbooking paper for the card stock, and cut them to fit regular letter envelopes (~3 3/4" X 6 1/4").

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Shoe Box Ribbon Dispenser

For a while now, I’ve been thinking that I need to do something to organize my ribbons and even started to think or some ways to do it. Here’s one that I came up with, out of a shoebox.
The main objective was to create a way to organize and dispense multiple ribbons, while spending the least amount of money. I decided to go with a removeable rod system in a shoebox. It seems to work pretty well and I managed to set it up for under a dollar. Here’s what I did...

First, the parts:
  • 1 shoebox (cost: free)
  • 1 dowel 5/16" (cost: ~ 80 cents)
  • 1 paint stirrer - 5 gallon (cost: free, I just asked the paint person at OSH)

Now the work:

1. Cut the dowel to the length of the shoebox.

2. Cut the paint stirrer to have 2 pieces the depth of the shoebox. (doesn’t have to be as deep as shoe box, but I’d go at least about 3 inches.)

3. Drill the hole on the paint stirrer for the dowel. (I used the ribbon as a guide, making sure to give room so the ribbon doesn’t hit the bottom of the box. Also, make sure to check that the dowel fits easily in.)

4. Glue your paint stirrers to the sides of your box. You may want to assemble the whole thing with a ribbon on the dowel so you can gauge where you want to glue the paint stirrers. I placed the assembly so that the ribbon would be about 1/4" away from one edge (long side) of the box. You might not want to have the dowel in when you’re gluing the two sides because if you put too much glue, you can possibly glue your dowel in.

5. Once your glue is dry, go ahead and test out the dowel. Put it in, and take it out. If you have trouble you might need to trim the edge of the dowel just a bit.

6. Put the ribbons on the dowel, and insert the dowel into position.
7. On the long edge of the box (next to the ribbons), I created slits using a box cutter to serve as a holder for the ribbon ends. For bigger ribbons, these slits might not work too well.

That’s pretty much it. If you have room on the other side of the box, you can create an area to store ribbons that maybe aren’t open yet, and do not need to be on the dowel yet. For this, I make two slit holes on the short sides of the box placed at a division point of the ribbon area and where the storage area will be. I put mine about 2 inches from the floor of the shoe box. Thread a piece of ribbon thru both holes and knot, on both sides. Make the knot close to the side of the box to add a bit of tension, but not too much.

That’s it. Just load it up, put the ends of all the ribbons in the slits, and place the cover. You can also decorate the shoe box however way you’d like to make it more decorative.