Tuesday, October 22, 2019

This Year's Halloween Party Ideas!

Okay, so this year I'm having a Halloween get-together with two separate families on two separate days. This gives me a chance to explore a greater variety of food and treat ideas. This is what I've decided to make this year, recipes included in this blog where applicable. And can I just say that candy eyeballs make just about anything look cute...or scary...however you choose to use them. (Note: Images not my own I've credited with their site links)

Purple People Eater Punch - Taste of Home
2 quarts red grape juice, chilled
4 drops neon purple food coloring
2 liters club soda, chilled
2 quarts vanilla ice cream, softened

Pour grape juice into a 6-qt. punch bowl; add food coloring. Slowly pour in club soda. Gently spoon ice cream into the punch and whisk to swirl. Serve immediately.

Crescent Mummy Dogs - Pillsbury
1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury™ refrigerated crescent rolls or 1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury™ refrigerated Crescent Dough Sheet
2 1/2 slices American cheese, quartered (2.5 oz)
10 Oscar Mayer™ hot dogs
Cooking spray
Mustard or ketchup, if desired

Heat oven to 375°F. If using crescent rolls: Unroll dough; separate at perforations, creating 4 rectangles. Press perforations to seal. If using dough sheet: Unroll dough; cut into 4 rectangles. With knife or kitchen scissors, cut each rectangle lengthwise into 10 pieces, making a total of 40 pieces of dough. Slice cheese slices into quarters (1/2 slice cheese, cut in half). Wrap 4 pieces of dough around each hot dog and 1/4 slice of cheese to look like "bandages," stretching dough slightly to completely cover hot dog. About 1/2 inch from one end of each hot dog, separate "bandages" so hot dog shows through for "face." On ungreased large cookie sheet, place wrapped hot dogs (cheese side down); spray dough lightly with cooking spray. Bake 13 to 17 minutes or until dough is light golden brown and hot dogs are hot. With mustard, draw features on "face."
My mummy dogs before they were baked. My girls helped me warp them.
(Photo by Elsie Park)

Chili - Betty Crocker
1 lb ground beef (at least 80% lean)
1 cup chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper sauce
1 can (14.5 oz) Muir Glen™ organic diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (19 oz) Progresso™ red kidney beans, undrained

In 3-quart saucepan, cook beef, onions and garlic over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef is thoroughly cooked; drain. Stir in chili powder, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper sauce and tomatoes. Heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat just enough so mixture bubbles gently. Cover; cook 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Stir in kidney beans. Heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat just enough so mixture bubbles gently. Cook uncovered about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until desired thickness.

Fry bread - Rhodes

12 Rhodes Yeast Dinner Rolls, thawed to room temperature
Vegetable oil
Powdered sugar, butter, jam or honey, if desired (*or chili and cheese for the Park family)

Pour oil 2 to 3-inches deep into a saucepan or an electric frying pan, and heat to medium high setting or 375 degrees F. Flatten each roll into a 4-inch circle. Fry dough on each side until golden brown (about 30 seconds each side). Remove and drain on paper towel. Serve hot. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or serve with butter, honey or jam, if desired.

*The Park family loves spooning chili onto these and topping them with cheese, salsa and sour cream.

Jell-O Brain with apples photo by Elsie Park
6 ounce package (family size) Jell-O flavor of choice and color
Cooking spray
Brain mold (I bought mine from Amazon.com)
1-2 apples (Honey Crisp, Gala, or Fuji) or other fruit of choice, all optional of course

Prepare Jell-O as directed on package. Spray inside of mold with a little cooking spray and then spread around with fingers to allow for easy removal once it gels. Support mold in a bowl to keep it from tipping and pour liquid Jell-O into it. Cut up apples into bite-size pieces (pre-peel if desired) and add to the Jell-O. They will float to the top, placing them on the bottom of the brain when it's inverted later. Place mold in fridge for several hour to overnight. It will take a while to gel, so don't rush it. After it has gelled fully, remove from fridge and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes to allow sides of Jello-O to warm slightly and pull away from the sides of the mold. Place serving plate upside down onto brain mold and invert both the plate and the mold together. Brain should slip out nicely.

Pumpkin Sheet Cake - Taste of Home
1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

3 ounces cream cheese, softened
5 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
3 to 4 teaspoons whole milk

In a large bowl, beat pumpkin, sugar and oil until blended. Beat in eggs. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; gradually add to pumpkin mixture, beating until well blended. Pour into a greased 15x10x1-in. baking pan. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

For frosting, in a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar until smooth. Add milk until frosting reaches desired spreading consistency. Frost cake.
My cake came out great! My 14-year-old daughter frosted it. (Photo by Elsie Park)

JELL-O Candy Corn Cups - My Food and Family
1 pkg. (3.4 oz.) JELL-O Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding
1-3/4 cups cold milk
1 cup boiling water
1 pkg. (3 oz.) JELL-O Orange Flavor Gelatin
1 cup cold water
1-1/2 cups thawed COOL WHIP Whipped Topping
24 candy corn pieces (about 1/4 cup)

Beat pudding mix and milk with whisk 2 min.; spoon into 6 dessert dishes. Refrigerate until ready to use. Meanwhile, add boiling water to gelatin mix in medium bowl; stir 2 min. until completely dissolved. Stir in cold water. Refrigerate 20 min. or until thickened, but not firm. Spoon gelatin over pudding layers in dessert dishes. Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm. Top with remaining ingredients.

Rolo Pretzel Sandwiches - i heart naptime
50 small square pretzels
25 Rolos
*Halloween candy decorations for variation

Preheat the oven to 250°F. Place 25 of the square pretzels on a baking sheet lined with parchment or foil. Place one Rolo candy on top of each pretzel. Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven and bake for 3 minutes, until the Rolos have softened. Remove from the oven and place a square pretzel on top of each Rolo to form a sandwich. Press down slightly. Let cool completely.

*You can also just use one pretzel and one Rolo and press a candy decoration on top to make a fun Halloween variation. See picture below:
These are my Halloween Rolo Pretzels. I used all sorts of Halloween Candy decorations to top the Rolos with:
Bones, tombstones, spiders, pumpkins, skulls, eyeballs, ghosts. I find these decorations during the Holidays in the "holiday" section or in the regular baking isle by the frostings and sprinkles (Photo by Elsie Park)

Pretzel Ghosts Photo by Elsie Park
The sites I visited dipped their own pretzels in white chocolate, but I felt lazy and simply bought a bag of "Flipz White Chocolate Pretzels", lightly pressing small candy eyes into them.

Crispy Rice Cereal Ghosts Photo by Elsie Park
1 stick (4 ounces) of butter
21 ounces mini marshmallows
10 cups (80 ounces) crispy rice cereal
Frosting of color and choice
Large candy eyes (about 1/2-inch around), found in the baking isle by the cake decorations
Ghost cookie cutter (you can find them anywhere online)
12x17-inch baking pan lined with waxed paper
Pre-measure the 10 cups of cereal into a large bowl and set aside. Melt butter in LARGE pot over medium heat and then add marshmallows. Stir until marshmallows are completely melted. Remove from heat and immediately pour rice cereal into the pot, mixing well until cereal is completely coated and there's no more marshmallow on the bottom of the pot. Scoop into pan lined with waxed paper (useful when inverting later) and with fingers covered by a plastic sandwich bag (or use a spoon if too hot to touch), FIRMLY press cereal evenly into pan. Let cool at room temperature and then invert the pan onto a cutter board and peel waxed paper from the large rectangle of cereal. Cut out ghost shapes with cookie cutter. Spread frosting over each ghost and then add two candy eyeballs to each ghost.

These are my Muddy Buddies. I didn't have
Reece's Pieces so I added mini M&Ms instead.
Photo by Elsie Park 

1 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
9 cups Chex Cereal of choice
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup candy corn
1 cup candy Pumpkins
1 cup Reeses Pieces

Combine the chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter, in a medium sized microwave proof bowl. Microwave for 1 minute, stir. Microwave for another 30 seconds if needed till you can stir smooth.
Stir in the vanilla extract. Add the Chex cereal into a large bowl.  Pour the chocolate mixture over the cereal and gently stir to coat the cereal completely with the mixture.  Add the cereal to a large gallon sized Ziplock bag, add in the powdered sugar.  Shake to cover the cereal completely with the powdered sugar.  Pour the muddy buddies into a clean bowl, and stir in the candy corn, pumpkins and Reeses Pieces.  Spread the muddy buddies out onto a baking sheet (or two) covered with parchment paper.  Allow to rest for about 20 minutes. Recipe from "Like Mother Like Daughter"

Elsie's Note: You can also add candy eyeballs as a fun addition to this recipe



Carrots and Olives photo by Elsie Park

Friday, October 18, 2019

Porch Cover Project

Since my husband and I moved into our wonderful 1980s home 6 years ago this month, I'd always wanted a cover over the porch, but we never had the budget to hire out the job. For 6 years I dealt with wet packages delivered in the rain, visitors standing in the elements at the door, and shoveling snow or throwing ice melt on the stairs so that my family and others didn't break their necks using them. A neighbor girl and a nephew both slipped on my icy stairs a few years ago. They were a little bruised and all right, but it could have been worse.


So, since building my own kitchen countertop island earlier this year, I had the confidence to suggest to my husband that we try building a porch cover ourselves. It took a lot of planning, designing, materials, and Youtube watching, but we were able to build us a long porch cover with 4x4 posts and 2x6 rafters that covered the entire stairway. We also removed the old rusted metal railing and built a new and improved wooden railing from some old 2x4s we had. And the router my parents gave me years ago again came into play at the very end when I rounded the top corner edges of the railing caps. It turned out quite nice and made our entry feel more welcoming and cozy. And the best part was...no more "package drop box" sitting at the bottom of our stairs! The container is now being used to house toys in a basement room *smile*
Our package drop box guarded by two of our chickens, Buttercup (tan) and Eclipse (black and white)

Here are 14 photos showing our project progression from beginning to end:

My plans and sketches for the project. Measurements, materials, cost estimates.
We went over our estimate by about $100, but all in all, not a bad DIY.

Starting the build by putting up the posts. We drilled down into the concrete landing with a masonry drill bit and placed the 4x4 posts into post bases. The entryway was inaccessible while we had the posts braced up by 2x4s  

We attached a 2x6 to the bricks above our front door with large expansion bolts. It was a more viable option for us than building the new cover into our existing roof system that would have included ripping up shingles among other things. 

2x6 rafters (side view)

The end board really helped to square everything up. 

Blocking in between the rafters kept everything square and the 2x6s straight. 

Tar paper installed and starting on the shingles. 

Finished roof with shingles and drip egde. Picture taken from up on a ladder. The rectangular black weights at the back were to keep weight on the top shingles where we applied roofing cement. The weights were taken off the next day

Beginning the new railing with 2x4s, mitred edges, and a level. Gotta keep everything level.

The railing slats attached

The smoothed and routered railing caps in place

Railing cap (slanted part).
It isn't actually attached in this picture, so the top end isn't flush with the banister yet. 

Railing Cap (straight part up by the door)