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)


Monday, August 26, 2019

RECIPE: Bierocks - beef and cabbage-filled buns

Photo credit: https://indianamommy.com/bierocks-runzas/ - who also has a great recipe on her site. 

When I was young, I remember my mom and dad occasionally buying these yummy beef and cabbage turnovers from a bakery in the small town of Oakhurst, California, where I grew up and went to school. We would eat them with mustard. Later, when I grew older and had kids, I wanted to make them myself because I couldn't find them anywhere. My mom found two recipes and gave them to me. One was from the Fresno Bee newspaper and one from a good family friend, Kathy Burrow (thanks for sharing, Kathy)! Here they are:

Bierock Recipe #1 - from the Fresno Bee (makes 12)

(Beef and cabbage turnovers)
Any pre-made or frozen/thawed bread dough (like Rhodes) will do OR make recipe below:
2 packages dry yeast (or 2 teaspoons)
2 cups warm water (110° or lukewarm)
2/3 cup oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 egg
6-7 cups flour
Filling:           7 pounds chuck roast in 1-inch cubes
                        4 bay leaves
                        1 cup chopped onion
10 to 12 black peppercorns
2 heads shredded white cabbage
4 additional onions, chopped
Salt and pepper
MAKING DOUGH FROM SCRATCH: In large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let set until yeast foams (5-8 minutes). Whisk in salt, sugar, oil, and egg. Add flour 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until 4 ½ cups are in. Dough should start to pull away from sides of the bowl. Put dough on well-floured surface (use 1 cup remaining flour) and knead, adding flour until dough is smooth and elastic. Place in oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, set in warm place to rise until doubled in size (about an hour). Punch dough down and allow to rise again to double. Punch down again and then divide into 12 equal balls and let rest 10 minutes. Pat and stretch each ball into a 6-inch circle. Fill with beef/cabbage filling and fold over and seal edges completely. Place on greased baking sheet. Let rise about 30 minutes or until puffy. For soft crust, brush bierocks with oil before baking. Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
IF USING PRE-MADE FROZEN DOUGH: Thaw and let rise before stretching and filling.
FOR THE FILLING: Brown meat cubes in a little oil. Add enough water to cover meat and add peppercorns, bay leaves, and 1 cup chopped onion. Bring water to a boil, cover pan and lower heat to a simmer. Cook until meat is fork tender and can easily be shredded.
Shred cabbage and chop four onions. Coat a large pot with oil, add cabbage and 4 additional chopped onions. Sauté over medium heat, stirring often to not burn. When cooked through, increase heat to boil off remaining liquid. Don’t brown the cabbage. Add shredded meat to cabbage and mix. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cool completely and put 1/4 to 1/2 cup filling on each 6-inch circle of prepared bread dough.

Bierock Recipe #2 from Kathy Burrow, a good family friend)
(Beef and cabbage turnovers) – makes 20-25 turnovers
Any pre-made or frozen/thawed bread dough (like Rhodes) will do OR make recipe below:
                        2 Tbsp dry yeast
                        2 ½ cups warm water
                        1 Tbsp salt
                        1 Tbsp sugar
                        1/4 cup canola oil
                        3 eggs, beaten
                        7 to 7 ½ cups flour
            1/4 cup oil
            1 medium head white cabbage, finely shredded
            1 large onions, finely chopped
            4 cups cooked cold roast beef (or cooked ground beef) finely chopped in food processor
            Salt and lots of pepper

IF MAKING DOUGH FROM SCRATCH: I large mixing bowl, sprinkle yeast and sugar into warm water. Let stand until yeast is dissolved (about 5 minutes) and then add salt, eggs, and oil. Mix. Add flour and stir until very elastic and batter falls from spoon in sheets. Beat in remaining flour as needed and knead until dough is easy to handle. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Cover and let stand 10 minutes to tighten up. Add flour and knead again until smooth and elastic. Place in large oiled bowl and turn to grease all sides. Cover and place in warm area until doubled in size (about an hour). Roll dough on floured board to 1/2-inch thick. Cut 5-inch squares and place a heaping Tbsp cooled filling on each square. Bring four corners together and pinch open sides to enclose completely. Set on large cookie sheet, cover and set in warm place for 15 minutes to rise. Bake at 375 F for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Remove and brush hot bierocks with butter. Eat with mustard, BBQ sauce or nothing at all.
IF USING PRE-MADE FROZEN DOUGH: Thaw and let rise before stretching and filling.

FOR THE FILLING: Heat oil in large skillet. Add onions and sauté for 2 minutes. Add cabbage shreds and toss to mix. Cover and steam cabbage until softened. Stir occasionally so cabbage won’t brown and to not overcook. Add cooked, chopped meat and mix well. Add salt and lots of pepper. Cool and then place by tablespoons onto dough squares.

Photo credit: https://www.muttandchops.com/bierocks/ - who also has another really good recipe on her site

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

My Recipe for Apricot Nectar

My sister and I recently made some apricot nectar. Nectar is thicker than a normal juice, so not to everyone's liking, but I LOVE it. Here's my recipe:

Pit apricots (I do a bucket-load at a time and get about 8-10 quarts of juice from it) and then puree them with a juicer that separates out the skins and stringy parts, but but leaves the rest in a thick puree, NOT a thin juice. I use The Champion Juicer.
Mix 4 cups of this puree in a pot with 6 cups of water and 1 cup of sugar (keep these ratios when doubling, tripling or quadrupling your amounts). Bring mixture to a boil on the stove on medium-high, stirring occasionally, and watching that it doesn't foam up and over the sides.
Ladle hot nectar into washed and sterilized quart jars (or just cool and place in fridge if drinking right away). Fill to within a 1/4-inch from the top of jars, skim off foam and bubbles, seal with hot lid and jar ring. Process sealed jars in a large pot of boiling water that covers the jars by an inch of water (25 minutes for me here in Northern Utah, but it will differ for people living at higher or lower altitudes). The nectar will stay good in your pantry for years! ENJOY!
(All photos taken by my sister, Barbara Knudsen)

Thursday, June 13, 2019

My latest project: Redoing my kitchen island countertop...DONE

My latest big project is DONE! Redoing my kitchen island countertop took a lot of time and a lot of watching Youtube DIY videos, but I'm proud of how it turned out! Now our family of 6 can all sit at the same counter and all have leg room underneath.

The laminate I bought is called "Cafe Azul". I wanted something that woul bring out the silver colors in the kitchen (like our fridge and knobs and sink). Turned out really nice.

Squaring up the laminate with wooden dowels between the laminate top and the particle board countertop base. The dowels keep the glue on each surface from touching until I'm ready to press and stick the surfaces together.

Clamping the edge strips of laminate after gluing them on. I also had to add two legs to the two counter corners as we realized that the corners were sagging a 1/4 inch and would probably sag more in the future if we didn't support them. Hence, the tall butcher block table legs.

Using a paint roller to apply the contact cement (glue) to the underside of the laminate. I also applied a coat to the top of the countertop particle board. The glue adheres to itself when the two pieces are put together.

My 10-year-old sat on the countertop to put pressure on it while I drilled screws up into it from inside the cabinets. My 7-year-old made sure I was supplied with ice water while I sweated my way through the process. It took a lot more arm and shoulder muscle to drill upwards than it would have drilling down and having my body weight to help. Whew!

I gave my old coffee table a face lift with some of the leftover laminate.

Placing the particle board countertop on the cabinets. Squaring it up took a while before I was satisfied enough to secure it.

The piece of laminate I cut, propped up by the old countertop and waiting in the shop until I was ready to glue it to the new particle board countertop.

Using painter’s tape is a good way to keep the laminate edges from cracking or shredding while cutting it with the circular blade.

Thanks to my mom and dad who gave me their old router, I was able to trim the laminate egdes. It sure made a mess of my floor, though, sending shreds of laminate everywhere. I think I spent a good half hour vacuuming and sweeping every bit of it up after I was done.

Yep, I made myself a "plumbob" to help me line up the edge of the counter with the line on the floor. The weights in the background were to keep the cabinet from shifting around while I was moving and squaring up the countertop.

A view of the underside of the particleboard countertop I made. I love having a shop to work in.