Archive for the ‘Kitchen Crafts’ Category

Spring Candies

This was another project that had origins somewhere out on the internet.  I found it last year but I don’t remember where.  I had asked my husband to pick up a bag of pastel M&Ms but then never got around to making these adorable little candies.

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The supplies needed are:

  • Waffle style pretzels
  • White chocolate candy melts
  • Pastel colored M&Ms

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Begin by setting the pretzels out on a microwave safe plate and topping each with a single candy melt.  I found that nine at a time worked nicely.

Place the candy topped pretzels in the microwave long enough to melt the candy. With my microwave, 60 seconds did the trick.

Place one color of M&M in the center, and then 6 of another color around the outside to create a flower.

Transfer the plate to the refrigerator so that the melted candy solidifies more quickly. Once solid, the candies can be stored at room temperature.

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They turned out so cute!  I made these for Easter, but they would be great for any springtime or shower event.  They are so easy to make.  Just remember to stock up on the pastel colored M&Ms which are only available before Easter!

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Tie Dyed Easter Eggs

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For me, it’s just not Easter without decorating eggs.  My kids are grown up.  My daughter has moved to her own house.  My son is in college, but even though he is home this weekend, he thinks he is just too grown up for decorating eggs.

I have a pretty big history experimenting with different decorating techniques.  Over the years we have tried natural dyes, Kool-aid, a rice technique and several others. Some were successful.  Others, not so much.

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At some point last year, I ran across this Tie Dye technique.  I’m really not sure where I first saw it because I neglected to make note of it.  I was excited to give it a try.  I gathered the materials:

  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Vinegar
  • Food coloring
  • Paper towels
  • Protective gloves

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I rolled and wrapped the eggs like candies in paper towels.  I secured the ends with twist ties.

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I poured the vinegar onto a plate and rolled the wrapped egg in the vinegar until the paper toweling was saturated.  The absorbent paper towels wicked up the vinegar quite nicely.

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Using only three colors per egg, I dropped food coloring straight from the bottles randomly onto the paper towel covered eggs.  Once I had enough color, I gently squeeze the egg to distribute the color more fully.

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You can see why protective gloves are a must for this project!

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I left the eggs sit for about an hour before unwrapping.  The colors were spectacular!  I have never been able to achieve such bright colors before!  The texture of the paper towel added a nice element to the finished eggs.

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With plans to make deviled eggs for Easter, I took my egg decorating a bit further.  I had also seen a technique where eggs were cracked all over and then dyed.  The dye would seep through the cracks and color the egg white.  Again, I do not recall where I first saw this idea but I knew I had to try it out.

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The process for coloring the cracked eggs was essentially the same.  The only difference was that I had to be extra careful when wrapping the cracked eggs.

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As before, the egg shells came out beautifully decorated.  But they hadn’t been emersed in a dye bath so I wasn’t sure if there would be enough color to seep through the cracks

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Well as you can see from the shelled eggs, there certainly was!

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I used my wave slicer to slice the eggs and removed the yolks.  Yes, I put them into a zip lock plastic bag.  This brilliant tip comes to me from my daughter!

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I closed the bag and then pressed and squeezed the yolks to crumble them up.

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The next step was to add all the ingredients for my favorite deviled egg recipe. This too comes from my daughter who found what we believe is the best deviled egg recipe ever from the Food Network.

Classic Deviled Eggs

  • 6 eggs, hard boiled
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Paprika for garnish

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I reclosed the bag and squished and squeezed until all the ingredients were mixed well. The last step was to snip off a corner of the plastic bag and pipe the egg mixture into the egg whites.  A sprinkle of paprika finished them off.

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Here they are all ready for our Easter picnic!  I love how festive they look!

Kool-Aid! Oh Yeah!

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I’m always up for an adventure and my son is always up for an experiment, so this year, when I stumbled upon the idea of using Kool-Aid to dye Easter Eggs, I knew we had to give it a try.  This method also had the added bonus of not having to use vinegar.  I don’t mind the vinegar, but my hubby hates it and every year complains about the smell.

It’s relatively simple and no more costly than buying an egg dying kit.  For each color you use 1 package of Kool-Aid and 2/3 cup hot water.

We used the following flavors:

  • Lemonade – yellow
  • Orange – orange
  • Cherry – red
  • Grape – purple
  • Blueberry Raspberry – blue

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And of course, some hard boiled eggs.

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We were very pleased with the results.  For the first time, we had red eggs that were truly red!

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There were a few things we learned along the way.

The lemonade flavor Kool-Aid does not provide much color.  In the original article I had found, it recommended adding a bit of the orange Kool-Aid to the mixture.  We did that, but evidently did not add enough, so we ended up boosting the color with 6 drops of yellow food coloring.

Our store was out of lime for the green color so after we dyed the yellow and blue eggs, we mixed the colors to make green.

I don’t know what it is about purple dye, but it hasn’t mattered what method I have used in the past.  I have always been disappointed that it isn’t a prettier shade.  Since mixing the yellow and the blue to make the green worked so well, next time we plan to forgo the grape Kool-Aid and try mixing the red and the blue to see if that will work better.

We had to use spoons to handle the eggs.  When we touched the eggs right out of the dye, the color would rub off.

We also had to allow the eggs to air dry on paper towels.  Just like touching the eggs, if we dried them off too soon, the color would rub off.

As an added bonus, after the dying, we made the left over Kool-Aid solutions into the soft drinks.  I was skeptical at first because I thought there might be an slight egg taste.  My son was willing to throw caution to the wind.  We scaled the water and sweetner back to about half.  We are happy to report was no residual egg taste so nothing was wasted in the clean up!

This whole process has made me look at Kool-Aid in a whole new light.  I’m actually planning to experiment with adding Kool-Aid crystals for coloring and flavoring to icings, cakes, and other baked items.

Mint Serving Trays

I first saw this idea on Pinterest.  Then a friend of mine tried it and it really worked.

It was so fascinating that my 13 year old actually stopped gaming to help me with these clever creations.

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All you do is arrange mints side by side on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Then put them in the oven for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees.  The mints will melt and fuse together.  It is kind of like a candy version of fuse beads.

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My creation before…

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…and after.

Because of the melting, the outside edge does flow a bit so you do not end up with a “perfect” shape.  But it still makes for a very festive serving tray.

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My son’s creation before…

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…and after!

Of course we still had some leftover candies, so my son decided to make some mini trays.

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Before…

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…and after!

The parchment is critical or the candies will stick to the trays.  Once the trays cooled, they came off the parchment with ease and were surprisingly sturdy.  They are perfect for sharing treats during the holidays.

Chocolate Covered Bacon

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Brody says, “You are doing WHAT to the bacon!?!?!”

For quite some time I have considered cooking to be an art and a science.  Add a bit of creativity and it certainly qualifies as a craft as well.

As much as I would like to take credit for this idea, it was my brother in law who brought it to my attention.  Someone he worked with had tried this and it was just bizarre enough we knew we had to try it.

It starts with steak cut bacon.  Steak cut bacon is unusually thick.  Hubby located a slab of uncut bacon at our local grocery and had them slice it about 3/4 inch thick.

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The bacon is cooked over medium heat and turned frequently. It took about 45 minutes until we were sure that it was cooked completely.

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Once it was drained and cooled, we cut it into bite sized pieces.

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We then dipped the pieces into melted dark chocolate.

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A few minutes in the refridgerator to help the chocolate to cool and harden and it was done and ready to share!

We attend wine tastings regularly at our local party store so we had the perfect opportunity to test out this creation at today’s tasting. We kept it a secret at first. It was so much fun to see everyone trying to figure out what was hidden in the chocolate. One of our friends ate 12 pieces! The general concensus was that we had hit upon something pretty amazing. I guess we should not have been surprised. Everything is better with chocolate. And everything is better with bacon. So, of course, when you put the two together it can only be phenomenal!

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

Ever since I was in Girl Scouts I have wanted to try natural dyes to color Easter eggs.  I can’t remember which handbook had a section about natural dyes but I distinctively remember it.  The years would come and go and I would forget to plan ahead to obtain all the materials I needed or someone would talk me out of it saying the dye kits were just easier.

An article published a couple of weeks ago in our local newspaper sent me to the internet to search for additional ideas and I immediately added the supplies to my grocery list.  I was accompanied on my shopping trip by my husband who several times asked, “Just why are you buying THIS?” when I added items to our cart.  He also was quick to point out that using a dye kit or food coloring would be considerably cheaper but I was determined not to be dissuaded!

So without further adieu, let me introduce you to my egg coloring crew:

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My Darling Son, my Daughter’s Boyfriend, and my Darling Daughter!

My daughter and her boyfriend came to visit for the holiday weekend.  Her boyfriend had previously expressed concern about egg coloring opportunities so I knew he’d be on board with my project.

Except for the yellow dye made with tumeric, the dyes were prepared using much the same process.  The ingredients were placed in a pan, covered, brought to a boil and boiled 15 minutes.  The liquid was strained off and then 2 tablespoons of vinegar were added to the dye liquid.

Orange Dye:
2 cups (or more) packed yellow onion skins
2 cups water

Brown Dye:
2 cups (or more) packed red onion skins
2 cups water

Red Dye:
3 beets, cubed
2 cups water

Blue/Purple Dye:
2 cups blueberries
2 cups water

Teal Dye:
2 cups (or more) packed red cabbage leaves
2 cups water

Green Dye:
3 cups spinach
2 cups water

Yellow Dye:
3 tablespoons tumeric
1-1/2 cups water
Bring to boil.  Remove from heat.  Add 2 tablespoons of vinegar.  Wipe off tumeric residue after dying eggs.

Once the dyes were prepared, my crew set to work.

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Yellow Onion Skins

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Blueberries & Tumeric

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Red Cabbage

We were very excited by the results of the first few dyed eggs!  Some of the dyes worked better than others.  Here are our reviews:

  • Yellow onion skins work great to give a nice shade of orange.
  • Red onion skins were reported to give a brick red color.  However, we found that the eggs turned out to be brown instead.
  • Eggs colored with blueberries were more purple than blue.  The bits of the fruit that didn’t strain out gave the eggs a speckled look.  We also noticed that the eggs had a nice sheen to them.
  • The red cabbage dye looked purple.  We thought we’d been misinformed because originally the eggs came out to be a light shade of purple.  After they had cooled and dried thoroughly we were suprised to discover that they did indeed turn into a teal color!
  • When the eggs came out of the beet dye they looked like they were going to be a bright shade of magenta.  As they cooled and dried they looked more red than magenta.
  • The spinach did not work at all.  I used frozen spinach but I’m now wondering if we might have had more success with fresh spinach.
  • We were warned that tumeric stains quite a bit but didn’t seeem to have a problem with that.  It did give the eggs a pretty bright yellow color.

Of course, after a while, the novelty of the natural dyes wore off and my crew wanted to get creative so I pulled out the food coloring.

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They were having so much fun, the dog was afraid he was missing something and wanted to join in!

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Naturally dyed or artificially dyed, we ended up with some spectacular eggs this year.  My daughter even commented that using the food coloring in combination with the natural dyes produced better results that if we had used the food coloring alone.

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Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

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Food coloring added to the Natural Dyes

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Creations done by my Darling Son…

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… and my Darling Daughter’s Boyfriend …

… which lead us girls to the conclusion that the boy Easter bunnies may deliver the eggs, but it’s the girl Easter bunnies that design them!

OMG Fudge!

My family has a number of Christmas traditions.  Some are old.  Some are new.  I have cookie recipes that date back 4 generations.  Each one of the ornaments on our tree has a story to go with it.  For a long time our Christmas dinner was traditionally non-traditional.  That was until a few years ago when we decided that fajitas with the festive red and green peppers should become our new traditional Christmas dinner.

One of our traditions that has evolved over the years is my husband’s fudge.  He has made fudge every since the first Christmas that we were together.  His recipe comes from the same one he remembers his mother making and putting him to work stirring when he was a little boy.  He’s made some modifications to her recipe and in more recent years started experimenting with different flavors.  This year, at his mother-in-law’s request, he gave white chocolate a try.

So here’s a look at how it all ended up…

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This years flavors are:  Chocolate Peanut Butter, Chocolate Walnut, Dark Chocolate Raspberry, Dark Chocolate Mint, White Chocolate, White Chocolate Mint and White Chocolate Cherry.

OMG!  It’s all SO good!

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