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1  COOKING / Dessert / Molasses Candy on: December 07, 2017 06:07:41 PM
For the local neighborhood ladies Christmas dinner, I was in charge of making molasses candy... a tie in to one of the stories we had for the program.  I was supposed to make 400 pieces.  Well, I did -make- over 500 pieces, but half of them went bad by the time the night came.  DOH.  Candy making is such an inconsistent thing!  I don't know what went wrong with those batches, I watched temperature on the candy well, I even checked humidity of the house... *shrug* candy.   Roll Eyes  What was leftover was tasty though.

Molasses Candy

1/2 cup Molasses
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. vinegar
1/2 cup water

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 cup butter
1/8 tsp. baking soda

-In a heavy bottomed pot, combine molasses, sugar, vinegar and water. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring often, until mixture reaches 255 F (or when a small amount dropped in cold water turns hard).
-Remove from heat and add butter, cream of tartar and baking soda. Pour onto a buttered, sided cookie sheet.
-When cool enough to handle, pull pieces of taffy until light in color. (Butter hands before pulling).
-Twist and cut into 1 pieces. Wrap in parchment paper.

Tips, I've learned
-the biggest one is have a candy thermometer and make sure it's calibrated for boiling point at your elevation.  For me, my boiling temp is about 9 degrees less than 212, so I stopped my candy at 246* instead of 255*. 
-use a big pot.  This stuff bubbles up.  I had to switch from a saucepan mid boil.
-I used coconut oil for oiling my hands the first batch since I didn't have any butter left and it was fine. I didn't notice any difference in taste between coconut oil and butter pulled batches.
-If you have a pastry scraper, that helps to pull the candy up from the pan.  I scooped under the candy and then let it drizzle down to help it cool faster.  You could just be patient and wait for it to cool lol
-I wore knit gloves covered with food safe rubber gloves to pull the candy when it was still too warm for bare hands.
-I've read that humidity over 35% messes with candy making, if you find your batches aren't working.
-know that sometimes candy sucks.  I had one batch that I pulled for 30 minutes and it was not setting up, finally realized I did something wrong and gave up.  Other times, the candy set and was delicious and then I popped it out later to crumbles.

All tucked away in air tight half gallon canning jars.  6 of them!

Cut and ready to wrap.

What they are supposed to look like. I wanted them super taffy like.

Here's what happened to make half bad!  They turned into brown sugar??  Huh

If you try, good luck!
2  COOKING / Dessert / Blue Mint Ice Cream on: November 30, 2017 08:51:51 PM
When me and DH went to college, there was an ice cream place that made ice cream on site because of all the agricultural student stuff they had going around the county.  Their most popular school flavor was Aggie Blue Mint and was a fun date night for us as starving college students.  Aggie Blue Mint is peppermint flavored ice cream, with white chocolate chunks and Oreo bits, and colored blue for the school. Ive tried to recreate it here and DH loved it!

Blue Mint Ice Cream

2 cups milk
3 eggs
1 cup sugar

2 cups whole whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp peppermint extract (or to taste, I started with 1/4 and kept adding until I thought the flavor was strong enough)
Blue food coloring to taste

cup white chocolate chips
6 Oreo cookies, broken into pieces

Beat eggs with sugar until light and fluffy, then mix in milk until well combined.  Cook on stovetop over medium low heat.  Stir constantly until mixture thickens enough to coat the spoon, about ten minutes but dont let it come to a boil.  Strain through mesh strainer and then set mixture in fridge for 8 hours.

When ready to make ice cream, pull mix out of fridge and add whipped cream, extracts and coloring.  Stir well.  Pour into ice cream maker for about 15 minutes.  After the 15 minutes pour white chocolate chips and broken Oreos into ice cream maker.  Allow ice cream maker to continue to process for 5-10 more minutes. 

Scoop out ice cream and serve right away for a soft frosting consistency.  Or place in a container and let harden until desired texture.  Can be made days ahead of serving time.

3  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Basic Granola and Granola Bars on: November 15, 2017 12:39:00 PM
Here is my granola recipe.  I've used it for years.  It's great with milk as cereal, and perfect on top of yogurt.  You can add anything you like, or have extra of.  I always double it because we go through it so fast. 

I did gluten free for a year and had this all the time -- if you are especially sensitive to gluten you may need a GF oatmeal, but I was okay to use the rolled oats at the store.  One time I even gave bags of it out as Christmas gifts back in my not-baking-fancy-dessert days.  And I've even taught a class on how to make it at a local food storage store, so plenty of reasons to give this a try!

Basic Granola
cup brown sugar
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup honey
5 cups oatmeal - old fashioned rolled oats.
cup dry milk
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
cup raisins *optional
Mix brown sugar, oil and honey in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil and heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Combine dry ingredients in a large cake pan.  Pour syrup over dry mixture and mix well.  Bake at 375* for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Let cool in pan.  Add raisins and stir.  Store in an airtight container. 

This is just the base recipe.  You can also add wheat germ, coconut, chocolate chips, nuts, cereal, seeds, dates, or other dried fruit depending on what you have on hand and like. 
Recipe substitutions or additions
Honey agave, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, corn syrup, molasses
Oil  -- canola, vegetable, olive, coconut
Milk  -- soy or omit
Brown sugar turbinado, rapidura
Oats 6 grain
Textures nuts/seeds/rice crispies/wheat puffs/popped amaranth


And for a bonus, here's the bar recipe, though I don't have any made to show a picture right now.

Chewy Granola Bars

4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter or cup coconut oil
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 cups plain granola
1 cup rice cereal (Rice Krispies, puffed wheat, etc.)

Line two 95 loaf pans or one 117 inch baking pan with foil or parchment. Lightly butter or spray the foil.  Combine butter, honey and brown sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the butter is melted.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the saucepan from the heat.  Add the granola and rice cereal into the saucepan and fold them into the sauce until evenly coated.

~Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Variation
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup peanut butter chips
Spread the mixture into the prepared pans and press firmly with a spatula to evenly fill. Sprinkle the chocolate and peanut butter chips onto the top of the granola and gently press them down with the spatula.

~Smores Granola Bars Variation
2 tbsp. graham cracker crumbs
1 cup mini marshmallows, or dehydrated mini marshmallows
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Add the granola, rice cereal and graham cracker crumbs into the saucepan and fold them into the sauce until evenly coated. Very gently fold in the marshmallows.
Spread the mixture into the prepared pans and press firmly with a spatula to evenly fill. Sprinkle the chocolate chips onto the top of the granola and gently press them down.

~Oatmeal Raisin Chewy Granola Bars Variation
1/2 cup raisins
Add the granola, rice cereal and raisins into the saucepan and fold them into the sauce until evenly coated.  Press mixture in pan.

*Note: If the bars are sticky but not quite holding together, place them in the fridge to harden for 10-15 minutes. On very warm days, the bars dont always harden at room temperature.

4  Halloween / Halloween Decor and Parties / Halloween Photo Boards -- Monsters and Harry Potter on: November 08, 2017 11:15:44 AM
For Halloween this year I made photoboards for face in the hole pictures.  Made them for a Halloween carnival, and then put them outside for trick or treaters to play with too.  It was so fun to see a post on Facebook later in the week with someone's kids in them.  Drawings are all mine, trying to make sure I didn't use someone else's pictures.

One dedicated Halloween with a fun witch, Frankenstein monster, and mummy.  Slytherin decided a doll needed to be in the third face.

And tried to make a Harry Potter one for my Gryffindor's movie party, but was too fancy on it and didn't get it done in time.  But was still fun for the treater kids.  The lightning scar is cut into the face, and the glasses are glued in.

The Monsters I painted flat and cartoony, but Harry I really put some effort into shading and blending.  Took me days longer than the larger board.  If I wasn't so picky I probably would have been done in time for her party.  Oh well, she'll have another movie party.

Out in front

Some making of pics...

You can see the shading on the background.

Plan was to do a Gryffindor background, but decided I didn't like the red... tried orange... nope again... went onto blue

Thanks for looking!
5  Category Challenges / Occasions and Holidays: Challenge Entries / Floral Pumpkin Centerpiece on: November 05, 2017 11:37:01 AM
For my entry I have a pumpkin flower arrangement centerpiece.  Basic pumpkin, with lots of silk flowers.  Cut the stems and add them into a block of floral foam. 

Even had a bunch of flowers left over to make a pumpkin pie sized pumpkin gift for my mom! 

My girl decided to walk off with my mom's before I could give it away, so I gave her the last of the flowers and a few of the spikey branches from mine so she could make her own.  She was so much more excited to have one she made herself!

Saw a great idea online that you don't even have to carve the pumpkin.  You just stab a piece of floral foam onto the stem.  Took a bit more work disguising the bottom by rounding out the bouquet, and working around the stem, but then I can keep this piece all through October and into November.

Thanks for the challenge!
6  Halloween / Halloween Decor and Parties / Starry Night Painted Pumpkin on: October 31, 2017 10:38:29 AM
Every year I try to paint one fancy pumpkin.  In the past, I've always done a celebrity face.  This year I went with Starry Night!  I figured it would be easier, but with all the thousands of little paint dashes, it wasn't any faster.  Still, I love how it turned out.  Great piece for my collection.

In progress photos

Thanks for looking
7  Archive of Past Craftster Challenge Entries / CHALLENGE 120 ENTRIES / Pumpkin Face Cookies on: October 06, 2017 02:29:58 PM

My love and kindness project goes out to a bunch of families of my neighborhood!  I made Pumpkin-y fancy royal frosting sugar cookies!  To make it special enough for a love and kindness project I made different colors and cute faces and everything.  I watched/listened to an entire movie as I made the frostings and painted just the orange base!  These types of cookies are definitely for special occasions only. 

I was thinking I would just drop these off anonymously with the neighborhood Youve been BOO-ed! http://www.todaysthebestday.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Weve-Been-Booed-.jpg   signs, but then figured since the cookies were so fancy every family I gave them to would know exactly who gave it anyway.  Im a bit of a show off when it comes to baked goods usually lol.  So anonymous was out.  But either way, yummy yummy!  Hopefully the cookies brightened their day.

Heres the recipe I used.  I want to find a better sugar cookie recipe, but this one will do.  If you make these, watch some youtubes to find out the different consistencies of frosting to use.  You need a thicker frosting for outlining and a thinner one for filling.

Sugar Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
tsp salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
Flavoring to taste

Cream butter and sugar together in stand mixer with paddle attachment.  Add flavorings and salt.  Add the egg and mix well.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Slowly add the flour while mixing on low speed.  The dough is ready when most of it sticks to the paddle.

Divide the dough into two equal parts.  Roll out between sheets of wax paper about inch thick and chill for at least 1 hour in the fridge or 25 minutes in the freezer.  Cut shapes and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake at 375* for 7-9 minutes.  Baking times are approximate so watch them close.  If cookies start to brown, you have cooked them too long.

Royal Icing

2 lb powdered sugar
1/3 cup meringue powder
cup warm water
2-4 tbsp oil free extract or flavoring

With paddle attachment, mix warm water and meringue powder on low speed until mostly dissolved.  Add the flavorings and mix.  Add the sugar and start the mixer on the lowest speed.  Once everything has been combined, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides.  Turn the mixer  up to medium-high speed and beat for approximately 5-6 minutes.  The frosting is ready when it forms stiff peaks.

*make sure tools are grease free before making the frosting.  Wipe tools with a piece of paper towel soaked with vinegar.
*frosting will keep for about 3 weeks in an airtight container.  It can be stored in the refrigerator or at room temperature.  Over time the frosting will start to separate so youll need to give it a good stir each time before using it.

Happy Giving!
8  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / Carnival Games on: September 11, 2017 08:06:54 AM
It's getting to be Fall carnival season again!  Time to add two new games to our carnival lineup:  Splat the Rat and Pig Racers.

Splat the Rat
Push a stuffed rat down the sewer pipe and try to splat him on the other side.  This is a lot harder than you'd think!

In play

Piggy Racers, or Bacon Race'n haven't been 100% on a name yet
Walking Oinking pigs race down the alley way and the first to knock over their finish board wins.

In action.
Decided it was too white and painted some yellow strips down the alleys after.

Doh, this is the best pic of the finishing gates.  There is checkerboard vinyl at the end and also a rubber stopper to keep the boards from falling down too hard.  Each board has a checkered flag decal.

...if you want to see our games from other years
Giant Operation: https://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=441430.0
Hamster Hazards: https://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=450628.msg5416137#msg5416137

Thanks for looking!  Smiley
9  HOME SWEET HOME / Interior Decorating: Completed Projects / Harry Potter Movie Room on: August 11, 2017 06:26:26 PM
Our family room was filled with lots of movie memorabilia.  Everything from Star Trek, Hunger Games, Twilight, Tron, Green Lantern, Harry Potter and beyond.  We ended up moving to this house last year and have been meaning to do another secret room [https://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=430351.0] so when there was a sweet playhouse in the family room I wasn't too worried about it.  Flash forward a year and we didn't look like we would be getting to it in another year so I broke it down and turned it into a fun Hogwarts scene [https://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=452570.0]

Well, DH loved it so much that he wanted to make the room total Harry Potter.  When DH suggested it I kind of laughed it off like he's the Star Trek guru, there's no way he'd get rid of his precious memorabilia.  He kept talking about it and decided we should do it before we had a family party at our house ...the very next month.  I was shocked when he started taking down pictures off the wall in preparation.  I thought "oh great, here we go!" I wasn't expecting to do the whole room when I painted the side wall!  .....and a month later.  Boom.  Here we are.

Hogwarts as a silhouette looks so much more at home now!

Display cabinets and I love the metal house crests above the tv.  Bought online.

Copied from a cool vinyl idea off pinterest.  Got all the vinyl to do it and went....eh, that's too much work for all that vinyl and painted it by hand, lol.  Took me four hours still but imagining digging out all those extra vinyl pieces seemed too much.  Now too, if we end up not wanting it it can just be painted over instead of a thousand stickers peeled off.  ..... If you remember from the silhoettes wall this area is going to be covered up by bookshelves and hidden rooms ...eventually... so too much work to be covered eventually but oh well.  Awesome in the meantime.  

Hand painted Marauders Map.  The tiny words of the whomping willow and black lake were done in one three hour sitting and I actually gave myself nerve damage in the tip of my painting finger!  It was numb for three days!  ... Dumb one PattyO.  Take breaks.

Room is supposed to be painted like a giant Marauders Map.  Little tiny feet prints and name banners are around.  We did paint the room, but the color is so close to the original color it's hard to tell.  It went from a solid tan to a treasure map tone faux finish.


Snape's Potion cabinet

Before and Progress

If you want a more in depth walk through, head to youtube.  It's fun to see how many swap items are on display too!  Lots of you guys helped make this room!

And don't forget the Honeyduke's Candy Cabinet!  https://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=452918.0

Man!  Even with thirty pictures, I don't feel like it's done justice to how cool I think this room is.  Oh well.
But now I'm dying to host a Harry Potter movie night!  Who's coming?!
10  HOME SWEET HOME / Crafty Housewares: Completed Projects: Reconstructed / Honeyduke's Candy Cabinet on: August 09, 2017 09:37:50 PM
Our Harry Potter movie room needs some candy goodness!  Honeyduke's Candy Cabinet to the rescue.

Started out with a very beat up cabinet desk.  Ripped out the interior and backing, painted white and then pink stripes

Created all the woodworking from scratch (go DH!) a spot for a minifridge, cabinet and drawer.  Started working on shelves and even have it lit!  Lights turn on automatically from each shelf as you open the doors.


Major amounts of candies stocked

Use the scale to see how much candy you can have

Even have a miniature Three Broomsticks fridge, stocked with all the necessary wizard themed drinks. Fridge is painted with chalkboard paint, so we can write what drinks are inside.

That's it!  We're so excited to have it done.  Now time to gain some weight.

Thanks for looking  Grin
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