Home Craft Idea: Welcome Sign

For a homey craft, here’s an idea I’ve been percolating on for a week or two until I came up with the right solution for our own, personal look:  I took a white wooden welcome sign that I’d purchased on sale; it was originally decorated with Easter-themed wooden flowers and dangles of eggs and birds, so I removed all the extra bits except the five small loop head screws.  If you can’t find such a sign, you could make one with cardboard, hardening it with a couple layers of paper machè before painting it your base colour and attaching the screws.

The sign, I covered by paper machèing it with the inside of a few security envelopes (the kinds you get bank statements and bills in).  Most of the paper beads are also made from the same envelopes.  [If you want to find an addictive craft, paper beads will do it!]  I laid the sign upside down on the outside of the opened envelope and traced the letters, cutting out the paper before glueing it on.  The design can be seamlessly augmented with the security motif, as the sign is longer than the length of an opened envelope laid flat… my seam is overlapping onto the “e” after the “w”, and you can’t see it.

For the dangles, I made the security paper beads, and one bead is made from a magazine picture of the sun; I strung them onto nylon thread (“fishing thread”), and used silver beads, cap-beads, crimp beads, and silver charms at the ends.  I then strung a length of black satin ribbon to hang the sign on our door, making sure the length allowed for viewing through the peephole.  I secured the ends of the ribbon to itself with crimp bead covers (also crimp beads, but a “C” shape to clamp around crimp beads).

[If you’re interested, I got all of the jewellery findings and beads online, at Aliexpress.com.]

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Basque Pintxos

This is not so much a recipe, as a tip on what to serve the next time you want starters for a meal, or a meal eaten by hand.

I just returned from a long weekend in Bilbao, Spain; it’s a thriving city on the Bay of Biscay.  The Basque have one food that they are probably most famous for:  Pintxos (pronounced “Pintchos”).  These are a similar concept to the Spanish Tapas, but far more elaborate.  5 or 6 of these will make a meal.  Any good Pintxos bar worth its salt will have a wide variety spread out along the length of the bar (which is not usually for drinking at, but for selecting your food), and they pride themselves in personal specialities, so you have to bar hop to get the full experience; I’m sure they’ve got a local term for it – bar hopping, pub crawling, or as my husband and I dubbed it, “Pintxopping”.

They usually come served atop a slice of toasted Baguette bread, and some of the combinations we had were:  Diced crab with tomato sauce; an unusually non-distinct mushroom patè fried in a hushpuppy-like batter; crab and vegetables sautèd in tomato sauce and served in an open clam shell, overbaked with cheese; baked squid atop a fish pate; a skewer of breaded and fried vegetables; a variety of fish and seafood in spring roll wraps; breaded chicken on a skewer with rounds of goat cheese; one bar’s signature Pintxo was a mound of crab meat overbaked with a quid-ink-tinted cheese, in the shape of the local mountain.  The possibilities are endless!  Below is an example found on Pinterest; if you want more ideas and recipes, you’ll find them there.  En Guete!

Pintxos

Puff Taco Strudel

Today I pulled some ground beef out of the freezer and had a pastry dough to use up, so I went to my Pinterest board for savoury baking and decided to go with “Puff Taco Strudel”.  Obviously, I adapted the recipe – I refuse to use pre-mixed, chemical-laced products; making them myself is just as fast and a whole lot healthier.  So here’s my version (photo, courtesy of Pinterest):

Puff Taco Strudels

450 gr. ground beef

1 stalk of leek, thinly ringed

1-2 beefy tomatoes, finely diced

Black olives (amount to taste), coarsely chopped

Taco spices to taste

———————-

~100 gr. grated cheese

1-2 puff pastry doughs, rectangular OR Bisquick dough, rolled out

2 eggs

a bit of milk, egg, or Ranch dressing diluted with a bit of milk for a dough wash.

Combine the first ingredients into a frying pan, until the meat is browned (no butter or oil is necessary unless you’re using lean meat; then I would recommend a bit of virgin coconut oil).  Remove from heat.

Stir in the cheese while it’s still warm, and then the eggs.  Spoon along the centre of a rolled-out puff pastry sheet or rolled-out Bisquick dough; fold over and pinch to close, then flip the strudel seam-side down.  poke a few air holes along the top, then brush with your choice of wash – I used a bit of the Ranch dressing with milk.

Pop into a pre-heated oven at 210°C for 20-40 minutes (depending on your oven), until golden brown.  Serve as-is, or with the typical Tex-Mex side dish of guacamole, salsa, or a salad of your choice.  Enjoy!

Puff Taco Strudel

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Kitchen Craft Idea: Tea Caddy & DIY Mod Podge

Until recently, our tea corner was looking fairly, shall we say, “lived-in”.  I’d wanted to neaten it up for awhile, but hadn’t found the right solution.  Then the idea came that, if I couldn’t find anything in the shops, it was time to make it myself.

If you’ve never done paper maché before, it can look a bit daunting; but it’s all about steps:  First you get an idea of what you need, and begin building up the “armature” – the skeleton of what you want as an end-product.  That can change as you go; you can add on in basically any phase you want.  The armature, in this case, was made of boxes and masking tape:  I took square and rectangular tissue boxes; the square, I cut in half across the middle, cutting top from bottom.  I slipped a piece of cardboard into the top’s hole to make a solid base. The rectangular boxes, I cut down to be a bit shorter – these are the side drawers.

I’ve learned to get crisp edges on box projects by pre-cutting the papers I use to the width, length or height of the piece to cover with Mod-Podge & paper.  I used a book I’ll never read, but find that paperback pages are a good thickness, and don’t get my fingers as black as working with newspaper does.  Afer they were dry, I painted them; the drawers are white, the caddy, black.

If you’re interested in getting the metal drawer pulls, I found them at Aliexpress – a great source for craft items, especially for those of us in Europe (which tends to have very little choice of craft items)!  If you type in “Plum handle metal antique vintage”, they’ll pop up.

Below are a few photos to inspire you; I didn’t photograph every stage; if you want to learn more about what you can do with paper maché, just click here to go to my Pinterest board for crafts using paper & cardboard.  I made the “Life is like a cup of tea” image from a few different images; the label was also made from a banner I found on Pinterest; these kinds of things can be found on my Vintage board.

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I lined each drawer with a different pattern of scrap material; you could use paper – it’s up to you, but I think the cloth will be more durable.  I painted it with a layer of homemade Mod Podge, so here is the recipe for that:

DIY Mod Podge

You’ll need:

  • Glass Jar or container
  • Any kind of generic household glue
  • Water
  • Acrylic gloss/glaze paint if you want a glossy finish

Into the container, pour 3 parts glue and 1-2 parts water, depending on how thick you want it.  Add the glaze if you want; depending on how much glue and water you use, you’ll need to adjust how much gloss you add, but I would guesstimate 1 part gloss.

If you’re not yet familiar with Mod Podge, it can be used in so many ways!  I go through quite a lot of it, so I made up a large batch every 6 weeks or so.  I use it both to glue and seal paper maché projects.

 

Baked Apple Turnovers

I made these turnovers last week as I had a bag of frozen apple slices that wanted using, as well as a puff pastry dough that had been sitting in the fridge a couple days while I decided what to do with it.  These turned out delicious, and well worth keeping the recipe on hand for the next time – and so I share it here!  I found several recipes online, but most call for deep-frying; I don’t do grease.  Baking them is healthier, ecologically as well as medically, and they come out tasting like the apple pie pockets from a well-known fast-food chain restaurant – except I know exactly what goes into these, no chemicals or unpronounceable ingredients involved. They only take about 10 minutes to prepare and would be a great dessert for guests, or a quick toss-together when you’ve got withering apples to use up.

For a real treat, serve these warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.  Enjoy!

Apple Turnovers

Baked Apple Turnovers

3-4 apples, peeled, cored and finely diced

4 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1 sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry

A bit of milk or cream for brushing

Prepare the apples as instructed; then toss together with the sugar and spices.

Roll out the pastry dough, and score with a knife to cut into 6 squares.

Spoon a bit of the mixture into the centre (off just a bit, as you’ll fold it at the centre), keeping it away from the edges.  Fold over corner-to-corner into a triangle, and press the open edges together with the tines of a fork.  Repeat until all are done, spreading them evenly on a baking tray lined with baking paper.  Brush the tops with a bit of milk or cream (or egg wash).

Bake at 180°C (350°F) for ~30-40 minutes, or until golden brown.

Makes 6 turnovers.

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Tuna Salad

tuna-salad

Credit: Pinterest

Today I went to a friend’s house to show/help her learn how to make my Bread & Butter Pickles.  I was thinking of all the ways I use these versatile preserves, and one of the things that came to mind is tuna salad:  It can be eaten straight as a main lunch dish, or on bread, or in a tortilla for a sandwich wrap (just top with a bit of torn lettuce and you’re good to go), as a side dish for other main dishes, or even as a dip with crackers as a simple apéro.  The pickles make a lovely addition to this salad; I usually take a whole jar of the pickles, dump it into a blender on high for a couple seconds, and wha-la, a jar of pickle relish!  The relish and juice make the tuna salad snap with taste.

The great thing about this mix is that it can be kept in the fridge for several days; it makes a great, healthy & quick lunch (for adults or kids), a healthy nibble when you just need a bite or two, and can be served in so many ways.

So here’s my recipe for this simple mix; the amounts are really about taste, but I’ll give you an approximation of what I do, and you can add or subtract according to your own tastes.  Word to the wise:  The tuna juice is best used by dividing it evenly into small bowls and given to your cats. 🙂

Tuna Salad

2 cans of tuna in salt water, drained & mashed apart with a fork.

~1/2-3/4  C. mayonnaise (whatever your favourite kind is)

1-2 shallots, finely chopped

~1 Tbs. lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

1-3 Tbs. pickle relish with juice

Mix all together in a glass or plastic bowl (not metal – the citric acid, and vinegar from the pickles will react with that).  That’s it!  Add a sprinkle of fresh or dried chives for a contrasting colour as a garnish if you want to dress it up a bit for company.

Enjoy!

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Marronikuchen (Chestnut Torte)

marronikuchen

Credit:  Coop

It’s been quite some time since I added a new recipe; I’ve been quite sick since mid-November (respiratory infection), so I haven’t really felt like experimenting in the kitchen – I’ve encored several of the recipes that already appear in the archives here.  Today, however, I spent a couple hours doing crafts with some women from our church, and one of them brought a wonderful cake; I asked her for the recipe so that I could present it to you, and make it available to add to our Pinterest boards!  It was a recipe that appeared in the Swiss Coop grocer’s online magazine back in October 2013, so I offer you the original German version along with my English translation and conversions.  It’s a delicious torte well worth making!

 

In case you’re wondering what the difference between a cake and a torte is, the latter is a rich, dense cake made with relatively many eggs and little to no flour; that also means that you’ll want to serve smaller portions!

Marronikuchen

4 Eier (Eigelb und Eiweiss trennen)

200 gr Butter

1 Päckli Vanillezucker

150 gr Zucker

350 gr Marronipurée

50 gr Mandeln

½ Päckli Backpulver

Zubereitung:  Butter schaumig rühren, Eigelb, Zucker, Vanillezucker zugeben, weiterrühren.  Marronipurée, Mandelm und Backpulver zugeben.  Eiweiss zu Schnee schlagen und vorsichtig unter die Masse heben.  In einer eingebutterten Springform bei 180°C ca. 50-55 Minuten in der unteren Ofenhälfte backen.

Chestnut Torte

4 eggs (separate yolks and whites)

200 gr. (7 oz.) butter

7 gr. vanilla sugar, or 1 tsp. vanilla extract

150 gr. (5 oz.) sugar

350 gr. (12 oz.) chestnut purée (in Switzerland, also known as “Vermicelles”)

50 gr. ground almonds

7 gr. (1½ tsp.) baking powder

Preparation:  Beat the butter until foamy, then stir in egg yolks, sugar & vanilla; blend thoroughly.  Add the chestnut purée, almonds & baking powder.  In a separate bowl, whip egg whites until foamy; carefully fold into the first mixture.  Pour into a buttered springform pan and bake at 180°C (350°F) for 50-55 minutes on the lower rack of the oven.