Plarn Bags, & How to Fold Plastic Bags

I don’t know about you, but I find that plastic bags seem to multiply like rabbits; until they are no longer made, I say that we need to take lemons and make lemonade.  I use bags to crochet “plarn” items, and reuse some as waste bin liners.  This image below is from Pinterest; the source was not attached, so if you know who took the original image, I’d like to credit them for the image below.

I’ve been using this technique for years, and it’s simple, neat, and convenient.  I store my bags in an old whiskey carton; I can then grab a few and toss into the bottom of our smaller bins occasionally.  For larger plastic bags, I have a storage bag; the size of the triangle tells me roughly which size bag I’ll get, so I can quickly find the right size (or colour, if for crafts) of the bag I grab.

The last step is not very clear; it’s simply that you tuck the last fold into the other folds, to keep it from unravelling.  If you find that a bag’s “leftover fold” is too short to hold, back up one fold, fold the top in the opposite direction to form a triangle, and then tuck it in.

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Below are a few of the bags I’ve made; the white plastic yarn, or “plarn” is made from the flimsy veggie bags you get at grocery stores.  Cut into one continuous strip; once they’re crocheted, they’re sturdy, and you can toss the bag into the laundry when needed!  The black bag is made from the thickness of bags you get at a clothes shop.  I use that bag to tote reuseable grocery bags in, and I’ve added pockets by ironing (between baking papers) cut-outs of drink plastic wraps (below), and ironing them onto the sides of the bag (be sure to slip baking paper under areas of the label that you don’t want melted to the plarn bag, to create the pocket!).  If you’re interested in doing something like that, there are tons of tutorials on YouTube and Pinterest!!

 

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Chicken Taco Pizza

Today I was in the mood for a pizza, but also Tex-Mex; so why not combine them?  I hunted around for a simple recipe and found a lot of complicated ones, so I came up with my own.  This literally has 4 simple steps – the meat, the base, the topping prep, and baking, DONE!  So without further ado, here it is:

Chicken Taco Pizza

Chicken Taco Pizza

The Meat:

600-800 gr. Chicken meat, diced

1 spring onion, finely chopped

Taco spice * to taste

Toss into a pan & turn the stove on high.  Stir, cooking until the meat is done; set aside to cool.

Mix into the meat:

~ ½ C. mayonnaise or sour cream or plain yoghurt, along with a squirt of lemon juice and about 1 garlic clove’s worth of garlic paste.

The Base:

Instead of the typical pizza base of tomato sauce, essentially this is a bean sauce.

1 tin of beans, drained – either white beans or kidney beans; if you’re daring, a tin of refried beans!

Pop the contents into a blender, sprinkle in a few chives & a bit of seasoning or lemon juice, and blitz until a smooth paste.

The Toppings:

Slice any or all of the following toppings:

6-8 button mushrooms

10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved

Black olives(pitted), chopped

1 red bell pepper, finely diced

1 avocado, halved, pitted & peeled, and sliced thinly

~1 C. grated Cheddar cheese

On a tray, roll out your phyllo dough onto a sheet of baking paper, and spread the base mixture from edge to edge.  Pour the meat mixture on (drain, if too juicy) and spread it out, then toss on the toppings, and top with the cheese.

The Baking:

Pop it in the cold oven, and 45 minutes to an hour before you’re ready to eat, turn the oven on to 180°C (350°F).  Serve hot, and enjoy!

Can be served with tortilla chips, salsa and guacamole, or just as-is!

 

*You can use any taco or fajita spice you like; if you don’t have access to such a spice in the store, or you want to make your own to ensure you know what’s in it, click here for a DIY recipe.

Dietary note:  For those who are lactose intolerant, Cheddar cheese is naturally lactose-free; the yoghurt or sour cream can be the LF variety, and you’ve still got a tasty meal!

Quick & Easy Lentil, Chickpea, Coconut & Curry Stew/Dip

I was recently in the hospital for surgery, and as a result, our meals are mainly liquid (or at least smooth) at the moment as I can’t swallow anything more solid!  This situation has led to my discovering new ways to make soup tasty, healthy and keep it from getting boring.  The following recipe came out of my soup pan yesterday, so I thought I’d share it with you!

It turned out delicious, and is just as tasty cold as it is hot; in fact, this comes out so thick as a puree that it could be served as a dip with crackers or crudité.  As I keep both chopped frozen coriander & onions on hand, this literally took 3 minutes to toss together… quick & easy is my favourite method!

Lentil,Chickpea,Coconut Curry Stew & Dip

Lentil, Chickpea, Coconut & Curry Stew

1 tin lentils

1 large tin chickpeas (or 2 smaller tins)

1 tin coconut milk (2, if you want it soupier)

1 handful fresh or frozen coriander

1 onion, finely chopped

curry spice to taste

1 tsp. each of ginger paste, lemon grass paste, and garlic paste (or amount to taste in whichever form you have available)

Tumeric, salt and pepper to taste

 

Toss it all into a pan, bring to a boil.  For those who want it smooth, puree the mixture before serving.

Serve with bread or crackers, or Naan bread.  Serves 4-6.

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 line”), 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.