Sunday, December 24, 2017

Gingerbread Creations

When I lived in Nevada, every year for Christmas I made gingerbread creations like this one: 

And this one:

But then I moved to Hawaii. I love living in Hawaii, but it's humid. This is what happens to gingerbread creations in Hawaii:

It was going to be a clock tower with a candy face and a light inside the top, but it softened and collapsed within a few hours of being assembled. Darn humidity.

When I told my mom about this, she had a solution. She bought me a set of star-shaped cookie cutters for making a cookie tree. The cookie tree, she said, couldn't fall over because each cookie was stacked on the one below it. It was a Hawaii-proof gingerbread creation. So I tried it.

I still wanted to have candy windows, so I cut them out of the points of each of the larger stars.

The finished product looked like this. Not too bad.

But then it melted.

And melted some more.

That's Hawaii for you.

Over the next few years I tried different things. No more candy windows, but since a tree should be green I tried spreading each cookie with green frosting.

Most of the green ended up hidden between the cookies.

So the next year I tried dipping each cookie in green frosting.

That doesn't quite look the way I had envisioned it. It's all drippy.

This year I filled a decorating bag with green frosting and used a star tip. First I stacked up the cookies, using a ring of frosting between each one. Then I started at the bottom and piped the frosting onto the tips of each cookie star while my children put on the candies.

Now that's more like it!

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Minecraft Feast (With Recipes)

For my son's 14th birthday he asked for a Minecraft party. All of his friends were coming over with their laptops and tablets so they could sit around and play Minecraft. This meant I didn't have to come up with party games, so I had plenty of energy to come up with a Minecraft feast.

My son and I looked at the Minecraft wiki and picked out a list of foods that he liked that weren't too hard to come up with:
  • Mushroom Stew 
  • Bread 
  • Golden (delicious) Apples 
  • Carrots (with greens still attached) 
  • Watermelon 
  • Pumpkin Pie 
I have to admit I was relieved my son asked for pumpkin pie instead of a cake. I could have tried to copy the exact look of a Minecraft cake, but it probably would have turned out like that Death Star cake my son's friend took for a sea slug at a previous birthday party.

When it came time for dinner at the Minecraft party, the party guests really got a kick out of the food. At first some of the boys were reluctant to try the mushroom stew, but those who did try it convinced the others to give it a go, and after that it was gone pretty quick.

If you'd like to create your own Minecraft feast for eight people, here's how to do it:

Purchase the supplies you need, such as the two pounds of fresh mushrooms, eight golden delicious apples, eight carrots with greens attached, and a medium-sized watermelon.

 Minecraft Bread (make a day ahead):

4 cups water
2 TBSP yeast
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
8 cups flour
4 TBSP butter, softened
additional flour

In a large bowl, put the 4 cups of water, 2 TBSP yeast, and 1/4 cup sugar. Let the yeast dissolve and begin to bubble. Add six cups of flour, the butter, and the salt. Stir until completely mixed. Add 2 more cups of flour to make a soft dough.

Sprinkle a clean surface generously with flour. Turn out the dough and knead for ten minutes, adding more flour if the dough gets sticky. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and let rise for about one hour, until doubled.

Punch down the dough. Divide it into eight equal pieces. Grease two large baking pans. Flatten each piece into a rectangle and roll up into an oval-shaped loaf, like the bread in the Minecraft game. Pinch the seams and the ends to seal. Place four loaves on each pan. Make three diagonal slashes in the top of each loaf. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. When the oven has finished heating, put the pans in. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the tops of the loaves are golden brown. Remove pans from oven. Remove loaves from pans and let cool on racks. Store at room temperature in air-tight bags or containers until ready to serve.

Pumpkin Pie

For the pumpkin pie, just use your favorite recipe or buy a pie from your grocery store bakery.

Minecraft Mushroom Stew (start about 1 1/2 hours ahead):

2 lbs fresh mushrooms
2 TBSP butter
2 cups chicken or beef stock
1 tsp thyme
2 cups milk or cream, or 1 15 oz can coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste

Wash and slice the mushrooms. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are tender, about 20 minutes. Add the chicken stock and thyme and let simmer, uncovered, for another 20 minutes. Add milk or cream and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

Apples, Carrots, Watermelon

While the stew is simmering, prepare the fresh fruits and vegetables.

My grocery store carries organic carrots with the greens still on. They taste fantastic, like fresh from the garden. Remove any badly wilted greens. Wash and peel the carrots without removing the tops.

Wash the golden delicious apples and place them in a bowl.

Wash the watermelon, then slice it longways into wedges.

Enjoy your feast!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pumpkin Casserole

My neighbors know I like pumpkin. Last year I told them I'd give them one bottle of home-made pumpkin pie filling if I could have their jack-o-lanterns when they were done with them on Halloween night.

This year I still have pie filling left from last year, so I didn't go pumpkin gathering. But I did take our own jack-o-lanterns and turn them into a different tasty treat. Pumpkin Casserole.

I wanted to get a picture when it was all pretty right out of the oven, but we ate it too fast.

Here's the recipe:

1 medium pumpkin (or two butternut squash), cooked, peeled, and mashed, about 4 cups
1 cup white sauce OR 1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup diced ham
1/4 lb saltine crackers, coarsely crushed
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

White Sauce:
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1 tsp salt
dash pepper

If you use a left-over jack-o-lantern, carefully scrape out any smoke spots or candle wax drips.

To cook the pumpkin I've used various methods. I've cut it up and put it in the crock pot. I've roasted it whole in the oven. This year I cut it in half and microwaved it, six minutes at a time, until it was tender and the peel came off easily. That didn't heat up the kitchen at all, which is very important in Hawaii, even in November! I always peel the pumpkin after I cook it. It's easier that way.

To make the white sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and cook and stir until bubbly. Whisk in the milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add the salt, and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mix the white sauce with four cups of pumpkin, then stir in the diced ham. Spread the mixture in a 9x13 pan. Sprinkle the crackers on top and bake for 30 minutes.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Ghost Omelets

I know most of you on the mainland had breakfast hours ago, but maybe you'd like to try this idea for next year:

 These are super fast and easy. All you need is:
  • Two eggs per person
  • One and a half circular-shaped slices of lunch meat per person. We used ham, but Canadian bacon, summer sausage, or even bologna would work.
  • Your favorite shredded cheese
  • Butter or margerine
  • Salt and pepper

Melt a little butter in a round, flat skillet. Non-stick or well seasoned cast iron works best. Cut a half-circle of lunch meat into two eye pieces. Crack two eggs into a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Whisk eggs with a fork, then pour them onto the hot skillet. Sprinkle with shredded cheese, then arrange eye pieces and a full circle of lunch meat for the mouth. Cook about 2 minutes or until the omelet is firm, using a lid to cover the skillet so that the top side will cook without flipping. Gently slide the cooked omelet onto a plate.
The kids can have even more fun once the ghost omlete is on their plate:

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Harp No. 7: Rough Cuts

Before I take the wood to the band saw I start by making rough cuts with a circular saw. First I used my fine-tooth blade to cut a piece for the box back out of 3/8 inch plywood. This is my daughter helping me.
Next I rough cut my arch and pillar pieces. One 4ft by 4ft piece of plywood is enough to make two of these. My husband is watching from the other side to make sure I stop the cut in the right spot.

Once the pieces are rough cut, I can take them to the band saw and do the precision work.
Believe it or not, here's all the wood, rough cut, that I need to make a harp:

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Harp No. 7

The first step in designing and building a harp is... designing it. This time I'm using the computer. Oh how I love those bezier curves. It's a snap to tweak it here and there until it looks just right. I also like being able to accurately space the strings, then with a click and a drag adjust their angle with the sound box until I like the shape of the harmonic curve along the top. Back when I did this by hand I had to re-draw everything if I wanted to try a different angle.
After I've got the design ready, I can print it out, actual size, on multiple sheets of paper. Then I tape it together and trace the arch and pillar onto my sheet of plywood.
I cleaned up the workshop today and should be ready to start cutting on Monday.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Harp Update

This is how it all looked at the beginning of the semester.
I keep thinking that I'm going to post instructions for how to build these harps, but then something happens. The first time, my husband got a job in Hawaii in the middle of a harp-building project, so I had to box up all the pieces in Nevada, send them half-way across the Pacific in a container, and then put them together six months later after they'd adjusted to the new humidity level. Needless to say, the blogging suffered.

This time, I was unexpectedly asked to teach two college classes when I thought I'd be taking a semester off, and this only a short while after I'd cut out all the pieces. I like having money, so I said yes to the teaching and let the harp pieces sit in the garage. When I had the chance on a weekend I'd steal a few hours to make some progress on the project. Forget setting up photos and then coming up with something witty to say about them on my blog.
We stained most of the pieces over Thanksgiving weekend.
But after having attempted to document this process on my blog several times, I think I've collected enough photos and notes that I can do a decent harp building page. I'll add it to my list of things to do in 2013.
Over Christmas break we finished the staining and I fitted the box.
Happy New Year, everyone!