Monday, September 27, 2010

Friendly Ghosts

These spirited little fellows are a cinch to make once you've set up a workstation. To do so, stack one small paper cup atop another that's turned upside down. (For extra stability, tape the cups together.) Inflate a small balloon and rest it in the top cup. Cut cheesecloth into pieces that measure about eight inches square and fill a bowl with fabric stiffener 

Step 1
Soak a piece of cheese cloth in fabric stiffener and immediately drape it over the balloon.
Let dry for 10 minutes.

Step 2
Pop the balloon with a pin to reveal a hardened shape.
Cut two tiny circles out of black felt for 
eyes and affix them to the ghost with tacky glue.

Step 3
Remove the ghost from the cup and use your 
fingers to rough up the ends. Thread fishing
line through the top of each ghost, securing
with a knot to hang.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Leeks in Cream Sauce

Serves 4-6
4 Large or 8 medium leeks
1 1/4 cup milk
8 fatty strips of bacon
1 egg
2/3 cup light cream 
1 tbsp. mild Irish mustard
3/4 cup grated Irish cheese  
salt and pepper to taste 

    Slice the leeks into fairly large chunks. 
    Put them into a pan with the milk.
    Season and bring to a boil. Reduce 
    the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes
    or until the leeks are tender. Drain well 
    (reserving some liquor) turn the leeks 
    into a buttered shallow baking dish.

    Meanwhile, if using bacon, put into a frying 
    pan and cook gently to allow the fat to run. 
    Then turn uo the heat a little and cook for a few  
    minutes until it crisps up. Remove from the pan
    with a slotted spoon and sprinkle the bacon over the leeks

    Rinse the pan used for the leeks.
    Blend the beaten egg, light cream, and
    Irish mustard together and mix it with
    the reserved cooking liquor. Return 
    to the pan and heat gently without boiling,
    allowing the sauce to thicken a little. Taste and
    adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
    Pour the sauce over the leeks and bacon.

    Sprinkle with grated cheese, if using. 
    and brown for a few minutes under the 
    hot broiler.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Crescent Mummy's (From Pillsbury)


1can (8 oz) Pillsbury refrigerated crescent dinner rolls or 1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury Crescent Recipe Creations refrigerated seamless dough sheet

2 1/2 slices American cheese, quartered (2.5 oz)

10 large hot dogs

Cooking spray

Mustard or ketchup, if desired

  • 1Heat oven to 375°F.
  • 2If using crescent rolls: Unroll dough; separate at perforations, creating 4 rectangles. Press perforations to seal. If using dough sheet: Unroll dough; cut into 4 rectangles.
  • 3With knife or kitchen scissors, cut each rectangle lengthwise into 10 pieces, making a total of 40 pieces of dough. Slice cheese slices into quarters (1/2 slice cheese, cut in half).
  • 4Wrap 4 pieces of dough around each hot dog and 1/4 slice of cheese to look like "bandages," stretching dough slightly to completely cover hot dog. About 1/2 inch from one end of each hot dog, separate "bandages" so hot dog shows through for "face." On un-greased large cookie sheet, place wrapped hot dogs (cheese side down); spray dough lightly with cooking spray.
  • 5Bake 13 to 17 minutes or until dough is light golden brown and hot dogs are hot. With mustard, draw features on "face."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Black Cat Pillows (Courtesy WomensDay)

Hand sewing needles
Black thread
1⁄2-inch black or pink button
Black pillow (about 12 inches across in any fabric as desired)
Two 1⁄2-inch crystal buttons
White embroidery floss.

1. Thread a long needle with black thread; sew the 1⁄2-inch button to the center of the pillow, stitching all the way through and pulling the thread tight, forming the cat’s nose.
2. Sew crystal buttons above nose to make eyes.
3. Thread an embroidery needle with 2 strands of floss. To make whiskers, make a small stitch on one side of nose; tie thread ends together and trim to about 2 inches long. Make several more whiskers on each side of nose in this way.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Halloween Crafts: Skeleton Hands (Curtasey WD)

Materials (for one hand)
Wood beads: 1 large, 10 small
Electric drill and bits
C-clamps; wood spools: 6 large, 16 medium
Foam paintbrush
Small and medium wood spools
Hot-glue gun
Strong, thin twine
1. Clamp large bead to work surface. Drill a hole straight through bead at a right angle to original hole, forming cross. Drill 2 more holes in bead, placing them to each side of new center hole and stopping when bit reaches original hole. This creates 5 holes for thumb and fingers over top of bead and one wrist hole at base.
2. Paint all beads and spools; let dry.
3. To make wrist section, glue 4 medium spools together end-to-end, keeping holes aligned. To make forearm section, glue 5 large spools together end-to-end, keeping holes aligned.
4. To make fingers and thumb, cut 5 pieces of twine, each 3 times as long as the wrist and forearm total length.
5. To make thumb, thread a small bead onto center of one piece of twine. Slip both ends through the remaining large spool, then through another small bead.
6. To make each finger, thread a small bead onto center of each remaining piece of twine. For pinky, slip both ends through 2 small spools, then through another small bead. For middle finger, slip both ends through 4 small spools, then through another small bead. For index and ring fingers, use 3 small spools and assemble in same manner.
7. Arrange fingers and thumb in correct order. Hold both twine ends together for each piece. Slip thumb twine through end hole in bead so ends extend through wrist hole. Slip index finger twine through second hole so ends extend through wrist hole. Slip twine from each remaining finger through holes in order so all ends extend through wrist hole.
8. Hold all twine ends together. Slip all ends through wrist section, then forearm section. Knot ends together, leaving an inch or two of slack in twine. Trim ends.
9. Pull twine knot to make the hand stretch out. Creepy!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Lauren's Ultimate Salsa (Courtesy Lauren Marchlewski)

My dearest sister-in-law Lauren passed along her recipe for the best salsa ever. We owe her a big thanks because this stuff is too good for the words. 

1 can of rotell with cilantro
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp of garlic powder or chopped garlic
1/2 tsp of white vinegar
1/4 c chopped onion or 1 tsp dried onion flakes

blend all for 30 seconds or until blended

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Tin can
Hammer and nail

Metal primer
Acrylic paints
: orange and black (you could also use a can of Rustoleum spray paint {I love the metallic colors})
Several yds of 18–20-gauge black annealed stovepipe wire
Tacky glue (we used Aleene’s Original)
Votive candle (Kid Friendly Alternative – flame-less votive candles {you can find a pack of these at Michael’s})

Clamp can to table and poke holes for handle on opposite sides 1/2″ below top with hammer and nail.
Sand, prime, then paint outside of can orange (I love terracotta/copper/gold pumpkins – this would be a cute alternative).
outline of a jack-o’-lantern face on front and punch holes along outlines. Paint face black. Let dry.
Wind 27″ wire around a bunch of pencils or a thick dowel; remove and fasten ends in holes. Glue votive in place (or use a flame-less votive). When candle is lit, bend handle away so it doesn’t heat up.

IMPORTANT TIP: Never leave your candles unattended.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Baked Polenta (Courtesy Giada De Laurentiis)


  • Vegetable oil, for greasing pan
  • 1 (16-ounce) package instant polenta
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease an 11 by 17-inch baking sheet pan with oil. Line pan with waxed paper. The oil will secure the waxed paper onto the pan.
In a large pot bring to a boil 2 quarts of salted water. Stir in extra-virgin olive oil. When water has reached a boil, reduce heat to medium high and slowly add the polenta, whisking constantly for 3 minutes. When polenta is thick and smooth, pour it into the prepared pan. Spread the polenta evenly.
Bake in oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan. Note: the polenta will not brown or change in color. When cool enough to handle, cut into any shape you desire. I like to cut out 2-inch circles.

Balsamic Chicken Drumettes (Courtesy Giada De Laurentiis)

This tasty dish was a smash hit at our Italian night at church. 


  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 5 sprigs of rosemary
  • 5 garlic cloves, halved
  • 10 to 12 chicken drumsticks
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


Combine the balsamic, honey, brown sugar, soy sauce, rosemary sprigs, and garlic cloves, in a large, re-sealable plastic bag. Shake and squeeze the contents of the bag to dissolve the honey and the brown sugar. Add the chicken drumsticks to the bag and seal with as little air as possible in the bag. Place in the refrigerator and marinate for 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Place the chicken drumsticks on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until the skin is caramelized and very dark in spots, about 30 to 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the marinade in a small saucepan. Bring the marinade to a boil (in order to kill bacteria). Reduce the heat to simmer and cook over low heat until thick, about 15 minutes. Reserve.
Use a pastry brush to brush some of the cooked marinade on the cooked chicken. Place the chicken on a serving platter. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and the chopped parsley.
Cook's note: I like the rosemary and garlic flavors in the background. Brushing the cooked drumettes with the reduced marinade helps the flavors along. Also, re-moistening helps the parsley and the seeds to adhere.

Prep: 2 hours
Cook Time: 30-35 minutes
Yields: 4-6 

Cajun Pot-Roast


  • 1  2- to 2-1/2-pound  boneless beef chuck pot roast
  • 2  to 3 teaspoons  Cajun seasoning*
  • 1  tablespoon  cooking oil
  • 1  14-1/2-ounce can  Cajun-style or Mexican-style stewed tomatoes
  • 1  cup  chopped onion
  • 1  cup  chopped celery
  • 1/4  cup  quick-cooking tapioca
  • 1  teaspoon  bottled minced garlic or 2 cloves garlic, minced
  •     Hot cooked rice


1. Trim fat from roast. Cut roast to fit in crockery cooker, if necessary. Rub Cajun seasoning all over meat. In a large skillet brown meat on all sides in hot oil.
2. In a 3-1/2- to 4-quart crockery cooker combine undrained tomatoes, onion, celery, tapioca, and garlic. Place meat on top of vegetable mixture.
3. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 10 to 12 hours or on high-heat setting for 5 to 6 hours.
4. Slice meat; serve with sauce over rice. Makes 6 servings.

*Note: Look for Cajun seasoning in the spice section of your supermarket. Or, to make your own, mix together 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt, 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon ground red pepper, and 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper.

Make-Ahead Tip: This mildly spiced meat and sauce also make a delicious hot sandwich. Using two forks, shred any leftover meat. Combine the shredded beef and remaining sauce in a storage container; cover and freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to eat, thaw mixture overnight in the refrigerator. Pour into a saucepan and heat through. Serve on hard rolls with sliced tomato and sliced green onion. 

Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 10 Hours

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Curried Butternut Squash Soup


  • 2  teaspoons  vegetable oil
  • 1  cup  thinly sliced leek (about 1 large)
  • 1  tablespoon  curry powder
  • 1  tablespoon  brown sugar
  • 3/4  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1/4  teaspoon  ground red pepper
  • 5  garlic cloves, chopped
  • 6  cups  chopped peeled butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
  • 6  cups  water
  • 4  cups  chopped peeled Granny Smith apple (about 1 pound)
  • 1/3  cup  whipping cream
  • 3/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 2/3  cup  minced fresh cilantro


Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add leek and next 5 ingredients (leek through garlic), and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add squash, water, and apple; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes or until tender.
Place half of soup in a blender; process until smooth. Pour puréed soup into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with the remaining soup. Return soup to pan; stir in cream and salt. Cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle each serving with about 1 tablespoon cilantro.

Yields: 10 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Needle-Punch Pumpkin and Mat (From BHG)

What You Need

  • 11-x-11-inch square of weaver's cloth
  • Ultra-fine-tip black permanent marker
  • 1-1/8-inch star button
  • 7-inch locking hoop
  • Three skeins each of ecru and black embroidery floss
  • 3-strand punch needle
  • 8-x-8-inch square of burnt orange wool felt
  • Fabric marker
  • Black frame with 6-x-6-inch back opening and mounting board
  • Fabrics glue
How to Make It

Transfer the Pattern to Fabric
  1. Download the free pattern and trace onto white paper.  You can find the free pattern at
  2. Tape the pattern to a sunny window or light box. Center and tape the weaver's cloth over the pattern so the direction the fabric stretches is from top to bottom.
  3. Use the permanent marker to trace the solid pattern lines onto the fabric.
  4. Using the dashed lines as a guide, position the star button on the fabric and trace the shape onto the fabric with the marker.

Punch the Design
  1. With the pattern side up, very tightly secure the fabric in the locking hoop without distorting the design.
  2. Separate the strands of floss and thread the punch needle, following the manufacturer's instructions.
  3. For this design, the needle indicator pin, which controls the height of the loops on the front, was set to 1.
  4. Use the shortest needle length that you feel comfortable with to punch the design.
  5. To begin, outline the pumpkin just inside the outer shape line with black.
  6. Make the stitches very close together so no space shows between them. To ensure a perfect fit for the button, punch directly on the lines for the star.
  7. Fill in the pumpkin; do not punch inside the star shape. Continue with black, punching directly on the lines for the pumpkin vine and the scalloped inner border.
  8. In addition, punch directly on the outer border line and then again just beyond it to create a border that's two punch stitches wide.
  9. Using ecru, start the background by outlining each of the previously punched elements.
  10. Continue adding consecutive rows of punches just beyond these outlines until the outlines meet. Fill in any remaining spaces to complete the background.
  11. Trim any long or loose pieces of floss, including beginning and ending thread tails, to the same length as the punched loops.
  12. Snuggle the button into the unpunched star space and sew in place.

Prepare the Mat
  1. Measure the size of the finished design. Using a fabric marker, center and draw these measurements on the felt.
  2. Cut along the drawn lines.
  3. Blanket-stitch around the opening with three stands of black floss.

Frame the Design
  1. Stretch and mount the finished design on the mounting board.
  2. Place the mat on the mounted design so the buttonhole stitches of the mat are up against the outer punched loops.
  3. If desired, apply dots of glue to the back of the mat to hold it in place.
  4. Take care not to saturate the felt with glue, or it will show on the front.
  5. Trim the mat even with the edges of the mounting board and place it in the frame.