pumpkin spice candy apples

October 2, 2011 § 7 Comments

It’s pumpkin and apple season!

I’ve noticed that when candy or chocolate apples are made to look like pumpkins, lines are piped on the surface of the apple, which happens to be quite the opposite of how pumpkins truly are.  I figured, why not imitate the recessed lines of pumpkins by cutting thin slices out of the apple?

So, that’s exactly what I did to make these apples look truly like pumpkins.

Then I figured, why not make them taste like pumpkin pie?

And that’s exactly what I did.  I threw in some cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger into the candy melts.  And now my pumpkin candy apples taste just like pumpkin pie.

Did the apples brown at the cut edges?  Not so much.  They were immediately dipped in candy melts, which coated them well enough to keep from browning.  Would the apples brown the next day because they’ve been cut?  Hmmm, I’m not so sure.  I ate almost all of them almost immediately.

I did save one for a friend, which I packaged using the technique in my recent tutorial on packaging cupcakes, cookies, and macarons, this time using a 2L pop bottle.

decorative pine cone using paper recyclables

November 22, 2010 § 4 Comments

About two weeks ago, I was approached by Reena, the owner of eco-artware.com, requesting my permission to feature my butternut squashes on the eco-artware-notes blog site for this week of Thanksgiving.  I was very flattered.  Thank you, Reena.  Eco-artware has some of the most wonderful sustainable art and décor you could find online, and a long list of very intriguing, creative artists and environmental advocates.  With all my wonder came guilt.  I often craft without bringing to mind the impact my work makes on the environment, especially with my significant use of paper.  The topic of sustainability was an emphasis in my architecture training, and today, I am reminded and shamed of how little it’s been in my consciousness in recent years.  I hope to get some reprieve for the less ecological crafts I’ve made and will be making in the future.  Today, I want to take a greener approach to a fun holiday craft: making a large decorative pine cone out of paper recyclables.

This summer, I had my first encounter with giant sequoia trees while hiking in Tuolumne Grove in Yosemite.   O.T. and I took the time to scour the grounds for the most handsome fallen giant cones to take home.  It occurred to me that since my “real” home is Toronto and not San Jose, I would require a clean pass through customs.  I would never risk consequential penalties with the law for a couple of mammoth cones, so I let the experience of these amusing novelties remain south of the border.  There are no sequoia trees anywhere near Toronto, so a homemade version will do.  *Edit: I thought O.T. and I had picked up sequoia cones, but as Suzi commented, these are in fact sugar pine cones.  Thanks, Suzi!

For this project, I repurposed a used paper towel core cut to about 7″ long and a few kraft paper bags.

1. Cut strips of the kraft paper bags in decreasing size, from about 8″ wide to 2″ wide.  They don’t have to be exact.  Fold each strip in half so that the print is hidden inside.  You will have folded strips about 4″ wide to 1″ wide.

2. Cut each strip into several slices, each being no more than 2″ wide.  Continue for all the strips, each time getting narrower, but no less than 1″ wide.

3. Fold each piece in half, and cut a curve on the open side.

4. Open each piece and cut a slit from the bottom, up to about 1″.

5.  With the crease facing upwards, fold the bottom sides up with a slight angle away from the crease.

6. Slit your paper towel core in four quadrants and tape the sides to form a peak.

7. Start taping the pieces to the paper towel core, starting from the peak of the paper towel core, and using the smallest pieces first.

8. Continue adhering all the strips, working towards the widest pieces, until you reach the bottom.

9. Once you reach the bottom, tuck and tape the last pieces into the paper towel core.

I decided to use my 7″ wide hurricane vase to display my giant paper sugar pine cone, but it’s up to you to place it wherever you feel it brings life to a room!

whole wheat cornucopia cracker and cheese

November 7, 2010 § 11 Comments

It’s interesting how inspiration comes knocking.  Last Sunday, my brother treated me to a brunch for my birthday.  Over a heaping plate full of bacon and eggs, he was raving about his recent experience of making and eating a bacon explosion with some friends.  If you haven’t heard of a bacon explosion, as I hadn’t as of last week, it is bacon strips woven together in the style of a basket weave, topped with ground meat and rolled into a heart attack-inducing meatloaf.  It couldn’t all quite register as I had a moment of eureka in the basket weave part.  See, before last weekend, I was experimenting with creating shapes out of a whole wheat cracker recipe that I made one day by accidentally over crisping homemade tortillas.  Since, I have been racking my brain for ideas on ways to make creative crackers.  And my brother’s fervent blather about woven bacon was exactly the inspiration I needed.  Thanks, bro!

So, that is how this whole wheat cornucopia cracker and cheese platter has come to be, and just in time for American Thanksgiving, unlike my many other belated ideas.

I must admit, this is an enormous task for a cracker and cheese platter (I realize my 15″ square oversize platter diminishes the horn which is in fact 10″ long and 5″ in diameter enormous).  But it is well worth the effort.  It is a beautiful addition to your Thanksgiving spread.

To create the mold you will need:

1.  A large stainless steel cocktail shaker and aluminum foil.

2. Cut three pieces of foil, each one foot in length.  Crumple the first piece, then hang on the lip of the cocktail shaker.  Crumpling it before attaching it to the shaker saves on the use of foil (it gives shape, without having to use too much).  It is crucial that only a small piece of foil is inside the shaker, because the shaker must be easily removed from the foil after baking.

3. Do the same for the other two pieces of foil.

4. Take a piece of foil about one and a half feet in length and wrap around the shaker.  Make sure that the bulk of the crumpled foil is towards the mouth of the shaker, to have a nice cone shape.

5. Once you have the cone shape, you are ready to bake.

Combine 1/2 c of hot water, 1/8 c of melted butter, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar, and 1 c of whole wheat flour into a dough.

1. Separate the dough into two parts.  For both, roll out the dough on a floured surface until very thin.  Using a pizza cutter and a clean strip of paper measuring 5/8″ wide as a guide, cut strips of the dough.

2. Weave the strips together.  The best trick is to move the strips back when you are adding a new strip under.

3.  Continue to weave.

4. Make sure the weave is larger than the foil-covered cocktail shaker.

5. Place the foil-covered cocktail shaker on the weave and roll until your weave forms a cornucopia.

6. Carefully place the cracker on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Using a sharp knife, trim any excess strips and ensure that the foil at the mouth is not covered.  This is crucial in removing your shaker once the cracker is baked.

7. Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

8. To remove the shaker, first lift the foil from the lip of the shaker.  Slide the shaker out carefully.  Then working from inside out, slide out the pieces of foil.

art of autumn grains

November 4, 2010 § 4 Comments

I teach several after-school and lunch-time programs throughout the week and have the good fortune of being in the company of young children on a daily basis, even just for an hour or two.  One of the many things I love about teaching is the free access pass to a labyrinth of art-clad school halls.  There’s nothing as refreshing to the eyes as beholding children’s work.

I realize, despite all of the technology and gadgets and gaming and software at a child’s fingertips, when it comes to kids, art doesn’t change.  In fact, it isn’t at all different from the art I used to make years back (okay, more like two to three decades back).  Kids are still making art from beans and pasta, as we did when we were kids, and as our kids’ kids will be doing.

I thought it would be fun to make bean art with a theme for fall —  appropriately, the harvest.  Now when it comes down to children’s art techniques, the subject is often forced to be as irrelevant as possible to the medium.  I remember when I was six years old, my bean art was of a galloping horse, its mane spiraling with mung beans.

For this craft, I felt it apropos to abandon our childhood paradigm of obliging imagination and, instead, make things out of what they really are.  Corn art out of corn.  And wheat art out of wheat (well, more technically speaking: pasta.  Semolina is really just a fancy name for wheat flour!).

I really had fun with this one!  It took me back decades.

carved squash centerpieces

November 2, 2010 § 42 Comments

Just when I thought I’d seen enough squashes and gourds adorning a Thanksgiving table, I came up with an idea of carving butternut squashes into beautiful flowers.  I’ve always fancied the butternut squash for its shape, color, and density (apart from being so incredibly delicious!).  Butternut squashes are adorably unique.  They also happen to have a substantial amount of flesh, are considerably less hollow than most gourds, and make for a divine base for carving.

What’s best is that butternut squashes are overly abundant and inexpensive this time of year.  I got mine at thirty-nine cents a pound.  I spent a miserly $2.40 on this entire centerpiece arrangement.   For a couple of bucks, half an hour of time, and a striking conversation piece, you absolutely cannot go wrong with this beautiful project.

You will need as many butternut squashes as you’d like and a paring knife.  I bought three medium-size squashes weighing two pounds each.  It takes only ten minutes to carve each one, so carve as many as your table and schedule can fit!  Just make sure these are carved on the morning of your party and kept in the fridge until your table is ready for setting.

1. Using a paring knife, peel the skin in six sections at about 1/8″ in thickness until you get to the bulb of the squash (about 3/4 down) and the peels are hanging.

2. Continue carving a second layer of six slices (petals).  It’s best to carve in such a way that the  peaks made by the previous cuts are now in the middle of the new cuts.

3. Carve a third layer of six petals.

4. Carve a fourth layer of six petals (by this time the petals are much smaller).  Cut the center flesh into a short stump.

5.  Carve the center until it is rounded.

harvest candy corn favor boxes

November 1, 2010 § 22 Comments

candy corn favor boxI started my blog days before Canadian Thanksgiving and agonize at having missed the opportunity to post some crafts for the holiday.  It’s a blessing that American Thanksgiving is still to come!  I like entitling myself to the double celebration of Thanksgiving each year, considering that three of the four most important people in my life live in America.  Every American Thanksgiving weekend has been spent at my parents’ in Michigan.  Having said that, my next few crafts may regrettably be a few weeks out of date for my beloved Canadians, but for my American family and friends, the crafts are just in season.

I hope you have an a-maize-ing time creating these delectable candy corn favors!

You will need scissors, good quality double-sided tape (I always use the ones with backing), and the following:

a. Corn patterned paper.  Don’t worry, I’ve done the designing for you!!  I am happy to provide the sheet here for free for you to download and print on cardstock.  Each sheet has two yellow corn patterns and two Indian corn patterns.  Kindly note that this sheet is only for your personal use. *Edit: I’ve had a special request for a black & white version of the corn pattern so that your little ones can color the kernels in, so you can upload the b&w version, too.  Thanks for the great suggestion, Bridget!*

b. Green and yellow crepe streamers.

c. Candy corn.

d. Yellow tissue paper.  Cut each sheet into quarters.  1 sheet (4 quarters) makes 2 favor boxes.

Now, to make this fun and easy project:

1. Using double-sided tape, roll the corn pattern into a tube.

2. Take the quarters of tissue paper and roll into balls.

3. Plug one end of the corn tube with a ball of tissue paper, then fill with candy corn, and plug the other end with a second ball of tissue paper.

4. Cut your streamers into 5-1/2″, 6-1/2″, and 7″ strips and shape into husks.  Each corn will need two 5-1/2″ strips, two 6-1/2″ strips, and one 7″ strip.  I used green streamer for the yellow corn and yellow streamer for the Indian corn.

5. Using double-sided tape, arrange and adhere the husks to cover the bottom of the tube entirely, the sides of the tube, and the top of the tube partially.

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