Thursday, March 15, 2012

Extra Yummy (Instant) Hot Chocolate

It's not a big secret recipe or anything, but adding a dash or two of cinnamon to your hot chocolate makes it extra delicious.
If you want to get super-yummy, steep a bag of Good Earth Original tea in the hot water (yes, we usually make instant hot chocolate) and then add the cocoa powder.
Of course, my daughter likes to add one more step (because sprinkles, it seems, makes everything better).

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Microwave popcorn in a paper bag

I've been hearing about microwaving popcorn in paper bag. A friend told me that there are rumors linking microwave popcorn to infertility. I haven't been able to track down any websites (that I thought were highly credible) that cited this information, but there is a lot of chatter over the concern of chemicals used in the microwave popcorn bags. So why not give this paper bag thing a shot, I thought.
I looked at a few websites and the theme was basically the same:
Use 1/4 to 1/2 cup popcorn
Oil is optional
Seasoning is optional
Use melted butter *after* the popcorn is done popping
Some sites say you can staple the bag shut, others say you should avoid it.
1 bag = 2-3 minutes in the microwave
As you can see, there are two bags in the picture at the top of the page. My daughter prefers plain foods and I like seasonings and spices.
I put 1/2 cup of popcorn in her bag.
I put 1/2 cup of popcorn in my bag, plus 1 tsp. oil and some lemon pepper seasoning.
I folded the top of the bag four times. When it was popping, I got a bit nervous that it would open, but it worked well.
The popcorn is delicious!!
2 bags of popcorn took about 3.5 minutes
1/2 cup of popcorn is too much for one person!
Add more seasoning next time
Happy popping!!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Papier-mache Teacups

I found this on Pinterest, and give full credit to Ann Wood ( The purpose of this blog is to show you the great ideas I found, tried, flopped, and what I learned.
Ann took a really artistic and beautiful approach to these teacups. I, on the other hand, planned to make them as part of a party favor for sixteen 6-7 year olds as part of my daughter's surprise 7th birthday party. Instead of wanting to create an artistic piece to look lovely on a shelf, I wanted to work quickly and make something temporary that a little kid could toss in the recycling.
But I was surprised. (Wait for it.)
I began by cutting up a cereal box and a cardboard case for 24 cans of soda (this was enough to make 18 cups). See Ann's post for the template. I laid out the main parts of the cup on aluminum foil because I knew it would get messy.
I used about a cup of flour and gradually added water until it came to a nice consistency. As advised on another papier-mache site, I used my kitchen stand mixer to get a really nice consistency.
I didn't plan on painting the cups because I was looking for speed and something more temporary. Instead of newspaper, I used some "art" paper (like scrap booking paper). Originally, I cut four sheets into strips but I ran out of paper and switched to some pages torn out of an old book. Because I saved the handles for last, all of my handles were wrapped in the book pages and it was a really nice contrast and the lightweight paper lended a nice pliability.
When I began, I coated both sides of the paper in the flour-water mixture. As I went on, I only coated one side and found that to be more than sufficient.
I criss-crossed the paper as I went and found it was good to start with the bottom.
On that same papier-mache website that recommended using the stand mixer, it also recommended baking the product at low heat to prevent mildew. I live in the Pacific NW and made these in late winter, so I took the advice to heart. I baked the cups and the handles at 250 degrees for about 20 minutes. I kept checking on them and took them out when I felt they were sufficiently (but not completely) dry. The last thing I wanted to do was fire-roast these beauties after all that work!
Ann's website shows steps on making a good base that give the cups a really sweet, delicate line. I just didn't want to take the time to cut all those little circles and rings, and for my purposes, it was okay to skip this step.
I used a hot glue gun to attach the handles. Big, sloppy, effective.
Here, you can also see a cup where I blended the book pages and the art paper.
And here is the final product! The birthday party has a Mad Hatter theme, so the party favors consist of the teacup, a dormouse finger puppet (I'll post that later), a tulle baggie filled with candy, and a playing card with the guest's name on it. I punched a hole in the teacup and ran a ribbon through it. I also punched a hole in the playing card and tied the tulle and card together to the cup.
I made an extra two cups, just in case something went wrong, and I'm really excited that I get to keep the extras. They're more durable than I thought they'd be, despite the shortcuts, and even though they don't have the pretty, delicate lines of Ann's cups, they stand up and I'm really happy with how they look.