Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Party was a smash!

 Why does July have to be such a busy month?  It passes so fast for us every year and before you know it summer is half done with.  But I guess that is what happens when you have 2 birthdays in one month. Heck one week!  This year was going to be different. I was going to plan better so it wouldn't be so busy and I didn't have to do lots of extra running around.  For once I did what I said!  I had planned out ahead of time what the boys wanted for meals on their birthday, I had presents bought ahead of time, cake designs picked out and dancing though my mind how I would pull them off... and then life happened.

My brother called and said he was making an impromptu 1600+ mile (one way) trip to see everyone.  He was heading to my other brothers house in less than a week from when he called! So an unexpected mini family reunion was in the works.  The week my brother decided to make his surprise trip also happened to be birthday week at our house, so we had to re-arrange a few (ok lots!) planned events.  One thing we decided on was to have a birthday party at my brothers.  Not only was it Bacon Jr and Little Boy Bacon's birthdays, but the next week was their cousin's birthday as well. So we threw together a few things for a party!   One thing the kids wanted was a pinata, and they choose two days before we had to leave to ask if they could have one. Humm.. sure we can have one.  I remember making one before... in kindergarten!  It couldn't be too hard right?  A little online research and we were off!

First to gather some supplies to make a pinata. Here is what you need:

Newspaper torn into about 2 inch strips.  Best guess is just fine, you just want smaller strips.
A nice big balloon
something to protect your table (or work surface)- I don't suggest more newspaper! I'll explain more later.
Some place to hang your pinata so you can attach the newspaper- think creative!
Items to decorate pinata with

So to get started, tear up the newspaper.  The kids had a blast with this step!  It was like Christmas all over again, only minus the toy clutter!
Next blow up the balloon as big as you'd like or as big as the balloon will allow before popping.  The challenging part is finding a spot you can hang the balloon so you can attach the newspaper.  Ideally a clothes line out side would work nice. But when it's just you and 4 kids (and you did the next step before this one) you have to think fast.  I looked around and the first thing I found was a wine bottle and a roll of tape.  This should work right! Right?  Perhaps I should have just drank the bottle of wine instead of attempting this, but I tried it anyway!

 Now it's time to mix up the goo or paste, which ever you'd like to call it.
2 cups water
1 cup flour
1/4 cup glue (which happens to be half a standard size bottle of glue)
Pour all these in a bowl (I choose glass that would clean up easy) and mix well. 

You're all set, let the mess begin! Take one piece of torn up newspaper and dip it into the mixture. Take your fingers and slide them in a scissor fashion and squeegee off as much of the goo as you can.  Then lay it on the balloon.  Continue on with the next piece slightly overlapping as you go. Make sure you stir the goo mix every few minutes as it likes to settle.  Once you get the first layer on, it's time to start on the second. 
 I have to say once the first layer went on, it was hard to figure out where we were putting the second layer and if we were covering all the spots twice or adding more layers!  This probably wouldn't be quite so confusing if there were not so many little hands helping plaster the balloon.  But hey they had fun.  So when I figured we mostly covered the balloon for a second time, I had an idea to make sure the third layer made it over the entire balloon.  While doing my research most sites I went to said place no more than three layers on the pinata unless you were taking a steel rod to break it with!  Sounded like good advice for a kids game so I choose to follow it!
 Now on to the third layer, I just happened to have some coffee filters laying around the kitchen, the kids used them earlier in the day to do water drop paintings on. (color filter with washable markers, then take a dropper and drop one drop of water at a time on them for a tye-dye effect, it's fun try it out!)  I knew if I added coffee filters as my last layer I would cover it all. By the time we needed to add the third layer, we had so much goo on the balloon that I was able to just lay the filters on the balloon, dip my fingers in the goo and cover the other side of the filter instead of dipping the whole thing in it.  Here it is with the third layer on!

 Now for a few tips, notice there is no wine bottle!  No it wasn't so stressful I had to finish it off half way though the project.  The balloon got too heavy as we added paper to it and it wouldn't stand up any longer.  So half way though coating this balloon (fairly fast because I was afraid it would dry as soon as I put it on. Don't worry, it won't!) I had to think of a new place to hang it.  This is where I was wishing for a clothes line outside.  Then I decided to create one inside!  Two bar stools and some string and we're back up and running.  The other tip that I mentioned before is not to put down newspaper on your work surface to do this project.  Our balloon for a while sat on top of the newspaper that covered the table and all the newspaper we had on the balloon fell off and stuck to the paper on the table.  Nothing a re-coat job didn't fix!  Maybe it was cause we were a bit heavy on the 'goo'. 
Now where to place the pinata to dry?  Fist I propped it up on an ice cream pain in the tub. And gave the froggies specific instructions to watch it and not to let anyone touch it until it was dry!  By the time I headed to bed seven hours later it was still pretty wet.  Mr. Bacon suggested placing it on the kitchen table overnight where there would be more air flow.  In the morning it was a bit drier, but not as much as I hoped.  So I
placed it in front of the patio door with the sunshine on it. 
 It helped some but not enough. Now if I was better at planning or the kids had suggested this sooner, I wouldn't worry how long it took to dry.  But I needed it dry by the afternoon since I needed to fill and decorate it that night as we needed to leave in the morning.  Since it was a nice day out, a very humid day too, I took it from the patio door and just set it outside in the sunshine. Before I placed it out there, I popped the balloon so the inside could dry too.  I took a scissors to the top part of the balloon where I had tied it and cut.  That way it didn't pop and ruin the pinata since it was still wet.  Doing this did make the sides of the pinata collapse a bit, it's ok- I just put my mouth over the hole and blew the pinata back up. 
 Sitting it out in the sunshine did the trick!  It was dry in one hour!  Now on to the fun of filling and decorating! I needed some way to hang the pinata up that would be sturdy. I choose some zip ties and punched two small holes in the sides of the pinata.  I also cut a door in the back with a razor blade so I had a spot to fill it up. 

  Bacon Jr asked if he could design the pinata.  Sure, who can say no to that excitement!  I had painted it red (the only color of craft paint in the house besides black!)  At first he was all about painting the face on, but in the end he wanted me to.  He did draw out how he wanted the pinata to look on paper for me though.  Of course he wanted flames coming out of it's mouth, we compromised by making the monster eating some birthday paper.   Glued on a party hat and it was done!
 Next came the fun part of adding the candy and prizes!  Little Miss Bacon and Little Boy Bacon were happy to help with that part too! They were excited to see what was going inside. 

I chose to leave the door open, I just kinda pushed it shut. I was going to find some tape to secure the door shut, but somehow got side tracked.  I promise it wasn't the wine!  I'm thinking it was more Bacon Bit needing some mommy time.  If you want and have more time you could make up some more goo and close the door securely so nothing comes out until it's party time.  

Lets just say it was a huge 'HIT'!  The kids had a blast taking turns hitting it.  Now honestly feeling the pinata when it was dry I thought it was too flimsy and my first thoughts were if I ever make another one, I'm putting on more layers.  I was all prepared to have just the little kids swing at it because it felt that after one swing it would break apart.  After seeing the kids bash away on this at the party, I'm glad I stuck with the three layers!  It took several hits by the bigger kids to finally break it apart.  And the area that helped break it was the door I left untapped from putting in the goodies!

The rest of the time was great too. It was a fun few days seeing everyone again.  And when we got back we had a celebration with cakes for Mr. Bacon's side of the family too.  Last year I wrote about making the kids birthday cakes.  Each year I let the kids decide what design they want and I try to come close to creating something edible that they like!  This year Bacon Jr wanted Angry Birds and Little Boy Bacon requested a Yoshi cake!  Nothing like easy requests here right?!  After working on them all evening before the party, they were extremely happy with the outcome!

It's been a busy July, but it was all worth it! Nothing is better than seeing smiles on the faces of your children! So go have a party! (even if it's no one's birthday!)  What a fun way this could be to celebrate the end of summer!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Too hot for the oven

Can you smell that?  Awww... the grill is going again. It's been way too hot to cook inside, surprising for Minnesota, but we've been hit with a few streaks of the 90's. I know it's not as hot as where some of you live, just remember it gets -40* or more below zero here in the winter too!   We've been finding lots of meals to make on the grill this summer.  Not only does it taste wonderful, it keeps the house cooler too.  And who doesn't love pizza right?  I think we could eat pizza three times a week and never get sick of it.  Last summer we enjoyed taking the freezer pizzas and placing them on our pizza stone on the grill.  Really if you've never had grilled pizza you need to.  It's AMAZING!  We took the pizza stone inside for winter and used it once in the oven, and that was one too many times.  It ended up shattering, thankfully not until I took it out of the oven.  If you've ever bought one, they're not cheap so it wasn't something we ran out and replaced right away.  But we've missed grilled pizza this summer and I knew there had to be a way to make it without the stone.  I was doing some digging into how when I thought about our pizza pan.  We have one with the holes on the bottom I thought we could just place that on the grill.  And then I found it.  A mouth watering picture of grilled pizza with the delicious looking grill lines on the crust. I knew I wanted to make 'THAT' kind of grilled pizza.  A little more digging and comparing different techinques and we were ready to give it a try. 

So where do you start?  
First start with the homemade pizza crust recipe that I love so much. Really pizza crust in under 15 is unbelievable!  I love how it tastes too.  Mix it up and let it rise.  Then divide the dough into 4 equal parts.  Take your trusty dough roller or just flatten it out with your hands.  If you're a daredevil and have just washed your floors, give it a toss in the air and pretend you're in a fancy pizzeria!  Once you get your dough ball rolled out, place it on a greased cookie sheet.  I added cornmeal to the one in the picture to help get the dough off the pan when I needed it, but soon realized it came off just fine with the greased pan so feel free to skip that step!
Next gather your toppings. 
You'll need some sauce, cheese and a dish of olive oil.  The rest is up to you for what to add.  The kids wanted just pepperoni.  Mr. Bacon and I added some fresh sliced mushrooms and black olives to ours. 
Now it's time to head out to the grill!  Heat your grill to med. heat.  Mr. Bacon said he heated ours to about 375* give or take.  I don't think I'd heat hotter than this temp, lower is fine, it will just take a bit longer to cook the pizza.  Next take your olive oil and add a bit to your dough.  Spread it around. You want to make sure you coat it enough so it doesn't stick to the grill, but not enough so the oil is dripping off the dough. 
Once the dough is oiled, it's time to put it on the hot grill.  Gently pick up the dough. Be careful because it will stretch out. Misshapen dough is ok!  But dough with holes are super thin spots just makes it not look as pretty!  It also can make the dough burn.  Place the dough on the grill oiled side down. 
Close the lid of the grill.  After about 3-4 minutes, take a peak at your dough. When you start to see it bubble it's time to flip!  Now there is a trick to flipping the dough.  We tested out grill tongs, it didn't work.  They had too sharp of  'teeth' on the one's we tried and it just tore the dough apart.  Instead we opted to use our gigantic spatula.  It came with the pizza stone when I bought it.  It works wonderful.  Either will do the trick to flip the dough if you are careful.  If you only have tongs, try to find ones without sharp 'teeth'. 
 All flipped... OH look at those grill marks! (Sorry for the corner of the spatula, I blame Mr. Bacon!)
 Next toss on the toppings.  This step we found you want to work fast for.  For one because these pizzas cook fast, but mainly because you are sticking your hands into hot 375* heat!  Spread on some pizza sauce, add the other goodies and top it with cheese, then close the lid again. 
 After another 3-4 minutes take a peek at the pizza's.  At this point you are just wanting the cheese to melt.  Once it looks ooey, gooey and delicious, it's time to scoop it off the grill!  See our big pizza scoop! 
  Take it inside, let it cool for a few minutes and cut into slices. I like to top mine at this point with some fresh grated Parmesan cheese!  It's the perfect pizza dinner! 
It's the perfect pizza dinner! I hope you enjoy yours as much as we did ours!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Happy Birthday Bacon in My Pocket!

What a crazy wonderful year here on Bacon in My Pocket.  It's hard believe a year ago I took over my own little space of the web.  I have to say I've enjoyed it.  I love showing how easy it can be to make things yourself at home and save some money while doing it.  And I have to say a HUGE THANK YOU to my readers.  You guys make me want to come back and post more!   I hope you continue to enjoy Bacon in My Pocket and please feel free to pass this site on to others, I do appreciate it.

So in honor of the first birthday here, I had to do something special.  And what is a birthday without some cake right?!  I must be crazy to make cake, after all I will be eating a lot of cake this month with Bacon Jr. and Little Boy Bacon's birthdays next week.  But I've been wanting to try this recipe for a while now and really, can one eat too much cake?

 Rainbow cake in a jar:

What you need:
White cake mix (feel free to make your own. I managed to buy a bunch on clearance after Easter that I'm still using up)
8oz glass jars (half pint size)
food coloring

Pretty easy right!
Start by washing your jars and letting them dry completely.  Dig out 6 small bowls and your food coloring. I found that I prefer the food color paste to the liquid drops.  They seem to give a better color when I use them. 

Mix up your cake using the directions on the box.  Preheat your oven to 350* also. Once the batter is all mixed up, divide it amongst your bowls.  You don't have to have the same amount in each bowl so just dump some in. 
 Next add in your food colors. I did the colors of the rainbow.  Ok so they are more a pastel rainbow, I found out I'm running low on food color paste and had to mix some colors to get what I needed. 
 Then it's time to add the batter to your jars.  I did spray my jars lightly with cooking spray before adding the batter.  I added a heaping teaspoon (the kind I eat my cereal with, not a measure spoon) to each of the jars, one of each color.  I just dumped them in and didn't matter how they laid in the jar to make stripes or anything. The only thing to keep in mind is not to fill the jars beyond half full or else they will rise extremely high above the jars and might even bake all out of them making a huge mess. 
 Aren't they pretty!
 Next place them in a shallow baking dish, I used a 9x13 pan.  Add in water until you reach about 1/4-1/2 inch in the bottom. This will help prevent the glass from breaking in the oven.  Place them in the oven for about 30 minutes.  The tops of the cake should spring back when touched when they are done just like baking a regular cake.  Now this is the best guess at how long to bake them for, you'll have to adjust cooking times to suit where you live.
 Here they are fresh out of the oven!  Don't they look amazing just like this.  I took them out of the water and let them cool.  They will drop back a bit into the jar when they are cooled so it's ok if they stick over the top right now.  Once they are cooled you can add your frosting and sprinkles!  What is a cake without some sprinkles right?   I decided to pipe on the frosting but you can just spread it on with a knife too. 


 Bacon in My Pocket!

Don't they look great!  What a fun way to have some cake and impress someone too.  They kids were excited that we will be having rainbow cake after dinner tonight.  Of course I had to sample one first just to make sure it was safe to eat! Hazards of the job right?
 A huge THANKS again for all your great support over the past year! I hope to continue to bring great ideas, tips, tricks and recipes that you can use to keep some more of that bacon you bring home in your own wallet!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

So about that coffee shop?

Remember a while ago when I talked about buying a coffee shop?  No we didn't buy one, and no one moved into the old shop so we still have no coffee shop in town.  That's defiantly a good thing for my budget though!  But I have found I am addicted to my morning cup of joe.  And it has to have creamer in it.  Not just regular creamer, I prefer the flavored liquid kind.  But once again it's one thing I hate to pay for because it's not cheap.  We do buy the big bottles of liquid creamer but they only last about 2 weeks. It's not a huge budget blower, but I wondered once again if I could make it cheaper.  And so my recipe search continued.  I've tried a few but I think I've found one that is pretty yummy!  And thankfully it doesn't require much work.  Another good thing about it is there are lots of variation you can make from it!

So what do you need to get started?  Really all you need is one can of sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk) and milk.  That's it!  Anything else you add is just for flavor.   I wanted to try out the cinnamon bun so I added in vanilla, almond and cinnamon.  
 First take your your sweetened milk (14oz can)  and pour it in a bowl, Next fill up your empty can with milk.  Yes all the way to the top, and no I didn't even spill!
 Take out your handy whisk and mix away!
 For cinnamon bun, I added 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon almond extract and 1 tablespoon cinnamon. This was almost too much cinnamon for me, next time I'm cutting it back to 1.5 tbsp.   Mix well again.  I poured everything in a quart jar, secured the lid and gave it a good shake.  If you prefer not to have so much cinnamon floating around in it, you can line a strainer with a few coffee filters or cheesecloth and strain it out before storing it too.  
It tastes wonderful!  Just like the cinnamon creamer we buy at the store!  I love when I can make things for cheaper than I can buy them.  Really it's not much more cost than a can of sweetened milk.  You can store this in the fridge for 2 weeks if it lasts that long.

Interested in some other varieties?  I haven't tried these out yet, but I thought I'd post the recipes I found.  If you try one out, I'd love to hear how it turned out!  Add any of these to the base recipe:

     2 Tbsp vanilla extract

Chocolate Almond
     2 Tbsp cocoa powder
     1 teaspoon almond extract

      1 teaspoon almond extract     
      1/2 teaspoon orange extract

Cinnamon bun
      1 tablespoon cinnamon  
      1 teaspoon vanilla extract
      1 teaspoon almond extract

 Chocolate Raspberry
      2 teaspoons cocoa powder       
      2 tablespoons raspberry syrup

Pumpkin pie
     4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
     2 teaspoons ground ginger
     2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
     1 teaspoon ground cloves
     1 teaspoon allspice (optional)

Peppermint Mocha
     3 tablespoons cocoa powder
     1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Honey Vanilla
     1/4 cup honey
     2 teaspoons vanilla 

Pumpkin spice
     3 Tbsp pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
     1 tsp pumpkin spice
     1 tsp vanilla
     2 tablespoons hazelnut syrup