Sunday, October 15, 2017

Zucchini Salt and Vinegar Chips

Yes another zucchini recipe, I'm warning you now I'm just getting started. I didn't make these chips for the craft party.  I didn't have time to experiment until afterward, but these could totally be marketed as some sort of skin scab for Halloween fare.  I didn't take any pictures of the zucchini chips.  They were small, circular and a deep golden brown color.  Instead please enjoy this skull I "drew" on a reversible sequin pillow.  

Unlike the candied zucchini, I could eat these by the handful.  Like the candied zucchini, drying these out is pretty forgiving, so if you have to leave the house or go to bed.  Turn off the oven, leave them in there and they will quietly dry while you go about your business. Of course if you have a food dehydrator, do your own thing.   

I read through a lot of recipes and the biggest complaint was that they didn't taste vinegary enough.  First I tried soaking the slices in vinegar, which helped.  But it wasn't until I layered the slices between paper towels to draw out the zucchini juices and then soaked them in the vinegar that they really flavored up.  

Vinegar Chips

3 cups of zucchini thin sliced rounds
¼ cup vinegar (balsamic, malt, apple cider, etc)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 170
Lay zucchini slices between paper towels to wick out moisture.
Toss slices with vinegar in a dish and let stand for 30 minutes. Toss every 10 minutes to evenly distribute vinegar.
Drain and toss with olive oil.
Lay slices on parchment paper covered cookie sheets.
Sprinkle with salt.

Bake for 1 ½ hours, flip zucchini and switch pans around. Bake another 1 ½. If they are still too chewy and there is a lot of oil/moisture still on the parchment paper, transfer to a clean sheet and bake for another 20-30 minutes. When crisp transfer to paper towels to cool. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Candied Lizard Skin

My Lizard Skins are based off of two different recipes. I liked the Martha Stewart recipe because she doesn't peel the zucchini and I think that adds visual interest, but probably not in the way Martha intended.  I didn't think it would look as gross peeled and for this I wanted gross.  

Her recipe calls for just sugar, water and zucchini and I knew I needed something to mask the zucchini flavor which led me to this recipe that uses Kool-Aid.  It also uses a dehydrator, which I don't have.  Martha's just relied on air drying (I think rather unsuccessfully because the recipe warns you to serve it immediately.)  I dried mine using the lowest temperature on my oven, 170 degrees.  You could try speeding things up by going up to 200, but I wouldn't go higher than that.

As I mentioned in my Craft Party post, my zucchini are looking a little different this year.  If you like the yellow peel contrast yellow summer squash would work as well.


The baking time listed is more of guess. The reality is I would bake it for about an hour, turn the oven off because I had to leave the house. Come back flip it, bake it some more, have to leave, turn the oven off. I think the second batch I left in the oven, turned off, overnight. It's not rocket science and obviously there is a lot of wiggle room, so don't feel like you have to dedicate a whole day to watching zucchini dry.

The real question is how does it taste. Opinions varied. Some liked it, some thought it was pretty good for zucchini, some went back for seconds or thirds, others didn't care for it or were satisfied to just try it once for the novelty.  I had expected the artificial flavoring to overpower the zucchini and it didn't. In fact then general consensus was that it tasted "sweet".  For flavor I used one packet of unsweetened lemon-lime Kool-Aid. I would have preferred a straight up lime, but couldn't find any. Maybe using a different flavor or two packets or some other form of concentrated flavoring would have made a difference. 

I think this is one of those recipes that are fun to make once, but I can't say I'm dying to make or eat it again.  It's definitely something different to do if you are drowning in zucchini and it has a great Halloween look to it.  

Candied Lizard Skin

2-3 zucchini
1 ½ cups water
1 ½ cups sugar
1 pkg unsweetened Kool-Aid
Additional sugar for coating

Use a mandolin to slice zucchini into thin even strips.
Lay slices between paper towels to wick out excess moisture.
Heat water and sugar together stirring until sugar completely dissolves.
Add kool-aid, stir until combined, bring to boil.
Add zucchini. Reduce heat and simmer 25 minutes. Gently stir occasionally.
Remove from heat and strain. (Liquid can be saved to make another batch)
Pre-heat oven to 170.
Once zucchini is cool enough to handle, lay strips in a single layer on cookie sheets covered with parchment paper.
Bake for 2 hours, flip zucchini bake another 2 hours. If using more than one cookie sheet, switch positions. The zucchini shouldn’t feel sticky. If it does bake it a bit longer.  If it's just a little tacky that's fine.
Let it cool then toss with a tablespoon or so of granulated sugar in an air tight container or ziplock bag. This will keep it from sticking together.  

Here are a few food label ideas, the two I used and two blue varieties in case you're in a blue raspberry kind of mood. Font is You Murderer BB by Blambot.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Craft Party 2017

At the party someone asked me how many years I've been doing this and I couldn't remember off the top of my head.  Going back through old photos I realized this was our 10th year of official organized Halloween crafting. I guess I missed the opportunity to have a "10th Anniversary" party.  I can't believe I've gotten away with inflicting my addiction onto my friends for an entire decade.

The one thing you can count on every year is me not getting pictures of everything. This year I totally outdid myself and took crappy pictures besides.  I apologize to everyone who's creations look less than what they are due to my sorry photography.

It wouldn't be a Halloween craft party without potion bottles. 
There were glittery potions,

...disgusting concoctions,

...and just plain spooky bottles, 


Flowers might not seem spooky until you realize
that's a pile of bones at the bottom of the jar.

...and new this year, creepy bottles inspired by Russian crafters. Not that the Russian's are the only one's doing this, but more often then not I find myself on Russian craft sites.  You can check out my Craft Party 2017 pinterest board to see a few examples or search on "altered bottles".  This is what we came up with.


The best and worst thing about these bottles is you can use almost anything.  Sometimes having limitless choices can be a bit daunting, but this is a great way to use up odd bits of stuff.  These bottles used a variety of tissue paper, netting, twine, cord, beaded garland, old or broken jewelry, beads, glass gems, shells, dried lentils & seeds, faux flowers, and plastic critters & bones.  I am happy to see my salt dough skulls and wire components I made practicing with a wire jig finally getting used for something. 

Vampire Blood and Life Renewal labels courtesy of Love Manor. 

There were more fashionista skeletons this year.  I think the outfits were even more elaborate than last year if that's possible.  This a great way to use up fabric scraps and old Barbie clothes.  Nothing goes with gold pants like a Madonna style bustier and although it's hard to tell, the gal next to her is pregnant will a smaller rubber skeleton.  Congratulations, I guess?  

I like this bottle cap & cork top hat.  

Another great hat and who doesn't like furry gogo boots?

What this guy lacks in fashionable attire he makes up for with his interesting array of friends.  Bonus points for using a leftover piece of fence from an old project as a ladder to stand on (can't see in this picture).

There were also skeletons in jars.  Which is a nice way to display your favorite skelly, like this mermaid from last year's party.

A couple of our younger patrons came up with these jar ideas. 

The pictures don't do them justice, but I loved them so much I had to make my own.  I really like how the water doesn't cover the skeleton. I imaged it was low tide with the sea foam (sesame seeds) swirling around him.  I couldn't get the right sea levels on mine and ended up filling the jar.  Another nice thing about using jars, is the skeleton is protected. I had to snap a few joints to get mine posed right. They aren't broken all the way through, but they definitely wouldn't survive long if he was being man handled.  There was some leftover chain with tiny medallions that I piled up to look like treasure.  You can't take it with you, but that doesn't stop some from trying. 

This was a plastic bendy skeleton, partially spray painted. I like the two-face effect. You have to be careful when using spray paint on plastic, even if it's paint & primer or it says it's specifically for plastic. He's one of those plastics that doesn't play well with spray paint and as a result he will be forever sticky, but he looks so dementedly cool.  I'd be curious to see him sprinkled with black sand or glitter on the sticky bits for a little texture.

Here are some silhouette lantern jars.  Lightly spray painted in the inside and designs copied on the outside with black paint pens.  I'm glad to see more salt dough skulls finding a purpose.  I wish I wouldn't have tried to get the skulls into the first picture because it's not a good view of the four cats below.  The cat clipart can be found at ClipArtQueen. The "Eek" is from TheDiyVillage. The owl I found at FaveCrafts and the other cat is on pinterest.

One last creation is this Lost City. 
I forgot the actual name, but it's not Atlantis, because that's underwater.  

And now for the only reason my husband comes up from the basement while all this is going on, the food.

People brought some awesome goodies.  Monsters & mummies, spidery treats and other creepy delights.  There was a really pretty fall decorated cake, but I didn't think to take a picture until after I had already hacked it to pieces.  Seriously I shouldn't be allowed to cut cake, ever.

I have to admire these spider cookies, because I too once fell for the old “use a toothpick to drag out ‘legs’ from melted choc chips” and mine didn't turn out nearly as well as these.  There is a whole story about the photoshopped cookie that's plastered across the internet and has led to millions of chocolate chip cookies being decimated by toothpicks. 

I have zucchini up the wazoo this year, which is slightly more uncomfortable than it sounds.  So I might have made a few things with zucchini.  I'll post recipes later.  

I made Candied Lizard Skin (left) with one of my neighbors regular green zucchini and Frog Skin (right) with some of mine.  I should explain that mine is of the 8 ball variety, which as the name suggests is round and should be picked when it's about the size of an 8 ball.  This year my zucchini is having an identity crisis and has been more yellow than green.  

I also saved the syrup they were cooked in because it was bright green and purty.  I poured it into a beaker and set it by the food.  Halfway through the party I hear, "Mom can I drink this green stuff?" After I said yes I hear a bunch of others say, "Ooh I want to try it too!"  It wasn't until they had all tried it that I told them it was zucchini syrup.  Yeah, I'm a special kind of evil.

Alien Zucchini Ball

These are chocolate zucchini cake pops.

Since I had candy melts in other colors than the usual red and green, I decided to go for a bruised, decaying rat look. It ended up looking more like tie dye rat. 

And then I dropped the mold before I had poured the bottom, which wouldn't have been a total disaster, except this was "fancy rat" with raspberry blood, so it totally cracked and started to ooze. I sealed the bottom by laying it on top of a pool of melted red candy melts.  My husband had a great idea of adding more red candy blood to cover the cracks, which probably would've looked really good, but I think eating wise would've been too much candy melt.

Everyone at the party was very polite and lied and said my rat looked great and the cracks added character.

I do like how the raspberry blood oozed from the nostrils.
Too bad I would never be able to recreate that in a million years.  

I still had leftover purple and green melts so I decided to make Crunchy Beetle cookies in honor of Glenda Glinka:Witch-At-Large, one of my favorite books as kid. She's a bored witch who decides to amuse herself by turning into a little girl.  She's not sure what "PTA" cookies are so she decides to make her favorites in purple and green with lots of beetles.  I didn't actually want to bake anything so I dipped Oreo cookies and topped them with chocolate covered pecan roaches. 

One last thing just for fun.  I don't really decorate for the party.  Generally anything I display is a past project for inspiration or guidance.  Any other macabre stuff has probably been there all year.  The exception to that is the bathroom.  I saw this on Halloween Forum  and I knew I had to do it.

I used about 100 roaches.  Most of them are behind the door so people don't notice them right away.  There are a few strategically placed near where people would normally touch things like the light switch. Roaches are truly the gift that keeps on giving.  They freak people out even after they know they are there.  Roaches are magical that way. 

I use Loctite Fun Tak Mounting Putty. It comes cleanly off painted walls and does a great job holding the roaches. The only downside is it's blue and you can definitely see it from an angle, but trust me that's not what people see first. I did try Scotch Clear Mounting Squares, but they weren't strong enough.

And so that's what happened. I want to thank everyone for helping me make this a success year after year.