Monday, June 24, 2019

Campfire Cooked Bacon Wrapped Mozzarella Cheese Sticks

Last week I shared my ongoing quest to find the perfect recipe for homemade fire starters. While we were camping this year, we also tried some experimental campfire recipes that I thought I'd share. In past years we've made campfire quesadillascampfire eclairs, and loaded fries.

This year's experimental recipe was bacon wrapped mozzarella sticks. This genius idea came from a post on Pinterest with really simple directions, so I thought we'd give it a whirl. I mean, it's bacon and there's no real losing here.

We started by packing a box of frozen mozzarella sticks in with our camping food. The day before we wanted to grill these, I put them in the fridge to thaw out (we camped in a cabin--but a slow thaw in the cooler would work too). They may not need a whole day in the fridge, but they need to be thawed out enough that you can stick a toothpick in them to keep the bacon wrapped tightly. Right before grilling, I wrapped a half a strip of bacon onto each mozzarella stick and poked a toothpick in fairly horizontal so that it wouldn't interfere much with rotating the sticks when cooking. I had soaked the toothpicks in water so they wouldn't burn.

Then I lined them up in a pan and put them over the campfire. The fire had been burning for a while to get some coals going, but there were still flames.

The bacon started sizzling immediately and we watched them turn golden brown. It was really mouth watering. When the bacon is fairly cooked on one side, flip the sticks to a less cooked side until they are completely golden brown and delicious on all sides.

They appeared pretty appetizing and some of the cheese sticks were starting to explode and/or fall apart, so we pulled them off the fire.

We were expecting these to be amazing, because they looked so darn appetizing. But they were just ok. The bacon grease soaked into the cheese sticks a bit, making them less crunchy on the outside. The ones that were falling apart were crunchier and tastier. But, on concept, you can totally cook bacon wrapped cheese sticks over the fire--they just needed a bit of fine tuning. Maybe they were too thawed out, maybe they should have cooked longer, or maybe another brand would work better (we used Farm Rich). But these were good enough that we'll probably keep trying. 

We also tried cooking some other less greasy sides on this cooking trip. We tried out frozen green beans (they were a literal flop--I think fresh might work better), cheesy hash brown potatoes (we thought small cubed potatoes would work better than the frozen fries we used last year but never quite got it right), and sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes were the winner. They were great! I just threw two sweet potatoes into the camping food bag. I washed them off and chopped them up into 1/2 inch cubes and then threw them in the tinfoil pan with 4 caps full of vegetable oil (so 3-4 tablespoons). I seasoned them with salt and pepper and we cooked them over the campfire until they were starting to get tender before throwing our meat on the fire and finishing them up. They were tender and slightly crispy and very tasty. We were both so surprised they had turned out, that I only got a picture of them after we had eaten half the pan. They were easy, tasty, and not totally unhealthy (unlike the cheese sticks), so they will definitely be returning to the menu on our next camping trip.

We had a great time on our big camping trip this summer! I can't wait to try out these recipes over a campfire again!

Monday, June 17, 2019

Crafting Revisit: DIY Campfire Starters

It's that time of year again. The time when I get ready for camping and backyard fires by making a big batch of homemade fire starters. After trying out a few different methods. But last year we tried 3 different fuels and they all worked great, so I am only tweaking some small details for this year's batch.

I bought new tinfoil pans this year. In past years I had used round pans (because they sell them every where), but this year, I opted for square cake pan style tinfoil pans so they'd be easier to pour wax out of. They worked great! I set my tinfoil pan onto the ceramic stove top burner and turned it to low. I used some cheap candles from Walmart this year and some leftover old tea lights I had floating around. I pulled the sticker off the bottom of the new candle and pulled the wick out from the bottom, then I put the candle in the pan and let it melt.

While the candle was melting, on the other side of my stove, I laid out some wax paper and my filled egg cartons. I had one cardboard egg carton filled with dryer lint, one 6 count carton filled with colored pencil shavings, and another egg carton filled with pistachio shells. This year, we crushed the shells in a gallon Ziploc bag with a rubber mallet. They are really hard to break down--even using a freezer bag, the shells pierced the plastic, but we broke them a bit so they would fill the carton more evenly and shed less.

Once the wax was melted, I carefully poured it onto the top of the various fuels until they had enough wax on them to soak through the cardboard in some places and to keep the materials from shedding off the tops of the cartons.

I use a little more wax with the pencil shavings since they go flying everywhere if they aren't wet down properly with the wax.

The dryer lint looks the grossest, but works the best out of all these materials/fuels. I try to make sure the tops are wet with wax and that the wax has soaked through to the bottom of all of at least part of each carton compartment. Be sure not to soak these with so much wax that there isn't any dry cardboard, though, because they will be harder to light if there isn't any plain cardboard left.

We had the perfect opportunity to test these fire starters out when we went camping last week at Palisades Kepler State Park. It was a lovely little state park with lots of nice trails along the river. We had a great time and lots of opportunities for campfires.

All of our fire starters worked great!  To use them, just break off one of the sections of the egg carton and light it on fire under or next to dry wood. The crushed pistachio shells did shed less, but burned about as long as they did before being crushed. I think we can get these working even better. The lint starters and pencil shavings starters both worked great too. For a side by side comparison, check out our post from last year: Homemade Campfire Starters Results.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Spray Paint Marbled Bookmarks

A few weeks ago, we made another batch of Spray Paint Marbled Paper, so I've been trying to come up with projects to use the paper. A quick and easy project is to make them into bookmarks.

I used a rotary cutter to cut my marbled paper into strips. A paper cutter would also would be a great option. I opted to cut the bookmarks the width of my ruler and 6 inches long. 

After my paper was cut into strips, I used some mod podge to glue two similar strips together to make the bookmarks double sided. I used mod podge painted on very thinly with a brush--just enough to stick the two sides together, but not to get the paper wet. The glue didn't need to be perfect since I was planning on laminating the bookmarks. I set the glued bookmarks underneath a heavy book and let them dry. After they had dried for a couple hours, I trimmed any edges that didn't match up perfectly with a scissors.

Then I warmed up my laminator and placed the double-sided bookmarks into the laminating pouch with an inch-ish between each one.

This laminator sometimes needs a second run through the machine to make sure it gets a good seal, so I ran the plastic pouch through a second time. 

After the bookmarks were laminated, I carefully cut them out of the plastic leaving an edge to make sure the bookmarks stay sealed. You can punch a hole at the top and adorn these with tassels or ribbons if you like, but I kept them simple.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Mod Podge and Tissue Paper Photo Transfer

This all started last fall when I bought a wooden plaque to try out a printable transfer paper that you ironed onto unfinished wood. I couldn't get the darn thing to work (my first stab at it turned into a Thanksgiving Plaque that decoupaged). Since my other attempt ended in decoupage, it figured that the second attempt would too. I was going for that rustic transferred look, but this is sort of a faux transfer since it uses mod podge and glues the image directly to the finished surface. I've used this method of printing on tissue paper and decoupaging it a few times, but the first time I used it for photos, I made coasters.

So I took my wooden sign/plaque thing and spray painted it white to cover the bad transfer that didn't work.

Then I printed out the photo I wanted to transfer/decoupage. I used Word because it's easiest to get the exact dimensions (in inches).

Then I covered a couple pieces of heavy card stock (110lb) with a sheet of white tissue paper. I trimmed the tissue paper to be just a bit larger than the card stock and then folded the edges over and taped them onto the back of the card stock. Then you can run it through a regular ink jet printer.

I always make 2-3 of these wrapped card stock sheets before running it through my printer because it is very absorbent and will attract any ink that's floating around in your printer on the print heads or rollers and it can sometimes mess up your design. So I printed 3 for this photo and selected the cleanest print for the project. I didn't mess with the settings at all when I printed it--but I might have been able to get more detail in the print if I had. But we're going for a rustic transferred look here, right? If you have the time, let your printed photo dry overnight so it's less likely to smear when applying glue.

I left the tissue paper attached to the card stock while I cut it. Tissue paper is much easier to cut straight if it's stabilized with the card stock.

Back to my plaque. It had nice smooth wood sides, so I decided to give them a little paint wash to make it look more finished. I thinned down some brown craft paint so that you could still see the wood grain through the paint (stain would do the same thing if you had some in your craft stash).

Then I brought out my trusty mod podge decoupage glue  and foam brush and spread a thin coat onto the surface of my plaque. You want just enough glue to attach the tissue paper--not so much that it soaks through and creates bubbles or tears the paper.

Next, I carefully applied the tissue paper photo. I lined it up with the edges and tapped it down carefully paying special attention to tapping down the faces so there wouldn't be wrinkles and then smoothing down the rest of the photo. Make sure your fingers stay dry. If they get glue on them, stop smoothing and remove it and make sure your hands are dry before returning to the project. Wet tissue paper tears very easily, so keeping your hands dry will help keep the project from ripping. There will be some wrinkles at this stage. Most little ones will smooth out as the project dries, but large wrinkles are part of the character of decoupaging tissue paper.

Then I let the photo dry for about an hour or so. It needs to be dry enough that coming back over it with glue and a brush won't tear the paper. It's also less likely to smear the ink if it's fairly dry when you paint on the sealing coat.

It turned out pretty well for a second attempt at a transfer. If you want a crisper, less rustic looking photo, you can decoupage a photo that's been printed onto paper instead of tissue.