Harry Potter Day 2015!

Well July 31st has come and gone and once again we had a wonderful birthday party for our favorite wizard!

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This year we had our craft activity and Quidditch going on at the same time: my plan was that people could take turns doing both activities and so neither would end up overwhelmingly busy – ha HA.

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We had four crafts this year:

Dragon Eggs

More than anything, I wanted to make these beautiful Dragon Eggs:


Gryffindor colors egg

I found the idea at this awesome blog, and started planning how I would make these on MUCH larger scale.  Last year, we had well over a hundred kids, which means I have to have enough craft supplies for that many participants.  These dragon eggs are made from Styrofoam eggs and painted thumb tacks.

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I’ve now made several: it’s super fun and I find it very relaxing; and for me, a few packs of thumb tacks and Styrofoam eggs are pretty cheap.

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Enough Styrofoam eggs and thumb tacks for over a hundred is NOT cheap.  Also not the safest.  Also each thumbtack is individually painted.  I considered buying and spray-painting some 10,000 thumbtacks, but ultimately came to my senses.

Ravenclaw colors dragon egg

So I abandoned that idea and am keeping it in my back pocket for a teen program one year, but we’ll see. The one thing I added from the tutorial was the ribbon: I used a plastic crochet needle to thread the ribbon through the middle of the egg, and then tacked over it.  Dragon Egg Christmas ornament!  I’ve tried two different egg sizes so far “hen sized” and “goose sized”.  Both are awesome, but if you’re going to make it an ornament, I’d stick to hen sized eggs, as the goose egg is bigger, heavier, and all-around too much for a Christmas tree.  I also have an Ostrich sized egg that is awaiting decoration, but I’m holding out to find something a little bit bigger than thumb tacks, as I think they will a) look too small on such a large egg, and b) take for frickin’ ever.

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IMG_0260Instead, I ordered an outrageous number of plastic Easter eggs, like you would use for your standard Easter egg hunt.  I spray painted them silver, gold, and cream, bought a TON of Sharpies and glitter stickers, and let the kids go nuts on decorating their eggs.

Paper Roll Owls

Easy Peasy Hedwigs!  It does not take long to gather up a BUNCH of toilet paper rolls, then cut some letter-sized paper in half, get some googly eyes and other decorations and owl it up!  PS – you can also make paper roll minions this way, suuuper easy!

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Golden Snitches

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Every kid needs his own Golden Snitch!  Ours are made out of small styrofoam balls – we had 1 inch ones and 1.5 inch ones – gold tissue paper (because we know better than to trust kids with glitter EVER AGAIN), white paper for the wings (could also easily use white craft feathers!), dowels to hold the wings on and glitteries to decorate.

  1. Stick a piece of dowel right through your styrofoam ball.  You could also stick a very small piece of dowel in each side, but be careful to line them up nicely.  Toothpicks might also be a good option here, although considerably less sturdy, of course.snitch 1
  2. Attach your wings.  If you’re using feathers, you’ll probably need to add some glue.  I’m pretty sure we taped ours down and it worked great!snitch 3
  3. If you’re doing paper wings, like we did, jazz them up!  We used scissors to make the paper more flighty!snitch 2
  4. Now it’s time for the gold.  I saw a lot of similar tutorials online where they dyed the balls with glitter glue and food coloring, or painted them (don’t try to spray paint styrofoam, take it from me: it doesn’t work), but that was toooooo messy for our purposes.  We used gold tissue paper, wrapped it around the ball, secured with tape and twist off the ends. Beautiful. snitch 4 snitch 5
  5. Finally, decorate!snitch 6

Mini Marauders Maps

I think this was my favorite craft of the year.  HUGE thanks to Britta Peterson who created this little beauty AND provided it for free on her blog, Britta Blvd.

Last year, Harry Potter Day was awesome but very stressful, and very prep-heavy.  When I found this printable, foldable Marauders Map, I did a happy dance.  Ready made craft!  It is a tricky fold, so best for older kids and up (or younger kids with LOTS of help).  There’s a point in the tutorial where it actually says “this is the tricky part” – look closely at the pictures provided and you’ll be fine, it might just take a few tries.  If, like me, you’re using this for a program, make sure a few people have figured the fold out in advance, so they can help the program participants.

 Mini Marauders Map

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Treats

I only did one treat this year, cauldron cakes.  I used Duncan Hines chocolate cake mix, and made a ridonkulous number of cupcakes.  When the cupcakes were not quite done, I poked them with a toothpick to collapse each cupcake top, leaving a depression for the icing and making them more “cauldrony”.   I used vanilla icing with food coloring to make the “potions” for the cauldrons.  The cauldron handles are Twizzler pull-and-peels – not what I would suggest, they are not sturdy enough to push into the cupcakes or stand up nicely.  Use red vines or something similar.  Also black licorice looks better but is YUCKY!  I don’t even like the smell, so I used red.  I also made some butterbeer: it was clear cream soda (so happy I was able to find clear this year! last year I had to use pink), a dash of artificial rum flavoring, and caramel flavoring (normally I would use butter or butterscotch flavoring , but I couldn’t find any at my local grocery store – normally I would drive around looking for it, but this year I just didn’t have time – plus, the caramel ended up being delicious), and a little bit of orange food coloring.

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Harry Potter Treats!

This summer at the library’s Harry Potter birthday party, we feasted on some Harry Potter themed snacks.  Offering food at a public program can be tricky.  There are a lot of allergies and other dietary requirements out there, so be very careful about what you’re putting in your goodies.  Obviously nuts are a big no-no, but some things you might not think of: gelatin for example. Gelatin is usually made from animal bi-products so vegetarians/vegans/kosher/halal/etc. cannot eat it.  (Be advised: Maynards candy (like Swedish Berries) does not use gelatin, so these are OK!).  It might seem obvious, but it wasn’t something I’d ever thought of until someone asked me “Is there gelatin in this?”  I try to be as careful as I can, and always keep a list of ingredients on-hand just in case.

I’m writing this up waaaaay late, so I don’t have any pictures.  I will add them later if I can 🙂

Anywho.  Thanks so much to this BuzzFeed list, for getting me started on my Harry Potter bake-a-thon.  I made:

Pumpkin Pasties

  • I had definitely never worked with pumpkin before.  NOT a fan of pumpkin pie.  Or pumpkin spice anything.  Booo-urns to all fall things that are pumpkin spice.  I used this recipe to make my pumpkin pasties.  I made the dough and filling by hand.  Pretty sure I ended up using a lid off of something to cut the dough, and a bottle of olive oil to roll it out.  My kitchen was under construction and some of my things were packed away – had to get a little bit creative.  MacGyver would be proud.  (Also, MacGyver is the name of my cat.)  Because I didn’t have a proper rolling pin or cutter, I did struggle to get the dough flat enough and the cut circles big enough – causing the filling to come bursting out a little bit, but what can you do.  I also had quite a bit of filling left over, which was great, because I used it for pumpkin juice!

Cauldron Cakes

  • Many of the recipes for Cauldron Cakes that I found out there are based on the cakes you can get at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (the happiest place on earth).  These are double chocolate, dipped in chocolate, coated in chocolate, with chocolate icing.  Sounds fabulous, but too much work for someone making 80 of them.  I made Duncan Hines chocolate cupcakes.  I can’t remember if I made two or three batches – but I made a lot.  Cupcakes are not my thing, I’ve never liked them, hence I can’t be bothered to make them from scratch.  Like I say, Duncan Hines chocolate cupcakes, and Duncan Hines vanilla icing.  I added green food colouring to the icing (or frosting, depending on where you live) and mixed it up real good.  I took a spoonful out of the top of each cupcake (after they were baked), to create a hole.  I filled the hole with green icing and used a small licorice strip to make a handle.  Alternatively, if you put a large marshmallow in the top of each cupcake before you bake them, the marshmallow will slowly melt, leaving a sugar-encrusted hole in the top of the cupcake.

Fever Fudge

  • I considered a few different Skiving Snackbox recipes, and decided this one looked the tastiest.   I’d say though, that this  was my least-successful treat.  The red side is supposed to give you a fever, so it’s flavored with cinnamon and cayenne pepper.  I didn’t make mine too spicy, since kids would be eating it, just enough to give it bite.  Then the blue side is meant to cool you down, so it’s flavoured with mint and vanilla.  This side was tooooo sweet!  Not surprising considering that otherwise this is made up of condensed milk and white chocolate.  Next time, I will make the red side spicier and the blue side mintier.

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Chocolate Frogs and Peppermint Toads

  • The best part about these (other than being candy), are the boxes.  Thanks a million to whoever put the printable templates online, they really made everyone’s day.  The first thing you need is a frog shaped chocolate mold.  I would have thought ot would be easy to find these, because of the popularity of Harry Potter, but not so much.  If I had been more organized, tehre are great ones to be found online, however, since I left it to the last minute, I found myself driving around cleaning out Bulk Barns all around town.
  • Peppermint Toads: I used this recipe (template for the box is also there!).  These were fun and easy.  I actually ended up making them in the little staff kitchen at work (much to my coworkers’ annoyance).  They are made of white chocolate and marshmallow fluff (and flavouring and food colouring).  Marshmallow fluff, before you spend hours wandering the aisles of the supermarket, is found with the ice cream sundae toppings.  Just a heads up.
  • Chocolate Frogs: after I’d made the Toads, I used the same chocolate molds to make my Chocolate frogs.  I just melted down some milk chocolate and poured it into the molds, then put them in the freezer to harden.  I printed the boxes for the Frogs from here.  We also started to print out Chocolate Frog Cards, but ran out of time and energy, so some of the boxes had Cards in them, some didn’t.  I’ll try to do better next time!
  • I kept both the Toads and the Frogs in the fridge up until party day, so that they wouldn’t melt – a big issue in July, not such a big issue if you’re having a HP party in, say, November.

Butterbeer

  • I have tried many Butterbeer recipes.  Alcoholic and non-alcoholic.  Super complicated and super easy.  For this event, I went with super easy and non-alcoholic (obviously).  I added butter extract flavouring, rum extract flavouring and yellow food colouring to cream soda!  Easy peasy.  I couldn’t find clear cream soda, so my Butterbeer was still pink, but super yummy!  I also printed new labels for my soda bottles.  If anyone knows where I can get clear cream soda (in Ontario), please let me know – I hit 4 different grocery stores before I gave up and just made it pink.

Pumpkin Juice

  • Soooo not something I thought I would like, but surprisingly delicious and refreshing!  Really easy too.  Take one cup pumpkin pie filling (I used the leftovers from my pumpkin pasties!), one cup apple juice and half a cup of pineapple juice.  Blend.  Done.  Mmmmm.  Might take a little bit taste testing to get the consistency you want – that pumpkin pie filling is thick.  Recipe from these smart people.  I meant to top off my pumpkin juice with whipped cream, but ran out of time.  Sigh, maybe next year.

Acid Pops

  • These are ones I didn’t actually finish.  My intention was to get sour flavoured lolly pops, wet them, roll them in PopRocks, and package them up individually.  Couldn’t find PopRocks, couldn’t find sour lolly pops.  Like I said, I was rushing around at the last minute, so next year I will try a little harder.  I ended up just giving out regular lolly pops.  They are simple, cheap, and individually wrapped.  Bam.

Every Flavor Beans

  •  Now you can buy these, Jelly Belly makes them.  They are awesome.  They are expensive.  I got some regular jelly beans and put them in little individual treat bags.  No one really wants a vomit flavored jelly bean anyway.

Black Bean Soup and Cornbread = Deliciousness On a COLD Day!

Yesterday I had the day off, and decided to make the most of it, spending about 5 hours in my pajamas doing nothing and playing on my computer, and then deciding at the last minute to make a nice warm hearty dinner of black bean soup and cornbread.  I looked up a recipe: I always use the same one for cornbread, it’s delicious; but I’d never tried to make black bean soup before, so this was a new experience.  If I’d put the cornbread in right away, it would have taken me about two hours to make, cook, and bake the whole meal.

I made the soup first.  The canned vegetables we get here are a little bit bigger than the ones called for in the recipe, so I just added a little bit extra of everything.  The recipe only calls for about 24 minutes of cooking time, but I just let it simmer after all the ingredients had been added (well, all the ingredients except the cilantro, I forgot the cilantro).  Everyone knows that black bean soup is better the longer it simmers.  While it was simmering, I mixed up the cornbread.  I added about half of a finely chopped up jalapeno pepper, just for a bit of kick.  Next time I will try it with more.  I also always drizzle some honey on the top of my cornbread when it’s just done baking – or sometimes just before it’s done.  Gives it a nice sweetness.

The result was a rich, warm, flavorful, very heavy soup and bread.  Perfect for a cold winter’s evening!

 

Happy Mardi Gras!

So this year, we made our first ever attempt at making a King Cake for Mardi Gras.  For those of you not from New Orleans, King Cake is a traditional dessert served during the Mardi Gras season (from the Feast of Epiphany, January 6,  to Mardi Gras Day – the day before the beginning of Lent).  Inside the King Cake is a small plastic baby – the origins of which are somewhat murky but it probably represents the Baby Jesus as King Cake is a Christmas tradition in some other coutries.  Point being: one person will find a plastic baby in his or her piece of cake, and the tradition is: that is the person who must throw the next party, or bring the next King Cake.  Yes, it’s weird.  Yes, it’s a little creepy.  But that’s New Orlean’s for you.

As it turns out, making King Cake is quite involved.  It involves lots of kneading, and then letting rise, and then kneading, and then letting rist, and then braiding, and then letting rise.  That sort of thing.

Recipe (Makes 2 King Cakes)

You will need:

CAKE

  • 1              stick plus 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2/3         cup 99% fat free skim evaporated milk
  • ½           cup sugar
  • 2              teasppons salt
  • 2              packages dry yeast
  • 1/3          cup warm water
  • 4              eggs
  • 1              tablespoon grated lemon rind
  • 2              tablespoons grated orange rind
  • 6              cups flour

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a saucepan, melt 1 stick butter, milk, 1/3 cup sugar and salt.  Cool to lukewarm.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 tablespoons sugar, yeast and water.  Let stand until foaming, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Beat eggs into yeast then milk mixture and rinds.
  4. Stir in flour, ½ a cup at a time, leaving 1 cup aside to flour kneading surface.  We did this part in an electric stand mixer, on low, using the bread hook to mix.
  5. Knead dough until smooth, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  6. Place in a large mixing bowl greased with 1 tablespoon butter; turning dough over once to grease top; cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.

FILLING:

  • ½             cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • ¾             cup granulated sugar
  • 1              tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1              stick butter, melted

Mix sugars and cinnamon, set aside.

Back to the cake!

  1. Once the dough has doubled, punch down and divide in half.
  2. On a floured surface, roll half into a rectangle 30 inches by 15 inches.  Ours never actually got that big. but we did our best.
  3. Brush with half the melted butter, then cut into 3 equal strips lengthways.
  4. Sprinkle half the sugar mixture (filling) on strips, leaving a 1 inch strip lengthwise bare for sealing.
  5. Fold each strip lengthwise towards the center, sealing the seam.  You now have 3 30 inch strips with sugar mixture enclosed in each.

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Now for the hard part.

  1. Braid the 3 strips and make a circle by joining the ends.
  2. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
  3. Place each cake on a 10×15 baking tray, cover with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

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Topping

  • 1      egg, beaten
  • 1      cup sugar, colored (1/3 cup each of yellow, purple and green)
  • 2      plastic babies
  1. Brush each cake with egg.
  2. Sprinkle with sugars, alternating colors.

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Baking

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Bake 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from pan immediately so sugars do not harden.
  4. While still warm, place 1 plastic baby in each from underneath.

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YUM!  Ours was a little over crispy, but still delicious.

Recipe from: “Jambalaya” published by the Junior League of New Orleans, copyright 1983. Page 206-207.

Darth Malts

Liz here.

Just got back from a weekend at the cottage.  It was quite hot, and we all decided that milkshakes were a great idea.  And why, if we’re making milkshakes, would we make anything other than Darth Malts??  duh.

We made two chocolate and one peanut butter flavored Darth Malts.  How to:

1) gather together milkshake ingredients: milk, ice cream, blender

2) also get some malted milk balls: crush up a small handful (like 5 or six)

3) blend

4) delicious.

 

 

 

 

Cupcakes

Note to all:

Duncan Hines cupcakes are totally delicious.  Esepcially if you are a 4-year-old girl dressed as Rapunzel.  Recently we had a Fairy Tale Tea Party at our library, for which Anita and I made 96 Duncan Hines Confetti Cups cupcakes.  Their deliciousness was unmatched.

Also: pretty white cupcakes require egg whites, so, if you happen to be stuck with 12 egg yolks, try making two batches of these cookies

http://www.food.com/recipe/egg-yolk-cookies-63803

TOTALLY FANTASTIC!!!!