You’ve Got Mail…Trick-or-Treat!

My name is Ashley, and I am addicted to Pinterest. There, I said it. If you aren’t familiar with Pinterest, it is an online pin board to post and share your favorite things. I promise you, once you get started pinning to your boards, you can’t stop.

This weekend has been a Pinterest weekend. So far, I have tried out a recipe for Nutella dip, a recipe for baked zucchini sticks and sweet onion dip, and made 13 ounces or less mail. The recipes turned out great, but wait…What was that last one? Let me explain.

Take one of these…

…add these items (forgive the bad quality of the photos, I was using my cell phone):

…and voilá! You have these:

Next question: What the heck are these? These bottles are filled with Halloween gifts to mail to my niece and some friends with little ones back in Athens. Since they can’t come and trick-or-treat at our new house four hours away, I thought I would mail Halloween goodies to them.

I wanted to mail something that would be a surprise the moment they opened their mailboxes, so I started looking around on Pinterest for ideas. I ran across this great pin called “13 ounces or less,” which linked me back to this fabulous post on Giverslog about thinking outside of the box –literally– when it comes to mail. I had no idea you could actually mail a rubber ball, flip-flops, plastic Easter eggs, and water bottles filled with toys and candy in the mail!

For my Halloween-themed mail, I included chocolate eyeballs, butterscotch, candy corn, chocolate coins, pencils, stickers and activity books. It was a lot of fun to do, but let me give you a little advice if you try this:

  • Use a water bottle with a flat bottom. I tried using an empty Coke bottle and an empty Cheerwine bottle, but the grooves and curves of the bottles kept shifting things around. SmartWater bottles would probably work best.
  • Cut a slit vertically in the middle of the bottle to insert the larger items. It was easier to start inserting larger items and then add the smaller items. Cover the slit with clear packing tape once all of the items are in the bottle, and then stick the mailing label around the center of the bottle.
  • You can mail items that are 13 ounces or less as first-class mail. I weighed each filled bottle at 9 ounces a piece and calculated the postage on the USPS website. I can mail each bottle for less than three dollars!
  • Be careful! I scratched up my hands a good bit inserting all of the toys and candy in just the right places, so I suggest using some long tweezers or even a hemostat to help push and pull items in to place.

I hope my favorite little ones enjoy their trick-or-treat by mail. Happy Halloween!

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Hello again, and Hello Summer!

So a lot has transpired since my last post from months ago (insert embarrassing shame for taking so long to post here), but I am back again. Now on to what’s on my mind…

I love trying out new dishes at home from around the world. Aside from the Dutch and German food I cook for the Dutchman, we have feasted on traditional Irish, Jamaican, Thai, French, and Austrian fare, along with the usual Mexican and Italian food. I have to admit I have always shied away from attempting Chinese cooking at home, though. I have enjoyed watching Ming Tsai try to show me a thing or two and I can make a decent Chow Mein, but when it comes to Chinese cooking I am a bit intimidated by some of the ingredients and some of the cooking methods. However, I have recently discovered Ching-He Huang, the cook behind Chinese Food Made Easy on the Cooking Channel and BBC 2. Now I am sure there are a lot of Chinese food purists who would say that her food is not “real Chinese,” but I am just a home cook looking to expand my dinner repertoire, not set the world on fire with my version of Egg Fried Rice.

I recently tried Ching’s recipes for “Pork and Prawn Dumplings” and “Chicken and Vegetable Spring Rolls.” Not only were the recipes easy to follow and did not require a trip to the Asian market located an hour away from home, they were fun to make! I also like that Ching makes substitutions for traditional Chinese ingredients with ones that most home cooks have in their pantry. The dumplings were really great with a dip I made from light soy sauce, rooster sauce, rice wine vinegar, fresh ginger and sliced green onions. The spring rolls were light and crispy, and the five-spice powder that was mixed intro the chicken and mushrooms gave these spring rolls a slightly smoky flavor that went well with the red chili and ginger sauce I served them with. Add an ice-cold beer on a hot Friday night in June and you have a great dinner for the start of summer!

Ching-He Huang

Autumn in Athens

Mother Nature is treating us to an amazing show…

Fall 3

Fall

Fall 2

Amazing colors, crisp weather, and of course, it’s time for hot chocolate! This recipe is adapted from a hot chocolate recipe from Nigella Lawson:

Autumn Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 3 1/2 ounces best-quality chocolate chips (semi-sweet or milk)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum (or to taste)
  • marshmallows (optional) 

Directions:

Pour the milk and chocolate chips into a saucepan. Add the honey and a cinnamon stick to the mixture and heat gently until the chocolate is melted.

Add the vanilla and mix and stir in the rum. Taste to see if you want your hot chocolate a little stronger, or add more honey if you want it sweeter, too. Take out the cinnamon stick and pour into 2 cappuccino or caffe latte cups.

Enjoy! 

Hot Chocolate 015