Sunday, December 24, 2017

Last Minute Recipes for a Christmas Eve Gathering

Happy Holidays Everyone!
So its Christmas Eve and you have a family dinner/get together that you must attend.  And you find out that you need to bring something for the party.  Oh my! 

Well never fear, the Frugal Femme is here to give you some easy recipes that you can whip up in minutes and have ready for a party!  These are just some tried and true recipes that I have on hand so that I can whip them out for parties - some of them may be modified from your grandmother's recipes. 

Oyster Crackers

This is one of my husband's favorite things.  So much so that his mother usually makes them every year and includes them as part of his Christmas present.  This year, his parents came down for Thanksgiving and not for Christmas so it was up to me to carry on the tradition.  I don't know who's recipe this was originally, but I'm fairly certain most of us have some version of this recipe, hand written and stashed in a family cookbook.  Me being me, I had to modify the recipe just slightly.  So here is my version of a Christmas Classic.

1 (1 ounce) package Ranch dressing Mix (I like Hidden Valley)
1 tsp. dried dill weed  (If you don't love dill as much as I do, you can put 1/2 tsp and it tastes just as good.)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. truffle oil
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
5 cups osyter crackers

1.  Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
2.  In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients.  Whisk with a fork until all of the ingredients are blended together.
3.  Add the oyster cracks and toss with a spoon until all of the oyster crackers are covered with the oil mix.
4.  Spread the oyster crackers evenly on a baking sheet.

This is after they have come out of the oven, but you get the picture.
5.  Bake for 10 minutes in the oven.  After 10 minutes, rotate the pan and stir with a spoon, redistributing the oyster crackers on the pan.
6.  Cook for another 5 to 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven when the oyster crackers are a golden brown.
7.  Allow to cool completely before serving.  (Put in an air tight container to store.)

So how easy was that?!?!?!

This next recipe is one of my favorite recipes of all time and is a go to for all sorts of functions.  I break it our for parties, holidays and sometimes just because I want to eat it.  I honestly thought that I had already posted this recipe, but when I went back into the Frugal Femme archives, I realized that I have not.  So here it comes, my favorite cheese ball recipe of all time.

Cheddar Cheese Apple Balls

These cheese balls have no apple in them.  They are called apple balls because that is the way that they are shaped.  One recipe will make two cheese balls, you can easily half this recipe and make only one.  I do this all the time so that I can make two different flavors of cheese balls.
This is another recipe that I just slightly modified from a family recipe.  I'm not sure who first made it up.

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp. finely chopped onions
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. ground mustard
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
Cinnamon Sticks
Fresh Sage Leaves or Bay leaves

1. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, onion, Worcestershire, and mustard in a large bowl until blended. 

2.  Mix in the cheddar cheese.

3.  Cover and refrigerate about 2 hours or until firm enough to shape.
4.  Divide cheese mixture into two halves.  Take one of the halves and form into a ball on waxed paper.  Repeat this step on the other half of the cheese mix.

5.  Sprinkle another piece of waxed paper with paprika.  Roll cheese ball in paprika, coating thoroughly.  Repeat this step with the other cheese ball.

6.  Mold paprika covered cheese ball into an apple shape.  Repeat.
7.  To garnish, make a small depression in the "top" or the stem ends of your apples.

 Cut a cinnamon stick in half.  Insert cinnamon stick half into depression to make the "stem" of the apple.  Insert sage/bay leaf next to the cinnamon stick. 

8.  Serve with crackers.

And voila!  You have a beautiful and delicious cheese ball that looks like an apple.  A note of warning for this dish, people find it so pretty that they are afraid to cut into the cheese ball.  I find that, when I put the cheese ball out to serve, I have to make an apple "slice" into the cheese ball.  Otherwise, people don't want to mess up the pretty.

So there you have it!  Two quick and easy recipes to bring to a party that you can whip up at the last minute.

Have a happy Christmas Eve!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Winging our Way Through the Holidays!

Happy Holidays Everyone!
As I promised yesterday, I am back with the instructions on how to make the bird ornaments that I have up on my aluminum retro Christmas tree. 

These birds are very easy to make.  If you can do an outline of a bird and you can still make the accordion style fans that you used to make as a child, you can make these pretty little birds.

Paper Birds in Flight Ornament

Items Needed
1 page of scrapbook paper 12 x12
Elmers Glue
Hot Glue Gun
wrapping paper
Razor or Exacto Knive

I would like to say that I came up with this idea all on my own, but the truth is that I did not.  As is the case with many of the things that I make, I happened across these bird ornaments while I was looking for something completely different on the internet and I fell in love with them. 

I did not fall in love with their price tag however, and I decided that I could make my own.
To start, I had to create a template for my bird body.  I did this using the picture above and an old Christmas card and drew my bird free hand, but there are several templates that you can find online if you do not trust your drawing skills.  Just type in bird body template in the search engine and a myriad of options will become available to you.

1.  Place your bird template on the scrapbook paper and trace around the bird.  Flip the template over, and place on another part of the scrapbook paper and trace around the bird again until you have a mirror image of the bird you just drew.  Continue these steps, using all of your scrapbook paper until you no longer have any room left to draw birds.
I tried to show this step in the picture below, but it is kind of hard to see with all of the sparkly glitter on this paper all the outlines of the birds that I drew, but if you look closely above the bird template, you will see the outline of my birds.

2.  Using a pair of scissors, cut out all of the bird bodies.

3.  Take one bird body and put glue all along the back of the body.  Take the mirror image cutout of the bird and place them back to back and press together tightly.  Once all of the birds are glued together, line them up and place them under a heavy book to dry so that they will dry flat and as glued together as possible.  

Because of the size of my birds, I was able to make 7 birds that faced right and 7 birds that faced left from one piece of paper, creating a total of 7 birds.  You may be able to make more or less depending on the size of your birds.  Let the glue dry completely before you move on to the next step.  I let mine dry over night just to make certain they had dried completely.

4.  Using a ruler mark a 1.5 centimeter horizontal line in the middle of the glued together bird body.  Toward the back of the bird, do a 1.5 centimeter diagonal line, with the diagonal moving down to the left.  Use the picture below to get an idea of where the lines should be drawn.

5.  Using an Exacto knife or razor, cut the lines until you have a space just wide enough for a folded piece of paper to fit through.

6.  Using the ruler measure out the length and width of the wings and the tail on the wrapping paper.  Using the scissors, cut these out of the wrapping paper and make as many as you need.  For me I needed enough to complete seven birds
My tail was 6 inches long and 4.5 inches wide. 
Start the first fold lengthwise and make the fold one centimeter in width.  Flip the paper to the opposite direction and make another fold.  Basically, use the same technique that you would use to make a paper fan. 
For the tail, with the measurements that I gave you, there should be five total folds in the tail.

For the wings my paper was 14 centimeters in length and 9 centimeters in width. 
Again, fold the paper lengthwise to one centimeter in diameter and fold back and forth using the fan technique.  Using the measurements given, there should be a total of 7 folds in your wings.

 7.  Take your "wings" and gently slide them into the horizontal slot you have made in the bird body, sliding them so that they are split in half by the body forming two wings of equal length.  (The colored part of the wrapping paper should be facing toward the bird's head.)

Take the "tail" and gently slide it into the diagonal slot.  Slide until your tail is evenly split in half.  (The colored part of the wrapping paper should be the top, the white should be the bottom.)

8.  Fold the tail so that the two halves are pressed together.  Using the hot glue gun, glue the two end folds together forming one single tail.  (If this seems confusing, look at the picture for clarification.)

9.  Once the glue has dried, "fluff" your wings and tail so that they are spread wide to look like a bird in flight.

10.  Using the tip of the Exacto knife, put a small hole in the bird directly behind the wings.  String some embroidery thread to make a loop.  This will be how you hang your ornament.

And there you have it!  A beautiful ornament that cost you pennies to make.  

I also promised you a recipe!
This is not one of my recipes, but it is one of my favorite for the holiday season.  As the holidays progress and you host/attend and gift your way through the many holiday parties,  you may find your self with a multitude of little cheeses that aren't enough to keep out on the cheeseboard or to use in a recipe, but are too big to throw away.  A couple of years ago I found this recipe from Alton Brown and it has been one of my go to recipes ever since.  I have the link below but, just in case it doesn't work, I have included the recipe as well.

Fromage Fort

1 lb left over cheese*, at room temperature
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp. dried dill weed  (This is my change, Alton uses 2 tbsp. fresh parsley leaves)
1 small clove garlic

1.  Remove any rinds form the hard cheeses.
2.  Grate the hard cheeses.  Cut the softer cheeses into 1/2 inch cubes.
3.  Place cheese, wine, butter, herbs and garlic in food processor and blend until smooth, approximately two minutes.
4.  Serve immediately or refrigerate for at least one hour for a firmer consistency.

This can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.

* You may use any left-over cheese you wish, such as cheddar, parmesan, provolone, fontina, camembert or St. Andre.  Make certain that you use a combination that is not too salty

Frugal Femme NOTE:   You do not have to use dill or parsley.  I have used Herb de Provence and Italian seasoning depending on the cheeses that I had on hand.  Rosemary, basil and chives are also good choices, but go light on the rosemary as it can overpower if you put too much.
I have also taken out one tablespoon of the butter and replaced it with 1 tablespoon of flavored olive oil.  My personal favorite is a Tuscan Herb olive oil.  What I am saying here, is don't be afraid to deviate from this recipe.  Use it as a template and use the items that you think will taste good.

Well, that is it for this post, but I'm not done with the holiday fun yet.  In an upcoming post, I will tell you how to make a truly elegant meal for ten people for under $85.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Paper Ornaments - How to decorate a tree for under $5.00

Happy Holidays Everyone!
I hope that everyone has all their holiday gifts and decorations done but, if you are like many people, you may be rushing down that home stretch to Christmas.  I have a friend that is so behind that she just went out to get her tree yesterday.  Fortunately, she already has her ornaments for the tree, which is a good thing.  When I went into the stores yesterday, all of the Christmas stuff was picked clean. 

This post is for those of you who don't have a Christmas tree up and are in desperate need of ornaments. 
In the last post, I showed y'all how to make elegant cookie dough ornaments and fancy glitter ornaments out of toilet paper rolls.  Although those are beautiful, they take more time than you may have if you are just now putting up your tree.  In this post, I am going to show you how to make some beautiful Christmas ornaments out of wrapping paper and scrap book paper.  Both of these are not expensive and you can still find them in the stores.  Best of all, these are quick and easy to make and look fantastic on the tree.

Tree done by Betther Homes and Gardens, I don't know who took the picture
The tree above was my inspiration.  When I saw this tree, I thought that the ornaments and the star on top of the tree looked remarkable like the ornaments my dad had taught me how to make when I was small.  It also made me think that it would be the most cost effective way to decorate my vintage aluminum tree and be able to do the colors and the vintage look that I so deeply desired.
Here is my little aluminum tree with my take on the ornaments from the inspiration tree.

All of the ornaments on this tree are hand made, even the tree topper!!!

Doesn't this ornament look like a less fat version of the ornaments on the inspiration tree?!?!?!
This is going to be one of the most frugal craft projects that I am ever going to post.  The total cost for my ornaments and garland was under $5.00.  Now, I have to be honest here- for these ornaments, I used two types of color coordinated wrapping paper, I only used 6 inches down the length of each roll, which I have averaged used about $.25 of my wrapping paper.  Since most of my paper is being used to wrap my presents, I don't really consider the ornaments I made to be a part of the expense of my wrapping paper.  But if I did, that would make the cost of all of my ornaments under $10 for the whole tree.
Price breakdown:
Wrapping paper $.25     or      $6.00  (If you have to buy rolls)
Scrapbook Paper $2.00
Teal Floral Garland "Berries"  $1.30
Pearl Garland $0.00
I also used bamboo skewers and hot glue.  Since I had them on hand, I am not including them in the pricing.

Teal/Turquoise Floral Garland "Berries

I found these beautiful, turquoise, glitter "berries" at Michael's in the floral wreath knick knacs aisle and they were 75% off!  Of course, that was back in November, so I don't think that you can find them now, but you might get lucky. 
I just set them on the branches toward the base of the tree for some added color.  I sort of thought of them as taking the place of lights since everything I have ready says not to put lights on an aluminum tree.

Mardi Gras Bead Garland

If you live in Louisiana, this tree decoration will cost you nothing at all and may give you something to do with all of your extra Mardi Gras beads.  I love the Mardi Gras beads that look like pearl necklaces as I have found that I can use them in many different craft projects.  To used them for garland, I took a necklace and made one cut with a pair of scissors so that it made a string of pearls.  I then looped it on the tree.  For my six foot tree it took me three strands to completely wrap my tree.

Wrapping Paper 3-D Ornaments

As I wrote earlier, my dad taught me how to make these ornaments and I have used this technique to decorate many a tree.  In fact, the first Christmas tree that I ever had up in my own apartment only had these paper ornaments. Made of of gold metallic paper, bronze metallic paper, and red metallic paper I carefully stored them every Christmas and they actually survived for almost a decade.  These ornaments are super easy to make, once you get the technique down.

Items Needed
Wrapping Paper or thick paper that keeps a fold
Hot glue 
Scissors (To cut the wrapping paper)
String/ Embroidery Thread

1.  The first step is to figure out how big you want your ornament to be.  For my six foot tree, I decided that six inches was the perfect size for my ornaments.  I figured this out by very scientifically making sample ornaments of different sizes out of sales flyers and seeing which size I liked better for the tree. 

2.  Unroll the wrapping paper and mark your measurements down the length of the wrapping paper.  For my ornaments that was six inches.  You need a perfectly square piece of paper so you will measure six inches long by six inches wide.  Using a straight edge you will make squares all down the length of your wrapping paper.
3.  Cut the squares out of the wrapping paper so that you have several individual squares.

4.  Now we are ready to fold.  Below is a diagram of all of the folds that are made to make this ornament.

Don't be afraid!!!  I will walk you through all of these, step by step.

5.  With the white side of the paper facing up, fold the paper in half horizontally, forming a half of a square.  (Just an FYI all of these folds are done on the underside/white side of the paper.)
I did my folding on a Vogue coffee table book.  Isn't that picture stunning?
 Unfold the paper, rotate the paper and fold the paper in half again, forming another half square.

6.  Still with the white side up, fold your paper in half diagonally so that you have matched the paper corner to corner forming a triangle.

Unfold the paper, flip it around and repeat the step on the other diagonal creating another triangle.

7.  Following the folded line you have made down the center, fold the paper in at the corner to the fold, as you would when making a paper air plane.

Repeat the step on the opposite side, again folding long the center as if you are making a paper airplane.  If this sounds confusing, just look at the pictures.

8.  Repeat Step 7 on all four corners of the square.

9.  Now you have a thoroughly folded square.  This next step is the hardest step of the process depending on the paper you are using.  Using your finger, gently push down on the center of the square and fold the paper so that two corners lie against one another.  With some paper, this will be enough to start making the shape that we are working for, for others, we will have to help it along.  Some paper you will have to try to gently push together the corners.

For some reason, I didn't take a picture of this when I was making ornaments from my pretty paper, so I had to get a sales flyer to show you this step.  Sales flyers are a great way to practice your ornaments so that you are an expert when you are ready to start folding your fancy wrapping paper.

 10.  Glue the edges of the two pieces together with hot glue gun.

11.  Follow Steps 9 and 10 for the next corner. 

This will give you an ornament that looks like the one below.

12.  Cut a piece of thread and loop it so that it forms a circle. Tie the thread together in a knot.  Glue the knotted part of the thread to the inside of the glued corners.  This will form the loop for you to hang your ornament.

13.  Glue both sides of the ornament triangle and gently fold the last folded piece up so that all of the corners are together and form an arrow.  Make certain to press the tip together. 

If done correctly, your ornament will look like the one below.

Hang on your tree.

Paper Tree Topper

I know they look completely different, but the same technique that was used to make the paper ornaments is used to make the paper star.  And, in many ways, the star is easier than the ornament.

Items needed
Scrapbook Paper
Hot Glue Gun
Bamboo Skewer
Acrylic Paint (Optional

1.  I decided that I wanted my tree topper star to be six inches.  I honestly did this because the scrapbook paper that I had purchased was 12 x 12 paper.  I could make one star and, if I messed up, I would still have enough paper to make another star as each star only needs two paper squares to be created.  This actually worked perfect for a six foot tree.  If you have a bigger tree, you may want a bigger star.  So I cut my scrapbook paper in four squares that were 6 x 6.  For a bigger tree, you may want to do 10 x 10 or 12 x 12 but then you will need two squares of scrapbook paper rather than just one.

2.With the white side of the paper facing up, fold the paper in half so that it makes a half a square.

Rotate the paper and fold in half so that it creates another half square.  This will make a what looks like a cross on your paper.

3.  Here is where the steps differ slightly from the ornament  directions above.  Take a ruler and measure along both the horizontal and the vertical lines going slightly less than halfway down from the center   Since my star was six inches, half of my star was three inches, so slightly less than half of that would be 1 1/4 inches so that is what I measured on all four sides.

When you are finished, your square should look something like the picture below.

4.  With the white side of the paper face up, fold the square in half diagonally so that the corners touch and create a triangle. 

Rotate the paper and fold the paper in diagonal again creating another triangle.

5.  Using a pair of scissors, cut along the horizontal land vertical lines up to the mark on the paper.

Do this for all four of the marks.

6.  Fold the paper at the corners as if you are making a paper air plane.  Make certain the edge lines up with folded center line.

Repeat the step for the other side.  This will give you a triangle.
Repeat both of these steps on all four corners.  Once you have finished, the paper should look like the picture below.

If you turn the star around, your star should look like the picture below.

7.  Repeat Steps 2 - 6 for the other square.

8.  Using a glue gun, glue the outside edge of one star arm flap and the inside edge of the opposite star flap.  You should place the glue depending on which flap is going to be the bottom flap and which flap is going to be the top flat.  The bottom flap should be glued on the glitter side, the top flap should be glued along the white edge.

Repeat this step for all four star arms.  Then do it again for the second star piece.  When you are done you should have two identical four point stars. 
* NOTE*  The width/narrowness of your star arms is determine by how far you glue them together.  If you glue them so that the cut edge goes to the folded edge you will have a narrower star than if you glue the edges closer to themselves and farther from the folded edge.  Neither way is incorrect, it just depends on how narrow you want your star arms, although, if you do not line up the edge to folded edge, you need to be careful that you glued all of the arms approximately the same width.

 9.  There are two different ways that you can glue the star pieces together.  If your tree is against a wall and you do not need it to be seen from all angles, you can put both front pieces of the star together.

If your tree is seen from many angles, you will want a more three dimensional star.  If that is the case, you will want to glue the starts back to back to create the star.

As you can see, either way is very pretty.  For my tree, I did the the three dimensional star, but for the purposes of this post, I did the one direction star.  (Mostly because it was easier to show you what the steps looked like.) 
Once you have decided whether you want front to front or back to back use a hot glue gun to glue the star pieced together.
10.  Cut the bamboo skewer into equal halves.  For my tree star, I painted my skewers to match my tree and my star.  The parts of the skewer that are part of the star I painted a metallic turquoise to blend with the star.  The parts that were away from the star I painted silver so that they would blend with my aluminum tree.  If you have a green tree you can paint them green.  For the purpose of these pictures, I have left them unpainted so they are more easily seen.

There are natural holes created between the two star pieces.  This is where you want to glue the skewers.  I like doing two so that the star can kind of clip onto the top branch, but you can also just use one skewer and just poke it down into the tree top.

Voila!  It is done.  In the picture below you can see how the two types of stars look.  The one on the left is front to front and I glued so that they star arms would be wider.  The one on the right is glued back to back and I glued the arms so they would be narrower.  I did this so that it would be next to impossible to see the edges of the folded star since this way of gluing shows the back of one of the stars.

*NOTE*  You can actually add another step to create another three dimensional star if you desire.    Basically, you make the front to front star as described above but do not put in the bamboo skewers.  Then make another front to front star.  Make certain the width of the star arms are the same as the first star created.  
Glue the bamboo skewers on the back of one of the stars.  
Glue the arms of the bottom star of one of the front to front stars, press the other front to front star to the back so that both of the front to front stars are glued back to back.  You want all of the edges to line up perfectly.  This will create an epic three dimensional star that no one will guess was made out of paper.  And, if you make the star six inches by six inches, then you can make the epic three dimensional star out of one piece of 12 by 12 scrapbook paper and your tree topper would have cost you slightly more than a dollar.
Less if you use good wrapping paper rather than scrapbook paper.

I have one more paper ornament to show you how to make, but this post has already been long enough.  So I will show you how to make the paper bird ornaments in a post tomorrow and maybe include a recipe too!

Happy Holidays!