Mini Chili Pepper Piñatas ~ A craft for Cinco de Mayo!

As Cinco de Mayo approaches, I thought I’d show you how to make these fun little piñatas that look like chili peppers. The kids (8 & up) can help you because they are easy peasy. They are perfect for a party and can be filled with whatever your guests like. I filled some of mine with candy and some with pumpkin seeds (to resemble the pepper seeds). The kids just rip open the “pepper” and enjoy the treats inside! This would also be fun to make for the whole class (but get those kids to help!).

This is how big they are when finished:

Aren’t they neat? I found this idea in a Family Fun magazine years ago and I think this is the first year I remembered to make them before Cinco de Mayo came and went!

Here are the supplies you need:

  • Empty toilet paper tube
  • 9 inch x 9 inch square piece of green tissue paper – one square for each pepper (check the dollar store)
  • 45 inch length of red crepe paper/streamer – for each pepper (check the dollar store)
  • Scissors
  • Scotch tape
  • Glue stick
  • Treats to fill the piñata, like M&M’s, Skittles, pumpkin seeds, etc.

Start by making a cut along the length of the toilet paper tube. Roll it into a cone shape and tape it closed.

Take your 9″x9″ piece of green tissue paper and lay it flat. Lay the toilet paper cone on top of it, down near the corner. Roll the tissue into a cone shape as well, keeping the point closed and secure.

Secure the tissue cone with tape in a few spots and remove the toilet paper cone from inside. (You will use the same toilet paper cone for all the ones you make.)

Fill the tissue cone with candy or other small treats, about 5 inches up from the bottom. You need to leave some room for the pepper “stem”. After it’s about 5 inches full, tightly twist the top closed to make a stem. If it’s too long you can snip it a little. If it’s not staying twisted, just stick a little piece of tape on the stem to keep it in place.

Cut a 45 inch piece of red crepe paper, and fold it accordian style every 5 inches. (Fold it one way and then back the other way). Take your scissors and make 1/4″ slits, but leave about 1/4″ at the top. Do not cut all the way up – you will need this 1/4″ of uncut paper to glue to the pepper.

Unfold the red crepe paper and lay flat. Take your filled tissue chili pepper and place it on the red paper as shown (with the pepper’s point at one end of the fringe):

Using a glue stick, put some glue on the uncut top edge of the red crepe paper fringe. I did this a section at a time so the glue didn’t get everywhere on my work surface. Slowly wrap the fringe around the pepper in a tight upward spiral, sticking the glue down as you go. You want to make sure you cover the green paper as best as you can, and wind it in a spiral fashion.

Wrap all the way to the stem and trim off any excess fringe. If there are any strays sticking out in your fringe, you can cut them when you are finished…and/or bend the pepper into a curved shape.

When the glue is dry, the piñatas can be ripped open by bending them with a little pressure!

And that’s it! The more you make, faster this will go. If you are making a bunch, cut your green tissue squares and your red crepe paper lengths ahead of time.

What a fun and colorful presentation these mini chili pepper piñatas would make sitting in a bowl or on a platter for a fiesta!



Homemade Cat Treats

My 11 year old cat Maddy has had a rough year. Last February, this furry, barking ball of energy came into her world and changed everything. She no longer wanted to come downstairs to the main living area and basically lived upstairs. She wanted nothing to do with this new member of the family. Anytime the puppy came upstairs to her domain, she’d jump to higher ground or hide. We built her a nice wide shelf up there where she could hang. She ate, drank and slept there and Oscar the puppy could not reach her. I always wondered when she would finally get used to the fact that he was here to stay and come downstairs to join the family again. 14 months after his arrival, she ventured downstairs. And she never looked back.

I decided I wanted to do something nice for her and bake her some homemade cat treats.

Maddy wondered what took me so long.

She loves tuna so the treats are tuna based – and healthy. There are only 6 ingredients and most of them you probably already have on hand: Canned tuna, cornmeal, wheatgerm, whole wheat flour, egg, and vegetable oil.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees…and I recommend lining your cookie sheet with parchment paper, but that’s optional.

Place these ingredients into a medium-sized mixing bowl:
6 ounces canned tuna, undrained
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup wheatgerm (found near the oatmeal in my grocery store, refrigerate after opening.)
1/4 cup whole wheat flour, plus more if needed
1 egg
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Mix everything together with a fork. If it seems sticky, add more flour a little at a time and mix again — until you can form it into a ball. Place the ball on your cookie sheet and using a rolling pin, flatten the dough into 1/8″ thickness. (This is why it helps to have the parchment paper down on your cookie sheet.) Using a pizza cutter or a knife, slice the dough into 1/2″ wide strips, then cut the strips on a diagonal to make diamond shapes.

Bake for about 12 minutes at 325 degrees, then take the cookie sheet out and separate the treats. Put them back in the oven for up to 5 more minutes so they get crispy throughout. (Baking time will depend on how wet your dough was and how thin you rolled it. You just want them to get golden and slightly crispy.)

Let cool on the cookie sheet. Store treats in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Now Maddy feels as special as Oscar who gets Homemade Dog Treats and Homemade Pupsicles!

I guess some cats can’t be rushed…but she’s worth the wait. 🙂

Mini “Sno-Caps” Cupcakes

I happened to be walking down the candy aisle in the grocery store when these cupcakes popped into my head. It took me a couple of weeks before I finally decided on how I wanted to make them. (I must have a thing for combining my favorite candy with cupcakes, as you can see from my Good & Plenty cupcakes!) For these little yummy treats, I baked up some chocolate mini cupcakes, frosted them with dark chocolate icing, and topped them with my own dark chocolate nonpareils or “Sno-Caps”.  Nestle’s Sno-Caps are so tiny and bite-sized that I thought the cupcakes should be as well.

Here’s how I made them in more detail:
1) Bake a batch of mini cupcakes in a mini muffin pan using cake mix from a box or your favorite chocolate cake recipe. (I used Duncan Hines Devil’s Food flavor because it’s my favorite!) They take only 15 minutes in a 325 degree oven.

2) Let cupcakes sit in muffin pan for 5-10 minutes after baking and then remove from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

*I made 48 mini cupcakes and still had leftover batter. The frosting recipe and instructions for the nonpareils are for 48 mini cupcakes. I just used the rest of the batter to try out my whoopie pie pan and froze the cakes for another time! 🙂

3) While mini cupcakes are cooling, make your frosting.

Dark Chocolate Frosting
2 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup milk
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

In a small but heavy saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate with butter, milk, and salt. Stir constantly (so chocolate doesn’t burn) until thick and smooth. This should only take a few minutes. Remove from heat. Add in the vanilla and stir a little to combine. Pour into a mixing bowl, scraping with a spatula to get all the chocolate into the bowl. Add in the powdered sugar. Blend on low speed with mixer to combine, and then beat on higher speed until well combined. The frosting should be thick and smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

4) To make your “Sno-Caps” you’ll need:

6 oz. or more of white nonpareils (small, ball-shaped sprinkles, found in baking aisle of grocery store or where they sell cake decorating supplies)
1 – 12 oz. bag of semi-sweet morsels and 1 – 10 oz. bag of bittersweet morsels
2 – 12 oz. bags of semi-sweet morsels
(Depends on how sweet you like your dark chocolate…I used half Ghirardelli Bittersweet morsels and half Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet morsels. I find that the Ghirardelli melts more smoothly, so I recommend that brand if you can get it.)
Disposable decorating bag or a Ziploc bag
Wax paper

Pour half of the chocolate into a microwaveable bowl. (If you are mixing them, pour half the bittersweet and half the semi-sweet into the bowl) Microwave the chocolate on medium power for a minute. Stir morsels. Microwave another minute on medium power. Stir. Microwave on medium power at 30 second intervals now, stirring each time, until chocolate is melted and smooth. Do not over heat and do not use high power! Set bowl aside for a few minutes to cool a bit. While it cools you can make a template for your nonpareils. Using wax paper and a Sharpie marker, trace the circles of your mini muffin pan onto the paper.

Flip wax paper over…and line a rimmed baking sheet with it. (You want your baking sheet to have a rim so the sprinkles won’t spill out, but it should fit in your freezer as well.)

Get your decorating bag or Ziploc bag ready. Fill your bag about 3/4 full with melted chocolate, snip the end, and using a swirl motion fill the circles on your wax paper. I tried to make “mountains” like the Sno-Caps candy but when I added the sprinkles they mostly flattened out anyway.

I only did about 12 at a time. If you make too many at once, your chocolate will start to set up and the nonpareil sprinkles will not stick properly.

Generously sprinkle the nonpareils over your chocolate swirls, covering all the chocolate.

Stick the baking sheet in the freezer for about 5 minutes or so, to let the chocolate harden. When they are ready, take the pan out of the freezer, peel off the chocolates, and set aside. Pour the unused sprinkles into a bowl to reuse (using the wax paper like a funnel).

You can either make all of these “Sno-Caps” first, then frost the cupcakes and assemble with the nonpareils, or you can do it in batches like I did. (I made 12 Sno-Caps, frosted and assembled 12 cupcakes, then made the rest in groups of 12 (melting chocolate as needed.)

5) Frost mini cupcakes with dark chocolate frosting…

6) Stick your custom “Sno-Cap” on top and gently press it into place.

I tried to create these as close to the candy as possible. The chocolate candy top adds a nice little touch. But…if you want a short cut, go ahead and just frost the cupcakes with dark chocolate frosting and sprinkle generously with white nonpareils (or turn over and dip them which might be easier and cleaner.) Just don’t let me know you copped out! 😉

Happy Sprinkling!