Monday, July 14, 2014

Sausage and Pepper Cups

I hate wasting food.  Of course I have the occasional blunder and forget about some fresh produce until it is too late, but I try to make sure that doesn't happen.  Well recently I had a bunch of leftover wonton wrappers and no clue what to do with them.  After poking around the freezer a bit a little inspiration hit me.  I saw a lot of people using them to make taco cups, but why not use them for other fun mini entrees?  Thus the sausage and pepper cups was born.

Although mine was short on the pepper part.
They were really good, and pretty addicting too.  My boyfriend fell in love with them.  It would be a great party food.

1 package wonton wrappers
1 lb sausage in casing (I used Irish garlic, but that is seasonal around here, use the flavor you prefer)
2 large onion, diced
2 large bell peppers, diced
2 can diced potato (its all I had, you could also use two medium fresh diced baked potatoes)
Salt, pepper, and paprika to taste


  1. Cook sausage in oven at 350°F for about 30 minutes or until cooked through let cool enough to handle
  2. In a large pan sweat onion and bell peppers
  3. Mix in potatoes to the onion mix and season to taste
  4. Dice sausage and mix into the onion mix
  5. In muffin tin place a wonton wrapper into each cup
  6. Spoon in the mixture into the cups
  7. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes
  8. Take out and enjoy!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Take Advantage of Farmers Markets

Sorry, this is another post that is not typical of this blog.  A lot of bad things have happened since my last post.  After dealing with the worst contractor in the world I am left a little exhausted.  Unfortunately my business with him is not finished yet, but that is a whole different story.

Now onto the good!  Have you ever checked out your local farmers markets?  I've heard so many excuses of why people don't go, hell, I have even said a few myself.  Things like "I don't know when/where one is."  "I don't like to get up that early."  "I can just go to the store, the produce is not that much more expensive."  "I always work mornings."  Well, I am here to tell you to quit yo' complaining.  It is not hard to find out when and where they are, just ask around or check out your town website.  Put on your adult underwear and get up early.  In my small little town there is one almost every day in the week (or at least one in a nearby town), working most mornings is no excuse.  Oh, and yes, the store is in fact that much more expensive.

Don't believe me?  Go ahead, guess how much I spent on this fresh produce today.

Just look at that tasty produce.
Before you make your guess I will let you know exactly what is there:

3 Bell Peppers
3 Cucumbers
1 Bundle of Green Onions
4 Apples
5 Bananas
4 Beef Stake Tomatoes
5 Plums
1 Cantaloupe 

I only spent $10.75, and that is my average when I go.  This is about a third of what I would pay at the store.  I have brought home fresh berries, asparagus, the sweetest watermelon you have ever tasted, peaches, pears, mangos, and whatever else happened to be in season at the time.

Not only do you get the satisfaction of saving money, but you are also directly helping a family pay for their bills when you buy from them, instead of supporting some CEO paying employees minimum wage.  It is a win-win if you ask me.

It is not all that much different than buying your produce anywhere else.  You always have to check it before you buy it.  Never let the vendor randomly grab a bunch and bag it for you.  Also make sure you wash your produce before storing them so they stay fresh all week long.

My favorite wash "recipe"  is to fill a bowl with cold water.  Add 1/4 of distilled white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Mix it up and let your produce soak for 30 minutes.  Then rinse them with cold water and let them dry before storing.  

Just look at these happy fruits and vegetables taking a dip!

No worries if you can't stand vinegar.  The taste does not stick.

One last word of advice is to go early, because stuff can sell out quickly!  Go forth and be frugal!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

How to Handle Weevils

Okay everyone, I am going to deviate from my normal blogging today.  I have lived in Florida for almost a decade now.  At first every pest problem I had was shocking.  I have had my fair share of battles with sugar ants, roaches (two different kinds at that), spiders (although they were also a problem in Jersey), and flies.  I thought by this point I have learned all of the tricks and can keep my house mostly pest free.  I kept all of my food (as well as certain soaps and tea light candles) in sealed plastic bags or containers after losing so much of it to sugar ants.  I thought nothing could make me lose all of my pantry food and make me go into an all out war again.  I was wrong.

It all started a few months back.  I had a friend over for dinner and I was making fish with broccoli and orzo.  I seasoned the water just how I wanted it and dumped in the orzo when it started to boil.  Soon after I noticed something float to the top.  It was a single tiny black bug.  My friend was already in the kitchen so I asked her to take a look.  She had seen them before and was pretty nonchalant about it.  She told me it was a weevil and we scooped it out of the water.  I inspected the box and what was in the pot, I couldn't see any more floating around.  So, in true college student style, we decided to eat it anyways.  Stuff like that happens, especially in the south.

I month or two later I was going to make chicken parmesan for dinner, and was poking around the cabinet for the flower.  When I pulled it out of its plastic bag I noticed more weevils.  This time they were alive and crawling around in quite larger numbers.  I did a quick google search to figure out what was going on.  I was in for a shock.  These things place their larva into grains and hatch in your pantry.  Almost all grains you buy (including your pasta and flour) has weevil larva in it, you just cannot tell until they start to hatch.  They are completely harmless, and apparently not toxic if you eat them, however they do eat your grains and are not something that you want sprinkled in your cookies.  There are quite a few different kinds, but from a visual comparison it looked like I had a bad case of rice weevils.

Appetizing.  Thank you Gold Miner Pest for this image.

  I quickly started digging through the pantry to see where they were coming from.  As I did I was finding more and more food that was infested.  I finally found what I thought was item zero.  A bag of brown rice that I knew in my gut that I had bought, but couldn't find.  It got shoved into the way back of the pantry and I had bought another bag thinking I was just going crazy.  As soon as it was in site you could hear the movement in the bag, the light scratching sound.  I had a photo of the infested bag, but my phone is still down.  Sorry, but I doubt you really wanted to see it anyways.

I freaked out a little bit, then went and put on my big girl panties and put on some gloves and grabbed a trash bag.  As I was going through and throwing out food I found another discovery.  A small green container with a small bag of flower in it.  All of my flower was in plastic bags and I had been using that method for a while.  This had to be left over from my last pantry purge which shamefully was a little over a year prior.  To my horror it was completely covered in small weevils that were managing to get out of the container even though it had a decent seal.  These things are trickier than german roaches!  So I found the real product zero and ended up losing about $200 worth of food.  Unlike roaches and sugar ants, they can eat through the ziplock style plastic bags I was using to store some of my food and wiggle their way into my cheaper tupperware.

I vacuumed out my cabinet, bleached it, spread around tea tree oil, and added a bunch of bay leaves for good measure (apparently the smell of bay leaves and tea tree oil repels them).  My life was back to normal, or so I thought.

It was just two days later when I noticed something fall onto the counter as I was making breakfast.  It was a weevil.  The cabinet that was infected was still empty and I couldn't find any sign of them!  Where could this one have come from?  Surely not the canned goods cabinet!  With great trepidation I opened it up.  Immediately I noticed something out of place.  There was a box of minute rice in there, and yep, it had a few weevils in it.  I took it out the the dumpster and gave that cabinet the same treatment as the other one.

Just to make sure I was done with them forever, I inspected the cereal on top of the fridge.  It was clean.
Then, just to amuse myself I checked the tight glass containers that I keep my rices and spaghetti in.  To my horror the container of newer brown rice had a few in it.  I had to toss it, along with the white rice just to be safe.  I don't eat white rice that often so if it did get weevils I wouldn't notice in time.  These little suckers managed to make it though every storage technique I know!

A month has gone by since then, and so far I have been weevil free.  I have picked up some new storage habits that hopefully will prevent anything like this from happening again (I don't know how many times I have said that by this point >.< ).

If you get weevils, follow the steps that I did and you should be able to get rid of them.  As far as prevention goes, I store all of my grains in my freezer now.  I read that you could simply freeze them for a few weeks and place them into a sturdy air tight container, but I don't trust that now.  Some of the grains I lost I thought were in sturdy air tight containers.  Luckily I have a large freezer in my garage and I have the space to store grains in it.  Please learn from my pain and freeze your grains, at least for a few weeks, use them quickly, and store them correctly.  I don't want anyone else to lose a lot of food.

Also, I never let this experience stop me from enjoying brown rice.  I actually ate some while writing this.  Be bold!  Don't let bad experiences stop you from enjoying that food.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Fairy Garden

So, Mothers Day was rapidly approaching this year, as was finals.  My mother likes gifts that comes from the heart, but I was in a time crunch.  I knew better than ask her what she wanted, she would have said another painting or charcoal drawling.  She loves my artwork, and I am very flattered that she proudly displays everything I make for her, but honestly, I don't know where she has room to hang any more.  On top of the works she already has she found an old free art coupon that I gave her and commissioned a new piece two days ago.  Instead of over crowding her walls with more hanging art, I decided to make a work of art that didn't have to be put onto a wall.  It was time time to get crafty >:3

I have been in love with all the little zen fairy gardens I have been seeing all over Pintrest and Facebook over the past few months.  I have been wanting to make a few to have more interesting potted plants around the house and garden.  Then the idea struck me.  My mother loves plants, but she has a bit of a brown thumb.  What if I made her a fairy garden with all fake and dried plants?

That day, after class, I drove down to Michael's to gather some supplies.  To my delight, their entire spring collection was on sale.  I was able to get a lovely planter, fake moss, and dried flowers for a great price.  This allowed me to splurge on the really nice looking trees.  All of the other items I already had stored up in my craft closet.

Unfortunately my phone was dying and didn't want to charge the day I was making it, so I only have a few pictures of the project.  Also, a dying phone means no flash.  Sorry everyone!

Here is the planter, I found one that matches her room!
The planter was far too deep to just put the moss at the bottom, so I filled up the space with pieces of styrofoam that were once really bad fake swords that I made for a last minute Devil May Cry costume.

One craft fail can always be reused for a craft win.
It took about two layers of this to get to a hight I liked.  To make a more even surface to glue on I cut out a piece of cardboard and fitted it into the pot.  It was such a perfect fit that I didn't even need to glue it, that sucker wasn't going anywhere.

I feel as if I should have made a sex joke here...
After that it was just a matter of placing and glueing.  I cut strips of the moss and fitted it into the planter to make sure it looked alright and then glued it down piece by piece with my hot glue gun.  After I arranged the trees and glued them down the same way.  I had some lovely little stones from a candle holder that the cable guy broke, so I put them to good use.  I even found the last glass shard with my finger!  Crafting is risky business sometimes.  I liked the little courtyard with some stones from a bracelet that broke a long time ago.  The little archway I made using pieces of the wild grape vine that grows along my fence.  All and all I really liked how it came out, and it was super easy.

A little piece of Zen
I added some support to those back trees and a little bench that my boyfriend put together.  Unfortunately I do not have a picture of the little bench because my phone is malfunctioning.  I will try to update with the fully finished project as soon as possible.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Snow Globe Ornaments

Hello everyone!  

I hope your holidays went by smoothly!  Sorry I couldn't post this one before the holidays, but I am a last minute kind of girl sometimes, especially after finals.  Besides, I didn't want my friends that read this blog to know what they were getting before hand (hint to the people I still need to see!).  

Anyways, every year I choose a craft to make for everyone since I am a struggling college student.  This year I was inspired by all of the snow globe ornaments I had been seeing all over my normal crafting sites.  Here is my version:

A few weeks before Christmas I went out to find some clear glass ornaments to use.  I could not find them anywhere!  I even went to every store I could think of in the next town over and nothing!  Apparently they were a hot item this year.  I was going to order some off of Amazon, at a super inflated price, when I decided to look for one more day.  Luckily I found one pack hidden in the back of a shelf.  

After I had the ornaments I went in search of things that will fit into it.  I found lovely little figures at a dollar store that just fit into them (although I shattered one trying to get it to fit).  I also found some snow covered branches at a craft store that I cut and made into little trees.  Every place I went to was out of bulk snow, so I had to get a little creative.  With my boyfriends help, we broke apart styrofoam that came out of something or another to use instead.

I started off by prepping the trees.  I used hot glue to piece them together and also to stick them into the globes.  It was a little difficult to get the webs out with tweezers after, but it was just the most efficient glue I had on hand for the job.
Here is the branches, because it was so close to Christmas I got it for 1/3 of the price.

Since the glass ornaments I got were a little on the cheaply made side, some of the openings were wonky.  I had to pair each one up with a figure that will fit it, the bigger ones going into the better formed ones.  I used E 6000 to glue them into place and long tweezers to get them there.

The rest of it was just a matter of putting in enough snow and closing it back up.

Even my boyfriend was excited with how they came out
Honestly, they were a huge hit.  Everyone adored them!  


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Wine Cork Wreath

Hey everyone!  I know it has been a while again.  Sorry, the end of this semester was rough.  I did manage to pull off some fun projects to share with you; I just didn't have the time to dedicate to posting them.  So you all can expect regular updates again!  Thank you so much for all of your patience. 

I was so excited about this one that I had to share it on my Facebook page as soon as it was done.  I was browsing the internet a few months ago and came across this wreath.

I have no idea who created this, if you do let me know so I can give them credit.

I instantly fell in love.  I knew it was something that I had to make.  So I did what any logical college student would do and started buying wine.  Well, while that was a lot of fun, I wasn't getting enough corks for this project in a reasonable amount of time.  You can buy corks on Amazon, but that was just too expensive (70$ for 100 corks?  I would rather buy the wine!).  I was stuck.  That is when my amazing alcoholic friends came to the rescue.  Within a few weeks I had a shopping bag half full of corks.  <3  I have awesome friends.

I ran out to my local craft store to purchase a wreath form and some decorations for it.  I decided to go with a grape vine one because it just felt appropriate.  That way, if there are any gaps they don't stand out as much as they would on styrofoam a or straw one.   I found this one for around $3!

I wasn't having much inspiration for the decorations on the wreath.  I wanted the fake holly berries, but the selection was lacking since it was still October.  I finally stumbled across a lovely piece of garland complete with the berries, leaves, and poinsettias.  At 5$ it was absolutely perfect.

I started off by simply hot glueing the corks to the wreath, making sure not to follow any particular pattern or direction and filling any major gaps.  I have seen a few of these where all the corks look organized and face the same direction, but they were just not as appealing to me.  I like the orderly disorder approach.

This also means I got to finally break in my new hot glue gun!  Now the other one can be repurposed for all of the melted crayon crafts I have been wanting to try.

Just keep on filling in the wreath until you are pleased with how it looks.  Remember, small gaps are fine.  It shows off little glimpses of grape vines.

Once the body of the wreath was finished, I cut apart the garland and played around with the pieces until I came up with something I liked.

This is what I settled on.  There is not as much color in the original, but I still love how it came out.  Overall, the project cost me about 8$, not including the price of wine, and only took about an hour to put together. 

Honestly, I am planning on making more over the next year and using them as gifts.  Sorry to all my friends, and thank you for abusing your livers for the sake of crafting!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Caramel Pecan Pumpkin Cheesecake

I am sorry for abandoning you guys for a while.  It was midterm time, and honestly I didn't cook or craft much in that time.  I will make it up for you in this week of extra posts.  Please don't hate me/egg my house.

This recipe should help gain your faith in me back.  

The base for my pumpkin cheesecake comes from a recipe Emeril Lagasse featured years ago; before anyone knew who Gordon Ramsey was.  Of course I modified the recipe almost beyond recognition.  Honestly, my best advice to give to a baker or cook is to learn the science behind making food.  Almost anyone can just follow a recipe; a good cook learns how to make it their own.  Use recipes for inspiration and add in or substitute what you really want in there.  If you are starting out and are unsure, learn by trial.  Mistakes simply help you learn.

Now that I am off of my soap box, here are instruction on how to make my version of this pumpkin cheesecake.

Instead of buying graham cracker crumbs, I always prefer to crumble them myself.  It can be a little rough on the hands, but it is really easy to do and takes little time.  That way, the left over graham crackers can be eaten and not just sit around in my cabinet in crumb form forever.  To make enough for this recipe it takes about a sleeve plus two more cracker sheets.

Make sure to wash your hands really well first, unless you hate the people you are feeding it to.
I also like to take the cheap route and chop up my own pecans.  I use them for garnish too, so buying the prechopped stuff just doesn't cut it.

The biggest thing people forget when making a cheesecake is that they are not cakes.  They are delicate custards that will  not be fully firm when you take them out of the oven.  If you over bake them the consistency will suffer and you will form cracks.  Only keep it in until the sides of the cheesecake no longer giggle when moved.  It should only take 60-70 minutes.  I lost track of time and left mine in for ten minutes too long.  This is what an overcooked cheesecake looks like.

It should not look like an earthquake hit it.
Also remember, cracks can form after you begin to cool it.  If you have a small crack while it is still baking, you can bet on there being more later.  It is not always a disaster when this happens; just remember it is not going to be as good.  It will still most likely be good.

I also must stress that if you are having trouble making cheesecakes, that you should try cooking them by weight instead of volume measurements.  This means add ounces, not cups.  Honestly, this is the only cheesecake that I make this way, mainly because I have yet to have any problems with it.

When making a caramel sauce, it is really important to use a double boiler and not just make it in a pot.  You don't want to burn the sauce.  You also don't want the water at a rolling boil either; just a light boil with bubbles breaking the surface every second is more than fine.  Don't have a double boiler?  Take the cheap college student way out.  A pot inside of a pot or a metal bowl inside of a pot works just fine.  Be careful though.  You don't want that falling on you.

Because who has room for a double boiler?
Now that all special directions are out of the way, here is my caramel pecan pumpkin cheesecake.

1 3/4 cups cinnimon graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 stick melted unsalted butter
3 packages of cream cheese (8 oz each at room temperature)
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnimon
1//2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
15 ounces pumpkin puree 
1/4 cup heavy cream
equal parts soft caramel and heavy cream (about 1/4 cup of each, as desired)
whole pecans

1. Mix together the graham cracker crumbs, chopped pecans, and brown sugar in a large bowl
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Mix butter into graham cracker mixture
4. Press graham cracker mixture evenly into the bottom of a spring form pan.  Let the mixture come up the sides about an inch
5. In a mixer beat cream cheese, sugar, and cornstarch on low until smooth and creamy
6. Add in the spices and eggs, mix until incorporated.
7. Add the pumpkin and heavy cream, mix until the batter is consistent.
8. Pour into spring form pan and bake for 60-70 minutes or until just the sides don't move when the pan is gently shaken (always put your spring form pan on top of a sheet pan)
9. Let cool for at least one hour before preparing the caramel.
10.  Arrange whole pecans on top as desired
11.  In a double boiler melt caramel and heavy cream, stirring constantly
12. Drizzle over cheesecake while the caramel is still hot.  It will solidify and be hard to work with once it cools.