Sunday, March 23, 2014

Project Sunday: Lined Tote Bags

Hello, lovelies!

Happy Project Sunday to you all. I am so happy to finally get this tutorial into the world! I've been holding onto it since December and I finally had the time to create a step-by-step photo tutorial. For the holidays, I was looking for a substantial craft to gift to my girlfriends. I was inspired by this tutorial for 20 minute tote bags over at the Purl Bee. However, that project used upholstery weight cotton and cotton webbing--that's not what I had on hand. (I had much more basic fabric lying around!) I played with the idea until, behold!, a lined tote bag was born. They were a hit with my friends, and only took me an afternoon to sew four of them. I also included steps on how to make straps out of fabric if you don't have the suggested material for the handles.

For one line tote bag, you'll need:
1/2 yard cotton fabric (outside of bag)    *you'll need more if you're making the straps*
1/2 yard canvas fabric (bag lining)
1 yard of cotton rope or trim (for handles)
thread that matches outer fabric

Follow the same directions that I gave for attaching the cotton rope handles. Be careful the handles aren't twisted before you sew them onto the panels!

I hope this tutorial is easy to understand and follow. If you give these lined tote bags a try, do let me know! I'd love to know how you get on with it.

Much love,

Check out these parties where I shared this post!
Homemade Mondays @ Frugal By Choice
Marvelous Mondays @ This Gal Cooks 
Skip To My Lou

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Easy Roasted Veggies: Sexy Vegetarian Thursday

Hello, lovelies!

 As spring approaches (seriously, is it here already?), I'd like to share a recipe I use through the fall, winter, and spring months on nights when it's really pleasant (or downright necessary) to have the oven on. One of the easiest ways to get your partner, family, or friends to eat vegetables is to roast them. Believe me, it sounds more complicated than it actually is. Essentially, roasting is baking the veggies with olive oil on a baking sheet. That's it. I love simple cooking, don't you? Roasting brings out the veggies' flavors, gives them a beautiful texture, and might make you like a veg you thought you hated. Roasted vegetables take about 30 minutes to make and compliment almost any main dish you serve in the colder months.

Two of my favorites vegetables to roast are Brussels sprouts and carrots.

Lots of people think they hate Brussels sprouts, but haven't actually had them in years. I am a prime example of this population: my dad used to boil frozen sprouts. Oh the horror! Please, for the love of the sprout, don't do this. I didn't eat them again for well over ten years until I had dinner at a friend's house in 2012 and he cooked them like this. You really need fresh Brussels sprouts to do them any sort of justice. I've even come to love raw Brussels sprouts, but they have a very intense spicy flavor.

Roasted Brussels sprouts, however, lose that harsh bite and develop a toasted flavor. The texture of roasted sprouts is just divine. They're softened, chewy, and crispy all at once. Roasted sprouts are delicious on their own, but you can create a special dish by topping them with crumbled bacon and blue cheese, or balsamic vinegar and chopped pistachios. You just might convert to a Brussels sprout lover!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Servings: 4-6
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts
*If you buy the sprouts still on the stem, you'll need to cut them off the stem before following the directions.
*If you need to clean the sprouts, do so ahead of time so they will be dry before roasting.
*You can buy sprouts that are already cleaned, so you can jump to the directions.

1. Prepare sprouts by cutting the hard end off each sprout. Then cut each sprout in half lengthwise or "hot dog" style.
2. Place cut sprouts in one layer on a baking sheet.
3. Drizzle sprouts liberally with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
5. Flip sprouts with spatula, then roast for another 10 minutes.
6. Serve immediately.


I suspect that far more people like carrots over Brussels sprouts, but carrots can be difficult to prepare in a desirable fashion. I'd rather eat a raw carrot than a boiled carrot. Who's with me?

If you've never had roasted carrots, you have to try them. Roasting carrots brings out their natural sweetness and gives them a perfect texture. There's really nothing worse than mushy carrots, right? Not to worry because these carrots are perfectly cooked.

Roasted Carrots
Servings: 4-6
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

 1 pound fresh carrots

1. Prepare carrots by cutting both ends off each carrot. Use peeler to remove outer layer from carrots. Then, cut each carrot into the size you desire--I aim for a thick matchstick size. Try to make the pieces roughly the same size so they roast evenly.
2. Place cut carrots in one layer on a baking sheet.
3. Drizzle carrots liberally with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
5. Flip carrots with spatula, then roast for another 10 minutes.
6. Serve immediately.

I hope you find these recipes simple and delicious. Enjoy!

Much love,

Check out these parties where I shared this post!
Homemade Mondays @ Frugal By Choice
Marvelous Mondays @ This Gal Cooks 
Skip To My Lou

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Project Sunday: Easy Upcycled Storage Solution

Hello, lovelies!

Welcome back to Project Sunday! If you've missed past Project Sundays, you can find them here: lamp revamp, desk makeover, braided hairstyles, button earrings, nightstand makeover, peppermint bark & toffee bark, St. Patrick's Day sweets round-up

Today, I'm sharing a quick DIY solution to a storage kerfuffle. I needed some pantry containers for my many spices; more importantly, I wanted them on the cheap. After rummaging through the recycling bin and my craft supplies, I had the materials I needed. This project took me about 10 minutes and produced two perfectly-sized boxes to hold my spices and extracts.

All you need is a cardboard box, gift wrap, and tape (both duct and clear). The box I used was a family pack of granola bars, but you can use any size box that will suit your needs.

The first step is to cut the box in half lengthwise. I quickly measured and marked halfway up the side all around the box. I ended up using both scissors and a serrated kitchen knife to do the job--this cardboard was so thick! Who knew granola bars needed such protection? You may need to tape one side of each half closed to keep the flaps together and stabilize the box.

Next, use your gift wrap to cover the boxes. It can be tricky, but be patient. My tip is don't fuss at all with the underside of the box and instead focus on making the outer sides the prettiest (although you can always hide an ugly side with the way you place the box). Remember, your box will be filled with stuff, so you will hardly notice any oopsies on inner sides. You can tell that mine were far from perfect.

Fill your boxes, and you're done! It's almost too easy, right?

The bright chevron print makes me smile every time I go in search of ranch mix, taco seasoning, or pumpkin pie spice. This DIY is such a great way to reuse and recycle. You can use up paper gift wrap this way if you're trying to make the switch to wrapping gifts with fabric.


ONE YEAR AGO: Guinness Stew  

Check out these fun parties where I shared this post:
Homemade Mondays @ Frugal By Choice, Cheap By Necessity
Marvelous Mondays @ This Gal Cooks

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Recipe Wednesday: Game Day Chili

Hello, lovelies!

Welcome to the second edition of Recipe Wednesday. If you missed the first Recipe Wednesday, check out my baked turkey and cheese chimichangas.

Food blogging is a hilarious and sometimes really unattractive hobby. I just stomped and cursed around the house for 15 minutes because I couldn't find the handwritten recipe for this chili. The situation was especially frustrating since I had written most of this post, leaving the recipe for last.

In a fit of blogging-induced rage, I tore all the cushions off the couch, then threw the mail on the floor after searching through the pile. Because the recipe was obviously going to be hiding behind the Wegmans coupons. Obviously.

Wanna know where I found it? Not in the kitchen, or even the living room where I sit and transfer recipes to my kitchen journal. Nope.

It was stuck to the bottom of the bedroom door.

I was so embarassed about my behavior that I texted Mr. J (who was downstairs) to tell him I found the recipe. He brought me a beer less than one minute later.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I am a lucky, lucky lady.

Anywhos, I created this chili just before Superbowl Sunday with the intention of sharing it in a timely manner. However, we flew to Dublin the day after the Superbowl, and I neglected to actually write the post until today... oops. The buzz around the Superbowl got me thinking how I could add extra buzz to my (pretty excellent) standard chili. Beer was a clear frontrunner thanks to its connection to tailgating. Two other sporting event ingredients that spoke to me were ketchup and mustard.

Thus was born my Game Day Chili.

Despite the fact that I totally dropped the ball on posting this before the big game, the good news is this chili is perfect any time of the year. What's not to love about an easy, one-pot meal that you can put leftover chicken in? Serve steaming bowls to your family and friends in your living room, or load the chili on top of bratwursts while standing in the parking lot.

Make sure you use quality, flavorful beer--stuff you'd actually drink, none of that cheap, watery crap. The best options to give this chili its full body are brown/dark beers like porters and stouts. The more local, the better. I used Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, a medium-bodied beer with hints of dark chocolate, coffee, and caramel. If you're an average person who doesn't drink or sample a lot of beer (don't judge me, I went to Ireland, England, and Boston in the last four weeks!), ask a store associate for help selecting a porter, stout, or brown beer. Guinness Draught, New Castle Brown Ale, Yuengling Black and Tan, and Sam Adams Boston Lager are options available in most grocery stores. Or just use your favorite beer. Whatever suits your fancy.

(If you're wondering, I think using a light colored beer like Budweiser, Corona, Molson, etc. will thin out your chili too much and won't contribute a lot of flavor.)

Mr. J sends his recommendation of topping the chili with cheddar cheese and serving it with cornbread.

Game Day Chili

This hearty chili has deep, complex flavors inspired by sporting events: ketchup, mustard, and beer!

Servings: 8 to 10

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours, 10 minutes

1 Tbs. olive oil
1 1/2 lbs. ground turkey
1 Tbs. chili powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. red pepper (chili) flakes
a pinch of paprika for color
1 6-oz. can of tomato paste
2 14-oz. cans of diced tomatoes
1 28-oz. can of tomato puree
1 can kidney beans
1/2 bag of frozen corn
2 Tbs. ketchup
2 tsp. mustard
18 oz. beer (1 1/2 12-oz. beers) [I recommend brown or dark beers, especially a porter or stout like Guinness, for the best flavor]
3 cups chicken, cooked and shredded

Use 2 cups of chicken and 12 ounces of beer.
If using a crockpot, decrease beer to 6 to 8 ounces.

1. In a large pot, brown turkey in olive oil over medium heat. Add all spices (chili powder through paprika) to turkey and stir to combine.
2. Add tomato paste. Thoroughly mix to combine evenly.
3. Add diced tomatoes and tomato puree, then beans and corn. Stir.
4. Add ketchup and mustard. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add beer, stir carefully to incorporate.
6. Cover and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes.
7. Turn heat to low. Add chicken. Cover.
8. Simmer chili for at least 2 hours to develop flavors.


ONE YEAR AGO: Throw Pillow Advice

Check out these awesome parties where I shared this post:
Wake Up Wednesdays 
Homemade Mondays
Sweet Bella Roos

Monday, March 10, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Sweets Round-up!

Hello, lovelies!

If you're looking for a St. Patrick's Day treat, you've come to the right place. I'll give you the hook up to five amazing recipes in the hopes of inspiring you and introducing you to a couple of really great cooking blogs. Of the five, I've tried two myself, and cannot wait to try the other three. Let's get to the goods, shall we?

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes, Brown Eyed Baker
Here sit last year's cupcakes in all their glory. This year, I first used a baker's spatula to frost the cupcakes,
then tinted the remaining frosting green to pipe on shamrocks.

lots of dirty dishes, pricey alcohol, they disappear really suddenly

These are THE BEST cupcakes I've ever had or made. Ever, ever, ever. Baking them has become a St. Paddy's Day tradition in our house. What could be better than Guinness chocolate cupcakes filled with whiskey chocolate ganache, topped with Bailey's buttercream frosting? The flavor combos are inspired by the Irish Car Bomb, a drink composed by dropping a shot glass of whiskey and Irish cream into a pint of Guinness. Believe me, these cupcakes disappear as quickly as the drink does (apparently the drink curdles if not drunk fast won't run that risk with the cupcakes so I think these are a better use of the alcohol!).

You'll need Guinness, Bailey's, and Jameson to do justice to this recipe, as well as a few hours of your time. The result is well worth the effort. Good luck keeping the filling and frosting free of trespassers when you're baking the cupcakes.

Irish Cream Cheesecake,

cons: richer than Richie Rich; I cannot explain the mangled edge

Every year, Mr. J requests a cheesecake for his birthday. For his big 25 in November, I found this chocolate Bailey's cheesecake and knew it was the one. I was really impressed with the recipe, and not just because of its perfect balance of tangy and sweet flavors or the incredibly smooth texture. This is the first cheesecake I baked that didn't crack on the top! I followed the recipe exactly (so rare) and I recommend you do the same if you give it a whirl. There are a ton of suggestions in the comments, though, if you're interested in trying some variations.

Bailey's White Chocolate Fudge,


cons: ...Bailey's, butter, sugar...

 Are you noticing a trend? Obviously, I'm obsessed with Bailey's. Don't judge me, you know you love it, too. This recipe has been sitting on one of my Pinterest boards for many months but I haven't tried it yet. However, it sounds so easy and delicious that I wanted to share it with you! Bailey's, butter, sugar, milk, and white chocolate melt and bubble together to create a simple, dreamy fudge.

Thin Mint Truffles, Cookin' Cowgirl 

pros: THIN MINTS!!! (and no cooking required)
cons: Can the thin mint really be enhanced? Really?

March brings two things to the Northeastern U.S. to make the remainder of winter bearable: Saint Patrick's Day and Girl Scout Cookies. I have no idea if Girl Scout cookies are as sacred to the rest of the country as they are where I grew up in upstate New York, but I've yet to meet a person who doesn't at least adore them. This no-bake dessert blends coveted Thin Mints with cream cheese, then smothers the scrumptious spheres in festive white chocolate.

Bailey's Mousse, Weight Watchers UK

pros: BAILEYS!!!!!
cons: reviewers warn that letting it set up for too long will actually make it separate

The flavors and texture of the mousse sound stellar. I like that it is a lighter and healthier alternative to the luscious cheesecake discussed above, but is still sweet and creamy. I will tell you that the reviews are mixed: some said the treat was quick and easy to make, while others complained that the mousse separated in the refrigerator. However, there's a consensus that if the mousse is chilled briefly (for about an hour and a half) the texture stays true.

I hope you have a fun, happy, and safe St. Patrick's Day! Let me know if you try any of these recipes. 


Linked to: Wake Up Wednesdays
Sweet Bella Roos

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Sexy Vegetarian Thursday: Vegan Peach Muffins

Hello, lovelies!

I have so many incredible things to share here on C.C. in the coming weeks. Besides the usual delicious recipes and fun crafts, I will be telling the tales of our recent trip to Ireland and England! This trip was the reason I was completely absent during the month of February, and why I have yet to share the rest of the homemade Christmas gifts. Mr. J and I had the most amazing time! I'll share pictures, funny stories, tips for traveling on a budget, must-sees in the cities we visited, and of course, the food!

In the meantime, let us celebrate Sexy Vegetarian Thursday. I don't know about you, but I am so sick of winter. I am dreaming of the day I can wear capris and sandals, shop at the farmer's market, and walk outside without cursing about how cold it is. I started looking through my recycled recipe journal for recipes that scream warmth and summertime. In August 2012, I was messing around with vegan recipes to find the balance between healthy and delicious. I created these divine fruity muffins without eggs, milk, or honey. Let me tell you, these bad boys are so good that they taste like a desert.

If you're looking for other vegetarian and vegan recipes, check these out!

summer tomato pasta
onion potato frittata
grown up grilled cheese
feta potatoes patties
creamy tomato feta penne
vodka sauce ravioli
lime stir fry
lemon tofu sauce with rice
leek, spinach, & blue cheese frittata
stuffed twice-baked potatoes
garbanzo bean spaghetti
sweet and spicy black bean quesadillas
baked Italian eggs
chickpea curry
tomato basil pasta sauce 

pumpkin puree and seeds

Vegan Peach Muffins

Vegan Whole Wheat Peach Banana Muffins
Moist, whole wheat muffins filled with bananas and juicy peaches. No animal products here! Delicious served warm or cool.

Serving: makes 12 muffins

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2-3 bananas, mashed
1 lb. ripe peaches, peeled and cut into chunks

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a small bowl, whisk the first five ingredients together. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine the last five ingredients.
4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Fold until just combined.
5. Divide batter into a greased muffin pan.
6. Bake muffins for 25 to 30 minutes.

- Use 1 1/4 cup whole wheat or white flour and 3/4 cup old fashioned oats.
- Replace maple syrup with 1/2 cup honey, or use 1/4 cup of each. (not vegan)
- Replace vegetable oil with 2 eggs and a splash of milk. (not vegan)


Much love,

ONE YEAR AGO: Vegan Bean & Tomato Pasta

Check out these awesome link parties where I shared this post:
Link Party @ Bloom Designs
Live Laugh Linky Thursday @ Live Laugh Rowe  
Riverton Housewives Roundup
Homemade Mondays @ Frugal By Choice, Cheap By Necessity

Sweet Bella Roos
Catch a Glimpse Button

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Recipe Wednesday: Baked Turkey & Cheese Chimichangas!

Hello, lovelies!

The weather here in New York State has been ungodly for the past few weeks. Ice storms, feet of snow, below zero temperatures, and wind chills, just to name a few. We have a space heater both downstairs AND upstairs in our small duplex apartment just to maintain a somewhat livable temperature of 64 degrees. Imagine me in 3 layers of clothes and huddled under blankets...and I'm still cold. Mr. J and I keep trying to come up with new ways to talk about how cold it is outside, but my favorite remains when my normally straight-laced J says, "It's colder than a witch's tit out there!" Gets me every time.

Naturally, I have been looking for excuses to turn the oven on. I baked whole wheat bread yesterday and was pretty pleased to open the oven door and stand in front of it after the loaves were done. What is more joyful (and painful) than feeling your toes thaw?

If you're also looking for a soul-warming meal on a cold night, you're invited to try this baked turkey and cheese chimichanga recipe. I adore the word "chimichanga," especially because it makes a fabulously funny appearance in Shrek Forever After:

Someone once told me that chimichanga translates as "thingamajig" in Spanish, which makes me like it even more. Does anyone know if that's true? Speaking of translations, this recipe is a bit of one. Chimichangas are traditionally deep fried and filled with chicken, beef, or pork. This simple version reduces calories but retains tons of flavor. The filling is rich and creamy thanks to the refried beans and cheese, and the salsa adds a tangy kick. Bonus: the tortillas still have a bit of crunch as they are baked uncovered without a topping!

Baked Turkey & Cheese Chimichangas

1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. ground turkey
1/4 cup diced onion
1 tsp. chili powder
1 16-oz. can refried beans
1 3/4 cups salsa + more for topping
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or Colby-Jack cheese
6 to 8 tortillas
1/2 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add turkey, onion, and chili powder. Cook until turkey is no longer pink.

Stir in the 1 3/4 cups salsa and the beans. Cook until heated through. Stir in cheese. When cheese is melted and combined thoroughly, turn off heat.

Spoon at least 1/2 cup of filling into each tortilla. Fold two sides of the tortilla over the filling and roll up to connect two remaining sides.

Place chimichangas seam-side down in baking dish. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes until crisp and browned.

Serve with salsa and sour cream on top!

This recipe will fill 6 tortillas to make very full chimichangas, or 8 normal-sized ones.

*Our favorite tortillas are the Food for Life brown rice frozen tortillas.
**Use whatever cheese you fancy, but I like Colby-Jack the most for its flavor and meltiness.
***I prefer organic and reduced sodium refried beans. I've yet to make them myself but it's on the to do list!

Much love,

ONE YEAR AGO: Baked Honey Brie

This recipe is linked to:
Kitchen Meets Girl