Em & M: The Strawberry Icebox Pie

Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts

It’s that time again! Time for another recap out of the Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts cookbook. With strawberries at the peak of the season, the featured item this month is a strawberry icebox pie.

strawberry pieFeatured Item #3: Strawberry Icebox Pie

  • Difficulty-  Very easy.
  • Prep Time-  If you have a food processor that will crumble your graham crackers for the crust, this recipe will take no more than 20 minutes to complete. For gals and guys who mash and crumble the old fashioned way, it might take closer to 35 minutes.
  • Bake Time-  50 minutes, plus additional time to cool
  • Expense-  Hugely depends on the current cost of strawberries. Living in the west coast makes for some pretty awesome produce deals. I purchased two baskets for $3. After purchasing the heavy cream and unsweetened cranberry juice, I was at about $8. (The other main ingredient you may not already have at home is graham crackers which can bring the grand total to about $15.)
  • Tastiness-  Using the sweetest strawberries you can find might be the key to determining its true tastiness. I think my batch was not very sweet overall and therefore I did not really love the pie so much. I also did not really like that some strawberries had to be boiled and mashed into a jam-like consistency. When it comes to strawberry pies, I’d say 100% fresh untampered strawberries is the way to go.
  • Overall Rating- 2/5

Sorry Martha. I really wanted to like it…

 

Posted in Em & M, Food | 1 Comment

An Unexpected And Delightful Find

Every now and then, if lucky, a trip to a farmer’s market can introduce you (or reintroduce you) to fresh produce you will likely not find at a grocery store. In my recent visit to a somewhat local farmer’s market, I was pleasantly surprised to find a vendor selling flor de calabaza (summer squash blossom flowers).

Source: fineart.com

Fresh squash blossom flowers are a typical ingredient used when making authentic quesadillas. The flowers used for cooking are the female flowers, and are picked right before their fruit develops. Today, squash blossoms are used in a variety of different recipes– everything from soups to stuffed appetizers, and even crepes. The taste essentially resembles a milder side of squash with a hint of sweetness therefore making them very versatile for recipes.

The process of making authentic quesadillas requires you to devote a little over an hour, but the opportunity to taste a fresh off the stove quesadilla is absolutely worth it.

Before forming and cooking  flor de calabaza quesadillas you will need to prepare masa (dough used to make homemade tortillas) and the squash blossom filling.

  • For the masa, you will need to mix 3 cups of corn flour with 3 cups of room temperature water until you have a uniformed consistency.
  • For the squash blossom, you will need to first remove the sepal and trim the stem and rinse with care. Next, you will need to cook and season the blossoms with a dab of olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and pepper, one minced garlic clove, and about 1/4 cup finely chopped onion. (30 blossoms are recommended for this recipe.)

Once you have prepared the masa and blossom filling you can prepare and cook your quesadillas by doing the following:

1. Roll a golf size ball of masa into your hands.

2. Shape the masa down into a fat disc about 2 inches in diameter.

3. Place disc between two pieces of plastic wrap.

4. Using your palms, pat masa down into a tortilla shape.

5. Add blossom filling and cover with shredded monterey cheese.

6. Make sure blossoms and cheese are placed off to one side.

7. Close tortilla shut by folding in half and pinching edges down, then fry until lightly golden.

8. Add fresh green salsa and enjoy.

 

 

Should you ever come across these, or any other rare finds, hopefully you might venture into trying something new. In the mean time, here is a link to my favorite radio station which not only gives further insight into blossoms, but also alternative recipes for them. Enjoy!

P.S. Thanks mom for showing me how to make these, and cooking with me. =)

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Remember the Remnants

Quick post couch update…

Having about 1.5 yard x 2 yard of fabric remaining, I had to make use of this remnant.

Since the fabric is specifically for upholstering though, it was a bit of a challenge at first. Alas the sturdiness of the fabric led me to create a picnic blanket out of this and another remnant that was passed my way a while back.

The following steps were taken:

Step 1: Place one fabric piece pattern side up on a flat surface, then place the second fabric piece on top but with the pattern side down this time. (Coincidentally the remnant passed my way happened to have the exact shape and amount of fabric as the couch remnant. Wohoo!)

Step 2: Attach both pieces together by sewing all around the perimeter. Leave about an 8″ length not sewn. This opening will be used to reach in and pass all the fabric though in order to get the pattern sides out.

Step 3:  Cut a 34″ ribbon and fold in half with the pattern side showing. Insert bottom edge of the ribbon right at the start of your 8″ length left not sewn and carefully sew the ribbon on while closing the remainder 8″ seam.

Step 4:  Fold blanket into fourths. Then, just as you would a sleeping bag, roll the fabric up to meet with the ribbon. Pull ribbon through to secure and keep blanket closed.

Now if only this weather would cooperate we could take this new puppy out for a walk (so to speak).

P.S. Did you catch the movie reference in this post? Well, although I have not seen Remember the Titans, I was watching Chris Rock’s Good Hair documentary while doing this project, and definitely recommend it. You can read all the rave reviews for this movie here. This movie is by far one of the best I have seen all year. Such an entertaining and informative movie. I simply cannot say enough good things about it. One of many being the way Chris Rock pulls and takes in information throughout the movie– very revealing of his character. Bravo Mr. Rock!

Posted in Outings, Sewing | 2 Comments

What Can $20 Buy In Today’s Economy?

Would you believe that $20.10 made me the proud owner of a new couch this weekend? Thanks to Joann’s fabulous extra 50% off red tag fabrics sale and a little relentlessness on my part, our old has seen better days Ikea couch went from this,

This photo does not truly convey the sufferings this couch has gone through. Needless to say spills occurred, nail polishes stained, and the cleaners that were used to remove all the stains did the job so well that they caused the fabric to fade and look blotchy.

to this.

The couch was originally purchased back in 2003 by my parents. Having close to nothing of furniture when we moved into our house, we gladly welcomed the piece into our home. Since then, I have relentlessly been hunting down a cover for it. The problem I kept on running into however was that the couch model was so old that they no longer sold it, let alone have covers for it. I toyed with the idea of purchasing a standard couch cover elsewhere, but was always turned off by the thought of paying $100+.  Then, for a while, I thought about sewing my own cover for the couch. After visiting Joann Fabrics every now and then though, I quickly realized I was going to have to pay close to $100 any way just on fabric. That was until this weekend of course.

As a lark, after viewing the Joann’s circular, I decided to check out their advertised red tag fabric sale. Fabrics up to 75% off original price were marked down an additional 50% off at the register. The task of finding 7 yards of fabric was not easy. At a whopping $3.50/yard for home decor fabrics though, I was determined to make it work somehow. Until finally there it was… Although at first it was not the ideal look I was going for, the neutral fabric called me for two reasons– one, I could easily transform the couch with pillows and throws according to my mood and two, there was exactly enough yards of fabric on the roll. The latter being the most important.

Having never attacked a mission like this before, I did not have a clear idea how it would all turn out at first. In fact, the original thought was to just create a cover. Once I got the fabric home and began to look at the couch with more detail however, I decided to reupholster the entire thing instead.

First thing I had to do was detach as many pieces off the couch as possible. Here is a little bit of what that looked like:

Then I had to measure the length and width of each piece’s sides. Those measurements were then used to cut out a replicate of each side out of the purchased fabric. The great thing about this couch is that for the most part all pieces had perfect 90 degree angles.

Once all the pieces were cut out, I then used the couch as my model and I placed the cut out fabric pieces pattern side down to create a tailored casing for each of the detached couch pieces.

Leaving the fabric inside out, I then sewed along the pins and markings. Once complete, I turned the fabric pieces back out and placed them on to each of their designated couch pieces.

From there all I had to do was staple the fabric onto the wooden parts of the couch to secure each piece, and attach the couch pieces back to their original placements.

The whole process was delightfully easy to do. The most difficult and unpleasant thing throughout this whole task was using the heavy duty staple gun. (The squeezing of the trigger caused my hand to be very sore the next day.)

All in all however I am very happy with the results! =)

Here are some more after shots. One is with a slight pillow variation, and the other is of the couch in its current sewing/craft room location.

Posted in Home Sprucing, Sewing, Upcycle/Recycle | 5 Comments

Going Back To My Roots

When I was a kid, I remember using unwanted items to give them new life. Everything from creating hay for my lego farm out of pencil shavings at the age of 5, to creating an earring holder out of ripped pantyhoses and unused picture frames in my teenage years. If I could envision something new for those items, I would happily entertain my time creating. Flash forward to present time and I still find myself taking joy in creating new things out of old. (As long as I can find time for it.)

Last weekend, after finding a fabulous deal of a dozen roses for $3 at Henry’s Market, I had an idea to display this great find in a sweet way. I knew I had a couple of candle jars with candles that no longer burned under the kitchen sink. My thought was to make new use of these jars by making them into flower centerpieces. The upcycling project was very simple and quick to do.

Step 1:  Select candle jars that are no longer able to burn.

upcycle candke jars

Step 2:  Submerge jars under water for several hours in order to remove labels.

Step 3:  Add floral foam.

Step 4:  Cover jar with ribbon, twine, or burlap to decorate to your liking.

Step 5:  Insert desired flowers to create arrangement.

I can see a project like this being very useful for a DIY wedding, a baby shower, or an at-home dinner party.

By the way, that earring holder mentioned at the top of this post? I am not much of an earring wearer now, but this creation is still with me.

Isn’t it interesting how as adults we sometimes carry the interests and character traits of our youth?

Posted in Crafts, Home Sprucing, Upcycle/Recycle | 2 Comments

Em & M: The Blueberry Pie

Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts The ambition here is that I will be able to bake at least one item off of Martha Stewart’s  Pies and Tarts cookbook each month and post my personal review of the whole process. With only three days left of June, and Fourth of July trotting right along, I decided to follow the blueberry pie recipe this month, but with a bit of a festive twist.

The only variation here is that instead of placing an entire top crust, like Martha’s recipe shows, I opted to use cookie cutters to create a star top crust.

Featured Item #2: Blue Berry Pie

  • Difficulty-  Fairly easy. I ran into a bit of a hiccup getting the crust to the right consistency at first. The key was to allow it to fully chill and not be to antsy with getting it out.
  • Prep Time-  Preparing the dough took the longest time because it had to refrigerate for about an hour before using. The filling took just a few minutes to prep.
  • Bake Time-  60-75 minutes, plus additional time to cool
  • Expense-  This depends entirely on the current cost of blueberries. This pie was fairly inexpensive for me since Henry’s Farmer’s Market had a fabulous deal of $1.50/11 oz baskets. I used 4 baskets for this recipe so I only spent $6.00 for ingredients. (I already had the other ingredients at home.)
  • Tastiness-  Although not my favorite I have made out of this cookbook, it was still pretty delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.
  • Overall Rating- 3.5/5

Posted in Em & M, Food | 3 Comments

A Tale of Two Salads

One of my favorite meals to make and enjoy during these sizzling months is a salad. The weather lends itself to the perfect salad enjoyment conditions. A– you get to have a healthy, refreshingly crisp, hearty meal almost instantly. B– you get to bask in outdoor cooking (which beats indoor meal-making any day).

For folks who enjoy a little tang in their meals, this Mandarin and Cranberry Salad offers an instant refreshment on a hot day.

quick summer meal

For folks who want a little bit more substance in their meals, and who enjoy walking on the southwest side, this Santa Fe inspired salad is a must try.

south west chicken salad

Both meals are very filling on their own, and super nutrient ready. Did I mention how incredibly quick these two meals are easy to make? Go on, fire up that grill and enjoy some outdoor cooking and eating!

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Summer Summer Summer Time

And the love fest continues. (Yes, yet another summertime post.)

About three weeks ago, when shockingly we were experiencing some unwanted wet weather, I was itching to make s’mores. Alas the dampness and gloominess would not allow. I decided to follow my wah wah wah winter-like mood, and my longing for s’mores, right into the kitchen for some sure to warm up the house baking time.

With my craving leading the way, I created some cupcake s’mores. The idea was to include our top three contenders (graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows) into the creation somehow, and with an added delicious bonus, I threw in some peanut butter too. They were a HUGE hit!

smore cupcakes

They were incredibly quick and easy to make. I used an instant chocolate cake mix for the batter. I blame it on the weather for making me sluggish… Thanks rain! ;)

For the full how-to recipe go here.

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Old Glory, Old Hobbies

What better way to welcome the patriotism that is to come than with a little at-home red, white, and blue? A red, white, and blue runner to be exact. Here is the break down to how it was created:

Step 1:  Cut out five 11″x 15″ rectangles (any print/color you would like), four 4.5″ x 15” rectangles (a complimentary print to your first choice), and one 76” x 18″ rectangle (best if the material is slightly thicker than the other two).

Step 2:  Take one 11″ x 15″ square and lay it print side up. Then, take one 4.5″ x 15″ rectangle and lay it on top of the 11″ x 15″ print side down.

quilted runner

Step 3:  Sew pieces together along one of the 15″ sides.

Repeat steps two and three for each of the remaining 11″ x 15″ and 4.5″ x 15″ rectangles– alternating each time, and sewing each new rectangle to the last one.

table runner

Step 4:  Turn sewed pieces print side down and iron down the back pieces as shown below.

diy table runner

Step 5:  Place large 76″ x 18″ rectangle print side down, then center alternated pattern rectangles made above print side up.

july4th runner

Step 6:  Use pins to secure both fabric pieces to your desired positioning.  You should have about an inch border all around.

4th fo july runner

Step 7:  Fold borders halfway in, then fold over one more time and sew all along the entire runner.

diy july 4th

And here it is as it sits currently on our table!

fourth of july diy projects

Now back to the title… “Old Glory, Old Hobbies”. As you may know, the United States flag is sometimes referred to as Old Glory. Well in Googling the history behind the term Old Glory, I somewhat deviated into learning more about Betsy Ross instead. (You might remember Mrs. Ross as the lady believed to have sewn the first American flag). Her biography is quiet intriguing, but what I love most about her is that she obviously had an interest and a talent for sewing. Sewing! She is said to have sewn many of George Washington’s clothing and I think it is kind of sweet how she, through her talent in sewing, created something to celebrate America’s joyous independence. Fast forward 235 years later and here I am, using my interest in sewing to celebrate the jubilation that is the Fourth of July. Almost as if we could have been kindred spirits…   :)

old glory

Happy Fourth everyone!

Posted in Holidays, Home Sprucing, Sewing | Comments Off

The Early Signs Of Summer

If I could live in a place where summer-like weather exists year round, I would flock there in an instant. The summer months are filled with so much cheer and activity that it keeps me yearning for its spirited season all year long. This weekend, as I hit the streets for some early morning errands, I beamed with delight as I saw summer begin to peek out.

And so without further ado, my exuberant tribute to all things that ring in summer…

A plethora of fresh ripe produce.

ripe fruitGarage sales.

garage sale signConcerts in the park.

Summer concerts in the parkSandals.

flip flopsGraduations.

high school graduationBlooms.

poppiesBarbecues.

jamaican jerk chickenFarmer’s markets.

outdoor marketIce cream outings.ice cream time

Longer daylight hours.

rose garden in JunePicnics.

quick picnic meal

On the Menu

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