Sausage Rolls

sausage rolls

St. George’s Day is coming up, so today I’m celebrating all things awesomely English. My absolute favorite Anglo export is the dude sitting on my futon. We’ve been married for two years, and I’m still charmed by his accent every day. My second favorite English fellow has to be Mr. Harry James Potter.

On our visit to England we had some time to kill in London, so I pretty much insisted on seeing King’s Cross station and getting a cheesy photo at platform 9-3/4. If you visit the station, there aren’t any signs to help you find it, and it’s sort of impossible to see. The guy at the info counter will get annoyed when you ask where it is. You’d think they’d be over it by now.

platform 9 3/4

After completing this necessary duty, I fell in love with another English wonderment known as the sausage roll. Why oh why are these not sold on every street corner in America? It’s completely perplexing. It’s one of the most ingeniously delicious things I’ve ever eaten. And to have it at King’s Cross, where Jo Rowling’s parents met, was extra special. It was all thoroughly English.

sausage rolls on tray

It’s just yummy sausage wrapped in puff pastry and baked to a golden brown. So simple, yet so mind-blowingly delicious. I wish I could eat one every day. In England, they’re sold on nearly every street corner, but now that we’re back in America, we have to make them ourselves. Luckily, it’s quite simple. Moreover, you can eat them hot or cold, so they’re great for picnics or snacks, if you can get them to last that long.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of burning your mouth on a piping hot sausage roll, you simply must make some right this minute. Put down your sword, stop slaying dragons, get out of your castle, and get in the kitchen and make these. Then try and share with your friends. It’s the English way.

sausage rolls inside

Sausage Rolls
Yields 12
A homemade version of the perfect British street food
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 sheets frozen puff pastry
  2. 1 pound of your favorite sausage meat, uncooked (I like Jimmy Dean hot)
  3. 1 egg
Instructions
  1. Let your puff pastry thaw on the counter. 30 minutes should be plenty.
  2. Preheat your oven to 400.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, unfold the sheets. With a pizza cutter or a sharp knife cut each one down the middle, then cut into thirds in the other direction to make six squares per sheet.
  4. Divide your sausage meat evenly between each square. Smoosh it into a line down the center of each square. It’s okay to go right to the edge.
  5. Crack your egg into a bowl and beat it with a fork until well combined. You can add a bit of water to thin it out, if you like.
  6. For each square, carefully fold the sides of the puff pastry over the sausage so they overlap. Press the dough together to seal it, then using the fork dipped in your egg mixture, press the tines into the seam. The egg will help act as a glue.
  7. Place the roll seam-side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Depending on the size, you may need to use two baking sheets or work in two batches.
  8. With a sharp knife cut 2-3 slits into the top of each roll.
  9. Brush each roll with a thin layer of your egg wash. This makes them all shiny and lovely.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes or golden brown. Allow them to cool for as long as you can stand it. At least 10 minutes.
  11. Try not to burn your fingers when you finally sink your teeth into one of these bad boys. It’s not easy. Patience is overrated.
How to be Awesome on $20 a day http://awesomeon20.com/
 

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Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves: DIY Chicken Feeder

Aloha again, it’s Geoff here for a second guest blog post! Yes, it’s about chickens again, what self-respecting blog-post wouldn’t be about chickens?

So this blog is about being awesome for little or no money, right? Well I am always on the lookout for something that will either make my life easier or cheaper and I like to experiment. Let me throw some light onto a recent chicken-project of mine, the chicken auto-feeder.

A treadle feeder
A treadle feeder

I’d been contemplating getting or making a chicken feeder that allowed me to stop the wild birds eating the girls’ food, whilst also being easy to use for the little feathered egg-machines. I came across this link one day for a treadle feeder. A treadle feeder is just like the one on the left, and consists of a pedal that the chickens stand on which opens a lid, giving the chickens their secured food. This works on the premise that the chickens are heavier (and smarter) than the wild birds, stopping the wild birds from eating all the chicken food.

However, reading through the plans and description of this feeder made me a little queasy…I would need to buy all kinds of equipment and materials to make one! If I wanted to buy one, I found them to be priced around $80 online but with no local distributors! This called for a ‘Plan B’.

Raw ingredients
Raw ingredients

Watching a few chicken videos and tutorials online, I had a brainwave and rushed out to buy a cheap drill-bit for around $4. Stick with this please…

Take the lid from a large plastic milk container and make a circular hole in it with whatever tools you have at hand. I recommend a soldering iron (one that you don’t particularly use that often) to melt the hole, this way you don’t leave any sharp edges. Make the hole pretty small to begin with, just a little larger than the handle of the drill bit. Then, feed the drill bit handle through the hole, leaving the top of the drill bit on the ‘inside’ of the lid. Fill your milk container up with chicken food and carefully screw the lid back on. Hang your milk container upside down and voila, you have an auto chicken feeder!

Chicken feeder

Whenever the chickens tap on the handle, food should fall out of the hole! If it doesn’t look like the food will come out (should be a few pieces at a time), simply make the hole a little larger!

Click HERE to watch a video of the feeder in action.

Total cost…$4. Awesomeness rating…10/10. This is Geoff, signing off…until next time folks!

A Reason to Celebrate and Swiss and Bacon Dip

I have a confession to make. I haven’t been playing my own game the last couple of months. With my husband being out of work, it’s been a little like Greece around here lately, and not because of an over abundance of pita and hummus. We’ve had to put in place some serious austerity measures. It’s been dour. Decidedly unawesome. I’ve been trying to spend as little money as possible, so $20 a day was definitely out of the question.

Sad times
Sad times

But after more than ten weeks of only a trickle of income from web design projects, my husband was finally offered a job today. I know he is thrilled to have somewhere to go and something to do again. And I’m breathing easier myself knowing that we don’t have to live off of my very meager income.

Awesome times!
Awesome times!

I get to spoil myself again. No, this doesn’t involve Coach bags or trips to the spa. This is real life, kids. Tomorrow I’m going to the ATM and taking out my $140 for the week. Then I’m going to the grocery store and buying myself some chicken breasts so I can actually make some of the recipes on my list. This is what the lower tax brackets get excited about. Chicken. It’s true. And a six pack of ciders. That will probably be in my basket, too.

Swiss and Bacon Dip
Swiss and Bacon Dip served at our wedding. Photo by Lindsey Vandolah

When you get news this good, you have to celebrate. I almost never have a party for which I don’t make Swiss and Bacon Dip. It’s got to be one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth. Warm gooey cheese with bacon on sour dough bread. Just look at that sentence.

Every time I make this, it completely disappears. There isn’t a crumb left behind. It’s mind-blowing. So think of an excuse for a party and make this. Just got a haircut? Party. Stubbed your toe? Party. I don’t care, just celebrate. And raise a glass to my husband ’cause he’s totally awesome.

Swiss and Bacon Dip in a Sourdough Bread Bowl

Swiss and Bacon Dip
Serves 6
The most delicious hot dip there is. Gooey Swiss cheese and crisp bacon will blow you away.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
15 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 8 slices bacon, chopped (I use scissors)
  2. 8 ounces softened cream cheese
  3. 1/2 cup mayo
  4. 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  5. 10 grinds of pepper
  6. 1-1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
  7. 3 scallions, chopped (use the scissors again)
  8. 1 round loaf of sour dough bread
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Cook your bacon to desired crispiness, which for me is nearly burnt. Drain the bacon on a paper towel.
  3. Add cream cheese, mayo, mustard, and pepper to a mixing bowl and mix until combined and smooth.
  4. Add cheese and scallions and mix to combine. Then throw in the bacon and mix that in, too.
  5. Scoop out the mix into a shallow baking dish. Bake it uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes until gooey.
  6. In the meantime, cut the top out of your bread loaf and pull out the guts of your bread to make a bread bowl. Tear the bread and arrange it on your platter around the loaf.
  7. When the dip is hot, carefully scrape it in to the bread bowl. Steal a piece of bread to clean off the baking dish for taste testing purposes. Don’t skip this step.
  8. You could serve this with carrots or other veggies if you like. I’m not gonna eat that. Really, the bread is all you need.
Adapted from Rachael Ray
Adapted from Rachael Ray
How to be Awesome on $20 a day http://awesomeon20.com/
 

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Beautiful and Cheap, In the Best Possible Way

I love wandering through the makeup counters at department stores. The alluring scents, the pretty packages, the illusion of perfection. I confess, it sucks me in. But never all the way.

I have a rule. I never spend more than $10 on beauty products. Ever. If it can’t be done for $10, it probably shouldn’t be done. And yet, I’m still a sucker for perfume and lip gloss and eye cream. I’m a girl. What can I say?

birchbox

My trick to getting my beauty fix on the cheap is BirchBox. For $10, they send me a box full of high end samples every month. You can also earn points on the site by reviewing items, and referring friends. Every 100 points is ten dollars off a purchase. And when you sign up, you take this long survey about what you’re into, so the box is tailored to your style.

March Birchbox

There are usually between four and six products each months. Mostly they’re one or two use samples, but occasionally you get a full size item. Often though, even the sample sizes last me for months. Check out the massive amount of stuff I still have since I got my first box at the end of May.

100_2716

I think the idea is that you try the samples and then you’ll want to pay full price to order the stuff from their site. If you’re into that, go for it. But that breaks my $10 rule. I don’t care how good the $50 shampoo makes my hair feel. Plus, I’m pretty fickle. A full size product is usually too much of a commitment for me anyway.

Beauty can be expensive. Not being able to afford highlights and $40 lipstick sometimes gets me down. But then I just think of all the books and chocolate I could buy and remember that my makeup is going to come off when I go to the beach, anyway. Birchbox is my monthly treat. A little present to myself. I think I’m worth $10.

birchbox overfloweth

Ditching Cable and Retro Yellow Cake with Fudge Frosting

Here’s a poor girl confession. I don’t have cable. This is not some noble gesture. I don’t have cable because I’m cheap. I still waste plenty of time watching TV, I just do it a bit more selectively by using my husband’s PS3 to stream Netflix. We get one DVD at a time, plus the streaming service, and it’s $15 a month. So, I figure that’s at least $40 a month I save to spend on cheese and chocolate. You know, the important stuff.

Netflix shows its sense of humor
Netflix shows its sense of humor

When I lived in Taiwan, I discovered I didn’t miss cable nearly as much as I thought I would. I no longer flipped through the channels and got sucked into watching train wreck reality TV, and though I did miss cooking shows, I just became obsessed with food blogs instead.

I love movies and television, but now I just watch selectively. I choose the shows and movies I think are worth my time, then I watch all of them back to back. Then I cry when I learn that they cancelled Stargate Universe halfway through the story arch. Those guys are just floating in space. It’s a tragedy.

Give it a shot. Ditch cable and subscribe to a streaming service like Netflix or Amazon Prime. There are so many ways that you can hook your TV up to the internet these days. Pretty soon, cable will be a thing of the past anyway. The only thing you’ll miss out on is commercials.

Then use the extra money to make yourself a cake. You deserve to celebrate your cleverness.

538479_10152369748415293_456315367_n

I can’t just leave you with nothing to show for your visit here. So because I watched Argo recently, I’ll show you how to make this fabulously retro yellow cake with fudge frosting. It’s so 70’s, just like the hair and costumes in that film.

Argo

If you haven’t seen Argo yet, make sure you put it in your queue. It was thoroughly entertaining, funny and emotional, and highly suspenseful. Ben Affleck is a great director, and the tension in this film is riveting. He pulled off quite of feat getting me to bite my nails over a story based on a historical event. I knew how it would end, but I was still on the edge of my seat.

Watch Argo, eat this cake, and you’ll be like “cable schmable” before you know it.

Retro Yellow Cake with Fudge Frosting

Retro Yellow Cake with Fudge Frosting
Yields 1
A classic yellow cake with thick fudge frosting, just like the old days.
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
30 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
30 min
for the cake
  1. 4 whole eggs
  2. 2 egg yolks
  3. 1-1/4 cup buttermilk
  4. 2 tsp vanilla extract
  5. 3 cups (360 grams) cake flour
  6. 2 cups (400 grams) sugar
  7. 1 Tbsp plus 1/2 tsp baking powder
  8. 1/2 tsp salt
  9. 2 sticks (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temp, cut into small pieces
for the frosting
  1. 6 oz unsweetened chocolate (the baking kind, not the kind you eat) melted and cooled
  2. 4-1/2 cups (563 grams) powdered sugar
  3. 3 sticks (340 grams) unsalted butter, room temp
  4. 6 Tbsp half and half (any dairy will do, but skim milk won’t be as rich)
  5. 1Tbsp vanilla extract
for the cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and flour 2 nine inch round cake pans. (This recipe was originally 3 layers, but I only have two pans. Work with what you got.) If you have it, line the bottom of each pan with parchment, just to be safe.
  2. Crack the eggs and yolks into a separate bowl, then add ONLY 1/4 cup of the buttermilk, and all the vanilla. Whisk or beat with a fork to blend.
  3. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in your mixing bowl and whisk to combine. (If you’re using a stand mixer, use the stir setting instead.)
  4. Add the butter and remaining 1 cup buttermilk to the dry ingredients and mix on low until combined.
  5. Turn your mixer up to medium for about 2 minutes. The mixture will be light and fluffy.
  6. Add the egg mixture slowly. Scrape down your bowl and give it one more mix, just until everything is incorporated.
  7. Divide the batter between your waiting pans.
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes or until your cake tester comes out clean and the sides have started to pull away from the edge.
  9. Let the cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning them out. Use wire racks if you have them. Allow cake to cool completely.
for the frosting
  1. If you have a food processor, simply throw all the ingredients into it, flip the switch, and wait for it to all come together.
  2. Without a food processor, I would sift the powdered sugar into the bowl. Still throw everything in together and mix until combined. Electricity is a lazy baker’s best friend.
  3. This frosting should be dense and fudgy, not light and airy, so if you’re using a mixer, go with the paddle attachment.
  4. I assembled my cake by placing the first cake layer onto my plate, then slapping on about 1/3 of the frosting. Spread it evenly, then place the other cake layer on the top. Place some frosting on the top and work it over the edges, then frost the top. Get as creative as you like. But try to make it like Kitty Forman would. It will taste better that way.
Adapted from Sweetapolita
Adapted from Sweetapolita
How to be Awesome on $20 a day http://awesomeon20.com/
 

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