Red Raspberry Smoothie

 

As the days begin to warm up, the sunlight lingers longer, and the smell of spring is in the air, breakfasts start moving from warm and filling oatmeal and hash, to fast, fresh, and light. The most perfect warm days breakfast? Smoothies of course!

A smoothie is always a great choice, for so many reasons.

  • They are a great way to get more fruits & vegetables in your diet
  • When you make them, you can control how much sugar is added
  • The options are endless, you could try any fruit ever in a smoothie
  • They are super portable for on-the-go breakfast or snacking
  • It is easy to sneak in more superfoods like greens, flax, or chia

In the spirit of spring, I decided to develop a whole new stable of smoothie recipes. I’ve experimented a lot over the years, but lately had fallen into a rut of sorts, where it was just frozen mixed berries, a banana, and done. So I got it into my head that I should make… a RAINBOW OF SMOOTHIES!

rainbow of smoothies

With a different flavor for every color of the rainbow, you need never get bored of smoothies! And the best part is, that even these are just guidelines, feel free to experiment with whatever fruit, juice, milk, or vegetable combos sound good to you. And if you have a winner of a recipe, I’d love for you to share in the comments!

Today’s recipe starts at the beginning, with the recipe representing Red: Red Raspberry Smoothie.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup frozen raspberries (or strawberries)
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1/2 cup cherry juice
  • Optional: 1/2 cup ice cubes, 1 tbsp flax seeds

red raspberry smoothie

Step 1: In a blender, combine all ingredients. Blend until smooth.

red raspberry smoothie

 

 

Want to enjoy the whole Rainbow? Check out all the colors:

Weekly Eating – 2/19/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Over the weekend we got to explore Raleigh a little, even though it was rainy and gloomy, and we LOVED the Raleigh Beer Garden. Yet one more reason I need spring/summer to hurry up already, so I can sit up on the top deck and leisurely sip a stout in the afternoon sun.

Raleigh Beer Garden rooftop deck

I didn’t get a whole lot of meal prepping done, though I did make a meal plan. Who knows, we often change our minds anyhow! I did attempt a rice pudding with some leftover rice from stir Friday. It was just ‘okay’ unfortunately… I will not be adding shredded coconut anymore, I just hate its texture so much.

coconut rice pudding

Oh, and I also finally got around to a post I’ve been wanting to create for a long time. Spoilers: it involves lots of fruits and colors!

lots of fruits!

Monday:

Breakfast – Cracklin’ Oat Bran with Almond Milk.

cracklin oat bran

This is a cereal hubs actually grew up on (I’m eternally grateful to mom in law for making healthy eating seem normal his whole life!) and I’d never tried it. So I finally hunted it down in Kroger, and decided now is the time. Turns out, it really is pretty great. It doesn’t taste like cardboard at all, more like really solid cinnamon cookies. If only I could figure out a way to easily make it at home…

Lunch – leftover Best Black Bean Soup and a big salad

black bean soup and salad

Dinner – Shepherd’s Pie with leftover mashed potatoes from pierogi making. Technically it was a Cottage Pie, because it was ground beef and not ground lamb.

baked cottage pie

Snack – raw veggies with hummus, and a coco loco. Yes it says expires Feb 11 and I ate it on the 20th, but guess what? Yogurt is literally full of bacteria. I’m not concerned, nor did I get sick.

hummus and veggiesalmond coco loco

Tuesday:

Breakfast – mixed berry smoothie. This had some blueberries and blackberries plus a handful of spinach, and came out quite tasty

mixed berry smoothie

Lunch – veggies + hummus + pretzels. I had this as a snack late in the morning, and it actually filled me up pretty well.

hummus with veggies and pretzels

Snack – Peanut butter bar and Pumpkin Latte. I got the “RXBar” for free as a sample, and the Starbucks Via as a gift for my birthday, so this was free. And delicious. The PSL was just okay, but what do you expect from instant? And the RXBAR was… weird. Very… thick and chewy. But they say that there are only 4 ingredients, so who knows.

pumpkin spice latte and peanut butter date bar

Dinner –Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup. I used up the last little bit of leftover mashed potatoes, which thickened the soup considerably. I usually add chopped up potato, so it worked well. Some diced carrot, celery, and onion, a can of tomatoes, leftover slow cooker pinto beans, frozen green beans, and some broth. Set to cook on high for 6 hours, and a fresh hot meal awaits you! God bless slow cookers.

slow cooker minestrone soup

Wednesday:

Breakfast – green smoothie, with a new recipe that I am really loving! Coming soon…

green smoothie in the car

Lunch – leftover pea soup, cranberry green beans, and salad

leftovers lunch

Snack – I brought an Almond Coco Loco and blueberries

almond coco loco and blueberries snack

But then a coworker brought Cherry Pie for someone else’s birthday… so you know what I had instead!

cherry pie

Dinner – Enchiladas with roasted asparagus & Brussels sprouts.

green sauce enchiladas

Ground beef & cheese for the boy, black bean for me.

enchiladas and roasted veggies

Thursday:

Breakfast – Cracklin Oat Bran with cashew milk

cracklin oat bran with cashew milk

Snack – Peaches & Cream Smoothie; recipe coming soon!

peaches and cream smoothie

Lunch – Leftover black bean enchilada, rice, roasted veggies

leftover enchilada and roasted veggies

Dinner – BBQ pulled pork sandwiches from the freezer for the boy, leftover minestrone soup for me

slow cooker minestrone soup

Friday:

Breakfast –Cracklin Oat Bran, with coconut milk. There was a 2/$5 sale on plant milks last week, can you tell? 🙂 I like the cashew the best so far, it just has the richest flavor. Maybe bc it’s “vanilla”…

cracklin oat bran with coconut milk

Lunch –leftover Minestrone soup, a big salad, and turmeric mango smoothie. I bragged about this one on Twitter.

soup, salad, and smoothie

Snack –hummus & veggies

hummus and carrots and celery

Dinner –I had a ridiculously stressful day, so cooking is not a thing I wanted to do when I got home… luckily my very sweet boy handed me a glass of wine and told me to sit down while he took over. 🙂 We had a simple dinner of salad and pasta, but sometimes a big bowl of carbs and a supportive spouse is all you need to feel better.

bowl full o carbs

The Weekend

Pretty sure the only thing that stands out on this weekend’s calendar is the One Year Anniversary party at Starpoint Brewery in Durham! From 10am – midnight, $4 pints all day of all of their signature brews?? Count us in!

Food Total: $106.28

Just over $100 this week, dang it. I will still count this as a win though, especially as I restocked on ground beef and turkey since our freezer supply was depleted, and lots of yogurts (we go through about 10 a week at least).

I took mercy on him and the boy got some special meat-based meals this week, like a huge 3-cheese ham and turkey sub w buffalo sauce, shepherd’s pie, and beef and cheese enchiladas.

Oh, and $75 of that $100 was produce! $46 of it was just spent on bags of frozen fruit. More spoilers about that upcoming post series… So without taking that into account, we really spent more like $60 this week.

 

Lessons Learned

One amusing thing I noticed is that even though he requested the Cracklin Oat Bran, I’m the one eating it! I’m glad he introduced me to it though, it really is good. And it’s one of the healthiest cereals I’ve seen. When my creative mojo is not quite awake, but I’m not feeling a smoothie, it’s my new go-to breakfast.

Another thing that stood out, it’s a lesson I learn over and over again, is that leftovers are SO good! Having containers just ready to grab and go is soooo convenient. If I have to put too much effort into food prep in the morning, I’m more likely to say forget it and spend the $7-$15 on lunch somewhere at work. No bueno.

But, the catch is that it is always a balancing act. I don’t want TOO MANY leftovers either, or we can’t eat them fast enough. Even with a six-plus-foot-male appetite in the house. And especially if it is a thing he isn’t super crazy about, and I’m left to my own devices to finish off two types of soup, a stir fry, and a couple enchiladas? That’s a recipe for disaster. So more meals that we know we both love and can and will eat over and over, along with the constant experiments.

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Types of Spam you can Expect if you Blog

 

Ahhh, spam. We all know about it, we all hate it, and yet we all seem to keep getting it.

No, I don’t mean the weird “food” SPAM.

Image result for spam

I mean of course the unwanted email messages that inundate internet users by the seemingly thousand per day. Though that brings up a good point: is there any other word in the English language with just two definitions, which are so vastly different?

Definition of SPAM
At least there is no “verb” for the food?

But I digress.

We live in an age now where random “bots” or perhaps even real people leave bogus comments all over your pages, trying to link back to their product or site, and flood your inbox if you are silly enough to publish a full email on your site, or on a “contact” page. If you are a blogger, I’m sure you are quite familiar with spam. I know Dave has started his own series on the funniest spam comment each month!

Usually, we just go in a few times a year and batch delete them. Occasionally a real comment gets mis-filed and we rescue it from the Spam folder (sorry Angela!), but 99% of the time comments filed as Spam are exactly that. And spam blockers are getting better, I very rarely now have a comment marked to “moderate” which is spam and not an actual reader.

MAY 2016 SPAM STATISTICS

Chart from UT El Paso: https://admin.utep.edu/Default.aspx?tabid=64462

Now, with all that said, it can be, dare I say, fun to read through spam comments sometimes. The wording, sentence structure, or references can be downright hilarious, occasionally insulting, and often mystifying. And many fall into more than one category too.

Here is my list of the types of spam I have gotten over the years, feel free to share your take in the comments!

 

The questionable grammar/spelling posts

These type of comments love to mis-capitalize words, notably leaving “i” as undercase or capitalizing the first letter of a random mid-sentence word. They use very poor grammar and sentence structure. And not in a “I’m not a native speaker but I’m trying to learn” kind of way, in a “I’m a computer program trying to be human” kind of way.

foreign language spam comments
types of spam comments you can expect if you blog
At least there is a shadow of Yoda humor here?
Clearly Unrelated to Content

Then there are the “clearly not at all related to what I’m talking about” posts, where they probably just want you to click their link. The article may be about “How to Save On Your Grocery Bill” and the spam mentions how to find NFL jerseys. Clearly not a thing my readers need, bro.

types of spam comments you can expect if you blog

Foreign Languages

And then we get into the weird ones, in different languages. I’ve seriously been noticing a LOT of Russian spam comments lately… coincidence?? Just kidding, no politics allowed in my happy place.

types of spam comments you can expect if you blog

lots of Russian spam comments

Just a Giant List of Links

Oh, and the ones that are just huge lists of links, or keywords. Sometimes they are all related (i.e. cheapibuprofen.net, cheapadvil.net, cheapmotrin.com) and sometimes they don’t make any sense in reference to the post or to each other. The point is they are all hyperlinks, and no guarantee the link will take you where it says it goes.

I’m not interested in clicking and neither are my readers.

link spam

Search Recommendations

Sometimes there is text, trying to get you to Google search a specific phrase. I get these most often referencing paid content, SEO, how to better monetize my site, or how to get more traffic. They usually say something like “Your site is amazing I love it but also you can do better. Just search for “Dominicks super cool SEO tips”.” Thanks for the backhanded compliment, I guess.

types of spam comments you can expect if you blog

boorfes tips
Who is Boorfe? He has unlimited content, so I’m guessing a computer…
Predictive Word Generated

Oh, a fun one I got recently was a ridiculously long novel-like comment. I was almost tempted to publish it, just to triple the word count on the page. The only problem? It was complete gibberish. I don’t think there was an actual complete sentence to be found. It may have been a very juvenile attempt at a predictive word generator for comments? Who knows, but A for effort.

types of spam comments you can expect if you blog

Swing and a Miss

Recently I’ve been getting rashes of comments that seem legitimate, almost. That compliment the content, style, or layout. But they are all comments from the same site/email, and clearly not a real reader. Thus, regardless of whether it is malicious or not, delete.

types of spam comments you can expect if you blog

Or the ones that seems totally legitimate, but then you check out the site, or send an email to the registered email, and it is undeliverable, site is not real or different than advertised, etc. Sorry, delete. At least you said nice things, to make me feel better about wasting my time trying to reply.

spam comment almost real

The X-Rated Stuff

And of course, there will be plenty of “adult” comments sprinkled in, with totally inappropriate wording, and graphic links directing you towards super shady sites. Insta-perma-delete. Those will not get a photo because they make me a little nauseated, tbh. Thank goodness they are few and far between.

 

 

 

So there you have it! If you want to start a blog, at least you know what you will probably be dealing with. If you already blog, please, for all of our sakes, share your funniest spam with us!

Restaurant Review: Magone Italian Grill

 

We were out and about, exploring our local neighborhoods, when the craving for pizza hit. As per usual, Google Maps came to our rescue. Tucked away in a plaza in Chapel Hill called the Timberlyne Shopping Center, we stumbled upon a delightful little bistro.

It’s easy to almost miss it if you don’t know where to look, even with the huge black lettering. The plaza is filled with storefronts and the trees block the front from the entrance. But as we circled the lot, “Magone’s Italian Grill” came into view.

As soon as we walked in, I loved its charming atmosphere. It was a little sparse, but the wooden floors are beautiful, and if you looked closely the photos on the wall are all vintage photographs of Italian immigrant life in America. I was a little disappointed in how tiny the space was, but I guess real estate in Chapel Hill is quite costly.

Magone Italian Grill front

Aa for the menu, their pasta dishes average $11.50 for such Italian classics as Pasta Aglio e Oilio (garlic & olive oil) to Fettuccine to dishes they’ve made their own with fresh vegetables and spices. Almost all of the “Italian Classics” dishes are $15.50, which include things like Chicken Cacciatore, Chicken Piccata, Shrimp Alfredo, and Linguini with Clam Sauce. They also have a “create your own pasta” option where you can pick the pasta type, sauce, and any add-ins.

The “From the Oven” section would tempt me should we return, this is where you find the drool-worthy dishes like Manicotti, Baked Ziti, Eggplant Parmesan, and of course, Lasagna. These will run you $10 – $14.50 for the Chicken Parm. There is also a whole page of apps and soups and salads, but since we were there for lunch and weren’t crazy hungry, we didn’t even look at those too closely.

Magone Italian Grill kitchen area

And then you get to the pizza page, now we’re talking! To create your own masterpiece, you start with a $6 (personal), $10 (10 inch) or $12 (16 inch) base, and each additional topping is $0.75, with no upper limit. They also offer gluten free crust for an additional dollar.

They have 8 specialty pizzas, with a well rounded list of choices ranging from the Meat Lovers and Magone Special, to the Pizza Caprese and Vegetarian Special. I love when there are at least options for everyone. These cost between $8 and $18, depending on topping and pizza size from personal to large.

And to top it all off, there is also a calzone and stromboli section, if you prefer your pizza rolled up and baked like a hot pocket. (You know we love calzones!)

Magone Italian Grill Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza

For some reason, the Chicken Bacon Ranch caught my eye that day, it just sounded awesome. I didn’t think I could handle the biggest one, so I decided on a “Small”. Well. They have a different idea of what small means than I do! When the waitress brought the pizza over I was speechless, this thing was GIANT.

Then she set down the large Hawaiian the boy ordered.

Magone Italian Grill Hawaiian Pizza

This pizza was easily bigger than my tires on my car. You certainly get your money’s worth of food here! (And for those haters who don’t like pineapple on pizza, consider yourself permanently un-invited to all my future dinner parties).

Both pizzas were aMAzing. The chicken bacon ranch was creamy and cheesy and salty, just the way I like it. The chicken and bacon pieces were small but abundant, which I prefer. I like getting a little of all the flavors in every bite. And I don’t want chunks of things falling off as I pick the slice up off the tray.

The Hawaiian was also delightful, though I prefer ham steaks to sliced deli meat style ham. The pineapple also tasted pretty fresh, so even if it was from a can they did a great job baking it. The crust was thin, but not too thin. And it was baked perfectly through, no spots of utter mush, and no black burnt spots, which I appreciate.

Magone Italian Grill to go boxes

We definitely couldn’t finish all of it (I personally knew I’d have at least 3 more days of meals from this!) so we got boxes to go. And they have such a “team” attitude, the cook himself came out of the kitchen to go get something from the back room, saw our check ready to be paid (you know how you stick the card out the top?) and he took it, telling us he would let the server know we were ready. How sweet is that?

I enjoyed my experience, even with the small space, and would be quite happy to return. Especially as it warms up, I’d like to enjoy their outdoor seating. Maybe I can take an extra-long lunch someday and enjoy their lunch special menu? 😉

Magone Italian Grill outdoor seating

The prices were a touch higher than I liked, but honestly you get SO MUCH pizza for your money, I wasn’t even mad after they brought out the trays. And the lunch menu, which runs only M-F from 11am – 3pm, has many of the same dishes at a discount price, so if you can make it at that time I’d recommend it!

 

Overall, I’d rate Magone Italian Grill:

  • Taste: 9
  • Atmosphere: 6
  • Value: 8

All opinions are those of the Budget Epicurean.

Weekly Eating – 2/12/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Over the weekend I cooked up a big batch of black beans in the slow cooker, which became some meal prep black beans and rice lunches, my best black bean soup, and a little left over for burritos or whatever is needed later.

black beans and rice lunch meal prep

I also finally got up the ambition to make a butt-load of pierogi! If you have had pierogi, you know how damn delicious these carb-on-carb dumplings are. If you have not, you are missing out on some serious buttery deliciousness.

mashed potato pierogi

Not going to lie, there is almost zero redeeming nutritional qualities to pierogi, but they are amazing, even more so when homemade, and I intend to take them to the next Bull City Food Swap. These will be a very high-ticket trade item, so I’m hoping to get some good swag in return!

mashed potato pierogi ready to freeze

Monday:

Breakfast – Cherry Waffles! The boy’s favorite fruit is cherry, cherry everything and anything. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day this week, I picked up a can of cherry pie filling with the intent to make some sort of delicious things with it. And I did.

cherry pie filling waffles

They came out very soft vs. crunchy, but I actually preferred them that way. And I turned more of the cherries into a berry sauce by boiling it down with some cherry juice added.

cherry pie filling waffles

Snack – So there were some muffins left over at work from last week, and we all know I can’t say no. So I had a second breakfast of a banana nut muffin. No regrets.

banana nut muffin

Lunch – there was a grilled cheese & soup potluck today! It was amaaaazing, and so perfect on a chilly, rainy day. I stuffed myself silly on jalapeno popper grilled cheese and southern Pimento grilled cheese, chili, tomato soup, and I brought my best black bean soup.

grilled cheese

Snack 2 – I was feeling a little guilty about the carb-licious day, so I snagged a cupful of fresh raw veggies from the veggie tray someone brought to snack on at my desk all afternoon.

veggie tray

Dinner – I’ve been jonesing to try a spicy Thai carrot and sweet potato soup ever since I traded for some at December’s Food Swap. I roasted some carrots and sweet potatoes, and whizzed it up in a blender with ingredients including cayenne, garlic, ginger and tahini.

spicy carrot and sweet potato soup

Topped with some cashews and golden raisins, it was absolutely perfect! I’m in love. Just in time for V Day. (Even if the boy said it looked and tasted like baby food…)

spicy carrot and sweet potato soup

Tuesday:

Breakfast – I found this recipe at my friend Stephanie’s blog, and for once was excited for a smoothie with turmeric! It has a pretty strong flavor, even for a die-hard exotic spice lover like myself. This turned out great though, the yogurt makes it smooth and the mango was the major flavor that stood out.

mango and turmeric smoothie

Lunch – Black beans & rice with salsa, steamed broccoli, and leftover lentil veggie burgers

beans and rice with veggie burgers

Dinner – Tuna noodle casserole, a childhood classic 🙂

tuna noodle casserole

Tonight was also spa night! The puppers needed a trim badly, I cut off almost a whole dog’s worth of fur. Yes, I did it myself, and yes I used scissors. He is an amazing animal and calmly stood still the whole time. That face though, right?!?

puppies after a fur trim

And mama also got a haircut finally! I’ve been complaining about it for months, but my frugal heart won’t allow me to spend money on going to get it cut at a salon. So usually I ignore it, and go 2-3 years between cuts. But I figured, hey, the dog doesn’t look completely insane, may as well try myself next! (Yes, I used different scissors).

giving myself a hair cut

And you know what? It came out ok! I took off almost 6 inches, and there was still so much left that not a single person commented on it all week. LOL.

Wednesday <3:

Breakfast – For breakfast on Valentine’s Day, not only did hubs get his usual coffee in bed, but I also used the remainder of the cherry pie filling to make cherry heart shaped pancakes! With some cherry sauce and a little melted chocolate, oh my, it was heaven.

cherry pancakes with chocolate sauce

And then proceeded to make Twitter jealous, ha, not my intent…

Lunch – Black beans & rice with salsa, and leftover turmeric mango smoothie

black beans and rice with turmeric smoothie

Snack – our admin gave us cute valentines with a KitKat, and a coworker brought in special white chocolate dipped cookies!

Valentines

Dinner – I cook 364 days per year, but this day is the boy’s day to cook 🙂 He did a fantastic job, with bouquets of flowers inside the door and on the table.

Valentines day bouquet

We opened a bottle of the “good wine” (yeah an actual bottle, not a box!), and he impressed me with a salad to start, followed by fresh baked bread, and mozzarella stuffed shells. He even got a bunch of parsley and diced it to put on top you guys! It was soooo tasty, omg.

Valentines day table set with wine and flowers

Didn’t even get a picture, because a) we scarfed it down too fast and b) no tech allowed tonight. He got a cute handmade card from me, and a chocolate bar that said “you’re one in a billion”  🙂

Thursday:

Breakfast – Mixed berry smoothie

mixed berry smoothie

Lunch – the rest of the carrot-sweet potato soup & blueberries

spicy carrot sweet potato soup and blueberries

Snack – handful of peanut M&Ms on my way back from a meeting

handful of peanut mms

Dinner –I made the split pea soup recipe from Plant Powered For Life, and it was damn delicious. I can’t believe I’d never had split pea soup before now! And I had some green beans that were going to go bad soon, plus a half bag of cranberries, so I simmered them together with a little lemon zest for a tasty tart side dish.

split pea soup and cranberry green beans

Friday:

Breakfast –Loaded baked sweet potato with black beans, sauerkraut, salsa, and avocado. It’s a pretty weird flavor combination, but I’m finding out more and more that that’s what I’m all about! I love the sweet potato sweetness, plus the creamy avocado, and the red cabbage sauerkraut is just the right salty tang.

loaded baked sweet potato

Lunch –black beans & rice & salsa! I may be boring but it is always guaranteed to be delicious. And super cheap.

black beans and rice and salsa

Snack – blender hummus and bell peppers/cauliflower

blender hummus with raw veggies

Dinner –Stir Friday! It has been a while since a stir Friday has happened, so I was excited about this one. Basmati rice in the rice cooker, and I found a stir fry mix on sale $1.69. It was so green and totally vegan, and the boy said “for what it is, it didn’t suck, good job”

green veggie stir fry

The Weekend

This weekend we are taking the leap and finally doing TSA precheck! We have some serious travel coming up between a back-to-CT trip for work, a long overdue vacation, and at least two family weddings this year, so it made sense to finally get it. Hopefully it will make traveling slightly faster and less stressful.

We are also ripping off the band-aid and doing our taxes! Who knows if we will owe or if Uncle Sam will owe us, but I will feel 1000 times better having this particular chore off the to-do list.

Food Total: $80.12

Well, I overshot my $75 stretch goal but I’m under my $100 goal, so I’ll call this week a win! It also included a trip to both Harris Teeter and Kroger, to take advantage of sales and coupons unique to each place. I am lucky that I live about a mile from both stores.

$25.77 coupon $8.56
Dairy $10.99 Staples $0.00 Fruit/Veg $11.15 Extras $3.63
Chobani 4pk x2 7 Stir fry veggies 14oz 1.69 Vday choc bars 2.97
HT brand yogurts 5 2 Stir fry broccoli 12oz 1.69
Sliced provolone 8oz 1.99 Bananas 11 3.14
Asparagus 1lb 1.84 Tax 0.66
5lb Potatoes 2.79
$54.35 coupon $19.10
Dairy $0.00 Staples $17.61 Fruit/Veg $14.11 Extras $22.63
Sargento sliced cheddar 0 Garlic bread loaf x2 3.58 Frozen pep/onion mix 1.5 Foil 200 sqft 6.99
Sesame bread loaf 1.49 Sweet potatoes 99/lb 2.65 Cracklin’ Oat Bran 4.99
Bagels- plain 6 0.89 Avocado 0.99 ZZZquil 5.99
Canned tuna x3 1.5 2lb green beans 2.99 Toothpast 3 4.66
Pasta x5 2.5 Bell peppers 2 1.98
extra wide noodles 1.99 Pint blueberries 2 4
pasta sauce can 0.89
Pancake/waffle mix 1.79
Grits 1.29
Pancake syrup 1.69

I do find it slightly amusing that aluminum foil is more expensive than any grocery item I buy… but 200 sq ft should last quite a while. And it makes me feel pretty great to have no spending at all in the “Meats” column this week.

Lessons Learned

We have been going pretty hard on the carbs lately, and I’m not sure why. Other than they are constantly on sale. I’ve gotten super cheap pasta, rice, bagels, and bread lately. It’s unfortunate that our food system encourages the consumption of pretty nutritionally void foods while making things like “salad mix” cost $6 or more… but also, during the winter and rainy season I really am not feeling salads. Winter is for comfort food. So long as I keep fitting in my jeans, I won’t panic yet. I know spring is right around the corner, and with it the abundance of produce I’m beginning to crave.

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

My most expensive vice

There are many things that we all just know are a bad idea, and take a lot of money to obtain and/or upkeep. Most addictions fall into this category. Y’all might have read the title of this article and thought, oh wow, is she going to talk about cigarettes? Alcohol? Gasp, maybe a drug problem??

Nothing quite so intense. My most expensive vice?

Procrastination.

While you may be scratching your head, or nodding it in agreement, let me tell you a few stories.

First, the story of my steering wheel cover.

So, I have an old 2005 Honda Civic. It has a slim, faux-leather steering wheel that originally came with the car. It is beginning to crack around the edges from years of holding, turning, and sliding hands and gloves. It gets finger-freezingly cold in the winter, and near-1st-degree-burn level hot in the summer sun.

Therefore, I decided I should get a cheap steering wheel cover to solve all the problems.

As is my default these days, I turned to Amazon. I browsed different colors, prints, faux leather versus fuzzy zebra print. Just a simple, classic black cover is all I needed, preferably as cheap as possible. I found one for $11 that seemed to fit the bill, added it to my cart, and clicked order.

I then forgot all about it, until 2 days later, when it arrived. After excitedly opening the box, I again forgot all about it for a few more days, as it sat in my den on a pile of other boxes. Finally, one day it was super hot, and I took it out to the car to try to install it.

Guess what I didn’t do before ordering it?

Yeah. Measure the diameter of my wheel.

I pulled and stretched and tried with all my might, but a 17 inch cover won’t fit on a 19 inch wheel. Shaking my head at myself, I tossed it in the back seat, to be dealt with and returned later.

Later has still not come.

That cover is still sitting in the back seat of my car. Several months later. That $11 is still Amazon’s. I’m not proud of that.

Okay, so what, that’s just a few bucks, you may say.

Time for story number two.

My poor little Civic is sorely neglected by me the majority of the year. Like most major and minor appliances, and joints, I only really think about it when it has problems or doesn’t do what I want it to.

One day, I started it up, and it did a crazy shaking thing with some accompanying weird noises. Definitely cause for concern. I tried to back out and go about my day anyhow, hoping it would magically fix itself. The car couldn’t make it above 20 mph down my road, and continued shaking.

Weirdly, it didn’t just magically fix itself.

I parked it back in the driveway, and thanked my lucky stars that I have a work-from-home husband, who has a second vehicle I could use. This would otherwise have been an even more expensive and frustrating story had I not had a backup transportation option. I was able to get to work just fine, leaving my car in the driveway to be dealt with later.

And a month later, I was still driving his car, and mine hadn’t moved.

(Are you seeing a pattern here?)

I did in fact google the problems, and talked it over with my father, who is a much more car-adept human. We diagnosed it as a spark plug issue, which is easily fixable. I stop at a car parts store and pick up some extra plugs, and doodads to change them, totaling about $40. Hubs is pretty confident that with some assistance from YouTube, he can handle it.

Turns out, there are even more tools, and extenders, and what-have-yous that we would need, which would add on another $100 or so in one-use items. For a job that is only necessary every 100 thousand miles or so, it seems like it costs more to DIY than it’s truly worth, and we decide to take it in to someone after all.

After several weekends go by where we keep saying “we will take it to the shop today, I swear”, and we still haven’t taken it to the shop, I finally got fed up. I just wanted the dang car fixed and off my to-do list. So I google all the mechanics open, and there aren’t many on a Sunday in the South.

I picked one that had decent reviews and was nearby, and off we went, me in my shaky loud Civic, with hubs loyally trailing behind to take me home while it gets fixed.

This guy, is an interesting character. He has “good old boy” values, I can tell by the way he talks to me like I don’t know a damn thing about cars (I don’t, but that’s not really the point) and calls me “little darling” (eye-rolling and groans are appropriate here).

I keep my annoyance and rage in check, because I just want him to make the car work. I even brought the brand new spark plugs, that I had bought, so all he has to do is the work to change them. I hand over the keys and we drive off.

He calls back with an estimate that seems pretty silly high to me.

I call my dad and talk it over. He agrees to talk to the guy before we authorize anything. When he calls me back, I get the whole story of how hard it is to make a living, and we’re paying for the time and expertise really, yada yada yada. Whatever dude, fine, just fix the car.

We are both pretty annoyed by now, but finally he calls and my car is all ready to roll. We head back, pick up the car, and pay the outrageous $115 and change.

If the story ended there, I would just chalk it up to a good life lesson, and find myself a mechanic I liked and trusted more. But.

About a month later, my car starts doing the exact same thing. It’s shaking, making weird noises, having trouble turning over and starting up. The check engine light is on yet again. I’m so over this I can’t even.

So I’m driving hubs’ car for another few weeks… bless his heart.

There is no way in hell we’re going back to Patronizing McJerkFace, so I google more options. Turns out, Jiffy Lube can do spark plug changes, and there’s one super close to my house. Excellent.

We go there on a Saturday, and the people are super nice. They listened to my whole saga, and let me watch while they took the engine apart. They explained where all the things go and what they do. And then when they took out the plugs, they tell me, “there’s no possible way these were changed recently. This guy basically took your brand new plugs and charged you for not doing this job.”

By now I’m so mad I’m seeing red and shaking.

“I SHOULD SUE! I should drag his name through the mud, what’s the number to the Better Business Bureau!?”

Hubs is being very sweet and talking me down. After much discussion and debate, we decide that it really isn’t worth the time and energy (and money of going to court) to wreak justice upon this predatory asshole. Karma will get him what he deserves someday.

At least by this point, my car HAS actually had its spark plugs changed, I saw it happen with my own eyes. This second change cost another 35 for plugs, and ~85 for labor. It has now taken me a total of about $275 and nearly 4 months, to change my damn spark plugs.

Least you think my procrastination is only of the automotive variety, let me leave you with one more story. This one having to do with a different type of modern vice: the internet.

So we all know that buying your own modem and/or router is the WAY cheaper and better route to go than renting one and paying every month, except in certain cases. Since we bought our home from 1000 miles away, we started our internet service by renting a router from our new amoral bloodsucker internet provider.

This router came at a cost of $11/month.

We unpacked all the things, began organizing our new home, and realized by the end of the second month that we had an old router which would work! Rejoice! The boy set it up, got it working, and we put the rented router back in its box, to be sent back to its home.

package brown box

And there it sat, in a box, on a shelf. For months.

First, we needed to contact the company and get the shipping label printed. We put that off for several weeks. Then we needed to actually package it and get it to a USPS or FedEx… which seemed to keep getting pushed further and further down the to-do list. Life happened, we had vacations, dinner parties, weddings to attend, exploring our new home city, and holidays.

Before we knew it, we had lived here a whole year!

And that damn router was still on the shelf.

We finally got our act together, after giving the ISP an extra $143 or so, and sent it back.

Y’all. This is a problem.

With tax season upon us, this is a problem with really big implications this time around. I’ve never actually been late filing taxes, but there have been some close calls. So this year, we took a weekend to go around the house and internet, collecting all the paperwork and proof and such that we need into one big envelope.

Of course, that envelope is currently sitting on the filing cabinet…

I’ve given us a deadline of March 1st, to at the very least run a practice filing through TurboTax, or make an appointment with our “tax guy” (last year was ridiculous with the wedding/name change, filing in 2 states, and buying a house, so yeah we had someone help).

I’ve set an alarm and everything, each day leading up to it, to hopefully annoy us into finishing the task.

 

 

Do you procrastinate, or are you a “do it now” kinda person? Have you already filed taxes, or are you waiting? Do you want to file ours for us (for free)? 😉

Hand-Dipped Chocolate Covered Strawberries

With Valentine’s Day being tomorrow, you may be one of those people who is desperately searching the internet for the perfect “last-minute” ideas. Maybe you are almost ready to run to the store and shell out way too many dollars for over-priced and sub-par drug store candy.

Or perhaps you are celebrating solo, or with your friends, and just want a little treat for yourself or your girls, to make the day extra special. But you don’t have all day to slave over a hot stove.

Here’s your answer!

Chocolate dipped strawberries. They are universally loved, as who could resist a sweet, juicy fruit dipped in chocolate? And they are marvelously easy to make, taking mere minutes plus a little bit of chill time. But, you could make them as fancy as you wish, by mixing dark, regular, and white chocolate, sprinkles, coconut, crushed nuts, or any other whim of your imagination.

coconut oil and chocolate with a strawberry

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chocolate chips (whatever kind you like)
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • Berries

20170213_195254

Step 1: Put a smaller pan over a large pan of water, and bring the water to a boil. This helps to melt to the chocolate, but keep it from burning or getting scorched on the bottom. The coconut oil also helps to make the melted chocolate smooth and glossy.

very last minute valentines day dessert idea

 

Step 2: Once melted, dip your strawberries in! Hold them by the green parts and the top, and drag through the melted chocolate.

Dipping a strawberry in chocolate

Mmmm look at that melty goodness! You could use any kind of berry or fruit for this honestly, bananas or pineapple would also be great.

20170213_195415

Step 3: Lay your chocolate covered berry on wax paper, on a plate or cookie tray that can fit in your refrigerator or freezer.

Chocolate dipped strawberries

Step 4: Put the berries in the fridge or freezer, to harden, at least 10 minutes. If using the freezer, don’t forget about them! You don’t want strawberry ice cubes. They are best fresh!

20170213_200815

The fun part about making your own chocolate-dipped treats is that sometimes you have extra melted chocolate. And you can go as crazy as you want! I had some almonds and peanuts, so I made nut clusters with mine, and sprinkled it with sea salt. The same idea applies, just let them chill for 10 minutes to an hour in the fridge before enjoying.

 

Do you have any Valentine’s Day plans tomorrow? If you want to avoid the crowds and overpriced “prixe-fixe” food, I’d suggest a simple yet impressive meal at home; everyone loves to be cooked for 😉 <3

Weekly Eating – 2/5/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

So remember that sweet deal on a waffle maker I got last weekend? Well, this past weekend I decided to go big, and made a huge batch of sweet potato waffles! The recipe made 14 big, fluffy waffles, which we happily ate 4 of and then I packaged the rest into Ziplocks for the week’s breakfasts.

sweet potato waffles with syrup

For lunch, we decided to explore a bit, and ended up at a pizza place in Chapel Hill called Magone. I got a “small” bacon ranch pizza, and this thing was ‘UGE! And delicious. And filling. The boy couldn’t even manage more than 3 slices of his Hawaiian. I ate 2 slices, and took the rest home, so there was a ton of pizza left over.

chicken bacon ranch pizza

Monday:

Breakfast – Sweet potato waffles! I’d tried reheating in the microwave, and it made them kinda soft and mushy. So I heated them in the toaster, and that came out perfect! New fave breakfast for sure.

sweet potato waffles in the toaster

Lunch – Veggie chili; I made a big ol batch in the Crock Pot with dry beans I’d soaked overnight. We had plenty for dinner, and I packed up the leftovers into several containers.

vegetarian chili

Snack –cuties & more coffee

cuties

Dinner –Black bean & corn California burritoes, with some purple cabbage for color and baked in the oven for crunch.

black bean and corn burritos

I thought I did a pretty good job wrapping, though one ripped a bit, but I’m not nearly as expert as Cheesy Finance 🙂

black bean and corn burritos

All day Monday I had a dull ache in my abdomen, thinking it was just hunger or a stomach ache. It turned into roaring cramps by the end of the day, and I was unprepared. On a suggestion from a friend, I wanted to use a heating pad, but we don’t have one. So google said, make one from putting rice in a sock!

sock rice

I’m here to say that it actually does work. I used a funnel, and filled up hubby’s sock with rice. Microwaved for 1 minute at a time, 2 or 3 times, it holds heat for quite a while. However, microwaved sock rice smells very weird. And hubby refuses to eat it after I’m done with it… so that’s a waste of 2 cups of rice! Haha (Would you eat sock rice?)

Tuesday:

Breakfast – I slept poorly and my body was still confused, so I didn’t know what to do about food. You know how some days, every thing you think of your stomach is like “Nah, I don’t want that”. I almost made toast, almost made eggs, almost had waffles. I made some sauteed greens because for some reason it sounded good, but that wasn’t enough. So I added it as a topping on the leftover pizza.

pizza with greens

Lunch –Can of chicken noodle soup. Nothing exciting, just needed to have some calories and still wasn’t hungry.

Snack –bag of sunflower seeds

sunflower seeds

Dinner –Tomato soup & grilled cheese with leftover tomato juice from the chili and some freezer pesto. Pesto is one of my favorite secrets to delicious and layered flavors in a simple tomato soup.

grilled cheese and tomato pesto soup

Wednesday:

Breakfast –Tropical smoothie; and this finally used up the rest of the frozen fruit mix I don’t like!

tropical smoothie

Lunch –Chili! With some mixed steamed vegetables on the side.

vegetarian chili with steamed vegetables

Dinner –I met up with a new friend after work at Starpoint Brewery/ Beer Study in Durham, and had a Chocolate Stout that was seriously amazing. It tasted sort of like a chilled hot cocoa, but with beer in it. It was worth every penny of the $8 for a 16 oz glass. When I finally got home, I didn’t feel like cooking, so I had more leftover pizza; at least I added some greens on top.

chicken bacon ranch pizza

Snack –Pineapple & cucumber. Cucumber isn’t the best alone, I should have made some hummus to dip it in. They were also close to going bad, so the other container I decided to quick pickle for later.

pineapple and cucumber

Thursday:

Breakfast –Tofu scramble with greens. I used up the last container of tofu, and the rest of the sauteed greens I’d made. I also added some cayenne and nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor. But honestly, it was pretty not great. Word to the wise: scrambled tofu tastes 0% like eggs. I won’t be making this again.

tofu scramble with greens

Lunch –leftover black beans & corn taco filling with brown basmati rice, salsa, and avocado (basically, a burrito bowl)

burrito bowl

Snack- Ghiradelli sea salt caramel & a tiny Snickers

candy

Dinner –Burgers: bison and lentil. I had some bison meat in the freezer that I bought on sale a while ago, and made burgers from that to make the boy happy.

bison burgers

Then I also tried a new recipe for lentil veggie burgers. I’m trying to find the perfect recipe to balance taste and texture and health. I used the ends of a loaf of bread in this instead of bread crumbs, rather than throw them out.

lentil burgers

These were good, but a bit too dry. Maybe I need to tone down the amount of bread, or add more liquid to the mix before baking.

burgers with potatoes and edamame

Friday:

Breakfast – the last of the sweet potato wafffles w blueberry sauce. I’m loving this quick sauce option: I microwave 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries with 1 packet of splenda and some lime juice, then mush the berries with a fork. It’s so simple and sweet and perfect.

sweet potato waffles with blueberry sauce

Snack – I had a busy morning, and knew lunch would be later than normal, so I had half a protein bar around 11

protein bar omega 3

Lunch –leftover lentil burgers with Green Goddess dressing, salad, and edamame

lentil burgers with green goddess dressing and salad

Snack 2 – We had a meeting at which they gave out muffins. I can’t say no to a moist and tasty lemon poppyseed muffin! But now I know I shouldn’t take any drug tests for a few days.

lemon poppyseed muffin

Dinner – My stomach was confused again, so I was hungry but nothing sounded good. Eventually around 6:30 pm I had a bowl of homemade yogurt with the remaining blueberry sauce from waffles and some tropical granola.

homemade yogurt with blueberry sauce

Then I was informed by Twitter that it was National Pizza Day, so naturally I can’t not celebrate a food related holiday. I was going to try this taco pizza recipe I read in a magazine later this week, but now it seemed like a good time to try it out.

taco pizza recipe

And it turned out pretty good. I liked the corn crust, but I need to cook it longer or roll it thinner next time, it was still soft and chewy in the middle and stuck to the foil a bit. The cauliflower, onion, and pepper toppings I used were tasty, and it used up the last bit of pasta sauce from the vegan meatballs last week. So that was a win.

masa harina corn pizza crust

The Weekend

This weekend is predicted to be rainy both days, which is kind of a bummer. It means it’s perfect “start spring cleaning” weather, but also that I bet there’s a 98% chance we will lack motivation to do so. I do need to return a library book, and maybe will browse and pick up some new ones while there. We also need to “adult up” and get our tax paperwork together… #adultingishardthoughyaknow

yoga and beer in durham

Oh, but I might have a friend who is interested in attending Beer and Yoga on Sunday with me! Two of my favorite things. We shall see.

Food Total: $26.21

I was very pleased that we got through this week without spending any more money at the grocery store! And not going out to eat either, besides one beer. Last week I was a bit of a spendy pants

The only groceries this week were obtained while Erin from ReachingForFI was in town, and we needed some wine for our hangout and chat time 🙂 And then avocados were on sale 2/$1, so naturally we both had to get a least a half dozen! She had a hilarious way of carrying her bounty home too.

Fruit/Veg $8.39 Extras $18.32
Avocado 6 3 wine 4L 16.89
Bananas 6 1.4
Mandarins 3lb 3.99 tax 1.43

This week, I’m trying to learn from my previous mistake of not taking a list, and going grocery shopping while hungry. This week I have a plan, read the ads, scoped out my current stash of coupons, and am making a meal plan after checking the freezer and pantry first. In other words, I’m taking my own advice 😉

Lessons Learned

Well, I’d say there were a few lessons this week. For one, using up leftover odds and ends isn’t nearly as hard as some people think it is, if you’re willing to be creative and eat potentially strange food combinations. There are also so many different way to re-purpose bits of this and that into different recipes.

For another, you need to plan to change your mind occasionally. I had taken the pesto out of the freezer with the intent of making pasta with pesto, which was actually my second choice when shrimp linguine began to not sound great. Then I didn’t feel like pesto pasta, so I decided it would be better used by adding it to the tomato soup. I think we changed up the meal plan every single night this week.

And finally, cooking is an experiment! Don’t be afraid to try new and different recipes. The absolute worst that can happen is it is inedible and you throw it out. People waste about 40% of their food, but if you can find new recipes your family will love, it may cut down on waste over time. Several things I tried this week didn’t work out, but that’s okay. We will keep trying and keep learning!

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Pineapple Jalapeno Green Drink

This is a green drink recipe brought to you by my mother in law. She found it somewhere, tried it at home, and totally fell in love. She makes and drinks it literally every morning on the way to work now, and swears it gives you just as much energy as coffee, if not more!

It is certainly very healthy, containing several servings of vegetables and fruit as well. Pineapple has been called the “king of fruits“, as it is packed with 131% of your daily required Vitamin C along with a host of other minerals and nutrients. Greens are basically the healthiest food on the planet, and you should aim to eat at least a cup a day. A green drink is a great way to sneak them in first thing in the morning.

pineapple jalapeno green drink

Adding celery just pumps up the health benefits with more fiber, vitamins, and blood pressure lowering power. If you cannot tolerate spice, then please feel free to skip the jalapeno. But it really does add just the right note of complexity to make the drink interesting and keep you coming back for more.

And to put the icing on the cake, adding a tablespoon of flaxseeds can pump up the fiber, supply omega-3 fatty acids, as well as potentially control cholesterol, help bring down your LDL and boost your HDL. It can help balance out your blood lipids and your blood pressure as well. It also is beneficial for your digestive tract health.

This recipe makes enough for one green drink, feel free to double!

topical flax and pineapple spicy green drink

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 1/2 cup cut pineapple (can use canned)
  • 1 cup packed greens (spinach, kale, collards…)
  • 1/2 fresh large jalapeno pepper
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds
  • 1 cup coconut water or soymilk

Step 1: Put everything in a powerful blender in order, and blend until smooth and thoroughly combined. You need to let it go for a long time to make sure to break down the fibrous celery & pineapple.

pineapple jalapeno green drink

Who do you think pulled off the better photo? In-laws (above) or me (below)?

pineapple jalapeno green drink

 

Do you ever drink green drinks? What are your favorite combos?

Restaurant Review: Straightaway Cafe

When you think of the state of North Carolina, there are generally a few cities and areas that come to mind. There is of course the Research Triangle, an industrial and tech hotspot ringed by Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. Smack in the center of the state is the Piedmont Triad, consisting of Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point. And of course the Charlotte area and surrounding suburbs.

But aside from all the man-made areas, NC also offers two of our most loved natural features: ocean, and mountains.

The coast, with over 300 miles of barrier islands and beautiful beaches, offers tons of vacation options and watersports galore. From the charming Knott’s Island to Ocean Isle Beach just minutes north of Myrtle, there is plenty of beach to explore and enjoy. Of the mountainous side of the state, where the state line tracks the Appalachian Mountains, the most well-known area is Asheville.

The crown of the NC cities along the Blue Ridge mountain range, Asheville and its surrounding towns have an unmistakable mountain town charm. Life has a slower pace, in a place where they believe “Life isn’t just about the climb. There’s also the view.”

The view from the Straightaway Cafe

Highways soon give way to steep, craggy, and winding roads, which eventually turn into gravel and dirt. Only the most adventurous or well-vehicularly-equipped travelers should attempt the back roads in weather or after dark. But the climb is worth the view. Thick lush trees surround you on each side, with more shades of green than you can count in a Crayola box.

On the way to Asheville, there is a small town called Black Mountain right on Highway 9. We happened to be on Highway 9, actively on the lookout for dinner. It was late and getting dark, and we were at a cabin not too far away. However, in these remote mountainous areas, food options are rather limited. When you can drive for over 20 miles and see no sign of civilization beyond some fences and an occasional driveway, you know you’re pretty remote.

So imagine our surprise and delight when we saw the sign for the Straightaway Cafe!

Straightaway Cafe Black Mountain NC

We did not know that had we continued on Route 9 for a few more miles we would have hit downtown, but we weren’t looking for chains like Taco Bell, Denny’s, or Subway. We wanted somewhere local and cute and dive-y. And that is exactly what we got!

For this review, let me remind you of the BE Review rules.

Food locations will be evaluated based on:

  • Taste: 1 (wet toast) – 10 (your taste buds have died and gone to heaven)
  • Atmosphere: 1 (gas station bathroom) – 10 (best you’ve ever experienced)
  • Value: 1 (not worth it) – 10 (super duper deal)

All opinions are those of the Budget Epicurean.

After turning in at the sign, the first impression is admittedly not a great one. We both looked at the dilapidated, boarded up structures and were like “lord I hope that’s not where we eat!”. I don’t know why they wouldn’t demo these buildings after buying the land and putting up the nicer newer restaurant, but rest assured, this is not where the food is prepared!

Parking is ample, and all along a dirt & gravel road/lot. We got there around sunset, and there was a good-sized crowd.

The weather in May is quite mild, so the outdoor seating was prime real estate. Luckily we had several things going for us: there weren’t many people there, local or not, because it was a Sunday. We got there right around 7pm, the kitchen closes at 9pm. And there wasn’t live music until after dark, when several more tables full of people began showing up.

I totally loved this glass, and also really enjoyed drinking a beer from my old home state (Colorado’s Coors) out of a mug offering such a lovely tribute to my new home state.

cheers to a great lunch at the Straightaway Cafe

Cheers!

Now, about the food…

Slammin Salmon Sandwich $12

I was a little leery about trying seafood in a mountain town, figuring it must certainly be frozen, but for some reason I was craving salmon. And a salmon sandwich for $12 was something I couldn’t pass up. Boy, am I glad I didn’t!

They were very generous with the fish, there had to have been at least 6 ounces of salmon on the bun! And it was cooked perfectly for me, just slightly charred on the outside with a sticky sweet sauce. It was flaky and tender and awesome. I didn’t love the tartar sauce, but then I don’t like most creamy dressing like sauces. The tomato and lettuce and onion added a nice touch though.

Fried Buffalo Chicken Wrap $10

Hubs got the Buffalo Chicken Wrap, as boys will do. At least they included some spinach in there, to make you feel like you ate some vegetables! The chicken definitely tasted like frozen store-bought chicken tenders, but man, can we talk about how awesome this buffalo sauce was?! It was awesome. I don’t know if it came from a bottle or not, and I don’t care, it was good.

Speaking of good, the fries were also pretty fantastic. They were the thick cut kind, where they are nice and soft and chewy on the inside. We both inhaled them, and then were sad when they were all gone. They were just slightly not salty enough for me, which means most normal humans would enjoy them or find them slightly too salty 🙂

Right after our food was delivered, a local guitarist hopped on stage for a set. The lights came on, the amp was turned up, and we all sat back to enjoy dinner and a show. He played some covers of classic rock and country songs, as well as a few originals. The music overall was not too loud to drown out normal conversation, and added to the laid back atmosphere.

Unfortunately we didn’t realize there was a whole giant field behind the stage as well! I took a walk after the first set, to use the bathroom and check out the inside of the place. There is a large field just behind the stage, where there were people sitting at picnic benches, tossing frisbees, kids on swings, and what seemed to be a volleyball court!

The inside was darkened for ‘mood lighting’ I assume, and there are two large rooms with an adjoining door and a bar in each one. The bartenders were chatting, as the inside was considerably emptier, and they all smiled and waved. They pointed out the restroom door before I could even ask where it was. The walls were covered in typical bar memorabilia of license plates, neon signs, jerseys, etc. Everything appeared clean and well maintained.

Straightaway Cafe Rocks
From the rock garden with each staff’s name painted on one, it is clear that they all think “Straightaway Cafe Rocks”!

The waitress was adorable, and clearly a local girl paying her way through school or some such. She was very friendly and sweet, and gave us recommendations of things we could do in the area. Hiking seem to be a very popular attraction! Go figure.

We also started up a conversation with a few tables around us. One was a table of 3 older women who were all living in the area, one of them originally from Asheville. They all wore tie-dye clothing and seemed like a blast to hang out with. Another young couple near us was doing a cross-country road trip, and this was their 13th state in 2 months! They were planning to go to some organic farm in Utah to work for a few weeks next. It was quite the story.

 

Overall, I’d give the Straightaway Cafe:

  • Taste: 8 – not a very extensive or creative menu, but all the food tasted quite fresh and was way better than going to bed hungry!
  • Atmosphere: 9 – the view alone was worthwhile, and I’d be happy to sit there all day and night. The music was a bonus.
  • Value: 7 – obviously, you need to already be in the area, otherwise this is a bit of a road trip for diner food. Most items were typically priced of restaurant fare, $8-13, and was more reasonable than comparable places we later dined at in Asheville proper.

All opinions are those of the Budget Epicurean.