All posts by BudgetEpicurean

Late 20s long-time student turned young adult with varied interests, mostly food and frugality. At the fusion of food, fun, and frugality, you will find me.

Fresh Herb Salt

 

This idea came from an old “Midwest Living” magazine article I read while on vacation. In it they had several tips for making fancy kitchen condiments at home. Why buy expensive infused olive oil when you can make it yourself? Don’t let excess herbs go to waste, make your own seasoned salt to use long after summer is set!

A friend of mine has an herb garden that includes basil, so I asked for a handful of leaves and she kindly complied. A few cloves of garlic and some pink Himalayan sea salt, and I had myself the makings of a tasty seasoning! Adjust the type of herb and amounts to suit your own tastes.

Ingredients:

  • About 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup sea salt, coarse

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Step 1: Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Pulse until leaves and garlic is finely ground.

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Step 2: Spread flat to dry for 1-3 days. The leaves and garlic have moisture which will cause clumps if you don’t do this step.

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Step 3: You can use as is, or grind the spices together one more time. Use a funnel to pour into a seal-able container.

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And that’s it! Now you have a unique, fresh herb salt to sprinkle on chicken or fish, mix into rice dishes, or use a dash on garden-fresh tomatoes. Change up the type of herb and other ingredients you use for endless possible combinations.

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Other ideas and recipes from the same magazine clipping. Can’t wait to try them all! They would all make a darling gift for someone if put into a cute little re-useable glass or plastic container with a bow.

Jambalaya

 

Jambalaya is a Creole dish originally from Louisiana. It’s creation was a combination of French and Spanish influences in the deep South of America, and is closely related to the Spanish paella.

The basis of any Jambalaya is meat(s), vegetables, and rice simmered in some sort of stock. Some versions of Jambalaya add tomatoes for “red Jambalaya”, while others do not and rely on meat drippings for a brownish color. The accepted classic version cooks meat, typically chicken, sausage, and/or shrimp with celery, onions, and bell peppers. Then tomatoes and possibly other vegetables are added, and finally equal parts rice and chicken stock, and simmered until cooked.

According to Wikipedia, “Jambalaya is differentiated from gumbo and étouffée by the way in which the rice is included. In these dishes, the rice is cooked separately and is served as a bed on which the main dish is served. In the usual method of preparing jambalaya, a rich stock is created from vegetables, meat, and seafood; raw rice is then added to the broth and the flavor is absorbed by the grains as the rice cooks.”

This dish is absurdly simple to cook, you just need to have the right ingredients and the patience to let them cook slowly so the flavors can develop and meld. I had bought some chicken breast and shrimp on sale, and had two sausages in the freezer, so of course Jambalaya was just begging to be made. It is possible to make a vegetarian Jambalaya, and you can include only one or two of the meats, or any other kind you prefer; the basic recipe and method is the same.

Ingredients:

  • 2 sausages, sliced
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
  • 1 cup shrimp, deveined
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup white or brown rice
  • 2 tbsp Cajun/creole spices if you have it
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies

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Step 1: Dice up the celery, peppers, and onion and put in a pot with a few tbsp butter. Saute until soft.

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Step 2: Add in the meats, cover and let cook until the shrimp is fully pink, the sausage is browned, and the chicken is completely white.

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Step 3: Add in spices and canned tomatoes, simmer covered for 5-10 minutes.

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Step 4: Add 1 cup raw rice and 1 cup chicken stock, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low for 30-40 minutes. When the rice is cooked, it’s ready.

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Jambalaya is a filling, delicious meal with complex flavors from all the various vegetables and meats cooking together.

You can shorten cook time by cooking the rice separately and pouring the red jambalaya over the rice. This dish can also be made in a slow cooker to save you time. Just add all the ingredients, and cook on low for 4-6 hours. The end result should be similar.

Lean Green Guacamole

 

Not going to lie, I absolutely LOVE avocados. I think they make just about anything better, including all kinds of Mexican food, smoothies, sandwiches, salads, and dips. Never would I turn down guacamole. Especially Chipotle’s… there’s magic in there, and maybe some crack.

So when I read a recipe on Sparkpeople for guacamole involving extra healthy green stuff, I had to try it out!

This recipe adds in the goodness of greens and cucumber to add extra vitamins and bulk. It also decreases how much fat you eat per serving.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cucumber
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 2 avocados
  • 1/4 red onion
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • Garlic salt

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Step 1: Dice up your veggies, peel and pit the avocado. Use a knife to cut all the way around it, then twist to separate halves. Pull out the pit by running a spoon along it and then pop it out.

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Step 2: Combine in a blender all ingredients. Save 1/2 of one avocado if you like extra chunks, and wait to add diced onion if you like the crunch bites. I just blended all of it together into one creamy mess.

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Step 3: Try really hard to keep yourself from eating the whole bowl!

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This stuff is so delicious. I found it a little bit watery, probably because the cucumber I used was getting old. The cucumber does give it a bit of a fresher taste, so don’t be alarmed. Add as much lemon or lime juice as you like. You could use fresh garlic cloves in place of garlic salt if you have it.

If you follow the recipe from Sparkpeople exactly, here’s the Nutrition Info breakdown:

  • Servings Per Recipe: 8
  • Amount Per Serving
  • Calories: 76.4
  • Total Fat: 6.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
  • Sodium: 143.8 mg
  • Total Carbs: 4.7 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 3.1 g
  • Protein: 1.0 g

Product Review: Steep and Go

 

As you may know from my earlier post all about the Health Benefits of Tea, tea is very good for your health for many reasons. Whether you drink it hot with honey or over ice, tea can contribute to a happy, healthy lifestyle.

I am always looking for new tea flavors to try, and new ways to get more tea into my days. I have a tea pot and cups that a friend gave me for a birthday which I love, it strains the loose leaves and you can pour right out of the pot. I have a tea kettle my thoughtful brother gave me which has that classic whistle to it. And I am always on the lookout for new and exciting tea companies and products.

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One day over a year ago, a friend who is a fellow tea lover recommended I check out The Tea Spot website. Located in Boulder, they are a local Colorado tea company producing high-quality loose leaf tea blends and tea products. Their website is also packed with educational information about tea, as I referenced.

As I’ve collected more loose leaf tea, I have enjoyed the winters much more. Unfortunately, during the summer I don’t want hot tea and I’m too lazy to brew it hot then cool it in the fridge before drinking hours later. The Tea Spot has found a solution! The cold brew steep and go.

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This plastic miracle has an adapter which allows it to fit onto most standard sized water bottles. The top is a pop-up nozzle which clicks closed for no spills, and the bottom part is a filter which keeps loose leaves out of your mouth, and in your bottle.

To answer commonly asked questions when people see mine:

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1. How long can you steep the tea?
As long as you want. I put it in the bottle at night, stick it in the fridge, then take it with me the next morning.

2. Doesn’t it get bitter?
Nope, not at all. I think this is because you put it in cold–room temp water rather than boiling water; it doesn’t release as many tannins.

3. How much tea do you use?
You only need about 1 heaping teaspoon per 16 oz bottle of water. And I’ve re-used the leaves for two brews with success.

You can choose to add sweeteners such as honey or splenda, but after one or two bottles I grew to prefer the taste of simple green tea. The only thing healthier is pure water!

When I first received the steep and go, I tried to put it onto a bottle directly. I could not get it to tighten, because I didn’t realize there are two adapter rings, one the color of the steep and go, and another clear plastic one. Both sides are slightly different sizes, such that the adapters can make the steep and go fit four different bottle types! The Tea Spot also has a re-useable bottle for the steep and go, which will definitely be my next purchase.

I have not yet tried to run it through a dishwasher, but if put on the top shelf the plastic seems hardy enough to not melt. I will likely end up hand-washing this every dozen uses or so.

Besides loose leaf teas, they now offer whole leaf tea bags as well. You may wonder, what makes these tea bags different from ones I can buy at Wal-mart? Let me allow them to explain:

The differences between loose leaf tea and traditional tea bags are numerous, and it goes far beyond the surface. The leaves used in most bags are actually the “dust and fannings” from broken tea leaves. This is a huge compromise in quality from full leaf tea. Finely broken tea leaves have lost most of their essential oils and aroma. When steeped, they release more tannins than whole leaf tea, resulting in bitter astringent brews. The material, shape, and size of the bags themselves are also important factors. Most tea bags constrain the tea leaves, keeping them from expanding to their full flavor and aroma potential.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the sound of “tea dust” as a beverage.

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Sue of Siam — Restaurant Review

 

In Aurora, Colorado, on an innocuous side street in a rather run-down part of town, a tiny white building sits back in a parking lot simple labeled Sue of Siam: Authentic Thai Cuisine. Their slogan is “We bring Thailand to your table”.

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It’s a place I had driven by a hundred times when I lived near that part of town. Curiosity began to build, and one day I decided to do something about it. I talked a friend into being brave with me, and we adventured inside.

The place is small, seating only about 20-30 people. But the feeling is intimate, and the owner makes you feel like one of the family immediately. He was very attentive, explaining anything we had questions about and making recommendations. They will accommodate any spice level and taste preference.

When asked for our drink order, I saw hand-written onto the menu “Lime juice”. Imagining a shot straight from the fruit, I had to try it.

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Turns out it was like lemonade, but made instead with limes. It was sweet yet tart, and very refreshing.

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We had the egg rolls, Cashew chicken, and Pad Thai of course.  Everything on the menu is very affordable, with lunches averaging $7-8 and dinner only one dollar more. The egg rolls were sweet and crunchy and totally addicting. Their house-made sweet and sour sauce is delicious enough to want to eat with a spoon.

The cashew chicken was chock-full of fresh steamed snow peas, bell peppers, and sweet chunks of marinated white meat chicken all bathed in a complex umami-packed brown sauce.  And the Pad Thai was a perfect rendition with thick noodles, crunchy bean sprouts, a spicy-sweet peanut sauce and crushed peanuts on the side.

Overall, I’d give Sue of Siam:

  • 9 for taste
  • 10 for atmosphere
  • 9 for value

Sue of Siam is located at 106 Del Mar Circle, Aurora, CO 80011. You can call them at (720)949-1980 or visit the website. I’m not sure at this point if the deliver, but they definitely do allow carry-out, and offer catering and private parties.

SoS menu SoS menu2 SoS menu3

 

 

Health benefits of tea

 

A huge portion of the world begins each day with a warm, caffeinated beverage. While coffee dominates the Americas and continental Europe, tea is preferred in most of Asia and the former Soviet Union, at least according to the Pew Research Center’s interactive map. The playing field is becoming more leveled, with many countries beginning to drink both beverages in almost equal amounts. And this is great news not only for tea and coffee producers, but also for our health in general.

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The science on coffee has gone back and forth for decades, from coffee being a heart-harming stimulant to an antioxidant-rich elixir. As for tea, the data have been nothing but encouraging. As of yet, “no solid data exist concerning harmful effects of tea consumption” (ScienceDaily) but you should consult a doctor if you are thinking about drastically increasing your consumption or attempting to use tea to treat or cure any disease and/or symptoms.

 

Types of Tea

The average person usually considers “tea” to be any type of beverage made by steeping something in warm/hot water. The definition of true tea is any beverage which contains leaves from one particular plant — Camellia sinensis — and includes only four varieties: green, black, white, and oolong. Anything else (like herbal “tea”) is an infusion and isn’t technically tea.

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Photo from SeacretSpa website “Green Tea Extract

The Camellia sinensis is a small evergreen plant but can grow up to 8 feet in the right climate. It needs moist air and mostly warm days with direct sunlight to grow best. The deep shiny green leaves are harvested in the first blush of spring, with the outermost three leaves and bud considered the best tasting for tea. To learn about different ways to prepare tea and more, visit The Tea Spot website.

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Photo from the fascinating Tea4U blog.

Tea contains various amounts of caffeine based on how the leaves are prepared.

Herbal infusions
Herbal infusions are made by steeping fresh or dried herbs, flowers, and/or berries in hot water. These include but are not limited to: spearmint, lemon balm, rose hips, licorice, ginger, rooibois, chamomile, hibiscus, and more.

Generally since they do not contain actual tea leaves they are 100% caffeine-free, though they may offer many health benefits and an array of flavors and scents. Steep infusions for 6-7 minutes in freshly boiled water for the best effect.

White
This type of tea is the most delicate and subtle of all teas. The leaves are not rolled or processed in any way, and the leaves are generally picked while still tightly enclosed in leaf buds. Those become Silver Needles tea, and if the next two lower leaves are picked and also not processed, they become White Peony white tea.

Caffeine content ranges from 10-15mg per cup. Steep 2-3 minutes in freshly boiled water.

Green
This type of tea is made by gently heating the fresh leaves directly after plucking. This prevents oxidation, and the dried leaves retain their green color. Sometimes charcoal or smoke is used during the heating process to impart extra flavors.

Steep 2-3 minutes in freshly boiled water at 160–190° F. Chinese green teas contain about 30–35 milligrams of caffeine per 8 oz cup, and Japanese green teas contain 25 – 30 milligrams of caffeine per 8 oz cup. 

Oolong
This type of tea is semi-oxidized, putting them halfway between green and black tea. The caffeine level and antioxidant amount are also halfway between black and green, making them healthy yet also palatable. For this reason oolongs are most sought after by tea connoisseurs. All oolongs are grown in either China or Taiwan.

Preparation of oolong teas requires pure water at 190–205° F. They may be infused multiple (3–7) times, each steep lasting 1–3 minutes. The caffeine content of oolong teas decreases dramatically from the first to the third brew, about 30–50 mg/cup in first cup, 15–25 in second, and 5–10 in the third.

Black
This type of tea is made by fully oxidizing tea leaves to produce a rich brown-black or brown-red brew. After the leaves are picked they are crushed or rolled, allowed to oxidize fully, then fired in an oven.

Black tea is the most popular tea in the Western countries, likely due to its caffeine content of 40-60mg per cup. All black teas originate from China, India, or Sri Lanka.

Yerba mate
Pronounced “yer-ba mah-tay”, this is an ancient medicinal drink deeply ingrained in many cultures of South America such as Brazil and Argentina. Though not a tea, as it contains no C. sinensis leaves, Yerba Maté is an appetite suppressant and is high in Vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and manganese.

Mate has 35mg caffeine per cup, and contains many other chemicals which drinkers claim mellow the experience, providing focus and alertness without negative side effects. Yerba Maté should be steeped for 6–7 minutes using hot, but not boiled water. Boiling water can make mate bitter, just like tea.

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Health benefits of drinking tea

The claims of health benefits from teas are varied and wide-spread. Tea as herbal medicine is a thousands of years ancient practice. Native Americans, native Asians, middle Easterners, have long regarded tea as a cornerstone of health, happiness and wisdom.

With the rise in power of Western nations and the increasing rigor of scientific study in health, more and more evidence supporting the health benefits of tea is being found. Studies have shown that some teas may help with cancer, heart disease, and diabetes; encourage weight loss; lower cholesterol; reduce risk for Parkinsons and Alzheimers; and bring about mental alertness. Tea also appears to have antimicrobial qualities.

I could write up a huge list of all the ailments tea is said to relieve or cure, but instead I will direct the science-minded to the fact that the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition featured 11 articles from the 5th international scientific symposium on Tea and Human Health concerning the various health benefits of tea.

Various types of tea contain catecholamines, EGCG, antioxidants, and flavonoids; compounds we are terrible at reproducing in a lab, which is a good thing. These delicate molecules are released as the tea leaves are steeped in hot water, and absorbed by our body when we drink it. Although a lot of questions remain about how long tea needs to be steeped for the most benefit, and how much you need to drink, nutritionists agree any tea is good tea. Still, they prefer brewed teas over bottled to avoid the extra calories and sweeteners.

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Photo from Examine: “Green Tea Catechins

For a simpler list, check out the TIME article “13 Reasons Why Tea Is Good For You“. You can find information on the various types of tea and their health benefits at WebMD. While not all the health claims of tea are verified, there are as yet no negative findings. Most teas are benign, but the FDA has issued warnings about so-called ‘dieter’s teas’ that contain senna, aloe, buckthorn, and other plant-derived laxatives. These could be harmful to your health.

The FDA cautions against taking supplements that include:

  • Comfrey
  • Ephedra
  • Willow bark
  • Germander
  • Lobelia
  • Chaparral

If you live in Zone 7-9 in the US and feel inspired to grow your very own tea bush(es), check out Go Organic Gardening for tips and info on how to grow, harvest, prepare, and more.

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Mediterranean Stuffed Mushroom Caps

 

Mushrooms are an awesome alternative to meat, especially thick portobellos or stuffed caps. They have the same texture and flavor if cooked just right, and are endlessly adaptible to different recipes. You really can’t go wrong with stuffed mushrooms. Any combination of grains, vegetables, and/or meat will work.

These Mediterranean-inspired mushrooms happened when I noticed I had some goat cheese, kalamata &green olives, and produce I needed to use. You can use feta if you have it for the most authentic tastes. Or any other type of cheese you like. You can also sub in any other kind of olives, or omit them entirely. The choice is yous.

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Ingredients:
12 medium mushrooms (2-3 inch diameter)
2-3 oz cooked ground beef
1/2 cup cooked rice
1/4 cup cooked lentils (can omit)
1 green onion, diced
1 large tomato, diced
3-4 oz goat cheese (or cream cheese)
1/4 cup kalamata/green olives, diced

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Step 1: Remove the mushroom stems, dice up, cook, and add to a bowl. Place the caps flat in a sprayed baking dish.

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Step 2: In the bowl, mix the cooked rice, lentils, and beef. It’s easiest to add the cheese while still a little warm so it gets melty. Add the onion, tomato, and olives.

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Mix everything well, and stuff about 1 – 1 1/2 tbsp of mixture into each mushroom.

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Step 3: Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until juice starts to run. Serve hot.

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These little guys are absolutely delicious! If you use smaller caps, they are a bite-sized appetizer with meal-sized flavor. If you use larger caps, one or two can be a meal unto itself. Omit the ground beef, and you have a lovely vegetarian dish as well.


 

How to stay cool, plus a Keurig give-away!

 

Summer is winding down, but there are still a few scorchers ahead. And even through the fall and winter, sometimes it’s nice to have a frosty beverage pick-me-up. Iced drinks are my number one favorite way to keep cool, as they taste great and also cool your internal body temperature, making it easier to beat the heat.

It’s no secret that I love my caffeinated beverages, and have finally figured out the secret to Perfect Iced Coffee. This trick works with tea, juices, or any other drink as well. Try it yourself and see how great it is to no longer have watered-down drinks that are still icy cold.

This summer, Keurig is sponsoring a nation-wide #StayCool contest! If you share a photo of how you stay cool on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, you are entered in a contest to win a Keurig K Cup and other fun goodies!

  • On your mobile device, take a photo and share it on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #StayCool & #Sweeps. Make sure to share your location!
  • Your photo will appear on the interactive map where you can see how everyone else is riding out the summer heat. You’ll automatically get a chance to win a Keurig® brewer and Brew Over Ice K-Cup® packs!

In other exciting news, The Budget Epicurean is partnering with Keurig for a K Cup beverage give-away! Readers who enter will have the chance to win:

  1. A variety pack of Keurig K Cups
  2. Coupons for BOGO K Cups
  3. An ebook with drink recipes

Top three entries will receive the prizes in order. One other mode of entry is to send an email to BudgetEpicurean (at) gmail (dot) com with your name and how you #StayCool! Raffle ends 8/25/2014. Winners will be notified and posted about on 8/26/2014.

BudgetEpicurean Keurig giveaway, by Rafflecopter.

This is why I was super-pumped to get a Keurig K-Cup brewer! IMG_4471

I’ve long laughed at the idea of a one-cup wonder, as I tend to brew a big ‘ol pot of java on Monday and use it throughout the week (or freeze it… hint hint). However, I’ve been more and more curious as tons of new options come out for this bad boy. What if I only wanted one cup of hot coffee? What if I wanted to try a new type of tea? What if I wanted cold tea?

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Well, now Keurig has the answer to all these dilemmas! Hot tea, any kind you want, just one cup, and no tea kettle required. Cold tea, perfect for sunny days, porch sipping, or watching your show on the couch. Coffees, flavored coffees, decaf too. All at the touch of a button.

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I have to admit, I’ve only tried a few varieties so far and I’m already in love! This guy had earned its counter space the first day I had it. Set-up was a breeze, and it was ready to brew within minutes of leaving the package.

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The first thing I tried was the Vitamin Burst acai berry Cold Brew. It smelled delicious the second it began brewing.

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Simply fill up a tall glass with ice cubes, pop in the cup, and hit ‘brew’. Easy peasy.

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This is a 24 oz cup I think, and it was done in less than a minute.

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I just popped on some berries and a cute umbrella as garnish, and enjoyed!

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The flavor is delightful, refreshing and light. I found the highest brew setting was just sugary enough for me, though you could choose lower amounts of water if you like it stronger.

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Trying to re-create the ice cube “splash” on the box. =)

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The Keurig obviously works wonders for coffee. For just one cup in the mornings or afternoon, pop in your favorite and hit the button. You can have six people with six different favorites, and serve up a hot fresh round in minutes. My counter is now half dedicated to beverages.

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The brew-over-ice coffee is equally wonderful. Yes you will get some watered down effect, unless you use my tip

In case you missed it above, The Budget Epicurean is partnering with Keurig for a K Cup beverage give-away! Readers who enter will have the chance to win:

    1. A variety pack of Keurig K Cups
    2. Coupons for BOGO K Cups
    3. An ebook with drink recipes

Top three entries will receive the prizes in order. One other mode of entry is to send an email to BudgetEpicurean (at) gmail (dot) com with your name and how you #StayCool! Raffle ends 8/25/2014. BudgetEpicurean Keurig giveaway, by Rafflecopter!

Disclaimer: Keurig machine and K-Cups were provided by Keurig Green Mountain, Inc., all opinions are those of the Budget Epicurean.


 

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These guys are the Real Dill

 

Many a huge business success has started from one tiny great idea. One such idea was had the day Justin Park and Tyler DuBois decided to make a batch of pickles together. For some time, each had been individually making homemade pickles as a fun hobby. They exchanged recipes and tastes, and eventually collaborated. That first batch, the original version of their Jalapeño Honey Dills, foretold of greatness. The pickles were so unique, crunchy, and flavorful, they just had to share their creations.

Justin Park & Tyler DuBoisRealDill_Owners

After two years of talk, plans, and recipe experimentation, they launched the brand “The Real Dill” in summer of 2012. To this day, they still follow the same recipes they created in their home kitchen, using all natural ingredients and home canning techniques. All of the pickling spices used are proudly sourced from local Denver business Savory Spice Shop.

Their flavors range from high heat Habanero Horseradish and Jalapeno Honey to the more tame Caraway Garlic Dills. The Bloody Mary Mix is made in part with excess pickling liquid and a smooth tomato base, yielding an herby, complex drink that just needs a dash of liquor to make your day. New recipes and flavor combinations are tested all the time, so be on the lookout for new favorites.

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I was lucky enough to have the chance to interview Co-Founder & Owner Justin Parks.

So Justin, what is the ‘story’ of The Real Dill, how did it all start?

It was really just a hobby gone wild. We were making pickles for fun and really didn’t have plans to start a business. But we got really excited about what we were making and I think we expected the excitement to wear off at some point and it never did. So after a year or more went by and we were still devoting our free time to this pursuit we knew that it was something we were really passionate about. We finally decided to take the leap and it has been a wild ride ever since.

That sounds like such an adventure! How do you source your products? The cucumbers, the spices, the jars, etc.

Sourcing is probably one of the biggest challenges and something that we are constantly striving to improve upon. Our primary focus is to find the absolute best quality product that we can get. After all, the end product is only as good as what we start with. Sourcing good quality produce can be a lot trickier than you’d expect and although we go through what we think is a lot, we don’t have a ton of buying power. Our cucumbers come from various sources throughout the year, including Colorado, Mexico, California, Georgia, and Florida. We source all of our spices from Savory Spice Shop in Denver.
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What is your favorite pickle flavor?
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My favorite flavor changes all the time. Every product we make is so different from the others that it can depend on your mood at the time or what you’re eating it with. That said, I think the Spicy Caribbeans are my favorite. They have tons of flavor and are just so unique and unlike anything else out there. 

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Where do the ideas for recipes come from?
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The ideas and recipes come from general inspiration. Sometimes it may be inspirations that hits us while traveling, or while eating a great meal, or cooking at home. We have a long, long list of recipe ideas that we are interested in trying out and we haven’t gotten to most of them just yet. But when something really excites us, we make it a priority because ultimately that is why we are doing what we’re doing. To have fun.
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Sounds like you really have your priorities straight. Do you offer factory tours to the public, take part in community events, etc?
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We do not currently offer any tours because we’re operating in a shared space. But we are in the process of moving into a new facility that will belong to us and we are very excited to bring people in and show them what we do, how we do it, and even teach them how to do it at home. (AWESOME, home pickling lessons! Sign me up.) We do tons of events, including farmer’s markets, festivals, in-store demos, and other miscellaneous gatherings. We do over 200 events per year, closer to 250, actually. We love to engage with people and share our passion for what we do. Getting out into the community to engage with people face to face is very important to us.
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If you don’t have time to hit up a farmer’s market, you can find their products online by searching your zipcode to find the nearest vendors, or ordering online at Mouth.com.
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So how much does word-of-mouth help your business vs. paid advertising?
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I don’t believe we have ever paid for advertising, so I don’t have any experience with it. There’s obviously no better advertising than word of mouth, and its something that we benefit from a great deal. Events are a great opportunity to connect with people and share an experience with them. That is far more powerful than a billboard or a magazine ad can ever be. It also takes a lot more effort.

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What is your favorite part of working with The Real Dill?

I think business and entrepreneurism is rarely thought about as a creative pursuit. But I think that it requires endless creativity and that’s what makes it fun. There are new challenges every single day and there is no book with all of the answers. So, you have to find creative and inventive solutions to the problems that come up. It’s a huge challenge and that’s what I enjoy most about what I do.

Is the “pickle industry” competitive compared to other food genres?

In our experience it definitely has not been. Before we got started we reached out to some established pickle companies in other areas and locally, and for the most part they were happy to help. And there’s not a shred of competitiveness in the local Colorado artisan food and drink scene. It’s pretty amazing how genuine and supportive everyone is. I think that, for the most part, people are creative enough to distinguish themselves from the competition and people realize that the rising tide raises all ships. We have formed some pretty amazing friendships and partnerships with people that might be assumed to be competitors.

That’s so great to hear. Colorado in general does seem to be blessed with a huge variety of amazing artisinal foodies. What type(s) of your products sell best and why?

Our Bloody Mary Mix is actually our best selling item, which was not something we expected. We were pretty naive when it came to the market for Bloody Mary Mix. But from the very first day we launched that product it has been our best seller, and we sell out of it pretty regularly.

Apparently Coloradans like their boozy breakfast drinks with a hit of flavorful pickle juice! Seems like you cultivate many new as well as returning customers. What do you hope your overall customer experience is like?

We hope that our pickles are so good that you feel like you have to tell everyone you know about them. Not only would that mean that they were good, but also that they made you happy.

Making people happy is a worthy goal. What do you see as the future for the Real Dill?

We definitely look ahead, but generally speaking we’re most focused on the step immediately in front of us. We’re very intentional about slow, organic growth, at a pace that is comfortable for us. Our goal is not to be a nationally distributed product, but hopefully we can find a sweet spot that allows us to pay the bills and to have some flexibility. Most importantly, this is a pursuit of passion so it only works if we are having fun. And we couldn’t be happier to be doing what we’re doing and we’re fortunate to be able to do this for a living. 

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There you have it folks, a Cinderella story of a fun hobby turned into a pursuit of passion and full-blown business for two creative Colorado entrepreneurs. The next time you are at a Farmer’s Market, be sure to find the Real Dill’s booth and sample some of their handmade artisan pickles, and famous Bloody Mary Mix. Your taste buds are sure to thank you.

The Budget Epicurean on vacation

 

Hello blogosphere!

I know you will be so disappointed to hear, but the Budget Epicurean will be taking a short hiatus. But you may say, taking vacations is not frugal! Nay nay. Vacations help keep one inside the budget I will retort. Planned or spontaneous, taking a break from the day-to-day can help to relax, recharge, and keep the frugal fires burning.

Sometimes, we all stumble, despite our best intentions. This is usually due to stress and being overwhelmed. Whether it’s family, friends, work, or personal life, when you are too busy to think straight you are more prone to mistakes. You give in and have a jumbo muffin, latte, fruit, another latte, and a doughnut, just to get through the morning. You forget to pack lunch and have to buy a cheeseburger and fries in the car on the way to a meeting. You didn’t prepare and need to purchase travel-sized things at an inflated price. You’re just too tired to cook, so looks like it’s pizza for the fifth time this month.

You also sometimes need a break from being frugal to avoid “frugal fatigue”. This is what happens when you are being good and sticking to a budget, making your own food, not eating out or going out often, and all in all being frugal for a long time. It’s like cheating on a diet, the more extreme you begin the faster your willpower wears out. Frugality is a way of life to be sure. If you go from upper-middle-class lifestyle of eating out constantly, new toys, new clothes, trips, etc. and jump right into a cabin in the wilderness where you grow and shoot all your own food, you will break in about a week I’d guess.

To avoid frugal fatigue, it is perfectly fine to ease yourself in, and take mini-breaks. When you save an extra $100 in one month, go ahead and allow yourself one Starbucks run. If you make your own laundry detergent, and buy no new clothes for a year, I’d say you deserve the running shoes you’ve been eying. Planned for or occasional small indulgences are the icing on the cake of life.

Therefore, it is essential to take a break once in a while. Especially in the US, we pretty much work ourselves to death. Down time is essential to overall health and well-being. An occasional indulgence and/or respite is often just what you need to push through or recover from a particularly crazy phase of life, a big project, a family event, whatever.

With that in mind, this blog’s author is taking a much-needed break from all things normal, including internet and this blog. If all goes well, we will be back in full force come August. See you on the sunnier side! 😉

~BE