Category Archives: Administrative

Welcome to 2016!

 

Happy New Year dear readers!

Time goes by so quickly, does it not?  Now is the time to reflect back on 2015, and look ahead to 2016.  What good things happened last year?  What do you want more of in your life this year?  Now is the time to assess what worked and what didn’t, and what changes need to be made to make your life more of what you want it to be.

As you reflect on the past 365 days, assess all the areas of your life: health, finances, and relationships.

HEALTH

Health can include your general fitness level, your diet, how often and what types of exercise you do, your visits to any doctors or dentists.  Do you see a general practitioner for a once yearly physical exam?  Do you see a dentist for cleanings every 6 months?

Take an honest look at your diet, your snacks, “grazing”, portion sizes.  No one will know but you so there’s no reason to not be honest.  How closely does your current diet over the past year reflect your ideal eating habits?

What steps can you take to improve this year?

FINANCES

Finances should cover how much you make from your main job and/or business, income from other side jobs or seasonal jobs, income from investments, as well as outgoing money.

How much do you spend per year, per month?  What do you spend your money on?  Can you lower any fixed expenses, negotiate a better payment on your cell phone, rent, utilities, or a better bank rate if your credit improved?  Can you take on a side job, baby sit, start a blog?

I recommend hitting the library and taking out finance books, or reading finance blogs. There is a HUGE wealth of information out there to help, no matter what your situation.  Whatever the problem, credit card debt, school loan payments, default, bankruptcy, divorce, or just general money management, you don’t have to figure it out alone.

RELATIONSHIPS

As for relationships, this spans everything from work to friends to family to spirituality.  And most importantly, your relationship with yourself.

If you have family members with whom you do not have a good relationship, ask yourself why.  What can you do to mend those relationships?  Do you need to forgive, or ask for forgiveness?  Do you need to show compassion or interest?

Are you happy with your current friends?  If not, think of ways to bring the kind of people you want to be around into your life.  Maybe you could join a book club or sports group, or hang out in libraries or take a dance lesson.

Do you love yourself?  Do you know what makes you happy, and take the time to do those things?  When you are fulfilled and happy and joyful, you are more able to give and love others.

 

My 2016 Resolution?

I have decided I will challenge myself to not buy any pantry staples for the month of January.  At first, I thought about trying to live solely from what I already have in the house, but then after discussing with Mister Epicurean, I realized we need certain staples that basically must be bought fresh.  Mostly yogurts (which he goes through about 7-10 per week), milk/creamer, and fresh veggies.  I can rely heavily on frozen and canned produce this month, but I do like having fresh salads and adding things like avocado to burritos.

Therefore, the challenge this month would be to meal plan and cook out of my freezer & pantry, and to have only $20 per week of “fresh” foods budget.  Our average food budget monthly is $400, so to cut that down to 1/5 is pretty great!  Of course, that $400 usually includes “stock up” purchases, such as when canned beans were on sale last week for $0.49, and I bought a case.

This challenge has several purposes:

  • Help clear out space in the freezer & pantry
  • Evaluate what I buy too much of, or not enough of
  • Challenge my creativity in making meals
  • Save us significant money on groceries

By doing a pantry-clear-out challenge, it will help me to realize I have a lot more food hiding in plain sight that I thought. We all have those half-boxes of pasta, a can of corn shoved behind something else, some spices or condiments bought for a recipe but never used, or used once.  Now is the time to reach back into all the dark corners of the cupboards, and down to the bottom of the freezer, and see what can be used.

This month will also help me to see what I have stocked up on far too much, and what we use more often than I thought that I could consider stocking more of.  For example, if I think I have more than enough canned tomatoes, and we run out by week 2, I will know that going forward.  Or if I count 20 boxes of pasta to begin with, and at the end of the month we still have 19, then I should probably stop buying so much pasta when it’s on sale.

The final two points go together well, in that creativity saves you money.  Like I mentioned earlier, the half-used ingredients?  Figure out a way to combine them into one meal, and you have not only saved food from being throw out (which creates waste, takes calories out of the food system in a way that helps no one, and is basically like setting dollars on fire), but you also have created an almost-free meal.  If you never used those ingredients, they would be wasted. Instead, you have eaten again for the same amount of money you already spent & had in the house.

So, this is the challenge, which started on Jan 1st.  No stocking up, no matter how good the sale, and only $20 per week maximum towards fresh dairy & produce.  I won’t even be buying any meat, I will be using what I have in the freezer.  Good thing I just recently cleaned it out & reorganized.

Wish me luck!

 

How about you, any goals for 2016?  Any Resolutions for this year?  Feel free to share your goals & progress!

 

Merry Christmas & Happy New Years!

 

Wow!  2015 has really flown by.  I believe I speak for the majority of the north east if not the USA when I say; how in the heck is it nearly Christmas!  Totally snuck up this year.  The spring-like weather, while totally amazing, don’t get me wrong, I love 50/60s in December, has us all in a kerfluffle over it not feeling… well… Christmas-y.  Those who now or have always lived in warmer climates may not agree, but to those of us who are used to white Christmases, it is not quite the same feeling when it’s dreary & raining…

Also it seems like this year has had a higher than usual number of negative events.  Almost every person I talk to has had an illness, a job loss, or a death in the family.  People have not even decorated, grocery shopped, or bought gifts yet, let alone wrap them!

Amidst my own personal battle with what turns out to be an atypical sinus infection and a job transition, I have at the least accomplished gift-buying, but sadly neglected my writing. What seems like years (though in reality has been just over two weeks) of sore throats, incessant coughing, complete lack of sleep, and stuffy nose was caused by rude little bacteria, not the virus I suspected.  Though prudent in my desire to not abuse antibiotics, turns out in this case I needed it!  I am slowly on the mend, but about to get even busier.  So forgive me, but I will be taking a break from the blog for the holidays.

As such, please enjoy this lovely anthology of holiday articles past!

General Christmas/Holiday articles:

Christmas Cooking & Baking:

Gift Ideas & DIYs:

You will find plenty of last-minute, frugal, and/or DIY gift ideas for everyone from your artistic aunt to your rugged hunter cousin, recipe and cookie ideas to delight and nourish the family and friends, and plenty of history and reflections to ponder in your few precious moments of down-time.

And don’t forget the most important part of the holiday season: Love!  The love of friends and family, the love of community and neighbors, and love for yourself.  May your holiday season be restful, rejuvenating, and filled with love and laughter.

Merry Christmas dear readers! See you in 2016!

Thanksgiving Post Roundup

 

Thursday of this week is the American holiday of Thanksgiving.  The Budget Epicurean will be on a short holiday in honor of this tradition.  Whether you are at home, or at work wishing you were home, traveling or not leaving your house, here are some holiday favorite articles about Thanksgiving:

And as for the food…

I am thankful for all my wonderful readers!

 

Feel free to leave a comment below! What are you cooking this year? What are you thankful for?

 

Restaurant Review: Wang’s Chinese Food in Cromwell, CT

 

For those unfamiliar with my system of reviewing food service establishments, I use three areas, with a scale of 1-10.  The Budget Epicurean has not been compensated in any way for this review, and all opinions are my own. For reviews, preference will be given to unique, local, family-owned establishments. 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 (Buckingham Palace)
  • Value: 1 (not worth it) – 10 (super duper deal)

Today’s restaurant review is for Wang’s Chinese Restaurant in Cromwell, CT.  A small home slash business building tucked just off West Street (Route 372) in between Route 9 and highway 91, I have passed this place countless times on my way to work.  And every time I think, hm I should go there sometime.  Somehow I just never got around to it… Then I found out a friend of mine just so happens to know the owner, and so we decided to take a trip for lunch.

Wang chinese restaurant outside

Upon parking, the first thing I noticed was that it is actually quite larger than I had thought, since the entire left side of the building was a large dining area which can be rented out.  When we walked inside, it smelled immediately of those delicious umami smells of soy sauce, bubbling soup, and stir frying vegetables.

Wang chinese restaurant inside

There is a fully stocked bar, so you can have traditional sake right alongside a Cosmopolitan if you so desire.  There is ample seating for both tables and booths, in a nice dark cherry wood, and white linen table cloths.  Some very quiet, soothing music was playing in the background, nonintrusive enough that you forgot it was there.

Wang chinese restaurant owner

As soon as you are seated, the waiter immediately brings over a bowl of fried dough pieces and sweet and sour dipping sauce.  It is like the Chinese version of chips and salsa.  The sweet and sour was so delicious, I could practically drink the stuff, and the dough chips were the perfect level of crispy.  Somehow, it all disappeared very quickly…

Fried dough and sweet and sour sauce appetizer

The next endless part of the experience is the hot tea.  Every lunch special (and dinner too) includes bottomless pots of hot tea.  I love that, because tea is the best.  I’m pretty sure I had at minimum nine cups.  Good thing the cups are so small!  We also had soup included in our lunch orders, I chose won ton while my friend ordered the egg drop.  The soup was so tasty I wolfed it right down, and didn’t even get to take a picture… oops.  Sorry, not sorry.

Wang chinese restaurant hot tea

With menu items ranging from $1.50 to nearly $28 for the Peking Duck, there is something for everyone’s budget.  Their lunch specials are quite reasonable at $6.50 or $6.95, and includes all you can drink hot tea, soup (won ton or egg drop), egg roll, and entree.  Lunch is daily from 11:30 – 3:00.

I ordered the shrimp and broccoli, and funny story, my friend ordered the same thing.  She got veggie fried rice, while I stuck with the included pork fried rice, and you can also choose steamed white rice.  When the food came out, it smelled absolutely wonderful, and was a very generous portion size.  You can see the plate was pretty much overflowing.

Shrimp and Broccoli with Pork Fried Rice

The brown sauce was perfect, lightly coating the shrimp and veg but not overpowering.  There was a ton of flavor, but I didn’t feel as if I had licked a salt shaker while eating it, which is a good sign.  The rice was springy and flavorful as well.  The broccoli was steamed just right, soft enough but still with a slight crunch.  And the shrimp were gigantic, with 5-6 big pieces per plate.

The owner came over to say hello while we were there and asked how our meals were.  We of course said ‘absolutely wonderful’!  My friend introduced me as a new frequent customer, and I have to say, she was right.  With a distinctly mom-and-pop feel, attention to detail and attentive staff, very generous portions for a reasonable price, and amazing food that actually tastes like food and not something frozen and microwaved or doused in chemicals, I will definitely be returning here often!  I’m glad to have finally given this hidden gem a try, and so should you.

Overall, I’d rate Wang’s Chinese Restaurant:

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

 

You can read other reviews here:

 

How to Build a Pantry Immediately Under $50

 

This is an article on how to start building a pantry immediately, with very little up-front cost. If you already have ten years’ worth of canned beans in the basement, that is awesome, but this article is not for you. I am writing this article to the people who:

  • Are tired of looking at bare cupboards.
  • Can’t sleep at night because they just used up their last box of <insert boxed food here>.
  • Just like to be prepared for stuff.
  • Would really love to have the makings for a meal readily available without having to go to the store.
  • Want to eat real food, without spending a lot.
  • Know winter is coming.
  • Like to save money!
  • Want to have some kind of food around no matter what.
  • Don’t have much money to spend building a pantry.

asian spices & sauces

Whether you are preparing for a hurricane, tough economic times, flexibility in meal planning, or just because you know you’d sleep better at night, you can start building a pantry right now, and for less than $50 per person.

A pantry by definition is a room or place in which food is stored as an ‘extra’ or backup to the kitchen. There is a wide variety of ways      people build pantries, from an extra can of soup on the top shelf to a maximum-prepper-root-cellar type pantry with hundreds of freeze dried meals, and everything in between. If you have a few boxes of ramen under the bed, that’s a pantry. If you have a stash of your      favorite cookies hidden somewhere you don’t have to share, that’s a pantry.

Home Canned Tomatoes

This article will give you an exact idea of how to build a pantry in one shopping trip, for less than $50 (per person) which could provide  enough calories to survive for 1 month. But, keep in mind this is “survive”, not eat like you’re on a cruise ship vacation. It is, however, way better than ramen noodles, and is real, healthy, good food.       (Heck you could even just use this as your personal “less than $50 monthly grocery shopping list & meal plan” any time).

Prices are based on stores in the New Haven, CT area.  Prices may vary based on where you are located, sales and/or coupons, and time of the year.  Feel free to make certain substitutions tailored to your situation.  If you have access to free or cheaper foods, stock up on those as well (for example, a garden, barter system, foraging, etc).

Always be on the lookout for opportunities for urban foraging like an overhanging apple tree, rogue tomato plant, whatever. Also, many plants we consider weeds are edible. Just be sure to read/watch enough to know what you are doing before eating      anything wild you pick.

Stocked freezer

This plan is meant to provide enough food for one person for three meals for thirty days.  Most meals will be very simple, but will be enough to survive. And this is real food, not freeze dried astronaut ice cream. You could eat any of these suggested meals at any time.  If you have more room in your budget, you can add more “comfort” foods like sauces, spices, dried fruits, desserts, snacks, or other items you desire.

I’d recommend ALDI if you have one near you. (Go here to see their locations). They have the most consistently low prices overall for packaged and even fresh foods that I’ve seen. Otherwise, find the store nearest you that has good deals. Follow general grocery rules, like shopping produce that is in season, making a list, buying in bulk when the prices are low, etc. to save even more.

Purchase per person:

  • 3 cans chicken — 2.97
  • 5 cans tuna or salmon — 5
  • 15 lbs beans (any type) — 8.50
  • 5 lbs rice — 2.99
  • 5 lbs potatoes — 1.99
  • 1 large canister oats — 2.29
  • Tortillas (12 pack) — 0.99
  • 10 bags frozen vegetables — 10
  • 2 cans any type fruit — 2
  • 1 jar pasta sauce — 1
  • 1 pound pasta — 0.88
  • Dozen bananas — 2.22
  • 1 jar peanut butter — 1.49
  • 1 jar jelly — 1
  • 5 cans diced tomatoes — 4.40
  • 2 loaves bread — 1.70

Grand Total: $49.42

These items can sit wherever you have extra room, and you know they will be there in a pinch. You can also add any items that your family specifically goes through a lot of, such as chickpeas, eggs, or a certain spice mix.

Be sure that you use these items prior to their expiration dates by incorporating them into what you already cook. There is no sense in spending even a small amount of money on food that you end up not eating. A list of many suggested meals using these items is below.

Suggested meals:

And if you happen to have a pantry already, hopefully this list can help jump-start your creativity. Just a few simple ingredients can quickly come together to create a satisfying meal for far less than you would spend outside the home. Having a well-stocked pantry means you can have a snack or meal ready to go in minutes, and without having to wait in line or drive 30 minutes.

Counter covered with groceries

To continue to build your stockpile, simply pick up one extra item each time you go to the grocery store. Add two jars of pasta sauce to your cart when you only need one, and now you have a spare. When there is a great sale on peaches and you can afford to, stock up. That way you keep your overall cost lower, by purchasing frequently      eaten items in bulk when the price is low. Just don’t get too crazy, you don’t want to buy way more than you will ever eat or buy things you end up hating and throwing away.

Also keep an eye out for mark-downs on products that are about to expire (like meats & fresh vegetables, but use or freeze ASAP), slightly dented (I’m lookin’ at you, 10 cent dented cans of soup), or out of season (sprinkles in the shape of a leaf are still sprinkles in the summertime). One extra can or bag at a time can make a big impact on your yearly grocery tally. And you will get the satisfaction of knowing that you have a buffer of food for whenever, whatever, happens.

(Title picture is of pantry items used to make Salsa Chicken Soup)

How to Make Infused Oils

 

Ever read a recipe that calls for a “garlic-infused oil” or  some such thing?  Thought to yourself, “That would be way too expensive to buy! I’ll just use regular“?  Have you ever tried something in a restaurant or cooked by a friend that had a little special something hiding in the other flavors?  It may have been an infused oil!  And guess what? They are so easy to make your own!

I had this idea originally because I had found some very pretty small glass jars at a garage sale. They were the perfect size for something you only use a little bit of at a time, or as gifts. This made them the perfect medium for experimenting with infusions!

Infused olive oil and vinegars

An infusion simply means that an aromatic is soaked in oil long enough that some of the aromas and/or flavors of the additions are imparted into the oil. The beauty of this method is that you can use pretty much anything you enjoy the flavor of and want to taste in your oils!

You can choose to blend herbs with the oil, or simply put some into the bottle and let it sit. This makes a lovely presentation, and since these were meant as gifts, that is what I chose to do. I also had made my own vinegars, so a nice set of one oil and one vinegar will make for a great gift in the coming months!

Ingredients:

  • Oil to fill your container
  • About 2 tbsp flavoring per 1/2 cup oil

Step 1: Whether using garlic, fresh herbs, citrus, ground spices, or citrus fruits, make sure your produce is as fresh as possible and washed and dried.

Step 2: Heat your oil and your flavorings for about 5 minutes, to just bubbling. This helps release the flavors and smells into the oil. Let cool completely

Step 3: Filter your oil, or don’t, and pour into your jars. If you do include more herbs for looks, be aware that it will likely cause the finished product to look cloudy. This is ok.

Homemade infused oils and vinegars

You can try pretty much any flavoring you can imagine, and can get creative with combinations too! Try citrus and rosemary, cilantro and lime, lemon and black pepper, or basil and garlic. For the very brave, try infusing hot pepper for a spicy oil to fry your chicken in.

These infusions can now be gifts to a foodie in your life, who will likely be very impressed with your kitchen DIY abilities. Or you can use them to cook with of course, or as dipping oils served with crusty breads. Swirl into homemade hummus, or drizzle some on top of quick vegan tomato soup.

Have fun with it, & good luck!

The B Vitamins

If you haven’t had a chance yet, go check out my intro article “What are Vitamins” for a short summary of what they do and why you need the various A through K vitamins.

There are many B vitamins, together referred to as the “B complex” often. This is because when vitamins were first being discovered and named, a Polish biochemist named Kazimierz Funk isolated what he called a “vital amine” from blood and named it factor B, as the second such compound which had been discovered.

Later is was realized that what he had isolated was in fact a mixture of several compounds, the B vitamins. Several of these compounds turned out to be for other processes which caused them to lose standing as a “vitamin” (hence the jumping around in the numbering system). As you can see, the history of the vitamin B complex as we know it today was a bit… complex.

The B Vitamins

b-vitamins-2

Vitamin B1 — a water-soluble vitamin also called Thiamine, this vitamin is needed to turn carbohydrates into energy, for muscle contraction, for healthy digestion, and to enable nerve signaling. You can get your Thiamine from whole grains, peas, edamame (or soybeans), nuts, seeds, brown rice, eggs, liver, and pork.

Not getting enough thiamine may cause weakness, fatigue, nerve damage, or psychosis. Deficiency is seen most often in those who abuse alcohol. Excess alcohol makes it more difficult for the body to absorb thiamine from food. This can lead to a disease called beriberi. At its most severe, thiamine deficiency can cause brain damage, leading to Korsakoff syndrome or Wernicke’s disease. The same person may develop either or both these diseases. There is no known poisoning linked to too much thiamin consumption.

RDA for adult males = 1.2 mg/day, for females = 1.1 mg/day, if pregnant or breast-feeding = 1.4 mg/day.

Vitamin B2 — a water-soluble vitamin also known as Riboflavin, it is important for releasing energy from carbohydrates, digestion of fats and proteins, red blood cell production, and protection of the nervous system. It can be found in green leafy vegetables (mustard greens, spinach, kale), legumes (peas & soybean), nuts, dairy, fish, meat, eggs, yeast extract, and fortified breads & cereals.

Riboflavin is destroyed by light exposure, so limit storing foods containing this vitamin on the counter in the open. Store them in a closed bread box, cabinet, or the refrigerator instead.  Because many if not most of our bread and cereals are fortified (meaning riboflavin is added to the product) riboflavin deficiency is quite rare. Symptoms include anemia, mouth sores, and swelling of the mucous membranes. There is no known poisoning associated with high levels of B2 intake.

RDA for adult males = 1.3 mg/day, for females = 1.1 mg/day. Slightly higher if pregnant or breast-feeding.

Vitamin B3 — a water-soluble vitamin also known as Niacin or niacinamide in manufactured form, it is found in a variety of foods, including liver, chicken, beef, fish, cereal, peanuts, and legumes, and is also synthesized from tryptophan, an essential amino acid found in most forms of protein. Best sources include organ meats (such as liver, which makes great pasta sauce or heart, which you can stir-fry), venison, whole grains, mushrooms, and yeast.

Niacin can be converted into niacinamide, and these are both precursors of NAD and NADP, important molecules in the process of hydrogen transfer, catabolism of fat, carbohydrate, protein, and alcohol, cell signaling and DNA repair, as well as anabolism reactions such as fatty acid and cholesterol synthesis. A severe deficiency in B3 leads to pellagra, a painful disease characterized by diarrhea, dermatitis, inflammation, and eventual dementia.

RDA = 14 mg/day for women, 16 mg/day for men, and 18 mg/day for pregnant or breast-feeding women.

Vitamin B5 — also called Patothenic acid or pantothenate, is water-soluble. It is required for our bodies to synthesize coenzyme-A (CoA) an acyl-carrier required for the citric acid cycle leading to ATP synthesis, as well as metabolizing proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. This vitamin is found in nearly every food, with avocados, legumes, eggs, meats, yogurt, and whole grains as the largest sources. As a supplement in salt form it may improve oxygen utilization efficiency and reduce lactic acid accumulation in athletes.

Toxicity is unlikely, in fact there has been no established upper limit on this particular vitamin. As well, deficiency is extremely rare and as such has not been thoroughly studied. What symptoms we can observe are similar to other B vitamin deficiencies, including irritability, fatigue, aparthy, numbness, cramps, and hypoglycemia.

Insulin receptors are acylated with palmitic acid when they do not want to bind with insulin. Therefore, more insulin will bind to receptors when acylation decreases, causing hypoglycemia. Additional symptoms could include restlessness, malaise, sleep disturbances, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.[20]

RDA = varies with age from 2mg/day for children age 1-2 to 5mg/day for adult men and women, with a slight increase to 6-7 mg/day for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Vitamin B6 — also called pyridoxine, is involved in the process of making several neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin and norepinephrine. These chemicals help your brain to regulate happiness and fear. Vitamin B6 is also involved in the formation of myelin, a protein layer that forms around nerve cells.

Mild deficiency of vitamin B6 is common. A more serious Vitamin B6 deficiency in adults may cause health problems affecting the nerves, skin, mucous membranes, and circulatory system, while in children all these as well as the central nervous system is affected. Deficiency can occur in people with kidney failure complications, liver scarring, overactive thyroid, alcoholism, inability to absorb nutrients, and heart failure, as well as those taking certain medications.

Major sources of vitamin B6 include cereal grains (whole wheat, barley, farro), legumes (peas, peanuts, black beans, pinto beans), vegetables (carrots, spinach, peas, and potatoes), milk, cheese, eggs, fish, liver, meat, and fortified or whole wheat flour. Vitamin B6 is often used with other B vitamins in vitamin B complex formulas.

Vitamin B6 has been studied for the treatment of many conditions, including anemia (low amounts of healthy red blood cells), vitamin B6 deficiency, lowering homocysteine levels, certain seizures in newborns, and side effects of the drug cycloserine. Evidence in support of other uses is lacking.

RDA = 1.3 milligrams in men and women ages 19-50; 1.7 milligrams in men aged 51 and older; and 1.3 milligrams in women aged 51 and older. The maximum daily intake of vitamin B6 in adults and pregnant or breastfeeding women over age 18 is 100 milligrams.

Vitamin B12 — also known as Cyanocobalamine, Vitamin B12 is an essential water-soluble vitamin that is commonly found in a variety of foods, such as fish, shellfish, meat, eggs, and dairy products. Vitamin B12 is important in DNA synthesis in every cell in your body. Vitamin B12 is bound to the protein in food. Acid in the stomach releases B12 from protein during digestion. Once released, B12 combines with a substance called intrinsic factor (IF) before it is absorbed into the bloodstream.

Vitamin B12 is frequently used in combination with other B vitamins in a vitamin B complex formulation. The human body stores several years’ worth of vitamin B12 in the liver, so low levels in the body are rare. Decreases in vitamin B12 levels are more common in the elderly, HIV-infected persons, and vegetarians. Inability to absorb vitamin B12 from the intestinal tract can cause a type of anemia called pernicious anemia. Fever and symptoms of “excessive sweating” have been reported with anemia due to low levels of vitamin B12; however, these are fixed with vitamin B12 treatment.

For vegetarians or vegans, it is important to know that B12 is found exclusively in animal products, and you are at risk of mild deficiency. Based on how strict your diet are, there are some non-meat options: eggs (1 chicken yolk gives 6% RDA, while goose or duck eggs contain higher levels), cheeses (Swiss has the most), whey powder (100g provides over 40% RDA), milk or yogurt (8-20% RDA per cup), and yeast or yeast extracts (such as Marmite or nutritional yeast). Of course, fortified foods and supplements also help. If you are concerned, please contact your health care provider or a nutritionist for a plan that’s right for you.

Recommended dietary amounts (RDAs) are 2.4 micrograms daily for ages 14 years and older, 2.6 micrograms daily for pregnant females, and 2.8 micrograms daily for breastfeeding females.

Folic Acid — also known as Vitamin B9, folic acid is naturally found in many foods, and folic acid is the synthetic form. Foods naturally high in folate include: leafy vegetables (such as spinach, broccoli, and lettuce), okra, asparagus, fruits (such as bananas, melons, and lemons) beans, yeast, mushrooms, meat and organ meat (such as beef liver and kidney), orange juice, and tomato juice.

Some conditions may increase your need for folic acid. These include:

  • Alcoholism
  • Anemia, hemolytic
  • Diarrhea (continuing)
  • Fever (prolonged)
  • Hemodialysis
  • Illness (prolonged)
  • Intestinal diseases
  • Liver disease
  • Pregnancy
  • Stress (continuing)
  • Surgical removal of stomach

Some studies have found that folic acid taken by women before they become pregnant and during early pregnancy may reduce the chances of certain birth defects (neural tube defects). Claims that folic acid and other B vitamins are effective for preventing mental problems have not been proven. Many of these treatments involve large and expensive amounts of vitamins. It is always best to get the majority of your daily vitamins from foods, such as by eating a large salad full of leafy greens before each meal.

RDA = children 75-400 mcg/day, Adults 150-400 mcg/day, pregnant fenales 400-800 mcg/day, and breastfeeding females 260-800 mcg/day.

 

Hopefully this has helped clear up a little bit of the confusion surrounding the illustrious B complex, and you have learned a little bit more about your body and what it needs to function at its best. These are some of the many reasons why your mom always told you to “eat your vegetables”, why Popeye was so empowered when he ate spinach, and why vegetables consistently rank at the top of ways to lose and maintain weight loss over time.

 


Disclaimer: I am not a licensed health care professional nor a registered dietitian. This article is intended to be informative and perhaps entertaining. I am not dispensing health advice or instruction. Consult your own health care professional and conscience before making any decisions regarding your diet and general health.

 

Review: Three Sheets

 

Tucked away on Elm Street in New Haven is a tiny unassuming “friendly neighborhood gastropub” called Three Sheets.

It has gone through many changes over the years, under different names and different locations, but today it is a cozy, welcoming dive bar with a creative atmosphere. I had happened upon it during  a ‘brunch and board games’ meeting. Always a fan of good food and new friends, I welcomed the opportunity to try some local flavor.

IMG_9388Open Monday to Thursday, 3 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Friday, 3 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.

With typical dive-bar murkiness, this place was at once sketchy and friendly. Tattooed and pierced bartenders and servers abounded, and there were handfuls of clear regulars grouped around the bar and at tables, despite it being 1pm on a Saturday.

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The menu behind the bar immediately intrigued me. With plenty of good old bar-eat standbys like burgers and wings, they also have a ton of creative and unique choices, such as “Stuffies”, fried pickles, “Koolickles”, and a Banh Mi. They also offer oodles of tasty sounding sauces and toppings for anything your heart desires, like smoked catsup, remoulade, yellow BBQ, or kimchi. Plus rotating chef’s and drinks specials.

This is my kind of place.

Their Facebook page has periodic updates about what bands are playing (always NO cover and 21+) and what the daily house specials are. They say: “the following items which are all made IN HOUSE. Smoked clams, chicken pastrami, ham, bacon and pulled pork. Our jalapeno poppers are slow roasted and hand stuffed. We pickle our own vegetables and eggs. Our beef, breads, and clams are locally sourced… Oh, did I mention hand rolled sushi?”

Yes please.

I had to start the night (afternoon?) with a local craft beer. The bartender suggested Two Roads Hefeweizen, made right here in Stratford CT.

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The No Limits Hefeweizen was a nice, fruity wheat beer, perfectly refreshing for a hot summer day. I enjoyed the can, and the fact that they gave me a chilled glass to go along with it. I had tasted the Two Roads “Road Jam” previously as well, and it is even more powerfully berry flavored.

However, the “Lil Heaven IPA” is the opposite of my taste preferences, and I ended up tossing out half a six-pack because I just couldn’t drink it. Those who like extremely bitter beers would totally love this type. All the same, this brand is a great New England brewery, and I will keep trying their beers as long as I’m here.

The front area is the bar, right next to a cozy room containing several tables & chairs, and a tiny elevated stage area. I have not attended any free concerts here yet, but it is now on my New Haven to-do list. We played several games with a group of about 20, with multiple games on-going simultaneously.

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Through the hallway, you are led to a back room with more seating, a food-order area leading to the kitchen, pool tables, and a large chalkboard wall. There is plenty of chalk provided to indulge your creative side. I believe there is a back door, but we did not investigate if there was a porch area or not.

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It has that ‘dirty’ in a ‘gritty dive-bar’ way, but was well-kept. From what I could see through the kitchen window, everything was in fact being freshly prepared in house. Speaking of food…

While there were many tempting items on the menu, the Beet Reuben in particular called to me. Roasted beet slices on whole grain rye bread (which I believe is from another CT local, the tasty bread experts WholeG Bakery), with kimchi, thousand island dressing & Swiss cheese. I’m not a huge fan of swiss or 1000 island, but they are requisite for a proper reuben. And I adore kimchi.

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BEET REUBEN                                                                      $10

roasted beets sliced and served on whole g rye bread with kimchi, thousand island, and swiss.

The bartender took my order and told me ‘ok it will be out in a few minutes’. I don’t know if they are all just that good, or I got lucky & it was a slow day. But I sat down, played some games, and as I was halfway through enjoying my hefeweizen another waitress magically appeared and handed me a steaming plate.

The bread was perfectly crispy, everything was exactly the right temperature. The spicy kimchi mixed with the creamy tang of the thousand island, the sliced beets were soft and sweet like candy, and the whole thing made me look at Ruebens in a whole new light. I don’t think the usual roast beef & coleslaw combo will have quite the same magic anymore.

The fries were also the right amount of salty, and were so good that even though my fiance hadn’t wanted to order any food, after he tried one, he ended up eating almost the whole order! If I’d been more hungry, or not completely enthralled with my sandwich, I would have gotten a second order. As it was, this sandwich was more than enough to satisfy, and I had to stuff down the last bite. It was totally worth it.

All in all, this is a cute little gem that during the day is tame enough to bring the kids, but has it’s rough side too. The food prices vary in affordability, but are reasonable given the taste standard and the portion sizes. With entertainment, public events all the time, great drink specials and killer food, this is a gastropub I’d be happy to re-visit again and again.

  • Taste: 8.5
  • Atmosphere: 7
  • Value: 7

Resources & Further Reading:

New Haven Register Review
Three Sheets Website
Their Facebook Page

Address: 372 Elm St, New Haven, CT 06511

Review: Sushi Palace

 

Seeing as this blog is the “Budget Epicurean” and part of that name entails being curious about new foods, I felt that it was time for a new food place review. If you will recall from my Austin, Texas review series, I rate places based on taste, atmosphere, and overall value. All honest opinions are those of the Budget Epicurean, and no goods, services, or payments were offered for this review.

  • 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)

There are several places I’ve been in the past few months and simply haven’t written up yet. This one is a definite stand-out, and somewhere I hope to go again soon. Perhaps this article will get me convinced to make reservations! And maybe I’ll see you there.

It’s no secret that I love me some good sushi. All-you-can-eat sushi buffets are one of my favorite places in the world. Sushi snobs may turn up their noses, doubters may worry about the fishy smell or taste, and environmentalists may debate the Earth-friendliness of over-fishing. But there is nothing better than stuffing yourself to discomfort with tray upon tray of rolls and nigiri.

Upon moving away from Denver CO and my precious Sushi Katsu, at which I’ve probably spent several hundreds of dollars over four years (best damn all you can eat deal in the area, fo sho), I needed to find a similar addiction in my newly adopted New England. It is not uncommon for my fiance and I to begin with at minimum 50 individual pieces. This is a tough order, as it also needs to be both delicious, and affordable.

Asking around yielded a place with locations in both North Haven & Hamden called Sushi Palace.

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Luckily for me, a friend was visiting from out of town who has a similar addiction to salty fish and rice, so we set off on our eat-till-it-hurts adventure.

We “began” our meal with three people, thus about 60 pieces between us. Several sashimi were ordered, along with a few rolls, the Rainbow roll, Dragon roll, Philadelphia roll & California roll among them.

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The individual sashimi slices were uniformly perfectly thick and even, with each fish’ unique flavor and texture shining through. My favorites in order: salmon, tuna, white tuna, yellowtail, red snapper. I’m normally not a huge fan of raw fish alone, I prefer some rice along with it, but this was all in all a great experience.

The only exceptions would be the  egg custard (tamago) and red clam (hokkigai). The egg custard was sort of tofu-textured with a hint of eggy and sweet, and the clam was a tough chewy texture, neither of which I totally enjoyed. However, you may have different taste and texture preferences, and find cold shoe leather enjoyable.

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Their menu is quite exhaustive, and the prices are reasonable. I wish to goodness I worked closer to either location, so I could waste one day a week’s pay on buying sushi for lunch daily.

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This is the dinner rush on a typical Thursday. Luckily we got to the place just around 5:30 and snagged one of 5-6 empty tables. Approximately 6pm, cue huge crowd and an out-the-door line. You have been warned.

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Round two of our main course consisted of “sushi”, of which the majority was salmon because that was our unanimous favorite. First big difference I noticed between Colorado and Connecticut: “sushi” in CO meant a roll, here it means “piece of raw fish with room temperature rice”. The CT definition of “sushi” is “nigiri” where I am used to.

No matter, we were ready to mow down a few more rolls and pieces. Of the three of us, we each had about enough room for about 10 more pieces. I can’t recall the name of one of the tempura-fried warm roll, but the hot mayo on top is super delicious! Several of their rolls have this as an option. If you are unsure, you could ask to taste it before ordering a roll drenched in the stuff.

We also got just a taste of the eel, or unagi. Eel is a delicious, flaky fish with a meaty, salty flavor, and is served with this amazing eel sauce that is slightly sweet and warm. This stuff is the bomb dot com yo! Give it a try, you might like it.

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And finally to round out the meal, we each finished off with a small bowl of ice cream. The flavors? Green tea and red bean. Oh yes. Too weird to not try. And it turned out that the bean ice cream has actual chunks of red beans in it, and the green tea is sweeter than I imagined it would be. I did not hate either taste experience, and might actually order a pint of the green tea on purpose.

In summary, an experience and spread well worth $30 for dinner. They have a huge regular menu, and a completely separate menu for the all you can eat option which is equally expansive. With options such as udon noodles, fried rice, beef teriyaki, and edamame, everyone is sure to find something they like. Overall rating:

  • Taste: 7
  • Atmosphere: 6
  • Value: 7.5

http://www.sushipalace.us/menu/menu.htm

Mango Cherry Hurricanes

 

As a souvenir from my first visit to N’awlins, I had to bring home some hurricane mix. A little bit ironic now… anyways, this double-rum juice-heavy cocktail is a crowd pleaser and a sure party starter. It is the recognized ‘signature’ drink of the Big Easy. However, there are those that protest today’s Bourbon Street foot-long pitchers of syrupy sweet mixtures.

But as always, to heck with expectations. I had some hurricane mix waiting to be enjoyed, some spiced rum, a can of mango and a sunny day calling my name.

Try your own version at home with whatever type of juice you enjoy. Pineapple, mango, guava, lemon, orange, cherry, or passion fruit (the true original) are all delightful choices. You can even mix and match multiple. As long as there’s rum! Preferably 1:1 light and dark, but dark is all I had, so I just doubled up 😉

Ingredients:

  • 1 can mango + juice
  • 1 package hurricane mix
  •  1 cup spiced rum
  • Optional: cherries or other fruit for garnish

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Step 1: Mix the hurricane mix & water in a large container. Depending on how many you are making, adjust recipe. This is for four drinks’ worth.

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Step 2: In a blender, blend the mango in its own juice until smooth.

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Step 3: In a large glass, add crushed ice 2/3 way full. Pour in 1/2 cup mix, 2-3 shots of rum (depending how strong you want it), and top with mango.

To make a large pitcher full, you won’t get the pretty layers, but simply mix 1 cup rum, 2 cups mix, and 1 cup mango. Adjust up to whatever volume you want. Then pour at will.