Category Archives: Beverage

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.

Weekly Eating – Jan 8

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 the part where we are eating 80% vegetarian this year? I’d say we have totally nailed it so far! We had some great successes this week, and a few fails too. The week did include an impromptu cross country trip, for a family emergency situation, so that sort of threw the meal plan off the rails a bit. However, it was for good reason, and didn’t damage the budget too badly.

Monday:

Breakfast – Banana berry smoothie

Lunch – Beet & Sweet Potato veggie burger wrap with sprouts, red sauerkraut, tomatoes, spinach, & Green Goddess.

Beet, Sweet Potato, Black Bean Burger Patties

I just adore the bright pink colors going on here! Imagine all those lovely flavonoids running around my bloodstream detoxing and getting rid of free radicals… no, just me? #sciencenerd

Beet, Sweet Potato, Black Bean Burger Wrap

Dinner –Homemade pizzas. I whipped up overnight refrigerator pizza dough on Sunday so these were easy breezy. The boy had pineapple, ham and mozzarella on his, while I added handfuls of veggies to mine.

Homemade Veggie Pizza With Pork

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Banana & Cardamom Pancakes

Banana and Cardamom Blender Pancakes

Dudes, I had never had cardamom before (I think) but it’s one of the highest antioxidant spices so I’m trying to incorporate it into my cooking more. This pancake recipe was so simple, I whipped up the batter in a blender and poured it right onto the griddle. Easy peasy, and they came out fluffy and perfect. #winning

Banana and Cardamom Blender Pancakes

Lunch – Big salad with sprouts, walnuts, cranberries, quinoa, and my amazing Green Goddess dressing.

quinoa and greens sprout salad

Dinner –Tempeh Teriyaki Stir Fry.

Teriyaki Tempeh Stir Fry

Guys. Guys, I made a vegan meal that the boy said he loved and would eat again! That’s a huge win! TBH it was super tasty, I would eat it again, and also I nailed the plating. (Pats self on the back)

Wednesday:

Breakfast – mixed berry smoothie

Lunch – leftover mushroom risotto from last week. There was a lot left and we were leaving town, so I wanted to eat it up. However, after sitting for a few days, it became thicker and… blah. I forced down a few forkfulls, but couldn’t come close to eating it all. That led to a starving afternoon of snacking…

Mushroom Risotto

Snacks – first up was a handful of dark chocolate with almond kisses that someone at work brought in. I figured, dark chocolate has good flavonoid & antioxidants, and you can’t go wrong with almonds right?

dark chocolate with almond kisses

Well apparently 3 almonds isn’t enough protein to satisfy, so I was rooting through my desk drawers about a half hour later. I did bring this vegan banana bread that I swapped at last month’s Bull City Food Swap… sad to say, it also was “meh”. But when I found a tiny peanut butter packet, and was also getting hangry, it was like sweet mana from heaven, and I ate half the loaf.

vegan banana bread

Dinner – Lemon Garlic Parmesan Pasta with a salad. I needed to use up several lemons, so I whipped up a super simple pasta dish.

Lemon Garlic Pasta with Kale and Sausage

Thursday:

Breakfast – stressful morning getting to the airport and literally making our flight by ONE minute… so, breakfast was coffee and airplane snacks.

Lunch – stopped by a BBQ place, and they had a Thursday Special: $2 pulled pork sandwich! We were totally in, and they were delicious. The pork was so moist, and the BBQ sauce flavorful.

Stubb's BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich

Dinner – a local pizza joint is a favorite here, so we had to indulge when in town. I got the Brussels sprouts one, which had sweet hot pepper jelly on it and was super tasty, while the boy got a meaty spicy one and compromised with a bacon jam covered in arugula as well. They were all amazing, and we ate nearly the whole thing!

Three whole Pieous pizzas

Friday:

Breakfast – Pineapple jalapeno smoothie and toast.

green smoothie and toast

Mom in law is obsessed with this smoothie which includes pineapple, spinach, coconut water, and jalapeno. It is fruity with a hint of spice, which is strange but definitely tasty.

Pineapple Jalapeno Smoothie

Lunch – Leftover pizza, which I threw a handful of salad greens on top of to make myself feel better about eating pizza for at least 4 meals this week…

leftover pizza with greens on top

Dinner – Korean tacos. It is super simple, a crock-pot beef roast with sweet sauce, a fresh crunchy slaw, and a peanutty dressing. They were really tasty, and I need to get the recipe.

Korean beef tacos

Snack – Chips & salsa. I cut up half an avocado, and mixed it with a half cup of salsa for a satisfying snack.

blue chips and avocado salsa

The Weekend

This weekend will be spent relaxing and spending time with family. We may get to go out and explore a little, and perhaps see some of hubby’s friends. The in-laws are great and are covering most of the groceries, so for food we will only spend on anything we go out for.

Food Total: $72.86

This week was just stocking up on frozen berries because we were out, and some other staples like soymilk, produce, and boxed wine. Don’t judge me, tons of people love boxed wine, even frugal folks and hard core wine lovers!

Thanks to last week’s big stock up, and tons of food still hanging out in the freezer and pantry, we should be set for at least another week (with the exception of a produce run). Maybe I need to do another of my own January Pantry Clean-Out challenges.

 

How was your week? Are you flexible with meal plans, or how do you deal with surprise travel?

Weekly Eating – 10/10

 

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!

 

Ha, do y’all remember those commercials for 10-10-220? This week’s date made me think of it. Sheesh, I’m old…

Wow, there is so much going on in this with the grungy guy, the flirty lady, the cops and donuts routine… we won’t go there. Has anyone actually used this? Does it still work? No I kind of want to make a call to, say, Ecuador or Kazhakistan just to see.

 

Monday:

Breakfast – granola bar

Lunch – mason jar salad

Dinner – Buffalo chicken grilled cheese & soup

I saw this recipe online somewhere last week, and knew I had to have it! We had plenty of shredded cooked chicken from a whole one I roasted in the crock pot. I added in some Ranch and Yum Yum Sauce too, because why not?

I had mine with some homemade chicken noodle soup, and the boy had some tomato soup with his. They were quite tasty!

Tuesday:

Breakfast – 2 scrambled eggs on toast

Lunch – Cabbage vegetable soup, actually very flavorful and like, 20 calories per bowl! I may have had a few…

Dinner – Burritoes. Because there is never a bad time for a burrito.

Snack – M&Ms, peach yogurt

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Chocolate peanut butter bar & yogurt

Lunch – Black beans & rice. I had made about a half pound of black beans from dried over the weekend, so combined with some leftover brown rice this is a super simple lunch I pack quite often.

Dinner – Lemon Honey Chicken Breasts in the slow cooker with steamed veggies & potatoes. I didn’t get a picture of this one, mostly because we were hungry and ate it too fast, but also it just wasn’t pretty. But it tasted good! Just 2 chicken breasts on low in the crock pot all day with a dash of lemon and a drizzle of honey.

Snack – raw veggies & blender hummus

Thursday:

Breakfast – 2 scrambled eggs on toast. For whatever reason, I’ve been in a scrambled eggs mood this week.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Lunch – Homemade chicken noodle soup <3

Dinner – Stir Fry! Stir Thursday… Stursday? I sorta cheated and used a pre-packaged mix for this. But ya know, sometimes you just don’t want to chop a bunch of veggies, and it would also be more expensive for me to buy a tiny quantity of snow peas, carrot, broccoli slaw, etc. So when I saw this on sale, of course I snagged it.

I had some shredded chicken still left from my whole chicken, and between  the veg and chicken it was the perfect amount of food for the two of us. I made a big batch of brown rice in the rice cooker, and kept the rest in the fridge for later meals.

Snack – Granola bar

Friday:

Breakfast – scrambled egg wrap with salsa

Lunch – Rice & beans, mason jar salad

Dinner – Friday the 13th party! This is the only Friday the 13th all year, and it just so happens to be in October. So we decided to have a fall/Halloween dinner party for the occasion. It was a small affair, with good food, corn hole, good conversation and a lot of laughs.

I roasted 2 big pork loins, along with some potatoes with rosemary and acorn squash with nutmeg. Some homemade stuffing, homemade sauerkraut, and whole wheat dinner rolls rounded out the meal. It was quite tasty, if I do say so myself!

I also had made some rosemary lemonade (since I have a gigantic rosemary bush by the mailbox that needs harvesting), and a special spooky rum punch.

The Weekend

I decided to finally stop procrastinating and bake something to welcome a few new neighbors. In the past 2 months, 3 houses on our block had been sold, and I desperately wanted to welcome them to the ‘hood. So I took some applesauce I had made last weekend, and turned it into cinnamon apple muffins! Everyone knows the quickest way to befriend someone is to feed them. 🙂

Sunday was quite productive too, I did some recording (potentially some exciting announcements coming soon…) and along with the muffins made a huge batch of my #1 recipe: Buffalo chicken potato bake.

Also prepped several mason jar salads, and a pitcher of smoothie for quick breakfasts. Cleaned out the refrigerator of some very old stowaways (green tomato salsa… from Connecticut? Ew!) and took everything out of the freezer, reorganized it, and made the rest of the month’s meal plan based off of what we have. Phew!

Food Total: $166.04 (less booze = $67.35!)

My goal is to keep this number under $100 all the time, and eventually get down to $75/week for food.

Ouch… But we were having a fall/Halloween/Friday the 13th party, so I stocked up on several seasonal and variety packs of beer and some wine. I also picked up some dry ice, to make the punch extra bubbly and spooky. There was also a good price on honey, and since we want to dabble in making mead I grabbed some, so about $20 of that is honey. Without the party costs, food this week was actually way below budget!

There were some great sales on chicken breasts, so even though they weren’t on the meal plan I snagged a few. We can adapt the weekend or next week’s meals or freeze as needed. I also found a great discount on 70/30 ground beef, which we ALWAYS need, so I grabbed that too and froze it.

Lessons Learned

Honestly, in terms of what was on my grocery list this week, the cost was under $40! Not bad. But stocking up ahead of time when there are great sales is one of my favorite grocery tricks to keep overall spending and cost per meal low.

Another lesson here is that alcohol is not a frugal beverage! Of course, the best beverage choice is free: water. But we both enjoy a glass of red or a cold beer now and then, and especially in social situations. Sure, we could tell everyone to BYOB and maybe even get a few free leftover 6 packs, but I prefer to be generous when hosting. And hubs loves variety!

It did bring up the conversation of homebrewing again though. We might have to follow Mr. Picky Pincher’s lead on this one!

 

How about you guys, did you have a great week or a learning week?

Chocolatey Banana Coffee Milkshake

 

Who loves a meal solution that is easy, healthy, and super fast??

I know my hand is raised. While I do love the occasional intricate breakfast (after all, what are weekends for if not a strata, homemade crepes, cinnamon rolls, or banana pancakes?) that is just not feasible for every day. Most mornings have between 2 and 10 minutes to devote to making sure I’m fed.

Now I know breakfast is the most important meal of the day, trust me. That’s why I simply cannot go with having nothing at all. But man, it is just really hard sometimes to make a hot, solid food at 7 am! And I hate to admit the number of time I’ve eaten pop-tarts this year is not zero…

C’mon people, I know I’m not alone here.

Why do you think there’s a Starbucks on every corner, along with Dunkin Donnuts, Tim Hortons, and all the local coffee and donut joints nationwide? And they all always seem to have a line.

Boy, have I found the perfect solution! I like a healthy breakfast, which includes protein, fiber, and nutrients. And I need coffee. Why not combine them into one easily drinkable drink!

I find it’s hard to get solid food down sometimes when it’s so early my stomach hasn’t woken up yet. But a shake or smoothie is always possible. Now I finally understand protein shakes; for so many years I was mystified how people could replace solid food with liquids. Now I know.

This shake is chocolatey because of the flavored protein powder, but you could also use non-flavored protein and simply add a tbsp of cocoa powder for the same effect. Use a plant-based milk instead of regular milk, and a plant-based protein instead of whey for a vegetarian option.

The banana is also optional, but I like knowing that I got a serving of fruit with my caffeinated milkshake (which is what this tastes like).

Ingredients:

  • 1 sm-med banana
  • 8-10 oz coffee
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
  • 1/4 cup milk (optional)
  • Handful of ice cubes (optional)

Step 1: Blend everything well, until smooth. The longer you blend it, the creamier and ‘fluffier’ it becomes because of the whey. Other protein blends may not cause this, experiment until you find the type and amount you like best.

Now go conquer your day, caffeinated and protein-powered!

Jalapeno Margaritas

 

Happy Memorial Day weekend!

A sincere thank you to all our members of the armed forces, for doing what they do in order for us to do our things too.

And Memorial Day weekend also means, it is officially summer!

School is out, and so is the sun. (Maybe…we have had some ridiculous amount of thunderstorms here in NC lately! Oh well, that’s why everything here is so green and lush.)

Time to plan vacations to the beach, to the park, to the mountains, and everywhere in between. Time for picnics and cookouts and potlucks and parties.

Time for cocktails!

We all know I love margaritas. This here recipe is taking it to the next level. It is the classic combo of tangy lime, salt, sugar, and liquor, now with the delicious slow burn of jalapeno peppers.

I was introduced to these by my sister in law (I can’t believe it’s been just barely a year, and it’s still weird to use phrases like that!) and have had sporadic cravings for them ever since. I’ll be having a garden party in a few weeks, this recipe might have to make an appearance.

jalapeno margarita ingredients

This recipe makes enough for a large pitcher, about 6 glasses. Feel free to scale up or down as needed, just keep the ratio of tequila to mixer about 1:2, and you can also experiment with more or less jalapeno, depending on how much of a bite you like!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups tequila
  • 3 cups margarita mix
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • Either 4-5 fresh jalapenos sliced, or 1/2 cup pickled jalapenos

Step 1: Mix all ingredients in a large pitcher full of ice and refrigerate for an hour to overnight. Dip a glass in lime juice, and then salt. Add ice, add margarita, sip… and smile. Then cough, and maybe turn red, and maybe need some ice water to wash it down. Just kidding, you will be fine! And then go back for more.

 

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Cherry Berry Fizz

 

I know I’ve talked before many times about how drinking enough water is such a crucial aspect of being healthy. I’m pretty sure I’ve also talked about how much I struggle with this! For all my good habits and self-control, drinking enough water is just. so. difficult.

It’s not that I mind the taste, or dislike it. I just forget.

I’ve begun leaving water cups with straws all over the house and at work and in my car… I find that a straw really helps! For some reason, I can drink more at once and keep drinking more water when there’s a straw involved versus just a cup. It’s funny, because hubby has the exact opposite preference, he hates straws and drinks much faster in gulps.

But I digress.

The other way I’ve found to trick myself into my 8-to-10 daily glasses is fizzy water! I used to think that seltzer was so gross, and why would anyone want fizzy water when they could just have a pop? (NOT that drinking pop regularly is ever a good idea, please don’t. But still.) I just didn’t get it.

Well, fast forward to last year, a coworker of mine had cans of fizzy water regularly. There were all kinds of different flavors, setlzer and not. (I’d recommend ones without added sugars, even the fake kinds, but beggars can’t be choosers and if it gets you into the water habit to start with, do what you must). I reluctantly tried one… and liked it. And so I bought another. And then a case.

And then I had a new habit! Which is great… ish. Fizzy water is still water and is so good for me. But it is not so great for my bank account, or my planet. All those cans and bottles, just going to waste. Even if I recycled, I still felt that twinge of guilt each time I tossed a can or bottle and heard it hit the inside of the bin.

Berry cherry fizz

Since then, I’ve also gotten hubby onto the fizzy water bandwagon. It’s a perfect beverage with dinner, while watching TV, or a great alternative to alcoholic beverages for just any random weeknight when you want something fun and different. So now we were going through twice the aluminum and plastic!

After some research and discussion with many friends, we decided it might be time for a fizzy water machine. There would be a larger up-front cost, with small ongoing fees (CO2 replacements mostly) but the perks included: cheaper overall, no more bottle/can waste, we know where the water is coming from and what flavorings are added.

We crunched the numbers, and decided on a SodaStream Fountain Jet. And then my wonderful inlaws surprised us with it for Christmas! So that saved us the initial investment as well. (THANK YOU!). The 60L tank claims to make something like 50L of fizzy water, so by the time we finish our first refill (i.e. 2 tanks) even at the cheapest I’ve ever seen a liter on sale at a store we will be ahead financially. And we intend to use this bad boy for many years to come too.

You don’t have to have a SodaStream for this recipe, you can use bottled fizzy water of course. Or even regular tap water. But if you buy it bottled, try buying a 2L at a time, for less waste. This is refreshing, light and fruity, and perfect for summertime or after a hot and sweaty run. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups fizzy water
  • 1/2 cup pure cherry juice
  • Handful frozen berries (I used blueberries)

Step 1: Pour the frozen berries into a cup, these will be your ice cubes. They won’t water down your drink, and you get a healthy snack at the end!

Step 2: Pour in the cherry juice (you can use any kind of juice here, try for no sugar added organic kinds if possible) and the bubble water.

Step 3: Hydrate!

This also looks very pretty, the bubbles lift the berries around the glass like a lava lamp. And with the red and blue colors, this would be an ideal beverage to serve for a Fourth of July party! You could even add a shot of a little somethin somethin, I won’t tell… 😉

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Peanut Butter Banana Power Smoothie

 

This has quickly become one of my absolute favorite breakfast recipes! Just one ‘dish’ to wash when you’re done. Smoothies are amazing because they are so versatile, so quick, and so healthy! Of course, that last part does depend on what you put into it.

Many stores and fast food options that claim they have “healthy smoothies” are really not so healthy. They are calorie and sugar packed health bombs masquerading as health food. Just because it has a teaspoon of spinach powder or banana puree does not excuse a smoothie with 118 grams of sugar and over 500 calories!

Peanut butter banana oat smoothie ingredients

So why not blend one up at home? Far healthier, super fast and easy, and way healthier for you.

This recipe takes your typical banana base, and adds several other super health foods such as peanut butter powder (for all the flavor with a tiny percentage of the fat!), gut-helping yogurt, healthy fats from coconut milk, fiber packed oats, and the ultimate tiny nutrition powerhouse: chia!

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana
  • 2/3 cup yogurt or Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp PB2 or PBFit
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds

Step 1: Combine all ingredients in a blender, and blend on high until well combined.

You could optionally add in a scoop of protein powder if you need it, or a cup of ice cubes if you want a different texture.

This recipe makes enough for 2 good sized glasses of about 16 oz each, so share with a friend or save the second serving for later, maybe after a good workout!

Healthy PB Banana Smoothie

 

Peanut Butter Banana Power Smoothie

Peanut Butter Banana Power Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 banana
  • 2/3 cup yogurt or Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp PB2 or PBFit
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender, and blend on high until well combined.
  2. You could optionally add in a scoop of protein powder if you need it, or a cup of ice cubes if you want a different texture.
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Last-minute Valentine’s Day meal ideas

 

 

So, you want to have a romantic dinner but don’t want to shell out $20 and up? Me too!

With Valentine’s Day only 2 days away, you may be thinking about having a special meal with a special someone. It doesn’t matter if you’re cooking for yourself, some of your girlfriends or bros, your significant other, your parents, your dog, whatever, cooking a meal is always an act of love. An act of survival too, sure, but also you’re taking the trouble to turn raw ingredients into something edible.

Even if it’s a box of easy mac, or as fancy as a seven course meal, the person enjoying the finished product knows a little dash of love went into it.

And while a romantic dinner out on the town is nice every now and then, there are several advantages to cooking at home. One, you get to control the ingredients that go into your food. Restaurants use all kinds of ingredients you might not want to know about: stabilizers, emulsifiers, preservatives, MSG, salt and sugar by the tablespoon. At home, you know what is going into your food, and thus into your body.

Two, you can control portion sizes. There is a ton of research out there, not to mention if you’ve been around 2-3 decades or more you can see it for yourself, pointing fingers at ballooning portion sizes as a contributor to the obesity epidemic. When you eat out, you want to “get your money’s worth”, and restaurants know that giving you more food but with cheaper, less healthy ingredients, is good for their bottom lines. Terrible for your bottom, however, which will expand along with the size of the plate.

And finally, it is far cheaper per meal to cook at home. If you go out to a moderately priced chain, you are hard-pressed to find a full meal for less than $15 for dinner. Then add in tip, time, and gas money to get there. If you go out to a nicer restaurant or a place with a prixe-fixe menu, you are probably looking more into the $50 per person range. Restaurants know people want a special experience for Valentine’s Day, and take advantage by making fancy looking and sounding menus and tripling the prices.

Why not have just as special a meal, in a quiet place where you can actually hear each other talk, with no rush because the place wants to turn over your table? That’s right, I’m talking about your home!

Oh, and yes, you do have to do your dishes unlike at a restaurant. But you know what? That can be part of the experience if you know your dining partner well. Make it into an assembly line as you wash and dry together, laughing and maybe splashing each other throughout. Or tag-team dishwasher loading, then curl up on the couch with a good movie while it runs. You can make even chores fun if you try!

 

And now for the potential menu!

Below are a wide range of recipes, each will take you less than an hour, and I specialize in recipes that are affordable and simple. You won’t find more than 10 ingredients, and most of them you likely already have on hand.

Choose a few things that you know how to make, or know you will enjoy eating, and make some magic happen.

 

Appetizers – having multiple courses helps spread the meal out, giving you time to talk to your dining partner and bond. Appetizers don’t have to be complicated, give one of these a try.

Main course – even if you think you can’t cook, you should give it a try! Start with something very simple, and give it a test run today. Then you may find some ways to tweak it or make it better or easier. Or just jump in with both feet, what’s the worst that can happen, you order a pizza later?

Dessert – everyone loves dessert! You could even make your entire meal just a dessert buffet! But I’d recommend choosing just one thing you feel you can make, then sprinkle in an extra cup or two of love, and enjoy it.

Drinks – for adults and under-agers alike, a special drink makes a memorable addition to a special meal. You don’t have to get crazy with dozens of ingredients and multiple steps. Even something as simple as adding thinly sliced citrus to a glass of water can elevate the everyday to the special day.

 

Freezer Smoothie Packs

 

We all know mom always said breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  But we all know that sometimes it is the hardest meal of the day. It’s too early, we don’t have time, we can’t think of anything that sounds good, you don’t want to cook… the list of excuses goes on and on.

It’s hard to come up with something that is tasty, healthy, and also can be made in the 5 minutes you have before you rush out the door for the day.

Don’t worry dear reader, I’ve got your back.

Smoothie packs ready for the freezer

Enter: the freezer smoothie pack.

Just a few minutes of prep ahead of time on a weekend and you can have a whole week’s worth of healthy, on-the-go breakfasts ready and waiting in your freezer. These little bags are such a simple yet brilliant answer to the morning breakfast rush. And boy, are they customizable! All you really need is a good handful of greens, a fruit or two or three, and some baggies.

In the morning, just grab one bag, toss it in the blender with enough liquid (milk, almond milk, coconut water, tea, juice, whatever you like), blend and go. And if you have the kind of blender that makes single servings and you drink right out of it, your morning could not BE any simpler!

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For each smoothie pack, you will need:

  • 1 medium zip-top baggie
  • 1/2 – 1 cup greens (spinach, beet greens, kale, collards, etc)
  • 1/2 – 1 banana
  • 1/2 – 1 cup chopped other fruits

You can try just about anything in these freezer bags. It makes a great answer to almost-mushy fruits in the fridge, halves of things left over, and whatever fruits are in season and on sale. I used peaches, pears, bananas, local blueberries, and avocado. I also had half a pineapple and some beet greens from my garden, so I tossed those into a few bags as well.

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Step 1: Wash, peel, and cut up your fruits as needed. You can also slice your greens into smaller pieces to make blending easier.

Smoothie pack and blender

Step 2: Toss your baggies into the freezer. That’s it! When you are ready for a super quick healthy breakfast (or lunch, or snack, or dessert…) pour the contents of the bag into a blender, and add your liquid of choice. I like green tea for a gentle caffeine kick, or almond milk for some creamy smoothness.

Enjoy!

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