Category Archives: Beverage

Tamarind Margarita

 

Tamarind is one of the up and coming ingredients right now, being “discovered” by chefs and home cooks alike. And for good reason! Tamarind is sour, tart, slightly sweet, sticky, and a great “secret ingredient” in sauces, stews, drinks, and chutneys. Along with the culinary uses, it also has a whole host of health benefits.

But, what is it? A fruit, a nut, a spice?

Tamarind is the fruit of a tree, but is actually technically a legume. It grows as a long pod, sort of similar looking to a peanut. Inside the pod are the seeds, surrounded by the sticky sour pulp. This pulp can be used fresh, but most often it is dried and turned into a paste, which makes it even more potent. The trees grow best in tropical areas, meaning it can be found as widely dispersed as Thailand, India, Mexico, Africa, and the Mediterranean.

When I found a bag of tamarind paste at my favorite Indian spice store, I just had to have it. I don’t yet know what other tasty creations I will make, but I knew as soon as I saw a Tamarind Margarita recipe that would be my first experiment!

Y’all know I love me a margarita, whether mixed with fruit, hot and spicy, or as a two-for-one lower calorie fizzy drink.

tamarind margarita

Given that all the hype about tamarind is that it is sweet yet sour, a margarita seems like a natural pairing. I could use tamarind paste rather than the usual “sour mix”, which to be honest I have less than no idea what the ingredients are! I love swaps where I can use real food items that I can see and pronounce over a bottled chemical alternative. Even when the end purpose is not super healthy… but I digress.

We all have our vices, no? 😉

I did learn one important lesson about tamarind paste: this stuff is thick! It is very viscous, and not easy to dissolve in ice cold water. So after I made the first one, where I put ice in the shaker, and had to shake for what felt like half an hour, I learned my lesson.

On the second one I did not add ice, until after it had already been shaken and poured. So take note, ice cold water = paste staying paste and not dissolving!

This makes one pretty strong 4-ounce margarita, and is easy to double or triple. I used bacon rim salt because the internet said smoky flavors pair well with tamarind, and I truly agree! The boy, however, hated it and said he preferred just the drink alone. He wiped off all the salt. So, you do you, you’ve been warned.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 ounces silver or gold tequila
  • 1 ounce lime juice (or lemon if you don’t have lime)
  • 1 generous teaspoon tamarind paste
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • Optional: rim salt or sugar, ice to fill your glass

tamarind margarita

Step 1: Mix all ingredients in a shaker, and shake well. You can also pour it right into a glass and mix it with a spoon, but using the shaker makes me feel like a bartender. Plus mine has cute recipes on the side.

tamarind margarita

Step 2: If using rim salt (or sugar!), put some lemon or lime juice on a shallow dish. Rub the glass in the liquid, then dip into your salt or sugar, and gently shake off the excess. Fill with ice, and pour the margarita over.

tamarind margarita

Step 3: Enjoy (responsibly, please!)

tamarind margarita

If you don’t have agave, or are trying to cut out sugar, feel free to leave it out, or substitute brown sugar or stevia. But it will be quite sour and tart if you use no sweetener. You could also omit the lime juice, if the tamarind is strong enough of a flavor. It does make the drink an odd brown color but I promise it is worth the taste!

 

Restaurant Review: Morgan’s Tavern & Grill

 

In case this is your first Review, let me remind you of the rules.

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)

This is a review of a local diner in New Bern NC, called Morgan’s Tavern & Grill. We had come to historic New Bern for our anniversary knowing little about the town. After exploring the downtown Farmer’s Market, we were getting hungry. We wandered around, and just as we were about to pull out Google, we saw their adorable outdoor patio space, like a beacon in the dark.

It is made of beautiful multi-hued brick and wooden beams, and the interior is astounding. The super high cathedral ceilings and exposed brick, metal, and woodwork merge with multiple skylights and segmented dining areas to create a feeling of openness and airy comfort.

Morgan's Tavern Review

Their stated philosophy is simple: “Provide great service in a casual and comfortable atmosphere with quality ingredients.” They also say “At Morgan’s, we believe in tradition, not trends.”

The waiter was super pleasant and funny, he made us feel like we were lifelong friends. He made several suggestions based off our answers to questions about what we were looking for in our lunch. The sweet tea was hurts-your-teeth sweet, the way it should be, and I never saw the bottom of the glass long before another full one was set in front of me.

We also tried 2 of their local brews, Morgan’s Porter and Morgan’s Nut-Brown Ale. They were both splendid, smooth and crisp with no bitter hoppy after-taste (just the way I like it). Sort of dangerous, because you keep wanting more… unfortunately you can only get it there and on tap, so we couldn’t take some back to our airbnb.

Morgan's Tavern Review

Before anything else, your table gets a plate of fresh-from-the-oven flaky croissants drizzled with honey butter. These things were so light and buttery, we inhaled them in seconds flat. And wished we had more. I’m sure they would have brought more too, but we held ourselves in check, waiting for the good stuff to come.

We also decided to try the Lobster bisque as an appetizer, because we were at the coast, after all. It was light and creamy, and not at all ‘fishy’ tasting. There were some pretty good chunks of lobster meat as well. I normally don’t like bisque style soups, but this is one I could have eaten a whole bowl of by myself.

Many of the menu items had creative and clever names, and it was difficult to choose because they all sounded so good! Their lunch and dinner menus are similar, though the dinner one adds more delicacies from “Sound to Sea” and “Pasture to Plate”.

The menu was clearly written by someone with a great sense of humor. It included all kinds of classics like chicken sandwiches, a Reuben, a black & bleu cheeseburger. But they also have such offerings as portobello burgers, tuna lettuce wraps, and a grilled salad for the health conscious among us.

And for those who want the opposite of healthy? Well… they get what we ordered!

*The Why Did You Do This?
Our half a pound burger on our classic kaiser roll but this time
we top it with smoked bacon, melted cheddar cheese, fried onion
rings, fried cheese and roasted red pepper ranch sauce. This is
not for everyone!!!!! 12.50

Morgan's Tavern Review

This burger… was… massive! Why did we do this??

I’m glad this was mostly the boy’s responsibility to finish. I could barely get my mouth around the whole thing. The crispy fried cheese and onion rings were pretty awesome when combined with the burger and bacon, I must say. And the roasted red pepper sauce was on point.

Meanwhile, I wanted something slightly less filling.

Hot Turkey, Bacon & Raspberry
Thinly sliced roasted turkey topped with melted provolone cheese,
bacon, raspberry jam & ranch…… Sounds strange but it works. Your choice of sourdough or wheat berry.
Served with your choice of side item. 8.50

Morgan's Tavern Review

This sandwich sounded like Thanksgiving on a plate, and it was essentially that. The sweet jam and the salty bacon was an awesome combination. And the fries were seasoned with something slightly spicy which we both enjoyed. It was more than enough, I ended up eating half and taking the rest to go.

They also have a cart with all their desserts on it sitting in the aisle so you can’t help but walk past it once or twice. When I saw something molten and chocolatey I knew I wasn’t leaving without it! So even though we were stuffed by now, we went all in and ordered the molten lava cake with ice cream!

Morgan's Tavern Review

It was ooey gooey amazingness drizzled with even more chocolate and caramel sauce and I was in heaven! Pretty sure between that and the four glasses of sweet tea I’ve doubled my diabetes risk but what can I say… worth it.

All the food was amazing, the service was great, and the atmosphere was relaxed and comfortable. We would definitely come back here again if we lived nearby to try more of the menu offerings. Overall I’d rate Morgan’s:

  • Taste: 9.5
  • Atmosphere: 9
  • Value: 8.5

 

Want more? Check out the Reviews page!

Weekly Eating – 7/09/18

 

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

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

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

 

Gosh, it feels good to be back y’all!

This summer has been a lil crazy, and we haven’t been great about meal planning with being gone or hosting family pretty much every weekend. But that’s ok, sometimes life is like that.

Over the weekend I made a huge ol pork roast and a big batch of ground turkey, because the boy was sad about how long it had been since we had burritos. So… lots of meat in the fridge. He was pleased. I also made a giant crock pot full of black beans which became my best black bean soup and black bean burgers.

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan

While my sister was in town last weekend, we also went shopping and picked up a ginormous box of honey cheerios on sale, because she has discovered that she has a gluten, soy, and corn intolerances. As you can imagine, that significantly limits ones food choices. Turns out cheerios is one cereal that has no HFCS or soy or wheat in it.

And, we also made a batch of macarons! Because almond flour is just fine. And I’ve always wanted to make them! They turned out pretty darn good looking too. I added a few fresh strawberries to the filling and we put cocoa in the batter for some chocolate strawberry flavors going on. Delish.

Oh I also got a big-a$$ watermelon, and turned it into all kinds of goodies! I pickled a big batch of rinds for a Food Swap next week, we ate tons of it fresh, it became a watermelon-feta-mint salad, and several smoothies.

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan

Monday:

Breakfast – Honey cheerios + a banana + soymilk

Lunch – Black bean soup!

Dinner – Enchilada casserole. This used up some small corn tortillas, black and pinto beans, pulled pork, corn, and tomatoes. Topped with pickled jalapenos, cheddar, guac, and salsa. SO DANG GOOD.

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan

Snack – a macaron

Tuesday:

Breakfast – same cereal, bc I’m boring!

Lunch – leftover enchilada and a salad that happened to match the skirt I was wearing that day, haha

Dinner – portobello stir fry

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan

Wednesday:

Breakfast – smoothie with watermelon, pineapple, frozen blueberries, blueberry kefir, and greens

Lunch – leftover stir fry, and a Greek salad

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan

Dinner – Leftovers! We are going out of town again for the weekend, so I’m busy using up or freezing all the perishables

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan

Thursday:

Breakfast – smoothie with watermelon, pineapple, frozen blueberries, blueberry kefir, and amla powder

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan

Lunch – uhhh it was a bit of a crazy day, so I didn’t get a lunch per se. I did sneak a maple bacon donut that was brought in to work. #noregrets

Snack – a cranberry yogurt

Dinner –we were tired of all the leftovers, so we decided on a spontaneous date night to AYCE sushi at RocknRolls!!

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan
In case it was unclear, I REALLY love salmon sushi. Also I ate three teenage boys next to us under the table!

Friday:

Breakfast – I finally successfully used up all the watermelon, so today’s smoothie was frozen blueberries and cherries, pineapple and flaxseed powder

Lunch – Black beans & rice

Dinner – whatever we can scrounge up before heading to the airport. Everything else will get frozen while we’re gone.

The Weekend

We had a death in the family, so we are out of town for the weekend. It will definitely be interesting seeing how expensive and wasteful traveling is. I am going to try to plan ahead and pack at least some nuts or trail mix to take so I don’t give into temptation to buy things at the airport.

Y’all are in for something BIG on Monday, so stay tuned!

Food Total: $5.92

All the major expenses happened last week or earlier, so I’m not counting them for this week. When we return though I’ll have to do a stock up trip. If you really want me to fess up, that pic at the top was an ALDI stock up last week that cost us $68.79.

The only things purchased were on a whim, a stop-in at Walmart on my way to work. I desperately needed Ibuprofen (one to keep in my car) and some cold sore medication (BOO cold sores, the worst) and while there I grabbed some bananas and avocados.

Luckily, I remembered to grab one of my reusable canvas bags from the car! So no plastic bag, yay!

Lessons Learned

So, the boy actually eat way less meat than I think he does. Especially now as I am borderline vegetarian and am not very helpful in eating it. And I think… that… I may have actually burnt him out on burritoes! I did not know that was possible. But he said he actually got tired of the ground turkey and pork (I guess that’s what happens when that is all there is to eat for lunch and dinner for a week straight…)

 

 

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

Blackberry Cherry Smoothie

 

We have Sprung forward and lost an hour of sleep but gained an hour of daylight. The first Official Day of Spring will be March 20th, but you can enjoy spring like flavors anytime with my Rainbow of Smoothies!

Depending on your mood and what color you’re feeling, you can whip up a batch of Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, or Blue. And now finally, today we bring you a nice plum Purple smoothie.

Blackberries are a very vibrant color when blended, and great for hiding all sorts of nutritious things. Keep that in mind for the future.

The deep color of blackberries and cherries comes from their anthocyanins, a super healthy antioxidant you should strive to eat daily. And with a smoothie, there is no excuse, since you literally need about 30 seconds to toss everything in the blender and press a button to have breakfast ready to go.

Oh, you can do something good for your health that is also super fast and delicious?? Sign me up!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blackberries
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cherries
  • 1/2 cup fruit juice or coconut water
  • 1/2 cup yogurt

blackberry cherry smoothie

Put all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. If using fresh berries, you can add a handful of ice for a different texture.

rainbow of smoothies

 

Congratulations, you’ve reached the end of the Rainbow! I hope you’ve found some inspiration to step up your blending game and add lots of colorful produce to your life.

 

 

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

 

Please, feel free to share your favorite smoothie recipes in the comments below!

Blueberry Pear Smoothie

 

So we are now into the “cool colors” side of the Rainbow of Smoothies, and almost to the end. We’ve covered Red, Orange, Yellow, and Green.

rainbow of smoothies

Have you tried any? Do you have a favorite yet?

Today we bring you: Blue! With blueberries, of course. I wonder if blueberries ever get tired of being the default “blue” food item? Because really, there aren’t many naturally occurring blue foods.

When I was searching for inspiration, I did come across something that seemed like a total trick at first, called Blue Majik spirulina powder. But nope, it is forreal, there are actually blue pigmented algae that you can buy as a supplement to make Pinterest-worthy smoothies and smoothie bowls.

But, in the interest of keeping the recipe simple and within budget, the much more common and often on sale this time of year fruit is the way to go.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 whole fresh pear
  • 1 cup coconut water or milk
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • Optional: Dash of lime juice

blueberry pear smoothie

Blend all ingredients in a blender on high until smooth. Frozen berries will create a thick smoothie, fresh will be a bit thinner. If using fresh, you can add a handful of ice for similar texture.

blueberry pear smoothie

 

 

 

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

Kiwi Pineapple Green Smoothie

So we all know that Green Smoothies are all the rage in nutrition circles, and it is even expanding to the general population. And for good reason! Greens are easily one of the top healthiest, most nutritious food groups on the planet. They are great for your bones, brain, heart, gut, blood, hair, skin… etc.

But it seems like kind of a lot to eat four to six cups of leafy greens every single day. Like, a girl can only have so many salads.

But, it is super easy to drink a cup of greens every day!

Enter the green drink. Just tossing a handful of spinach into a smoothie instantly elevates it from ‘laziest breakfast ever’ to ‘I’m a nutritional goddess’.

rainbow of smoothies

In keeping with my Rainbow of Smoothie series, I had to come up with a green smoothie that really knocked it out of the park. With a little experimentation, I finally hit upon what is now my absolute new favorite green drink!

Kiwi Pineapple Green Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 2 peeled kiwi fruits
  • 1/2 cup fresh, frozen, or canned pineapple
  • 1 cup coconut water or milk
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1/2 banana

Kiwi Pineapple Green Smoothie

Put all ingredients into blender, and blend until smooth!

The kiwi and pineapple make this drink super tropical and tangy, I totally love it. If you don’t have coconut milk or water, you can use any type of plant milk, or plain old water to make it the right texture.

You can also add a handful of ice cubes for a slushier smoothie.

 

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

Coco Mango Turmeric Smoothie

 

In my post series this month, a Rainbow of Smoothies, I’ve already covered Red and Orange. So of course you know what’s next!

rainbow of smoothies

YELLOW!

I just love yellow, it’s such a sunny, bright, happy color.

Coco Mango Turmeric Smoothie

And many of my favorite fruits are yellow: bananas, mango, pineapples. Wait a minute, wouldn’t those taste great together??

Why, yes. Yes they do.

Coco Mango Turmeric Smoothie

With some creaminess from yogurt, and a nice big antioxidant kick from turmeric, you’d never know this smoothie isn’t a dessert. Well. Why not, it sure could be.

Coco Mango Turmeric Smoothie
Please forgive my icky chipped nails…

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen mango and pineapple (use ice if not frozen)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder or 1/2 inch fresh grated turmeric root

Coco Mango Turmeric Smoothie

Blend all together, until smooth. Dust with extra powder and top with frozen mango chunks. Enjoy your tropical bliss!

 

 

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

Peaches & Cream Smoothie

 

Welcome back for round 2 of my Rainbow of Smoothies!

I hope you enjoyed the Red Raspberry Smoothie, and are ready for more! Today I’ve got the representative for Orange: Peaches and Cream Smoothie. I adore peaches, especially pick your own at the height of ripeness. So soft, juicy, and sweet, no fruit is quite the same as a fresh peach.

The good news is, you don’t have to wait until peach season to enjoy this treat! You can certainly use fresh peaches, but frozen, or even canned, will work just as well.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almond or soy milk
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peaches
  • 1/2 banana
  • Optional: 1/2 cup roasted sweet potato or carrots*, pinch of ginger or cinnamon, 1 tbsp honey or agave, shredded coconut

peaches and cream smoothie

Step 1: Combine all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth.

peaches and cream smoothie

Optional topping suggestions: shredded coconut, chia seeds, more peach slices, cinnamon, crushed graham crackers, orange zest.

*If you add a small roasted sweet potato or carrot, it will deepen the orange color, as well as add a punch of Vitamin A and fiber, plus a serving of veggies!

 

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

Red Raspberry Smoothie

 

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

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

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

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

rainbow of smoothies

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

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

Ingredients:

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

red raspberry smoothie

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

red raspberry smoothie

 

 

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

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?