Category Archives: Finances

Articles concerning finances. This is the “budget” Epicurean after all.

How to: Cook Dried Beans in a Slow Cooker

 

One of my all-time-favorite money-saving appliances is the handy dandy slow cooker. It is amazing at taking tough (cheap) cuts of meats and slow cooking them to tasty perfection. It is great for making wicked frugal soups and stews. It makes dinner a breeze on crazy weeknights, keeping me from just ordering a pizza or take out. And it allows me to make staple items, like beans, for literally pennies per serving.

Beans aren’t usually listed on “top 10s” of superfoods, but I think they should be. There are so many kinds, black, pinto, navy, chickpea, green… And they are a fantastic source of protein for a very pocketbook-friendly price, I can usually find them about $1 per pound. And since beans plump when you cook them, you get much more than one pound out of that bag. If you find a good sale or buy in bulk, that price drops even lower. You can’t beat that in a can!

However, you also can’t beat the convenience of canned beans. Just sitting on a shelf, ready and waiting for a taco Tuesday or a last-minute decision to make minestrone. All you need is a can opener and you’re in business.

But you’re paying a premium for that convenience.

Someone else took the time to soak and cook dried beans ahead of time, and stick them in that can. They also may have chemicals or preservatives or flavorings or way too much sodium in the can. When you cook your own, you are in control of all these things.

So here’s the big secret: You can cook your own dried beans at home, with just a few minutes of effort, and have delicious beans ready to toss into whatever any time! For, like, a dollar!

Enter the slow cooker.

crock pot black beans with nori

Almost every Saturday, I toss a half pound or a pound of either black, navy, chickpeas, or pintos into a slow cooker with water to cover them, and let them soak overnight. Then on Sunday, I change the water and add some spices and let it simmer all day. The finished product gets canned, separated by cup into individual bags and frozen, or put in the refrigerator for use that week.

That way I have a stock of frozen beans ready at a moment’s notice, and fresh beans for recipes whenever I want! Hello, black bean and egg burritos, white chicken chili, tortilla soup, or red beans and rice anytime.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound beans
  • Water to cover
  • ~2tbsp vinegar (any kind)
  • Spices recommended: 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp fennel seed, onion, chili powder, or oregano. Choose 1-2 you like and see what happens
  • Optional: 1 strip of seaweed

Step 1: Cover your beans with water, and let soak 6 hours or overnight. Drain, and cover again. Cook on high for about 4-6 hours, or low for 8-10.

Slow cooker pinto beans canned

Step 2: You can keep the cooking liquid, or discard, up to you. I usually keep it, especially when canning or freezing the beans, and then drain just before using in recipes.

The beautiful thing is that now you have this super-cheap base to use to make your own refried beans, hummus, (did you know you can make hummus with black beans too!), vegetarian burger patties, or you can can them for later. (By the way, do use a pressure canner, or keep them in the refrigerator. We don’t want botulism now do we?)

 

Slow cooker dried beans

Slow cooker dried beans

Ingredients

  • 1 pound beans
  • Water to cover
  • ~2tbsp vinegar (any kind)
  • Spices recommended: 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp fennel seed, onion, chili powder, or oregano. Choose 1-2 you like and see what happens
  • Optional: 1 strip of seaweed

Instructions

  1. Cover your beans with water, and let soak 6 hours or overnight.
  2. Drain, and cover again.
  3. Cook on high for about 4-6 hours, or low for 8-10.
  4. You can keep the cooking liquid, or discard, up to you. I usually keep it, especially when canning or freezing the beans, and then drain just before using in recipes.
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Make Ahead Egg Muffins

 

Usually, my morning routine looks something like this:

6:10 – hit snooze
6:17 – hit snooze
6:24 – finally get up, go make coffee
6:25-7:15 – enter a black hole in space and time
7:16 – realize I’m gonna be late if I don’t move it
7:17-7:20 – pack lunch, maybe breakfast
7:21-7:30 – run out the door and pray for light traffic

Now, I don’t know what your mornings are like. But if you’re anything like me, you like your sleep and don’t have time for a long and leisurely brekkie every day. And if you do, good for you! You can still use this quick-and-easy make ahead recipe and then have more time for you in the AM.

Make ahead egg muffins in muffin tin

These egg muffins are so simple, and you make a dozen at once. That way you can put 2-3 in baggies and refrigerate or freeze. Then breakfast all week is only a push of the microwave button away! You can scale up to feed a big family, or even make just one serving by mixing 2 eggs and desired ingredients in a coffee mug and microwaving. (Didn’t know that little trick? Oh yeah, it’s the best.)

You can also customize it to your taste preferences. Anything you would normally eat with or in scrambled eggs you can probably adapt to this recipe. Try sausage, or bacon, or ham. Vegetarians, this is a blank canvas! Add zucchini, shredded carrots, sweet potato, broccoli or cauliflower. And cheese is optional, but highly recommended!

Butter mushrooms and onion

Ingredients (makes 12 egg muffins):

  • baker’s dozen (13) eggs
  • 1 med onion, diced
  • 1 pint mushrooms
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 cup raw spinach
  • Optional: shredded cheese, breakfast meats, other veggies

butter and onions in pan

Step 1: In a pan over medium heat, add the butter and diced onion. Cook 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion becomes soft and see-through. Pre-heat the oven to 350, and spray a muffin tin really well with cooking oil. (Stuck, baked-on egg is the worst.)

scrambled egg and greased muffin tin

Step 2: Add the diced mushrooms, and cook another 5-7 minutes, until softened. You can add a few tbsp water or chicken stock if they seem to be sticking or burning. Just before pouring into the muffin tin, add the spinach to wilt.

scrambled egg in muffin tin and eggs

Step 3: Break all the eggs into a bowl, and whisk violently for a minute or two. Mix in the cooked onion, mushroom, and spinach. Pour into the muffin tins until 2/3 full; leave a little room because the egg will puff up as it cooks.

make ahead egg muffins with cheddar cheese

Step 4: If desired, sprinkle with shredded sharp cheddar or whatever cheese you like. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until egg is fully cooked. Watch carefully at the end so that it doesn’t brown or burn.

I’d recommend letting these cool for a few minutes, then removing to a different plate or container quickly. You don’t want the egg to set and harden in the tin. It’s so easy to whip up a batch of these on the weekend, and you can even mix up the mix ins to have tons of options every day.

As for the cost? A dozen eggs is .99 – 1.29, or 4.50 for organic cage-free. Depends greatly on what you use to mix in, but the cost for an onion (~.50), mushrooms (.99 on sale), butter (maybe .50), and spinach (~.25 for 1 cup) for me comes to about 2.25. This makes 12 muffins, and I generally eat 2 for breakfast, so 6 servings. Let’s estimate high:

4.5 + 2.25 = 6.75 / 6 = basically just barely over a dollar per day, and that’s if I use the fancy eggs! For plain jane eggs, the cost drops to maybe 50 cents for an awesome breakfast that includes protein, fats, and a serving of vegetables! I can get behind that. I hope you can too!

 

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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One Week of Meals from One Pork Roast

 

Do you ever wish you had more time?  Do you feel like you spend too much time at the grocery store, or in the kitchen, or waiting for delivery? Does you bank account look emptier because of all the ordering out you do?  Do you want an easy way to make a week’s worth of homemade meals, for less than $100, with minimal prep and cook time from one grocery trip?

I thought so. Here is your answer!

This post is created to show you how to get a week’s worth of dinners (with some leftovers for lunches too) from a single 4 pound pork roast.  All recipes easily feed 2 adults, with many recipes making much more food for leftovers and re-make meals.

By planning ahead to use one main dish all throughout the week, you can get creative and ensure that none of your food dollars get wasted by literally throwing them away. You will save time throughout the week by not having to go to the grocery store to pick up “just one or two things” and not having to worry what to make for dinner, it’s already planned out. And you can eat healthy, whole food, home cooked meals all week long!

Here is the list of recipes you will be making if you follow this plan:

As far as cooking equipment, you will need at least a frying pan, and preferably a slow cooker. You can slow cook the pork in the oven, and make the casserole in the oven as well, but that requires slightly more hands-on time from you. The full grocery list can be found at the bottom of the post, and you can go to individual recipes by clicking on the links throughout.

The first thing you’re going to need to do is assess your pantry and freezer situation.  If you have plenty of Italian dressing, some frozen mixed veggies, noodles, and plenty of spices, you’re already halfway there on this week’s grocery list. Then make your list of what you still need to make the recipes, and head to the store.

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You will need to pick up a nice pork loin roast, or other pork roast. I recommend 3-5 pounds for 2 adults for one week’s worth of meals.  You can adjust to larger or smaller sizes if feeding a larger crowd, or just one, or if you wish to double recipes or omit certain recipes this week.

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Once you have your pork roast, use a sharp knife to cut 2-4 pork chops off the end. You can also ask your butcher to do so if you go to a regular grocery store. These pork chops can be frozen for later depending on when you want to make the Italian Pork Chops.

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Once you have your chops cut, take about 1 pound off the remaining roast. This will be diced up into cubes.  You can also freeze these chunks for later, depending on when you want to make the Pork Lo Mein Stir Fry.

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As for the remainder of the roast, put that guy into your crock pot.  This is gonna become one delicious, fall-apart pot of BBQ Pulled Pork. If you’re game, add a sliced onion and a can of beer, then cook on low for 8-10 hours or high at least 4 hours.

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Shred the pork roast with two forks.  I recommend removing half of the meat to a container in the refrigerator, and adding 1 cup BBQ sauce to the rest and cooking another hour on low.

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Now you have about a pound each of plain pulled pork and BBQ pulled pork! Plus 2-4 chops, and a pound of diced pork in the freezer. And that’s after less than an hour total of hands-on prep time.

Now you can use the shredded plain or BBQ pork for:

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Pulled Pork Burritoes (above) or Quesadillas:

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And slow cooker pork and rice and broccoli casserole:

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And the diced pork chunks for a delicious homemade lo mein:

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And the best part is, you can choose when to make these recipes and in what order, because the pork chops, diced pork, and shredded cooked pork all freeze very well. You can turn these into breakfast and lunch too, pulled pork omelettes are great, as are BBQ pulled pork sandwiches on nice thick buns.  Enjoy!

 

Full Grocery List

  • 1 4-5 pound pork roast
  • 1 cup Italian dressing
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • Frozen or fresh vegetables of your choice
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce (or more, to taste)
  • 1 package tortillas
  • ~1 cup white or brown rice
  • 1 can beans (black or pinto)
  • 1 package lo mein noodles
  • Soy sauce
  • Shredded cheese
  • Fresh or frozen broccoli
  • 1 cup milk (optional)
  • Burrito toppings – sour cream, guac, salsa, etc.

And seriously, that’s it! I guarantee you can buy all of these items for under $100 (at least everywhere I’ve lived from Colorado to Connecticut).

 

Also, if you’ve read this far and you’re curious, I also have a post explaining all the cuts of a pig. So next time you go to the store, you can know the difference between a rump roast, shoulder roast, and a loin. 🙂

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Slow Cooker Pork and Broccoli Rice Casserole

 

Sometimes, you just can’t. Can’t even. Can’t even think about running to the store, slaving over a hot stove, balancing a meal or a checkbook.

But your tummy is growling, your spouse is complaining, your kids are whining, your friends are coming over for dinner.

Enter the slow cooker.

It is a savior for anyone rushed for time (and who isn’t??) or tight on cash (can I get an AMEN!) or doesn’t love to cook (can’t say I feel it all the time, but there are days…) or lives alone, or feeds a family of ten, or… you get my point. I flipping love the things.

You can get a tiny 2 or 3 quart slow cooker for single or double cooking. You can get a giant 8 or 10 quart workhorse for crowds and big appetites, you can get multiple crocks in one base for buffet style hands off cooking. I kinda want one of those now… The point is, if you don’t have one you should get one!

This recipe is super simple, a classic favorite I pull out time and again.  I used pulled pork here because that is what I built into this week’s meal plan, but you could just as easily use shredded chicken, steak, tofu, etc.

Slow Cooker Pork and Broccoli Rice Casserole

It involves items I nearly always have around the house, including frozen veggies and brown rice.  Feel free to use white rice, or wild rice, or even crazy things like quinoa or couscous instead. You can also substitute any other frozen veggie you are partial to if broccoli just doesn’t do it for ya.  And if you’re feeling extra crazy and decadent, use milk instead of water, and toss on some shredded cheese at the end, just before serving.

Slow Cooker Pork and Broccoli Rice Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup shredded cooked pork
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 1/2 cups milk / water / broth
  • 2 cups frozen broccoli (or veggie of choice)

Optional: shredded cheese

Slow Cooker Pork and Broccoli Rice Casserole

Step 1: Put all the ingredients in the slow cooker.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or more, or high for at least 2 hours (to thaw the veggies).  Alternatively, you could put this in a baking pan and bake at 350 for 2 hours (1 if you use fresh and not frozen veg).

 

 

What are your favorite slow cooker meals??

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Chocolate peanut butter banana oatmeal

 

Are you looking for a super quick breakfast recipe?  A breakfast that takes less than 5 minutes to make, is packed full of protein, and costs less than $1?  Can I get a HEALTH YEAH!

Oatmeal is one of my favorite breakfast staples, for so many reasons.  Oats are full of fiber to keep you full all day, so you don’t get the early afternoon munchies.  Oats also contain several micronutrients such as manganese, selenium, phosphorus, fiber, magnesium, and zinc.

And, not to mention, oats are dirt cheap!  You can get a huge tub for like $5.  Talk about affordable meals.  Oh, and if you get the quick-cook kind, you just need a minute or two in the microwave and bam, you’re ready for the day.

All you have to do is keep these ingredients around the house, and you can whip up a super healthy breakfast for under a dollar in under 5 minutes.  No more excuses for having just coffee in the morning, you can fill your belly all morning long with healthy whole foods with the push of a microwave button. You can even blend all the ingredients for a thick breakfast smoothie instead.

Cocoa PB Banana Oatmeal

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 large banana
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup milk and/or water

Chocolate peanut butter banana oatmeal

Step 1: Cut or mash the banana in a bowl.  Add the oats and cocoa powder (more if you really want it chocolatey!), and then add the water and/or milk.  Add slightly more or less depending on the consistency you want.

Peanut butter banana oatmeal

Step 2: Microwave for 1 – 2 minutes, give it a good stir.  Add more liquid if needed, or another sprinkle of cocoa on top.  Breathe in the delicious cocoa smells, and dig in!

This is almost Elvis worthy.  All it’s missing is some bacon to be a breakfast fit for the King.  But that seems like a little bit too far… but if you want to try it out, rock it.  And let me know how it goes!

Peanut butter banana oatmeal

Peanut butter banana oatmeal

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 large banana
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup milk and/or water

Instructions

  1. Cut or mash the banana in a bowl. Add the oats and cocoa powder (more if you really want it chocolatey!), and then add the water and/or milk. Add slightly more or less depending on the consistency you want.
  2. Microwave for 1 - 2 minutes, give it a good stir. Add more liquid if needed, or another sprinkle of cocoa on top.
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http://www.budgetepicurean.com/less-than-5/peanut-butter-banana-oatmeal/

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Quick & Easy “Cheater” Pad Thai + Peanut Sauce

 

Sometimes you just want something different, but also cheap, and sorta healthy. Oh, and really easy to make. Sounds like so many recipes you know right? If you’re laughing like I was while writing that, you’re in the right place. Finding recipes that hit the “sweet spot” of the trifecta: price, time, health, is a tall order.

Luckily, this recipe is one of them!

Pad Thai is probably the most famous dish outside of Thailand, and for good reason. Thailand is snack in the middle of the indochina peninsula, with a tropical climate and a lot of ocean front property. (Which comes with a lot of hurricanes and water damage, so don’t jump on that time share just yet…) This warm climate and water access combines to create a very healthy ethnic cuisine based around coconut, fish, rice, chilies, tons of spices, and tropical fruits like lemons and limes.

Authentic Pad Thai involves homemade rice noodles, hours of stewing and many ingredients common on the mainland but sometimes difficult to find and/or pricey elsewhere. This recipe is for the “cheater” who loves the flavors of Thai but doesn’t want to shell out for take-out, or spend hours in the kitchen.

You can expand this recipe to include other protein sources like tofu, chicken, or shrimp. You can also add any fresh herbs like mint or cilantro or basil, or change up the vegetables to ones that you like. You can add chilies or Thai chili paste or Sriracha to get to your preferred level of spice.

This recipe is the simplest you can make it, multiply the ingredients by the number of people you want to feed. You can easily cook for one, or for twenty. Take this bare bones recipe, try it once or twice until you’re comfortable, then make it your own! And tell me all about it in the comments.

Pad Thai with Peanut Sauce

Ingredients (per person):

  • 1/4 package rice or soba noodles (or linguini)
  • 1/4 small cabbage, shredded
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1 egg, scrambled or not
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter (or other nut butter)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce and/or fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp lime juice or vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil / coconut oil
  • Optional: green onion, cilantro, sriracha, chopped cilantro, chilie slices, crushed peanuts, bean sprouts

Pad Thai with Peanut Sauce and Egg

Step 1: Cook the noodles according to the package, rinse and drain and set aside.

Pad Thai with Peanut Sauce

Step 2: Shred the carrot and cabbage, and add to a frying pan with a tbsp olive oil and/or stock. Cover and cook on low for 10-15 minutes, until cabbage is wilted and opaque.

Pad Thai with Peanut Sauce

Step 3: In a bowl, mix the peanut butter, soy sauce, and lime juice. Cook the egg as you like, whether you want it scrambled or with the yolk still dippy.

Step 4: Put some noodles on a plate, add a scoop of cooked veggies, and drizzle with the sauce. If you like, add optional toppings, and your egg. Enjoy!

Quick & Easy “Cheater” Pad Thai + Peanut Sauce

Quick & Easy “Cheater” Pad Thai + Peanut Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/4 package rice or soba noodles (or linguini)
  • 1/4 small cabbage, shredded
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1 egg, scrambled or not
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter (or other nut butter)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce and/or fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp lime juice or vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil / coconut oil
  • Optional: green onion, cilantro, sriracha, chopped cilantro, chilie slices, crushed peanuts, bean sprouts

Instructions

  1. Cook the noodles according to the package, rinse and drain and set aside.
  2. Shred the carrot and cabbage, and add to a frying pan with a tbsp olive oil and/or stock. Cover and cook on low for 10-15 minutes, until cabbage is wilted and opaque.
  3. In a bowl, mix the peanut butter, soy sauce, and lime juice. Cook the egg as you like, whether you want it scrambled or with the yolk still dippy.
  4. Put some noodles on a plate, add a scoop of cooked veggies, and drizzle with the sauce. If you like, add optional toppings, and your egg. Enjoy!
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How do you pick a wedding location?

 

Just like when you are picking your wedding date, choosing a location should be something that you think about but not too hard, and in the end it just feels right.

People vary wildly in their ideas of the “ideal” wedding place, so you should first talk to the other party involved. Do one of you have a church you grew up in, that your parents were married in, that you just have to also get married in? Now is a good time to go over that. If you have always dreamed of a destination wedding on a sandy white beach, bring that up. Give yourselves some time and space to talk it out with no judgment (no, “oh my God, no way are we getting married in that old dump of a church!” or “How stupid, who wants to be married in a dusty barn!??” or “We could never afford Wai Ki-Ki are you crazy??”).

snowy church

Be sure to also discuss all the elements of the location that may end up being important to you. Some suggestions (but by no means a comprehensive list):

  • Is there availability at your desired time?
  • Does the location offer wedding planning or services?
  • Are there hotels nearby for guests to stay in?
  • What is the weather like in the time of year you’re considering?
  • Will the location hold the amount of people you envision?
  • Do you need to account for things like chair or tent rental?
  • Where will you have the ceremony and the reception? Same place? Two places? How far apart are they?
  • Do you want a church?
  • Do you want it to be outdoors?
  • Do you want decorations of a specific type?
  • Will there be dancing? If so can you set up sound/dance floor?
  • Can you bring your own vendors?
  • Do you need any licenses/permits?
  • Is there a deposit or location fee?

http://www.triphobo.com/blog/wedding-destinations

For travel destinations, more things to consider include:

  • Do you need passports/other travel documents?
  • How will you arrange flights/trains/busses/etc?
  • Is it near where you’d like to honeymoon?
  • Is it near an airport?
  • Will you need to rent a car?
  • How many of your planned guests will likely show up?
  • What are the local laws about weddings?
  • How do you go about obtaining a marriage license?

Once you have a general idea as a couple of what you want and what you are willing to negotiate on, you can consider locations.  Think about where you live now, where you grew up, where you went to college, where your parents grew up.  For some people, this is a no brainer and they have known since childhood that a specific meaningful place would be the place they are married. For others it will not be so simple.

What matters most is to be true to yourselves as a team, a unit, your location should be somewhere you both will feel happy and at ease.  If your partner gets nauseated at the thought of crowds and attention, you should probably not plan a 400-person blow out at the biggest chapel in town and a black tie reception. If your true love cannot stand sand in their hair or clothes, sorry but a beach wedding should be crossed off the potentials list.

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If you get stuck, you can always try:

  • Asking around – you probably know tons of people who have planned or attended weddings. Ask your parents, grandparents, friends, coworkers, neighbors, the guy on the bus. Ask what weddings were memorable, in good ways and bad. Maybe they will mention something that lights a spark for you.
  • Make a list – each of you alone, make a list of places that make you happy. List random things too, like maybe you love lighthouses, or caves, or mountains, or mansions. You never know what will spark an idea. Then compare your lists and see if the light bulb comes on.
  • Google – the holder of all knowledge, Google is a wellspring of wedding location ideas. Beware here though, as wedding envy and overwhelm can easily sneak up on you as you browse front-page-worthy multi-thousands of dollars wedding settings. Always try to keep your dreams somewhat in the realm of reality.

At some point, you will narrow down your list. A few places should stand out as the most likely and most fitting.  If you are able to, definitely go visit these places. Try to get a feel for the size of the space, what their amenities are (Is there a kitchen on site or will you have to bring in all your food already prepared? Do they have bathrooms and how many? A dance floor, music and speaker system? Can you bring in any vendors you want or is there a required vendor list to work off of?).

Always remember you do not have to commit to the first or second or twelfth place you see, until it feels right.

And just as in picking the time, at some point, you pick the place. You could argue pros and cons until the day you say “I do” but trust me, as long as your betrothed is at the front of the room waiting to say it back, you won’t care very much where that happens. Point, click, and trust that it will all work out.

How to Deflect Wedding Questions

 

Alright, so you just got engaged...

And you’re already exhausted by a deluge of questions.  Why does it seem like every person on the planet needs to know RIGHT NOW what kind of flowers you’ll have, and the flavor of the cake, and which song will be playing at exactly 2:30 on the day of (which you have chosen already right?!?)

If just reading that paragraph made your heart rate double, you’re in a safe place, I understand you.  The feelz bro.

The good news is, there are no rules.

Let me say that again so it sinks in: There Are No Rules.

That’s my life motto, but also the truth.  Society, friends, and family all have ideas about what a wedding “should” be or is “supposed” to include.  But that’s a load of horse pucky (as my grandma would say). The only things a wedding “has to have” is two people in love and ready to be together forever.

Do you have that?  Then everything else is icing on the (figurative, or literal) cake.  Don’t have that?  Then all the Kardashian flower walls and billion dollar backdrops in the world won’t make you happy.

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So, you’re at a family gathering, holiday, after work happy hour, or another wedding, and the inevitable questions of your own situation arise.  Here’s a few suggestions on how to (politely) tell people to mind their own d**n business.

  • Have a prepared line: especially if you talk with your betrothed before hand, you can present a united front. Plan a phrase or two that can answer just about any question. Things such as:  “we’re taking things slow”, “We are just enjoying being engaged right now”, “we’re considering all our options before making any decisions”, or “we will let people know once we decide on anything” all work well.
  • Answer the questions with a question: when Aunt Rose says “So have you picked a date yet?” you respond with “no, but do you have any suggestions for the best season for a wedding?” or “No, when was yours?” This redirects the spotlight to the question asker and may make them realize their inquiries aren’t welcome. But be cautious, as some people will take this as an opening to blab on forever about their own weddings, so use with caution.
  • Laugh it off: depending on the audience, you can make whatever the question into a joke. When a coworker asks when the date is, you could try something like “Hopefully before I start showing!” or “as soon as we win the lottery”. Delivered in the right tone and with a smile, this lets them know that you aren’t ready to discuss details and to calm it down without being openly rude.
  • Change the subject: You can either come prepared with a few topics to discuss, or go off-the-cuff as the situation arises. Most people love talking about themselves, so if they ask you something you don’t want to answer you can always redirect back to them. “Gee Tom, I hadn’t thought about what to do for the bachelor party yet, what did you do for yours?” or “I know you want grand-kids mom, but I’m not ready to live up to your reputation as a mom yet! Remember that time you…” Getting people talking about themselves or some topic they are interested in frees you from being the center of attention.
  • Be vague but pleasant: When someone inevitably brings up their roommate who is an awesome photographer, or their cousin who is an aspiring florist, you DO NOT want to immediately commit. Things can get awkward if you agree, and it turns out you hate their work, or don’t get along, or find a better deal elsewhere. Try something like: “Email/text me the info and I’ll take a look”, “It sounds lovely, let’s talk later”, or “I’m glad <insert person who did it> enjoyed that, but we are still looking around”.
  • Be cautious and use the sandwich rule: For those who don’t know, the “sandwich rule” is the best way to deliver a criticism, you sandwich it in between two compliments, like so: “compliment, criticism, compliment”. Try something like: “We are so happy you’re interested in being involved in our wedding planning Nana, but we don’t really like orange and purple together. Can you help us out with baking cookies for our reception table though, you are such a great chef!”

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Everyone has opinions and questions, but as the classic song “Everybody’s Free” says: “Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts, and recycling it for more than it’s worth”.

Oh, and if anyone asks about how much the ring cost? Totally inappropriate, and you can brush it off with something like: “More than ten dollars, but less than a million”. You wouldn’t ask how much someone made last year, or how much is in their 401K right? Just don’t do that.

 

 

How about you, have you gotten any totally inappropriate questions? How do you handle it?