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.
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!
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.
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?
Healthified Mac N Cheese – don’t tell them there’s extra nutrients and fiber! Or maybe do, and have a nice discussion about healthy eating habits.
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.
I Choose You – red velvet cupcakes with a special message for the geek you love
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.
Hello readers! As we begin a brand-new year, 2017, we tend to look back on the previous year to learn from it. We make lists of “bests” and “worsts”, and reflect on all we have or have not done. While many people feel that 2016 was a terrible year, and are worried about what 2017 will bring, there is so much to be thankful for instead.
2016 was the year in which I got married to the world’s best man and my best friend during a wonderful family and love filled week in the Smoky Mountains, traveled to Europe for the first time for an amazing once in a lifetime Mediterranean cruise, and moved across the country to my dream location and bought our very first home together! What a year!
Think back on all the memories with your friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, random strangers. Cherish all the growth you have done as a person, and accomplishments big and small. And whether you make resolutions or not, there is much to learn about how we can continue to improve, individually and as a nation.
Be curious, be kind, to others and yourself. Do small acts of kindness, without expecting recognition or reward. Make the world a better place than when you found it, and the universe will pay it back to you in happiness.
Oh, and check out the Top 10 Posts of 2016!
10. Simple sauteed power greens — this is one of my favorite simple side dishes that packs a healthy punch. I make this all the time with whatever greens I have, currently I’m obsessed with collard greens (does it have to do with moving to the south? maybe) and jalapenos.
9. Salsa Chicken Soup – a total classic, this soup is warming and filling, and when you use all canned ingredients plus a slow cooker it is a total breeze! People will think you spent hours simmering this, when in reality it takes less than 10 minutes to whip up. MMMmmm.
7. Homemade energy drink mix – while excess caffeine is not something I endorse, sometimes you just need a little kick in the pants and aren’t in the mood for coffee. Customizable to whatever flavor you prefer.
6. Frugal Last-Minute Gift Ideas — I’ve a suspicion that Christmas time always nudges this post up just enough to make the top 10! But there are also great ideas on there for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Birthdays too.
5. What are Vitamins? – Good knowledge to have in hand, I tried to clarify some common questions.
4. Ginger-Peach Slow Cooker Chicken — Slow cooker recipes are always popular, for good reason! Slow cookers are amazing, and so is this sweet, tender chicken recipe.
3. Breastfeeding: All about it – I’m honestly a bit surprised this one made the top 3, but sure. I’m glad people are at least interested in learning more! Breastfeeding is a great step for a healthy, happy baby.
2. Grapefruitcello — Popular from the start, making your own infused alcohols is a fun hobby to take up. It is way easier than you may think, don’t be scared! Try any flavor infusion you want and see what happens.
1. One-Pan Buffalo Chicken Potato Bake – This recipe definitely deserves its #1 status! It is supremely simple, surprisingly healthy, and a total crowd pleaser. I may make this again one night this week…
And there you have it, ten highlights of the blog from 2016. If you have another post that was your favorite, or one you would like to see in 2017, please post here or email me anytime! Here’s to a happy healthy epicurious New Year!
And then after maybe even a little longer, you will think, “for real though, it’s time to pick. How do I pick??” Here’s my best advice. You know that scene from Miss Congeniality?
Stan Fields: Miss Rhode Island, please describe your idea of a perfect date.
While it’s worth a chuckle, this is kind of the thing you are going for.
Start off thinking about what time of year you enjoy most. Do you love the heat and bright colors of summer? Are you a fan of pastels and spring rain? Do you love the spicy smells of autumn, or are you a hibernator who dreams of the first snowfall and lives for the magical season of Christmas?
For myself, no month or day felt right just off the bat. But I have a deep connection to and love of spring. Everything from the warm rains, to the days getting longer, to the sunshine, to the buds coming out on the trees the flowers pushing up from the dirt the animals coming out of hibernation the greening that just bursts forth one day like magic… you get the idea. I’m in love with birth and renewal and life and living things. Mostly plants.
So, “sometime in the spring” was my starting point.
From there, take into account any holidays happening that time of year. Maybe the idea of sharing your big day with Christmas seems magical, or you like the idea of reusing red and silver decor. Maybe you want a big summer bash but don’t want it ruined by random all-day-long fireworks, so avoid July 4th weekend. Whatever the case, take into account whatever celebrations your country, faith, state, town, or family enjoys.
Consider options other than the stereotypical “Saturday afternoon” (even though that is exactly what I did, which I will explain later) if you want to pinch some pennies. Vendors know that Saturdays in June are the most in-demand. Demand and supply are a vicious spiral, so expect to pay more for just about everything if you plan for say Saturday at 4 pm on June 12th than on a random Wednesday in November at noon.
You could have an earlier wedding, which leads to a brunch rather than heavy dinner. This should save you some cash on both the food (breakfast foods are cheap yo!) and the booze (I’m sure we all have a few friends & relatives who have no qualms with allllllll the Bloody Mary’s, but most people will have more restraint in the AM). Also consider a later wedding post-dinner, and just have drinks and dancing afterwards with cake and cookies.
Okay, so now you should have a relatively small list of potential dates. Different websites recommend different amounts of time to give yourself, from 6 months to 2 years. It greatly depends upon you and your situation. Are you pressed for time, such as with a move or deployment or death in the family expected or birth on the way? You will have a shorter timeline. Are you a super anal OCD-planner with a list of lists you need to make and the perfect wedding day already outlined on Pinterest? Maybe you want to take some more time to go through all your options.
I personally found that 11 months was plenty enough time for me. I had the date and place nailed down within a month or so, and the rest of the details didn’t concern me too much. I could have had a wedding planned within 3 months that I would be happy with, so I had several months in between the initial 2-month flurry and the final month-of rush where I just chilled and enjoyed life. You may be a more anxious person and need more than a year to be sure all the Ts are crossed and Is dotted. That’s fine too, you do you.
Now what? Well, just as with saying “yes” and going through with a wedding, at some point, you just take the plunge and have faith it will all work out.
Pick a date from your list or calendar that meets your criteria, and go with it. Once chosen and told to people and vendors, it gets more and more difficult to change your mind, just remember that. The only other decision that really matters besides the when is the where. But we will talk about that next week…
So how about you guys? Do you have a date that mattered to you? How did you choose the “right time”?
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.
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!”
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?
Hey readers, in case you didn’t know, I just got married yesterday! Yup, that’s right, I’m officially a M-R-S and off the market! Sorry frugal epicurious dudes. I’m in Tennessee right now, likely sleeping off a few too many celebratory glasses of wine.
But let’s start at the beginning…
I’ll tell you a story, your typical love story of guy-meets-girl and they become friends. Close friends. Like hang out every day, eat lunch together, celebrate good things, shoulder to cry on, soulmates without realizing it yet friends. Everyone around them knows before they do, that they should be together. And then finally one day, they realize it. You may relate to this.
First date. (Laser tag). First kiss. Long talks. Long walks. Dinner, lunch, breakfast. First road trip. Facebook official (gasp!). First vacation together. Meet the parents. Lots more dates and more trips and moving in together. Move together. Move again. And again. Get some dogs. And move yet again, except this time more than 1200 miles away.
Oh wait, that last part is probably just us, because we are crazy people.
Whatever your story is, whether you are high school sweethearts, aging young-at-heart geriatrics, divorcees, blind dates, met online, star crossed lovers, friends who decided to give love a shot, you now find yourself at that point of life of which romance movies, books, and songs are written: you are engaged.
So your lover has finally “popped the question” and you may or may not have a shiny object on a certain finger that rhymes with “thing”. Which, by the way, if you don’t have a ring because of finances or other reasons, that is totally fine! Don’t buy into society’s hype that it isn’t real or official if there aren’t several hundred dollars adorning your left hand. You two promising your love and planning to set a date to make it official is all that truly matters.
Depending on how public or private your engagement was, you now have a few options. Mostly, you will follow these steps:
Step 1: Decide who you want to know, and in what order
Step 2: Tell those people yourself, in person or on the phone
Step 3: Be prepared… for allllll the questions (oh and showing off that bling, if you have it!)
Step 4: Relax and Enjoy!
You need to decide how to spread your own news or social media will do it for you. Take control and tell those who matter the most first (probably mom & dad unless you want it to be held against you for all of time that they heard it from their cousin’s neighbor). Go see them in person, everyone loves a surprise visit with good news, or call them and tell them. You will probably hear mixed reviews depending on the people’s opinions of this other person, such as “About time!” or “Why did you say yes??” but almost always “Congratulations!” and “So when’s the date?!?”.
Once you have each notified the family and friends most important to you, then you can turn to social media to notify the more peripheral circles of people you know and the world at large. It is best to take several photos of the jewels involved and the two of you and decide together what ones you want to use. Ladies: don’t worry about going out for a manicure, but make sure your nails are at least clean looking. No polish at all looks just fine. Cracked nails with bloody cuticles and dirt underneath, not so fine.
Once you have notified everyone, just sit back and enjoy this time! Being engaged is a thrilling, exciting phase in life. People will try to push you into thinking ahead and immediately getting to the planning, but stand strong if that isn’t something you want right now. I strongly recommend taking at least a few days or weeks to just be together. You will have plenty of time later to plan and think and stress out. Just enjoy each other and this first/next step you are taking on the road of life together.
How about you? Are you engaged? Did you take your time or rush right into planning? Tell me all about it below!
Happy Easter everyone! I hope today is filled with family and food and cute woodland creatures, and maybe some chocolates too. But don’t get too crazy. Remember, Easter & Halloween are dentists’ favorite holidays.
I will be enjoying the day with family, having an egg hunt, dying hard boiled eggs, eating some ham, and yeah probably having more than a few pieces of candy. 🙂 (Oh, and don’t tell, but I totally want to surprise everyone with this unbelievably easy [microwave only!] carrot cake recipe and healthy cream cheese frosting! I really hope it is as delicious as it sounds.)
Enjoy the roundup below of creative, healthy ideas to make this the best Easter ever!
Happy <nearly> St. Patrick’s Day! Can you even believe it is already almost time! For me it seems like the year is flying by, as it usually does. The East Coast had a glimpse of spring and all its sunny, 60-degree glory, followed by chilly weather again. Those daydreams of warm soil, hot sunshine, and tiny green buds and leaves poking up bravely into the world are becoming closer and closer to real.
Whether you make this tonight, or use leftover potatoes and cabbage later, this is a delicious and filling meal that everyone will love, regardless of heritage.
1 head of red or green cabbage
1.5-2 pounds potatoes
1 pound ground beef
1/2 stick butter (or 1/4 cup oil of choice)
1/2 cup milk (or water, or stock)
Salt & Pepper
Optional: 1/2 an onion, diced; garlic salt
Step 1: Dice the potatoes into cubes, you can use any kind. I leave the skins on because that is where the majority of the nutrients and minerals are found, but you could peel them. Cut out the hard core of the cabbage, and shred the head or cut into thin strips.
Step 2: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add the potatoes. Simmer for at least 25-30 minutes, until soft when poked with a fork.
Step 3: In a large covered pot, add the cut up cabbage with a few tbsp water or stock (or wine, or vinegar) and heat over medium heat for 10-20 minutes, until cabbage becomes soft and translucent. If using onions, add at this time too.
Step 4: In a large pan, brown the ground beef (or chicken, or turkey, or pork). Drain off the excess fats. You can use the same pan if you remove the cabbage. Add the cooked softened cabbage back in.
Step 5: Drain the potatoes, and mash it up to your desired consistency, whether totally smooth or with chunks. Add the butter and milk (or other liquids) and mix well.
Step 6: Add the mashed potatoes to the pot with cabbage and ground beef and mix well. Season to taste with salt & pepper.
That’s all there is to it! Three classic mainstays of Irish cooking, cabbage, potatoes, and meat, together in one happy marriage. Serve with gravy if desired. If you are clever about cooking order, you can make this all in one pot too. This makes a huge amount, so be sure you have plenty of people to share it with or will eat it over time. You can of course halve or quarter the recipe as needed.
Can you believe that St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner already! This year it is on March 17th. And one of my favorite things about this time of year, though I avoid the place like the plague at all other times, is McDonald’s Shamrock Shake.
But, the facts remain that they are terrible for your health, so in an effort to swear them off I attempted my own homemade version. The recipe I used is similar to this one from SparkPeople. Now I don’t have to wait all year, or hope that the ice cream machine isn’t broken, I can have a Shamrock Shake anytime!
1/2 cup frozen Greek plain or vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup skim milk
Couple drops food coloring
Couple drops peppermint flavoring
2 tbsp honey or sugar
Step 1: In a blender, combine all ingredients.
Step 2: Blend well until smooth. Add as much green as you want.
As a kid, I was always given the choice of what cake to have for my birthday. Sometimes I’d pick chocolate, sometimes white cake, sometimes pie. And then I discovered dirt cake.
Dirt cake is aptly named, because it looks like dirt. It is essentially just chocolate pudding topped with crushed Oreo cookies. But the combination looks very much like mud and dirt, especially when the finishing touch is added: gummy worms. Trust me, kids love it! Kids of all ages. 🙂
Give it a try and see how easy to make it is. I had it as a young kid, and late into my 20s I still request it.