Category Archives: Holidays

Recipes specifically for or about any American holiday

Happy Easter!

 

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!

 

Natural Easter Egg Dyes from Rodale’s Organic Life

natural easter egg dye

How to Make Vibrant Naturally Dyed Eggs

50 Non-Candy Egg Stuffer Ideas

40 more Non-Candy Ideas

40 Egg-cellent Non-Candy Easter Egg Fillers

No One Will Guess These Easter Brunch Recipes Are Healthy

Easter Brunch

If they're going to be on your Easter table, they should totally look pretty. Get the recipe from Delish.

And of course, we can’t forget the CANDY!

50 Homemade Easter Candy Recipes

50 Homemade Easter Candy Recipes

15 Healthy Easter Desserts

 

 

Image at the top of page from HERE.

Irish Colcannon

 

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.

Colcannon Ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 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

Cabbage & Potatoes

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.

Boiling potatoes

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.

Steaming cabbage

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.

Ground beef and cabbage

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.

Mashing potatoes

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.

Mashed potatoes and cabbage

Step 6: Add the mashed potatoes to the pot with cabbage and ground beef and mix well.  Season to taste with salt & pepper.

Irish Colcannon in pot

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.

Homemade Shamrock Shake

 

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.

Yes, I know they are horrible for you, and probably don’t even contain dairy but “sugar infused plastic“, but damn are they delicious.  And it only happens once a year…

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!

Ingredients:

  • 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.

Step 3: Pour into a glass and enjoy!

 

Birthday Dirt Cake

 

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.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 packs chocolate pudding (or homemade)
  • 12 or so Oreo-style cookies
  • Optional: gummy worms

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Step 1: Make the pudding according to directions (or if you’re ambitious, make it from scratch) and chill.

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Step 2: Put the cookies in a sealable plastic bag, and crush with a rolling pin or your fist.

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Step 3: Top the pudding with the crushed cookies.  If you wish, add gummy worms, or other candies to decorate.  Enjoy!

 

 

Welcome to 2016!

 

Happy New Year dear readers!

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

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

HEALTH

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

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

What steps can you take to improve this year?

FINANCES

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

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

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

RELATIONSHIPS

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

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

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

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

 

My 2016 Resolution?

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

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

This challenge has several purposes:

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

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

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

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

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

Wish me luck!

 

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

 

Merry Christmas & Happy New Years!

 

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

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

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

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

General Christmas/Holiday articles:

Christmas Cooking & Baking:

Gift Ideas & DIYs:

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

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

Merry Christmas dear readers! See you in 2016!

Gift Idea: Altoids Survival Tin

 

With Christmas mere days away, the panic of gift-giving may be setting in.  It is unfortunate that a holiday meant to be about love and family and reflection has instead become a race through the mall and price-comparing online… but I digress.

For anyone who has a friend or family member who is “that guy” (or girl), you know the one, super hard to buy for, they have everything they already want, or they don’t really want anything, I have a solution that will make both them and you happy!

The Altoids survival tin.

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That’s right folks, a harmless little $1 or $2 tin of mints can be transformed into an actually useful, potentially even lifesaving gift with just a little time and creativity.  Based on what you already have laying around your own house, it may even end up being a free gift!

And it will certainly be unique.  (Unless your giftee is a hard-core preparedness and/or survival expert, then they probably have a few dozen kits like this, and much fancier. But it is still the thought that counts, and I’m sure they are never mad about extra prepper gear!). You can get kids involved too, they love to come up with fun ideas for tiny, useful items, and tetris things together until they fit.  It becomes a game of how much can you stuff into this tiny box!

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For these kits, all you need is a small Altoids tin (or any other small, sealable metal tin) and an assortment of survival related items. There are infinite sites around the internet with suggestions and recommendations on what to add to these kits, ranging from meds to tarps to fire starting equipment.  Some even show youtube videos on how to turn the tin itself into a knife or saw, which you should only attempt if you are educated on how to use the tools to do so.

It is best to take into consideration the personality of the person you are creating this kit for, and the likely scenarios in which they could need this.  It could be a beauty emergency kit for a female friend, in which case you would want to include things like hair bands, bobby pins, safety pins, oil blotting papers, Q tips, and maybe tiny samples of makeup or makeup remover pads.  It could be a “Bad Day” emergency kit, and contain things like a mini bottle of wine, pieces of chocolate, and uplifting sayings on pretty paper.

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For the preparedness/emergency kit, you want to include things like pain medications, matches and candles, ways to collect or purify water, and items that have multiple uses like string.  Keep in mind that even things used to hold together other items, such as electrical or duct tape, string, or rubber bands, can themselves be useful too.

The kits shown above contain:

  • 3 matches taped together with electrical tape
  • 2 small birthday candles
  • 3 feet of string tied with a twist-tie
  • A toothpick
  • A safety pin
  • 1 antibacterial moist towelette
  • 2 Band-Aids
  • 200mg ibuprofen tablet
  • 1 ml of bleach in a sealed plastic tube
  • 1 small trash bag (to hold water to add the bleach to, or provide a tiny bit of coverage from rain or sun)
  • 1 stick of gum
  • 1 packet of lettuce seeds
  • A rubber band to hold it all together

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The beauty of this kit is that it is tiny enough to fit into a pocket, so for something as simple as a road trip or a camping trip or going to work in the city, your recipient can know that they have a small advantage should the S hit the F.  Happy gifting!

 

Have you made a survival tin like this before?  Do you have other things you would add or take out?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Shots

 

With Thanksgiving past, and Christmas looming, the flavors of fall still linger and mix with the onset of winter.  Pumpkins and gourds are in abundance.  Ginger and cinnamon scents fill the air as cookies bake, while the crunch of fallen leaves give way to pine scented boughs and trees.  And pumpkin spice flavored <insert anything here> is still king.

While you are rushing about grocery shopping, house cleaning, gift buying and wrapping, you may need a few moments to yourself amidst the chaos.  Especially if you will be hosting or staying with family (for multiple days), an adult beverage is always welcome.  With the ubiquitous pumpkin spice creamer, plus just a dash of two other players, you can whip up an amazingly delicious sugar-bomb of holiday spirit!  Careful, this stuff is so good, it’s easy to lose track of how many you’ve had!

This recipe makes enough for 4 shots, or 1 large glass over ice.  Feel free to whip them up as needed, or make a large container full and keep it in the fridge.  You know… just in case…

Pumpkin Cheesecake Shot Ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 1 shot cake flavored vodka
  • 1 shot Khalua
  • 2 ounces pumpkin spice creamer

Pumpkin and Pumpkin Cheesecake Cocktail

Combine all ingredients in a glass over ice and mix.  Strain into shot glasses, or drink as a beverage.  I just made up a double batch, and keep it in the refrigerator in the mason jar the creamer was originally.  I make my own flavored creamer occasionally; you can follow this recipe from The Nourishing Gourmet, or if you’re vegan try this one from Girl Makes Food.

 

 

Christmas Tree Appetizer Tray

 

With the holiday season come holiday parties. From friends to family reunions, cocktail hours and work gatherings, the holidays are rife with opportunity to eat things we normally wouldn’t, shouldn’t, and far more of them. You could choose to just eat yourself into a coma every week and deal with the consequences later. You could live a puritanical existence for the next few weeks, exercising iron will over all sweets and tasty delights. Or…

You could choose better options. You could nudge family, friends, and co-workers in a healthier direction. You could provide healthy yet delicious treats, so you know you will always have something healthful to enjoy at any get-together.

I know which option I choose each year.

Would you like to know the answer to one of life’s biggest questions? How can you be both happy and healthy all the time? The key to health and happiness, is moderation. Go ahead and indulge in the things that truly bring you joy, like the cookies you look forward to all year, spiral-sliced holiday ham, or your aunt’s amazing casserole. But know that means you must cut back in other areas. Don’t have every appetizer offered, three cups of eggnog, seconds and thirds at dinner, followed by an entire angel food cake roll.

And by bringing healthier options to any party or gathering, you virtually guarantee yourself at least one option that will be “safe” and you can indulge as much as you like. You are also giving everyone else at the party a healthy option they may not have considered previously.

Christmas tree healthy appetizer tray

This is an appetizer tray my mother had made for a party last year.  You will notice that it not only looks very appealing, with its holiday themed tree shape, but it also has a whole cornucopia of options from broccoli to cheeses, to olives and grape tomatoes. This would be awesome to serve with a healthful dip on the side such as Black Bean Hummus, Lean Green Guacamole, or Radish, Onion & Herb cream cheese dip.

How to create an appetizer tree:

  • 1 large head broccoli
  • 1 can black olives
  • 1 small jar green olives
  • Assorted cheese cubes
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • Handful of pretzel sticks
  • Any other dipping veggies, cut into cubes or sticks

Step 1: Dice all your veggies into bite size pieces, and cube the cheeses.  Drain the olives.

Step 2: In a large pan or on a serving platter, arrange the cheese and vegetables in layers, including at least 2 large layers of broccoli for the green color. Finish with a handful of pretzels on the bottom for the tree trunk.

You could get very creative with this, for example by including “ornaments” on the tree by using different colors of vegetables or fruits, or making different shapes.  You could use cauliflower, red bell peppers and tomatoes to create a santa hat shape, or other types of finger foods arranged to look like wrapped gifts.  Let your imagination run wild, and watch as the crowd gobbles up healthy nibbles happily!

Thanksgiving Post Roundup

 

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

And as for the food…

I am thankful for all my wonderful readers!

 

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