Category Archives: Informative

Restaurant Review: The Cowfish, Raleigh NC

 

How often do you have the “what do you want for dinner?” conversation? Whether with friends or a significant other, it can be fraught with peril. Someone wants pizza, someone else is in the mood for burgers, I desperately want sushi, meanwhile this other guy is gluten-free and she’s vegetarian.

What to do?!

The Cowfish in Raleigh has struck a whimsical compromise: they offer not only both burgers and sushi, but also a menu full of confusing, creative fusion they call “burgooshi”. Now the fish eaters and the cow eaters can all be happy and fed together.

Obviously, as a sushi-aholic married to a die-hard beef lover, I knew as soon as I heard of this magical place that we must go there. I could literally eat sushi every other day and be happy about it, but my Mr tolerates it just often enough so that I don’t die from sushi deprivation. This seemed like a perfect compromise.

And The Cowfish did not disappoint! We went to the Raleigh location, one of four current locations (Charlotte, NC, Atlanta, GA, and Orlando, FL are the other two, with plans for future expansion. If you’re lucky enough to be near one do stop by and let me know what you think!). They had a nice outdoor seating space decorated with lights that I’m sure add a nice touch at night, as well as cornhole boards to occupy yourself while waiting to be seated.

We were smart, and showed up around 4pm, missing the lunch crowd and long before the Saturday dinner rush. Though as soon as we walked in, we noticed it was still pretty full with couples and groups sitting about, enjoying the wide array of music and goofy decor.

Impossible to miss, a gigantic fish tank shaped like a cocktail glass dominates the center of the spacious open dining room. All manner of brightly colored fish swim around, oblivious to their cousins being devoured nearby. And the walls are lined with cartoony paintings that riff off of many well-known pop culture icons & symbols.

You have your choice of seating, an outdoor covered patio, inside in the open floor, at the bar, or at the sushi bar. The sushi bar comes equipped with mounted in-table touch screens, which I can only assume are for ordering another round of Cheeseburgooshi. We sat elsewhere, but maybe next time.

The menu spans a wide range of tastes. They have typical Asian appetizers like gyoza and edamame, as well as classic American options like onion rings & nachos. They also have salads and sandwiches if someone in your party is not feeling very adventurous yet. There is definitely a seafood emphasis throughout.

The burgers range from lamb and bison, to mushroom and swiss, to an Elvis inspired peanut butter/banana/bacon concoction. Sushi rolls include classics like the California and Spicy Tuna roll, as well as some specialty rolls you won’t find anywhere else. And then the crowning achievement, the “Burgushi” menu, which is a unique fusion that involves bison sushi, southern style BBQshi,  the Turfin Surfer roll, and several types of sushi sandwiches.

Possibly their most famous fusion is the “All-American Bacon Double Cheeseburgooshi”. This little gem is like a bacon double cheeseburger, but with a twist: “Seasoned Certified Angus Beef, yellow cheddar cheese, white cheddar cheese, applewood bacon, and red onion, wrapped in soy paper and potato strings then flash fried. Topped with ketchup, mustard, dill pickle and Roma tomato. Served atop Cowfish sauce. Served with house seasoned fries”

But for your first culinary journey in this magical place, the staff recommends the “Fusion specialty bento box”, because it includes a little taste of it all. You get a mini slider, your choice of a 4-piece Fusion specialty roll, and sides: spicy cucumber, edamame, and the world’s most amazing sweet potato fries.

Yeah, I said it. In a place known for burgers and sushi, the sweet potato fries were the surprise sweep, both of us absolutely inhaled them. I loved the edamame, and the cucumber, though hubby pushed both my way. I wasn’t complaining one bit.

We chose the blackened tuna roll in our bento box, which was an awesome decision if I do say so myself. Crabcake and cream cheese inside, coated in tempura and topped with seared tuna, avocado salsa, and jalapeño slices, this was probably my second favorite part of the box. I could eat a dozen of these rolls!

We also got one Fusion specialty roll to split, the Doug’s Filet Roll. It boasts avocado, kani, and cream cheese filling, but the topping is what sold it. Thin slices of seared filet mignon, with spicy mayo, scallions, and masago (fish eggs).

The steak was delicious, and a very strange taste juxtaposed with the sushi to be sure. But very satisfying.

And of course, let’s not forget the restaurant’s namesake: the Cowfish. Yep, that’s an actual thing: an adorably weird fish of which each restaurant location boasts one.

Overall, I’d rate The Cowfish:

  • Taste: 10
  • Atmosphere: 10
  • Value: 9

 

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Easy homemade corn tortillas

 

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2017, and all the adventures that await! I hope you will take some chances, try new things, and enjoy this year even more than the last one. To start off, let’s try something that sounds more intimidating that it really is, making your own homemade corn tortillas.

So, remember how I said that I had bought this thing called Maseca to make my Chorizo Tamale Pie? I read on the bag that it can make hundreds of tortillas, and of course I had to try it! The recipe is so crazy simple, I almost didn’t believe it would work. Just the flour, water, and oil? No way!

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Maseca is a kind of dehydrated corn flour, so that all you do is add water. That must be how you need a very tiny amount of it to make a very large amount of tortillas!

I would recommend trying this with a small batch at first, until you get the hang of how much water or oil you need to create the tortilla texture you want. You can make your tortillas larger, to make big ol burritos, or tiny to make hand tacos. That is the beauty of making your own.

Well, that and eating every other one hot off the griddle cause they’re so darn tasty!

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Ingredients (makes about a dozen small tortillas, or 4-5 large):

  • 1 cup maseca
  • ~1 cup warm water
  • 1 big tablespoon shortening

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Step 1: In a large bowl, mix the maseca and half the water. Mix well, using your hands is the best way. Add the shortening and mix it throughout. Add water until it reaches a doughy consistency, where it is not crumbly nor sticky.

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Step 2: Pinch off a ball about the size of a golf ball, and roll it flat using your hands or a rolling pin. Spray a pan with cooking oil, and fry over medium heat until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.

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Step 3: Flip to make sure both sides are cooked, and remove to a plate to keep warm. You can use a wet paper towel or cloth over the tortillas to keep them soft.

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These are delicious as is, right off the hot pan. Or you can store them up to a week in the refrigerator, for use as delicious tacos or tostadas! I made some chicken tacos, and ate the rest plain right off the stove. You can add a sprinkle of salt to the dough if it is too plain for your liking.

 

 

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Restaurant Review: The Saucy Crab

 

The Budget Epicurean has a new home base, y’all! We have up and moved across the country from the lovely shores of New Haven Connecticut, to the woodsy Research Triangle mecca of middle North Carolina.

Why would you do this crazy, exhausting thing you ask?

Oh so many reasons… cost of living is way lower, taxes are incredibly cheaper, the people are super nice, the traffic is less terrible, the weather is a vast improvement, the Research Triangle is nearby with oodles of tech and scientific career opportunities…   need I go on?

So yeah, we did this crazy, expensive, exhausting thing and drove 12 hours the weekend before Thanksgiving to a new house with no furniture, heat, or hot water, and promptly hosted 9 people for the holiday. Because we are crazy people and have a reputation to protect as such!

While North Carolina does have a long stretch of seafront property, one does not normally think of the interior of the state as having good seafood. At least, when I think delicious seafood, I don’t think of Duke University… So when we were out and about exploring our new home, and saw a place called “The Saucy Crab” we just had to stop in and check it out.

saucy crab map

Nestled just off of 501 next to the Rooms to Go and across from the South Square shopping center, it sits on a hill looking over the highway almost exactly halfway between Durham and Chapel Hill. Google Maps refers to it as a “quirky hangout with shellfish & beer” and that is indeed what we found.

The Saucy Crab outside

With a tan stone exterior and a dimly lit, beach themed interior, it seems to have the quirky hangout part nailed.  Since we just came from the New England area of the East Coast, it was fun to see their beach theme, complete with upside down beer buckets as lamps over the beachy picnic tables.

The Saucy Crab inside

There was a large canoe hanging from the ceiling, beer bottle lanterns and chandeliers, and more beach decor scattered throughout. There were oars, and life preservers, and wooden crabs all over the place.  The crab is obviously their chosen mascot, and they have repeated the motif throughout.

Drawings on the walls

The tables are covered with butcher paper, and there are buckets of crayons on each table to encourage creativity.  We of course took advantage of these as we waited. And if your drawing is good enough or the wait staff takes a liking to it, you might end up on the wall! There are tacked up pictures all over, mostly of various renditions of the crab but also many other talented drawings.

I wonder if mine was good enough to make it on the wall? Guess we will have to go back and find out!

Budget Epicurean crab drawing

We got lucky, and early on a Saturday we had the place to ourselves. The waiter promptly took us over to a booth towards the back, and we knew what we wanted pretty quickly.

I ordered the sturgeon basket lunch special, and my hubby got the “surf and turf” as he put it; a burger with shrimp on top, also known as the “Saucy Burger”. Their lunch specials a great, under $10 for your fried main dish of choice and it comes with slaw, hush puppies, and potato wedges (which is really what their “fries” are, just FYI.)

spicy popcorn

And guys… they bring you spicy popcorn while you wait! Instead of chips and salsa or bread sticks, this place brings you a lovely bamboo bowl of endless spicy popcorn! Beware, it does have a bit of a kick. But it is addictive for sure, and healthier than most other pre-dinner snacky options. Plus it gives your hands something to do if you aren’t feeling your creative side and don’t want to color. 🙂

The fried sturgeon lunch basket

The food came out hot and fresh in about ten minutes, super fast. Of course, like I said we were literally the only people in the place. But it was clear that it had all just been cooked to order, not pulled out of a freezer and flash fried again. The slaw was slightly sweet and just the right amount of crunch, though the cup was super itty bitty. I would have like more of it, it was so good.

The hush puppies don’t look like much, but they were delicious! The corn bread was also a little sweet, and fried perfectly. The honey butter was amazing with them too. And the breading on the sturgeon and potatoes was light and crispy, fried just right. Of course, this is not the place to go if you’re trying to eat light and healthy! But once in a while, boy what a treat! And that sweet tea, mmmmm mmmm God Bless the South!

the Saucy burger

Hubby’s burger was slightly too cooked for my liking, but he said it was awesome. The burger meat plus big juicy shrimp was a strange combination for my brain to handle, but it was tasty. He even left the lettuce on, bless his heart! And the shrimp were cooked to perfection. A big melty slice of cheddar on top brought it all together.

Their special sauce was super tasty too, it was like a thousand island dressing, but with tartar sauce added; thick and creamy and tangy. It was great for dipping the fries in honestly! He didn’t use the mustard at all, though I have a suspicion it was just knockoff regular jarred mustard so I don’t mind.

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More shots of the interior decorations, and below is a larger room in the back which seems like it can be rented out for bigger parties. They also had a stage area set up with huge speakers, so it seems like maybe they do live music sometimes? While we were there a mix of country songs was playing, which I loved but hubby wasn’t too pleased. So hopefully you enjoy country music with your seafood! I thought it was a nice blend of ocean and southern feel.

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The bathroom was red and black and yellow, which was a little arresting when you first walked in. One sink had the faucet missing too. But it was large and clean, and there was plenty of toilet paper and paper towels, which is the truly important part.

 

Overall, I’d rate The Saucy Crab:

  • Taste: 7
  • Atmosphere: 10
  • Value: 8

 

The food was good, but I’m not a huge fan of fried things. The menu is a little limited too, but that’s to be expected from a place that specializes. I’d like to go again and try their crab, since that seems to be their pride and joy.  The atmosphere is very chill and fun, this would be a great place for a big family, a group of friends, or just a place to hang out and relax.

It felt very comfortable, I’d definitely bring a big group of people here for a fun night out. And the seafood is fairly priced, with great lunch specials. I think we nailed it by being there right around opening time on a Saturday. I’m not sure how crowded it gets in the evenings, but at least it is large enough to accommodate a pretty decent crowd.

 

Have you ever been to the Saucy Crab?  What did you think?

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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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?

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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 do you pick a wedding date?

 

After a while of being engaged, and a hundred people asking “SO when’s the big day?!?” which you may or may not have artfully dodged answering, you may start to wonder “Is something wrong with me?  Why can’t I just pick a damn day?!”

Don’t worry.  It’s okay.

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.

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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?

Fall Leaves From Colorado

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.

First Spring Daffodils

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.

Cookie Table

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”?

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!”

5953002_two-cents-whats-the-wedding-invitation_cbe2c3dc_m

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?

So You Just Got Engaged… Now What?

 

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.

First date: Laser tag
Oh yes, our first date really was laser tag.

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.

Betrothed. Afianced.

Meaning… you two are going to be married!

The Lion King, 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!

Budget Epicurean's engagement ring
Don’t worry, I know exactly how lucky I am. (EXTREMELY). Yes, it’s a family heirloom.

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!

Homemade Pickled Ginger

 

If you’re a sushi fan like me, you are familiar with the paper-thin, spicy yet sweet pickled ginger sushi usually comes with.  If you want an authentic at-home sushi experience (you can even try making your own! It’s probably easier than you think), you could buy it in a jar.  Or, for far less, you can make it yourself!

Ginger is a unique and strong flavor that is unmistakable and irreplaceable.  Ginger is delicious in ale, beer, tea, stir fry… you get the picture.  A few thin slices added to steamed veggies takes dinner from “meh” to “did you get this from a restaurant?”  A few slivers of ginger elevates a cup of plain green tea to something decadent and exotic.  A few pieces or ginger juice in soup adds layers of flavor and depth.  And in good times and bad, ginger ale soothes and refreshes.

ginger-1191927_960_720

Not only does ginger taste delicious, it is also known to have hosts of health promoting effects on the body.  From head to toe, ginger has seemingly magical properties to aid and ease all kinds of complaints.  From ancient times to modern homeopaths, midwives and housewives, ginger in fresh, powdered, or pill form is useful for many health purposes.  Here are just a few:

The Benefits of Ginger

  1. Anti-Nausea: Ginger is a known remedy for motion sickness, morning sickness, and any other sickness which makes you feel like you need a trash can, stat.
  2. Cold & Flu Prevention: When you or a loved one starts to feel a little under the weather, some nice ginger tea may be just what the doctor ordered. Or at least, just the thing to keep you from needing to go to the doctor. This may also help with allergies!
  3. Reduces Inflammation: Ginger is a known anti-inflammatory, and some studies show it may even be just as effective as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like aspirin & ibuprofen.
    Ginger Heart
  4. Strengthens Immunity: Ginger helps to stimulate your body’s immune system, to build up new cells and make you more able to resist microscopic invaders on a day to day basis. It also decreases bacterial infections in the stomach.
  5. Prevents Cancer: Studies have shown that chemicals present in ginger help inhibit the growth of human colorectal cancer cells.  It also induces cell death in ovarian cancer cells.  Who knows what else this powerful plant can do!
  6. Stimulates Appetite: If you haven’t been feeling hungry, try a piece of ginger 10-30 minutes before a meal.  Ginger can help stimulate appetite and get your digestive juices flowing.
  7. Assists Digestion/Absorption: Ginger has many healing properties all along the digestive tract, from stimulating digestive juices in the mouth, to the stomach, to the intestines.  Ginger with a meal or in tea helps you get the most out of the nutrients in the foods.

Jar of Fresh Pickled Ginger Slices

The best news of all is that it is super easy to make your own pickled ginger and have it around all the time!  Ginger keeps well in the refrigerator for a week or more, and even longer in the freezer.  But if you pickle the ginger, you can store it for months in the fridge.  All you need is a nice big chunk of ginger root, some vinegar (rice vinegar is best, but honest you can use just about any kind), and sugar.  A tiny dash of salt helps too.  This recipe makes about one pint jar worth, feel free to multiply it for larger batches, or halve it for just a single meal’s worth.

Slice of Homemade Pickled Ginger

Ingredients:

  • 1 large fresh gingerroot (about 8 oz)
  • 1 cup vinegar (rice wine or apple cider are best)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 1 – 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup water to fill jar

Sliced Ginger Root Ready to Be Pickled

Step 1: Peel the ginger using a sharp knife, butter knife, or a table spoon.  (Honest, it works!)  Using a mandoline or very sharp knife, slice the ginger as thinly as possible.  My mandoline, even on the thinnest setting, still sliced these super thick, so I won’t be eating these slices alone.  Most likely they will get diced into stir fry or a strip or two tossed into a cup of tea.

Step 2: Pour the vinegar, sugar, salt, and water into a sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Place the slices into a glass container (such as a canning jar, or clean pasta jar) and pour the hot liquid over, using a funnel if needed.  Cap it tight, and let cool overnight.

Big Piece of Pickled Ginger

And that’s all there is to it!  Put the jar in the refrigerator, and let it sit for at least 2 hours, but the longer it sits the more pickled it will become.  It also may turn pink over time, due to the enzymes in the ginger, this is nothing to be concerned about.  Use more or less sugar and salt to your tastes, or experiment with the types of vinegar.

Let me know in what recipes you use your ginger!

Homemade Pickled Ginger

Homemade Pickled Ginger

Ingredients

  • 1 large fresh ginger root (about 8 oz)
  • 1 cup vinegar (rice wine or apple cider are best)
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 1 - 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup water to fill jar

Instructions

  1. Peel the ginger using a sharp knife, butter knife, or a table spoon. (Honest, it works!) Using a mandoline or very sharp knife, slice the ginger as thinly as possible. My mandoline, even on the thinnest setting, still sliced these super thick, so I won't be eating these slices alone. Most likely they will get diced into stir fry or a strip or two tossed into a cup of tea.
  2. Pour the vinegar, sugar, salt, and water into a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Place the slices into a glass container (such as a canning jar, or clean pasta jar) and pour the hot liquid over, using a funnel if needed. Cap it tight, and let cool overnight.
  3. And that's all there is to it!
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SOURCES

Green Tea Matcha Latte

 

Now, I know matcha powder has been around in culinary circles for a long time, being used in everything from baked goods to ice cream to beverages.  And it has been around long before that in Japan as a highly antioxidant-rich drink of choice.  Matcha goes back many centuries in China and Japan, where it was first made as dehydrated and crushed bricks of tea leaves for storage and travel.  Zen Bhuddists drank this tea in a ceremony prior to afternoon meditations, and found it enabled them greater clarity and sustained energy unlike anything before.

Powdered tea was made in very small batches, such that the expense meant only royalty could enjoy it.  However, a new harvesting method soon enabled more efficient processing, and as the price became more affordable matcha became available to the public.  By the 16th century, all levels of people took part it drinking tea and tea ceremonies to some extent.  To learn more about how to make the perfect cup of matcha green tea, and for a brand review and comparison, check out this site.

Frothy green tea latte

Many claim matcha is a great replacement for coffee because it is so high in antioxidants, yet still packs quite a punch, as one teaspoon of matcha contains 70 mg of caffeine (approximately the equivalent of a half a cup of coffee, which typically contains about 160 mg).  If you make or order a “koika” or “thick tea” this is made with twice the amount of matcha powder, and thus twice the caffeine content.  A high quality matcha powder will be bright green, and smell earthy and complex.  This is a fun drink to serve up for St. Patrick’s Day, or the day after when caffeine is maybe needed…

This recipe is a very simple one, which you could easily make at home, bleary eyed first thing in the morning.  Which is great, because that is when I made it!  I chose to use vanilla flavored milk, you could also use a vanilla bean or vanilla flavoring, or try something else like mint leaves or peppermint extract.  Or you can leave your latte plain and savor the complex flavors of the matcha.  I also used one medjool date as my sweetener, try agave nectar or pure maple syrup for something different.

Ingredients for a sweetened vanilla Matcha Latte

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon quality matcha powder
  • 1 medjool date, pitted
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup almond or soy milk
  • Optional: use flavored milk, or add the seeds from one vanilla bean or 1 tsp of vanilla flavoring

Dates in boiling water

Step 1: Put the water in a small sauce pan with the cut up, pitted date and bring to a boil.  This just softens the date in order to make it blend more easily.  Pour the hot water into the blender and blend on high for 30-45 seconds.

Matcha latte in a blender

Step 2: Add the milk to the sauce pan and bring to a simmer.  Add the teaspoon of matcha to the blender.

Foamy matcha latte

Step 3: Add the hot milk, and blend together for 30-60 seconds to make it nice and frothy.  You can of course whisk it instead, purists use a bamboo whisk, but I am far too lazy for that. 😉

IMG_3401

Step 4: Pour into a mug, and enjoy!  The blender makes a light, bubbly layer on top, and enables the incorporation of the date.  It would be much harder to crush it up yourself, so if you are using a whisk you should probably use a different, liquid sweetener.  This is best enjoyed immediately, still steaming from the stove.

 

 

Green Tea Matcha Latte

Green Tea Matcha Latte

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon quality matcha powder
  • 1 medjool date, pitted
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup almond or soy milk
  • Optional: use flavored milk, or add the seeds from one vanilla bean or 1 tsp of vanilla flavoring

Instructions

  1. Put the water in a small sauce pan with the cut up, pitted date and bring to a boil. This softens the date in order to make it blend more easily.
  2. Pour the hot water into the blender and blend on high for 30-45 seconds.
  3. Add the milk to the sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Add the teaspoon of matcha to the blender.
  4. Add the hot milk, and blend together for 30-60 seconds to make it nice and frothy.
  5. Pour into a mug and enjoy!
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