Tag Archives: summer

DIDJA MISS ME???

 

Guess what??!!??

I’m back!

(I know, you’re like, duh, I’m reading this so clearly that is true)

The boy is a magical wonderful unicorn man who fixes the things I break, bless his heart. I’d be a sad half of a whole without him. There are still evidently several hundred thousands of folders that we aren’t sure where they’re originating from, but he deleted enough that things can happen again.

I don’t know what coder magic was wrought upon this blog, but the glorious outcome is that we are back up and running!

I never thought I’d be so excited to see a spinny wheel of update. That little round and round arrow meant my site could create new folders again, and with a push of a button I could single-handedly update WordPress and all 9 plugins which required it.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…… big sigh of relief.

So I am officially back from my sort-of-forced “break”.

I wish I could say that I’ve spent the past few weeks brainstorming blog posts and series, or writing anything at all. But nope. I’ve used the past few weeks to enjoy the heck outta life, going lots of places and having tons of adventures and summer fun.

That is the point of a break I guess. I’m not good at ‘resting’.

But the flip side of that is, I’ve gone places, and made and tried a bunch of fun foods and recipes. And I want to share it with you.

So without further ado, here’s a brief overview of some highlights from BE’s summer so far!

 

Places We’ve Been

Well, I finally went on my ‘graduation’ cruise to Alaska! It was a gift from my aunt, supposed to be 10ish years ago. We finally just picked a week, and this May we cruised up and down the coast, visiting Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, Glacier National Park, and finally Victoria British Columbia.

It was as beautiful as everyone said it would be and the photos make it look. The mountains were breathtaking, surrounded by icy blue water everywhere. We lucked out big time and the weather was phenomenal the whole trip. We even got a sunburn from sitting on the deck reading on one of our sea days!

Both before and after the trip I took an extra day to spend some time with Angela from TreadLightlyRetireEarly and her husband and kiddo in Seattle. They were wonderfully gracious hosts, and went out of their way to make me feel like part of the family.

We had a ball visiting Woodinville and wine tasting, taking long walks and hikes along the river and in the park behind their house, and hunting for deals in the ethnic grocery stores.

We traveled to historic New Bern, CT for our 2 year wedding anniversary weekend. Did you know New Bern was the original capital of NC? I didn’t either! They also were discovered by a Swiss explorer, and Bern means “Bear”. So there are all these adorable painted bears all over town.

We stayed at a fantastic little cottage AirBnB, and the whole town was so quiet and relaxing. We took the pups with us too. Lots of long walks around town and to the beach, and we got to pop into all the little shops. New Bern is also the birthplace of Pepsi, so of course we got an old fashioned float.

Then we spent a whole day driving down to the “Inner Banks” coast and explored tons of little beach towns: Morehead City, Beaufort, Atlantic Beach, Pine Knoll Shores, Indian Beach & Emerald Isle. And we took a ferry out to Carrot Island for a nice long hike and to see the wild ponies! There was only one out and about; it was a really hot day.

We’ve also made it out to Sunset Beach a few times, once for a friend’s 30th birthday week and again when my mom was in town. Beach time is always so relaxing and awesome! Though I’ve now gotten sunburn thrice, which is not great, but I do have a nice tan.

Speaking of relaxing and awesome, I also got to go on a camping weekend to Morrow Mountain State Park. It is about 2 hours SW of the Triangle, nearly all the way to Charlotte. It is along the Pee-Dee River, and backs up to the Uwharrie National Forest.

There were 5 of us and 3 dogs in total, and we had a great time hiking, relaxing, playing with fire and eating s’mores.

eating s'mores while camping at Morrow Mountain
We used the Jumbo marshmallows, which was ridiculous.

We did a total of about 11 miles between Saturday and Sunday. There are some pretty great views. But we were definitely all feeling it! The pups did great, hiking the whole way. Except the last half mile or so on Sunday, the little girl hurt her paw on the sharp rocks and was limping, so I did carry her for a bit.

Andddddd, saving the best for last, I MET THE GROOVIES!

They have recently relocated from Charlotte to Wake Forest, which is super close to Raleigh. Read all about their homestead building adventures here. We met up at the Raleigh Beer Garden for some good beer, good food, and great conversation.

Things I’ve Made

Well, we finally tried a Vegan Week! It was actually the boy’s idea!
(I know, I was as shocked as you are).

It went quite well, and we tried a bunch of new foods: soy nuggets, sweet potato puffs, lentil sloppy joes, & cashew cream to name a few. Mr. Tako inspired me to bring matcha lattes back into my occasional treat repertoire, and I’m sure glad I did.

There have been a few Bull City Food Swaps, one of which I missed due to travel. My energy bites were a bit of a hit, while the flip flop & bikini Nutter Butters did not go over as well. It’s always a bit of a crap shoot, what other swappers are looking for. And, we might get featured in a news article soon! So that’s cool.

I also finally got around to trying out Erin’s Turkish Red Lentil Soup recipe! I used Gochujang instead of Red pepper paste. Luckily she isn’t going to stop being friends with me over it. And I’ve baked several more loaves of the perfect white bread, feeding my current breakfast addiction: cinnamon sugar toast.

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Totally obsessed with this childhood favorite.

Oh, and I think I’m giving up drinking the water where I work, because now I know 2 people who just had a baby and 2 more with buns in the oven! The only buns I want in my oven right now are the ones I plan to take to a swap…

Anyways.

A work friend threw a very nice baby shower for one of them who is about to have their first little girl. So I decided to make a nice stack of easy freezer meals for the parents-to-be. It took me less than a half an hour to whip up 5 different meals, using things I already had in my freezer and pantry. Post to come soon.

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The new parents were very thankful for one full week’s worth of dinner they didn’t have to think about. They are all designed to be able to be thawed and tossed right into a slow cooker. He reported back that they both loved each one and had used them all up in the first week home!

Garden Update!  🌱 🌼

The early spring plants are dying now, we got a few good salads out of the spinach and romaine. Sadly it got too hot too fast for the broccoli, and they went to seed before I got any. C’est la vie. I got 8 different tomato plants in the ground and they are starting to flower.

My sweet potato is getting out of control, and I planted more purple sweet potatoes, with no leaves yet but tiny buds are beginning to poke out of the ground.

garden update
Attack of the sweet potato vines! Slow and steady attack.

The beans were slow to start but now they’ve taken over the trellised back fence area, and some are nearly ready to harvest!

The peas seem to be struggling in the heat, I don’t have high hopes there unfortunately… The zucchini and squash and cucumber didn’t come up so I did a second seeding, and they are now getting big and happy, and even have some flowers.

We invested in future years’ harvest at our house by planting some asparagus this year, and blueberry and blackberry bushes. The blueberry look like they may be struggling, but the blackberries are started to pink up a bit!

And then…

Disaster struck.

SOME MF-ing ANIMAL GOT OVER A 6 FT FENCE AND INTO THE BACK YARD AND ATE THE BERRIES.

All of them.

Even the green ones.

Down to the stem.

If anyone knows a super-lethal-to-deer-but-doesn’t-harm-plants solution, I’m all ears. I will turn those jerks into venison hash.

>:-(

In the front area, the herbs are doing great. I’ve already gotten several batches of pesto, from the 3 I planted this year plus several volunteers from last year’s seed. I need to do something with the huge sage bush and rosemary hedge (this thing is ridiculously hearty and starting to take over).

The damn deer did also get the tomato and beans in the front. Not that I didn’t see it coming… I even had been spraying ‘deer-away’ after each rain. Oh well. It is food after all.

front yard garden

And then my adorable neighbor called me one night, and had gotten a great deal at the local nursery on some plants. He had more than he could fit in his yard, so he gave me a flat. I put in 4 coleus, a giant pink begonia, and several pink/purple ones I don’t know the name of.

I like the pops of color in the front yard now.

The next day, he called again, with 3 more flats of plants to give me!

We are overwhelmed with flowers now. But, our across-the-street neighbors were coming home right about the same time, so I called over to them if they wanted some. Their 2 little girls just lit up when I said they could pick out their favorites to plant. It totally made my day to see them so excited, and share the generosity.

 

 

Phew! That’s all folks, now you are nice and caught up on the life and times of the Budget Epicurean. I sincerely apologize for checking out for so long, and hope that you won’t forsake me! See you soon 😉

 

 

TELL ME! What have you been up to so far this summer? Any more fun plans?

Perfect Iced Coffee

 

If you ever tried to make an iced coffee at home only to end up with lukewarm, watery coffee; or if you’ve ever tried to make a homemade Frappuccino and ended up with cold coffee-scented water, this post is for you.

My friend B is a bit of a Starbucks addict. Any time the S word is mentioned, off we go for venti frappuccinos. Because of the significant toll this takes on your wallet, we started experimenting at home. Regular hot coffee is a no-brainer; it is far cheaper to brew your own in the mornings, saving you $1-4 per day. About $5 per pound of coffee and $1 for 100 filters will give you a few months of java.

The problem is when it heats up outside, a steaming cup of coffee isn’t so desirable. When you pour hot coffee over frozen water, physics dictates that you end up with a watery, tasteless, lukewarm beverage. Then she came up with the most brilliant idea ever: freeze extra coffee into coffee cubes!

coffee cubes

We then pop these into a plastic bag in the freezer, and use them when the hankering for an iced coffee hits. They can also be blended into your own version of a frappuccino. Feel free to add in sugar, honey, creamer, cocoa powder, Hershey’s syrup…

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This saves money twice: extra coffee is not wasted, it is instead frozen for later. Also you can use that frozen coffee for two different types of frozen caffeinated beverages during the warm summer months.

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Step 1: Just fill your mug with coffee cubes, and pour more coffee over it. It is best to let the coffee cool down, or even put it in the refrigerator to chill before pouring. Physics still says hot liquid over frozen things will cause it to melt. =)

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Step 2: Add in your creamer and/or flavorings.

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Step 3: Give it a mix, and enjoy! Take your iced drink to work, school, the pool, a picnic, whatever. If you want a Frappuccino, simply fill a blender with coffee cubes, pour in a cup of cool coffee and flavorings, and blend until smooth. You can add whipped topping, cinnamon, Khalua… whatever your heart desires.

Iced coffee

Enjoy non-watery iced coffee every summer from now on!

 

Cherry Creek Farmer’s Market

 

If you have been following this blog, it’s no secret that I love fresh produce, and especially summertime farmers markets! And if this is your first visit here, now you know that I love fresh produce! =)

As such, when I moved to Colorado from Ohio, one of my first priorities was finding local markets. There actually was one right on my campus the first summer here. It was super convenient, but unfortunately not enough interest to continue it this summer. So I had to find new places to explore and get my fruits and veggie fix.

Wherever you are, Local Harvest has a great farmers market finder. You can also find farms, and local CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) through their site. In Colorado, I’m so thankful that people love fresh, local produce as much as I and there is a website called Colorado Fresh Markets that lists several in the Denver area.

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I live quite close to the Cherry Creek area, so I enlisted a good friend of mine, and we set out one sunny Saturday morning to explore. We were greeted by amazing smells, quiet happy noises, and slow-roasting of the locally famous Hatch chiles.

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The Cherry Creek Shopping Center at the corner of 1st Avenue and University Blvd. fences off a huge area of parking lot for all the vendors. Open every Saturday from May 3 – October 25 from 8am – 1 pm and on Wednesdays June 18 – September 24 from 9am – 1 pm, you have two chances to enjoy the local bounty.

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As we walked around there was a good-sized crowd of people from all walks of life. There were many moms pushing strollers and holding toddler hands, ladies still pregnant with their husbands sweetly carrying bags and boxes, older couples, professionally dressed people, people in gym clothes or yoga pants, plenty of dogs on leashes.  Everyone was simply enjoying the day, no rushing, chatting with friends and strangers. Something about a Farmers Market turns everyone present into friends and time becomes irrelevant.

The range of vendors was just phenomenal. There were mutiple vendors touting hand-made soaps, candles, belts, clothing. Of course I was most interested in the foods, and there was food galore. Many different farmers were set up with tables laden with farm-fresh produce. Tiny plants, flowers, and herbs. Tomatoes, heirloom and not, cucumbers, watermelon, beets, carrots, potatoes, onion, lettuces, corn, exotic looking fruits.

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And there were so many types of cheese! Hard cheese, soft cheese, wedges, wheels. Cheese that was hard outside and liquid inside. Most vendors offer samples so you can try for yourself how silky smooth the “Snowdrop” cheese is.

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Live music is found in at least two different locations. Singers, guitars, and drums keep the mood calm yet festive.

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And the pastries! The breads! The rolls, cakes, doughnuts, pretzels! It’s a carbo-loader paradise. The homemade farm-fresh bread looks artisan and beckons to your nostrils to buy a loaf. And at 2 for $10, why not?! They are huge, and far healthier than a bleached, fortified store-bought bread could ever be.

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This doughnut company had such a clever name, “Glazed and Confused“. And they had very unique and interesting doughnuts, including the wildly popular right now maple bacon. They also had one inspired by the Girl Scout “Samoa” cookie.

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Crazy elaborate doughnuts seems to be a foodie trend that is not going away anytime soon. Luckily for them, because they are celebrating the opening of their brick-and-mortar location at 5301 Leetsdale Drive in Denver as of June 13th!

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I had to sample a dumpling from the Pierogies Factory, because due to my Polish/ Hungarian/ Solvak heritage, I have had literally dozens of pierogis in my life. I must say, their pork pierogi was the bomb. Not the same as a soft mashed potato pierogi like mom makes, but the pork was a totally unique flavor bursting with salty, herby goodness.

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And then we have The Real Dill, a local artisan pickle company. From Habanero Horseradish Dill to Jalapeno Honey, from Caraway Garlic to their Bloody Mary mix made with pickling juice, their flavors will blow your mind.

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And of course they offer samples of each! IF you try the Habanero or Aji Chile, may I recommend having lemonade or bread nearby?

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Then we started to realize that all these great smells and tiny samples had started our bellies to rumbling. The Farmers Market draws a crowd of food trucks, eager to impress. Each is as fascinating and unique as the next, but we eventually settled on Gyros.

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Oh. My. Word. This gyro meat…. so perfectly seasoned and flavorful, bursting with onions, garlic, and herbs. Piled onto thick, warm, homemade pita bread, and then slathered in dressed greens, tomato, feta, and kalamata olive.

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The half-size was more than enough, but they offer a full size, chicken, falafel, and vegetarian options as well.

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An example of some of the brighter characters that Farmers Markets attract.

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We were both looking to restock our honey stores, which had gotten low over the winter due to high tea consumption. And then we found these people. The lady who runs the stand is just the sweetest, friendliest woman you’d hope to meet. She regaled us with stories of beekeeping, and why bees are so critical to the future of our food.

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The tall, white-haired gentleman beside her is her son-in-law, and the inspiration for the name “Bjorns Colorado Honey”. Originally from Sweden, he met the lady’s daughter in Austria and they fell in love. She convinced him to move to Boulder and get married, and he became part of the family honey business. Ah, love. A jar of the honey ended up in both of our bags that day.

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They also make hand cream from parts of bee life usually discarded, the “propolis”. It is a resinous substance made by the bees to protect and seal their hives. It has many biomedical and cosmetic uses. According to WebMD, “Propolis seems to have activity against bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It might also have anti-inflammatory effects and help skin heal.” Clever.

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The huge hot pretzels for sale.

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Fresh hand-made strawberry lemonade to quench your thirst.

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My friend and I headed home after a long, fulfilling day at the Cherry Creek Farmers Market!

 

All in all, the farmers market was a blast. I went home with a huge loaf of farm-fresh bread, chive and garlic goat cheese, a jar of Colorado honey, and a belly full of happy. I also got a little hint of a tan! Bonus.

Farmers markets are a great way to make new friends, relax, and support local businesses and farms. Check out one near you this weekend!