Clever Tuesday Tips

Don’t have a pizza cutter on hand? Use scissors to cut pizza!

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Amplify phone speakers by putting them in a ceramic bowl

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Can’t quite finish your iced coffee? Put it in the freezer overnight and fill it up with cold-brewed coffee the next day. Voila- just like a coffee ice cube!

Tips for Preparing a Multiple Course Meal

The other day, I prepared a four course Mexican-inspired feast. Throughout my four hours of cooking, I wrote down a few valuable tips for maximizing efficiency and minimizing time and stress when preparing such a big meal.

  • Take the lid of your trash can and move it close to your work stations.
  • Read through all of your recipes first so you know how long each thing takes.
  • Set out items that need to be at room temperature {for example, I needed room temperature cream cheese for my Mexican chocolate cheescake}.
  • Likewise, plan ahead for items that need to be defrosted. For last minute defrosting, place item in a Ziploc bag and place in a bowl of warm water. Do this early on in the cooking process so you don’t have to rush the defrosting. Rotate water every 5-10 minutes.
  • Set up separate stations with all of the ingredients needed for each recipe.
  • Check each recipe to see what ingredients you need for more than one. For example, I used red onions for my watermelon feta salad and my enchilada casserole, so I chopped enough for both at the beginning.
  • Likewise, do the same steps at the same time. For example, open all your cans and then put the can opener away.
  • Roast vegetables {like the red pepper I used} in tin foil to minimize clean up.
  • Be comfortable with a mess. Clean up as you go but realize the kitchen will be a wreck until you’re done.
  • That being said, clean your cheese grater right away. Nothing is worse than trying to pry dried cheese off a grater!
  • Think ahead to what you can make with leftovers. Red onions and black olives from a Mexican casserole and feta from a watermelon feta salad can be made into a simple Greek pasta.

Check out Timing a Multi-Course Meal like a Pro for more helpful tips!

Source: westelm.com via Lauren on Pinterest

link roundup for the week!

I pretty much relate to every word in this post by Gen Y Girl, entitled “You Don’t Have to Have It All Figured Out.” Can’t believe it’s been almost a year since I graduated! P.S. I think Kayla and I could be good friends if we lived in the same city 🙂

I love the Oprah quote at the end of Elle’s post on being thankful.

Here’s a pretty crazy True Story from Yes and Yes: My Mom Made Me Smuggle Drugs.

I need to study these 6 Pro Tips for Tasting Wine before my next field trip to The Wine Feed!

Going on a summer vacation soon? Read these tips for hitting the ground running when you get back home.

And another LifeHacker helpful hint: use Mason jar lids as egg rings!

And in very important life debates: apparently wooden cutting boards are better than plastic ones. Which means I need to learn how clean my wooden one!

Apparently coworking originated at Regus Office Suites..but not in the way they think.

My roommate just told me about an awesome browser app called Invisible Hand. If you’re online shopping, it will show a discreet pop-up bar if it finds a better price on the same product on another site. Amazing for consumers {though probably not for many e-commerce retailers}.

tip time!

Why yes, that is an Easter egg hiding in my baggie of cut vegetables! Use Easter eggs {which are very discounted right now!} for holding dressings, ranch dip, ketchup, soy sauce, etc. They’re the perfect size and they don’t leak. As I told my sister, “don’t be jealous of my handy pastel-colored carrying case!” #nerdalert

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As soon as you take off a pair of socks, safety pin them together before throwing them into your laundry hamper. No more mis-matched socks floating around your house!

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If you just had your eyebrows waxed and are experiencing some redness, just dab a drop of Visine on the red spot. Clears it right up- just like it does for red eyes! {Thank you to Alison for this tip!}

wine tasting tips + a review

This morning, it randomly occurred to me that we might have been supposed to tip at our wine tasting the other day. I did a quick google search and found that tips are not expected (whew!). I also came across several websites that list wine tasting etiquette, so I thought I would share some of their dos and don’ts. Shockingly, we didn’t break any of the rules! That might be a first 😉

In general, the rules are: don’t bring loud kids (though we did bring the dogs, which are like children. But quiet ones!). Don’t confuse the palette-cleaning crackers with a buffet. Don’t smoke. Don’t wear perfume. Don’t chew gum. Ask for a spit cup. Don’t complain about the tasting room fees. Don’t get too drunk! Don’t ask for the sweet wine too soon, because it affects the palette.

As I was reading these unofficial rules, I realized how important it is to choose a winery where you will feel comfortable. We called two on the way out to Albemarle and ended up choosing to go to the one with longer hours but also friendlier staff members. In case you don’t know me and my sister in real life, we are very casual and not interested in putting on airs at a pretentious place!

Dennis Vineyards & Winery was exactly what we were looking for. Luckily, we were two of only a few patrons, so we received stellar individualized service. As I mentioned in my last post, I ended up realizing that I like semi-dry wines, not sweet wines. The wine tasting attendant customized our tasting menu to our tastes, choosing each wine based on our reaction to the previous. Because of this, we were able to narrow down our selection as we went.

On October 8, they are holding a Harvest Festival and Grape Stomp, complete with a fall hay ride. I encourage you to make the pretty drive to Albemarle to check it out. And don’t hesitate to contact me if you do decide to go!

coffee cubes

Just settling in for a morning of work with a post-run smoothie, a big bottle of cold water, and iced coffee. The temperature is supposed to be triple digits today, so hydrating is uber-important. I know coffee isn’t hydrating, but I’m trying to combat that with my other drinks 🙂 You know it’s hot when your window unit is set at 81 degrees and it feels like an icebox in comparison to outside!

I thought I’d share a super simple summer tip- brew coffee, let cool, then pour into ice cube trays. When you’re ready to have your iced coffee, just drop in a few coffee cubes to make it cold without watering it down. And I just realized another perk this morning: when I leave the gym in the morning, my leftover coffee cubes have partially melted, leaving me with a delicious post-work out “coffee shot.” Refreshing 🙂

frugality at its best

As a college student living in an absurdly expensive city, I have to be frugal (even cheap sometimes). In the last four years, I have accumulated quite a stash of money-saving habits- some from books and blogs, others I’ve gleaned from friends, and still others I came up with all on my own!

To enjoy fun new restaurants without spending a fortune, I periodically purchase LivingSocial coupons (and even though they will soon be paying my bills, I promise that’s a real endorsement).

When I go to Starbucks, I buy a Pumpkin Spice Coffee instead of a Pumpkin Spice Latte (thank you to my friend Dominique for this great tip!). It saves about $2 and tastes pretty similar (even better than the latte, I think). I also have the Starbucks Gold Card, which gives me free milk, free syrup, free refills, and every 15th drink free.

Even better than the tricks above? Brew coffee at home- I’m still working up the motivation to do this 🙂

Cooking at home is an easy and fun way to save money. My policy is not to eat things at restaurants that I could easily make at home. In addition, I try not to buy “grab and go” food. Instead, I will splurge (frugally, of course) on experiences, like dinners out with friends.

There are tons of ways I save money when I grocery shop. Simple things like buying whole carrots instead of baby carrots saves about $.75 each shopping trip. When buying things like spices, take the time to compare prices. For example, Trader Joe’s has spices for $1.99, but they have a very limited collection. Safeway sells bottles that are half the size for twice as much, but they carry spices TJ’s doesn’t. Host a wine tasting party with a $6 bottle limit- you’ll find out about tons of new and affordable wines.

Adding a bit of water to dish soap makes it last longer. Reuse plastic containers, like the ones crumbled feta comes in. Don’t throw away hardened brown sugar- place the open bag of sugar next to a cup of water and microwave for 2-3 minutes. Buy a rubber oven mitt and use it for opening jars too. Grow your own herb plants– you get the great smell and save money.

Split a Netflix account with friends (or just mooch off a friend, like I do!). Cut off your cable and watch TV on your computer. Use iTunes radio or a YouTube playlist instead of downloading songs. Have a “magazine club” with friends (each person subscribes to a different magazine and then you rotate). Get a library card or find cool used bookstores in your area.

Host a bi-annual swap party with friends. The person who brings the most items gets first pick of everyone’s donated clothing, jewelry, books, movies, etc.

Use Mint.com (it’s free!) to track your purchases and multiple bank accounts. Use a credit union (they tend to have better interest).

Take up knitting and make homemade gifts for holidays and birthdays. Make Meals in a Jar for friends.

Follow people like @FrugalGirls, @thriftydccook, @frugalrocks, @kimberlywilson, and me (@cmroman) on Twitter for coupons and tips.

What are your best tricks?