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What to Look for in a Quality Cheap Eat

 

Eating well on the cheap. It’s not nearly as easy as just eating on the cheap. And we have 50 years of the fast-food industry to thank for that. Not that I’m opposed to the occasional bag o’ drive-thru, mind you, but the old maxim is still true: You get what you pay for. The truth is we all have our own budgets in mind, and not all $6 burgers are created equal. So let’s look for a moment, beyond the bucks, to what makes food bang at any price point — a happy medium sandwiched in between Kobe dry-aged beef and the dollar menu. Here are my four tips for finding a legit cheap eat:

Figure out if the food/restaurant is “people driven.”

This is kinda like “chef driven,” but it involves a little more on your part than pulling up a website or a Yelp review. Bottom line: Are the people who work at this restaurant proud about the food there? Do they eat there on their days off? Can they list the faves from the menu in, like, no time flat? For most of you, this means gathering intel from your waiter, but don’t ignore the person bussing your table either. And, no, this doesn’t apply to only table-service restaurants. I reviewed a national burger chain ($6 and up) and was floored by how both the ladies taking my order were so down for their employer and the burgers they smashed (that’s a hint). After all, don’t you want happy people — people who genuinely believe that they are worthy of your hard-earned buck — serving your food?

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Combine Squash and Pasta for the Ultimate Fall Comfort Food

Pumpkin goes great with espresso and milk, but we’ve found an even better combination: pumpkin and gooey, melted cheese. Put down the pumpkin spice latte and try making a savory squash dish this fall, like Pumpkin Lovers’ Lasagna (pictured above) and other easy, comforting pasta dishes that will warm you from the inside out.

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4 Sneaky Ways to Replace Carbs with Cauliflower

At the base of most of our favorite comfort foods are carbs, making it tough to justify eating them every day. But with one magical ingredient swap, you can indulge more often without the guilt trip and get in a serving of vegetables. Stock up on a few heads of cauliflower to make pizza crust (using Tia Mowry’s easy recipe, pictured above), tots, mac and cheese, and more.

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Beat the Clock with Easy, Under-15-Minute Side Dishes

If you’re always running around your kitchen to get dinner together after a hectic day at work — hopefully not while holding a knife — sit down. We have six timesaving recipes for you.

Check out our favorite easy side dishes that can be made in 15 minutes or less, including a Roasted Peanut Slaw (pictured above) and a lightning-fast fried rice.

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Alternative Fries That Will Make Everyone Want to Eat Their Vegetables

TGIF isn’t only for kicking off the weekend — any day can be fryday if you put your mind to it. Classic french fries are deep-fried until crisp, sprinkled with salt and devoured instantly, but other vegetables can be made equally craveworthy for side dishes with less guilt.

Check out five of our favorite alternative fries, like Tia Mowry’s zucchini sticks with ranch dip (pictured above) — which are still fried, but made of squash instead of potatoes — and oven-fried potato wedges that may convert you from your fast-food favorites. They’re also a great way to coax your kids into eating vegetables without even realizing what’s under the crunchy batter. Ladies and gentlemen, start your ovens.

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25 Ways to Use Asparagus

Asparagus season is in full swing, but before you go grabbing bunches of it at the farmers market, take a look at some of our favorite recipes for inspiration. Asparagus is one of the most versatile vegetables, because you can eat it shaved raw in salads, chopped and cooked in brunch or pasta dishes or even roasted on its own (sometimes with a little bacon). If you don’t wrap it in a blanket of pork, it’s low in calories — about 4 calories per spear — and it’s a source of fiber and potassium. Asparagus also contains glutathione, a powerful anticarcinogen and antioxidant.

So make use of your local green market’s plentiful asparagus stock with these 25 fantastic uses of asparagus.

  1. This basic Roasted Asparagus with Orange Glaze recipe from Tiffani Thiessen is a good place to start your asparagus adventures.
  2. Spaghetti With Asparagus, Smoked Mozzarella and Prosciutto from Giada De Laurentiis is luscious and rich but takes only a few minutes to prepare.
  3. White asparagus is grown under soil to prevent photosynthesis from turning the stalks green. Just remember to peel the stalks before you cook them. Try it in Emeril Lagasse’s Fried Soft Shell Crab, White Asparagus and Wild Sorrel With a Grilled Ramp Dressing.
  4. Creamy Farfalle With Cremini, Asparagus and Walnuts from Giada is a creamy crowd-pleaser.
  5. Wrap asparagus in almost anything. Rachael Ray wraps it in bacon, Kelsey Nixon tucks prosciutto around hers, Giada goes for smoked salmon (pictured at top), Tia Mowry uses Asian-marinated grilled beef and Ellie Krieger tries smoked turkey.

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Souper-Easy Lunch Recipes That Will Keep You Warm at Work

The weather has been a fickle mistress this winter, but now that temperatures are cooling down across the States, it’s time to think about ways to keep warm. Whether your office blasts the heat or you’re stuck shivering next to the window, warming yourself from the inside out with comforting soups and stews is never a bad idea.

Transport yourself to a warmer place instead of Elsa’s Frozen tundra with easy soup recipes like Chuck Hughes’ Creamy Tomato Soup, pictured above, which is just waiting for a grilled cheese dipper that you can crisp up quickly in the office toaster oven.

When You’re Fighting Off a Cold: Chicken Noodle Soup

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Nail a Week’s Worth of Meal Prep with Mason Jar-Ready Lunch Ideas

Some of the most-popular resolutions are eating healthier, spending less money and getting organized, and you can check all three off your list with one activity. In fact, you can do them all in one day if you plan accordingly, using easy meal prep to make cheap, healthy lunches for the whole week.

Below, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite lunch recipes that can be packed up in Mason jars at the start of the week to keep you organized and on track for at least five days in a row. Start with a colorful Soba Noodle-Vegetable Salad, pictured above, and get more healthy lunch ideas here.

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How to Have the Best O.C.-Style Chrismukkah Celebration Ever


Photo via Warner Bros.

‘Tis the season to be jolly, and no matter what holiday you’re celebrating, there’s one you should get on your radar. Chrismukkah — which combines the best parts of Christmas and Hanukkah — is the brainchild of The O.C.’s Seth Cohen, and throughout the show’s four seasons, we learned all the magical ways to combine menorahs and candy canes during the joint holiday.

During the eight days of presents followed by one day of many presents, two things are vital: wearing a Yamaclaus and eating an abundance of food from both styles of feasts. So to help you throw the perfect Chrismukkah party, we’ve put together the ultimate menu fusing Jewish cuisine, like latkes and kugel, with traditional Christmas fare, like prime rib and cranberry sauce.

And remember: Chrismukkah is unruinable. It has twice the resistance of any normal holiday, making it the perfect time to experiment.

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Keep Calm and Friendsgiving On with 3 Thanksgiving Potluck Tips

They say that you make your own family with close friends, and that’s never more apparent than during the holidays. Whether you can’t get home for Mom’s down-home cooking this year or you’re just greedy for more turkey, celebrating Friendsgiving with a lively potluck should be your new favorite tradition.

If you’re taking hosting duty, the most-important part of the celebrations is obviously the turkey, but don’t forget the other essential details — like keeping the wine aflowin’. Check out some of our best tips, like how to master make-ahead shortcuts and how to keep the crowd’s hunger at bay as the bird cooks, then get more Friendsgiving recipes and ideas here.

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