Vanilla Ginger Mojito | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

Vanilla Ginger Mojito

Vanilla Ginger Mojito | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

Are you getting legit fall weather where you live yet? In Scotland, summer is a distant memory, and it’s been chilly and damp for weeks now, but I know other parts of the world are just now seeing those delightfully crisp autumn days. October is up there as my favorite time of year. The autumn leaves are in full show, and you still get some sunny, albeit cold, days where you can get outside and feel alive. They don’t have apple picking or pumpkin patches or hay rides here in Scotland, but at least there’s still boots and sweaters and all things toffee. 

Today I’ve made you a cocktail that is the perfect transition from summer to fall. Mojitos bring to mind steamy beach vacations, short skirts, and salsa music. But this version has some beautiful fall flavors that are perfect to sip in front of the fire after a day of crunching through leaves. Okay, maybe you can’t pick the mint from your garden, but you can definitely make this happen.

Vanilla Ginger Mojito | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

This Vanilla Ginger Mojito is one of the best cocktails I’ve made in a long time. I splurged on a whole vanilla bean to make the syrup, and it was totally worth it. This cocktail is so beautifully fragrant, I wish it was a perfume. I also made that vanilla bean do double duty. The recipe calls for vanilla rum, but that wasn’t available at my grocery store, so I just popped the vanilla bean into my bottle of white rum and presto, vanilla rum. 

This recipe is two stage and involves several fresh ingredients, but it’s in no way complicated to make. And I assure you it is an absolute pleasure to drink. It’s all for the best that this recipe only makes two cocktails because you could easily drink a bucket of these.

Vanilla Ginger Mojito | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

Cheers to autumn, friends. Make yourself a Vanilla Ginger Mojito and enjoy these awesome days.

Vanilla Ginger Mojito
Serves 2
This Vanilla Ginger Mojito is the perfect drink to take you from summer to fall with a smile on your face.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
5 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
5 min
For the syrup
  1. 1/2 cup water
  2. 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  3. 1 vanilla bean, sliced in half with seeds scraped out
  4. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  5. 1 inch chunk fresh ginger, peeled
For the cocktail
  1. 2/3 cup fresh mint leaves
  2. 4 ounces vanilla rum
  3. 2 ounces soda water
  4. 2 ounces ginger ale
  5. 2 ounces lime juice
  6. Lime wedges for garnish, optional
For the syrup
  1. Add the water and sugar to a small saucepan. Stir together the water and sugar, then add the scraped out beans from your vanilla bean, along with the whole bean, the vanilla extract, and the piece of ginger. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, and reduce the heat to simmer for about two minutes.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and let it sit for about fifteen minutes to steep. Remove the vanilla bean and ginger.
For the cocktail
  1. Add about a third of a cup of fresh mint leaves to two glasses. Add two ounces of vanilla rum to each glass and muddle the mint in the bottom of the glass by giving it a good smash with something blunt. I use the handle end of a butter knife.
  2. Fill each glass with plenty of ice, then divide the remaining ingredients between your two glasses.
  3. Garnish with a wedge of lime and some additional mint. Give it a good stir before drinking.
Adapted from Seriously Delish by Jessica Merchant
Adapted from Seriously Delish by Jessica Merchant
http://awesomeon20.com/

Be Awesome: Waste Less

I’ve been trying to be more conscientious lately about the amount of trash I’m producing these days, particularly plastic. After watching Blue Planet II, I can’t stop thinking about how devastating the impact of human consumption has been on our oceans and the planet at large. I’ve always been a low-level environmentalist, even in 7th grade when me and a few other girls led a campaign to try to get our school to stop using styrofoam trays at lunch.

I am far from perfect, but like a lot of you I’m searching for ways to do my part to show a little respect to the millions of species we share the planet with, not to mention future generations of humans who will have to save us from ourselves. Here are a few of the ways I’ve found to reduce, reuse, recycle and save a little money in the long run while I’m at it.

Bring Your Own Bag – A change most of us have probably already made is to bring your own shopping bags to the grocery store, but just in case you haven’t made the switch yet, I can assure you that there are plenty of options for bags that fold up to practically nothing and are very lightweight so that you can keep one in your handbag at all times. And if you do forget and absolutely have to get a plastic shopping bag, consider how it can be reused or recycled before you get rid of it.

Real Towels, Not Paper– I recently bought a cheap pack of microfiber cloths to beef up my kitchen towel collection, and I’ve made a conscientious effort to use them where before I might have used paper towels. Without thinking, I’d wipe down the counters and put the mess in the trash. My kitchen bin would be full of something that absolutely did not need to be there. I will, however, be more conscientious in the future about the material my towels are made from. I’ve recently learned that every time you wash clothes and towels containing synthetic materials, they release microplastics into the water which can be toxic to marine life.

Make Recycling Simple– We recently bought new bins so that we can easily separate recyclables from our regular trash. We have one for mixed recycling that’s collected by the council, one for glass, which we have to haul down to the corner, and one for regular trash. We also have a small food waste bin which is recycled by our council as well. I’ve noticed that our trash does fill up more slowly as we’re now recycling more, but of course, the ultimate goal is not to put anything in any of those bins to begin with.

Waste-Free Period– This may seem a little personal, but I recently bought a menstrual cup, and though it took a bit f getting used to, it wasn’t nearly as gross as I thought it would be, which is what kept me from making the switch sooner. I mean, if there’s one thing you just want to throw away after you use it, it’s feminine hygiene products. But tampons and pads are almost always individually wrapped in plastic, not to mention the plastic applicators many brands use. I had already switched to non-applicator tampons to reduce waste, but I’ve gone all the way, and I don’t regret it.

Top Your Cans– We feed our dog half a can of wet dog food every day, and for weeks we were using plastic wrap to cover the can to save the rest for the next day. Finally, we bought some silicone can toppers that we can reuse. It’s just like a lid for a can, so not only are we avoiding throwing out a bit of plastic, we can also reduce our food waste by saving food for the next day any time we only use half a can of something.

Waste-Free Facial Cleansing– For ages I was using disposable face wipes, and throwing one or two away every day when I took my makeup off at the end of the day. I felt bad about that, so I switched to products that I squeezed onto a cotton pad. Then I was throwing a couple of those out every day. It was less, but it was still wasteful. I’ve now bought reusable makeup remover pads, and I just wash the used ones with my delicates once a week and use them over and over. No more trash when I wash my face.

Sustainable Dental – Toothbrushes are definitely a big part of that floating mass of garbage in the ocean. I’ve recently switched to a bamboo toothbrush in the hopes that it won’t last for all of eternity and will decrease my carbon footprint.

Waste Reduction Goals– There are still a few products I hope to add to our home over the coming months to decrease waste even more. I definitely want to replace plastic wrap with beeswax wrap. I’ve also put off buying silicone baking mats for ages because I thought they were too expensive, but I’m sure I’ve spent enough on parchment paper over the year to buy a dozen silicone mats.

Like I said, I’m not perfect. I’m just trying to slowly make little changes that are kinder to the Earth without living in a teepee. If you have other ideas or techniques for reducing waste that have worked for you, please do share them in the comments. All we can do is our best, but I assure you, creating less waste is totally awesome.

Cowboy Spaghetti | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day
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Vanilla Ginger Mojito | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day
Cowboy Spaghetti | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

Cowboy Spaghetti

Cowboy Spaghetti | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

I look forward to occasionally staying at a hotel or a person’s house with cable so that I can relive my Food Network binging days when things get boring. I was a bit let down the last time I tried this. Food Network in the UK is sort of awful. They basically only have a handful of shows that the play in four to six hour blocks. One of them is Jamie Oliver, and that’s beautiful, but they also play The Pioneer Woman for hours on end, and I just can’t abide. It’s a good thing no one reads my blog because I’m sure I’d get kicked out of the blogosphere for it, but I find her show so annoying and contrived.

I miss the good old days when Saturday and Sunday mornings featured a different show every half hour, each one with actual recipes and cooking, not silly food competitions or restaurant tours. Adrianna from A Cozy Kitchen shared a clip of Sandra Lee making a cocktail the other day, and it was a hilarious hit of nostalgia. I vote they make a Food Network Classic channel where they just replay all the great shows from the 2000’s. Sounds pretty awesome to me.

Cowboy Spaghetti | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

It’s official. Bacon makes everything better. Case in point, this Cowboy Spaghetti. What makes this different from regular spaghetti bolognese? There’s your standard onion, garlic, and tomato, but along with bacon, there’s also beer instead of red wine, a bit of hot sauce, and cheddar cheese instead of parmesan. It’s an absolutely delicious twist on a family classic. I was proclaiming myself a genius as I ate. Maybe that’s why I didn’t notice Geoff stealing the remaining bacon that was meant to accompany the rest of the pot of pasta.

This is adapted from a Rachael Ray recipe from her 30 minute meal days, so you know it’s easy to accomplish. It will also easily feed your whole family, as we’re cooking up a whole package of spaghetti here. With just the two of us in the house, we’ll be eating this for probably three days, but I’m not mad at it.

Cowboy Spaghetti | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

Cowboy Spaghetti has all the good things. Who’s coming over for dinner?

Cowboy Spaghetti
Serves 6
Cowboy Spaghetti is an awesome twist on a family classic, loaded up with bacon and cheddar cheese.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
10 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 pound spaghetti
  2. salt
  3. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  4. 3 slices of bacon
  5. 1 pound ground beef
  6. 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  7. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  8. black pepper
  9. 1 tablespoon hot sauce (or more if you're into that sort of thing)
  10. 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  11. 1/2 cup beer
  12. 1 14 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  13. 500 grams tomato sauce or pasata
  14. 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
Instructions
  1. Put a large pot of water over high heat to boil. Don't forget to put a lid on it, or it will take forever. When the water boils, add salt and spaghetti, stirring occasionally.Cook according to package instructions, but check it a minute early to make sure your pasta isn't overcooked.
  2. In the mean time, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cut your bacon with scissors right into the pan. Cook to desired level of crispness (the correct answer is very crisp). Remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate and pour off some of the fat, leaving enough to coat the pan.
  3. Add your ground beef to the pan to brown. Season with salt and pepper. Depending on how lean your beef is, you may want to drain the fat off before proceeding.
  4. Add the white part of your green onions (save the green tops for later) and garlic to your ground beef and then season with hot sauce and Worcestershire. Add the beer and scrape up any bits that may be stuck to the bottom of the pan. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in tomatoes and sauce. Bring everything back up to a simmer and check for seasonings. This is usually where I add more hot sauce. Simmer for about five minutes to allow the sauce to thicken a bit and for all the flavors to marry.
  6. After you drain your pasta, put it back in the pot, then pour the sauce over the spaghetti and stir to combine.
  7. Top your bowl or plate of spaghetti with plenty of cheddar cheese, a sprinkling of crunchy bacon, and the green tops of your green onions.
Adapted from How to be Awesome on $20 a Day
http://awesomeon20.com/
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