Potato & Pancetta Mac & Cheese | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

Potato & Pancetta Mac & Cheese

Potato & Pancetta Mac & Cheese is hearty and delicious. You don’t need to make a cheese sauce, so it comes together easily. And the addition of dried thyme makes it smell amazing.

Potato & Pancetta Mac & Cheese | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

It seems like everyone is on a special diet these days. Food allergies are practically an epidemic. Also, there’s the usual rash of restrictive fad diets. Veganism is spreading like wild fire. Of course, the irony is not lost on me that veganism might be a great way to decrease the chances of wild fires. But I’m not there yet.

Sadly, science still hasn’t come around to the diet of my dreams. If only we could all save the world and lose weight by being carbetarians. All carbs all the time. With a little cheese thrown in from time to time for good measure. I mean, you can eat other stuff, too. I’m not trying to deprive you. You just don’t ever have to feel guilty about about eating potatoes and pasta in the same dish. A girl can dream, right?

Potato & Pancetta Mac & Cheese | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

This Potato & Pancetta Mac & Cheese would loom large in the diet of a carbetarian. This hearty pasta dish features crispy pancetta, nutty gruyere, and a good hit of thyme to make the whole thing sing. You won’t want to stop eating this.

We’re keeping the clean up to a minimum by cooking the potatoes and the pasta in the same pot. Next, we’ll crisp up the pancetta in the same oven-proof skillet we’ll bake the whole dish in later. Finally, mix the cheese, cream, and other ingredients into your drained pasta, then put it back in the skillet to bake. Keep it simple. Keep it delicious.

Potato & Pancetta Mac & Cheese | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

There’s no shortage of things to feel guilty about these days. May I suggest you make and eat this Potato & Pancetta Mac & Cheese with nothing but joy and pleasure. No guilt necessary.

Recipe adapted from Nigellissima: Instant Italian Inspiration by Nigella Lawson.

Finally, if you like this recipe, you might also love this Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese. It’s awesome!

Apple Brandy Frozen Punch | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

Apple Brandy Frozen Punch

Apple Brandy Frozen Punch is tasty make-ahead drink for your holiday table or party. It’s low in alcohol, so you can keep the party going all night. Plus, it tastes just as awesome as it slowly melts. You should definitely give it a try.

Apple Brandy Frozen Punch | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

I love planning party menus. The second someone mentions they’re having a gathering, my brain instantly switches into menu planning mode, even if I’m not invited to the party. What would I make? How much cheese can I get away with serving? What’s for dessert? It’s gotta be something awesome?

A crucial element of the party menu is the drink. You want to be able to offer someone a beverage as soon as they come in and take their coat off. But maybe you also need to be in the kitchen finishing things up. It’s gotta be something simple. Something you can make ahead or something your guests can easily assemble themselves. And it can’t get watered down through the night. That would ruin everything.

Apple Brandy Frozen Punch | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

That’s where this Apple Brandy Frozen Punch comes in. It’s made ahead of time so you don’t have to be mixing fancy cocktails for each guest. It’s not crazy alcoholic, so you can have multiple cups without getting out of control. And it starts frozen so you can serve it almost as a slushy or top it up with sparkling wine for some added glamour. Then as it melts it stays awesome because you’re not adding any water to the drink.

You can serve this in a pitcher or a punch bowl. When it’s really frozen, it’s easier to scoop it out then pour it. Garnish it with apple slices and cinnamon sticks and anything else you think is autumnal and beautiful.

The easiest way to freeze this is in a plastic or silicone resealable bag. You can just go to the freezer every hour or so and kind of squish it a bit to make sure it doesn’t get too solid. I’m cutting back on single-use plastic, so I didn’t have any bags. I froze this in a food storage container, and just took a fork to it, scraping up the ice crystals as they formed. Even if you freeze it over night and it seems a bit solid, the sugar and alcohol will keep it from being a total block of ice. Just keep scraping, and you’ll end up with lovely ice crystals.

Apple Brandy Frozen Punch | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

Every party needs a good drink,. This Apple Brandy Frozen Punch is where it’s at. Give it a try. It’ll be awesome.

If you make this recipe, be sure to share a photo in Instagram. Tag me use the hashtag #awesomeon20 so I can see your awesome creation.

Exploring Chester On a Budget | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

Exploring Chester On a Budget

Exploring Chester On a Budget | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

Chester is one of England’s coolest small cities. Packed with history stretching all the way back to the Roman era, exploring Chester on a budget is simple and awesome.

I’ve been to Chester five times now. My husband went to university there and still has friends in town, so when we want to get away somewhere familiar, this is where we end up.

There’s so much to do in this small city, and the architecture and atmosphere is just oozing with history. Particularly if you’re from a part of the world where nothing was there before the 1950’s. This means that if you’re up for a walk, you can see some incredible sights without spending any money.

St John the Baptist Church | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

Free Sights

Chester is completely surrounded by Roman walls, and you can walk all the way around the ancient border of the city. Spend a few hours taking in the river, the cathedral, and the Tudor architecture. You can also explore the Roman Gardens and visit a creepy old church, St. John the Baptist, where a man was buried alive in a wall.

In the heart of the city, you can stroll along the Chester Rows and seek out the small, family -owned businesses amongst the chain shops. There’s something lovely hiding in just about every corner.

They also have a small local museum, The Grosevenor Museum, that’s free if you need a break from the weather. Also, Chester Cathedral is stunning and free to visit.

Exploring Chester On a Budget | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

Worth the Money

If you’re up for a bit more walking after dark, I’d also recommend a ghost tour. You’ll learn a lot and have a totally different perspective on the city in the morning. Some tour companies advertise free walking tours, but you should definitely leave a generous tip at the end.

Chester Zoo | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

If you have a full day and a bit of cash to spare, the Chester Zoo can’t be beat. Tickets are pricy (we’re lucky to have a connection for free tickets), but you’re also making a contribution to support animal conservation which is something we’re deeply passionate about. You can save some money by booking tickets online at least a week in advance. By far my favorite part is the free-flying butterfly house. It’s absolutely magical. But they have all the cool animals in a beautiful environment. Check it out if you can.

Where to Stay

There are plenty of expensive hotels in Chester. We even splashed out and stayed in the Chester Grosvenor on our last visit, using my husband’s student discount. While it was certainly luxurious, I’ve been just as happy staying in smaller inns and guesthouses. We’ve stayed at Lloyds of Chester Hotel in the past, and while not exactly glamorous, it was clean and comfortable. It’s just a short walk from the train station and another short walk to the heart of the city.

Exploring Chester On a Budget | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

Where to Eat & Drink

You know eating is my favorite thing to do, so you’d think we’d have tried more restaurants in Chester. To be honest with you, some of the best meals we’ve had have been at chain restaurants. On our last visit I had an absolutely delicious carbonara pizza at Pizza Express. I was a little drunk, but I think it’s still pretty awesome. We also had the best nachos I’ve had in the UK at Firejacks which is a chain but was new to us. Good nachos are hard to find in Scotland, so I couldn’t resist.

Burger Shed 41 is a local place with a killer chipotle peanut butter burger. Skip the shakes, though. They were thin and disappointing.

If you’re looking for a cool place for a drink, I’d recommend the Marlborough Arms for a quiet week night drink or Alexander’s for a bit of music with your booze.

For tea and cake in the afternoon, we enjoyed Bridge Street Roastery. They had a great selection and weren’t super pretentious like some coffee shops can sometimes feel.

Exploring Chester On a Budget | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

Guidebooks might suggest you go to The Boot Inn, supposedly the oldest pub in Britain or something like that. Current management is puritanical and takes all the fun out of the simplest things. I’d also give Hanky Panky Pancakes and Hickory’s a miss. I was disappointed by both.

My favorite thing to do in any city I visit is just be. Walk around, explore, get lost. Chester is an ideal place for this. I’ve been several times and still haven’t gotten bored. Get yourself to Chester. It’ll be awesome.

Basic Bloomer | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

Basic Bloomer

Basic Bloomer | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

This Basic Bloomer is easy enough for even a beginning bread baker. It’s got a great crust on top but stays soft inside. You’re gonna want to use it for everything.

I love taking on new challenges and new projects. If life is too easy, I get bored. Perhaps this is why I’ve moved around so much. I like telling myself that it’s because I’m so smart, and I just have to keep my brain active. More likely it’s just because I’m trying to avoid something I don’t want to deal with. Keeping my mind busy stops me from spiraling into depression, so I take on new challenges.

Last year, I decided I wanted to get better at bread baking. I still have a ton to learn, but I think I’ve made some slight growth. It’s not like I’ve been super dedicated to the endeavor. I know some people bake bread every week. I’ve made maybe eight to ten loaves this year of different varieties. Some have come out beautifully, like this Basic Bloomer, and others have been pretty awful.

Bread baking is not something you can really learn from a book or a video. Bread is alive, and it’s different every time you make it. There are half a dozen variables that can affect your dough on any given day, from the temperature and humidity of your kitchen on the day to the particular batch of flour you’re working with. There’s chemistry and biology going on in there. Fermentation, alchemy, and a bunch of other stuff I don’t really understand. Bread baking is all about how things feel, and for that, you probably really need a teacher. And tons of experience.

Basic Bloomer | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

Well, books and videos are all I have at the moment, unless someone wants to come to my house and be my bread guru. But just from reading a really helpful book, Paul Hollywood’s Bread, I was able to create a reliable result with this Basic Bloomer. If you’re interested in learning the art of bread baking, I’d highly recommend this book. There are lots of step by step pictures for things like kneading and shaping your loaf that you can only learn by lots and lots of practice.

This particular Basic Bloomer loaf came out a bit dark on top because I have the worst oven in the world. Yours will probably be a bit less brown. But even with this flaw, I couldn’t stop eating this bread. It didn’t last long enough to become sandwiches. It barely lasted long enough to be a soup dipper. The pillowy softness of this bread is unbelievable. I kept going back for slice after slice, eaten simply with salted butter. I may have had this bread with butter and honey for dessert one night.

Basic Bloomer | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

If, like me, you’re a bit intimidated by homemade bread, this Basic Bloomer will help you overcome your fears. I promise, you can do it. And even if it comes out looking a little wonky, it’s still going to be completely delicious. Let’s bake bread, friends. It’s gonna be awesome.

Recipe adapted from Paul Hollywood’s Bread.

Easy Chili Cheese Dip | How to Be Awesome o $20 a Day

Easy Chili Cheese Dip

Easy Chili Cheese Dip | How to Be Awesome o $20 a Day

This Easy Chili Cheese Dip is so simple, absolutely anyone can make it. It’s also impossible to stop eating. Perfect for game day, game night, or any gathering. Get your friends together, and dig in.

I’ve lived with a proper football (aka soccer) fan for so long, I don’t even know if people still watch American football. I have fond memories of everyone getting together at the weekend to watch what seemed like endless football. I was never really interested in the games, but the food was always pretty awesome.

Because it’s all supposed to be “man food,” whatever that means, you don’t have to pretend to be healthy, which I love. Though I’m guessing there are probably plenty of vegan football fans these days. And that’s cool, too. Not gonna lie, though, I’m here for the hot cheese dips consumed with an endless mountain of tortilla chips.

Easy Chili Cheese Dip | How to Be Awesome o $20 a Day

This Easy Chili Cheese Dip is exactly that kind of food. People don’t really get together to watch the game here, so we just sometimes eat this for dinner because we’re horrible people. And by horrible, I mean awesome. It’s spicy, cheesy, gooey, and irresistible.

And as the name suggests, Easy Chili Cheese Dip is unbelievably simple to make. Spread a baking dish with some cream cheese. Mix together a can of your favorite chili with a jar of your favorite salsa. Scatter some shredded cheese over the top. Bake. Eat with chips. Live your best life.

Easy Chili Cheese Dip | How to Be Awesome o $20 a Day

Make Easy Chili Cheese Dip any time you get together with friends. Football, basketball, board games, book club, heck break this out at a baby shower and watch everyone lose their minds. This is the food you really want to eat. Let’s do it.

Recipe adapted from Circle of Friends Cookbook – 25 Dip and Spread Recipes.

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