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Tips and Tricks April 3, 2013

Goodbye My Little Piece of Paradise

I am writing about something that admittedly has nothing to do with food, which as my readers know is the main focus of my musings, but has molded my life thus far and has made me who I am.  While I am aware that what I am writing may be cheesy, it is an ode to the end of an era and I am not ashamed. To be honest, there is something cold and unfeeling that comes with knowing that a place that held most of your cherished memories, a place where friends were family and unspoken bond was held by anyone that lived nearby, has become a soulless symbol of destruction. I suppose that comes with being the unlucky victim of a hurricane.


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It is sad that I can call myself one of the fortunate ones, most of my friends’ homes burned to the ground in the span of a few hours.  It took almost 100 years to build our beloved beach community and one unforgiving gas fire to devastate the lives of generations of families.  We were a community rich in a history that shaped our lives and our hearts. Most of us had modest homes that had been built by a grandfather or great-grandfather with his own two hands and passed down through the years.   To the residents of the Camp Osborn/ Normandy Beach area, a home was more like an extension of yourself; it was a piece of your heart. It was a place where you built your life, forged bonds, and made priceless memories; a place where couples started their journey together and planned for the future. Our community had survived countless hurricanes, tropical storms, and tidal waves.  None of us could even fathom the devastation that one storm, Sandy, could have caused.

For years we were barely a blip on the map, a place so small you had to provide nearby  landmarks to get even a glimpse of recognition.  We began as a place built on the spirit of hard work and hope and almost overnight became a place known for destruction. For months I watched people stop in front of my house to take a picture. I looked on as people pointed and stared and listened to the comments about the tattered clothes hanging in my room; clothes that eventually were stolen.    I cannot even begin to describe the feeling you get from knowing that a place that used to be full of life has become a dehumanized image of  Hurricane Sandy.  After months of constant reminders of what has been lost and homes that still lie in ruin it is sadly a feeling that we have all come to live with.  While I know that the clearing process is a positive step forward  I can’t help but a mourn for the kitchen that will never again bring the smell of love, the family room that will never again hear the sound of laughter, and the home that will never again be my heaven on earth.

As I sit here bleary eyed with bittersweet salty tears streaming down my face, I can’t help but reflect on all the amazing memories that I have in a house smaller than most people’s bedrooms. My room was barely big enough for my twin sized bed and didn’t even exist before my Dad converted our screened in porch. You could hear someone breathing in the room over, or cooking breakfast in the kitchen. My occasional hung-over mornings were interrupted by my father calling “oh is this too loud” from the other side of the house or a weed-wacker whirring. I could even hear my neighbor’s phone ringing next door. Though my beloved home was small in size it was big on heart. It was a place that was always filled with love and laughter, where strangers felt like friends and everyone was welcome. To say that it had a few good years on it was an understatement. It was there for my blossoming youth and my mischievous teen years, my first drink, my first love, and my first heartbreak. It survived parties, arguments, late nights, and early mornings. While it only took one wave to shatter my home, the memory of the place that I love will always live on. I owe it my fondest memories, my favorite moments, and lifelong friends that will  always be my family. Here’s to you my little Peach Hut, you had one  hell of a run.



Copyright © 2013 Christine Van Arsdalen. All Rights Reserved

Tips and Tricks January 28, 2013

Have a SUPER Super Bowl Sunday!

It’s that time of year again, where people of all ages come together to drink beer, eat food, and collectively act like Neanderthals.  Nothing brings people together quite like Super Bowl Sunday.  You can walk into any bar and find masses of people sitting elbow to elbow, stuffing their faces, and throwing back a cold one.  While I admit a bar is a nice to place to watch the big game, I can guarantee that you will be far more angry when you get sacked by your tab then you were at any point during the game.  Unless you Quarterback Sneak it out of there, you’ll be pulling a Hail Marry with your wallet.  Instead of dropping the ball like Jackie Smith in Super Bowl XIII, recover the fumble by moving the party home.  Whether you host the party yourself, or “phone a friend,” a pot luck party is a great way to save money without skimping on the variety.  If you’re hosting the party, “play with a friend” as the 40-Year Old Virgin would say.  Make a couple of game day faves and have your friends do the rest.  If you’re going to the party don’t be the guy that shows up with a bag of tositios and a jar of salsa-  put your best dish forward and actually make something. You can do it put your back into it; even if it means throwing some tomatoes and jalapenos in a block of cheese.  When you go home with a full stomach and full wallet, at the end of the day you’ll be a winner (even if you were cheering for the losing team).

Here are a few recipes that are always a crowd pleaser.  Believe me they’ve been tested at several parties!

Chicken Chili a la Christine

4 cloves of garlic

1 large onion

1-2 hot peppers (suggested 1 habanero 1 jalapeno)

2 plum tomatoes

2 tomatoes on the vine

½ lb to 1lb ground turkey

3 links chicken sausage

1 can black beans

1 can kidney beans

1 can pinto beans

1/2 bottle of beer (Budweiser recommended)

1 can san marzano tomatoes

1 tbsp franks red hot sauce

1 tsp smoked chlli powder

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp liquid smoke

Salt and pepper to taste


Mince garlic and dice onion, peppers tomatoes.  Add onion, garlic and peppers to a large skillet and cook until translucent.  Remove sausage from casing and add turkey then season with salt and pepper.  Transfer to large crock pot and add canned ingredients, beer, and seasoning. Cover and cook for two hours on high or 4 on low.  *Note:  recipe is for medium heat chili- adjust based on taste.

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Baked Wings with Sour Cream Dipping Sauce

1 pkg frozen chicken wings (plain)

1 1/4 cup Franks Hot Sauce

1/4 cup olive oil or smoked olive oil

4 tsbp margarine or butter (melted)

2 tsp Paprika

2 tsp Garlic powder

1 tsp Smoked Chili Powder

Dijon Mustard

Salt Pepper, and McCormick Montreal Chicken Seasoning


Lightly coat wings with mustard and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili, paprika , and chicken seasoning.  Combine hot sauce, olive oil, butter and season with salt, pepper, chili and paprika.  Bake then toss wings in sauce. Serve hot.

Sour Cream Dipping Sauce:

1 cup fat free sour cream or Greek yogurt

1 pkg ranch dip mix

A handful of chives

3 heads of garlic- roasted

Combine ingredients in a bowl, puree garlic and add to mixture.  Serve cold.

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Roasted Tomato and Corn Salsa with Baked Tortilla Chips

4 tomatoes

1/2 can of corn

3 cloves of garlic

1 medium  red onion

1 lime- juiced

1 tsp lemon juice

2 tbsp Cilantro

Garlic powder, salt and pepper


Roast tomato and corn until charred.  Mince tomato and garlic and add to a bowl with the corn.  Add cilantro and juice.  Season to taste.  Served chilled.

Tortilla Chips

1 pkg whole wheat tortillas

Olive oil

Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Smoked Paprika


Cut chips into triangle.  Place on baking sheet and season.  Bake until golden brown.

Keep your wallets full and your mouths happy! <3 DD

Copyright © 2013 Christine Van Arsdalen. All Rights Reserved

Budget Bites, Tips and Tricks October 12, 2012

Fall Fridays Frugal Factoid: BYOC

Most of us already have travel mugs and drink cups lying around our kitchen cabinets at home. What most of us don’t know is that using those cups can save you some dinero.  There are countless places that now offer discounts for bringing your own cup.  It’s like killing two birds with one stone, save a few pennies and the planet.  Personally, I bring my little orange cup everywhere.  Partly because I hate having 80,000 paper cups lying around my car and partly because I save about $25 a year on coffee alone.  Sound too good to be true, well it’s not.  Businesses both chain and local offer some nice incentives for byoc.  Bring your own cup Starbucks and save 10 cents off your coffee purchase.  If you’re a Dunkin lover, they also offer discounts, however they vary by location.  Other places to save include 10 cents at Peets coffee and 10 cents at Wawa.  Check with local stores to see what discounts they offer, sometimes you can save up to 50 cents.  It may seem small but believe me this adds up.  And now that I sound like my father, get out there and go save!

Keep you wallets full and your mouths happy!

<3 DD

Copyright © 2012 Christine Van Arsdalen. All Rights Reserved

Budget Bites, Tips and Tricks September 28, 2012

Fall Friday’s Frugal Factiod- National Day Giveaway’s

There are about 500 random National Days, literally every day of the week is a celebration of some random thing; pizza, cheesecake, breathing, you name it there’s a day for it.   While most of us look at these days and say really another one, we should really be saying what can I get for free today?  Although a smaller holiday like National Molasses Day (yes that is a real day) is probably of no use to anyone except gingerbread men, the more recognized ones such as today (National Coffee Day) usually mean freebies from National Chains.   You may have to do a little googling to find out who is giving stuff away, but I promise it is worth the 30 seconds it will take you.

Today for instance, there are several big names honoring National Coffee Day with freebies and deals including Dunkin Donuts, 7-11, Einstein Bros. and Mickey D’s.  I of course will be partaking as much as possible being that I am a coffee addict, but if you would like to look for yourself you can start here Find your nearest location and you can have your morning cup of joe for free or darn close to it; total savings- anywhere from $1 to $5.

Remember, today is just one of the many days that you can get free things. So, next time you start to roll your eyes when you hear its National Taco Day (Oct 4,2012), instead think ok how can I hit all the freebies in the shortest amount of time.

Keep you wallets full and your mouths happy!

<3 DD

Copyright © 2012 Christine Van Arsdalen. All Rights Reserved

Budget Bites, Dining, Tips and Tricks September 26, 2012

Thrifty Tapas in Midtown Manhattan

I know what you’re thinking; you can’t even sneeze in the city that never sleeps without spending $200. We’ll think again; 2 hours, a bottle of wine, 7 tapas, and $123.03 after sitting down; my two girlfriends and I walked out with full wallets and stomachs. In New York that’s about as rare as finding a car that doesn’t honk its horn. After getting caught up in the glittering lights and fabulous fashions of the Soho shopping scene; my credit card was breathing a sigh of relief. I have to admit, knowing that I had spent so little on a meal in Midtown gave me that little inner glow that every woman gets when she finds a steal; a feeling somewhere between cheating death and great sex. Not to mention the meal itself was sinful. We feasted on a tantalizing combination of sweet and sultry Spanish dishes that made our taste buds do the samba. Top it off with a fine bottle of wine, and it was evening to remember.

I would have to say that my favorite dish was the bacon wrapped dates. These velvety pillows were bursting with creamy blue cheese and blanketed by a smoky layer of fatty bacon. Every little morsel made melt in your mouth seem like an understatement. Each flavor worked together like a well composed tango, and tasted just as vibrant as one. The lusciously sweet dates enveloped the sharp brackish cheese that gave way to lingering hint of smoke to create a bite so voluptuous it would make Jessica Rabbit seem like a toothpick. It was a total OMG moment, and you didn’t even have to throw him out of bed in the morning ;).

Coming in at a close second was the garlic shrimp; succulent little crustaceans bathed in garlic and oil. They were so good would I have chased those things like the chef in The Little Mermaid to get them. Each bite exploded with a burst of intense, yet not over the top, garlicky flavor with a playful note of sweet briny shrimp that was rounded out by the earthiness of the olive oil. If it wasn’t wildly inappropriate I probably would have bathed in the bubbling little tub they placed on the table. Not to mention they were served with a side of fresh crispy Italian bread which alone would make be enough to make me believe that the Spice Girls are making a comeback. Heck I would lick the sidewalks of New York for a slice of good bread (what can I say I’m Italian, we love us some bread). As I dipped my coveted bread and bit into the delectable dish I decided that this was the “Sex and the City” of food; smart, juicy, bold, and tame all at the same time.

The rest of the meal was a cacophony of ambrosial seafood, delicately fried artichokes, sausage, and second rounds of things we’ve already ordered, washed down with the perfect pairing of a light red wine. We ate like kings and paid like paupers and while there was no champagne involved it was definitely beer budget.

Keep you wallets full and your mouths happy!

<3 DD

Copyright © 2012 Christine Van Arsdalen. All Rights Reserved

Budget Bites, Tips and Tricks September 7, 2012

Fall Friday’s Frugal Factoid

Now that the summer haze is over, well at least for everyone else except the few of us who refuse to leave the beach, we get back to our normal lives.  For me that means drinking my weight in pumpkin spice lates from Starbucks. (It tastes like pumpkin crack, seriously I’m addicted).  Case in point, our “routine” habits can get expensive without us even noticing.  Personally I look at my bank statement, shout Oy Vey like an old Yiddish woman, and wonder how I managed to rack up at $30 Starbucks tab in a week. However there are ways to pinch pennies and rake in piles of money.  Each Friday, I will share one of my tricks of the trade with you, so everyone can be a dexterous diner.

 Keeping with the Starbucks theme this weeks tip is bring your own re-usable cup Starbucks for 10 cents off your purchase.  (It adds up!)

Keep you wallets full and your mouths happy!

<3 DD

Copyright © 2012 Christine Van Arsdalen. All Rights Reserved