The 8 restaurant-inspired secrets to making meals without making leftovers

Guestpost by SmashedTogether on Jul 28th

A little while ago we asked "how do you make leftovers feel less leftover-y?" Offbeat Homie SmashedTogether gave such a brilliant answer, that we made it its own post!

Food prep tips from professional kitchens that you can try at home.

Food prep tips from professional kitchens that you can try at home. Photo by Chef Amy Wolf.

In all honesty, there is no way to make four nights of chili seem like anything other than four nights of chili. I get the appeal in making a big batch of food and having it there for you for the rest of the week, but if you aren't consuming it, that's money down the drain. If you aren't enjoying it, then what's the point?

Food shouldn't just be fuel for your body; it's a sensory experience that is supposed to make you feel alive. And there's something about the same pre-cooked slurry four nights in a row that makes that harder.

Leftovers aren't for everyone, but you're on the right track with cooking at home. I think that most people these days have built up cooking a meal every night to being this huge ordeal that it really isn't. Homemade fridge/freezer meals are a great alternative to frozen pizza, don't get me wrong — but after years of working in restaurants, and watching empty plates turn into meals in 15 minutes or so, cooking a meal for yourself really doesn't seem so hard.

Think about eating in a mid-level family restaurant. Not the fine dining kind, and not the mostly-pancakes-and-bacon joints, but the places that turn out meals from more or less real ingredients in about 15 minutes, almost every time. Think about the systems they have in place to bring you a full meal only minutes after asking for it. The biggest reason isn't that food is cooked before it's ordered, but that the ingredients are prepped.

Prepping is the key to making meals that taste fresh but come out fast. It's not as hard as you think; all you need to do is take the time you have been spending making one big meal, and spend it being your own prep cook! Here's how…

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Our new ad platform and patrons: The sparkly new future of Offbeat Home & Life

By on Jul 28th


Last week on the Offbeat Empire blog, Ariel wrote about our new ad platform over here. The tl;dr version is that the biggest difference you'll notice will be that in a few months, the sponsored posts will be about bigger companies. Don't worry, they'll only be companies we like, and still written in the voice of the Empire. Soon, when you see me gushing about IKEA (like we normally do anyway), the Empire will be compensated for the gushing.

Which means Offbeat Home & Life becomes profitable, which means less chance of Ariel threatening to kill the site like she killed Offbeat Families. Yay!

But I also wanted to talk about reader supporters and patrons here on Home…

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Peep zee magnifique vintage French home goods collection from Relique

By on Jul 25th

Little known fact about me: I used to be a Francophile. So much so that my entire apartment in college was decorated, floor to ceiling, with all things French. French fabric, French art, even my food canisters were labeled with French words (much like that Vintage French Toleware Nesting Canister Set). You name it, I had the French version of it.

That's why I'm like "where was this special sale on all things French from Relique when I was in college!?"

Remember when we introduced you to our sponsor Relique — the online shop that offers one-of-a-kind vintage finds? I found so many awesome vintage and repurposed items that I wanted to share with you. This time let's talk about zee French collection discount from Relique, and peep a few of my favorite things…

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How can I survive hot-desking in an open-plan windowless office?

By on Jul 25th

This is not MelRuth's desk, but it is a good example of "hot desking." Photo by: Simon BrunningCC BY 2.0

I have recently started a new job. And while I love the work itself, the working environment is new to me and causing me to regret taking the job. I now work in an open-plan office without any natural light, and I am hot-desking.

This is not the first time I have worked in a space without natural light, but it is the first time I have ever hot-desked, or worked in an open-plan office.

What can I do to make the environment nicer, and more of a productive area to work in? -MelRuth

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Down the rabbit hole of über-Christian marriage advice: Do I really have to be spiritual to have a strong connection to my partner?

Guestpost by Zoë on Jul 24th

Etsy seller CosmicLibrary says, "This unusual book has a wonderfully skewed view on love and matrimony – it was authored by a reverend well over 100 years ago."

Wedding porn is fun. I like it. But it's everywhere, and you know what I crave more of? Marriage advice. I want to read inspiring things about how to have a happy relationship.

Relationships are something I'm interested in, and I like to think about mine. And it makes me feel appreciative of my partner. But, come to find out, a lot of marriage and relationship advice is religious — which is one thing I am not.

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Muse luring and raw word counts: Why I refuse to meditate

Guestpost by Lydia Bengtson on Jul 23rd

NOPE NOPE NOPE (Photo by: Nickolai KashirinCC BY 2.0)

I am thoughtful, open-minded person who believes in the values of calm and stillness, who understands the neuroscientific studies on the way meditation massages our grey-matter, and who really wanted to be a Jedi when I grew up.

And I refuse to meditate.

The core of most meditation, part of its intrinsic value, is to calm the mind down and then step outside your emotions by fixating on your sensations. The quiet mind is free to simply experience existence without the running commentary of consciousness. (The "dish of mold" as described in I ♥ Huckabees.) There's easily dozens — if not hundreds — of techniques for reaching this state, all of which ask for patience as the practitioner learns how to operate their brain in a new way.

Much of meditation asks the practitioners to bear witness to their emotions as feelings manifest through their bodies. By understanding what anger, fear, sorrow, and joy feel like, and knowing where their edges are, the practitioner can gain a new level of emotional control. It's a way of training the self to understand that a fleeting state of grief is finite and will move on, that the hot pulse of anger is that pressure in your jaw — right there, no, up a little bit and back, there — but it's not the world-blurring threat it seems to be. These lessons are valuable and in some cases, life-altering.

All of meditation seeks to wipe out those chaotic little thoughts: I need to start a meal plan for next week. Maybe hummus. Oh wait, the kiddo won't eat that yet. When did I start eating hummus? Man, that kid in third grade was so weird. Did he always have ringworm? I think he did…

Meditation, like many things that resonate so beautifully with virtues Obi-Wan or Yoda would extol, can be a powerful tool. And it's a tool that does not belong in my hands.

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Italian chicken slow cooker tastiness in under fifteen minutes

Guestpost by Laura on Jul 23rd

Italian chicken in the  slow cooker ingredients-2

I happened to check the time before I started making this Italian chicken slow cooker recipe and — starting with a clean kitchen all the way through putting the cutting board into the dishwasher and the slow cooker into the fridge for the night — it took me thirteen minutes to make this. If I skipped the onion chopping and rosemary I could probably get it under ten. Then just a few minutes the next day for the rolls and we had a delicious dinner.

Perfect for those days when you have too many things to do and not enough time — or for when you don't have time to waste in the kitchen because you need to catch up on Game of Thrones.

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