Broccoli & quinoa salad

A salad made of broccoli and quinoa does not sound like the sort of recipe that would elicit an emotional reaction. Dancing around the kitchen, closing your eyes in culinary ecstasy, and wildly proclaiming “mmmmmm” are just not the sort of behaviors one associates with this ingredients –  I know. Throw in the word “salad,” and you have a recipe that sounds ho-hum, not HOLD ME BACK, I WANT MORE.

Yet, that is exactly what happened the moment I took a bite of this quinoa and broccoli salad with almonds. That is just not normal.

broccoli salad

Then again, this salad, complete with crunchy almonds and a creamy lemon yogurt dressing, isn’t normal either. It’s exceptional. Audible yumming, kitchen happy dance, hallelujah exceptional.

Every element of this salad works together to create a dish with elevated and bewitching layers of flavor and texture. The quinoa is light and nutty, the broccoli is crisp, the almonds are toasty, and a heaping handful of fresh tarragon and parsley makes the salad taste animated and fresh. Toss the entire shebang in a creamy lemon yogurt dressing, and you have a healthy green meal that will have you dancing in your kitchen too.

broccoli salad2.jpg

The best part about it is that it tastes as good the day it is made as it does leftover. You can serve it at room temperature at a party or potluck or prep a big bowl over the weekend for healthy lunches and dinners all week long. If you’d like to add some extra protein beyond what is already in the quinoa, feel free to toss in some chickpeas or top it with grilled or shredded chicken.

broccoli salad3

Here is what you will need (for the dressing):

1/2 cup of nonfat plain Greek yogurt

3 tablespoons of milk (you can use nonfat or any kind you’d like)

1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon of finely grated lemon zest (about 1 medium sized lemon)

♥ 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon of kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon of black pepper

Here is what you will need (for the salad):

2 small heads of broccoli – cut into bite size florets (about 6 cups)

3/4 cup of uncooked quinoa

1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt

1 small shallot – finely chopped (about 1/3 of a cup)

1/2 cup of chopped parsley

1/4 cup of chopped tarragon

1/4 cup sliced or slivered toasted almonds

 

Here is what you will need to do:

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the Greek yogurt, milk, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and at the same time, fill a large bowl of ice water. Add the broccoli florets to the boiling water and cook until crisp-tender – about a minute. Leave the water in the pot.

Transfer the broccoli to the ice water and then pat dry.

Return the pot of water back to a boil and add the quinoa until cooked al dente – about 12 minutes. Drain and transfer the quinoa to a large bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons dressing and the additional salt to flavor.

Add the additional dressing, broccoli, shallots, parsley, tarragon and almonds. Toss to combine. Add any additional salt and pepper needed to taste.

♥ Dressing can be prepared up to 5 days in advance. Cover and chill until ready to use.

  Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

 

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XOXO.

B.

Budgeting 101.

As someone who works in the finance field, I’m shocked it’s taken me this long to write this post. I think sometimes I forget to address the things in life that I’m decent at and familiar with and instead focus on what I’m trying to improve.

When it comes to budgets, money, etc., I’ve always been pretty comfortable with it. It’s the part of my brain that works almost automatically and I’m not doing a ton of research on how to make myself better here. BUT, I realized that it is an area of contention for a lot of people – and hopefully some of you reading today! I actually had a lot of fun putting this together (big nerd moment happening here) because I’m confident and think I have some helpful tips to share! Plus, I actually like numbers (and excel!) and sort of enjoy writing about technical subjects like this.

The Basics of starting a budget – take inventory.

Before making a spreadsheet or doing anything fun with your planning, you first have to take inventory of your income and of your spending. This breaks down into a few areas, so let’s go slowly step by step.

Step 1: Collect your bills.

The point of this is to figure out where you’re spending your money each month. I think this is often the scary part that keeps people away from making a budget in the first place, so it’s a good place to start. They always say to get the worst task done first, so just get right to it.

Since looking at your expenses for the past year can be overwhelming, start with this month’s expenses and cash flow. It will be easier to identify what your fixed costs are and what your expenses are so that you can expect (approximate) for the rest of the month. The point here is to group your expenses or areas of your life that are recurring chargers. I like to use these categories personally:

  • Groceries
  • Entertainment – basically, the things you could technically live without (dining out, Netflix, babysitters, cable, music streaming / downloads, concerts, etc.)
  • Home essentials (toilet paper, cleaning supplies, etc.). If you get this at the grocery store, you can include it there.
  • Essential bills (water, garbage, energy, home owner’s insurance, mortgage, rent, Internet, car insurance, phone bill etc.)
  • Upkeep – basically anything that you do to take care of yourself or your family (hair cuts, manicures, dog groomers, massages etc.)
  • Shopping (clothes, shoes, beauty products, etc.)
  • Withdraws – figure out where this cash is going
  • Everything else – depending on your life, you may have another category (like your business, etc) that belongs on this list, or you may be able to get rid of one all together. If you’re spending money over and over on another category, add it.
  • Savings – the money you’re transferring to savings or a future investment (tangible) each month. If you’re not already doing this, your budget should help!
  • Debt – THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT. Make note of student loans, home mortgage, car payment, etc. Also, make note of the interest rates for each (this will come in handy when deciding where how much to put where every month).

Using these categorizes to organize your spending will let you look closer at where you are spending the most or least.

Step 2: Find your monthly income.

For many people, you know the exact number you make every year – you have a salary. But for others, you work hourly or things change from month to month. If you have a salary, look at your bank statements to determine your monthly income (what’s coming home with you after taxes, health insurance, etc). If you don’t have a regular paycheck, you’ll need to find the average of what you’ve been making. I suggest looking back over the last 6-12 months (depending if you have changes seasonally or you’ve been making more/less than a year ago), jotting down how much you made each of those months, and then averaging it out.

After you do that, you know your monthly income.

The basics of starting a budget – be informed.

In general, there are some percentages and numbers that are smart to live by when it comes to money. Again, there are MANY different opinions here, but this is just what I do and what works for me.

Step 3: Know smart stats

  • Saving 20% percent of your monthly income for a couple different buckets:
    • Any general saving plans
    • Any specific saving plans (for a home, etc)
    • Emergency funds (I try to create a 6-month emergency fund in case I lost my job or god forbid something crazy and unplanned happens).
    • I personally contribute to my emergency fund first, then go into more general saving plans.
  • Not spending more than 25-30% on things that I want (shopping, upkeep, Netflix, etc.)
  • Not spending more than 50-55% on everything I need (my mortgage, my car payment, etc.)

The basics of starting a budget – find your numbers.

OK so now the kinda fun part. It’s time to create a spreadsheet! For people just starting, I think the idea of manually doing everything to start is helpful. You’ll really be able to see every single thing you’re spending your money on, and you’ll walk yourself through the process. Then, of course, take advantage of apps or whatever you want – but more on that later.

Step 4: Plug in numbers.

Make a row for each spending category, and add your monthly costs. You might even want to start batching things (like wants vs. needs now that you have a better idea of your spending habits – but don’t make any changes yet – this is the time to be honest with what you’ve been spending – we’ll make adjustments later). Then, add up ALL your spending for the month, and bold that number. This will give you your average spending amount.

In a row down below, write in your monthly income. By now, you’ll start getting an idea of how much you’re spending vs. how much your making and what that ratio looks like.

Step 5: Use the smart stats vs. your numbers.

Do the math and see if your numbers match up to the smart stats I mentioned in Step 3. If you’re like most people (me included), you’re probably spending more on either wants or needs than you should be. Maybe you’re not hitting the 20% savings mark either. That’s OK! That’s why we’re doing this.

Before making any changes, come up with a number based on the stats in Step 3 with your personal numbers. What is the dollar amount that you should be spending on wants a month? Needs? Saving? Mark those in red on your spreadsheet.

Step 6: Make adjustments.

Now, it’s probably time for some changes. The math is going to be different for every person as are priorities, but in general, you’ll want to start prioritizing your spending. Here are some ideas:

If your wants are too high…

  • Consider limiting dining out to once a week, or once a month.
  • Cancel cable services and instead pay for Netflix and Hulu/Crave. Or, consider changing your package if you have a bundle with channels you don’ often watch.
  • Use the free version of things like Spotify, Pandora.
  • Make your coffee at home in the morning and throw it in a travel mug!
  • Pack a lunch!

If your needs are too high…

  • Consider moving into a cheaper home/apartment/whatever.
  • Find more cost efficient recipes or start growing your own food.
  • Consider a side job.
  • Think about listing some old clothes or furniture online.
  • Consider paying more towards your debt with higher interest rates – you’ll be able to balance out some numbers since you’ll technically be saving more.

Play around with the numbers and your priorities to see where you could start shaving off costs in either area. And don’t forget about that 20% for savings! That may need to come from your wants or needs section. Basically, play around with numbers until you hit the smart stats – and that is where your budget needs to stem from.

The basics of starting a budget – create a system.

OK YAY! The hard part is over. You’re probably either feeling really great or really terrified right now, but that’s the point of a budget!  To give you an idea of what you have, what you make, and what you can spend. It’s now time to create an ongoing system for your budget and some goals. At this point I encourage you to walk away from your computer, go to the kitchen and pour yourself a glass of wine before coming back.

Step 7: Find a resource.

This is the time to use a resource, like Mint, GoodBudget, Spendee, or something similar. These resources are great because with most of them, you can link up all your bills, spending, etc. AND anything you’re making. It does the monthly calculations for you. If you use an app, you can check in on your budget at any time, and it’ll even alert you when you’re going over in one category (since you can make spending goals/limits per category). Some even pay your bills for you automatically! (side note: be careful with automatic payments – I like to always look over my bills and make sure there are no hidden fees or purchases that don’t belong. I am glad that I do this because I have found things before that should not have been there. Also, I know I am old school but I like to have my bills snail mailed to me so once I have it physically in my hand, it reminds me to review them before stamping them as paid and filing them away)

OR, just stick to your excel sheet! These can sometimes be more flexible if you’re wanting to get really detailed. This is the method that works best for me and I find easiest.

And remember that you have to find what works for you. Some people love taking out X amount of cash a week and having that be their allowance for all their needs – there are SO many systems out there, so do your research and find tricks that work for you.

Step 8: Check in monthly.

I like to do this on the last Sunday of the month, or sometime around the end of the month. It’s basically a check in with yourself and your finances. I look for and ask myself these things:

  • Do I need to adjust anything? (Maybe your salary changed, your rent changed, you decided to cancel something, etc.).
  • How am I feeling money wise? Can I add a little more to my savings at the moment? Is there something that I need to scale back on?
  • Am I prioritizing my spending?
  • Am I hitting my goals?
  • Do I still like the resource I’m using?

And for me, this monthly check-in keeps me accountable for my budget. Without it, I might forget about it or just not stick to it as closely – so this last step is one of the most important. I personally do it while sitting at the kitchen island with a glass of rosé while listening to Kaitlyn Bristowe’s Off The Vine podcast – and it only takes about 30 minutes. 30 minutes for major peace of mind is well worth it, so I highly suggest making this part of your budget planning!

That’s about it. I hope that this general starter’s guide was helpful for you! If you have any other questions, of course let me know in the comments section – and don’t forget about speaking with a financial advisor if this wasn’t enough info.

Do you have any budgeting tips? Which resources do you use?

XOXO.

B.

7 hygiene habits to ditch in your 20s because, there’s no more room for excuses.

I’ve talked about it before but your 20s are that weird decade where you simultaneously feel like a kid and an adult. I think that because this is my last year as a 20something, I have become obsessed with it!  We often still follow our old habits from college or even high school that are totally teenager appropriate, but don’t exactly spell responsible adult. But as your teens slip further away and 30 inches closer, there are several hygiene habits you should ditch in your 20s. You may have gotten away with them ten years ago, but some of these things just aren’t going to fly any longer.

As you’ve probably heard a million times, things change when you age. You can’t necessarily get away with things that you did when you were young because your body and skin are changing, so it’s important to ditch bad habits when you’re young and set yourself up with a good routine that can carry you through adulthood. It’s easy to get lazy when it comes to beauty and hygiene, but it’s time to change all of that. Even if it takes you an extra five, fifteen, or even thirty minutes, it’s worth it, and your future self will thank you.

It might sound gross, but most of us are guilty of following some of these hygiene habits, and you should totally forget about them ASAP.

Makeup remover is not a cleanser.

The important thing is just making sure you take your makeup off, right? Wrong. The pads aren’t cleansing your skin — they’re just taking the makeup off. Even though it’s an extra step, you still need to cleanse as well as remove your makeup.

Clean your darn brushes!

Just because they don’t look dirty, doesn’t mean they don’t need washing. Products and bacteria build up on your brushes, which you then put on your face, causing break outs. Make sure you wash your brushes every two weeks or so, minimum.

Fabric spray is not the answer.

Just like on your makeup brushes, bacteria can build up on your sheets and pillowcases! When you lay on them every night you are transferring bacteria back onto your skin and clogging your pores, it could cause you to break out, so make sure you actually wash your sheets every week! EVERY WEEK!

Stop touching your pimples!

You know this one without me having to telling you, but as tempting as it is – do not pop your pimples. In addition to potentially scarring your face, popping pimples can cause bacteria to spread to other areas of your face, creating more breakouts. Just don’t do it anymore.

FLOSS!!!

Brushing your teeth isn’t going to cut it — you need to take the extra two minutes and floss, too. It removes bacteria and plaque from your teeth in places that your tooth brush can’t get, so if you want to maintain good oral hygiene, you better floss.

Water is not enough.

Shaving sucks in general, and spending a lot of time on it makes it even worse, but don’t just wet (or worse, dry) and shave. You should be using a gel, cream, soap, or something on there to coat your body so that you don’t cut yourself and you get a closer shave.

Up your soap game!

If you haven’t invested in a cleanser yet, it’s time to. Soaps have a high pH, so when you use a soap that has a pH of 13, it strips your skin of natural oils and lipids, and so it makes you look a lot older and makes your skin more irritated. Instead, use a beauty bar, pH neutral, or non-soap cleanser. You are an adult now, start reading the labels and educating yourself on what you are using on your body.

It might be hard to break these habits now, but trust me, you will be so thankful you did in the long run.

Don’t forget to subscribe to LiveLaughLearn.blog to stay up to date and follow on Instagram @LiveLaughLearn.blog

XOXO.

B.