The IRS Ate My Lunch

In Food & Wine, Money Saving Tips on April 15, 2010 at 8:00 AM

Today is a joyous day for some, and awful for others. Until recently, I was one of the lucky people who rejoiced at the onset of April 15th. Receiving my highly anticipated tax refund meant I could (kinda) shop ’til I drop and throw a lil’ sumfin in the piggy bank.

Thanks to my own tax mis-education (should’ve made some W-4 changes…how the hell was I supposed to  know? So much for doing my own taxes!) I now owe the &#^% IRS an exhorbitant amount of money (relatively speaking, of course).

In order to continue along with life as I know it without having tax collectors stalking me, drastic measures need to be taken. Regrettably, I am now on the IRS diet.

What is the IRS diet you ask? Lunch that costs no more than $2 a day (yes $2 a day…cue Sally Struthers). Somehow, I have managed to make said lunch taste quite delicious. I am eating ramen noodles daily, people. Yes, the dry ramen noodles in the brightly colored packs, which cost about $0.50 each, $5 for a 12-pack ($3.50 if you use your grocery’s loyalty card or coupons…it’s that serious). And you know what? It’s hella yummy, if you know what to do with it.

Thought my days eating this were over. I was wrong, but am actually OK with it.

You might recall my Poor Man’s Pasta dish, which – if made in bulk – will also fit the $2-a-day lunch budget. I now have a cadre of ramen noodle recipes up my sleeve, which I will share with you frugalistas and frugalistos one at a time. Today’s recipe – Cabbage Noodle Soup (thinking of calling it Kim Chi Soup, for reasons that I’ll later explain).



  • 2 packs ramen noodles (any flavor will do because you’re going to immediately throw away that MSG-filled flavor packet upon opening)
  • 1 small green cabbage
  • 1 large spanish onion
  • 2 vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 3 tbsps olive oil
  • delicious, free water
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • kim chi or West Indian pepper sauce


Chop cabbage, peppers, tomatoes and onions (separately). Bring olive oil to a low heat in a medium saucepan and sautee onions until transluscent. Add cabbage and a generous amount of black pepper, stirring so that the oil coats the chopped cabbage fairly evenly. Cover the saucepan for 1-2 minutes. Add chopped peppers, tomatoes, ramen noodles and enough water to cover the cabbage. Cover the saucepan again and let the brew simmer until the cabbage and noodles are cooked. Add salt and pepper sauce to taste (I like it super spicy – so much so that I’ve been told this tastes like kim chi soup, which – if it existed – would be delicious).

You’ll get a good 5-6 days worth of soup from this, and the ingredients (assuming you already have salt, pepper and oil of some form sitting in your pantry) cost no more than $10.

Pam Anderson, you bedda get on this!


Top Independent Restos 2010 – The FabFrugNY Edition

In Food & Wine, Nightlife on April 6, 2010 at 3:06 AM

Map of Carmine's restaurant, courtesy the website. Thanks website.

Forget Zagat. To find NYC’s most popular, affordable restaurants, FabFrugNY and Restaurants and Institutions magazine will guide you.

The industry trade magazine last week revealed its list of Top 100 Independent Restaurants 2010. The list, not surprisingly, includes the nation’s priciest establishments with NYC staples like the 21 Club, Del Posto and The Four Seasons at the top of the pile.  However (let’s drill down the list, shall we?), I’ve taken the liberty of narrowing it down to only those restaurants located in NY that offer incredible meals for an average dinner check of less than $50 per head. The survivors were few, but here they are:

Bryant Park Grill

Location: Bryant Park, behind the New York Public Library

Ranking on List: #97


Location: 200 W. 44th St.

Ranking on List: #6

The Coffee Shop

Location: 29 Union Square West

Rank: #61

***Editor’s Note: Love love love that they serve brunch items all day (and night). The eggs Ipanema are melt-in-your-mouth good!

Dos Caminos

Location: Third Avenue, Park & Soho (3 locations)

Rank: #85

Editor’s Note: Although I’ve never eaten a dissatisfying meal here (the fish tacos are exceptional) it’s the fresh, home-made guacamole that keeps me coming back incessantly.

Red Eye Grill

Location: 7th Ave. at 56th St.

Rank: 83

Tratorria Dell’Arte

Location: 7th Ave. (between 56th and 57th)

Rank: 71

*Editor’s Note: The soft-shell crab gave me serious foodgasms!

Always Look on the Bright Side

In Free stuff on April 6, 2010 at 1:54 AM

Jewelry by Lori Citsay, recently given away on The Bright Side Project

Having a bad day? Look on the BrightSide. No, I’m not getting all Deepak Chopra on you. Literally… LOOK..ON…THE…BRIGHTSIDE – http://thebrightsideproject.com.

The Bright Side Project began when former publicist and self-proclaimed “branding jedi” Miss B. decided to turn lemons crushed by the economy into a never-ending cascade of sparkling lemonade – she gives away exquisite prizes (design, decor and fashion accessories) daily via a delightful blog guaranteed to bring sunshine into your life, whether you win a prize or not.

Do yourself a favor and sign up for the daily e-newsletter. The products’ creators ask readers intriguing questions they must answer in order to enter the contest. Even if you don’t enter, the questions make you think about the things that make you happiest about life, if only for a brief moment in your crazy, New York day.

Check out my favorite giveaway at the moment.