Upgrading Instant Ramen Noodles

Let’s be real – all college students are pros at making instant noodles. Hell, I can make that dish blacked out, crying and half naked and have it come out looking like Chef Ramsey made it. It’s easy and simple and gets the job done. However, as we all know, as we grow older, our metabolism slowly starts to not be so kind to us anymore and devouring instant noodles is probably not the best habit to rely on.  So, how do we turn this starch-heavy dish into a well-balanced “adult-like” meal?

Let’s take it to the next level

Sever the ties with the MSG Packet.

Only use half of the sodium packet – your blood pressure will thank me later and you really don’t need to use it all to get lots of flavor. If you think it’s still lacking, add other condiments, like our well-beloved friend Sriracha or even honey mustard, to the mix instead.

Get your protein fix

The easiest (and cheapest) option is adding an egg. This can be as simple as dropping an egg into the boiling water in the last 1-2 minutes of the noodle’s cooking time.  You can also get real fancy with pan-frying an egg and placing it on top of the noodles once they are done cooking.

Protip: The sodium and water from the broth combined with an egg are GREAT for hangovers (I can personally attest to this and so can science).

If you’re an avid meat-eater, try adding chicken/pork/beef/whatever choice of meat you like. To do so, cut the meat into thin slices and while the noodles are simmering, drop those bad boys in the hot broth.

Get your greens

We may not like these so much, but in the long-run, you won’t regret eating your veggies. If you’re impatient and/or hangry, try adding some quick-cooking vegetables like spinach or bean sprouts.  If you’ve got some time on your hands, throw some cabbage or snow peas in the mix at the beginning of the cook time for the noodles. Frozen vegetables are also great options but just be sure to defrost them completely prior to including them into the broth.

Get those creative juices flowing and experiment with new ingredients! Anybody else have some ideas to upgrade their instant noodles?

 

How Your Yelp Reviews Get You Free Stuff: Inside Yelp Elite

It’s safe to assume that a good majority of us really only use Yelp to check out reviews and ratings of potential places to grub. But did you know that you can also join their Elite team and go to free events aka get free food?

The Perks

  • You can attend awesome free parties! Some events cater a full dinner (and on several occasions an open bar) or have dessert tastings and send you off with swag bags. What’s great is that the Elite events aren’t only limited to food-focused functions but in the past have also included complimentary tickets to artistic shows around your local area.
  • Living in LA can be a challenge to meet people but this is a great way to network with other Yelp Elite members while bonding over food you wish you could make. And, hey, you never know who you might meet – a future employer, potential partner or what have you but at least there’s a common denominator.

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So now that I have your attention, here’s the sitch: unfortunately, you can’t just simply click a button to join.  You can nominate yourself, someone else can nominate you or the Elite council can choose you. That being said here’s what you should do to increase your chances of joining the exclusivity:

How it happens

  • Write, write, write! Don’t just be a Yelp user who doesn’t leave rating and reviews to businesses.  Not only is writing great for you mentally, but it’s also a good way to give feedback and exposure to local businesses who might need it. Once I wrote a slightly negative review on a restaurant and the owner responded back thanking me for the critique as it helps them improve their business and offered a free entree on the house – a win-win!
  • Quality, not Quantity (sort of).  The Elite squad is looking for active Yelp users but when writing reviews, you should really take the time to give constructive detailed feedback.  Frequency is also a quality they take into consideration so throw it into your daily social media routine.

Not only does the Elite badge stop here, but there’s also “Gold” (being a Yelp Elite for 5+ years) and “Black” (Yelp Elite for 10+ years).  Word has it both of these higher up badges offer even more exclusive and intimate parties.

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Feel the Burn: Soul Cycle for Beginners

Close your eyes. Okay don’t, but pretend to close your eyes. Imagine 100 hot, sweaty, cramped, dehydrated, overworked, Millennials thrusting to music, screaming into a dark abyss that’s playing a new Ellie Goulding remix back at them. Now where are you? No you’re not at Mad Decent Block Party (Praise Diplo), you’re at Soul Cycle, the intense full body fitness workout on a stationary bike that gets middle aged women hotter than Sunday brunch.

 

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So what makes this experience so surreal?

The Class

Think of it like a crossover between spin class and EDC. You’re going to get your ass kicked by a Grecian goddess you only see on Instagram but not going to hate it that much because loud music drowns out just about everything. You don’t even have to know where you are; and I think that’s a significant part of the brand ethos. You’re paying $30 a class, yeah that’s right, to escape and get outside your comfort zone while also making you feel really comfortable doing it.

For those of you who haven’t taken a spin class before, it’s a cardio-focused stationary cycling class with resistances that are self-adjusted (under the directions of the instructor) by a small knob located in the center of the lower handle section of the bike.  Spin & Soul Cycle alike both focus on the BPM (beats per minute also known as speed of music) to make sure you stay on beat while you pedal.

The main notable difference is that in a Soul Cycle class, the instructor dims the ceiling lights, letting the soft glow of the faux candles scattered around the front of the room create this relaxing ambiance. Being 1 foot away from my neighbor, I noticed this helps you maintain focus as you are less aware of others in the class, but are more fixated on your movement as well as the teacher. However, don’t be surprised when the leader flips on some of the lights located at the front of the room to dramatize the intense pedaling and motivate your spinning when the beat drops.

Another key difference is near the end of the class, Soul Cycle uses light dumbbell weights to tone those arms. Throughout the class, the instructor is constantly feeding you stimulating phrases – for example: “Instead of thinking that you need to keep working harder, can you relax your body and just go deeper?”

Cost

Being a Soul Cyclist can be pretty expensive, especially if you’re fresh out of college with an entry-level job and on a budget.  First time riders get a discount ($20) for their first class but after that, it’s $30 per session.  Alternatively, you can order bundle packages of classes for lower rates.  Here’s the caveat though – there is an expiration date for when the classes are to be used by, generally ranging from 30-45 days.  There is also a “hidden” fee for shoe-rentals, around $3 per rental, but you also have the alternative to commit to the lifestyle and buy a pair for yourself. Another additive cost is the $2 for a “Smart Water” bottle so just remember to bring your own!

The Amenities

Ok, real talk, the amenities at Soul Cycle are SUPER nice. It’s like the Equinox of spin classes. The studio provides nice decent-sized lockers for you with built-in security locks.  The bathrooms are what really impressed me though.  Although I can’t vouch for the men’s, they have definitely got the women’s bathroom down.  In addition to a shower, they provide towels, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hair spray, a blowdryer, lotion, ear buds, deodorant, disposable shavers and tampons (and not the cheap kind, but an actual brand name – ladies, we all know how crucial this is). Only downfall is that the number of showers are limited at the studios so good luck clamoring your way to claim one right after class.

Thoughts

I will admit that I got a great workout that day and the instructor’s energy helped boost the intensity of my workout but as a budget-conscious young adult, it’s quite steep to implement the classes into my weekly routine.

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How to Shop for Groceries the Right Way

Now that you’re in the awkward and confusing post-collegiate stage of life, there are certain amenities that you were once accustomed to that aren’t as easily accessible. One that we all cherished (and possibly took for granted) was the meal plan. What a luxury that was. Sure, you can eat out every meal but you should remember that Chipotle has a slim menu, $12 at the grocery store will get you much more than a burrito and a bag of chips, and when you stumble through the door at 2am, you’re going to wish you knew how to cook.

Here are a few tips that I’ve learned through trial and error on how to shop for groceries the right way to get into the groove of cooking:

Educate yourself

We are all blessed to be living in this age where unlimited amounts of resources are at our fingertips, so why not be resourceful and use them? Instead of binge-watching It’s Always Sunny on Netflix for the 5th time (guilty), check out some cooking shows and/or food documentaries for some inspiration.  For the left-brained individuals, Good Eats is a great show that explores the scientific technique behind cooking.  Be sure to check out Sorted Food, a popular and fun YouTube cooking channel. My personal favorites are Chef Gordon Ramsay videos on cooking basics. Another way to learn is through cooking blogs (ie: Serious Eats, Taste Spotting, Chow Hound, Food52, The Kitchn, Budget Bytes). And if you like to see Action Bronson stuffing his face, Vice channel, Munchies is a great watch.

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Start small

We all know how daunting it can be to learn how to cook for yourself. That being said, setting small goals can help overcome the anxiety.  I began cooking simple dishes (click here for some 3-ingredient meals) with a weekly target of learning one new dish per week and built my goals (short-term and long-term) up from there.

Have a tentative plan

This might be harder to do since planning requires some forethought and a bit of effort.  Try making a general outline of your meals for the work week – this step can help ease the overwhelming stress of what to cook after a long day at work. Sit down and make a food calendar, what’s for dinner Monday night? What’s for lunch Tuesday-Thursday? If you’re work brings in lunch on Friday, shop accordingly. Meal planning can help you save money and limit the amount of wasted food.

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Most importantly – have fun!

Feeding yourself shouldn’t be a chore. Cooking can be used as a creative outlet and the beauty of it is that there are no “wrong” answers. Food is something that should be enjoyed and the process of creating your own meals can be rewarding and empowering. It’s also a good way to socialize with friends with half the cost (and possibly calories) of eating out!

We promise you too can be this happy.

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Anyone else have any blogs or tips to share? Happy Cooking!