After six months of searching and more than a few disappointments, Cameron and I forked over our future to a mortgage company last week. We’re officially first-time homeowners. When I shared the news with my father via phone, he said, “Congratulations. You’ve now achieved the American Dream: lifelong debt.”
Thanks, Dad. You always know how to put things into perspective.
These days debt is but one obstacle facing potential homebuyers in Denver. The metro area never fully experienced the economic downtown that most of the rest of the country braved. It wasn’t immune to increased foreclosures and short sales and a nasty increase in unemployment, but compared to most U.S. cities, Denver weathered the crisis surprisingly well.
Still, until last fall, folks were not buying property the way they were this summer. Cameron and I started house hunting in February, and we were not alone. By the summer, house inventory was at a historic low in the city, making every house we could afford a high-stakes bidding war with frustrating consequences for the bidders on the losing side. We were almost always on the losing side.
Of course, individual homebuyers are not the only folks we were bidding against. National investment corporations are playing the housing market in the hope of making serious bank as the country’s economy improves. If you’re one of the major national corporations currently paying cash for entire streets’ worth of houses so you can fix them up and then sit on them until you can sell them for ridiculous gobs of money later, outbidding individual buyers and screwing with a neighborhood’s sense of community, you probably don’t realize how scary it is for first-time homebuyers to step up to the mortgage table and hand over what to us is a huge chunk o’ change.
But buying a house is also exciting! After living in apartments for most of my adult life, all the while hoping my landlord won’t turn skeezy or prove to be one of those classy ones who waits until I move out so he can find some excuse to keep my security deposit, Cameron and I finally be king and queen of our own modest “castle.”
We’re already frugal folks, but now that we’re paying a mortgage, we’ve been looking at new ways to cut unnecessary expenses in order to better manage our money. One of those ways will be through reducing impulse buys at the grocery store. One of my first jobs was at a grocery store, and I quickly learned how much effort goes into arranging products for maximum impulse buy potential. That knowledge doesn’t always stop me from lingering in the chip aisle, mesmerized by the bright and shiny packages of puffed-up ingredients. No more, friends.
In the coming weeks and months, you may notice a trend toward the simple and inexpensive for some of the recipes shared on my blog. Don’t worry. I’ll never sacrifice taste by cutting corners. Fortunately, there’s no end to excellent and inexpensive meals. Today’s recipe exemplifies my point: red curry shrimp with pineapple.
Fresh pineapple can seem expensive, but recently I’ve been able to snag a large whole pineapple for 4 bucks. You’ll have more than enough fruit for this recipe and plenty left over for snacks during the week. The other ingredients are readily available at most supermarkets and Asian food stores. If you haven’t shopped at an Asian grocery store yet, you’re in for a surprise. Most of the food there is much less expensive than the same items at a “regular” store. Seriously.
This curry turned out very well, but I wished I’d included another vegetable like broccoli or zucchini to round out the flavors.
Red Curry Shrimp with Pineapple/Gaeng Kua Goong Sapparote (a Quick and Easy Thai recipe)
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
2 TBS gaeng kua curry paste or red curry paste
1/2 cup water
2 TBS fish sauce
1 TBS brown sugar (if you have palm sugar, use that.)
1 cup drained canned pineapple chunks or bite-sized chunks fresh pineapple
6 wild kaffir lime leaves, quartered
3/4 lb. large shrimp
1/3 cup fresh Asian or Italian basil leaves, plus basil sprigs for garnish
2 cups cooked rice vermicelli
1. In a medium skillet or saucepan, heat 1/2 cup of the coconut milk over medium-high heat, stirring often, until thickened and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.
2. Add the curry paste and cook a minute or two, pressing and stirring to dissolve it. Stir in remaining 1 cup coconut milk, the water, fish sauce, sugar, pineapple, and lime leaves, and bring to a gentle boil.
3. Add the shrimp and basil leaves and cook another minute or two, just until shrimp are pink and cooked through. Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with fresh basil sprigs, and serve hot or warm over a bowl of rice vermicelli.