Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Turkey Burger with Cranberry Aioli

Hi, friends! I've been waiting to share this recipe with you since the summer. John enjoyed the "Thankful" burger at Grange Hall Burger Bar in July and we recreated it a weekend or so later. While the burger was tasty enough to share then, the flavors are a little more appropriate for this week of Thanksgiving.
Speaking of Thanksgiving, I'm extremely thankful for my family this year. Yes, being a parent is hard work, but Monica's smiles, giggles, and overall happiness makes it worth it. I'm also thankful for John and his cooking skills. I often joke that he feeds me (and himself) and I feed Monica, so things are even in the kitchen.
Back to the kitchen...if you'd rather use this burger as a way to give leftovers a new life, have at it! You could easily use a few slices of roasted turkey in place of ground turkey. If you go that route, I would suggest adding some fresh sage leaves to your sandwich.

As for the cranberry aioli, it was super easy to make using the food processor. And I felt very Julia Child in the process.

If you're not feeling that brave (yes, there is a raw egg yolk in there), you can take some leftover cranberry sauce and mix it with mayonnaise and a little minced garlic.

Top your burger (or leftover turkey sandwich) with some muenster cheese, arugula, a healthy slathering of cranberry aoili, and serve it on a pretzel bun. If you are going the leftover turkey sandwich route, I highly recommend melting the cheese under the broiler. 

Thanksgiving Turkey Burger with Cranberry Aioli
Inspired by Grange Hall Burger Bar
Yields 6 burgers


For the burgers:
2 pounds ground turkey
1/2 medium sweet onion, minced
~12 sage leaves, rough chopped
Salt and pepper

For the cranberry aioli:
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg yolk
1 cup olive oil
1 cup fresh cranberries*, roughly chopped
1 T sugar

6 slices muenster cheese
6 pretzel buns

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the ground turkey, onion, sage, salt, and pepper. Divide the ground turkey mixture into six patties.

Pulse the garlic, salt, and egg yolk in the food processor or blender.

Slowly pour the olive oil into the food processor or blender on "stir." As the aioli thickens, keep pouring in the olive oil until it's all incorporated. Taste and add more garlic or salt, as necessary.

Add the cranberries and sugar to the aioli and pulse a few times in the food processor or blender. Taste again.

Grill your burgers to desired doneness, adding the cheese at the very end to melt.

Serve on pretzel buns with arugula and cranberry aioli.

*I used fresh cranberries that were previously frozen. Roughly chop, add sugar, and microwave in a bowl for about 15 seconds to thaw.
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Monday, November 18, 2013

Improve Your Credit Score by Increasing Your Credit Limit

Good morning, friends! Coming off of Wednesday's guest post on negotiating lower rent, I wanted to follow up with a way to increase your credit score. Don't know your credit score? A great place to start is Credit Karma. It's absolutely free and you can monitor the progress of your credit score over time.

As last week's post said, 30% of your credit score comes from your credit utilization rate, or how much you owe divided by how much credit is available to you. If your credit card has a balance of $1,000 and a credit limit of $5,000, then your credit utilization rate is 20%. Financial experts recommend keeping your credit utilization rate below 30% for your credit cards individually and collectively.

If you're currently carrying credit card debt, one obvious way to increase your credit score is to pay down your balances and get out of debt. If you need some inspiration, J. Money shared four success stories and links to how they kicked debt to the curb.

But if (and only if) you're responsible with your credit by keeping your credit utilization rate below 30% and pay off your credit cards each month; then it's time to focus on the other side of the ratio by increasing the credit available to you.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from my bank saying that I was eligible for a credit line increase. I provided them with some information and received confirmation of my increase a few days later.

However, you don't have to wait for your bank to contact you. You can call up customer service or fill out an online application to request a credit limit increase. I would recommend calling and using Ramit's script. That way, you can talk with a live person, which tends to speed up the process. Plus, you ask whether they will be checking your credit report as a hard or soft inquiry.

A hard inquiry will show up on your credit report and slightly lower your credit score until the inquiry rolls off after two years. A soft inquiry has no affect on your credit score. It's OK to have a few hard inquiries on your credit report (we have them from refinancing and buying our car), but keep them at 1 to 2 per year.
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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Negotiate Lower Rent with These 3 Tactics

Today we have a fabulous guest post from the folks at Zillow about negotiating lower rent. I'm a huge fan of Zillow! We used some of their tools when buying our home over 2 years ago and still enjoy checking out properties on Zillow on occasion. For those still renting, read on! And when you're done, you can search for apartment and home rentals on Zillow.

Most renters assume the advertised price on an apartment is the price they’ll pay, but in most cases additional costs such as deposits, fees, insurance and utilities apply. In fact, the advertised price may only apply to the cheapest available unit. Before getting discouraged, consider that renters may be able to negotiate lower monthly payments depending on demand in their local rental markets. While it takes a little legwork to effectively negotiate the price, it can save renters hundreds -- sometimes thousands -- of dollars throughout the duration of their leases. Here are three tactics to help renters negotiate rent.

Know the market
Consumers who understand their local rental markets are able to negotiate more effectively. Renters should figure out rents charged for apartments comparable to the units they want to or currently rent. If comparable properties charge less rent, then renters may have room to negotiate. In a hot rental market, landlords may receive multiple applications for each unit, with some applicants offering to pay more to ensure they get the apartments. In these competitive markets, renters are generally at the mercy of a landlord’s asking price. In cooler markets, landlords may be more willing to negotiate. 

To determine a fair market price for an apartment, renters should check out the rental section on sites such as Zillow.com, comparing asking prices, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage and amenities such as dishwashers, washer/dryers, balconies, free gyms and courtyard barbeques. Renters should ask around about the rental markets they’re interested in; are the markets easy to navigate, accessible or highly competitive? Research helps renters determine whether they can negotiate rent, and if so, by how much. 

If the landlord is asking a higher-than-expected price, renters can counter with their research when asking for lower prices. Often renters should quote a slightly lower rate than they’d actually pay, as landlords typically counter with a higher price; and the two parties generally meet at a price in the middle.

Demonstrate responsibility
Before renters try to negotiate rent with a landlord, they need to look good on paper. First, renters should make sure they have good credit by checking their credit scores on AnnualCreditReport.com, which gives consumers one free score each year. Look to correct any errors on credit reports before sending in rental applications. Credit scores range from 300 (very poor) to 850 (excellent); the rating is based on how frequently consumers pay bills on time (35 percent), amount of debt owed (30 percent), how long they’ve had credit (15 percent), new credit applications (10 percent) and types of credit (10 percent). Consumers should work to pay their bills on time and pay down debt to gradually improve their credit scores, as landlords find renters with higher credit scores more desirable.

Landlords also prefer renters with some savings in the bank, as this ensures their ability to pay rent even if they lose their jobs. Renters may also want to print out a list of former landlords’ contact information to provide referrals. Finally, when going to view an apartment, renters should appear groomed and professional in a business-casual outfit. All of this shows a landlord they’re responsible and prepared to take good care of the apartment.

Commit to a longer lease
If the landlord seems resistant to giving a qualified renter with good credit and references a lower rate, the renter can offer renting the apartment for longer than a year. Ask to sign an 18- or 24-month lease in exchange for lower monthly rent. Finding new tenants can be an expensive process for landlords, so many prefer to sign qualified tenants onto longer leases, even if that means a little less money each month. Be committed to the longer lease, as some leases include penalties for breaking the lease, such as paying back all concessions earned throughout the duration of tenancy.

If renting is the best financial decision or simply the most affordable option until consumers can afford purchasing a home, then they should take full advantage of the savings effective negotiating can earn them. To successfully negotiate lower monthly payments, renters should know the rental markets in their areas, improve their credit scores, collect solid references and keep savings in the bank. If those factors don’t lead landlords to offer lower rents, renters can offer to sign longer leases.

Jay Robert is a mortgage writer for Zillow and an associate with Kassoff, Robert & Lerner, LLP, focusing in the areas of elder law, real estate, special needs law and estates.
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