Sunday, January 8, 2017

Meal Services - A Quick Unscientific Review

We have been experimenting with meal services the last several months. To us, the convenience, health benefits, and variety of meals were the top reasons we wanted to try these services.

First, we looked at all of the options and compared, serving size, meal options, price, and frequency of meals. Hello Fresh won out to be our first selection.



First time subscribers receive a great discount. This makes the first week super affordable.  For our family, the 3 times a week, 4 person options was perfect. We loved the meal sizes, plenty for all of us (and one is an 18 year old boy/man wannabe). The food was fresh, organic and the meat sustainably raised. Not sure what sustainably raised means, but if you want to know more, click here. Most weeks have 2 meat meals and a 1 non-meat meal.

Some positive things to note:
  1. There are a lot of pork options
  2. Ditto for the sweet potato option (luckily we love both)
  3. Customer service is PHENOMENAL! One time we didn't receive lemon grass - they refunded the entire meal! 
  4. Packaging is organized by meal - love this
  5. Most recipes take less than 35 minutes to make.
  6. You receive everything you need for the meals - if you need a tablespoon of honey, you receive it.
  7. You can skip weeks or cancel at any time.
Some negative things to note:
  1. Too much pork
  2.  Would love more beef
  3. Penny for penny, it's a good deal, but would love a little bit cheaper option



Like Hello Fresh, first time subscribers receive a great discount. This makes the first week super affordable.  For our family, the 2 times a week, 4 person options was the closest option we could afford. For our 18 year old boy/man wannabe, the servings were too small. The food was fresh, organic and the meat sustainably raised. Seems to be the trend here!

Some positive things to note:
    1. Interesting meals with food items I'd never think of combining - love learning new techniques and combos
    2. Super fresh
    3. Meat was delish
    4. You can skip weeks or cancel at any time.
    Some negative things to note:
    1. Portions are too small.
    2. Meals are a bit more complicated and I'm using too many pans.
    3. We'd like a 3 meal per week options (only options are 2 or 4 times a week)
    4. More expensive than Hello Fresh, especially since the serving sizes were smaller.


    As with all of the other meal services, the first week comes with a big discount. Kinda a reel them in
    with a good deal and they'll stay. This time of year our kids are either at school, working or playing sports, we selected the 2 meals a week, 2 person option. The food was fresh, organic and the meat sustainably raised.

    Some positive things to note:
    1. Interesting recipes. I love to cook but sometimes I'm like, "What am I going to cook?"
    2. Fresh
    3. You can skip weeks or cancel at any time.
    Some negative things to note:
    1. Portions are too small.
    2. I don't like how contents are packaged
    3. More expensive than Hello Fresh, especially since the serving sizes were smaller.


    In conclusion; I don't know if you were keeping score, but Hello Fresh was our top choice. We really liked the recipes, options, and pricing. The meals are quick and easy!

    It seems as if every week a new meal services jumps into the meal service pond. We'll keep exploring and tasting and I'll post updates.

    Sunday, January 10, 2016

    Healthy Lunches - The Mason Jar Way

    New Year, New You - right? Well, we've gone healthy and are finally getting our use out of the Y membership, we've subscribed to Hello Fresh (more on this after we receive our first package), and I'm pre-making healthy lunches so I have no excuse.



    Asian Noodle Salad Jars - Recipe can be found here - http://foxeslovelemons.com/asian-noodle-salad-jars/

    I have to admit, I haven't had one of these yet. My daughter ate them all! The recipe calls for Edamame, however Edamame upsets my stomach so I replaced with peas.



    Zucchini Noodle Salad - Recipe can be found here - http://inspiralized.com/2014/03/21/mason-jar-zucchini-noodle-salads/



    This is my favorite! I love the dressing - Just a time the recipe is for 1 jar, I quadrupled so I could make 4. The recipe website's picture is better, but mine tasted great!











    Chickpea Farro & Greens - Recipe can be found here - http://cookieandkate.com/2014/mason-jar-chickpea-farro-and-greens-salad/

    This is a great salad and I love the dressing. I used Balsamic vinegar because I was out of Red Wine, but that is what is great about the Mason Jar way, you can tweak it to suit your taste.






    New this week - I'll let you know how it tastes! What I love is I can add things I like and remove things I don't.


    Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad -
    http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Sweet-Potato-Quinoa-Salad-34902959

    I didn't have mango, so I used strawberries.  I also used shredded chicken which I poached instead of black beans. I love black beans but my daughters don't.





    Saturday, March 14, 2015

    Honey Bun Cake

    I can't remember where I saw this recipe, but it is fabulous!!!! Next time, I may tweak the amount of sugar and oil. Whoa, the recipe calls for a ton of both.


    Cake
    1 Yellow Cake Mix
    4 Eggs
    3/4 Cup of Oil
    1 Cup of Sour Cream

    Middle Mix
    1 Cup of Brown Sugar
    1 Tablespoon of Cinnamon

    Frosting
    2 cups of Powdered Sugar
    1 Tablespoon of vanilla
    4 Tablespoons of Milk


    Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees

    Mix cake mix, eggs, oil and sour cream in a bowl.  Spray 9 x 11 cake pan with non-stick spray (I use Bakers).  Spread HALF of the cake mix into the pan.

    Mix brown sugar and cinnamon very well. Spread over the cake mix.

    Carefully pour the rest of the cake mix. With a knife, swirl through the cake to spread the sugar/cinnamon mix throughout the cake. Very similar to how you would make a marble cake.

    Bake for 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

    Remove from oven, spread frosting over cake and let sit for 15 minutes. No cheating!

    Wednesday, December 31, 2014

    Pasta Sauce - Secret Family Recipe ;)

    Over the years I've perfected the red sauce we make for pasta. I've simplified and tried to make it a tasty sauce with fresh ingredients. It is a meat sauce, I usually do a quick sauce in the summer when I can get fresh basil from my garden. Recently, I've started adding homemade meatballs. (Recipe below)

    Pasta Sauce

    5 cloves of minced garlic
    2 tablespoons of olive oil
    salt and pepper to taste
    Dried oregano - 1 to 1 1/2 tsp (depending on taste)
    6 packages Pomi strained tomatoes
    1 /2 cup dry Red Wine
    1 stick of butter
    1 package pork riblets (they have extra meat on the bone)
    1 package of medium or mild sausage (4 to 6 links)
    1/8 cup of sugar

    Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large dutch oven. Add riblets and brown on all sides. Remove and set aside. Puncture sausage with a fork and cook until brown. Remove from pan and set aside. Add garlic and cook only until you smell the garlic. Add meats back into pan. Add Pomi tomatoes, wine, butter, salt and pepper, and oregano. Add 1/2 of the sugar. Add meatballs if you are using. Once sauce is bubbling, lower heat and cook for about 4 hours. Make sure you watch so that the bottom doesn't burn.  If needed, add the rest of the sugar and perhaps some more wine.

    Meatballs (adapted from Pioneer Woman's recipe)
    2 pounds ground beef or 1 pound beef and 1 pound ground pork
    3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
    1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
    1/2 cup ricotta cheese ( I use homemade)
    1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
    1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    3 cloves garlic, grated on a rasp grater
    2 whole eggs
    Splash of milk
    Freshly ground black pepper
    1/2 cup olive oil
    Heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine the ground beef, pork, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, ricotta, parsley, crushed red pepper, salt, garlic, eggs, milk and black pepper in a bowl. Mash with your hands until thoroughly combined. Cover hands with oil and form into small balls and place on a baking sheet. Bake 15 to 20 minutes (depending on size), flip then cook for an additional 15 minutes. Add to sauce. If you are not adding to sauce and depending on the size, you may want to cook a little longer to ensure they are cooked through.

    Wednesday, December 10, 2014

    Pumpkin Soup! A Fall Favorite

    We love pumpkin soup and find this time of year perfect for enjoying this treat. I served this with cheddar grilled-cheese sandwiches with a slice of bacon in the sandwich. I always shred my own cheese. It taste so much better and is so fresh!


    Ingredients:

    1 can of Pumpkin Puree 29 ounce can
    1 medium Butternut Squash peeled, softened, and cut into 1 inch cubbed-pieces*
    1 can of low sodium Chicken Broth 32 fluid ounces
    1 small onion chopped
    2 garlic cloves roughly chopped
    1 pint cream
    6 whole, black peppercorns
    Pinch of salt (or to taste)
    I sprig of Rosemary
    4 slices of bacon
    1 Tablespoon of bacon fat
    2 Tablespoons of olive oil

    Heat olive oil in dutch oven and add chopped onions. Saute until translucent. Add garlic, salt, and peppercorns. Cook until you smell the garlic. Add pumpkin puree, chicken broth, butternut squash, and rosemary sprig. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes (when squash is soft). While soup is cooking, bake bacon at 425 degrees for approximately 15 minutes ( I usually cook more than 4 slices since my family loves bacon).  Reserve 1 Tablespoon of fat and add to soup. Cool bacon and once cooled, crumble to add to soup when it is done.

    Cook pumpkin mixture until squash is fully cooked. Remove from heat and use an emulsion blender or regular blender to puree soup.  BE CAREFUL! The soup will be very hot. Add back to pot and mix in cream and bacon. Serve!

    *I buy the entire squash, cut in half, remove seeds, and then cook in microwave at 2 minute increments until soften (not full cooked), I cool slightly so that I can peel and cut into 1 inch chunks. However, you can also buy them peeled and cut from the grocery story.

    Sunday, June 8, 2014

    Doin' the Paleo Thing

    We have gone Paleo! Yes, that trendy diet or way of eating that follows what the "cavemen" ate.  After a trip to the grocery store and a few hundred dollars later, we began creating recipes that focused on fruits, veggies, lean protein, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats. However, my football playing son still eats carbs since he is expending so much energy. I also include dairy products since I have a Vitamin D deficiency.

    Paleo Tilapia

    I am not a fish eater, but have been converted by this recipe.

    4 Tilapia (if frozen make sure they are thawed)
    3 Tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes
    2 Tablespoons Almond meal
    Salt and Pepper to taste
    Olive Oil cooking spray

    If you would like to add lime or lemon I'd squeeze over the hot fish right out of the oven.


    Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking dish with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray. Mix coconut, almond meal, salt and pepper. Set Tilapia on the pan. Pat each fish fillet with 1/4 of the mixture. Lightly spray with olive oil cooking spray.

    Place in oven and bake for 6-10 minutes, depending on how thick the Tilapia is. Coconut will start to turn golden and the fish should look white and fluffy.

    Serve with roasted broccoli or other veggie. Some say that quinoa is Paleo, so a side of that is great as well.

    Sunday, April 13, 2014

    Hamburger Helper???

    I have never tasted Hamburger Helper. I've heard that there are numerous varieties now, opposed to when I was growing up and there was only one version.  I don't like boxed foods, they are usually high in sodium, fat, and chemicals I can't pronounce.  So, when I stumbled upon this recipe while scouring Pinterest, I was intrigued.  It is called Cheeseburger Casserole, but could also be called Homemade Hamburger Helper.

    Cheeseburger Bacon Casserole 
    2 cups (6 ounces) uncooked bow tie pasta (or any shape you desire)
    2 teaspoons canola oil or olive oil
    1 1/2 cups onions, finely chopped
    1 garlic clove, minced
    4 slices of bacon - cooked and chopped
    1 pound 80% lean ground beef
    1 teaspoon seasoned salt
    2 tablespoons ketchup
    1 1/2 cup of grape tomatoes cut in half
    2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
    2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
    2. Boil the pasta in a large pot according to packaged directions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
    3. In a large skillet on medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the onion and saute until onions are transparent. Add the garlic and stir about 30 seconds.
    4. Stir in the ground beef and fully cook through until brown and drain the fat and return to the stove.
    5. Stir in the seasoned salt, ketchup, mustard and bacon until well combined. Add the chopped tomatoes. Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 2 minutes or until the mixture is thickened.
    6. Add the cooked and drained noodles to the meat and stir well. Pour into the prepared baking pan and evenly sprinkle the cheese across the top. Bake in the oven for approximately 15 minutes or until cheese has melted. Remove from the oven and slightly cool before serving.

    Tuesday, January 7, 2014

    Winter Baking

    Too ripe to eat!
    I love to bake and it seems like it happens more in the winter than the summer.  Today is a cold, cold, cold day ( -30 wind chill) and schools are closed, so I'm home baking away.

    When I saw these on my counter, I knew what I had to make!

    So, I looked to Pinterest and found Martha Stewart's Hummingbird Cake. It called for 3 (yes it was fate!) ripe bananas.  Luckily I had coconut and walnuts, so I was ready to go.

    Hummingbird Recipe (Adapted from Martha Stewart.com)

    • Unsalted butter, room temperature, for pans and racks (I do not do)
    • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans (I do not do)
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup vegetable oil
    • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    • 2 cups sugar (I use 1 3/4 cup)
    • 3 large eggs
    • 3 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 large)
    • 1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained
    • 1 cup chopped walnuts
    • 1 cup desiccated coconut, unsweetened
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in the center. I use a baking spray to coat 2 - 9 inch cake pans.  In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat oil, vanilla, and sugar until combined, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, incorporating each before adding the next. Beat at medium speed until mixture is pale yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  In a medium bowl, mix together banana, pineapple, walnuts, and coconut. Add to egg mixture; stir until well combined. Add flour mixture; blend well.  Divide batter between pans. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes.  Transfer pans to a greased wire rack. Let cool 15 minutes. Run a knife around edges to loosen. Invert onto racks; reinvert, top side up. Cool completely.

    FROSTING
    • 1 pound (16 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
    • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
    • 2 pounds confectioners' sugar, sifted
    It is really important to have the butter and cream cheese at room temperature.  If not, you will have a clumpy frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and vanilla until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. With mixer on medium speed, gradually add butter, beating until incorporated. Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually add sugar, beating until incorporated.

    Wednesday, January 1, 2014

    Christmas Dinner

    Christmas Dinner is a family tradition. We have basically the same meal every year, sometimes there are a few tweaks.

    2013 Dinner Menu
    Beef Tenderloin - cover with olive oil, crushed pepper corns, and salt. Bake in a 450 degree over for 15 minutes, then lower to 375 for 15 minutes for pound depending on desired pinkness.
    Lobster Tails - cut in half, brush with butter, broil for 6 - 7 minutes about 7 inches from broiler
    Cranberry Sauce
    Roasted Brussels Sprouts - toss olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, 400 degree oven for 25 minutes (if large, cut in half)
    Gnocchi with red sauce (My father-in-law makes the Gnocchi and I make the red sauce-one day I'll post the recipe)
    Salad
    Citrus Salad
    Tirimasu
    Bread
    Clams Casino - a local friend and chef makes these for us
    Shrimp
    Brie with Currant and Cranberry Chutney (milky brie with currant, cranberry, and walnut chutney from Wegmans over it, served with tiny toasts)

    Usually, I chop some garlic and rosemary for the tenderloin, this year I crushed peppercorns and rolled the tenderloin it is so that it was covered (first put a little olive oil and salt). It was perfect.


    If there is anything I want my children to take from our food traditions, it is make Christmas special with food, family, and decorations. I use my grandmother's china, silver, and candlesticks. I also have the dinning room decorated and festive. Memories for them to take and use with their families.

    Monday, October 14, 2013

    Veggies For Breakfast

    I'm always looking for delicious low-carb dishes.  I love veggies and my middle child does as well. This dish is a perfect breakfast.  You can saute the veggies ahead and just do a quick reheat if you are trying to save time.

    Recipe from Pioneer Woman

    The only think I did differently was to shred the cheese on top. And I used a touch of butter AND olive oil in the skillet.
    PioneerWomanPicture

    • 1 Tablespoon Butter AND Olive Oil
    • 1/2 cup Diced Zucchini
    • 1/2 cup Diced Yellow Squash
    • 1/2 whole Medium Onion, Cut Into Chunks
    • Salt And Pepper
    • 1 whole Tomato, Sliced Thick
    • 2 whole Eggs
    • 1/2 cup Monterrey Jack Cheese Shredded ( or cheese of choice)

    Preparation Instructions

    Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until 2 to 3 minutes, or until starting to soften. Add the zucchini and squash, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and stir to cook for 3 to 4 minute. Remove from the heat and set aside.

    Grill the tomato slices on a grill pan or simply sear them in a hot skillet. Remove and set aside.
    Bring a medium saucepan of water to a gentle boil. Add the vinegar. Use a wooden spoon to carefully stir the water into a circular "whirlpool." Crack one egg into the water and allow it to swirl around in the water until the egg begins to set. Let it stay in the water for 2 minutes (I don't like too much runny yoke, so I cook longer), then remove it with a slotted spoon and set it on a plate. Repeat with the other egg. If eggs need to be cooked longer, just add them back to the water for 30 seconds at a time.

    Spoon the vegetables on a plate or in a bowl and set the eggs on top. Lay the tomato slices on the side. Place the cheese slice on the side so that it starts to soften from the heat. Sprinkle with shredded cheese. When you cut the egg, the melted cheese and yoke make a great sauce.

    Sprinkle eggs with salt and pepper and serve!