Anyone that knows me well enough knows that I am not a fan of cooking. If a recipe has more than 5 ingredients, the chances are high that I won’t give it a second look. I have a cookbook specifically for 20 minutes or less recipes, and it is probably the only cookbook that has seen any love in our house.
However, this doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy delicious food. I just prefer when other people prepare it. 🙂 On the occasion that I do want to try a new recipe and spice up our usual kitchen rotation, I turn to my good friend Lou. She always has great ideas for both dinners and lunches. Below are a few examples of the delicious things Lou has convinced me to make.
Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken Thighs
This chicken recipe sees quite a few rotations in our house. The husband likes it, and I like how fast it is to prepare and cook. Easy clean up too as long as you cover the oven pan in foil before you start. One of the best things about this recipe is that most of the ingredients are staples in your pantry, so just pick up some chicken and a vegetable for a side and you have one weekly meal ready to go.
I love Larabars. The ingredients are all things that you have heard of, such as dates, almonds, peanuts, etc. The downside is that I can only find them at Whole Foods. If I want to save any money on the rest of my groceries, that means two grocery stores each weekend, which is not high on my list of fun weekend activities. Enter Lou, who sends me a recipe for how to make my own. She’s a smart woman.
1 cup Medjool dates, pitted
1 cup raw almonds or cashews
¼ cup peanut butter
1-2 tablespoons water
1. Combine the dates, almonds, peanut butter and water in a food processor and puree until mixture starts to stick together. Add a little more water if necessary to help mixture come together.
2. Pick up the mixture and use your hands to squeeze it together into a big clump. Mash the mixture into a container to form into one even rectangle.
3. Slice into 12 squares. Store in the fridge.
Brussel Sprouts and Kale – get those veggies in!
Lou is also more adventurous with her veggies. I love brussel sprouts, but do not feel the same about kale. Lou introduced me to this recipe and it has been a great make-ahead salad to have as a side or for lunches during the week. I’ll let her blog do the explaining on how to make it.
This picture doesn’t do the salad justice, but I made three of these for lunches last week and did not run into the usual salad burnout. While the recipe calls for putting everything in the mason jar, I prefer warm chicken in the salad, so I kept that and the cooked veggies in a separate container and reheated them before adding to the salad. I cooked and prepped everything on Sunday and when I ate the last one on Friday it was still delicious. Great choice for anyone trying to eat more veggies and save some money on eating out for lunch.
Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be just about couples. About six years ago, a tradition was started with my sisters when we decided to do a couple’s Valentine’s Day celebration which includes a fancy dinner and possibly dancing…we call it Valentineapalooza. At the time, we were trying to coordinate babysitters (ahem, my parents) and it just made sense to all go out together instead of trying to coordinate who would get to go out for Valentine’s Day. Plus, we love hanging out with one another, so we knew it would be extra fun to go out as new parents and have a good time celebrating together.
The formula to a successful Valentineapalooza consists of of four things:
1. Great company-Valentineapalooza #6 took place in Lubbock, Texas and consisted of six couples we love dearly, but don’t get to see enough. Your group definitely doesn’t have to be this large. And if you’re single, your group can consist of all ladies. This can be done with a co-ed group that are not necessarily couples either. It’s really up to you. The point is to plan a fun night out with a group that you love. And to have fun!
2. Fancy dinner – Reservations for Valentine’s Day must be done very far in advance, especially for larger groups, so make sure your group can make a decision on a place to eat and book it ASAP. We had the pleasure of having a connection to The Tech Club and got to dine overseeing an amazing view of the Texas Tech football field. Also, our group was large enough to be accommodated with a private room, so we had a cozy time. When your daily dinner plans consist of Chick-Fil-A takeout or quick, homemade meals, this is quite the treat. Getting waited on hand and foot on this special night makes us feel like kings.
3. After hours fun – There are several options for after-dinner fun. This year, ours consisted of taking a limo and riding to different destinations for drinks and dancing. We chose to get a limo because it made it easier for all of us to travel together and also to avoid drinking and driving. In previous years, we stayed at a Marriott hotel that was walking distance to The Shops at Legacy where there is an abundant night life. The point of Valentineapalooza is to get out and have fun, so there’s many options for after hours activities. At the end of the night, we took our limo to Whataburger. Yes, we are so classy.
4. Kid-free hotel stay – I don’t know about you mother’s out there but at my house, kids get put in their own beds and somehow our three year-old always wanders over to my bed and ends up being my backpack for the remainder of the night. A Valentineapalooza hotel stay without little people waking me up in the middle of the night or at the butt crack of dawn is like heaven to both my husband and me. We had the luxury of staying at the Overton Hotel which is located right across the street from The Tech Club. As parents, we can’t even shower or take a bathroom break without little feet following us around. Having a long, hot shower and taking my time putting on my makeup without getting it swiped by Babyzilla was nice. Michael took a long nap while I got ready because that’s what he does when he gets a moment to slow down. I watched the news instead of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. It’s the small things people.
Valentineapalooza has become a tradition for us and we plan to continue planning it for years to come. I also want to say that for my husband and myself, it’s important to make this event about us and enjoy each other’s company. We typically have a Kid Valentine’s Day celebration prior to our Valentineapalooza date night event because we love our kids too. Do you have special Valentine’s Day you would like to share with us? Are they kid-free or kid friendly? Share your ideas with us in the comments.
So I had two really great options for a blog this week, one super deep and and one about organizing. When I finally had time to sit down and write this blog, neither seemed to inspire me like they had earlier in the week. So I did a quick Google search on ‘what to write about when you have writers block’ and the first thing I saw was to write about something you love, so here is my blog on wine.
I can’t say that my love affair with wine was love at first sip but at this point in my life I can’t see a future with out him. I have become so wine crazy I get weekly texts, emails, and FB messages/posts from friends and family that pertain to wine. I guess there is something to be said about those little grapes and how happy they make me. I do frequently wonder if I have a SWF attraction to this sweet juice but then again, there are much, much worse things I could have an obsession with, so those thoughts are fleeting.
My taste in wine has grown over the years. While I like to think I know a little bit about wine I am by no means a snob. I know enough to be dangerous. I started off only liking the reds but as I have grow in my relationship with wine I have come to love the whites as well. I am a meat and potatoes girl most of the time so reds are my go to 90% of the time. I am trying to be an adult and eat more fish so I have really come to appreciate some nice Chardonnays and Pinot Grigio. Most recently I have found a fun new fling with rosé. I used to think all pink wines were for cheap dates at a pool hall but now I know and appreciate the differences of the pink wines. A blush or a white zin are still the pool hall floozy kind of wine where as a nice strong red blend rosé is a totally different story. It is like the debutant of wines. Smart, sophisticated, strong but a little sweet.
I have found many new gadgets to help me enjoy my wine and I feel as though I would be doing you a disservice by not sharing my secretes. For quick access I highly recommend the Cork Pop wine opener. It has a cutter, large needle, and CO2 cartridge for quick access. It’s the split crotch panties of the wine opener world. A little tacky but very appreciated when you are in a hurry.
Then there is the Food Saver. I originally bought it to help save money with storing food and canning in my mason jars but quickly learned there was an even better use, SAVING WINE! If you don’t go through a whole bottle a night (surprise, surprise, I usually don’t) then this is essential for saving that precious wine for the next night.
Lastly is the handy, dandy app Vivino. I have this for three purposes. You can keep track of your favorite wines, see what your friends and strangers like, and also search wines when you are standing in the middle of Tom Thumb and don’t know which one to pick to go with dinner. I used to always say ‘this is my favorite wine, I will get this again’ and then couldn’t remember the next day what the wine was unless I had a picture of the wine. This is like Pinterest for wine.
While these are my favorite wine accessories and gadgets I have found there are many, many more out there. Does anyone have these? What is your must have wine accessory/gadget?
If you go to Florida, got ya! But since you are already reading, why not continue and learn about my most recent trip to a rum maker in southern Florida.
My in-laws are cooler than yours. Granted it probably isn’t a good idea to start off bragging but it’s the truth. On a recent trip to Ft. Myers FL my mother and father in-law took us on a tour of the Wicked Dolphin Rum Distillery. The tour was free and you can schedule ahead online for a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday tasting. Wicked Dolphin
I have been on MANY wine tours and even a couple of brewery tours but this was a first for rum. Honestly, I don’t drink a lot of rum or mixed drinks, other than tequila, because it seems to me if you are over served on those kinds of sweet drinks, the hangovers are always worse. So I was intrigued to learn that if you drink the right rum with the right mixers and accidentally get over served (I didn’t for the making of this blog) that you can actually survive the next day and be a functioning member of society.
The biggest take away I learned from this rum tour is that rum is divided into three categories. Heads, Hearts, and Tails. ‘Heads’ is the kind of rum you can find for $8.00 a gallon and the stuff that causes the worst day after, ever. IE, what we drank in college. The smell is terrible and I assume the taste is even worse. It sounds like there is enough acetone in the ‘heads’ that the nail salons could save a ton and use it to take off my nail polish. The ‘tails’ is the back end of the batch so to speak, you don’t want to drink it but you can use it in the next batch of rum.
The ‘heart’ is where it is at! I was never a big rum drinker but when Wicked Dolphin passed around their signature Wicked Rum Drink, I was hooked. The drink was amazing and healthy. I mean, how could perfect silver rum, naturally flavored with coconut milk rum, cranberry juice, and pineapple juice be bad for you? See, I am sticking to that whole ‘eating better’ in 2016 thing already. And Wicked Dolphin wasn’t one of those stingy places that thinks their recipes are top secret, they actually tell you how to make it. I call that genius marketing and selling. You can find all kinds of recipes on their website but if you are super thirsty right now, here is the Wicked Rum recipe.
While they are not in Texas yet, fingers crossed they will be soon. Good thing the old fashioned mail will deliver to Texas. As long as you have a bootlegging relative in southern Florida. I was throughly impressed with the process and the final product. Even these two scotch drinkers approved of our new found favorite spirit, rum! Here is to giving an old college drink a fancy adult face lift and finding something other than wine to drink when adulting gets to be too much.
Have you ever been on a rum tour? Or another spirit tour? What is your favorite?
As a family of two, we really don’t have a huge grocery bill each week. In fact, the weekly list looks the same every time I write it up, but I still make a list because I am notorious for forgetting things once I’ve made it to the store.
Recently our local store changed ownership and I noticed the prices starting to climb. Nothing major, but enough to add up once you’ve filled your cart. Compound that with living in an urban area where groceries are already a bit higher in cost, it makes for a bit of sticker shock sometimes. I used to work at a job in the suburbs and I would buy all my produce at the store there during the week – so much cheaper and better quality. This is possibly the only thing in the suburbs that makes me jealous.
In order to dial back the weekly budget during my funemployment time, I attempted a few rounds of couponing. End result – the stuff you buy with coupons is not the stuff that is usually on my list. Occasionally if I needed toothpaste or a cleaning product, it would work out, but there are rarely coupons for bananas or spinach or anything in the perimeter of the store. So it seemed like a big old waste of time. After some Internet research, I found an app named Ibotta that claimed to give you rebates on every day items and then turn that into cash once you reached a certain dollar amount. I had nothing to lose, so I signed up. Basically you search the app for items on your list. If something matches up, you take a survey, watch a short advertisement, or maybe just read a quick fact about the product and then the rebate is saved to your shopping list. After you’ve been to the store, scan the items you’ve purchased that match your list, scan your receipt, and the the rebates are credited to your account. It is super easy and I’ve finally found a place that helps save a few dollars on produce and meat.
The app also has rebates for apparel, drugstores, home & office, electronics, and several other categories. I earned $5 in rebates today just for a quick purchase we made at Best Buy. It makes everything feel like it is on sale!
The only downside is that it is limited to a few participating stores, so check to be sure your usual grocery store is on the list. Most of the major brands are there, but I noticed a few are not, so just be sure to double check.
In the 6 months since I started using the app, I’ve redeemed about $50 into my PayPal account. I would not say this is a moneymaker, but anything I can do to put a little bit of cash back in my wallet makes me a pretty happy camper. If you are interested in giving it a try, please use my referral link to sign up: https://ibotta.com/r/dfxtgtx Once you have redeemed your first rebate, we both get a bonus added to our accounts. That is a win-win, don’t you think?
What other apps have you used to save money? Let us know in the comments.
This was written almost 2 years ago when I thought I would start a blog, thanks to 2 of my BFF’s, I finally have a platform to share it from.
Juice fasting huh? Coming from the girl who should own stock in Chick-fil-A, is a self-labeled foodie, and gets pretty hangry on an almost daily basis, this is already starting to sound like a bad idea.
So why am I doing it? I don’t really know. Maybe to drop a few pounds quickly, regain an actual energy level, sleep better at night (need/take fewer naps). Also, it wouldn’t kill me if I could get my cholesterol down. I think at last check it was 247, and not the good kind. I also know that we want to start a family and while I do think my parents did an amazing job raising my sister and I, I don’t think our dietary habits are the best. I know that eating better is a must if I want to have and see my family grow up. Plus, how can I get my imaginary children to eat well if I don’t?
A friend watched a documentary called ‘Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead’ and exclaimed she was getting a juicer. I have watched documentaries on healthy eating and was completely un-phased by them in the past. I’ve read the books about how terrible our food industry treats and processes chickens, cow, pigs, etc. Has that stopped me? Hell no, I watched ‘Super Size Me’ one night and went to Whataburger the next morning for a sausage breakfast on a bun and a Dr. Pepper. I don’t want to live a life without bacon and lattes and donuts and….the list is endless. But I do think that all of these things can be enjoyed in moderation. What got me about the documentary ‘Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead’ is that everyone talked about how great they felt, how much energy they had, how well they slept. All of these are things I want to feel and do but I am such an instant gratification kind of person that if I don’t see results quickly, I give up easily. I don’t think 5 days will be easy but I think it is needed and will be worth it. Plus, after two and a half years on Ambien, needing Xanax to get off the Ambien, and still needing them on occasions, I could really go for a good, solid, non-interrupted night sleep. Especially one that didn’t end up in me getting packages from Zappos and Amazon a couple of days later and vaguely remembering I had done a little shopping on Ambien. If you missed that post, here is my back story with ambien.
So here is the plan: 5 days, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, nothing but JUICE! I ventured to Sam’s, Wal Mart, Tom Thumb, and finally to Whole Foods but I think I got everything I need…for the first 3 days. Ugh, that was the worst part so far. There was A LOT of counting involved for a grocery list. Then, having to endure the madness that is Sam’s and Wal Mart on a Sunday afternoon when every Tom, Dick, and Harry and their 5-32 kids and/or family members are strolling around these fine establishments like they don’t have a damn thing to do. Sorry, already getting hangry and I haven’t even started. I got about 70% of what I needed at Sam’s and for just over $50! I was pretty pumped, not to mention, I should be set for some of days four and five with this run. Next was upstairs to Wal Mart, kind of convenient minus the people. I got about 20% at this stop plus an electric kettle. Part of the fast is drinking hot water with lemon and/or ginger in the A.M. and herbal tea in the P.M. so I thought the $30 electric kettle would be a good investment considering I am going to be a slave to cleaning this juicer for what I am sure will be the longest week of my life. Next to Tom Thumb where I only managed to get half of what was left on my list. However, I did decide this would be the ideal location to pick up some Choice USDA tenderloin filet, a potato, and a nice bottle or red wine. If I am going to do this, I must do it right. Going out with a bang tonight! Last stop was Whole Foods, they were the only place I could find a watermelon because of course I would chose to do a fast when half of the items on the list are not ‘in-season.’ Makes you realize how spoiled we are that there really isn’t an ‘in-season’ in the good ol’ U.S. of A.
I get home and have the steak marinating, the potato cooking, and the wine chilling. I am anxious, nervous, excited, scared, and as ready as I will ever be to do this. Being on my ‘sabbatical’ (a.k.a. unemployed) for another week and with Kyle out of town so he doesn’t get injured by a starving and irrational fiancée, I am literally about to enjoy my last meal….for a week.
I was going to take a good pic of the steak and potato but I couldn’t work the camera just right to make it look blog-worthy and so I gave up because it was getting cold. The caption was going to read, “wish you were here Kyle.”
So days one and two have come and gone. Here is my overall opinion of juicing thus far. This junk is for the birds! Ok, maybe that is a little extreme, but this isn’t fun. I miss chewing my meals. I miss cheese. I miss my wine. Sidebar: why can’t wine be considered part of juicing? I mean, it is the juice of a grape and when you are first detoxing it feels like a massive hangover but with no good stories from the night before. Just lots of trips to the bathroom.
Here is a quick run down of what I was supposed to be consuming each day.
Wake Up: Drink 2 glasses of hot water (add lemon and/or ginger)
Breakfast: Go Orange or Red Juice
Mid-Morning: Drink 16 oz unflavored coconut water
Lunch: Go Green Juice
Afternoon snack: Go Green or Red Juice
Dinner: Go Green Juice
“Desert”: Go Purple or Orange Juice
Bedtime: Drink herbal tea (with pure stevia for sweetness if desired)
Throughout the day: Drink lots of water
Here is what I thought about each day:
Wake Up: Yay, I get to play with my new electric tea kettle. While that is warming up I will start my first juice. So I gather everything up and before I can start with the juicing, the tea kettle has beat me and is ready to go. I was still trying to figure out how to peel and cut the ginger root. Outside of a sushi restaurant I had never used ginger. I get my hot water with lemon and ginger poured.
Breakfast Juice: Carrot Apple Lemon (a.k.a. Teaser Juice)
This stuff tastes AMAZING! Hence why I call it the teaser juice, I was thinking they would all taste this good. Wrong! It was clean, refreshing, and actually tasted great. I can do this for 5 days no sweat. While I am at it, why don’t I do the green juice for lunch and store it. I had read that you don’t want to make too many juices too far in advance, maximum one day in advance. Here is a good use for all those cute mason jars and plastic lids. So I juice my first green lunch.
Mid-Morning: I am supposed to drink coconut water. I can’t even begin to tell you how let down I am by coconut water. This stuff in no way tastes like a pina colada. Maybe I should be let down by every tropical paradise place I have been to for selling me a delicious, frothy, cold, fabulous drink of lies! I take a tiny swig to see what it taste like and I want to run to the pantry and devour a whole box of vanilla wafers. If I am supposed to drink this junk for 5 days I am going to have to severely improve it. I mix a smidge of ‘coconut’ water with regular water and a good squirt of lime juice. Nope, still taste like death. I think after a few drinks I could get used to it. Then after another couple I realize I am lying to myself. Poured it out and drank the regular stuff, water.
Lunch “Garden Variety” Juice:
Yup, breakfast was just a ploy. I am not a fan of greens for the most part. I choke them down when I need to or can. At this point I still feel good and am motivated. Again, I choke down the greens in juice form and take a nap to try and forget about how quickly this took a turn for the worse.
Afternoon snack: I slept through it. Figured I was trying to help my body heal from the ‘lunch’ and would just do dinner when I arose from my coma.
After my disastrous lunch, I went for the Red Juice for dinner. “Un-beet-able” Juice.
I think at this point the detox was setting in. I felt horrible and was not looking forward to juice again. I am a foodie damn it!! I love food! I want food at all times. Juice was not doing it for me. I feel like I have been hit by a hangover; horrible headache, light headed, tummy not happy at all. I smell the dinner juice and a wave a nausea washes over me. I take a tiny sip and almost vomit. I caved. One day in and I am too weak. I snap and make a ham sandwich. And I don’t feel bad at all. Once my stomach settles down a little, I take a couple of Tylenol and its lights out, for 12 hours. Figure the more I sleep through this juice fast, the less juice I have to drink. Screw the tea, it’s bedtime.
After my 12 hours of sleeping, I still have a headache and am starving. I make my hot water breakfast again. Ugh! I was more excited about my breakfast juice as it was a similar recipe to day one, except that dang ginger root again instead of lemon. I over do it on the ginger. It’s not as great as the Teaser Juice but still better than the green and red from yesterday. I muscle through. If you are a fan of ginger, you will like it. I don’t hate ginger and I don’t love it, more or less just tolerate it.
Mid-morning coconut water, ha! Whatever.
Lunch: “Green Lemonade”
So I screwed up and forgot the kale for my lunch juice, luckily. This was more tolerable seeing as how it was mostly cucumber and spinach. I don’t know if I could have handled the kale but I drank it with little resistance from my gag reflexes.
Feeling better and with a doctors appointment I make it out of the house today. But not without a nap first. After my adventure out I have to run by my sister’s house and drop something off. A dear friend had mentioned that if I felt I needed protein (and I do, hence the daily stops to Chick-fil-A) that a tablespoon of natural peanut butter would help. Thankfully my sister had some, which was the best tasting peanut butter in all the world. I decide to not be a slave to the juice schedule, after all, we know our own bodies better than anyone and mine was screaming for something to gnaw on. I stop off at Nature’s Grocers and grab their amazing chicken breast and some of their natural peanut butter.
Dinner: I made my first purple juice. “Peach (or pear) Pie Delight”
At this point, I figure if I am getting most of these things in my body we are doing good. I only had pears, which I am good with, and 1 handful of blueberries might have turned into 3 but who is counting. This drink is the Jekyll and Hyde of Juices. It smelled like dead fish but it tasted like PIE! Either that or all my olfactory senses are completely out of whack from this delirious adventure. Who cares, I kind of enjoyed this drink. It was definitely a desert drink. Afterwards I may or may not have had a small chicken breast, some blueberries, and another spoonful of peanut butter. I didn’t feel guilty at all and slept like a baby with a clear conscious.
I am clearly behind on how many juices I am supposed to be consuming but feeling pretty good.
This is NOT my favorite juice for breakfast. Definitely going to stick to the Teaser juice from now on. As I sit here trying to down this, all I can think is if you are going to call it a Sunrise there should be Tequila involved. Sadly, there is not.
This is as far as I make it.
My original goal was to do this for 10 days. HA! What a joke. Then my revised plan was for 5. I will almost get through day three and then I make a judgment call. If I only do 2.5 – 3 days, that is something to be proud of. All I know is that I will be inhaling some Eddie V’s lobster mac and cheese as soon as I feel like I have done a good job, let’s call it my reward.
Have you ever tried a juice cleanse, please tell me someone actually enjoyed this experience?
Here is a typical dinner conversation with the hubs. Me “What do you want for dinner?” Hubs “I don’t know, what do you want?” Me “I don’t know?!” “How about Torchy’s (or fill in any other close and decent place for food)?” Hubs “OK!”
That is the norm for our dinner selection process. It’s not that we don’t like to cook we just don’t plan, at all. I even bought into a meal-planning app after Thanksgiving last year, which I highly recommend if you will actually plan your meals. Plan To Eat. Sadly, I have only been decently good at uploading recipes. I have yet, almost 10 months later, actually planned a meal from the fancy little online helper. Luckily I only paid half price during a special they were running. From everything I read and researched, it could be a great tool. Let me know if you have used it, I would be curious to know if it was money well spent. You know, if I actually used it.
So when I heard about Blue Apron I figured what the heck, we spend well more than $60 a week eating out for the two of us, lets see if this is all it is crack peppered up to be. Clearly by the deliveries that day, we (me) shop too much all together.
Was It Worth It?
There are a couple of different meal options. We went with the 3 meals for 2 people a week option because we couldn’t commit to not eating Torchy’s at least once a week. At $60 a week, I am certain we saved some money with the meals vs eating out all the time. There are a couple of family plans, so if you are feeding more than 2 grown adults, check those out. While the hubs was out of town this week I made a 2 person meal, scooped out a little Bolognese for myself and sent the rest home with a neighbor. Her, her husband, and their 3 year old split the rest. What I think we have enjoyed the most is that it is forcing us to think and cook outside the box. The second meal we made was cod with miso soba noodles. I knew cod was a fish and I liked noodles. That stuff in the middle I had no idea about. Turns out I like miso soba!
Ease Of Use?
I like to cook so finding my way around a recipe, especially one that lays out all the steps as well as Blue Apron does, was a snap. I am also a little ADD and kind of dude like in that I don’t want to read directions/instructions. Thankfully they provided nice little pictures for me to glance over so I could act like I knew what I was doing. One of my biggest downfalls to cooking is that I don’t like to measure out all my ingredients. I tend to over do things like garlic, cheese, or seasoning because, well, the more the merrier. That being said, it is close to impossible to do with Blue Apron because everything comes pre-measured. Although I do always have garlic and cheese on hand just incase I don’t think they supply enough. Perfect example tonight, I noticed the recipe called for 3 cloves of garlic, I broke off a few extra then asked the hubs “if the recipe calls for 3 cloves, how many should I use?” His response “7!” Which was the perfect number because that is exactly how many I had already peeled.
Does It Save Time?
Yes and no. Obviously picking something up on the way home is the quickest route for food, and sometimes it is a necessity. But then again, we are eating much better with our Blue Apron meals and one of us always seems to find the time to make dinner. Opening a bottle of wine and playing chef and sou chef has given us great quality time together. However, the recipes are easy enough that if one of us is working the other can manage all on their own. So far, each recipe has taken around 30 minutes, give or take the amount of wine I am drinking and what crazy drama is going on during RHNYC while I am cooking.
Eat It Again?
Considering the first meal we did was weeks, maybe even a couple of months ago, and we have only skipped a couple weeks because of travel, the answer is obviously yes. If you are thinking about doing a ‘meal kit delivery’ service, here is a great blog I found by someone who actually had time to try 3 different services. I didn’t have time (patience) to do that but I would love to know if you have tried a different meal kit company and what your thoughts are. 3 Meal Kit Services Comparison and Review.
Tips For Blue Apron.
The running joke is that every meal has corn, which the hubs doesn’t like, and requires 2TBS EVOO and salt and pepper to taste.
Here are a few of my must have gadgets in the kitchen.
Onion Goggles. I ALWAYS cry when I cut onions, even the little wimpy green onions. These things look ridiculous but work like a charm! My hubs and brother-in-law have even used them when smoking meats on the smoker. I wish I knew about the tortoise shell ones when I first bought these, those would obviously make me look sexier while wearing them.
Paper Shredder Scissors. These little guys are one of those great inventions that actually work better for a secondary purpose. I use mine to mince/chop herbs. Maybe I use them because I am lazy but who cares, these things work wonders!
Garlic Peeler and Slap Chopper. Yes, the commercial is cheese-y and the guy is super creepy but darn if these things don’t work. Plus the peeler makes peeling 10 times quicker and less messy. However, my pom hates the chopper and runs outside any time I get it out of the cabinet. Poor furry.
Grease Splatter Shield. Clearly this is the technical name for it, but call it whatever you like. I call it, less shit to clean off the stove protector.
Wine. Wine always makes cooking easier and more enjoyable. I don’t really think there is need for more explanation. If you don’t get it, I can’t help you.
Let us know if you liked the posts and if you have tried any meal kit delivery services.
A couple of years ago when my son was in Kindergarten, he made a Mother’s Day Booklet which included an “All About Mommy” page. He filled in my age and under my “likes” included that I like being on the laptop and taking naps. Nothing like a little honesty on Mother’s Day. Then, there was a fill-in the blank section stating “The best thing my Mommy cooks is ____”. He answered with, “My Dad only cooks”. It’s true, I don’t cook. My husband Michael has taken on that burden. And, it’s not because I don’t like food, I actually LOVE food, I just never made a real effort at learning how to cook. Michael also has grocery shopping duties because I get distracted by the hair and make-up aisle and end up with new beauty products instead of actual food like milk and bread. What can I say, I have my priorities and zero patience for endless isles. The torture of grocery shopping and chore of cooking prevented me from learning how to cook until the clouds opened up in the sky and I discovered my food angel called Blue Apron…
It’s convenient.Blue Apron is quite possibly the best thing in the world for my family when it comes to home cooked meals. It takes all the laziness and guess work out of grocery shopping and meal planning and puts a recipe with all of the necessary ingredients in a giant cardboard box that arrives at your house ready for cooking! I could not refuse when I heard about it. Especially when I researched the price points.
It provides options. I signed up for the Blue Apron family plan which is supposed to serve four but really there is enough food to feed six. I receive two meals a week because I travel a lot and it’s hard to commit to more. You can choose your selection of preferences from poultry, meat, vegetable, and fish and you can preview meals in advance on the calendar.
It’s healthier than dining out. Our lives get super busy and it becomes so easy to grab fast food and not have to think twice about dinner. My husband usually prepares meals but lately we have been too busy to prepare home cooked meals. Now that we have food in the fridge ready for us to prepare, we plan ahead on which days we cook. And the recipe cards that are included contain calorie counts so you can be certain you are staying within a healthy range. Each meal includes veggies and a protein so you know you are eating a balanced meal.
It’s surprisingly fun and easy. By taking all the guess work out of cooking, I lay out all of the ingredients and it becomes a puzzle I have to put together. And the finished product is a tasty meal from Blue Apron that we can all enjoy. My kids love “helping” me out by picking veggies apart and eating most of the cherry tomatoes. I love how the recipe cards have pictures with step-by-step instructions. Out of the two dozen meals we have cooked, I was only stumped once on the instructions and it was because they got a little fancy for me. I improvised and all was well.
It’s yummy. After three months of trying Blue Apron, we are definitely hooked. My kids love the pasta meals, I love the fresh salads and veggies and my husband is partial to the steak meals. Both of my kids are picky eaters and even my seven year-old son, who lived on Chick-Fil-A nuggets for his first two years of life, has found our new meals delicious. He was very leery at first and all we asked is that he at least try a couple of bites. Now, he practically inhales dinner! Tonight, I made chicken strips with a dipping sauce and a fresh side salad. He took one bite of his food and said, “Mama, your food is so good, thank you for making it!”. Excuse me while I die happy.
I’ve always made a point of having my family eat dinner at the table. It didn’t matter that we were all eating Taco Bueno burritos from paper wrappers with our bare hands, we were going to at least be semi-civil. Now, I feel a sense of accomplishment after cooking a healthy meal for my family as we sit around the table and enjoy each other’s company. Even if some of us are pant-less or screaming. Thank you Blue Apron for making sh*t easy for me.
Keep an eye out for Amanda’s take on Blue Apron on Monday September 29th. Let us know if you have tried Blue Apron or any of the other at home meal services out there and let us know what you think.
If you are just picking up here with this post and missed part one, then you are going to be icing your countertops. Go back and read Part One of Decorated Cookies. If you did read part one and maybe even tried your hand at the cookies, if there are any cookies left, keep reading so you know what to do next.
Step 4 – The Sticky Goodness Icing Part
This is a big one!! You have to get this right! There are loads of “easy” recipes out there and I have tried most of them. Let me save you a lot of trial and error and give you two pieces of advice. Tip 1 – Google the 10 second rule for royal icing. Regardless of the recipe you pick, you will use 10 second icing for 90% of your decorating. The only time I use thicker icing (15 second) is for writing on cookies, or thinner (7 second) would be for flooding large huge areas. Tip 2 – just a suggestion, but I’d use the simplest recipe. 1 cup powdered sugar to 1 TBS. milk and 1 TBS. light Karo syrup. One bag of powdered sugar (about 7.5 cups) will make enough frosting for approximately two dozen cookies.
Step 5 – The Fun Part!
Flooding: Outline the cookie, and flood right away so it looks smooth, use a toothpick to move the icing around and pop any bubbles. Some videos will show shaking the cookie to help it settle. Great idea, I’m just too impatient most of the time. For an “outlined” look, outline the cookie and let it dry for at least an hour before you flood the middle.
To dry or not to dry: If you want your design to be one layer (polka dot yoga cookie below) add while the background is wet. If you want a second layer (bubbles in the beer) let the top layer dry for at least 4-6 hours. At a minimum!
Designs: using a toothpick or a scribe tool (best purchase I’ve made) you can drag wet color to make designs such as the marble effect (middle Bob cookie below), or the swirled feathered look (rooster tail above). For simple designs like polka dots, be sure to pick a small enough tip and keep your tip at a perfectly perpendicular angle (otherwise your dots will drag some).
Bleeding: when you want to make ladders, or letters, or pretty much any design that could “bleed” into it’s self, such as the letter “e” filling in, you just need some patience (yes, this is the one time I have it because it’s the pretty part). In the pictures below you can see the difference in ladders: the pump jack ladder, I attempted to draw the ladder all in one setting. Lesson learned! On the fire trucks I did all the long lines, waited for them to dry (at least an hour) and then filled in the rungs. Same with writing on cookies – do one motion at a time: when writing the letter “e” just do the “c” curve, then fill in the straight line later.
Transfers: this is the most exciting and nerve wracking to me. Watch videos! Seriously, watch as many as you can, but here are my biggest tips.
1. Cover your wax paper in a THIN coat of Crisco.
2. Let transfers dry for at least two days! Lesson recently learned – I was doing some “portrait” cookies and the faces looked like they had skin diseases after a day, day 2 it was better, and by day 3 everything was fine. So I’m serious when I say these things need dry time! And apply it to a wet cookie (the “glue” with a dot of icing trick doesn’t work as well). It’s also a great way to get an adorable font (like the ‘P’ cookies at bottom) and consistency!
Glitter works best if the whole cookie is dry dry dry! Except the part you want glittered – cover the rest of the cookie as best you can with wax/parchment paper. Shake glitter over area, then turn your cookie over and shake off extra glitter. If you’re careful you can shake it all onto a piece of parchment paper and pour the leftovers back into the container – that stuff is not cheap! (Flamingo Cookie)
Sprinkles and sanding sugar work just the opposite. Pour it onto a paper plate, turn the cookie over and dip the wet part of the cookie into it, again – everything else should be super dry! (Sprinkle on flamingo, sanding sugar on margaritas!!)
Luster dust, again, watch videos! Mix with a lil alcohol, use a tiny brush, and you can use the alcohol to “erase” any mistakes. Or just drink away your frustrations as you watch more tutorial videos. (Baby rattle)
Perfection. When you are going to make several cookies that are all the same design (like the ‘P’ cookies), it’s important that they look similar. Or if you’re repeating a pattern on a cookie (like a banner), you can use a template to trace on DRY icing, or on an uniced (is that a word?) cookie with a food coloring pen. I do the same with letters if I don’t have time (2 days) for a transfer; trace adorable font (like the T’s) on the cookie using a pointed scribe, and ice right over it. No need for an expensive projector!
After only 7 months in the cookie biz, I know I’m far from an expert. However, after making almost 100 dozen (98 as of early September), I can answer most of your questions. Follow me on Facebook “Sweet McD’s Cookies” and/or Instagram @SweetMcDs.
This weeks featured guest blogger is Ashley. While she is a blonde, we don’t discriminate. Amanda’s little sister and a full time high school math teacher, wife, and social butterfly; Ashley spends her free time practicing her craft at cookies and fiddle. Wife to a Dallas Fireman, she has spare time during his nights on to make a mess of their kitchen. And dining room. And breakfast table. Baking is a full house sport. She also tutors; hit her up for all your math and cookie needs!
Decorated cookies. They’re adorable. And delicious. Two of my favorite things: creativity and baking. One of my best friends got into making these amazing decorated cookies about a year before I did and encouraged me to do the same during my summer ‘break’ from teaching. I figured it was better than sitting at home doing nothing and since I didn’t have any big plans for the summer, why not? So, if you want to get into cookie making, step one: Google it, watch videos, read blogs, and practice, practice, practice. No one minds eating cookies that aren’t perfectly decorated. My two favorites sources for information have been http://sweetopia.net and http://sweetambs.com. But if you want the Cliff’s Notes version, here is what I learned this summer.
Step 1 – The Cookie Part
There are a million good recipes out there for “cut out cookie dough.” I have tried a few and here’s what I’ve found works the best for me: keep the batter pliable – add drops of water as often as you need, while keeping it floured enough to help it hold it’s shape when you pick up the cutout. You don’t need much baking powder, if any; I’ve cut it almost completely out. Baking powder will actually make your cookies spread more, so my personal thought is find a recipe with little to no BP. Also I’d suggest finding one that is “no chill needed” – mostly because I’m impatient.
Keep in mind what the cookies are going to look like when finished. That will help you decide if you can use the same dough repeatedly or if you need to make extra. Here is a quick visual at how the dough looks the more you roll it out. If you are going to completely flood the cookies with icing, no one will see the cracks. If parts of the cookie will show through, you may need extra dough. Again, when you are practicing for friends and family, they really won’t care what the cookies look like, they will eat them anyway.
Step 2 – Don’t. Over. Bake.
It’s better that they come out just a tad undercooked, as they will sit out for several days for icing & decorating and harden naturally. I roll mine at 3/8 of an inch* and cook for eight minutes. Five minutes on the top rack and three minutes on the bottom. Even if you are only baking one sheet worth, still rotate. But who bakes ones sheet worth? That would be like getting regular Oreo’s instead of Double Stuff, the more the merrier. The cookies have to cool for a minimum of six hours before you ice. I’d suggest putting them in airtight containers after they cool if you aren’t going to ice them within the next 24 hours.
* for the number cookies I used a ½ inch spacer. While being thick and delicious, they take longer to bake and a batch of dough will barely make a dozen, if you’re lucky! Here is a link to the Rolling Pin Spacers so you can get the most out of your dough and keep the cookies consistent.
Step 3 – The Cutters
I typically get cookie cutters at places like Sur La Table or a local cookie shop but for those special needs, I love http://www.cheapcookiecutters.com they make amazing cutters. Not to mention their free Tuesday give-a-way. I won a fireman maltese cross one week! I think that is some divine cookie cutter intervention.
Here is my go-to recipe and easy step-by-step instructions:
Sweet McD’s Dough:
1 C. butter (unsalted) And don’t use the cheap .99 Imperial butter. I know it’s tempting but the stuff that is 50% or more vegetable oil will make your cookies not spread at all and taste rubbery!
1 C. sugar
– Cream butter and sugar together and then add:
– Continue to cream together and add:
1 TBS vanilla
1/2 TBS almond extract
– Cream together then slowly add a little at a time:
3 C. flour
Roll and go, no chilling required.
If the dough feels too sticky just add more flour by hand as you roll it out. If it feels too dry, add DROPS of water a little at a time.
This recipe is extremely versatile.
Chocolate Cookies: sub anywhere from 3/4 to 1 cup flour with chocolate powder.
Key Lime Pie Cookies: use key lime extract instead of vanilla (I would suggest 1 TBS. key lime and 1/2 TBS vanilla) and then sub again 1 cup of flour with crushed graham crackers. You might need to add more than 2 cups of flour to get the right consistency.
Raspberry Cookies:use 1 TBS raspberry extract instead of vanilla, and 1/2 TBS vanilla.
Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 8 minutes depending on the size of the cookies. Larger go longer, 9 minutes. Smaller go shorter, 7 minutes. Average cookie sizes are 3″. Ovens will vary, the fun part is tasting to see if you got them right.
Check back Thursday when I discuss the fun part, ICING!