7 Things I Learned from a Meal Delivery Service {Home Chef}

The doorbell rang as I was putting the baby down for a nap {or rather I should say trying to put the baby down for a nap}. My four year old leapt up off the floor of the nursery {where he was trying and failing to be quiet for the fifth time that day} and ran to the door. Nothing lights up his world like a package being delivered. He waited impatiently as I settled the baby in his crib {finally} and asked endlessly, “Is it for me? Is it for me?”. I fudged the truth a little, as parents are allowed to do, and proclaimed “Yes, it is! Open it!”

Things to know about meal delivery services. Click for $30 off!

Pssst. –> Here’s $30 off in case you don’t make it to the end. 😉

home chefhome chef meal box

It wasn’t a complete lie; it was dinner in a box, which basically meant it was for everyone. Well, almost dinner in a box. It was a package of ingredients, already divided out into separate bundles, each with an attached recipe and step by step directions for turning the loose ingredients into a fantastic meal {or so the pictures lead you to believe – and spoiler alert, did exactly that}. Despite taking KB grocery shopping and having him help with food prep every week, he was ALL about this exciting venture we were about to have with our meal delivery service.

home chef meal deliverymeal box delivery

Though it was only mid-morning he was more than eager to help me make dinner for the first time in a long time. When dinner time finally did roll around, the day had gotten away from me, as it usually does, and suddenly I needed to have dinner on the table in less than thirty minutes if I wanted my preschooler to go to bed anywhere near on time, despite having a cranky baby on my hands – you know how that hour goes.

meal delivery servicehome chef ingredients

Meal box to the rescue. Though I was skeptical when I first heard of this food trend, I was quickly turned into a potential believer as I cooked dinner one-handed while feeding a baby and keeping four-year old fingers away from sharp knives. {Side note: I should get a prize every time I successfully get dinner on the table and everyone still has all their fingers.}

fresh ingredients

If you’re not familiar with what I’m talking about, here’s a quick rundown of the meal delivery service: We tried three meals from Home Chef this week. An insulated box arrived on our doorstep containing all the ingredients to make these meals, each wrapped up in their own tiny package. I threw the meat/seafood in the freezer and everything else in the fridge exactly as it came out of the box. On the day of, I simply followed the directions on the recipe card. There was a little bit of chopping involved {think slicing the ends off green beans and halving tomatoes} but that was the bulk of the prep. Two of the meals were on the table in 20ish minutes; the other took a little longer but it was mostly in oven time, not actual cooking.

turkey salisbury steak home chef

I was impressed with the quality of the ingredients, the health factor, the ease of preparation, the deliciousness, and the price for what you got. {For the record, we got 2.5 servings out of each meal, 2 adults and 1 tiny tornado eater of a four year old.} So here’s my takeaway in a nutshell besides it was easy and good –>

meal delivery service what i learned




7 things I learned {or re-learned} from the meal delivery experience:

1. Fresh ingredients make a HUGE difference in flavor. Lime juice is a kitchen staple here, but a FRESH lime? SO much better. I don’t even need to mention how much better fresh veggies taste, do I?

2. Following step-by-step written directions helps me stay on course when I’m distracted by a baby {or anything}. I constantly look up recipes, but actually follow them? Almost never. Dinner prep went so much smoother when I knew exactly what I needed to do and in what order, and I knew exactly where to come back to when I was inevitably distracted for the 24,495th time.

jerk chicken plaintains home chef

3. Having a package delivered made my preschooler super excited about making dinner and trying new foods. No dinner battle? Nuff said.

4. “Fancy” looking meals can actually be easy to make at home. Mahi Mahi. Jerk chicken. Salisbury turkey steak. These are not things that usually come out of my kitchen. And the almost looked as good on our plates as they did in the pictures.

mahi mahi mango salsa home chef meal

5. It pushes you out of your comfort zone, both ingredient-wise and in terms of cooking ability. I love fish but for whatever reason am paralyzed by cooking it at home. Turns out it’s easier to cook than chicken. And Salisbury steak? I never would have attempted cooking it because although I’ve heard of it, I didn’t have a clue what it was. I think this would be a great way to introduce someone to cooking. {ahem, cough, cough husband.}

healthy salsibury turkey

6. Having everything ready to go makes the dinnertime “witching hour” easier. You know, that hour where everyone needs you RIGHT NOW and you need to make dinner, feed a baby, give baths, answer 4,483 variations of the question “why?”, and still appear to have it all together when your husband walks in the door from a week out of town without downing the entire bottle of wine before 5? Yeah, that hour.

home chef review

7. Sometimes it’s easier just to have things done for you. Sure, I coooould make a plan and a list, look up recipes, go to the store, prep food, and cook. But that takes brain power and mental energy I just don’t have much of these days. So yeah, I’ll take some help.

preschool food plate <—deconstructed pre-school portion

In short, here are the highlights of our Home Chef delivery in an easily digestible {no pun intended} bullet point format:

  • Shows up on your doorstep.
  • Easy to follow, clear directions.
  • Tells you exactly how many days you have to cook said meal.
  • You get to pick your meals & they highlight allergens <— this was one of the main reasons I’ve never tried a meal delivery service before, but I was able to pick dishes that met our dietary needs or easily leave out an ingredient {like butter}
  • FRESH {and healthy!}
  • Makes everyone happy
  • You can skip deliveries whenever

And to be fair, my cons:

  • No leftovers. Winking smile

A snapshot of our meals:

Jerk chicken with brown sugar plantains, coconut rice, and kale.

jerk chicken coconut rice home chef

Salisbury turkey steak with mushrooms and veggies.

salisbury turkey cauliflower home chef

Smoky paprika Mahi Mahi with mango black bean salsa and green beans.

mahi mahi mango salsa home chef

To sum up the review: my next meal box comes Friday.

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If you want to try Home Chef, now’s a good time to do it – sign up for your first order using this link you can get $30 off your first box. Then you can get your own code and give someone else $30 off, plus get a $30 credit yourself.

To break it down, that means you can get four meals for less than $20, which is cheaper {and WAY healthier} than fast food.

Have you tried a meal delivery service? What was your experience?

Flavor Your Adventure: Trail Mix

This “Flavor Your Adventure” post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds.

Summer is one of my favorite times. Not because of the oppressively hot weather or the need for sunscreen at 7am, but because of the freedom and lack of rigidity. Even with a three year old, we’re already feeling the effects the school year imposes on your daily agenda. While I’m all for scheduling and planning, the idea of having absolutely nothing set in stone on the day’s to-do list is absolutely freeing and liberating. Sure there are things that have to be done, deadlines to make, and appointments to keep, but the general flow of the day and week is generally totally up in the air and it’s awesome.

almond trail mix

I love being ready to drop everything and go do anything at any given moment, whether it’s something big and exciting like a road trip or something tiny {but equally as exciting} as a pool day or trip to the library with friends. The only way to make this work and not go totally crazy is to be prepared. For us, this means knowing where sunscreen and bathing suits are at all times, managing to not lose my keys or wallet, and always having easy, portable snacks on hand that will satisfy both myself and an opinionated threenager.

While we always have at least a small collection of pre-packaged snacks on hand {fruit cups, granola bars}, our go-to this summer has been trail mix. This is an easy one because it’s a basic simple formula that meets our needs {healthy, filling, allergy-friendly} but is also easy to change up every single time to prevent snack boredom.

  
The kiddo’s fave is Blue Diamond’s Roasted Lightly Salted Almonds, dried cranberries, raisins, and chocolate chips. Tossing in something slightly “exotic” like dried papaya, mango, granola clusters, or pumpkin seeds is basically the highlight of his snack-based day.

My favorite is coconut flakes, pumpkin seeds, and dried apricots, with switching up the variety by changing the flavor almonds I use. My current faves are honey mustard and wasabi.

When I’m feeling super on top of things {ha} we’ll make the mixtures into granola bars, clusters, or balls, but most of them we eat the trail mix straight up on whatever adventure we happen to be on.

blue diamond almonds

 

This “Flavor Your Adventure” post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds. For more snack ideas to “Flavor Your Adventure” this summer, visit Blue Diamond Almonds on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Spiralization

I said I’d write a post about spiralizing and … wait for it … I actually did:

spiralizing veggies - making veggie noodles

Zoodles zoodles zoodles. Seriously my favorite thing. Ok, not really my favorite thing. But one of my best friends since going gluten-free, and still would be even if I wasn’t steering clear of gluten.

zuchhini noodlessweet potato noodles

It doesn’t stop at zoodles either. Spoodles. P’noodles. Pretty much anything you can add “oodle” too. If you don’t know what I’m blabbering about, I’m talking veggie noodles. Zucchini noodles. Sweet potato noodles. Parsnip noodles.

It’s not some magic recipe of taking vegetables and mashing them and grinding them into strands of spaghetti. It’s simple thinly sliced, spiralized vegetables that end of looking like noodles.

Probably one of the easiest and most fun ways to add more veggies to any diet, including those of kids and husbands. {I’m not sure which species is harder to please: toddler or husband…} Great for vegetarians, vegans, paleo –ites, gluten-frees, and more.

Sure, you can use a knife and get a similar result, but using a spiralizer makes it way easier and way more fun. Perhaps one of the reasons I eat so many veggie noodles is because it’s one of the few foods that I can actually prep with a toddler in the kitchen since he think’s it’s the coolest thing ever to help with {and it’s only semi-dangerous, as opposed to totally dangerous with an exposed blade}. Plus, I don’t mind if he snacks while we’re food prepping since it’s just pieces of veggies. He won’t touch cooked zucchini, but raw zucchini that’s plucked straight from the coolest tool ever? Yup. Weirdo.

IMG_2489 (500x500)

This is the spiralizer I use. It’s pretty inexpensive as far as kitchen tools go and it’s held well. The suction cups don’t always stick super well, but that’s never impeded our process. It tackles tough-to-cut sweet potatoes just as well as the easy, go-to zucchini.It comes with three different blades that make skinny noodles like spaghetti, slightly thicker spaghetti-like noodles, and thinly sliced wider noodles that are more like some kind of “-ccine”. I supposed a better name for those ones would be “ribbons”.

I usually stick the smallest blade on and have at it, but every once in awhile I change it up. I like the skinniest of the noodles since they have the added bonus of cooking quickly, another “must” in the kitchen with toddlers. Or in the kitchen by myself after a long day of not eating enough because tiny fingers keep stealing all my bites.

So spiralizing. There ya have it. You can use the veggie noodles for anything you would use normal pasta for. My go-tos are veggie laden marinara, shrimp scampi, and peanut butter noodles, but the possibilities are endless. You can use the spiralizer for a surprising number of vegetables. I tend to use it the most for zucchini and sweet potatoes, but you can also do parsnips, carrots, potatoes, cucumber, beets, broccoli, onion, apples, pears, rutabaga, butternut squash, kohlrabi, celriac, and probably many more veggies you’ve never thought to cook with, let alone turn in to noodles.

sweet potato noodle bowl

 

Though it’s most well known for making veggie noodles, you can also use a spiralizer to make “riced” veggies and smaller cuts of veggies for things like “pasta” salad, etc. I turn to the spiralizer more than my mandolin because it seems easier, faster, and less dangerous {read: you can’t accidentally slice off a layer of your finger}.

I’m going to say the best resource out there for spiralizing and spiralized recipes is probably Inspiralized. Seriously amazing.

Do you spiralize? Do you have a favorite spiralized recipe? Feel free to link it up in the comments below! I’ll post a follow up list of recipes to try!

Cause & Effect: Diet Edition

Umm, where is summer going?

We’ve had an absolutely packed summer, which honestly is the way I like it. When it’s this ungodly hot you I better have something to do or I will melt into a puddle of crankiness and despair. Unfortunately, it’s also been full of rain, so we haven’t been to the pool since the first week of summer. Luckily we saw sun on most of our beach days so that makes up for it.

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The only reason I even know July is half over is because today is exactly 4 weeks from my first tri since having a baby (and since busting my knee). And of course, I have a broken toe. The stupidest of stupid tiny injuries that actually really gets in the way of a lot of things. Hey, at least I’ll have a strong swim????

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I mentioned recently that my son’s food allergies have either gone away or at least become much less severe, meaning my world of food choices as completely opened up. (I’m breastfeeding, so what I eat, he eats.)

2013-07-05 10.30.19 (375x500)

I used to be pretty picky about what things I’d put in my body. After being forced to stop eating certain things involuntarily, I  never want to intentionally limit myself again. However, the downside- I feel like crap. I don’t know if it’s because I always had a problem with those things, or if I caused issues by avoiding them. So I should probably figure that out, or it’s going to be a very unfortunate tri experience, in addition to the stupid broken toe.

A couple interesting thoughts for the week:

The price you pay for a hangover– besides the massive headache.

Is your coffee bulletproof? I feel like I need to try this- I’m not a big butter fan (taste-wise) but I do love coconut oil in my coffee…

 

So what do you think… can changing your diet cause you to become intolerant of certain foods? Temporarily or permanently? Or does it just call attention to what was already there?

My Unofficial Tribute to Cinnamon Rolls {Gluten Free Baking Woes}

I love cinnamon rolls.

vegan cinnamon rolls

Man, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve written that on this blog, I’d probably have…a couple dollars.

But I do. And nothing makes you miss you’re favorite breakfast/snack/dinner {don’t judge} than not being able to eat one of the main ingredients. All of my favorite cinnamon roll recipes are already dairy free, but gluten free they are not.

whole wheat cinnamon rolls

As it turns out, the babe likely does not have a gluten allergy, but it’s so hard to pinpoint things. Every time he refluxes I worry it was something I ate. So while I don’t think gluten is the culprit {dairy & soy ARE}, I’ve been trying to keep my intake to a minimum and saving the gluten-eating for the really important things, like pumpkin beer.

I’ve been experimenting with my favorite cinnamon bun recipes and my new collection of gluten free flours. I’ve yet to find THE magic flour blend that gives that chewy doughiness I love in a cinnamon roll.

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I am far from an expert on gluten free baking. Far. So this post is fairly useless. Here are some of the flours I’ve tried so far:

Gluten free all purpose baking mix {Arrowhead Mills}: Easy 1:1 sub but lacks the density of whole grains (too starchy for me)

Sorghum Flour: easy sub, lacks “chew”

Garbanzo Bean flour: provides density, but has a rather off-putting smell/after taste. Not for the faint of heart.

Gluten Free Oat Flour: one of the easiest to sub, probably because I’ve used oats/oat flour in so many recipes before.

Millet Flour: probably my favorite so far. Light but not starchy-light. I know, highly technical terms here. Holds in moisture well.

Brown Rice Flour: seems to be the standard gluten free “whole” grain.

Buckwheat Flour: great for pancakes, a little strong for lighter baked goods like cookies.

As far as starches go, I’ve been using mostly cornstarch and tapioca starch. I haven’t noticed any differences between the two, although I do prefer less starch-heavy blends than most combos call for.

I know most gluten free flour substitutes work best in combinations, but I’ve yet to stumble upon a tried and true favorite.

cinnamon roll-3

So there you have it. I have no idea what I’m doing. And thus my cinnamon rolls continue to suffer…

Gluten-free folks- what’s your favorite flour/combo?!

So Fresh and So…Fresh? The Freshpedition

I’m very lucky to live in a town that has a farmers’ market: fresh food, locally grown produce, a place to learn directly from the growers.

Now, we don’t have one of those crazy awesome markets that go on for miles and bring bounds and bounds of fruits and veggies like I’ve heard about in some bigger cities, but we do ok. There’s always plenty of fresh zucchini and peaches, tomatoes {ew} and okra. The farmers’ market is where I first discovered my love of okra. Mmm okra.

okra (500x376)

The best thing about the farmer’s market? It’s open every day. No waiting until the crack of dawn on Saturday morning to stock the fridge.

curb market building (500x376)

I normally trek out to the farmer’s market every couple of weeks, but this week I decided to try a different market: the farmer’s curb market. Our farmers’ market is a bit of town, down the highway. The curb market brings the farmer’s in closer, but only on Wednesdays and Saturdays, like traditional farmers’ markets.

farmer's curb market (500x376)

Yesterday morning I packed up the babe and we headed to the curb market, reusable totes and cash in hand.

farmer's curb market vendors (500x282)

I was thrilled when I walked in; so many veggies to choose from! Until I took a few more steps. All but a few vendor tables were empty. Unfortunately the market doesn’t seem to draw in a crowd…or farmers.

empty farmers market (500x282)

At least we have the other market to fall back on, but this one is so much easier for most people to get to. That experience combined with reading about the #Surviveon35 challenge really got me thinking. There are so many people without access to fresh food. They rely on packaged and processed foods to get them through. But then there are the people that think they’re getting fresh, nutritious food and decide that is something they’re willing to spend their money on. Unfortunately, most of the “fresh” food in grocery stores that are easy for most people to access isn’t really all that fresh. It travels hundreds of miles, if not more, to get to the store. The longer these foods sit before they hit the grocery shelves, the less nutritious the foods get. Yes- foods loose nutritive value as soon as they’re picked- they’re not being sustained by roots and sun and soil anymore. {This doesn’t even begin to address the whole issue of food now being less nutritious than it was years ago because of growing regulations, pollution, subsidization, etc.}

Of course all of these thoughts were brought on by these videos I watched last week for the Freshpedition campaign. Normally I’d skip actually watching the videos, but this time I did. Now, this isn’t going to solve any world hunger problems, but at least it’s a step in the right direction of keeping food as nutritious as possible {it certainly doesn’t help with any economic-hardship situations.} With better technology, more people can have access to fresher food.

freshpedition campaign for GE

The Freshpedition is the adventure of an engineer {he made a fridge that keeps food fresher than fresh, even if you don’t wrap things up first} and a chef. They traveled around testing to see if the fridge really could keep foods fresh in less-than-ideal situations. The two make quite the pair- they had me chucking more than once. And yes, watching the goat cheese video was a little like rubbing salt in an open wound.

farm fresh eggs<—farm fresh egg vs not

 

GE Freshpedition

You can watching the adventures of this interesting duo yourself here: {if you’re in reader you may see a bunch of mumbo-jumbo code, but if you click over you can see the video}.

 

>GE is continuing this same passion for fresh food with the Freshpedition Sweepstakes. This sweepstakes uses Pinterest, which means you can actually pin for a chance to win all new GE kitchen appliances.

But wait, there’s even more to win!

You can also enter each day of the sweepstakes for a chance to win a $100 VISA® Prepaid Card. Entering for this prize is fun as you’re asked to pin your favorite fresh foods or your own recipes. Also, these pins when hashtagged with your state (e.g. #GEfreshTX) become part of a “Best of Fresh” map featuring freshness from around the country. Explore the map here: http://www.freshpedition.com/sweepstakes/fresh-map.htm

For official rules and to enter visit here: http://www.freshpedition.com/sweepstakes/

 

Compensation was provided by GE via Glam Media.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of GE.