Dishing on Home Delivery Meals – #4 Home Chef

I am testing several of the popular home delivery meal programs to see which ones are 1) worth the money, 2) easy to prepare, and 3) tasty – not necessarily in that order! Go here for my first entry.

This, our 4th testing, was with Home Chef.
 I received the first shipment for 3 meals for 2 people at an introductory half-price rate of $29.70, which comes to about $10 a meal.

Arrival: The box was scheduled to arrive on a Wednesday, but didn’t arrive until Thursday. I was a little worried that it wouldn’t have stayed cold an extra day, but it still seemed fine. No reason given why it was late ( I was following it by tracking number.) The meals come packaged together for each meal. I really liked that. The most organized way any of our boxes have arrived.

Home Chef is really good about keeping in touch with you. They send multiple emails about the meals coming up and when things are shipped. If you don’t like getting a lot of emails, it will probably annoy you, but I was glad they kept up with me, so I could cancel or schedule future shipments in plenty of time. They have MANY options for meals, much more than most of the other programs I have tried. Also, you can order desserts! (which I didn’t try this time.)

They also give a difficulty level, and a spicy level, and tell you how many days you have to use it. (e.g. “Cook within 5 days”) So you can decide which meals you should use first. And they sent a handy-dandy plastic binder notebook where you can store your recipes!! 🙂

My Meals:

Meal 1: Cheese-stuffed Chicken Milanese with spinach and artichoke salad in creamy lemon dressing.

Very easy to prepare. Roasted artichokes and onions which were later tossed into a spinach salad with tomatoes. They call it a “creamy lemon” dressing, but I didn’t taste much lemon, mostly sour cream. Not a terrible salad, but definitely not a favorite. The chicken was easy to prepare with mozzarella stuffed inside, seared first in a skillet, and then finished in the oven in the same skillet. Note to self: Remember that a skillet that has been in the oven will have a hot handle even after it has been removed and set on the stove top. Ouch!! (I spent the evening with my hand in cold water!) But the chicken was very tasty.

Meal 2: Sherry Wine Demi-Glace Sirloin steak with mashed potatoes and balsamic Brussel Sprouts

Super easy to prepare. Mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts seared, then cooked in a skillet, and steaks seared, and cooked in the same skillet.

Although my husband hates brussels sprouts and would not try them, the meal was very tasty and we enjoyed it. Instead, I served him the remainder of the former spinach salad.

Meal 3: Spaghetti and Ricotta Meatballs, with pecorino garlic bread.

Pretty basic – making meatballs, and spaghetti. The pecorino is a type of cheese (I hadn’t heard of that). Easy to make and not as good as the spaghetti I normally make. Uh, Tony is Italian, you know, so… Also, kind of an incomplete meal in my opinion. No salad or veggies. The bread was made from one roll, sliced in half, divided between us both. I added some steamed broccoli for our veggies. Pretty low cost meal on their part. I wouldn’t order this again.

So overall, their program is great. Very well put together, very good communication, and directions.

Cost for regular orders will be $59.70, which is about $10 per meal (3 meals for 2 people). Not too bad. However, we can eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant for about $20, and I don’t have to cook. So there’s that.

Stayed tuned! I may be trying Hello Fresh! next.

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Dishing on Home Delivery Meals – # 3 – Plated

I am trying several of the popular home delivery meal programs to see which ones are 1) worth the money, 2) easy to prepare, and 3) tasty – not necessarily in that order!

Our third try was with Plated. This, by far, was our favorite! It was easiest to prepare, and the tastiest!!

Variety – There seems to be about as much variety as the other home delivery places, but I like the choices better.

Meal #1 – Curried Beef with Potatoes, carrots, and apple chutney. (710 calories)

Curried Beef with Potatoes, carrots, & apple chutney

Stated: 45-55 minutes to prepare. I don’t think it actually took longer than 40 minutes. Easy to prepare. I don’t think the apple chutney added much to the dish, but it was ok. Meal was very tasty.

Meal #2- Salmon Nicoise with Champagne Vinaigrette (620 calories)

Salmon with Champagne vinaigrette

Stated: 20-30 minutes to prepare. Pretty accurate. Basically, seared salmon in a skillet. Peanut potatoes (never heard them called this, but they are tiny little potatoes) with green beans – in boiling water. Then a type of salad with lettuces, cucumbers, tomatoes with a vinaigrette. Again, easy to prepare. Something I would not have served on the same plate in the past, but we really enjoyed it.

Meal #3 – Italian Sausage Soup with Caramelized Fennel and ditalini
(650 calories)

Italian Sausage Soup

Stated: 30 – 40 minutes to prepare. Pretty accurate. Brown sausage, caramelize fennel and leek (never used either of these before). Add all veggies together with sausage and ditalini pasta (little tiny pasta thimbles). Sprinkled with parmesan. We LOVED this!

Summary: Cost for introductory offer – $28.68 for 3 meals for 2 people. All ingredients were enclosed. So far this is our favorite and maybe one that I would order at least once a month.
Less than $10 for our combined meals (intro offer). 20 options of choice. Unfortunately, the cost for a similar weekly box is $71.70. So we will not be ordering this again, after all. Disappointed in the high cost.

For comparison – Marley Spoon is $61.50 for a regular delivery of 3 meals for 2 people (12 meal options). Every plate is $38.93 (only 5 meal options).

For the record, I do not plan on getting any of these delivery meals on a weekly basis. I think I will try Home Chef next. Stay tuned!!

To see our progress from our first box from Marley Spoon, go here.

The 2nd version….  Every Plate.

Say, “Cheese!”

I made cheese!!

I LOVE cheese!!  Being a home-grown farm girl, I have an affinity to yummy dairy products!  So I actually bought this kit several years ago and just recently got around to doing it. This kit is from Standing Stone Farms, located at www.standingstonefarms.com.  

Beginner’s Cheese Making Kit

My kit contained Calcium Chloride, Citric Acid, Rennet, and cheese salt, plus recipes.  Other items needed are a stainless or enamel pot with lid, colander (preferably a fine mesh), perforated ladle or skimmer spoon, and a thermometer (0 – 220 degrees).

Recipe: from Standing Stone Farms

Ingredients:

1 gallon milk

2 tsp. Citric acid powder

1 tsp. calcium chloride, diluted into ½ c. water

1/8 tsp. rennet diluted in ½ c. water

2 tsp. cheese or kosher salt

Cheese Making Supplies

I made the “Super Fast” mozzarella cheese, using whole store bought pasteurized cow’s milk.  Organic milk will not work, as it is ultra-pasteurized. (If you use raw milk, you can omit the calcium chloride.)

Add citric acid to milk and gently stir, and begin heating to 88 degrees. Remove from heat, but maintain at 88 degrees for next steps, returning to burner if necessary.

At 88 degrees, add diluted calcium chloride and stir well, but gently.

At 88 degrees, add diluted rennet, and stir gently, but not constantly.  Heat to 101 degrees and remove from heat.  You will see curds forming and splitting into curds and whey! 

Remove Curds with strainer and drain away the whey as much as possible.  Put curds in microwavable bowl.  Add salt and microwave for 60 seconds, draining away the whey.  Repeat.

Remove from microwave and lift with a spoon to stretch the cheese until it’s like taffy and shiny!   You can add more salt to taste.

Looks like this!!

I worked it into 3 ball shapes, and dropped it into cool salt water for 10 minutes to chill. 

Cheese can be stored 2 weeks, or frozen for 3 months.  We used 2 balls immediately the next day when Tony made homemade pizza.  (Sorry, no pics!)

Cheese ball
Shredded for pizza

It was very tasty and amazing!!

I would definitely recommend this !  It would be a good project for kids, and is healthier than store-bought/processed cheese because it doesn’t have the additives.  You could also infuse your own herbs, spices, or vegetables.

The beginner kit costs $29.99.  There is enough product to make 4-5 batches.

Cost:  one gallon of milk

Yield:  about 24 ounces of mozzarella cheese.

Try it, you’ll like it!!

Cranberries – To dry or not to dry?

So I ordered cranberries for our Thanksgiving recipes through the HEB curbside pickup.  Because I didn’t pay close enough attention, I ordered a 3 pound bag instead of a 12 oz. bag that I needed.  So….. lots of extra cranberries.  So I thought since I already paid for them,  I would try to make dried cranberries.

The recipe I found was simple.  4 cups of cranberries, cut in half, stirred with ½ cup of maple syrup. (Many thanks to my father-in-law in New Hampshire!)  It took me about 20 minutes to cut the cranberries in half.  I stirred them with the syrup, and there seemed to be LOTS of syrup.  So I added another cup of cranberries.

dried cranberries2

dried cranberries,1

dried cranberries 3

I dried them in my food dehydrator.  It looks like this…

 

I cut parchment paper in circles to put on the bottom of each tray.  This kept the cranberries from sticking to the trays, and from falling through the holes.  The recipe suggested to dry them for 8 – 10 hours.  I left mine in for a little over 10 hours because they didn’t seem to be dried enough.  Let them sit for a day, and turned it on for another 2-3 hours.  They seemed sticky – like too much syrup or something.  So I emptied the trays onto another piece of parchment paper.  Most cranberries were stuck to the paper they were laying on in the dehydrator and I had to use a spatula to ease them off.

cranberries 7

Left overnight they lost their stickiness.  They taste pretty good, probably not quite as soft and sweet as the Craisins you buy in the store.  But definitely edible and tasty.

I figure the cost to be:

$3-4 for 2 cups of dried cranberries my way.

Cost at HEB – $3.20 for about the same amount of Craisins

Calories my way:  80 calories per ½ cup

Calories Craisins:  110 per ½ cup

 

So probably not worth the effort.  Oh well, it was worth a try since I already bought the cranberries!  And I may go ahead and use up the rest of the cranberries this way – maybe with less syrup!

 

Dishing on Home Delivery Meals – #2 Every Plate (Part 2)

I am trying several of the popular home delivery meal programs to see which ones are 1) worth the money, 2) easy to prepare, and 3) tasty – not necessarily in that order!  My second trial was from Every Plate.  This is my second box from Every Plate. I had only intended to accept one box and move onto the next trial, but I received the second box since I forgot to cancel the next week delivery. (There was not much notice to choose your recipes or change your delivery.)

These boxes are packed with all 3 meals combined.  You have to go through and sort all the ingredients for each meal.  I was careful to do that so I was aware if anything was missing (as it was every time with Marley Spoon).   Everything looked good.  One meal included small finger-like cucumbers which get bad quickly.  So I had to choose wisely which meals to make first.

Variety:  You are given a minimal variety to choose from, but easily acceptable choices.  You can opt for delivery every week, or skip weeks.

These meals easily take less than 30 minutes to prepare.  The instructions are easy, but it seems that there are small steps that are left out.  If you aren’t a cook, you may be confused at times.

My Meals:

1) Spiced Beef and Couscous with Greek Feta and Cucumber Salad –

Cucumber Salad – basically sliced cucumber with feta and onion.  This was ok, not amazing.  Beef was flavorful, and tasted pretty good with the couscous. Easy recipe.

Every Plate 2.1

2) Garlicky Sriracha Pork Chops with Lime Rice and Sweet Sesame Cucumber –

Another cucumber “salad”.  Sliced cucumber with some seasonings.  Rice was a little dry, not much flavor. It had some chopped ginger, but I didn’t really taste it.  Pork chops were pretty tasty with the sriracha sauce.  This meal looks strangely similar to a meal in our first box, (Sriracha Pork Meatballs with Sesame Cucumber Salad and Jasmine Rice). Notice the sriracha flavored pork with rice and cucumber salad.  2 very similar meals one week apart.

This week’s meal vs. last week’s meal…

3) Chipotle Barbecue Chicken Tacos with Pickled Onion and Lime Sour Cream –

Quick and easy recipe. Chicken tasted like barbeque.  (It was tossed in BBQ sauce and chipotle powder).  Veggies were pretty good with the meat.  Pickled onion (?) was odd.  It was intended as an additional topping on the taco. It was weird.  Ok, just seemed odd.

Every Plate 2.2

Conclusion:  These meals are very easy to prepare and take less than 30 minutes.  The recipes are good, but not amazing.  They apparently LOVE cucumber (probably because it’s a cheap filler). The prices are better than Marley Spoon.  Also, just want to point out that both of these plans (Every Plate & Marley Spoon) give you nutritional facts and calories, etc.  These are not intended to be low-cal, but are pretty healthy options – very fresh.

Cost :  Intro cost – $23.96 for 3 meals for two people

Reorder cost – $38.93

My next box I ordered from Plated.  Stay tuned.

A penny saved…may be difficult to spend.

Here is my promised blog post about my recent penny project.  I saw this project a while ago and thought it would be perfect for this round end table that a friend gave me.  The top was a little rough, so I imagined it would be a good place to try!  The table was free and if I messed it up, no big loss.

I watched a You Tube video of someone doing this project.  She really did not do a very good job, so I was a little discouraged about the idea.  But finally I gave in, went to the bank and got $5 worth of pennies.  Not enough, so I got $5 more.  I spent several hours playing with how to arrange them, and then came across some old foreign coins we had.  I liked the idea of the bright copper, and thought that the inner circle would be interesting with the foreign coins.

It was recommended to glue down the pennies, which I did with a glue stick.  I started from the outer edge and made perfect circles toward the center.  I also learned that instead of applying glue to each penny, it was faster to swipe the glue stick directly on the table and slide the pennies into place. I was surprised at how close it all worked out.  Then I arranged the foreign coins into an interesting pattern with large and small coins.  All glued down. This took a couple hours one evening.

I purchased the epoxy from Amazon – Crystal Clear Epoxy Resin and Hardener.  Add link.  I was still a little leery about this working out right.  I bought this in July so you can see it took me a while to work up to the project!

epoxy

Finally, after reading all the instructions several times…  I was ready to begin.  They suggested a sealer coat first, especially if you were adding things like coins on the top. This helps prevent air bubbles around all the surfaces.  You can use some of the epoxy, or something like polyurethane.  I was afraid to use too much epoxy and not have enough to cover the table (24” round), so I went with the polyurethane.  Nice coat of that and wait 4 hours.  Then you mix the resin with the hardener and stir, not whip.  (Another challenge was wondering what type of bowl to use.  I was afraid to use a glass bowl/pitcher because I didn’t know if it would be ruined.  I settled on a medium round Ziploc-type bowl that I disposed of when I finished.)  You don’t want air bubbles.  Stir about 4-5 minutes until it’s clear and then start to pour.  I poured at the center of the table and let it run toward the edge.  (The epoxy at this point is like karo syrup.) They suggested using a rubber squeegee (I used a hard plastic paint scraper) to pull the epoxy toward the edges.  Then let it sit and settle.  They said not to worry about drips off the edges, that they could be sanded down after it dried.  I brushed the edges for a while to spread the drips (with a foam brush).  Much was written about air bubbles and making them pop with a butane lighter or hair dryer.  However, no air bubbles materialized.

Then let it be.  Wait 12 hours.

Voila!!  The next morning it was smooth as glass, no imperfections, no air bubbles.

One minor mishap – in allowing the epoxy to drip off the edges, I wasn’t concerned because it was sitting on plastic.  However, the drips fell off the table directly below to the table legs.  Oopsie!  It was easy to chip off the epoxy with a screwdriver, though.  Sanding down the dried drips was a little more challenging though.

I am pretty happy with the project!  And I have a new conversation piece!!

epoxy table 4

Dishing on Home Delivery Meals – Marley Spoon – Part 2

I am trying several of the popular home delivery meal programs to see which ones are 1) worth the money, 2) easy to prepare, and 3) tasty – not necessarily in that order!

My first foray into home-delivered meals came from Martha & Marley Spoon, which is Martha Stewart’s version of the home dinner delivery system.  I received the first shipment for 3 meals for 2 people at an introductory half-price rate of $31.50, which comes to about $10 a meal (for 2).  However, several ingredients were missing (5 to be exact).  So I was offered a $20.50 credit towards my next order.  It’s annoying to me when something has been messed up and the solution is to give you a discount on the “next” order.  So you have to order again in order to re-coup your loss.  I intended to wait a while to reorder, but I missed a cut-off cancellation date and the next pack of 3 meals was sent anyway.  I did receive the discounted price.

Timing: They are generally pretty good about letting you know to go to the website and choose your meals, or cancel the following week.  There are 10 selections to choose from. You can opt for delivery every week, or skip weeks.  There are different choices every week.  All meals are supposed to take about 30 minutes to prepare.

My meals:

Seared Steak & Pan Gravy with Brussels and Sweet Potatoes

The roasted veggies were pretty delicious and the steak wasn’t bad.  Pretty easy to make.  Missing ingredient (again!) was miso.  Which I have never used.  So I had to improvise. I used a little hummus.  Not sure what flavor the miso provides.

Marley spoon 3

Stir-Fried Curry Rice Noodles with Chinese Broccoli & Peanuts

No meat in this meal, but it was pretty tasty.  I had never used Chinese Broccoli (which is nothing like regular broccoli in my opinion), or had never made stir-fry rice noodles.  We enjoyed this very much!  I don’t make much Chinese food and this turned out really well.

Marley Spoon 2

Roasted Za’atar Chicken Thighs with Beans, Pita & Cucumber Relish

This was probably our favorite meal so far.  I didn’t know what “Za’atar” is – apparently “Za’atar as a prepared condiment is generally made with ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, or some combination thereof, mixed with toasted sesame seeds, and salt.  It was in a prepared package, but I didn’t notice any sesame seeds.  Anyway, the chicken was very tasty!!  There were 6 pieces!  (1 ½# bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs) Enough for lunch the next day. The pita bread was cut into squares and broiled in the chicken juices – very yummy!   Seems like these companies LOVE cucumber dishes.  Probably because it’s inexpensive, and then they create a “sauce” to stir it in and serve it as a veggie.  It’s not bad though.

Marley Spoon 5

So all in all, I think we liked the second batch of meals from Marley Spoon better than the first 3 meals.  However, the “regular” price is $60 for 3 meals for 2.  I can cook a lot cheaper than that.  So we won’t be going back to this.

Review of Marley Spoon:  7.5 out of 10

To see my Part One review of Marley Spoon:

Dishing on Home Delivery Meals – #2 Every Plate

I am trying several of the popular home delivery meal programs to see which ones are 1) worth the money, 2) easy to prepare, and 3) tasty – not necessarily in that order!  My second trial was from Every Plate.

Arrived on time.  Not packed as heavily as the Marley Spoon kit, but everything looked good.

Variety:  You are given a minimal variety to choose from, but easily acceptable choices.  You can opt for delivery every week, or skip weeks.  There are different choices every week.  All meals are supposed to take about 30 minutes to prepare.

My Meal:

  • Chicken Sausage Orzo with Lemony Zucchini Ribbons – Prep time was pretty accurate.  Easy instructions, even though they left out a few steps.  (Such as; bring orzo to a boil, then simmer.) Also, they never mentioned at what point you mix the different steps together, even though it shows it in one dish.  I had never had “chicken” sausage, but it was pretty good. Presentation was not as pretty as the picture.
  • Sriracha Pork Meatballs with Sesame Cucumber Salad and Jasmine Rice – Prep time was good.  Instructions good.  Meatballs were very tasty, cucumber was ok, not exciting.  Rice is bland by itself.
  • Rosemary Garlic Chicken with Roasted Root Veggies –  Carrots were very wilted by the time I made this (5 days after I got it – which is not that long for carrots).  So I used my own carrots.  Roasted veggies were good.  Garlic chicken was tasty.  Tony said it was the best (home delivery) meal yet.

 

My rating on this kit was probably an 8 overall (out of 10).  Pretty tasty meals, all ingredients were included, easy to prepare.

Cost :  Intro cost – $23.96 for 3 meals for two people

Reorder cost – $38.93

Not a bad cost for 6 meals.  I also saw a Groupon for $18.93 – even better!  It can only be used once, for first time subscribers.

I also ordered the intro kit for my brother and his wife, as he is healing from surgery.  Had it sent directly to them, using my email so they won’t get bothered by the company.  Unfortunately, I forgot to unsubscribe before they sent the next box.  No warning email, or “check your box” email, like Marley Spoon does.  So I got charged for each of us to get a second box!

But overall, we liked this kit.  Best value so far.

Next.

 

The “No-comfort” zone

I was part of a leadership class this year, which was organized by the Leander Chamber of Commerce.  Our graduation was a beautiful gala in late September.  Many times in many ways during this year, I was “nudged” out of my comfort zones.  In April, during one of our classes at the local fire & police stations, we learned how to rappel off of a building.  It was quite intimidating, but I managed to pull it off!

LCOC.rapelling.2018

Our last meeting took place at a local high school ropes course.  The challenge was to climb a telephone pole (by the pegs), pull yourself up to a standing position on TOP of the pole, and then jump for a flag.  Now of course we were harnessed in and braced by our team members down below.  I was not really afraid of falling and being hurt.  The challenge was more, “can I do this?  Do I have the strength and wherewithal to physically complete this challenge?”  I really had little trouble actually climbing the pole.  The biggest challenge was pushing myself up from the top pegs to stand on top of the pole without falling off.  With the cheers and encouragement from my team below (& multiple prayers!), I managed to get myself on top of that pole, make the jump, and successfully grab that flag!!

I cannot tell you what that experience felt like, except to say – probably the biggest adrenaline rush of my life!  But the greatest feeling was realizing that..

I.could.do.it.

I  must confess that there have been many times since I’ve been on this side of 50 years old, that I have felt like much of my “usefulness” has passed.  I can’t do all that I used to be able to do.  Too much time has passed.  Not gonna happen.

But one thing I have learned during this leadership class is that as long as I have breath, I have possibilities.  In my morning prayers, I always thank God for breath.  That means He still has a plan for me.  Face my fears, step out of my comfort zone, and pray for the strength for whatever God has in store.  If I can encourage you in any way, it’s this.  If you are breathing, God has a plan for you here.

Breathe away!!!

 

Dishing on Home Delivery Meals – #1 Marley Spoon (Part One)

I am planning to try several of the popular home delivery meal programs to see which ones are 1) worth the money, 2) easy to prepare, and 3) tasty – not necessarily in that order!

My first foray into home-delivered meals came from Martha & Marley Spoon, which is Martha Stewart’s version of the home dinner delivery system.  I received the first shipment for 3 meals for 2 people at an introductory half-price rate of $31.50, which comes to about $10 a meal.  That’s worth a try.

Arrived: On time – very heavy as it was packed in huge ice packs (which are reusable).

Variety:  You are given a minimal variety to choose from, but easily acceptable choices.  You can opt for delivery every week, or skip weeks.  There are different choices every week.  All meals are supposed to take about 30 minutes to prepare.

My Meals:

  • Chili-Rubbed Steak with cilantro rice and marinated squash.    40-45 minutes non-stop to prepare.  Garlic was missing from ingredients – of course I had some of my own. Pretty tasty, fairly easy to prepare.  Learned some easy ways to fix foods we like a little differently; such as cilantro rice, and squash marinated in lime-garlic dressing.  Rating:  9 (out of 10).
  • img_6537.jpg
  • BBQ Chicken with cornbread with quick-pickled cucumbers. 30-35 minutes to prep. Chicken was ok – just chicken with their prepared BBQ sauce.  Cucumbers were already soft and had spots, so I did not prepare that.  Steamed some broccoli instead.  Cornbread was fine.    Rating:  7  (Picture wouldn’t load correctly)
  • Lemon-Dijon Chicken with rice and roasted zucchini.   40 minutes to prep.  Missing ingredients: lemon, garlic, onion, and Dijon mustard. Chicken was pretty good even though I had to improvise on the Dijon part.  Veggies were pretty good, plain rice.  Not an amazing dinner. With 4 missing ingredients, I give it a 5.
  • IMG_6687

I sent an email regarding the missing ingredients, and “ripe” cucumbers.  Pretty sad that in my first box, all 3 dinners had issues before I even got started.  I was offered $20.50 credit towards my next order.  I’m not sure I want to order again (full price would be $60 for 3 meals) after not receiving all the ingredients!  I’m always a little frustrated with customer service when you have to purchase more in order to get your money back….

Onto the next version….  Every Plate.

Or to see Part Two of Marley Spoon, click here.

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