Review: Home Chef Meal Service

I love to cook. When US Family Guide and Home Chef offered me two free meals for two, I jumped at the chance. Home Chef delivers ready to cook meal kits. The shopping and most of the prep work is done! You get just enough of each ingredient, and you add minimal ingredients that are already in your pantry (salt, pepper, oil, water).

Each Dish comes with a recipe page that its into a 3-ring binder (which is included in your first order FREE).  Directions are step by step with photos, and all ingredients are listed on the card in case you want to make it yourself from scratch again.

So, I got my first kit in the mail last month, but right away something was off. Some of IMG_4166IMG_4170the veggies were not in good shape. IMG_4171I called customer service in the hopes they could just resend me the spoiled ingredients, but instead they gave me credit for two more meals, which wouldn’t have been a problem, but that meant it was another week before I could do my review.

I improvised with the steak salad. I had a bag of Romaine salad on hand, and some grape tomatoes to substitute for the ingredients that were not edible in the kit.  The steak was great. Overall it was easy to prepare.

Last week, the replacement kit arrived. Again, similar issues with some of the more delicate produce (cucumber, grape tomatoes, Roma tomato), but this time I didn’t bother calling. I just tossed the inedible produce, and subbed in what I had in the fridge. I made the Goat Cheese and Bacon Naan flatbread pizzas first- They were so easy and tasty.

I made a few tweaks (I didn’t use the honey to caramelize the onions- That’s totally cheating!). I made this the same day the box arrived and I will definitely be making it again!

img_4569.jpgThe other recipe that I received was the Shawarma Chicken Bowl.

The poor tomato and cucumber were both inedible. The cuke was frozen upon arrival (Due to it’s location in the box directly on top of a blue ice block), and the tomato looked like it had been knocked around a bit.

I improvised the dish a bit and it turned out ok. What I didn’t care for was that the seasoning on the meat and rice is the same. I did like how the chicken came out. It had a great level of seasoning and flavor. I grilled it on our outdoor BBQ.

OVERALL: Home Chef is a great way to try out new recipes if you are not an experienced cook.  It was nice to open a box and have all of the ingredients all ready to prep and cook. It is expensive for a family- starting at $9.95 per serving. That is still WAY cheaper than going out to eat, and in my opinion, these dishes could be restaurant quality with a little work on the consumers end (using proper knife skills, reading and following directions completely).  They worked great for us when we wanted to have a stay in date night and watch a Redbox.

I would be careful when choosing entrees not to pick ones with more delicate veggies, just because they tend not to travel well in the box with the blue ice type frozen blocks.

That’s the nice thing about Home Chef, you can choose your entrees out of a list of many. And the menu changes frequently, so you won’t get the same dishes again and again.

If you want to try Home Chef for yourself, Check out my post here with details on how you can save $30 off your first purchase!

Disclosure: I received this offer for free in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation, and all opinions are my own. Sometimes I utilize affiliate links. To learn more about my use of affiliate links, please visit my disclosure page.

Practical Ways to Help New Parents…

Having had two kids, I can tell you that nothing is more helpful than having food to eat in the first few weeks after giving birth. Having a baby is stressful, especially if it’s your first. You can take all the classes in the world, do as much prep, but when it comes down to it, you spend the first few weeks tired, stressed, and weary.

Having a few extra hands and a hot meal you can eat one handed (especially something you can eat while breastfeeding) is worth it’s weight in gold!

Recently a friend and his wife welcomed their little girl. Hubs made up a batch of his new baby calzones. He makes them for everyone of our friends that is having a baby. They freeze well, re-heat quickly (and well), and you can eat them one handed.

Thanks to Kasandrinos Olive Oil and UsFamily Guide for the opportunity to sample this olive oil for free! I’m not usually a big Olive Oil fan, Kasandrinos Olive oil has a light flavor that works really well in Calzones! I also like that it has an easy to pour spout inside the bottle!

We use the Pizza Crust Recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Anything. You can find the recipe here.  One Pizza Crust makes 4-6 small calzones.IMG_2064.jpg

As the dough rises, we prep the rest of the ingredients. Sauce, cheese, meats, veggies.

I use canned tomato sauce and add Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, a pinch of parmesan cheese, salt, and black pepper. No added sugar.

Some of the most popular ingredients around here: pepperoni, sausage, onions, bell peppers, ground cooked beef, sliced chicken breast, goat cheese, mozzarella, bbq sauce (instead of tomato sauce), cheddar cheese, ham, green chilis, meatballs (I usually make them little or slice them up), pretty much anything in the fridge!

Once the dough is ready, it is portioned out, rolled and then the magic happens!

For small/hand held sized calzones, use 1/2 cup cheese/toppings and 2-3 T. of sauce. Fold over and crimp the edges shut, and place on a cookie sheet that is either sprayed with Pan or use a silicon baking mat. I have these and I love them!

Larger Calzones need almost double the amounts above.

Bake at 450 for 10-20 minutes, depending on size.

Before and after baking!

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Here is the result of a few hours work. They were delivered the next day, ready to be frozen and enjoyed at the new mom and dad’s leisure!

If cooking isn’t your “thing” here are a few other ways to help the new parents in your life:

  • Bring them their favorite coffee drink, and something to eat.
  • Offer to hold/watch the baby while they take a shower/take a nap/have 5 minutes alone.
  • Fold/put away their laundry.
  • Wash their dishes.
  • Take out the trash, or if trash day is the next day, take their cans down to the street (then the next day, stealthily put them back).
  • Be there. Honestly, it can be lonely if you are a new parent. It’s not like you are taking your new baby all over town. You are just trying to get the hang of having a new family member. Sometimes it’s just nice to have someone to come hang out with!

Kasandrinos and Us Family guide provided us with a free bottle of olive oil in exchange for this post. All opinions are my own. I was not financially compensated.

Fun in Nature with Baby Wearing!

 

Recently, I was given the opportunity to try out a new baby carrier. I love baby wearing- It’s a great way to stay close to your little one while being active.

We hike, play, and have adventures all while babywearing. I am able to take Lil’ Man out on hikes to places that aren’t quite good for unsteady toddler feet. We can hike Cowles mountain, explore Old Mission Dam, and even pop out to the tide pools!

Screen Shot 2016-12-28 at 8.44.18 AM.pngYou can check out the carrier on Amazon here. 

It’s got a ton of pockets, which is great for stashing keys and snacks.

The kiddo rides pretty high because of a plastic saddle type insert.

Bitty Bird totally loved being up high and snuggled onto my shoulder and fell asleep.

You can also wear this as a backpack to back carry, which I love for long distance wearing, like when we go for hikes.

Pros:

  • It’s cotton, and machine washable.
  • It’s easy to put on and take off by yourself.
  • Tons of pockets

Cons:

  • Because it was made overseas, the waist strap is kinda small. If you wear over a size 20 US ladies dress size or a mens pant size 44, the waist band will not fit you.
  • (this may not be a con for some people) The child rides really high, so they are in your face.

If you like to try out this carrier, I am happy to offer a coupon code! 20% off coupon code UPWX8RBS.  This deal expires on 12/31/16.

 

Review of Grandbox!

A few weeks ago, I posted aboutGrandBox , a monthly subscription box.

GrandBox is the original monthly subscription box customized and curated specifically for seniors 65 and up. It’s the perfect gift to bring a smile to the older loved ones in your life.

Well, it was received by the kid’s paternal grandmother. And she liked it!

The box contained:

  • Holiday Wet-It
  • hand lotion,
  • d’anjou pear hard candy,
  • chocolate butter biscuit,
  • holiday patterned kleenex,
  • and a couple of candy canes!

And per my Mother in law, the TOPPER was the pics of the kids.

So if you are looking for a gift for the grandparent or other older relative in your life, check out Grandbox!

Family Recipe: Apple Crisp

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When I was a kid, my mom made apple crisp probably once a week, it’s a huge comfort food for me (and probably my brother too). It’s yummy, cheap to make, and very filling. And as far as desserts go, it’s not really too unhealthy.

This recipe makes a 9×13 inch pan. I use a pan like this one. It’s got a lid, so you can take it to potlucks or store any leftovers in the fridge. Halve the recipe to make smaller sized batch. Honestly, after having it, you won’t want to make a small batch.

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 green apples (about 3-4 cups), peeled, cored and chopped (green apples work best- Granny Smith’s are nice).
  • 1/2 stick of butter softened (don’t use oleo/spread- it makes the crumble topping watery)
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar (light or dark, whatever you got!)
  • 1T. cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice (whichever you prefer)
  • 1 c. quick cook oats (raw!) (if you have a gluten intolerance, you can use gluten free oats)
  • 1/4 c All purpose flour ( if you have a gluten intolerance, you can use nut meal- I like almond meal. Sometimes when I make this GF, I omit the oats and increase the amount of nut meal to 3/4 c)

Directions:

  1. In the bottom of a greased baking dish, pour the apples in a even layer.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients with a pastry blender (Or a fork, if you don’t have a pastry blender), until ingredients are all combined and crumbly.
  3. Pour crumbles over apples in an even layer.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees until apples are all soft and mushy, usually 30 -45 minutes. THe topping gets toasty and crispy as it bakes!
  5. Serve hot with whipped cream or ice cream. Also great cold, lukewarm, or any temp in between.

It’s so freaking good!

You can use fresh peaches, apricots, or berries instead of apples. They do need to be fresh and ripe (no frozen or canned fruit).

Review: Daniel Tigers Neighborhood – LIVE

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The Tiger Family!

Last Friday Lil’ Man and I had a great date night! We had dinner at Olive Garden and then sang and danced along with our friends, O, Daniel, Miss Elena, and Katerina Kittycat! Trolley is even in the show, helping our friends get all over town! Daniel Tiger LIVE was a fun night out.

It was a img_9923 img_9922great show! Lots of fun music, dancing, and audience interaction!

There were lots of kids from little tiny to Kindergarteners.

If you missed the show, they’ll be back real soon! And don’t forget that you can check out episodes of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood on your local PBS station, and the PBS kids app too.

Here is a video I shot with some of the fun!

Family Recipe: Chicken Tetrazzini

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My Dad made this for us a lot when my mom worked late. I love it because it’s got chicken, onions, cheese, and pasta in it.  Pretty much everything I like in life. AND when I was pregnant with Lil’ Man I had such horrible morning sickness round the clock, it was pretty much the only food I could eat. This is a great hot dish, perfect for a family dinner or make a bigger batch for a potluck. It’s a hit with kids and grown ups!

I try to make adaptations for many differing diets, but sadly, this recipe cannot be adapted for Vegans or be made gluten free (unless there is GF Cream of Mushroom soup I don’t know about).

Chicken Tetrazzini 

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 t. butter
  • 1-2 c cooked shredded or cubed chicken (I usually cook a batch of chicken breasts in the crock pot and then portion it up for later use)
  • 1 can Cream of Chicken and Mushroom soup (if you can’t find it, stick with Cream of Chicken)
  • I can of water
  • 1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning
  • ½ cup cheese (you favorite kind- I like sharp cheddar!) You can use more cheese if you like.
  • 1 lb pasta, your choice

Directions

  1. Start a large pot of water on the stove and cook pasta as directed.
  2. While Pasta is cooking  In a saucepan, saute the onion in butter, until the onions are clear, about 10 minutes.
  3. To the onions, add chicken, soup, water, Italian seasoning. Cook until bubbly, stirring to combine ingredients.
  4. Add cheese and stir until smooth.
  5. Add pasta and stir to combine.
  6. If you want to make this a one pot dish,  add 1-2 cups steamed veggies, such as broccoli, peas, or asparagus.

Serves 4-6.

Options:

  • You can use the vegetarian “chicken” pieces in place of the chicken. You can also use leftover Turkey or rotisserie chicken!
  • You can also add 1 cup sliced mushrooms and/or 1/2 cup celery while you are sautéing the onion.
  • My dad likes the dish topped with butter bread crumbs or slivered almonds.
  • To make this dish a little richer, stir in 1/2 cup sour cream (the real stuff, no imitation sour cream) when you add the cooked pasta.