Blue Apron

During my blogging hiatus, I was introduced to a new service called, Blue Apron. It has literally changed my life.

mobile-hero-1-variant-23707b709b6875c674d1a0b9569556d1Let me flash back to my life pre-Blue Apron. I would call Matt on my way home from work and ask what he wanted for dinner.

Matt: Anything, I don’t care.
Me: What about tacos.
Matt: No, I don’t want that.
Me: Well, then suggest something.
Matt: I don’t care. You just pick.
Me: [annoyed silence]

The would end with me running to the grocery store, getting random stuff and cooking something which we wouldn’t eat till 9:30/10pm or getting mad enough that I just told Matt to order dinner at work and I would eat eggs, cereal or make a smoothie. Needless to say, it wasn’t a healthy way to live (on multiple levels).

Thankfully Matt introduced me to a new start up, Blue Apron.

Blue Apron is a meal delivery service. Once a week, I receive a shipment that contains three healthy and unique recipes and all of the ingredients to make each dish. They provide simple step by step instructions and most of the meals take less then 60 minutes to prepare (from start to finish). I love it because it solves for a few of our problems: (1) no longer do we have to fight about what we are going to eat/who is going to think of a meal, and (2) no more mid-week trips to the grocery store! I typically go one over the weekend to get staples: milk, cereal, yogurt, etc but don’t need to go during the week to pick up stuff for dinner.

Matt and I have LOVED it. There are some weeks where we are too busy to make all of the meals, so I just skip that week’s delivery. And while the price isn’t cheap (it is ~60 dollars per week), that is a lot less than we would spend on ordering out/eating out/etc. We’ve tried a lot of new things and my cooking skills have certainly improved.

So I’m excited to offer one free week of meals to a lucky blog reader. To enter the contest, just leave a comment below and you could be cooking up a storm at your home as well!

Going Pro in Wifery

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Yesterday my friend Noelle and I decided to meet up for a girls-only lunch date. I was super excited about it because, even though she only lives in CT, I hadn’t seen her for a while. Before meeting up, I tried to get a few errands done:

I did a couple of loads of laundry (a never-ending task in our house). I went to the grocery story. I made a few treats for an event I am doing at work tonight. And I put dinner in the crockpot.

Despite the fact that I had to push back our original meeting time by 40 minutes, I was feeling pretty good about myself when I showed up for lunch with Noelle. Naturally, I had to brag to her about my accomplishments, specifically about having dinner in the crockpot. To which Noelle quickly replied “yeah, I have mine in too. A pot roast.”

Umm, can someone please inform our husbands JUST how lucky they are? I mean, when it comes to being good wives, I think we’ve nailed it. Maybe we can go pro and get sponsored by Crockpot.

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I made a thai peanut chicken dish. It was really good. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

3 large chicken breasts
1 red or green bell pepper, diced (I used green)
1 sweet onion, diced
¾ c chunky peanut butter
1-2 T lime juice (one whole fresh lime, squeezed) – can use key lime juice as a substitute
1/2 cup chicken broth (you can use coconut milk if you want it to be creamier)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 T cumin (depending on your taste)
1-2 T crushed red pepper flakes (depending on your taste)

rice
chopped green onion
chopped lightly salted peanuts
chopped fresh cilantro

Layer into the crockpot the following:
chicken
onion
green pepper

In a small bowl add peanut butter, lime juice, chicken stock, soy sauce, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Whisk together until well combined. Taste and adjust your seasonings accordingly. Pour over the chicken and vegetables in the crockpot.

Place the lid on and cook on low setting for 3-4 hours. Make sure to stir your mixture at least once during the cooking process, to incorporate the flavors and distribute for even cooking. You should have a nice “gravy” that will work well served over rice.

Serve over rice with the green onions, peanuts and fresh cilantro as garnish.

How to Survive a Polar Vortex

Last week, for one of the first times ever, the entire nation suffered together. On Tuesday, the temperature was below freezing in ALL 50 states. So while we can’t all agree on issues like gay marriage, gun control or a women’s right to choose, for one day we all agreed – it was freezing.

The best way to survive a polar vortex is to stay inside, and when that isn’t possible, bundle up! Down coats, fleece mittens and wool hats become part of the every day uniform. And warm meals are a must for the evening. I used the cold weather as an opportunity to make a dish I’d been wanting to make but had been saving it for the right day, or rather, weather.

This fall one of my colleagues got married and at their wedding gave out containers of spice mix and the recipes for their favorite chili dish as favors. I was so psyched to receive this and couldn’t wait to make it — unfortunately I feel strongly that chili should only be consumed in cold weather and I was forced to wait for the right day. Thankfully the polar vortex gave me the perfect occasion.

Tyler, the husband, has a cooking blog that I’ve written about previously, Ty’s Kitchen. Here he posted his famous chili recipe that they gave out at the wedding.

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For the first time ever, I actually didn’t follow this recipe exactly. I just used regular ground beef and I omitted the carrots and celery. I also added in a can of kidney beans (drained and rinsed) and a small can of tomato paste (I might not have needed this).
I felt like a real chef, adapting the recipe to my liking. In the end it came out really well. It was the first time I’d added vegetables to my chili and I have to say, it was a great addition.

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Now, if only I could figure out all of the spices that were part of Ty’s Spice Mix…

 

 

 

Ringing in the New Year

In 2012 we welcome in the New Year on the beach in Costa Rica

In 2013 we welcomed in the New Year on a yacht in the British Virgin Islands

This year, we welcome 2014 in Jersey. IMG_1082-MOTION

I’d say life is moving in the right direction.

After a few years of pretty intense trips with our friends, we decided to tone it down a bit and stay local. Thankfully, a lot of our friends made the same choice. And our two favorite San Fran natives added the dirty Jerz on their east coast tour, so they were in town to celebrate with us as well.

Matt and I spent December 29th making our own decorations for the party. Needless to say, Matt was thrilled with this idea.

We made a few garlands and added some NYE-themed artwork to our faux “mantel” shelves.

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To make the circle garlands, Matt used a 1.5″ circle punch on gold, silver and black glitter paper. I then broke out my sewing machine to stitch the circles together in one long line. I chose not to put any spacing between each circle but if you want to make a longer garland, you can certainly do so.

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To make the tassel garlands, I followed these instructions (thanks Linen, Lace and Love).

It really doesn’t look like we did a lot, but somehow we were up until 1am making these things…

We ended up having 13 people over our apartment – a good number but one that proved a little challenging for food. It was a small enough group that we needed to provide more than just appetizers/snacks, but a big enough group that a full sit down meal would be a little challenging.

Dun dun da dah — Crock pot to the rescue!

After starting with a few different appetizers: Spinach and Cream Cheese Pastry Puffs, Buffalo Chicken Meatballs and a new Flatbread (this one Matt liked, as compared with this)

Our main menu consisted of the following:

Pulled Pork Sliders w/ creamy coleslaw
Baked Beans
Mac and Cheese Casserole
Cape Cod Potato Chips (regular and salt & vinegar)

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Matt went out the morning of the 31st to pick up a pork butt. He came back with a 6 lb piece of meat. It goes without saying, we will be eating pulled pork for a while. Thankfully they make GREAT leftovers (and Matt will actually eat them)

Starting the year off with leftovers!
Starting the year off with leftovers!

Thank you to all of our friends who helped us ring in 2014 in our new place and in style. We are so lucky to have you in our lives. Can’t wait to see what the new year brings for all of us!

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“Family” photo

One Trick Pony

Matt and I have been completely surprised by the number if visitors we’ve had since we made the move to Hoboken. We thought that we would get people out to our place 1, maybe 2 times per year. Not that it is far from NYC, but you know, people don’t like leaving the island… especially to come to the dirty Jerz. But thankfully, we have awesome friends who either (1) like us a lot, or (2) are curious to see just how much space you can afford in NJ as compared to NYC.

As a result of these visitors, my skills have been put to the test. Armed with my Martha Stewart manual and an amazing kitchen, I’ve been happily playing hostess with the mostest. I found a recipe on pinterest that looked good and decided to make it for our friends Lindsay and Mike when they came over for dinner one night. It was easy and seemed to be a crowd pleaser so I decided to add it to the menu for Thanksgiving. And it went over well again that day.

When we were at home over Christmas, my mother sent Abby, Matt and me to the store to get some things for dinner. I picked up the supplies to make this now, go-to appetizer. And just as it had the first two times, it went over well. That is, until Matt chimed in.

Apparently he didn’t like it.

No, not just this time, but all three times I made it.

Not sure why it took him so long to say something… but my go-to appetizer is now benched. Looks like this pony is going to forced to learn some new tricks.

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Even though Matt doesn’t like it, I’m still a fan – give it a try and let me know what you think!

Spinach Artichoke Flatbread (from Pip and Ebby)

To begin, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

The orginal recipe called for frozen pizza dough, but I just used a flatbread I bought at the store

One at a time, place a pizza dough round onto a pizza stone (I used a cookie tray since I don’t have a pizza stone). Top each round with:

1 tablespoon olive oil, spread out to 1/2 inch of edge of dough

3-4 tablespoons Sabra Spinach and Artichoke Hummus, spread out to 1/2 inch of edge of dough

1/2 cup fresh spinach, chopped

1/4 of a small red onion, sliced

1/2 of a 14-ounce can of quartered artichokes, drained and patted dry with paper towels

1/2 cup of crumbled feta cheese

Bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, or until edges are golden brown

Slice and enjoy!

Bursting with Flavor

Tonight’s dinner is a good one for anyone who wants to use up some leftovers and/or for anyone who goes a little overboard at the farmers market on tomatoes.

Thanks to Carrian over at Oh, Sweet Basil, I was able to make this yummy, and relatively healthy, meal for dinner.

Easy Garden Skillet

Ingredients

6 turkey meatballs, cooked and chopped
1 small to medium zucchini, chopped
3/4 cup sugar sweet or sunshine tomatoes
3/4 cup grape or cherry tomatoes
1 heirloom tomato, chopped
1/3 cup marinara sauce
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
olive oil and salt and pepper
*basil, chopped, optional

Directions

  1. drizzle a little olive oil in a skillet and heat to medium heat. add the zucchini and sprinkle with salt and pepper. saute for one minute and add the meatballs, tomatoes and sauce. cook until the tomatoes are big and bursting, zucchini is tender and everything is hot. sprinkle with cheese and add the lid to help melt the cheese, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. serve with fresh basil and more salt and pepper if needed.

The dish was great – I probably added a bit too much sauce. Just stick to the recipe. You won’t regret it.

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Oh, and can someone please let my husband know how lucky he is? Thanks.

 

A Healthy-ish Dinner for Two

It is no secret that Matt and I aren’t very smart when it comes to eating healthy. Matt is constantly asking me questions like  “what is healthier? a bacon cheeseburger or a burrito?”

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Umm, neither. They are both like 10,000 calories. And I assume that anything containing vegetables is healthy even if it is cover in cheese or creamy salad dressing.

Last night, I finally started to recover from this and decided to make home-cooked meal for my hubby. I researched recipes on Pinterest before work, found one that I liked, pinned it, and wrote down the things I needed to pick up at the store.

Unfortunately, when I got home I soon learned that out internet and cell data wasn’t working so I couldn’t access Pinterest or my recipe. Luckily, Abby came to the rescue by texting me the recipe and step by step instructions. When one form of technology fails, thankfully there is always another!

The meal was pretty yummy and made for great leftovers today for lunch. In my mind, this was a healthy dinner but I am sure some of my more health-conscious blog readers will have a different opinion.

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Zucchini, Black Bean and Rice Skillet: (I made some slight modifications)

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (I thought about using coconut oil but I am still not sure that is actually healthier. Feel free to weigh in if you have an opinion.)
1-1/2 cups quartered lengthwise, sliced zucchini
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
1 can (15 oz) whole black beans, drained, rinsed – I used Wholefoods brand, spicy version
1 can (14.5 oz)of fire roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
3/4 cup water
1 cup instant white rice, uncooked (I tried to substitute with quinoa, but didn’t realized until I got home that what I bought was actually couscous)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar and monterrey jack cheese blend

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini and bell pepper; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add beans, undrained tomatoes and water. Increase heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Add rice*; stir well. Cover; remove from heat and let stand 7 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Sprinkle with cheese. Enjoy!

*I accidentally cooked my couscous ahead of time. I added it in and just let it simmer for 2-3 minutes to evaporate some of the juice from the tomatoes.

West African Peanut Soup

While eating home cooked family dinners was a huge priority in our household, I wouldn’t say we were exposed to a diversity of flavors and dishes. We were definitely a chicken 4 ways, type of family.

(Mom, before you start getting upset, keep reading)

I would say that at best I was a “picky eater.” I didn’t have much of an appetite for anything healthy/of substance so whatever my mom put in front of me, half of it went to the dog and another quarter found its way into my napkin and then into the garbage.  My parents weren’t the type to make me something else if I didn’t like what we were having – that being said, they didn’t want me to stave either. My mom came up with a brilliant solution – something I will definitely incorporate into our family planning once we have kids. Every week before doing our big grocery shopping, everyone had to pick 1-2 meals that they would like the following week. My dad would normally request classic manly dishes, like pork chops and potatoes or something from his own mother’s recipe index like Swedish meatballs (and he would even do the cooking at least once a week – his specialty being a spicy chicken dish). My sister would request a whole variety of things like ham and scalloped potatoes, lobster (which I REFUSED to eat), burgers on the grill, fajitas, stir fry and corn on the cob. My mom would fill in the week with staples like chicken & vegetables and soups in the winter.

Unfortunately, for everyone else in my family – I was allowed the request meals as well. I had 3 solid meals that I would request on a rotating basis : spaghetti (with plain marinara sauce, preferably Prego and caesar salad (still to this day, my all-time favorite meal), hamburger helper (I really liked the little glove spokes-thing) or breakfast for dinner, which would manly consist of waffles. And that was it. And whenever we had one of those three meals, I would eat more than all other meals combined. Unfortunately, not everyone else felt that way.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more adventurousness with my eating. And thanks to Pinterest, I’ve even ventured outside of the classic american style of cooking. And living in NYC, with a little effort you can find nearly any ingredient (and when in doubt, there is always Amazon).

Last night, I decided to make a new soup recipe: West African Peanut Soup – I know, who would have thought a girl from New Hampshire who hated nearly every meal put in front of her would become such an adventurous cook! Well, I will let you in on a little secret, it wasn’t that diverse. The main ingredient I used was good old fashioned Skippy peanut butter!

The recipe comes from Cookie + Kate a vegetarian focused cooking blog.

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Vegetarian West African Peanut Soup

Prep time:  10 mins (this took me a little longer since I’m a slow chopper!)
Cook time:  35 mins
Total time:  45 mins
Serves: 4 large servings

Creamy and comforting, spicy vegan soup with West African origins. Made with a simple combination of peanut butter, tomato paste and collard greens, this soup comes together quickly and would be a great weeknight meal. If you love spicy flavors like me, don’t hesitate to use liberal amounts of ginger and garlic.

Ingredients
  • 6 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped*
  • 2 tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bunch collard greens, ribs removed and leaves chopped into 1-inch strips
  • 3/4 cup unsalted peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste, or 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes**
  • Hot sauce, like sriracha (AKA rooster sauce)
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped peanuts, for garnish
Instructions
  1. In a medium Dutch oven or stock pot, bring the broth to a boil. Add the onion, ginger, garlic and salt. Cook on medium-low heat for 20 minutes.
  2. In a medium-sized, heat-safe mixing bowl, combine the peanut butter and tomato paste, then transfer 1 to 2 cups of the hot stock to the bowl.
  3. Whisk the mixture together until smooth, then pour the peanut mixture back into the soup and mix well.
  4. Stir in the collard greens and season the soup with hot sauce to taste.*** Simmer for about 15 more minutes on medium-low heat, stirring often.
  5. Serve over cooked brown rice if you’d like, and top with a sprinkle of chopped peanuts.
Notes

*The red onions at the grocery store did not look so hot, so I used a yellow onion instead
** I used tomato paste
*** I had to add a lot of hot sauce to get the kick I was looking for
Since I am not a vegetarian, I would probably add in some chicken the next time I make it. That being said, it was very filling, as I served it over brown rice.


So get out there and start expanding your recipe index. I promise you – it isn’t as difficult as you might think. And the payoffs are delicious!

And Mom, thanks for putting up with my limited culinary interests as a kid!

 

Coconut Curry Chicken Soup

Last night I made the most amazing soup. I know, everyone who blogs about their food says that, but this time, I really mean it.

I found the recipe on Pinterest – my source for everything from recipes, to DIY projects, to even workouts. The original poster was Bev from BevCooks. I had never been to her blog before – which is what is so great about Pinterest. You are constantly finding new and exciting bloggers. In her post she goes on and on about how easy and delicious this soup is. Almost to the point where I was like “Already already Bev – the soup can’t be that amazing!”

But I was wrong. It is that incredible.

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Coconut Curry Chicken Soup:

Makes 4 large servings 

*3 Tbs. red Thai curry paste (or more or less depending on your heat preference)
* 2 (14 oz) cans coconut milk
* 1 cup chicken stock
* 1 tsp fish sauce
* 1 red bell pepper, sliced into 2-inch strips
* 1 cup snow peas
* 1 cup frozen peas
* 2 bundles vermicelli noodles
* 2 cups cooked shredded chicken
* 1/2 cup sliced scallions
* 1 sliced chile, for garnish (optional)
* juice of one lime
* coarse salt

My Notes-

fish sauce: I couldn’t find fish sauce, and to be honest, it sounds gross so I left it out
vermicelli noodles: I used pad thai noddles because that is all I could find
shredded chicken: I used pre-cooked Perdue short cuts because when you are cooking dinner at 9pm after working for 10 hours and working out, that is allowed. I did my best to shred the pieces with two forks.
scallions: I didn’t have these
chile: I opted out. I had a jar of chilis in my fridge, but when I opened it, all that remained was the juice
Bring a large pot to a medium-high heat. Add the curry paste with 1/4 cup coconut milk; whisk until smooth.

  1. Add the rest of the coconut milk, chicken stock and fish sauce. Stir until combined.
  2. Add the red bell pepper, snow peas, peas, vermicelli noodles and chicken. Toss in a good pinch of salt.
  3. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer on medium for about 8 minutes, until the noodles have softened.
  4. Add half the lime juice, stir and taste. Need more salt? Add it.
  5. Serve soup garnished with scallions and chile pepper and remaining lime wedge.

I promise you – the soup is good and it is easy.

Thanks Bev for this wonderful recipe.