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!

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!

"Family" photo
“Family” photo

A Marriage Lesson

Last night I decided to make my husband a delicious and nutritious meal (well, nutritious compared to the crap we could have been eating). It consisted of veggie burgers, rice and sliced tomatoes. While you might not be that impressed, I was very impressed with myself because I didn’t have much at home to work with. I was 100% thinking I was going to have to run to the grocery store before I set out on a scavenger hunt of our kitchen.

Well, while I was cooking the rice, I was also:

  1. Doing laundry
  2. Emptying the dishwasher
  3. Putting clean sheets on the guest room bed
  4. Texting with my sister
  5. Watching the Real Housewives of Orange County

So I got distracted and burned the rice a little bit. But it was ok because I made enough that I could just soup the non-burned rice off the top.

I started to clean up and put the salvageable rice in a tupperware and scrapped the burned bits off the bottom of the pot. I left them in the pot for the time being, as I was planning to put them in the garbage later on. Unfortunately, Matt wasn’t aware of my plan and when he want to get some more rice, all that was left were the burned bits. Thankfully I caught this, just before his fork went into this mouth.

Me: “Wait… that rice is burned. Let me get you the good rice.”

Matt looked at the rice on his plate. Looked at me. Shrugged and ate it anyway.

That’s true love.

Or… is it just laziness?

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.

OMG – We’re Adults!

"Heeeeey. Today is my Birthday"
“Heeeeey. Today is my Birthday!”

Today is Matt’s 30th Birthday! Not only is this exciting because it means we get to have cake and celebrate but it also means that Matt can stop reminding me at every change he gets that I am 30 and he is 29. Honestly, the 3 months between our Birthdays are the worst. To be honest, I don’t mind that I am a little older than Matt but I don’t need to be reminded of it all the time.

We kicked off the celebration a little early last night with a dinner party at our friends apartment. We have known Lucy and Smeets since our early days in Boston and have continued to remind friends over the years. They are lovely people with whom we’ve taken a few ski trips , gone to many dinners and shared more than a few glasses of wine! A couple week’s ago we celebrated Lucy’s birthday together with a dinner at Peels, one of my favorite NYC restaurants. That night we ordered some oysters for the table and got to talking about how Matt and I have recently gotten into oysters. It just so happens that Lucy’s uncle owns an oyster farm in Cape Code, Sweet Neck Farms, and knows a thing or two about the slippery delicacies. I mentioned that I really wanted to learn how to shuck them so Matt and I could enjoy them at home (and not have to pay the ridiculous price of $3 per oyster at a restaurant!) So I was pleasantly surprised when Lucy called me on Tuesday night to tell me that her uncle had shipped her some fresh oysters and invited Matt and I over for a shucking lesson and dinner party.

Now, this may shock you – but this was the FIRST real dinner party that Matt and I have ever been to. I know – weird. I think it is because NYC apartments are so small, that very few people have dinner tables so we always go out to dinner. It is sort of funny because the only person I can think of who has an actual table in their apartment, which chairs and adult things like that, is Kinsella – and his version of cooking is opening a can of soup (which IS pretty impressive). We’ve had many a football watching party at his place, but those normally involve Bleeker Street pizza and eating off our laps (please don’t mistake my tone for judging – Matt and I sit on the floor and eat off a coffee table at home).

It was nice to play house for a little with Smeets and Lucy and feel like real adults. Thanks for keeping us classy guys!

 

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Here is Smeets in the Kitchen - hoping that rubs off on Matt!
Here is Smeets in the kitchen – hoping that rubs off on Matt!

 

Valentine’s Day Cake

I will pretty much celebrate any holiday if it means I get to bake. Pair that with access to a photographer and I will bake a million things! So, in continuation with the blog post from the past couple days, I am going to continue with another Valentine’s Day treat.

I turned to my trusty cook book, BakeWise by the wonderful Shirley O. Corriher. I love this book because, not only does it have incredible recipes, but the explanations on why you want to do something a certain way and tips on how to actually do them, are  unmatched. So, I wouldn’t be doing the cookbook justice if I didn’t strong encourage you to get a copy for yourselves. The recipe that I used for the cake was the magnificent moist golden cake – it is a moist and sweet cake that was easily sliced into three layers.

I had much more success with this cake, as compared to my last; however, it was still far from seamless. After baking for 40 minutes, I open the over door so that I could insert a toothpick into the cake to see if it was done. Unfortunately, when I opened the door, the middle of the cake dropped. I saw it happening and quickly shut the door and continued cooking the cake for another 5 or so minutes. I seemed to limit the damage, but there was a slight sink hole in the middle of my cake and when I sliced it open, you could see that the middle was slightly undercooked. So while I’ve progressed and aren’t overflowing my cake pans anymore, it seems as though I still a bit of practicing left to do before I achieve perfection!

Up next was my favorite part – frosting and decorating. I decided to make Shirley’s Crusting Confectioners’ Sugar Buttercream because I was intrigued by the smoothing technique she described that called for using a Viva paper towel (I know, now you are probably intrigued too!)

Crusting Confectioner’s Sugar Buttercream

Make about 4 cups (*I made a half recipe and had plenty to frost a three layer cake)

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups Crisco or other shortening with emulsifiers
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 tablespoons clean vanilla flavoring (if you can’t find this, regular works – just know your icing won’t be bright white)
8 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons meringue powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 to 5 tablespoons water
plain white Viva paper towels

  1. With the paddle attachment of a mixer, whip the butter until soft, and then whip in the shortening. Beat in the extract and flavoring on low-speed.
  2. Sift the sugar through a large strainer with medium mesh just to remove any lumps. Beat the sugar and the meringue powder into the fat mixture on the lowest speed. Scrape down the sides as needed.
  3. Stir the salt into the water to dissolve and mix it into the icing thoroughly on low-speed only.
  4. Adjust consistency to a spreadable icing with a little more water or confectioners’ sugar. Do not over mix or mix on high-speed.
  5. For a very smooth cake, similar to a cake draped with rolled fondant, let the icing dry just until a dry Viva paper towel touched to the side does not stick, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the humidity. To create an absolutely smooth surface, use a plain white Viva paper towel  and start with the sides. Place the towel against the side and smooth up and down gently with your fingers or palm. Do not allow the towel to pleat or fold. If desired, smooth a contour edge and smooth the top.

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I decided to add chocolate piping around the top and bottom (similar to the design that I did on my last cake). I then finished it off with some shaved milk chocolate on the top – with a hearth silhouette for Valentine’s Day.

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I was happy with the way it turned out but as I said earlier, I still have  a long ways to go before I can compete on Cupcake Wars or start can claim to be the next Cake Boss :) Unfortunately, for my co-workers, that means a lot more cake tasting!

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope yours is filled with love and baked goods.