Thursday, September 8, 2016

Home Chef - Subscription Meal Box

There are so many meal planning boxes out there, it's hard to figure out which company is best for you. Do you go with the boxes you see advertised on tv all of the time, like Hello Fresh or Blue Apron? Do you try a different one like Plated, Peach Dish or Green Chef? If you don't like to do any prep, there's always Terra's Kitchen. Are their recipes any good? Is my husband going to eat it? In my case, probably not for this last one; he doesn't like to try new things in case he doesn't like it and it becomes a waste of food. (Household Tip: When you have three dogs, there's no such thing as wasted food, unless it's something they can't eat)

I'd toyed with the idea of subscribing to a box just to see if I can get some new dinner ideas. I know how to cook, I just get bored. A couple of weeks ago I saw some delicious looking food pictures posted by a dog parent friend on FB. I asked if he subscribed to a box, and he told me he did, one called Home Chef. I wasn't at all familiar with this box, but I looked it up, thought it sounded decent, and asked if he had a referral link. It wasn't too expensive, so I signed up, and my first box was delivered today!

The food is very well packed, with insulation and cooling packs. (Their brochure says that the packaging and containers are all recyclable, even the ice packs). The meat was packaged separately from the other meal ingredients, surrounded by additional cooling packs.

You get a binder with an information sheet on basic storage and preparation. You also get full page sized recipe cards for each meal in your order, pre-hole punched so that you can keep them in your binder.

Here's where it got a little weird, though. When I signed up, my two pre-selected meals were chicken with green peppercorn sauce and truffled three cheese flatbread. I added on patio bbq steak sandwich because it looked good, like something the husband would enjoy.

They didn't include the meal kit for the three cheese flatbread. They sent two meal kits for the green peppercorn chicken. Unfortunately, they didn't bother sending two packets of chicken breast. So I have a second bag of veggies and fixings. I immediately sent them an email letting them know about this mistake. I've gotten back an automatic response email, but no one has contacted me yet.

Here are the ingredients they sent for the bbq steak sandwich.The produce looks very fresh, the rolls are reasonably soft. Lots of herbs and cheese. The box ingredients are listed on the recipe card, and they also let you know what you'll need from your kitchen.

In Your Box:
.9 oz butter
2 ears of corn
1 red onion
5 parsley sprigs
2 hoagie rolls
2 flat iron steaks
3 oz cheddar cheese slices
1 T dark chili powder
3 oz bbq sauce
1 oz baby arugula

Since it's still nice and hot outside, I'll be grilling tonight. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Have you subscribed to a recipe box? Which one did you choose, and what did you think?

Monday, August 1, 2016

21 Day Challenge

Welp, someone needs to get back on the healthy eating road. Hot summers in Texas have been lending themselves well to ice cream, and July went above and beyond the call of duty to help out little ice cream cones that needed to be eaten. And lemon biscuits from Costco. Yum. And then there are the little Twix Bites that my husband buys. When you leave an open bag on  the counter, they're going to jump out of the bag and into my mouth. Pretty much the only things from this list I haven't been eating is cake/donuts/muffins/pastries/nutella, etc. So, yeah, my eating has been on the sweet and snacky road lately, and that needs to change.

Some of the girls in my writing group were talking about a healthy eating challenge recently. You don't have to start any particular day, but a new month is as good a time as any to start.

Day 1 Breakfast: 1 mug chai tea, 2 eggs scrambled with a piece of cheese, 1 cup of cherries.
Day 1 Lunch: I'm not 100% sure what will be for lunch. I might make a vegetable stir fry and serve with brown rice.
Day 1 Dinner: lamb kebabs. I made souvlaki wraps last night and have more marinated lamb to cook. I will have with the salad vegetables tonight, not in a wrap.
Day 1 Snacks: I love Mary's Gone Crackers seed crackers. I am going to make some hummus to have with them.

Also on the agenda: movement. Not an easy thing for me, my left hamstring is better, my plantar fasciitis is ok (not great). Now I have a compressed sciatic nerve in my right hip. Ugh.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Mee Goreng - Spicy Fried Noodles

Right now in the DFW suburbs we're at that balance between getting hot and OMG, who turned on the convection oven setting with our weather. In other words: Patio Weather. In the evening I like to sit outside with the dogs and browse through cook books and magazines and meal plan. By meal plan I mean something for my lunches, since The Aussie is not an adventurous eater.  This week I was inspired to make an Asian dish called Mee Goreng, which basically means to "fried noodles." There are probably as many recipe variations as there are street vendors in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia that sell it.  One trip to Super H Mart later, I submit my variation.

Mee Goreng

1 good drizzle of cooking oil (I used peanut)
1 onion, finely diced
1 block of firm tofu, cut in slices or cubes
1 cup of snow peas, trimmed of tough string, cut into diagonal slices
1 bunch of bok choy or choy sum, leaves and stems, cut in bite sized diagonal slices
1 pack fresh noodles (I used yakisoba noodles)
1 T garlic,  minced or use paste
1 t ground coriander
2 T sriracha
2 T kecap manis (sweet soy)
2 T soy sauce
1 t sesame oil
mung bean sprouts (a good handful)
lime wedges to serve (or sprinkle on TrueLime like I did)

Heat up large pan or wok over high heat, drizzle in your oil (peanut oil is good for high heat cooking). Add in diced onion and cook for a few minutes until soft. Move onion off to the side and place the tofu slices in the pan. Cook for at least 5 minutes to get a nice golden color on the pieces. Next, add in the snow peas, garlic and choy sum. Stir to mix together (it's fine that the tofu starts to break up, you want that). When the choy sum has wilted a bit, move it over to the side and put the noodles in the pan. At this point, I added a little more oil, but it's completely optional. Drizzle on the sriracha, kecap manis, soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir to coat. Cook for several minutes until the noodles get hot and soften up. Just before serving, toss in a good handful of bean sprouts. They won't cook fully, and will add a nice crunch.

Some traditional garnishes are fried shallots or chopped peanuts, along with lime wedges. I sprinkled on some TrueLime, stirred it, and served it with a side of chopsticks.  Enjoy!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Chicken Tortilla Soup - Or is it?

Hello, Lovlies. I had a hankering for chicken tortilla soup recently. I've only ever had it once, so I'm not sure why, but what the heck. Live dangerously, make a mess in the kitchen, cook up a big batch of chicken tortilla soup. *snickers*

"Chicken" Tortilla Soup

1 T olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced
1 can of Rotel
1 can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 T garlic powder
1 T chili powder
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/2 ground cumin or 1 t cumin seeds
1/2 t ancho chili powder
1 t salt
1 quart of broth
1 t corn meal, stir in to half a cup of water to make a slurry
1 pound cooked chicken breast - use pre-cooked rotisserie chicken to save time
2 corn tortillas, sliced in to strips

Toppings: diced avocado, cilantro, shredded cheese, tortilla strips (optional), squeeze of lime

Heat the olive in a dutch oven over medium high heat. Stir in the onion, celery, carrots and pepper.

Cook for about 5 minutes until slightly softened. Add in all of the spices, Rotel, and fire roasted tomatoes. Stir to combine and add the broth or stock. Bring to a boil, lower heat and cook for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. (I used my immersion blender to puree the veggies so they weren't completely chunky.) Next, add in the cornmeal slurry. Since I'm not using corn kernels in the soup, this will add a hint of corn flavor.

When the vegetables are soft, add in the tortilla strips (they help thicken the soup), and then add in the chicken .

April Fool's! I didn't use chicken. I used 2 cans of jackfruit instead of chicken. ;) Use jackfruit in brine, not syrup. Add to the soup and cook until tender, about 30 minutes.

It's spicy, warming, and delicious.  It just happens to be vegetarian. Top with diced avocado, cilantro, shredded cheese, and a squeeze of lime. Enjoy.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Sweet Potato Quiche - an inspired post...

A Few days ago, my favorite Hotass posted a link to a video recipe. A recipe that was for quiche, but used very thinly sliced sweet potato slices layered to make the crust. One kitchen gadget that I have that I don't use as much as I should is my mandoline. The Aussie got it for me for my birthday several years back, and it makes the best thin sliced anything. Including fingers, but that's another story. Speaking of stories, this post is actually inspired by a person called North, who loves healthy eating. ;)

I pretty much always have sweet potatoes on hand, so I decided that this would be a great recipe to make for lunch. To make this, you'll need the following:

1 large sweet potato, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 bag of baby greens (kale, spinach, etc)
2 ounces shredded cheese (I used an alpine style that I had on hand)
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk
spices: salt, pepper, garlic powder, nutmeg, cayenne
cooking spray
olive oil

Thinly slice a large sweet potato. Spray your pie pan with quick release spray, and layer the slices on the bottom and sides of the pan. Cut slices in half to form the side layer. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

While the crust bakes, drizzle some olive oil in to a hot pan. Toss in a thinly sliced onion (I had half of a very large onion in the refrigerator). Cook over medium high heat for about 5 minutes until the onion softens. Next, add in several handfuls of greens. The video used half of a bag of baby spinach. I am not a fan of spinach these days (it makes a squeaky feeling on my teeth when I eat it) so I used a package of baby kale. In hindsight, I would chop the baby kale in to small pieces to make cutting the pie easier. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the greens are wilted. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a pinch of nutmeg.

In a bowl, whisk together 4 eggs and half a cup of milk. Add in 1/2 t of salt, several grinds of black pepper (I love black pepper, so I used a lot of it), and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Layer the greens and onions in the pie shell, distributing fairly evenly.

Top the greens with 2 ounces of shredded cheese.

 Pour the egg mixture over the greens and cheese. Bake for 35 minutes at 375 degrees.

Slice and enjoy!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Too Much Processed Everything Is Bad For My Health

You would think that I would think twice about some of the things I've been buying and eating lately, but I haven't been. Between not being able to work out like I would like to because of my plantar fasciitis and the recurring hamstring problems, I've not been giving too many *&%@ lately. I've been wanting comfort food and seasonal treats, and boy have I been eating them. The problem is, I didn't realize just how not comforting they have been. I have always had eczema, but these last couple of months it has been unbearable. I will do anything and everything to stop the itching, and it isn't pretty: anti-itch spray, cortisone creams, spraying with Biofreeze, you name it. I even found out the hard way that BenGay cream contains lanolin, which I am allergic to. I don't know if it always did and I didn't know, but boy, I was surprised.

The problem with eczema is that they really don't know what causes it. Long term cortisone use isn't the best thing, and truthfully, it doesn't really work all that well. Something made me think today that there might be a connection between all of the sugar and white foods I've been eating lately and how bad my itching has gotten lately. I stumbled upon an article in Natural News that indicated that there is a link between eczema and Candida overgrowth.

Eczema affects people on a wide spectrum of frequency and intensity. Some people have a mild itch and rash for a few hours, which doesn't return for weeks or months. Other people experience intense itching for long periods of time that causes them to tear their skin open resulting in blisters and oozing lesions that then crust over and create scarring.
There have been a couple of recent studies showing the link of Candida overgrowth with eczema. Some of the causes of Candida overgrowth include diets high in processed and refined diets (white sugar, white rice, white flour) along with frequent use of antibiotics. These issues create a perfect environment for Candida to flourish within our bodies. This can develop into dysbiosis and leaky gut syndrome explaining the overachieving immune responses resulting in skin inflammation, allergies and asthma.

White sugar - check (damn, and those mint chocolate cookies I got at TJs yesterday were so good)
White rice - check - had some with the curry I made this weekend
White flour - check, check, and check - dressing and rolls at Thanksgiving, bread pudding, noodles, fettuccine several times this week, Ritz crackers (don't judge), toasted bagel thin, etc.
Fermented foods - check - wine, kombucha, vinegar, pickles

I have been eating way too much of this lately, and this is part of the result:

All of those circles are areas where it is really awful. Trust me, it actually looks worse in person. So basically, my whole hand itches, my forearms underside itch, my face itches. I know I need to get my eating back on track. What is really frustrating is that I have been trying to not eat as much meat as I used to, which is one of the reason so many carb-y things have snuck back in to my diet.

I can't wait until the New Year to resolve to eat better, I need to do it now just to save my sanity and my skin. Whole foods, lots of greens and cruciferous veggies, lots of water, eating what is healthy for my whole body. I'm off to menu plan.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Chicken and Israeli Couscous Soup

The other evening I was browsing through Pinterest. This may come as a shocker, but I rarely go on Pinterest anymore. Their promoted pins and picked for you pins are so annoying. I rarely see anything my friends have pinned because of them. To my surprise, I saw a picture of a delicious looking soup made with pearl, or Israeli, couscous, chicken, and all sorts of good aromatics and spices. (I can't even write the word couscous without pronouncing it like Kahmunrah in Night At The Museum 2) The recipe was posted in full, but I tracked back to the original post at this blog. It's called "cold-fighting couscous chicken soup." I don't have a cold (knock on wood), but it sounded so good that I had to make some on this chilly (for Texas) rainy fall day, with a few tweaks. I used my pressure cooker, but this would be super easy on the stove top. (note: the aromatic pastes I use are the brand Gourmet Garden)

Chicken and Israeli Couscous Soup

1 small onion (or half a large) finely chopped
1 leek, white and light green parts, chopped (I quarter it to rinse, then chop)
2 carrots, sliced
1 rib celery, chopped
1 T garlic paste 
1 T ginger paste
1 T lemongrass paste
1 t chili paste or crushed red pepper flakes
1 t parsley paste
1 t turmeric
1 8.8 oz bag of Israeli couscous
1 boneless chicken breast, diced in small bite sized pieces
4 + cups chicken stock (I used one carton and it made a very thick soup)
1 t TrueLemon (or juice from half a lemon)
1 t TrueLime
1 t chicken base (it's like chicken stock concentrate - I used it instead of salt) or salt to taste

Set your pressure cooker to saute, drizzle some olive or canola oil in, and add your onion, carrots, celery and leeks. I let them soften for a couple of minutes while I was cutting up my chicken breast. Stir in the garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chili and parsley pastes, followed by the turmeric. Add the couscous, stir to coat with the herbs and spices. At this point, cancel from saute mode so that everything doesn't get too hot and scorch. Next, add in the chicken, chicken stock, lemon/lime juice or the True Lemon/Lime crystals (I love the convenience of these crystals) and the spoonful of chicken base or salt if you're using. Place the lid on your cooker, close up, and move the vent knob to seal. Set on high pressure for 5 minutes. Vent with quick release method when timer goes off.