Chicken Fried Steak Bites!

Okay, so like, did everyone know as a kid that chicken fried steak was actually steak and NOT chicken? I know I know it is in the name, Krystal but it tricked me every time! I would get so excited thinking we were having fried chicken to only be served this chewy fried steak. UGH.  I never really liked red meat as a kid and even now as an adult I rarely eat it. I tend to stick with fish, chicken, and 3-4 nights a week vegetarian. I am not a big red meat eater and when I am it has to be done right, and so I generally leave it up to the expert: 2nd dad. I can make chicken fried steak though, right? Yes! I made these a little differently by cutting the cube steak into pieces rather than “steaks” and making bites to dip in black pepper gravy. Baby, these were good. I am now a fan of chicken fried STEAK.

I found that chicken fried steak (CFS) is all about the gravy. Gravy is life. Gravy runs through these veins. I served these with mashed potatoes, because what else? These would be an excellent appetizer for a party.

Ingredients

2lbs Cube Steak (I cut mine into pieces) Cube steak is generally just top round that has been tenderized
2 eggs
1 1/4 Cup Flour (can substitute almond or coconut here) – reserve 3TBSP for gravy
S&P
Garlic Powder
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
25-30 Saltine Crackers
1/4 Cup Panko
Vegetable oil for frying
1 1/2 Cups Whole Milk (coconut milk can be substituted)
1/2 Cup Beef Stock
3 TBSP Kerrygold Butter

How To

Set up your batter section while your oil is heating up for frying. As always with 99% of fried foods you COULD bake these by getting some color on them and then placing in the oven, but we are going authentic today. Beat your eggs in a bowl. In a separate bowl add the crushed saltines, garlic powder, pepper, panko, and flour. I do not add salt to this because the saltines have salt.

Cut the cube steak into strips. Place strips into eggs, then into the dry batter, and then into the fryer! Since these are strips and not full steaks they only take 4-5 minutes a piece in the oil. Place them on a paper towel once out of the oil to get rid of excess oil. Taste one to see if they have enough salt for your liking.

Now, the most important part – the gravy. Country gravy. I always make gravy with pan drippings but it isn’t possible with chicken fried steak since you know….you fry it. We will pass on using oil in our gravy. Melt your butter and make a roux with those 3TBSPs of flour we reserved. Once your roux is cooked add the milk and beef stock. I added the beef stock as a little trick for one you could split the milk/stock ratio and save some calories, and two it adds a beef flavor that the gravy would lack due to the pan drippings situation. Let your gravy thicken and right before serving add a TON of freshly cracked black pepper. Delicious!

I still prefer fried chicken…… but these were bomb! Bring these to your next event and as always if you make this recipe tag us on Instagram or Facebook!

 

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Battle of the Boxes: Blue Apron vs Plated

If you have not heard of Blue Apron or Plated continue enjoying life living under a rock. Please do not let this blog disturb you as I am sure it is quite peaceful under the shelter of a boulder.

Blue Apron and Plated pop up all over my emails, Facebook, and Instagram on the daily. I’ve never followed either service until we decided to make the two brands duke it out, and so I am assuming the Internet is reading this blog and chooses to advertise food to me. “Hey all you post about is food – here is a box full of it, fatty!” -Internet. So, the idea was born for competitions between meal delivery services.

Blue Apron and Plated are the most advertised and in my humble opinion the most popular for meal delivery make it yourself fancy culinary grade service. Too many adjectives? Both companies are about equally priced, seem to have a similar style in meals, but Blue Apron demolishes in the world of marketing. I can guarantee 9/10 people have heard of Blue Apron, but maybe only half of those people know of Plated. I wanted to change that. I wanted to see who was really better. I was joined by my friend, Rayann on this adventure, and then the idea to include husbands came about. Plated and Blue Apron advertise they provide all ingredients for culinary grade meals with detailed instructions to make the process of cooking a breeze. Well, neither of our husbands can make scrambled eggs. So, we shall see.

This is a full and detailed review of both subscriptions.

Step 1: Ordering

Ordering was not challenging. These are subscription boxes and so upon signing up you will be placed on a monthly order, BUT this is very easy to opt out of once your first box ships if you are just trying the service for the first time. Websites/Apps were user friendly. Blue Apron’s site and app seemed to be more fluid which was not too much of a shock. The only mention in the negative realm for both services was that they are advertised as you (the customer) being able to pick your meals exactly upon signing up or every month, but this is not particularly the case. Instead, both companies give you a list of meat preferences(they also have you notate any allergies & have vegetarian options) and unless you go into your account, view the menu and elect to change the recipes in time you’re stuck with what they send you. I ordered both recipes on a Friday night, went to elect changes the following afternoon (not even a full 24 hours passed) and could only change for Plated because Blue Apron said the order had already been processed.

Step 2: Delivery

Deliveries arrived intact. One of the boys did want us to notate that Blue Apron had a fancier box with a close-able lid. Also, if you choose to order two subscriptions at once do not have food in your fridge if you live in an apartment, because you need to learn from our mistakes.

Step 3: Unboxing

Plated

3 Recipes – 2 Servings – $72 per week
$24 per day
$12 per person/serving

Long Life Noodles with Mushrooms and Soy-Sesame Sauce
Vegetarian


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All ingredients arrived intact and packaged.

Korean Beef Tacos with Bell Peppers, Gochujang, and Kimchi

img_2622All ingredients arrived intact and packaged.

Seared Steak with Sunchoke Hash and Red Pepper Aioli

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All ingredients arrived intact and packaged.

Blue Apron

3 Recipes – 2 Serving – $59.94 per week
$19.98 per day
$9.99 per person/serving

Carmelized Onion & Kale Quiches with Frisee & Pear Salad
Vegetarian

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All ingredients arrived intact and packaged.

Spiced Pork Burgers with Pickled Beets and Cone Cabbage Slaw

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Cone Cabbage did not come wrapped, but rather just placed in box unprotected.

Pan Seared Chicken with Roasted Honeynut Squash and Apple

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Apple was clearly bruised, and squash was unprotected as well, and left at bottom of box so one whole side rested on the ice packs causing freezer burn on one side of the squash.

Step 4: Quality of Ingredients/Packaging

I would really like to know where Blue Apron finds such miniature vegetables and fruits? Seriously, they are adorable and somewhat strange all at the same time. Due to a few of our items arriving bruised, freezer burned or just rolling around in the box quality and packaging has to go to Plated.
The one thing I felt was missing from both boxes was acknowledgment of local or used vendors. Both boxes stated grain free meats, no antibiotics, and then a few items used (honey, for example) had brand packaging but no mention of the brand nor of the farm the meat products came from. I feel both boxes are really missing a strategic move here. I like to know where my food comes from, and even more so if it is miniature sized.

Step 5: Cooking

Plated

Long Life Noodles with Mushrooms and Soy-Sesame Sauce

Plated instructions are very simple to follow and they go in order and do not try to have the cook multitasking too many tasks at one given time. This recipe did say to salt and pepper the mushrooms/leeks while they were cooking but later in the recipe we would be adding quite a bit of soy sauce so I opted out of S&P, but a person that does not cook may not know that. I feared the food would be far too salty upon adding the soy sauce in entirety as instructed. Plated tends to stay in the world of comfort food but with a twist of ingredients not often used by common cooks. I rarely use leeks or wild mushrooms and I cook A LOT.

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Easy to make? Yes
Worth $12 a plate? Yes

Korean Beef Tacos with Bell Peppers, Gochujang, and Kimchi

Recipe was extremely easy to follow. I believe this by far was everyone’s favorite meal of the night. Can you really beat tacos? Really? Once again, a comfort and classic but with a twist. I am not afraid to admit that no one in the household had ever had Gochujang (almost a sweeter sriracha) and it was absolutely amazing. The bell pepper and onion are marinated in this mixture but then mixed in with cooked ground beef so the sauce is dispersed throughout the meal. Every single thing was on point with this meal, AND 3 tacos per person is more than enough. We had 4 people try one taco each and still had plenty of filler mixture left as well as Kimchi.

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Easy to make? Yes
Worth $12 a plate? Yes, absolutely 1000 times yes

Seared Steak with Sunchoke Hash and Red Pepper Aioli

This meal was cooked by Bradley(Rayann’s husband), and there were no “during” pictures as we took video of the men attempting to cook. Bradley was unfamiliar with the ingredient sunchoke and felt kale is the worst food on the planet, but overall he did fairly well. The aioli frustrated him the most as the instructions did state “whisk till smooth” but the task would have been impossible without a blender or food processor (which the instructions also state you may use). The steak was incredible and very high quality. We are hoping to have the video live shortly after this review…..it is far more interesting than this post.

IMG_2808.jpgI was instructed to notate that Bradley was unaware aesthetics of plating were important.

Easy to make? Medium
Worth $12 a plate? For the steak alone, yes

Blue Apron

Carmelized Onion & Kale Quiches with Frisee & Pear Salad

Let me just say that these quiches were good, BUT they are quiches. This was the meal I was most disappointed in. Reason one is because it is quiche. Quiche is quite possibly one of the easiest dishes to make AND master all in the same day so immediately upon opening I was bored. Reason two you only receive two eggs, and yes that means one egg per person. I added an extra egg to one quiche and left the other with the solo egg that belonged to it (pictures below of the difference). I do not feel this would fill someone up even with the little micro nutrient salad to accompany it, and it is QUICHE. I have seen a million recipes just like this one all of Pinterest.

Quiche using only one egg as instructed.

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My quiche using two eggs. I am not bitter. I promise.

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They both puffed up fairly well for the end result but I think we can tell who is 1 egg and who is 2.

Easy to make? Child’s play
Worth $9.99 a plate? Considering I can buy 2 dozens local eggs for that price, no.

Spiced Pork Burgers with Pickled Beets and Cone Cabbage Slaw

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These burgers were unique and have convinced me that switching out a pickle for a beet on occasion would not be the worst. The box came with a little baggy filled with spices for the pork. Pork needs lots of seasoning, and salt, and this little baggy did not do the trick. The flavor was just lacking. Due to the fact that we were not told where the pork was supplied from we cooked it to well, and not medium as the 4-5 per side time allotted. We put the side coleslaw on the burgers because they needed some crunch and sauce, the mayo, mustard and goat cheese blend for spread was not enough for two burgers. Overall these were tasty. Did they knock me on my feet? No, but I’d let them take me out again if they paid for dinner.

Easy to make? Definitely
Worth $9.99 a plate? Yes

Pan Seared Chicken with Roasted Honeynut Squash and Apple

This was the meal Kyle cooked on his own (my husband). He feels the meal was tasty and the instructions were easy to follow. The apple became mushy (possibly as it was bruised) but he is not the biggest fan of fruit with savory items so he may be biased or rude. This meal was outside the box for our household as we do not eat a lot of squash or baked apples.I enjoyed that sage was used since I generally only use it with whole roasted chickens, and never thought to incorporate into sauce. Overall it was challenging enough for Kyle to keep us all entertained but delivered a delicious meal for even the culinary lacking as Blue Apron promised. This is a meal I would make again for a dinner party. It is an impressive meal without all the blood sweat and tears.

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Easy to make? Medium
Worth $9.99 a plate? Yes

Final Thoughts

Will we be ordering again? I think both subscriptions would be amazing for hosting a dinner party (both boxes have options for servings up to 6). For ourselves? We would order Plated again, and it may surprise some as it is the more expensive subscription but it really nailed the comfort food/slightly different aspect. We all enjoyed the familiar dishes but with unique ingredients, and all had a new ingredient we had not previously thought to use. The leeks in the noodles, Gochujang with tacos, and sunchokes with the amazing steak all ingredients that made all 4 of us change our mindset. Blue Apron is the less expensive subscription and they do now have the ability to add bottles of wine to your order, and you know I am all over that. Blue Apron just had a small step down in the category of creativity compared to Plated. Personally I would also order Plated as strictly vegetarian on my second order as I think they would deliver on some really unique and delicious recipes (I am not bitter about the quiche). I read an article the other day about how Blue Apron can reduce someone’s grocery bill, and I am not sure I can agree with that. Kyle and I eat quality meat and vegetables, and spend an average of $100 a week on groceries, but if I used Blue Apron $59.94 I would only have $40 left to provide breakfast, lunches, and 4 additional meals.I do think getting a box for a fun dinner party OR a holiday would in fact be cheaper than buying all necessities individually from the grocery store. Maybe that can be yet another challenge? Rayann and I plan to continue the Battle of the Boxes series with other subscription meal boxes (Hello Fresh, Martha Stewart, the list goes on and on).

I encourage you to try both subscriptions if you have been on the fence. Blue Apron and Plated delivered on unique and tasty dishes for a fair price (you get a discount for your first month from both boxes). Cook the meals with a friend or your spouse as it can definitely be an amusing activity. Overall, it would be a fun week filled with food and eating outside the box. Get it?

Rayann’s Carrot Cake

“What 12-year-old girl wants carrot cake for her birthday?” – Krystal
Prepare yourself (and your taste buds) for something completely out of character for this blog: cupcakes.
Yes, cupcakes. You read that right. BAKED GOODS.
Now, while Krystal is an amazing chef who is talented in all things culinary, she will not step within ten feet of a cake pan… which means you are stuck with me!
Fun fact about me – baking is in my blood. I learned nearly all there is to know about baking from my grandmother. She’s a pro. Just look at the cake she made for my wedding a few weeks ago:

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Wedding Cake

PERFECTION.

But I digress.
When I was in high school I started baking birthday cakes for my friends – it was simply a nice gesture that soon became regular requests from both friends and family alike. So it didn’t take me by surprise when my 12-year-old niece asked me to bake a cake for her birthday. What DID surprise me was the flavor. Carrot cake?
In my niece’s defense, this request is not entirely random. Other members of my family have asked for carrot cake for their birthdays which has given me the chance to perfect the recipe: a delicious treat that still yields a slightly higher nutritional value than your average carrot cake. Now these were adults we’re speaking of, not kids, so I’ll take it as a true compliment that a 12-year-old girl would ask for it specifically!
The secret to this recipe is how the cake is sweetened – applesauce and honey. These both complement the taste of the carrots without overpowering it entirely. The cream cheese frosting gives you just the right amount of sweetness to make it decadent, yet guilt-free.
I decided to go out of my comfort zone and make cupcakes for the birthday girl, but below you’ll find directions for both cupcakes and a traditional cake.

Rayann’s Carrot Cake
(Yields 24 cupcakes OR one 9” round, two layered cake)
INGREDIENTS
For the cake:
– 3 cups carrots, peeled and grated
– 2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1 ½ tsp baking powder
– ½ tsp salt
– 2 tsp cinnamon
– 4 eggs
– 1 cup organic honey
– ½ cup extra virgin olive oil (I used California Olive Ranch)
– 2 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 cup applesauce (I used Santa Cruz Organic)
For the frosting:
– 2 cups powdered sugar
– 16 oz cream cheese (I used Philadelphia Whipped)
– 2 sticks unsalted butter (I used Tillamook)
– 1 tbsp vanilla extract

I know many people like walnuts on their carrot cake. Personally, I’m not a fan of using nuts as a garnish on cake, but if you’d like to, you can also use ½ cup of coarsely chopped, lightly toasted walnuts to decorate.

INSTRUCTIONS
How to make the carrot cake:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour your cake pans
a. For cupcakes, use two cupcake pans.
b. For standard cake, use two 9” round pans.
* I chose to use cupcake liners in place of greasing the pans.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat eggs on high for one (1) minute. Add in honey and beat on high for another three (3) minutes. Blend in olive oil, applesauce and 2 tsp vanilla extract.
4. Slowly add in flour mixture (½ cup at a time) and mix into a smooth batter.
5. Fold grated carrots into the batter (and walnuts, if you so choose).
6. Divide the batter equally within the cake pans and place in oven.
a. For cupcakes, bake for 15-20 minutes.
b. For standard cake, bake for 25-30 minutes.
*Use this time to make your frosting – make sure to refrigerate it until you are ready to use it.
7. When ready, remove cakes from oven (a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean). Remove from pans when cool enough to handle, and then let cakes cool to room temperature before frosting to keep frosting from melting.

How to make the frosting:
1. Use a food processor to mix together the butter and powdered sugar until the mixture takes on a pale, fluffy appearance.
2. Add in cream cheese (1 cup at a time) and mix until combined. Continue to mix for one (1) more minute.
3. Add in 1 tbsp vanilla extract, and then mix for one (1) minute. Refrigerate frosting until ready to use.

I will leave the frosting of your cakes up to you, get creative and make it your own! Just be sure to be mindful of the frosting – it is perishable and thus needs refrigeration if it’s not going to be eaten right away.

 

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Co-pays Paid with Time

It is a funny thing what just a few short days can do for your well being. 60 days ago I was a wreck. Emotionally and physically. Life just took hold of me and decided to throw me around a little bit. I say a little bit, because I’ve been through worse, but the difference between this experience and ones in the past is that I learned a few things during this particular ride. In the past I went along with the nightmare, got out of bed, stumbled in pain, went to appointments, took my meds, and eventually got myself physically back on track. I was numb emotionally, though. I wouldn’t try to break things into little pieces and exam them, I never allowed myself to be upset with my circumstances because that just felt selfish and needy. I know now that being selfish and needy is perfectly fine on occasion.

I know my life had shifted when I went to my 6 month appointment with my Rheumatologist yesterday. I see the best Rheumatologist on the West Coast. People travel from all over to see him, different cities, towns, and even states. I have been under his care for over 10 years now and he is the first doctor that truly lets me decide my own fate. He is very well aware that I am addicted to steroids, and is constantly reminding me of their adverse effects when I need to up them. I am in control of my meds, and he is really just there to supervise and advise. During my allergic reaction nightmare an ER doctor increased my daily 5mg of Prednisone to 40mg, and as I stated in that article….I was in Heaven. My body works on steroids. I can move like a normal human being, I can outlast the best of people without the need for caffeine pumping through my system 24 hours a day. Prednisone slowly kills me though, my vision goes blurry, I get the face of a puffer fish, and I just know internally my insides are decaying. So, I am back down to my maintenance dose of 5mg back to aches and pains everyday. There is this fun balancing act with autoimmune, and the rules are always changing and the outcome is never the same. It really isn’t a balance at all, but rather roulette.You either win or you lose. I often win, but when I lose I lose it all.

Seeing the best has its dues and not just in the form of co-pays, but in payment of time. When I was a girl and reliant on my parents to bring me to my appointments we always had to pay an additional amount in time. Hours. I remember sitting in the outdated waiting room agitated and just wanting to go home. I would run out of magazines to read and the TV only played PBS (still does). My mother would be irate for having to wait so long, and my father remained calm until we left and then it was a continuous rant all the way home about how an office could be managed in such an unprofessional manner, etc. Everyone in the car ride home including myself seemed to have amnesia about my actual visit with the doctor. I got all the time I needed, all questions were answered, all aspects of my disease were explained to my parents (for the 10th time), but most of all we were never rushed by the doctor himself. It is in our nature for the good to immediately dissolve the minute any negative is associated with it. We did that, time and time again.

I sat in that outdated waiting room for probably the 50th time in my life on Saturday. I watched a show about a British vet, I don’t sit in the 50 year old chairs because the cushions have worn down and I can’t seem to ever get out of them. I read the walls cluttered with pictures of charity events my doctor has contributed to, and for a slight second I thought to myself “I am going to be here forever today and be bored out of my mind”. You see, in my adult years I have learned to take the earliest appointment on Saturday(says something about a doctor that works Saturdays) usually 6am, and then I am the first patient and I don’t have to wait. I see him for roughly 30 minutes, leave with my prescriptions and do not return for another 6 months, but this Saturday all that was available was 7:30 meaning my doctor would already be at least an hour behind. As the thought of my own boredom creeped into my mind I became angry with myself. Angry because 60 days ago I was the patient needing the hour long appointment when I was only scheduled for 20. I did sit in that office filled with anxiety and fear about a disease and medication I had been dealing with for years that suddenly seemed to change its attack method. I had all the time in the world with the man whose care I have been under for 10 years. I was not rushed, I wasn’t even sick, and I was not made to feel guilty for eating into 3 other people’s appointments. So, Saturday I waited an hour over my scheduled appointment time to see my doctor for 20 minutes. I am no longer the sickest person in the room. In fact I usually am the freak show of the waiting room, I am under 100 years old, I don’t look sick, and so to everyone else in the room me seeing a Rheumatologist is just absurd.I sit in a room filled with bitter old folks who bitch about their appointment not being on time and I just want to scream at them, because once they get back there they always take up an hour of the doctor’s time. We get to choose the way we react about the situations we are put in. I typically check in, ask how far behind the doctor is, and then offer to get Starbucks for the receptionist and I don’t come back until she calls. It really is that simple.

As I have grown older I now know that nothing comes without asking for it first. I do not feel I am more fortunate than most when it comes to my general doctor and my specialist, I feel I have an amazing relationship with both because I opened my mouth and asked for it. Doctors and surgeons do not have time to hold anyone’s hand….especially those that are not truly ready to be well. I used to go to my quarterly appointment with my specialist, answer the questions, get my meds, and leave – 20 minutes max for a 2 hour wait time. In my most recent years those I speak my mind. I ask for the things I want, I challenge his opinions for him to give me a better answer, and I 100% am honest with the outcome I hope to accomplish. I know a lot of people with chronic illness that walk around this life filled with complaints. Complaints about their health, their doctors, and their meds. All situations are different of course, but I can guarantee 90% of these people are just not asking for what they really want, and not giving up until they receive it. You aren’t always going to have the best doctor, hell I won’t in a few years, my Rheumatologist is somewhere near 100 years old, and I’ll never find someone like him again but I can damn well make sure the next one hears me just as clearly as this one. I have found a voice. When you have a chronic illness having a voice is the most important aspect. No one hears you when you are silent. No one hears you when you have already given up the fight.

I wrote this mainly because I enjoy that I have become more self aware. More aware that not all situations deserve a reaction, and that our reactions are 100% reliant on us alone. The last few months I have been surrounding myself with much more positively from the outlook I have to the friends I keep. No matter how much pain, defeats, or obstacles life gives you the reaction you give life back is 100% the way life will continue to treat you.