Bruschetta Style Chicken

Do me a favor and sing the Indiana Jones theme song while you read this. Why? I don’t really know but it’s what I’m doing currently. Bruschetta, bruschetta, bruschetta is most likely one of my favorite foods. Ironic, because I do not typically like tomatoes raw. I love tomatoes that have been cooked for about 60 seconds…it’s weird I know. You’re the one following this crazy blog not me! Bruschetta….the way I make it is perfect as the toasted bread makes the tomatoes the exact texture I like, and lets out all the juices and flavor, but we aren’t making just regular bruschetta today because we are replacing the bread with chicken!

I make this dinner at least once a week because it is fast, healthy, and I always have the key ingredients in my fridge. I may write a fun exciting blog but all my fun stuff is generally saved for the weekend, and during the week I eat healthy, fast, and convenient foods. Please try this!

Ingredients – 2 Servings

2 Chicken Breasts or Thighs…. you know I’m a the dark side of the chicken girl
4 Roma Tomatoes  – Diced
1/4 Red Onion – Diced
1/4 Cup Good Quality Balsamic Vinegar – I used We Olive Aged Balsamic
Basil – Now, I’m going to throw you a curve ball here because I am not a huge fan of fresh basil….yea yea whatever, I like the flavor I just don’t like the wilted leaves etc….I used basil infused olive oil in this recipe, but you are more than welcome to use what you please
Fresh in water Mozzarella – 2 Slices
Garlic Powder
S&P
I made a side of sauteed mushrooms and pesto potatoes 🙂

How To

So, I wanted to grill my chicken and most of the time for this recipe I do BUT it was too stinkin hot outside so I got some color on the chicken in a pan and then baked the rest of the way through. However you choose to cook your chicken isn’t really important for this dish.
While your chicken bakes dice your tomatoes and onions. Helpful hint: when making salsas, bruschettas, or even just salt and peppering tomatoes themselves the ingredients in which you are flavoring the tomatoes with sticks to them much better if you have an oil involved. I tossed my tomatoes & onions with the basil olive oil from We Olive…. salt,pepper, and garlic powder. I let this sit in the fridge to marinate.
Balsamic reduction. Easy peasy. Take 1/4 cup of good quality olive oil and place in a pan over medium heat. Stir as the vinegar slowly reduces down to a syrup-like texture. Once your balsamic coats the back of a spoon it is reduced enough.
During the last 5 minutes of your chicken baking/grilling place your lovely fresh mozzarella to melt over the chicken.
I plate this by spooning the tomato mixture over the hot chicken(that’s my jam) and then drizzling the balsamic reduction.
Finished!!! Easy, fast, and healthy!

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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!

 

Sweet Dozen Cones – Historic Folsom Ice Cream Shop

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Save the drama for your mama and go get some ice cream! I am a firm believer in if ice cream doesn’t make someone happy nothing will.

Sweet Dozen Cones opened up on Sutter Street in Historic Folsom about a week ago, but probably two by the time I publish this, and BOY has it been a mad house! Crazy busy! Crazy unique! Crazy fun!

Sweet Dozen Cones
Donut (Chimney) Cones
807 Sutter Street
Folsom, CA
Hours: Wed-Sun 12-8pm
http://www.sweetdozen.com/

This is a family owned and operated business, and when they say that – they mean it. Kyle and I went on a Saturday 4 minutes after they opened and both owners were there working and getting ready for the day. Want to know why their product is flying off shelves? One: it’s delicious. Two: they don’t just make ice cream and stick it in a pre-made cone. Their cones or what they call “Chimneys” which is sweet pastry that they then bake rotisserie style until golden brown is unique to Folsom. The very friendly lady making them while we waited for our order explained the entire process to me, because when you watch them make the cones it definitely does not look like they are frying them, but the finished product is crispy and flaky as if it were fried! I later looked up the technique that is very popular in Europe, and Hungary which the woman told me as well. How cool is that? Folsom got a culture lesson today, y’all. Chimneys (known as KĂĽrtĹ‘skalács in Hungarian or TrdelnĂ­k in Czech) are delicious and unique, bread-like freshly baked Hungarian pastries, named after their hollow, cylindrical shape. They have a satisfying crunch on the outside and a soft, fluffy dough on the inside. THIS is what your ice cream goes into you guys!

Ice cream…..it’s not really ice cream but gelato. Gelato is better than ice cream in my humble opinion. Really, the only difference is that gelato uses less cream, more milk, and usually more sugar, BUT it has less fat than ice cream. I obviously do not know their personal recipe at Sweet Dozen nor do I think they would share it but the gelato is creamy, holds it shape, and my favorite part – not overly sweet! Remember, you are getting fun ingredients with your cone so you wouldn’t want an overly sweet base.

Now, there are other things to eat here, but who really cares about those? It’s all about the cones. I joke. Kind of. They have a wide variety of pastries, you can get cones just by themselves loaded with cream cheese, nutella, peanut butter, etc. They have drinks and coffee and plenty of napkins. Now, the important part – what did we eat?

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I ordered the Cereal n’ Milk with Fruity Pebbles (they also had corn flakes and cinnamon toast…..my next one to try) and Kyle ordered the MVB – Maple Vanilla Bacon.

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I am not a big sweets eater, but I had been determined to get on of these bad boys since the night before. We drove around and could NOT find parking, so we left, was I bummed? YUP. Did I have a fit that I was going to have to come back? Nope. What did I do? Placed my order the next day at 12:04PM and they open at 12PM. I love these cones. They are not loaded with sugar other than the outside, but the pastry itself has little to no sugar, and it is STRONG. These cones are FILLED with gelato not just the top part you see, but the bottom portion is loaded with your treats and MORE gelato. My favorite part? I am not a fast eater and by the time I conquered that MOUNTAIN of top gelato my cone wasn’t even soaked through in fact it was still nice and crunchy by the time I finished the goodies inside as well. The cones hold up to the filling they are stuffed with. The flavor combinations here are unique. I am listing their website info below so you can check out all the cone flavors yourselves.

Final thoughts: I love it here. Everyone I met was friendly and more than happy to talk about their product. The inside seating can fit about 20 people give or take. Are they busy? You bet your butt they are. There were already 5 orders ahead of our own less than 5 minutes after they opened and every order besides ours was a family. Sweet Dozen is a unique experience with their doughnut like cones, gelato ice cream, and flavor combinations as far as the eye can see. And, it’s kind of good for you since the cones are baked, right? I will absolutely be returning and telling everyone I know about this place. Please remember when you visit local eateries such as this 90% of their products are HOMEMADE which is what makes them SO GOOD. I watched these cones being made and they are not easy and a lot of work is put into them, and then add on house made gelato. These guys are the real deal. They are worth the wait. They are worth the return.

Veggie Lasagna

Who doesn’t like veggie lasagna, and IF you raise your hand, why are you here?! I make many variations of veggie lasagna that I will post as it begins to cool down here in California…..if ever. I had a lot of requests for this lasagna and I figured it was safe to start with a basic veggie lasagna that can be customized to you or your family’s liking.

Is anyone else slightly traumatized by lasagna? Just me? My mother used to get the Stoufer ones ALL THE TIME, and if you’ve been reading this blog for long enough you know I am not the biggest fan on marinara or red pasta sauce EVEN MORE SO frozen sauce. Well, ONE TIME, and I repeat that it was only ONE TIME because everyone else in the household wanted regular lasagna my mom bought me vegetarian frozen lasagna which of course was made with alfredo. It was gross too! So, I didn’t eat lasagna until I began blogging and even then it was a few years before I dared to make my own. Now, I am a lasagna advocate. Dirty secret: I still don’t like and haven’t made red sauce lasagna. Oops. Maybe, I should work on that?

P.S EVERY YEAR for Christmas dinner my mom STILL tries to bring those nasty lasagnas in the house. She says “let’s just do something simple this year for Christmas dinner and get frozen lasagnas” and then baby jesus rolls over in his grave. No, Santa can pack those frozen lasagnas up and dump them over the Pacific.

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Ingredients
1 Box No Boil Lasagna Noodles – these things are amazing
3TBSP Kerrygold Butter
4 Cups Whole Fat Milk
2 Cups Grated Parmesan
3 Cups Shredded Mozzarella
4 Zucchini – Cut in half long ways then cut the halves in slices
2 Cups Mushrooms – Sliced
3 Cups Broccoli – Finely Chopped
1 Cup Sauteed Yellow Onion & 2 Cloves Garlic
3 TBSP Flour
2 Cups Ricotta
1 Egg
Fresh Basil
S&P
Red Chili Flakes
2 Roma Tomatoes for Garnish

How To

First you’ll need alfredo sauce, and you can absolutely buy store bought as I will not judge you, and I do it often. Yet, if we are making lasagna we are making lasagna…..I even have a pasta maker I could have dug out but I was having a flare up that day in my right hand so no rolling dough for me!
Alfredo is one of the easiest cream sauces to make and to make it a little tiny itsy bitsy healthier I use whole milk rather than cream. Take 3TBSP of butter and melt over medium heat, once melted add 3TBSP flour and whisk that around so the flour cooks(1-2 mins), and then add your milk. Let this come to a simmer and add the grated parmesan. Your sauce should thicken up once it comes to a simmer and boom – sauce is done! I let the sauce cool before assembly.

While your sauce cools you can make your ricotta mixture. In a bowl put the ricotta, egg, S&P, sauteed onions & garlic, red chili flakes, and some chopped basil. Mix.

Assembly – Take a ladle of your sauce to the bottom of your baking dish, lay out a layer of noodles, generously coat that layer of noodles with the ricotta mixture, lay out your veggies in any fashion you desire(I keep my zucchini thicker cut so that they don’t turn to mush, also no bake noodles are PERFECT for zucchini because they absorb any water the vegetable lets out), layer of cheese, and more sauce! Repeat until you are out of noodles or out of ingredients.

Foil the top of your lasagna and place in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes. Remove foil and let cook for an additional 15-20 minutes to let the cheese on top get nice and bubbly.

I garnish with some chopped tomatoes, chopped basil, and mix those with some olive oil, S&P, and a squirt of lemon. Lasagna is heavy and this is a fatty dish so having some acidity helps cut through the fat and cleanse your tongue for the next bite! I hope you enjoy!

Guinness Irish Stew

I cannot tell you how many times I have tried to get my husband to talk with an accent. I have offered money, electronics, video games, other things slightly inappropriate and yet….I am left married to a man with a dominant Irish background but no accent. He won’t even throw bottles of whiskey at walls when he is angry. Fraud.

Kyle was born on January 20th – this year his birthday is cursed….I will say no more.

Kyle is also not a fan of Guinness. Impostor.

This Friday last we had an Irish themed day of food. Our morning consisted of potato pancakes with runny eggs. Shots of Jameson and orange juice. Then, the grand finale – Irish Lamb Stew.

Lamb is as common in Europe as ground beef is in America, and lamb is far better for you in most cases. I had only eaten lamb once before (lamb chops) and was not impressed, but the entire day was about tradition and so I ordered lamb shoulder chops from our local butcher. I usually deglaze a pan that browned meat for stew with a red wine, but in place I substituted Guinness. I won’t lie – this was genius. Get it? Guinness is dark, nutty, chocolate and strong – you either love it or hate it. I am a fan and it really added layers and layers of depth to this stew. The beer is not optional it is mandatory….seriously. Just buy a case. I personally think the lamb is a necessity as well, but I don’t know how many people I could convince to give up their precious cow.

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Ingredients

2 1/2lb Lamb shoulder chops
1 Bottle of Guinness
1 Yellow onion roughly chopped
6 Large carrots roughly chopped
3 Gloves of garlic minced
6 Stalks of celery roughly chopped
6 Yukon gold potatoes cut into quarters
6 Cups of good quality beef stock
4 Tablespoons Kerrygold butter

Get down to Business

Get out a cast iron skillet, if you do not own one go out and buy one, and thank me later. On high heat melt your butter and place the chops in the skillet. You want a nice browning to occur on your chops.
While your chunks of meat are browning roughly chop your vegetables and throw them in either a Crockpot or a large soup pan. Pour the stock over all the veggies and place on low-medium heat.
Once you have a nice caramel color on your lamb pieces throw them in the soup pan. Now, with little pieces of lamb like this some might argue it is not necessary to brown your meat beforehand as they are going to simmer away in juices for hours. I don’t brown my meat before hand to seal in moisture -I do not believe in that. I do believe it adds a layer of color and makes for not only a better looking finished product but browning adds a layer of texture as well. So, I brown, and with browning comes deglazing.
Deglazing is a process in which liquid is used to get all the sediments left on the bottom of the pan incorporated into a sauce or gravy. Flavor overload is at the bottom of your pan and you never want to waste that. I used half a bottle of Guinness to deglaze, and drank the rest. Add a few more pats of butter, simmer for a few minutes and add to your soup pan. Done.

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My stew stewed away for about 6 hours. I salt and pepper when I am ready to serve as in the beginning stages every ingredient is just starting to break down, and so I prefer to wait. You do you.

This was a dish that was so easy it is hard to believe it developed such complex flavors. Easy St. Patty’s day dinner, rainy day, or how to use that bottle or two of Guinness in your house.

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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