Big Cooking Day

I am so happy the weekend is here! This week was tough: I had a midterm on Monday, an exam on Tuesday, a quiz on Wednesday, and another quiz on Thursday. It was so exhausting that my parents decided to visit me a week early in addition to visiting next week, as we had planned.

It is great seeing my parents, and I had also received a delivery from Terra’s Kitchen. Since the process is different from other meal kit services, I will explain it to you. Every week, you pick what items will get delivered to you in a vessel. A vessel looks like this:

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It has about 100 uses to it. Like other meal kits, it is delivered right to your door. The delivery sticker gets peeled back to reveal a return sticker. On an agreed-upon date, the delivery service will pick up your vessel again, which means that you won’t have to worry about disposing of superfluous containers and packaging. Another aspect of the vessel that I like is the magnetized doors that attach to the sides once they are opened.

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Now, you ask, what options does one have for a vessel? Different from other meal kit services, there is a minimum total price of $62-ish before the vessel will ship. However, your options are more varied. The meals differ in price per serving, and the company also offers snacks, extra proteins, and smoothies. Once the delivery arrives, the doors open to reveal another door of sorts, and once that door opens, you will find your recipe cards.

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The vessel functions as a mini refrigerator and your ingredients are on the shelves of the vessel. Each shelf contains an ice pack to keep the food cool. All of the ingredients are pre-sliced and prepared with numbers that correspond to the numbers on the recipe cards. Here is a picture of the empty shelves after unboxing.

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You can then place your food in the refrigerator, close the vessel with the ice packs remaining in their, and return the box in a nice, consolidated fashion. This is what the food looked like in the refrigerator (my parents were staying at a guest apartment in my complex, so this is more empty-looking than my fridge).

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This afternoon, I made the sweet potato tacos. Below is an example of a recipe card, but it is not the recipe for the sweet potato tacos.

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There are several things that I love about this service (this is not a sponsored post, by the way). I really like how there are lower calorie options available, something that many of these services don’t offer. Each week, you get to choose from fifty-three different meal options, which is so much more than other meal kit services. Here is where the variety of meal options offered by Terra’s Kitchen becomes a pro and a con. Due to calorie and price constraints on my part, and due to the repetition from week to week, that still doesn’t leave many options for me if I were to use this service on a weekly basis. Eventually, I would have to choose the same options again either because the calorie count would be too high or the prices would be too high otherwise. Terra’s Kitchen has taken this into account and has recently decided to start adding new meal options every week. We’ll see how that works out.

One of the best parts of the cooking thus far was that the cooking times are very accurate, and it was easy to make the dish. Blue Apron’s dishes had more lengthy cooking times and many more working parts that from what I saw that it seemed more burdensome. The longest amount of time spent for this dish was further chopping the sweet potato slices into cubes. Below is a picture of the cooking process.

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Because of the ease of cooking, my parents arrived to a lunch already made for them. Not pictured are the avocado slices, prepared pico de gallo, and the jalapenos and garlic (already chopped and minced) that were added to the same pan as the sweet potatoes once they were cooked. Initially, I had ordered meals with two servings, but the portions were so generous that we stretched it to three servings with some leftovers to boot. Tomorrow, we will have lunch and dinner from Terra’s Kitchen.  One recipe is the black bean sliders, and the other one is a curry chickpea bowl with jasmine rice. My parents and I will also be using this service next week to avoid the cost of eating out.

In addition to the Terra’s Kitchen lunch, we made Thai chicken ginger stir-fry and mixed the filling and dough for hamantaschen. Purim is next weekend, and I found a cannoli twist on the traditional hamantaschen to try out: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/the-nosher/cannoli-hamantaschen/

I will post more on the rest of Terra’s Kitchen recipes and the hamantaschen with some more pictures! I hope you’re having a great weekend!

This Week So Far

Hello, dear readers!

I just wanted to give a little update on this week so far. It was a light enough school week (only two quizzes yesterday and one quiz today- you know you’re in PA school when you call that a light week) that I was able to go to the young Jewish professionals’ group’s version of paint night. It was very relaxing and just what I needed. Unlike other professionally put on paint nights that I have been to, and I’ve been to four of them, the artist that the group brought to help with the painting did not go through the process step by step. Fortunately, I had been to enough Paint Nites (not sponsored) that I knew the general process and was not completely clueless. To that extent, I was also able to help the person next to me in her endeavor.

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I have photos of others’ paintings, but as I do not have their permission to post them, I will just leave you with mine. The artist’s design was great, though! For the hamsa, we did our own designs, and some people got more creative and did not use the skyline. One person even used his hamsa to draw his own face in!

Next week, we have a much busier schedule. The original schedule was supposed to be a midterm on Monday, two exams on Tuesday, and a quiz on Wednesday. Fortunately, our class has amazing officers, and they negotiated for one of the exams to be moved to Thursday instead. My boyfriend is also making an unexpected visit. He is trying to move to the area, and he got a job interview. Normally, he tries to get Skype interviews if he was not planning on visiting me already, but this particular company would not allow for that, so he has to spring for lodging and gas for the 6.5-hour drive that he has to make. I’m still happy to see him, though! Otherwise, we might have gone yet another two months without seeing each other.

As I mentioned before, I have fallen in love with the idea of sheet pan dinners. It’s so easy to prep everything, throw it on the sheet pan, put it in the oven, and clean up or study while it cooks in the oven. The cleanup takes so much less time as well. I have also introduced my mom to the idea, and I’m hoping it will save my parents time too (they both do the cooking). She has never in all this time heard of the idea. I personally saw it for the first time when one of my roommates made it for one of the dinners that we have together (I cook two nights a week and she cooks two nights a week for the both of us). Tonight, I made chicken thighs with potatoes, carrots, and onions. I got the recipe from here: http://noshingwiththenolands.com/roasted-sheet-pan-chicken-thighs/?utm_content=buffer1accd&utm_medium=social&utm_source=pinterest.com&utm_campaign=buffer.  Here is my dish in the oven:

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I noticed that readers really enjoyed my Blue Apron series, and hopefully, they will also want to read when I review Plated (not sponsored) in a few weeks. A couple of weeks ago, when there was the issue of cooking during my boyfriend’s visit here, my friend gave me not only a free Blue Apron box but a free Plated box so I will post my thoughts on that. I decided to redeem the free Plated box during a week when I could save money and have the time to cook. Have a great rest of the week and a good weekend!

Pros and Cons of Blue Apron Part III

Sorry to not update immediately! My boyfriend left yesterday, and we probably won’t see each other for another couple months. In addition, I had to prepare for the upcoming week. I also did not take a photo, and I apologize. On Sunday, we cooked chicken with kale, apple, and potato hash, which included red onions and a sauce.

I really liked the dish, although I still think that the pork dish was my favorite out of the three recipes. I’m not sure how partial I am to kale, and if I were to eat it in the future, it would have to be pretty concealed, which in this dish it was. As I said before, I’m appreciative of getting this meal kit so that I could try a couple new, different ingredients. At one point, my boyfriend had trouble with timing because he underestimated how much space the ingredients would take up in the pan. What I noticed about Blue Apron is how large the serving sizes tend to be. Maybe I will try FreshRealm because you can pick the exact recipes you want, and they have a lot of Cooking Light recipes on there, which is a magazine from which I love using recipes. Their ingredients are also presliced. Thank you for reading! Hopefully, in the future, I will cover topics like what life is like as a PA student, more cooking, and other topics.

Pros and Cons of Blue Apron Part II

Continuing from yesterday’s post, my boyfriend cooked cumin-crusted pork with farro and in a sauce with figs, red wine vinegar, and blood orange juice. While I liked the vegetables from last night’s dinner, I really enjoyed the flavor profile of this dish more. I really wish I knew what went into the cumin spice rub that was provided. Blue Apron did have to replace the fennel that was supposed to go in the farro with a sweet yellow onion because they claimed that the fennel wasn’t fresh enough. In addition to the onion that went in the farro, there were almonds in it.

One thing that I do like about Blue Apron is that it allows me to try new ingredients. For example, I found out that I liked figs in dishes tonight, and I will try kale tomorrow night. Otherwise, I wouldn’t try ingredients as easily knowing that if I didn’t like it, I would be wasting food and money. Although this dish was higher in calories than yesterday’s dish, it seemed to be healthier because the vegetables were sauteed in olive oil instead of butter, and the sauce did not involve saturated fats in it.

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The pork turned out a little dry, but that is because my boyfriend is still working on timing in cooking, as am I. I wish they had provided more sauce, as it would have enhanced the dish more. Farro is one of my favorite grains because it has good protein and fiber to it. Any suggestions for dishes that involve figs in it now that I like them? Please comment below!

Pros and Cons of Blue Apron Part I

February 10, 2017

Hello lovely readers!

I wanted to do a special review of Blue Apron (not sponsored), after having one of their boxes delivered to me this afternoon. Maybe I will give a day-to-day update based on the meals we eat. Here’s how the endeavor started. My boyfriend is visiting me to celebrate Valentine’s Day. While talking with a friend, I was telling her how hard it was to constantly be shifting from one place to another (he stays at an Airbnb to not bother my roommates), whether it is finding a good study pattern, going back to my place to gather more things, and figuring out how we were going to eat. In short, I wasted a lot in transition time that could be replaced with studying.

After hearing all of this, my friend suggested that we use one of her free meal options with a meal subscription service that she has earned. That way, my boyfriend can learn how to cook better because the recipe cards are so detailed, we wouldn’t have to extensively grocery shop and plan as much, and the ingredients would be delivered to us! The first quirk I encountered with Blue Apron was when I was choosing which meals to be sent to us. According to the company, they have limited amounts of various ingredients. Therefore, if you choose a recipe, other recipes will become unavailable to you. You are able to choose three out of six recipes, but your choices are limited based on what I have already said. I am not sure about the vegetarian options since my meals had meat options in them. If you are on a vegetarian plan, they may give you more options, or they may just limit you to two meals per week. In my case, I only saw two vegetarian options.

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Our first meal was barramundi (a type of fish) with horseradish sauce, leeks, potatoes, and roasted broccoli.  It sounds healthy upon inspection, right? Not necessarily. While the calorie amount seemed reasonable, the amount of fat in the dish amounted to 75% of the daily value on a 2,000 calorie diet. Even if you don’t have fewer calories that you want to eat in the day, you don’t want to have 75% of your fat for the day in one meal. I think most of the culprits that contributed to this number were the sour cream in the sauce and the butter involved in sauteeing the leeks. You could replace these fats with lower fat options, such as low-fat sour cream and smart butter or olive oil, but then you would be wasting the products that came in the box or having to figure out what to do with them. (My boyfriend ate the leeks on a different plate in the picture.) On the plus side, my boyfriend found this pretty simple to cook despite the long prep and cooking time, and it was delicious!

So far, my impression is that you are certainly paying for convenience because it is less expensive per serving to go to the grocery store and buy the ingredients. You are also relinquishing control in choosing recipes, but you can sometimes spend lots of time searching for them on your own. It is great for people who want to learn how to cook better and for those who want to learn how to build a more balanced plate. The dishes are certainly more healthy than, say, fried foods, and they balance protein and vegetables very well. However, if you are really trying to cut fat away from your diet or eat less than 2,000 calories per day, I would stay away from these services. In other meal kit subscriptions that I’ve looked into, the amounts of sodium are pretty high, and yet the recipes are advertised as “heart healthy”.

For me personally, I am still trying to find a balance between eating frozen bean burgers all of the time and putting too much time into making recipes. One technique I have embraced is the sheet pan dinner because once I prep and put things on the sheet pan and into the oven, I’m able to study while dinner is cooking instead of having to watch my food over the stove. Are there any cooking hacks that have worked for you? Any experiences with meal kit subscriptions that you would like to share? If so, please comment!

PA school, SuperBowl, and Cooking

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The finished product

 

Hi!

I know it’s been a while. Currently, I am in Physician Assistant school. I started in October and am currently in my second quarter. Life has been mostly tunnel vision, as will be evidenced by my line of thinking as to why I will even be going to a SuperBowl party tonight. The classes I am taking right now are Clinical Assessment and Management I, Pharmacotherapeutics I, Medical Pathology and Genetics, and Clinical Laboratory Medicine. We have already finished three weeks in the quarter, and last week was already a stressful week. In addition, we have another stressful week coming up tomorrow: half of the class has OSLERs tomorrow, and the other half has them on Wednesday. (OSLERs are simulated patient experiences where we are given a chief complaint, and we need to do a full history and physical, order the right tests, come up with the right diagnosis, and prescribe the correct treatment.) On Tuesday, we have our first pharm exam, followed by a clinical lab medicine quiz on Wednesday, an independent study for public health that is the size of a paper due on Thursday, and a clinical lab medicine midterm on Friday.

So, my line of reasoning for going to a SuperBowl party tonight? First, I will get dinner at the party so I won’t have to worry about it. Second, it is being hosted by a classmate, and other classmates will be studying for the upcoming week, us being nerds and having no time, but still wanting to have a life. To bring something to the party, I decided to make monkey bread. So much of SuperBowl food is savory, so I wanted to make something sweet. I had seen Buzzfeed Tasty recipes for monkey bread and thought that the process wasn’t too involved.

I found the following recipe after going to the store and buying what I thought was everything I didn’t already have at home: http://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/recipes/a49722/apple-fritter-monkey-bread-recipe/ and made it with a few modifications: I only used half of the butter for the biscuit dough and only half of the cinnamon sugar that was specified. I also didn’t peel the apples because I could be using that time to make flashcards instead. The first mistake I made was not tossing the apples in a brown sugar mixture, and when I tried sprinkling brown sugar on the top layer of the apples in the bread pan, it settled on the biscuit dough instead. The second mistake I made was that I did not buy powdered sugar for the glaze. Having cooked before and knowing what flavors worked well, I decided to go out again to the store, purchase some cream cheese icing, and melting it in the microwave to use as a glaze instead. We’ll see how it turns out. It’s the thought that counts, right! As I’m a graduate student, I would love to have tips on how to save money and time cooking recipes. I’ve already learned some hacks, but I’d love to learn more!

Catching Up

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Hi readers!

     It’s been a while since I’ve written.  A lot has happened in the past two weeks: my family has visited, I am applying to PA schools, I took my finals, my grandmother is switching living locations after a fall, and I got into a major car accident (all parties are fine).  I wanted to talk about the fun children’s activities and other activities that we did while my family was visiting in Richmond.  Everyone came down- one brother, his wife, and son from Philadelphia, and my other brother from Orlando.

     One of the fun activities that we all did with my nephew was go to the Children’s Museum.  Among the activities were water play, slides, a train ride, diner, veterinarian, story time, and fire truck.  Another fun activity for all ages was going to the Metro Richmond Zoo. The enclosures are large and well-suited to the animals.  Instead of categorizing the animals into areas, they were interspersed, which I happened to enjoy more.  The main draw was the cheetah exhibit. It is a rarity to breed cheetahs in captivity, and five of them were born.  Although I was able to see all five of them, one of them unfortunately died. The rest of the children’s activities were visiting the University of Richmond lake to walk around and watch the ducks and going to Deep Run Park to the playground. We also got to go to a farmer’s market. 

     In terms of restaurants, the entire family went to Q Barbecue. The hushpuppies there are amazing. The brother from Orlando, Mom, Dad, and I went to Buz and Ned’s, which was incredible.  For Sunday brunch, the entire group, including my grandmother, went to Selba.  The food, atmosphere, and portions were good as well as the service.