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Destinations, Food, Thailand, Travel

Our Experience with Thai Farm Cooking School

May 16, 2016

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One of the activities I was most excited to take part in while in Thailand was participating in a Thai cooking class. I wanted to learn more about Thai food and expand my obsession beyond Pad See Ew and Pad Thai.

We learned the importance of Trip Advisor and other third-party reviews pretty quickly in Thailand. There are a lot of “tour agencies” all around Thailand and they help you book activities, trips, and transportation. These companies are extremely convenient because they book everything from start to finish for you (including transportation), but there isn’t really a lot of information on the reviews and feedback of the tours that are offered.

We learned this the hard way after booking a snorkeling tour in southern Thailand only to find that almost all of the reviews were extremely negative. Since we don’t have cellular data (WIFI only) we weren’t able to vouch the company before booking the tour. This isn’t to say that every tour the companies sell are negative, it’s just that you really need to find independent verifiers. We only made this mistake once (and ended up switching tours) so while it takes more time, we’re always double-checking companies to ensure they have favorable reviews before booking.

So finding the cooking class was simple; we just chose the best and more frequently reviewed company in Chiang Mai. This brought us to the Thai Farm Cooking School. For about $37USD each we spent a full day with our instructor learning about Thai cuisine, food culture, and how to make popular Thai dishes.

Our day started at 8:30AM with a pick up from our hostel in Chiang Mai. There were nine students in our group under the care of our excellent instructor, Pern. Pern was awesome. She was funny, friendly, warm and helpful – everything you want in a teacher. Before heading to the cooking school, we stopped by a local market to learn more about how Thai people shop for food and learn about ingredients that aren’t as common in the US.

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Once we arrived at the cooking school you could see how serious of an operation this was. Several other classes were going on throughout the farm. I was really impressed by the organization and flow of the entire day.

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Before we started cooking we took a tour of the farm to see how the ingredients we were about to be cooking with actually grew. We saw mangoes, pineapples, cashew nuts, holy basil, eggplant, rice, coconuts and more.

When you sign up for the school you’re able to choose from a selection of dishes that you want to make for each meal. We were all able to pick a curry, soup, a stir-fry, and a noodle dish, and a dessert.

Thai food is based on a mix of five flavors: sour, salty, spicy, sweet and bitter. When balanced correctly these flavors create complex tastes and aromatic meals. The mix of these flavors and balance of the sweet vs. sour and sour vs. salty, bitter vs. spicy, etc., etc., can really change the entire flavor profile of the dish. Throughout the class we would experiment with our sauces to detect the difference in flavor if we added more fish sauce or squeeze more lime juice. Most dishes we made used the same group of ingredients, it was really the preparation and sauce that would completely change the taste of the meal.

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Since most of our class didn’t eat breakfast, we started our day making the soup. The soup didn’t take long at all to make and it was a great starter to satiating our empty bellies. We had the option of either making Tom Yam (a slightly sour soup) or coconut soup (a creamier version of Tom Yam). I went with the traditional Tom Yam but mixed it up a bit with a few teaspoons of coconut milk to give it a creamier base. Adam went all out and made a coconut vegetable soup.

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Tom Yam with Shrimp

INGREDIENTS

1-5 crushed hot chillies
1/2 cup of sliced mushrooms
1 stalk of lemongrass ( slice into 3cm long pieces )
1/4 cup of sliced onion
1/4 cup of sliced galangal
1/4 cup of sliced tomatoes
3 kaffir lime leaves
2 tsp. of lime juice
2 tbsp. of fish sauce or soya sauce
1/2 tsp. of sugar
1/2 tbsp. of shrimp chili paste
2 cups of water
5 shrimps ( take the heads off and keep )
1 tbsp. of chopped spring onion
1 stem of coriander plant
1/4 tsp. of salt
2 leaves of Thai parsley

PREPARATION

Put water in a pot, heat until boiling. Add lemongrass, galangal, shrimp chili paste, shrimp heads and onion. Cook until fragrant. Add tomatoes, shrimp meat and mushrooms. When done, flavor with fish sauce, salt and sugar. Stir thoroughly and finally add lime juice, spring onion, Thai parsley, coriander and lime leaves. If not spicy enough add hot chillies. Serve with rice.

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Our second dish for the day was a curry. I chose red curry with chicken. Before the cooking began, we first had to make our own curry paste.

The before:

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And the after:

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The red curry was one of my favorite dishes of the day. I love how the spicy flavors of the curry work with the creamy and cool coconut milk. It’s refreshing and brings in the heat in tandem. The curry is the dish I’m most looking forward to recreating at home.

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Red Curry with Chicken

INGREDIENTS FOR CURRY PASTE

2-3 red dried chillies ( soak in cold water about 15 minutes before using )
1 tbsp. of chopped shallots
1 tsp. of chopped galangal
1/2 tsp. of chopped kaffir lime rind
1 tsp. of chopped garlic
1 tbsp. of chopped lemongrass
1 tbsp. of chopped krachai ( or ‘Thai ginseng’ )
1/4 tsp. of roasted cumin seeds
1/4 tsp. of roasted coriander seeds
1/4 tsp. of salt ( or 1/2 tsp. of salt if you would like to keep the paste longer )

OTHER INGREDIENTS

1 cup of sliced eggplants ( or other vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli or potato )
1/4 cup of smaller pea-like eggplants ( MAKHEAU PHUANG )
1/3 cup of sliced onion
70 grams of sliced chicken
1 tsp. of sugar
1 tbsp. of fish sauce or soya sauce
3 kaffir lime leaves
2 stems of sweet basil ( HORAPAA )
1 cup of coconut milk
1 cup of water

PREPARATION OF RED CURRY PASTE

Put the ingredients for the curry paste in the mortar. Pound with the pestle until everything is mixed and ground thoroughly. You can also use a blender.

PREPARATION OF RED CURRY

Pour the coconut milk in the pot and turn on to medium heat. Stir until oil appears. Add red curry paste and chicken and stir until almost done. Add your vegetables, water, sugar, fish sauce, salt and turn the heat up. Stir a little. When everything is cooked, put the sweet basil and lime leaves. Serve with rice.

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Posing with my red curry

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To accompany our curries, we also each made a stir-fry dish. I made the fried chicken with basil leaves and Adam made the sweet and sour chicken. I love the smell and taste of holy basil so I was really excited for this dish.

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Chicken with Holy Basil

INGREDIENTS

100 grams of sliced chicken
2 tbsp. of oil ( soya bean oil or palm oil )
5 cloves of crushed garlic
1/3 cup of sliced long beans
2-3 hot chillies
1 cup of holy basil leaves
1 tbsp. of fish sauce
1 tbsp. of oyster sauce
1/2 tsp. of sugar
1/4 cup of sliced onions
3 tbsp. of water

PREPARATION

Pour the oil in the wok on a low heat. When oil is hot, add garlic, onion and chillies. Stir until fragrant. Add chicken and turn the heat up. Stir until well done. Next add long beans, fish sauce, sugar and oyster sauce. Add a little water. Stir together well. When everything done, add basil leaves and stir once again. Serve with rice.

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For our noodle dish, I opted for spring rolls over making Pad Thai. I’ve been eating a decent amount of Pad Thai (and watching a decent amount be made in front of me), so I wanted to try something new.

Also, at this point in the day, our class was starting to feel like zombies. The double curry and stir fry meals made everyone full and loopy. We were starting to all go a little stir crazy. We felt like little kindergarteners that really needed a nap. The spring roll was a little less intense than the Pad Thai, so I was happy to have a brain break.

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Spring Rolls

INGREDIENTS

1 tbsp. of grated carrot
1/2 cup of finely sliced cabbage
1/4 cup of finely sliced onion
1/2 cup of bean sprouts
1/2 cup of glass noodles ( dried glass noodles have to soak in cold water about 15 minutes until soft )
1/4 cup of sliced tofu
1/4 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp. of pepper
6 spring roll sheets
1 tsp. of soybean oil
1 stem of coriander
1 tsp. of sugar
2 tsp. of soya sauce

INGREDIENTS FOR DIPPING SAUCE

1 red chilli
1 1/2 tsp. of vinegar
2 tbsp. of sugar
1/4 tsp. of salt
1 clove of crushed garlic
1 tsp. of flour
1/3 cup of water

PREPARATION OF SPRINGROLLS

Heat up the oil in the wok. Add tofu, cabbage, onions, carrots, bean sprouts, sugar soya sauce and salt. Stir fry until vegetables are soft and dry. Turn the heat to low. Add glass noodles, coriander and pepper. Stir fry again until mixed well. Set aside to cool.

Take a spring roll sheet and put some filling on it. Fold the sheet over the filling. Roll a bit, then fold the sides in and roll up tightly. Before closing, glue with some mixed egg. Deep-fry the spring rolls until golden brown.

PREPARATION OF DIPPING SAUCE

Crush garlic and chili. Put in a pot together with water, salt, sugar and vinegar. Heat on a low fire to boiling. Mix flour with some water and add to the mixture to make thicker.

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Masterchef Adam!

For dessert we made one of my favorite things in the whole wide world, mango sticky rice. It’s incredible, two months ago I didn’t even know mango sticky rice existed and now, I don’t want to live in a world without it. It really needs to become more popular in the US. It’s so good and delicious and it just makes you happy. Luckily, now I know how to make it if I’m ever hit with a craving.

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Mango Sticky Rice

INGREDIENTS

1 cup of steamed sticky rice
1/2 cup of coconut milk
1 ripe mango ( peel, remove the seed and slice into pieces )
1-2 tbsp. of sugar
1/4 tsp. of salt
1 tbsp. of roasted mung beans

PREPARATION

Put coconut milk, sugar and salt in a pot. Heat until boiling. Turn the heat off. Add steamed sticky rice. Mix together well. Let it cool. Serve with mango and top sticky rice with mung beans.

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Bon appetit!

We really had the best day at the cooking school. It’s up there in the top of my favorite activities while traveling list. It was definitely great to make these classic Thai dishes, but my favorite part was just hanging out with a great group of people and goofing off and learning together.

All recipes via Thai Farm Cooking School

Destinations, Food, Thailand, Travel

Photo of the Week: Enjoying Street Food in Chiang Mai

May 13, 2016

This week has been relaxing. We’ve been in Chiang Mai for a little over two weeks and have crossed most of the tourist “to-do” items off of our checklist. We’re starting our adventure at Elephant Nature Park in a few days and we’re still a little unsure of how physically intense the volunteering will be. So instead of running ourselves ragged around Chiang Mai and showing up to ENP exhausted, we’ve been just hanging out and centering our day around finding food and coffee. It’s been most pleasurable.

street-food-chiang-mai

One of my absolute favorite things about Chiang Mai (and Thailand) is enjoying street food. There is something so wonderful about ordering a delicious bowl of freshly made noodles and then posting up at a little table street side to people watch. On top of that, you can also walk over to the nearest 7-11 (there’s always one within a few feet) and grab a beer for about $1USD to accompany your noodles. Heck, sometimes the beer is more expensive than your dinner.

Thailand is a place that assaults all of your senses and my favorite time for that to happen is while slurping down a bowl of noodles.

Food, Recipes

Hanky Panky Recipe

February 2, 2016

Let’s get this out of the way upfront, Hanky Pankies are not healthy. In the least bit. It’s really one of the most unhealthy recipes I’ve shared on my blog. But it doesn’t matter. Because hanky pankies are delicious and you shouldn’t care whether they’re healthy or not.

Hanky pankies (not to be confused with the underwear) are delicious little meat and melted cheese appetizers. They are a staple on any party food table within 100 miles of Cincinnati. For some terrible reason, I rarely see hanky pankies in the south. I don’t know what it is, but these delicious delicacies haven’t migrated below the Mason-Dixon.

Hanky pankies are super easy to make and they lend well to freezing for leftovers. Although, I can’t see a situation where these delicious morsels aren’t eaten up right away. Especially at a Super Bowl party.

Looking at my pictures, you might see that I didn’t use the bread that I recommend. I’ve had the hardest time finding Jewish Rye party bread in Charleston. I’ve gone everywhere and can’t find it. I ended up having to use regular Jewish rye bread and just cut it into thirds. The party bread is better, so try to find it if you can. Pumpernickel bread can work too. Here’s what it looks like:

 

Jewish Rye party bread

Hanky Panky Recipe

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Hanky Panky Recipe
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 40 appetizers
 
Hanky Panky Recipe
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. of lean ground beef
  • 1 lb. of breakfast sausage (I prefer Jimmy Dean hot sausage)
  • 16 ounces of Velveeta, cubed
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire
  • Package of Rye party bread
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Brown ground beef and sausage in large skillet over medium heat
  3. Once meat is fully browned, drain fat from the skillet
  4. Add cubed Velveeta to the skillet and stir to mix while the cheese melts
  5. Stir in the garlic powder and Worcestershire to the skillet
  6. Top party bread with a spoonful of the meat/cheese mixture and bake for 8-12 minutes on a baking sheet in the oven.
  7. To freeze Hanky Pankies, top bread with meat mixture and freeze on wax paper in the freezer for an hour. Transfer to a large Ziplock bag. To reheat, bake the Hanky Pankies in the oven for 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees

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Food, Recipes

Vietnamese Chicken Salad

January 19, 2016
Asian Chicken Salad

This post was spurred by a bad meal. The other day I ordered an Asian Chicken Salad from a restaurant that shall not be named and to put it lightly – it sucked. An Asian, or Vietnamese, Chicken salad should have shredded chicken, vegetables, and herbs with a lime fish sauce vinaigrette. This sad salad wasn’t even close. Here’s a picture of the salad in question:

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There were maybe three leaves of cilantro in the whole salad. I wasn’t about to let this imposter get me down, so I made my own Vietnamese Chicken Salad in bulk for lunch at work this week.

I love Asian chicken salads because they’re light, but pack in a ton of flavor with the fresh herbs and dressing. The addition of the shredded chicken also helps up the protein and calories – helping keep me full for longer at work. Outside of the sugar I added to the vinaigrette, the salad is also Whole 30 compliant.

For this version, I also added in some red bell pepper because it was on sale at the grocery. It’s not standard in a Vietnamese Chicken Salad, but I love the crunch and wanted to add some more color to the salad.

Vietnamese Chicken Salad

Vietnamese Chicken Salad Recipe

Ingredients

1 Chicken Breast, boiled and shredded

1 head of Napa cabbage, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely chopped

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1/3 cup of green onions, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons of mint, finely chopped

3 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped

This salad is about as easy as it can get – add all ingredients to a bowl and toss to combine. Serve with the dressing tossed in.

Vietnamese Chicken Salad

Fish Sauce Vinaigrette

Ingredients

1/4 cup of fish sauce

3/4 cup of water

1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger

3 cloves of grated garlic

1 red chili, minced

Juice from half a lime

2 teaspoons of rice vinegar

1 tablespoon of sugar

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl with a whisk. Store for up to one month in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Recipe adapted from White on Rice Couple

Asian Chicken Salad

Vietnamese Chicken Salad
Recipe type: salad
Cuisine: Asian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
I love Asian chicken salads because they're light, but pack in a ton of flavor with the fresh herbs and dressing. The addition of the shredded chicken also helps up the protein and calories - helping keep me full for longer at work. Outside of the sugar I added to the vinaigrette, the salad is also Whole 30 compliant.
Ingredients
  • 1 Chicken Breast, boiled and shredded
  • 1 head of Napa cabbage, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • ⅓ cup of green onions, finely sliced
  • 3 tablespoons mint, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
Instructions
  1. This salad is about as easy as it can get - add all ingredients to a bowl and toss to combine.
  2. Serve with fish sauce dressing mixed in.

 

Food, Recipes

Dewey’s Pizza House Salad Recipe

January 10, 2016
deweys-pizza

deweys-pizza-house-salad-recipe

One of my favorite places to eat when I go back home to Cincinnati is Dewey’s Pizza. And for good reason, everything they serve is delicious. Dewey’s consistently wins best pizzas and salads voted by City Beat readers in the Cincinnati area.

I actually worked for Dewey’s Pizza throughout high school and college in several of their locations over the Greater Cincinnati area. I made my way as a young hostess to an experienced server. Dewey’s was actually the last job I held before making the move to Charleston and the serving money I saved in the summer of 2008 helped me get settled down in the Lowcountry. Working at Dewey’s was great, it was a good company to work for that provided quality food and service. I also loved using that employee discount.

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While Dewey’s pizzas are delicious, the salads are my favorite. The salads are always super fresh and either the perfect start to a meal or the perfect meal in of itself when you add chicken. I love all the salads they serve, but the classic Dewey’s Pizza House Salad is a staple. It’s so simple, but when you have fresh ingredients and a creamy balsamic vinaigrette dressing, you can make the most perfect little meal.

Dewey’s actually sells their salad dressings in pints at all of their locations, but since I’m not near a restaurant, I’ve recreated my own version of the Dewey’s Pizza Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing at home.

If you’re looking for a great salad recipe to make at home, I can’t recommend this Dewey’s Pizza House Salad Recipe copycat-version.

deweys-pizza-house-salad

Dewey’s Pizza House Salad Recipe

  • Fields Greens
  • 1 tablespoon Toasted Pine Nuts
  • 1 tablespoon Sun-dried Cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon Goat Cheese
  • 1/8 cup of balsamic vinaigrette

1) Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat. Toast for several minutes shaking occasionally so that the pine nuts do not burn.

2) Toss field greens with balsamic vinaigrette.

3) Top field greens with pine nuts, cranberries, and goat cheese.

Dewey’s Pizza Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinaigrette
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pulse all ingredients until smooth in either a blender or food processor. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week.

deweys-pizza-house-salad-recipe

Dewey's Pizza House Salad Recipe
Recipe type: salad
Cuisine: salad
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: Side salad
 
This Dewey's Pizza House Salad copycat recipe is a step up from the standard house salad. The creamy balsamic vinaigrette balances perfectly with the goat cheese, toasted pine nuts, dried cranberries, and fresh field greens.
Ingredients
  • Fields Greens
  • 1 tablespoon Toasted Pine Nuts
  • 1 tablespoon Sun-dried Cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon Goat Cheese
  • ⅛ cup of balsamic vinaigrette
Instructions
  1. Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat. Toast for several minutes shaking occasionally so that the pine nuts do not burn.
  2. Toss field greens with balsamic vinaigrette.
  3. Top field greens with pine nuts, cranberries, and goat cheese.
  4. Enjoy!
Food

Blue Apron Review from a Skeptic

January 6, 2016

I’m sharing my Blue Apron review, a home delivery meal subscription service. I’ve always been curious about these meal services, but was honestly skeptical regarding the cost and quality. Below are my findings from three weeks of deliveries with Blue Apron. This is an unpaid review and Blue Apron doesn’t know I’m writing this post.

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Overview

Blue Apron is a weekly subscription service that sends complete pre-portioned ingredients and directions for meals that you make at home. There are two subscription options: a 2-person plan or a Family Plan (sized for a family of four). There’s also an option for vegetarian only meals.

Blue Apron and it’s competitors have been around for awhile, but I never really felt the urge to try them out. I really enjoy cooking and choosing my meal, so the price and the lack of choice always turned me off. Adam and I decided to finally give Blue Apron a shot a couple months ago when we were traveling a lot. We didn’t want to worry about grocery shopping and figuring out our meals, so it seemed like the right time to try out Blue Apron’s service.

blue-apron-meals

Roast Chicken and Potato Latkes, Tamarind-Glazed Cod, Harissa Lamb and Beef Burgers

Pricing

The 2-Person Plan that we opted for is $59.94 for three meals, coming out to $9.99 per serving. This is significantly more than it would cost me to buy ingredients and make a meal at home, but much less than if we were going to eat at a restaurant.

One thing I did notice is that the vegetarian meals are priced the same as the regular plan. I think it would be nice if Blue Apron offered a cheaper meal plan for the vegetarian option. Even with the equal pricing, I’m planning on testing the vegetarian Blue Apron meals in the future to compare ingredients and meal value.

Packaging

Blue Apron meals are delivered in refrigerated packaging to help keep the ingredients fresh. This was key on our first delivery because we wouldn’t be home right away to move everything into the refrigerator. I didn’t love that each ingredient was individually wrapped and packaged. It felt wasteful, but I suppose I was countering that a bit by not using the plastic produce bags from the grocery store. Blue Apron’s pre-portioned ingredients also likely cut down on food waste.

Blue Apron packaging is also recyclable. Unfortunately, we live in an area that doesn’t offer street side recycling pickup, but once you accrue two Blue Apron packages, you can print off a free return label and drop your boxes and ice packs off for recycling at your nearest post office.

blue-apron-meals-2

Shrimp Banh Mi, Chicken Tortilla Soup, Caramelized Meyer Lemon Spaghetti

Cooking

I was initially under the impression that Blue Apron would help me save time on cooking. Au contraire. While you save time on choosing a recipe and actually grocery shopping, the cooking portion is still pretty intensive. Most of the recipes involved a lot of chopping, peeling, and extra steps that I tend to avoid on my standard weeknight meals. These weren’t my favorite meals to make on a busy weeknight; several took close to an hour to prep, cook and assemble. I might also just be really slow at cooking.

Although the meals had a lot of steps, they weren’t overly complicated or difficult. I also really appreciated the step-by-step instructions and pictures that Blue Apron provides. The cooking instructions were clear and easy to follow.

The biggest Blue Apron plus is that it got Adam cooking in the kitchen. Adam enjoys cooking and making meals, but he hates trying to decide what to make and finding the ingredients. Blue Apron was perfect because half of the work was done for him. All he had to do was find the ingredients in the refrigerator and pantry and follow the easy directions that Blue Apron sends along with each meal.

Meal Quality

Cooking with Blue Apron provided the opportunity to try ingredients, like celeriac and tamarind concentrate, that I hadn’t used before and entrees I probably never would have considered cooking. I also learned a few new cooking methods; I likely never would have tried cooking carrots like french fries, but I have to say they were delicious and I didn’t really miss my starchy potato friend. I will say, though, that not too many meals blew me away. Everything tasted good, but nothing was spectacular.

blue-aprons-meals-3

Ribeye Steak, Chicken and Garlic Chive Meatballs

Blue Apron Pros

  • Save time on meal planning and grocery shopping
  • Easy to follow instructions
  • Introduces you to new ingredients and cooking methods
  • At home delivery is exciting to receive
  • Helps get your husband cooking 🙂
  • Flexible delivery schedule, it’s easy to skip a delivery

Blue Apron Cons

  • More expensive than homemade meals with ingredients from the grocery
  • Meals take more time to prepare than expected
  • Vegetarian option is the same price at meat option
  • Deliveries can only come Wednesday-Saturday. I like cooking early in the week, so it would be nice to have a Monday delivery.

Overall Thoughts

I expect Blue Apron to be a service that we use occasionally in the future. I enjoy the ease of only grocery shopping for breakfast and lunch staples and having our dinner options pre-planned on busy weeks.

It’s still difficult to justify the price, but I think it’s a great option if you’re interested in learning how to cook but are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. Each of the recipes had different cooking methods and can really help a beginner understand a lot of cooking fundamentals.

Blue Apron for you!

Since I’ve been cooking with Blue Apron for 3 weeks, I have a few free meals to send to friends! Leave a comment below and let me know if you’re interested in testing out Blue Apron for free. Then you can share your own Blue Apron review. First come, first served.

Food, Restaurants, Travel, United States

What to Eat During a Weekend in New York City

December 2, 2015
what-to-eat-in-nyc-weekend

When Adam and I went to New York last month our main objective was eating as much delicious food as possible. We totally accomplished this goal. Everything we had was absolutely delicious and I’m still dreaming about it. And now I want to share with you my food recommendations for a weekend in New York City.

I approached figuring out where to eat a few different ways: recommendations from friends, Eater’s Essential New York Restaurants, and proximity to where we were staying. Friends are obviously helpful because they can help you filter through a lot of the restaurant hype. I’m always impressed with Charleston’s Eater website, so I figured that New York’s would be just as good. Sometimes travel websites like Trip Advisor are too tourist-reviewer heavy and I just want to know where I can find the best local food. And proximity is important because we didn’t have all day to schlep around town. There was a ton of great food where we stayed in the East Village and it was really easy to either walk or hop on and off the metro to nearby neighborhoods.

So without further ado, here are my recommendations on where to eat during a weekend in New York City:

Momofuku Noodle Bar

momofuku-ramen

Momofuku’s Noodle Bar was a block from our Airbnb; I may have purposefully planned this. I’ve been watching David Chang’s season of Mind of a Chef and knew I had to try his infamous ramen. The ramen did not disappoint. The broth had this great smoky flavor and was a twist on any other ramen that I’ve had.

Order: Momofuku Ramen

Milk Bar

milk-bar-cookies

We definitely couldn’t skip Momofuku’s sister dessert spot, Milk Bar.  Besides what goes better post-ramen than a compost cookie that includes chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, graham crumbs, pretzels, potato chips, coffee grounds, etc., etc., etc.?

Order: Compost Cookie

Shake Shack

shake-shack-burger

Shake Shack was the perfect late-night “snack” during our trip. We drove by the Madison Square Park location earlier in the night and the line was about 200 people deep. No way were we going to wait that long for a burger. I love food, but listen – there are other options in NYC. Luckily, when we walked by around 11PM, the line was much more manageable and our late night cravings were met with delicious burgers and fries.

Order: The ShackBurger

Xi’an Famous Foods

xian-famous-foods-lamb-cumin-noodles

You guys. I should write a whole separate post on Xi’an Famous Foods and their spicy cumin lamb noodles. It was perhaps the best thing I have eaten in my entire life. One month later, the hyperbole stands! These noodles are insane. They are so soft and pillowy and delicious. At first the lamb was so spicy I didn’t think I’d be able to finish the bowl. I started crying and my nose was running from the spice and then at some point I just moved into food nirvana. The lamb noodles were still incredibly spicy, but I didn’t care anymore, everything just tasted so good and was so flavorful I never wanted the meal to end. We ate this meal standing hunched over a tiny counter in a room with super low ceilings surrounded by very smart people slurping noodles everywhere. It was incredible.

Order: Spicy Cumin Lamb Noodles

Rye

We went to Rye in Brooklyn with Adam’s step-brother and girlfriend based on their recommendation. It was awesome. We had a great time at the bar and sampled lots of eats from the menu. The standout for me was the brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts are on a lot of menus nowadays, but this version was the best I’ve ever had. They had this incredible lemon mayonnaise pecorino sauce; it was so good.

Order: The Brussels sprouts

Big Gay Ice Cream

big-gay-ice-cream-pimp

We’ve had Big Gay Ice Cream once before when they went on a traveling food truck tour in Charleston. Their version of soft-serve ice cream is so good that when we spotted the shop in the West Village we knew we needed it again. Life is just better with the Salty Pimp (vanilla ice cream, dulce de leche, sea salt, chocolate dip) in your life. 🙂

Bien Cuit

bien-cuit-chocolate-croissant

I had a solo day during our trip to New York (Adam had a work conference) so I booked a neighborhood food tour in Brooklyn with Urban Oyster. We went to a lot of great local restaurants and cafes, but Bien Cuit stood out. Bien Cuit uses a slow fermentation technique that helps keep the acidity in the bread. Everything we tasted at this bakery was wonderful, especially the miche and chocolate croissant.

Order: Miche

Russ & Daughters

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Bagels seemed like a must eat for our trip to New York. Luckily we were only a couple miles from the famous Russ & Daughters. This place was crazy packed when I went and to be honest I was a little overwhelmed by the wide selection. I went basic and had an everything bagel with plain cream cheese. It was everything a bagel should be and I will forever be disappointed by future bagels.

Order: Bagels, bagels, bagels

I’m shamed by how many times I used the words delicious, wonderful, great, and incredible in this post. But it’s true, these are the top food picks from our weekend in New York City. I’m worried about the next time I go back to New York because I don’t know if I can go anywhere new, I just want to go to all of these restaurants again.

Food

Local Charleston Food Gift Guide

November 11, 2015

Y’all, please don’t hate me. I can’t believe it’s gift guide season either. I also can’t believe it’s mid-November. Where is time going? So whether I’m too early for you or if you’re already wrapping up holiday shopping, you overachiever, I wanted to share some of my favorite Charleston food gifts.

The Holy City loves to eat and drink, so it’s no surprise that we can turn out some pretty great food and drink products. This Charleston Food Gift Guide covers some of the most delicious gifts and stuffing stockers you can find in town. And luckily, you can order most online as well.

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1 // The Bulls Bay Sea Salt is the perfect gift for a semi-professional home cook or just someone who wants to step up their seasoning game. I love how the salt comes in flakes ready to be sprinkled on your next meal.

2 // I love Old Fashioneds, so I’m partial to Bittermilk No. 1. However, No. 3 (Smoked Honey Whiskey Sour) is next on my list to try.

3 // I received Grey Ghost Bakery Cookies in a food gift a couple years ago (thanks, Laura!) and have been a fan ever since. These are the softest, most delicious cookies. I sometimes don’t believe that they come in a package.

4 // I’m spoiled and only work about 100 yards from Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit. If you aren’t lucky like me, order the Callie’s Buttermilk Biscuit Mix and make these wonderful, pillowy biscuits yourself. Everyone will love you.

5 // I used to think it was crazy to spend more than a couple dollars on a chocolate bar. And then I had a Sweeteeth Chocolate Bar. Everything changed. The Call of the Wild with dark chocolate and port wine caramel is insane.

6 // I love knowing that my coffee from Charleston Coffee Roasters is roasted locally in town. It takes a fresh cup of coffee to a new level.

7 // If bourbon isn’t my liquor of choice, it’s vodka. Jack Rudy Small Batch Tonic is perfect for a refreshing vodka soda. I also really just love the packaging.

And you can’t forget the libations! It wouldn’t be a Charleston food and drink gift guide without some alcohol. Some of my favorite local Charleston breweries and distilleries include Coast, Holy City, Westbrook, Revelry, Hire Wire Distilling, Charleston Distilling Company, and Firefly. I happen to think that local, craft beer makes a great stocking stuffer.

Have you already started holiday shopping? Don’t shame me, I haven’t bought a thing.

 

 

Food

Our Clean Eating Grocery Haul

October 19, 2015

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Adam and I just got back from a weekend of non-stop eating (and walking) in New York. I’m not mentally prepared to put together a big recap post, but I thought it might be funny to share our grocery cart tonight. After eating pretty much everything in sight, my body is in dire need of some clean, simple meals. This cart isn’t too far from what our normal groceries look like, but it’s funny that we gravitated to grabbing almost everything in the produce aisle.

Here’s what we have:

  • Butter Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Organic Baby Lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Kale and Broccoli Salad
  • Limes
  • Red Bell Peppers
  • Zucchini
  • Red Onion
  • Yellow Onions
  • Haricots Verts
  • Leeks
  • Avocados
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Whole Peeled Tomatoes
  • Kiwis
  • Bananas
  • Serrano Fresca Salsa
  • Almonds
  • Fruit Bars
  • Garlic and Herb Pizza Dough
  • Vegetable Broth
  • Northern Beans
  • Cuban Black Beans
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Low Carb Whole Wheat Tortillas
  • 2% Reduced Fat Milk
  • Whole Chicken
  • Dark Chocolate Covered Cherries (because, hey we still need treats!)

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On the menu this week for dinner is homemade pizza, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Spring Vegetable Soup and Chicken and White Bean Chili (her recipes are awesome for healthy, simple and delicious meals) and my favorite sweet potato and black bean tacos.

For lunch – lots and lots of salads (plus leftovers from dinner) and breakfast will be coffee and eggs. So exciting. Here’s hoping I feel like a normal human again within the next few days.

Food

The Worst Products at Trader Joe’s

October 15, 2015

worst-products-at-trader-joes

Yes, that’s right: the worst products at Trader Joe’s. At least according to me.

I love Trader Joe’s. We all have Trader Joe’s favorites. I’ve posted about mine and I love reading other’s faves – but that doesn’t mean that TJ’s is untouchable. I’ve had many purchase regrets. Here are 5 items that I consider the worst Trader Joe’s products.

The biggest issue with most of the items on this list is a lack of freshness and are unreliable. Several of these items (the salads, bread, and salsa) have all gone bad within one day of purchasing – regardless of what the expiration date says. There’s nothing sadder than looking forward to eating something and then discovering it’s either moldy or rancid. NOTHING SADDER, I say.

trader-joes-pico-de-gallo

Image via

Pico de Gallo – My most recent experience with this salsa was a nasty, spoiled taste. I’m sure it’s great if it’s fresh, but it wasn’t and I don’t really want to take that gamble again. Needless to say, I need to remember not to purchase it again.

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Bread – Again, the bread always goes bad fast. Much faster than when I buy from my traditional grocery store. Those moldy white spots are so sad.

sushi

Sushi – Can this really be considered sushi? I don’t think the word applies – for one, it’s unlikely to include real seafood, and two – I’m not even sure if the rice is real rice.

 

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Pre-Made Salads – This is my lazy grab that I always regret. 9 times out of 10 the salads are either soggy or just lack all flavor I normally love. I need to stop being so lazy and just make a fresh salad.

sweet-italian-chicken-sausage

Chicken Sausage – Adam and I have lovingly nicknamed these “water dogs”. We eat a lot of chicken sausage (our favorite brand is Aidells) and these are just not good. They lack any real flavor and they are a little watery. Skip em. The sweet maple breakfast sausage links are good, though.

How about you? What are your least products from Trader Joe’s? And your favorite? Let’s not beat them up too much today.