Category: Kitchen

My experience with Blue Apron

July 25
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A few weeks ago my husband and I went ahead and tried out Blue Apron meals.  We have been very busy with the buying and selling of our home and figured it would make eating somewhat healthier and homemade a little easier.  We signed up online and were given the option to pick out meals.

My Blue Apron Experience

Because it is just the two of us we went with the three meals for two people box. The meals are $9.99 each so it comes to $59.94 for the box and shipping is free.

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We went online and selected our meals from the six choices. The way Blue apron is set up, you get to pick your meals but not all meal combinations are available. This may be  a cost issue as not all meals cost the same and some ingredients cost more than others.  The three meals we selected were Butter Brown Gnocchi, Sweet Chili Chicken, and  Spiced Shrimp Pearl Couscous.

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Our box was shipped via FedEx one day from New Jersey to our home in Florida.  The box  is designed to be able to sit outdoors in the elements until the evening of the delivery day.  I was home from work that day so I was able to bring it inside and put the items away fairly quickly, but I am sure it would have been fine for  a few more hours.IMG_6054

The box was packed with a thickly insulated inner liner which acted like a cooler for the contents.  The fresh vegetables and other items were on the top of the box and perishables such as meats were on the bottom of the box under a sheet of cardboard and between two layers of ice packs.

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I went ahead and pulled all the items out and stored them.

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All three meals were able to be cooked in a half hour or less and we enjoyed all three of them.  I love that we got to try gnocchi; I had never cooked this before and I doubt I would have tried it if it were not for Blue Apron.  The recipes were all easy to follow and steps were explained.

One thing that I was a little disappointed by was the lack of full nutritional information on the meals.  When you select your meal you shown the calorie count per serving, however no other nutritional information is shared.  We were able to look at the ingredients for the meals to decide if they would fit our needs, but knowing the full nutritional information would be very useful.

Have you tried Blue Apron?  What did you think?

Note:  This is NOT a sponsored post.  I purchased the box on my own and am not being compensated for this post in any way.  All ideas and opinions are my own.

 

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Summer Dinner Ideas

June 17
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delicious summer recipes to try

With summer nearing I am thinking more and more of light, airy, tropical meals. The type of meals that, even if they are warm, are refreshing on a warm summer day.  Here are a few I’ve gathered that I’d like to try this summer.

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Fajita Chicken Kebab– I love making Fajitas year round, but these look super simple and can be made o the grill, perfect for keeping the heat out of the house.

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Springtime Veggie Pasta Primavera– This pasta dish looks like a perfect pot luck side.  Nice and light for a warm day.

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Corn, Avocado, & Black Bean Summer Salad– This is basically all of my favorite things in a salad. I am already thinking I need to make some next week.  This can be eaten alone or with chips.

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Spicy Grilled Shrimp Tacos–  Fish tacos have been one of my go to restaurant dishes for a few years now.  They are something I love, but am usually too lazy to make.  I think I am going to suck it up and try these out this summer, what do I have to lose?

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Strawberry Bacon Blue Cheese Salad– Light, healthy, and full of nutrients, this salad is the perfect fun summer salad.  It freaking has bacon!

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Grilled Coconut Lime Shrimp in Foil– Remember hobo dinners?  These sound like a perfect summery version.  Perfect for cookouts, camping, or other outdoor events.  Make them ahead and toss them on the coals!

 

Have you tried any variations of these? What did you think?  Have a favorite summer recipe of your own? Be sure to share it with me below!

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Brunch Ideas

April 26
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With Mother’s Day coming up I wanted to share with you some of my favorite and some new brunch recipes. I don’t cook brunches very often, but when I do, I stick to a few staples.

Mini-Spinach-Quiches I’ve been making these Muffin Frittatas for a few years now. I love they are crustless so they are low carb. I use Turkey Sausage and lots of veggies. The best part? You can freeze them and then pull them out one at a time for hearty on the go breakfasts.

overnight-blueberry-french-toast-3 My mother ran across this recipe for Blueberry French Toast Casserole in an issue of Taste of Home magazine back in the mid-1990s. Ever since then we’ve been making it here and there both as a breakfast and a dinner. What I love about this recipe is it is an overnight meal. You put it all together at night and then just pop it in the oven when the time comes. Perfect for entertaining and overnight guests.

sheetpan-hashbrowns-d I am a HUGE Hash Browns fan.  Whenever I am in a restaurant that serves them, I need an order.  However, I am not the best at cooking them.  Mine always come out too crispy or too soggy, its a mess.  Anyways, I really want to try this Sheet Pan Hash Browns recipe and see if it could be my hash browns savior.

Mango-Carrot-Smoothie-Culinary-Hill-3Wouldn’t this Mango Carrot Smoothie be fun to try? Perfect for a quick breakfast for overnight guests. The recipe only takes FOUR ingredients!

What are you go to brunch dishes?  Do you like heavy casseroles or lighter fruit options?  Tell me below!

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Tried and true simple weeknight meals

March 31
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30 minute or less! Tried and true easy weeknight meals. I have tried and loved all of these super simple recipes. 30 minutes or less and slow cooker options. AmberDowns.net

 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been going through a huge cooking slump.  I am sick of the meals we make but am not interested in learning fancy new meals.  A few months ago I had an inspired week and tried out some simple new recipes and loved them.  Have I gone back and made them again?  No, because I am not smart sometimes.  Anyways, I wanted to share them here as tested and approved simple meals and maybe remind myself about them so that I can try them again next week.  Wish me luck, won’t you?

 

Anyways, without further ado, here are 5 simple meals that are perfect for weeknights.  They do not require special ingredients and, with the exception of the crock pot meals, can be make in 30 minutes or less.  Myself (and sometimes my husband) enjoyed each of these meals and I am looking forward to making them all again.

 

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Crockpot Enchilada Quinoa

This simple meal has become one of go to ideas for dinners and lunches.  Because this is a casserole  type dish it freezes super easy.  I grab a container of it out of the freezer, grab some sour cream, and am ready for lunch at work.  Bonus:  Check pinterest for a enchilada sauce recipe, its super easy!  Don’t have time for the crockpot? Do it in a rice cooker(this is my method) or cook the quinoa on the stove and then bake for 30 minutes in the oven.

 

 

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15 Minute Lo-Mein

This is seriously the easiest, healthiest recipe ever. I grabbed whatever veggies I had in the house and threw them in.  Super fresh and you can make it a different meal every time by switching up the vegetables.

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Honey Lemon Chicken and Pasta

I love how impressive this meal looks.  Fresh lemon and herbs?  It looks like it took all day but really I was done in less than 30 minutes.  I enjoyed it with angel hair pasta and my husband preferred rice.  If you reheat the leftovers in the microwave at work be prepared for questions from staff who are following their nose.

 

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Four Ingredient Baked Pork Chops

I made this recipe with thin pork loin and it was delish.  I love sliced pork loin for a super quick meal, but I am always looking for a new way to prepare it.  This was moist and hearty.  Pair it with peas and applesauce for a trip down memory lane.

 

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Crock Pot Hawaiian Chicken

Crock pot meal?  Count me in.  This was another simple fresh meal that I will be making again and again.  THe fruit  give it a fresh and fancy taste and the crock pot makes it a winner.

 

 

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Upright freezer organization

January 20
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Organize your freezer with dollar tree baskets. DIY budget friendly deep upright freezer organization. Keep your freezer clutter free on the cheap. Perfect for couponers, buying in bulk, families, and anyone else.

I have to admit it, my upright freezer is one of my most prized possessions.  This is of the modern marvels that really makes my days easy.  I do a lot of couponing, so when I find a great deal I love to stock up.  This saves me money and time.  I love having a stockpile of items on hand to make whatever dishes I desire.  Because of my freezer, I can do this.

 

 

I keep items in my freezer organized in plastic bins from Dollar Tree.  Before you go out to buy your bins be sure to measure the size of your freezer to ensure that the bins you purchase will fit your shelves.  Also, check the width if you want two side by side.  I purchased these bins over the last year at my local Dollar Tree.  Check yours to see what they have but make sure they will fit.  Target, Walmart, and other discount stores will also have bins of varying sizes.  If you like, you can make labels for your bins.  I just keep them in the same spot so I don’t need them.

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I divide items in my freezer into five categories.

Meat
Veggies (these take up 2 bins)
Fruit and veggies for smoothies
Dairy (shredded cheese and butter freeze wonderfully)
Meals (frozen meatballs, ravioli, turkey burgers, ect.)

I keep the bottom shelf in my freezer bin free.  This is where I keep our frozen lunches.  When I cook a dish I freeze several servings in individual containers.  My husband and I then use these for lunches at work. I like to keep anywhere from 2-12 servings of meals on that shelf and on the door.  We also keep other random homemade frozen items on the shelf such as our meat and bean taco mix and our salsa. I also keep bulk meat purchases on this shelf.  As you can see, I recently ran into a sale on ground turkey.  I have rain checks to pick up more when I get more space.

I chose a chilly winter day to organize my freezer because I live in Florida and the food will start to melt any other day.  Anyways, go through your freezer and toss out anything you deep down you will never use or is just too old to be any good.  I recommend thoroughly going through your freezer every 6 months to toss anything that is too old or you no longer need. Also, this is a good time to check if it needs to be defrosted.  My freezer is a frost free model, but they all still should be unpacked and looked at.

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My last piece of advice for your freezer is to invest in a refrigerator/freezer thermometer.  I keep mine hanging right in front.  This way, you can open your freezer and feel safe knowing it is working properly.  If you ever see that mercury (or whatever they use these days) rise, then you know you might have a problem on your hands.  I keep my deep freezer at below 0 degrees fahrenheit as is recommended by the FDA.  As you can see my thermometer has a nice bold line to remind me of the temperature to keep. It really helps!

 

You may also want to consider investing in a freezer alarm to alert you if the temperature drops.

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Simple Smoothies

October 20
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Simple Green Smoothies

 

I get a lot of questions about the smoothies my husband and I make so I figured I’d make a post about our system.  Because it’s so easy we have no problem whipping them up before work in the mornings.  We blend in a Ninja blender with the personal smoothie cups.  This is mostly because someone broke the large pitcher and blade by blending a spoon while sick.  We won’t name names of course.  Anyways, we hadn’t used the personal cups much before so when we switched to them it was new.  Personally, (heh) I like them better as they seem to get a smoother blend.  Basically though, use whatever blender you have, I am not going to go tell you to spend $300 on one.

All of our smoothies are green smoothies.  This means we start with a hearty base of mixed greens.  Our favorites are spinach and kale.  We also use collard greens from time to time.  The kale is a little tart so we do a half and half ratio with spinach.  We purchase these in large bags pre washed and then stick them in the freezer.  You are also welcome to use fresh. The recipe we are going over today is for one 12 oz smoothie.  We use 1 cup of spinach and 1 cup of kale as this green base.

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We then add 1/2 to 1 cup water.  After adding the water you will notice that the greens kinda smoosh (yes, this is the official word) to the bottom.  This is good.  Now you have room for everything else. Make sure you put in enough water to smoosh them and almost cover the greens.  This isn’t a science to you may have to play with it.  You can always add more later.  Now this is always where I get asked about why we use water.  The simple answer is I’m lazy.  Water is free, its right next to the blender, and its 0 calories.  Why not use water?  I mean really.

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Next is your banana.  We use a whole banana in each smoothie.  You are welcome to use 1/2 or less, but this is what we like.  The banana gives the smoothie that good thick texture and its a great source of sweetness next to that kale.

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Now comes the fun part.  This is where you add your extra fruit for flavor. Today I used avocado and mango.  Strawberries, blueberries, peanut butter, and apple are other ingredients we enjoy regularly.

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We use chia seeds in all our smoothies as an extra umph.  Curious?  Here is a nice article explaining the benefits.  Around 1 Tablespoon is good. Whatever you do, don’t add these first if you’re using a small blender cup.  They will get stuck on the bottom and never get into the smoothie.

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Now we put on the lid and buzz!  Make sure you run your blender for long enough to get a nice fine blend. This is a smoothie, not a chunky.  Also, if your greens are bunching up at the top of the blender, go ahead and shake them down (with the lid on.)

 

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After you are done blending pour into your favorite up and enjoy!  If your smoothie is too thick add a little water and blend again and you’re good to go.

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So what do you think?  Do you make smoothies at home?  If so what do you do differently?  Any great ideas I need to try?

 

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Rice Cooker Jambalaya

September 16
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The Happy PlannerReview (2)

Today I wanted to share one of my favorite super easy meals.  I discovered this recipe after college when I purchased a rice cooker after my roommate who had one moved out.  After she left I of course knew I couldn’t live without perfect rice and snagged my own on Amazon.  After I got the rice cooker I realized it had so much potential and started researching other easy dishes.  This is one of my favorites and its always a crowd pleaser.

 

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What you need:

1.5 Cups rice.  (I use parboiled, but you can use whatever you like. If you use brown add more liquid.)
1 package kielbasa or whatever sausage you like.  (I prefer turkey)
1 can (15.6 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (8 oz)  tomato sauce or paste
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced bell pepper
1 clove diced garlic
2 TBS butter
1 cup water
1 packet chicken seasoning (or stock)
2 tsp ground pepper
2 tsp chili pepper

Chop kielbasa into slices or halved slices and set aside. Dice onion, pepper and garlic.  Place all ingredients into the rice cooker and turn on.  THAT  IS IT GUYS.

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See? This is it!

 

Variations:

I am lazy, cheap, and hate buying chicken stock so I’ve been using chicken bullion.  If you’re a stock person substitute the bullion and water for a cup of chicken stock.

Picky eaters?  Try taking the tomatoes and veggies and running them through blender for a few seconds.  This will create a nice puree that they won’t even notice.

Like it hot?  Add cayenne pepper.  How much?   Consult an expert. (Not me.) This blogger says 2 tsp but as a non-spicy food eater I’m going to say I don’t know.

Cooking for a crowd?  Go ahead and add more rice.  You could do  2 cups rice and 2 cans of tomatoes if you’d like.  You could skip the sauce then.  It’s mostly for an extra tomato color and kick.

Not a sausage lover?  Add chicken or shrimp or both.  Cook them before adding to the rice cooker.

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Convinced you need a rice cooker now too? Try this one!

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Easy Turkey Chili

August 24
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I don’t know about you but I am always looking for easy, quick, reheatable meals (yes, reheatable is a word now) that don’t require special obscure ingredients.  So many things I see online and in cookbooks require some single use ingredient that I just plain am too lazy to buy.  This easy chili recipe is one of my favorites because it can be made from ingredients that are almost always available in my kitchen.  I enjoy regular chili but often times its a little heavy.  This chili is beef free and about as low-calorie/high protein as you can get.

 

Sometimes it takes two photos to get all of your ingredients in. 

This recipe is adapted from a dish found on @mealprepmondays on Instagram.

1/2  pound ground turkey (chicken or beef can work too in a pinch)

2 cans (16 oz.)  kidney beans  (I like to do light and dark for more color variation.)

1 can (16 oz.) tomatoes (we do crushed, but use what you like/have)

1/2 large onion diced  (more or less to taste)

1 clove minced garlic

1 cup water

1 cup corn (fresh, frozen, or canned)

1 can (8 oz.)  tomato sauce or paste

1 tbsp. chili pepper

1 tsp. cumin

Salt & pepper to taste



Serves 5-7 (Depending on if my father is coming to dinner or not.)

Start by browning your turkey.  Once cooked throughly drain and place the turkey in your large pot.  Sauté onions and garlic until soft or caramelized (Or until you get bored.)

Combine turkey, kidney beans, tomatoes, onion & garlic, tomato sauce and water on medium or medium-high heat.  Add chili pepper and cumin to taste.  I like things pretty mild around here but do what works for you and your family.

I like to cook this for about 20 minutes to let the flavors mush together and then I add the corn for the last five minutes.   This keeps it nice and crisp.

 

Wanna make it a meal?  Chili goes great with cornbread.  We love the Quaker cornbread recipe.

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