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Early Summer Cooking with Blue Apron

Today’s post is sponsored by Blue Apron.

In my household, I do the vast majority of our grocery shopping and meal planning. Most of the time, this makes sense for my husband and me. I work from home. I like cook. I make a podcast about home cooking. And I write about food for a living, for goodness sakes.

However, there are times when I am tired. I run out of ideas and the very thought of coming up with a nutritious, relatively easy to make, and tasty meal feels like a mountain too high to climb. My husband’s answer to these periods is to order take-out. And while that’s an adequate answer in the short term, it’s not a good solution for more than a night or two.

In the last year, I’ve discovered that there is a really good solution to these times when I can’t dream up another hearty, healthy soup, stew, or casserole. Salvation, thy name is Blue Apron.

This is now my third go-round with Blue Apron and this most recent box could not have come at a better moment. Life has been busy. My teaching schedule has ramped up. And I’ve been doing some recipe development for a future project. Finding the mental energy to dream up dinner after spending half the day testing recipes is harder than you might think.

As I unpacked the ingredients for the Crispy Chicken Tenders, the Smoked Trout & Asparagus Salad, and Roast Beef & Farro Salad, I was really impressed by the food I found in the box. The quality of the ingredients was top notch. The portion sizes are perfect for two people. And the flavor combinations were outside my regular wheelhouse, which made the whole thing feel exciting.

Those unfamiliar flavor combinations are one of the things I like most about Blue Apron. I always take away some new culinary tidbit or new-to-me ingredient when I cook my way through a box. This go-round, I discovered that smoked trout is a delicious ingredient and that I always want to eat roasted squash when it is dressed with a couple spoonful of bright gremolata.

I was also impressed by how little packaging there was, particularly compared to my first Blue Apron experience last year. And, if packaging is a concern for you, know that if you can’t find ways to reuse or recycle the materials in your area, it can also be returned through the mail for reuse and recycling.

There’s one other thing that I love about Blue Apron and that’s the fact that the instructions are so approachable that anyone with some basic kitchen sense can tackle the recipe. This means that on nights when I’m simply too spent to cook, I can recruit my husband to handle dinner. Those step-by-step recipe cards give him all the confidence he needs to make a tasty meal.

If you’re intrigued by my experience with Blue Apron, they’ve got an offer for you, too! The first fifty readers to use this link to sign up for the service will get three meals for free on their first Blue Apron order.

Oh, and if you want to take a peek at more of the possible meals you’ll get from Blue Apron, check out their recipe page.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Blue Apron. They sent me a 2-Person box, containing three meals for two people. They’ve also compensated me for my time and attention. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are entirely mine.

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Beeswax Food Wraps from Kentucky Home

This post is sponsored by Kentucky Home (makers of those nifty MasonToGo lids!). To learn more about their new beeswax food wraps, read on!

I started using beeswax food wraps four or five years ago in an attempt to give up my plastic wrap and plastic baggie habit. I was already solidly on the reusable container and jar bandwagon, but hadn’t quite figured out to store food that functioned best when wrapped or swaddled.

When I discovered the beeswax food wraps, I thought my food storage prayers were answered. And while I’ve happily used them from various brands and makers for years, I’ve always struggled a bit with their cost (they can be pricy, particularly if you’re paying for shipping!). That has led to me running a funny mental calculation whenever I’m putting away leftovers or packing food for the road.

I find myself questioning whether the item is worthy of one of my beeswax food wraps. If the item fails to pass muster, I find myself rooting around in the cabinet under the sink for a plastic produce bag to reuse or I pull down the roll of plastic wrap that I’ve been nursing for half a decade. However, thanks to the folks over at Kentucky Home, my beeswax food wrap equation has changed.

Earlier this week, they started selling beeswax food wraps in bundles affordable enough to allow me to simply use them without feeling like I should be saving them for good. Best of all, they’re made right there in Leitchfield, Kentucky by retired farmer Mr. Dale.

So, now that I’m no longer encumbered by worries over cost, how am I using beeswax food wraps? To cover bowls and dishes. While I have plenty of food storage containers with lids, sometimes I just want to throw the leftover grain salad into the fridge in the bowl in which it was made. You just form the wrap around the bowl and then press your hands into it for a moment to soft the wax enough to hold its shape (if you suffer from perpetually cold hands like I do, run them under warm water for a moment to help make the wax behave).

I also now feel free to use them to cover dishes bound for potlucks and other gatherings. While each time I hope that I’ll go home with the wrap I brought, if it does wind up in the trash at the end of the night, I don’t feel the same compulsion to dig for it.

They’re also great to cover cut pieces of fruits and vegetables. Lemon halves, partially eaten avocados, and half-used cucumbers have never looked better or stored more sustainably. If you’re working with a new beeswax food wrap, give it a good crinkling to help work the wax into the fabric and make the surface a little tackier. Then, to keep these bundled bits of produce neatly sealed, give the ends a firm twist and they’ll stay in place for days.

Another way that I like to use beeswax food wraps in to cover sandwiches and snacks that I’m packing for later. One of my errand running tricks is to go first thing in the morning so that the day doesn’t get away from me. When I tackle my to-do list like that, I like to pack a little peanut butter and jam sandwich to bring with me, rather than spend time eating breakfast at home (I’ll also bring a reusable coffee mug so that I can treat myself to a fancy cup without incurring the guilt of a disposable).

Another thing that beeswax food wraps do well is swaddle bread. Whenever I’m deep in a home baking phase, I find myself with needing something to keep my loaves from getting stale. I find that these wraps do a lovely job of keeping a homemade loaf of sourdough fresh for the time it takes us to eat our way through it.

Cleaning the wraps is also a breeze. Just use a little gentle soap and lukewarm water (no super hot water or you’ll start to melt away the wax). Oh, and keep them away from things like raw meat and poultry. When the wraps finally wear out (which they do after about a year of heavy use), they can be composted.

You can buy these affordable beeswax food wraps from Kentucky Home in two different configurations. A 12 pack of 7″ x 7″ wraps (perfect for wrapping up bits of cheese, half sandwiches, and halves of lemons, limes, avocados, apples and more) is just $19.97.

For those of you who want more options in the sizes of your beeswax food wraps, the 7 piece variety pack is your best bet. It comes with one 29″ x 29″ wrap, two 15″ x 15″ wraps, and four 7″ x 7″ wraps.

If you try them, make sure to check back in and share the creative ways you’re using them in your home!

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Instant Pot Pulled Chicken Tacos + Goya Foods

This post is sponsored by Goya Foods. Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with authentic Mexican flavor!

While I readily acknowledge the problematic nature of Cinco de Mayo as it is celebrated around these parts, I also admit to the reality that I am a human who is entirely steeped in U.S. culture. That means that while I am wary of stereotyping and cultural appropriation, come the beginning of May, I begin to crave tacos, spicy salsas, and fresh corn tortillas. It’s weirdly Pavlovian.

Recently, the nice folks at Goya asked me if they could sent me a box of ingredients, in the hopes that I might create my own festive Cinco de Mayo meal. Never one to turn down a challenge, I was happy to play along (though painful conscious of the opportunities to be offensive).

After a bit of mulling, I decided that the best thing I could do would be to show you my favorite pulled chicken taco trick and let you determine how and when to serve it. Because truly, this chicken is easy, everyday food that is hugely flexible and quite delicious (on any day of the year).

You start with about three pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs. Because my mother taught me to be compulsively thorough about such things, I like to spend a little time cutting away pockets of fat (this step isn’t entirely necessary, but makes me feel better). Then I season the meat on both sides with salt, pepper, ground cumin, and dried oregano (opening the bottle of cumin from Goya made me realize that the jar on my shelf needs to be thrown out. Theirs was so much more flavorful!).

Once the meat is seasoned, I heap it into the Instant Pot. Then I pour two pints of homemade salsa* and a generous tablespoon of crushed garlic into the blender and puree until mostly smooth. The salsa slurry goes into the pot and the lid goes on. I run the Instant Pot on manual for 30 minutes.

If you don’t have an Instant Pot, you can also do this in a stove top pressure cooker for 25-30 minutes, in a regular sauce pan for a couple of hours, or in a slow cooker for 5-6 hours.

While the chicken cooks, I dice an onion and a red pepper and cook them until tender. Once they’re sweet and have lost their crunch, I add a can of black beans (love the easy pull tabs on the Goya cans. I weirdly hate can openers, so these cans spare me that annoyance) and season it with salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, and a little lime juice.

I also shred a little cabbage and toss it with salt, lime juice, and olive oil for a little taco crunch.

When the chicken is done, it’s time to assemble the tacos. Toast a couple corn tortillas until warm and pliable. Using a pair of tongs, squeeze a portion of the pulled chicken until you think it won’t saturate your tortilla with juices and lay it down. Top it with a few crumbles of cojita cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and some of the shredded cabbage (a slice of avocado and some fresh cilantro would be good, but I didn’t have any).

Serve with a side of the beans (or heap those into their own tortillas).

Oh, and if you have leftover pulled chicken, try using in a enchilada casserole or thin the cooking liquid out and turn it into tortilla soup. It’s also good stirred into a pot of homemade chili.

*You can also use store bought salsa. You just want to have between 28-32 ounces of liquid go into the pot. I’ve also done with peach salsa to delicious effect. Truly, it’s hard to go wrong with boneless skinless chicken thighs!

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A Late Winter Cooking Reset with Blue Apron

Today’s post is sponsored by Blue Apron

In the fall, when the days first begin to turn cold and crisp, I am elated. I cannot wait to pull out my biggest soup pots and braising pans to start making hearty, weather-appropriate food.

However, by the end of the winter season, I am weary of my regular dinners and am hungry for fresh inspiration. Often I turn to cookbooks to help break up the routine. When that doesn’t work, I call on Blue Apron and their chef-designed meal kits.

My first encounter with Blue Apron came last year, when Scott got a 2-person box as part of his podcast’s sponsorship. Thanks to the photo-filled recipe cards, he was able to make a trio of tasty dinners without a lick of help from me.

I wrote about my second go-round with Blue Apron back in September. That time, I had the family-sized box sent to my sister’s house while I would be there visiting. I cooked dinner for them and scored some major houseguest points.

This time, I planned the box for the week before I was leaving town for a four-day conference. Busy and lacking inspiration is almost always the perfect formula for a week of takeout, but not this time. Blue Apron to the rescue!

Another reason why getting Blue Apron just before leaving town was such a good idea is that is prevented food waste. Scott isn’t one to do a lot of cooking for himself, so if I’d left a fridge full of ingredients for him to use, they would have withered and wilted while I was away. The perfectly portioned Blue Apron meals meant that there was nothing to throw out.

We had Chicken Yakinuki (I particularly loved the simple shredded carrot salad), Tangelo & Honey Glazed Salmon (remind me to use cooked apples in savory applications more often), and Smokey Pork Burgers (why aren’t pork burgers more of a thing? They were so delicious!).

One of the things I like most about Blue Apron is the fact that the I always take away some new culinary tidbit when I cook my way through a box. Going forward, I’ll be cooking my farro like pasta and will always roast broccoli at 475F (my typical temperature had been a lazy 400F, but no more!). I also appreciate that you can access all their recipes online.

One of the worries that people often have about Blue Apron is the amount of packaging involved. I was pleased to see that there was less packaging this time than in past orders, and that all users can now return the packing materials through the mail for reuse and recycling.

The fried rosemary garnish in this salmon dish was another tidbit I will take with me. I always thought that frying herbs was a fussy step, best reserved for restaurant meals, but I am converted. Quickly pan-fried in a shallow puddle of olive oil, the rosemary became fragrant and crisp.

The aforementioned farro! When you cook it in ample water, you don’t have to worry about the pot boiling dry. When the farro is tender, you just drain and dress.

If you’re intrigued by my experience with Blue Apron, they’ve got an offer for you, too! The first fifty readers to use this link to sign up for the service will get three meals for free on their first Blue Apron order.

Oh, and if you want to take a peek at more of the possible meals you’ll get from Blue Apron, check out their recipe page.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Blue Apron. They sent me a 2-Person box, containing three meals for two people. They’ve also compensated me for my time and attention. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are entirely mine.

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Glass Spray Bottle with Soap Flakes from the MightyFix by MightyNest

I have always had an affinity for things made from glass. Even in the days before this jar-focused website wasn’t even a glimmer in my eye, I opted for things made out of glass whenever possible. It feels good in the hand, has a pleasing heft, and never, ever absorbs the smell of the thing you’ve kept in it. Plus, it is easily recycled when you decide that an object has reached the end of its useful life.

In recent years, I’ve really enjoyed seeing the increased availability of glass spray bottles. Once just the domain of Martha Stewart home shoots, it’s now quite easy to get one’s hands on a lovely, refillable glass spray bottle. One such delightful bottle is the Meliora K. Glass Spray Bottle with Soap Flakes available from MightyNest.

This spray bottle comes with a tablespoon of unscented soap flakes inside. You fill up the bottle with warm tap water, give it a good shake, and have the perfect all-purpose cleaning spray that is safe and effective for every corner of your home. The FIX bottle comes with extra soap flakes (enough to make two more bottles of cleanser) and you can additional refills from MightyNest.

For the rest of this month, new subscribers to the MightyFix from MightyNest will get their very own glass spray bottle with soap flakes as their first month of the FIX for just a buck. If this deal interests you, just click here to place the bottle (with discount attached!) into your cart! And if the code doesn’t work for you, just use the code FIJGLASSBOTTLE at check-out.

Just to recap, if you use this link or the code, you’ll get your first fix for just $1. New folks only. Canadian and Australians are welcome to join the Fix for a small shipping surcharge.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. MightyNest is a Food in Jars sponsor and helps keep this blog afloat. 

 

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Duralex Snack Set from the MightyFix by MightyNest

Thanks to the arrival of this fresh, new year, we’ve been talking a lot about challenges, resolutions, and goals here at Food in Jars HQ. I’ve loved reading about your canning and preserving goals here and on the FIJ FB Community page and hearing your responses to the cooking resolutions Joy and I shared on Local Mouthful this week.

Before all this productive intention setting energy escapes us entirely, let’s talk about another set of healthy habits that I’m trying to build in this new year. Yes, that’s right. I want to be a better packer of snacks in 2017.

In my adult life, I’ve never been great at being prepared for those moments when hunger strikes and I’m out in the world. Most of the time, this lack of preparation results in a large bag of cheesy popcorn finding its way into my grocery cart or basket. I then inhale half the bag while driving home.

However, I’m ready to change all that and thanks to my friends at the MightFix, I have the world’s most charming containers to tempt me into tucking small snacks into my bag. These adorable Duralex containers can hold a few nuts, some dried fruit, or even some sliced up vegetables and they’re so cute that I WANT to fish them out of my tote instead of springing for the popcorn.

You might be thinking to yourself that I’m crazy to use glass containers, but Duralex containers are made from tough tempered glass that is 5x times sturdier than typical glass. And if you choose to tuck leftovers into these containers rather than an emergency snack pack, know that they’re safe for the microwave, dishwasher, or freezer.

For the rest of this month, new subscribers to the MightyFix will get these sweet Duralex containers as their first month  of the FIX. And it will only cost you a buck. $1. That’s right, a single dollar will bring you the tools to help create healthy habits all year long. And if you get yourself a yearlong subscription, each month of 2017 will bring a little treat in the mail.

You might get a set of wool dryer balls to replace your dryer sheets. Or a new water bottle so that you can ditch single-use plastic bottles forever. Perhaps a set of Bee’s Wrap, might help you finally kick the plastic wrap habit.

To sign up for a full year of the MightyFix for just $99, head this way. Offer expires January 31, 2017! MightyFix is currently available to US customers with free shipping. Canadian and Australian MightyFixes ship for a small fee. Full shipping details here.

When you follow this link, the discount will be automatically applied. You should see a note at the top of the page when you click over that says that the promo code has already been applied. However, if you don’t see that, you can also use the code FIJDURALEXFIX.

Here’s to healthy habits in 2017!

 

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