Archive | sponsored post RSS feed for this section

The Dinnertime Hand-off with Blue Apron

Today’s post is sponsored by Blue Apron.

Over the last year, I’ve had several opportunities to write about my experiences with Blue Apron meal kits. I’ve shared how I used them to be a good houseguest, how they helped me avoid take-out while preparing for a conference, and how they bumped me out of my weeknight dinner rut.

This time, our box of three meal kits (we get the plan designed for two people. Bigger households might like the family plan better) made all the difference during a week when I down with a rotten cold. Here’s why. Most of the time, when I make dinner, all the information lives in my head. I don’t follow a lot of recipes and often simply improvise with what we have.

This is an approach that works well for us when I’m functioning at the top of my game. But on those nights when I am sick, tired, or have to teach a class, keeping everything in my head makes it hard for Scott to step in and make dinner happen.

However, when we have a Blue Apron recipe to make, the hand-off is seamless. We’ve already got all the high-quality ingredients necessary, so there’s no shopping necessary. Then, I can start things, tell him exactly what I’ve done, and he can simply pick up where I’ve left off. Being able to surrender dinner responsibility to him without worry made all the difference for me this week. It was magical.

Another really exciting thing that happened for us with this Blue Apron box was the fact that one of the recipes helped push the boundaries of Scott’s culinary comfort zone. The chef-designed recipe for Chicken Tagine with Cherry Tomatoes, Dates, and Couscous initially did not speak to him (he’s not typically a fan of dried fruit in savory dishes). But after his plate was clean, he said he enjoyed it and would happily eat something like it again. Score one for Blue Apron!

In addition to the Chicken Tagine, we also had these Heirloom Tomato, Lamb, and Beef Burgers with Loaded Cheesy Potatoes (the burgers were really good, but those potatoes were amazing!) and the Fairytale Eggplant and Mozzarella Pizza (another winner).

One of the worries that people often have about Blue Apron is the amount of packaging involved. I continue to be impressed with how the amount of packing materials seems to reduce with every order I receive (and most of it is recyclable). If you can’t recycle the materials in your area, you can also opt to return the packing materials through the mail for reuse and recycling.

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 Aproncheck 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.

Comments { 3 }

Canning Peaches with True Value

I’m partnering today with True Value to share some canning tricks and recipe for canning peaches in syrup. Make sure to read through to the end for a chance to win a $50 True Value gift card! 

As someone who does a lot of canning, I am often asked about my favorite places to get canning jars and equipment. One of my favorite places to recommend is True Value hardware store. Most locations carry the canning basics (though it’s always a good idea to call your local store and ask about their stock before hopping in the car).

If they don’t have it in stock, you can almost always order the jars online and use their ship-to-store option. That way, you can get exactly what you need, you don’t have to pay for all those heavy jars, and you support a local business.

For this post, I took a little field trip out to a True Value location near me. They had a wide range of jars, as well as pickling salt, basic canning tools, a copy of the latest edition of the Ball Blue Book, and even a replacement pressure canner weight (while it looked like it had been there for awhile, those things don’t expire, so it was still good).

I came home from my outing with three cases of jars (regular mouth half pints, wide mouth half pints, and some of the new smooth-sided pints). I also picked up a new utensil set, some extra lids (because while jars and rings can be used over and over, the flat lids can only be used once), and some pickling salt (I was out!).

Any time you tackle a canning project, you want to take stock of what you have. You’ll need a large pot to serve as your boiling water bath canner (you can find more detail about that here), as well as a rack to drop in the bottom. This lifts the jars off the bottom of the pot and allows the water to circulate. I often use the flexible silicone trivet pictured above, but a round cake cooling rack is also a really good option.

You also need the tools that come in the canning Utensil Kit (jar lifter, wide mouth funnel, and headspace measure), and a heatproof spoon or spatula with which to stir.

When you’re ready to get started, take the jars out of their packaging. Remove the lids and rings and wash the jars, lids, and rings in warm soapy water. I’ve been in the factory where Ball jars are fitted with lids, boxed, and sealed and it not a sterile environment. Those jars my look clean, but they’re filled with factory dust and residue. Wash them.

Once your jars squeaky clean, fit your rack into the bottom of the canning pot and arrange your jars on top. Fill the jars with warm tap water and then fill the pot up to the rims of the jars.

Set that pot on the stove, add a healthy splash of white vinegar (this helps keep your jars and pot clean, and if you have hard water, will prevent any minerals from depositing on your jars). Bring the pot to boil and reduce the heat to your lowest simmer, to keep the jars warm.

The rule of thumb is that hot food needs to go into hot jars. While mason jars are designed to withstand temperature changes of up to 90 degrees F, any more of a change could cause thermal shock which will lead to breakage.

Now that your jars are ready, it’s time to start making your preserve. We’re in the midst of peach season here in Philadelphia and so I opted to make a small batch of preserved peach quarters, packed in a light syrup. For those of you concerned about the amount of sugar, know that it doesn’t really sink into the peaches too much, and will greatly help prevent the peaches from browning. However, if you prefer, you can also pack these peaches in fruit juice.

First, make the syrup. Combine 3 cups of water with 3/4 cups granulated sugar in a 4 quart saucepan. Add 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice (this is present to help prevent browning) and bring to a simmer. Stir occasionally to ensure that the sugar dissolves.

Cut three pounds of peaches into quarters, remove the pits, and arrange the peaches in a heatproof baking dish (it’s best to do this in your sink). Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Once it is hot, pour it over the peaches and let them sit for 2-3 minutes.

When the time is up, run cold water over the peaches. Provided that the peaches were ripe enough (peeling underripe peaches is torture), the peels should lift off easily. As you work, gently slide each peeled peach quarter into the hot syrup so that the amount of time the peaches are exposed to the air is limited.

Once all the peaches are peeled and in the pot, bring the syrup to a boil and cook for one minute. Remove the pot from the heat. Pull the hot canning jars out of the canning pot and arrange them on a folded kitchen towel. Position a wide mouth funnel on top of a jar and use a slotted spoon to portion the hot peach quarters into the jars.

Top the jars with syrup and use a utensil like a wooden chopstick or the bubbling tool that comes in the utensil kit to ease out any trapped air bubbles. Fill the jars with syrup, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.

Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel. Center a clean lid on the jar and apply the ring. Tighten it only until it meets resistance. You don’t want to overtighten it, as that could cause the lid to buckle during processing. Place the jars in the canner, put the lid on, and bring the pot up to a rolling boil. Process the peaches in your canning pot for 20 minutes (if you live at elevations above 1,000 feet, you’ll need to increase your processing time. Check out the chart here).

When the time is up, turn off the heat, pull the canner off the hot burner, and remove the lid. Let the jars cool in the canning pot for five minutes (this helps prevent liquid from siphoning out of the jars and produces a stronger seal). Once that time is up, remove the jars from the pot and set them back on the folded kitchen towel.

Let them cool undisturbed for at least 12 hours. Once that time is up, check the seals. If the lids are concave and seem strongly adhered to the jars, you are good. Wipe any sticky residue off the jars and store in a cool, dark place. For the best quality peaches, eat them within a year.

This post was written in partnership with True Value hardware. As part of our agreement, they gave me $100 to spend on canning gear at my local shop. I only ended up spending about half what they allocated and so I’ve decided to share the remaining $50 True Value gift card with one of you! Please use the widget below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of True Value. The opinions and text are all mine.

POST DISCLAIMER
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of True Value. The opinions and text are all mine.
READER COMMENT DISCLAIMER
Comments submitted may be displayed on other websites owned by the sponsoring brand.

Comments { 102 }

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.

Comments { 1 }

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!

Comments { 6 }

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!

Comments { 7 }

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.

Comments { 5 }