Hello Fresh! vs. Blue Apron Round 1 (January 25, 26, 2017)
Jan 29th, 2017 by Katekoster

This week we wanted to have a cook-off between a box from Blue Apron and a box from Hello Fresh! (both meal kit companies).  We have tried Blue Apron in the past and had good results so we were pretty confident they would make a good showing.  Unfortunately they completely failed.  They didn’t even make it to the starting line…their box never showed up.  Their delivery service first said it was delivered and then told us it had been delayed so long it was no longer deliverable (since it had perishable foods).   Blue Apron did give us a refund and credit but still pretty epic fail.  (Maybe we will give Blue Apron another chance…what do you think?)

So even though Hello Fresh! won, just by showing up, we still wanted to review their meals.  And honestly, they were pretty good that they might have won anyway.  Here’s what we made with Hello Fresh!

Shawarma Meatballs with Bulgur & Sumac Vegetables (Alex)

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There are two really positive things about this meal: first it really didn’t take that long to prepare (less than 30 minutes) and there were lots of vegetables.  It also introduced us to some new flavors: sumac and a middle eastern spice mix.  Here’s what I did:

  • First I started the bulgur (put it in water with chicken stock and salt…a lot like cous cous)
  • Second, I cut the onions, tomatoes, and zucchini into strips, mixed with olive oil and sumac and put them in the oven to raost
  • Then I mixed the ground beef with panko, middle eastern spice blend, salt, and pepper. I formed them into small balls and sauted them in olive oil for 6-10 minutes.
  • Finally, I fluffed the bulgur with parsley and plated (bulgur on the bottom and veggies and meatballs on top…plus sour cream and the extra parsley)

Note I also made a few regular meatballs (with egg, Pecorino Romano and breadcrumbs) to do a taste test against the Hello Fresh meatballs.  Max said mine tasted better 🙂

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The only negatives about this meal: packaging (see photo below).  All the ingredients were tossed in a box so the tomatoes were a little bruised and the parsley packets opened up.


All in all though, I give this meal: A-. It was DELICIOUS…and we cooked with new spices.

Sweet Apple Pork Chops with Cauliflower Mash & Snap Peas (Max)

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I really liked the idea of this meal because we cook pork chops a lot and serve it with home made apple sauce, so having an actual sauce with apples in it to pour over the pork sounded like a good idea.  I didn’t like the idea of mashing the cauliflowers in with the potatoes though.  I think both are better by themselves.  Also the instructions were a little unclear: it didn’t say anything about peeling the potatoes before you cook them (which you usually do when you make mashed potatoes) so I did it anyway…  Here’s the steps:

  • Peel, cut and boil potatoes. (note the instructions didn’t say to peel potatoes but we did anyway.
  • Chop and boil cauliflower (note instructions said to boil with the potatoes but we wanted separate mashes)
  • Trip sugar snap peas and start roasting in oven
  • Sear pork chops in sauce pan with salt and pepper and thyme*, then finish in pan with peas
  • Peel, core and chop apples and sautee with butter and chicken concentrate (that’s your sauce) (note again the instructions didn’t specify to peel or not, so we did)
  • Mash your potatoes and cauliflower and plate with pork chops and snap peas; top pork with sauce

*Be careful with the thyme, we only used HALF of what they recommended but it was still too strong…THYME is a really strong herb.

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The negatives about this meal were that the instructions were a little unclear (to peel or not?), and called for too much thyme.  The thyme took away from the unique taste of the pork chop when you really want to bring that out. The apple sauce wasn’t as good as our own, and the combination of thyme with the apple sauce really tastes bad. The positives were that pork tasted great and we had lots and lots of sugar snap peas. Plenty of vegetables for all (unlike the meager portions of veggies usually found in Blue Apron).  All in all I give this meal a B.


More Blue Apron Dinners (January 16 and 17, 2017)
Jan 25th, 2017 by Katekoster

Last week we tried a couple more Blue Apron dinners but didn’t have time to review them.  Alex mostl made the first one: Italian Meatloaf with Cauliflower and Fregola Sarda Pasta, because Max was at soccer practice. And Max mostly made the second one, Za’atar Chicken Souvlaki with Tahini-Yogurt Sauce & Roasted Potatoes, because Alex was at soccer practice.  (We say mostly because these were school nights so mom had to help out alittle.) Both recipes were pretty good but unfortunately were missing we some ingredients so we had to improvise.  Also (and sorry to say this Blue Apron) but some of the red onion for the Chicken Souvlaki was rotten.  We love your recipes but you got get your logistics in order!! Come on, missing ingredients and rotten onions??

Italian Meatloaf: So this was a pretty straight forward recipe: mix ground beef, onions, tomatoes for a meatloaf (reserving some of the tomato sauce to put on top).  The only problem was that instead of putting it in a loaf pan to cook, Blue Apron wanted us to wrap it in foil and bake.  Certainly a good idea if you don’t have a loaf pan. But how are you supposed to check to see if it is done?  You have to peel back REALLY HOT tin foil to check it.  Yikes! Get a loaf pan…also it’s hard to see if the meatloaf is actually done because it steams in the foil (and sticks to it:).  Also we were really excited about the Fregola Sarda Pasta, which the recipe said to cook with roasted cauliflower.  The pasta looked a little like pearl couscous in the directions but we never actually saw it because it wasn’t in our Blue APron box.  So we substituted regular dry spaghetti and roasted the cauliflower as a side dish.  Still delish, but we still want to try that Fregola Sarda Pasta! PS: LOVED the roasted cauliflower by itself, even though that wasn’t exactly how we were supposed to cook it.

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Za’atar Chicken Souvlaki: We were so excited to try this recipe because we went to Greece two summers ago and one of our favorite dishes was chicken souvlaki.  The recipe sounded terrific and was pretty straight forward: roast potatoes; chop onions and chicken and sautee them together; mix with spices (Za’atar); mix yogurt with tahini; serve on pita bread with lettuce.  Unfortunately:1) we were missing the main spice for the chicken: Za’atar; 2) the onion was partially rotten; and 3) the tahini for the yogurt sauce was also missing.  We managed to pull it off, however, by mixing some cumin with the chicken instead of Za’atar; only using half the onion; and adding cucumbers and scallions to the yogurt sauce.  Frankly, since every souvlaki we had in Greece had cucumber and tomatoes (as well as lettuce), it was a no brainer to add cucumbers to the yogurt sauce.  And then since we were improvising anyway, we added some sliced ripe tomatoes.  The meal was so good!! But we worry that if you weren’t used to cooking, and you were missing all those ingredients, it might not have turned out so well. Plus tomatoes are so essential to souvlaki that we were surprised they weren’t included.  Also, in Greece, the put french fries in the souvlaki so we put the roasted potatoes in ours.

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And just so you know we aren’t making this up: here’s the rotten onion:(




Monday, January 23, 2017: Dinner No. 77: Skirt Steak, Roasted Brussel Sprouts & Brownies
Jan 23rd, 2017 by Katekoster

This weekend we cooked a lot: not just Sunday dinner but we also helped out on Saturday, when we had guests over and made barbecued brisket, baked potatoes, corn-on-the-cob and kale salad.  For Sunday dinner we tried a new cut of meat: skirt steak.  We loved it!  Really tasty and fast to cook.  We did marinate it overnight in a dry spice rub (onion powder, garlic powder, paprika and salt and pepper) but then we just cooked it on high heat about 3 minutes a side.  The key to preparing it, however, is cutting it against the grain.  We also made a huge amount of roasted brussel sprouts (because mom loves them).

Here’s the before, during and after of the skirt steak:

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And the brussel sprouts (quartered, de-cored and tossed in olive oil and salt and pepper)

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And our world famous brownies…  with melted chocolate chip frosting

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Saturday, January 14, 2017: Lego Cake
Jan 14th, 2017 by Katekoster

Today we decided to try out our new Lego cake pan.  We made a simple yellow cake batter, poured it in our lego man flexible cake pan, baked and frosted it.  We had a little cake batter left over so we made some extra cupcakes.  The result was delicious and it made us wonder why people used boxed cake mixes.  This cake was so easy (and we didn’t have to buy anything special) but tasted so much better than a cake mix.

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Here are the ingredients:


And here are the simple steps:

Combine dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder), then mix in the wet/soft ingredients (softened butter, eggs, vanilla and milk).  Pour into ban and bake!

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Saturday, January 7, 2017: Dinner No. 76: Asian Short Ribs and Peanut Noodles
Jan 8th, 2017 by Katekoster

This dinner we wanted to try some new dishes and focus on one specific type of cuisine, Southeast Asian Cuisine. We made Asian Short Ribs and Peanut Sesame Noodles.  What was cool was that there was a lot of overlap in ingredients betwen the two recipes: soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame, seeds, ginger and garlic were all used in both dishes. Also, the dishes both had a sweet indgredient to counteract the spice – brown sugar for the ribs and honey for the noodles.

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Asian Short Ribs


For the short ribs, first we peeled and chopped the ginger and finely minced the garlic. We added that to a large bowl along with soy sauce, beef broth, sesame oil, and brown sugar.

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Then we put the ribs into a slow cooker. After that we poured the mixture in and stirred it until it was well combined. We let if cook on high heat for 7-8 hours.  Then the recipe said to add cornstarch to the ribs and cooking liquid to make it thicker.  But the liquid looked like it had a lot of grease in it and we decided to try out our new grease remover (thanks Mike Holdeman for the recommendation).  We took all the ribs out and set aside.  Then we poured the cooking liquid through our grease remover.  The grease stays at the top and there is a lever at the bottom to release the grease-free liquid. It was pretty cool and we removed almost 12 oz of grease.  After that we added the ribs, liquid and cornstarch back to the slow cooker. We covered it again and let it cook (still on high) for the next thirty minutes.

We garnished the ribs dish with sesame seeds we had browned on the stop top.

Peanut Sesame Noodles


For the noodles, we cooked the normal fettucine pasta till al dente.  While the pasta was cooking we made the peanut butter dressing: we softened creamy peanut butter for fifteen seconds in the microwave. Then we whisked soy sauce, rice vinegar, canola oil, ginger, honey, sesame oil, lime zest/juice into a small bowl. We poured it into the drained pasta. (The dressing should be thick but pourable).

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We chopped up peanuts and sliced scallions and half a head of cabbage.  And then we mixed the pasta and veggies in a large mixing bowl.  Finally we topped the peanut noodles with extra toasted sesame seeds (that we made for the ribs) and the chopped peanuts. Delicious!

Thursday, December 29, 2016: Yucatan Cuisine at La Casona de Valladolid
Jan 3rd, 2017 by Katekoster

Today, after touring the amazing Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza in the Yucatan Penisula of Mexico, we were lucky enough to have lunch at La Casona De Vallodolid, a restaurant specializing in traditional Yucatan cuisine.

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We tried a lot of new things, including: lime soup, poc chuc (roasted pork with bitter orange), cochinita pibil (achiote-marinated pork, slow roasted underground), ceviche and horchata (sweet rice milk).  We also had guacamole (of course) and chips, and for dessert: rice pudding.  It was all delicious and seemed very authentic.  We will have to try out some new Mexican recipes when we get home. Plus after walking around for hours in the hot sun, it was nice to take a break.  The restaurant itself is very beautiful.  It used to be the governor of Yucatan’s home so it is large with beautiful tiles.  And there is a hidden courtyard with a beautiful ceramic fountain (see photo above). Definitely worth a stop if you are visiting Chichen Itza or Valladolid.


Poc chuc and lime soup


Cochinita Pibil




Rice Pudding

Wall decorations

Wall decorations




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