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That time I tried Instacart.

App life.

A few weeks ago, my Jeep was in the shop and I was without a rental car (it’s the gift of Jeep that keeps on giving). So, I was taking Lyfts all over the city, but after ride #4, I was trying to figure out ways NOT to take a Lyft.

This included making efforts to bum rides (in exchange for pool use and homemade pizza), using the workout room at my apartment complex instead of going to the dance studio, and trying Instacart.

I posted on Facebook to see if anyone I knew tried it, and sure enough, I got someone who said they loved it, and offered me a coupon for $10 off! I actually have a coupon to share now, too, so use it, y’all.

So, Instacart basically allows you to have your groceries delivered, and you choose where you want the food from, and pick exactly what you want.

I put in my zipcode and was given a list of stores available to me, including Whole Foods, HEB, and Target, among others. Once I picked my store, then I started shopping.

I had my grocery list, so I simply searched for each item and put it into my cart. You get to see the price for the item (and approximate prices for produce) and brand options.

There is also a note that says your Instacart shopper will look for the freshest, best produce available, but you can also leave notes for the shopper, i.e. I buy green bananas so they will stay good until the end of the week.

You can also apply in-store coupons to your purchase, which I was pleasantly surprised by. The only advice I’ll give is that you can’t read the product labels with this program. So, don’t buy anything new! Unless you’re not like me – I read ALL the details on the labels.

Okay, so once you’ve gotten everything you want in your cart, you schedule your delivery. You can have your groceries delivered anywhere from 1-hour, 2-hours, or you can even schedule a day later in the week! This has got to be the coolest feature and it will keep me coming back. I like to get my groceries on Friday right after work; think if I just had them delivered to my apartment by 6pm instead of having to go to the store? YES!

Once I set my delivery time and paid, I got text updates to let me know when my shopper had started shopping. There were two items the store was out of, so she replaced the items and it asked for my approval. There’s also an option to chat with your shopper.

I got a message when she finished shopping, and also got an estimated time of arrival, which was right on the DOT. And because you can tip within the app or through the web browser, there’s not real interaction during “drop-off”. I opened the door and she handed me the bags – that’s it!

All of my grocery items were in fine condition, and I got everything I ordered. I will definitely be using this service again!

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Green Chef is BACK (A giveaway)!

That’s right, I took a little break from ordering weekly boxes of Green Chef, but it’s baaaaack and I want to share it with you! But, details on that in a bit.

You see, when I moved to Texas almost two years ago, I ventured to the oh-so-popular H.E.B. But what I found is a lot of people who don’t have a grocery list, so they are left wandering aimlessly through the aisles and even forming LINES at the milk fridge.

My anxiety just couldn’t handle it, so I signed up for a meal delivery kit: Green Chef. I picked this one in particular because it’s the only one that’s truly organic, and I’m not a fan of eating pesticides. Since then, I pretty much ate my Green Chef meals until I felt ready, and even a little excited, to get out to the grocery again.

If you’re not familiar, many meal delivery kits such as Green Chef, send fresh ingredients right to your doorstep. My Green Chef plan sends enough of the good stuff to make at least six meals (two meals per included recipe) – but often, it’s enough food for extra meals, depending on how hungry you are.

Originally, I chose the “Carnivore” plan, which included all sorts of different meat and fish. However, I recently switched (you can switch at any time) to the vegetarian plan, as I have moved to a more plant-based diet.

I skip the meals that include tofu or tempeh (I’m just not a fan), but have had some delicious meals along the way. And this is why I’m so excited to share a free week of organic meals with FOUR of you!

There really is no fee, and no obligation to continue the service, just accept your free box, and then cancel the service if you don’t want to continue. If you decide to keep the service, remember, you can skip weeks at no charge – I skip all the time, and it’s really no problem.

So, if you want to win a free box of organic food, simply follow me on Instagram @OrangeJulius7 and fill out the quick form below. If you win, you’ll receive an email with your Green Chef code.

Easy enough, right?

If you have any questions about the service in general, feel free to comment on the blog – I’ve used it long enough I should be able to handle it 🙂 Happy contesting!

Queso me crazy?

Queso Fundido from ‘What’s Gaby Cooking’!

I know I’ve written a few posts about my resolutions and goals for 2017, but there’s one tiny thing I haven’t mentioned: I kind of wanted to enter some sort of contest, particularly a cooking contest. I don’t really know what brought it on, although I’d be lying if I said the episode of “Real Girl’s Kitchen” where Haylee enters a Texas pie contest really had me curious.

Sure, I’ve entered in writing contests all the time (and happily lose them one-by-one), but I also love to cook, and I’m always saying that I’m getting tired of impressing MYSELF in the kitchen, right? What better way to see what you’re made of than by entering a contest?

A few weeks ago, I randomly came across a Tweet that was advertising a local food contest, with all of the money going toward charity. Sounded right up my ally, so I saved it for a later day.

Upon further inspection, this contest is the 7th annual “Quesoff”, allowing anyone to enter, and all of the proceeds and donations go to the Austin Food Bank. Umm, yes! If you remember, another one of my goals for 2017 was to “Just go for it”, so I did, without really considering it.

Yep, it’s official, Team Bitter Lemon is a contestant in the 7th Annual Quesoff, which takes place at the end of August.

…Which is probably a good thing, because… I’ve never made queso. That’s right, I entered a contest to make something I’ve never made. Awesome.

Of course, it doesn’t seem that competitive and it’s for a great cause, so it’s whatever, but you better believe I want my queso to be delicious. It should also be noted that I’ve entered my (so far non-existent) queso into the “Meaty” category, so it’s got to have meat.

While I do not consider myself a queso connoisseur, I already know that I’d like to make a white queso that features lean, shredded meat with a smoky flavor, possibly duck. I also want it to be nice and spicy (edible, of course).

I haven’t tried recipes as of yet, but I have recruited some local foodies to my team, and I’ve rounded up several folks to help me taste recipes as I jump into this cheese wave of summer. It’s gonna be a fun one, I can promise you that.

In general, we use the term “queso” to describe a delicious bowl of melty cheese, often enjoyed with nacho chips. But of course, queso refers to cheese; queso blanco is white cheese; queso fresco is fresh cheese.

There are so many different ways to make queso – with several cheeses, meat, beans, spices, tomatoes, chiles… the possibilities are endless!

While this endeavor doesn’t really go with my current diet, I’m going to have fun testing out new recipes for the contest. The Bitter Lemon will NOT be embarrassed showing up in Queso country with a first timer cheese dip! Let the cheesing begin…

Yep, I just geeked out over groceries.

Introducing Whole Foods’ 365 stores.

Friday after work, I decided to venture slightly north to an area of Texas I’ve come to know well – Cedar Park, near where the Texas Stars hockey team plays. I’d recently learned about a new store opening there, a 365 by Whole Foods Market.

So, I took the 20 minute drive and ended up in a new, really nice shopping center, complete with the freshly minted market. Supposedly, the 365 versions of Whole Foods are a test for the company, and the one in Cedar Park is one of five in the country. These stores are smaller, and house more of the 365 brand products, and are supposedly more affordable than the Whole Foods megastores we’re used to.

I went to the store with a list of things I needed for the week, but also kept the mindset that if they didn’t have what I needed, I’d just get what looked good and hit up my usual H.E.B. later. As I was walking up to the store, I noticed nearly all of the picnic tables outside were filled with people having dinner and drinking fresh juice.

Once I got inside, I could see why: the store had two counters to order food, pizza sold by the slice, ready-made sushi, a coffee counter, and a Juice Land. Major score for those living nearby, and especially for those working inside the shopping center.

At first, I was thinking the place looked a little small (like a Trader Joe’s) and there was no way they were going to have the things I needed. But, I grabbed the produce I needed and then thoroughly checked out the bulk aisle, where I got a big bag of trail mix for $6.

Next up was meats and frozen goods, where they had a bin of Mochi – a Japanese treat made from rice flour. I had never seen it before – it looks like a bath bomb – but I Googled it immediately. Hmm, ok, cool, they’ve got new things here, I thought.

As I left the olive bar, I discovered there was an entire other side to the store that had aisles, along with a section for fresh-baked goods. I went down every aisle, checking things off my list one-by-one. I even picked up a few unique bottles of wine, and got some decently healthy crackers for the salmon salad I planned on making.

But, the geeking out didn’t truly happen until I rounded the corner for the ready-made aisles. There was the sushi (a favorite of mine – I love the rolls with brown rice), and also ready-made meals from Snap Kitchen.

And then, there, under the light from the heavens was the section for cold coffees and energy drinks. For the first time ever, I saw it: Blue Bottle Coffee – right in front of my face.

“Oh my God,” I whispered under my breath. “It’s here!”

There’s only three Blue Bottle locations in the US – two are in California and one is in the Northeast. I discovered it via Instagram and have only drooled over the thought of the stuff given its hefty price tag and that I’d have to have it shipped. But there, on the shelf, was their NOLA iced coffee packaged in small milk cartons, right beside little cans of their cold brew.

It took every ounce of my insides not to do two things: 1. squeal with delight, and 2. put my arm on the shelf and slide it across it in a manner that would place all 40 cartons and cans into my cart.

It was then I realized my life has really turned a corner: There I was, 7pm on a Friday, Cinco de Mayo, and I was talking to myself over gourmet cold brew. Sing it with me, “I don’t know about you, but I’m feelin’ thirty twoooo-o-o-o-o!”

Amirite?

My geeking out didn’t stop there, because I soon discovered bottles of Picnik’s paleo butter coffee, along with a wide collection of Evolution’s pressed juices.

Needless to say, my fridge is really happy right now… even opening it makes me smile. As I write this, I’ve been eating olives from the olive bar, cheese, sesame crackers, salami, and sipping some sangiovase rose. It’s fantastic.

So there. I don’t know how often I’ll make the trek (and fork over the money) to hit up the 365 Market, but it sure was fun while it lasted… and now I have the joy of eating all this delish, healthy stuff!

What’s cooking.

In these last few weeks, I’ve been having a lot of fun cooking at home. Don’t get me wrong, I usually cook my own meals, but of course, as everything, it goes in waves. Sometimes I’m really excited to cook and I look up recipes, sometimes I just get chicken and veggies and eat it until I can’t anymore, and other times, well I skip the grocery altogether and order Green Chef for weeks on end.

Right now, I’m really trying to eat healthier meals at home, and instead of eating out, I am attempting to make more fun meals at home that I look forward to eating. I’m on a mission to feel better, look better, all by eating better, and of course, dancing my butt off.

So, I’ll share some recipes I’ve been living off of lately, most of them are from Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook, “Cravings“, and one is from “What’s Gaby Cooking” – one of my favorite food bloggers as of late.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

When I got my first apartment as a single woman in Baton Rouge, I lived within blocks of a P.F. Chang’s. I ordered takeout probably once a week, and I usually got their chicken lettuce wraps. I also gained weight, because even though they looked healthy, they were NOT.

So you can imagine my delight when I saw a very similar-looking recipe in Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook. I made them, and packed them in my lunch right alongside coconut rice (recipe below) and it was to DIE for.

INGREDIENTS

  • Sauce
    3 Tbsp. Thai sweet chili sauce
    3 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
    3 Tbsp. light soy sauce
    2 Tbsp. Sriracha
    2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
    1 tsp. sesame oil
    1½ Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
    2 Tbsp. minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
    1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
  • Filling
    1 lb. ground chicken
    3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
    8 scallions, thinly sliced, whites and greens kept separate
    1 Tbsp. minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
    1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
    ½ pound white mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned, and finely chopped
    ½ cup finely diced canned water chestnuts
    1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
    2 heads butter lettuce, leaves separated

DIRECTIONS

    1. Make the sauce: In a bowl, combine the chili sauce, hoisin, soy sauce, Sriracha, vegetable oil, sesame oil, vinegar, garlic, and ginger.
    2. In a bowl, mix 2 Tbsp. of the sauce into the ground chicken.
    3. In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. of the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. When shimmering-hot, add the chicken and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer the meat to a plate and set aside.
    4. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp. oil to the skillet, then add the scallion whites, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
    5. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they release their liquid, 3 to 4 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan, then add the water chestnuts, bell pepper, and the rest of the sauce and cook, stirring, until cooked through and the liquid has reduced and thickened slightly, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the scallion greens.
    6. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set out with the lettuce leaves.

Sweet and Salty Coconut Rice

…I mean the name pretty much says it all, but this shit is so good, and shockingly pretty guilt-free. I made the first batch of this for the chicken lettuce wraps, and then and second batch to go with a recipe I found on Pinterest (I’ll talk more on this next week). I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of this rice – yum!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups jasmine rice
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

DIRECTIONS 

  1. In a dry saucepan, toast the coconut flakes for a few minutes until they brown.
  2. Place toasted coconut to the side.
  3. Add full can of coconut milk, 1 can full of water, sugar, rice and salt to saucepan.
  4. Stir and bring to low boil.
  5. Cover and cook just like you would any other rice. Once done, fluff and add toasted coconut to the top. Serve!

Sweet Chili and Mustard-Glazed Salmon Fillets

It’s been a long time since I’ve treated myself to homemade salmon; it’s always kind of expensive, but it’s really healthy and filling. Since I have been doing so well not eating out, I decided to put my extra dollars toward the good stuff, and it was well-worth it. I’ve been eating it for dinner this week with brown rice and broccoli and am loving it.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 (6 ounces ) skin-on center cut salmon fillets
  • Salt and pepper for taste
  • 2/3 cup of Thai sweet chili sauce
  • 2 tbs sambal oelek (I couldn’t find this in my usual grocery store, so I skipped it)
  • 2 tbs large grain mustard

DIRECTIONS

  1. Position rack 4-6 inches from the heating element and preheat the broiler.
  2. Season salmon all over with salt and pepper.  In a small bowl stir together the Thai sweet chili sauce, sambal oelek, and mustard.
  3. Pour the mixture into a large cast-iron skillet. Set skillet over medium-high heat until the mixture boils.
  4. Lay the salmon skin side up, in the sauce. Cook the salmon until it turns pale pink about 2 minutes, then move the skillet to the oven and broil until the skin gets crispy about 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add 1/4 cup of water to the skillet and cook over high heat, stirring and scraping until the sauce thickens. Pour the sauce from the skillet onto the salmon. Serve immediately.
Healthy loaded sweet potatoes from 'What's Gaby Cooking'.

Healthy loaded sweet potatoes from ‘What’s Gaby Cooking’.

Healthy Loaded [Southwestern] Sweet Potatoes

As I mentioned earlier, Gaby, from “What’s Gaby Cooking?” is one of my favorite food bloggers. One thing I really love about her is that she hosts weekly Snapisodes on her SnapChat @WhatsGabyCookin and she presents a yummy recipe step-by-step.

She is also completely available to ask questions! I’ve sent her countless cooking questions via SnapChat, and she always helps me out. I try to pay her back by sending her snaps of all of her recipes I’m making!

Anyway, she made this recipe on a Snapisode a few weeks ago, and it looked so easy and yummy, I added it to my list of things to try. Here’s what you’ll need:

INGREDIENTS

    • 4 California Sweetpotatoes
    • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
    • 1 cup frozen charred corn (I used canned ‘Mexicorn’)
    • 1 cup cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
    • 1/3 cup salsa (any variety will work)
    • 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
    • 3 tablespoons chopped chives (I used red onion)
    • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Optional Garnishes:
  • Finely chopped red onion
  • Cilantro
  • Chives
  • Pico de Gallo
  • Salsa
  • Guacamole
  • Sour Cream

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Using a knife or a fork, carefully poke holes all over the sweet potatoes. Place the California sweet potatoes onto a baking sheet and transfer to the heated oven. Bake for 50-60 minutes until fork tender.
  3. Remove the California sweetpotatoes from the oven and slice them open. Scoop out a bit of the inside to make room for the stuffing.
  4. Season the interior with salt and pepper and set aside.
  5. In a medium bow, combine the corn, black beans, cheese, salsa, chives and cilantro and toss to combine.
  6. Using a spoon, stuff each sweetpotato with equal parts of the mixture until overflowing. Add extra cheese on top if desired.
  7. Transfer the stuffed sweetpotatoes back into the oven and let bake for another 10 minutes to melt the cheese.
  8. Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven and sprinkle with optional garnishes. Serve immediately.

See? So easy! And you can pretty much put anything you want on it. I kept it meatless, but you could add shredded chicken or taco meat… whatever! I’m no expert on kids, but I think this would be a good way to get them to eat veggies. I made five of these potatoes and have been packing one to eat for lunch each day, along with 1/2 an avocado that I mash on top. It’s divine!

This week’s menu…

I set several goals for 2017, and none of them included anything about being healthier or skinnier, or more fit this year. But I’m definitely trying to clean up my act after completely letting go during the holidays. I don’t eat out much (unless it’s going to be really, really worth it). I truly believe you can make delicious meals at home, and I love taking meals that might be a cheat and adding healthy twists to them.

Last week, I mentioned two things: 1. I’ve resurrected my Pinterest page, and 2. I have a long list of recipes from Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook, “Cravings” that I want to make.

Since then, I’ve kind of gone nuts on Pinterest – I check it daily, and have been pinning all sorts of ideas, from blog stuff to crafts, and of course, recipes.

Now, don’t get be wrong, I don’t pin the ridiculous stuff. I am realistic about the fact that I’m not hosting a dinner party any time soon, or getting married or having a baby. I don’t like to save stuff that requires unnecessary effort.

For example, when Pinterest first came out, I had a friend who pinned all sorts of crazy recipes even though she didn’t really enjoy cooking. One of these recipes was for “Lasagna Cups” – I think you boiled the lasagna noodles before putting them into muffin tins and filling them with traditional lasagna goods. “Or you could just make lasagna,” I thought.

On the one hand, if it gets you in the kitchen and excited to eat homemade things, then sure, make the lasagna cups. It’s just not for me.

One of the recipes I saved was for “Brown Rice Veggie Sushi” from the Minimalist Baker. I’ve heard good things about the Minimalist Baker – all of her recipes are 10 ingredients or less – from people I follow on Instagram. I decided that was going to be my healthy recipe for the week – I like to have at least one thing for dinner, and one thing for lunch (a perk of being single is that one recipe is usually enough for 4-6 servings).

I chose Chrissy Teigen’s “Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe” from her cookbook, as she said it was the most popular recipe, and it looked super easy to make, not to mention affordable.

So, off to the grocery I went! I have never really purchased Asian ingredients, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the ingredients I needed were available and inexpensive. The recipe calls for brown rice, rice vinegar, and nori (seaweed sheets), and basically any veggies for the filling. I got roasted red bell peppers (which have a very similar texture to raw salmon), avocado, carrots, and cucumber.

To make it, I followed her instructions exactly, only I doubled the recipe because I wanted to have plenty of leftovers to eat during the week. I didn’t have a sushi mat, but I found an inexpensive sushi-making kit on Amazon for next time. My sushi came out super yummy, and delicious! I have a few other sushi recipes that involve shrimp, and now I know I can actually roll it, so I’ll definitely be adding this into my recipe rotation.

For Chrissy’s spaghetti recipe, I tried to make it a little healthier by buying organic whole wheat pasta, and also folding in extra arugula. But yes, I know this recipe is a little bit of a treat – I need carbs for my six dance classes this week, right?!

 Other than that, I followed the recipe as listed in the book and it turned out pretty fantastic! It was spicy, cheesy, and the arugula was crunchy and spicy, too, yummy! Plus, it was very easy to make, and I have lots leftover.

What kinds of things are you cooking up this week? I’m sure you’ll be seeing lots of my homemade meals this year (not promising they’ll all be healthy) and I’d love to hear what’s on your menu!

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Drool-worthy: ‘Cravings’.

Photo Credit: The Daily Meal

Photo Credit: The Daily Meal

I got lots of great gifts for Christmas this year – and I love when you actually get the change to start using the gifts you got, and see just how great they are! One thing I was really excited to get was Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook, “Cravings: Recipes for all the food you want to eat“.

Like her husband John Legend, most of us fell in love with Chrissy on Twitter – she’s the saucy, smart-mouthed chick we all wish we could be. And hey, it wouldn’t hurt if we could also have a body like hers and be a supermodel, jet-setting to the coolest places on earth. But, who’s jealous? Not me. Just kidding, so jealous!

If you follow Chrissy on Instagram, there’s a large possibility you’ve been hit with a pic of one of her amazing homemade concoctions, whether its the pan-roasted bacon, crispy baklava, or creamy tomator soup – it all looks delicious.

I sure thought it was cool that Ms. Teigen not only cooked, but was whipping up some impressive stuff! But the truth is, I didn’t really take her seriously until last Christmas, when John Legend bought her a massive cheese wheel so she could serve pasta, tableside.

If you’ve never been to Italy, perhaps you haven’t seen a cheese wheel in action – I haven’t been to Italy, either, but it is a method of serving pasta. The center is cut from a large cheese wheel, where warm pasta is placed. As the pasta is stirred, the fresh cheese melts into the pasta and then is served. Yum!

Chrissy’s excitement over the cheese wheel was perfection – I knew she was a real foodie. And in her cookbook, she talks a lot about her food experiences as a child; how she helped her mom in the kitchen from a very young age. She also was lucky enough to experience all sorts of foods from her Thai mom and American father.

“Cravings” reflects that, even featuring a Thai chapter with some of her mom’s recipes. And there’s tons of other unique things, such as a tuna casserole topped with jalapeno chips, and how to make a Frito pie bar. Yes!

…So, there’s way more than five recipes in the book that I’ll be cooking, but I didn’t want to give too much away. And probably a majority of these picks are clearly reflective of the fact that I’m still in my “Winter Body” phase and am in no hurry to get skinny. Oh well!

Did you get any cookbooks over the holidays? Or perhaps you’ve dusted off your old ones in attemps to tackle a New Year’s Resolution? I’d love to hear what recipes you’re working on this week (or year)!

BBC: ‘Black Heels to Tractor Wheels’.

Hey, hey! I am back at the office today, and wow is that whole come-down after Christmas ROUGH. It’s like this month-long build up for a single day and then, it’s over. It’s honestly how I imagine me meeting John Mayer for the first time, only on a 16-year scale, with devastating disappointment (don’t tell him I said that though).

The good news is, there’s another long weekend on the horizon, so there’s that to look forward to – wow, my life isn’t pathetic or anything.

But! I did get some reading done over my lil Christmas break, and I’m really excited to talk about Blanche’s Book Club’s latest read, “The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels” by Ree Drummond.

I’ve had this book on my list for awhile, but I sort of forgot about it until I stumbled upon it at the library when I was looking for something else. I couldn’t put off reading it any longer; I figured I could probably use a good (and TRUE) love story in my life. Here’s the scoop from Amazon.com:

Wildly popular award-winning blogger, accidental ranch wife, and #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Pioneer Woman Cooks, Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman) tells the true story of her storybook romance that led her from the Los Angeles glitter to a cattle ranch in rural Oklahoma, and into the arms of her real-life Marlboro Man.

I came across Ree, or “The Pioneer Woman”, for the first time on Food Network, and I came to absolutely love watching her show, “The Pioneer Woman”. She lives on a gorgeous ranch in Oklahoma, and she makes fairly simple (yet delicious) dishes for her family and friends. I’ve made her enchiladas many times, and they never fail to delight!

Her husband, Lad, makes some appearances on the show, and he is very handsome, and he seems really genuine and kind. So, I wasn’t surprised when I read this book and heard the many times she described him as such, only she referred to him as the “Marlboro Man”.

In fact, the book reflected what I assume to be her real-life personality, because it was just how she acts on the show. However, true fans of this Pioneer Woman may have been just as surprised as I was to learn that she was once a big city gal, living in Los Angeles, working in corporate America, drooling over high-end designer clothes, and spending her nights out guzzling martinis. Who would have thought?!

But she did, until her life took an unexpected turn and she ran into this Marlboro Man one night in her home town. A month later, they went on a date… and they’ve basically been inseparable ever since. This is really a love story that touched my heart; one that I really needed to read.

One theme that’s brought up a lot in this book is something I’m still learning and trying to understand about love: that it doesn’t matter how much you embarrass yourself, how silly you are, whether or not your mascara is perfect, or in Ree’s case, just how much you sweat through a gorgeous suit, the one you’re meant to be with is still going to LOVE you.

I’m really glad I got to read this lesson in this way – because Ree’s story is really beautiful, and the way she tells it is sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.

Another cool part about the book is that, of course, Ree talks a lot about food! While it doesn’t quite explain how she got involved in her cooking blog and her show, she discusses the meals she made for Lad when they were dating – many of which she flubbed due to nerves, or simply because she wasn’t an experienced home cook yet.

The back of the book contains recipes for most of the recipes she mentioned, but one stuck out to me the most – the Tagliarini Quattro Formaggi from Intermezzo in West Hollywood. Since angel hair is my FAVORITE form of pasta, I knew I was going to have to replicate this dish… so don’t be shocked if you see it on my social media feed in the near future. But, just in case you want to make it, too, here’s the recipe:

INGREDIENTS: 1 cup of heavy cream, 1 pound of tagliarini or angel hair pasta, 2 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 cup of grated fontina cheese, 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup of grated romano cheese,  4 ounces of goat cheese, salt and pepper to taste, 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, and 1 garlic cloved, halved.

DIRECTIONS: warm the cream in a saucepan over low heat. Prepare the pasta according to package direction, but undercook it just a little so it’s al dente. Drain the pasta and return to the pot and add butter. Next, add the warm cream, and all of the cheeses. Stire gently, allowing the cheese to melt and coat the noodles. Add salt and pepper to taste, and add the nutmeg. Stir to combine. Rub the bowls you’re serving in with the garlic, before scooping the pasta into the bowls. Yum!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman. Read it with us by following and chatting right here on the blog or on social media @OrangeJulius7. Happy reading, y’all!

Weekend at the Alamo (Drafthouse).

Emily Blunt in 'The Girl on the Train'.

Emily Blunt in ‘The Girl on the Train’.

I read “The Girl on the Train” a few months ago, and I just loved it (read my full review here) – and I was counting down the days until the movie adaptation made its way to theaters. But, I’ll also admit I was a little bit scared. It’s no secret that this story is jarring, and violent. Luckily, I had someone to see it with me.

We went to the Alamo Drafthouse, which is where I’ve seen every single movie since moving to Austin. Not familiar with the Drafthouse? It’s your typical movie theater, but it has comfy chairs and tables… and waiters, because there is a full menu and adult beverages. It’s pretty fantastic and I don’t know why anyone would see a movie any other way.

I did have a beer and a burger with this movie – and it helped to ease my nerves a little. So, the premise of the movie is this: (don’t worry, I will alert you before mentioning any spoilers) Rachel, the girl on the train, watches a couple from her train seat. She starts to idolize this couple, as they appear to have a beautiful life and be deeply in love.

Her obsession with the couple and their home derives from the fact that she used to live just a few doors down from them; with her now-ex-husband. He still lives there with his new wife and their baby.

It should also be known that Rachel is an alcoholic, and sometimes it seems as though her drinking is what has built a seemingly low life around her: no friends, no real home, no job, and no real purpose. That is, until, she sees something happen with her ideal couple, all the way from her seat on the train.

Then, she starts a small investigation inside herself as to what could have happened to the couple, and why? But before she can get very far, she’s approached by police and investigators, and they need her alibi, because something really wrong has happened. The problem? Rachel’s drinking has gotten in the way of her memory, and now she’s in deep – but she’s about to get herself in even deeper.

So, okay, I’d already read this book, so I pretty much knew what to expect when going to see the movie. And I’ll say, the movie really brought the book to life – although there were some parts that were definitely more sensationalized, for film’s sake.

However, there were a few themes in the movie that seemed obvious, but I didn’t notice them while reading the book. I don’t know if I just didn’t notice them in the book, or if they weren’t there, and were added into the film. These themes are:

  • Alcohol

Yes, obviously Rachel is an alcoholic, so there is lots of drinking throughout the movie. However, there’s also things outside of the drinking: such as, what people around her think of her drinking – from strangers on the bus and people in the park. Her ex husband also tells her that her drinking is what got him fired from his job – which turns out not to be true. Alcohol is also used as a truth serum, as Rachel is offered it many times in order to tell stories or act a certain way.

  • Memories

The memory is an interesting thing; and sometimes our mind does us favors by altering the way we remember things – which is huge in the movie. In Rachel’s case, she often relies on others to tell her what happened, because she was usually to drunk to recall. However, what if they’re not telling the truth? Then her memory has to make itself up – and she’s technically remembering things that didn’t happen. This really hit home for me. I’ve definitely had my ways with alcohol, and have had many nights where I need to stitch things together in order to remember them. I’ve also been “that girl”, drunk in public, and unaware of my surroundings. Seeing these parts of the movie was jarring to me.

  • Guilt, Blame, and Manipulation

Whew! This one is a difficult one for me. But all of the women featured in this story are in manipulative relationships – and I’d say the saddest part is, many of these seem like typical relationships. There is a lot of blame – blame on Rachel that she couldn’t have children; blame on her for her addiction; blame on the wife because she was too tired to have sex; guilt for the story line with the baby… and a lot of this hit very close to home for me. I’ve been in too many relationships like this, and it’s so damaging. It was very difficult to watch.

  • Women as Meaningless Objects

Another difficult topic here, but I noticed sex was a bigger theme in the movie than what I noticed in the book. And a lot of the sex was just physical – in fact, taking a women into the woods to have sex is so demeaning to me. That’s where people burn trash. And by the things said during those scenes, I’d venture to say the man didn’t give any shit about the woman involved. There was a lot of this attitude that women are basically expected to be sex servants, and that was very difficult to see. And frankly, a lot of what I saw were things women have to constantly worry about, but men do not: walking alone, riding public transportation, being out after dark, being drunk in public, having non-consensual sex, being pregnant, having an abortion, raising children… the list goes on.

None of this is meant to bash the movie, as I thought it was a really great adaptation of the book. However, it was difficult to watch; perhaps my mind was able to only focus on certain things when I was reading it. I drove home from the theatre a little unnerved, and was happy once I got home safe. It’s not a movie I would ever watch again; as it hit me to the core. But, would I recommend seeing it? Absolutely.

Hmm...

Hmm…

Sunday night, I went right back to the Drafthouse to watch the second presidential debate! Before the first one, I saw that the Drafthouse, along with many other restaurants and bars were showing the debates and I thought that sounded like a lot of fun. After all, a presidential election only comes around every four years, and this is one for the books.

And what better place to watch this spectacle than in a movie theatre with beer and burgers? However, my nights during the week are pretty busy with dance classes and my blog class. But a Sunday night, I can handle.

I was happy to see that upon arrival, there were booths set up to help people register to vote, since the deadline is TODAY! I thought this was so neat! Once I got into the theatre, there were little American flags at each seat, and they were playing the “pre-debate coverage”. An employee came out to explain the rules – clapping and cheering were allowed, but no negative comments or shouting, and yes, we could use social media!

All-in-all the experience was fun. I got to eat a giant pretzel (with queso) and hard cider with about 100 strangers and watch this crazy spectacle of a race. Needless to say, we all had a good laugh. My blog class falls during the next debate, so I’ll have to DVR it – if it even happens, right?

‘Tis the season… for chili.

All hail the perfect chili!

All hail the perfect chili!

So, fall is here, and I know it was official about two weeks ago, but it doesn’t ever feel real to me until I make my first batch of chili. Why? Well, because I love chili, I love making it, and it just seems like the perfect thing to have simmering on the stove or in your crock pot all day before curling around a bowl of it before the day’s end. Right? Plus, most chili is pretty healthy – and for that, I’m really thankful!

I made my first batch of chili on Sunday, and I happily made enough for me to eat leftovers all week – everyone knows leftover chili is even better than the first bowl! There’s so many different types of chili, and thousands of recipes out there, but I wanted to share three that I’ve made, and love, with you: a vegetarian option, my signature chili, and a paleo option. I’ve got it all!

Vegetarian: Black Bean & Sweet Potato Chili

This is the recipe I made this weekend! It’s the first time I made this particular recipe, from “What’s Gaby Cooking”, but it was very similar to a recipe I had in my kitchen notebook from Self Magazine. At first thought, sweet potatoes don’t sound great for a chili option, but since they’re simmering in spices all day, they really don’t taste like sweet potatoes, and they end up adding to the texture, in a good way.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium-large sweet potato, peeled and diced (I definitely am too lazy so I didn’t peel mine)
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chipolte pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 15-ounce can of black beans, rinsed
  • 1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes (I got the one with the chilis)
  • 1/2 cup dried quinoa
  • 4 teaspoons of lime juice
  • Any toppings: avocado, cilantro, cheese…

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat a large heavy bottom pot with the olive oil over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the sweet potato and onion and cook for about 5 minutes until the onion is softened.
  3. Add the garlic, chili powder, chipolte, cumin and salt and stir to combine.
  4. Add the stock, tomatoes, black beans, and quinoa, and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir everything to combine.
  5. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer.
  6. Cook for 30-40 minutes until the quinoa is fully cooked and the sweet potatoes are soft and the entire mixture is slightly thick.
  7. Add the lime juice and remove the pot from the heat. Season with salt as needed.
  8. Garnish with avocado, cilantro, cheese… and serve!

I definitely doubled this recipe so I’d have plenty of leftovers for the week ahead. I also wanted to note that I used my own vegetable stock – if you don’t already make your own stock, it’s really easy, saves money, and you know exactly what’s in it. Simply keep your “food trash” (i.e., chicken bones, carrot tops, celery stalks, onion ends) in a freezer bag in the freezer. Once the bag is full, dump it in a pot with water and salt and cook for as long as possible. Strain, and freeze! I haven’t bought stock in years, and it’s amazing how much you can use for chili, soups, and sauce bases.

Signature: Turkey & Bean Chili

I hate to play favorites, buuuuut this is my FAVORITE! Why? Because I have spent YEARS perfecting this recipe. I got the original recipe from Real Simple Magazine, and have been tweaking it along the way, so it has the best amount of heat, a nice dark color, rich flavor, and a thick texture. I love it! I know, all the guys are groaning at the turkey choice, but it takes to the spices so well, I just love it – plus, there’s bacon in there, too!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 slices bacon cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 pounds ground dark-meat (7% fat), turkey (NOTE: this is one tweak I’ve made. I get a lean turkey breast, and shred it once it’s cooked to get a thicker texture. But if you like ground meat, go for it!)
  • 4 cups chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup minced garlic cloves
  • 2 medium fresh jalapeno chiles, ribs and seeds removed for less heat, if desired, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 cans (28 ounces each) whole tomatoes in puree
  • 2 tablespoons unsulfured molasses (If you don’t have molasses on hand, use brown sugar or honey)
  • Coarse salt
  • 3 cans (15 1/2 ounces each) pinto beans, drained and rinsed (I use dark red kidney beans)
  • Fresh cilantro leaves, sliced pickled jalapeno chiles, reduced-fat sour cream, crumbled cornbread, grated cheddar cheese (all of these are optional toppings)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat a Dutch oven (or other heavy 5-quart pot) over medium heat. Add bacon; cook until crisp and brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Raise heat to high; add turkey. Cook, stirring and breaking up meat with a spoon, until no longer pink, 8 to 10 minutes.

  2. Add onion, garlic, and jalapenos; cook until soft, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Stir in chili powder, cocoa powder, and cumin; cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute.

  3. Break up tomatoes with a spoon or your hands, and stir them in along with the puree. Add molasses, 1 cup water, and 4 teaspoons salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook, partially covered, 30 minutes.

  4. Add beans; continue cooking, uncovered, until meat and beans are very tender, and chili is thick, about 30 minutes more. Serve with desired toppings.

So, I pretty much make all of my chili in the crockpot – that way, I don’t have to worry about the gas stove (I don’t like keeping it on longer than necessary), and I can store it right in the fridge. If you want to make this recipe crockpot friendly, cook the bacon and the chopped onions in a skillet before adding to the crockpot. I like to start the meat (turkey breast) in the oven, but that’s up to you.

Paleo: Spicy Chorizo Chili

Several years ago, I went Paleo for about three months. In general, I enjoyed the experience, and I really liked finding recipes that fit my diet and tasted delicious. This recipe was one I found online, and made it one night when I had some friends over. They were a little skeptical when I said it was “Paleo friendly”, but pleasantly surprised at how good it tasted. It’s definitely one for the books – and if you’re looking for something meaty to impress your guy, this one is for the win.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound of grass fed beef
  • 2 fresh chorizo sausage links, casings removed (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon of minced garlic
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped (omit if you want the chili less spicy)
  • 1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce
  • 1 can of rotel, spicy was used but you can limit heat by using mild
  • 1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons of chili powder
  • 1 Tablespoon of cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • avocado, red onion, and cilantro optional for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a medium skillet brown off beef and chorizo.
  2. Drain and toss into a crock pot
  3. In the same skillet add 1 tsp of fat and cook the onions and garlic just until the onion get a bit of color. You can skip this step if you like and just throw it into the crock pot. I just like giving the onions a bit of color before putting them in the crock pot.
  4. Add remaining ingredients, stir together, and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4-6.
  5. Garnish with diced avocado, minced red onion, and cilantro.

If there’s a chili recipe you go-to every year, I’d love to know about it! I never get sick of this fall favorite, and I’m already looking forward to my next batch!

The skinny: What I’m eating.

Real Simple

Deep-dish pizza with turkey sausage and brussels sprouts.

Last week, I announced that I’m getting back on track with my life. I’m getting sleep (when possible), exercising six times a week via dance classes (and shopping, of course), and I’m eating right. So, this weekend, I pretty much took everything Trader Joe’s had and spent a lot of time in my kitchen prepping meals for the week.

If you’re anything like me, each new week presents a challenge of what to eat. Why? Because if I’m going to keep eating healthy (which I’m planning on it), then it’s got to be exciting – no eating chicken and veggies for every meal, because I’ve definitely done that, and although I looked great, I hated it.

So, I’ve found that eating something for lunch and then something different for dinner helps keep things fresh. I usually pick something easy to pack for my lunches, and then something perhaps a little more complicated for dinner, since I usually eat at home during the week. Here’s what I’m eating this week:

Breakfast: Pumpkin Waffles

No, I’m definitely not up making these suckers from scratch – I bought frozen pumpkin waffles from Trader Joe’s (they have pumpkin EVERYTHING out now). Pop two in the toaster, slice up a banana, drizzle with a little raw honey, and bam, breakfast is served!

Lunch: Salmon & Apple Salad Wrap

Salmon and apple salad wrap.

Salmon and apple salad wrap.

If you’re looking for easy, yummy, healthy recipes, sign up to get the email newsletter from Self magazine. I have found so many awesome recipes there, and this is my latest try.

INGREDIENTS

1 can (5 oz) skinless, boneless wild salmon

1/4 cup chopped apple

1/4 cup chopped celery

2 tablespoons chopped red onion

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon honey

Black pepper

1/2 cup chopped lettuce

1 8-inch whole-wheat wrap

1/2 cup broccoli

3 tablespoons hummus

DIRECTIONS

In a bowl, mix salmon, apple, celery and red onion. In another bowl, combine vinegar, olive oil and honey; season with pepper; toss with salmon salad. Spread salad on whole-wheat wrap; top with chopped lettuce; roll up. Serve with broccoli dipped in hummus.

Please note that the recipe above is only for one wrap. To make a week’s worth, which I did, I completely eyeballed the ingredient-measurements and just tasted along the way. And yes, I even got hummus and veggies to eat with it! Yum!

Dinner: Deep-Dish Pizza with Turkey Sausage & Brussels Sprouts 

You might be thinking – okay, this isn’t really that “healthy”, but truthfully, it’s not so bad. I got this recipe from an old issue of “Real Simple”, and catered it to what I could find. I used whole wheat pizza dough and chicken sausge (because I already had some in my freezer), so it’s really a pretty wholesome meal. Plus, I love brussels sprouts!

INGREDIENTS:

  • tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ pounds store-bought pizza dough, at room temperature
  • ⅓ cup prepared pesto
  • 1½ cups shredded provolone (6 ounces)
  • ½ pound uncooked turkey sausage, crumbled
  • ½ pound Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat oven to 425° F with a rack in the lowest position. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the oil.
  2. Press the dough into the pan, covering the bottom and sides. Top the dough with the pesto, cheese, sausage, and Brussels sprouts. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil.
  3. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the sausage is cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes. Let the pizza rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Snacks & Extras

I’ve been going to dance after work for two hours at least three times each week. So, I definitely need a good snack in the late afternoon to keep me moving until 8pm when I can get home to that pizza. This week, I stocked my kitchen with the following:

  • Apple sauce with cinnamon
  • Celery (leftover from the salmon salad) and peanut butter
  • Organic nut & dried fruit mixes

Usually a combination of two of these, plus a cold can of La Croix, and I’m good to go.

Yaaaassss!!

Yaaaassss!!

I also did some baking over the weekend, as one of my coworkers found a new job. I wanted to get her a little goodbye gift, so I bought her a coffee mug and baked some decadent cookies to pack inside of it. And yes, I saved a few back for myself – remember to treat yourself! Plus, these things looked so good, I couldn’t resist. I made Double Chocolate Chip and Caramel cookies using a recipe from What’s Gaby Cooking:

INGREDIENTS

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 ½ cup dark chocolate chocolate chips

½ cup caramel bites

1/2 cup Oven Roasted Sea Salt Blue Diamond Almonds, chopped

Maldon salt for dusting

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs for about 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips, caramel bites and chopped almonds. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto parchment lined baking sheets and dust with Maldon salt.
  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until cookies are puffed. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
  4. Enjoy immediately, or store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 weeks.

What are you cooking up this week?

Affordable, delicious eats!

Vegetarian lasagna!

Vegetarian lasagna!

I am still on a very tight budget, although I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but as a foodie, lowering my budget on groceries has been tough. I love digging through my books and clippings of recipes, making a grocery list, and spending time cooking it… and of course, eating it. And, as you probably know, lately it seems like eating homemade meals is just as expensive as going out.

But my budget has only allowed for very simple, cheap meals, made from what I can find from the aisles of my local discounted grocer. And admittedly, many of those foods are less healthy, which is not something I am used to.

I went from eating mostly fresh, organic foods, to processed carbs, probably full of GMOs. But, before I sound like a privileged asshole, I have found a few meals I’ve enjoyed. I found that I can get most of my items on discount and then splurge on one “fresh” item at the grocery.

So, I made spaghetti -purchasing the noodles and sauce at Big Lots, and getting grass fed beef at the grocery. The entire meal was still under $10 and had at least 4-5 servings. I also made brown rice and beans, which I often ate with salsa and tortilla chips, I splurged on a rotisserie chicken, which I ate with baked sweet potatoes. I haven’t been eating out, so when I craved Chinese takeout, I made my own version of fried rice with brown rice, frozen stir fry veggies, and a fried egg on top (plus soy sauce and sriracha) – it was pretty good!

But last week, I saw a recipe in my email inbox from Bethenny/SkinnyGirl. It was for Vegetarian lasagna, with an added twist of pesto sauce. I decided to make it, provided the pesto and cheese wasn’t expensive.

To my surprise, all of the ingredients were very cheap! Almost all of them were at Big Lots – the whole wheat noodles, red sauce (which was optional in the recipe), and shredded mozzarella. I went to the grocery for the pesto, which was $1.99 for the store-brand, and the ricotta, which was also around $2. The entire meal was around $10, and offers at least 5 servings, and it is delicious!

I had fun actually making something from a recipe, and eating something that I know wasn’t absolutely terrible for me. Here’s the recipe:

INGREDIENTS

– 8 ounces whole wheat lasagna noodles
– 15 ounces part-skim ricotta
– 1/3 cup chopped basil
– 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (I left these out, and threw in a handful of spinach I already had)
– 1/3 cup packaged pesto
– 4 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella

Optional: Add your favorite red sauces between layers

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Cook the noodles according to the package directions. Set aside.
  2. Combine the ricotta, basil, and pine nuts in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Spray a 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray. Spread 1/3 of the pesto into the bottom of the pan. Cover with half the noodles. Spread half the herb-ricotta mixture over the noodles.
  4. Repeat with another 1/3 of the pesto, the remaining noodles, and the remaining ricotta-herb mixture, then cover the whole thing with the pesto. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the top.
  5. Bake for 30 – 45 minutes or until heated through and bubbling.

If you’ve got go-to, budget-friendly meals, I’d love to hear about them!

What I would cook for Patrick Cantwell.

You may have recalled my mention of the Mr. Patrick Cantwell after I attended my first Round Rock Express game over Memorial Day Weekend. Cantwell is a fine, fine looking catcher and isn’t so bad at batting, either. He’s 26, from New York, and I wouldn’t mind cooking him dinner… more than once.

Sure, I bet he lives in the Austin/Round Rock area and could get a delicious meal just about anywhere – there is a Salt Lick right outside of the stadium, afterall. But who doesn’t love a good, homecooked meal?

And that, my readers, is what I’d like to give away today: organic ingredients for meals delivered right to your door, for FREE! I’ve been ordering from Green Chef for six months now, and I love it. You get to choose how many meals (by meal they mean serving) you want delivered, and set your preferences. You can change your food preferences as often as you want, or skip weeks if you’re not feeling it, and there’s NO penalty for it.

I generally have my preferences set on “omnivore” and I get ingredients for 6 meals each week; however, most of the time, it ends up being enough ingredients for 9 meals. Usually the box (which is right on my doorstep and packed with ice packs) has two recipes with meat, and one vegetarian. Some of my favorite meals I’ve gotten so far include:

  • Shrimp Fettucine Alfredo with Tomatoes and Snap Peas
  • Poached Tuna Salad, with Spinach Salad and Olive & Red Pepper Couscous
  • Chickpea Shawarma Salad, with Cucumber & Tomato Millet, Olives & Pine Nuts
  • Sweet & Sour Chicken with Black Quinoa, Edamame, Ginger, Pineapple & Pepper
  • Greek Gyro Flatbread with Baba ghanoush, Ground Beef, Tzatziki & Feta
  • Pumpkin-Stuffed Shells with Spinach & Walnut-parsley Pesto, Orange-chard Salad

So, you’ll get the ingredients and then you cook the meals at your leisure. All of the ingredients are pre-measured, and organized with color-coordinated labels. Some of the ingredients are even prepped for you (chopped, mixed, etc.), so it makes the meals pretty fool-proof. But seriously, no catch with the free meals – I really just want other people to try this delicious stuff!

I have one free gift to give away, so if you’re interested, shoot me your email address using the form at the bottom of this post. I’ll draw numbers tonight at 10pm Central time, and the winner will get an email from me with your code for the free meals.

In the meantime, I’ve got the recipe for this fantastic burger I’m going to make for Patrick Cantwell on our fantasy date, where of course, he’s going to fall madly in love with me.

INGREDIENTS

  • 12 ounces grass-fed ground beef
  • 2 whole-wheat hamburger buns
  • 2 slices nitrate-free bacon
  • Onion & shallot
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • ⅓ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Honey-mustard balsamic vinegar
  • Slaw dressing
  • Carrots & cabbage
  • Scallions & celery

DIRECTIONS

Place carrots and cabbage in a medium bowl. Thinly slice scallions at an angle; discard root end. Small dice celery into about ¼-inch pieces. Add scallions and celery to bowl. Drizzle with slaw dressing to taste. Salt and pepper to taste. Toss to coat.

Cut root end off onion; remove peel. Cut into about ¼-inch thick slices. Heat about 1 tablespoon cooking oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; stir. Season with salt and pepper. Cook 4 minutes, or until edges brown, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium. Cook 8-10 minutes, or until softened, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, cut ends off shallot and remove peel; mince. Halve grape tomatoes. Heat about 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small pot over medium heat. Add shallot to hot pot; stir. Cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes. Cook 3 minutes, or until tomatoes begin to soften, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, place ground beef in a large bowl. Add mozzarella cheese. Season with about ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper. Mix to evenly distribute cheese. Form into two patties, about ½-inch thick. Halve bacon widthwise.

Add honey-mustard balsamic vinegar to pot with tomatoes. Fill container halfway with water; pour into pot. Stir. Cook 5-6 minutes, or until liquid has reduced by at least half, stirring occasionally. Gently smash tomatoes. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat about 1 tablespoon cooking oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add burgers to hot pan. Add bacon to pan around burgers. Cook burgers 5 minutes on each side, or to desired doneness. Cook bacon alongside burgers until crispy, flipping as needed. Transfer bacon and burgers to a paper towel-lined plate.

Meanwhile, turn oven to high broil with rack 6-8 inches from the top. Cut whole-wheat hamburger buns open. Place on a baking sheet cut-sides up. Broil 2-3 minutes, or until toasted. Crumble (or roughly chop) bacon. Add to bowl with slaw. Toss to combine.

Divide caramelized onion between bottom buns and top with Memorial Day mozz burgers. Spoon tomato jam over burgers. Finish burger with top bun. Serve with bacon slaw on the side. Enjoy!

When I cooked this meal for myself, I ended up putting the bacon on the burger, instead of in the slaw – because bacon on a burger was just a match meant to be. So, enter the giveaway – and, if you don’t win, you can still get a HUGE discount on your first Green Chef order by using my link here.

 

Memorial Day weekend plans(!).

Cheers to the (long) weekend!

Cheers to the (long) weekend!

At precisely 5:30pm today, the long weekend begins and I cannot tell you just how excited I am! This is my first REAL Memorial Day Weekend, as previous jobs I’ve had for the last 8 years did not grant us Monday off. So… I have been thinking about this weekend for a very long time.

And, I also want to mention that it’s important to remember the reason we have the day off – to remember and be grateful for those who lost their lives fighting for our freedom. I cannot image the bravery our soldiers have each and every day they go to work – I couldn’t do it.

So, what’s on my agenda this weekend? I don’t have a set time for most of these things, and some of it depends on the weather (it’s supposed to rain all three days in Austin), so who knows how much I’ll actually get done. But here are my ideas:

Food – Of course I’m planning to get my summer eat-on this weekend! I am definitely on the hunt for a taco truck, as I’ve been slacking when it comes to my local eating adventures. I also have ingredients for a bomb-ass burger, and there’s a watermelon in my fridge that I’m ready to carve. And I will also be hunting for a good bottle of rose, following my own advice from the guide to rose.

Movies – If it rains, I’m hitting up the Alamo Draft House to see “Neighbors 2”, where I’ll be able to see the hot Zac Efron, while mowing down a hot dog and fries. It’s a win-win for this unofficial kick-off of summer. I also set my DVR to record “JAWS”, because what is more festive than watching an old movie about a giant shark that haunts a beach town?

Shop – There’s going to be some good sales out there, and I’m ready to tackle them. I am on the lookout for some cute, white skinny jeans, so this may be another good rainy-day activity, if needed. I am also looking for a good outdoor chair for my patio. I might have to lose myself in IKEA.

Relax – I am really hoping to hit the pool this weekend, but between the shitty weather and my complex’s habit of never opening the pool, I am kind of accepting the fact that this will not happen. However, either way, I want to spend some time getting some rest and relaxation. I’m reading a great book (see: Blanche’s Book Club), my DVR is full of good TV (not to mention season 1 of “The West Wing on DVD”), and my bed is super comfy.

Sports – There’s a Round Rock Express baseball game every day this weekend, and I cannot think of a better way to celebrate America than a good old fashioned ball game, complete with a chili dog and a beer. Haayyyy batta batta batta, sah-wiinng battaaah. See you there!

Tourism – I bought a ticket to take a ferry tour of downtown Austin. It’s good for any weekend this summer, but if the weather permits, I’ll go for a ride.

What are you up to this weekend? I’ll truly be taking time off and skipping the blog on Monday, but I’ll be right back at it come Tuesday. Until then, feel free to stalk me on Twitter, Instagram, and SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 – Have a great weekend everyone! 

Bucket List: ATX Edition.

Beautiful pic of downtown Austin.

Beautiful pic of downtown Austin.

I’ve lived in Austin, TX for 9 months now (time flies!), and I can honestly say, I’m not sure how long I’ll be here. Don’t get me wrong, in general, Austin is pretty freaking cool, but I just don’t know if I’m ready to say, yes, this is the place I’ll be for the rest of my life.

It’s a commitment I’m not ready to make. But, I definitely want to make the most of my time here, whether it’s two years or 10 years, I want to leave knowing I experienced everything there is to experience in this cool city. So, here’s my list (so far):

  1. Have an Adventure on Lake Travis – I’ve been to Lake Travis a few times already, and it’s gorgeous! But I want to kick things up and have an adventure! There’s all sorts of things out there, such as: jet skis, dinner cruises, parks, wineries, cooking classes, and festivals, among many others. I’m on it!
  2. See a movie at the drive-in theatre – The Blue Starlite Drive-In is one of the best out there, according to Conde Nast. They are always playing cool movies, and it looks like they are playing a “Grease” Sing-a-long this weekend! Might have to hit that up!
  3. Eat at The Salt Lick – This is the place everyone’s heard about, and they’re known for their large outdoor fire pit where they make some (apparently) delicious BBQ!
  4. See the bats – From March to November, the bats are out in Austin! Rumor has it, the largest urban bat colony lives in Austin! There is even a boat tour where you get to see the bats leave the Congress Bridge; definitely must do this.
  5. Hit up Rainey Street – This is the historical area of downtown, although it’s come along way in the last few years. It’s known for its collection of dive bars, but it also has hot brunch spots, pizza places, and a few notable pieces of graffiti.
  6. Eat at The Hula Hut – Located on Lake Austin, it’s always island time at the Hula Hut! Mexican food with a Polynesian twist – this place looks delicious.
  7. Visit Waterloo Records – This shop has been the iconic place to get tunes since 1982, and although Austin’s grown a lot since then, it’s still the mecca for music lovers in Texas.
  8. Have a Moment at Teo Gelato & Espresso – I saw this spot on my way to UT the other night, and after some Googling, I see that this is the real deal; authentic gelato made from scratch. Yum!
  9. Bullock Imax – A part of the Bullock Museum, the IMAX theatre has tons of good flicks coming up, including “Finding Dory” in 3D. I’m admittedly really excited about this!
  10. See a baseball game at UT – I went to the UT campus for the first time two weeks ago, and stomped around a little bit. And I must say, the baseball field looks beautiful. I must see a game there!
  11. Host my own breakfast taco competition – Not a real competition, but I do want to try as many different breakfast tacos from different places, and see who’s got the best one, in my opinion. I’ve already tried them from Taco Deli and Torchy’s (both delicious).
  12. Bullock Texas State History Museum – I don’t really know much about this, but I’ve heard it’s great, and seriously, when was the last time I went to a museum??
  13. Sushi at Uchiko – Saw this place on an episode of #FoodPorn and although I might have to save my whole paycheck to eat it; I must do it.
  14. Pedicure at Caesar’s in the Domain – I saw this place when I was Christmas shopping and it looked so nice, and my hairstylist actually goes there and told me it was great, and sanitary. Always a plus! She said they even serve booze there; count me in!
  15. Austin City Wide Garage Sale – Started in 1977, this isn’t really a garage sale at all, but it’s a bunch of vintage items all in one place on certain weekends of the year. I’ve been on the hunt for a typewriter for awhile now, so maybe this is the place I’ll actually find one!
  16. Wait in line for Franklin BBQ -Waiting in line has become commonplace at Franklin BBQ…and we’re not talking a 20 minute line; it’s at least a 3 hour line. So, you get a bag of tacos and you eat while you wait for the food, and I’ve heard there’s sometimes beer pong.
  17. Dollar hot dog night at a Round Rock Express Game – This happens on Mondays and I’m SO down to hit up a ball game on a boring Monday night! Bring it on, summer!
  18. Lala’s Little Nugget – An Austin institution, Lala’s is known for keeping the Christmas spirit alive all year ’round with Christmas decor and even an old school jukebox. Cash only!
  19. Baylor Street Art Wall – This historic wall shows various street art from many years passed to the present.
  20. Buy Stuff at a Farmer’s Market – There are farmer’s markets all over Austin (seasonally, of course), and I’ve really never been to one. I’d like to go and check out all the fresh grown foods and homemade goodies.
  21. Tour Jester King Brewery – Jester King has a TON of beers, of course, made right here in Austin! Their brewery tours are free, and the tasting room is located right near a local pizza shop. Yes!
  22. Take an Antonelli’s cheese class – Aside from just wanting to visit this shop, I want to take one of their cheese classes, where you get to learn about certain cheeses and the wines that taste best with them. Cheers!
  23. Tackle the Wine Trail –  There are 48 wineries in the state of Texas, and each October, you can purchase a “passport” that provides you with a free tasting at each winery and a discount pass if you buy wine at the wineries! YAS.

I’d also like to note that I’ve already done several things that would be on a bucket list like this, such as Zilker park for Kite Fest and the Trail of Lights, Mozart’s Coffee, went ice skating at Whole Foods, eaten at Hopdoddy, been to several Texas Stars’ games, been to The Oasis, had drinks at Midnight Cowboy, partied on 6th Street, and have seen several movies at the Alamo Drafthouse. I’m all about an ATX adventure!