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My Review of Home Chef (Dinner Delivery Service)

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Update from 12/27 (below was written weeks ago): we’ve had quite a few of these meals now and they have all been fantastic. I love the recipes and food choices. Totally delicious and easy! I will gladly pay around $5-7 a serving for these meals. I do think that at $10 a serving isn’t something we’d do all the time, but I do think it’s worth it, especially for the busy couples!

If you guys are members of my Facebook Group, Savvy Shoppers, you probably took advantage of the great Home Chef deal I posted a few months ago. I wanted to review my 3 meals and service overall! But first, if you find yourself interested in a dinner delivery service, if you sign up here you’ll receive a $30 credit! It’s also very possible an additional $10 credit pop-up will come up while you’re making your account, saving you $40 (this is random though but most of us got it!).  You’ll pay as low as $2.50-$5/serving shipped and that’s pretty awesome because these meals are great and I really enjoyed the service. If you order 3 meals, your shipping should be free, so play around to get the best price per meal for your family.

Without the credits, which you’ll receive when you sign up, the original price is $9.95 per serving. There is a $10 delivery charge. So for 2 meals for 2 people (4 servings all together), the cost is 49.80 shipped. Cheaper than going on to a nice dinner, definitely, but it is expensive for most of us who are couponing or budgeting the grocery budget. I love that they offer the credit though and it’s definitely worth trying for that!

With the promotion I took advantage of, I was able to score 3 meals for 2 people (6 servings total) for a fantastic price and I wanted to share my experience with you!

First, you choose your delivery day. I chose Wednesday. Your order must be finalized before noon the Friday before. The delivery period was Wednesday from 8am – 8pm. Unfortunately, FedEx was delayed (nothing to do with Home Chef) and our meal wasn’t delivered until after 10:30pm that night and it got left on our porch until morning. (Note: our next week’s delivery was delivered before dinner on Wednesday, no problems!). Due to how well the meals are packed, all of our food was still fine the following morning. Meals are surrounded by insulation and included are a bunch of ice packs! Each meal is packaged in a labeled bag (every 2 servings in a bag) and lasts for about 5-6 days in your fridge. A few of our items got a little smashed during delivery (tomato and jalapeno), I’d like them to offer a bit more protection for soft produce. Another complaint that I’ve heard about these services is that there is a lot of waste. I took a picture of what was left after one of our meals. It is a lot of plastic waste, but a lot could be reused and/or recycled so it didn’t bother me too much!

I loved how organized the meals are with the exact measurements and fresh ingredients. Each herb is carefully packed and all you need to provide (usually) is salt, pepper, and olive oil. I’m really not a recipe follower, but when most of the hard part is done, it’s really fantastic! I timed the meals (most take 35-45 minutes) and my times were about 5-10 minutes more than their times but I was taking pictures (and multitasking with other things) at the same time.

The first meal we tried was:

Chicken Breast with Saffron Beurre Blanc

with roasted Brussels sprouts and red pepper

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It was really good! I loved all the fresh veggies and the chicken was good quality.

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Pictured here is the Saffron that came with the meal. My favorite part about this meal was that we got to use Saffron without having to buy a bottle from the grocery as it is VERY expensive.

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Here is the waste from this meal. Baggies could be reused. The small condiment bottles could be handy too! And the veggie scraps are all compostable.

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We really enjoyed this meal! I do think I overcooked the chicken, but that was my fault. I should have removed the chicken sooner so the veggies could cook by themselves, which the recipe mentioned. Portion size was great.

Our second meal:

Acapulco Steak Tacos

with pico de gallo and cilantro-lime rice

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We loved the tacos! They were our favorite. Again, love the fresh ingredients and the meat was great quality.

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Here’s our tomato and jalapeno that got a little smooshed. I just cut around the bad part, you don’t use all the jalapeno anyway. Our lime had brown spots though, but again, I zested around it. Nothing major and it didn’t hold anything up for us.

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I love my Le Creuset grill pan! Great for avoiding the outside grill if the weather isn’t great.

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My plating isn’t beautiful but these are delicious! It came with enough for 6 tacos. You could certainly stretch this one into 3 servings, especially if you add some beans!

And our last:

Healthy Takeout Orange Chicken

with snap peas and jasmine rice

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Another great meal with fresh ingredients! I love that it came with all the sauces.

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I actually packed mine right up for leftovers. I ate mine serving over 2 days so again, I was very happy with the portion size! I wish they would have made a bigger warning about the spiciness of this recipe. Recipe stated that you could crush the red peppers for more heat. I cut 2 of them in half and stirred them in (I never crushed and left most whole), but it was SO SPICY. I love spicy foods, but this was a little much, so I will definitely be more cautious next time hot peppers like this are included.

So if you want to give this service a try, be sure to sign up with Home Chef  to get your credit! Menus change every week and you get to pick which recipe you want from about 10 choices. I’ve been really enjoying the meals, the great quality, and just trying new stuff!

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Thanksgiving 101: Making Stock From Your Turkey

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My favorite part of the Thanksgiving turkey is the carcass! Making turkey stock is so easy, delicious, and nutritious! Do not ever throw out your carcass again! Even if you aren’t hosing Thanksgiving dinner, you can ask the host what they are doing with the carcass. Don’t let them go in the trash! You also don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to make stock, this can be done with any bones, so anytime you have a baked chicken or beef bones, don’t throw them out! If you don’t have time to make stock right now, just toss the carcass and all the drippings into the freezer.

In a large pot:

  • Carcass
  • Drippings, fat, veggies cooked with the turkey, etc.
  • Carrots (ends and peels work!)
  • Onions (ends and peels work!)
  • Celery (ends and leaves are great)
  • Herbs (I use thyme, parsley and bay leaves)
  • Other veggies of your choice
  • Salt and pepper
  • A tablespoon or 2 of Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Water to cover

As you cook during the week, save your veggie peels and ends for stock making. You can get a gallon size freezer bag and stick the veggies ends in until you’re ready to make stock. The apple cider vinegar helps draw out extra vitamins and minerals out of the bones. Bone broth is so good for you!

Let this cook for at least a few hours or you can even have it cook for a day or two. You can make it in a large crock pot or a large pot. Add more water if necessary. Be sure to keep taste testing to see if it needs anything. If it tastes too watery, let it cook down more. Keep in mind that bone broth will taste different than broth you make from a bouillon cube. Strain your stock. A tiny holed colander or some cheese cloth will do the trick. If you notice your stock is very oily/fatty, let the stock cool completely (put it in the fridge or outside if it’s cold enough). Skim off the fatty film and then bring the stock back to a boil.

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What to do with stock?

  • Make soup
  • Freeze the stock (ice cube trays work well for saving small amounts for cooking rice or flavoring other recipes)
  • Can the stock (I highly recommend the Presto 23 Quart Pressure canner)
  • Save the extra meat pieces for meals

 

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Happy Thanksgiving + Black Friday Amazon Deals!

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I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I love food, especially Thanksgiving food. Unlike many people, I go for the veggies! My plate is piled with string beans, corn, sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes (kind of a veggie… right?). I’ll eat one slice of meat and I won’t touch the rolls or pies! To me, there’s nothing better than a can (or 4) of Del Monte string beans simmered with onions and bacon grease. I’d take that over cake/pie/cookies any day! I can’t wait for leftovers for breakfast tomorrow 🙂

Some of you are probably out Black Friday shopping now or you’ll be up early tomorrow for the sales! Don’t forget that Amazon has fantastic deals this time of year. The best deals will sell out in seconds, so you really need to be on top of these things! I’ll try to post some of the hot deals, so make sure you’re following along.

You can head over now and view the 2013 Black Friday deals from Amazon. Don’t forget, Cyber Monday is right around the corner! Amazon posts Deals of the Day and Lightening Deals all the time. You’ll want to keep them out!

Don’t Cry Over Burnt Spaghetti Sauce

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This week has been one of my busiest weeks all summer. In addition to working outside the home for over 50 hours, I had 50lbs of peaches, 25lbs of tomatoes, and 10lbs of blackberries to can. On top of all that, I’ve been taking care of my chickens, trying to find time to blog, and shipping off some of the vintage goodies I’ve been picking up at flea markets and reselling online this summer.

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With the wonderful help of Savvy Momma and Nerdboy, we were able to put up 16 jars of blackberry jam, 4 jars of blackberry BBQ sauce, 24 quarts of peaches, 5 jars of pickles (it was 6 but 1 exploded), and 6 jars of peach honey. So you are probably wondering where the 25lbs of tomatoes ended up, right? They are in the trash. And not just 25 pounds of whole tomatoes, but 25lbs of hand picked, peeled, diced, cooked tomatoes with fresh herbs and garlic that my mom and I spent the entire day preparing. I was cooking it down on the stove (hotter than I should have) so I could quickly can it up before going to bed. I sat down for a minute at my laptop for the first time all day and that’s when I smelled it. The bottom of the pot (dang cheap, thin pots) scorched leaving my entire pot of tomato sauce smelling like smoke. It was awful. The smell was sickening all night long. I tried everything I could to save the sauce; I moved most of it to the crockpot, added a raw peeled potato, more seasonings, more garlic, sugar, lemon juice, wine… and even peanut butter (I read it online. I was desperate). Nothing helped. I let it cook in the crock pot some more in case some miracle would come in and save it. Finally, my mom pulled the cord of the crockpot, the sauce cooled down, and it was dumped outside. Are you shedding a tear with me yet?

It’s such a shame to waste all of those beautiful tomatoes and all that time we spent on them, but there was nothing I could do. We ended up with a lot of nice canned goods we’ll be able to use all year. It has already been a few days since the tomato sauce incident so I’m doing my best to forget it ever happened and to move on. I’ll be asking for a set of new big pots of Christmas. Nerdboy and I are tired of using an SOS pad to scrub the pots down after every.single.use. They are just so thin and don’t transfer the heat around the entire surface of the pot.

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Our next canning adventure might be apples if we feel like it in the Fall. I’m sure we’ll do a few more jars of stuff in between since I haven’t pulled out my Presto Pressure Canner in awhile (lets you can anything low acid, like soups, beans, and more!). I love that canning allows us a way to preserve food when it’s in season and then enjoy it all year. The peaches are so wonderful (though I wasn’t thrilled at the quality this year) you can eat them out of the jar with a fork, dump over vanilla ice cream, and of course, make a peach cobbler! To make peach honey, we made a “peach juice” from all the tossed peach skins and pits boiled in water. From that strained juice, I added some sugar and a little pectin for a thickener. It will make an excellent sweetener for hot tea and also a great sauce for pork or ham! I love using up the parts people normally trash to make a usable and delicious product! We did the same with apple skins and cores last year when we made apple jelly.

I’m off to grab some hot tea (with peach honey!) and maybe a brunch with eggies from my backyard. I have to go start yet another busy weekend! I need to sit down sometime soon and do some *gasp* school preparations that I have been waiting until the very last minute to complete.

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*HOT* Zaycon: Order Your $1.84/lb Chicken

Zaycon has opened up ordering for this year and if you’re interested, order before they sell out!

The price is $1.85/lb, which is a stellar price on boneless, skinless chicken breasts! This chicken is 100% natural chicken with no added hormones, additives or artificial ingredients.

Sign up here to view the dates and locations. (This sign up does not tie you to order anything) If you’re in Maryland, you should be able to find a pick up location in your area. They just opened up the order form for local orders! You’ll want to order as soon as possible because they do sell out!  You purchase a case (or more) 40 lbs of raw boneless chicken breasts for a very low price. You can split orders with friends and family as well.

If you haven’t heard of Zaycon, or need more info, please read here!

Making Pumpkin Puree and Pumpkin Butter

Now that Halloween and Thanksgiving are behind us, the pumpkins have to leave the front porch. We always buy a few pumpkins every year for decoration and usually one to carve. These pumpkins are the ones you’ll see at Walmart and Aldi’s around here for $3 – $3.96 each. You’d pay about $17 each for these guys at the pick your own farms around here, which is why Walmart and Aldi’s get my pumpkin business.

Normally, the old pumpkins get tossed in my garden to compost and the seeds regrow into pumpkin plants the following summer. And then the bugs eat my pumpkin’s vines. This year, I wanted to try something new to try to get my money’s worth out of these pumpkins. It took hours and hours, but I made 12 cups of pumpkin puree and 8 jars/containers worth of pumpkin butter.

Making pumpkin puree (or butter) really isn’t difficult, just time consuming. You should definitely give it a try instead of tossing your old pumpkins! Canned pumpkin at the store is pretty pricey, so this is quite the savings.

  1. I started with 3 large carving pumpkins. For best results, you’ll want to use a pie/sugar pumpkin, which are smaller and sweeter, but they are also much more expensive. My goal was to use up the pumpkins we already had, so I used the carving pumpkins. The taste isn’t quite the same, but it’s not bad.
  2. I rinsed each pumpkin off with water and then chopped them up into large chunks. Make sure you scrape out all the gunk and seeds. You can save the seeds for your garden or toast them later.
  3. Place your pumpkin chunks (skin and all) on a greased baking sheet. Skin side up. I could get 2 pans in my oven at a time. I think I ended up baking 7 pans worth of pumpkin.
  4. Bake each pan for about an hour on 375 degrees. You want the pumpkin meat to be soft enough to be scoopable with a spoon.
  5. Let cool so you don’t burn yourself
  6. Scoop out the pumpkin meat and sit it aside. The meat should easily separate from the skin. Compost the skins.
     7. Once you have a bowl of pumpkin meat, blend it to make a nice puree. I used my Magic Bullet because I didn’t feel like getting out my blender and I couldn’t find my food processor.
 
     8.Once it’s blended, you have pumpkin puree! I measured mine in 1-2 cup portions and put them in freezer bags to use for recipes later.
To make pumpkin butter:
  1. Dump the puree right into your crockpot
  2. Add sugar (I had about 14 cups of puree, and added 6-7 cups of sugar). Many recipes that I saw called for a 1:1 ratio of pumpkin- sugar, but I wasn’t doing that!
  3. Add spices to your liking: Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ground Cloves, and Cumin
  4. Cook on low overnight with the lid propped open! You need the steam to be able to escape so that the butter can reduce down. I prop my lid with wooden spoons.
  5. In the morning, give it a stir and put it on high to finish it up. Add more sugar or spices if you want. There’s no strict recipe, just keep adding until you get the taste you want.
  6. The butter should be thick and dark.
  7. When you’re ready, turn the crockpot off and fill your jars or containers with the butter. You CAN NOT can pumpkin butter as it is too dense and not acidic. Your butter can be stored in the fridge for a few weeks or frozen. It is not shelf stable.

So there you go! It’s really not hard work to make your own puree and butter. Give it a try before you throw away your pumpkins next time! And let me know if you have questions!

 

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Easy Homemade Caramel or Dulce de Leche from Sweetened Condensed Milk!

We just got a new coupon for $0.50 off any Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk, I hope you printed it! This coupon, paired with doubles and a sale should make for some very inexpensive condensed milk. So what can we do with all of it?!

There’s a very, very delicious “recipe” for homemade caramel out there and the only ingredient is Sweetened Condensed Milk! There are a few ways to make it, so take your pick.

First way, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the entire can of Sweetened Condensed Milk. The whole can, unopened, no holes, just the can. Make sure it is covered with a layer of water at all times. Lightly boil for 3-4 hours. You will probably have to add more boiling water to keep the can covered, so I would have another pot or tea kettle ready.

Second way, fill your crock pot with water and submerge the can of  Sweetened Condensed Milk. Set on Low for 8 hours.

When the time is up for either way, remove from water (Jar Lifters for canning work perfect) and sit aside to cool. Do NOT open the jar until it has reached room temperature or it will explode on you.

Third way, pour the Sweetened Condensed Milk into a double boiler and cook that way for about 2 hours.

Fourth way, create a “double boiler” method in your oven. See exact recipe below at the Eagle Brand website.

And then voila! Beautiful “caramel”, also known as dulce de leche. It’s perfect for dipping fruits or ice cream topping.

You can store leftovers in the fridge for quite some time. You can make a double batch and don’t open one can – it’ll last in the fridge sealed for months.

Now, I know someone of you will have something to say about the BPA in the can. By all means, I’m not expert of metal chemicals, but I have to address this because I’ll get nasty comments and emails about me killing my family with this caramel. Apparently, BPA doesn’t melt until a certain temperature which may not be reached while boiling the can, while BPA still leeches itself to food anyway the boiling may not cause too much of a difference. BUT if you’re concerned, open the sweetend condensed milk before boiling and dump it into a glass canning jar, place a lid on it, and can it like you would normally. I don’t know how long this method takes. I assume you could put it in the pot like in the first idea for 3-4 hours, but it might not take that long. Or just use method 3 and 4 since you don’t cook in the can with those steps.

So there it is! Super easy, super delicious! Print the $0.50 off any Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk coupon and pick it up next time you’re out!

Sources:
Youtube 
EagleBrand.com
Livingalamode.com 

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Savvy Student Shopper’s Thrifty Finds

It was a slow week around here, but I bought something so I ought to share!

I went to the flea market last weekend, but there was nothing good. We left with nada!

I went to Value Village on Monday (25% off day) and found some Pyrex to buy! Unfortunately, it is the Early American pattern, which is one of my least favorites. I bough the 401 (the tiny bowl) because as I mentioned last week when I bought the other ugly brown 401, they are great for cereal/soup bowls! I collect cheap extras because one day I’ll have enough to stack them up in my cabinet and use them every single day. Maybe I’ll even have one 401 from every pattern 🙂 I felt really bad leaving the other bowl behind… after all, I was taking its “baby”! Luckily, my Pyrex pal said she wanted it via text so I bought it. The two bowls set me back $4.40 after discount and tax. Not shabby!

Nerdboy found these mini coke classes and thought they were pretty neat! (The apple is for size comparison, we didn’t buy an apple at Value Village). They aren’t antiques, but they are cute little things. Michael NEVER buys, let alone looks, while we go thrifting so I have to support his buys! The were $0.49 each + 25% off, plus still had the original stickers on the bottom.

I’m sure some of you wonder if I actually use all this Pyrex I buy, right? Well, we do use Pyrex almost every day! I love the 401 bowls, they are probably my favorite size dish. We use the refrigerator dishes for leftovers and just last night, we each cooked and ate our own baked ziti in cute 472-sized casseroles.

Did you have a better thrifting week than I did? Have any questions? Don’t be shy!

An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away!

The Savvy Student Shopper and Nerdboy have been extremely busy! We’ve put up about 100 lbs of apples in 3 weeks. He’s a good guy! You can click on the pictures to make them bigger. I’ll be sharing more pictures and recipes once I get some time. It’s 2:30 AM and I have to wake up early to go thrifting. Good night 🙂

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*HOT* Zaycon: $1.69/lb Chicken -Ordering Starts Now!

Yahooo! Zaycon has opened up ordering for this year!

The price is $1.69/lb, which is a stellar price on boneless chicken breasts!

Sign up here to view the dates and locations. (This sign up does not tie you to order anything)

If you haven’t heard of Zaycon, or need more info, please read here!