Thursday, September 29, 2016

Hello Fresh Review: Chipotle Rubbed Chicken, Roasted Pork with Fig Sauce and Caramelized Pineapple Burgers



If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you'll know that I recently place my first order from Hello Fresh. Hello Fresh is a service that offers chef curated recipes based on seasonal farm fresh ingredients delivered every week to your doorstep.

And I have loved, loved, loved it!!! For the convenience of having something ready to cook, fresh ingredients and deliciousness!!


Now, I obviously enjoy cooking and love cooking from scratch. However, as most of you, I too get busy with life, work and teenagers. So the idea of having fresh ingredients and a recipe waiting for me in the fridge, with a 10 minute prep time and 30 minute cook time, is pretty darn attractive.

So I placed my first order with them a few weeks back, received my first box and have cooked all my meals. So here's how it works and my review of my first Hello Fresh Order.

I went to the website using my special link in order to receive a $50 discount off my first two orders. If you're interested in the same discount, use this link:

Special Offer! $50 Discount on your First two Boxes! Valid for new customers only. Pronto or Family Box. Ends 31/10/2016.

I then selected the type of box I want. You can choose from:

- Classic Plan- This plan has a large variety of meals including fresh produce, meats, fish and grains. You can feed 2 or 4 adults, and you can pick 3, 4 or 5 meals per week.

- Veggie Plan- This plan includes seasonal vegetables, grains and animal free proteins. You can feed 2 or 4 adults, and you can select 3, 4 or 5 meals per week.

- Family Plan- This plan includes a large variety of meals to feed 2 adults and 2 children. You can select 2 or 4 meals per week.

I selected the Classic Plan for 4 people for 3 meals per week. My total came out to about $120 for the 3 meals per week, received my $25 discount with the link above, and shipping was FREE. I paid a total of $95, which I think is a steal. It always helps to get introduced to a new product or service with a discount. Get your $50 Discount on your First two Boxes here. Valid for new customers only. Pronto or Family Box. Ends 10/31/2016Get your $50 Discount on your First two Boxes here. Valid for new customers only. Pronto or Family Box. Ends 10/31/2016. 

A week before my scheduled delivery, I received an email with a meal swap option. I left my order as is and did not choose to swap any meals.

The order arrived at my door in this huge box. I wasn't home that afternoon, so I made sure to have my son periodically check the door for a delivery and had him bring the box inside the house as soon as possible. Items are perishable and need to be refrigerated.




I broke into my box and the three meals are all in their separate boxes. Each box with all the ingredients needed to make each meal. Perfectly organized for my OCD tendencies.




Under the boxes are ice packs holding all my meats, keeping the nice and cold. I simply placed the three individual boxes of fresh ingredients in the fridge, and the proteins in the freezer.






Also in the box are 6"X8" recipe cards for each recipe, with instructions, ingredients it comes with, prep and cook times, the tools you'll need, nutritional information and even allergens.





I have now cooked all 3 meals that arrived in my box and we were absolutely amazed at the deliciousness. And for me, the cook, I am just thrilled with the ease of picking a meal, having all the ingredients waiting in the fridge, easy to follow color instructions and the wonderful aroma.

In my first Hello Fresh box I received: the following meals:

Chipotle-Rubbed Chicken Salad with Pico de Gallo and Avocado. This was one hearty salad! Even my BF was full with one serving. It contained chipotle, lime, scallions romaine lettuce, oregano, red onion, jalapeno, grape tomatoes, black beans, avocado and chicken.
Seriously?? As soon as I started chopping and putting the salad together, it started to smell delicious. The chicken marinated in the adobo sauce and it was perfectly juicy and delicious. A definite win!




Then I cooked the Caramelized-Pineapple Burgers with Monterey Jack Cheese and Red Cabbage Slaw. The ingredients in this one were ground beef, brioche buns, pineapple, Monterey jack cheese, red onion, red cabbage, carrot, mayo, white wine vinegar and chives. Again...another big score! Teenage boy approved!! Double points...




And finally, Roasted Pork with Balsamic Fig Sauce, Green Beans and Rosemary Potatoes. I almost didn't want to share this with the boys cause I didn't think they'd appreciate it. This one contained pork loin, Yukon potatoes, green beans, shallots, balsamic vinegar, chicken stock, fig jam and rosemary. Again, two thumbs up.





I felt like quite the gourmet cook these delicious meals, and look forward to making more. And perfect, timing because I just received my next box!

Hello Fresh is setup to be a weekly meal delivery. But I didn't know how fast we'd go through them and wasn't sure if I'd enjoy it, so I paused the following 3 weeks, and it automatically sends the next one. You can also see what the meals are for the upcoming weeks, to either pick your meals, or decide if you want to put it on pause for the week and skip until the next one. I personally would like it if I can just order when I want to rather than having to pause it. But other than that, I really enjoyed the service, quality, convenience and ease.

If you're ready to try out Hello Fresh, Get your $50 Discount on your First two Boxes here. Valid for new customers only. Pronto or Family Box. Ends 10/31/2016Get your $50 Discount on your First two Boxes here. Valid for new customers only. Pronto or Family Box. Ends 10/31/2016. 

Have you used Hello Fresh yet? Would love to see your meals. Share on our Facebook or Instagram!

Monday, September 5, 2016

My Top 6 Fall Items from Sur La Table




I've long been a fan of Sur la Table. They offer everything you need for cooking from utensils, dishes, cookbooks and spices, to dishtowels, aprons and cupcake liners. I can spend hours in their stores. And I couldn't be happier that we just became affiliate partners.

I can't help but go through their entire online catalog and bookmark everything I want for this Fall. I know...I get it's still summer and it will be still for another month. And in California that means it will feel like summer for another two months. But, I love all things fall and I'm slowly but surely starting to sneak fall into our home. Like the pumpkin Glade candle I just bought and everyone is loving the scent, not realizing that I'm forcing fall upon them. And, the pumpkin plant I recently added to my garden, you can read about that here.


My Top 6 Favorite Fall Items from Sur La Table


1. Individual Pumpkin Bowl with Lid- I've recently decided to create a tablescape for each season, much to my boyfriend's delight. These cute white pumpkin bowls will be the perfect addition to my fall tablescape. I plan to pair them with my blue and white salad plates to create an elegant, but chic look.


Individual Pumpkin Bowl with Lid


I'm envisioning something along the lines of this beautiful setting from Celebrating Everyday Life with Jennifer Connel, with the white pumpkin bowl and orange ribbons and flowers. I'm also envisioning a leopard print runner layered over a wider fall runner to add texture, pattern and more interest.





2. Pumpkin Wreath- I can never have too many wreaths! I have a beautiful fall one for my front door, but I plan on placing one on the hood of my new kitchen range.



Something along the lines of Julie's Less Than Perfect Life of Bliss picture. Check out her blog. She's has a bunch of really cool ideas for the home, parties and free printables!



And you know this just opens up a big can or worms...wreaths on the hood for every season!


3. Pumpkin Jacquard Napkins- I think these will be the perfect addition to my blue willow dinner plates and white pumpkin bowls. Sur La Table's napkins and towels are of great quality and I know I can always count on them for years to come.


Pumpkin Jacquard Napkins


4. Calabaza Cocktail Napkins- I like to have chic or funny cocktail napkins with appetizers and cocktails for every get-together. Or in the event of a holiday, themed cocktail napkins. These Calabaza Cocktail Napkins will work perfect for our Thanksgiving and Friendsgiving Dinners this year.


Calabaza Cocktail Napkins

5. Pumpkin Covered Pie Dish- OK, I seriously have THE perfect pumpkin pie recipe for this dish and I just can't wait to start cooking everything pumpkin-flavored. It's stoneware and is goes perfectly from ovens to freezer which is exactly what I need. And the lid is perfect for transporting to holiday parties. How adorable is it??!!






I mean...look at this!!! {{Drool}}

PS: I stopped by my favorite coffee shop yesterday {Coffee Bean & Teat Leaf} and they have already received their pumpkin lattes...just haven't brought them out yet...<<squeal>>!! I know, I know they're full of sugar...but a treat once in a while, specially after one of my long training runs, is totally OK, right? And given that my brother, Sandy and I are training for a marathon in November, there will be plenty of guilt free pumpkin latte treats opportunities.





6. Sur La Table Pumpkin Spice Latte Syrup- Oh hey! After my trip to Coffee Bean yesterday, I came home to peruse through the Sur La Table catalog and what do I find??? Drum roll.....Pumpkin Spice Latte Syrup! I'll need to order this stat and start making my own pumpkin spice lattes at home.

Sur La Table Pumpkin Spice Latte


Made exclusively for Sur La Table by the experts at Sonoma Syrup Co., our Pumpkin Spice Latte Syrup features a blend of all-natural pumpkin purée and premium spices—including Vietnamese cinnamon, Indian nutmeg, and Tahitian and Madagascar vanilla bean extract. Sounds delish, right? I can't wait to use this with my Nespresso VertuoLine Coffee Maker.

That concludes my Top 6 Fall Items from Sur La Table...I tried for top 5 but then I found the pumpkin spice syrup and couldn't resist. Have you looked through their catalog or been in stores lately? What are some of your favorite items? Make sure you're signing up for our newsletter as we are sending out offers from Sur La Table on a regular basis.





Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Tequilibre = Tequila Cocktail




My comadre was over with my beautiful goddaughter earlier this summer, and she came bearing gifts {happy dance}. An new libation she prepared fresh in my kitchen. It was so refreshing on a hot summer day in SoCal, I just couldn't wait to share with you all. It' super simple.




TEQUILIBRE INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup Tequila Silver, like El Jimador
1/4 lemon juice
Squirt
Chamoy (salsa)
Chunks of pineapple
Salt to taste
Ice

Fill a cup half ways with ice. Pour in pineapple, tequila, lemon juice and fill the cup with squirt. Add a dash of chamoy, a few chunks of pineapple and salt to taste. Stir. Drink. Repeat.

And there you have a refreshing tequilibre for an afternoon of cocktails and appetizers, a hot summer's day, a celebration, or heck, for relaxing after work.

I used my stemless wineglasses for these cocktails, but next time I'll use my Moscow Mule Copper Mugs, which I often use for more than just Moscow Mules.

Please share your feedback and pictures if you make this cocktail. #tequilibre




Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Culinary Garden Update- 15 Weeks Later

It's been a good 3 1/2 months since I planted my very first Culinary Garden and it's been a much different adventure than anticipated. It was so overwhelming to just get started. Deciding what to plant and where, how far apart, will they survive, will I they not, etc. I finally took the plunge as I shared in my blog post about planting my first culinary garden and the results have been surprising.

If you want to look back on the first two updates I shared, you can find them here at 2 weeks and here at 5 weeks.

First and foremost, it has been such a meditative experience. I thoroughly enjoy going out to my vegetable and herb garden daily to make sure it's getting enough water (since I don't have a watering system here yet). It allows me time to take a breathe from the daily hustle and bustle and just be with nature, even if it's just 10 minutes. It gives me time to see what new is growing, what is dying, what has visitors and what I need to Google. It reminds me of the many hours I spent with my grandmother, my Nina Chayo, in her jungle of fruit trees, plants and flowers in her ranch home in El Chante, Jalisco, Mexico. We lost my Nina Chayo last Monday, August 15th, 2016. And although I will miss her very, very much, I know she's now with my grandfather, Nino Daniel, in heaven. Because of her Alzheimer's, she never really knew he had past. I will cherish our memories forever...including the time we spent in her jungle of fruit trees and plants.

My Nina Chayo - Mother's Day 2016

Aside from my herb and vegetable gardening becoming a therapeutic activity, I've learned to just let things happen and let them grow as they wish, and make adjustments as necessary. And to my surprise, my bf and the boys have also enjoyed the garden, even suggesting what else I should plant next. So here's the update.


Tomatillos- finally growing tomatillos. The husk has sprouted and they definitely have tomatillos inside. Just waiting for the right time to pick them off. I can see why the recommendation is to plant a few plants, because it's only giving me a handful of tomatillos. And if my plan is to rely solely on my homegrown plants to make my salsa every week, I'm definitely going to need more. Unfortunately, I haven't found them at Home Depot again which is where I found this one. I'll probably have to place an order online.


Check out these beauties!!



Mint, Parsley Chives- The mint has grown quite well and the parsley has grown crazy good! I use it a few times a week...so happy I don't have to go out and buy it anymore. Chives have done ok. Not grown crazy but not died. I also don't use it much, so that's just fine.



Cilantro- Cilantro didn't do well last time around. I found in my research that when I planted the cilantro, the season was coming to an end and that the best time to replant is in September. Now, I realize it's still August, but I figured if Home Depot has them in stock, then it's time to take them home. If they die, HD has a great return policy. So here they are newly planted. Really hoping for great success with these because I use cilantro at least 4-5 times a week.




Arugula- this one really surprised me. It grew enormously. I planted two little packets of seeds and they grew about 3 feet tall. And, became way to bitter to eat. When it was little and barely growing, perfect salads. But afterwards it was too much.  I tried them in my smoothies in replacement of my spinach and it was so bitter it hurt my throat. Weirdest feeling ever. So I cut the completely down to the root. I had planted 4 rows of arugula, so I took two out of the soil completely to plant something else. I don't think we can eat that much arugula in such short amount of time if it decides to grow back. So we're down to 2 rows of arugula.


And to the left of the arugula, where I pulled out the old arugula, I planted kale and spinach seeds. That way I'll have a larger variety of greens to use in salads and smoothies.


Jalapenos- these have done OK. I mean it has given me just the right amount of jalapenos I need. I don't use a ton, so it's been fine. The front plant gave me about 5 jalapenos. I picked them and used them, and it doesn't seem to be growing anymore. The back one has a few now, which I will pick soon. Did I let them go too long? Some are turning red!!! Not sure if this is normal...will have to research that! I sometimes wonder if it's neighbor the zucchini is too close and too powerful for it?


Zucchini- Oh the zucchini. I planted 2 zucchini plants and what an adventure. The size of these zucchinis was crazy...see??


I made zucchini chips, grilled zucchini, chopped zucchini in omelettes, zucchini soup...and I'm not tired of it yet! I love it. And not only were the zucchini large, but the plant itself just takes over the entire area!! I guess I should've taken the spacing requirements seriously...oops! Lesson learned.

The back plant seems to be dieing off. And at one point the zucchini started turning yellow...all of them. Some just seem to stopped growing all together, only to about 3 inches and they sounded hollow. So I just cut those off and threw them out. I fertilized, nursed them, and kept watering. I thought maybe it wasn't getting enough water in our 100+ degree weather here in SoCal. And the front one seems to be doing a lot better :-) Happy dance!


Red Bell Peppers- These have been quite disappointing, but I'm afraid the zucchini is to blame, perhaps. I get a sense that it's taking the nutrients from it, but who knows. This is the 3rd pepper that grows on it and look at it's state!!! Not sure if birds are eating it, or if it just can't grow healthy due to it feeling suffocated...or???....the soil is good as I made sure the whole area got new, organic soil before I planted anything. Not sure...will have to research that as well.



Basil- This is a newly replanted basil. For those of you who have been keeping up with my garden, you'll remember the first spot I planted in just didn't do well and one of our readers told me it needs a new spot, different from last year's. So I bought a new one and gave it a new spot. I have used it several times, but it doesn't quite seem to be growing. Perhaps it's been too hot....scorching 100+ degrees!! (the one in the front in the picture under Rosemary)

Rosemary- also doesn't seem like it's grown not an inch! I'll keep nursing it. (the one in the back in the picture below)



Pumpkin- this is new!! I bought two small plants and knowing what I know now with the zucchini, I gave it it's space. And boy does it like to spread out!! No fruit is growing yet, but I'm really looking forward to these babies.



Carrots and Peas- these have not been planted yet, but we have picked up seed packets! Just need to move some dirt and make room for them ;-)

Oh, and one final addition. Since I'm spending so much more time in the garden, planting, and tending, and loving, and watering and all that my Nina Chayo taught me to do with my garden...I picked up this little beauty to use as a potting bench. It sits just across from my culinary garden so it's easy to access dirt, shears, gloves, fertilizer, etc. It will definitely be getting a makeover with a fresh, new coat of paint, new knobs, hooks on the sides and perhaps I'll add a shelf on the bottom, so it looks neater. I'm thinking a bright Kelly green or maybe a sunny yellow.



So this is my Culinary Garden Update, 3 months since planted. Again, if you're interested in catching up on my journey, this is where you can read more on my herb and vegetable garden:
Culinary Garde Update, 5 Weeks

Thanks for taking this ride with me. And if you have any comments, feedback, ideas, or maybe even questions, please feel free to share in the comments below, or on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

Until next time!

Sonia





Thursday, August 11, 2016

Ultimate Beef Nachos



I was recently on my regular shopping trip to Costco with my BF. One of the things I like to do once we have all our necessary food and drinks in the cart, is to swing by the boutique (ahem...tables of clothes) and the books. I love looking through their selection of cookbooks....as if I don't have enough already!! And I always think....I haven't even tried a third of the recipes sitting on my bookshelf. But every new cookbook, with all it's beautiful and colorful pictures, takes me back to the wonderful aromas, and flavors and happy, smiling faces of satisfied diners in my kitchen. I'm usually impressed by The Pioneer Woman's and The Barefoot Contessa's cookbooks...I just love them, and I only have one of each. Hint, hint....

But this time my BF gravitated towards a Mexican recipes cookbook. He loves Mexican food....thank goodness, right? And I kinda thought to myself....really?? You want to buy ME a Mexican cookbook???...And in an offended but reserved manner, I proceeded to open it and flip through it...and I thought....hmmmm...maybe this isn't too bad. I mean I can't remember ever having 7-layer dip, pumpkin seed dip or even chimichangas for that matter, in Mexico City. But I figured these recipes looked yummy and I'm sure the boys can use a break from my regular Mexican Traditional Recipes and try something a little different. So we bought it.

The cookbook is American's Test Kitchen Special Collector's Edition, The Best Mexican Recipes.




As soon as we arrived home, my BF requested the nachos in the cookbook, so I got to work. It was a success....wow. My BF loved them, my teenage boys loved them...and heck, I loved them. So here's the recipe for The Ultimate Beef Nachos.

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander (I didn't have this so I skipped it)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 ounces 90 percent lean ground beef (next time I'll use turkey...we just like it better)
8 ounces tortilla chips
1 pound cheddar cheese, shredded (4 cups)...I would use more!
2 large jalapeno chiles, stemmed and sliced thin
2 scallions, sliced thin
1 1/2 cups guacamole, here's my recipe
1 cup fresh tomato salsa (I skipped this and used our salsa verde)
1/2 cup sour cream
lime wedges

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat over to 400 degrees.

Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in chili powder, garlic, oregano, cumin, coriander, cayenne, and salt and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add beef and cook, breaking up meat with wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

Spread half tortilla chips evenly into 13" x 9" baking dish. Sprinkle 2 cups evenly over chips, actually I will do more next time, then top evenly with half of beef mixture, followed by half of jalapeno slices. Repeat layering with remaining chips, cheddar beef mixture, and jalapenos. Bake until cheese is melted and just beginning to brown, 7 to 10 minutes.

Let nachos cool for 2 minutes, then sprinkle with scallions. Drop scoops of guacamole, salsa and sour cream around the edges of the nachos. Serve immediately, passing lime wedges separately.




Perfect recipe for lots of boys and during football games. Crowd pleaser! I'll definitely be making these again.

Provecho!

Check out items you might need for this recipe at Sur La Table:



OXO Wooden Spoon Scanpan� Classic Nonstick Skillet Le Creuset® Heritage Flame Baker