Boxed Dinners ~ Activities for Foodie Couples

imageIf you haven’t heard about these blessings in a box, they are called Meal Delivery Services, and they are being shipped to most locations worldwide. I think they are an awesome idea for folks wanting to learn how to cook, learn new meals, save money and time, stuck in a ‘food rut’ (us), along with dieting or even just eating better!  We’ve batted this idea around for a bit… Having fresh ingredients arrive at our door to make meals for a few nights a week. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a savings or an expense. My husband really took a hold of this idea and ran with it. He compared many of the Dinner Box companies that deliver in our area. He decide Blue Apron was the best fit for us. They source the food as local as possible to me. I love supporting my community.

When he told me about the future box coming, he had sparkles in his eyes. He was genuinely excited to cook these meals! He then tells me the most mushy, lovey-dovey thing… “I can’t wait to spend time with you in the kitchen cooking these meals.” Awe! What a Sweety-Pie!!! I love you, honey.

Our first three meals arrived on a Friday. We picked Friday, so we would have more time to cook the meals over the weekend. The part I really like is that the amounts are per-determined, and there is no waste or leftovers. I feel like we waste too much food here. Another huge pro for going with this arrangement.

There are also beautifully done recipe cards with photos for most of the steps in the recipe. If there is something missing on the card, you can always go to their website to learn how to reproduce the technique they are asking you to do. There are many how-to videos, other recipes and comments from other Blue Apron clients.

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Lemon Caper Catfish, Chicken Paillard and Bucatini Pasta Bolognese, were our weeks choices. In plain English: Lemon catfish w/kale, Chicken & potatoes & Spaghetti w/meat sauce. There are generally 3 meat meals and 3 vegetarian meals, for a total of 6 meals to choose from for a week. Blue Apron only offers 3 meals a week, whereas other companies do offer 2 -7 meals a week. As I am a carnivore, the veggie meals are somewhat wasted on me. Yes, roasted cauliflower sounds yummy, but that is a side dish, not the centerpiece of the meal.


The Chicken Paillard was to die for! I have never roasted a fennel before and I have been missing out! If you’ve never done it, buy one in the next grocery run. They are amazing roasted. We figured even if we didn’t like some part of the meal, it would introduce us to other types of food and how to cook it. A con was the size of the potato. It was smaller than my fist, and we had to split it. I get it. It’s called PORTION CONTROL 😉 Fatty-Fat-Fat!

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Sometimes we had to read the directions 10X to wrap our minds around something. The directions for the Bucatini Pasta Bolognese had us cooking veggies and sauce before we cooked the meat in the veggies. Huh? I’ve generally always cooked the meat first, then added other ingredients. This recipe also had us adding chopped brussels sprouts near the end of the process. In the end, it was a super yummy meal. I still like my spaghetti sauce better (I use pork shoulder), however I will now add carrot, celery and chopped brussels sprouts to mine!

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Here is the Lemon Caper Catfish. The catfish was great. It was on a bed of lentils and kale. I like many veggies, but you lost me at both lentils and kale. Blech! I can say that the lentils were not the same kind my Mom used for soup. These were called the ‘caviar of lentils’ and even resembled it. They were actually pretty good. Not the texture of dirt, like my Ma’s. The kale was kale. There was no helping it. In the end, I would just do this recipe with spinach and call it a day.

My hubby and I are very pleased with our choices, the turnout and the amount of fun we’ve been having in the kitchen. I’d really have to wait for more data, however the total amount of groceries and the Blue Apron box were even last week, thus it is a wash, budget wise. YEAH!! I would highly suggest trying one of these services out! Even if it’s just for a week here and there. I love that we don’t have to argue about ‘what’s for dinner?’ or spend time making a list or being pissed that we forgot something at the store!! I feel like this may take a lot of stress away from us, which makes it worth its weight in gold.


I can’t wait for our next box and our next foodie adventure!!

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Vegans… Look Away! It’s a Meat Party!

Not that kind of sausage fest…. a Meat Party!!

My husband and I don’t hunt, although almost everyone we know does. We’re the farmers =-) Saturday was a friend of ours 40th birthday. Every year he has a “Meat Party”. Everyone rings a non-traditional meat to be shared. There was a huge variety of cuts and different species. Lamb, pork, beef, venison, pheasant, quail, duck, turkey, chicken, sausages, alligator….

Then, just when I thought I was going to fall into a protein coma, my neighbor has a lamb roast the next day! I have never liked lamb, but the crunchy outside was to die for. We all gathered around the meat on the table and ate it like a pack of wild hyenas. No plates, forks or napkins. Just a lot of grunting, sleeve wiping and lip smacking.


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Nom, nom, nom…

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Grunt, slurp, grrrr, stay away from my meat!!

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Potatoes AuGratin

Since being labelled with hot-headed, blood pressure issues, I’ve had to scale back on my salt. Poor innocent salt. I feel I should quit my job and my pressure would be fine.

Aaaanyway. I used to enjoy the boxed variety of Potatoes Au Gratin, however have you seen the sodium in those things?!? Yikes!!

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I had to find a homemade alternative with less salt. I looked through a large amount of recipes, but none of them seemed to fit, so I had to mash them up to get what I wanted.

As with most of my recipes, I’m going to give approximate measurements for the ingredients.

I used a pie dish – Set oven for 350F

  • 6 peeled potatoes – sliced thin
  • 1 sweet onion – sliced thin
  • 2 cups Shredded cheddar
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup of whole milk or better
  • 1 Stick melted butter
  • 1 Teaspoon of potato starch (thickener)
  • Dash of pepper
  • Dash of garlic powder

Mix the butter, milk, potato starch, pepper, garlic and any other spices you might like.

Start layering the potatoes, then onion, then cheeses, then splash some of the milk mix in. Put less in at the bottom and more towards the top as it will soak down, so to speak.

I ended with all the junk on top with some onion, hoping they would get caramelized, which they did!

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Corn Beef n Baked Cabbage n Squishy Water*?


Once a girl from the Midwest
Thought wine with food was the best
Her blood pressure went high
Script pills she now buys
Sad she can’t drink like the rest

Yup. Seems the prescription I’m on makes me the lightest of light-weights in the drinking department. One glass of wine makes me feel like I’ve drank a bottle quite rapidly. Whoosy, seeing double, nauseous… No favs of mine!! So, I can’t enjoy my meals with wine for a short time, but I can still share an awesome recipe.

Before you note I’m eating Corned Beef. SHUT UP! It’s St. Patrick’s day and I’ll eat corn beef if I want to. =-P

However, the cabbage is salt free and super awesome. I will give you that recipe. I’m assuming by now you’ve learned how to cook the corned beef….

imageBaked Cabbage

Fire up the oven to 350F

Leave the core in the cabbage and cut it into 16 wedges. The core helps it stay together while cooking. If you screw-up on the cutting, just cook them a bit longer.

Melt about 3 tbsns butter and add 3 tbsns olive oil. Baste cabbage.

Add as much garlic as you like. I like a lot. Garlic is the new salt!

Toss in oven about the same time you’re putting the beef on. It will take about an hour.

Half way through baking, flip and baste again. Add more garlic if you’d like. I do.

I like to finish these off with a quick broil. The outer burnt pieces taste like potato chips to me. I will be trying to make a pan of these ‘cabbage chips’ in the future. I’ll let you know!!

Hope you enjoy!


*Squishy water

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Creamed Corn Buttermilk Cornbread


4 eggs
1/2 c. butter
2 c. corn meal (I chose the buttermilk kind)
2 tsp. salt
2 tbsn. sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1 c. sour cream
1 c. cream style corn

Beat eggs. Blend in sour cream, butter and corn. Blend corn meal, salt, baking powder and add to the corn mixture. Stir well. Pour into 2 – 8 inch square pan.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes.


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

How to Roast Chestnuts in an Open Oven….

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…

Chestnuts can roast in a kitchen oven also!

My first experience with roasted over a fire chestnuts was last year while going on a steam train ride in Georgetown, Colorado. They were reeeally good.

So this year, when I spotted a big bin of chestnuts at the local human feed store… I had to try them! I’ll admit, I had done a bit of online research before I jumped into making them. When choosing your chestnuts, pinch each one to be sure there is no give whatsoever in the shell. Around here, I was paying about $4.99 per pound. There are types you can buy are in a jar, however I didn’t try them.

Wash and dry them so they aren’t slippery when you go to cut them. I did read many opinions about which way cutting them is the right way. Many sources say to cut an X on the flat spot. I found this quite dangerous! I decided to put the flat side down and cut perpendicular to the ends. I found using a serrated steak knife to be the easiest to cut with. And they opened just fine!

I then soaked them in salt water for about an hour. This step can be skipped. I just wanted to be sure they were moist.

There are many directions you can go here. My first batch I boiled for 10 minutes, followed by 10 minutes (spread on baking sheet) in a 350 degree oven. The second batch was only in the 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Honestly, I could not tell the difference in taste or texture between the different preparations. They both tasted the same and pealed the same, which was quite easy. Although, just like relatives, some are easy to deal with, some aren’t!!

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They are much easier to cut with the flat side down. I read in many places that the X was not an X, but a cross.


The shell pealed quite easily. Out of about 25, only 3 gave me issues.


Mmmm! Yummy, healthy snack.


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Growing ‘Shrooms

imageI found these at Home Depot. These are from “Back to the Roots” and they have other cute, organic things to grow. I though these would make nice gifts for some of my business connections.

The regular farm costs $20. The mini mushroom farm is $10. These kits grow pearl oyster mushrooms in the Pleurotus family.

It was pretty easy to get it going. Cut a cross in the plastic, scratch the white mycelium and soak the bag, upside-down in a bowl of water for 8 hours. After the 8 hours, put it back into the box and prop-it-up. It can be laid down also. Find a great well lit, but not full sun, place to place the box. Be aware not to put it in a location that gets a cold draft or from the heat vent. Like Goldilocks, not too hot and not too cold! The box needs to be watered daily for the 10 days it needs to grow. I left this near my kitchen sink to remind me to water it.

These do need a full 1o days to grow. However, be sure to harvest these right after the 10 days, as my first batch dried up into petrified ‘shrooms. So sad!

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After 4 days, I started seeing little ‘shrooms! They were so cute. After 10 days, I did indeed have mushrooms.

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© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl