Tag Archive | local

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

The Local Watering Hole

Whiskey Old Fashion & A Moscow Mule W/Apple Cider… very awesome winter twist on a summer fav!
The usual drinks, just local this time and enjoying Blackhawks hockey.
We’re done camping for the season. However, we have decided to cruise down to Savannah, Georgia for Christmas! We’ve picked a great Campground right outside of town.
Have any of you been there before? I’d love to hear of any ‘non miss-able events’ if you have any.
We did buy the audio version of ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil’ for our ride down there.

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Holly Blue Butterfly – Celastrina argiolus

The Holly Blue butterfly (Celastrina argiolus) is one of the first blue butterflies to emerge in the spring. This little man is only about an inch around. I know he’s a boy as females have black wing edges/fringe.


Primary Larval Food Plants:

  • Holly (Ilex spp.)
  • Ivy (Hedera helix)
  • Bramble (Rubus fruticosus)
  • Dogwoods (Cornus spp.)
  • Gorses (Ulex spp.)
  • Snowberries (Symphoricarpos spp.)
  • Spindle (Euonymus europaeus)

Nectar Sources:

  • Bramble (Rubus fruticosus)
  • Bugle (Ajuga reptans)
  • Buttercups (Ranunculus spp.)
  • Forget-me-not (Myosotis spp.)
  • Holly (Ilex spp.)
  • Ivy (Hedera helix)
  • Privet (Ligustrum vulgare)
  • Thistles (Cirsium and Carduus spp.)
  • Water Mint (Mentha aquatica).
  • Honeydew / Sap


© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Goodbye Summer Blend Gas


Living near Chicago has its advantages, people say. I’m still trying to think of one. The one good thing that happens in winter here is the high-priced summer blend is over

Refineries brew their summer blends by removing hydrocarbons that are more inclined to evaporate in hot weather. These chemicals, called volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), react with airborne pollutants in the summer sun to form ozone, one of the main components of smog. From June 1 to September 15, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandates that pumps in more than 30 large cities must meet special low-evaporation criterion.

Summer blend gases started in 1995, as required by the Clean Air Act’s 1990 amendments and even cleaner, mixture was phased in the summer of 2000. Since enacted, there have been sharp spikes in fuel prices every spring as summer blends roll out. This is not so much because it’s expensive to make the gas (the added cost per gallon is only 1 or 2 cents) but because refineries generally try to sell every last bit of winter fuel before mixing in the slightly more expensive summer batch. Sometimes they allow the stock too deplete too far which creates shortages before the first deliveries of summer blend entering the supply chain. (Nice, huh?) The return to normal blends in the fall causes a far less pronounced spike because the industry, free from summer standards, doesn’t bother selling off the summer gas before mixing in the less pricey stuff.

The difference between conventional summer and winter blend gasoline has to do with the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) of the fuel as it relates to the volatility of a gasoline. The more volatile a gasoline, the more likely it will evaporate as the temperatures rises; evaporated gasoline donates to unhealthy ozone and smog levels. Summer gasoline has a low RVP and is less likely to evaporate when equated to the high RVP winter grade. The EPA states conventional summer blend gasoline contains 1.7 percent more energy than winter blend gas, which is the reason the summer blend gets a bit better gas mileage.

So why don’t we use the summer blend year-round? The main reason is that summer blend gas doesn’t work as well in the winter. Summer blend’s low evaporation rate makes engines less likely to stall in hot weather, however can make them difficult to start in the cold.

The RVP is the vapor pressure of the gasoline blend when the temperature is 100F/38C. Normal atmospheric pressure varies, but is usually around 14.7 pounds per square inch (psi). Atmospheric pressure is caused by the weight of the air over our heads. If a liquid has a vapor pressure of greater than local atmospheric pressure, that liquid boils. For example, when you heat a pot of water, the vapor pressure increases until it reaches atmospheric pressure, at that point, the water begins to boil. (Thank you meteorology class, I actually understood this!)

In the summer, when temperatures can exceed 100F/38C in many locations, it is important that the RVP of gasoline is well below 14.7 psi. Otherwise, it can cause pressure in gas tanks and gas cans, and it can boil in open containers. BOOM! Gas that is evaporated ends up in the atmosphere and contributes to air pollution. Consequently, the EPA has declared that summer gasoline blends may not exceed 7.8 psi in some locations, and 9.0 psi in others.

The RVP of the gasoline blend rests on on how much of each element is in the blend and what the RVP is of each component. Butane is a relatively inexpensive ingredient in gasoline, however, it has the highest vapor pressure at around 52 psi.

In the gasoline blend, each component adds a portion to the total RVP. Simply, in the case of butane, if there is 10% butane in the winter blend, it will contribute around 5.2 psi (10% of 52 psi) to the overall blend. This means that in the summer, the butane fraction must be very low in the gasoline or the overall RVP of the blend will be too high.

And that’s why gasoline prices generally fall back in the fall, and spring forward in the spring, just like the clock!!