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Trying Out a New Way to Cook for the Family

I had never heard of Blue Apron before seeing it on some of the blogs that I read, but it sounded good and I was certainly up for trying it out. My friends here hadn’t heard of it either, but when I was in New York, I mentioned it to a couple of people and they knew all about it. Apparently it’s a big thing out there already? And it is available for free shipping nationwide to over 80% of the country, so chances are good that you’re in one of their delivery zones. So far we’ve tried one week of the service (three meals), and everything we’ve cooked has been great!

Blue Apron Ingredients

Brandon does more of the cooking than I do, but we were both in the kitchen to make our first dish: Filipino-Style Beef Picadillo. (Because duh, one of us had to hold the camera. How do food bloggers do this on the regular?) The recipes are designed by chefs to be delicious and good for you, and you can choose portions for two, four, or six people. The meals are $9.99 per serving with free shipping and we went with the four servings size, but they’re generous so we had leftovers for lunch from each recipe.

Preparing Ingredients from Blue Apron

Brandon, Cooking

There is a lot of packaging, which is understandable — the boxes are packed to keep things cold during shipping so the food stays fresh. Everything arrived in perfect condition though, even potentially squishable foods like the tomatoes. The ingredients are sent in just the right amounts, so you have everything you need all planned out for you with no trip to the grocery store and you don’t end up with random bottles of stuff you’ll never use entirely. (Like the giant bottle of fish sauce that has been sitting in our house, mocking us for not finding more uses for it.)

Cooking

Cooking

By the way… ever wonder how multiple pots and pans fit on our antique stove? Answer: not very well. The left half is wood-burning, so only the right half with gas burners is functional as cooking space. It’s a challenge. The stove looks cool, but it’s pretty apparent that cooking technology has changed a lot since 1918.

Cooking on an Antique Stove

Even with our ancient stove, we do make almost all of our meals at home. We fall into ruts though, making the same meals over and over again, so it’s nice that Blue Apron helps us learn new recipes and lets us try out new foods. (I’d never had chayote squash before using it in this beef dish.)

Blue Apron Filipino-Style Beef Picadillo

The meals are really good, and the kids liked them too. We even garnished for presentation, which we usually don’t do. So you know. Fancy.

Kid-Approved Dinner

I’m glad we got the chance to try the service because we’re looking forward to using Blue Apron again, for sure. There’s no commitment; you can sign up and get a week’s delivery, then skip or cancel at any time. I think it could be particularly useful for us when baby number three arrives, so we won’t have to do the meal planning and shopping.

If you’d like to give it a go too, Blue Apron is offering two free meals with your first order to the first 50 readers that sign up.

Keeping Snacks at Hand

This is my view when I wake up every morning. My ‘bubble’ water bottle (twee heart with a secret snarky message, ha!), prenatal vitamins (because I’ll forget if they aren’t right there), a constantly changing stack of things to read, an alarm clock, and a snack.

Bedside Table

Bedroom

I’ve been keeping a snack by my bedside because while most of the queasiness of early pregnancy has passed by now, I feel better if I keep a little something in my stomach. For a while it was the Dark Cocoa Almonds from NatureBox, but lately I’ve been preferring their Blueberry Almond Bites. Of course the kids don’t understand why I get to break the ‘no food upstairs’ rule; they want to keep their favorites in their rooms, too.

Bedside Snack

And we do all have our favorites! NatureBox is a subscription service with free shipping that delivers healthy snacks monthly. We switch up our choices sometimes, but Eleanor also likes the Blueberry Almond Bites, Brandon is partial to the Santa Fe Corn Sticks, and August is happy to have some Cherry Berry Bonanza.

NatureBox Snacks

Giveaway

Everything from NatureBox is made from wholesome ingredients (no HFCS, partially hydrogenated oils, or trans fats, and no artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors), and you can change what you receive each month to stick with your favorites or try new goodies. You can also choose the right-sized package for you (Deluxe, Happy, and Smart Snacker, with 5, 10, and 20 bags, respectively), and each bag has 3-5 servings in it. NatureBox is offering a 50% off discount to new customers for their first box (making the Deluxe Snacker package only $9.95) if you use the code LOVELY.

NatureBox Snacks

NatureBox is giving 2 winners each a free 6-month Deluxe Snacker subscription! The giveaway is open to US readers with a US shipping address only, and to enter, you can browse NatureBox’s snacks and leave a comment below by midnight CDT, June 4 with the variety you’d most like to try. Good luck!

Gingerbread Cake

This post is sponsored by Safeway stores-Safeway, Dominicks, Tom Thumb, Vons, Randalls. Tastier for the holidays!

I usually make something with chocolate when I want to bake, but yesterday I wanted something with a little more spice. Something that seemed right for the holiday season. I turned to one of my favorite cookbooks, Little Cakes by Susan Waggoner, and found a recipe for gingerbread cake. Perfect.

Gingerbread Cake Ingredients

Gingerbread Cake Recipe

As I was measuring the ingredients and setting up a little mise en place, I had it in my head that I was “pretty baking.” Turns out it’s actually quite nice to make a cake that way! My assistant helped.

My First Helper

(She makes faces for the camera now.)

I was hoping to link to the flour scoop below for you, but I can’t find it anywhere. It’s the best measuring cup ever. The shape is perfect, and if you turn it around, you can mix with the handle. I also have matching a 1/4 cup spoon that’s labeled “sugar”.

Flour Mixture

It was easy for Eleanor to help, since everything was already measured out.

Adding the Butter

My second assistant came in just as the first was leaving. August is super into anything mechanical, so he was enthralled with the beaters. I told him we were making Mickey cake; he liked that a lot.

Little Bakers

We baked that batter up to make a delicious gingerbread cake.

Gingerbread Cake Batter

Gingerbread Cake

I’ve transcribed the recipe for gingerbread cake below, since Little Cakes is out of print. (It’s still available in low quantities as a remnant or used book though, so grab one while you can!)

Gingerbread Cake

From Little Cakes, by Susan Waggoner

2 cups sifted cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
2/3 cup dark molasses
3/4 cup buttermilk
PAN: 8 or 9 inch square pan, greased [I used an 8" round springform pan with good results]

  1. Combine the sifted flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, allspice, and salt in a bowl. Stir to combine and set aside.

  2. Cream the butter. Gradually add the sugar, creaming until light and fluffy.

  3. Beat in the egg, then the molasses.

  4. Add one-quarter flour-spice mixture, then one-third of the milk, beating until smooth after each addition. Repeat twice, ending with the last quarter of the flour-spice mixture.

  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula to make it level.

  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes.

A Slice of Gingerbread Cake

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