Geography: Nigeria

Weeks 11 and 12 of school we learned about Nigeria using Layers of Learning, year 2 unit 7.

We did map work.
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We painted Nigerian flags.
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We watched videos about talking drums and gourd carving.
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We ate jollof rice and red bell peppers.
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We took a video tour of Nigeria.
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We played Mimic Me.
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History: Normans

Weeks 11 and 12 of school we learned about the Normans using Layers of Learning, year 2 unit 7.

We did map work (Battles of Hastings and Stirling Bridge).
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We added a whole bunch of dates to our timeline. Some of those pages are getting pretty full.
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The boys each picked a different famous Norman to give an oral report on (Cameron looks TIRED!).
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We looked at pictures of the Bayeux Tapestry.
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We made a little paper castle and then put strips of paper describing good governmental actions inside (and threw away strips with bad ones).
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We colored Edward III’s coat of arms.
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We learned about William Wallace and then watched a clip from Braveheart.
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We colored a map of the Hundred Years War.
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We made cannons.
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Science: Planets

Weeks 9 and 10 of school we learned about the planets using Layers of Learning, year 1 unit 1.

We painted styrofoam balls to look like the planets and the sun and then put them together in a solar system. (We included Pluto because you heard about Pluto? That’s messed up.)
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We demonstrated how temperature works on Mercury when it’s directly in the sun and when it is not. The thermometer directly in the light went up faster and more degrees than the thermometer on the edge of the light.
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We showed why Venus is only visible from Earth at certain times.
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We demonstrated why Earth’s atmosphere makes our planet perfect to sustain life. Under the lamp the thermometers both heated up the same, but after being removed from the light, the thermometer without the plastic wrap “atmosphere” cooled down more than the one inside the “atmosphere” because the plastic wrap helped keep the temperature more stable.
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We showed why the orbit of Mars looks regressive to us on Earth.
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We demonstrated why the asteroids in the asteroid belt keep spinning around in their orbits. We used a marble to represent an asteroid. First we spun it with construction paper in the bottom of the pie pan and then without. It spun for a long time without because the construction paper added friction and slowed it down. In outer space, there isn’t any friction to slow down the asteroids so they keep going around and around the sun.
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There’s a constant giant storm on Jupiter. It’s swirling like a hurricane. We showed how that works by putting tea leaves in water and stirring them. When we removed the spoon, they continued to spin like a whirlpool.
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Saturn’s rings are lots of bits of things, but they are easy to see. We demonstrated why that is by blowing some cornstarch into the path of a flashlight in a dark room. With the dark background, the cornstarch showed up very clearly even though it was tiny particles (they didn’t show up very well in the picture, though).
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We showed why Uranus is always spinning sideways using a paper plate and string. Giving it a spin before swinging it side to side made the plate move in a much less erratic pattern.
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We drew how Neptune’s orbit is elliptical instead of round.
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We spent some time looking at the Kepler Space Telescope website.
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The Arts: Carolingian Art

Weeks 9 and 10 of school we learned about Carolingian Art using Layers of Learning, year 2 unit 6.

We copied scriptures and poems and then illustrated them like monks and scribes did.
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We made religious art.
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We looked at architecture and identified what had carolingian influence.
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We watched a video showing examples of Carolingian architecture.
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We talked about epic poems and made up one of our own.
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We learned about kennings and came up with some (for example, tiger: savannah pirhanna; whale: water beast).
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We Tried Home Chef

For our fourth meal kit service, we tried Home Chef. We got three two-serving meals and like when we tried Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Sun Basket, we made them for lunch so there was plenty for those of us at home during the day.

Pros:
1.) Each meal was packaged in a plastic bag (plus meat separately) making it easy to pull everything out at once for cooking (I really liked the look of the bags since I could see what was in them without breaking the seal).
2.) Good size portions so everyone had plenty.
3.) Very convenient.
4.) The instructions were easy to follow.
5.) Allergens are clearly marked so it was easy to find the gluten free meals we could choose from.
6.) While we didn’t choose to get them, you can select smoothies, quick lunches, and seasonal fruit for a small extra cost which is pretty cool.
7.) Came with a nice binder to hold the recipes.
8.) The vegetables were extremely fresh. In fact, we didn’t make the salad for 6 days after the box arrived and the produce was still in very good shape.

Cons:
1.) The meals are expensive compared to getting the ingredients on your own.
2.) The chicken needed to have the gross bits trimmed off (I am really picky about the grossness left on chicken after it is cut up).

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The box arrived about 6pm the day they said it would (expected delivery between 8am and 8pm). It was raining that day and the outside of the box was a little bit soggy. Inside everything was perfectly dry. The top of the box contained ice packs and meal bags and large produce. The meat was double wrapped in the bottom between more ice packs. The whole inside was wrapped in some sort of insulating material to, along with the ice packs, keep everything the right temperature during shipping.

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The box included a nice three-ring binder to hold the recipes. I thought that was a nice touch, and definitely unexpected. Inside the binder was a few pages of general cooking information (this would be excellent for someone wanting to learn to cook) and instructions on how to recycle the packing materials.

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Three meals plus the recipe binder equals a lot of stuff in that box! I really like the plastic containers rather than paper bags since I could see everything in them before time to make the meals.

The first meal we made was Korean Pork Medallions with Siracha and Slaw. Adrian helped me. He put some YouTube parody songs on his computer for us to cook to. They sent seasoned rice vinegar, green onions, garlic cloves, red fresno chile, pork tenderloin, tamari soy sauce (labeled gluten free), light brown sugar, siracha, chopped ginger, toasted sesame oil, and slaw mix.
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This was an easy meal to make. I sliced the green onions and chile and minced the garlic.
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I sliced the pork and Adrian helped me make the marinade. While the pork marinated, Adrian helped me mix together the slaw. Both the marinade and slaw dressing were easy enough that Adrian could mix them.
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This meal was so incredibly good. The flavors were amazing, the pork was tender. We dished up the pork medallions with the slaw on the side garnished with chile pepper rings and green onions. It was spicy, but not overly so. We’ll definitely make this again!
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The second meal we made was Coconut Jasmine Rice Bowl with Fried Plantains and Corn Pico de Gallo. Adrian helped me again. This time we put Christmas music on the Echo (don’t judge). Included in the kit was coconut milk, a shallot, a jalapeno pepper, jasmine rice, a plantain, black beans, a lime, a roma tomato, cilantro, and corn. Cameron’s had me save all the little containers holding ingredients. He loves little containers (he gets that from me).
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Adrian made the coconut rice by combining the rice, water, and coconut milk. It turned out so good.
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I cut up the vegetables. Since this was a vegetarian meal, there was a lot to chop up.
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Adrian did the stirring while things cooked and I put together the corn pico de gallo.
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This meal was so amazing! The taste of the rice was incredible and the corn pico was quite nice. The fried plantains were quite nice. Cameron really, really liked them.
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Our third meal from Home Chef was Blackened Chicken Caesar Salad with Cripy Shallots. The box included grated parmesan, a shallot, two peeled garlic cloves, two romaine hearts, heirloom cherry tomatoes, two boneless skinless chicken breasts, blackening seasoning, white rice flour, mayonnaise, white wine vinegar. Fritz helped me make this meal. We listened to music by Taylor Swift on the Echo while we cooked.
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Fritz prepared the blackened chicken while I chopped the vegetables.
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I wasn’t expecting such an amazing meal out of something sounding so basic as a salad. The shallot rings were tossed with rice flour and then fried until they were golden brown and crispy. This added a nice bit of flavor and crunch. It also made me very happy because gluten free meals are often labeled gluten free after the fact. Basically, they happen to have no gluten in their ingredients so they can marked gluten free. Usually a chicken caesar salad has croutons in it, but they were replaced with the crispy shallots. It made the meal a little bit more special because it’s gluten free-ness seemed more intentional.
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This meal was so good. The dressing was super simple and easy, but also very tasty. The blackening seasoning was delicious (though cooking it did set off the smoke detector which caused Lola to demand that we allow her to herd us outside to safety).
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So now we have tried four meal kit delivery services. Home Chef has taken over as number one. It was better than Blue Apron. I could totally see using Home Chef on occasion again.

Rankings, so far:
1. Home Chef
2. Blue Apron
3. Hello Fresh
4. Sun Basket

Field Trip: SpaceTime Park

Last Friday, Jamie and I took the little guys to SpaceTime Park. It was both simple and a lot of fun. We all learned a lot. It was kind of chilly (50s after weeks of 80s and 90s), but that ended up not being a problem.

The park makes about a 1 1/2 mile loop. The first half is the solar system from the sun to Mars.
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At each planet, there was information and a button to press that told us all about the planet. They also had a thing that let you feel what 10 pounds on Earth feels like on that planet.
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If you walk about 2 1/2 miles per hour, you are traveling through the solar system model at the speed of light. The boys had fun running and saying they were going faster than the speed of light.
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The planets are 3-D printed from what NASA knows about the planets. They are made to scale compared to the size of the sun.
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On the table with Earth is our Moon. Near the moon is a peephole you can look through to see a perfect solar eclipse.
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Because the whole thing is a giant scale model, you can look from each planet back to the sun and see just how tiny the sun looks the further away you get. The planet models are very detailed and beautiful as can be seen in the up close picture of Mars.
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At the halfway point is the Worm Hole. This is where the rest of the planets and my beloved demoted to dwarf planet Pluto reside. It would be way too long a walk to continue on to the rest as they get further and further away from the sun. We stopped at the Worm Hole and ate the picnic lunch I had packed.
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The next third of the park is Dinosaur Island, full of models of dinosaurs and other dinosaur-era critters.
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As with the planet section, there is a button to push at each dinosaur telling what it is and facts about it.
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The giant snake was a bit freaky, but we all liked the tiny little Velociraptor. Not quite so scary as the ones imagined by Michael Crichton.
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Most of the larger dinosaurs were just juvenile size. Full size, they’d be gigantic. After leaving Dinosaur Island, we entered the last third which is currently just empty space. They are raising money to put in a big history timeline.
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Before we left, we got some astronaut ice cream from the gift shop. The boys weren’t very impressed, but to me it is wonderful. When I was a kid and we went to the Air and Space Museum in DC, my parents got us astronaut ice cream. I guess I just like the nostalgia that comes with eating it.
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Geography: France

Weeks 9 and 10 of school we learned about France using Layers of Learning, year 2 unit 6.

We had a breakfast of brie, camembert, and boursin cheese, Nut Thins, and purple grape juice.
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We made French flags.
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We learned about some impressionist artists.
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We made a model of the Eiffel Tower.
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We drew the outline of France and wrote facts about the country around it.
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We made postcards of landmarks in France.
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We played a game of Boule.
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History: Charlemagne

Weeks 9 and 10 of school we learned about Charlemagne using Layers of Learning, year 2 unit 6.

We did map work.
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We added to our timeline. Some of the pages are getting filled up.
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We watched a video about Charlemagne.
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We measured our feet to find out who has the closest to a one-foot foot (answer: Cameron, barely – his is just 1/2″ longer than Fritz’s).
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We made of poster of Charlemagne’s contributions to society.
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We compared how much space something written in all capitals or all small letters takes up and talked about why the addition of lowercase letters helped the monks.
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We made a paper bag puppet of Clovis and then cut his hair. Once his hair was cut he was forbidden from being king ever again.
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The boys each picked a famous person from Charlemagne’s time and reported on them to their brothers. Cameron picked Hildegard, Fritz chose Alcuin, and Adrian reported on Pope Leo III.
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We made a video recreating the Battle of Roncevaux Pass.
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We looked at a picture of Charlemagne’s sword, Joyeuse.
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We watched a video about Roland.
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We learned about Trial by Ordeal vs. Trial Pleading Your Case and did a role play of each.
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Science: Wild Weather

Week 8 of school we learned about wild weather using Layers of Learning, year 2 unit 5.

We made thundermade thunder by popping paper lunch bags.
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We made static electricity.
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We demonstrated how water comes out of a bottle faster when it’s swirling like a tornado.
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We made a tornado in a bottle and watched the video from several years ago when the little guys made one for the first time.
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The boys each picked a wild weather event to learn about and report to their brothers (Cameron: 2004 tsunami, Fritz: 1934 dust storm, Adrian: year without a summer).
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We learned about different types of floods and the boys drew pictures to show how they happen.
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We made a tornado in a jar.
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We Tried Sun Basket

The third meal kit service we tried was Sun Basket. We got three two-serving meals and like when we tried Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, we made them for lunch so there was plenty for those of us at home during the day.

Pros:
1.) Each meal was packaged in a bag (plus meat separately) making it easy to pull everything out at once for cooking.
2.) Huge portions so everyone had plenty.
3.) Very convenient.
4.) The instruction book was nicely made.
5.) Meals were marked to say whether they were gluten free (gluten free plan costs slightly more than the “regular” plan).

Cons:
1.) The meals are expensive compared to getting the ingredients on your own.
2.) The instructions did not give measurements so they are impossible to replicate.
3.) We didn’t like the food very much.
4.) Some of the produce was less than fresh.

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The box included a nice book of all the recipes. At first, I was excited about that, but when I looked closer I discovered the recipes do not include the amounts so they cannot be made without the kit. The vegetables and things were packaged in individual bags and the meat was in the bottom of the box between ice packs.

The first meal we made was seared steak and porcini sauce with sweet potatoes and chard. Fritz helped me with it. He picked music by Twenty One Pilots to accompany us while we cooked. They sent dried porcini mushrooms, sweet potatoes, chard, flat-leaf parsley, lemon, rosemary, top sirloin steak, shallots, and unsalted butter. I forgot to pull the chard out before I took this picture.
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I prepared the vegetables. First I soaked the mushrooms in hot water and then pulled them out and sliced them, saving the mushrooms. The sweet potatoes were cut into half-moons. I stripped the chard leaves from the stems and then coarsely chopped the leaves and stems, keeping them separate. Then I made the gremolata by removing the parsley leaves from the stems and adding lemon zest.
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Fritz cooked the sweet potatoes and chard while I cooked the steak. Then we made the porcini sauce together.
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The steak was delicious and the porcini sauce was quite good, too. The sweet potatoes and chard, however, were not very good. Cameron hated it and Cameron will eat pretty much anything. We threw quite a bit away because no one wanted it.
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The second meal we made was golden coconut curry with tofu, spinach, and black rice. Fritz helped me again. We listened to songs by Sabrina Carpenter (our old standby) on Alexa while we cooked. The bag included black rice, peeled garlic, ginger, tofu, red bell pepper, cremini mushrooms, lime, curry spice blend, coconut milk, and baby spinach.
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I prepared the tofu and vegetables. I minced the garlic, chopped the ginger, cut up the tofu into cubes, sliced the bell pepper and mushrooms, and cut up the lime.
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We cooked the tofu curry by mixing everything (except the rice which was prepared separately) together. It was very easy to make, especially with everything chopped and ready to go.
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We assembled our bowls with the black rice topped with the curry. The tofu was decent tofu. Cameron wasn’t a fan of the consistency. The taste though… it just wasn’t that good. Quite a bit was leftover when we were done partly because Sun Basket gives huge portions, but partly because no one wanted seconds (or, really, to even finish their first serving).
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Our third and final meal was spicy chicken tinga tostadas with avocado and queso fresco. Cameron helped me with this one. He picked random songs to play on Alexa as we worked. The bag included an onion, bay leaves, peeled garlic, chicken breasts, tinga sauce base, corn tortillas, an avocado, lime, cilantro, and questo fresco.
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I prepped the garnishes. I cut up the avocado, sliced the lime, and chopped the cilantro. Eventually that chunk of queso fresco got crumbled.
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I chopped and cooked onion and garlic and then added the sauce base to the pan. After it came to a boil, I added the chicken and cooked them in the sauce. Once they were done, I shredded the meat and then added it back to the pan and thoroughly mixed it with the sauce. Meanwhile, Cameron crisped the tortillas in hot, oiled pan.
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We made tostadas by putting the meat and sauce on the crisped tortillas and topped them with the avocado, queso fresco, and cilantro and squeezed lime wedges over them. All of the food in this meal got eaten.
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This one was the best of the three Sun Basket meals, but it still wasn’t great. It was marked as being spicy and they certainly weren’t kidding. We live in south Texas so we’re used to spicy food, but this was extra spicy. It left our mouths burning for a long time. There was not way to adjust the spice since it was all already put together in the tinga sauce base.
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Whether we’d ever use Sun Basket again or not was an easy answer: No. We just didn’t like their meals enough. It’s probably a great choice for people who want to expand their horizons and try foods they’d never otherwise try. For us, it just didn’t work out. So, after three meal kit services, Blue Apron is still our first choice.