We Tried Hello Fresh

For the second meal kit service, we tried Hello Fresh. We got three two-serving meals and like when we tried Blue Apron, 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.) The instructions included pictures to make it easy to see what we were doing in that step.
3.) Very convenient.
4.) The taste was good.
5.) Generous portions.
6.) Meals were marked to say whether they were gluten free.

Cons:
1.) The meals are expensive compared to getting the ingredients on your own.
2.) Some of the vegetables were looking kind of sad.
3.) The instructions put too many directions for different parts of the meal in each step.
4.) For several weeks of menus I looked at, only two regular meals were gluten free. The third was always a “premium” meal meaning it costs an extra $10 ($5 per serving) to select that one.

The box showed up at about 11 on the date I had requested. They said it would arrive between 8am and 8pm.
We Tried Hello Fresh

Inside the top of the box was the recipe cards and some advertising flyers. The next layer down was three bags containing the vegetables and other things needed to make each meal. The bottom layer was the meat in vacuum packed packages sandwiched between ice packs.
We Tried Hello Fresh

The meal kits looked pretty cool packaged the way they were.
We Tried Hello Fresh

We made the first meal, butter-basted rib-eye steak with thyme-infused mashed potatoes and asparagus the day it arrived. The asparagus was in perfect condition. The potatoes were a little weird, though, because one was big and the rest were small. In addition to the Yukon gold potatoes and asparagus, they sent thyme, chives, a lemon, milk, garlic herb butter, and rib-eye steak.
We Tried Hello Fresh

Fritz helped me with this meal. We told Alexa to play upbeat music on the Echo and got to work. Fritz spent quite a while pulling a teaspoon of the leaves off the thyme.
We Tried Hello Fresh

After I got the potatoes on to boil, I prepped the vegetables. I cut the woody ends off the asparagus, chopped up the chives, and cut the lemon into wedges. I started the rib-eye cooking in a pan on the stove. I spread the asparagus on a cookie sheet, drizzled them with olive oil and seasoned them with salt and pepper, and put them in the oven to roast for a few minutes.
We Tried Hello Fresh

The mashed potatoes were amazing. We simmered the leftover sprigs of thyme in milk for several minutes and then added that thyme-infused milk to the potatoes to mash them. The thyme leaves Fritz pulled off were added to the mashed potatoes. That may have been the best part of the meal and we will definitely be making thyme-infused mashed potatoes again.
We Tried Hello Fresh

This meal was delicious. It was a premium meal, though, so we paid an extra $10 for it. I’m not so sure it was quite that delicious.
We Tried Hello Fresh

We made the second meal, Beef Rice Noodle Bowls with carrots, cucumber, and peanut sauce, two days after the box arrived. They sent a Persian cucumber (it was not in the best condition), two peeled cloves of garlic, a lime, shredded carrots, cilantro, green onions, thai seasoning, peanut butter, siracha, white wine vinegar, soy sauce, rice noodles, and stir-fry beef. The soy sauce made me a bit nervous since the meal was labeled gluten free, but most soy sauce is not. We took the risk that their labeling was correct and, thankfully, none of us got sick so it was, in fact, gluten free soy sauce.
We Tried Hello Fresh

Adrian was my helper for this meal. We put songs by Sabrina Carpenter on the Echo and got to work. I prepped the vegetables and meat while he pulled the leaves off the cilantro and did some dancing. I sliced the cucumber and put it in the vinegar with some salt and sugar (the kit did not include the sugar needed to complete the meal). I minced the garlic, chopped the green onions and separated the whites from the greens, and cut up the lime. I added the thai seasoning, some of the garlic, and some sugar to the beef to prep it for cooking.
We Tried Hello Fresh

I boiled the noodles for about 16 minutes (they were different from the ones in the picture and from the directions given on the card – they included a note with how to adjust the instructions) while prepping the vegetables and cooking the meat. Then I made the peanut sauce and saved half and tossed the noodles with the other half. Then the food was all ready to eat.
We Tried Hello Fresh

While the Beef Rice Noodle Bowls were good, they just weren’t that good. The peanut sauce was kind of blah and the thai seasoning on the beef didn’t add much flavor. The carrots were served with it just raw which was odd. We squeezed the lime wedges on them so they weren’t too bad.
We Tried Hello Fresh

We made the third meal, Figgy Balsamic Pork with roasted green beans and rosemary potatoes, on Thursday. The kit included a shallot, Yukon gold potatoes, green beans, chicken stock concentrate, rosemary, pork tenderloin, fig jam, and balsamic vinegar. The green beans were looking kind of iffy by the time we made this meal.
We Tried Hello Fresh

Ani and Adrian did most of the work for this one. Adrian chose to play Sabrina Carpenter’s music on the Echo while they cooked. They finely chopped the rosemary and shallot and cubed the potatoes.
We Tried Hello Fresh

Ani seared the pork tenderloin on the stove before finishing it in the oven along with the green beans and potatoes.
We Tried Hello Fresh

The figgy sauce was surprisingly easy to make and the pork was cooked very nicely. Even though some of the green beans were on the edge of still being good, once they were roasted they were fine for eating.
We Tried Hello Fresh

I’m not a huge fan of pork, but this turned out quite nice. I was pleasantly surprised by the taste of the fig sauce. I’ll likely make the pork and sauce again, but I might use apricot preserves instead of fig next time.
We Tried Hello Fresh

While we enjoyed trying out Hello Fresh, I doubt we would use them again. The main reason is the cost, but also because I preferred Blue Apron. While, Hello Fresh was good, Blue Apron’s instructions, ingredients, and taste were all just better when comparing the two.

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We Tried Blue Apron

A couple weeks ago I got a MyPoints offer to sign up with Blue Apron. Jamie was about to go out of town and I hate cooking when he’s not here, so I figured why not try it.

Pros:
1.) Everything is pre-portioned.
2.) The instructions are colorful and easy to follow and give totals of the ingredients so you can recreate the meal again on your own.
3.) It’s very convenient to have a box of ingredients delivered to your doorstep.
4.) The recipes we tried were seriously delicious.
5.) The ingredients were all very fresh.
6.) The chicken was diced up nicely without any gross bits left (and I am very sensitive to gross bits on my chicken).
7.) Portions are generous (we did two person meals and split them between four of us – adult, two teens, and kid – for lunch just fine).

Cons:
1.) It’s expensive to do every week (though if the alternative is going to a restaurant to eat, it’s a huge savings).
2a.) There are very few gluten free options and I couldn’t even see what the meals would be until after I signed up.
2b.) They didn’t say whether any of the recipes were gluten free so I had to guess which would be safe and of the 8 options that week only two were okay.
3.) If I wanted to do the family size meals they are for families of four with no way to scale up to my family of six.

The box arrived mid-day on the scheduled delivery day. The top was the vegetables, then there was an ice pack thing, then the meat (double sealed), and then another ice pack thing.
We Tried Blue Apron

I pulled everything out and made sure everything we’d need was there and then stuck it all in the refrigerator. I made one of the meals two days later and the other three days later (the vegetables were still in perfect shape when I used them).
We Tried Blue Apron

The first recipe we made was Ancho Chile Chicken Tacos with Cabbage Slaw. I enlisted Cameron’s help that day and we took turns playing upbeat songs very loudly on our Amazon Echo.

The ingredients we got for this recipe were chopped chicken breast, corn tortillas, shishito peppers, green onions, a lime, red cabbage, cilantro, creme fraiche, ancho chile paste, sugar, and grated cotija cheese. The only questionable ingredient for us was the tortillas. Many corn tortillas are gluten free, but not all. We happened to have some gluten free ones in our cabinet, though, so the two non-Celiacs ate the ones from the kit and the rest of us ate the ones we knew were safe.
We Tried Blue Apron

We chopped all the veggies and cooked the chicken and peppers as directed.
We Tried Blue Apron

We laid everything for the meal out on the counter so people could assemble their tacos themselves.
We Tried Blue Apron

They were so good. The slaw was a big surprise how good it was. We enjoyed this meal so much that I put it on the menu for next week.
We Tried Blue Apron

The other meal was Seared Steaks and Roasted Potatoes with Balsamic-Glazed Mushrooms. For this one, I cooked with Fritz and we turned Maroon 5 way up on the Echo.

The ingredients for this one were steaks, cremini mushrooms, garlic (needed 2 cloves; they sent a head), Yukon gold potatoes, kale, butter, balsamic vinegar, creme fraiche, and a shallot. The only things not provided by Blue Apron (for both recipes) was salt, pepper, and olive oil.
We Tried Blue Apron

We chopped up all the vegetables. Good thing we have a bunch of bowls!
We Tried Blue Apron

We cooked the steaks and while they rested, we cooked the mushrooms.
We Tried Blue Apron

While the steaks, mushrooms, and kale cooked, we oven roasted the potato wedges.
We Tried Blue Apron

We set out all the parts of the meal on the counter to get ready for plating.
We Tried Blue Apron

This meal was also quite delicious. My oldest son was not impressed by how rare I cooked the steak (I liked it!) and he refused to touch the mushrooms. He didn’t like the kale either. Everyone else seemed okay with everything.
We Tried Blue Apron

Our little Blue Apron experiment was fun and yummy. Will we do it again? Not regularly. We might get a couple meals for a treat/alternative to going out to eat once in a while. The cost really isn’t worth it to me, especially since I have to guess whether things are gluten free or not. One thing is for sure, though. They do make cooking fun!

Chef’n GarlicZoom (Review)

Ani asked for kitchen stuff for her 16th birthday so we headed to Bed Bath and Beyond to shop. There, I found this cute little Chef’n Garlic Zoom Garlic Chopper set.
Chef'n GarlicZoom (Review)

We have quite the history with garlic mincers. We’ve never been truly happy with one, not even the Pampered Chef one that cost a fortune and was supposed to be the best ever. So I decided to give this one a try in the hopes it would be better than the others we’ve tried just because it is so incredibly different.

I am happy to say I love it! It’s not perfect, but it’s the best gadget for chopping garlic I’ve ever had.

It came with a little rubber thing that helps you peel garlic cloves easily. You put it in, twist, and magically the peel falls off. It’s great if you only have a clove or two to peel. If you have more, using that thing takes forever so it’s easier to do the shaking method. I just put a bunch of garlic cloves in a plastic bowl.
Chef'n GarlicZoom (Review)

Then I put the lid on it.
Chef'n GarlicZoom (Review)

And shake it like crazy. Somehow all that shaking makes the garlic peel fall off.
Chef'n GarlicZoom (Review)

It’s seriously the easiest way to peel a bunch of garlic cloves at once.
Chef'n GarlicZoom (Review)

Okay, back to the Chef’n GarlicZoom. So once the garlic is peeled, whether I just do one or two using the twisty rubber thingy or a whole bunch shaken in a bowl, then it is ready to be chopped up and gotten ready to be used. The GarlicZoom is this little wheeled gadget with a removable sharp blade that sits inside. It has two doors. One opens it all the way up for cleaning (and, boy, is it easy to clean – you just open it, take out the blade, rinse both parts in water, and let it dry).
Chef'n GarlicZoom (Review)

The other door opens to allow you to put in the whole garlic and take it out when after it has been chopped up.
Chef'n GarlicZoom (Review)

After you put in the garlic clove (or two or three if they are small), you get to have fun running the wheels around your kitchen counter. Car noises are optional, but do add to the fun. If you run it around for a short time, your garlic will be coarsely chopped. Run it around for a long time and your garlic will be chopped nice and fine.
Chef'n GarlicZoom (Review)

Once you’ve got your garlic how you like it, open the door and shake it out. I usually use my finger to get as much out as I can. And this is the one thing that makes this funny little gadget not perfect: It’s impossible to get all the garlic out of the crevices without washing them out. It’s a small problem, really, and definitely doesn’t make it fall from the #1 spot of all the garlic mincers I’ve used (and, oh, there have been so many!).
Chef'n GarlicZoom (Review)

Bottom Line: The Chef’n GarlicZoom Garlic Chopper works as promised and is fun to boot. It’s totally worth buying. It runs anywhere from $10-15 depending on where you buy it.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

(Note: I was not compensated in any way for this review. I bought my garlic chopper myself.)

Accountable Kids

A couple months ago we decided to get the Accountable Kids system. We ordered the Deluxe Start-Up Package which included the book, DVD, one child kit (a board, 60 reminder cards, 3 blank reminder cards, 10 tickets, 10 bonus bucks, 4 best behavior cards, 2 privilege passes, 3 special date cards, two sticker sheets), a family forum board with 10 name cards, and a mini board. I ordered 4 additional child kits. Ani often says I don’t do anything around the house, so we decided we’d get me a board as well. We splurged and had them engrave our names into the boards.

The first thing I did when the box arrived was read the book. It is filled with really great information and breaks the program down step by step and makes it easy to implement. Once I had down what to do, I assembled our boards.
Accountable Kids

We selected daily chore cards for the four kids and I. Pretty much everything was what they were already doing (or supposed to be doing) every day anyway. We divided them into morning, afternoon, and evening assignments. The reminder cards are designed to be cut to certain colors (lengths) to indicate the time they should be completed.
Accountable Kids

The boards come with the hardware needed and holes drilled to hang them on the walls. We will be moving before too long, plus there just aren’t any available walls in our house, so I had to come up with an alternative solution for hanging them up. After looking around Target, I settled on Command Strips. I found some strips that are kind of like Velcro and are supposed to hold up quite a bit of weight. I’m amazed at how fabulous these things work to hold up the boards.
Accountable Kids

I arranged the boards on a duct thing in our entry/dining room. They are easily accessible and look very nice. Once I had the boards up with the cards and everything hanging up, we were ready to start using them. Fritz and Adrian were especially excited to start using their cards and earn tickets. Ani and Cameron weren’t so excited, but they played along. And as long as I stay involved and on top of everything, we have great success with the program.

The first step involves the reminder cards and tickets. The reminder cards, for my kids in the morning for example, are things like vitamins, clean room, make bed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, school, etc. If the kids do all of their cards in one set (morning, afternoon, evening), they earn a ticket. They have to do every card (unless specifically excused – for example, weekends and holidays no one has to complete the school ticket) in order to get their ticket. Most people use them for x amount of TV or computer or video game time. Right now we have that x time set at an hour. Tickets are be lost for negative behaviors. When the kids do something above and beyond, they earn a Best Behavior card. Cameron got one, for example, when we went to a waterpark one day and Adrian was very tired and ready to go home, Ani wasn’t feeling well, and Fritz still wanted to be in the water. Cameron volunteered to take care of Fritz until it was time to leave so Jamie and I could deal with Adrian and Ani. We use the Best Behavior cards as double regular tickets. It’s truly amazing how the kids will do things I had to nag them to do just because a card tells them to and they’ll get a ticket if they do it.

Step two adds the special date card and privilege pass. If the kids do all of their reminder cards in a day (and so got all three possible tickets), they get a star sticker to put on their special date card. Once they have received 10 stars, they get a private date doing whatever they want (within reason) with whomever they want. Ani and Fritz earned their first date while my sister was in town and they both chose to have a date with her. Adrian picked McDonald’s and Fritz picked a doughnut place. Cameron’s first date was to Home Depot with my dad. Ani decided to go to Chipotle with Fritz (they made me sit across the restaurant from them). Cameron’s earned his second special date, but hasn’t decided what he wants to do for it.
Accountable Kids

The Privilege Pass is used for when the kid displays a specific positive behavior. We have been unable to come up with anything for Cameron so he just doesn’t use that part of the program right now. Ani will start with the Privilege Pass on September 17th when she starts back to school (she’ll have to get up on time without complaint). Fritz gets a Privilege Pass if he stays in bed all night long. Before we started with this, he came into our room 6 out of 7 nights a week. Since we started the Privilege Pass, he has not come into our room in a month and a half! Adrian earns a Privilege Pass if he sits nicely at dinner. He earns it three or four times a week (which is a definite improvement). Both boys can turn in their Pass to have a story read to them (Fritz pretty much always chooses to have me read a story from “The Happy Book” – his name for The Friend Magazine).

We have not yet added steps 3 and 4 to the program. Between Jamie traveling for work and Ani going to Florida to spend a few weeks with my aunt, it just hasn’t happened. When Ani comes back we will be implementing step 3 right away. Step 3 involves extra chores and bonus bucks. These are the chores we are willing to pay the kids to do. It is up to the kids if they want to complete them or not, but if they don’t it means they don’t earn money. Up until now we’ve been giving the kids an allowance. Once the extra chores are added, they’ll earn bonus bucks instead. Those bonus bucks will be exchanged once a week for real money.

The fourth and final step is the family forum and quiet time. The family forum will be combined with Family Home Evening. It’s basically a meeting to discuss schedules, problems and solutions, exchange bonus bucks for money, etc. I made a binder of information to help with those meetings.

Quiet Time is an hour a day of the kids (and me!) relaxing and having some lowkey individual time. It’s a perfect time to read a book, study scriptures, or play with quiet toys. In the past, I’ve done quiet time (quite a while ago… last I did it Fritz was a baby) and it really made our days run smoother.

So far, I’ve been very happy with Accountable Kids. Any failing of it is truly my own. Chores are getting done without me having to remind the kids repeatedly. The house looks nicer and I don’t feel like I’m doing everything (and the kids see that I do things, too). On a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest, I give Accountable Kids

4 1/2

I took away 1/2 star because it is very mom-intensive (but the success is a lot higher than the less mom-intensive things I’ve tried in the past). (Full Disclosure: I wrote this review to earn a rebate on part of what I paid for the Accountable Kids program. I did not have to write a positive review to earn the rebate.)