Tag: homecooking

Cooking with SunBasket

So to date, I have written about my experience to date with HomeChef, who I recently found out was hyped about by none other than Hillary Duff. I actually have a few updates since my last post from a couple of weeks ago (you can read it here), but this post is about a whole new company that I recently learned, researched, and took the plunge with! If you couldn’t tell already by the title, the company I am referring to is SunBasket.

First off, SunBasket is like HomeChef in that it is a cook-at-home meal delivery service. The ease in picking my dinners was great – they both even have apps for iOS and Android so you can make changes on the go. So what I want to do is a comparison of the two, with the caveat that I have not yet received my first order from SunBasket.

Let’s take a look at the next two weeks of recipes (this week I am doing HomeChef and next week SunBasket to test it out):

HomeChef (week of 9-16)
Hot jalapeño jelly-glazed salmon with crispy onion asparagus
Crispy salt and pepper shrimp with red bell pepper
Chicken Kiev with parsley-garlic butter and green beans
Greek Chicken & couscous with cucumber and feta
Cotija-crusted pork chop with Spanish rice

SunBasket (week of 9-23)
Spicy Greek shrimp with tomatoes, feta, and orzo
Korean chicken japchae with glass noodles and vegetables
Fettuccine Bolognese with garlic-sauteed baby broccoli
Mediterranean lemon chicken
Palermo steaks with warm fennel and tomato salad

Right off the bat, the menu selection from SunBasket is more cultural than HomeChef though I see HomeChef trying to make some bold choices!

Next, let’s compare prices, excluding any promotions:
HomeChef – $99.50 for 5 meals, 2 servings ($9.95 per serving)
SunBasket – $79.90 for 5 meals, 2 servings ($7.99 per serving)

So there is a cost-saving for SunBasket over HomeChef on a weekly basis. Now SunBasket’s prices do increase if you order fewer meals per week ($9.99 per serving when you order 2 meals; $8.99 per serving when ordering 3 meals). However, for the sake of not having to worry about meals during the workweek AND comparing evenly, we are doing 5 meals per week.

How about add-ons? What are add-ons, you ask? Well, let’s say you want to have some lunch meals or snacks OR you really liked the sauce you got in one of the meals and want to order more…
HomeChef add-ons vary week to week, but usually, consist of 2 salads, smoothies and protein packs (like extra meat or chicken).
SunBasket add-ons seem to be more plentiful. They actually break down their orders into Dinners, Breakfast, Lunch, Snacks, Proteins, and Pantry. Under breakfast, there are 5 options for egg bites, yogurt, oatmeal, granola, bread and spreads, juices, and coffee/tea. Under lunch, they have salads, soups, noodle bowls, and flatbreads. Snacks consist of dips, snackable veggies, nuts, crackers, sweets, jerky, and bars (think fig bars). The protein section is fairly self-explanatory but you can buy extra meats, chickens, fish, or vegetarian options! For the pantry, you can buy fresh kinds of pasta, sauces, oils, soups, large flatbreads, and coffees.

What a difference! I mean, I don’t see myself needing to buy a salad BUT it seems like I can really do my grocery shopping through SunBasket if I plan ahead.

Now, what about quality? SunBasket’s main selling point, especially to someone that isn’t subscribed, is that they are an organic company which means you can eat clean and organic – great for my Paleo friends! You can also customize your menu more so than with HomeChef. You can select a plan if you are paleo, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free…or you can mix it up. With HomeChef, their ingredients are fresh but it is not are not always organic – I don’t always run to organic so it doesn’t quite bother me very much.

Overall I am waiting to see what next week’s box looks like as it’ll be my first with SunBasket! This may be a game-changer OR I will bounce back and forth depending on the meal selections. Either way, I have to say that these are some great options to try in order to save money, time, and the stress of having to cook something new every night!

So inquiring minds want to know… Have you tried any cook-at-home meal delivery companies? Are you interested in an unboxing of SunBasket’s delivery? Are you interested in signing up for one of the two mentioned above?

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HomeChef Update

So back on August 20th, I wrote about a way that I am trying to cut back on excessive spending when it comes to my groceries, reducing waste with unused food, and reallocating time that was previously spent running from store to store. Well, 2 weeks in and going on to week 3, I wanted to share an update! Also, I want to add that this is not sponsored.

When I posted about HomeChef in my New Take on Groceries post, I wasn’t sure what to expect – honestly. I grew up with a mom that worked fulltime but also cooked every week. She taught me to love cooking and that the kitchen is all about organized chaos. She taught me that a little of this and a pinch of that were real measurements for ingredients. She taught me that the kitchen is the heart of the home. And with all of those lessons, I learned about cultural foods, how to basically cook for an army (I am having a really hard time cooking for just 2), and how cooking can bring people together. So when I decided to take a leap into these pre-planned meals, I thought I was shaming my up-bringing. I was not going out and buying my groceries, one cucumber at a time. I was not examining my produce or selecting that portioned ground beef (you know, the one that was priced $6.98 and not $7.02). I was not coming up with my own concoctions. I was not experimenting or playing with food. I honestly felt slightly ashamed.

But I knew I had to do something to help my husband and I cut down on cost, cut down on overindulgence, and reallocate time that has become so precious and so limited (working fulltime, going to school fulltime, and managing some personal side projects really take a toll). So I told myself that this is an experiment so the scientist in me could rationalize the change and took the plunge.

As I mentioned, my first order was curtesy of a promotion code and subsequent orders would cost a bit more but still be less than what we normally would spend on just the groceries themselves. I did a breakdown in my earlier post (you can find it here). So to date, these are the expenses we have incurred for any and all groceries:

HomeChef – $57.50 (week 01) + $89.50 (week 02) + $99.50 (week 03)
Local Farmer’s Market: $30 (week 01) + $32 (week 02) + $0 (week 03)
Local grocery: $30 (week 01) + $20 (week 02) + $28 (week 03)
Costco: $0 (week 01) + $0 (week 02) + $55 (week 03)
Subtotal: $117.50 (week 01) + $141.50 (week 02) + $182.50 (week 03)
GRAND TOTAL: $441.50

Now, I have to admit that some of the local grocery shopping was for our pups who eat home-cooked food which we mix with their kibble, but for the sake of the cost analysis, we will include it. Additionally, there were some expenses that were for work functions, but I cannot find that recent and it was partially reimbursed so we will exclude that. I also excluded non-food items like hand soap, detergents or aluminum foil (Costco for the win though). Also, I had cooked a storm before we started this so we had a LOT of food in the freezer so, for those 2 days when we didn’t have a HomeChef meal, we still had food without having to go out to eat or scramble for last-minute ingredients.

So if we look at what I had predicted for expenses for a month, we will go over $500 in groceries BUT we have had less waste, less time spent shopping (hence my weekend of homework), less gas running from store to store, and less stress during the week. In fact, I opened my fridge this morning and realized it was basically empty – and by empty, I mean full of milk, eggs, and those other staples but not full of food in every Pyrex we own.

Yes, we still have to make some additional improvements but overall, this is still a savings for us. On a given month, we could easily surpass $600 in groceries alone.


Now, let’s talk about the food itself.

I am still feeling guilty about not having my mother’s recipes sprawled about the counter or making up my own concoctions, but I have to say that some of these meals are going to become part of our regular meal rotation when this little experiment is over!

The food is really quite good and I am still able to play with the recipe a little bit – mostly because we cut out a lot of salt (some of these have 50% of your daily intake!). My husband and I also still cook together, most days. And on those days we aren’t cooking together, the recipes are simple enough that one can cook and the other can do homework or personal tasks and he doesn’t yell at me that “a little of that” doesn’t mean anything! Most importantly, we eat together, at the dinner table, and have 1 serving – and we aren’t hungry!

I am currently editing my first unboxing video of the HomeChef delivery, which comes every Tuesday for us and is well packed! So stay tuned as I hope to have that up this weekend.

And just to leave you with an idea on the meals we have had…

So inquiring minds want to know… How important is home cooking in your household? Do you eat out often? If so, how often? How do you manage your budget with groceries?

Recipe: Avocado Pasta Sauce

In keeping up with the theme of getting and staying healthy, I have been trying out new dishes in the kitchen. Some of the recipes are old favorites and some are new! For me, the kitchen and cooking are stress relievers so I always like to try something new.

So I was craving some pasta (and yes I use organic pasta with gluten regularly) but I did not want anything heavy as my sauce or tomato-y. I needed to be creative with limited ingredients and time -I was not about to start cooking a full gourmet dinner at 7-something at night.

The result?

I made a quick homemade avocado sauce that was light but very flavorful! It can be served cold like a pasta salad but I did serve it warm last night

Ingredients:

1 Large Haas Avocado
1/4-1/2 Cup Greek Yogurt
2 Tbsp Parmesan Cheese
1/4 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice
1/3 Cup Olive Oil
3 Cloves Garlic (minced)
1/4 Cup Onion Powder
Fresh Black Pepper to taste

Mash and mix everything together (you can put it in the food processor for a creamier sauce). Top and serve!

Both my husband and I cleaned up the bowl! It was great especially on a warm/hot night for something light.
It was high in good cholesterol, easy to digest, flavorful, and with low/no salt.

Inquiring minds want to know… Have you tried a new recipe for an old favorite? Are you an avocado lover or is it not your cup of tea??

A New Take on Groceries

When talking about our home budgeting needs, the one area that always gives us some pause is the “groceries” line item. We have been saving money when it comes to our no spend weeks and our pantry challenges (which is using only what you have in the house for food) which we usually combined! In fact, this past weekend is the first in a month where our fridge is back at capacity!

We are eating healthy, cooking more, and enjoying the time together without interruptions. And yet we are still spending more than we really need to for a household of 2 (humans and 2 pooches).

So we are going to try a little something new and I am bringing you along for the journey! We are taking a new look on groceries and trying HomeChef!

So what is HomeChef? It is a meal delivery service that allows you to customize your meals on your dietary needs (say vegetarian, gluten free, and so on) BUT you are actually the chef. So that means that all the ingredients, including the “dash of pepper” or “sprinkle of salt” is included, along with the main ingredients and the recipe guide. Then you cook the meal. So, if you’re like me and you don’t use much salt in your meals, you can customize your dinner. The best part is that they provide the ingredients per the number of people and the recipe -nothing more. So there is less waste and no science experiments growing in the back of the fridge (c’mon…I know I’m not alone on this one).

Now you are reading this and thinking, didn’t you just say you are being frugal and not spending money? How does that align with ordering meals delivered to your door every week? Well thanks for asking!

We were lucky enough to get a promotion for our first box (slated to arrive Tuesday the 27th and I’ll bring you along for the ride) which only came out to $57.50 for 5 days worth of meals for 2 people. Now I’m not a mathematician by trade but… $57.50 divided by 5 days means that we are eating dinner for $11.50. And if you divide that by 2 … $5.75 per person, per meal, Monday through Friday. Honestly, I’ve spent more at Starbucks on one coffee that I finish in 5 minutes (don’t challenge me on that…I’m a coffee addict and proud).

But lets say we did not get a promotion to try out. The normal box of meals that we are trying is for 5 days and 2 people which equates to an average of $99 (some prices vary depending on the recipes you choose – like scallops would cost more than chicken). That still is only $19.80 per day or $9.90 per person.

That all means that in a month, we will be spending under $400 for varying meals on the most hectic nights of the week!

Now if we just supplement that with fresh, in season, produce from our farmer’s markets like fruit and some vegetables for our smoothies and weekend meals, then we can stay under $500 a month. And that means a monthly savings of over $100 for us! What?! I told you we like to eat! Plus we need to look at the bottom line which includes time spent looking at flyers, comparing prices, and actually going to the stores. And speaking of going to the stores, lets not forget gas!

So now you’re asking me what type of food are we looking at because you know I love to cook and won’t eat just anything… Since I won’t receive my first box till next week, I can only share what my menu is slated to be in no particular order:

Meal 1: Steak with Sauce Robert and spinach scalloped potatoes
Meal 2: Salmon with Dill Crema and green beans amandine
Meal 3: Jalapeño Popper Burgers with chipotle mayo and fries
Meal 4: Umami Miso-Mushroom-Cream Gemelli Pasta with Parmesan & green onions
Meal 5: Chipotle Refried Lentil Flautas with queso fresco & sour cream

I am very interested to see how these are packaged because with the 100+ degree weather we have been having, I don’t want my food to spoil before we get to cook it and eat it!

So tune in this upcoming Tuesday (8/27) as we uncover the world of meal deliveries you have to cook yourself! You may even want to follow me on IG where I’ll do some reviews live!

Recipe – Chicken Burrito-ish Bowl

As a part of “No Spend Week”, I had to start getting a little creative with my dinner options. By time Sunday came around, I was out of quick fixes and a lot of random food items. What does one do with two cups of mixed dry beans or a single can of crushed tomatoes?

Well…let me re-introduce to my friend the Instant Pot. I had no protein defrosted and a lot of dry ingredients that needed to soak and soften like rice. So I kind of adapted a “dump” recipe and made my own little concoction!


Ingredients:
3 chicken breast (frozen is okay)
2 cups of rice (I use brown basmati)
2 cups of dry mixed beans (like what you would use for chili)
1 12oz can of crushed tomatoes (no salt added)
5 cups of chicken broth (no or low sodium)
1 16oz bag of frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, corn, and green beans)
1 tbsp of cumin
1 tbsp of smoked paprika
1 tbsp of black pepper
1 tbsp of red pepper flakes
1 tbsp of turmeric
Shredded cheese & lite sour cream optional

Soak 2 cups of dry mixed beans in water. Drain before cooking.

Add 1 cup of chicken broth to the instant pot and place the chicken breast (skip this part if using fresh chicken). Cook on manual and sealed for 8 minutes. If chicken isn’t fully cooked, that’s okay – you will cook it again. Quick release.

Add 3 cups of chicken broth to instant pot. Add drained beans and rice. Add cumin, smoked paprika, pepper, turmeric and red pepper flakes. Cook on manual (or rice button if you have it) for 10 minutes. Quick release. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pot well!

Add chicken to instant pot with rice and beans. Cube chicken if preferred or shred. Add frozen mixed greens. Add 1 cup of chicken broth. Add 1 can of crushed tomatoes. Seal and cook on manual for 5 minutes. Quick release.

If you get the “BURN” notice, that means that the rice stuck to the bottom of the pot. You need to scrap the bottom and create a hole in the middle to allow pressure to build.

Plate and top with shredded cheese and sour cream.

Enjoy!!

Recipe – Egg White Omelettes

Apologies for the late post! It has been a bit of a hectic weekend but I am getting back on track! Tomorrow’s post will be week 02’s smoothie recipes.

Recently I posted on my IG my weekend indulgence – my organic and vegetarian egg white omelettes. I call it my guilty pleasure on weekends because it is full of cheese – all different types of cheese, but cheese nonetheless. Sometimes I think I spent too much time in a laboratory environment and had some of my wires crossed with a mouse…

Anyway, I wanted to share my recipe with you all as my alternative to my weekly breakfast/lunch smoothies.


Ingredients:

AllWhites Egg Whites (1 32oz container is good for about 5 omelettes)
Shredded Cheese – I prefer mozzarella and pepper- or Colby- jack mixed
Onion Powder (2 Tbsp per omelette)
Garlic Powder (1 Tbsp per omelette)
White Pepper (1 tsp per omelette)
Himalayan Salt (1/2 tsp per omelette)*
Turmeric Powder (1/2 tsp per omelette)
Butter (1 Tbsp per omelette)
Crushed mint (optional)
Soyrizo (optional)

Soyrizo
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) or Avocado Oil
Baby Spinach (optional)

Mix the egg whites, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper and turmeric powder together until slightly fluffy.

Heat frying pan (or omelette pan if you have one) and use one the butter to coat the bottom of the pan (you can also use coconut oil).

In a separate pan, coat the bottom with EVOO or Avocado oil and start cooking the soyrizo (it does not come pre-cooked although it may look like it). It needs to be cooked till browned, like a grounded meat.

Add the egg whites and cook on one side for 2-3 minutes depending on the heat of the pan. You will need a spatula to keep the egg from sticking to the pan and to keep moving the liquid egg to the bottom.

Once all of the liquid egg has cooked, add the cheese, soyrizo & spinach in a line on one side of the omelette. Using the spatula, fold the omelette in half and flip to the other side.

Cook for another 1-2 minutes so the omelette is golden brown and plate. Let it sit for 1 minute before serving and garnish with mint.

Enjoy!!

Comment below if you are going to try this and how it turns out for you! Do you add anything extra to your omelettes?

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Recipe – Instant Pot Mac & Cheese

As I mentioned in my last post, one of my favorite kitchen gadgets is my 6qt Instant Pot (IP). This was a spontaneous item that I bought when times were hard at home – one income, limited kitchen space, long hours…and I had heard so much about this pressure cooker that was just shy of saving the world!

But seriously, I recall that Walmart had a sale on this where I scooped it up for less than $50 between the sale and some coupon codes (thank you, RetailMeNot). I figured that this was my present to myself and if it could help me make even one home cooked meal a week, it was worth it. Low and behold, this has become so significant that I was gifted the new 8qt version where I can even make homemade yogurt!

This week, I was asked for my IP Mac & Cheese recipe by a friend of mine that now has an IP of her own and since there are 1379247395 different versions online, I figured why not add just one more – mine!


Ingredients:

  • 1 Box or Bag of Elbow Macaroni or Shells (do not use rice or lentil alternatives)
  • 4 Cups of No Salt (Low Salt is okay) Chicken Broth (or Stock)
  • 1 Cup Almond Milk (can use low-fat regular milk)
  • 3 Cups of Shredded Cheese – I use mozzarella, Colby jack, and a hint of white Vermont cheddar
  • 1 Cup of Greek Yogurt
  • 1/4 Cup Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp Himalayan Pink salt
  • 1-2 tbsp of smoked paprika (optional)

Throw in the macaroni, chicken broth, and salt into the Instant Pot. Set on 4 minutes (manual or pressure cook). Do not be alarmed that as your pasta pressurizes, or at the end of the 4 minutes, it will splatter through the steam release. This is okay and can be cleaned afterwards (this is due to the starch in your pasta).

After 4 minutes, manually release the pressure (in other words, quick release). You will notice a little bit of liquid still left with the now cooked pasta – that’s good!

Add the greek yogurt, onion powder and shredded cheese – 1 cup at a time. Stir. Add the milk – one half cup at a time. Stir.

Set your IP to “Sauté” mode. This will help melt the cheese but make sure to mix often. Once the cheese is melted and creamy, turn off “Sauté” or it will burn your food.

Add the smoked paprika, if desired. This gives the mac & cheese a little kick without being over-powering and gives a nice color richness to the dish.

ENJOY!

Comment below if you are going to try this and how it turns out for you! Do you add anything extra? Do you have a version that you would like me to try? Do you have a tried and true stove top recipe that you use?