Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wordless Wesnesday: Gratitude

I love this window into Levi's mind. A gratitude wreath he made at CC for Thanksgiving:

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Great Thanksgiving Pie Saga v.2013


The Wednesday before Thanksgiving was set aside as “Home Economics Day” in our homeschool.  Well, not really; it was a vacation day – but learning about life is a 24/7/365 endeavor when you home educate your children, so even vacation days are educational.  (And just so I don’t perpetuate any myths that my kids are always happy about this, I’ve heard plenty of comments such as this whine: “Mooooom, do we always have to learn SOMEthing?”  Yes, they are totally ‘normal’ children.)

This year, I was responsible for making pumpkin pie and apple pie for our extended family Thanksgiving dinner.  This works well, because we as a family help put on a Thanksgiving morning 5K with the local running club in town  {more about this in another post}.  The race finishes about 10:30, and we come home, shower, and jump in the car and head to my mother-in-law’s, so pie works as a great grab-and-go contribution.

As I mentioned in another post, I put Ben in charge of apple pie this year.  Gotta love the Better Homes and Garden cookbook, my go-to for staples like apple pie. yumyum.

Levi and Luke wanted to help with the pumpkin. I’m a big fan of the canned pumpkin (because I’ve never cooked down a sugar pumpkin and use it in a pie), so that is what we used.  The boys had a fun time helping me:


After all the fun, though, we could not hold on to a pumpkin this Thanksgiving to save our lives. Thus starts our saga…

First pumpkin pie (the one that is still under construction in the picture above) never cooked.  I’m not 100% sure what happened (the oven works fine), but the filling never set, but the crust really, really browned (as in burned).  That pie made it to the trashcan (after Daisy managed to lick out about 1/3 of the filling.  gross!).

I sent to boys and Dave to pick up a store-made pie.  That one made it to the parking lot before being accidently dropped.  Ben and Luke were running in the parking lot when Ben (holding the pie) remembered they shouldn’t be running in a parking lot (glad he remembered this).  He put his arm out (the one carrying the pie) to stop Luke, which it did; but when Luke slammed into his arm, the pie went flying in the air (so I’m told) and landed upside down.  Truly it wasn’t horrible, but it was no pretty, smooth pie top.

Then the apple.  Oh, the beautiful apple pie.  Levi was helping me carry things out to the car on Thanksgiving morning when he accidently dropped it, on its side, then upside down.  It looked like a soccer ball, deflated on one side.  And the pretty latticed topping…looked un-latticed like.  I did not lose my temper at Levi, but I did cry. 

Can’t forget Levi’s 4” personal pumpkin pie – a leftover from the thanksgiving 5K that our family manages for the local running community.  After arriving home to clean up from the race, jump in the car, Daisy accidentally stepped on Levi’s pie.  Levi didn’t lose his temper, but he sure did cry a lotta tears on that one.

So, that is our Saga.  Pies win it, 4-0.  All told, however, three of our pies did get eaten;  actually, all four did, when I consider that Daisy {our golden retriever} had some of the pie-that-would-not-cook.

Driving off to our Thanksgiving dinner, Dave and I belly laughed as we totaled the fate of all our pies.

And even though I cried (I tried not to) about the apple pie, I did decided to be grateful:

“we'll chose to be grateful we can afford pie, grateful we have wonderful kids who can drop them, a loving dog that can stomp on it, and wonderful family and friends near and afar to share our pie saga with (and hopefully can share some desserts that haven't spent time upside down). All in a country that we love.”

If I think about it, we should probably try bringing mashed potatoes next year.  Just give bags of cooked potatoes to the boys and let them carry them around for a few days.  They should be mashed and smashed just perfectly for Thanksgiving 2014. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Hello Fresh = Hello Yummy

My online friends at Mosaic Reviews were in need of some extra East Coast people to review Hello Fresh in November, and I offered to help out on this review.  I love YUMMY reviews!

Hello Fresh is a weekly subscription service that sends members three recipes + all the ingredients needed to cook three main course meals. Hello Fresh prides itself on using fresh, high quality ingredients in chef inspired and tested recipes.  These delicious (yes, I liked them all!) meals can be prepared in 30 minutes. Subscriptions are $69 per box (so, weekly) for as long as you choose to enroll.  Two sizes of boxes are available -- for 2 or 4 servings (the larger box has a different weekly cost). In addition, classic boxes (with meat) and vegetarian subscription boxes can be selected (prices vary between these two boxes). Subscriptions can be paused for several weeks at a time.  Additional subscription and program information can be gleaned at their FAQs page.

My Experience: After registering and linking payment through PayPal, subscribers are able to pick from five weekly recipe selections.  My choices:
hello fresh recipe
All the ingredients (except salt, pepper, oil and butter) are sent to you weekly in a well-packed, insulated box:
I really loved throwing these bags into the refrigerator and not having to worry about someone taking an ingredient that I had planned to use for a dinner meal.  Not that we have to wrestle over zucchini!

My meat (tilapia and lamb) were packed under the vegetables in vacuum packaging.  The meat was not frozen, but was sufficiently cold as it laid on several ice packs (which I’m going to save to use this summer for beach days):
The cold-packing is meant to keep items cold for several days, so no matter what part of the country, you shouldn’t have to worry about being stuck at home waiting for a food delivery all day. 

Non-perishable ingredients are also bagged and labeled.  I was surprised to see that my can of diced tomatoes was organic. And –my, oh, my – the two tilapia filets were absolutely huge compared to the tilapia I find at our local grocery store.

I cooked our first selection – the tilapia with dill crusted tilapia with sweet potato, cranberry and toasted almonds –  right away.  I really liked the recipe card, which had pictures and simple instructions:
Truly, these recipes were very quick to cook.  The only time I had trouble understanding the direction was when I made my lamb cassoulet.   I don’t often use fresh spices, and didn’t realize that you can add an entire sprig of thyme to recipes to add savory flavor, so instead I stripped the thyme leaves off the stem.   Now I know! It might be helpful for the chefs to look at their recipes from the perspective of the non-professional and include tips that would help us with some of these unknown (or lesser known) tips.

I was also impressed at the freshness of the vegetables in my box.  Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, I was not able to cook two of the recipes until almost 5 days after delivery.  The mushrooms, onions, tomatoes and zucchini were 100% fresh and crisp.
DSCN2656 DSCN2699
Dill Crusted Tilapia with Sweet Potato & Cranberry
Zucchini Parmesan
Lamb Cassoulet
I appreciated how easy trying new recipes – and new ingredients – was because of Hello Fresh. In our family, I found that the 2 person meals could have easily fed 3 adults with the addition of a salad or additional vegetables and sides (the tilapia was the only recipe of the three that had a side dish). I would love to be able to include Hello Fresh occasionally into our food budget.  The recipes were fun to try, easy for me to prepare, and I love adding the variety (lamb, folks!) to our family meal plan.

You can read more reviewers’ experience with Hello Fresh HERE.

Disclaimer: I was given a 3-meal, 2 person box for free in exchange for my honest opinion about this product, with no promise of a positive review.  All opinions are my own or those of my family. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

King of Apple Pie


I put Ben in charge of apple pie this Thanksgiving.  Gotta love the Better Homes and Garden cookbook, by go-to for staples like apple pie.

I think one of the reasons I rarely have to force anyone to help me make apple pie is because we use the Pampered Chef Apple Peeler-Corer-Slicer.  It is such a marvelous contraption that engages my boys so easily. 
As impressive as this looks,this is not a homemade pie crust.  I love that Ben has flour on his forehead.  The sign of a hard workin’ cook!
I must admit that Ben’s enthusiasm for figuring out how to weave the top crust made my heart warm.  This pie was definitely in capable hands.
The results.  I think it looks SO good.  It was hard to not want to nibble it before Thursday.

Ben’s pie was really delicious.  I love an apple pie that has crisp apples in it (we use Granny Smiths) because I’ve never been fond on mushy foods.  So for me, this was a perfect pie.  It was sweet, but not sickening, and the crust was just right. 

From now on, Ben is THE apple pie maker in our family.