Now We’re Cooking

I may have mentioned this before.  I don’t really cook.  It’s not that I can’t per se, but I don’t really enjoy it.  I’m what you might call a domestic failure.  But ya know, sometimes you have to adult.  So here is my foray into that adult world.

We recently tried a meal delivery service.  I had received a coupon in some piece of mail and decided to give it a try.


We tried Hello Fresh.  We picked three meals from a weekly selection of five.  Our choices were Fusilloni Al Forno, Honey-Glazed Pork Tenderloin, and Mozzarella-Crusted Chicken.  The meals arrived on a Wednesday in a large box.  The ingredients (minus the meat) come in a smaller box and for the most part everything is pre-measured which is handy.  The meat arrives in the bottom of the container which has freezer packs.  All in all the shipping is quite impressive and everything was fresh.  Obviously, you’ll either need to cook or freeze the ingredients somewhat quickly.

20160224_181822 20160224_181405

Our first attempt was the Fusilloni Al Forno.  A recipe book is included and pretty easy to follow.  There is still some prep with each recipe; chopping, peeling, etc.  This recipe took the most time, but overall it was pretty good.

20160224_190523 20160224_193153

Meal No. 2 was Honey-Glazed Pork Tenderloin with roasted green beans and sweet potatoes.  My glaze didn’t come out quite so glaze-y; I think I added too much water.  This meal was not bad, probably our least favorite.  It didn’t help that we had a big lunch that day and didn’t feel like cooking or eating.  But you know what?  Atticus liked it.  Check it out.

20160228_193829 PhotoGrid_1456800149487

Actually, Atticus liked all of the meals.  Cyan liked the first two, didn’t really eat much of the third, which was Mozzarella-Crusted Chicken with potatoes wedges and roasted tomatoes.  This meal was the easiest to make.  Allan and I couldn’t decide between the first and last as far as a favorite.

Snapchat-5504921970770319705 20160229_180241

The Pros

Meal service saves you a trip to the grocery store and the time it takes to plan what are we going to eat and what do we need.  You don’t really need to have a lot on hand other than salt, pepper, butter, and olive oil.  Even we have those.  I consider the cost to be reasonable and comparable to a fast food meal.  The meals are healthier than what we might normally eat and in some cases we had leftovers.  There also isn’t too much that is wasted so that is good.


The Cons

My family doesn’t eat a lot.  With two small kids (who barely graze), we were able to get by ordering two meals.  A larger family or older kids might need to order more portions, which would increase the cost and maybe not be as cost effective.  I probably should have paid attention to the fact that this was a subscription service.  So before we had a chance to finish cooking everything, the next week’s order was already placed.  This is my fault and the company did a good job of warning me, I just didn’t quite pay attention.  For us to go from literally not cooking to three meals in a week is a big zero to sixty.  The good news is you can turn off/pause/cancel or even space out your order.  And of course, you still have to wash dishes.  Minus the paper plates.


Overall, I would recommend giving the service (or a smiliar one) a try if you are curious.  I don’t know if it’s something I’ll keep up with, but I’m glad we tried it.  Thank you for venturing into the grown up world with us.  I’ll let you know when I decide to come back.



Dare to Dairy

Last month, I was invited to participate in a pop-up restaurant event highlighting cooking with dairy.  The idea was to show that even for lactose intolerant folks, cooking with dairy is doable and delicious.  I was intrigued by the invitation.  First, it started off by appealing to my vanity referring to me as a “local blogger and socially-inclined sharer of family-friendly info and experiences to your readers and followers of Mand’s Mind.”  I couldn’t have wished written that better myself so clearly I was in.  Those that know me know that I’m just not that into cooking.  Like, at all.  But those that know me also know I LOVE to eat.  So yeah, sign me up.  I mean, who says no to a mouthwatering epicurean adventure?  Not this girl.


Did I mention that the meal was going to be 1) free, 2) at the beautiful Casa Rondeña Winery in my heart’s home of the North Valley, and 3) feature a celebrity chef?  Check, check, check.  I guess these are the perks of living life on the Internet and being an annoyingly super sharer.


20151022_180305[1] 20151022_180301[1]

Allan and I arrived at the gorgeous winery, took a few photos and grabbed a glass of wine as the sun was setting.  Allan had the Meritage, I can’t remember what I had, but it was Chardonnay-ish.  Casa Rondeña is so picturesque; I’d wanted to have our wedding reception there until I realized that you can only have like 50 guests.  That would have never flown with our large family (plus friends).  Just wouldn’t accommodate the 200 person soirée that was our wedding.  C’est la vie.



It was time to get started on our tasting journey.  We were introduced to Chef Caitlin from Cooking with Caitlin.  Caitlin and her assistant/sister/BFF are bursting with personality just as the food we enjoyed was bursting with flavor.  Caitlin demonstrated a few of the nine recipes and we had front row seats for the show along with the other foodie bloggers.  There were also other guests who spoke sharing the health benefits and importance of dairy in a well-balanced diet as well as discussing the differences between lactose intolerance and a lactose allergy.

20151022_185723 20151022_191650 20151022_191657

The first item on the tasting menu was Monterey Jack Tuilles with Pico de Gallo.  This was so cool to see being made.  Basically, Caitlin made mini taco shells using a griddle, natural/aged cheese, and the bottom of a cupcake/muffin pan to shape the burnt cheese.  It was fast and delicious.  Mind blown.

20151022_180847  20151022_180904[1]

Up next was Pumpkin Soup with Chipotle-Roasted Sunflower Seeds featuring lactose-free milk.  I love soup as evidenced by our annual trip to the Souper Bowl and this one hit the spot.  Warm and spicy.

20151022_181435  20151022_181627

Our third course of the evening was Blue Corn Blini with Maple-Chile Pork Tenderloin + Cilantro also featuring lactose-free milk.  I love how Caitlin added southwest flavors to each dish.  Some locals said it wasn’t spicy enough.  I’ve often thought I should have my New Mexican card revoked since I’m not obsessed with heat in food.  Maybe that’s why everything was just right for me.  Caitlin said to give them a break…they’re from Ohio!  :)


Round Four brought Milk-Braised Beef Tacos with Calabacitas to our plates.  These featured lactose-free milk and natural cheese.  At this point, it was clear I need to hire Chef Caitlin to cook all my meals.  I think we scarfed the tacos before we snapped them so instead enjoy this picture of nosh.


I kept thinking, there’s going to be something I don’t like.  But it never failed; I liked each dish, including the Chile Rellenos with Charred Tomato Sauce featuring natural/aged cheese and Greek yogurt.


For the sixth dish, we dined on Slow-Cooked Chile-Chicken Thighs with Charred Corn, Lime Greek Yogurt + Cotija featuring Greek yogurt and natural cheese.


Phew!  We finally made it to dessert.  You mean there’s more?  Yes!  Time to try some Greek Yogurt Cheesecake with Piñon Nut Crust and Roasted Blackberries.  I was looking forward to the Piñon Nut Crust, but dropped mine.  Luckily, the nice folks sitting next to us from Bunches O Lunches hooked it up with another piece.  I must have been too busy dropping my dessert to take a photo, but here is some wine.


Then we had Homemade Sopapillas with Lavender Honey a la Mode featuring lactose-free ice cream.  This had such a North Valley feel to it.


Our night cap was Mexican Hot Chocolate with Homemade Honey Marshmallows featuring lactose-free milk.  Spicy, sweet, and warm; the perfect way to wrap up this amazing dinner.

20151022_201237  20151022_201058

Throughout the night, I learned a lot about lactose and dairy in general.  Although, I’m not lactose intolerant, I’d be quick to share these amazing recipes with someone that is, so they could enjoy dairy without having to worry about tummy troubles.  And guess what?  I can.  We were given a swag bag that included all of the recipes and a few other cool DairyMAX items.



This was such a cool event; a great mix of fun, promotion, and education.  And it was so social.  From our Twitter handles on our name tags to our live tweets being captured and displayed on the screen.  It was a little dark so our pics don’t quite capture the beauty of each culinary creation, but trust me they were as lovely as they were tasty.  I even Periscoped a little and my friend Jacque (an amazing cook herself!) watched live from Austin!  Thanks to DairyMAX and Cooking with Caitlin for the delightful dairy dinner date.  We left with our panzas llenas y corazones contentos.


20151022_183612  20151022_175945[1]