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Cooking Domestic Stuff

Head To Head: Meal Delivery Services

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  • April 12, 2017

If I’ve ever cooked a meal for you, then you already know: I’m not a cook. It’s not something that comes naturally to me – most of the time,  I can find a way to screw up even the simplest recipe. But in an effort to not feed my family #allthefastfood, I try my best to cook meals at home when I can. However, there are only so many times you can have spaghetti, chicken tacos, and hamburgers before you start to lose it a little. So when I got a coupon for Blue Apron in the mail, I decided it might be nice to test the waters of the meal delivery service world. We ended up trying out 3 different options, so I thought I’d compare those 3 head to head for anyone that’s looking to spice up their cooking routine!

Blue Apron

  • Price: $59.94
  • Number of Meals: 3
  • Serving Size: 2 people

First up is Blue Apron. This is probably the first company that pops to mind when you think about these kinds of services. Also, I should mention that I had a $30 off coupon for our first delivery, so we actually only paid $29.94. When this box got delivered, we were in the middle of a specific fast so we chose the 3 vegetarian meal options. I am by no means a vegetarian, but I actually really enjoy trying to eat vegetarian for at least a couple meals a week, so this was an awesome way to try out some new recipes. The 3 meals we received were: Mushroom & Spinach Stromboli, Fresh Fettucine, and Creamy Ricotta & Lacinato Kale Strata. Sounds fancy, right??

I started with the Stromboli because it was the least intimidating. The instructions were all spelled out on the back:

The estimated time for this recipe was 15 minutes prep and 35-45 minutes cook time. Seeing as I’m #notachef, prep took me more like 25 minutes. Chopping stuff is hard, guys. But other than that, the recipe went fairly smoothly. Except for the dough part. Working with bread dough is not for amateurs and by the time I had all my filling stuffed in there, it looked like a murder scene. Luckily, that didn’t effect the taste.

It was REALLY yummy. Both hubby and I devoured ours, leaving no shred of that delicious ricotta behind. We had similar experiences with the other two recipes as well. Slightly intensive prep, really delicious, flavorful recipe.

So here’s my breakdown for Blue Apron:

  • Price: With the coupon we had it was a great deal, but $60 for 3 meals is a little extravagant for us on a weekly basis.
  • Portion Size: All of our meals were intended for 2 people, but the portion sizes were generous so you could definitely sneak in a small child or have a little bit leftover for the following day.
  • Difficulty: The prep was labor intensive for these, probably partly due to the fact that they were all vegetarian (lots of veggie chopping, duh). We used lots of ingredients that I wouldn’t use on a normal basis, but that was kind of a nice change-up. The instructions were easy to follow, though, so really my only complaint is prep/cook time. On average, these meals took me 50-60 minutes to cook from start to finish.
  • Taste: I’m not an adventurous eater, so the ‘fanciness’ of these recipes kind of made me give them side eye. But all the recipes we tried were really flavorful and delicious. Even Everly went stinkin’ crazy over the beet fettuccine. So, I’m happy that these recipes pushed me a little outside of my comfort zone!
  • Ingredient Quality: All of our ingredients were very fresh on arrival. We got our box on a Tuesday – I cooked the first meal that night, the second meal on Thursday, and the last meal the following Monday. I will say that the ingredients for the meal I cooked on Monday were starting to look a little rough. It would probably be best if you could cook all meals within the first 3-4 days after receiving the box!
  • Kid-Friendly: The fanciness of these recipes was kind of fun for JP and I, but not so much for the kids. Based on looks alone, the kids pretty much turned up their noses. In my opinion, unless you have non-picky kids (which, if so, please tell me your secrets), these meals probably won’t go over super well with them.
  • Overall Impression: We really enjoyed our meals from Blue Apron, and I’m sure the more I got practice, the easier the prep part would become. I think the things that would keep us from doing this on a regular basis would be the price and the fact that the meals aren’t a huge hit with my kids.

Hello Fresh

  • Price: $59.94
  • Number of Meals: 3
  • Serving Size: 2 people

After Blue Apron, we went to Hello Fresh. Again, I had a coupon code so we ended up paying around $30 for our first shipment. Our first 3 meals from them were: Melty Monterey Jack Burger, Lean Mean Chicken & Greens, and Pork DIY Dumplings.

One thing I really liked about Hello Fresh as compared to Blue Apron was that the ingredients for each meal (aside from the meat) were packaged up in a nice little box that you could easily slide into the fridge. So when it came time to cook, there was no hunting around for the ingredients you needed.

Let’s get right to the breakdown:

  • Price: The pricing was exactly the same as Blue Apron, so no change there.
  • Portion Size: The portion sizing was not as generous as Blue Apron, so don’t count on it serving anymore than 2 people.
  • Difficulty: The directions were easy to follow and, for the most part, prep & cook time were basically what you would expect. The pork dumplings were a bit more labor intensive, but the other two were pretty straight forward. On average, these meals took me 45-50 minutes to cook from start to finish.
  • Taste: The dumplings were really tasty. I had high hopes for the burger, but it just didn’t turn out as great as I had hoped. The chicken meal was pretty bland/basic. 
  • Ingredient Quality: Everything looked pretty good when it arrived. The greens for the chicken meal were a little bit wilted, and by the time I got to cooking that one, there was a large chunk of the greens that I couldn’t use because they had gone bad. I probably should’ve cooked that one first, but I’m a rebel.
  • Kid-Friendly: I would say these were slightly more kid friendly. We were able to get our kids to try the dumplings and some of the chicken/potatoes.
  • Overall Impression: The packaging was convenient and I’m a sucker for good packaging. The recipes were a bit simpler and more straight forward, but I wasn’t as impressed with the taste. And, again, the pricing would keep me from doing this on a regular basis.


  • Price: $72
  • Number of Meals: 3
  • Serving Size: 2 people

The last meal delivery service we tried was Plated. I feel like this one is lesser known, but I had a friend that passed along a promo code for me so I used that to get a discount for our first delivery. The meals we got from them were: Cheesy Baked Rice, Chicken Bruschetta, and Brown Butter Orecchiette.

The packaging for these ingredients was somewhere in between Blue Apron (where the ingredients are basically loose, for the most part) and Hello Fresh. Each meal’s ingredients (aside from any meat) were sealed in a plastic bag. Here’s my breakdown on this one:

  • Price: This is the most expensive of the 3 we tried.
  • Portion Size: With the pasta meals (cheesy baked rice, and the orecchiette), you could probably carve out a small portion for leftovers. Not so much with the chicken since they only sent two breasts.
  • Difficulty: The prep for all these was very simple, and for the most part, I only had to dirty a couple dishes to get them cooked (huge bonus!). On average, these meals took me 35-40 minutes to cook from start to finish. Definitely the simplest prep/cook time of the 3 we tried.
  • Taste: The orecchiette was super delicious, JP loved the cheesy baked rice (I thought it was alright), and the chicken bruschetta was basically what you would expect, but nothing special.
  • Ingredient Quality: The ingredients were really fresh and stayed that way until I was ready to cook!
  • Kid-Friendly: These recipes were probably the most kid-friendly of the 3 service we tried. Our kids loved the cheesy baked rice (probably because the veggies were hidden under cheese, duh), and we even got them to eat a little of the orecchiette.
  • Overall Impression: As far as cooking goes, these were very simple to prepare, and the taste was decent overall. These are they types of meals I could see myself preparing on a regular basis, however, the price leaves a LOT to be desired.

If we were to choose on service to do on a somewhat-regular basis (maybe once a month or something), it would probably be Blue Apron. If you are single, or don’t have kids, I think these would be a nice thing to do on a more regular basis. In my opinion, though, these kinds of services are not practical for a family of four to do on a regular basis based on the cost alone. BUT! It’s definitely something fun to do every once in a while, and it’s great for pushing yourself outside of your cooking comfort zone – I collected all the recipes that we liked in a binder, so I can go back and make them for us later.

I still have some coupon codes for a couple of these services, so if you’re interested in trying them out, you can leave your e-mail in the comments for a free Blue Apron delivery (I have 5) or use the link below to get a discount on your first Hello Fresh delivery!

Hello Fresh

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A Day In The Windy City

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  • March 29, 2017

My sweet little Roarke David turned 4 last week. I tried my best to stop it, I told him he wasn’t allowed to get any older, but he went ahead and did it anyway. Rude.

Something that I’m a bit of a firm believer in is giving our kids experiences, rather than gifts. They have SO much stuff – in fact, I’m getting ready to do another purge – and in the end, I’d rather we make fun memories together than give him yet another toy that will be broken or lost in 6 months. For a brief second, we considered surprising him with a quick Disney World trip, but when we really started adding up the costs of said trip, it didn’t make that much sense to spend so much money for only a couple days. We’ll wait on that trip until we can really have the time to enjoy it!

So we settled on somewhere close by – Chicago! Our boy is OBSESSED with Lego’s and, as luck would have it, there’s a Legoland in Chicago so we knew it would be the perfect spot to celebrate him! And rather than just go up for the day, we decided to up the ante and just make a mini vacay of it.

Monday morning we set out on the 2 hour trek north. I know what you’re thinking – “Uhhhh, 2 hours is NOT a long trip, Dacia. It’s hardly a trek.” But with 2 kids and no TV (we took the Prius instead of the van to cut down on gas costs), it might as well have been the Iditarod Trail. And obviously, we had to stop halfway through to feed the little hyenas. We found the cutest little diner called Tyler’s Tender – it was the PERFECT spot for the kids. There was a huge electric train set up that they could watch endlessly, arcade games, and even a mini train that they could take a ride in. We’ll probably make this our permanent stopping point for trips to Chicago with the kiddos!

From there, we set out for Legoland. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the question “Are we there yet?” so much in my life. But eventually (after some rough Chicago traffic) we made it!

It happened to be Spring Break week, so it was fairly crowded. Pro tip: buy your tickets online in advance so you can skip the line. It’s not a huge place, but there’s some fun stuff to see inside. They had a replica of the entire Chicago shoreline built out of Lego’s – so impressive!

They also had a jungle area with life-size Lego animals, a Star Wars room, and several spots where you could just sit and build. I honestly think Roarke could’ve sat at one of those tables for 2 hours! Upstairs, they have a cafe and play area, along with a fun little 4D Lego movie. There are also a couple mini-rides you can do. And obviously, on your way out they have a store where you can buy Lego sets. Overall, it was a really great thing to do, especially with kids on the younger side. It wasn’t so big that we were exhausted by then end, but it was easy to spend a couple hours there and the kids really enjoyed it. They’ve already asked (several times) when we’re going back.

Afterwards, we loaded up and headed back into the city (Legoland is out in one of Chicago’s suburbs, so keep that in mind if you’re planning to travel there!) to our hotel. We stayed right downtown at a place called the Freehand. This place was SUPER cool. It’s basically an upscale hostel – you can rent out a single bed in one of their rooms for pretty cheap. We rented a whole room and the kids thought it was the coolest thing ever that we all had bunk beds!

The vibe at this place was amazing (they had lots of local events and meet-ups happening right in the hotel) and all the decor was totally on point.

That light. #allthehearteyes

The next morning we woke up and hit up one of our favorite donut spots: Stan’s Donuts. A definite must-try if you’re in the area! This activity was definitely kid (and parent) approved.

All in all, it was a successful little trip for us and there were lots of memories made. Believe it or not, this was our first overnight trip with just our little family of 4 (besides visiting family of course), so I was actually kind of anxious about it being a disaster, but JP and I both commented on what a pleasant day it was and how well the kids did for being totally off their schedules. I am SO glad we did this instead of buying Roarke a toy – I think it will be a birthday tradition!

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So You Wanna Brew Kombucha?

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  • March 17, 2017

Before we go any further, I need to confess something to you guys. While I was away from the blog over the last year, I became a hippie.

I mean, I still shave my armpits and everything but I am a whole lot more granola than I was the last time we spoke. And can I confess something else? I kinda love it. I love the changes we’ve made in our house and I love the effects they’ve had on our health and family. And in keeping in line with my new crunchy life, I obviously needed to start brewing my own kombucha before  someone came to revoke my Birkenstocks.

I’ll admit, the thought of brewing kombucha was pretty intimidating to me because I just felt like there would be a lot of ways I could mess it up and working with a live culture kind of freaks me out. But it’s super fun to say SCOBY, so I pushed forward. I looked at several websites that walked through directions and even ordered a Kombucha recipe book from Amazon (this one). I considered trying to collect all my supplies myself, but ultimately decided I’d feel more comfortable if I could just buy sort of a starter kit that had everything I would need. Again, I did some research and settled on this brewing kit from The Kombucha Shop. It was reasonably priced and had tons of good feedback on Amazon. I got the Original kit, but in hindsight, wish I would’ve gotten the Deluxe version so that I would’ve gotten the swing top bottles. I had a couple already, but it would’ve been nice to have 6. And a couple days later (thanks Amazon Prime!) all my supplies arrived on my doorstep!

The Original kit included: a 1-gallon glass brew jar, the SCOBY, organic custom TKS tea blend, organic cane sugar, a reusable cotton tea bag, pH test strips, temperature gauge, a cotton cover & rubber band, and a pipet. They also included a direction infographic that was super easy to follow and had some helpful tips and tricks.

The process is pretty simple really: boil some water, add your tea and let it steep, add your sugar and let it dissolve, transfer to your brew jar and add some cold water to bring to room temperature, then add your SCOBY, cover with the cotton cloth, and let it do it’s thang. You’re advised to let the brew jar sit in a warm place, out of direct sunlight, with plenty of airflow (no closed cabinets). I put mine on the top of the fridge because there’s not enough clearance space between the top of our cabinets and the ceiling to put it there. I put a towel in between the top of the fridge in the jar for some extra insulation. It’s important that the brew stays between 66-88 degrees (ideal being 76) so the culture doesn’t mold, so having the temperature gauge on the side was a nice peace of mind. SCOBY’s are very hearty so they can withstand a lot before going bad.

As it brews, you’ll start to see a new, cream colored layer growing on top of the brew – that’s your new culture! You can either discard the old one and just use the new, or you can use both to start brewing multiple batches. As long as you keep up with feeding your cultures sugar regularly (even when you’re not brewing) you can use the same SCOBY for 10-15 brews. You could also give one to a friend! Kombucha for everyone!

I let mine brew for 2 weeks before checking on it. Once I thought it was ready, I slipped a small pipet down the side of the jar (being careful not to disturb the new culture too much) and took out a little to test the pH. Ideally, you want your pH in the 2.5-3.5 range. Once I verified that the pH was good and my kombucha likely wasn’t going to poison me, I took a taste test. It was a little on the sweet side, so I covered it back up with the cloth and let it brew a few more days. The longer you let it brew, the more tart it becomes. With my brew sitting on the top of the fridge where it was a bit on the cold side, it took a little longer for the fermentation process to happen.


Once I got the taste to where I wanted it, I reserved a portion of the tea and the cultures in the brewing jar to start my next brew. I left it down on our countertop this time where it would be warmer.

I transferred the rest of the kombucha to my swing top bottles. One tip when bottling: filling your bottles closer to the top helps with carbonation. Reducing the amount of oxygen in the bottle allows more CO2 to be dissolved into the kombucha, which is what makes it fizzy. My first brew wasn’t super carbonated, so I’ll be doing a second fermentation to try and get it more fizzy! I’m also going to start experimenting with other flavored teas and adding in fruit for flavoring as well!

I can’t say enough good things about how simple this brewing kit made things, so I would definitely recommend it for anyone wanting to get started. And as a thank you, my followers can use the code ‘lemondrop20’ for 20% off of any order on their website, no minimum purchase required. Happy brewing!





Sunday Psalms {3.12.17}

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  • March 12, 2017

There’s something so special to me about the book of Psalms. It portrays all the real struggles of human life: guilt, shame, fear, doubt, anxiety. And it also encourages us to praise and worship through all those circumstances. I feel like no matter what I’m experiencing, I can always find the encouragement I need by going to Psalms. 

So for the foreseeable future, I’ll plan to post the scripture from Psalms that is speaking to my heart each week. I hope you’ll find them as comforting as I do!

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Radio Silence

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  • March 10, 2017

That awkward moment when you haven’t posted to your blog in over a year….

Yeah, that’s what this is.

I could give you some long drawn out explanation of why I’ve been gone for so long, but basically the summary is this: kids, life, and hackers.

But I feel like I’m finally coming back to a place (read: no longer procrastinating) where I want to write and share again. So hopefully you guys will forgive me for just skipping out on you like Randall’s dad did on that fire station doorstep. (Anyone else totally This Is Us obsessed?! I mourned the loss of Parenthood for several months and it’s totally filling that space in my heart.)

This blogs’ main focus has always been DIY and the projects we’re doing around the house, and occasionally I sprinkled in other bits of our life. But I’ll warn you now, you can expect those sprinkles to become a bit more frequent (yay for more sprinkles!!). I’ll still post DIY & home stuff because I still love it, but my interests are a lot more varied now so you can expect to get a bit of a mixed bag around here! I’m not going to promise that I’ll stick to any kind of a posting schedule, because I’m no glutton for punishment, but I CAN promise you that it won’t be another year before you hear from me again. Maybe 5 or 6 months, but DEFINITELY not a whole year 😉

And because it would be wrong to have a post without a picture…

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