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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.

Plated

  • 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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Valentine’s Day White Chocolate Bark

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  • February 12, 2015

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and if you’re looking for a sweet treat you can whip up last minute, I have the perfect idea for you!

Valentine's Day White Chocolate Bark | Lemon Drop Life

 

This literally will take you less than 5 minutes of active time and another 30-60 min. of cooling time. And they’re totally adorable, right?! So here’s what you’ll need:

  • Silicone heart pan (I got mine at Target – it was on sale for $8)
  • White chocolate candy melts (I used the Ghirardelli brand)
  • Valentine M&M’s
  • Sprinkles

1. Fill the bottom of each heart mold with a mixture of M&M’s and sprinkles.

2. Melt your white chocolate according to the instructions on the package.

3. Quickly fill each mold with the melted chocolate.

4. Lightly tap the tray on a flat surface so that the chocolate settles evenly, and leave on a flat surface to cool.

This recipe is so simple and you could modify it countless different ways! You could fill the molds halfway with the chocolate first, then add the candy/sprinkle mixture in the middle, and then top it off with more chocolate for more of a ‘sandwich’ effect. After I finished these, I also thought that another great addition might be to add a layer of crushed pretzels to the bottom as kind of a ‘crust’, if you will. It would give it that salty/sweet combo that is sooo delicious.

These treats are perfect for sending along to daycare or school – just drop an individual heart into a small cellophane bag with a sweet note attached, and BAM! Instant Valentines!

They would also be great for other holidays – I’m thinking stars for 4th of July and trees for Christmas; the possibilities are endless!

 

 

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Rolo Pretzel Bites

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  • December 31, 2014

I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas; we definitely did! We had a great time visiting with all of our family and Roarke got  a ton of new toys – he’s currently dunking up a storm on his new basketball goal as we speak.

I’m definitely ready, though, to take all my Christmas stuff down and get back into a normal routine. Right after we celebrate New Years, of course!

So, if you’re looking for a simple snack to whip up and take along with you to your New Years Eve celebrations, I’ve got just the thing: Rolo Pretzel Bites!

Rolo Pretzel Bites | Lemon Drop Life

All you need is three things: mini pretzels, Rolo candies, and pecans. Simply heat your oven to 350 degrees place the Rolos on top of the pretzels, and bake for 3-4 minutes. Then place the pecans on top and let them cool completely. Easy, right? And they are so delicious – the perfect addition to any get together!

Hope you all have a Happy New Year!

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Cooking Uncategorized

Chocolate Chip Red Velvet Cookie Sandwiches

This post could alternatively be entitled: “Heaven In Cookie Form”.

Last week I got a hankering for something majorly sweet and these cookies more than hit the spot. Red velvet and cream cheese icing is one of my favorite dessert combos and normally cupcakes would be my go to. But I was feeling like maybe cupcakes wouldn’t even satisfy my sweets craving. That’s right. I needed MORE.

And thus, the chocolate chip red velvet cookie sandwich walked into my life.

Chocolate Chip Red Velvet Cookie Sandwich | Lemon Drop Life

Let’s not beat around the bush, I know you’re wanting the deets on these bad boys. So here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 box Duncan Hines Red Velvet Cake Mix (you could probably use any red velvet cake mix, this is the one I used)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup mini choc. chips
  • 1 can cream cheese frosting

Melt butter and let cool. Mix together cake mix, egg, cooled butter and vanilla – you’ll have to physically mix by hand (like kneading bread dough) until you end up with a dough. Fold in chocolate chips by hand, a little at a time.

Form the dough into a 12” log, wrap in parchment paper, seal with plastic wrap, and then place into the fridge for at least an hour. You could also probably just wrap up the dough ball and put it in the fridge – it’s still malleable enough after an hour that  you could just spoon out your cookies.

Once it’s hardened, unwrap and cut into slices, then bake at 350 F for 10 to 12 mintues.

After they’ve cooled, spread on some icing (don’t skimp – nobody likes an under-iced cookie) and sandwich another cookie on top. And there you have it – diabetes in cookie form!

Chocolate Chip Red Velvet Cookie Sandwich | Lemon Drop Life

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any resulting cookie sandwich addictions. The fetus made me do it.

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Easy and Delicious Veggie Pizza

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  • October 15, 2012

Since I’ve been pregnant, I’ve been making an effort to try and cook a little more. I don’t want to be the mom that relies on fast food. Yes, I realize it will be a while before I’ll actually be feeding my child home-cooked meals, but I figure it doesn’t hurt to get in the habit now!

And, of course, I want my child to eat healthy meals that include lots of veggies. I rarely ever at vegetables as a kid (and still struggle with it now, to be honest), but this is one quick and easy veggie recipe that I love!

Ingredients:

  • 2 (8 oz.) pkgs. crescent rolls
  • 2 (8 oz.) pkgs. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (1 oz.) pkg. dry Ranch-style dressing mix
  • 1 cup fresh broccoli, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped cauliflower
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup shredded Cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
  2. Roll out the crescent dough onto a 9×13 baking sheet, and pinch together the edges to form the crust.
  3. Bake crust for 12 minutes in the preheated oven. Once finished cooking, remove crust from oven and let cool 15 minutes without removing it from the baking sheet.
  4. In a small mixing bowl, combine cream cheese and dry Ranch dressing. Spread the mixture over the cooled crust. Sprinkle broccoli, bell pepper, cauliflower, shredded carrots, and cheddar cheese over the cream cheese layer. Chill for one hour, slice and serve.

And that’s all there is to it! I cut mine into square 20 pieces and calculated that it’s approximately 135 calories a slice. And if you want to cut calories even more, you could leave off the cheese or just use one package of crescent rolls…I just like a nice thick crust!

Have you got any simple and healthy recipes? Let me hear ‘em!

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Cooking Uncategorized

S’more Please!

I don’t share recipes very often (mainly because I don’t cook very often) but this one was so delicious, I couldn’t resist!

Last night, I  decided to be all Betty Homemaker and make us a little after-dinner dessert. And I decided it would be s’more brownies. And, next to marrying my sweet husband, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

So here’s all the dirty details:

You’ll need 1 box of brownie mix (and the ingredients it takes to make the brownies), 1 bag of marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate pieces. See, that’s not a scary long list, is it?

1.) Make the brownies as instructed on the box. I used a 9×13 pan and baked it a little under the given time.

2.) Add a layer of marshmallows and a layer of graham crackers, then put back in the oven for about 2 minutes. Take the brownies out of the oven and add a layer of marshmallows. I used the normal sized ones and it took the whole bag to get an even cover over all the brownies. Then put on some graham crackers. I broke them up into smallish pieces and spread them out evenly. In hindsight, I wish I’d added more because the graham crackers really make it good. Then put it in the oven for a couple of minutes, just enough to let the marshmallows expand and get all ooey gooey.

3.) Add the chocolate pieces, then let it bake for an additional 2 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven again, and sprinkle your chocolate pieces on top. I used Hershey bars because I’m a s’more snob but you could use anything. It took me about 4 full sized bars to evenly cover the pan. Then I put it back in for a couple more minutes…I didn’t time it exactly, I just let it sit for the time it took me to clean up the kitchen. Then take it out and the chocolate will be all warm and melty and delicious. And you will eat the entire pan.

Just kidding. Well, maybe. You could eat the entire pan, I suppose, but you’ll get a bad tummy ache.

This was super easy to make and I will definitely be doing it again..we took it to Sunday School this morning and it was big hit!

{Sidenote for a sappy girl moment: I was SO happy that Emily picked Jef on The Bachelorette..he was my favorite from the beginning!}

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How Does She Do It?

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  • August 22, 2011

I’ve often wondered that myself when I come across a woman who’s able to work a full time job, keep a clean house, take care of her husband & children, and still put a meal on the table every stinkin’ night.

Looking back on our first year of marriage, I have definitely slacked off on that last category. I do work full time, our house is relatively clean (thanks to a hubby that doesn’t mind pitching in to do laundry, etc.), and I manage to make sure Lucy is taken care of (she’s the closest thing we have to a baby). But when it comes to preparing nightly meals, I get a big fat fail.

I am not one of those people who can just whip up something off the top of their head using ingredients they already have on hand. I need to follow a pretty strict recipe for anything more complex than spaghetti. So when I’m done working at the end of the day, thinking about planning a meal and going to the store to get ingredients, makes my head want to explode. Luckily, I have a husband that is in no way picky and doesn’t mind having a bag of steamed veggies for dinner. But I always feel bad that I’m not providing a ‘real’ meal..and thinking down the line to when we have kids, I know I want to be able to sit at the table and have family dinners every night of the week. That was always a tradition in my parents house, and it’s something that I cherish today. I loved that 1-2 hours we spent around the dinner table every night, discussing each others’ lives and world news, etc.

So, last week I did some research on meal planning tools and came across some interesting options. The one that appealed most to me was a website called HowDoesSheDoIt.com.


It’s a site that allows you access to a bunch of recipes (uploaded by other members) and you can essentially choose what recipes you like and add them to your Favorites folder. You can also upload any of your own recipes as well, and you can choose to share them with other members or keep them private. Then you can start planning your daily meals. It allows you to plan breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. So if you have a bagel and cream cheese every morning, you can add a “recipe” for a bagel and cream cheese and then add that to your Favorites folder so that you can use that for your breakfast meal. {Sidenote: recipes like that one, where it might just be a single food or something that is specific to me, I chose to keep private so that no other members are confused by it when they’re searching for other things} And once you have every meal that you want planned, you can print out a grocery list of everything you’ll need. It’s pretty awesome! And the best part? It’s 100% free! Here’s a little tutorial video which explains it much better than I can:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjBo-_097pE&feature=youtu.be]

For now, I started out by planning just dinners, as I always eat lunch at work and Jordan usually makes himself a sandwich. I planned for two weeks worth of dinners, and we went grocery shopping last week. Tonight will be the first official night of the plan, and I must say it feels pretty good to already know what I’m going to make and know that I have everything I need at home. I’m really hoping this works out well for us!

Do you guys plan your meals out in advance or do you just go with whatever you’re feeling on any given day? Do you have a different website or tool that you use? I’m open to suggestions!

{Sidenote: I was not paid to advertise this website. I just enjoyed using it and wanted to share it with all of you!}

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Cooking Domestic Stuff Uncategorized

Fiesta!

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, I decided to make a little mexican feast tonight. Olé! But because Jordan is trying to cut back on carbs, I didn’t want to do tacos or quesadillas or fajitas. So, I tried my hand at a mexican casserole, and it turned out to be pretty delicious!

I got the recipe from one of my favorite resources, AllRecipes.com. My only changes were that I left out the black olives (we’re not big fans), and I didn’t use as much sour cream as the recipe called for. Jordan has this weird thing about food with a creamy texture..whipped cream, sour cream, cream cheese. He hates all of them. So I just did a light layer of sour cream and he didn’t even notice..hee hee, I’m a cooking ninja!

And I also tried a recipe for mexican wedding cake cookies (also from AllRecipes.com). My mother-in-law makes them, and they are killer good! Mine weren’t quite up to par, but they weren’t bad for a first try. They tasted really good but they were a smidge dry. Ya win some, ya lose some. But I will not be defeated. Mexican wedding cake cookie: I will master you!

I also mixed up a little fruit punch concoction..equal parts Hawaiian Punch, ginger ale, and mango orange juice. Delish! And I finished up setting the table with…what else, our Fiestaware!

And I guess our party was pretty rockin’ because we even had a couple neighbors stop by.

Neighbors of the four-legged variety, that is. These guys live two houses down from us and when Lucy is in the backyard, they wiggle their pudgy little bodies under their fence and ours to get to her.

We love them like their our very own fur-babies. We don’t know their names, but we  call the white one Meatball and the little one Pudgy-poo.

*Sigh* Isn’t he adorable? Oh…I guess the puppy is cute too… 🙂

It absolutely cracks me up when they try to chase our long-legged Lucy. They don’t come even close to keeping up with her, but she loves it! Ignore the fact that it looks like she’s trying to perform a roundhouse kick in that picture.

All in all, we had a great time celebrating Cinco de Mayo and playing with the dogs. In the words of Ricky Martin, we’re just “livin’ la vida loca!”

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