Blue Apron Review: Promo Code Included!!

We have all been there.  Looking in our fridge, scratching our heads, wondering what to make for dinner.  Or, trying to think of a new, creative dinner (yet healthy) in order to break the monotony of eating our “go-to” meals.  For me, that’s baked chicken or baked salmon with sides of baked sweet potatoes or brown rice with veggies (can you tell I like baked items?).  Combine that with being short on time and the idea of healthy meal planning becomes an arduous task.

In a casual chat with one of my girlfriends, Brittany, I discussed how hard it can be to meal plan AND to go food shopping.  Excitedly, she told me about a food service that she uses called Blue Apron.  Blue Apron is a snazzy food delivery company that ships a box of pre-portioned ingredients to your doorstep, along with detailed recipe cards for three dishes.  She proceeded to show me a stack of glossy recipe cards with familiar, yet exotic dishes.  Calorie counts and educational asides were included on the cards.  I was intrigued.

To be honest, I was wary about the service–were the food portions going to be enough for my husband and me? (Yes, they were perfect.) What if I didn’t like the food but already committed to it? (You can cancel or modify an upcoming week’s meal online if you don’t like what is being offered.) What if my food bill was now even higher because of this “added” expense? (My food bill was actually LESS expensive. Adding the cost of Blue Apron ($59) with my food bill, I STILL spent less than I would normally spend on a weekly basis.)

So I took a baby step and tried a few of their online recipes. I tried the Crispy Catfish with Sicilian Eggplant Caponata.  Obviously, I didn’t have catfish & eggplants laying around the house, so I had to plan a shopping trip.  I also had to pick up tomato paste, rice flour, capers, and red wine vinegar.  I had to forgo the marjoram because I couldn’t find it (honestly, I never heard of that before).  The finished product was great (click here for blog post on that dish), but I was left with a lot of extra ingredients that I will probably never use again.  What a waste of money.

From Instagram, Livingfortwoplus

From Instagram, Livingfortwoplus

I decided to try out the service. What’s the harm? I told my girlfriend I was thinking about trying it out so she gifted me a week free so that I could try it “commitment free” (Disclaimer–>I DID have to enter my credit card info, but I could cancel before they charged me if I didn’t like my first free week of food).

On Saturday, I got a gorgeous and impeccably organized & insulated box of food delivered to my door. I got three selections of raw meat that were sitting on ice packs. Separate from the meats were various vegetables and “knick knacks”–all labeled and perfectly measured for their corresponding recipes. The recipe cards were super stylish: large glossy cards with pictures detailing each step of the cooking process. 

Since I had three meals already taken care of, all I had to do was think about two other meals for the week. I found the inexpensive solution of buying a rotisserie chicken from Sam’s Club for under $5. I then bought some other basic necessities like bread, milk, etc. My food bill was $50–more than $75 less than what I normally spend.

A recent study showed that when customers purchased the ingredients in one Blue Apron delivery at grocery stores (from local grocery stores to Whole foods) in five different cities, the ingredients were 60% more expensivethan a Blue Apron delivery, and fewer than 75% of the ingredients were available at any one store on average” (Blue Apron, About Us)

The meals:

I had this, this, and this. The recipes took me out of my comfort zone, as I never really “seared” anything before, made cod fish, or prepared an Indian dish. Each and every dish was absolutely lovely. The only downside was that since it was my first time making these meals (and I had a busy baby in the background), it took me a long time to get through preparing each dish–washing & chopping the veggies, rereading the recipe cards, and debating whether or not the meat/fish was fully cooked. If I were working full time outside of my home (instead of being a WAHM), I’d have to prepare these meals on the weekend.  Or, maybe over time, I’ll get faster.  Also, the other downside is that there are no left overs.  So I’d recommend opting for a family plan if you are looking for extra food to last more than one day. 

  IMG_3745

Special promo for you!

I reached out to Blue Apron to 1) tell them how much I love their service and 2) see if they would be interested in offering my blog readers a promotion code so that you all can try out Blue Apron.  I figured many of you would appreciate a few free meals (without a shopping trip). So here you have it faithful reader, a promo code so that you too can fall in love with Blue Apron –> My first 50 readers who use this link will get two free meals with their first Blue Apron Box (for first time customers only).

Some cool Blue Apron facts from Blue Apron’s About Us

Blue Apron is building a network of family farmers that champion sustainable farming practices.  These direct farmer relationships allow Blue Apron to give customers access to hard-‐‐to-‐‐find seasonal produce (e.g., fairytale eggplants, fiddlehead ferns, watermelon radishes and micro-‐‐basil).”

As of June 2015, over 1.1 million pounds of specialty crops were  planted and harvested by small, family-‐‐run farms for Blue Apron recipes. “
Blue Apron ships over 3 million meals per month to 99% of the U.S.”

I really, really, really hope that you enjoy Blue Apron as much as I did.  I decided to keep my subscription, so I got my second box of food yesterday.  I can’t wait to write & to post Instagram photos about this batch of food (follow my Instagram page here.

IMG_3744

If you like what you just read please click to send a quick vote for me on Top Mommy Blogs- The best mommy blog directory featuring top mom bloggers

Baby Food Ideas with Fruits, Veggies, and Poultry

Every few weeks I head over to my local Spanish supermarket, Fiesta, in order to pick up Ava’s favorite cereal: Nestum.  She loves this stuff.  When she first started eating solids, she couldn’t stand the standard American option of Gerber–it was the spicier Nestum that got her tastebuds hopping.

During my last visit, I walked through the baby isle and took a look at the jarred baby foods.  I hardly ever look at the jars because I make all of her food at home.  I use a Baby Bullet and I’ve had a lot of success with it.  But I make simple and bland things–sweet potato puree; mashed peas; applesauce. I looked at the jars on the shelf and there were so many interesting combinations: turkey with a starch and veggie puree; mixed fruits; mixed veggies.  I felt really bad that I wasn’t making such cool things too!


I bought some veggies and other items with the intent of making some new & interesting meals for Ava.

The results were fabulous.

Mango Applesauce:

I can’t have a little girl who already has a propensity towards Caribbean culture to not like mangos.  So I decided that might be fun to mix in with her standard applesauce.  It’s so easy too.

  1. Wash fruits.
  2. Peel, core, and chop up 2 apples.
  3. Steam apples until soft.
  4. Place in blender with slices of 1 peeled/deseeded mango
  5. Puree until desired consistency is reached.  Thin out with water if needed.

This will give you enough meals to enjoy for 4 days and freeze leftovers!

It’s sweet, delicious, and pretty to look at.  I even enjoyed a taste.

Sweet Potatoes and Peas Puree:

Ava loves sweet potatoes.  She loves peas (I use Birds Eye Frozen Peas, which have no additional or artificial ingredients).  So why not combine them? It is a nice, heavy meal, and is likely to make her sleepy (not a bad thing!).

  1. Wash sweet potato.
  2. Peel & chop up 1 large sweet potato.
  3. Steam sweet potato until soft.
  4. Place frozen peas in microwave and follow package instructions.
  5. Place both items (in portions) into blender.
  6. Puree until desired consistency is reached.  Thin out with water if needed.

This will give you about 2 weeks of food, depending on how much your child eats.  You might not use all of the peas, so save them to eat with YOUR dinner.  I think it’s a good sign if you are serving your kid something you would eat (unlike some nasty, foul smelling formulas I’ve given Ava!–no shade). I also ate her left over quinoa and threw the extra chicken into my Spanish rice.

This looks a little weird.  Kind of like poo.  But I’ve tasted it, and yet again, it is yummilicious.

Quinoa, Chicken, and Carrot Puree: 

I was pretty proud of this one.  I adapted it from a Turkey, Rice, and Carrot recipe from the Baby Bullet cookbook. I wanted to try a meat with Ava, and chicken seemed like the obvious choice.  I had a ton of quinoa and i took a quick look in my baby book (yes, I still use it occasionally, lol) to see if that was ok: it was ok for babies! This recipe was a little more involved.

Remember to keep everything STERILE.  You do NOT want to cross contaminate raw meat with uncooked veggies.  So prep your meat last and clean up before combining everything. 

  1. Wash 1 carrot. Peel & chop up.  Steam.
  2. Rinse 1 cup of quinoa.  Place in 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and lower flame.  Let simmer for 15 minutes.

  1. Put carrots & quinoa aside.
  2. Grill or boil chicken: whichever is more convenient.  I pan grilled slices of 1 large chicken breast with a little dab of olive oil.
  3. CLEAN EVERYTHING
  4. Combine carrot, 1/2 cup of quinoa, 1/2 cup of chicken, and 1/2 cup of chicken broth in blender.
  5. Blend until desired consistency.

 

This tasted ok, but as an adult, I’m not used to eating meat purees.  Ava, on the other hand, loved it!


I hope you enjoy these recipes and share them with your little ones.  I’d love to hear what recipes you use, so feel free to leave them in the comments below!

If you like what you just read please click to send a quick vote for me on Top Mommy Blogs- The best mommy blog directory featuring top mom bloggers

Motivation Monday: Meal planning

Diet and meal planning: UGH.

It can be so hard to plan balanced, healthy meals and then, to COOK them.  Everyone is short on time, regardless of whether or not they are a SAHM (I am busy ALL the time at home).  Here is how I had a successful food week last week without much effort.

But first, some advice for making sure you eat well all week long:

  • Take the time to sit down and plan your week’s meals. The 20 mins you commit to planning will pay off.
  • Meal formula: meat/fish + veggie (+ optional extra side). 🍴
  • Always have a lot of microwaveable veggies in the freezer. In a pinch, you have a healthy side dish ready to go in 5 minutes (make sure there aren’t any unnecessary ingredients).
  • Bags of already made salads provide another source of quick side dishes OR a salad for lunch with left over meat from the night before.
  • Always have brown rice or quinoa at home. Better yet, make a ton and freeze it in ziploc bags (portioned by serving size). Then when you’re ready, you can easily defrost in two minutes. ALSO, you can buy rice in freezer bags (just like the veggies).
  • Do your food shopping on Sunday morning.  For me, that is the best time to shop.  There aren’t many people and I accomplish something before my laziness sets in. 😝
  • Cook 1-2 meals on Sunday that will last you until Wednesday.

Here is a look at my meals from last week: 3 in total

  • Sunday & Monday: We ate baked chicken (about 542 calories*), string beans (30 calories), and sweet potatoes (90 calories)
    • Chicken took about an 1 1/2 hrs.  You can follow the recipe above, but I basically just wash the chicken, squeeze lemon on & in it, butter it, season it, cook it.  Everything else is just decorative and not needed.
    • String beans: 5 minutes in the microwave, Bird’s Eye frozen variety
    • Sweet potatoes: cooked in the microwave for about 10 minutes

  • Thursday/Friday:  We had baked catfish (609 calories–>fatty, but “good” fatty–in an Omega fats, prevent cancer kind of way) with left over quinoa and/or green peas & caponata sauce and/or plantains
    • Now this was the bomb! I really enjoyed this and recommend it.  It took hardly anytime. And quinoa is delicious.
    • For the catfish, skip all the hoopla: coat in olive oil and your favorite seasoning (mine is Paul Prudhomme Seafood Magic) & bake at 350 for 25 minutes.  DONE!

  

  • Saturday: A Kale/Coconut/Apple/Honey Smoothie.  Yum!
    • Grab a bunch of Kale, 1 apple, half a can of Goya coconut water, and honey.  Blend with ice.  Add to or subtract from ratio in order to adjust to your taste

 

  • Snacks: tortilla chips & salsa; brownie with walnuts; yogurt; ice cream
  • Drinks: coffee, water, wine

I exercised by walking, doing yoga, and zumba.  This week, I’m looking forward to another healthy, yummy, and fast meal makin’ week!

Hopes this motivates y’all to plan a great food week as well!!

*all calorie counts are approximations from My Fitness Pal or from the recipe’s website.  I don’t normally count calories, but I wanted to provide them for my readers.

If you like what you just read please click to send a quick vote for me on Top Mommy Blogs- The best mommy blog directory featuring top mom bloggers

The End of the Road…

Credit: Flickr, user Vincent Brassinne

I recently stopped breastfeeding.  Stopped.  As in no longer nursing my little one.  It wasn’t really my choosing.  It was the result of a long decline in my milk production shortly after I returned to work post-maternity leave.

I enjoyed a very abundant supply of milk for many months, for which I am very thankful.  I know of many women who wished that they could have breastfed, but were not able to produce milk or had other issues.

IMG_4279

9 oz of milk in one pumping session. The glory of the early days! Credit: Instagram, livingfortwoplus

I had a pretty uneventful and easy breastfeeding journey, comparatively speaking.  Though I did have a rough start.
Post nursing session. Credit: livingfortwoplus

Post nursing session in the hospital.  I was so lucky that my hospital was so supportive to breastfeeding mothers.  Every single nursing session (think: every two hours), there was a lactation consultant there to help me.  I will be forever thankful to my hospital and lactation consultants. Credit: livingfortwoplus

Ava needed to eat constantly and I was always sore (which is common for almost all breastfeeding mothers–> see my previous post on helpful nursing items HERE ).  I was also engorged (click to see what “engorged” means). A lot. This caused a lot of discomfort.  More than discomfort.  These clogged ducts were PAINFUL.  But after a rough first couple of weeks, I came to really enjoy breastfeeding.  I looked forward to it.  I loved cuddling up with Ava and being her source of comfort.
IMG_0107

First weeks home post-nursing session.

IMG_3907

Breastfeeding was not always “glamorous” or as romanticized as the books may make it: real life, it was exhausting early on and I fell asleep many times with Ava still latched on.

I loved being able to rock her to sleep or to watch her get “milk drunk” after a feeding.  And although sometimes I felt like people didn’t quite understand why I was working so hard to feed Ava when a simple formula bottle would do just fine, there were just too many benefits to breastfeeding for me to give up.  
Credit: Livingfortwoplus.com

Ava at about 2.5 months old; Credit: Livingfortwoplus.com

When I went back to work, Ava was about 3 months old (almost 4).  My supply dipped tremendously.  There was never a convenient time to pump at school.  I was always rushing.  Always afraid that someone would walk into whatever room I was in.  I had people unlock my LOCKED classroom door.  It was awful.  Signs didn’t help.  My school didn’t foster a culture of support for post partum mothers.  Although there were people on the staff who were supportive, the overall structure of my day made it overwhelmingly hard to pump when I needed to.  I would have needed to be able to have someone cover probably two 20-30 minute segments of my classes.  And of course, this was impossible.
Before work one day, early in my return from maternity leave.  This was a very overwhelming and hectic time in my breastfeeding journey.

Before work one day, early in my return from maternity leave. This was a very overwhelming and hectic time in my breastfeeding journey.

Combined with recently returning after a very long maternity leave and feeling like I was drowning in responsibility, I began missing pumping sessions.  There was just no time.  I was constantly engorged.
But everyday I would look forward to 4:45pm, when I would get home and nurse Ava.
As the weeks went on, my supply dropped and dropped and dropped.  I felt so guilty.  I made tons of lactation cookies and drank lactation teas, but nothing could take the place of what actual nursing or pumping sessions can do to sustain or boost milk supply.  By the end of the school year, I was pumping maybe 6 oz all day at school and needed to supplement while at home. (Some info about pumping:  First, my pump was free through my insurance plan, which is a pretty common practice nowadays.  Here is the pump I used.  I really loved the company.  They replaced my pump free of charge when it broke.  I hated pumping though….just being honest!)
IMG_4950

Pumping every free moment I had. This was earlier on, when I could make about 4 ounces in one sitting.

Soon after, this is all I could pump in one session. :(

Soon after, this is all I could pump in one session. 😦

I vowed to get my supply up while at home during the summer.  I did skin to skin, tried new cookie recipes (awesome cookie recipes HERE and HERE), and herbal supplements.  And it helped for a little, but my body was definitely nearing the end.
IMG_2359

I ate tons of delicious cookies that did help out a lot.

I then took a month long trip to NY.  Ava and I were out almost every day, making it so difficult to nurse but so convenient to give bottles.  And I started noticing that I could go the whole day without the urge to nurse.
IMG_2461

Such a great trip to my hometown. But it was definitely the nail in my nursing “coffin”.

Now we are here.  I’ve now gone several days without nursing.  And while I know that this day had to come at some point, it still saddens me that this stage in our relationship is over.  I’m not depressed.  Just in awe at how quickly everything is going.  I really loved nursing and am so glad that I was able to go almost eight months! But I’m trying to get over my guilt of feeling like a bad mom—maybe if I tried harder, I could have gone longer.  But honestly, maybe it was a blessing.  The same week I stopped nursing was ironically the same week two teeth sprouted in Ava’s mouth.  Maybe I escaped by the skin of my teeth the dreaded biting while nursing.  But I was willing to risk it, just to nourish my little girl.

Now we are in a different chapter! Having fun with solids!

If you like what you just read please click to send a quick vote for me on Top Mommy Blogs- The best mommy blog directory featuring top mom bloggers

Super Healthy Lactation Cookies

When I returned to work in February after my maternity leave, I didn’t have a tough time making milk to take home and to freeze for Ava.

This was my schedule:

Early AM (between 4-7AM):  Breastfeed Ava at home

8:30 AM: Pump at work during my free period

12:30 PM: Pump during my 20 min lunch

After 4:30 PM: Breastfeed Ava at home

But as the weeks progressed, and some of my pumping times were hijacked by work obligations, my body began to make less and less milk.  I would make lactation cookies, drink teas, and pop fenugreek supplements, but by May I felt like nothing was helping anymore.  I went from being able to pump 6-10 oz at work to barely pumping 2 oz in an entire day.  During the last weeks of school, and as my frozen supply of milk dwindled, I was miserable with guilt and stress that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed anymore.

But I was determined to make it to the end of the school year! ¡¡Sí se puede!!

So I tried a new lactation cookie recipe.  I figured that my body might have grown “immune” to my normal batch.  Or maybe my ingredients had lost their potency.  Regardless, it was time to try something new.  I found this recipe on Pinterest.  Click here to follow my Nursing Board!

Cost:  I found all of the ingredients that I didn’t have already at Whole Foods.  This was the only downer about the recipe.  Although the ingredients were unique and really healthy (for example, coconut sugar is about half the calories of the sugar I would normally use to make cookies), they were kind of pricey.  In total, my WF tab was about $45.  Eek.

Taste:  The recipe calls for Anise seeds.  If you DO NOT like anise or fennel or licorice, then beware.  The cookies have a strong anise taste.  I happen to love anise.  I used to drink anise tea when I was little to calm an upset stomach.  Also, in Southern Spain (where I studied abroad), several of my favorite treats used anise seeds, such as pestiños de miel and torta de aceite. YUM!! Although the original recipe doesn’t call for it, I added some chocolate chips & brown sugar to sweeten it up a bit and to cut down on the strength of the anise taste.  YUM YUM!!! I also added an extra tablespoon of the raw honey.

Ease: The recipe is very easy to make and I was done in about 20 mins.  Note, I did need a blender and a grinder.  I used a coffee grinder to grind the anise seeds. The 20 mins prep time doesn’t include baking time.  I found that I was done fairly quickly with the baking portion because the recipe didn’t feel like it yielded that many cookies.  If you like the cookies, think about doubling up the recipe for the next round.

Below is the recipe that I am borrowing from mamanatural.com. Much thanks for posting this lovely recipe!  Click here for the original link. I LOVE that she included links for where to buy each item.

Ingredients:

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven at 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Put your 2 cups of rolled oats into a high speed blender or food processor. Blend until the oats are a flour-like consistency.
  3. Measure out 1 TB of fennel seeds and grind in coffee grinder or with mortal and pestle until fine powder.

4.   Put dry ingredients into large bowl and mix.

Lactation Cookie recipe to help you boost your breast milk supply

From mamanatural.com

5.   In a smaller bowl, put your almond butter, melted coconut oil, honey, eggs and vanilla extract. Mix well.

6.   Pour the contents of smaller bowl into the dry ingredient bowl. Mix well with spoon or clean hands.

7.   Grease a cookie sheet with coconut oil. Form small flat balls, about the circumference of a silver dollar.

8.    Bake cookies in oven for 15-20 minutes. Check for slightest browning on outside of cookie.

9.    Take out and transfer cookies to a cooling rack.

10.    Enjoy warm, or let cookies cool to room temperature. Then store in an air-tight glass container.

11.   Enjoy for breakfast with raw milk or yogurt. Or as a dessert or snack throughout day. Would be delicious in an ice cream sandwich.

If you like what you just read please click to send a quick vote for me on Top Mommy Blogs- The best mommy blog directory featuring top mom bloggers

Four Steps to Baby Food

Ava has been a champ when it comes to eating.  She LOVES food.

No doubt about it...Ava isn't missing a meal.

No doubt about it…Ava isn’t missing a meal.

I have been serving 1-2 small servings of puréed food everyday.  I would say each serving is about 4 tablespoons of food.  She often eats 1 serving of cereal (follow this link for Ava’s yummy cereal) or apple sauce (follow this link for how to make apple sauce) in the morning and then 1 serving of a vegetable around lunch time.

Two of her favorite vegetables are sweet peas and sweet potatoes (served separately).  I’ll be starting carrots this week.

Making baby food is pretty easy.  The main thing is keeping everything clean and being cognizant of not mixing foods that Ava hasn’t tried yet with foods that she already eats.  At this early stage in eating, I have to keep an eye on whether or not she might be allergic to something.

Typically, making baby food consists of the following 4 steps:

1) Clean the fruit or vegetable

IMG_1651

2) Boil, steam, or microwave the fruit or vegetable.  I microwave the frozen sweet peas. Otherwise I boil/steam everything else.

IMG_1307

3) Place food in Baby Bullet with some water to get the food to a desired texture.  I typically use the water leftover from boiling, since it is rich with vitamins & minerals from the veggie or fruit that was boiled.

IMG_1310 IMG_1429

4) Either freeze or serve.  When freezing, divide food into single servings so that it is easy to serve when defrosting. When defrosting, either stick food in refrigerator or place in warm water, and serve within 12 hours.

IMG_1432

The end result: One really happy baby.  And lots of…diapers…

IMG_1199-1

No cup goes unfinished!

IMG_1335-1

I had to buy tons of bibs because Ava can go through six a day, between the food, milk, and drooling!

IMG_1198

“I

If you like what you just read please click to send a quick vote for me on Top Mommy Blogs- The best mommy blog directory featuring top mom bloggers

Baby bullet: Apple sauce!

Recently, Ava had her first taste of food! Real food! I’m happy to report that her introduction to the world of culinary delights began with a cup of freshly made apple sauce. 🍎🍎🍎 #healthybaby

I always wanted to be “that mom” who made fresh baby food instead of buying off the shelf. I’m not knocking bottled baby food–I will most likely need to buy some jars in the future.

On a side note, the feeding of solid foods to Ava has been quite a controversial topic among my family and friends. Old school wisdom advised feeding cereal in bottles as early as two months, so that babies would sleep longer. But current trends advise against that since a child’s digestive system is not developed enough to handle that. My pediatrician recommended that the window of feeding solids is 4-6 months, generally signaled by the following:

🔸She can sit up (with support) and can hold her head and neck up well
🔸Her birth weight has doubled.
🔸She’s interested in what you’re eating and may even try to grab food from your plate.
🔸She can keep food in her mouth rather than letting it dribble out.
🔸She shows signs of being hungry for more than she’s getting by clamoring for more when her bottle is empty or wanting to nurse more often.”
webmd.com

I followed Ava’s lead. When she started to stare at my food and demand more feedings, I figured it was time.

I used the Baby Bullet to make Ava’s first batch of food.

1). Starting with two Fuji apples…

2).  I peeled, cut in half and cored them. I then placed the halves in a small saucepan with a small amount of water. I put the flame on medium and covered the pot, steaming the apples until they softened.

3). Once soft, I put the sections in the Baby Bullet and puréed them. I added the water I used to steam the apples and a little bottled water in order to make it easier for Ava to consume.

 4) All that was left was to give Ava her first round of food! I put the left overs in individual trays in the freezer.


Check out Ava’s experience:

If you like what you just read please click to send a quick vote for me on Top Mommy Blogs- The best mommy blog directory featuring top mom bloggers