NatureBox: Yay or nay?

I’ve been toying around with the idea of trying out NatureBox for awhile. I see ads in my Facebook newsfeed. I’ve read stories in magazines. I had previously tried out Goodies box, another food subscription box, and was not impressed. It wasn’t until one of my coworkers handed me a delicious bag of NatureBox trail mix that I decided to take the plunge.

This purchase was also spurned by the need to have some healthy snacks available in my office. Right now the snacks that are offered to us are very heavy on the Doritos and Cheetos variety, which are delicious, but not exactly what I want to eat when I am trying to eat better.

For those of you who don’t know, NatureBox has a collection of healthy snacks that are nutritionist approved. They are made with natural ingredients and very little fillers or extra additives, which I like. You get five snacks a month, and you can either choose which ones you want or let them choose for you. It’s $20 per box, which at first seemed a tad high to me, but the bags of snacks are a decent size so you actually get a good amount of product.

As a control freak, I chose each of my snacks in my first box. They have quite the lengthy list of choices so it took my quite a bit of time to choose (not joking).  They have a decent amount of salty and sweet snacks (but too many granolas if you ask me). Here’s what I got and what I think about them.

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I have to start with my favorite: the plantain chips. Man, these are delicious. I love eating them with chips and salsa. I saw plantain chips at Trader Joe’s the last time I was there so I’d be interested to see how these compare.

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My next favorite are the Dark Cocoa Nom Noms. They are little chocolate oat cookies which are just the right about of sweet. A nice little sweet treat.

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I have mixed feelings on the Sea Salt Pop Pops. Upon first taste they were rather bland, but the second time I ate some, they were much better. The popcorn is like partially popped which is kinda weird, but also kinda interesting.

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I was pretty excited to try these Bruschetta Pretzel Pops, and was sorely disappointed. They tasted like pizza, which some people might like, but I didn’t get any of the pretzel flavor I was going for. However, I brought these in to work and they went over quite well with some of my co-workers.

The last two snacks I got I don’t have pictures for because one of them isn’t on the site for some reason and the other appears to have sold out. They threw in an extra snack with my first order — poppyseed sticks. These were pretty standard in terms of poppyseed sticks I’ve had in the past. The one that is sold out is the Taj Mahal Snack mix and that stuff is MONEY. Trail mix with curry-esque spice mix. Mmmm. So good. It saddens me that they don’t have it anymore.

So will I continue to get the NatureBox? Probably. At least for the time being. It all depends on how often they change up their snacks in terms of variety. Part of the fun is trying out new things and if they don’t change around the stock, it sort of defeats the purpose. But I already have half the snacks in my July box picked out and am pretty excited about it.

Garlic and Lemon Grilled Shrimp

I finally conquered shrimp on the grill.

It’s not like it was too hard. I learned my lesson from my last foray and marinated the shrimp ahead of time. All it took was a few ingredients, an hour of marinating time, a few minutes on the grill and there was a delicious dinner to be had.

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Eric put his shrimp atop a salad, I had mine on the side. But they were delicious. A perfect, easy and quick dinner for those warm summer nights.

Garlic and Lemon Grilled Shrimp

1 cup olive oil
Juice from one lemon
1 glove of garlic, diced
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper

1) Mix all the ingredients together in a container. Place shrimp in mixture and place in the fridge for at least an hour.

2) Remove shrimp from marinade and place on skewers (we used metal ones, but bamboo ones will also work if they are soaked in water beforehand).

3) Preheat grill to about 500 degrees (or medium-high heat). Oil the grates a little. Place skewers on grill. Cook for about three minutes on both sides, or until the shrimp turn pink and begin to curl.

Lesson learned

Cooking is all about making mistakes. Sometimes you have to test recipes a few times before you get the desired result. Sometimes you just aren’t thinking straight. Over the weekend, that was me.

It has been nice and warm here in Atlanta lately — time to start firing up the grill. Eric and I were in the mood for coconut shrimp so I figured, hey, how hard could it be? I’ve made them before in the oven with great success so I just followed the same recipe.

Welp, I didn’t think about how coating shrimp in flake coconut might not be the best idea on the grill. About 30 seconds after I put the skewers on the grill, most of the coconut had fallen off the shrimp and was beginning to catch on fire. Not good. Luckily, I was able to control the flames and still salvage the shrimp. They were tasty, just not coconutty — and with a bit of a sweet char.

Next time I want to do coconut shrimp on the grill, I think I will marinade the shrimp in coconut milk for an hour or so before putting them on the grill. I think that will be met with a much higher success rate.

But not everything has been a failure! I have finally figured out the perfect way to cook quinoa — and I have The Kitchn to thank for that. I’ve used this method a few times and every time it results in the perfect, fluffy batch of quinoa. Quinoa is so much better when cooked properly, by the way.

I still owe you a recap of our eating adventures in Charleston. Spoiler alert: everything was amazing. We are heading to Las Vegas tomorrow for our anniversary trip — where we will also be eating quite a bit — so I will have a combined eating recap when we return.

That time Eric cooked a three-course meal

Blog hijacked! I’m taking control of Katy’s blog to talk about a three-course meal I made (with her help) for Sunday dinner: Chicken francese, homemade mac and cheese, and a tomato and corn salad. Technically, there was a 4th course: Brownies! But I don’t think using Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Mix counts here. (Just a note about me, one of my favorite foods is chocolate so if I really did hijack this blog, it would look like Willy Wonka swooped in since every post would be of treats.)

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to cook something healthy and homemade at least once a week. Recently, I have made dishes like pasta salad with chopped cucumber, garbanzo beans, roasted red peppers and goat cheese and Mediterranean flat bread pizzas with hummus and fire roasted tomatoes — with Katy acting as my sous chef

These are step-ups from my single days when I was mastering the art of cooking spaghetti and frozen pizza. The three-course Sunday meal below is another small step for me, and one giant step for your taste buds (if you don’t know, Katy loves space-related things).

This meal is recommended for 3-4 people (or leftovers for 2 people), so it didn’t hurt that her mom joined us for dinner. She gave it rave reviews, as did we. It didn’t hurt that the wine you use for the chicken francese recipe can also be used to drink, too.

The first of two things I recommend (besides drinking the wine) is to make the salad before anything else and set in the fridge so the flavors soak together. The cold, crispness of the salad compliments the non-healthy creaminess of the mac & cheese. The other recommendation is to prepare/cook the chicken while the mac & cheese is in the oven. This is so both dishes come out hot and ready at the same time.

Thank you to my wife for letting me write this – and for letting me cook new things for her!

Here was the spread:

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The Chicken Francese recipe was via Rachel Ray. I followed it pretty closely, subbing in chicken tenderloins for the chicken cutlets since that is what we had on hand. The recipe also calls for the chicken to be served alongside pasta or bread, but we had enough carbs coming from one of the side dishes…

BAKED MACARONI AND CHEESE. We used this recipe, which was rated as one of Food Network’s Top 10 best recipes of 2013. Katy handled the majority of the prep for this, which included making a roux and then a bechamel. But It was worth the effort.

We figured we should have some sort of vegetable on the plate to counteract the pan-fried chicken and carb-filled mac and cheese. We had some tomatoes on hand and I thought we could whip up some sort of salad to go with it. So voila. This was what we came up with. We used frozen corn since, but this would be so much better with fresh corn on the grill come summetime.

Tomato and Corn Salad

3 vine ripened tomatoes, diced
1 cup corn (either frozen or off the cob)
1 shallot, minced
1 tsp. Penzey’s Sunny Paris Seasoning (this is really the key)
Salt and pepper

1) Heat one tsp of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the shallot and saute until translucent. Add the corn and cook for about five minutes.

2) Add the warm corn to a bowl with the diced tomatoes. Sprinkle on the Sunny Paris and the salt and pepper and mix together. Let cool in the fridge until ready to serve.

 

 

It doesn’t always have to be perfect

The other night while scrolling through my blog roll, this article from The Kitchn popped up and I immediately bookmarked it. It basically talks about food bloggers don’t usually post about the ordinary things they cook and eat. They try to make every post about something amazing or groundbreaking. But not everything that comes out of the kitchen is something new and amazing.

I’ve been feeling bummed about my lack of posting as of late, but the truth of the matter is, that is the way life goes sometimes. While Eric and I are getting in to our new routine with my new job — not going to lie — there’s been a lot of convenience food for dinner. Frozen pizzas. Eating out. And as a lover of cooking and food, it pains me. But there has been nothing as of late that has felt worthy of sharing on here and I don’t want to clutter your feed with less than stellar posts.

But that is also a cop out. Just because I haven’t been cooking doesn’t mean I don’t have stuff to share. Until I get back in the routine of trying out new recipes and what not, I am going to try to at least blog about what I’ve been doing or loving at the moment. For example, if you are in the market for a frozen pizza and can find California Pizza Kitchen ones on sale near you (they can be kinda pricey), the Greek one is excellent. Thin crusted, delicious flavors. I highly recommend it. It’s a great easy dinner served alongside a salad or some quickly cooked up veggies.

There should be a post going up soon from Eric about the meal we (mostly he) cooked this weekend when my mom came over. And one of the recipes is definitely worth sharing. I just have to get him to write it. If you know Eric in real life, tell him to get on it!

What I’ve been loving lately

It has been awhile since I did a Friday Faves post so I figured I’d play a little bit of catch up on what I’ve been loving as of late. I’m finally getting the hang of my new work schedule so more recipes posts should be coming soon (I hope).

Once I got an office job, I knew I wanted to get a bento box-type lunch box. I’ve wanted one for awhile and couldn’t justify it when I was working from home. So I took to Amazon and settled on the Bentgo one.

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It’s has been great so far. The top compartment is divided in to two sections so I can store two different things and the bottom is nice and big so it fits leftovers or even a sandwich quite well. Here’s a pic of the Bentgo in action.

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It just makes it really easy to pack healthy stuff to eat while I am at work. Not that I haven’t been tempted by the free cake that has been in the office the past few days…

One of the things I love so far about my work is the proximity to great food options. So far the favorite has to be Sausalito West Coast Grill. It is in Midtown Atlanta and makes THE BEST TACOS. That is not an understatement. If you are in Midtown Atlanta around lunchtime, go check it out. The owner is awesome and the food is great.

I have never been a big fan of protein bars. Something about the taste and consistency has always kinda made them bleh to me. But since I now go straight to work out after work sometimes, I need something to eat that will hold me over through a workout. Enter Quest Bars. You can get them online or at GNC and they come in all sorts of flavors. They are the best tasting protein bars I’ve ever had and they are low in carbs and added sugar but full of fiber and protein. So far my favorite is the vanilla almond but the cookies and cream one is a close second.

So even though my birthday has come and gone, we celebrated with my parents over the weekend. My mom asked me what I wanted and the first thing that popped in to my mind was her corn casserole. I didn’t really care what else we had with it. I just wanted that corn casserole. It is like crack. So delicious. We had it along with steaks and a salad and it was the perfect birthday meal with my family. And to top it off, my mom made this delicious s’mores cake.

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Mmmmm, it was everything that is delicious about a s’more in cake form. I brought the leftovers to my office and they were quickly devoured.

So that’s what I’ve been loving as of late. I am slowly finding my groove and should be back to posting regularly again. Eric has even mentioned wanting to do a guest post so maybe you’ll see that coming soon too!

And I will leave you with quite possibly the best gift I have ever received — a Kate Middleton mask.

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Have a great weekend!

 

 

Adventures in eating

I have survived my first two days at the new job! Hooray! And now that I have some time to blog, I can finally share my weekend eating extravaganza with you.

Some friends — Lauren and Jason — were visiting us this weekend so we had planned on a good deal of eating out. After I fetched them at the airport on Saturday morning, we headed over to the Westside of Atlanta where we spent most of the day. We started off with lunch at Star Provisions. This was my second time eating there and it has been delicious both times. I had this amazing chicken sandwich — the bread was incredible. Bread is very important to me as you know.

After we finished lunched, we walked across the way to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream.  As I mentioned on Friday, Lauren and I had been jonesing to go to Jeni’s for awhile. And it did not disappoint. Don’t go in expecting your typical mint chocolate chip and cookies and cream. These are gourmet ice creams. I tried a goat cheese ice cream with cherries, and while it might sound weird, it was quite delicious. I ended up getting ndali estate vanilla bean and black coffee.

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For dinner that night, we hit up Fox Bros. The hour-long Saturday wait didn’t deter us, and our patience was rewarded with amazing bar-b-que. My love of their Frito Pie now knows no bounds. Eric got their beef rib special and it wasn’t just tasty — it was massive.

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He did manage to eat most of it, which I found to be quite impressive.

The main event of the weekend was my birthday dinner at Canoe. It was hands down one of the best dining experiences of my life. The service, the ambiance, the food. All amazing. I can’t wait to go back. I ordered one of their signature dishes — the rabbit.

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The rabbit is slow cooked and served alongside these chard and bacon ravioli — WHICH ARE INCREDIBLE.  I didn’t think my main course could be topped, but that all changed when dessert arrived.

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Behold the popcorn ice cream sundae. Canoe’s homemade Cracker Jack with ice cream and caramel sauce. Shut. Up. I mean really. The texture combination of the ice cream and the popcorn is addictive. Eric and I were battling for the final bite (which I of course got since it was my birthday).

All in all, it was a great weekend filled with great food — but more importantly great people.

Keeping things casual in the kitchen