Recipe Report Card: Magnolia Table Banana Pudding

For Mother’s Day, Michael gave me Joanna Gaines’ new cookbook, Magnolia Table.  I was excited to try one of the recipes in her book, but I knew time would be an important factor.  And I wanted it to be a dessert, an indulgence, not a dinner that I would be obligated to make, or we don’t eat one night.  I really want to try the lemon bars, but I thought, perhaps, that the 20-minute banana pudding would be a better first recipe.

In the past, I’ve always struggled with sharing recipes online.  Because I don’t change up a whole lot of the ingredients or instructions (or I don’t change it at all), I felt like I was always just regurgitating a recipe that could be found on someone else’s post.  And I would much rather that you go to that original post and support that blogger.  So, I’m not going to share the recipe here.  I’ll share the link (or in this case the book) for you to go check out.  Instead, I’m going to give the recipe a report card.

When I’m looking for a recipe, I have some key desires that I want from the recipe.

  • I want easy to find ingredients that will be used up and not take up space on my shelf (like that one spice I used one time and then it just sat there, all lonely).
  • I want the prep and cook times to be accurate (this happens a lot on recipe sharing sites, but I hate a 10-minute prep time that requires me to cut and chop a lot of vegetables that takes a lot more than 10 minutes).
  • I want the recipe to require basic tools. I now have a zester, but I didn’t have one for a long time, and to assume that every kitchen has one may be a stretch.
  • And of course, I want the recipe to be easy to follow and the outcome to be delicious!

So, on to the banana pudding…

First, the ingredients.  All of the ingredients were easy to find in the grocery store.  In fact, I think I was able to use store brand products for everything but the Cool Whip (which I probably could have gotten store brand as well, but it’s Cool Whip…).  She does give an option to use her own whip cream recipe.  I liked the fact that it was flexible either way.  Maybe someday when I’m not tending to a newborn, I will make the homemade whip cream as well.

Also, I was able to use up all of the ingredients I purchased, except for the cool whip, one banana, and some vanilla wafers.  However, each of these ingredients could be eaten with other things or even by themselves, so I’m not counting that against the recipe.

Second, the prep and cook times.  The recipe didn’t have a cook time, but there is a refrigeration time of at least 2 hours.  The prep time was pretty accurate, although I admit, I missed the part of room temperature cream cheese, and it was the first ingredient used, so that added to my prep time.

Third, the tools.  The only things I used were a mixer and a round dish, although I didn’t have a three-quart dish, only a two and a half, so it changed the layering for the pudding, but I don’t think that was significant.  If you don’t have a standing mixer, she suggests a handheld mixer, and I’m sure if you were in a real spot, you could mix it by hand.

The recipe was very easy to follow since it was just mix and layer.  And the outcome was delicious and rich, like a banana pudding cheesecake.  My husband said it was really smooth and creamy.  It is a perfect summer dessert.  It’s a lot for two people, but it’s held up well in the fridge.  The bananas did brown a bit, but it didn’t affect the taste.

Overall, I give the recipe an A.  It was a basic recipe, but a yummy one.  I’m looking forward to trying more of her recipes in the future!

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Hello Fresh Update

I ended up using my little credit from my first foray into this meal delivery service to try another week of Hello Fresh.  Actually, I did this last month, but I didn’t actually have time to write about it then.

Anyway.

This time I had no problem with food allergy contaminants, so these meals were rated based on my actual impression of them.

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The first was a Carolina Barbecue chicken with mac n’ cheese and green beans.  I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.  The chicken was okay.  The mac n’ cheese was spicy.  And the green beans were pretty standard.  Although, one tip I got from this meal was to boil the pasta and throw the green beans in while it was cooking.  It didn’t affect the taste pasta, and it was nice to not use an extra pot!  I think boiling the green beans in the pasta water did add a bit of something extra which was nice.

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The second meal was the Tuscan-spiced Shrimp and Orzo, which I rated 3 out of 5 stars.  And this is one of the reasons I really like using the Hello Fresh delivery.  Turns out, I don’t really like orzo.  I’m not a fan of the texture.  The shrimp and tomatoes were okay, but it just really wasn’t my preference.  I’m glad I learned this through Hello Fresh so I don’t still have a bag of Orzo in my pantry.

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But the last meal was a 5 out of 5 home run!  It was Caprese Steak with Roasted Potatoes.  In fact, I made this meal again, purchasing the ingredients on my own.  I never thought to put a Caprese salad on a steak, though I have eaten feta on steak before, which is delish!  Really, anything Caprese will probably be a win for me.

I’m not really planning on ordering again until maybe some time in mid to late summer.  Since the baby is coming, I just don’t know how that will fit into the crazy chaos and transitions that are coming.  But I will be interested to know how it would work with a baby around.  One of the first people I watched on YouTube that did Hello Fresh videos had the toddler and baby chaos and still managed not to burn or overcook things.  This gives me a bit of hope.  I guess we shall see!

By the way, I do have code that can get you $40 off your first box if you want to try it for yourself.

https://www.hellofresh.com?c=KATYVEN&utm_source=raf-share&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=clipboard

My Honest Review of Hello Fresh

I wasn’t originally going to write a review of this meal delivery service.  To be honest, the decision to order from Hello Fresh came from a)too much advertising on social media, b) watching one of my favorite YouTubers make several of their meals over the last few months, and c) a timely rut in my own meal planning process.  But my experience has been so interesting that I thought I would share.

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So, here are the pros and cons of using Hello Fresh:

Pros

  • They do what they say they will do.  Hello Fresh is a meal delivery service that sends recipes and measured ingredients for three to four dinners straight to your door.  The recipes really do take about 30 minutes to make, and they are pretty easy to follow (My cooking experience is that I know how to use basic kitchen tools and I can follow a recipe fairly well).  And everything is pretty much to measure for the recipe (if not, it makes it very clear you may have some left over).
  • Ordering online for the first time was very easy.  They automatically set up the meals to be sent in the first order, although you can go into your account and change your meal preferences.  I’m allergic to pork, so I opted for the no pork options.  You can manually also choose the meals you want to make, but be careful because you can override your preferences that way.
  • The packaging system is very effective.  It all came in a box, but each meal’s ingredients were divided into brown paper bags, except for the meats and frozen goods which were at the bottom of the box between two ice packs.  The ice packs stayed completely frozen for a few days (not that the food was still in the box).
  • The meals were filling and delicious, for the most part.  I came upon a snag with the last dish which I will get to in my next point, but my favorite was the Holsin Shrimp and Rice with Green Beans. 20180206_183800.jpgSecond would be the Southwestern Stuffed Peppers.  20180207_182414.jpgI didn’t get a picture of the third meal, Spinach Ricotta Ravioli with Chicken Sausage because I couldn’t make it as is, which I explain below.
  • Their customer service was most impressive.  That last meal was last because, unbeknownst to me, the Chicken Sausage was cased in pork casings.  When I ordered the meal, I didn’t see anything that would have indicated this, and even though it’s not a common allergy, I didn’t want others to order this and not realize that it did actually have pork in it.  I called Hello Fresh, and they recognized the issue and gave me a full one meal credit ($20) towards my next week of meals.

Cons

  • The price.  While I was very impressed with the customer service and quality and packaging, I can’t justify doing this on a weekly basis.  For three meals for Michael and me without discounts, it is normally $60.  The reason I was able to try this was the amazing $35 discount I received.  And I will probably try it again since I did get credit towards another week of meals, but our family budget for a week of groceries is about $100 (usually less) and that includes breakfasts, snacks, and five meals a week.  Spending 60% of our budget on these meals, no matter how good they are, is not feasible in the long run.
  • The selection of food allergies.  There are gluten, dairy, and nut free meals, but not enough in the Classic Box for three entire meals.  I don’t know if the Veggie or Family boxes are different.  And, as I experienced, you have to be careful with what you order and make sure it doesn’t have anything you aren’t able to eat.
  • Keeping up with the weeks.  If you don’t skip the week, the food will automatically come to you and you will be charged.  I tried to skip as many weeks into the future as I can, but I have a feeling that if I don’t keep up with it, it will eventually charge me.

While there are more pros than cons above, the price point is a huge factor for me.  This would be a great option to add more recipes to my collection maybe once a season when I eventually will get into a rut or want to try new recipes (by the way, you get to keep the recipes you try, so I now have at least two recipes I would definitely use again).  It’s definitely a treat and not something practical all the time.  Although, I will have to put in reminders to make sure I skip the weeks I don’t want.

If you want to try it for yourself, I have a discount code that can get you $40 off your first order by following this link.   I’m not sponsored or anything, they offer this kind of discount to anyone using their site.

Have you ever used a meal delivery service like Hello Fresh or Blue Apron?  Let me know your experience!

St. Patty’s Day Breakfast Recipe

Instead of just celebrating this holiday on March 17th, we decided to start celebrating a week in advance.  We figured with Michael’s long work hours and me getting a sinus infection mid week (ok, we didn’t plan for that second one to happen), we should celebrate early and often and probably will add up to a total day’s celebration.

So this past Sunday, we had Irish Soda Bread, which was super yummy and something we could eat throughout the week.  Since we are doing no sugary sweets for Lent (the countdown has already begun and I’m having daily conversations with God over this now), we would have this as a dessert with yogurt or fruit at night.

So here’s the recipe.  Just a short disclaimer, I made this without the usual aid of my husband, so the pictures are not as detailed as before, but the recipe is still there.  Also, this is a good meal to make the day before and than warm in the oven for about 30 mins the day of eating.  🙂  Enjoy!

Sugarfree Fudge?

I ate a lot of sugar the week of Valentine’s Day.  You could say I was pretty close to being sick of all of it.  In fact, it’s partially what inspired me to give it up for Lent.  However, I was curious and intrigued by this alternative to sugary chocolate that I found on Pinterest.  So, Michael and I decided to try to make it last weekend.  It might possibly have been a fail.  I’ll explain why in a minute.  Here’s our recipe adventure:

We didn’t hate it, but we didn’t love it either.  The consistency was that of fudge, but I think if we make it in the future, we will have to go to Whole Foods for the coconut butter.  It’s not that we hate Whole Foods, but it’s just not our ordinary shopping place, so we would have to make a special trip.

Have you ever had a recipe flop or flatten before?  Would you try it again doing something different, or have the memories blotted out that recipe forever?

Slow Cooker Taco Soup Recipe

In the winter, I crave soups.  On the weekends, I love using my crockpot while we are out and about.  And in general, I love Mexican food.  Which leads me to the recipe I recently tried from Allrecipes.com, Slow Cooker Taco Soup.  I did change the ingredients some, but it still came out pretty amazing good.
Ingredients
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 (15 oz) cans kidney beans with liquid
  • 1 (15 oz) can whole kernel corn, with liquid
  • 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans of diced tomatoes with green chili peppers
  • 1 (1.25 oz) package taco seasoning mix

Instructions

  1. In a medium skillet, cook ground beef and onion until meat is browned over medium heat.  Drain and set aside
  2. Place the beef mixture, kidney beans, corn, tomato sauce, water, diced tomatoes with green chile peppers and taco seasoning mix in a slow cooker.  Mix to blend.
  3. Cook on low for 8 hours and wait.
  4. Serve on or with tortilla chips.  Sprinkle with cheese or sour cream.  Enjoy!
What is your favorite crockpot recipe?