Caffeinate thyself with a free cup of coffee

Seattle's Best Coffee Giveaway

Seattle’s Best sent us some of their coffee to try, and resident coffee expert Rockford liked it. I asked him to write a review of it for me, but he doesn’t talk about coffee. He just shambles into the kitchen in the morning, brews some joe, tosses it back and then springs off to work like a feisty little squirrel on the trail of a big ol’ mess of acorns. It’s exactly like “Shaun of the Dead” + “Fight Club” + “Ice Age,” except completely different because my husband is neither zombified, nor Edward Norton, nor an antediluvial squirrel nor — spoilers, maybe? I haven’t actually seen or read “Fight Club” — delusional.

He’s just very busy. He really does love coffee, though. As evidenced by Exhibit A:

Who needs words when you can emote like this?

Who needs words when you can emote like this?

This is what my pour-over coffee "system" looks like. Pretty advanced set up, huh?

This is what my pour-over coffee “system” looks like. Pretty advanced set up, huh?

Anyway.

Rockford rarely drinks more than one cup of coffee at home, so last year we traded our old “normal” coffee maker in for one of those bad-for-the-environment single-cup models. After he’d used the K-cup sample from Seattle’s Best, we used the so-called “pour over” method to make the ground House Blend they’d sent.

(Lifehacker says the pour-over is for coffee snobs; I say it’s for people who do have a bag of coffee but don’t have a coffee maker. Tomato-tomahto, Lifehacker.)

For Rockford’s pour-over coffee, I put a little cream and sugar in the bottom of the mug and a tablespoon of ground coffee in the be-filtered pour-over funnel thing. Then I slowly pour in 8 ounces of almost-boiling water, and a few minutes later it’s coffee time. I don’t drink much coffee myself, but I do have a cup of hot cocoa most mornings. Some mornings require more of a kickstart than others, though, so I have also been known to give my morning cup of hot cocoa a lift by doing a “lite” coffee pour-over into my cocoa mix. I use about a teaspoon of ground coffee and 8 ounces of water for my DIY mochas. It gives my drink just enough oomph, and it’s considerably easier than making a whole cup of coffee just to season my cocoa.

Vaguely Related Sidebar

I never drank coffee until I was in college, but it wasn’t because I was pulling all-nighters or anything like that. It was because I worked at the front desk of a hotel. By and large, it was a pretty easy gig, aside from occasionally being required to unclog a toilet or getting yelled at by an irate businessman or when the person on the midnight-8am shift decided not to come to work and the assistant manager thought it would be a fine idea to have the person who’d worked 4pm-midnight (i.e. me) go ahead and cover it. That last part is why I started drinking coffee, because that happened more frequently than you might expect, and it’s where I learned that I prefer my coffee spiked with chocolate.

My guy might not be so outspoken about his love of coffee, but Seattle’s Best has rounded up a bunch of guys named Duncan who are. Here’s what they had to say:

Even if your name’s not Duncan, Seattle’s Best would like to give you the opportunity to try their brew. Go to the Seattle’s Best Coffee Facebook page for a free sample of their House Blend; it’s available now through April 30, or while supplies last.

A sample isn’t enough to fuel your day? Then you should definitely enter to win one of five coffee kits that we’re giving away! Each kit includes a bag of House Blend packaged coffee, a House Blend K-Cup sample and a Seattle’s Best Coffee travel mug. Good luck!

Congratulations to Hannah, Mary, Amy, Karla and Don! There is coffee in your future. :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Eastern Spice Co. makes Indian cuisine easy

Beef VindalooI love trying to make foods from different cuisines at home, so I was quick to say yes when Eastern Spice Company offered to send me one of their products to try out and review. The idea behind the fledgling company is to “make Eastern cuisines much more accessible to the average Western kitchen” by supplying tins of pre-blended spices. Each tin contains enough spice to make one complete recipe, and Eastern Spice Company has a recipe for each blend on their web site.

They currently offer four spice blends — Indian Chicken Curry, or Tamatur Murghi; Indian Tangy Curry, which makes chicken or beef vindaloo; Indian Coconut Curry, or Kaari Chawal; and Indian Vegetable Stir Fry, or Aloo Subji — all of which I’d like to try because I have yet to meet a curry dish that I don’t like. They sent me the vindaloo blend, and Rockford said he’d rather try it with beef than with chicken. So that’s what we did.

Our beef vindaloo was delicious and much spicier than I’d expected it to be, which was fine by me but too much for Poppy. Pete, Rockford and Rockford’s parents didn’t have a problem with the heat level, either. We all chomped it up while Poppy feasted on rice. (We served the vindaloo with a little yogurt on the side to cut the heat.)

The only thing I wasn’t crazy about was the recipe format. The vindaloo blend is meant to be made with either chicken of beef, and the proteins require slightly different preparations. The recipe on the Eastern Spice Company web site co-mingles the instructions, which made it a little bit confusing. It would’ve been easier to navigate if they’d had separate recipes for beef and chicken.

A set of four spice blends would make a really nice housewarming or hostess gift, and at $4 a tin I think they’re definitely worth the price. The guys at Eastern Spice Company gave me a coupon code to share with you, too, to make them even more affordable! The code, ESC10, will take 10 percent off your order and is good until Friday (03/14/14).

Rockford and I will both be enjoying leftover beef vindaloo for lunch today, and let me tell you: I am really looking forward to lunchtime.

Here’s what we’re having for dinner the rest of the week:

Menu Plan Monday Woman Cooking

Monday: Sweet Spicy Chicken Tenders

 

Tuesday: Chilaquiles Verdes

 

Wednesday: Rosemary Chicken

 

Thursday: Spicy Taco Soup

 

Friday: Pizza

I’m linking this up with OrgJunkie.com’s weekly Menu Plan Monday thing.

Put meal-planning on autopilot

Disclaimer: eMeals.com gave Nichole a one-year subscription in exchange for a review. All opinions are Nichole’s own.

It’s been a little over a month since I started using eMeals, and I’ve mentioned the meal-planning service in a few posts since then. One of the selling points of eMeals is that it’s a money-saver. The idea is that you choose your grocery store of choice, and it gives you a meal plan based on what’s on sale there. Our grocery store isn’t one of those available, though, so we didn’t see any savings.

As long as my grocery bill didn’t go up, though, I was really more concerned about how the food tasted. So:

Is the eMeals food any good?

Overall, I’ve been very happy with the quality and quantity of the recipes. A few of the recipes were only so-so, and only one was straight-up gross. I’m signed up for the family plan, which it says makes 3-6 servings, and we’ve had ample leftovers with each recipe. That’s been a great thing for lunch the next day.

eMeals offers 12 different meals plans, and I wanted to try out as many as possible before I wrote my review. “As many as possible” wound up being three. I started with the low-fat plan, because I’ve been doing Weight Watchers and figured they’d be compatible. The Philly Cheesesteak Stromboli and the Orange Pancakes from the plan were both simple and tasty, but I still haven’t figured out how the stromboli qualified as low-fat.

The Simple Gourmet option sounded like it would be right up our alley. I knew it wasn’t pretty much right away, though. I use convenience ingredients like cream-of-whatever soups every now and then, but the Simple Gourmet menu was packed with processed ingredients. You’re only supposed to be able to change plans once a month, but I emailed the eMeals support team and they swapped me right over to my next choice: The Clean-Eating Plan.

I was vaguely familiar with Clean Eating as a trendy diet thing, but as it turns out it’s pretty similar to the way I generally cook. The recipes are most all from scratch using fresh ingredients, but they aren’t fussy or difficult to make. The one terrible dish — a pumpkin-sausage-pasta monstrosity — we tried was from the Clean Eating plan, but every other meal from this plan has been delightful. The Sweet & Smoky Bacon-Wrapped Chicken, Chicken Pot Pie, and Orecchiette with Roasted Vegetables were especially good.

Is eMeals worth the money?

A one-year subscription to eMeals is $58, which works out to less than $5 a month. I never used the full week’s menu, so I didn’t use the provided grocery list. And I also really like doing my own meal-planning, most of the time. For someone who doesn’t have the time or inclination to put together a meal plan and grocery list every month, though, I think it’s a great deal.

But that’s not all. Right now eMeals is doing a Cyber Monday / Black Friday promotion, which you can go ahead and take advantage of by going to eMeals via this link and using the coupon code CYBER. That makes it $21 for a three-month subscription; $33 for six months; or $40 for a year. That’s a great price for a really handy service.

The bottom line on eMeals

The majority of the recipes are delicious, and it would be a huge time-saver if you used every meal on the plan. I’ve loved getting a fresh batch of recipes in my inbox every week; I’m 98 percent sure I’ll renew my subscription once it runs out.

This week’s menu plan

Despite how much I’ve enjoyed eMeals, we aren’t using any of their recipes this week because Rockford was in charge of the grocery shopping this weekend, and he’s a Seat Of His Pants shopper. He did a good job, even if he didn’t use a list.

Monday: Grocery store buffet
We’re going to be running hither and yon today, so we’ll be grazing at the grocery store for dinner.

Tuesday: Chicken pot pie
Rockford picked up a frozen chicken pot pie on his last foray to Trader Joe’s. I hope it’s good.

Wednesday: Tortellini
Easy & kid-friendly.

Thursday: Baked potato soup
Also easy and also kid-friendly, if your kids are less picky than mine.

Friday: Pizza
I’m going to be getting started on some Thanksgiving prep on Friday, so we’ll be ordering pizza for dinner.

Two-thirds of last week’s eMeals recipes were great

Disclaimer: eMeals.com has provided Nichole with a free subscription in exchange for a review. Nichole’s opinions remain her own, and she remains very opinionated about food.

Last week we tried a couple of eMeals recipes, and only one of them — a pasta with a pumpkin-sausage sauce — was a flop. To be fair, that’s not something I would normally even consider trying. It wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t fit our preferred flavor profile at all. It smelled amazing while it was cooking, though. I was pretty disappointed that it wasn’t as delicious as it smelled.

The Sweet and Smoky Bacon-Wrapped Chicken, however, was a big hit. Poppy said it tasted like “something a cowboy would eat,” which must’ve been a compliment because she ate it without complaint. None of the rest of us had trouble with it, either.

Sweet and Smoky Bacon-Wrapped Chicken
 
Source:
Ingredients
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 6 slices natural uncured bacon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt, pepper, paprika, and chili powder. Wrap 1 slice bacon around each piece of chicken; secure with wooden toothpicks.
  3. Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat; brown chicken, in batches, 2 to 3 minutes on each side.
  4. Arrange chicken in the skillet, and bake 15 minutes or until chicken is done and bacon is crisp.
  5. Drizzle with honey during last 5 minutes of baking.

We also tried the Chicken Tikka Masala — which Pete thought was called “Chicken Chicken Masala” — and it received high marks, too. I couldn’t find garam masala at the store, so I found an “easy garam masala” recipe and mixed up my own. Super simple, and it was way less expensive than buying it because I already had all of the spices involved.

This week we have a couple birthdays, so we’re once again not doing the full week of eMeals recipes. I’d hate to have a pumpkin pasta scenario on my birthday. So we’re going with things we already know on the birthdays and eMeals the rest of the week!

Monday: ???
Today’s my birthday, and I think we’re going out. I haven’t decided where I’d like to go. Possibly to Firehouse Subs, because I am hopelessly devoted to their brisket & cheddar sandwich.

Tuesday: Chicken Pot Pie
I love a good chicken pot pie, and I’m really hoping that the eMeals version is just that. There are biscuits involved instead of a crust, though, so we’ll see.

Wednesday: ???
A friend asked us last week if we wanted to go out for dinner this Wednesday, but I haven’t heard back from him to confirm. So we might be going out again. But maybe not.

Thursday: Cheeseburgers
Me: Hey Pete, what would you like for your birthday dinner?
Pete: Hmmm, I don’t know. Probably cheeseburgers.

And so cheeseburgers it is!

In which I try to take the “planning” out of the menu-plan equation

Disclaimer: eMeals.com has provided Nichole with a free subscription in exchange for a review. Because of the nature of the product and the fact that Nichole writes/thinks about food a lot, you can expect to read at least a little bit about eMeals every week for the next month or so. Nichole’s opinions remain her own, and she remains very opinionated about food.

My meal-planning routine usually consists of taking a spin through my Menu Plan Monday archives — because I can never seem to remember what we eat from week to week — and then looking through my I’d Eat That board on Pinterest for a few new ideas.

For the next couple of weeks, though, I’m not going to do either or those things.

Instead, I’m going to be downloading a weekly menu plan from eMeals, which will include a grocery list of everything I need for that week’s meals. I usually spend at least 30 minutes of my Friday evening pulling together my menu plan and compiling the grocery list; I’m looking forward to finding out what else I could be doing with that half-hour. (Handicrafts? Learning a new skill? Watching more television? The possibilities are endless, but the probability is sadly the latter!)

I’m not expecting to follow the eMeals plan to the letter every week, because (1) we can be kind of picky and (2) our schedule lately means I haven’t had time to actually prepare a meal every night. This week, for example, we have “Nutcracker” rehearsal, an American Heritage Girls meeting and all sorts of soccer practices, so we’re only going to be having two of the eMeals meals. It’s not that they’re especially complicated or lengthy; I just tend to lean on recipes — and I use that word lightly here — with which I’m already familiar.

Monday: Grilled cheese sandwiches
I used to always serve tomato soup with our grilled cheeses. And then we all admitted that none of us really likes tomato soup, so we don’t bother with that anymore.

Tuesday: Spaghetti
I think might even have some meatballs in the freezer!

Wednesday: Beef Chalupas
This will be the first eMeals recipe we’re trying. It’s supposed to be served with “crispy zucchini and corn.” Side dishes are never my strong suit; I’m hoping having it all planned out for me will help with that!

Thursday: Philly Cheesesteak Stromboli
And this is the second of the eMeals! It uses refrigerated pizza dough and roast beef from the deli, among other things. It’s served with Cajun french fries, which are really what sold me on trying this meal.

Friday: Out
Poppy will be doing her very first tae kwon do testing on Friday, and I’m preemptively planning to go out for a celebratory dinner. Go P!