Monday, November 23, 2015

HelloFresh gave me my nights back!

I tend to be an overly ambitious cook.  I'll find some recipe somewhere (usually Pinterest) and decide I simply must make it from scratch.  TONIGHT.  But sometimes my ambition is greater than my skill (a common dilemma) and when all is said and done, I've spent upwards of 2 hours (sometimes more, I'm sorry to admit) crafting this masterpiece and dirtying every pan, utensil, counter, and pot in the process.  Yes, I love to cook.  And I have an obsession with cookbooks.  But I tend to take over in the kitchen -- and not in a good way.

I used to have this dream about the BF and I cooking dinner together, like in a romantic comedy.  Well a while ago I sort of squashed that when I told him he was cutting the strawberries wrong and he's (mostly) left the kitchen to me ever since.  (Do you blame him?)  Well I'm turning over a new leaf these days and trying to relinquish control, expectation, and the need for things to be just so, but it's hard.  (And it's not just with cooking.) I tell you all of this because last week the BF and I were lucky to get a free trial of the meal delivery service HelloFresh and for the first time ever we cooked an entire meal together.  (And had fun doing it!)

(Oh hey, that's my kitchen!)

Here's how it works:

You select your recipes the week before.  That next week they send you all the ingredients you need, plus detailed recipe cards.  You cook it up at your leisure and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Our recipes for the week:


Teriyaki-Glazed Meatballs with Crunchy Cabbage Slaw and Basmati Rice:


Maple-Balsamic Glazed Cod with Butternut Mash & Roasted Brussels Sprouts:


Ras el Hanout-Spiced Chicken Thighs with Freekeh Salad, Butternut, and Lemony Yogurt Sauce:
 (Note: I subbed in chickpeas for the butternuts and added cucumber to the yogurt sauce.)


So here it is, in no particular order, the Top 5 Reasons Why I Love HelloFresh:

1. The meals are yummy and challenged us to cook something we wouldn't normally.  It's so easy to get stuck in a cooking rut.  I loved that there were fish and steak options on the menu -- two things I don't usually cook at home but love to eat! (There are also veggie boxes for those so inclined.)  Plus, one of the recipes featured spices we've never had before, so it was a whole new taste profile and not the same old that I usually lean on.  Which leads me to...



2. The food is fresh and the meals are nutritious.  The neighborhood we live in doesn't have the greatest selection at our local supermarkets and it rarely has fish.  We try to eat healthy, but sometimes eating healthy takes a lot of work.  The BF is a teacher and I have a one-hour commute home from Manhattan at the end of the day. It was so nice to feel like we could eat healthy without a ton of effort.



3. The BF said he loved doing HelloFresh because it took the guesswork out of his least favorite part of cooking -- the measuring/portioning.  (Who knew?)  And that it was really easy.  "I would totally do this again," were his exact words.


4. More from the BF:  He has this theory that most decisions in life can be boiled down (pun intended) to a simple question of which is more valuable to you: your time or your money.  So if your money is more important, then you'll sacrifice the time by doing everything yourself, making a meal plan, researching recipes, etc.  But if your time is more important, you don't mind spending a little bit of money so that you can hang onto that precious time.  That's where takeout usually comes in.  The BF would much rather we spend a little extra cash on takeout so that we can hang together rather than having one of us (me) cooped up in the kitchen.  The great thing about HelloFresh is that it's really the best of both worlds.  You get to choose your meals the week before, so you can plan, plus the recipes are so easy to follow that you don't spend all night sweating over a stove and trying to time everything just so.

5.  The recipes make cooking the meals so easy, plus it takes the guesswork out of timing everything yourself (a major flaw to my usual cooking.)  Friday night after I came home from the gym, I asked the BF what we should do for dinner and he goes, "We still have that third HelloFresh meal."  Oh yeah!  It was so great to not have to think about what to whip up -- it was already figured out for me but was still way healthier than ordering takeout, which is what we would usually do in a situation like that.

I'm so thrilled to be able to cook something delicious and nutritious but without all the work it takes to actually think about what to make.  So excited to get my nights back -- more gym time, TV snuggles, and room for extracurricular pursuits!



BONUS!  HelloFresh has been kind enough to share this coupon code with scarlet&sterling readers.  Use the code SCARLET30 to get 30% off your first box!  This code will be good until November 23, 2016.  Happy eating!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Homemade cheese crackers (just like Goldfish!)



I mean, how cute are these?  And let me tell you: they are delicious and really, truly easy to make.  It's essentially a simple pie crust recipe, plus cheese.  Roll out, cut out, bake for 15 minutes.  Try not to gobble them all up.

A couple notes:  I like to buy a block of cheese and shred it myself, because I find pre-shredded options to be a little too dry and waxy.  Also, rather than cube the butter like most recipes suggest, I use that same cheese grater to shred the butter too, the same way I do when I make homemade pie crusts. I don't own a food processor, which I imagine would make this slightly easier, so I just used my Ninja blender to pulse everything and then did the water step by hand.  As for the cookie cutters, which in my opinion need to be super small so that you can eat a handful of crackers in one bite, I used a teeny tiny heart, and a small circle.  Then I used the pointy end of the heart to make Pac-Man.  Adorable, right?  There are also some how-tos on making cookie cutters out of soda cans, but I'm too lazy for that.


Ingredients

  • 8 ounces, cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 4 tablespoons butter, shredded
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¾ teaspoons salt
  • 2.5 tablespoons cold water

Instructions


Pulse everything (except water) together in the food processor until the dough resembles coarse sand.

Pulse in water, 1 tablespoon at a time. (Or, if using a blender like me, transfer to a glass bowl and mix with a spoon before giving in and just using your hands.)

Remove dough from the processor (or bowl) and knead on a lightly floured surface for no more than 2 minutes.

Wrap dough in plastic and chill for 20 minutes.

Roll out the dough and cut into desired shapes. Place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes, or until crispy.

Makes approximately 7 dozen crackers.


(Adapted from here.)


But don't just stop there!  Why not explore some funky adaptations and flavor combos?  Leave your ideas in the comments below.



Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Favorite find at Brimfield this summer

wooden crate from Brimfield seller Vintage Retriever, $40

I scooped up this awesome wooden whiskey box at Brimfield in September, but it almost wasn't mine! Here's the story. So I'm combing through the booths as I always do, with mom about 10 steps ahead because she's antique-obsessed, when I came across the cutest little display by the folks at Vintage Retriever. I knew I wanted to buy a wooden crate at some point, but it didn't need to happen unless I found one I really loved.

Up on a shelf, sitting atop a luxe leather valise, was this amazing wooden crate used to ship whiskey -- Teacher's Highland Cream, to be exact.  (Fun fact: in the US and Ireland, it's spelled "whiskey," while the rest of the world drops out the "e.") I saw it and immediately thought of the BF, who is both a high school teacher and whiskey aficionado, so I made them an offer. Alas, my offer was too low, and it was a little too early in the day to part with half my cash. So I went on my way, sans crate.

My mother and I have a rule at Brimfield: if you see something you love, you better buy it right then because it will be impossible to find it later. Well I went through the whole day and kept thinking about that darn box. By 5pm I decided I would leave it up to fate.  If I could find my way back to the booth, and if the box was still there, then it was meant to be and I would buy it. Lo and behold, there it was, and I happily handed over the cash.

I'm planning to decorate with it in the apartment somehow, though I'm still trying to figure that out. I love the look of it on top of a bookcase, with a plant spilling out.  Or perhaps as storage atop a shelf.  Any pointers on decorating with crates? Leave me a comment below!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Welcome to Brooklyn

Sources: bar cart: Target; tablecloth: Kate Spade; chair: Target (similar one here); pillow: I forget where I got this, but you can get it on Amazon; painting & phrenology skull: Brimfield (more on eBay)

You know when you go through all these big life changes (moving, new job, new city, etc) all at once and you're just like go, go, go, get it all done, hustle, hustle, hustle until one day you wake up and realize that the time is just flying by?  And it's been almost a year of living in this new, crazy place that once seemed so foreign but now you call home?  Yeah, that.

I'm back people.  And with a new apartment to decorate.  The first completed area is our little reading nook above.  (Ignore the wrinkles in that tablecloth, please.  Real life has wrinkles, okay?) After the culture shock and months-long adjustment to this new life, I'm finally settling in and really loving living in New York City.  And I'm ready to share lots of fabulous decor photos, tips, and inspiration with all of you as I navigate this new locale. There's so much to see, do, and explore -- I can't wait to show you everything.

Here's what you can look forward to coming up on scarlet & sterling:
-a wallpaper-tastic bathroom redo
-demystifying the gallery wall (so THAT'S how you do it)
-guide to Brooklyn flea markets
-urban gardening (as always)
-recipes and cooking tips
-and lots and lots of style shots from the new place!

Monday, March 23, 2015

A bevy of beautiful buildings in my new locale

Bricks and hand-lettered signage in Brooklyn.


 Side-by-side clapboard cuties in Cobble Hill.

On top of the tracks in Bushwick.


This brick and cobblestone stunner in SoHo.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

52 Scoops: Documenting a year of making ice cream (Week 1 - Mint Chocolate Chip)


For Christmas, the BF gave me something I've had my eye on for quite some time: an ice cream maker! Full disclosure: we eat a lot of ice cream.  Back when we lived in Massachusetts, my apartment was only a few minutes away from JP Licks -- an awesome, locally-owned ice cream chain.  But now that we're in Brooklyn, our choices for good ice cream have shrunk down to the frostbitten Ben and Jerry's in the deep freeze at the bodega. Enter: the ice cream maker.

You guys, it is so easy to use and makes the most delicious ice cream.  It's only been about a week and I've already made three different kids.  In honor of New Year's Resolutions (seriously, I love resolutions) I thought it might be fun to fill up the whole year with ice cream!  And thus, 52 Scoops was born.  I'll give you a flavor a week with photos and recipe to boot.

Make sure to follow me on Instagram (ncammorata) for more behind-the-scenes photos of the ice cream making process (and more!)

And now.... onto Week One!

This is a pretty basic vanilla recipe with some Summerdown Mint Chocolate Peppermint Crisps mixed in.  The UK-based company has a really cool story about how they resurrected an old cultivation called Black Mitcham Peppermint.  (See packaging below.)  Their crisps combine the bitterness of dark chocolate with the cool, refreshing flavor of mint. Sugar granules give crunch and a bit of sweetness.  When added to the ice cream, the result is a bright, invigorating flavor of mint mixed with the sweet vanilla and chocolate.

From the package:


RECIPE

1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 pinch salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
6 Summerdown Mint Chocolate Crisps (chopped up)

1. In a bowl, mix milk, sugar, and salt until sugar is dissolved. Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla.
2. Turn on mixer and pour mixture into the frozen bowl, letting it churn for about 20 minutes.
3. Use a knife to chop of chocolate crisps into about 1cm cubes.  
4. Once ice cream has thickened to a soft, creamy texture, add in chopped mint chocolates.
5. Transfer to airtight container and put in freezer for at least an hour.


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