Review

Kitchen Tech Saturday: Online Lunch delivery with EatPakd

Note: This post is not sponsored, and the discount code given at the end of the post is not an affiliate code. All opinions are mine.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware of all the grocery delivery, local food delivery, and meal prep delivery kits available online these days. If you never want to leave the house, but can’t quite get yourself to give up that pesky habit of, you know, eating, there’s a service out there that can help.

I love going grocery shopping, I can definitely plan meals and cook for myself, and most of the time, if I’m going to eat food from a restaurant, I’d like to enjoy the perks of actually eating there. However, there’s been one particular meal that’s been a little bit of a challenge for me– breakfast.

I have to be out the door no later than 530am to get to work anywhere close to on time. I am NOT a morning person, so the chances of me getting up any earlier than I have to to make breakfast are, well, let’s not kid ourselves, not good. I tried doing the overnight oats thing, but discovered that driving and eating a two handed breakfast meant not only was I driving with lots of distractions (and I’m not the most awake driver at that hour, as it is), but I also ended up with about 10 percent of my breakfast on the front of my shirt.  I needed something I could eat one handed that also didn’t force me to look down to see where my spoon was landing. I saw a mention about EatPakd on Twitter, and after poking around their website I thought, “Ok, maybe this will work.” I found a coupon code that gave me a discount off my first week of meals, and we were off to the races.

 

EatPakd was designed for busy parents who may not always have time to pack a healthy lunch for their kids in the morning. They use organic and non-GMO fruits and veggies whenever possible, and each meal is balanced with lean protein, good carbs, and fresh ingredients– Great for moms and dads who don’t want rushing out the door to mean they’re sending their kids out into the world with a less than nutritious lunch. For me, it means I’m getting breakfast without having to rely on fast food or pre-packaged stuff with a dubious ingredients list.

The website is easy to use. Within each weekly menu, I can go with their pre-set combinations, OR I can customize my own meal packs based on what appealed to me, and what would be the most commute friendly combination. You can plan up to a month at a time, but you have until Sunday night to finalize your order for the following week.

 

But of course, you know I wouldn’t even be talking about EatPakd at all if the food wasn’t good. It is. The fruits and veggies are flavorful, and taste as fresh as if I’d cut them up that morning. The entrees for my first week ranged from whole grain waffle bites with sunbutter and jelly, to a steamed pork bun that, I’ll admit, I was a little dubious about, but turned out to be one of my favorites of the week. The packaging is easy to open, one handed and without looking, and each section can be separated from the others, in case you want to say, save that cookie for later in the day, or hold on to those tomatoes and crackers for a pre-gym snack.

If there are any cons to EatPakd, I’d say it was probably that some weeks the gluten free and vegetarian options right off the shelf are a little slim. However, because you can customize your meals, there are ways to work with the menu to get what you want, and you can opt to say, take the meat off that turkey roll up. All of their ingredients are nut and tree nut free, except for a few items that contain coconut.  If you have questions, or can’t quite figure out how to get exactly what you need, their customer service link is available on every page, and while right now you can’t call them directly, I got an answer to my customer service question within 12 hours. They’re also very responsive on social media.

Pricewise, for me, this is definitely about the same as I might spend getting a fast food breakfast or buying something microwaveable. You can decide how many meals you want per week. If you want to just keep a few of these around as a back up for those mornings when everyone is running late, the 4 meal plan might work for you. if you’re looking for an every day solution, the eight or twelve meal plan might be a better fit.  Of course, you can also skip weeks, say, if you’re going on vacation.

If you’d like to give EatPakd a try, use the code GONNACOOKTHAT at checkout to get $15 off of your first week. If you do try it, let me know what you think!

Kitchen Tech Saturday: New York Public Library Digital Collections

Normally, when we’re talking technology, we think of the future, as in, new technology. The latest digital, computerized whatchamacallit that will change the way we cook, or shop, or go out to eat.

But today’s Kitchen Tech Saturday is actually kind of a time machine… one that only goes backwards.

A few years ago, the New York Public Library put all of it’s digital collections online, for free, and available to the public. The collections grow all the time, and you can look up everything from old political campaign pins to pin-ups, but today, we’re talking about a couple of search terms I’ve been using lately: recipe and cookbook. I’ll warn you up front– this website can become quite the rabbit hole.

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Right off the bat, the word “recipe” will get you not only cool, old images from, oddly enough, a tobacco company, but also their corresponding recipes. Decades ago, tobacco companies were the source of a lot of collectibles… things like baseball cards, and obviously, recipes.

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But as you dive deeper into the search results, you’ll see everything from old advertisements for a variety of products, handwritten recipes, snippets from old cookbooks, recipe collection brochures and their covers.

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For a real treat, also add “menu” to your list of search terms. You’ll see some really great menus from restaurants, events, and even hotel room service menus!

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If you’re a big culinary history nerd like me, you’ll find that this time machine also has the odd effect of also speeding up time. You sat down for a quick little poke around in the archives, and before you know it, it’s 2am, your tea’s gone cold, and some random infomercial for people who have a hard time with pancakes is playing in the background. Seriously. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Online digital archives are a real treasure trove of information, and the NYPL collection is definitely my favorite. There’s material in there on a huge array of subjects, although, obviously, this is the one I come back to time and time again for not only a NerdyFunGoodTime, but also some serious culinary inspiration.

I am not a chocoholic…

NOTE: This post is not sponsored. I wasn’t given any free product. I just really had a lightbulb moment at this little shop. They were incredibly warm, welcoming, and generous with their time and knowledge, and I wanted to share my experience.

I have never considered myself a chocoholic. Therefore, beyond what little bit we learned during my semester in Latin Cuisine at culinary school, I’d never really had an overwhelming interest in learning more about it. After this week’s visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico, however, I’ve realized that maybe I’ve just been eating the wrong chocolate. I’m hooked, you guys. I’m hooked on the good stuff… and I want to know more.

I think, in this age of Let’s All Get Educated About Food, most of us are aware of the differences in the Hershey bar you grab as you’re checking out at the grocery store and the stuff you might get from the Godiva store in the mall on Valentine’s Day. However, from the moment I entered Kakawa Chocolate House, or, well, let’s back up, from the moment I dove into Kakawa’s website, while doing research for my day trip to Santa Fe, my cluelessness about what really makes “next level” chocolate became painfully apparent. I’ve quickly learned since then that the good stuff (the BEST stuff) may not come from a big, expensive factory full of fancy pants machines, but rather, from the tiny kitchens where its made by hand, by small groups of chocolatiers who care more about each and every batch of chocolates they produce than you or I might ever care when we eat it. All we know is that it’s something special. But, if you want to know more, they’re happy to teach you.

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Tony Bennett, the owner of Kakawa Chocolate House for the past five years, was in the fashion business when he bought the tiny shop nestled among the prolific art galleries along Paseo de Peralta. He was looking for a business opportunity, but hearing him talk about his team, and seeing his face light up when he looks around the shop, it’s clear he loves being there and he’s proud of every piece of chocolate produced.

“We don’t use any machines, other than the tempering machine… We blend all the chocolate in house.”

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As I’m writing right now, though, I realize I’m burying the lead. Let’s talk about my “A-ha!” moment, which happened when I was handed a tiny mug of Zapoteca chocolate elixir topped with a generous dollop of house made whipped cream.

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Swiss Miss Cocoa this is not. Made from 100% chocolate and a just a little coconut sugar, it’s bittersweet, fruity, and rich, and one sip tells you this is probably what chocolate is supposed to taste like.

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Kakawa has over 18 different elixir blends that include a few more modern takes, as well as traditional Mesoamerican blends like the Zapoteca, European blends based on historic recipes from the Italian and French royal courts (try the Marie Antoinette blend!) and even one developed by Thomas Jefferson. Their selection spans the history of chocolate, and if you get the sense that its past is as full, rich, and complex as the chocolate itself, you’d be right. I highly recommend reading through the origin story provided on the website as a great primer. If you’d like to dig a little deeper, The History Channel website has a super informative section on the history of chocolate that takes the story even further.

If, after doing all that reading, you’re ready to have your own “A-ha!” moment about chocolate, Kakawa ships their granulated elixir blends all over the U.S. via website ordering, and internationally by calling the shop.

That One Time I Ate Crickets for Dinner

“Disgusting. You might as well eat shit.”

That’s the comment I received from a follower on the I’m Gonna Cook That! Facebook page, in response to this picture:

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In case you haven’t seen one before, that’s a cricket taco. It’s one of the specials this week at a local place called Comida. The boyfriend and I had been at a happy hour across the street at Great Divide for Big Brothers Big Sisters (I’ve been a big sister for a little over five years), and after a couple of beers each, we decided we’d better have something to eat before we headed home. I wanted tacos, and since we were so close to Comida it seemed like a logical choice. As we cozied up to the bar, we were handed the specials list. It included, among other things, those funky looking cricket tacos. I got a little giddy, not just as the prospect of trying something new, but at the very idea of a restaurant in Denver being willing to have anything to do with insects on their menu.

I won’t pretend it’s not a little weird. Our food culture in America, unlike many countries in Africa and Southeast Asia, still has a long way to go before we’ll collectively accept insects as anything other than a thing for which you call the exterminator. For most, finding a cricket in their food means promptly calling the waiter over to complain. Ordering a pile of them wrapped up in a couple of corn tortillas will probably seem “disgusting” to a lot of you for a long time to come. We’re just NOW getting somewhere with this whole Nose to Tail thing—finding ways to utilize every single bit of more commonly accepted proteins like pig or cow. So, I can’t say that commenter’s reaction was surprising. I will, however, take umbrage with her suggestion that eating insects is on the same level as eating… poo.

Insects, when collected and prepared correctly, are an amazing source of nutrition. Back in 2013, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization released a friendly little reminder that there are, in fact, nearly two thousand species of edible insects. A decent percentage of them have been a primary protein staple for several countries—36 in Africa, 11 in Europe, and 29 in Asia–for centuries. In a few of these places, locusts have been known to decimate entire crops, leaving those who directly depend on what can be grown for food little choice but to turn the locusts themselves into dinner. For them, that “disgusting” bug is literally what saves them from starvation (Holland, 2013).

A more recent report from the U.N.F.A.O. from January of this year informs us that, among other benefits, bugs can eat anything. That means utilizing them as a food crop, for humans or livestock, is far less expensive than say, feeding a head of cattle or a herd of pigs. They also use far less water, which is key in places where access to water is limited. Insects, in addition to being an excellent source of protein, also contain fatty acids at levels comparable to some fish, as well as zinc, magnesium, copper, iron, and fiber. They are also a lot less likely to give you a foodborne illness. We already use insects for everything from honey, to silk, to food and cosmetic dye (U.N.F.A.O., January 2016). Why doesn’t it make sense to exercise that same Nose to Tail approach that’s being used for animal protein sources?

Truth be told, some day we might all find ourselves dealing with a scarcity of animal protein as it becomes more and more challenging to support traditional agriculture. It’s possible that we’d have little choice but to adapt to a regular diet of insects and hydroponically grown veggies, regardless of how squeamish we might be. Also, not for nothing, but while we might not need to actually “eat shit,” burning it for warmth or utilizing it to fertilize the soil where we grow our food is conceivable, as well.

Look, I’m not saying anyone should feel bad if they looked at that picture of my taco and found it “icky.” I get it, I really do. We’re not used to it, and for a lot of people getting used to it might require circumstances that most of us are fortunate enough to have never encountered. But I am, and have always been, an adventurous eater, and knowing what I know about how other cultures practice entomophagy (the practice of eating insects), it’s never been all that far out of the realm of possibility that I’d find myself dining on some bugs one day.

Turns out, that day was Tuesday, March 22nd. For the record, they tasted just fine—nutty. They tend to take on the flavor of whatever they’re with, so in the case of that taco they tasted a lot like jalapenos, tomatoes, onions, and cilantro. Just crunchier, kinda like Rice Crispies. Also, yes, I’d absolutely eat them again.

 

Citations:

Holland PUBLISHED May 14, 2013, J. S. (2013, May 14). U.N. Urges Eating Insects; 8 Popular Bugs to Try. Retrieved March 24, 2016, from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/13/130514-edible-insects-entomophagy-science-food-bugs-beetles/

United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization. (January 2016). The Contribution of Insects to Food Security, Livelihoods, and the Environment. Retrieved March 24, 2016, from http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3264e/i3264e00.pdf

Kitchen 101: What a tool!

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Folks, let’s take a minute to talk about tools. For those of you who haven’t been reading this blog for long, I’ll tell you right up front that I’m not a tool snob. I don’t care if you have the fanciest equipment, or the latest doo-dad, or a drawer full of gadgets. If you don’t have a tart pan and want to use a plain old brownie pan or casserole dish or some thing you fashioned out of aluminum foil and cardboard, I will never tell you that’s wrong. Let’s face it, outfitting a kitchen can be expensive. I don’t have the best equipped kitchen, but over the years I’ve learned how to make what I do have work for me. If there’s one thing I don’t have that I deeply, intensely, desperately wish I did, it would be a stand mixer. Otherwise, I’m doing ok.

However… (You knew there had to be a however.)

There are some tools that are just imperatives for cooks, including our knives. Very little gets done in a kitchen without them. If we have a good, comfortable in our hand, sharp Chef’s knife, we can get a lot done. If I was going to add one more “must have” knife, I think it’d have to be a paring knife.

I’ve used a few of those over the years. Do these look familiar?

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I feel like everyone I knew growing up had three or four of these simple, little plastic handled paring knives in the drawer. These were the go to tool in our house for peeling potatoes and apples. In fact, I’d never even seen an actual peeler until I was in my late teens. I had no idea there was such a thing because any time something needed to be peeled, we’d just dig around in the drawer for one of these little babies. That sounds totally safe, yeah? Feeling around in a drawer for a knife… Genius!

Last year at the International Food Bloggers Conference, I met the lovely folks from Crisp. I had picked up the 4-in-1 zesting tool I told you about last September in the SWAG room, but the next day I got a closer look at the whole line of Crisp tools and I was intrigued. They sent me home with a paring knife to try out.

I’m going to try very hard not to sound like a commercial, here. It’s super important to me that you know that I will never, ever tell you that you must go out and buy something, or that the brand I use is the only brand in the world that will ever work. But, let me just say… I love this paring knife.


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I use it in class, at home, and at work all the time. If I had to choose between this little $12 knife and the semi-fancy looking one that came in the knife kit from school, I’d take this one every single time.

First of all, it stays sharp. That’s important. It might sound counter-intuitive, but you’re actually more likely to hurt yourself with a dull knife than a sharp one. Plus, see that little notch thing in the knife cover? That’s a built in sharpener, so if you need to sharpen your knife, it’s not a big ordeal. Just a few swipes through the sharpener and you’re back in business.

Second, it’s comfortable to use. Maybe at home you don’t really use any single tool long enough to experience hand and wrist fatigue. But, in a kitchen lab for four hours, or at work in a professional kitchen trimming 20 pounds of radishes, the tool in your hand becomes about more than just the job it’s doing. It has to be comfortable to hold or your hands and wrists are going to get tired and sore pretty quickly– another contributor to potential injury.

I’m telling you I like this tool because I use it almost daily so I know it’s good. I’m also telling you about this tool because it’s affordable, as are all the tools in the Crisp line. They also sent me the vegetable peeler and the bird’s beak paring knife to try, and I love them, too. I love them because they feel good, they work well, and they are something I feel comfortable telling my fellow students and you about because buying them will not break the bank. There’s not a single tool on the Crisp website over $20, and most of them are under $15.

And guess what? They were nice enough to send a paring knife along for one of you! I love that they were willing to do that for me, but truth be told I would have been willing to buy one to give away because I like this paring knife that much. And, well, I just love sharing finds like this with all of you. It makes me happy.

For a shot at your very own Crisp paring knife, all you need to do is answer this question in the comments:

What new kitchen skill or technique would you like to learn this year?

 

I’ll draw the winner next Wednesday and announce it in all the usual places. Good luck!

This giveaway is sponsored by Crisp™, but all opinions are my own. One winner will be selected at random and will be announced in another post and all applicable social media accounts on Wednesday, January 21, 2015 no later than 12pm MST. Winner will have 72 hours to respond to notification of win or the prize is forfeit and a new winner will be chosen. Prize will be sent via US Postal Service so you’ll need to provide your mailing address if you win. Please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery. Open to US residents only including APO & FPO addresses, must be 18 years or older to enter.