Mac and Cheese, Please!

The frozen meal industry is huge, with hundreds of types to choose from in every supermarket. The history of frozen food and the “TV dinner” is quite extensive. No one really knows who deserves the credit for coming up with the concept, but one company, Swanson, was the first to be successful with their frozen “Thanksgiving Dinner.” Clarence Birdseye deserves credit for developing the system for packing and “flash-freezing” food at its peak freshness. Swanson then used Birdseye’s system and combined it with the idea of compartmentalized meals and BOOM, the frozen entrée was born! One of the most popular frozen meals today is the always delicious, mac n’ cheese. We chose three brands to taste and below you can read our honest review with a brief history of each.

Stouffer’s
The first Stouffer’s restaurant named “Stouffer Lunch” was opened in Cleveland in 1924. Over time, the company continued to expand and the Stouffer’s restaurants served over 14 million meals a year while they began creating frozen entrées. Then in 1973, Stouffer’s was acquired by Nestlé and 8 years later, a new line of entrées called “Lean Cuisine” was released. By 1990 the Stouffer’s name was on 68 restaurants and 40 major resorts and hotels. However, in 1992 the businesses were all sold off to focus solely on frozen meals.

Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars

It was the consensus that Stouffer’s has the sharpest and cheesiest flavor of the three brands. The texture of the sauce is a bit gritty especially as the sauce cools, but the noodles were the softest. There is an adequate amount of sauce for the macaroni pasta. It isn’t as smooth as the others, but it is thicker and still very creamy.

Amy’s
Amy’s began in the small kitchen of Andy and Rachel Berliner’s when they were unable to find a premade organic, vegetarian meal that they liked. They began making pot pies to sell locally and at that time they had no idea how big the business would become. As things began to pick up, letters of thanks and requests for new recipes came pouring in. After much deliberation, it was decided that the company would be named after their daughter, Amy, born the same year. Business continued to boom and today, Amy’s continues to provide organic, vegetarian, non-GMO food that is handmade with the freshest ingredients. They offer hundreds of meal options including several for those with gluten and dairy dietary restrictions.

Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars

Amy’s definitely has the smoothest sauce, which floods the harder, chewier texture of the classic macaroni pasta. The sauce has a runnier consistency than the other two brands, but it adds a certain decadent creaminess. The flavor is milder than that of Stouffer’s, but it is still easy to pick out the sharpness of the cheese.

365 Brand
365 is Whole Food’s “Everyday Value Brand” known for being a great product and a high value for the price. The original Whole Foods Market was opened in 1980 with the goal of providing natural foods in the format of a supermarket. Since then the company has continued to grow and has acquired or merged with multiple companies. In 2016, they began opening their new store concept by the name of 365 by Whole Foods Market. This “smaller-store concept offers healthy, high-quality food at great prices.”

Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars

The 365 brand has the most unique flavor, though it wasn’t the cheesiest. It has more a of “spiced or peppery” taste and is much milder than the others. It also lacked in creaminess with a want for more sauce to go with the larger, shell-like pasta. The noodles have a good texture with not being too soft or chewy – somewhat in the middle of the Stouffer’s and Amy’s brands.

Take the Pressure Off of Cooking with an Instant Pot!

The Instant Pot is revolutionizing the way that people cook by taking all of the hard work out of the process. By combining multiple appliances into one, the possibilities are endless!

The most advanced Instant Pot has the functions of a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, cake maker, yogurt maker, sauté pan, steamer, warmer and sterilizer. This smart, safe and dependable electric pressure cooker is putting dinner on the table two to six times faster than conventional cooking. This makes the Instant Pot ideal for busy households in today’s fast-paced world.

Almost anything you can think of can me prepared using this one easy-to-use device, which in return saves you time and energy. Dishes like stews, pot roasts and chilis that originally took an entire day to prepare can be done in as little as an hour! Other foods like fresh or frozen vegetables can be soft and ready-to-eat in just two to three minutes.

You can even bake your favorite cake without using your oven. If you are on the fence and need more convincing, go online and research all of the different delicious dishes you can whip up in fraction of the time. Now that summer is here, there will be many parties and events that require you to bring a side dish. Try out the recipe below for an easy Instat Pot potato salad recipe that you can bring to your next outdoor barbecue!

 

Quick Potato Salad in the Pressure Cooker:

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium russet potatoes, peeled & cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 Tbsp dill pickle juice
  • 1 Tbsp mustard
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Put the steamer basket in the pressure cooker pot. Add the water, potatoes, and the eggs. Lock lid in place, select High Pressure, 4 minutes cook time and press start.
  2. When timer beeps, turn off pressure cooker and do a quick pressure release. When the pressure is released, carefully remove the lid. Remove the steamer basket from the pressure cooking pot. Put eggs into ice cold water to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the onion, mayo, parsley, pickle juice, and mustard. Add cooled potatoes and gently mix the mayonnaise mixture into the potatoes. Peel and dice three of the cooled eggs and stir into potato salad. Add salt and pepper to taste. If needed, add more mayo to achieve desired consistency.
  4. Chill at least one hour before serving. Top with slices of remaining egg.

Visit https://recipes.instantpot.com/ for more delicious recipes!

How to Build the Perfect Charcuterie Board

Charcuterie is a French term that loosely translates to “pork butcher’s shop and delicatessan (deli).” the name was originally used to designate shops in the fifteenth-century France that sold pork products. Today, Charcuterie has become somewhat of an artform and is highly regarded in the culinary world.

There are many ways to build a Charcuterie board, but most commonly they consist of different types of meats, cheeses, olives, fruit, bread and crackers, nuts and a spread or two. With growing popularity, it is now becoming a common item on restaurant menus and is the perfect solution for feeding a group of people. Here are some tips for making the perfect Charcuterie board!

First, find a large wooden cutting board or serving platter to use for your arrangement. Then begin thinking about the different colors and textures you’d like to incorporate to create a great sensory experience. Don’t be afraid to stack – the board should look full!

Meats: When deciding the amount you will need, estimate about three to four slices per person. Be sure to include a variety of flavors and textures. (Suggestions: Salami, Prosciutto, Ham or Summer Sausage)

Cheese: You should estimate about one to two ounces of cheese per person and be sure to offer a variety of both hard and soft cheeses with varying sharpness. (suggestions: Sharp Cheddar, Brie, Muenster, Swiss or Gouda)

Bread and Crackers: It’s important to have a good variety of bread and crackers to pair with the salty meats. (Suggestions: Light & Buttery Crackers, Grain Crackers, Sliced French Baguette or Sliced Dark Rye Bread)

Fruit and Nuts: Have a selection of both fresh and dried fruits for a variety of textures and colors. Choose any variety of nuts, but they should be salted and shelled. (Suggestions: Fresh Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries or even Grape Tomatoes, Dried Apricots and Apples, Cashews, Almonds and Pistachios)

Pickles, Olives and Spreads: A great way to add more variety to your board is to fill small bowls with various dips/spreads, pickles or olives. (Suggestions: Black Olives, Kalamata Olives, Dill or Sweet Pickles, Spinach Dip, Aioli or Mustard)

http://www.spendwithpennies.com/how-to-make-a-charcuterie-board/

Grocery Delivery Service

It’s a very popular service that is now available almost everywhere and makes buying groceries a whole lot simpler. Retail giants like Google, Amazon and even your local grocery stores are offering this convenience. Yep, you guessed it, grocery delivery is an up and coming luxury that is quickly becoming the norm.

Google Express is the new way to shop online at all your favorite stores at the same time. With nearly 40 stores to choose from, including Walmart, Target and Costco, there’s hardly a reason to make a trip to the store. Free two-day delivery is available on orders over $25-$35 depending on the store. No membership is required to shop with Google Express. You simply add items from your favorite stores to your cart and pay for everything at once in a single transaction. If you have Google Home device, you can add items to your list with voice command.

For another added convenience you can download the app and add things to your cart on the go. This service is great for ordering all of your household products and non-perishable food items.

Amazon is also getting in on the grocery delivery business, but currently only offers the service in select cities. Amazon Prime Fresh is available for $14.99 a month, which is charged separately from the Amazon Prime cost of $99 a year. Non-Amazon Prime members are able to try both services for free with a 30-day trial. Amazon uses your preferred method of payment for all items. You can shop Amazon for specific products or shop directly from Whole Foods Market. Orders below $50 will have an added $9.99 delivery fee, but for all orders above $50 delivery is free. In eligible cities, this service is an added convenience for Amazon lovers, having almost anything you could want at your fingertips and making trips to the store a thing of the past.

In addition to services like Google Express and Amazon Prime Fresh, many local grocery stores have also jumped on the delivery train. If you visit your favorite local grocer’s website, you will be able to shop online and have your groceries delivered to you on the same day.

Most stores will offer discounts like money off or free delivery on your first order. It’s common for stores to add on a small delivery fee, but the time saved and added convenience of shopping from home really makes the small extra cost worth it.

Fitness: Tips To Start The New Year Off Right!

Many people start the new year off with a resolution to become healthier, lose weight, exercise more, etc. However, close to 60% of those individuals start off great, but eventually fall off the wagon. A common mistake that people make is trying to do too many things at one time instead of making obtainable goals. Here are some tips to help you set up realistic goals and keep your resolution.


What is the motivation behind your weight loss or healthy resolution? Do you want to feel better, do you want your clothes to fit a little looser or do you want to have more energy? Take a minute to figure out the main reason behind your end goal and prepare a plan.

Instead of jumping into all the changes at once, make it easier on yourself and make one change at a time. If your end goal is to cut out high-carb foods and work out three to four times a week, then begin by slowly taking away the foods you want to avoid and add in more of the foods you need, like protein and vegetables. Set a goal to work out once or twice a week to start and gradually add in more days.

Goals are an easy way to know where you’re going and how to get there. SMART goals will help you narrow down your plan and simplify your strategies. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. For example, “I will work out for 30 minutes twice this week and pack a lunch to take to work every day.”

Tracking what you eat on a daily basis can be a great way to help you gradually make better choices when it comes to food. Being aware of the food you eat can help you to control portions and calories. It can be shocking to see what some of our favorite foods consist of. As you start replacing some of your foods, eating more vegetables is a great way to get many of the nutrients your body needs. Filling up with veggies cuts down your calorie intake and also makes you feel full.

Breakfast is indeed the most important meal of the day, it’s not just a saying. Eating a large healthy breakfast early in the morning will help you stay full longer, give you more energy throughout the day, and it will influence you to make healthier food choices.

https://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/10-tips-to-help-you-achieve-your-new-years-health-goals.html

Friendsgiving

A new trend that has been sweeping the nation is now giving us yet another reason to be excited for the start of the holiday season. Have you ever heard of Friendsgiving?

If not, it’s basically a second Thanksgiving that you celebrate with your closest friends. This popular event is most commonly held sometime at the beginning of November or just after traditional Thanksgiving, allowing for the actual day to be spent with family. No one is quite sure where it started or who exactly coined the term, but more and more people are making this new tradition a part of their yearly celebrations.

If you’re thinking about hosting your own Friendsgiving this year, here are some tips to help make sure everything runs as smooth as mashed potatoes.
The first step is to collect RSVPs and create a sign-up sheet to ensure that all the food bases are covered (but let’s be honest, there’s no such thing as too many potatoes). As for you, the host, it is your job to provide the star of the meal, the turkey (and/ or ham). The rule of thumb for the turkey is to estimate about a pound of turkey per person or a pound and a half if you want leftovers.

Next, while your guests are calling dibs on making their favorite dishes, you should make sure that you have enough place settings for everyone. Yes, paper plates and plastic utensils are easier, but Friendsgiving is a great time for you to impress your friends with your hosting skills. Check out your local thrift shops or stores like At Home for inexpensive plates and utensils.

Remember, when your friends offer their help, take them up on it; more than likely you’ll need an extra table and some chairs. Survey your space and come up with a layout that will work best.You may also want to request that your guest bring one or two decorations to create a festive atmosphere.

Lastly, and most importantly, be creative! The quirkier your Friendsgiving is, the better! Your goal is to create new traditions and experiences that will continue and people will remember for years to come!

Recipe: No Bake Strawberry Pie Bites

Ingredients:
1.5 lbs fresh strawberries (diced)
Juice of half a lemon
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 or 2 boxes mini phyllo shells
Whipped cream

Preparation:
1. In a medium sized saucepan add the diced strawberries, reserving 1 cup.
2. Mash the berries with a potato masher until desired consistency is reached.
3. Add the lemon juice, water, sugar, cornstarch, and salt.
4. Stir the mixture together until the cornstarch is completely incorporated.
5. Turn the stove to medium heat, cooking and stirring the berry mixture until it thickens, about 8 minutes.
6. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the extracts.
7. Cool the mixture completely, then cover and refrigerate until cold.
8. Once the mixture is cold, stir in the remaining cup of diced strawberries.
9. Just before serving, fill each mini phyllo shell with a spoonful of the strawberry mixture and top with whipped cream.

No Bake Strawberry Pie Bites