Friday, August 25, 2017

{REVIEW} Wegmans Shopping via Instacart

Disclaimer: All opinions are my own. Wegmans didn't compensate me for this review, or even know that I'm doing it. As home grocery delivery becomes the new "it" thing, I wanted to review this service since it's still relatively new compared to those that have been around for a while.

Wegmans has started rolling out delivery in certain areas via Instacart. Click here to check to see whether they're available in your area. Since this is a new service it isn't as widely available as other grocery delivery services. I was actually surprised it was available for me since the closest Wegmans is a good 30 minutes from my house. And, a friend who lives in the same town is not able to use the service yet despite being less than 5 miles away from me.

Getting started: First, you plug in your zip code to see whether the service is available where you live. Then they ask for your actual address to make sure delivery is available (see the note above about my friend). If delivery is available, you set up an account. You'll create a profile with your address, contact info., Shoppers Club Card and credit card for ordering.

Ordering: This took some getting used to, mainly because you have to be willing to hunt if the item you want in the size you want doesn't immediately appear when you search. Initially I thought I could only buy the cheddar cheese we like in a 2-lb brick. With a little searching I was able to find it in the usual 8-oz package. I'm sure now that I've done it once it won't be so difficult the next time.

Wegmans order

You can also create lists or add all the items from your last order to a new order.

Wegmans order

You can also leave comments/instructions on items. For produce I made specific requests on almost every item. I did the same for deli meat (I like it paper thin). You leave the note where it says "Add Note for Shopper":

Wegmans order

Price: There's a disclaimer that says prices are higher than in-store, but it was very negligible because my bill was on par with what we usually spend. I got free delivery on my first order (which is not nearly as nice as some other services that offer free delivery for up to 60 days) and $10 off with a coupon code. You can also link your Shoppers Club Card in your account to get their discounts automatically applied.

You can add a tip for your shopper before you pay. Note: they include a 10% service charge which you DO NOT need to accept. Just click "change" and waive that fee. That service charge is NOT the tip, which means it doesn't go to the shopper. We prefered to tip the shopper rather than give more money to Instacart, but that's up to each person to decide.

If we like the service we'll pay $149/year for unlimited delivery. This works out to less than $3/week, which is less than we'd spend on gas to get to the closest Wegmans. So that's a no-brainer right there.

Choosing a delivery time: They offer same-day delivery, sometimes within the hour, depending on availability. When I placed my order there were multiple one-hour time slots available. However, I assume weekends are their busy times so if you want Saturday delivery, I'd suggest ordering well in advance. They also charge a higher delivery fee (assuming you don't purchase their one-year plan) for busy times. I placed my order on Wednesday for Friday delivery. That way I had plenty of time to modify my order, if necessary. I always forget at least one thing, and I ended up adding three things to my order between Wednesday and Friday.
 
The app: I signed up for texts alerts if there were any changes to my order (i.e. something was out of stock). The app is very easy to use. I actually used it a few times before shopping began to add items I'd forgotten to include during my initial order. You can do that up until shopping begins.

Shopping: As Nicole, my shopper, was doing her thing I'd get texts alerts if an item had to be replaced. This happened 5 times for various things and only once did I request a refund vs. going with the alternative. When you get the text about the swap, you go into the app and either approve the substitution, look for other options or request a refund. Easy peasy.

Wegmans

Delivery: I got another text, and an estimated arrival time, once Nicole was on her way to my house. She arrived about 10 minutes ahead of schedule.

Packaging: All the items are in the same disposable plastic bags you'd get if you were shopping yourself, which is nice. We reuse those bags, or they can be recycled. I do wish there was some way to give them our reusable bags, or pay a bit extra to use theirs.

Wegmans order

Quality: We did have some minor issues. I asked for large onions and the ones in the bag are what I received (the onions we normally buy are on the left for size comparison). I guess I need to be very specific next time. We also ended up with a half gallon of milk when I ordered a quart, but that's not a huge deal. The red grapes were not the healthiest looking grapes I've ever seen, but they'll do. Otherwise, everything was pretty much what Steve would have chosen if he'd been the one doing the shopping.

Wegmans order

Verdict: All in all we were thrilled to have someone else spend the time doing the shopping and deliver the items straight to our house. Two thumbs WAY up.
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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Curry Rice with Shrimp and Peas

I'm a big believer in meal planning. I started back in 2005 when we were saving for our first house. We had a weekly food budget of $50 (!!) and actually brought a calculator to the supermarket, wrote down prices as we shopped, added up the total before we went to the register and put items back if we went over our budget. We also stopped eating out altogether.

I quickly realized that the only way to make this method work was to decide ahead of time what we'd be eating for the week and use those recipes to make our shopping list. I can honestly say I have no clue what we did for dinner from 2002 (when we started living together) to 2005 (when I started meal planning). How did we decide what to eat? How did we grocery shop? It's a total mystery.

Even though some weeks I have zero inspiration and every recipe in my massive collection sounds meh, I will never give up meal planning. Not only does it save money, we waste less. At the end of the week our fridge is mostly empty. That's such a source of pride for me, being able to use everything we buy. And I also love knowing ahead of time what we'll be eating on any given day. It takes all the guesswork and stress out of dinnertime. Sure, there are times when a recipe flops and we order pizza, or life gets in the way and we have to switch days around, but I'd say 95% of the time it works.

So what does that have to do with this recipe. Since my friend Nicole posted this recipe for Spiced Chicken and Rice I've looked at it countless times as I'm sifting through my recipes for inspiration for the coming week. I actually had it as a tentative plan a number of times but it always got pushed back for some reason. This week we had a bunch of meals involving chicken in our plans, so Steve suggested I swap the chicken for shrimp. What can I say, the man is brilliant.

Curry shrimp and rice

I had to modify the recipe a smidge to keep the shrimp from overcooking, but the flavor profile is the same. Steve and I had chopped cashews on top but I obviously left those off Katie's serving. We absolutely loved the subtle spiciness from the curry powder, the crunch of the cashews, the vibrant notes of lemon and cilantro and the perfectly-cooked shrimp. Next time I'll up the amount of rice since this didn't yield much in the way of leftovers.

Curry Rice with Shrimp and Peas
Modified from PreventionRD

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lbs shrimp, peeled, deveined, cut into bite-sized pieces
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups uncooked long-grain rice
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1/2 cup cilantro, minced
1/2 cup cashews, coarsely chopped

In a large, deep skillet with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the diced shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Cook until just pink. Transfer to a plate using a slotted spoon.

Add the ginger and curry powder to the skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the broth and scrape all the ginger and curry from the bottom, incorporating well. Bring to a boil.

Add the rice, lemon juice and zest to the skillet. Return to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and mix in the peas and reserved shrimp. Cover and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed. Sprinkle with the cilantro and cashews and serve hot.
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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Zucchini Corn Pizza

I'm mourning summer as we enter the second half of August and begin the slow slide into fall and winter. This was a pretty lackluster summer weather-wise. More cool, rainy days than warm, sunny ones. Less pool time than I'd like. This seems to happen every few years, unfortunately.

One good thing to come out of the cooler weather was this Zucchini Corn Pizza. Holy guacamole. A local pizza joint serves a similar pie - roasted zucchini, roasted sweet corn, poblano sour cream, hot pepper flakes, salt, pepper, olive oil, mozzarella - that we love so I wanted to try making it at home.

Zucchini corn pizza

Even Katie, who's not the biggest zucchini fan, loved this. If you've got a bumper crop of zucchini in your garden this is a great way to use up at least one.

Zucchini Corn Pizza
As seen on Damn Delicious

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds
1/2 cup corn kernels (fresh, frozen, or canned)
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 ball pizza dough
8-oz shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup ricotta cheese
fresh chives, snipped
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

Place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 500 degrees.

Melt oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the zucchini, corn and Italian seasoning. Cook, stirring occasionally, until zucchini are tender, about 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Lay a piece of parchment paper the size of the pizza stone on a work surface. Dust lightly with flour and roll out the pizza dough into a 12- to 14-inch circle. Top with the mozzarella and zucchini mixture. Add dollops of ricotta and spread them out a bit.

Transfer the pizza on the parchment paper to the pizza stone. Bake for 10-15 minutes, checking often to make sure the cheese is melting and browning. Remove the pizza from the oven and allow it to rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve garnished with chives and red pepper flakes, if desired.
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Monday, August 07, 2017

Cheesy Tomato Biscuit Casserole

I don't know about you but I get in such a rut with side dishes. Most of the time it's because I'm feeling uninspired or lazy and the same old same old is easy to throw together. I'm happy to report that I branched out this weekend and now I have a new, amazing side dish to add to my repertoire. And, bonus, it reheats well (if you have any leftovers that is).

Cheesy tomato biscuit casserole

My friend Amy posted this Cheesy Tomato Biscuit Casserole months ago, but I've been waiting until the height of tomato season to make it. While you can get tomatoes year-round, the ones we're enjoying right now are insane. I don't know if it's just a good year for tomatoes or what, but damn. I feel like I need to eat. all. the. tomatoes. every. day. So, so good.

As I was typing up this post I realized I forgot the onion in the original recipe. Oops! Since we thought it was amazing without it - and, bonus, if you skip that step you have one less pan to clean - I'm leaving it out. I also opted to add fresh chopped basil once this came out of the oven, mainly because my basil plant is out of control right now and because tomatoes and basil are so good together. Totally your call. Also, use way more tomato than you think you need. Tomatoes have a lot of water in them so they'll shrink as they cook.

Hurry up and make this simple and delicious side dish now. You won't be sorry!

Cheesy Tomato Biscuit Casserole
Slightly modified from BellyFull

1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 container (16 ounce) Pillsbury Grands Buttermilk Biscuits
4 tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices
paprika
fresh basil, chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 9x13 casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine the sour cream, mayonnaise, cheese, salt, pepper, oregano and garlic powder in a small bowl. Set aside.

Press the biscuits into the casserole dish, pinching the seams together so they cover the bottom of the pan and pushing the dough slightly up the sides. The dough will be thin.

Arrange the tomato slices on top of the biscuits, overlapping to fit as many slices as you can. Spread the cheese mixture over the top then sprinkle with a little paprika.

Bake for 25-27 minutes until the dough is cooked through and the cheese mixture is browning and bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes, then top with chopped basil and cut into slices.

To reheat leftovers: Preheat a toaster oven to 350 degrees. Spray some foil with non-stick cooking spray and place a slice of the casserole on top. Heat in the toaster oven, being careful not to burn the edges of the crust, for about 5-10 minutes depending on your toaster.
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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Smoked Salmon Pizza

I'm not sure how or when I came across this recipe for Smoked Salmon Pizza, but every time I looked through my huge stack of printed recipes I'd see it. While we're on the subject, yes I print recipes I want to make because I like having a hard copy in front of me while I'm cooking so I can make notes. And yes, I desperately need a better filing system than stuffing the pile of papers into a reusable grocery bag.

Ahem.

Smoked salmon pizza

I've been eyeing up this recipe for a while but I could never find a good time to make it. Then our friends invited us over for brunch and I finally got a chance to try it. As an aside, I love that my friend didn't blink when I asked if I could use her kitchen, or when I busted out my pizza stone, parchment paper and all the various toppings I'd put in individual containers.

This was a cinch to make and I loved the crispy pizza crust with the luscious smoked salmon, salty capers and the tang of the red onion. Next time I think I'll swap the sour cream (which I subbed for crème fraiche) for cream cheese to make it more like a bagel, while also adding some of the same seasonings found on my favorite bagel of all time, the everything bagel. I hear Trader Joes makes an everything bagel seasoning blend. I really need to get my hands on some of that!

Our Best Ever Smoked Salmon Pizza
Modified from Spoon, Fork, Bacon

1/2 a ball of pizza dough (homemade or store bought)
Olive oil
1/2 cup cream cheese, sour cream or crème fraiche
4oz sliced smoked salmon or lox
Thinly sliced tomato
Thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup capers, drained
1/2 cup baby arugula
Lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
Dried dill

Preheat the oven to 425°F with a pizza stone on the center rack.

Roll out the dough on a piece of parchment paper dusted with flour. Pierce the surface all over with a fork and brush with small amount olive oil. Remove the pizza stone from the oven and transfer the parchment paper to the stone. If you have a pizza peel (I really need to get one of these) just put the pizza dough directly on the heated stone.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and crisp. Remove from oven and allow crust to cool a bit before adding the toppings.

Spread the cream cheese/sour cream/crème fraiche on the crust and top with pieces of the salmon and tomato. Sprinkle on the red onions and capers. Toss the arugula with some lemon juice, salt and pepper and add that to the pizza. Add a sprinkling of dill, cut into wedges and serve.
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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Philly Cheesesteak One Pot Pasta

I grew up, and still live, about 45 minutes outside of Philly so I know a thing or two about cheesesteaks. And I'm sure purists would balk at one of the most popular posts on my blog, these Philly Cheesesteak Sloppy Joes that I adapted from Rachael Ray, as well as this amazing one pot recipe for Philly Cheesesteak One Pot Pasta. That's their loss. All the busy parents I know love having one post pasta recipes in their back pocket for those busy weeknights and this one is a real winner.

Philly cheesesteak pasta

I made a few slight modifications from my friend Melissa's take on the recipe - I added flour to tighten up the sauce and swapped the cheese because I'm just not a huge fan of provolone when it's the only cheese. I also left off the parsley.

There's not much more to say except we'll be enjoying this one often.

Philly Cheesesteak One Pot Pasta
Slightly Modified from Hunt, Cook, Eat

1 pound ground beef
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
12 ounces button mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 quart beef or chicken broth
8oz elbow macaroni
4oz provolone cheese, shredded (or 3oz cheddar plus 1oz American cheeses, shredded)

Heat a large, deep skillet with a tight-fitting lid over medium high heat. Add the ground beef and cook until a brown crust starts to form before breaking the beef apart with the back of a wooden spoon.

Add the onions, green pepper and mushrooms. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft and the mushrooms have released their liquid. Add the flour and stir to incorporate it.

Add the broth, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt and black pepper and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then add the macaroni. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes or until noodles are just barely al dente, stirring once halfway through to make sure the pasta isn't sticking.

Remove the lid, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for another 5 minutes to thicken. Turn off the heat, then add the cheese. Stir until all the cheese melts. Let sit for another few minutes, then serve.
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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

{Product Review} Chef Remi Cheese Grater

The nice folks over at Chef Remi recently contacted me about doing some product reviews. I love kitchen tools so I was quite excited to receive the Chef Remi Cheese Grater. According to the product page:
  • It grates both hard and soft cheese such as Parmesan, Cheddar, Monterey Jack, and more.
  • You can also use the grater for vegetables like cucumber, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, onion, potato, and zucchini.
  • Or use the fine blades as a zester for oranges or lemons, as well as coconut, chocolate, nuts, ginger, garlic, and other spices.
Chef Remi cheese grater

I was very excited to give it a try with mozzarella cheese. I grate a lot of mozzarella cheese, especially in the cooler months when I make homemade pizza every Friday. The nonslip surface, and the fact that I can hold the grater flat while grating the cheese were huge selling points for me. I hate my old box grater that would always slip because you had to hold it vertically.

Chef Remi cheese grater

Grating the mozzarella was pretty easy. The surface area of the grater is not quite as large as I'd like - a few pieces of cheese made a break for it off the sides - but I absolutely loved how sturdy it was on my prep table.

Chef Remi cheese grater

So far I've only tried grating mozzarella, which can be a little flaky:

Chef Remi cheese grater

I'd recommend having a small bowl nearby, or grating on top of a clean surface, so you can use any cheese that ends up on top of the grater. 

Chef Remi cheese grater

Most of the cheese did end up in the container base, that comes with a snap-on lid. I grated this cheese yesterday for tonight's dinner. The whole thing is dishwasher safe, too, which I'm sure is great for people with a functioning dishwasher (I'm, sadly, not one of them).

Overall I'm very happy with this grater. And you can't beat the price, which is currently $10! They're also offering 15% off your order right now and they always offer free shipping (woohoo!).

Disclaimer: Chef Remi sent me the cheese grater to try at no cost, but all opinions are my own.
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