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MunchPak Subscription Box {Review}

{Sponsored post – As usual all opinions are my own.  This post contains affiliate links.  Thank you for helping to support NY Foodie Family!}

Subscription boxes continue to be very popular, because who doesn’t like receiving a mystery box of fun each month? If you are an adventurous snack eater and want to try snacks from around the world, then MunchPak is for you!  The MunchPak snack subscription is easy to customize.  You choose how often you want to receive a new box (weekly, every two weeks or monthly) and how many snacks you want in each box (5+, 10+ or 20+).  The company realizes that some of their customers may have either food allergies or a strong preference in snack choices. There is an a la carte menu of 15 choices priced at an additional $1 each so you can ensure you receive only specific snacks.   Drink options are also available as an add-on to the box (tea, coffee, soda, juice, energy drink or water) for $5/each.  Yes, you have to be careful or the price can really add up quickly!  However, a basic, 5+ snacks box delivered once a month can cost as little as $9.95/month if you prepay for 12 months.  If you choose to subscribe month-to-month, it will cost $12.95/month.  Even better, NY Foodie Family readers can click here to receive 40% off your first delivery!

There’s no set theme to the snacks you receive in your MunchPak box.  Each box includes a variety of full-size snacks and treats from different countries.  Unfortunately, there’s no information card included to tell you about the snacks you just received.  However, you can download the Snack Scanner app and scan each snack’s barcode to find out what country it is from. You can also find out more info on the MunchPak site by searching in the “Our Shop” section.

We recently received a snack box for review.  It has been almost two years since we last tried MunchPak, so we were excited to see what we’d receive in the box.  Our 10+ box included the following eleven snacks and drink:

Draze Apacz Pomaranczowe – (Poland – candy) These candy balls had the flavor of an orange creamsicle.  They were crunchy on the outside but grainy on the inside.  We found them to be overly sweet.

Jacquet Bakery French Crepes (France – cookie) – These crepes are made in France but Jacquet Bakery has had a US prescence since 2013.  We received a 1.1 oz single crepe with chocolate filling, however the crepes are also sold with a strawberry filling or plain.  There are no artificial ingredients or preservatives in the crepes and they can be warmed up or eaten as is.  Since we were traveling in the car, we ate it as is.  We found the crepe to be very dry and the filling too sweet.

Au’some Chewy Bites – (China – candy) These chewy bites are small and pebble-shaped with a sweet taste.  The texture reminded us of the inside of a jelly bean.  Although we received strawberry flavored bites, we thought they tasted more like grape.  These are available in pineapple flavor as well.

Cookania Nutsy – (Pakistan – cookie) The description on the package describes these as “real peanut pistachio cookies.” There were three, small cookies in the package. We found them to be very dry and crumbly but liked that there were actual pieces of pistachio in the cookies.

Hanuta Haselnuss-Schnitte – (Germany – cookie) These cookies are made by Ferrero.  The package contained two square cookies, each encased in its own little tray.  Each consists of a thick chocolate, hazelnut filling sandwiched between two wafers.  These were really tasty!

Mieszko Zozole Musss – (Poland – candy)  This was such a fun bag of candy.  The bag contained approximately 15 pieces of individually wrapped lemon and orange flavored candy, although there was only one orange candy in the bag.  These were hard candies that had a fizzy, liquid center.  They were very different from anything that we have had before.

Doritos Pizzerola – (Mexico – chip) This bag of Mexican, pizza flavored Doritos did not last long.  These had a pizza flavor with a slightly bitter after taste.

Bebeto Laces – (Turkey – candy) These are raspberry and tangerine flavored candy strings with a sugar coating.  They had a sweet and sour gummy flavor that reminded us of Sour Patch Kids.

Goralki Nougat Wafers (Poland – candy) This is a candy bar consisting of layers of nougat flavored wafers encased in chocolate.

Stark Smoki (Serbia – chips) This snack has the looks and texture of a cheese doodle.  However, it has a slightly salty peanut flavor.

Mommy’s Palms Waffles Dulce de Leche flavor (Russia – cookies)  -These are stroopwafels, two thin waffle cookies with a thin layer of caramel between them.  The package contains six large cookies.  These had a taste that reminded us of a Girl Scout Samoa cookie without the chocolate.  You can warm these up in the microwave for a few seconds.  But they were super tasty as is.

Oshee Kombucha Drink (Poland – drink) My husband is the only kombucha drinker in our house so this drink was all his!  When I poured it into the glass it was fizzy.  I took a tiny sip and found the drink to be really sweet.  My husband didn’t taste any kombucha flavor.  He said it reminded him of a Redbull and if he hadn’t seen the can, that’s what he thought he was drinking.

As you can see, the MunchPak box includes different types of snacks including cookies, candy and chips from many different countries. While we didn’t enjoy all the snacks that came in the box, we always like giving them a try.  If you really enjoy a snack from your box you can visit the “Our Shop” section on the website and order some more!

If you are interested in trying out MunchPak, new customers can receive 40% off your first delivery through the end of September.  That $12.95 box can cost less than $8 or maybe try a 10+ snack item box for less than $14.  Take advantage of this great bargain to try out some fun snacks!

Have you ever tried MunchPak?

 

 

 

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Back-to-School Snacks From Hain Celestial

{Sponsored post – all opinions are my own}

September is fast approaching and for those of us in New York state, that means the new school year will soon begin. This also means it’s back to packing school lunches. My kids hate when I give them the same thing to eat every day, so I’m always on the lookout for new snack options.  Hain Celestial kindly sent me a sample of some of their products which will make great back-to-school snacks for the kids!

Hain Celestial is headquartered in Lake Success, New York.  Celestial Seasonings, alba Botanica, Earth’s Best Organic, Garden of Eatin, Ella’s Kitchen, Soy Dream and Terra are only a sample of the companies that Hain Celestial markets, manufactures and sells. The company, founded in 1993, aims to, “make it easier for people around the world to adopt healthier lifestyles through foods they eat and the personal care products they use.” They use responsibly sourced ingredients and are mindful of their environmental footprint.  Basically, you can feel good about using their products.

Here is a review of some of the snacks that we sampled:

Garden of Eatin’ Organic Tortilla Chips – These tortilla chips are made from organic corn.  I find them to be thicker and denser than other tortilla chips on the market.  We tried both the nacho and ranch flavors of these chips. The nacho chips have a light cheese flavor.  We found the ranch chips to be more flavorful, but beware, they had a strong garlic flavor.  Be sure to have some mints ready after eating these!

Sensible Portions Stacked Veggie Chips – While our family is familiar with veggie straws (see below), we had never seen veggie chips before! These are stackable chips made with a combination of potatoes and vegetables.  We tried the sour cream & onion variety and liked them.  The chips are crispy with a light, sour cream flavor.  Other flavors available include BBQ, Sea Salt, Cheddar Cheese and Sea Salt & Vinegar.

Sensible Portions Garden Veggie Straws – My children are no stranger to veggie straws.  However, we had never seen flavored ones before.  They were excited to try these cheddar cheese flavored straws as well as ranch and sea salt.  We have found new flavors to incorporate into our veggie straw snack rotation!

Terra Plantain Chips –  I was already familiar with Terra and love the brand’s vegetable chips.   My kids are familiar with plantains and have had tostones and sweet plantains.  Although I’ve had plantain chips in the past, I had never tried the Terra brand.  After trying these, my daughter’s exact words were, “I’m addicted to these!”  These chips are small and bite-sized.  They are thinner than other plantain chips that I’ve tried but still tasty.

Thank you Hain Celestial for introducing our family to so many new items to add to our back-to-school snack rotation!

What are some of your favorite school snacks?

CSA Alternatives

It’s March.  Some parts of the country are still getting snow.  But, if you are thinking of joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), now is the time.  While thoughts of warm weather and juicy, sun-ripened tomatoes are at the back of our minds, local farmers are getting ready to start planting.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  By joining a CSA you are purchasing shares of vegetables and produce from a local farm.  When joining a CSA you pay upfront for a certain number of weeks (usually about 20 weeks from June – October) of produce.  While the price can be daunting, (approximately $600-$700 for the season) many farms provide payment plans to help ease the cost.  Each week you pick up your share of locally grown produce.  Most farm CSAs include only veggies.  However, other goodies like fruit, eggs, cheese, syrup and more can be added at an additional charge.

Joining a CSA has many benefits.  Since a CSA is provided by a local farm you are supporting local agriculture.  You are getting fresh produce, every week for a set number of weeks, the quality of which is far superior to anything found on a grocery shelf.  You also get to try new vegetables and/or experience different varieties of familiar favorites.

Last summer my family joined a CSA for the first time.  We experienced all of the benefits listed above and were introduced to new vegetables like mizuna and buttercup squash.  We joined a CSA that offered choices in the veggies we received each week.  For example, one week we could choose a bunch of swiss chard or kale and mix and match 2 pounds of several different varieties of peppers and/or eggplant.  It was fun taking the kids with me each week and having them see and help choose the vegetables.

However, this year we aren’t joining a CSA.  We plan on traveling a lot this summer.  Unfortunately, the CSA that we joined last year was for 20 weeks with a specific day and set times for pick-up.  We would end up missing too many weeks to make it monetarily worth it for us.  However, I still would like fresh, local veggies when we are home.  There is nothing better than a ripe tomato in the summer.  Add a slice of fresh mozzarella, some fresh basil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar or olive oil and I’m in heaven!

So what are are some CSA alternatives?

Take a trip the Farmer’s Market

Many towns have a local farmer’s market.  It’s nice to wake up early on the weekend and stroll the various stands.   Farmer’s markets differ in number and types of vendors, so you may have to check out a couple before you find a favorite.  A benefit of farmer’s markets is that you can also pick up bread, cheese, eggs and even sometimes meat, jam, pickles or honey.  You are also able to talk with workers who may have helped plant and pick the lettuce you are buying!  Another benefit of visiting the farmer’s market is that you can see the produce and purchase the quantity and type of veggies that you want.

 

 Join a Local Produce Delivery Service

Field Goods is a year-round local produce delivery service that delivers to many areas of the northeast United States.  It’s a subscription service with four different size bags to choose from.  You choose a delivery location convenient to you and the produce bags are delivered there weekly for you to pick up.  They even deliver to workplaces, if enough employees sign up for delivery.  You can put your subscription on hold and restart any time.  The produce bags include both fruit and veggies and they also offer add-on items including artisan breads and dairy products.  Some other produce delivery services include Farmbox Direct, Hungry Harvest and Farm Fresh to You.  Do a quick Google search for “produce delivery” + your town or state and you will likely find several different options.  Almost all of these services work similarly to Field Goods.

Plant a Garden

If you have the time and space try planting a garden!  While this option requires a lot more work on your end, it is much more cost effective.  You can either start plants from seeds or buy starter plants from your local nursery or even Home Depot or Walmart.  We have a super tiny backyard with very little direct sunlight, so unfortunately planting a garden isn’t a viable option for us.  However, we do try to do some container gardening on our deck and grow herbs and tomato plants.

Are you joining a CSA this year?  Or are you choosing a CSA alternative?

 

Dinner Thyme Meal Delivery Service {Review}

I received product samples to facilitate this review.  However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

I was very excited when Dinner Thyme reached out to me and asked if I’d like to try their meal delivery service.  As a reader of the blog, you know that cooking dinner for my family every night is important to me.  When searching for recipes to make, quick and easy are my top priorities.  If you’ve tried other meal delivery services before, you know that although all the ingredients are delivered to you, you still end up cooking the recipe, which often takes at least 30-45 minutes to do.  Dinner Thyme is different from most other meal delivery services in that each meal can be cooked in approximately 10-15 minutes!

Most entrees cost $11.95 – $12.95 per serving.  One of the benefits of Dinner Thyme is that you can choose exactly which menu items you’d like and select the number of portions of each item that you want.  This is great for example if you want a home cooked meal but you know your spouse is going to be away.  You can peruse the menu and pick one portion of a meal that you’d like that maybe he or she probably wouldn’t enjoy.  Then you can pick two portions of another dish that you both like that you can cook another evening. Or, if you are inexperienced in the kitchen but want to impress your significant other with a home-cooked meal, Dinner Thyme is perfect!  Easy to follow directions are provided with quick cooking times!

If you’re looking for something sweet to end your meal with, Dinner Thyme also has dessert add-on options each week.  From cookies for $1.65 to a cheesecake for $3.95 a slice, there are four dessert offerings.

So how exactly does the Dinner Thyme meal delivery work?

Each Monday, the upcoming week’s menu is e-mailed to you.  There are nine menu choices each week, including at least one chicken dish, a fish and/or seafood choice, a pork selection, a pasta, and a vegetarian dish.  Each choice lists the price and the estimated cooking time.  You can decide if you’d like to order any of the meals and in what quantities.

If you don’t want to order anything that week you can choose the “skip this week” option.   Depending on where you live, you may also have the option to choose a delivery day.   Approximately five days before your order is shipped you will receive an e-mail receipt confirming the meals ordered.  The e-mail also notes any ingredients that you may have to have on hand (olive oil, for example).

Dinner Thyme Delivery Box

The order is shipped via FedEx and you receive an e-mail with the tracking number.  You do not need to be home when the package is delivered.  Insulation and ice packs are used to keep the ingredients cold.

A letter is attached to your recipe cards noting the meals you ordered.  It also notes within how many days each recipe should be prepared as well as general recipe tips.  For example, shaking the sauces before using and non-stick pans are usually recommended for cooking.

The ingredients in the box are labeled with letters to indicate which items go with the corresponding recipe.  Everything is pre-portioned so you have the exact amounts to cook the recipe.  Recipe cards include nutritional information as well as easy to follow, step-by-step instructions.

Dinner Thyme is currently available in the eastern region of the United States.  The delivery area includes Maine down to parts of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi and as far west as parts of Wisconsin, Illinois, Arkansas and Missouri!

For you lucky readers, Dinner Thyme is offering $20 off your first order with coupon code: READYSETCOOK!

Now, on to my review!

Review:

I tested out two Dinner Thyme meals.  I chose four portions of Pineapple Salmon Tacos with a Sour Cream Sauce priced at $11.95 for each portion.  I also chose four portions of Chicken and Waffles with Braised Kale and Butter Syrup priced at $12.95 per portion.

For my zip code delivery is available only on Tuesdays.  Last week, this happened to be Valentine’s Day.  My recipe card noted that the salmon tacos were best prepared within 3 days of delivery and the chicken and waffles  best within 4 days, so I decided to make the salmon tacos first.

Pineapple Salmon Tacos

Pineapple Salmon Tacos with a Sour Cream Sauce:
My kids wanted to help cook me dinner so I had them make the Pineapple Salmon Tacos.

With supervision, the kids were able to put this meal together on their own.  My daughter cut the salmon into strips and cooked them in the pan while my son coated the salmon in the pineapple glaze and prepped the tortillas.  They both helped drain the pineapple pico and put the arugula and sour cream in bowls.  While the “time to table” for this recipe was estimated at 9 minutes, with the kids cooking, it took almost 25 minutes.  This was with several pauses to reread instructions, find proper dishes, etc.  The directions and execution of the dish was super easy, even for an almost 11 and 8 1/2-year-old.  If I made this dish on my own, I think I could have had it made in the estimated 9 minutes.

A serving size for this meal was three tacos a person.  I was a bit skeptical that just the tacos would be enough food to make a meal.  When I make tacos I usually serve a salad or rice as a side dish.  I was surprised to find that three tacos was perfect for my husband and I.  Taste-wise, this meal was a winner!  Both kids loved the tacos.  I set out all the ingredients separately so they could add what they wanted, but they both put everything on their tacos. The kids each had two tacos each, which left some ingredients left over.  There was actually a lot of arugula left over, but my husband made a salad for lunch the next day.  He topped the arugula with the leftover salmon and pineapple pico.  I used the leftover tortillas the next morning to make myself scrambled egg breakfast tacos.  So, nothing was wasted.

Chicken and Waffles with Braised Kale

Chicken and Waffles with Braised Kale and Buttered Syrup:
We love chicken and waffles!  It’s a perfect comfort food, especially with this cold weather.  It’s definitely not a dish that I think of as a quick, weeknight meal though.  I decided to test this recipe out on my own, without the assistance from the kids to get a more accurate idea of timing.  This dish required a bit more in the prep department, since the chicken had to be floured, dipped in the buttermilk mixture and then covered in the corn flake mixture. It then had to be cooked in a pan for 1-2 minutes per side.  Unfortunately, I could not fit all four chicken breasts in my skillet, so this prolonged the overall “time to table.”  I also found that the 8-10 minutes that I had while the chicken was cooking in the oven was not enough time to get the bacon crispy.  So, I cooked it for a bit longer and still did not get the bacon crispy in that extra time.

Although the “Time To Table” for this recipe says 15 minutes, for the reasons I mentioned above, it actually took me closer to 25 minutes.  For a weeknight meal, I don’t think that’s bad at all.

The chicken breasts were decently sized.  The kids ended up splitting one and then my daughter came back for a second half.  This was plenty of food for both my husband and I.  Taste-wise, this meal was another winner.  Everyone enjoyed it…..especially the kids!  Braised kale and all!

I recommend making sure you have a pair of sharp kitchen scissors handy.  As seen in the above pictures, almost all the ingredients are sent in vacuum-sealed packages.

Overall, I enjoyed and would recommend this meal delivery service.  The stand-out benefits were definitely the speed in cooking and having the exact amount of ingredients needed to make the dishes.  Not having to measure out ingredients and not having all the prep work cut down on clean up as well, with fewer dirty dishes!  As an experienced home cook, I found most of the weekly recipe selections to be dishes that I have made or can easily make on my own.  Having a family of four, paying $11.95-$12.95 per serving can quickly add up.  My kids loved the recipes (and cooking the meal!) and have already asked when we are getting it again! While I wouldn’t rule out using Dinner Thyme meal service again, at this point, it’s more of a use if/when needed type of service for us.  However, for couples, especially those who would like to cook more at home, this is a great service!

Remember to use coupon code READYSETCOOK for $20 off your first order!  I’d love to hear your experience with Dinner Thyme meal delivery service!

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November & December Six-Pack

November Six-Pack
For our first six-pack review of 2017 we combined November and December’s six-pack.  Life got busy and my husband just wasn’t drinking enough!!!   Back in mid-November I took my husband to the Warwick Valley Bed & Breakfast to celebrate his 40th birthday.  While we were in Warwick, we came upon the Craft Beer Cellar.  My husband was like a kid in a candy shop when we entered the store.  The shop sells all kinds of craft beer and ciders by the bottle.  For the November & December six-pack all the beers were hand-selected by my husband from the Craft Beer Cellar.

A Tout Le Monde Megadeath

Unibroue:  A Tout Le Monde Megadeth –  A Tout Le Monde Megadeth is a beer created through a partnership with craft brewery, Unibroue, and Dave Mustaine, co-founder and lead singer of Megadeth.  A Tout Le Monde is a Belgian style Saison ale, brewed in Quebec.  The beer was recently launched in October in 12 ounce bottles.  This beer was one of my husband’s favorites!  He thought that the beer had a unique flavor, which he liked.  It had hints of spices and the tang of grapefruit, but the flavor was smooth and not overwhelming.  As he said, anything with Megadeath on it is worth trying and this one was a winner in his opinion.

Verdict:  A winner!  Definitely worth a try.

Ballast Point

Ballast Point Brewing Company Mango Even Keel – Ballast Point Brewing Company began in 1996 and is based in California.  They brew spirits as well as craft beers.  The Mango Even Keel is available year-round in a 12-ounce can and draft.  This is a hoppy, session ale with mango flavors.  My husband found this beer to be very hoppy and bitter.  There was just a hint of mango flavor.  He didn’t end up finish this one and noted, “I won’t go out of my way to get another one.”

Verdict:  Pass

Belhaven Scottish Oat Stout

Belhaven Brewery Scottish Oat Stout –  Belhaven is Scotland’s oldest working brewery, established in 1719.  This Scottish Oat Stout is not currently on their website but appears to be available online and at distributors throughout the country.  The commerical description notes that this beer is, “dark, rich and layered with a wonderfully silky texture and a lingering finish.”  My husband found this beer to be thick and flavorful with hints of coffee and chocolate.  It was one of his favorites of the bunch!

Verdict:  A winner!  One of his favorites!

Einstok Icelandic Arctic Pale Ale

Einstok Icelandic Arctic Pale Ale – Einstok Brewery is located in Akureyri, Iceland, 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle.  This pale ale is where, “robust hoppiness meets smooth malty undertones.”  This beer had a smooth taste.  However, my husband had higher expectations for the beer.  The label makes the beer compelling, but my husband noted that if it didn’t have a special label, “it’s just beer.”  Overall this gets average ratings, but he wouldn’t get this one again.

Verdict:  Pass

Rogue Mocha Porter

Rogue Mocha Porter – Rogue Brewery and Pub opened in October 1988 in Ashland, Oregon.  The beer is now brewed exclusively in their Newport, Oregon location.  Rogue makes ales, porters, stouts, lagers and spirits, as well as ciders and sodas.  According to Rogue, their Mocha Porter has, “a bittersweet balance of malt and hops with a light cream finish.”  This beer is available year round.  My husband found this beer to be dark and rich with a nice lingering, chocolate-y flavor that he enjoyed.

Verdict:  A Winner!  Would get this beer again.

Wells Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale

Wells Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale – Charles Wells has been a British family brewery located in the United Kingdom since 1876.  They brew over 25 beers including this Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale.  This beer was inspired by the traditional British dessert, combining darker malts with toffee, caramel and fruity aromas.  My husband found this beer to be dark and rich with a sweet finish.  He thought it tasted like the dessert that it’s named after.  Although different, in his opinion, this isn’t a beer that you can drink more than one at a sitting.

Verdict:  Definitely worth a try.  He’d get this beer again as a treat.

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Food Buys & Tries {Volume 1}

I’m not into buying lots of “stuff.”  However, for me food doesn’t fall into the “stuff” category.  You buy it, you eat it and hopefully enjoy it and then it’s gone.  If you don’t like it, it’s not a big deal and you don’t have to buy it again. Food doesn’t clutter up the house and for the most part is reasonable in cost. I’m always on the lookout for new food products for the family to try.  For the first volume of Food Buys & Tries I tried to focus on more healthy choices. However, I do have to warn you that ice cream and kettle chips are high on our list of likes!

Brooklyn Bred Bistro Buns

Brooklyn Bred Bistro Buns (Country Potato) – My kids are not big sandwich eaters.  This can make packing lunch a challenge.  I saw these Brooklyn Bred Bistro Buns in the bread aisle of Shoprite and thought they looked interesting.  They are thin and soft.  I added some cold cuts and lettuce to the sandwich and both kids enjoyed their lunch.   These were $2.99 for a pack of 8.  Brooklyn Bred is a company based in Brooklyn.  I enjoy supporting New York made products and will be purchasing these again.

Verdict:  Buy.  Support made in New York products. Plus, they are really good!

dr. Praeger's Asian Veggie burgers

dr. Praeger’s Asian Veggie Burgers – I like a good veggie burger.  I especially like Asian veggie burgers since they tend to be really flavorful.  This burger was a good veggie burger.  It’s made with cooked brown rice, carrots, peas, broccoli and more.  I’m not a huge fan of ginger, which unfortunately is an ingredient in most Asian veggie burgers, this one included.  The taste of ginger in this burger was evident but not overwhelming.  I added a slice of cheese and some lettuce and it was enjoyable.  dr. Praeger’s is an independent, family-owned business, started by two heart surgeons. The company focuses on making great-tasting products with simple, whole ingredients.  Just a note, this burger was extremely soft.  I heated my burger in the toaster oven and it practically fell apart when I flipped it, as directed.  The burger can also be heated in the microwave or a skillet.

Verdict:  Buy if you like veggie burgers and Asian flavors.  This is a flavorful, but soft burger.

Froozer

Froozer Blue Aloha frozen fruit snacks – These frozen fruit tubes are just that, frozen fruit and veggies.  I bought the Blue Aloha variety that includes pineapples, grapes, bananas, blueberries and carrots.  There are six fruit tubes in a box and these are found in the frozen fruit section of the grocery store.  I like that there is no added sugar or preservatives in these bars.  My son made a face when he first tried this and stated that “it tastes weird.”  However, he did end up finishing it. I tried a taste of his and noticed the lack of sugar right away.  This snack was an adjustment for my kids who are used to eating sugary cereals and snacks.  However, I plan on buying these again and trying the other flavors, tropical sunset and strawberry bliss.  These fruit tubes are a good source of Vitamin A & C.  They will make a nice addition to our winter breakfast rotation when the kids get sick of eating apples, bananas and oranges!

Verdict: Buy.  Your kids will get fruit and veggies in a fun way.

Litehouse Caramel Dip

Litehouse Caramel Dip – My kids are big fruit eaters and come fall, apples are a staple in our house.  I bought this caramel dip on sale at Acme for $1 for us to try.  This dip is super sweet!  My kids enjoyed it, but they like anything sugary.  The dip is not thick and was sliding off the apple slices.

Verdict:  Skip.  My kids like to eat apples.  No need to complicate the process or give them unnecessary extra sugar.

Egg White & Turkey Sausage Breakfast Pockets

Sandwich Bros. of Wisconsin:  Egg White & Turkey Sausage Flatbread Pocket Sandwiches – Mornings are pretty crazy in our house.  Most mornings my daughter has to be out of the house by 6:55 to make a 7 AM club at her middle school.  These breakfast sandwiches are only half a pita and contain an egg white with cheese and turkey sausage.  Each box contains six individually wrapped sandwiches.  It only needs 75-85 seconds in the microwave to heat it up and it’s easily transportable (she can take it with her and eat it in the car if needed!).  My daughter really enjoys these.  I tried one with a little ketchup and thought it was okay.

Verdict:  Try if you can buy them on sale.

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Disney Snack Round-Up

As you know we recently returned from a week long trip to Disney World, which you can read about here.  While we enjoyed the rides and meeting the characters,  my husband and I were probably most excited about the food!  We purchased the basic Disney Dining Plan which includes one quick service meal, one sit-down restaurant meal and one snack per person, per day.  What counts as a “snack” credit differs by park and includes everything from bottled water, a bag of chips or all of the items featured below.  When looking at each kiosk’s menu, the items that can be used with a snack credit have a Disney Dining purple and white square symbol next to it.   Below is our Disney Snack Round-Up of the snacks and desserts that we ate on our trip!  Please note that the four of us SHARED all of these treats.  This sometimes meant just a bite or two of something.  I did not gorge on all of these snacks by myself (though sometimes, I really wanted to)!

Note:  *It is no secret that counter service restaurants and kiosks will provide you with a cup of ice water at no charge.  It was super hot while we were in Disney  and we took full advantage of this!  However, the water at Magic Kingdom had a funny taste to us and we did not like it at all!  I recommend bringing water with you to this particular park.  All of the other parks had water that tasted fine!

ANIMAL KINGDOM:

 

We got this Chocolate Chip Cookie Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich from Dino Bites at Dinoland in Animal Kingdom.  This cookie sandwich is gigantic!  A huge scoop of vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two large, soft chocolate chip cookies = deliciousness!

EPCOT:

 

Now, we have not tried the famous Cronut from Dominique Ansel in NYC.  However, we picked up this Croissant Doughnut at the Refreshment Port near Canada in Epcot.  It’s covered with cinnamon sugar and was delicious!  Sweet on the outside and soft, pastry-like layers on the inside.

 

We had these Churros con Cajeta as the dessert selection for one of our quick service lunches at La Cantina de San Angel in the Mexico section of World Showcase at Epcot.  However, these can be purchased using a snack credit.  They were sprinkled with cinnamon and come with a caramel dipping sauce.  They are served hot, but by the time we got around to eating them they were warm and had lost their crispiness.

 

This Watermelon Paleta was our second quick service dessert selection from La Cantina de San Angel.  This also can be purchased using a snack credit.  These Mexican ice pops comes in other flavors including Mango, Lime and Coconut. This was a nice refreshing treat on a hot day!  It wasn’t super sweet and you can taste the watermelon.

 

We got this Berry Cream Puff at the Kringla Bakeri og Café in Norway at the World Showcase.   This was a giant cream puff with fresh berries (blackberries, raspberries and a strawberry).  The cream was not too sweet and we really enjoyed this.

 

We also got this Kringla Sweet Pretzel with Chocolate at the Kringla Bakeri og Café.  I have to say that this pretzel looks better than it tastes.  This pretzel is not a traditional tasting pretzel (like the Mickey pretzel), but is more pastry-like.  It’s a sweet raisin pretzel topped with icing and a chocolate drizzle.  I found this pretzel to be a bit dry and wasn’t the biggest fan.

 

We stopped at L’Artisan des Glaces in France at the World Showcase and the kids ended up choosing this Mixed Berries Sorbet Waffle Cone to share. This French ice cream shop sells 16 different flavors of ice cream/sorbet so there’s sure to be a flavor to please everyone!

My husband and I shared this Peaches & Cream Macaron Ice Cream Sandwich from L’Artisan des Glaces.  The macarons were larger than the typical size, but not huge and I found them to be a bit on the sweet side.  Not my favorite dessert, but it was cool and refreshing on a hot day!

 

We ate a quick dinner at the Electric Umbrella in Future World at Epcot and were able to choose two desserts as part of our quick service meals.  The first one we chose was this Strawberry Cheesecake.  There’s a thin graham cracker crust layer on the bottom.  This was a creamy cheesecake and the kids loved the strawberry gel swirls.

 

There were pretty slim pickings, dessert-wise to choose from at the Electric Umbrella.  The second dessert we chose was this Chocolate Cupcake topped with vanilla icing and sprinkles.  The icing was a bit on the sweet side but the cupcake itself was moist and chocolate-y.

*Not pictured:  We stopped by Karamell-Kuche in Germany at the World Showcase in Epcot.  There we bought a large bag of Caramel Popcorn as well as a Caramel and Peanut Covered Apple that we brought home with us.  The person helping us had cut the apple into four pieces for us.  When we got home, we realized that we shouldn’t have had her cut it, as the apple turned brown.  It still tasted really good though!  The popcorn was really tasty and addicting as well!

HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS:

I had read about and was really looking forward to having a seasonal milkshake at Min and Bill’s Dockside Diner.  When I found out the seasonal milkshake flavor was blue raspberry, I opted to pass. A blue raspberry milkshake did not sound at all appetizing to me!

 

We had a late lunch at Pizza Planet and chose these two cupcakes as our dessert choices with our quick service meals.  The Olaf Cupcake was a carrot cake cupcake.  It had cream cheese icing and little white candy sugar crystals.  The Cappuccino Cupcake was a chocolate cupcake with a mocha chocolate icing.  We loved the toffee bits that decorated the outside of this cupcake.  These were both really good!

 

This Funnel Cake with Soft Serve Vanilla Ice Cream, Strawberry Topping and Chocolate Sauce was our “best-bang-for-your-snack-credit” find!  We found this gem at the Oasis Canteen located near the entrance to the Indiana Jones Stunt Show Spectacular.  Yes, this can be all yours for ONE snack credit!  Out-of-pocket this costs over $8!  Ice cream on funnel cake….the hot with the cold…. I cannot believe we had never seen or heard about this until now! This was so good!

MAGIC KINGDOM:

 

By far, one of our favorite Disney snacks is the Dole Whip Float.  This tasty treat is found at Aloha Isle in Adventureland.   Pineapple soft serve is swirled into cold pineapple juice for a cold, tasty and refreshing treat!  Dole Whip Floats can also be found at Disney’s Polynesian Resort.  The Pineapple Whip soft serve is also available at Tamu Tamu Refreshments in Animal Kingdom and can be ordered with Coconut or Dark Rum over it (but not available as a snack credit!).

 

We got this Cinnamon Roll at Gaston’s Tavern, but it’s also available at the Main Street Bakery.  I had read about this snack before traveling to Disney and was excited to try it.  I found it to be a bit dry though and wasn’t very impressed.  My husband reminded me too late that the secret is to ask for extra icing!

 

We got our Mickey Pretzel at the Lunching Pad in Tomorrowland, but they are available throughout the park.  A Sweet Cream Cheese pretzel is also available.  This is your classic soft pretzel, an amusement park staple!

POP CENTURY RESORT:

 

We only had one quick service dinner at the Pop Century Resort where we stayed.  This was a late after 9 PM meal after a very long day at Hollywood Studios.  We weren’t impressed with the dessert selection but after seeing a picture of this Tie Dye Cheesecake on a poster every time we went in the elevator, we decided we had to try it.  This was a single serving, small, round container with a very thin cake layer bottom and a cheesecake top.  It tasted like regular cheesecake and wasn’t bad.  We’ve had better and worse, as far as cheesecake goes.

What are your favorite Disney snacks? 

45

A Peek Inside our Meal Planning Process

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Meal planning is crucial in making our family dinner time run smoothly.  It also helps keep our grocery bill within a reasonable range each week.  There are many ways to meal plan and there is no one tried and true method.  You honestly have to figure out and do what works best for your family.  We decided to show you how we create our weekly meal plan and maybe give you some tips or inspiration. IMG_1090[1] 1.  The Calendar:  You can find fancy, decorative calendars online that you can print out.  In our house we don’t go the fancy route.  As seen above, I use the back of a piece of scrap paper and set up a monthly calendar.  I plan our menus weekly and write the meals in pencil, so I can erase if needed.

2.  The Day:  The grocery circular for Shoprite, where we do most of our shopping, doesn’t come until Sunday with our newspaper.  So, the Weekend Chef makes a Thursday night stop and picks a circular up for me.  I usually do the meal planning Friday night or Saturday morning.

3.  Time:  I’m not going to lie.  Meal planning takes time.  Especially in the beginning if you have never done it before.  Even now, it takes me about an hour plus, but that’s because I enjoy it.  I rarely, if ever make the same recipe twice.  So, it can take me awhile to go through all of my recipe resources (see below) and pick out the new recipes I want to make for the week.

4.  Resources:  So, where do you find recipes?  Well, you can start here on my blog, at the recipe index!  Really though, there are so many food blogs out there, ranging from family focused, quick and easy meals, to more involved recipe blogs.  It can actually be quite overwhelming!  I subscribe to several food blogs so I get new posts e-mailed to me.  Here are a few that I use often and recommend:

Closet Cooking – Some of the recipes can be a little more involved but Kevin posts recipes for dishes with a variety of flavors and different cuisines.

Damn Delicious  – For quick and easy, family-friendly dishes.

Very Culinary – I’ve bookmarked and made a bunch of family friendly recipes from this site.

Try cooking recipes from several different blogs.  You will eventually find you like certain bloggers’ recipe choices, presentation, photographs, etc. over others.  You don’t need to subscribe to all of them! I have two folders in my web browser favorites.  One is titled “Recipes” and anytime I see a recipe I want to make I bookmark it there.  If I decide to make the recipe, I bookmark it in the “Cooking This Week” folder, so it’s easier to find when needed.

I also subscribe to Cooking Light and Every Day with Rachael Ray and highly recommend both magazines.   I’ve also previously had subscriptions to Food Network Magazine and Eating Well which were both good.  Instead of keeping piles of magazines lying around, I rip out the recipes that interest me and stick them in a folder.

For beginner cooks I highly recommend the website Allrecipes.com.  You can search for recipes by a number of different factors, including ingredients or name.  I’ve found most recipes that I’ve used from the site easy to make.  It’s especially helpful since there are tons of ratings and reviews.  If a recipe has lots of five star ratings, it’s probably going to be good.

Several bloggers post a “Meal Plan Monday” where they share their upcoming weekly menu, often with links to the recipes that they are making.  While you probably won’t follow a blogger’s exact weekly meal plan, it can be helpful for inspiration.  Here are some blogs that I’ve found that share a weekly “Meal Plan” post:

I’m an Organizing Junkie – Not only does Laura provide her weekly menu plan, she also hosts a link-up where other bloggers can link up their weekly menu plan.  Check this blog out for loads of inspiration!

Melanie Makes –  A busy mom of four, who shares family friendly recipes.

Two Peas & Their Pod – Maria and Josh, parents of two young boys, share simple, fresh, family friendly recipes.

And let’s not forget about Pinterest.  There are millions of recipes posted on that site.  Start creating boards of recipes that you see that interest you and you can refer to your board for inspiration when meal planning!

I’ve found that as much as I enjoy reading cookbooks, I don’t use them very often, since most recipes can easily be found online.  I do have several older editions of the Cooking Light Annual Recipe collection cookbooks.  They have the whole year of recipes from the magazine bound nicely into one book.

Again, the recipes you choose will really depend on your family’s eating and dietary preferences.

5.  The Planning:  If you are new to meal planning, it might be easier to start with some recipes that you know your family eats and enjoys and maybe aim for one new recipe a week.  I recommend you use your grocery store circular to start your planning.  If chicken is on sale this week, I recommend making at least one chicken dish and buying some extra chicken that you can freeze for the future.  Some people prefer to have a themed dinner for each day, like Meatless Monday or Taco Tuesday.  This helps in keeping a consistency to meal planning.   My meal plan varies from sometimes making sure I have a meatless meal, a chicken dish a pasta dish, a burger/sandwich, etc.  Other weeks I sometimes plan by cuisine.  I will plan to have a Mexican-themed dish, an Asian-themed, breakfast for dinner, pizza.  Sometimes, if I find a bunch of interesting chicken dishes at one time, I will pre-plan and space them out throughout my monthly calendar.  Once I find a recipe that I decide I’m going to make, I write it in pencil on the calendar, along with the name of the source (blog name, magazine, website).  Although I will have my five recipes for the week written in, I won’t necessarily make them in that order.  When we eat each meal depends on factors like which dishes have produce that may spoil or how busy our schedules are.  I will then write in each box, what day I actually plan on making that dish.

6.  Grocery List:  I then take my grocery list and go through the recipes I plan on making for the week.   I write down the ingredients that I need for each recipe on the grocery list.  I circle the recipe on the calendar to know that I made sure I had everything I needed for that recipe.  Like I mentioned previously, I will stock up on proteins, chicken, ground beef, pork chops, etc. when they are on sale as well, so I have them for the future.  I recommend stocking up on other staples when they are on sale as well.  There’s nothing like having to buy something at full price for a recipe, when it was on sale last week!  Pasta, canned tomatoes, chicken broth, rice, etc. are all items that you will probably use a lot of.

I hope this helps give you a better idea on how to meal plan, if this is new to you!  Please feel free to leave any questions in the comments section or e-mail me.  I’d love to hear how others meal plan and am always looking for tips on how to make the process easier!

***If you have noticed, we are posting less recipes on our blog and have been focusing more on other “foodie” related topics.  Look for a new upcoming feature where we will be posting our previous week’s meal plan, along with pictures and our family reviews of the recipes!