Hardin’s Cook at Home- Plated

Hey, friends! I am here to review Plated for ya’ll today!

I have received 1 box from Plated but I hope to order another soon!

Plated’s pricing when I ordered a few weeks ago was higher than Home Chef or Hello Fresh. Your box would be $71.94 if you paid full price. I paid $46.00 for my box because I had a coupon. The meals were delicious and easy and fun to make but I canceled my service due to price. Now they have come out with new pricing that is comparable to Home Chef and Hello Fresh (although still a little more). When I canceled they asked why in a survey and I stated the only reason was the price so I feel like they listen to their customers and take their feedback into consideration. I am excited to order from them under the new pricing model and see if the quality and portions are the same. The new pricing is for 2 meals for 2 people: $13.95, 3 meals for 2 people: $11.50, 4 meals for 2 people: $9.95. They also offer cheaper deals if you order for more people.

Your first night is free through their website as well. My box included the following meals:
1. Chicken Egg Rolls with Duck Sauce and Slaw.
2. Seared Steak with Crispy Parmesan Potatoes and Spinach.
3. Parmesan Crusted Chicken with Roasted Tomato Caesar Salad.

Pros of Plated:

  1. They offer 13 menu options
  2. Everything was fresh and we enjoyed all of our meals
  3. The portions are large
  4. The flavors are great
  5. The recipes are easy to follow and the timing of the meals are great
  6. It comes to your door! NO GROCERY STORE!
  7. You can customize the meals without losing flavor.

Cons of Plated:

  1. The pricing is a little high when I don’t feel you are getting anything extra. (With Terra’s Kitchen the pricing is higher than Home Chef or Hello Fresh but you are getting everything prepped for you and it comes in a mini fridge).
  2. The recipe cards don’t tell you how long the meals last in your fridge.

Praise and Critique of Meals:

  1. Chicken Egg Rolls: These were really good and super fun to make at home! I had never made egg rolls at home before but we both love spring or egg rolls when we go out for Asian. I had 1 less wrapper than they said but we still had plenty of food.
  2. Seared Steak: The parmesan potatoes that were a side for this meal were one of the greatest things I’ve ever tasted! They would be fabulous as an appetizer at a cocktail party or even at a tailgate! I couldn’t stop eating them! The spinach was so-so we would have preferred a fresh salad. The steak was good I’m still upset I have to eat steak well done because of this baby!
  3. Parmesan Crusted Chicken: This was my favorite meal! It was light and fresh and delicious! We really enjoyed it and it was something I would make again!

Remember to like my Facebook page Hardin’s Cook at Home for giveaways and tons of pictures and videos of the whole cooking process! So far I have given away 7 Hello Fresh boxes and 5 Graze boxes. I would love to answer any questions you have and help you with the process!

Happy Cooking Friends! I will be back next week to review another company!

the one about being irrational

Everyone has a fear, whether it is real and true and it will stun you to the core.  Or fears that are completely irrational, but they are still a fear to you.  I have a few fears, and I thought I’d write them all out.  Full disclosure, I am aware that some of these don’t make a lick of sense.

1 – I have a completely irrational fear of bridges.  If I am driving, its completely okay.  I may grip the steering wheel a bit tighter and breathe a little funny – but I get over it (ha ha, get it?).   I drive over approximately 6 bridges everyday just going to work, and depending on the way home 4-6 more.   I have this fear that the bridge is going to collapse, or that something below will strike it.  The first is pretty irrational, because lets be real – bridges don’t just fall down (except that one up north a few years ago, that sh** was just crazy).   The 2nd part is pretty rational I think.   For example, the bridge on Leaphart Road over in West Columbia.   I drove over that bridge going to and from work everyday for 3 years.  It got hit not once, but twice in a 6 month span and they had to shut it down completely.  After the 1st incident, the bridge was ruled structurally insufficient.  After the 2nd incident, they shut it down completely because it was no longer usable by any car or truck traffic.   My family loves to pick on me about this one, and I’m okay with that.  I can take it.

2 – I have this fear that Jake’s ex-wife will show up to our wedding and cause a scene.  Jake likes to tell me she isn’t smart enough for that, but I mean – she’s a woman and sometimes we are as snarky as they come.   She has no reason to show up, she doesn’t know me and I wasn’t around when their marriage ended.  However, that doesn’t stop me from sometimes having this recurring nightmare that she will indeed show up and ruin the wedding ceremony.  Jake continues to listen to this fear and reassures me every time that there are enough people there that would stop this from happening, and stop her before she ever got to where we would see her.   I will let you know after July 29th how this fear turned out.

 Don’t get me wrong, I have fears that something will happen to my kids or Jake.  That someone will rob us, or that there will be an active shooter on campus again.   I was on campus when we had 1 active shooter situation (that turned out to be an isolated incident) and it was honestly terrifying.   Everyone has fears, big or small – don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t allowed to have those fears. 

Wedding Wednesday – Food!

The food, oh the food.  We knew we wanted a good southern BBQ.  Chopped pork BBQ, green beans (cooked with ham hocks of course) and mac & cheese!   We did some intense research on the subject, which led to full bellies and some “oh my gawd we need to come back here” statements.

Here is where we tried:

Shealy’s BBQ – this place is amazing, and well worth the drive to Batesburg-Leesville!   Its a buffet and apparently the line to get in can get a little long sometimes.  We were both fully stuffed after this, but did try to make room to taste all 4 desserts they had.   I think I posted on facebook to “forget the wedding cake, we are totally having this banana pudding” (2nd from right).   The only complaints we had here, was that they were hesitant to serve the chopped BBQ “naked”, without any sauce – so allow our guests to dress it how they wanted.  Also, this was the highest price out of any.

Palmetto Pig BBQ – we stopped in here before heading to a baseball game at Carolina Stadium (also known as Founders Park, which I refuse to call it that).  I had called ahead to ask if they did catering, they said they did and that if I came in and told them at the counter that’s what I was here to try it for that purpose – they would give us lunch for free.  The food was good, the mac & cheese was amazing – but I didn’t like the green beans.  The pricing was around what I expected, so that was not a shock to me.  The other thing I did not like was that the menu was not customizable.  For example, we couldn’t take off the hash & rice – it was part of the package.  If I asked them to not bring it, I was still paying for it.   I will eat hash, but I guarantee at least 90% of the people at our wedding will not.  If you don’t know what it is, save yourself and don’t.  I had to explain it to Jake and that was bad enough.
True BBQ – So, we laid off the BBQ for awhile and then I mentioned this place to Jake after I passed it on my way home.  I guess when you pass a place so often, you sort of forget it is there.  However, this day that I passed it they were outside smoking meat on this giant smoker and I could smell it while I was sitting at the stoplight.   It is a hole in the wall kind of place.  As always at hole in the wall type places,  the food was so, so good.  The BBQ didn’t even need sauce, it was so delicious.  The mac & cheese, well – lets just say I tried to get that all to myself and didn’t want to share with Jake.  After talking to the owner, we came up with a menu that suited us for a price that cannot be beat.  They let us customize what we wanted, and didn’t hassle us to get what we don’t need.  We will be getting BBQ, mac & cheese and green beans from them.  We are aware there are a few folks who won’t eat BBQ or are vegetarians, so we will be getting fruit & cheese, along with vegetables and will have a salad “squirreled” away for them (meaning, labeled with names so its not eaten by all the folks who will eat the BBQ).

 

Hardin’s Cook at Home- Blue Apron

Hey, Y’all! It’s Sarah again back to review another company for you! I hope ya’ll are enjoying my posts as much as I have enjoyed writing them! I’ve had a couple of people ask why I decided to go on this journey so I wanted to share that with ya’ll before I review Blue Apron.

Have you ever just been in a dinner rut? Well, we were…BIG TIME! I was buying the same things to cook over and over at the grocery store. We were eating out A LOT because we didn’t want to eat the same meals over and over. We were wasting a lot of food because you buy something for a recipe but don’t use but 1/4 of it. Cooking had become this massive chore and wasn’t fun or enjoyable. More nights than not I was opening up canned veggies, baking some form of meat, and doing boil in the bag rice. We would sit on the couch in front of the TV and watch DVR and just not connecting. Needless to say, dinner was not something we looked forward to. Also, we were spending a ton at the grocery store. You never buy just want you have on your list. More times than not I wasn’t trying to find new meals to cook because I was tired from work, school, and studying and I resented having to go to the store and meal plan. We weren’t eating healthy because we ended up going out a lot and we just needed a reboot or a change. This has been one of the best things we’ve ever done! We now look forward to dinner and I look forward to cooking every night. We spend time together in the kitchen while I cook because things are new and exciting. We sit at the table and discuss our week and critique the meal! I enjoy meal planning and looking through the different companies to see what box we should order each week. It’s fun to come home and look through our box and see what we have! Most weeks I order from 2 different companies so that we get 6 meals. Also, I highly recommend having a couple different companies in your rotation because then you get even more variety! Also, do you want to know how much I’ve spent for the last 36 dinners? $277.50. That is $7.70 per meal or $3.85 per person! Tell me another way to feed people healthy, quick, delicious, restaurant quality meals at that price and I will sign up tomorrow! Ok, that’s enough rambling for one post! Now on to the review!

I hate to give a not so glowing review but I pride myself on being completely honest when it comes to this process. I have to let y’all know the good, the bad, and the ugly! Of course, it isn’t all negative but I will be 100% upfront about my feelings. Blue Apron cost $9.99 per person per meal if you do the 2 person box and it cost $8.99 per person per meal if you do the 4 person box.  They have 6 meal options each week so you choose 1/2 of those to come in your box. This was one thing I didn’t like. Currently, during pregnancy, I haven’t been able to eat any pork (it makes the baby very upset!) so that eliminated 1 meal instantly for us. Also, Jonathan and I are both allergic to shrimp. They always have 1 seafood meal and 1/2 of the time it is shellfish so then that leaves me with 4 options when I have to pick 3. They always have 1-2 vegetarian meal and as I’ve stated before we are meat people. My husband doesn’t like it at all when he doesn’t get meat for dinner. So that left me with very little choice sometimes not having a choice at all. My first 3 meals were 1. Nashville Style Hot Catfish with Pecan Apple Slaw 2. Tandoori-Style Chicken with Rice and Squash 3. Stir-Fried Wonton Noodles with Bok Choy and Radishes. I paid around $29.94 for my first box and that was with a discount coupon. I canceled my account after our first box just because we didn’t really enjoy it and there are too many other amazing options for the same price or less! They made it kind of difficult to cancel as you can’t do it through their website. You have to email customer service then they provide you a link after that they try to get you to stay multiple times and make you fill out surveys about why you are canceling. I voiced my opinions and concerns on the surveys and thought I’d hear from customer service since we were dissatisfied but they never wrote me.

Praise/Critique of the Meals

  1. Nashville-Style Hot Catfish with Apple, Pecan Slaw: I had high hopes for this meal. It seemed like something we would both really like and I was excited for something spicy mixed with the crunch and sweetness of the slaw! But I was let down. The fish had no spice and no flavor and it ended up being really oily. The slaw was ok but had too much mayo and needed more seasoning/flavor.
  2. Tandoori-Style Chicken with Rice and Squash: The chicken was really good! We both enjoyed it. They did too much with the rice having you add in mint, tzatziki sauce, and the squash. We ate all of the chicken though!
  3. Wonton Stir Fry: Even though this was meatless I thought we would enjoy it because I love any type of Asian noodle and we both love Asian seasoning. Y’all it was so bad! We threw it away and went to Rush’s. It made our whole house smell like the dish too.

For Blue Apron you can choose how often you want to receive boxes! You can also skip weeks as often as you want. Also, you can cancel your subscription at any time, except you have to go through the process I stated above. You can choose what day of the week you want your box to arrive and they will give you a couple of options based on where you live. Mine came on either a Tuesday or a Wednesday.

Don’t forget to check out and like Hardin’s Cook at Home on Facebook for all my photos and videos! Also, I have giveaways there often! So far I’ve given away 7 free boxes to Hello Fresh and 5 free boxes from Graze.   You don’t want to miss out on this!

I don’t have a discount for you to try Blue Apron just because I can’t promote a product I don’t believe in and isn’t something I would spend my family’s hard earned money on but if you want to try it for a discount you can find coupon codes online!

I am going to put the coupon codes I have for the other companies below in case you want to do what I’ve done and spend less than $300 on 37 dinners for your family!

Home Chef: https://www.homechef.com/  This takes $30 off your box and makes it $28/$29 for your first delivery! That’s $4.83 per person per meal!

Hello Fresh: http://www.hellofresh.com  This takes $40 off your box and makes it $19 for your first delivery! That’s $3.16 per person per meal!

Terra’s Kitchen: https://www.terraskitchen.com  This takes $40 off your vessel! The meals are all different prices so it will depend on what you choose how much your first delivery will be!

If you have any questions about this crazy cooking adventure please let me know! I’m happy to help others through what I’ve learned! Happy cooking my friends!

See you back next Friday for my review of Plated!
Sarah

 

Hardin’s Cook at Home- Terra’s Kitchen

Hey Y’all! It’s Sarah again…back to review another meal delivery company for you!

Today I am reviewing Terra’s Kitchen! They are a little different than other services because they send to you in a “vessel” which is basically a mini fridge that they come back and pick up on the next business day. Also, everything comes washed, diced, chopped, minced, grated, etc! This makes the meals super quick to prepare. The longest part is waiting for the oven to preheat or boiling water! This makes it great for super busy people who still want to get healthy, delicious meals on the table! It is really neat and definitely worth the experience at least once! I have received 2 vessels from them and they have been wonderful!

Terra’s Kitchen pricing varies per meal. It ranges from $9.99-$17.99. They have 57 meal options and they change monthly! This makes it super easy to find things everyone will enjoy. Also, if you do a family plan it is $9.99-$11.99 per person per meal but they have fewer options for the family options. Also, they have amazing options where you can order snacks, salads, smoothies, juices, just sides, or just meat! My first 3 meals were 1. Honey Soy Salmon with Stir-Fry Veggies 2. Sheet Pan Fish and Chips 3. Italian Chicken Florentine Pasta. My second vessel had 1. BBQ Salmon with Pineapple Relish with Rice and Green Beans. 2. Buffalo Chicken Tacos. 3. Skillet Lemon Garlic Chicken with Rice and Roasted Broccoli. I paid around $30 for my first vessel and I had a small issue with it, the heavy cream for the pasta dish had leaked. I emailed them on a Saturday and they responded so quickly and gave me a credit towards my next vessel. One thing I love is great customer service. It’s really important to me and it makes me want to spend my money with their company. My 2nd vessel I paid $50 for using the credit, that is $8.33 per person per meal and these are the highest quality meals I have ever seen!

These are the 6 meals and they were delicious!

Pros  of Terra’s Kitchen:
1. They give you 57 menu options to choose from and let you see the meals in advance before you order!
2. Everything was super fresh and very tasty.
3. The portions were large and I normally had half of my meal left.
4. The flavors were great and we really enjoyed our food. Everything is very fresh and light yet still super tasty! 
6. The recipes were super easy to follow and everything was timed perfectly!
7. It came to my door and everything was measured, and packaged per meal. I didn’t have to go to the grocery store! (Which always equals me spending more money because I purchase “snacks and junk”.) THIS IS MY FAVORITE PART! Also, everything is already prepped for you! It is chopped, diced, peeled, washed, minced, grated etc. I know it sounds lazy but when you have tons of veggies to peel, chop, dice etc or when you have garlic and ginger to crush, mince, ground it takes time. This cuts out all the prep work!
8. I like that it is customizable.

9. It list all the equipment you need even down to a spatula!

10. They have my favortie recipe cards. They also recommend a beer and win for each meal which is really cool!

11. The mini fridge is super cool and it keeps everything really cold and fresh!

Cons so far:
1. I wish that the recipe cards told you how long the meals lasted in your fridge before you need to cook them. Home Chef does this and I like that!

My praises and critiques of the meals:

  1. Honey Soy Salmon: So fresh, light and just tasted like summer!
  2. Sheet Pan Fish and Chips: The “chips” were baked sweet potato fries. This was an amazing and I really enjoyed it!
  3. Italian Chicken Florentine Pasta: This meal was good wasn’t amazing but still tasty.
  4. BBQ Salmon with Pineapple Relish: This was the best meal I have ever eaten! My husband and I couldn’t stop talking about it. Jonathan ate all of his plus my leftovers (which was a whole other half a plate!) that’s how good it was! I would eat this 3 times a week if I could and I honestly can’t believe it came out of my kitchen!
  5. Buffalo Chicken Tacos: Super tasty and perfect to satisfy that Mexican or buffalo wing craving!
  6. Skillet Lemon Garlic Chicken: We loved this meal too! The broccoli was so crispy and was something I could eat like potato chips.

For Terra’s Kitchen you can choose how often you want to receive vessels! You can also skip weeks as often as you want. Also, you can cancel your subscription at any time! You can choose what day of the week you want your box to arrive and they will give you a couple of options based on where you live. The last two times mine has come on a Saturday but that is what worked for our schedule that week!

If you want $40 off your first vessel use this link! 

Also remember to check out my facebook page Hardin’s Cook at Home for additional photos, videos, and giveaways! I have a giveaway ending today for 2 more Hello Fresh boxes!  As always you can send me questions, comments etc on there! I started it for ya’ll so I hope ya’ll enjoy using it.

Happy cooking sweet friends! Tune in next week when I review Blue Apron!

 

Fathers Day Gifts with Swagbucks!

Swagbucks is currently offering double cash back or more at a number of stores for Father’s Day. From Best Buy to Lowes, you’ll get cash back (in the form of SB points) for buying your gifts online through Swagbucks. They also have offers where you can earn SB points towards free gift cards for getting the Dad in your life a subscription to Hulu or Dollar Shave Club! It’s a smart way to buy the gifts you were already going to get, and Swagbucks offers coupons and deals when you shop online to your favorite stores on top of the points you earn.

You can find all of the details here.

If you haven’t signed up for Swagbucks yet, you can also do that at this page and start earning points towards your first free gift card. As a bonus, if you sign up through me a spend at least $25 shopping online through Swagbucks, you’ll get a 200 SB bonus – that’s $2 in addition to the points you get for each dollar you spend.These deals will run all the way through Father’s Day on Sunday, June 18th.

Hardin’s Cook at Home- Hello Fresh

Hey Y’all! It’s Sarah again…back to review another meal delivery company for you! Today I am reviewing Hello Fresh! I actually just received my 2nd box from them this week and we are looking forward to seeing what’s in store this time!

Hello Fresh cost $9.99 per person/per meal so that’s a total of $19.98 per dinner for us (this is without any discounts). Also, if you do a family plan it is a little less per person at $8.74.  My first 3 meals were  1. Chicken Lo Mein with Carrots and Green Beans 2. Pistachio Crusted Chicken with Quinoa and Cucumber Jalapeno Salad 3. Sesame Beef Tacos with Pickled Veggies. Like I said before the only way to eat cheaper is fast food!   I paid $0 for my first box as my father in law gifted us a free box (keep reading to found out how you can get your first box for $0!). My 2nd box I paid $34 for using a discount, that is $5.67 per person/per meal and these again were restaurant quality meals.

These are the 3 meals and they were delicious!

My second box just arrived Wednesday! The meals I chose for this box are 1. Chicken, Pineapple Quesadillas with Pico de Gallo. 2. Melty Monterey Jack Burgers with Zucchini Fries and Red Onion Jam and 3. Penne with Sausage, Corn, and Zucchini. We are super excited to try these meals and I will review them for you after we have finished them!

Pros  of Hello Fresh:
1. They give you 8 menu options to choose from and let you see the meals in advance before you order!
2. Everything was super fresh and very tasty.
3. The portions were large but I did not have leftovers like I did with Home Chef.
4. The flavors were great and we really enjoyed our food. These meals taste more ” Healthy” than Home Chef. 
5. It was pretty simple and quick and the cards are easy to follow.
6. The recipes were super easy to follow and everything was timed perfectly! Also when I need tenders cut in the chicken it was already cut up.
7. It came to my door and everything was measured, and packaged per meal. I didn’t have to go to the grocery store! (Which always equals me spending more money because I purchase “snacks and junk”.) THIS IS MY FAVORITE PART!
8. I like that it is customizable.

Cons so far:
1. I needed a few more pieces of equipment (knives, cutting board etc) then was listed on the card. This is being nit-picky!
2. I wish that the recipe cards told you how long the meals lasted in your fridge before you need to cook them. Home Chef does this and I like that!
3. I wish that they packed their box with more ice packs. My meat was cold for the most part but I felt that they other items didn’t stay as cold as with Home Chef. I also had one pack of meat that didn’t feel super cold.

My praises and critiques of the meals:

Lo Mein: It was delicious! I love Asian food! I used to serve in an Asian restaurant and it just feels like comfort food to me.

Pistachio Chicken: The chicken was amazing! We didn’t care for the quinoa so we ended up eating all the chicken and I didn’t have any leftovers for lunch. The veggies were decent but I don’t eat raw tomatoes so I just ate the cucumbers.

Sesame Beef Tacos: Jonathan (My Husband) ADORED these! We had them for Cinco De Mayo and they were really good! I just wish I had some type of salsa like substance on the meal and some chips and queso on the side! I LOVE Mexican and during my first trimester, it was one of the only things that didn’t make me sick.

For Hello Fresh you can choose how often you want to receive boxes! You can also skip weeks as often as you want. I currently have mine set up for once a month but if a menu pops up and I want those meals I can skip my box and receive that one just like with Home Chef.  Also, you can cancel your subscription at any time! You can choose 3-5  meals per box and you can choose 2 or 4 servings! You can also choose what day of the week you want your box to arrive and they will give you a couple of options based on where you live. I can choose for mine to arrive on, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday and mine comes on Tuesday normally except this week it came on Wednesday due to Memorial Day! Hello Fresh has one meal out of the 8 that they consider premium and they charge $5.95 more for that meal. They always look really good but I just haven’t been able to justify spending almost $12 more per dinner for the meal. They also offer an all-vegetarian box. We are definitely meat people so I haven’t tried it but I think it’s great to offer options

It is time for a giveaway!!! If you want to see all my photos and videos for Hello Fresh (or Home Chef last week) follow my facebook page under Hardin’s Cook at Home! I started this page to upload everything for y’all including photos of me cooking each recipe and videos of me unpacking each box so you can see it in real time! You can write me questions that way too! If you like and share my Facebook page between now and June 9th you will be entered to win a free box from Hello Fresh! That is 3 meals for 2 people! I will be giving away 4 of them so that means you have 4 opportunities to win and I will announce the winner on here and on Hardin’s Cook at Home! All names will be entered into a random generator so it is a fair process.

Also, do you want your box for $40 off? It makes your first box less than $20! Click here and search the menu for the next several weeks and choose your first box! Click the link below and it will automatically discount your order for you!

Hello Fresh

Stay tuned for my review of Terra’s Kitchen next week! Happy Cooking Friends!

Happy Birthday Baby Girl!

I started writing this the day before your birthday, trying to remember where I was at that time.   So, its 12:00 here in SC as I write this, meaning it is 9am California time.   I remember waking up around 5am on June 1st, because my back hurt a lot and I felt like I had major cramps.   I didn’t want to wake your dad up, so I went to take a bath.  That helped some to just lay there in the warm water.

Around 10am though, I decided to wake him up, and we went to the hospital after picking up our friend Jenn.  Honestly, I don’t remember a ton from that evening.  I remember snippets, but I think that a lot of it I blocked out of my mind, or I was unconscious for.   There were things I didn’t learn about until after I had you – like how they had to ask your dad who he wanted the doctors to save if it came to that.  This was after our heart rates bottomed out to zero several times.  I remember throwing up, because they insisted I eat before they admitted me.  We ate McDonalds chicken nuggets in the basement of the Naval Hospital.  I couldn’t eat nuggets for a long time after that.   I remember how your dad had to leave when the anesthesiologist came to do the epidural.  He told me later that seeing a woman shaking while aiming a giant needle at his wife’s back was more than he could handle.

I faintly remember there being a lot of people.  At one point, there were 3 doctors, 1 cardiologist, 3 nurses and a handful of other staff in the room.  There wasn’t much room to move.  I remember someone dropping a tray of instruments because it woke me up.  I later learned this was one of the many times I was drifting in and out of consciousness.  I remember ripping the mask off my face when they kept trying to give me oxygen.  I tried to throw it, but it was attached to the bed so it just sort of whipped back at me after I tried to throw it.

All of the pain, the sheer terror and well, lets say it again – pain..lead me to you (even if they had to pull you out with what was essentially, a giant pair of salad tongs).   My beautiful baby girl, my first born.  My life felt complete, and what we had waited 9 long months for was finally in my arms.   You were born at 2:46 am on June 2, 2001.  Our family was so far away, but we as military families often do – celebrated with the family we had made there – our friends Brittin, Liz, Jenn, James, Laurie & Will.

I know we butt heads, but you will always and forever be my baby.  I love you Katie Leeann.

Say their names

Memorial Day in our home this year will be spent quietly, I have to work (yes, thank you University of South Carolina) and the kids don’t have school.   However, very close to my heart and in my thoughts will be a few special people I had the honor and privilege to know. While I do not discount the countless other families who were affected by conflict and war, by the loss of a child, a husband, a father, a brother, a sister, a mother, a wife – these two individuals are close to my heart.

Frank (Capt. “Puj” Hooks) – a pilot in our squadron in South Carolina that made the ultimate sacrifice in June 2004.   I have a hard time this year grasping that it has been almost 13 years.  His loss deeply impacted all the Marines of 115.   My best memory of Frank was the DVD that I unexpectedly got in the mail one day during the first deployment Matt went on.  They had made us a “we are halfway home” DVD full of photos of all the guys from the squadron.  It was a silly DVD, but so special to all the spouses.  Frank was married to my sweet friend Cindy.  I still have that DVD, tucked away in a drawer.  I was able to upload it to YouTube a few years ago to share it with everyone we were with at 115.  If you have about 5 minutes, you can see that video here:    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xce7865aKeY

   Second is Clarence Adams.  Clarence was 3 years ahead of me in school (me a freshman, he a senior) when I decided to run indoor track.  He then decided to take me under his wing and teach me to throw shot put.  So, he taught me and I did it.  I wasn’t that good, and didn’t stick with it, but he was always encouraging.    He always had a smile on his face, and was loved by so many at Varina.   Clarence died in Baghdad, Iraq in September 2004. He was the father of six, and devoted husband.  

Also today, please remember those whose battle was lost when they returned home.  An average of 22 U.S. Veterans committ suicide everyday.  Fighting the demons that battle them here at home is sometimes harder than the battles they face while deployed.  22 a day is too many, and it has to stop.

While for many it’s a day of picnics, BBQ’s and the unofficial start of summer, it is also a VERY real holiday to remember those who have fought and died for us to have the ability to go to the river or beach, watch a parade in peace and have a picnic.   Please take a moment today, say their names and remember them, their families and their sacrifice.

To Richie – I’m sorry I couldn’t save you from the demons that ravaged you.  I wanted to so badly, and I couldn’t – none of us could.  I sometimes laugh to myself remembering late night phone calls, and the story of “what would everyone at 115 think of us now?”  Oh how I wish you were here now, to laugh with us – to do stupid things on the beach with all the boys at the last 115 reunion.  You would have loved it so much.  To work on my car when something goes wrong and me fussing at you over you driving that old truck from Beaufort to Lexington late at night.   I know that you are in a better place, but it doesn’t make it any easier on my heart knowing that you aren’t here with us anymore. I love you crazy, always have, always will.   #22adayistoomany  #untilValhalla  #22toomany

Note – photo of Frank courtesy of Cindy Morrison, and photo of Clarence courtesy of  Iraqwarheros.org.  This post was originally posted on 5-28-2012 with edits every year since.

Making Dinner (on budgeted time and funds!)

Hey Y’all! My name is Sarah and I meet Lori through Facebook and our personalities just clicked! I started a new cooking journey that Lori has seen me document on my personal Facebook and she asked me to guest post on her blog! Here is a little about me before we get into making dinner. I live in Columbia, SC with my handsome husband of almost 2 years and we are expecting our first baby, a son, in September! We met at the University of South Carolina and have been together for 5 years. My husband is VP of Commerical Operations for a roofing company and I have returned to school to pursue another degree in nursing. We have 2 dogs and love football, fireflies baseball games, going to the beach and the mountains, and going to concerts! Well, that’s enough about me, let’s get to my new way of making delicious, healthy, easy, and reasonably priced meals for my family!

At the beginning of this year, I was working 2 jobs (1 full-time and 1 part-time), going to school out of town 3 days a week, trying to find time with my husband and then….I found out I was pregnant! Needless to say, cooking wasn’t happening. It was a lot of frozen pizzas, eating out, or grabbing premade food at the grocery store and it just wasn’t cutting it. Neither of us felt great, we were spending a lot of money, and dinner time no longer was a time where we were connecting. I knew for my husband and my son I needed to make some changes. I started researching different options and became very interested in meal delivery services. We all see the commercials or the celebrities posts on Instagram but how did it really work and how could it be affordable for me and my family, especially since getting pregnant I cut back working. Through my research I learned that there are TONS of different companies. So far I have ordered from 6 but that are around 10 that I have lined up to receive. I learned that through friends I could get my first shipments drastically discounted and that is what I have done! Also I wanted to see how comparable meals cost for me to go to the grocery store and purchase vs. having them delivered to me. I went to the store and purchased a meal that was similar to the first meal I was receiving from delivery and I found out it cost me more to purchase it at the grocery store than to have the ingredients delivered directly to me and have no waste! I bought a bag of salad, 2 baking potatoes, 2 pieces of salmon, a lemon, and some shredded cheddar cheese. I didn’t have to purchase dressing, the seasoning for the fish, or butter because I had those items at home. I spent $23!

My first box was Home Chef! Home Chef cost $9 per person/per meal so that’s a total of $18 per dinner for us (this is without any discounts). Also, if you do a family plan it is a little less per person.  My first 3 meals were a 1. Cedar plank salmon with potatoes and onions, and green beans. 2. Wood-fired BBQ Chicken Pizza 3. Steak and twice baked potatoes. If we were to go out to eat the only way to eat for less than $18, we would have to go to Chick Fil A which cost us around $14. As you can see from the grocery store a salmon meal like the one we received from Home Chef would cost me $23 and that is with me having some of the ingredients at home. I paid $28 for my first box! That is $4.67 per person/per meal! You can’t even go to McDonald’s for that! And these are restaurant quality meals. We felt like we were eating at a restaurant where we would have paid $20-$30 per person!

     
Y’all I made these meals in my kitchen in less than 40 minutes!  My second box just arrived today! The meals I chose for this box are 1. Baja Fish Tacos with Siracha Slaw and Pickled Onions. 2. Swiss Fondue Burgers with Parsley Fries and 3. Steak with Cauliflower Gratin and Green Beans. We are super excited to try these meals and I will review them for you!

Pros  of Home Chef:
1. They give you 10 menu options and let you see the menus before you sign up. I think this is great especially if you have picky eaters in your family!
2. Everything was super fresh.
3. The portions were very large. I had lunch leftover for the next day from the Salmon meal and the Pizza meal. I did eat all my steak/potato dinner but I also had done a lot that day so I was super hungry. My husband cleaned his plate with all 3 meals and was STUFFED but he is 6’5″ and climbs on roofs all day!
4. The flavors were amazing truly restaurant quality meals! 
5. It was pretty simple and quick! Take less than 40 minutes to make salmon, potatoes, green beans, and onions and even less time with the other 2 meals!
6. The recipes were super easy to follow and everything was timed perfectly!
7. It came to my door and everything was cold, measured, and packaged per meal. I didn’t have to go to the grocery store! (Which always equals me spending more money because I purchase “snacks and junk”.)
8. I like that it is customizable. For example, for the pizza meal, my husband doesn’t like ranch (I know something is wrong with him) but I could have it on mine and leave it off of his!

Cons so far:
1. I needed a few more pieces of equipment (knives, cutting board etc) then was listed on the card. This is being nit-picky!
2. Took 5 minutes longer than the card said for the Salmon meal but I was also filming and trying to explain everything.
3. I would have cooked potatoes a tiny bit longer for the Salmon but I like crispy potatoes. They were very soft and tender and definitely done but I like them a little on the crunchy side.  For the steak meal, I would have liked a veggie or salad included as a side just because we like to eat something green with every meal!

On Home Chef you can choose how often you want to receive boxes! You can also skip weeks as often as you want. I currently have mine set up for once a month but if a menu pops up and I want those meals I can skip my box and receive that one! Also, you can cancel you boxes at any time! You can choose 2-8 meals per box and you can choose 2, 4, or 6 servings! You can also choose what day of the week you want your box to arrive and they will give you a couple of options based on where you live. I can choose for mine to arrive on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday and mine comes on Wednesday! Home Chef also has the option to add fresh fruit or items to make smoothies for $4.95. I haven’t tried it yet because I normally just grab my fruit when I run to the store to get my husband lunch meat and some items for breakfast. They also periodically offer premium meals that cost a little more for special occasions like Father’s Day.

If you want to see all my photos and videos for Home Chef follow my facebook page under Hardin’s Cook at Home! I started this page to upload everything for y’all! You can write me questions that way too!

Also, do you want your box for $30 off? Click here and search the menu for the next several weeks and choose your first box! https://www.homechef.com/invite/A5dbWcZr0AW5

Stay tuned for my next review of Hello Fresh!