My First Time Trying Hello Fresh

I can’t help it: I like a deal!

I received a credit to try out two meals from Hello Fresh, and so of course I tried it.

We selected a family portion and tried Sweet & Sour Shrimp and a Penne Bake.

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Pretty packaging & pictures, right? Did the meals taste as good as the pictures make them look?

The service IS nice. The box was delivered late afternoon, so I had plenty of time to get it inside and start my meal prep.  All in all, there is A LOT of cardboard, frozen ice and packing inserts, so I couldn’t help but feel it would be wasteful to do this EVERY week.

Okay, so the meals – I made the shrimp dish first, per the instructions. The ingredients were very fresh. My kids insisted on snacking on the snow peas before I could cook them up! That was fine with me! Go ahead & eat those veggies kids! This meal took a bit longer than suggested to prepare. I should have saved it for a weekend night versus during the week to have more time to prep.  However, it was a hit. We had a LOT of leftover rice, and some leftover sweet & sour shrimp too.

Compared to the first meal, the second meal was another story. First off, the chicken sausage was missing from my shipment, so I made it a vegetarian meal. Second, the thyme was a pain to use fresh. I should have just used the dried stuff in my cabinet…though maybe it wouldn’t have been as fragrant. Third, the seasoning packet warned that it was spicy. I used a small amount, and it still was a bit much. I couldn’t even serve this pasta bake to my kids due to the spice. My husband and I thought it was okay. We really had a lot of this leftover. Ugh.

I did call customer service at Hello Fresh to tell them about the missing meat in my shipment. They were very nice and apologetic and gave me a credit for my account. I will be trying Hello Fresh another time after these mixed reviews. There is a nice convenience to the service, but I’ll have to determine if I think it’s worth the higher cost of meal planning.

Fresh & Flavorful Straight from the Cheese Maker

I have had this post sitting as a draft for sometime now, and I’m FINALLY going to put some meat on it’s outline bones it and push it out of the nest to fly into the wide wide web world.

Writing this post reminds me of a blogging friend – the Do Gooder Mama – someone whose awesome blog hasn’t had much to say as of late.  I hope all is well with her and am including links to her blog for you to enjoy.

One of her posts Shop Small. Buy Local. Do Good. helps explain my reasons for buying cheese straight from the factory as part of our Cheese Ventures across this beautiful state of Wisconsin.  Some of my loved ones who shall remain nameless have yet to understand my cheese obsession. With our latest visit to Cady Cheese, I realized that it is simply enjoying the BEST quality food straight from the manufacturer, while taking short, delicious breaks on our family road trips.

If you’re ever along Highway 94 past Eau Claire and heading towards Minnesota, I would highly recommend a short jaunt to Cady Cheese.  Just follow the yellow brick road to the front of the store past the lovely landscaping.  We were greeted by several friendly and knowledgeable employees, who offered us samples (YES)!  We enjoyed freshly made colby cheese that squeaked as we chewed it. Amazing! And to think that I assumed only fresh cheese curds could squeak! We settled on three cheese: Golden Jack (picked by my 3 year old), 6 yr old Cheddar, and roasted tomato monterrey jack.  Pairing these cheeses with Capital beer – also purchased along our road trip – made for a delectable combination of Wisconsin’s finest for our dear Minnesota friends.

The Benefits of Shopping Small

Recently I’ve been noticing a remarkable difference in the quality of food purchased locally instead of from the supermarket. We’ve picked and purchased apples from farmers and have enjoyed a lot of produce from our local farmer’s market.  Food just seems to last longer and taste better.

Case in point – Daddy O. critiqued an asparagus and tomato side dish I made using grocery store produce, saying the tomatoes lacked flavor.  And sure enough, a farmer at our market explained to us that tomatoes you buy in the store are typically picked when still green, leaving them to ripen during transportation. The longer they stay on the vine, the more they develop their flavor.  (We’re hoping our tomatoes will ripen before the frost comes, so they’ll taste better!)

A few stats from Do-Gooder Mama’s post from E-Local:

– Throughout the United States, only about 33.6% of the revenue from national chains is reinvested into the community, which is very low compared to the 64.8% return from local businesses. (2009)

– If the people of an average American city were to shift 10% of their spending from chains to local businesses, it would bring an additional $235 million per year to the community’s economy.

In addition to great taste, the economic benefits are truly felt in your own community.  Being employed by a small business myself, I plan on shifting some of my buying to local stores – especially to all of the amazing cheese factories!

Have you frequented farmer’s markets or bought straight from the producer / cheese maker?  How do you support small business?

Only in Wisconsin? Family Trip to a Beer Garden

As I mentioned in my post “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” we dig Oktoberfest beer, so when my sister-in-law suggested we check out one local beer garden, we couldn’t refuse. Since the beer garden – or Bier Garten auf Deutsch – is in a park and next to a kid’s playground, we decided to make it a family picnic.

We broke out the big beer glass I bought from Oktoberfest more than ten years ago.  Here’s Daddy O. showing his excitement!

Holding beer stein

At the bier garten, I split a half-liter with my sister-in-law, and Daddy O. opted for a full liter of dark beer.  Apparently it is shipped from Hofbrauhaus Munich, and it was quite good.  We also shared a big pretzel (complete with three cheese blend spread), bratwurst, quark (type of cheese), fruit, and sandwiches for the kids. It was so fun to dine and drink on a beautiful, autumn day!

Bier Garten sign

Isn’t this the best sign?

After lunch, the kids played on the playground, leaving Daddy O. to finish his liter while sitting on a park bench.  A polka band with an amazing tuba player and authentic German beer hall songs made our afternoon outing even more perfect.  I think it’s impossible NOT to be happy when you hear a polka (but maybe that’s just me?)!

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Initially, we felt a little crazy for bringing our kids to a beer garden, but it really was a lovely day!  Living in Wisconsin, adults can bring their underage children to bars, so why not a beer garden too?! Cheers / Prost!

Fresh Cheese – Squeaky Good!

I haven’t been blogging as much – nor visiting many cheese factories lately – as I, like so many other people, am trying to squeeze out all the fun I can from summer!  It HAS been fun and busy for sure.  Here’s one of our adventures that I had yet to record.

Earlier this summer, I took the kids on a road trip to meet a dear friend and her child at a farm.  This place is awesome as you can go in the pens with the animals.  We were catching chickens, feeding goats, meeting pigs, riding ponies, and petting the many farm kitties. It was a blast!  My friend & I also made our debut appearance as goat herders, catching a stray goat and directing it back into the pen.  Besides the goats who tried eating our shoes, they were quite adorable!  See my daughter feeding them below:feeding the goatsMy son wasn’t so much into the animals and just wanted to be held or sit on the antique tractor.  I did get a picture of him in these cute wagons though. playing in a wagonNeedless to say that excursion wore my kids out, so while they snoozed in the car on the ride back, I sought out a cheese factory along our drive. I briefly stopped at Baker’s Cheese – a place that my relatives rave about.  We were already big fans of their smoked string cheese, so I knew the store would have some more cheese-awesomeness.

ker's Cheese Factory StoreWhile they don’t have the best cheese billboard ever, they have a small, quaint shop with delicious string cheese and several other varieties. Here’s what I bought: aged cheddar cheese, smoked string cheese bites (it wasn’t the correct weight, so they put a “we goofed” sticker on it), and FRESH string cheese.

Fresh String Cheese, Smoked String Cheese, andAged Cheddar I think everyone in Wisconsin knows that when cheese is fresh it SQUEAKS!  This string cheese was squeaky good.  I only hope everyone can experience eating cheese fresh from the factory like I did! AMAZING!  We continue to buy the smoked string cheese from the grocery store, but I still long to go back to the factory for another supply of the fresh, squeaky stuff.