Thursday, November 19, 2015

HellO FresH: My oPinioN

So if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you've seen the last few meal pics I've posted have been followed by #HelloFresh. HelloFresh is a cook at home meal delivery service that allows you to chose 3 complete meals (vegetarian options available) all of the ingredients delivered to your door step, eliminating grocery store visits [where despite my attempts to avoid placing potato chips or the Ben and Jerry's that's on sale, I always end up with them in my cart] meal planning and thoughts of portion control because it's all done for you. 

I came across HelloFresh as a Groupon. The deal is still live click here to view. I purchased the 2 week option for 2. Redeeming my Groupon was relatively easily and signing up for the service was quite simple.  My first delivery came on a Monday afternoon in a large box filled with smaller individual boxes containing produce ingredients separated by meal and the proteins wrapped in ice packs I chose Butternut Squash, Kale and Sausage Flatbread, Crispy Pan Seared Salmon and the California Style Griddled Cheeseburgers. 

I love how easy it was to put away everything away but I will say that HelloFresh should come up with a recycle option. I felt very wasteful throwing away the 6 large ice packs that came in the box. I re purposed the shipping box so that wasn't an issue at all. 

Now let's get to the cooking! I decided to have the flat bread first. I love that the variety of meal options they have because sometimes I just want something light quick and light to eat and other times you want a more substantial meal. But anyway so I pulled out the squash box and sausage to my surprise, the squash was already peeled and cubed. The company advises you to wash and dry all of the produce prior to cooking just an FYI which I think is kinda lame. I mean I can buy ready to eat lettuce from the grocery store and it seems to me like if you're portioning the food you could clean it as well. All the receipes come with these beautifully printed direction cards. The pictures are pretty and the instructions are well...I'll get to that. Excuse the dirty counter in the pic below, I had already prepped the pizza dough before taking the pic (not enough counter space in my kitchen)

I'm a pretty skilled cook so I'm used to not reading directions but for the sake of giving something a chance I decided to follow the instructions to a T, the only change I made was making 2 small flat breads instead of a large one so that it could fit in my toaster oven. The instruction card was easy enough to follow but I recommend reading it entirely before starting, as timing is very important when following these recipes. Speaking of timing, the meals I've seen take less than 45 minutes from start to finish to prepare. I finished cooking this meal in approximately 30 minutes. My end result didn't look like the pictures but here it is. The taste was pretty bland to me, I think it could have used more spices, I actually think I ended up adding garlic powder, cayenne pepper, Italian seasoning some red pepper flakes salt and pepper to give it more flavor. 

The next meal I made was the Crispy Salmon with Bok Choy and a Cilantro Lime Sauce over Brown Rice. What stood out to me with this meal was the quality of the salmon. They were two beautifully cut filling portion sized fillets. I also thought the containers for the soy sauce and the tiny mayo jars were adorable. This meal was quick and easy but unfortunately I don't have a picture because I ate it too fast to document. I did not add any additional seasoning to this meal and I loved it. Mayo and all.

The final meal for the week, which I ended up cooking on the arrival of my second weeks delivery was the griddled cheeseburgers. These were very easy and tasty. Anyone who knows me knows that I don't like condiments such as ketchup, mustard, mayo, relish etc. I think these cheeseburgers were supposed to be like Big Macs because they kept referring to a special sauce which was mayo and paprika, then they had me make these dijon mustard sauteed onions. Because I could control the amount of sauce on my burger, I followed the instructions and made the meal the way it was supposed to be made and I didn't hate the sauces!! Will I ever order a Big Mac...probably not but I gave it a try and didn't die!

I'm currently at the end of my second week, this week I selected and prepared the Steak Marinated Bibimbap, Creamy Avocado Shrimp Linguine and Pork medallions with Brussel Sprouts. The Steak Marinated Bibimbap has been my favorite meal yet, the steak was delicious and the dish came together quickly. I did make an additional sauce for this meal using some pantry ingredients and added an egg which was suggested but not included. 

Last night I made the Creamy Avocado Shrimp Linguine. I was impressed that the shrimp had already been deveined and despite me waiting a week after the food was delivered and ignoring the small icon on the recipe card instructing me to make this meal first, the avocado and tomato were still fresh. This meal however, was tragically bland, despite the coriander powder which to me made the sauce chalky. I haven't made the pork medallions yet but will be sure to post a pic when I do.

All in all, I like the idea, I don't have to plan meals, or go to the grocery store or worry about eating the same thing for a whole week because I can't buy a quarter pound of pork tenderloin lol.  The meals were easy enough to cook, but if you like well seasoned foods I would suggest adding spices from your own pantry to bring it up to your taste. I've recommended it to several friends and family and they seem to enjoy the service as well. As a gift to my readers, I have a free box I can send to one more friend. if you are interested comment with your email address below. The first person to comment gets the box. :-D

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Olive Oil and Vinegar...the New Cupcake

I know you're like.."What is this chick talking about?!" But hear me out...remember how there were supermarket bakeries for birthdays and private owned bakeries for wedding cakes and such...Then all of a sudden every where you looked there were cupcake shops popping up? Well, when I was traveling this east coast this summer, I stumbled upon numerous Gourmet Olive Oil and Vinegar Shops like this one...

Cardenas, located in South Philly (per the sign) on 9th Street better known at the Italian Market, my mom, aunt and I ventured inside this cute little specialty store lined with stainless steel canisters. Each canister had a different flavor (from sweet to savory) printed on the card...

Now mind you I have disliked most condiments for my ENTIRE Existence...ketchup, mustard, relish, mayonnaise, vinegar, salad dressings...all of that was for the birds. "Shalon, what do you want on your hot dog?" Just a plain hot dog..."Shalon, you want some potato salad?" *insert disgusted emoji here* HecK No! My mom cleans the house, the floors damn near everything with vinegar and the smell alone nauseates me...

The only reason that story is relevant is to emphasize how amazing these vinegars truly are. My impulse was to find a seat and let my mom and aunt do have their share of vinegar and oil until they were satisfied...but as I watched my aunt pour a sample from the Raspberry vinegar tap, this dark, luxuriously thick syrup emerged from the spout. There were little piece of bread to sample with the vinegar but my aunt dipped her pinky in her poured sample cup, brought it to her lips and squealed with joy at what just hit her taste buds....I was still like no thank you...until I continued to read the delivious flavors posted on the canisters...pomegranate, peach, huckleberry, pecan praline, fig, Bordeaux cherry...what?! These are vinegars?!...then I saw favorite...Blackberry!! I pulled up a cup, poured a sample, dipped my bread and holy blackberries...that can't be vinegar!! From that point it was on...I was trying everything!

The shop was separated by dark balsamic vinegars on the left and white balsamic on the right with olive oils towards the back of the quaint and cozy little store. On the printed cards, you'll find useful information including a description of the vinegar, pairing suggestions for complementary olive oils and/or vinegars...and suggested uses. So I just went combo crazy...mixing Jalapeno Lime Balsamic Vinegar with Garlic Olive Oil imagining that over some chopped avocado or Lemongrass Mint Vinegar and Basil Olive marinate some chicken...Peach Vinegar & Habanero Olive Mm MM!! 

I don't think we tried every available combo in the store but we definitely had more than half between the three of us, and we would have bought them all except, most flavors only came in 200ml bottles ranging in price from $16.95-19.95. That's a lot of specific strongly flavored vinegar, ultimately we decided to buy a Coconut White Balsamic Vinegar, Lime Olive Oil, Lavender Balsamic Vinegar and Vanilla Bean Olive Oil.

Like I said these shops are popping up all over. My mom and I stumbled upon LowCountry Olive Oil during our visit in Charleston, SC. Same concept with a few different flavors including expresso and chocolate (which I mixed together) and plan to serve over fresh strawberries and one of their 18 year aged balsamic vinegars. What I loved about Low Country is they sold sample bottles, I stocked up and got 6 different flavors, 2 olive oils and 4 vinegars...stay tuned I'll definitely post the pics from when I use these delicious new additions to my pantry!
Low Country Olive Oil, Charleston, SC

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

SuMmeRTime In the CiTy!!

I would first off like to apologize for my lack of posts since the sun has come out and graced us with her endless beauty this summer. As you may or may not know...2 summers ago I had major surgery on my knee and I'm finally back to being able to do the things I love...which usually includes lots of walking that I literally couldn't stand before...BUT NOW...I'M BacK!! I have so many pics stored in my phone of things I've been up to that I can't wait to share with you.
Artscape 2015
What I could see of George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic
This weekend was ArtScape...the largest outdoor art festival on the East Coast...Artscape has something for everyone...this year I worked with my favorite natural hair and body care company and Black Nerds Unite tee creator Oyin Handmade/ ExitTheApple to pass out goodie bags with amazing sample products...If you weren't there to get one no worries...stop by the salon to sample any of the products or take a seat in a salon chair and let someone else do your hair for a change...

We had so much fun talking to so many diverse people on these Baltimore streets and then after we clocked out...we hit the curb for some much needed and deserved libations...we were chilling and then... we were approached by a mob of pantless people ...

Pantless Nerds United 
Booty BootY and Balls everywhere...#nopants #noproblems...unfortunately my romper prevented me from joining in...but I wish I could was hot as Hades this weekend.

The purpose of the No Pants, No Problems initiative isn't just to be half's debunk the notion that sexual harassment, rape, cat calling etc is warranted based on someones attire...which I completely agree fact! Before the no pants people showed up...a group of us were sitting on the curb drinking our beverages and a little man (he really was little...probably 5'4) comes up to me with his hand in the air asking if he could "smack my thigh because it looked so juicy" laying there on the street. Before I had a chance to speak up my home girls retorted back "NO YOU CANNOT"...and I was fully clothed! 

The nerve of some people...but we didn't let his ignorance dampen our mood...he moved along with his tail between his legs and we kept on sippin...

How are you doing in this heat?? Did you attend Artscape?? Did you see the Oyin Street team out there?? What other festivals are you going to attend this summer?? 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Homemade Lo Mein Cheaper and Faster (possibly healthier) than Delivery

Random series of events this weekend put me in very close proximity to H Asian market with produce up the ying yang. I love this place because they have stuff traditioanl American grocery stores might fresh lychee, dragon fruit, long beans (super long string beans) among other things. None of which I picked up this day but they did have a vegetable tray on sale for $2.99...containing carrots, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and snap peas...DEAL I'll take it...I picked up some catfish, some shrimp then came across some fresh lo mein noodles (also on sale for $1.49).

DIGRESSION- I LOVE LO MEIN...the vegetables, the sauce, the noodles, the texture of it all when I saw I had lo mein noodles and all the vegetable fixings for a great lo mein I was more than excited to put it together and here's what I did...

Spicy Pork and Vegetable Lo Mein

Ingredients (in order of use)

Put on a pot of water to boil the noodles

4 tbsp Hoisin Sauce
2 tbsp Sirachi
1 tbsp Ginger Juice
2 tbsp Water
3 tbsp Soy Sauce
2 tbsp minced garlic

Mix the above ingredients in a small bowl and set aside

1.5 tbsp Sesame Chili Oil (spicy! You can use regular sesame oil)
2 pork sausage (casing removed)

Heat a large saute pan on medium heat, add sesame oil and pork, cook until no longer pink


I sliced all of these ingredients with my food processor (time saver) Note: I don't give measurements because this is customizable to what you like...In retrospect, I would have increased my vegetable to noodle ratio.

Add these ingredients to the pan with the pork and stir fry until onions are soft. Then add the sauce we set aside earlier and the "softer" vegetables listed below.

Snap Peas
Savoy Cabbage (shredded)

Continue to stir fry and while the vegetables are cooking add the lo mein noodles to the boiling water. Let the noodles cook for 2-3 minutes then remove from water and add immediately to the saute pot with vegetables.

DO NOT DISCARD NOODLE WATER- I added some of this water to the finished lo mein to make it more saucy. The water helped thicken the sauce....Voila! LO MEIN.

Mind you... I used pork sausage because I defrosted them earlier in the week thinking they were breakfast sausage. You could substitute any other protein or none at all and make it vegetarian. The choice is yours!!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

In my Speakers

Apparently I've always been drawn to parents often reminisce about "little Shalon" disappearing at live concerts only to be found at the foot of the stage clapping and bobbing my head to the music especially Frankie Beverly and MaZe. My dad was a DJ back in the day so our house was/ is always bumping music and now that I've got my own space it's no different..My musical ear't get it Twisted!! Frankie Beverly and Maze will ALWAYS get me will Kool and the Gang...Earth, Wind & Fire...and the likes...

Lately though  I've been enjoying more mellow like music...actually the verbs to properly describe what I'm listening to as of late escape me. It all started with a Sam Smith station on Pandora, I added Jhene Aiko and by weeding out of some Pink Floyd, Akon, Chris Brown and FKA Twigs I got this crazy awesome mix that I love...Let me know what you think...

Alina Baraz & Galamatias 


Marian Hill

The Hics

Flume & Chet Faker



Fetty Woop (Sorry not Sorry) oh and NaturallyEsquire! Thanks for exposing me to this months ago!! I admit I didn't appreciate it then but now I love it Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!

*Disclaimer- I decided to post the lyrics because I don't know what foolishness may lie in the official video...but then I thought...I don't know the words to this song either so that might be just as if you're listening to Fetty Wopp....just let it play in the'll be up dancing anyway so Enjoy...NoT FoR COnTenT!!

Just a few of my favorites..If you would like me to share my Sam Smith Station on Pandora with you send me your email. I'd be happy to do so!! Happy Listening :-)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


As you all know...I like to do fridge clean up meals usually resulting in a quiche, soup or salad... If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, last night you saw me open up the kitchen lab to utilize the following "basket" ingredients in a Food Network Chopped fashion:

Uncured Beef Sausages
Fuji apples
Dried Mushrooms

...and I present to you...

Apple Sausage Hash with Sauteed Garlicky Arugula topped with a Poached Egg

So where did everything go?? I diced the apples and sausage added onion and some seasonings. If I had fresh fennel that would have been wonderful! But I only had dried fennel so I added that and cooked until the apples were soft. I parboiled some potatoes and when they were fork tender sauteed them in the fat rendered from the sausage and the apples. 

While the potatoes were crisping, I took some of the boiling water and poured that in a glass over the dried mushrooms to re-hydrate them. Once they were soft I roughly chopped them and waited until the potatoes were crispy. I put the hash in a bowl to the side and added olive oil to the already hot pan with crispy bits on the bottom...If I were thinking more thoroughly I would have sauteed the mushrooms until they were bacon like crispy but alas I didn't I added the arugula and a heaping 2 tbsp of garlic and sauteed until the arugula wilted, adding the mushroom water to  deglaze  or remove the good seasoned bits from the pan. Once that was done I removed the arugula from the heat and worked on my egg....

I used the same water that I boiled the potatoes in I added a bit of apple cider vinegar and allowed that to come to a boil. Using a whisk I whisked the hot water/vinegar mixture until I created a water tornado...then dropped my raw egg in and let it do it's do...for about a minute or 2. 

Then I assembled and finished with some smoked salt and pepper.


Presentation- I like the colors in the dish but the hash looks pasty like I didn't have enough oil to prevent sticking

Taste- It needed more salt! I added salt to the dish afterwards, which I don't mind doing because everyone's sodium tolerance is different. I personally prefer my arugula raw...Cooking the arugula exaggerated the bitterness of the greens but when eaten with an apple from the hash it was delightful

Creativity- You be the judge of that...I don't know how creative it was...