Reduce Plastic with Your Soap

Want to reduce the amount of plastic you bring into your home and put into the environment? I’ve found a few products that fit the bill, and one of them helps you reduce plastic with your soap. Yep, foaming hand soap tablets that are packaged in paper and shipped in cardboard. Did I mention the reusable dispenser is glass? Can I get a woot woot!

reusable glass dispenser with soap tabs packaged in paper
fill your reusable glass dispenser with hot water and drop in a tab
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I stopped using toothpaste!

I stopped using toothpaste, and I’ll bet your reaction is “ew!” Amiright? Let me clear this up quickly: I stopped using toothpaste, but I am still brushing my teeth. Whew! Instead of toothpaste as we know it (in the tube), I now use toothpaste bits. They look like little mints–how fun is that?

Why? Because over one billion (yes, with a B) plastic toothpaste tubes end up in landfills and oceans each year. That is why I stopped using toothpaste as we know it.

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Aluminum Free Deodorant Comparisons

The debate over aluminum being connected to Alzheimer’s disease and to breast cancer continues. Studies have suggested both, and both have been discredited. Regardless, many have kicked aluminum to the curb, just in case. I did, and now I’ve done some aluminum free deodorant comparisons!

Aluminum free deodorants. Native, Love Beauty and Planet, Arm & Hammer Essentials, Spit and Polish

I don’t want to be that TMI girl, but here we are talking about deodorant, so what do you think is going to happen? As a breast cancer survivor and having a family history of dementia, I want to err on the side of caution so I’ve done some aluminum free deodorant comparisons. Plus, I have the most active sweat glands I’ve ever met.

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Best Travel Makeup, Ever!

Can you travel for a week with nothing but a carry-on and a tote? Would you like to?

Start by paring down your makeup bag. There is some serious bulk and weight in all of those tubes and bottles and jars! How do you not take the essentials, you ask? And let’s face it, once you’re into a beauty routine, it all feels essential at some point, right?

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Review: CineBistro – Waverly Place (Cary NC)

I had the pleasure of attending a dress rehearsal for the newest CineBistro location at Waverly Place in Cary. Many thanks to Tara Mead Schaup, Event Manager, for coordinating an evening of cocktails, great food, and previews. I attended as a guest of a guest and was not compensated for writing about my experience. As always, this review is my honest opinion.

CineBistro is a movie theater with in-theater dining, a full-service bar, and a lounge. If any of you are thinking, ‘I know what this is, I’ve been to Raleighwood,’ stop right now. I’m not here to pick on the RW, but that’s like comparing an AMC Pacer to a BMW. Yes, it’s that different.

The bar and lounge are comfortable in a modern lodge sort of way. I would compare it to the bar at a Firebird’s restaurant. The bar menu includes a fair selection of beers–from domestic and imports to IPAs, a whole mess of liquor drinks (seriously, 22 of them), and a wine list better than I’ve seen at some restaurants. You can spend $8 on a glass of Cabernet or $110 on a bottle of Perrier-Jouet, and everything between.

But you know what I really want to talk about. The food. The food! This isn’t fast food or what you might think movie theater food would be. This is savory, flavorful, sit-down restaurant food.

To kick things off, I had The Bay Crab Dip (lump crab and three cheeses served with aged cheddar pull-apart rolls for dipping). The serving was plenty for two people to share, and it was all crab. I mean, if you like crab, get the crab! It was cheesy, too, and did I mention that it was nearly all crab? The rolls were dense and heavier than I prefer, but that’s a matter of personal taste. My main course was the Ribeye Cheesesteak (8 oz. shaved ribeye, slow-roasted in-house, with sautéed peppers, caramelized onions and topped with creamy American cheese). Even though the cheese was MIA (remember, this event was to work out the kinks), this was possibly one of the best cheesesteak sandwiches I have ever experienced. The beef was tender, not dry, flavorful, and there was plenty of it. It was served with one of my favorites–sweet potato fries. Can’t go wrong there. High points on the food.

Ribeye Cheesesteak with Sweet Potato Fries
Ribeye Cheesesteak with Sweet Potato Fries (that’s half the sandwich in the photo; I lost my mind when it arrived and ate half before taking a photo)

Dessert. I skipped because I’m on a low sugar diet, but I did sample the Butterscotch Bourbon Creme Brûlée to my left and the Cineful Chocolate Cake to my right. It’s tough for me to rate desserts since I’ve kicked sugar–everything tastes overwhelmingly sweet now. However, my two friends who let me sample theirs both said they were delicious. Note: the chocolate cake is both gluten-free and soy-free. There are several vegetarian and gluten-free dishes on the menu. Bonus points there. The menu has a lot to choose from. You can get a Caesar salad, a 9 oz. filet, or pan-seared Atlantic salmon, to list a few items.

Butterscotch Bourbon Creme Brulee
Butterscotch Bourbon Creme Brulee

Cineful Chocolate Cake
Cineful Chocolate Cake

I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about the seats. Oversized, leather, electric push-of-a-button recliners. Can you see it: a glass of red wine, a nice ribeye cheesesteak sandwich, and a recliner. Movie? What movie?

You can purchase your tickets online, at the kiosk in the lobby, or at the ticket counter. But they’ve made the experience even better by allowing you to reserve your specific seats in the theater. No searching in the dark for an open seat! This is not Southwest folks, this is reserved-seat civilization.

Were there snafus? Of course. Some received their food quickly, while a couple of us waited. There was a glitch with the computer, but as soon as it was apparent some of us were not eating, servers from other stations quickly came to pitch in and re-take our orders. We were allowed two cocktails at this event, and when my friend ordered her second, it arrived about 20 minutes later. I’m not sure if this was connected to the computer glitch, but the staff never seemed flustered, and they were apologetic and professional. I didn’t mind eating late–the whole point was to give the team a practice run before they open this weekend on September 4.

How much for all of this cinematic glitter and glam? My evening described above, on a “live” night, would break down like this:

Movie ticket – $14.50
Cabernet (glass) – $8
Crab Dip – $13.50
Cheesesteak Sandwich – $15.00
Gratuity (17.5% added for you) – $6.40
Total – $57.40

That’s steep for my budget, so I won’t be doing my Oscar marathon here in January. However, I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed the whole experience. I’ll definitely go back, probably for a special occasion or a girls night. For the couples out there, this would be a great date night. I recommend giving it a try. I think you’ll like it!

Cheers!
Kelly

Book Review: Barefoot to Avalon by David Payne (North Carolina Author)

Cover of Barefoot to Avalon by David Payne
Barefoot to Avalon by David Payne

Barefoot to Avalon, a Brother’s Story, is David Payne’s sixth published book and memoir that is insightful, raw, and gut-wrenching. It’s the story of an unconventional childhood and a dysfunctional family whelmed by tragedy. Barefoot to Avalon focuses on the violent death of David’s brother, George A., and the years and moments leading up to the horrific accident—a familial thread of resentment and feelings not communicated. Feelings not spoken just hours before George A.’s death, which David witnessed. Their father pitted the two against one another since childhood, while their mother did nothing to mitigate. David’s brother lived with mental illness for much of his life, and because George A. was high functioning, his breakdowns were difficult for those around him to understand and he received little empathy. Yet, when David was wrestling with a declining career, alcoholism, and a marriage near its breaking point, George A. was there to help him move from Vermont to North Carolina for a chance at a fresh start with his wife and children. After a week of near silent brotherly bonding while reducing David’s life to the contents of two trucks, David and George A. set out on the highway. George A. lost his life, and David could only watch.

While I enjoyed David Payne’s novels Gravesend Light and Early from the Dance, I was utterly engrossed in his memoir from beginning to end. Barefoot to Avalon reads as though it were written from the author’s heart and with brutal honesty. At times, I found the writing style difficult to follow. There are stream-of-consciousness narratives that tripped me up, and the author shifts from one time period to another often, sometimes more than once in a paragraph. I understand why he may have written in that fashion, possibly to convey the chaos in his heart and mind, but I personally prefer a more fluid, chronological structure. It did not, however, take away from the story of his relationship with his brother, his brother’s battles, and his own battles. It is a sincere glimpse into the life of an acclaimed novelist and into the heartache and tragedy of human life. If you enjoy memoir, I highly recommend Barefoot to Avalon.

If you would like to order Barefoot to Avalon via my very own Amazon Associates link, clickity-click here.

Cheers,
Kelly

Gourmet Meals in a Box: And the Winner is…

Y’all know I’ve done two weeks each of Plated, Blue Apron, and Hello Fresh because I’ve prattled on about it in several posts. These are nice folks who will ship to your door a box of fresh produce, meats, spices and sauces to take the burden of recipe finding and grocery shopping off your shoulders. I like this!

I thought I liked cooking, but it turns out I don’t like cooking that much. Even with the entrée selections and shopping done for me, cooking three nights per week for myself is a lot of work, and I already have a full-time job. Enough! But these services are turn-on/turn-off as you please, so you can order up a box any time you want without being locked into any kind of weekly thing. I like this too!

Beyond the convenience, I prepared and enjoyed some phenomenal meals!

Thai Beef Lettuce Wraps with Basil Rice
Thai Beef Lettuce Wraps with Basil Rice

I mean, look at the fresh ingredients. I can barely stand it!

Bowl of long life noodles
One of the ingredients from this week’s Plated box

Which is my favorite? It’s a close call, but I have to say Plated wins! Here’s how it scored out on a scale of 1-5:

Plated LogoDelivery & Packaging – 3 (on-time delivery, but too much non-recyclable packaging)
Ease & Prep Time – 5 (I was able to prepare the meals in a reasonable amount of time!)
Taste – 5 (nearly all of the Plated dishes were delicious)
Value – 5 (about $8 per plate–I got more than 2 servings per recipe)
Grand Total – 18

Blue Apron LogoDelivery & Packaging – 4 (on-time delivery, and packing material was the most reusable of the three)
Ease & Prep Time – 3 (the prep time was longer than I would like–too much time in the kitchen)
Taste – 4 (first box was very good and second box was ho-hum)
Value – 4 (about $9 per plate–I got just a smidge over 2 servings per recipe)
Grand Total – 15

Hello Fresh LogoDelivery & Packaging – 3 (on-time delivery, but too much non-recyclable packaging)
Ease & Prep Time – 5 (meals were easy to prepare and not a bunch of time spent in the kitchen)
Taste – 4 (I liked most of the dishes; a couple were so-so)
Value – 5 (about $7 per plate–I got way more than 2 servings per recipe)
Grand Total – 17

Keep in mind that this is all very much a matter of personal taste (you know, when it comes to taste). What is delicious to me might be so-so to you, and what I find ho-hum might be delectable to you. Honestly, all three are providing great quality food and an affordable convenience that I hope is around for a long time. At least until I have a personal shopper/chef (which, it’s safe to say, will be never!).

If you would like to give Hello Fresh a try, feel free to use my KellyGropp discount code for $40 off your first box. Use code 3FEPQM. You get $40 off, I get $20 off the next box I purchase. Win-win!

If Plated and/or Blue Apron provide any discounts, I’ll be sure to share those on the Chubs Lived Here facebook page.  Like CLH on facebook so you don’t miss any give-aways or discounts!

Congratulations to Plated–I’ll be ordering a box soon!

Cheers!
Kelly

Gourmet Meals in a Box: Hello Fresh Week 2

Week two of Hello Fresh is in the books! One of this week’s dinners was fantastic, while the other two were good. Here’s a peek at what they sent me and what it looked like after my culinary impressionism.

 Pan-Seared Salmon with Honeydew-Cucumber Salsa & Watercress Salad

This one is tough to judge because it is, after all, a matter of personal taste. Remember in week one of Hello Fresh when I loved the salmon-sweet potato cakes because they didn’t taste too salmony? Well the pan-seared salmon is full-on salmon. No sweet potatoes to take the edge off that fish taste. So, while I think it was a good dish, it wasn’t my favorite because the salmon tasted like salmon. I can’t put this on Hello Fresh. I could have chosen an alternate dish, but I think those salmon-sweet potato cakes tricked me into thinking I really liked salmon!

Hello Fresh Pan-Seared Salmon
Pan-Seared Salmon tasted like salmon

Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken Saltimbocca with Sautéed Spinach & Garlic-Sage Sauce

This dish was delicious! The prosciutto got just slightly crispy. The chicken was juicy tender, and the sage, prosciutto and sauce gave it all the flavor it needed. The side of sautéed spinach loaded with garlic and grape tomatoes is nearly a stand-alone for me. This is one of my favorite summer sides.

Hello Fresh Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken
Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken

Curried Jamaican Beef & Collard Greens with Spicy Red Chili & Creamy Polenta

This dish sounds wonderful, it has the ingredients to be wonderful, but it lacked something. Perhaps if the onion had been diced rather than thinly sliced it would have married with the beef a little better. The ground beef tasted as though all the flavor was on the outside, but when I started chewing, it was just plain beef on the inside. Does that make any sense? No? The creamy polenta was redeeming–who doesn’t love polenta?

Hello Fresh Curried Jamaican Beef
Curried Jamaican Beef & Collard Greens

The box was delivered on the day specified, and everything was kept cool and seemed fresh. However, the box was partially open. One flap had popped away from the strip of packing tape across the top. The other flap was taped down, and because of the styrofoam box within the box, there didn’t seem to be any chance of tampering.

Hello Fresh box partially opened
Box arrived like this. All flappy.

The recipes were easy to prepare, and I was quite close to hitting the HF time estimates. Hello Fresh uses more packaging than I would prefer. If I were to use any of these services on a regular basis, I doubt I would get much sleep for all the worry over the non-recyclables.

Hello Fresh packaging
Less individual packaging, but the styrofoam liner is too much

Room for Improvement

  • Nutrition labeling – for example, on the “Stock Concentrate.” This is important to me.
  • Reduce the amount of packaging and use more recyclables.

Would I Recommend Hello Fresh?

Yes. These recipes were all easy to prepare, they did not keep me in the kitchen too long, and about half of them were quite tasty (which, again, is a matter of personal opinion). The portions were large which meant I had leftovers for lunches and dinners beyond the box. Bonus!

Let me know if you’ve used Hello Fresh and what you think. Next up is my comparison of the three (Plated, Blue Apron, and Hello Fresh). Stay tuned!

Cheers!
Kelly

Gourmet Meals in a Box: Hello Fresh Week 1

Hello Fresh is the third and final gourmet, cook it yourself, meals delivered to your home service I am trying. This one was the most difficult to register and choose my menu, but sometimes things are just difficult for me. I got caught in a loop where it asked me to choose my menu, and when I clicked to choose my menu, it asked me to choose my menu. I went round and round like that for about 10 clicks before I quit. I logged in the next day and all went well.

I did the same with Hello Fresh as I did with the others and chose a box with three meals to be delivered once per week. The package was delivered on time and everything looked good and fresh. The only snafu was that something leaked and some things were wet and sticky, so I had to wipe down the containers and bags and then sanitize my refrigerator once everything had been used.

Of the three, Hello Fresh delivered the largest box and it was lined with a styrofoam cooler. There was less packaging of the individual ingredients, but overall, the styrofoam was a lot of non-recyclable stuff. I looked it up, and I cannot recycle the styrofoam at my receptacle.

Styrofoam packaging
The styrofoam box within the box

The first three recipes were:

Old Bay-Spiced Salmon & Sweet Potato Cakes with Tomato-Arugala Salad

I was a little skeptical about these because I often find salmon more fishy-tasting than I prefer. What a pleasant surprise these were! The mashed sweet potato folded into the salmon took the edge off and gave it great texture and flavor. They came out great and I even froze a few for later (bonus!). The recipe card said it should take about 50 minutes to prepare, and of course I went over, but not by much.

Old Bay-Spiced Salmon & Sweet Potato Cakes from Hello Fresh
Old Bay-Spiced Salmon & Sweet Potato Cakes with Tomato-Arugala Salad

Cuban-Style Beef Picadillo with Red Beans and Rice

This dish was delicious! The first bite I took, I thought it was okay, but by the third bite I couldn’t  shovel it into my mouth fast enough. A friend joined me for dinner that evening and she, too, said it was a tasty dish. The green olives and golden raisins were the perfect mix of sweet and salty. The beef and tomatoes over the Basmati rice and beans made for a comfort food dream. This was some good eats. The time stamp said 35 minutes, but I think it took me more like 45 or 50. Well worth it.

Cuban-Style Beef Picadillo from Hello Fresh
Cuban-Style Beef Picadillo with Red Beans and Rice

Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Apple Compote, Spinach Salad & Crispy Shallots

Of the three recipes, this was my least favorite, but it was still good. The problem was, I got an email from Hello Fresh the day before delivery telling me the pork was not up to their quality standards. There was no evidence that the pork was harmful to eat, but they suggested that I not cook it. I appreciate that they caught the problem and notified me. And really, this happens at grocery stores too, so no points deducted for having an issue with one of the products. They were on top of it and said they would reimburse me the cost of the pork plus give me a $10 account credit for the inconvenience.

However, I don’t know that I purchased the right cut of pork at the local Harris Teeter to replace it. And, I have a history of preparing tough pork. I’m having total deja vu here because I am certain I made that same statement about beef recently. Hmm, apparently I can’t prepare meat properly!

Anywho, the dish had good flavor, but the pork was tough. I had another friend over for dinner that evening, but given her vegetarian status, she was not affected by my poor pork-cooking skills anyway. She said the apple compote and spinach salad were great. Hello Fresh said 35 minutes; I delivered in 45.

Pan-Seared Pork Chops from Hello Fresh
Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Apple Compote, Spinach Salad & Crispy Shallots

On a scale of 1 to 5, here’s how the first week of Hello Fresh went:

Delivery and Packaging – 3.5

I cannot move beyond the fact that the entire box was lined with a styrofoam cooler. Additionally, this was the largest box of the three. And there was the issue of the leaky something and having to wipe things off and sanitize my refrigerator.

Quality of Ingredients – 4

With the exception of the pork, and remember I said I would not deduct points for that because it can happen to anyone, everything was fresh and of good quality. Again, nutrition labeling on the ingredients which are not fresh fruits or vegetables would be helpful. I guess I’ll just say that ’til I’m blue in the face.

Ease of Preparation – 4.5

Either I’m getting better at this cooking thing, or these were some easy-peasy recipes. The time involved was not much more than suggested, and each recipe called for slicing and dicing only 5 ingredients. Only 5!

Taste – 5

These recipes were delicious, and again, at least one of them was a dish I would not have thought I could prepare (the salmon cakes). I’m pretty pleased with myself!

Value/Price – 5

The cost is $69 per box, which includes three recipes, each providing dinner for two. That comes to $11.50 per plate. I got more than two servings from each recipe, so it was more like $7.50 per plate. For me, this is a super deal, because I typically spend between $9 and $12 per day on lunch when I don’t prepare something ahead of time (which is typically my predicament).

So there you have the first week of Hello Fresh. I have one week to go beginning tomorrow. Let me know if you have any questions–I am always happy to chit-chat with you all!

Cheers!
Kelly

Gourmet Meals in a Box: Blue Apron Week 2

My second week of Blue Apron has come to a close. Although some of the recipes were more time-intensive than I would prefer and, in my opinion, not quite as yummy as the other service I sampled (although that is a matter of personal taste), I had some pretty good dinners from my own kitchen without ever having to step foot in the grocery store. Success! Without further ado, here’s how the last week played out.

Crispy Fish Tacos with English Pea Guacamole & Pea Tip Salad

Crispy Fish Tacos
Crispy Fish Tacos were a little grease-logged

I love fish tacos, and I’ll be the first to admit I’m a little fussy about them. These fish tacos were fine. Not great, not bad, but sufficient. Not a glowing endorsement of my own cooking! I don’t think I got the oil up to temp before I added the coated Mahi Mahi, which left the fish soggy with grease. The guacamole was the main accompaniment in the tortilla, and while it was decent, there was no onion. I missed the onion. And there were peas. Blue Apron incorporates seasonal elements to ensure the freshest ingredients possible, but it felt like they didn’t know what to do with the peas, and someone said ‘just throw ‘em in the guac!’ The peas did no harm, but they didn’t seem to have a purpose, either. I couldn’t discern the flavor of the peas in the guacamole, nor did they add much texture. The salad included pea tips (I’m assuming the leaves from the pea plants) and golden beet. I don’t care for red beets (as I thought all beets were), but I completely enjoyed the golden beet in this salad. Points for introducing me to this lovely vegetable!

Pulled Chicken Mole Quesadillas with Monterey Jack Cheese & Shredded Cabbage Salad

Chicken Quesadilla
Chicken Quesadilla…burned

These had a lot of flavor and were more hearty than your average chicken quesadilla, likely due to me leaving the cooked chicken in large chunks when I pulled it apart, and the sauce having tomato paste and Mexican dark chocolate, which gave it a serious presence. This was no wimpy quesadilla. In fact, I can’t believe I’m going to say this, the dark chocolate could have been toned down—less of it would have taken this dish from very good to delicious. But very good is very good, right? I burned the first one, standing right in front of it, never taking my eyes from it. Completely my fault. Perhaps I should be subscribing to take-out instead.

Pork & Tomatillo Pozole with Hominy, Avocado & Radishes

Pork & Tomatillo Pozole
Pork & Tomatillo Pozole was good!

With ground pork, lime, and tomatillos, this soup was quite tasty. The garnishes were key—radish, cilantro, and roasted pepitas sprinkled on top added a ton of flavor. This was a fairly simple and quick recipe to make, and I had 3 ½ meals from it. You know I like that. I’ll add this recipe to my book because I like simple, quick, and tasty all together!

The delivery arrived on the appointed day this week (not a day early), and everything was kept cool and seemed fresh. The recipes were all fairly easy, although some were a time drain (a lot of slicing and chopping).

Blue Apron uses less packaging than the other service I tried, which I like. Fewer plastic bottles, a more reusable insulated lining in the box, and a smaller box.

Blue Apron Packaging
Blue Apron Packaging

Room for Improvement

  • Nutrition labeling – I am stuck on the nutrition labeling thing. Tell me how much sugar is in the little bottle of “Golden Mountain Sauce.”
  • Possibly offer the option of having the vegetables pre-chopped for an extra $5. I would pay that so I could eat dinner closer to 9pm vs. 10pm.

Would I Recommend Blue Apron?

Yes, but I would ask if you enjoy spending time in the kitchen (or have time to spend in the kitchen) and also note that even though I found these six recipes to be good, they did not meet the standard set by Plated (in my opinion). It is completely a matter of personal taste. The best part is that I didn’t have to find recipes, shop, and carry it all up the stairs. All I did was push the box through the door and start cooking!

Drop a comment if you have used Blue Apron (or any of the other services). I’d love to hear what you think!

Cheers!
Kelly