Blue Apron Made Me a Chef

I was sitting at an event at the Marriott Denver enjoying the food. It was a celebration for Marriott and Starwood’s merger. I often go to hotel events (it’s part of my job). We are often given what I affectionately call “parting gifts.” They are typically an item like a notepad, water bottle, or a bag. This time – we were treated to seeing Western Daughters Butcher Shop dismantle a full pig (with a saw) and then getting a chunk of pork. Most were given a pork chop. I told them that I am not much of a cook to give me something simple. So they handed me a larger chunk of pork wrapped in brown paper and told me that all I would need to do it sear it, salt and pepper it and stick it in the crock pot. I wasn’t really even sure what this cut of meat was. I brought it back to my table with a sort of giggle – I’m not a chef. I’m not close to a cook. Simple is good. This is when my friend Leslie told me that she had been using Blue Apron and she had some meals to give away (she had two sets of two meals).

When she sent me the link. I decided to try it. I opt’d for the family meals. There are three of us in my family – myself, my daughter and my teenage (football playing) son. The meals said they would serve four – but I have found that with a teenage boy – what normally feeds four people feeds the three of us just fine. I figured if there were leftovers I would eat them for lunch.

I am an adventurous eater. I will try just about anything. My kids used to be the same way. They were never picky kids that would only eat hot dogs and McDonalds (not that there’s anything wrong with that in my book). But I chose the Moroccan-Spiced Lamb & Beef Tagine and the Blackened Chicken & Rice. I chose those because I was not sure that my kids would eat the fish and the other option was a pasta. I figured if it was free I would go with what seemed more expensive. I could probably make a simiilar pasta dish for cheap.

The package came a few days later. It was packed in ice and in an insulated box. Everything I needed for two full meals! There was a menu sheet for each meal. Simple and easy to read. The front side has a short description of the meal and then the list of ingredients. The ingredients in the box were clearly marked and I could see which items were for which meal.

The first we tried was the Tagine. The smell was delicious. The preparations were simple and easy to follow with just a few steps. (Six steps). It walked me through how to cook, when to add what and even how to finish off the meal complete with a dollop of yogurt sauce and green scallions. The meal smelled awesome and tasted even better…to me. When I proudly served it to my daughter (my son was out with friends). She didn’t love it as much as I did. She ate that but not much of it. I hadn’t even told her it was lamb (if I did I think she would not have eaten ANY at all). I had enough leftovers for several days. I loved the fact that it was a WHOLE meal. Not just the entree (as you might get at a place like Dream Dinners). Complete even with the pita chips served on the side.

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The other meal was the Blackened Chicken & Rice. Again this was a simple and easy to follow directions. The side  was cooked rice with kale, different oranges (mandarin and blood orange) which the chicken was served atop. I thought it delicious. But neither of my kids ate much. They said they didn’t care much for the taste. On the other hand, I loved it. So once again I will be eating for DAYS on the leftovers.

Overall, I loved both meals. There was plenty of food to really serve four people. The recipe choices were unique and something I would certainly not have made on my own. They were both easy to follow and delicious. They made me feel like I really could master the kitchen. But the fact that neither of my kids liked the meals and at the cost – I may opt for once a month doing Blue Apron but just a meal for two – so I can make it for myself and have leftovers for just a day or so. I liked that it was a full meal – not just an entree –  where I need to dream up what to have on the side or how to incorporate veggies.

Great Family Fun at Lawson Adventure Park

 

 

My family likes to spend time in the mountains. To be honest, it is just me that really likes to spend time in the mountains – the kids don’t have a choice and I typically drag them up there with me. They pretend they are not having a good time. Typical teens. Grumpy face. Head buried deep in whatever social media secret they are keeping from me at the moment. I took my daughter and her friend to Lawson Adventure Park in Lawson Colorado this last weekend. (Lawson is just West of Idaho Springs).

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We tried several of their offerings.

Challenge Course. We started the day with the Challenge Course. A bit like a suspension bridge with a small zipline. We could choose which direction and what challenge to attempt. The climb up the rope wall to start. Then we walked across the suspension bridge to a rope loop hang. Then zipped back to almost the beginning. It was certainly a challenge for all ages at any point but a lot of fun at the same time. There were eight elements total. (We tried them all).

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Zorb. The zorb was one of our favorite things all day. It is like a giant inflatable hamster ball that is tossed down the hill with someone inside! There is also water in here (about 5 gallons) so that the person inside slides and slips around. Be prepared to be drenched.(See the Awesome Video here: https://youtu.be/ebUMt-Tx2KE)

Water Walkerz. From a spectator standpoint Water Walkerz was hilarious. With my daughter inside an inflated plastic ball – she attempted..and attempted…and attempted to stand upright inside the ball as it was floating over a small pool of water. No matter how hard she tried or how close it looked like she would get to doing it – it was met with a fall and a burst of laughter.

Maze. I have to admit, I was a bit blasé about the Maze. It looked like one of those kids mazes that is erected at the playground or Renaissance Festival. Seemingly easy to navigate to the opening point. However the twist on this was there were four hole punches hidden through the maze that spelled out M-A-Z-E. We were to race each other and get all four punches before we could exit the maze and time-stamp how long it took us. The twist made it so much fun and a great (dry) way to finish off our day.

The day was a bit overcast and we were a bit afraid of weather plus, we found that we were pretty tired at that point in the day – but there are definitely some things I would like to go back to do in the future.

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Denver Deal: Sonic, JC Penney, Movies and More

Happy Father’s Day! My dad always cheered my sister and me on when we scored a great deal. I always thought that was the girl thing (you know, mom clipping coupons to go to the grocery store). But if we could get a buy-one get-one free or a fun “extra” that we couldn’t really afford, my dad  is always the first one to cheer us on. His birthday is near Father’s Day so we presented him with coupons from a bunch of places freebies this year – he said, “this will be the best week ever.”  I hope this is your best week ever too!

 Kneaders Bakery & Café will open Friday, June 26 at 7:00 a.m.  To celebrate their Grand Opening, the first 100 customers will receive a complimentary meal of Kneaders famous French toast! With 3 locations in Colorado and over 35 locations throughout the west, Kneaders Bakery and Café specializes in authentic European hearth breads that are made fresh daily. The fast-casual restaurant also offers a variety of soups, salads, sandwiches and 40-50 different pastries in a charming, family-friendly environment.  Their Arvada location will open at 7945 Wadsworth Blvd and will serve customers Monday-Saturday from 7 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Michaels’ Passport to Imagination. If you have crafty kids, be sure to take them to Michaels on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays where they can get their craft on from 10 a.m.-noon. Cost is just $5 (or $12 for three sessions) and you must pre-register here. You’ll have time at the end of session to doodle, play and create with the products from that week’s sponsor.

Lakeside Amusement Park savings. Groupon is currently offering the following deal: Admission and Unlimited Rides for Two or Four at Lakeside Amusement Park (Up to 44% Off). There are two options: $27 for admission and unlimited rides for two (Up to $45 value) or $50 for admission and unlimited rides for four (Up to $90 value). The all-access admission allows guests to enjoy the park’s bevy of activities, such as a roller coaster, the merry-go-round, and Kiddies’ Playland.

SportsAuthority Football Field Day.  Sports Authority Football Field Day for kids ages 6 to 14, hosted by Sports Authority and USA Football’s Heads Up Football initiative. The high-energy event will allow participants to train where the Denver Broncos play their home games, Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The training will include a strong emphasis on safety where players navigate through stations dedicated to improving specific skills, such as passing, catching, running, Heads-Up tackling and more. The event is June 28. There are morning and afternoon sessions. Sports Authority Football Field Day is free and open to the public. To reserve your spot on the field and for more information, please click here

Sonic. We know summer is here when I get the hankering (seriously, did I just use the word hankering?!??) for ice cream shakes and other sweet yummy drinks. Apparently, Sonic believes the same as they offer half-price shakes all day on Thursday, June 18!

Bath and Body Works. Bath and Body Works is having their semi-annual sale starting June 1 (going through the month). Great bath and body care including fragrances, lotions and bath soap at up to 75% off!

Free Movie. Best Friend. Hero. Marine. You and your heroes are invited to a special advance screening of MAX on June 22! Visit http://www.wbtickets.com/MAXMamas to download your admit-four pass! Please note that seating is NOT guaranteed, so please arrive early for a chance to get in! MAX in theaters June 26!

Greek Festival. Friday, June 19 through Sunday, June 21 experience Greek culture, food, drink and dancing at the Greek Festival. The party happens at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral. Tickets are $5 for adults, Kids 12 and under get in free.

JC Penney Bonus Cash. Kohl’s has been doing it for years – spend $50 get $10 back in Bonus Cash. I recently received an email that JC Penney is also doing the Bonus Cash offer (same deal – spend $50 get $10) through this Sunday, June 21. Plus, they have additional discounts of extra 20% off!

QDoba Buddy Pass. QDoba is offering a buy one get one free entrees this Tuesday (June 16) and Wednesday (June 17). Just say “Mid-Week Buddy Pass” when you place and pay for your meal. Qdoba is also offering a free entree when you put $30 or more on your Q Cash (like the Starbucks phone app where you can pay from your phone).

Ongoing

Free, healthy summer meals for Colorado kids and teens. Summer should be a fun and enriching time for all Colorado children, but for many it represents a time when they are at the greatest risk of hunger due to lost access to school meals. Thanks to a statewide collaboration to address child hunger, 533 community sites across Colorado will provide meals to children up to 18 years old at no cost this summer.  Colorado families can find nearby summer food sites by using an interactive map at KidsFoodFinder.org or calling the statewide, bilingual Hunger Free Hotline toll-free at (855) 855-4626.

Free Outdoors Movies and Concerts. Denver is chock-full of great, talented musicians that play around town for free – and what is better than a movie outdoors on a cool summer night among about 500 of your closest friends? Don’t miss our round-up of free outdoor movies and concerts this summer.

Harkins Summer Movie Fun. Harkins Summer Movie Fun program for kids is back again this year. Kids can enjoy a movie a week for 10 weeks, for less than $1 per film. Make Harkins Summer Movie Fun for kids an annual tradition for your family. All adults must be accompanied by children.  Tickets are on sale now at participating locations. Movies this summer include: Boxtrolls, The Lorax, Rio 2, Dolphin Tale 2, Curious George, Nut Job, Puss in Boots, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, and Penguins of Madagascar.

Cinemark Movie Clubhouse. There’s nothing quite like spending a hot day in a cool movie theater.Cinemark has a 10-week film fest of its own: $5 for 10 movies when purchased in advance at cinemark.com.  If you delay and purchase at the theater, movies are still just $1. Most locations start on Wednesday, June 2 with screenings starting at 10 a.m. every Tuesday and/or Wednesday. The film line-up includes The Croods, The LEGO Movie, Dolphin Tale 2, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Penguins of Madagascar, Night At The Museum: Secret of the Tomb, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Alvin and The Chipmunks: Chip Wrecked, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days and The Nut Job.

Barnes & Noble Summer Reading. Kids can earn a free book of their won from Barnes & Noble (one of my favorite stores) in three easy steps. Step 1: Read any 8 books and record them in the Reading Journal (PDF). Step 2: Bring the completed Reading Journal to your local B&N store. (Find a Store). then Step 3: choose a FREE BOOK from our selection on the Reading Journal list at the store… Enjoy reading!

Free Denver Walking Tours Denver parents, kiddos, and visitors alike will be able to see and experience downtown Denver in a new way. They’ll be able to take advantage of Denver Free Walking Tours’ new two hour daily tours that leave at 10 a.m. daily, starting in Civic Center Park, then wind through downtown past more than a dozen of Denver’s distinctive landmarks, and end in front of Coors Field. No reservations needed and tours are every day – rain, snow, or shine.  There’s no up-front cost for this fun, educational opportunity for kids and parents but tipping is strongly recommended. If you’d like a tour specifically geared to your kids, Denver Walking Tours offers group tours for a nominal charge so grab your friends for a fun day of learning this summer!

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Email me if you know of any great Denver deals!

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Frieda’s Awesome Foods

I honestly love trying new and different foods. I am also insistent that my kids to the same. I have a rule that they have to try something three times to decide if they like it or not. I got on a email list (mostly because of my contributions at MileHighMamas.com) for Frieda’s Produce.  I am super excited each time I receive one of their boxes. They usually contain some of the most unique foods available in the United States. Some of our more recent favorites that we have hunted down in stores (we found out that King Soopers pretty consistently carries the stuff as does Sunflower Market).

1. Sunchokes – These little morsels look a bit like a ginger root. We have prepared them by boiling them and then gently sauteeing them in a bit of butter (for my mom who believes that I can only cook things that are boxed, bagged or frozen should be impressed that I actually used the word sautee right there in the correct context). They taste just like the heart of an artichoke without all the falderall of the leaves and the other stuff you usually have to work to get to the yummy middle.

2. Purple Brussel Sprouts – Yes, they look like and taste just like a regular brussel sprout (only maybe a tiny bit smaller). The color has created fun on our plates and my daughter devours them like they are going out of style! (Sprouts are so stylish you know).

3. Eggroll Wrappers and WonTon Skins – We created some of the best stuff with these! We made our own Chili Rellanos by wrapping a chunk of velveeta cheese and a jalepeno in an Eggroll Wrapper and then deep fried them. Easy and was one of the biggest hits of our Superbowl Party! And yes, we made our own potstickers with the WonTon skins. The recipe was easy enough to have my kids help and then we enjoyed. Potsticker recipes are abundant and easy to find on the web. It is essentially ground pork, red bell pepper, onion, ginger, water chesnuts and cabbage.

4. Passion Fruit – I’ve had this stuff in a smoothies before but, never knew what it really was. And it’s always a little daunting to have to watch a YouTube video to figure out how to eat something. (For the record you just cut it in half and then scoop out the insides. You eat the whole inside with the small seeds and all). It was a bit more tart than I expected – but it was delish!

One of the things I (we) love most is that Frieda’s really just has some fun with their foods. They are aware of great foodie dates – like this month they will focus on Not So Fat Monday. Great produce (like the Mardi Gras colored cauliflower). I find that I usually gravitate towards the fruits first. Don’t be intimidated to try something new – and don’t let your mom’s “don’t play with your food” adage play too loudly in your head. #FoodIsFun