Monday, November 3, 2014

Minted: My 5 Favorite Christmas Cards

This post was sponsored by The thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Now that Halloween almost seems like a distant memory, the holiday season is here - whether you like it or not! I actually heard a Christmas song playing at the mall this weekend, and all the shops I went in have their decorations up. One thing that I think tends to be a really fun tradition around the holidays is sending out and receiving cards. For this post, Minted asked me to share my favorite Christmas designs from their site to help you get inspired. Minted is the online stationery store powered by a global community of designers. I have been a fan of their cards for a long time - they have amazing designs. Here are 5 of my favorites (with images from my year, of course):

1. The winter brush foil pressed holiday card adds a lovely shine to your holiday card. It makes Stevie look even more dashing than usual ; )

2. I love the heaven and nature photo card - it's such a pretty lyric from Joy to the World, and it works perfectly if you have a pretty nature photo to share, like this one from our trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

3. The stamped circle Christmas card is great if you have a few photos to share, for example, we don't have any good ones with Stevie, but lots of Stevie!

4. The sophisticate Christmas card is really simple but lovely. I wish I had more pictures of Andrew and me from his sister's wedding!

5. Finally, I think the wreck the halls card is hilarious. Stevie is misrepresented here, because he's actually a very good cat. But I think if you have some naughty pets or kids, this card is for you!

Minted has so many great designs, I don't know what to choose for our holiday card! There are also a million or so great designs that I didn't show here for big events like new babies, an engagement, and other news to share from your year. If you have any questions about Minted, leave them in the comments! And tell me which Christmas card is your favorite : )

Friday, October 31, 2014

Back to Class with

This post was sponsored by The thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

I've partnered with in the past, but this time around I can share my personal experience (spoiler - super convenient and easy)!

My boyfriend Andrew is finishing up his undergrad degree, so last semester we ordered two of the books he needed from the website. All he had to do was search by title or isbn #, pick a rental period, and order. CampusBookRentals takes care of your shipping and they even provide a return envelope so you literally drop your books in the mail when the semester is over. Andrew ended up getting the wrong book for one of his classes, and CampusBookRentals made it easy to return it for credit.

I would absolutely encourage Andrew to rent again from CampusBookRentals. When I was in college, I hated the buy-back price I'd be offered from the book store on campus, so I tried to resell them on Amazon. If someone wanted to purchase my book, I then had to get all the shipping materials myself and make a trip to the post office. Ever heard the expression time is money? I definitely appreciate the ease of renting!

If you did buy books and are looking to make some money back, CampusBookRentals has another program to help! It's called, and although I haven't used it myself yet, RentBack is new initiative that allows students to rent the textbooks they own - to other students, which is awesome because it makes you 2-4x more money compared to what you'd make through buy-back options!

Some other perks of
-save 40-90% off of book store prices
-free shipping both ways
-can highlight in the textbooks
-flexible renting periods
-we donate to Operation Smile with each textbook rented

That last perk is one of the best. I love to support companies that give back, and Operation Smile is a great cause. You should visit their site, but Operation Smile is an international children's medical charity that performs safe, effective cleft lip and cleft palate surgery, and delivers postoperative and ongoing medical therapies to children in low and middle income countries.

I hope you will consider renting books this semester. I'm not lying when I say that I wouldn't go back to the traditional method of buying books. If you have any questions about renting, ask in the comments!

Here's a quick video explaining exactly how it works!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hello Again

I'm back to say "hi." I know I'm very inconsistent, but sometimes I like to come back to the blogging world because you all are so inspiring.

The last few months I was able to travel quite a bit - Mexico, Chicago, Maine, Las Vegas, and Colombia. (Yes, the country.) I was also promoted at work. And turned 26. So, life happened and still happens.

What truthfully prompted this return is that I have a couple of sponsored posts coming up, so look for those. Also, my very good friend Colleen is blogging because she just moved to Thailand to be an English teacher! I love her blog so the least I can do is return the favor should she ever get bored and want to read about my life in Michigan; ) Plus I always want to blog, it just falls to the bottom of my to do list.

So allow me to share a quick moment in time from my summer (I had my first lobster roll, appropriately in Maine), and I'll be back soon to share more stories!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Kitty Miracle

So maybe this isn't your typical miracle, but to me this story is as close as it gets.

The story begins one morning last July, when I was headed out my back door for a shopping errand. I was delayed by some adorable kittens in my backyard. I counted at least 5, including the mama. They were probably only 3 months old. I hung out for a while to see if I could get close to any. Not this time, but they'd be back.

Bran, Brave, and Mama one of the first times I saw them.

Throughout the summer I got to know all the cats - turns out there was a mama and 5 kittens. I started feeding them and they would often sleep on our covered porch, all 5 kittens snuggled up on one lawn chair. At first only mama would let us pet her, but by the end of our time together I could even pet the pipsqueak a little. We have an organization in Grand Rapids called Carol's Ferals, who supports the TNR effort (trap, neuter, return). I was able to have all 6 of my friends fixed before going on a 2 week vacation abroad. When we returned I was worried they wouldn't show up again, but after a few days there they were. This was around the time when they were letting me pet them and I was hoping I could find homes for my friends.

From left to right: Brave, Bran, Princess Pipsqueakers, Mu-Mu, and Grey.

September 17th, 2013 was the last time I saw 5 of the 6 cats. They straight up disappeared, and I was upset to say the least. I was so worried about what could have happened to them because they knew they had a steady meal at my house and had consistently been there each day. Brave came back a day later, alone and looking slightly bewildered. We brought him inside the house for a night to protect him and our friends adopted him the next day. I was happy that I had at least saved one.

Brave - my friends Brad and Kate adopted him (taken before his family disappeared).

Flash forward to this morning. I was scrolling through my facebook newsfeed and saw a story from Carol's Ferals about a new cat they have in the shelter named Decklan. I thought, "wow he looks so much like Bran," one of the kittens from last summer. So much so that I had to compare a photo I had taken to the ones posted on Carol's facebook. Turns out, if this isn't Bran then he has an identical twin - check out these photos!

This photo is one I took of Bran last summer after I got him neutered. Btw, I named him Bran as a Game of Thrones reference - I once startled him so much that he fell off of the porch (he was fine).

These photos are of Bran now, AKA Decklan. If you look at all his features, they are the same cat! Wow!

Isn't that a modern day miracle? I was so happy I almost teared up. What are the odds not only that he is alive, but that he ended up at the same shelter that I got him neutered through and I happened to see the post on facebook? Thinking for almost a year that this little guy probably didn't make it and now here he is. I still wonder where the other four are, but if Bran made it then maybe they are out there somewhere, too.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Rent the Runway Review

I've known about Rent the Runway for a while - I can't actually remember how I first learned of it. As Andrew and I prepared for his sister's destination wedding in Florida, I thought it'd be the perfect opportunity to rent a dress or two. After all, they weren't selling much in the way of wedding worthy dresses for warmer climates here in Michigan. So I scoured the site over and over looking for the perfect dress. There were many I liked, but some were too expensive, not available in my size, or not quite right for the occasion. I finally settled on two, and this is how it went!

I placed my order for two Shoshanna dresses about three weeks before the wedding weekend (you can order up to four months in advance). I decided to get them shipped right to Florida so I didn't have to worry about transporting them. When you decide on a dress from RTR, you can choose a back up size for free, and also a second dress of equal or lesser value for $32.50. Also, if you purchase the year-long membership for $30, your shipping and insurance charges are waived, and you get a free rental on your birthday, so I signed up for that as well. I had favorited many dresses, but went with the Shoshanna ones after looking through the photos and reviews from other renters, which were super helpful. You can narrow the reviews by similar body type to yours, and it gives you a much more accurate sense of how the dress will fit since most of us don't have the genes of a model. My rental period was for four days, and I actually received my dresses a day early, so they were there when I arrived in Florida.

The first dress I wore for the bridal shower. I had ordered a back up size in this one and ended up going with the larger size. Luckily that worked out because the smaller size was very faded. Hmm. Anyway, I don't normally like pastels, but this looked great with the darker blues. One of the necklaces I brought matched just fine, and I received many compliments!

The dress I wore for the wedding was perfect! I loved it and it was so me. It was actually slightly cooler than normal in Florida in March, so I was a little chilly, but once we danced intensely to "Timber" I was fine; )
I also wore the larger size in this dress. RTR only sends you one backup, but I found the size chart on Shoshanna's site and was freaking out that the one I ordered wasn't going to fit. No one answered the emails I sent, so I got ahold of them on Twitter and they kindly sent me an additional size. Really I could have worn either size in this dress, but the smaller one had some very tiny stains that no one would have noticed but me.
I also think the dress brought me good luck, being so floral and bright, because I caught the bouquet. NBD!

A few other notes about RTR:

  • They send your dresses via UPS on hangers and in a RTR garment bag, which you get to keep. Fun!
  • You can also rent accessories on the site, some as cheaply as $5. You can also buy things that can't be returned like spanx, tights, and insoles.
  • RTR has dresses and accessories from something like 200 different designers
  • At the end of your rental period, you simply pack the dresses in the provided UPS envelope and drop it in a UPS box or schedule a pickup. Easy.
  • If you want to try out RTR and let me refer you, we both get a $20 credit once you rent.
Have you ever tried Rent the Runway? How was your experience?
If you do decide to try it out, I'd love to hear how it goes!

*This review is not affiliated with Rent the Runway. I just wanted to try it and opted to share my experience!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Geez, I kinda fell off the wagon with blogging there for a minute! I made it to and from Philadelphia successfully and even though it was still cold, it felt so nice to be in 40 degree weather with no snow in sight. (Plus we're going to Florida in two weeks, yesss!)

I'm watching United States of Tara and don't feel like trying to be witty, so here's the trip in pictures. Good night!

We went to a great coffee shop called Menagerie.

Gaby and I in the 1700s.

I thought this was like some psychedelic bell, but I guess it's just foreign.

The Liberty Bell!

Nicole, Doug, Gaby, me, and Andrew!

We ran up 66 steps like Rocky!

Waterworks (like Monopoly!)

Any trips planned for you?

Friday, January 31, 2014

Heading to Philadelphia

Hey friends! Happy Friday. I'm taking a weekend trip to Philadelphia and am looking for recommendations! I've been once before - 10 years ago (I'm feeling super old right now). Anyway - suggestions for a vegetarian/vegan cheese steak? This is my main goal. Also, I'm sooooo looking forward to a high temperature of 49 degrees on Sunday. Do I sound crazy yet? I'm even feeling like 20 degrees is 'warm' these days. Oh, cruel winter, how I hate you.

Throwback from my Philadelphia trip - 10 years ago!! Whoa.

What are your weekend plans? Going anywhere fun or still snowed in?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Vegan a Week #5

I'm not going to share my meals with you because they were repeats and I'm sure I'm already boring you enough with endless salads! But I did indeed have a vegan day this week on Monday, and to prepare, I made vegan cookies on Sunday! I thought I'd share my recipe because these are sooo good (and summery, if you're missing it as much as I am!)

Lemon Poppyseed Vegan Cookies
makes approximately 36 cookies
prep time - 15 minutes
baking time - 10 minutes per batch

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegan margarine
  • 1/2 cup vegan sour cream
  • 1/2 cup vanilla soy/almond yogurt
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons poppyseeds (optional)


  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet. Beat margarine and sugar until creamy. Beat in sour cream, yogurt, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Mix well.
2. Mix in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Fold in poppyseeds. With floured hands, roll into rounded teaspoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Cool completely before glazing.

I'm not kidding about the floured hands - this dough is sticky!

3. For glaze, mix the powdered sugar and enough lemon juice to reach your desired consistency. Place cooled cookies on wax paper to glaze.
4. Enjoy!

Share with your friends, family, and coworkers. They will have no idea they are vegan! So delicious!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Graze Box Review

I was intrigued by the idea of getting some tasty new snacks to try in the mail each month, with the first box being free, so a while back I joined the waiting list for graze. Graze is only $6 a box shipped (with the option of 1 or 2 boxes per month) for a "nibble box," which contains four snacks. I definitely think the price is right! I've never tried NatureBox, but I know those are more expensive (I'd love to hear about your experience if you get NatureBox though!)

My graze box arrives each month in a cute little cardboard box that is designed to fit in a standard size mailbox, which I don't have, not that it matters! Inside, I find my new snacks to try, some nutrition information about each, and the web address for the ingredients.

This month, my fourth so far, my favorite treat was the summer berry flapjack. I went on a trip to England a few years ago and discovered flapjacks - the best use of oats ever. Mmm, so good! It's worth it to me to keep my Graze box just to get the flapjacks!

I also enjoyed the salsa fresca and jalapeno fiesta. The coco paradise was pretty good, but I have a hard time enjoying dried fruit, which is mostly was that snack contained. To adjust what you receive in your boxes, you simply go to the website and review the available snacks. You can click one of four options - trash, try, like, or love - to help determine future boxes. 

So, my favorite things about graze in a nutshell:
  • Only $6, which equates to $1.50 per snack
  • Healthy snacks in a filling portion
  • Easy for grab and go
And a couple things I don't like so much
  • Rarely are the snacks vegan - with my resolution it'd be really helpful if more of them were!
  • Many of the snacks contain dried fruit, which I'm not a fan of (personal preference, of course!)
If you do want to try graze, please let me refer you so that your 1st and 5th box are free! That's a great deal that I didn't even get! And then let me know what you think! Are there other boxes besides graze and NatureBox? I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Farm to Table Roasted Vegetables

When winter is dragging me down I have to remember that even though I can't have a juicy, sweet, bright red tomato, winter has its own gifts from the ground and I need to work with that. I'm going to share a really easy recipe with you that you likely already make, but the story behind it is really the best part.

The company I work for (Steelcase) brings in different internal and external speakers for an ongoing series we have called Curious Minds. Last summer, they held a Curious Minds event to launch a new mobile farmer's market that would be visiting us each week, called the Veggie Van. The Veggie Van is part of our Grand Rapids YMCA community outreach efforts, and the purpose is that they bring fresh fruits and vegetables to urban areas where they might otherwise not have access while supporting local farmers by selling their produce. To help keep this program sustainable from a cost standpoint, they visit locations like my workplace, hoping we will spend more than the people in the urban areas. Not only does the Veggie Van have local produce, but they come up with their own fancy recipes (in the fall my favorite was butternut squash risotto) and they also sell things like local raw honey, maple syrup, and cheddar cheese.

I look forward to shopping there each Thursday afternoon! Lately I've been buying root vegetables to roast. It's really easy and delicious! I use beets, carrots, potatoes, and onion that I buy fresh from the Veggie Van.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash, peel, and/or cut everything into bite size-ish chunks and place in a large bowl. Cover your veggies with olive oil (a tablespoon or two) and some spices - I use lemon pepper, garlic, and sea salt and stir to coat evenly. Spread your veggies onto the parchment paper like so...

And bake for about 25 minutes - take it out to turn over/spread around and bake about 20 more minutes. My oven is a little iffy, so keep an eye on it! When they look good and roasted, remove and enjoy! They go well with anything - we had them as a side with crab cakes this weekend. I know I've been trying to eat vegan, but the crab cakes were so good!!

Do you have any good wintry produce recipes? Next I need to experiment with squash, cabbage, and cauliflower and spice up my repertoire!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Vegan a Week #4

Geez, this week has been kinda busy with work and extracurriculars! I had hoped to post sooner. Anyway, it's hump day and also my vegan day of the week! For breakfast I had a quick cup of coffee and an almond poppy seed muffin from a mix I had that happened to contained no dairy - yay!

For lunch I had my typical salad with my typical dressing, which may sound boring, but I love salads! I had some pretzels and fruit on the side.

For dinner I made another Plated dish. I broke down and ordered a second box because I had a $10 off code for the polar vortex induced late delivery of my first box. This was Andrew's and my least favorite dish so far, even though we both liked it and felt like it was healthy. I made Israeli couscous and kale with za'atar seasoned tempeh and tahini dressing. If it weren't for the freshly squeezed lemon juice on top, I really wouldn't have been able to enjoy this, but that made all the difference. We both felt like there just wasn't a lot of flavor, and I'm not one to add salt so I just dealt with it. But it was still good and actually this was the easiest dish to make so far, which counts for something a lot!!

Doesn't it look fancy?

I've had so much fun making vegan dishes so far this year, but this week I'm really feeling strapped for time which makes it difficult. When I have a little extra time I still need to look into make ahead things like soup and snacks. Keep those recipe suggestions coming!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Now Playing: Mutual Benefit

A couple months ago, Andrew kept listening to these beautiful songs over and over again, and I quickly learned about Mutual Benefit. As Christmas became near, I was fortunate enough so incredibly lucky to find out about a small house show they were playing in Grand Rapids, so I emailed one of the people who set it up to get a spot on the list. Then, even though it was so super hard not to tell Andrew, I kept my mouth shut and gave him the news in the form of a Christmas gift. The show was last night, and it was so beautiful. Jordan Lee is Mutual Benefit, and right now he's touring with five extraordinary musicians alongside him (including his sister who sang backup vocals) to recreate his album Love's Crushing Diamonds. Wow, we are seriously so lucky we got to attend that show. I'm pretty sure they are already way too big to be playing house shows, and Andrew said it was the best Christmas gift he'd ever received! Thanks for coming, Jordan and crew!

This was the best picture I could get because that lamp back there eventually was unplugged, but you get the idea!

Jordan is a tiny and adorable man who acts and sings equally as adorably as he appears. He told us jokes about soda (we told him that we call it pop) during the set - "someone got hit with a soda can... It's okay though - it's a soft drink." He also very humbly joked with us that they normally play to thousands of people and their last show was on a yacht. And the house we went to was so lovely - there were autumn leaves hanging from the ceiling and owl decorations everywhere (!!). I might not be hip enough for the Bird House, but I'm so glad I got to go there! Thanks to the hosts, if you by chance ever read this.

So if you haven't heard Mutual Benefit, they aren't just like a one hit wonder. The whole album is a stream of gorgeous songs and thoughtful lyrics. You can order that here, through whichever format you prefer (but obviously you should get the vinyl). And they just began their tour, so if they happen to be coming to a city near you, I highly recommend not missing that opportunity!

Advanced Falconry is probably their most popular song - take a listen! Side note: I love the little boy in this video, he reminds me of my brother when he was little! So cute.

Rookie Mistake

This morning as I was pinning, I came across the image below and it suddenly occurred to me - honey is not technically vegan! Oops!! I had some graham crackers on two of my vegan days so far and honey is in the ingredients. I wanted to apologize to any vegans out there who may have been rolling their eyes at me, so although I doubt I would ever completely give up honey (or become completely vegan), I will have to be more careful on days when I am eating vegan. Thanks for you patience with me!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Vegan a Week #3

It's only Thursday and I've already had two vegan days this week! I've already become much more conscious about what food choices I'm making even on the non-vegan days. It is hard though, if I don't bring enough food to work and need a snack, I can't just get any old treat from our cafe, so I need to look into good vegan snacks that I can buy or make ahead of time.

So on Monday and Wednesday I basically had the same thing for lunch. I made a red leaf lettuce salad with veggies and an avocado - since I can't have the creaminess of goat cheese, I love having avocado in my salad! I made a simple vinaigrette dressing - olive oil, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, and garlic, shaken. I had blackberries, strawberries, and clementines and mixed nuts on the side. On Monday, I still had leftover French breakfast puffs, so I brought along one of those for dessert. On Wednesday, I brought an apple cinnamon oatmeal.

For dinner on Monday, I had my leftover Frito casserole. Then last night I made one of my favorite dishes, avocado enchiladas. Here's the inspiration: a few years ago, I went to San Francisco with my cousin Andrea. We were in the mood for Mexican one night, and a Google search led us to The Little Chihuahua, where I had their amazing avocado enchiladas. I needed to recreate this dish, so I found an amazing recipe for homemade vegan enchilada sauce from Bonzai Aphrodite, and covered some simple tortillas rolled with guacamole for my own version. (Just bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes). Yum! I normally heat up some black beans for the side.

I cleaned my stove top for you guys!

& I even have leftovers to eat for lunch today! 

So my new year's resolutions have been going really well! My other resolution is taking the stairs instead of the elevator if I'm not in a hurry (mainly at work, I'm not trying to climb 12 flights of stairs just to prove a point), and I haven't taken the elevator since new year's eve! I like to shoot for goals I can actually achieve. A few years ago my resolution was to keep cash in my wallet at all times, and I've been doing that ever since. That might not make sense for everyone, but I've found it really helpful.

Thanks to those of you who have left me vegan recipe ideas! That is so nice of you. Keep them coming!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Now Playing: Real Estate

I just have a few minutes before I have to get to work to tell you that one of my favorite bands, Real Estate has a new single out for their forthcoming album. The album is Atlas and you can preorder through iTunes (although I'm holding out for the vinyl) and the song is called Talking Backwards. If you've never heard Real Estate, they are definitely worth a listen! They are like dreamy beach rock. Other great songs by them are It's Real and Beachcomber. Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Easy Vegan Frito Casserole

This one is a throwback (and how can it not be, with a name like Frito casserole). My mom used to make this for us when we were little, only with ground beef. I tweaked the recipe just a bit to make it vegan. I know this sounds silly, but seriously, it's so good!

1 can chili beans
1 can black beans (rinsed & drained)
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 chopped pepper (red, yellow, or orange)
1/3 cup almond milk
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp chili powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cilantro (optional)
Fritos (lightly salted, if you can find them!)

Optional toppings
sour cream

Now all you need to do is combine all the ingredients in a big bowl until mixed...

And then transfer to your 1.5 quart round casserole dish...

Top with however many Fritos you feel like topping with, and cook for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

After patiently waiting half an hour, add a few toppings and enjoy!
Note: The dish on the left does have dairy cheese on it - but mine on the right is sans dairy! One thing I want to try making this year is vegan cheese...intimidating!

What are some of your so-easy-you-can't-believe-it's-vegan favorites?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Vegan a Week #2

Week 2 ended yesterday and I again waited until the last day of the week, but I'm okay with that. With all the crazy weather we've been having, I didn't have a chance to really go shopping until the end of the week, plus my Plated box had arrived late Thursday, with one of the meals being vegan, so Saturday was the day!

I wanted something sweet for breakfast, so I found a recipe for some French breakfast puffs that I hadn't made in a while. Although this isn't the recipe I used, it appears to be exactly the same. I obviously substituted the dairy ingredients with vegan alternatives. I had to run to Meijer for the almond milk before I could make them, so this ended up being more like brunch. Bonus: when I went to Meijer I also picked up grapefruits! Mmm. Along with my coffee and a few blackberries, this was a delicious brunch!

I had a small snack in the afternoon of cinnamon graham crackers topped with Jif natural peanut butter and a clementine on the side.

For dinner, I made my second Plated creation. This one was for tofu, cashew, and pea stir-fry. Although it still took me a little longer than the directions stated, I have made stir-fry many times before, so it was much easier. I loved learning a different way to cook tofu, it turned out beautifully! And the recipe included ginger root, and I LOVE ginger. I was really impressed with the portion size of this meal. Both Andrew and I had a little bit left over for a midnight snack.

Andrew and I then headed out to see the Grand Rapids Symphony perform, and since I'm a member of their young professionals group, we were invited to a post-concert champagne toast. I had to avoid all the fancy chocolates, which was difficult, but I did enjoy a drink or two. I also happened to reconnect with a woman that I met like two years ago at a vegan potluck. She is going to invite me to a monthly vegan get-together she sets up here in Grand Rapids. It really is a great city for vegan options!

Vegan week #2 was a success! I can't wait to see what other meals I create or get to try this year!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Plated Review

I'm not a Birchbox gal because I know I would never use random beauty samples up, but I'm definitely intrigued by these custom curated subscription boxes that seem to popping up everywhere. I'll tell you my reviews of Graze and Conscious Box soon, but today I'm kicking it off with Plated!

Plated delivers to you the ingredients to make (at a minimum) two servings of two meals that you choose from the weekly menu. Their chefs create the dishes, and then put together the exact ingredients you need to prepare them - in 30 minutes or less (their words). Through facebook, I signed up with a free first box (just pay the shipping) deal. Since I'm a pescetarian but truly not interested in preparing my own fish, I looked at the vegetarian options. There seem to be three each week, and one was already sold out. I selected the two remaining veggie options and waited for my box to arrive. It's supposed to arrive on Tuesdays, but due to the awful weather, I got an email saying it would instead arrive Wednesday - but that my ingredients would no doubt be as fresh as ever.

Wednesday came and went and I ended up receiving my box late Thursday (like 7pm). Everything seemed to be fresh, although the Swiss chard was a little questionable. It was my first time ever using chard, but I think it was slightly past its peak. No matter, I was still really excited to try out my recipes!

After work on Friday, I started to make the goat cheese and quinoa stuffed Swiss chard, covered in marinara. The instructions were straightforward, with six steps in the process. On the recipe sheet, it said it would take between 30 and 40 minutes.

I first cooked the quinoa, and as that was cooking, chopped up my various veggies and spices to saute. The quinoa, veggies, and goat cheese was mixed together to be stuffed. I blanched (a new term for me) the Swiss chard and then all was ready to roll, literally. I felt like I didn't have a perfect Swiss chard to stuffing ratio, but the stuffing was delicious on its own, so we had the remainder on the side. While stuffing, I did feel like maybe I could have had a better bunch of Swiss chard, as many of the pieces I ended up with had holes (not ideal for holding stuffing) or were small. That is my biggest complaint with this meal.

After I made as many rolls as I could with what I was given, I placed them in a cooking dish and poured the marinara over. According to the recipe, I put them in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Andrew and I loved the result, though (a couple more complaints) - it took me a little over an hour (not 30-40 minutes), and the rolls weren't very hot, so I would have cooked longer than 15 minutes had I known. I am making my other meal - tofu, cashew, and snow pea stir fry for dinner tonight, so I imagine that will be a bit simpler.

Overall, it was fun to make a new meal without having to go to the store and buy all the ingredients individually. I think the price is probably great if you live in a bigger city, but honestly, if I had paid full price for this shipment, Andrew and I could have gone out to eat somewhere in Grand Rapids and had a pretty nice meal. I was going to order another box for next week, but all three vegetarian options were sold out! I will probably only order from Plated again if there is some sort of discount. EDIT: I ordered another box for next week because I had a $10 off code. I'm a little bit addicted, I guess! Anyway, if you want to try Plated, please use my referral code - we both get two plates if you do!

Have any of you used Plated? What was your experience?