Saturday, November 4, 2017

Trying out Home Chef

I have been wanting to try one of these meal subscription services for a LONG time. I love to cook, but with multiple jobs and being a full time student I don't always have time to go grocery shopping. The unfortunate reality is that I will sometimes go a month or more without going to the grocery store to really stock up and this makes things difficult. Add to that the fact that at the end of the day my boyfriend and I often find ourselves in the predicament of "I don't know, what do you want for dinner?" and being relatively uninspired to cook.

Up until now I haven't really had one of these programs really jump out at me. I can be a notoriously picky eater (I'm working on it) and to be honest, I don't want to spend a fortune. So I got an offer for $30 off my first order from Home Chef (initial thought: "If I'm getting $30 off, how expensive is this?!") and started reading some reviews and perusing through their recipes.

Before I get into all the details, if you would also like $30 off please sign up here with my link! This helps support the blog and then I can bring you even more great content!

When you get started with Home Chef they ask you to select things you prefer to eat and things your prefer to avoid. It also asks about special dietary considerations. This is called your Taste Profile and you can go into your account settings and get even more in depth. It will also ask you how comfortable you feel with more advanced recipes which I think is great. While I've been cooking for many years, lots of people might be relatively new to cooking. We all have that one friend who makes a great bowl of cereal. For me what I was most excited about was the option to dislike mushrooms. I despise mushrooms with a passion so it was great to see it specifically singled out. It's the little things. Here's a look at my Taste Profile to give you an idea:

I just absolutely love how much you can customize it. I also like that you have a lot of options when it comes to how many meals you can order. You can choose between 2, 4 or 6 servings of anywhere from 2-8 meals. If your total is over $40 it ships free, which is another small thing that means a lot to me. Another feature that is great is you can plan multiple weeks worth of meals (when I placed my order it was up to 6 weeks, the current week through the first week of December) which is fantastic when you're super busy. They charge you each week for that weeks meals and send you a confirmation email. Once it ships it opens up a feature where you can rate and review your meals.

Now for the price break down:
The standard meals are $9.95 per serving
Occasionally premium meals are offered which are $14.95-19.95. I haven't come across these yet, but I'll post an update if I find any.
You can also add smoothies (the ingredients only, they do mention you need a blender) or seasonal fruit for $4.95. There is an option to always include these in your order.
There are also often 5 minute lunches, typically a salad with protein for $7.99.

Don't want anything this week? It's super easy to skip, it's located at the top of the dashboard where you would be picking your meals. No jumping through hoops which is great. All of your options just have to be in and saved by Friday 12:00pm CST.

The program automatically selects the meals it thinks you will like based on your preferences and those that have been rated as favorites by other users or their staff. You can then make changes and remove meals and add others as they strike your fancy. Here's what I chose for my first order:

Shrimp de Jonghe Penne with garlic butter bread crumbs, Chicken with Basil-Pecorino Cream Sauce and roasted red potatoes, and Steak with Horseradish-Herb Cream with potatoes pressé. My mouth is watering just writing that. (Pictures shown in order, from Home Chef website.)

My grand total for these fabulous meals? $29.70. Thanks to the $30 coupon I have 3 fabulous dinners to look forward to less than what it would cost to go out for drinks. You could say I'm pretty excited.

Now I just had to patiently wait for my package to arrive. You can choose which day of the week you want to receive your order and you don't need to be home for it. This is so important for me because I have a crazy schedule and I can't be worrying that my food is sitting on the porch spoiling.

Fast forward to Thursday night and me receiving my package.

The package was surprisingly compact which was great since a part of me was expecting a behemoth. It was packed so well and even my spinach was in perfect condition. Everything in the box can be recycled too which is a huge bonus. There were 3 big ice packs and insulation filled with recycled, compostable, biodegradable textile fibers that can be recycled too. The meats are separated into a heavy duty zip top bag and are under ice packs at the bottom so that they wouldn't leak and would remain coldest. The ingredients for each meal come in separate bags so you can pull out one meal at a time.

I also really love that you only get sent exactly what you need since I hate wasting food. For example, in the picture above you can see a small jar, that's exactly as much pesto as I need for the recipe. I love pesto, but I don't use it often enough. I've had jars go bad before I could finish them and I always feel bad throwing them away.

The instructions are clear and well written with a beautiful photo on one side (this is used to help with plating) and detailed instructions with photos for each step on the other. 

Since this was my first order they also included a 3 ring binder with some helpful terms and cooking tips included. The recipe cards come 3 hole punched so they can be put into the binder. I think this is great since I have a bookshelf for my recipe books and tend to lose cards. Each recipe can also be viewed online if you prefer and it will also show you other recipes you may like. This really helps to teach you more cooking techniques you may have never tried before.

So how did it all come out? 

Not pictured is the spinach... I had forgotten it in the fridge initially. 

The first night I made the Steak with Horseradish-Herb Cream since that was calling my name. It's listed as an intermediate level recipe, but I found it fairly straightforward and easy to prepare. The steaks were absolutely gorgeous cuts and came out perfectly. 
You can almost hear the sizzle
My boyfriend and I loved the horseradish herb cream. We prepared it with all of the horseradish that it came with. The instructions mention to do it to taste and we started with half and found we wanted a bit more zip. In the end it was the perfect complement to the steaks and I tried a bite of it with the potatoes and that was equally delicious. Do what suits your tastes though and taste things often while you cook. The spinach had a great flavor from being cooked in the same pan as the steaks. Overall we were incredibly pleased. 
We had a great time in the kitchen and sipped some wine while we cooked and then thoroughly enjoyed the meal. I feel confident I could replicate it again in the future. I could stand to improve my plating though.

Whatever reservations I had before I ordered were gone once we sat down to eat and we've already picked next week's meals. I also haven't stopped talking about it to anyone who will listen.  Consider this picky eater a meal delivery convert.

Get $30 off your first Home Chef order by clicking here

Another really cool feature on their site is the ability to purchase kitchenware you might not have. So say you're looking at a recipe and realize you need certain pots, pans or other equipment. You can click on their Marketplace which will show you anything you may need and links you to the Amazon listing. Now you don't need to run to the store :)

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sample Sunday

Let's be honest, we all have a pile of samples somewhere. I know I do. Every online order comes with them, almost every shop or counter gives them out and sometimes we even get free gift bags chock full of them. A while back I sat down and sorted them out by type in an attempt to get myself to use them all up. To speed up that process and hopefully provide you with some information I'm starting this new series: Sample Sunday. Each week I'll be trying out a selection of samples and giving you my first impressions and thoughts. I'm going to try to do a few different types of samples each time to try to give you good variety.

Here we go!

This week's samples:

Fragrance: Marc Jacobs Daisy

I don't know how I've never tried this before! It's such a popular fragrance and I know quite a few people who love it. It's described as "Daisy is a sparkling floral bouquet, spirited and fresh, wrapped in comfort and warmth." It's a fruity floral with notes of Strawberry, Violet Leaves, Jasmine, and White Woods.
I didn't find it overly floral, but softly so. Sometimes florals can be a bit overpowering and this doesn't, it strikes a nice balance. I don't get the note of strawberry particularly, but it could be there in a very subtle way. It's a very clean smelling fragrance and great for every day.

Body Product: I AM Organic Body Oil

So a little bit of background. I was lucky enough to be able attend the Indie Beauty Expo in New York this year and met a TON of amazing brands. Some of those of course stood out to me. I AM Organic was one of the first booths I saw when I walked in and the ladies there were so incredible. The ladies are so kind and are passionate about what they do and the products they offer. I was immediately obsessed. I brought home a sample of their Restored (Lavender and Rosemary) Body Scrub which my mother very quickly kept for herself. I also got this sample of their Energy (Citrus) Body Oil and I LOVE IT! It smells absolutely delicious and makes my skin feel incredible. It hydrates and smooths my skin and I highly recommend it.

Skin Care: Bliss That's Incredi-Peel

I got a few of these to try out and when I feel like my skin is looking a little dull I've used them. According to Bliss these easy to use Peel Pads are described as: "Glycolic acid and vitamin E to target fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots and imperfections.Retexturizes and soothes skin in just one step. Time-release technology makes it gentle enough for all skin type." They make my skin a teeny bit pink and tingly at first, but then the next morning it looks good. I think I prefer going for a professional peel versus using these every day which I think would make me too sensitive (I tried using them two days in a row once and I was a little itchy and dry.)

Makeup: Givenchy Rouge Interdit Satin Lipstick in 23 Fuschia-In-The-Know 

I had popped into Sephora to grab something for my mom and noticed this little beauty in the rewards case. Normally I'm disappointed in the offerings (and to be honest I think it's crazy that $100 of points gets you the equivalent of a free sample you could just ask for, but that's for another post) but this caught my eye. I've been wanting to try Givenchy lipsticks for a while (that packaging is seriously sleek) and I had heard good things about the formula. This baby is so rich and pigmented and it goes on soooo smoothly. I'm in love. The color pulls almost slightly reddish and not just straight up hot pink. It's seriously gorgeous and I highly recommend it. It is very creamy so it will move around if you aren't careful. You're going to want to wear a liner with this for sure, maybe even blot it to be safe. It's a dream to wear though, so comfortable and creamy.

 Don't mind the picture with my glasses! I've been having some eye issues lately so I can't wear my contacts :( Hoping to be back in them soon though since this prescription is old!

Let me know what you think of this week's lineup and what products you'd like to see in the future!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Healthy Protein Packed Chocolate Banana Pancakes

Yes, you read that title right. Healthy Chocolate Banana pancakes that also pack a protein punch. Big shoutout to my mom for giving me the base recipe (I've added a few little tweaks.)

Protein Pancakes
Makes ~ 4 pancakes (2 servings of 2 each)

What you'll need:

For the batter:
2 eggs
2 scoops of your favorite protein powder (I used chocolate for this, but if you want a plain pancake use vanilla flavored. You can also experiment with other flavored protein powders.)
1 ripe banana
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
and if you want REALLY chocolatey pancakes add 1/2-1 teaspoons of cocoa powder.

For cooking the pancakes:
Cooking spray, coconut oil or butter. I personally prefer butter as a small but delicious splurge.

I personally only added the vanilla and cinnamon, but if a chocolate craving really kicks in I may add the cocoa powder.

In a bowl mash the banana until most lumps are gone and then add the 2 eggs and vanilla if you're using it. Mix just until combined. Next add protein powder, baking powder and any dry spices. Mix until batter comes together.

Heat a frying pan over medium-low to medium heat. Add your cooking fat of choice and add about 1/4 of the batter. I noticed these brown a little faster than regular pancakes and are usually ready to flip much sooner, so keep an eye on them.

Et voila! Chocolate Banana pancakes that are pretty healthy.
Per serving? 256 calories for me, might vary slightly depending on your choice of fat as well as the protein powder itself. I had a cup of coffee with milk and sugar as well as some turkey bacon and a little (imitation, hey no judgement) maple syrup and still clocked in around 450 calories which is great in my book. These also take almost no time to make which is a real win in my book. I hope you enjoy them!

Leave comments below for other recipes you'd like. I may start doing some cooking videos on YouTube soon.

- Steph

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

MAC on Hautelook

I love MAC and I've never seen it on HauteLook before so this is really exciting.

There's loads of gorgeous lip colors on there for really great prices.

Use my link for a special offer:

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Get 3 Full Size Kat Von D Lipsticks!

Big thank you to Isabella from Musings of a Muse for giving us all a heads up on this. If you spend $75 on Kat Von D's site you can get 3 free Full Sized lipsticks and free shipping! Just use code: STUDDEDKISS

Original post:

Sunday, May 7, 2017

MAC is finally at Ulta!

If you're like me and keep your finger on the pulse of the beauty world you heard the whisperings of MAC coming to Ulta in the last couple months. I'm so excited to share with you guys that it finally happened! Currently it's available online only, but will be available in select stores starting next month. A list of the stores that will be carrying it is up already, but they're adding new stores all the time. So far none near me, but I'm excited to be able to earn my Ultimate Rewards while buying MAC. They seem to have a really great selection of the products and I'm very excited!

To see a list of locations and the dates they will be open check out this link:

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Ulta Beauty Steals Spring 2017 Day 11

So today's deals include a product I use, one I know a little about and one I've never heard anything about. I've tried Benefit's They're Real Tinted Lash Primer a few times in the past. I own a travel size of it and I've had mixed results. Sometimes it makes my lashes look lush, full and long and then sometimes I get a bit clumpy. I'm going to chalk it up to user error and still recommend it. You can grab it today for only $12 plus there's a Gift with Purchase: FREE deluxe Watt's Up! Highlighter with any $45 Benefit purchase and FREE Hoola Bag with any $45 Benefit purchase. Now I've embraced my paleness wholeheartedly, but I have some friends who use St Tropez products with great results. You can grab the Gradual Tan Classic Everyday Body Lotion for just $12.50 and get ready for Spring outfits (if we ever get the weather to match!) Last up is a Environmental Shield Essential-C Cleanser I know nothing about unfortunately so I can't make a recommendation on it, but you can pick it up for $19 today. You can also get a Gift with Purchase: FREE deluxe Daily Detox Essentials Gift with any $75 Murad purchase.