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Blue Apron: An Honest Review

Blue Apron Overview:

What it is: A meal delivery service known for eccentric, easy dishes
Price:
 $59.94 per week ($9.99 per serving) for a 2-person plan (family plan available)
Shipment frequency: Weekly
Shipping: Free!
Meal options: Omnivore, Vegetarian

Blue Apron’s constant bombardment of advertisements finally drew me in.

The popular meal delivery service has been running an excellent promotion where new chefs get their first week of meals for $50 off, so I, being the foodie and penny pincher that I am, decided to see what all the buzz was about!

I received my first Blue Apron shipment a few weeks ago and created the following meals: Neapolitan-Style Stewed Vegetables & Farro, Beef Quesadillas with Creamy Corn & Shishito Pepper Salsa, and Seared Chicken & Fregola Sarda.

Long story short, I will not be receiving subsequent shipments from the company.

I implore all of you to read about my experience (which is categorized! yay!) before deciding to take the Blue Apron plunge:

Produce Quality

My Blue Apron shipment arrived in a large, cardboard box jam packed with ice packs, insulation, and, of course, food!

Meats were separated from the rest of the produce and placed at the bottom with the ice, and though the box was delivered to my door during a particularly nasty heatwave, I was happy to find that all items were delivered cold and dry.

I was, however, unhappy to find that some of my cold vegetables weren’t so fresh.

Blue Apron boasts that their vegetables are farm-sourced and sent at “peak freshness”, but upon close inspection, I noticed that some of the green beans I received were beginning to rot.

Um, ew.

I also wasn’t impressed with the meats, which came packaged in small, super juicy containers. The presentation and quality of said meats weren’t even close to that of the meats I normally purchase at my grocery store or local meat market, which needless to say was extremely disappointing.

Meal Preparation

Prepare for lots of dicing, slicing, and sauteing with Blue Apron.

All of my recipes should have taken me no more than 40 minutes to create (according to Blue Apron, at least), but I found myself in the kitchen for an average of 1.3 hours for each meal.

The recipes provided to me were easy to create and required little effort or talent, but the simple act of meal preparation took what felt like an eternity.

Grate the cheese. Dice the tomatoes. Mince the garlic. Chop the scallions. Cry into your probably-not-blue apron.

I was absolutely starving and exhausted by the time my meals were complete, and to make matters worse, after the last morsel of food was devoured, I was left with the mundane chore of cleanup.

The Deliciousness Factor

The meals weren’t excellent by any means, but they were edible… which counts for something, I guess.

Neapolitan-Style Stewed Vegetables & Farro

Fresh vegetables? Check.

Healthy grains? Check.

Cheese? Check.

Lemon? Check, check, check, check CHECK.

This beautiful dish was ruined by the ridiculous amount of lemon the recipe called for. The citrus flavor took over the entire dish, making it impossible for me to taste the individual vegetables and the delicious mozzarella. Eatable, but blehhk.

Beef Quesadillas with Creamy Corn & Shishito Pepper Salsa:

20160826_225835The quesadillas were simple to make, but they were bland and boring.

The provided Monterey Jack cheese was mild and tasteless (not to mention a pain to shred), offering little to the quesadillas besides added calories and fat. These quesadillas could have been easily redeemed with fresh tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, sharp cheddar, or sauteed onion.

The creamy corn and shishito pepper salsa, on the other hand, was flavorful, sweet and easily the best part of the meal.

Seared Chicken & Fregola Sarda

The simplicity of this dish was delightful!

Thanks to my exaggerated cooking skills, the chicken turned out tender and juicy. The fregola sarda was light, tasty and a perfect complement for this summer dish.  The only issue I had with this dish was with the salsa verde, which I found overwhelmed the dish with its distinct flavor.

Nutritional Value

The recipes I received from Blue Apron were full of nutrients and protein while being semi-gentle on the waistline.

My meals had an average 750 calories per serving (there is only one serving per plate), which, at least for me, is the perfect amount to properly fuel my active lifestyle.

I definitely enjoyed the healthy vegetables and grains featured in my recipes, but I was disappointed by the fact that each of my recipes called for an absurd amount of salt. Nearly every step prompted me to add salt, so if you are considering Blue Apron and are trying to cut down on your sodium intake, be gentle with the salt shaker and ignore Blue Apron’s suggestions.

Folks with dietary restrictions may not find Blue Apron to be flexible enough for their needs. Blue Apron offers a vegetarian meal plan, but, unlike some of its competitors, the company does not yet offer Paleo and Vegan meal options.

Final Verdict:

Trying out Blue Apron was a fun experience, no doubt, but I simply could not justify spending $60 a week on three (likely mediocre) meals. I found that I could purchase the exact produce items at my local grocery store for far less than the cost of one Blue Apron meal. I am not willing to pay for the convenience of perfectly portioned ingredients, though I do understand the appeal.

But even more than the cost, the quality of the produce Blue Apron provided me with was not up to my standards (rotting veggies, really?!), and the time needed to create each meal was cumbersome and tiring.

Blue Apron just wasn’t for me, but at the suggestion of GeekGirl Nicole, I’ve decided to try out Green Chef (a competitor of Blue Apron) next week!

Will Green Chef fare any better? Find out in my next review!

What are your experiences with Blue Apron? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

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10 Amazing & Geeky Watermelon Carvings

It’s National Watermelon Day! Because as we all know, absolutely everything needs its own day.

Some see this delicious and gigantic fruit as a refreshing treat for the summer months, but for the creative minds of the world, watermelons provide artists with an opportunity to showcase their amazing carving skills.

Pumpkins are overrated, anyways (that’s totally a lie).

Check out ten of our favorite geeky carvings from across the interwebs:

 

 

 

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Another photo because I think he's my favourite.

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How did I do this? One word. PRAYER. ☝🏻️

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Which carving was your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

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Dog Day Sunday: 5 Valentine’s Day Treat Recipes!

So many of us tend to get caught up in the glitz and romance of Valentine’s Day, but we sometimes forget that the most resilient and unwavering love many of us will encounter in our lives comes not from a human partner, but from our lovable canine companions.

Therefore, in honor of our dogs, I’ve compiled a list of 5 yummy treat recipes from across the web that your dog (and maybe even you!) will absolutely love!

Check em out!

No Bake Coconut Treats

“Everyone’s coconuts for coconuts these days. To get your dog in on the act, try these no bake coconut dogs treats! With just 4 ingredients and 4 easy to follow steps, your dog will be chowing down in no time.” – Prettyfluffy.com

Find the recipe here!

Frozen Peanut Butter & Yogurt Hearts

DIY+frozen+dog+treat+recipe

“While we made these for use as pet treats, they could easily make for a protein-packed people snack. Sweeten them up by tossing a few in a bowl with drizzled honey.” – 17apart.com

Find the recipe here!

Cranberry Hearts

“These grain-free treats are a breeze to make, have 5  healthy ingredients, and are deeelicious – Our treat testers can attest to that last part! The dried cranberries add a pop of fruity flavor to each bite size treat. Your pup won’t be able to resist these little love tokens.” – Prettyfluffy.com

Find the recipe here!

Peanut Butter Bacon Dog Treats

Peanut-Butter-Bacon-Dog-Treats-3

Because your pup deserves some home baked goodies too!” – Sallysbakingaddiction.com

Find the recipe here!

Frozen Healthy Green Smoothie Dog Treats

“Who needs a sweet heart with all that added sugar when you can have a GREEN heart!” – Irresistiblepets.net

Find the recipe here!

Share your own favorite recipes in the comments, and don’t forget to send your pet photos, captions and stories to webmaster@geekgirlworld.com!

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Surviving the Summer Break for ‘Once Upon a Time’ Fans – How to Eat Like a Queen!

I’ve been dealing with an end of summer cold this week, which I think is absolutely terrible. Not only am I sick, but the virus didn’t even have the decency wait until it wasn’t 110 degrees where I live. Being curled up with Thera-flu and a thermometer on the couch has really put me in the mindset for colder weather and chicken soup.

I’ve always turned to comfort food in my times of need. I’m fairly certain that if I didn’t have such a penchant for fandoms and all the stress they cause me, I’d probably be fifty pounds lighter. And no size-shaming here, it’s just a fact of life for me and always has been. But I enjoy it. My grandmother would say, “the heart of the home is in the kitchen,” and I wholeheartedly believe that. Food may not equal love, but it is one way to show your love for others, and for yourself! Food also helps us celebrate events we love, and I love September because Once Upon a Time comes back!

So in honor of September (which officially kicks off the Autumn eating season for me), here are seven toasty, cozy meals and drinks inspired by Once Upon a Time to work into your Autumn menu

Blue Fairie’s Birthday Buttercream Wishing Cupcake

Property of ABC
“If I’d have known it was going to grant me a wish, I would have asked for a new beanie.”

This is the cupcake that started it all! Bust open any box of pre-made cake mix, and while they’re baking make this indulgent frosting. Don’t forget the blue star on top! Spritz makes perfect ones for this cupcake, but they are frequently out of stock, so you might have to settle for Betty Crocker’s instead.

The secret ingredient is butter!

Emma’s Favorite Grilled Cheese and Onion Rings

A Sheriff’s office staple, especially if things get chilly when the Snow Queen comes ‘round! Emma gets hungry for them, so they must be good! With 20 variations on the classic lunchtime treat from Serious Eats, you’ll be sure to find one that suits your palate.

Vegetables are basically a vehicle for batter and oil.

And at 4.8 stars and 130 reviews, Guy Fieri’s Beer Battered Onion Rings will make a much-desired side to your buttery, melty sandwich. The only thing better would be if your favorite OUaT character delivered them to you!

“Onion rings! My father’s wrong about you not being a good provider.”

Granny’s Lasagna

I came here to serve lasagna and kick butt. And I’m all out of lasagna!

*SPOILERS* We find out that Granny’s lasagna is of the frozen variety! Whether that means she pre-makes and freezes them to store in her walk-in fridge/werewolf cage, or she orders them from some lasagna factory that delivers over the magical border, it’s still a popular dish at Granny’s Diner. Good for a Sunday family sit-down, or to pick at a slice at a time for leftovers, this recipe will fill you up with all the food groups!

This is the most staged photo of lasagna I’ve ever seen. The pan underneath is clean.

Belle’s Hamburgers

“Please don’t talk to me until I’ve had my morning burger, thanks.”

If there’s anyone who’s found magic in masticating, it’s Belle! After being locked up for 28 years in the psych ward, Belle was thrilled to finally be freed from the confines of both her straight jacket and the hospital menu. She found great joy in the burgers at Granny’s. Try your hand at flipping some of these thick and juicy patties on the grill as the last days of summer turn cool, or follow the directions and fry them in butter for an easy cold weather dinner.

“TREAT YO SELF” – Belle (probably)

Regina’s Apple Turnovers

“After this, I’ll teach you how to grind bones to make bread!”

You don’t need a Blue Apron subscription to enjoy this recipe, which is a super easy and delicious 5-ingredient apple turnover that anyone who can slice an apple can make! Just make sure you use non-poisoned apples so you don’t get any comatose kids lying around. For a totally unnecessary addition of 200 calories, skip the whipped cream and dip your warm bites in cold vanilla pudding. You’re welcome for that.

This picture doesn’t do them justice.

Henry’s Hot Chocolate (Don’t forget the cinnamon!)

Disney’s audio animatronics are getting really impressive.

No more packets of powder mixed with water! YUCK! Why would you do that? Make this concoction instead. With heavy whipping cream as a base, you know this drink will be hearty and comforting. Cocoa should always be shared, so don’t just make a mug or two. Put that crock pot to work and whip up this decadent brew. It’s so good that it might make you forget about pie! Just kidding. What kind of weirdo forgets about pie? 

I would swim around in this and drink myself to the bottom.

Zelena’s Meat Pie

“I am totally not crazy, and you can tell by how I made my hostage a candlelit dinner.”

These are by far the most complicated items on the list to make, but well-worth it. They are a little different from the style Rumple made as a child with the Spinsters as well the ones Zelena made him while holding him captive. But these are easier to make, and easier to take along with you on cold mornings. These are sometimes called hand pies because they’re so portable. You can make a huge batch and freeze them individually for a no-fuss dinner. If the flaky pastry is a little intimidating, try using pre-made pastry sheets found in the frozen dessert area at the store. 

Mashed potatoes were invented for this.

With 20 days left until the Season 5 premiere of OUaT, you’ll have plenty of time to try out these recipes. Let us know in the comments how they worked out for you! And don’t forget to share with us your favorite Once Upon a Time food or beverage?

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Foodie Friday: The All-Day Dine-Around

It all started as a normal enough day. I woke up and decided after I ran a few errands, I would reward myself with French toast. It was a weekday, so I make my way to one of my favorite breakfast places, Sqirl. On a weekend, the line at Sqirl is brutally painful. It makes my eyelashes hurt it’s so bad, but it is completely bearable on a weekday, especially on my day off when I’m in no particular rush. Somehow after Sqirl my day spiraled out of control. By day’s end I had somehow visited 10 separate dining establishments in what I would deem a dine-around of epic proportions. If you aren’t familiar with a dine-around you are certainly missing out. A dine-around is typically a meal in which you have drinks, an appetizer, an entrée, and dessert each at a separate establishment. I have participated in numerous dine-arounds throughout my adult life, however an all day dine-around had yet to occur…until this week. The following is an account of, what I now refer to as, The Best Day Ever.

 

Stop # 1: SQIRL

As I previously mentioned the day began, innocently, with French toast. Often when I’ve done a particularly strenuous task, or in a celebratory mood, I will reward myself, with food of course, from a short list of my favorite dishes from around LA. I received some excellent news while running some work errands, and was thrilled to treat myself to my favorite French toast. The French toast from SQIRL in East Hollywood/Silverlake is pretty much magical. It’s a thick cut custard soaked brioche toast stuffed with a seasonal jam (typically strawberry) and topped with crème fraiche and seasonal jam (this time it was SQIRL’s Seascape Strawberry & Rose Geranium. If I could start my day with SQIRL French toast every day I would be VERY happy. “Today is going to be a good day,” I thought. I was right.

 

Sqirl's heavenly French toast
Sqirl’s heavenly French toast

Stop # 2: Cerveteca

Making my way downtown to meet my sister-in-law, and one of my preferred food friends, I took a quick break at Cerveteca. As the heat outside was creeping slightly higher than the tepid 72 degrees us Angelinos are accustomed to, I clearly needed a respite or I was sure I would die a slow and painful death. A quick stop at Cerveteca provided a refresher in the form of a thirst-quenching Watermelon Agua Fresca. Ahhhh.

 

Stop # 3: Blacktop Coffee

Go here now. Blacktop Coffee was the reason we headed downtown. Originally I planned to have toast for breakfast and lunch and Blacktop Coffee was a destination I was anxious to try. I was certainly not disappointed. We ordered one of the seasonally changing toasts that can be ordered prior to 2pm, the Nectarine and Burrata toast topped with arugula and a balsamic reduction. This toast was one of the most delicious bites I’ve had in a long time. Truly sometimes simple food really is the best food, this toast was a clear testament to that ethos. This toast is what catapulted us into dine-around territory as we were certain we needed to continue chasing the food high we experienced at Blacktop. It has been decided. We shall dine-around!

Blacktop Coffee's Nectarine & Burrata toast
Blacktop Coffee’s Nectarine & Burrata toast

Stop # 4: Badmaash

Badmaash is yet another restaurant that has been on my list for quite some time. Knowing we were in for several more stops that day, we decided to limit our order to Chickpea & Chips (papri chaat,) and two Samosas (traditional and butter chicken.) Unfortunately Badmaash ended up being more disappointing than exciting. The Chickpea & Chips were interesting, flavorful, and thoroughly enjoyable. The Samosas were an overwhelming failure. Eh, on to the next!

Chickpea & Chips at Badmaash
Chickpea & Chips at Badmaash
Samosa
Samosa

Stop # 5: Pok Pok Phat Thai

Finally! We get to try the wholly anticipated and newly opened Pok Pok Phat Thai, a fast casual version of Portland’s famous Pok Pok restaurant. The meal I had at Pok Pok Portland was one of the most memorable I had during my last Portland trip. Needless to say I was ecstatic to try the condensed version that debuted here in LA. Pok Pok Phat Thai focuses primarily on the thai street food, Pad Thai, a popular rice noodle dish. Kuaytiaw Khua Kai is a wide noodle stir-fried chicken, prawns, or duck with cuttlefish, egg, green onions, and chopped lettuce. While Pok Pok Phat Thai wasn’t nearly as life changing as my Portland experience, it was a heartening comfort food experience.

Pok Pok Phat Thai
Pok Pok Phat Thai

Stop # 6: Scoops Chinatown

Wait. What is that I see as I’m eating my Pad Thai noodles? SCOOPS! Scoops is an artisanal gelato shop owned by a super foodie (the owner now writes for Eater.com.) Scoops also happens to serve one of the best flavors of ice cream or ice cream like substances out there, Brown Bread, a vanilla gelato with Grape-Nuts cereal. Remember Grape-Nuts? Yeah, Grape-Nuts, that weird cereal with an even weirder name. Well leave it to the geniuses at Scoops to turn weird cereal into a delightful creamy treat. The Chinatown location apparently wants me to love Scoops even more by serving Bianco Bread, which uses mascarpone ice cream instead of vanilla. Bliss.

BIANCO BREAD at Scoops Chinatown
BIANCO BREAD at Scoops Chinatown

Stop # 7: Escala

Ok so it was inevitable that one out of ten would be a total bust. Escala ended up on my list of places to try as most of the “foodies” I trust have blogged about Escala and it is helmed by chef Chris Oh of Seoul Sausage. It MUST be good, right?! Um, no, it is not. We walked into one of the ugliest spaces I have ever laid eyes on. No worries, I can deal with ugly as long as the food is decent. We ordered the most crave-worthy sounding item on the menu Fritos Bandito, described as a roasted chili mac ‘n cheese with housemade fritos, cilantro crema and pico de gallo. What arrived at our table was an inedible abomination; beyond overcooked macaroni swimming in a sort of alfredo sauce topped with way too many green onions, cilantro, pico de gallo, and about 5 strips of the tortilla strips that come with every tortilla soup you’ve ever ordered. All this combined tasted like sour cream ‘n onion dip mixed with said alfredo sauce with way too many green onions and cilantro but only after it had been digested and regurgitated by a mama bird back onto a plate and served in a misguided impression that all diners have had their tongues cut out and only eat to feel warm food slide down their gullets. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT put something so delicious sounding on a menu and serve me garbage. I will clearly not be pleased.

Gross.
Gross.

Stop # 8: EMC Seafood & Raw Bar

My dining companion had lost all faith in me. I needed redemption and fast. We headed down the street to EMC Seafood & Raw Bar. Already this felt better. We ordered the Hokkaido Scallop Carpaccio with yuzo kosho, ponzu, EVOO, and smoked salt. We also added two mini rolls, the lobster roll and the crab roll to our order…because I have a serious weakness for lobster rolls. The winner of this stop was far and away the crab roll, with tarragon butter and seasalt on a soft buttered brioche bun. Thank you EMC Seafood for making things right.

Looks gross, but it delicious. Crab Roll from EMC Seafood
Looks gross, but it’s delicious. Crab Roll from EMC Seafood

Stop # 9: Beer Belly

Ok, now we are feeling it. All was fine and good before Beer Belly. We were feeling A-Okay, so perhaps leaving the heaviest dish for the end of the night was not the smartest idea. We pressed on because…research. Beer Belly’s menu is a food porn glutton’s paradise. Duck Fat Fries, Jidori Chicken Wings, and every dessert is deep fried. We opted for the Beer Belly Grilled Cheese, described as a quad-deck 4×4 sandwich with cheddar, asiago, gruyere, and goat cheeses melted between 4 pieces of bread stuffed with bacon and topped with a drizzle of maple syrup, because…research. Painful, but SO worth it. No pain, no gain (of 10 lbs?) is the saying?

My camera started to die so  it wouldn't focus, but look at that cheese!!! Beer Belly Grilled Cheese goodness
My camera started to die so it wouldn’t focus, but look at that cheese!!! Beer Belly Grilled Cheese goodness

Stop # 10: HoneyMee

I’ve decided. Instagram lies. I have seen countless photos of deliciously seductive looking ice cream sundaes from people who visited this Koreatown window. Don’t get me wrong. There was ice cream. It was good. Was it special? Not really. Honeymee is similar to IN-N-OUT in that it essentially has 3 things. Honeymee is not similar to IN-N-OUT in that those 3 things are not all that good. We both ordered the Sweetie which seemed to be the most innovative sundae option. The Sweetie is a milk ice cream with a natural honey swirl. Sounds boring? It is. It’s good, but very very boring. Eh, c’est la vie.

meh. at Honeymee.
meh. at Honeymee.

So we ended the day on a neutral note. All in all we had one low in a series of highs and a few “mehs.” I’m ok with that.  Everything can’t be Blacktop Coffee and Sqirl toast because then they wouldn’t be special anymore, and that my friends would be a travesty.

 

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Foodie Friday: Beachside Brunches

Summertime is my favorite time! Ice cream, bbq, watermelon, avocado, popsicles, berries, peaches, so many beautiful delicious things flourish this season! My favorite thing to do in the summer is take a sort of mini staycation to one of LA many beach cities. By mini, I mean spend the day, but that’s not really the point. It FEELS like a vacation, and that’s what’s really important. Granted here in LA it’s pretty much always summer (weather wise), but there is something very calming about spending a leisurely brunch just a few steps from the beach on a lazy July afternoon. Here are a few of my favorite summer morning hangouts.

1
The smoked fish board from Love & Salt

 

New to the brunch scene is Manhattan Beach’s Love & Salt. Love & Salt describes itself as an Italian restaurant with a California soul.  The restaurant itself is a beautifully simplistic modern space that feels beachy without being obvious about it. The space is relaxing enough as it is, but coupled with ample sharing sized portions truly encourages a leisurely experience. The three of us ordered entirely too much food (as usual), but didn’t seem to even dent the list of items we wanted to order.  The meal began with the Smoked Fish Board which is served with 4 separate fish preparations including smoked salmon, trout served 2 ways, and a whitefish spread. The board is served with mini bagels and whipped cream cheese all served on a longboard looking platter.  The board alone was probably more than enough food, but we have abyss like stomachs so we had to add five more menu items to our order. Other favorites included the Crispy Fingerling Potatoes served with a buttermilk aioli, the Duck Egg Pizza with pancetta, panna, potato, rosemary and parmesan, toasted zucchini bread with house made strawberry jam, and the warm cinnamon coffee cake with whipped crème fraiche. We also tried the Ricotta Pancakes, though I would recommend skipping them as the ricotta inside was served a bit too runny for our liking. Manhattan Beach certainly has plenty of terrific brunch and lunch spots including my previous favorite Manhattan Beach Post, along with Fishing With Dynamite, Little Sister, The Stand House, and nearby Abigaile in Hermosa Beach but there was something about Love & Salt that felt like a true getaway.

2
Love & Salt’s Coffee Cake
3
Toasted zucchini bread with housemade strawberry jam from Love & Salt

For a more unique beach day I often spend my mornings at Superba Food + Bread in Venice. While Superba’s 2nd restaurant is very different than the Rose Ave. Snack Bar it’s equally enjoyable. Superba Food + Bread is another airy open space that I would be happy living in a cardboard box on their patio…well this is Venice so maybe let’s say an organic cotton reclaimed wood hand crafted custom tee-pee.  It is nearly impossible to keep the drool from rolling down your chin as you peruse the pastry case (which I encourage you do prior to ordering.)

4
Everything Crossiant at Superba
5
Superba Food + Bread’s Seasonal Hand Pie

 

My favorite item from Superba is the Kouignamann (pronounced queen-ah-mahn) which is a sort of like croissant cake coated in butter and caramelized sugar. Yes it’s as delicious as it sounds. The only problem is it’s only available at 11am and is usually sold out shortly after. The other issue is when I do finally get one, I inhale it far too quickly to take a picture, so you’re just going to have to believe me that it is a thing of beauty. The Everything Croissant is yet another impressive pastry from Superba. The Everything Croissant captures the flavors of the classic everything bagel but combines it with a croissant filled with chunks of cream cheese topped with black and white sesame seeds, poppy seeds, garlic, onion, black pepper, and sea salt. Because I have to pretend I don’t just eat pastries for breakfast I often order the Avocado Toast. While avocado toast is definitely oversaturating the foodisphere, especially in LA, this is one of my favorites because it isn’t just some avocado on toast that I can make at home. This in-house fresh baked toast is covered in pickled fresno chilies, radish sprouts, and cilantro which all add a different level of flavor and interest to the regular old avocado toast. The toasts and pastries are definitely the way to go here, though the egg dishes and pretty solid as well, please skip their grain hotcakes which are healthy-ish pancakes a.k.a not good…you just don’t mess with pancakes people. Other Venice (or Venice ajcent) brunch favorites to enjoy on a sunny beach day include Gjusta, Gjelina, Salt Air, Scopa, Café Buna, and Tasting Kitchen.

 

6
“Paul’s Big Boy Breakfast” at Superba Food + Bread
7
Hangtown Fry at Superba Food + Bread
8
Superba Food + Bread’s Avocado Toast
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Foodie Friday: Viva Las Vegas!

Oh Las Vegas! I have so many feelings about you. As a former resident of Las Vegas, I feel I can speak candidly about the city. Las Vegas and I have a torrid love affair. Well not like a steamy romance with some hot pool boy like you would see in the movies. Las Vegas is more like a one night stand you would have with the Tuesday morning shift stripper who is missing all but 2 of her teeth, and had her great-grandchildren taken away by child services because she brushes her teeth with meth. Las Vegas is horrible, but I am somehow drawn to it for an inexplicable reason. Fine, it can easily be explained for me. Las Vegas has some of the best food in the country. Period. Vegas gets a bad rap in the food world because there are a lot of big names on many of the restaurants’ marquees, but those chef’s don’t actually have all that much to do with their namesake restaurant. I’m not exactly sure why this matters to anyone. Is the food good? Yes. Ok then! Why should I care who made my food? There are some very talented chefs helming the kitchen of many of the restaurants in Vegas, and they get very little recognition because they aren’t Mario Batali, Wolfgang Puck, or Gordon Ramsey. During my most recent trip to Vegas I stopped by some of the big name restaurants but it was some lesser known spots that really stood out to me.

Hearthstone’s Pancakes with huckleberry compote, sweet ricotta and topped with edible flowers
Hearthstone’s Pancakes with huckleberry compote, sweet ricotta and topped with edible flowers
Heathstone’s French Toast
Heathstone’s French Toast

 

My very first stop after landing in Vegas was Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar at the Red Rock Casino and Resort. After a very confused 5 minutes where multiple servers were looking for the hostess, no one seating us, and rethinking if we were even at the correct host stand, we finally were able to enjoy our experience. Our waitress was certain we ordered too much food for 3 small girls…she underestimated our prowess. Of our extensive order the pancakes and French toast stood out to me the most. The pancakes were shockingly beautiful. So much so that I looked around to see if other people in the restaurant were as impressed with our meal selection as I was. They were not. Despite the lack of shock and wonderment from the fellow diners, I managed to thoroughly enjoy these beauties. The French toast was another showstopper. Apparently flowers are pretty, and if you sprinkle them on things, then those things become pretty! The French Toast at Hearthstone is comprised of a salted caramel sticky bun topped with a pool of icing, blueberry compote, and served with banana syrup. I have to say I absolutely under estimated this place. I knew Hearthstone would be enjoyable, but I didn’t know it would become my new favorite brunch destination in town.

Crunch ‘N Munch Bread Pudding from Yardbird
Crunch ‘N Munch Bread Pudding from Yardbird
Yardbird’s Chicken ‘N Watermelon ‘N Waffles
Yardbird’s Chicken ‘N Watermelon ‘N Waffles

The newly opened Yardbird Southern Table & Bar at the Venetian was far and away the meal I was most looking forward to. I seem to keep missing the openings of the restaurant. I was dating someone who lived in Miami and broke it off mere weeks before the opening of Yardbird’s original location. Yardbird’s second location in Las Vegas then opened about 1 year after I did a 10 year stint in Vegas. Oh magical restaurant, why do you elude me?! Well, I finally caught this mythical unicorn of a restaurant and was very much placated by the experience. Again, this was another dining experience where we ordered far too many dishes, but this time we struggled to finish any one of the items that made it to the table. Yardbird is known for its fried chicken so we decided to order their signature dish the Chicken ’N Watermelon ’N Waffles; five crispy pieces of chicken with honey hot sauce and bourbon syrup, a cheddar cheese waffle, and spicy watermelon. While Yardbird’s offerings are modern interpretations of southern classics, all of the dishes have a familiarity that makes each dish incredibly comforting. While all of our entrees were certainly enjoyable, it was the Crunch ‘N Munch Bread Pudding that came for dessert that really wowed us. A beyond decadent cast iron dish with M&M riddled bread pudding, popcorn ice cream, and caramel popcorn pieces. Being gluttons for punishment we added a second dessert which continued to impress. The Deep Fried Oreos, while similar to the carnie classic food, was intensified by a coating in Rice Krispies, a drizzling of chocolate, and cookies ‘n cream ice cream. Yeah, it was like that. I don’t know how to describe what joy would taste like, but I would assume it is something like these Oreos . Hmm…so I guess I’ll just have to add Yardbird to my list of favorites too.

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Deep Fried Oreos at Yardbird

My final day brought me downtown to another new spot, Glutton. If Glutton isn’t the most appropriate name for a restaurant considering my habit of eating until I’m sick, and being that it is located in Sin City, I just don’t know what else would be better. Glutton is absolutely a hidden gem, but hidden in plain sight. Glutton is located almost directly across the street from a very popular downtown breakfast place that often has a long line the majority of the weekend. While other saps wait for fairly good food, we were full and happy long before the diners at the other restaurant even sat down. Not only is Glutton great because we didn’t have to wait to eat, but the food is really interesting and far more delicious than anything else for brunch downtown. Glutton’s Peaches & Cream Belgium Waffle was by far the best item we ordered; crispy waffle, slightly firm peaches, bourbon caramel sauce, and sweet ricotta whipped cream. A Shrimp Scampi omelette was also a crowd favorite and enveloped garlic spinach, tomatoes, covered in a rich scampi butter. Glutton was a wonderful end to a fantastic trip. Just the knowledge that never again will I wait in line for breakfast downtown was worth the trip alone!

Glutton’s Peaches & Cream Belgium Waffle
Glutton’s Peaches & Cream Belgium Waffle
Shrimp Scampi Omelette at Glutton
Shrimp Scampi Omelette at Glutton

 

 

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‘Back to the Future’ Foods

In honor of the 30th anniversary of Back to the Future, I’ve compiled a few recipes to honor the food and drinks featured in the film!

To start, we’ve got meatloaf! Did anyone notice that Lorraine serves meatloaf and mashed potatoes to the McFlys in 1985 just as her mother does to the Baines’ when Marty dines with them back in 1955? It’s true: meatloaf is a food that spans generations. Here’s a recipe courtesy of Rachael Ray for Mini Meatloaves that is a definite crowd pleaser:

Mini Meatloaves (4 servings)

Ingredients:

1 1/3 lbs. ground beef

1 egg, beaten

2/3 cup of breadcrumbs

½ small green pepper, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic

3 tbsp. tomato paste

1 tbsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Place meat in a bowl. Make a well in meat. Fill well with egg, bread crumbs, 1/4 cup cheese, peppers, onions, garlic, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Mix meat and breading.
  3. Form 4 individual oval meat loaves, 1-inch thick. Coat loaves with extra-virgin olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Roast 18 to 20 minutes.

 

Next up is dessert! The most iconic dessert from Back to the Future has got to be Uncle Jailbird Joey’s chocolate sheet cake. Uncle Joey may not have made parole (again) but we can’t let a perfectly good cake go to waste! Of course you can go ahead and pick up a box of Betty Crocker and some premade frosting, but try this recipe for Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting from baking author Sally of Sally’s Baking Addiction and freeze a few for when Uncle Joey finally gets out of the clink:

Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting (12-14 cupcakes)

Cupcake Ingredients:

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

¾ cup all-purpose flour

½ tsp. baking soda

¾ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

2 eggs (room temperature)

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup pack light brown sugar

1/3 cup coconut oil

2 tsp. vanilla extract

½ cup buttermilk

Frosting Ingredients:

1 cup unsalted butter (softened at room temperature)

4-5 cups confectioner’s sugar

¼ heavy cream

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Line a second pan with 2 liners – this recipe makes about 14 cupcakes. Set aside.
  2. Make the cupcakes: Whisk the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and vanilla together until completely smooth. Pour half of the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Then half of the buttermilk. Gently whisk – about 5 stirs. Repeat with the remaining wet ingredients and buttermilk. Stir until *just* combined; do not overmix. The batter will be a little thin.
  3. Pour/spoon the batter into the liners – fill only halfway to avoid spilling over the sides. Bake in batches for 18-21 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
  4. Make the frosting: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy – about 2 minutes. Add 4 and 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, cream, and vanilla extract with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes. Add up to 1/2 cup more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin or another Tablespoon of cream if frosting is too thick. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet.
  5. Frost cooled cupcakes however you’d like. I used Wilton 1M piping tip. There may be leftover frosting depending how much you use on each cupcake. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Leftover prepared cupcakes can be stored covered tightly at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator up to 5 days.
  6. Make ahead tip: Prepare cupcakes 1 day in advance. Keep cupcakes covered tightly at room temperature and frost the day of serving. Unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before frosting and serving.

 

And finally, a couple of drinky poos for the grownups! First, we see a distressed Lorraine sip straight vodka during dinner in 1985 but that’s a little hardcore even for me. Better to make it a Vodka Tonic! Here’s the classic recipe from Food.com:

Vodka Tonic (1 serving)

Ingredients:

2 ounces vodka

4 ounces tonic water

Wedge of lime

Ice

Directions:

  1. Fill a highball glass with ice.
  2. Pour vodka in glass. Top with tonic water.
  3. Squeeze lime wedge over the drink, drop wedge into drink, and lightly stir (DON’T shake).

 

And in honor of George getting his courage to speak to Lorraine from chocolate milk back in 1955, we’ve got an Adult Chocolate Milk, also from Food.com:

Adult Chocolate Milk (1 serving)

Ingredients:

2 ounces Bailey’s Irish Cream

2 ounces Kahlua

2 ounces chocolate liqueur

2 ounces milk

1 oz. vodka

Ice

Directions:

  1. Stir all together in a measuring cup, using shot glasses to measure.
  2. Fill glass with ice.
  3. Pour mixture over ice.

Now that you’re armed with these recipes, you’re ready to host your own Back to the Future 30th anniversary party! Or at least make yourself a good cocktail.

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Tea Review: The Goblin Queen

Official Description on Adagio:

The Goblin Queen

The world fell down and you fell with it

Created by: Kayla Walker

Ingredients & Lore:
Blended with black tea, oolong tea, lavender flowers, natural vanilla flavor, orange peels, natural peach flavor, blue cornflowers, natural bergamot flavor, natural creme flavor, marigold flowers, apricots, apple pieces

Teas: peach, earl grey lavender, vanilla oolong

Steep at 212° for 3 minutes

This tea contains a high level of caffeine.
Sarah, Jareth and the Labyrinth belong to Jim Henson, Artwork by Rebecca Morse

image

My Review

The scent of this tea bursts from the bag, the bite of earl grey, bergamot, and orange balanced out by creamy peach, lavender, apple, and apricot tones; a freshly invigorating and fruity aroma.

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I took this cup black, steeped at the recommended 212 degrees Fahrenheit, but for about four minutes. I cannot say if that one minute makes much of a difference; perhaps I should compare sometime? The resultant color of four minutes’ worth of steeping was a smoky brown, and the aroma remarkably reduced. A rich, creamy note I often associate with the addition of blue cornflowers rises to the fore.

The first sips are warm and somewhat heavy in the mouth, most likely thanks to the earl grey component, but do not linger on the tongue. The orange peels really come into play here, leaving a fresh, pleasant aftertaste.  Earl grey, which I will often add milk and honey to, pairs very well with the vanilla and cream elements of this blend.

Pro tip: teas with cream blends are almost always enhanced by the addition of milk. I did not try it for this review, but I may update later once I have – let me know if blend follow-ups are something people would be interested in!

A pot of this blend will be sure to comfort on any dreary afternoon. I gave this tea 5 out of 5 stars. You can purchase it here.

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Surviving the Summer Break for Once Upon a Time Fans – SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS EVERYBODY

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C’mon, we all knew it had to come to this eventually. It’s been six weeks since the season 4 finale of Once Upon a Time, and that’s six weeks of wondering things like “Where’s Emma?” and “Is Rumple okay?” and “MERLIN???” Look, I’ve tried to keep my mind and yours busy. I’ve tried crafts and fanfic and cosplay and genealogy. I’ve even tried being a parent and working! *gasp shock horror* But none of that is working.

There’s really only one thing left to do, and that’s to begin drinking profusely until the season 5 premiere on September 27, which is practically October, ABC!

This is not an unfounded plan. For a place full of heroes, there’s plenty of alcohol in Storybrooke. It would seem that after one gets ripped out of the Enchanted Forest and lands in Maine, every man is given a flask and every woman is given a bottle of scotch. It would also appear that there’s a sketchy bar in town, but people still prefer to do shots at Granny’s. Whether breaking bad news or celebrating a good win, there is liquor aplenty in town. And let’s be honest, if you were realm-jumping like it was catching the bus to work, you’d probably need a belt once in a while too.

To be fair, liquor is treated with seriousness just as often as it is tempered with humor in OUaT. For every gin joke at Cruella’s expense, we have an example of the consequences of over imbibing, like Leroy landing in the drunk tank or Will Scarlet and Hook nursing hangovers.

The key is not to drink alone, I think. There’s strength in numbers, and if you surround yourself with good friends, drinking your sorrows away can be therapeutic and cathartic. We’ve all been there, right?

Things start out innocently enough. You and your friends get together for a well deserved night out.

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There’s the friend that sticks with one drink all night because he’s the oldest and he wants to make it home alive and mixed drinks might kill him.

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That other friend who’s like, “We came together, we leave together!!!”

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And when she starts going on like that, all you can think is

http://giphy.com/gifs/once-upon-a-time-ouat-spoilers-rjqPqzjMwtCNO

I mean, you love her, but c’mon.

There’s the friend who’s trying really hard to avoid their ex but runs into them evvvverrrrywhere…

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And when it happens it kinda throws a wet blanket over the whole night.

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But it’s always fun to take the mickey out of that friend in the group who ALWAYS gets carded, even though they have a mortgage and two kids. What is that about?

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There’s the one friend who barely drinks because they’re taking selfies all night.
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You’ve got the friend who gets a little over-the-top on a full moon Saturday night.

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And you’ve got to run interference between her and her next drink because

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That wouldn’t be so bad, but sometimes you’ve got a friend who SAYS they’re chill, but picks a fight with anyone who brushes against them on a crowded dance floor, and you have to be on point guard all night.

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Say you’re sorry. I got white Russian spilled on my silk blouse when I rescued you last time.

You can always tell when the night’s getting on. People start talking with their hands.

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Or deciding around midnight they’re gonna skive off work Monday no matter WHAT.

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Unavoidably some guy comes up and offers to buy you a drink.

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But drinks are $9 and rent is due.

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Don’t ask, but DO make sure you watch the bartender make it.

Oh, and watch out for aggressive pick up lines.

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Just when you think everything’s settled down, someone’s like, JELL-O SHOTS GUYS!!!!

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Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Jell-O shots are no joke.

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So instead you order some white wine or a Manhattan to try and class yourself up a bit.

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BUT THEN your one friend walks in late to the party like

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Usually she’s the friend who says

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But it’s not daytime now.

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Eventually you drink the rest of your friends under the table and you guys are the last ones still partying.

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But then it starts to go downhill. She starts talking about the one that got away…

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You gotta take her phone away before she starts calling people she shouldn’t.

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And then you end up on opposite sides of the bathroom stall door trying to convince her she’s still “got it.”

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And the rest of your friends are out in the bar waiting for you.

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But pretty soon the party dissolves and you guys leave holding each other up.
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And after a bout of awkward good-night-kiss talk

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It’s like FINALLY

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It’s all good to go out and have some fun, especially when you’re trying to drown your sorrows over the summer break. Just remember to ease up if the pineapples start hitting on you.

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Are you handling the summer break any better than we are?

What’s been your favorite diversion so far?

Do you have any OUaT-themed drink suggestions?

ABC. “Images, et.al.” June 22, 2015. Television.
Individual image credits provided in the alt text.

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