Waffle Bugs

I got a fun waffle maker with seven little bug spaces. We tried it out for breakfast the other day and while it took a lot of time, it was totally fun and worth it.

It took a bit to figure out the right amount of waffle mix to put in each space. I also discovered that the dragonfly cooks best if it’s the last one I fill. No idea why.

The resulting little waffle bugs are the perfect size. And they are so incredibly cute! They made such a fun breakfast.

It took a bit over an hour to use all the waffle mix since each bug only uses 1/2 to 1 tablespoon. The kids ate them as I made them so this picture is only about half the total. We’ll definitely make these again!

The Pink Stuff, Paste This Time

The Pink Stuff really is amazing. The paste gets anything off walls, counters, cabinets, etc, but better, easier, and not as itchy as Magic Erasers (those always my hands red and itchy).

The counters in our house are over 20 years old now and are showing their age with stains and spots and chips. The Pink Stuff got those stains out so while they are still showing their age, they’re not quite as ugly anymore.

It’s amazing to watch how the paste takes out even Sharpie with just a little bit of scrubbing. It’s almost like the marker just melts away.

I have a couple little ones who fancy themselves arteests. This lovely crayon design appeared compliments of Noah. The Pink Stuff got it right out (and now look that that nice, blank canvas ready for his next design!).

And then there are walls. Our horrible, textured walls. Just begging to be colored on. Thank goodness for The Pink Stuff!

The Pink Stuff (Spray)

Large families swear by The Pink Stuff. Up until recently I had only used the paste (which is quite amazing at taking crayon, pen, and even sharpie off walls). Then I tried the multipurpose spray.

We had had spaghetti and meatballs for dinner and sauce had splattered on the counter and ever since school ended that counter had kind of become a catchall so it was in bad need of being cleaned. Usually I use 409 which smells awful and takes a bit of scrubbing (but certainly leaves things clean).

To say I am a fan of The Pink Stuff is an understatement. Anything that can take marks off walls is worthy of being bought in bulk when you have a bunch of little kids. But this multipurpose spray is absolutely incredible.

It doesn’t smell bad. In fact, the scent is quite pleasant. It also doesn’t make my hands itch. It left my counters so clean that even though I had planned on just doing the one section I ended up doing all of them.

The most amazing thing about The Pink Stuff multipurpose spray is how easy it is. You spray it on and then one quick swipe is all it usually takes to remove whatever has taken up residence on the counters. I did the whole kitchen in half the time it usually takes me. 5 out of 5 stars. Get yourself The Pink Stuff. It’s truly amazing stuff.

We Tried Plated

A few weeks ago we tried Plated, our fifth meal kit service. Once again we got three two-serving meals and made them for lunch.

1.) Most of the ingredients for each meal were packaged in plastic bags making it easy to pull everything out at once for cooking.
2.) Good size portions so everyone had plenty.
3.) Very convenient.
4.) The instructions were colorful and easy to follow.
5.) It was relatively easy to find the gluten free options on their website.
6.) The vegetables were very fresh.

1.) The meals are expensive compared to getting the ingredients on your own.
2.) Various people in the family didn’t like some of the parts of the meals.
3.) One ingredient in one meal was white wine and this really disturbed Fritz.
4.) The roasted red peppers container opened in the bag and so the oil was all over everything when we opened it.

The box arrived the day they said it would. It got here pretty late, but still before the cut off time. In the top of the box was the three recipe cards. Then the big vegetables and bags of ingredients. On the bottom was the meat, very well sealed.

All together, the box contained quite a bit of food. I liked how the ingredient bags were rolled down so they took up as little space as possible in the refrigerator.

The first meal we made was Steak au Poivre with Crispy Fingerling Potatoes. Other than not knowing how to pronounce the name of it, it was quite good. Fritz helped me make it and chose music by the Transiberian Orchestra to cook to. They sent fingerling potatoes, a shallot, a garlic clove, 2 steaks, baby spinach, cracked black pepper, white wine (this disturbed Fritz and he refused to eat the sauce because of it), heavy cream, and dijon mustard. As with all meal kits, we provided the olive oil, salt, and (regular) pepper.

I prepared the vegetables. I minced the shallot and divided it into two piles and minced the garlic. I cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and tossed them with oil, salt, and pepper.

Meanwhile, Fritz got the steaks ready to cook by patting them dry and seasoning them on both sides.

We seared the steaks and wilted the spinach (it was just garlic, salt, pepper, and spinach).

The steak turned out excellent. The sauce was good, too, but because of the white wine in it (no matter how much we explained that the alcohol cooks off), Fritz wouldn’t eat it. The potatoes were delicious. I liked the spinach, too, but at least Cameron did not.

The second meal we made was Piri Piri Chicken with Crispy Potato Chips and Sauteed Kale. Adrian helped me with this one. He chose songs by Sabrina Carpenter to accompany our cooking. They sent dinosaur kale, Yukon Gold potatoes, roasted red peppers, 2 lemons, a shallot, 3 cloves of garlic, spice mix (cayenne, oregano, and smoked paprika), red wine vinegar, chicken thighs, and parchment paper.

I cut up the vegetables. I trimmed the kale, cut the potatoes into rounds (I used our mandolin for that rather than a knife), cut up the lemons, chopped the shallot, minced the garlic, and chopped up the roasted red pepper.

I made the marinade. Some of it went on the chicken and the rest was saved to be used as a sauce. The recipe suggested pureeing the sauce if we wanted to. I am glad I did. The flavors blended very nicely.

We baked the chicken and potatoes. The potatoes ended up as perfect baked potato chips. Even if we don’t recreate anything else from our Plated meals, we’ll make these again. If I had paid attention when ordering, I would not have gotten this meal because I do not like dark chicken meat or chicken with bones in it or chicken with skin on it. I’m very picky when it comes to chicken. It wasn’t bad, but if I did this one again, I’d make it with boneless skinless chicken breast.

I was really looking forward to this meal because when we lived in DC we used to go to a place called Nando’s. This is the type of food they served. The flavor wasn’t as good as Nando’s, but it was close.

The third meal we made was Pan-Roasted Pork Chop with Maple Pan Sauce, Roasted Vegetables, and Truffled Walnuts. Cameron helped me make it. He chose songs from Hamilton to play while we cooked. They sent herb mix (sage and thyme), carrots, parsnips, fingerling potatoes, dijon mustard, pork chops, baby spinach, walnuts, crushed red pepper, maple syrup, truffle zest, and apple cider vinegar.

I cut up the vegetables while Cameron prepared the pork. I sliced the parsnips and carrots and halved the potatoes lengthwise.

Cameron made the sauce while I made the glazed walnuts.

The pork was very good. The sauce was okay. I wasn’t a big fan of the parsnips. The walnuts were pretty gross. The maple syrup and truffle flavor just wasn’t good. This was definitely our least favorite of these three meals.

After five meal kit services, Home Chef is still our number one choice. Plated ended up ranked right in the middle of the pack.

1. Home Chef
2. Blue Apron
3. Plated
4. Hello Fresh
5. Sun Basket

We Tried Home Chef

For our fourth meal kit service, we tried Home Chef. We got three two-serving meals and like when we tried Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Sun Basket, we made them for lunch so there was plenty for those of us at home during the day.

1.) Each meal was packaged in a plastic bag (plus meat separately) making it easy to pull everything out at once for cooking (I really liked the look of the bags since I could see what was in them without breaking the seal).
2.) Good size portions so everyone had plenty.
3.) Very convenient.
4.) The instructions were easy to follow.
5.) Allergens are clearly marked so it was easy to find the gluten free meals we could choose from.
6.) While we didn’t choose to get them, you can select smoothies, quick lunches, and seasonal fruit for a small extra cost which is pretty cool.
7.) Came with a nice binder to hold the recipes.
8.) The vegetables were extremely fresh. In fact, we didn’t make the salad for 6 days after the box arrived and the produce was still in very good shape.

1.) The meals are expensive compared to getting the ingredients on your own.
2.) The chicken needed to have the gross bits trimmed off (I am really picky about the grossness left on chicken after it is cut up).

The box arrived about 6pm the day they said it would (expected delivery between 8am and 8pm). It was raining that day and the outside of the box was a little bit soggy. Inside everything was perfectly dry. The top of the box contained ice packs and meal bags and large produce. The meat was double wrapped in the bottom between more ice packs. The whole inside was wrapped in some sort of insulating material to, along with the ice packs, keep everything the right temperature during shipping.

The box included a nice three-ring binder to hold the recipes. I thought that was a nice touch, and definitely unexpected. Inside the binder was a few pages of general cooking information (this would be excellent for someone wanting to learn to cook) and instructions on how to recycle the packing materials.

Three meals plus the recipe binder equals a lot of stuff in that box! I really like the plastic containers rather than paper bags since I could see everything in them before time to make the meals.

The first meal we made was Korean Pork Medallions with Siracha and Slaw. Adrian helped me. He put some YouTube parody songs on his computer for us to cook to. They sent seasoned rice vinegar, green onions, garlic cloves, red fresno chile, pork tenderloin, tamari soy sauce (labeled gluten free), light brown sugar, siracha, chopped ginger, toasted sesame oil, and slaw mix.

This was an easy meal to make. I sliced the green onions and chile and minced the garlic.

I sliced the pork and Adrian helped me make the marinade. While the pork marinated, Adrian helped me mix together the slaw. Both the marinade and slaw dressing were easy enough that Adrian could mix them.

This meal was so incredibly good. The flavors were amazing, the pork was tender. We dished up the pork medallions with the slaw on the side garnished with chile pepper rings and green onions. It was spicy, but not overly so. We’ll definitely make this again!

The second meal we made was Coconut Jasmine Rice Bowl with Fried Plantains and Corn Pico de Gallo. Adrian helped me again. This time we put Christmas music on the Echo (don’t judge). Included in the kit was coconut milk, a shallot, a jalapeno pepper, jasmine rice, a plantain, black beans, a lime, a roma tomato, cilantro, and corn. Cameron’s had me save all the little containers holding ingredients. He loves little containers (he gets that from me).

Adrian made the coconut rice by combining the rice, water, and coconut milk. It turned out so good.

I cut up the vegetables. Since this was a vegetarian meal, there was a lot to chop up.

Adrian did the stirring while things cooked and I put together the corn pico de gallo.

This meal was so amazing! The taste of the rice was incredible and the corn pico was quite nice. The fried plantains were quite nice. Cameron really, really liked them.

Our third meal from Home Chef was Blackened Chicken Caesar Salad with Cripy Shallots. The box included grated parmesan, a shallot, two peeled garlic cloves, two romaine hearts, heirloom cherry tomatoes, two boneless skinless chicken breasts, blackening seasoning, white rice flour, mayonnaise, white wine vinegar. Fritz helped me make this meal. We listened to music by Taylor Swift on the Echo while we cooked.

Fritz prepared the blackened chicken while I chopped the vegetables.

I wasn’t expecting such an amazing meal out of something sounding so basic as a salad. The shallot rings were tossed with rice flour and then fried until they were golden brown and crispy. This added a nice bit of flavor and crunch. It also made me very happy because gluten free meals are often labeled gluten free after the fact. Basically, they happen to have no gluten in their ingredients so they can marked gluten free. Usually a chicken caesar salad has croutons in it, but they were replaced with the crispy shallots. It made the meal a little bit more special because it’s gluten free-ness seemed more intentional.

This meal was so good. The dressing was super simple and easy, but also very tasty. The blackening seasoning was delicious (though cooking it did set off the smoke detector which caused Lola to demand that we allow her to herd us outside to safety).

So now we have tried four meal kit delivery services. Home Chef has taken over as number one. It was better than Blue Apron. I could totally see using Home Chef on occasion again.

Rankings, so far:
1. Home Chef
2. Blue Apron
3. Hello Fresh
4. Sun Basket

We Tried Sun Basket

The third meal kit service we tried was Sun Basket. We got three two-serving meals and like when we tried Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, we made them for lunch so there was plenty for those of us at home during the day.

1.) Each meal was packaged in a bag (plus meat separately) making it easy to pull everything out at once for cooking.
2.) Huge portions so everyone had plenty.
3.) Very convenient.
4.) The instruction book was nicely made.
5.) Meals were marked to say whether they were gluten free (gluten free plan costs slightly more than the “regular” plan).

1.) The meals are expensive compared to getting the ingredients on your own.
2.) The instructions did not give measurements so they are impossible to replicate.
3.) We didn’t like the food very much.
4.) Some of the produce was less than fresh.

The box included a nice book of all the recipes. At first, I was excited about that, but when I looked closer I discovered the recipes do not include the amounts so they cannot be made without the kit. The vegetables and things were packaged in individual bags and the meat was in the bottom of the box between ice packs.

The first meal we made was seared steak and porcini sauce with sweet potatoes and chard. Fritz helped me with it. He picked music by Twenty One Pilots to accompany us while we cooked. They sent dried porcini mushrooms, sweet potatoes, chard, flat-leaf parsley, lemon, rosemary, top sirloin steak, shallots, and unsalted butter. I forgot to pull the chard out before I took this picture.

I prepared the vegetables. First I soaked the mushrooms in hot water and then pulled them out and sliced them, saving the mushrooms. The sweet potatoes were cut into half-moons. I stripped the chard leaves from the stems and then coarsely chopped the leaves and stems, keeping them separate. Then I made the gremolata by removing the parsley leaves from the stems and adding lemon zest.

Fritz cooked the sweet potatoes and chard while I cooked the steak. Then we made the porcini sauce together.

The steak was delicious and the porcini sauce was quite good, too. The sweet potatoes and chard, however, were not very good. Cameron hated it and Cameron will eat pretty much anything. We threw quite a bit away because no one wanted it.

The second meal we made was golden coconut curry with tofu, spinach, and black rice. Fritz helped me again. We listened to songs by Sabrina Carpenter (our old standby) on Alexa while we cooked. The bag included black rice, peeled garlic, ginger, tofu, red bell pepper, cremini mushrooms, lime, curry spice blend, coconut milk, and baby spinach.

I prepared the tofu and vegetables. I minced the garlic, chopped the ginger, cut up the tofu into cubes, sliced the bell pepper and mushrooms, and cut up the lime.

We cooked the tofu curry by mixing everything (except the rice which was prepared separately) together. It was very easy to make, especially with everything chopped and ready to go.

We assembled our bowls with the black rice topped with the curry. The tofu was decent tofu. Cameron wasn’t a fan of the consistency. The taste though… it just wasn’t that good. Quite a bit was leftover when we were done partly because Sun Basket gives huge portions, but partly because no one wanted seconds (or, really, to even finish their first serving).

Our third and final meal was spicy chicken tinga tostadas with avocado and queso fresco. Cameron helped me with this one. He picked random songs to play on Alexa as we worked. The bag included an onion, bay leaves, peeled garlic, chicken breasts, tinga sauce base, corn tortillas, an avocado, lime, cilantro, and questo fresco.

I prepped the garnishes. I cut up the avocado, sliced the lime, and chopped the cilantro. Eventually that chunk of queso fresco got crumbled.

I chopped and cooked onion and garlic and then added the sauce base to the pan. After it came to a boil, I added the chicken and cooked them in the sauce. Once they were done, I shredded the meat and then added it back to the pan and thoroughly mixed it with the sauce. Meanwhile, Cameron crisped the tortillas in hot, oiled pan.

We made tostadas by putting the meat and sauce on the crisped tortillas and topped them with the avocado, queso fresco, and cilantro and squeezed lime wedges over them. All of the food in this meal got eaten.

This one was the best of the three Sun Basket meals, but it still wasn’t great. It was marked as being spicy and they certainly weren’t kidding. We live in south Texas so we’re used to spicy food, but this was extra spicy. It left our mouths burning for a long time. There was not way to adjust the spice since it was all already put together in the tinga sauce base.

Whether we’d ever use Sun Basket again or not was an easy answer: No. We just didn’t like their meals enough. It’s probably a great choice for people who want to expand their horizons and try foods they’d never otherwise try. For us, it just didn’t work out. So, after three meal kit services, Blue Apron is still our first choice.

We Tried Hello Fresh

For the second meal kit service, we tried Hello Fresh. We got three two-serving meals and like when we tried Blue Apron, we made them for lunch so there was plenty for those of us at home during the day.

1.) Each meal was packaged in a bag (plus meat separately) making it easy to pull everything out at once for cooking.
2.) The instructions included pictures to make it easy to see what we were doing in that step.
3.) Very convenient.
4.) The taste was good.
5.) Generous portions.
6.) Meals were marked to say whether they were gluten free.

1.) The meals are expensive compared to getting the ingredients on your own.
2.) Some of the vegetables were looking kind of sad.
3.) The instructions put too many directions for different parts of the meal in each step.
4.) For several weeks of menus I looked at, only two regular meals were gluten free. The third was always a “premium” meal meaning it costs an extra $10 ($5 per serving) to select that one.

The box showed up at about 11 on the date I had requested. They said it would arrive between 8am and 8pm.

Inside the top of the box was the recipe cards and some advertising flyers. The next layer down was three bags containing the vegetables and other things needed to make each meal. The bottom layer was the meat in vacuum packed packages sandwiched between ice packs.

The meal kits looked pretty cool packaged the way they were.

We made the first meal, butter-basted rib-eye steak with thyme-infused mashed potatoes and asparagus the day it arrived. The asparagus was in perfect condition. The potatoes were a little weird, though, because one was big and the rest were small. In addition to the Yukon gold potatoes and asparagus, they sent thyme, chives, a lemon, milk, garlic herb butter, and rib-eye steak.

Fritz helped me with this meal. We told Alexa to play upbeat music on the Echo and got to work. Fritz spent quite a while pulling a teaspoon of the leaves off the thyme.

After I got the potatoes on to boil, I prepped the vegetables. I cut the woody ends off the asparagus, chopped up the chives, and cut the lemon into wedges. I started the rib-eye cooking in a pan on the stove. I spread the asparagus on a cookie sheet, drizzled them with olive oil and seasoned them with salt and pepper, and put them in the oven to roast for a few minutes.

The mashed potatoes were amazing. We simmered the leftover sprigs of thyme in milk for several minutes and then added that thyme-infused milk to the potatoes to mash them. The thyme leaves Fritz pulled off were added to the mashed potatoes. That may have been the best part of the meal and we will definitely be making thyme-infused mashed potatoes again.

This meal was delicious. It was a premium meal, though, so we paid an extra $10 for it. I’m not so sure it was quite that delicious.

We made the second meal, Beef Rice Noodle Bowls with carrots, cucumber, and peanut sauce, two days after the box arrived. They sent a Persian cucumber (it was not in the best condition), two peeled cloves of garlic, a lime, shredded carrots, cilantro, green onions, thai seasoning, peanut butter, siracha, white wine vinegar, soy sauce, rice noodles, and stir-fry beef. The soy sauce made me a bit nervous since the meal was labeled gluten free, but most soy sauces are not. We took the risk that their labeling was correct and, thankfully, none of us got sick so it was, in fact, gluten free soy sauce.

Adrian was my helper for this meal. We put songs by Sabrina Carpenter on the Echo and got to work. I prepped the vegetables and meat while he pulled the leaves off the cilantro and did some dancing. I sliced the cucumber and put it in the vinegar with some salt and sugar (the kit did not include the sugar needed to complete the meal). I minced the garlic, chopped the green onions and separated the whites from the greens, and cut up the lime. I added the thai seasoning, some of the garlic, and some sugar to the beef to prep it for cooking.

I boiled the noodles for about 16 minutes (they were different from the ones in the picture and from the directions given on the card – they included a note with how to adjust the instructions) while prepping the vegetables and cooking the meat. Then I made the peanut sauce and saved half and tossed the noodles with the other half. Then the food was all ready to eat.

While the Beef Rice Noodle Bowls were good, they just weren’t that good. The peanut sauce was kind of blah and the thai seasoning on the beef didn’t add much flavor. The carrots were served with it just raw which was odd. We squeezed the lime wedges on them so they weren’t too bad.

We made the third meal, Figgy Balsamic Pork with roasted green beans and rosemary potatoes, on Thursday. The kit included a shallot, Yukon gold potatoes, green beans, chicken stock concentrate, rosemary, pork tenderloin, fig jam, and balsamic vinegar. The green beans were looking kind of iffy by the time we made this meal.

Ani and Adrian did most of the work for this one. Adrian chose to play Sabrina Carpenter’s music on the Echo while they cooked. They finely chopped the rosemary and shallot and cubed the potatoes.

Ani seared the pork tenderloin on the stove before finishing it in the oven along with the green beans and potatoes.

The figgy sauce was surprisingly easy to make and the pork was cooked very nicely. Even though some of the green beans were on the edge of still being good, once they were roasted they were fine for eating.

I’m not a huge fan of pork, but this turned out quite nice. I was pleasantly surprised by the taste of the fig sauce. I’ll likely make the pork and sauce again, but I might use apricot preserves instead of fig next time.

While we enjoyed trying out Hello Fresh, I doubt we would use them again. The main reason is the cost, but also because I preferred Blue Apron. While, Hello Fresh was good, Blue Apron’s instructions, ingredients, and taste were all just better when comparing the two.

We Tried Blue Apron

A couple weeks ago I got a MyPoints offer to sign up with Blue Apron. Jamie was about to go out of town and I hate cooking when he’s not here, so I figured why not try it.

1.) Everything is pre-portioned.
2.) The instructions are colorful and easy to follow and give totals of the ingredients so you can recreate the meal again on your own.
3.) It’s very convenient to have a box of ingredients delivered to your doorstep.
4.) The recipes we tried were seriously delicious.
5.) The ingredients were all very fresh.
6.) The chicken was diced up nicely without any gross bits left (and I am very sensitive to gross bits on my chicken).
7.) Portions are generous (we did two person meals and split them between four of us – adult, two teens, and kid – for lunch just fine).

1.) It’s expensive to do every week (though if the alternative is going to a restaurant to eat, it’s a huge savings).
2a.) There are very few gluten free options and I couldn’t even see what the meals would be until after I signed up.
2b.) They didn’t say whether any of the recipes were gluten free so I had to guess which would be safe and of the 8 options that week only two were okay.
3.) If I wanted to do the family size meals they are for families of four with no way to scale up to my family of six.

The box arrived mid-day on the scheduled delivery day. The top was the vegetables, then there was an ice pack thing, then the meat (double sealed), and then another ice pack thing.

I pulled everything out and made sure everything we’d need was there and then stuck it all in the refrigerator. I made one of the meals two days later and the other three days later (the vegetables were still in perfect shape when I used them).

The first recipe we made was Ancho Chile Chicken Tacos with Cabbage Slaw. I enlisted Cameron’s help that day and we took turns playing upbeat songs very loudly on our Amazon Echo.

The ingredients we got for this recipe were chopped chicken breast, corn tortillas, shishito peppers, green onions, a lime, red cabbage, cilantro, creme fraiche, ancho chile paste, sugar, and grated cotija cheese. The only questionable ingredient for us was the tortillas. Many corn tortillas are gluten free, but not all. We happened to have some gluten free ones in our cabinet, though, so the two non-Celiacs ate the ones from the kit and the rest of us ate the ones we knew were safe.

We chopped all the veggies and cooked the chicken and peppers as directed.

We laid everything for the meal out on the counter so people could assemble their tacos themselves.

They were so good. The slaw was a big surprise how good it was. We enjoyed this meal so much that I put it on the menu for next week.

The other meal was Seared Steaks and Roasted Potatoes with Balsamic-Glazed Mushrooms. For this one, I cooked with Fritz and we turned Maroon 5 way up on the Echo.

The ingredients for this one were steaks, cremini mushrooms, garlic (needed 2 cloves; they sent a head), Yukon gold potatoes, kale, butter, balsamic vinegar, creme fraiche, and a shallot. The only things not provided by Blue Apron (for both recipes) was salt, pepper, and olive oil.

We chopped up all the vegetables. Good thing we have a bunch of bowls!

We cooked the steaks and while they rested, we cooked the mushrooms.

While the steaks, mushrooms, and kale cooked, we oven roasted the potato wedges.

We set out all the parts of the meal on the counter to get ready for plating.

This meal was also quite delicious. My oldest son was not impressed by how rare I cooked the steak (I liked it!) and he refused to touch the mushrooms. He didn’t like the kale either. Everyone else seemed okay with everything.

Our little Blue Apron experiment was fun and yummy. Will we do it again? Not regularly. We might get a couple meals for a treat/alternative to going out to eat once in a while. The cost really isn’t worth it to me, especially since I have to guess whether things are gluten free or not. One thing is for sure, though. They do make cooking fun!

Chef’n GarlicZoom (Review)

Ani asked for kitchen stuff for her 16th birthday so we headed to Bed Bath and Beyond to shop. There, I found this cute little Chef’n Garlic Zoom Garlic Chopper set.

We have quite the history with garlic mincers. We’ve never been truly happy with one, not even the Pampered Chef one that cost a fortune and was supposed to be the best ever. So I decided to give this one a try in the hopes it would be better than the others we’ve tried just because it is so incredibly different.

I am happy to say I love it! It’s not perfect, but it’s the best gadget for chopping garlic I’ve ever had.

It came with a little rubber thing that helps you peel garlic cloves easily. You put it in, twist, and magically the peel falls off. It’s great if you only have a clove or two to peel. If you have more, using that thing takes forever so it’s easier to do the shaking method. I just put a bunch of garlic cloves in a plastic bowl.

Then I put the lid on it.

And shake it like crazy. Somehow all that shaking makes the garlic peel fall off.

It’s seriously the easiest way to peel a bunch of garlic cloves at once.

Okay, back to the Chef’n GarlicZoom. So once the garlic is peeled, whether I just do one or two using the twisty rubber thingy or a whole bunch shaken in a bowl, then it is ready to be chopped up and gotten ready to be used. The GarlicZoom is this little wheeled gadget with a removable sharp blade that sits inside. It has two doors. One opens it all the way up for cleaning (and, boy, is it easy to clean – you just open it, take out the blade, rinse both parts in water, and let it dry).

The other door opens to allow you to put in the whole garlic and take it out when after it has been chopped up.

After you put in the garlic clove (or two or three if they are small), you get to have fun running the wheels around your kitchen counter. Car noises are optional, but do add to the fun. If you run it around for a short time, your garlic will be coarsely chopped. Run it around for a long time and your garlic will be chopped nice and fine.

Once you’ve got your garlic how you like it, open the door and shake it out. I usually use my finger to get as much out as I can. And this is the one thing that makes this funny little gadget not perfect: It’s impossible to get all the garlic out of the crevices without washing them out. It’s a small problem, really, and definitely doesn’t make it fall from the #1 spot of all the garlic mincers I’ve used (and, oh, there have been so many!).

Bottom Line: The Chef’n GarlicZoom Garlic Chopper works as promised and is fun to boot. It’s totally worth buying. It runs anywhere from $10-15 depending on where you buy it.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

(Note: I was not compensated in any way for this review. I bought my garlic chopper myself.)

Accountable Kids

A couple months ago we decided to get the Accountable Kids system. We ordered the Deluxe Start-Up Package which included the book, DVD, one child kit (a board, 60 reminder cards, 3 blank reminder cards, 10 tickets, 10 bonus bucks, 4 best behavior cards, 2 privilege passes, 3 special date cards, two sticker sheets), a family forum board with 10 name cards, and a mini board. I ordered 4 additional child kits. Ani often says I don’t do anything around the house, so we decided we’d get me a board as well. We splurged and had them engrave our names into the boards.

The first thing I did when the box arrived was read the book. It is filled with really great information and breaks the program down step by step and makes it easy to implement. Once I had down what to do, I assembled our boards.

We selected daily chore cards for the four kids and I. Pretty much everything was what they were already doing (or supposed to be doing) every day anyway. We divided them into morning, afternoon, and evening assignments. The reminder cards are designed to be cut to certain colors (lengths) to indicate the time they should be completed.

The boards come with the hardware needed and holes drilled to hang them on the walls. We will be moving before too long, plus there just aren’t any available walls in our house, so I had to come up with an alternative solution for hanging them up. After looking around Target, I settled on Command Strips. I found some strips that are kind of like Velcro and are supposed to hold up quite a bit of weight. I’m amazed at how fabulous these things work to hold up the boards.

I arranged the boards on a duct thing in our entry/dining room. They are easily accessible and look very nice. Once I had the boards up with the cards and everything hanging up, we were ready to start using them. Fritz and Adrian were especially excited to start using their cards and earn tickets. Ani and Cameron weren’t so excited, but they played along. And as long as I stay involved and on top of everything, we have great success with the program.

The first step involves the reminder cards and tickets. The reminder cards, for my kids in the morning for example, are things like vitamins, clean room, make bed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, school, etc. If the kids do all of their cards in one set (morning, afternoon, evening), they earn a ticket. They have to do every card (unless specifically excused – for example, weekends and holidays no one has to complete the school ticket) in order to get their ticket. Most people use them for x amount of TV or computer or video game time. Right now we have that x time set at an hour. Tickets are be lost for negative behaviors. When the kids do something above and beyond, they earn a Best Behavior card. Cameron got one, for example, when we went to a waterpark one day and Adrian was very tired and ready to go home, Ani wasn’t feeling well, and Fritz still wanted to be in the water. Cameron volunteered to take care of Fritz until it was time to leave so Jamie and I could deal with Adrian and Ani. We use the Best Behavior cards as double regular tickets. It’s truly amazing how the kids will do things I had to nag them to do just because a card tells them to and they’ll get a ticket if they do it.

Step two adds the special date card and privilege pass. If the kids do all of their reminder cards in a day (and so got all three possible tickets), they get a star sticker to put on their special date card. Once they have received 10 stars, they get a private date doing whatever they want (within reason) with whomever they want. Ani and Fritz earned their first date while my sister was in town and they both chose to have a date with her. Adrian picked McDonald’s and Fritz picked a doughnut place. Cameron’s first date was to Home Depot with my dad. Ani decided to go to Chipotle with Fritz (they made me sit across the restaurant from them). Cameron’s earned his second special date, but hasn’t decided what he wants to do for it.

The Privilege Pass is used for when the kid displays a specific positive behavior. We have been unable to come up with anything for Cameron so he just doesn’t use that part of the program right now. Ani will start with the Privilege Pass on September 17th when she starts back to school (she’ll have to get up on time without complaint). Fritz gets a Privilege Pass if he stays in bed all night long. Before we started with this, he came into our room 6 out of 7 nights a week. Since we started the Privilege Pass, he has not come into our room in a month and a half! Adrian earns a Privilege Pass if he sits nicely at dinner. He earns it three or four times a week (which is a definite improvement). Both boys can turn in their Pass to have a story read to them (Fritz pretty much always chooses to have me read a story from “The Happy Book” – his name for The Friend Magazine).

We have not yet added steps 3 and 4 to the program. Between Jamie traveling for work and Ani going to Florida to spend a few weeks with my aunt, it just hasn’t happened. When Ani comes back we will be implementing step 3 right away. Step 3 involves extra chores and bonus bucks. These are the chores we are willing to pay the kids to do. It is up to the kids if they want to complete them or not, but if they don’t it means they don’t earn money. Up until now we’ve been giving the kids an allowance. Once the extra chores are added, they’ll earn bonus bucks instead. Those bonus bucks will be exchanged once a week for real money.

The fourth and final step is the family forum and quiet time. The family forum will be combined with Family Home Evening. It’s basically a meeting to discuss schedules, problems and solutions, exchange bonus bucks for money, etc. I made a binder of information to help with those meetings.

Quiet Time is an hour a day of the kids (and me!) relaxing and having some lowkey individual time. It’s a perfect time to read a book, study scriptures, or play with quiet toys. In the past, I’ve done quiet time (quite a while ago… last I did it Fritz was a baby) and it really made our days run smoother.

So far, I’ve been very happy with Accountable Kids. Any failing of it is truly my own. Chores are getting done without me having to remind the kids repeatedly. The house looks nicer and I don’t feel like I’m doing everything (and the kids see that I do things, too). On a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest, I give Accountable Kids

4 1/2

I took away 1/2 star because it is very mom-intensive (but the success is a lot higher than the less mom-intensive things I’ve tried in the past). (Full Disclosure: I wrote this review to earn a rebate on part of what I paid for the Accountable Kids program. I did not have to write a positive review to earn the rebate.)