chester county instacart anyone?

Ahh yes…free delivery on the first order – that gets me to try something at least once every time!

It’s stinking hot out, and as much as I love Wegmans, every location has insane parking lots.  We have house guests coming, so I thought I would splurge.

Their app and online website for Instacart are easy to use.  I went through my order, and when I got to the payment section I learned about something I did NOT know entering into this – they tack on a service fee for someone to do the shopping (which to my knowledge Giant PeaPod and Fresh Direct do not have this separate fee – just tax and delivery.)  That service fee for me was about $18.00. (Yes, ouch)

BUT then it gets confusing.  Although they have this little disclaimer talking about this pays for the people who take care of your order, it does NOT filter down to a tip for your delivery person.

Also, there is a slight price mark-up on every item.  My friend would call this “Missy Mark-Up”. See:

I will admit that this makes me categorize Instacart whether you use it for ACME or Wegmans as being more in the class of Fresh Direct.  I am still thinking the best dollar value in home delivered groceries is Giant Peapod.

Now I will admit it is super nice to know when I want some extra special items for my kitchen, that Instacart is a viable alternative to Fresh Direct.  Fresh Direct used to be awesome, now sometimes it is a bit hit or miss, and for the money you spend it should NOT be.  I hope when and if we get a Whole Foods in Exton that perhaps Instacart will add on a Whole Foods too in more areas.

Instacart is zip code driven.  Depending on where you are depends on where you can order from.  Some areas apparently can get Weavers Way Food Co-op  deliveries.

Pro-tip: you can fine Instacart coupons on sites like Retailmenot and Groupon and so on to bring your costs down a little more – I found a $10 coupon on Retailmenot today.

The food was for the most part bagged in item appropriate grocery bags.  I will note that I ordered a couple of Brie family soft rind cheeses to serve my guests when they are here and the cheeses were not packed so well.  Basically, the cheese was cut and wrapped in simple plastic wrap.  I could smell the cheese as soon as I bought the bags inside from the delivery person – and as soon as I smelled my stinky cheese I felt bad for the delivery woman because I bet her car stank to high heaven from the cheese.

With Instacart you can get a better range of deliveries when compared to Fresh Direct and Giant PeaPod.  With Instacart you can get a delivery within a couple of hours if the time slot is available.  However, as opposed to Giant PeaPod and Fresh Direct which uses refrigerated trucks or at least insulated trucks, Instacart does not.  Your delivery person uses their own vehicle.

Instacart however stays in touch with you as your order is being shopped.  So if something is not available and you indicated a substitution was O.K. they will actually text you your options.  Giant PeaPod and Fresh Direct DO NOT do that – with these two services you do not know you are NOT getting something until the order arrives.

Bottom line: Instacart was a great experience, albeit expensive like Fresh Direct.  Will I use them again? Yes. But how often depends on their pricing structure.  Right now they are in the category of occasional splurge.

 

DISCLAIMER: I was not paid or compensated in any way by Instacart, Giant PeaPod, or Fresh Direct. These are my own opinions as a customer/consumer.

 

summer recipe back to basics: purple coleslaw


I have been remiss. I haven’t blogged any recipes lately. This evening for dinner we were grilling marinated chicken thighs and my neighbor had given me a beautiful head of purple cabbage so I decided to make coleslaw.

Here is the recipe:

Purple Cabbage Coleslaw

Ingredients

4 cups grated purple cabbage 

1 cup grated carrots

1/2 grated large vidalia onion 

6 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard

5 tablespoons organic cane sugar (Turbinado)

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar 

2 tablespoons fresh minced dill

Freshly ground salt pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Directions

I read somewhere once that purple cabbage is really good for you. A super food full of antibiotics, vitamins, fiber, and other good stuff. I think it also makes a tastier coleslaw. I also add vidalia onion to my coleslaw and fresh dill to the dressing, which I think keeps it fresh and different.

First finely grate cabbage, carrots, and onion. My “Pro Tip” here is I put these vegetables into a fine mesh strainer after grating and set them over a bowl and press gently for some of the extra liquid to drain out.

Mix the cider vinegar, sugar, cumin together. Unless you want a grainy dressing, make sure the sugar is fully dissolved before proceeding and adding the mayonnaise, dijon mustard, olive oil, and fresh dill. Whisk the dressing together briskly and refrigerate for a few minutes.

Next put your veggies in a clean bowl and pour the dressing on top of it. Mix well and then use a little spoon to taste and adjust for salt and pepper as needed. I like fresh ground pepper in coleslaw.

Refrigerate at least an hour before serving.

Enjoy!

restaurant rave: mino in malvern


Mino in Malvern on Lancaster Avenue is marvelous!  We had never eaten there and decided to try it this evening.

Hands down, the best sushi around.  I have enjoyed other sushi places, but this is the best. Friends of mine have been telling me for years it’s the best, and now I must say I concur wholeheartedly.

The fish is super fresh, and other things like the dumplings are divine. They also have a house blend matcha green tea that has this nutty note to it because I believe it is also brewed with roasted  brown rice if I understood the waitress correctly.

And also the staff – they have an amazing waitstaff at Mino. So nice and so knowledgeable about their own menu.

If you have never been, you should definitely check it out. Extraordinary menu, reasonably priced. It also has a super nice atmosphere with their new interior makeover.

Mino – 321 Lancaster Avenue, Malvern, PA 19355. 610-651-8756.

make a trip to dan dan in devon


Dan Dan in Devon is open in the old Ella’s Bistro spot behind where Braxton’s is. What a welcome change to the same old same old.

Taiwanese and Sichuan cuisine. And the food is delicious. Clean flavor combinations and very fresh, I will be coming back again!

Service was a little frazzled by the time we left because they just got slammed with diners.

They have a full bar, and the flora and fauna didn’t disappoint. I am thinking White Dog Cafe is missing some of their cougars. But then again if the cougars of the Main Line are migrating already, then you know Dan Dan is a hit!

Everything was delicious. Don’t pass up the signature Dan Dan noodles and the dumplings with Chili oil!

Dan Dan is located at 214 Sugartown Road Wayne, but it’s really Devon. Reservations are a good idea especially Thursday dinner service through the weekend. 484-580-8558

kitchen witchery 


I now understand everyone’s obsession with the Instant Pot. It’s definitely not your grandmother’s pressure cooker.

I am not Inspector Gadget in the kitchen, more of a traditionalist. Some things I have begrudgingly come to own because they make life easier- like my Breville blender. Or my crockpot.

But as much as I love fooling with my crockpot if you don’t have time for low and slow, well it boils stuff to death.

Anyway, people I know kept buying the Instant Pot so I started watching it and the prices have stabilized recently, so I splurged.

It sat in the box and stared at me for a week. And then I got sick, so I was not cooking much of anything. 

I was craving plain chicken and chicken soup as I started to feel better but knew I wasn’t up to much in the kitchen- so out of the box came the Instant Pot.

Yes, I literally cooked a nice plain chicken simply prepared with just salt and pepper and Herbes de Provence in about half an hour!

 I then turned around and took the chicken off the carcass and made bone broth in 35 minutes using the soup setting – real gelatinous bone broth.

I also made a pot of chili for the rest of my house yesterday using canned beans and ground beef in 10 minutes on the Instant Pot chili setting after browning the ground beef and onions using their sauté setting. Next time I would reduce the liquid as the chili came out thinner and darker like Texas chili. (I like a thicker chili)

It took a while to read the manual and then I will admit I watched a few YouTube videos on using the pot and cooking with it, but when you are sitting in bed getting better, there is the time to do that.

For years I had avoided pressure cookers. The old stovetop ones would create one hot mess when they exploded. I remember a food on the ceiling incident at my great aunts’ when I was a kid- the pot lid flew off. But this is so different with so many safety bells and whistles- it practically speaks to you.

Anyway, I don’t gadget very often so I thought I would share!

Happy Sunday 😊

on the eve of thanksgiving 

The day before Thanksgiving and I’m starting preparations for dinner tomorrow. I’ve learned little tricks over the years like making the broth for the turkey out of the turkey gizzards and neck is easier done the day before.  Once that broth starts cooking my kitchen is filled with the smells of Thanksgiving for the first time.  

Along with the smells of Thanksgiving come memories.

Memories of Thanksgivings past.

I actually woke up this morning thinking about Thanksgivings of my past.

When I think of the holidays I always think of my late father as well as my late brother in law because they both loved Christmas and Thanksgiving. When they were both alive Thanksgiving could almost be exhausting because they were perfectionists, but the meals were awesome!  

I have some very fond memories of Thanksgivings at my sister’s house in New York before my brother-in-law died. They have a beautiful dining room that is almost a square in shape so my sister uses two small tables that are round versus one large table.  I think after both my father and brother in law being lost within a few short years of each other it has taken us a while to get our Thanksgiving groove back.

When my sister and I were really little I remember going to my Uncle  Jackie’s and Aunt Connie’s house for Thanksgiving.  

All of my cousins, us, aunt and uncle, and Mumma and Poppy. Due to family drama I don’t have very many memories of very many of these Thanksgivings. But those I remember being much more fun than the Thanksgivings we spent at my father’s sister’s house.

My aunt, my father’s only sister, has never been an easy woman to read. I have always felt she didn’t like me very much or my mother and was jealous of my late father. She did seem to like my sister. Her daughters well, they were fine to get along with when we were little, but as we all grew up we did not have much to say to each other and still don’t to this day.

I have a distinct memory again of when we were very little, and my Aunt Theresa and Uncle Serge lived in Paoli.   Paoli was still a bit rural in spots.  I remember they lived down a really long driveway in a white farmhouse. It was a really cool farmhouse and I seem to recall it was Victorian in nature. I don’t know that anybody has photos of it anymore but I have a distinct memory of a Thanksgiving there.

It was a big crowd for dinner and I remember that the kids had their own table set up outside the dining room in the front hall by the staircase. I remember that we ate black eyed peas as one of the dishes.  My uncle is Cuban, and I also remember his mother was still alive.

Many years later we all tried the Thanksgiving together again with them when my grandmother – my father’s mother – was still alive. At this point my aunt and uncle had settled in Chestnut Hill where they still live today. I remember that Thanksgiving is being technically beautiful but emotionally cold. And I remember their dining room in their house in Chestnut Hill was quiet and dark, even in candlelight.

I remember other Thanksgivings we spent with our family friends the Cullens. They had been our neighbors in Society Hill when we were really little and they first moved to Bethesda because Mr. Cullen’s job took him to Washington DC, and then later they moved to Summit, New Jersey because his job eventually took him to New York City.

Growing up the Thanksgiving dinners we had with the Cullens are among my happiest memories of Thanksgiving as a child. Those were the holidays that were alive and boisterous and fun. Mr. Cullen was a tall Irishman with a big chest and a wonderful voice. And he was funny and he would say funny these things and you could just see the twinkle in his eye. Mrs. Cullen is still one of my favorite people on the face of this earth.  She is one of the brightest people I’ve ever had the privilege to know and she is also probably the closest thing to Julia Child I will ever know as a home cook. 

The thing about Thanksgiving dinners with them is it bought out the best in everyone. Although Mr. Cullen like my father, died years ago now, the family remains dear friends.

I especially liked the years they lived in Maryland because we would go down there for the weekend pretty much, and I would be able to wander around Georgetown while we were there and discovered fun things like Kemp Mill Records. That was this awesome record store in Georgetown where I listened to artists like Al Stewart for the first time.

We had other Thanksgiving dinners that were just our family and smaller that were equally memorable. It was always fun getting the table set with my mother and laying out the flatware and the china, making sure the crystal glasses were all sparkle and no smudges. The good smells eminated from the kitchen all day until dinner time.

Other memories of Thanksgiving include when I was in my early to mid 20s and my girlfriends and I would always go to West Chester for years the night before Thanksgiving. We would go to the Gobble Off at the Bar and Restaurant in West Chester.  I have written about this before, it was just that much fun. Now we’re all purported grownups with our own families and that seems so long ago and far away. There were other night before Thanksgiving nights out with my friend Pam in Manayunk. I forget what the name of the restaurant is where we all used to meet in those days but it was a lot of fun as well. Pam would get all sorts of people together from high school and she made the evening fun!

Along with the Thanksgiving memories are the years that were like being banished. It was because of a prior relationship that I used to have to go into Central Pennsylvania basically. It was like being a stranger in a strange land and sadly these were the people that were almost my in-laws. I just never quite fit. That made it hard before any of the other stuff.

They weren’t bad people. One sister-in-law probably because she wasn’t related to the siblings by blood I liked in particular, still do. Before she divorced her husband (my ex’s brother) I honestly did enjoy going to Thanksgiving at her house up around Mechanicsburg. She and her mom were all about tradition and it was festive and warm. But the majority of the years I spent going to another almost sister-in-law’s house outside of Allentown. That was not so much fun.

The entire car ride up my ex would berate me about one thing or the other. Usually he yelled. Why was I wearing what I was wearing? What I could say and what I couldn’t say, and basically the entire duration of our relationship he didn’t want me getting too close to his family and didn’t share the few friends he had.  It was always an unpleasant ride up. By the time I got to his sister’s house I was a bundle of raw nerves.

When we got to his sister’s house, which was a townhouse development on the edge of a golf course, we would circle around for parking and eventually find the spot he deemed suitable. Then we would haul in my contributions to the meal. And we generally speaking, well that was me.  

When you got inside the townhouse you had the welcoming smell of a Thanksgiving dinner.  Unfortunately you were also met with some pretty somewhat bitter and somewhat dissatisfied middle-age women all divorced older than myself. The nieces and nephews were nice when they were in town, but I couldn’t hang out with the kids I was one of the grown-ups.  

One of the most amusing part of those Thanksgiving dinners in exile was the way every year the one sister magically made photos of my ex’s ex-wife fall out of the drawer or a book somewhere.  And I also never understood why they went to the trouble to cook a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner and have people around the table and not put the food out in nice containers. They put the disposable aluminum pans and plastic containers and what not right on the sideboard.

The Thanksgivings I spent in exile so to speak made me appreciate my friends and family all the more.  Not every Thanksgiving is perfect, we’re human they are not supposed to be. And even on the Thanksgivings that don’t quite end up the way you envision there is always good. Or at least humor. 

I think we all have this goal to become like a Norman Rockwell painting for one day. The problem is we can’t help but fall short because we are actual people not subjects of someone’s artistic mind’s eye.

I love hearing about my friends’ traditions.  I woke up this morning thinking of someone I used to know who always spoke about making creamed onions in a sherry cream sauce every Thanksgiving.

Now sprinkled in between all the homemade Thanksgiving dinners were a couple club and restaurant made Thanksgiving dinners.  Those were beautiful dinners and we had a lot of fun, but it was sort of anti-climactic because you didn’t wake up the next day to Thanksgiving leftovers and that is part of the fun of Thanksgiving.

I think Thanksgiving is a holiday is something I enjoy more the older I get. I don’t know if that makes any sense. I think part of it has to do with feeling somewhat like I have come into my own. But I do love Thanksgiving and even more so, Christmas. I am the crazy person that likes to put out the china, iron and do up the old table linens,  and decorate and cook.

We all have a lot to be thankful for, even if it is not always immediately apparent. Hearth and home are powerful motivators. My wish for this Thanksgiving is as a country we start to put aside all the political divisiveness of this recent presidential campaign, and remember what it is to be an American.  

I don’t know about you but I am tired of all the hate and violence. I am tired of the protests. I am tired of the anger. It’s exhausting even to avoid. I hope everyone takes a breath tomorrow and enjoys the company they are with. tomorrow literally is the day to be grateful for what we have and who we have in our lives.

Well I have to get back to my meal preparations, because when you’re a kid you don’t realize the preparing Thanksgiving dinner actually takes a good couple solid days of work!

Wishing all of you my readers, a safe and happy and blessed Thanksgiving.

preparing for thanksgiving 

I purchased some absolutely beautiful cranberries from Pine Barrens Native Fruits this year and today I made the Cranberry Sauce.

Cranberry  sauce is so easy to make. All it is for me is 2 dry quarts of cranberries, 2 1/2 cups of orange juice, cinnamon sticks, crystallized ginger minced, 2 cups sugar , other assorted spices including cardamom,ginger , nutmeg , and powdered cinnamon. True that I add a pinch of salt, and to quartered navel oranges skin on. I also add a couple tablespoons of fruit pectin to help at jell  even more.

I cook it down by close to half and then I remove the orange peel (The fruit by this time has basically cooked off each quarter of  orange ) and cinnamon sticks and then I jar it.

I don’t do the canning bath for this. When the jars are cool I tighten the lids and refrigerate it.  I basically only make enough to get through Thanksgiving and Christmas and then I make a fresh batch the following year.