Dining Experience – The Fishin’ Pig

Last weekend my husband, youngest son and I got the pleasure of traveling to New Jersey to attend the wedding of my nephew and his beautiful bride. We got to spend too brief a time with Ray and his family for the first time in 1410 days, which is crazy! Who else is impressed that Ray took the time to calculate how long a time to the day it had been since we’d last been together? But alas, the time was over in the blink of an eye, and we were forced to begin our return to South Carolina.

When choosing to drive to and from New Jersey, we like to make a stop overnight in Virginia and more often than not, we choose to stay in Waynesboro. Waynesboro is situated in the Shenandoah Valley, and the views are simply breathtaking…

Because it had been about 1410 days since we had been to Waynesboro, we did a little research before traveling. It was clear within a few minutes of Googling, that there was a new to us restaurant that was getting a lot of buzz. The restaurant was called “The Fishin’ Pig”. The name alone got my attention, the menu looked intriguing, and the online comments were glowing. We actually attempted to eat there on the drive up, but it was packed so we decided to save it for the return trip. I’m happy to report that we were successful in getting a table on the way home, and it was worth the wait.

The hostess greeted us with a smile and we were able to get a seat on the outside patio immediately. Our server acknowledged us as soon as we sat down and shortly thereafter took our drink order. The drinks menu offered many local brews. Tom and I both ordered a local Pilsner. For the life of me, I cannot remember what brewery it was from, but I do remember that it was located 9 miles from the restaurant and that it was excellent.

We each ordered something different for dinner. As for me, I was yearning for something light after several days of eating rich foods and fast food, so I ordered the Blackened Ahi Tuna Tacos featuring fresh cabbage, Pico de Gallo, Cheddar Jack cheese and a cilantro dill Remoulade. The tuna was cooked perfectly, and the tacos tasted delicious.

Blackened Ahi Tuna Tacos

Tom was next. He ordered Nick’s Catfish Basket. I noticed that this item is half-priced on Thursday evenings, which might explain why we were unable to get a seat the first time. Tom was generous enough to share a bite of his catfish with me, and I would say it is some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Tom agrees. He also enjoyed the Deathwish Hot Sauce with his catfish.

Nick’s Catfish Basket

My son Ryan had chosen his meal days ahead, and he was not disappointed either. He chose the Andouille Sausage Mac-N-Skillet which was mac-n-cheese topped with tater tots, Cheddar Jack cheese, crispy bacon bits and the sausage garnished with scallions. This dish comes with several choices of meat, including pulled pork and beef brisket, but the Andouille seems like a solid choice. Did Ryan offer anyone else a taste of this dish? Of course he didn’t, but we’ll just have to trust what he said and what we could see with our own eyes – a winning dish.

Andouille Sausage Mac-N-Skillet

I realize that none of us ordered BBQ, which is half of what this Southern combination restaurant is known for, but that just gives us something to look forward to on future trips. Meanwhile, we’ve created a wonderful food memory which will be rekindled each time I see the slogan on Tom’s new Fishin’ Pig t-shirt – Eat Like a Pig, Drink Like a Fish!

New Kitchen Gadget – The Ninja Creami

Summertime brings with it many of the simple joys in life – getting together with friends, family vacations, barbecues and swimming on a hot day all come to mind.  Also included on my list of favorite things to enjoy during the summer months is eating ice cream, as well as other frozen treats. 

Shortly before summer began, my wife and I were flipping through the channels one weekend morning when she paused on QVC.  They were featuring a machine called the Ninja Creami that made ice cream as well as other sweet treats.  Having owned (and usually returned) other ice cream making machines in the past that didn’t really do what they promised, we are always a little leery of such devices.  After watching the presentation, something about this machine and the method used to make the ice cream made sense to me and seemed like it might actually work, so we decided to give it a shot.

The Ninja Creami comes in several colors – we chose the mint green.

Unlike other machines or makers that often rely on adding the ingredients to a large and bulky pre-frozen bowl, the process for this machine is different.  It comes with several pint sized containers (the bundle we bought that day included 5) and extras are available to purchase separately.  Instead of using a big frozen bowl to start the freezing process, you simply fill the containers with your ingredients, and freeze them until they are solid. 

When you are ready to enjoy one, you pull it out of the freezer, load it onto the machine and choose what type of treat you are blending.  The blending process uses a spinning blade that cuts through the bowl, turning the frozen block of ingredients into a smooth and creamy treat.

Blending modes include ice cream, lite ice cream, gelato, sorbet, smoothie bowl and milkshake.  The machine also has two additional modes – re-spin, which gives your treat a second quick blend if it still appears to be too frozen and not creamy enough, and mix-in mode which is used for adding extra items to your treat, such as chocolate chips.  

We wanted to give it a good test run before I wrote this entry, so we tried out a few of the recipes in the book, as well as some variations on those recipes and a couple of other simple ideas that we came up with ourselves.

Lite vanilla ice cream – this recipe was included in the recipe book.  We used the mix-in mode to blend in some mini chocolate chips.

Mint chocolate chip – This was a variation that we made to the lite vanilla ice cream recipe that was included in the book.

Chocolate – another variation to the lite vanilla ice cream recipe.

Mango passion fruit sorbet – a quick and easy recipe we made up.  A simple blend of mashed mango and passion fruit juice.

Banana – we made this one with very ripe bananas, milk,  vanilla, and some stevia.  It’s nice to have a new use for them other than banana bread!

Lite strawberry chia seed ice cream – this was a recipe from the book.  The original recipe called for blueberries, but we didn’t have any on hand, so we used strawberries instead.

Banana chocolate chip – same mix as the banana recipe above, with chocolate chips mixed in.

Chocolate milk – The name says it all… nothing but frozen chocolate milk put through the blending process.  As simple as it was, it turned out to be one of our favorites!  It reminded us of chocolate soft serve ice cream.

I’ve shared lots of nice pictures, but how did it all turn out?  Delicious!  The process was easy, and the end result made for a great treat we could all enjoy whenever the mood hit.  We were amazed that the light recipes we tried, which often used milk instead of cream, could end up being so smooth and creamy.  We were also big fans of the sorbet – with nothing more than frozen fruit and juice, it produced a very smooth and creamy treat. 

We love the fact that not only can we produce a lower fat ice cream option to enjoy, but also one that can be low in sugar by replacing some or all of the sugar with alternative sweeteners, such as stevia.  Another plus to this machine was that with many of the recipes we tried needing little more than some milk, flavoring and sweetener, a pint could be quite economical as well. 

I also appreciated that our package included 5 of the containers.  It was so easy to mix them all up in about 20 minutes to have several on hand in the freezer, ready to be blended up on demand. 

Does this mean we will never buy our favorite store bought ice cream or go to our favorite ice cream parlor again? Of course not! Those things are both enjoyable as well, but perhaps it does mean we would do so less often. There are so many recipes left to explore, and we haven’t even tried making milkshakes, gelato, or smoothie bowls yet.

On that note, it sounds like it may be time to mix up some new creations! Have a great weekend.

An Anniversary, A Birthday And A New Bread Baking Bowl

Let’s start with the anniversary… March 1st marked the first anniversary of The Food In-Laws! I can’t believe it has already been a year since we first officially opened our doors. We started out knowing little about how to set up and run a blog, but we have sure come a long way since then!

There is still much to learn, but I am proud of what we have achieved so far and I look forward to another year of adventures. We have met a lot of friendly and supportive people along the way, and that certainly helps to keep us motivated. Thank you to our followers and to those who just stop by from time to time to read, like or comment on one of our posts. We appreciate every one of you!

On to the birthday… My birthday was several weeks ago – I had a great day and was given extra special treatment by my family. They always treat me that way, but they somehow manage to go the extra mile for my birthday! One of my gifts was a new kitchen toy – a KitchenAid bread bowl with baking lid.

What a fun toy it is! For those of you with a KitchenAid mixer, it is basically a ceramic, oven safe version of the mixing bowl with a lid. While you can use it as a spare mixing bowl, the main intended use for the bowl is to make amazing artisan style breads. The beauty of the bowl is that the whole process can basically be done right in it from start to finish, mixing to oven.

The bowl attaches to the mixer, which allows you to easily mix the dough right in it using the dough hook. The recipe that comes with the bowl calls for a 1 hour rise, after which you take the dough out of the bowl for a brief knead before returning it to the bowl for a second, and final, 30 minute rise. After the second rise, you gently turn the risen loaf out onto the lid of the bowl for baking. For the first 30 minutes, the bowl itself is used as a lid which is then removed for the last 8 to 10 minutes to allow the loaf to become nice and brown.

I knew after making my first loaf that I wanted to share this fun item with you all, but I wanted to give it a few more test runs first. It is so easy to use and right from loaf one, I turned out one of the best loaves of bread I have ever made!

I was amazed at how much it looked and smelled like something that had just come from the bakery. It also tasted like a bakery fresh loaf! It was nice and crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside and the flavor was great.

It wasn’t long before I tested the pot out again… three more times! The gallery below shows more of my results which included a second white loaf, one wheat loaf and one rye loaf. Each time I followed the same basic recipe that was included with the bowl and each variety came out just a nice as the first loaf.

If you are someone who enjoys baking bread and would like to take your artisan bread creations to a new level, I would definitely recommend giving this bowl a look. From ease of use to the delicious end results, I couldn’t be happier with it. I’m sure my family loves it too – I was given an awesome gift for my birthday, and they are enjoying eating my creations!

One important note if you do decide to give the bread bowl a try, as of this writing, the bowl is only designed to work with specific sizes and models of the KitchenAid mixer, so please read the specs carefully before buying.

In closing, to my family I say thank you – for your love, for the gift, for always supporting what we are doing with the blog and for being my honest taste testers! I couldn’t do it without you!

Until next time, I hope you all have a great weekend!

Review of Home Chef

After having tried several meal kit plans, I thought I would take the time to share some thoughts about the first plan we tried, and the one we have returned to – Home Chef. We first decided to give Home Chef a try in August of 2019. There were only two of us to cook for on the weeknights, and between full time work, commuting and other activities, we thought those meal kits might make life easier, and they did.

After having researched what plans were available at the time, I concluded that Home Chef seemed like the best fit. The price wasn’t the least expensive, but the reputation and quality seemed to be amongst the best. As we were only purchasing a plan for two people, it seemed within reach. Once we began receiving the meal kits, we were quite pleased. We were two tired adults who at the time were taxed by questions as simple as, “What should we have for dinner tonight?” This plan allowed us to plan weeks ahead of time and choose from an assortment of meals ranging from “comfort food” to “healthy options” to “dinner in a hurry”.

The way the plan works is that you select meals with 2, 4, 6 or 8 servings from a menu of approximately 20 different meals. The meals are usually $8.99 or $9.99 per serving with the exception of the Culinary Collection meals which can come in at a higher price, but usually feature a more expensive protein. There are also add-ons that you can purchase that include snacks, salads, breakfast sandwiches, desserts or even a bake and eat loaf of bread. There are also a la cart proteins or protein bundles that may be purchased. There is often the option of customizing the protein for a meal kit, which may include an additional charge or just be an even swap depending on the protein chosen. There is no customization for vegetables offered. There is a minimum purchase of $49.95 and shipping costs range from $7.99 to $13.99. For us, shipping 3 meal kits with 2 servings apiece costs $7.99. You can place your order several weeks ahead of time, and you can skip a week or cancel at any time.

The level of time investment in preparing these meals can vary. The Culinary Collection recipes tend to be a bit more complicated and require a larger investment. On the other hand, there are 15 minute meal kits that are designed to put dinner on the table in flash. Our favorites tend to be the Oven Ready or “easy bakes” as Tom puts it. These are meals which require minimal effort on our part, but are on the table within 45 minutes.

The boxes come well packed with reusable ice packs, separately packaged meal kits, recipe cards, and at the bottom is a package with all the proteins for the order. The recipe cards are nice quality large cards featuring hole punches for placing in a binder. The information on the front of the card shows a picture of the plated meal, a list of items that should be in your box, what items from your own kitchen you will need to make the recipe, the prep and cook time estimate, level of difficulty, spice level and the time you should cook your meal within. This is especially noteworthy as seafood will need to be prepared sooner and things such as lettuce or pre-sliced vegetables will not hold up in the refrigerator as long as whole vegetables. On the flip side of the recipe card are the instructions which are clear and well written including instructions you’ll need if you customized the protein. Having tried several different meal kits, I cannot emphasize the importance of clear and well written instructions enough.

As with all things in life there are occasional errors made. In the beginning there were a few times the vegetables in the kit did not hold up well, which seems to have not been a problem recently. There is the odd missing ingredient, but not often. When that has happened, we have contacted customer service and always received a quick apologetic response with a generous reimbursement.

The only real con I can think of is the packaging. There is a lot of packaging most of which can be recycled. It does feel wasteful, though. In Home Chef’s defense, I will also say this packaging does deliver quality food. I have had other meal kits come with vegetables tossed all over the box sometimes bruised or ripped apart to the point of being inedible. I’ve also had multiple experiences with other kits where the ice packs ruptured all over the food leaving the food covered in a slimy substance that I don’t even want to think about.

So, if you are thinking about ordering meal kits, Home Chef is a solid choice. The food tastes good, the customer service is excellent, but before you order this or any meal plan, make sure to look for a promotion before ordering . All the meal kits seem to have many promotions all the time so I encourage you to give one a try.

Creamy Shrimp Diavolo Penne Bake

Have You Been Thinking About Getting Naked?

Well, Tom did, and he doesn’t regret it. No, The Food In-Laws didn’t suddenly turn blue. I am speaking of Naked Wines and thought that I would share our experience with you. What is Naked Wines? It is a “wine club” of sorts. Customers may buy wine directly from Naked Wine and use a one time voucher which is easy enough to find, but consumers may also choose to become an Angel. By becoming an Angel you agree to deposit $40 into a piggy bank monthly. This money allows the company to help fund independent winemakers. The money remains in your piggy bank until you choose to spend it. If you change your mind and decide to cancel, the money remaining in the piggy bank is refunded to you. Other benefits to becoming and Angel are discounted prices and once a month a gift bottle may be redeemed by purchasing a case of wine. Shipping prices are $9.99 for purchases under $100 and free for purchases over $100 except for Alaska and Hawaii which are considerably more expensive. Shipping usually takes 1-4 days except for Ohio which is 8-10 days. So far the orders we have had shipped to South Carolina have taken 3 to 4 business days. Naked Wines currently does not ship to Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Utah, but it appears that it is possible that some of that may change. More information on the subject may be found on the site Freethegrapes.org.

So, how is the wine? In the interest of full disclosure I will have to admit that we have yet to try any of the white wine offerings or any offering other than red. Although we do appreciate the occasional white or sparkling wine, our true love is red wine, so that is what we order. We have chosen many different varietals and red blends from countries such as South Africa, Australia, Portugal, Italy, the US and more.The verdict for us has been a resounding yes. Every bottle we’ve consumed has been very nice. Are we that easy to please? Actually, I don’t think we are, but so far so good for the bottles we’ve ordered from Naked Wines.

That brings me to customer service. The shipping has been fast, and well packed with no breakages. The orders have all been correct, and we’ve enjoyed the wine so nothing to complain about. That lack of complaining seemed to not sit well with Naked Wines, so they reached out. Tom received an email noting that we had not yet had any complaints and assuring him that they want us to love every bottle and to feel free to reach out and tell them about any bottle that we didn’t “love” and they would be happy to refund the price of the bottle. So, we were puzzled that they seemed to be complaining about our not complaining and thought, “If there is a bottle we don’t like in the next shipment, we’ll let them know”. Well, we liked them all and again had no complaints. Our lack of complaining seems to have prompted them to just go ahead and proactively credit us for a bottle of wine anyway.

Karen Birmingham Zinfandel RESERVE. Wine swirl by Mike Fingerhut of Jersey Woodcrafters

So, if you’ve been thinking about getting Naked, I would say go ahead. You’ve got nothing to lose!