green chef

My 2017 Healthyish Gift Guide

Is it just me, or is November totally flying by? Holiday shopping season starts in T-minus 11 days people. If you're anything like me, you always have great intentions of starting your shopping early. You might buy one or two things in October and think it's finally going to be that year, but then Thanksgiving comes and goes and you have yet to cross anyone else off your list. While I really do love buying gifts for my people, I have this annoying "need" to find the absolutely perfect thing which can sometimes drive me a little mad. I always check out online gift guides for ideas because there are so many cool things out there that I would never even know about otherwise. This year, I wanted to put together one myself! Here are some of my favorite healthyish things at the moment.

Oh and just a heads-up: This post contains some affiliate links. While these do not affect the purchase price of the item, they could result in me getting a small commission on anything you buy. Thank you for supporting this blog. Now on with the gifts!

The Instant Pot

It's probably no surprise that this made the list. I just talked about how much I love it in my post last week and I keep finding new and interesting ways to use it! Besides the ever-so-popular pressure cooker feature that the IP is known for, here are some other cool things you can make with it:

  • Yogurt

  • The perfect rice (minus all of the foam boiling over the pot and making a mess of your stovetop)

  • Anything that you would typically make in a slow cooker

  • Seared and shredded meat (with no extra pots/pans required)

  • Steamed vegetables

  • Oatmeal or other porridge

It's just an amazing all-around appliance and would open up a whole new world of cooking possibilities for the home chef in your life!

Green Chef Subscription

I have waxed poetic about Green Chef so many times over the last few months, but I'm still holding strong that it's nothing short of amazing! You can read my full review here, but in short Green Chef sends you a box of brightly colored, beautiful and creative meals along with recipe cards that explain exactly how to assemble them so 1) you don't have to plan dinners for the week and 2) you don't have to do a huge grocery shop. Perfect for post-holiday travel when you're craving plants and just can't think about what to cook. 

They don't offer a gift card option, but you can sign someone up for a box (I did this for my mom). It would be a fun gift for a couple who wants to start cooking more, or for anyone who wants to start trying some new cuisines or branch out from their usual meal rotation. 

Mediterranean Bowls via Green Chef

Mediterranean Bowls via Green Chef

Cookbooks

A cookbook is a great gift for home cooks, because while they provide new meal inspiration and are just plain fun to read, most people don't buy them "just because". I know I browse cookbooks online often but it's hard to justify spending $25-50 on one when free recipes are available all over the place. This is why they make the perfect gift. 

Here are two of my favorites, plus two that I've been eyeing but don't yet own:

Cravings, by Chrissy Teigen

Seriously Delish, by Jessica Merchant

Dinner: Changing the Game, by Melissa Clark

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, by Mark Bittman

fish tacos, a la Cravings

fish tacos, a la Cravings

Apple Watch Series 3 or Accessories 

This is obviously a more pricey option, but for the active person in your life it sure is fun to wear. I have a Series 1 that I got as a Christmas gift two years ago. The main reason I love it is because I can't wear most metal accessories without my wrist getting irritated, and I really like wearing a watch. I also love the look of the Apple Watch (it matches my casual style) and you can easily switch out the band based on the season or your mood. 

Now I'm not religious about tracking my steps or anything, but I do find it helpful for reminding me to get moving at times when I'm focused on a task and it's fun to see how many miles walked while on vacation or on a particularly active day. It's also a great run tracker when training for an event if you are someone who likes to keep track of pace, distance, etc. I rarely use mine for texting and answering calls, but know that those are features as well, and with the new Series 3 you don't even need your phone nearby to do so! 

If someone on your list already has a watch, a bright and funky watch band is a less expensive option that would be really fun to receive. I love the dusty blue or bright pink options for days when you need a little bit of color in your life. 

Cocktail Making Supplies

You might be asking yourself how anything related to alcohol made the cut on a "healthyish" gift guide, but let me explain. I'm a big believer in the power of learning how to make a bomb cocktail. It's just one of those adult skills that I think everyone should have. Plus, one great tasting high-quality cocktail means it will probably be a lot more satisfying, which can be helpful for someone trying to cut down on alcohol intake. Less is more you guys!

I'm partial to Moscow Mules, but really the options are endless here. I love the idea of giving a local, craft mixer for a special add-on and you can cater it to whatever cocktail your gift-ee really loves. 

Citrus Juicer - I couldn't find the exact one I have, but this one looks similar.

Moscow Mule Mugs - we got these as a wedding gift and use them a ton when hosting company!

Craft mixer - Fever Tree makes some really interesting mixers although I've never actually tried them - I have been on the hunt for their ginger beer for weeks!

best.host.ever

best.host.ever

Bon Appetit Magazine Subscription

BA magazine is so much fun to read every month. Yes, the recipes are creative and delicious but their photography and graphic design is what really keeps me reading. They also write really funny and true-to-life articles that I find so useful. One of the columns is called "Basically" where a simple skill is broken down. As an example, one month it was on how to make perfectly roasted potatoes. Oh, and then there's the hot 10 list that I look forward to all year where they choose their favorite 10 new restaurants in the country and showcase them in the September issue. 

There are other food magazines out there, but if you're looking for one that's a little bit out of the box and will really challenge someone in the kitchen, I would highly recommend Bon Appetit. 

ClassPass membership

Anyone who knows me well, knows that when it comes to fitness I can't stay put doing the same thing for very long. Enter, ClassPass - the ultimate solution that seems like it was designed just for me! If you aren't familiar, ClassPass essentially allows you access to all sorts of fitness studios all on one membership with an app that allows you to schedule based on location, class type and/or time. This would be perfect for someone who has a hard time committing to a gym membership because of an ever-changing work schedule, or anyone who loves trying out new formats often. Classes are available in 39 cities and if you travel, you can use your membership anywhere, not just in the city you sign up. 

I recently re-joined and remembered just how much I like the flexibility. I tried out Barre3 (which I loved) and a new-to-me Cycling/Core class that was also really fun. Other Denver favorites include Core Power Yoga, Pearl Street Fitness, Fierce45 which is a pilates megaformer class and Fit36 - a super quick option near my work that I also really like. Taking classes like this as a drop-in can easily cost upwards of $25/class so CP membership is a great deal. 

Starbucks Mug

This is a classic and probably a bit predictable, but there are just so many beautiful mugs at Starbucks these days! This is another one of those things that most people probably gawk over but never actually buy for themselves. You can't buy the mugs on Starbucks.com anymore, but you can of course still find them in store, and on sites like Amazon. Check out a few of these patterns:

Pretty Pattern

Fall Leaves

Iced Coffee Lovers

And then of course their city-specific collectible mugs and tumblers are great if you want to give a souvenir type gift to a special someone. I may be biased, but I think this Colorado one is pretty cool:

Colorado Mug

Green Chef: Restaurant Quality Meals Delivered to Your Doorstep

As many of you probably recall, I recently decided to dive into the world of meal delivery services to see what all the fuss is about. So many people that I know have really gotten into these so I thought it would be a good little experiment to test out a couple and then write about the differences. FYI: In case you missed the post about my Blue Apron experience, find that here. The other service that I decided to try out is Green Chef, mostly because one of my friends sent me a code for four free meals, but also because I was intrigued by the mouthwatering photos on their website.

Mediterranean Meal.JPG

About the Company

Green Chef is a Colorado-based meal delivery service that sources USDA certified organic ingredients and prides themselves on sustainability and green innovation. The first box I ordered came the week of August 21st. I purposely saved the first-time customer promotion to use after a weekend when I had company in town and knew it would be unlikely that I would get to the grocery store on Sunday (I received a box on Monday). I still stand by my statement that these services are the perfect solution to a post-vacation weekend. Not only do you solve the problem of not having time to go to the store, but the food is usually really nutrient-dense, feel-good-food which I appreciate after a few days in a row of eating out and drinking wine late into the night. 

Now if you’ve ever opened one of these boxes before, it’s kind of like Christmas morning for adults. Even though you know what meals you are receiving ahead of time (they send an email to give you a heads-up), I think it’s really exciting to see all of the brightly colored produce, seasonings, sauces and anything else you might be cooking with. Speaking of which, the first thing I noticed when I opened up this box was the amazing colors. Green Chef is really plant-heavy compared to Blue Apron and everything was so beautiful and fresh. I also noticed that there was a lot of stuff in there! I’ll get more into this in a bit, but Green Chef’s meals use insanely complex ingredient combinations and really layer on the flavor and garnishes. For this reason, the amount of food you get in each box is really impressive, which can help make you feel a little bit better about the price tag (not crazy expensive, but more then I would normally spend on a week's worth of dinners).

Box Opened.JPG

The Meals

The three meals I cooked the first week were:

  • Caribbean Chicken with Collard-Strewn Coconut Rice & Pineapple Salsa
  • Cumin-Coriander Steak, Farro Tabbouleh with Green Beans & Carrots
  • Mediterranean Veggie Bowl, White Bean Patties, Feta, Quinoa, Cucumber, Mint (pictured above)

We really liked all three of these meals, although the vegetarian option was the clear winner for both me and Jacob (surprisingly, since he is a total carnivore). I love that a lot of Green Chef’s meals are bowls and this one had everything going for it – excellent texture, light and bright flavor, and the perfect amount of seasoning to bring everything together.

In addition to the actual meals, another detail I really appreciate is the color coded stickers on each of the ingredients. This makes for easy sorting in the refrigerator and even easier gathering when it’s time to start cooking. Each beautifully designed recipe card also explains which kitchen equipment you’ll need at the top, so you can get everything out in the beginning and it just streamlines the entire process. 

Color Coded.JPG

The Cons

The only cons that I can think of (in addition to the typical qualm of excess packaging that comes with any of these services) is that someone who is new to cooking might not learn as much about technique as they would with some of the others on the market. I actually really like that most of the sauces are already made and most of the more complex chopping and dicing is already done for you (since it saves time and I already know how to do these things), but for someone who is trying to learn how to cook, this might be a negative. Also, this is a subscription service, which means that once you sign up, boxes are shipped weekly unless you “hold” or cancel your account. I set a reminder on my calendar so I don’t forget to go in and change my settings as needed, but if you have a difficult time remembering, this could be a nuisance for you. 

Spicing Up the Cooking Game

If you want to learn more about flavor combinations and branch out from your typical cuisine, Green Chef totally nails it on that front. In just six meals we’ve had everything from Thai-inspired curry to Mediterranean to Italian and even a classic steak dish, but nothing even remotely similar to a meal I had cooked before. 

I was so intrigued by my first box that I immediately scheduled my second one (for which I paid the full price), but again waited for an appropriate week. Since my parents were in town last weekend and stayed until Monday morning, I had a shipment scheduled the day they left so I would have a box of beautiful ingredients waiting for me when I got home from work. To spice things up, I went with the vegetarian plan this time around and was once again blown away by the complexity of the meals. To give further context on this, one of the dishes we made had coconut lime curry sauce that was used to simmer vegetables, which were then served over sticky rice and tamarind glazed tempeh. This, in itself, would have been unique and outside of my usual repertoire, but the recipe also included fresh cilantro, cashews and toasted coconut for finishing touches which just took the dish to another level.

Recipe Cards.JPG

If any of the above sounds interesting to you, I would highly recommend giving Green Chef a try. They offer plenty of options for a variety of eating styles (including omnivore, carnivore, paleo and more) which makes it easy to find something that will work for you. If you want to sign up and get four free meals, you can use this link (if you sign up with this and then order a second box, I do get a little bit of a kick-back). This post is not sponsored in any way, I just really like the service!

On a related note, I wanted to let you know that if you’re on Instagram, use the hashtag #SpiceUpYourCookingGame for a chance to be featured on my feed. In honor of my upcoming e-course launch I’m going to be posting some tips for making healthful food and cooking more interesting for the next several weeks and I would love to hear from you as well! If you aren’t already following me, hop over to my account @LeanneRayRDN for all things food and cooking inspired.