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Instacart – Grocery Delivery comes to Boston & NYC! // $10 off your first order

You can order groceries online and have them delivered to your doorstep in an hour or two, for a delivery charge of as little as $3.99. Sounds too good to be true, right?

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Well thanks to Instacart, a grocery delivery service that delivers in as little as an hour, this is actually possible. Instacart, a website and an app where you order your groceries from your favorite stores, recently launched in Boston and connects you with Personal Shoppers in your area who pick up and deliver your groceries from your favorite local stores. In Boston, this includes Whole Foods, Shaw’s, Market Basket and Costco. Instacart is not affiliated with these stores, but it makes shopping there so much easier.

I have a busy life and getting to the grocery store is not always easy, nor is it on the top of my “favorite things to do” list. I mean who likes going to the grocery store at 5pm? The lines are long, the people are moody, and I’m usually hungry. And lets face it, sometimes there just isn’t enough time to go to the grocery store.

Eating a gluten free diet makes this even more of a chore. I shop at multiple food stores because each one offers different gluten free items or significantly different prices for the same product. Instacart lets you mix and match from various stores. So rather than having to run all over the city to different grocery stores, someone else can do the schlepping for me!

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With delivery prices as low as $3.99, and free for orders $35 or more this is a no brainer. I can definitely spend $35 in one shopping trip, thanks to the high prices of gluten free items. The minimum order is $10. Deliveries can be made in less than two hours but can also be scheduled for specific times or days when you’ll be home. The company says its fastest delivery was made in 12 minutes. Instacart also offers a service similar to Amazon Prime: for $99 a year, all under two hour deliveries over $35 are free.

I placed my first order at 5pm today. I ordered items from both Shaw’s and Whole Foods. It was easy to browse items by aisle, as you would in a grocery store, and I could filter by brand and/or dietary preferences including gluten free, organic, kosher, and vegan. This was a huge time saver. I was impressed with the number of gluten free products on the site. It’s not like food delivery/take out sites that don’t always list the gluten free options- you know what I mean, we’ve all been there.

Can’t find what you are looking for? It’s impossible to list every single item a grocery store carries. Luckily there is an option to Add a Special Request/Custom Item. All you have to do is include a description of what you are looking for the, the more specific the better, and you can even add a photo, which I did to make it easier for the shopper.

What happens if something is out of stock? When something is out of stock at the store Instacart will do their best to replace it with something similar. During checkout, you can choose specific replacements for any item, or ask for no replacement of an item. If you allow it, your shopper will call from the store to confirm replacement items.

You can view the status of your order and make changes and if the Shopper has not started working on your order, you can add to, modify or cancel your order very easily.

My first order:

Placing my order was super easy. I ordered food from both Shaw’s and Whole Foods.

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Photo Courtesy of Instacart, this was not my actual order.

My shopper called me because an item I wanted wasn’t in stock, but they had another flavor, so I told her that was ok. She also told me she was having a hard time finding the special request item I had added to my order. That didn’t surprise me because I know that not all Whole Foods carry that very new item. A few minutes later I received a text message with an estimated delivery time. My shopper actually arrived 15 minutes before the estimated time, I can’t complain about that!

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I was impressed with the quality or service and communication. I also really liked the convenience and ease of the entire processes.

Prices are set by Instacart and may vary from what you may see in your store or your sales flyer. However, you will see the price for each item when selecting your grocery list. I found that the prices were very similar, if not the same, as what I typically pay for my groceries. For example a carton of Almond Breeze Almond Milk at Whole Foods cost $1.99 in the store and on Instacart. There were some items that seemed a bit high to me, Barbara’s Bakery Puffins at Whole Foods sell for $3.99 and a bit more at Shaw’s, about $5.99-$6.99. On Instacart the price at Whole Foods was also $3.99 but at Shaw’s the Puffins cost $7.99.

After your order(s) is delivered you receive both a text and e-mail. If any replacements had been made the e-mail will show this as well as the adjusted price. You are also asked to rate and tip your shopper. Tipping is not required but shoppers appreciate recognition of their hard work. You can tip in cash or using your credit card during checkout or after delivery.

Instacart is available in and around Boston and NYC (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Woodland Park) 7 days/week from 9am-midnight, depending on local store hours.

 

 

Want to give Instacart a try? Use this link or enter promo code GlutenFreeBostonGirl to get $10 off and free delivery on your first order!

 

Disclaimer: I was not paid for this review. I did receive $35 of free groceries from Instacart, but all of my thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Healthy Habits Kitchen Review & Discount Code

It’s not always easy to come up with new and exciting recipes, and let’s face it; the last thing I want to do some nights after a long, stressful day at work is cook. Ordering out is easy but it’s not always the healthiest option. One way to kick this bad habit of ordering takeout when I don’t want to cook—or don’t have any idea what to cook— is Healthy Habits Kitchen.

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Healthy Habits Kitchen provides nutritious meal kits made from scratch with plenty of gluten free options, delivered straight to your door and ready to be cooked, so you can make a convenient, quick dinner at home.

Healthy Habits Kitchen’s philosophy is simple: they do all the recipe creation, meal planning, and prep work to make dinner easy. They are turning the idea of convenient, quick dinner on its head by providing the tools and information to keep staying on the right path easy through convenient, wholesome meals made from scratch.

They slice and dice vegetables, mix sauces and balance flavors. Then they send fresh, freezer-ready and homemade meals to you perfectly portioned, ready to cook and enjoy. Skip the shopping and chopping, just cook, and get a meal on the table quickly and easily.

Healthy Habits Kitchen uses fresh ingredients and whole foods sourced locally whenever possible. Meals are packed with nutrients, flavor and creativity.  Preservatives, artificial flavors, colors and dyes are never used, and only chicken without Antibiotics and growth hormones make it into Healthy Habits Kitchen meals.

How it works:

  1. Select meals from the menu.
  2. Choose pick up at the kitchen in Wellesley or delivery.
  3. Receive your meal kit with all items prepared to cook.

Each meal has easy to follow instructions, and each kit comes with containers and packets portioned according to the recipe instructions. All you need to do is follow a few steps to cook everything, and dinner is on your table in 10 and 30 minutes—no knives, cutting boards or other kitchen mess. I only had to use two pans to make my meals.

I received three meals to review, which I was super excited about. Meals come in 2 sizes small and large. Small meals serve 2 people eating hearty to 3 people eating healthy; large meals serve 4 eating hearty to 6 people eating healthy.

The meals arrived packaged in an insulated cardboard box with ice packs. The meals were completely frozen when I received the box.

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It’s recommend to defrost kits in the refrigerator overnight. Just take the components out of kit to speed up the time to thaw. The small meals easily thaw overnight but large meals may lake 24 – 36 hours to defrost depending on your refrigerator.

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Tilapia fillets are rubbed with a mix of spices, and then pan grilled and topped with a squeeze of lemon juice. The meal kit came with three pieces of tilapia and plenty of spice mix and rice. I loved the vibrant flavors of the spice mix and how easy and fast (only 10 minutes!) it was to make such a tasty meal.

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Coconut Red Lentil Curry with Jasmine Rice

This vegetarian dish is so full of flavor! The coconut milk adds a silky richness to this South Indian-style meal. I was again blown away with the restaurant quality of this meal. Made with fresh ginger, onion, garlic, curry powder, jalapeño, and coconut milk, this meal was bursting with flavors.

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It was just as good as any curry dish I’ve ordered at a restaurant, but much healthier. I could really tell just how fresh this dish was. I loved the addition of edamame. Not only does it add protein, but a nice crunch to an otherwise soft and tender lentil dish.  I was happy with the portion size, and it easily made three meals.

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Pomegranate Walnut Chicken with Brown Rice

Based on a Persian dish Fesenjan, this dish features a sweet and tart sauce of pomegranate juice thickened with ground walnuts. In 33 minutes we had a delicious chicken dish and brown rice ready for dinner.

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We really liked the sauce; it had a great flavor and a nice balance of sweetness and tartness. This meal was definitely not big enough for three. We wish there had been more chicken just for the two of us.

Nutritional Information is based on 3 meals
Nutritional Information is based on 3 meals

Meals contain a maximum of 400 calories per serving, less than 30% fat and no more than 800 mg sodium. But don’t be confused; this is NOT a diet plan. Healthy Habits Kitchen uses whole foods that taste delicious, while providing portion control and nutritional information so you can tailor meals to your diet.

Healthy Habits Kitchen takes food allergies very seriously. Each meal kit is labeled with ingredients and allergen information can be found on the website so you can make the right decisions for you and your family.

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You can easily switch out sides to accommodate for gluten allergies. If you need or prefer something else, just let make sure to let them know what replacement side you’d like in “special instructions” when you check out.

It’s important to know that they are not a dedicated facility. They do take steps to minimize cross-contamination, such as sanitizing tables in between meal preparations. However, the best thing to do is to treat them like your average restaurant and always let them know about any allergies.

Meals are cheaper than going out to dinner (starting at $18.99 for a small meal kit) and a great option if you work late and want a healthy meal that tastes homemade without all the hassle. Healthy Habits Kitchen has provided me discount code to give to my readers. Save 15% off your first order with code GFBOSTONGIRL.

Do you use a meal service or have you ever used a meal service?

Disclaimer: I received these products for free to sample and review for my blog.  I was not paid for my review and all opinions are my own.
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Beacon Hill location

Gluten Free Ice Cream at J.P. Licks {Dairy Free & Vegan options too!}

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I love ice cream. I will eat ice cream no matter what the temperature is outside. So when I was recently presented with the opportunity to go to J.P. Licks and sample their ice cream flavors I was ecstatic!

J.P. Licks is a Boston-based company. They opened their first location in Jamaica Plain in 1981. Known for their high quality, homemade cream, the unique, intense, and ever changing flavors, as well as their ice cream cakes, they now have 12 locations throughout Boston and the greater Boston area, with their 13th store opening this spring in Assembly Square, Somerville.

Beacon Hill location
Beacon Hill location

At J.P. Licks you can taste as many flavors as you’d like before placing your order. But you should be kind to the servers and only try a few. Luckily for me, I was there with a group of bloggers specifically to sample their ice cream. So I didn’t feel so bad asking to try so many flavors!

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J.P. Lick’s offers many gluten free flavors of their ice cream, soft serve yogurt, hard yogurt, NutraSweet yogurt, Yogurt X, sherbets, sorbets, toppings, and cake ingredients.

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*Note: They rinse, sanitize and disassemble the machines between each flavor. Flavors containing gluten products are produced on the same machinery as gluten free products.

JP Licks also offers dairy free, lactose free, and vegan ice cream made from coconut, soy and/or hemp. For a complete list of ingredient information click here.

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Ice creams containing nuts are kept in a separate cooler than non-nut containing ice creams. If you have a food allergy or sensitivity don’t hesitate to speak up. They will wash the scoops and even scoop out of a fresh unopened bucket of ice cream if you need them too because just like you, they don’t want to risk cross contamination either.

Every month J.P. Licks comes out with new monthly flavors, some which end up becoming regulars on the menu. Each month the flavors get more creative than the last!

This months new gluten free flavors include:

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Photo Courtesy of Katie, of Katie’s Boston Cuisine

I tried the Mint Irish Lace and Madagascar Vanilla Coconut, which is my new all-time favorite.

In addition to ice cream, J.P. Licks roasts their own Fair Trade Certified Organic coffee!

Photo Courtesy of Katie, Katie's Boston Cuisine
Photo Courtesy of Katie, of Katie’s Boston Cuisine

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Photo Courtesy of Katie, of Katie’s Boston Cuisine

They even have espresso bars so you can order lattes and cappuccinos, and skip the long lines at Starbucks.


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Disclaimer: I attended this event free of charge. I was not paid to write this post. All my opinions are my own.

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Kitchensurfing: Bringing Personal Chefs into Your Kitchen & Fine Dining In to your Home {and $100 promo code}

My girlfriends and I are always looking for any reason or excuse to get together to eat, drink, and have a good time. Rather than go out I decided to invite a few friends over for Girls Night, and hired a chef through Kitchsensurfing, to make us appetizers and dessert. Screen shot 2014-01-31 at 2.09.05 PM

I love Kitchensurfing, I’ve been using the service for a few months now for private dinners (Valentine’s Day is coming up!) and a cooking lesson (click on the links to read about my other KS experiences). My friends, on the other hand, were newbies, and they were just as excited to try something different, as I was to introduce them to Kitchensurfing.

So what is Kitchensurfing?

Kitchensurfing is a marketplace for chefs of all kinds. It’s a service that allows you to bring chefs into your home to cook you a personal and customized meal. From hobby chefs to Michelin star chefs, you can browse the chefs on the site, view their sample menus, read their reviews, and book any of them. From private cooking lessons in your home, to meal deliveries, to a private dinner party for two or fifty-two, KS allows you to ‘shop’ around based on your own needs, wants, budget, and diet.

How it works:

  • Browse the list of chefs, read their reviews and sample menus, and pick one you’d like to have cook for you. Send them an e-mail and voilà, you’ve got yourself a private chef.

OR

  • Submit a “Match Request”. Fill out a form stating what you’re looking for (party size, budget, date, time, etc.), any dietary restrictions or allergies, preferred cuisines, and anything else you want or don’t want. Your request will be sent to all the chefs matching your criteria. Chefs will then contact you to customize a menu. Once you’ve found a chef and a menu that you are satisfied with you can book your chef!

The booking process is incredibly east and it is ok to say no if you don’t like an idea or menu item. So be specific about your likes and dislikes along with any dietary restrictions.  All the chefs I’ve worked with were great with communicating with me prior to the booking, and customizing the menu to my likes and needs. And remember, the chefs want you to enjoy every last bite, so be upfront and honest!

Keep reading for your $100 code….

Our Girls Night was such a blast! The menu looked amazing, and the food turned out even better than we could have imagined. My friends loved every moment of it and could not stop talking about trying KS on their own.

Chef Stephen Coe created a menu of tapas and dessert. Each course was delicious and beautifully crafted. The freshness and flavors of each dish were impressive; we cannot say one bad thing about any of this food.

Red and yellow beet salad with shaved sheep cheese, candied pistachios, and a blood orange aged balsamic over local greens.IMG_6251

Sashimi Tuna served over seaweed salad with pickled ginger, sesame seeds, and siracha sour cream and rice crackers.IMG_6255 IMG_6252

Grilled Oysters with pancetta, fennel, bee pollen, chives, and grated sheep cheese. IMG_6262

Scallops with artichoke hearts, romaine, olives, basil, tomatoes, and capers.IMG_6263

Warm chocolate soufflé with strawberry tarragon and white balsamic purée.IMG_6261 IMG_6260

The awesome folks over at Kitchensurfing have provided me with a $100 discount code for YOU, my readers! Click here to claim your $100 voucher and discover what Kitchensurfing is all about. The code is valid Monday, February 3, 2014 through Sunday, February 16, 2014. Your meal needs to be booked prior to the 16th, but the date of the actual meal could be after this date.

And you don’t have to live in Boston; some chefs are willing to travel all over the state, even to Maine!

Disclaimer: I was not paid for my review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Pictures from my previous Kitchensurfing Experiences

Romantic Meal for Two by Chris Hallahan

– Late Season corn soup served hot with a ragout of lobster, bacon, and corn
– Kale salad with a warm bacon vinaigrette
– Blue Fish pan seared with crispy skin, over maple glazed carrots and fall vegetables
– Pumpkin & carrot cake (dairy, gluten free)IMG_4988

Cooking Lesson with Michelle Lahey:

-Middle Eastern Chickpea Burgers with Vegan Tzatziki
-Quinoa with Dried Cranberries and Roasted Butternut Squash
-Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
-Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

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Drop of Plated Meal prepared by Mark Hardin

– Arugula, Carrot & fennel salad with a creamsicle vinaigrette, sunflower seeds & orange slices
– Braised Lamb Shank slowly cooked in tomatoes and garlic. Served with a gravy made from its own juices. Accompanied by Roasted root vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes
– Mini Flourless Chocolate Mousse Cake Garnished with powdered sugar and a fresh raspberriesIMG_5950 IMG_5947

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Our Gluten Free Cooking Lesson with Kitchensurfing & 25% off code

Kitchensurfing brings a chef into your kitchen for parties, lessons, and so much more.Screen shot 2013-12-03 at 9.34.17 AM

Kitchensurfing (KS) is a marketplace for chefs of all kinds. From hobby chefs to Michelin chefs, you can browse the chefs on the site, view their sample menus, read their reviews, and book any of them. From private cooking lessons in your home, to meal deliveries, to a private dinner party for two or thirty-two, KS allows you to ‘shop’ around based on your own needs, wants, budget, and diet.

Last month Jeremy and I had a wonderful, restaurant-quality, 4-course meal with Chef Chris Hallahan. We were blown away not only by his culinary talents, but also by his passion for food and locally sourced ingredients. He was friendly and engaging, and answered all our questions. You can read all about our first KS experience here.

The whole experience was so wonderful that I decided to use KS again, but this time I wanted a cooking lesson.

After browsing a few profiles and menus to see who would be a good fit for a gluten free, dairy free cooking lesson we chose Michelle Lahey. Michelle is a Boston based personal chef and I love her blog, The Economical Eater, so I was thrilled when she replied to my request for a cooking lesson for my sister and I!

The Menu for our cooking demonstration:

Middle Eastern Chickpea Burgers with Vegan Tzatziki
Quinoa with Dried Cranberries and Roasted Butternut Squash
Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip BarsIMG_5677

Services Included

  • Ingredients
  • Cleaning
  • Transport

Michelle’s food was fantastic. She was engaging, super friendly, and really easy to talk to. She was really knowledgeable about vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free food, such a relief!

Michelle’s menu incorporated fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients.IMG_5652

I really like Brussels sprouts but have never cooked them myself, so I was eager to learn to do this once and for all. And it’s much easier than I thought!

Our previous attempts at making veggie burgers have all failed. Michelle’s recipe for Middle Eastern Chickpea Burgers was easy to follow and can easily be swapped with different types of beans and spices. We loved the Middle Eastern spices and flavor combinations in this burger.IMG_5649The vegan tzatziki was also easy to make and paired perfectly with the burgers. This is something I plan on making again. Since going dairy free I hadn’t eaten tzatziki. I was surprised with the simplicity of the recipe. Michelle used So Delicious almond based yogurt and also recommended coconut yogurt was well. I haven’t been able to find plain coconut yogurt so I just bought the almond yogurt when I made it.IMG_5679The pumpkin chocolate chip dessert bars were to die for.  My sister and I felt like we had died and gone to heave. The secret ingredient— garam masala—gave the bars an unbelievable flavor. They were absolutely incredible. And lucky for us she left us her recipe so we can make them again and again! The recipe is also available on her blog.IMG_5680

Not only did Michelle show us how to prepare the food, each step of the way she explained what we were doing with all the ingredients and how each one contributed to and played a role in the dish.IMG_5659

We enjoyed learning new recipes that we can now add to our repertoire. I like that Michelle focused on healthy, fresh, and seasonal ingredients. We liked everything about this meal and we felt good eating it.IMG_5677

Click here for a 25% off coupon for your next Kitchensurfing booking! This code is valid through Dec. 31 (you don’t have to have your meal prior to the 31, it just has to be booked by that date). This code can be used on any KS service.

Disclaimer: I received this service free of charge to review for my blog.  I was not paid for my review and all opinions are my own.

Gluten Free dinner at The Cottage – Chestnut Hill

The Cottage was packed on Sunday night! I was surprised how busy it was to be honest. I hadn’t heard much about it, I think it is relatively new. I love the ambiance and decor, it reminded me of being at home in Duxbury. Every time I looked out the window I was expecting to see the ocean, not Route 9, but what are you gonna do?

They have a nice (and big) gluten free menu with a variety of options for lunch and dinner.

We started with the Nacho appetizer. Although not on the gluten free menu we ordered nachos anyways. The corn chips are fried in the same oil as other menu items containing gluten; this is the reason why they are not on the gluten free menu. For those of you with serious allergies, I wouldn’t dare, but I felt fine after.  The nachos were so good! Topped with jack and cheddar cheese,  spiced sour cream and a homemade pico de gallo and guacamole.  They didn’t skimp on the guacamole, and it was delicious!I love nachos and these definitely pasted the test of excellent flavor and amount of toppings.
For my entrée I ordered the Chicken and Wild Rice Risotto, with fresh peas, chicken tenders and fresh, shaved Parmesan cheese. The risotto was only somewhat creamy, this is a good thing in my book, and very flavorful. The wild rice gave it a little crunch, maybe a little under cooked but it tasted pretty good and added nice texture to the dish. The chicken was just ok, it was a little dry.
Jeremy, my boyfriend, ordered the Grilled Salmon, also on the gluten free menu. It was served with a citrus salsa verde, chile scented rice and an agave nectar sauce with fresh pineapple. It was cooked to perfection (medium) and so delicious! I liked it better than my own meal.
The salads also look delicious, Shrimp & Lump Crab with hearts of palm, avocado, and tomato in a lemon-basil dressing. Next time I may try this.
They also have gluten free dinner rolls, which tasted like chemicals, so don’t even bother. And bread for sandwiches, which I have not tried and forgot to ask what brand it is.
I’ve been told the lunch is better than the dinner. I was not disappointed with the dinner and I would love to try one of their sandwiches. Maybe the Jumbo Lump Crab Melt or Mahi Fish Tacos, yum!


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There are two other locations – Wellesley, MA and La Jolla, CA.  The Wellsley location has a gluten free menu, the La Jolla location does not and the menu is very different, so I would check up on that before, and if, you venture out to the one in Cali.

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