January- Time to plan your garden

January 23rd, 2015

It’s January, and winter stretches out before you. The holiday season is over, and you’re wondering what to do. It may surprise you that January is the perfect time to start planning your spring garden.

straw-bale-gardenStart a file folder to store ideas you’ve clipped out of magazines or printed off the internet. Investigate MagicKitchen.com’s pinterest page for gardening tips and ideas. Look around town and join a gardening club to get out of the house and talk to people who love to garden. You’ll get lots of great tips and advice that way.

Plan new things for the spring. Tired of bending over to weed and pick your veggies? Try starting a hay bale garden. So much cheaper than building raised beds, and easy to do. The straw holds moisture and heat, and is perfect for northern climates. Here’s the go-to source for hay or straw bale gardens: http://modernfarmer.com/2013/07/straw-bale-gardening/

While hardly new, square foot gardening is a great technique for getting more produce out of a smaller garden. Again, less bending and squatting and weeding makes for a better experience.

square-foot-gardeingWhichever garden design you decide to use, it’s a good idea to plot it out on graph paper or on the computer.

Go through your seeds and decide which to keep and throw out any moldy ones. Then go through your nursery catalogs and decide what seeds you will buy, which to start inside, and which nursery seedlings you’ll buy to plant.

Depending on where you live, you may be able to prep your garden bed now. Mulch, spray and prune. Here’s a guide to January garden prep in California: http://3000tomatoes.com/monthly-garden-jobs/january-garden/

Those of us in cooler temperatures are only allowed to dream of our hands in the soil again, but some good planning now will ensure that next year’s garden will shine!

Melody, MagicKitchen.com blogger.

 

 

What is 12th Night?

January 16th, 2015

wassailFrom Wikipedia: “Twelfth Night is a festival, in some branches of Christianity marking the coming of the Epiphany. There is disagreement as to whether the Twelfth Night falls on 6th January or the 5th; the Church of England insists that it is on the 5th and “refers to the night before Epiphany, the day when the nativity story tells us that the three wise men visited the infant Jesus. In pagan days, 12 night originally came from the 12 days of Yuletide which began at sunset on December 20, known as Mother Night, and ended on the night of December 31, the Night of the Oak King and the Roman day of Hecate

Food and drink are the center of the celebrations in modern times, and all of the most traditional ones go back many centuries. The punch called wassail is consumed especially on Twelfth Night, but throughout Christmas time, especially in the UK.

Around the world, special pastries, such as the tortell and king cake are baked on Twelfth Night, and eaten the following day for the Feast of the Epiphany celebrations.

In English and French custom, the Twelfth-cake was baked to contain a bean and a pea, so that those who received the slices containing them should be designated king and queen of the night’s festivities.

In Ireland it is still the tradition to place the statues of the Three Kings in the crib on Twelfth Night or, at the latest, the following Day Little Christmas.

12th-2In colonial America, a Christmas wreath was always left up on the front door of each home, and when taken down at the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas, any edible portions would be consumed with the other foods of the feast. The same held true in the 19th-20th centuries with fruits adorning Christmas trees.
Fresh fruits were hard to come by, and were therefore considered fine and proper gifts and decorations for the tree, wreaths, and home. Again, the tree would be taken down on Twelfth Night, and such fruits, along with nuts and other local produce used, would then be consumed.

In the eastern Alps, a tradition called Perchtenlaufen exists. Two to three hundred masked young men rush about the streets with whips and bells driving out evil spirits.  In Nuremberg until 1616, children frightened spirits away by running through the streets and knocking loudly at doors.

In some countries, the Twelfth Night and Epiphany mark the start of the Carnival season, which lasts through Mardi Gras Day. Modern American Carnival traditions shine most brightly in New Orleans, where friends gather for weekly King Cake parties. Whoever gets the slice with the “king”, usually in the form of a miniature baby doll (symbolic of the Christ Child, “Christ the King”), hosts next week’s party.

12th-1In parts of Kent, there is a tradition that an edible decoration would be the last part of Christmas to be removed in the Twelfth Night and shared amongst the family.

Drury Lane Theatre in London has had a tradition since 1795 of providing a Twelfth Night cake. The will of Robert Baddeley made a bequest of £100 to provide cake and punch every year for the company in residence at the theatre on 6 January. The tradition still continues.

Of course, Twelfth Night is also one of Shakespeare’s comedies, where a shipwrecked Viola pretends to be a man, and much farcical comedy ensues.

Make this Year an Exciting One!

January 9th, 2015

Yeah, Yeah, we know what you’re thinking…here come the pointless New Year’s resolutions that everyone makes but no one keeps. Well, we’re not necessarily going to disagree with that, but we’ve put a different spin on this list of resolutions; 5 things you should resolve to STOP doing to make this year more exciting than the last.

  1. hikingStop staying at home so often. Stop binge watching Orange is the New Black, Breaking Bad, and Game of Thrones. Stop reading all those Nicholas Sparks novels. Stop trolling on Facebook and Twitter and get out there and do something. “But what?” we hear you ask. How about trying a new restaurant, or visit a museum, or travel to a nearby place that you’ve always wanted to see, or find an outdoor café and people watch. The possibilities are endless if you just resolve to visit one new place every week of 2015. That’s just 52 new places…you can handle that, can’t you? We thought so!
  1. Stop being sedentary. And no, we don’t mean get out there and train for a marathon! Simply resolve to move more in 2015. Purchase one of those new, funky fitness wristband things and set a goal to take a certain number of steps throughout your day. Or find some local hiking trails and reconnect with the flora and fauna of your area…just get out there and be more active than you were in 2014.
  1. Stop eating and drinking so many empty calories. Look, we’re not saying eliminate ALL the junk, no one can do that, just some of it. Here’s a stat to remember, on average we only burn 110 calories per mile traveled. So, drink a 5 ounce glass of wine? Plan on jogging/walking a mile to burn it off! Have a slice of pepperoni pizza? It’ll take you almost 3 miles to rid yourself of that little indulgence. Don’t become an obsessive calorie counter, just resolve to reduce those useless, empty calories in 2015.
  1. convoStop being quite so introverted. Want more excitement in 2015? While you’re out there (see #1), meet new people. Just strike up a pleasant conversation. Compliment them on their shoes, ask to pet their dog, comment on how cute their child is, just be nice and that generally works. Again, set a goal to at least talk to one new person a week. You don’t have to start a long term relationship here (unless you want to), just start a conversation…that’s usually how new friends are made!
  1. Stop being so pessimistic. Look at the glass as half full more often! Locate and embrace you’re inner optimist. We know it’s in there somewhere. You’ll be surprised what a positive attitude can do for your outlook on life. Need help getting started? Hang out with self-professed optimists, read guides on positive thinking/optimism, create a positive mantra that you recite when you feel your inner-pessimist whispering in your ear. Resolve to make 2015 a more optimistic year, and the previous four resolutions will help get you started.

There you have it. Five simple things we should all STOP doing to make 2015 better than 2014. Remember, all goals (or resolutions) should be achievable, and these five certainly meet that criteria. Now it’s up to you to make them happen for a happier, healthier and more exciting 2015!

Steve, MagicKitchen.com blogger

A Brand New Year

January 2nd, 2015

2015 is here! I look forward to it with excitement, as I do every new year. What will it bring?  Of course, I have my own New Year’s resolutions.

Often I don’t bother, because I doubt myself; I don’t think I’ll keep them, so what is the point of trying? But this year, I have a new hip, new physical strength and flexibility, and I can do it!

Here they are, drum roll, please….

ground-turkey-noodles-87-series1. Lose 20 lbs.
Yep, I have been eating too much, and I need to get smart about eating. MagicKitchen.com will help with that, as I will order some diet meals from them.  What that will do is put into perspective what a proper portion looks like. I think that’s where we too often mess up. I saw a Survivor episode once where they showed the half a cup of rice the players get every day. Jeff Probst, the host, compared that to what most Americans eat every day. He said this was 2500 calories:

Breakfast with 2 fried eggs, hashbrowns, 3 strips of bacon, toast with better. Lunch was a burger and fries, and supper was a big plate of spaghetti and meatballs. It looked like more than 2500 calories to me, but in any case it reminded me that small portions mean a healthy life.

So I’ll go on Weightwatchers,  because that has worked for me before, and re-learn the fact that portions only need to fill you up, they don’t need to be massive eating events. And I’ll use MagicKitchen.com’s portion controlled meals, because they will help me with weight loss.

2. More exercise!!
I had a hip replacement 7 months ago. It feels great now, but I’m not really exercising much more than I was a year ago. So there will be much more walking, some bike riding, and I’ll be doing some weight training. I haven’t developed a schedule for it yet, but I’ll do that too!

exerciseThat’s it! I’m not going to take on more than I can handle. Those two will take time and commitment.  Off we go into the shining new year!

Happy 2015, everybody!!

 

Melody, MagicKitchen.com blogger

 

How to survive the after Christmas blues

December 26th, 2014

christmas-bluesThe week after Christmas is always the mini-season of limbo. We’re all different, and we all have different ways of dealing with the Christmas blues. Some may choose to spend the week opening presents while others might want an extra week off work. Personally, I just sit on the couch and make those New Year resolutions -either way, during this time, an old fashioned case of after Christmas blues can definitely be settling in.

What most of us do not know is that it is okay to grieve for those amazing Christmas days that are gone for another year – shed a tear, sing hallelujah… whatever you do, acknowledge the fact that there’s a whole new year that requires the best of your attention.   Get creative and create an outlet either by writing your feelings down on paper, writing a sad song, saying a prayer or painting a picture. It’s important to acknowledge the fact that the well-savored holidays are no more for another eleven months. It’s time to get busy-go back to the normal, mundane routine. A creative outlet would most definitely be helpful.

Sometimes, keeping a journal for when things get tough is a great idea considering that the after Christmas blues leave many of us feeling down and out. It often means back to work-miserable weather and a dwindling bank account balance due to all the expenses. One of the best things is creating something to look forward to. This will keep your spirits up. It might be a nice event or a work trip. Whatever it is, ensure that it is something worthwhile that will make you count down the days.

foodrunnersVolunteering for a good cause after Christmas might not be such a bad thing. Being selfless and focusing on others will certainly make you feel like you are contributing to something important. It’s important to keep your social life going. A true friend is one who sees you through a dark day. Putting yourself out there through your social life is important to boosting your moods after the festivities.

Also, you could spend your time watching some great comedy or rent a funny DVD. After all, they say laughter is the best medicine. Do not pile all your sorrows into readily available junk food. Sadly, this leads to unnecessary weight gain. Instead, focus your energy on things in the new year that really matter. Above all, as all the holiday food settles into your system, do not forget the value of a good work out.

Most importantly, getting back to your regular routine will help you feel normal. Although we may all feel beat down and uninspired after the holidays, take time to do something interesting -step out of your comfort zone. Indulge in things that make you step out of your comfort zone. Feeling too comfortable will make you feel uninspired and unmotivated. Show how brave you are by beating the after Christmas blues and taking the New Year by the horns!

20 Last-Minute Holiday Gifts!

December 23rd, 2014

Oh-oh, it happened again- you forgot someone on your holiday gift list, and now you’re panicking. Not to worry, here are twenty last-minute gifts your forgotten person will love!

1. MagicKitchen.com Gift Certificate – give the gift of delicious prepared meals. Just purchase, click on the link in the email, then print and put inside a card. You can even print out some food photos like the one on the right, and include them.

2.  This only works if you know the person very well and know they want one, but a rescue dog or a cat will give joy to your friend and the new pet.

3. Champagne or a fine bottle of liquor- a single malt scotch, or a fine tequila, for instance.

4. Is it your bestie? Get her her favorite makeup.

infinity-scarf5. Get her an Infinity scarf from JC Penny’s .

6. Get him some Sennheiser earbuds- people are always losing their earbuds, and these are expensive, quality headphones.

7.  The quick, dirty, easy gift- an Amazon gift certificate in whatever amount you like. Tons and tons of choices for the gifted one.

8.  If the person you’re shopping for is a serious bacon lover, why not make them happy all year long with a Bacon of the Month membership from Zingerman’s.

9. Give a gift from the International Justice Mission- Combat Slavery, Defend Vulnerable Widows and Orphans, and other good works.

10. Artisanal Cheese Certificate from http://www.artisanalcheese.com/prodinfo.asp. For those who love good cheese.

11. A gift card from Ticketmaster. They can choose their own entertainment event!

designsponge-diy-12-19-merrilee-bearmug-212. Gift someone a handmade mug with this great DIY article from design*sponge.

13. Get down to the Crate & Barrel and pick up a cool Chalk Board Clock. Lets you fill in your own numbers, write notes or just get creative.

14. Get the iHome mini speaker from Staples. Big sound with a small footprint.

15. Got a cook in the family? How about a smoker from Target?

16. Le Cruset is always a beautiful gift for a cook. This enameled cookware is available at Macy’s and Bed, Bath & Beyond.

17. A decorative bowl from Williams-Sonoma is almost always a welcome gift. They are so beautiful!

18. Get down to Uncle Dan’s to get your outdoor lover a coat or jacket perfect for their adventures.

19. Make handmade bookends for the reader, with this DIY tutorial.

20. Digital cameras come in all shapes, sizes and prices. You should be able to pick one out at any department store.

 

There you go! We hope we were a  bit of help. Happy holidays!!

 

 

 

 

 

Staff Product Picks

December 12th, 2014

Chicken ParmigianaWhat dishes at MagicKitchen.com do the staff love best? Here are our picks for 2014!

Greg, CEO: My picks are the Chicken Parmigiana and the Mama’s Beef Lasagna. What can I say, I like Italian!

Crab-stuffed-SoleMichelle,  President:

Crab Stuffed Sole: This brand new low carb entree is deliciously light and flavorful.  The lemon butter sauce is smooth and creamy….a perfect complement to the crab stuffed mild white fish.  I love it paired with the creamy spinach.

Chicken Parmigiana: This dish is perfect every time I have it.  It pairs beautifully with a salad or pasta.  Perfect for a quiet dinner at home or for entertaining, it makes for a deliciously simple satisfying meal.

 

ShortRibs_BeerWineMelody, Website Manager: My favorite two dishes… it’s so hard to pick! Chicken Pot Pie is one. I’ve always liked it, and this is the best one I’ve ever had. The pastry is flaky and delicious, and there’s something…thyme? in the gravy that just makes it perfect.

The other would have to be Seared Beef Short Ribs in Red Wine Sauce. I’m a sucker for braised beef, and this is so perfectly tender, then it has the rich sauce.. Lovely. I can’t believe I didn’t pick a dessert! (My favorite dessert is the Panna Cotta- I had to say it!!)

 

Beef WellingtonAndy, Warehouse Manager:  I would have to say my favorite food that I have tried is the Filet of Beef En Croûte Wellington . It is full of flavor and is so tender, I can cut it with a fork.

My second favorite would have to be the Gourmet Cupcakes-Strawberry, Black Tie and White Tie. I love how moist they are. The only time my kids are still it seems is when they tried these cupcakes. Now I get asked on a regular basis when more cupcakes are coming home.

chocolate-ganache-cakeErika, Customer Service extraordinaire:  If I must pick two of my favorite dishes I have to include dessert. I just love that flavorful taste that the chocolate ganache cake gives my taste buds, it is so smooth and just the right amount of chocolate and sweetness!!!

As for my main course tough choice again, but I’m going to have to go with the short ribs in red wine sauce paired with some creamy spinach. Yum! So tender, flavorful and DELICIOUS!!!! As for the creamy spinach my first time trying it and I have to say I never knew spinach could taste that good.

 

If you want to give meals as gifts this year,  a great idea is to give a gift certificate, so the person can pick their own meals!!

Most Frequently Asked Questions From Customers Last Year

November 28th, 2014

chicken-noodle-soupHow do you keep your meals fresh and frozen?

We cook our meals in small batches and we flash freeze them right away to avoid using preservatives. To keep them frozen during their transition from our warehouse to their new home we package the meals inside a Styrofoam cooler with enough dry ice to assure the meals to be frozen upon arrival.

Can we use more than one discount / Promo code at the same time?

Our system will only take one.

What happens if the receiver is not home?

If the FedEx driver feels it’s safe to leave the package out in front of the door, the driver will leave it. The meals will be in good condition as long as the recipient comes back later that day and stores the meals on the freezer.

Why are the Meal Packs on the Special Diet Menu on more than one menu?

We like to give our customer selections/options. Of course the Renal and Dialysis meals have a closer look  due to certain restrictions such as having to monitor the potassium, phosphorus, protein. They fall under the other categories/options because their nutritionals are monitored in a similar way.

How do your meal programs work?

If you are looking for an automatic shipment we will need a credit card on file, what meals you prefer or don’t prefer (Fish, No Fish etc ), how often you would like to get your meals (once a week, once every other week or once a month) and how many of them. We have no fees, and meals can be changed or cancelled at any time. For regular orders placed every 30 days or less and at $125 or more, delivery is free.

I’m trying to use a promo code for free shipping but it’s not going through?customer-support

Four possible reasons:

  1. The promo code is expired.
  2. If the promo code states free shipping on orders of $80 or more and the price is 79.99 our system won’t recognize 79.99 as $80.
  3. If one of your items is from the Special Deals menu, that item won’t count towards the total.
  4. No free shipping to Hawaii and Alaska because it’s not ground.

Would it be possible to get meals that are both renal and diabetic friendly?

It is definitely possible to get meals that are both renal and diabetic. The menu that I would recommend would be the renal menu. We alternate some of our renal meals into the diabetic menu just because they are monitored the same way as diabetic meals with low sugar and low sodium except that on renal we more closely monitor the potassium, protein and phosphorus. You will see some of our renal meals in the diabetic menu, but not all the diabetic meals on the renal menu, just because some diabetic meals may be high in potassium, protein and phosphorus.

Do you ship outside of United States /Internationally/ Puerto Rico?

Due to other countries having certain regulations we aren’t able to deliver our meals outside of the United States beside Hawaii and Alaska . The shipping cost for Hawaii and Alaska might be a little on the high side since we have to ship them on a plane, but its definitely possible.

I live outside of the United States and I’m trying to place an order for someone who lives in the United States, but I’m not able to place the handmadeorder online?

Due to our high security system our system won’t allow you to place the order online however you may place your order over the phone. The number for international calls is 650-941-2260. You may also email us the list of the items you want and in separate emails send us your credit card information. (Credit card number in one email, your address and CSV number in a separate email for security)

Where are your meals prepared?

We have  individual kitchens in California.

Do you use organic products or ingredients?

We try working closely with organic ingredients but since some of our products are in demand we have to use the ingredients that are available to us.

Are there any antibiotics in the chicken products, or any hormones in the beef products?

No antibiotics in our chickens and no hormones in our beef products.

What to Serve the Diabetic Santa

November 21st, 2014

Santa Claus seated for Christmas DinnerWhat do you serve for Christmas dinner when you have a diabetic guest? You do not want to have two dinners on one table – one for everyone else and one for your special guest. That would be awkward. But you need your diabetic Santa to enjoy the meal like everyone else.

Relax. MagicKitchen.com has a full menu of special diet meals, complete with a choice of main courses and side dishes, just for people with diabetes. The menu has everything you can expect on a Christmas dinner table, from meats, to fish and cheeses – besides the pasta, rice and noodles. Only you and the diabetic guest will know there is anything out of the ordinary on that table.

How to Choose the Right Food for a Diabetic Guest

People with diabetes are not supposed to eat foods that will upset their blood sugar levels. You can tell what those risky foods are by checking out the Glycemic Index. That is the nutritionist ranking of foods according to their effect on blood sugar. But you need not go that far. The bad foods are pretty obvious if you keep in mind that high sugar content and carbs are what you are avoiding.

So, forget candies, cookies, sodas and all sweet-tooth snacks like fries. Forget processed carbohydrates foods too – that is anything made from white flour like white bread and white rice.

french-green-beansBut, mercifully, people with diabetes can safely eat many kinds of ‘normal’ foods as long as the food is chosen carefully and cooked specially for them. For example, fried meats, fatty cuts, bacon, regular cheeses, poultry with skin and fried fish are bad for diabetes. Processed vegetables and fruits are also off the menu. Yet, fresh vegetables and fruits are perfectly safe – because they have no additives. So are certain cuts of meats and foods from wholesome wheat, rice or corn grains.

That is the secret of MagicKitchen.com’s HomeStyle diabetes meals. They include foods that seem so normal, only you and your diabetic Santa will know there is a special diet on the Christmas table. They include stewed and grilled beef, sweet and sour chicken, cod and shrimp. Even turkey is on the menu. Plus a variety of fruits, green and pinto beans, cauliflower, peas, mushrooms and whole grain pasta, rice and noodles.

Now everyone on the table can enjoy your Christmas dinner. Merry Christmas!

Remember Food Gifts for Seniors This Holiday Season

November 14th, 2014

santa-apprivedWe get and give a considerable amount of gifts this time of the year. Well, what better gift to receive than one you can eat? Food always has the potential to brighten someone’s day. MagicKitchen.com delights in offering you flavors that will help you recall cherished moments of the past. If you are looking for something tasty but different to send someone this holiday season, look no further. We have the best edible gifts for seniors-perfect for the holidays.

Good nutrition equals good health for anybody looking to stay healthy but this fact is most pivotal for seniors, especially those with chronic diseases. As you get older, life changes indefinitely. A senior couple will sometimes not indulge in cooking for two because it is simply boring and tiresome. Maybe they are used to good family dinners but the kids have moved out. This makes them neglect their important nutritional needs. For seniors, poor eating habits can result in poor physical health, loneliness and depression.

That is where MagicKitchen.com comes in: We understand that seniors need the best kind of nutritional care. Our meals for seniors are oeuvre d’art. The home made menu comprises a large variety of meals for diversified tastes. They are chef prepared by hand in small batches to ensure that they are healthy and nutritious. We only deal in quality assurance. MagicKitchen.com also provides a separate menu of full meals. These are referred to as MK Meals, a special diet for seniors with health conditions. We have healthy choices such as low-fat and diabetic-friendly options. Our health conscious HomeStyle menu option has low-fat, low carbs, low sodium, vegetarian, dairy free and gluten- free meal options. It is really simple; just pop it into the freezer, and when you want the meals into the microwave or oven.

As you get older, your appetite changes. MagicKitchen.com wants to make eating an activity that seniors look forward to. Our quick-fix meals contribute to your general wellness. Any typical advice for a senior would be to use less salt, drink more water and take in a lot of minerals and vitamins. Luckily, our chef-prepared menu is a supply of all these things for any senior. There is no reason for seniors to be deprived of great meals during the holidays; MagicKitchen.com has you covered. Browse through our HomeStyle menu and find the perfect food gift that will tempt your great aunt, parents or grandparents’ taste. Make merry this holiday with our variety of special diet and gourmet foods.

product-collage3