Category Archives: How to

Send a Group Gift Certificate for Healthy Meals

How often do you look to the Internet for something to send to a friend, loved one, or co-workers when they are grieving or, perhaps celebrating? You want to show your friend you are thinking of them and that you care when they are going through difficult times.

It seems we tend to think of flowers as an appropriate gesture when someone has lost a loved one. They convey respect, love, and of course sympathy. But maybe it’s time to think outside the vase, and send healthy prepared meals instead.

date-meals2This is also true when someone is ill. In essence, they have lost the life they once knew, this can be pretty devastating. During the grieving process, self-care can get placed on the back burner. On the flip side, when celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or even the birth of a child, flowers serve as a common gift. With that said, the new parents, elderly, or college student might appreciate a different type of gift.

Take a moment to consider something to replace the standard gift basket or vase of flowers. Flowers are wonderful; beautiful to look at, but maybe the situation really calls for an alternative. Perhaps something more practical.

Sending healthy meals as a gift just might be more useful. Think of the time saved in meal planning, the grocery store run, and preparation. If someone is sick, wouldn’t it be great to send them a healthy, delicious, comforting bowl of soup?

How about giving the new parents a break and have meals ready to pop in the oven or microwave? These would definitely come in handy for parents of multiples. What do you do when there are several people who love the idea of sending meals rather than flowers? MagicKitchen.com has the answer for you in the form of group gift certificates.

Group gift certificates work especially nicely when the group of people live in various parts of the country. Send an email to everyone in the family or office, letting them know the gift certificate is available and ready to load. They each can decide whether they want to contribute and how much to give. And the person receiving the gift certificate can select what meals they like, as well as using the gift certificate for delivery charges.

date-meals1Using MagicKitchen.com’s website to do all of this takes the chore off your shoulders. These group gift certificates for meals can work essentially for all occasions when you typically give presents. New parents are learning to work on very little sleep while maintaining the rest of their chores. Friends and family members have birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and a plethora of other opportunities where a group gift certificate would be a welcome surprise. It means they get a break from the chore of cooking and can enjoy your thoughtfulness when they sit down to eat. I know I will be using this option next time the opportunity arises. Will you?

Valerie, MagicKitchen.com Blogger

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Tips for Back to School

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…I know there are millions of parents out there feeling the exact same way I do. Why? It’s that time of year again, time for those kids to head back to school. In some parts of the country, school has been in session for several weeks already. Some even started the end of July.

College students, though aren’t quite so fortunate. The average start date across the nation is late August. Right now there are many college students buying bedding, laptops, and other electronic devices and accessories. Here’s a few tips for those headed back to class soon.

  1. 41oiFXyshXL._AC_UL480_SR480,480_Stay Motivated: It’s hard to stay motivated to study or go to class when the memories of Summer are still on the surface. Who wants to be stuck in a class room when the sun is shining outside and the thoughts of the pool are beckoning? How do you stay motivated? Here are a few suggestions. Use fun flags to mark the important items for tests or papers. These are super cute and you can find them on Amazon.Another great way is to make your notes look pretty with different colored pens and highlighters. Change colors every 10-20 minutes, or as your focus/topic changes. You’ll start to see a difference and it will make you want to study those pretty notes.
  1. organizedBe Organized: Organization is one of the best ways to get your act together and keep it together the whole semester. There are literally a ton of planners and organizational tools on the market right now. If you choose to start being a more organized person when heading to college this year, start with a planner. Get one that has plenty of room for keeping track of your activities. Write down the dates/times for those study groups, keep your goals in one place, and color code important items.
  1. college-sleepGet enough sleep. This is when you rest and recharge your body and brain. Something we all need. Late night study sessions…or parties…aren’t great for when you have class at 8 am.
  1. Resources: Know what resources are available to you and how to access them. I’m not talking about just the library and tutoring. You should have online access at this point, so don’t forget about the resources there…possible books (free?), local maps, check for discounts for being a student, transportation, and other opportunities available to you as a student. Don’t be afraid to ask.
  1. Meals for One from MagicKitchen.com, prefect for college kids
    Meals for One from MagicKitchen.com

    Food: You need some…make it healthy. The Freshman 15 (15 pounds added your Freshman year) are REAL! Parents of new Freshmen – (ok, even Seniors) we want to make sure our kids eat healthy. They will always be our kids, right? What better way for them to kick off the new school year than with a send off gift they can really appreciate? I’m not talking about a new laptop or cell phone. I mean healthy meals, delivered right to their apartment or dorm rooms. None of us want to see our kids spending either their hard earned money (or ours) on fast food. They need to eat much healthier than that in order to be able to soak up all the information they will be getting during the semester. So do them a favor and make sure they have a few healthy, “brain food” meals for the week.

Good luck this year to all college students, near and far. I wish you a happy, safe, and productive year!

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20 Easy and Healthy Summer Breakfast Ideas

Summer, of course, means more than just heat.  It also, for most of us, means a more, shall we say, relaxed pace to life.  And in this more relaxed lifestyle, we tend to sleep in a bit more whenever possible and then scramble (egg pun intended) around in the AM for breakfast…or brunch in some instances.

Well, here are 20 easy, light and healthy breakfast ideas and most do not require the use of a heat generating device, such as the stove top or oven.  We used the term “ideas” rather than “recipes” because we’d like you to experiment with the ingredients and prep methods in order to perfect them in your own, personal way.

  1. Smoothies – of any variety.  Simply combine your favorites (berries, bananas, flavored yogurt, milk, protein powder, jam, honey, etc.) and blend.
  2. Fruit pizza on a bagel – Simply spread a bit of cream cheese (but not too much…these are “healthy” ideas after all) on a whole wheat bagel and add your favorite sliced fruit.
  3. Granola, yogurt and fruit – Mix…you guessed it…granola, your favorite yogurt and fruit together in a bowl or cup and enjoy.
  4. yogurtbananaYogurt granola banana popsTake half a banana, insert a popsicle stick in the end, role it in yogurt, then granola and freeze.
  5. Muesli – aka cold oatmeal (certain types of oats need to be soaked overnight in milk) mixed with yogurt, fruit, nuts, cinnamon, orange zest, some maple syrup…simply add whatever flicks your switch.
  6. Breakfast wrap – slice some banana and pineapple, add some granola, and cottage or feta cheese and then just wrap in a tortilla…breakfast on the go.
  7. Avocado toast – thinly slice some avocado and place on lightly toasted whole wheat indexbread and add a pinch of sea salt and pepper along with some lemon juice, olive oil, strawberries, goat cheese and/or honey.
  8. Breakfast salad – cube some watermelon and mix with chopped and peeled cucumber, add some lime juice, feta cheese and a bit of chopped mint.
  9. Raspberry cheesecake bagel – Simply spread some mascarpone or cream cheese on a bagel and top with fresh raspberries.
  10. English muffin egg pizza – Hard boil some eggs ahead of time, slice or crush and place on a toasted English muffin with a tomato slice and your favorite type of shredded cheese.
  11. The “works” bagel – Toast a bagel and spread on some cream cheese.  Then add diced tomatoes, capers, red onions, and sprouts…or whatever your heart desires.
  12. Farina with apricots and almonds – Bring some farina (think Cream ‘o Wheat) to a boil with milk, let cool and top with brown sugar, diced apricots and almonds.
  13. Cottage cheese crunch – Real easy one here…just mix some granola with cottage cheese and add some of your favorite fruit…peach slices work well here.
  14. Fruit kabobs with vanilla yogurt – Cube your favorite fruit (pineapples, melons, pears, etc.) and place on kabob skewers.  Place some vanilla yogurt on the side for a dipping sauce.
  15. English muffin with burled banana and peanut butter – OK, this one requires you to fire up your broiler, but only for a few minutes.  Slice up a banana or two and sprinkle with some brown sugar.  Broil for 3-5 minutes, or until the sugar is caramelized.  Spread some peanut butter on a toasted English muffin and top with the bruleed bananas.
  16. breakfasttacoBreakfast tacos – place some sliced avocados, tomatoes, and blueberries in a soft taco shell and enjoy.
  17. Fried honey bananas – Slice up some bananas and fry in some olive oil (1-2 minutes per side), drizzle with honey and sprinkle with some cinnamon.
  18. Savory oatmeal with an egg – Take some oatmeal (duh!) and add an egg that’s been prepared over easy.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper and some shredded cheese and you’ve got your new breakfast favorite.
  19. PB+J waffle sandwich – toast some whole wheat waffles and then make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with them.
  20. Avocado toast with egg – On whole wheat toast, spread some smashed avocado, top with a fried egg (over hard works best…less mess) and finish with a pinch of sea salt and pepper.
  21.  Bonus idea – Order in any of MagicKitchen.com’s Complete Breakfast Meals,  or some of our a la carte breakfast items, like Carrot-Zucchini-Walnut Muffins, or Corn Bread Blueberry Toaster Cakes.

Hopefully you find a few of these ideas appealing to your palate, and as stated previously, don’t be afraid to substitute ingredients as you see fit…live dangerously and bon appetit!

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Here Comes Shark Week: Your Fears can be Delicious

shark-surfThere’s a commonly held belief…rule, really… held by surfers that one should never eat shark.  It’s a karma kinda thing…why tempt fate by eating what might someday eat you out there on the waves.

However, the vast majority of us do not surf, therefore, we are in no way bound by the surfing rule regarding sharks.  And since the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week is upon us once again, we thought this week would be the perfect time to confront your fear of the ocean’s greatest predator head on…with your teeth, in fact.

So, as you violate Bruce’s (the great white from Finding Nemo) rule of “Fish are friends, not food,” there is one important rule that we would like you to follow.  And that rule is when you’re in search of the shark for your Shark Week viewing party, ensure that it’s a sustainable species as the horrible practices of shark finning and factory fishing have decimated many species of sharks.

makoThe Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program recommends the spiny dogfish shark from California, Oregon or Washington or the common thresher or smallfin mako sharks from California or Hawaii.

If you’ve never eaten shark, most find it lean, mild and meaty.  It tends to be denser than tuna or swordfish and doesn’t flake as easily.  Most recipes call for the meat to be marinated prior to cooking to add some flavor, tenderness and to prevent dryness.  As one might expect, steak is the most common and easiest way to prepare shark.  So we thought we’d give you two variations on this method: shark tacos and shark kabobs.

Shark Tacos

 Marinade

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. ground turmeric
  • ½ tbsp. crushed mustard seed
  • ½ tbsp. minced ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 1-2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
  • Cracked black pepper and sea salt
  • 1 lb. shark steaks, 1 inch thick
  • 8 flour tortillas
  • 1 cup finely shredded cabbage tossed with 1 tbsp. chopped cilantro and a pinch of sea salt
  • Tomatillo salsa (either prepared or purchased)
  • sriracha

Mix the marinade ingredients together in a shallow bowl, sprinkle steaks with sea salt and marinade for 20 minutes.
Grill, broil, or pan fry the shark steaks until they flake easily with a fork, usually 5-6 minutes for each side.  Roughly flake steaks with a fork.

To serve: placed flaked shark meat in warm tortillas and top with cabbage, chilled salsa and sriracha.

Shark Kebabs

Marinade

  • ½ cup rice wine
  • Lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • 3 tbsp. peanut oil
  • ½ cup dry sherry
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 ½ lbs. shark steaks cut into 1 x 1 inch squares.
  • Large mushrooms
  • Onion wedges
  • Red and yellow pepper wedges
  • Bamboo skewers

shark-kebabsMix marinade ingredients in a bowl large enough to hold shark meat and allow to marinade for two hours in refrigerator.

Alternate meat, onions, mushrooms and peppers on kabob skewers and grill or broil 10-15 minutes while marinating liberally and often with remaining marinade sauce while rotating a quarter turn every 3 minutes or so.  Shark meat should fake easily with fork when fully cooked.

Kabobs can be served on a bed of rice of your choosing.

Tbruce-sharkhus you can see, there’s no need to get a bigger boat, fish CAN be food rather than friends, and unless you plan on carving up a wave any time soon you can certainly enjoy some shark without the fear of the roles being reversed.  So fire up the grill and enjoy!

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Diabetic Diet Ideal for All

For the 21 million Americans with diabetes, losing and/or maintaining weight is of critical importance in order to avoid complications caused by the disease.  Most of them manage their weight through exercise and diet…and by diet I don’t necessarily mean being “on” a diet, because that implies their diet is temporary.  It is not.  It is the permanent state of making healthy food choices out of necessity.  It is a lifestyle, not a diet in the traditional sense, and we could all benefit from rethinking what the term “diet” entails as most diabetics already have.

carImagine, if you will, that you’re a car and you’re required to drive up a long, steady incline, which you complete without too much trouble.  Now imagine having to complete the same task with some “junk in your trunk,” say the concrete remains of a sidewalk that was just torn up.  You manage to make it up the hill, but your engine had to work a whole lot harder and as you climb that hill, day after day, parts begin to fail.  The same can happen to humans with excess weight (or too much junk in the trunk).  Complications ensue…heart disease, high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke, cancer, and type II diabetes.

scaleSo, as you can see, being overweight should be a concern to us all, not just diabetics. And one way to lose or maintain your weight is to follow the lifestyle choices most diabetics follow in terms of what and how they eat.  As always, most of us already know what’s healthy (fresh fruits and veggies, lean protein) and what is not (a venti cinnamon dolce latte, muffins the size of your head).  After all, this isn’t rocket science here.

One thing many diabetics do is strictly monitor and track what they consume.  In other words, they COUNT CALORIES…gasp!  And it’s a good idea for all of us.  Just count your caloric intake for a few days.  My guess is that the difference between what you believe that number to be and what it actually is will surprise you…in a bad, OMG way.  Another thing most diabetics do is plan their meals ahead of time and then stick to that plan…no spur of the moment stops at DQ for a $5 nail to place in your coffin. A diabetic diet just makes sense.

supermarketMany diabetics also limit the intake of their carbohydrates and consume non-starchy vegetables (avoid potatoes, corn and peas).  They also eat whole grains and avoid refined or processed flour and sugar (avoid Twinkies and Chips Ahoy cookies).  They eat only lean protein (fish, skinless chicken, pork, beans and soy products).  They eat fresh fruit and avoid the frozen or canned variety as they often have added sugar.  And lastly, they eat “healthy” fats such as those derived from avocados, olives, nuts and seeds.  Just remember, the best diet is one you can stay “on” forever.

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Uses for Leftover food

From time to time we all experience that mess in our kitchen: the unfinished meals and huge amounts of leftovers we often don’t know what to do with. Before cleaning up your fridge, think about these numbers: The annual food waste amount is enough to fill the Willis Tower 44 times. About 40% of food in U.S. is wasted. Yes, almost half goes to trash!

But what if I tell you that you can cook something delicious with your leftovers?

The infographic from Happy To Survive shows 7 simple recipes you can prepare using your food leftovers. Beef hash cakes, pasta with cakes, egg and bacon pie – you can easily cook that yummy dishes and reduce food waste at the same time. Be in trend: Well-known chefs like Jamie Oliver and Matt Jennings also share their tips for getting the most out of leftovers.

Check out these gourmet recipes and share your own hints for dealing with your residual food. (Of course, if you order meals from MagicKitchen.com, there likely won’t be any leftovers!)

7 dishes made using leftover food

7 dishes made using leftover Food Storage

[Infographic] by the team at Survival

 

 

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9 Reasons I Hate to Cook

Frustrated Woman Baker with Rolling Pin Covered in FlourOk, I finally admit, I hate to cook. I used to love it, but as I get older, forget it. I’m not the only one around who hates cooking.  Just turn to Twitter and search “hate to cook” and plenty of Tweeters pop up with the same aggravation! I don’t know their reasons, but here are my top 9 reasons why I can’t stand cooking.

  1. The time involved – Who really has time to prepare ingredients, combine them all in the appropriate amounts, and go through the process of cooking them? Do you realize how long it takes to cook chicken with the bone in? At least 1 ½ hours. A pork roast is just as bad! Who has time for that when you have kids who need to be to practice, dance class, etc.?
  2. Peeling, chopping, dicing, cubing – No thank you! I understand some like the monotony of this task, but I think it’s achieved much faster by someone besides myself. I cringe at the time lost and the cut fingers of the past.
  3. Grocery Shopping – another choredesigned for those who love to cook. I know when I go to the grocery store, I never know if I’m selecting the freshest fruits and veggies or the right cuts of meat. I question my choices and wonder if I’ve picked items with too much fat or gristle. Yuck!
  4. Selecting Recipes – I love Pinterest, but I can’t stand going through the recipes for meals. I get distracted so easily, but I digress…I can’t decide on a recipe. I never have the right ingredients (which usually means a trip to the dreaded grocery store), some of the items in a recipe that sounds fantastic are something I’ve neverheard of, or it’s just too complicated to put everything together.
  5. Clean up – I’m not sure which is worse, making the mess or cleaning it all up. No one in my family likes doing theBook lover. Ready to study hard!dishes! I’d much rather have something quick and easy on paper plates to just toss in the trash when we’re done! Then we can just move on with what we need to get done.
  6. Lack of the correct tools – My knife collection is worse than inadequate. It’s seriously pathetic! I suppose all the chopping and dicing would be easier if I had the proper tools, but it’s just not a priority. Why would it be since I can’t stand cooking?? A whisk is also missing from my kitchen “toolbox”.
  7. Figuring out what to cook – this goes beyond just selecting a recipe. None of us can decide what we want to eat. It’s either that or we all want something different. I’ve tried the menu thing on Sunday evenings for the entire week. We never stick to it, so what’s the point?
  8. No one is available at the same time – this kind of goes with the time issue, but it’s a bit different. Everyone has some activity during the week that makes sitting down together literally impossible! It’s go, go, go around here, as in many families! Homework, sports, dance, dates (for my teens), late meetings, all make it very difficult to pin down a time when we can sit down as a family and unwind together.
  9. I can order healthy, prepared meals – there’s several places online where I can order healthy, prepared meals and have them delivered. MagicKitchen.com is my favorite! They have meals for all types of dietary needs and they are easy to heat up, they are healthy, and they are delicious! I see it as simple, quick, perfect!

IStuffed_BellPepper’ve learned there are some great ways to get around the hassles that go with cooking and the subsequent clean up. Having our meals delivered to us by www.Magickitchen.com solves most of our problems. Everyone can select what they want to eat, preparation is a piece of cake…just warm it up, and clean-up is just as easy! We can also manage to grab a meal and quickly eat together before most activities…or we wait until after.
Have you tried MagicKitchen.com meals? If not you really should! Let me know which meals are your favorites!

Valerie, MagicKitchen.com Blogger

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Ten Festive Christmas Cocktails!

With Christmas just a week away, you’ve probably got a lot on your plate. Last-minute shopping, presents to wrap, house cleaning, and meal prep and planning before your guests arrive. And your to-do list probably keeps getting bigger. Sound familiar?

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed with cooking for house full of people with different tastes and special diets, check out MagicKitchen.com for meal ideas everyone will enjoy. But before you serve the big meal, you might want to consider including a holiday drink to go with dinner. Try these 10 easy-to-make Festive Christmas Cocktails.

chambord-kir1. Chambord Kir Royale

Making a drink for the party couldn’t get much easier. All you need is two ingredients. Sweet Chambord liqueur made from black and red raspberries, and good champagne. Add your own signature to this cocktail with raspberries or a twist of lemon. Make your own with this recipe.

2. Tom & Jerry

It’s a holiday favorite that’s been around for a long time. Mix eggnog with brandy and rum, and serve hot in a large mug. Top it with whipped cream sprinkled with nutmeg or cinnamon. For fun, make your own eggnog.  Check out how this drink got its name here.

3. Rum Brandy Punch

This drink is a popular party-pleaser and easy to make a gallon at a time with lemon, sugar, rum, and brandy. Here’s the recipe.

4. Grand Marnier Coffee

If you’re getting by with caffeine and coffee during the last few days before Dec. 25, you’re not alone. But when it’s time to kick back, relax and enjoy the party, you and your guests might like coffee and caffeine with twist. All this recipe calls for to make this drink is Grand Marnier, a cup of Joe, and some whipped cream.

Cardamom-Pop-Punch5. Cardamom and Pop Punch

Make this drink and you’ll get a taste of sweet and a zing of sour in just the right amount. You’ll need sugar cubes, club soda, cardamom, rum, lime juice, grapefruit juice, and orange bitters, according to the recipe, to mix this drink.

6. Hot Buttered Rum

It’s another holiday favorite that can soothe the soul, chase away stress, and keep your guests feeling warm and happy. It’s made from a smooth blend of brown sugar, butter, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Along with a little salt, rum, and boiling water. It only takes about 10 minutes to make this recipe and serve four people.

coquito7. Coquito

You don’t have to live south of the border to enjoy this Caribbean-inspired drink. It’s got just the right amount of creamy sweetness, rum, and spices to make this a party favorite. Try this five-star Coquito recipe.

8. Timmy’s Brandy Milk Punch

Here’s a frothy drink born in The Big Easy your guests will enjoy. Timmy’s Brandy and Milk Punch is made from brandy, milk, powdered sugar, vanilla, and nutmeg, according to the recipe. Some people serve this drink along with breakfast during the holidays.

9. Hot Apple Toddy

madtini_12days_06Serve the kids apple cider. Serve the adults Hot Apple Toddy. All you need to do to prepare this drink is add a few ingredients to the apple cider. Here’s the recipe. Thinly peeled apple slices can a little sweetness nice touch to the presentation.

10. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Cocktail

If you really want to pay tribute to the holidays and that red-nosed reindeer who saved Christmas, you might want to make a drink called Rudolph’s Nose. The recipe is a mix of rum, lemon, grenadine syrup, ice, and cranberry juice. Add a maraschino cherry, and your drink will shine at your party. You can even make a non-alcoholic version for the kiddos.

Enjoy the drinks!

Evan, MagicKitchen.com blogger

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How to Make the Best Soup…Ever

soup-naziThe Soup Nazi, of Seinfeld fame (season 7, episode 6 for those in search of a good laugh), was notorious for keeping his soup recipes secret…well, that and being quite rude and banning those customers who didn’t follow his regimented and Nazi-like rules while in his establishment (Elaine was famously banned for an entire year). We here at MagicKitchen.com are not so secretive regarding the keys to cooking soups that burst with flavor and keep your friends and family returning to your pot for more. After all, we make these types of soup everyday! So, here are a few ideas that are guaranteed to get that…”Mmmmm, what’s in this?” reaction.

  • Wow, I coulda had a V8. Use V8 instead of plain tomato juice if the recipe calls for it. And use it in addition to canned or fresh tomatoes. The fact that V8 also incorporates other veggies, aside from tomatoes, will kick your soup’s flavor up a notch.
  • rindThrow in those cheese rinds. Especially Parmesan or pecorino rinds as they will add a depth of flavor to your veggie soups or minestrone. Some rinds will simply dissolve in the heat. If not, you can either remove them prior to serving, or chop them up to add a bit of chunky texture to your soup.
  • Use those shiitake stems…no bull. They will infuse your veggie or broth-based soups with an aromatic, earthy flavor. Just be sure to remove them before serving as they’re a bit too fibrous to eat.
  • Use more than just chicken in your chicken soup. Toss in some complimentary sweet or spicy sausage or even some crispy duck to get rave reviews. In terms of herbs, add a bit of lemongrass or curry powder depending upon your preference.
  • Add the greens last. Soup greens are meant to be crisp and tender rather than dull and gray. In order to achieve that, add the kale, chard, broccoli or any other green as your soup cools prior to serving.
  • soups delivered to your home
    Soup Bundle from MagicKitchen.com

    Cook the pasta separate. Pasta will suck up the flavor and liquid of your stock, spices and herbs. Therefore, cook it separate, al dente style, and add just before serving.

Or, if you’re pressed for time, you could have some delicious, flavor-full soup delivered to your home. Just browse our varied selections and pick your favorites…and we promise never to ban you or scream, “No soup for you!”

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