Gourmet Meals in a Box: Plated Week 1

Let’s get to it! My first meals-in-a-box service was (and still is) Plated. I had no expectations; this entire process was new to me.

It was easy enough to sign up, choose my delivery preference (Wednesday or Saturday), and complete my taste profile. I had the option to exclude dishes with gluten, pasta, dairy, pork, fish, soy, beef, chicken, shellfish, nuts, and peanuts or that are vegetarian or spicy.  When the box arrived, it was like waking up on Christmas morning. I was giddy about a box of food sitting at my doorstep!

Plated box waiting at doorstep
It was a Plated Christmas!

In the box were the ingredients to prepare three recipes, and each recipe is enough for two servings (dinner for two). This first delivery included recipes I would have never chosen on my own based on the fact that they sound way too fancy for my basic kitchen skills.

  • Peruvian Lomo Saltado Steak Stir-Fry with Potatoes
  • Crispy Lemongrass Pork and Long Life Noodles in Sriracha Chicken Broth
  • Baked Gnocchi with Tomato, Mozzarella, and Spring Salad

This is what it looks like inside the box:

Open box with foam-filled liner inside, recipe cards on top
Foam-filled liner inside the box
Foam-filled liner inside plated box
Inside the foam-filled liner

Beneath the foam box within the box were two frozen gel packs to keep everything cool. The meat was packed next to these, and everything felt like it had been kept at a safe temperature.

Two frozen gel packs
Frozen gel packs, each about the size of a dinner plate

Peruvian Lomo Saltado Steak Stir-Fry with Potatoes

I dove right in with this recipe and began at Step 1. Makes sense, right? The prep work felt a little disjointed and added to the overall prep/cook time. As I was eating dinner, I noticed on the far right of the recipe card, second paragraph, it suggested I read through the entire recipe before beginning. It even reads “Trust us–you’ll be glad you did!” Granted, I should have known, but perhaps moving that little nugget of info to the top left of the card, where one begins reading, would be helpful. But now I know.

The dish smelled and tasted great, but the steak was tough. Given my history with beef and the fact that every piece I have ever prepared has turned out tough, well, I really can’t pin this on Plated, now can I? I followed the recipe, but I think there may be some other-worldly force standing between me and tender beef. Also, I had a tough time plating this one to look pretty, so thank goodness I took a pan shot before I dug in!

Peruvian Lomo Saltado Steak Stir-Fry with Potatoes
Peruvian Lomo Saltado Steak Stir-Fry with Potatoes

Crispy Lemongrass Pork and Long Life Noodles in Sriracha Chicken Broth

Now that I was an experienced Plated chef, I read through the recipe card before beginning my prep work. Genius! This recipe was easy-peasy and tasted SO good! It was my first time cooking with, or even tasting as far as I know, Chinese broccoli. I would compare it to kale (which I love). I didn’t use any of the Sriracha hot sauce because I’m not a fan of spicy, and I used only 1/2 of the agave because of my low-sugar diet. Even with those modifications, this dish was flavor all the way. The noodles were not the stiff, dried variety I typically purchase. They were soft and doughy, fresh-made pasta. Oh. Em. Gee. Seriously, look at this pasta:

Bowl of long life noodles
Long Life Noodles
Crispy Lemongrass Pork and Long Life Noodles in Sriracha Chicken Broth
Crispy Lemongrass Pork and Long Life Noodles in Sriracha Chicken Broth

Baked Gnocchi with Tomato, Mozzarella, and Spring Salad

This, too, was a super-simple dish to prepare. I was skeptical about whether this could be a main course for me. Back home, gnocchi is typically served as a side, so I don’t think of it as an entrée. But wow! The sauce was full of fresh basil, onion, oregano, red pepper, and garlic. Did I mention the fresh basil? Then baked until the mozzarella was just bubbly and beginning to brown. It was delicious as a main course, and the spring salad was a nice complement. The salad dressing was a combination of Champagne vinegar, Dijon mustard, and olive oil.

Baked Gnocchi with Tomato, Mozzarella, and Spring Salad
Baked Gnocchi with Tomato, Mozzarella, and Spring Salad

So, on a scale of 1 to 5, I score it like this:

Delivery and Packaging – 4

This is tough to score. Although the delivery was right on time and the food was kept cool (I would give a 5 for that), I am not a fan of the volume of packaging materials. I asked the Plated people whether everything was recyclable, and got this response:

Boxes: We work exclusively with cardboard suppliers that are members of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Most of our boxes are made from 100% recycled content without virgin particle board. All of our boxes are 100% recyclable. Simply break down the box and place curbside with your recycling.

Gel Packs: Our water-soluble cooling gel packs are non-toxic and non-hazardous. To recycle, simply clip the corner, discard the gel and recycle the plastic curbside. Most sink drains can accommodate the gel, but if yours is particularly sensitive, we recommend putting the gel in the trash (it has no measurable environmental impact). You can also reuse the gel pack. It’s great to keep a few on hand!

Liner/Insulation: Depending on whether you’re receiving a same day or overnight shipment, your insulation will be made of thin, metallized plastic and could have an additional polyurethane foam beneath the plastic. If you have a foam liner, it can be recycled at a polyurethane recycling facility. The outer plastic shell is recyclable at specific #7 plastic facilities. You can check Earth 911 for a list of recycling facilities in your area. If an option isn’t available, you can discard these in the trash and know we’re working to bring you an easier solution in the future! [I checked the Earth 911 site, and there are no facilities in my area to recycle polyurethane. We do, however, recycle #7 plastic, so there is that.]

The bottles/bags/containers: As all are made of plastic, they can be recycled, but we personally love removing the labels and keeping them on hand for future use. The deli-style containers are perfect for leftovers and the bottles are the best way to get salad dressing to the office, sans mess!

Kudos to Plated for keeping most of the packaging recyclable, but I would sleep better knowing it is all recyclable. We all need goals, right?

Quality of Ingredients – 4

Everything was high quality, with the exception of the mixed greens salad. I saved that meal for last because there was no perishable meat involved, but the salad was just beginning to wilt. Also, nutrition labeling on the Plated containers would be helpful. I had no idea if, or how much, sugar was in ingredients like the little bottle of Champagne vinegar for the salad dressing.

Ease of Preparation – 5

Honestly, this could not have been easier, and I would rate myself as having little culinary skills.

Taste – 5

Each of the dishes were filled with flavor and tasted delicious. I was especially impressed with the fresh basil. The leaves were twice the size of any fresh basil I’ve purchased in the grocery store or that I’ve grown on the deck.

Value/Price – 5

The cost of this box, which included three recipes, was $72. Each recipe provides two meals (dinner for two), which comes to $12 per plate. However, I got three generous servings from each recipe, so that gave me 9 meals at $8 per plate. When you factor in the quality, taste, and convenience of having it delivered to your door, I say this is a deal. And keep in mind, my favorite salad that I walk across the street for nearly every day is $9 and has no meat. No more!

So there you have it, my first meals-in-a-box review–woot woot! Let me know if this has been helpful and maybe even a little interesting. Regardless, I’m going to keep eating!