Gourmet Meals in a Box: And the Winner is…

Y’all know I’ve done two weeks each of Plated, Blue Apron, and Hello Fresh because I’ve prattled on about it in several posts. These are nice folks who will ship to your door a box of fresh produce, meats, spices and sauces to take the burden of recipe finding and grocery shopping off your shoulders. I like this!

I thought I liked cooking, but it turns out I don’t like cooking that much. Even with the entrée selections and shopping done for me, cooking three nights per week for myself is a lot of work, and I already have a full-time job. Enough! But these services are turn-on/turn-off as you please, so you can order up a box any time you want without being locked into any kind of weekly thing. I like this too!

Beyond the convenience, I prepared and enjoyed some phenomenal meals!

Thai Beef Lettuce Wraps with Basil Rice
Thai Beef Lettuce Wraps with Basil Rice

I mean, look at the fresh ingredients. I can barely stand it!

Bowl of long life noodles
One of the ingredients from this week’s Plated box

Which is my favorite? It’s a close call, but I have to say Plated wins! Here’s how it scored out on a scale of 1-5:

Plated LogoDelivery & Packaging – 3 (on-time delivery, but too much non-recyclable packaging)
Ease & Prep Time – 5 (I was able to prepare the meals in a reasonable amount of time!)
Taste – 5 (nearly all of the Plated dishes were delicious)
Value – 5 (about $8 per plate–I got more than 2 servings per recipe)
Grand Total – 18

Blue Apron LogoDelivery & Packaging – 4 (on-time delivery, and packing material was the most reusable of the three)
Ease & Prep Time – 3 (the prep time was longer than I would like–too much time in the kitchen)
Taste – 4 (first box was very good and second box was ho-hum)
Value – 4 (about $9 per plate–I got just a smidge over 2 servings per recipe)
Grand Total – 15

Hello Fresh LogoDelivery & Packaging – 3 (on-time delivery, but too much non-recyclable packaging)
Ease & Prep Time – 5 (meals were easy to prepare and not a bunch of time spent in the kitchen)
Taste – 4 (I liked most of the dishes; a couple were so-so)
Value – 5 (about $7 per plate–I got way more than 2 servings per recipe)
Grand Total – 17

Keep in mind that this is all very much a matter of personal taste (you know, when it comes to taste). What is delicious to me might be so-so to you, and what I find ho-hum might be delectable to you. Honestly, all three are providing great quality food and an affordable convenience that I hope is around for a long time. At least until I have a personal shopper/chef (which, it’s safe to say, will be never!).

If you would like to give Hello Fresh a try, feel free to use my KellyGropp discount code for $40 off your first box. Use code 3FEPQM. You get $40 off, I get $20 off the next box I purchase. Win-win!

If Plated and/or Blue Apron provide any discounts, I’ll be sure to share those on the Chubs Lived Here facebook page.  Like CLH on facebook so you don’t miss any give-aways or discounts!

Congratulations to Plated–I’ll be ordering a box soon!

Cheers!
Kelly

Gourmet Meals in a Box: Blue Apron Week 2

My second week of Blue Apron has come to a close. Although some of the recipes were more time-intensive than I would prefer and, in my opinion, not quite as yummy as the other service I sampled (although that is a matter of personal taste), I had some pretty good dinners from my own kitchen without ever having to step foot in the grocery store. Success! Without further ado, here’s how the last week played out.

Crispy Fish Tacos with English Pea Guacamole & Pea Tip Salad

Crispy Fish Tacos
Crispy Fish Tacos were a little grease-logged

I love fish tacos, and I’ll be the first to admit I’m a little fussy about them. These fish tacos were fine. Not great, not bad, but sufficient. Not a glowing endorsement of my own cooking! I don’t think I got the oil up to temp before I added the coated Mahi Mahi, which left the fish soggy with grease. The guacamole was the main accompaniment in the tortilla, and while it was decent, there was no onion. I missed the onion. And there were peas. Blue Apron incorporates seasonal elements to ensure the freshest ingredients possible, but it felt like they didn’t know what to do with the peas, and someone said ‘just throw ‘em in the guac!’ The peas did no harm, but they didn’t seem to have a purpose, either. I couldn’t discern the flavor of the peas in the guacamole, nor did they add much texture. The salad included pea tips (I’m assuming the leaves from the pea plants) and golden beet. I don’t care for red beets (as I thought all beets were), but I completely enjoyed the golden beet in this salad. Points for introducing me to this lovely vegetable!

Pulled Chicken Mole Quesadillas with Monterey Jack Cheese & Shredded Cabbage Salad

Chicken Quesadilla
Chicken Quesadilla…burned

These had a lot of flavor and were more hearty than your average chicken quesadilla, likely due to me leaving the cooked chicken in large chunks when I pulled it apart, and the sauce having tomato paste and Mexican dark chocolate, which gave it a serious presence. This was no wimpy quesadilla. In fact, I can’t believe I’m going to say this, the dark chocolate could have been toned down—less of it would have taken this dish from very good to delicious. But very good is very good, right? I burned the first one, standing right in front of it, never taking my eyes from it. Completely my fault. Perhaps I should be subscribing to take-out instead.

Pork & Tomatillo Pozole with Hominy, Avocado & Radishes

Pork & Tomatillo Pozole
Pork & Tomatillo Pozole was good!

With ground pork, lime, and tomatillos, this soup was quite tasty. The garnishes were key—radish, cilantro, and roasted pepitas sprinkled on top added a ton of flavor. This was a fairly simple and quick recipe to make, and I had 3 ½ meals from it. You know I like that. I’ll add this recipe to my book because I like simple, quick, and tasty all together!

The delivery arrived on the appointed day this week (not a day early), and everything was kept cool and seemed fresh. The recipes were all fairly easy, although some were a time drain (a lot of slicing and chopping).

Blue Apron uses less packaging than the other service I tried, which I like. Fewer plastic bottles, a more reusable insulated lining in the box, and a smaller box.

Blue Apron Packaging
Blue Apron Packaging

Room for Improvement

  • Nutrition labeling – I am stuck on the nutrition labeling thing. Tell me how much sugar is in the little bottle of “Golden Mountain Sauce.”
  • Possibly offer the option of having the vegetables pre-chopped for an extra $5. I would pay that so I could eat dinner closer to 9pm vs. 10pm.

Would I Recommend Blue Apron?

Yes, but I would ask if you enjoy spending time in the kitchen (or have time to spend in the kitchen) and also note that even though I found these six recipes to be good, they did not meet the standard set by Plated (in my opinion). It is completely a matter of personal taste. The best part is that I didn’t have to find recipes, shop, and carry it all up the stairs. All I did was push the box through the door and start cooking!

Drop a comment if you have used Blue Apron (or any of the other services). I’d love to hear what you think!

Cheers!
Kelly

 

Gourmet Meals in a Box: Blue Apron, Week 1

Last week I received my first shipment from Blue Apron, another of the ingredients-and-recipes-delivered-to-your-home services. It was easy to sign up and choose which delivery day worked best for me, and I can start/stop deliveries at any time–there is no contract or commitment. The box was delivered a day earlier than scheduled, and luckily, this turned out fine. However, if I had been travelling (like the week before) and not been home, all of that food could have spoiled. But I was home, and the spoils were mine!

In the box were the ingredients to prepare three recipes, each recipe providing two servings (dinner for two). I should have measured the box from Plated, because it looks to me that the Blue Apron box is smaller, which I like. Reduce, reuse, recycle! The packing material seems less voluminous, too. Here’s what it looked like inside the box.

Open cardboard box with foil bubble wrap inside
It looks spacey…in a non-ditzy way. Ha!
Inside the cardboard box are fresh vegetables, spices, and meats
All the fresh goodness inside the box!

Beneath the fresh veggies and spices were the three packages of meat set atop two frozen gel packs. As with the first service, I signed up for three recipes per week, and the eats they sent me were:

Dukkah-Spiced Salmon with Spring Vegetable & Oyster Mushroom Ragout

The recipe card said 35-45 minutes. When I read through the recipe, the actual cooking time was about 25 minutes, so Blue Apron was estimating a quick 10 to 20 minute prep. Apparently, they estimated that I also have a kitchen staff, or at the very least a sous chef, because I finally got to enjoy the meal 1.5 hours later. Sheesh! I am a little slow with the slicing and dicing action, but an extra 45 minutes is borderline ridiculous. Especially when I’m hungry sliding into hangry. Good thing the finished product was quite tasty! There was a whole lot of fennel involved, which you would think could be overpowering, but it wasn’t. There were enough other flavors that it all came together perfectly.

Blue Apron Dukkah-Spiced Salmon with Spring Vegetable & Oyster Mushroom Ragout
The Salmon was flavorful!

Laotian Larb Gai with Sticky Rice, Peanuts & Mint

This recipe had a cooking time listed of 15-25 minutes. Again, my feeble kitchen skills mocked me, but not nearly as badly as with the first recipe. This dish was so incredibly delicious that I ate until I didn’t feel well. Yep, the old self-inflicted yucky tummy syndrome. I’ll never learn. The ingredients included lime juice and zest, red onion, mint, chile pepper, and “Golden Mountain Sauce.” Nutrition labeling would be super helpful to know exactly what said product is, and for me, how much sugar it contains.

Blue Apron Laotian Larb Gai with Sticky Rice, Peanuts & Mint
I ate too much of this the first night. I couldn’t stop!

Sirloin Tip Steaks with New Potato, Asparagus & Radish Hash

Lastly, beef. Mmmm BEEF! This recipe included one ingredient that surprised me–radishes. I love radishes…they remind me of my childhood. Dad and Mom always grew them in our garden, but we only ate them on salads or as a snack, always raw. I never thought to cook a radish, nor did I realize how mild a radish becomes when you do cook it. The dish was hearty and flavorful enough, but then it was topped with a pesto sauce made with capers that was delicious! I had some beef left over and made steak and eggs for dinner one night and threw a dollop of the pesto on that too. Yum!

Blue Apron Sirloin Tip Steaks with New Potato, Asparagus & Radish Hash
The pesto was the perfect complement.

On the 1 to 5 scale, here’s how I scored the first week of Blue Apron:

Delivery and Packaging – 4

While I like the fact that Blue Apron uses smaller packaging, fewer plastic bottles, and a thinner insulating material, they delivered a day early which could have been disastrous. Anything else in the world I order online can be delivered a day early and I will be elated, but when it is perishable food, unless Blue Apron knows my personal schedule (which they do not), the box needs to be delivered on the day agreed upon. It seems wrong to knock a point off for being early, but there it is.

Quality of Ingredients – 4

Everything seemed to be of good quality and was certainly flavorful. As I mentioned with the previous service, nutrition labeling on the ingredients which are not fresh fruits or vegetables would be very helpful. It is important for me to know the sugar content of anything and everything.

Ease of Preparation – 4

There wasn’t anything terribly difficult about these recipes, however, the time involved was more than I prefer. The first recipe had me slicing and dicing 10 ingredients. 10! It was 8:30 by the time I got home from work, walked and fed the dog, went to yoga, and made one phone call. I was eating dinner at 10:02 p.m. That’s too late for me.

Taste – 5

Each of the three recipes were delicious, and they were dishes that I never would have thought I could prepare before I started trying these home delivery services. It’s pretty impressive what a simple girl with a small kitchen can do when everything is delivered to her doorstep!

Value/Price – 4

The cost of this box is $60, and that is for three recipes, each providing dinner for two. That comes to $10 per plate, and I pretty much got two servings from each recipe (aside from the one extra serving of beef), so the $10 per plate is accurate. This is quality food that tastes great, and it was delivered to my door. In my world, this is a deal.

There’s my review of the second meals-in-a-box service I tried. Let me know if you have any questions–I’ll be happy to answer what I can! Until next week, when I review my second box of Blue Apron…

Cheers!
Kelly