Review: first meal kit from Green Chef

Last week I got a hankering for a Purple Carrot meal kit delivery and I had missed the order deadline by a day.

A search of the internet indicated that I could order a vegetarian meal kit from Green Chef for half price, or $35 for 3 dinners for 2.

The box came Wednesday as I was headed to work. You can see the unboxing on YouTube here. Today I made the first meal— you can see it all from start to finish here.

While setting up the camera for the video I noticed this cool view of the bottles on my kitchen counter.

My daughter and I both thought the meal was tasty.

As I was unpacking and later preparing it, I noticed the packaging and style of containers/organizing mimicked Hello Fresh. The recipe cards very closely resembled Hello Fresh except that Green Chef color-coded the cards to the bags which I thought was convenient and clever.

But like Hello Fresh, they also had the annoying poorly labeled plastic bags of ingredients that I had to wrestle to open.

Purple Carrot has the best labeling and food storage containers— little plastic jars with lids that I reuse.

Green Chef had a strange combo of prepared ingredients, like tomato cream sauce, yet sent whole almonds that I had to “roughly chop” myself. So the preparation was far simpler than Hello Fresh, but not as quick as Hungryroot, and certainly not as protein-packed as Purple Carrot.

And Green Chef was the only delivery service so far to have coolant from the box leak all over my living room.

I will provide another update once I made the next two meals.

A little bit of life updates: from warehouse work to cat fostering

This particular blog post will touch on brief updates of multiple areas of my life.

1. My new phone: The refurbished iPhone Xs sent to be my Square Trade has developed a green line in the display. I went to report it and their website is down for maintenance.

2. The laundry room project: The teenager has selected a color with the help of her grandmother, polka dot skirt.

3. Hungryroot and Purple Carrot: Yesterday’s meal kit was Purple Carrot’s Palestinian Spiced Peppers with Crispy Seitan and Tomato Caper Relish and Lemon Dill Rice. We also cooked the Chicken Bruschetta Burgers from Hungryroot. Everything was amazing.

4. Work and/or Disability: starting Thursday night my body was stiff and my right leg is giving me so much trouble. It appears to be the perfect blend of weather (tropical storms), hormones (ovulation) and disability (cerebral palsy). I was very uncomfortable.

But my numbers at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy have been consistently decent— I QC’ed 46 fixes from 3:30 to 6:30ish, and then picked an M cart in 20 minutes before clocking out at 7:05. The night prior I was on “mailer machine” (a folding machine that operates with a lot of compressed air) that they call creased lightning.

5. Foster Cats: someone expressed interest in Louise. Here’s a video of her last night: Louise

FURR Khloe
FURR Shady

6. The Gym (Apex Training): I did my first one plate barbell deadlift. I’ve always wanted to do barbell lifts. So far I’ve done bench press and deadlifts. Today I did four sets: one of three so my trainer could evaluate the weight of the lift, a set of five, another of eight, and a final of five.

He didn’t tell me how much weight that was— but my research from Mr. Google says the bar is 45 pounds and the plates are 20 kg. That together it’s 135 pounds?

Review: Finished the first week of Purple Carrot

Purple Carrot now wins the distinction of being the first meal kit delivery service I have used that I have managed to make all the recipes without getting sick of them or sick of the effort.

Hungryroot is a very close second because I still didn’t eat half their food— some of their entrees are in the freezer and I still have tofu, green chile sauce and lemon tahini in the fridge.

Today I finally finished Thursday’s ramen— and I made the last recipe: Tropical Avocado Cakes. Except just like when I make falafel or from-scratch veggie burgers or my zucchini cakes, they turned out like hash or home fries instead of patties.

Quinoa-white bean-garlic-avocado and lime zest patties with purple cabbage, mango and avocado in lime juice and scallions for dressing and a pickled jalapeño-vegan/soy free mayo aioli. I mixed it all into a big pile and gobbled it up.

Review: First Purple Carrot shipment and their black pepper tofu

Unboxing first purple carrot box

First I’ll let the photos and video speak for itself.

Next, a little back story. Some familiar to my readers, some probably new.

1. When other people go to Target, order weird lamps off the internet, buy clothes or troll yard sales, my version of retail therapy revolves around food. Wegmans is my happy place.

2. I spent my twenties as a vegetarian— even tried veganism for about six months. Back then, you had to go to the natural food store to buy non-dairy milk and you had two choices: rice or soy. Both came in aseptic boxes that were shelf stable. I don’t like the big business that agriculture has become, and I don’t like not knowing what is happening to my food via industrialized farming.

Why did I stop?

I got pregnant. The teenager has always been a huge carnivore. I had gestational diabetes while pregnant so I started eating turkey sandwiches to change up some of my proteins.

Then when the teenager was about 18 months old, I started craving bacon cheeseburgers (and I don’t even really like bacon). That was probably when my anemia started.

3. I am really enjoying this tour of meal delivery kits I’ve been doing this summer. Hello Fresh has flashy recipe cards, a lot of rice, a lot of prep and amazing sauces. Hungryroot has a nifty blend of “groceries” and “recipes” so if I just want that out-of-this-world snack cheddar, I don’t need to order the whole grilled cheese kit. The recipes are an easy blend of processed and fresh, so the fridge-to-table time is a fraction oh Hello Fresh.

Now we add Purple Carrot. It’s the plant-based Hello Fresh. Three things about them I liked as soon as I opened the box:

  1. They send a booklet of all the recipes for the meals and extras, regardless of what you ordered. I lost the Hungryroot recipes. And Hello Fresh gives you your meals. This is practically a little cookbook.
  2. Their bags and containers are all clearly labeled.
  3. The bags and containers are all clear. It’s easy to see everything.

Based on my initial impression— making one of the four meals I ordered— here are my thoughts.

Pro

  • The vegetables shine, instead of being a side dish.
  • I finally know how to make tofu crispy.
  • Even though they are plant based, they still have high protein options.
  • So delicious

Con

  • Takes almost as long as Hello Fresh

Review of Hungryroot Scallop Tacos and some somber thoughts

Recent events have me on edge and my feelings are not in a good place. I am so excited about 90% of my life, but that last 10% weighs on my soul like pure terror.

I say this… because at least, thanks to my Hungryroot Box I will eat well.

Last Hungryroot box I did not order recipes. This time I did. I got the scallop tacos and the tuna melts. Plus groceries. Read this to learn about my first box.

My initial impression, especially when comparing Hungryroot to Hello Fresh, is that Hungryroot is better at providing recipes that are mostly fresh and easy. If Hungryroot tells you a meal is ready in 15 minutes, it’s ready in 15 minutes. If Hello Fresh tells you a meal is ready in 30 minutes, that depends on how well you interpret directions and how fast you chop.

If you want to learn to cook, get Hello Fresh. If you want to throw something together, consider Hungryroot.

So THE SCALLOP TACOS.

First, the recipe is printed on the back of your pack slip and cut out to put in an old fashioned recipe box. That is efficient in my eyes.

For this recipe, there is a bag of corn tortillas, a tray of Peruvian scallops, a plastic container of shredded carrots, kale and red cabbage, and a container of green Chile sauce. That’s it.

Pat scallops dry. Sear. Flip. Cook 3-5 minutes until opaque. Set aside.

Toss a little more oil in pan. Sauté vegetables until cooked. (I added some fresh lemon juice because the teenager resists kale & red cabbage.)

Fry up tortilla.

Put veggies & scallops in tortilla. Add green Chile sauce to taste. I also added avocado and my homemade corn salsa.

Delicious. Simple. Nourishing.

I love the balance of whole and processed foods with Hungryroot.

My Purple Carrot box comes Aug. 24.

“Mom!” the daughter says, “Stop with the meal delivery services!!!”

In other news:

As many of you know I worked at Target 2536 in Lower Nazareth for almost a decade. They had a shooting in the parking lot yesterday afternoon and “we” made the Philadelphia evening news.

ALL employees were safe and hid the people shopping in the store. The front of the building is all glass.

It was a troubling afternoon and those of us who used to work in the store, those who had off, and those who were in the store at the time, were texting and using social media to verify people’s safety and offer support. #targetfam

Second Hungryroot Box and final week before the FURR pop up kittens and coffee event

The second Hungryroot box arrived and I was very excited to have it delivered on a Saturday when I would be here to open it and have more time to cook it. Unboxing here.

Gayle, my graphic design support system and Parisian Phoenix business partner, brought me the photo frames and the pin-the-bow-tie-on-the-kitten game.

We took some shots for social media to thank our corporate sponsors: Wegmans and Giant Food Stores, and product donors Wawa, Philly Pretzel, Chocolate Works and Keystone Snacks.

Initial Review of Hungryroot

Greetings and good morning. When I was at the doctor last week, one of the questions he asked me during my mental health screening was if I was overspending or shopping more than usual.

I bought myself some fun tee-shirts for the gym. I subscribed to a self-care planner service (silk & sonder). And I’ve been trying out online meal/grocery services.

I tried Hello Fresh in June. Loved the quality, the recipes, the process. But they are expensive and I found it stressful to have to make the meals in a timely fashion.

I thought having the meals almost ready to go would make it easier to prepare them. Instead it pressured me to carve out time to make them.

I have heard Every Plate is the same as the Hello Fresh model but cheaper. Meals don’t look as fancy but they are very similar. From the web site anyway.

The convenience factor of these meal/grocery services makes them more expensive than going to the grocery store, but in my chaotic life, I’m finding myself depleting the nutrient dense foods and then slipping into bad habits instead of going to the store.

A lot of this is lack of time. That, in my opinion, is caused my poor planning.

So two weeks ago I placed a Hungryroot order, using their grocery option versus the meal option. I wanted to try foods I normally wouldn’t splurge on (Lightlife smoked tempeh) and get some proteins into the house now that I am strength training again.

For about $60, this is what I got:First Hungryroot Unboxing (The unidentified beige patties were the salmon burgers.)

I also have an urge to try Purple Carrot and their high protein menu. Without discounts that would be about $75/week for three two-serving meals. They also have prepared meals. Depending on the cost, I could try those for my work dinners.

But, as usual, I digress. This is supposed to be my review of Hungryroot. I tried Hungryroot because my neighbor was using the service and she fed me the items she didn’t like. I like some of the weird stuff.

Last night, lamenting the fact that I hadn’t had a real vegetable in a couple days and I was eating an uncrustable for dinner, I placed a second Hungryroot order.

This time, I ordered two meals and groceries. The scallop tacos — how can I resist that — and spinach artichoke tuna melt. I also got some tofu and some chicken bruschetta patties.

This box is supposed to arrive Saturday, so I should be here to open it.

Thoughts on my first Hungryroot Shipment

  • The first thing I opened was the Lightlife Smoked Tempeh, which I have always wanted to try. I was a vegetarian for about eight years and even spent six months as a vegan in the days 20+ years ago when you had to buy plant milk in cases from the natural food store. So l love to hear contemporary vegans talk about how hard it is to find a good coffee creamer. I used to drink rice milk. Anyway, I sautéed that tempeh up, smeared a hearty dose of Hungryroot’s lemon tahini on some 12-grain bread from my local Lidl and added a deli fresh slice of pickle and romaine lettuce. It was exactly what I was craving but got the anticipated “I don’t like it” from the teenager. I also used the tahini on a turkey sandwich and think it would make amazing hummus.
  • I opened Hungryroot’s cashew cheddar, another item I wanted to try since my old vegan days. I dipped it on some sort of snack food and more or less liked it. Again, the teenager labeled it weird. I wanted to make a dish with the remaining tempeh, the cashew cheddar, some sort of grain or noodle and maybe peas and kale. You also need to take the teenager’s input with this knowledge: her favorite food groups are bacon and fruit. She is the reason I am no longer a vegetarian.
  • We both enjoyed the salmon burgers. I served them on romaine with avocado, because we didn’t have buns. Did I love them? No. I found them boring. Would I eat them? Yes. Would I order them again? Not sure.
  • We both enjoyed the Chile limon chicken. I made a Mexican inspired tater tot casserole out of it. And I think I made chicken tacos too.
  • The free protein was pork canitas. I have not tried that yet. I put the beef tips in the freezer. I have yet to try the chickpea curry.
  • I devoured the cucumber black bean salad. The teenager, again, did not like it.

I honestly can’t recall if there was anything else… I don’t think so. I’ll be sure to do another unboxing when the new box arrives.

The Weirdos’ Picnic

Today I have a paid holiday from the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy and I’ve tried all weekend to eat more fruits, vegetables and iron rich foods. My lingering fatigue is an anemic battle only won through supplements and self care.

Nan, my blind poet friend, and I do writing stuff every other week. I spoil Nan with chai and often lunch. Since we went grocery shopping together Saturday, we got a lot of “fun” things to combine into a strange picnic. (See more here: Happy 4th.)

I roasted some carrot sticks in the oven with olive oil, harissa spice and ras-el-handout. I also made carrot chips with smoked paprika. That would serve as french fries.

I made sandwiches on pretzel rolls of brown mustard, sharp cheddar, liverwurst and green butter leaf lettuce.

The other sides were dill pickle potato chips, pickled Brussel sprouts, sliced pepper turkey with cranberry horseradish, and maple bacon potato salad. All tasty.

I put the leftover chai in a mason jar with Italian Sweet Cream non-dairy creamer amd a shot of sweet tea vodka, a shot of honey whiskey and a shot of Irish cream.

We both submitted Covid-related works to Blood Pudding.

Nan had a great time with me searching the internet for info on rocket launches, meeting the new kittens, petting our personal cat Fog and giving him treats. He took them out of her hand with his paw, which cracked her up.

That got the dog’s attention so Nan found herself alternating treats between the two.

After I took Nan home, I buffed the scratches out of my car.

This had to have happened yesterday because look at how the fender has already popped into place more.

Happy 4th: Holidays are for family (and/or naps)

This will be another long day-in-the-life style blogs. I never seem to know what will resonate with people so have it all, right? I’ll bold key words to allow easy skimming.

Cat Stuff

Adult FURR (Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab) fosters Louise & Khloe are still competing for my attention and unsure if they like each other. Two very different cats with very different personalities. Both really cuddly and are going to be great additions to any household.

Click here to see Khloe on YouTube

Click here to see Louise on YouTube

Parker and Extra Crunchy of the ten little kittens that got sick with distemper are now neutered and ready for adoption. They are such loves, especially fond of human snuggles as they were syringe fed.

Click here to see Parker and Crunchy on YouTube

And of course Touch of Grey (another adult foster) still thinks she’s the boss. She definitely is more cat than dog and we have good reason to believe she has neurological issues which may contribute to her agressive mood swings but the teenager is working with her.

Click here to see TOG on YouTube

My original Saturday morning plan was to prepare an outline of the coffee and kittens fundraiser, but our cat foster godmother had two kittens for us. One black kitten from a very feral litter, but he was not hissy spitty and one who turned up with a litter of small kittens who obviously was older than them and had been on his own. That one looked a little like Crunchy but was feisty.

I nicknamed them Fuzznuts and Fluffballs in my head, not knowing their gender. I also considered our “cats are gods” theme, but these two were not a litter so we didn’t want to use a whole pantheon for them. I considered Elohim and Yahweh, but my daughter vetoed it. I worried someone might get offended.

But foster godmother said, “people always get offended.”

A DMX song came on the radio in the car on the way home. DMX passed away recently and rappers also have that badass cat attitude. We knew the black kitten was a girl and the grey a boy.

“What about DMX and Diam’s?” I suggest.

“Mom, no one knows who Diam’s is,” she replied.

Latifah? Salt and Pepa? Then it him me.

“Eminem and Slim Shady,” I said.

“Mom, they’re the same person.”

“It doesn’t matter. The black one can be Shady and the other can be Em.

So now we literally have a cage of two kittens, Em(inem) and (Slim) Shady in our living room.

Grocery Shopping

The teenager went to work at Tic Toc Family Restaurant at three, and I went for Nan, my blind friend. We had plans to visit Park Avenue Market for deli salads and meats and the Lidl for boring things like milk, cheese and half and half.

I casually walk through the store explaining every item I see, from snack items to spices to peanut butter in squeeze tubes and olives in plastic snack cups. I love food and I love weird so this is why Nan and I consider grocery shopping fun.

At Park Avenue, Nan indulged in some meatloaf and ham. I got the pickled Brussel sprouts, liver wurst, bacon maple potato salad, cranberry horseradish, and violet candy. And crab stuffed flounder we had for dinner tonight.

These will resurface tomorrow when Nan and I work and have lunch together.

At Lidl, Nan got yogurt, lemonade, milk, Mac and cheese and those amazing home baked cookies. I got produce, cheese, breads, chips, seltzer, butter and Brussel sprouts among others.

And when I brought Nan home I discovered someone hit and run my car. This happened in July 2019, too. But that was a full side swipe. At work. In a church parking lot.

Someone hit my car. Sigh.

Nails and fun with Beth

I came home and put the groceries away and got ready to leave for my friend Beth’s house, formerly Nails by Bethy at Hyperion Salon. She recently started a new career in commercial insurance (I think) and so won’t have time or stamina to maintain my fingers and toes.

Some past posts with Beth nails:

1. Winter nails

2. Acrylic At Home Maintenance

3. First set of acrylics

But tonight I was headed to her house for “cocktails, dinner and board games.” She agreed to have my pineapple coconut rum drink ready when I arrived. I met some of her friends. Beth made chicken poblano with black beans, rice, coleslaw and pickles. And as I mentioned yesterday, we all played Cards Against Humanity when my family arrived. Her father brought the teenager over so she could be my designated driver.

Brunch with Mom

My mom and I have a tumultuous relationship probably due to trauma we’ve experienced in our lives. My mom has not had an easy life. Let’s face it, most typical folks don’t.

We had a talk last weekend and I agreed to visit her today. She offered to take me out to a swanky breakfast and let us stay for the parade for Independence Day that would be passing by her house. I don’t really like parades, and I’m sick of eating out.

So I requested a grilled cheese on rye instead.

She obliged.

It was delicious.

The teenager brought the Bean dog to visit Mimi and Mimi’s dog, Dog, was a gracious host. Dog is a miniature poodle.

Once we arrived home, I read a little more Karen by Marie Killilea before I opted to take a nap. I then stripped my bed, worked on the fundraising outline and went for a walk with Buddy and Sarah.

I stumbled on the sidewalk, but did not fall. Knowing I had borderline anemia made me feel better that my cerebral palsy wasn’t running amok.

For dinner, in my continued effort to eat more vitamin rich food to combat anemia, I made the crab-stuffed flounder, brown rice with pistachios, and sautéed some leftover green beans and the cabbage, kale and carrots in a Green Goddess Salad I bought on clearance at Lidl yesterday. I topped it with some rather stale sesame sticks purchased at Forks Mediterranean Deli at our last visit (which was too long ago).

My goal for the rest of the night is to work on the Wheel of Life in my July Silk & Sonder planner and finish Karen.

Happy Independence Day.

Remember that the founding of this country can be seen from many perspectives: as destroying the lives and cultures of indigenous populations, as a place to promote white Christian values, and/or as a place where people came to live according to what they felt was right.

Week Three of Hello Fresh: delicious meals and quasi-final thoughts

Earlier this week we got our third Hello Fresh meal delivery. The teenager (I have reason to believe teenager #2 will be moving this week; as she has only been home a few hours in the last week, I hereby formally declare that teenager #1 is now, once again, the teenager) asked to try one of the discount offers provided in another of our subscription services.

They are certainly clever marketers. Box one comes at something like 50% off, then they scale back the discount until delivery four is eight percent off.

And box five, for four people, once you include the shipping, is about $40 per meal.

On my previous Hello Fresh posts (see Hello Fresh, Continuing Thoughts on Hello Fresh, and Hello Fresh Delivery Two)

Now, as I have mentioned, I am a good home chef and a very thrifty shopper. For the cost of one of these meals I bet I could replicate at least three of their recipes.

But that’s not the real point of one of these services, at least in my opinion.

These services:

  • Renew people’s interest in being in the kitchen.
  • Teach people to cook without the risk of randomly googling a meal on the internet, buying the wrong ingredients or admitting you don’t have any skill in the kitchen.
  • Offer the convenience of avoiding the shopping experience or running out of or forgetting a key ingredient.
  • Provide better choice and healthier options than restaurants.
  • Help people meal plan and stick to that plan which can reduce the chance of poor food-related decisions.
  • And my favorite, expose people to new recipes and new uses to standard ingredients, expanding a person’s cooking repertoire. That, in my opinion, is worth the investment and why, after next week, I will be converting to a two-meal, once-a-month plan.

Now for the “cons” of specifically Hello Fresh:

  • I am freaked out by the idea that my raw meat spends 24-36 hours in transit, and by the amount of ice packs in that box. The waste generated upsets me. I noticed that our cat foster godmother reuses the boxes as cat huts.
  • The ingredients sometimes disappoint. I bought their “chicken protein pack” and their chicken strips were tiny chunks— like popcorn chicken. I ordered an extra bag of Brussel sprouts and they were either $3.50 or $3.99, which is the going rate for fresh Brussels. Now they are my favorite and I thought Hello Fresh might have access to special sprouts. Maybe organic or a unique source. Nope. Green Giant.
  • Our schedules in this house are chaotic and finding the time and energy to commit to preparing several meals a week like this is more stressful than I anticipated.
  • The recipes assume you have a certain efficiency in the kitchen. I think we, on average, require one hour at least for a meal that should take 10 minutes prep time and 30 to cook.
  • There’s a lot of rice.
  • I’m not sure these meals fill me up for more than two hours.
  • There are cheaper meal delivery services available. One friend recommended trying Every Plate.

So what have we tried so far?

  1. Pork with Apple Dijon Pan Sauce over farro and wilted kale. (Photos above) I liked it. Teen found the pork scrumptious and well-seasoned but does not care for neither farro nor kale.
  2. Thai Ginger Curry with creamy coconut veggies, peanuts and lime rice. I loved their creative use of red peppers and green beans for the vegetables. They provided a fantastic, full-fat coconut milk. Teen did not care for it. She likes my curries, but this curry was not her thing.
  3. Tuscan Garlic Butter Chicken with creamy kale and paprika carrots. Amazing. All around. The Tuscan heat spice blend excites me. Teen still hates kale.
  4. Paprika Chicken in a Lemony Sauce with pistachio rice and roasted carrots. Not the rich Hungarian dish I was hoping for but very yummy. We both agreed. The pistachios in the rice seemed so decadent.
  5. Thai Shrimp with candied peanuts over sesame cabbage and arugula. I bombed this one. I loved the salad portion and the peanuts, but I’m not a fan of shrimp. The teen loves shrimp but is not fond of purple cabbage and discovered that she detests arugula. So I ate salad for three days until I got sick of it and she ate a lot of shrimp.
  6. Meatloaves with creamy mushroom sauce plus garlic mashed potatoes and roasted Brussel sprouts. The teen and I might agree this was our favorite. But I didn’t eat my mushrooms.
  7. Creamy Cilantro Steak Bowls with garlic lime rice and charred poblano. I enjoyed this one but they were so generous with the steak portions that I got three meals out of what was listed as two servings. This was spicy. And that was good, but the vegetable was onions and neither the teen nor I wanted to chomp on a serving of cooked onions.

We have one meal left this week— apricot ginger chicken— and one more box coming this week. Hello Fresh offered a refresh of our taste buds, but hits hard on the wallet.