Unboxing: An Impulse Hungryroot order and a fulfilling Indian meal

A couple weeks ago, it was the middle of the night after a long shift. I had poured a cocktail and was perusing the menu and grocery options at Hungryroot as I like to treat myself to one Hungryroot box and one Purple Carrot box each month.

When the charge for my regular shipment popped up in my American Express notifications— I noticed it was more than double what I normally spend.

I opened my account to see what I bought— and I couldn’t find a single criticism of the items I selected.

The meals included:

  • Braised tofu, dall and sautéed vegetables
  • Spinach artichoke burgers on cauliflower buns
  • Salmon avocado toast
  • Egg and cheese (organic sprouted) bagel sandwiches

And the extra groceries: guacamole, samosas, meatballs, Alfredo dip and golden kiwis. The free protein was pork carnitas which the teenager really liked last time.

Unboxing video here.

I made the Indian-style meal with the samosas and seasoned the vegetables with garlic and can Indian spice blend though I’m not sure which one. I also added spinach.

It was very delightful on this crisp autumn night.

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.

My daughter won’t approve

So, my daughter asked me if I plan on returning to my vegetarian habits when she leaves home.

I said no, but the more I think about it— the answer might be yes.

I probably eat 75% plant-based naturally. I even eat quite a few vegan meals, like the Hungryroot zucchini falafel I had for lunch yesterday in a sweet potato wrap with green chili sauce and lemon tahini.

As the teenager likes to remind me; I put beans or vegetables in just about every meal.

I find plant-based cuisine quicker to prepare, very versatile and easier for me to get the nutrients I need. And harder to overeat. Easier to stay lean.

And easier to avoid processed or fatty foods.

But the volume of food needed to gain muscle and stay satiated when weight training is intimidating. If I weren’t at the gym— I know I could keep a good diet. But I’m already struggling with my macros so it makes me nervous.

This is when I turn toward Simnett Nutrition, Gaz Oakley the Avant Garde Vegan and even Abbey Sharp on YouTube.

I also ordered a Green Chef meal box. This accompanies the meals and groceries I have delivered from Purple Carrot and Hungryroot.

I “do” Purple Carrot and Hungryroot once a month each and I was jonesing for an extra Purple Carrot box last night at 1:30 a.m. but I missed my order cut off and found a discount code for 50% off a Green Chef box so…

And the teen and I are supposed to go grocery shopping at noon today. I intend to go to the gym, hit the weights hard, and come home and meal plan. I need to make it harder to abuse myself with food.

Speaking of the gym… My Nick Best/Best Strong t-shirt by Barbell Apparel arrived Tuesday night and I am so excited to wear it to the gym. Nick Best is a strong man athlete up there with Brian Shaw and Edie Hall, but Nick is in his fifties. I can relate to his philosophy:

Age is just a number.

Nick Best

Unboxing the Best Strong t-shirt can be seen on YouTube here: T-shirt and my new novel unboxing.

I posted the photo on Instagram and Nick Best’s Instagram liked it and followed me!

Order my novel here:

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?

Fitness update and my favorite vegetarian protein sources

My trainer Dan at Apex Fitness said something last week that made me chuckle and made me beam with pride.

“I forget you can handle more [weight] than most [women].”

“I still got it?” I asked.

He laughed.

Dan is very good at using full body motions even on isolated body part days. So on leg day we’ll throw in some bicep curls after those deadlifts and on upper body day, we do things that focus on form and stretching the lower body in addition to burning out the arms and chest.

I’m noticing much more flexibility in my body and that my chiropractor has gotten more agressive as well.

And I get to play with Dan’s super adorable baby and we talk a lot about food. He just picked up a client who is a vegetarian and doesn’t like tofu and some other stuff. We were brainstorming protein sources.

I thought I’d make a list.

Here’s my favorite vegan athlete on YouTube: Simnett Nutrition. Look at the sheer volume of food he eats. That is why I can’t be vegan. It has nothing to do with the diet— I just couldn’t stomach that much food.

For more gourmet cooking, check out Gaz Oakley, the Avant Garde Vegan (here).

My favorite vegetarian proteins that are not tofu

  • Greek yogurt
  • Cabot cottage cheese
  • Silk unsweetened soy milk
  • Nut butters (morning hack— coffee, nut butter and yogurt smoothie. Add dates if you want to feel trendy)
  • Homemade salad dressings featuring tahini or peanut butter
  • Add black beans or chick peas to anything you can
  • Add hummus or tahini and/or sprouts to sandwiches. Pick bread with higher protein.
  • Nuts and seeds (including chia, flax and hemp) on salads, oatmeal, in baked goods or smoothies
  • Ancient grain or chick pea pasta
  • Peas and lentils
  • Frozen lentil pasta
  • Morningstar vegetarian breakfast patties
  • “Wheat meat”/seitan
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Adding beans or eggs to soups
  • Eggs & cheese
  • Snap pea snack crisps
  • Special K nut and fruit protein bars
  • Sweet Earth frozen foods

And for vegetarian meal services/meal kits:

  • Purple Carrot offers meal kits and prepared food. They have low calorie and high protein options are plant-based and get on the table in about 40 minutes. Purple Carrot is expensive, and requires a minimum of three dinners a week. Read my previous blogs on Purple Carrot here.
  • Hungryroot has more flexibility than Purple Carrot and offers “free protein”with each box. You can order meal kits, prepared foods or groceries. I get one or two meals and spent the rest of my credits on groceries. A lot of their recipes include extra ingredients— instead of a small jar of a tablespoon of Chile sauce for example, they send a tub. So you can use the extra for other meals. They can get on the table very quickly. They use a lot of “whole” main ingredients coupled with prepared sauces which keeps nutrient value high but prep time low. Read about my impressions of Hungryroot here.
  • Hello Fresh has a lot of great recipes and offers vegetarian food. All the sauces are incredible. But you spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Also expensive. Servings tend to be small. I am told Every Plate is cheaper. My experience with Hello Fresh is here.
  • Green Chef, have not tried it

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.

Advocate: A Difficult Day on the Health Quest

Well, if yesterday made one thing apparent… it’s that sometimes answers lead to bigger questions.

And questions often shake our foundations.

I have had an appointment every day this week before work. In the last ten days or so, I have seen my therapist, my personal trainer, my chiropractor (who has a background in physical therapy) and my primary care doctor and one of his new residents.

Yesterday was the latter.

This recounts why I was seeing my doctor. Later in this post, some of this info may be pertinent.

My heart was genuinely excited for the visit as I’ve made a lot of positive health habit changes and my primary care physician and I have a great relationship. Normally my care is a discussion and we work together to resolve my issues.

Since Covid, the practice has seemed much less organized and attentive as usual. They also recently took on some family practice medical residents. I waited in the exam room for 75 minutes.

I went into my phone to record my blood pressure on iHealth. And that’s when I noticed— iHealth has been recording my double support time and my walk asymmetry for a year. (This morning I compared my walking and balance statistics with my teenager’s and her walk is more screwed up that mine! My walk is consistent and consistently “off” but hers gets severely skewed every time she gets plantar warts. Turns out my neighbor has more issues in this area than I do, too.)

So, at 12:15 pm — as I am lusting for a glass of water and breakfast, I had nothing yet but a gargle of purple listerine— the resident enters the room and apologizes for the tardiness. I told her I was about to order GrubHub out of fear they forgot me.

I told her everything about me (as she had never met me before) and relayed that the doctor wanted to see me. I also mentioned that muscle relaxers might be a better fit to ease my periodic pain than ibuprofen or acetaminophen because it might be more due to the stress on my joints and the tightness of my muscles as a side effect of the cerebral palsy.

Now, remember, my anemia started more than 12 years ago with work stress, gaining weight and heavy menstrual bleeding. And I came to my current doctor because my former one refused to look into the source of my anemia. And that doctor made me cry. And I had started having panic attacks.

Now I am back in a similar symptom situation but I have better mental health and a way better doctor.

The resident goes and gets my doctor. I propose waiting several months to see if the anemia improves with the mesures I am pursuing now. He is worried about polyps in my colon. We agreed I will use some stool cards for a home test.

I didn’t feel heard about my request to find solutions for my body pain because then we discussed my mental health.

And he wanted me to visit their new staff psychiatrist to rule out any issues (like bipolar 2) that might require a mood stabilizer.

Now I complete understand why his said this: I had mentioned some dramatic temper incidents previous to some of my recent lifestyle changes, I had asked to restart the prescription for a very low dose of lexapro that had been prescribed for high blood pressure to see if it would even out some premenstrual mood swings, and I had mentioned some highs and lows in the past.

But I also said the isolation of the pandemic gave me the space I needed to deal with some heavy duty stress, and that good things were developing for me and I felt like this was one of the great years in my life. I talked about having rid myself of anxiety and being able to look back at that former period of my life with understanding of myself and pride. And that my therapist and I were finally looking at my childhood trauma as I scored 6/7 on the ACE test.

And he knows I have been in therapy for more than a decade. And that my therapist recommended him. Shouldn’t he let my therapist request that type of referral?

So I felt betrayed and it reintroduced feelings of anxiety and insecurity, not being sure if my medical professional was really paying attention to me and what I was saying. I had just mentioned delving into childhood trauma for the first time in my life. I am having other health issues that I need to address. So now, in my opinion, is not the time for questioning my brain chemistry.

So we agreed to discuss my anemia and my psychological state with my gynecologist (whom I see Monday) and my therapist and revisit the issue when I return in three months to discuss the follow up blood work.

This left me shaken and wanting to scream, “Stay in your lane.” I went to the doctor because he asked me to come discuss my anemia— how did a shrink come into play?

I often think this is how people get misdiagnosed, not by bad doctors, but by doctors trying to rule everything out and in the process convincing patients they need different help that they actually need. Like when people see a commercial for medicine and later “ask your doctor if (this expensive drug) is right for you.”

I emailed my therapist from my phone as soon as I got into my car. By 3:30 pm, he said he disagreed with this assessment— that I should be screened by a psychiatrist— but that we would discuss. Honestly, he is the only person I would trust with a decision like that. We all need to build teams we can trust. And this is how I advocate for myself.

When I got home, around 2 p.m., I finally had my morning coffee and made this— what I would call my “summer vegan sandwich,” courtesy of my stress shopping last week and a Hungryroot delivery. (See the teenager unboxing here.) Lightlife bacon tempeh, Hungryroot lemon tahini, romaine, deli pickle on 12-grain bread.

I didn’t take proper care of the animals (loosing almost four hours of my day to a doctor’s appointment that normally takes one hour).

I QCed 123 fixes, which is far better than the 116 the night prior. When my favorite Stitch Fix supervisor said hello, she asked how I was, I said okay. She looked at me askance and said, “only okay?”

She told me if I needed anything or if there was anything she could do to let her know. But she can’t fix the emotions in my head. So I thanked her and went back to some of my standbys— showtunes!

I listened to the soundtrack of Avenue Q as we used to in the makeshift temporary newsroom of Lehigh Valley News Group, and I can still remember one of my favorite young editors with her big headphones on, fighting her stress and her insecurities with a dose of “What do you do with a B.A. in English/It sucks to be me.”

Apparently this is the whole musical on YouTube. Check it out.

And if you just want the song… Here you go.

Speaking of the newspaper days, I’ve reached out to some Chronicle colleagues for help with promoting the FURR Pop Up Cat Café August 15. The man who hired me for that newspaper (the boss of my best boss ever) mentioned that my daughter has grown up in the blink of an eye (which he has seen thanks to Facebook).

And that brought back great memories as I think the teenager was the only baby born to a staff member during the run of those newspapers. I realized I was pregnant while planning a political debate sponsored by the newspaper in Phillipsburg, N.J.

So yesterday was hard, and I managed to avoid slipping into those old panic-prone mentalities. I am drained today but luckily only have a four hour shift.