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 Saturday morning fitness surprise and a delicious breakfast

So good morning all, and I have to say it’s a gorgeous Saturday and I had another great workout at Apex Training with my trainer Dan.

Me in my Best Strong t-shirt

The photo is actually from Thursday’s workout, taken by Dan so I could tag #NickBestStrongman on social media, which I did and his official Instagram account started following me.

But today, the teenager got up early and came with me to the gym. The teenager is super strong and very balanced with the use of her body, full of power, so I wanted her to have the chance to really lift.

I think she’d be an amazing powerlifter.

And she did most of my weights at the gym today without breaking a sweat. Flexibility is her weakness. Balance is mine. Well, other than the cerebral palsy.

The teenager and I did a barbell bench press of 55 pounds, and did some hex deadlifts as well.

I came home and had an almost vegan breakfast— cream of wheat, vanilla soy milk, fresh artisan cashew butter from The Peanut Company in Cape May, dried blueberries, chia seeds and the one animal product, local honey. That was so delicious.

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:

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

Why I Aspire

It’s been an exciting week for Aspire to Autonomy, Inc., and an even more exciting Friday night!

As early as Monday, the communications team at Aspire will be sending out a press release talking about all of this excitement. If you are reading this, you are getting a taste of what the media will learn Monday.

On Monday, our new team of 6+ social work interns from the graduate programs of Kutztown and Marywood universities started work with Aspire. So it’s great to have new people with new energy and new voices.

In the middle of the week, as Darnell and I were trying to put the finishing touches on the organization’s 2019-2020 Annual Report, Amber let us know that Northampton County had approved Aspire’s grant application for more than $8,000 to provide masks and hand sanitizer to the underserved and unsheltered.

Today, Aspire learned that Just Born has awarded the Community Intervention Service pilot program a $2,500 grant.

On top of all of this, Aspire had the opportunity to host a hot meal distribution of quality vegetarian Indian food from Aman’s Artisanal Indian Cuisine on Northampton Street in downtown Easton.

Aman’s worked with Lehigh Valley Sikhs to pay for and prepare these generous meals that Aspire distributed to the elderly, disabled and other underserved individuals identified as part of the Communities Impacting Communities program, primarily in West Ward, Easton, but also in Wilson borough.

Bulk meal distributions happened at Third Street Alliance for Women and Children and other Lehigh Valley non-profits. I helped distribute some meals at Third Street, with teenager in tow, and delivered others to families in my own neighborhood who I know have been furloughed since the beginning of the pandemic.

As I was leaving, Darnell gave me one of the single person bags to give to my blind, senior citizen friend, Nan.

I hadn’t even thought about her— her fixed income, her disability, her reliance on friends for what she needs, and her age. To me, she’s just my good friend and partner in crime. I was touched that Darnell remembered Nan and wanted the outreach to help her too.

This is why I Aspire—the Lehigh Valley is one of the most populated regions in the state. Its transportation infrastructure makes every other region of the country super accessible. It has proximity to New York City, Philadelphia and the New Jersey shipping ports.

Human trafficking happens here and it may not look like what you expect it to look like.

Human trafficking is modern day slavery.

Aspire to Autonomy wants to find trafficking victims and give them the tools and support they need to rebuild an independent life. But they are forward-thinking and broad-reaching and grassroots in their vision.

They celebrated their second anniversary in July and they are gaining momentum every day.

Their anti-trafficking vision also helps strengthen our communities and forges partnerships and connections that hopefully will improve life for every underserved citizen. Because traffickers prey on the vulnerable, and if we strengthen our bonds in our neighborhoods, traffickers won’t have a place to hide. Or a place to hunt.

This is Why I Aspire. Anti-trafficking may sound like a niche, but helping our neighbors is not.

So, as I wrote this, Nan finished her first meal of the goodies from Aman’s that I brought her. As a blind person, she couldn’t quite recall what everything was but she offered strong reviews of the deliciousness.

She had some of the “cross between vegetable soup and vegetarian chili” (lentil and black bean curry) and loved the “cucumber salad” (cucumber salad with chick peas) and had to dip a spoon in the “fruity pudding” (sweet pudding). She reports that the individual bag is at least two meals, but the cucumber salad probably won’t last the night.

She confirmed that she has never had Indian food before and that she is now a fan.

And she asked me—after making me promise to thank Darnell, “is it okay to have Indian food for breakfast?”

Vegan food experiments

There are several reasons why I love vegan cooking, but there are also several reasons why I won’t go vegan.

Why I love vegan cooking:

  1. It’s simple.
  2. When done correctly, it usually features fresh, whole foods.
  3. Gaz Oakley, the avant garde vegan. Look him up on YouTube.
  4. It’s a great way to empty the fridge.
  5. It’s healthy.
  6. It reduces the impact of seasonal allergies by lowering the body’s production of phlegm.

Why I won’t go vegan:

  1. I have a high metabolism and I require an unusual blend of macros higher in fat and protein and lower in carbohydrates than a lot of my peers. To reach those macro goals via veganism requires a large amount of food.
  2. I can’t drink my coffee black.

I was vegetarian for eight years, which ended when I was diagnosed was gestational diabetes at the beginning of my second trimester of pregnancy. I remained primarily vegetarian until my daughter was about 18 months old. At that point, I started craving bacon cheeseburgers even though I hadn’t eaten red meat in a decade and I hated bacon.

Why I went vegetarian:

  1. I hate touching meat.
  2. I hate modern factory farming practices (luckily I live in the middle of some great family farms and can buy milk, eggs, yogurt, cheese, honey and meat from them if I want to be ethical).
  3. It’s so healthy, when you’re not living on refined white carbohydrates— which I was.

Why I stopped being vegetarian:

  1. The teenager is a huge carnivore. As a preschooler she told my mom she had to go shoot a bear so she could eat the ham out of him.
  2. A French cookbook. A friend brought me a cookbook in French, from France. I had to cook the recipes.
  3. The onset of anemia, which is when I started craving bacon cheeseburgers.

Today I experimented with some vegan cooking. Do not try this at home until you read this whole post.

Pumpkin Tacos

A few weeks ago, I made vegan tacos with sweet potato in the filling. They were so good! (Recipe here) So I wondered if pumpkin tacos would be similar. The answer is NO!

I heated some corn tortillas— 3 — because you know what’s worse than a vegan pumpkin taco, three vegan pumpkin tacos. It reminded me of the vegan hot dog recipe that recommended steaming and sautéing a whole carrot and placing it in a bun and eating it like a hot dog.

Don’t do it.

Then I filled each tortilla with some canned pumpkin, organic black beans from the Grocery Outlet, and lots of lettuce that I got on clearance for 50 cents at Lidl, 10 days ago.

And I sprinkled each with fresh lime juice.

I ate them. But never again.

My second vegan experiment today involved making my own creamy, tangy hot sauce.

Now this, my lovelies, I encourage you to try.

Vegan black bean hot sauce—
upper left, 11 o’clock

Vegan Black Bean Citrus Hot Sauce

In the Nutri Ninja (or high powered blender or smoothie mixer) combine:

  • Hot peppers to taste— mine were from my mother’s garden and may have included habanero. I used about the equivalent of one cup.
  • 1/2 can organic black beans, rinsed—mine came from the Grocery Outlet
  • About 1/2 clove diced garlic
  • Juice of one small lemon
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • A few tablespoons water
  • Two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil—I like the cold-pressed imported from Lebanon that I buy at Forks Mediterranean Deli

If you try it, let me know what you think.

Nala approved, she kept sticking her head in the dirty Ninja cup.

Flecks of hot sauce on the bird

Farewell to Sunday… in Yellow

In honor of the last Pennsylvania counties going to the next phase of Covid-19 restrictions…

Coldplay: Yellow (click to listen)

Alex Parks: Yellow (click to listen)

Yesterday was a very nice Sunday. We went out to the backyard to enjoy a glass of fresh-squeezed lemonade. We had a big bags of lemons and Meyer lemons.

Fresh squeezed lemonade with unsweetened tea

We rescued a baby sparrow, and set in up in the parakeet cage in the backyard. That way his momma could still feed him but he’d be safe from wild or domestic animals. My mother-in-law thought he was a day or two away from flying.

Yes, I let the teenager capture a baby bird. Watching his momma dote on him was beyond precious.

Momma coming to feed baby
(look under the table)
And see what happened on Monday

And then he crawled out of the cage and hid between the garage and the fence.

For dinner I made an exquisite vegetarian ramen dish to use some of the fresh ginger I bought at Tucker Provisions. I based the recipe on one I found in Bon Appétit.

I mixed up the ginger, some carrots and some cabbage in my Ninja. I sautéed everything with garlic, coconut oil, fresh chives and some spices. I mixed a sauce of apple cider vinegar, low sodium soy sauce, sesame oil and vegetable oil and poured it over everything. Then I toasted some sesame seeds in the mix.

I cooked the ramen. I made some egg drop in the ramen water, and scooped the mix out of the water with a slotted spoon.

Then I placed the vegetable mix over the noodles.

My Ramen

The meaty bits in the photo are Golden Island Korean Barbecue Pork Jerky. I found them at the Grocery Outlet. The teenager enjoyed them. It was a way to add extra protein. Tasted more or less like every other kind of jerky.

And to round out the evening, I poured a stiff drink (mint whiskey and Diet Coke as that’s the only alcohol I have in the house) and watched TV and binged on Double Good popcorn.

So I’m a pound heavier today but the time with the teenager was worth it.

This morning, I tried the other Siggi yogurt I bought at the Grocery Outlet. I couldn’t wait to try it as it was strawberry rhubarb. The smooth, not sweet yogurt might be my new favorite brand.

Hope you’re all having a good Monday.

Vegetarian sweet potato tacos and a kitten joy ride

Many years ago, I used to blog every meal I made, in part because I had friends in far away states who wanted my recipes. Also because I am frugal. I also kept the blog because I never cooked the same meal twice and I wanted to preserve my best dishes. Even if they were an accident.

That blog is located here: Angel Food Cooking.

I promised the teenager we could take her kitten on a car ride. His first. So I ordered him a hamburger patty from Wendy’s and we also got french fries for Nala.

Then we came home and started dinner of leftovers and the next round of goodies from Grocery Outlet to make luscious vegetarian tacos.

Ingredients:

  • Corn tortillas, I don’t even remember when/where I bought them. I heated them in the skillet with coconut oil and a touch of chili powder and smoked paprika.
  • Green leaf lettuce leftover over from Tucker Silk Mill/Tucker Provisions from the burger kit I bought for Memorial Day two weeks ago.

You can read about that here: Tucker Provisions Burger Kit on the table

Buying the kit

  • Leftover sweet potato from dinner last night, also from Tucker (and this made the tacos really creamy and gave them a fantastic rich flavor)
  • Light sour cream leftover from when the teenager made her grandmother’s corn bake

More about the day on my recent vacation where we enjoyed corn bake: Our own Walking Purchase: Forest Bathing

  • Salsa from Lidl
  • A Boca Southwestern Skillet vegetarian dinner kit I bought at Grocery Outlet last night for less than $3. Three servings, though the outside of the package said serves 2. The sauce was tasty.
  • Jalapeño velveeta, also from the Grocery Outlet, which I got for 47 cents. A touch gave the taco some fire.
  • We had Italian black olives but we opted not to open them.