Meal Kit Review: Hello Fresh’ Creamy Dill Chicken with Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans + Recipe

Rating: 7/10

This week I went back to Hello Fresh, as I didn’t like the offerings of any of the services I hadn’t yet tried – and I was given a good deal ($20 off each of 4 boxes) for re-activating my account. I got just two meals (which frankly, works better for us, as I’m always rushing to cook all kits before they go bad) and tonight I made the first one for my daughter and I. It was pretty good.

This meal of Creamy Dill Chicken with Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans was extremely simple: you cut and bake some potatoes, baked some green beans, sauteed some chicken and then made a quick sour cream-mustard-dill sauce. Still, it was a tasty and satisfying meal and I very much enjoyed the sauce (recipe below). My daughter didn’t have any sauce, but she liked the other elements.

There were some problems, however. The main one is that there wasn’t enough sauce. What they sent was barely enough for one serving (so it was fortunate my daughter didn’t want to try it). They need to double the ingredients for it. Secondly, the chicken breasts were too thin and they cooked in less than the 4-6 minutes per side that they recommended. Also, the portion size was a bit on the small size (or I was particularly hungry).

This is a very easy meal to put together on your own, however. I think I will add dill to the herbs I grow on my window to be able to easily make it again.

After the discount, I paid $14 for this kit or $7 per serving (regular price would have been $20/kit or $10/serving).

Creamy Dill Chicken

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (12 oz)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp sour cream
  • 2 tsp chicken stock concentrate
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped dill
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 2 Tbsp water

Pat dry chicken breasts and season with salt & pepper. Heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add chicken breaths and cook until cooked through and golden, 3-6 minutes per side. Turn off heat, remove chicken and keep warm.

Add the sour cream, chicken stock concentrate, dill, mustard and water to the saute pan and mix well, scraping up the brown bits on the pan. Serve chicken with sauce.

Meal Kit Review: Blue Apron’s Oregano Chicken & Fresh Tomato Pan Sauce with Farro & Zucchini

Rating 7/10

Tonight’s Oregano Chicken & Fresh Tomato Pan Sauce with Farro & Zucchini meal was pretty good. Not good in the “oh my God, Blue Apron rocks” sense, but more in the “that was a satisfying dinner and I have nothing to complain about” way.

The star of the meal was the chicken – and given that the boneless filets were just sprinkled with salt and oregano and then sauteed on olive oil, I’m not sure I can give Blue Apron that much credit for it. Alas, the chicken was fresh and it had never occurred to me to cook chicken so simply, so they do get some kudos. I would definitely make it again, but with thighs, as the breasts were too dry.

The tomato/caper sauce was OK. It was only needed because chicken breast is so dry in general – it’d been superfluous and not missed if we’d had thighs. The farro with zucchini was actually quite tasty. Alas, I don’t like zucchini so I didn’t actually eat the vegetable, and there was far too much of it – but my zucchini-eating daughter liked it. The farro without the zucchini was good. Again, not in a mind blowing way.

The meal was quick to put together – I’m a slow cook and I don’t think it took me over 40 minutes, and there weren’t too many complicated steps. In all, I was happy to find how easy oregano chicken can be and that farro is another whole grain alternative to rice my family members will eat.

Sky Valley Tikka Masala Sauce Review

My local Grocery Outlet store is currently currying a variety of Sky Valley bottled sauces. I picked up the Tikka Masala sauce because it’s vegan, and I’m always looking for stuff that my vegan daughter can eat. Unfortunately this was a bust.

The sauce itself wasn’t bad. While I wouldn’t say it tastes like the tikka masala you can get at Indian restaurants, it’s better than anything I could make myself. Indeed, it tastes very much like Trader Joe’s masala sauce. They are both far more acidic and less sweet than your restaurant tikka masala sauce.

The big problem for my vegan daughter was that the sauce was too spicy. She ate it with lots of rice, but still couldn’t get past the spice. Now, she doesn’t like spicy food, so in terms of level of spice I’d say this sauce is “medium” spicy.

The 13.8 oz bottle of Sky Valley tikka masala sauce sells on their website for $5.30, but it was just $2 at Grocery Outlet and it was on sale for just $1.75 at Walmart (regular price $3.65). It’s produced in Danville (so not to far away from where I live) and exported all the way to the UAE!

Meal Kit Reviews: Purple Carrot Is a Total Failure

I have a vegan daughter, so in my journey to try all meal kit companies, I decided to give Purple Carrot a try.  It was a total disaster.  She did not like any of the three meals she got, and ended up not eating more than a few bites from each.  This is a child (well, teen) who realizes that since she adopted a vegan diet, she does not get to be picky on what she eats – but Purple Carrot failed to meet even her very low standards.

In all, I cooked three meals in one week.  I got a $30-off your first week deal, so I ended up paying $42 for this box ($14 per kit or $7 per portion).  Money very badly spent as most of the food went to waste, even the dog wouldn’t eat it.

The Plans

When you subscribe to Purple Carrot you will get a weekly box with three 2-serving meal kits, for $72.  You can choose a so-called “plan,” high protein, quick & easy or chef’s choice, but that only determines which meals you will get sent by default if you don’t make choices in a given week.  Shipping is free.

Purple Carrot also sells a variety of breakfast and lunch kits that you can add to your order.

The Food

Purple Carrots offers six vegan meal choices a week.   Proteins are usually tofu, tempeh, beans or legumes.  My daughter is a big fan of “fake” meats – in particular fake chicken -, so she wasn’t thrilled that these were not offered.   The recipes are modern and sound like the sort of things you would get at a mid-priced restaurant here in California.  As you could expect, there is an emphasis on vegetables and whole grains, and many of the recipes have Mediterranean, Mexican and Asian influences.

The ingredients were mostly fresh and of good quality, but the garlic came damaged, as you can see. I’ve never seen garlic turn this way, so I’m not totally sure what happened to it. I did e-mail Purple Carrot and got a $5 credit for my next order – which will never happen.

The ingredients came organized by kit/recipe in plastic bags – with some larger ingredients (the bok choy shown here) on their own bags. The garlic came on its own as it was supposed to be used in the other recipes.

The Shipping and Delivery

The box came the day it was supposed to come and during the day. I had an e-mail the week before letting me know when I’d be getting it, but no reminders nor a tracking number.

The Packaging

The kits came inside a cardboard box. Unfortunately, not a particularly well sealed cardboard box. Fortunately, all the contents were fine (save for the garlic).

Inside there were recipe cards, and the ingredients, with freezer packs at the bottom. Everything was crisp. I don’t believe the lining was recyclable but I’m not sure. The freezer had to be thrown on the trash.

The Results

Red Lentil Coconut Dal with Cilantro Chutney & Brown Basmati Rice

This dish might have been OK had I not added the cilantro chutney. As it was, it was so spicy that it was totally inedible for my daughter.

Miso-Chili “Meatballs” with Zucchini Noodles & Sesame Tomato Sauce

The issue here was texture. To my daughter, the zucchini noodles looked so much like pasta that she was expecting them to eat and feel like pasta – the strange texture threw her off and not in a pleasant way. She also disliked the texture of the “meatballs”.

Za’atar Tofu with Mediterranean Quinoa Pilaf & Romesco Sauce

Finally, this dish suffered from being tasteless. Not only was the tofu pretty insipid – something which my daughter has come to expect – but so was the quinoa pilaf.

Despite our experience, Purple Carrot seems to be liked by many people, and given the lack of vegan meal kits out there, it’s probably worth your while to try it for a week if you are vegan (just remember to unsubscribe after you get your box to avoid paying for a second week – in case you don’t like their fare).

Meal Kit Review: Blue Apron’s Seared Steaks & Roasted Potatoes with Balsamic-Glazed Mushrooms & Shallot

The kale is missing from the photo but I also cooked it. The potatoes here are a little bit underdone, but the ones I took out later were great.

Rating: 6/10

While some of the meals offered in meal kits are complicated, some are fairly straight forward. This meal kit for Seared Steaks & Roasted Potatoes with Balsamic-Glazed Mushrooms & Shallot was pretty much what it sounds like, though with a couple of extra twists that made it nicer than expected.

First, the good part. My daughter enjoyed the kale very much (recipe below). It was cooked in ghee and mixed with creme fraiche. I guess i’ll have to pick up some of that at the supermarket. I also liked the mushrooms with balsamic vinegar *on their own*. But their sweetness didn’t really compliment the beef or the potatoes.

The roasted potatoes were really the star of the meal. They were absolutely delicious – crunchy on the outside and melt-in-your-mouth soft inside. I think the trick was that I cut them a little bit in advance and put them in a bowl with water and lemon juice. I dried them before putting them on an aluminum-foiled covered baking sheet and sprinkling olive oil and salt on them. I had forgotten to pre-heat the oven, so I cooked them in a cold oven. Again, they were great.

The flank steaks, however, were a huge disappointment. They tasted like cheap, low quality meat. One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed subscription kits is that many of them provide higher quality meats than those I can find at my supermarket. That is most definitely not the case here. This may very well be the reason why I wouldn’t stay subscribed to Blue Apron long term. We’ll have to see if their other meats are as disappointing.

I got this meal kit with a discount, so I paid $12 for the kit or $6 per serving. It was an adequate amount of food.

Creamed Kale

Makes 2 small servings

  • 1 Tbsp ghee
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups of chopped & de-veined kale leaves
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 Tbsp crème fraiche

Heat ghee on a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the kale leaves and season with salt & pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leaves wilt. Add the water, reduce heat to medium, and continue cooking until the leaves are soft and the water has evaporated. Remove to a bowl, taste and adjust seasoning.

Meal Kit Reviews: Gobble is Great for Those in a Hurry

Of all the meal kits out there, Gobble may just be my favorite. The food is very good and it can be prepared in about 15 minutes. They accomplish this by using simple recipes and sending you some pre-cooked (lentis, rice). That convenience has a price, and Gobble has among the highest prices in the industry. Still, if I could afford it, I’d probably stick with Gobble because it gives you the satisfaction of mostly cooking a meal, without the necessary expenditure of time.

The Plans

Gobble offers plans for 2 or 4 people. You can order as few as 2 meal kits a week or as many as you want. Cost is $12 a serving (or $14 if you only order 2 meal kits) – that is $24 per kit for 2 or $48 per kit for 4. You also have to pay $7 shipping, regardless of how many kits you order. Thus, the standard plan of 3 meals for 2 people per week costs $79.

As other companies, Gobble usually offers discounts for its first week. Currently, you can get your first box with 3 kits at half price.

Gobble also offers lunch and breakfast subscriptions, but I haven’t tried them.

The Food

Gobble offers mostly American and European food with some Asian, Indian and Mexican choices. They have beef, chicken, seafood and vegetarian (but not necessarily vegan) choices every week. The dishes do take about 15 minutes to put together and most were quite tasty.

The dishes are simpler than those offered by other premium meal kit companies, but the ones I had were nice enough. Cooking speed is also achieved by sending some ingredients pre-cooked, you just have to warm them in the microwave. These precooked ingredients (rice, lentils, roasted sweet potatoes) were surprisingly tasty. Indeed, my daughter thought the rice was the best part of the vegan meal she had.

Pre-roasted sweet potatoes sent by Gobble

Ingredients seem to be fresh and of good quality, though I had some issues. Instead of one or two steaks for one of the recipes, I received beef slices – which made cooking them according to the instructions difficult. I contacted customer service and they gave me a $15 credit, which was nice.

Ingredients for one of the meal kits

Another problem – one that seems ubiquitous with meal kits – was that the portions of meats/seafood sent were of different size and shapes, meaning that you could not cook them at the same temperature without burning one. This I found annoying.

One piece of tuna was long and thin, while the other one was small and twice as thick.

Finally, several of their recipes required broiling. I am not always good about cleaning my broiler, and that’s a big task to undertake to cook a meal for a few minutes. I wish they gave alternative instructions for people without broilers.

The Shipping and Delivery

I was able to get my meals on a Tuesday. The day before they sent me an e-mail reminding me my delivery would be the next day but not giving me a tracking number. They can deliver as late as 8 PM, though I got both of my deliveries during the day.

The Packaging

The kits come in a recyclable cardboard box, just like those from other meal kit companies. They contain non-recyclable insulating material and freezer packs that have to be discarded in the trash.

Inside the box most of the ingredients come in plastic bags organized by recipe. Cold ingredients are at the bottom of the box, between freezer packs.

The Results

In all, I cooked 5 Gobble recipes. The two I originally ordered, and three more that I got when I forgot to cancel my subscription in time (fortunately I had that $15 credit, so it wasn’t as expensive as it could be). The latter three recipes were chosen by Gobble for me, but fortunately they did a good job.

Blackened Chicken with Marble Potatoes & Broccolini
a forgettable dish

 Seared Flat Iron Steak with Baby Carrots & Harissa Green Lentils
Great meal quality, but it wasn’t a steak.

Thai Basil Tofu with Brown Rice
The tofu was tofu, but the rice was great!

Curried Beef Bowl with Basmati Rice & Mini Samosas
Very tasty!
Albacore Tuna with Pearl Couscous, Chermoula Vinaigrette
Loved the chermoula!

In all, I was pleased with Gobble. The recipes weren’t mind blowing, but they were good and quick/easy to prepare. I particularly liked their steaks (which don’t have a premium price). However, it’s the high price that would keep me from subscribing to Gobble. At over $13 per serving this is about the price of takeout, and with takeout I get leftovers (though not meats of the same quality level). It seems a particularly low value if you are not eating steak and tuna. That said, Gobble does have more variety than what I can get locally through takeout.

Meal Kit Review: Blue Apron’s Coconut Curry Noodle Bowl with Mushrooms & Bok Choy

Rating: 6/10

I made this kit – my first from Blue Apron – for my vegan daughter. Overall she thought it was OK, but wasn’t overly pleased by it. She feels she can make tastier food by herself (and she’s 16!).

The recipe was fairly straightforward and quick to prepare. The lime wasn’t at all necessary as the curry was sour enough. I appreciated that the aromatics (garlic, ginger, onions, etc.) already came all mushed up so I didn’t have to peel & chop them. I do think that this rice could have benefited from a starch, rice in particular. I can’t say much more about it, other than the portion was sufficient for two meals (though that might have been because she didn’t really like it).

I paid ~$12 for this kit, using a special offer. I think it was worth it at this price, but I’m not sure it would have been at $20.

Vegan Options at Favorite Indian – Hayward

Eating out – or getting take out – with a vegan is no easy matter, at least here in San Leandro (L.A., though, is another matter altogether). So I’m starting to ask restaurants what vegan dishes they offer previous to taking my daughter to the restaurant.

These four dishes are always vegan at Favorite Indian, Hayward. I’m sure that’s true too at the other branches, but you may want to confirm.

Dal Curry, a yellow lentil curry. I tried this at the buffet, and it was pretty good.

Aloo Gobi, potatoes and cauliflower cooked with spices.

Bhindi Masala, okra cooked with spices and onions.

Chana Masala, chick peas cooked with spices. Alas, my daughter is not too fond of this.

In addition, Favorite India can make the following dishes vegan. Simply ask them to make them with no cream when you order them:

Baingan Bharta

Eggplant roasted in tadoor and cooked in a cream and tomato sauce

Navratam Korma

Vegetables, nuts & cheese cooked in a mild sauce (asked them to hold both the cream and the cheese/paneer)

Mushroom Matar

Mushroom & green peas cooked with onion & tomatoes

Dal Makhani

Whole black lentil & red kidney beans cooked in a creamy sauce.

They may have other vegan dishes at their buffet, so it doesn’t help to ask. The restaurant manager/owner – the young woman who is often at the reception desk – is very knowledgeable as to the ingredients.

Meal Kit Review: Plated

My first experience with meal kits was a Plated kit that I bought at Safeway on a whim. I was impressed enough with it that it threw me into this project of trying different meal kit services – and taking advantage of the deals most offer when you subscribe. As it turns out, Plated is one of the more upscale meal kit services, offering more global and sophisticated meals at a premium price.

Overall, I liked Plated, but if I was going to pay full price for it, I’d just order the kits from Safeway delivery so as to minimize the packaging waste and make delivery more efficient.

The Plans

Plated offers kits for 2, 3 or 4 people. You can order 2, 3 or 4 kits per week. The cost per serving is $10 orders if you order kits for 3 or more people, or $12 if you order a kit for just 2. The typical box with 3 kits for 2 people each, costs $72/week. Shipping is free for orders over $60, and $8 for those below.

As mentioned above, you can also buy Plated kits at some Safeway supermarkets and other supermarkets owned by Albertsons – you can check here whether any is near where you live. At the supermarket you can only find kits for 2 servings and these cost between $20 and $24, depending on the specific meal.

Like other companies, Plated provides incentives to sign in. Right now they are offering 25% off your first 4 boxes.

The Food

Plated has probably the largest selection of meal kits in the industry. They offer 20 choices per week! They do repeat many meals from week to week, however. Unlike other services, they don’t have “premium” meals – but they also don’t have premium ingredients such as fillet mignon or large scallops. Note that only up to 4-6 meal kits are offered at the supermarket.

Of all the services out there, Plated probably offers the most “international food” choices, including some from lesser known cuisines (e.g. Indonesian Beef Rendang, Hungarian Meatballs). I can imagine this would be particularly attractive for people who don’t live in areas with many ethnic restaurants. I also appreciate that Plated offers many “fusion” dishes (e.g. curried lamb tacos, spanakopita grilled cheese sandwiches), that push beyond what most of its users are likely to have tried before. I cook a lot of international food, but a big advantage of using Plated’s meal kits is that they do away with the need to hunt for specialized ingredients and then have to buy them in far greater quantities that what you need for the recipe you are making.

Plated offers varied recipes vis a vis ingredients as well. They have four vegetarian offerings weekly and three seafood dishes. They don’t cater to any specific diet, however, and they seldom offer vegan meals.

Ingredients seem to be fresh and of good quality, but I’ve had some problems, such as having steaks sent of very different thickness.

The Shipping and Delivery

I was able to get my meals on a Tuesday. The day before they sent me an e-mail reminding me my delivery would be the next day and giving me the tracking number. They can deliver as late as 8 PM, though I got mine during the day. My order was fine.

The Packaging

Plated kits came in a cardboard box, just like the other services. Inside it I found the recipes for the meals and, after lifting the liner, the ingredients. Meats were packed between freezer packs at the bottom of the box. Heavy ingredients were in plastic bags, organized by recipe. On top of them were lighter, more fragile ingredients (leaf vegetables).

The cardboard box can be recycled, but the rest of the ingredients can’t.

Plated supermarket kits come in a large plastic box, which an theoretically be recycled. Most of the ingredients are in their own plastic bags. There is a lot of packaging waste, but it’s hard to say whether it’s more than what you usually get at the supermarket.

The Results

I cooked 5 Plated meal kits, as well as a couple of other Plated recipes using my own ingredients. I completely and totally messed up one of the kits – my fault entirely – so these are the four that worked:

Rosemary Pork Chop with Fig Compote and Chive Butter Potatoes
A nice and sophisticated meal.
Seared Steak with Blue Cheese Butter and Spinach-Beet Salad
A delicious, simple and logical dish.
Plated Scallop Penne with Mint-Spinach Pesto, Roasted Mushrooms, and Walnuts
It turns out that I don’t like scallops, but the spinach pesto was a revelation.
Vietnamese Beef Meatballs over Rice with Chile-Lime Dressing
The dish that started it all.

I also made this meal based on a Plated recipe:

In all, I’m a bit conflicted about Plated. I love their choice and their international and fusion offerings. I don’t love the price and the food has not awed me. I plan to continue getting the occasional kit from the supermarket, but I probably wouldn’t surprise without a great offer.

I got my two weeks of Plated using a Black Friday coupon that saved me $40 out of my first two boxes. That means I paid $8 per 2-serving kit I got. I paid full price for the one I bought at the supermarket.

Meal Kit Review: Plated’s Rosemary Pork Chop with Fig Compote and Chive Butter Potatoes

Rating: 7/10

I will confess that I ordered this dish because I was curious about the fig compote – this is not something you see often. And, of course, pork goes very well with fruit.

The compote didn’t disappoint, it was very tasty, and it went great with the pork. Alas, there was too much compote for the pork – not that that was a big deal.

I’m not a huge fan of pork chops, but this one was quite nice. I also liked the multi-colored potatoes. All around a good meal.