Last night, while making a hack of Sun Basket’s Spanish paella with tofu, mushrooms, and peas, I discovered why meal kits can be great for those home cooks among us that are not great at paying at attention at what we are doing. I totally messed up this recipe because I did a hack job on it. The results was a meal that lacked flavor. My vegan daughter ate it, but was not happy with it. And believe me, as a vegan, her standards are not exactly high.
I had chosen this recipe to hack because my vegan daughter had eaten a vegan frozen paella that she liked before and because most of the ingredients were easy to get. Alas, that did not mean I actually got them.
Mistake #1: First, I went shopping for this at my neighborhood discount grocery store which didn’t have frozen peas! I decided to skip them because peas are mostly filler, but still, they add a nice color to any dish plush some vitamins.
Mistake #2: I didn’t check my pantry before I shopped for this recipe, so it wasn’t until I started cooking that I realized that I didn’t actually have rice! How do you forget that? True, I don’t cook much with rice because of its high glycemic index, but still that’s a pretty major thing to not realize I was out of. And given that rice is the MAIN component of paella, you’d think the dish would have been doomed from that point on. I did find barley while looking for the rice – something I’d bought ages ago and never did anything with it – so I decided to substitute with that.
Then, as I was making the paella, I realized I didn’t have the required paprika either! OK, in this case, I did have a paprika jar with traces of paprika inside it, but not enough for even the teaspoon this recipe called for. No matter, I decided to use whatever paprika I had in the jar and add oregano. Indeed, the paella recipe I use (or used to use when I still cooked rice regularly) calls for both paprika and oregano, and the latter is stronger flavor.
Mistake #3: What makes meal kits great is that most of the ingredients are given to you in the exact amounts that you will use. Now, for normal people who read recipes carefully, this is probably not a big deal – but I’m not a normal person. So while I knew the recipe called for 3/4 cups of rice, and I wrote down that I needed 3/4 cups of rice, when it came time to actually adding the rice-cum-barley to the recipe, I doubled it in my mind and added 1 1/2 cups instead! What this ultimately meant is that there weren’t enough flavor agents (mostly leek and garlic) to flavor this dish sufficiently. Mind you, I tried to spice it up by adding extra salt, garlic powder and more oregano, but it never quite made it.
Mistake #4: My real mistake, however, was in choosing to make this particular recipe for paella. Chances are, it was never going to work. What makes paella great is the saffron flavoring, and this one didn’t call for it (probably because saffron is so expensive). I didn’t have any at home either (I swear I used to have some but I can’t find it!). Chances are, this recipe was never going to turn out.
Still, my out of pocket costs for this recipe were just $5.50, which is still less than half of what the meal kit would have cost There are leftovers for at least 3 more meals – and while I think normally my vegan daughter might skip eating it given how unenthusiastic she was about it last night, we’re out of vegan food at home, so she’ll probably be forced to have it for dinner again tonight 🙂
|KIT INGREDIENTS||I BOUGHT||COST|
|1 leek||2 leeks (used 1)||$2.50|
|3 cloves garlic||3 cloves garlic||pantry|
|4 oz cremini mushrroms||8 oz button mushrooms||$2|
|3 oz grape tomatoes||grape tomatoes||$1|
|3 oz roasted red peppers||Skipped||–|
|1/2 tsp turmeric||1/2 tsp turmeric||pantry|
|1 tsp sweet paprika||1 tsp oregano||pantry|
|3/4 cup rice||1 1/2 cups pearl barley||pantry|
|1 cup vegetable broth||2 cups vegetable broth||pantry|
|3/4 lb tofu||1 lb tofu||$2|
|3-4 springs leafy herb||3 basil leaves||pantry|
|1/2 cup peas||Skipped||–|
Pantry = an ingredient that I had at home already (whether in the pantry or the fridge).
Sun Basket is a Northern California based meal kit service started by a Slanted Door chef. They use organic produce – which I didn’t. They have vegan and vegetarian options as well as meals appropriate to other specific diet plans and seems to have the highest ratings among the services out there. I signed up for it and will be trying it next week. Use my referral link for $40 off your first delivery (I will also get a $40 credit for future deliveries).