Meal Kit Hack: Blue Apron’s Fusilli Bucati Pasta with Summer Squash, Corn, & Tomatoes + Recipe

Rating 8/10

My vegan daughter is into zucchini. She only recently discovered it (i.e. was willing to give it a try) and now she can’t get enough. I made her pasta with zucchini the other day, by just winging it, but tonight I decided to actually shop for and follow a recipe. I decided on this Blue Apron recipe for Fusilli Bucati Pasta with Summer Squash, Corn, & Tomatoes because it was simple and easy to “veganize”.

I did, of course, make some changes to the recipe – as you can see by ingredient list below. Instead of fusilli, I used rigattoni pasta. I prefer to give my kids chickpea pasta, rather than wheat pasta, as it has more fiber and protein – and Grocery Outlet, my closest grocery store, didn’t have chickpea fusilli. I used more garlic and more corn than what came in the Blue Apron kit because it was so recommended by the people who commented on the recipe. I used zucchini instead of summer squash as we’re still in winter and cherry tomatoes because they were easy to find. And I used
Romano/Parmesan/Asiago cheese mix because that’s what I had at home – though instead of adding it to the pan, I served it on the side. I did the same with the butter. That way, both my vegan and my non-vegan daughters were happy. Finally, I used basil instead of parsley because several reviewers said basil worked best.

My kids were very happy. My oldest daughter liked it as much as any meal kit I’d ever bought – and while the youngest didn’t like the tomatoes (she’s currently anti-tomato), she just picked them out. The kids particularly liked the corn, which added crunch and sweetness to the dish. Next time I’ll experiment with using other types of tomatoes to see what work best for both girls.

In all, I spent $9 to make this recipe – a significant saving over the $20 it would have cost if I bought it from Blue Apron. This includes the price of the ingredients I had to buy in larger quantity than needed (e.g. the pasta and corn, which they only had packaged by four cobs), but not of the items I had at home.

Blue Apron IngredientsMy IngredientsCost
½ lb Fusilli Bucati Pasta½ lb chickpea rigattoni pasta$2
2 cloves garlic3 cloves garlicpantry
1 ear corn2 ears corn$4
1 Summer Squash1 Zucchini$1
½ lb Heritage Globe Or Cocktail Tomatoes10 oz cherry tomatoes$2
¼ tsp Crushed Red Pepper FlakesskippedN/A
2 Tbsps Butter2 tsp butterpantry
2 Tbsps Grated Pecorino CheeseRomano/Parmesan/Asiago cheese mixpantry
1 bunch Parsley6 basil leavesgarden

Pasta with Zucchini, Corn, & Tomatoes

This recipe feeds four, it doubles the recipe in the kit.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pasta of your choice
  • 4 ears of corn
  • 1 lb cherry tomatoes, halved
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Zucchini, cut in 1/3″ thick half moons
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • butter to taste (optional)
  • Grated cheese to taste (optional)

Directions

Put a pot of salted water to boil. When ready, add the pasta and cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, cut corn kernels off the cob and discard cob and silks. Season halved tomatoes with salt and pepper.

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large saute pan. When hot, add the zucchini slices all in one layer and fry until brown, 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add corn and garlic and stir fry for two minutes. Add the tomatoes, season, and stir fry for another minute. Turn down heat to low. Mix in half of the chopped basil.

Once the pasta is ready, drain, reserving 3/4 cup of cooking liquid. Add pasta to the vegetables and mix. Add the cooking liquid and cook over medium-low heat for a few minutes, or until the water boils off.

Transfer to serving plate(s) and sprinkle remaining basil on top. Served accompanied by butter and cheese.



Easy Pear Tart

“These pears are getting soft,” my daughter announced from the kitchen.

I sighed. I buy so many produce that goes bad because the child that requested it forgets about it. Indeed, I buy so much food that goes bad before anyone uses it. As it happened, at that very moment I had a two or three week old puff pastry sheet in my fridge. I’d bought a package to make mushroom empanadas for my vegan daughter and only used one sheet.

The softening pears I knew I could use – but the puff pastry? I searched online and found people asking if they could use it a few days to a week after putting it in the fridge – but two to three weeks? That seemed crazy! Still, my pastry sheets did not smell bad, they had no hint of mold in them (I do keep my fridge very cold), they were not slimy and they only had a couple of spots were they’d dried out and even then, not too much. So what the heck! I figured I’d use them.

I placed the puff pastry on a cutting board and rolled it a bit with a rolling pin. Then I transferred it to a lined cookie sheet. I sliced the pears somewhat thinly (I used the two large ones I had) and placed the pear slices on the puff pastry. I mixed some raw sugar with a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger and sprinkled it on the pears. Then I ground some almonds and sprinkled these on top.

I put the baking sheet in the fridge and turn on the oven to 400F. Once it was preheated, I put the baking sheet in the oven and baked it for about 20 minutes.

The results were great. Really, really delicious. And vegan!


Pasta with Zucchini

My daughter had a craving for zucchini tonight (!), and I didn’t really have many ingredients to work with. So I sauted succhini slices in some olive oil with some chopped garlic (I used 2 cloves but should have used 4), cooked some chickpea pasta, and then added it to the pan. The zucchini had started to caramelized by the time I added the pasta and it was pretty sweet. I added some fresh thyme, and my daughter was quite happy with the results.


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).


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.

Vegetable Pakora, veggies coated with seasoned chickpea flour and fried.

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.


Vegan Chocolate Tart

This year, I made a beautiful chocolate tart for dessert for my Christmas Eve dinner – and that meant I had to make a vegan alternative for my vegan daughter. This recipe had great reviews, so I decided to make it for her. It took some doing, as the recipe called for Medjool dates and a specific brand/type of chocolate, which the recipe-maker insisted was just the best. Only after I’d searched for and found the chocolate (at Walgreen of all places) I realized that her post was actually sponsored by that chocolate brand. As it turned out, this chocolate was probably too dark for this cake. It would have probably worked best with 50-60% cocoa content chocolate. Just make sure you look at the ingredients to make sure it’s vegan.

Medjool dates are a particularly sweet type of dates that cannot be substituted by regular ones. Neither of my local supermarkets carried them but I was able to find them at Trader Joe’s (I think).

As other chocolate tart, this tart is beautiful when topped with fresh berries and mint leaves – which also provide a nice light tart contrast to the very rich chocolate.

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 8 pitted Medjool dates
  • 1 cup peeled almonds
  • 1 oz semisweet vegan chocolate, chopped and melted
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 3.5 oz semisweet vegan chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup coconut cream
  • 8 pitted Medjool dates
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

Put the dates and almonds in a food processor and process until the mixture is very fine. Add the melted chocolate, melted coconut oil and salt and process until they are fully incorporated.

Press the mixture onto the bottom and sides of a tart pan. Place in the refrigerator and cool until the crust has set.

Meanwhile, make the filling.

In a small saucepan, melt together the chocolate and coconut oil. Mix in coconut cream. Transfer to a clean food processor bowl. Add dates and vanilla extract. Process until all ingredients are combined and have a smooth, pudding-like consistency.

Add the filling to the crust. Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.

Top with berries, mint and whipped coconut cream, if desired.

Adapted from Regina’s recipe at Leelalicious


Mushroom Wellington (Vegan)

To my great amazement, several commercial puff pastries are vegan – so once I decided to make Beef Wellington as the main dish for my 2018 Christmas Eve Dinner, I knew it wouldn’t be hard to find a vegan version of Wellington. There were actually many different versions, with all sorts of fillings, but this recipe for mushroom Wellington looked and sounded amazing – and my vegan daughter is very fond of mushrooms. She was very, very happy with it and ate all the leftovers.

I followed the recipe closely, though I used a very small amount of baby spinach, given that she doesn’t like it. If you want to follow the recipe exactly, use 10 1/2 oz (though really, that’s way too much even if you like baby spinach).

Ingredients

  • 4 large portabello mushrooms
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 large onions, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a handful of baby spinach leaves
  • leaves from 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 sheet vegan puff pastry
  • 1 Tbsp. dijon mustard
  • 1-2 Tbsp vegan egg wash

Instructions

Clean mushrooms and trim the stalks. Set aside.

In a large saute pan, heat 1/2 Tbsp olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the chopped onion and reduce heat to low. Season with salt and pepper and saute until the onions are golden brown, around 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using a slotted spoon remove onions from the pan and set aside.

Add the spinach to the hot pan and cook until wilted, a minute or two. Remove spinach from the pan and let cool.

Add the remaining olive oil to the pan and increase heat to medium-high. Add the mushrooms top-side down and cook until they start to brown, around 5 minutes. Remove mushroom caps and place, top side up, on a thick stack of paper towels to cool – they will release A LOT of liquid.

Refrigerate the onions, spinach and mushrooms until cool.

Flour a working surface and rolling pin and roll puff pastry sheet until it’s the desired thickness and length – long enough to accommodate the four mushroom caps. Spread half of the onions in the middle of the pastry sheet, leaving a 3/4″ border on the top and bottom. Place half of the wilted spinach on the onions. Spread dijon mustard over the mushroom caps and season with salt and pepper. Place mushrooms, tops down, on the spinach. Sprinkle thyme leaves on the mushrooms. Cover with the remaining spinach and onions. Carefully, roll the pastry on top of the mushroom mixture, forming a log. Press down on the edges to seal. Turn over and brush with the vegan egg wash. Envelope the log in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 400F. Place parchment paper on a baking sheet. Unwrap the log and place it on the parchment paper. Place in the oven and cook for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350F and bake for 10 more minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Adapted from Nicole’s recipe at Delicious Every Day.


Vegan Egg Wash

I made this vegan egg wash to brush on the mushroom Wellington I made for Christmas Eve Dinner. It worked beautifully. The aquafaba is the water from a can of chickpeas. You can use the chickpeas as a snack.

Ingredients

  • 1Tbsp aquafaba
  • 1 Tbsp unsweetened almond or cashew milk
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp maple syrup or brown rice syrup

Instructions

Whisk all ingredients together. Brush over pastry requiring an egg wash.


Adapted from Nicole’s recipe at Delicious Every Day.


Vegan Chestnut Soup

My daughter is vegan so, for my 2018 Christmas Eve dinner, I made both a regular chestnut soup and a vegan one. My daughter was rather pleased with this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp vegan butter or olive oil
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 rib celery , finely chopped
  • 1 onion , finely chopped
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 12 ounces cooked chestnuts
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened soy, almond or cashew milk
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat butter or oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add the carrot, celery and onion, reduce heat, and saute over medium-low heat until very soft, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the vegetable broth and stir. Add the parsley, ground clove, bay leaves and chestnuts. Stir, raise heat to high and bring soup to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Remove and discard the bay leaves. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. Alternatively, transfer to an electric blender and puree – you may need to do this in batches. Return soup to the pot and add the soy milk. Stir well and warm over medium-low heat.

Taste, season and serve.

Adapted from Jolinda Hackett’s recipe at The Spruce Eats.