Cashew Cream

This is a vegan cashew cream that you can use in place of soft cheeses in traditional recipes. To my mind, this doesn’t taste anything like cheese – but I’m not vegan. My vegan daughter loved it, however.

  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ~2 cups water

Directions

Soak cashews in water for about 4 hours. Drain.

Place the cashews, lemon juice, vinegar, nutritional yeast, Dijon mustard, salt and 1 cup water in an electric blender and process until smooth. Add more water as needed to achieve the consistency you want.


Update on Dinnerly Meal Kits

I go through periods of not cooking and I’ve noticed that doing meal kits is a good way to get myself started again. But of course, I only do meal kits when I have a discount code and this time, I got one for Dinnerly ($15 off per week for 2 weeks), which brought the price of each meal kit to $8 – probably close to the actual cost of the ingredients. BTW, I have 3 FREE Dinnerly boxes to give away, so if you want one, e-mail me.

All in all, I have been pleasantly surprised by the dinners we’ve gotten. They’ve been simple to prepare, with few ingredients, totally basic fare, but very tasty. They beat getting cheap takeout, both in matter of taste, quality of ingredients and value.

I still have one meal left to cook, but this is what I’ve made so far:

Greek Meatballs with Tomatoes & Orzo

This was such a simple dish, and yet so tasty! The meatballs were delicious and didn’t include any filling. And they went great with orzo. I might have to make this again on my own. I would use just diced tomato instead of cutting whole ones with scissors, though. And a little Parmesan cheese would be nice, but not needed.

Stuffed Cheeseburger with Tomatoes & Garlic Potato Wedges

To be honest, I didn’t actually make this. My daughter was in a hurry, so I took the ground beef and added a little garlic powder and Worcestershire sauce for extra flavor, and then made the stuffed patties with the Fontina cheese from the box. My daughter ate it with lots of ketchup and was very happy with the burger. She had another one later on.

Chinese Take-Out Pepper Steak with Steamed Jasmine Rice

This was another perfectly tasty dish. Nothing extra about it (here I am, speaking like one of my teens), but perfectly fine for a weekday dinner.

Vegetarian Pad Thai with Carrots & Snow Peas

A vegan dinner from Dinnerly! How cool is that? Well, it had eggs, but I just left them out. This wasn’t really pad thai, however. It came with teriyaki sauce, to which was added 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice, 2 Tbsp sugar and 1/2 Tbsp vinegar. My daughter who usually dislikes teriyaki sauce was quite happy with the end product. I’ll try this hack again for stir fries.

Onion & Feta Burger with Oven Fries & Garlic Ketchup

You might wonder why I even order burger from Dinnerly if I then cannibalize them into something else, and the truth is I don’t know – maybe because it’s convenient to simply have the buns and ground beef at the same time. In this case, I didn’t make the onions or garlic ketchup, and I skipped the feta and instead added a slice of whatever cheese I had at home. I also seasoned the potatoes with some oregano to give it some extra flavor.


Gobble Meal Kits Review: Flap Steak & a Mushroom Burger

Gobble is one of the most expensive meal kits out there, but it’s also the best one. The meals are positively delicious, with high quality ingredients and balanced main-side combinations. They also seem to serve the most modern dishes. And while other companies have moved to make their kit preparations quicker, Gobble is still the quickest of them all.

I subscribed to Gobble for a couple of weeks, and got a bunch of vegan meals for my daughter – which she didn’t appreciate nearly enough. The non-vegan ones I got for us, however, rocked.

Seared Flap Steak with Charred Shishito & Mini Sweet Peppers with Romesco Sauce

Rating 8/10

What makes Gobble the best meal kit subscription out there is really their sauces, and this romesco sauce did not disappoint. It was delicious and did a great job of bringing together the steak (which I obviously undercooked) and the salad. This wasn’t a particularly original meal, but it was very solid.

Wagyu Beef Swiss Cheeseburger with Mushrooms & Truffle Aioli

Rating: 10/10

I’ve never had wagyu beef before because, honestly, it’s too expensive. I’ve seen wagyu burgers before, but I always felt that there was no point in getting them as the special characteristics of the meat were likely to not be present when ground. Boy, was I wrong! This burger was absolutely delicious, it had the best beef taste I’ve ever had in a burger.

The mushrooms were also great, which surprised me as there wasn’t any trick to them. I wonder if Gobble could be using better quality mushrooms to the ones I get at the supermarket, and what exactly a better mushroom would be anyway. Of course, it may have been the truffle aioli which really made them shine. Whatever it was, they were great and the whole burger came together wonderfully.

The little salad on the side was also very tasty.

For this meal, I did not follow the actual instructions as they were needlessly complex. I simply cooked the ingredients in the logical sequence.


Reviews of several HelloFresh meals

After giving up on cooking for a while, I’ve gone back to making meal kit meals – they work particularly well when it’s just my husband and I for dinner.

HelloFresh has changed from last year, and their meals are now simpler and quicker to cook. They still range from pretty good to very good, though they are not nearly as tasty as the Gobble meals I’ve cooked lately. They’re far cheaper, however. Currently, if you use my referral link, you can save $40 off your first box, though there may be better deals out there.

These are the last six dishes I made from HelloFresh.

Sweet ‘N’ Smoky Pork Tenderloin
with Apple Carrot Slaw, Mashed Potatoes & Cherry Sauce

Rating: 7/10

I forgot to skip this week and got HelloFresh’ default meals. I wouldn’t have selected this one, as I try to avoid pork as much as possible, but it was pretty good. The pork was tender and the cinnamon-smoked paprika spicing was very tasting. It really didn’t need the cherry sauce, but this one was very nice as well. In general, I’ve really enjoyed the jam-based sauces that I’ve gotten in meal kits. Still, the meat didn’t have as much flavor as I would have liked.

I enjoyed the mashed potatoes, which really go very well with green onions. I don’t like carrots, but my husband was very happy with the slaw – he had my portion as breakfast the next day.

All in all, this wasn’t my favorite meal but it was a nice alternative. As usual, it was a perfectly sized meal.

Cherry Sauce Recipe

For two people, multiply as necessary, substitute with another flavor jam if as per your liking.

  • 1/4 cup cherry jam
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon paprika spice*
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • salt & pepper to taste

In a small microwavable bowl, mix together the jam, vinegar and spice. Microwave for 40 seconds. Add the butter and mix until melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

* 1 part ground cloves, 8 parts onion powder, 8 parts ground cinnamon, 6 parts smoked paprika, 16 parts mustard powder, 24 parts sweet paprika, 24 parts white granulated sugar”.

Smothered Pepper Jack Burgers
with Spicy Ketchup & BBQ Potato Wedges

Rating 6/10

I might have liked this burger more if I hadn’t overcooked it – and if I hadn’t recently had an amazing waygu burger from Gobble. As it was, I found it OK. The pepper was a bit too spicy for me, though I used plain ketchup. My husband had his with the spicy ketchup (which is really just ketchup mixed with hot sauce) and far more peppers, and he still didn’t think it was spicy at all, so YMMV.

The potatoes, mixed with a sweet & smokey BBQ spice, were very good, though. I’ll have to make them again for my vegan daughter. I found the recipe online

Sweet & Smokey BBQ spice

  • 8 parts smoked paprika
  • 6 parts granulated sugar
  • 2 parts garlic powder
  • 0.5 (half) parts black pepper
  • 1 part dry mustard
  • 1 part ground cumin
  • 1 part ground ginger

Middle Eastern Steak Bowls
with Spiced Basmati Rice, Roasted Veggies & Lemon Garlic Yogurt Sauce

Rating 5/10

This dish was a big disappointment. It was relatively complex and I had great expectations, but they weren’t met. Basically the whole thing was bland, all the flavors blended into one another and didn’t excite the palate anywhere.

It’s a pity, because this could have been really good. Maybe some dried fruit in the rice would have helped or a harissa sauce instead of the lemon garlic sauce. Actually, having fresh garden instead of garlic powder might have made the sauce more exciting.

Balsamic Fig Chicken
with Roasted Potatoes & Mixed Greens

Rating 7/10

This was another meal with a delicious jam sauce. It’s a simple enough recipe that it should be quite easy to make at home.

The greens came with a simple lemon juice dressing, so I decided to use my own instead. The potatoes were OK, but they were just plain. HelloFresh does much better when it adds spice to its potatoes.

Still, it was a pretty good meal.

Balsamic Fig Sauce

  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 5 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp jam
  • 1 tsp chicken stock concentrate
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • salt & pepper to taste.

    Heat oil in a small saute pan. Add shallot and rosemary leaves. Cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and the jam. Simmer for one minute, until syrupy. Add the stock concentrate and water. Cook until thick, about 2-3 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in the butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Creamy Chive Chicken

Rating: 8/10

This is yet another simple dish of a plain chicken breast spruced up with a cream sauce. Fortunately, this chive sauce is very good so it does the job well.

I liked the side dishes quite a bit, but my husband didn’t like the texture of the lemon rice, probably because I had overcooked it. Still, I’d get this again.

Chive Cream Sauce

This is enough for two people. Serve over chicken or fish.

  • 2 tsp chicken stock concentrate
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup water
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 oz chopped chives
  • salt & pepper to taste

Heat small pan over medium-high heat. Add the stock concentrate, mustard, water and lemon juice. Stir and let simmer for 1-2 minutes. Turn off heat.

Stir in the sour cream and chives. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cheesy Beef Tostadas
with Long Green Pepper, Tomato Salsa & Hot Sauce Crema

Rating 7/10

The filling for these tostadas was actually very good and both my husband and I really enjoyed them, but I overcooked the tortillas, thus making them too tough and difficult to handle it. It would have been better if the tortillas had been soft.

I neglected to take a photo.


F. WHITLOCK & SONS Honey BBQ Sauce Review

I got this BBQ sauce at Grocery Outlet before the pandemic. I was intrigued by the very minimalist packaging and the small jar – I don’t use that much BBQ sauce at once. I finally got to use it one day when I was craving – of all things – meatloaf. OK, I was craving something sweet for dinner, and the only meat I had at home was ground beef, so the only thing I could think of was meatloaf. I was very happily surprised. The sauce is thick and tangy, with a slight alcoholic-like flavor (it doesn’t have any alcohol, I checked). While it has “natural” smoke flavor and artificial flavors added, it doesn’t seem to have any preservatives and has sugar rather than corn syrup.

The sauce is available at Walmart at $3 for the 15.5 oz jar, and while I try not to shop at Walmart, I’d buy it again.


Vegan Curried Butternut Squash Soup – Recipe

My daughter absolutely loved this recipe, and it was very easy to make. I very lightly adapted it from Minimalist Baker.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, thinly diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cubed
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 14-ounce can coconut milk
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup

Directions

Heat a soup pot over medium heat. Add the oil. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes, stirring.

Add the butternut squash. Stir in the curry powder, cinnamon and salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the coconut meat, vegetable broth and maple syrup. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes or until the squash is very soft.

Using an electric blender, purée until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning.


Vegan Tomato Soup

My daughter has been asking for tomato soup for a while, and I figured tonight was a good time to make it for her – plus I had all the ingredients! I followed a recipe I found online, with a couple of modifications from the comments, and my daughter was very happy with it. It was quick and easy to do – I actually made the soup in advance, and then had her heat it up and add the coconut milk when she was ready to eat it. Note that I added a diced fresh tomato to the ingredients below – I had it and it was getting close to going bad so I had to use it.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 28 oz can diced or whole tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp vegetable broth base
  • salt to taste
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk

Instructions

Heat oil in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add onion and saute until soft. Add garlic and saute, stirring, for a minute. Add the tomatoes. If using whole tomatoes, push with a wooden spoon to break out. Add the water, paprika, oregano, basil and vegetable broth base. Turn heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth.

Taste and add salt if needed. At this point, you can refrigerate if you want to use it later. Right before serving, heat the soup until warm and then stir in the coconut milk.

Adapted from Lisa’s recipe at healthy nibbles


Reviews of Several Home Chef Meals

Home Chef sent me a “come back” offer of $25 off per week for four weeks, so I’ve been back using it. The service has grown up a bit since the last time I used it. For one, meals have different prices now. While before they all used to be $10 per serving, they now have a weekly “slow cooker” meal for $7.50, and their more upscale meals (including the one that has steak) are $12/13 per portion). You can now further customize these with more expensive proteins – a meal kit that includes choice boneless ribeye steak will cost you $24 per portion, or the same you can expect to pay at a restaurant. Of course, the choices of these more expensive proteins, including antibiotic-free chicken, does send the message that their regular proteins are pretty crappy.

Home Chef seems to have a greater variety of dishes now, including some with an international flare, but most everything they offer is directed to very standard American tastes. And it’s sending more prepared ingredients, which means that it’s far quicker to put these meals together. They also have almost oven-ready meals, which require very little preparation.

My first week back on Home Chef I got:

Crispy Orange Chicken with jasmine rice and broccoli

This was a pretty straightforward dish and quick to prepare. The chicken was pre-cubed and the orange sauce pre-made, so there wasn’t too much to do: make the race, roast the broccoli, mix the coating, coat the chicken, fry it and then mix it with the orange sauce. I like that they included the oil, as it took quite a bit to fry it.

It was a fairly tasty dish, not quite restaurant quality but good enough. Still, I wouldn’t eagerly order it again.

Steak Pad Thai with peanuts and cilantro

This was another fairly easy dish to put together and tasty enough. It did not, however, taste at all like Thai pad thai. That’s because it used oyster sauce, rather than the sauce used for pad thai. I appreciated that the carrots came pre-shredded, that saved me a lot of time. The steak also came pre-cut in paper thin slices, which I couldn’t have done myself manually and made cooking it very fast. While I liked the dish well enough, I wouldn’t order it again if I had better options.

Sun-Dried Tomato Mozzarella Chicken with Garlic Butter Green Beans

This was one of those almost oven ready meals. It still required washing and seasoning the green beans, cooking them and then adding the chicken, spreading it with tomato pesto and covering with cheese before baking, but it was all rather quick to put together. The pesto came already made. I didn’t actually taste this dish, but my daughter was pleased enough with it.

In all, these meals were fine – not as tasty as the ones I got from Hello Fresh the week before, but far quicker to put together. Though at the end, it seemed like I could do so just as easily with stuff I bought at the supermarket and, was I paying full price, probably for less.


Mayo Lime Spread for Burgers

I really enjoyed this mayo spread with the HelloFresh Pork Burgers I made the other day. While I doubt I’ll have a reason to make it again, you never know. It’s also a tasty dip for fries

Ingredients

  • 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Instructions

Zest the lime and set aside, half remaining lime. In a small bowl, mix together the mayo, sour cream and minced garlic. Mix in the lime zest and squeeze the lime into the mixture.




Review: HelloFresh’s Gouda Pork Burger

Last time I renewed HelloFresh I forgot to choose my meals, so I ended up with three of HelloFresh’s choice. While I wasn’t thrilled at first, two of them ended up being a good choice – I cannibalized the ingredients of the last one for other stuff.

I was particularly worried about this recipe for pork burgers. I figured, if pork burgers were any good, you’d see them in restaurant menus. Ground pork doesn’t seem enticing at all, it’s so greasy for one. But I got the kit, so I made it, and I was quite surprised at how tasty the burgers were. They didn’t feel too greasy, and though I probably overcooked them (you can never be too sure with pork), they were still moist. Still, I wouldn’t make them on my own.

I particularly liked the bright mayo/sour cream based sauce that accompanied the burger.

In the year+ since I’ve subscribed, on and off, to Hello Fresh, I’ve almost never had issues with the quality or freshness of their ingredients and this time it was not different. I live in the Bay Area in California, so YMMV elsewhere.