Meal Kit Hack: Plated’s Chicken Marsala/Madeira with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes + Recipe

Rating: 8/10

I had no reason whatsoever to make this meal kit hack other than the fact that I’m enjoying hacking meal kit recipes and blogging about it. Hey, we all have our weird hobbies.

I did, mind you, need to use the rest of the skinless/boneless chicken thighs my husband got me by mistake a few days ago (the first half I used to make this meal hack) and I love Chicken Marsala, but I could have gone with my usual recipe – which is absolutely delicious. Granted, Plated’s recipe for Chicken Marsala is almost exactly like my own (this one doesn’t use shallots, though) – which is probably why this recipe was absolutely delicious as well.

The recipe for the chicken, that is. I did not enjoy the fingerling potatoes at all. The Dijon taste was too weird. Maybe I put too much, I had to guess how much were in the “packets” and “containers” that went with the kits, but more likely it’s just not a good combination.

I did make a couple of changes to the chicken recipe, the main one was that I used Madeira instead of Marsala. I usually keep Marsala around, but apparently I had actually run out of it the last time I used it. Madeira has very similar notes to Marsala, and I figured it would produce similar results. It did! If anything, the Madeira was better than the Marsala (or maybe, this is just a better recipe than mine).

I ended up spending almost the same amount to make this dish than I would have spent buying the kit – $18.3 for me vs $24, if bought as a subscription, or $21.4, if bought at my local Safeway. As usual, I didn’t have to spend money in some ingredients that I already had at home, but had to buy larger quantities than needed of other ingredients. I think

Plated IngredientsMy IngredientsCost
9 oz cremini mushrooms8 oz sliced cremini mushrooms$3
8 oz fingerling potatoes20 oz fingerling potatoes
(used less)
$3
1/8 oz parsley1 Tbsp parsleyhome garden
1/8 oz rosemary2 tsp rosemaryhome garden
1 lemon1 lemon$1.10
2 boneless chicken breasts5 boneless chicken thighs$5.50
2 packets butter2 Tbsp butterpantry
1 container chicken stock1/2 tsp chicken stock concentratepantry
1 packets Dijon mustard2 Tbsp Dijon mustardpantry
1/4 cup flourflourpantry
1/2 cup Marsala1 cup Madeirapantry
2 Tbsp heavy cream1 qt heavy cream
(used less)
$5.70

My local Safeway carries this kit often, and I would consider buying it. My big hesitation is that it comes with chicken breasts, when I really prefer thighs so much more.

Chicken Madeira

  • 5-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup Madeira
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp chopped parsley
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Cover each chicken thigh with plastic wrap and then pound until thin. Place flour in a bowl, season with salt and pepper to taste. Flour the chicken thighs and leave aside.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once melted, add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook until golden, about 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Using a slotted spoon remove mushrooms to a bowl and set aside.

Add olive oil to the skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Carefully transfer the chicken thighs to the skillet and cook until done, about 4 minutes per side. Remove to a clean plate and set aside.

Add the Madeira, chicken broth and reserved mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cream, parsley and lemon juice. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 1 minutes. Return chicken to the the skillet and cook until the chicken is warmed through, about 5 minutes.


Review: Freshly’s Spring Garden Veggie Bowl and Steak Peppercorn

Despite all the different companies offering meal kits out there, I wasn’t able to find any that had enough offerings in their menu that appealed to me this week. I thus decided to finally give Freshly a try.

Unlike other companies, Freshly doesn’t send out meal kits – rather, they sell refrigerated meals – basically an upgraded version of TV dinners. They have 30 varieties, each with one serving, but the menu doesn’t seem to change weekly.

Last night, only my vegan daughter and myself were hungry enough for dinner, so we tried two of the kits. They were pretty good.

Garden Veggie Bowl

Rating 7/10

This, as far as I can see, is the only semi-vegan option offered by Freshly. It does contain honey, which my daughter wants to start avoiding – a fact she didn’t share with me until after I made this order. In any case, she ate it and she enjoyed it. Indeed, this was one of her favorite meal kit meals.

The meal is basically a quinoa bowl with veggies: peas, sweet potatoes, radishes and cauliflower. She didn’t like the radishes, though, and there was only one piece of cauliflower. It has a vinaigrette dressing made of oil, vinegar, orange and lemon juice, honey and spices. This was a pretty filling meal and she didn’t finish it. It was a rather substantial meal as well – clocking at 580 calories and 34 grams of fat, but it had quite a lot of fiber and protein as well. She’d have it again, if I didn’t let her know it had honey in it. In all, she’d prefer to make her own bowl and add more cauliflower.

Heating the meal required microwaving for 2 minutes and then resting for another 2.

Steak Peppercorn

Rating 7/10

This is the only steak meal that Freshly offers. It’s not too surprising as steak can both be expensive and it’s hard to keep its quality through pre-cooking and microwaving. Freshly did a fairly good job in this case, though it definitely didn’t taste or had the consistency of a freshly made steak. The flavor was a little off, but I tend to be a purist about my steaks and usually prefer them unadorned by sauces or spices.

The steak was sent cooked medium rare, though I’m sure you can microwave it for an extra minute if you want it more cooked. It had enough juice to bleed into the plate.

The mashed potatoes were pretty tasty as well, sinfully so. They were too thin for my taste. They might have been gummy if not that thin, but the flavor was excellent.

I don’t like green beans, so I served these to my husband who was not hungry enough for a meal of his own, but was happy to get “something” for dinner. He thought they were OK. I wasn’t particularly hungry myself, so I was satisfied with just the meat and potatoes. In all, I think this meal is sized pretty correctly.

It took 3 1/2 minutes to heat up this meal in the microwave, and 2 more to rest.

I was surprised that this meal had both less calories and fat than the vegan one (480 calories & 27 grams of fat), though, of course, it has much more saturated fat (12 g vs 3g).

In all, this is a meal I’d have again though I wouldn’t feel compelled to.

I paid a little under $7 for each of these meals, with a special offer. They normally cost $10 each. I think at $10, they are probably overpriced. You can probably get something tastier for lunch from a restaurant for about that much. At $7, they heat the right balance between what a refrigerated meal would cost at the supermarket (and none of the ones I’ve had, have been that good) and what takeout costs.


Review: Margherita Italian-Style Meat Trio Panini

I found this frozen sandwich at Grocery Outlet for $2 and decided to give it a try. It was actually pretty tasty, though a little too heavy on the meats, which made it a bit salty for my taste. I microwaved it, so the panini was soft, but it was a pleasant doughy-chewy consistency. It’s not a huge bite, but it’s good for an easy snack.


Meal Kit Hack: EveryPlate Garlic-Rosemary Chicken with Roasted Root Veggies

Rating 7/10

I was planning to make a chicken stew tonight, but my husband bought skinless, boneless chicken thighs instead of the chicken parts I’d asked him to get. So I was left with trying to figure out what to make for dinner with the ingredients I had at hand. I could have easily replicated a meal I’d made before, but I saw it as an opportunity to try something new. I looked through different meal kit company sites, but the only one that had a simple recipe I could make with the stuff I had at home was EveryPlate. Perhaps I should have started with them.

This recipe for Garlic-Rosemary Chicken with Roasted Root Veggies was uncomplicated, but I thought pretty good. My daughter, who didn’t want the rosemary-garlic topping found the chicken flavorless, but that’s to be expected. The rosemary-garlic topping was good, if not gourmet quality. I’m not sure I’d make this particular dish again, however.

I used chicken thighs rather than the chicken breasts that the kit would have used, both because that’s what I had at home and because I much prefer them. I didn’t have a carrot, a sweet potato or Yukon gold potatoes, so I substituted with the two large russet potatoes I had at home.

I made this meal for 3 people. EveryPlate does not have kits that feed three, but their kit for 2 would have cost $13 (including shipping). A kit for 3, if it existed, would have cost $18. I spent ~$7.50 making it for the three of us. Had I used a carrot and sweet potatoes, it might have cost a couple of dollars more. While I didn’t buy any ingredients to make this meal, I had bought some recently enough to qualify as not being in my pantry just waiting to be used.

EveryPlate IngredientsMy IngredientsCost
2 skinless boneless chicken breast fillets6 skinless boneless chicken thigh fillets$5.50
1 carrotommitted
2 sweet potatoesommitted
5 Yukon gold potatoes2 Russet potatoes$1
rosemaryrosemaryhomegrown
1 red onion1 red onion$1
2 garlic cloves4 garlic clovespantry
1 “unit” chicken stock concentrate1/2 tsp chicken stock concentratepantry


Review: Blue Apron’s Bánh Mì-Style Beef Burgers with Sesame-Roasted Broccoli

Rating 7/10

In general, I like bánh mì sandwiches – they are tasty, they have a little kick (actually a lot of kick, so I am careful to take out any peppers and daikon I find in them) and they are very cheap. However, they also usually have too much bread, too many vegetables and too little meat. So I was looking forward to making this Blue Apron kit for bánh mì-style beef burgers on my own. Alas, I didn’t actually look at the recipe so I didn’t realize the only vegetables they were including were carrots and radishes. Not too big of a deal, but it sort of detracts from the whole “bánh mì” experience.

The protein was ground beef mixed with curry and seasoned with salt and pepper. It was surprisingly tasty. I tend to add curry powder to pretty much anything, but I hadn’t really tried it in a burger. I will again. But what really made the burger – for me – was the bread. The demi baguette was toasted with olive oil and some salt and it just went wonderfully with the meat. I wasn’t impressed with the carrots, so I mostly pushed them up. The meal kit came with mayo and sambal oelek that you are supposed to mix together and then spread on the bread. I added too much sambla oelek, however, and it was too spicy for me so I used plain mayo on my sandwich – it was great. I used the spicy mayo on my husband’s sandwich, and while he didn’t find it spicy, he also didn’t find it particularly tasty. If you make it, skip the sambal. In any case, I really liked my sandwich and my husband liked his less.

He liked the broccoli, however, which was mixed with sesame oil and roasted. My daughter didn’t – so it’s hit and miss.

I got all the ingredients needed for the recipe, and they were all pretty fresh – though the carrots were starting to get wobbly. Still, I got my box on Monday and cooked this on Friday, so I really can’t complain.

My favorite part of the meal was the bread, which is made by Tribeca Oven in New Jersey. The demi-baguette was wider than most, the crust was softer and the center denser. I’m going to have to try to find something similar around here.

I appreciated that the kit included sugar. While I keep that at home, I know a lot of people who don’t.

I paid $12.50, or $6.25 per serving, for this kit with a sign-in promo. It was worth this but not the $20 regular price, as you can get a real bánh mì for less.


Review: Fontina-Smothered Chicken with Zucchini & Mashed Potatoes

Rating 6/10

This Blue Apron kit for Fontina-Smothered Chicken with Zucchini & Mashed Potatoes was an OK meal, but not at all exciting. Sure, I chose it specifically to eat with my picky younger daughter, so I bear the whole blame for it.

I’ve never had chicken with cheese before, and I was pleasantly surprised. Indeed, I made fish with a cream sauce and cheese a few days ago and that worked too! Cheese seems more flexible than I thought! The piquante peppers were a good choice.

The whole meal was very simple to put together. The chicken sprinkled with Italian seasoning and simply sauteed and then covered with cheese and the peppers for the last couple of minutes. I liked the flavor the seasoning gave the chicken. I did make a mistake and used the chicken breast for my last recipe and the chicken thighs for this one (I had assumed both packages had chicken breasts), but I’m not sure that made a difference. I did cook them for a shorter time as they were far thinner than the breast.

The zucchini was simply sauteed with garlic. I overcooked it some as I was dealing with the mashed potatoes and a stew I was making for my other daughter at the same time, but my daughter ate them. The mashed potatoes were pretty plain, but these ones at least had creme fraiche – a great improvement over the ones in the last kit that only had olive oil. Indeed, I didn’t even add the olive oil to these ones as it wasn’t a good flavor.

The ingredients were all there and all fine. All I had to provide was salt, pepper and olive oil.

I paid $12.50, or $6.25 per serving, for this kit with a sign-in promo. It was worth this but probably not the $20 regular price.


Review: Blue Apron’s Crispy Chicken Schnitzel with Mashed Potatoes & Creamy Mustard-Dressed Kale

Rating 8/10

I got this meal kit for to make for Crispy Chicken Schnitzel with Mashed Potatoes & Creamy Mustard-Dressed Kale for my non-vegan daughter and me, but I ended up eating it mostly by myself: my daughter ended up with other plans. No matter, I saved the chicken breast for her for tomorrow and I’ll make her some fresh mashed potatoes with potatoes I had at home.

This is a meal that is more like disparate components than one full meal. The components all work with each other, don’t get me wrong, but you could substitute any of them for something else and the meal would still work. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.

The chicken schnitzel itself was good – but it wasn’t really a schnitzel. The breast pieces were skinless and boneless but they had not been flattened – nor were there any instructions to flatten them. Moreover the cooking times given were for a thick piece of breast. The chicken was fine, but it would have likely been juicier and more enjoyable if it’d been flattened first. The flavor was OK, but not extraordinary given that there was no seasoning beyond salt on the breading. Commenters suggest adding onion and garlic powder to the flour, I’d also add dried oregano or fresh chopped parsley to the egg.

UPDATE: It turns out that the schnitzel part was my fault. Blue Apron had sent me boneless chicken thighs for this recipe, and the chicken breasts for another one. I didn’t look closely and just assumed both were chicken breasts and ended up using the wrong cut.

The apple slaw that accompanied the chicken was also good, but it didn’t really improve the chicken substantially. I also ended up with way too much slaw.

The mashed potatoes, which are simply mixed with olive oil and salt, were below average. The olive oil flavor was too strong. My vegan daughter didn’t like them. Personally, I think the recipe should have had you mix half the ghee with olive oil to fry the schnitzel, and use the rest of the ghee with the mashed potatoes. Commenters also suggest adding a couple of crushed garlic cloves to the potatoes.

The real star of the meal was the kale, however. It was dressed with a “creamy mustard dressing” which is just Dijon mustard and mayo, mixed with honey and salt. It was delicious – I don’t even like kale but I ate the whole thing (my daughter didn’t want to even try it, and I figured it’ll be soggy tomorrow). I’ll definitely try this dressing on other stuff (recipe below).

All the ingredients for this kit were there and they were fresh. I love that Blue Apron includes ghee for cooking rather than relying of you having butter at home (as HelloFresh does). And I also loved the container for the egg.

The only mild inconveniences is that it’s winter, and I don’t keep my house particularly warm, so the honey was crystalized by the time I went to use it. The ghee was also pretty hard. Don’t refrigerate either when you get them – at least in winter.

The meal was all in all satisfying – though I did eat all the kale by myself. It was also relatively quick and easy to prepare. And it’s also easy to recreate at home with your own ingredients.

I paid $12.50, or $6.25 per serving, for this kit with a sign-in promo. It was worth this but probably not the $20 regular price.

Creamy Mustard-Dressed Kale

  • 2 oz kale or fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • salt to taste

If using Kale, remove central stem from kale leaves, then cut into strips.

in a medium bowl, whisk together the mayo, honey and mustard. Season. Add kale and mix well, using your hands to make sure all the leaves are coated.



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.



Ceramic Knives – A love, hate relationship

Yesterday, I was shopping at Grocery Outlet when I came upon a set of Good Cooking ceramic knives. I don’t have a smart phone so I couldn’t look at reviews for them, but at $30 for the set I figured they were cheap enough to take a chance on them. They were worth pretty much what I paid for them and no more.

I’ve been using Kyocera ceramic knives for years, and I just love how sharp they are. Cutting vegetables or meats is a breeze with them. Plus I’ve never had to resharpen them. Unfortunately, a couple of years ago my trusted Kyocera “bread” knife broke while I was cutting some tough vegetable and later, it developed a chip.

Mike got me a Kyocera set of knives for Christmas that year, and they were just as good as my previous one as far as sharpness went. But the chef’s knife in the set – the one I use most often – almost immediately developed a chip and then another, and then the tip broke off (when I was washing it, I think).

I love using those knives – but they’re too expensive to be this disposable. Kyocera presumably will replace knives damaged due to a manufacturer defect – but I’m not sure if being easily broken is a “defect” or a nature of the product. Amazon reviews of the knives are filled with photos of chipped knives. I wrote to Kyocera with photos of my knives, but have not yet heard back.

Meanwhile, the Good Cooking knives are not nearly as sharp as the Kyocera. They work more like regular steel knives. This is likely because they are thicker than the Kyocera.

I assume, for that reason, these knives will last longer – but only time will tell. Reviews online are not particularly encouraging.

If anyone knows of a brand of ceramic knives that are both very sharp and don’t get easily broken, please comment below.


Meal Kit Review: HelloFresh’ Sirloin and Horseradish Cream Sauce with Garlic Bread and Roasted Carrots

Rating 5/10

This meal kit for Sirloin and Horseradish Cream Sauce with Garlic Bread and Roasted Carrots may be the first HelloFresh kit that really failed to impress me. It was acceptable dinner fare, but very pedestrian. There were no new flavors here, no tricks, no recipes I’d care to copy and repeat. It was ultimately what it looks like: meat with carrots and garlic bread, with some onions and sour cream. I’ve had it all before (indeed, I had pretty much the same dish concept from EveryPlate – HelloFresh’ cheaper meal kit brand). Moreover, it seems to me that HelloFresh is trying to cut corners and send out cheaper ingredients and ask cooks to include more and more staples of their own to the meals.

The main ingredient of this meal was the sirloin and I was unimpressed with the quality. The meat was tough and wasn’t particularly flavorful. The two steaks sent had very different shapes from each other and, as you can see above, they were partly discolored, which took from their visual appeal (at least before cooking).

The steak was stopped with sliced onions cooked with beef stock which were fine, but unremarkable. I wondered if HelloFresh was cutting corners by not including demi-glace instead of the stock concentrate.

The accompanying horseradish sauce was also disappointing. It was basically sour cream with a few green onions and horseradish powder. I think it might have been better with some prepared horseradish.

The carrots were just carrots – not my thing but my husband happily ate them just like he has every other time a kit has included carrots.

Finally, the garlic bread included the same “semi-baguette” buns that were included in the EveryPlate meal I referenced above. Once again, I really liked the consistency of the buns. I didn’t like that I had to provide my own butter – I understand that from EveryPlate, but I expect more from HelloFresh -, and I specially didn’t like that the kit included garlic powder instead of fresh garlic.

At the end of the day, however, I am likely to blame for choosing this kit. But I’ve noticed that I’m not particularly excited by many of HelloFresh’ kits – I’ll be suspending for several weeks now as I can’t find much in their upcoming menu I actually want to eat.

Update: I have 3 referrals for 1-week free of HelloFresh. E-mail me if you’d like one.