Meal Kit Reviews: EveryPlate is Pretty Good for the Price

EveryPlate is a budget meal kit brand launched by HelloFresh, which has found it difficult to keep customers due to the relatively high price of their meals. It offers simpler meals than its parent company, with fewer fancy ingredients. It also only offers 5 choices a week, one of which is a ” premium” meal and costs $6 more per kit, which helps keep their prices low. At $13 per 2-portion kit (including shipping costs), it’s considerably cheaper than HelloFresh’s $20 regular kits. But exactly because they have fewer ingredients, they are also easier and quicker to put together and cook.

The Plans

EveryPlate has two plans: 3 meals for 2 people per week for $30 + $9 shipping (so $39) and 3 meals for 4 people per week for $60 + $9 shipping. That means that for the 2-person plan, you get are paying $6.50 per person per meal – cheaper than other services, but not the $5 they advertise.

Use this link to get $20 off your first box.

EveryPlate’s reduced costs are achieved by offering fewer meal choices, each with fewer ingredients, reducing assembly time by not separating ingredients by recipe in the box and by not including some ingredients their recipes call for (e.g. butter & ketchup).

The Food

EveryPlate offers four meal choices a week plus a premium choice that costs $3pp/$6 per kit more. The premium choice is usually steak.

The meals are usually uncomplicated American favorites, things such as grilled cheese sandwich with tomato sauce, burgers, baked pastas and the now-popular “bowls”. Most meals include pork, chicken or sausages – there is rarely a vegetarian meal.

For me, the lack of choices means that, despite its affordability, I couldn’t use this meal kit every week, as I seldom can find three meals out of the four they offer that at least two people in my house would like.



The ingredients, in general, were of good quality. The meats were tasty and at least as good as supermarket meats. I particularly liked the ranch steak. The produce was hit and miss. I got a yellow onion instead of the green onion the recipe called for. The tomato didn’t arrive ripe – but it was fine two days later when I went to cook that recipe. The garlic and the limes were old, however. Fortunately, I was able to get a few good garlic cloves out of the garlic for the recipes that needed them, but neither lime could produce much juice.

While some meal kits include all the ingredients you’ll need, save for salt, pepper and cooking oil – EveryPlate is more stingy. They require you to use (and have!) your own butter, sugar, flour and ketchup, for example. As not everyone has a stocked pantry, make sure you read what each recipe calls for before ordering it.

The Shipping & Delivery

EveryPlate delivers their boxes (at least to my zipcode) on Wednesdays. I got a shipping notification on Tuesday. My box was delivered in the late morning, but it’s not guaranteed that it won’t be later in the day. For that reason, it’s probably not a good idea to plan to make one of their kits for dinner that night. The problem is that kits are usually most useful during weeknights – but if you use your first one on Thursday night, you’ll either have to make the last one during the weekend or leave it until Monday. The meats seem to be vacuum sealed so that I don’t think that would be a problem – but given how non-fresh some of the produce was, I wouldn’t have wanted to wait that long.

The Packaging

Like other meal kits, EveryPlate comes in a cardboard box. This one is on the small side and came more beaten up than others I’ve gotten. It also was carelessly sealed.

The ingredients were all thrown together inside an insulated bag. Dried ingredients were in a box on top of a freezer pack, with items needing refrigeration underneath them. The carelessness in putting the materials in the box resulted in one of the BBQ packet arriving open.

Unlike other kits, the ingredients didn’t come in individual bags for each recipe and they didn’t have stickers indicating to what recipe they belonged. Rather, they were all mixed in together. This turned out to not be an issue. As there were fewer ingredients that in other kits, I simply kept the dry ingredients in the box on my kitchen counter, and put the meats and sour cream (the only ingredients that needed refrigeration) in the fridge.

As with most other meal kits (save for Sun Basket), the box can be recycled, but the liner and freezer packs cannot.

The Results

These are the three meals I made during my first (and so far only) week of EveryPlate:

Carne Asada Fajitas with Pickled Onions and Lime cream
This dish was just OK
Steak Tagliata with Tomato Jam, Creamy Kale and Garlic Bread
A surprisingly enjoyable dish with good quality beef.
BBQ Pork Sloppy Joes with Pickled Onions and Sweet Potato Wedges
I made a mess of this, but the pork was still tasty

All in all, I was happy with them. They were relatively easy to make, quicker than other meal kits, and they were tasty. The portions were also OK – though in some cases this was because of the empty carbs (just look at the size of that garlic bread in comparison to the beef!).

Cancelling the service was also very easy – just do it online. A week after I cancelled, I got an offer to come back and get 6 free meals. Alas, I can’t find three meals that two of us would like in the upcoming menus.


Meal Kit Review: EveryPlate’s Carne Asada Fajitas

Rating 5/10

Tacos & fajitas seem to be one of the most common meals offered by meal kit companies. I’ve ordered them a few times, simply because I didn’t see anything else they offered that we might like, but it’s not a top choice for me. I can get three ready-made tacos of a similar size at the Mexican Restaurant in the corner for $13, and I don’t have to spend the time cooking them. Or, of course, I can make them myself for a few dollars.

Still, some of the taco recipes I’ve made have been good and I’m always up for a discovery. This recipe for carne asada fajitas with pickled onions and lime cream, however, did not produce one. The tacos/fajitas were pretty straightforward and just OK flavor wise – indeed, they might have been better without the southwestern flavoring.

They were fairly easy and quick to make and at $13 for a meal for six tacos, they were pretty cheap.

I got this kit for free, with a special one-time code that someone gave me. The regular cost for the two serving kit is $13, including shipping. Use this link to get $20 off your first box.


Meal Kit Review: EveryPlate’s BBQ Pork Sloppy Joes

everyplate sloppy joes
I didnt manage to take my own photo when I made these.

Rating: 7/10

Sometimes a meal kit fails you, and sometimes you fail a meal kit. This time I think both of us failed each other. I think this could have been a pretty good meal kit if I’d had all of the ingredients, and if I had been more careful while putting it together. As things were, my husband got a decent sandwich – but not really a sloppy joe – and I got to eat the remaining filling with a spoon. At least it was pretty tasty.

This EveryPlate kit consists of ground pork which is supposed to be cooked with BBQ sauce and ketchup, potato buns, an onion to quickly pickle and sweet potatoes to bake. One of the two packets of BBQ sauce my kit came with was open, so I had to toss it away. Unfortunately, when I went to make the pork, I realized I didn’t have any more BBQ sauce at home. Even worse, the kit called for using my own ketchup – and I was also out of it. At the end, I was only able to cook the ground pork in a the single packet of BBQ sauce. Amazingly, this still gave a very nice flavor to the pork.

I didn’t try the pickled onions, but my husband raved about them. I’m thus including the recipe below.

As for the buns, I burnt my first two when I put them in the toaster – and then dropped them (thus my lack of a sandwich myself). I also managed to burn the sweet potatoes. Indeed, one of the things that did not work with this kit is that the sweet potatoes require that you preheat the oven (something which takes at least 15-20 minutes) and then you cook them for 20-25 minutes. The rest of the meal takes a very short time to make. So we were ready to eat far before the sweet potatoes were ready – which is why I forgot about them.

I got this kit for free, with a special one-time code that someone gave me. The regular cost for the two serving kit is $13, including shipping. Use this link to get $20 off your first box.

Quick Pickled Onions

  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • juice from one lime
  • pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Let to pickle for at least 10 minutes.

Sloppy Joes

  • drizzle of oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1/3 cup BBQ sauce
  • 1/4 cup Ketchup
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp lime juice

Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, season with salt & pepper, and fry, stirring frequently, until soft – 4-5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the ground pork and cook, stirring and separating, until browned, about 4-5 minutes. Add the bbq sauce, ketchup, water and lime juice. Cook, stirring frequently, until it thickens. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve in burger buns topped with the pickled onions.


Meal Kit Review: EveryPlate’s Steak Tagliata

Rating: 8/10

Last week I tried EveryPlate meal kits. At $39 a week for three 2-serving meals, it’s one of the cheapest services out there – though when shipping is included each portion is $6.50, not the $5 they advertise. Premium dishes (those including steak, I’m guessing) are $3 more pp, or $9.50. My first week was free, as I got a one-time promo code from a current user.

Of the three meals I had, the Steak Tagliata with Tomato Jam, Creamy Kale and Garlic Bread (a premium kit) was by far the best and as good as any meal I’ve gotten in a meal kit. The beef was ranch steak, a cut I’ve mostly gotten in meal kits, and it was tender and delicious – certainly a cut above the meat I get at Safeway. I also very much enjoy the tomato jam. It was easy to make and delicious. There was too much of it for the steak – but I liked it so much that I ate it by itself.

The garlic bread consisted of two buns (they called them demi baguettes but they had a sweeter, softer consistency – they were clearly buns); each was individually wrapped in sealed plastic. They were surprisingly good as well.

Finally, while I didn’t like the kale – not a surprise, as I don’t like most vegetables – my 14-yo ate it.

The portion size was just right, neither of us were left hungry – though it may have been because of how much garlic bread we got.

The ingredients were mostly fine, though the garlic was old and it came already sprouting. The tomato wasn’t ripe when it arrived, but it was just right two days later when I actually cooked this meal. Of course, by then the kale was just starting to dry out.

Note, this meal kit requires the use of your own butter – most more expensive kits include it.

I got this kit for free, with a special one-time code that someone gave me. The regular cost for this two serving kit is $19, including shipping. Use this link to get $20 off your first box.

RECIPES

Tomato Jam

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 Roma tomato, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • salt & pepper to taste

Pour oil in a saute pan and heat over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and cook until softened, stirring often. Add the tomato, vinegar and water. Cook, stirring frequently, until very soft – about 4-5 minutes. Stir in the sugar. Season with salt & pepper. Turn off heat and serve as a relish.


Refrigerated Meal Review: Heat.Eat.Done Chicken Marsala with Penne Pasta

Chicken Marsala with Penne Pasta Review

Last week I found this refrigerated tray meal for Chicken Marsala with Penne Pasta at Grocery Outlet, and decided to give it a try. I love chicken marsala. At $5 for what is really a portion for one person (unless you are eating something else), it’s not exactly cheap for a pre-made, refrigerated meal, specially when bought at a bargain store, but I figured it was worth a try. Unfortunately, that was all that it was worth.

The chicken in the dish was incredibly dry. Now, this is very unusual for microwavable meals, but somehow Heat.Eat.Done managed it. The sauce also didn’t actually taste of Marsala wine – it lacked the sweetness of the wine -, and it was too liquidy and tasteless. I would not buy it again.


Restaurant Review: Xiang Yuan Xiao Long Bao, San Leandro

The other night I decided to take Mike out to dinner. One of our daughters didn’t want to go out and the other one was out, so it seemed like a great opportunity for a date night – and for trying a new restaurant.

After our first choice didn’t work out, we ended up at Xiang Yuan Xiao Long Bao – which occupies the space that Ming Tasty had for many years. It was an inspired choice, as neither of us had ever had Shanghainese food per se, and we love trying new things.

Given the name of the restaurant, we of course had to try the Xiang Long Bao (also known as XLB) from the Dim Sum menu (which seems to be available at any time). We ordered both the pork ($7) and crab ($8.5) versions. Not having XLBs before, we were unprepared for what we got: a steamed dumpling filled with both meat and broth! To accomplish this, cooks add pork skin to a broth and allows the collagen from the skin to melt into the liquid. The pork skin and veggies are discarded, and the now collagen-rich broth is refrigerated and allowed to solidify. It’s then chopped and added to the dumplings along with the filling. Ingenious and delicious.

I wasn’t sure how to eat the dumplings, so at first I broke them with my chopsticks and just ate each part separately. Later I adopted Mike’s method of just putting the whole thing inside my mouth (make sure they cool down before you do this). They were much better that way, as flavors and textures are allowed to combine in your mouth. Apparently, the proper way to eat them (or at least the way used by the restaurant reviewer at the East Bay Express) is to bite off the top, allow the broth to cool, and then to sip it, before eating the rest of the dumpling. I think I like Mike’s way better, though they are a little bit big (and I have a small mouth).

We also ordered the green onion pancake ($4). This was very oily, and therefore pretty filling. It was a bit bland, but it was great with the broth from the dumplings. I’d order it again, but would want some sort of tasty sauce to go along with it.

Finally, we had the pan friend pork buns ($8). These were unlike any pork buns I’ve had before. Instead of bbq pork, they had the same soupy filling as the dumplings, though with less liquid. Once I abandoned my expectations that they be sweet, I found them very good. They were also easier to eat, and I’d definitely order them again.

The restaurant itself is in a good location in downtown San Leandro, but suffers from a very generic building. Still, it’s nicely decorated with photos of Shanghai at the turn of the 20th century – I was somewhat surprised of how western it looked.

Image result for shanghai 1920s

Service was competent and polite.

All in all, I look forward to returning.

Read the East Bay Express review for more suggestions on dishes to try.


Barilla Veggie Pasta Review

Like pretty much everyone in the whole world, my kids love pasta. Alas, I wish it was more nutritious – so whenever I can find some pasta that seems better, I give it a try.

Barilla veggie pasta is made with zucchini and spinach pure and supposedly gives you a full serving of veggies. However, it doesn’t have any more fiber than regular pasta – perhaps because it’s not made with whole wheat. It does have some vitamin A, though I think it may be better to get this by adding some shredded carrots to the pasta sauce you’re using (something which I just thought of, so never tried – but will now). Still, substituting this pasta for regular pasta is a painless way to get a bit more nutrition.

There are some minuses, however. Now that Barilla has abandoned its anti-gay practices, the main one is the price. It can cost about twice as much as bargain regular spaghetti brands, and it costs 25% more than the regular Barilla pasta. However, it’s still far cheaper than other enhanced pasta brands. It’s sold in a 12 oz package, which is perfect for a four-person family, but may be too little for larger families.

In all, I’ll probably buy it, particularly when it’s on sale, though I’d like to try the more nutritious brands as well.



Ethiopia Restaurant Review (Berkeley, CA)

Last week my 16-yo daughter actually got a craving for Ethiopian food. We don’t eat Ethiopian food very frequently – maybe once or twice a year now -, so it was a surprising craving in her part. And as she said, how privileged is she that she gets to have a craving for Ethiopian food and have it satisfied.

We decided on Ethiopia Restaurant in Berkeley because they have a great Groupon deal: two appetizers, four entrees, two desserts and four glasses of wine for just $40. You need to add tax and tip, but I can’t imagine anywhere else you can get a deal anywhere as good as this (if you know of one, let me know!).

We had been to Ethiopia Restaurant before, and this time it didn’t disappoint either: the food was just delicious. We started with the sambousas, the Arab/African version of Indian samosas: triangles of phillo-dough style pastry, filled with either lentils or meat, fried and served with a red sauce. They were pretty good.

My 16-yo ordered the nene’wee, a sampler of 5 vegetarian dishes you pick from 12 choices. She absolutely loved the yekik alicha, a yellow split pea dish that they also serve as a side for other dishes. Next time, she may just order this. She was happy enough with the kinche (bulgur), but the other three dishes she chose were too spicy for her. The engudai we’t, a mushroom “stew” (actually mushrooms cooked in a butter or oil based sauce), tasted very much like t’ibs wet, its beef version. The sauce was exactly the same. The yemisier we’t (red lentils) and shiro we’t (garbazo beans) seemed to have different sauces, but they were equally spicy.

The meat-eaters among us ordered the yebeg alicha (lamb “stew”), yebeg t’ibs (sauteed lamb) and the meat combo which comes with doro we’t (chicken “stew”), t’ibs wet and yebeg alicha. They brought the first two dishes in a huge tray, on top of injera, but they forgot to add the third – so the tray looked very empty. It wasn’t until we were finished with the food that we were able to reach out to call the waitress and have her bring the meat combination (we were still hungry, so we needed it). I got the distinct impression that you get more food by ordering your meal individually rather than family style, so next time we’ll do that.

All of us really liked the yebeg dishes, though one of us had to be told it was beef for her to try it (here is hoping she doesn’t read this review). We particularly liked the sauteed lamb dish. The t’ibs and doro wet dishes were both spicy, though my husband enjoyed them. The rest of us are wimps.

Whether individual or family style, dishes are served with the split pea stew outlined above and a simple salad of lettuce, tomatoes and onions. We ordered a bowl of rice which my daughter didn’t like (my husband tasted it and said it had butter in it), but which they didn’t charge us for. The injera is made with teff and was cold, but otherwise good.

For dessert, one of my daughters had the baklava, which was a pretty small piece, and the other the chocolate mousse pie. They both seemed happy.

I had a glass of the chardonay, which was sweet but good. My daughter had a sparkling apple cider – they didn’t charge us for that either, but we declined the 3 other glasses of wine.

Service was good and friendly, but the two waitresses were overwhelmed with the full dining room – that’s why it was very difficult to get their attention during the meal.

Groupon says you can buy a voucher for this deal every 30 days, so I’m planning to go again next month.

Ethiopia Restaurant
2955 Telegraph Ave
Berkeley, CA
(510) 843-1992
M-Su 11:30 AM – 10 PM
http://orderethiopiarestaurant.com







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


Braised Leeks with Lemon

I love leeks and this recipe did not disappoint – when I first made it. The leeks were delicious and melt-in-your-mouth. I loved them. However, I made them in advance for my 2018 Christmas Eve dinner and they didn’t reheat well (on the stove). They were less flavorful and the consistency was not nearly as good. Indeed, practically nobody ate them. So make them, but don’t make them in advance.

This recipe will serve 2, increase quantities as needed.

Ingredients

  • 3 large leeks
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest
  • 4 small or medium leeks, tough outer leaves discarded and leeks trimmed to about 7 inches long and cut lengthwise into quarters or eightDirections

Directions

Trim leeks, discarding roots, leaves and tough outer leaves. Cut each leek into 1″ pieces. Place in a bowl with water for 15 minutes, making sure to remove any grit.

Heat butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Transfer leeks from the bowl to the pan – do not dry. Cook the leeks for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add broth and lemon zest. Cover the pan and braise leeks until very tender, around 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Adapted from a recipe at Epicurious.com