After being off meal kits all summer (both because I wasn’t cooking and because I didn’t get any good “come back” offers), I went back to HelloFresh after getting a “65% off your first box” deal. Apparently I had forgotten just how hard it was to find meals that I actually wanted to make, which is why I ended up selecting this kit for Mozzarella-Stuffed Meatball Bake
with Cavatappi and a Crispy Panko Topping.
Truth be told, I love pasta baked with sauce and cheese, and I’m a pretty big fan of good meatballs as well. Still, this is the sort of dish I can easily make on my own and, as it turned out, much better.
There were lots of things wrong with this dish. First, baking the meatballs was a mistake, they were left dry and with a crusty shell. The recipe also called for too much salt. Second, the tomato sauce was pretty tasteless. No wonder, making a pasta sauce requires a long simmering town. This dish would have been much better with a commercial pasta sauce. Finally, the mozzarella cheese was pretty bland. The dish could really have used some Parmesan cheese instead of the bread crumbs that was included.
I paid ~$8.50 for this meal kit for two people with the discount.
What a complete waste of calories! Seriously, if you are going to eat all that pasta and all that cheese, make it worth it! Alas, despite the presence of two cheeses, this dish is very, very mild. You can barely taste the cheese – it would seem mascarpone cheese completely dilutes the flavor of Parmesan.
And as if 1,000 calories and over 50 grams of fat for a pretty “blah” dish wasn’t bad enough, I was hungry again a few hours after eating this!
On the plus side, this was easy to make. And the broccoli was fresh and tasty. But there was just no point to this meal.
I paid a tad over $6 for this kit, or $3 per serving with a promo.
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 Ingredients||My Ingredients||Cost|
|½ lb Fusilli Bucati Pasta||½ lb chickpea rigattoni pasta||$2|
|2 cloves garlic||3 cloves garlic||pantry|
|1 ear corn||2 ears corn||$4|
|1 Summer Squash||1 Zucchini||$1|
|½ lb Heritage Globe Or Cocktail Tomatoes||10 oz cherry tomatoes||$2|
|¼ tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes||skipped||N/A|
|2 Tbsps Butter||2 tsp butter||pantry|
|2 Tbsps Grated Pecorino Cheese||Romano/Parmesan/Asiago cheese mix||pantry|
|1 bunch Parsley||6 basil leaves||garden|
Pasta with Zucchini, Corn, & Tomatoes
This recipe feeds four, it doubles the recipe in the kit.
- 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)
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.
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.
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.
I got this recipe from Allrecipes.com and it’s absolutely delicious! Heart attack worthy, but well, worthy.
- 1 package pasta (penne, ziti, rigatoni or something of the sort).
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- 1/2 large onion, chopped
- 1 lb mild Italian sausage
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 15-oz can tomato sauce
- 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (with garlic & basil if available)
- 1 6 oz can tomato paste
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
Boil pasta until it’s al dente. Drain and place in an 13″ x 9″ baking dish.
In a large sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sausage and cook until browned. Pour out and discard excessive fat. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the white wine and deglace the pan. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Mix well and simmer for 10 minutes.
Pour the sauce over the pasta and mix well.
Sprinkle both cheeses on top of the pasta and bake in a 350°F. oven for 20 minutes.
Mike, the kids and I have now gone to Luigi’s for dinner twice – once, in May 2012, when coming back from the Redding area after watching the amazing lunar eclipse, and more recently, last November, when coming back home from Oregon. Both times we had quite a good meal.
There are two words to describe Luigi’s (OK, maybe they should count as tree): cheap and large portions. Indeed, Luigi’s has the largest variety of pizza sizes we’ve ever seen. You can get a 10″ mini – but also a 30″ “Big Luigi”. It’s big enough for a large crowd.
I can’t recall exactly what we’ve had in those two occasions, but I know we’ve sampled both the pizza and the pasta and we’ve been happy with both. The pasta seems freshly made (but I’ve only had their beef ravioli, $4.60), their huge meatballs are quite tasty and the pizza features fresh ingredients.
There is another pizza restaurant in Red Bluff I want to try, but this one is conveniently located by the freeway and easy to find, so I’m sure we’ll stop by again.
Luigi’s Pizza and Pasta
75 Belle Mill Rd.
Red Bluff, CA
Su-Th 10:30 AM – 9 PM
F-Sa 10:30 AM – 10 PM
This “recipe” (which, as usual, I got from epicurious.com) has no right to be as good as it is. Basically, all it is pasta sauce doctored by adding wine, italian sausage and mushrooms. How simple is that? And yet, I really enjoyed it and was left wanting more. Mike, on the other hand, did not like it. He found that the tomato flavor from the sauce overwhelmed the sausage flavor (but I used an arrabiata sauce, a milder marinara sauce shouldn’t have those issues). He wouldn’t want me to make it again. If it was just me, however, I’d make it. It’s quick and easy and I did enjoy it.
I served it, as recommended in the recipe, over broiled Parmesan polenta. The two went well together, this sauce is very intense and needs a tasteless starch to add mildness. You could also serve it over pasta, couscous, rice or another grain.
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 lb sweet Italian sausage
- 8 oz sliced mushrooms
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1 1/2 cups pasta sauce
Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until brown, breaking it with a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes. Remove the sausage using a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Turn down the heat to medium and add the sliced mushrooms. Cook until they soften, another 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until half of it is reduced – about 2 minutes. Add the pasta sauce, stir, and cook over low heat for 5 minutes.
I got this recipe for Farfalle with Sausage, Tomatoes, and Cream from epicurious.com (where else?) and quite enjoyed it. This is comfort food at its best, nothing out of this world or fancy but it can really hit the spot.
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 lb sweet Italian sausage, loose
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- salt & pepper
Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ausage and saute until it’s no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion is soft and the sausage has browned, about 3 more minutes. Mix in the tomato and cream, reduce heat to low and simmer for 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper if needed.
Serve on pasta with Parmesan cheese.
I wouldn’t say I’m the biggest fan of Gordon Ramsay’s (I’d probably have to eat in his restaurants to really appreciate him), but I do like watching Kitchen Nightmares from time to time – even though the program is all in all pretty repetitive.
Anyway, I saw Ramsay’s cookbook (Gordon Ramsay’s Fast Food) at the library and thought I’d give it a try. During the week, I do need recipes that can be done rather quickly. Plus I wanted to see if he’s as good as he believes.
One thing I can say, is that his book reflects his personality, at least as seen on TV. The book is completely frantic, going from one topic to another apparently randomly. Instead of having the recipes organized by ingredient, they are intercepted by recipes from different cuisines or courses. A chapter on working lunches, for example, is followed by one on Mexican flavors. The book is also very colorful and has pretty pictures of all the included dishes. The recipes are relatively simple, though not necessarily cheap.
The first dish I tried was his Pasta with pancetta, leek & mushrooms. Rather than spend $ on pancetta, I used bacon. I did use creme fraiche, which was a waste of money (I bought it at Safeway, it’s half as cheap at Trader Joe’s). I can’t imagine it made too much of a difference. In any case, I was not impressed. The dish was quite bland. It’d have been much better (but much more caloric) with twice the amount of bacon. I did add a lot of Parmesan cheese, and that helped – but then again, pasta with Parmesan cheese by itself is pretty good. I would not make this dish again. You can find my adaptation of the recipe below.
The second dish was Baked pork chops with a piquant sauce, a recipe which you can also find online. I followed this one pretty closely as well, though I used a different type of mushrooms and used dried thyme instead of fresh (because I couldn’t find fresh thyme last time I went to Safeway). My one big mistake was misreading “1 Tbsp” sugar for “1 tsp” sugar – so the resulting sauce was a tad too sweet. Mike liked the overall dish, but I wasn’t too impressed yet again. It just seemed like an average dish, not bad, not great. I probably wouldn’t make it again either. My version of the recipe (with the correct amount of sugar) is below as well.
BTW, IMHO, the recipe produces too much sauce for the pork chops, I’d either reduce it by a third or use it with 6 pork chops. I served them with buttermilk mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.
Finally, I made Sticky Lemon Chicken, another recipe easily found online. Indeed, it seems that you can find many of his recipes online, so it may not be worth it to buy his cookbook at all (it’s pretty sad that he has to recycle old recipes into a new book, rather than coming up with new ones). In any case, even though I skipped the fresh thyme and parsley listed in the original recipe, the results were quite good. I should say that the recipe calls for 1 large chicken cut into pieces – there is no suggestion that the chicken should be boneless. HOWEVER, as I suspected, my bone-in chicken parts did not cook in the 15 minutes it takes for the sauce to cook. I’d suggest that you either use boneless chicken for this recipe, or be prepared to cook the chicken for at least half an hour. I’d also suggest that you cover the dish while cooking. My suggestions are incorporated into the recipe below.
When l originally wrote this posting, I forgot dessert! Indeed, I made one of the desserts from the book, the Banana mousse with butterscotch ripple, it was very easy, quite good and extremely caloric. Still, it’s definitely the sort of dessert you can whip up when you really, really, really want something sweet to finish a meal – and happen to have both bananas and whipping cream handy. I did like how easy it was to make the butterscotch. This was my second adventure in candy making (the first being toffee).
- 10 oz dried penne
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 6 slices of bacon, chopped
- 1 large leek, finely sliced
- 8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
- salt & pepper
- 2 Tbsp. creme fraiche
- 1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
- Parmesan cheese
Boil the penne in salted water until al dente.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil to medium-high in a large skillet. Add the bacon and cook until golden brown. Add the leek and mushrooms; season with salt & pepper. Cook over high heat until the leeks are tender, about 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently.
Drain the pasta and immediately mix with the leek/mushroom mixture and the creme fraiche. Season again with salt & pepper. Sprinkle with the parsley and mix. Serve with Parmesan cheese.
- olive oil
- 4 pork chops
- sea salt & pepper
- 1 tsp. thyme
- 3 rosemary sprigs (leaves only)
- 1/2 head of garlic, separated into cloves but left unpeeled
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 red Jalapeño, seeded and chopped
- 8oz white button mushrooms, sliced
- 14 oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 tsp. sugar
Preheat the oven to 400F. Lightly oil a baking sheet large enough to accommodate the pork chops.
Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of the pork chops. Place in the baking sheet and sprinkle with thyme. Put the rosemary leaves and unpeeled garlic cloves on top of the pork chops. Drizzle with olive oil. Put in the oven and cook until done 20-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Heat 3 Tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan and add the onion, red pepper, jalapeño and mushrooms. Cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and add sugar, mix. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10-12 minutes, until the onions are tender and the sauce has thickened.
Once the pork chops are ready, let them rest for 5 minutes. Plate them, pour any liquid remaining in the baking sheet onto the sauce, and mix well. Spoon the sauce onto the pork chops and serve.
- 5 lb bone-in chicken pieces (or equivalent boneless chicken)
- sea salt & black pepper
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 head of garlic, halved horizontally
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 3 Tbsp. honey
- 1/4 cup hot water
- 1 lemon, finely sliced
Salt and pepper the chicken. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and garlic and sprinkle with thyme. Brown the chicken on both sides.
Add the sherry vinegar and boil until reduced by half. Add the soy sauce and honey and shake the pan to mix. Add the hot water and lemon slices. Mix well. If using bone-in chicken, cover the pan and cook until the chicken is almost done (half an hour or so). Then uncover and boil the liquid until syrupy. If using boneless chicken, cook uncovered until the chicken is done and the liquid is syrupy, around 10 minutes, turning once.
- 4 large ripe bananas
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 1/4 cups whipping cream
- squeeze of lemon juice
- 1 oz semisweet chocolate
Place the bananas in the freezer for 1-2 hours, if possible. When they are ready, peel and chop them.
Meanwhile, make the butterscoth sauce by putting the sugar, butter and 2/3 cup of whipping cream in a small heavy pot and cooking it over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the butter is melted, stirring constantly. Let it bubble for a couple of minutes, still stirring, and then remove from the heat and let the sauce cool down completely.
Put the bananas, the lemon juice and the remaining whipping cream in a blender bowl. Blend until smooth and creamy.
To assemble, spoon some butterscotch along the sides of 4 glasses or serving bowls. Pour in the banana mousse and top with some more butterscotch. Grate some chocolate on top of each bowl and serve.