Tag: Refrigerated Meals Reviews (Page 1 of 2)

CookUnity Review

Great Tasting Ready-to-warm Single-Serve Meals

Updated in September, 2023

(Click to see reviews for meals we tried)

CookUnity is a that sends you ready-to-warm refrigerated prepared meals, in single-serving trays. The meals can be warmed by microwaving them for 2-3 minutes or heating them in a pre-heated oven for 8-15 minutes. They are basically a competitor to Freshly, which I’ve reviewed before. They are, however, far superior in quality, flavor and variety. The meals taste very much like the leftovers from a high-quality, perhaps adventurous, home or restaurant meal. Indeed, despite the fact that they come pre-cooked and all in one tray, I’d say they rival the best meal kits.

Single-serve meals do serve a very niche clientele. They didn’t work for us as a family, but now that my kids are away at college, they fit my “I don’t feel like cooking” periods.

The Food

CookUnity’s main selling point is the wide selection of prepared meals they offer, though this has changed greatly as of lately. They used to offer over a hundred choices of dishes, more than any subscription meal kit or supermarket that I know, but they have lately downsized to about 60. They run the gamut of proteins and cuisines, from the exotic to the mundane, from the high caloric, to the diet minded. There are ample choices for vegetarians, vegans and those who keep special diets.

The second selling point in the taste and quality. While there are some duds, most meals are quite good and some are even excellent. The meals included special ingredients, such as hand-made sausages and forbidden rice, and mostly offered a balance of meats to vegetables to carbs. All the nutritional values are listed so you can choose when you order.

Most meals are well sized to fill without overstuffing.

We tried both microwaving and heating them in the oven, and there wasn’t a huge difference in results – with the exception of steak. Few steaks could survive reheating in the microwave, so if you don’t want to fire up your oven, go for other types of meats.

The meals come with an expiration date of either 5 or 7 days, so if you are getting for the whole week you probably should look at the dates when you get them and prioritize the ones that will expire first.

As far as I can tell, CookUnity contracts with professional restaurant chefs in major cities where CookUnity has commercial kitchens, and the chefs conceive of the meals and prepare them. In addition to providing chefs with the kitchens, CookUnity also buys the ingredients, packages and ships the meals and is in charge of marketing and sales. All the chefs need to do is cook.

The Plans

CookUnity’s basic meals cost between $11 and $13.50 each depending on how many you order. Some of the meals – progressively more of them – which have more expensive ingredients have an added cost, usually $4 to $7. The cost is competitive with meal kits and take out, particular now that inflation has hit us hard. The meals were definitely large enough to satisfy – but pay attention to calories. Shipping used to be free, but is now about $11. Sale tax is also added.

It is easy to skip meals, and you can even suspend your account for up to 2 months. Unsubscribing is simple as well.

The Packaging

CookUnity meals come in a microwave and oven-safe tray made out of paper waste product with a plastic seal. They are not compostable, but CookUnity used to claim they were recyclable. However, while they have the recycle symbol on them, they don’t have a number. I am thus guessing they are not recyclable at all. It’s a pity, because if they used wax instead of plastic, they probably could be composted and would eliminate a lot of waste (though probably wouldn’t be oven safe).


The meals trays are covered by a plastic film that you throw away, and come with a paper sleeve listing the ingredients and nutrition facts, as well as cooking instructions and date of expiration, which can be recycled. Some meals have sauces or vegetables in removable plastic containers within the trays. You are supposed to remove these before you cook them. These containers are usually recyclable, or you can wash them and reuse them.

CookUnity ships their meals inside an insulated bag, with small freezer packs in the bottom and/or top. The bag and freezer packs are picked up when you get your next set of meals.

The Shipping & Delivery

CookUnity meals are now delivered

When I first ordered CookUnity they were shipping to my area through UPS. They were shipping on a Monday for Wednesday deliver. UPS was delayed with my first order, and they just sent it back. I got credit for the meals I didn’t get, which I used to order mostly the same meals a couple of weeks later.

Since then, they’ve changed deliveries in my area and now they apparently deliver the same day the food is prepared. I had no problems getting my meals in subsequent deliveries. Once they texted me to tell me they were going to be late, but weren’t.

Customer Service

Customer service has been stellar. They’ve been prompt in answering my e-mails, solved problems when they existed and responded to texts.

The Meals

Vegetarian | Soups, Sandwiches & Wraps | Tacos | Shrimp & Crab | White Fish | Salmon | Chicken | Duck | Meatballs | Steak | Beef | Lamb | Pork | Breakfast

These are some of the meals we tried. Photos and individual reviews follow the listing.

  • Spicy Peruvian Shrimp Chowder with Steamed Rice: A+
  • Creamy Polenta with Wild Mushroom Ragout & Porcini Cream: A
  • Cajun Seared Shrimp and Orzo Salad with Fennel Salad & Remoulade: A
  • Teriyaki Roasted Salmon with Brown Rice, Roasted Carrots & Brussels Sprouts: A
  • Roasted Salmon Teriyaki with Tricolor Quinoa & Roasted Romanesco: A
  • Chicken Parmesan with Marinara: A
  • Korean Flank Steak Rice Bowl (Steak Doep Bap) and Asparagus: A
  • Grilled Hanger Steak with Peruvian Pesto Linguine: A
  • Braised Lamb Sabzi with Cumin Seed Rice: A
  • Mushroom Ravioli with Sautéed Mushrooms in Truffle Cream Sauce: A-
  • Shrimp Pancit Canton Noodles: A-
  • Garlic Shrimp in XO Sauce with Steamed Wild Riceberry & Jasmine Rice: A-
  • Crab Cake & Creamy Remoulade with Zesty Corn & Pepper Salad: A-
  • Seared Salmon & Cauliflower Lentil Mujadara with Spicy Za’atar Chimichurri: A-
  • Chipotle Lime Salmon with Brussels Sprouts: A-
  • Southern Fried Chicken with Spicy Honey & Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes: A-
  • Chicken Marengo with Rice Pilaf: A-
  • Lamb and Pork Meatballs with Parmesan Polenta with Tomato-Basil Sauce: A-
  • Stewed Moroccan Lamb Meatballs with Brown Rice and Herb-Yogurt Sauce: A-
  • Hanger Steak and Coconut Forbidden Rice: A-
  • Churrasco Steak with Chimichurri Rojo Sauce and Cilantro-Lime Rice & Roasted Zucchini: A-
  • Blackened Hanger Steak with Chimmichurri Sauce & Curry Potato Gratin: A-
  • Nikkei-Style Steak Fajitas with Japanese Rice and Cilantro Sauce: A-
  • Homestyle Beef Goulash with Basmati Rice: A-
  • Guajillo Beef and Cheese Enchiladas: A-
  • Beef Burgundy & Whipped Potatoes with Crisp Roasted Brussels Sprouts: A-
  • Short Rib Ragu over Pappardelle Pasta with Fresh Ricotta: A-
  • Handmade Merguez Sausage in Moroccan Couscous Stew with Harissa: A-
  • Lamb Kebab with Turmeric Hummus and Roasted Sweet Potatoes: A-
  • Classic Québécois Poutine (Cheese Fries with Gravy) with Applewood Smoked Bacon: A-
  • Adobo Spare Ribs with Garlic Rice and Baby Bok Choy: A-
  • Spicy Beef Birria Tacos with Hibiscus Pickled Onions & Guacamole: B+
  • Lemon Baked Tilapia with Cajun Cream Sauce & Farro Salad: B+
  • Plantain Crusted Mahi Mahi with Arroz Moro: B+
  • BBQ Shrimp Boil with Andouille Sausage, Potatoes & Corn: B+
  • Shrimp Scampi over Spaghetti with Spiralized Zucchini: B+
  • Pork Al Pastor Tacos with Pineapple and Salsa Verde: B+
  • Spicy Yemenite Shrimp Curry with Jasmine Rice & Fresh Snap Peas: B+
  • Chili-Roasted Shrimp with Fresh Corn Grits & Pepper Jack Cheese: B+
  • Cajun Baked Swai Fish with Collard Greens & Pan Sauce: B+
  • Sweet and Sour Fish Fillet with Chinese Sausage & Fried Rice: B+
  • Moroccan Chicken & Couscous Tagine with Green Olives, Currants & Toasted Almonds: B+
  • Crispy Chicken Schnitzel with Mustard Mashed Potatoes & Tomato Salad: B+
  • Chicken Cordon Bleu with Pink Peppercorn Sauce with Peppercorn Sauce & Sautéed Green Beans: B+
  • Red Chile Braised Beef Tamale Salsa Verde & Mexican Crema: B+
  • Middle Eastern Braised Beef Flatbread with Parsley, Pine Nuts & Tahini-Yogurt-Mint Sauce: B+
  • Braised Lamb Shawarma with Pearl Couscous with Red Onion-Sumac Salad & Creamy Tahini: B+
  • Pasture-Raised Rack of Lamb with Creamy Potato Gratin: B+
  • Gochujang Baby Back Ribs: B+
  • Mushroom Ragu with Crispy Polenta Cakes & Porcini Cream: B
  • Classic Shrimp Gumbo with Rice Pilaf: B
  • Grilled Sea Bass with Lobster Sauce & Truffle Mashed Potatoes: B
  • Gingery Salmon Cakes with Sushi Rice and Cabbage Slaw: B
  • Turmeric & Tamarind Glazed Salmon with Roasted Zucchini & Rice: B
  • Creamy Miso Udon Noodles with Salmon & Spinach with Cremini Mushrooms: B
  • Greek-Style Chicken Gyro Pita Wrap with Handmade Tzatziki: B
  • Caribbean Chicken Curry with Sautéed Cabbage & Rice: B
  • Chicken Corn Korma with Green Peas Pulao: B
  • Desi Butter Chicken Breast with Cauliflower Mash: B
  • Halal Cart Style Chicken & Rice with Rice, Garlic Yogurt & Pickled Cabbage: B
  • Spiced Chicken With Pork Chorizo Roasted Peppers: B
  • Orange Pepper Duck Leg Confit with Creamy Herbed Potato Salad: B
  • Italian Meatballs with Homemade Tomato Sauce: B
  • Moroccan Lamb Meatballs: B
  • Miso Butter Flat Iron Steak with Cauliflower Purée & Sautéed Spinach: B
  • Beef Shank Peanut Stew with Vegetables & Rice: B
  • Rustic French Beef Ragu with Potato Gnocchi: B
  • Grilled Beef Lula Kabob with herbed tomato salad, Hummus & Pita: B
  • Masala Lamb Kebabs with Cucumber-Mint Yogurt & Dirty Rice: B
  • Brioche French Toast with Strawberries & Maple Syrup: B
  • Plant-Based Massaman Curry with Brown Rice and Peanuts: B-
  • Classic Croque Monsieur with Frisée Salad: B-
  • Cajun Blackened Swai with Caper-Dill Potato Salad: B-
  • Aleppo Spiced Cod with Roasted Brussels Sprouts: B-
  • Steak Diane over Garlic Fettuccine with Asparagus: B-
  • Tomato-Braised Chicken over Orecchiette: B-
  • Comforting Chicken Roganjosh with Spicy Roasted Cauliflower: B-
  • Belgian Chicken with Rice Pilaf & Creamed Kale : B-
  • Lemongrass BBQ Chicken with Garlic Java Rice: B-
  • Grilled Chicken with Tabbouleh & Hummus with Pita Bread: B-
  • Grilled Chicken Shawarma Bowl with Couscous & Chickpeas: B-
  • Sabzi-Rubbed Flat Iron Steak over Pearl Couscous Risotto with Crispy Shallots: C+
  • Bangkok-Style Linguine with Thai Basil Beef Sauce with XO Sauce & Scallions: C+
  • Chicken Tinga Tacos with Fresh Guacamole: C+
  • Adobo Pulled Pork Tacos with Cabbage Slaw & Pickled Onions: C+
  • Herb Roasted Salmon with Truffle Mash: C+
  • Filipino Chicken Tocino Bowl with Garlic Rice & Pickled Papaya: C+
  • Mushroom & Swiss Beef Burger with Sweet Potato Fries: C+
  • Spicy Braised Beef with Glass Noodles and Roasted Potatoes, Carrots & Shishito Peppers: C+
  • Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes with Thyme-Infused Maple Syrup: C+
  • Bacon Corn Chowder with Potatoes: C
  • Fajita Bowl with Impossible ‘Chorizo’ with Brown Rice and Chipotle Crema: C
  • Nikkei-Style Shrimp Fajitas with Japanese Rice and Cilantro Sauce: C
  • Lemon Tilapia with Cauliflower and Mashed Potatoes: C
  • Coq au Vin with Tagliatelle Pasta: C
  • Creamy Mushroom Chicken with Grainy Mustard Mashed Potatoes: C
  • Jerk-Spiced Chicken with Johnny Cakes & Braised Collard Greens: C
  • Garlic Hanger Steak with Roasted Vegetables and Avocado-Cilantro Lime Sauce: C
  • Mexican-Style Beef Stew with Red Potatoes and Hominy: C
  • Braised Beef and Polenta: C
  • Tonkotsu Ramen with Chashu Pork Belly and Spinach & Corn: C-
  • Herb Marinated Steak with Ratatouille and Rice Pilaf: C-
  • Parisian Chicken Kebab Basmati Rice, Tomato Salad & Green Sauce: C-
  • Chicken alla Cacciatora: D (undercooked)
  • Piri Piri Spiced Chicken with Stewed Peppers: D (undercooked)
  • Grilled Tagliata Steak with Arugula, Parmesan and Lemon: D
  • Bulgogi Japchae (Stir-Fried Glass Noodles with Marinated Beef) with Charred Vegetables: D
  • Greek Shrimp Saganaki Bowl with Farro & Pickles: F

VEGETARIAN

Creamy Polenta with Wild Mushroom Ragout & Porcini Cream: A

This might look like gruel, but it’s really a comforting hug in a plate. The dish is exactly what the name describes and it tastes exactly like you hope it will taste. The polenta is soft and sensuous, the mushrooms earthy and delicious. Microwaving this dish did make the mushrooms a bit rubbery – an expected problem – but they weren’t overly so and the taste made up for it. I’m sure they’d be better if reheated in the oven. The portion is a little small – more like a snack than a meal -, but I’ve still ordered it

Mushroom Ravioli with Sautéed Mushrooms in Truffle Cream Sauce: A-

This was actually a very good dish, but not worth the premium price. Both the ravioli and the cream sauce were very tasty, though a bit on the mild side. It really needed some Parmesan-type cheese to bring it up a notch. It also needed some of the advertised truffle flavor – I couldn’t taste it at all.

Mushroom Ragu with Crispy Polenta Cakes & Porcini Cream: B

This was a pretty tasty dish, but it was very, very salty. I’m someone who likes highly seasoned food, but this was over the line. I was also not much of a fan of the texture of the polenta cakes. They have a thin, crispy layer but below that they are quite soft, almost the consistency of a flan. You have to try to feel the very fine grain in the polenta. I think I’d have preferred them to be grittier. The mushrooms were a bit tough/chewy, but I’d expect that on microwaved mushrooms. Still, the dish was tasty, it just needs far less salt.

Plant-Based Massaman Curry with Brown Rice and Peanuts: B-

This was an OK Massaman curry. It was quite spicy – unusual for a Massaman curry – and the flavors weren’t as complex or inviting as those in Thai restaurants. The rice was a bit chewy. In all, it was fine, but not something we’d order again.

Fajita Bowl with Impossible ‘Chorizo’ with Brown Rice and Chipotle Crema: C

My daughter turned this bowl into two burritos by putting it into a couple of tortillas. She thought it was fine, compared it to Chipotle’s bowl, though she found it a little less flavorful. In all, she felt the dish lacked acidity. It came with a tasty chipotle crema, but it didn’t have the necessary acidity. What it really needed was salsa – she added sour cream, but it wasn’t enough – and some guacamole would be good as well. Finally, she felt it had too much cabbage.

SOUPS, SANDWICHES AND WRAPS

Spicy Peruvian Shrimp Chowder with Steamed Rice: A+
by Peruvian chef Walther Adrianzen

My husband absolutely loved this. It was nicely spiced, it had a great mix of textures, had a great flavor and lots of shrimp and not too much shrimp. He’d definitely have it again.

Classic Croque Monsieur with Frisée Salad: B-

This was pretty good for a microwavable croque monsieur. However, the bread was a bit too thick for the filling and there wasn’t anything remarkable about it. The greens were extremely bitter, to the point that I couldn’t eat them and I usually like bitter greens. I don’t think I’d order it again.

Bacon Corn Chowder with Potatoes: C

This was just OK. It was basically the same quality of the chowder you get at the supermarket, but in a smaller portion. The flavor was pretty mild, and it didn’t have enough bacon to brighten it up. I wouldn’t get it again, but it did remind me that supermarket soup is a good choice for lunch.

Tonkotsu Ramen with Chashu Pork Belly and Spinach & Corn: C-

I was pretty disappointed in this meal. It was basically just noodles with pork belly and corn kennels plus a couple of spinach leaves in a very salty broth. The pork belly itself was plain and not very flavorful and the broth was just salty and one note. Honestly, I prefer Top Ramen to these. Plus it takes about as much work. I’d definitely not order it again.

TACOS

Spicy Beef Birria Tacos with Hibiscus Pickled Onions & Guacamole: B+

These tacos were good but pedestrian. There wasn’t anything really wrong with them, the meat was tasty enough without being outstanding, the guacamole was fresh and the pickled onions added a nice umph. The only problem were the tortillas, which were hard and crumbled when folded. Still, the dish wasn’t exciting or novel. It didn’t make a case for tacos. I probably wouldn’t order it again.

Pork Al Pastor Tacos with Pineapple and Salsa Verde: B+

Overall, I enjoyed this dish – it was fine for lunch. The pork (which is a mush, not discreet pieces) had a nice smoky flavor that managed not to taste like liquid smoke. The tortillas were OK – I did wrap them in a wet paper towel and microwaved them to make them be more flexible. I wasn’t a fan of the salsa verde – which was a spicy, liquidy type rather than the more solid bright green type shown in the pictures -, but the tacos didn’t really need it. It was a good sized portion for lunch – four street-sized tacos – but I was left feeling like something was missing. Not sure what that would have been, though.

Chicken Tinga Tacos with Fresh Guacamole: C+

I didn’t really enjoy this dish. Chicken tinga seems to be a stewed with an old fashioned flavor, OK though not exciting. But the flavor just did not match the fresh and overly acidic guacamole or the cilantro. As usual, the tortillas broke apart when you tried to eat the taco, making them superfluos. I wouldn’t order again.

Adobo Pulled Pork Tacos with Cabbage Slaw & Pickled Onions: C+

This dish was OK. The flavor was good, mostly because the slaw with pickled onions was great and went well with the somewhat spicy sauce. The problem was in the execution of the pork and tortillas. The pork was probably overcooked, when reheated it became one solid mass that I had to put force to break apart. Some of the resulting pieces were extra crispy. The tortillas were also too hard, even when microwaved for twice as long as recommended. They broke apart when trying to fold them. I ate this the day after it was delivered, so it wasn’t an issue of them sitting in my fridge for too long. This is also a rather light portion, there is about as much pork as there is slaw.

SEAFOOD: SHRIMP & CRAB

Cajun Seared Shrimp and Orzo Salad with Fennel Salad & Remoulade: A

This was a good, flavorful dish. We’d order it again.

Garlic Shrimp in XO Sauce with Steamed Wild Riceberry & Jasmine Rice: A-

While not as good as the Cajun shrimp above, this was a tasty dish.

Shrimp Pancit Canton Noodles: A-

It was very tasty. It could do with more mushrooms, but the shrimp had a good size and texture and the noodles were great.

Crab Cake & Creamy Remoulade with Zesty Corn & Pepper Salad: A-

It was a pretty tasty crab cake. The other stuff was fine.

BBQ Shrimp Boil with Andouille Sausage, Potatoes & Corn: B+

My husband really liked this dish and would like it again, but felt it needed more shrimp.

Shrimp Scampi over Spaghetti with Spiralized Zucchini: B+

We ordered this dish twice. The first time, my husband loved it. He thought it was tasty and there was a good ratio of shrimp to pasta. The second time, he wasn’t as enthusiastic, though he couldn’t pinpoint exactly why it was less tasty.

Spicy Yemenite Shrimp Curry with Jasmine Rice & Fresh Snap Peas: B+

My husband had it. He liked it. He didn’t think it was too spicy. Beyond that, he didn’t go into details.

Classic Shrimp Gumbo with Rice Pilaf: B

The shrimp and sauce were tasty, but there was too much rice. My husband would have it again.

Chili-Roasted Shrimp with Fresh Corn Grits & Pepper Jack Cheese: B

My husband liked the shrimp but wasn’t big on the grits – I thought they were quite good. We’d probably not get it again.

Nikkei-Style Shrimp Fajitas with Japanese Rice and Cilantro Sauce: C

My husband had this meal and he gave it 3 stars. He couldn’t really explain why it was only “OK” for him, but he did eat it towards the end of its shelf life and might have enjoyed it more if it was fresher.

Greek Shrimp Saganaki Bowl with Farro & Pickles : F

by Israeli Chef Einat Admony

I should have known better than to order this dish. It was Greek, so of course it had olives. My husband doesn’t like olives. So it was a fail for us, but your MMV

SEAFOOD: WHITE FISH

Lemon Baked Tilapia with Cajun Cream Sauce & Farro Salad: B+

My husband liked this dish a lot. He particularly enjoyed the Cajun cream sauce. The problem was that it comes with baby arugula, which you are supposed to remove before heating the dish. The arugula, however, is sort of mixed in with the farro and placed under the fish, so removing it is a pain in the butt. Still, he’d probably like this again.

Plantain Crusted Mahi Mahi with Arroz Moro: B+

This was a good dish, though the mahi mahi and the rice really needed the sauce to flavor them – the sauce was quite good, though.  The main problem is that there was too little rice, so the dish felt unbalanced.


Cajun Baked Swai Fish with Collard Greens & Pan Sauce: B+

Another solid, flavorful dish. It was too heavy on the collard greens, however, and it really needed a starch for balance. The sauce, however, was tasty and it was a suitable portion.

Sweet and Sour Fish Fillet with Chinese Sausage & Fried Rice: B+

This was another tasty dish. We enjoyed the flavor of the vegetables and the light breading on the dish. There was, however, too much rice vis a vis the other ingredients.

Grilled Sea Bass with Lobster Sauce & Truffle Mashed Potatoes: B

The piece of bass was too small for dinner. The sauce was good but not out of this world. The mashed potatoes were good, though.

Aleppo Spiced Cod with Roasted Brussels Sprouts: B-

My husband enjoyed this dish but wasn’t too enthusiastic. He wouldn’t mind ordering it again, but would prefer a different one if given the choice.

Cajun Blackened Swai with Caper-Dill Potato Salad: B-

My husband liked this, though he wasn’t particularly impressed.

Lemon Tilapia with Cauliflower and Mashed Potatoes: C

My husband was underwhelmed with this dish. He wasn’t specific but said he would not order it again.

SEAFOOD: SALMON

I also don’t like salmon, so all of these dishes were enjoyed by my husband.

Teriyaki Roasted Salmon with Brown Rice, Roasted Carrots & Brussels Sprouts: A

“Anything immersed in Teriyaki sauce is going to be good,” or so said my husband when I asked him what he thought of this meal. He was happy with it. He liked that the Brussells sprouts had been sliced, so it wasn’t the huge whole vegetables he got in a previous meal.

Roasted Salmon Teriyaki with Tricolor Quinoa & Roasted Romanesco: A

This seems to be the newer incarnation of the dish above. Once again, my husband liked the sauce and therefore liked the dish.

Seared Salmon & Cauliflower Lentil Mujadara with Spicy Za’atar Chimichurri: A-

This was pretty good and my husband liked it. He was pleasantly surprised by the spiciness. The salmon was well cooked and he enjoyed the mujadara. His only criticism is that the dish needed some greens to make it outstanding, particularly as a summer dish.

Chipotle Lime Salmon with Brussels Sprouts: A-

This was a good dish. There was a good mixture of textures and tastes and the chipotle sauce was very good. The portion of salmon, however, was on the small side.

Gingery Salmon Cakes with Sushi Rice and Cabbage Slaw: B

by NYC chef Chris Ratel

My husband thought these were quite tasty. The sauce was particularly good. They weren’t mind blowing, but he’d have them again.

Turmeric & Tamarind Glazed Salmon with Roasted Zucchini & Rice: B

My husband liked this dish, but also wasn’t amazed by it. He’d have it again, however.

Creamy Miso Udon Noodles with Salmon & Spinach with Cremini Mushrooms: B

My husband liked this, but he wasn’t wowed. A day later, he can’t remember anything about it to give feedback. So I guess the dish was just not memorable.

Herb Roasted Salmon with Truffle Mash: C+

The salmon and mash were fine, but the Brussels sprouts in the dish were giant. They were about twice the size of a regular Brussels sprout and lacked flavor. We probably wouldn’t get this again.


CHICKEN

Chicken Parmesan with Marinara: A

by NY Chef John DeLucie

My daughter positively loved this dish, and would actually give it an A+. The portion size was perfect for dinner as well. Now, my daughter is a big fan of chicken pamesan in general, so kudos to the chef for executing it well. This meal is a $3 premium.

Southern Fried Chicken with Spicy Honey & Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes: A-
by NYC chef Chris Ratel

This was another dish that I got for my milanesa-loving daughter. She was very happy with both the chicken and mashed potatoes (and she’s not always a fan of the latter), though she didn’t try the honey. She’d have it again.

Chicken Marengo with Rice Pilaf: A-

I enjoyed this dish of boneless chicken and mushrooms in a creamy tomato sauce. The chicken was moist, the sauce was flavorful and not too acidic – it was quite well balanced -, and I just love mushrooms. I’d get this again.

Moroccan Chicken & Couscous Tagine with Green Olives, Currants & Toasted Almonds: B+

by Israeli chef Einat Admony, chef-owner of Balaboosta in NYC.

This is a the new rendition of the a former dish by the same chef simply called “Chicken Tagine”. It now is supposed to have olives instead of the apricots it had before – but there were no actual olives. this means that the dish lost its sweetness without acquiring the brininess the olives would have supplied. This was not a problem for my husband who dislikes olives, but I felt the dish needed something. The chicken is now shredded, which makes it more tender than before. Overall, a good dish but not an amazing one.

Crispy Chicken Schnitzel with Mustard Mashed Potatoes & Tomato Salad: B+
by NYC chef Chris Ratel

My daughter is a big fan of milanesas and she enjoyed this chicken schnitzel. She even liked the mashed potatoes. She prefers the Chicken Parmesan, however, which is basically a chicken schnitzel with tomato sauce and cheese on top.

Chicken Cordon Bleu with Pink Peppercorn Sauce with Peppercorn Sauce & Sautéed Green Beans: B+

Chicken cordon bleu is a hard dish to get right because it’s hard to cook chicken breasts without making them dry.  This problem is even greater when you have to reheat them.  So it’s not surprising that the chicken here was somewhat dry – it would have been almost miraculous if it wasn’t.  Fortunately, the sauce helped moisten it, but I think what it needed was more ham.  Just a tad more.  Still, it was a pretty good dish.

Caribbean Chicken Curry with Sautéed Cabbage & Rice: B

This dish was exactly what it meant to be: a curry-powdered-based, lightly spiced Caribbean chicken curry. It was good, without being great (I don’t think any curry based on a pre-mixed curry powder or paste can be great). The portion was on the small side, however.

Halal Cart Style Chicken & Rice with Rice, Garlic Yogurt & Pickled Cabbage: B

This dish felt pretty authentic to the description, though, of course, not Halal cart quality. The chicken was tasty, though a little underseasoned. The rice was very good, though I wasn’t a fan of the cabbage. I liked the white sauce, though it tasted a little more like ranch than garlic yogurt. The red sauce was too spicy for me, as red sauce usually is, but it tasted authentic. The main problem was that there wasn’t enough white sauce to season the whole dish, and there wasn’t enough chicken. Still, I might order it again.

Greek-Style Chicken Gyro Pita Wrap with Handmade Tzatziki: B

This is my third time ordering this dish. What keeps bringing me back in the soft, doughy texture of the pita after it’s reheated in the microwave, I just love it. The problem with this dish, however, is that the chicken is under-seasoned. I think it might have gotten slightly better this time, but you still need to add salt to it. I also think it could use some lemon juice. Finally, it’s messy to eat, but that’s just a warning, not a dis.

Spiced Chicken With Pork Chorizo Roasted Peppers: B

by chef Dustin Taylor, last at AC Hotel in LA

The first couple of times I had this dish, I really enjoyed it. I found the chicken nicely spiced, moist and tender, the rice flavorful and harmonious with the hearty chorizo/pepper mix. Later, I felt the chicken was a bit scrawny and needed more flavor, and the Mexican chorizo seemed less integrated into the other ingredients. There also seemed to be les peppers. Finally, the dish stopped including the chorizo, even though it stayed in the name. I don’t think they offer the dish anymore, but if they do again, I’d probably try it.

Chicken Corn Korma with Green Peas Pulao: B

This dish was fine overall. I’d say it’s a Trader Joe’s quality korma, not great, but fine for a prepared meal. Same with the pulao. I’d preferred chicken cubes to the large pieces, which required a knife and made it less moist.

Desi Butter Chicken Breast with Cauliflower Mash: B

The butter sauce was pretty good, better than what you get in frozen entrees though not restaurant quality. The chicken came in large pieces that needed to be cut, and I’d have preferred cubes that could absorb more sauce and that wouldn’t require a knife. The cauliflower mash was awful, extremely thin and watery. It didn’t help that it just tasted like concentrated cauliflower.

Tomato-Braised Chicken over Orecchiette: B-
by LA chef Kevin Meehan

The main problem with this dish was that the chicken was dry. Now, this is a problem with chicken in general, and white chicken in particular, but I expect more from a chef. The tomato sauce itself wasn’t bad, I’d say a step above supermarket sauce. The zucchini definitely gave it a fresh, veggie flavor. It was also pretty spicy. The orecchiette were a little tough, but they were tasty with the sauce from the chicken and plenty of Parmesan cheese. However, there was too much pasta and too little chicken – I didn’t necessarily mind, given how awfully dry the chicken was, but it did mean I was hungry not too long after. I wouldn’t order it again.

Comforting Chicken Roganjosh with Spicy Roasted Cauliflower: B-
by Indian chef Aarthi Sampath

My husband felt the chicken skin was unnecessary in this dish. The flavors were good but not remarkable. He probably wouldn’t order it again.

Belgian Chicken with Rice Pilaf & Creamed Kale : B-

by LA chef Ludo Lefebvre

This dish was, unfortunately, a failure. The chicken itself was under-seasoned and the sauce just lacked flavor. I’m not sure what it needed, maybe more reduction or just more salt, but as it was, it wasn’t bad but terribly mild. Better order the chicken marengo, which has a similar type of sauce, but is far, far more flavorful.

The rice with creamed kale was also just OK. It needed perhaps a little more acid. I ate it because I was still hungry after eating the chicken, but it’s not something you’d reach for.

Grilled Chicken with Tabbouleh & Hummus with Pita Bread: B-

This dish was OK but the chicken was underseasoned – a problem when the dish is all about the chicken.

Grilled Chicken Shawarma Bowl with Couscous & Chickpeas: B-

This was another very underseasoned chicken dish. It made me wonder if I had COVID (I didn’t).

Lemongrass BBQ Chicken with Garlic Java Rice: B-

The rice was tasty, especially after I added the sauce. The chicken was mildly spiced and somewhat better than OK on its own. Unfortunately, the sauce didn’t add much to it. The sauce is really what is lacking. I don’t think I’d order it again, unless they changed the formulation.

Filipino Chicken Tocino Bowl with Garlic Rice & Pickled Papaya: C+

This was an Ok and even tasty dish – as long as you could get a bite with all the ingredients together. Separate, the chicken was dry and not very flavorful (and I wasn’t particularly fond of the flavor), the rice lacked seasoning, and the tomatoes (sent fresh but which explode in the microwave) were too sharp. The only actual flavor comes from the pickled papaya, and as long as you are able to get a couple strands in each bite, you are good. But it’s too inexact a science. I wish the dish was good in itself and the papaya added to the dish, not made it.

Jerk-Spiced Chicken with Johnny Cakes & Braised Collard Greens: C

This dish was disappointed. The chicken was dry and lacked seasoning. The pancakes were hard and unappetizing, not worth the carbs. We wouldn’t have it again.

Coq au Vin with Tagliatelle Pasta: C

by French chef Cedric Nicolas, former sous chef at Belle Vie Food & Wine in LA (now closed)

This is a premium dish. I actually found this to be a lazy dish. There is really no excuse to not make a good coq au vin, it’s a simple recipe and one that is ideal as a leftover. But this one was a failure. The main sin is that I don’t believe the chicken had been braised in the red wine sauce, despite the fact that that’s the whole point of coq au vin. The chicken was bland and had not incorporated any of the flavors of the sauce – my guess is that it was cold when it was plated alongside it. Most tellingly, it had not been stained at all by the red wine, which is what happens when you braise chicken in a red wine sauce for a while. The sauce itself was rather pedestrian and there wasn’t very much of it. Still, the dish wasn’t unpleasant to eat, so I gave it a C, but it certainly did not meet expectations. If you do want to eat a good coq au vin, here is the recipe I’ve used for the last 30 years.

Creamy Mushroom Chicken with Grainy Mustard Mashed Potatoes: C

This dish was just “blah”. The sauce just lacked flavor, and there wasn’t enough of it for the mashed potatoes. It’s a pity because it’s a relatively easy dish to make, it just needs a tad more mustard and probably some cognac, sherry or wine to brighten the sauce. The mashed potatoes could be lighter too. Still, perfectly OK to eat – but not for the price.

Parisian Chicken Kebab Basmati Rice, Tomato Salad & Green Sauce: C-
by LA chef Ludo Lefebvre

The problem with this dish was the chicken, and when dish is a chicken dish, that can’t go wrong. The chicken breast was dry to the point of chewiness and tasted like boiled chicken. Yes, I know it was grilled – it had grilled marks and boiled chicken couldn’t possibly be that dry, but the flavor was off putting. The cilantro sauce was really good, but it couldn’t penetrate the dense, dry pieces of chicken and there wasn’t enough of it for the rice. This is definitely in my “not order” list.

Chicken alla Cacciatora: D (undercooked)

by NYC chef John DeLucie, chef at Bedford&co , Ainslie, and Empire Diner, The Lion, and The Waverly Inn

I’ve gotten this dish thrice. The fist time I thought the chicken, particularly the skin, was tasty and the sauce tasted exactly like you’d expect it to, though perhaps it was a little too heavy on celery for my taste. I was a bit disappointed at the size of the portion. The chicken itself was sort of scrawny and there was no starch as a filler (except for carrots, but I’m not fond of carrots myself). The second time my husband had it, and he didn’t like the sauce as much. The third time, however, it was very undercooked – red next to the bone. For that reason, I wouldn’t order it again.

Piri Piri Spiced Chicken with Stewed Peppers: D (undercooked)

The chicken was undercooked, and close to raw near the bone area. The rice and peppers, which I tried before I cut into the chicken, were quite good, the rice was standard yellow rice and the peppers were nicely stewed/spiced and not too spicy. It would be a good dish if the chicken was cooked properly.

DUCK

Duck and Pork Cassoulet with Cannellini Beans. A-

This is a good, but not perfect dish. It’s a nice, complex dish that would be pain to do at home. It convinced me I actually like cannellini beans (they melt in your mouth without the powdery texture of other beans). The duck and pork sausages (two!) are very tasty. But what brings it down a notch is the very pedestrian tomato sauce. I’m not /that/ picky, but it reminds me of Ragu or even Chef Boyardee (shudder). Improve the sauce, and this would be perfect.

Orange Pepper Duck Leg Confit with Creamy Herbed Potato Salad: B

The duck was well cooked and tasty, I liked how crispy the skin was. The orange sauce, however, was watery and added nothing to the duck. The potato salad was just OK.

Grilled Duck Leg with Orange-Coconut Sauce with Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Broccolini: B-

The problem with this dish is that the duck didn’t go with the vegetables. The duck was nicely seared, with a light smoky flavor. It was a bit dry – but that would be hard to avoid. It was utterly a savory dish. It could add some spicing, but didn’t really need much. I ended up having duck for dinner at a Michelin starred restaurant, and that one was barely better than the one from CookUnity. The sweet potatoes and broccoli in the orange-coconut sauce, however, were very sweet and completely discordant with the duck. They were good in themselves, but belonged in a different dish. Their flavor notes were just too different to eat together (or even one after the other, as I did). From the title, it sounded like the sauce would go on the duck, not on the veggies. I love duck a l’Orange, and duck can go very well with sweet flavors – but not here because of the spicing of the duck. I wouldn’t get this dish again.

MEATBALLS

Lamb and Pork Meatballs with Parmesan Polenta with Tomato-Basil Sauce: A-

This is a very simple, peasant style dish. It tastes like you expect it to taste, the tomato sauce is quite ordinary and the only thing that elevates the meatballs is the presence of pine nuts (brilliant idea). But sometimes simple dishes and familiar flavors are what you want, and this is the definition of comfort food. I get it pretty much every time I order CookUnity. Update: the meatballs continue to be as tasty as before, but they’ve become lighter and lighter – I think they’ve reduced the amount of meat vis a vis filling.

Stewed Moroccan Lamb Meatballs with Brown Rice and Herb-Yogurt Sauce: A-

This was a tasty dish, but there weren’t enough meatballs, even for lunch. The amount of rice was fine. We’d order it again.

Italian Meatballs with Homemade Tomato Sauce: B

This is one of the new “protein only” dishes. The meatballs and sauce are good, they taste pretty homey, and if you are avoiding carbs no matter what, they seem like a good choice. But I ended up missing the carbs to soak up the sauce and wished the meatballs were lighter. Still, as a low-carb dish it works well.

Moroccan Lamb Meatballs: B

by chef Dustin Taylor, last at AC Hotel in LA

My husband had this dish for lunch one day. He can’t remember eating it at all, so it wasn’t memorable. My own recollection is that he liked it but wasn’t enthusiastic.

BEEF: STEAK

Korean Flank Steak Rice Bowl (Steak Doep Bap) and Asparagus: A
by Korean-American chef Esther Choi

The steak was tender and not fatty. It had a great flavor. The sauce was awesome. The asparagus were well cooked and yummy. Definitely in the “order again” category.

Grilled Hanger Steak with Peruvian Pesto Linguine: A

by Peruvian chef Walther Adrianzen

My daughter loved this dish, though hers came without the promised (and unneeded) chimichurri sauce. The steak was flavorful, if a little chewy (not unusual for hanger steak), and the pesto pasta was fresh. I felt it could have used some Parmesan. She’d want it again.

Hanger Steak and Coconut Forbidden Rice: A-

by Filipina chef Stacy Bareng, chef-owner of Tagalog Takeover pop up in LA

This was my favorite of the hanger steak dishes we had. It’s also one we warmed in the oven. As you can see, it wasn’t cooked medium-rare as on the picture in the website, but the beef was tender and flavorful, and I could still taste the beef flavor. The forbidden rice was tasty and fun. The broccolini, however, didn’t work. It was chewy.

Churrasco Steak with Chimichurri Rojo Sauce and Cilantro-Lime Rice & Roasted Zucchini: A-

This was a very good dish for being a re-heated steak. The beef was pretty tasty, a bit spicy, but not something out of this world. The rice tasted very Latin American – like the sort of rice I’ve had in cheap market food stands in Mexico and Central America. There is something nostalgic about it, that I do enjoy, but it’s not a flavor profile I otherwise seek out. The red chimichurri, however, was quite good, and really brought the dish together. In all, I might order it again.

Blackened Hanger Steak with Chimichurri Sauce & Curry Potato Gratin: A-

I don’t usually like CookUnity’s steaks reheated in the microwave, but this one worked. It was tough, but you expect that from hanger steak, and the chimichurri was really delicious. The curry really didn’t work in the potato gratin, however. I like curry as much as anyone, but it has no place next to chimichurri and cheese (unless it’s a tasteless cheese like paneer). Moreover, it was one note. But the chimichurri sauce was good enough to make up for it.

Miso Butter Flat Iron Steak with Cauliflower Purée & Sautéed Spinach: B

This was a pretty good dish. The beef slices were very tender and had very little, if any, fat. The flavor was pretty mild but overall good. I think the “cauliflower purée” was actually a potato purée, because it had no cauliflower flavor whatsoever. This, of course, was a good thing. What wasn’t good is that it was extremely thin – I had to get a spoon to eat it. The spinach was soggy, but it had a nice flavor if you like cooked spinach, which I don’t. I might order this again, if I was sure I got potato purée.

Steak Diane over Garlic Fettuccine with Asparagus: B

The beef in this dish was severely under-seasoned and it just wasn’t very tasty even after I added salt. The sauce was great, but there wasn’t enough to flavor the beef or sufficiently flavor the mushrooms and fettuccine. I don’t think I’d order this again.

Sabzi-Rubbed Flat Iron Steak over Pearl Couscous Risotto with Crispy Shallots: C+

I was really disappointed by this dish. The beef was pretty tasteless and whatever slight flavor the sabzi rub might have given it, wasn’t particularly pleasant. The risotto was marginally better, but also on the tasteless side.

Garlic Hanger Steak with Roasted Vegetables and Avocado-Cilantro Lime Sauce: C

by NYC chef Andres Mendez

This was probably my least favorite dish of the bunch. The steak wasn’t very flavorful, and it was completely overwhelmed by the spicy sauce. The vegetables where OK, but one-dimensional. I wouldn’t order it again.

Herb Marinated Steak with Ratatouille and Rice Pilaf: C-

by chef Dustin Taylor, last at AC Hotel in LA

This is another strike-out by Dustin Taylor (who fortunately redeems himself with the next dish). I liked the texture of the beef, tender but somewhat chewy/tough, but it had practically no seasoning and it was almost tasteless. What is worse, the smell and flavor it did have was somewhat fishy. I don’t have any fish in the fridge, so it couldn’t have acquired it from something else. The pilaf was nice enough, but the ratatouille was mostly eggplant and zucchini, with little in the way of onions or peppers. It’s winter, so I understand the latter, but still! This is not a dish I’d order again.

Grilled Tagliata Steak with Arugula, Parmesan and Lemon: D

by NYC chef John DeLucie, chef at Bedford&co , Ainslie, and Empire Diner, The Lion, and The Waverly Inn

This is the 3rd subpar steak dish I get from CookUnity, and this helps to cement my opinion that steak just does not lend itself to being cooked in advance and re-heated. This steak was tough, a little chewy and not all flavorful. I did like that it came with a fresh side salad, but it also lacked flavor. I don’t complain often that a meal has too much steak and too little salad, but that was the case here. In all, I would not order it again.

BEEF – OTHER

Homestyle Beef Goulash with Basmati Rice: A-

My husband raved about how good this dish was. He loved that the goulash had very tender pieces of meat, and the flavor went great with the rice. He’d like it again.

Beef Burgundy & Whipped Potatoes with Crisp Roasted Brussels Sprouts: A-

My husband really liked this dish. There was good flavor and the mashed potatoes were smooth. The Brussell sprouts were cooked differently that he usually has them, but he liked them. Overall, he’d have this again.

Nikkei-Style Steak Fajitas with Japanese Rice and Cilantro Sauce: A-

Simple but very tasty lunch. The meat has a nice marinade and it goes great with the peppers, rice and aioli. I’ll definitely order it again.

Guajillo Beef and Cheese Enchiladas: A-

I’m not a huge fan of enchiladas, but I decided to give these a try. I was quite pleased. The beef filling was tasty, the rice was good, and the combination of all with the sour cream worked very well. It was also a very filling dish but that left me wanting more.

Short Rib Ragu over Pappardelle Pasta with Fresh Ricotta: A-

This was a very nice, satisfying meal. Exactly what it advertised itself to be. It was a tad too spicy for my taste, and I think the portion could have been bigger – it left me hungry. But it’d be good for lunch or when you’re not too hungry.

Red Chile Braised Beef Tamale Salsa Verde & Mexican Crema: B+
by chef Jose Garces

These were very good beef tamales. There was plenty of filling, and it was very tasty, ant he sauces that came with it worked very well. Really, as tamales go, these were excellent. As usual, however, I ended up feeling that there was just too much masa. It does help filling you up, but it mutes the flavor of the beef. I’d order it again if I had a hankering for tamales, but not otherwise.

Middle Eastern Braised Beef Flatbread with Parsley, Pine Nuts & Tahini-Yogurt-Mint Sauce: B+

This “stew” has the consistency of bolognese sauce – it’s made with ground beef -, and a slightly spicy, very tomatoey Middle Eastern flavor profile. By itself, it’s too intense/acidic, but the yogurt sauce mellows it wonderfully. As a combination, it’s among the most flavorful, homey dishes I’d had at CookUnity. What brings it down is the flatbread. It’s *extremely* hard. More like a thick, dense cracker than the pita bread you expect. The problem with that is that it can’t absorb the stew – plus it’s not that pleasant to eat. I’m taking away a star for that reason. I don’t know if the bread is meant to be that hard or if the problem was with microwaving it. Next time I’ll test it before I do, and perhaps cover it with a moist paper towel. Or just eat it with my own bread (I’ll have to make sure to get some). But you definitely need *something* to absorb the liquidity of the sauce and balance the acidity.

Grilled Beef Lula Kabob with herbed tomato salad, Hummus & Pita: B

The patty was tasty but dry. The hummus and pita bread were average as was the tabbouleh, which due to the lack of bulgur, seem more like pico de gallo. I wouldn’t rush to order it again.

Beef Shank Peanut Stew with Vegetables & Rice: B

This dish was completely underseasoned. I’d be surprised if they used any salt at all. It was fine after I salted it, the meat was a bit fatty – but you expect that from a shank – and the sauce could have used more complexity. It might be better to actually cook the meat in the sauce, rather than add it later. But in all, it was a pleasant dish.

Rustic French Beef Ragu with Potato Gnocchi: B

This dish was fine but it could be improved. The gnocchi were a bit too chewy and dry in parts. There just isn’t enough liquid sauce to withstand the heating up process. I also think the gnocchi themselves could have used more flour and less potato to make them a bit lighter. The sauce was tasty but a little too sour/intense, it didn’t really taste French, though now thinking about it perhaps the acidity came from wine (though it didn’t taste boozy). If the sauce was thinner maybe the gnocchi could have absorbed more and counterbalanced it.

Mushroom & Swiss Beef Burger with Sweet Potato Fries: C+

by NY chef Ruben Garcia

I was both curious and apprehensive about ordering a burger that has to be reheated. As it happened, the burger was better than I expected, but not by much. The burger itself was dry. I guess they must cook the patty to medium-well to be food safe, and that doesn’t make for a particularly juicy burger. The burger also felt like it had fillers, though I can’t say for sure. In any case, there was little flavor in the meat itself. I did like the flavor the mushrooms and beef imparted, however. The “sauce” it came with was a mayo/sour cream mixture with chipotle/adobo flavoring, which tasted slightly like BBQ. It was also slightly spicy and not bad. The potato buns worked well after lightly toasting them. It was a filling meal and I’d say the burger was better than fast food, but not what I want in a burger. Still, I’m going to guess that’s impossible for a commercially made, reheated burger.

Bangkok-Style Linguine with Thai Basil Beef Sauce with XO Sauce & Scallions: C+

This was an OK meal. It was simple noodles and mostly unseasoned beef with a liquidy sweet soy sauce that gave the whole dish flavor. It was pleasant enough to eat, but not interesting or complicated enough to bother ordering it again.

Spicy Braised Beef with Glass Noodles and Roasted Potatoes, Carrots & Shishito Peppers: C+

I wasn’t thrilled by this dish. I thought the beef lacked flavor. It was spicy, but it should have been flavorful as well. it was, however, very tender. The vegetables and noodles were OK, but as the whole braising liquid wasn’t that flavorful, it didn’t elevate them much. My husband, however, who tried it, liked it.

Mexican-Style Beef Stew with Red Potatoes and Hominy: C

I was rather disappointed in this stew. It just lacked flavor. The meat was tender, though one large piece was pretty fatty, but it lacked seasoning. There was little sauce to speak of and what there was didn’t add much flavor to the rice. I’m also not sure what made this stew Mexican beyond a little bit of spiciness. I wouldn’t order again.

Braised Beef and Polenta: C

by Filipina chef Stacy Bareng, chef-owner of Tagalog Takeover pop up in LA

On the one hand, there is nothing I can fault this dish for. It tasted exactly like what I expected it to taste. On the other hand, there are more delicious ways to braise beef, some wine and caramelized onions would have done wonders. Still, a satisfying meal.

Update: I got this dish for a second time, and it now came with only a tiny bit of sauce. There was too little to even moisten the meat and polenta, and the meat was overcooked and terribly dry. Without the sauce, it was also rather unseasoned. I wouldn’t get it again. (Note: photo is from the first time I got it).

Bulgogi Japchae (Stir-Fried Glass Noodles with Marinated Beef) with Charred Vegetables: D

This dish was utterly bland – not what you’d expect from bulgogi. It was edible, “not gross” but not in the least flavorful. There was absolutely no complexity to the sauce. A big fail

LAMB

Braised Lamb Sabzi with Cumin Seed Rice: A

by Israeli chef Einat Admony, chef-owner of Balaboosta in NYC.

This dish tasted exactly what I expect lamb sabzi to taste. It’s a dish of Persian origin, tangy and fragrant with Middle Eastern spices.

Handmade Merguez Sausage in Moroccan Couscous Stew with Harissa: A-

by French chef Cedric Nicolas, former sous chef at Belle Vie Food & Wine in LA (now closed)

This was a very tasty dish. The merguez sausages were delicious, if much smaller than those shown, and the whole dish tasted very home made. Definitely a winner. For some reason I enjoyed it less the second time around, but it may just be how I was feeling.

Lamb Kebab with Turmeric Hummus and Roasted Sweet Potatoes: A-

by Kentucky born chef Akhtar Nawab, owner of Alta Calidad in New York, Otra Vez in New Orleans, and Prather’s on the Alley in Washington, DC

These were kofta-like rather than kebabs per se, as the lamb was ground and mixed with spices, but it was very tasty nonetheless. Kofta tend to be dry, and this was no exception, but it was no drier than pretty much every other one I’ve ever made or encountered. They came with a cumin spiced hummus, which tasted lightly of curry and was also very tasty. It worked as a dip for both the sweet potatoes and lamb. I’m not a huge fan of sweet potatoes, but these were quite good.

Braised Lamb Shawarma with Pearl Couscous with Red Onion-Sumac Salad & Creamy Tahini: B+

This was an overall tasty dish. I liked the lamb very much. It was moist and soft, without much fat, and had a pleasant, mild lamb flavor. The couscous, OTOH, was just OK. It was tasty enough, but nothing special – more could have been done with it. The big miss was with the tahini sauce. It was too bitter and not acidic enough, and didn’t add anything positive to either lamb or couscous. Perhaps if there had been more onions it would have worked, but there weren’t enough to have them in every bite. Still, an overall tasty dish.

Pasture-Raised Rack of Lamb with Creamy Potato Gratin: B+

by NYC chef John DeLucie, chef at Bedford&co , Ainslie, and Empire Diner, The Lion, and The Waverly Inn

This was a premium dish, almost restaurant-priced at $19. Unfortunately, while it was good, I don’t think it was worth it. The lamb chops were tasty and juicy enough, but they were underseasoned. They needed the accompanying gelatin to brighten them up, but the flavor of the gelatin hid the lambiness of the chops. The potato gratin was very tasty and satisfying in itself, but it matched the lamb very badly. The flavors were not at all complimentary – the strong cheesy flavor in the gratin overwhelmed the lamb, so the two components had to be eaten separately and with sips of water in between. Scalloped potatoes would have been a better choice.

Masala Lamb Kebabs with Cucumber-Mint Yogurt & Dirty Rice: B

This large ground lamb patty/meatball was tasty but dry. The yogurt help to some degree and the rice was tasty, but I wouldn’t rush to order it again.

PORK

Adobo Spare Ribs with Garlic Rice and Baby Bok Choy: A

by Filipina chef Stacy Bareng, chef-owner of Tagalog Takeover pop up in LA

The ribs were very tasty, moist and tender. I also liked the rice quite a bit. It came with bok choy which I don’t like, but my dog does. that gives you a discount and, if I’m subscribed at the point when you claim such discount, might give me one as well for future purchases. As always, look to see if there are better discount deals elsewhere. Note: I just had this dish again under its new name (it’s been edited to reflect it). It’s just as good as before, though now you get smaller chunks of ribs rather than full ones. The bak choi must have been added to replace some of the quantity of meat.

Classic Québécois Poutine (Cheese Fries with Gravy) with Applewood Smoked Bacon: A-

I was hesitant to order this dish because of the many reviews saying that the fries were soggy. And yes, they were soggy. If you are going to microwave French fries and then put hot gravy on them, they are going to get soggy. What I wonder, though, is if this dish could be re-imagined to warm the fries in an air fryer.

In any case, the fries were fine for soggy fries. The curds and gravy were good, the bacon was nice. Probably as good a poutine as you are going to get in the States without making it yourself.

Gochujang Baby Back Ribs: B+

by Korean-American chef Esther Choi, chef-owner of Mokbar and Ms.Yoo in New York City

I liked these tangy and tender ribs and really enjoyed the sweet corn. The rice was just OK.

BREAKFAST

Brioche French Toast with Strawberries & Maple Syrup: B
by French chef Cedric Nicolas

This was fine but unremarkable. It tasted like you would expect it to taste, but there was nothing surprising or interesting about it. It definitely could have used more strawberries. It did made me realize that I could, too, make French toast and refrigerate it or freeze it for later.

Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes with Thyme-Infused Maple Syrup: C+

Who doesn’t love having breakfast for dinner once in a blue moon? Unfortunately, these pancakes were a disappointment. I had hoped the ricotta would have made them moist, but they were very dry. The thyme flavor in the maple was good, but using all the syrup to moisten the pancakes made them too sweet. And, of course, it’s just carbs. Some bacon would have made it better. I wouldn’t order again.

Carando Meatballs + Signature Reserve Pasta Sauce Reviews

Won’t buy again

Last time I made ravioli, I paired them with Signature Reserve Tomato, Porcini & Black Truffle Pasta Sauce ($6, on sale for $4 for 21 oz jar at Safeway) and Carando spicy Sicilian meatballs. I suspected the combination wasn’t going to work and it didn’t – but I also tasted each ingredient separately and I was not impressed with either the sauce or the meatballs.

Signature Reserve Pasta Sauce Tomato Porcini & Black Truffle - 21.2 Oz

Signature Reserve appears to be a premium version of Safeway/Albertson’s store brand. They cost more than twice than regular Signature pasta sauces and this one, at least, was imported from Italy and claimed to be made from a “Porchettini family recipe”. I’m not sure who they are, but a recipe needs to come from someone or other.

This particular sauce wasn’t bad, if you really like the flavor of artificial truffle. Basically what you get is a pretty fresh, tomato forward sauce, immediately followed by an intense black truffle flavor that lingers on. Now, I learned last year that the flavors of actual truffles and artificial truffle is quite different, and what most of us understand as black truffle is artificial – so I was expecting this sauce to taste that way. Perhaps not as intensely as it does, however. It’s not bad, but the truffle in the sauce will obfuscate any other flavor that surrounds it.

While I wouldn’t order this particular pasta sauce again, I might try one of the other ones – they have at least five other flavors.

Carando Meatballs Italian Style Sicilian Recipe Hot - 16 Oz

I am a huge fan of meatballs but I don’t make them often enough because if I have ground beef and I’m going to eat it with pasta, I end up making a meat sauce instead and then it feels redundant. I figured that if I buy the meatballs already made, I could would just eat them with pasta and store-bought tomato sauce for a very quick dinner. I have yet to find a good brand of refrigerated or frozen meatballs however and these, despite its fancy packaging, weren’t them.

The main problem is that they are too dense and heavy. Indeed, these meatballs only contain ground pork, cheese and spices. They don’t have bread to make them light and airy. Baking them as per the instructions, doesn’t contribute to making them any lighter.

I wasn’t thrilled by the flavor either, but that’s my fault for buying spicy meatballs. Who knows what prompted me to do that. Still, having tried them their dense consistency is enough of a deterrent to try any other flavors.

Review of a Bunch of Items I just Bought at Sprouts

I have never been to a Sprouts in person, but I’ve become quite fond of the supermarket since I subscribed to Instacart during the pandemic. Still, I hadn’t ordered from there in long enough that I’d forgotten what things they had that I liked and disliked. Thus this post – to remind me of what to get again, and what to avoid. I’ll be adding items to this review as we consume them. Note that the prices are Instacart prices.

Sprouts Pastrami on Multigrain Bread Grab & Go Sandwich

Sprouts Pastrami on Multigrain Bread Grab & Go Sandwich ($5 for an 8 oz sandwich)

I got this for my husband to replace a chicken salad croissant sandwich that wasn’t available. He thought it was “ehh,” the sort of pre-packaged sandwich he’d expect to get at a convenience store. He felt it was dry, probably as it doesn’t seem to come with condiments. He wouldn’t order it again.

Black Garlic Chicken And Mushroom Saute ($6/lb, tray was 1 3/4lb)

I bought this thinking it was a ready-to-heat meal, as others I’ve gotten at Sprouts. Instead, it’s a ready-to-saute meal which requires you to dump the ingredients on a saute pan and cook for about 10-15 minutes. The chicken is raw, so don’t be tempted to use your microwave.

While it was very simple, it was surprisingly tasty and served two people adequately. I’d get it again.

Chocolate Custard Twists ($4 for 6 small twists)

This has to be my favorite item from Sprouts. When we spent a month in Paris, a lifetime ago, my husband would go to the bakery every morning and get us a very similar pastry. These are just as delicious – which is amazing, giving how badly even the best American bakeries do at imitating French pastries. At 70-cents each for the pretty small pastries, this is not a cheap treat, but mostly because it’s just impossible to eat just one. Still, they are great so get them!

Lakewood Organic Pure Orange Fresh-Pressed Juice Not From Concentrate ($6.5 for a 32 oz bottle, on sale for $5)

I’m always in the quest for the best commercial orange juice – something that tastes as close as possible to fresh squeezed but that I can buy already squeezed. Unfortunately, fresh squeezed OJ is not available at any of my local supermarkets, though they do have it at the Saturday’s farmer market. Alas, we don’t always make it.

So far, my favorite commercial orange juice is Costco’s Kirkland Signature Organic Orange Juice. However, the last two times I’ve gotten it, it tasted like it was already going bad – I’m sure you know what rotten oranges taste like, and this was half way there. So I’ve been looking for an alternative – I’ll give Kirkland another try in winter, but it’s obvious the OJ can’t handle the summer heat.

Unfortunately, Lakewood Organic Pure Orange Juice suffers from the exact same problem. The lid may say the juice doesn’t expire until 2023, but it already has the tell-telling bitterness of OJ going bad. It is also extremely sweet. I don’t know if this is a consequence of it being almost rotten, or if it’s made this way to hide the rotting flavor. Either way, it’s initial taste is disgustingly sweet, and its finish rottenly bitter. I would not buy it again and I have half a mind of writing to Lakewood and asking for a refund.

Clara’s Kitchen Chile Verde Breakfast Burrito ($5 for 10 oz burrito)

I had ordered the Clara’s Kitchen Cheese & Bean burrito but this is what Instacart brought me instead. My husband ended up eating it and he was quite disappointed. He felt it had very little flavor. He wouldn’t have it again.

Reds Organic Cheese Quesadilla Burrito ($3.3 for 5 oz burrito, on sale for $2.5)

Organic Cheese Quesadilla Burrito - Red's All Natural Burritos & Entrees

I got this and other Reds burritos for my cheese-and-bean-burrito loving teen daughter and it was a bust. She liked the tortilla well enough, but didn’t like the filling, it just tasted wrong for her. Won’t get it again.

Sprouts Cheese Puffs and Cheese Curls ($2.3 for 6 oz package, on sale for $1 each)

Sprouts versions of cheetos are not bad. They seem to have less of an intense flavor than the brand name, and less annoying orange powder to get all over your hands, but they are tasty enough. The puffs are, IMHO, better than the curls. I’d order the puffs again, particularly at the sale price.

Roast Beef ($13/lb)

This was pretty generic deli roast beef, which means it was perfectly acceptable without being remarkable good. I’d buy it again.

Review: Freshly’s Low County Bowl

Rating 6/10

I got this meal for my husband. It consists of shrimp and
andouille sausage  with green beans and corn – and a side of roasted potatoes. My husband found it overall tasty, but he thought the shrimp were tasteless and soggy (a problem with all of Freshly’s meals).

The meal had 450 calories, 16 g fat (2.5 saturated), 47 g of carbs & 6g sugar. It had 34 g of protein.

I paid a little under $7 for each of these meals, with a special offer.

Meal Kit Reviews: Which are the Best Meal Kits Out There?

For the last six months I’ve been trying different meal kits, both in order to avoid getting take out and because I just like reviewing things. Having tried most of the meal kits out there (all of them with promos which brought down the price significantly), I think I’m finally done.

Meal kits fall into 4 price categories, which I’ll call budget (~$40 for 3 2-serving meal kits), mid-range (~$60 for the same), premium (~$70) and super-premium (~$80). In order to compare apples to apples, my reviews are organized by price category and they are listed in my order of preference. Please click on the title of each Meal Kit to see a more comprehensive review.

In all of these months, I haven’t really had any major problems with any of my deliveries – I’ve had no missing ingredients, for example. Once a box didn’t come (which was fine, as I didn’t want it and had forgotten to cancel in time) and another time, the box didn’t come until after 11 PM, but that’s about it. Skipping has been a breeze, as has been cancelling.

Budget Meal Kits

There are two of these meal kit services, both products of mid-range meal kit companies. They offer simpler meals, with fewer ingredients that require the use of more of your staples. The menus tend to be very classic American.

Every Plate

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Every Plate is HelloFresh’ budget offering. They currently only have 6 offerings, including a “premium” one that costs $6 more per kit, but they’re moving to 8 offerings in mid-March. That’s good, because I often can’t find 3 dishes I want to eat/make in their weekly menu.

I mostly liked what I got – the premium kit was particularly tasty. I really didn’t feel I was compromising too much by getting these kits.

$39 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Use this referral link for $20 off your first box (I might get a credit if I’m subscribed at the exact moment you subscribe).

Dinnerly

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Dinnerly is Martha & Marley Spoon’s budget offering. They offer 8 choices a week, 3 of which are vegetarian. The meals are less refined than those by Every Plate and I enjoyed them less. In all, I wasn’t a fan.

$39 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Google for promos.

Mid-Range Meal Kits

There are several companies in this category. They tend to have more sophisticated offerings, they may include ingredients that are not as easy to come by (or that you’d have to buy far more than you’d want to) – but they still require that you use some of your staples. Some of these companies offer discounts for larger purchases. Here they are, in my order of preference.

HelloFresh

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HelloFresh is the service I’ve tried the most, simply because they’ve sent me the most “come back” offers. They offer a variety of plans, and include one weekly “gourmet” recipe, featuring steak or expensive ingredients, for $12 more per kit.

Most of the recipes have surprised me as to how tasty they are – whoever is responsible for creating them does a pretty good job. That said, I don’t always find enough meals I want to cook in a given week, and lately it seems they’re downgrading their ingredients. Still, it’s a company I like to go back to (with a coupon).

$61 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Use this referral link for $40 off your first box (I might get a credit if I’m subscribed at the exact moment you subscribe).

Blue Apron

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Blue Apron is actually very similar to HelloFresh, but it offers far fewer discounts. It does seem to have better quality ingredients than HelloFresh, however. The food I had was also tastier than I anticipated, and I would likely re-subscribe if I got another promo – but so far no luck.

$60 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Google for promos.

Home Chef

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Home Chef’s offerings are a more middle American than the other two, and I’ve had gret difficulty finding kits that I really want to make. But the kits I did make were very good. While Home Chef has occasional premium meal kits, they also regularly have steak without a premium price (unlike other companies in this price point).

Update 2021: Since my original review, Home Chef has expanded their offerings. They now allow you to choose your protein in many kits, usually at an additional cost, and they offer impossible burger for ground beef dishes. They also now offer a variety of oven dishes that include a tray and call for minimal preparation – these often combine raw and pre-cooked ingredients. Basically, they’ve become a cheaper, less exciting, version of Gobble (see below under super-premium kits).

Starts at $60 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Use this referral link for $35 off your first box (I might get a credit if I’m subscribed at the exact moment you subscribe).

Martha & Marley Spoon

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Marley Spoon was the meal kit company that least impressed me at this price-point. Granted, I only got two kits because their promo wasn’t that great, but neither of them was particularly noteworthy. They do have a large menu of choices, including 6 vegetarian ones. In all, I didn’t find a compelling reason to choose it over the other kits.

$61.50 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Google for promo.

Premium Meal Kits

It’s probably not surprising that as we go up in price, the meal kits get better. They either include more exotic and/or organic ingredients. Some companies offer even more adventurous/sophisticated kits – and some actually send you all the ingredients you need save for oil, salt & pepper. Here they are, in my order of preference.

Plated

Note: Plated has ceased operations since my reviews. I miss it, as it was one my favorite meal kits.

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I love Plated. It’s one of my favorite meal kits and, if I could afford it, it’s the one I would stay subscribed to. The offerings are pretty sophisticated, and they often include ingredients that I wouldn’t want to buy myself. More importantly, they include all the ingredients I need – including butter! I have greatly enjoyed almost every meal I’ve had from them.

Plated is also available at select Safeway supermarkets. The kits there usually vary in price depending on the ingredients, but they’re generally cheaper than with the subscription. They have a much lower selection, however.

$72 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Google for promo.

Sun Basket

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Sun Basket distinguishes itself by providing a large variety of meals catering to special diets – from paleo to vegan. Most importantly, they don’t ask you to subscribe to a specific plan, but you can chose from any meal they provide. This is cool for families like mine that have members with very different food preferences. Sun Basket also sends more organic produce than other companies – and they’re probably the most environmentally friendly meal kit service.

Still, I wasn’t awed by their kits and I haven’t felt a compelling reason to re-subscribe.

$72 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Use this referral link for $40 off your first box.

Purple Carrot

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Purple Carrot is an all-vegan meal kit company. Having a vegan child at home, I gave it a try. Unfortunately, she didn’t like any of the three meal kits I got for her – and would not even eat the leftovers.

$72 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Google for promo.

Super Premium Meal Kits

In addition to the kits listed below, there are two other meal kits services which fall in this category. As neither offers good promo codes – and their offerings don’t seem particularly enticing – I’ve decided I’m not going to try either. Do comment if you do. Peach Dish – a Georgia based company – specializes in local ingredients and offers both international and classic Southern food. One Potato specializes in family-friendly fare.

Gobble

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Gobble sends out meal kits that can be put together and cooked in 15 minutes. They manage this by sending pre-sliced vegetables, prepared sauces and some pre-cooked sides (like rice, lentils and sweet potatoes). Still, most kits require you to do enough that you do feel like cooking. Their meals are generally pretty good – one, specifically, was great – and I love how quickly they are to put on the table. This is a kit I’d definitely stay subscribed to if I could afford it.

$79 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Use this referral link for 1 free meal kit in your first box (I might get a credit if I’m subscribed at the exact moment you subscribe).

Green Chef

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Green Chef distinguishes itself by offering a variety of plans catering to special diets – everything from keto, to gluten-free to vegan. Unfortunately, they only offer five choices per plan, and you cannot mix and match between plans (though they do have an omnivore plan, still with only five choices). Once upon a time, Green Chef was fully organic, but since being bought by HelloFresh, they now send out non-organic meats.

The dishes I tried were pretty good, though they seemed overpriced for what they were.

$67 to $85 for 3 kits with 2 servings each, depending on plan (omnivore is $79). Use this referral link for 2 free meal kits in your first box
(I might get a credit if I’m subscribed at the exact moment you subscribe).

Ready Made Meals

In addition to meal kits, a number of companies have entered the market offering ready-to-heat, microwavable meals. Basically, an upscale version of your parent’s TV dinners. I’m not sure I’ll try enough of these to merit their own category, but I’ll list the one I’ve tried so far (I will also be getting Thistle next week – use promo code https://www.thistle.co/referral/MARGARI98F for $30 off your first order).

Freshly

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Freshly offers fresh, refrigerated, microwable meals that you can heat up in just 2-4 minutes. Quality wise, they are way above any frozen meal I’ve tried. Indeed, taste wise they are as good as most meal kits. They do suffer a little texture-wise.

The biggest issue is that their menu doesn’t change much from week to week, so if you’re craving variety, you won’t find it here. They also don’t offer vegan meals. Still, it’s a good choice for when you have a busy week and you can’t make time to cook.

$60 for 6 meals (1 serving each). Use this referral link to get $20 off your first and second week (I might get a credit if I’m subscribed at the exact moment you subscribe).

Non-Subscription Meal Kits

In addition to the meal kits above, there are a couple of companies that sell meal kits that don’t require a subscription. I have not yet tried these ones, but I might in the future. Good Eggs, a Bay Area company, delivers 3 and 4 serving meal kits from an extensive set menu and Amazon.com sells kits through their Prime Fresh service (which costs $16/month).

Freshly Delivers Ready to Heat Meals, but are they any good?

Update: Freshly has closed down.

Freshly is a 21st century TV-dinner delivery service. What they send is freshly prepared, fully cooked, microwavable meals. Sort of like Hungry Man, but with fresher and better quality ingredients, updated recipes and no preservatives. The meals take 2 to 3 1/2 minutes to warm up and 2 more minutes before you can plate them (though nothing stops you from eating them directly from the tray, they do look better plated).

While these single-serving meals don’t really work well for dinner as a family, I do find them useful when my husband is out of town – with one daughter in college and the other with an erratic schedule, I often find myself having dinner alone. And, of course, they make convenient lunches any time I don’t have leftovers. Still, they are pricy so I prefer to think of them as dinner fare.

When I first tried Freshly, it was the first service of its kind. Since then, others have come along. I’ve really enjoyed CookUnity, a service where the meals are planned and theoretically cooked by professional chefs, which I felt was a couple of notches better than Freshly, but I decided to give Freshly another try to see if competition has made them better.


The Plans

You can subscribe to get anywhere between 4 and 12 meals a week, and a box is delivered weekly. Meals cost between $9 to $12.50 each, depending on how many you buy. I chose the standard 6-meals deal, which costs $10/meal or $60 a week – which is about the same price as meal kit companies such as Blue Apron and HelloFresh. They now also offer some premium meals at premium prices, usually $1-$2.50 more. Shipping used to be free but it’s now $10/week.

The Food

Freshly offers 48 meals to chose from, a significant expansion from the 30 they had in the past. They have greatly expanded their vegetarian and vegan offerings, they now have 6 of the latter – making it a good choice for those with pesky vegan children. The recipes are modern and classic American fare, plus some things in fashion (like Korean bibimbap). I found most of the dishes to be filling.

I thought the quality of the food was very good (save for one dish). But personally, I don’t think I’d use them frequently simply because they don’t have enough meals that appeal to me.

The meals take between 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 minutes to heat up, plus 2 minutes to rest.

The Shipping and Delivery

When I first signed up, they assigned me to get my meals on a Wednesday. That’s not really convenient for type of food which is best suited for busy weekdays. However, I was able to change my preferences to get my meals on Mondays in the future.

The meals were delivered during the day with plenty of time to use them.

The Packaging

Freshly’s meals come in microwavable plastic trays, covered with a film of plastic – just like TV dinner. They do have a recyclable cardboard sleeve around each one that includes information about the meal’s ingredients and nutrition.

The trays come in a recyclable cardboard box. Both the freezer packs and the lining of the box are landfill material. It did bother me that Freshly tries to make itself appear more environmentally friendly by claiming that “most” of the lining – made out of recycled denim – is biodegreadable. That may be the case, but you cannot compost the lining (I called Freshly and confirmed this), and biodegradable matter thrown in a landfill produces methane and other greenhouse gases, for which reason most modern landfills are packed tightly so no biodegradation occurs. Freshly surely must know this, so it’s attempting to deceive its customers which gives me a bad feeling.

Same with saying that their freezer packs are “non toxic’ – well, I guess it’s something – but why not provide compostable freezer packs or those that can be emptied down the drain?

The Results

The newer meals I tried are on top. Click on the name for a thorough review.

Hearty Veggie Bolognese with Red Lentil Ziti & Parmesan Cheese
Teriyaki Salmon Cakes with Brown Rice & Spicy Green Beans
Probably as good as it gets for refrigerated TV meals.
Ranch Chicken with Broccoli-Cheddar Cakes
Dry chicken, flavorless ranch, this was a thumbs down.
BBQ Shredded Beef with Roasted Carrots & Cornbread
A pretty solid meal
Rustic Chicken with Mashed Potatoes & Veggies
As good as chicken & mashed gets in a TV tray
Garden Veggie Bowl
A nice veggie bowl
Steak Peppercorn
Surprisingly tasty, juicy steak and tasty mashed potatoes

In all, they were clearly superior to frozen meals, and they were of about the same quality as meals you make from meal kits, and – depending on the restaurant choices in your area – probably about the same quality as takeout/delivery. I think at $10/meal, they’re a bit overpriced – but at $7 (what I paid for each with a promo), they make a lot of sense – at least if you are not a picky eater, and you don’t mind repeating your meals frequently.

I think that if you like enough of their offerings, Freshly is a good solution for people who want a nice meal at work/school and don’t want to go out to a restaurant or get take/out. They are certainly very quick to microwave. They also work for families like mine where it’s hard to know who is going to be eating dinner at home each night. If they had a whole line of vegan meals, I might very well get them for my vegan daughter. And they are definitely a good idea for single people who don’t want to cook for themselves every night.

But obviously, they cannot replace family dinners – the idea of each one of us eating something from a microwave is sad. If you are a family that sits together for the dinner every night, these are not for you.

Review: Freshly’s Teriyaki Salmon Cakes and Ranch Chicken

Here are my reviews of my final two weeks of my Freshly subscription.

Teriyaki Salmon Cakes with Brown Rice & Spicy Green Beans

Rating 8/10

I got this meal for my husband – who, unlike me, likes salmon – and he liked it quite a lot. He liked the spice on the beans, and thought the rice & salmon was very flavorful. It was supposed to be salmon cakes with rice, mind you, but one of them came completely apart as I transferred them from the microwaved trade towards the plate.

I think the fact that you don’t need a knife to eat this meal is also a plus in terms of taking it with you to work.

This meal had 460 calroies, 20 grams of fat (4 saturated), 54 grams of carbs, 12 g of sugar and 560g of sodium, which is relatively low for Freshly. Only 18 g of protein, though.

Ranch Chicken with Broccoli-Cheddar Cakes

Rating 4/10

This was, by far, the worst Freshly meal I got in my first week. The chicken was tough and dry and the ranch sauce was pretty bland and tasteless. I’m not sure how you get Ranch sauce wrong – maybe when you are trying to make it healthier, but it was just so blah.

The cheddar broccoli cakes were only marginally more flavorful.

The meal had 500 calories, 20 g fat (7 saturated), 33 g of carbs & 9 sugar. It had 48 g of protein.

I paid a little under $7 for each of these meals, with a special offer.

Review: Freshly’s BBQ Shredded Beef & Rustic Chicken

These are my reviews of two more Freshly meals

BBQ Shredded Beef with Roasted Carrots & Cornbread

Rating 7/10

BBQ beef (or pork or chicken) is all about the sauce. This one was fairly good, though not among our favorites. It was sweet and tangy, probably more of the latter than we like. My husband, all in all, liked it more than I did. I found it just too sweet. Like most of the sauces we’ve encountered in Freshly meals, this one was too runny as well.

The cornbread was fairly good as well. It was probably less sweet than I like it, but it was just right for my husband.

Now, personally I don’t think this was any tastier than other refrigerated BBQ meat meals offered at the supermarket. But if you’re already subscribing to Freshly, it’s not a bad meal to include in your order.

This meal has 560 calories, and 30 grams of fat, half of which is saturated. It has 51 grams of carbs, including 19 grams of sugar and 760 mg of sodium (1/3 of your daily allotment). I wouldn’t say it’s exactly healthy – but I chose it.

Rustic Chicken with Mashed Potatoes & Veggies

Rating 7/10

My daughter and I split this meal. She got the chicken, and I got the mashed potatoes and mushroom mix that was probably meant to be eaten with the chicken.

She was happy enough with the chicken. I tasted it and found it dry, but that’s what I would expect from a microwaved chicken breast. It would have been far tastier if it was a thigh. The mashed potatoes, OTOH, were delicious. The mushroom mixture was tasty as well, it had a bacony/smoky flavor and I’m sure it’d have gone great with the chicken.

This meal has 470 calories, and 24 grams of fat, 9g of which are saturated. It has 31g of carbs, including 5g of sugar and 700 mg of sodium (almost 1/3 of your daily allotment).

The ingredients in this meal you wouldn’t use if making it yourself include natural shiitake flavor.

I paid a little under $7 for each of these meals, with a special offer.

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 6/10

Update: I got this meal again and I was nowhere as pleased. The steak wasn’t as red or as juicy and it was underseasoned. The consistency was also a bit weird. The mashed potatoes were the same, tasty but a bit too salty.

Original Review

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.

Refrigerated Meal Review: Cedarlane Cheese Tortellini with Creamy Tomato Sauce

I had not heard of Cedarlane before I found this refrigerated Cheese Tortellini meal at Grocery Outlet. It turns out that Cedarlane is a 40-year old company that sells frozen and refrigerated food. I couldn’t find this exact item in their website, but they do show several intriguing vegan meals I’ll try to find (they apparently sell this brand at Lucky Supermarkets).

This tray meal of tortellini in tomato sauce was basic but tasty. I liked how soft the tortellini were. There are three servings in this meal, but I can’t imagine that it would satisfy more than one as a full meal.

It was $5 at Grocery Outlet, so I imagine it costs significantly more at the supermarket. At $5 is a good meal, I’m not sure I’d pay any more than that.

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