A sauce or a topping can either enhance or ruin a steak. Last week, I made a HelloFresh kit that had steak with an amazing thyme-demi-glace sauce that greatly improved the meat. The relish in this kit for steak and roasted sweet potato with scallion-ginger relish did the opposite, it hid the flavor of the meat and just made it taste vinegary.
There were other problems as well. The oven-baked sweet potato fries (which I overcooked) were pretty boring – again, I preferred the HelloFresh version which adds thyme. This was my first time eating kale and I found it surprisingly edible. It stayed crisp even after cooking for a couple of minutes and I liked the subtle garlic flavor. Not a bad way of eating your veggies.
Sun Basket advertises that you may get organic filet mignon, organic rib eye or top sirloin in this kit. Of course, I got the cheaper top sirloin – which weren’t even organic, sort of defeating the whole point of this subscription. While the steaks were pretty small, ~5 oz each, the whole meal was the right size portion for dinner. Still, I was not happy that one steak was far thinner than the other. In this case it wasn’t too big a deal, as my daughter likes her beef well done and I like it medium rare, but it would have been a pain if I was cooking for two people who like their meat with the same doneness.
All the ingredients in the meat were fresh and remained so even a couple of days after I got it. The produce was organic even if the beef was not. It was relatively easy and quick to put this meal together. But then again, it would have been relatively easy and quick to shop for it as well, specially given that the relish was totally unnecessary. This is one meal for which you don’t need to have a kit.
I paid $11 for this kit using a discount, and it was definitely fine for that, but it would be overpriced at $24.
For years, I had been avoiding meal kits. I’d get coupons for HelloFresh in the boxes of online orders for all sorts of products or hear my friend rave about the cool Blue Apron meal that awaited her at home, and I’d just shake my head. To me, the idea of meal kits made no sense. At a cost of $10-$12 per person, per meal, meal kits rival the cost of take out but you have to go through the trouble of making the meal yourself. Plus unlike take out, meal kits portions are measured so you won’t have leftovers. Financially, I figured, I got more bang from my money from ordering out and with less mess.
Meal kits, moreover, seemed to be the culinary equivalent of painting by numbers: you end up with something that may be nice but you put no creativity into it (though then again, 99% of my cooking means following a recipe, so what creativity do I ever use?). Moreover, I worried the meals would not be that tasty and that the portions would not be large enough to satisfy us.
But I’ve been in a huge cooking rut. I got to the “H” in my international cooking project and I’ve been left with a lot of cuisines that have just not been inspiring me or that require me to hunt for ingredients that are problematic in the first place (pork belly, anyone?). Moreover, I live with four people with very different diets: a vegan, an uber-picky tween, a low-carb eater and me, who hates vegetables. Forget cooking a meal that the four of us can eat, I can rarely cook something that will satisfy three of us! So rather than cook, we’ve been eating a lot of frozen food and take out. Both horrible options for our taste buds and/or our wallet. I was ripe for something else.
A few weeks ago, I was doing an online order for Safeway – our local supermarket – when I came across their listings for Plated meal kits. They had four that I could get as part of my deliver order, with no commitment to a subscription and with no shipping charges. I figured I’d give it a try and wow, it was a revelation. The meal was fun to prepare and I did enough of the work (albeit following detailed instructions) that, at the end, I had the same type of satisfaction as when I cook a meal from a recipe I chose and shopped for myself. The psychology involved reminds me of the story of how boxed cake mixes only took off after marketers began suggesting that cooks add eggs and other elements to make them their own. And the results were great. The portion was perfectly sized, the ingredients seemed high quality (unlike what I’m sure the cheap restaurants I order from use), and the results were very tasty. I wanted more.
And that’s when I remembered those HelloFresh coupons I still had around. I figured I’d start with them and then give other meal kit services a try and see what they really have to offer and how do they compare to one another. Some of these companies also offer their recipes online, I will be cooking some of these both to get a greater sense for what each company offers without breaking the bank and to get a sense of just how good or bad of a deal the kits are versus shopping for the ingredients yourself.
I hope you’ll come along in this journey and leave comments of your own experiences with these services – and these recipes.
Meal Kits Subscriptions Reviewed So Far
How Meal Kit Subscriptions Work
While you can now find individual meal kits at supermarkets (Safeway & Albertson’s sell Plated, Walmart sells their own, Gobble and other ones, Kroger sells Home Chef), most people get meal kits by subscribing to one of many services. Of these, Blue Apron is the largest one in the US, will HelloFresh, a German company that operates in several countries, following it. There are currently dozens of meal kit companies, some specializing in particular diets or regions.
A standard meal kit subscription is for a weekly box containing three meal kits, each for two adults. Some subscription services allow you to order fewer meal kits a week, while others let you order more. Some subscription services also have kits that feed three or four people. When you subscribe, you usually chose the “plan” you prefer.
What are Your Meal Choices? Can You Chose What Meals You Get?
Most meal kit companies offer contemporary American food, though I’ll be exploring the meal choice differences between companies. Some companies offer vegetarian or even vegan options and some even specialize in this fare. Some have specific plans for specific diets such as paleo and keto.
Most subscription services put up a list of the meal kit options you have every week and allow you to select the ones you want. You usually have a deadline of 5 to 7 days before you receive the meal to make your choices. If you don’t make it, many of these services will just send you their own choices.
If you don’t like any meal options for a week or you’ll be out of town, you can simply suspend your shipments for that week – and you can even do that for multiple weeks in advance -, as long as you remember to do it before the deadline.
What Do You Get in a Meal Kit?
Meal kits come with most of the ingredients you need to make the meal you select in the precise amounts called for by the recipe. For example, the HelloFresh meal kit for Sweet ‘N’ Smoky Pork Chops with Apple Carrot Slaw, Mashed Potatoes, and Cherry Sauce came with a sealed package with 2 boneless pork chops, 2 scallions, a handful of small gold potatoes, an apple, little jars with jam and mayo, a little bottle with vinegar, a small plastic packet with a spice mix, a tiny sachet with sour cream and a sealed plastic bag with shredded carrots.
Some meal kits offer fewer ingredients – for example Dinnerly says they keep their meals cheap by only having 5 ingredients in them.
The meals usually call for but do not include staples such as salt/Kosher salt, pepper, butter and oil/olive oil.
The meal kits and recipes I’ve tried so far include a main dish and one or two side dishes – usually a starch and a vegetable.
How Much Do Meal Kits Cost?
Meal kits costs vary by company. At the bottom of the barrel, you have Dinnerly and Every Plate, which offer 3 weekly meals for 2 for $39 ($6.50 per person, per meal) includding shipping costs. Both companies get very iffy reviews, but I will assess them myself later in this project.
Some companies have premiums on special meals (e.g. HelloFresh will charge $12 more for “gourmet” meals) and most of the larger companies have special deals heavily discounting your first week of meals. I will be taking advantage of these discounts in doing my reviews of meal kits.
In addition, companies that offer the two meal kits a week option usually charge more for these, and companies that offer meal kits for more than 2 people have a lower per-person cost in these.
Are Meal Kits A Good Value?
This is one of the questions that I will be exploring in this project. In addition to buying and making meal kits, I’ll be “hacking” meal kit recipes by making them with my own ingredients and comparing how much money I’ve spent on them. Of course, you can’t buy a single celery rib or a tablespoon of sour cream, so in evaluating my cost I will consider the total cost of whatever I had to buy to make the meal – and exclude the cost of any item I already had at home.
So far, I’ve made five meals from meal kit recipes at an out of pocket cost of $2.75 to $7.50 per person/per meal, and total cost of $5.50 to $18.50 per meal (I increased some of these recipes to feed 3 or 4 people).
My costs, however, reflect the actual ingredients I bought. Some may be of lower quality than the ones sent by the meal kit companies. Some of these companies specialize in sending organic produce and free range meats that I may not be able to find at my local discount or regular grocery stores. Moreover, some of these companies send gourmet items such as demi-glace which I’d have to special order (and will in this particular case for future meals).
And the total cost of the meal does not account for the time shopping for the ingredients or correctly portioning them for each meal. Time is money, after all, and most people do not enjoy spending it grocery shopping. Do bear in mind how much you like or dislike to shop and what else you could be doing with your time while evaluating the actual costs of these meal kits.
How Long Does It Take To Prepare a Meal from a Kit?
Meal Kit companies usually give you an estimate of how long it’ll take you to make a meal from their kits, usually ranging from 15 minutes to an hour. While I haven’t done this yet, for future meals I will measure how long it actually takes me. This is more complicated than it sounds, because I seldom *just* make a meal – rather I alternate the steps of making meals with other tasks around the house. But I’ll try.
What Are the Instructions Like?
All kits come with instructions. Cheaper kits require you to download them and either print them or follow them from your internet device. More expensive kits come with printed cards or a magazine with all the recipes for that week’s kits. Most have step by step instructions, some of which are illustrated. I’ve found the illustrations helpful specially when trying to determine how to cut vegetables.
The instructions for these meal kits help you maximize your time by intercepting the steps you need to follow to make the main dish and any accompanying side dishes or sauces. I’ve found this particularly valuable.
What Equipment Do You Need?
The meal kits I’ve used assume that you have a fully stocked kitchen as far a cookware goes, though some provide alternatives in case you don’t (e.g. use a spoon to mash potatoes if you don’t have a masher). Though some of these recipes try to minimize the number of dishes you use, they are not always successful. I’ve found myself having to wash as many pots and implements following these kits as I’d normally have to wash, if not more.
How do Meals Taste?
This is another question that I’ll aim to answer in this project. So far, I’ve cooked eight meals from meal kits and five more from meal kit recipes using my own ingredients. All the meat-based meals have been good to great. The vegan meals I’ve cooked have been merely OK. But it’s early in the project.
What is Good About Meal Kits?
For me, it’s the fact that many of the meal kits I’ve tried include not only a main dish (which is often rather simple), but also one or two side dishes and that the chef behind them has done the required planning so that all you have to do is follow the steps in the recipe.
Moreover, the kits include all the ingredients you need for the meal so you don’t have to worry, when you menu plan, that your local grocery store may be out of one.
Finally, there is no food waste.
What is Bad About Meal Kits?
They generate a lot of garbage. While some of it is recyclable (e.g. the boxes and some of the little bottles and jars), the frozen gel packs are not and they are just being accumulated in landfills. Moreover, many of the veggies come in plastic bags which are not really recyclable either – of course, this is also true of the packaged produce you buy at the supermarket. While the meal kits bought at the supermarket also have a lot of plastic packaging, at least they don’t require these non-recyclable gel packs, so they may be a better option environmentally.
The meal kits are also pretty expensive, specially if you have to feed a whole family. And there are no leftovers – which means that the effort you put into preparing a meal feeds you just once.
Do you have any questions? Leave them below.
I love lamb korma so when I saw this lamb korma with sweet potato mash and toasted naan kit on Sun Basket‘s menu, I knew I had to get it – even if I was a little suspicious of a meal kit being able to really being able to turn out one of my favorite dishes.
My suspicious were justified. While this kit produced a very nicely spiced ground lamb, it didn’t taste like any korma I’ve ever had at an Indian restaurant – in the US, England or India itself. Still, the “korma” sauce Sun Basket provided – and which is fully absorbed by the meat when you cook it -, enhanced the flavor of the lamb and made it very tasty.
The whole wheat naan bread was also much better than it had any right to be – though I wish there had been some sauce for it to soak in. And adding balsamic vinegar to the mashed sweet potatoes was a glorious idea. It transformed baby food into something quite tasty.
However, for whatever reason, I felt a little bit nauseous later that night and that nausea returns whenever I think of this kit. My husband didn’t report a similar feeling, so it may just be me.
It took me about an hour to make this meal, but I’m a slow prepper/cooker. Probably the worst part about the meal, though, was the presentation.
While the produce in this kit was organic, the lamb was not, though I’m not sure that’s particularly important vis a vis lamb. Everything seemed to be fresh.
All in all this was a good meal kit. I paid a discounted price of $11 for the kit (which serves two), and it was definitely worth that, but I don’t think it was worth the $24 regular price. For that amount of money I can get a large-enough-for-two order of real Indian lamb korma at my regular take-out Indian restaurant, in addition to rice and some pakoras or samosas – and I wouldn’t have to cook it myself.
Meal Kit Review: HelloFresh Saucy Thyme Steak with Sweet Potatoes and Green Beans Amandine + RecipesPosted: October 21, 2018 | Author: marga | Filed under: Meal Kits | Tags: green beans, Hello Fresh, HelloFresh meal kit reviews, reviews, steak, sweet potatoes | Leave a comment »
I, obviously, need a new camera – or something better than my I-pad, which always takes blurry pictures. But I think even my out-of-focus picture of my thrown together Saucy Thyme Steak with Sweet Potatoes and Green Beans Amandine is more appealing than HelloFresh‘s:
This, indeed, is one of the problem with HelloFresh: their photos don’t make the food appear particularly enticing. To be honest, neither does the description of the dishes. Most of them sound totally boring – and yet everything I’ve had from them (albeit, it was just four meal kits) has tasted good, if not great.
And this recipe has probably been the best of the bunch. The “ranch” steak was good in itself, but the pan sauce was amazing – it made me a convert to demi-glace. I’m not the biggest fan of sweet potatoes, but I liked them served in this manner and they were perfectly cooked (per the instructions), and not at all chalky, as they can get. The combination with abundant thyme was also great.
And the green beans weren’t too shabby either. All in all, this meal was of the quality you’d expect at a nice restaurant (one in which they serve boring side dishes, as they do in my town). Most amazingly, it wasn’t even part of HelloFresh’ “gourmet” offerings, so it was regular price ($22 to $24, depending on your plan).
All the ingredients in the kit arrived in good condition. I was a little surprised at just how much thyme there was, but it was all used.The recipe didn’t call for peeling the sweet potatoes, but I did anyway. The only real issue is that one of the steaks was significantly thinner than the other, so it required less cooking.
The portions were good and we actually had leftover sweet potatoes/beans.
Making the meal was pretty straightforward, and the only thing I had to watch for was cooking each steak for a different amount of time given their relative thickness.
In all, if you have HelloFresh, I’d recommend this meal. And if not, I’d recommend making it with your own ingredients. You can sign up for HelloFresh using my referral link and get $40 off your first week, which is a very good deal.
Make this recipe on the pan where you’ve pan-grilled or broiled steak,with the pan juices are your base.
- 1 Tbsp demi-glace
- 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup water
- 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- 1 Tbsp butter
- salt & pepper
Place pan with pan juices over medium-high heat and add the demi-glace and water, crapping the bits of browned meat from the pan. Simmer until slight thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn heat off and mix in the butter. Taste and season as needed.
Roasted Thyme Sweet Potatoes
- 2 small or 1 large sweet potatoes
- 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- salt & pepper to taste
- olive oil
- 1 Tbsp sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 400°F. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Peel and cube the sweet potatoes into 1/2″ cubes. place on one layer on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with thyme and salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove to serving plate, sprinkle almonds on top and serve.
Make the green beans amandine by following the recipe for the sweet potatoes above, don’t use thyme and cook for 15 minutes only.
We stopped by India Oven / Indian Masala for lunch on a Thursday night in late July, 2017 and enjoyed their lunch buffet. It was pretty generic as far as Indian lunch buffets go, which is not a bad thing.
The restaurant is a fusion of two different Indian restaurants, Indian Oven and Indian Masala, and it does not seem to have decided upon a name so it’s using both. Hey, it’s Vegas, why not? It sits in a small strip mall but the inside is rather nice, it could even pass for elegant if it didn’t have a buffet.
The buffet included a small salad bar, made-to-order naan (choice between plain, butter or garlic), had a couple of appetizers (vegetable pakoras and samosas), soup/daal (if I remember correctly), rice and vegetable rice and four each vegetarian and meat entrees. It most certainly did not have all the dishes they claim to offer in their website, not even close. I tried the four meat dishes and was fairly pleased. The chicken tikka masala had a very nice flavor, slightly spicy, but deep. I enjoyed it. The goat and chicken curry both seemed to have the same sauce, it was good but not a favorite. The chicken tandoori was juicy and very flavorful. My daughter was less happy with the paneer dish she had, but it wasn’t one she usually eats (there was no paneer tikka masala).
The buffet also includes drinks, and my daughters liked the lemonade and the mango lassi, which was more like a thin mango drink than a lassi.
Service was fairly good, though they initially tried to charge my husband for a buffet even though he had clearly not eaten anything (he was sick). Dinner for the four of us (I was there with three tweens), came up to a little over $50 after tax.
Given the plethora of Indian restaurants in Vegas, I’d probably try a different one next time, but this is certainly good enough to visit again.
India Oven Restaurant
India Masala & Bar Grill
1040 E Flamingo Rd
Las Vegas, NV
Open 11.30am to 3pm – 5pm to 10pm
I’ve been a fan of Delights in previous trips, but we skipped it this time. The menu has been greatly reduced and the prices have gone up. A simple coffee is now $4, a 12-oz fountain soda filled of ice is $5, and a tiny bottle of Fiji water or Pellegrino is $6!
Food is more reasonable, but those prices are just unconscionable.
This blog post was written in 2015
Food in Las Vegas is expensive, and nowhere more so than at the hotels where captive audiences allow restaurants to charge outrageous prices without even flinching. Even the restaurants at the hotel food courts are expensive, with a low-quality fast food meal reaching around $10. In this context, the Delights Deli at the Signature suites is really a delight. It has high-quality, delicious food at very reasonable prices.
I’ve eaten there several times during both my stays at the Signature. I’ve had their sandwiches, pizza and pastas (all around $12). They come in generous portions, and they pack them well to bring to your room. I had the cajun chicken alfredo last time, which was tasty but a bit spicy. The pizza is traditional, Italian-sytle thin pizza. Pretty good and well priced. They also have breakfast dishes.
They are open daily 7 am to 9 pm, and you can browse at their menu online. However, you can only order in person. Beware that wait to get your meal prepared can take long, even at non-peak times. There is a nice, casual dining room if you want to eat-in.
at the Signature suites
145 East Harmon Avenue
Las Vegas, NV
We has lunch at The Crepery our first day in Fairbanks. The restaurant has great reviews online, and it’s easy to see why. The crepes are really awesome. They are also unlike any crepes I’ve had before.
The Crepery was started by a European couple who visited Fairbanks and decided to settle there. It serves savory and dessert crepes, as well as different types of coffee drinks. The space is rather small, but we were able to grab a couple of tables which the owner was very kind to put together. The crepes, however, are toasted and folded into triangles, so that you can actually hold them and eat them without having to use silverware.
I got the prosciutto and blue fig crepe and it was extremely delicious. I might have enjoyed a little bit more fig to add additional sweetness, but that’s a minor issue. I loved every single bite. I thought, at first, that the crepe would not be large enough to satisfy my hunger – not really a problem given that they also serve dessert crepes – but I was actually pretty full at the end, though to be fair I did end up eating some of Camila’s crepe as well.
Camila got the ham & cheese crepe. I thought it was delicious, I don’t know where they source their ingredients in Alaska, but they certainly do a great job. Camila, however, felt it had too much diced ham and, indeed, it was a generous serving. She did take much of it out and enjoyed her cheese crepe.
Mika had the tomato basil crepe. She’s been into caprese lately and this crepe really hit the spot, she thought it was delicious. Mike had similar feelings about his smoked salmon crepe.
At the end we were so full that we didn’t actually try any of the sweet crepes, and while we meant to go back, we never did. We should have.
535 2nd Ave
M-F 7 AM – 7 PM, Sa 9 AM – 6 PM, Su 11 Am – 5 PM
Lemongrass Thai Cuisine was recommended to us as one of the best Thai restaurants in Fairbanks (which has surprisingly many). While we liked the food at Tiparos better, Lemongrass is a much more upscale experience – and the food was very good.
We went there during what looked like the dinner rush a Monday evening in March, 2015. The place was packed and service was a little slow at first, but we didn’t care much as we had a lot of time to waste before taking our plane back home. Service during dinner, however, went very smoothly.
I played it safe and ordered my favorite Thai dish, mussaman beef ($14). It was lighter in color that I’m used to, and perhaps a little bit less intense in flavor, though it was somewhat spicy. It was very good, however. It was a large enough portion that I was able to share it with Mike (being our last night in Alaska, we didn’t want any leftovers). Mika had the pad thai ($14) as usual, and she also enjoyed it. Camila had the kid’s chicken satay ($6). The skewers were very small, but Camila thought they were very good.
In all, it was a very good dinner experience.
Lemongrass Thai Cuisine
388 Old Chena Pump Road
M-Sa 11am — 4pm, 5pm — 10pm
We went to Tiparos for dinner our first day in Fairbanks, in March 2015. It was recommended by the concierge at our hotel, who had heard it was the best Thai place in town. I only tried one other Thai restaurant, but I liked Tiparos better.
Tiparos is a humble place, it has a third worldly look to it with decorations thrown into the walls rather than carefully arranged. When we went there for dinner, perhaps before the dinner rush, the place was pretty empty but for some kids belonging to those who worked there. Despite that, service wasn’t particularly attentive – it took a while for the waitress to take our orders and later bring us the bill. She was very nice, however.
The food is what matters, however, and Tiparos it was very good. Los Angeles level good (which is saying a lot as LA has uniformly good Thai restaurants, unlike the Bay Area where I live).
I had the yellow curry with beef, and very much enjoyed the rich and fragrant curry. Mike had the panang curry with chicken and was just as delighted. Mika had the pad thai, and she gave it her stamp of approval while Camila had the chicken satay. That one was probably the least successful dish, I think the chicken needed more flavor.
I doubt I’ll return to Fairbanks, but if I did I’d have dinner there again.
Tiparos Thai Food
404 Lacey St.
We visited Fairbanks in March 2015 to see the northern lights and one of our days there we had a late lunch at the Cookie Jar. It was all in all a good experience and I’d go back if I was to visit Fairbanks again.
The Cookie Jar is a large coffeeshop style restaurant serving typical American food. The prices are reasonable for Fairbanks, though high for the continental US (that’s the case with most restaurants in Fairbanks). The decor is coffeeshop cute and the restaurant is divided into several dining rooms, so noise levels are quite manageable. Even though we were there for a late lunch, the place was pretty busy and there were quite a few families.
My vegetarian 12-yo had the Becca burger ($12), a black bean burger with cheddar cheese and guacamole. She thought it was very good.
My 10-yo was less pleased with her kid’s spaghetti ($8). She just didn’t like the sauce. I’m not sure why, as it was a generic tomato-based pasta sauce. She loved the garlic bread, however.
I had the Monte Cristo sandwich ($11): “two thick slices of bread dipped in egg batter then grilled with ham, turkey, Swiss, and cheddar cheese” and sprinkled with powdered sugar. It took a while to come to the table and when it did, it was missing the filling: they were just french toast slices. The waitress was very apologetic and brought me a substitute as soon as she could – I thought it was pretty funny. By the time I got it, however, I had filled up on my daughters’ fries, garlic bread and spaghetti, but I thought the sandwich was quite good. Fortunately our hotel had a fridge so I was able to enjoy the rest of it later.
Service was great, our waitress was both friendly and solicitous. All in all, a good experience.
The Cookie Jar Restaurant
1006 Cadillac Ct