Meal Kit Review: Sun Basket’s Lamb korma with sweet potato mash and toasted naan

Rating: 8/10

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 + Recipes

Rating: 9/10

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:

Saucy Thyme Steak

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.

Au Jus

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. 


Review: India Oven / Indian Masala, Las Vegas, NV

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
http://www.indiamasalalasvegas.com
Open 11.30am to 3pm –  5pm to 10pm


Delights Delicatessen @ the MGM Signature, Las Vegas

Update

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.

Delights Delicatessen
at the Signature suites
145 East Harmon Avenue
Las Vegas, NV
https://www.signaturemgmgrand.com/en/restaurants/delights-delicatessen.html

Marga’s Las Vegas

Marga’s Restaurant Reviews


The Crepery, Fairbanks – Restaurant Review

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.

The Crepery
535 2nd Ave
Fairbanks, AK
(907) 450-9192
M-F 7 AM – 7 PM, Sa 9 AM – 6 PM, Su 11 Am – 5 PM

Marga’s Restaurant Reviews


Lemongrass Thai Cuisine – Restaurant Review – Fairbanks, AK

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
Fairbanks, AK
907 456-2200
http://www.lemongrassalaska.com/
M-Sa 11am — 4pm, 5pm — 10pm

Marga’s Restaurant Reviews


Tiparos Thai Food Review – Fairbanks, AK

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.
Fairbanks AK
(907) 455-8424
http://tiparos.webs.com
Mon-Fri: 11am-9pm
Sun: 12pm-8pm

Marga’s Restaurant Reviews: Outside the Bay Area


The Cookie Jar Restaurant, Fairbanks, AK – Review

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
Fairbanks, AK
907-479-8319
http://cookiejarfairbanks.com/


Joan’s Bakery Cafe

Joan’s Bakery Cafe has been opened for just a few months and is already in its last legs.  It’s clear from the offerings that its owners don’t have the capital to keep it running. My bet is that it will close soon, very soon.

The space that Joan’s occupies has been having troubles for years.  It seemed fairly successful when it operated as Planet Coffee under its original owners, but a series of new owners and new names were unable to make it succeed.  I’m not exactly sure as to why, as before this latest incarnation as Joan’s Bakery, the offerings were both good and well priced.

Joan’s Bakery Cafe, however, is a mess.  First of all, it’s not a bakery.  I don’t know if it ever was, but right now all they sell are pre-packaged, dried Chinese baked items from a bakery in Oakland and old and stale bagels and doughnuts, I recognized as sold at Grocery Outlet.  They do have cafe offerings, though I cannot comment as I didn’t try any.  Though I did order a large glass of orange juice, thinking it’d be freshly squeezed (it should have been, for the $4.50 price), but it was not.

The place was empty, both of customer and of stock, and it seemed to me like the owners had run out of money and couldn’t keep with the expenses of daily operations.  Indeed, it turns out that the space is up for lease.

The food itself wasn’t bad, though grossly overpriced.  I had the lamb shawerma ($8).  The tiny sandwich came with lamb, thick slices of cucumber, tomato and sauce.  The lamb was nicely spiced, it definitely had some curry powder, but not an overwhelming amount.  However, there were no sides (not even chips) and I was nowhere close to full after eating it (the doughnut I bought for dessert must have been a week old).

Mike had the rib-eye blue cheese sandwich ($8) and it was also minute but very tasty.

The whole cafe is in charge of a young girl with limited command of English. She has to attend to customers, answer the phone and prepare and serve the food.  That means limited service even if you’re the only ones eating there.

In all, I’m sad this cafe was such a bust – but I look forward to the space being occupied by a good restaurant one day.

San Leandro Restaurant Reviews


Love with Food review – February 2015

Love with Food, $12/$20 a month snack subscription ($29 for gluten-free box)
Promo: 50% off first box by using my link, GFLS = 50% off gluten free box, Groupon for deluxe box ($10 for 1 month/$26 for 3 months)
I paid: $2 with expired promo

As part of my general addiction to subscription boxes, I’ve ventured into the realm of subscription snack boxes with its most heavily promoted box: Love with Food. This box features a variety of not-too-bad-for-you snacks, both from niche and heavily distributed brands. The monthly subscription is $12, though you can get your first box for a discount by using my referral link (or any other referral link you find).

The snacks were all good, and I definitely enjoyed them at the $2. However, the total cost of the snacks included in the box came up to $7 – so I’d have been bummed if I’d paid full price for the box. Needless to say, I unsubscribed, which was a very quick and easy process, though it involved filling out a survey but that was actually a plus, as it gave me the opportunity to tell them why I was cancelling.

This is what I got in my box:

maccheesebitesSnikiddy Snacks Mac N’ Cheese Puffs, 1 .75 oz package (65 cents)

My 12-year old really liked these mac n’ cheese puffs. To me they tasted somewhat citric and not at all cheesy. She felt they tasted like mac & cheese (which I, personally, avoid). Other pluses, non-GMO and gluten free. The main ingredients are corn, rice flower, oil, whey, cheddar cheese and buttermilk. The package had 90 calories. Not a bad snack.

Made in USA

kettlechipsBoulder Canyon Olive Oil Totally Natural Kettle Chips, 1.5 oz ($1.50)

These are pretty good, run-of-the-mill kettle chips. I like that they contain only three ingredients: potatoes, olive oil and salt. And I like that they are not too greasy and not too hard. I think they need more salt, however. They mostly taste like plain chips, with the olive oil only giving them a hint of bitterness. I did quickly finish the whole package (220 calories), but I was pretty much full afterwards. I’d buy them. They are made in the USA and they are available at some supermarkets.

energybar-peanutbuttanhoney-webHoney Stinger Peanut Butter’n Honey Energy Bar, 1.75 oz bar, ($2)

This was a pretty tasty bar.  I can’t say that it was particularly delicious, and I did find it too sweet, but I enjoyed it.

Made in USA

lemonwaferDolcetto Petites Lemon Wafer Bites, .7 oz (85 cents)

These lemon wafers are delicious. They are crispy wafers, filled with a sweet, lemon-flavored creamy filling, not too unlike those in lemon cookies. They are full of flavor, and much lighter than a cookie. The packages are tiny, but at 100-calories they should satisfy your need for a bit of sugar. They seem to be made in Indonesia, and they have sugar rather than corn syrup.

Dilettante Toffee Crunch Truffle Cremes No. 39, 2 candies (70 cents)

These are nicely sized (perhaps even a little too big for a bite), and quite tasty – but I found them to be too smooth for my taste – I prefer more crunch. Definitely a nice treat, though. Each candy has 55 calories and they are made in the USA

mombanaMombana Traditional Hot Chocolate, 1 envelope (70 cents)

I still haven’t used it.

Enough for 1 8-oz cup. Made in the USA.

divinechocDivine Milk Chocolate Mini Pieces, 2 5 gram pieces (50 cents)

Nice, tasty chocolate.  Not exceptional, but a nice little treat.  They sell this occasionally at Grocery Outlet.

Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning, 2 sample envelopes (no value)

Available at Walmart for less than $3 for a 1 lb jar.  The samples are tiny and I can’t imagine I can really try them, but maybe I’ll sprinkle them on something.