Restaurant Review: Kabob Express – San Leandro

Kabob Express is, apparently, a food stand at Bayfair Mall in San Leandro. I say apparently because I’ve never actually been – I’ve just ordered take out a couple times. The most recent one was a couple of nights ago, and I was very satisfied with my order.

My order this time was just for my vegan daughter and I. She got a felafel wrap ($11.50), which comes with hummus, tomato, lettuce, cucumber, grilled onions and tahini sauce. You can specify for it to be vegan and it comes with a side of vegan tahini sauce. My daughter was very pleased with this wrap, and particularly liked the tahini. She’d order it again.

Mantu – Afghani dumplings with beef sauce

I had the mantu ($8), an Afghani dish of dumplings with a meat sauce. While this is listed as an appetizer, the dish is large and heavy enough that it can qualify as an entree. It is also absolutely delicious. The steamed pasta is very soft and has a consistency that I just loved, and the beef is intensely spiced. My only complaint is that it didn’t have enough yogurt sauce to balance the richness of the beef. I made up for it by adding some sour cream.

I also ordered a lamb gyro wrap ($12), which I ended up eating the next day. Once again, I was very happy with it. It had thick lamb cubes, tender and perfectly seasoned (in the past, it was a bit too salty). It was a little bit on the small side, however, and given the price I’d been happier if it came with a side.

I also ordered a mint lassi, but got a mango lassi instead. It was good, thick and very sweet. The mint lassi I’ve had in the past was a bit thin, but also tasty.

In the past, I’ve also ordered the samosas, which were very crisp and had a slightly spicy potato filling.  They were very small, maybe half the size of a regular one.  They didn’t taste like regular Indian samosas but were good.

I’ve also had the lentil soup, which was chunky and tasty. It did seem to contain meat, but it’s now listed as vegetarian, so they may have changed the recipe.

I didn’t order the hummus this time (which, beware, comes without pita bread, you must order that separately) because last time around it had a very mild flavor, more tahini than chickpeas. Beware that as with the other items, they might have changed how they make it.

Finally, I was disappointed to not find the bolani in the menu any more. This is an Afghani flatbread stuffed with potatoes, onions and herbs. I really liked it when they had it.

Prices at Kabob Express have gone up pretty radically since last year. The mantu, which was just $6 a year ago, is now $8 while the lamb gyro has gone up a full $4.50, from $7 to $11.50. Still, their prices seem in line with other local restaurants.

You can order Kabob Express through Grubhub ($5 delivery fee) or Doordash (free deliver if over $35, but a $4-5 fee). Doordash prices are slightly higher on some items. Delivery took a little over an hour, apparently because my order wasn’t ready in time (or so said the driver).


Review: Gobble’s Greek Pita Wrap with Grilled Vegetables & Hummus

Rating 8/10

Processed with RNI Films

This kit came with already made hummus, tzatziki, olive tapenade and za’atar spice, as well as a zucchini, a yellow squash, 2 roma tomatoes, a slice of red onion, a small bag of arugula, pita bread and pita chips. Preparation consisted of slicing the squashes, quartering the tomato, sauteing them for about 8 minutes and then assembling the pitas. You then serve it with a side of pita chips and hummus. So a super quick meal to put together.

I didn’t use the tzatziki or tapenade, omitted the onion and substituted the arugula for some spring mix I had to accommodate my daughters’ preferences. I also added some cubed tofu to add protein to the dish.

In all, she was very happy with the results. She found it a very tasty meal. She particularly loved the pita bread. The problem is that the kit came with only two pita breads – so one per person. That was not enough for the amount of filling there was.

This is also a pretty simple meal to put together on your own, though I wouldn’t know where to buy the spongy pita bread they sent.

I got this kit for free due to credits and a welcome back promo code. Use this referral link to get a free kit for 2 with your first box.


Note: if you use my referral link I *may* get some credits in return, if I happen to be subscribed to the meal kit service at the exact moment you use the code – which is unlikely.


Review’s Thistle’s Korean Style Veggie & Rice Noodles and Togarashi Tofu

Rating 6/10

This was the dinner offering for Wednesday, this week, but my daughter was out that night so she took it to school this for lunch today. It looked like a salad to her, so she thought it was a lunch. That meant, she ate it cold.

She thought it was fine, but she did not like one of the herbs – probably the cilantro. It reminded her of a deconstructed spring roll (her words). She said she’d eat it again, but wasn’t enthusiastic about her.

Because she took it to school without my knowing it, I wasn’t able to photograph it.


Review: Dinnerly’s Italian White Bean Tostadas with Zucchini & Roasted Pepper Salsa

Rating 7/10

I made this kit for my vegan daughter tonight and she was relatively pleased with it. She thought it was tasty enough, though she was sort of dumbfounded by the tostadas – she didn’t get them at all. Still, she found them tasty and 3 tostadas were more than enough.

That said, I did make some modifications to the kit. First, I omitted the cheese, to make the tostadas vegan. Second, my daughter doesn’t like peppers (I hadn’t paid attention to what actually came with the kit), so I substituted them with chopped tomato. Of course, making substitutions sort of defeats the purpose of the kit.

Making the dish was relatively simple, but it required using the oven to saute the zucchini and toast the tortillas/tostadas. As summer comes, I want to avoid using the oven.

I paid $6.30 for this kit ($3.15 per serving), using a promo. It’s probably how much it would cost me to buy the ingredients myself. The kit did require me to use my own vinegar.


Review: Green Chef’s Cauliflower Tacos al Pastor

Rating: 8/10

This kit for Cauliflower Tacos al Pastor, Slaw with cilantro-lime aïoli and refried black beans was a complete success for my vegan daughter. She actually wants me to make her more of these.

The key to the dish is the sauce, of course, so I imagine I’ll have to experiment and find one that my daughter might like. Safeway has a pineapple peach salsa that might fit the bill. The cauliflower for these tacos is basically sauteed for 3-4 minutes with green pepper (which she didn’t like so I’ll omit next time), you then add some cubed pineapple, 1/4 cup of water and the al pastor sauce, and put it in a 400F oven for 15 minutes.

This kit also taught me how to make mashed black beans – you put the canned beans in a pot with a little bit of water and a teaspoon of vegetable stock concentrate, cook it for five minutes and then mashed.

The cabbage in the kit was supposed to be mixed with a cilantro aioli, but this wasn’t vegan, so I had to skip it. The cabbage was sort of blah on its own, but it added some crunch to the tacos.

Again, all in all she liked them and she wants me to make them again.

And I will, because I’m certainly not going to pay $26 to make this meal. I paid $10 with a promo, and for that it was a bargain.



Review: Gobble’s Thai Tofu Noodle Bowl with Peanut Sauce

Rating 9/10

This was another Gobble winner this week. My vegan daughter just loved this kit for Thai Tofu Noodle Bowl with Peanut Sauce, and I loved having something good to give her.


It is basically a stir fry, with both curry sauce and peanut sauce – but the peanut sauce was particularly tasty. Flavor wise, this was a winner. And, because the only things that came ready made were the curry paste and peanut sauce, I felt like I actually cooked something for my daughter.

I think I paid around $14 for this kit with a “welcome back” promotion. It produced two generous portions.


Meal Kit Hack: HelloFresh’ Singapore-Style Hakka Noodles with Summer Veggies

Rating 8/10

For the first time, I got to cook a recipe that fit within two of my cooking projects. As a Hakka recipe, this meal of Singapore-Style Hakka Noodles with Summer Veggies fits into my International cuisines project. As a recipe from a meal kit, it fits into my meal kit hacks. Plus, it’s a vegan recipe, which I’m guessing will soon become a project of its own.

What’s even better, is that my daughter liked it! It’s one of the very few vegan meals she’s said she’d like me to make again.

It was, I must admit, more complicated than most of the stir fries that she eats so often now – and it used more pans – but hey, it’s all about the results. I tasted the noodles, and they were delicious – very much like the garlic noodles that you get at a variety of Asian restaurants. I’m definitely going to make them again just for me 🙂

Talking about noodles, I waited to make this dish until I could send my husband to the Asian supermarket to pick up some Hakka noodles. We usually shop at 88 Manor Market, where they have a zillion varieties of noodles, maybe more. But I also wanted him to pick up some pork belly for a different recipe and I wasn’t sure they’d have it there – so I asked him to go to Foodnet instead. I hadn’t been there before, however, and apparently Foodnet is the one noodle-free Chinese supermarket. Go figure. They did have a 4 lb box of Imperial Taste Dried Noodle, which turned out to be vermicelli-like noodles. According to the box, they had a “chewing taste!,” and they did prove to be nicely chewy. They worked great in this recipe even if they weren’t what Hakkas in Singapore would use.

I spent $10 to make this recipe, which resulted in two large bowls. That’s half of what the HelloFresh meal kit would cost (though this kit is from England, so you can’t get it anyway :-). As usual, I count the total cost of the ingredients I had to buy to make this meal, but not of the ones I already had at home.

Plated IngredientsMy IngredientsCost
200 g Hakka Noodles4 lbs Taiwanese dried noodle$5
10 g chives1 pckg fresh chives
(used less)
$2.3
30 g ginger1 lb ginger$2.3
1 Tbsp chili garlic sauce2 garlic cloves + 1/8 tsp chili saucepantry
1 Tbsp soy sauce1 Tbsp soy saucepantry
1 tsp mild curry powder1 tsp mild curry powderpantry
113 g julienned carrots1 carrot$0.2
1 zucchini1/2 zucchinipantry
113 g Green Peas1 cup grozen green peaspantry
200 g extra-firm tofu8 oz extra-firm tofupantry

I will link to my version of the recipe once I post it on my International Cuisines site.


Meal Kit Hack: Blue Apron’s Fusilli Bucati Pasta with Summer Squash, Corn, & Tomatoes + Recipe

Rating 8/10

My vegan daughter is into zucchini. She only recently discovered it (i.e. was willing to give it a try) and now she can’t get enough. I made her pasta with zucchini the other day, by just winging it, but tonight I decided to actually shop for and follow a recipe. I decided on this Blue Apron recipe for Fusilli Bucati Pasta with Summer Squash, Corn, & Tomatoes because it was simple and easy to “veganize”.

I did, of course, make some changes to the recipe – as you can see by ingredient list below. Instead of fusilli, I used rigattoni pasta. I prefer to give my kids chickpea pasta, rather than wheat pasta, as it has more fiber and protein – and Grocery Outlet, my closest grocery store, didn’t have chickpea fusilli. I used more garlic and more corn than what came in the Blue Apron kit because it was so recommended by the people who commented on the recipe. I used zucchini instead of summer squash as we’re still in winter and cherry tomatoes because they were easy to find. And I used
Romano/Parmesan/Asiago cheese mix because that’s what I had at home – though instead of adding it to the pan, I served it on the side. I did the same with the butter. That way, both my vegan and my non-vegan daughters were happy. Finally, I used basil instead of parsley because several reviewers said basil worked best.

My kids were very happy. My oldest daughter liked it as much as any meal kit I’d ever bought – and while the youngest didn’t like the tomatoes (she’s currently anti-tomato), she just picked them out. The kids particularly liked the corn, which added crunch and sweetness to the dish. Next time I’ll experiment with using other types of tomatoes to see what work best for both girls.

In all, I spent $9 to make this recipe – a significant saving over the $20 it would have cost if I bought it from Blue Apron. This includes the price of the ingredients I had to buy in larger quantity than needed (e.g. the pasta and corn, which they only had packaged by four cobs), but not of the items I had at home.

Blue Apron IngredientsMy IngredientsCost
½ lb Fusilli Bucati Pasta½ lb chickpea rigattoni pasta$2
2 cloves garlic3 cloves garlicpantry
1 ear corn2 ears corn$4
1 Summer Squash1 Zucchini$1
½ lb Heritage Globe Or Cocktail Tomatoes10 oz cherry tomatoes$2
¼ tsp Crushed Red Pepper FlakesskippedN/A
2 Tbsps Butter2 tsp butterpantry
2 Tbsps Grated Pecorino CheeseRomano/Parmesan/Asiago cheese mixpantry
1 bunch Parsley6 basil leavesgarden

Pasta with Zucchini, Corn, & Tomatoes

This recipe feeds four, it doubles the recipe in the kit.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pasta of your choice
  • 4 ears of corn
  • 1 lb cherry tomatoes, halved
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Zucchini, cut in 1/3″ thick half moons
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • butter to taste (optional)
  • Grated cheese to taste (optional)

Directions

Put a pot of salted water to boil. When ready, add the pasta and cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, cut corn kernels off the cob and discard cob and silks. Season halved tomatoes with salt and pepper.

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large saute pan. When hot, add the zucchini slices all in one layer and fry until brown, 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add corn and garlic and stir fry for two minutes. Add the tomatoes, season, and stir fry for another minute. Turn down heat to low. Mix in half of the chopped basil.

Once the pasta is ready, drain, reserving 3/4 cup of cooking liquid. Add pasta to the vegetables and mix. Add the cooking liquid and cook over medium-low heat for a few minutes, or until the water boils off.

Transfer to serving plate(s) and sprinkle remaining basil on top. Served accompanied by butter and cheese.



Easy Pear Tart

“These pears are getting soft,” my daughter announced from the kitchen.

I sighed. I buy so many produce that goes bad because the child that requested it forgets about it. Indeed, I buy so much food that goes bad before anyone uses it. As it happened, at that very moment I had a two or three week old puff pastry sheet in my fridge. I’d bought a package to make mushroom empanadas for my vegan daughter and only used one sheet.

The softening pears I knew I could use – but the puff pastry? I searched online and found people asking if they could use it a few days to a week after putting it in the fridge – but two to three weeks? That seemed crazy! Still, my pastry sheets did not smell bad, they had no hint of mold in them (I do keep my fridge very cold), they were not slimy and they only had a couple of spots were they’d dried out and even then, not too much. So what the heck! I figured I’d use them.

I placed the puff pastry on a cutting board and rolled it a bit with a rolling pin. Then I transferred it to a lined cookie sheet. I sliced the pears somewhat thinly (I used the two large ones I had) and placed the pear slices on the puff pastry. I mixed some raw sugar with a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger and sprinkled it on the pears. Then I ground some almonds and sprinkled these on top.

I put the baking sheet in the fridge and turn on the oven to 400F. Once it was preheated, I put the baking sheet in the oven and baked it for about 20 minutes.

The results were great. Really, really delicious. And vegan!


Pasta with Zucchini

My daughter had a craving for zucchini tonight (!), and I didn’t really have many ingredients to work with. So I sauted succhini slices in some olive oil with some chopped garlic (I used 2 cloves but should have used 4), cooked some chickpea pasta, and then added it to the pan. The zucchini had started to caramelized by the time I added the pasta and it was pretty sweet. I added some fresh thyme, and my daughter was quite happy with the results.