I Tried a Meal Kit Delivery Service and I Wasn’t Impressed

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

I had grand plans on making this a series where I tried a bunch of meal kits and gave you my honest review of each. I even had a grading system and everything planned out.

Then I tried one and decided I didn’t have the time, energy, or will to do more than one.

I was not paid to do this review and will not include any links. I am an experienced home cook who’s been cooking for over twenty years and have a very well stocked kitchen.

Chef’s Plate Meal Kit Review

I got a massive discount on trying this and decided to give it 2 boxes. So far I’ve only done 1 box which was 2 separate meals.

Thai Fried rice in 4 bowls

The box was outside in the heat for more time than I’d like but none of the ingredients suffered.

Portions

The portions for both the Thai Fried Rice and the BBQ Salmon were impressive. It’s equivalent to what you’d get in a restaurant. We made the mistake of ordering the 4 person portion and the kids did not eat enough to make it worth it.

Score: 20/20

Level of Complexity

This isn’t for your absolute beginner. The instructions are simple, but the tools and timing needed are harder to master. Not to mention that nothing is defined.

If you get this and you don’t have a well stocked kitchen, you’ll be running out to get tools or pans.

I’d also say that they use way too many pans. The Thai Fried Rice had 4 pans in the instructions. I used my rice cooker for the rice and 1 pan for the rest. Same thing for the BBQ salmon. It needed 3 pans and the BBQ.

One piece of equipment that they do not mention in the instructions that I found invaluable was a good pair of scissors. EVERYTHING is packaged in these tiny little bags that are practically impenetrable. Wasteful and annoying.

Finally my biggest complaint was that it wasn’t formatted like a recipe. I would have been fine with it if there had been more detail, but this is not something you give or use if you don’t already know how to cook.

My entire family has some interesting allergies and I was downright angry that all the ingredients were not published in the kit. I took the chance on me and my wife since they rarely add chocolate to a spice mix, but I couldn’t have served this to my in-laws. I also skipped the Mediterranean spices in case it would affect my wife.

I repeat; none of the spice mixes or sauces had ingredient lists.

Score: 5/20

Quality

I was not impressed with the quality of the produce, but the meat was nice. The overall product wasn’t bad and I’d say it was a decent quality meal.

The packaging was a pain from start to finish though.

Score: 10/20

Taste

This should be the most important category. When it comes to cooking for kids, it isn’t always, unfortunately.

Either way, the Fried rice and the Salmon were good in the sense that I didn’t hate them. My daughter gave the Fried rice a thumbs up but didn’t finish her plate and refused leftovers the next day.

My son loved the roasted red peppers and zucchini, but that was literally all he’d eat. My wife seemed moderately pleased which is not her default for my cooking.

I would have been better off going to pick up Thai Express or just cooking myself.

Score: 10/20

Fun

I was hoping this would work out to be a fun activity. I had an image of sitting around the laptop deciding on the meals and everyone getting excited. Big NOPE there. Choosing the meals was exactly like meal planning. No one agreed or no one cared.

I was also hoping to get an Ikea Effect from the meal. I did not. I was mostly annoyed and swearing at the instructions for making more dishes to clean then needed.

I did like the colour and that the meals looked like their pictures.

Score: 10/20

Overall

This wasn’t a terrible experience, but it wasn’t a lot of fun. I don’t find it saved much time and at full price with shipping it will cost more than a quick restaurant.

I wanted this to not need to stress about meal planning and prep. Unfortunately, it didn’t help and added an extra frustration in the prep. This is great for those who can’t prep or shop for themselves, but not my thing.

Final Score: 55/100

Final Words

The experience told me that what I need is to find better delivery options that are local. This wasn’t for me and no one was all that happy about it.

What I’ll remember most (other than those annoying bags) is my almost two year old saying, “Couscous” over and over again.

Stay Safe and be kind,

Éric

The ULTIMATE Mac & Cheese Test

Hello Mac & Cheese lovers,

I few friends gave us 3 kinds of mac and cheese that they didn’t want, so we decided to make them and our favourite and see which was the BEST MAC & CHEESE.

We had Annie’s Shells and White Cheddar, PC White Cheddar, Annie’s Four Cheese, and Classic KD.

I followed the directions exactly as the boxes said and prepared the 4 different kinds. I found that following the instructions left the KD and PC really liquidy and I had to put them back on the stove to boil away the extra liquid. The Annie’s White Cheddar was slimy even after cooking a little longer and the Four Cheese was too dry.

Tasting

Keladry (4 years old and hates leftovers) loved all four of them equally, according to her.

Adrien (21 months old and eats anything) ate all of them, but said Om-nom-nom for the PC and spit out the last bits of the Four Cheese.

Jen (36 years old and a bit of a picky eater) liked the KD more than she thought she would, but found both of the Annie’s tasted bad. She loved the PC despite me not telling her that was what it was.

Éric (37 years old and self-declared Mac&Cheese lover) was brought back to his childhood with the KD. The PC was delicious as always and both the Annie’s were cloying. Tasted like fake cheese.

Thoughts

I don’t think I’ve prepared Mac & Cheese without stuff in it since the mid-aughts. (My go to are zucchini, mushrooms, bacon, and a little mozzarella, salt, pepper, and some hot sauce.)

I’m fairly certain I’ve never prepared KD or PC Mac & Cheese by following the instructions. It was really watery and needed to be put back on the stove to thicken, but once it was, it was pretty creamy.

I was excited about trying the Annie’s and honestly it was pretty bad. I wouldn’t try it again.

Winner?

Honestly, the best taste on it’s own was definitely the PC White Cheddar, but Kraft Dinner was pretty good and brought me back to my childhood. (I almost went to get the ketchup.) Makes me want to try the new versions of KD and see how they taste. (I did enter the contest for the Pumpkin Spice version but didn’t get any. What? It’s Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Ginger, and sometimes cloves.)

None of them of them come close to homemade, but they are fast and easy.

Conclusion

I’m too old to have Mac & Cheese without anything in it (it just doesn’t last me) and I won’t be trying the Annie’s again.


What’s your favourite Mac & Cheese?

Stay safe and be kind,

Éric

Changing tastes

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

Little Dragon is going through a phase of discovering what she likes. It’s quite frustrating since it changes ALL-THE-TIME but I understand it’s because she’s trying to figure out what she likes and who she is.

“I really don’t like spicy,” she’ll say and then turn around and ask for Jalapeno cheese or extra hot sauce on her meal.

It’s as adorable as it’s frustrating. I know it’ll even out, but it’s hard to guess what she’ll eat. Sometimes when I ask her she changes her mind by the time it’s in front of her.

In the same vein, I’ve noticed that my tastes have changed in music at least. The Mystery Book Project is set in 2002 and we made a music playlist appropriate for the time.

There’s a lot of music from the time that I really enjoy and then there’s some others. At the time I enjoyed Eminem and Nine Inch Nails. They spoke to a part of me back then. Now not so much, it’s either a lot of whining and noise that sounds either entitled, pretentious, or both.

It’s interesting how tastes change over time, some over a couple of decades and some over a couple of minutes.

Ok. I have a lot of writing to do.

Be safe and be kind,

Éric

Build your own crustless quiche

Hello Food loving people,

Some of my favourite memories from being a kid were meals that I got to build with my family but were just for me. Tacos, nachos, and pizza were event meals where we each got to make our own.

I’ve been coming up with other options to do with my kids and even guests. It makes them feel more connected to their meal. I guess it’s an IKEA effect for food.

Quiche is great for this, it can handle almost any extra ingredients, it’s filling, and most people like it.

Recipe-ish

What you need to make it is:

  • Eggs;
  • Milk, cream, Half and Half;
  • Muffin tins;
  • Oil spray; and
  • Fillings.

The important thing to remember is the ratio:

1 Egg + 1/2 cup of cream = 3 muffins with stuff

One caveat I’d have is if you’re using watery veggies like zucchini or mushrooms, you should lower the cream to 1/3.

Cook at 375 for 20-30 minutes.

As far as filling goes, my family’s favourites are: Shrimp, chicken, ham, bacon, onions, garlic, jalapeno, brie cheese, sharp cheddar, mushrooms, zucchini, and broccoli.

There’s no rule as to what you can put in, but all meats should be pre-cooked and I’d recommend cooking the watery veggies too.

The rest is up to you.

Enjoy,

Éric

Turkey Mash – Leftover Recipe

Hello Food Lovers,

I developed this recipe when I hosted a large dinner in university. I effectively put everything I had in a pot with rice and tater tots. It’s a great hearty-type meal for cold days.

It’s also really quick and easy to adapt to your taste.

Turkey Mash

Quick and easy way to use leftovers from a turkey dinner

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 package Tater tots
  • 1 Box Stuffing Feel free to substitute with 2-3 cups of stuffing
  • 2 cups Rice I like wild but it's your choice
  • 4-6 slices chopped bacon
  • 2 cups Chopped Turkey meat You can use almost any protein here.
  • 1 cup Peas I use frozen, feel free to use other veggies if you prefer.
  • 1 cup Gravy Optional but it really adds flavour and moisture.
  • 1 tbsp Jalapeno chopped or blended Optional
  • Salt and Pepper To taste

Instructions

  1. Cook anything that hasn't been cooked.

  2. Mash everything together in a big pot and stir.

So what do you think?

Éric

Quick and Easy Pumpkin Spice Soup

Hello My Fall Friends,

I love everything pumpkin and decided to have some fun and make a new soup.

It turned out wonderfully and is Toddler Dragon approved.

Quick and Easy Pumpkin Spice Soup

All the yummyness of squash soup with a hint of pumpkin pie.

Course Soup
Keyword fall, gourd, pumpkin, pumpkin spice, spice, squash
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

Liquid Ingredients

  • 4 cups soup broth vegetable or chicken
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 cups pumpkin puree Fresh roasted is best
  • 1 diced pear

Spices

  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp Allspice
  • 1/8 tsp Ginger
  • 1/8 tsp Ground cloves
  • 1 tbsp Brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp Garlic powder
  • Salt & Pepper To Taste
  • 1/8 tsp Chipotle Optional

Instructions

  1. Add the liquid ingredients and the Spices into a large pot and bring to a simmer.

  2. Once the pear is soft blend the whole thing with a hand blender.

  3. Bring to a slow boil and take off heat. 
    Stir constantly to avoid burning.

  4. Serve hot with roasted pumpkin seeds and bread.

If you make the soup, let me know what you think.

Later Days,

Éric

Recommendation Wednesday: Disney Food Blog

Do you love Disney? Do you love food? Have I got the blog for you!

Disney Food Blog

Menus, festivals, food news, and guides to the food at Disney World and Disneyland in California.

Image from Disney Food Blog.


Are you interested in travelling to Disney? They are currently taking bookings until Dec 31, 2019! You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel. jennifer.desmarais@orleanstravel.ca

Bali

Yesterday, I posted on my personal Facebook wall about a ridiculously cheap sale from Toronto, Canada to Bali, Indonesia. The prices have obviously gone up since then. I wish we knew now whether or not Dragon is a calm baby, because I was seriously tempted by the price. Hopefully another crazy awesome deal comes up in September/October, like the one to Japan that popped up about a month ago, or this one.

Balinese temple. Image from www.bali-indonesia.com
Balinese temple. Image from www.bali-indonesia.com

Bali hasn’t had many big films set on it’s amazing shores. The only one I recognized was Eat Pray Love. The third portion of the film was set in Ubud, Bali.

However, despite lacking in fandom culture, Bali has a DC comic book shop, and a lot of their own culture to sample while visiting. The number of temples on the island is staggering, and the craftsmanship of sculptures and other artistic pieces is stunning. The food is excellent, and scenery out of this world!

If you’d like help booking this trip (or others!). You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel. jennifer.desmarais@orleanstravel.ca

Chicken Noodle Soup – Recipe

My Wife (AKA. the Weditor) isn’t feeling well today. Whenever she’s feeling particularly bad I make her Chicken Noodle soup. I should save the bones from our turkeys but whenever I do they tend to freezerburn.

If like me you want to make fresh homemade soup once a year. Here’s a recipe for you.

Emergency, Day of, Chicken Noodle Soup

Makes 10 cups of soup.

You can buy soup stock but it’s 90% salt and if you truly want to show you care, make it yourself.

Part 1 – Soup Stock

  • 1 Grocery Store Rotisserie Chicken
  • 4 Stalks of celery
  • 1 large Yellow onion (Spanish or Sweet work too.)
  • 4 medium Carrots
  • Something Leafy (I like Artic Chard or Bok Choi but spinach or kale would do.)
  • 1 TBSP Diced Ginger
  • 1 Diced Clove Garlic.
  • 12 cups cold water

Debone the chicken and separate into three piles; Meat, Bones, and fat/Skin. The skin adds way to much grease. Put the odds into plastic based sausage casings for sale.

Clean and Cut but DO NOT PEEL the onion, carrot and ginger. (The skin will the soup the nice yellow colour and add lots of flavour)

Cut the rest into chunks (You don’t have to be precise here I usualy just rip the stuff apart with my hands) and throw into a large pot. (Something that can hold 14 cups)

Bring to a boil. Stir and lower the heat to a simmer.

Cover and let simmer for 3 Hours.

After the simmering pass the soup through a colander to remove the soggy veggies and chicken bones.

You can now make soup or cool and freeze the stock for later.

Part 2 – The Soup

  • 10-12 Cups of soup stock
  • 4 Stalks of celery
  • 4 medium Carrots
  • Something Leafy (I like Artic Chard or Bok Choi but spinach or kale would do.)
  • Chicken meat (leftover from before.)
  • 1/2 TSPThyme
  • 1/4 TSP Pepper
  • 4-6 Cups Noodles
  • 2 Packets of soup base

Slice your celery and carrots, chop your leafy stuff, and place into the soup stock. Add chicken, thyme, pepper, and Noodles.

Bring soup to a boil, stir and then let simmer for half an hour.

Taste the soup. If it tastes great then put the Soup Base packets away, if it tastes a little watery (It probably will. Chicken isn’t the best kind of bone for flavour) add a packet of chicken base stir and taste again.

Add salt if necessary but you probably won’t need it.

Part 3 – Enjoy

You can eat the soup for the next few days or you can freeze it for up to 6 months.

Hope this helps you, or someone you love, feel better.

Éric