hello fresh product review

Product Review – Hello, Fresh!

If there is one thing that this blog and its accompanying social media outlets have proven, it’s that I know how to develop and create some great recipes. I’m not trying to be self-congratulatory (HA!), but I’m just stating a fact. Still, with recipe development comes the inevitable stages of trial and error. As much as I don’t want to admit this, I have definitely bought too many products that I have wasted. If I buy too much hamburger meat, I’ll wrap it up and freeze it, thinking to myself, “I can thaw this in a month and make some meatballs or toss it into some chili!” Six months later, I’ll come across that frozen aluminum-foiled covered brick beneath my pint of Sea Salt Caramel Talenti, heave a heavy sigh, and pitch it into my trash bin. So many zucchinis and avocados have met their unfortunate end in my kitchen, though I can only hope that my composting has given them a second life someplace else. I don’t like to waste food, and I’m sure I’m currently preaching to the choir. I try as hard as I can to buy what I use and use all that I have. Still…I’m not always perfect.

Hello Fresh, I welcome you with opened arms.

Hello Fresh is fantastic because it’s fool-proof and efficient. I recently received three meals from them: Steak and Brussels Sprout Stir-Fry, Spicy Pork and Kale Soup with Udon Noodles, and Cauliflower Pancetta Mac and Cheese.

hello fresh product review

Post-election, without getting too preachy, virtually all of my friends were feeling rather down and out about the state of our country. With all of these boxes of food and my stomach, unfortunately, not big enough to ingest it all by myself, I thought, “Wouldn’t a little potluck meal boost our collective spirits a bit?”

As for the Spicy Pork & Kale Soup, I kept that for myself. However, I decided to break out the Steak and Brussels Sprout Stir-Fry and the Cauliflower Pancetta Mac and Cheese to share with the masses, complemented with an array of roasted vegetables and additional jasmine rice on the side. Also…mimosas. We had a LOT of mimosas. Ha! (Hey, it was Saturday afternoon. It’s all good.) And should I mention the vegan apple cider donuts and (non-vegan) chocolate donuts I ALSO made? I think it goes without saying that my calves were killin’ me the next day! Cooking for multiple hours while entertaining is strength and cardio. *phew*

hello fresh product review

I am a very concrete person, so I loved two things about these Hello Fresh boxes. One, the colorful and informative instructions left little to question. I appreciate transparency and clarity in recipes. Hell, I’ve looked back at old recipes of mine on this blog and have edited them after thinking, “…wait? Does that make sense?”

hello fresh product review

Two, the ingredient portions were exact, so no ingredient was wasted. It was all down to a T! In the mac and cheese box, I literally got one tablespoon of flour to make the roux with! I appreciated exact vegetable and meat portions, especially. Nothing was wasted, which made me feel good.

hello fresh product review

As for the taste? Superb! Well-developed recipes with exact ingredients and precise directions beget a perfectly seasoned dish. If you follow what’s written, you’re guaranteed to consume a delicious meal!

hello fresh product review

My wonderful yet voracious friends ate all of the mac and cheese before I could photograph it, and I can’t even be mad at them. Ha! It was collectively inhaled! As for the stir-fry, everyone was very pleased, as well. The meat was tender, the vegetables obtained a nice smoky char, and it wasn’t overwhelmingly salty, even with the addition of soy sauce.

While I am all about making my own meals about 99.99% of the time, I don’t think I’d necessarily discount using Hello Fresh again in the future! Some of the meals they put together are unique and have ingredients that I can’t easily get at my well-stocked C-Town. (i.e.: My C-Town does not have a single udon noodle in sight. Ha!) As I type this, I’m perusing their menu for next week. I’m seeing gems like Pork Larb over Jade Rice and Tuscan Ribollita. Wow! Rather than search high and low for a single Thai chili pepper or waste money on an entire bottle of sesame oil that I’d rarely use, I could get it all, perfectly portioned, in one box.

Ahhhhh, wonderful simplicity! It doesn’t get much better than that.

hello fresh product review

A smattering of my friends digging into the Hello Fresh potluck, with mimosas and donut ingredients in the foreground, and one friend practicing her yoga n the background. It’s always good to stay centered prior to a big meal!

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DISCLOSURE: The fine folks at Hello Fresh provided me with complimentary meal boxes to cook and review. I’d like to thank them for their generosity and making the stomachs of quite a few people very full and happy. All opinions shared in this post are my own.

chickpea chili

Chickpea Chili

In August 2014, I moved to a new apartment. The largest items I brought to my new place:

1.) My bed
2.) My mattress
3.) My giant box of canned beans

I kid you not. I arrived to my new place with sixteen cans of beans.

I still remember stacking them on my old apartment’s kitchen floor for my own odd amusement. I think I got it up to eight cans tall before it’d topple.

Well, many of those cans still reside on my shelf, and I still find myself using them. (And, occasionally, checking expiration dates.) I was so bummed to recently realize that my black bean supply had been used up! But, I’ve got chickpeas upon chickpeas upon chickpeas.

I also acquired a few large cans of San Marzano crushed tomatoes from my former roommates.

chickpea chili

Perhaps hoarding cans of food like a crazy woman prepping for the Apocalypse has finally worked to my advantage. Alas, looks like any plans to make hummus have been squashed, because all of those chickpeas have ended up in my chili…

chickpea chili

Chickpea Chili
(Inspired by Gimme Some Oven’s 5-Ingredient Chili)
(Serves 6 – 8)

Ingredients:

– 1 pound ground beef (See Before We Get Started... for vegan substitution)
– 1 medium white onion, chopped
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
– 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
– 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
– 1 15-ounce can small white beans, drained and rinsed
– 1 – 2 tablespoons chili powder (depending on spice tolerance!)
– 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
– Salt, to taste

Before We Get Started…

– Chickpeas are a hearty bean with a drier texture than some others. The longer the chili simmers, the more tender the bean will be. Simmering for two hours will yield a slightly softer and creamier bean.

– For a vegan version of this chili, I suggest replacing ground beef with 1 15-ounce can of black beans. The tenderness of the black beans adds a perfect soft yet “meaty” texture to counter the chickpeas.

Directions:

1.) In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions; cook for 5 minutes or until translucent. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add ground beef to pot with onions and garlic, breaking meat up with a large spoon. Cook beef for 5 minutes or until browned through. Drain excess fat.

2.) Add all remaining ingredients to pot. Simmer on low heat for 1 – 2 hours. (See Before We Get Started) Add salt to taste.

3.) For toppings, I am not a fan of sour cream, but will usually mix up two large tablespoons of full-fat plain Greek yogurt with some salt, garlic powder, and dill, as seen in the photos above.

Recipe FAIL: Mashed Potato-Stuffed Hamburgers

“Thank goodness all recipe development goes off without a hitch.”

– No One Ever

One of my staycation goals has to work on some recipes. In my previous post, I made a lovely galette. I have a s’mores pound cake recipe in the works. In addition, I wanted to make something savory. While sitting at the beau’s apartment on a Thursday afternoon, we lazily contemplated ideas for dinner as we watching repeats of “Futurama” circa 2001.

“I bought chicken, chopped meat…potatoes…,” he rattled off as I paid more attention to Bender’s antics on-screen. I suddenly had a very dim lightbulb pop up in my head.

“What if we stuffed the burgers with mashed potatoes?” I queried, not entirely seriously. His eyebrows raised in curiosity.

The next thing we know…

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(Forgive the onslaught of mediocre-quality iPhone 5S photos in bad lighting that you’re about to scroll through…heh…) 

In my mind, this seemed like a borderline genius and doable idea. The goal in mind was to make three hamburger patties, each stuff with a small amount of garlic mashed potatoes and a few thin slices of Cabot cheddar. In execution, it went pretty smoothly. The mashed potatoes were easy to whip up, and one average-sized potato really is enough for three patties. We divided the meat into six patties, put small divots in three of them, placed down a layer or cheese followed by potato followed by more cheese, and we topped that with an additional patty. We sealed up the sides, and voilà!

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While cooking, we estimated about 5 – 7 minutes per side per patty. However, after seven minutes, the meat had barely cooked up the sides of the patties. These babies were pretty damn thick, but we absolutely underestimated the cooking time. Upon checking doneness, a slice into the middle of one patty caused Adam to find pink meat and pink potatoes! Juice from the raw meat had seeped into the potatoes. We definitely questioned the doneness of the meat, as we couldn’t quite distinguish if it was raw or rare. We were also a little concerned that the raw meat juice that had seeped into the potatoes remained raw. I’m immunocompromised, so I didn’t want raw hamburger juice in my potato center killing’ my vibe.

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What we ended up with were burgers that were well-done on the outsides, a little too pink on the insides, and bursting at the seems with potatoes and cheese.

Taste-wise, not too shabby, but they were a hot mess, literally and figuratively.

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Time to do a Root Cause Analysis! (Because that’s the kind of stuff people with Master’s degrees do, such as myself. *groan*)

Porous and relatively liquidly mashed root vegetables tend to absorb the raw juices of any meat that it’s surround by, causing possible exposure to undercooked meats. Exposure to a more direct heat source, such as the flame below a frying pan, does not work as well to throughly cook meat as being surrounded by an indirect heat source, such as an oven, does.

Solutions?

  • Bake them in the oven next time, which may promote more throughout cooking throughout.
  • Stuff with a different preparation of potatoes, such as hash browns, potato chips, et al.
  • Make the patties as thin as possible while maintaining the integrity of said patties.

It was a gloriously delicious fail; at the time of this post, I am about 18 hours post-consumption and I am not exhibiting any signs of food poisoning. Yay!

Let’s hope that preceding statement didn’t jinx me.

Bye, Felicia!

Bye, Felicia!

Ribeye Steak

I suck at cooking steak.

I am getting better.

I’ve come to find that cooking steak is both an true culinary art and an exact science. When I was younger, I was always impressed how my mother could whip up a perfectly medium-rare and juicy London Broil, but if I tried, it’d be fibrous on the inside and dry as a bone, no perfectly pink meat to be found. Of course, as I grew older, I realized a few of my mistakes, namely: Don’t turn the heat on its highest setting and cook it until it’s unpalatable. As a tween and young teenager, I didn’t understand the concept of cooking things at medium to medium-high heat. Heh. (Rookie mistake.) This would also be why I’d burn the shit out my grilled cheese sandwiches for many many years.

ribeye steak cooking

It always starts out so beautifully…

About three years ago, on the night my beau and I shared our first kiss (awwww…ewwww), he made me an amazing Steak au Poivre for dinner. As I watched him whip it up in a teeny tiny Manhattan kitchen, I remember marveling at the steps he took to prep, cook, and rest the meat. The end result was unreal, restaurant-quality. If he could do it, I could do it. Still, it took me a few more years until I was brave enough to try it for myself. With a deeper knowledge of culinary science and a cast-iron skillet, I started making more practice runs. I tried on cheap pieces of London Broil from my local Fine Fare; good thing, because my first few steaks were well-done! Practice made my steak game better, and I started whipping up more medium to medium-rare ones. On Mother’s Day, I was in Connecticut, visiting Mama and Papa as my obligation as an only child. (Heh.) Mom wanted ribeye. ‘Twas my biggest challenge yet! Who was I to deny The Birth Giver?

Practice made perfect, because I got it perfectly medium and juicy, and Mama didn’t kick me out of the house to go back to Manhattan.

YAY! I won!

 ribeye steak

Ribeye Steak
(Serves One if you’re hungry, Serves Two if you’re kind and want to share with your mother)

Ingredients:
– 1 10 oz. ribeye steak
– 2 tablespoons vegetable oil*
– 3 tablespoons butter
– Salt, to taste
– Pepper, to taste
* – Do NOT use olive oil! The smoke point is not good for searing and cooking a steak. Vegetable oil, canola oil, or grapeseed oil are all great options here.

Before We Get Started…

– I cook all of my steaks in a cast-iron skillet. I’ve never used a traditional non-stick frying pan. I recommend cooking with cast-iron, if available, because I can vet this recipe using that method! Still, I’m sure a good non-stick frying pan works just as well.

– A meat thermometer is your best friend. If you don’t have one, please pay attention to the time you’re cooking, or use the trusty “Hand Test” to check the steak’s doneness.

meat thermometer ribeye steak

This meat thermometer has seen a piece of meat or two in its day…

Directions:

1.) Remove steak from packacking. Place on plate and season both sides with salt and pepper, to taste. Allow meat to sit for 45 – 60 minutes.

2.) Directly prior to cooking, turn stove into high heat and place cast-iron skillet over flame. Add vegetable oil.

3.) Pat steak dry with paper towels.

4.) Add steak to skillet and let sear for two minutes. (Do not touch the meat; allow it to sit still in order to sear.) After two minutes, flip steak to other side and sear for two minutes. Flip steak onto its other side again and cook for an additional two minutes. At this point, place meat thermometer to steak to check doneness. At this point, an internal temperature of at least 130 degrees is ideal.

5.) Lower heat to medium. Add butter to pan. Allow to melt and baste steak with butter for 2 – 3 minutes.

6.) Remove steak from skillet and allow to rest for at least five minutes before serving, though ten minutes is preferable.