Our Thoughts on Hello Fresh #NotSponsored

I've had a lot of people ask me about meal services and my Facebook feed has been inundated with people talking about their experiences, so I decided it was time to try them out—starting with Hello Fresh (since they had an awesome Black Friday deal this year.)  

Though we frequently post sponsored content, today's post has not been sponsored by Hello Fresh (just in case you were wondering)

Though we frequently post sponsored content, today's post has not been sponsored by Hello Fresh (just in case you were wondering)

Ordering
 


The process was straight forward, you have three plans to choose from: Classic, Veggie, or Family. Then you'll need to select how many people you're cooking for (options were 2 or 4), how many meals you'd like delivered, and your delivery date

I opted to go with the veggie plan. My little guy is a self imposed vegetarian, so I knew anything with meat wasn't going to pass muster with him, but I could always add a protein source if anyone else wanted one. I actually opted for that route with one of the meals to stretch the meal a little further so I had lunch for the next day.

Hello Fresh Menu 12/2 - 12/8

What's in the box?

 

Two blocks of ice, a frozen food bubble bag (to help keep things cool), a reusable recipe book, and three meal kits from the veggie plan: Protein-Packed Rice Bowl, Pesto Flatbread (aka Posh Pizza), and Jamie's Easy-peasy Tomato Tagliatelle with Asparagus, Fresh Basil & Parmesan.

Each meal comes in its own separate box so there is no confusion about which ingredients are used in a particular recipe. If you happen to be allergic to (or don't particularly enjoy) one of the ingredients in a recipe it's easy to remove it and substitute something else.

Protein-Packed Rice Bowl
 


Time it took to prepare and cook: 30 minutes (as listed on meal card) 
Quality of ingredients: Excellent
Any trouble with this recipe? Yes. The recipe called for sesame seeds, but they were missing from my box.
Picky kid approved? Yes. He ate my entire serving plus part of the leftovers. 
Would I make this again? No. This is a bland, but serviceable meal. It's real downfall is that it's exactly how I made fried rice when I was in college and couldn't afford to order takeout.

Pesto Flatbread

 

Time it took to prepare: 30 minutes (as listed on meal card)
Quality of ingredients: Excellent
Any trouble with this recipe? No
Picky kid approved? Yes, in fact he ate most of my share too.
Would I make this again? Absolutely, this was my favorite meal in the box.

Tomato Tagliatelle

 

Time it took to prepare: 25 minutes (as listed on meal card)
Quality of ingredients: Good. The basil arrived slightly discolored, which is likely because it was shipped on ice and got too cold (basil is very temperature sensitive.) It didn't affect the final dish at all.
Any trouble with this recipe? No, but I felt like it needed more salt.
Picky kid approved? Mostly. He picked out the larger asparagus pieces and ate the smaller ones. To be fair, that may have been because his two front teeth were loose. 
Would I make this again? Yes, this is a quick and easy meal I can make from items I generally have on hand.

Added bonus

 

I had a little bit of produce leftover from two of the meals (half a zucchini and half a can of corn) which I used as side dishes later in the week.

 

How to Cancel


Hello Fresh makes cancellation easy, although it is a multi-step process with a survey at the end. The nice thing is that you also have the option to have a box delivered bi-weekly, monthly, or even pause your subscription (in case you're heading out on vacation.) Otherwise you click on No Thanks and either cancel right away or schedule one last delivery. 

After I cancelled my subscription I did not receive another delivery, although I do still get emails from Hello Fresh. You'll need to unsubscribe from those separately if you no longer want to hear about the service.

My Thoughts

 

Meal services such as this really have a lot going for them and I see why they appeal to such a large number of people. You really can't beat the convenience of having everything you need delivered to your door, requiring minimal work on your part to ensure you have a tasty and healthy meal on the table in under 45 minutes. 

If you're always pressed for time and struggle to get a healthy meal on the table every night, then a service like this can be a blessing. It's also great if you find yourself stuck in a rut, always fixing the same handful of things. You'll have three new meals to try out and if you like them you still have the recipe cards so you can make them again.

The problem is, you really pay a premium for the convenience. Three meals at full price would have set me back $59 (and considerably more for the other plans.) To put that in perspective, I spend slightly more than that a week to feed our family 3 meals a day plus snacks (my budget for the entire month is around $400.) The price isn't something I could afford on a regular basis, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't use the service again.

There are a number of instances where I could see myself ordering again, not just for myself, but for someone else. This would make a great gift for a recent graduate, young professional, or busy mom (especially one who's recently had a baby.) I'd even consider subscribing again if I went on vacation and had a kitchen to cook in so I wouldn't have to spend part of my vacation obsessing over what to feed everyone.  

Have you tried Hello Fresh or another meal service? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Oven Roasted Asparagus

Because it's summer I've decided to step out of the kitchen for long periods of time and enjoy the warm weather. You've probably noticed my posting has become a little sporadic because of it, but I do have a new recipe for you today. It's quickly become my favorite way to serve asparagus since it produces perfectly cooked spears with the minimal amount of effort. That means I can kick back with my feet up, soak up some summer sun, and read a salacious romance novel without feeling the slightest tinge of guilt about my lackadaisical lifestyle.

If you're not an asparagus fan, but still want something green and tasty in your life you'll want to try our recipe for Parmesan Garlic Green Beans. Your mouth will thank you, trust me!

Oven Roasted Asparagus

Oven Roasted Asparagus
makes 4 - 6 servings

Ingredients

1 bunch asparagus, fresh
1 Tablespoon lemon infused olive oil (see notes)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons parmesan, freshly grated
sea salt, to taste 

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Rinse spears under cool water before removing the tough portion of the stalks. If you aren't sure how much to trim your asparagus, take the stalk, hold it towards the end and bend. It should easily snap off the dry, woody end.
  • Place on a foil lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, add minced garlic, then toss the spears until they're well coated.
  • Sprinkle with fresh parmesan, add salt to taste, and bake for 10 - 12 minutes, or longer for thicker stalks.

Notes

Thick or thin, which asparagus should you use? For this recipe I prefer thicker stalks. The thin, early spring varieties tend to over cook quickly in the oven. You can still use think stalks, but you'll want to reduce the baking time and watch the oven carefully. Nobody likes mushy, overcooked asparagus!

  • If you can't find lemon infused olive oil you can purchase it online (we love the Lucero Lemon Extra Virgin Olive Oil our friends gave us a few weeks ago.) Otherwise, drizzle extra virgin olive oil over your stalks and once the asparagus is done baking squeeze a wedge of lemon over the top.

 

Disclosure

This post contains my Amazon affiliate links. I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Purchases made through these links ensure I can continue providing you with quality content.

 

Homemade Ketchup with Canning Instructions #Unprocessed

One of the biggest challenges I've faced as I've made changes to my diet has been finding condiments that don't contain High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Some condiments, like ketchup and sweet relish, have been next to impossible to find healthy replacements for. I could attempt to completely eliminate them from my diet, but I'm not sure I could live a life without ketchup covering my fries. I've been meaning to try my hand at making it myself, but fresh tomatoes are fairly expensive in my area so I've been putting off the project and buying an organic ketchup from Whole Foods. It's not quite as good and Heinz, but it gets the job done.

While I was out at the farmers' market a few weekends ago I stumbled across someone selling canning tomatoes for $0.99 per lb, which is the least expensive I've come across tomatoes all year. I quickly snapped up five pounds with the intention of making ketchup as soon as I got home. I pulled out my stock-pot so I could blanch the tomatoes and remove the skins, only to find out our gas was off. A few phone calls and 1 repair man later I was ready to go, it turns out the gas company had decided to upgrade our meter while I was out shopping and shut off the gas pending an inspection. When I questioned why they didn't call me to make an appointment I was told they just assumed people would be home on a Saturday. Guys that is about the stupidest thing anyone has said to me in a long time. 

Anyway, back to the ketchup.

As soon as our repair man left I boiled my water, blanched my tomatoes, and proceeded to spend a lot of time running them through a food mill. I've never used a food mill before, it's really quite the workout, but in the end the effort was worth it. This is some tasty ketchup, although it's not quite the consistency of commercial ketchup, it's a bit on the chunky side. I wasn't sure how I felt about that at first, but the texture has grown on me. We've already run through 3 of the 4 quarter pint jars I've put up. As soon as I have some free time I'll definitely be making more, although I'm curious to see if I can skip a few steps and work with tomato paste instead so I can save some time and mess.

Ketchup.jpg

Homemade Ketchup
makes 4 quarter pints

Ingredients

5 pounds tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ medium sized yellow onion, diced
⅔ cup apple cider vinegar (see notes)
¼ cup white sugar or turbinado sugar (see notes)
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon allspice, ground
½ teaspoon cloves, ground
½ teaspoon peppercorns, whole
½ teaspoon cinnamon, ground
⅛ teaspoon cayenne, ground
⅛ teaspoon ginger, ground

Equipment

food mill
water-bath canner or stock pot with lifter
4 quarter pint jars, 2 half pint jars, or 1 pint jar with lids and rings
jar grabber
magnetic lid lifter
funnel
butter knife
ladle
clean dish towels and cloths 

Directions

  • Boil a large pot of water. Working in small batches, score the bottom of the tomatoes with an X and cook for 30 - 45 seconds. Transfer blanched tomatoes to a bowl of ice water and the skins will come right off.
  • Remove the cores and skins, then cut into large chunks and place in a non-reactive stock pot. 
  • Add diced onions and minced garlic, then cook on high for 10 - 15 minutes to allow the juices to release.
  • Remove tomatoes from the heat and allow them to cool slightly, then pass the everything through a food mill. If you have several sized screens you'll want to use the smallest so the seeds don't pass through.
  • Return the pulp to your stock-pot, add apple cider vinegar, sugar, and salt. Place your spices in a tea bag or piece of cheese cloth, then continue to boil the tomatoes until they have reduces to the desired consistency. This can take 2 hours or more depending on how much liquid you tomatoes produced.
  • Store finished ketchup in the refrigerator for up to a month, or processes using a waterbath (see instructions below) for storage up to a year.

Canning Instructions

  • Before canning sterilize your canning jars, rings, and any other equipment that will come into contact with the ketchup. You can do this easily by putting everything in the dishwasher and running it. Just don't put your equipment in with dirty dishes.
  • While your jars are sterilizing fill your stock pot with water and let it boil. It takes awhile for a large pot of water to boil, so keep this in mind. You don't want to fill your jars before your water is ready.
  • Once you're ready to fill your jars, place a sauce pan on the stove. Add your canning lids and fill pan with several inches of water. Bring the water to a simmer and allow the sealing wax on the lids to soften for several minutes.
  • Fill sterilized jars with hot ketchup leaving 1/4 inch head space at the top. Remove air bubbles with a knife, wipe the rims with a clean damp rag, place lids on top and fasten ring until fingertip tight.
  • Place sealed jars on a rack in the canner or stock pot. Make sure jars are covered with water and that the waterline is about an inch over the top of the jars, then cover pot with lid.

You do not want the jars coming into contact with the bottom of the canner or stock pot because they will bounce around and likely break.

  • Process quarter pints, half pints, and pints for 15 minutes, adjusting for altitude if necessary. Time starts once the water has come to a complete boil again. You may need to add boiling water to keep the water level up as the jars are processing.
  • Remove jars from canner, set on a clean dish towel and let them rest for several hours until cool. You should hear a popping sound as the lids seal. 
  • To check the seals of your jars, once cool you can press the center gently with your finger. If it moves up and down the jar is not sealed. You can either reprocess using a new lid never reuse an old lid or once the jar is cool, eat the applesauce. You know you want to and you deserve the treat after such hard work!
  • Label with detailed contents and date, then store in a cool, dark, and dry place.

Notes

While I did not test this recipe with turbinado sugar you should have no problem substituting it for the white sugar called for in the recipe. You'll still use ¼ cup of sugar, or less if you desire a slightly less sweet ketchup.

If you don't have apple cider vinegar you can use white vinegar, but the ketchup will be less sweet.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus #MezzettaMixer House Party

In honor of my son's third birthday I thought I'd share a recipe for one of his (and my) all time favorite snack foods. We go through an obscene amount of hummus in this household. Our flavor choices tend to run a pretty wide gamut, but we always seem to come back to roasted red pepper. When I decide to make up a batch it's generally gone in under ten minutes.

We can be such gluttons sometimes (please don't judge me!)

I've been slowly tweaking the recipe and my latest addition, a combination of smoked paprika and cayenne pepper, really makes the flavor stand out far above anything you'll find at the supermarket. It's absolutely addictive and comes together quickly (which is doubly dangerous if you're a glutton like me, I just thought I should warn you.) It's great for last minute company, or can be made a few days in advance for the times you have a mass of hungry people descending on your home. I'll be whipping up a double batch to feed the hungry hoard we have visiting for the party and I bet it's gone not long after it hits the table. This is one dish that never has leftovers.

I would like to thank Mezzetta and House Party for the awesome box of goodies they sent me for the Mix it Up with Mezzetta House Party on Saturday, 27th September. I was able to experiment with ingredients I haven't worked with before and my guests got to go home with some pretty nifty swag. Keep your eyes peeled for my Antipasto recipe, also using Mezzetta ingredients, I'll be posting it soon.

RedPepperHummus.jpg

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
makes 4 servings

Ingredients

15 ounces canned garbanzo beans, no salt added
1 cup Mezzetta roasted red peppers or roast your own pepper (see notes)
3 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh
2 tablespoons tahini
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon cumin, ground
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika, ground

optional

1 teaspoon parsley, dried
2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

  • Drain and rinse garbanzo beans, be sure to remove any skins that remain attached.
  • In a food processor or blender combine the garbanzo beans, red peppers, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, sea salt, cumin, cayenne pepper, and smoked paprika. Pulse or blend until smooth.
  • Optional: top with additional red peppers, dried parsley, and olive oil. If using olive oil you'll want to add it just before serving since olive oil turns cloudy and hardens when refrigerated.
  • Serve with pita chips, flat bread, or an assortment of fresh veggies.

Notes

If you don't want to used jarred roasted red peppers you can roast your own. Substitute 1 whole red bell pepper (peeled and chopped) for the cup of Mezzetta roasted red peppers.

Disclosure

In an effort to be open with my readers I want to let you know that House Party and Mezzetta have provided me with free or discounted products that I've used to create this recipe. As always, all opinions are my own.