vegan & vegetarian (mis)adventures in food

Posts tagged ‘cooking’

Thanks for playing, HomeChef

The food wasn’t bad and it was legitimately filling (note to self, never again eat that much tofu at once). Naturally with the vegetarian meals this can be a challenge when they’re like “uhhh…pasta??” So it’s nice that even their pasta dish goes beyond the basics of sauce and a couple veg (looking at you, Blue Apron – considering how expensive these meal kits are, they’d need to be the world’s fanciest veg to feel like bang for the buck). They’re not the most creative on spices, but honestly at this point the only one I expect that from is HelloFresh, and they seem to have like six vegetarian options total, whereas the HomeChef menu seems to have at least 2/3, things I’d want to eat each week. Which is great, considering that I’m both picky and have certain expectations for the amount of time and money these things consume.

I do like that you can leave things in the fridge for up to 7 days before cooking them, because planning to do all things cooking over the weekend is sort of annoying…but they achieve this by using a bunch of plastic. Not 1 or 2 but like a pile of Ziploc bags. (The outside packaging for the box is comparable to the others I’ve tried, though.)

Seeing that getting things shipped is already terrible, I try to make sure the rest of it is at least not too unsustainable. (My excuse for not going grocery shopping is the amount of food waste resulting when a single person who cannot eat the same thing for a week straight is cooking. It’s honestly pretty bad.)

So arrivederci, Home Chef.

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HelloFresh part 2

Maybe six months ago I got a call from HelloFresh promising updates to their food selection and a solid discount for rejoining. Hey, why not? I figured – at the very least, they’re easier to cancel than Blue Apron – and as it turns out, this was a good choice.

For starters, the packaging is way cut down from what I recall, and much more recyclable. The vegetarian meals have picked up a bunch more cuisines and flavors (although I do add pinches of chili powder or spices here and there – I simply have to accept that a broad appeal means lots of salt and pepper everywhere). I had a couple of hiccups with minor ingredients missing from the box, but customer service was super responsive on this front. I do think some of the dishes aren’t as filling as I’d like given the price point, but to be honest I also eat a ton of food. Exercising is expensive, damnit.

Really the one thing still missing is local veg, but to be perfectly honest I don’t live in a part of the country that makes that much of its own stuff. I’ve come to terms with the fact that the only way I will cook regularly is if ingredients literally turn up on my doorstep, and I’m getting a reasonable deal here.

There’s a Fast Way to Zest Citrus

After being surrounded by Blue Apron ads on the CTA, I couldn’t take it anymore so I caved in and decided to try it once.

Now, these ads are fancy as shit. They are all about heirloom products or fresh noodles or local sourcing, so I figured I should be ready to Google half their instructions. This wasn’t helped by an email I got explaining that they were sending snow peas instead of English peas this week, because who the hell knows the difference?

When I finally got the box, I felt a lot better, because this was on top:

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It’s arugula! That shit is everywhere!

And then I read the actual instructions and realized that the target demographic for this kind of stuff is people who feel morally obligated to cook once in a while, but not to a) find recipes online or b) go to the grocery store themselves, and who were also probably raised in a household where potatoes or broccoli are the daily vegetable.

So, anyway, I’m pretty sure this pasta thing is going to be delicious although it could use about seventy more cloves of garlic, but the one thing you guys should know is there’s a much easier way to zest a lemon than the thing says. 

Step 1: find your grater. This is going to be tricky because you probably haven’t used it in weeks.

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This is not a grater.

Step 2: wash your citrus fruit with soap and water.

Step 3: grate gently on the small side. Pith is rumored to taste like ass, so I err on less, ending with something like this:

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Hello Fresh

At first glance, Hello Fresh (hellofresh.com) looks like a totally ridiculous idea: get a box of groceries to make a recipe (or multiple recipes) on a day of your choice? Why not just download the recipes and go to the store, if you’ve got enough time to cook anyway?!

As a single person living alone, however, I frequently find that the portions grocery stores sell are way outsize to what I want. So from that end, Hello Fresh has the potential to reduce a lot of food waste, because you’re getting only the ingredients you need (you do have to supply things like butter/oil/salt/pepper, but not broth, toppings or other spices) in the quantity needed to make that one recipe—and there are options to get deliveries for two or four people. So far I have found that the soup which said it would provide two meals did in fact provide two meals, we’ll see if the same holds true with the risotto and Tuscan bolognese.

The price point is a bit high for home-cooked food, although not at all for dining out. For the money, I would like more freedom of choice with the recipes, and to be honest if I’m going to be cooking, I can damn well get over to the grocery store. Although it was nice to, for once, not have half a thing of unused sour cream that is going to sit there and mold because I can’t give it to the compost worms. (The little assholes seem to enjoy eating newspaper more than the table scraps, anyway.)

For the busy person who wants to make the time to cook, but not to shop and figure out all the right quantities, it’s not the worst idea, although I was dismayed to find my chives were from Colombia as I’m pretty sure we can grow chives within the States. I usually get once-a-month recipe box deliveries from Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks, but that service is regionally limited since they supply local goods, so if you don’t have a local co-op which does this kind of thing, you’re slightly fucked—or if you don’t want to eat whatever produce is currently in season, aka I am so very done with leeks. Granted, I’m not a huge fan of soup, either (it’s not filling!), but it tasted good, and had a better variety of spices than I’ve generally seen from Fresh Picks.

The recipes are very easy to follow and, if you do have other ingredients at home, customize. I was gratified to note that the soup recipe doesn’t even assume you have a blender. (The first time I made butternut squash soup, I had to run out and go buy one halfway through the recipe because trying to mash everything manually sucks.)

In general, like any personalized delivery service, Hello Fresh isn’t the most environmentally friendly option out there. They use disposable packaging, and of course there’s a fair amount of it, to keep the vegetables from getting bruised et al. in transit. I can’t remember how unfriendly dry ice is, but I didn’t notice any. Granted it was shipped two days prior, but I’d still expect there to be more of a frozen texture than there was.

One note about the packaging, if a Hello Fresh representative comes across this: please separate any items that need immediate refrigeration, or at least put them on the top of the box. I thought I’d caught everything but ran into a tube of sour cream that had been out for twenty hours. I’m assuming it’s good until proven otherwise, but not everyone has an iron stomach.

Anyway, this is the one week a year during which I could try this out, so the Groupon deal was serendipitous; in general, this isn’t a good option for me because a) I don’t have the time M-Th and b) if I’m home, I would rather play videogames F-Sun, which granted is exactly what I did while I was waiting for the vegetables.

Between the lack of time and the eco-guilt, I did unsubscribe, but judging by the list of questions, it looks like they are interested in improving this service with regards to a number of points I mentioned above, so hopefully it will be a viable option in the future.

Spanakopita; or, filo dough is the worst thing why would you do that

I spent three months in Greece, and consumed so much spanakopita I’m, well, very very very very picky about it now. The frozen aisle can go eat a pair of gym socks.

So this is the first time I’ve had it since 2009. Spoiler alert: it was good.

Mmmm...? Okay, I know the shape isn't right. One of the many benefits of cooking for one.

Mmmm…? Okay, I know the shape isn’t right. One of the many benefits of cooking for one.

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Nutella brownies…with a little extra something

om nom nom nom nomSo I started with this recipe and, for once in my life, actually tried to follow the directions properly. Which means I melted the butter (although I didn’t wait for it to cool afterwards) and mixed the flour and butter in as directed, alternating them twice until I got bored and dumped in the rest of them.

Hey, at least I tried!

What I wasn’t so consistent on is the actual ingredients. I figured the Nutella would be sweet enough as-is so instead of adding brown sugar, I added 1/4 cup of flour (to balance out the dry/wet mix, I think this might have been unnecessary) and maybe something like 1/8 cup of Nescafé ground whatever instant mix. (I didn’t measure anything, I just kind of poured it out from an already close-to-empty jar. I wish it had been espresso. Unfortunately my mother drinks mocha, but whatever coffee it is, it brings out the darker notes in any chocolate.)

For most people I think you’ll want to go with the brown sugar, though, as these brownies came out fairly unsweet. I would do inappropriate things for 85% dark chocolate, but if you wouldn’t then yeah. Add that sugar.

I’m also not sure if they got cooked too long or if adding that extra flour threw things off a little, but mine didn’t come out sticky at all. The brownies smelt done at 28 minutes so I’m thinking I should’ve checked the status then, but I don’t know enough about baking to know if that was the issue or if it was the thing with the flour.

Guess I’ll just have to make them again. Oh nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

So what the hell is quince, anyway?

…I’m still not entirely sure. But, anyway, I get an irresistible urge to buy foods whose names I can’t pronounce (seriously, is it qeence? qwince? I don’t know!), and also which I’ve never tried before. My motto is ‘anything once’…excepting meat, of course, because.

Anyway, I got home and Googled quince. A couple of important notes:

  • It’s kind of like an apple, except…
  • you don’t eat it raw.
  • You don’t eat it raw?!
  • Oh, shit.
WAT DO

WAT DO?!

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