A couple of weeks ago, I felt a sudden and uncharacteristic urge to clean off my desk. I think I read an essay that said something about how all sorts of things can be distracting and lower your productivity, including having too much stuff on your desk. Since my desk is generally a seedy morass of partially used paper towels (I do most of my eating and drinking in front of my computer), soiled Kleenex, used coffee mugs and wine glasses, cat hair tumbleweeds, scraps of paper containing shopping lists, gaming notes, work notes (I work from home (are you beginning to catch on to the fact that I spend a lot of time at my desk?)), and keys and USB cables whose associated locks/gadgets I’ve long since forgotten… where was I? Oh yeah, cleaning my desk. I found a coupon (no idea how long it had been there, but I’m guessing a yearish) for something called “Hello Fresh”. A $40 coupon! “Wow!”, I thought. “Look how much money I can save buying… whatever this is!!” By cosmic coincidence, the coupon expired in two days. Extra incentive to “save”!
I looked up the Hello Fresh. It appeared to be a subscription service that would send you a box of raw, FRESH (hence, the name) ingredients for making X number of meals each week, along with detailed instructions on how to do so. Since I have been making efforts to improve my eating habits, I figured what the heck, let’s give it a try.
Perhaps I should mention at this point that my eating habits are bad. I mean, really bad. My dietary staples are bulletproof coffee, cheese, canned fish, wine, and popcorn. Sometimes I mix it up with vodka and tortilla chips. My portion control methodology is eat-continuously-until-item-is-gone, which works well with prepackaged servings of cheese and canned fish, not so much with the alcohol, popcorn and Tostitos.
I actually started this dietary improvement venture two months ago, by attempting to incorporate protein and a complex carbohydrate into my breakfast. I succeed in that less than half the time I despise mornings with the heat of a thousand suns, and can easily squander the first hour after awakening sitting in my chair/on my bed/on the toilet, not quite sure what’s happening but wishing this “morning” business didn’t keep happening to me. My brain usually doesn’t start functioning until at least two hours after I wake up. Also, I have no appetite in the morning. So what I wound up doing was just adding protein powder to my bulletproof coffee. I don’t know whether or not it improved my health, but I did gain back the 10 pounds I lost last fall in a matter of weeks.
I used the coupon to sign up. You can sign up for three meals a week for two people or four. Since I live alone, I went for two. They also give you a choice of three out of five meals each week. The meals all looked pretty good to me. I picked the ones that were higher in protein. I had some concern about having raw meat shipped to my house in the middle of summer. But hey, you only live once, and it sounded like another way to improve my health, if I didn’t die of E-coli or salmonella first!
The first box was scheduled to arrive on Thursday. Since, as I mentioned, I live alone, work from home, and it’s the middle of summer, I’m not in the habit of putting on clothes. Also, as my friend Ruby wisely pointed out, PANTS ARE USELESS. However, on this special occasion of my first delivery from Hello Fresh, I got dressed first thing, so as not to frighten the UPS guy. I waited expectantly all day. I even refrained from playing music so as to be sure to hear the UPS truck come up the driveway. When 5:30 rolled around and there was still no delivery, I checked the UPS website and found that they had changed their minds and would deliver my box on Friday. So, no dinner on Thursday, and I wore pants all day for nothing. >:-(
The UPS guy arrived at 12:30pm on Friday. I met him at the door and immediately opened the large, 14-lb box he had delivered. It was warm to the touch, presumably from baking in the big brown truck. Perhaps I should mention that the food was packed in New Jersey on Tuesday… then driven to Massachusetts… and finally brought to my small, quirky town of Twin Peaks, NH midday Friday. I continued to have concerns about the meat. I had selected dishes that incorporated chorizo, tilapia and steak. Inside the box, I found that the meat was wrapped in plastic envelopes surrounded by some new-fangled high-tech gel that stays cold for days. It, and the meat, was indeed cold. But cold enough? To be continued….
The rest of the ingredients were bagged in such a way that there was a separate bag for each meal, and a nice glossy instruction book for preparing the meals, including step-by-step instructions and photos. Looked good so far, although I felt a bit bad about the enormous cardboard box with styrofoam padding, knowing that I was going to get one of those every week that I used this service. Doesn’t seem like the most environmentally friendly way to buy groceries. I shoved all the food in my refrigerator and returned to the desk-from-which-I-am-rarely-separated.
I finished work at 6:45, fairly braindead, but was so excited about my new food delivery service that I decided to give it a try immediately. I picked the dish that seemed to require the least amount of cooking: warm spinach & spicy chorizo salad.
I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. Everything the recipe required, with the exception of olive oil (which I of course keep on hand lest my Italian card be revoked), was provided in the necessary quantities:
- 6 oz chorizo – smelled fine; I checked; whether there were porcine parasites swimming in it which I failed to annihilate during the cooking process remains to be seen, but it has been two days now and I don’t appear to be any the worse for wear
- 2 corn on the cob
- 1 oz feta cheese
- 2 T mayonnaise – yes, they actually included a tiny jar of mayo
- 1 tsp chipotle powder
- 1 bunch cilantro – sadly, the container this was in (the same kind of container you sometimes see at the grocery store) had been crushed in transit, and the cilantro had started to rot. This was the only item that didn’t arrive in great shape.
- 1 lime
- 1 bunch grape tomatoes
- 8 oz baby spinach
Longtime readers are aware that I’m not much of a whiz in the kitchen. But I can do a bang-up job of following directions. And I must admit, the directions were clear, complete and easy to follow. I had dinner on the table by 7:30:
It was good! And spicy, which I like. And the quantity was quite generous. I think I put less than half of it on my plate that night, and was unable to eat the rest in one sitting at another meal. I wound up using the last of the spinach and tomatoes, and some of the leftover feta, in an omelet this morning. So really I got three meals out of it, and still had some feta, chipotle powder, and half a lime left over.
Pro-tip: never prepare “feta-crusted corn-on-the-cob” when dining with a romantic partner. What it is is mayo mixed with chipotle powder, slathered on a corn cob (called elote, in Spanish), then rolled in feta. When eaten, this winds up smeared across, roughly, the lower third of your face. It looked like… nevermind, I’m not even going to say what it looked like. But I laughed out loud when I saw my own face in the mirror afterwards.
Last night I was freed from the burden of having to decide whether or not to brave the kitchen again, as I had (the most expensive) concert tickets (of my entire life) to see U2 at the TD Garden in Boston. Or, to put that in the vernacular, at the Gahden, kehd!
I expected to make the second of the three meals today, Sunday. Only today is hot. Real hot. Like, living on the sun hot. And I was overwhelmed with ennui and didn’t want to do anything, including eat, let alone cook. But I found myself in a bit of a dilemma. You see, I’m cheap. And I hate to waste food. And I paid good money to have this meat etc delivered to my house. So after a great deal of internal whining, moaning and gnashing of metaphysical teeth, I set to the task of preparing a meal I had no desire to eat. I selected tilapia. Mostly because the instruction book had a little notation “eat me first” which I had failed to notice until Sunday afternoon. Seriously, I think they should cut the Alice in Wonderland crap and make that little notation a LOT bigger. And maybe in bold, red font.
So I busted out the bag with the ingredients:
- 12 oz tilapia – was double-packed, and didn’t smell any fishier than tilapia I’ve bought at the local grocery store. It’s been 1.5 hours since I ate it and I’m noticing no particular urge to hurl, so I think we’re good.
- 1/4 cup shredded coconut
- 1 oz macademia nuts
- 3/4 cup black “forbidden” rice – not entirely sure what this is… no details are provided on the “forbidden” part
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 zucchini
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 lime
- 1 bunch cilantro – I actually received two bunches, and they were both in good condition; I guess this makes up for the rotten bunch Friday night
Once again, the instructions were clear and easy to follow. I had dinner on the table within an hour (and that includes running out for wine while the rice was on the stove and the oven was pre-heating).
This turned out great! The only thing is, I was only supposed to put half the provided chili powder in the fish crust, but I accidentally dumped almost all of it in there. So the fish wound up so spicy my nose started running and sweat was dripping down my body. But I happen to be OK with that, so… win win!
I’ve still got one meal to go in the first box, and the next box is scheduled for Thursday delivery. The last meal involves steak, which I always find somewhat intimidating. I don’t know why, I’ve just never got a good handle on cooking steak. But based on the ease of preparation of the first two meals, I’m hopeful that it will go OK.
Thoughts so far on Hello Fresh:
- convenient – I didn’t go to the grocery store at all this weekend
- fast – I got each of the first two meals cooked in less time than it would take me to drive from where I live in the boonies to either a restaurant or a grocery store
- well-balanced meals – I’m saying well-balanced in the traditional, or the currently more trendy “whole foods” sense. If you’re Paleo, my sense is that this service is not for you, based on the meal choices in the first two weeks.
- fresh ingredients with no extras – no unpronounceable preservatives, corn syrup, soy, lecithin, yadda yadda
- clear, easy-to-follow instructions from which I’ve already learned a bit that I think will improve my cooking going forward, whether or not I decide to continue the service
So to sum up, I really like Hello Fresh so far! I’m not even sure it’s appropriate to put the #SandyintheKitchen hashtag on this post, seeing as nothing went wrong. But since it did involve me in the kitchen, I’ll go ahead and tag it.