Home Chef – Week 1

This is the fourth post in my continuing series testing out home food delivery services.  This week’s box came from Home Chef.  The price is the same as Blue Apron, and most of the packaging is recyclable.  Unfortunately, they don’t offer a service to return the packaging that I couldn’t recycle.

The first box came with a nifty little binder along with a pamphlet with pictures and descriptions of common kitchen tools and knife cuts. It also has sections with storage tips, preparation tips, and cooking temperatures. This was something that the other boxes didn’t include and would be helpful for people who don’t have a lot of experience cooking.

When setting up the subscription, I was able to choose my dietary preferences: meat, seafood, or vegetables.  They also allowed me to choose which foods I avoid.  The list included pork, soy, red meat, nuts, gluten, dairy, mushrooms, and shellfish. For additional preferences, I could choose low-calorie and low-carb.

I selected seafood and vegetables for my preferences, and my avoidances were pork, red meat, and shellfish. For my additional preferences, I selected low-calorie.

Dish 1: Bulgar, Sweet Potato, and Pomegranate Grain Bowl with blood orange and shallot vinaigrette

Bulgar, Sweet Potato, and Pomegranate Grain Bowl with blood orange and shallot vinaigrette

Thursday, February 23, 2017 – Today I made the first of my Home Chef meals: Bulgar, Sweet Potato, and Pomegranate Grain Bowl with blood orange and shallot vinaigrette. It was absolutely scrumptious. The pomegranate seeds provided a little pop, almonds added a touch of crunch, the arugula was crisp, the vinaigrette was tangy, the sweet potato added a bit of sweetness, and the bulgar wheat added a little body. It was really great. And look at how pretty it is! The only thing that I would have added was a little bit blood orange or pomegranate juice to the vinaigrette.

Dish 2: Cremini Mushroom and Goat Cheese Tarts with red onion, dried cranberries, and balsamic vinaigrette

Cremini Mushroom and Goat Cheese Tarts with red onion, dried cranberries, and balsamic vinaigrette

Friday, February 24, 2017 – Today was my second meal from Home Chef: Cremini Mushroom and Goat Cheese Tarts with red onion, dried cranberries, and balsamic vinaigrette. All of the ingredients came bundled together in a bag which was super convenient. It took about 20 minutes to prep and sauté the vegetables and about 5 minutes to assemble the tarts. The tarts then baked for 12 minutes, so the meal didn’t take very long to make.

When completed, the tart’s crust was nice and crispy and the veggies were delicious. The arugula added a bitterness that contrasted nicely with the creaminess of the cheese. I went light on the balsamic because I’m apparently the only person in the entire world who is not a fan of how balsamic tastes with sautéed mushrooms. The tiny amount I put on added just enough zing without being overwhelming. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if I’d used the whole dressing packet. The cranberries got a little lost, but I’m pretty sure I would have thought something was missing if they weren’t there.

The tart was a little tricky to eat. I tried to eat it like pizza, but the puff pastry crust kind of delaminated and fell apart when I picked it up. I admitted defeat and used a knife and fork, a move which would have significantly impacted my political career had I done it in public (see here: http://www.cnn.com/…/politics/kasich-eats-pizza-with-a-fork/).

The tart was super delicious, and the portion size was perfect at two big tarts per serving (~550 calories). I have some puff pastry in my freezer, so I could see myself making a similar dish in the future.

Dish 3: Lasagna Bianca with cremini mushrooms and spinach

Lasagna Bianca with cremini mushrooms and spinach

February 25, 2017 – The final meal in this Home Chef box was Lasagna Bianca with cremini mushrooms and spinach. While my lasagna recipe is much better*, this wasn’t too bad. It was made with heavy cream, ricotta, and mozzarella and flavored with basil pesto. I went very light on the heavy cream because of the whole lactose intolerance thing, but I don’t think the extra heavy cream would have made that much of a difference. Yeah, the pasta probably would have been a little more tender, but I like my pasta to have a bit of a bite. Plus, one cup of heavy cream is 820 calories, so reducing the amount of cream cut the calorie load for the dish considerably.  The recipe, as written, was 880 calories per serving.

As much as I love mushrooms, I was a little disappointed that two of the vegetarian dishes for this week used mushrooms for their protein. It wouldn’t have been as big of a deal if someone else were eating with me, but after I eat the second serving of lasagna tomorrow, I will have eaten two pints of mushrooms in the span of three days.

On the plus side, the portion size was nice and big. The piece in the picture is a little bit more than half of a serving. For scale, that plate is a 9″ diameter salad plate, not a full-sized dinner plate.

When I reheated my second serving the next day, I dumped some marinara sauce on top of the lasagna before I heated it.  This kept it from getting dry, but it also added a ton of flavor.  I definitely preferred it with the marinara. I guess I’m just not a huge fan of white lasagna.

My next Home Chef box arrives on Wednesday! I think it has fish in it.
Home Chef Week 1 Summary

Ease/clarity of recipes: 10/10
Taste: 9/10
Variety: 7/10

How many recipes would I make again? 2.3/3

Verdict: The tarts and grain bowl were amazing.  That grain bowl was probably my favorite dish yet.  I loved the combination of ingredients.  The lasagna was pretty good, but I still prefer my own.  I generally don’t eat pasta every week because it is so heavy.  I’ve probably eaten more pasta in the past month than I have in the three months prior.  The directions for Home Chef were the best written of the three services I’ve used.

Overall Rating: A**

*When I make lasagna, I go all out. I make my own sauce, pasta, and ricotta, so it’s quite an undertaking. I usually only make lasagna when I’m throwing a dinner party.

** The score actually calculated out to be a B+, but I gave them bonus points for bundling all of the ingredients for each recipe together, the awesome binder to put the recipes in, and because they had my favorite dish so far.


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