This past week, I decided to give Hello Fresh a try. I had heard mixed reviews of Hello Fresh, but I tried to set them aside and review my meals based on their own merits.
First, a word about packaging. The food came in a pretty standard box, but this one had the nutritional and source information for the meals on the outside of the box. This was an effective way of providing thorough nutritional information as well as providing a contents list. I’m also reminded that this is only the second box that provided thorough nutritional information actually in/on the box. The other was Blue Apron.
The insulation for the box is completely recyclable. Unlike the other packages, it was made from honey-comb cardboard, rather than a natural or synthetic fiber batting. The cooling packs were the filled with a biodegradable slurry and are reusable (except that my freezer is now full of freezer packs because every subscription box comes with them and they really hurt when they fall out of the freezer onto your toe). There was nothing in the box that had to be kept ultra cold, but it seemed like the box was a little warmer than the other boxes.
All of the ingredients for each meal were parceled together into their own paperboard boxes which was both convenient and more environmentally friendly than the packaging for Home Chef or Martha which used plastic bags to parcel the ingredients.
Inside the boxes, the sturdier ingredients were left unwrapped, and some of the packaging was reusable or recyclable. For the pita pockets (left), the only things I threw away were the packages for the pine nuts and the harissa, and the Tex-Mex Risotto had about the same. The tortellini dish (right) was a bit heavier on the packaging. There was nothing in that parcel that could be reused or recycled. In comparison to the others subscription boxes, however, this was probably the most environmentally friendly.
When signing up, I could choose from three different boxes: the Classic Box, the Veggie Box, or the Family Box. I could also choose the number of portions (2 or 4). The Classic and Family Boxes also allowed me to choose how many meals I would like delivered; 3-5 for the Classic box and 2-3 for the Family Box. There was no overlap between the Classic Box and the Veggie Box, so by choosing the veggie option, I couldn’t choose any of the meals from the Classic Box or vice versa.
Dish 1: Harissa Sweet Potato Pita Pockets with Cucumber Dill Salad
Wednesday, April 19, 2017: My first Hello Fresh meal was Harissa Sweet Potato Pita Pockets with Cucumber-Dill Salad. This was a lovely, simple meal. It took about 30 minutes to make. The sweet potatoes were nicely roasted in the oven, but I don’t think they were roasted quite long enough. The skin for the sweet potatoes weren’t quite cooked long enough to become tender, so they were a little difficult to bit through. The cucumber-dill salad was gorgeous. I can’t wait to make it again. It reminded me of a cucumber salad that my grandmother used to make with Miracle Whip and vinegar, but this was much lighter. The pine nuts added a creaminess that went well with the cucumbers, and I absolutely love dill with cucumbers.
There was avocado in the pita pockets, but it felt like a bit of an interloper in the meal. The avocado wasn’t really seasoned or dressed with anything to enhance the flavor so it was just bland and slimy. The pita was a bit hard to open, as you can tell by the cracks and missing pieces in the picture, but that’s expected for whole grain pita since it tends to be a little less pliable than white wheat pita. I’m also reminded that this is only the second whole wheat bread that I’ve received from a subscription meal service.
The harissa mayo was great! They sent more than what was needed for the recipe with the understanding that some people would like a little extra punch to their mayo. They also send an extra clove of garlic, presumably for the same reason. I used both cloves.
Overall, this meal was quite lovely, but I would have (and it kills me to say this) left off the avocado. The other downside was that it wasn’t particularly filling. I ended up eating a handful of carrots and radishes a half hour later.
Dish 2: Risotto alla Tex-Mex with Corn, Charred Bell Pepper, and Pepitas
Friday, April 21, 2017: I made Risotto alla Tex-Mex with Corn, Charred Bell Pepper, and Pepitas for lunch. The nice thing about this recipe is that it offers two roasting methods for the peppers and corn: stovetop or oven. I chose the stove because the oven was already occupied. The dish was pretty easy to make, but making the risotto took a lot more time and liquid than outlined in the recipe. The dish itself was only slightly better than mediocre. For a Tex-Mex dish, there really wasn’t a lot of flavor in the dish. The aromatics were jalapeno, garlic, shallot, and cumin, but it just seemed to be lacking nuance and layers. I would have liked a bit of chili powder to complement the jalapeno. For lunch the next day, I ended up boosting the heat with a little hot sauce, but the dish still felt like it was missing something. I think, ultimately, It felt like more of a side dish than an entree.
Dish 3: Pesto Tortelloni Bake with Asparagus and Parmesan
Sunday, April 23, 2017: The Pesto Tortelloni Bake was absolutely lovely. The pesto was flavorful, and the tortelloni were plump and cooked up to a perfect al dente. I was surprised how well the asparagus worked with everything. It was a bit heavy on the carbs and fat, especially when the second dish in the box was risotto, but it was a nice meal that didn’t require too much work. The only issue I had was that this meal felt more like a double portion of a side dish than a complete meal.
Hello Fresh Summary
Ease/clarity of recipes: 8/10
How many recipes would I make again? 2.3/3
Overall, this box was pretty good. I was a little disappointed that there were limited options for customizing the box, so I couldn’t add a fish or lighter option to my veggie or veggie options to a classic box.
I also felt that the vegetarian options were a bit lackluster. The only dish that felt like a full meal was the pita pockets, and for a box called the “Veggie box,” two of the meals weren’t particularly veggie driven. This is a trend I’ve noticed with vegetarian options at a lot of restaurants. Rather than coming up with solid, dynamic vegetarian entrees, a lot of restaurants just throw a bunch of veggies on the plate or do a double-portion of something that would usually be a side dish for meat. I was disappointed that none of these dishes utilized complete vegetarian proteins such as soy or quinoa, instead relying on dairy or combined starchy proteins (corn and rice). My ideal combination would have been the pita pockets, the tortellini or risotto, and some kind of bean and quinoa salad or a chickpea curry. Having two heavy starchy dishes was a misstep.
I didn’t order a box from Hello Fresh for this week, but this week’s meals are a bit more well-rounded. They are offering a seitan bolognese, chickpea curry with sweet potatoes, and Greek salad flatbread. The bolognese has spaghetti and the curry has rice, so the box seems pretty heavy on the carbs, but the inclusion of seitan and beans is a step in the right direction for healthy vegetarian meals.
Overall rating: B+
Tomorrow, I’m getting a box from Terra’s Kitchen.