Sun Basket

My next subscription box is from Sun Basket.  Sun Basket offers specialized meal plans including vegetarian, Paleo, gluten sensitive, and breakfast.  At $11.49 per serving ($69 per box), this subscription service is about $10 more expensive than Blue Apron, Home Chef, and Hello Fresh.  They also offer a less expensive family option at $9.99 per serving.

Screenshot 2017-05-11 08.07.05
Above are the meal plans available from Sun Basket.
Like some of the other subscription services, all of the ingredients were bundled in a paper bag. The amount of packaging was pretty average, but unfortunately, most of it can’t be recycled in my municipality. The insulation for the box, however, was recyclable, and it even came with a sticker to help keep it rolled up.  The film on the insulation had a note addressed to the recycling center which explained that the insulation was made out of #1 plastic bottles and could be recycled as #1 plastic.
The recipe cards were half the size of the recipe cards for other meal services and were made out of a thinner card stock.  They made great use of color in the instructions to differentiate between prep steps and cooking steps, which I appreciated because it made the instructions easier to parse, but there were no pictures to illustrate the steps, and the steps were organized poorly for multi-tasking.  The instructions weren’t terrible (better than Green Chef at least), but they could have been written much better.
One fun touch is that the box came with a star sign horoscopes.  The horoscope for Sagittarius is “A sudden revelation around romance reminds you that, ‘freedom’s just another name for nothing left to lose.’  The author of those lyrics, Kris Kristofferson, once said, ‘Tell the truth.  Sing with passion.  Work with laughter.  Love with heart.” Archers everywhere are following that advice and finding joy (and freedom) in stepping up tot he plate.  Swing, Sag, swing.”  I don’t know how accurate the horoscope actually is, but the Janis Joplin fan in me appreciated the quote from “Me and Bobby McGee”.
But a horoscope does not make food taste better, and, unfortunately, there were a few issues with some of the ingredients: one of the eggs was cracked, a cucumber was moldy, and the parsley for my final meal was missing.  I also received some sad looking mystery cilantro in the parcel for the Fattoush Salad.  It wasn’t part of the recipe, so I’m thinking it was included by mistake.

Dish 1: Chipotle Chilaquiles with Black Beans

Friday, May 5, 2017 – The first meal was Chipotle Chilaquiles with Black Beans. It was quick and easy to make, and it had great layers of flavor. The tortilla chips were nice and thick, so they stayed crunchy in the sauce. The cheese was creamy and salty. They provided plenty of spice, so I could adjust the heat level to my taste, and the meal had ample veggies.
It’s only the first meal, but my first impressions are overall positive. I’ll be contacting them about the broken egg, though.

Dish 2: Fattoush Salad with Soft-Cooked Egg and Spiced Chickpeas

Sunday, May 7, 2017 –  My second meal from Sun Basket was Fattoush Salad with soft-cooked egg and spiced chickpeas. The dish was absolutely delicious. I love fattoush salad, and this was a near-perfect specimen. It was a beautiful balance of crunchy, sweet, salty, and sour. The proportion of bread-to-salad was a little off and the recipe called for only one egg for two servings (seriously, how am I supposed to get the perfect yolk shared between two bowls of salad?), but the dish was absolutely lovely. I can’t wait to make it again.
But there is a downside. The cucumber was moldy. Just imagine reaching into a bag to pull out the ingredients for one of your favorite meals, and you touch something slimy. It wasn’t quite as bad as when my arm brushed against the Cucumber Sour Cream Salad when I was recording the Jello episode of my podcast *involuntary shudder*, but it was still a bit disconcerting. Luckily, I had a Persian cucumber in the fridge that I could use instead. So, if you’re keeping track, this is the second ingredient that I was unable to use in this box. I’m making the third dish today for lunch, so fingers crossed that everything is ok for this one.

Dish 3: Tuscan Vegetable Soup with ciabatta croutons

Wednesday, May 11, 2017 – The final meal in this box was Tuscan Vegetable Soup with ciabatta croutons.  This soup was absolutely scrumptious.  Every bite was a little bit different, and the portion size was HUGE.  The bowl in the picture is about 1/3 larger than a regular bowl, and the vegetables and garnish extended about an inch and a half higher than the rim of the bowl.  If I wasn’t ravenous when I sat down to eat, the pot of soup could have easily been divided into three filling portions.  I’ll definitely be making this again.
The downside is that the parsley was missing.  It isn’t a big deal since it’s just a garnish (and I had some parsley in the fridge), but it was a little disappointing.  I also had some issues with the instructions.  This recipe could have been set up better for multitasking – for example, instructing the cook to brown the onions while chopping the other vegetables – but the recipe didn’t even call for the onions to be browned.  All of the vegetables were supposed to be dumped in at once, salted, and then cooked on medium-high for 10-12 minutes until they begin to soften.  Which leads to the second issue, after about 4 minutes on medium-high everything got very close to burning.  I added some water and turned down the heat, but if I was following the instructions exactly, I would have ended up with charred vegetables.  It was almost as if the recipe was written without being thoroughly tested.  I felt this way about the other dishes too.

Sun Basket Summary

Ease/clarity of recipes: 7/10
Taste: 10/10
Variety: 10/10
Quality: 5/10

How many recipes would I make again? 3/3


Overall, the food was great.  The vegetarian options were vegetable driven, light, and filling.  Aside from reducing the amount of pita in the Fattoush Salad, there’s not a thing I would change in any of these recipes.  These were probably the best vegetarian options that I’ve received from any of these subscription boxes; however, there was something inadequate with every single dish in this box.  An egg for the first dish was broken, the cucumber in the second dish was rotten, and the parsley was missing for the third dish.  Hell, I would have excused the broken egg if everything else had been ok.  At least they attempted to send an egg, unlike Martha and Plated.  But all together, it just speaks to a lack of care being taken when preparing the boxes, and at this price point, I expect more.  I’m going to contact the company, and I’ll update this post when I hear a response.

*Update: I heard back from Sun Basket.  They sent a nice email apologizing for the inconvenience and reimbursed me $10.  I didn’t ask for a reimbursement, so it was a nice surprise, and since it was a reimbursement and not just store credit, I’m actually going to be able to use the money.  I’m going to bump up their score slightly because of their customer service.

Overall rating: B

This week I’m trying out Purple Carrot.

Terra’s Kitchen

This week, I decided to try out Terra’s Kitchen because I got a $50 off coupon. The business model for TK is a little different than the other subscription meal services. They give a menu of about 50 individually-priced meals, and you choose whatever you want. Shipping is free, but there’s a $62.99 order minimum. The meals start at $10 per portion and go up to $18, and you have to order two portions of each meal, so costs add up quickly. You can also order snacks, fixings for smoothies, juices, and side salads.
Another neat thing about Terra’s Kitchen is that the shipping materials are reusable. The package is delivered through FedEx. The box itself is made out of plastic and has a strong latch on it. When the box is opened, it reveals a plastic cooler with drawers that pull out to reveal the ingredients. The chiller packs, drawers, cooler, and box can all be returned to TK for free. I didn’t even have to print out a new shipping label. I just had to pull of the old one and the return label was underneath. As per the directions, I left the box down in the mailroom for FedEx to whisk away the next day.
When I opened the cooler, it seemed a bit warmer than the other subscription boxes. The chiller packs were completely defrosted. Everything seemed cool, but not quite refrigerator cool which was a little concerning since there was fish in the package.
All of the ingredients were washed and prepped, so there were a lot of plastic containers in the package (there were eight containers, not counting the tiny portion containers, just for the first dish).  Fortunately, the majority of the containers are recyclable in my area.

Dish 1: Fisherman’s Cod Stew in fennel-tomato broth, olives, spinach, and tender cod

Friday, April 28, 2017 – My first meal was Fisherman’s Cod Stew in fennel-tomato broth, olives, spinach, and tender cod. This was one of the more expensive dishes (hooray for a $50 off coupon). My first impression of the dish was that there was something missing. It was like the tomatoes hadn’t been cooked long enough to cut the acidity, but as I dug deeper into the bowl, it ended up being a well balanced dish. The olives added a little bit of bitter meatiness. The cod was good quality, and it didn’t seem to have suffered in transit. My only critique was that the fennel and onion were cut a little too big, so some pieces didn’t soften much while cooking. I also got a few big mouthfuls of fennel, which might be off-putting to someone who doesn’t like the taste of fennel.
Overall, I’m quite pleased with TK so far. I love that I can send back the box and cooler to be reused, and that the return process isn’t any more difficult than taking the box back to where I found it in the mailroom.

Dish 2: Vegan Power Bowl with sweet potatoes, kale, onion, spicy chickpeas, and cannellini bean dressing

Saturday, April 29, 2017: The second meal from the box was the Vegan Power Bowl with sweet potatoes, kale, onion, spicy chickpeas, and cannellini bean dressing. I really liked this meal. For being vegan and grain-free, it was amazingly filling. I ended up putting the last few bites of the first portion away for later. The combination of kale, sweet potato, and chickpeas meant that there was quite a bit of protein in the meal. The cannellini bean dressing was a revelation. I never thought of blending creamy beans with apple cider vinegar, olive oil, and spices to make a dressing, but I’ll definitely be doing it again. It’s a great vegan option for people who like creamy salad dressings. My only complaint is a timing issue. I was instructed to dice the sweet potatoes and bake it alongside the kale for 10 minutes. The time in the oven was a bit too long for the kale and a bit too short for the sweet potatoes. I like my sweet potatoes crunchy, but there was no color on the tasty tubers. Ultimately, this little issue didn’t disrupt my enjoyment of the meal, and I’ll definitely be revisiting this one in the future.

Dish 3: Curried Chickpea and Spinach Bowl with wilted spinach, chickpeas, cucumber crunch, cilantro, *jasmine rice, and rich curry-flavored sauce

* I used quinoa instead of the rice that came with the box because I accidentally made too much on Sunday and didn’t want it to go to waste.
Wednesday, May 3, 2017: I cooked my final meal from Terra’s Kitchen tonight. It was a Curried Chickpea and Spinach Bowl with wilted spinach, chickpeas, cucumber crunch, cilantro, *jasmine rice, and rich curry-flavored sauce. This meal was merely ok. It was easy to make, and it was fairly flavorful, but it just seemed to be lacking something. I even used more curry powder than the recipe called for, but it was like there was just a layer of flavor missing. I will admit that this might be my fault. I’ve been quite busy, so it took nearly a full week for me to make the dish. The chopped garlic looked a little oxidized, and the cilantro had gone a bit mushy so I had to throw part of it away. There was also a sprig of something that wasn’t cilantro in the container which was weird; it didn’t taste like anything though. If the ingredients were still fresh, the dish may have turned out a little better. I think a little more cilantro would have brought everything together a little better.
You might also have noticed that two of the dishes for this box contain chickpeas. Aside from the seasonings, TK doesn’t label the ingredients with the names of the dishes, so I accidentally cooked the chickpeas for both dishes on Saturday when I made Vegan Power Bowl. Luckily, I caught my mistake before I combined everything and was able to set aside half of the chickpeas before I plated my dish.

Terra’s Kitchen Summary

Ease/clarity of recipes: 8/10
Taste: 8/10
Variety: 10/10
Quality: 9/10

How many recipes would I make again? 2/3


I was very happy with Terra’s Kitchen.  They made customization very easy.  For the most part, the meals were delicious, and the quality of the ingredients was superb, even if they had a lengthy vacation in the refrigerator before I had the time to cook them.  I was a little confused by the random sprig of something that wasn’t cilantro in the cilantro container, but it wasn’t a big deal.

I was especially excited that I could send the box back to Terra’s Kitchen to be reused.  I hope that’s a model that other subscription services start to pick up.

For the most part, everything was prepped in advance, so the time estimations were pretty accurate.  It is possible to keep the box to the $62.99 minimum order, but one nice thing is that you can choose to splurge and get a more expensive meal if you want to.  You also aren’t limited to just three meals.  The shipping cooler can fit up to five meals, so you can customize it according to your needs for a particular week.

Overall rating: A-

Tomorrow, I’m getting a box from Sunbasket.  This service was recommended to me a while ago, so I’m quite excited.


Hello Fresh

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
Taste: 7/10
Variety: 8/10
Quality: 9/10

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.

The Saddest Cupcake

I was at Walmart today, and I found this:


I was craving cake, and I like pineapple upside down cake, so I decided to give it a try.

It is not cost effective to make this product more flavorful, so they suggest adding tasty things to mask the fact that you will soon be eating an instant cupcake that has been baked in the microwave.
I made the mistake of licking the spoon after stirring in the water.  I ended up with a fine coating of waxy shortening all over my molars.
My mug seems strangely distressed through the door of the microwave.
It took three attempts to get the spoon through the rubbery surface of the cake.  The first bite tasted like licking the sole of a boot that had trod on a vanilla cupcake.  Those flakes of pineapple that are on the box were notably absent from my first bite.
The pineapple chunks pictured on the box were actually pineapple flavored chips, all of which clustered together in the bottom of the mug.  It took six bites to consume the whole cake.  Of those bites, one had a lovely pineapple taste, one tasted vaguely of pineapple, the other four tasted like a rubber band that had been dipped in vanilla cake batter.

The final verdict:

Price: $2.50 per box.

Ease of preparation: Easier than easy.  It involved nothing more than opening a packet, adding three tablespoons of water, and stirring.

Time: It took about 3.5 minutes from start to finish.  30 seconds to read the instructions, 30 seconds to add the water, 30 seconds to stir, 1 minute 10 seconds in the microwave.

Flavor: Meh.  Boxed vanilla cake with fleeting hints of pineapple, undertones of rubber, imitation vanilla flavoring, and a slight chemical leavener aftertaste.  The box claims that it contains no artificial ingredients, and I believe them, but there is a difference between a fresh baked cake made with real chunks of pineapple and one that’s made with a variety of ingredients designed to emulate the flavor and appearance of pineapple.  This cake is definitely falls into the realm of the latter.

Texture: Soggy and slightly rubbery.

I’m trying to think of a sadder cupcake than this one.  Surely, the absence of cake would be sadder.  The cake served at the funeral dinner of a beloved grandparent would be a close second.  And then there’s this one.  Its flavor wasn’t wholly unpleasant, but it did taste rather artificial.  I am curious to see if adding pineapple and orange juice would improve it.

Update: I made another cupcake with orange juice instead of water. It tasted leaps and bounds better, but somehow the orange juice obliterated the flavor of the pineapple and made the whole cake taste sickly sweet.



Plated – Week Two

Dish 1: Ruby Red Trout with Creamy Dill Sauce, Sautéed Chard, and Roasted Fingerling Potatoes


April 7, 2017: Ruby Red Trout with Creamy Dill Sauce, Sautéed Chard, and Roasted Fingerling Potatoes. This is from my second box from Plated. As I mentioned in my last post, Plated is more expensive than some of the other services, but they also allow the user to choose how many meals they want to receive (2-4) and how many dishes per meal (2-4). To save some money, I ordered only two meals this week. I intended to order a dessert as well, but I think I forgot to confirm the addition.

The box arrived on Tuesday, but I didn’t have time to cook it until Thursday evening. After previous experiences with other boxes (*cough* Martha Spoon), I was a little worried about how well the fish would hold up to the extra storage time, but those concerns were unfounded. The fish was great quality and skin crisped up beautifully. In the past, I’ve had mixed luck getting the skin on fish crispy without it sticking to the pan, but the recipe card offered some helpful instructions that I’m sure helped with my success.

The Swiss Chard got a little over-chilled during transit/storage, but it wasn’t noticeable after it was cooked. The fingerling potatoes were crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. My only complaint was the dill sauce. There was a touch too much mustard in the mayo-based sauce, but I’m willing to admit that this criticism is probably more due to my personal dislike of mustard than anything wrong with the recipe.

This meal was absolutely delicious and quite filling. I would definitely make it again, but I’d do a sour cream dill sauce rather than one with mayonnaise and mustard.

Dish 2: Cheesy Sweet Onion Panini with Truffle Fries


April 8, 2017: Cheesy Sweet Onion Panini with Truffle Fries, my final meal from Plated. I love a good sandwich and this certainly fits that description. The addition of arugula helped to cut the richness of the sautéed onions and fontina/Gruyere mix. I went light with the mustard, but it added a nice touch of tanginess. I cooked it in my George Foreman grill which made cooking the sandwich super easy. I only wish the bread was whole wheat or multi-grain.

The portion of fries was supposed to be twice that size, but that seemed a little excessive, so I put aside the second potato for later, but the fries were gorgeous! The truffle zest was slightly peppery and earthy, and every time I got a bit of parsley I was reminded of the beauty of the world.

The downside is that this was a pretty darn expensive sandwich. The box was $54 for two meals, two servings per meal, so when broken down, this sandwich was $13.50. I could have gotten a sandwich on whole grain at Panera for less than that, and I could have gotten it on whole grain bread. I would say that the trout was worth the price but the sandwich, not so much.

My verdict is that Plated has amazing food, probably the best food of all of the services I’ve tried, but it was too expensive.

Plated – Week 2 Summary

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

How many recipes would I make again? 1.9/2


Like last time, everything was delicious, easy to make, and for the most part, quite quick to prepare.  Again, the fish was great quality and held up well in transit and storage.  The only problem was that it was a bit too expensive.  The fish dish was worth the cost, but the sandwich, even though it did include truffle fries, was not.  If I was rolling in money, I would choose Plated over any of the other services so far.

Overall rating: B+

Plated – Week 1

Dish 1: Thai Fish Curry with Kaffir Lime and Jasmine Rice

Thai Fish Curry with Kaffir Lime and Jasmine Rice

March 21, 2017 – My first Plated box arrived today, and my first impression is very positive. The first dish is Thai Fish Curry with Kaffir Lime and Jasmine Rice. It reminded me a lot of a Thai Curry Shrimp Soup that I used to make. I usually don’t like tilapia, but I didn’t mind it here. The flavor of the tilapia was mild, but I could still taste it in the soup. The soup had a perfect balance of spices, and it was a very filling dish at only 690 calories per serving. I’d definitely like to make this again.

Plated, like Martha and Marley, gave the option for Tuesday delivery; however, they used a smaller regional delivery service that didn’t have a key to get into the mailroom so they had to call me to let them into the building. I was working from home, so it wasn’t a big deal, but I don’t know what would have happened if I wasn’t home. The box was smaller than the one for Martha and Marley, which made it easier to carry up the three flights of stairs to my apartment. Like Martha and Home Chef, most of the ingredients were bundled together, and thus far the ingredients seem to be high quality. The aforementioned tilapia didn’t taste too muddy and when cooked it didn’t have a mealy texture.

I did notice that one of the recipes calls for two eggs, but they weren’t included in the shipment, but they did send an email today letting me know that I’d need eggs. If I didn’t have eggs left from last week, I would be wicked annoyed, especially since this box is $12 more expensive than Blue Apron, and Blue Apron didn’t leave eggs out of the box when the recipe called for them.

One other thing that I liked about Plated is that they have 10-12 recipes to choose from every week and customization is very easy. This week, four recipes were “encore recipes,” highly rated recipes that are available for the whole month of March. The Fish Curry that I had for lunch was one of the encore recipes, and I can tell why. Next week, there are 12 recipes to choose from, and six of the recipes are encores. Another feature of Plated is that you can choose the number of servings and how many meals you want to receive each week. The minimum is 2 meals with 2 servings each, but you can go up to 4 meals and 4 servings. If you decide to order 4 meals, you will receive the meals in two deliveries to ensure freshness. They also have dessert recipes and ingredients that can be added to your box for $8. I’m going to be out of town next week, so I’m skipping a week, but I added a dessert to my box for the following week.

The only downside is the price of the box. For the 3 meal, 2 serving option, it’s $72. By comparison, the same plan with Blue Apron and Home Chef is $60.

Dish 2: Teriyaki Salmon Tacos with Seaweed Salad

Teriyaki Salmon Tacos

March 24, 2017 – This is my second meal from Plated: Teriyaki Salmon Tacos with Seaweed Salad. This meal was great and it only took about 25 minutes to make. They sent enough tortillas for three tacos, but I decided to save the third tortilla for a future meal and save the extra 120 calories for cookies.

I loved this meal. The salmon was great quality, even though it languished in the refrigerator for a few days before I had time to cook it. I was surprised that the seaweed salad complemented the tacos so well. My only criticism was that it tasted like the cucumber had gotten a little too cold in transit. It didn’t have the tell-tale signs of frost-bite, but its color and texture had suffered a bit. The avocado, on the other hand, was in remarkably good shape.
The dish was 870 calories per serving, which is a bit higher than I would have liked. I trimmed back on the calories by only using a third of the avocado per serving, using two rather than three tortillas, and cutting back on the Sriracha mayonnaise. By my estimation, I got it down to about 650 calories per serving, and I’ll be able to repurpose the tortillas and avocado for future meals.

Dish 3: Shakshuka with Roasted Eggplant, Bell Peppers, and Feta

March 25, 2017 – The final meal in this Plated box was Shakshuka with Roasted Eggplant, Bell Peppers, and Feta, and I absolutely loved it. I tried to make something like it once before with only a vague understanding of what Shakshuka is, but mine paled in comparison. The eggs had a perfectly runny yolk, the eggplant picked up the flavor of the tomato sauce beautifully, it had a nice touch of spice, and it was fairly quick to make. I’ll definitely be making this again. My only issue was that the eggs were not included in the box, which is extra annoying because the eggs were the main protein for the dish. This service is also more expensive than most of the other services. I think it would have been a fine dish without the eggs, but I’m still of the mindset that if I’m using this as a service to keep me from having to shop, I don’t want to have to go out and buy a protein.
Some people have been asking about packaging so I’m including some pictures. With Plated, almost everything comes bundled together in a bag, but the bag is pretty high quality, so I have been reusing them for other things. The eggplant was in a separate zip-top bag (not pictured), which I was able to use to hold snacks for my trip. A lot of the containers are recyclable, but they did double package the tomato puree. They were pretty much on par with the other services.
I’m taking this week off to attend a conference in New Mexico, but I’ll be doing another Plated box in a week.

Plated – Week 1 Summary

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

How many recipes would I make again? 3/3


Everything was delicious, easy to make, and for the most part, quite quick to prepare.  Plated makes it very easy to customize the box, and they have a pretty good selection to choose from.  The meals were much more globally inspired than the other services.  I could easily see myself incorporating these dishes into my regular rotation.  The fish was great quality, and they even made tilapia palatable to me, which is a bit of a feat.  The only gripe I have is that they did not supply the eggs for the Shakshuka.

I also appreciate that you can customize how many meals and dishes you can get in each box.  I’m going to take advantage of that and order only two dishes when I return from my trip.  Plated offers the option of including a dessert in box, so I’m going to get a dessert in the next box.


Overall rating: A

Martha and Marley Spoon – Week 2

Dish 1: Pan-Seared Cod & Greens with Garlicky Potato Puree

Pan-Seared Cod & Greens with Garlicky Potato Puree

Tuesday, March 14, 2017 – My second box from Martha and Marley Spoon arrived, and I made Pan-Seared Cod & Greens with Garlicky Potato Puree today. After the issues with the fish last week, I checked the website and they advised to make the fish dishes first even though it says that it should be cooked within 5 days on the package. I guess they don’t expect people to actually make a dish the day the box arrives because the fish was still pretty icy. The flavor of the fish was better this week, but I couldn’t get a good sear, and the texture was a bit mealy.

The collard greens were delicious, and I loved the addition of dill sprinkled on everything. On the negative side, the garlicky mashed potatoes were just a touch too vinegary. The recipe recommend getting a bit of everything on the fork to ensure the perfect bite, but the vinegar totally obliterated the taste of the fish. I also take issue with calling the potatoes a puree. I followed the directions, and they were not pureed.  They were mashed. It isn’t a big deal, but I hate when people are imprecise with their terminology just to make something sound fancier.

In all, the dish was pretty good. If I were to make it again, I would use better quality fish and cut the amount of vinegar. I’m looking forward to my next meal.

Dish 2: Warm Vegetable Pan Roast with Feta & Arugula-Pepita Salad

Warm Vegetable Pan Roast with Feta & Arugula-Pepita Salad
Wednesday, March 15, 2017 –  Warm Vegetable Pan Roast with Feta & Arugula-Pepita Salad. This is the best meal I’ve had so far from Martha and Marley. It was full of some of my favorite things: sweet potatoes, mushrooms, pepitas, feta, bread, and a whole onion per-serving which, far from overwhelming the dish, was the perfect quantity of onion. The vinegar dressing was balanced perfectly with the other ingredients, and there was a lovely variety of tastes and textures.  It was a great meal.  Definitely one to save for the future.
I did have two issues, however:
  1. Holy jumping Batman on a pogo stick, this was not a low calorie dish at 810 calories per serving. As my old art teacher used to say, trust Americans to make something as healthy as a salad full of fat and calories. I’ve had chocolate cake with fewer calories.
  2. I wasn’t planning to make this dish tonight. You see, I was planning to make these beautiful black bean veggie burgers that were crusted with sesame seeds, but as I looked over the recipe card, I noticed that the recipe calls for an egg, but egg was not listed in the contents of the bag.  I looked down a little farther on the card, and the egg was listed in the “What You Need” section. I didn’t have any eggs. I ate the last one on Saturday and neglected to pick up more when I went shopping for the week on Sunday. Martha and Marley did send me a message on Monday (a day late) saying what ingredients I would need to supply, but for all of the other boxes I needed nothing more than oil, salt, and pepper, so I didn’t take the time to read it. Stupid me. Stupid Martha and Marley for not supplying all of the major ingredients. Stupid veggie burgers for tempting me with your deliciousness. I am irrationally angry and tired from writing all day.
At least the salad was delicious.
Dish 3: Black Bean Burgers with Sriracha Mayonnaise and a side of radishes and lightly marinated cucumbers.
Black Bean Burgers with Sriracha Mayonnaise and a side of radishes and lightly marinaded cucumbers
Everything was nicely bundled together.

March 17, 2017 – My final meal from Martha and Marley Spoon: Black Bean Burgers with Sriracha Mayonnaise and a side of radishes and lightly marinated cucumbers. Like the other meals from Martha, all of the ingredients came bundled in a paper bag, except for that thrice-blasted egg I mentioned above.

The radishes were very soft, so I sliced them and tossed them in the marinade with the cucumbers. The can of beans had two huge dents and a little surface rust. It was nothing dangerous (the dents were nowhere close to the seams and the rust was only on the surface), but I was a little annoyed that the can was in such poor condition.

Overall, the black bean burgers tasted great, but they were very hard to work with. To coat them in sesame seeds, I tried to put them on a cutting board, but they were so soft that I couldn’t pick them up. I ended up finishing them on a piece of parchment paper which made them much easier to flip and transfer to the frying pan. Unfortunately, they only firmed up a little bit when I cooked them, so the first one fell apart when I tried to eat it. The second one firmed up a bit while in the fridge overnight and was much easier to eat after I heated it in the microwave the next day.
The sriracha mayonnaise was lovely, and the vegetables tasted pretty good. The only thing I would change would be to add a little bit of salt to the marinade for the veggies.
I’m still a little bitter about the egg thing and the quality of the ingredients. The taste of the dish was great, but I honestly don’t think it was worth the money. I could have purchased all of these ingredients for half the price.
Next week, I’m trying Plated.

Martha and Marley Spoon – Week 2 Summary

Ease/clarity of recipes: 8/10
Taste: 8/10
Variety: 9/10
Quality: 5/10

How many recipes would I make again? 2.5/3


Positives: Everything tasted great, and all of the ingredients were bundled together in a bag which was wicked convenient.  It was also easy to cancel my subscription and customize my box.

Negatives: The quality of the fish was better this week, but it was still a bit ice damaged.  The quality of some of the other ingredients was also lacking.  The can of beans was in pretty rough shape and the radishes were very soft.  I would have liked to have used the radish tops, but about half of them had gone completely brown and the other half was limp and lifeless.  I’m also a bit bitter about the missing egg.  Part of the appeal of these boxes is that everything is supplied.  I had to make a special trip to the grocery store in order to make one of the recipes and that’s just not cool.  Aside from the fish, the recipes were also surprisingly high in calories with the salad coming in at 810 calories and the veggie burger 740 calories.

I was expecting very good things from Martha and Marley, but I was quite disappointed.  The salad and black bean burger were tasty, but none of the recipes were particularly special.

At the end of this week, I was left wondering how much of the cost of the box went to branding.

Overall rating: C+