Meal prep kit from Purple Carrot and Whole Foods

I heard about Purple Carrot, the vegan meal prep kit, when Mark Bittman left the New York Times to work for them.

I kept my eye on their recipes, but I generally found that I was only interested in *maybe* one recipe a week.  But my interest in Purple Carrot rose when it was announced that they were partnering with Whole Foods in Massachusetts for meal prep kits available in stores.  It was rolled out in Dedham first (I think… or was it Danvers?) which was nowhere near me.  Then last week, a few more stores were announced including the Whole Foods at Alewife/Cambridge.  Finally!  A location that I could get to a little more easily.

So I went on Sunday.  My choices were:

  • a cauliflower/beets/green beans with orange sauce
  • a pesto pasta with brussels sprouts
  • a tofu dish that I would have gotten if I weren’t mildly allergic to soy (sadly, I don’t remember which tofu recipe it was exactly)

I decided on the cauliflower/beets/green beans recipe because it wasn’t something that I’d normally picked from a cookbook.

In hindsight, I wish I had picked the pesto pasta.

Now, some quick disclaimers:

  • I am specifically commenting on the in-store pick up kit.  I have no experience with the online, full-service meal kits.
  • I was not paid to do this.  I paid for this out of pocket because I was really curious.
  • I am not vegan.  However, I think one can never had enough vegetable recipes in their repertoire.  (Maybe because I know it’s something I need to work on?)

Got it?  Good.

The cost was $20 for the kit (which like many kits is only 2 servings).  This seemed a little high to me since there are no at-home delivery costs.  My only consolation was that there was a $2 Whole Foods coupon on the box to encourage the sale of a new product.

Ok let's try this

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Unboxing

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The kit I picked up had a moldy beet in it.  ONE MISERABLE MOLDY BEET.  The actual recipe on the website says 6oz of beets, and I’m pretty confident that one moldy beet (which was smaller than my fist) was not 6oz.  I tossed it.

Well… that's disappointing

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Luckily, I had my own beets…

… which I proceeded to not even use out of laziness more than anything.

Then to add insult to injury, the mildly cheap looking instruction card mentioned parsley in the recipe.  There was no parsley in my kit, just a ton of thyme.  Said instruction card also did not have an ingredient list.  I was just smart enough to google it (which I will link to at the bottom on this post).

For the record there is no parsley in my box

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Overall impression of the recipe?  Tasty but required too much equipment for a meal prep kit.  Technically, it needed a pan to roast the cauliflower, a pot to boil the beets, and a pan to cook the beans.  Oh, and a small pot for the sauce.

I liked the sauce better than I want to admit.  The sauce was just orange juice, water, cornstarch, brown sugar, and ketchup.  I think that it’s the addition of ketchup rubs me the wrong way.  At any rate, I have more sauce than I need for the cauliflower and the green beans so I’m going to serve with with some baked pieces of chicken.

I am aware that adding chicken will void the vegan-ness of the meal.

Maybe I’ll even throw in the beets by then.

Will I try this again?  Well, I’ll be open minded about it but it’s not the only game in town.**

Oh!  And, fair warning, you might want to measure the ingredients against the original published recipes.  The meal kit gave me almost twice the amount of apple cider vinegar than I needed.

Leftover apple cider vinegar that unfortunately looks like pee in this photo

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Reference Links:

https://www.purplecarrot.com/plant-based-recipes/cauliflower-l-orange-with-beets-and-fresh-herbs

https://www.purplecarrot.com/plant-based-recipes/kale-pesto-cavatelli-with-crispy-brussels-and-sundried-tomatoes

** = hint, hint… I have another meal prep kit post coming.  Maybe as soon as tomorrow.

Soup Swap 2017

I haven’t been to a soup swap in a couple of years because I got distracted by other things that required a lot of my time.

This year my schedule opened up unexpectedly and the swap was a couple of weeks later than usual, which meant that I had the time to prepare.

My contribution this year was a butternut squash/white bean/ras el hanout soup.  Even though I tried to bribe people with little bags of rye sourdough starter and kombucha SCOBYs, I don’t think anyone took my soup until round 3 or 4.  (There are 6 rounds total.)  Was it my “sales pitch”?  Was it because the soup was vegan?  Or was it because no one knew what ras el hanout was?  It’s always hard to determine what will be popular.   I did have extra starter and SCOBY on hand, and the recipients of the extras were quite happy to have them.  So, that’s still something.

This year’s first-to-sell-out was a cassoulet, and then a beef bourguignon with spätzle.  I took neither because there were other things that I didn’t want to risk losing out on.

Let the games begin!

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Scribbles

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Soups that I took home that are not pictured: Vegetarian onion-pho, tomato and avocado, tortellini and chickpea, and parsnip and pear.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with what I took home.  (^_^)b

A Modern Way to Cook, a cookbook review

With absolutely no prior knowledge of Anna Jones, I waited with bated breath for my copy of “A Modern Way to Cook” to arrive in the mail.  The tag line  on the cover says “150+ vegetarian recipes for quick, flavor-packed meals.”  Considering that I’m trying to make all my work lunches, it sounded very promising.  

The organization of content is pretty smart.  The recipes are grouped by how long it takes to make.  The chapters are 15, 20, 30, and 40 minute recipes, then followed by “investment cooking” (mostly pantry staples), “super-fast breakfasts”, and “quick desserts and sweet treats.”

The overall look of the book is on the drool-worthy side.  Most of the photos are overhead shots that are styled really well.  (No harsh contrast photos here, thank god.)

There are recipes that I want to try:

  • kale, tomato, and lemon magic one-pot spaghetti
  • kale, sumac, and crispy rice salad
  • zucchini noodles with pistachio, green herbs, and ricotta
  • sweet roasted zucchini with crispy chickpeas
  • spinach and lemon polpette
  • lentils with roasted tomatoes and horseradish
  • roasted coconut, lime, and tamarind curry
  • honey rye bread
  • lemon cannellini cake

Another feature of the book that I like are the pages of simplified/master recipes.  These pages are:

  • 10 favorite omelet fillings
  • goodness bowls
  • quick 20 minute stir-fries
  • 10 favorite suppers from 10 favorite vegetables
  • 10 simple baked potatoes
  • 5 one-pan dinners
  • quick flavor boosts

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But the longer I mull over the book, the more I find that some recipes really do not inspire me.  In the 10 minute section, Jones has a recipe for pour-over soup.  I’m not saying that her recipe won’t be delicious.  However, it’s not that different from other DIY instant soups that have already been kicking around the internet for awhile.  Examples are:

http://thestonesoup.com/blog/2012/02/the-quickest-easiest-way-to-make-a-hot-meal-without-a-kitchen/

or

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2014/09/diy-instant-noodles-vegetables-miso-sesame-broth-recipe.html

So I am a little worried that in a few months, I won’t have any interest in this book beyond “coffee table material.”

For those people with allergies, take note that Jones uses a lot of nuts, black beans, chickpeas, and lentils for protein.  She hardly uses tofu in this book.

At any rate, I hope I have the chance to carve out some time this weekend and make a couple of dishes.  Then I can revisit my opinion with experience.

Disclaimer – I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post.  

Cookbook Review for Home Cooked by Anya Fernald

In hindsight, I think I wanted to peruse Home Cooked by Anya Fernald for mildly silly reasons.  Don’t get me wrong, the Blogging for Books description sounded enticing enough:

Anya Fernald’s approach to cooking is anything but timid; rich sauces, meaty ragus, perfectly charred vegetables. And her execution is unfussy, with the singular goal of making delicious, exuberantly flavored, unpretentious food with the best ingredients. Inspired by the humble traditions of cucina povera, the frugal cooking of Italian peasants, Anya brings a forgotten pragmatism to home cooking; making use of seasonal bounty by canning and preserving fruits and vegetables, salt curing fish, simmering flavorful broths with leftover bones, and transforming tough cuts of meat into supple stews and sauces with long cooking. These building blocks become the basis for a kitchen repertoire that is inspired, thrifty, environmentally sound, and most importantly, bursting with flavor.

Still… I think I mostly got the book because I liked the cover.

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Anyway!  The rational comments first:

This book is fairly gorgeous.  I loved the photo for the blood orange salad.  It was vivid and delicious looking.  There’s a series of photos for the toma cheese  with green herbs that I think is inspiring.  The pictures for salmon confit are lovely and bright, contrasting the red-orange meat of the fish against the grey-ish countertop and Fernald’s blue-white striped apron.  For people who want lots of pictures in their cookbooks, this one fits the bill.

The recipes themselves are varied.  The chapters of the books are: building blocks, snacks/starters/cocktails, pasta/ragu/risotto/eggs, vegetables, fish/meat, and desserts.  There’s a recipe for liver pate, a savory pie with lots of greens in the filling, cracked crabs with lemon-chile vinaigrette, and twice cooked orange duck.  Each recipe is fairly striped down to the essential ingredients.  The list length of ingredients isn’t intimidating.  If anything is intimidating, it might be some of the ingredients themselves.  Rendered pork fat, trotter broth, and bone broth are examples of ingredients that most people don’t keep around.  (Well, urban dwellers like me anyhow.)  They might get turned off from a recipe for that reason.  From Fernald’s perspective, these ingredients are nothing exotic.  She’s the co-founder of Belcampo, a farm/butcher shop/restaurant.  Belcampo even has a meat camp!

Objectively, I would give this book four out of five stars.

From a more personal perspective, I’m not sure how much use I’ll get out of this book.  At the moment, I’m mesmerized by the cheese-making recipes and the anise seed breakfast cookies.  I haven’t given up on this book yet, but realistically it might not live on my bookshelf for too long.  I guess it’s more of a three star book for me personally.

Disclaimer – I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post.

Reference Links:

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/248626/home-cooked-by-anya-fernald-with-jessica-battilana/

===

P.S.  Random comment – the amazake turned out well.  I just kept forgetting to take photos of it.  So I’ll have to make a second batch just to show it off.  (^_^)

Miss me?

hahaha, I owe you so many pictures.  I probably shouldn’t be laughing at myself.

This weekend I should be heading over to the Rhinebeck area in New York, but hopefully I can carve out some time to post.

Science and Cooking 2013, Harvard University

Here’s the schedule for this year’s Science and Cooking lectures at the School for Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Monday, September 9, 2013

“Science and Cooking”

Dave Arnold, Cooking Issues
Harold McGee, Curious Cook

Monday, September 16, 2013

“Sous vide: savory and pastry applications”

Jordi Roca, El Celler de Can Roca

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

“Elasticity: Dessert = Flavor + Texture”

Bill Yosses, White House Pastry Chef

Monday, September 30, 2013

Diffusion & Spherification”

José Andrés, ThinkFood Group, minibar, Jaleo

Monday, October 7, 2013

“Playing with Taste through Browning”

Carme Ruscadella, Sant Pau, Sant Pau de Tòquio

Monday, October 14, 2013

“Viscosity & Polymers”

Carles Tejedor, Via Veneto

Monday, October 21, 2013

“Elasticity”

Enric Rovira, Master Chocolatier
Ruben Alvarez, Master Chocolatier

Monday, October 28, 2013

“Emulsions: Concepts of Stabilizing Oil & Water”

Nandu Jubany, Can Jubany

Monday, November 4, 2013

“The Science of Sweets”

Joanne Chang, Flour Bakery

Monday, November 11, 2013

“Catalytic Conversion: Enzymes in the Kithcen”

Wylie Dufresne, wd~50
Ted Russin, The Culinary Institute of America

November 18, 2013

“Fermentation: When Rotten Goes Right”

David Chang, momofuku

Monday, November 25, 2013

Nathan Myhrvold, former Microsoft CTO; co-founder and CEO of Intellectual Ventures; and author of Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking

Monday, December 2, 2013

“Evolution culinary theory”

Ferran Adrià, elBulli Foundation

**Tickets will be available on Tuesday, November 26th at the Harvard Box Office, located in the Holyoke Center**

Monday, December 9, 2013

“The Accidental Chemist”

America’s Test Kitchen

Jack Bishop, Editorial Director at Cook’s Illustrated and an Editor on The Science of Good Cooking
Dan Souza, Senior Editor of Cook’s Illustrated

The bad news?  I’m not sure if I’ll make it to many, if any, of the lectures.  I’m taking a continuing education class that meets on the same night.  We’ll see.