Weirdly, for what is ostensibly a nail blog, one of my most popular and viewed posts is this one about the first week my husband and I tried Hello Fresh, a meal kit delivery service popular here in eastern Ontario. At the end of that post I concluded that I loved everything about Hello Fresh – the creative recipes, the quality ingredients, the free shipping – but for what I considered to be a poor cost-to-value ratio. The portion sizes, particularly for the vegetarian meals, just seemed woefully small in relation to the per plate cost. My final word was that if Hello Fresh was coming to me at some sort of a discount, then I was on board, but I couldn’t justify the service at full price.
And that’s how I continued to approach it in 2019, making use of a number of special offers and a few damaged item rebates to fund another couple of months of delicious fresh food. I was totally hooked, and delighted to be adding such uncommon ingredients to my food lexicon as freekeh (a rice-type grain), halloumi (salty cheese) and zaatar (a Middle Eastern spice blend) even if the small portion sizes left us habitually haunting the kitchen an hour or so after eating.
Then during the renovations we had carried out to our former condo last year, the refrigerator got unplugged, a fact that went unnoticed for some time. Everything but our inexplicably large collection of hot sauces went bad, including six Hello Fresh entrees. Disgusted at my own wasteful stupidity (USE THE THINGS YOU BUY, numbnuts, especially the perishable foodstuffs!) I tossed out the entire spoiled lot and cancelled my account, the end.
Well, sort of the end. Just as we moved into our new home late last year, I received a tantalizing “Please come back” offer from Hello Fresh that, in combination with a bit of post-holiday food boredom and a fridge that’s definitely plugged in, I simply couldn’t say no to.
And we’ve been saying yes to Hello Fresh ever since, in part because they haven’t changed the things that worked (the locally-sourced ingredients, the creative recipes, the commitment to minimal packaging) but HAVE changed the things that didn’t (those weird, Franken-substance ice packs.)
The biggest positive change that I’ve noticed so far is that the portion sizes are much larger than they were before. The recipes also seem to be more satisfying, utilizing good-for-you, fill-you-up ingredients like whole grains, leafy greens, fresh cheese, Beyond Meat and nuts. Also a crap ton of butternut squash. No complaints from me, I love the stuff, but there’s been a butternut squash recipe on the menu every week since we returned! Must be in season. But it feels like there’s some substance to these meals that wasn’t there before, and even after giving Mr. Finger Candy the lion’s share of whatever we’re having, I’m satisfied (not so much Mr. FC, but he might have a hollow leg.)
Okay, onto the fun part – what we’ve eaten the last two weeks! Start revving your taste buds, and maybe grab a mint – there be garlic aplenty in these recipes.
Fattoush Salad with Roasted Chickpeas
Mmm, roasted chickpeas, toasted pita and fresh veggies tossed in a white wine vinaigrette with feta cheese. This was amazing, like tabouleh writ large. And such bright, sparkling flavours, too, a welcome respite from the Heavy Holidays.
Cheesy Baked Ravioli
Of the six recipes we’ve tried so far, this scrumptious pasta dish might be my favourite. And don’t let that little pool of (butter) grease fool you – this delectable pasta dish was light, but still quite filling, with each plump pasta pillow draped in the perfect combination of roasted squash, wilted kale and smoked cheddar. Holy YUM!
Not sure what made this creamy, comforting rice dish a winter risotto, but I do know it was quite delicious. Could have used more salt, though (this is not surprising; I could be licking a salt block and think it needs more salt.) I really loved the addition of the crunchy walnuts, too – made quite a nice change from the more traditional pine nuts.
Beyond Meat Veggie Taco Bowl
Another great new change to the vegetarian plan has been the inclusion of Beyond Meat in the recipes. Here we have a not-very-attractive pile of red rice, sauteed Beyond Meat, kale slaw, cheese and lime crema that I swear tasted much, much greater than the sum of its tortilla-covered parts. The portion sizes on this one were also quite large, with both of us agreeing after eating that we *might* actually be full! 🙂
Harissa Halloumi Rainbow Bowl
Here’s some unfamiliar words to describe what’s essentially spicy grilled cheese on a bed of rice and crisp veggies, topped with a garlicky hummus dressing. This was SO delicious, and I even got to pickle my own red onions. I’m not usually a fan of bowl-type arrangements (“Well, that’s a hell of a jollop,” my grandmother would absolutely say) but I loved the bright, fresh flavours of this dish, even if afterwards we were feeling like the two newest residents of Garlic City. Truly, do not eat this one if you have a first date or a job interview the following day!
Rigatoni in Roasted Butternut Squash Sauce
Here’s that butternut squash once again making an appearance, this time as part of a super filling pasta dish made with (more) kale and creamy stracciatella cheese. I generally find that Hello Fresh meals strike the perfect balance of fresh-and-filling, but this guy was way rich, and I felt hella pooched after eating, even if it was utterly delicious.
We have two more weeks of Hello Fresh meals coming to us, so please come back to this space soon to see what other combinations of kale, butternut squash and garlic we’ll be enjoying next!