It was recently brought to my attention – hi, Mom! – that my Hello Fresh posts are, shall we say, a bit shill-y. As in I’m stumping hard for the meal kit delivery service, with a mind to gettin’ paid. Anyhow, in case this was troubling you, allow me to reassure you that this is very much not the case. I’m simply a pleased consumer passing on a solid recommendation.
But yo, Hello Fresh, if you’re reading this, I can be bought SO HARD! Hit me up and I’ll shill even harder than I apparently already am. 😉
But until I’m rolling in fat stacks of Hello Fresh entrees, let’s talk about the changing face of food in this new age of Corona. Last week during both a video chat with a friend and a regular old telephone call with my mom, we were in agreement that perhaps THE most exciting part of our new routines is the planning, preparation and eating of our meals.
This is actually not too surprising. If you’re fortunate enough to have consistent access to quality food, you know it’s about so much more than satisfying your nutritional needs. Food is warmth, food is comfort, food is stability, food is home.
And so now that we’re home all of the time (or at least we should be – get off the friggin’ beach, Florida!) food is playing an even larger role in our lives – it’s becoming the focal point around which many of us orbit our days. So whether you’re putting on a five-course spread for your family, or you’re finally cultivating that sourdough starter, or you’re simply upending a box of Kraft Dinner into a pot of boiling water, food has taken on a brand new importance in our lives. It’s now about so much more than stuffing our faces. Now it’s about discovery and anticipation, routine and structure, and the kind of satisfaction that only comes from a really good meal (with really good people, now sitting in virtually from their own kitchen tables.)
It’s also its own unique form of entertainment. It’s new techniques to try and new flavours to explore, with (hopefully) delicious results. It’s NOT sitting on your butt for seven solid hours watching that wretched Tiger King thing. 😉
Pre-Corona, I noted that I really loved making these Hello Fresh meals. That much has not changed in our intra-Corona lives. It’s just a fun activity, and there ain’t nothin’ better than the kind of fun you can also eat.
And now on with the show! As in the showing of the food, six vegetarian recipes we tried some weeks back. Spoiler alert: One was amazing, four were great, and one was a serious contender for the worst meal I’ve ever eaten. Okay, let’s do this thing!
Brie, Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Sandwich with French Green Bean and Cashew Salad
I’m not a big brie-lover (although every time I hear the word “brie” I think about Rick Moranis in Ghostbusters nervously querying a party guest as to whether the room is too warm for the brie) so I passed half of my sandwich on to Mr. Finger Candy, but I LOVED the mixture of sauteed cremini mushrooms and onions in a balsamic glaze that made up the other half of the sandwich. The spinach salad that accompanied this dish was also pretty fantastic, utilizing those balsamic mushrooms again, along with mustard-glazed green beans and toasted cashews. I liked the salad so much, I made it again a week later for my parents as an accompaniment to balsamic-buttered steaks. Definitely one to add to the permanent rotation.
Creamy Stracciatella Cheese and Tomato Sandwich with Roasted Potato Wedges
Bruschetta! Drizzled with more of that scrumptious balsamic glaze (I actually went out and bought a full size bottle, because I might just start adding it to everything. Coffee? Sure. Ice cream topper? Why not?!) With a side of roasted potatoes. Mr. Finger Candy went WILD for this dish, with its piles of tomato, basil and green olives atop crunchy ciabatta buns. Stracciatella cheese added just the right amount of mellow creaminess to offset the bright, briny flavours of the bruschetta topping. Solidly yummy.
Golden Halloumi and Ratatouille with Roasted Garlic Dressing and Ciabatta
Halloumi is a super salty, semi-firm cheese reminiscent of cheese curds. Owing to its high melting point, it lends itself quite well to direct heat cooking on a grill, or in a dry pan on the stove (which is how this particular halloumi got those lovely, lacey brown bits.) Halloumi shows up in a lot of Hello Fresh’s vegetarian recipes, presumably because it’s delicious, filling and, best of all, versatile. In this dish, the pan-fried cheese slices were paired with a delicious roasted vegetable ratatouille and chunks of garlic-toasted ciabatta bun to sop up every last bit of that roasted garlic dressing.
Beyond Meat Gyro Wrap with Chunky Fries and Chopped Salad
My city attracts a lot of people of Middle Eastern descent, and shawarma restaurants abound. Substitute the Beyond Meat in this recipe for actual meat and you’ve got your pretty classic Ottawa-at-2am-after-the-bar food (I was actually more a fan of veggie Whoppers on the second floor of the Burger King on Dalhousie, but there’s no accounting for taste, now is there?) 😉 This was yummy, but like all of Hello Fresh’s pita-based recipes, there was a disproportionate amount of filling to filling-holder. Two autre pitas, s’il vous plait.
Butternut Squash Stuffed Pasta with Toasted Pine Nuts and Baby Heirloom Tomatoes
Of the more than – *counts giant amassed stack of recipe cards* – 50 Hello Fresh meals we’ve eaten, there have only ever been two dishes I flat out hated, the final dish I’m going to discuss today, and then a too-greasy, lemon-and-pesto pasta dish we had some years back. So when I saw that this recipe featured many of the same ingredients as that pasta dish, I thought, “Wuh-oh, here comes a dud.” But hey, turns out I was totally wrong, because this pasta dish was GREAT, with each plump ravioli draped in a light, lemony sauce that had me licking my plate clean. Good grief, this one was dee-licious! And I see that it’s coming around again in a few weeks’ time, so obviously I’m not the only one who thought it was divine.
North African Spiced Freekeh with Roasted Squash
Saving the inedible for last, we come to the worst Hello Fresh meal we’ve eaten, a weird mishmash of freekeh (a rice-type grain), squash roasted in dusty-tasting Moroccan spices, and onions sauteed in bracing, acidic harissa paste. And if that’s not gross enough, the whole works were then topped with spinach, briny feta, chewy currants and toasted almonds. I put my plate down after two or three game bites and still paid the digestive price the following day. Mr. Finger Candy really fared no better. I’ve no idea what Hello Fresh was thinking with this incoherently bad recipe, but it really needs to be relegated to the “Never Again” pile.
As always, and particularly during this time when a good deal of us are under orders to not even dare think about leaving our homes, Hello Fresh is a great service that delivers, pun intended. I’ve been really impressed so far, and that’s before I had a genuine necessity for such a meal kit delivery service. Please give ’em a try and let me know what you think, and hey, try and have a bit of fun out there while you’re chowing down. We can, and should, still enjoy the little – and delicious – things.