I am sure that if you have spent any time on social media in the past couple years, then you have seen the ever so popular food trend of the meal kit delivery services: Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Plated, Sun Basket, Green Chef, Martha Stewart, the list goes on. A whole slew of these companies sprung up in what seems like a pointed attempt to appeal to the Millennial market, a generation that hates going to the store. (I’ll admit that is fairly true for me personally).
Plated or Blue Apron seem to be the services that I have seen most highly rated online due to the high use of organic ingredients and intricate recipes. I am sure you’ve heard ads for Blue Apron if you have EVER listened to a podcast in the past couple years. They have been incredibly successful marketing themselves; however, I still have not tried their service. The one complaint I have commonly heard about Blue Apron and Plated is that they take too long to cook. That has been enough to keep me from trying their product. I love a good complex recipe every once in awhile to increase my cooking skills, but I work long hours. I don’t want to spend an hour or more cooking dinner several times a week.
In fact, that is why I ended up choosing Hello Fresh as the service I wanted to try. I read some negative things about the service: that they don’t use many organic ingredients, the recipes are too simple, and that the ingredients are not as high quality as other services. However, I decided to go with this service because of the simplicity.
At the time when I was looking to try one of these services, I was not leading a healthy lifestyle by anyone’s definition. I was incredibly stressed at work, emotionally and physically exhausted, and also studying to take the LSAT. I was not cooking and certainly not exercising. Most of my meals were either take out or seamless delivery (along with other junk food I had lying around the house). I rarely went to the grocery store, except to get snack foods. I was putting so much junk in my body to cope with how stressed I was, and my body was not pleased with what I was putting in it.
I knew that I didn’t have much time or energy to spend cooking. However, when I thought about it, if I can wait 45 minutes to an hour for Seamless to deliver my dinner, I think I can spend 30 minutes cooking a meal. That is how I ended up starting Hello Fresh. They said their meals took 30 minutes to make, and that was mostly my experience with this service.
It was in ease back into cooking, and I found it to be fun. I have long considered myself a good cook, but like most people I know, I tend to stick to what I was comfortable cooking, what I definitely knew I made well (for example, Italian food). What I liked about Hello Fresh though was that I got to try recipes, ingredients, and techniques that were unfamiliar to me. Even though the recipes are fairly simple, I was learning a lot about cooking and also discovering things I didn’t know I loved to eat. I learned how easy it is to make a pan sauce to keep those juices in your pork. On a related note, I realized how amazing pork tenderloin is. It has honestly become my favorite cut of meat, but I had never tried it before Hello Fresh. There is an extensive list of ingredients I had never cooked with before trying Hello Fresh: shallots, couscous, grits, etc.
Before Hello Fresh, I mostly just cooked different variations of chicken breast (which I still eat of a lot of) but my cooking knowledge and ability has expanded far beyond that. I tried Hello Fresh for a few months, receiving one box a week. After a while though, I decided I didn’t want to spend the $60 a week on just Hello Fresh, and I suspended my account. I was also getting better about cooking for myself, so I felt ready to let go of the service.
The last time I had a Hello Fresh box was in October 2017, but I still been seeing their posts on social media, including some new recipes that have intrigued me. I also still have all the old recipes cards organized in my closest. After I moved, I pulled out a few recipe cards and bought the ingredients to cook those meals. It made me miss getting my Hello Fresh boxes.
Conveniently, I received an email a week or so later offering me a free ($60 value) Hello Fresh box if I resume my subscription. It was like the universe was speaking to me. Obviously, I am not about to pass up a free week of meals. I went online to see the menu and decide what meals I wanted to get. I ended up choosing Lemon Rosemary Chicken Cutlets, Pineapple Poblano Beefs Tacos, and Veggie-Loaded Orzo and Sausage.
There are a total of nine options each week, at least for the classic plan. When I ordered my last box, you either could be in the vegetarian plan or you got all carnivorous recipes. All the recipes in the classic plan had meat in them. What I noticed had changed was that there were a couple vegetarian options in the classic plan. I appreciate that change. I don’t want only vegetarian food, because I love my meat, but I do enjoy eating vegetarian food. I also like to reduce my meat intake to help the environment. I did chose three meals with meat for this box.
Lemon Rosemary Chicken Cutlets
The first meal I made from this box was the lemon rosemary chicken cutlets with Parmesan couscous and heirloom grape tomatoes. They were not kidding when they said this was a 20 minute meal. It was quick and easy, which was great because I made this after a long Monday at work. I was hungry and tired, and I did not feel like putting forth a huge effort to cook that night.
This meal required very little prep work: zesting and slicing the lemon, cutting the tomatoes in half, chopping the rosemary leaves, mincing the garlic.
Chicken cutlets cook very quickly because they are so thin. So with some oil in the pan, I started cooking the chicken breasts. While I was prepping the produce, I had also started a small pot of water on the stove to boil so I could cook the couscous (with a sprig of rosemary in the water). I must say that was a nice touch of flavor for the couscous.
Once the chicken had been browned on both sides, I added the garlic, rosemary, and a pinch of red pepper chili flakes. After that, I simply added the halved tomatoes and let that reduce a bit. The last step for the chicken was to stir in one tablespoon of butter.
(Side note): The one thing that I am not crazy about with these kits is the frequent use of butter. This is an unusual concept for me, because I don’t cook with butter or even eat it on bread (unless I am at a restaurant). I only have butter in my fridge when I am going to bake something. I will admit though that butter does make food taste pretty darn good, so I have embraced using a little bit of butter when I cook some Hello Fresh meals.
For the couscous, once it was done cooking and drained, I added the Parmesan cheese and lemon zest. And just like that, the meal was done and ready to be devoured. The smell of butter and garlic had left a wonderful aroma in my kitchen. I was so hungry, so this meal did not stay on my plate for long.
I very much enjoyed this meal. It was light but satisfying, and the second serving was easy to pack away for lunch the next day.
Pineapple Poblano Beef Tacos
The second meal I chose to cook was the tacos. Hello Fresh just loves their tacos. You can get some type of tacos in your box pretty much every week. I actually had made this exact recipe when I was previously using the service and loved it, so I chose to have this one again.
The taco recipes tend to require very little cooking but more prep work. That is because you get to make your own salsas. For this recipe, there is this refreshing pineapple salsa that finishes off this meal nicely. I am a huge fan of poblano peppers and pineapple, so this is a winner for me.
For the prep work, I chopped up all the vegetables (poblano peppers, red onion, tomatoes) and also the pineapple. I took the pineapple with 2 tablespoons of the onion, 1/4 cup of the pepper, and the cilantro and mixed it together with a squeeze of the lime to make the salsa. For the crema, Hello Fresh sends sour cream to mix with lime juice. I am lactose intolerant and really can’t handle sour cream, so I pulled the plain Greek yogurt from my fridge. (I never don’t have Greek yogurt in my fridge). For the “crema,” I took the Greek yogurt and added a squeeze of lime juice and stirred it together. (If the crema is ever too thick, you can always add a splash of water).
Hello Fresh has their own spice blends (which is another complaint I have heard people because they don’t know what to use to replicate). Half the taco spice blend goes into a pan with the peppers and onions, and I let that saute for a few minutes to soften.
Once the veggies are softened, it is time to add the ground beef to cook and the rest of the taco spice blend. After the meat is pretty well browned, I took the reserve juice from the container of pineapple and added that to the meat.
At this time, we are pretty much done, except for warming the tortillas. (I told you there was very little cooking involved). Hello Fresh’s instructions say to use a damp paper towel and warm the tortillas in the microwave. This is what I do when I bring leftover tacos to work, as it is the only option available. However, I prefer the stove top burner method. This really only works if you have a gas stove. I turned the gas on to very low, so the tortillas don’t char too much or too quickly. I left the tortilla on the burner for roughly 20 seconds until it starts to puff up (that when you know it is time to flip it). I repeated that on the other side and then charred one more tortilla.
Now to assemble the tacos, I took my two tortillas and placed some of the meat inside. I added the salsa, and then a bit of lime “crema.”
For this recipe, I actually split it into three meals with two tacos for each meal. I added a side of broccoli and a fresh peach to finish off the meal. Three tacos is a lot for me to eat in one sitting, especially with flour tortillas. I prefer corn tortillas, and can normally eat three corn tacos as a meal. I do have corn tortillas at home, but I don’t want to waste food, so I use the flour tortillas that they send.
Let me tell you, the flavors or these tacos were on point. This probably was my favorite meal of the box. I am a huge sucker for tacos. I could probably eat tacos every day and live a happy life. I try not to always get the tacos in these boxes so I can try other things, but sometimes you just need a good taco in your life. I made this meal on a Friday night while watching Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on the Food Network (which is becoming my new Friday night routine).
Veggie-Loaded Orzo and Sausage
For my final meal, I made the veggie orzo with sausage. This recipe probably had the most prep work due to the amount of vegetables in this dish. There was parsley to chop, red onion to dice, tomatoes to cut in half, and zucchini and red bell peppers to slice. That took me awhile, because I made this recipe on a Sunday and I was feeling lazy and tired.
Before actually doing anything with the veggies, I browned the sausage and put the cooked sausage on a paper towel to drain. For the veggies, I started with the onion and zucchini and gave it some time to soften and caramelize. I added the bell pepper and garlic, and then the tomatoes.
While all this was cooking, I had a pot of water boiling on the stove and I put the orzo in there to cook until al dente. Once the veggies were done, I was ready to drain the orzo and added it to the pain with the cooked veggies. I also added the sausage back to the pan. To finish it off, I added the Parmesan cheese and a squeeze of lemon, and it was ready to be served. In my bowl, I sprinkled some fresh chopped parsley and extra Parmesan cheese.
I like that I got a good amount of vegetables in this dish. It made me feel better about eating the sweet Italian sausage. I did end up dividing this meal into three servings, as well. The recipe makes way more than I want to eat in just one sitting when divided into two.
That is one thing I like to look out for with Hello Fresh meals. Some of them are the perfect size for a meal (like the rosemary chicken) but some of them (especially the ones with pasta) are designed with very large serving sizes. I am not really complaining, since I got two extra meals out of this box, resulting in a total of eight free meals. That is not a bad deal at all.
My final thoughts on these meals were that they were all delicious and easy to make. I plan on continuing to use the service, but only getting a box every month or so. I like the ease of the service. The ingredients are mailed straight to you. You don’t have to go to the store. They send exactly how much you need (with occasionally some extra spices). The instructions are clear, and the recipes are easy to make. It took away the stress of having to figure out what to cook last week, and I ended up only needing a limited amount of groceries for this week because I still had leftovers from the orzo dish.
All in all, I do recommend trying Hello Fresh, especially if you are looking for meals that are quick and easy to make and taste good. They are good for people who are just learning how to cook and people with much more cooking experience. However if you have a lot of time on your hands and want to try more gourmet cooking, I don’t think Hello Fresh is for you. You may want to try one of the other services. Despite its faults (some I agree with and some I don’t) Hello Fresh is a convenient and relatively affordable meal kit delivery service, and it is worth giving it a try.