Monday, December 5, 2016

HomeChef trial was definitely worth it

I'm finally getting around to posting about the two meals we got for $2.75 from HomeChef. So, it was easy to place the order, and we got to pick which meals we wanted out of a selection of meals available during that week. We chose a risotto and a calzone. The food came in a box with gel ice packs and lined with insulated sheets, which the website states is safe to be left outside if you aren't home when it arrives. I ended up refreezing the ice packs because free ice packs, and saving the insulation stuff for packing fragile eBay items, because, well, you know what blog this is.

The risotto ingredients
The boxes contained everything we needed for the recipes, including things like flour, rice, and butter. The only things we had to provide were oil, salt, and pepper. Everything was measured out and neatly labeled. I snapped a photo of the risotto package, minus the little bottle of white wine which apparently didn't make it into the photo. Oh, the meals also generally come with a few reusable-type plastic bottles, like the kind you buy to put travel toiletries in or pack salad dressing with your lunch in. Zing!

I assume HomeChef is intended for people who don't cook much, but have a basic familiarity with food and kitchens. The recipes include a lot of photos of what each step is supposed to look like and how you can tell when it is done. We don't fall into the don't-really-cook demographic, but I would say the recipes and the pre-prepped ingredients would be suitable for people who don't cook. Keep in mind you do need basic kitchen items though (pots, pans, baking sheets, knives), but nothing you can't get at IKEA or Dollar Tree. The recipes were simple and straightforward enough that a couple of elementary-aged kids were able to make the calzone without any difficulty.

I particularly liked the risotto recipe because it's something I've never made before, and actually didn't really understand how it's made. I've certainly made rice and kind of stir-fried it with whatever produce I had in the house, but it's not quite the same.

The "garnish" is only because I forgot one piece of kale
Risotto gets its texture (kind of overdone compared to how rice is generally eaten most places, but creamy and firm rather than sticky and mushy, sort of a mac-and-cheese texture) by frying the grains of rice in oil until toasted, then adding a small amount of water at a time and boiling it away until the rice starts to get sticky, then adding more and doing this for about 25 minutes until it's the right texture. This was intriguing to learn, and definitely something I'll try again. The rice that's used is arborio rice, which is typically expensive. Thrive Market has it though, so I added it to my most recent box of mostly free stuff. 

The other recipe was a calzone, which was also great and easy and fun to make. It uses that two-ingredient bread recipe that I've been curious about, but not curious enough to actually buy self-rising flour, which seems wasteful. It turned out so well though that I did actually cave in and buy self-rising flour, which I've been using to make pizza and rolls and things lately. The only downside is that the recipe requires yogurt and won't work without it, so it doesn't work if you have people who can't eat dairy even when cooked. In that case, use this recipe, which is a little more time-consuming, but still very cheap and easy.

Calzones are something I never think to make, but they're so easy and versatile. I really should just come up with a list of different foods to make with random produce. Basically what you do is saute whatever you want to put in it (this was mushrooms, red pepper, broccoli, onions, I think a few other things), mix in some cheese if desired, and stick it inside dough and bake it.

The meals were quite big. I ordered the smallest (i.e. cheapest) box available, which was two servings of each meal. They really are midrange-restaurant-type servings though, so two servings plus the salads we served it with was enough for a whole family.

Overall, the HomeChef recipes were quite fun. It allows you to put your subscription on hold indefinitely instead of cancelling it, so that's what I've done. I'm thinking I might order from them again as an alternative to going out to dinner. I think the standard price is about $10 per meal, which is much cheaper than going out, and in most cases cheaper than buying all of the ingredients, since they only give you exactly as much as you need. The way it shows up at your door and is a new recipe makes it feel to me like something that would be a better birthday dinner or dinner with company than just cooking something you usually make, without the expense of going out to dinner or ordering food.

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