Our Home Chef Experience

As I’ve mentioned many times, I hate all domestic chores. 

Especially cooking.

When Spouse and I were first married nearly 19 (!) years ago, I frequently made ambitious but only semi-successful dinners, often inviting friends over to eat un-tested recipes cooked in the 1950s kitchen of our 600 square foot apartment.

The most famous fail was when I made salmon for friends and the directions said to wash fish, so I did.

With Dawn detergent.

The dish bubbled in the oven.

My subsequent strategy for dinner parties became this: get guests intoxicated enough to mostly ignore (and forgive) any missteps with the food.

When kids came along, we didn’t make a lot of effort to step up our game. Shame on us.

While I would assemble things for dinner (a salad, frozen veggies, maybe a sandwich), to say that I cooked often would be a stretch.

The creepy pizza delivery guy also became a little too familiar with our regular Friday night order.

With our pending move and the many changes coming with it (especially the fact that I am gone 3-4 nights per week), we decided that family dinners were more important than ever.

Enter Home Chef.

Spouse did the research on many of the home delivery dinner services available (so many!), and we selected Home Chef based on the fact that they can deliver to our town and have gluten free offerings (mandatory for Trixie – 8 – who has severe celiac disease).

Currently, we get two meals per week. Spouse usually ends up cooking one while I am gone and usually we make one as a family on the weekend.

Pros:

  • These meals are definitely better than what we would make on our own. Some I would describe as restaurant quality, like Cajun shrimp and cheesy grits.
  • Speaking of grits: this is something I never would have made on my own. Never. Having grown up in Wisconsin, grits were NOT a staple in our house. While I’ve had them a few times as an adult – both sweet and savory – they aren’t something I particularly like or crave. But with Home Chef, I found out they were pretty easy to make and grits with cheese and butter, oh my. Yum.
  • My kids have been introduced to new flavors. Last weekend we made a Korean inspired meal with pork and an absolutely delicious cabbage slaw. I don’t eat pork, but I went nuts on that slaw. So good.
  • Portions are large. We order meals to feed four people, but even when we eat a lot (see above re: going nuts on the slaw), there are leftovers.

Cons:

  • It takes us absolutely forever to make a meal. When we have plenty of time, like a leisurely Saturday night, this isn’t a big deal, but weeknights are a stretch to get dinner on the table before the kids’ (theoretical) bedtime.
  • It’s a lot more work than we are used to doing. There’s always so much chopping.
  • The kitchen is invariably a huge mess by the time we’re done.
  • The packaging seems extremely wasteful, especially the cold packs and lining materials in the boxes.
  • It’s not cheap. So far we’ve made every meal we’ve received, but there will be a time that we don’t get to one and have to toss the ingredients, and I will be angry at throwing away money when this day comes.
  • I can’t eat a lot of it. I eat seafood but not beef, chicken or pork. The rest of my family does. We did not sign up for vegetarian options, but we could have. Given the gluten restriction and our kids’ tastes (which tend to run meat-y), we opted to keep meat in the mix and nix the gluten rather than go vegetarian. I still like the sides that come with the meals, though, and I usually make something extra for myself (salad) and fill up on the sides.
  • While well-packaged, some of the meat has leaked. It did not seem spoiled, but it’s unappetizing and potentially unsafe to say the least.

Overall, Home Chef has been a good experiment for us. We’ve been using the service for about 3 months, and it’s still novel. There may come a time when it isn’t, but for now we’ll stick with it.

Final comment: while opinions in our family have generally been positive about the food, Spouse did find this note written by Trixie earlier this week:

 

P.S. This post is NOT sponsored in any way by Home Chef. We use them and I thought I’d share the experience, good and bad.

P.P.S. This blog does not, in fact, have any sponsors, although I would welcome an opportunity to shamelessly plug brands I love, like Louis Vuitton. So, Vuitton, if you are reading this, I would be happy to review your spring 2017 collection.

Egg and Avocado Toast

I’m wrapping up a work trip to San Francisco – waiting in the airport as I type – and had to post about the most fabulous breakfast ever.

On my last trip to SF two years ago I stumbled upon a local mini-chain called The Grove (www.thegrovesf.com, adding links is wonky on my mobile device, sorry!).

This place was right around the corner from my hotel and serves EXACTLY what I like to eat, no matter what time of day.

Fast forward to this trip: different hotel but same neighborhood, and being a creature of habit, I went back to The Grove every day I was in town.

Yesterday I had to do a work event (book signing; did I mention my group wrote a book?) and give a lunchtime talk for an hour and a half, which meant my usual morning routine of just coffee wasn’t going to cut it for most of the day.

I headed to The Grove for some breakfast fuel and had goat cheese and basil scrambled eggs with a side of rosemary potatoes, and it totally hit the spot.

Today I squeaked in one more visit before my cross country flight home.

But.

Decisions, decisions!

Should I not mess with success and have the scramble again or branch out to something new?

This menu item caught my eye:

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What made me hesitate is that while I am overall a lousy cook, I make a decent avocado toast and didn’t want to be disappointed.

I ordered it anyway.

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Within one bite, I knew that this avocado toast forever shamed my version. It was heaven.

The sourdough toast was rubbed with olive oil and lemon, topped with avocado and then finished with two perfect poached eggs and those fabulous Rosemary potatoes on the side.

The whole thing was easily smashed into a delicious mess.

I ate every bite.

P.S. Here’s a picture of the inside of the restaurant, which is funky and charming.

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Homeward bound!

Fall Apples

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Fresh apples are one of my favorite parts of fall, and I’m lucky to live in a place where many different types of apples grow really well.

Apples might not seem like an exploding product line, but over 130 new varietals have been introduced over the past 5-6 years.

One standout new apple is the Riverbelle, which has a snappy crispness and is more sweet than tart.

Try them if you can find them near you!

 

 

On A Stick

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I’m definitely not a fan of the Fried-on-a-stick food genre found at most State Fairs, although I begrudgingly admire the effort put forth to develop even less-healthy, more cardiac-arrest-inducing snack food.

Last week the Minnesota State Fair announced some new foods for the 2014 event including:

  • Bacon-wrapped turkey legs
  • Beer flavored gelato
  • Chocolate dessert salami
  • Deep fried breakfast on a stick
  • Walleye mac and cheese
  • Pizza tots
  • Pretzel curds

And my favorite:

  • Jello salad ice cream

Some State Fair classics:

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And here’s a roundup of the ultimate State Fair foods across the U.S.

 

 

Papabubble

Seriously, Papabubble hard candies are so far above and beyond the decades-old butterscotch candies that my grandma kept in a jar when I was a kid that it’s not even fair to discuss them in the same sentence.

Look how gorgeous they are:

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Each one is a tiny work of art.

Here’s a well-done video showing how the candy is made:

And another interviewing the NYC owner.

Tip: These make the best hostess gift. They taste great, they’re fun to eat, they’re fun to look at and talk about, and the whole family will love them.

Unlike these: 

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Apologies to grandmas everywhere.