Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Hello Fresh Review: Photographing Food Is Even Harder Than Cooking It.

I'm not a good cook because I don't enjoy cooking.  This was never a problem when I was single or even newly married.  It has become an issue in the last year or so because now I have 2 small children who need a relatively healthy diet.  No more constant fast food/pizza pickups for dinner.

What I've discovered is that I really just hate picking meat and produce.  I never know where to begin, the kids are always with me and I just get stressed out and grab the easiest thing available (frozen pizza).

When a girl on one of the Facebook subscription box groups I'm in posted a coupon code for Hello Fresh, I decided to give it a try.  I love the idea of the meals already being portioned out.  At $70 a week for 3 meals for 2 people, it isn't cheap.  Our typical grocery budget (not including paper products/toiletries) for the 4 of us is $125 a week.  At least I try to keep it at that price point.  The problem is that in that $125 spent, there isn't usually a healthy meal.  Frozen meals are my best friend.

So I took the plunge and got my first box for $30 after the discount, happy with the knowledge that my family would be getting at least 3 healthy meals that week.  It arrived in a box packed with ice bags at 3:30 on a Thursday, which gave me plenty of time to get everything unpacked and ready.

The packaging is great, everything is already organized so there isn't any guesswork as to what goes with each meal.  Everything is pre-measured/pre-portioned, which is another plus for me.  I feel like every single time I cook off the cuff we have tons of leftovers that never get eaten and those leftovers eventually mold up the tupperware.  This ends up costing me more money because I can't handle cleaning moldy tupperware.  Into the trash, 4 month old moldy tupperware leftovers that somehow got lost behind the old root beer!  Fridge clean-out time is the worst. 

After putting everything away I had to choose which meal should be the first.  Handling bloody steak freaks me out the most, so I decided that should be the first one out of the way.  Hello Fresh gives you a booklet of the recipes and they seem to really dumb it down, which works GREAT for me.  I went to work.

*Side note:  I've realized that food photographers are the least appreciated people ever.  Photographing food so it doesn't look disgusting is really hard.  

Pan-Seared Steak 
with Cipollini Onions, Roasted Yukon Potatos and Tomato Pan Sauce

All the veggies had to be cut up.  This worried me.  I usually just buy things already diced.  I once sliced my hand while opening a can of soup (8 stitches, it was horrifying) so any kind of knife work makes me nervous.  I had to dice up tomatoes, garlic, onions and potatoes, which took about 15 minutes for me.  The onions and potatoes were thrown on a baking sheet along with some olive oil and salt. I was thinking that everything was smelling amazing until I realized that I had accidentally turned the front burner of the stove on and was smelling some old teriyaki sauce that had spilled in it.  

Cleaning isn't my forte, either.

Here is a humongous picture of the cut up potatoes & onions sprinkled (drenched) with olive oil, salt and pepper.  I'm a fan of all starches, so I was excited about this part of the meal.

Diced up tomatoes and garlic were thrown in a pan to simmer.  This smelled amazing.  Garlic is my favorite, I'm shocked my husband ever wants to kiss me.

Steaks were thrown in another pan.  There were 3 good sized steaks included.  I can't fry a steak to save my life, so I was nervous about this part.  I know everyone says that the steaks should be red to save the flavor, blah blah blah BUT any kind of red makes me think of the dead animal these steaks were cut from and I'm just not a fan of thinking about my food walking around.  Also, Juliette's current favorite toy is this small plastic cow and...I don't know.  Look, I just don't like my food bleeding.  I don't think that's an uncommon thing.

I did ok with the "searing" (cooking it all the way through).   Everything looks so messy. This is partly why I hate cooking.  Take out is so much cleaner.

Added butter, water and a vegetable concentrate to the tomatoes for the sauce.  I could have just eaten this sauce, it smelled so good.  I'm most proud of the sauce.  I had 20 pictures of it since it was so amazing but the steam had fogged up my camera and none of them turned out.  You guys probably didn't want to see 20 pictures of sauce, anyway.  This 1 foggy one is enough.

Voila.  I'm a chef.  I literally spent about 10 minutes trying to get an appetizing picture of this meal.  Folks, it was really good.  Pictures don't do it justice.

This looks so gross, but it was delicious.

I'm going to CliffsNotes the next 2 meals for you.  

Butter-Basted Chicken
with Cacio e Pepe Mashed Potatoes and Thyme-Roasted Carrots

Margaritas make cooking more fun. 

My husband had to make me a huge margarita for this one.  They made me PEEL the VEGETABLES!  I already mentioned my fear of using knives to dice things up, you can only imagine the horror I felt at having to use a peeler.  I found it hidden in the back of the catch-all drawer, looking absolutely terrifying.  After downing half the margarita I felt brave enough to start peeling.

Ug, peeling is HARD.  And it took me FOR-EV-ERRRRR.  Like half an hour to do the 4 carrots and the potato.  Once finished I threw those carrots on the baking sheet and started roasting them with olive oil, salt, pepper and the thyme (which I just don't understand, it's like a hard plant and doesn't even smell that amazing).  I've actually made mashed potatoes before so that was easy, just some slicing and dicing, butter, milk, cheese and DONE.  Onto the chicken.  Again, meat is my nemesis.  I tend to always overdo it due to my fear of food poisoning.  

I started to sear the chicken and then read that I needed to make some kind of sauce with the garlic and leftover thyme.  This was a problem because I already used all the thyme for the carrots.  Sometimes after a margarita it's hard for me to read directions.

I used basil instead.  It looks really similar.

And FINIS! Beautiful.

Mine looks...similar...to the stock photo.  Right?

Kind of.  Again, it was really good, food pictures are just HARD.  My husband really liked this meal, too, but my 4 year old was offered 3 new pairs of pajamas, any toy he wanted in the Disney Store, a blind box of his choosing, EVERY SINGLE ANT MAN TOY IN THE WORLD and a robot outfit if he would eat one of the carrots and he said no :/  So...we saved a lot of money with that gamble.

Sole en Papillote
with Mushrooms, Croutons and Brown-Butter Caper Sauce

This should have been the easiest meal to make but it ended up being the hardest for me.  Green beans and mushrooms were cut up and thrown in a frying pan, then transferred to foil with the fish, seasoned with salt, pepper, a lemon wheel and wrapped up tight to be placed in the oven for 12 minutes.  I can't make croutons to save my life, they ended up being completely burned on one side.  I made the caper sauce easily enough (just butter and capers, not to hard to get right). After 12 minutes I checked on the fish.  It didn't look cooked at ALL, so I ended up leaving it in the oven for almost half an hour. I'm not sure if I wrapped it wrong but even after half an hour I wasn't convinced it was completely cooked through.  It was already 7:30, though, so I decided to risk it.  

Burned croutons :/

You know...it wasn't my favorite.  My husband agreed.  We're usually fans of fish but this just didn't taste that great.  I feel like the potential for greatness was there and I just didn't add enough salt or maybe cooked the fish TOO long.  Either way, I don't think we'll do the fish dishes again.  Unless it's salmon.  I love salmon.

So 2 out of the 3 meals were extremely successful, with one being not really our taste.  It saved me a trip to the grocery store and we got 3 fresh meals in a week which made me feel like a dutiful wife & mother.  Self esteem rose and THAT, friends, is PRICELESS.

The problem I have with these boxes has nothing to do with the actual products that you receive.  It is that you're really paying a big fee for the convenience factor, and this makes me feel like a lazy slob.

Something that this box has taught me is that I CAN cook if I need to.  It has given ideas on what to do, what to buy and and how to prepare it.  While I love having things pre-portioned, I'm lucky enough that I have a husband who will watch the kids for the hour it may take me to make a healthy meal.  I don't think I'll cancel completely, but I will keep my eye on the menu and only order during weeks where things look a little adventurous.  The great thing about this service is that it is really easy to pick and choose which weeks you want.  So if I know I have a busy week coming up I can order in the box and save myself some stress induced eye twitching.

If you're wanting to try out Hello Fresh for yourself you can click this link:

and save yourself $40 off your very first box.  I recommend this service to anyone who doesn't typically like to cook, finds it impossible to come up with recipes or is too busy to go to the grocery store.  These meals DO take time to prepare.  It took me at least half an hour to an hour to get every meal ready but the end result was worth it for me.  Also, while cooking I got to drink margaritas and wine while my husband was upstairs watching the kids, so it was kind of like a mini-vacation.

Have you tried Hello Fresh (or any other food delivery service)?  What did you think?

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