First Night with GoodFood

I’m trying another meal kit delivery service this week called GoodFood. This one offers seven choices each week and is priced pretty much the same as Chefs Table, which we tried last week. (Here are the posts about night #1, night #2, and night #3 with that delivery service.) Three dinners per week for two people from GoodFood costs $65.00 CA

I liked these people quickly. Their newsletter is about ingredients – the first one I received was about lemongrass (how to choose it, how to prepare it, what it tastes like) which was featured in one of last week’s recipes. This week’s was about Romanesco sauce, which is featured next week in one of their selections. They also emailed me recipes I hadn’t chosen, in case I wanted to try them out. The assumption here seems to be that you like food. We do!

Our box came yesterday and was very similar to the Chefs Table box – except that this one was not just insulated but lined with foil. The fish was frozen. I’ll guess that it was shipped that way and, given that it’s 30 degrees below zero here, it stayed that way en route. We always eat the fish first from such services, just to make sure it’s fresh, so I had to thaw it out. I immediately noticed that the bags were bigger. They were filled with more vegetables. Yay! Also the fish was very similar to the vacuum-packed and frozen-at-source halibut fillets that I buy at our favorite fishmonger.

Last night’s dinner was Pistachio-crusted Haddock & Clementine Relish. It was served with fennel and red onions, as well as Jerusalem couscous with arugula and orange. Here are the ingredients:

Goodfood Haddock 1

Everything was in really good shape. The fennel had frozen, probably en route, but I freeze fennel all the time. Since it was going to be cooked, I knew it would be fine. The mint and the arugula were very fresh and the oranges were lovely.

I don’t eat nuts, so I dredged my fish in just the olive oil, spice mixture and panko crumbs. I then added the pistachios to the panko, and Mr. Math got them all. There were no complaints. I also cheated on cutting the orange free of the membrane, since I still have trauma from Miss Connor’s Grade 7 Home Economics class, in which we had to remove the membranes from one grapefruit and one orange each to make a fruit salad. I removed the pith of the orange last night and chopped up the fruit along with its membrane. We survived just fine.

Here’s Mr. Math’s dinner:

Good Food Haddock 2

I decided not to mix all the vegetables and couscous together, but to arrange them as fish, veg and carb. The clementine and mint relish is piled in the middle. The incredible thing about this meal was that there was So. Much. Food. My plating had smaller servings and there was 1/4 of the fennel/onion and probably 1/3 of the couscous left. We ate the extra vegetables and some of the extra couscous, but there was just too much. This is astonishing, considering that Mr. Math is shoveling snow right now, but there it is.

The meal was delicious. The mix of savory and the sweetness of the oranges was just awesome. I loved it. This was my favorite of the meals so far. Tonight, we’ll try another from this company, then we have a brunchy egg thing for New Year’s Day.

Night #3 with Chef’s Plate

Last night was our third meal of the week with Chef’s Plate. It was Seared Steak & Italian Peperonata Sauce, with roasted peppers and garlic pepper hasselback potatoes. I didn’t take a picture of the ingredients (I forgot) but here’s Mr. Math’s dinner:
Seared Steak from Chef's Table cooked by Deborah Cooke

This meal was our favorite of the three. There were comparatively a lot of potatoes and not so much green veg, but there was a lot of onion and pepper garnish. We didn’t add a salad on this night, but we did modify the instructions. Mr. Math is a firm believer that if you’re going to have a steak, it should be barbequed. The instructions called for it to be seared in a frying pan then cooked in the oven. He recoiled in horror, then told me he’d barbeque. So, I did the potatoes and brussel sprouts in the oven, as instructed, and the peperonata sauce in the skillet while he grilled the meat. I also looked up the cut of beef because I didn’t know it (a flat iron steak, which is evidently a new thing) and we decided to marinate it a bit first, which wasn’t in the instructions.

It was delicious, a real Friday night meal but on a Thursday. This menu was the most similar to what we usually cook. So, ironically, we tried this service to get new ideas yet our favorite meal was the one most like our usual cooking. On the other hand, I’ve never “hasselbacked” potatoes before and I didn’t think brussel sprouts would cook so quickly or so well in the oven. We both really liked the peperonata sauce, so we’ll definitely do this again, perhaps with steaks. Again, we nicked a piece of beef for the New Girl and didn’t miss it, so the portions were generous. We did the 2/3 – 1/3 split and everyone was happy. (Even the New Girl.)

So, where do we stand after our three nights of Chef’s Plate? I did enjoy it. It was nice to not be thinking about dinner, doing menu planning or making lists for the grocery store. (Mr. Math is such a foodie that he asks me at breakfast what’s for lunch and for dinner.) I liked not having to think about dinner until 5, then just opening the bag and following the instructions. The only grocery shopping we did this week was for basics—salad ingredients, milk and bread. Lunches and breakfasts. I did learn a few new things and we tried some new recipes, which was great. We also had no desire to go out for lunch or dinner.

On the other side of things, I do have that sense that I’ve eaten out a lot this week, even though I haven’t. I suspect it’s the salt. We cook with very little salt, so always notice it when we eat out. The Spicy Pork Sausage Ragu, for example, had a whopping 1880 mg of sodium per serving. (Health Canada advises that adults eat 1000 to 1500 mg of salt per day and not exceed 2300 mg per day.) Tonight’s meal had 590 mg of sodium. Although the calorie count is on the website as well as the ingredients, the other nutritional information is only included on the recipe card. Since it’s not on the website when you choose your menu, you don’t know until your food arrives what the sodium (or carbohydrate or whatever else) count will be. This is less than ideal, especially if you are on a diet of some kind, whether it be low-sodium, Weight-Watchers, or whatever. On a similar note, these services are not geared to people with allergies, sensitivities, or intolerances.

I also feel a lack of vegetables in my life. We eat a lot of vegetables, probably more than the recommended 5 – 10 per day, and while I ate salad at lunch each day, I’m ready to have more vegetables again. These recipes tended to the carbs (potatoes, pasta, and rice) and we tend to the green vegetables. That’s a personal preference and I can’t expect them to skew to that. Tonight, for example, there were 8 fingerling potatoes included and six brussel sprouts. Even though they were big sprouts, at 3 sprouts and 4 potatoes each, if I’d been planning the servings myself, the count would have been at least the other way around. (I am known to cook 7 -8 brussel sprouts per person. They’re good for you.)

I’m also looking forward to cooking something from scratch today.

As far as Chef’s Plate itself goes, the recipes were clear and easy to follow. The order was delivered promptly and the meat was very fresh. I thought the vegetables were less than ideal (we had celery and parsley for the first night, and sugar snap peas for the second), but it is Canada in December and celery has been very disappointing of late. There is a lot of packaging with such a service, but it can be recycled. And there is less food waste—if I buy a whole bunch of disappointing celery and end up chucking half of it, Mr. Math accuses me of buying compost. So, there’s something good about having just what you need.

I didn’t order for next week, because I was concerned about the sodium. (I sent them a message asking them to add that information to their website.) We’ll be trying a different service during Christmas week called Goodfood. They’re out of Montreal and another Canadian option. I like that they list all the nutritional information on the website, so I can see the sodium etc. before I order. If you want family options, they seem to have more of them so are a good site to check out. I’ll let you know what we think.

And tonight, I’m making a quiche with a great big salad. 🙂

If you’d like to give Chef’s Plate a try, use this referral link to get three plates free in your first week. If it doesn’t work, enter #3platesFromDebC at checkout for the discount.

Night #2 with Chef’s Plate

The experiment continues with our menu delivery service. This week, we’re trying Chef’s Plate. Yesterday, I posted about our first meal, Spicy Pork Ragu, and today I’ll be talking about meal #2, Saffron Chicken Paella.

First off, several people yesterday wanted to know what was in the bag. Here’s a picture of what was included and how it was packaged—this is after I took it out of the big box with the cooler packs:
Chef's Table, ingredients

So, there was the recipe card (far right) along with all of the ingredients. The recipe card has illustrated instructions on the back:
recipe card, back

Once again, I thought this meal called for a salad. The interesting thing is that I think most meals call for a salad, but when I’m planning the main dish, I don’t get around to making the salad. Using a service like this means that I DO make the salad. Yesterday, I bought a box of mixed greens and while the paella was simmering, I made two salads. Mr. Math even got some red onion, which he loves.
Salads

Then there was the paella. This was a very good meal. There was a lot of chicken. (I actually nicked a piece of chicken for the New Girl when it was browned, as she gets a bit of lean protein on her dinner.) I did cut the chicken filets into smaller pieces and I did remove the tendons from them. As always, I was worried about there being enough for Mr. Math (Viking and snow shoveller) but I split the two servings so that he had 2/3 and I had 1/3—we both were happy. (I don’t think I could have eaten another bite.)

Here’s his dinner:
Spanish Paella from Chef's Table made by Deborah Cooke

As a bonus, he told me about his visit to Spain while we ate, which happened before we met (all those years ago). It’s interesting—I always thought arborio rice (which is the rice used in risotto) took ages to cook and had to be cooked very slowly, but this was cooked in just 15 minutes.  Another bonus of this is that we’re learning new cooking skills and a little bit more about food!

I have next week booked. I like the idea of knowing what’s for dinner on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and that it’ll take less than an hour to prepare. (Most of the recipes take 20 to 30 minutes.) Chef’s Plate isn’t delivering the week of Christmas, so I’m going to try another service that week. Although we will have the turkey leftovers, I’m thinking we’ll also be glad of a break from them.

If you’d like to give Chef’s Plate a try, use this referral link to get three plates free in your first week. If it doesn’t work, enter #3platesFromDebC at checkout for the discount.

First Night with Chef’s Plate

Recently, I decided to try Chef’s Plate, a service that delivers groceries and recipes. Essentially, these are dinners that you make yourself. I find I get a bit bored with the things we usually make, even though Mr. Math and I both cook. We end up going out for lunch or dinner once a week, and often are underwhelmed. This seemed like a good alternative. At about $66 CA per week for three dinners, it’s pretty comparable to going out once a week for a meal with wine.

There are a number of these services, but I chose Chef’s Plate because they’re located in the GTA, because they had more food options than other services, and because their meals looked more like dinners to me.

This is our first week. We joined for three dinners for two per week, and the box of ingredients arrived yesterday – in a blizzard! It came by FedEx. I was a bit concerned about the raw meat, but the box was insulated and there were freezer packs around the meat. They were still frozen, even though the box shipped Monday, and actually took all day to thaw in the sink after the box arrived.

Last night was our first dinner. It was Spicy Pork Sausage Ragu.

Fennel and Orange Salad made by Deborah Cooke

I was worried about the portion size. Mr. Math has a fast metabolism (even though he’s very lean) and he was out shovelling snow yesterday. I also thought this looked like a meal that needed a salad. We tend to eat a lot of vegetables so I have no issues augmenting the meal with a salad. I had a fennel in the fridge and an orange – this is the easiest salad in the world. You shred the fennel – a mandoline is great but I was too lazy to clean one, so just chopped the fennel fine – and put the cut orange on top. The juice is the dressing. It works equally well with a grapefruit, although Mr. Math is less of a fan of the grapefruit option.

The sauce was easy to make and the fresh pasta cooked very quickly. The spice in the sauce was perfectly complemented by the salad – a little zing and a little cool! – so I made a good choice. It was a wonderful meal!

I split the portions closer to 60/40 which worked out well for us.

Here’s Mr. Math’s dinner. He ate every bite.

Chef's Plate Spicy Pork Sausage Ragu made by Deborah Cooke

Afterward, he said to me that it was as if we had gone out to eat, but hadn’t. I knew exactly what he meant. The ragu was something I wouldn’t have made and the spice was different from what we usually do. It was delicious. In the novelty of a new taste sensation, it was like eating out – or eating someone else’s cooking. It was eating in, though, because I prepped it in our kitchen and we sat by the fire at home while we ate. I’m very pleased and have ordered for next week – even though we have two more dinners waiting to be prepared.

If you’d like to give Chef’s Plate a try, use this referral link to get three plates free in your first week. If it doesn’t work, enter #3platesFromDebC at checkout for the discount.

Tomatoes

I like to can produce and do a fair bit of canning every year. My favourite veggies to can, though, are tomatoes. I peel them, reduce them to a thick chunky sauce, then put them up in quart sealers. We eat a lot of them during the year, and I love opening the jar in the winter and smelling that summery goodness of ripe tomatoes. Each year, I look for Roma tomatoes in season, when they’re on sale. They have less juice in them, so they reduce into sauce more quickly, and their thicker skins make them easier to peel. (In an ideal universe, I’d grow my own Roma tomatoes, but my garden isn’t sunny enough for tomatoes. Buying local produce is the best solution.)

Yesterday, the 25 pound boxes of local Roma tomatoes were available and on sale at the supermarket. I was very excited. I’ve been waiting for them for a few weeks now. Next week, they’ll probably be gone. I bought six boxes, only realizing when I got home that this meant I have 150 pounds of tomatoes.

I canned two batches last night, which is 14 quarts, and only used a bit more than one box. Hmm. I’ll make salsa, too, as we also eat a lot of that (and Mr. Math will seed and chop the hot peppers for me) but I’m thinking this morning that I just might have over-purchased on the tomatoes. Either way, there’s a lot of peeling in my immediate future.

Do you can tomatoes? Do you can anything? What’s your favourite homemade pickle?

Sourdough Bread

I’ve been looking for some sourdough starter for quite a while. Mr. Math loves sourdough bread (and I do, too) but I’ve had no luck getting a starter going on my own. Lucky us – Karen offered to share some of her starter with us, and I couldn’t wait to give it a try.

Here’s my first-ever loaf of sourdough bread:

firstloaf

It’s a good thing I took a picture of it, because I baked it Friday and it’s long gone.

Here’s the crumb:

firstloaf2

I used this recipe, because I liked how she went through the entire process step by step. I also was intrigued that she baked the bread in a cast-iron roasting pan with the lid on for the first 30 minutes. Her explanation about keeping the steam in made perfect sense, and this loaf actually has the best crust of any bread I’ve ever made. She says you don’t have to knead it and I didn’t, but my next experiment will to knead the dough before the second rising (she calls it a rest), just to see if I can get that gluten to develop a little bit more. All in all, it was probably the easiest bread I’ve ever made, and it’s topping the list for taste, too. What a treat on a cold winter night!

While I’m interested in the percentages that serious bread bakers use – and understand the science behind it – I found that a bit overwhelming for my first attempt.This winter, I’ll be digging into my bread book and trying some more variations and recipes, now that I know there’s one easy option in my recipe book.

Do you make bread? Have you ever made sourdough bread? What’s your favorite recipe?

Pasta of the Day

Once upon a time, I read an interview with the chef, Jamie Oliver. It was around the time that he was trying to get schools to sell healthy food in their cafeterias, and he was quite negative about fast food. The interviewer was skeptical and insisted that JO must eat fast food once in a while, for the sake of convenience. But JO was adamant that he never ate it – and here’s the part that stuck with me, although I’m paraphrasing – because he said it isn’t actually that fast. He said it would take him about 30 minutes from his home to drive to a fast food place, order, get his order and come home to eat it. In that amount of time, he said he could cook something better.

That’s when I started to think about how long it takes to make something good.

Mr. Math and I both work from home, which means that both lunch and dinner need to be solved every day. I could just eat salad or something quick at lunch, but Mr. Math likes something more substantial. So, here’s a recipe that I use three or four times a week. It’s quick. It’s nutritious. It’s different every time. Maybe it will become one of your staples, too.

Mr. Math calls it Pasta del Giorno, which is a bit more upmarket.

Pasta del Giorno

The idea here is that you make the topping for the pasta while the pasta is cooking. This is typically a meal that takes 15 minutes or less to prepare. Mix and match from the lists below, based on what you have and what you like together, and base quantities on the number of servings desired.

• allium – garlic, onion, shallot, leek, vidalia onion, garlic scapes or any combination thereof (diced)

• savoury – sundried tomatoes in oil (chopped), celery (chopped), any herbs (oregano, thyme, fennel seed, etc.)

• vegetable – red or yellow peppers, green peppers, bulb fennel, asparagus, diced tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini, etc. (chopped)

• protein (optional) – leftover chicken or sausages (chopped), crumbled sausage meat or ground meat (browned and set aside), cooked shrimp, cooked scallops, cooked bacon, sliced ham, sliced cold cuts, etc. If you use canned Italian tuna (drained), treat it like a garnish and add it at the end – it’ll be warm.

• piquant – capers (the salt-packed ones are best), roasted red peppers in oil (chopped), artichokes in oil, pickled peppers (chopped), etc.

• garnish – fresh parsley (chopped)

Method:

If the meat is not cooked, cook it first and set it aside.

Put the water for the pasta on to boil.

Put olive oil in the skillet and begin to brown the alliums. Once they’re soft, you can start the pasta. (Most pasta shapes take 7 to 10 minutes to cook. If yours take longer, start sooner.) Add the other ingredients to the skillet in order, stirring and heating them through. Turn the heat up or down to ensure that the topping is done when the pasta is done.

You may wish to garnish with ground black pepper and grated parmesan cheese at the table.

If you want more of a tomato sauce, put a diced tomato in with the onion and cook it to mush. Then add a squirt of tomato paste (the kind from Italy in a tube is good because you can use as much or as little as you like.) then stir it into the oil to mix it.

So, there you have a quick meal, one that can change every day, depending on what you have in the fridge. Enjoy!