HelloFresh Review

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Will all of the meal delivery services running crazy deals at the beginning of the year, I thought it would be fun to try some out and do reviews on them. I am also hoping to shake up my cooking habits and experiment with styles I wouldn’t otherwise tend to cook.

Being a stay at home mom that loves to cook from scratch and married to a husband who brings home huge quantities of beautiful seafood probably doesn’t make me the target audience for one of these services. I have the time and resources to make whatever I want each day (if I have the energy on top of chasing around two toddlers!).

That said, the kids and I were very excited when our first HelloFresh box arrived!

We picked out three recipes for our delivery:

  • Cranberry Turkey Burgers with Green Salad
  • Crispy Sole with Caper Sauce and Potatoes
  • Beefed-Up Bolognese with Poblano Peppers and Thyme

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Everything arrived packed up in individual boxes for each recipe, with the proteins at the bottom of the box directly on the ice packs. Also included was a recipe book with a page for each dish.

The produce and meat looked very fresh.

We started with the Cranberry Turkey Burgers.

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The box contained:

  • one shallot
  • 2oz sage
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 2oz mayo
  • 2oz cranberry sauce
  • 5oz spring mix
  • 1oz dried cranberries
  • 1.8oz pecans
  • .85oz balsamic vinegar
  • two buns

The recipe itself was fairly easy: chop shallots & thyme, combine with the meat and panko, and form patties to cook.

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While the patties are cooking, you simply mix together the mayo and cranberry sauce to make a spread for the burger buns, and toss the salad mix with the pecans, cranberries, balsamic & a bit of olive oil.

At this point I would love to show you a pic of the finished dish, but we ate it too fast and I forgot to take one!

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It was a good dish but not fantastic. The burger was a bit dry- I’m surprised that they didn’t add any egg to it. The salad was good, we really liked the greens themselves.

The recipe was extremely fast and simple to make, which earns a lot of points in my book. The high caloric amount didn’t make me delighted however- over 800cal per person for a turkey burger and a salad. I prefer to do heavier lunches and lighter dinners personally, keeping the calories under 600 so that I can have a glass of wine with dinner. I wonder if they could have saved some calories by doing a sauce on the burgers that didn’t contain mayo but that added some sharper tastes to cut through the burger.

Next we tried the Beefed-Up Bolognese with Poblano Peppers & Thyme.

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This box contained:

  • 1 carrot
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, already peeled
  • 2oz fresh thyme
  • 14.5oz canned diced tomatoes
  • 8oz linguine
  • shredded parmesan
  • 1oz sour cream
  • 8oz ground beef

This recipe took a few more minutes and had more steps than the turkey burgers. First, thinly slice the pepper, mince the garlic cloves and do a small dice on the carrots & onions.

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Get a big pot of water boiling for the pasta. Sauté the pepper in some olive oil, add garlic, then set aside. Sauté the onions & carrots with the thyme and then add the beef, peppers and diced tomatoes. Let this simmer and then add in a cup of the pasta water, sour cream and salt and pepper.

This dish took me a total of about 40 minutes, and I would say I chop pretty fast. I was also feeding two toddlers dinner at the same time.

I really liked the end result, but I don’t feel that it was very healthy- I wouldn’t normally eat pasta (or beef for that matter). The calories are high- 795 per serving- but I did find the servings themselves pretty healthy.

Pricing

I found an introductory deal for our week of HelloFresh that was a total of $19.95 for the week. That’s 3 meals, each for 2 people, so it breaks down to $3.25 per serving.

Normal pricing for a week of HelloFresh is $59.94, which then breaks down to $9.99 per serving per person.

Conclusion

Overall, I found the HelloFresh recipes to be relatively quick and easy. The instructions are clear and have great pictures. I would anticipate the pasta taking most people a lot longer than it took me however, and at 40 minutes for a week night meal that’s not super quick in my opinion. I also thought that they could have been healthier- lower in calories and with less empty carbs and more vegetables.

Sustainability-wise, I appreciated that much of the products were packed in materials that can be recycled. I also liked that there was an insert in the package that talked about where the food came from- what farms, with short backgrounds on each. I would have liked to know that all of the proteins were raised naturally and humanely or sustainably fished (there was info on the chicken that said it was raised according to these standards, but nothing else).  It made me uneasy to use diced tomatoes out of a can without a label stating that it was BPA-free. We also buy all organic produce, and this obviously was not, which would affect my decision to use the service on a continuous basis.

The online interface for ordering I found extremely easy. You simply click the meals that you want, and any combination is accepted. With Blue Apron if you click on a certain meal then others are greyed out- you can only order certain items with others if that makes sense. It must have to do with the cost of ingredients for some recipes vs others. I preferred HelloFresh in this department because it ticked me off with Blue Apron to select one meal only to find that this then ruled out 2 other selections which I wanted.

These meals are great for someone that wants fast, simple weeknight meals and who is highly active and can handle dinners in the 800 calorie range without gaining weight! The menus are more geared towards simple, comfort-food type dishes with familiar ingredients and taste profiles.

At $60/week or $240/month they aren’t cheap, but if you actually wanted to make each meal and went grocery shopping for the ingredients you would be spending a lot more. By using the menu service you get a variety of meals already portioned out for you, and there’s no waste (there are also no leftovers however for lunch the next day).

 

 

 

 

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Bone Broth in the Instant Pot

My toddlers go through a roasted chicken or two a week, and I like to use the leftover chicken to make a bone broth to keep handy for drinking alone or to use in soups and other future dishes. I simply buy the organic roasted chickens at the grocery store and once the meat has been eaten, I toss it in the Instant Pot with whatever scraps of veggies I have in the refrigerator along with a dash of apple cider vinegar. The process takes maybe 5 minutes of active time total and you’re left with a rich bone broth.

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To make a simple bone broth you will need:

  • one roasted chicken carcass
  •  1-2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot

optional ingredients- I just add whatever I have here:

  • some herbs, fresh or dried (I used a small bunch of thyme here)
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1 potato or 1/2 sweet potato, parsnip etc.
  • any veggie scraps that you have in the fridge left over from cooking
  • 2″ fresh ginger
  • 1/2 a lemon

Place all items in the Instant Pot liner and cover with warm water.

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Make sure to keep the water under the max line that is printed on the inside of the stainless steel liner:

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 Close and img_3581lock the lid and press the Soup button and then the + button until your display reads 120. Now your Instant Pot will come up to pressure, which could take as long as 30 minutes since it is so full, and then it will count down from 120 until it reaches 0, at which point it will stay warm and very slowly release pressure on its own. This is called Natural Release (NR). If you were to release the pressure valve on the top and get that strong stream of pressure coming out of the pot enabling you to open it more quickly, this would be called a Quick Release, or QR.

Now I get a colander inside of another pot lined up to strain the broth quickly:

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Then I open the instant pot once the pressure has fallen and the latch will work and strain the broth. Here is my finished product, which I then spoon into freezer bags of 2 cups each and label them (if I’m not going to make a soup with it or drink it straight away!).

 

Almond Milk in the Vitamix

Have you ever read the ingredients list on the side of your favorite almond milk? It’s not just almonds and water. Fortunately a couple of the top brands (Silk & Blue Diamond) have now taken out the carrageenan, but So Delicious and Pacific Foods brands do still contain it at this time.  Carrageenan is a seaweed extract that has been linked to gut inflammation and even colon cancer in some studies. It is something that I avoid at all costs on our labels, and is in many organic foods that you would otherwise consider healthy (yogurt, non-dairy ice creams, non-dairy milks, and even some infant formula!!).

Beyond carrageenan, manufacturers add sweeteners and fortify the milk with vitamins like Vitamin A Palmitate, which is derived from palm plantations that are potentially damaging to ecosystems.

There has been a class action lawsuit against some of these almond milk manufacturers because upon testing only a few almonds are in each box of almond milk, thus you are really not getting much of the nutritional value of the almonds in the end.

Making almond milk only takes a few minutes and if you buy almonds in bulk you can save money and always have fresh almond milk on hand!

I use my Vitamix for this task, which we are crazy about in our household, but any good blender will do. You will need a nut milk bag as well.

To make great almond milk you will need your blender and:

  • 1 cup of almonds
  • 4 cups of water
  • optional flavoring: 2 dates, 2 tsp vanilla paste or extract, or a dash of honey

I start by covering 1 cup of almonds with water and putting it in the refrigerator overnight.

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Raw almonds need to soak at least 12 hours to become soft enough to make a good creamy milk. This soaking also activates the enzymes in the almonds and adding to the nutritional value.

In the morning, I simply strain this water out of the bowl using a clean hand, and then dump the almonds into the Vitamix. Using the measurements on the side of the Vitamix container, I fill it up to the 5 cup line with cold water.

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Start out by running the Vitamix on a low level  of 2 first for 15 seconds and then increase it to an 8 and let it run for about 3 minutes.

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Stop the Vitamix and pour your liquid into a nut milk bag inside of a larger bowl.

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Now suspend the cord of your nut milk bag and let the milk strain out for about an hour.

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When most the liquid stops dripping, wring out as much more of it as you can get with clean hands. Pour the liquid into your bottle and you are done!

Save that almond pulp to make almond flour, which I’ll do a future blog post on.

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For our almond milk, I don’t add any sweetener of flavoring. We use it mainly for our adult protein smoothies and prefer it plain. You could certainly throw a couple of dates in there when blending, or a bit of honey, or some vanilla (paste, extract or bean) if you would like it to be vanilla-floavoured.

Making Yogurt in the Instant Pot, a step-by-step tutorial

Let me preface this detailed tutorial with telling you that making yogurt in the Instant Pot is very simple and absolutely worth it. Making your own yogurt saves you money, is healthier than buying store-bought yogurt with added sugar, and the creamy finished product will knock your socks off taste-wise.

Please don’t get overwhelmed with the number of steps here; I have laid them out with such detail in order to make the procedure foolproof. Once you have made a couple of batches, you’ll easily have the hang of it and will see that each step only takes a few minutes. That said, this process takes a total of 9.5 hrs before straining the yogurt, which takes an hour or more depending on your method.

The only Instant Pot that works easily for yogurt is the 7-in-1, or the Instant Pot IP-DUO 60A silicone whisk is also preferred over a wire one, as the former can add a metallic taste to your yogurt. You will also need an instant-read thermometer, and some way of straining the yogurt (a nut milk bag, a yogurt strainer, or a tea towel laid in a colander).

Also of note: I prefer to make my yogurt batches by the half gallon. It cuts down on heating and cooling times, and I am able to achieve really consistent results in the consistency of my yogurt. I have found that with the whole gallon batches of yogurt I have to hit the boil button 2-3 times to get the milk to the desired temperature to actually break down the proteins, and I have sometimes even then gotten runnier yogurt. Also my yogurt strainer fits a half gallon perfectly.

These are the ingredients that I use for my yogurt batches

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You will also need 1/4 cup of yogurt starter. For the first batch you will need it from the store. Anything that contains live cultures noted in the ingredients will work. You can then use some of your existing yogurt for each following batch, for up to 6 or 7 generations.

I prefer to start with Maple Hill Creamery Whole Milk Plain Grass-Fed Yogurt

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For the remaining ingredients, you will need:

  • 1/2 gallon milk (I always use whole organic, but 2% would work as well)
  • 2 Tablespoons dry milk powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (Vanilla extract also works, as does a vanilla bean pod if you have one handy, opened up lengthwise with scissors. I like the vanilla paste because it has the actual seeds of the pod in it, it’s easy to add, and lasts a long time.)

    1. Begin by taking the lid off of your Instant Pot and hitting the yogurt button once and then the adjust button until the display reads BOIL

 

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Don’t get distracted and walk away here- your Instant Pot is on high. I like to get it started while adding the milk and dry milk powder just to save myself a few moments as I’m always trying to get the yogurt made as early in the day as possible.

2. Measure out 8 cups of milk and pour it into the stainless steel liner of the pot.

3. Add 2 Tablespoons of dry milk powder and whisk to combine.

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4. Place lid back on Instant Pot and lock it, and set vent to closed position.

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5. Now let the Instant Pot run and heat the milk up for you. Today this took 24 minutes for me from when I closed the lid. When the milk has been heated the instant pot beeps at you and the display changes from “boil” to “yogt.”

6. Remove the stainless steel liner from the Instant Pot and allow the milk to cool.  You will be starting with a temp just below 180F, and you need the milk to reach about 116F so that you can safely add the live yogurt culture without killing it.

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Removing the stainless steel liner from the Instant Pot allows it to cool more quickly. I keep a whisk next to the liner and stir it up every time I walk by, every few minutes. If you’re in more of a rush you can also fill the sink with an ice bath and cool the yogurt in there more quickly, stirring more often. Just letting the liner sit out it took about 45 minutes to completely cool for me today.

7. Once the milk has cooled for to 116F, you now add 1/4 cup of your yogurt starter and whisk it in well.

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8. Now put the liner back into the Instant Pot and close and lock the lid. Press the Yogurt button and then Adjust until the display reads “8:00”.

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Your Instant Pot will then clear out to read 0:00 and it will start counting up, minute by minute, until it hits 8 hours.

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Once your Instant Pot has reached 8 hrs, it will beep and the display will change to “yogt.”

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9. Now take the lid off of the Instant Pot- it will open right up because no pressure will have built in there, the temp didn’t get high enough- and pour the yogurt into your strainer. img_3557

Here is the side view- the whey will slowly drip through the strainer and collect on the bottom:

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This is where you could alternatively use a tea towel over a colander or a nut milk bag suspended from a cabinet pull to strain your yogurt. In my experience these two methods strain the yogurt quickly- in about an hour you have a very thick product. With my yogurt strainer it takes more time- about 6 hours.

Here is my yogurt after sitting in the refrigerator overnight:

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You can see the whey that has collected in the bottom:

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I will do another blog post in the future about uses for whey- it is a valuable liquid!

Sometimes my yogurt comes out too thick and I whip some of the whey back into it. This is also when you can add the vanilla of your choice.

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You can see how thick this yogurt is- the strainer is turned at almost 90 degrees here. My family loves it super thick and creamy!

My half gallon batches of yogurt almost completely fill the 6-cup glass pyrex that I have designated to hold yogurt.

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