In Which I Test A Kroger Meal Kit

A few days after talking with friends about Blue Apron and meal kits, I walked into the local Kroger and spotted a brand new display of...meal kits. 

 Kit to fork in 20 minutes! Starting at $14.

Kit to fork in 20 minutes! Starting at $14.

The name is clever - Prep+pared - and there is a website preppared.com. The kits range in price from $14-20, and feed two people. Expensive compared to cooking from scratch, but certainly cheaper than Blue Apron or eating out most places. I thought the packaging was attractive - very organic and recycled looking -  but was mystified by the lack of pictures of the finished product.

I like to cook, but thought why not? And bought the Crispy Pork Chop with Blistered Tomatoes and Creamed Spinach (side note: Blistered Tomatoes will be the name of my band, when I start one). $16.

I unpacked the kit and I have to say if you expect these kits to be a complete meal, well...this one at least is not. It is two breaded pork chops on a bed of creamed spinach with 11 grape tomatoes. Yes, eleven - 5.5 grape tomatoes each, although this kit also promises no chopping, so I'm not sure how that .5 tomato happens. But no salad, no bread, no other starch or veggies. 

 All the ingredients, lookin' fresh!

All the ingredients, lookin' fresh!

I followed the directions and started by placing the pork chops between plastic wrap and - despite my skepticism - attacking them (OK, maybe that is not exactly what the instructions said, but still) with the skillet to tenderize them and get them to a 1/2 inch thickness. The first one promptly squirted out of the plastic wrap and across the counter, narrowly missing flying onto the floor. But we all recovered our composure, and I got the chops to 1/2 inch thick, mostly.

At this point, Son #2 wanders through and asks me if I am sure I only want to eat half of a pork chop - our 2-person dinner had been altered to a 3-person plan - and I was fine with that. But when they say "feeds two" they really mean it. 

I mixed the bread crumbs with half the parmesan, and pressed the chops into the mixture. You will easily have half the mixture left over, there is enough to another chop or two. Once the oil was hot, I placed the chops in the skillet and set a timer to 5 minutes as instructed.

Meanwhile, in another skillet I blistered the tomatoes on medium high heat. Again, I was skeptical when the recipe told me to then reduce the heat to medium and add a tablespoon of oil. And I was RIGHT. Tomato juice from the blistered tomatoes mixed with the oil being added to the hot pan and the mad spitting, hissing and spattering was noisy enough that husband asked if everything was going OK over there. So - my advice is to remove the skillet from the heat before you add the oil. After that, I added the spinach in batches to wilt it, and then added the pouches of cream.

Meanwhile, back at the pork chops, I flipped them for another 4-5 minutes according to the instructions. Somehow, 5 minutes on each side on medium heat in 1/4 cup of oil was supposed to be sufficient to not only beautifully brown the bread crumb coating but also bring the internal temp to 145 degrees. 

I think I did 5 minutes for one side and closer to 8 on the other. I got the brown, but not the temp, but hey no one is sick yet. But I have to admit, the final product was pretty close to what was shown on the recipe card.

IMG_9483.JPG

And it was quite tasty. My dining companions gave it a 3.5 stars out of 5. It got downgraded on portion size - neither of them thought it was enough for an entire meal for two. I did make mashed potatoes as a supplement, and not just because we were stretching it for 3 people. They also thought the chops were a little tough.

This kit worked out to be $8 per person, but everything you need is there, no measuring. And I did some quick calculating - if you bought everything separately, you'd spend about $12-14 at Kroger (granted, you would have leftover ingredients to use for something else), so the pricing is certainly not outrageous.

Overall opinion -  a nice option if there are just two of you, eating light, and you are tired, in a hurry, or want your non-cooking partner to take charge of dinner. Check it out.

 

 

 

And on the 7th Day, I made Shrimp Tacos. And they were good.

Wow. And so easy too. Inspired by a favorite author, Kevin Hearne (Iron Druid Chronicles is a great series) on his Writer's Grove blog (check out his blog, and for more fun with tacos, go to the Holy Taco Church). I couldn't find the dressing he used, and I had about 18 raw shrimp to use. So, this is what I did. Generally. Serves two (about 4-5 tacos).

About 18 medium peeled shrimp, olive oil, chili powder, salt, pepper, garlic powder, lime juice, cilantro, bag of coleslaw mix, small flour tortillas.

Marinade: 1 TBS olive oil; 1/2 tsp each chili powder, salt, garlic powder, pepper; 1 tsp chopped fresh cilantro; 2 TBS lime juice

Mix the marinade, toss with the shrimp and set aside.

About 1/2 of a bag of pre-packaged coleslaw

1/2-1/3 cup ranch dressing

2-4 TBS line juice

2 TBS chopped fresh cilantro

Mix the dressing, lime juice and cilantro. Taste it and adjust amounts to your preference. Add coleslaw.

Heat small frying pan on medium heat. Add shrimp and marinade, cook until shrimp are just pink. 

Place about 3 shrimp on a small flour tortilla. Add chopped fresh cilantro. Add the coleslaw mixture. Enjoy!



Thanksgiving Edition

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! In this edition of Rebecca's Food Porn, I am posting a few of our favorite dishes of the day. We do the usual turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and corn, but sub the StoveTop stuffing with a rice dressing. And sweet potato casserole - the single greatest way to ruin the nutritional value of the sweet potato - has become a requirement.

  Spicy and sweet pot of deliciousness.

Spicy and sweet pot of deliciousness.

Rice, Apple and Craisin Dressing

This is adapted from the Rice, Apple and Raisin Dressing recipe in Paul Prudomme's Louisiana Kitchen, a classic cookbook that should be on your shelf if it isn't already. And because I can't leave recipes alone, I made changes, including - the horror! - reducing the fat. Seriously, if you use  the amount of oil and butter called for in the original recipe, the dressing is just greasy. IMHO, and no offense to Chef Prudomme. I also added wild rice and celery, eliminated the pecans (household preference), and used craisins instead of raisins. Spices can be adjusted to taste (and, apparently everything else, judging by all the changes I made!). Here is my version:

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne red pepper
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1/2-3/4 cup craisins
  • 2 TBS butter
  • 1 cup converted rice
  • 1/2 cup wild rice
  • 3 cups stock or bouillon (I use chicken)
  • 2 cups chopped unpeeled apples

Combine seasoning mix in small dish and set aside. Place wild rice in small bowl of water to soak.

In large pot, heat oil on med high heat. Add onions, celery and green pepper and saute 2-3 minutes. Add craisins and butter. Stir until butter is melted then cook and stir for about 4-5 minutes. You should see craisins plump up. Add rices and seasoning mix. Cook and stir about 5 minutes, then add stock and apples. bring to boil, then cover and lower heat to simmer 5-10 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for 30 minutes to absorb liquid. (You can re-heat and simmer another 5 minutes if wild rice is still tough, or if liquid has not been absorbed.)

At this point, I usually sit down with a bowl of the stuff and shovel it in. It is so good.

Use as a side or to stuff chicken, turkey, yourself....

Sweet Potato Casserole

Funny how our kids tastes change over time. Both my kids loved baby food sweet potatoes, and what's not to like? The real thing? Well, not so much. And then my Aunt introduced them to this dish, and again, what's not to like about beautiful sweet potatoes amped up with sugar and butter? And marshmallows! I know you'll be shocked that I reduced the butter and sugar in this recipe. It's still at horrifying levels, and mmm, mmm, good.

  • 3 cups mashed sweet potatoes (do not use canned!!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 milk
  • 3 TBS flour
  • 1/4 orange juice
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Mini marshmallows for topping (about a cup?)

In large bowl, combine all ingredients except marshmallows. Mix well. Pour into greased casserole dish. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Top with marshmallows and bake another 10 minutes.

Beef Burgundy

While I'm on the subject of stews, I'll subject you to one of my favorites: Beef Burgundy, aka Boeuf Bourguignon. Yeah, the Julia Child staple. This is a really easy version! You'll have to wait for the photo though...

1 lb stew meat
4-5 strips of bacon
3 TBS flour
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups beef broth
1 cup red wine (not sweet)
4 onions, sliced
1 cup baby carrots
1 bay leaf
Pinch of thyme
8 oz mushrooms sliced
2 TBS butter

In large pot, fry the bacon til crisp, remove from pot.

Toss stew meat with flour, salt and pepper. Sear meat in bacon grease. Add onions and saute. Add remaining ingredients, except the butter and mushrooms. Crumble bacon and add back to pot.

Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 2 hours.

Saute mushrooms in butter, and add to stew just prior to serving. Serve stew over noodles or rice.




Ox Tail Stew

Cow Tail Stew, really, but that doesn't have the same ring to it, does it? We get a quarter side of beef every spring from my nephew, and this year's Pile O'Meat included a tail (everyone in my Beef Co-Op ends up with "parts" - heart, tongue, liver - most of which never gets used). It was even labeled "Ox Tail."

There are lots of recipes out there for this stew, with varying levels of complexity and ingredients. I whittled the choices down to one that looked fairly straightforward at Simply Recipes (http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/oxtail_stew/).

Don't let the "Simple" part of the title deceive you. This was a lot of work for a stew, IMO, and made me wonder how different it was going to be from, say, Beef Burgundy, which you can brew up in a couple of hours.

Well, there were two main differences: the meat, and the grease.

Tails, in case you were wondering, are very muscle-y and fatty animal parts. So, after searing the tail chunks, they need to simmer for 3 hours or so, and even then they are not going to be falling-off-the-bone tender. But my main complaint is the fat. Even after running the broth through a separator, this dish tips just over the edge from richness to greasiness. An overnight in the fridge may solve some of this issue, when I will be able to remove additional fat from the top. I hope.

Here is the recipe I used, with my adjustments:

One "ox" tail, chunked
2 TBS olive oil
Salt and pepper 
1/2 cup onion chopped
One celery stalk chopped
1/2 carrots chopped
3 whole cloves garlic
2 cups shiraz
2 cups beef broth
One bay leaf
Pinch thyme

2 TBS olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 cups purple potatoes, chopped (hey, it's what I had!)
One cup baby carrots
Three leeks, chopped
1/2 onion chopped
1/2 cup corn (no parsnips at Busch's today, needed another starch to offset the grease)

3 TBS flour

Sprinkle salt and pepper on the tail chunks and in dutch oven or large pot, sear in olive oil. Remove from pot and set aside. Saute chopped onion, carrots and celery in pot. Add garlic, bay leaf, thyme, broth and wine. Add tail chunks. Bring to boil, lower heat, cover and simmer 3-4 hours.

Heat oven to 350. In baking dish, mix potatoes, carrots, leeks, onion and corn with olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast veggies 45 minutes or so. Remove and set aside.

Remove tails from broth, set aside. Run broth through strainer to remove veggie chunks. Run broth through fat separator. Mix 3 TBS flour with broth and return to pot.  Add roasted veggies. I chose to remove meat from bones before returning to the pot.

Simmer until broth has thickened and flavors combined, about 30-40 minutes.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumb Pie

We do have our own small rhubarb..bush? plant?...but the house next-door has had a beautiful crop that we have always admired. Well, after a few years of neighbors who had no idea what the heck the plant was, let alone what to do with it, the house has been vacant. Oh yeah, you know it! We have no shame here at Rebecca's Food Porn.

The irony is that I met the new neighbor today as he was moving in. I'm thinking I should take him a pie as a house-warming gift, since it is, after all, his rhubarb.

This recipe is from one of my favorite online sites, AllRecipes (http://allrecipes.com/). This is the first time I've made this pie, and it was a little runny - but I used frozen berries from last year, which may have added more liquid. It still got rave reviews from the guys (and won a prize at some church fair in Maine, according to the submitter). And as Ryne said "This looks like a pie that needs whipped cream" - not that I've ever had a pie that didn't.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumb Pie

From Paula Phillips, via allrecipes.com


  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 pound fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, halved
  • 1 (9 inch) unbaked pie shell

  • TOPPING:
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking or rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup cold butter

Rebecca's NOTES: I have no idea how much 3/4 lb of rhubarb is, but I think I used about 2-3 cups, cut up. I also used 2 cups of frozen strawberries, partially thawed.

Directions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg. Add the sugar, flour and vanilla; mix well. Gently fold in rhubarb and strawberries. Pour into pastry shell.
  2. For topping, combine flour, brown sugar and oats in a small bowl; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over fruit. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Cool on a wire rack.