Hello Fresh {review}: Cook gourmet meals in your home kitchen

hellofresh1_copyright2012-2013There on my doorstep sat a big brown box; why, hello there I thought. The box was from Hello Fresh, a meal delivery service for aspiring gourmets. Each and every dish has been designed by the executive chef of a Michelin-starred Manhattan, New York restaurant. I was given the choice of reviewing either a classic or vegetarian menu, and my box arrived a few days later. They are available in increments serving 2, 4 or 6 people and arrive weekly with a subscription. Everything is pre-portioned and laid out with clear, easy-to-follow illustrated instructions, complete with step by step photos to suit even the total beginner. Hello Fresh leaves out all of the question marks that come with choosing a recipe and selecting ingredients, but still allows you to cook from scratch so you know exactly what is in the food you eat, and you know it is healthy and nutritious. Most pleasing to me is that each ingredient is portioned to eliminate waste, removing the guilt of throwing away left over meats and vegetables that didn’t make it into the dish.hellofresh27_copyright2012-2013I first became aware of Hello Fresh while living in Germany when a friend of mine gave me a discount card he had received in the mail. We never had the chance to try them out before we moved back to the states, so I was very excited when Hello Fresh approached me to review one of their boxes. Barely able to contain my excitement, I reached for my camera and a pair of scissors and snipped the plastic straps.

When I opened the lid, I was greeted with a blanket of thick insulation revealing a variety of beautifully fresh produce packed neatly in labeled plastic bags that looked like it came straight from a farmers market. Every vegetable was perfectly ripe, beautiful and flawless, obviously hand selected with care. Especially impressive was the avocado, so perfectly ripe, with none of the bruises grocery store avocados often suffer from having been squeezed by all those rough hands. Beneath the produce were neatly butchered and packaged steaks, firm, pink Tilapia fillets, and a pouch of nicely minced ground turkey. These lay atop 4 very large, and still very cold, chiller packs that assured everything arrived cold and crisp. Also included in the box were the assorted sauces, spices, and crunchy salad toppings, and generous bundles of fresh herbs. True to their name, all of the ingredients were super fresh and pre-washed, in neatly labeled, sealed plastic pouches. The only ingredients I needed to add were a couple of tablespoons of butter, a few dashes of olive oil, and salt and pepper, and that’s it! Sound too good to be true? I thought so too, so let’s see how the recipes unfold..

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hellofresh29_copyright2012-2013The box I received contained three meat dishes and everything was labeled for each dish so there is no confusion. One of the recipe called for cinnamon, and the package contained a little packet of organic cinnamon, pre-measured to 1 tsp! Each recipe comes printed on a sleek, 2-sided black recipe card with photos of all the ingredients, and each step of preparation, along with nutrition information. The three recipes I received were seared steak with sweet potato puree and broccolini, fish tacos with crunchy coleslaw, and turkey taco salad with guacamole bites. I couldn’t wait to start cooking!

Fish Tacos
My first thought while unpacking the fresh Tilapia fillets was that I have never cooked fresh fish before, and I was a bit intimidated about cooking it properly. I have cooked frozen fish before, the kind of thing that you thaw out and fry/grill/bake till golden, but this was a nice piece of fish. I had heard of fish tacos before, but always thought they sounded gross. But for some reason people were always telling me how good they are.

hellofresh7_copyright2012-2013Seafood meets mexican was a combination I had not yet experienced, so I thought that this feeling, in combination with the difficulty of properly cooking the fish would make this the most challenging of the three dishes, so of course I made it first! It was actually pretty easy, the cooking directions and cooking time were spot on and I ended up with two lovely pieces of fish, lightly browned on the outside, and moist and tender inside.
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After coarsely chopping the fish I assembled the tacos as directed and they were fantastic! The tangy crunch added by the fresh slaw made with red cabbage, sour cream, and lime juice was the perfect balance to the rich, tender tilapia.  The sliced avocado added a creamy smoothness that made cheese totally unnecessary. Also included were two packets of Tapatio hot sauce, but I needed a bit more to suit my tastes. After this meal I will start cooking with fresh fish more often, and the next time I see fish tacos on a menu I will be sure to recommend them to my friends!
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Turkey Taco Salad
The salad was quite easy to prepare; chop and saute the vegetables in a splash of olive oil till they just start to color up, then set aside and cook the turkey in the same pan, so cleanup was easy. I arranged the lettuce and tomatoes on a serving platter, scattered the turkey and spooned on the vegetables, garnishing with chopped cilantro, lemon juice, and crunchy guacamole corn bites.
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hellofresh14_copyright2012-2013The mound of salad was enough to feed 4 but this is not a complaint.  As a main course it was fantastic and made an excellent and filling yet light lunch on a 90+ degree day. This would be really good in a salad wrap and the next time I will try browning and slicing turkey breast as an alternative to ground turkey. The only complaint I have is the relatively high fat content, 40g per serving, mostly due to the guacamole bites which, although quite tasty, contain a lot of fat. Next time I would use much less of them and add some crumbled bacon instead. That’s what I call a strategic use of fat.hellofresh15_copyright2012-2013

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Seared Steak with Sweet Potato Puree & Broccolini
This was a very delicious meal and if plated well, gives a very nice presentation. The seared broccolini with pan-toasted peanuts and dill was amazing. The steaks were fantastic, and although steaks are another intimidating subject for me, I followed the directions to the letter and the results were perfectly seared, tender and juicy, and just pink enough in the middle to suit me. My only complaint was the amount of cinnamon in the sweet potato puree.hellofresh18_copyright2012-2013

hellofresh19_copyright2012-2013The recipe called for 1/2 tsp. but I found it totally overpowering. I am a big fan of sweet potatoes, but I think simply buttered with salt and pepper showcases their natural sweetness; I see no reason to spice them outside the holiday season. They weren’t bad at all, just not to my particular tastes. It was a bit distracting when you have such a thick cut of perfectly cooked and delicious steak on your plate. I thought it was a nice variation on the familiar steak and potato theme, but sweet potatoes to me should be prepared in a savory way outside fall/winter. But the broccolini with peanuts was fantastic and the steaks were truly top-notch.
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hellofresh21_copyright2012-2013I really love the concept of Hello Fresh. Supermarkets dominate our diets with over-processed prepared foods, and picked-over expensive produce that inevitably wilts within half an hour; its nice to try healthy, delicious, wholesome ingredients put together so elegantly.  No celebrity chef endorsements, no pre-packaged seasoning blends, and absolutely nothing frozen or out of season. Just fresh ingredients, clearly packed, with easy instructions, and in about 30 minutes you have a fine dining experience in your own kitchen.hellofresh23_copyright2012-2013

hellofresh24_copyright2012-2013What I loved most about Hello Fresh is that it gave me the opportunity to venture outside of what I normally cook. Fresh tilapia and thick steaks were always a bit intimidating to me, but not anymore. With my new-found confidence I will be picking up these ingredients in the supermarket and seeing what other dishes I can come up with.

An added bonus, the sturdy box that it came in can be re-used to transport meats and dairy, and with the reusable freezer packs I can hit several markets and local farms without worrying about leaving sensitive foods in a hot parked car. And, I felt like a real chef in my own kitchen; chopping, blanching, toasting and searing gave me pure joy with precisely zero hassles.
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hellofresh26_copyright2012-2013If you’re interested in trying out Hello Fresh you will be happy to know that Hello Fresh has offered A Cook’s Canvas readers a $30 discount with the discount code SBJ9NP6. A 3-meal box for 2 usually costs $69 and the vegetarian comes in at $59 and shipping is always free! After my experience with the classic, I’m intrigued by the vegetarian box and I just might have to test it myself. Well done Hello Fresh!

Disclaimer: I was approached by Hello Fresh to test their box and give my review on them at no cost. The review is my own and I received no further compensation for my time or writing.

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