This is the second meal kit I’ve decided to try. This box was selected next, not only because I received a 50% off coupon in the mail, but of the meal boxes that a coworker and friend of mine had sent me (coupon codes for discounts wherein the person who recommends also gets a credit to their account), this one had the most appealing menu for the week in question.
Unlike Hello Fresh, GoodFood is a Canadian company headquartered in Montreal and founded in 2014. If I forgot to mention in my review of Hello Fresh, they’re a German company.
Like Hello Fresh, GoodFood has three plan options: Easy Prep, Classic, and Family. The Easy Prep Basket is, as its name denotes, meant for a dinner done quickly and is the most expensive, priced at $13.33/serving. The Classic Basket can be purchased as vegetarian or regular and is priced at $11.33/serving and $12.33/serving respectively. The Family Basket is the cheapest priced at $10.88/serving (based on unit price). However, unlike the other two baskets that have the choice between 2-4 recipes and 2 or 4 servings, the family is 2-4 recipes for 4 servings, which makes it, easily the most expensive box. We chose to go with the Classic Basket, four recipes and four servings, but with the discount, it brought it down to an affordable amount.
I liked that I could choose a weekend delivery date as opposed to with Hello Fresh, which only allowed for weekday deliveries. This was convenient because, even though the food comes in an insulated box with ice packs, I would much rather be home to receive the delivery (and even though I said leave on front porch, I can at least check once in a while to see if it has been delivered, even if they do ring your doorbell, just to make sure it isn’t being stolen).
From the Classic Basket we ordered the Brazilian Chicken Stew with Toasted Coconut Rice, Fresh Spinach Rotolo, Pan-Seared Gnocchi with Crispy Bacon, Peas, Lacinto Kale & Mascarpone Sauce, and the Seared Steaks with Lemon-Oregano Potatoes & Roasted Zucchinis. Our plan was to space out the pasta, do the gnocchi on the first day and the rotolo on the last, but as you will find out later in this review, that’s not exactly how it happened.
When I unboxed the ingredients, I was really happy to find that they had fresh gnocchi, but the clumping had me concerned that I wouldn’t be able to separate the individual gnocchi…how right I was going to be. We did start with the gnocchi on the first day and it took me 45 minutes to prep all the ingredients. It didn’t help that I had cut myself pretty badly a couple days prior (cut my index and middle fingers on my left hand and the bleeding wouldn’t stop for an hour). This recipe really tested my patience. Normally, I like to cook things that have quick chemical reactions. So, I’m really terrible at waiting for fat to render or cooking vegetables on the stove top that require some time to steam. Everything was going well until I put the gnocchi in the pan. The first few gnocchi fell off easily and I thought, okay, this isn’t going to be too bad, but as time went on, I got really frustrated and went with a “create a size” approach to the gnocchi. I was really annoyed that they thought it would be ok to put it in the box without oiling or flouring them or separating them in some way to prevent sticking to each other. The gnocchi was able to get some colouring on tasted amazing, the others…not so much. Those were more like pasta mush. The sauce was surprisingly good, but you know, when you fry things in bacon fat, it’s gonna be delicious. I do like that they made a bottle of demi-glaze to include because after making that sauce I looked up how to make my own demi-glaze and that would have taken forever to make! The kale was very nice in here, especially since I’m not huge on leafy green vegetables except for lettuce which I just eat on the side of everything I make anyways. The only grievance I had was not with this recipe, but with kale in general. It is such a pain to have to cut the leafy part off and into smaller pieces, but it is definitely worth all the time to do it because it was delicious. Peas and bacon are a classic combo and the mascarpone was a really nice addition to elevate that sauce. I will definitely be making this sauce again. If not for gnocchi, it would work for pretty much any pasta dish.
The second dish we made was the Seared Steak. Since Val loves lemon potatoes, I let her make them extra lemony (like the ones she loves at Van Gogh’s, a restaurant in our community). Turns out, she made them so lemony I wanted to die. I have never tasted something that was so lemony that it went bitter. To be fair, it also had lemon zest, which is a little bitter in and of itself. The steak itself could have been sliced more consistently (one piece reminded me of a slice of cheesecake, haha). It definitely would have made it easier to cook.
We ended up making the Rotolo as the third dish because we thought the stew would be too inconvenient to pack for lunch the next day. Well, the Rotolo as an unmitigated disaster. Not only did the fresh pasta sheets fall apart in the pot as we were cooking them, the Rotolo we put in the oven almost caught fire. That one was our fault, but taste wise, it wasn’t good. For those who are asking, Rotolo is essentially just flat sheets of lasagne noodles used to wrap a filling within and then they are baked. It’s very similar to the idea of a cannelloni or manicotti. The most common filling I’ve come across is ricotta. Usually the ricotta is mixed with something; in this case, it was spinach and pesto. I started with the ricotta and pesto and it smelled delicious. I had high hopes for it. But after wilting the spinach and attempting to squeeze some of the water out before adding to the ricotta, that’s when things started to go south. I started on the sauce shortly after. The spice mix that was provided contained thyme, basil, garlic, oregano, marjoram, rosemary and sage. My first issue with the spice mix was that “Italian” was misspelled. My second was that the addition of marjoram gave it the weirdest taste. I always make a recipe exactly as instructed the first time just to try the dish as the recipe’s creator intended, after that, I can and will tweak it to better fit my tastes. I was excited since this sauce included mushrooms. Since this dish was completely vegetarian, the mushrooms would give a nice hearty meatiness to the dish. However, my issue with this was that the recipe card indicated that these mushrooms in the kit were cremini mushrooms. They were very clearly not; they were ordinary white mushrooms which are fine, but they are not the same thing and someone who didn’t know that might try to recreate the recipe and end up with mushrooms that taste and feel totally different. Alternatively, the inclusion of the incorrect kind of mushrooms might lead to people thinking that white and creminis are the same thing or mixing them up. After all that, I would have preferred the creminis to the white. Even though I seasoned everything with salt and pepper (though I really wasn’t sure how much seasoning I needed because almost every step told me to season with salt and pepper and I was afraid to over season), the dish still came out bland. When I was describing this dish to people, the majority said it sounded really good. On paper, it sounded really good to me too. However, now I know that I prefer my tomato sauce to the one that was instructed in the recipe. I know that I need to squeeze out way more water from the spinach and I know not to put oiled parchment paper into the oven under the broiler.
Our final dish was the Brazilian stew. I was quite happy with how it turned out considering my apprehension about cooking rice on the stove. Last time I tried to make coconut rice it turned out pretty bad. This time, I stuck to the instructions like glue and it turned out really good. Sure it was a little wet on the bottom and there were times I was worried I’d burn the rice or that it would come out soggy or uncooked, but overall, I did much better than the first time. The flavours in the stew were quite similar to the flavour profiles I was used to in Asian cooking, particularly the use of aromatics like ginger and garlic to develop a deep and varied flavour of the stew. Due to the fact I was storing the meat outside in the box it came in with the ice packs and the fact that it had snowed the few days before, the centre of the chicken breasts had frozen slightly. This made it easier to cut into chunks, but brought in the concern that the pieces wouldn’t cook all the way through. Being both Asian and lazy, I just decided to season them in the pan as they cooked rather than to mix them in a bowl and then toss them into a pan. This probably made for a less even seasoning, but considering that it was about to go into a bunch of sauce with the same seasoning, I wasn’t hugely concerned. Then came the stew. I added everything just as the recipe said, but my stew wasn’t thickening. Even after 15-20 minutes simmering, it was still more soup like than stew like. I knew that the spinach that I was to add at the very end out add a lot of water to the sauce so I definitely had to thicken it up before I added it in. I started by adding a bowl of corn starch slurry, hoping it would thicken up. It didn’t work, so I thought maybe flour would work. I added a small amount of that so it wouldn’t clump, but it still didn’t work. So, I went back to my original plan and made a larger bowl of corn starch slurry and added it in and it worked! It started thickening up really fast and then I got worried it would become too thick, but after adding in the spinach, it came to the right consistency. Although it was not in the recipe, I added cilantro along with the lemon zest and toasted coconut on top of the stew at the very end and it was delicious. The cilantro added the much needed fresh element to the dish. As Val said, it was similar to an Indian curry, but a lot lighter and didn’t leave you feeling bloated at the end. I think that partially had to do with the lemon juice that was added to the sauce as well as the lemon squeezed onto the individual portion at the end. The acidity level provided in the sauce was perfect for Val; I had to forgo that extra lemon squeeze at the end.
For meal kits on the market as a whole, a good point that my friend, Carmen brought up was that these are great for people who don’t already know how to cook. The other people I hear from are the ones who say they’re too uncreative to come up with these dishes, especially after a long day at work. I get that, but as a creative person, when I don’t know what to cook, I just google the ingredients I have and see what comes up. That’s always a great way to come up with new recipes to try out. But also, because I do know how to cook a little bit, going on any of these meal kit websites will allow me to peruse the recipes they have and generate my own ideas.
Compared to Hello Fresh, it was inconvenient that I had to email the support team in order to cancel my subscription, whereas on Hello Fresh I simply just had to unsubscribe. It took them about three days to get back to me, which isn’t terrible, but it would have been easier if I could have just deactivated it myself.
As this is only my second box, I will reserve judgment on its ranking. Once I’ve had a chance to try out other boxes on the market, Chef’s Plate (which has apparently been purchased by Hello Fresh) and Miss Fresh, I’ll do one final review ranking all the meal boxes I’ve tried.