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Dinner last night
blaisepascal
Cooking at home has been a problem. It's not that I/we don't know how to cook, it's that planning paralysis and time creeps in. It's much easier to eat TV dinners, or a can of soup, or a fried egg, or veggie burgers, or go out than it is to decide what I want to cook, get the ingredients in advance, prep, and cook it in the limited time I generally have available.

There are "cook at home" services out there, like Blue Apron, which will ship you all the food necessary for a home-cooked meal (for 2 or 4, usually), as well as a recipe. While I've looked into these services briefly, there are usually problems: over-packaging (you need 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper? they ship a vacuum-sealed pouch containing 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, repeat for all ingredients) and expense (Blue Apron is $10/person/meal), lack of selection, or some combination thereof.

I found one called "The Fresh 20". They don't provide food, they provide a weekly meal-plan. 5 meals a week, recipes for 4 servings of about 500 calories, shopping list, etc.
The meals are based around a stock collection of 20 "pantry" items (mostly spices), plus 20 "fresh" items which are chosen for that particular week's meals, mostly fresh veggies, meats (if you are into that kind of thing), etc.

The idea is that on Friday you download a PDF with the week's plan, on Saturday or Sunday you go shopping when you have time, using the shopping list, and when you get home you do some weekly prep-work (pre-cutting veggies, pre-making things which need to rest, etc), and so things cook up quickly on the days you actually cook the meals.

It's also cheap: $18/quarter, auto-renewing. Of course, all I am getting is a 10-page PDF once a week, and the rest is up to me. There are a variety of plans: vegetarian, kosher, "classic", gluten-free. I went for the vegetarian.

So it's a cheap experiment. And this week is the first week of that experiment.

The first issue we ran across was dietary preferences. skitten does not like certain foods, and has to be careful about her intake of others because of medicines. I had access to about 4 weeks worth of summer menus, and asked her to choose one. She rejected two, one because she despises eggplant, and one because it was heavy on kale, which interferes with her drugs. We finally settled on one menu, but this could be a continuing problem.

The second issue was a bit of sticker-shock. The estimate on the shopping list was around $60. The grocery bill was $129. Granted, we didn't get just the stuff on the list, sometimes because we had other needs not covered (seltzer, scrubby pads), sometimes because it's hard to match the list exactly (the recipes call for 1 egg, we bought 18; 7 large cucumbers, we bought 3 club packs of 3, etc). Somethings were more expensive (they estimated 3 avocados for $3, we bought 3 for $2/ea). Unfortunately, I misplaced the receipt, so I haven't been able to do a line-item check to see where the big discrepancies were.

But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the dinner?

I spent late Sunday evening doing prep-work, and was pleasantly surprised by how quick it was to actually cook on Monday. The recipe we chose for last night was Citrus Quinoa with Sweet Carrots. Part of it was cooking ribboned carrots with a little bit of honey (toss them in hot oil, add honey, keep tossing until pan goes dry, add water, keep tossing until done). I'm very glad I ribboned the carrots the night before. By the time the quinoa was done, everything else was ready, including (I think) having the table set. And the amount cooked was perfect. We had a guest over, nobody left the table hungry, and I have left-overs for lunch today (we have additional left-over citrus quinoa still, as well). Everyone enjoyed it.

And after a massive kitchen cleaning binge this weekend, I'm happy to say that after dinner the clean-up was easy. So the kitchen remains clean.

So far, this experiment is going well, except for the two issues. We will see how big a problem they are in the future.

Tonight we are having Portobello Sloppy-Joes and Corn on the Cob.

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I'm so pleased you are so clever and have found a strategy for healthier eating. It really was very tasty and I had fun shredding the rest of the carrots. Looking forward to the mushroom sloppy joes!

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