The Kitchen According to Hello Fresh

Way back when I first moved to my little slice of suburban heaven, Dave and I tried Green Chef. You could limit the meals to Paleo and the food was also delicious, but the price was more than we could justify (especially since Dave’s a great cook – which is not coincidently when I let my meal planning skills get so bad). I tried Sun Basket a few years later. The meals were good and I was able to opt for Paleo only offerings, but it wasn’t much cheaper than Green Chef.

Back in early May, I decided to take my poor meal planning by the horns and … subcontract it out to Hello Fresh. Here is what I’ve gathered.

Meals According to Hello Fresh

  • Add salt to everything, pepper to almost everything
  • Drizzle is a unit of measure for cooking oil but a method of application for sauces
  • Butter always makes starches and sauces better
  • Everything on the stovetop is cooked on Medium-High heat
  • Everything in the oven is put on the top rack (unless it’s full, then middle too)
  • Add a flavor/spice to mayo and it’s aoli
  • Add vinegar, salt, and pepper to veggies and it’s slaw
    • If you add sugar instead of pepper, they are “pickled” veggies
    • Mayo isn’t part of slaw nearly as often as chain restaurants would have you think
  • No meal is complete without a little dairy and/or wheat
    • They say it’s “highly requested” but there is no option to accomodate allergens/diets

What I’ve Learned from Hello Fresh

  • I like things slightly blander than the recipe calls for (unless you’re talking about salt)
  • I don’t care if my sauce plops instead of drizzles, so I can skip the “add water until” step
  • Medium-High heat on my range is 4.5 out of 10
  • I wasn’t using the top rack to my advantage
  • Most Hello Fresh recipes include a packet of something you can’t buy elsewhere
  • Months of “a little dairy and/or wheat” adds up to some damage

Overall, I would say the service needs improvement.

There is the allergen/diet accomodation I mentioned earlier. A summer of “a little wheat and dairy in almost every meal” left me in pretty rough shape with my seasonal allergies. I had my first real allergy attacks since my big Paleo switch in 2013. I skipped those ingredients when I could, but a slow feed of inflammatory foods is much worse for me than a total “splurge” day (or weekend) and a return to clean eating.

The shipping process seemed a little iffy. There were a couple of times the box was marked as out for delivery but didn’t show until the next day – which meant I was scrambling for meals that night and typically a few ingredients had gone bad. Even when the box was on time, it wasn’t rare for an ingredient or two to be in perilous condition. They were very responsive to these issues. I was able to handle the bigger issues via live chat & they have a reporting function for missing or bad ingredients. In both cases, they reimbursed for as much or more than was fair. But when the service is supposed to save you trips to the grocery store, it’s a pain the neck.

For the most part, you also can’t use it as a service to gather recipes to reuse on your own. Many recipes include some Hello Fresh secret ingredient. A spice mix. A paste packet. A sauce or stock concentrate. You might be able to dig around online to find a substitute or experiment on your own. For me, I use this service because I don’t have that kind of creativity in the kitchen. After over 6 months of using the service, I have 5 recipes that I really liked AND thought I could duplicate. And 3 of them are taco varieties. This service is clearly about keeping customers cooking but not teaching the proverbial man how to fish.

A rare attempt at plating – usually I’m too busy eating.

For someone without allergen/diet restrictions to adhere to, I’d say it’s a fairly priced service that will give you a good variety of flavors. Just cook them promptly and be prepared to replace a few ingredients (and report them for credit off your next box). Oh and always make the meals with green beans first. For some reason, those are always the fastest to spoil.

For me, Hello Fresh is a stop gap that I really need to stop. I’m finding it hard to quit altogether because I still loathe meal planning. But then some weeks it’s a struggle to find 3 “I can make them compliant” meals on their list. So I’ve started skipping weeks with the intent to wean myself off of it slowly. Maybe they’ll come out with a diet/allergen accomodation before I cut them off altogether. One can only hope.

Depression Lies – But She’s Such a Convincing Bitch

Depression loves to lie to you. Whether it is a small lie (“new recipes never turn out right for you”) or a big one (“you’re not going to find another job in your field”), Depression is going to twist things up and make you doubt that good things will happen in life.

Continue reading Depression Lies – But She’s Such a Convincing Bitch

Lazy Bones “Mexican” Beef

In honor of the Cinco de Mayo and being stuck at home, here’s a stripped down recipe. Once again, I looked at a real recipe, thought that looked like a lot of work, and made it simpler.

Does anyone remember the Abs Diet? It was like low fat and Atkins had a baby. Lean meats and net carbs. I can’t say the few recipes I got from it did much for my abs at the time, but the general gist of their Aztec Casserole stuck with me through the years and modified pretty easily to being Paleo.

Continue reading Lazy Bones “Mexican” Beef

BJJ: My Time to (Shark) Tank

In September 2017, I tested for my 1st stripe on my white belt. In some ways, the real test was stepping on to the mat and saying I was ready.

On January 11th, 2020, I tested for my 4th stripe. For those that don’t know, it’s the final stripe for white belt which makes me eligible for blue belt promotion. And while I drilled probably hundreds of hours with my training partner, John, and ramped up my rolling, the hardest part was simply telling myself it was time to say yes.

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All Caulked Up

Disclaimer: The following tells the true story of a home improvement project while offering a satirical look at my love life. Not all details in the analogy translate to reality. I’ll leave it to you to guess which are true and which are just funny.

I have had a caulk problem for a while now. The old stuff stopped doing its job a long time ago and I hadn’t had the attention or the energy to look for a solution.

Finally, late last year, I asked for help. I put in a request with property management. What I got was a mess. Literally. After he came by, I found caulk smeared everywhere. On the shower curtain, ground into my bath mat, even on the trash can! It was a sloppy rush job. What’s worse is that the caulk didn’t even what it was supposed to. He hadn’t bothered to fully clean and prep the area. There were holes where it didn’t completely fill the gap. Other areas, it filled initially but later shrank and left empty.

I tried to ignore it because the whole thing was such a hassle. But after a while I got sick of staring at it.

Magic Caulk

So one day I finally headed out to Lowe’s to find a solution. My shopping list was caulk & bulbs. The bulbs were for my Himalayan salt lamp. The old bulb had burnt out after several years of giving me perfect sleepy-selfie lighting. They were a little hard to find because there were so many similar varieties, but I managed to grab the right ones to flatter my face. Wandering through the aisles, I found the caulk solution I’d been considering – Magic Caulk. It was a hard plastic caulk that was supposed to replace real caulk in a no hassle way. Simply figure out the desired length, clean the application area and push the caulk into place. Aside from a somewhat picky cleaning protocol, the only downside was having to wait 8 hours for it to bond before you could use it.

A package of peel & stick caulk

Given the long wait time, I put it off for a while until I couldn’t stand it any longer. I took out the packaging, gave the instructions a good long look, and went to work. Getting the right angles wasn’t easy in certain spots and it was hard to get it straight in the gap sometimes. The end result wasn’t the prettiest thing but it looked like we were in business. I waited until it was ready to go.

When I was ready to test it out, much to my dismay, I found the caulk was already drooping. Some places it’d come off altogether while other spots were sadly sagging. Clearly this hard plastic caulk wasn’t as magical as it claimed. I was frustrated and so over dealing with the problem. One long piece was entirely in place & the others would go back in with some pushing. A partial solution was better than nothing.

Peel & stick caulk
Drooping disappointment

Real Caulk

My next trip to Lowe’s, my shopping list was caulk & blocks. The blocks were to repair my bed after 2 out of 3 middle support legs had failed. I needed my bed to stop caving in the middle when I used it. The caulk itself wasn’t hard to find – I knew I needed it to be white, non-shrinking, and have a shorter turn around time than the Magic Caulk. I found a decent looking tube rather quickly.

I needed a way to use it, so I set off in search for a caulk gun. (Oddly enough, they aren’t kept with the plumbing caulk.) Searching down the aisle, every caulk gun was just completely unreasonable in size. The type of caulk gun you see people using professionally. Thankfully when I mentioned my situation to a friend, he was able to hook me up with a gun that was the right size for the job.

Doing It

Once again, I procrastinated getting a handle on it. It felt like a lot of work. Then I saw a friend on FB post that he’d just taken care of his caulk and it inspired me to tackle mine. I was going for a blended method because the plastic caulk on the long side of the tub was holding up.

Quickly, I stripped and prepped the areas. I made sure the cut was thick enough and got to work. Trying not to waste it, playing with positioning to hit the right angles. I tried not to make a mess. My hands got sticky but I managed not to get any in my hair. I kept a supply of towels nearby for clean up. In the end, it wasn’t perfect but I didn’t think perfect caulk was worth the effort. I thought I’d done a pretty good job for someone with limited experience caulking.

The entire thing start to finish was faster than I expected, but not in a bad way. It claimed to be ready to work in 30 minutes but I decided to give it longer. (Those estimates are always optimistic.) I checked it out during my shower an hour or so later. I touched a few spots, looked from a few angles and everything seemed to check out. Now to see if it holds up over time!

PS: If you enjoyed this tongue in cheek silliness, check out Realtor.com is Tinder for Houses from back when I first re-entered the dating scene. (Spoiler alert : I have still found neither house nor spouse. I’m waiting until the right opportunities comes along, ones worth investing in.)

SoML: Maybe

The past year was been… rough. All over, but particularly at work. I started traveling at the beginning of March 2018 and didn’t stop until March 15, 2019. To say I was burnt out was an understatement. I had traveled at least part of nearly every week. I was gone so much in September 2018 that I asked Aaron to keep Delta for the entire month. By the time it was over, I was bone weary. I wanted my own house. My own bed. My normal life.

Continue reading SoML: Maybe

BJJ: There is No ‘Sorry’ in Jiu Jitsu

OK, so technically there can be sorry in Jiu Jitsu. Just not nearly as often as it gets said. Did you inflict major damage? Say sorry. Did you have a moment and act like a complete dick? Say sorry. But minor bumps and innocent mistakes? STFU and keep training.

Continue reading BJJ: There is No ‘Sorry’ in Jiu Jitsu

Review: Le Tote Dress for Success

Nearly 2 years ago (wow) I started subscribing to the clothing rental service, Le Tote. I wrote my initial review a few totes in and I was still iffy on the service. The results were mixed but I’d had some fun and even stepped out of my comfort zone to try a dress. Or maybe I should say I stepped into my comfort zone.

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SoML: Song Meanings Unplugged

One night on the way home from dancing, I was talking with Kaetlyn about how we relate to music. Or rather how I relate to music. Kaetlyn loves dancing and has eclectic taste, but she doesn’t make the connections to songs that I do.

Connecting Through Music

I connect to music but I also connect through music. Songs can bring me to a moment or remind me of a person. “Me and Bobby McGee” makes me think of Jen, one of my best friends from childhood. “Smooth” by Santana w/Rob Thomas makes me think of my mom rocking out in the Plymouth Voyager any old time, but “6 Underground” by Sneaker Pimps reminds me of a specific stretch of tree-lined highway we traveled between college visits. Continue reading SoML: Song Meanings Unplugged