I have to admit, I was curious. Green Chef promotes “fresh, organic ingredients; healthy, chef-crafted recipes; right at your doorstep.” So what’s a busy vegan girl to do?
I resisted the temptation to try a meal delivery service because I pride myself on making my own meals from scratch and somehow I thought these would be “cheating” – perhaps too easy, not fully utilizing my cooking skills. Finally, I wondered if they would taste as good as my own cooking. The deciding factor was my busy schedule. I thought that Green Chef (www.greenchef.com) might save me a trip to the grocery store and also prevent me from buying the entire fennel bulb when I needed just a slice. I finally broke down and tried Green Chef. I was pleasantly surprised.
Let’s face it. It’s fun to get a package delivered to your door. And the Green Chef package delivered big time. I ordered the vegan plan with three weekly meals. Each meal serves two. The box arrived with three 8 1/2 x 11 recipe cards revealing the beautifully photographed and plated finished product on one side, and the directions on the other. The cards also let you know what cooking supplies you will need (measuring cups, spoons), what food items from your pantry you should have on hand (salt, pepper, oil), the number of calories per serving, and the time it should take to complete the meal. Each card is color-coded and all ingredients are labeled with matching colored labels. The card will tell you the number of ingredients required for the recipe so you can make sure you’ve pulled all the correct ones; you’ll easily find because they are each pacakaged with colored labels that match the color on the recipe card. Pretty fool-proof.
They went through a lot to make this easy so I decided to respond in kind. I separated all the items that needed to be refrigerated (fresh herbs, onions, etc.) from those that could go into a pantry. I kept all refrigerated items on one shelf in the fridge for easy access. I kept the pantry items together for the same reason.
Ten Things You Should Know About Green Chef
These ten steps should help you know if Green Chef is right for you.
- They do a lot of the heavy lifting for you, but not all of it–and that’s good! While some of the products will arrive chopped and ready to use, others will require some elbow grease on your part. I cut and squash, kale, shallot and carrots so I felt like I was preparing a homemade meal, not just assembling pre-chopped, prepackaged ingredients.
- You’ll likely get a better variety of foods than you would if you did your own shopping. I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m guessing most people don’t go to the grocery store and buy Delicata squash or black quinoa with currants without being prompted. I eat a wide variety of foods and shop at farmers’ markets, but even I can get into a rut and start buying the same old comfortable ingredients. This is especially helpful if you are transitioning to veganism. Many people think that a vegan diet is limiting, but I can guarantee you there are more varieties of fruits, veggies and grains, than there are cuts of meat. Green Chef will expose you to the many wonders of vegan living.
- If you’re a good cook, you’ll appreciate the process; if you’re an average cook, you’ll improve your skills. The instructions provided will help you become comfortable with doing things in the kitchen you might not ordinarily do. For example, cutting a squash takes some skill and this is a veggie that most people would shy away from. This Delicata squash was softer than other types, such as a butternut squash, so it was easier to work with. The fact that someone at Green Chef thought that through is impressive.
- You’ll try new flavor combinations that you might not have created on your own. I’m Italian and it’s hard for me not to put basil and rosemary on everything. These are great flavors but variety is the spice of life, and a variety of spices is a beautiful thing. This dish came with a sage-ginger spice blend which is such a perfect selection for squash. Adding fennel and colorful rainbow carrots just added to the excitement. Finally, the black quinoa and currants with a maple-orange vinaigrette were enough to convince me that I was due for more creative experimentation in the kitchen. Well played, Green Chef. The good news is if you decided that the sage-ginger blend is not your cup of tea, it’s okay because you didn’t have to buy entire bottles of sage and ginger; you have just what you need for the recipe and that’s a real cost saving. This dish even included a few sprigs of fresh thyme. I love cooking with fresh herbs but most people I know don’t take the time to keep an herb garden or even buy fresh herbs. The difference in flavor is astounding when you remember to add something fresh and green to your plate.
- You’ll remember that details count in cooking. The dish also included a small packet of pepitas and sunflower seeds. These are so easy to add to any dish but sometimes when we rush to make a meal we forget the finishing touches which add color, texture, and crunch. These details make all the difference in your satisfaction of the both the look and tastes of the meal.
- You’ll feel like you’re cooking from scratch because you are cooking from scratch. Some of the items came already chopped, like the onions and garlic in the Lentil Shepard’s Pie, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to work to prepare other ingredients. There’s plenty of chopping for you to do as well. It’s like cooking with a friend;you’re each doing some of the work. It doesn’t take away from the “home cooked” element but it adds to the fun and you’ll finish in less time. do This service will not likely reduce time; but it does reduce shopping time, assuming you could quickly and easily find items like black quinoa and red kale. It also cuts down on prep time which can be significant. But make no mistake, you’re preparing a full meal, and it will likely take as much time or more than many of the meals you create on your own. The average cooking times on the meals I ordered were 35 minutes each.
- The meals are good enough to serve to guests. The meals I received this week are what I would call gourmet comfort food. They are delicious enough to serve to company and look beautiful when plated but have flavors and textures that would remind you of something your mom used to make. Consider some of the vegan offerings: Sun-dried tomato farfalle with kalamata-kale salad & caper vinaigrette, pine nuts; quinoa veggie stew with bay leaf, tofu, squash, black pepper-thyme biscuits; and chorizo seitan arepas with pepita brown rice, pinto beans, corn, cashew crema. I dare you to find a vegan who won’t be impressed by that menu!
- The packaging is fairly practical and environmentally friendly. Every ingredient comes packaged in a zip-lock bag unless it is a canned or pre-packaged food. At first, it concerned me, but all of these zip-lock bags can be reused. Some are big enough to hold a sandwich; others are small and can be used for spices, herbs, minced garlic or anything that needs to be sealed and stored. The box does come with environmentally friendly packaging which you should recycle. There is also a frozen plastic liquid-filled insert to keep things cold and fresh. This is the only part that could be problematic because, while you can reuse these, they’re going to start to pile up in your freezer if you get weekly deliveries.
- The portions are huge! Each dish was supposed to serve two people at 800 calories per serving, which I think is a pretty high-calorie meal. It could EASILY have served three people and possibly four. (I almost hate to say that because I don’t want Green Chef to start skimping on the seitan). I have a healthy appetite, so if one-fourth of the meal satisfied me, then it’s a lot of food. This makes Green Chef extremely cost effective, about $6-8 per meal, no more than you would spend at a fast food restaurant and significantly less than you would pay at a traditional restaurant. If you ate the portion sizes as provided, it’s about $12 per meal. Still not bad considering the quality of the food. Finally, if you want the meals to go further, you can always add a green salad. Make the plan work for you.
- It’s organic. No synthetic pesticides., GMOs, artificial ingredients. Cooking gets easier when someone has taken the time to source quality ingredients. Everything was fresh and beautiful. I’m fussy about my produce and everything in the box looked like it was just plucked from the garden. Green Chef takes significant time and effort to make sure that the ingredients are at the peak of freshness when they arrive at your door – that’s a logistical miracle in my book. You will want to make sure you prepare the meals shortly after receiving them because the food is fresh, so get cooking!
The Verdict – Thumbs Up!
So, if you’ve been curious, and you’re not afraid to get busy in the kitchen, I highly recommend Green Chef. This is not a paid endorsement. I just like trying anything new that’s vegan and am willing to fork over the green for a test-drive so you don’t have to. I think you will find that Green Chef is money well spent and a great experience from opening the box to taking your last bite.