When are meal-kit delivery services worth the cost?

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austin360cooksveggiebanhmiIt’s amazing to think how many meal kits the post office is delivering these days.

What seemed like an unfeasible concept a few years ago — an ice-packed box with ingredients for about three meals’ worth of food that you prepare at home but which cost as much as eating out — is now creeping into the mainstream.

The newest meal-kit delivery company to come on my radar is Green Chef (greenchef.com), whose hook is that it uses only USDA-certified organic ingredients. Late last month, they offered to send me a box to check it out. Green Chef is pretty similar to the other meal-kit options out there, with meals priced per serving and a two-serving minimum for each meal and a three-meal minimum per order. The meals cost between $10.49 and $14.99 per serving — depending on if you’re ordering vegetarian, omnivore, carnivore, gluten-free or paleo options — and each box costs $9 to ship.

A heavy box sat on my doorstep on a Wednesday, which ended up being perfect timing because I had a guest and her 9-month-old baby visiting the next day.

I thought we would hit the grocery store when she arrived to stock up, but we never needed to because the box filled my fridge with enough supplies for meals through the weekend. The cost is prohibitive, to say the least — but for convenience in a situation like this, I could see the kit being worth the extra cost.

greenchef2The first meal we made was a vegetarian spin on banh mi, the popular Vietnamese sandwich that usually features sliced meats and/or pate. This version was instead filled with broiled Thai-spiced slices of zucchini, jalapeño hummus (which comes prepared in the kit), grated carrots and a spoonful of a relish made with pickled cucumbers — all on a toasted baguette. Green Chef also sent along the ingredients for a broccoli salad with chopped mint and Thai basil, peanuts and a rice vinegar dressing.

I ended up mixing and matching the other components of the kit. Instead of mashing the sweet potatoes — whose texture I don’t love — we roasted them alongside the cornmeal-crusted catfish with green beans and romesco sauce, which I prepared according to the directions. I didn’t end up making the final meal — chicken tinga sopes — because the chicken ended up on the grill, but there’s still time to put that premade tinga sauce and sopes ingredients to work once I finally hit the grocery store.

Speaking of grilling, it’s been six months since I threw away my old, rusty Weber kettle grill. I only recently replaced it with a Kamodo grill. I should have done a little more research to know that the egg-shaped Kamodo isn’t quite the substitute for the Big Green Egg that I thought it would be, but I’m still excited about having a heavier-duty charcoal grill. Now, if I can only break my habit of buying and cooking on briquettes.

I’d love to hear any tips you might have on cooking on one of these Kamodos. My friend with a real Big Green Egg, who was helping me break in the new grill, says he doesn’t think I’ll be able to smoke on it — an observation that I took as a challenge.

This is also the time of year that many of us start thinking about our favorite family and holiday recipes. If you have an interesting or noteworthy dish you’d like to share with fellow readers — or advice on that new grill — shoot me an email at abroyles@statesman.com, or call 512-912-2504.

You can also post a photo of it on Instagram with the #Austin360Cooks hashtag for a chance to be featured in this weekly column.


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