I’ve tried those meal-box kits in the past, when they made more sense, when we were four people for dinner, every day.
They don’t make as much sense when we’re now sometimes three people for dinner and sometimes just me, and when the children have their favorites and thanks to divorce guilt I just want to make them their favorite stuff — chicken fried rice, spinach and black bean enchiladas, homemade pizza, grilled chicken “gyro” salad — rather than try new things for them. And for me, it’s easy enough to come home at dinnertime with children and go through the rehearsed motions of making something familiar.
It’s different when you’re making a meal that says it only takes 20 minutes but you have to be glued to the recipe the whole time to determine next steps, and the timing is more like 30-40 minutes and your children are hungry and the food is new and strange to them, and they’re tired, and so are you.
Thanks to a friend, I got a big discount to try SunBasket. We haven’t used one of these kind of meal kits in years, and I thought it was time to try again.
First week: Quick Chicken Chow Mein, Seared Salmon with Pearl Couscous and Salsa Fresca, Southwestern Steak with Roasted Poblanos and New Mexican Chile Salsa. I ordered the 2-person plan, not the family plan, figuring if the kids hated it, I’d have leftovers for lunch, and if they liked it, I could open a can of sardines or something for myself.
Monday: Quick Chicken Chow Mein
The box was arriving Monday. I was picking up the children from camp Monday after they’d been away for a week. Between transitions and the Monday-ness of Mondays, I’d planned to make the Quick Chicken Chow Mein (the quickest meal) that night.
On the drive home, the older boy asked if I could make chicken fried rice, one of their favorites, that night.
“Well, I am not really prepared to make that,” I said. “We’d have to stop at the store. I was going to make Chicken Chow Mein tonight.”
Same flavor profile, kind of, right?
“OK!” he said cheerfully.
The children were really hungry but the meal was fairly quick to make. And…kind of bland. I added soy sauce to mine. The children ate seconds but said they preferred my chicken fried rice and found this kind of flavorless.
Short review: It’s fast, full of veggies, they ate a lot of it, and it makes a lot of food. I’d call this a win if it were more flavorful.
Tuesday: Southwestern Steak with Roasted Poblanos and New Mexican Chile Salsa
I’d planned to make the salmon on Tuesday night, then hold the steak until Saturday (the kids would be back on Friday, but that’s Pizza Night). SunBasket recommends using the food up within five days, though, so I asked the kids what they wanted tonight: steak or salmon.
OK, then. I proceeded with that recipe, roasting sweet potatoes and red onion and poblanos. None of us really like sweet potatoes. The children don’t like red onion or any onion. They don’t like peppers, sweet or poblano or raw or roasted.
I wasn’t sure they’d enjoy having their steak rubbed all over with sweet paprika, so I left that out. I also left out the chile salsa, because they like their meat plain.
Short review: Not a great summer meal unless you have AC. Not a fun meal for children (or me–I didn’t really like the veggie combo). Might be too zippy as a family meal. Meat was great quality. I would love to follow this recipe to the letter and try the steak with the paprika and the chile salsa).
Also Tuesday: Seared Salmon with Pearl Couscous and Salsa Fresca (minus the salsa fresca)
I also realized I wouldn’t have a chance to cook the salmon until Saturday (ugh), so I decided to cook that tonight, too, along with the couscous in case the kids needed a neutral side because we all hate sweet potatoes.
The salmon prep bag included a yellow pepper, a tomato, and a cucumber (and shallots, a lime, and honey) for the salsa fresca. I thought the salmon would be more interesting with the salsa fresca, but I knew the kids would be eating the steak, not the salmon, and I could use the veggies in their lunches tomorrow, so…I sprinkled the salmon with sesame oil and soy sauce instead.
The children ate all the steak. I ate some salmon. I ate the roasted veggies that went with the steak. The children did not like the couscous (MY CHILDREN DO NOT LIKE COUSCOUS, WHICH IS ANOTHER FORM OF PASTA, WHAT THE…).
Short review: Salmon was very fresh, excellent quality. Veggies for salsa fresca were very fresh (and will be great as crudites for the kids’ lunches tomorrow, because no way was I going to chop everything up just for myself). Maybe the kids would have eaten the couscous if I hadn’t put granulated garlic on it, but honestly they don’t mind garlic, so…I think we’re just not couscous eaters. I don’t love it, either.
- I was pleased with the meal choices, variety, recipe layout, and quality of ingredients and packaging.
- I still suffer divorce guilt, and my kids are only here half-time, so when they are here, I will generally make them their favorites, which tend to have them eating a lot more vegetables than they ate tonight.
- I appreciate the chance to have them try new things, and it’s good for them, too.
- Getting out of our food rut was fantastic for a few meals.
- All in all (see “divorce guilt,” “favorite foods,” and “eat their veggies”), I can’t continue this.
SunBasket, you’re fine, but we’re not a great match at this time. Thanks for letting me try you at a discount.