How many of you made a resolution for the new year to eat healthier? Yep, just what I thought.
I like to think I eat pretty healthy most of the year (please do not send me my pork belly posts, I said “most”), but I’m always looking to improve my eating habits. So I was curious when I was contacted by Sun Basket, one of the many home-delivery food service popping up these days to help busy people eat better.
Since I cook at home fairly often, I don’t typically think about these home-delivery services. (Plus, I always worry about the delivery portion of the deal since I live in an apartment building.) But Sun Basket’s farm-fresh, healthy options piqued my interest because I always want to see if healthy food can also taste good. Also, they were sending me some free samples to test so I figured why not?
Sun Basket has recipes developed by Chef Justine Kelly, a former head chef of San Francisco’s Slanted Door. She develops dishes that can be customized to fit healthy diets, including Paleo, gluten-free, soy-free, or vegetarian. Every week you can choose from a changing menu, and order meals for two, four, or six people at $11.49 per meal.
Your Sun Basket box is delivered via a courier service packed in insulation that should keep your ingredients safe for up to eight hours. The ingredients for each meal are packed and organized in a brown paper bag, and an accompanying recipe card provides the steps to cooking up your dinner.
I was offered three meals from Sun Basket and I chose to try one soy-free, one gluten-free, and one Paleo diet. Here’s how they turned out:
Roasted Salmon with Spinach Couscous and Date-Apple Salad (soy-free)
This simple salmon dish is made by roasting it with lemon wedges in an oven, and then served with pearl couscous, also known as Israeli couscous. It was my first time cooking couscous, and I think the recipe’s note for 1.5 cups of water might have been too much because the couscous turned out really gummy and mushy. And chopping the Medjool dates was a bit of a chore for the Date-Apple Salad, although I can see how the sweetness from the dates off-set the tartness of the apples.
I typically pan-fry my salmon to give it a crispy sear on top, so this simple version of roasting it seemed a bit bland. NOTE: the maple-sherry vinaigrette was missing from my packet so I had to improvise and make my own version for the salad. So errors can happen in packing, so wonder how others who don’t cook that often would adapt? (Probably use some store-bought dressing.)
Braised Chicken Arrabbiata with Celery Root Mash (Paleo)
This Italian dish is known as “angry chicken” because of the spicy kick in the sauce from the chili flakes, which I actually enjoyed. And while all the ingredients are measured for you, things like chili pepper I use to taste so I added as much as I could handle.
It was also my first time cooking celery root, which really looks like some ugly mangled root. My friends swear by it but I rarely cook with it. Again, the instructions to cook it seemed to have a lot of liquid (in fact I drained the liquid) and cooked it longer than what the recipe said. In the end, it was not my favorite. I would have preferred mashed potatoes.
To maintain flavor, I did a trick of adding broth to the chicken instead of water like the recipe said. Not sure how it would have turned out otherwise. In the end, I thought the chicken and sauce was nice but didn’t enjoy the celery root.
Honey-Ginger Tofu with Roasted Bok Choy and Forbidden Rice (gluten-free)
This dish seemed really close to what I typically make for a quick weeknight dinner, although it was my first time trying Forbidden rice, which is a black grain that is called “forbidden” because in ancient times it was reserved for the elite or imperial family of China. Since I have a rice cooker, I just cooked the rice there instead of in a pot on the stovetop as detailed on the recipe card.
I was pleased to see the packet of firm tofu from local Hodo Soy, but I felt the pan-frying of the tofu cubes maybe dried it out a bit in the final dish. Overall, this was the most simple of dish to make but it’s also something I probably already know how to make often.
The last bite
Having the ingredients delivered to my home saved me a trip to the supermarket. While most of the ingredients were fresh and of a high quality, I probably would have picked better protein if I could have had the chance to inspect them. (For example, the salmon fillets looked a bit broken like how you defrost previously frozen fish.)
The recipes can be a bit complicated because of the various ingredients, but I guess they have to fancy it up a bit otherwise why would you pay such a premium to make a regular dish? What this means is you need to know how to adjust as needed or work on the fly (like I did for the vinaigrette) so some experience in cooking will help.
In the end, these were decent meals that introduced me to a few new ingredients. And I liked how everything is organized with their little packets. But I don’t know if I saved much in time or effort. I still had to cook everything and clean up afterwards.
If a delivery service had a dishwasher who arrives afterwards to do the dishes, I would totally sign up!
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