By Siobhan Ozege
When Mealspirations approached us to write a review of their product, I jumped on the chance. As part of my New Year’s resolutions, I vowed that I wanted to cook more, but I’ve found that lately it seems like I don’t have the time to actually get groceries and prepare meals to the extent that I’d like to.
Enter Mealspirations, a service that is unique from other grocery-delivery type services in that they deliver the ingredients for a meal, and not just groceries. It’s a pretty easy system: they create the recipe, you order how many meals you’d like and for how many people, they deliver it to your door, and you cook it up to (hopefully) many accolades. Before you get the delivery, they tell you what items you’ll need from your pantry. This includes things like vinegars, salt, pepper and oils, for the most part. If you cook at all, you should have most of these things.
I love to cook, but I decided that I would write the review exactly how the recipes are spelled out to give the most accurate depiction, since sometimes being kitchen-savvy means doing your own tricks and modifications. When the box arrived, I was excited about the menu: macaroni and cheese with field greens, rainbow trout with panzanella salad, and steak tortillas with pico de gallo, guacamole and cabbage slaw. Yum.
I decided to make the macaroni and cheese first. The recipe included thyme, onions, garlic and panko – delicious items I wouldn’t have expected. Now, mac n’ cheese is one of my favourite foods, so when I looked at the recipe they provided, there were a few red flags that popped up. The recipe suggested that the onions be cooked in the butter, to be used in the base for the roux. This was concerning because additional moisture in a roux can cause it to prevent your sauce from thickening – in a macaroni and cheese; this isn’t what you’re going for. I also noticed that the cheese wasn’t super flavourful when I tested it, but I thought the other ingredients would help boost the flavour.
I made the sauce as instructed, and indeed, the roux did not adequately thicken the sauce. I ended up having to add a lot more flour to give it the proper consistency. What I didn’t realize until after, was that the cooking time for the onions was also not long enough, meaning that my macaroni and cheese was essentially full of raw onions when I went to eat it.
Overall, it was not the best – I definitely think that this recipe could use some tweaks. If you’re someone who’s new to cooking, you may not have known to a) cook the onions longer and separately – caramelized onions could have gone a long way in adding flavour, b) to add more flour to thicken your sauce. I would suggest that using either multiple kinds of cheese, or a different cheese altogether would help – the bland flavour and the raw-ish onions made it unpleasant to eat, though it did look delicious at least:
The next night, we made the rainbow trout. I was feeling a bit nervous after mac n’ cheese night, but I was very optimistic. The fillets were so beautiful and fresh, and I had never tried a panzanella salad before. Traditionally, panzanella has tomatoes and sweet peppers in it, but Mealspirations accommodated my allergy to these very things by substituting it with an avocado. Yum.
While my partner prepared the fish, I made the salad – cucumbers, basil, bread pan-fried in olive oil, capers and red onions. Finally, I opened the avocado to find it had gone completely bad on the inside. Yuck! They had sent a second avocado to make guacamole for the next meal, so I decided to use that one since the first was unusable. When I cut it open, it was mostly rotten as well – I used as much as I could, and made a note to buy avocado for dinner tomorrow.
The meal itself was delicious and very fresh tasting. I will say, that the recipe called for too much oil for cooking the fish for my liking, making it a bit greasy, but the taste was really great and complimented nicely by the salad. I was very unimpressed by the two rotten avocados.
The final meal was what I was most excited for. I rarely buy steak because I don’t really know how to cook it, so I thought this would be a great way to learn. The meal included a lot of peppers and tomatoes, so it was a bit sparse in terms of ingredients, but it was still delicious. I whipped up some guacamole, and let that sit while I shredded the ingredients for the slaw.
Again, there were a bit of strange things about the recipe – calling for lime zest but then not having that anywhere in the recipe, very short cooking time for a giant flank steak, and using radicchio and brussel sprouts in a cabbage slaw. Radicchio is bitter. In fact, it’s overwhelmingly bitter, and the dressing for the slaw didn’t quite cover this up, so I ate it with the guacamole in the tortilla to mask the taste, rather than on the side, and I didn’t keep the leftovers.
I ended up having to throw the steak back into the pan due to how undercooked it was – the recipe had said it would cook to medium-rare, but it was rare. However, even without the pico de gallo, these were still very tasty and probably my favourite meal of the three.
Overall, Mealspirations is providing a good service, and it’s reasonably affordable. I think the recipes could use a little work in terms of cooking times, and quantity of ingredients. I would have also liked to see a nutritional breakdown for the recipes – the website says that each serving is about 500-600 calories, but having done some basic calculations, I believe it’s actually more than that.
I’ve decided that I need to make more time in my own life to cook the food I want to eat, but this experience has taught me the importance of meal planning, and how much stress planning in advance can alleviate in a busy week. If you’re interested in learning how to cook and don’t know where to start, I think Mealspirations could be the right fit for you.