Home meal delivery services are a fast-growing part of the food service industry. Everybody seem to be jockeying for a piece of this market. The Plant-based segment has grown even more dramatically.
I am climbing on board this bandwagon with the Purple Carrot's new TB12 menu and my first delivery is scheduled for the first week in April 2017. For me, this may or may not be a saving grace. I am already well versed in the area of vegan cooking but the amount of time called for can be even greater with plant-based dishes than cooking meat, egg, and dairy-based meals. For this reason, I have been more than happy to prepare simple vegan dishes with relatively few ingredients for the majority of my meals. Will this all change now? I'm a bit skeptical so let's find out. I will likely try several if not all of these services before I'm done.
But enough about me. These services are a Godsend to anybody brand new to this style of cooking. They take all of the guesswork out of beginning a new and healthier lifestyle. One service I find particulary interesting is the Forks Over Knives service. This one does not deliver meals but delivers weekly menues along with recipes and grocery shopping lists that are downloadable to your smartphone. 3 meals/day for 1 year runs a little over $100.00. This is quite a bit different than what I went through when I began 6 years ago and the meal plans are based on the most up to date nutritioal research available today. Check out they're free starter menu. They've made it easy for you.
My first Purple Carrot TB12 3 meal, 2 servings each, plant based home meal delivery arrived today.
The ingredients were well packed inside a double bag filled with paper insulation. The food ingredients were separated from 3 large reusable frozen ice packs by a thick wall of perforated cardboard. All three ice packs were still frozen. The weather here is still unpredictable and it snowed yesterday and last night so the insulating qualities of this packaging are still untested. I don't know if this design will hold up during the summer months when a box like this will be left on my front doorstep in direct sunlight in 90+ degree ambient air temps. Especially when cold air drops down. The ice packs should probably be placed on top of the food ingredients but this may damage some of the more delicate foods such as greens. I've already brought this to Purple Carrot's attention and they say the packaging will hold up.
This packaging is 100% recyclable with the exception of a small amount of plastic covering of the non-toxic ice pack material.
Tom Brady was nice enough to run off a form letter in his own hand thanking me for sending him some more money. The other cards are the recipes and instructions how to cook these 3 meals. A Ramen Bowl with Gingered Amaranth Greens & Watermelon Radish, Crispy Turnip Cakes with tabbouleh and Zaatar Yogurt, and White Lentil Rissoto with Meyer Lemon & Cashew Gremolata.
The food ingredients are all fresh and of high quality
It's important to mention these are vegan meals but not whole foods plant based meals. This is easily adapted by leaving out oils and other fats.
Now if only I can convince somebody to cook this stuff for me
Tonight's Ramen Bowl with Gingered Amaranth Greens, Roasted Broccolini with Hemp Hearts, Watermelon Radish, Sliced Scallion, and Brown Rice Noodles in a flavorful Miso-Coconut Milk Broth (called coconut cloud) sided with a Tahini-Tamari-Nori Blend Sauce, and a Garlic-Chili Sauce.
This was about what I expected it would be. An absolutely delicious chef quality meal that would satisfy any meat eater. What an awesome dish. But, and it's a big butt (see what I did there?) this "30 minute meal" took an hour to prepare and it used way to many pots, pans, and dishes for a weeknight dinner. A professional chef could have pulled it off in 30 minutes but an inexperienced cook might take as long as 2 hrs to finish this dish. This could present a problem. A little to much fat so I cut it back a bit but I had to leave the toasted sesame oil in. Dang it was good. Did I mention how good this was? Hokey smokes Bullwinkle it was excellent.
Purple Carrot's meal #2 from the TB12 Performance Meals category was Crispy Turnip Cakes with Quinoa Tabbouleh & Zaatar Yogurt.
The turnip cakes are made with shredded turnips, thinly sliced shallot, sliced scallions, flax meal (a common egg substitute used as a binder), garbanzo bean flour, salt and pepper. These turnip cakes are inspired but with an important drawback that I will discuss at the end of this review. They are delicious and I already have plans to adapt these into a burger.
The tabbouleh uses quinoa rather than the standard couscous. It is made with quinoa, small dice cucumber, chopped parsley and mint leaves, sliced scallion, minced fresno pepper for a bit of heat, fresh lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and halved kumquats. I love kumquats and this was a surprising and welcomed ingredient.
The Zaatar yogurt sauce wss fantastic. Well, and heavily spiced. Spices are the backbone of the best vegan dishes (these meals are vegan, not whole foods plant based) and Mark Bittman knows this. He is to be commended for what promises to be brilliant uses of them. The yogurt base is vegan yogurt made by Kite Hill, a mainstay in the world of commercially made plant based foods and ingredients. Try their "ricotta cheese" sometime. The yogurt and spices are mixed with fresh lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Excellent.
The dish is plated with a large schmeer of zaatar yogurt with turnip cakes laid on top and sided with the quinoa which is finished with sliced fresno pepper.
Two meals in and I've got a large bone to pick with Mr Tom Brady's T12 Performance Meals and the Purple Carrot. Firstly the reason I went with this line of home meal delivery service was it's promise of higher calorie dinners. I am an active guy by nature and my day job, the one that pays the bills, also keeps me running, lifting, and squeezing myself into various positions that most people would not ordinarily find themselves in. I didn't want to find myself if the position of looking for something else to eat after dinner was finished. It is becoming apparent to me that the source of these calories is fat. I found myself deep frying the turnip cakes in vegetable oil and adding olive oil to the tabbouleh in the Crispy Turnip Cakes dinner and adding full fat coconut milk and grape seed oil to the previous Ramen dinner. I'd be surprised if any elite athletes ate this stuff so I'm calling BS on the marketing of these meals. More calories, yes. More calories from fat, no. And let's not forget the addition of salt to almost ever phase of cooking.
These meals are 100% delicious and would satisfy anyone who would like to see just how good vegan meals can be. They are, without question, much healthier than anything within the Sad American Diet category but they are a far cry from dietary disease stopping and reversal foods unless you dump the fats. I am mostly cooking these meals as instructed but that changes as of right now. I have also ordered an Air Fryer to help with this but these contraptions are so popular now the model I ordered is back ordered and isn't expected to arrive until the first week of May. Air fryers are not a magic answer to fat removal but they certainly cut the fat content way down for the occasional french fries or crispy turnip cakes.
An important plus with the Purple Carrot meal delivers service is it's sophisticated menu. I am learning new techniques, spice combinations, and food combinations. This is more important than you may realize and I haven't given up on the Purple Carrot just yet. I am committed to another week of these meals but will suspend them after that week and try the Forks Over Knives meal prepping routine. I may start the Purple Carrot up after my air fryer arrives. The dinners are too good to ignore.
Purple Carrot White Lentil Risotto with Meyer Lemon & Cashew Gremolata.
Why do vegans name their recipes after traditional dishes? I don't know. There is no such thing as lentil risotto any more than there is such a thing as Almond Milk. Almond water, yes. Almond milk? No. Its the same with this recipe. Risotto is rice by definition so just stop this nonsense.
Plant based foods are supposed to be made from unprocessed foods. Most of this recipe works but they lost me with the vegetable powder. What the heck is vegetable powder?
Now all ingredients are suspect. The vegan Parmesan cheese is unlike any vegan parm I've tasted. It is so close to "real" Parmesan I can barely tell the difference. I'm not sure what to make of this.
Any who, this dinner was also excellent. My least favorite of the three but excellent nonetheless. Ingredients are ivory white lentils, garlic, vegetable powder, fresh rosemary, broccoflower, gold beets, kohlrabi, parsley, meyer lemon, cashews, frisee lettuce, vegan parm, and vegan butter (also suspect). The amount of water called for to be added to the lentils was far too much and I had to remove the lentils and reduce the liquid for 15 minutes to make this recipe work. Granted, I'm cooking at altitude but still.
White Lentil Risotto with Meyer Lemon & Cashew Gremolata
This weeks Purple Carrot TB12 meals were Beluga Lentil Tacos with quick guacamole and sun sprout slaw, Creamy Cauliflower Alfredo with radicchio arugula salad and Saffron Paella with walnut chorizo and fresh fava beans. I've been lax with the photos and missed the first two but will try and get a pic of tonight's Saffron Paella.
Saffron Paella with Walnut Chorizo, fresh fava beans, artichoke hearts, yellow bell pepper, onion, cherry tomatoes, brown basmati rice, saffron threads, smoked paprika, ground cumin, secret chorizo chili spice, taco seasoning, fresh parsley and lemon.
This is my 12" Lodge cast iron skillet for reference. The recipe required an oven proof skillet or casserole to bake the paella in after doing a bit of stove top frying. Saving this one for the weekend was a happy accident because I had to drag out my food processor which I rarely do. 1 minute of processing translates into 30 minutes of cleaning so I try and stick with a knife whenever I can. The walnut chorizo did me in with that dreaded appliance.
First time for fresh fava beans for me. They were a nice touch but the mount of prep they required probably wasn't worth the effort. The pods are not like pea pods. They aren't as easy to open. After the beans are removed they must be boiled for a few minutes, rinsed in cold water to cool, and then individually squeezed out of another shell. Such is the price we must pay for meals of this quality.
I'm going to go out on a limb and bet most home delivery meal services that require cooking at home, with or without animal products, are of high caliber. There is enough competition in the marketplace to warrant this.
My third box from the Purple Carrot arrived with ingredients and recipes to assemble: 1. Coconut Tofu with Mango Cauliflower Rice and Spicy Cucumbers. 2. Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Crispy Garbanzos & Muhammara Vinagrette. 3. Mung Bean Dal with Tamirind, Popped Sorghum, & Flatbread. All sound good to me but there was a problem with this shipment and it's only my third box.
All shipment foods are sealed in a triple layered insulating bag of different paper materials separated from three large ice packs by a sheet of perforated cardboard. This time the insulating bag had been ripped open. It wasn't cut. Jagged edges made that apparent. And one of the meals, the Stuffed Sweet Potatoes, was missing. A bag of kale from that meal was there but the rest of the ingredients were not.
A call to The Purple Carrot got me a full refund on this box with no questions asked on their part but left me with a few questions of my own. This looks to me as if a packing line Purple Carrot employee ripped open the insulating bag and grabbed the first plastic food bag available before stuffing the whole thing into a packing box for shipment. I don't know this and, of course, anything could have happened but it seems likely. This brings up the question of food handlers in general.
I've been receiving daily emails from Food Safety News for a few years now (thanks to Steve) and I know all too well that everything is suspect, including the two Purple Carrot meals out of the normal three that arrived this week in a bag that had been compromised. The insulating bag. Were the ingredients kept cool enough on during their 2 day trip to my door step? Was anything else done to the package before it left the warehouse?
Whatever those answers are I'm throwing the two meals that did arrive in the trash. I'm locked in to the next shipment but have cancelled the one after that while I mull this over.
No pics were required. One call and my money was refunded, or at least it will be within the magic 7-10 days refunds are always made.
I've read other Purple Carrot complaints about missing ingredients or recipes that need to accompany the ingredients but took that in stride. All online sales reviews, whatever the product, are a mix of happy and unhappy customers so I know I must decide for myself about these things. But a ripped insulating food bag that must be refrigerated on a two day trip from my pack point (LA) is a little different. You know the line packers are minimum wage workers playing with perishable foods. This is a bad combination.
Purple Carrot has many awesome recipes posted online. A little planning and shopping removes most of the problem. Ugh! I wish it weren't so. I was really loving this stuff.
The site offers a new menu each weeks with interchangeable recipes and instructions along with shopping lists and weekend prep instructions. This allows me to buy fresh ingredients at my local market and put together a full weeks worth of meals at one time. I will put them in individual meal prep containers that are similar to microwavable Chinese take out containers.
The Fork Over Knives program also adheres to the more healthy (and more strict) whole foods plant based diet. No added oils, no added salt, no added sugar. No processed foods period.
Now I need to make the time to pull all of this off. When I'm busy like I am now, It's tough to use up a Sunday morning cooking a full week of meals when I can be laying around doing absolutely nothing