Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Pre prepped Recipe bags for busy people


I have known about Fresh City Farms pre prepped Recipe Bags for about a year now since I met Ran the owner at a Green Living Show last year.  I wanted to see if they would solve the problem of food waste and people never having enough time to prepare a full meal during the week.

So I thought I would finally have some time to commit to ordering some Fresh City Farms bags and test them out and see if they work for my crazy life of trying to be everywhere.   Well they sort of worked for me but I don't know if they are practical for me since I live by myself and they are designed for 2 portions per bag and they are fairly perishable since they have fresh meats, fish and mostly local fruit and vegetables and pretty much the healthiest products that they can get to suppliment the recipes.

The Recipe bags are ordered 3 bags at a time or more.  You can get bags that serve up more days and more people but the minimum is 3 bags that feed 2 portions each.

You don't exactly know what's going to be the bag that is delivered that week.  When I chose them it was different bags and I guess I didn't pay attention to what they were shipping the week it came or I might have seen if I could adjust it.

I received the Teriyaki Salmon, the Lemon Chicken Thighs and the Vegetarian Lasagna

They arrived in the afternoon during the week but unfortunately I was a bit busy for a couple of days and didn't have time to get to cooking them until Sunday and had to cook all 3 in one day to make sure everything didn't spoil.  I had to work the election the next day and wouldn't be able to cook or eat any of the meals.   So I powered through all 3 in one day and have lot's leftover in the fridge and the chicken is going to be used to make soup and the lasagna for the freezer.

The meals come in insulated lunch bags with an ice pack to last during pickup if you aren't home.  I have to be home because the deliver drivers can't get into my building unless I buzz them in.  That's a bit of a disadvantage for me but if you have a house and know you will be home within a reasonable hour of them being delivered it's great or if you have a concierge or they are able to leave it at your doorstep.  Something to consider.

Each bag has the recipe card attached to the front of the bag as you can see on the photos above.

Inside the bag are vacuum packed proteins and measured out ingredients.   The part I like is that you use everything in the bag and there is nothing leftover, although I didn't use all the ginger in one bag. I think it would have only tasted like ginger if I did.  Some things don't require much prep but some of the vegetables might need to be chopped or other things combined so there is varying degrees of prep required for different recipes.

For the Teriyaki recipe I had to cut the cabbage and mushrooms and add oil, salt and pepper.  The fish had to be set in a marinade that had to be prepared and then the cabbage and mushrooms were cooked in the oven for a little while before placing the marinated Salmon on top.  
Although this was pretty easy since you pull out one pan there was still a few moving pieces to this recipe.  If I had made this on my own I probably would have sauteed the cabbage and braised it if I liked the mushrooms which I don't but added them to the recipe to cook as directed but if I was to do this without a recipe I would have sauteed them in butter and then taken then pan fried the salmon separately to get crispy skin on the salmon but this might be more challenging for a busy or not very skilled cook so I understand that this recipe is supposed to be to make things easier.  I found that I undercooked the cabbage a bit and overcooked the salmon by about a couple of minutes but it was ok.

The Lasagna recipe required a bit of knife skills to chop the vegetables and then the kale needed to be mixed with Ricotta that was missing from my bag so I had to substitute Goat cheese that I happened to have in my fridge.  The noodles had to be cooked separately and the vegetables and tomato sauce in  the pot once the pasta was removed.  The whole thing was then layered in a baking dish and baked for 20 minutes I think.. I added some extra parmesan to the top as well.  This was ok but I use just crushed tomatoes when I make my tomato sauce so I didn't like the concentrated flavour of the tomato sauce as much.  I also would have cut the vegetables differently if I had made this my own way and would have cut the zucchini into long thin strips to layer so that it would make the noodles layer better and the zucchini cook better.  It was good for the fact that I didn't have to pull a whole bunch of ingredients from all over my kitchen so it saved a bit of prep time but I like my own lasagna a lot better but I could see this being a good bag for people that normally buy those frozen lasagnas and just need to cut back on some prep time.

The Chicken recipe had some great flavourings to marinade it in.   Lemon and Herbs de Provence which added a really great taste to the chicken and the vegetables.   The thing about this bag was that once again it came with mushrooms which I am not a big fan of but cooked them anyway.   It was the easiest bag to prepare.  You had to wash the potatoes and green beans and quarter the potatoes and trip the green beans and cut them in half and toss all of the vegetables in oil, salt and pepper and then layer the bottom of a baking dish with them and plop the marinated chicken thighs on top and bake.
The chicken came out really tender and had great flavour but didn't have the crispy golden brown skin on top.   Most of the potatoes were a bit undercooked and the green beans didn't look all that great when baked.  I would have probably seared the chicken and then added the sauce on top and baked in the oven with the potatoes on the side and had the potatoes cooking before the meat went in the oven and I would have blanched the green beans and probably sauteed them in butter and maybe added some of the seasonings afterwards to bring out the best cooking times for each item.  But once again this is meant to be an easy dish to just cook it all in the oven.

Overall most of the dishes tasted pretty good but if you are a competent chef you could easily make them a bit better.   You do need to have some tools in your kitchen and some cooking knowledge to make some of the recipes as I am sure that an inexperienced cook might not know what to do if they found that their ricotta was missing from the bag and it's kind of an important component,  they might not know what to do to adjust for it.   I mostly only follow recipes for baking and most of the time just wing it when I cook stuff because I know basic cooking skills but I want to have some friends who aren't as equipped in the kitchen try them and see how they do to see if the average person would be able to make these recipes well.

I love the concept and the convenience of these bags though.   You don't have to carry home bags and bags of groceries to make 3 meals and then waste half of the leftover stuff because you never get around to using it.   But for me not always having a consistent schedule and eating at events a lot of the time it might not be the best solution sometimes but I like that I have the option to order regular grocery bags or the recipe bags and adjust the deliveries so the next order will be a grocery bag.

I have tried the grocery bag and found it great but sometimes you get things you might not be able to use.  I found that I didn't get to the carrots in time and I still have one pumpkin that I haven't cooked yet but the other thing is that I can add extras to the grocery bags.

Overall it's great for young professional couples or busy families to be able to get fresh food delivered to their door and make up a meal fresh instead of a frozen dinner in about the same amount of time.  So you get healthier meals without the bad stuff.  You got to remember some of those frozen meals that go in the oven can take up to an hour and they aren't all that great and have tons of sodium so this is a great way to control the sodium because you generally add it yourself in the prep.

*Disclaimer:  I paid for the 3 Recipe bags and was not compensated for this blog post although Fresh City Farms has been a sponsor for a previous event all of the opinions expressed in this post are my own opinion.

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