Finally, here we are…the final review for this season…Terra’s Kitchen. I had to do this one because it kept popping up in ads and in my Facebook feeds…thank you analytics…but more so because it was a concept that I thought was a little outside the box…ahem. With its soft launch in the West Coast in February 2015, Terra’s Kitchen was born. With the market saturated with so many others, Terra’s Kitchen focuses on low maintenance recipes, more dietary options and their biggest foot forward was their new high-tech delivery system to set them apart. They slowly expanded in to the East Coast in February 2016 and through the U.S. Terra’s Kitchen prides themselves on a farm-to-table experience with organic, Non-GMO sourcing from local farms, dietary nutrition and the importance of family and conversation at meal times. You have to love the focus on something that does seem to be a huge problem with the widespread separation anxiety from cell phones and tablets. I was more infatuated with the new box technology, my only reason for even exploring this. The nutrition and organic stuff lost its importance as they all seem to claim those same things in some way or another. So…let’s see how this magic box panned out!
Ok, so as I started this process, after my email and zip code, I was brought to the usual ordering page which entails a box type, delivery day…which the only options are Thursday, Friday or Saturday. You have the option of Vegetarian Only or “I like it all”. Then you are brought to the next page where the meals in regards to our specs are chosen. What is different here is that you do get to change out what you want and add more meals, side items. extra proteins, shakes and desserts to your “vessel”. There is a $62.99 minimum per box, so you must “fill your vessel” to that amount. The suggestions they automatically give you meet the order minimum. The point of them letting you customize your box fully before you pay is obviously so you can add more to your “vessel” and pay for it all at once. It’s basically going to the grocery store and while you are standing in line, you look at the gum, candy, magazines and even cold beverages…add-ons to be more technical. It’s easier to pay for something all at once, than to go back and pay for an add-on later. See below for base pricing:
I decided on the usual, 3 meals for 2 ppl…I could not justify paying $4 for watermelon cubes. The add-ons seemed to be over-priced…BIG SURPRISE.
I got the confirmation for my delivery a day earlier than I expected for an overnight delivery. My issue, was that it was Tuesday and I was supposed to get it on Thursday. However, FedEx said it was coming on Wednesday. It wasn’t until late Wednesday afternoon that I got an update saying it was on the truck for Thursday. I kinda panicked because I knew I wasn’t going to have time to cook until Friday and I didn’t want anything to go bad. Most of the fresher, organic produce has to be consumed within days to ensure freshness. I know, maybe it’s more my anal-retentive nature that puts me in a spin, but at the same time, it’s a different box type coming that isn’t the usual. I just wanted to be ready.
Thursday afternoon, my vessel was delivered and I began to unpack it.
I was so excited. I mean this thing is like a toy to me. It’s a cross between an airline galley cart and one of those toy kitchen setups I used to be obsessed with. This set up was awesome. It was so fun to unpack each tray. The meat was fresh as the cooling packs were hard plastic like those you see in personal coolers, not disposable frozen solid ice packs. Everything was neatly portioned, packed and sealed. The whole thing was really neat and tidy. Anyone OCD would be in love with this. There’s this uniformity with all the packaging that reminds me of how airlines galley spaces are packed with food, drinks and snacks in the most compact and efficient manner possible.
Now, because of the fact that the ingredients are packed in accordance to efficiency, the organization suffers a bit. It takes a minute to find what goes with what.
The recipes are numbered, so the ingredients all have correlating stickers, fine…I’ll deal. I was too excited about the whole concept of the vessel anyhow, I would let a bad lemon slide at this point. I unpacked, sorted and scanned the products. The produce was pristine, really. The tomatoes were beautiful, the parsley was fresh and the meat looked great! The three meals I chose were Seared Cod, Chicken Avocado Basil Pesto and Turkey Spinach Meatballs with Gravy. First up…what else…COD!
Seared Cod with Mustard-Caper Sauce, Roasted Cauliflower & Cabbage
Calories: 388 per serving, Low-Calorie, Seafood, Paleo, Gluten-Free
Excellent Source of Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Good Source of Fiber
So right away, you can see that there is no real nutrition information in regards to numbers. I can’t find them anywhere! I am a little confused as to how they can be so nutrition focused if they can’t provide the scientific data other than calorie count. I understand that they tell is the dietary groups, allergens and the Vitamins and Minerals. Those of us that do count protein grams and carbohydrate loads, this isn’t the best information. I did email them to ask, and they told me that the information wasn’t readily available…hmmm…that doesn’t sit well with me. The menu cards as a whole were great otherwise…concise and organized. I loved the wine and beer pairing recommendations, except that one should read the online version while waiting for their delivery so the coordinating beverages can be purchased. Most people I know don’t have a White Burgundy wine on hand. This menu card had a pro-tip on it that suggested an ingredient substitution with one you may have on hand at home (you’ll see later).
On to cooking, so as much as I don’t like pre-cut vegetables, I didn’t mind that the cauliflower was already portioned out into florets. Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that give away it’s age quickly…the stems don’t snap, brown spots and that can happen within a day of exposing it to air. The cauliflower was perfect, even though it was previously handled. I liked the little note of breaking up some of the larger florets as it’s important to have uniform pieces that all cook the same way in the same time frame. Those little things make or break recipes for me at times. This is also one of the first times where I’ve see the black pepper measurement. Normally, they tell you to season to taste. I don’t always have ground pepper on hand, I have a pepper grinder that I eyeball quantities with. I found that a bit odd if you are a stickler to quantities, because you can’t grind pepper in to a 1/4tsp and have it be accurate. Cabbage…again…cabbage…I can’t figure out if I’m Charlie Bucket asking about cabbage water again or part of the Russian Mafia. The last 4 dishes I have gotten from these meal boxes all have had cabbage. OK, maybe I could have been more selective, but I chose based on proteins, not vegetables. Anyhow, I got over it and it is what it is. I don’t like chopped garlic that comes in oil or water…but since it takes 5 minutes to mince garlic for some, they assume it’s better spent eating at the table with family…I get it. So, that pro-tip I told you about was a substitution for water with a white wine for the mustard-caper sauce. I had a bottle of white, why not? Sauce was easy enough to make, but did not look the way I thought it should have. The oil was not emulsified, so there was this odd separation…then again, they didn’t tell you to drizzle in the oil, only to combine all ingredients…oh well. The fish was easy to cook, but in my mind, I knew it was a minute too much just based on what I was reading. The dish was done and really simple to make…something I appreciated.
Taste and Presentation:
So…yeah, the dish looks prettier than it tasted. The cod was over cooked as I suspected. The mustard-caper sauce, I should have stuck to water. Thing is, alcohol does not cook off if it’s not heated, there for basically the sauce was a shot of Torrontes White Wine that someone accidentally dropped mustard and capers into. Not a great flavor. White wine vinegar would have been more appropriate.
Final Thoughts & Rating:
This meal wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. It tasted like it was 388 calories…and I wonder how much that gets adjusted with that wine substitution. The cauliflower was tasty, the cabbage was only there for color…poor thing has no real function but to look pretty. I was kinda feeling bad about the cauliflower because it seemed like a waste of amazing product into something that I didn’t really enjoy eating. I like where they tried to go with the dish, it just didn’t happen. All in all, I give this dish a 2.5/5. Next up, Chicken Avocado Basil Pesto!
Seared Chicken with Whole Grain Penne and Creamy Avocado Basil Pesto
Calories: 747 per serving
Excellent Source of Fiber, Protein, Iron, Good Source of Potassium, Vitamin C, Calcium
Right away, I was blown away at how small that avocado was. I have never seen one that tiny! It made me laugh, but concerned that it wasn’t enough since that was the main component of the sauce. Also, initially, the penne wasn’t whole grain, and the one I got was…which most of the time tastes like tubes of cardboard…yum. Great, this was getting off to a stellar start. The pro-tip on this recipe was to put a wooden spoon across the top of the pot of boiling water for the pasta…this is to prevent the water from boiling over. That’s fair. On to the sauce, I started the process using my blender as it was also listed as an option aside from the food processor. My food processor blade has weakened, so I wanted to use the blender instead. As I started to blend, well, it doesn’t work…why? Because 2 tablespoons of lemon juice wasn’t enough liquid to break down the avocado and basil. That process got put on hold until the pasta water was fortified enough with starch so that the sauce could stick. I had to use chef brain and make that call. Using normal tap water would have caused the sauce to be too watery and not stick to the pasta. The chicken breast was an easy sear and rested while I finished the sauce, pasta and then finally plated the dish.
Taste and Presentation:
So, this dish tastes far better than it looks! Who knew! The pasta wasn’t cardboard, it was some of the best whole grain pasta I have ever eaten. I would buy it from them if I could. The chicken was beyond perfectly cooked, that is the way to make chicken breast. The sauce was a bit thick still and kinda gloppy, but it tasted really good.
Final Thoughts & Rating:
So, while it doesn’t look like a dish that is 750 calories and has 3 major color groups of puke green, murky brown and well the chicken…it tasted like all the colors of the rainbow. The consistency of the sauce puts me off as did the process of it. All in all, I give this dish a 3.5/5. Final dinner…Turkey Spinach Meatballs with Gravy!
Turkey Spinach Meatballs in Skinny Sunday Gravy
Calories: 632 per serving
Excellent Source of Potassium, Protein, Vitamin C, Iron, Good Source of Fiber, Calcium
I was really excited to make this dish mainly because I love meatballs and those stunning tomatoes were in this dish! I mean look at these beauties! I was wondering if they were for a garnishing salad or just something on the side, I’m a sucker for beautiful tomatoes, if you haven’t noticed. But first, the meatballs…this was a new process that I had never done before. The ground meat, well, I can’t figure out why no one can get that right. It always looks like McDonald’s pink slime…even though it’s real meat. Meat should never be squeezed out of a bag…BOTTOM LINE. The process itself was new, as I never just broil my meatballs as the only cooking process. I was worried they were not going to cook or burn…normally, you start in the pan, finish in the oven. I also didn’t like that because it’s the broiler, it makes it hard to multi-task if you are one person. There needs to be a careful eye on the broiler, I don’t care what anyone says. Things will burn if they aren’t continuously tended to. Anyhow, on to the sauce, so I’m looking around for some type of canned tomato product or even some basic roma tomatoes…there’s nothing. Then I think maybe they forgot something, so I recheck the ingredient list…nope…and then the most horrific thing happened and those dazzling jewels were the base to my sauce!!!!!!!!!!!! NO! I was almost tempted to use 3 of my own tomatoes for that and eat those on my own in a salad later. I was horrified that they chose to give me those tomatoes to pulverize, cook down and spoon over the meatballs. I was so upset. I appreciate good produce like no other, but I also am a purist in the sense that when something is stunning on its own, it’s a crime to use it out of its natural state, especially when the alternative doesn’t deter from the taste. I mean they could have given me organic roma tomatoes of the same quality, and I would not have flinched. This was a massacre of beauty and yet, another waste of good produce for a product with less value. I made the sauce as instructed, with a tear streaming down my face and finished the dish. Blah.
Taste and Presentation:
From the look of it, my sauce is yellow, not red. Why? Because my tomatoes were gorgeous shades of red, yellow, orange and green…when combined it makes sulphuric yellow. Remember in art class when you wanted to make brown? You pretty much combined a bunch of colors and got brown! This gravy was 2 green tomatoes from being brown. Not cool. The red pepper was too much, and I still used half of what was suggested! The meatballs were a saving grace and I am a huge fan of the broiling technique, provided I have another hand in the kitchen.
Final Thoughts & Rating:
I am too hung up on the tomato catastrophe to really enjoy the dish. I think I will make this dish again using my own red tomatoes and see if it changes my mind. I respect the meatballs and hold them to a great standard despite the squeeze bag they originated from. Nonetheless, this dish was tasty and I did finish it so I give this dish a 3/5.
I’m sad. I feel like a deflated balloon after this one. My emotions were toyed with and I ended up getting dumped. It’s not that the box was a failure as a whole, it’s just that its great parts were truncated by an unnecessary issue. The vessel itself was a royal pain to RETURN! That’s right, if you live in a condo situation, that box has to be put exactly where FedEx left it. So, if it gets stolen, you will get fined. If you live in our own house, the risk is significantly less. I understand the need to get those boxes back, but it’s not a feasible option for people in more urban environments and/or community living. The produce was amazing, but then gets used towards something that leaves more to be desired. I was teased and left hanging…chef blue balls. There, I said it. If you give me perfect cauliflower, make sure the product is the most amazing cooked cauliflower dish ever…otherwise leave it alone and let us enjoy them in their pure, raw state. I just think that the element of providing such good product gets lost in elements they focus on. They have lost site of the purpose of having great ingredients. It’s like they over thought about what they wanted to convey with this box and have a few different paths that don’t’ always converge into one idea. The recipes didn’t do those ingredients justice at all whether it was taste, color or texture. This may not have been the worst box of the lot, but it certainly was my least favorite. Terra’s Kitchen gets a 3/5.
I have no idea what’s next week folks! I am about a month out from my exam, so things will start to get a bit busier! I’ll figure something out! 🙂