Wednesday, January 31, 2024

A Home Chef Experiences Home Chef.

This is a review of Home Chef, a meal kit and food delivery company.

Several weeks ago, the Kroger company (we know them as City Market around here) offered an online deal for Home Chef.  For those not in the know, Home Chef is one of those companies that provides meal delivery services.  Meals can be premade to be microwaved or cooked in the oven, or come as kits where you do all the prep work and cooking.  Home Chef hit the market in 2013, and was purchased by Kroger in 2018.  Now we know why Kroger pushes the online site, and also offers meals, ready to cook, in their deli departments.

The offer I went for was $80 towards meal purchases plus free shipping on the first order.  To complete the offer, I was required to pick out three meals, with two servings in each. There are categories of: Meal Kits, Family Meals, Express, Oven Ready, Fresh & Fast plus extra categories of: Lunch, Bundle & Save, and Extras (breakfast, soups, snacks, beverages, drinks, pantry and protein).  


Alright, my purpose for trying this out was, well, I do not always want to cook, I want convenience.  Shocking, I know.  Looking at the oven ready selections was a bust as they were already recipes created by myself, such as parmesan chicken or lasagna.  Why in the world would I want to buy someone else’s version of it?  Looks like convenience was not on my to-do list, so ended up with three meal kits: Teriyaki Glazed Yellowtail, Bacon Crusted Trout and Creamy Pesto Chicken Flautas.   Roy and I truly enjoy eating seafood, so the first two were a given, and attempting another Mexican dish sounded like fun. 


Servings for each kit start around $7.99 and can get very, very pricey if you select anything from the “Culinary Collection”.  The size of each serving is basically what is recommended by dietary practitioners, and eating only that serving, plus exercise, you will be a runway model in no time.  In our household, my husband considered both portions as a single serving (I did get to taste a few forkfuls), and off to work he went.  I, on the other hand, dug through the refrigerator and found leftovers to have for my dinner.   That is our household, so do not judge by our way of eating which is not always in a healthy manner.

Honestly, this kind of meal service is perfect for, say, a single person who might like to cook, but not the time to shop; or is seeking convenience.  Might work for a couple too; definitely not us, as a couple, though.  Price?  First let me get back to the deal I went for.  The first order received $40 credit, out of the initial $80, but was charging for shipping.  I contacted customer service about why no free shipping on the first order.  A very nice gentleman explained it was an error, corrected my bill, so what would have costed me about $75, ended up costing only $30.  However, the $40 credit that should have still been available, well I got some cow patty excuse that the offer was a mistake.  Excuse me, but what? 

Secondly, on price, this is the kind of service that is for, again, convenience, so you are going to pay for that privilege.  Unless you do not mind spending way more for meal ingredients, than you would at your local market or supermarket, this might be a good deal.  For those who have to live within a budget, this type of service is a way to break your personal piggy bank to smithereens.

My Home Chef account is now on “pause”, you cannot cancel the account unless you call customer service and speak with a representative.  This will be an interesting conversation in the future, let me tell you! (Note: as of Feb 1, I was able to cancel the account via email)

Consider what I have just written as the pros and cons of dealing with a meal delivery service. 

Now, I bet you are wondering, after having to prep and cook the meals myself, how did they taste?  Did we just waste $30 on an experiment, or get three good meals for a bargain?

The measured portions for each meal come in a little baggy, the protein is in a separate baggy, and the directions on a laminated sheet, that can be inserted into a binder, Home Chef includes.  The ingredients are separated into packets or containers, with their name written, so you know what is what.  Following the easy directions (photos included), prep took little time, cooking time was accurate.  The recipe is also printed on the sheet, so if you collect the sheets, you can make the dish if you purchase ingredients from the market.  Each serving took up the space of a smaller, than standard, sized dinner plate.  However, if you place the serving on a dessert sized plate, well it looks like a king-sized meal to enjoy. 


Taste wise, the meals were delicious, the seasonings were spot on, and the sides are perfect accompaniments to the proteins.  With the teriyaki glazed yellowtail (aka snapper), there were four portions of rice to only two portions of fish.  Thankfully, some leftover chicken, from the fridge, helped to create two more meals.  In other words, the amount of rice/veggie mixture was, basically, filler.





Saute edamame and Portabello mushrooms.                      


Pan cook seasoned yellowtail.

Enough rice side leftover to make two more meals.

Single serving.

Two servings.

Live a little, learn a lot, and that is how I am grading our experience with Home Chef.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Chinese New Year of the Wood Dragon

For 2024, the lunar cycles have brought the Chinese New Year to fall on Saturday, February 10th.  In China, this is a special public holiday, so workers will be given off from February 9th to the 15th.  There will be colorful festivals, mind blowing fireworks displays, lion and dragon dancers winding their way throughout the throngs of celebrators, and food delicacies as far as the eye can see, and the stomach can fill.

Of the twelve animals of the zodiac, this is the year of the dragon who represents health, strength, and good fortune.  If one is born in a dragon year (1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024), it is believed the individual will have the innate qualities of the dragon (leadership, charisma, and boundless enthusiasm).  If conceived and born within the same year, the chances double, in other words, the child is doubly blessed by the zodiac animal.

Besides the zodiac animals, one of the five elements (earth, wood, fire, metal, and water) is assigned to a year.  2024 is the year of the wood dragon and symbolizes humanity’s aspiration to achieve, progress, grow, and expand.  Perhaps the wood dragon can get the world’s nations to finally grow up, stop acting like spoiled brats, and work together for a united/beneficial-to-all world.  We can only hope.  Also, on this note, I would highly recommend making the effort to read the ancient stories and poetry of China.  While many can explain the basis of a warrior nation (and whose nation was not like that at some point in history?), others tell tales of deep emotions full of love, hope and dreams.

During the feasts, red envelopes, called hongbao, are given out as tokens of good wishes.  The red color symbolizes luck, life and happiness.  These are also given out at weddings, and typically, depending on the occasion, there are designated amounts expected to be given.

Now here comes the menu for this year:

§  Fish and seafood: favorite treats of a fire-breathing Dragon.

§  Red meat (pork, beef): for a rich New Year's table.

§  Poultry (turkey, duck, goose): for wealth and luxury.

§  Spices of garlic, hot red pepper, ginger, cloves, and anise to fire up a dragon’s tongue.

§  Fresh fruits which must include tangerines and oranges.

So, to honor the wood dragon, and appease his appetite, here is my offering of a roasted pork rice bowl.


Roasted Pork Rice Bowl


2 lb. boneless pork roast, or pork tenderloin, trimmed of excess fat

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. cracked black pepper

1 Tbsp. smoky paprika

¼ cup sesame oil

¼ cup soy sauce

2 cups bell pepper strips (mixture of red, yellow and green)

2 cups onion strips

Fried Rice or Jasmine Rice


Score top and bottom of pork with diagonal cuts to create diamond pattern.  Mix together salt, pepper and paprika and rub on all sides of pork.  Mix together oil and soy sauce, again rubbing into all sides of pork.  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for six hours.

Preheat oven to 425F; set wire rack into small roasting pan. 

Heat medium sized skillet, on high, and sear all sides and edges of the pork.  Place onto wire rack, and roast pork for 50 to 60 minutes; until internal temperature reaches 145F.  Remove from oven and let pork rest 10 minutes before slicing.




For the bell pepper and onion strips, heat stir-fry oil in large skillet, or Wok, on high heat.  Sauté vegetables until softened, but do not brown or burn; about 20 minutes.






In bowl, place one cup cooked rice, 4-5 thinly cut slices of pork and 2 heaping tablespoons of pepper/onion mixture.


Fried Rice

Makes 8 servings.


While jasmine rice can be store bought, I have discovered that creating my own version, using jasmine green tea, gives deeper flavoring and scent to the rice.

Jasmine Green Tea Infused Rice

To make rice, in a 3-quart pan, place 8 cups of cold water, ½ tsp. salt, 2 teabags of jasmine green tea.  Set heat to high and bring to a boil.  Remove tea bags and add 4 cups uncooked, medium grain, white rice; stir, reduce heat to low, cover and let cook for 20 minutes.  Remove lid, let rice rest for 5 minutes before fluffing up with a fork.

Makes 8 servings.

Happy Chinese New Year, and may the year of the Wood Dragon bring us all much good luck, health and fortune.

Mary Cokenour



Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Winter Stick to the Ribs and Potatoes

Two snowy storms in one week, and once again, the snow blower decides to have a massive heart attack and die. We had it fixed, it started up fine when tested in the fall, but try putting it to work, and it decides to go on strike, or simply die.  This is not a first-time occurrence with a snow blower; in fact, it seems to be part of its nature.  We have tried different brands that use gas, electric, or a combination thereof, and finally one repair person stated, “You seem to keep buying snow blowers that don’t like the cold!”  So, while my hubby is shoveling, I am in the kitchen making sure there is hot coffee in the brewer, and prepping hot meals as well.

Back in November, leftover turkey meat was cleaned of skin and bones, put into a freezer bag, and now pulled out to make; you guessed it, Turkey Strata.  I gave this recipe to you back in November of 2017, and it is easily found on my food blog, or in the archives of the San Juan Record.  However, this recipe requires that the casserole sit overnight, so all ingredients can fully meld with each other before baking.  Roy is working his butt off now, and he had been grumbling about, “Why can’t it be summer again, and Mary cooking up brats and ribs on the barbecue!?!” days ahead.  I took the hint, defrosted a slab of Prairie Fresh pork ribs (new item at Blue Mountain Foods, and they are a great product), and pulled out the 6-quart crock pot.  Ribs, in a crock pot?  I have written about this cooking technique before, so do not act so surprised; and I bet you tried it out, but too embarrassed to admit it.  Anyway…

Oh, to make it even more interesting, last minute holiday shopping, I bagged, get it, bagged, a 3-pound bag of blue potatoes.  Now, now, stop with the faces.  These potatoes are actually quite tasty, and when combined with the ribs cooking in the crock pot, they pick up the flavors of the seasonings.  Blue potatoes have the same amount of carbs as the simple white potato, but are healthier for you.  The blue signifies a high level of flavonoids which are antioxidants:  help protect blood vessels from rupture or leakage; enhance the power of vitamin C; protect cells from oxygen damage; prevent excessive inflammation throughout the body.

Usually when using cut potatoes in the crock pot, they need to be parboiled to ensure they cook evenly and thoroughly.  Not with blue potatoes as they are very moist inside, as compared to a regular white potato.   The potatoes cook up perfectly; tender, full of flavor from the seasonings, and you could taste the salt, but not be overpowered by it.  The onions become soft and oh so sweet; it is hard not to pick them all out to eat on their own.


 Crock Pot Ribs (with potato/onion side)


4-6 lbs. pork ribs

Seasoning Rub (see below for recipe)

3 lbs. potatoes

1 lb. onions

2 cups barbecue sauce (bottled or homemade - see below for my BBQ sauce recipe)



Prepare seasoning rub according to recipe; rub onto both sides of ribs, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.



Next day, unwrap ribs and cut into portions; spray a 6-quart crock pot with nonstick cooking spray; place rib portions inside with meaty side against wall of crock pot.


Wash potatoes, cut open lengthwise, in half lengthwise, then into one-inch pieces.  Place into center of crock pot and keep ribs against wall, do not let them slide under potatoes.


Remove paper skin and root from onions; chop into one-inch pieces and place over potatoes.









Pour barbecue sauce over all, cover and cook on low for 5 - 7 hours; until ribs and potatoes are tender.  Remove from crock pot onto serving dish; cover with aluminum foil to keep warm and let rest for 15 minutes.  Serve with sauce from pot over all, or in cup for dipping.

Makes 4 to 6 servings, based on one pound of ribs per person.






Additional Recipes for Seasoning Rub and Homemade Barbecue Sauce


All Purpose Rub for Smoking and Grilling


2 cups brown sugar

1 tsp. each sea salt, ground black pepper, ground ginger

¼ tsp. ground cayenne pepper

1 Tbsp. each paprika, onion powder, garlic powder


In medium bowl, mix all ingredients together thoroughly. Rub onto all sides of meat or poultry; refrigerate overnight.

All Purpose Barbecue Sauce


2 Tbsp. peanut oil (if not available, use canola oil)

1 small onion, diced

1Tbsp. minced garlic

1 ½ cups crushed tomatoes

1 (6oz.) can tomato paste

½ cup apple cider vinegar

½ cup water

1/3 cup brown sugar

3 Tbsp. chili powder

1 Tbsp. ground horseradish

¼ tsp. ground cayenne pepper

1 tsp. each salt and ground black pepper

¼ cup Worcestershire sauce

¼ cup dark molasses


In a large saucepan, heat oil on medium-high heat; sauté onion and garlic till softened; be careful not to burn garlic. Add in remaining ingredients, stir together and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 30 minutes; sauce will thicken. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking or burning. If sauce thickens too much, stir in a tablespoon of water until desired consistency is achieved.  Use warm or cold; store in refrigerator in airtight container; will keep for up to 2 weeks.

Makes 2 cups.

If you think you cannot have summer barbecue in the winter, Surprise! oh yes you can.  By the way, if anyone does snow blower repairs…help!!!

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

The Beef on the Battle of Waterloo.

Happy New Year 2024!  As usual, our celebration was quiet, sort of.  We indulged in take-out from Ja-Roen Thai and Sushi; their Ja-Roen Roll is quite addicting.  While Roy was at work, wishing good cheer to travelers passing through Monticello, our neighbors put on a fireworks display at midnight.  By quarter after midnight, all was quiet, so hunkering down for a relaxing sleep was the last of the New Year’s Eve to-do list.

During the weeks before the Christmas holiday, much baking and cooking was done by yours truly.  Besides the yearly treats given out, prepping and planning went into meals, not just for ourselves, but for Roy’s mother and brother down in Moab.  So, that week between Christmas and New Year’s was definitely one of limbo.  I rightly cannot say what I did, overall, during that week.  I know I had intentions, one being writing, but as I stared at the computer screen, the photos and words refused to come into focus.  It was not so much a case of writer’s block, but one of “writer’s brain vacation”.

Ah, but now it is the New Year, the bullet train of holidays is at the depot for maintenance.  The coming months will still have a holiday, or two, but none that will make us go into hyperdrive; we hope.  What did I create for the Christmas holiday of 2023?  By request, from Roy, he wondered if I would make a dish, one he had only once before, but remembered well.  That dish was Beef Wellington sans the liver pate, but stuffed with a rich mixture of mushrooms and red onions.  Recipe history time!


Beef Wellington and Potatoes Au Gratin


In Britain, the development of Beef Wellington is attributed to Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, whose army helped to defeat Napoleon Bonaparte, at the Battle of Waterloo (1815).  However, the encasing of some type of meat within a dough was a technique used in France, England, and even in Poland, for centuries before hand.  Culinary historians think that the dish was named, actually, after a style of boot that the 1st Duke wore, coincidentally named the “Wellington boot”.  Why?  Supposedly the structure of the meat within the dough, once baked, resembled the boot, and was served during the celebration of Napoleon’s humiliating defeat.  I guess this could be equated to Britian “stepping on the little guy and showing him who’s boss”.

Traditionally, the recipe for Beef Wellington comes from France.  It consists of a beef tenderloin wrapped in layers of pâté (goose liver), duxelles (finely chopped mixture of mushrooms), Parma ham (aka prosciutto), wrapped in puff pastry, then baked.  The tenderloin is typically about 1 and ½ lbs. and kept cold before wrapped in its layers and baked.  After baking for one hour, the meat is extremely rare and dripping with flavorful juices.  However, the meat can be seen as equivalent to raw, with the additional liquid from the pate and mushrooms creating a soggy texture within.  Though it looks impressive, this type of dish takes a lot of prep work if you want it to come out correctly.  Discouraged?  Do not give up before even trying!  Remember, this is a new year, and for those who like to cook, and especially try new recipes, make this your year of bravery.  What is bravery?  Being scared of doing something, but doing it anyway!  So, the new motto for 2024 is, “Be brave and do it anyway!”

Now, in our household, goose liver, or any type of liver, will not be on our menu; and we are not huge fans of ham either.  Therefore, my recipe for Beef Wellington will be just that, the way I do it, but that does not mean you cannot give the original recipe a try.  For the mushrooms, typically only white, brown or Portobello can be found, and all of them work well for this dish.  Using fancy mushrooms, like Chanterelles, can be pricey, and once diced up, well no one will be able to tell the difference between them, and a cheaper white mushroom.  For the beef, look for a lean cut, but do not allow it to break your bank; while a beautiful eye round roast could be $10/lb., a London broil, at half the price, works very well.  Also, in the original recipe, the roast is covered, raw, in layers of pate, mushrooms and ham before being encased in the puff pastry.  With my technique, the meat is butterflied open with the mushroom/onion filling rolled within the meat itself.  Once completed, and cut into slices, it still becomes a pretty presentation on the plate.


Gravy draped over.

Sitting atop gravy.








Beef Wellington



2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. butter

1 large red onion, diced

½ lb. mushrooms, diced

¼ cup beef broth

2 lb. London broil (trim off as much fat as possible, the leaner the better)

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. ground black pepper

1 Tbsp. crushed, dried thyme leaves

1 sheet thawed puff pastry (Pepperidge Farm brand recommended)

1 egg, beaten



In a medium sized skillet, on low heat, melt butter into oil; sauté mushrooms and onion for 20 minutes.  Raise heat to high, add broth and allow to cook down for 7-10 minutes.







Cut the London broil lengthwise, through the center, but not all the way through, leave about ½ inch on long side, and open up (this is butterflying open the meat).  With a meat mallet, pound out the meat to about ¼ inch thickness.  Mix together salt, black pepper and thyme, sprinkle over interior of the meat.  The mushroom/onion mixture should be cool enough to handle, spread evenly over the meat, leaving ½ inch clean around the edges.  Carefully begin to roll the meat, stuffing back any filling that might come out the sides.  Seam side up, wrap tightly in aluminum foil and place inside refrigerator for 2 hours.


Preheat oven to 425F.  In a large skillet, high heat, seam side down, brown meat; rotate till all meat has been browned.  Rewrap into aluminum foil, place inside pan and roast for 50-60 minutes, or internal temperature reads “Rare”.  Remove from oven and let rest; keep oven on.





While meat is resting, sprinkle flour on board, or clean counter top, and roll out puff pastry to double its original size.  Remove meat from foil, and place in center of pastry. Brush edges with beaten egg and fold pastry over long sides first from top of pastry to bottom.  Take one end of pastry, drape over meat and rest of remaining pastry.  Take other end of pastry and fold over both remaining pastry and already covered meat.  Tuck seam under the entire roll, and place inside baking pan.  If desired, indent pastry with a design, being careful not to cut all the way through the dough.  Bake 20-25 minutes, or until puff pastry is golden brown.

Remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes to allow juices to redistribute inside the meat.  Cut one inch slice per serving.

Makes 10-12 servings, dependent on how long butterflied meat was pounded out to.

The directions might read a little confusing, especially wrapping the meat inside the pastry.  If you have ever made burritos, it is similar to this procedure.  As I stated before though, make 2024 the year of being brave, and no matter how difficult a recipe might read, try it anyway!

Mary Cokenour