No one could have predicted it, and yet here we all are: most of the planet is on some form of quarantine or lockdown as we hunker down during this global pandemic. Aside from the universal concerns with regards to health, employment and the economy, I have had my moments of feeling down because I miss my greatest joys in life: travel, and going out to eat. I have postponed by trips (hopefully for the last time), and as I watched my precious reservations being cancelled one by one as this social distancing period extends, it has occurred to me that I may very well have to turn to my own kitchen at Chez Caterina like never before to eat well during these challenging times.
I’m not a bad cook, actually – I just don’t enjoy doing all of that work for one person when it takes a fraction of the time to eat in comparison with the prep and the clean-up. Furthermore, I tend to get in a rut and cook the same things over and over again. As drastic times call for drastic measures and as finding your preferred ingredients can be more of a gamble than ever, I followed a friend’s recommendation and have turned to Mindful Chef for some help in this area, and I have been very pleasantly surprised. (A quick note: I have not been asked to promote Mindful Chef at all – they don’t even know I am writing this).
They experience is pretty great: a box comes to my house with my 4 meals per week (you can choose 3-5, and choose your preferred delivery day(s). You can even choose meals for 1, or for more. The meats and such are packaged in a cooler bag, and the ingredients are individually packaged per recipe so there is no mix-up.
From the website you can choose the meals that you want (they change every week so you don’t get bored), and I like that they’re all pretty much between 450-650 calories (it makes my calorie counting so much easier)! You’ll even get the recipes for all the meals that week, not just the ones you’ve ordered. And I must say, every single meal that I’ve had has tasted like restaurant quality – even if my plating skills aren’t up to scratch. I’ve been so impressed that I now see these meals as my ‘treats’ during the week.
The estimated time to prepare and cook the meals always feel a little short for me: it might take me an hour to make a dish that should be 30 min prep time. But that’s partly because I’m so particular: I like to trim the bottom off my broccoli, or remove the leaves, or even clean up as I cook so I don’t have a huge pile waiting for me after dinner to bring me down. But they are all quite easy: the hardest thing I’ve been asked to do is poach an egg, and even that didn’t turn out too poorly (see below).
The site is easy to use, you can pause or cancel whenever you like, and all in all, I think it’s fantastic quality. And if all that doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to give it a try, then you can eat with your conscience at ease: for every meal you order, Mindful Chef will provide a school meal to a child in poverty. It’s not dessert, but I think that’s pretty sweet.
Now, all of my meals have not been from Mindful Chef! So I’ve been playing around a bit in the kitchen myself… most of what I make is pretty simple and easy that I’d call it ‘preparing’ rather than ‘cooking’, and some of what I make is so good I never get around to taking a photo before I eat it (my out-of-this-world Carbonara, for example). But, I did try my hand at making chicken fajitas for the first time this week. I got my peppers, fajita spices, tortillas and put it all together as you can see below – but I put my own twist on it by making my fresh, chunky guacamole, and substituting sour cream for 2% greek yoghurt (still high in calories as a whole, but every last bit helps).
Perhaps the most elaborate meal I’ve made was for Easter Sunday lunch: I prepared roasted lamb loin with a mustard-herb crust: it was divine, with a tangy yet sweet flavour in the crust (thanks to the honey as one of the ingredients) and it turned out to be so delicious I ate the whole lamb loin! it would have been fine, if it wasn’t that I accompanied it with a huge portion of the most delicious roasted vegetables- and garlic and herb roast potatoes prepared in duck fat. Oh my goodness, those amazing potatoes! The whole meal was out of this world, and I have no guilt about having eaten for two! (I just had Easter chocolate for dinner anyway).
So there you have it: I’ve been busier in the kitchen than ever before – and while the food is great and I am making the most of it, I cannot wait for my beloved restaurants to reopen! My birthday is on Saturday and my gift to myself is very simple: I’m not cooking! I’ll get a pizza and give myself a break… and then when the world returns to some normalcy, I will celebrate properly and in style.
Wishing you all good health and good food as we keep calm and carry on!