I’ve always been curious about the meal delivery services that are so prolific these days. You know the ones: the company sends you a box of fresh, perfectly portioned ingredients, you cook and assemble them in your own kitchen using their recipes. So maybe not so much a meal delivery, but a meal kit delivery… or a DIY meal delivery. At the end of the day, you still get a hot and healthy meal on your table and spare your family another night of takeout.
While I think they’re an innovative way for novice cooks to learn the ins and outs of flavor and technique, I’ve wondered whether these services would be useful for more experienced cooks, or those with pickier palates. Would the recipes be too basic? Would there be enough variety to suit every taste? I would soon find out.
In the world of recipe delivery services, Sun Basket is a newer and smaller player but I was drawn to them for a few reasons: they’re west coast based, they support our local family farms, and they offer certified organic produce, responsibly-raised meats, and sustainably-sourced seafood.
Sun Basket offered to let me sample their service for eight weeks and I have to say, I’m sold. (You can enter for your chance to win a sample box, so keep reading to the end!) Every Wednesday feels like my birthday when the delivery driver drops off a big, happy Sun Basket box at my door.
Inside, the ingredients are kept cold and fresh with ice packs and recycled denim insulation. It seems like a lot of packaging — and it is — but Sun Basket encourages you to ship the box and materials back to them using their prepaid USPS label. The company either recycles the materials, or sanitizes and reuses them for future shipments.
Every delivery comes with a little information about that week’s featured farm where your ingredients were sourced, plus accompanying recipes for the meals you selected from their weekly menu. The meal kits are enclosed in brown paper bags and include all the produce, spices, sauces, and garnishes the recipes call for.
For someone learning to cook, it eliminates the uncertainty of what to do with the leftover cabbage and half-bunch of parsley still lingering in the fridge from the last meal. For someone like me, I have to admit it’s incredibly convenient not needing to peel garlic or stir together multiple spices for a dressing (yep, even cookbook authors have lazy days in the kitchen). All the plastic containers and bags might be a bummer if you’re the type that tries to avoid excessive packaging, but in accordance with Sun Basket’s eco-friendly ethos, their containers are biodegradable and their bags are recyclable — though we actually wash and reuse most of them at home.
The recipes are easy to follow and many meals can be on the table in 30 minutes or less. The instructions are written in such a way that while one thing is sauteing, for instance, you’re chopping, slicing, or dicing the remaining things. The flow feels more in line with how real cooks cook, rather than the traditional recipe format of all the ingredients in one column, fully prepped, and all the instructions in another column, taking you through each step.
As for the recipes themselves, Chef Justine Kelly (formerly of San Francisco’s The Slanted Door) has come up with a collection of wholesome, inventive recipes inspired by her California roots as well as global cuisine. I made the tacos with lime-roasted cauliflower and black beans for this post, but together, my husband and I have taken turns trying over 15 different recipes from our meal kit deliveries thus far, and only 2 of them were “eh.” Not necessarily bad, but not our favorite flavors.
The good thing about having one person developing all the recipes at Sun Basket was that we became familiar with Chef Kelly’s style. She’s big on sauces and condiments, she loves Marash chile but doesn’t use too much of it, and she likes to add a bit of texture with toasted nuts. Knowing all this helps us determine which meals from the weekly menu would most appeal to our palate, and many are recipes we’d make again: the Burmese chicken aloo with Japanese sweet potato, the sesame-crusted salmon with roasted carrot and cara cara orange salad, the pork loin with roasted grapes and pear and chicory salad, the grilled sirloins with roasted poblanos and New Mexican chile sauce.
I love the variety of flavors in Chef Kelly’s creations and especially enjoy the salmon dishes; if there’s salmon on the menu, I get it every time. The meats are tender and moist, and the produce always fresh and crisp. The proportions are just right, too; a serving for one is satisfyingly filling.
The downside to this recipe delivery service? Sun Basket is only available in the western United States: California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Colorado.
I should also add that out of the 15-plus recipes we’ve made, we found 3 of them had errors on the recipe cards, usually an omission of a step. The URL to every (correct) recipe is printed on the bottom of the card, but had we not noticed that, we would’ve been left scratching our heads. It’s a little strange that the printed recipes and online recipes would be out of sync, but this oversight had no affect on the quality of the recipes themselves.
Now that I’m five weeks into my Sun Basket deliveries, I can honestly say they’ve been a lifesaver for this lean time in the garden when there’s not much to harvest, and for those long days when running to the grocery store feels like a chore… especially for this busy new mama!
I love this service so much that I’m partnering with Sun Basket to gift one lucky Garden Betty reader a week’s worth of meal kits! That’s three meals for two people, delivered to your door (a $68.94 value). You must reside in a state that they service: California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, or Colorado.
To enter the giveaway, entrants must subscribe to the Sun Basket mailing list via the Rafflecopter form below. They use the emails to keep entrants up-to-date on Sun Basket news as well as notify the winner. All entrants have the ability to unsubscribe from the newsletter at any time.
Giveaway ends Sunday, April 17, 2016. Best of luck and happy cooking!
This post is brought to you by Sun Basket. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that support Garden Betty.