Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Majority Rules

So, another election day is here. Our ballot is full of fairly complex utility regulations that I do not really understand because I did not do my research. That's an odd situation because I'm usually the one who did hours of research on the ballot issues and who can discuss them in excruciating detail. This year, I'm in a majority I want to end -- uninformed voters.

I've always viewed governing as the adult version of the "majority rules" votes we did in school. Increasingly, I'm not so sure about that. No, I'm not talking about the bizarre power grab attempted by a previous president now facing four trials. 

I'm looking at statistics that 61% of all Americans favor responsible gun legislation. I'm looking at a similar percentage who favor protecting women's bodily autonomy. But I still live in a country where we cannot get rid of AR-15s, where many states have no protection from people with known histories of mental health issues buying guns, where many women have neither access to birth control nor abortion.

So, why does the majority not rule? I guess you could say money trumps majority. The NRA, once a bastion of gun safety training now a well-founded defender of gun makers, no longer offers all the gun safety classes we took, but spends it's dollars making sure unrestricted gun sales rank ahead of gun safety. Where's well-funded connection who call themselves "pro life" foment laws that are "anti" -- anti birth control, anti life of the mother, anti the life of the child once it is born.

Somehow, a well-funded militia of people whose views are in the minority supercedes majority views. So how do we restore majority rules? We vote and we help others vote. We have to work a bit harder than we should because the minority has also made it harder for many people to vote. We help people find out if they are still registered to vote and, if needed, help them re-register. We organize rides to the polls. We educate voters to recognize the mail-in ballots they may have gotten in the mail. We work with election officials and the League of Women Voters to get accurate, un-biased information to all the voters.

My BHAG is to compile a list of voting resources, initially in New Mexico, eventually across the country, probably as a web-based resource to get informed voters to the polls. I fear we have only one year to get this together and failure could be disastrous.

Let me know if you can help and how.

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Can a Foodie do IF?

 I have always believed that cuisine defined culture. So, here I am, almost two years in a new culture. Not a new culture in the sense of traveling to a different country, but definitely not Kansas or even Colorado. I'll probably write about that in another post. But my indulging in New Mexican cuisine and beverages has taken me far from careful eating. 

At my last appointment, my PA suggested I try intermittent fasting as a possible means of getting my weight under control. I was, and am, skeptical, but I am giving it a solid try. I jumped in too quickly, without doing any research other than how many hours a day I should fast. And I didn't think things through in terms of scheduling. 

I fasted 16 hours (a fairly standard IF is 16:8, meaning fast for 16 hours, eat in an 8 hour window). Oops. I had an appointment across town when I was supposed to break my fast. So I wound up fasting 18 hours. In my ravenous state, I tried to eat a big lunch. Big fail! I ate about a third of the very spicy, very filling meal. By the time I got home, I wasn't sure I'd ever want to eat again. It took me three days to eat that meal.

After my too big lunch, I didn't care about food until about the time my husband was ready for dinner and my eating window was over.

Now, my husband just naturally does something like IF in that he eats breakfast around noon, lunch around 4:00 and dinner around 8:00. But we wake on a different schedule. I wanted to start fasting by 7:00pm.  This is a continuing challenge for my IF experience. Another challenge is that I have a medication that I am supposed to take with a meal and at a consistent time. Before IF, I woke at 6:30, had a healthy breakfast and took my medicine. So, it seems like it would be a simple thing to change the medication to 11 am when I break my fast. But, I'm not often breaking fast at 11. It worked when I ate when I got up, but now life isn't conforming to my schedule.

One possibility is to go back to breaking fast around 7:00. That has long been my habit. The challenge is that has me ending the eating window around 3:00. That would not allow my husband and I to have a meal together. And that plays heck with our social life which seems to involve dinners around 7:00. I'm sure I'll work that out somehow.

Beyond scheduling, or maybe because of it, I'm eating about 800-1000 calories a day which is a bit less than the recommended minimum. So the pounds should be falling off, right? Wrong. After almost 6 weeks of this craziness, I've lost 1 pound. 

So, I haven't been enjoying the local cuisine I love, I have been stressing about trying to eat within the IF timeframe, and I haven't lost much weight. I'll give it another month and report back.

Thursday, August 3, 2023

More than Politics

One of my first memories of a presidential election came on November 8, 1960. The radio announced the election of John F. Kennedy as President of the United States. My mother broke into inconsolable tears, "The Pope will rule the United States; we will all have to be Catholics."

So, my earliest experience of an election was the impact of disinformation that led my mother to believe something that could never have come to fruition, something that shook her very foundation as a Christian.

My mother was a dyed in the wool Republican. Her parents, particularly her immigrant father who came to this country from Germany in the 1890s, believed that the Republican party, which takes its name from the view of the country as a republic, was the party of the working class. That's not to say that they approved of everything that came from Republicans. Certainly, they did not approve of ending slavery, but in the 1960 election, they held to the idea that the GOP was protection from those darn Democrats who will make us all bow down to the Pope. They were, in that year, single issue voters. Where did they get their information? From their churches, from their friends, from their preferred radio stations, newspapers, and magazines. We didn't have a TV or internet, but radio was as much a source of information and disinformation as TV and the internet are today.

Some 60 years later, partially because of John F. Kennedy and more because of Lyndon Johnson, and the programs and policies they promoted (Vietnam not withstanding), I am a Democrat. And, I am watching legal proceedings I never imagined could happen as the former President of the United States is arraigned on four criminal counts for actions while he was in the White House, after being arraigned on forty some counts from misuse of documents after leaving the White House.

Later in my youth, the candidate who lost to President Kennedy got his chance in the White House.  Aside from Vietnam, the other scandal of my college and grad school days was Watergate. First, Vice-President Spiro Agnew resigned his position because the Department of Justice had uncovered widespread evidence of political corruption and accepting bribes. That was totally unrelated to the Watergate scandal, but it set up a rather unique Presidential cycle that ended a President never elected to that office. That was a time we truly had to appreciate the framers of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, because not only did Vice-President Agnew resign, but President Nixon resigned to avoid impeachment and possibly an arraignment of his own.

So, I'm old enough to have a personal and first-hand memory of some significant events that, I believe, set a stage for our current events. And those memories and the history I have lived made me a person who researches the candidates before I vote. 

Donald Trump has quite a history. He and his father got in trouble for discriminating based on color in to whom they rented apartments. He's had amazing luck agreeing to a price for items ordered, but finagling ways to avoid paying for goods delivered. I forget how many small businesses have been closed because of his resistance to paying his employees and suppliers. He has a long history of filing bankruptcy to avoid financial obligations. There are multiple cases of his company "cooking the books," misstating the valuations of his assets and his tax obligations. I'd say he has a history of being a bad actor in his business dealings. But, while I have seen documentation of these things, I am removed from these actions.

But, once he became the President of the United States, his actions impacted me. He did not play straight with us regarding COVID, he misled us about immigrants from Middle Eastern countries and from Latin and South American countries. He lied to us, all of us. And, as was said in his latest indictment, some of his lying was legal, lying, but not cause for legal action. But when he used those lies to deny our right to a fair election, when he lied to stay in an office he did not win the right to hold, when he lied to some of his supporters so they would serve as false electors who knew he did not win the vote in their state, he did break the law.  When he kept secret documents that belonged to the government, not to him, he broke the law. It makes me exceedingly concerned that he might claim the presidency to hold himself above the law.

How does he have so many supporters? It's not unlike that election in 1960. There's a much broader range of ways to spread his messages. There are at least three national television networks who specializes in what one of his former staffers called "alternative facts." There are countless ways to spread his message on various social media sites. And there are the same means used in the 1960 election that led to my mother's certainty of the Pope's involvement in our government.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Starting a New Chapter

 It had been an idea for a while now. Even before the surgeries, we knew we were going to need a single story home. And after the surgeries, particularly the femur tumor, the  advantages of single-level life were apparent. Then, housing prices in Denver skyrocketed and we knew it was time.

We learned about Swedish Death Cleaning where you get rid of things you don't use and that you can pretty much guarantee the next generation doesn't want. We filled a pickup truck to the brim and that was just the kitchen. I boxed up clothes until my clothes were way less than half the clothes in the closet. I discarded the research for my Master's thesis, and copies of all the courses I developed. I thought I had eliminated my share of the clutter. I was ready! 

Friends moved to an active 55+ community in Albuquerque that we had liked five years before. The prices were still relatively low there and we started following the sales in the neighborhood. We toured a house on Facetime and fell in like with it. A neighbor had friends looking for a house like ours. We sold that house and bought this one in a single day. That's not to say it was easy to make the move. There sere repairs to make on the old house and repairs to request on the new house. The negotiating drove me to distraction.

Our living room the first day.
At last, we were moved in. Or partially moved in. Despite all the cleaning we thought we did, we needed a second truck r husband's clothes that haven't fit him for 10+ years. At least I packed four days of clothes for the move and the workout clothes made it on the first truck

Sunsets, hot air balloons and sunrises are regular reminders that, despite the craziness and continuing unpacking, the move is worth it. In addition to the beauty, living in an active 55+ community means an immediate group for activities, wine tasting, ladies who lunch and men's lunches. Our common thread is our age, but we're finding a lot of folks who love to travel as much as we do, maybe even more. We're already thinking about a cruise on the Douro River in Portugal when we feel more comfortable with the direction of the pandemic.

So, don't be surprised if I add a new obsession to the old ones...

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

How Time Flies!

Twelve years ago, inspired by the inauguration of our first Black American President, I started this blog. At times, it has been highly political; at others, it has been much more a food blog; I have spent little time on religion, though it is integral to my entire life. Most recently, I've spent much time describing personal journeys I did not even dream could happen 12 years ago -- my DNA journey to biological relatives and my experience rehabbing from surgery to replace some of my leg with a partial prosthetic femur.

Tonight, I eagerly anticipate the inauguration of another president, a man who was inaugurated as Vice-President of the United States the day of my first blog post. Tomorrow, my country will inaugurate three firsts in a single Vice-President: a woman, a black and an Asian in the single person of Kamala Harris.

I freely admit that I am thrilled to say goodbye to the 45th President and all the evil he represented in our White House. Because of his administration, there are thousands of young children separated from their parents with whom they may never be reunited. Because of him, our country has lost its status throughout the world. When I traveled to Germany to meet my newly identified relatives, I saw in a police station the depths to which my country's reputation had fallen. BTW, I was at the police station because my cousin is a police officer, so in a personal situation rather than a professional one. I've experienced a president who never acknowledged that he lost the election fair and square and who incited an insurrection by nearly 1,000 of his followers who invaded the Capitol building of my country.

Many of us are nervous despite 20,000 National Guard personnel to protect our new President and Vice-President. Our outgoing mercurial president may have other things planned to disrupt the ceremony tomorrow. He is not following the norms and niceties of tradition in our country. He has no respect for what is right.

The other interruption in normalcy is a pandemic largely out of control because the outgoing president ignored the problem, preferring to promote witchcraft fixes liek injecting bleach and other "treatments" proven not just ill advised, but dangerous. Yet, when he got the virus, he had the latest, greatest and most effective treatments available.

Twelve years ago, I was optimistic, hopeful, excited. While I am hopeful about the next four years as a return to norms and a rational President, I am saddened that, because of Coronavirus COVID-19, the scene will not be the normal inauguration with all the pomp, celebration, cheers, and such that has surrounded previous inaugurations. Our new President has wanted to be president for decades. Tomorrow is his day, but it will be a mere shadow of what he might have hoped it would be. What we all may have hoped it would be.

So I intend that this blog will be revitalized. I'll spend more time on my faith, some time on what this pandemic has meant for my life, maybe some time on the great political division in this country. I intend to return to my original mission of this blog about My Magnificent Obsessions, but with the flexibility to discuss my newly identified ancestry. I have no information on my biological father other than having a significant Scots/Welsh/Irish blood. When the pandemic permits travel, I hope to explore those countries.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

What a Year!

I just realized that my last blog post was in August 2018! I was working on a post about meal kit deliveries from primarily vegetarian companies and I was still coming to terms with my AncestryDNA results.
Just about a month after that post, I developed excruciating pain in my left knee and entered a whole new phase of life, one where orthopedic oncologist was a familiar term. As it turns out, the tumor in my femur was not cancer, but the treatment was the same -- remove the affected part of the femur, replace it with a prosthetic area attached to rods up about half the femur, a hinged knee replacement, and a rod down the tibia.

Post surgical x-ray
I spent four days in the hospital, fairly heavily drugged, and a bit more than two weeks in a rehab facility doing physical therapy and enduring my personal torture device called a CPM (continual passive motion).
In the CPM machine at Someren Glen rehab facility.

I was bound and determined to get out in time to elect the first female Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Colorado and, with much thanks to Nan Beringer and serious opioids, I was at the election convention.

Recovering from surgery is a drag. There were the milestones -- first time out with just a walker, deciding on a cane, weaning off the cane, etc. The medical types said I could expect to recover in 6-9 months. So I didn't cancel the big trip with the new family to Europe. At 6 months post-op, I was just progressing to a cane. At 9 months, I was only using a cane for longer walks. By the end of August when we left for Europe, my trusty cane was still a necessity.
I just hit the anniversary of the surgery yesterday. I'm not sure I will ever be "normal" again. There is still pain, sometimes pretty severe, and I walk very slowly. There are times when I am sitting at the computer or reading when I do not feel the pain. Then, I move to stand up.
Sometimes I think I should have blogged the experience as it was happening, but it too often would have been a blog of depression, pain, and frustration.
So, it has been quite a year for me.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Hello Blue Plated Chef

It seems like you'd have to be living on a remote island without social media to have missed the whole meal prep delivery trend. It may have started with Hello Fresh, at least, that's where it started for me. A friend offered a $30 off card, but I didn't go there. Another friend offered a $30 off card. Still I resisted. Finally, a friend offered a
Spinach and Artichoke Turnovers
with Arugula & Tomato Salad
"free week." It wasn't really free, but it was enough to get me to try it. It is always easy to get in a rut and we were in a serious rut. Too many meals eaten in restaurants or from Trader Joe's frozen section. My husband was skeptical, worried about the cost, etc. Still, when the doorbell rang for that first box, dear hubby was almost pushing me out of the way to get at the box. We unpacked together and it was darn easy to unpack. It takes a large box for all the packing materials to keep the food chilling on the porch. The actual food was nearly overpowered by the packing materials. Those packing materials. The companies claim most of it is recyclable, but not around here. I imagine there will be an entire layer of archaeological wonder over the meal prep delivery waste.
So back to the meal delivery. Our first company was Hello Fresh. There were three nice brown paper bags, each labeled with the meal. Some weeks there was a reminder to look between layers of ice bags for additional items. My meat eating friends tell me there is almost always meat there, but vegetarians get the occasional bag of pasta or something.
Ah, the difference between vegetarian and omnivore when it comes to the meal prep delivery boxes. All the reviews I've seen have been written by meat eaters for meat eaters. I'm a vegetarian married to an omnivore, so I want to concentrate on the vegetarian side of things. I'll make comments on the meal plans I tried from a vegetarian perspective with some comments from my meat eating friends. I started with four of the most common plans for this review -- Hello Fresh, Home Chef, Blue Apron, and Plated.

Hello Fresh

Each meal was  in a recyclable brown paper bag with few exceptions for special ingredients. So while the packing materials for shipping left a lot of non-recyclable trash, the meal bags were readily recyclable. It was easy to reach in the fridge and pull out everything necessary for the night's meal. Many items like crushed tomatoes and chickpeas came in boxes rather than cans. I imagine it reduces shipping weight.

The second week, a bag of tomatoes was squished in shipping and the contents kind

Blue Apron Za'atar-roasted
 Cauliflower with
 Date-Farro Salad was a hit
of leaked out everywhere. Fortunately, most of the mess was contained to one soggy bag. A quick trip to the grocery (something these delivered kits are supposed to reduce) and I had way to many cherry tomatoes for the dinner (another thing these kits are supposed to reduce). Hello Fresh credited me $5 on the following week. Aside from that week, ingredients were well packed to avoid smashed tomatoes, etc. All ingredients were at least as good quality as I would pick in the grocery. A couple of avocados were a bit too ripe, but that's more the nature of avocado than of meal kits.  Liquids were often in manufacturers  miniature bottles, so I knew the quality of the ingredients. At the end of our experiment, liquids were sealed in little packets. Most were Hello Fresh labeled so it might have been a choice to hide lesser quality ingredients or another step in reducing shipping weight. I missed the cute little bottles, but didn't notice ingredient degradation.

Ease of preparation, time from bag to plate:
The instructions were extremely clear. My husband is a great baker -- very precise in measurements, very detailed in following recipes. I'm a free spirit in the kitchen -- I wonder what would happen if I added this spice, almost never measure olive oil aside from a long circle or a little splash. And, dear husband's culinary inclinations were limited to pancakes, grilling, and microwaving. He jumped right in on preparation the very first night, precisely slicing vegetables with excruciating slow deliberation. By the second week when I was away from home a couple of nights, he proudly made one of the dishes on his own, texting me a picture of his masterpiece. I showed that picture to everyone who would look!
Husband's first solo effort -- Chipotle Cheddar
Mac 'n' Cheese with Roasted Cauliflower

Variety of ingredients, interesting recipes:
This was an area where Hello Fresh excelled for vegetarians. Meat eaters get choices of protein and dishes each week. Vegetarians get three meals chosen by the company. This may have changed recently, but it was a bit frustrating. If there was one dish in a week that did not appeal to us, our only choice was to skip the entire week or eat something we didn't like to eat. Aside from that, we loved trying new ingredients. We roast vegetables  almost every night now. There are a lot of good protein  sources -- black beans, chickpeas, quinoa, etc. Hello Fresh used a variety of them. A new favorite snack came from leftover roasted chickpeas. The secret to crisp chickpeas? Pat them very dry before tossing with olive oil, salt, pepper, interesting spices.
A meat eater friend started Hello Fresh with the regular plan. She said it wasn't  very interesting -- meat, side, veggies. When I started posting pictures of the vegetarian  meals, she switched to the vegetarian plan.

Pros and Cons:
Almost all the meals were tasty. Many of them appear on our table fairly often. I have tripled the recipes and taken them to potluck dinners and I regularly get requests for the recipes. It accomplished the original goals of giving me new menus and getting my husband and I cooking together. The app was very nice and easy to use.
We hated that dishes repeated a lot. It would have been nice to have at least one alternate meal each week. My meat eating husband would have been happy if we could have ordered some vegetarian and some regular meals. The menus repeated soon and often. We stopped using the company when there were no new dishes in a week.
We may buy the occasional week from Hello Fresh in the future if the menus expand. In less than two months, we had as many as four repeats of the same recipe.

Blue Apron

We heard good things about Blue Apron, so we tried that next. By now, we were accustomed to all the packaging. I will say quite a few Blue Apron boxes have found new uses in our home.
Dear husband loves these boxes for tax
records and other papers in transition. We
both love the easy to use lid,
What we did not like was that almost all the ingredients were loose in the box. Small items are put in a knick knack bag, one for each meal. We discovered the first week that we had to do an inventory when we unpacked. I started to make couscous stuffed Poblano peppers only to find most of the ingredients missing. I called the company and we discovered two of the knick knack bags were not packed. Not a great start, but the company  credited me a full week's meals free. I'd  show a picture of the peppers, but I never made them. Perhaps, now that i ran across the recipe pulling together things for this post, I'll make that dish. Dear husband tackled the pizza dough while I was
The makeshift pizza.
Note the best ever broccoli!
at a board meeting and topped it with stuff we had around the house. Not the red pepper and olive pizza advertised,  but tasty and a demonstration of how far hubby had expanded his culinary chops. We did have ingredients for the recommended accompaniment, the best broccoli ever. We steamed the broccoli and tossed it in a sauce of olive oil, lemon juice, and hot sauce. This is a dish that makes regular  appearances around here.
A few liquids were bottled and leaked slightly, not enough to ruin the recipes, but enough to know the vinegar leaked.

Blue Apron exposed us to ingredients we'd never worked with before. They used more enoki mushrooms than I'd ever eaten in my life. Sometimes they were perfect, sometimes a stringy minus in a sandwich. 
I got some good tips for getting nice crisp fried tofu -- pat really dry before tossing in cornstarch in very small batches. Blue Apron relies a lot on eggs and tofu as protein sources. There was some cheese in the many pasta dishes.

Ease of preparation, time from bag to plate:
Blue Apron recipes are complex. They are probably the most sophisticated,  but we found the preparation, with both of us working full tilt, took about twice as long as

Freekeh and Vegetable "Fried Rice"

The referenced stringy enoki mushroom tortas

Ginger-Miso Long Life Noodles with Roasted Vegetables and hard-boiled Egg

the recipe promised. With a lot of chopping and grating, we averaged 90 minutes to two hours on recipes that were supposed to be 40-50 minutes. Some of our slowness came in collecting all the ingredients.

Variety of ingredients, interesting recipes:
This program had a great range of dishes -- Italian, Asian, Southwestern, Mediterranean, etc. The recipes exposed us to Korean rice cakes which are not at all those crispy banes to dieters; they are very chewy and filling things. I wanted to love spicy Poblano  and enoki mushroom tortas, but the enoki were stringy and hard to bite off in a sandwich.
One of the techniques  Blue Apron uses a lot is pickling -- cabbage, beets, carrots. I'd forgotten how easy it is to pickle and what a nice contrast it adds to dishes. The Freekeh "fried rice" was topped with carrots that were lightly pickled. Freekeh is an interesting  protein source that substituted  for rice. I wasn't wildly thrilled with it, but it is a good ingredient to know.

Pros and Cons:
Blue Apron probably offered the broadest variety of dishes. If you are confident of your kitchen skills, but thinking your menus are a bit boring, this plan will challenge you. The app was easy to use and I liked that they included user comments.
My meat eating friend who switched to the vegetarian version of Hello Fresh liked the challenge of the recipes in the regular version of Blue Apron. She tends to alternate suppliers depending on the schedule for the week. She's a mom with two active grade school boys and a home-based business, so schedule is everything for her. I'm active in church on several levels, politics, boards of directors, editing, and blogging, so I  found myself skipping weeks when the schedule was tight.
Much as we loved the variety of dishes, we found it was too time consuming, not just the cooking, but the sorting.

Home Chef

Home Chef was recently purchased by Kroger. It is probably a good fit. The dishes were tasty, carb intensive, not very challenging. Vegetarians often have few options in restaurants, often a vegetable salad with no protein (maybe a touch of cheese) or some pasta dish (with a dusting of cheese for protein), sometimes a grilled cheese or a cheese omelet. That same mentality seemed prevalent with Home Chef. "Gosh, we need three vegetarian dishes. What can we do for them."
The packaging was nice. Everything was in a plastic bag that worked well as a "garbage bag" where I dumped non-recyclable trash, peels, trimmings, etc. After I finished cooking, I sealed it up, put it in the trash and the trash stayed less odoriferous. There was, of course, the usual issue of packing materials that couldn't be recycled. This company had the biggest problem with leaky packaging. Things like cooking wine (which I would toss anyway) leaked completely. Vinegar leaked by half. The liquids were packed in little bottles that were not sealed.

There were no interesting ingredients. There were a lot of pasta dishes. Several sandwiches, a tofu salad. Only one recipe made our favorites list. We had a lot of hard lemons and limes, unripe and overripe avocados. A few times, I had to rush off to the grocery store (ironically one in the Kroger chain) to replace unusable ingredients.

Cuban Avocado Black Bean Quinoa was
our favorite @realhomechef
Ease of preparation, time from bag to plate:
These dishes definitely lived up to the company name. They were, for the most part, quick and simple.p
Variety of ingredients, interesting recipes:
There were some strange things like using cooking wine in risotto. Have you ever tasted cooking wine? It is super salty and bears little resemblance to actual wine. I threw it out and used real wine. The most of the alcohol evaporates in the cooking or risotto, so it is even safe for children. The other oddity was using Cheddar cheese. Mozzarella, Provolone, Asiago,
Romano, Parmesan, maybe Fontina, but Cheddar is an English cheese. Why use an English cheese, worse yet, the American version of an English cheese when there are so many  great Italian cheeses?

Pros and Cons:
The pros were a slightly lower price, very simple recipes. The app is fairly good. This might be a good choice for someone moving into their first apartment if they didn't learn to cook along the way. It beats living on take out (much cheaper and a little healthier) or frozen meals (ditto on healthier).
Frankly, I  think it would be better to learn good techniques and more authentic recipes, but there is a place for Home Chef. It just isn't my kitchen.


Plated combines the best and least of our first companies. This was the first company that gave vegetarians options, even the option of some meat dishes! The dishes are creative and definitely tasty. Plated offers desserts for $8 for four servings. The app works well and has more flexibility than most. The packaging continues the trash issues of the rest. Like Blue Apron, most of the ingredients are loose in the box with the bags of condiments, etc. that can
Herb-roasted Carrot & Zucchini Tarts with Spring Greens
serve as garbage collectors during the preparation.
Adding to the trash issue, the vegetables are individually bagged. If the zucchini was pre-washed, fine, bag it, but these vegetables aren't pre-washed. The kicker was last night's roasted peppers. First of all, we were roasting zucchini and eggplant, so we could have roasted the peppers. We even used a second sheet pan for toasting pine nuts and so we stuck the pitas in foil on that same sheet. Plenty of room for peppers. The peppers were in a little baggie inside a plastic carton. Massive trash and they still leaked out a little.
We got a little tired of kale and eggplant, but we learned a nifty trick for kale that will be eaten as a salad -- massage salt into the washed and dried kale to begin breaking down the fibers, then dress the kale in an acidic dressing (we liked Fresh lemon juice with olive oil and seasoning) before you start the rest of the meal.
There were few truly surprising ingredients.
Ease of preparation, time from bag to plate:
Again, we usually estimated twice the time that Plated gave. I'm relatively swift with a knife, but dear husband is still precise and that precision extends to several breaks to tidy up the knife edges if he thought they were off. If I'm in a hurry, I chop, he mixes dressings, oils and seasons veggies for roasting, and does other tasks. By the time we started Plated, we were pretty clear on our kitchen choreography.
The dishes were fairly easy to prepare and the company provided some nice pre-made like tart shells, puff pastry squares, and na'an.
Variety of ingredients, interesting recipes:
The ingredients were common, but assembled in interesting ways. As I said, we saw a lot of eggplant, kale, and sweet potato. But those sweet potato tacos will come back to our table from time to time. We liked quite a few of the recipes.
We bought two desserts during our exploration of Plated. Somehow I didn't get a picture of the delicious  lemon tarts. The Blackberry-Cornbread Trifle was interesting, but nothing like a true trifle. First, cornbread is unexpected. I don't care for sweet cornbread and I found it too grainy. The blackberry was just a quick jam, and not nearly enough of it. The dessert was dry. The jam was something I've made for biscuits since. Equal measures of fruit and sugar with a little water, bring to a boil, lower temp to simmer for about 15-20 minutes (that's  at 6200 ft. elev.) until it begins to thicken. Pour into a little bowl or jar and refrigerate until it thickens to a jam consistency.  The whipped cream was informative as well. Add a little powdered sugar to the cream and it holds consistency once it is whipped. Stirring in a little Fresh lime zest at the end was a game-changer.

Blackberry-Cornbread Trifle
Pros and Cons:
Plated had the disadvantages of excessive non-recyclable packaging. It also had some of the disadvantages of loose ingredients to corral and sort. Aside from the roasted red peppers, we had no leakage issues, but there was excess plastic bagging. 
Plated had a couple of big pros -- choices of dishes and desserts.

In conclusion

My purpose for using a meal prep delivery kit was two fold -- to get out of my menu rut and to encourage my husband to cook together. I then added a purpose for this blog post to examine four popular companies from the vegetarian perspective.
All four programs got my husband and I in the kitchen together, talking about food, comparing notes on dishes, and discussing why the programs did or did not work for us. We had fallen in a rut where
I was the one who did the true cooking, my husband heated a frozen option or scrambled eggs if I was sick, tired, away for home, etc.
Before we started this experiment, we were, in a word, bored. I was bored with menu planning and uninspired in the kitchen. Three of these programs gave us exciting new ways to look at familiar and unfamiliar ingredients. Even our least favorite program added a couple of new recipes to our kitchen repertoire. Easy became the enemy of good. Now we have a variety of dishes to chose from in our menu planning and, frankly, I'm energized because I am cooking with my husband.
As for how the companies address vegetarians, I suspect it is in their vegetarian options that the companies show their true natures.
Home Chef was our least favorite. While there were a couple of standouts, there was a lot of pasta, little protein, little new or challenging. That's not to say that the same holds true for their meat entrees. It says that they were not inspired or inspiring in their vegetarian options.
Blue Apron was the complete opposite of Home Chef for vegetarians. The dishes were often unfamiliar cuisines. The ingredients were often unfamiliar. The tastes were sometimes challenging. This certainly wasn't an exercise in same old protein sources. This would be a great program for truly adventuresome eaters with fair kitchen skills. Since we started our experiment, Blue Apron has gone on a roller coaster ride in the stock market and began offering versions of their kits in Costco stores. The downside for us was the sorting of ingredients and the long prep and cooking time.
Hello Fresh has a good system. The vegetarian meals may be more interesting than the meat entrees. There was a broad range of readily available ingredients that make it easy to replicate the recipes. Putting everything together for each meal was a definite plus. It took no time at all to pull out the bag labeled for the dinner I wanted, open the bag and start in on the veggie washing and slicing/dicing. The downside was how quickly the recipes started to repeat. Because the ingredients are commonly found in the local grocery store, the incentive to continue buying Hello Fresh is diminished.
Plated was certainly the most flexible of the plans. Although we started to see some dishes repeat, there was always at least one vegetarian dish to replace the repeat. For some reason, Mushroom Cavatelli and Grandma's Skillet Pie (our least favorite from Plated) have been showing up often. I'm not sure we would buy the desserts often because I am almost always watching the calorie intake and because we have some great dessert recipes already. There were many common ingredients and just enough exotic ingredients to keep us interested.
If Hello Fresh added to their vegetarian menu, it would be a hands down winner. It has the most convenient packing of individual meals, a good variety of interesting recipes and a decent price. If we had to choose one company today, it might be Plated because of the range of vegetarian options, a good system for getting around repeats, and flexibility.

Coming Up...

We just got our first shipment from Hungry Root, an entirely vegan meal prep delivery system. Be watching as I change up our experiment to examine systems designed for vegetarians/vegans.