In Which the Kids Experiment with Vegetable Lasagna and I Enjoy Happy Hour

Kitchen Diary: Anne in South Carolina

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Meal delivery services seem to be popping up right and left, at least according to the ads on my Facebook page. (Probably because I looked one of them up one time four months ago.) And they aren't really meal delivery services, more like meal component providers. With three sons and two adults, leftovers don't sit around long in our house, but I've wondered if services like Plated might be better for people who were cooking for two instead of five. And would the food be good and easy enough to make?

Recently, a friend who subscribes to Plated called and offered her vegetarian lasagna kit. She wasn't going to have time to make it and she knows our children are perpetually hungry and will eat anything. So I handed it over...to the kids. Here's how it went.

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Pastaless Spring Vegetable Lasagna sounded right up my alley, and also like something I would be far too lazy to make for myself. The boys accepted the challenge willingly, though only the 13 year old ended up cooking in the end. His older brother emptied the dishwasher, gave him game updates from the computer, and cheered him on instead. (I decided to stay out of that fight, and it didn't turn into a fight. Funny how that works sometimes.)

→ Learn more: Plated.com

I retired to the living room with a bottle of rosé, a ridiculously delicious ball of Smoked Mountain Round from Goat Lady Dairy, some toast points, and a friend. It seemed only fair to invite the friend who brought the meal, and she and I had a lovely chat — and ate a lot of cheese — while the boys toiled away in the kitchen.

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As you can imagine, there was a lot of chopping involved. The directions were nice and specific, so I didn't have to field any questions, leaving my happy hour uninterrupted. And it was a full hour, as there was plenty of chopping, slicing, mincing, roasting, mixing and baking to be done. I offered my pre-minced garlic, but my son was determined to stick to the plan, so he chopped the delivered garlic himself.

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The lasagna was decent, y'all. I don't know if we would make it again, but it got eaten and we all thought the pesto was particularly good. It was supposed to serve six — we had a double recipe — and I would say that's about accurate. There were five of us, but the youngest didn't eat much. I didn't eat a full serving, thanks to the aforementioned goat cheese and toast points. We had some leftovers, but there were easily six adult servings. As promised, prep time was 40 to 50 minutes, a little longer, probably due to the inexperience and goofiness of the cook.

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It was not a particularly beautiful meal, but lasagna never is. There were tons of vegetables, including leeks, mushrooms, tomatoes, peas, and zucchini.

In the end, the boys had a few questions.

"Did I do something wrong?"

Well, probably not. I have no way of knowing, since I was in the other room, letting y'all fend for yourselves. Cheers! The lasagna was a little soupy. I would guess you may not have let the tomato sauce reduce long enough.

"Is this more expensive than buying the ingredients at the store?"

Yup. Though it was free for us, thanks to my generous friend!

"So...you're just paying someone else to grocery shop for you?"

Well...yes. Isn't it funny how kids just get it sometimes?

The expense would be my biggest issue. The meals on the site are $12 per portion for members and $15 for everyone else. I regularly serve my family of five for less than $20, sometimes less than $10, and a $75 meal would be a special one for us, probably involving locally sourced steak.

I would add that these meals can be a mini cooking lesson for an inexperienced cook. The tips were solid. "Because of their many layers, leeks can be difficult to clean properly. It is best to cut the leeks as directed in the recipe, then soak them in a bowl of cold water to release the dirt." True that. My son only asked for help once: I showed him how to use a lemon zester. Hooray for new skills!

And I think he had fun. I also think the experience proved I don't just wave a magic wand and produce a meal. I mean, they see me cook, but they don't really think about it, because it just looks like "mom puttering around," which I do a lot. The Plated.com recipes are pretty healthy, at least by my definition, so they could be good for someone who doesn't like to eat their vegetables. Delivered meals can also encourage people to try something new, so if it works for you, go for it.

Though I don't think it's for us, because I'm way too cheap and I like cooking and experimenting, my friend has enjoyed it. Some of the meals sound delicious. She had us over one night and served some sort of pasta with meat sauce that was delightful.

Have you ever tried a ready-to-cook delivery meal? Would you?

(Image credits: Anne Wolfe Postic)