Meal Prepping for Dinner? Cutting Through The Options

Meal prepping for dinner - CookinGenie

21 Apr 2021

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Meal Prepping for Dinner? Cutting Through The Options

Today, the age-old question of how to meal prep for dinner is more complicated than ever. With a range of different meal delivery services, prepared and frozen foods delivered to your doorand a wide market for takeout, the choices are seemingly endless. Now, entering the fray is a new service, CookinGenie, which rethinks the idea of dining at home by bringing a culinary expert into your home to prepare a delicious, home-cooked meal in your very own kitchen. So, with all these choices available, let’s look at the process, price, positivesand negatives of each to find out the option that might work best for you 

 

Meal Delivery Kits for Meal Prepping 

Meal Delivery Kits

Price: 

$-$$ With so many different meal delivery kits available, the prices can run anywhere from $5/meal to $18/meal. But for most mainstream services like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh, $10-12 per meal is standard.  

Process: 

Visit the website of one of the many meal delivery services, create a profileand begin choosing your dishesWith a few clicks, you can have boxes of fresh ingredients and recipes arriving as soon as the next day. Then, unpack the box, follow the recipe, and cook yourself a meal 

Pros:

  • The recipes are quick and easy to make.  
  • Feeling of accomplishment from cooking your own food 
  • You can customize the number of meals you want. 
  • Kits are accommodating to dietary restrictions and allergies.  
  • Precise portioning cuts down on food waste. 
  • The platform is easy to use, offers plenty of fresh, healthy choices. 

Cons: 

  • Kits come with excess packaging to get rid of.  
  • Subscription required. 
  • For hungrier eaters, portion sizes may leave a little bit to be desired.  
  • On occasion, ingredients may arrive spoiled.  
  • Dishes are not quite chef or restaurant quality.  
  • You still need to put the time and effort into cooking and cleaning up afterward.  
  • Usually supporting a large, multinational corporation.  
The bottom line:

Easier than shopping and cooking for yourself and cheaper than eating out, meal prepping kits are a good mix of affordability and convenience. But if you’re looking for a more memorable experience that you don’t have to cook yourself, there are better options out there. 

 

Ready to Eat/Frozen Meal Delivery Service 

Frozen Meal Delivery Service

Price:

$$ There are many different services that ship frozen meals to your door, and they can all fluctuate on price, with some high-end options out there. However, you can normally expect to pay about $11-15 per meal, plus shipping fees 

Process: 

Create a profile on a frozen meal delivery site such as Home Bistro, choose your meal(s) or meal plan(s)wait for delivery, and pop the box in the microwave to heat up. 

Pros:

  • Good variety of chef-inspired meals that come with protein, starch, vegetable, and sauce.
  • Many of the meals are highly tailored to specific diets such as weight loss, keto, and paleo. 
  • Most of the meals are ready to eat after just a few minutes in the microwave or oven 
  • Frozen meals can keep in the freezer indefinitely.  
  • No cleanup required.  

Cons:    

  • Many services don’t begin to offer free shipping unless you order a certain amount.  
  • Reheating frozen food can feel boring and impersonal; food may be bland 
  • Boxes may take a while to arrive. 
  • Sometimes food may come partially defrosted or not reheat evenly.  
The bottom line:

There’s no denying the convenience of being able to pop something in the microwave and have a hot meal in a few minutes. But while frozen meals have certainly improved from the days of supermarket TV dinnersthey’re more of an occasional fare than something you’d want to eat regularly.  

 

Takeout/Delivery

Takeout

Price:

$-$$ Depending on where you’re getting takeout from, the price can fluctuate greatly. 

The Process:

Call up a restaurant, go online to order, or use one of the many apps like DoorDash or Uber Eats to set up a pickup or delivery.  

Pros:

  • During the pandemic, it’s easier than ever to get takeout 
  • There’s a great variety of places to get fresh, healthy, delicious takeout from. 
  • Usually only takes about 30 minutes to get food.  
  • Supporting local businesses.  

Cons 

  • You have to drive to the restaurant or pay extra delivery fees. 
  • Generally, one can only get one type of cuisine at once and may not have leftovers to enjoy all week.   
  • If you have dietary restrictions or allergies, it could be tricky to ensure the meal fits your needs. 
  • Food apps layer on their service charges and those can add up. 
The bottom line:

Generally speaking, takeout is a relatively affordable, convenient way to have dinner once or twice a week.  

 

CookinGenie for Meal Prepping

CookinGenie for Meal Prepping

Price:

$$ Prices will differ by Genie and by dish, but most are between $10-$15 per portion. 

The Process:

Visit CookinGenie.com, type in your location, and you can browse through our many talented genies. You can look through each genie’s menu and profile individually, or search by dish or type of cuisine. Then, select the dishes you want to order and pick a time and date for a genie to come to your home and cook for you. They will arrive with everything they need, cook you a delicious meal, and restore your kitchen to the state they found it in.  

Pros: 

  • CookinGenie food is fresh, wholesomeand delicious.  
  • A skilled cook preparing restaurant-quality food for you adds a unique personal touch 
  • A wide variety of different cuisines and dishes are available at once. 
  • Service is accommodating to dietary restrictions and allergies.  
  • Generous, family-friendly sizes of 4 or 8 portions.  
  • Flexibility; date night, dinner parties, special occasionsweeknight family meals, and meal prepping can all be taken care of by CookinGenie
  • You don’t have to leave home, cook, or clean. 
  • Supporting a local business and local chefs.  

Cons: 

  • CookinGenie does require some planning ahead.  
  • May take a couple of hours after the Genie arrives for food to be ready.  
The bottom line:

In terms of affordability, CookinGenie is on par with takeout, cheaper than frozen meal delivery, and just a hair more than most meal kits. But that small difference is well worth it when you consider the superior food and convenience of not having to cook yourself. With so many options out there, it can be hard to decide what the dinner plan should be. But all things considered, in terms of taste and overall value for your hard-earned dollars, CookinGenie stands head and shoulders above the rest.


Related Post

National Food Safety Month— Keys for Cooking and Serving Food Safely

24 Sep 2021

Cooking for friends and family is one of the great joys in life. But without practicing proper food safety, cooking can make your loved ones sick, or in extreme cases, even kill them. Luckily, all it takes to prepare and serve food safely is following a few simple rules and using common sense. In honor of food safety month, here are some of the most important things to remember when cooking.

Wash your hands

One of the most important things you can do to keep food safe is constant handwashing. The first thing you should do when you walk into the kitchen is washing your hands. And wash them again after every completed task or when you start handling different ingredients, especially after touching raw meat.

One of the most common ways foodborne illnesses are spread is by bacteria jumping from dirty hands to the food. So, you cannot wash your hands too often. When washing your hands, make sure you run them under warm running water for at least 20 seconds, using antibacterial soap. Scrub between your fingers and under your fingernails every time and dry off with a clean cloth or paper towel. For extra protection, turn off the knob on the sink with that paper towel instead of your bare hands.

When in doubt, throw it out

Nobody likes to waste food. But holding on to old food after it’s gone bad is a good way to get your guests sick.  If anything in your fridge or pantry is moldy, slimy, smells rotten, or is well past its expiration date, just throw it out.

When cooking with canned ingredients, beware of cans that are rusted, dented, or swollen. Swollen cans are a sign of botulism, a dangerous spore that can be fatal. If there are any physical deformities on the can, put it right into the trash. There is a chance that every now and again you may throw out some food that’s still safe to use, but it’s always better safe than sorry.

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold

As a general rule of thumb, you should try and avoid keeping foods out at room temperature as much as possible, especially more sensitive items like meat, dairy, and eggs. When cooking and storing food, be mindful of the “temperature danger zone”, a temperature range between 41⁰F and 135⁰F. This is the range in which bacteria grows and multiplies most quickly.

Temperatures above or below this range are usually too extreme for most bacteria to survive. So, if a dish is meant to be served hot, you should keep it on the stove or in the oven at 135⁰F or higher for as long as possible, and if it is meant to be served cold, you should keep it in refrigeration at 41⁰F or lower until it’s ready to serve.

It may be helpful to have a digital thermometer on hand to help ensure you’re keeping foods at the proper temperatures. If any highly sensitive foods like meat or dairy are left out in the temperature danger zone for more than four hours, they may be unsafe to eat. Any cooked food that is being reheated should be heated to 165⁰F for at least 15 seconds before serving.

Beware of Cross Contamination

Cross contamination occurs when bacteria or other contaminants are passed to food from shared surfaces or through the air. For example, if you cut raw chicken on a cutting board then later use that same cutting board for fresh vegetables, the vegetables may be contaminated with bacteria from the chicken. To avoid cross contamination, use different utensils for raw meats and vegetables. Also be sure to wash and disinfect counters and other kitchen surfaces frequently.

Consider food allergies

One of the scariest parts of cooking for others can be dealing with food allergies. Allergic reactions to food can range anywhere from a mildly upset stomach to life-threatening anaphylactic shock, where the victim’s throat can begin to shut.

Before your event, ask all your guests if they have any food allergies. If anyone in your party has a severe allergy, consider serving something without that ingredient at all. For people with severe allergies like nuts or shellfish, they may not even need to actively consume the allergen to have a dangerous reaction, just an invisible trace amount may be enough to cause serious symptoms. So, just making a portion without that ingredient may not be enough to keep them safe. When it comes to cooking for people with food allergies, you cannot be too careful.

Cook proteins properly

A common cause of foodborne illness is undercooked meats, especially chicken. Meats need to be cooked to proper internal temperatures to kill the majority of bacteria and parasites that can make you sick. When cooking meats, use a digital thermometer to measure the internal temperature and don’t serve it until the meat comes up to a safe level.

For example, chicken and other poultry need to reach an internal temperature of at least 165⁰F for 15 seconds before they’re safe to eat. For more specifics, check out our complete guide to safely cooking meat.

Wash raw ingredients well

Before cooking with fruits, herbs, or vegetables, rinse them off under cold running water to remove any debris, bacteria, or chemical coating. This is especially important with cantaloupe and honeydew, which always should be washed before cutting. It’s also good practice to rinse off your eggs before cooking with them.

Be extra cautious with the most vulnerable members of your family

When cooking for older or immunocompromised people, you have to be extra careful and attentive. For someone who’s young and healthy, a case of salmonella from an undercooked chicken breast could cause a few days of illness. But for an older person or someone suffering from an autoimmune disease, that salmonella could be fatal.

CookinGenie takes food safety seriously

When you book a chef through CookinGenie, you can be sure that food safety will be the top priority. Many of the genies are professionals with formal food safety training, and others are experienced home cooks with a proven track record of keeping people safe. Food safety is stressed, and every genie knows that’s the most important thing when cooking for you.

Better yet, when you allow a CookinGenie chef into your home, you can watch them cook to be sure the food is being handled properly. Unlike a restaurant, this in-home set-up allows much more transparency and peace of mind than dining out or ordering takeout.

Author – Jared Kent

 

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A Whirlwind Tour of US Barbecue - CookinGenie

03 Mar 2021

“Southern barbecue is the closest thing we have in the US to Europe’s wines or cheeses; drive a hundred miles and the barbecue changes. 

 John Shelton Reed, sociologist, writer, and all-around expert on all things Southern.  

 At its most basic, barbecue is meat that’s cooked low and slow over a smoky fire. But barbecue aficionados will tell you that “authentic” American barbecue is so much more—and, just like the wines and cheeses of Europe, the answer to just what real barbecue is will vary state-to-state, even region-to-region, with each area insisting that their version is the one true style. 

 The variations by region can be dizzying. Some swear barbecue needs a vinegar-based sauce, others swear by a tomato-based sauce. Some sauce their meat with mustard, some with mayonnaise. Up your barbecue IQ by taking a quick tour of American BBQ with us and learn about just some of each region’s specialties.  

North Carolina

You’ll find not one but two distinct styles of barbecue in North Carolina. In the Eastern method—which John Shelton Reed calls the “original” American barbecue—whole hogs are smoked and then chopped and served with a vinegar-and-pepper-based sauce. Further west another style of barbecue, known as Lexington-style, emerged. Here, just the pork shoulder is smoked and it’s served on a sandwich with a bright red tomato-based sauce.  Confused yet? Hang on, we’re just getting started… 

South Carolina 

South Carolina is just one state to the south, but their take on barbecue is worlds away. Like its neighbor to the north, pork is largely the meat of choice but South Carolinians put their own spin on the sauce. A very specific condiment developed in the area stretching from Charleston to ColombiaAccording to the South Carolina Barbecue Association, German settlers brought a love for mustard with them to South Carolina, and were soon pouring golden, mustard-based, vinegary sauce they christened Carolina Gold on their pulled pork.1  

Texas 

Deep in the heart of Texas, barbecue is all about the beef—brisket specifically—smoked low and slow over oak, mesquite, pecan, or hickory wood for up to 20 hours until it’s so tender it falls off the bone. How it’s served depends on where you are: in East Texas, brisket is marinated in a sweet tomato-based sauce, while in South Texas, the sauce is molasses-based. Near the Rio Grande, Mexican-style barbacoa dominates, while in Central Texas they do without sauce altogether and settle for a simple rub of salt and pepper.2  

Kansas City 

In Kansas City, all kinds of meat are smoked—beef, pork, chicken, or sausage—but what makes it unique is the thick sweet molasses- and tomato-based sauce that the smoked meat is smothered in. The most famous specialty of KC barbecue is burnt ends, the crunchy, caramelized, intensely smoky ends of brisket. Once considered a throwaway piece of meat, these tasty nuggets have become a favorite of barbecue enthusiasts.  

Memphis 

Hold the sauce in Memphis! Here, another style of barbecue developed: slabs of pork ribs are flavored with a dry rub of garlic, paprika, chili pepper, cumin, and other spices and cooked over a hickory fire. And in Memphis, they like to think outside the box: barbecued meat is added to nachos, pizza, and even spaghetti.3  

Alabama 

Last but not least is Alabama, famous for its unconventional white barbecue sauce. This combo of mayonnaise, vinegar, apple juice, and cayenne pepper has been served with smoked chicken since the 1920s and has gradually gained national attention. In fact, Texas Monthly declared 2015 “the year of Alabama barbecue.”4    

 Our virtual road trip through American barbecue just scratches the surfaceSt. Louis, Kentucky, Georgia, and more.. they’ve all developed their own local barbecue traditions and have their own share of passionate fanatics who swear their regions are the best 

 Our newest Genie, Ryan Pascoe, brings his passion for BBQ to your home. Choose one of Ryan’s falling-off-the-bone, slow-smoked specialties and he’ll arrive at your house in the morning to set up his smoker in your backyard, driveway, or garage and get your meat going, then come back later that day to finish it off. He offers everything from traditional finger-lickin’ favorites like Saint Louis Ribs smothered in a homemade barbecue sauce, to a tender, Coffee-rubbed Brisket, to a decadent Smoked Prime Rib with Blue Cheese Mashed Potatoes. Let us know when you like the food done and we will work the right start time with you. Ryan brings the smoker with him. And takes it away – no cleanup for you. All you need to do is to find a dry spot for the smoker and a regular power outlet. Fresh meat from the nearby butcher shop, slow-cooked to perfectionIit’s not raining, even a chilly February day will not hamper an outdoor smoking event from CookinGenie 

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16 Sep 2019

You already have a lot on your plate – juggling kids sports, school events, professional schedules, groceries, shopping, and kids’ homework.Exhausting? We think so. Add an early morning or a late evening meeting (OK, make that a corporate firefight) at work & all of a sudden, putting breakfast or dinner on the family table can become a daunting challenge. Both your work and family require your attention and time. It can be very hard to make great choices towards eating fresh & healthy. Busy parents can hardly take out time to cook fresh and healthy food. To make matters worse, with all your kids’ activities, you might not have any free time over the weekend as well – travel soccer, or baseball leagues? A trip to the pool? A birthday party? Play dates? You navigate those successfully. You remember to grab the birthday present sitting on your kitchen countertop. You find the right soccer jerseys (unlike me). And then, its dinner time & cooking is the last thing on your mind. No wonder, you struggle with finding fresh, healthy food.

According to a recent report from the National Center for Health Statistics, one in three American children eats unhealthy food daily. This reason is why many American children suffer from diseases associated with malnutrition and obesity. Unhealthy eating or fast food has become a new diet trend. Moreover, wrong food choices bring with them additives, dyes, saturated fats, and preservatives. Those bring more health issues in the long term.

So, how can you overcome this hurdle? Surely, you don’t have the time to

  • grab fresh ingredients from groceries
  • prepare the ingredients, marination etc
  • cook & clean up

And all you have to do is enjoy your food freshly cooked in your kitchen. What if there was someone who could do all that for you? I must be dreaming you say? But what if……….

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