Dinner, Plated Style

review picBeing the only adult in my house makes cooking seem absurdly arduous when I already have so little time. Find a recipe, buy the ingredients, do all the prep, get the cooking done and then sit down to eat. Just finding time to eat in the evenings before bedtime can be tough. So I’m looking for lots of ways to make things more simple. Ergo today’s Plated review, making dinnertime a little easier.

affiliate links picPlated is a new service that does the first half of your work for you. Here’s what you no longer have to do if you use Plated.


Find a Recipe. You may be wondering why you’d want someone else to decide what you eat, but this really does make sense. If you’re like me you probably have tons of recipes you make, some of them more often than others. But meal planning gets really old.And if you want to try something new it can be a big gamble. To break out of meal planning, Plated has a menu each week of simple recipes made by their chefs. 

Buy Your Ingredients. I do not love grocery shopping, I know this is shocking. When you order meals from Plated, your ingredients are all provided (with the exception of staples like olive oil or chicken broth). You receive a box at your door with your ingredients for your week’s meals in it.

Prepare Ingredients. Not only do your ingredients come to your door, they also come pre-measured and pre-packaged. There may be some prep left before you cook, but this will be included in the recipe cook time.

I tried a few different recipes over the course of a few weeks to see how I liked them. Overall, I think the service is on the pricey side for people on a budget, but a nice option if you have the money, if you love food and if you’re short on time. 

I’ll walk you through one of my meals from start to finish to give you a look.

Choosing the Meal

Each week, Plated gives you 5 choices for recipes. (Update: They now do 9 options each week.) Each recipe gives you a picture, the ingredients, calories, cook time, difficulty level and other details. This week, for example, the choices are Pan-Seared Chicken with Mushroom Sauce, Tea-Poached Salmon with Edamame and Snap Pea Soba Noodles, Moroccan-Spiced Steak with Shallot Yogurt and Raisin-Carrot Couscous, Chicken with Three Tomato Pasta Sauce and Blackened Shrimp Tacos with Grilled Mexican Corn. As you can see, each week covers several proteins and cuisines.

Pros: Great variety. Interesting dishes, way more cool than what I’d pick out myself. Simple recipes. Plus you get a PDF of the recipe in your account so you can keep it on file.

Cons: 5 choices is still a small number and some weeks I didn’t want any options. I thought there was too much chicken. And as someone who’s not a fish-lover, I usually had at least 1 or 2 dishes that weren’t even an option. If you are kind of picky this may be a problem. (This week’s menu, for example, I see nothing I actually want to eat.) Most of all NO VEGETARIAN OPTION. The meals tend to revolve around meat, which is fine, but I wanted more fun vegetarian dishes.  Plus you can’t necessarily adjust the recipe or change the protein unless you’re doing that on your own.

One recipe I chose my first week was Farfalle with Sausage and Peas. A simple choice. There’s almost always a pasta dish in the lineup and this is one of my favorites in general so it seemed like a good option.

The Food

When it arrived, all my pasta ingredients were in one green bag with a clearly labeled sticker. And each ingredient was labeled as well. I took them all out to take a peek at what lay ahead.



The delivery area for Plated is still limited, but this means you get your ingredients shipped very fast which means they’re nice and cool and fresh. The raw proteins and anything else requiring refrigeration was separately in a part of the box with cold packs. Nothing ever seemed off temperature-wise when I received it. Spices are included, which is either a plus or irrelevant depending on your pantry.

Meats are vacuum packed, everything else is generally sealed in a labeled plastic bag.

Quality was great. My English peas were gorgeous and the sausage… well it was the star of the dish, but that comes later.


 Pros: Quality is excellent. Ingredients are fresh. 

Cons: Some ingredients will still require extra prep, such as chopping or (in the case of my peas) shelling. If something is missing (and this did happen to me when I ordered double of a recipe and only got 1 instead of 2 of something) the trouble of getting it replaced is a hurdle, and you’ll probably do without or buy it yourself, like I did.

The Cooking

The recipe cards are big and bright, with pictures and simple instructions.



Since my recipe promised to take just 30 minutes, the sight of my un-shelled peas had me wondering if this would work. I timed it and it took me around 12 minutes or so for shelling. Would this still work? And would it be simple? Especially since I am very very prone to taking twice as long to cook everything than it says it will take in the recipe?

To my surprise, it worked out great. 30 minutes, almost to the second.


Sure, it took two pots going at once (which felt a little more crazy than you’d think, given that the kids were being wrangled to the dinner table as this picture was taken) but it went and it was nice and simple. The peas were by far the most time-consuming part of the recipe, but the freshness they brought to the dish was totally worth it. I’ve never shelled my own peas for a meal before and wouldn’t have thought to if I’d done my own shopping. 



 When finished it was a lovely dish. The peas and the shallots were perfect. (Shallots instead of onion, another smart change I wouldn’t have thought of.) But the SAUSAGE. I am a sausage-lover, but this one had me raving. It was full of flavor, each bite was like going on a little taste journey and it had this amazing maple finish that had me doing my food moan.

In fact, I hesitate to make it again on my own because I don’t know if I’ll find sausage worthy of the dish, beautiful in its simplicity.

Now, with all that said, not all the dishes I made for Plated were slam dunks. I was super excited about a side dish of udon noodles with peanut sauce and it came out all wrong, the sauce was too thin and I have no idea why.

And then there was the paella debacle.

Plated has a minimum of 4 plates (or servings) a week but I was tired of cooking two different meals and instead just decided to get all 4 plates of the same meal and cook it all at once. A chorizo paella seemed like a great option for leftovers so I got all my prep ready, got started and…

Uncooked Rice

When it was time for my rice to be done, it still looked like that. It was bomba rice, which I’d never used before, and according to the directions it should’ve cooked in 17 minutes. It didn’t. I let it go to 30. No change. I started scouring the internet to see if other Plated users were having the same problem, but it was early in the week and I could only find a couple people who’d made it and theirs seemed fine. I tweeted, but as it was outside business hours I didn’t get a response. So I started googling. 

My recipe told me to cook the rice on Low heat. (I still have it so I know for sure.) The internet? Said cook on Medium High. So I did and FINALLY I had rice. Of course, it was nearly 10 pm because I’d waited until the kids were in bed to cook and I’d spent some serious time waiting for the rice to cook and then figuring out how to cook it and then ACTUALLY cooking it. So I wasn’t exactly happy. Was it delicious? Yes, though the chicken in the dish was unnecessary and there was far too little chorizo, just some tiny pieces. 


You can order Plated plates a la carte whenever you want. Membership is $10 per month and will cut down the price of a plate by $3 to $4, depending on how many you get per week. Plates with membership are $12 per plate for 4 plates a week and $10 per plate for 6 plates a week. So as a member you can get 16 plates (aka 8 meals for 2 or 16 meals for 1) for $202 a month. Or you can get 24 plates for $250. Obviously going for the 6 plate option is the better deal. If you usually find yourself with a budget of about $800 to 1000 a month for food, this would fit just fine into your current budget, especially if it kept you from ordering in or going out and possibly spending a lot more than $10 per plate.

Update: Plated has thankfully done away with membership, which was kind of confusing and crazy when you wanted to take a week off from the service. Now it’s $12 per plate no matter how many plates you order, with free shipping if you get 6 plates or more. 

If you’re wondering how it’d go over with kids, I think you’d be surprised. A lot of family-friendly dishes, assuming you have not-too-picky eaters. Stuff kids may be skeptical about, but if you’ve got good eaters, I don’t see a big deal. 

Really, though, Plated’s target customer doesn’t seem to be a family but singles or couples with busy jobs. People who end up going out for dinner because they want good food and don’t have the time to prepare it. Though I think it should be a good option for families with working parents as well.

It’s also a great gift for your foodie friends, so you may want to keep it in mind come birthdays or housewarmings.

Plated is currently available nearly everywhere in the continental United States. You can order here.

Disclosure: I received a month-long membership and 4 free plates from Plated and Klout. I was not required to review their service.

Breakfast for Dinner at The Breakfast Club

Whether it’s an outing with girlfriends, a date with a new guy, or just another meal with the kids, breakfast food is a go-to. I love breakfast for any meal. I adore brunch. Breakfast for dinner is a big thumbs up. It’s the meal with the most sweet, the most savory, the most eggs, and the most coffee. 

The Breakfast Club is throwing three amazing Breakfast for Dinner nights, and to spread the word they kindly invited me over to try out their food.

So glad we had a pre-scheduled outing for brunch today. Thanks for hosting us, The Breakfast Club.

A photo posted by Jessica Woodbury (@jessicaesquire) on

The Breakfast Club is nestled in Brighton with a parking lot AND on-street parking nearby. We found a spot the day after the last big blizzard just fine, a true shock. Diner style digs with big booths and a bar greet you, along with plenty of 80’s memorabilia.

I brought the kids along since they are up for pancakes everyday. There’s no kids menu, but that didn’t matter. We ordered a short stack for them to split along with a fruit bowl and a muffin.

Eating out with kids often means ordering a fruit bowl. Nice to see one that looks so tasty. #hosted

A photo posted by Jessica Woodbury (@jessicaesquire) on

I admit, I use the fruit bowl as a measuring stick for any restaurant that offers one. It’s where you can tell who’s phoning it in and who’s trying. The Breakfast Club gave us a gorgeous fruit bowl that was nice and big, with a wide variety of fruit, and none of it looked old or sad. Nicely done. The pancakes in the short stack were bigger than the kids’ heads, which didn’t stop them from diving in. Syrup in squeeze bottles meant things were less messy than usual, too. Oh, and the muffin was served halved and toasted. 

Sorry vegetarians, but there's little I love more than a house-made corned beef hash. Swoon. #hosted

A photo posted by Jessica Woodbury (@jessicaesquire) on

As for me, I ordered the eggs over house-made corned beef hash. I adore corned beef hash and I’m lucky enough to live in a place that considers it a normal breakfast food. The downside is I’ve had a lot of mediocre hash. In fact, most of it doesn’t seem to have a hint of corned beef, there’s none of that bright tang in your mouth when you take a bite. But this hash? This hash was delightful. One of the best I’ve had in ages. The sourdough toast was wonderful and well-buttered. The breakfast potatoes were a little boring, but I honestly didn’t mind. 

The best part, to me, is that the prices were actually lower than what you find most places around town. All omelets and breakfast plates are under $10, and the cups of coffee are bottomless. They’re open until 2 a.m. so I know where I’ll be getting my next late-night fix.

If you’re a fellow hash fan, the first of The Breakfast Club’s three Breakfast For Dinner nights are for you. Monday March 2nd from 6-9 pm their St. Patrick’s Day Dinner has all kinds of cheeky Irish food in a four-course meal. It includes Lucky Charms parfaits, Bailey’s French Toast, and a riff on Corned Beef & Cabbage with their house-made hash. Finish it off with an Irish Coffee milkshake. Tickets are $35.They’re also offering Easter and Spring-themed dinners on the first Mondays in April and May, tickets at the same link.


The Perfect Fall Brunch

sponsored post imageIt’s no secret that I love brunch. And I love cocktails with brunch. But I tend to be kind of choosy about my brunch cocktails. I don’t want anything too strong or too heavy. Not too sweet either, but a little sweet and a little light is good. There’s a reason the mimosa is such a popular brunch drink. Bright, pleasant, bubbly, perfect.

The lovely folks over at St. Elder asked if I’d do a fall brunch and try out some of their favorite fall brunch cocktails. They did not have to twist my arm.

I teamed up with my partner-in-crime Kathy because she is wonderful and she bakes. Baking is definitely helpful.

Sourdough Pancakes with Apple Compote

Friends with sourdough starters are excellent. We knew we had some serious cocktail work to do so we started the meal off with these Sourdough Pancakes with Apple Compote so we’d have plenty of time for tasting. (And photographing.) Pancakes and compote give you plenty of opportunities to throw in seasonal flavors like cinnamon and nutmeg.

We decided to start off with the light and bubbliest cocktails and work our way up.

First up: the Classic Elder Shandy. 

Classic Elder Shandy

Classic Elder Shandy Cocktail

I do love cider, and the Elderflower liqueur gives it a nice herbal tinge that adds depth. Honestly, this is a great year-round cocktail. When do you not want a drink with apple-y sweetness, the scent of citrus, that’s nice and refreshing?

Next on the agenda, the Lemon Flower Spritz.

Lemon Flower Spritz Cocktail

Perhaps the best discovery of this cocktail adventure was Sipp. The Lemon soda was mild and herbal and added great flavors without too much sweetness. Worked so nicely with the prosecco and the elderflower. I want to mix that Sipp with everything. In Boston you can find Sipp at Savin Hill Specialties in Dorchester, Roche Bros in Quincy, and Deluca’s Market on Newbury Street. Live elsewhere? Check here. Or order online here

The Lemon Flower Spritzer was great for spritzer lovers, one of the favorites of the day, a more chic and sophisticated Mimosa. (Yes, there are ice cubes in it. Sorry about that. But I forgot to put the Prosecco and the Sipp in the fridge and I wanted a cold drink, darn it.) And can we just stop to appreciate the adorableness of baby Prosecco bottles? I want to cuddle them. (And then drink them.)

Then we moved into the slightly harder drinks. Pacing ourselves, as you do. Next was the Elder Rum Shandy. 

Elder Rum Shandy Cocktail

Another reason Kathy is handy? She’s the kind of person who already has nutmeg at her house and a new bottle of local rum. I am a sucker for cocktails with fresh grapefruit, I find that it brings something you don’t expect. We sampled this one twice, once before adding the cider and once after. It’s pretty great either way, one as a real DRINK and the other as a refreshing more brunchy drink. Another benefit of the “top with cider” approach to drinks is you can make it heavier or lighter depending on how much you add.

And lastly: the Honey Blossom Shandy.

Honey Blossom Shandy Cocktail

I don’t see many successful whiskey-based cocktails, but using the Hard Honey definitely brought a smoothing note to the sweeter mixers that helped them blend well with the whiskey. This would be a great one for the men who turn up their noses at more girly cocktails.

I’ve always been a fan of elderflower liqueur (I love to add it to my G&T’s) but these were definitely ways of using it I’d never thought of. The cocktails were mostly basic and simple without a need to buy a lot of random mixers. Using the cider was great, I love having cider in the house and it’s a great option for those who want it straight without the cocktails.

Any of these cocktails would be a great option for those hours of holiday food prep when everyone’s around and getting busy but you don’t want anything too hard so you can keep your wits about you near the stove. A great way to lighten up the day and get everyone in the spirit with some seasonal flavors. 

Thanks to St. Elder for putting together an amazing box of goodies and mixers to help put this post together. It was so much fun!

Chicken Verde Lettuce Wraps

sponsored post imageWhen Hood asked me to put together a recipe for a dinner entree using sour cream, I immediately said yes. Because apparently I have no idea how hard it is to make a recipe. Respect to all the food bloggers out there, you guys have a hard job. 

But I put in some time and effort and ended up making a tasty meal with a little Mexican flair that is mild enough for kids and super healthy. 

The star of my dish? TOMATILLOS!

Hood Sour Cream Meal Makeover 1

I love tomatillos, and an opportunity to give them some visibility was one I was happy to take. I do like salsa, but salsa verde made with tomatillos instead of tomatos is by far my favorite. It’s got a more citrusy tang and some sweetness that works well with creamy sour cream or cheese. (Yes, I am a sucker for Enchiladas Suizas.)

My original vision was to create a kind of street taco with a crema from tomatillos, avocados, and sour cream. But after a few tries I moved in a slightly different direction when my crema just didn’t get the right flavors or substance. Plus I found that a corn tortilla overwhelmed my mellow tomatillos.

I was thinking about salads and then it hit me: lettuce wraps. A healthy way to serve my dish plus an extra green ingredient to make a real “verde” dish.

This is a slow cooker meal, perfect for a working parent and super easy. Tomatillos were easy for me to find in the grocery store, even here in New England! If you have trouble just hit your local ethnic grocery. They’re also cheap (win!) and it’s a great time of year for tomatillos and avocados both. 

If you’ve never used tomatillos before, they come in a husk. Make sure you give them a once over before you buy. Like many veggies, smaller means more flavor. When you get them home, take off the husk and give them a good rinse since they tend to be a little sticky.

Hood Sour Cream Meal Makeover 2


Chicken Verde Lettuce Wraps

1 lb tomatillos, husked and rinsed thoroughly
2 cloves garlic
1 lb chicken breasts (or thighs)
2 white onions
1 bunch cilantro
3/4 c. chicken broth
3/4 c. sour cream
2 avocados
1 head butter lettuce
2 cobs fresh corn (optional)
Broil the tomatillos and garlic cloves (unpeeled) until slightly charred, turning once, about 5-10 minutes. Peel the garlic and halve the tomatillos.
Add chicken, tomatillos, garlic, chicken broth, and a few stalks of cilantro to slow cooker. Slice one onion and add. Cook on low for 7-8 hours.
Remove chicken and shred. Pour remaining contents of slow cooker into the blender. Mix, then set aside about half the liquid. To remaining liquid, add sour cream, cilantro to taste and 1 avocado, cut into large chunks. Stir until smooth. Add salt to taste. 
Combine chicken with half of the sauce, adding more bit by bit until it’s very moist.
Slice remaining avocado. Dice remaining onion. Add some chicken, avocado, onion, and corn to each lettuce leaf.
This also works as a chicken salad you could eat over lettuce or in a sandwich. It’s mellow, tasty, and delicious. You can use reduced fat sour cream to keep this dish more healthy, though it’s already solidly healthy and good for you. 
Thanks to Hood for inviting me to their Sour Cream Meal Makeover Cook-off! It was tons of fun and a great chance to pull out my cooking skills. I was compensated for my participation.

Crudite Creations Review

I get asked to review a lot of things and I honestly pass on most of them. For me to take on a review I have to feel that the odds are pretty good the thing will be useful and/or awesome. 

When Crudite Creations reached out, it was an easy sell because, well, this is what they make:

Image from Crudite Creations
Image from Crudite Creations

No, those aren’t flowers. They’re veggies. For me the only question was: would the actual delivery live up to the picture?

Move over, fruit arrangements, towers of cupcakes, artfully arranged candies. I fell for this concept hook, line, and sinker. The natural beautiful colors of veggies, a healthy and refreshing snack for your party, and a huge step up from the tray of veggie sticks that’s obligatory at so many gatherings.

So how did my delivery go? There was no way I could take on this tower myself so I had it brought to work where I shared in the bounty with my co-workers. The response when it came in the room? Awe.

Crudite Creations 1

Crudite 3

Crudite 2

Not only did it look gorgeous (those lilies? leeks with baby corns in the middle) but it also came with two dips: hummus and onion. They were obviously freshly made. The hummus was the perfect amount of lemony, light and smooth. The onion dip… well, I was really tempted to just eat it with a spoon and skip the veggies all together. It was AMAZING. 

Fresh, local ingredients. A local business based in Newton. Boston friends: this is a must for your future baby showers, wedding showers, company parties, etc. Pricing is similar to what you’d get for a fruit arrangement, but you’ll be supporting a local business, local foods, and healthy delicious eating by going with Crudite Creations instead. 

Thanks to Crudite Creations for providing this arrangement and dips.