What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
As a vegan, I am always excited to try new foods. Sometimes when I say this, people look at me funny. "What do you mean, try new food?" a friend asked me once while we shared drinks (yes, vegan beer, wine, and liquors exist!) and snacks at a local dive bar (french fries, thankfully, are vegan). "Don't you just eat like, vegetables and fruit and... water?"
And the answer is: sort of. Being vegan, I eat a lot of plant-based food, which means I do eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (and, to be fair, water). Some people choose to be raw vegans (I am not, and in fact I discussed my issues with this lifestyle here) and some people choose to be plant-based vegans, which means they avoid processed foods, like seitan and tofu. Personally, I love a faux fried chicken sandwich almost as much as I love my grandmother, so I do not maintain that lifestyle.
When I came across The Purple Carrot, however, I was really intrigued. They are a whole foods, vegan company who provide natural, plant-based food and recipes to customers on a weekly basis. You select two meals (each designed to feed a family of four) for delivery per week, and receive a complimentary snack (typically a dessert) as well. The meals are delivered straight to your door (you have a window of several days to choose the arrival of your delivery, which is nice for planning purposes) and the items are separated and labeled based on recipe. Everything is portioned already, but you do need basic kitchen equipment: cutting knives, pots, pants, etc. Nothing too fancy, but it’s definitely not the delivery service for you if you’re limited to a stovetop or microwave.
The Purple Carrot is a vegan company, but vegans aren't their only demographic: they want to be provide flavorful, filling, and creative meals to anyone interested in incorporating nutritious and cruelty-free meals into their diets, vegan or not. I also like that they strive to provide organic and local ingredients “whenever possible” because I make an effort to buy local, especially when it comes to produce. I will say that all of the ingredients were super fresh, which I had been a little worried about, given that it is a delivery service, but nothing was remotely wilted or sour!
The Purple Carrot was kind enough to send me a free week of their meals for the purpose of this review, so the cost for me was $0. However, for the purpose of clarity, had I paid for the two meals and snack myself, it would have cost $59 (including delivery).
As a vegan, I have to push myself to stay engaged with what I'm eating. It would be really easy to eat black beans and brown rice every day, but that’s also terribly boring (and lacking in nutrients!) so I don’t let myself get lazy with my food options. I enjoy trying new restaurants and cafes, but my wife and I are also on a food budget, so we do a lot of cooking and baking at home. Luckily for us, we both enjoy it: I like to see eating as a process. From choosing a recipe, to gathering the ingredients, to preparing the food, and of course, eating it, I think it’s a fun and low-key way to engage my mind and make me aware of what I’m putting in my body. When my wife and I come home from work, we find cooking relaxing, too, as it gives us a chance to unwind and talk about our respective days.
Here is where I'm going to give a disclaimer about The Purple Carrot (and truly, cooking in general). These meals are simple, the recipes are straightforward, and they take under an hour to prepare. But if you are the type of person who considers "cooking" heating a frozen pizza in the microwave or having a bowl of cereal and milk for dinner, these recipes will require more of your time and attention. A lot more. And for me -- someone who enjoys cooking and being involved in the food I'm making and eating -- that's a great thing. But if you work long days or are ones of those "I burn boiling water" people, these meals may not be for you. (If you are one of those people, and you want a filling and relatively cheap vegan meal, get thee to a Chipotle. I promise you won’t be disappointed.)
For the purpose of this review, I followed the recipes exactly. I chose two meals: the Feel Good Mac and Cheese and the Kale Macro Bowl. Because we're only two people and The Purple Carrot meals are portioned for four people each, we decided to prep the meals in their entirety and put half in Tupperware for meals the next day. My complimentary dessert was the Peanut Butter Freezer Fudge, and while it was delicious, mine came out hideously unphotogenic (probably because I was too excited to eat it to take a quality photograph). And while the Kale Macro Bowl was flavorful and filling, I figured you guys would be more interested in the step by step of the macaroni and cheese, so I have some pictures (and opinions!) below.
I really enjoyed this dish. I'm not going to lie, when my wife and I started cooking, we had a back-up plan (nachos with homemade salsa and guacamole) if we were still hungry later. But this dish was filling! And it tasted really, really good.
The really nice thing about the recipes put together by The Purple Carrot (and plant-based meals in general, if done correctly) is that all of the ingredients work in tandem not only to taste good, but also to meet your nutritional needs. The broccoli is a great source of vitamins C, K, A, folate, and potassium. The fiber and high water content of the sweet potatoes combined and the protein, fiber, and B-vitamins packed into the nutritional yeast in the "cheese" sauce made the dish feel rich and hearty. And of course, the pasta is filling and nostalgic.
Does it taste like macaroni and cheese, you ask?
My wife's answer: no. It tastes like a really good sweet potato pasta dish, but not the macaroni and cheese I grew up on. I think it could make a really great casserole, though, especially after the sauce has congealed a bit. I’d probably use some breadcrumbs, nutritional yeast, and shredded dairy-free cheese on top to make it crispy.
My answer: it tastes better than macaroni and cheese. For me, I was never in love with the "classic" Velveeta cheesiness, so I don't miss it at all. The combination of miso and mustard powder gives this dish a really nice cheese flavor, but I will admit, it is subtle. To heighten the cheesiness, I would slightly modify the recipe to include more nutritional yeast (vegans love nutritional yeast because it makes things taste cheesier, trust) and probably cut down on the parsley. I’m also a big fan of Earth Balance vegan butter so I’d probably cook with that, too, to make the sauce creamier.
Would we order from The Purple Carrot again? Absolutely. For people who love trying new recipes and enjoy cooking, this service is really cool. The ordering and delivery processes are both simple, and the pricing is set no matter which dishes you choose. For weeks when we don’t necessarily want to place an order, we’ll be looking at their website, as they actually post (and archive) all of their recipes online, for free! Which I think is a really cool business model.
What do you all think? Would you give some of these vegan meals a try? What do you think of meal delivery services in general?