Saturday, January 10, 2015

Plated Review - Meal #1 (Asian Stir Fry Quinoa and Tofu Bowl with Clementine Upside Down Cakes for Dessert)

As evidenced from our experience with Blue Apron, we aren't really gourmet chefs! (And, yes, I am aware I promised to make acorn squash, but we have definitely determined these meals are best for weekends for us since we just don't have that kind of time during the week).

Plated works the same way as Blue Apron in many respects. You select your meals and they bring you the exact amount, as well as the recipes on big cards with the directions laid out fairly simply. There are also significant differences and I'm going to note the pros and cons I picked up on between both services at the end of this post.

Our first meal with Plated was Asian Stir Fry Quinoa Bowl with Tofu. We also ordered the desserts with this order and we had Clementine Upside Down Cake after we ate.

Everything was prepackaged in two bags (the cabbage and scallions were too big for the main bag), and it was all labeled both by what it was and which meal it belonged to in the event they were separated.

This required a great deal less prep time than our previous two meals - we started cooking about 20-30 minutes after doing an ingredient check and setting everything up. And that's with a debate on how best to mince ginger.

As far as the cooking for this meal, it was really easy. My husband has worked as a cook, but I am basically useless in the kitchen and I was able to contribute. I also found that this was a meal that could easily be made by one person.

All of the ingredients were fresh and full of flavor. And look at the adorable soy sauce containers!

By the time everything was in the wok for the stir fry, I couldn't wait to eat it. It smelled amazing! My husband was quite proud of his stir fry and wanted a picture in the wok, in case something happened between stove and plate.

We made something of a mess!
The meal came out great - everything tasted awesome and it was extremely filling. There were two servings, but you could easily feed a family with this if you added rice or something. Neither serving was tiny, either, as you can see below.

After we had eaten, I decided to be adventurous and attempt the dessert by myself. I can make two things in the kitchen - lasagna and desserts. Clementine Upside Down Cake was new, but I figured I had all the steps.

There weren't many ingredients and this actually took only a few minutes to prep. The cook time was 20 minutes in the oven, but the work was minimal. Even for someone like me!

My dough didn't pop up around the clementine like the one in the picture, but otherwise it came out perfect. It wasn't necessarily a favorite dessert, because it felt like it was missing something, but that was really more of a taste preference. I could actually see making these for a dinner party or holiday, though, because they're really easy and they are unique. With a little raspberry drizzle or blueberry syrup maybe, I think they'd be more flavorful.

I would definitely recommend Plated, because this was not only easy, but tasty.

A Pros/Cons Comparison of Blue Apron and Plated:

When it comes to cooking, everyone has their own preferences, so this is merely my experience. I like both services and I think they're worthwhile. I need to note, though, that I live in a fairly expensive area. I did a quick check online for the ingredients for this meal and the total at the grocery store would have been over $50. Yes, that would give me far more as far as volume, but it would also likely mean a lot of waste. If your cost of living isn't high, or you have time to shop on a budget, or you love cooking and will get a lot of use out of ingredients, this may not be the best solution for you. However, for the rest of us who hate the supermarket, and who don't have time to shop for an hour after work before cooking (especially when finding the right things and getting the recipe together is also a pain), I think it's definitely valuable. 

After trying each, I prefer Plated for several reasons. Here's why:

Plated Pros:

Less packaging - Each meal and dessert was in one bag (the stir fry was in two for size). Blue Apron sent us lots of plastic containers, which are recyclable, but still seem like waste. In addition, although Plated provides cards for recipes, they also provide them as PDFs on your account so you could download them to your phone and read them (not really saving packaging, as they send them anyway, but it's a nice perk). 

Much less prep - We have another recipe coming, which is butternut squash ravioli. The squash already came cubed. The ginger for this meal came already cut and the garlic already in cloves. With Blue Apron, we had to pull out the cloves ourselves. We ended up throwing away almost the entire bulb for only a few cloves. Although it may be fresher that way, I like that a lot of the work is already done, because we simply are not cooks. We'd like to be better at cooking, but it took us two hours to make soup. I also noticed that Plated doesn't assume much for what you have in terms of pots and pans and utensils. Everything can be made with a couple pans and/or baking sheets and really basic tools. Blue Apron had us looking for shredders and mincers and peelers and zesters. As I said, most of our meals come from a microwave!

Plan Flexibility - There's a lot more flexibility here. With both services, you can skip weeks and only order when you like the menu, but Plated allows you to pick one or two meals, rather than requiring you to select three. We almost ended up with a curry this week that neither of us really wanted, but once we realized we didn't have to order it, we took it off. I like that you really have more control, whereas if you order from Blue Apron, you must select three meals and if you're a vegetarian, there are only three options. So you're eating all three (or at least being sent ingredients). You can also order meals in multiples of two so you can order for a family or if you're having guests, which is nice. With Blue Apron, you get either the two or you order from the family plan. 

Desserts - I actually really like cooking desserts and I like this additional treat. We didn't have to have it with a meal, but we chose to. However, you could eat the meals and save the desserts for nights when you're having something small like a salad at home or something. They're also optional, of course. 

Blue Apron Pros:

Portions - Plated's portions were plenty filling for us, but Blue Apron sends enough for a whole family. If you're looking for leftovers from your efforts, Blue Apron is more likely to provide that. 

Everything is provided - They literally expect you to have nothing but water, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Plated has a few that ask for an egg or vegetable oil, which is still something easy to track down, but if you don't have an egg, it can mean a trip to the store (which you are trying to avoid). 

More adventure - The meals are definitely more adventurous from Blue Apron, although not by a huge margin. But Plated's food is more like the kind of meal you would normally order at a restaurant or get for takeout - stir fry and pasta and even pizzas. Blue Apron is going to give you more variety as a cook and allow you to test your skills. If you're looking for new and creative recipes, they're more in line with that than Plated is. They also have a quick review process in their system where you can rate the meals you've tried. 

Cost - Blue Apron is much cheaper. It cost us around $60 for both deliveries, but we got three meals from Blue Apron (with plenty for leftovers), while we got two from Plated as well as two desserts. It's not a major difference, but it can add up. 

In the end, though, I've only tried each for one week, but Plated gets the win for me. It really comes down to food, too. I like tofu stir fry and butternut squash ravioli a lot more than pasta e fagioli and warm farro salad. Like I said, Plated is not really pushing your taste buds to have an adventure. They are merely trying to simplify your life and for people like us who don't have a chance to sit down for dinner until after 7 pm, the extra time grocery shopping or being too fancy isn't really in the cards. Plated (and really any of these services) provides us something that cuts back on time and gives us more time to spend together cooking and having dinner, enjoying each other's company, and that's a definite value. 


  1. Really great review! :) It's super detailed! Thanks for sharing your experience. I also ordered a box from Plated last year, and they've changed quite a little bit. They didn't have dessert before. They also didn't have 9 recipes to choose every week. It was just 6 recipes. I read in the news that they also have a physical presence now. They're really expanding.

    I ordered a box for the week of 1/20. I didn't find any desserts in their options. Where did you find yours?

    1. The desserts are apparently part of a secret club! Haha. You have to order the meals, then go to your basket and you will see a gray button that says "add on items." If you select this, you will see the remaining meals you didn't pick and two desserts. They seem to offer the same two for about two weeks. One had bacon in it, so that was a no for us, but I'm sure a lot of people will be all over bacon in dessert!

    2. Oh and you can't order dessert without at least meal. I tried. :) I was looking at 2/06 and I don't know if I want to do two weeks in a row, but they had chocolate molten cake, so I am debating. It's probably good they won't send dessert without dinner - I apparently still need someone to tell me to eat my vegetables first!