I have a thing for meal box kits. Hello Fresh, Every Plate, Gobble, Dinnerly…I’m working my way through them all and having a delicious time doing it. And while it definitely makes it convenient to already know what’s for dinner, there’s an added benefit I wasn’t expecting – my cooking has improved as I learn new tricks and techniques from each different box. I often find myself using these new cooking techniques on nights when I have to come up with dinner on my own, so I’m sharing my favorite tricks I’ve learned from cooking boxes.
Cooking Techniques Learned from Meal Box Kits
Roast All the Things
I don’t know how I’ve gone so long without knowing how easy it is to roast vegetables in the oven. It’s usually set around 400 degrees, depending on the vegetables, and takes 15-20 minutes. You just toss them with a bit of olive oil, then salt and pepper, and spread them on a baking sheet. After they’re done, you can toss them with another flavor, like parmesan, or lime zest. Sweet Potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, potatoes, carrots, onions and even green beans are all delicious roasted.
Separate the Whites from the Greens
A lot of these recipes come with green onions and the very first step is always to “chop the green onions and separate the whites from the greens.” This is something I’ve done for a long time, but I did learn a new use for the whites: They work well to give rice some flavor if you sauté them in butter before adding the water and rice to the same pot. And the greens are always a great topper for your meal or salad. I always cut them with enough of the bottom left to stick them in a little cup of water and grow them all over again. You can get more than one use out of each onion if the roots are still attached.
And if you are wondering about the green onion vs scallion debate, yes they are basically the same thing and you can use one or the other. I read one article that broke it down saying they were actually slightly different (one producing a bulb and one not), and another said only the names were different in different regions. The important thing is that they are interchangeable in any recipe. The one thing that similar, but is actually different, is chives! Those are not the same thing.
There’s More than One Kind of Couscous
Regular couscous is often mistaken for a grain, but it’s actually a form of pasta that’s made from a mixture of semolina and water and rolled in very tiny pieces. But there’s a bigger version! Israeli or pearl couscous is made from the same thing, but in larger more round pieces, which is where the name “pearl” comes from. It’s called Israeli couscous because it was invented in Israel and actually has a pretty interesting history! Some of the best couscous recipes I’ve found call for Israeli couscous, and it gives a totally different texture experience. You can spice it up and add things to it the same as regular couscous, but you can also add heartier ingredients like tomato sauce.
Don’t Squeeze, Zest!
If you want a bigger hit of citrus flavor, you want to zest the peel of the lemon or lime along with squeezing in a bit of juice. The zest can be mixed into rice, noodles or even tossed with your roasted veggies! It’s worth the extra step.
Meatballs are for More than Spaghetti
I have a pretty good meatball recipe I use, but I always make it when serving spaghetti. Hello Fresh has sent several dinners involving meatballs that are totally different. One of my favorites is Firecracker Pork Meatballs, served with ginger rice. So don’t get stuck in a rut with your meatballs. Experiment with using them as a main dish rather than a topping or side.
Little Things Make a Big Difference
Sometimes when making these meal box dinners, you may find yourself wondering if you really need to do all the little steps. The answer is no, you can totally skip the little stuff, but I don’t recommend it. It’s those little extra steps that really make a difference! I almost skipped a step last night on our burgers – making a garlic butter, brushing it on the bun and then toasting it. I am so glad I didn’t! It was pretty amazing, and I’m definitely going to add that little trick to my dinner repertoire.