In the Kitchen
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Terra Firma in my Kitchen

Some days, I need the book to cook for me.

There is a distinct difference between pouring over a stack of cookbooks and actually getting into the kitchen to make the stuff. I’m guilty of popcorn and wine meals, swinging through McDonald’s and topping whipped cream with granola for a picky toddler’s dinner.

Life with kids has rather taken me by surprise. A busy bustling home, while wonderful when brimming with well-fed children, can be downright demoralizing when one is hanging on your leg, one whining that she’s dying of hunger and the other moping about looking like death.

Then: Hi Honey, you’re home.

When East Coast based Terra’s Kitchen reached out to me to sample their newly launched Northwest branch of meal delivery, I wasn’t about to say no.

Terra’s Kitchen offers a sense of powerful kitchen accomplishment while providing relief to my dead-brain food planning. They deliver all the components for a healthy meal to your door in the cutest re-usable fridge box named, The Vessel.

The food for the NW branch is sourced locally and ships from California. Most of their packaging is recyclable and The Vessel is reused for future shipments. A subscription program is set to start in 2016, but for now, it’s available to order as needed.

To sign up, make sure they deliver to your area, select the date of delivery, then fill The Vessel at least 45 percent full — fill it 60 percent full and they wave the $10-15 shipping fee. The meals are priced per person ($11.99-$16.99), but packaged in meals of 2, so double that dollar amount for each meal you select.

Every dish has its own small containers with all necessary ingredients (other than basic pantry items), well-trimmed quality meats, fresh vegetables and, my favorite, allergy friendly sauces.

Not normally a fan of pre-made dressings or marinades, I was surprised how much I enjoyed shaking up the lemon ginger sauce, used as a quick marinade for the eggplant and a dressing with the lamb and orzo salad.

My daughter easily helped with the teriyaki chicken and pineapple kabobs. I don’t have a grill pan as specified, so I used a cast iron skillet. A pretty smokey endeavor indoors, the meal was good, but not as friendly to clean up as the others we sampled.

The two salads I tried were convenient to grab on the way out the door. Given my allergies, a pre-packaged meal is helpful when going out on errands. The kale salad mixed up nicely, but the French tuna salad was a bit of an odd mix and included potatoes that didn’t hold up well in their pre-cooked state.

Our dinners were delicious, but the lamb tasted the most “homemade” and was surprisingly the easiest — I made this while packing to go out of town, laughing that I was eating a gourmet meal of lamb loin while running about looking for various toiletries, Nintendo games and extra pairs of underwear. Not my norm, I assure you.

Terra’s Kitchen sends detailed recipes and only a few times did I find I had to come to the dish with much cooking foreknowledge — the asparagus needed to be trimmed. Don’t laugh, they’re so thorough with each meal prep and recipe card that you end up making a full-blown gourmet meal with the ease of boxed mac n’ cheese.

As my husband and I did a little number crunching, we concluded that although the price tag is a bit high per meal, Terra’s Kitchen is reasonably priced given all it can provide.

The pre-designed meals keep you from eating out on those desperate nights of exhaustion when you’ve not planned properly. If we were still both working full-time, with or without a family, we agreed that this meal solution would be a wonderful fit for around three meals per week, and it’s easy to add a side dish to make the meal go further.

While I enjoy cooking, being creative and modifying recipes from a beautiful pile of cookbooks, I also have a life that often runs me. It’s not really “too full” or “too busy” it just goes by so quickly that when I think I’ve gotten the day under control, dinner pops onto the scene and I find myself unprepared.

Terra’s Kitchen can fill that gap in meal planning — with a personal sous chef — and provide an option for home cooks like me who’d like to feed their family a homemade meal but with the ease of dining out.

Who should get this?
The perfect gift to a new mother, college student or to treat yourself to a regular night off. Any home cook who eats out 3+ times a week.

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