March 17, 2018

Review: Dini Delivers

5 minute read

Lately, both my wife and I have been working long hours at our jobs; the health of our diets have suffered as a result. Although we have a few minutes each night to cook, we don’t have the time to run out to the market in the middle of the week, or to lavish time on a full-course meal. Whereas in years past I used to dictate the meal plan for the week and put two or three complex dishes into each weeks’ menu, that either my wife or I would simply make after arriving home from work, these days we scarcely even have time for that. We often just make pasta or chicken and call it a night.

What we’re really interested in is someone to curate a menu of nutritious meals which have culinary variety throughout the course of a week while staying simple enough to prepare on the night of consumption. Although I’m handy enough in the kitchen to attempt most recipes of moderate complexity (given enough time), my repertoire is a bit limited at the moment for crafting holistic and meal plans for my family; I certainly don’t think I could come up with anything interesting given the little time I have these days. Although programs like “Blue Apron” or conventional digital meal planner services seem ideal for our current lifestyle, they generally don’t or aren’t flexible enough to accommodate keeping kosher.

At a recent party, my wife and I were chatting with some friends from the neighborhood, and the subject of healthy dining came up. When we mentioned how our diets have suffered as of late, and that we’re really looking for a kosher meal planning system, our friends excitedly recommended the lifestyle blog of “Dini Delivers”. Dini Klein, a personal chef from Florida, began blogging several kosher “Sunday Meal Prep” recipes this past November, and it’s apparently become something of an open secret among busy kosher homemakers in the neighborhood. The concept of “Sunday Meal Prep”, which is a fairly generic American cooking concept, is to do all the coming weeks’ intensive meal preparation steps on Sundays, when most people have off from work, and then defer only the cooking of entrées until the night of consumption.

With nothing to lose and everything to gain, my wife and I set out this past Sunday to try out one of these “Sunday Meal Prep” recipes.

Review: Meal Prep #8

As it happened, Dini published another menu just last week: Meal Plan #8. We set out to try it; this constitutes an informal review of our experience preparing the meals, executing them, and our thoughts afterwards.

The entrées for Dini Delivers meal plan week 8.

Dini’s sumptuous looking entrées from her eighth meal plan.

The basic entrées are:

  • Maple-glazed salmon
  • Chimichurri steak
  • Vegetarian lobster
  • Quinoa bowl

Shopping for these recipes was only slightly more involved than usual; we didn’t konw where to find some of the sundry ingredients, and the staff at our local grocery chain are unhelpful when it comes to finding things. Over all, not too bad. (We skipped the radicchio and prepared the quinoa dish using kale instead.)

The preparation took me about two and a half hours on Sunday night; working through all the sweet potato and squash took about half an hour to cut up, and then about an hour to cook and clean up for. The vegetarian lobster took maybe twenty minutes to prepare, and the cucumber salad was also not too bad. It took a little longer than I imagined to prepare the marinades, though; I think I spent ten or twenty minutes puttering around looking for things and figuring out how to assemble them.

Where things really came together nicely was during the week. It was such a pleasure to get home on Monday and Tuesday and just bake some salmon or cook some steak, without having to worry about side dishes, salads, or the extended cleanup associated with cleaning flour and egg off walls and the floor. While I didn’t necessarily need the chimichurri for the steak, it was a nice touch that I would definitely not have the time to prepare after getting home from work.

The variety of dishes was definitely very nice, although I cared for some of the dishes (salmon, steak, quinoa) more than others (the lobster). At first I was expecting, perhaps unrealistically, synergies between every single item I prepared; sweet potatoes every day of the week, with absurdly clever twists. Maybe that’s because this was the eighth meal plan in the series, or simply that my expectations were unrealistic. I was nonetheless quite satisfied about how the sweet potatoes and squash appeared multiple times throughout the week without being overdone, rewarding the up-front time investment in their preparation. Similarly, I was pleased that the red onion worked for both the salad and the lobster, without leaving me with tons of leftover onion or having onion in every dish of the week.

The portions came out exactly as described; Dini describes these as being designed around a young family, and our experience bears that out in practice. With just my wife and I doing all the eating, we found that the dishes naturally had 4-5 portions each, leaving us a bit of leftovers for work the next day. (This is a bit of a virtuous cycle, because eating out at work tends to also be either cheap but empty calories or expensive proteinaceous foodstuffs.)

Overall, we were quite pleased with the meal plan, not just for the fact that it was provided free of charge online with helpful printouts, but that the meals tend to be healthy, varied, and with perfectly sized portions and time investments. We’ll probably be trying more of Dini’s meal plans over the coming weeks; if nothing else, they’re a great way for us to expand our repertoire.

© Jeff Rabinowitz, 2022