My review of Mark Bittman’s Fast Pho meal kit available on Peapod: delicious convenience at the touch of a button!

Two jobs, two kids, one hungry husband, one overworked grandma – and the problem remains: What’s for dinner? I wish I had a good answer every time my family asked this question, but truth is… I do not! There are so many household chores to do, so many errands to run, so many people to take care of – which means that cooking dinner tends to become an afterthought these days, when it really shouldn’t.

Enter renowned food writer Mark Bittman and his latest cookbook, Dinner for Everyone: 100 Iconic Dishes Made Three Ways. Bittman wants cooking dinner at home to make his readers happy, and his book provides foolproof recipes for “encouragement and inspiration on even the toughest days.” To mark the launch of Bittman’s latest work, online grocer Peapod has created a meal kit based off of one of Bittman’s favorite recipes from Dinner for Everyone. I was asked to review the kit as well as to make additional recipes by shopping online for the ingredients – and what a time-saving experience this has been! It takes a village to raise a child – and it takes a well-stocked online grocery store to keep a stressed out mom on top of things ☺

Mark Bittman holds a special place in my heart – not only because he is the kind of food writer I aspire to be, but also because one of his grandparents was from the country of my birth, Romania. While reading Bittman’s newspaper column on Romanian garlic steak (“Fleica”) I fondly remembered the way my mom used to cook fleica – with plenty of garlic, indeed! Back in those days garlic was abundant while meat was poor quality and in short supply, so using a lot of garlic might actually have been done so as to mask the scarcity and flavorlessness of the meat. But I digress 🙂

As with his previous cookbooks, Bittman’s latest offering, Dinner for Everyone, is a culinary tour de force, during which he tackles a multitude of cuisines with masterful confidence, and exhibits a respectful understanding of dishes and techniques. A challenging and exciting concept at the same time, Dinner for Everyone offers classic dinnertime dishes spun in three unique ways: easy, vegan, and all-out for entertaining.

Watching a virtuoso perform – that’s the image I got in my mind again and again, while reading the recipes in this cookbook. I naturally gravitated towards the “easy” recipes, but I also greatly appreciated their vegan and “perfect for entertaining” counterparts just a couple of pages away. The question then became: How successful are these recipes when you actually make them? To find out, I turned to Peapod.

As the country’s leading Internet grocer, Peapod is a familiar brand to those who appreciate convenience and reliability. Peapod was founded by brothers Andrew and Thomas Parkinson in 1989 in Evanston, Illinois as a shopping solution for busy families, and has delivered more than 40 million grocery orders since its founding. Over the years Peapod has collaborated with various food experts to offer its customers meal kits that are convenient and easy to cook, and their recent work with Mark Bittman on the Fast Pho meal kit, based off a recipe from Dinner for Everyone, is a case in point. There is a special page on the Peapod website (you must enter your zip code first) which sheds light on Mark Bittman’s latest cookbook and his cooking philosophy, as well as providing a link to order the Fast Pho meal kit and links to two additional recipes from Dinner for Everyone.

For this review I placed several orders to see how well Peapod fared in terms of freshness of ingredients, availability of items, and last but not least convenience. The website was very easy to navigate, and I came across the Fast Pho meal kit on the special Mark Bittman page and on a dedicated meal kit section.

Ordering the meal kit I wanted was painless and straightforward. I scheduled next day delivery and initially was provided with a rather broad estimated delivery window (7:30am-1pm). In the end, the window got smaller (8am-10am), and the actual delivery occurred right at the start of the delivery window, around 8 o’clock in the morning, which made me very happy.

The Fast Pho meal kit contained pre-washed, pre-measured and pre-cut fresh ingredients as well as pasta, fish sauce and spices – in a nutshell, everything I needed to make Mark Bittman’s recipe without having to chase the various components of the dish at stores throughout Chicagoland. So convenient!

I was impressed with the quality and freshness of the ingredients in the kit, from the delicate marbled meat…

…to the perfectly sliced ginger…

… and ending with the gorgeous ruby fresno chili peppers. It just couldn’t get any fresher than that!

Meanwhile, the instructions exhibited common sense and were accurate and easy to understand.

I paid particular attention to the cooking of the meat because I feared overcooking it.

I followed Mark Bittman’s instructions to the letter, and the meat turned out perfectly!

The Chinese five spice powder was very fragrant…

… and cooked easily when following the instructions.

I added water, ginger and teabags…

… and then let the stock steep, as per the instructions.

Once the meat rested, I asked mom to cut it as thinly as possible.

Thank you, mom! 🙂

I added the fish sauce to the stock and returned the latter to a gentle boil. Then, I added the pasta…

… as well as sliced sweet onion…

… and sliced meat. I turned off the heat immediately to avoid overcooking the meat. The pho was very hot!

Here’s a picture of the final dish, with the added fresh veggies providing extra layers of flavor, texture and color. Our sophisticated Vietnamese dinner was ready in only 30 minutes, it was tasty, and so convenient!

I made several other dishes from Mark Bittman’s cookbook, including the Brown Butter Salmon with Tomatoes and Capers also featured on the Peapod website. The pictures in the book and on the site looked so gorgeous and the dish was so close to our usual way of prepping fish, that I just had to make this!

The wild salmon I ordered from Peapod was creamy and super tender, while the robinio tomatoes were gentle in their provision of acidic sweetness. And of course, everything tasted better due to the butter 😉

Perfect dish for dining al fresco!

For protein variation, I also made and photographed Mark Bittman’s Drumstick Cacciatore dish.

I instantly became a fan of Peapod’s Nature’s Promise chicken drumsticks, which come from chickens raised humanely on an all-vegetarian, non GMO and antibiotic free diet.

Success, again! Can you believe this whole bowl of chicken cacciatore goodness was gone in one sitting? DH and our daughter were fighting over it – (almost) literally, lol

I had a great time shopping online on Peapod and trying out recipes from Mark Bittman’s latest cookbook. As a busy parent, I appreciated Peapod’s straightforwardness, convenience and reliability. Ordering online was hassle-free and required no membership fee, and the system was flexible in terms of scheduling deliveries (the delivery fee ranges from $6.95-$9.95, but you can take advantage of special delivery window savings). The groceries were brought right to my door, they were high quality, and were put to good use in Bittman’s delicious recipes. The Fast Pho meal kit in particular was a work of wonder and a genuine time-saver, magically providing already prepped up ingredients for quick cooking and flavor-intense results.

Use code PANINI20 when shopping on Peapod to get $20 off your $75 order as well as 60 days of free delivery – and let me know what you think 🙂

*Disclaimer: While I received two Peapod gift cards to facilitate this review, all opinions expressed here are my own.


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