We represent the College Tranistion Academy through the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind. The College Transition Academy is comprised of students ranging from juniors in high school to college sophomores. The purpose of the CTA is to help us to gain skills that will prepare us for adult life. The class meets over Zoom once per week, and each week the instructors discuss a different topic of the Expanded Core Curriculum.
As a final project, we have researched various meal kit services and selected one to test out for a month! From there, we will use our cooking experiences to create a virtual, accessible Cook Book that will hopefully help other blind and visually impaired individuals to gain confidence in the kitchen! We are so excited to share our cooking adventures with all of you!
The meal kit delivery service I decided to try out is Hellofresh. I’ve heard so many good things about this company that I just had to see what they were all about. Plus, it has been said that they are self-proclaimed “Americas #1 Meal Kit”. This leads me to think, “Is this all hype? Are they really that good since they call themselves #1?” That is a pretty bold proclamation if you ask me. This intrigued me even more.
My first meal kit came on Friday May 1st. One of the first things that surprised me off the bat is how fast the meal kit came. Granted, I had never used a meal kit delivery service before, and maybe this was a norm for all or most meal kit delivery services. But nevertheless, I was content. Hello Fresh also has an app that you can use to choose your meals, or you can use the website. In my opinion, the app is a better way to browse for your weekly meals. It’s compatible with a screen reader or magnification software.
My meal comes with three meals that is enough for two people. As I mentioned in my previous introductory post, I’m not too great at cooking since often when I was younger, I had hurt myself multiple times when I helped with cooking. Now, I learned I shouldn’t be afraid to get burned or hurt, because it’s probably going to happen sometime, and we should take appropriate measures to make sure that doesn’t happen every time you cook. In addition, cooking is a super important skill all people should have. Each of the three meals is separated into its own bag with the ingredients in it. My favorite meal from the first box I received is the Beef Bulgogi Bowl. I love Korean food, so I was genuinely excited to make this! The wet and dry ingredients are already measured out for me. The produce and meat, however, were not cut and prepped, which disappointed me a little bit, mostly because my knife skills were lacking, but it was a good learning experience for me because I got to practice my knife skills. Something that overwhelmed me was the amount of ingredients needed for each recipe, there were so many! At least 10 or more ingredients in each recipe. But what made up for this was the recipe was relatively easy to follow and made this mass of ingredients not as intimidating to someone with little cooking experience. The printout of the recipe was too small for me to read, so I used one of my favorite apps on my phone seeing AI to make this recipe accessible for me. I used the app to scan the recipe and read it aloud to me as I followed the steps. That’s just one of the many ways you can make a recipe accessible for yourself. The hardest thing for me in making the Beef Bulgogi Bowl was the chopping, my slices of carrots and cucumber weren’t the prettiest, but I’m pretty happy with how the whole meal came out at the end. Not to mention it was delicious!
The meal kit service that I got is Hello Fresh. I really like Hello Fresh. It is pretty accessible to use. The easiest thing I have to do for HelloFresh is putting the food in the dish where I just have to pour them in the dish. The hardest part about HelloFresh is making the meat. I cannot see meat very well. It’s so hard to see when it is done all of the way. The easiest meal I have made so far was a ravioli dish with cream. The hardest meal I have made was the meatloaf. I had a hard time making sure that the meatloaves were equal in size and making sure the meatloaves were done. My favorite meal I made was the mustard soy salmon. I am not a huge fan of salmon, but this meal was sooooooo good. My least favorite meal I have made was the pork stir fry. It did not taste too good to me. It also was one of the hardest meals because I burnt my rice.
I chose to try out the “Dinnerly” meal kit service. When researching the different meal kits available, Dinnerly really caught my attention with their recipes! They have an extensive variety. They also indicate the difficulty of the recipe as well as how long it typically takes to make so that you have an idea of what to expect. I also liked that Dinnerly is all virtual- the recipe cards can be accessed via their website as well as through their app. For me, this was a huge highlight. Having it available in this medium meant that I would be able to try it out with some assistive tech if I needed and would be able to see if it could be supported in that way. I also was really intrigued by Dinnerly’s prices. It was the least expensive of all the other meal kits I researched so I was curious to see if the quality was good given the prices!
The way Dinnerly and most meal kit delivery services work is that you sign up for the number of servings and recipes you want for each week. For our project, we are doing three recipes per week that serve two people. Once you have your preferences set, each week you go online and pick what recipes you want to cook that week. You have a certain allotted time to edit your choices. If you don’t pick your choices by the end of that time, Dinnerly will make selections for you and just sent those. Dinnerly will then send you your ingredients! In each recipe card, it also tells you what ingredients are being sent, and what ingredients you need to provide for yourself. Most of the time, the ingredients you need to provide are the “kitchen staples” like salt, sugar, etc. I appreciate that they indicate that so you know what you will need before you select your recipes! It makes it easier to plan. If you follow along on the Dinnerly app, you receive updates as to when your box has shipped, when it should arrive, etc. Before I even started cooking, I was happy with my Dinnerly experience! It only made me that much more excited to get my first box and to get cooking!
When picking my first week’s recipes, I decided to think about areas of cooking that I wanted to improve upon. As I looked through the options for the week, I saw a recipe for a delicious sounding stuffed cheeseburger and thought, “Why not try to tackle the grill?”. The stuffed cheeseburger was paired with a side of roasted garlic potato fries which sounded like the perfect backyard BBQ to me!
This was definitely the hardest meal for me to make this week because of the grilling aspect. I have little experience with the grill, but I was excited to try! Forming, seasoning, and stuffing the patties with cheese was easy. From there it was time to move to the grill. To help orient me to the grill, I used my spatula. I reached out with it to find where the edge of the grill was and found a marker on the grill itself to help me keep track of where my patty would be. I then placed my patties in that spot. I recommend this to anyone trying to use the grill. Most grills have a top wrack for things like toasting bread, etc. This could also work as a marker if you put your patty underneath that. Now that my patties were cooking, it was time to flip them. This made me very nervous, but I was able to navigate it! The first one was a bit of a fail. I finally got it flipped but it took several tries. The second one I did in one go! It definitely helped to have practiced the motion. In the future, I would want to practice flipping with something else off of the grill in order to get the feeling back into my body and muscle memory. I also did some research after this cooking attempt and looked into double sided tongs. This tool makes it easier to hold the item you are trying to flip. I think I am going to get myself some to test out! All in all, I was happy with how this meal turned out!
My other meals were a pulled pork mac and cheese and a Tex-Mex meatloaf with mashed potatoes and roasted broccoli. My favorite meal was definitely the mac and cheese! It was a great recipe, easy to make, and I can’t wait to try it again! The meatloaf was my least favorite. I would have liked for the meat to have more flavor than the recipe called for, but I think if I was to add some seasoning and also make a little more of the Tex-Mex gravy, it would have solved that problem.
This first week of the cooking project also taught me a lot about organization within the kitchen. While making the burgers, I did feel a little disorganized. I was trying to just use the app on my phone visually to read the recipe, then would put my phone down to carry out a step and would lose my phone in the process (just forget where I put it). I knew that I had to find a better way to access my recipe. When I made my next meal, the mac and cheese, I tried to be better about having my ingredients ready and decided to use Voiceover to access my recipe from my phone. This wasn’t the most functional for me. I am typically a large print reader and do not use Voiceover very much. Between trying to remember the commands and losing my phone in the kitchen, it was more challenging than helpful. So, I tried a third option. When I made the meatloaf, I pulled the recipe up on my computer. This allowed me to use ZoomText to enlarge the recipe as well as gave me the option to have it read out loud. Having it on my computer really helped to orient me to my kitchen space. I found a space out of the way from my prep station for my computer to be set up. It was a space that was close enough that I didn’t have to walk out of the room but far enough that the computer wouldn’t get damaged. As I was cooking, I was able to just look at the large screen and not feel like I was totally taken out of what I was doing. This was very effective for me. Now that I know this is an accessible way that works for me, I am excited for my next box to come so I can keep cooking!!
I had a great time on this week because I got to cook my first hello-fresh meal box. So, before we started to make our choices, we did a research. I find out that hello-fresh works great with accessibility, asked my technology teacher Quintin, he said is great, he tell me that you can look the recipe on the app, that is good, because I don’t have to struggled with how to read the instruction on the box. He even told me they build a timer in there, that is good. So, I thought, I want to try it, maybe it even can help me with my college life. So, I started with my “Hello-fresh week 1”.
The box finally came on Friday May 1st, it’s bigger than I thought. They organized it really good, there are 3 meals in there, all the produce and sauce for that meal is in 1 bag, and meat is separated, it’s not too hard to figure out what is in there.
You can find the recipe on the app; just click that dish you want to cook. At the bottom, there is a Start Cook button, and then there will be the recipe and its separated by steps, after I finished the step, click next step, and every step they have a timer if necessary. I think is great, I can use my phone or my braille-note to read the recipe, personal like braille-note. Figure out what sauce is inside is not too hard, but I have to know what meal I am cooking, I used an app called lookout. After that, I just check the ingredients on the recipe, and find out what is inside the bag. I opened some sauces and smelled to find out what sauce are they, that is the fastest way I found, or you can read the label with an app.
My favorite dish to cook is beef Bulgogi bowl. It’s a Korean dish, Asian cucumber, tender carrot, and hamburger meat served with rice. It’s really success, except I burned the rice. “Remember, if you started rice first, put it in simmer, so that your rice does not going to burn, remember remember”. I burned my rice, so glad that we have extra rice in my house. Meat is a really big challenge in that dish, I dropped few in my stove, when doing meat, please extra careful, I used fork to get them out of my stove, and wash the stove immediate, so not germs stay there. I love that they measured some of material for me, that cute little vinegar bottle. Pilling cucumber is easier than I thought. I had a great time with that meal, it smelled so good, little sweet.
My first box cooking is great, even that I burned my rice, extra is always good. I did way better than I thought, because before I get the box, I thought hope I didn’t burned the house. But I did really good, not totally independent, but most part. After that box, I find out I love cooking, even that I cannot see!
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