Three Nights with Blue Apron

{by alexis}–I would not say that cooking is my strong suit, but I am definitely not afraid of trying new things. Last week, a good friend hooked up me up with a free trial of Blue Apron (thanks, B!), and I’d figure I share with you my impressions, and of course a few pictures.

Blue Apron is a service that ships the ingredients and directions for three meals for two people. The cost is $60/week. So, that’s 6 meals a week for $60, and works out to $10/dinner per person. It seems like a lot, when you consider that you’re doing all the work, but I easily spend more than $60 a week at the grocery store planning for three meals. Yes, I realize — you have more ingredients left over than the Blue Apron ingredients, which are pre-measured. The meals are low-ish in calories, and are more than enough for the two people they aim to feed.

We came home on Saturday afternoon and found a great big box on the doorstep. Unpacking it was a bit of a pain, there’s a TON of stuff inside, but they label everything so clearly that you don’t have to wonder what goes with what recipe.

They suggest you cook the fish or shellfish recipes first, so I started with the salmon. Here’s the recipe card that you use to prepare your meal.

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I was not excited about the salmon dish. I will attempt to eat almost ANYTHING (I’ve got nine million pictures from Italy that prove this), but seafood doesn’t really ring my bell. Unless it’s fried. Plus, this thing came with a giant bulb of fennel. You guys, fennel is like licorice, which usually makes me want to jump out a window. But! I am trying new things! I laid out all of my ingredients.

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Look at those beautiful potatoes! They are all the colors. I wasn’t the only one in the house interested in how this would go. Indiana Bones REALLY wanted to help.

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You guys, he was CRYING at these ingredients, he wanted them so badly. So anyway. I got cooking. The directions were really easy to follow: I prepared the fennel properly for once in my life, and sliced it into tiny slivers. I was terrified of the salmon, but I dove in. Guess what? It came out beautifully!

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Does this not look like something that came out of some fancy chef’s kitchen in some big city? IT DIDN’T. I MADE IT. Look at that crispy salmon! That artfully plated fennel, and those colorful potatoes! Honestly, this dish is gorgeous. Definitely the most the most visibly appealing, it was also the easiest. And, to my surprise, the fennel was the bomb. It was crisp, light, and not overwhelming. The potatoes were cooked through, and the whole grain mustard was just right. This was a total and complete success.

The next dish was beef-and-rice stuffed poblano peppers. I wasn’t excited about preparing the rice. It takes forever to cook, and I always do it wrong. It comes out crunchy, despite my best efforts. I was excited about these deep green peppers, though.

blue apronAnd that Mexican Crema! What is that?! And pepitas? Currants? What was I making!

I got to cooking again. For some reason, this time the rice was easy. It took exactly as long as it said it would, and even without other flavoring it was super good. And look at that big garlic bulb. I have only recently discovered fresh garlic. It’s kind of a bummer to peel, but once you do, the fragrance is like magic. Maybe I don’t wash my hands as thoroughly as I should (JUST KIDDING MOM), but that garlic scent hangs out on my fingertips for like, a day, and I LOVE IT. More garlic, please.

I don’t think I roasted the peppers properly, but they were hot as all hades when I got them out of the oven. Slicing and emptying the inside was a nuisance. Once I mixed all the filling together with the rice and the meat, though, I was in love. The currants and pepitas (I have learned that these are delicious crunchy things) were so unexpected in the filling. The crunch and sweetness added another level of taste to my cooking. That’s one thing I really did love about Blue Apron — I would NEVER have thought to throw dried fruit in a dish like this (because fruit, gross), but it was so right, and so different! Look! I’m expanding my cooking horizons! (Not my eating horizons though; those are pretty well expanded.)

This dish was NOT the most beautiful. Heaps of beef don’t exactly photograph artistically, so sorry. But I know you want to see!

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That Mexican crema was mixed together with lime juice to make a tangy sort of sour cream. I love peppers, but these were kind of bland. The crunch was a happy addition, but they didn’t provide much in the way of flavor. Though good, this was probably our least favorite of the three meals.

The third night was chicken sate with peanut sauce and green tomato salad. YOU READ THAT RIGHT. Green tomatoes. Look at this delightful crop of ingredients.

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Those are not green apples, you guys, those are TOMATOES. Firm, tart, and basically put on this earth to bring me joy. And that peanut butter was straight out of Whole Foods, I swear. High quality butter here, folks. This recipe also called for (and came with) a few sprigs of cilantro, which I ignored because cilantro is over-rated. Yeah, you heard me.

The rice was similarly simple for this recipe, though I preferred the other’s basmati rice due to the flavor. The worst part about this one was threading strips of raw chicken onto wooden skewers. Raw poultry kind of skeeves me out (meaning I’m very helpful at Thanksgiving), but I powered through. The other tough part was that, because you can’t really thread them uniformly, they don’t sit in the pan evenly, and they didn’t cook as evenly as I would have liked. I probably overdid them because I was afraid of poisoning my husband, who is generally not a fan of salmonella.

I marinated and seasoned the green tomatoes, and sliced up pungent red onions as part of the salad. The salad was actually not my favorite part. The best part about green tomatoes is their firmness, which is why we fry them: they hold up so well to the batter and the oil. Without that preparation, they were actually kind of tough, though tart and WONDERFUL. Here’s the completed dish.

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A satisfying, and delightful dinner! The peanut butter dipping sauce was combined a few of those other pictured potions, and I served it in on the side.

Altogether, I liked the Blue Apron meals. They were just challenging enough: they helped me to cook new things in new ways, but they weren’t so hard I that I wanted to throw my wine glass at the stove. I don’t believe we would use this every week, but I can definitely appreciate the convenience of having my week’s groceries dropped at my door. Try it if you’re looking to learn something new, and eat well while you’re at it. It’s good stuff!

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