But then I chickened out. I’ve talked too much smack about meal services! I cook every damn day. It’s 24/7 gourmet in my house. I couldn’t sell out like that. (My inner monologue is really modest, huh?)
But then I got an e-mail offering a promotional code for $40 off. Which means I’d get the first week (3 meals for 2!) for $19.99. How was I supposed to resist that? Plus, I’d just gotten an influx of cash from my bridal shower and I figured that the brand new fancy flatware and new dishes deserved some thoughtful meals to go with them.
As I mentioned before, I’ve talked some smack about the concept of Blue Apron. Like, the notion that I wouldn’t already have basic healthy ingredients in my house is borderline insulting. But I can really see how, to someone who doesn’t share my rabid obsession for cooking, it is a really useful leg-up. The recipes are insanely easy to follow and meal-prep is pretty minimal. And they have a vegetarian meal-plan without being judge-y or charging extra (although let’s be real—vegetarian meals are way cheaper!)
Night One: Spicy Peperonata Pasta with Tinkerbell Peppers, Cherry Tomatoes, & Pine Nuts
I’ve got to hand it to them—this recipe was sensationally delicious. I didn’t even know Perciatelli pasta existed, and now that I’ve seen the light, I’m never buying spaghetti again. I’ve also wasted 25 years not putting capers in my red sauces—never again will I be so remiss.
Apart from these beautiful innovations, however, I felt a little stifled by the recipe. Me being me, I…improved upon this already solid recipe by adding sliced white onion into the base of the sauce, and replacing about 1/2 cup of the liquid with white wine. I also neglected to wipe out the pan after toasting the pine nuts, as any residue (I assumed) would add a lovely flavor profile to the foundation of the sauce. I was also able to cut the prep time in half with what I call “building”: instead of slicing the vegetables/ingredients ahead of time, I add ingredients to the pan one at a time prepping as I go, starting with onions and then moving to firmer vegetables and herbs. I am not what you call a “mise-en-place” chef.
All in all, it was a really positive experience, despite my incredulous Snap Story—they included a tiny baggie of pre-measured-out red pepper flakes &parmesan cheese! Who doesn’t have a jar of red pepper flakes and a block of parm in the house at all times?
Skill level: First time at the rodeo
Day Two: Summer Vegetable & Quinoa Bowls with Fairy Tale Eggplants, Shishito Peppers, & Corn
I ended up making this dish as a late lunch the following day. I figured since it was so veggie-heavy it would be a perfect midday meal. I had some leftover zucchini from the farmer’s market, so I added it into the recipe. I also went a little heavy on the rice vinegar and olive oil in the dressing to accommodate the extra veggie volume. Apart from those additions, I followed the recipe perfectly, which is almost impossible for me to do!
The bowls came out delicious, but I’m wishing that I had had my way with them. I’d definitely have added a clove of minced garlic to the dressing and some lightly-cooked sliced red onions to the top as a garnish. I think chopped basil might have also been a lovely addition. Ooh, or fresh cilantro!
It was great to use shishito peppers, an ingredient I’d never even heard of before. The eggplants were also fabulous! Eggplant is such an iffy veggie for me. I love it in a Parm, or in a seasoned “meat” -ball, but on its own the texture is usually slimy and icky. The large dice and the light sauté was transformative!
Even though this wasn’t a knock-out dish, it really gave me some big ideas. Cold marinated cucumbers on top of a hot bowl of vegan goodness? Sheer madness—but it worked. I paired it with a local rosé from the farmer’s market because apparently they sell wine at the farmer’s market every other week! So resentful of working every Saturday, I can’t even tell you.
Stats for Quinoa Bowls
Skill level: Beginner
Night Three: Couscous-Stuffed Zucchini with Goat Cheese & Summer Squash Salad
This dish was 50 shades of divine. Seriously ingenious. I’ll be making this frequently. I had a bunch of organic fresh green beans leftover from the farmer’s market so I added them in for more green-ness. The more veggies in any given meal, the better.
This menu was a little more involved than the others (it took a baking dish, a pan, and a pot!), but still was a breeze to whip up. I can’t believe how incredibly simple the vinaigrette was! Just lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. One of the best salad dressings I’ve ever had. The warm veggies on the cold arugula was a delight—something I’d never have thought of. Also, shallots! I love me a shallot! Shallots: garlic’s onion-y cousin. It’s truly a perfect food.
Stats for Couscous-Stuffed Zucchini
Skill level: Begin-termediate
I think, overall, Blue Apron is an awesome service that promotes healthy eating and cooking. Not everyone has access to the incredible resources that people in more urban areas have (half the country is a food desert!) and organic produce isn’t growing in everyone’s backyard. My hope is that the people who use this service will gain skills that then translate to mindful grocery shopping, meal-planning, and more time in the kitchen.
They could definitely be more mindful about packaging, though. I know you can’t stick a block of butter in a paper sack, but there was so, so much plastic. There’s got to be a better way! Compostable containers, maybe? I’m going to reuse those insane giant ice packs that come in the bottom of the box for sure. They do include recycling instructions on their site, so at least they’re aware of the issue.
Also, vegan/gluten-free/allergy-conscious recipes! Some of the recipes accidentally fit the bill, but there isn’t a menu or option that ensures it. I’m sure there are a ton of people that would love to order this service, but can’t because of severe allergies. Inclusivity is everything.
I’m still iffy about whether or not I’ll order another delivery, unless I know in advance that I have a crazy busy week, but I’m glad I tried it. Instead of mocking those that don’t have an innate desire to concoct soup recipes and hone their knife skills, I’m going to do my best to be encouraging. It’s all about spending time in the kitchen! You can cook a Blue Apron meal in less time than it takes to order a pizza, and each meal is packed with nutrition. Anything that gets the average American to get his or her butt in front of the stove to make a mindful meal is good by me!
Have you tried a meal-delivery service? What was your experience like?