I am a soup maniac. I will eat soup anytime, anywhere. Even though it’s late spring, we had some 50 degree weather recently, so I knew I had to make a steaming pot of comfort food. Luckily for my taste buds, Trader Joe’s had the leeks displayed at my eye level the other day so potato leek soup it was! The power of suggestion is strong!
This is not your average potato leek soup. Not that I’m hating on anyone else’s recipe, but *very Guy Fieri voice* I take it to Flavortown. I like it a little spicy and a little colorful. Sweet potato and red bell pepper jazz up what would otherwise (honestly) be beige sludge, and white beans add some protein for all my vegetarians out there! Lastly, folding in some spinach at the very end adds some extra vitamins and minerals!
Oh, and vodka. I’m not drinking right now, so I have a bar cart full of booze in my house going to waste! Since I didn’t have any wine on hand to simmer/deglaze the veggies in/with, I thought—vodka! Vodka & potatoes—a match made in heaven. Here goes!
1 tsp. pimenta moida or red pepper flakes to taste
1/4 c. vodka
8 c. broth of your choice (I use vegetable)
1 tbsp. nutritional yeast (nooch)
2 cans white kidney beans, drained & rinsed
2 large handfuls spinach, rough chopped
Normally I “soup-build,” which is my term for prepping-as-I-cook. I’ll heat olive oil, throw onions & celery in, and add the vegetables in order of how much cook time they need. This time, however, I was in meal-prep mode, so while I was putting away groceries and cleaning the kitchen, I threw all of the vegetables, vodka, salt, and pepper into a pot and let them hang out for a while. Having made this soup both ways, do whichever suits you best! If you’re a prepper, prep! If you’re an on-the-fly kinda guy like me, soup-build. I should Google to see if that’s already a term.
ANYWAY, once you get all the initial ingredients into the pot, throw the heat on medium and start sizzlin’. When the mixture becomes fragrant and begins to soften, add the nooch (if using) and the broth. Bring to a boil. When it begins to boil, reduce heat to a simmer and let it do its thing until the veggies are fork tender.
Turn off the heat and remove the bay leaves before blending! You can do this in batches in a blender or food processor, but I am telling you, get an immersion blender. Best money you’ll ever spend. I promise. Once the soup is blended to your ideal consistency (chunky or smooth are both good, it’s up to you!), add your white beans and cook for a few more minutes. Turn the heat off and fold in the spinach. Let rest until the spinach is wilted. Stir, taste, and adjust salt & pepper to taste.
Serve with chopped scallions and shredded cheese on top! Or a dollop of sour cream. Or oyster crackers! Oh, or those crunchy onion things that go on green bean casseroles. That would be soooo good.
You heard me correctly! Mexican. Breakfast. Pizza!
I couldn’t tell you why, culturally, I like to eat beans with breakfast, but I always have. However, there are only so many ways to do breakfast burritos before you get bored. Enter the Mexican pizza. Inspired by the not-so-classy Taco Bell dish, this is a super healthy, vegetarian version that will keep you full all morning. Plus, if you get your proportions right, you can eat it like a pizza!
Here, I jazz up your average refried beans as unfried beans—all of the fiber, way less fat! Pulsing spinach into the beans adds a hidden serving of greens that even the pickiest eater won’t detect! Bon appetit!
In a food processor, combine 1 can of drained and rinsed black beans with 1/2 cup of salsa, a drizzle of olive oil, and a handful of spinach (baby spinach or stems removed). Pulse until it reaches a hummus-like consistency. Salt to taste. Heat in microwave or on stovetop.
Place 2 tortillas on a baking sheet in a single layer and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned and crisp.
Whisk together 3 eggs and scramble, cheese optional.
Place each tortilla on a plate. Spread the bean mixture onto the tortilla, divide the eggs evenly between the servings and sprinkle with cheese. If you are deeply ambitious, broil it for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese.
Add toppings to your heart’s content! Slice 4 ways with a pizza cutter, or dig in with a fork and knife. Bonus points if you serve it with a Tequila Sunrise.
Leftover roasted veggies
Sauerkraut (don’t @ me, ‘kraut is good on everything)
Pico de gallo
Sliced black olives
This is, quite literally, one of the easiest breakfasts you’ll ever make. It’s so fun to get creative with your pantry staples! We tried to get a picture of these, but accidentally devoured them instead. Oops!
Sometimes, you’ve just got to make chili, but you don’t have any beans, meat, or meat-adjacent foods in the house. So you improvise! My husband is a garbanzo fiend, so I knew he wouldn’t sweat the substitution.
It’s been bitterly cold in New England for the past few weeks (no lie—we got a storm that was called a “bomb cyclone” in case we weren’t miserable enough), so something hot and spicy was what the doctor ordered.
I whipped this up using ingredients I had on hand, but it turned out so delicious, I wanted to record the recipe for posterity! Enjoy!
P.S. I highly recommend using all organic ingredients, if possible, because of course I do.
Picante Chickpea & Lentil Chili
2 cans garbanzo beans*
1 c. green lentils
6 c. vegetable broth
1 red onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 zucchini, diced
2 potatoes, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 chipotles in Adobo sauce, diced**
juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 c. premade salsa (or diced tomatoes)
1 oz. bourbon (or 2 oz. beer), optional
1 tbsp. coconut oil
1 tsp. cocoa powder
1 tbsp. Adobo seasoning***
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tbsp. chili powder
salt to taste
*You’re probably a better person than me and make your own chickpeas from dried. In that case, 2-3 cups should suffice.
**Add as much chipotle as you want—just be warned that going heavy on the peppers will make this very, very spicy.
***If you don’t have Adobo seasoning, get some sub garlic & onion powder, tumeric, paprika, black pepper, and oregano.
Over medium heat, melt the coconut oil in the bottom of a large saucepan or dutch oven. Add the red onion and celery, lightly salt. Saute until soft. Add the red pepper, potatoes, and zucchini and saute until soft. Add minced garlic and stir until fragrant, 30 sec-1 min. Turn up the heat and deglaze the pan with bourbon, if using. Return to medium heat and add garbanzos, lentils, tomato paste, salsa, chipotles, and spices. Stir until fragrant, 1 min. Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 mins. At the 30 min mark, check the lentils and potatoes for doneness (I know this is a meat term, but I’m appropriating it!). If soft, turn off heat and add lime juice. Salt/spice to taste.
Serve with brown rice and top with avocado, cilantro, sour cream, or shredded cheese!
I. Love. Noodles. I know that I have argued that tacos and burritos are the world’s best foods, but noodles put up a very good fight for that title. Noodles are versatile AF! There are a million different kinds, all of which are the most fun to eat. There is nothing glamorous to slurping down a big bowl of noodles—perhaps it is the great equalizer we have all sought. Maybe noodles will bring world peace at last.
A note on terminology: I don’t know if this is actually correct, but to me, a noodle is derived from rice, and pasta is derived from wheat. When people call pasta products “noodles”, I get a mild aneurysm, but then again, I never said I wasn’t compulsive.
I grew up a ramen fanatic, and I never grew out of it. I did, however, grow out of that MSG life. Health nuttiness and packaged food ne sont pas les choses qui vont très bien ensemble, très bien ensemble. I’ve been listening to Rubber Soul a lot lately, can you tell?
Unnecessary and ill-advised Beatles reference aside, my life’s mission is to eat noodles daily, and this is my go-to recipe when I come home from a long day at work and just want to gorge on something that won’t give me heart disease or diabetes #pieloverforlife. This recipe is also one of many in my personal give tofu a chance crusade, the sword I have chosen to fall on. Enjoy, my loves!
Easy Breezy Noodle Bowls, serves 2
prep time: 10 mins / cook time: 10 mins
1 pkg udon noodles
2-3 c. chopped broccoli florets (the broccoli shrinks when cooked!)
1 pkg firm tofu, drained and cubed
soy sauce or tamari
coconut oil for frying
ginger paste, optional
garlic, chopped, optional
chopped nori, optional
matchstick carrots, optional
matchstick cucumber, optional
To start, set a pot of lightly-salted water on to boil. When it reaches boiling, cook your noodles according to package directions. I buy frozen, so it usually takes about 4-minutes of cooking. Drain noodles and set aside.
Next, whisk together your soy sauce mixture. I use a few tablespoons of soy sauce, a squirt of sriracha, and a dash of sesame oil. Optionally, you can add ginger, garlic, and/or agave to this mixture to add more flavor to the final product. But this is the basic 10-minute version of this recipe, so fancy ingredients be damned!
Drain your block of tofu. Press out as much of the water as humanly possible, and then chop into cubes. This is a great guide to pressing tofu! Once cubed, toss the tofu in some cornstarch and pan fry in the oil of your choice—I like to use coconut for this. Fry the tofu until it’s golden on all sides—do your best with this, it’s hard to flip that many little pieces evenly! Then pour your soy sauce mixture over the tofu, toss in the pan until evenly coated, and then remove from heat. Save a little bit of the soy mixture—you’ll want to toss the broccoli in it later!
While the tofu is frying, get out your wok (if applicable) and start cooking your broccoli! I like to cook the broc in sesame oil, because it has such a great flavor. Heat the oil over medium heat, add the broccoli, and stir-fry! I like to let it cook in the oil for a few minutes, and then squirt in a little rice vinegar to help soften the broc (I’ve seen Hibachi chefs do this, so it must be the proper way, right?) After the broccoli has reached your desired texture, drizzle the soy sauce mixture over it, toss, remove from heat, and then proceed to assemble your bowls! Start with noodles, add broccoli, and top with tofu! Sprinkle the whole bowl with sesame seeds, and grab some chopsticks! You’re ready to eat a passably nutritious meal that kicks take-out’s ass any day of the week!
My favorite way to eat this is with an additional sprinkling of chopped nori and some cold matchstick veggies on top (carrots or cucumbers are the way to go). Also, everything tastes better if you eat it with chopsticks, so don’t skimp!
That’s it, honeys! I usually have all of these ingredients on hand, so this is a common throw-together lunch in my household. This is also a great starter dish for anyone who is looking to cut a little bit of meat from his or her diet. It’s packed with protein (and probiotics if you add the nori). The above method of preparing tofu ensures a nice crisp on the outside that will have even the most adamant tofu naysayer begging for seconds.
If you’re anything like me, you often find yourself wondering, “How can I incorporate more tacos into my every day life?” Soft or hard, veggie or bean, I love all tacos indiscriminately (get your mind out of the gutter).
Breakfast tacos aren’t exactly a stunning innovation. The breakfast burrito is a restaurant menu staple for good reason—Tex-Mex and breakfast foods are a beautiful marriage of flavors. But it is my life’s mission to eat (specifically cruciferous) vegetables at every meal, and damn it, I will accomplish it!
These tacos are endlessly customizable, and a great way to pack some serious nutrition into your morning. Plus, everything tastes better in a taco shell. It’s literally science.
Cauliflower is my favorite here, but other veggie options include broccoli, sweet potato, Brussels sprouts, or zucchini!
Eggy Brekkie Tacos
soft corn tortillas, taco size
1-2 eggs (per person), scrambled
leftover roasted veggies (I recommend cauliflower)
Optional toppings might include: shredded cheese, sour cream, avocado, bean dip, hot sauce, sauerkraut—if you can dream it, you can do it!
If you don’t have any leftover veggies (I seem to always have something in my fridge), toss your chopped veggie of choice in olive oil, salt, and black pepper, and roast until soft and slightly browned.
Scrambled your eggs and heat up as many tortillas as you plan to eat. I like to heat my tortillas over the open flame on the stove, but the microwave or the oven on a very low setting will work just as well. As soon as everything is piping hot, assemble your tacos by dividing the scrambled eggs and vegetables amongst the tortillas. For the less adventurous (read: messy) eaters among us, combine all desired ingredients into a bowl and top with the corn tortillas, chopped. Dig in!
There you have it: every food group before 10 am. Brb—gonna go whip up some more breakfast tacos!
I found myself in an incredibly rare predicament the other night: I had a ton of time on my hands, but zero chef-spiration! Usually it’s quite the opposite—I’m racing the clock to get a meal on the table and I have to edit my ideas down to what’s achievable in the span of an hour.
My malaise was so powerful that even after flipping through a few of my cookbooks (The First Mess Cookbook, One Part Plant, and Thug Kitchen) I was without direction. A lot of recipes sounded great, but I was always an essential ingredient or two off. I’m, like, the Dowager Countess of substitutions, but, like I said, I had zero creativity.
So, since time was on my side, I decided to make something that has evaded and frustrated me for years: polenta.
I know, I know. You’re like, “Chelsea, wtf? Polenta is two ingredients. Do you secretly suck at cooking, and you’ve been stringing us along with this psuedo-cooking blog for almost 2 years?” Ugh, shut up. I was the same way with rice (Martha Stewart recipe, bless up!). For me, it seems, the simpler the recipe, the more I struggle. Bake a pie from scratch? No problem, friend. Make quinoa? *frantically Googles instructions*
Polenta is a tricky beast. It’s technically easy to make, but making it properly is difficult and time-consuming. When I saw the cornmeal in my cabinet, I knew I had found my white whale. Combining this singular vision with a bunch of pantry staples, I embarked on making the least cohesive, yet most delicious dinner I’ve made in ages. And I thought I’d share.
Creamy Polenta with ‘Wino Forever’ White Beans & Roasted Veggies
5 cups water
1 cup cornmeal
1 summer squash, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 onion of your choice, chopped finely
1 head of cauliflower, chopped into florets
2 cloves garlic
1-2 tbsp butter (vegan butter or coconut oil will also work!)
extra virgin olive oil
1 cup cooked corn, fresh or frozen
2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup vegetable broth
red pepper flakes
Preheat the oven to 400, on the roast setting if you have it.
Start the polenta—I use this recipe. I’ll give some basic instructions, but I strongly recommend reading the Serious Eats recipe, as well as the accompanying backstory. I did not follow this recipe properly, which led the polenta to take twice as long to cook. Do as I say, not as I do.
In a large pot, warm the water over a high heat. Whisk in the cornmeal. Bring the pot to a boil, and let boil/simmer, stirring consistently, until the mixture begins to thicken and “spit”. Then lower the heat and let cook for about an hour longer. Make sure you’re stirring frequently! When it’s thick enough that you can pull it away from the pan with your stirring implement, it’s ready to be seasoned with salt and butter. Stir and then serve.
While the polenta is simmering away, steam your corn for a few minutes, until soft. Set aside. Chop your onion, zucchini, squash, and cauliflower, and place them in a glass baking dish. Toss them in a tbsp of olive oil, salt, and black pepper. Stir at the 15 minute mark, and add more olive oil if they’ve dried out. Roast until they reach your desired doneness, browned on the outside, about 30 minutes.
While the polenta and veggies are cooking, start your beans. Drain and rinse 2 cans of white beans. Set aside. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for a minute or so, until fragrant. Add beans, and toss to coat in the oil. Once the beans are warmed, add your white wine, hot pepper flakes, and bay leaf. Simmer together for 5 minutes, or until the alcohol has cooked off. Add butter and veggie broth, stir, and let simmer for 20 minutes, or until the beans start to fall apart and the liquid has reduced to a gravy-like consistency. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Remove bay leaf before serving. When finished, the beans have a surprisingly meaty taste!
Stir the corn into the polenta before serving!
Plate the meal in layers, starting with a bed of polenta, piling on the veggies, and topping with the beans and “gravy”. Finish with a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper. Dig in and enjoy!
**There’s a way to make this so that everything finishes at just about the same time. But I’m more of a renegade chef, plating on the fly.
It’s not the most beautiful meal (lots of yellow and beige) but it is to-die-for delicious! It made a huge batch, so I got to enjoy the leftovers for days to come. For non-veg folk, it might seem odd to eat beans & vegetables for dinner, but trust me—all of your essential food groups are represented, and if I’m not mistaken, this meal is gluten-free!
Corn chowder is flipping delicious. Actually, you can put any creamy soup in a bowl, call it chowder, and I will love it, but that’s another issue entirely. #gordo
The only problem with this arguably perfect food is that it is often full of cream and butter, which in moderation are aces, but don’t exactly make for healthy nightly fare. Well, no more. I have created a chowder that is both vegan and made out of six vegetables!
All the veggies / who independent / throw your hands up at me!
I’m really sorry about that. Every time I’m passionate about something, I start helplessly paraphrasing Beyoncé. Six vegetables, though! Now are we getting the title? Where my AP Latin nerds at?
Anyway, here’s my foolproof corn chowder recipe!
Sex-y Corn Chowdah
4 cups corn kernels (fresh is best, frozen will do)
5 cups vegetable broth
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 large russet potato, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 large organic carrot, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup scallions, chopped (the green parts)
black pepper to taste
1 tsp dried basil
juice of half a lemon
Some like it hot…for extra zazz, add 1/4 tsp. of cayenne pepper, or a tablespoon of pimenta moida in with the garlic. Highly recommend.
If using corn cobs: lightly grill or roast the cobs. Let cool and cut the kernels off the cob.
If using frozen corn: measure out 4 cups. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the kernels out, drizzle with olive oil and dust with salt. Roast at 400 degrees for a few minutes, until the kernels start to brown.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot and add the onion and celery. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt and stir. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Next add the carrot, bell pepper, and potato. Cook for another few minutes, adding black pepper and more salt if desired. Next, add the garlic, 3/4 of the corn, and dried basil. Stir and cook until the garlic becomes fragrant. Next, add the broth and let simmer for 10 minutes, or until the potato is fork tender. Remove the pot from heat and blend the soup with an immersion blender until creamy. Once blended, return the pot to low heat and add the lemon juice and the remaining 1/4 of the roasted corn. Simmer for a few more minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Turn off the heat and add the chopped scallions. Stir around and then taste to see if more lemon juice, salt, black pepper, or basil is needed. Serve immediately and top with more chopped scallions, shredded cheddar cheese, or sour cream if desired. Happy snacking!
I am not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination, so one of the biggest challenges to the whole wellness/smoothie life thing I’ve committed to is, how do I get a smoothie and a cup of coffee into me during my 20-minute drive to work? I need the coffee to do the smiling and the talking (very important in the business we call retail), but I need the smoothie and the protein to not starve to death within my first hour of work. I’ve never been a chugger of liquids—my La Croixs always go flat before I finish them, and I’m used to dealing with watery iced coffee and cocktails. I needed a solution—one that didn’t involve me actually waking up earlier, duh.
So, many moons ago, while make the baby steps towards the wellness journey on which I now find myself, I discovered a little website called Nutrition Stripped. The lifestyle site is run out of Nashville by dietician/nutritionist McKel Hill. It’s basically a smoothie-recipe Mecca. As the completist I am, I pre-ordered McKel’s cookbook and everything. It’s been a big hit here at the Fig household.
I’ve made this smoothie, like, a hundred times, with minor variations here and there based on ingredients I have on hand. I’ve been adding spirulina to get those greens! But when you have something every day, you’re bound to get a little restless and want to try new things. Therefore, I give you, The Strawberry Morning Milkshake! It’s just a variation on McKel Hill’s theme, credit where credit is due, but my oh my is it a delight.
Strawberry Morning Milkshake
makes just under 4 cups, serves 2
1 banana, fresh or frozen*
1/2 c. chopped strawberries (about 4 large strawberries), fresh or frozen*
In a high-powered blender, add all ingredients and blend until smooth! Serve immediately, and refrigerate leftovers for up to two days.
If you have a normal blender, like me, add all ingredients except almond milk, and process at a slower speed until smooth. Then add in your almond milk and go to town on that high setting!
I prefer a thinner smoothie, so I add all of the coffee I possibly can to this. But if you want a classic milkshake feel, I’d keep the 1/2 c. cold brew : 1 c. almond milk ratio.
*I recommend frozen fruit for this recipe, both for the temperature of the smoothie, and the milkshake-esque texture.
Optional Add-ins for Optimal Nutrition
1 tsp spirulina*
1 pitted date (for sweetness)
1 c. baby spinach
1 tbsp. flax seeds or flax meal
2 Brazil nuts
*The spirulina will slightly alter the color and taste of the smoothie, so I recommend trying it once without to get a frame of reference.
So, there you have it. A full cup of coffee and enough protein and nutrients to keep you full until your lunch break. No compromises necessary! You’ll be able to finish this on your morning commute in between embarrassing performances of every song from Hamilton. And if you think strawberries and coffee are an odd combination, have faith, don’t forget your vanilla protein powder, and enjoy!
1/2 c. unsweetened organic almond milk (make sure it’s not vanilla!)
3 tbsp. Earth Balance
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
salt & ground black pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 400. If you have a Convection Roast setting, use it to get that roasty-toasty crunch.
To get the Mashed going, throw your chopped taters in a saucepan, cover them with cold water by about an inch, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer potatoes until fork tender.
For the Chickpeas, add all of the ingredients to a glass baking dish, toss to combine, and stick that mother in the oven. Remove and stir every 5-10 minutes, or as you notice the top of the dish browning. The liquid released from the zucchini will keep everything moist as its cooking, so you don’t really have to worry about anything drying out or burning. The chickpeas are done when the zucchini is soft and the beets are fork-tender (about 20 mins), but you can cook for up to an hour if you prefer more crunch.
While the chickpeas are cooking, drain your potatoes, add in your add-ins, and then mash until smooth. Don’t over-mash or they’ll turn to glue!
so much yum
When the chickpeas are done, give them a good stir, then plate and serve! If you’re like me, you’ll mix the mashed and the chickpeas and veggies into a food mountain on your plate. So delicious!
*A note on pimenta moida: I’ve never actually made this. You can (I assume) buy this at specialty Portuguese grocers. My mother-in-law is from the Azores, and she made an enormous batch of it in the spring and gave some to all the kids. Literally, this is how much pimenta I have:
full size pitcher of cold brew for reference
That thing was FULL just a few months ago. I could drink the stuff.
I hope this recipe helps you all take baby steps towards putting weird shit like beets and cabbage in your dinners! So into cabbage right now!
So, I caved and finally tried Blue Apron. I got a hell of a deal, too. Some of my favorite podcasts (like SMNTY!) are sponsored by Blue Apron, so I used one of their promo codes to get $30 off.
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?
Stats for Peperonata Pasta
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.
I was so pleased with this dish. I can’t extoll its virtues enough. The light, citrus-y flavor of the vinaigrette juxtaposed with the richness of the goat cheese made this the perfect summer dinner.
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?