Monthly Archives: February 2015

Blue Apron Round 2 Coconut Chicken & Kale Stew

I felt more confident approaching tonight’s dinner, having gone through a test-run last night. The recipe for this stew was a bit more involved than the burgers, but I was excited to jump in, especially with the rice.  I don’t own a rice cooker and usually under or over-cook it on the stovetop.  Since Blue Apron sends you the exact portions needed there would be no winging it this time!

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The first thing I did was wash and de-stem the kale bunch.  I sampled a taste of the raw, washed kale and it was very tasty!  Kale has always tasted bitter and slightly acrid to me unless smothered in loads of butter but this batch they sent me was really good.  I’m pretty sure most of the fruits and veggies they source are grown in California but I haven’t fully looked into it on their website.  Hooray for green, fresh, and delicious kale!

much goodness

much goodness

One feature I think I’m really going to like about this is being introduced to new ingredients.  Had I been using a cookbook and seen ‘Ghee’ listed, I would have passed right over this recipe for not knowing what it was.  Or I would have gone to my Podunk town’s grocery store, asked if they had any Ghee, and probably been looked at like a Portlandia sketch character.  What is Ghee?  It’s this tasty, rich butter stuff which I cooked the rice and spices in.  The more you know.

ghee whiz

ghee whiz

My biggest screw-up with this recipe was not getting a large enough pot for the stew.  There was too much kale in the recipe that it overflowed out of the top of the size pot I mixed the spices in.  I also used a pan to brown the chicken in instead of just doing it directly in the pot the stew was going into, so inevitably I made more dishes to wash.

'I think we're going to need more pot' ....That's what she said

‘I think we’re going to need more pot’
….That’s what she said

So how did I fare with Indian cuisine?

The rice was cooked just right, which for me was a big step.  Flavor-wise this dish was alright.  A bit bland if I’m being honest, but I prefer my curries spicy.  This was okay for the rest of my family, however, in fact I got a bit nervous when I tasted the hint of spice since even awesome-eater will reject spicy food.  Blue Apron recommended serving the rice and stew separate, but I like to mix mine all together in one giant rice-curry sludge.  All in all, a valiant second attempt!  The naan they sent was tasty.  Wish it could have been more than one half-slice per person.

CKBK

I’m going to give this dish 3/3 pancakes as it required more cooking accoutrements than I was used to and more dishes to wash, however some of that was my own fault with cooking many things separate.

What did the food critics think?

CKle

The ‘spiciness’ didn’t seem to matter!  Awesome-eater ate most of hers, including the kale, which made me happy.  Picky-eater?  Well, she ate half a naan and then adjourned to watch a movie.  I kept a small bowl out for her since she always asks for food later, and she ate maybe a quarter, mostly rice with no curry.  I won’t give up on her!  We have a second delivery coming tomorrow, but I’m going to have to keep it in the fridge for Sunday as we are taking a road trip to Grandpa’s house for a couple nights!  Happy weekend until then!

I felt it was relevant that this can of coconut milk needed to be opened upside-down

I felt it relevant to take a photo of this can of coconut milk being opened upside-down


BLUE APRON FIRST REVIEW

I was excited to open up my box of ingredients and recipes from Blue Apron today.  I stalked the front door, checking every 5 minutes for the FedEx guy this morning.  He dropped off the box around 1, which was perfect as I had just returned home from dropping food critic #1 off at school and had time to go through and double-check to make sure they sent each item.  I was pleased to see that everything was packaged nicely and the food all appeared unspoiled and undamaged.  So far, so good!  Still need to know if it meets the three most crucial criteria in order for me to continue on with a future subscription:

Does it pass the kitchen dummy test?  How many ways could this go wrong?

How many dishes am I going to need to wash after this is all done?

And finally, is it good enough to be enjoyed by an extremely picky three-year-old?

Tough Customer

Way Harsh Food Critic

The two recipes I received were for a Coconut Chicken and Kale Stew and Salmon Burgers with Hoisin Mayonnaise & Asian Pear-Cabbage Slaw.  Excellent! I would totally eat both dishes, but never would attempt to cook them on my own in a hundred years without a serious recipe hand-holding intervention.  Initially, I had hoped to cook the stew tonight, but plans changed after the 3-year-old made several attempts to make off with the Asian pear and eat it whole.  So salmon burgers with slaw it was!

The box came with an overview letter and two recipe cards.  The letter includes a bit of background and history on the featured food items which, as a dork, I appreciated.  It’s difficult to describe food beyond “Salmon!  Putting the pink in your fish taco!” or “Asian pear: Apple or Pear?  Comes from a mythical apple-pear splicing land called Asia.”  It also offered me a chance to win a trip to New York for a private cooking lesson with a Top Chef.  That would be a disaster for everyone involved, but it would be nice to win a free year of meals, so sign me up, I guess?

Each recipe card contains a brief description of the recipe components, ingredients list, cooking time, and on the reverse side, a six-step pictorial guide.  That’s the clincher for a visual person like myself.  When I can see the pictures of what it’s supposed to look like in process, as opposed to one professionally photographed after shot, I’m less likely to improvise and inevitably create a flop (ask me about the time I thought it would be a good idea to add yellow mustard to a curry.  Actually, don’t…).

BG2

If there is a way to mess something this easy up, I will find it

If there is a way to mess something this easy up, I will find it

Everything was going fine until I reached the fourth sentence.

Step 1 – Preheat the oven to 450. YES!

Line a sheet pan with foil.  Thank you for showing a photo of a sheet pan.  Really.  I could have guessed/Bing’ed but I probably would have gone for the flat, roundish one.

Place the salmon on the foil, skin side down.  OK.  Note to self, though, peel off piece of salmon-paper before putting in oven.

Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper.

Woah.  Slow down, Julia Child! Oil?  It came with a jar of sesame oil, but I see that mentioned specifically by name further down in the instructions.  So can I use whatever cooking oil I want? I seem to remember reading in the Blue Apron FAQ that they ship all ingredients except olive oil.  That’s all I need to have stocked at home.  Ok, I’ll get out the olive oil.  What’s this here next to it?  Oh!  It’s the awesome pumpkin seed oil I bought at the farmers market and haven’t had a chance to use yet.  Pumpkin seed oil could be good with salmon, why not? *drizzles a dark oil, strongly odored of pumpkin over uncooked fish*

Damnit, Helen! Cooking is not the place to be impulsively creative. Remember why you signed up for this service!

Fortunately I was able to blot most of the pumpkin oil up with a paper towel and re-drizzle with olive oil instead. Must. stick. to. the. recipe.

While putting it all together without any further deviations from standard, human cooking, I took some notes on things I can do differently for future meals. For instance, it will save a lot of time chopping vegetables and mincing garlic in my mini food processor. There were a couple more things I could simplify by looking ahead, like how necessary was it to acquire lime juice by quartering a lime instead of halving it? The only other time I nearly ran into a disaster was at the very end, forming and cooking the salmon patties. When it said pack the patties tightly, it wasn’t kidding. I had to go back and re-form the first one  after it fell apart in the pan because salmon was so flaky. Other than that, I’d say the meal prep was an overall success!

BG3

I actually wanted to taste my own cooking without the element of surprise in play. Giving it the adult taste test, I thought these burgers were pretty damn delicious!  Unfortunately, the other adult is currently sick with Flu and did not have much of an appetite.  Bad timing.  The potato buns Blue Apron sent were yummy and tasted great toasted. The cole slaw was fine – certainly an improvement from anything I could improvise and better than store bought pre-made.

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As for dishes and mess clean-up, I’m giving this recipe 2 out of 3 pancakes. Why pancakes? Because pancakes seem so simple but goddamn do they make a lot of mess. Also, pancakes are just fucking delicious and I think about them often. For me, the smaller and more contained the cooking mess the better. This recipe required a few components and scraping crusty salmon skin off a sheet pan, but overall it was not a Thanksgiving or five-alarm pancake clean-up job.

Now for the real test: how kid-friendly was it?

In full disclosure, I have one awesome, loves to try new things eater, and another horrible nightmare picky eater. Sigh. Right now there are 5 things she won’t pitch a fit over eating. 1. Yogurt 2. Chocolate chips 3. Apples 4. Toast with strawberry jam and 5. Pickles. Food is the battle she has chosen to fight and I wonder if it’s in part due to this being a non-issue for her sister, but anyway, getting her to try anything beyond these five foods is something I will consider a victory.

Awesome-eater: Liked it! At half her burger and decided to save the other half for lunch tomorrow. Enjoyed the hoisin mayo for dipping sauce. Took a couple bites of cole slaw but decided it wasn’t for her.

You really can't go wrong with burgers

You really can’t go wrong with burgers

Picky-eater: I regret to say she turned her nose up and this and didn’t even attempt a single bite when we all sat down to eat together. There were tears and a time-out as another night of food war raged on, but, to be fair she did come back when she was truly hungry and ate half the roll which had some pieces of salmon and mayo still on there. I’m hopeful that by me getting excited about cooking and our whole family trying new foods through this subscription, her attitude will begin to change.

Tomorrow…a new recipe to try! I’ll hopefully have some time to make another write-up. So far, the biggest pro Blue Apron has going is convenience. I loved having food delivered to my front door, portioned in the exact quantities of items needed. There wasn’t any left-over of any ingredient, which more often than not ends up spoiled in my house for lack of a second use. I’m looking forward to trying this again.

Note – I did not receive payment or perks to write this review by Blue Apron or any of it’s affiliates…but I sure would like to!  HEEEEEYYY!!


Cooking for Stupids

I’m going to start blogging about food.  It will contain profanity, because I head-curse up a storm while cooking.  Food and surrogacy.  What a combo.  This is practically all I have going on in my life right now, anyway; looking ahead for the second round of surrogacy later in the year, and keeping my 3 children alive by feeding them.  Important stuff.

As a gift to my husband for Valentine’s Day, I signed us up for a subscription to meal prep site Blue Apron.  Why would I give a food-by-mail subscription as a gift, you ask?  Well, during the weeks, after my husband gets off work, he has a very predictable routine of going to the store on his way home and then calling/texting me, asking what I want him to pick up for dinner.  Usually he’s already in the store parking lot and I have to come up with an answer on the spot. I’m vicariously impulse shopping.  Like clockwork, most days between 3:30 and 4, I can expect to receive a text like this one:

TEXT

And here is where I reveal information about myself…

I. SUCK. AT. COOKING.

My husband moved out last September and we were living apart for a couple months.  No drama to disclose, we still love each other very much and are back together as of this January, but I was alone with 2 children – 3 once the baby arrived in October, but baby doesn’t count as far as meals go since I’M his primary food source.  I got very much stuck in a terrible meal rut.  Comfort food became too comfortable.  These are the questions I ask myself when pondering whether or not to make something: Does it require 3 ingredients or fewer, that can all be mixed together at the same time – bonus points if it comes in a box!?  Is it noodle and cheese heavy?  Can I pour milk over it in a bowl?  GOOD!  No issues here.  Anything else, and I probably will colossally fuck it up.

So, for me, receiving ‘what’s for dinner?’ and ‘at the store! need list!’ messages on the daily equates to minor stress.  I’m not creative enough to come up with recipes on the spot!  Too much pressure!  Lucky for me I married a man MUCH more talented in the kitchen than I, who doesn’t mind doing the cooking for our family.  He just wants to know what I want and what I think our children will enjoy eating.  That requires planning and forethought which frankly, I don’t have the time to write out with a 5, 3, and 4 month old.

Blue Apron tempted me with a sign-up promo social media banner ad.  Well done, targeted marketing.  I’m not a subscription junkie, but I’ll try anything once, and after checking out their website and finding out how the program works, I realized… here is the answer to our What’s For Dinner? dilemma!  So, go ahead Blue Apron, take my money and deliver my family tasty food and peace of mind!

Blue Apron offers 2- and 4-person meal plans and you can set your preferences for the number of deliveries you’d like to receive.  I signed up for the 4-person, 4-meal plan, so in effect I am getting 2 deliveries each week containing 2 meals per box.  We clearly need the jumbo plan due to my aforementioned issues in the kitchen.  Everything is well laid out on their website, http://www.blueapron.com.  It is nice, shiny, stream-lined cooking for stupids (like me).  I can see how it also appeals to more skilled folks, curious to try new ingredients and recipes, and also to the short on time contingency, i.e. busy families and professionals.

Today I received my first box via FedEx guy, two weeks after forking over my credit card number (forking over, get it? hah!).  I’m excited to unpack, get to cooking, and write a review, which I will do in the next post.  So stay tuned and we can find out what’s for dinner!


Baby Love

Feeling all warm and fuzzy after a midnight wake up with my 4.5 month old. After nursing him and letting him fall back asleep in my arms, he reached out for my hand to hold. It was the sweetest thing as he gave mine a squeeze as if he was communicating, “Mommy, I love you. I trust you.  Thank you, Mama.”  Oh my heart!

I will get asked the question, “why surrogacy, Helen?”.  And while I have multiple reasons and answers, one big one is knowing there is another Mommy out there who now has a little boy to squeeze his hand and tell him, “you are safe and you are loved.”  And there is no better feeling in the whole world.


In the beginning

Had a great video chat with my IPs today!  Got to see the little guy in action. Getting ready for his big 2nd birthday coming up!  It’s hard to believe two years ago how huge I was and how he was about to make his grand entrance into the world and change his family’s life forever.

One of my favorite memories of “our time” together was signing up for a parent and child swim class with my younger daughter (19 months at the time) and floating around, massively pregnant, in the pool at the Y. Swimming is one of the best things a pregnant woman can do for herself in the later months. The weight lifts off as gravity lessens and you feel so good all over. I feel like I bond on a deep level with all my babies while swimming. They’re peacefully floating around inside me, I’m floating in a pool too…I don’t know…for me it’s a meditative experience.

~

They’re going to line up the initial pieces on their end to get the ball rolling for an August/September cycle. It seems so far off but it will be here before we all know it. One thing I need to start thinking about is how and when to wean my baby. I don’t want to be nursing while taking the hormones for the IVF cycle. Both my daughters weaned early, around 9-10 months, and we supplemented them with a bottle throughout older infancy. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see how it goes. Going to brag here, but being on my third kid, I finally am confident I’ve got this breast feeding thing down. I experienced low supply with my oldest and we switched over to formula pretty early as she struggled to gain weight. It’s been a learning curve and now at 4 months I feel like me and baby have such a good feeding relationship.  He’s gaining weight no problem. Anyway, something I’m going to think over.

It was great to catch up today and to see the big almost birthday boy full of energy and chatting away!  Big plans…big year!  I’m excited.


It’s Goin’ Down

Month one weight loss total : 7 lbs

keeeeep it goin’!!!