Category Archives: Blue Apron

Blue Apron 39: Za’atar Spiced Eggplant & Squash Pitas w Cucumber-Squash & Tabbouleh

I’ve figured out the precise scent combination of “generic suburban pizza parlor”. Generic suburban pizza parlor, of course, was THE place to be at age 13 when all you wanted was to hang out with friends, play arcade games, and watch WWE on the big screen TV while drinking a Suicide from the soda fountain. Go heavy on the Dr Pepper and Diet Coke for the optimum ratio of disgustingness.

It is…oregano + roasted sweet pepper.

This is exactly what my kitchen smelled like upon preparing this Blue Apron dinner, one of the final ones in this “learning to cook” series. Blue Apron claims this meal was complexly seasoned. I’m going to have to disagree, I thought this dinner was bland. Filling…but there wasn’t much going on in the flavor department.

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The filling of the pita consisted of roasted squash, eggplant, and tomato (which I went off-recipe here and  roasted the beautiful beefsteak tomato Blue Apron sent because I’m still uncomfortable eating raw tomato). The veggies were topped with a lovely Tzaziki sauce and sprinkled with Feta cheese crumbs. I ended up modifying the Tzaziki sauce from a previous Blue Apron recipe by adding garlic paste and lemon juice because it gave this much more flavor than the yogurt and cucumber alone Blue Apron was suggesting. That would have been even more boring than this already ended up tasting!

A cucumber divided: one half to the yogurt sauce, the other half to the filling

A cucumber divided: one half to the yogurt sauce, the other half to the filling

I am not a tomato person, but I will give it to Blue Apron for sending a beautiful specimen of fresh Beefsteak tomato. This is not the kind of tomato you will find in a grocery store.  I chuckled at the Big Mac box style packaging.

more like beefcake tomato

more like beefcake tomato

This dinner was healthy, 540 cals per serving, and this is what we all need right now. I’m actually impressed that the kids didn’t complain about eating this one either. They were enthusiastic and ate a decent enough portion that I might feel confident in saying this could be something I’d could for them again, but I just don’t know. Maybe it was the very blandness of this that didn’t cause them to put up a fight over dinner tonight.

The Pita Bread Blue Apron sent was fresh and tasty. Maybe I’m not a fan of sweet peppers in general. Give me spice. Take us out of suburban blandness and liven things up. For sending a meal my kids didn’t put up a fight over, I’ll give Blue Apron 2/5 stars on this dinner.

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As I near the grand finale of my learning to cook experience, I’m mentally making a tally of the best recipes I’ve cooked with Blue Apron. While I don’t think this one makes the Top 10, certainly not the Top 5, I feel like I’m a much more confident chef from where I started out 6 months ago. Cooking meals for my family has become NBD. No Big Deal. My children don’t complain, “eewww, not MOMMY’S cooking”  as much anymore. At least, not on a nightly basis. Teaching myself to cooks is still a work in progress. But Progress has been made. My cooking, at this point, is at the least…somewhat edible.

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Blue Apron 38: Hoisin-Glazed Chicken Thighs w Sticky Rice & Marinated Cucumber Salad

Steps to hosting a successful dinner party:

1. Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to poison your dinner guests with rancid sesame oil.

That’s pretty much covers it all.

Fortunately, disaster averted and the attendees are, so far, out of harm’s way from any gastrointestinal distress.

The catastrophe almost happened because Blue Apron shorted me an ingredient in our recipe box this week, a small bottle of rice vinegar. There should have been two small bottles in the brown bag of “knick knacks” but, as I’ve been apt to do lately, went overlooked because I just assumed every ingredient was present and accounted for.

only one bottle here

only one bottle here

Instead of marinating the red onion in the rice vinegar, I emptied the contents of the sesame oil bottle into the bowl of chopped onion. Helpful cooking tip: always look at what you’re pouring before you actually pour. Realizing my mistake, I searched high and low for the missing bottle of vinegar, de-oilified the onions by rinsing in water, and substituted balsamic vinegar instead. That left me short on sesame oil. Had I looked ahead in the cooking instructions, I would have seen that it wouldn’t have made much a difference anyway since the onions were going into the cucumber salad which consisted of, you guessed it, the sesame oil. Too hasty of a dump. So when it was finally time to assemble the cucumber salad with the marinated onion, sliced cucumbers, sugar, garlic, ginger, and Thai basil, I grabbed the bottle of sesame oil I knew we had from the pantry.

Cooking needn’t be a sprint to the finish where you’re distracted enough that you overlook critical details like the expiration date on the bottle of sesame oil from your pantry.

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Dost the oil even spoil?

I’m not sure? After a year and a half post expiration, I didn’t want to take a chance. I sampled a finger-full and something tasted…off.

Imagine you’re hosting a dinner party for you Father-in-Law (age: 60s) and his new girlfriend. If that wasn’t an already awkward scenario, imagine preparing a meal that gave everyone the runs. Welcome to our home, now let’s compete for bathroom time! Time to rebuke the cukes.

The entrée portion of this meal was fine – glazed chicken thighs in a savory-sweet hoisin sauce. There was also enough ginger and garlic rice to go around. And the best part, none of the dinner guests knew just how close to disaster they came because I was alone in the house while this all went down. See no evil, taste no evil.

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The chicken and rice alone wasn’t enough to feed 6 of us, so the children were supplemented with the organic version of Lucky Charms. Smug, misguided Mother-me says, “the organic make them sooooo much healthier.”

Organic Lucky Charms are way less colorful than the originals

Organic Lucky Charms are way less colorful than the originals

Even with so many meals under my belt, I’m still capable of making disastrous cooking errors! Only two more to write-up and then I can put this cooking blog series to rest. I have a fun idea in mind for another series that involves travel – something I’ve been desperately missing and itching to do for a while. Back to entertaining I go with a trusty Australian beer. Tonight I hope to dream of red earth, cerulean skies, and the parched vistas of the Southern land I visited a decade ago.

poison your dinner guests with alcohol, instead! prost!

poison your dinner guests with alcohol, instead! prost!


Blue Apron 37: Summer Vegetable Korean Rice Cakes w Squash, Eggplant & Long Beans

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Ah, the thrill of the unknown.

Much like my life post August 2016, this dinner is a mystery!

Total number of Korean dinners I’ve cooked (before this one): 0. Big ol’ Bulbul egg.

This was a Blue Apron recipe meant to bring Average Joe Box-a-Roni out of their culinary comfort zone. This is a benefit that Blue Apron offers over competing home-meal delivery services; if you want to branch out and try new ingredients and tastes, Blue Apron is going to have what you’re looking for. If you appreciate planning and have specific dietary preferences, you’ll probably do better with one of the other services.

The Korean Rice Cakes, “tteok”, arrived in a tight vacuum-sealed package along with the other main ingredients: eggplant, summer squash, and long beans. The cooking steps of this recipe made me laugh a bit, because it required each ingredient to cook in the pan separate from one another. Why? I don’t really know for sure. Would it have made a difference to combine the eggplant, squash and beans all in the same pan?

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It was interesting to see how each different vegetable cooks. The eggplant absolutely soaked up every last bit of the olive oil, whereas it seemed like the beans repelled them. It might have worked better to steam the beans, as they ended up a bit tough and chewy.

Speaking of chewy, the texture of the rice cakes were a complete surprise. Before being immersed in a boiling pot of water, they had the consistency of a wafer, but after soaking for 3 minutes they came out all jiggly and gelatinous! Pretty neat transformation. Oh, and protip, try not to pour in the desiccant packet from the rice cakes into a pot of boiling water.

before

before

after

after

whoops, glad nobody had to bite into this

whoops, glad nobody had to bite into this

Now I’m curious what happens when you put one of those in the microwave…

Anyway, the sauce was a blend of rice vinegar, sesame oil, and a savory soy glaze that had the consistency of shampoo. I was proud of myself for substituting the leftover pot water from the boiled rice cakes by filling the small bottle of glaze to get the rest of the sticky sauce out. Just like when you are down to that last bit of shampoo and you need to make it go as far as possible.

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Final verdict?

This was pretty good. I liked the flavor of the sauce and when topped with the scallions, thai basil, and cashews, the flavors became complex and interesting. If I could be so bold and figure out a way to improve on this recipe, I would add even more cashews than Blue Apron sent and take away some of the ginger. The children picked at it like little birds. I think they were still full from a large lunch today, so I wasn’t going to force anything on them. The meal itself was very filling, even for two adults.

Another one for the blog history books – blistory books? Only THREE MORE DINNERS TO 40! We’re in the homestretch!

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Blue Apron 36: Blackened Queso De Freir Arepas w Cucumber, Avocado & Pickled Onion Salad

You shouldn’t judge something by looks alone.

Isn’t that what they always say?

Well, I incorrectly judged the photo on this Blue Apron recipe card before I even started cooking. Mistake. Queso de Freir Arepas are incredibly delicious! WHO KNEW? Millions of Venezuelans and Colombians apparently, because Arepas are a staple of those cultures. Que sabroso en mi tummy-oso.

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I was cooking for one last night since the parenting partner took the oldest children on an overnight campout. I stayed behind with Senor El Bebe. What does one do when preparing a meal meant for four people? Do I make only two and discard the rest? Cook the whole recipe and pray I don’t fall temptation to devouring everything? That would throw the whole weight loss this month right out the window. I ended up following the instructions and went ahead and cooked it all, no sense in letting things go to waste. One of Blue Apron’s main selling points: No unnecessary ingredients and no waste.

hello, yellow (onion)

hello, yellow (onion)

Somehow I must have gotten mixed up when cooking the other recipe that came with this box (one I didn’t blog about) and used the red onion meant to pickle for the Arepas. Oops? There was a solitary yellow onion hanging out in my fridge so we had to substitute. I don’t think that substitution terribly affected the outcome of this dinner.

The onion was pickled in red wine vinegar, sugar, 1/2 cup of water and a pinch of salt. It was used to top the Arepas and the remaining onion and vinegar went into the salad. Next, it was time to assemble the Arepas themselves. It was difficult to tell from the photo what kind of texture these would turn out to have. Would they be crisp like a bruschetta? Soft like a cookie? The best way to describe the texture is to say they tasted like deep-fried corn pita bread. Crispy on the outside, slightly doughy on the inside. The dough itself was moldable and easy to work with. This was like nothing I’d ever tasted before and I really liked them. 10 points to Blue Apron for once again bringing me out of my culinary comfort zone!

hot cha cha cha

hot cha cha cha

Now for the cheese….

Way back when, I experienced some difficulty with a Blue Apron cheese recipe. In fact, it’s fair to say that was the biggest dinner disaster to date. So I was a tad bit nervous opening this week’s Blue Apron box to discover a cheese entrée. Two big differences between the queso de freir and the farmer’s cheese, however. First, QDF is a semi-hard cheese which maintains its structure upon cooking whereas the farmer’s cheese instantly crumbled. I also remembered to cut the cheese the right way this time. LOL…cutting the cheese the right way…

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This dinner does not LOOK appetizing. At all! But the combination of savory flavors, the saltiness of the cheese blended with the tartness of the onion and the smokiness of the paprika, was like…perfection. It’s late in the game, but this one made the Top 10, perhaps even the Top 5. Even the salad was good! Arugula…Cucumber…AVOCADO?! Hell yes!

Maybe it was because I was by myself and was able to focus on the cooking process without background distractions. Maybe it was because I had low expectations. Arepas are pure fried goodness. I can highly recommend this recipe.

don't be deceived, the taste delivers

don’t be deceived, the taste delivers


Blue Apron 35: North African Beef Tagine w Zucchini & Almond Herb Couscous

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Face it: Zucchini is the basic bitch of the cucurbits. Bold statement, I know. But what is zucchini best known for? Its bread? Zucchini is a watery filler gourd that’s stupid-easy to grow with inferior ovaries. Blue Apron has been sending zucchinis a-plenty in our boxes lately.

do you even go here, zucchini?

do you even go here, zucchini?

I used to have a thing for you once, zucchini, but no longer

I used to have a thing for you once, but no longer

So I was a little disappointed to receive yet another zucchini recipe this week; two recipes in the same box! But it’s understandable where Blue Apron is coming from. Zucchinis are cheap to grow and are decently healthy for you. Fortunately, this dinner was balanced out by something far sexier: Medjool Dates. Mmm…so sticky and sweet (also, Red Onion. The sexiest of the onion varieties).

wanna date?

wanna date?

One positive this dinner had going for it was that Blue Apron sent a lot of ground beef. A lot. There’s a big Tupperware of leftovers now sitting in our fridge. The beef + the couscous made for great volume. Since we’re on the 4-person meal plan there is no shortage of food to go around. It provoked a different and interesting reaction from the kiddoes. Good-eater enjoyed the couscous, but not the beef, and Picky-eater liked the beef, but not the couscous. I would have predicted the opposite.

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I greatly enjoyed the combination of the spices and the heartiness of the meat and vegetables. The mint and parsley were a nice touch. Coming in at 650 calories per serving, this was healthy enough for my diet plan yet felt filling and didn’t leave me craving more. Too bad this wasn’t especially kid-friendly because I would love to make this again, perhaps omitting the zucchini for something like butternut squash. I also got to serve this in my new Pottery Barn serve-ware bowls. Pottery Barn: The Basic Bitch of Retail. You know you love it.

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Burned by Blue Apron!

Really, Blue Apron? You’re really going to do this to me? After I sang your praises and enjoyed your creations all these months? ON FOURTH OF JULY WEEKEND?!

Unless an act of God occurs within the next 53 minutes 59 seconds and a box of food appears on the doorstep, we ain’t gettin’ our Friday food box. Boo!

I get that 80% of the blame lies on FedEx here. When I contacted them (thank goodness they have reasonable West Coast customer service hours) after discovering the delivery info on the package had changed from “today by 8:00 PM” to “Monday, July 6”, the gentleman on the phone informed me that FedEx Ground staff had the day-off today. Reasonable! I completely support FedEx giving their employees Friday off in lieu of a Saturday holiday. But shouldn’t Blue Apron have seen this coming? On some level, informing the packaging crew to put 2-day labels instead of Ground for this particular holiday would have made much more sense and their customers wouldn’t have to wait out a long, hot weekend to receive potentially spoiled food. Ewww – no thank you! Hopefully the shipment refusal FedEx put on the package is upheld. I like surprises, but not when it comes to opening boxes of hot, sweaty food.

I believe in second chances, “fool me once, etc”, and this is the only major problem I’ve had with them up until now. But food-le me again and WE DONE, BLUE APRON! This one burned real good. And I know of a competitor of yours that rhymes with ‘Smell-o Presh’ I’ve been curious to try who might not leave their customers in the lurch on ‘Merica’s Birthday. I expect I won’t receive a reply until Monday. Until then, I’m going to lament the loss of grass beef wieners with some wine from a box.

Happy 239th, America.

NOPE

NOPE


Blue Apron 33: Pulled BBQ Chicken Sandwiches w Fingerling Potato Salad & Creamy Coleslaw

MMM…potato salad…coleslaw…BBQ…buns! This is everything great about picnic food rolled up into one simple recipe.

I haven’t been doing write-ups lately because I’m so bored writing about dinner. UGH. There are only so many ways you can talk about poaching chicken. But I will get to my goal of 40 dinners – I can do this! This is the year I set out to finish projects and by god, I will get to 40!

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So – this Blue Apron recipe had high expectations. Don’t you just want to stuff your face in all of that? Usually when something looks amazing in the recipe card photo, the outcome is never as good as your imagination. It’s why even supermodels get dumped, right? No, don’t follow that comparison.

The potato buns they sent were as good as promised! They stayed fresh and soft after a day in the fridge and two days in transit. There were probably some kinds of preservatives in there like in most grocery store bakery items, but we don’t have to fight that particular battle now. Let’s just enjoy them for the fluffy flavor pillows they are.

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The ingredient and prep time was quick and simple. The first step was poaching and shredding the chicken. During that process, I washed and cut the potatoes, cabbage, radishes, and scallions, and combined the mayonnaise and mustard which was used in both the coleslaw and potato salad sides.

ready to picnic

ready to picnic

My opinion of both sides was rather, “meh”. The coleslaw was a little too vinegary for my taste and it’s a nitpicky thing, but radish in coleslaw looks better when it’s finely sliced. Just my opinion. The potato salad was okay, but again with the nitpicks, I think potato salad is something better served cold. If I had more time and didn’t have a hungry family to feed, I would have chilled it in the fridge for a couple hours. The BBQ chicken was decent but I’m a little disappointed that Blue Apron included a jar of already made BBQ sauce. In Blue Apron style, I would have expected to whip up some of my own!. Granted, this did cut down on the meal prep-time but if I know my generic grocery store BBQ sauces, this tasted like the Sweet Baby Ray’s brand. That’s my guess and while that’s all good, this added to the “hmm, could have picked up these ingredients and made this one myself” factor.

I could have made better

I could have made it  better

Points for being a recipe we all enjoyed, kids included, on a hot summer evening out on the deck and for being quick and easy to whip up in a pinch. Yes, I know it’s not “officially” summer yet, but screw your solstice; summer begins June 1st in the Northern Half of the world so sayeth me.

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