Aug 192014
 

My friend Tiffany recently signed up for the Blue Apron food service and I guess because of that she got to send some friends a freebie. She sent one to Michael and I and I signed up for one week to give it a try. I was kind of curious to see what exactly it was and how the food was. I didn’t really know much about it so I read up on it at their website (and I see that a few other bloggers wrote some reviews of them). The free week gave us three meals for two people. I was not contacted by Blue Apron to do a sponsored post, but I did technically get the week of food for free thanks to my friend Tiff. This review is on my own and my own opinions.

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Not knowing much about it, I liked the concept, but wasn’t sure if it was for us. It seemed like a good idea if you want to eat healthier and don’t know where to start. They claim the calories are 500-700 per serving and I was going to check that on my own to compare it. I also like that their website has recipe ideas that anyone can see, not just members.

The box arrived packed with insulated padding and multiple ice packs. Everything was clearly marked. We separated each meal’s ingredients and put them in separate bags for each recipe to keep things straight.

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So how was the food?

Meal #1

Pan-Seared Salmon

with Fennel & Heirloom Potato Salad

Michael did most of the work on this recipe before I got home so I just finished up things. He told me it took about 30 minutes to prep and cook everything. The first few bites were just okay. I told Michael that maybe I wasn’t impressed because we cook salmon at least once a week and ours is pretty good anyways. He said that he can see where this would be considered great for someone that doesn’t prepare fish often.

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After a few more bites, I was more and more impressed. The sear on the top of the salmon had a little crunch and it was awesome! The potato salad–something super simple and only a few ingredients–was great. The real winner for me? The raw fennel and dill salad.

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This was shocking because historically I hate fennel. Maybe it’s fennel seeds I dislike? Not sure, but it’s a huge turn-off to me and I was shocked that I loved this raw salad so much. Michael wasn’t as much of a fan so I ended up eating his salad too. :) The dinner as a whole was fantastic and I enjoyed it the more I ate. Hours later I was still thinking about how good that dinner was.

Meal #2

Rice & Beef-Stuffed Poblano Peppers

with Lime-Crema Sauce

This one was a lot more involved.  It seemed like everything involved had to be done at the same time. I will say that the roasting and removing of the seeds in the pepper was a pain in the butt. Other than that, the recipe was pretty straight forward. One thing I noticed with Blue Apron recipes is that the portion sizes are a little off. They sent packets of rice that should be enough for two people but really it was more like rice for 3 people.

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Michael loved this meal. I liked it a lot. There was a ton of the rice/meat mixture. I stuffed the peppers with what could fit and then baked them for 6 minutes. There was still enough of the mixture left over for two more peppers. I chopped up a tomato to have on the side and dinner was served. It was delicious and just the right amount of food.

Meal #3

Chicken Sate

with Peanut Sauce & Marinated Green Tomatoes

We actually did this meal for lunch. While I enjoyed it, it wasn’t my favorite of the three and I thought for sure it would be! Part of it was my fault. We were cooking together and I misread one of the steps and used all of the sesame oil in the peanut dipping sauce instead of just half of it. Ooops….One thing we learned with this recipe was that we should have taken everything out of the fridge long before we planned on cooking it. The peanut butter was hard as a rock (I ended up microwaving it for a few seconds to get it creamy) as were the tomatoes. I cooked the rice while Michael cut up the chicken. Then we let it marinade in the soy sauce while I made the dipping sauce and he chopped the veggies.

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In this recipe, Michael LOVED the tomato and onion salad and I felt it was just ok. The tomatoes didn’t have a ton of flavor and I just didn’t love it as much as I did that raw fennel salad. All in all, though, everything went well together. My favorite part of this dish was the chicken. It was perfectly prepared and the soy sauce flavor was there but not overpowering. There was just enough of the crunch from the sear but the chicken was still soft and not overcooked.

PROS

*I liked that the recipes had picture instructions, too. I’ve never cooked Chicken Sate and seeing how they cooked it in the skillet with the kebob sticks already in it was helpful–I know, probably an obvious thing, but I didn’t know.

*The bonus to this is that you don’t have to shop. It’s all measured and delivered to your doorstep. It came in a refrigerated box. Going to the grocery store can be a pain, so if that is something you loathe, this is probably the service for you.

*I liked the recipes and that it took the guesswork out of “what to have for dinner”?

*I liked that I got to use ingredients I’d never cooked with before. I dismiss a lot of potential recipes because it calls for “weird” ingredients or just things I am not familiar with.

*They have options for carnivores AND vegetarians.

*The food was really tasty and the ingredients were nice, high end ingredients.

CONS

*But…I’m a little disappointed that they didn’t include any vegetarian meals in our box. I selected carnivore because we eat everything but honestly, it would have been kind of nice if one of the meals was a vegetarian option. I would eat more vegetarian meals if I knew what to prepare–but I just don’t. I’m almost tempted to try one more week and select “vegetarian” to see what they send.

*One of the concerns I had was the cost. $60 a week seems pretty steep. I normally pay around $50-75 a week at the grocery store, but that includes all the “other” things I buy, not just food (i.e. toiletries, etc). Michael does a big Costco run about once a month for the staples–mostly proteins. We get chicken, pork chops and fish from Costco and freeze that so we always have a protein on hand. We also have a ton of ground beef in our freezer right now that I got from my aunt when she slaughtered a cow this year.

So if the meals are about $10 each and you get 3 a week for $60, how does that compare to just buying the same ingredients on your own? I looked at this service as more of a “this is a substitute to going out to a restaurant.” If you look at it that way, it’s definitely a cheaper option, but you are still doing the work.

*Michael’s complaint about the service was that if you have no experience cooking it might be difficult. There were certain words that even he wasn’t familiar with and had to Google (for example: since neither of us have ever worked with fennel before he wasn’t sure which part the frond was).

*The waste annoys me. It comes in a big box, obviously, then everything is individually wrapped in plastic. I get it, that’s the safest, cleanest way to transport it, BUT it creates a lot of garbage. I don’t have that much garbage when I buy groceries on my own.

*It seems kind of snobby. I don’t really know how to better articulate this other than that. It just kind of rubbed me the wrong way–I just kept thinking, Most people can’t afford this service. And in the end, this is why I decided this wasn’t for me. I actually like grocery shopping and while finding time to do it, or having to make multiple trips in one week sucks, it’s still not something I hate enough to skip.

*It didn’t really save us any time–other than a trip to the grocery store. You still had to prep and cook everything, so really….what is the luxury?
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Michael was a pretty big fan of the service. He was impressed with the quality ingredients. I liked that the food was tasty and we got to try new ingredients. I am considering trying it on and off–not consistently but maybe as a once a month thing. It’s definitely too pricey for us to do every single week. And while there were certain things I didn’t like about it, I’d be willing to give it another try. Like I said above, I definitely would like to try some vegetarian recipes.

Have you tried Blue Apron? What was your experience?

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Aug 182014
 

My friend Star came over for dinner and to help us write our wedding ceremony. She’s the officiant and we both have been working on the ceremony and vows for a bit now on our own. It was time to come together and make it all fit.

Since she’s a vegetarian, I wanted to make a recipe that was veggie friendly and that also used up some of the zucchini from our garden. I found a few different frittata recipes and decided to make one of them. I used two different frittata recipes to make my own. I liked the spicy ingredients in this recipe, but I also liked that the other recipe called for ricotta cheese (which I needed to use up).

Zucchini Ricotta Frittata Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 2-3 servings

Calories per serving: 410

From: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/zucchini_ricotta_frittata/

Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 small zucchini, or one larger one, washed and sliced into thin rounds (about 3/4 pound)

Instructions

  1. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Add the ricotta and Parmesan and beat to combine. Add the salt, freshly ground black pepper, basil and thyme and beat to combine. Set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch oven-proof stick-free skillet on medium high. When the oil is hot and begins to shimmer, add the zucchini slices. Stir so that the zucchini slices are all coated with some of the oil. Cook, stirring only occasionally (if you stir too much the zucchini won't brown), until the zucchini slices are lightly browned, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove zucchini slices from the pan with tongs or a slotted spoon to a bowl. Let cool for 30 seconds or so, and then stir the zucchini slices to the egg mixture.
  3. Reheat the skillet. There should be a couple of tablespoons of oil left in the pan, if not, add some. When the oil is hot, pour the egg mixture into the pan. Do not stir it. Reduce the heat to medium. Let the egg mixture cook. Run a spatula along the edge of the frittata, separating the cooked edges from the pan. Let the egg mixture cook until the bottom is golden brown and the top is beginning to set, about 5-6 minutes.
  4. Set the top rack 5 inches from the heating element in the oven. Preheat the oven broiler. Once the top of the frittata has started to set in the pan on the stove top, remove the pan from the stove and place it in the oven. With the broiler on, the door of the oven needs to be open. You can let the pan's handle stick out from the oven through the open door. Cook under the broiler until the top starts to become lightly browned, about 2 minutes.
  5. Alternatively, instead of using the broiler, you can place a plate face-down on top of the skillet. Flip the skillet over to release the frittata on to the plate. Then slide the frittata from the plate back on to the skillet. Let cook for a couple of minutes more until the bottom side gets browned.
  6. Slide the frittata out of the skillet onto a serving plate. Let cool for a minute or two and serve.
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The recipe called for 6 eggs and said it fed 2-3 people. I think it actually fed more like 5 people. We each had a fairly large serving and there were two more servings left over (which I had one for lunch the next day). I put most of the spicy jalapenos on one side of the frittata and used the banana peppers on the other because they are less spicy and that was for Star.

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The recipe called for cooking the frittata on the stovetop for 5-6 minutes. I ended up cooking it for more like 10 I think. It was really jiggly and a little too wet still. This was the first time I made a frittata so I used some of Michael’s experience to figure out when it was ready to be baked. Perhaps using a cast iron skillet is why it took longer…? Who knows.

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It was looking much better. I put it in the oven under the broiler. Again, the recipe called for 2 minutes. I did more like 3-4 minutes. I took it out twice and tested it with toothpicks to see if it was done. It was pretty obvious when it was done. Here was the finished product:

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Star brought over  a loaf of olive ciabatta bread from New Seasons. It’s A-MAZING. Oh my gods, between the three of us we almost ate the entire loaf of bread. I can’t remember the last time I had this bread–maybe a year ago? It’s not something I eat very often and usually when I eat bread it’s the Costco gluten free stuff. So this was quite a treat! I also brought out some of the pickled red onions I made. Star LOVED them. :D

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We sat outside on the deck and listened to the kid’s football (or soccer) game going on in the distance. The crickets were singing nearby and the there was a lovely breeze that cooled down the hot day. I had a glass of the Trader Joe’s Coastal Sauvignon Blanc wine (it’s fabulous) with dinner and lots of water. Dinner was good but Michael and I both agreed that it needed a meat. Chorizo would have been nice. I think diced ham would be great, too. The dish would definitely be better with some salty, flavorful meat in it. Despite that, it was a decent vegetarian meal and Star loved it so that’s what counts.

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After dinner we worked on the ceremony. We ended up getting it done, a rough draft that still needs a little tweaking, but it’s done. One more thing to cross off the to-do list!

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I also printed out a bunch of poems I liked. One of my friends will be reading a poem during the ceremony. I narrowed it down to four and Michael read them all and picked his favorite. The runner up, that I still love, is this one:

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~ By Carl Sandburg ~

I love you for what you are, but I love you yet more for what you are going to be.

I love you not so much for your realities as for your ideals.

I pray for your desires that they may be great, rather than for your satisfactions, which may be so hazardously little.

A satisfied flower is one whose petals are about to fall.

The most beautiful rose is one hardly more than a bud wherein the pangs and ecstasies of desire are working for a larger and finer growth.

Not always shall you be what you are now.

You are going forward toward something great.

I am on the way with you and therefore I love you.

Isn’t that wonderful? Still love it. We ended up choosing something else for my friend to read. TBD. Star is Najavo and we are including a Native American blessing in the ceremony as well as some other elements that mean a lot to me. Michael seemed more interested in the words, as I was more interested in the symbolism, and he picked out things he liked for the vows from various print out examples. I liked all the ones he picked, as well as a few others. Despite what he says, there will NOT be the words “obey” in our vows. :P

On Sunday I went to yoga and then spent some time in the yard pulling weeds (god it’s been never ending this summer!). After that we went to Cartlandia for lunch. I got a buffalo chicken wrap in a spinach tortilla from the Good and Evil Wrap. I love that place and was craving it lately.

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SO GOOD. After lunch we had a dance lesson. The DJ we hired for the wedding also teaches dance. I brought the shoes I am going to wear for the ceremony (my grandmother’s shoes) and also my favorite pair of heels just in case. They had converted their garage into a dance studio. It was pretty nice. The private lesson was an hour and we got a discount due to hiring them for the wedding.

I have some dance experience. I took ballroom dancing classes but it was over a decade ago. At that class I learned the basics of ballroom dance–tango, salsa, box step, etc. I remember it being hard and a  really good workout. I was hoping some of that would come back to me once we started but…not so much.

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Lynn and her husband Mark taught us how to dance to our first song and showed us a few choreographed moves. It was so hard! It just didn’t come naturally like I thought it would and I felt like Michael and I were out of sync often. I also noticed that *I* try to lead too much. It’s just not in my nature to follow. LOL. We spent an hour with them and when we switched partners and I danced with Mark or even Lynn, I was impressed with how good they dance. I also noticed that I danced better with them because they were confident leaders. I think Michael and I need a LOT of practice still!

We may end up doing the typical prom dance sway if we don’t practice…

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