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Thursday, April 07, 2016

Blue Apron: Day 1

To start off, I've been wanting to try Blue Apron. For those not familiar, Blue Apron is a subscription service that sends you a box of ingredients to cook several meals for the week. They tout the meals as "restaurant quality," and so far I think that's a fair claim. The first meal I tried was BBQ-spiced salmon and roasted sweet potato rounds. It wasn't crazy fancy, definitely not too hard to cook, but it wasn't something I'd normally make on a random Wednesday.

A friend offered a free week of Blue Apron for me to try. A week normally costs $59.94, and that gives you enough food for three meals for two. I wondered if it would work for a single lady, but my single friend  does it and packs the second portion for lunch the next day. This is what I'm trying this week. Despite the fact that I waste a lot of food buying either a ton for one recipe or letting stuff waste because I get sick of leftovers, I'm still mulling over whether or not it's a value. I've committed to giving it two weeks to try. Luckily they are pretty good at letting you opt out if you can't do a week here or there. If I were still busy working 70 hours a week, it might be a completely different story. It really saved me a lot of time in the kitchen and allowed me to control my portions. $60 is just a lot to budget with so little money coming in. Most likely I will really commit to this service once I have a full-time job and time is more at a premium again.

Having everything I needed for a recipe right in front of me on the counter and having a recipe card that actually says: "While the potatoes are cooking, make your salad dressing and toast your walnuts," saved me a ton of time. A ton. It is supposed to take you no more than 40 minutes to cook a Blue Apron meal, and I don't think my first effort took that long. And I did get a little behind because I wanted wine and my corkscrew had to be located while the oven was pre-heating. That was supposed to be my slicing-and-dicing time.

Hey, hey, Hahira Red!
Speaking of wine, Blue Apron also recommends two wines you might want to pair with each meal. Clearly someone at Blue Apron is my spirit animal. However, I did not try either a Zinfandel or Pinot Noir with this wine (I had both) because I had a red wine I purchased in Georgia that I thought might be corked and going bad. I wanted to drink it while I still could, but it now appears that it was probably just hand bottled and the cork was fine. It still went well with barbecue salmon and sweet potatoes, so I'm still winning. I do, however, recommend maybe not buying the last wine you try at a tasting because it didn't really taste how I remembered it. However, if you're looking for a red that says it's a dessert wine but is fine with a hearty meal and you ever find yourself in South Georgia, try Hahira Red Supreme at Horse Creek Winery.

Now, back to the meal. My meal was delicious. There were a few things that were just OK, but it was nutritious, well balanced and tasty. My biggest issues were that the 475 temp on the sweet potatoes was too high. I suspected that when I turned the oven on, but I figured our Blue Apron friends were wiser about these things than I am. Even cooking on the short end of the recommended time, I burned about one-third of my potatoes. Not even like "this-could-be-a-potato-chip" burned. We're talking ashes.

Sweet potatoes going into oven
Sweet potatoes after

The salad was delicious with a great flavor profile. It was also very healthful with a ton of greens and apple pieces, a spattering of toasted nuts and a vinaigrette made with olive oil, whole grain dijon mustard, diced shallots and red wine vinegar. Based on the wet paper bag for my "knick-knacks," as Blue Apron calls them, I'd say that my little vinegar bottle sprung a leak. I put what was in the bottle in the bowl and added almost two tablespoons of my own red wine vinegar (side note: using old wine to make vinegar is working y'all) and it was still a very pasty consistency, not like a vinaigrette at all. It tasted good, but it just didn't look/feel like a salad dressing. I could have done something wrong, but I thought I had followed the directions. (Actually, I appear to have missed a note in parentheses and put too much shallot in. That might have made a difference.)

Wild caught salmon. Yay!
The salmon was great. I haven't cooked salmon at home for probably 12 years or so because I got violently ill from eating it once. I have had reactions since then. However, I recently realized that it might be the dye they use at factory farms. When they told me I was getting salmon this week, I decided that I would try it because if they are using salmon that I can eat, then I will be introducing it back into my diet when I use this service. Anyhow, the salmon was dipped in a barbecue spice mix, which was brown sugar, paprika and some other good stuff. Then I just pan seared it for a few minutes on each side. I haven't eaten much salmon in my recent memory, but it was very delicious.

Salmon dipped in the seasoning blend
All in all, I like Blue Apron so far. I hope I get to stick with it. I am a pretty good cook, but I stink at coming up with meal ideas. It is also nice to have everything y
Look! I'm toasting nuts!
ou need delivered right to your door and having it right there when it's time to cook. While it's a little odd to just get a single carrot in my package, the only things I used out of my kitchen were salt, pepper and olive oil. This let me get in my kitchen therapy without taking up too much of my life. It also challenged me. Do you know that in my 20-some years of cooking, I've never toasted nuts?

In addition to saving a lot of time planning, shopping and finding stuff in your kitchen, I think this is perfect for folks who don't have immediate access to a grocery store. I live halfway between a Kroger and a Publix, but if I lived in a big city like New York, Detroit, Chicago or somewhere else that grocery access can be sketchy, I would love this. Surprisingly Southern cities have much better grocery access (I'm looking at you, Nashville, Atlanta and Miami), so there isn't as much of a need for me. Even when I lived by the sketchy urban Kroger here in Nashville, there were two fancy suburb versions nearby.

The delicious finished product.
So, that's day one of Blue Apron. Tomorrow I'll be making Meatball Ragout with swiss chard, mostly because I'm a little worried that the chard will not hold up as well as the meat will in the fridge. I guess we'll figure those kinks out in the next two weeks.

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