Despite the longer days of summer, who wants to spend more time cooking or doing anything that resembles work? Hence, the following genius suggestion to make your summertime livin’ easy: a subscription service that delivers your meals. Specifically, in this case, Blue Apron.
I have actually written about subscription services for my day job but hadn’t tried one out personally. Then my fabulous sister-in-law sent us a free week trial to Blue Apron and I couldn’t wait to try it out! A couple of things to note overall: First, if toast is about all you’ve mastered in terms of cooking, you might want to start with something a little more basic than this one. Although they provide all of the ingredients, a handy recipe card, as well as online tutorials and videos, if your kitchen is outfitted with nary a utensil, you may find it difficult to follow along at home. Second, all of their packaging is recyclable, which is a big plus in my book; plus they send it packed with those neat-o ice packs that you can re-use for your beach cooler! Third, you can customize your menu selections and delivery schedule, so if you’re headed out of town, or just want to take a week off and eat pizza and wings during March Madness (not judging), it’s easy peasy to arrange.
When your delivery ships, they send an email with your tracking # (so you can follow along from your desk and dream about dinner, especially if you just ate peanut butter crackers from the vending machine because you were too lazy to bring lunch, not that I know what that’s like). And who doesn’t love getting a delivery from the FedEx man?! Our fearless dog Krypto, who barks at every living creature who walks, bikes, skateboards, or drives down our street, somehow snoozed through the actual person at the gate dropping off a box…one minute it wasn’t there and the next time I walked and looked out the window, BAM, there it was!
It’s a pretty good-sized box, although not overly heavy. Everything inside is in adorable bespoke packaging, some of which you will be tempted to try and figure out how to re-purpose. Check out this example for perfectly protecting a single tomato!
The box is lined with an insert that keeps everything cool and leak-free; then layered with a bottom ice pack the length and width of the package, then the meats/proteins (in this case, beef, chicken, and shrimp).
Then another layer of ice packs and the produce ingredients:
And then the extra, so-called “knick knacks” that round out each recipe, along with the recipe cards and an additional card spotlighting one of the ingredients and its’ source.
Here’s everything except the meats, which I promptly put in the ‘fridge.
Of the three recipes included, I tried Empanadas de Picadillo first. I have never ordered an empanada out, nor have I ever attempted to make them at home (or even wanted to), but much to my surprise, these were delicious! They even came with a Mexican crema sauce that I would usually “order on the side” as code for “that’s not coming anywhere near my food,” but it provided a bright, citrusy complement to the hot spiciness of the beef empanada filling. In true good cooking fashion, they instruct you to cut and prep everything before starting to actually cook, which is something I usually forego and then end up scrambling and wondering how I missed an extra step or three. Not saying I’ll go totally all Martha moving forward with my cooking efforts, but it does make things much easier (and more photogenic, despite the terrible lighting in my tiny cooking space).
As an example of the need for proper cooking tools, they called for zesting the lime or just paring the rind and mincing, which is a huge pain vs a couple zips of the zester. I loved this recipe and would totally make it again, although I guess I would have to make it more of a calzone since the wrappers they provided were kind of a cross between a tortilla and pita that I’m pretty sure I would swap out some kind of bisquik recipe or pre-made dough for as a time saver. Also, the recipe notes that you’ll have etxra meat filling leftover, so wht now just throw in 2 more pieces of empanada dough so I’ve got some leftovers for lunch the next day, folks?
The next night, I made Spiced Shrimp and Pearl Couscous. It smelled lovely cooking and came together easily. Once upon a time in the era of our DINK lives, we used to frequent the Fairmont Hotel on the Plaza (now the Intercontinental) for jazz, cocktails…even lunch, which was where I tried pearl couscous for the first time (along with their amazing Croque Monsieur sandwich). This was the upscale hangout alternative to our lowbrow nights spent at the Peanut. But I digress…
Cooking everything together for the yummy finale…
Although this was pretty good (bonus points awarded to us for trying a spice mix outside of our comfort zone), I don’t know that I would make this again. Maybe if I substituted chicken for the shrimp. Living on the coast, I love simple boiled or grilled shrimp dunked in cocktail sauce and felt like the shrimp got lost in this dish.
The third and final meal I made had me prepared to not like it based solely on the coconut rice. I like coconut in a pina colada and can maybe tolerate it in those Hello Dolly 7 layer bars if they’re my only available dessert option, but savory entrees? I was skeptical at best.
However, I’m here to tell you that the Sweet Chili Chicken was ah-mazing. Add in the fact that it uses something called “tinkerbell” peppers (aptly named because they are so cute!), and I’m planning to add this into a regular menu rotation (ok, this implies we have a regular menu or menu plan of any kind which is simply not true, as evidenced by the fact that I am writing a post about how awesome it is to have someone else do the planning, shopping, and even delivery for me).
I didn’t take a pic of the coconut rice cooking, which is probably a good thing because it bubbled over and looked kinda like that experiment when Jack and I put a bar of Ivory soap in the microwave. Even once it was done cooking, just looking at it made me think it was going to be a pasty, mushy mess, but it fluffed right up with a fork and was a delicious, light counterbalance to the spicy chili sauce. There weren’t a whole lot of leftovers, but I liked it so much, I boxed it up for the next day’s lunch, and still ate every bite at my desk even as I realized that at some point in the middle of the night, Ty had picked all of the remaining chicken out of it!
So there you have it. If you’ve been thinking about trying out a subscription service, I say go for it. If nothing else, it’s one less trip to the grocery store, one less thing to think about (what’s for dinner?!) at the end of the day, and more time for enjoying the sound of cicadas in the trees and evening’s eventual break in the summer heat.