Tuesday, February 23, 2016

i tried it: blue apron

I'm going to start a whenever I feel like it blog series called I Tried It in which I try something new to me. It might only be a twice occurring series since I currently have two ideas, but let's pretend I'm going to make it a thing.

So, I don't cook. I moved straight from my parents' house to Andrew's house and he always liked to cook. He went to culinary school. Boxed meals and Pinterest recipes don't stand a chance near him. Due to his picky palate and my own laziness, I never wanted to try. However, at the ripe old age of 31, I thought it might be time to try to do my part and at least not completely fear the kitchen. Enter Blue Apron.

If you don't know, Blue Apron is a service that lets you choose three meals from a selection of six and then have the ingredients to make those meals, along with recipe cards, shipped to your house on a day mostly of your choosing. Everything is included except things most people have on hand like butter, cooking oil, and salt and pepper. You can select if you're a vegetarian or not and also eliminate meats you don't eat or like. Thanks to my friend Heidi, our first week of three meals was free; otherwise, it would have been about $60. (To clarify, my actual friend, not someone who works for Blue Apron and wanted me to write this post. This is my honest review just because.)

I was excited to try this. Like most people, we get stuck in a dinner rut and I was tired of eating the same things. I told Andrew that I would try my best to cook as much of the food as possible, so he was excited about that, but he wasn't really into the dish options that I presented. I wanted to play it safe, so I chose two vegetarian meals and one with fish. If you choose a more expensive dish from the six, like one with beef, it will limit you from choosing another expensive item. You have to really evaluate which option you want the most and then choose from there.

The Blue Apron box weighed about 15 lbs and arrived at my door on the day it was promised. All of the veggies were cool and the salmon was kept between cold packs, so it was pretty cold. They suggest eating meat the first few days so it doesn't go bad, so that's what I did. Everything is neatly labeled, which was really handy for all of the new-to-me ingredients.

My first meal was Mexican spiced salmon with black rice, avocado, and orange salad. I've never had black rice before, and I probably never will again. It was totally unnecessary and a strange texture, though I did like the combo of orange and avocado. I'd definitely like a variation of this in the future, maybe with white rice. There were also toasted pumpkin seeds in the salad, which was a nice flavor and crunch. Most of the produce was great, but the avocado unfortunately wasn't ripe yet (though still edible). The meal prep and cook time was listed as 30 - 40 minutes, and of course it took me a lot longer. I think it would have taken Andrew, who actually has knife skills, close to the same amount of time. I liked that the salmon was already portioned and deboned, so it could go straight into the pan; however, it tasted like it was previously frozen and had a not-so-great fishy taste and bad texture. Using a scale of 1 being boxed mac and cheese and 10 being the best meal made at home we could imagine, Andrew gave it a 4 and I gave it a 6 - I really did like the orange and avocado and the Mexican spice on the fish wasn't bad.

 Black rice is weird. I guess I appreciate trying something new but it was unnecessary and a strange texture.

 The second meal we tried was a fresh beet linguine with swiss chard, toasted walnuts, and goat cheese. I love beets and goat cheese. I thought this meal would be really easy, but separating the swiss chard from the stems and cutting them both separately and peeling and mincing the garlic took a long time. I also had to toast the walnuts, which seems like the secret ingredient to Blue Apron success - next time a recipe calls for a nut of any kind, I'll toast it first. The pasta didn't really taste of beets, but overall I really liked the dish. I never know what to do with pasta besides eat it with a sauce or olive oil, so the melted goat cheese, butter, lemon juice, and pasta water was a great change. The biggest downfall, though, was when we considered that it was a $20 meatless meal with not-so-special ingredients had we paid for it through Blue Apron. I was still a little hungry after this one and I wished there was more. Andrew gave this one a 6 and I gave it a 7, so I had renewed hope for our third meal.


The least photogenic yet the best tasting.

The meal I saved for last, mostly because it was the one I was least excited about, was shiitake mushroom and cabbage dumplings. The preparation required for this was intimidating (all of the washing and cutting, then cooking, making dumplings, and then cooking them again!) so I waited until a weekend when Andrew and I could do it together. I appreciated that this recipe introduced me to a new-to-me ingredient: tatsoi. It's a green, leafy vegetable that Blue Apron provided to roast and serve alongside the dumplings. It was bitter and not something I enjoyed eating on its own, but if I ever saw it on a menu alongside something else, I would be okay with it. Preparing the dumplings was just as time consuming as I feared, but I appreciated the pre-cut dumpling wrappers and filling the dumplings, sealing them, and making little fork marks in them was actually kind of fun. If I saw them in a store, I would definitely consider using them again. The dish overall was fine, but again, it wasn't all that filling for the amount of work it took. My local Chinese place will deliver an order of eight dumplings with meat for around $6, so paying $20 for 12 vegetarian ones wasn't that good of a deal. While we didn't rate this dish, we both agreed it was better than the salmon but not as good as the pasta.



I wanted to use Blue Apron to try new things, which it was definitely good for. Most of the dishes looked pretty enough on the plate with minimal effort. I appreciated the ease of everything coming to my door and the website provides tips and videos to help you cook as well as the recipes for the meals you didn't order. I liked that I only got the amount of most things I would use, so there was no wasting a huge bunch of cilantro, for example, for just a few leaves. But, that convenience is definitely costly. It would be far easier and just as expensive to go out and eat three times a week. I've looked at the recipes for the next few weeks, and nothing has jumped out at me, so there are no deliveries scheduled for the foreseeable future. If I could find something I liked, I wouldn't be opposed to maybe placing an order a month to add new things to the rotation. If I promise to cook, I think I might be able to talk Andrew into it.




12 comments:

  1. I've seen this and thought about trying it but what you describe is still way more prep and cook than I want to do.

    We watched a cooking show last week where they made black rice and I thought I might want to try it, now I"m rethinking that idea.

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  2. I just can't put that much money or effort in! John and I generally don't like fancy ingredients. It has to be reeeeally basic to get me to eat it. Andrew would be ashamed of me haha.

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  3. I love the idea of I Tried It. I want to try it. hahaha. Get it?

    I have tried Blue Apron, and I hated it. I felt backed into a corner by it like I had to use those things and prepare it in that way. I thought there were a billion extra steps and prep that I skirted and it turned out just fine. But I feel like people who don't cook wouldn't know that, so I have a beef with Blue Apron for making simple meals harder than they need to be.

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  4. We tried this last week and I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I was tired of eating the same meals, but once I broke down the cost of spending 60 bucks, i'm pretty sure I could have went to the store and bought the same ingredients for 45....

    Not to mention I probably wouldn't choose to cook any of the meals again if given the chance.

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  5. I'm always fascinated by these services so I'm very interested to read of your experience with it. We have Hello Fresh here in the UK which I think is basically the same thing. It sounds like a great idea in principle but I'm put off by price like you (and lack of gluten free options). To be fair, your meals do look really fancy.

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  6. We tried Hello Fresh last week, which is pretty much the exact same thing as Blue Apron. I think that our thoughts were the same as yours, that the food was ok, just really expensive for having everything exactly portioned out. The other thing that I didn't like was that I could only get the portion size for two people. We love to make a meal and have a few portions for leftovers so we have lunch during the week. You definitely can't do that with these subscription boxes, unless you order the family size, I guess.

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  7. love this 'series' and i hope you come up with more ideas lol. i love the idea of blue apron, but the cost and portion sizes are just not worth it to me. i mean, if i served KC one of those plates he would just look at me in horror and ask where the rest of it was lol. your meals really do look fancy though, and yay for cooking new things!

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  8. I'm glad you tried it and wrote about it because I don't want to try it for all the reasons you explained. It just seems to make food so much more complicated than it needs to be.
    We buy frozen salmon at Costco...$30ish for about 12...and all you need to do is defrost it and it's super fresh. I can't believe BA salmon didn't taste fresh.

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  9. I looked into this out of curiosity a few weeks ago and the food is just too damn fancy for me. lol

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  10. Glad you tried it! I'm glad to know I'm not the only blogger who is so not into cooking. Man, I wish I was. It always takes me way longer to cook the foods than it does my husband. That's my only complaint, but I'm also not so great in the kitchen in general. I loved everything we have had so far. We've done it about 4 times and I usually end up stuffed. It's expensive in terms of cook at home food, but I think it's cheaper than actual dining out by the time you add tax and tip (which we don't typically do on a weeknight anyhow). It's definitely more expensive than fast food type places though, but I think it makes sense that it is.

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  11. 1. I think that is so cool Andrew went to culinary school! 2. We have neighbors that get Blue Apron regularly and love it. One week they had to go out of town unexpectedly and asked us to use the food. We ended up just freezing the meat and giving it back to them because I know it's kind of pricey, but I was impressed with the quality of ingredients. Sometimes I think about trying one of these services just to change things up a bit, but I think yours was the first truly honest review...so it sounds like it's okay, not bad at all but maybe for someone who cooks a lot, not worth the price? I don't know...

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  12. Lol, “But it was unnecessary” that’s a hilarious take on a food you don’t like. Haha. It looks good! Good job on using this to learn how to cook. I was not a very good cook either a few years ago but proactively worked to change that. I mean, what am I going to do? Never know how to cook? It’s been a fun journey in finding out how to make things (and eating after is always nice). Glad you’re on your way!

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I like comments and read them all but I'm not great about responding to them, so please don't be offended. I would much rather visit your blog instead!