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 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.