Creative Cooking with Blue Apron!

Last week was my first experience cooking with Blue Apron – a delivery service that provides you with all the ingredients and recipes in order to create delicious, chef-designed meals at home!  I arrived home mid-day to see two large boxes on my doorstep!  I was really excited to open them up and see how this whole process worked. 

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Let me fill you in a little bit on the basics before I jump straight into the unpacking and cooking.  Blue Apron does not deliver ready-made meals that you pop into the oven for dinner.  Rather, they provide quality, fresh ingredients and creative recipes so that you have all the tools and products to cook a delicious and inventive meal yourself.  All the food comes pre-portioned, which cuts down on prep time and waste of unused ingredients.  No meal planning or grocery shopping needed, as literally everything is included – even down to the tiniest pinch of spices. 

You can choose between standard and vegetarian meals, and there are options available for two, four, and six servings.  There is one flat price – $9.99 per person, per meal – and there is free delivery in refrigerated boxes to ensure freshness!  Blue Apron delivers to 80% of the US – you can check here to see if it’s available in your city.

So now that you know how it works, let me walk you through my experience!  The first thing I noticed when I went to move the boxes into my kitchen was that they were HEAVY!  Once I opened up the package and saw the first layer of ice packs, I understood where the bulk of the weight came from – aha!

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Of course, the ice was necessary in order to keep all my ingredients and food cool and fresh on a hot summer day.  (There are instructions on the Blue Apron website detailing how to recycle the packaging and boxes.)  Between the layers of ice packs, I found beautiful, colorful produce that was all portioned, packaged, and labeled for each recipe. 

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There was also a package of paperwork, which included an intro letter explaining that week’s meals and inspiration, along with three recipe cards.  I was instantly struck by how well-designed and nice all of the graphics and recipes looked.  The front of each recipe card had an ingredient list, photos of the individual ingredients, and a photo of the finished product.  The back contained easy-to-follow step by step instructions on how to make it all come to life! 

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Each of the boxes contained everything we needed for two servings of that week’s meals.  So since we had signed up for the four-serving plan, we had two boxes with two sets of everything.  I unpacked it all into my refrigerator, and planned out when I’d be cooking them that week.

Last week my three Blue Apron meals were the Trofie Pasta, Roasted Poblano & Quinoa Sopes, and the Three Pea Salad.  All Blue Apron recipes are available in their online cookbook!

The first meal I made was the Trofie Pasta.  It was the day Casey was returning from a few days in NYC, and he was getting home just after the kids went to bed.  I waited until he texted that his plane had landed, and then I got to work.  I found the recipe really easy to follow, and I was both surprised and sort of excited to see how much cooking technique was involved.  It definitely wasn’t a “throw together” type of meal.  But rather, something that brought joy in cooking, and a meal that felt a bit more upscale and romantic than something I’d normally create.

The second recipe we made was the Three Pea Salad, and I took some pictures of this one to help walk you guys through the process.  I started by following the recipe card and pulling out all of the items designated for this particular salad. 

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I got started by cooking the farro.  One of the things I found through cooking the Blue Apron meals is that I really enjoyed the creativity and new ideas they brought to my cooking.  Take this for example – lemon zest in the farro’s cooking water – so delicious, and something I never would have thought to do. 

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While the farro cooked, I prepped everything else.  I think a common misconception with Blue Apron is that pre-portioned ingredients also means that everything is prepped and ready to go.  But in order to keep things as fresh as possible (to last you through the whole week!), most items come whole and in their freshest form, so a bit of prep work is needed to get ready to cook.  I quartered the lemons, shelled the English peas, trimmed the snap peas, and used my mandolin to thinly slice the radishes. 

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One of my favorite – and again, unexpected – aspects of the Blue Apron recipes is that they actually involved quite a bit of cooking technique.  This might sound intimidating to a total novice cook, but the recipe cards are so well written and the visuals are easily able to walk you through each step.  With each recipe, I found myself using cooking techniques – things like crushing garlic, blanching vegetables, and roasting peppers – that I probably haven’t done since culinary school.  I really enjoyed using more of my skill set in the kitchen, and it reminded me to think beyond basic grilling and sautéing each night. 

I blanched the snap peas and English peas in simmering water for a minute or two…

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And then transferred them to a bowl of ice water for cooling. 

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I also toasted the sesame seeds…

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And made a basic lemon dressing.

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Once everything was cooked and prepped, I tossed it all together in the biggest serving bowl I own.  I couldn’t believe how much salad this made for just four servings! 

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I crumbled the goat cheese on top and dug straight in.  I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I could not stop saying out loud (to myself) – “Man, this is SO good!”

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Everything tasted incredibly fresh, and I loved that the ingredients were so seasonal and of high quality.  I had originally planned to cook some corn and tofu so serve on the side with this, worried that a “simple salad” wouldn’t be filling enough for dinner.  Boy was I wrong.  This was more than enough food, and we had full bellies and leftovers for days.  With all three meals, I have found the serving sizes to be quite generous! 

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I finished up our week of Blue Apron meals feeling excited and energized by both the food and the cooking.  Here are a few of my thoughts as I continue to use the service going forward…

The meals are complex, and a bit more time consuming than I’d originally anticipated.  I think they are a perfect way to add fancier dinners and date nights into the week.  I personally can’t see doing the prep and following the instructions with children at my ankles, but I think it is a perfect addition to a weekly menu for meals to cook after bedtime – a nice change of pace just a few nights each week. 

I thought the meals were seasonal, creative, and nutritionally diverse.  The quality of ingredients was top-notch, and even things like greens stayed fresh in my refrigerator all week long.  On the days that I cooked the Blue Apron recipes, I found myself more relaxed during the day knowing that dinner was already planned and the ingredients were already in my kitchen. 

One thing I think could be really neat is to consider using this service for a vacation.  It would save big trips to the grocery store, and you wouldn’t have to buy full bottles of things like oils, spices, etc. that are always left over at the end of the week.  I love having nicer meals on vacation but I never want to plan or shop for them!

As the Blue Apron business continues to grow and evolve, I might consider suggesting that each delivery box could hold more than two servings.  For our four serving meals, we received two identical boxes that contained items necessary for two servings.  This meant that to cook four servings, I essentially doubled everything.  It might be easier to ship it all together to cut down on both packaging and prep time!

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I will definitely keep you guys posted as I continue to cook with Blue Apron in the future!  And for those of you interested in trying it yourself – how do two free meals sound? 

Blue Apron has generously offered a discount of 30% off (the equivalent of two free meals) to the first 50 reader who sign up through this link!  You can sign up for a weekly delivery of three meals for two, four, or six servings.  Whether you have a busy job or a million kids, and you are too swamped to shop for and prep meals – or you are simply looking for a bit of inspiration in the kitchen, I’d highly recommend giving the Blue Apron experience a try. 

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This post is sponsored by Blue Apron.  None of these links are affiliates, and I do not earn credits or commissions for ongoing sign-ups to the service – I simply want you to enjoy it for yourselves!  Thank you for your continued support of Daily Garnish.

Also, congrats to Lauren Luhrs, winner of the Oliviers & Co. giveaway!