about me

    Emily Malone

    culinary arts grad. nutrition facts lover. vegetarian chef. marathon runner. country music maniac. failed dog trainer. barre fanatic. loving mama.

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    What’s Cooking?

    Personal Bests

    5K - 23:28

    10K - 52:35

    15K - 1:38:14

    1/2 Marathon - 1:57:39

    Marathon - 3:50:58

    A Look Back.

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!

Summer Adventures.

Apologies for the quiet here last week.  I wish I had good excuses for you guys, but the reality is simply that it is summer – and there is so much to do, and eat, and see, and splash in – and I have been spending very little time indoors, and even less in front of my computer.  I keep making these giant to-do lists on our kitchen wipe-off board, and at the end of the day I am lucky to cross one thing off.  No regrets though – tis the season of sunscreen, tiny sandy shoes, and buckets and shovels rolling around in the back of my car.

We have been having such a wonderful summer – maybe our best yet?  This weekend was no exception.  Seattle was at it’s absolute best, with beaming sunshine all day long, sparkling water all around, and glowing sunsets night after night.  We knocked quite a few things off our summer bucket list, starting with – miniature golf! 

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Cullen is seriously obsessed with baseball these days, and he swings – both real and imaginary – bats around everywhere he goes.  So I thought he might have fun playing mini golf, particularly after I saw him playing with a friend’s toy club set at a park the other day.  Golf was a hit! 

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Graham wasn’t quite as impressed.  He snoozed on my back in the Stokke carrier, and I tried to argue for a handicapped score with all that extra weight shifting my center of gravity.  Casey beat me by a lot, Cullen cheated on every hole, and we all had a blast. 

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After a quick trip through our neighborhood farmer’s market, I spent naptime gardening!  I owe you guys a garden update soon – it is growing way faster than I can keep up with.  And real vegetables are actually growing – check out these squash!

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We grilled them for dinner along with corn on the cub, portabello mushrooms, and field roast – so delicious.  After we ate, the boys took a bath and changed into jammies, and then we took them for a pre-bedtime stroll to the grocery store in their new wagon (a Christmas gift we are finally putting to good use!).

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Sunday morning, both boys were up (painfully) early.  They bounced and climbed all over our bed, while Casey and I threw around ideas for what we’d do that day.  Instead of our usual walking loops and farmer’s markets, I tossed out something more adventurous.  Casey was into it, and so by 7:30am, we found ourselves ferrying across the Puget Sound from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. 

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As we drove onto the bottom car garage of the ferry, Cullen exclaimed from the backseat, “Oh, I am SO excited about riding the ferry!”  I tell you what – kids sure do make things way more complicated, but they also make them infinitely more fun. 

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We sat back and enjoyed thirty minutes of gorgeous blue water in every direction – with mountains all around, and all of Seattle’s beauty in the distance. 

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Graham’s first ferry ride!  He almost slept through the whole thing, but woke up just in time to enjoy the last few minutes.

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Somehow we have lived in Seattle for three years now, and we had never made it out to Bainbridge.  So for our first trip, knowing we had a limited window of time before the boys needed afternoon naps, we wanted to keep it low key – breakfast and a beach adventure.  We cruised the island a bit until we found Pegasus Coffee – a wonderful little coffee shop with an outdoor patio, a full menu, and delicious island-made kombucha on tap! 

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Cullen inhaled a massive blueberry muffin (he’d already eaten a full breakfast before we left!)…

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While Graham inhaled fistfuls of blueberries.  Kid loves to eat!

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Casey ate some sort of delicious veggie hash…

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And I had this incredible breakfast sandwich!  Flaky, buttery bread with roasted veggies, eggs, Beechers cheese, and a veggie patty sandwiched in between.  Seriously amazing. 

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After a relaxing, leisurely breakfast, we drove along the coast on the east side of the island – checking out all the beautiful homes, and stopping to soak in views like this. 

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Oh hello, Mt.Rainer! 

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This view honestly took my breath away.  Naturally, we started looking up real estate listing on our phones, as we are clearly now moving to the islands. 

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Our drive along the coast line took us to the north end of the island – Fay Bainbridge Park. 

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Beyond a camping ground area and small playground, we found a nearly empty beach with gorgeous sunshine, sparkling blue water, and lots of sand and rocks to explore.

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Casey and I took turns walking around with and snuggling Graham, who was determined to wiggle out of our arms so he could eat every rock on the beach. 

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Meanwhile, his big brother was hard at work perfecting his pitch – hurling rocks into the water with all the force and spirit of a two year old who loves to watch things fly through the air. 

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The only thing better than throwing rocks on a gorgeous beach, is doing it along with your dad.

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Such a wonderful morning with my favorite people. 

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As the clock ticked toward nap time, we headed back to the ferry and we were home by 12:30pm – just in time to read books and tuck two very exhausted boys into their beds.  And Casey and I needed to rest up ourselves, because we had a very special date night planned!

I planned a night out for us, and told Casey we were going to do a different type of date night.  I was so excited when the weather ended up being absolutely perfect for our activity – kayaking! 

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We rented a two-person kayak and paddled all around Lake Union.  We cruised past the houseboats up close (and of course, decided we need to live on one of those someday too!), waved to passing boaters, and had a total blast together. 

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It is always fun to see our great city from a different perspective, and no better way to do that than from the water.  As much as I love our occasional dinners out, this was a much more memorable and fun way to take advantage of having a rare babysitter! 

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After a quick meal, we hurried over to Golden Gardens Beach to soak up the last sunset of the weekend.  We had the perfect view of the mountains silhouetted by orange and pink skies.  We snuggled up on a piece of driftwood and I can’t remember the last time I have felt that relaxed and happy. 

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This summer just gets better and better, and there is still so much more fun ahead.

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