I love Blue Apron OR How I learned to cook like a chef

Research from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (my alma mater!) shows that people who frequently cook meals at home may be consuming fewer calories, less sugar, fewer carbohydrates overall, AND less fat than those who cook less. Without even trying! When you cook at home you get familiar with ingredients and what you’re putting on your table and your body. As a clinical dietitian working in a hospital, I’m lucky to get a deep discount on breakfast and lunch at work, so I take advantage of that, but cooking dinner is all me most days!

Now, my brother is an amazing chef. I am not. These are facts. I can throw some things together and I understand certain flavor combinations, but that’s about as far as it  goes. I LOVE to cook though, and I have fun experimenting in the kitchen. I have quite a few go-to meals that make me look like a pro. About half of my experimenting, however, goes terribly wrong, often resulting in an inedible or ugly (or BOTH!) mess on a plate.

Coupled with my culinary short-comings, I also hate wasting food. I’m really the only “good eater”/foodie in the house AND I’m the only one who eats leftovers. That means that if I find a fun, new ingredient to try in a recipe and it only comes in large, pound-size quantities, I have to scratch it off the shopping list.

So how do I try out new recipes with interesting, tasty ingredients in reasonable quantities? My secret weapon: Blue Apron. This is NOT an advertisement. I am NOT getting paid to say this. Blue Apron has no idea who I am. Also, I will always make any sponsorships or ads VERY obviously known. I am simply a HUGE fan. A coworker of mine passed on a deal code a couple years ago that got me 3 free meals for 2 (6 meals and a $60 value), and I have been hooked ever since.

You should know that I am also pretty frugal; I can absolutely make a meal from scratch for far less than $10 per person. This is an every-once-in-a-while treat. When I am in the mood to try a new flavor or make a new dish, I opt in to receive a box the following week.

The last box that I got was two weeks ago and it was actually an accident! You see, Blue Apron is a subscription service. You provide your payment information and they send you a box of your selected meal plan every week (on Thursdays for me). I usually set a reminder on the first of every month to check the Blue Apron app (so easy!) and opt out of the weeks that I’m not interested in. If I know I’ll be out of town or not home to make the meals over the weekend, I’ll pass. I usually pass over the holidays and sometimes, though it’s rare, I’m just not interested in the recipes they have planned for that week. Anyway, somehow I forgot to opt-out and got a ‘Thank you for your order’ email…OOPS! It was a terrific oops, though. I checked to see which meals I would be getting, and I was thrilled. I made all three and they were all hits. So I thought I would share…

The delivery comes in a medium sized box with an insulated liner and ice packs. I get three different recipes each designed to feed 2 people. The recipe cards are tucked in the box, and they have simple instructions with beautiful photos. I have always been impressed with the quality of the fresh, beautiful produce and they basically send you only as much as you need. I once got a recipe that called for two lemongrass stalks and that’s what they sent! I didn’t have to pay for a big bunch of lemongrass, leaving half of it to go to waste. The meat is very high quality, much fresher than my local grocery stores and I have never been disappointed. The pickier palate in my house has even made comments about how good the meat is. Some dishes are more complicated than others, but generally, I would say that they take 30-45 minutes to prepare. The recipe card provides cook times and each recipe has reviews online to give you the customers’ perspective.

So meal #1 from out batch was a total winner; definitely a crowd-pleaser. As a dietitian, I would have liked more greenery or a side salad for extra veggies, but this Chicken & Fresh Basil Fettuccine was delicious. Oh, I forgot to mention that Blue Apron send fresh (fresh!!) pasta. This is not your average dried pasta in a box from the pantry. And it makes such a difference in the taste and texture of the meals. Who knew??

Meal #2, Seared Salmon & Sauce Gribiche, was a delight, given that I love salmon. This salmon was unbelievably fresh and so tasty. They also sent green and purple beans. One of the coolest part about cooking this meal was watching the purple beans turn green as they cooked! I didn’t know that happened to purple beans, but my recipe card gave me a heads up, so that I didn’t panic at the color change. I’ll tell you the truth, I’m not a huge capers fan and neither of us are big mustard fans (unless it’s honey mustard…yum!), so I made a couple of small changes to this dish. It still came out beautifully and I’m pretty proud of my Pinterest-worthy “nailed it” photo…

The third and final meal was actually my favorite. It was really fun to make, with a spice blend I have never tried (Porchetta Spice Blend- ground and whole fennel seeds, ground rosemary and ground sage). I got to sear and bake the beautiful pork, which was unbelievably easy.

 I love kale (and Parmesan cheese!), as well, so I thought the kale pesto for the sandwich was really clever and right up my alley. This Porchetta Style Sandwich was phenomenal. You can make it as spicy as you want and I definitely did! The flavors were unique and so well balanced. I’m still dreaming about this sandwich.

 I am grateful for a service like Blue Apron (there are others that I haven’t tried yet). I feel like my cooking skills have improved, my palate is broader, and I get to have fun with new ingredients and beautiful dishes. I got to cook with fennel- bulbs, fronds, and seeds to be exact- for a previous recipe. I was introduced to sunchokes and I got try cooking with lemongrass. It’s been an interesting culinary journey that I highly recommend.

I’m excited to share this with clients, readers, friends and family. I know that it helped me and I hope that it can do the same for you. The meals are tasty, nutritious, well proportioned, and balanced. If you’re looking for something to help kick start your cook-at-home adventures and don’t want to invest in an entire can of coconut milk or an entire bunch of fennel, try Blue Apron! Check out their website for FREE access to all of their recipes!

**CONTEST!** If you want free meals to try it out for yourself, respond in the comments section below with an ingredient or a recipe that you would LOVE to try. It’s that easy! On Friday, September 23rd, I will randomly select 2 winners from those who comment. Get an extra chance to win if you share this post on Facebook- just leave a comment below this blog post telling me that you shared it.

Because I am an actual customer, I get free meals send to people whenever I select to receive a box. If you win, there is no obligation! You can sign up to receive your free box (3 meals for 2 people!) and then cancel your subscription right away. Originally, I thought that’s what I was going to do, but I just stuck around. I am so glad I did.

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