Blue Apron Review - Cioppino Tagliatelle with Bay Scallops and Toasted Baguette with Garlic Aioli

Thursday, December 25, 2014


Ever since Jeff's accident, it has been very difficult for him to stand for long periods of time in order to cook. As a result, cooking duty has really fallen to me.

With my previous position, I worked in downtown Seattle. The daily high intensity that came with my position, in addition to the daily 2-hour total Seattle commute really left me feeling drained at the end of the day. By the time I was finished decompressing, it was nearly time for bed, and I don't like to eat too late at night.

We tried several things, including:

  • Prepping 3-4 meals every Sunday and parceling them out as "first-overs" in tupperware 
  • Planning 3-4 meals in advance and assigning them to different days, separated by periods of leftovers or easier meals like a classic tomato soup or tuna melt night
  • Eating out 2-3 times per week (I know, I know!) and then winging it the rest of the week
  • Going to bed hungry (I know!)
I did a lot of research online, and at one point we even considered hiring a personal chef to come in and cook for us once a week. However, my husband really detests the whole meal-prep lifestyle, preferring to eat freshly made meals each night and have leftovers for lunch rather than microwaving every single meal. I can't say I blame him, because I probably won't be looking at lasagna or chicken/rice combos the same way for quite a while. 

My new position, however, affords me a lot more down-time because it is a bit closer, the commute is not so draining (it's actually quire pretty), and my job is a lot more enjoyable. I am finally back to doing what I love, helping the population I love most, and the team I work with is wonderful. I miss my old teammates, but I cannot say that I miss the intensity. Not to mention, my weekends are finally my own again! 

In the last few weeks, we have come across two options that we are going to try. The first is Blue Apron. It is a meal ordering service that provides fresh, locally sourced (meaning locally-sourced to the company, not to our home) ingredients in little parcels with a photographic recipe card in a rather large box packed with ice-packs. There are options for a two-person couple or a 4-person family. We decided to give the 2-person plan a try, which provides 6 meals in total during the week, for a total of $59.94, or $9.99 per meal per person.

Unfortunately, I wasn't home for the unboxing, but I am grateful my husband put the ingredients away quickly. He apparently marveled at the ice packs, and he decided to keep them due to their utility. 

What we received included enough ingredients for three fabulous meals. 
  1. Cioppino Tagliatelle (pictured aboved)
  2. Roast Beef with Treviso-Pear Salad and Horseradish Sour Cream
  3. Chopped Chicken and Brussel Sprouts Salad with Blue Cheese, Currants, and Crispy Shallots
So far, we have only cooked the Cioppino Tagliatelle, and we are so impressed. I will not list the recipe here, because that would not be fair to the Blue Apron team that diligently did all of the work, but I can tell you a few things that I learned from making this meal:
  • How and why to caramelize tomato paste
  • Lemon zest is excellent in tomato-based sauces
  • Fennel is as delicious as it is aromatic (and it makes a great dental floss)
  • There is a right way to cook scallops
  • Pasta water has a purpose other than going down the drain! 
  • Fresh pasta tastes so much better than the boxed stuff
  • Fresh parsley smells phenomenal (I had a sudden urge to make a parsley-scented candle it smelled so crisp and zingy)
  • Aioli is the new butter when it comes to toasted bread spread
I had the hubby review this list, and he concurred (a la The Aviator). Silly references aside, we were positively blown away that we accomplished this meal in our own kitchen, and for half the price we would have stooped to pay in a restaurant. 

While $10 per person per meal period may seem like a lot to some folks, for us, this is a good deal. When I was in graduate school, we lived on a shoe-string budget and managed to make a month worth of food for only $200 by shopping at Costco and doing the coupon thing. It was not exactly healthy by any stretch of the imagination, and it consisted of a lot of pre-packaged food. Now that we are both working, we have more income and we feel more comfortable splurging on better ingredients and getting away from boxed deals that you usually find in the 10 for $10 section. It also meant our poor taste buds were suffering. We rarely went out, and we lacked much in the way of culinary skill.

We still have a lot to learn about balancing thrift with adventure, but we have decided this is a good way to be learn some new techniques, add new foods into our diet for later incorporation, and break out of our cooking rut. In addition, having the ingredients shipped directly to our door means less time shopping and more time spent together cooking or exploring our new hobbies together. 

Pros
  • Cost-effective (for some)
  • Organized boxes with clearly-labeled ingredients
  • Deliveries are structured on a calendar that makes meal-planning simple 
  • You can skip a week anytime you want to (with enough notice, of course)
  • Easy to store in the fridge, and so far, no spoilage! 
  • Recipe cards with clear photographs and simple instructions that follow a precise timetable
  • Calories listed per serving
  • Video tutorials on the website
  • Recipes printed on sturdy cardstock, reading for preserving (also recyclable)
  • Even though the pictures I took didn't turn out well because of the low evening light, I can attest to easy ability to create restaurant-quality presentation if you enjoy the visual appeal of your meals as much as the other senses
  • LEFTOVERS
Cons
  • Price (for some)
  • Plastic packaging = waste (some is recyclable, others can be re-used, sadly, some is just trash)
  • There is potential for spoilage in transit, especially, I imagine, during the warmer months of the year
  • No exact measurements (but if you are familiar with cooking, you can pretty much figure it out if you wanted to purchase new ingredients to make the dish again)
  • Some meal combinations are not compatible; we still haven't figured out the pattern, but it seems that some vegetarian meals absolutely cannot be packaged with meat/fish meals
In all, our initial meal far outweighed our expectations, and we are really looking forward to the others. While it still leaves us with 3-4 other meals to plan during the week, it certainly helps cut down on food-related stress we have been dealing with since we could no longer divvy up cooking duty. I think the best part of our whole cooking experience was that my husband could still help prep by chopping up veg and herb at the coffee table, which meant that we were also cooking together again. Huge accomplishment! 

We are going to continue this experiment of sorts for another few weeks. We may supplement with the Fresh20 meal plan service, but we don't want to take on too much at once. I will review it if/when we need to try it. It looks like an amazing second option for really kicking your cooking skills into high-gear, especially when you are in a cooking rut or need a little more exposure to the different types of healthy foods available. What we love about the plan just from perusing the website is that it is seasonal, it's flexible, and it is dietitian/nutritionist approved before its release every week. Did I mention it's also budget friendly? Sounds like a good secondary option to me, and it may even prove to be a better first option for some readers. 

I hope my review was helpful, as it was entirely my own. Our cooking adventures continue, and we are reminded once again how even the little things in life can be impacted by disability. If you're in the same boat, persevere! There is always an opportunity to renew that sense of intimacy in cooking a shared meal and resuming those normal couple activities that seem impossible at the outset. 

Happy holidays and happy feasting! 

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