Box meal delivery services are big business these days. As a trained chef and someone who loves to cook, I’ve always been a skeptic, “I don’t need a box meal delivery service, I know how to cook,” I'd say.
In fact, when ingredients in my kitchen run low, I like to challenge myself to come up with dinner using only the ingredients I have on hand. It saves me time running back and forth to the grocery store, and of course, it saves money, too. I’m also a bit of a food snob and picky about the ingredients I bring into my kitchen and put into my body. I know too much about the food system to eat any old burger, piece of fish, or conventionally grown strawberry that’s been heavily sprayed with pesticides.
Blue Apron's Ingredients
But when I got the opportunity to review Blue Apron, I thought, why not? I took a look at the website and how ingredients are sourced, and I decided to give it a shot. I couldn’t find anything about sourcing organic ingredients, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a strong commitment to building and supporting a sustainable food system. Ingredients are sourced from family run farms (some do grow organically), co-ops, artisan food makers, B Corps, and local purveyors across the country. Every ingredient partner profile I read (I didn’t read all of them) had a conscious or sustainability angle, which I loved.
Whether it’s the natural beef fromCountry Natural, a co-op of 100 families who raise humanely and pasture raised beef without the use of antibiotics and hormones, orReeves Farms, which sustainably grows a variety of produce including heirloom white eggplant, Raja Eggplant, organic blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, squash and sweet corn, or B Corp,Vermont Creamery, I was impressed with Blue Apron’s sourcing.
Setting Up A Profile
Setting up a meal profile was simple. I set up a two-person plan that includes three meals (you can also set up a four person plan too). Each meal is $9.99 per person and includes free shipping. Not bad. It also asks you about your dietary preferences. You can simply uncheck foods you don’t eat. For example, beef, lamb, pork, shellfish, poultry, and fish. And you can also tick that you are a vegetarian. Since I’m eating more veg these days, I decided to select that I don’t eat beef or pork (full disclosure, I do eat some beef and pork on occasion, but not as much as I used to for health and environmental reasons. And before I do eat it, I want to know A LOT about how it was raised).
Upon completion, I was taken to my first meal delivery schedule and dinner selections, which included included a beef dish. I found this a little odd considering I just told them I didn’t want to eat beef. You can adjust your order, but not all combinations are available for delivery. The combination I wanted to order was two veg dishes and one chicken, but that combination was not available, so I settled for three veg dishes.
The First Delivery
When I opened my first Blue Apron box, the immediate smell of fresh greens put me in the mood to cook. I was pleasantly surprised with how thoughtfully the box was packed. It included a one sheet for each recipe and a seasonal ingredient highlight called, “From the Farm, The stories, techniques and suppliers behind the ingredients in your delivery” which happened to be asparagus. I loved reading about the history of it, its Italian roots, plus the storage and serving techniques. It made me appreciate this special, seasonal ingredient even more. But oddly there was no mention of what farm supplied the asparagus.
As I reviewed each recipe card, I got excited about experimenting with ingredients I don’t normally cook with like, Za’atar, curry, and fennel. I also discovered a few of my favorite springtime ingredients, fresh English peas and pea tendrils.
And the recipes? They felt like they were written by real chefs (not amateur bloggers). Chefs with experience. Chefs that know a thing or two about seasonal ingredients, flavor combinations and real cooking techniques. What’s also nice is that you have the option of pulling up your recipes on your tablet while cooking. You can even watch videos on cooking techniques.
I then handed the recipe cards to my husband and asked him "what do you want for dinner tonight?” Loved that! One less decision for me to make at the end of a long, busy day.
Oh, and if you want to take your culinary game to the next level, each recipe comes with a wine pairing suggestion. You can even join the Blue Apron wine club that offers discounts and pairs with your dinner deliveries
The First Dinner - Spinach Pesto Gnocchi
The first night, I cooked up the Spinach Pesto Gnocchi with Sautéed Asparagus and Brown Butter. As I reviewed the recipe and its ingredients, I got a little worried when I didn’t see lemon listed as a pesto ingredient, but I saw a new one that I had not tried in it: capers. They were delicious. They provided the tang that lemon usually provides with a little different flavor profile that made the flavors pop. Definitely noted for future pesto dishes I make. My husband and I loved the bright flavors of the dish, but some may find the portion size a little small (and we do not like overly large portions, but I do like leftovers). Anything less would have been too small.
Dinner Number Two - Singapore Curry Noodles
Night two, I cooked up the Singapore Curry Noodles with Snow Peas and Yellow Squash. I don’t do a lot of cooking with curry so I was excited to try this. I took a few short cuts on the recipe to speed things along. I didn’t perfectly trim the snow peas by peeling off the string that runs down the side of each individual pod. I just used my chef’s knife to quickly trim both ends. I figure the string can’t hurt us, just more fiber!
I also opted to use avocado oil in place of olive oil for stovetop cooking. I buy nice olive oil that I usually reserve for finishing dishes or making salad dressing. AsHarold McGeediscovered, cooking with olive oil usually erases any flavor profile that’s unique to it. And if olive oil is overheated it can producetoxins known as lipid peroxides that can react unfavorably with proteins and DNA leading to health issues.
Overall, my husband and I loved the flavors in the curry noodle recipe, and I’m a big fan of any dish that has eggs. This time, we had leftovers.
Dinner Number Three - Za'atar Spiced Fennel & Farro Salad
Night three’s recipe, Za’atar Spiced Fennel and Farro Salad with English Peas, Pea Tips and Pomegranate molasses. Fresh spring peas are a fave. As I prepped the pea tips running my knife through the fresh greens, the fragrance filled my kitchen. I made one small adjustment to the recipe, I cooked the peas about 1-2 minutes in the boiling water instead of 3-4. I like my fresh peas just tender and bright green, not overcooked. I also found it was easier to use a zester instead of peeling away the lemon zest, and then mincing it, which for me usually results in removing too much of the bitter pith.
I loved experimenting with the Za’atar and fennel; those are two ingredients I don’t use a lot. John thought there were too many flavors going on in this dish, it wasn’t his favorite, but he still ate it. We had left overs this time too.
Those with food allergies or sensitivities to ingredients like gluten, or specialty diets like vegan or paleo may have a hard time ordering from meal kit delivery services like Blue Apron. They may have to turn to other services that specialize in their diet or offer those options.
Other criticisms: Blue Apron wraps the individual ingredients in their own plastic packaging which creates a lot of plastic waste. I don’t have a suggested solution, but it begs the question: do they need to wrap ingredients in individual plastic packaging? It may have to be done for food safety issues or other regulations, I don’t know. The recipes also seem to have a lot of gluten in them from pastas to bread to burgers to grains. It would be nice to have a gluten-free option.
Blue Apron does have a free recycling program that allows you to return the packaging. All you have to do is pull together the packaging of two or more deliveries, that includes the liners, ice packs, plastic bags and containers. Follow the directions here.
Overall, I loved being able to throw together dinner with pre-measured ingredients and a guide to tell me exactly how to do it. Who doesn’t want that at the end of a busy long day?
If you want to give Blue Apron a try, click here. Many times they have special introductory deals for first time customers.
This post is sponsored, all opinions are my own. We love our sponsors!
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