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My Blue Apron Experiment

I admit it, I derive a good amount of pride whenever I go to the farmers market or grocery store, see what’s in season, get inspired, and whip up something delicious. Not all experiments are winners, but whenever I strike culinary gold, the feeling (and compliments I make my husband shower me with) is pretty great. So when my friends started raving about this “meal-kit” delivery service called Blue Apron, I didn’t give it much thought until this Groupon for Blue Apron showed up – that made it pretty compelling to at least give it a shot.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with “meal-kit” services, it’s essentially a weekly subscription where you can get a 2 or 4 person “refrigerated” meal-kit delivered to your house. The kit for 2 people ($59.94 / week) will include: 3 unique step-by-step recipes (you get to choose 3 out of 6 options), all the pre-portioned fresh ingredients and pre-measured seasonings to create the meal, and the companion app with instructional videos etc.

Blue Apron Delivery – there are 2 giant ice packs under all this

Corn Supplier Profile

While I feel like I have a pretty decent Rolodex of dishes in my head (see “pride” reference in paragraph 1), there ARE weeks when lugging pounds of groceries on the subway is literally a drag or when I simply run out of recipe ideas, so here goes… It’s pretty simple to get started, go to Blue Apron’s website to sign up (or buy the Groupon first , if available), create taste profile, select dates for delivery, don’t forget to pay!), cook away, and show off your creation! BAM!

As you can see, the box is pretty huge and contains everything I outlined above, even an insert highlighting their corn farmer – cool beans, or rather, cool corns! The recipes themselves have a short description highlighting the star / unusual component of the dish, have beautiful graphics, and easy to follow, step-by-step photos. In this week’s box, we got: Southern Shrimps & Grits with Zucchini, Corn, Cherry Tomatoes, Tomato Basil Burger with Olive Aioli and Green Bean Tomato Salad (I forgot to “uncheck” the beef box, we don’t eat beef often but it was tasty), and Taiwanese 3 Cup Chicken (台灣三杯雞) with Jasmine Rice and Choy Sum.

Branching Owl’s Blue Apron: Southern Shrimps and Grits

Branching Owl’s Blue Apron: Tomato Basil Burgers

Branching Owls’ Blue Apron: Taiwanese 3 Cup Chicken

How did I like Blue Apron you ask?

THE PROS:

  1. I was impressed by the recipes – everything tasted as good as it looks
  2. I tried something we wouldn’t normally make (burgers, grits)
  3. The price tag wasn’t too painful (especially compared NY groceries / take out), and
  4. The ordering & delivery process was a breeze.

All in all, this service solves probably 90% of the challenges of cooking (not knowing what to cook, can’t / lazy to go to store, don’t know how to cook, don’t want to buy a bunch of spices you might only use once) – pretty genius.

THE CONS:

  1. While locally and responsibly sourced, not all meats and veggies are organic (Blue Apron has this answer in their FAQ)
  2. The amount of packaging is overwhelming (most recyclable, rest is trash; according to the EPA, the recycling rate in America 2013 was 34.3%)

Blue Apron is a pretty nifty service and I like their recipe database a lot (you can access their cookbook for free).  I enjoyed the delivery service while it lasted and I think the pros are pretty compelling than the cons in most cases. For now, I am going to stick with what we normally do and keep the deliveries as a supplementary service when we know we are going to have a super busy week, or the dreaded -20F days, or if I see recipes that are super compelling for the coming week! But who knows, I might get withdrawal next week…

Have you tried a meal-kit service like Blue Apron? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Fig-ging Goodness

Homemade Fig Ice Cream

Good news everyone, it’s still August.  Even better news, black mission figs will be in season until late fall, yahoo!  Let’s extend our summer and transform this fruit into some fig-ing delicious ice cream. FIG-ING AMAZING (I had to use that pun, obviously).

Fig Ice Cream

Fig-ging Goodness

Are you fig-ing out yet?

We love our fro-yo but… dammit, ice cream is just SO GOOD.  This no egg-tempering recipe from Saveur is a quicker and easier alternative to the traditional French ice-cream. While still delicious, this time-saver recipe is less creamy, a tad icy, but probably better for your cholesterol levels.

I’d say this is less “Fig Ice Cream” but more like vanilla ice cream with fig compote swirls. Nothing wrong with that.  Though next time, I’m going to try and mix the fig compote into my favorite David Lebovitz’s vanilla ice cream recipe instead for a creamier finish.

Oh! This is the ice cream maker I use,I’ve had it for years, more than paid for itself with all the goodies we’ve made, and super compact to store.

Ingredients (Yields 1 Quart):

Ripe Black Mission Figs 1 lbs Stemmed and Quartered
Honey ¼ Cup
Light Brown Sugar 2 tbsp
Fresh Lemon Juice 1 ½ tbsp.
Kosher Salt 1 tsp
Cinnamon 1 Stick
Sugar ½ Cup
Egg Yolks 2
Heavy Cream 1 ½ Cup
Milk ½ Cup
Vanilla Bean 1 Pod Cut Lengthwise and Scrape out seeds
Vanilla Extract ½ tsp

Directions:

  • Bring figs, honey, brown sugar, juice, 1⁄2 tsp. salt, cinnamon, and 1⁄3 cup water to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until figs break down and mixture is thickened like jam, about 35 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
  • Meanwhile, using a hand mixer, beat sugar and egg yolks in a bowl until pale yellow, about 5 minutes. Add remaining salt, cream, milk, vanilla extract and seeds from pod, and beat until combined.
  • Pour into an ice cream maker and carefully pour in fig sauce while churning and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Pour into storage container and then freeze for at least 6 hours to set.
Fig Compote

Fig Compote

Adapted from Saveur

Angie's Cucumber Garden

Smashing Cucumber Salad

I was chatting with my BFF the other day brainstorming on recipe ideas for the abundant supply of cucumbers from the farmers market (and her garden, thanks Angie for the header photo!!!).  Not wanting another “oh so typical” salad that would put me in chopping misery, she reminded me of this delightful little side cucumber salad commonly served in Chinese restaurants.

This super simple recipe doesn’t require a million ingredients, takes only 5 minutes to make, and splendidly highlights the crispiness of the cukes that so defines summer.  The Kirby variety is recommended since it has thin skin and crunchy flesh, its size is also perfect for the preparation process – smashing!

Smashed Cucumber Salad

Indeed, smashing is as fun and as easy as it sounds.  You can smash / smack / whack the whole cuke with a large knife (chef’s or cleaver) as demonstrated in the below Kirbie Cravings video OR cut the cukes up in quarters lengthwise, smack ’em lightly, and breaking up the whacked cukes with your hands into bite size pieces.

 If you’re looking for another great summer cucumber recipe that’s more substantial, try out our household favorite: Tahini Noodles with Chicken and Cucumber

INGREDIENTS (YIELDS 4 SIDE SERVINGS):

4 Kirby Cucumbers Smashed
1 Clove Garclic Minced
Salt ½ – 1 tsp
Sesame Oil 1 tsp
Sugar ½ tsp
Red Pepper Flakes 1 tsp (adjust to your liking)
Rice Vinegar Dash (OPTIONAL / adjust to your liking)

DIRECTIONS:

  • Slice ends off cucumbers and then smash them until they break like video above. Cut the cucumbers into thirds width wise. Then cut into bite sized pieces approximately 1/2 inch wide and 1 inch long.
  • Add in all the remaining ingredients and mix until cucumbers are evenly coated in seasonings. Taste and adjust as needed. You can eat right away or let the cucumbers sit in the fridge to further develop the flavors.

Recipe adapted from Kirbie Cravings

Angie's Cucumber Garden

Angie’s Cucumber Garden (photo credit: Angie Wong @ 2 Cats)