Acorn Squash Tempura Tacos

While I love to cook, I don’t always love taking the time to cook.

Sure, on the weekend, I use to happily spend 10-12 hours flitting in and out of the kitchen fussing over the same pot of chicken broth (it’s totally worth it, of course -and it smells go good!). But during the week, I really just can’t be bothered.  Or rather, I guess I don’t want to be bothered with planning meals, shopping for them, and having everything ready to go at 6pm in the evening.

I get it, some people thrive on that.  Some people make all their meals on the weekend and then either freeze them or parcel them out during the week. This is also not an option for me, as my weekends are now mostly spent caring for my grandmother, and I just don’t have time to do things like that for us here at home. So during the week, after work – and yeah, I work from home but I’m on the phone 90% of the time and working from home is not all binging on Downton Abbey all day like some people think it is – all I really want to do is order a pizza or make a Chipotle run or something.  But that’s not sustainable; you can’t do that every day and still feel good about yourself and still fit into your clothes.

A few months ago a good friend of mine mentioned that she had started using Blue Apron, which is basically a delivery service that sends you a box of pre-portioned meal ingredients, with recipes. It’s about $60 for the fixings to make three, two-person meals, and I think there are options for larger, family sized meals, but it’s just me and my Viking, so we don’t really need more than that.

Spinach and fresh mozarella pizza

You peek at the upcoming menu for the week (they have both vegetarian and meat-eater options), decide if you like the recipes, and then either opt in or skip that week’s delivery.  So far, we have gone the vegetarian route and usually schedule a delivery every other week; I don’t have time to cook every day, and if we had one of these boxes arriving every single week, there would be a lot of food that would never get cooked!

The box arrives packed with recipe cards with clear instructions and lots of photos, and ingredients which are already portioned and measured: if a curry recipe calls for a teaspoon of cumin, there it is, neatly labeled, in its own little cup. Two tablespoons of olive oil arrive in a tiny screw-top jar; six sprigs of cilantro, in a zipped plastic bag. Of course you still must chop and dice and mince and cook and simmer (and clean up afterward, ugh) but everything is already there for you to get started.

Is it cost effective? Well, I don’t know.  If you’re the type who doesn’t mind paying for convenience, then absolutely. What I love about it most though, is that all of the recipes are seasonal and call for seasonal ingredients, and while so far there’s been nothing really crazy-unusual, more than half of these I definitely would not have thought to make on my own. Acorn squash tempura tacos?  Never would have come up with that in a million years.  But I am here to tell you that they were amazing.

Ponzu-Tahini Soba Noodle Salad

A few tips to keep in mind:

Those foil cooling packs that they include to keep the food from spoiling? The ingredients are water soluble, so just snip one end, dump the contents down the drain, and recycle the rest.  Speaking of recycling, some folks have issues with all the little containers and cartons and packing that Blue Apron includes for all the knick knacks – the oils and spices and various & sundry tiny ingredients.  It looks like they are trying to address this with a recycling program

These are not exactly low calorie meals.  While I think that they are, for the most part, healthful and nutritious, each meal runs you around 700 calories, according to the portions on the recipe cards.  You can probably get around this by using less oil than is called for here and there, and maybe portioning things out into smaller sized dishes, but Weight Watchers this is not.

So far there are only vegetarian and carnivore options – no gluten free or dairy free meals or anything like that.  I don’t know if that is something they are adding, but I have to imagine that there is a niche for this type of service and someone else is already providing it? If not, someone needs to run with that idea!

The recipes are on the site for free, so you don’t even have to sign up and pay for the service if you want to make any of the things I’ve mentioned here! For your convenience, I have linked to all of the recipes below, with the favorites being starred.

Would I recommend this?  I think I would. I’m not even getting any affiliate perks by saying so, as they don’t seem to have a program for that yet.  And for what it’s worth…out of all of those ridiculous subscription boxes I’ve been signing up for and canceling over the past year?  I think this one is probably my favorite.  Well, this one and the wine subscription – Bright Cellars – because, you know.  Wine.  I’ve not mentioned that here before, so here’s a mini-review:

Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Homemade Garlic Croutons & Sunny-Side Up Eggs
Pierogi copy
Crispy Ricotta Pierogi with Warm Apple-Cabbage Salad & Browned Butter
Arepa copy
Queso & Pepper Arepas with Kale-Avocado Salad & Chimichurri


OTB says

Aha! I was wondering if you were still using them and what you thought. It's not a perfect service but I actually really like it and it has gotten me cooking again and not dreading going to the grocery store or eating a delicious dinner of a box of crackers. Yeah, I'll pay for the convenience. Because otherwise it's Cheez-Its for me. And that can't be healthy. Also, second you on wine to the door--I've been trying Blue Apron's wine service too and it is these cute 2 serving size bottles. I guess I will just embrace the fact I am a giant hipster.

S. Elizabeth says

Yes, I really like them! Although last time I think they neglected to include some cabbage and this time around they forgot some of the carrots, but, eh - I can live with that. I was wondering about their wine service! Although we're a bunch of winos so that might not be enough for us, ha.

Anton says

I am really enjoying Blue Apron! It has gotten me cooking lots of stuff I might not have tried to do before. Like that pizza! I made that and I was surprised at how great it was. I never would have thought to put the honey & lemon zest on top - that was a really nice trick. I did the math on the cost of things, and it is working about as much as I would spend on probably way less balanced meals.

S. Elizabeth says

OH GOD THAT PIZZA. That was a photo I took mid day, I thought I'd bake it earlier and warm it up later...which would have been great...except I left it in the over too long and burnt it to a crisp!

Victoria says

So, I just made an order for next week because of your recommendation and partially because my eating habits need an intervention. I have never really gotten into a normal routine after moving. Buying groceries sucks. I wait in line (excuse me, "on line"), haul it home and then have to cook it. I try to meal plan in hopes I won't forget anything but that's time consuming. And I still forget stuff. So most nights it's us eating out and spending too much or staying in and having pitiful meals of Wheat Thins. I work from home and I'm terrible about eating. I mean, today I had to reevaluate my entire life as I looked down and realized I was eating Count Chocula out of a mixing bowl - my lunch. So, I went to Blue Apron's site then and made an order.
I'm aware it's not the most cost effective, but man, I think I just painted a really accurate picture of my life. I'll pay more if it just gets me into a regular routine again.

S. Elizabeth says

I know too well the horrors in realizing you've eaten a mixing bowl (a BIG mixing bowl) full of crap and nonsense for lunch. And standing in/on line at the grocery store is the worst...my biggest pet peeve is the deli - which I never do for myself, I'll die first, I swear it -but I often have to pick up ham or whatever for my grandmother. And my god, those nit-picky old ladies with their thin slices of whatever, gah! I get so impatient. But there's good entertainment to be had there, as well. Just a few weeks ago I was in back of a woman who had a few particularly ill-advised tattoos on her shoulders (I should add she was wearing a tube top and pajama shorts). Anyway these were presumably of her children, but if her children really look like that, I think she needs to call the Weekly World News stat.

JW says

Have you tried Apothic Red, White, or Dark wine? The label art & website are kinda cheezy, but the wine itself is excellent. https://www.apothic.com/age-gate

S. Elizabeth says

I am pretty sure that we have tried all three! I think we liked one of them but the other two were a trifle too sweet for us...we have a pretty dry palate in this house, ha.

Jennifer says

All of those dishes look delicious. I've wondered about these types of services, but I don't know that it'd be worth it for just me. I'm very lazy in the kitchen.

S. Elizabeth says

I think it would! Some of this stuff we don't make right away....we stretch it over two weeks sometimes because either we're super lazy or because pizza wins for the night. So you could get a 2 person deal, that's three meals. Make one Monday night, eat it on Monday, and lunches or dinner for a couple days, or freeze some. And do the same with the other two meals. So far every thing has been either REALLY good, or sort of good. Not a dud in the bunch. And I think if you go the vegetarian route, the stuff would last even longer!

lau says

so interesting! so tempting!

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