Meal Prep Delivery Service: Blue Apron

About a week ago, I started asking questions about meal prep services like Blue Apron and Home Chef. I knew that a few friends had tried them in the past, and was actually considering trying one to mix up meals during the week.

After doing some research, I decided to give it a go with two different companies: Blue Apron and Home Chef. Actually, I originally had signed up for Home Chef using a $30 off coupon code to make my first order only $25, which is pretty decent for trying out the service in the first place. No obligations, right?

However, a friend chimed in after I had already paid Home Chef that she was using Blue Apron and had a coupon code to try Blue Apron for absolutely FREE! Now, I doubt anyone would pass up on something like that.

One of the things I noticed right away is that Home Chef allows you to do more customization to your meals to be delivered than does Blue Apron. While Blue Apron does allow for some customization, Home Chef actually goes further in asking what type of meals you would prefer, such as Carb Free, Gluten Free, and so on. I had gone ahead and requested Carb Free and no shellfish or fish products. The only setback with Home Chef was that I wouldn't receive my meal box until the 27th. A full two weeks after I had placed my order. But in the meantime, Blue Apron would deliver on the 20th (yesterday).

Yesterday when I arrived home from work, a box with Blue Apron labeled on it was sitting patiently on my front porch step. That evoked a lot of excitement from me immediately. As I opened the box, I was immediately impressed that the ingredients are fresh, not processed. I mean, come on, that is a whole garlic and then boxes with the fresh herbs, not dry. And to top it off, no MSG in any product. 

 As I pulled out the products from the box, I noticed that each item was labeled for easily determining which product was which. There were what were called "knick knacks" for each meal that contained the smaller needs like flour, butter, wine, and cheeses.

At the bottom of the box were two large ice packs that sandwiched the meat: chicken thighs and boneless pork chops. Both looked fresh and actually were labeled as organic.
One of the things I really liked was that the three recipe sheets for the three meals were actually labeled so that you knew how much of each ingredient you would need if you were to want to make it on your own again at a later time. Each sheet included a detailed description of the meal to be prepared, followed by the ingredients and their serving sizes. The backside of the sheets were extremely detailed cooking instructions on not only how to prep each item, but the very details of what you are looking for as you cook each dish.

While it would have been fantastic to start cooking immediately that night, I decided to wait until today (Saturday the 21st) to do the cooking. And the first meal I chose was the Seared Chicken & Mashed Potatoes with a Kale and Mushroom saute. 

So, I turned over the recipe sheet and began my initial journey to what I had hoped to be a healthier me. I mean, this was considered whole food cooking. A lot of health organizations are seriously encouraging people to eat fewer processed foods, so this was a good start.

The first thing was prepping the vegetables, herbs, and mushrooms. Luckily I had received brand new knives for Christmas, so this task was very easy. I even found my groove in removing the leaves from the Thyme stalks. My only mistake in doing this was that I needed a bigger bowl to place the chopped Kale.

I then began boiling the water for the potatoes, at which a marathon to get the meal done began. It took only 10 minutes or less to prepare the ingredients, so how much longer would it take to cook up the meal itself? It came to exactly 40 minutes when everything was tallied together. But to be honest, it was well worth it.

One of things that made this really fun to do was that it was like taking a cooking class in the comfort of your own kitchen. The instructions gave you the proper names of each step and included a description of what it really is. That definitely made this a fun adventure!

The one thing I wished I would have done was to relax for a few minutes while the water continued to start boiling for the potatoes. I did not do that, and I wound up regretting it toward the end of the cooking session. My back became very sore and tired to the point I had to pull up a bar stool to sit and rest as I continued to cook.

I honestly have never really been good at frying chicken in a frying pan, but I'm always up for a new challenge. But to be honest, I think cooking the chicken itself was the easiest part of the process.

The potatoes require 15 minutes to boil, at which point the instructions prompted me to work on cooking the chicken during this time. I wound up with enough time after cooking the chicken to begin sauteing the mushrooms in the chicken drippings. The instructions stated that if the pan seemed dry to add another tablespoon of olive oil, which I did wind up doing. I should point out that the only ingredients that were not included in the box were olive oil, salt, pepper, and water.

The sauteing of the mushrooms was doe just as the timer went off signaling that the potatoes were done. All I needed to do with them was to drain them, mash them with a fork, and then add the two tablespoons of butter that was included in the knick knack packet with the flour, Creme Fraiche and Verjus. Also properly doled out in their individual serving sizes.

The next step was to pull the mushrooms back onto the burner and begin sauteing the Kale with the Mushrooms, Water, Creme Fraiche and Verjus (which just happens to be a young wine). At first I was worried that the pan I was using was too small, because the Kale was overflowing. Luckily, as it wilted, it did condense itself to fit perfectly in the pan. This only took about 5 minutes. 

Once that was done, the chicken was then added back into the pan and stirred in with the sauteed vegetables for only 1 to 2 minutes. Once done it was time to serve.

Since it is just me, I doled out the first serving directly into a divided storage container that I bought ten of from Amazon for just $10. The second serving was put on a plate, ready for me to dig in. Since each meal is actually two servings, I wanted to ensure that I only ate one serving, instead of continuing to overeat and finish off both in one sitting.

The thing I loved is that I do prefer chicken thighs over breasts, even though they are fattier and not as healthy for you. But I just prefer the taste over the breast. I'm funny like that. The sauteed kale and mushrooms were very yummy. It was my first time tasting kale, so I was pleasantly surprised. Plus, like I had stated previously, the Verjus gave the sateed vegetables a slight citrus taste to it. And the potatoes were perfect. 

All in all I really enjoyed the meal. There are two more meals to go that I will make over the next two days. One is a pork recipe that uses rice as a side, as well as spinach. The third is one I'm worried about as it is a fettuccine recipe that includes beets. I'm not quite sure about eating beets, but I will give it a shot. My mother loves beets, so if I don't care for it, I can just hand it over to her to have for dinner or lunch.

The other nice thing about both Home Chef and Blue Apron is that you are allowed to skip a week or more. This is already coming in handy so that I can try Home Chef next weekend. 

It was a lot of fun cooking this up, with only the time it took being the only downside of it all. I like the fact that the meals are not ordinary, but new and inviting/exciting options. It allows most people to break out of their comfort zones and try new foods and recipes. I definitely do believe I'll continue one of these programs for a bit longer, as it is really just under $10 per serving, which for me creates six meals throughout the week.

All in all, a two thumbs up for Blue Apron. Stay tuned for my report on Home Chef next week.