Review: Blue Apron

I was pretty skeptical about Blue Apron.┬áSome friends who subscribed to the service spoke highly of it, praising the tasty recipes and easy prep. But me, I’m a foodie. I like cooking, although I’m not really a fan of going to the grocery store or making anything elaborate at the end of a long work day. Not only that, I’m good at cooking. Could Blue Apron possibly provide anything that I couldn’t do myself?

When a friend offered me a free trial for a week, I figured I should give it a shot for science as much as anything else. One week means three meals for two people, usually one fish dish and two meat items (unless you request the vegetarian menu). When that first box arrived, my partner and I gathered around, excited for the unboxing and to learn what we’d be having for dinner that night.

Opening the Blue Apron box...

Opening the Blue Apron box…

The box itself is extremely well packed. Produce and grains appear at the top of the box in easy-tear bags with the perfect serving size, while meat and fish are at the bottom with the cold gel packs. All of the produce looked fresh, and everything was accounted for.

Our box bounty

Our box bounty

As someone with some technical writing experience, I can say with confidence that Blue Apron’s recipe cards are put together well. Each one starts with the mis en place, and they encourage you to save on dishes where possible and use your time effectively. I did find that each recipe would take 15 – 20 minutes longer than listed, although I’m sure that’s in part because I’m a slow chopper.

mis en place

mis en place

The final results were pretty true to the recipe card as well. Here is Blue Apron’s professional photo of salmon with sorrel:

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And here is my actual final result from my first-ever recipe:

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The first box made us cautiously optimistic, so we decided to subscribe for a few more weeks. What my partner and I discovered over time is that even though we’re foodies with professional chefs in the family, we actually learned some new techniques and picked up some new ingredient ideas from the Blue Apron recipes. At least twice now one of us has said, “let’s make X for dinner, like that Blue Apron meal from a few weeks ago”.

Now, we have definitely added our own twist on some of their pre-packaged spice blends, and I include about twice as much vinegar or mustard as their recipes say because we like intense flavor. But even for a couple of know-it-alls in the kitchen, Blue Apron has turned out to be an excellent service. We save time during the week and never have to play the “what are we eating for dinner” game. The food is legitimately tasty and often interesting to prepare, and $10 per meal is a good price for what the service offers.

If you’ve been wavering, I highly recommend finding a free week coupon and checking it out yourself! You, like us, might be pleasantly surprised.

Recipe Review: Nanaimo Bars

Growing up, I had no idea that delicious nanaimo bars were a regional thing. Any big group or community event in my area had basically the same menu: fresh salmon cooked over a fire, green salad, potato salad, a bun, and nanaimo bars for dessert. It was only later in life after moving around as an adult that I realized that a) the bars are named for the city of Nanaimo and b) really only well known to people from that area.

(Although oddly enough Wikipedia says they’re also sold “at some small coffee shops along the Mekong River” which is mind-blowing.)

So when I had some Americans in my house over Labour Day weekend I knew what I had to do: spread the word about these amazing dessert treats. I hadn’t made my own nanaimo bars in 20 years, so I decided not to reinvent the wheel and just work off a recipe, specifically this recipe from the site Joy of Baking. I chose it because I liked how it had more of the bottom layer and less of the middle layer. I don’t eat a lot of sweets, so I didn’t want to go overboard on the icing sugar.

This recipe has no baking, which is great. It does require a lot of time, particularly as the bottom and middle layer have to chill, and unless you happen to have a bunch of the ingredients sitting around already it can be quite expensive.

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I found this recipe worked great with one exception: the bottom layer was a little too dry and crumbly. It was also quite dense, possibly in part because when I press something into a pan I can get a little carried away, but I quite liked the denseness with the sweet top layers. Next time I would add a tablespoon or two more cream, or water, or even cold coffee.

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Otherwise, I have no complaints! I followed the recipe to the letter and the bars came out great. I was fortunate enough to have pecans fresh from a Southern relative for the bottom later, which I think helped a lot with the flavor.

My American guests were thrilled with the results, and I rested easy knowing that I had helped spread the gospel of nanaimo bars to the rest of the world.

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