Housesitter Perk – Blue Apron Meal Kit Day Two

Tonight we dove into the Blue Apron kits for the things to make Ginger Scallion Meatballs and Rice with Bok Choy and Marinated Radishes.  Hubby loves meatballs and I love rice and anything Asian inspired so this meal was an easy choice for us.

He loves to cook so he took care of most of the meal prep, grabbing the dish with all the kit ingredients and finding the ones for this meal and setting to work.  Did I mention that these are “30-minute meals”?  I’d say that’s about a true estimate. Unfortunately, he was so quick, I didn’t get beginning pictures. But here’s the recipe for future reference… Please excuse the glare.

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First step is getting the rice on to cook followed by chopping veggies.  We had bought some watermelon radishes at the farmer’s market so he added some of those in with the three that came in the kit.  The radishes are marinated with vinegar while you cook the rest of the meal. Have you ever marinated radishes? They give off an interesting aroma but trust me, they taste great.

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Then you make meatballs with the ground beef and breadcrumbs, adding in ginger and the whites of the scallions.  It says to make 10-12 meatballs but he thought those were a bit big so we ended up with a bit more than that.

You brown the meatballs, then add bok choy, vinegar, water and a packet labeled “sushi sauce” to the pan, cooking til the bok choy is wilted and the meatballs are done.

He wasn’t going to plate the dish but said I could do it so there was a picture for you – pretty easy with just the rice topped with the meatballs and bok choy mixture, then the marinated radishes and scallion tops for garnish.

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I really liked this dish – it was simple, light and the marinated radishes reminded me of when we make them for banh mi sandwiches.  And since it was meatballs, it was a universal hit.  Again, hubby felt like it needed a small salad on the side, but I was full without that….and no leftovers this time.

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Housesitter Perk – Meal Kit Delivery by Blue Apron

Full disclaimer – we are experienced home cooks and definitely qualify for foodie status.  So why would we consider a meal kit delivery service?  Well, we’d seen commercials and watched some friends try them via Facebook and the only thing I could think is when we are housesitting, it might vary our meals a little more without having to buy a bunch of ingredients we would never use again.  But this would only work when we were at a sit long enough and frankly, part of sitting is seeking out local foods and shopping the local markets so we would only want to get a few meals.  As luck would have it, we were able to try a meal kit service on two recent sits, courtesy of our awesome homeowners.

On the first sit, the homeowner said they started Blue Apron as they were tired of cooking and the decision making that goes with it.  They thought because there were no leftovers and they only got what they needed for that meal, it saved them money in the long run.  A recent article about a study done by Dr. Oz and his team supports this.  They had an extra meal they wouldn’t use before they left and asked us to eat it so it didn’t go bad.  How thoughtful!  As it turned out, it was an Alaska rockfish recipe with a kale side – being from Alaska, it was amusing to see the rockfish and kale isn’t Cabana Boy’s favorite but we made it, it was tasty and we really appreciated the trial run.

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Then came the real trial at a house sit several weeks later.  As we were in the area, we stopped by to visit with the homeowners.  In showing us around, we saw boxes and freezer gel packs from Blue Apron in the garage, waiting to be sent back for recycling.  I commented how we had been interested in the meal kit service and we’d been fortunate enough to try a meal at our last sit.  In confirming details by email later, the homeowners said they wanted to buy us a week of Blue Apron to try while they were gone.  So incredibly generous that at first I insisted it was too much but they really wanted to so we agreed and picked our meals from the list they sent us.  They confirmed delivery would be the Friday afternoon after they left and we’d need to be home then or soon after to ensure it didn’t get too warm.

We moved into their house on a Wednesday and only purchased enough dinner stuff for a couple days.  Friday came and FedEx showed up at the door in the afternoon as promised.  The box they left was fairly compact.  It readily identified what was inside which I’m not sure I liked.  On one hand, you know to scoop it up and get it into the fridge. On the other hand, it advertises there’s a full box of food sitting on the porch just waiting for someone to snatch it.  But if someone needs food that bad, I think they are welcome to it.

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We immediately opened the box to see what we’d received – honestly, we’d forgotten what we ordered!   There was an insulating liner inside the box and two big freezer gel packs.  I think the food would have stayed plenty cold even if we hadn’t made it home til late that night – and we were having nice 70ish temperatures in Washington at the time.

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There are three meals in each box and a recipe card with pictures and very detailed instructions for each meal is included.  The nice thing is if you liked something, you can save the card and replicate it in the future since the ingredients are listed.

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Each ingredient is labeled to make it easy to find what you need.  In addition, each meal has a small brown bag labeled “Knick-Knacks” that holds all the small bits of things you’ll need for the meal so they don’t get lost in the shuffle. We sorted through everything and put it in a dish to keep it all together in the fridge.  We got this idea from a bin used by the last homeowner for their meal kits.  On one hand, everything is together and you can just pull the bin/dish out and grab what you need for that night’s meal but if I was doing it at home, I think I’d put my produce in the crisper drawer and my meat in the deli drawer.  But I do think I’d try to keep it all a bit separate from the other things.

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After popping it all in the fridge, we discussed when we might prepare the meals.  This was tough for us as our plans had evolved – as they are wont to do.  We had plans for that night’s meal and had family coming the next day so likely wouldn’t start then either.  And we knew we’d be hitting the farmer’s market, something we love to do when housesitting, and there would be veggies and fruit from that to consider as well.  We decided Sunday would be the day we’d begin and we’d cook through all three in a row rather than interspersing them with other meals.  If you had this box coming weekly, I think you’d likely become more adept at integrating it with meals you purchased locally.  But with the dish of meal kits staring us in the face every time we opened the fridge, we knew that would be the star of our week’s meals.

Stay tuned for more posts as we cook through the box!

Housesitter Perk – Blue Apron Meal Kit Day One

As promised in my last post, here’s a review of our first meal kit from Blue Apron, a generous gift from one of our homeowners.  For the first meal we are making Fennel Spiced Pork Chops with Fig Compote.

We started by pulling out the recipe card for the pork chops and read through it.  The instructions are very detailed with every step laid out, all the ingredients listed, and pictures.

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We grabbed the meal kit dish and found all the items we needed.  Then we were cooking.  I handled the pork chops and fig compote and hubby handled the side dish – farro with kale “salad”.  There seems to be a lot of kale and other greens used in the kits, at least in the ones we had to choose from, so even though he’s not a big fan, we chose this kit, in large part because of the pork chops and knowing we like fennel.

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The recipe was pretty straightforward.  You start the farro first  as it needs to cook for a bit.  We’d never made farro before and it was interesting that it didn’t say how much water to boil it in so we just made sure the grains were well covered.

Next up, coat the chops with a spice mixture that was in a pouch in the Knick Knack bag, Fry quickly (note that you provide the oil for cooking), remove to a plate and keep warm.  Honestly, I didn’t think the amount of time they allow for cooking the chops – 3 to 4 minutes a side – was sufficient for the center cut thicker chops so I gave them an extra minute or two and used tongs to hold them to brown the edges too.

Making the compote with included figs, vinegar, and sugar was pretty easy – just chopping the figs and letting everything simmer until a bit thick.

Then you add the kale to the pan you cooked the chops in and cook til wilted, then add some water to finish cooking and loosen the brown bits at the bottom of the pan.  Here’s where I took some liberty – rather than adding water, we added white wine because….well….we had some and that’s how we roll.

You finish up by stirring the kale into the farro and adding some creme fraiche, tarragon and vinegar into the farro.  Then you plate and serve.  I really did plate it rather than just having serving it family style, just so we could have the complete experience and so I could take this picture for you.

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We really did enjoy this meal.  I would likely never have used the spice combo they came up with. I’m sure I have the ingredients at home so I will try it again.  As I said, we’ve never had farro and while I liked it because I like hearty grains like barley and such, hubby was not a big fan so I likely won’t go out of my way to make it again.  It also didn’t really seem like a salad – more like a side dish.  Not a big deal for some but we are used to having some sort of salad or a straight vegetable side with our meals so it was different. The fig compote was a big hit.  I make these kinds of things a lot – some fruit, sugar and vinegar and you’re good to go – but figs in Alaska are very seasonal and expensive so this was a treat.  And it wasn’t unreasonable in the calorie and fat counts.

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Oh yes….there were no leftovers.  Good that it’s portion controlled….bad if you want something for lunch the next day as we usually did when we were working full time.

Next up – an Asian styled meatball dish!