Alaskan RED

A lifelong Alaskan learning about the world one backroad at a time


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Housesitting Perk – Blue Apron Meal Kit Day Three

Our final meal is the one I picked out just for me.  I absolutely love gnocchi so the Brown Butter Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Chard were my first choice for our box.

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This was probably the fastest dish to make and once again, I was in charge.  I’m using that as my excuse for not taking more pictures…please forgive me.  I put water on to boil for the gnocchi, then chopped chard and garlic, sliced the shallot and quartered mushrooms.  As luck would have it, the farmers market had fresh shitakes that week so I added some of those to the mushrooms included in the kit.

The mushrooms are sauted, first alone and. then with the thyme springs.  Then you add the butter and brown it, remove the thyme and saute the rest of the veggies, adding the chard leaves at the end.

The gnocchi cooks quickly and I put hubby in charge of skimming them out when they floated to the top, and putting them in a colander.  Then you stir them into the pan with the veggies and add some pasta water, stirring and adding more of the pasta water until it coated the gnocchi in sauce.  I ultimately added more pasta water than they called for as I wanted to be sure the dish wasn’t too dry.

Plating was simple – put on a dish and garnish with Parmesan cheese.  I had some Parmesan in the fridge so I put that out so it could be added if desired.  Did I mention how much we love cheese?

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The serving size they sent for two people was a quarter pound of fresh gnocchi.  I honestly could not get through this meal.  Gnocchi are very solid bits of pasta and I find I can’t eat much of them.  But it was a good preparation, super fast and reminded me to put more chard in our pasta dishes next year when I’m staring at the bumper crop from our garden.

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This was the end of our meal kit box so we discussed what we liked and didn’t like.  We don’t mind grocery shopping and meal planning, in fact we enjoy it, so having that done for us was not really a big deal.  However, I could certainly see how busy people or those who don’t really like to cook might enjoy it.  There was the opportunity to try some new things like the farro or the fennel spice so that was good.  Cost wise, this was about $20 per meal or $10 per person each night.  That’s not too bad and in fact is reasonable enough that we might be sending a trial to some busy folks for the holidays.  If you don’t have a full collection of spices like we do, it makes it even more affordable since you don’t have to buy a full jar of something just to use a teaspoon of it.  The meals seemed pretty healthy, the fat to calorie ratio was good, but I didn’t use salt every time they said to because we don’t eat much salt.

The real question is whether we would do it again?  If it was available in Alaska, I think we might try it but maybe only every other week or something.  But I have to say that it’s still worth considering when we are down in the lower 48 housesitting since we could vary our meals without having to invest in a bunch of spices – well that and since it will be winter and there will be no farmer’s markets to tempt us.

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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!