Archive for February, 2017

February 19, 2017

My Blue Apron Experience

I had the good fortune of being gifted a week of Blue Apron for Christmas this year! I had been interested in trying a meal delivery service like this for a while now. My first impression was really positive. I clicked on the link from my gift email and easily got setup and chose the meals I wanted for the week. My box arrived right on schedule and well packed. It was easy to sift through everything and get it laid out to cook when ready. All of the meals were really tasty! I give Blue Apron credit for coming up with new and interesting meals each week without repeating things.

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The three meals I received were Baked Ricotta Cannelloni, Chipotle Vegetable & Farro Salad and Vegetable Fried Rice Bowls. In all three cases, the instructions were easy to follow and the ingredients were very fresh. I am a pretty practiced cook and the first thing I noticed was that it took me MUCH longer than the estimated times to complete these meals. While that didn’t matter on the days I was cooking, it would have been a bummer after a long day at work. If I had another set of hands, we may have gotten it done quicker. The other thing is that these recipes required ALOT of dishes; more than I think is really necessary. For example, in the vegetable fried rice, the recipe had you roast the cauliflower. While that tasted good with a nuttiness coming from the roasting process, however, if you cooked all of the veggies in one pan (like a wok), you could cut both the time and the dishes. They also wanted you to fry eggs for the top of the dish in a separate pan, which I skipped all together to cut calories, but I have just whisked and then cooked the egg in the same wok as the rest of the meal in my own version. I am certain the texture adds dimension, but as a home cook, I really want a way to find that dimension without making a mess of my entire kitchen. Same with the farro salad, you needed one bowl for the pickling of the shallot and radish, a pan for roasting veggies, pot for farro, bowl for mixing and mice en place bowls for all of the pieces. I have often made giant messes in my kitchen, but these recipes gave me a full dish washer everyday and for just one person, that is a lot to tackle.

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Chipotle Vegetable & Farro Salad

Tucked inside the little bags labeled “Kick Knacks,” were the nutrition facts for these recipes. One things that really surprised me was that the Cannelloni had the least calories at 710 the Farro Salad & Fried Rice were both 760. That is way more calories than I regularly want in a meal. I usually target closer to 500 calories per meal. As I mentioned before, I left some things out to cut some calories.

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Leftover Items – Plenty of Flavor, Less Calories

There were some things that were provided that you really didn’t need to use all of that were really high in calories (ie- sesame oil, cashews, eggs, and extra sauce). Some of those things really add a lot of punch without needing a lot of volume. The Cannelloni really was 2 servings, but I do think the other two recipes will stretch further, so I can save myself on some calories and get an extra couple meals for the week!

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Roasted Vegetable Fried Rice

I will reiterate, I really enjoyed these meals! They gave me a new twist on things I have made in the past and got me cooking things I wouldn’t usually make. I learned to cook farro, which I love and have not made at home before. I can see Blue Apron being a great fit for a couple wanting to try some new things. I think I am a bit critical of recipes to begin with and am usually lucky if I follow it 80%. In these cases, I stuck pretty close to the recipes since I had all the ingredients. I might think about trying this again, but would really prefer something with healthier options.

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Baked Ricotta Cannelloni

I think my favorite was the cannelloni and meyer lemon salad. The salad was the perfect compliment to the pasta dish. It felt fresh and comforting all at the same time. I also think that was the easiest of the recipes, though it did take me about an hour start to finish. Everything was enjoyable and it got me back in the kitchen and inspired again. I loved getting to try it out and may look for another version to compare. Let me know if you have tried it!

~Kelly

February 17, 2017

Kitchen Staples: Frozen Chicken Stock

We all have things that we always have on hand. The things that we can’t imagine cooking without. For me, I always have good olive oil, multiple kinds of salt, fresh pepper, balsamic and red wine vinegar, and homemade chicken stock. In fact, I even made stock one day when we were in the middle of moving just so I wouldn’t waste the bones and veggies I had in my freezer saved for stock. My BF loves to tell the story of the day I lost it making stock surrounded by boxes. 😉

I really can’t imagine being without homemade chicken stock. It is one of those things that does not even resemble canned stock. But, keeping it fresh is impossible. So, what do you do? Chicken stock freezes very well. I have tried it in many kinds of containers: take out containers, Ziplocks, etc. I always want to know what serving I have frozen, so I can throw it in to a recipe without thinking. I recently found a great solution for this. We have all seen silicone ice cube trays that are made for fancy big ice cubes for cocktails. It is the perfect thing for stock! Mine holds about 1/2 cup of stock and I ended up with a gallon Ziplock full of them for my freezer. I still like a gallon Ziplock to give me the option to make soup at a later date, but smaller portions make a difference for things like quinoa, sauce, or adding depth and flavor to anything. Try it out!

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February 12, 2017

Green Smoothie Packs

I am always looking for ways to prepare for the week ahead and save myself some time. One of my biggest tips for success is making your morning as easy as possible with make ahead freezer Smoothie Packs. Our Vitamix is easily the most used tool in our kitchen. When both of us are home, we use it at least once a day. I like making green smoothies, but I hate making a mess in the morning. It always feels like a big to-do to get out a thousand ingredients, make sure things are fresh and pull it all together and then get it cleaned up before work. I was finding myself skipping it and opting for a yogurt that was quick and easy on my way out the door.

This is my solution; spend an hour to make 15 Smoothie Packs and stick them in the freezer. I find I don’t have to worry about wasting my fresh greens, I use almond milk or water and am on my way. Each pack makes two smoothies and I throw the extra in a Blender Bottle for the next morning. (Or great to share with someone else. :)) Let me tell you, that is VERY convenient on days when you need to be up and moving early. Those extra early days, I even grind my coffee beans the night before, set up my french press and fill the kettle with water to get myself a shot of caffeine without any fuss.

Now I know not everyone loves the idea of greens in their smoothie. I love that I can get a couple extra servings of veggies in before I start the day. We consider this about the Blue run version of green smoothies. My Green run starter version for newbies would use only spinach and ease into adding kale and other veggies. You will see that I include broccoli and carrots and I swear you will never know they are there. Sometimes I use the stocks of broccoli I am planning to cook and chop them into pieces, that way you are getting more bang for your buck. For a Black Diamond version, add Spirulina, Apple Cider Vinegar, or Cod Liver Oil (or all three!) This is a great way to hide healthy things in your diet, but beware, we have had a few versions that were a little too green.

In most cases, I hit up Costco and Trader Joe’s and get veggies that are already chopped to save some effort. One thing to pay attention to is trying not to let your frozen fruit melt as you build your packs. If you do, you end up with a giant fruitcicle in the bottom of your bags that can be tough to break up. (Trust me, I know!)

My mom makes her own non-green version, which we will share soon. Her’s are equally easy and super tasty!

Enjoy an easy way to get a healthy start to your day!

~Kelly

Green Smoothie Packs

Quart Size Ziplocks

Large Bag each Spinach and Chopped Kale

Variety of Frozen Fruit (4-6 Small bags)

Bananas, Sliced (Optional)

Bag of Broccoli Florets

Bag of Baby Carrots

Vanilla Protein Powder

Hemp/Chia/Flax Seeds (you can throw whole seeds into a Vitamix, for some blenders, use powdered versions)

Almond Milk

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Lay out all your ingredients (pulling one or two bags of frozen fruit out at a time). Measure 1 cup of mixed frozen fruit and add to the bottom of your quart size bag. Put a couple broccoli florets and a few baby carrots next. Then add one handful of each spinach and kale. Next add 1 T of your choice of seeds and 1 scoop of protein powder. Carefully remove some of the air as you zip them closed. I tend to measure the ingredients that are high calorie and higher sugar and not worry too much about being exact with my greens. They are a great low calorie way to get lots of great things into your diet.

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Put in the freezer as you complete them. (By putting the heavy ingredients on the bottom, when inverted into the blender, they will help push the greens down to the blades).

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As needed, pull one smoothie pack out of the freezer and add to the blender. Add 1-2 cups of your choice of liquid. I like almond milk or water. Blend until smooth. Split into two portions, put one in a Blender Bottle in the fridge to be used the next day.

The great things about this is that you can use your favorite things! Whatever you prefer; throw it in! Get creative and adjust to your own taste. We started by replicating our favorite Whole Foods smoothies, and ended up removing the juice as we got used to drinking greens. If you prefer it, use a bit of juice too. All of these ingredients cost me about $25, that is less than $1.75 per smoothie! (The protein and hemp last through many more smoothies). Much better than the $8 Whole Foods versions. I always feel better and have more energy when I start my day with a green smoothie; I hope you enjoy too!

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