Things in progress

1.  Cookies still haven’t happened since Boston was humid and then we had our second heatwave.  I’m feeling hopeful that tonight will be the night.

2.  I’m experimenting with what is essentially a vegan chocolate pudding.  It’s not good enough to post on the blog, but it’s good enough for me to stuff my face.  I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing.  Flavor-wise, it’s perfect.  The texture is gritty though.  I didn’t intend for it to be a vegan pudding but it’s not quite working for the application I had in mind.  More fiddling is required.

3.  In a few weeks, there will be regular updates from me because I go on vacation!  Yay!  Ok, it’s a “staycation” but that’s not the point.  For the first full week of August, you can expect a new post everyday.  I’m really excited.

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Pictures, Jan-Feb 2013

My mom came over and made me fried rice. I was obnoxious by taking photos and a video of her cooking. The video is for my own reference, but here are a couple of pictures.

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Last weekend was the blizzard. One side of my house had a dusting. The other side of my house (where my driveway is) had four foot drifts.

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And today, I was experimenting with black rice. I boiled 1/2 cup of black rice in lots of water for about 20 minutes. And then, to the boiling rice, I added 1 red bell pepper, cut up. After a few more minutes, I added slices of Chinese sausage (leftover from my mom’s fried rice visit) just to warm through. The whole small pot of rice, bell pepper, and sausage was drained, and then left to rest 10 minutes. I garnished with sliced kumquats, and called it lunch. Not bad for someone who couldn’t think of anything better to make! (^_^)

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Not bad looking, right?  You can barely see the sausage.  It absorbed the coloring of the rice.  (That is one potent purple!)

Blue Apron, part 3 of 3

Reminder – I’m not getting compensated for this post in any manner.  I shelled out the money from my own pocket just to try out the Blue Apron service for fun.

My last Blue Apron meal was Moroccan Beef Tagine with Dates and Honey.

 

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I think, of the three meals, this was my least favorite.  But I’m not trying to say that it tasted bad or anything like that.  If anything, I feel like it could have been better.  It might have been the cooking process.  It’s still a good dish, but the ground beef was really fatty and the fat dulled the flavors some.  On the other hand, the couscous absorbed most of the fat so at least I wasn’t left with a greasy feeling.  Too bad I’m not much of a couscous fan.  (But Israeli couscous is pretty yum.)  If I were to make this dish again, I would cook the ground beef first, then set it aside and tip out the extra fat.  The original instructions also say to add the vegetable stock and 1 cup of water but I made the executive decision to leave out the 1c of water.  It would have made it way too watery, and probably would have only diluted the flavor some more.  (Although, I probably would need the extra moisture if the extra fat were removed.)

It was a sweeter recipe than I expected it to be.  With the prunes and dates, I’m not really sure the honey was needed but I guess that’s more of a preference.  I tend to think tagines should be highly spiced in flavor.  I took a little longer cooking this dish because I wanted my carrots to be soft-ish.

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Anyway, my overall impression of Blue Apron is quite favorable.

Pros:  It’s a great way to experiment with cooking different dishes.  You can select a “meat/seafood” account or a “vegetarian” account.  Every dish is pre-measured to be two servings.  It’s not cheap, but it’s the cheapest food delivery service I’ve seen so far at $9.99 per serving.  Every week, there are three different dishes to make.  The recipe card is very easy to read and easy to follow along.  The packaging tries to be environmentally friendly.  The insulation in the box are ThermoKeeper liners which are biodegradable.  The ice packs are Nordic Ice packs, which are reusable and also biodegradable.  Plus, Blue Apron tried it’s best to give you quality products that are locally sourced.  (Well, locally sourced to them.  I don’t live in NYC.)

Cons:  If you don’t live in Manhattan, then your box is shipped to you via FedEx.  You are at the mercy of FedEx.  As sad cat macro from an earlier post indicates, I was not having fun with this.  Unfortunately, Blue Apron doesn’t automatically notify you of your FedEx tracking number.  Fortunately, Blue Apron does respond to their emails and we were able to track my shipment pretty easily.  The only other thing that I don’t like about Blue Apron is that, technically, it’s a subscription service.  It will automatically charge and ship me boxes if I don’t opt out of that week.  You can cancel your account at any time, but, as a general rule, I don’t think you should have to opt out.  I think it’s a better practice to have customers to opt in.  And for picky eaters (which is me sometimes), Blue Apron notifies you a week ahead what the next menu is.  So, if you don’t like it, you have some wiggle room to opt out (or opt back in if you do like it and you had already scheduled to skip a delivery).

So, I’m going to keep my account for now.  It’s not something I’m going to do every week, but maybe once a month?  We’ll see.  I’m also wondering if I should change my delivery date from Wednesday to Friday, but I’m not sure if that’s any better for my schedule if there’s a late delivery again.

 

Reference Links:

http://www.blueapron.com/
http://www.blueapron.com/recipes/moroccan-beef-tagine-with-dates-and-honey
http://www.thermopod.net/thermokeeper.php
http://temperatsure.com/nordicice.php

Blue Apron, part 2 of 3

I forgot to add this photo into the previous post.  This is how I’ll determine two servings of cod fillets in the future: the overall area should be about the size of my hand.  (^_^)

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Moving on!  The recipe I decided to make on Friday night was Korean Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Pickled Daikon Radish.  Not pictured were two nice free range chicken cutlets supplied by Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors.  This recipe, like the last one, took me about 35 minutes to make.  It probably could have taken me less time, but I had no need to rush.

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The minor changes I made were to 1) salt the chicken beforehand, 2) use shio koji instead of salt for the daikon radish, and 3) thinly slice the daikon with a mandoline.  The original recipes tells you to cut the daikon into chunks, but pickled daikon in Korean restaurants is usually cut in julienne strips (I’m not referring to radish kimchi which is cut into chunks).  So, chunks didn’t feel right to me.  Plus, I just couldn’t imagine that the daikon would get enough flavor in half an hour from its marinade.

What else?  Ah, the unusual ingredient in this recipe was dried garlic chutney.  It really had me confused at first.  There’s no such thing as dried garlic chutney in Korean cooking.  Sure, there’s a lot of garlic and red pepper flakes but no spice mix referred to as dried garlic chutney.  After some researching and an quick confirmation from Blue Apron, dry garlic chutney is spice mix found in Indian cooking.  It’s spicy enough and familiar enough, I think, for Korean approval but the flavor is still ever-so-slightly foreign.  So, this dish is more Asian fusion and not traditional Korean.

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Reactions?  I really liked this one, especially the glass noodles.  The noodles reminded me of a Chinese vermicelli dish my mom makes.  I’m not totally sure what kind of glass noodles they were though.  They’re too thin to be chapchae noodles.  It’s probably just a Korean version of the vermicelli I’m familiar with, but I’ll have to start looking for them.  It’s hard for me to find Chinese vermicelli that I like.  The past few years, I’ve been buying a Taiwanese brand, but it’s getting harder and harder to find it.  I can only find mainland Chinese brands.  I like the Taiwanese brand better because it’s generally softer and chewier. I wonder what it is that creates the texture difference.  Technically, they are supposed to be the same product.

The radish was good too.  Not as sour as I normally expect, but it was a nice foil to the spiciness of the chicken.  And yes, the chicken was fairly spicy hot even though I did not use the full amount of chutney provided.

I must admit – I’m a little sad that I’ve only got one meal left to cook.

http://www.blueapron.com/
http://www.blueapron.com/recipes/korean-chicken-lettuce-wraps-with-pickled-daikon-radish
http://www.lafrieda.com/Default.asp

Blue Apron, part 1 of 3

First impressions?  I like my Blue Apron box.  On the other hand, I’m really disliking FedEx right now.  Not only did FedEx not delivery my box on Wednesday, but they delivered my box on Thursday just before they stopped for the day.  I got my box a little after 7pm… after I had already assembled something resembling dinner.  (>_<)

Anyway!  On to the pictures!  (Crappy pictures because it was almost 8pm by the time I opened my  box.  I hate taking photos without natural light.)

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My yuzu got a little squashed.  Poor yuzu…

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I just like how the bag of spices/sauces/etc. is called “knick kacks.”  My siblings tend to call them “accessories.”

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Everything is labeled.  Also, it never occurred to me that Israeli couscous looks different from couscous.  (See the second picture with the squashed yuzu for the regular couscous.)

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Here’s a picture of my first Blue Apron dish – Cod with Israeli couscous, roasted carrots and bok choy, and yuzu butter sauce.  Even though I was really flustered when I opened my box and needed a few minutes to get into gear, cooking the cod recipe only took me about 30 minutes to assemble as the website promises.  Nice.  I did make minor changes though.  Since I like my carrots a little softer and I know I tend to cut them big, they went into the oven for 5 minutes at 475F.  After that, I added the bok choy to the sheet pan.  I left my oven at 475F for about 10 more minutes.  The original recipe suggests roasting the carrots and the choy at 500F for 10-12 minutes,  but I suspect that my oven runs a little hot and 500F is a little overkill.   I made no other changes to the recipe.

I bet you notice that my plated picture has everything in a tupperware.  The sad part about cooking at night after you’ve eaten – everything you cook automatically becomes leftovers.  So, I’m eating it today for lunch.  I’m so hungry that I’m taking tasting bites of it now, at 10:30am.  It’s a little early for fish but better this than snacking on something from the vending machine.  Overall, I like it!  The veggies came out perfectly, and the Israeli couscous is nicely chewy.  The cod is good, nothing super special, but it works nicely with the rest of the dish.

Tonight I attempt the “Korean Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Pickled Daikon Radish” recipe.

http://www.blueapron.com/
http://www.blueapron.com/pages/cookbook (where you can find an archive of their recipe cards, including the meals I’m making this week)

 

[Note –  I am not getting paid in any way for my review. I paid for the product out of my own pocket to satisfy my curiosity.]

…Or not…

*sigh*

I got all excited.  My first Blue Apron delivery was dated today.  For anyone who needs more details, Blue Apron is a online vendor that offers grocery delivery centered on healthy cooking and cooking experimentation.  A one-week subscription gives you all the ingredients you need for three meals (two servings each) and recipe cards for the meals.  The meals seem to be fairly well balanced by the look of their past recipe cookbook, and I think each serving is under 700 calories for those who are counting.

Do you see where this conversation is going?

I came home to nothing.  Not-a-thing.  And I checked again as I started to get ready for bed, on the barest hope that maybe I had come home too early and my box had been delivered late.  Still, zilch.

Ugh.  I sent Blue Apron an email just a few minutes ago.  Hopefully, it can be resolved in a quick and friendly manner.

I’m more upset that this means I have nothing for dinner tomorrow or Friday.  (I was lucky and had just enough backup food for dinner tonight.)  And I was really looking forward to cooking something new and fresh.  Instead, I get to go to bed with a disappointed tummy.

**EDIT – Blue Apron emailed me the FedEx tracking number.  The delay lies with FedEx.  I have a suspicion that I’m not getting it today (1/10/13) either.  ARGH.**

 

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