Blue Apron Overwhelms

Today I made West African Peanut Chicken with Sauteed Kale & Rice, my first meal from Blue Apron.  Let’s see how that went.

On Tuesday, I received my box of ingredients. I was quite dismayed when I took everything out and had this mess.

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Wow!

Right away, I was less than pleased. Hello Fresh had everything neatly boxed and here I was confronted with a jumble of groceries.

So, here is what we need for today.

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Just this. That’s better.

I took the rest of the ingredients and organized them myself, just for sanity’s sake.

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Gallon zip lock bags make for great storage containers

Blue Apron does not provide levels or lists of needed utensils. Guess we are on our own.

My Level: 3 Spoons. Wow. This is an expert level recipe, requiring multiple techniques, instruments, time management, and speed.

Blue Apron Prep Time: 15 minutes

My Prep Time: 9 minutes. There are 7 things you need to prep, all included in Step 1.

Blue Apron Cooking Time: 35 – 45 minutes (Come on. Commit to a time.)

My Cooking Time: 35 minutes, but only because I started the rice before I started the prep. Add 10 minutes to cooking time, if you forget to start the water boiling.

Here’s Blue Apron’s version of West African Peanut Chicken

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OMG! Is that Kale?!

Yes, today we will be cooking nature’s roofing material and voluntarily ingesting it.

So, Blue Apron has left me to ferret on my kitchen tools from a careful perusal of the instructions. It’s always a good idea to read the instruction ahead of time to get a feel for the flow of the meal. Here’s what I think I will need to cook today.

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Holy Cow!

Did you notice my very distressed bamboo spoon? Don’t ever leave your spoons on the burner and walk away. Just saying.

Ok, do I have everything? Nooooooo! Bah. What else could I possibly need?

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Fists of anger that I gotta find yet more stuff.

Fine. Now that all or tools and ingredients are collected, let’s go!

Step 1: Prepare the Ingredients (15 minutes)

Prep all your stuff.

Wow. I’m tired now.

Step 2: Cook the Rice

I am super annoyed that this is Step 2. One should always start the water boiling first. That’s what I did and it cut 10 minutes off the total cooking time.

Step 3: Cook the Chicken

We seasoned the chicken during prep, so heat the pan, coat with the oil that you didn’t know you needed unless you read ahead, and cook through. Flip and finish.

 

Wow, here is where Blue Apron gets pretentious. Who uses the word “fond” for the brown bits at the bottom of the pan? Blue Apron, I guess. Save those to flavor the roofing material.

Step 4 Cook the Roofing Material

Honestly, Blue Apron wants me to cook these like regular greens with oil, garlic, water and the roofing material. The roofing material will reduce during cooking.

Step 5: Make the sauce & finish the chicken

I am not sure why these boxes are so fond of tricky sauces, but here goes.

Add the ginger, scallions, and “as much of the spice blend as you’d like, depending on how spicy you’d like the dish to be.” Umm, WTF? How spicy are the spices? How would I know? They don’t list the spices on the pack. Guess it’s spice roulette. I gave the spices a good whiff and my eyes didn’t burn, so the whole thing went in and I stirred like mad for one minute.

Now, while simultaneous stirring the spices, so they don’t burn, whisk the peanut butter and coconut milk one more time and then pour them in the pan. This requires at least three hands. Good luck.

Add back the chicken and spoon the concoction over the chicken. Let it simmer for 8ish minutes. Add the rest of the that tiny bottle of vinegar.

Step 6: Plate your dish

Not sure why there are instructions for this. I guess maybe so you know to pour the sauce over the chicken. Oh, and don’t forget the green scallions that you forgot over on the counter. They go on top.

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#blueapron

 

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That’s a lot of food!

Final Judgement:

Taste: This was amazingly yummy. The chicken wasn’t too spicy. I’d give it a heat level of 1 out of 5. That shouldn’t be too challenging for anyone. The rice is very rice like. Even the roofing material was edible. Wonder of wonders!

Ease of Preparation: In desperation, I cheated. I drafted my teenage son as prepper and assistant photographer. Lot’s of these steps needed quick work and there would have been no time for pictures without him. I rate this dish Expert level.

Final Thoughts: Too many ingredients. Too many tools. By the time I was done the entire kitchen was trashed. Ugg. Although it was good, I would not make this again. I thought the idea of these boxes was to make my cooking easier. This most certainly did not.

 

 

 

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Hello Fresh #3 Thai Pork Stir-Fry

Welcome to our third and final Hello Fresh meal: Thai Pork Stir-Fry. Things have been interesting so far. Let’s see how the final meal shaped up.

Here’s what Hello Fresh says my meal should look like today:

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Cool. That looks easy.

Hello Fresh Level: 1 (are any of their recipes rated higher?)

My Level: 1 – Easy Peasy

Hello Fresh Prep Time: 10 minutes

My Prep Time: Who makes these prep times? Forget it. Prep times are only helpful if you know what to do as prep. As in, you have to have made this before. So, my prep time: 15 minutes.

Hello Fresh Cooking Time: 30 minutes

My Cooking Time: 25 minutes! I finished first. Gimmie a sticker.

 

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WOW! This box was stuffed full of stuff.

All the food is here. What does Hello Fresh say we need?

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Really? That seems easy. I bet everyone has a peeler!

But wait! There’s more. You also need…

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How hard is it to say, “Salt and Pepper.” What’s the deal?

I don’t remember seeing a grater listed anywhere. Oh, it’s “optional.” uh uh. And a cup of water! What if there is a drought or what if I forgot to pay the bill? This really is a vital thing to list in the ingredients. Come on. Not pictured: A knife and a garlic press. Didn’t realize I was going to need a garlic press! On to the cooking…

Step 1: Cook Rice

So, here’s the thing. I always thought rice was the easiest thing in the world to make and who could possibly mess that up. Then I met my mother-in-law, God rest her soul, and discovered that people can mess up rice. The rice Hello Fresh includes in this kit is basmati which generally has its own cooking rules, but here they say just to cook it in boiling salt water. Let’s see how that comes out.

That came out pretty good. The key to making good rice is to bring the water to a full boil and simmer at a medium low, so that the rice can absorb the water.

Step 2: Prep

Until now, I had been satisfied with the quality of the food. Here’s where things took a turn. When I opened the green beans they were slimy. It looks like they were washed and then packed. The green beans needed a good scrub first.

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Deslimed Green Beans

Then I needed to peel and either mince or grate the ginger. Peeling the ginger is always a pain, but don’t skip this step. That peel is bitter and ain’t nobody wants to eat it. Then grate or mince. Did you dig out your cheese grater? What do you mean you don’t own a cheese grater? Guess you are mincing, sucker. If you own a garlic press, you don’t need to mince or grate the ginger. Ginger goes through a garlic press nicely, but you still need to peel it, first. If you look closely, you can see the garlic in my prep bowl. Hey, no one said we would need a prep bowl! You don’t really need one. Just leave the ginger and garlic remains on you cutting surface and scrape them in the pan, as needed.

Are we done prepping yet? Nope. Now chop those two scallions. I kinda like that the kit comes with just the two you need, because you can’t buy two at the store. You have to bunch the whole bunch. Then, I always end up using the one or two I need and the rest hang out in my produce drawer until I throw them out.

OMG! There’s more prep? I thought these boxes were supposed to make cooking easy? Now we need to core, seed, and thinly slice the bell pepper. What does all that mean? Coring a pepper means taking out the stem and cutting away the thick inner membrane. Seeding means to remove the seeds. That may seem self-evident, but I swear I never knew that. I used to cook those seeds with my food. It won’t hurt you, but your food will be spicier. Thinly slice. Ick. I hate strips of peppers. I always cube or dice my peppers. For a stir-fry, cubing works best.

More prep! This is the last thing, I swear. Pick the mint leaves off the stem and coarsely chop. The trick to chopping fresh leaves is to tightly roll them together and then slice them. Like so…

Wow! That was a lot of prep. Moving on.

Step 3: Cook Veggies

This is easy. Heat the pan, add the oil, the veggies and cook until soft. Then add the SALT AND PEPPER! Why? Why would you do this to fresh veggies? Ugg. And why don’t you list it?

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There go the veggies, cooking away.

Then, remove from pan and set aside. Set aside? I don’t have a plate for that. Did I miss that on the Bust Out list? Nope. It’s not there. Sigh. Off I go for a plate.

Step 4: Cook Aromatics

What are aromatics? They are the smelly things. Cook that ginger and garlic in some oil for one minute. Don’t just stand there. Go get the stuff you need for Step 5. By the time you have everything, it will be time to move on.

Step 5: Assemble Stir-Fry

Assemble? Wait. Have we cooked everything. Well, no. You have to cook the pork. Here’s another complaint I have. High quality ground pork has the same texture as quality ground beef. The ground pork included here was a smooth block with quite a bit of added water. I would not have bought this in a store. I would have gone for a better grind. Cook the pork, and all ground meats, thoroughly.

Add back the veggies, the soy sauce, and honey. It also says to add salt and pepper, again. Here goes nothing.

Step 6: Finish and Plate

Here we add the mint to the rice.

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Mix in half the mint.

Divide the rice onto your two plates and then dive the stir-fry as well.

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Look at all that food!

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It’s yuge!

Top off with the remaining mint and dig in.

Final Judgement:

Taste: Welllll, I added all the salt and pepper it said, but the meal came out too salty for my taste or my husband’s. If I made this again, I would not add salt at all.

Ease of Preparation: This was the easiest of the three meals to prepare by virtue of not having a glaze. I’d still say you need need some serious kitchen skills, what with all the chopping and mincing. If you are slow with a knife, the prep will bore you to tears. Also, this was the only recipe that I could prep on my own. It didn’t include any mystery spice packs or exotic ingredients. That was nice.

Final Thoughts: Less salt! That concludes my look at Hello Fresh. Tomorrow my box from Blue Apron arrives.

Next time: Blue Apron’s West African Peanut Kitchen with Rice and Sauteed Kale (Nature’s Roofing Material)

Hello Fresh Meal #2 Rapid Maple-Balsamic Chicken

Alright cooking people, the first meal is behind us and it’s time to cook Rapid Maple-Balsamic Chicken.

Here’s what Hello Fresh says my meal should look like when I am done:

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What Hello Fresh Says I will make

Hello Fresh Level: 1

My Level: 1 -This was pretty easy to make and the directions were good.

Hello Fresh Prep Time: 5 minutes

My Prep Time: Yeah, ok, 5 minutes was about right, but I wonder who really does all the prep work at the beginning. Some prep sneaks in the middle.

Hello Fresh Cooking Time: 20 minutes

My Cooking Time: Pretty much spot on. There is still multitasking to get it done in 20 minutes, but it’s not overwhelming.

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Everything in the Hello Fresh Kit

Goodie! They sent us everything on the recipe list. What else does Hello Fresh say we need?

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That’s it? Are you sure?

Of course, not! You also need:

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How hard is it to say, “Grab some salt and pepper?”

You might also want a knife to cut the sweet potatoes, but I just used the fork. Completest will point out that you also need pot holders. Picky, picky.

Step 1: Preheat Oven and Roast Broccoli

How long does it take for your oven to heat up? Mine takes forever, so I do this first before I even gather ingredients. The broccoli is pre-cut in the bag, so just wash and dry the broccoli. Bam! Done. I think Step 1 and 2 are the 5 minute “Prep” and that’s about how long it took me to open the broccoli and toss it with the pesky salt and pepper and a “drizzle” of oil. Is that an exact measurement? I’m sure I used too much.

Step 2: Microwave Sweet Potatoes

Here’s whatcha gotta do:

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Stab those potatoes with the fork!

Then just toss them in the microwave and ignore. Hello Fresh doesn’t assume you have a microwave (how thoughtful), so instructions for cooking the potatoes in the oven are included. Microwaving takes 10 minutes, the oven takes 30 minutes. You decide how long you want to think about potatoes.

Step 3: Sear Chicken

Meanwhile, bake at the stove top, it’s time to cook the chicken. Good Grief! Salt and pepper again. Look is you have to use the good ole S&P in more than one step, put it in the list of things you gotta have!  Ugg.

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Salt and Pepper on Chicken! Rocket Science!

The instructions say to cook the chicken on medium-high heat for 5 minutes a side. My chicken cooked pretty quickly, so I flipped it at 4 minutes. If the edges are starting to cook, it is safe to flip the chicken. Pay no attention to the charring smell, unless you see smoke. That’s what the chicken is supposed to do. When the chicken is cooked, toss it on that plate they told you to get.

Step 4: Make Glaze

After the disastrous glaze from last time, I made some modifications to Hello Fresh’es instructions. Once again they want the balsamic vinegar to go in first to simmer and thicken for one minute. This is a mistake, it will just burn to a char and you will have sad naked chicken, instead of glitzy, glazed chicken. Put in the 1/2 tablespoon of butter first. Then, add the balsamic vinegar and the maple syrup at the same time. Your kitchen will be filled with a fabulous steam cloud of sugary goodness. Immediately, grab that spoon and mix, mix, mix for one minute. Moving rapidly, grab the cooked chicken, throw it in the pan and toss it with the glaze. Then hurry up and put it back on the plate. 2 fast moving minutes and we are done! Did the potatoes finish while you were doing that? IGNORE THE TIMER! The glaze demands all of your attention. If you did it right, your chicken should look like this.

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Mmmmmm, glazed chicken. Smells, so good.

Step 5: Split Sweet Potatoes

Yes, this is a whole step. What can I say? Cut the sweet potatoes in half. Hello Fresh says these tiny sweet potatoes need a 1/2 tablespoon of butter, per half. This is an unethical amount of butter. Embrace the sin. They will taste so good. Sprinkle Hello Fresh’es sweet and smokey spice blend in to taste. I wanted to taste it all. I mashed that sinful butter and the whole packet into my sweet potatoes.

Step 5: Serve

Put everything on your serving plate. Point of order! You never told me to take out the broccoli. What happened to it? It’s still in the oven. Grab those pot holders and get it out. Hello Fresh says to roast the broccoli for 15 minutes, but after about 10 the smaller pieces were charred, so I took them out.

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Charred Broccoli! 

Time to put everything on my favorite Calamity Ware Plates!

Here’s what I ended up with:

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Two hearty portions, again!

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Do those potatoes look anything like the Hello Fresh picture? Nope!

Final Judgement:

Taste: With all the oil and butter this meal called for, it couldn’t help tasting amazing. Hello Fresh claims this plate is only 567 calories, however, it sure tasted like a whole lot more.

Ease of Preparation: Another tricky glaze. Not for the faint or heart.

Final Thoughts: Even though this recipe was rated the same level as the Steak and Potatoes, I found it to be much easier. Glazes are tricky though. Maybe they should substitute a sauce, instead.

Thanks to everyone who read my last blog! Next time, Hello Fresh Meal #3 Thai Pork Stir-Fry, not featuring a glaze! Hurrah!

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