Blue Apron Review

Review of Blue Apron

I received a two-week subscription to Blue Apron as a gift.  First of all – if you ever want to give me a gift, I love “subscription” type stuff – it’s so exciting and it’s the gift that keeps on giving.  But enough about me; these are great gifts for just about anyone. 

Overall Impression:  This service is for fairly accomplished cooks who have at least an hour to make dinner and are adventurous eaters. 

Cost:  $60/weekly delivery.  3 meals included per week.  Each meal serves 2 people.  Portion size varies. 

Delivery:  Meals delivered sometime on Tuesday – the first week, it was almost 8pm when the box arrived but the second week, it had come by 4pm.  Everything arrives in one big brown and blue box.  Inside is a throw-away (or keep!) insulating material that keeps the ingredients inside cold.  Opening the box feels like Christmas. 

Contents:  Each meal has a large recipe card that explains the meal’s ingredients and has step by step photos as well as photos of what the finished product should look like.  All of the ingredients are either self explanatory (a clear plastic bag of semi-frozen chicken breasts, for example) or they are well labeled.   Spices and herbs and such are organized by meal, in a separate paper bag marked “knick knacks.”  This is real food, People.  Whole, fresh ingredients.  Very few processed items (bread crumbs, maybe?) 

Meal Planning:  We have a 5 year old who is not especially picky but was not interested in, say, cod over curried rice.  That posed a slight challenge because it was necessary for both portion reasons and food choices to make at least one additional item.  She was happy to eat the pasta dishes but since the kid can put away some noodles, I had to make extra pasta to have enough.  Additionally, we typically eat at home as a 3-person family Mon-Wed.  On Thursdays, my mother in law joins us.  Friday-Sunday we are take-out or dine-in restaurant patrons.  Blue Apron food delivery being on a Tuesday evening made the meal planning a little tricky.  I was able to use almost everything with a little creativity and some additions of salad, veggies or adding to the pasta.     

Cooking Process:  I love cooking.  I think if I was cooking for two people exactly what was in the recipes, I would have been done in under an hour.  But because I was adding and mixing and matching, nearly every meal took over 90 minutes to prepare.  That is a lot when you’ve already put in a full work day and have driven a total of 40 traffic-laden miles.  Regardless, I LOVED this part.  I was SO excited to try new recipes and use familiar ingredients in new ways.  I feel like I am best friends with arugula now!  How did I live without using capers on the regs?  Gochugaru pepper?  Yes, please!  Ginger: under utilized.  The radish: neglected!  Green onions have previously escaped me somehow.  

Examples of interesting dishes: 

Arepas de carne molida (with avocado and pickled jalapeño)

This was insanely good.  Basically you make a little corn cake and fry it, then saute seasoned beef to put on top, then add fresh avocado, sliced radishes, cilantro and this delicious, easy to make mixture of onions and jalapeños that you quickly pickle with vinegar and a little sugar. 

Fresh Fettucini Pasta

I dream of this dish now.  It’s just fresh pasta sautéed with a mix of arugula pesto (chopped arugula, lemon, garlic, parmesan and olive oil) and sugar snap peas with crushed pistachios on top.  This was super good and because of extra people eating, I paired it with seared, then baked cod and some swai fish that I purchased separately.  I will definitely make this again because it was a hit.  

I learned to make salmon cakes from a filler of salmon.  I tried steam buns for the first time ever.  Interestingly, the only cheese used in any of the dishes was Parmesan. And that was only in two dishes.  I could stand to lay off the cheddar so these were great mostly dairy free meals that didn’t come across feeling like anything was missing.  

Clean Up:  Oh boy.  I swear I used 3-4 pots/pans per meal plus numerous mixing bowls and really made a wreck of my kitchen.  It was a big mess, but worth it. 

Summary:  This is an amazing and very fun, exciting gift.  It feels like a real luxury and an adventure. 

Pros:  Minimal grocery shopping that week; getting out of your eating and cooking comfort zones; high quality ingredients; everything is pre measured when possible; real, while food; totally delicious! 

Cons:  Delivery day (maybe you can change the day…I didn’t try.)  Portion sizes are all over the place; time to prepare meals; major clean up required; too pricey for a normal practice.  No mention of organic/non-gmo in the packaging or recipes (but the web site shows that some of the suppliers are organic farms and many appear to be small operations.)

I would strongly recommend treating yourself to this wonderful service as a reward or celebration. I would also highly recommend giving a week or two as a gift to someone.  I could see how this could work on a regular basis, if you have a very flexible (high) food budget. It would probably get easier to work into your week with a little practice.

Caitlin Jenner

It seems like the transgender thing – sudden support for this until-2014-shocking phenomenon – happened out of almost nowhere and rather quickly.  Laverne Cox’s unusual and fascinating character on Orange is the New Black emerged as an interesting storyline, the actor who plays the part turned out to be transgender and now we have Caitlin Jenner front and center.  And (breaking news) Physician General nominee for the state of Pennsylvania, Dr. Rachel Levine, is part of the transgender community. Yes, it seems like the transgender thing happened rather quickly.

Unless, of course, you’re transgender.  And have lived either as some unrealized version of yourself or have lived out loud under constant ridicule and frequent rejection. It must have seemed like this took for freaking ever.

I’m a Christian.  So I have a front seat viewpoint to the fist shaking, hand wringing, Bible beating that predictably happens in response to something like this.  They will know we are Christians by…our love?  Huh.  Not usually.

Just when the evangelicals started to chill out a tiny bit about the gays, you had to hit them with this?  Trying to wipe them out with a collective massive coronary?  Probably came close to working. 
I think about Caitlin Jenner and what it must be like to feel like your physical appearance doesn’t match what’s inside.  Of course, I don’t see the svelte creature in the mirror that my brain tells me should be there as a result of high intensity work outs 6 days a week for 3 months, but I guess it’s a tiny bit different.  🙂

Seriously, People.  If we’re sneering, especially if we’re using God as the justification for our sneering, we ought to be clear on exactly why.  Yes, I can see that The Bible has some things to say about men and women and how things should be.  And gender reassignment surgery is probably outside of what we might label “God’s best.”  But we ignore all kinds of things in Scripture that our society has, like, moved past.  Such as women not speaking in church.  Yeah, I know, in historical, situational, cultural context, it’s not as bad as it sounds, but it’s still kind of uncomfortable and just doesn’t jive with who I feel like I am.  I don’t feel like someone who should be quiet.  (Yes, sometimes I really, really should.  But mostly, not.)  I feel like a woman who was raised in a world where older women fought hard and won to secure me some rights I use every day.  I feel like a woman who can make things happen and fight for what’s good and right, even if it’s hard and complicated.  That’s who I am.  But what if I couldn’t be that?  What if I had to be quiet?  What if the me I am was continually rejected and a Bible verse or two was repeatedly thrown in my face?

I’m not crafting this little tidbit of an argument to say that Caitlin Jenner’s choice to pursue life as a woman is perfectly natural, wise and without grounds for concern.  What I am saying is this:

A transgender person lives a difficult, confusing life, even in the most supportive of families.

Not being able to fully express who you believe you are must be torture.

There is a terribly high suicide rate among those who identify as transgender.   

I am alarmed by the lack of empathy of the church.  Can we not just acknowledge the pain and confusion of one who lives this life?  Can that at least be our FIRST reaction? 

I am disgusted by people’s unwillingness to consider her brave, and with the assertion that only soldiers are brave.  That’s like saying only Angelina Jolie is beautiful.  She is.  But have you SEEN Sophia Vergara lately?

Finally, I think we need to examine our own reactions.  Are we angry?  Afraid?  Nervous? Confused?  Worried that we might relate to Caitlin a little bit?  If you really believe that God is sovereign and full of grace, then, let’s just relax, grab a cold beverage and calmly ponder our thoughts and say a prayer that we might be blessed with Christ-like clarity about this issue.  But until we get it, can we trust a big God with our discomfort and worry and get back to the business that Jesus entrusted us with of loving our neighbor regardless of the pronoun that neighbor prefers? 

Graze review

I have recently tried several new delivery services that I have received as gifts. I thought I might review them here.

First up:  Graze
Graze will deliver a snack box to you each week. You can customize it somewhat, particularly if you have allergies.  

Overall impression:  it’s exciting to get the box each week. The snacks are surprising and unusual combinations.  Many are interesting trail mix type combos or granola bars with a twist. My favorites have been any of the “Flapjack” items: gooey but hearty bars of various flavors.
Trying new snacks
Reasonably healthy ingredients
Cool/unexpected flavors
Sensible (tiny) portions
Here is one snack next to a lime for scale.

Seriously small portions – not a bargain
They bombard you with email “deals”
Too much sugar/carbs
Not customizable enough
I would like to see them have a high-protein, low-carb option.  My first batch had a couple of options that contained nuts, which upped the protein and crunchy salty stuff that balanced out the sweets.  This week’s delivery was all sweet, no savory. 
There do appear to be options on the site for customization. But if you already placed your order, it seems difficult to alter what they are sending you. Maybe you can but the site is not super user-friendly.  
Would I buy it for myself?  Probably not, largely because I can buy larger quantities of healthy snacks at many stores for less money.  
Now, I would say it makes a great gift for someone. A new mom who is going to be stuck at home, a college student or someone who is expanding their diet to include more wholesome snacks.  At $7 per box, with each container holding approximately a handful, you are not getting a good deal. If you buy the larger snack boxes, the price, of course, goes up but you definitely get more bang for your buck.  It’s more of a luxury/gift item .  
Bottom line:  Giving a girlfriend 4 weeks of yummy deliveries is a good way to spend $30.  If you’re feeding yourself, take the $30 to Trader Joe’s. 

Why I "tri."

When I finished chemo in 2014 for stage 3b colon cancer that I had been diagnosed with 5 months before, I did a lot of thinking.  I’m not unique in this.  I think a lot of people get cancer or have a brush with death of some kind, and they decide they need to turn over a new leaf, change how they live, stop doing something, start doing something, repair a broken relationship or begin living more gratefully.  You know, don’t sweat the small stuff kind of thinking.  My own version of newness was this:  
My cancer has a high rate of recurrence.  I know, we all want to believe that it’s gone forever, I “beat” it and it won’t ever come back.  But I hear every day or so about someone who got cancer once, had a time of remission, and then their cancer came back and killed them.  I know, it’s morbid and negative and upsetting to think that way – try living it.  But rather than dwell in the fear of recurrence and death, I’ve decided to let that possibility impact my life in a positive way.  And I have a specific goal.  Since I live with the possibility that cancer could come back and kill me, I think about what is most upsetting about that – what is the most unfair, heart wrenching part about that?  There are many things, but the biggest is this:  My daughter is only 5.  I know she’ll be ok.  She has people that love and will take care of her.  She’s smart and resilient.  But will she remember me?  I don’t remember much about being 5.  So I think, what is most important for me to leave for her?  That I love her, of course.  But that’s well established.  What I really want is for her to have strong memories of us being together and having fun as a family, but also for her to have memories and evidence of her mother doing difficult, challenging things.  I want her to be deeply aware that she comes from a woman who didn’t back down from challenges, that didn’t let fear and doubt stop her.  Now, look.  I realize that this is a little Lifetime Movie-esque.  I’m not trying to be overly dramatic.  There is a perfectly good chance I will be alive 40 years from now.  But when you can name the thing that is most likely to kill you, you have the right to move about defensively – both in fighting it (nutrition, regular check-ups, exercise) and making some decisions about how your legacy might look, whenever that time comes.   
If I die early from cancer  it can’t be helped that she will have memories of a sick woman struggling for breath.  Memories of watching me get sick and frail will flood her brain for a while – hell, that will probably happen if I make it to 90.  That cannot be avoided.  But what I can do is show her how to fight now.  Show her how to overcome challenges.  Show her how you make sacrifices, tape up that ankle and get on with the damned training run.  Show her how organized and dedicated and disciplined you have to be to accomplish something big.  How you have to have your swimsuit, your goggles, your hair band, your special socks, your phone armband, your sports bra, your bike helmet, your biking gloves, your cold weather stuff, your warm weather stuff.  Show her how you have to eat the right things for fuel, how you will get really sick if you don’t hydrate. 
I can show her how you wear a wet suit in public even though you look like an oompah loompah.  I can show her how you swim in deep, open, choppy water, fighting waves, arms, legs, wind and the alarming tightness of the wet suit.  I can show her how you pass the jerk in front of you who kicked you in the head.  I can show her how to strip off that nasty, confining wet suit and throw on a t-shirt and get on that bike and ride, and to just keep pedaling, and when the hill becomes too much, how you get off and walk, pushing that heavy less-than-optimal bike, putting one foot in front of the other.  Literally saying to yourself “I think I can.  Just keep going.  I think I can.  I know I can.”  I can show her how walking your bike isn’t quitting, it’s using all of the tools in your tool box.  It’s ditching pride for functionally, dragging yourself and that heavy, heavy bike up that hill so you can mount up and sail down the other side.  I can show her how you don’t touch those brakes on that downhill because even though 38 MPH on a winding, gravelly, country road that is not closed to traffic is terrifying, and how you just have to believe that a deer won’t jump out and kill you, or a rabbit for that matter – because you need every bit of momentum.  You can’t afford to let fear make you hit those brakes.  You have to choose to be brave.  And, if you can shake the fear, it kind of makes you believe you can fly.  I can show her that when your chain pops off, you don’t cry; you just jump off and fix it.  I can show her that when you start that run, your legs feel like dead tree trunks.  So you walk slow to get them going.  Then faster.  And even though it seems impossible, like REALLY impossible…and, ooh, there is a lady holding an iced tea….you want that iced tea.  You want to stop and sit down and drink that frosty iced tea and say “eff this race.”  And you feel sad because lots of people are done.  Like, they not only passed you on the bike, they have also finished their run.  They are, like way, way faster than you.  And they are eating pizza and drinking iced tea.  And you are just starting your run.  But there is she.  That little sprite of a girl, with her light brown hair messy and her knees dirty.  Cheering you on.  “Go mommy.”  And you cry.  Because you know you already did it.  You haven’t finished this race yet – you WILL, dammit.  But you have shown her.  She knows.  She knows what this takes for you.  She cheers because she knows this is hard.  She’s seen you struggle on the bike.  She’s seen you chug along slowly, running, just barely.  Head down, get it done.  She knows.  Her 5 year old heart is proud.  And you know, that even right now if you get hit by a falling tree, you’ve done it.   She will remember you strong and whole and healthy and badass.  And so you begin to run.  And you just make it happen, even though the tank is empty.  There is nothing left but sheer will.  You run and you finish.         
It meant EVERYTHING to me that my daughter was there to see this.  For a while, it seemed like that wasn’t going to work out. It was a busy weekend and it really wasn’t anyone’s fault, but I was devastated.   I had a time of panic and frustration and even deep heartache.  This was so important to me.  And I tried reaching out for help, which I really hate doing, but it was this important.  Is there anything worse than asking for help and being rejected?  Ugh!  What a horrible feeling.  This is why people don’t ask for help, because no matter what the reason, how not personal it is…when the stakes in my crazy head are this high…it feels like a rejection of me.  And I couldn’t expect anyone to understand why.  But then someone did.  My wonder friend Mitzi just reached out and fixed it.  She said “Cass will sleep here and we will bring her to come and see you.”  Not only that, but she took these amazing pictures that I will always for the rest of my life be grateful for.  Whether I die when I’m 40 or 70 or 90, please remember me like this.  Because this is who I am.  

A lot of people got me here – an online triathlon group I’m part of, friends and family, especially my husband for helping me train and others, like my mom for watching Cass when I trained as well as the race organizers and volunteers who cheered me on.  It means the world to me.