Friday, October 7, 2016

Blue Apron, Week Two - Tacos and a Wrap(-up)

We've actually reached the end of the second (and final) week of Blue Apron deliveries. I'm not going to lie, it's a bit odd. After all, we went from the bottom shelf of our fridge looking (basically) like this for the past two weeks:

to now looking like this:

But I'll get to the overall "How'd it go?" discussion in a bit. First, let's talk Korean Pork Tacos with Spicy Red Cabbage Slaw.

I was really kind of excited by this one, and happy that it would be the final meal we cooked. Christopher and I both really like tacos and spicy foods in general, and there wasn't a lot of prep. (I actually think I finished "on time" for the first time in ages).

Something we're going to talk about in a moment: look at all those plastic bags - which really aren't reusable.
Another pretty prep board, though.
There were a lot of great flavors in this one - the vinegar, the garlic, onions, ginger, and gochujang paste meant that this would be spicy and flavorful. Unfortunately, it also meant - once the cabbage got into the mix - that it would be a rather pungent meal (and compost bag after the fact).

The box included, this week, an informational sheet about radishes (last week, I'd been given a lesson in tomatillos).
My one unanswered radish question was: Why did they send me three radishes (one of which was about 3 inches in diameter), when all we were doing with them was using thin slices as garnish on the tacos? Seriously. Look at the prep pictures, above, and you'll see that I'd already sliced up one radish, and still had two of them left over.

While the pork cooked away with all of its spices (below), I mixed up the slaw and the sour cream and vinegar sauce (which got a bit runny, honestly). 
I tossed the tortillas in the toaster oven (more consistent and multi-task-y than having to do them individually in the pan), and shuffled the dishes into the sink while I waited for the liquid to cook off of the pork.
We don't actually have a microwave in our kitchen. We have a toaster oven. 95% of the time, that's really a much better option for us - and it keeps us from falling back on microwaved foods, which probably keeps us a bit healthier.
Plating was never going to look like their photos, because who has soft taco stands? Instead, we do the "lean 'em against each other to create a wall" style of soft taco plating.

Honestly - what would we have done with three times as much radish?
Overall, these were tasty. The spice had a good kick, once we got past the aroma (which we'd probably become fine with if we ate more of it). I didn't cut the cabbage thinly enough, so the slaw was a little tough even after marinating, but I think that was my fault.

So... What do I think after two weeks of Hello Fresh and two weeks of Blue Apron?

Looking into the fridge after cooking our tacos, I suddenly realized that I was going to be back to planning meals again. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned that I love going to the grocery store, but I don't love having to think of interesting and/or unique things to cook all the time. That's definitely one aspect of these meals that I really enjoyed.

I also enjoyed finding out how many other people were using these services. Last weekend we were talking to some friends and mentioned we were on our final meals for the week and they said "Oh - the Blackened Chicken was great, you'll love it." That feeling of community, everyone cooking together, was nice.

If I were to have to choose between these two services (knowing full well that there are a lot more to choose from - including some specifically local ones), I'd probably end up choosing Blue Apron - if I were buying it for me. On the other hand, I think a lot of people who are less familiar with their kitchens would prefer Hello Fresh. I can think of a number of people I would happily offer a gift subscription to either one.

Was it a good experience? Definitely.

Would I change anything about them? I'm sure they already have someone working on this, but there seems to be a lot of packaging waste in each box. From the box and ice packs to the ways that the foods are packaged, it takes a lot of paper and plastic to get groceries to your door. Doing your own shopping would definitely lessen the trash (I say this as someone who uses reusable grocery bags, and skips the plastic produce bags whenever possible).

I don't know that I'd really alter the overall plans and procedures, though. Their websites are each fairly easy to navigate, and (if you pay attention) it's fairly easy to adjust your shipments and make changes to your meals and deliveries.

Will we be doing it again? Maybe. If we do try another delivery service, though, I'll probably try one of the local companies, just to try them out and better support the local economy. (A quick online search suggests that there are at least three of these in the Minneapolis area, not including all of the summer Crop Shares or farm-based meat shares of various kinds.)

If you've decided to try out one of these services based on my ramblings, please let me know how it goes/how it went. I'd love to hear about it!

**Reminder: I'm now out of these meals to post about, and I'm looking for your help!

If you have a recipe you've always wanted to try, but were afraid of how it might turn out - or if you've had an absolute kitchen fail and want to find out whether it was just you - drop me a line with a link to the recipe and (if it's not too crazy/expensive/disgusting from the outset) I'll see about whipping it up for all to see. 

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