An Honest Review of Blue Apron

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You’ve probably seen ads or paid reviews of meal kit delivery services like Blue Apron, Home Chef, or Plated. I certainly had seen plenty, but the price tag always stopped me from trying any of them out. However, some family came in May and they turned out to be subscribers to Blue Apron. Best of all, subscribers who have been with the service for a certain amount of time can give free weeks to new subscribers. I was in!

She did mention her trick to keep it somewhat affordable – Blue Apron lets you skip any weeks you don’t want very easily. She just skips most of the weeks and only gets deliveries on weeks that look really appealing to her.

Upon logging in for the first time, I was happy to see that they had more options than meat or vegetarian for your meal choices. I could specify what I don’t eat (for instance, pork) without limiting myself to vegetarian only. I was also happy that you could customize what meals you were getting beyond what they initially picked for you. One frustration however was that not all meals were available together. So if I didn’t like one of the suggested meals, I couldn’t just pick any of the others. They have six options every week, but I found that if I picked certain meals, others would be greyed out and unavailable. I suppose for people with no dietary restrictions or picky eaters in the family, it might not be a big deal, but between me keeping semi-kosher and John just being a bit…particular about food (I won’t say picky, but yeah, he can be a bit picky) I didn’t find a week that would work for both of us with the combinations I could choose until the end of July. Of course, there were some weeks I COULD have done, but I just don’t see grilled cheese with a side salad as worthwhile for a meal delivery kit. I don’t care how good the cheese is.

The first box we got had all vegetarian meals. We’re fine with eating vegetarian meals. Hell, I was a vegetarian for years. However, it’s worth noting that if you are paying for the service, it’s $60 for a 3 meals that serve 2 people each. For $20 a meal, I would probably want meat in at least one of my meals. However, this was a freebie, the meals all looked good, and I was anxious to try my first week.

The box arrived on July 30. The end of July was, as those of you in the South may recall, stupidly hot. However, Blue Apron says it packages the food so that it’s okay if it sits on your porch until you get home. We got home in the early afternoon and put everything in the fridge as soon as we unpacked it.

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The following evening, we decided to try our first meal, Bhindi Masala (actually, more like bhindi paneer masala, but they just called it bhindi masala). It’s an Indian dish with okra and paneer cheese. We love Indian food, so we were looking forward to it. Their recipe was served over rice with Raita (a cucumber yogurt side). The first disappointment was a big one – we opened the okra and found this:

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Yes, folks, you are seeing that correctly. That’s moldy okra. And not just a slight hint of mold, it’s full-blown, chuck-it-immediately mold. Had we opened it towards the end of the week and found this, we would have been no less disgusted, but at least it would have made more sense. The was the day after the box was delivered, so this okra was going bad when they packed it.

We decided to soldier on and continue with the dish, substituting yellow squash for okra because, well, we had some. Of course, the resulting dish was certainly not bhindi masala (bhindi means okra in Hindi), but it worked.

We also had some issues with directions and ingredient portions. The raita called for the cup of Greek yogurt they included with the cucumber they sent to be grated into it. The issue was that the cucumber they happened to send was enormous! Raita is usually 1:1 yogurt to cucumber. Had was actually used the entire amount, we would have had a 1:3 or 1:4 ratio instead. There were a few other instances in the week where the directions didn’t entirely make sense or we both had to read them a few times to make sure we understood what they were asking.

Overall, our first meal was…okay. It certainly would have been better with okra instead of squash, but even given that it still wasn’t the most flavorful or memorable Indian meal we’ve cooked. And for a retail cost of nearly $20 a meal (that I have to cook!), I want something that’s going to knock my socks off.

[Imaginary image of empanadas because I forgot to take any pics]

The next meal we tried were Corn and Green Bean Empanadas. Blue Apron described the meal this way:

“Empanadas de humita,” or corn empanadas, are a tasty South American specialty that features flaky pastry dough wrapped around a savory-sweet corn filling. For our version, we’re adding seasonal green beans to fresh corn, then sautéing the vegetables with a blend of smoky spices. Inside, Monterey Jack cheese pulls all the flavors together and gives our filling enticing richness. A salad of crisp cucumber and cilantro adds bright contrast to the empanadas, which are even more delectable when dipped in our ajo (or garlic) sauce.”

These were pretty easy and good. It actually inspired us to make our own empanadas, though not because they were so great. We really felt that the green beans added entirely too much sweetness considering how mild the spices were. The ajo sauce with  crème fraîche would have probably been unnecessary, though the fact that the crème fraîche was pretty clearly spoiled (if it smells like your socks, it might be beyond).

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The last dish we tried was both the simplest and the best. It was a Fresh Basil Fettuccine with cherry tomatoes and zucchini.  It was a very simple pasta, but it was great. The problem was that it’s definitely the sort of thing we could (and often do) make on our own for $10 (or less, depending on the pasta we use) for the both of us (with leftovers).

OVERALL: Blue Apron is not for us. We had issues with the quality of their ingredients, though I suspect that was a fluke issue. However, even if they delivered great, incredibly fresh ingredients every time, I don’t think we could justify the price tag. $60 a week for 3 dinners to feed 2 people is pretty high. For $20 a meal, we could easily go out somewhere and get about the same caliber of food, if not better. We already cook often and are pretty adventurous in the kitchen, with some of our staples including dishes from a wide-variety of regions. We live close to a store (so having it delivered is not a huge bonus) and the meals really don’t cut down on cook time at all as you still have to chop all of the vegetables (not to mention doing dishes afterward).

However, I do think that these meal kit deliveries are probably great for some people. People who often eat out might enjoy a night in cooking, particularly if they don’t often cook for themselves. People who live far from places they can buy a variety of fresh ingredients might love the delivery. And people who feel stuck in a food rut might enjoy the change of pace brought by some of these recipes.

Although I certainly enjoyed trying it and I see why others might like these services, they just aren’t for us. If there were options to only get one or two meals, I might be more inclined to do it, but as of now the cost just doesn’t make sense for us even if we do only do a week a month.

FYI: I did complain about the moldy okra. I was given an apology and $9.99 off of my next (first) week of meals. Considering that’s one person’s portion of a meal I’m making myself, that felt a bit cheap to me. Considering the main ingredient (bhindi in bhindi masala) was clearly spoiled, I feel that a full meal (about $19.98) from the next week would have been a better solution.

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101 Things in 1001 Days

I recently saw a list someone had compiled of 101 things they wanted to accomplish in 1001 days. Apparently, this is a “thing” and there were quite a few lists out there as well as some sites to help people make and keep track of their lists. It seemed like a good way to set goals and push myself to achieve more, especially in terms of personal projects. I made my list on Day Zero Project, which is a pretty good resource for list making in general, if you’re into that sort of thing.

I only finalized my list today, so I thought I would share it. I have until October 19, 2018 to complete my list, so I tried to choose a good variety of goals. Some are relatively simple tasks that just require I take a little time (Take a hike), while others are fairly lofty (Learn Spanish to a conversational level). I tried to keep most of my goals somewhere in between, so I focused on things that would take effort and give me a sense of accomplishment but wouldn’t feel insurmountable. Just making the list was actually fairly difficult, but it was a useful way to evaluate things that are important to me and what I want to have more of in my life.

So, here it is – Ariella’s 101 Things in 1001 Days List!

1 Learn Spanish (to a conversational level)
2 Knit a pair of socks
3 Take an art class
4 Make a hard cheese
5 Attend ADGA Nationals
6 Write a new song
7 Keep a journal for six months
8 Write a short story
9 Touch a penguin
10 Spend a day without technology
11 Organize my craft room
12 Declutter my house
13 Sort out my wardrobe and donate any old clothes
14 Make pasta from scratch
15 Paint a canvas
16 Write a letter to myself to open in 10 years
17 Write a letter to three people who have made a difference in my life
18 Reconnect with an old friend
19 Meet an online friend in person
20 Learn a new soap swirling technique
21 Buy a house
22 Take a new photo session and edit the photos
23 Embroider a challah cover
24 Buy a seder plate
25 Make more candles
26 Take a real estate CLE
27 Practice singing
28 Donate $5 to charity for each task I don’t complete
29 Write on 20 creative writing prompts. http://creativewritingprompts.com/
30 Create a budget and stick to it for 4 weeks
31 Don’t say anything negative for three days
32 Find a personally inspirational quote and work it into a piece of art or home decor
33 Make a list of 101 quotes that inspire me
34 Take a picture for each letter of the alphabet
35 Start an indoor herb garden
36 Do some volunteer work
37 Host a dinner party
38 Host a barbeque
39 Go ice skating
40 Reach my goal weight
41 Take a cooking class
42 Raise my own chickens
43 Improve my Hebrew reading ability
44 Go camping
45 Go hiking
46 Learn to crochet
47 Complete a 1000 piece puzzle
48 Support a kickstarter project
49 Go on a picnic
50 Read the Zohar
51 Read a book a month for a year
52 Open an etsy shop
53 Build a milk stand by myself
54 Go sledding
55 Learn a new knitting technique
56 Visit a state I’ve never been to before
57 Make mini challah loaves
58 Donate blood
59 Go vegetarian for a month
60 Make a cleaning schedule and stick to it
61 Put away $10 for every goal completed
62 Breed a goat who scores 89 on LA
63 Grow an orchid from a seedling
64 Knit a blanket
65 Sew an article of clothing
66 Be Shomer Shabbat for a month
67 Complete a game of monopoly
68 Make a cheesecake for my husband’s birthday
69 Visit the American Southwest
70 Play bass for 1 hour a week for a month
71 Knit a scarf
72 Paint a room mint green
73 Complete a coloring book
74 Destash unused craft suppplies
75 Make lotion
76 Make a shaving soap
77 Make body butter
78 Make bath fizzies
79 Buy/make a bathtub tray
80 Plan meals for a week and do all of the shopping on Sunday for a month
81 Rejoin a gym and go at least twice a week for 6 months
82 Decorate my house
83 Get a raise
84 Pay off my credit cards
85 Get a KitchenAid Stand Mixer Attachment
86 Lose 10 lbs
87 Buy life insurance
88 Do a brewery tour
89 Visit 5 new cities
90 Take a class with my husband
91 Learn to make pho
92 Paint a watercolor picture
93 Visit the Linville Caverns (North Carolina)
94 Complete a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction training course
95 Make a year collage for every year John and I have been together
96 Print, frame, and hang our year collages
97 Have a permanent champion goat
98 Dont drink alcohol for one whole month
99 Read 10 classics I should have read but have never got around to
100 Try meditation
101 Enter a soap in the Soap Challenge Club

www.dayzeroproject.com/user/ariella42/list/114580

If you happen to create your own list, I’d love to see it!

Rest In Peace, Nellie

We hadn’t had Nellie long, but she had already made herself a big part of our herd. She was a beautiful Alpine doe in milk we bought from Sunrise Farm. She scored well on her Linear Appraisal (a type of judging for registered goats) and was our best milk producer. We were looking forward to starting our Alpine herd with her and seeing the kids she would produce for us. We were also looking forward to watching her grow and mature as she was only a yearling.

Her best feature, though, was her lovable and loving personality. She had already become a favorite around here for being one of the first in line for chin scratches and for wanting to be friends with everyone she met, human and goat alike. She even semi-adopted the Nubian kids we recently got (though she didn’t let them nurse nearly as often as they would have liked), and I would often go out in the morning to find the three of them in their own goat pile.

This morning, there were signs she had been scouring (diarrhea) during the night and she didn’t eat as much as usual while being milked. I thought she had overindulged in the new hay, so I gave her some probiotics and asked John to keep an eye on her. I got a call this afternoon that she was having trouble walking. I told him to call the vet while I drove home. By the time I got there, she was convulsing. The vet was not available, and the next closest vet who treated goats was in Marion. My goat friend and Nellie’s breeder, Ziggy, suspected enterotoxemia and rushed over with CD antitoxin, but it was too late. She died in my arms.

John and I are both second-guessing each of our decisions today and feeling guilty about her death. But we both know that’s not productive. We’re trying to focus on finding answers and preventing anything like this from happening in the future. We took her body to the NC Diagnostic Veterinary Lab after she passed, so we hope to have some answers soon.

We were so lucky to have Nellie in our lives, even if it wasn’t for nearly long enough. I’m heartbroken right now, but I hope that some day we’ll be blessed enough to have another doe with the beauty and personality of Nellie.

Rest in peace, dear, sweet Nellie.

Kittehs!

I am crushingly disappointed right now – I just found out that I didn’t get the job I interviewed for in Virginia. Meaning we’ll be moving in with my parents for a while, at least until after I take the bar and can start waiting tables. We’re very thankful that we have that option, but clearly it’s not ideal for anyone.

Thus, I am going to write about something happy – kittehs! Seriously, cats always make me feel better, even when they’re being horrible. I think the cuteness is a defensive mechanism, because that’s probably the only thing that keeps us from killing them when they shred the toilet paper, wake us up at 4am by screaming at the door, or knock over a glass of wine…onto the computer.

Cats are so helpful

Our cats are currently helping us pack. Above, you can see Lily hard at work. In case you haven’t met them (and how many people have ever met Darcy?), here’s an introduction to our cats.

Jude (full name: Judas) is the elder of the group. He’s 16 years old and still quite active, though he does have a habit of standing in corners and yowling occasionally. We’re not entirely sure if it’s a sign of senility or if he just likes to annoy us. John has had him since he was a kitten and claims he doesn’t actually like anyone, he just likes stealing warmth. He clearly does like my lap, but he just as clearly loves John, so I don’t think that’s entirely true. If you’re looking for Jude, he prefers small, dark spaces like under the printer.

Next up: Lily (full name: Lily Potter, aka: Bitch). The photo above is black and white; she’s actually more brown than that. I remember my mom reading me a story about a misbehaving kitten when I was a kid. The last line was something along the lines of, “Babykins was such a good kitten…when he was fast asleep.” That’s Lily. I got her from a shelter in Brooklyn right after graduating from Columbia. She was super affectionate and somewhat older (about 9 months) than the kitten I originally went to the shelter to meet. She really is a sweet cat…as long as she’s getting her way. If she feels thwarted or thinks you aren’t paying attention to her. She’s toilet paper’s worst nightmare too. I’m convinced that her tiny little heart just can’t contain the rage she feels when we callously refuse to feed her at 3am, thus the toilet paper has to die.

Lily is the cat who brazenly jumps onto the kitchen counter while you’re serving dinner, then gives you the “what’s your problem” look when you yell at her. She also clearly doesn’t quite understand the concept of hiding since her favorite hiding spots when she wakes us up in the wee hours of the night include the bathroom sink, under a bar stool, and behind my closed laptop. Dave

Dave (full name: David Lo Pan the Big Boss of Chinatown) is our fat boy. He’s about 4 years old, but he got neutered a bit late. After that he ballooned up to over 18 pounds! We put the cats on a diet (we can’t feed them separately, so they’re all on it), but Dave is holding steady even though the others lost weight. We aren’t sure if it’s his thyroid or just a complete lack of appetite control, but unfortunately we can’t really afford to take him to the vet to find out. He’s a super sweet cat, though he’s still a bit paranoid because John’s former roommate was, well, not the nicest person to cats. His favorite things in the world are cats toys. Seriously, he loves them all and tries his very best to destroy them. He’s particularly fond of jingly balls. They get really annoying for us, but that’s okay because they get him active and moving. He and Darcy are buddies, but Lily seems to think he’s a punching bag. For instance, I’ll throw her off of my desk and she’ll run over and swat Dave. I feel bad about it, but he seems to just keep going. He’s a really great lap cat, too. If I ever want a cat up on my lap while we’re watching something, I just have to call him.

Darcy

Last, but certainly not least, is Darcy (full name: Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, aka: Weenie). I got Darcy as a teeny, tiny little kitten when I lived in Korea. Clearly, he’s not so teeny tiny anymore. He was supposed to be a foster cat, but I’m obviously not cut out to simply foster cats, so he came home with us. Darcy is a big, powerfully built cat. He actually weighs as much as Dave does, he’s just not nearly as round. He’s capable of making incredibly frightening wild-animal noises, however he’s also an incredible weenie. Really, the cat is afraid of nearly everything. If a stranger comes in the house (and he still has questions about John), he will run and hide in the bathroom cabinets. He’s a sweetie when he’s not freaking out though. John swears I’m the only living person he likes, but he loves to cuddle up under a blanket with me. He also tries to burrow in my robe a lot.

Darcy loves Lily and is best buddies with Dave, but his arch-nemesis is Jude. Darcy is generally the cat who doesn’t cause problems, unless, of course, someone (ahem, Jude) is looking at him. He’s also definitely the cat you are least likely to see if you ever visit the Carver house (or downstairs at the Goolsby house in the near future). Darcy (if no strangers are around) is usually under the bathroom cabinet, on a shelf in the bathroom closet, or basking in the window on his spiffy Union Jack cat mat.

Dave and darcy

Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos

I interrupt this study schedule to bring you this breaking news – I have discovered an incredibly easy, yet amazingly simple recipe for shredded beef tacos.

Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos

Actually, credit for this bit of genius belongs to my brilliant husband who refuses to let me publish the adorable picture I took of him looking pissed that I was taking a picture of him while making these.

[Photo of John looking pissed, yet adorable holding plate of taco meat]

We’ve been looking for ways to make healthier food with less red meat, so I was combing Pinterest for ideas. I came across this recipe for slow cooker chicken tacos that piqued my interest. We actually made them for enchiladas over the weekend, and I’ll probably post that recipe too at some point. But then, my absolutely amazing husband said, “We both love beef. Why don’t we try it with beef instead?” And this deliciousness was born.

Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos

Shredded Beef Tacos

  • 2-2 1/2 lbs chuck roast (other relatively fatty cuts of pot roast beef can be used as well)
  • 16 oz. salsa
  • 1 package of taco seasoning
  • 1 package flour or corn tortilla shells
  • Preferred taco condiments
  1. First of all, mix together the salsa and taco seasoning in your slow cooker. If you prefer spicier food, go for the spicy options, but which ones you choose are really up to personal preference.taco 7
  2. Cut your chuck roast into slightly smaller chunks. While this step isn’t completely necessary, we feel that it helps get maximum flavor from the sauce. Keep in mind that the more beef you use, the less saucy the end result will be.Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos
  3. Add the beef to the sauce and make sure it’s covered. Cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 6-8 hours.
  4. Once the beef is falling apart, take each piece out of the slow cooker for shredding. Take two forks and use them to pull the beef apart. taco 3
  5. Put the shredded beef back into the slow cooker and cook on low for another 30 minutes to an hour. Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos
  6. Your beef should have the consistency of really good barbeque. We used 2 lbs of meat for this culinary experiment – if you prefer less saucy tacos, use a bit more beef.
  7. Put the beef on your tortilla shells, slap on your favorite condiments, and dig in!

This meal was absolutely delicious, super easy, and quite economical. We got two nights of dinner and one lunch for two people out of it, despite the fact that we both kinda hurt ourselves the first night since it was so tasty. After that, all we had left was this:

 

  1. taco plate

Study, Study, Study

I’m sorry it’s been a while since I posted, but I’ve been a bit busy. I’d say that I’m going to be better about it, but I don’t think I’m going to have a whole lot of time this summer. I’ve started studying for the bar, which they really aren’t kidding when they say it’s basically a full-time job. I’m trying to stay a bit ahead of the syllabus since we’re moving mid-July to…somewhere. I’ve also been busying applying for jobs. However, I have an interview in Virginia tomorrow for a position I’m really excited about. At this point, I’d be happy with a job, period, but I honestly think that this one would be something I’d really enjoy. It wouldn’t be too far away from our families either, which is a bonus. So keep your fingers crossed for me!

In other news, we currently have three bird feeders, which have provided many hours of kitty entertainment. However, we now have a problem – meet our nemesis.

Our Nemesis
Our Nemesis

Actually, he’s one of three squirrels who are attempting to take over our porch and destroy our feeders. My dad would, of course, be thrilled to have them around. We really wouldn’t mind them if they weren’t so destructive to the feeders. I’ve tried putting extra food on the porch for them, but they inevitably end up flinging themselves onto the feeders. We recently got some Critter Ridder, which is supposed to repel squirrels, among other things. It’s basically just a mixture of potent peppers, so it’s harmless to them, but it’s supposed to be very unpleasant. We paid $16 for the stuff, so we thought it would be at least somewhat effective. Nope. In fact, we’ve seen the squirrels actually sitting in piles of the stuff. Of course, the whole problem could have been avoided if our apartment complex would have just trimmed the bushes next to our porch to a reasonable level. Anyway, I guess we’ll just deal with them for the moment. After all, they are pretty cute.

IMG_8062John is still working on his album. We’re hoping to rent a house the next place we live so that he can actually record vocals (vocals in apartments with paper thin walls don’t work very well). Also, if we have a house, I’ll have more space to work as well and hopefully won’t end up turning the porch into a work station again.

Send good thoughts my way tomorrow, so that hopefully the next post will be about my awesome job in VA 🙂

Wedding Dress Sale!

I graduated last weekend, which is somewhat incredible. Among other things, that means we’ll be moving soon. We’re still not sure where, but our lease ends mid-July, so we’ll have to figure something out, even if I don’t have a job by then. Since we might end up storing our things for a while, we’re trying to pare down our (okay, mostly my) collection of stuff. There are some things that take up a good bit of space and I really don’t want to store – particularly my vintage wedding dresses. As such, they are on sale for 40-50% off all month. The dress in the photo above is on sale for $93.00.

1940’s Long Sleeved Dress

This beauty that’s probably from the 1940’s is on sale for $180.00. I really hope that I can find a good home for this one. It’s so gorgeous and unique. It’s quite small though, with a 32.5″ bust. Hopefully someone petite will fall in love with it.

Short Lace Dress

Finally, this short, lace number is only $70 and could be worn well after your wedding.

If you or someone you know is getting married soon, take a look at these dresses. They’re a steal!