Blue Apron: Baked Fontina Pasta. 

Blue Apron: Baked Fontina Pasta. 

It was another Sunday for the introverted books. After a go-go-go few weeks, I was relishing in my calm, quiet, planless afternoon. I took a nap, watched about a zillion episodes of Parenthood and decided that maybe I should cook some of the mountains of food in my refrigerator, rather than order sushi from the hole-in-the-wall place down the street.


I haven’t been on a huge meat kick, so I chose to make one of the vegetarian dishes we received in our latest shipment of Blue Apron: Baked Fontina Pasta. It combined quite a few of my favorite ingredients into one — cheese, Brussels sprouts and pasta — so I had a feeling it would be a resounding success for my tastebuds.


As I chopped and mixed and boiled and toasted, dancing around the kitchen to my Catgrooves playlist on Spotify, it dawned on me why I love empty Sundays so much. It’s a day when, generally speaking, I have the house to myself and I can take the time to do the things that I genuinely enjoy, but rarely have time for. Like cooking. And reading. And this: blogging.


So, I cozied up on the couch with a piping hot bowl of my creamy, salty, meat-free dinner, Netflix and Buxton, and I just couldn’t help but smile. I’m really fortunate enough to do the things that I love in a home that I love while surrounded by people (and a cat) that I love. And there’s really not a whole lot that’s better than that.

Ingredients: Campanelle pasta / Brussel sprouts, shaved / Sage, chopped / Flour / Fontina cheese / Butter / Heavy cream / Shallot / Panko breadcrumbs

Directions: Preheat the oven to 450. / Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta until al dente. / Set pasta aside, reserving two cups of the pasta water. / Toast breadcrumbs and chopped sage in two tablespoons of olive oil in a nonstick pan. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. / In the same pan, cook the shallot in olive oil until soft. Add brussel sprouts and cook until softened and bright green. / In the pot used to cook the pasta, melt the butter. Add the flour, heavy cream, reserved pasta water and fontina cheese. Stir until melted and combined. / Add the cooked pasta and sprouts to the sauce and thoroughly mix together. Season with salt and pepper. / Transfer to baking dish and cook for 5-7 minutes. / Serve with a crisp Chardonnay and enjoy!

Blue Apron: Crispy Salmon & Barley-Fennel Risotto

Blue Apron: Crispy Salmon & Barley-Fennel Risotto

I’ll be honest. This meal was the one I was looking forward to the least out of our most recent Blue Apron shipment. Crispy salmon, sign me up. Barley Risotto, sure, why not! But fennel. Eh. Fennel. I have never liked the taste of anise, which is, unfortunately, exactly what fennel reminds me of. It’s been around forever — literally before the beginning of written history. Just ask Prometheus.

Anyway, I put my faith in this perfectly package meal, and started prepping the ingredients. While thoroughly working through this step, I learned that fennel would be used four different ways in our dinner. One little flowering plant, served in four different ways.

PicMonkey Collage

I threw two of the four parts of the fennel into a pot with some olive oil and diced onion, and stirred until they were fragrant. Then, we added in the barley and water, and let it simmer until it turned into, well, risotto. Meanwhile, I toasted the chopped walnuts, and mixed them with fresh parsley, tarragon, fennel fronds (fennel #3) and lemon juice to create a fresh herb and walnut salad.


Then, the salmon. We added salt and pepper to each side, and simply cooked it in some olive oil. When the barley had turned into risotto, we added the leaves of brussel sprouts, lemon juice, and generous amounts of salt and pepper. We topped the dish with fennel pollen (fennel #4) and then, we dug in.


The two parts of the fennel that were cooked in the risotto — the stems and the bulb — lost most of their anise flavor. Unfortunately, I didn’t dice the bulb into small enough pieces, so it was still a little much, but the barley risotto was inventive and, due to my heavy hand, perfectly salted. The salmon was expertly crisped, and simple in flavor, accented only by the soft, herbaceous flavors of the parsley, tarragon and lemon.

This dish wasn’t the best of our Blue Apron experiments (I mostly blame the fennel), but hey – it sure does look pretty on a plate, and that’s just about half the battle.

Blue Apron, Take 2: Flank Steak and Creamed Kale With Sunchokes Two Ways.

Blue Apron, Take 2: Flank Steak and Creamed Kale With Sunchokes Two Ways.

Our second Blue Apron shipment arrived last week, and we were so excited to dive in. The first meal we cooked was a spicy little number with turkey meatballs, red coconut curry, wilted bok choy and rice noodles, and – despite it’s spice level – it was delicious.

Last night, we tackled meal #2: Flank Steak and Creamed Kale with Sunchokes Two Ways. For anyone who is wondering, I should note that before yesterday, I had literally never even heard of a sunchoke, let alone seen one, cooked one, or eaten one. In fact, it quickly became a running joke between me and my friends, and we learned that the word sunchoke can easily be mistaken for the word sunstroke to a Brit. (However, Blue Apron did mention that sunchokes are the edible root of the North American sunflower.)

Anyway, I spent nearly 30 minutes prepping all of the ingredients for our dinner: I roughly chopped the kale leaves, peeled off the mint leaves, minced some lemon rind, quartered a lemon, cut 1/4 of the sunchokes into matchsticks and tossed them in lemon juice, and diced the remaining sunchokes.

PicMonkey Collage

I followed the rest of the perfectly spelled out Blue Apron directions, slowly working my way towards a complete meal, loaded with a food I still knew nothing about. Sunchokes.


A short while later, I plated our dinner. I looked at it quizzically. I know that I enjoy flank steak. I had the best flank steak of my life at my aunt’s house earlier this year. I’ve never had creamed kale, but it was kale and cream, butter and parmesan cheese, all ingredients I knew would make a fantastic combination.


But sunchokes. They look sort of like ginger root, with an earthy brown color and a crisp texture, yet I had no idea what to expect in the taste. We hunkered down at the table with our beautiful looking dinner and cautiously dove in.

The salad that accompanied our flank steak included the raw sunchokes, the baked sunchokes, sunflower seeds, mint and minced lemon rind. The raw matchsticks tasted mostly of lemon, as they had been soaking in the acidic fruit for almost an hour. The baked sunchokes, however, had just been removed from the over, after being doused in olive oil, salt and pepper. The warm, nutty and savory root was hands down incredible. It reminded me of the look and taste of a roasted potato, but had a slightly stringy texture, reminiscent of an artichoke – which, by the way, is the culinary cousin to the sunchoke.

We slurped down our dinner, agreeing that we would incorporate sunchokes into our routine more often. I mean, come on, they were so delicious! (And, by the way, the majority of this post may be about the sunchokes, but let’s be honest: the creamed kale was the real winner.)

After our hilarious night full of – ahem – noisy bodily functions, I decided to look a little deeper into sunchokes. Because I couldn’t morally tell you about the incomparable, incredible, earthy flavor of sunchokes without mentioning their one small drawback, I leave you all with this:

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 9.18.49 PM

Just saying. I warned you. Thanks, Blue Apron.

Discovering Blue Apron.

Discovering Blue Apron.

I’ll admit that I really appreciate convenience. Example: Today, I ordered a Christmas present from a store that has a brick and mortar location less than 12 miles away from my house. But it will be shipped directly to my doorstep (for free), and with the ease of a few clicks of a button. No heinous traffic involved. My generation is all about convenience.


My dad and Sarah recently gifted me a free week of Blue Apron, a food delivery service that provides you with recipes and exactly the amount of ingredients you need to cook 1-3 meals for 2-6 people each week. So, we took the bait, created an account and ordered 3 meals.

The delivery arrived at work in a refrigerated box, with the ingredients for three complete meals neatly organized inside:

  • Congee and Carmelized Pork with Crispy Shallots and Black Garlic
  • Greek-Style Braised Chicken Thighs with Fingerling Potatoes
  • Pan-Seared Salmon with Arugula, Candy Stripe Beets and Horseradish Sour Cream

We decided to tackle the pork first, but we totally messed it up. Still delicious, but definitely not how it was supposed to turn out. We weren’t off to a great start, so I wanted to cook the chicken thighs one night while I had the house to myself. If it was a success, dinner would be ready when everyone got home. If it wasn’t, no one would ever have to know.

IMG_9412I followed the recipe that was provided much more closely than I did with the pork dinner, preparing all of the ingredients before they were needed. This is an important step that I (unsurprisingly) missed in the first round.


Admittedly, I was grossed out by the bones and innards of my chicken thighs. Home alone with blood on my fingers (literally), I was ready to send my parents a text message saying that I didn’t think that Blue Apron was for us. In fact, I’d much rather prefer the kind of chicken that you can buy in the grocery store. (You know, the chicken breasts that come in pre-packaged plastic wrapped packs of three, even though there are only two of us, and we always put the extra one breast in the freezer and forget about it for a year, and then we throw it away. Every. Time.) So, with this waste of food in mind, I kept cooking, following the fool-proof, picture-by-picture recipe.


It wasn’t a failure. It was delicious, and I made it. With my own hands. No, I didn’t use my incredibly imaginative mind to put the recipe together on my own. But I executed it flawlessly, and it was incredible.

More often than not, when I’m in the kitchen on my own, I choose a simple recipe. Like I said, I enjoy convenience. This dinner was more complex than simple, but it was delicious, and worth the complexity, and something I would not have necessarily chosen for myself from the aisles of the grocery store. And to be honest, the price is much less than I would have spent in the grocery store to make the exact same meal. In fact, I did my research. I would spend $47.56 to duplicate this meal. I would have leftovers of a few random ingredients, and I’d have only a few days to use them before they would begin to go bad. With our busy schedule, it just wouldn’t happen. We would have increased our cost almost 150%, only to throw away a portion of it.

Blue Apron fits our lifestyle. Pittsburgh is an ever-growing city, meaning it takes longer to get everywhere. Specifically, the grocery store. So, every once in a while, having our meals delivered to the office is nice, and stepping outside of the box of our own taste is even better. What’s on next week’s menu?

  • Flank Steak and Creamed Kale with Sunchokes
  • Thai Chicken Meatballs with Red Coconut Curry, Bok Choy and Rice Noodles
  • Crispy Salmon and Barley Fennel Risotto with a Fresh Herb and Walnut Salad

Do you use Blue Apron or a different food delivery service? Tell us about experience!