This week, I had the pleasure of visiting Los Angeles and Chicago for work; I was lucky enough to have a bit of free time while there to enjoy a stroll through the Getty Museum and Rodeo Drive in LA (walked right by the hotel from Pretty Woman!), and then some vintage store shopping and delicious food (pizza at Lou Malanti’s, doughnuts here, brunch here, and I loved the tacos here) in Chicago. It’s nice to be home now; I took advantage of the cooler temperatures this morning to do a bit of gardening and was thrilled to be able to pull 2 red bell peppers, a handful of serrano and jalapeño peppers, and some tomatoes too – as well as a good bunch of basil. Looking forward to the week ahead and enjoying what’s left of the summer.
It’s been a whirlwind of a week for me – at the office, we packed up everything to move into our new space while at the same time packing for Ross on the Road events we’re traveling for in seven cities from Tuesday, July 19th (in Boston) through Thursday, July 28th (in Chicago); in the process, I’ve been lucky enough to see some really beautiful event spaces, like the Ascent Lounge in New York and the First Amendment Lounge at The National Press Club in Washington, DC. In NY, I made a point to stop by Junior’s and pick up some black and white cookies to take home (I can’t resist, they’re so good!) and in DC I was sure to take a stroll by The White House of course. Next week, I’m headed to Los Angeles and Chicago and looking forward to it.
In Ann Arbor, we had Art Fair this week…which always brings our hottest summer temperatures and thunderstorms; Ryan and I enjoyed strolling around downtown and seeing the sights yesterday. It’s always so good to come home! Speaking of home, I’m lucky enough to have a husband who is an amazing cook – I’ve been craving some delicious pasta with fresh tomatoes and basil so Ryan was kind enough to cook that up for me when I returned home from DC on Friday, yum! Our garden is doing great; we pulled a whole bowl full of fresh tomatoes from our garden box just yesterday and our peppers, onions, and herbs seem to be enjoying the summer weather too.
We enjoyed a fun 4th of July week with my parents who drove up to visit us from Texas this year; we visited the American Museum of Magic and Dark Horse Brewing Co in Marshall, MI, had dinner at Arcadia Ales in Kalamazoo (my mouth is still watering over their fried green tomatoes…not to mention the delicious beer), saw the Beatles exhibit at Henry Ford Museum, and Ryan cooked up some delicious eats like waffles with homemade Michigan blueberry compote for breakfast and fajitas for dinner. We’re having fun with this new-to-us photo app, Prisma, which Ryan used to edit some of our photos from the 4th; you can view more photos from our time with my family here.
I have been enjoying listening to these song remakes lately, like 99 problems and No Diggity and Jolene (there are some fun ones listed here too); Johnny Cash can do no wrong. We’ve been taking lots of long walks all around town and throughout the local parks – the summer is flying by, but is definitely lovely here in Michigan!
In the past we were pretty active in posting recipes of dishes I concocted, however over the past several years we haven’t been as active making new dishes of frankly cooking much for that matter. The past holiday season I received a free week of Blue Apron meals from my sister-in law and brother-in law. After enjoying the free week of meals we decided to give it a try for a few months to see what we thought about it. So, instead of posting any new recipes, since we don’t really have many, I figured I’d give Blue Apron a six-month review.
Things I dislike:
- Options, specifically the lack of. Each week there are 6 meals to chose from. Val and I do not each much meat which limits the options what is typically 3 or 4. Given that you only get 3 meals each week that doesn’t leave much choice. Additionally, if you tend to pick mostly vegetarian options some of meat options become unavailable, so on the off chance that I may have thought a certain chicken dish looked good it may not be available because of other selections. I mainly find the lack of options only bothersome from the standpoint that meals cannot be customized for food allergies. So if you are allergic to mushrooms, like I am, and mostly choose the vegetarian options, like we do, be prepared to throw out some ingredients or do as I did and give your friends and colleagues items that you cannot use of consume.
- Packaging. We put majority if not all of the packaging into the recycle bin as it says it is recyclable, but I still feel a guilty with the increase little baggies that are being put into our recycle bin. I also question whether or not our single stream recycling, which accepts most recycling numbers, really accepts theses items.
- Being locked into to a menu for a week. This is really more of a complaint about me than anything else. I like having the flexibility to decide what I want to eat on a whim, do we go out to eat, order in, make something simple, etc. While I know 3 meals is not significant if you have a fairly hectic and busy week, which I have had few this past year, we found ourselves opting for convenience (ie. takeout) over cooking. When this occurred we found that we quickly fell behind and would sometimes still have meals from the previous week when the next week came about. It also meant that some of the ingredients would no longer be fresh and/or required us to buy fresh replacements from the grocery store. Again this is a complaint about me more than anything.
Things I like:
- The food. Most meals I find rather satisfying and quite delicious. It is easy to make substitutions if you do have food allergies and having the menu ahead of time you can come up with ideas to substitute. I also find that occasionally the user comments have suggestions for substitutions. Only once or twice have I had to season something a bit more to my liking.
- The portion size. For me the portions are great, I tend to overeat so having the portions of food that give you are perfect for me. With the exception of the pizzas most dishes are perfect for two people (the plan we are on).
- The ease of most dishes. As long as you can chop and prep food fairly quickly most dishes take anywhere from 30-45 minutes to cook. That is about my patience threshold for cooking on a weeknight so it works out well.
- Buying less groceries, and wasting less food. We tended to not plan a menu or if we did often our whims took us elsewhere and we chose to go a different route. So often produce we intended to use would go unused and would end up in compost. Ultimately that behavior led me to really just buy some staples like onions, potatoes, lettuce, etc. that could be easily transformed into a number of dishes before going bad which led to a food rut. I also think that when cooking for two having everything proportioned out for you is great, I don’t need to buy a whole head of cabbage for a dish that I am making that only feeds two.
- Breaking out of a food rut. This is perhaps the biggest reason we gave it a try after the first week. We were in a food rut, ordering out and if I cooked I was cooking only a few staples. Sure, Val and I could have easily found delicious recipes online or in our many cookbooks, but often we would just go to tried and true recipes that we knew we enjoyed rather than forcing us to try new things. Blue Apron’s lack of choices is a blessing from the standpoint that we cannot fall into the rut of making only what we know we like, it forces us to try new things.
- Cooking more. Ultimately we cook more often which gives us time to be together listen to music and enjoy each others company.
Here are some meals that we’ve really enjoyed so far (and yes two of them are grilled cheese sandwiches):
- Apple and
Blue Cheese, Parmesan, Panzanella Salad (we subbed parmesan instead of blue cheese)
- White Pizza w/ Baked Eggs and Arugula-Brussels Srpout Salad (eggs on a pizza, brilliant!)
- Creamy Lemon Linguine
- Fontina and Preserved Lemon Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
- Roasted Butternut Squash w/ Stewed White Beans, Brussels Sprouts & Gremolata
- Vadouvan Chickpea Burgers
- Muffuletta-Style Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Overall we’ve been pretty satisfied with it. It is definitely not perfect, and certainly I do not think it is for everyone. We’re not cancelling the Blue Apron subscription yet, but I think we will be a bit more discriminatory about skipping a week here and there if we just don’t like any options. I’m certain Val will post with her favorites as she continues to blog.
I’m excited to have my parents coming up to visit us over the holiday weekend and through next week! With the holiday weekend upon us, I’ve got all things red, white, and blue on my mind – like these lovely red roses, white snapdragons, and blue thistle on my kitchen table pictured in the photo above.
Here are some fun, holiday appropriate items for your viewing pleasure: