Blue Apron

So a couple of months ago Marlboro Man and I tried the meal delivery service Plated; a few weeks after trying Plated a friend of mine mentioned that he used a service called Blue Apron and was able to ‘gift’ free meals because of his subscription with the company. So my friend gifted us a box, Marlboro Man and I selected the 3 meals that we thought looked the most delicious and waited for the box to arrive.  In case you were wondering we picked, 3-Chile Beef Chili with Red Kidney Beans and Pepper Jack Cheese, Tilapia Veracruzana with Yellow Rice, and Roasted Chicken with Jalapeño-Herb Salsa, Mixed Citrus & Cracked Wheat Berries. Yum!!

 

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When the box got to the house it was pretty similar to that of Plated. The packing was sturdy and insulated; the day our food it arrived it was pretty hot outside and we knew we weren’t going to be home for the devilry. I was pretty skeptical that anything could be kept fresh in the heat that we were having that weekend, but when we got home and took the box inside everything was still cold and showed no signs of spoilage; to my surprise.

Everything was similarly packaged with the Blue Apron service. One thing that Plated did differently that I rather liked was the way they packaged the produce. Plated used those green vegetable bags that you see in the market that keep your produce fresher, longer. In the Plated bags was the produce as well as all the ingredients to complete the dish. Blue Apron kind of just had the veggies all loose in the box; with the exception of herbs and some of the more fragile veggies which were placed in ziplock bags.

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As I mentioned before Plated packed all the ingredients for one recipe in a green produce bag, Blue Apron had all of the odds and ends things in little brown paper bags labeled with what dish that they were for; “knick-knacks.”  Blue Apron and Plated both had their meats packaged the same way; at the bottom of the box with extra ice packs or gel packs to keep the meat from spoiling.

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Blue Apron also gave recipe cards, which were beautiful. The Blue Apron cards were much cleaner looking, the directions were more straight forward; I messed up a recipe in the Plated box because it was simply too complex to be a single step. It appears that Blue Apron not only looked at the recipe in terms of ease of making, they also considered the aesthetics, weird to think that recipe cards can even be talked about in terms of looks but these were just much nicer to look at.

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Unlike Plated I don’t know what happened but I did not take step-by-step pictures of the process. I do however have pictures of the end results of two of the dishes; we never got around to making the Roasted Chicken with Cracked Wheat Berries.

The 3-Chile Beef Chili was so delicious and seriously so simple to make, it too me maybe 20 minutes of so. I actually made this chili again this past weekend but changed a couple of things around. Here are two pictures of the chili, unmade all ingredients from the box and then a finished picture of the meal.

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All of the stuff that the company sent was easily enough for 3 servings of the chili, Blue Apron absolutely did not skimp on ingredients and possibly took into consideration that people might have more than a single serving when they are eating the chili.

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I have to admit that the recipes in Blue Apron were much simpler and they were things that I would make again. I am not a fish eater, I don’t care for the texture and consistency of cooked fish so with that being said I have never cooked fish, ever. The fish dish was super easy to cook and the fish was very tasty; not what I was expecting at all. Blue Apron took an ingredient that maybe not all people are comfortable with cooking and paired it with common ingredients to make a very simple, yet delicious dish. I would most certainly make the Tilapia dish again.

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So now that I have tried both services I can make a judgement based on my experience.

If I was someone who was going to do this on a regular basis I would go with the Blue Apron service for several reasons.

I felt that the recipes, although both realistic, were much more a real dinner dish concept with Blue Apron. They were things I could easily make again and feel comfortable doing so. The recipes with Plated felt a little more fancy, something that you would’t do every night. Blue Apron recipes max took me 30 minutes, Plated however took me more time depending on the dish; I remember when I did the roasted chicken on Plated that took me upwards of 45 minutes. Marlboro Man and I both agree that that dishes from Blue Apron were much tastier than the of Plated. Plated dishes tasted bland, although they had spices and ingredients to make a nice flavor we both found ourselves feeling like the dish was missing something and ended up adding some other ingredients to the dishes. Blue Apron’s dishes were nicely seasoned and flavored and except for a bit of salt or pepper they did not need much else.

Blue Apron offers more bang for your buck. We got 3 meals, 2 plates each for free but if you paid it would have been $59.94; which comes out to about $9.99 a plate. The price per plate on Plated depended on the dish that was made but ranged from about $12-$15 per plate, if you signed up and paid a membership fee you got a slight break on the price of the plates. With the Plated service we got 2 meals, 2 plates per meal for $20 because of the promo that I used but if you were to use this service in real life it would cost around $80-$100 depending on the meals that you selected not to mention the $20 shipping fee that the company charges. For the average person Plated is just too expensive especially considering that you don’t get as many meals as you do with Blue Apron.

A few more reasons why I like Blue Apron is that if I skip a week of food I am still able to get those recipes off of their website. Say for whatever reason you want to skip your meals because of financial reasons, being out of town, or whatever your reason but you see something on the site that looks like something you would like to try you have the option of getting the recipe and just flying solo with it. I think that is pretty awesome. Although we have not used either service again I do still peek the recipes on Blue Apron to see if there is anything that I want to make for dinner. Plated does not offer their recipes up for the taking.

Plated charges you a membership fee to get a ‘discounted’ rate per plate. Blue Apron does not require a membership to get a better rate, all of their plates cost the same price across the board. Like I mentioned before Plated also charges shipping while Blue Apron does not. I felt that Plated had a bunch of rather unnecessary charges, maybe they need extra funding to keep their momentum or maybe they just feel that these are things they should charge; I am not really too sure, but if you are like me you like to save money where you can and as much of it as you can.

One other thing I would like to mention is that although I enjoyed using both services and clearly I favored Blue Apron of the two I wish that the companies could both figure out a way to be less wasteful when it comes to preparing the boxes of meals. Everything is bagged separately in ziplock bags, or plastic containers, and even little bottles for items like vinegar and soy sauce. That is an excessive amount of waste, and then take into consideration that box that they ship it in. Although the box is easily tossable, all of the insulation and ice packs are things that it would be nice to be able to reuse. I would not be surprised if a third company emerges who cuts down the cost even more and is able to figure out a way to recycle the items they send out, whether it be having the consumer mail back a reusable cooler type package or even if they were to use less ziplock bags I am sure that there is a way to figure that out.

Have you tried Blue Apron? or maybe even Plated? Which did you prefer and why? Let me know

Until next time

r

6/11/14

 

Also it is worth noting that neither company paid for me to write about them, nor did they give me anything, so my opinions are solely my own and without preferential influences.

Plated; neither genius or lazy

IMG_0416Last week I posted about how Marlboro Man and I were going to try out the dinner delivery service Plated, Saturday night when we got home from going to the casino this little box was at the door waiting for us. We left the house for the casino around 1:45-2 pm and didn’t return until around 8:30-9 pm, if you live in Southern California you know last week was hotter than it should be for Winter time. So needless to say I was paranoid when we left the house; the food had not arrived and it was hot all I could imagine coming home to was smelly, spoiled meat and veggies. But thankfully Plated had it under control they shipped the food in a recyclable box that was completely insulated and had two ice packs in the bottom of it.

IMG_0418They claim (which I would imagine to be true since they are in the business of shipping fresh foods) that the items in the box should last about 24 hours, I will totally take their word for it. Our food sat on the porch for probably about 4-5 hours in mid to high 80’s last Saturday and when I opened it up everything was still nice and fresh and cold. It appears that the sun is no match for the packaging job that Plated has prepared.

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To be honest I don’t even know where to begin right now, I want to tell you my thoughts on the service and the products, as well as the end results. Let me start with the natural order in which this occurred. I opened the package and laid everything out because of course I needed to take pictures. I was a little surprised at the quantities of  meats, veggies and spices that were packed. I must admit that I have a warped idea of portions, and I know I cannot be the only one even Marlboro Man commented asking how many people it was supposed to feed.. it sure didn’t look like it would feed the both of us.

Everything for one recipe was packaged and labeled individually, each recipe also came with a nice sturdy 8 1/2 x 11 recipe card/paper (a little larger than I would have liked it to be… whatever) Plated states they give you everything except for salt, pepper, oil and water; respectively this seems it should be a staple in every kitchen.

Moroccan Beef ingredients and recipe card

Moroccan Beef ingredients and recipe card

Moroccan Beef ingredients

Moroccan Beef ingredients

 

I guess in my rush to get the raw meats into the fridge I forgot to take a picture of them; they are vacuumed sealed into portioned pouches (which I can dig)

Because it was already Saturday night and we had already eaten I figured that I would cook them both up on Sunday and that could be dinner for Sunday and Monday night. Both recipe cards tell you how many servings, calories and time it would take to prepare the meals. Oh and hashtags so you can share your Plated food… plated. #platedpics

So Sunday night I set out to make the meals, the recipes were simple enough each card said that a meal would take 30 to 40 minutes to prepare. I was a cooking machine and cooked both at the same time in about 40 minutes.

Let me take you on a picture journey of Moroccan Beef Tagine

Flank steak chopped and coated with a  dry marinade of cinnamon, salt, pepper, chili pepper flakes and other spices that I can't remember (oops)

Flank steak chopped and coated with a dry marinade of cinnamon, salt, pepper, chili pepper flakes and other spices that I can’t remember (oops)

After marinating for about 3 hours (the recipe calls for 5 minutes room temperature or overnight in the fridge) I diced and added the shallots to the mix

After marinating for about 3 hours (the recipe calls for 5 minutes room temperature or overnight in the fridge) I diced and added the shallots to the mix

Into the pan went some olive oil, next the steak, shallots and a few fresh, minced cloves of garlic. Cooked for about 8-10 minutes

Into the pan went some olive oil, next the steak, shallots and a few fresh, minced cloves of garlic. Cooked for about 8-10 minutes

Next I added the can of diced tomatoes and the fresh pre-diced butternut squash and let simmer for about 15 minutes

Next I added the can of diced tomatoes and the fresh pre-diced butternut squash and let simmer for about 15 minutes

I also forgot to take a picture of the preparation of the couscous, probably because couscous cooks up so quickly; literally in 5 minutes. Once I made the couscous I divided the meal up into two semi-equal portions (Marlboro Man wasn’t digging the couscous; more for me) and of course took a pictures before we tried it out.

Moroccan Beef Tagine with couscous and butternut squash

Moroccan Beef Tagine with couscous, shallots and butternut squash

 

Now onto dish two which was Rosemary-Thyme Chicken over Winter vegetables. I have to admit this one I was most excited about because I have been looking for new ways to add more veggies into our meals also this recipe introduced both of us to parsnips which neither Marlboro Man or myself can recall if we had before.. we would both purchase them and eat them again now.

Rosemary-Thyme Chicken ingredients

Rosemary-Thyme Chicken ingredients

Once again no packaged pictures of the meat but I am sure everyone knows what raw chicken thighs looks like.

This recipe took me a little more effort that the beef dish, because I had to peel, slice and chop everything that came in the ingredient bag… Don’t get me wrong I am totally not complaining just simply stating this one took a bit longer.

Chopped rosemary, thyme, garlic and lemon zest to coat the chicken thighs

Chopped rosemary, thyme, garlic and lemon zest to coat the chicken thighs

chopped carrot, parsnip, golden potatoes and broccoli

chopped carrot, parsnip, golden potatoes and broccoli

 

Chicken thighs coated with the herb mixture ready for the oven.. don't mind the foil pouch in the middle. I don't like to eat meat off the bones so Marlboro Man took the bones out of my portion and I cooked them up for the pup (don't worry we didn't give her the bones just the meat that was left on the bones)

Chicken thighs coated with the herb mixture ready for the oven.. don’t mind the foil pouch in the middle. I don’t like to eat meat off the bones so Marlboro Man took the bones out of my portion and I cooked them up for the pup (don’t worry we didn’t give her the bones just the meat that was left on the bones)

So after the chicken went into the oven to braise at 450 degrees for 30-40 minutes I cooked the veggies in a pan on the stove. Simple.. water, chicken base and veggies for about 15 minutes until they were tender, but not too tender.

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Once the chicken was finished cooking, picture time! The herbs on my chicken look a little more done than the ones on the recipe card that Plated sent and I attribute that to having my rack placed to high in the oven. But thankfully there was no burnt taste to the food, it was just as delicious.

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And now the finished product Rosemary-Thyme chicken with Winter vegetables

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So the end result of both dishes were delicious, the meat was tender and not fatty, the combination of veggies and spices with each respective meat was the right match. Obviously Plated knows a little bit about what they are doing. They take intermediate recipes and make them simple enough so you can master them at home, I dig. But let me be honest, although I loved trying this experience out for $20 I more than likely would never use this service again, our meals came out to $5 a plate which is ridiculously reasonable for the amount and quality of food we got (by the way the ending result shut us both up about the portions that were supplied there was more than enough food for 2 people), but if I had not had the internet offer we were looking at $12-$15 dollars a plate PLUS $20 shipping and handling fees, so that’s upwards of 80 to 100 bucks for 2 meals for 2 people. I could easily go the grocery store and get food for the whole week at that price. So Plated is not genius nor is it lazy, it is a novelty for people who have extra money and want to learn how to cook. Plated gives you step by step instructions on how to do each and every step of the cooking process. I can see single women/men using this service for convenience or to learn to be a better cook or how to make food combinations but as an every day or every weekend service  I do not see this as a practical solution. Not to say that both Marlboro Man and I didn’t enjoy it, there are just more cost efficient ways to get the same results.

Are you using Plated or another service that you dig? Or do you have another means of obtaining the same results like using a meal planning app or something of that nature.. do tell ?

 

 

r

3/13/14

For the record the internet offer I received for Plated was one of those ads on Facebook, I was not approached by anyone from Plated’s staff to try out and or review the services that they offer.
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