Tag Archives | dinner

Cooking Dinner with Blue Apron

Today’s post is sponsored by Blue Apron

beef-and-lamb-burger-ingredients

I live in an apartment in the middle of Center City Philadelphia, surrounded by restaurants of all stripes. And despite the fact I live in the midst of this edible bounty, I cook dinner at home most nights.

My reasons for cooking at home are many. It’s far more affordable that getting takeout every night. It’s often vastly more delicious (at least most of the time). And both Scott and I feel better when we eat food cooked at home.

cutting-eggplant

However, I often find myself tumbling into home cooking ruts. No matter what I make, my food ends up tasting like my food. In the past, I’ve used cookbooks to help me out of these ruts. The only trouble there is that during particularly busy weeks, that can take more planning and careful shopping than I have time for.

Happily, I’ve discovered a new way to shake up my home cooking routine. Enter Blue Apron. Their chef-designed meal kits are the perfect way to breathe fresh inspiration into my kitchen routine.

making-eggplant-salad

My first encounter with Blue Apron was back in June, when they sponsored my husband’s podcast. Because he needed to share his experience with the meals, he did the cooking that week. Thanks to the easy-to-follow recipe cards, he was easily able to turn out a series of three seriously delicious dinners.

What’s more, I liked what he cooked so much that I ended up incorporating some of the techniques and flavor combinations into my own culinary skill-set.

plated-burger

More recently, the folks at Blue Apron approached me about a sponsored post. Having had such a positive experience with the food when Scott did it, I said sure. I had the meals sent to my sister’s house in Austin, Texas, to coincide with the week when I would be there visiting.

boys-with-blue-apron-ingredients

My thinking was that it would be an easy way for me to cook for my sister and her family, and I hoped that by choosing the family portions (you can either get three meals that serve two, or two meals that serve four), we’d wind up with things that my picky nephews would eat and enjoy.

crispy-chicken-ingredients

Most of my hopes came true. Having the box sent to my sister’s house was a huge win when it came to being a good houseguest. The pre-portioned ingredients made life incredibly easy, the quality of the food was fantastic, and the adults in the house all really enjoyed the two meals I cooked. My sister and brother-in-law also appreciated having a break from kitchen duty.

set-up-for-breading-chicken

Sadly, as excited as the little boys were when it came to unpacking the well-insulated box of food, they were not at all interested in the Lamb and Beef Feta Burgers when it came time to eat (though the two-year-old did end up absconding with one of the potato buns).

Thankfully, the Crispy Chicken Tenders and Roasted Potatoes were a bigger hit with the pre-school set. No matter the response from Emmett and Benny, I still feel like it was a resounding success.

prepped-side-ingredients-for-crispy-chicken

Blue Apron isn’t something I will use all the time. But it’s such a useful tool during busy weeks, when I need a little fresh inspiration in the kitchen, or when I want to be a helpful and considerate houseguest.

I plan on keeping my account open and occasionally dropping in to check out their new recipes. Perhaps I’ll treat myself to another box around the holidays, when baking for gifts takes over my culinary imagination!

plated-crispy-chicken

If you’re intrigued by my experience with Blue Apron, they’ve got an offer for you, too! The first twenty readers to use this link to sign up for the service will get three meals for free on their first Blue Apron order. Oh, and if you want to take a peek at more of the possible meals you’ll get from Blue Apron, check out their recipe page.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Blue Apron. They sent me a Family Plan box, containing two meals for four people. They’ve also compensated me for my time and attention. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are entirely mine.

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Veggie Mac & Cheese

veggie mac and cheese

When I posted my meal plan last week, several of you spotted the veggie mac and cheese on the schedule and politely requested the recipe. As this is a crowd pleaser of a dish, I am happy to deliver (even if the picture isn’t my best work).

Know that this is one of those things that I never make exactly the same way twice. Instead, I work with a basic framework and wing the details. The batch I made last week used a full head of cauliflower, a giant bundle of curly kale, one onion, half a pound of pasta, and a cheese sauce made from butter, flour, milk, some of the pasta cooking water, and 8 ounces of grated cheese (half delicious Kerrygold and half the remaining bit of a block of yellow Costco cheddar).

Other times, I’ve made it with leeks, broccoli, and peas. Garlic, broccoli rabe, and mushrooms is another nice combination. Chopped ham or chunks of smoked turkey go in nicely if you’ve serving a meat loving crowd. It’s flexible, passes muster with many children, and reheats nicely.

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Memories of Family Dinner

dinner

All across the internet today, people are sharing their stories of family dinner in honor of the publication of Shauna and Danny Ahern’s new book, Gluten-Free Girl Every Day. I thought I’d post a little something I wrote ages ago about my parents and their devotion to ensuring that we ate good solid food for dinner and learned to be civilized people in the process.

dinner

I grew up in a family that ate dinner together nearly every night. My mom was the primary cook and she firmly believed in the power of squash, in the quick and filling effects of ground beef scrambled with canned tomatoes, fresh oregano and broken bits of cooked spaghetti and, when all other things failed, the reliability of a peanut butter and honey sandwich on whole wheat.

She cooked seasonally before it was universally trendy, mostly because my dad planted a garden every year but would lose interest in it just around harvest time. Never someone who was able to let good things go to waste, she struggled each summer to keep up with the tide of zucchini, spinach, tomatoes and string beans that flowed forth from the backyard. Many years there would be 12 to 15 quart bags of frozen stewed tomatoes piled in neat stacks in the freezer, ready for soups and pots of sauce throughout the winter.

dinner

She worked part time and then full time throughout my childhood but always made time to cook dinner. The meal rarely varied in that there was always a protein and a vegetable and frequently, but not always, a starch. When I think of the food from my early years, I see a plate with a chicken leg, a pile of steamed broccoli and small mound of brown rice. Sometimes there was a hamburger patty instead of the chicken, or string beans in place of the broccoli, but she relied on this formula almost exclusively.

My dad made a priority out of being home for dinner too, even in the days in the early eighties, when he was in the process of starting a business. Many nights, he’d drive home from work, eat dinner with us and then go back to his office for two or three additional hours, to plow through the never-ending pile of work. While my mom cooked, he attended to the development of our table manners. It was my dad who taught me proper handling of my napkin, to wait for everyone to be served before beginning, and that one should never use their fingers to shove food onto the fork. His mostly-patient training has served me over and over again in life.

dinner (6.19.11)

That said, there was one quick weeknight dinner that we often ate during which my parents relaxed the standards for table behavior. My mom dreamed up the idea of serving cold tuna salad with creamy mashed potatoes in the very early days of her cooking career. When asked what prompted the combination, she always said that she liked the textural contrast of having something crunchy along with soft mashed potatoes.

My sister and I most loved this meal for its sculptability. It was the ideal food for playing with. I would carefully cover my mound of tuna salad with a frosting of potatoes, making sure that it was perfectly smooth and even before carving it into pie-shaped wedges and eating it (admittedly, the potatoes would get sort of cold by the time I was done, but it was an essential part of the joy of the meal for me).

Raina would vigorously stir her tuna into the potatoes, until she had a plate full of unrecognizable mash, with just an occasional fleck of pale green or red from the veggies. Our parents never said a word about us playing with our food when tuna salad and mashed potatoes were on the menu.

dinner made with frozen pesto (320)

While we don’t yet have kids to bring into the family dinner fold, Scott and I eat dinner together nearly every night. Often, the meals we share are quite similar to the ones that my mom used serve (this apple didn’t fall far from the tree in terms of wanting to make food that tastes good, isn’t overly complex, and doesn’t take all day to make). There’s something so very comfortable about wrapping up a busy day with another person over a meal. I love many things about being married, but this is among my favorite aspects.

What does your family dinner look like?

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Preserves in Action: Add Pickles To Your Salad Bar

condiments for salad bar

As a kid, one of the greatest treats ever was being taken to the Wendy’s salad bar for dinner. I loved being allowed to construct my own meal from the array of veggies, hard boiled eggs and slightly stale croutons. If I ate all the green stuff I’d heaped on my plate, I’d be allowed to have some of the chocolate pudding from the end of the bar for dessert.

cutting board salad bar

Those early experiences have instilled in me a undying love for salad bars and so, on a regular basis, I build them at home, on my biggest cutting board. This way, Scott can avoid the ingredients that he doesn’t like (asian pears do not make the cut on his salad) and I can pile my bowl high with everything (including tender roasted brussels sprouts. They’re so good against the cold, crisp lettuce).

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When I make these salad bars, I always pull at least two jars of pickles out of the fridge to jazz up the array of chopped vegetables and piles of lettuce. For this last salad bar, I had used two preserves I’d picked up at recent Philly Food Swaps. There was a fermented radish pickle made by Amanda, the lovely lady behind the blog Phickle (she writes all about fermentation) and Dawn’s green zebra tomato chow-chow. There is nothing like something puckery on a salad.

How are you using your pickles lately?

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