Blue Apron Believer: A Review

I'm a Blue Apron Believer!
Disclaimer: I received no compensation for this review and after the initial free week, have paid full-price for each subsequent week of meals.

When a colleague offered me one of his free week links from Blue Apron in July, I was ready to hop on the offer immediately. My husband, Josh, on the other hand, is super skeptical of subscription services and wasn’t thrilled about the idea of getting stuck in a subscription that would be difficult to cancel. We received our first box the week of the 4th of July and we have never looked back.  We LOVE it. We’ve only had one or two meals we didn’t care for, but most nights, I get serious compliments from Josh on dinner. It’s not stuff I would have normally chosen to make, whether it be because of ingredients I’m not used to working with (or have never heard of) or because it’s a cuisine that I’m not a fan of, but I love that it takes me out of my comfort zone and makes me try new ingredients and cuisines that I may not have otherwise attempted. According to our year-end report, I cooked meals from 13 different cuisines in 2016. That’s probably 9 more than I would have otherwise.

Blue Apron Year in Review
I love that I only have to have salt, pepper, and olive oil on-hand to make 3 fantastic meals and you get to choose (with some limitation on the combinations) from 6 different options each week. If you don’t like one of the proteins from one of the “default” three meals, you can switch to another meal instead, as long as you change it enough in advance of the shipment. I love that I’ve got our meals planned out for the next 5 weeks right now and I know exactly what we’ll be having from Blue Apron each week.

Also, no more food waste! We use exactly what they send us and we don’t throw out any rotten fruit or veggies or meat we didn’t get to. I used to throw out hundreds of dollars worth of food that went bad in the fridge or that I stuffed in the freezer, thinking I’d use it in a reasonable amount of time, but found it hiding in the back with several years of accumulated freezer burn.

Because it costs more than I would have spent previously (each serving is $9.99), I make cooking those three nights each week a priority and schedule which nights I’m going to cook. If I know that I have meetings each night one week, I’ll skip that week ahead of time so we don’t waste the food. This also means we don’t make excuses to order delivery or go out to eat when I’ve got Blue Apron on the calendar.

As far as how long it takes to cook each meal, plan for a little longer than the recipe cards say, unless you’ve got experience in a professional kitchen. Maybe I’m just too much of a perfectionist, but it takes a decent amount of time to cut and prep the fresh veggies before you even start heating anything up.

Subscribers are occasionally given the opportunity to share free weeks with friends and family and, so far, I’ve had 7 friends cash in their free weeks from my referrals.  I know that a couple of them just tried the free week and decided to pause their subscription until they finish grad school, but others are still subscribers and love it, as well.

Josh and I travel a lot and we were on vacation for 2 and a half weeks in October, then two days after we returned, I left for a work trip to London for a week. We skipped Blue Apron deliveries for the whole month of October and picked right back up when I returned from London in early November. Skipping weeks is incredibly easy, you just have to remember to stay on top of it if you know you need to skip a week.

Blue Apron has changed the way we eat and has given me the opportunity to get out of a cooking rut that included casseroles most nights and very little fresh fruit and vegetables.  I’m cooking with ingredients I’ve never cooked with before and am learning to love things I’ve never tried before.

A few photos of the meals I’ve made over the past 6 months:

If you’re on the fence about trying Blue Apron, I encourage you to seek out a friend who might have a free week to offer and give it a shot.  You’ve got nothing to lose and so much great food and experience to gain!  Bon Appetit!

Curry in a Hurry – Lawrence

Today, I stopped by the new location of Curry in a Hurry on the outskirts of Downtown Lawrence.  We’ve been hearing a lot about it through the Journal World and local twitter users and Josh really wanted to try it.  I had the day off of work for a doctor’s appointment and had some errands to run, so I stopped by on my way home.

The setup is like nothing I’ve seen before in a restaurant.  Sammi has a buffet-style setup where all of the curries are pre-packaged in to-go containers and you just select which variety of curry you would like, grab a container of rice and any side items that you’d like (I grabbed naan bread, but there were at least two other items that I didn’t pick up) and take your selections to the register to check out.  I chose the chicken curry and rice for Josh (and unfortunately, he ate it all before I could get a photo) but Sammi was also offering pea and potato curry today.

The store has also been converted into a small storefront convenience store with candies, sodas, cigarettes and other convenience store items.  It’s definitely a unique addition to Downtown Lawrence.

Josh thought that the curry has some great flavors and that it was very good.  We hadn’t tried Sammi’s curry before, when he was working out of the Shell gas station near 19th & Mass but people have raved about his set-up for quite some time.  I know his true fans are delighted to have him back with his curry in a hurry.  I also know that we will be back to visit Sammi and see what kind of variety he will bring to Indian cuisine in Lawrence.  We’re definitely looking forward to it.

Curry in a Hurry is located at 1111 Massachusetts Street in Downtown Lawrence, KS.

Jarritos Nation Contest

Today, I was contacted by someone from Jarritos, a soda manufacturer from Mexico.  They seem to be expanding in the US and asked me if I would sample some of their products and let you all know what I think about them.  I’m excited to receive my package and will let you all know what I think after I’ve had a chance to test them.

In the meantime, check out the Jarritos Nation contest! It’s a website designed to bring all fans of Jarritos together and award prizes for posting photos. Entering is very easy – just head to www.jarritosnation.com and “claim” a location on the map with a photo. Prizes range from packages of Jarritos to digital cameras and even a 12 day cruise to Hawaii!  Good luck!

Bird Dog Bar at The Oread Hotel

 
Those of you from Lawrence may have noticed the new structure that now towers above the northern end of the University of Kansas campus.  The Oread hotel was recently completed and is not fully in operation.  With the opening of a new luxury hotel, comes the chance to try some new restaurants in town.  My friend Shauna and I took the opportunity while wedding planning, to visit the Bird Dog Bar in the Oread Hotel several weeks ago and we left satisfied and impressed. 

We didn’t order anything that was terribly exciting (we both got burgers) but instead of french fries, I ordered the Mac & Cheese as my side.  Let me just tell you, this was some of the most amazing mac & cheese I’ve ever had.  I actually wanted to get it as my main dish but I’m always hesitant to do that because there are lots of ways for people to screw up mac & cheese and I didn’t want to possibly waste my money on something that was merely mediocre.  The Bird Dog’s mac & cheese was anything but mediocre.  It was outstanding and the next time I go here, I will absolutely order it as my main dish!

What’s even better about the Bird Dog Grill?  Oh, that’s right, the Oread offers free 2 hour valet parking with a purchase from any of its restaurants.  That’s pretty awesome on campus, where parking comes at a premium.

Shauna and I also decided to try the roasted red pepper hummus and pita as an appetizer and we weren’t disappointed with that either.  The hummus and pita comes with celery, cucumbers and olives and it was really good.  I’m not usually a fan of anything with any kind of bell pepper in it, but this was very good and I would definitely try it again.

Overall, the Bird Dog Grill gets my vote for a new restaurant in town that’s got staying potential.  I wish them the best of luck and look forward to going back again!

Cozy Inn – Salina, Kansas

Some of you may have never heard of Cozy Inn in Salina, Kansas.  If you’re from Kansas and you’ve ever traveled west of Topeka or know anyone who has, you’ve probably heard of the place.  A quick Google Search for "Cozy Inn Salina, KS" turns up over 6,000 results.  Sadly, I am one of those sheltered Kansans who never heard about the Cozy Inn until I was in my 20s, even though my dad graduated from high school in Salina and I’m sure, indulged in his fair share of Cozy Burgers  back in his day.

The restaurant opened in 1922 as a tiny 6-stool diner in downtown Salina.  Three months after opening the business was sold to a former semi-pro baseball player named Robert Kinkel.  The hamburger trend was just beginning in America at this time and the first White Castle actually opened in Wichita, Kansas in 1921, so Kinkel wanted in on the action. 

Cozy Inn doesn’t serve anything fancy and special orders are a big no-no.  If you want a burger from Cozy Inn, you’re going to get a slider-sized burger topped with a pickle, grilled onions, mustard and ketchup.  That’s it!  No cheese, no bacon, no fries.  Just the basics at the Cozy Inn.  Because of the crazy onion smell, they even have a walk-up window so people can avoid smelling like onions until their next shower. 

Back in the good old days, each burger was a nickle.  Today, they’re 75 cents a piece or you can get 6 for $4.50, 12 for $9.00, 24 for $18.00 or a value meal of 6 burgers, chips and a can of soda for $5.51.  I’m told that most people order 6 burgers.

Josh grew up near Salina, in Marquette, KS, and we stopped at the Cozy Inn for my first Cozy experience on the way to his family Christmas this year.  Here’s Josh looking excited about his Cozy burger.

The building really is tiny.  I would probably ask to work alone if I worked there.  I didn’t get to see the inside though because I stayed in the car.

 
You can see the size of the burger in comparison to my hand.  It’s not a large burger, but they were really good.  I’m looking forward to more Cozy Inn stops in the future.

Day 6 Food

Unfortunately, our amazing cruise had to come to an end. . .

Here’s the menu for our last night on the ship:

 

 
For an appetizer, I had the Chicken Fettuccini.  It was wonderful.

I also tried the crab cake and I wasn’t a huge fan of it.

My main course was the jumbo panko crusted shrimp.  I LOVE shrimp.  You might have noticed how many times I ordered them on this cruise.

Before dinner, some of my family and our travel agent brought Josh some Indian food because they got to meet the chef and told him how much they all enjoyed Indian food.  They ended up bringing Josh a plate and he was very excited about it. 

Day 5 Food

Here’s the menu:

I love how the fried shrimp is listed as "Fried Shrimps".  Apparently, the menu author isn’t a native English speaker. 

 

Josh had the chicken tenders marinated in Thai spices.  In my experience with Thai food, I know that I need to be careful when I order a Thai dish because sometimes, they are crazy spicy.  This dish was in the mid-range of spiciness.  It didn’t kill me, but it wasn’t Sunday at Grandma’s house either.

I ordered the fried shrimps.  They were definitely shrimps.  🙂

I ordered the Duet of Petit Filet Mignon and Short Rib Confit and it was incredible.  I could have done without the red onions completely covering my potato (that was gross) but once I got rid of the onions, the potato was awesome.  I’m pretty sure that Josh ordered the same thing as I did this night.

My dad ordered the vegetarian lasagna.  If you look close, you can see his fingers and understand the true size of this gigantic piece of lasagna.  It looked awesome and everyone who ordered it seemed to like it a lot.

My mom went the very traditional route this evening.  She ordered the turkey dinner.  Normally, she wouldn’t eat the items that came with the turkey, especially since the menu didn’t say mashed potatoes and gravy anywhere, but she was brave and tried most of the items.
 

For dessert, I got the Chocolate Raspberry and Vanilla Cream Cake (still not the melting cake).

And Josh ordered the apple pie, which was amazing!

Day 4 Food

Again, no menu photos.

For starters on day 4, I had the Corn Chowder and the Cream of Broccoli Soup, which were both very good.
 

Josh has the escargot, which he always enjoys.
 
He also had fried oysters.

I don’t remember why I don’t have photos of both our main courses this night, but I did get a photo of the shrimp dish that we shared in addition to our normal main course.  Neither of us thought it was amazing.

I got an artsy shot of the table since there wasn’t anyone sitting across from me this night.

Baked Alaska. . . I love Neapolitan ice cream!

And this was some kind of chocolate cake that Josh ordered.  I don’t remember specifics about it.

Day 3 Food

I forgot menu photos this night.

After spending the day in the sun in Barbados, we were definitely ready for dinner.  I was excited to see a grilled chicken quesadilla on the starters menu.  It was very good.
 
I was also excited to see sushi on the menu, but because it had mussels in it, I avoided it.  My dad is allergic to mussels and I have never wanted to take the chance that I’m also allergic to them, especially on a ship in the middle of the ocean, so Josh ordered the sushi and I didn’t get to share this time.  🙁

There was also a sushi bar on the ship that opened every night around dinner time.  The sushi from the sushi bar was better than the dinner sushi (according to Josh) but it definitely wasn’t Wa from home.  Wa sushi is incredible! (http://www.yelp.com/biz/wa-restaurant-lawrence)

For the main course, I got the short ribs.  They were very good.
 
Josh ordered the seafood pasta and was disappointed that he only found one scallop in the entire dish.
 
Josh ordered warm bread pudding for dessert and I’m sure that I probably had the warm chocolate melting cake.

Day 2 Food

When we returned to our cabin after spending the day in Dominica, we found these. . .

and this. . .

And, no, they weren’t from Josh, as many friends and family assumed they were.  They were actually from Penny, our travel agent and friend who was traveling with us on the cruise.  She sent them to thank me for all the work I put into planning the cruise.  We took the champagne to dinner to share, but we ate the strawberries ourselves.  They were wonderful!

This is a treat that we were fortunate to see throughout our cruise.  Our waiters entertained us all week long, although, you could definitely tell that the waiter on the right was not comfortable with this display of fun at all.

 

As you might notice, this was formal night (hence the lobster). . .

Josh enjoyed the stuffed mushrooms, but since I’m not a huge fan of mushrooms, he got this one all to himself.

I, on the other hand, ordered the shrimp cocktail, which was pretty standard.
  
This was the pumpkin soup.  I think Josh ordered it but it mist not have been terribly memorable because I don’t remember who even ordered it.
 
Our friend James ordered the Chile Rellenos and he said it was awesome.  He wished they served it every night.

Josh ordered the duck, which looked awesome.

He also ordered Cherries Jubilee with an extra scoop of vanilla ice cream.

I ordered the caramel apple pastry and it left quite a bit to be desired.

I’m not sure who ordered this, but it was the diet strawberry cake.