Review. Blue Apron Meals.

I am over a blue moon for Blue Apron Meals. Which is an understatement. This evening, I finished cooking the 3rd meal of my 1st delivery from these culinary geniuses, and I cannot wait to tell you all about it!! Food/Meal Delivery Service does not begin to describe Blue Apron Meals, a Brooklyn-based company. Learning about ingredients. Learning to Cook. Eating. Enjoying. Blue Apron Meals is a rich experience. Let’s take a look at some of their claims + I’ll let you know how they measure up!

First Round of Meals: 2 meals/dinner. But I got more!!

My First: {Bottom} Cod with Crispy Kale, Roasted Tomato + Fregola Sarda {I substituted brown rice}. Haul: 2 dinners + 1 lunch. Splendid.

My Fav to Cook: {Right} Spice-Rubbed Pork Medallions with Peach Salsa + Cilantro-Green Bean Rice {left overs box}. Haul4 meals + rice and salsa left-overs!

My Fav to Eat: Lemon Basil Chicken with Corn + Shiitake Mushroom “Risotto.” Haul: 2 meals. I fly solo, so I cannot wait for lunch tomorrow.

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Blue Apron – Learn More ~Taken from website: select points summarized. For full list, please visit http://www.blueapron.com/pages/learn-more ~

Original Recipes

*35 min to prepare on average: This is true, but it definitely depends on your knife skills. This week, 2 of my 3 meals took about 35 minutes. Because of the prep involved with the Spice Rubbed Pork dish, it took that long just to cut all of my veg. Yet at the same time, this was my favorite dish too cook because of that. Which brings us to our next point…

*Pre-portioned ingredients to save time + reduce waste: It’s like having your own sous chef! Pre-portioned ingredients put the relax into cook. Not only does it reduce waste, but it also adds ease to my cooking. Constantly wondering if I’ve purchased enough or chopped too much can definitely detract from the culinary experience and often discourages me from trying something new. From a spring of cilantro to a cup full of parmesan, it’s amazing how small a gesture pre-portioned ingredients adds to the experience of cooking and quality of taste.

*Easy to follow beautifully printed recipe cards: If pre-portioned ingredients are your sous chef, then meal cards are your teacher. While each card teaches 1 meal, each meal teaches several recipes. From how to cook cuts of meat to whipping up seriously tasty dressings, Blue Apron Meals may as well be BlueApron Tutorials. The instructions are clear. The pictures add ease. And the ingredients list helps to organize. I’ve already started a binder where I can file these meals away for keeps.

*Premium seasonal ingredients from artisanal purveyors: When I cook, I cook with what I’m already familiar or with what I already have. Basil. Rosemary. Since my herb garden consists namely of these {for now}, this is exactly what I use in most every dish. But Blue Apron Meals teaches you how to spice-it-up. Not only am I cooking with multiple fresh ingredients, but I am using multiple within each recipe. Whereas I would’ve normally relied upon white onion, #BAM provides red onion + shallot. Whereas basil is always my go-to, #BAM mixes it up with basil, cilantro, oregano, and lemon basil. The ingredients are premium. And I’m learning how to pair. Voila.

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*Fresher than the supermarket: Fresh. Fresh. Fresh. Yes. My ingredients arrive from Brooklyn, in a refrigerated box, and, yes, they are the freshest. Tomato . Red onion. Peach. Basil. Every ingredient I’ve sampled while doing my prep has tasted like I grow it in my own backyard. And check out the meat! Pork tenderloin + chicken breast, alone, are better cuts than I’d ever pick out or be able to afford in most grocery stores or butcher shops. This week they came from the respected Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors in North Bergen, NJ. The most tender pork + moist chicken I have ever had in my entire life. Ever.

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*Free and convenient delivery to most of the country: Yup. It’s free. {Check the map on #BAM website to make check on your state.} That huge box with all of those ingredients. I literally pay $60/week for an average of 9 meals. {The plan I signed-up for guarantees 2 meals/dish. For me, it averages to be more, plus some left-overs!}

Convenient Delivery

*Carefully packaged in a refrigerated box, so our meals stay fresh even if you’re not home when we delivery: Absolutely 100% true. I felt so excited by my first delivery, that I intercepted it at lunchtime. This week, I’ll probably wait until I’m home from work around 4:30PM. Delivery is between 8AM + 8PM, and the ingredients will stay fresh.

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Tips + Tricks

*Store your Herbs. Yes, they come pre-portioned in cute little bags, but you will want to ensure they last more than just a few days. I receive my box on Wednesday and when I cooked my final meal today {Sunday}, the lemon basil was too wilted to use. No criticism on #BAM’s part. This week, I’ll just be sure to wrap them in paper towel + then store in their cute pre-portioned packets.

*Be ready for Left-Overs. You will have left overs! From this week’s haul, raw ingredients like 1/2 a shallot and 1 whole lemon still have a spot in my fridge. I’ve even noticed that #BAM sometimes over-proportions ingredients. From the Lemon Basic Chicken recipe, I still have a handful of sugar snap peas to munch on as a snack. Even full servings of a side dish might make an encore appearance. With the Spice Rubbed Pork, not only did I end up with 4 separate meals {again, #BAM portions for 2}, but I also had enough left-over rice + homemade salsa enough to combine as a lunch. Talk about bountiful.

*Have the Basics. While #BAM did provide me with a generous pad of butter for this week’s corn “risotto,” other staples are absolutely necessary. Aside from kitchen utensils, this week the only 3 staples I had to provide on my own was olive oil, salt, + pepper. Blue Apron Meals loves to use olive oil. So if that’s not your jam, know your substitutes. Which brings us to…

*Know your Substitutes. As you may know, I am recently #glutenfree! {Still loving it.} While I do not believe that #BAM has this dietary option yet, I know that, based upon this past week, about 95% of ingredients are gluten free friendly. Still, be prepared. When the Cod with Crispy Kale called for the Italian pasta Fregola Sarda, I substituted brown rice. When Lemon Basil Chicken asked me to dust the cutlets in flower before pan searing, I substituted gluten free pancake mix. {It worked!} Best part about substitutions?? Keep the #BAM ingredients in your cupboard for when the occasion arises. It is a match made in pantry-heaven.

*Enjoy. Enjoy. Enjoy. + Share! Cooking with Blue Apron this week has been a joy. It’s one of the most relaxingly pleasurable ways to harness a serious sense of accomplishment. And I get to share. This past Friday Momsly + I indulged in leftovers from the cod and the pork. She even took a cutlet home, fixins and all, to my dad. My favorite part of sharing?? Posting pics + vid to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Blue Apron Meals with notice. So get to it!! And get your Blue Apron Meals appetite. {For extras + videos, follow me on Instagram + Twitter!! @babsiell.}

Bon Appetit. 

Blue Apron Meals.

XO.

Shop Local. Park Ave Summer Art Fest in the ROC.

#ShopLocal Park Ave Summer Art Fest:

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Crowds. Coffee. Live Music. Park Ave Summer Art Fest.

Delicious. Talented. Unique. With an innumerable variety of vendors up and down the thoroughfares of Park Avenue, it’s impossible to catalog every satiating stand. This year, I’m focusing on the old + the new + the lesser known that must become familiar to you. Older Traditions include VonBrake Spices, mixing it up for 15 years, and Thelma’s Mastectomy Boutique, which has supported women for over 30. Newer include Vegetabowls, from Buffalo, Chartreuse Studios, which sells Blue Honey Jewelry + Candles, and Treasure Trove Vintage, which rounds off a burgeoning Fashion District at the corner of Park + Meigs in its neighbor’s {Peppermint} old digs. #ShopOld #ShopNew #ShopLocal #ShoptheAvenue

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Jenn with an array of gourmet spices + spice boxes, made by and which benefit School of the Holy Childhood.

VonBrake Spices.

It was the first stand I saw and the first birthday present I knew I wanted to buy for Momsly. Perched  on the lawn of The Generosity Store, a local boutique whose proceeds benefit School of the Holy Childhood, sat VonBrake Spices. Vegetable sprays, neatly lined spices, spice boxeshandmade by students at School of the Holy Childhood–adorned the tent where smiling faces greeted my arrival. Jenn Brake, relation to creator and Executive Chef Dennis Brake, carefully explained eacspice. From classic to the exotic, she helped me to select the perfect match. What does your mom cook? Does she like savory or spicy? A kid in a candy shop, I skipped from jar to jar. Espresso, sweet yet earthy. Thai Spice, tangy and exotic. Roasting Spice, just like home. Artisan, gluten free, MSG-free, anti-caking agent, and preservative free: all varieties resound with a freshness attained only through quality ingredients and preparation characteristic to what we call the real deal. And, trust, VonBrake Spices is 100% real.

Garam Masala!? My mom shrieked as she peeled back the humble paper bag from whence Jenn packaged the Indian spice. Gracious eyes stared my way. It was the spiciest they had, I answered. I have always wanted to try Garam Masala, my mother responded. Spot-on. Jenn’s expert recommendation was spot-on: Go for the spice + go for something unique. Once I smelled the fragrant and balanced blend emanating from VonBrake’s sample jars, I knew I had to bring home this unique culinary concoction. (If not for Momsly’s cooking enjoyment, then at least for my eating pleasure!) At $7/jar, VonBrake Spices is a tasteful #ShopLocal purchase. Furthermore, buying VonBrake Spices through The Generosity Store, which sits just across from Parkleigh and next to Great Harvest Bread Company, means a gift that continues to give. Support your #ShopLocal. Support your local community. Support your spice pantry.

 

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Thelma’s Mastectomy Boutique has been on Park Ave + has been making women beautiful for over 30 years!!

Thelma’s Mastectomy Boutique.

Brassieres hanging on the porch? I’mt here. Thelma’s is a beautiful anomaly. Perched front + center between Goodman St. and Park Ave, the quaint and quiet storefront can easily be mistaken for a well-kept house. Likewise, while whimsies + trinkets color the store pretty, Thelma’s real beauty lays in the love+ professionalism that opened her doors. Thelma, a corsetiere for over 28 years at a leading department store, and Sandy (still the owner), a registered nurse for over 45 years, began Thelma’s to support women who have had mastectomy or breast-related surgeries.

During Park Ave Fest, 3 lovely women filled me in on the history. Thelma’s, a 30 year mainstay in the Park Ave neighborhood, is not a lingerie shop, per say. Rather, a business that serves women who have or who have survived breast cancer by fitting them with prosthetics, bras, lingerie, and even wigs and headwear. Megan, the great niece of Thelma, explained that Thelma’s (original co-owner) welcomes & fits any women in need of breast prosthetics or lymphedema products.Thelma’s also sells sportswear, which boasts a shelf bra, and super cute/sexy camisoles. From hat pins to homemade chemo beanies: every potential necessity becomes a chic and classy, dignified and fun accessory. You must visit the website to fully understand what this Park Ave diamond offers. Better yet, head over to 251 Park Ave and look for yourself. I am so excited and incredibly proud to know that Thelma’s watches over our sisters, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, daughters, and friends, and at a door closer than you think.

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Fruit? Vegetables? How about Vegetabowls! Homemade clay eartenware molded + made right in Buffalo, NY.

Vegetabowls.

Pretty sure I scared this guy. But the earthenware is that exciting! So exciting it’s worth scaring strangers with unbridled enthusiasm. First, look at that name. Vegetabowls. Now, say it aloud. Vegetabowls. …It’s adorable! If you think the name is something, wait until you lay eyes on the product. Earthenware bowls molded from actual fruit and vegetables + colored with the precision of Mother Nature herself. Or more precisely, molded from Mother Nature using clay molds and painted by creators and owners Melanie and Justin McKenney. #ShopLocal. Natural. Beautiful. Functional. Earthenware. I cannot get enough. If you need more convincing, let Vegetabowls’ Press do it for you. (We’re talking Martha Stewart American Made Awards, among others.) Not only are these handmade delectibowls and not only are they incredibly functional, but they are also unique and affordable art!!! I bought Momsly a tomato bud vase/candle holder for her birthday. The woman loves to grow tomatoes, she loves to cook sauce, and this handmade earthenware vase is only $8.

#ShopLocal, friends. Based out of Buffalo, NY, Vegetabowls might not be made in your home city, but Vegetabowls can be found in a store near you and on Etsy. What’s more, Vegetabowls are a home-based operation worthy in dollar + design. Texture, color, price, function: ranging from the Salsa Set to the Artichoke Bud Leaf to the Watermelon Serving Bowl to the Watermelon Mini Bowl, Vegetabowls fit all wants + occasions. I cannot wait to give Vegetabowls as a gift for weddings, as a gift for thank yous, as a gift for housewarmings, as a gift for birthdays, and as a gift for myself. What can I say? Vegetabowls just bowl-me-over.

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Julie of Blue Honey Jewelry & Candles holding her handmade trinket necklace. Chartreuse Studio TATTOO umbrella beneath.

Chartreuse Studios.

How many times have you rounded Oxford (or in my case, one of the Vicks)–maybe on your way to lunch at Magnolia’s or Hogan’s, or to a soothing retreat in the RMSC Herb Gardens, perhaps anauthentic dinner at Roam Café or Bacco’s—and you’ve walked directly past Chartreuse Studios?? Think about it. The quietly intriguing façade, tucked inside of a neighborhood home, so true to the architectural flare + personality of Park Ave. How many times? This is exactly what Julie C. Rodda, Designer + Mad Creator of Blue Honey Jewelry & Candles joked as she cashed me out on the lawn of Chartreuse Studios during Park Ave.

Pebbles in my mouth, I completely stumbled upon words before spitting them onto the ground. You ladies are from Rochester!? Vintage umbrella, handmade jewelry, nautical pottery: custom, one of a kind designs unfurled onto the lawn of Chartreuse and the sidewalk of Park Ave. If you’re from Rochester, and you’re located on Park Ave,and you’re not from The City … My eyes grew wide … I can shop here all of the time! And then it dawned on me. How could I, Barbara Ellen-#ShopLocal-RocOPhile, live directly around the corner and, every week, walk by?? Make no mistake, fellow boutique lovers: Chartreuse Studios is not just a hair salon and it is not just fine art. Like the color for which it is named, Chartreuse (which sells Blue Honey Jewelry & Candles), is class + it is sass. Chartreuse is #ShopLocal. My favorite find? Handmade Blue Honey charm necklace: a glass stopper filled with minuscule watch parts that you can replace with any trinket you desire! (But the cogs are so cool.) Even Brooklyn Charm, a jewelry shop that hipster’s gush for openly, would covet this piece. But we are not in Brooklyn. We are not in New York City. We are on Park Avenue. In Rochester, NY. And Chartreuse and Blue are our Rochester own. 

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Smitten with Treasure Trove Vintage. (I bought the champagne colored one!)

Treasure Trove Vintage. 

I felt elated when the first piece of timeless, delicate, feminine clothing erected itself, seemingly overnight, in the former façade where Peppermint once stood. Elated that Treasure Trove Vintage, a classically hip, new store, did justice to this space. Similar to Chartreuse, I’m ashamed to say that I’ve not yet stepped foot into this fashion paradise. Moreover, I ’m stoked to say that I will. A lot. Work blouses? Yes. Special occasion dresses? You bet. Vintage jewelry pieces? Please. Gifts? Absolutely. More so, I am happy to report that the Power of Park Ave is ultimately what united me with this boutique.

Pick a decade: 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, earlier, later. Treasure Trove Vintage has a fabulous eye for vintage finds both timeless in style and in feel. The gleam of patterned blouses, one very reminiscent to an Anthropologie herring bone, flopped neatly in a box and caught my eye like doubloons in a chest. Gelato pinks and browns; red, white, and blue with bows: on-sale for just $15. I felt luxurious and silly all at once for buying just 1. Treasure Trove Vintage will revamp my entire work and social-wear wardrobes. Soft polyesters, resonant of a bygone era and still flirty for today: simply too splendid not to hunt-down. Let alone the timeless purses and classic accessories, which I must explore more. X marks the spot at Treasure Trove Vintage. Make sure you find this gem … and make sure to tell me all about it! 

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Just Chalking Sidewalk Chalk Art! I die.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Vegetarian + Gluten Free Poutine by Le Petit Poutine!! Marty’s Meats Food Truck.

Live music. Garrulous crowds. Sidewalk chalk art. The entire festival is amazing. Park Avenue Summer Art Fest speaks volumes to the dynamic nature of Rochester, its communities, and to Park Ave itself. Support for #EatLocal, with food trucks like Le Petit Poutine & Marty’s Meats, enhance the patchwork while each tent, vendor, cart, bar and restaurant imbues meaning to the next.  My favorite fabric to this quilt? The #ShopLocal texture. Park Ave Summer Art Fest brings vitality to the stores, boutiques, and treats that–right in our own backyard–I never knew existed. What will you find?? Here’s to end of summer next year.

#ShopLocal.

#EatLocal.

Park Ave Summer Art Fest.

#Roc.