Blue Apron Empanadas de Picadillo as told by a guy who still doesn’t quite know how to cook.

Empanadas de Picadillo with Tomato-Cucumber Salad & Lime Crema

This was the last of my 3 meals that came in my first Blue Apron order. Although something I should say right off the bat: I made this meal probably 10 days after the box arrived. The cucumber was kinda shriveled on part of it, and I had to rummage through my fridge to figure out where I put all of the ingredients.

I think this points to a problem with Blue Apron and the guys like me: we’re bad at planning meals to the point that even if the ingredients are there and laid out for us, we’ll still be bad about making them. I swear I had to convince myself to get amped up to chop all of these veggies after work. I seriously contemplated ordering a General Tso’s Chicken combo meal from the place right here on my block. (They recognize my voice when I call in. I don’t even have to say what my name is.)

Another thing I should say before we get started is that I’m writing this a day after I cooked it. I know, I know, where’s the urgency? It went completely into watching the remaining two episodes of Stranger Things on Netflix (a fantastic homage to the two Stephens- King and Spielberg. Seriously, go watch it) and the latest episode of Preacher on AMC (Oh man, this show is so good. It’s brutal and horrific and funny).

Okay with all of that said, let’s jump into it. You can follow along here if you want.

Step 1:


This step was mostly easy with the exception of chopping the tomato. I swear I’ve done this before even though it didn’t seem like I had. Tacos were a meal my brother and I, latch-key kids, used to make when our dad was working one of his two jobs. Despite that, I sort of felt the same way about this that I did about cutting chicken. My trusty huge bread knife probably wasn’t suave enough to do this step justice, so I wound up getting a lot of tomato schmutz everywhere.

This step asks you to medium slice one half of the tomato, and small dice one half. Listen, Blue Apron, we are not people who do this regularly. You’ve gotta say things like: “Dice one half of the tomato into 1 inch squares, and the other into half-inch squares.” Give me measurements, not these ambiguous descriptors.

Scallions were easy. I tackled those bad boys in the previous meals.

Why did they ask me to leave alternating strips of cucumber intact when I chopped it up? I don’t get it. I diced it up like it told me to, but it still left me scratching my head. (I washed my hands after.) 

Okay, I really didn’t do what it told me to for creating the lime zest. I had a peeler and tried about two flimsy pieces of it, but then the description they had just totally baffled me. I looked up “how to create lime zest” on Youtube and got this video from someone named Mayet’s Kitchen. I think her method of using this grater tool is way easier than putzing around with chopping things up like a schmuck. My lime was kinda weird colored in some spots. I avoided zestifying those.  Thus there’s no way I had enough zest for two table spoons, but I got by.

My chopped up ingredients. I used lids and containers from my Chinese food take-out because I’m not fancy and don’t have those magic glass bowls.


That crema was super tasty. It was basically some form of sour cream. I’m going to add lime and salt to my sour cream every damn time now.

Step 2:


Every bachelor knows how to do this step. Well, usually I don’t add olive oil before I brown ground beef, but other than that, this was super easy.

Step 3:


This step was pretty straightforward, too. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. (Again, don’t tell us to cook it until it’s “fragrant”. That’s super unclear.) I added the bits of veggies like they told me to.

Step 4:


Before I jump into step 4, I should say that Blue Apron thinks everyone is a speed demon when it comes to chopping things up and preparing things. They tell you to preheat the oven in step 1. No way, don’t do that. Preheat the oven in this step. I remember how rushed I was in the other meals when I started boiling things way too soon. Nope, just preheat your oven in this step and you’ll be fine.

Filling the empanadas was pretty easy. I was careful not to overstuff them. Again, if you’re a bachelor, then chances are you’ve made yourself soft tacos before. As a kid, I’d shove as much as I could into those shells and wound up eating 70 percent of the filling off of my plate. So I was pretty conscious about making a pretty looking empanada. I think they came out as they should have. Even the one that looked wonky before it went into the oven came out looking great.

Step 5:


You do exactly what it says. This is a step even I can follow.

See? Not bad, huh?
Step 6:


I combined my salad just like it said. Actually I left out the olive oil. The veggies alone were tasty enough. (Why do cooking shows and recipes like the word “drizzle” so much? “Drip” works fine. So does “put”. It’s just one of those words I hate. “Drizzle.” Yech.)

There was not nearly enough of that lime crema stuff to go around. I ate leftovers today and ad-hoc’d some greek yogurt and pickle juice. So many of you are going to scoff at this, but I’m telling you it was pretty damn good.

Okay, so here’s my end result:


Compare to theirs:


Final thoughts about Blue Apron after a week:

I still can’t get over how much packaging is involved in this. I know that you can send the stuff back to them to get it recycled, but that would mean an extra trip to the post office for me. I live in an apartment and can’t easily leave large packages like that for my mailman.

I really like their instructions despite my kind of making fun of them here. They do a good job of explaining things to people who don’t cook and I like that each meal has a corresponding web page with a few videos for things that are tricky.

I dislike having to subscribe at all to this service. If I could just perpetually put this on hold, and then select one or two meals whenever I want it, then this might work. As it is, I’m finding it difficult to do this level of cooking for one person three times a week.

The price point is a little steep, also. It’s 20 bucks per meal. I liked the meals okay, but I think I’d be willing to pay more like $15 per meal.

This would probably be way more beneficial for a cohabiting couple. Then you wouldn’t have to worry so much about planning things or getting your personal food plans derailed by dates and outings to go hang out with your friends. I’d recommend you try it. You’re probably less stingy than I am.

I think I’ll hunt down some other free meal trials and review those. There were a couple of you weirdos out there who said you actually read these things, so I’ll try to do more.

Blue Apron Sweet Chili Chicken as told by a guy who still doesn’t know how to cook.

Sweet Chili Chicken with Tinkerbell Peppers, Green Beans & Coconut Rice 
(The second Blue Apron meal I’ve ever cooked.)

Okay, I came into this meal armed with a little more information from last time, namely: It takes me a long time to chop things up, and I need to plan ahead for what I’m going to do with all of the things I chop up. (Answer: use that big ol’ pot again and dump everything into it.)

But there’s an added wrinkle with this one, and it’s something that’s disturbed me all 37 years of my life: RAW CHICKEN. (More on that later.)

Okay here we go.

Step 1:


I’m not going to say I went in cocky with this step, but I feel like I knew a little bit more about how to chop up these veggies. I still just have the one huge chopping knife (one of my friends told me it was actually a big bread knife, I guess?) and I also have a couple of sharp steak knives.

So I was feeling pretty good about chopping the peppers and onions. But how does one “peel and mince” garlic and ginger? I had no idea. But, thanks to some insider information last time  from a friend who also has Blue Apron – she said you can recycle the packaging by going to the Blue Apron website and printing out a form. With that intel, I deduced that maybe the www.blueapron.com/recipes/909 page that references this recipe would help me out with some extra stuff. And it did… only partially. They’ve got a video there that explains how to peel and mince ginger, but not garlic.

Here’s my chopping station. I grabbed another plastic cutting board so I had a little more surface area. I put that big pot in the sink and dumped my chopped items in that.

I kind of just chopped the whole garlic thing in half, which was surprisingly difficult. The recipe calls for 3 cloves of garlic. It was only thanks to the ingredients picture that I learned cloves are what come in the whole (bloom? blossom?) thingy of garlic. Otherwise I’d think “clove” was the unit of garlic (a whole clump?) that I received. Anyway, chopping the garlic in half was not the way to go. I wound up picking the cloves out and peeling the top part off. It was work for tiny fingers, not big meat hooks like I have.

I dumped all of the chopped veggies with the exception of the ginger into my big ol’ pot because I don’t have little fancy glass dishes, like I talked about last time. 

(I learned that Blue Apron sells these things to you on their website. They must’ve heard clueless non-cookers like me complain about it and saw an imminent cash grab.)

Stay with me on step 1, here. It’s the longest part. Coming up next: RAW CHICKEN.

Oh god, do I hate raw chicken. I hate it so much. Maybe it’s because of some conversations I had with my dad as a kid? However it came to be, I hear the word “salmonella” and the first things I think of are raw chicken and turtles (thanks, microbiology class at Santa Fe Community College [Seriously, if you rescue a turtle from the side of the road, you should sure as hell wash your goddamn hands or you could wind up in an observation room with a bunch of doctors scratching their heads until Dr. House comes in and figures it all out.]).

So, this part of Step 1 told me I have to pat this raw chicken dry with paper towels and chop it into bite-sized portions. What they don’t tell you is that you have to get the damn thing out of the packaging which I tugged at for a bit, to no avail. I eventually had to use my own knife to chop it open and slide out these slimy pieces of chicken onto my plastic cutting board.

I patted them dry with a metric fuckton of paper towels. Then I had to hold the chicken on the cutting board with one hand and saw at it with my huge bread knife thingy until I’ve got it chopped into pieces and then I put it into a cereal bowl. (I was making gross-out noises the whole time.)

At this point, I washed my hands like 10 times, and used 5 of those Lysol wipes on my counter. I’m not a super clean person, but as I said I just don’t want to be the basis for a bad TV medical drama.

Whew, that was the bulk of it. On to step 2!

Step 2:




The coconut rice was straight forward. I trudged onward and mixed the stuff and put it in a pot, this was before I started in with the gross raw chicken. It said cook the rice for 14 minutes, which I did, but it was really crunchy and all the water had gone. I put more water in and cooked it on a higher heat for like 5 minutes and it turned out okay at the end.

Step 3:


I have those black measuring spoon things, so I figured out how much 2 teaspoons of olive oil was that way. It says to cook the olive oil until hot. How do I know when it’s hot? Steam? I just left it in there for like a minute or so and figured that was good. It says to cook the chicken for 4 to 6 minutes- I cooked it for like 10 minutes and kept breaking the bite sized chunks open to make sure they weren’t pink on the inside. (Again with the salmonella nightmares. I don’t care if the chicken was overcooked or a little dry.) They were decently brown so I figured I was okay.

(Sidenote: I somehow don’t have pepper in the apartment. I just have salt. So every place it’s been saying to put salt and pepper on, I’m just salting.)

Step 4:


I dumped all the veggies in like it says. I set a timer for 2 minutes because I don’t really know how “soft and fragrant” should be measured. Just give me the minutes I need to set on my timer.

Step 5 and 6:



Easy peasy. Just do exactly what it says. They say to cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until “liquid is slightly reduced in volume”. That’s fine. 2 minutes.

Okay, so here’s my meal:

I didn’t have a big fancy looking bowl to put the stuff in. I think it looks okay on a plate, though.
Compare to their meal:

I don’t know, food photographers- I think my blue plate looks better than your lame brown bowl.
What’s great about this: Blue Apron gives you these ingredients that I would never in a million years buy for myself and they give you a good amount of confidence in working with them. I hate cutting raw chicken, but at least I know how to fry it up with a little olive oil. I also now know what people do with garlic cloves and ginger.

What’s not so great about this: Still, the biggest downside appears to be packaging. A friend of mine said that it’s cool that Blue Apron saves you the trouble of wandering around the aisles with this recipe trying to find ingredients you’d never buy. That’s super stressful. I agree, but I think now that I’m armed with this recipe card I can find this stuff with reasonable ease. Maybe not ponzu sauce. What aisle is that on?

How it tasted: It was tastier than the gnocchi I made last time. The ponzu and chili sauce were great and the peppers and scallions added a lot of flavor. It was good. It made my house smell good according to my friend who came over right after.

Blue Apron Gnocchi as told by a guy who doesn’t know how to cook.

Blue Apron- Brown Butter Gnocchi with Summer Squash, Almonds, & Soft-Boiled Eggs.

I’m not a guy who cooks much at all. I’m not a guy who owns much in the way of cooking implements, either. I’ve got one big sharp knife I use for everything- it slices my bagels, it cuts up whatever vegetables I actually wind up cutting (I mostly buy frozen stuff). I’ve got a couple of medium sized pots, one big pot, a couple of frying pans, a colander (I had to look up how to spell that. Strainer? Drainer?)

So I signed up for Blue Apron. I don’t like eating out all the time and the limited number of things I cook needs to be expanded. But I’ve never cooked seriously before, and I have no idea where to start. This seemed like a reasonable thing to do.

Anyway, the box came today, Saturday. The thing is huge. It’s heavier than you’d think. There’s enough stuff for three meals inside, but even considering that I didn’t expect it to be so heavy. I opened it up, and the first thing I said (my friend was there for moral support and audience) was: “Wow, that’s a lot of packaging.” 

Huge box. Bike in there for scale.
I should’ve taken a pic of the box with all the stuff in there. A bunch of things are now randomly floating around in my fridge in these very specifically made cardboard containers. 

Why is the thing so heavy? There are little cardboard holders for just two eggs. Little paper sacks that contain “knick knacks” for each meal. In the paper sacks are tiny plastic bags with stuff like the exact right amount of parmesan cheese for the Gnocchi and a little plastic ramekin with the exact right amount of butter that you’re supposed to brown. It comes with two huge reusable ice packs. (I play roller derby so these are actually going to come in handy.) On the packaging it says it’s made from recycled and recyclable material, but how many people are actually going to recycle this stuff? 

Okay, so I started cooking it. Here I go, following the directions:

Step 1 and 2-


As a guy who really doesn’t chop things, ever, I couldn’t do step 1 and 2 at the same time and be okay on time. If I were to do this again, I’d chop the things ahead of time because I’m slow at it. Also, what does “medium dice” mean? I cut the squash up, but they weren’t perfect cubes or anything. It didn’t seem to matter at the end.  Roughly chopping almonds was both harder and easier than I imagined. Little pieces got everywhere on my tiny plastic cutting board, but my big dumb knife was able to actually chop through the things.

Here are my chopped items. Well, some of them. I didn’t have a little bowl for the almonds so I threw them into a plastic container I had from Chinese food takeout. 

Actually, after cutting the squash – the first thing I chopped up- I realized I didn’t have anything to put chopped stuff in. You go over to someone’s house and they have all of these little glass bowls and things in their cupboards, right? I’d always think, “What the hell are all these little dishes for? Why would you need something other than just plates and bowls?” Turns out little glass bowls are good for putting chopped up things in.

All my bowls were in the dishwasher, and besides I didn’t have any regular bowls big enough to hold all the chopped up squash, so I had to throw it into my big pot. It’s like a big chili cooking pot. I rested it on the dish dryer because I have no counter space.

Meanwhile, my two eggs were cooking. I got them out at the appropriate time, used that colander I mentioned before to hold the eggs while I ran cold water over them, and then carried on with cooking the rest of the meal while the eggs just sat there. I eventually moved them out of the colander when I needed to use it for the gnocchi. (More on the eggs later.)

Anyway, the rest of step one and two was pretty easy. On to step 3. 

Step 3 –


Browning butter. I don’t think I have ever purposefully done this in my life. I think I did it right this time? I was iffy on the whole thing. They said be careful not to burn the butter, so I definitely didn’t do that, but I think when I was eating it, it tasted way too slick and buttery.

Step 4-


This was straight-forward. Add squash and almonds. Squeeze the lemons in. Okay, that’s easy enough. Stir for a couple of minutes, sure. I got that. I like that Blue Apron gives you the time and some other cues like “until the almonds are fragrant”. That cue is great, but how do I know what a fragrant almond is? I just relied on the time.

Step 5 –


The gnocchi(s) weren’t (wasn’t?) floating at the end of 3 minutes, so I left them in there until they started floating. Thanks for telling me about the floating thing, Blue Apron. I’ve never boiled gnocchi before so I had no idea what I was doing. When I got around to eating the meal they seemed doughy, but not awful I guess.

Step 6-


So the combining of things was actually pretty easy with the exception of (and here we have to go back to step 1) peeling soft boiled eggs. Guess what, it’s not easy. I mean, you can get the shell off if you want to, but I found that big chunks of the egg whites were coming off with it. My egg came out all misshapen.

Here’s the end result of my meal:

I’m surprised a stray dog hair didn’t wind up on my dish. They’re everywhere. Thanks, Zobie.

It doesn’t look so bad, but go ahead and compare it to their pic:

Professional food photographers earn their living.

The whole thing tasted okay. The gnocchi was kinda doughy, but I guess that’s how it’s supposed to be. And it was pretty damn buttery. I’m a guy who likes to eat buttery food and I feel like this was a little over the top for me. I think maybe I should’ve added some oregano, also. It needed some type of extra seasoning. 

What’s good about it: I think the convenience lies in the fact that all the stuff is portioned out for you and you don’t have to make a decision as to what to cook that week. Also the easy to follow steps are written so that a person like me who’s never cooked that much at all before can follow it.

What they don’t tell you: you might need more than one knife. You’ll need a big cutting board and things to hold the chopped up food in. Also, you’ll have a bunch of random things in your fridge. There’s a ton of random packets with names of the other meals in there. I had to also put some left overs in the fridge and find ways to do things that I never do, like store small amounts of chopped parsley. And don’t forget: a HUGE box. Seriously, if people freak out about k-cups, this is going to quickly get out of hand. 

This meal was okay. I’ll see if the other ones are any good.