I am a Blue Apron customer, the meal service that sends prepackaged, premeasured ingredients along with step-by-step recipe cards. Ups and Downs of A Yoga Mom kindly gifted me a free box almost a year ago and since that time, pretty much every Thursday I receive a box which means I can happily eliminate any thought from dinner two nights that week. In addition, I save the recipe cards from meals that my two culinary unadventurous kids loved or dinners I thought were really easy. Many aren’t.
Now, I am not sure if I need to credit my son or myself but one of us got the crazy idea around 4:30 last night that what a great idea it would be to recreate a Blue Apron meal for dinner. I think I told the kids they could have spaghetti and meatballs but that would make it the fourth night in a row we had some form of pasta, including one of the meals in the last Blue Apron box. But the kids insisted on meatballs, because, meatballs.
One of the Blue Apron cards I kept was this recipe for Soy-Ginger Pork Meatballs which comes with rice, so I thought perfect. Plus it contains a very manageable list of ingredients and the directions are straightforward. What could go wrong?
I surveyed the pantry and discovered other than the rice, I pretty much had nothing so off to the store we went.
Here lies problem number one: herding the cats, I mean kids, out the door at 5 PM. There was pushing, there was shoving, there was screaming. I think there may have been pulled hair. And that was just getting in the car. In addition to the whining from the back seat, I had to deal with rush hour traffic and keeping the car straight through driving rain and 60 mph winds.
The whining didn’t stop once we got into Whole Foods, the closest store that had everything I needed. A sampling of fight topics included who got to hold the list, who got to push the cart, who got to walk first, who got to take products off the shelf and into the cart. Our Whole Foods is in the process of relocating and God I hope the new store has a wine bar.
Because they are moving, this means half the shelves were bare and I was fortunate the store had everything I needed because I would have been really angry if I had to trek another 10 minutes down the road to get to Mariano’s. However, this meant I didn’t have the usual choice. Take for example sesame oil. The recipe calls for 2 tablespoons but the smallest and only bottle I could find was 10 ounces.
Similarly, I needed scallions but only two. Instead, they were priced by the bunch and each had about 10. What am I going to do with 8 leftover scallions over the next few days before they wilt and go bad? The pieces of ginger was huge but at least those were priced by weight so I just snapped off a small piece.
Here is the receipt. I spent a little shy of $40 but there were a couple of items not relating to dinner so I ended up spending $31 on ingredients. That’s right, $10 for sesame oil! Maybe I should pour a glass and sip it like wine.
Speaking of wine, I could have used a glass or two after that disaster of an errand. There is a recommended wine pairing on the card and for this recipe it is a red wine blend. Although I totally love the ability to buy wine in the grocery store here in Illinois, I left it off the list. I didn’t really have any wine left in the house and pretty much the only alcohol lying around was a couple of leftover bottles from the six pack of Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald porter my stepfather got when he was visiting for New Years. Porter is not my thing at all but desperate times call for desperate measures. I am pretty sure the chefs at Blue Apron would not pair soy and ginger with dark chocolate and coffee flavors in the beer but that pairing worked just fine for a frazzled mom who was way behind on dinner.
I unpacked the bag, sat the kids in front of the TV and got to work which there was quite a bit of. One of the beautiful things about Blue Apron is everything is premeasured. So without a scale, trying to figure out if I had 6 ounces of snow peas was a challenge. I grabbed a handful and it was just going to have to be enough. And let’s talk about ginger for a second. Trying to peel ginger is a major pain. I ended up with a piece about a quarter of the size of the one I bought. Pulling the chewy string off each snow pea takes time because you have to go one by one.
I went into the pantry to grab the rice and breadcrumbs. I usually keep breadcrumbs around and as a bonus, I buy panko which was what the recipe called for. I looked and looked but no breadcrumbs of any kind were to be found. Oops. What I did have was a fresh loaf of oatmeal bread so I thought, hey, I can toast it up a slice and crumble it up. As I discovered it’s pretty much the worst kind of bread to make breadcrumbs out because oatmeal retains so much moisture. Also it was fresh, which is usually an asset, except when you want to make breadcrumbs.
While the bread cooled I tried to get some chopping done. Once the snow peas were de-stringed I needed to julienne them. I thought I could save time by stacking a few before slicing them. I looked down, why is part of the cutting board red? A shot of pain through my finger a second later answered that question. Luckily I just nicked my finger with the knife so a small band aid was able to take care of it but still it was just one more thing to go wrong.
By the time all of this happened it was past 6:30 and I hadn’t started rolling out the meatballs yet. My son started loitering around the counter, started the “I’m hungry” chant and wondered when dinner would be done. By 7, maybe? And that time estimate factored in a couple of shortcuts I made to the directions. Originally I was supposed to cook the meatballs in one pan, take them out and use that same pan to make the fried rice, then put the meatballs back to coat with the sauce. In the end, I put the damn things in the oven and just threw some soy sauce on them as I took them out. There’s your sauce. The veggies stayed separate from the rice for simplicity as well. If the kids wanted to mix the veggies into the rice, they could do it themselves.
Here is how my version came out. Not horrible but it looks nothing like the recipe card with cloth napkins, matching placemats and a serving platter that only Sandra Lee could have inspired. As for me, it was a weeknight so I served off the stove, used paper napkins and the kids’s stained plastic United States placemats. Tablescapes be damned.
Remember my question about what I was going to do with 8 leftover scallions? I know one thing, I won’t be using them for another batch of Soy-Ginger Pork Meatballs. Not anytime soon. Besides, I have another Blue Apron box coming later today.
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