My Experience with Blue Apron

Note: I am posting photos of the recipes in the order that we cooked them. The comments before or after the photos do not apply to the dish pictured.

I really love cooking, although I don’t stay home to cook my meals as often as I’d like. I tend to cook the same recipes but I am finding more and more success with new ones that I find online.

West African Peanut Chicken

I also really really love grocery shopping. Walking through a supermarket’s aisles or a farmer’s market really gets me going. It’s like shelves upon shelves of possible ways I could reach my maximum domestic bliss potential. (My favorite things to buy, of all time, are school/office supplies, food, and cleaning supplies. I will shop for those things over clothes every day.) It’s not difficult for me to spend a long time in a grocery store, filling up my basket or cart with loads of goodies that I could potentially cook.

Orange & Mirin-Glazed Cod

This love of cooking and grocery shopping is not universal. Take my partner, for example. He never fell in love with the supermarket the way I did. (I think our trips to the store are amusing because I am a weirdo but, ultimately, a bit draining for him.) I have a coworker who similarly hates going to get groceries, and she is a Blue Apron customer.

Beef Tacos & Radish Salsa

I’ve always rolled my eyes at the idea of Blue Apron. I love grocery shopping, why would you charge money to take that joy away from me? But I started to empathize more with the fact that Ben really doesn’t get as excited at the store as I do, and he also prefers following recipes in front of him because he isn’t that comfortable in the kitchen with more complicated recipes yet.

Crispy Barramundi

So we decided to try it.

TL;DR I think the concept is fine (although not for me, personally), Blue Apron’s execution fell a bit short for me and we will not be ordering any more kits from them, even if we decide to try more meal delivery kits in the future.

Our biggest issues with the recipes were:

BAD RECIPE INSTRUCTIONS – Several times, I had to veer away from the recipes because I knew that following them exactly would wreck the food. For example, they’d list cooking times that needed to be halved at the least, or the order of adding things to a pot/pan was off… And speaking of the instructions…

Cumin-Crusted Pork

S & P – Blue Apron has a big problem with telling you to salt and pepper your food in the recipes. In one of the recipes, I counted they asked you to do this almost 10 times. 3 of those were for a single step in the recipe. “Salt and pepper before putting it in the pan. Then add salt and pepper while it is cooking. After taking it out of the pan, salt and pepper it to taste.” That is a whole lotta salt & pepper, folks! Given that several of these recipes were already very heavy in sodium and/or were very salty without adding more salt (+ pepper), definitely do not S + P every time Blue Apron tells you to, your mouth will punish you.

Seared Chicken & Pan Sauce

VALUE – These just did not seem like a great deal for what we were paying for them. The prep work was needlessly cumbersome for a few of them (for example, why have us crush our own almonds and peanuts?), especially for folks who do not want to do a lot of prep work. And the quality of the ingredients was good, but, again, I wasn’t sure about the value of the kits.

Seared Chicken & Pearl Couscous

INGREDIENTS – We had one specific instance where a dish featured a specific fish and leeks, and we only chose that box because we wanted to try cooking leek. Lo and behold, the box arrived with a note that said after working with farmers, they decided to give us yellow onion instead of leek. What?! Yellow onion is not a leek at all, and we should have been notified before the box arrived with the option of getting a different box if the primary ingredient we wanted to get from this recipe was unavailable at the price Blue Apron wanted it from the suppliers. Or they should have just shelled out more for the leeks because I know they were in season. Leek and onion are not comparable vegetables and this was supremely disappointing for us because we specifically wanted to cook leek.

Lamb, Beef, & Mushroom Stew

TASTE – Honestly, most of these recipes tasted very mediocre. (Even when I held back on the salt & pepper, which would not have improved the taste.) This was a combination of the recipes forcing me to overcook things, but also had to do with them skimping on the seasonings and condiments in the boxes in favor of you salting the bejeezus out of the food.

Udon Noodle Soup

HEALTH – For all of this, we had this idea that Blue Apron boxes would be a bit health conscious but in fact, some of these meals were super unhealthy. We had one that was veggies, rice, and chicken breast in a peanut sauce and we checked the nutrition facts to see astounding numbers for saturated fats and sodium which must have all come from this crazy tablespoon of full-fat peanut butter that came with the recipe. Most of the meals had super high sodium levels, many of them had very high amounts of sugar and fat, and one even had trans fats in it. With the bulk of the meals being lean meats and veggies, this usually boiled down to something like the one tablespoon of butter that became the base of the sauce for the recipe.

My favorite recipes from the few weeks we tried this out were:

Would I try another meal kit delivery service? Maybe, but we may only do so if it is a more health and nutrition-focused service. Eating this mediocre meals with crazy amounts of sugar and sodium and fats was probably the biggest issue we had here.

Will I try Blue Apron again? No. I may look to the (free and available to anyone online) recipes for inspiration on how to use ingredients, but it is not a good value for me and my family at this time.

Have you ever tried a meal kit delivery service? Which one and how did you like it? My friend recommended I try one called Home Chef, so maybe we’ll try that one out someday.

What are your favorite things to cook at home? While doing Blue Apron, I also loved doing ragù bolognese, but as the weather warms up, I’m foreseeing a lot more salads and stir-frying.

Also, let me know if you’d be interested in me posting more recipes and homecooking posts. I enjoyed taking the photos for these (worked REAL HARD to plate them for you all!) and I love cooking a lot, but I know my rambling recipe style is probably not that easy to follow…

Making Fitness a Habit (with ClassPass)

Back when I was setting my New Year’s Resolutions for the year, I really wanted to take my fitness resolutions more seriously, as they are pretty consistently the resolutions I take the least seriously and, as a result, see the least amount of progress on.

I set 3 concrete fitness resolutions and follow-up resolutions:

  1. Learn to lift + lift a certain weight once I did
  2. Run a mile without stopping + get that mile within a certain time
  3. Do a full split + both vertically and horizontally

We are almost halfway-through the year, so it is time for me to get to the point of looking at the follow-up resolutions and check in on my progress. While these resolutions have not been the primary focus of my short-term fitness goals, I have been doing really well with making fitness a regular weekly habit for myself since January and I really do have to thank ClassPass for it.

ClassPass is a monthly membership that gives you access to many, many boutique fitness studios and gyms in over 30 cities around the world. It’s great specifically if:

  • … you want to try out classes at a boutique studio or using the equipment at a gym but don’t want to commit to a membership fee without knowing if you like it
  • … you would rather go to many different studios and gyms throughout the month than commit to one kind of workout or one facility

In celebration of that “new year, new me” mentality, ClassPass was running a promotion in January: 50% off their usual $55 for 5 classes deal, which meant I got 5 classes a month for $27, with each class being just a little over $6, for 3 months. That’s an awesome deal, so I went for it, hoping that 3 months was enough time for me to form a habit.

Long story short, I think this was one of the better moves I’ve made with my time and money in a really long time. I’ve found studios and classes that I really love. With my ClassPass plan, I’m able to visit a studio 2 times within a month, so I’m able to switch it up while still visiting my favorite workout spots twice a month. It’s added something to my routine and I am seeing physical results. There are little baby pre-muscle bumps on my legs and my arms that weren’t there at the beginning of January, and I cannot tell you how exciting that is!

I won’t mince words: it was, and remains, really hard. I knew that the only time I could regularly commit to working out was in the morning before work, since my post-work schedule varies wildly but usually is filled with other activities. To give myself enough time to work out in the mornings meant I was choosing 7AM classes, which still kills me many mornings. The pain was also intense. I was going from being quite sedentary to working out 1-2 times a week (and up to 4 or 5 times a week some weeks), and that was extremely painful. I felt sore sore sore and the hardest class for me was my first session at a local kickboxing gym where I do high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Because it was so painful for me to just walk out of that gym, on top of the several days where I was so sore that it was difficult to bring food to my mouth, I have made that kickboxing gym one of the spots that I visit twice a month, every month. It’s one of my shortest workouts at 30 minutes and I love it loads.

One thing that has helped with the amount of soreness and reducing my recovery time from days to singular days is consuming protein powder. I know, I KNOW, I hardly recognize myself right now. But there are a lot of fitness and weight-lifting enthusiasts in my office, and I overheard one of them suggesting increasing another person’s protein intake upon hearing that the other person was taking a long time to recover from muscle soreness. I figured it wouldn’t hurt, and whaddya know, I am not feeling as sore for as long. (In fact, sometimes I am suspicious that I’m not working out hard enough because I am not feeling as sore as I did those first 4 weeks I started working out.)

On top of my 5 fitness classes a month, I am also trying to take advantage of the gym in my office building that is available to me free of charge! Especially during weeks that I only have one fitness class scheduled, I’ll try to make time to go to my building gym (again, at 7AM), and lift weights and then run on the treadmill. I’m going to be honest: I never have a real plan when I lift weights. This is a problem that I think may be remedied by me investing in a trainer, as was my original plan back in December, but right now I do essentially every exercise I know I can do with dumbbells and that takes me about 40 minutes. Then I run for about 20 minutes. I move up to heavier dumbbells when the ones I usually use are not on the rack. That is maybe not the best reason to increase weight but that’s what I do!

This is really uncharted territory here. I now own grippy socks and boxing handwraps, because my favorite classes are barre and kickboxing. (?!) I have a tub of protein powder in my pantry. I am increasingly finding myself in the unfamiliar dilemma of needing more workout clothes because I really don’t do laundry frequently enough to get by on how much I have currently.

And I like working out. That is maybe the most bizarre thing to me, but I look forward to my workouts. It’s a time when I am too busy trying to keep myself alive to worry about the myriad of other things I concern myself with usually. Exercise keeps me too physically busy to be anxious. It becomes an almost meditative experience, that I’m able to be so focused on physical activity that my mental activity has to take a backseat.

I’m not expecting to be swole (despite how much I joke about it). (It is maybe not funny how many times I now utter the word “swole” out loud.) I am still in that stage where I talk about my working out pretty often because I’m still in a state of shock that I’m doing it and I kind of need to vocalize it to confirm that it’s really happening. There are weeks where I don’t work out as much as I know I should and I’m still struggling with problem areas on my body that need more attention. I need to really get serious about weight-lifting if I want to set certain weight goals there to reach by December, and that will require me to do something different from just… all the dumbbell exercises I know. I also need to get more serious about running and flexibility.

But I think I like this new version of myself that is exercising and investing time and money and energy into my health. And I hope I like her enough to keep investing in her and making her better.

How do you stay in shape? The studios I have favorited are barre, kickboxing, and yoga. I am a creature of habit, which means I’m actually having a hard time trying out any new classes, so if you’re in the DC area and have specific studios to recommend or you just have a workout to recommend in general (I keep seeing Bodypump pop up!), let me know!

Do you like group fitness or doing your own thing at the gym more? I really love group fitness, because I think the peer pressure of a bunch of strangers really keeps me on track and helps push me a bit farther than if I were just working out on my own. I don’t like working out with friends very much because I know I’m not in shape and I fear judgement from people I know and care about. I am getting better about working on out my own at the gym, but my biggest source of anxiety there is just running into coworkers. This social pressure is all in my head, I know, and I am getting over it little by little as I get stronger, little by little. I also tend to not push myself quite as hard and, of course, not have a particularly good comprehensive workout plan when I am on my own.

This is not a sponsored post, by the way. I just wouldn’t be in the place I am in right now without having paid for a month of exercise upfront for 4 months, and I know that, and ClassPass has been really great for me and my needs specifically. I am including a referral link if you’re interested in trying it out for $30 off.

Women in Science (2016)

I am a woman.
I am in science.


But you don’t have to be either to appreciate the women who have contributed to our collective body of scientific knowledge! And in fact, it’s important to take time to appreciate them because their work has frequently been trivialized or overshadowed by their male colleagues. I am grateful that we are finally able to give at least some women the recognition for their work.


For example, I’m really thrilled about the new trailer for Hidden Figures (definitely watch this!), which focuses on the black women whose work allowed an American astronaut to complete an orbit around the Earth. Women in Science has a feature on Katherine Johnson (who will be portrayed by Academy nominee Taraji P. Henson) if you’re interested in her story in advance of seeing the film!


I also liked how informative the book was about science as a whole field. Not only does the author and illustrator talk about each woman and her role in shaping our knowledge of science, but she talks about science itself. You can look at a timeline of events…Read More »

Starr in Europe

Photographic evidence that I was physically in Europe! Every portrait of myself from the trip. (Don’t worry, it’s not as many as you might think.)

The Nation’s Capital of Fun!

Today, I went to Six Flags America because my boyfriend’s dad’s company had reserved the entire park for a family fun day for all employees. I think it’s nice for companies to spend money on nice things like that for their employees. Personally, even though I sometimes feel weird about companies spending their money on employees in crazy ways, I think that letting employees and their families have a fun day at Six Flags once a year is a nicer and better use of money than flying people around first class everywhere to stay in presidential suites and eat at really expensive restaurants.
That’s just me.

Anyway. Our group was me, my boyfriend, two of my closest friends, and my younger brother. I was actually pleasantly surprised that my brother agreed to come with us, because he said no thanks the first time I asked him a few weeks ago. I know that he just started college, so I figured him wanting to spend time with his new friends there combined with a very natural teenage aversion to spend time with his big sister who feels a compulsion to embarrass him as much as possible to make up for my parents not being able to.

Snickers ad on the side of a wooden roller coaster
Fun Snickers ad I saw when walking into the park

I had so much fun!

It was a really warm and beautifully sunny day today. We arrived at the park at about 11:00 AM, and we set off immediately for a roller coaster before the lines started getting too long. We rode Apocalypse, which is a stand-up roller coaster and does little things like blow fire and smoke near you. (Whoa there.) This was decently fun, but it did shake us around quite a bit. We thought this was the “headache coaster,” as my brother warned.

We were mistaken. The “headache coaster” is wooden roller coaster Roar. Wooden roller coasters tend to shake a lot, and Roar is no exception. I still have a bit of a headache from how much that ride thrashed me about in my seat. It was pretty painful. I will not be riding that again simply because I was really uncomfortable with how much my head hurt afterward.

After that rough experience, we took it easier with High Seas, which is your standard swinging ship ride. While it’s a great deal tamer than the roller coasters we had just experienced, it gave us just enough of a thrill, too. The moment of zero gravity you experience when you’re at the top of a rotation is pretty fun, but can be harrowing for more timid riders. (Like my friends, who I spotted clutching each other for dear life.)

Having settled down and calmed our heads, we went on The Mind Eraser, which loops around quite a lot but was not as jolting to my head as Roar was. We liked this roller coaster quite a bit, especially since it didn’t hurt us as much as Roar did…

We had some time, so we stopped to watch the Pirate Hunters show. I was very skeptical of the show that promised humor and stunts, but the show actually delivered really well. The jokes were REALLY funny. The risk that a lot of these shows take and fail with is being too campy or trying TOO hard. I think Pirate Hunters tried pretty hard, but they had a lot of really good jokes and were not afraid of laughing at themselves. They incorporated some popular culture references into the jokes, and while sometimes those seem really poorly executed, theirs were great. (“Yes, I started from the bottom. Now I’m here. Now the whole team’s here!”) Great job. I underestimated them. The stunts and physical humor were okay, but also better than I expected. (“Parkour!”)

Photo of myself with my friends and the cast of "Pirate Hunters"
From left to right: “Quartermaster”, “Chef Linguini”, Jen, Molly, “Captain Dante”, Me, “James”

We also did some bumper cars before heading off to lunch. (Although I was lapped a few times, I think I was able to bump into my friends more than they were able to bump into me or each other. That’s a win in my book!)

The company sponsoring Family Fun Day also had a great lunch spread ready for us. I ate a hot dog, a hamburger, potato salad, pasta salad, fruit salad, chips, and a cherry-flavored ice pop. And some delicious orange Hi-C to wash everything down on this hot hot day. Omnomnomnomnom.

We obviously didn’t want to go on any roller coasters after gorging ourselves at the lunch picnic, and it was really quite hot out, so we headed straight for Shipwreck FallsThis is the ride you go on if you want to be drenched. Avoid this ride if you do not wish to be soaked. This was maybe our first actual line that we encountered, since it was a hot day. We sat in the back, with all of us being a little worried about our shoes (which we were required to wear), socks, jeans, etc. Since we were sitting in the back, we got the FULL BRUNT of the splash of our little boat PLUS the splashing of water falling off the bridge above us.
Needless to say, I was soaked through and through. Since we were already as wet as we basically could get, we decided to stand on the bridge upon exiting, because the bridge is where you REALLY feel the entire wave of water that is splashed up. (I don’t think you have to ride the ride to go up the bridge, since it’s up by the exit, but mostly only people who are leaving the ride wait there and get WHOMPED ON by water.)

Soaking wet, we walked about to ride another water ride, since we were already as wet as we could get. We rode on Renegade Rapids, which is a significantly less wet ride and this park’s version of the rapids ride where you sit in a big circular raft and get bumped and splashed by rapids. We may have worried some people stepping off our raft, since we were still drenched from Shipwreck Falls.

Then we headed for The Joker’s Jinx. I have to say that my favorite roller coasters were in the Gotham City area of the park, because they didn’t jerk me around and were fast and fun. Joker’s Jinx loops and twists a lot, but was a good deal of fun and helped my hair dry! Score! XD Also, this coaster launches you out at the start rather than having you make a slow ascent, so you go from 0 to 60 mph in about 3 seconds. This startled the bejeezus out of my friends, who decided they did not want to ride Joker’s Jinx after all.

Then we went on Ride of Steel, the Superman ride. This is the tallest roller coaster in the park. It is the type of roller coaster that has a very high ascent and a very steep descent. Very fun but also very smooth, since it didn’t really thrill you by jerking you around corners and twists, although you weren’t completely upright the entire ride. There were bends and turns, but the ride felt very nice and smooth. I’m only sorry that my friends got a bit scared and wouldn’t ride this one with us either.

Our last ride of the day was Batwing, the Batman ride. The line was quite long here, as it was nearing the end of the day and I guess it’s a popular ride anyway. You sit down in your seat, but then the seat reclines until you’re horizontal, and you make your ascent with your back facing the peak of the ride. Then you are flipped around and you soar over the park, getting dangerously close to the ground with nothing between you and the grass but the air and your restraints. It’s a really fun ride.

All in all, I had a super duper amazing great time. I’m glad I got to spend time with my friends and my brother and my boyfriend, and I hope they all had as much fun as I did. 🙂

Leaving the Park