Exploring Blue Apron dinner service – Delectable!!


Photo courtesy of Blue Apron

Photo courtesy of Blue Apron

I am focused on streamlining grocery shopping, prepping, and cooking dinner during the week, so I decided to try Blue Apron, a food delivery service that offers you tasty and healthy dinner options.  Here is how it works: you join Blue Apron and view the menus; they send all the food and instructions to you on a day that you have designated; arrives in a well-packed refrigerated box; you unpack, follow instructions, and prepare dinner – couldn’t be simpler and the meal tastes like you were eating in a top-notch restaurant.   And it only costs $9.99 per meal (if I order dinner-to-go at a local chain restaurant it usually runs around $25 and just tastes okay.)

Last night the menu was: Pan-Seared Chicken Thighs with Roasted Baby Zebra Eggplants & Fennel Salad This recipe was created by Chef Michael Anthony, owner and executive chef of Gramercy Tavern in NYC (a restaurant I just happened to have dined at around 5 years ago while on a trip to Manhattan).  Dinner consisted of chicken thighs (my favorite part of the chicken) placed on top of mashed baby zebra eggplants that I had roasted in the oven with a smidge of olive oil and salt/pepper and a salad of diced tomatoes and fennel.  For starters I don’t eat fennel, as I don’t like it.  Wait…I haven’t actually ever tasted fennel, so I thought I would be brave and make the recipe as it was supposed to be made.  Glad I did, as I really enjoyed the fennel and tomato combo – who knew?

Here’s the good part:  someone else has gone and sourced all the FRESH ingredients and put them into baggies and portioned everything out – then they shipped it to me in a refrigerated box so everything stays chilled until I get home at the end of the day.  Basically I did a bit of chopping (tomatoes, fennel), scored the eggplants and roasted them for 20 minutes, pan seared the chicken thighs, and made a simple glaze to top it all off.

One word to describe dinner:  Delectable!  (also known as heavenly and exquisite).  I know I already said it was healthy, but also need to mention it was only 525 calories – which fits well with my 1200 calorie daily intake.

I was so caught up in the fragrant smells of the crispy chicken, fennel, and eggplant that I forgot to take a photo – so am posting the one from Blue Apron (mine of course looked just like it!).

If anyone wants the recipe to this luscious dinner, send me a comment and I will post.

Next week I am trying PLATED – similar concept but different menus.

That’s All.








Mex-Itali Prosciutto and Guacamole Crostini

Prosciutto and Guacamole Crostinii

Here’s a quick and flavorful canape perfect for a cocktail party, or something savory for when it’s Girls Night Out at your house.  Try this little gem. Serve it alongside a platter of Kalamata olives with cheese and crackers – it completes the flavor cycle.

♥♥♥ HERE’S WHY I LIKE IT: crunch from both the baguette and water chestnut; creaminess of the cheese; rich, and tangy guacamole, and of course the satiny texture of the thinly cut prosciutto.    Three different flavors, and three different textures, all in one bite-sized appetizer!

Prosciutto and Guacamole Crostini


1 french bread baguette
6 thin slices of Italian Prosciutto
1 can sliced water chestnuts
1/2 cup goat cheese
Fresh guacamole (founds in deli section)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Preheat Oven to 400 Degrees

1. Slice baguette into thin slices and place on baking sheet that you have covered with a thin layer of EVOO.  Lay down all the slices and mush them around the olive oil.  Flip them over and put in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.

2. Remove baking sheet from oven, turn over the slices and let cool about 5 minutes.  Spread a half-teaspoon of goat cheese on each slice; top with prosciutto (the prosciutto is very thin so you can easily tear off a bit the size of the crostini); add one slice of water chestnut on top and drizzle olive oil on all the canapes.  Put back into 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes more, until edges start to brown, the cheese is melting, and the prosciutto starts to curl up a bit on the edges.

3.  Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.  Transfer to a serving plate and add a dollop of guacamole on the water chestnut.  Sprinkle some kosher salt on top and chopped chives.  If you are not fond of guacamole you can substitute it with pesto.

NOTE:  I usually make my own guacamole because I like it chunky and I can add exactly what I like (tomatoes, onion, garlic, bacon, etc).  But since I wanted the guacamole to be smooth, I just used store-bought – there are sooooo many really tasty freshly made guacamole in the deli section these days I can’t resist.

Prosciutto and Guac Crostini


Makes: 30 crostini

Creamy Zucchini and Asparagus Soup served with Parmesan Cheese Crisps

Creamy zucchini soup with Parmesan Crisps

Fall has definitely arrived – although we were treated to sunny days this weekend, you could definitely feel the chill in the air.  So Soup Season is here.  I love homemade soups and this one is simple to make and ready to eat in under an hour.    I use an immersion blender to finish this soup as I like small bits of the vegetables still in tact, and an immersion blender offers you more control on how smooth, or how chunky you want your soup, as opposed to a food processor. Me, I like it aa smidge chunky!


3 large zucchini (with skins)

1 bunch of thin asparagus

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 Tbl unsalted butter

1 Tbl dry sherry

1 cup chopped white onion

5 garlic cloves, chopped finely

2 large dashes of Kosher salt

1 dash of fresh ground pepper

2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (for Parma Crisps)


Cheese Crisps:



1. Top a cookie sheet with a Silpat sheet liner.  Drop spoonfuls (use a tablespoon) on to the liner into little mounds, then press them flat.  Bake in 400 degree oven between 5 and 8 minutes (depending upon your oven).  Once cooked remove from liner and serve with the soup.   I make these while the soup is simmering.  1/2 cup grated cheese makes 9 to 12 crisps.


1. In heavy saucepan melt butter, and add the chopped onion and garlic.  Stir till onion is translucent.

2. Wash vegetables and pat dry. Quick chop the zucchini into small chunks and add to pot.  Cut off bottom of asparagus stocks (the woody section), and then rough chop the asparagus and add to pot.  Cook for about 5 minutes till the veggies get some brown on them, stirring the entire time.


3. Once veggies are brown, add the chicken broth and bring the soup to a boil, then turn down heat. cover the pot, and simmer for about 20 minutes.

4. Vegetables should be soft but still keep their green color.  Test the vegetables by pressing them against the side of the pan with a wooden spoon.  The vegetables are cooked when they smash against the side but still hold their shape.

5. Take the soup off the stove and using an immersion blender, blend all ingredients till it starts to thicken.  I like the immersion blender over a food processor as the clean-up is much easier and I don’t make a big mess on my side counter, as I do when I use the food processor.

6. Just before serving add the sherry, mix well and pour into soup bowls.  Add a bit of heavy cream to top, and affix one parmesan crisp in center and serve a couple on the side.

Serves:  8 people (one cup per serving)

Creamy zucchini soup with parmesan crisps

Carb Count:  10 carbs

Calorie Count:  265 calories

Parmesan Crisps:  0 carbs  / 24 calories each crisp

Low Carb Parmesan Chicken

Lo Carb Chicken with Parmesan

This is an adaption of Best Foods “Parmesan Crusted Chicken” .  I deleted the bread crumbs because I want this recipe to be low carb, and added chives and roasted garlic to kick up the flavor a notch. I roasted the garlic in olive oil on Sunday, so I can use in multiple recipes this week – roasted garlic seems milder to me yet far more flavorful.  This recipe took 5 minutes to prepare and 25 minutes to cook.  Dinner in 30 minutes and I caught up on my emails while it baked – nice!


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/2 cup Best Foods mayonnaise

1/3 cup Pecorino Parmesan fresh grated cheese

3 Tbl fresh chives, chopped

8 roasted garlic cloves



  • Pat dry chicken breasts and slice each breast in half.  Line a baking pan with tin foil and place the four breasts in pan.
  • Mix mayo, cheese, chives and garlic.  Divide into 4 and then spread on the breasts.
  • Bake for 25 minutes in 425 degree oven.  Chicken should have a lovely, bubbly crust on top.

Serves:  4 portions

Low carb Parmesan Chicken

Carb Count:  3 carbs each breast

Calorie Count: 345 calories

Taco Salad the Lo-Carb Way

Lo Carb Taco Salad

Am back on a Lo-Carb diet for the next few weeks but can’t bear to eat the same food every day (roasted chicken, steak, burgers, etc.)   So last night I made Taco Salad, which took less than 15 minutes to prep and cook – then brought left-overs for lunch today in a portable bento box.

No, you won’t find a deep-fried taco shell or even tortilla chips hidden somewhere underneath, as they would take the carb count way beyond what I use in a day (which is 25 carbs or less).

This recipe is very simple and quick to prepare; has an abundance of flavor, and I found I didn’t really miss having a taco shell after all.


1 pound ground round
1/2 raw onion, chopped
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
Dash of Kosher salt
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
2 Tbl salsa (I used Rojo’s Fresh Cut Mild)
2 medium tomatoes
1 head of iceberg lettuce – cut into wedges, and then pulled apart
1 small avocado, cut into 4 wedges, then chopped into chunks
1/2 cup shredded Mexican Cheese
3 Tbl sour cream


  • Use a non-stick fry pan, add ground round, onion, chili powder, cumin, tabasco sauce, salt and fry till hamburger and onions until cooked. Then add salsa and stir till blended. Remove from heat.
  • Assemble in layers: Set out 4 plates and divide everything into 4 starting with lettuce, cooked hamburger, chopped avocado, chopped tomato, cheese, sour cream in that order.  Throw a few tomato chunks on top of sour cream so it’s pretty!

Done and Yum!

Serves: 4 people

Carb Count: 8 carbs per serving

Calorie Count:  436 calories per serving

French Glace Strawberry Tarts

Strawberry Tart

I like to make a French Glace Strawberry Pie to kick-off summer and then again just when it’s ending, right around Labor Day.  I made the first one mid-June and decided to switch out my batch of strawberries intended for jam this weekend, to making strawberry tarts instead.  Pie crusts can sometimes be hit or miss – sometimes they turn out great and other times they are dry and crumbly – this frustrates a lot of bakers, myself included.

Strawberry Tarts

Sunday morning I began the day checking out food blogs looking for a new recipe for pie crusts and I lucked out when I turned to the Joy of Baking blog, where Stephanie Jaworski has a really great video (Sweet Pastry Crust Video) that gives you step-by-step instructions on making a fool-proof pie crust, which I used for my strawberry tarts.

I know I have made a few strawberry recipes recently, so no more for a while (maybe in December right around the holidays – I have a dynamite Pavlova recipe that needs a little strawberry on the side).


Carefully press pastry dough into each tart pan – be sure to go up along the sides of pan





sssssSo why is the recipe called “Glace” – it just means there is a layer ofhe traditional recipe.ss


Cover each tart with plastic wrap – I stack them on top of each other after adding the plastic wrap – put in freezer for 15 minutes





IMG_3594Pie tarts are done when they are dry, firm to the touch, and lightly browned along the top edges










Tart Crust:

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten

1.5 cups flour

1/8 tsp salt

Strawberry Filling and Glace:

4 cups hulled strawberries

1/2 cup sugar

4 ounces Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese

1/4 cup water

2 Tbl cornstarch


4 ounces bittersweet chocolate

1/2 cup heavy cream


1. Crust – Using the pie dough attachment, add butter and the sugar to your mixer and beat till smooth and creamy. Slightly beat the egg and then add to mixer.  Blend, although it will no longer be creamy, but have some lumps.  Add flour and salt and blend.  Place dough on plastic wrap, smooth it out into a circle, wrap edges around it and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Take the chilled pie dough and cut into 6 pieces.  Lightly butter and flour your tartlet pans, or use non-stick spray (I used butter/flour).  Place the dough in pan and gently press it up the sides and into all the fluted ridges and on bottom of pan.  This dough is very pliable and it’s easy to do this.  Place all the pans on a cookie sheet and place in the oven for 5 minutes at 400 degrees.  Then turn it down to 350 for another 30 minutes.  Tarts are ready when the pie crust is dry, set, and starting to brown along the top edges.

2. Glaze:  Wash and hull the strawberries and set aside 2 cups of them.  Using the remaining 2 cups add them to a bowl and mash them with potato masher till they are chunky and smashed.  Using a food mill, press the strawberries through the mill so they are smooth and a sauce-like consistency.  Add enough water to get 1.5  cups of sauce.  Add to a pot and set on stove on medium high heat.  Add 3/4 cup sugar and stir till the sugar is melted and well blended with the strawberries.  Place the cornstarch in a small bowl and add a bit of the hot strawberry mixture and stir together – then add this back into the strawberry mix.  Keep the heat on medium high and stir the mixture for about 10 minutes until it comes to a boil and starts to thicken. Remove from heat and put in refrigerator till chilled (about 30 minutes).

food mill

3. Ganache –  While the strawberry sauce is chilling take the chocolate and cut into small chunks and add to a bowl.  Heat the heavy cream in a microwave for about 2 minutes and then pour the hot liquid over the chocolate and stir well – you now have Ganache – set aside to cool on the kitchen counter for about 15 minutes.   Then refrigerate for 20 minutes.

4. The tarts should now be cooked and ready to set on cooling racks – these need to be totally cool before you add the filling.

5. Once the tart shells are cool, spread the softened cream cheese on each tart.

6. Add strawberries to the tarts using a one large berry in the center (stem down) and then fill in the rest of the tart with quartered strawberries.

7. Take the cooled sauce and gently spoon it over the strawberries in the tarts till there is glaze over all the berries.

8. Refrigerate the tarts for about 2 hours before adding the Ganache over the top using a fork and flinging the ganache in a back-and-forth motion to get strings of chocolate on the tarts.

French Glace Strawberry Tarts

Servies: 6 tarts

Crispy Hash Browns

Crispy hash brown potatoes

Hash browns are simple to make, but sometimes they are nice and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and other times not so much.   If you always want your hash browns crispy like those you get at your favorite pancake house, or the local diner, then you need to prep therm just like they do, and remove the moisture from your potatoes before you start to fry them.  It’s as simple as that – no mystery, just an extra step you may or may not be used to doing.


3 large russet potatoes

Olive Oil

1 tsp butter

Dash of Kosher salt

Sprinkle of paprika

1/4 cup sour cream

Parsley, chopped


1. Peel and shred uncooked potatoes using a box grater.  As you grate a potato, add it to a bowl filled with cold water.  Once all three potatoes are shredded, pour them into a 2nd bowl using a strainer to remove the “brown water” – this is the moisture and starch from your potato.  I do this process twice.

2. Place strained potatoes into a clean bowl that you have lined with paper towels.  Add another paper towel on top and gently press as much remaining moisture out.


Shredded potatoes soaking in cold water


Water that was strained out of the potatoes – I do this process twice


Line a clean bowl with paper towels, toss in shredded potatoes and lay a paper towel on top

3. Remove the paper towels, add the paprika, salt, and onion/garlic powders to the potatoes.


Circles of hash browns cooking

4. Using a non-stick pan add some olive oil and 1 tsp of butter on high.  Once melted drop the shredded potatoes into circles in the pan and brown for about 4 minutes.   Turn the heat down to medium and turn over the hash browns to brown the other side.  Each side will take about 4 minutes.

5. Plate the crispy hash browns, add a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle chopped parsley on top.


Crispy hash browns ready to eat!

Serves: 4 people (2 hash brown circles each)

Labor Day Treat: Strawberry Shortcake with Raspberry Coulis

Strawberry shortcake

Just in time for a Labor Day BBQ or picnic with friends, Strawberry Shortcake!  I picked up oodles of strawberries on the weekend and made this dessert and will be making jam this weekend too.  I love strawberries, and use them throughout the year, but in summer they almost become a staple, same as eating tomatoes on a daily basis.

I have made shortcakes from scratch on many occasions – this was not one of them.  Instead I turned to Bisquick and honestly I have to say the texture and flavor is sooooo close to “scratch” that I tend to defer to Bisquick as it is so much quicker!  Also, I prefer individual shortcakes as opposed to making one large shortcake, which is what I grew up with.   Why? Cuz when I make the really large one for 8 or 10 people, it looks terrible after you cut the first slice.   The individual ones look amazing from start to finish.


12 ounces of strawberries

Bisquick – prepare individual shortcakes as directed on the box

1.5 cups heavy cream for whipping

4 oz package of raspberries

2 Tbl confectioners sugar

2 egg yolks

1 Tbl granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup sugar (for Simple Syrup)


1. Using Bisquick make shortcakes per the recipe according directions on the box.

2. Whip the heavy cream till it starts to come together and add 1 Tbl granulated sugar and the vanilla extract.  Whip till firm and set aside in the refrigerator. You will now have 3 cups of whipped cream.

3.  In a double-boiler add the 2 yolks and 2 Tbl confectioners sugar – mix till smooth and fluffy.  You can’t do it directly on the stove or you will have scrambled eggs within 30 seconds.  It takes about 3 minutes to do this, but really worth it.   When done, remove from double boiler and set aside – don’t refrigerate but you want it to cool down.

4. Rinse and hull strawberries and cut into halves and quarters depending on size of berry.  Clean the raspberries at the same time. Note that I don’t sugar the strawberries.  When you do, the berries start to break down and become soft  within an hour and I feel there is enough sugar in the coulis and whip cream to compensate.

5. Make a Rich Simple Syrup: In high sided pan add 1/2 cup sugar with 1/2 cup cold water over medium high heat until the sugar is completely dissolved – this takes about 5 minutes.   Do not let it bubble and boil or it will carmelize.

6. Using a food processor, add the raspberries and pulse till mushy.  Now add the Simple Syrup and pulse till it’s pureed.  Take this mixture and put it through a food mill, or mash through a fine mesh sieve till you get a satiny sauce.  Pour into a plastic squeeze bottle (you can get these at any craft store – they cost about a dollar).

7. Take the whip cream and gently fold in the egg/sugar combo you made in the double boiler in Step #3.

8. Ready for plating –  squeeze some Raspberry Coulis onto the plate – be creative with your squiggle, as there is no way to mess this up.  Add bottom of shortcake on top of the coulis – add generous spoonfuls of whipped cream. Now layer on your strawberries as you much as you want.  Add the top shortcake and sprinkle with a little confectioners sugar on top.   Then drizzle on a little more of the coulis on top of shortcake and whip cream.  Eat!

Strawberry shortcake 3

Nothing like being “up close and personal” with a few strawberries!

Serves: 6

Comfort Food: Sauteed mushrooms in vermouth over crusty french bread toast


I needed some comfort food on Monday night but was not in the mood to get too involved in cooking anything that took longer than … what, a few TV commercials?  I fell back on my reliable go-to instant comfort food, Mushrooms on Toast.  This is a pretty simple recipe, but still works its magic when needed.   I try to mix up the variety of mushrooms in the recipe and I happened to have left over shiitake, button and baby bellos used in a mushroom tart on the weekend, so they became the mushrooms of choice. If I were being ambitious I would serve this with a small green salad and Green Goddess Dressing.


4 cups fresh mushrooms: white, baby bello, and shiitake

4 Tbl butter

2 Tbl flour

1 Tbl olive oil

Pinch of Salt

4 slices sourdough french bread

Splash of dry vermouth

1/2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce

1/4 cup sour cream

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 Tbl chopped parsley

Juice of 1/2 small lemon

1/8 tsp each of celery salt and onion powder

1 clove garlic – cut in half

3 Tbl slivered chives (chop on diagonal)


1. Clean and wipe dry the mushrooms.  Cut off end (but not the whole stem) and slice the mushrooms.

2. Add olive oil and 2 Tbl butter to pan, add mushrooms, and brown on high heat for 2 minutes and then turn down to medium and cook till they have a nice brown edge to them.  Add healthy splash of dry vermouth (about 2 or 3 Tbls) and let the alcohol cook down for about a minute.  Remove mushrooms to a plate and cover to keep warm.

3. Cut medium thick slices of french bread and put under broiler – toast both sides.  When done, run the cut piece of garlic clove over each slice.

4. Add 2 Tbl of butter to pan and then 2 Tbl of flour to make a roux.  Blend and then slowly add the heavy cream (turn down the heat to Medium), stirring constantly.  Add 1/8 tsp of celery salt, and 1/8 tsp of onion powder, mix and bring to a boil.

5. Immediately turn down heat to low and add the sour cream, parsley, lemon juice, and Worcestershire Sauce. Using a whisk, mix till smooth and lump-free.

6. Place two pieces of toast on plate, spoon some of the sauce over the toast and then place 1/2 of the mushroom mixture on top.   Drizzle a small teaspoonful of the sauce over the mushrooms and top with slivered chives.

Mushrooms on Toast with Vermouth Sauce

Serves: 2

The Little Mermaid brings everything to a close!


The Little Mermaid statue displayed on a rock by the waterside in Copenhagen

Our last port of call was Copenhagen.  I found Copenhagen to be very similar to Seattle – beautiful waterways, lots of colorful boats in the canals, numerous outdoor bistros right on the edge of the water, and lots of very friendly locals out and about enjoying a cool summer day.  It was lovely!  We took a short tour to see the Amalienborg Palace Square, the winter residence of the Danish royal family, that forms a spacious octagonal square surrounded by four identical rococo palaces occupied by the Queen, and each of her sons.  It’s quite impressive! (more…)

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