Mrs. Carla Monti

Mrs. Carla Monti

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Blue Apron: Part 1

Ever since I went back to work after maternity leave, it has been tricky trying to find my groove in terms of food shopping and making dinner during the week. My mom and my mother-in-law watch our daughter during the week, and we've fallen into the very easy habit of eating dinner at their respective houses during the week. Although easy, and incredibly kind of both moms to cook dinner the days that they also watch the baby, it was not fair on them, and quite frankly, I think Mike and I both missed spending any sort of real time at home.

So after weeks (and weeks) of trying to get into a habit of weekly grocery shopping and making dinner at home (and failing), my husband came up with a great idea: Blue Apron.

The concept is simple, $60 per week, and you receive three meals (in ingredient form) right to your door. This is very convenient for several reasons. I LOVE to cook, but I do not enjoy trying to figure out what to make, and then figuring out when I will go grocery shopping. Since I struggle mostly with being creative and figuring out what to make (Pinterest never helps!), the idea that someone has ALREADY figured it out, and sent me all the ingredients necessary (even if one of those ingredients is a tablespoon of butter!) is wonderful. For a busy mom like me, this is a dream.

I've read several Blue Apron reviews on other food bloggers, and a common complaint is the cost. My husband and I are used to very high quality food, whether we're talking about fish, meat, or fresh produce, so the idea of paying $60 for three meals for two, which can be broken down to about $10 per person, is absolutely normal. We eat out once a week, and typically go to nice, high-end restaurants where we know the food and wine is of high quality, so this price does work for us.

The recipes come in gorgeous, color-printed cards that I am keeping all together in a binder for future recipe. Easy step-by-step instructions (with further, more detailed instructional videos available on their website if needed) provide ease of mind for those unfamiliar with uncomfortable with food prep or cooking, in general (though not our case).

Another issue many people have with the service is the portion size. I eat like a bird, but my husband, the red-blooded Italian, is used to making four side dishes to accompany two proteins when cooking dinner for just the two of us. Accordingly, he is capable of ordering several appetizers to accompany his one (sometimes two!) entrees when we dine out. So, having said all that, I did have a slight panic attack when I opened the first Blue Apron box and discovered a 10 oz packet of ground beef for a meatball stew. I wouldn't buy less than 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef if I were to make meatballs for the two of us! However, this recipe proved me wrong. Perhaps because it was a stew, but this dish made enough for our dinner (including Mike's second and third helpings) as well as my lunch for work the next day.

Not all meals are the same ... the next night, we had half a roasted chicken served over collard greens. The collard greens cooked down to a laughably tiny portion, better suited for one person only. The half chicken, since it was not a breast, had very little meat, and was absolutely not enough for even one person. I steamed a bag of frozen corn to accompany the meal, because without it, the platter seemed tiny! This recipe was not my favorite, although I was impressed with my cooking of the chicken - this was the one step that made me nervous all week, as I typically only cook chicken breasts. I was terrified of undercooking the meat, but it came out great, with a nice crust from browning the skin in a skillet first.

That's another benefit that I've found by using this service. It pushes (forces me, actually) to make dishes that I never would otherwise. I would never have roasted half a chicken, or made kimchi (this is an upcoming receipt from the box we just received last night). I love that pretty much anything can come in the boxes (the only item I checked to NOT receive was lamb), and I will have to make it. It makes it fun for me, to have the decision-making process removed.

And now for the good part ... the finished products!

First Night - Salmon Bucatini

Second Night - Italian Meatball Soup

Third Night - Spice Roasted Chicken With Collard Greens

Friday, August 7, 2015

Chicken Bacon Ranch Paninis!

I love watching the Food Network and the Cooking Channel, especially since I am home all day with my newborn baby girl. My favorite chefs to watch are Giada and the Barefoot Contessa. I love how Giada makes everything with perfectly (smaller) sized portions, while I enjoy the elegance and finesse of how the Contessa makes her dishes.

One chef that I am not typically a fan of is the Pioneer Woman (Ree). I find that she cooks with way too much fat, and the whole 'far out on the farm' premise isn't really appealing to me.

Having said all that .... I found myself watching an episode of her show the other day and fell in lust with these simple panini she made. I vowed to dust off my parents old panini press and try them out. They came out incredible!

Recipe link: Paninis!

The recipe calls for chicken breasts sliced in half, but I took this step out by purchasing thinly sliced chicken breasts at my local supermarket. I seasoned them simply with salt and pepper and cooked them in a pan with plenty of butter.

Next, I crisped up half a pound of bacon in the microwave. I love this method for cooking bacon, as it is easy and the bacon always comes out super crispy! I lay down two paper towels on a large glass plate, then 4-5 bacon strips, then two more paper towels, and cook on high for 4 minutes. That's all it takes for super crispy, delicious bacon!

Finally, it is time to assemble the sandwiches. The other players here are a nice thickly sliced loaf of bread (I went with a garlicky Tuscan loaf, but ciabatta or crusty French bread would work well), slices of sharp cheddar cheese, ranch dressing, and butter.

The first step is to put ranch dressing on each slice of bread, and then place a chicken breast on top.

Next: add the bacon!

Cheese it up:

And finally, butter the remaining sides of the bread (both sides!) so that they get a nice crispy, toasted texture from the panini press.

Last step: press and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Pulled Pork Sandwiches!

I've been a fan of pulled pork sandwiches ever since I tried my first one five years ago at a house party in New Jersey. The hostess had used her slow cooker to make the pulled pork, and the tenderness of the meat. combined with the juicy flavor, was something I've always wanted to re-create.

I found a simple recipe online. I bought a 3 3/4 lb pork shoulder, bone in, and prepared a simple spice rub for the meat. The spice rub consisted of garlic powder, salt, pepper, cayenne, cumin, and paprika. Once the meat was seasoned, I placed it into the slow cooker, and covered it with two bottles of root beer. I set it on the low setting for 6 hours. After it had cooked all the way through, I took the meat out onto a cutting board and shredded it, removing the large chunks of fat that remained. I drained and cleaned the slow cooker pot. Once the meat was shredded, I put it back in the pot, and added half a bottle of barbecue sauce. I put it back on the low setting for one hour, and then prepared the sandwiches. Delicious!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Asparagus: A Love Affair (Part Two)

Last night, I put those remaining asparagus stalks to good use and turned them into a soup. First I sauteed a small yellow onion, roughly chopped, three cloves of garlic, and 1 tsp of finely minced thyme leaves in olive oil. Then I added the diced asparagus (into 1/2 inch chunks) and let it heat up for 5-10 minutes. Next, I added a combination of chicken stock and water, and let it simmer for 30 minutes. I added salt and pepper, and used an immersion blender to puree it in the pot. Final touches included a squeeze of lemon, and a cookie-dough-sized scoop of sour cream with a few sprinkled of grated Gruyere cheese for garnish.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Asparagus: A Love Affair (Part One)

Why have I not noticed up until now how lovely asparagus is as a vegetable? A tray of gorgeous asparagus caught my eye in the grocery store yesterday, and I decided to search for a recipe that would suit my impulse purchase. I settled on these gorgeous roasted mushroom and asparagus tarts using puff pastry sheets from Bon Appetit!

My modifications:

  • I cut off the asparagus spears, and put the stalks away in the fridge to use for soup later on (most likely tonight).
  • I could not find creme fraiche anywhere, so I substituted half sour cream and half plain, non-flavoured yoghurt. 
  • I used shiitake mushrooms, and roasted them for ten minutes in hot butter. The smell and nutty, buttery, meaty taste that came off of these was incredible!
  • Puff pastry sheets are super easy to use! I thawed them for 40 minutes on my countertop, and then they were so easy to roll out and cut for the tarts.
  • This recipe is very versatile and open to changes. Besides the veggies and cream, I added in grated Gruyere cheese, lemon zest, fresh thyme (chopped very finely), salt and pepper. Simple, but elegant and delicious!

Stay tuned for Part Two: Asparagus Soup!

Recipe Link:

Mini Vanilla Bundt Cakes With Chocolate-Amaretto Glaze!

At some point over the last three years, I purchased this adorable mini Bundt cake pan.


I've used it a grand total of once before this past weekend. To make (of all things) cheesy spinache quiche mini Bundts. Why? No idea.

Last weekend, I FINALLY put it to good use, and made mini vanilla Bundt cakes, and topped them with a chocolate Amaretto glaze.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Asian Marinated Salmon!

Last night I was in the mood for something flavorful and a little different. I looked up an Asian marinade for meat and decided to use it on salmon. I loved the freshness of the ginger and garlic, paired with the syrupy goodness of the honey, sesame oil, and soy sauce. I toasted some sesame seeds to top the salmon with, and roasted diced zucchini and yellow squash to accompany the fish and white rice. Delicious!