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Cooking for One

Brought to you by Blue Apron
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I live alone in the sense that each night, I'm making dinner for just myself. (I have a roommate, who is never home, but who wouldn't affect my single-dinner status even if he was). When it's only you, it's a lot easier to justify a quick meal than it is to cook after a long day. It's 8 p.m., and you could either have a bowl of cereal, order takeout, or haul yourself to the grocery store, shop for ingredients, and cook a dish solo? Well, the first two options win. 

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As someone who has been historically unskilled in the kitchen, cooking for myself is as intimidating a process as it is impractical. There's a universe of recipes out there—often I don't know where to begin. Just selecting a recipe feels daunting and limitless.

After a few months of pretty pathetic dinners that were leaving me unsatisfied and a little depressed with my health and habits, I emailed my best friend (a nutrition convert who taught me the snack of brown rice cakes with peanut butter), for advice. She's someone who, like me, used to resort to cereal or scrambled eggs for dinner, but started cooking after developing an interest in healthy eating. I asked her to tell me her favorite simple, easy dinners and it was what she said about Blue Apron in her response that made me finally sign up (after months of thinking I should, but procrastinating). 

I actually pulled up her email and copy-and-pasted her exact words below:

Dinner is the bane of my existence. But I've done Blue Apron for 2 weeks now and IMHO* it's the bomb. Takes away the dreaded weekly dinner shopping. Like I went to Whole Foods on Sunday for staples and was like YESSSS we have Blue Apron 3 nights this week so I don't have to think about ANYTHING! Makes it so easy. The 5 meals I've cooked so far have been easy, HEALTHY, and actually delicious. So if you're down to have leftovers since the recipes are for two people, DO IT!." 

*(in my humble opinion)

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I literally signed up for Blue Apron that night. Anyone who follows me on Snapchat knows that I became obsessed with the service from my very first order. Here is a bulleted list of the reasons I love it:

#1. It takes all the stress, and half the work, out of cooking by giving you both the recipe and the ingredients.  All guesswork is gone, so you don't have to wonder if a random recipe is at your experience level or takes longer than it says it will. Blue Apron recipes are designed to take 30 -40 minutes to cook, and are all doable and user-friendly. The two most tedious aspects of cooking are deciding what to cook and securing the ingredients (cooking itself should be the fun part), so the fact that these two steps are taken care of and quality-tested, make the process of cooking a dream. 

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#2. You cook things you would never otherwise cook, and aren't responsible for the creativity. The bottom line is that too many options can leave you paralyzed and resorting to the same-old stuff. Trying to come up with a meal from scratch, from the unconfined world of infinite options, used to give me anxiety on a daily basis. I'd just default to boring basics like spaghetti—at best. With Blue Apron, you choose from a small set of incredible options that are better than what you'd decide to cook for yourself. One week, for example, I was offered either chicken schnitzel, udon noodles with cod, preserved lemon grilled cheese, or potato pizza. I can tell you that on an average Tuesday night sans Blue Apron, I'm not thinking to cook crispy cod with udon noodles. 

#3. On that note, their method of sending the exact proportions of  various exotic spices and sauces is genius. The time it saves you grocery shopping is one thing (see point #1, above), but Blue Apron also mitigates the issue of needing to buy specialty ingredients for specific meals that you might never use again or will sit around for months. On the rare times I've had a flash of creativity and decided to try a more unique than usual recipe, it's been frustrating to have to spend $30 on ingredients just for that one dish. Mustard powder, rice vinegar, buttermilk, peanut oil, etc. Glad I bought you all for that one dinner.

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#4. LEFTOVERS. Yes, Blue Apron is portioned for two people, but I simply save the second portion for lunch the next day. Emily and I have lamented how cooking for one often entails casserole dishes or meals that leave you leftovers of the same thing for the entire week. Many times you don't want to eat the same thing over and over again because then you get food fatigue (hi, Shira). I love that this gives you one extra meal, but not five, or seven—or something you might get sick of and feel guilty about wasting.

#5. You feel like a professional chef. I always swore I could barely toast a piece of bread, but Blue Apron leaves you proud and in awe of the things you create. When you're a former neophyte in the kitchen and find yourself making seared pork buns with Za'atar-spiced fennel without help, you truly feel ready to make anything.

These days, my Blue Apron ritual has me confident in the kitchen, and feeling like a real grown-up. The nights I have it, I look forward to pouring myself a glass of wine or cracking opening a beer, and playing a new album all the way through while I cook, and eat - for one. 

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I'm a true Blue Apron convert now, but if you're still on the fence, the first 100 readers to sign up here get two meals for free.

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