Cooking lessons in a box.

Cooking lessons in a box.

The kids and I have been watching MasterChef Junior (thanks to your comments on this post) and the show is spilling over into our real life in the best possible way. My kids want to cook. And not just cookies and cakes and popcorn: they want to make dinner.

After we’d been watching the show for a week, Sarah asked me to sign her up for cooking lessons. (I offered to teach her; she said no way.) I loved the idea, but I didn’t want to do lessons: they’re expensive, for one, and if one kid goes then all four will want to, and that’s really expensive, and then somebody would have to drive them … )

I found a middle ground and ordered her cooking lessons in a box. Sarah adores Kiwi Crate and Green Kids Crafts, and I realized that a ready-to-cook meal service is pretty much the same thing: a self-contained kit you get to put together yourself.

After we’d been watching MasterChef Junior for a week, Sarah asked me to sign her up for cooking lessons. (I offered to teach her; she said NO WAY.) I loved the idea, but I didn’t want to do lessons: they’re expensive, for one, and if one kid goes then all four will want to, and that’s really expensive, and then somebody would have to drive them … )  I found a middle ground and ordered her cooking lessons in a box...

I ordered a family plan from Blue Apron, a ready-to-cook meal service that makes it easy to cook dinner at home. They deliver farm-fresh ingredients right to your doorstep, in exactly the right proportions, and provide detailed step-by-step recipes so even novice cooks can make dinner from scratch, all by themselves.

That’s exactly what Sarah wanted to do, even though she’s quite a few years younger than Blue Apron’s target market, who uses the service as an alternative to takeout, or as a means to minimize decision fatigue: she wanted to cook dinner from scratch, all by herself. Emphasis on all by herself. I’m allowed to hang out in the kitchen when she’s cooking but I am not allowed to help unless something’s on fire.

After we’d been watching MasterChef Junior for a week, Sarah asked me to sign her up for cooking lessons. (I offered to teach her; she said NO WAY.) I loved the idea, but I didn’t want to do lessons: they’re expensive, for one, and if one kid goes then all four will want to, and that’s really expensive, and then somebody would have to drive them … )  I found a middle ground and ordered her cooking lessons in a box...

Blue Apron sounded like it had a lot in common with the handful of cooking classes I’ve taken in my life: a set menu, simplified prep, pre-portioned ingredients, step-by-step instructions. I thought Sarah would be set up for success in the best possible way. And compared to cooking classes, which start at $50 a person around here, Blue Apron is a deal. The family plan costs $8.74 per serving, or just under $35 per four-serving meal, but instead of a class for one and a tiny tasting portion we get dinner for six and an enthusiastic junior chef. (Stay tuned for info on how to get free meals.)

I didn’t tell Sarah about our Blue Apron delivery until the day it was scheduled to arrive. I described it as “like Kiwi Crate, but for dinner,” and told her she could cook for us that night, all by herself. She was over the moon—and she made me promise not to help. I agreed.

After we’d been watching MasterChef Junior for a week, Sarah asked me to sign her up for cooking lessons. (I offered to teach her; she said NO WAY.) I loved the idea, but I didn’t want to do lessons: they’re expensive, for one, and if one kid goes then all four will want to, and that’s really expensive, and then somebody would have to drive them … )  I found a middle ground and ordered her cooking lessons in a box...

Our family plan box contained all the ingredients needed to make two meals, of four adult servings each. (That plan also works for a family like ours: there are six of us, but the younger kids eat smaller portions. Blue Apron also offers a two-person plan.) Our dishes were the Andouille Sausage and Chicken Jambalaya with Barley and Bell Pepper and Chinese BBQ Beef Skewers with Garlic Gai Lan and Jasmine Rice, and they came with step-by-step, full color instructions. You can view many more Blue Apron recipes here. (No account required; they’re free and available to all.)

Blue Apron ships the ingredients in a refrigerated box, so everything stays fresh even if you’re not at home when the package arrives. Everything was individually portioned and labeled, right down to the tiny bottle of Tabasco sauce that made us all go awww; the meat was vacuum-packed to stay fresh longer. Every single item we needed was included, except for salt, pepper, and olive oil.

After we’d been watching MasterChef Junior for a week, Sarah asked me to sign her up for cooking lessons. (I offered to teach her; she said NO WAY.) I loved the idea, but I didn’t want to do lessons: they’re expensive, for one, and if one kid goes then all four will want to, and that’s really expensive, and then somebody would have to drive them … )  I found a middle ground and ordered her cooking lessons in a box...

Sarah was able to make both recipes independently; she drafted her siblings to play along. The step-by-step instructions—and especially, the photos—gave her a huge confidence boost. They also helped her learn how to time an entire meal, not just one individual dish. (I was recruited to monitor the skewers—only once they were in the oven—so they didn’t burn while Sarah was making the gai lan. (I’d never tried it before either: it’s also called Chinese broccoli and it tastes similar to broccoli rabe. Like most leafy greens, Will and I loved it and the kids didn’t.)

This was a great experience for Sarah. She was so proud of herself for making an entire meal for the six of us, without parental help. She learned new techniques: she minced ginger, and browned vegetables, and threaded meat on skewers. She learned how to taste her food and adjust the seasonings. (The day after she made the jambalaya, she realized she’d forgotten the onion. She’ll never forget that again.) Sarah could recreate both recipes again with no problems.

(It was only after Sarah cooked her way through the box that I found out where the name “Blue Apron” comes from: because chefs around the world wear blue aprons when learning to cook, it’s become a symbol of lifelong learning in the kitchen. Blue Apron designs their menus to ensure you’re always learning new cooking techniques, trying new cuisines, and using unique ingredients.)

After we’d been watching MasterChef Junior for a week, Sarah asked me to sign her up for cooking lessons. (I offered to teach her; she said NO WAY.) I loved the idea, but I didn’t want to do lessons: they’re expensive, for one, and if one kid goes then all four will want to, and that’s really expensive, and then somebody would have to drive them … )  I found a middle ground and ordered her cooking lessons in a box...

The kids loved both recipes (minus the leafy greens, sigh). The jambalaya made enough for a dinner party; our family of six had plenty left over for lunch the next day. We demolished the skewers in one sitting. That may be because we were starving. Blue Apron says their meals can be prepared in 40 minutes or less, but if your cook is a grade-schooler, double the time estimate.

I think this would be a great starting point for any new cook (not just one who’s in grade school) and a solid stepping stone to further kitchen pursuits. I can also see this being a fantastic housewarming or new baby gift.

After we’d been watching MasterChef Junior for a week, Sarah asked me to sign her up for cooking lessons. (I offered to teach her; she said NO WAY.) I loved the idea, but I didn’t want to do lessons: they’re expensive, for one, and if one kid goes then all four will want to, and that’s really expensive, and then somebody would have to drive them … )  I found a middle ground and ordered her cooking lessons in a box...

Sarah’s dinners were a smashing success, and now she’s begging me to cook every day. (Mom, you go read your book. I’ll make dinner. I’m not even kidding.)

Sarah’s asking for another Blue Apron box for her birthday (she’s likely to get it; don’t tell). In the meantime, we’re choosing recipes off the Blue Apron site that we can make together: I’ll purchase and portion her ingredients, but she gets to do all the cooking herself. (Roasted poblano chilaquiles and chicken schnitzel are at the top of our list.)

After we’d been watching MasterChef Junior for a week, Sarah asked me to sign her up for cooking lessons. (I offered to teach her; she said NO WAY.) I loved the idea, but I didn’t want to do lessons: they’re expensive, for one, and if one kid goes then all four will want to, and that’s really expensive, and then somebody would have to drive them … )  I found a middle ground and ordered her cooking lessons in a box...

If you want to try the service, here’s your chance: the first 100 readers will get 2 meals off their Blue Apron order free. Just click here to get started.

Thanks to Blue Apron for sponsoring this post. 

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39 comments

  1. Nolo says:

    That looks like a great service! Unfortunately, when I tried to sign up it said that they don’t deliver to my less populated part of the country. I wonder if it would be worth mentioning in the post that the service delivers across the country but not everywhere in the country?

    Enjoy your home-cooked meals!

  2. Ana says:

    What a great idea! I forgot how old your daughter is—I’m wondering how many years I have to wait before I can get my kids to cook dinner for us (I mean…enjoy the educational activity of learning to cook)

      • Ana says:

        ooh, younger than I thought. its amazing how much little kids can do. I think I don’t give mine enough credit. I need to step up the responsibility.

        • liz n. says:

          I started teaching my kids how to cook when they reached the age of three. They can start with simple tasks, such as washing vegetables, stirring ingredients in a bowl, and basically anything that doesn’t require knives or being near the stove top. By age eight or nine, they were all cooking away like it was nothing. (And part of teaching them how to cook includes teaching them how to clean up!) 😉

  3. Katie Taylor says:

    My sons, 13 and 11, love to cook! Sadly, we’re in the 20% of the country where the service isn’t available (yet). Fingers crossed for the future, and thanks for the great post!

  4. Kimberly says:

    This is awesome. I just signed up. My kids LOVE the idea of cooking dinner for the family, but they get overwhelmed (understandably) with the process of doing it. I’m looking forward to letting them do this.

      • Kimberly says:

        We got our first box on Thursday. My daughter (10) cooked us dinner tonight. I was permitted to stir, flip things in oil (no one likes to be popped!), and take things out of the oven…she’s not my adventurous one. She is excited to cook again on Sunday night. Thanks for this great idea. I might even try to dust off my ol’ blog to share her adventures in cooking from a different kind of box. 🙂 (This isn’t my mom’s boxed meals!). I wish I had learned to cook this way.

  5. MelissaJoy says:

    Great thinking to extend this to your budding adolescent cook!

    My sister-in-law uses Blue Apron and, as a newlywed, she and her husband have found that this service takes a lot of pressure off many aspects of planning, prep and budgeting giving space to other important building blocks in their relationship.

  6. Kathleen says:

    What a smart idea. I’ve seen a whole bunch of blog posts about Blue Apron in recent months but this is the first one that offers up the idea of using it to help kids learn how to cook. Brilliant. I don’t think I could justify the expense in our family if I was doing the cooking but the occasional box for one of my kids to learn how to cook sounds more reasonable. I also like the idea of starting with a box, then using the free on-line recipes and doing the ingredient prep yourself, with your child doing the actual cooking. My oldest isn’t quite ready for this yet but I could see him getting there soon. 🙂

    • Anne says:

      “I don’t think I could justify the expense in our family if I was doing the cooking but the occasional box for one of my kids to learn how to cook sounds more reasonable.”

      Yep, I totally get this. (Although I can see how it might be a pretty amazing deal depending on where you live (say, NYC) and what your other options are.)

  7. Kristin says:

    That’s a dream come true–your child begging to cook! We have a Kids Cook Night every Sunday, it’s my way of preparing them for Real Life, but honestly, it’s a struggle, no one is begging me to cook.

  8. Dorothy K. says:

    Yay! I signed up for the 2-person service and can hardly wait! I clicked on the recipes for next week and they sound delicious. You must stop helping me spend my $$. Thanks for the recommendation, though. I’ll submit a comment after I’ve made our first meal.

  9. Nancy says:

    So disappointed…they don’t deliver to my area. Even tried to sign up my niece who lives in a metro area and they don’t go there either. So, I’m on the waiting list to be notified when my area makes the cut. Looks like a fun service.

  10. April C says:

    I’m ordering this for my 11 year old. She loves all things cooking/baking and I love having someone else do the cooking!

  11. Jean says:

    Blue Apron also helps introduce new foods in an interesting way, so I’ve shared some delicious dinners. HOWEVER, and this is a big one for me, the individual packaging in hugely NON-RECYCLABLE and there is a lot of packaging waste. So using the recipes and finding your ingredients at your local market is a good idea!

  12. Alison S. says:

    I love this idea for when my kids are a little older. Maybe they will deliver in my area by that time. (I’m in Nebraska.) 🙂

  13. Liz K. says:

    Congratulations, Sarah! Your meals look good enough to be displayed in a magazine spread! Anne, I’m so happy to hear MasterChef Jr. encouraged your kids to cook so much! Mine love to cook, too, so last year I ordered Raddish boxes for Easter presents. It’s a really fun kid-centric learning box. They send an email with an ingredient list a couple days before the box arrives so if you’re with it (unlike me!) you can have all the ingredients in the house when the box arrives and the kids can make it that night. We haven’t made all the recipes yet (we got 2 six-month subscriptions) but some of the recipes are in our regular rotation already (taco night!). They also have lots of resources for homeschooling families.

  14. Laura says:

    They don’t deliver here 🙁 but it’s exactly the kind of thing my daughter needs. She loves making food and Never wants my help!

  15. Lauren B says:

    We got one of these when my daughter was about a month old (with a coupon) and it was so amazing at that time to not shop or plan, and enjoy a delicious, creative meal. I’ve already told my husband that we’ll be setting some money aside during my next pregnancy for this!

  16. Cindy says:

    I ordered this for my young adult son after reading about it here. He’s in another part of the country so he sent pictures – looks fabulous! He got the box yesterday and cooked his first meal with it tonight – loved it! He wasn’t much interested in cooking growing up but started picking up interest a couple years ago. This seems like a great way to learn new ways cook things – plus try things you haven’t had before.

    Thanks for the idea!

  17. Deborah says:

    I don’t want to be the only naysayer on this service, so I will try to just add helpful tips for people who do want to use this. I am definitely NOT a chef, but when I saw your post, I thought “If Sarah can do it, so can I” and signed right up. A tip…Be aware, it is REALLY expensive! $70 for two meals for my family is a lot for us! I would not sign up if you are a picky eater. I recommend you look at the menu online so you know exactly what is coming to you each week and utilize the “Skip a Week” feature if you don’t like the order. I failed to do this and got two dinners we won’t ever eat. You have to know for sure you will be able to eat this food within two days of receiving it! It is fresh, fresh, fresh. The meat is not frozen at all and all the herbs and extras are fresh and wilt quickly. And finally, it is a little difficult to figure out where to cancel. You actually have to send an email and then respond to a link they send you. I wish they would actually send you a blue apron with your first box. And I like the recipe cards but I also wish you got a binder to put them in if you were going to continue the service.
    It is a great idea, just not at all right for my family. I hope it works for others though!

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