Chef Laura: A very Brady dinner solution

“Here’s a story, of a lovely lady.

Who was bringing up two very lovely girls”

After watching every Brady Bunch rerun in my youth, I assumed that someday I would have my very own “Alice”.  I’d come home from my job as an architect, and there’d be a beautifully cooked dinner awaiting my family.  “Far out, Alice!” I’d beam at my dutiful housekeeper.

But I’ve checked every room in my house and Ann B. Davis is nowhere to be found.

As busy professionals, the most dreaded three words asked of you at day’s end are, “What’s for dinner?”  It’s even worse when you’re a chef.  Imagine you spent the last eight hours crunching numbers on an Excel spreadsheet.  Then upon entering your home, your kids plead “Daddy! Daddy!  Make us pivot tables!”

Although I’m not a restaurant chef anymore, my work revolves around food.  And when I think about preparing dinner for my kids in the evening, I feel like Fred the Baker being told to make the donuts. “I made the donuts.”

My family was in a dinner rut.  We were caught in a Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs weather pattern whose forecast read: Mac ‘n’ Cheese Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Spaghetti Wednesdays, Smorgasbord Thursdays, and Pizza Fridays.  If I was feeling whimsical, we might have pancakes for dinner which my daughters thought was so delightfully scandalous.

But what if a modern-day Alice does exist?  Someone who does all the menu planning, grocery shopping, and measuring.  Then they’d print out an easy-to-follow pictorial recipe, and deliver all of this to your house once a week.  Your contribution is a little elbow grease: some slicing and dicing, a quick sauté or boil, and presto!  A homemade, delicious, and healthy meal is ready before you can say “Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!”

This modern day Alice is called Blue Apron.  Like a present from an OCD Food Fairy, each week a box of carefully portioned, labeled and packaged ingredients is delivered to your doorstep. At an affordable $9.99 per person per meal and zero Sam-the-Butcher-boyfriend drama, I gave it a whirl.

What I initially thought was going to be “Mommy’s little secret” turned into the pilot episode of the Kids Can Cook show in my kitchen.  With the user-friendly recipes and corresponding photos, I knew this was more than a dinner solution; this was a teaching moment.

My mini sous chefs prepped items in their age-appropriate wheelhouse.  The older one peeled a carrot with a vegetable peeler, the younger one peeled fresh ginger with a spoon (the best tool for this task regardless of your age).  Chef Mommy handled the “dangerous” duties. 

Thirty minutes later, we feasted on a healthy and satisfying Shrimp Quinoa “Fried Rice”.  They gobbled up their creation as we discussed the difference between sweet hoisin sauce and spicy Sambal Oelek. On the menu for tomorrow night is Chicken & Black Bean Enchiladas with Tomatillos and Cilantro. 

A meal kit from Blue Apron may not take your dog Tiger for a walk or find a lost Kitty Carryall doll, but I have a hunch that mealtime’s gotten a whole lot groovier for the Newman Bunch.