011817_customer-spotlight-fb-PaulaStallardGrowing up, Paula didn’t know how to cook. That all changed when she had kids. She wanted to give them something that she had never experienced herself when she was young – kitchen confidence. Her story teaches us that with a little help, a little patience, and a lot of fun, cooking can become a family affair. Paula’s story is the second installment in a new series of customer spotlights! Submit yours here

Q: Tell us a bit about your history with cooking. Was it something you did growing up?

Paula: I never cooked with my mom when I was little, but I would help her bake. Then, after I graduated from college, I worked in the travel industry and because I was traveling around so much, all I did was eat out. But when I had kids and stopped working in the travel industry, things changed–that’s when my dinner routine became a real struggle. My kids began to realize that all we ever ate for dinner was pasta. I made it my goal to change that and on top of that I wanted to teach them how to cook — something I never learned at their age. That’s when my good friend Julie introduced me to Blue Apron.

Q: How has including your kids in the kitchen transformed dinner at your home?

Paula: It’s a completely different dynamic now. My daughter sees me enjoy the process of cooking! I always ask her for help and she’s so excited to participate and help her mom out! She sees that kitchen confidence in me when we cook and it’s transferred onto her. That’s something I couldn’t have given her without Blue Apron’s help.

In fact, the highlight of cooking with Blue Apron last year was when we were cooking something and my daughter said to me: “Oh mom, you just leave the fond in the pan!” I didn’t even know what fond was until I started cooking with Blue Apron – and she’s only fourteen! I was grateful in that moment to the cooking gods.

Q: It sounds like you have a great routine with your daughter! Do your son and husband also help out in kitchen?

Paula: Yes! My husband unpacks the boxes! He’s very open to trying new recipes, and sees that dinnertime is becoming more of a family affair. My son is all about picking out the recipes – that’s been his role. He’s even more willing to try the recipes if he’s picked them out himself.

Q: In 2016, you cooked over 144 meals with Blue Apron. Is there a favorite recipe that you ever revisit? How about your favorite ingredient?

Paula: The very first recipe we got! The Spiced Pork and Baked Rigatoni Pasta. Every time we eat a Blue Apron recipe we rank them and put little tabs on them. I have my own Blue Apron folder that I keep all my recipes in – it’s more like my badge of honor if you will. It’s how I know which ones I’d make again. (We should send you one of these!)

Hands down, our favorite has been the finger limes. We had people over for dinner and I saved them for everybody to try. They’re so much fun! They kind of burst in your mouth, and it’s a fantastic and unusual ingredient! What’s great is that I’m introducing ingredients to people who are really experienced in cooking!

Q: Tell us more about having people over for dinner since you started cooking more.

Paula: I gotta tell you, cooking meals for people – I would get sweaty before Blue Apron just thinking about it. But now I’m at the point where I say “okay, I can cook this, or I can double that if we’re having people over.” My fear of entertaining has subsided substantially.

Q: In our chats, you mentioned a term ‘kitchen confidence.’ Could you explain what you mean by that?

Paula: It means a whole slew of things. It means I know every week that I’m going to have two meals that I don’t have to worry about. It means I know that my kids are going to participate and my daughter is going to get started on a meal and help cook it for me. And it means I know my family is going to enjoy it–they always have! There are so many positives there for me as a mom. When that box arrives, it’s a box of confidence for me, and everybody enjoys it. Finally, I’m learning so much more about handling food, how to cut ingredients, and how to dice them as well. Those are the kinds of skills that I didn’t know before and now they give me a newfound confidence.

Q: You’ve been so lovely to chat with. One final question: If you could give one piece of advice to the whole Blue Apron community, what do you think it would be?

Paula: Involve your kids in some aspect of the meal preparation because it becomes so much more of a social event, and it’s been phenomenal for my family. Great dinner discussions have truly become a regular occurrence because of Blue Apron.

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