I just love Thursdays. Why? Because Thursdays are cooking days! Utensils on hand and spice rack at the ready, every Thursday morning I go into the kitchen and labor for hours, and this enchanted day passes by quickly, like in a dream. Still, with the schedule being as busy as ever, finding time to spend with friends & family or to research very particular recipe ideas can be a luxury: week after week is spent doing projects for work and cooking “standard” food, with very little else to report. Wouldn’t it be great if I got more time to do the things that matter to me the most?
Thankfully, there are dinner solutions for the busy professionals out there. No more worrying over what to cook for dinner, no more scheduling conflicts, no more missed opportunities to free up time for your own personal/family projects! Salvation has a name: Chef Inside the Box 😉 Launched in August 2017, Chef Inside the Box claim to offer “the most affordable meal kits in Chicagoland” and want to save their clients time in the kitchen so they can get back to doing the things they love. I was recently contacted by Chef Inside the Box, who offered to send me a set of 4 meals of my choice to review. Always in need of free time, I said yes, of course 🙂
Chef Inside the Box is not a subscription-based service, so one doesn’t have to worry about calling to cancel their membership or to skip a week – and this provides flexibility and great peace of mind. Their meals are priced at $6.95 per serving and one meal can serve at least 4 people, bringing the total cost of one dish to $27.80, with free delivery. While most other meal kit companies on the market outsource their ingredients and just assemble them for their clients, expecting them to do the prepping work, Chef Inside the Box manufacture virtually every component of every meal. Moreover, they take prepping and cooking upon themselves to ensure clients spend very little time preparing the meals at home.
They offer two meal options, Standard and Express. While Standard dinners take no more than 25 minutes from box to table, Express dinners take even less: just 10 minutes! At the moment, there are no breakfast, lunch or dessert options on the menu, but Chef Inside the Box might start offering these in the future.
The meals I chose to review arrived in a big box on the scheduled day.
I was very impressed with the neat packaging of the meals. So far, so good!
Inside the package I found a hand-written note from the Chef Inside the Box chef himself, advising me to “take a hike or a walk” and to enjoy life, family and friends without worrying about dinner anymore. A nice personal touch, for sure!
Each meal was packed neatly inside a smaller box, which had special holes in the walls to make lifting and carrying them around a breeze.
The braised beef fettuccine with herbed tomato sauce, garlic mushrooms, parmesan cheese and dinner rolls was my favorite dish out of the four dishes I tried. Here’s a picture of the ingredients just before preparation:
Getting the vacuum packed ingredients out and following the instructions was very easy: first, I had to heat up the slow braised beef, tomato sauce and mushrooms in a pan.
I added the pasta and continued stirring for another 2-3 minutes.
Some delicious work-in-progress there 🙂
Served hot with or without dinner rolls, this dish is the quintessential fall comfort food: chock-full of tender meat, velvety pasta and herbaceous sauce flavors, it fills you up and instantly puts you in a good mood. Slightly spicy and sharp, the tomato sauce was my favorite element. I was surprised with the depth of flavor achieved by this sauce, which tasted unbelievably fresh, just like any homemade sauce would.
Who knew delivered meals could be so rich and satisfying?
My next favorite was the slow cooked turkey risotto with mushrooms, peas, parmesan cheese and dinner rolls.
Once again, meal preparation was a breeze: I started off by putting the turkey chunks, mushrooms in broth and some water in a pan. I then added the risotto…
… and the peas. I was looking at the bright green color of the peas and couldn’t believe they had come out of a vacuum packed bag!
This dish came in at #2 on my list due to the texture of the risotto. While I know a well-made risotto has to have a creamy texture, this particular risotto appeared overcooked and way too creamy, almost lumpy to me. This aside, the dish was flavorful, meat-packed and filling.
Here is the risotto in its final form, served sprinkled with parmesan and eaten at the gazebo one early fall afternoon. Yet another good fall dish:
The third dish I picked to review was Chef’s smoked pork chops with red and white quinoa, maple Brussels sprouts and dinner rolls.
I really enjoyed the side of multi-grain quinoa, even though I found the roasted Brussels sprouts tossed in balsamic and Canadian maple syrup way too sweet for my liking.
As for the pork chops, I was impressed with their generous size and vigorous smoked hickory flavor. They arrived fully cooked and only took 8 minutes to heat up in the oven at 450F.
I served this dish with dinner rolls, and DH (a big meat eater) loved it!
DH also had a lot of praise for the seared Bourbon and sweet onion chicken with garlic butter herbed rice and dinner rolls. This dish is one of Chef Inside the Box’s Express meal options, which take less than 10 minutes to make:
The garlic butter herbed rice was spot on: projecting deep herbaceous flavors with just a hint of garlic, it was light, fluffy, vibrant and overall perfect for me.
As for the seared chicken slow simmered in a sweet&savory bourbon-infused sauce with sweet onions galore, I found it way too sweet for my liking, and I also found the bourbon flavor overpowering.
Still, as I said above, DH loved it and ate this entire generously sized dish in just two sittings (!!) A big thumbs up from the man of the house 😉
Overall, I enjoyed the wholesomeness and convenience of the Chef Inside the Box meals, which helped me to free up some time and to organize my life a little better. The portion sizes were generous, the delivery fast, and the packaging beyond reproach. I hope Chef Inside the Box will continue to diversify its menu while maintaining its commitment to quality convenience dining. Life can definitely get a little easier, thanks to Chef Inside the Box 🙂
*Disclaimer: While I received a complimentary tasting to facilitate this review, all opinions expressed here are my own.