FIFTY-SIX. Home Chef

Hi Everyone!  So, new year, new boxes, new recipes…let’s get this going!..Home Chef!  Home Chef got its start in 2013, Pat Vitelhic started Home Chef as a solution to being too tired to cook after work, the expensive costs of home delivered groceries, the mundane task of internet recipe hunting and then all the waste associated with having too much of one ingredient.  Pat, along with another chef, started coming up with recipes to take the intimidation out of cooking and meal planning.  Since then the business has recruited several chefs, more than 3o0 employees…almost 1 million meals delivered last year and this year an expansion of 90% nationwide delivery area!  That’s pretty awesome.  The quick growth and home feel attitude this company represents is what convinced me to try them out.  So here we go!

Ordering:

Again, just like Plated the Hello Fresh site is friendly and easy to use.  There are different options for meal boxes.  Unlike some of the others, there are plans for 6 people and 6 meals.  I like that option for families, college kids that love to cook and don’t want crap food.  They have the usual food questions about allergies, aversions and dietary requests.  I chose the normal, 3 meals for 2 ppl.  Here are the other options and pricing below:

Weekly Meal Options (per person, per meal ranges between $8-$10)

TWO MEALS

2 Meals,  2 People, $40.00 (plus $10 shipping)

2 Meals,  4 People, $80.00

2 Meals,  6 People, $120.00

THREE MEALS

3 Meals,  2 People, $60.00

3 Meals,  4 People, $120.00

3 Meals,  6 People, $180.00

You get the drift….4 meals, 2pp @10 = $80.00…same formula for 5 meals and 6 meals.

Delivery:

So, the20170105_171429.jpg usual confirmation email came as I placed my order.  I got a shipping email for and OVERNIGHT shipment from FedEx.  I liked that they don’t cheap out on shipping on the hopes that their packaging will keep the produce and meat fresh and safe to consume.
On, Thursday afternoon, the box was delivered outside my whole complex, inside the main gate on a stoop.  I can’t blame Home Chef for that too much as I am sure that it wasn’t the normal FedEx guy that has the codes to our mail areas.
I suppose Home Chef could give better delivery instructions, but again, maybe they did.   The packaging of this box was a lot like Plated.  Three sepa20170105_171332rate plastic bags with ingredients in them.  The dry and refrigerated were combined, so either you just put it all in the fridge or open the bags and take out the dry and then put them back together as you are prepping your meal.  I loved the bottles and not just the branded containers of mustard, sherry and whipping cream.  It’s neater and those containers are reusable!
Then underneath were 5 ice packs and the fish and chicken were nestled underneath…the meat was frozen, which made me have to do the pasta dish for dinner that night as there was no time for thawing.  First glance at the produce, looked good…so I was happy.  The three dinners I got were Linguine Carciofi, New England Style Fish Cakes and Chicken Diane.   First up, Linguine!

Linguine Carciofi with Artichokes, Pecorino Cheese & Sun-Dried Tomatoes

LINGUINE FRONT.PNGLINGUINE BACK.PNG

Calories: 703 per serving, Fat: 28g, Protein: 23g, Carbs: 105g, Sodium:1192mg (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) 

I like that they tell you when to cook this dish by to ensure the freshness and quality of the meal itself…Cook within 7 days!

Process:  

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First glance, the menu card is neat and the ingredients needed are listed on the front and also what you need from your own supply and equipment.  So, if you were one of those that separated the dry from the cold stuff, you now can go back and collect those items.  WINNING!  Little things like that make me happy.  On the back, where the recipe is…there is a side bar area that gives you a few “before you cook” tips, “while you cook” tips and some additional notes from the chef that are mostly “did you know” tidbits about some of the ingredients.  So, I read the whole side bar…glad they told me to salt the water for the pasta, something that would be missed if you didn’t read that in the recipe itself. SO, READ EVERYTHING on the recipe card BEFORE you start, things are not repeated later. Also, the usage of ingredients, some steps only HALF of the ingredient is needed, however, they do make note of that in the actual recipe steps, so I’m not making much of a point…LOL!

On to the ingredients…prep was easy enough…the parsley was odd.  One of the prepacked boxes was 20170106_073937.jpgfresh and the other was wilted.  So strange.  I ended up using the wilted in the sauce and the fresh as the garnish.  20170106_074040.jpgThe pasta package had an unsealed seal, but it wasn’t a huge deal, it’s boiled anyhow.  So, one of the steps bugged me as the recipe told me to start the sauce as the pasta was cooking…well, in order to finish the sauce, I need some of that reserved pasta water…so if the pasta isn’t cooked yet and I get to that step in the sauce, I am at a strange culinary impasse.  Ok, that was a bit dramatic, but you can see the dilemma.  I suggest waiting until the pasta is about at 5-6 mins and then start the sauce so that the timing of the pasta and the sauce make more sense.  I don’t understand the need for veggie base, I’d rather use a tad bit more salt.  It doesn’t do anything for me and I hate unnatural ingredient substitutes for salt…it’s stupid.  The rest of the meal was easy to assemble and I will say initially, I thought that there were too many artichokes…yes, I know the dish is artichoke pasta…there is still something called balance.

Taste and Presentation:

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I liked the lemon in this dish a lot!  I love that they have it in the sauce but also suggest a spritz on top.  The pasta is cooked perfectly and the sauce is a great consistency.  I did enjoy the artichokes, but there were quite a few left in the pan even after plating hefty portions.

Final Thoughts & Rating:

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The meal itself was balanced, the colors were nice…the sun-dried tomatoes were a great tangy touch!  All in all, I give this dish a 4/5.  Next up, New England Style Fish Cakes!

New England Style Fish Cakes with Romaine & Tomato Salad 

FISH FRONT.PNGFISH BACK.PNG

Calories: 606 per serving, Fat: 36g, Protein: 40g, Carbs: 34g, Sodium: 936mg

Cook within 3 days…well that only happens when my fish isn’t frozen!  Idiots!

Process:

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So, once again, make sure you read the WHOLE card and know what kosher salt is compared to table salt.  I can’t say I have ever seen that equivalence tip before.  The process was fine to follow, but man I had some issues!
The produce was not the best.  I got a lemon that was bruised and a tomato that was waterlogged,
like it was previously frozen…which I couldn’t use.  Luckily, I’m a chef, I always have tomatoes.  The fish was nice, not smelly and had a great look and texture.  I didn’t like the cutting of romaine lettuce, I am a lettuce tear-er not a cutter.  Oh well.  As I waited for the fish to cook, I put in the ingredients for the cakes…the breadcrumbs, may20170109_113420.jpgo, Old Bay (use more in the cakes, not just half…there’s no way you need to garnish with HALF) and then they said to use only 2 teaspoons of the minced shallot…well you told me before to mince half, which gave me about 5 teaspoons…what do I do with the rest? I could have just minced 2 teaspoons and sliced more for the salad.  Anyhow…I could have foreseen that if I read that recipe carefully…OOOPS.  So, I add the fish and start to mix and realize there is not enough binding agent.  There is no way these things are going to stay together!  I know how to form crab cakes, fish cakes..etc…we needed an egg, some more panko or even just some more mayo.  Needless to say, the cakes cooked well, as for color…but they did fall apart.  The salad…oh the salad…it’s tomatoes, lettuce and fancy onion.  Why on earth did they give me a crappy Poppy Seed Dressing??!!  Why couldn’t we just make our own with the extra lemon juice, some olive oil, poppy seed and seasoning?  This packaged crap was just that…it came out like something I can’t say without sounding dirty…it was too sweet and I couldn’t get past the color and consistency.

Taste and Presentation:

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So, plating was a nightmare, as you can see.  The salad was fine, but the fish cakes were more fish hash and well it doesn’t plate well.  Regardless, the cakes were really good!  The dusting of Old Bay and fresh lemon on top was nice and strangely the overly sweet salad was a nice contrast to the spiciness and saltiness of the cakes.  It was a good lunch portion and I was pretty full.

Final Thoughts & Rating:

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This dish had some struggles and I would have opted to make my own dressing instead of using something packaged.  The cakes definitely needed some more help or a different process where maybe baking them would have worked better than a frying pan.  All in all, I give this dish a 3/5. Final dinner…Chicken Diane!

Chicken Diane with Mashed Potatoes & Green Beans

CHICKEN FRONT.PNGCHICKEN BACK.PNG

Calories:992 per serving, Fat: 60g, Protein:70g, Carbs: 46g, Sodium: 441mg

Cook within 5 days!

 Process:

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Alright…so m first gripe…really one potato for 2 ppl?  COME ON NOW!  I alone can eat 2 potatoes worth of mashed potatoes.  Honestly…potatoes are cheap, there’s nothing to be stingy about.  Moving on, prep was easy…the produce was amazing.  All of the green beans were crisp and fresh, which is a rarity considering I can barely get that when I pick them out myself.  I also have very little patience digging through a giant bin of green beans, picking each one at a time.  Nobody has time for that.  It’s a handful and out, and pray that 80% are usable.  I digress.  The potatoes needed 15 mins for sure, even then I thought they could use another minute or so.  Initially when I added the cream and butter, it looked like a hot mess…almost like it was potato soup.  It did however, absorb and emulsify and the consistency of the spuds were awesome.  In fact, the very reason why I wanted another potato was because I almost finished them while “tasting” the dish before I even plated…again…totally my fault.  The chicken was cooked perfectly, the directions were great and accurate.  However, there are no instructions that tell you to cover the chicken once it’s out of the oven.  It will get cold as there are still 10-15 mins before you plate and eat.  Remove chicken, cover with foil as you make the sauce.  The timing of this dish is all over the place though.  Boil potatoes while chicken is cooking, but then start the beans when chicken has 5 mins left…oh but don’t forget to start the sauce and make it in 2 minute increments.  I don’t know about you, but I have 2 timers in my kitchen…oven, microwave and a 3rd would be my phone if I chose to use it.  Things are a little all over the place.   However, the dish is successful and well made!

 

Taste and Presentation:

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I love the rustic nature of this dish.  Meat and potatoes done well.  It’s just simple and the flavors are complex considering the simple nature of the dish.  I loved the sauce, but there was a lot left over…AHEM…more potatoes were needed.  The chicken breast was great and not dried out, a little large though.  I mean I know it’s bone in chicken breast, but still…where are they getting those double D’s from??!!  SHEESH!  

Final Thoughts & Rating:

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Visually, this dish is old school and perfect for families.  I know a few eaters that need to eat with their food separated, a perfect dish for those that need to eat in a certain order.  Nothing has to be combined and each element is good on its own.  The combinations are great and it was extremely filling as I did enjoy a glass of Malbec with it 🙂   I give this dish a 4/5.

Conclusion/Wrap-Up:

So…as for a whole, Home Fresh is great.  The recipes are easy to follow, the produce is relatively fresh and the meat is really good.  The packaging is perfect and the flavors are great!  I love that the dishes don’t shy away from flavor and salt.  Now, onto the bad parts. Nutritionally, not the best.  The use of butter and cream is rampant and the veggie and chicken bases add unnecessary sodium to the meals.  I don’t think I would use them as a health-conscious eater, but for families wanting comfort food or even if you want to make something that reminds you of home, the recipes are a great match!   I know they offer low-cal recipes, but something lo-cal doesn’t always have to be quinoa and sweet potatoes.  You can make these recipes healthier by just cutting all the butter and cream and even those bases.  Home Chef gets a 3.5/5.

NEXT UP….Me studying for CPT.  A whole new appreciation for my trainer, Jake and all others that have taken this exam!  I will continue the meal boxes for 2 weeks after next week, there was a timing issue with delivery.  Sorry!

 

 

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