Tried it Tuesday
Cooked: Nourishing Meals for Busy Folks
It is no secret that while I love to cook and create recipes, I also love to eat out and experiment. However, I do have several dietary restrictions that keep me from going out on a limb like some people are apt to do. I enjoy (I truly do enjoy!) a very healthy and health conscious diet, and getting in proper nutrition particularly during marathon training is of the utmost importance to me (read my tips for fueling your body during marathon training). Let’s be honest: I don’t have as much wiggle room as most others do. Thus why I focused so hard on my nutrition during Ragnar–for me, nutrition affects my whole being. Thus, I have to be careful and pick options that would be classified as more “clean eating” (eh, with a side of chemicals when necessary, haha).
Consequently, delivery/takeout/mass planned food or meal companies are generally not on the docket for me, unless I can exert a certain amount of control over them (or I just want steamed chicken and vegetables for the rest of my life). This is a large part of the reason that Blue Apron didn’t work out so well for me–not enough choice or ability to specify ingredients and preferences–though the fact that I was cooking the meals myself meant that I could modify as necessary (but kind of negated the point, right?).
Futhermore, Alex works a lot, and it just isn’t so much fun to cook fun meals for myself all the time. And thus I get pretty tired of omelets (though I do love them) at dinner and salads with turkey on them, a carb, and string cheese or yogurt for lunch
Cooked is a local Chicago company that is setting the standard in fresh, healthy food and meal delivery. In their words, Cooked Chicago is:
Delicious Chef-Crafted Meals. Delivered.
Our healthy, locally sourced meals are crafted with care and packaged in sustainable, biodegradable packaging. Meals are delivered fresh with reheating instructions and are designed to be hot and ready to eat in minutes. Enjoy your evening tonight, dinner is ready when you are!
Not only are these meals created to satisfy your taste buds and your stomachs while nourishing your body, I LOVE that the packaging is biodegradable! As a former waitress and someone conscious of the amount of waste we produce (I recycle everything), this really stood out to me! This is about personal and environmental responsibility and sustainability.
What Sets Cooked Apart from other Fresh Meal Services?
Cooked’s dishes are, by and large, ones that would be appreciated by those with a lighter palate more attuned to healthy food. This does NOT mean that they are lacking, or unsatisfying, however. It simply means that you should not come here looking for gluttony. But you are still eating beautifully: Coq au Vin Blanc? 5-Spice Grass Fed Beef? Roast Pork? Salmon? I was incredibly impressed by the virtually endless options from menus that change weekly.
If that isn’t the principles upon which I eat, I don’t know what is! Plus, if you have dietary restrictions, simply let them know in the product notes, and they will modify accordingly. Executive Chef Jona Silva is certified to create meals for those with Celiac or gluten intolerances.
Chose from the week’s menu or search the dietary collections (like Paleo or Vegan), a la carte, as as part of a meal plan. You can get same day delivery (Order before noon or farther in advance). Not home? Set a cooler outside your door. There is no effort to speak of on your end–you just heat and eat–and no reason to be worried about plastics, preservatives, or any of that extra whatever (from the site):
- Always local, always sustainable, and organic whenever possible.
- Low salt, low saturated fats, no preservatives or chemicals. We use the tricks of our ancestors (lemon, seasoning, coconut) to make food taste great while keeping dishes healthy and nourishing.
Nutrition info is not provided for all dishes at this time, but they have recently (as in, this past weekend) updated their nutrition reporting system to make it more accurate for the entire dish. The site warns that dishes can be up to 1.5x the size accounted for in the provided nutritional information (to account for the hand made nature of the meals).
My Selections and Review:
I chose a selection of different types of foods–I wanted to see how they would stand up, how the flavors would come through, and also some (such as the posole and the shrimp and papaya salad) that I just have a super huge weakness for! But by and large, I focused on a cleaner palate, particularly following Ragnar.
- TJ’s Country Farm Posole: Hominy corn, free range chicken, chicken-guajillo broth, zucchini, cabbage, lime. $12.95
Unfortunately, there was a mix up with the delivery, and the quart of broth didn’t make it to me. To the credit of the folks at Cooked, they immediately offered to supply with a replacement posole or meal from their new menu! Also, they have just (as in this weekend) updated their ordering and packing system to avoid these issues, so I’m sure that had something to do with it.
I adore true Mexican chicken soup, and I love posole, but it is generally a no go for me, as posole (or pozole) is traditionally made with lard and pork. Thus, I jumped at the chance to have a cleaner version! The ingredients that I did receive (everything else) were fantastic. The chicken obviously came from the grill, even with a lovely smokiness to it. The hominy was nicely cooked (if a bit bland because it was meant to be in broth). The zucchini and sweet potato were delicious regardless. The lime and cabbage came on the side (as is customary for caldo (soup) of this nature), and omg, yes. I ended up having the “soup” dry, but I split it up–the portion was HUGE! I really wish that I had gotten the completed dish–I loved every other part of it so much (plus, I am addicted to Mexican chicken soup broth).
- Pan Seared Duck Breast Salad with Strawberry Chutney Pan-seared duck breast, bacon, strawberry chutney, beets, pickled onion, mixed greens. $12.95
Due to the mix up with the Posole, the folks at Cooked offered me a substitute meal, and Chef Jona suggested the duck breast salad. I am not typically a fan of duck (at least in restaurants, where it can jut be too fatty), but I was game if he particularly recommended it, and I wanted to try one of their heartier offerings. Let me just say that this was fabulous. The duck was tender, juicy perfection cold as well as warmed (I tried both)–it made me want to try duck again later on! And the bacon was still deliciously crispy and a fantastic smokey note. Cutting through all that richness was the strawberry and golden raisin chutney and pickled red onions, which were all sweet, sour, spicy, acidic, and lots of different textures. And the beets added to that. The only extraneous part of the whole thing, I felt, were the croutons. If they want to send croutons, they would be better served to have them sealed (to preserve crunchiness). But I would have drank the strawberry chutney!
- Green Papaya and Shrimp Salad: Delicious and light Thai Papaya Salad with shrimp, toasted peanuts, green beans, cilantro, tomatoes, and our lime-Thai dressing. Made mild. $9.95
Many of you might not remember, but Som Tom (Thai Green Papaya Salad) is one of my absolute favorite dishes, period. So when I saw it, I just had to jump on it! I added additional spice to it (I like it hot), but this was simply delicious. . I told them (when I got in touch asking about the posole) that if they had this dish on the menu, I would probably order it at least 2x a month (added after–> they are going to make it a regular menu item!). EXCELLENT. And that lime-Thai dressing was so good that I am not ashamed to say I actually drank a little of it straight from the cup. I’m ok with it. Another spa worthy meal that eats like a gourmet, completely satisfying experience
- Lunch Bowl #3 (Week of 6/15): organic power grains (quinoa, amaranth, millet), tossed with Teriyaki sauce, mushrooms, sweet bell pepper, grilled eggplant, bok choy, sesame seeds. $5.50
This one was a pow of flavor! I was surprised at just how much flavor and umami came across in such a simple dish–the eggplant held the nuances perfectly, and this wasn’t underseasoned at all. I had this to refuel midmorning Saturday following marathon coaching and before lunch as it was a bit too light for a lunch option for me, but had excellent nutrition and macronutrient ratios–great carbs and just enough protein!
- Lunch Bowl #4 (Week of 6/15): organic power grains (quinoa, amaranth, millet), free range chicken, grilled zucchini, garbanzo beans, sea salt, lemon. $5.50
Delicious, if a tad overly simple. This is as clean as clean eating gets–true spa cuisine. I added some red pepper flake to it, and I liked that heating it up gave the spinach within an extra layer of moisture, flavor, and texture (you could eat it either cold or hot). The chicken was cooked perfectly and wasn’t dry at all! Perhaps a tad underseasoned, but a perfectly portioned light bowl for lunch or a larger snack.
Pros of Cooked:
- For me, too many to mention. Appropriately sized, clean recipes with top notch ingredients and freshly prepared with no preservatives. Reminds me a lot of a delivery version of Lyfe Kitchen!
- Really fabulous sauces and flavors from all over the world.
- The food selection truly is among the best that I have seen, and they willingly accommodate a multitude of diets (and even have cleanse-like plans).
- You are dealing with people, and they are flexible! Have a special request? Let them know–as long as it is an even swap (like jasmine for brown rice), they are game for your suggestions.
Cons of Cooked:
- It can get a little pricey, but in my mind, the costs are justified. You would easily pay as much at a restaurant, not to mention that shipping/courier fees are less than what tax and tip would amount to (depending on the amount of food).
- I can see that for some palates, the dishes might be a little too light, either in seasoning, calories, or otherwise. But again, you don’t come to Cooked if you are looking to splurge on anything other than fresh goodness.
- You are dealing with people–human error occurs!
I loved Cooked. There were options for everyone–from Alex to me to kids. I definitely see myself returning to it in the future! Until then, it was great inspiration for some fun new dishes, like Blue Apron, but on a more accessible level (dishes that I could eat again and again, rather than every now and then!).Upping my #fooddelivery game with @eatcooked's #healthy fresh meals! #fitfluential via @suzlyfe Click To Tweet
I reached out to Cooked on my own after being introduced to them at the Good Food Festival. They graciously provided me with a gift card for my own selections, but all reviews and opinions are my own.
How does Cooked sound to you versus other order-for-delivery services? Would you be interested in a Cooked-type service in your area?
What is your go-to for healthy meals when you are short on time?