You'd think that after three semesters of dealing with late assignments, impromptu naps, and nights without food, college would more or less slip into an easy routine. Unfortunately, that's simply not the case with me. I spend far too many nights recklessly spending money at nearby restaurants and trying to find cuisine that stands a chance against the NYC delicacies that I miss so dearly (sorry, Orlando).

That doesn't mean I don't cook for myself in my apartment, it's just that it's an entire process that, many nights, is both difficult to find time to do. As much as I love Publix, I'd often choose the comfort of my own bed and an empty stomach rather than driving out in the evening to pick up some produce.

Jedd Marrero

That's where Chef'd comes in, who partnered with Spoon to make our very own meal prep kits. Literally everything you need to prepare homemade, restaurant-quality meals comes inside a bright orange box. I had the chance to try their chicken fajitas and spaghetti carbonara, both of which were amazing in their own right.

Chicken Fajitas

chili, pepper, vegetable
Jedd Marrero

I'll be honest, I was never a big fan of fajitas. The good thing is, the Chef'd version features lime-marinated chicken, which pairs wonderfully with the bell peppers.

The first step was to slice each of the vegetables, which included the bell peppers and a large onion. Before tossing them in a saucepan to sauté, I cut the chicken into small pieces and marinated it in fresh lime juice and pepper. The acidity of the lime actually leads to more tender chicken pieces, all while packing a great amount of Baja flavor in each bite. 
saute, stir-fry, onion, carrot, pepper, vegetable
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Even though I totally cut the onions the wrong way (diced instead of sliced), the vegetables sautéed relatively quickly, and after a few minutes sitting in the lime juice mixture, I cooked up the chicken slices as well.

onion, pepper, chicken
Jedd Marrero

Everything came together in less than 30 minutes, and frankly, these tasted pretty good, especially given that there was no grocery shopping needed or eating out required. I'll still forever and always be more of a taco fan, but these fajitas hit the spot too.

Spaghetti Carbonara

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I saved the second recipe for last, largely because I really can't get enough carbs (no, seriously, I failed an Atkins diet because of it). That being said, I was never really a fan of carbonara either. The combo of egg and pancetta always used to throw me off, probably because I was expecting the latter to taste like bacon and have a bit of smokiness. This recipe, however, changed my life—seriously. This recipe was just as simple as the first: slice up the sage and pancetta, boil the pasta, and mix everything together in a sauté pan.

The kit came with parmesan cheese, condensed chicken stock, and even eggs, which I mixed together to form the basis of the sauce. Carbonara sauce, I've learned, is not meant to smother the pasta, in the way that your typical alfredo and marinara sauces do. Instead, it's merely meant to coat the noodles and provide a light yet creamy supplement to bind the salty pancetta and earthy sage with the noodles.
cake, coffee, sweet, cream
Jedd Marrero

After the pasta was finished cooking, it was just a matter of cooking the pancetta first, before adding everything else into the pan and letting it cook for a few minutes. A minor tip though: do turn on the vents above your stove. I accidentally set off my apartment's fire alarm cooking the pancetta, which isn't the greatest thing to do at 8 am in the morning. 

The resulting dish, however, was both creamy and salty, without being too heavy from an excess of sauce. Even my Olive Garden-obsessed roommate loved it, so I guess you could say this recipe is the real deal.

The Verdict

wheat, carbohydrate, macaroni, pasta, spaghetti
Jedd Marrero

I never really bought into the whole idea of meal kits before, but after using one I realized just how convenient they are for college students (and really, anyone with a busy schedule that they can't even fit in one iPhone screenshot). 

I preferred the carbonara over the fajitas, but both dishes were satisfying and easy enough to do. If you're interested in checking out any of the Chef'd+Spoon University collaborations, either of the two would be the perfect starting point. Rarely do you come by recipes that are both easy and delicious, but these are the exception.