Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Dream Dinners. Seriously.

Last Thursday, I tried something I have been dying to do for some time. I've been wanting to "feed the freezer," as my father used to call it. Basically, I was looking for a way to prepare several meals all at once and freeze them. Then I could thaw them and cook them on weeknights when I have less time.

To this end, I've checked out several cookbooks from the library that guide you through doing this. There are many of them out there -- many of them designed to have you cook thirty meals all on one day. That's basically eight hours of cooking. But the payoff is you have a whole month of meals at the ready.

As I read these, I was struck by several problems... the least of which was "Will I like this food?" In many cases, it didn't look all that tasty. And then, one day, I was browsing the paper and saw that one of these places was opening in my neighborhood. Dream Dinners was founded on the concept that busy women WANT to cook for their families, but just don't always have time to do it. The woman who founded it was running a catering company and had a friend into her kitchen one weekend to cook a few meals for the freezer. Soon, her friends and her friend's friends were calling her to see if THEY could come to her kitchen. It didn't take her long to realize there was a market for this.

So on Thursday at noon, I went to the new Dream Dinners store. It's about five minutes from my house. And in two hours and 15 minutes, I had 12 meals ready for the freezer. The coolest thing about this concept is you don't actually cook anything. You just put the meal together. Some meals have precooked ingredients like ground beef or chicken. All the ingredients are laid out with the appropriate measuring instruments in them. You just assemble it the way you like it. For instance, if something has red peppers and you don't like red peppers... leave 'em out.

It's affordable too, when you consider the groceries you don't need to buy (all entrees have meat, so it's not for you herbivores out there) and the time you save both at the store and at home each night. Each meal is 4-6 servings, so there is plenty for your family, or for two dinners if it's just two of you.

I loaded up my cooler, then went home and loaded up my freezer. All the food looked remarkable. I had all sorts of variety too, from a Chicago-style deep dish pizza to a macaroni casserole to chicken and bacon crepes.

The final test was tonight. I moved two meals to the freezer on Saturday to defrost for this week. We made the first one tonight -- Grilled Salmon with Garlic Dill Butter. In my case, the salmon was broiled, as our grill is kind of irritating. And it is Atlantic Salmon, which isn't my favorite. But let me tell you, our dinner was scrumptious. I should have taken a photo. It looked as good as it tasted. And it was SO easy and quick. Not that salmon is really difficult, but had I made the butter from scratch TONIGHT instead of last week, it would have taken me an extra thirty minutes to gather and assemble the ingredients. Not to mention the extra groceries I would have needed. For instance... capers. Not your everyday ingredient (although I admit I have a bottle in the cupboard.

So our next "Dream Dinner" will be on Friday, when we will have Morrocan Marinated Pork Roast. I'll let you know how it turns out!

16 comments:

Jessey said...

Oh! I am so jealous! They have a chain like this in Phoenix. Alas, even the convenience of cooking a month ahead isn't getting me to drive 2.5 hours to Phoenix.
I want that store here! And a Target. You know what, just give me the Target, please Lord!

Sophie said...

Tempting, oh so tempting :) I'm going to check out the one here in Charlotte .... sounds like something I could get hooked on.

Bern said...

That is such a cool idea!!
The one here in Charlotte is close to Jason's office so we will definitely have to check it out.
The difficult part would probably be deciding on the menu because they all look so good!!

Sophie said...

Hey Bernie... let me know if you sign up!

Bern said...

Sophie, I just read that they will be opening an outlet in Waxhaw!! We have no excuse not to sign up now.

eaf said...

Just thought I should mention... This business is a FRANCHISED one. Too bad I don't live in way out Arizona. *sigh*

eaf said...

Oh, and Bernie... you don't have to decide. You can make them all if you want. If you go to the grand opening of the new one and sign up there, they will give you a thirteenth meal for free. And then they do that every time you sign up for next month at your current session.

Damn, I wish one of you lived here.

Cathy said...

There's a new one in Rockville. I'll have to give it a try. I wonder what's on the June menu...

Jessey said...

**Double Sigh**
Hopefully someone just as enterprising as you will appear in my little town and make it happen for me.
What is the cost for such a tremendous service?

I have a deep freezer, BTW, I could really go to town with something like this!

Bern said...

Yummmm... 13 frozen meals, and no decisions needed on the menu.. oh goodie!
Ok, will have to start cleaning out my freezer now to make room for 13 glorious meals! Bye bye raw pork loins, ground beef and chicken breasts. Hello Grilled salmon with lemon garlic butter and oven baked almond chicken.

Amy said...

I saw a Recipe for Success on a similar franchise on the Food Network. It seems like a good idea, and probably more fun that cooking 2-3 weeks worth of food at home (plus with two little kids how would you manage that?!). I always say I'm going to cook for the week on Saturday but I'm never in the mood.

Sophie said...

Jeez... right down the road from me (10 min away) - and here we were debating if one would work well in this area!!! Guess someone else had THAT idea! My freezer is full of breastmilk but I'll be sure to make some room....

eaf said...

The cost of the dinners or the franchise? ;-)

Dinners are individually priced, so you can check those out on the website. My first session came to about $215. My second session (June) will be $240. I'm getting more beef in the June session... May was mostly chicken. If you assume that's four servings per meal (we have healthy appetites in this house), it comes to between 4 and 5 dollars a meal. That doesn't include sides although several recipes come with rice or pasta, so you only have to worry over veggies.

Did I mention how much easier it is to clean up too? And if you spill something in their store, THEY clean it up. They do all the dishes.

I'm telling you, the place is a corner of Nirvana. (The place, not the band. That would be weird).

We have a deep freezer as well. But these are packed up so well (most in ziploc bags) that it only took up one shelf in the freezer. So Sophie, you might have room for all that breastmilk AND the dinners!

Jessey said...

Oh, I am so jealous.

Jason said...

There's a competing franchise called "Super Suppers", and one of them is across the street from my office. They have two franchises in Cary as well.

eaf said...

Yep. Another is "My Girlfriend's Kitchen." Dream Dinners was the first (just barely) and has been on HGTV, Food Network, GMA, Today Show, etc. When I asked them about their edge on the competition, they say "The Food." I have to agree... just based on looking at the other menus, I am more attracted to Dream Dinner's menus. You may think differently...