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!