Monday, February 25, 2013

Let's dish! A meal plan for the ambitious shut-in

Yesterday was my wife's birthday. By now, she knows that she'd better just make the plans because I'm...not so good at making social plans. Besides, she doesn't like surprises.

So, she chose to go to Let's Dish. It's not a restaurant. It's not a kitchen, not really. It's a place where you go and prepare a bunch of meals yourself, then take them home, pop them in the freezer, and set yourself up for a week or two of delicious home-cooked meals. I joked on Facebook that it's a restaurant where you make the food and then don't get to eat it. That's not quite true -- you just have to do it at home.
This is AWESOME!

She did this when pregnant with #3 in preparation of a lot of downtime, and while #3 was early, it still worked extremely well. If I'd been completely in charge, me and the kids would have spent a fortune on pizza and Chinese food.

Here's how it works (as best as I can tell -- I pretty much just followed along):

You pick your menu and pay online, and pick a date. You have about a two-hour window to show up.

You get your "itinerary," which is basically your menu. After donning awesome green aprons and washing your hands, you find an open station with a recipe sheet on it with one of your dishes.

From there it's pretty simple: Just dump all the ingredients on the menu (see below) into bags or tins or whatever, then bag it up and stick it in the freezer.

What's great is that you don't have to mess with finding all the right tea- or tablespoon utensils. No calculating fractions of a cup or whatever. (This is one of the more maddening things for me in the rare, few times I actually cook). All the utensils are in the tubs of ingredients. Just follow the instructions and you'll be Gordon Ramsey. If you want to go off on anyone, I suppose you could, but it's generally frowned upon.

So easy a mover could do it.
Like I said, we've had the meals before, and they're damn good. MUCH better than something you nuke or dump out of a can. I couldn't tell you all the dishes we put together, but the recipe here shows Parmesan Crusted Pork Chops with Sweet Potato Fries.

Aside form the great meals, I was impressed by the whole business operation. As far as I could tell, they thought of everything: all the right ingredients were right there in front of us at every station, it was highly organized and coordinated, and there was always someone there to answer your questions. They even anticipated the natural consequence of preparing a dozen or so mouth-watering meals: a little snack bar featuring their other dishes. (Yesterday they had an odd (but delicious) pairing of stuffing and scones). I imagine that's also designed to keep people from stuffing their faces with the ingredients which may have...ah...crossed my mind.

Check out their website for details. It MAY seem a bit expensive, but when you consider what you're getting, it's actually much cheaper than eating the same meals in a restaurant AND preparing it all at home yourself. As my wife noted, even if you buy some of the smallest measures of ingredients, you'll probably end up with things like a year's worth of kosher salt or beef base you'll never use unless you become an Iron Chef.

Highly recommended. Let me know if you go and how you liked it!

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