Friday, October 1, 2010

On the MyBrownBaby Table: Totally Delicious & Easy, Dreamy Dinners from Dream Dinners

Lemon Chicken Piccata with angel hair pasta and stir-fried veggies

Looks delish, doesn’t it? It’s Lemon Chicken Piccata—a plate of lemony artichoke, caper and chicken goodness. And it took me all of five minutes to prepare.
No, seriously. Five minutes.
I had help, though.
This is one of six meals I scooped up at Dream Dinners, a fix-and-freeze business that makes it so that busy moms like me can get hot, home-cooked meals on the table, despite our crazy hectic schedules. I fixed them, froze them, thawed them when I didn’t have time to whip up a meal from scratch, threw them in a pot, and, voila, I got this…

The way it works is pretty simple: You go to the website to see what meals they’re offering for the month, schedule an appointment at a Dream Dinners near you, and then show up. You collect your recipes, then head to your recipe “station,” where every ingredient you need for the various dishes are laid out just for you; toss the ingredients into freezer bags—everything from the meats to seasonings and herbs to the liquids and veggies you need to complete the recipe—seal them up, take them home, freeze them and then use them at your leisure. And somebody else cleans up! Easy peasy.

I took Mari with me to Dream Dinners at Mansell Oaks in Roswell, GA, where owner Adanna Hartwell and her lovely family welcomed us with warm, open arms in their beautifully-appointed space. They were extremely friendly and their staff was on it—accommodating and on-the-ball as they worked to help no less than a dozen people hook up their dinners. Mari did most of the work (hey, she likes pouring and scooping and counting and stuff—how could I deny her?). Granted, Mari’s Home Made Love recipes are proof that, at age 11, she’s pretty awesome in the kitchen, but seriously, this set-up is totally fool-proof, even for the, um, cooking-challenged amongst us.

One of the food assembly stations

The recipe card with step-by-step instructions

That's my Mari, hooking it up!

Totally fool-proof assembly
It took Mari and I about an hour to assemble six dinners we chose via Dream Dinners' website: Pecan-crusted Pork Chops with Garlic Mashed Potatoes; Chicken Yakitori with Jasmine Rice; Chicken Mirabella; Lemon Chicken Piccata; Grilled Adobo Pork Roast with Savory Garlic Vegetables and; Herb-crusted Flank Steak. What? That’s some good eating.

That's me, giving the pork chops a buttermilk bath

Chopped red peppers for the Lemon Chicken Piccata 

Chicken Mirabella, fully assembled and ready for the fridge

Apple cobbler and lemonade—the perfect snack for all that hard assembly!
We tested out two dinners that were pulled out in recent cases of emergency. The Lemon Chicken Piccatta got pulled out of the freezer the morning of the day I was staring down two 90-minute soccer sessions and a PTA meeting. I tell you, we literally poured each of the ingredients into the crock pot—six chicken breasts, capers, chopped artichokes, salt, pepper, chopped red pepper, chopped garlic, chicken stock—turned that puppy on, got to stepping, and came back a few hours later to this awesome dish. All I had to do was boil the angel hair pasta, toss some pre-seasoned Cole’s garlic bread into the broiler and pop all of that onto a plate. Mama was happy. Everybody else was happy.

The second dinner we pulled out was the Pecan-crusted Pork Chops and Garlic Mashed Potatoes, which came in handy on another busy soccer night. I have to admit I was a little leery about the thinness of the chops—we like them thick and juicy and fried or smothered around these parts—but we rolled with it. This time, while I hooked up the mashed potatoes, I let Mari take the wheel with the chops; she followed the recipe card with the fool-proof instructions to a tee—shook the chops in the seasoned buttermilk, sprayed the pan with oil, poured the pecans on top of the chops in the pan. I added my own French-cut string beans, and a half hour later, dinner was served. And it was so good, Lila had two helpings, which, like, never happens. The chops were juicy with a delightful crunch from the pecans, and the mashed potatoes, which I was a little leery of because they started out quite liquidy, cooked into the perfect consistency—no lumps, just pure garlicky deliciousness.

We have four more dinners left, which I will pull out when I need to over the next few months. Most of the fix-and-freeze dinners last for about three months, and they come with caloric breakdowns and suggestions for what to pair the with. And get this: The cost is pretty reasonable. My package, which included six dinners for six people, cost about $120—way less than the cash I would have laid outat the grocery store  for six meals had I shown up sans coupons and a plan (which happens way too often). And I still would have had to shop for the ingredients, haul them home, and prep and prepare them—quadruple the time it took for me to pour the Dream Dinner ingredients into a pot and keep it moving. Simply put: Dream Dinners is a pretty awesome, low-cost, easy prep option for moms with little time but a strong desire to feed their family healthy, hot meals that don’t involve drive-thrus, aprons, and a ridiculous amount of time slaving over the stove. SCORE!
If you’re in the Atlanta area, check out Ayana Hartwell and her sister and mom at their Roswell store. For locations throughout the U.S., visit Dream Dinners’s main website HERE or check them out on Facebook or Twitter. 

Editor’s Note: Dream Dinners of Mansell Oaks gave me six dinners to test gratis. I had absolutely no obligation to write about their business and was not paid for my opinion. Please know that I highly value your trust and I’ve shared my honest opinion about Dream Dinners because I believe it might be of value to you.

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  1. Ok - this looks really nice. Fun. And Yummy!

  2. This is a great idea, I am going to check it out.

  3. WOw, looks yummy. What a great idea.

  4. I am glad you had a wonderful Dream Dinners experience. Adanna and her family truly have a servants heart and own their Dream Dinner to serve there community. It is the ultimate buy in bulk and save way to have a home cooked dinner and does cost less than buying the same ingredients at a grocery store. It is also very eco friendly, so much less packaging when you buy in bulk. We actually have children on our tasting panels; it is amazing to see what kids will really eat. We put kids in a box when we only feed them "white foods". Don’t miss our new Dream Rewards loyalty program. You can get more dinner ideas on my blog Take care.

  5. These companies are a great idea. It seems to make dinner much easier and less expensive to handle. Plus, you probably end up making a wider variety of dishes than you normally would just shopping as usual. Love it.


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