9.13.2007

DREAM DINNERS NIGHTMARE

A while back, I went and did this Dream Dinners thing with a bunch of my co-workers. We went to this little store where there were 12 or so recipes to choose from. After my recipes were chosen, I assembled my dinners into little freezer boxes. Dream Dinners made it really easy to assemble each meal. There were step by step instructions and all the food was laid out for you with the correct measurements, the onions or whatever would already be chopped, etc. On each box, I stuck a label indicating what it was and how to prepare it. I think it cost around a $100 for 12 2-person meals. I went home really excited about having a freezer stock full of ready to eat meals.

Well, we soon discovered that Dream Dinners were like Nightmare Dinners. We could hardly stomach eating those meals. Even, Erik, who will ate almost anything, could barely handle eating them. The chicken enchilada casserole was mushy. The fish was gross. The marinade on the flank steak tasted nasty. On the other hand, every day I would show up at work, one of my co-workers would be raving about how great her Dream Dinners meal was and that her family just couldn't get enough. To this day, I still can't figure out why mine were so nasty and they loved theirs. I know that Erik and I have somewhat different eating habits than other people (we don't eat stuff like cheese whiz, margarine, or white bread), but good food is good food and Dream Dinners was a complete waste of money.

Despite the Dream Dinners disaster, I still admire the idea of preparing mass quantities and then freezing the meals into smaller proportions as a time saver. I just never know what to freeze. The people at Dream Dinners said you can freeze anything, but that turned out to be gross and now I am really skeptical of websites offering good freezer meals. Has anyone had success with preparing meals and freezing them to eat at a later time?

20 comments:

  1. I have always wondered about Dream Dinners. I wonder how good they are. I am glad to know that they are not any good. Tyler and I have the same eating habits, we eat whole wheat, butter, and non processed cheese.
    I make my sausage spaghetti and freeze it and it turns out great. I also buy foster farm chicken and but two chicken breast in every freezer safe bags, then make different marinades and add it to the chicken, then I freeze it. Then I will take a bag out in the morning and let it defrost in the fridge and all I have to do is bbq or bake it.
    I think it is hard to find things that will freeze well, I have tried to make different meals ahead and freeze them, and it is hard to find things that don't look like pooh once it is cooked. Good luck, Let me know if you find any freezer safe recipes.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've tried the Bertolli Frozen pastas and they are pretty good. I also saw an episode on Top Chef where they had to make their own frozen pasta and how it worked was they froze everything separate (pasta, sauce, vegies, etc) and they froze it in ice trays so it would recook evenly. The only thing I have done is sauce and then I make pasta when I want to use it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I do spaghetti sauce, burritoes (bean and cheese, and my rice/chicken burritoes), BBQ Pork or Beef, any pre-cooked meat (ground beef, chicken, or pork) that I can use later for meals, and lasagna. Those are at least the things I've tried. I don't a lot of freezer space, and this summer I've been freezing peaches and grated zucchini (for bread).

    ReplyDelete
  4. You know I love frozen food meals! That is how "on the go bistro" is- they freeze everything seperately, the sauce from the noodles and separate veggies. and the way you defrost the noodles is by running them under cold water until they separate. I miss ON THE GO BISTRO!!!! why why why don't they sell it on the west coast???

    ReplyDelete
  5. why don't you freeze spring rolls? You can cook them by putting them in the oven for 425 degrees- until golden brown. (10-12 min) that would be a good one.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I started making beans and rice in mass quantities in our crock pot. My recipe has been thus (I made it up on the fly):
    3/4 cup black beans
    3/4 cup adzuki beans (for variety, but the ending color is a little less appealing)
    1 1/2 cup rice (brown or wild)
    A bunch of curry seasoning
    A bunch of Season-All seasoning
    About nine cups of water or until our small crock pot is full. Cook it over night. The black and red beans turn out brown, so it kinda looks like poo, but add a little more Season All to taste and it's awesome lunches. Fill up a Gladware thing with the beans and rice, add an apple or peach and whatever snacks or chips we have, and that's a FULL lunch for, like, a Dollar. Lasts several days, just move it to another container and refrigerate. Microwave before eating. The beans and rice just absorb as much water as they can, so its hard to mess up. Careful and rinse the beans first (twice in two batches, I've bit down on a few grains of sand)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow, these are all really good ideas. I can't believe how quickly everyone responded.

    Candace and Emily - I am going to try the pasta sauce and beans and rice ideas.

    Ashley - I have had Bertolli's Frozen pasta dinners and they are good, but expensive.

    LeMira - I think I'll try burritos, I'm a little nervous though. Do you just put them in a freezer bag? How you do reheat them?

    Kelley - I've made egg rolls before to freeze and those were good.

    Danica - Traditional margarine and many of those other fake butter products are "bad" fat. They contain transfats and saturated fat which are difficult for the body to process and cause heart disease.

    We need "good" fats to absorb more vitamins and nutrients... I know this might sound crazy to people. But if you add cheese or butter or an avocado to veggies, the good fat in these products will help you absorb more of the nutrients. Traditional margarine won't really help with that.

    Butter still contains lots of cholesterol, etc., but at least it's not made out of vegetable fat and water like margarine is. Yuck.

    Maybe it's just personal preference, but now when I see margarine I just want to gag...

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hey Cristin, my freezing foods are usually when I make a casserole or meat, I just make double and freeze half. I do it with ground turkey for tacos or taco soup or thrown in other casseroles. A lot of times I pre-boil chicken and then freeze it so I can throw it in any meal where you're already supposed to have cooked chicken on hand...another spot with some good recipes are Simple and Delicious, they have a whole section on foods that are good to make ahead and freeze well.

    ReplyDelete
  9. My mom did the Dream Dinners thing... well, it was just a trial. I think it was only two meals. I remember it tasting super yummy. Hmm...

    I don't have the freezer space for freezing meals. But I have doubled chicken enchiladas before and frozen half. And a lady in my stake here in Kansas does these cooking classes at all of our Relief Society Super Saturdays, and she cooks all her meat and freezes it in the amounts she'll need for whatever recipe she has in mind.

    Pampered Chef (don't be a hater) has a recipe I've done that makes a meaty sauce you can use in tostadas/tacos, stuffed shells, and something else. And a few other recipes like that. They had this whole campaign for meals to serve two people, thus large batches you can freeze parts of.

    ReplyDelete
  10. There are a lot of books out about cooking once a month. I see tons of them at the library whenever I'm there. I'm not sure how good they are. I have a few friends that do this sort of thing and they never have to cook except once a month. My problem is that I don't want to eat "those" kinds of foods sometimes. I've found lots of useful stuff online too. I've found that casserole-types dishes freeze well as well as beans, meats, and papa murphy pizzas. Let us know what you find out. That would definitely help with life.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I will second your feelings on Dream Dinners. I was really disappointed. I knew that I was paying more for what I got but figured that the convenience was worth it. Turns out the food wasn't! I also thought it tasted bad! I grew up in a non-processed, white bread free home, maybe that has something to do with it. Have you tried vegan margarine? I believe that it has no cholesterol, or trans-fat, but I'm not sure.

    ReplyDelete
  12. "whats wrong with margarine" (bite your tongue..) hey this is a blog, we are aloud to share opinions. I have never heard of "dream dinners" before but if it is anything like "pamper chef" or "cookie jewelery" (or whatever that is called?) it is a rip-off. Doesn't sound good to me. I have never heard of only cooking once a month. I think that would be great but it almost ensures that you will NOT be eating that many fresh fruits/vegetables etc. A small time saver tip is to wash and peel your vegs/fruits (well don't peel all fruits of course, but ones like melons, pineapple...) immediately after you bring them home from the store. Wash and chop lettuce (if you don't buy it already "ready" in a bag) and put it in a plastic container with lid but make sure you place a wet paper towel over the top so that the fridge will draw moisture from the wet paper towel,and not the lettuce itself. Emily's idea of cooking beans/rice in bulk is good. Think of cooking a few different starches every week and then just keeping them in the fridge. That way you can just saute some onions/garlic (other veg/herbs) with olive oil or BUTTER (JK) and toss in the rice, pasta, cous cous, beans, quinoa etc. Another tip (at least to enhance flavor) is to change or substitute the cooking liquid you use to cook your starch. There are a ton of other things that will add wonderful and diverse flavor instead of always using water (which has no flavor at all) A common one is broth (chicken, beef, veg...) You could also try cooking rice using coconut milk or replace some of the water amount for tomato juice or other veg juice. I like Candace's idea of placing smaller pieces of chicken/meat in freezer bags. Don't ever place an entire (costco) size package of meat in the freezer all together. More than likely you will not want to eat it all at once and its a pain to then try to defrost some of it. Remember that even good meat is NOT going to last forever in the freezer. But I do believe that the "meat part" of your meal can be done a good month in advance (referring to placing smaller portions in freezer bags and stocking your freezer and place in fridge to defrost the night before) and of course you must not eat meat every meal. Also, most (decent) butchers will cut/tie meats special if you ask them to. That saves tons of time because you wont have to dirty and sanitize another cutting board and knife to cut your roast into smaller pieces or tie your chicken, de-bone it etc. Take the time (once a week Im sure is the average among you guys) after grocery shopping to do a few things that will save you time in the long run. Okay I'm sure if it wasn't so late I would think of more and Cristin, you KNEW I would write a lot on this subject, so I wont apologize this time.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Okay, I cook all my meal once a month and freeze everything... There are certain foods that do not taste good at all. and my food bill went from almost 300.00 a month to 180.00 a month. I got a book call "The everything once a month cooking" It was only like 13.95. It is the first book I bought and there are tons of great recipes. I love cooking all in one day. At times I can make only 18 main dishes in a day but then the next day I just finish up. I usually have anywhere from 5-30 dishes in the freezer. I never have to worry about what is on the menu unless I forget to take it out of the freezer. On about.com they have a whole section about once a month freezer meals and they have lessons on what not to freeze and how to freeze it as well as some great recipes. I love that I can change the recipe if I want to fit my families likes and let me tell you dislikes. If you have any questions just let me know I LOVE freezer meals.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Kaci, do you have a cooking blog? If you don't you should. I only tried your food once but it was good.

    ReplyDelete
  15. That is so funny Ashely, Yesterday when I read her comment. I thought the same thing. That Kaci should have a cooking blog.

    To be a blog hater Kaci...
    Start a cooking blog.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Cooking Accomplished! has been a great find for myself and several of my friends. The concept is simple; you go online, pick the entrees you want and the date you want to assemble them. The difference between Cooking Accomplished! and several other businesses like this in Portland, is quality! The owner is a trained chef. They have a commercial kitchen where all the ingredients are prepped by Shelley and her staff. Many of my friends, prior to joining me for meal assembly sessions at Cooking Accomplished!, admitted to serving and eating frozen or pre-cooked meals several times a week and to dining out two or three times a week. We decided since we are worried about nutritional value and using quality local ingredients we would research meal assembly as a solution to reducing time spent shopping and preparing dinners with the goal of eating healthier. The only assemble-your-own meal company that we found in Portland, that had great selections, high quality local ingredients and prepped all their food in-house is CookingAccomplished! in Lake Oswego. Since I started preparing meals at CookingAccomplished! I've also signed up for a couple of great cooking classes. My son attended a kids class as well and he can't wait until the next one. Shelley has done a fantastic job of creating a quality experience!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I just wanted to share my experience. I love to cook but I am 22 weeks pregnant and once I hit 6 weeks of pregnancy I started to get really sick. I was throwing up daily from week 6 to week 20. I can not thank Dream Dinners enough. My hubby works all day and the last thing he felt like doing was making dinner but he would pull the dream dinners out and follow the very easy directions and dinner was done for him. He hates to cook. but didn't mind this. Even though I love to cook, being pregnant and in school, I have been very tired so dream dinners has been wonderful. We eat the meals about 5-6 times per week and we have only had 2 meals that we didn't care for as much as others but they were still edible. We had one meal tonight that was my favorite meal. It was TexMex BBQ Turkey wraps. So good!! I will probably continue until my baby is about 3-4 months old maybe even longer as it is saving us money each month. They also have a dream dinners cookbook with tips on cooking and freezing meals.

    Just wanted to share my great experience with Dream Dinners! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  18. You hit the nail on the head. I went to the same place because I started working full time and needed to have some good meals ready to go so we would not go out to eat. I don't like fast food at all. So the difference is you must know how to cook. My cousin who goes with me doesn't cook and she lives them. So if you know how to cook good meals these are just a step above fast food and boxed dinners.

    ReplyDelete
  19. You hit the nail on the head. I went to the same place because I started working full time and needed to have some good meals ready to go so we would not go out to eat. I don't like fast food at all. So the difference is you must know how to cook. My cousin who goes with me doesn't cook and she lives them. So if you know how to cook good meals these are just a step above fast food and boxed dinners.

    ReplyDelete

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails