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Dream Dinners And The Like...


monavano
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I was wondering if anyone has tried any of the assembe and take home to cook dinners from one of the many franchises popping up. Would a "foodie" be interested in this? Or would this be verboten?

After reading this article in the washington post recently, it has me curious. Is this an industry that will be around for the long term, I wonder.

Any thoughts on the value and/or tastiness of these dinners?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/conte...5071900339.html

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Any thoughts on the value and/or tastiness of these dinners?

This was discussed on one of my mommy boards and the point was made by a couple of folks that the ingredients are sourced from Sysco and that the recipes tend to cater to the tastes of the general public and therefore might not be as spicy or interesting as foodies might like.

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I just read an article about a couple of different stores where you can go in and make "family-friendly" dishes designed to be frozen and cooked when you need them. Some of the selling points are that they are "home-made", cheaper than restaurant meals, and fresh because you assemble them yourself (or you can pick them up pre-made). Costs range from around $160 for 8 dishes to ~$200 for 12 dishes.

The chains I read about are Super Shopper, Get Cooking, and Let's Dish!. It looks like there are at least two Let's Dish locations already open in the area (Ashburn and Leesburg) and another one is coming soon. The Let's Dish website shows an Alexandria location coming in the spring. I believe it will be in the old Whole Foods location at Little River Turnpike and Braddock Road.

Has anyone tried these places? What do you think about this concept?

Personally, I can't imagine doing it, but I don't have kids, I like to cook, and I have the time to do it on a regular basis. I suppose if you have a family and multiple schedules to juggle, it might be pretty nice to have a selection of 8-12 different dishes ready to be pulled out of the freezer. And knowing exactly what went into them would be nice, as opposed to a pre-packaged, processed, frozen something-or-other or carry-out.

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My wife and I usually spend one weekend every six weeks making food to freeze for upcoming dinners. This is very easy, and a whole hell of a lot cheaper than these services. We have even figured out ways to combat the repeditive nature of these foods. One example is Potato Leek soup, it can either be a simple soup thickened with a little cream, drizzled with EVOO and a little salt and pepper, or it can be turned into a baked potato soup by using sour cream to thicken it, and then topped with cheese, chives, and bacon.

We also have found success with lasagna, chili, stews and several types of tomato sauce.

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The Let's Dish website shows an Alexandria location coming in the spring. I believe it will be in the old Whole Foods location at Little River Turnpike and Braddock Road.
This is good news. I have friends who live in Alexandria who have driven out to Leesburg to do this. They get a bunch of friends together and make it sort of a cooking party. It sounds efficent and fun....but maybe not so cheap. Edited by Free Wilma
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So while recovering from major ankle surgery i had to become creative on how to keep my husband from feeding my son out of a box every night- be it Kid Cuisine or Coco Puffs! So we tried Entree Vous- where you go and put together meals with their fresh ingredients, then freeze them til we need them. you defrost the night before, then dinner is easy without me hopping around the kitchen, and my kid actually eating healthy varieties of food.

how do YOU folks feel about this- have any of you tried any of them: dream dinners, Let's Dish, etc?

I am a huge fan of Entreevous especially since the menu goes from comfort food like lasagne to gorgonzola stuffed flank steak, which i would never attempt myself.

i think it's a great time saving trend... your thoughts...?

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I have to admit that I go to Let's Dish.

I get 8 meals at a time, and we use them over about 3 or 4 months. They aren't bad actually, and they are perfect for the end of the week when we are out of fresh ingredients. Basically, they are our delivery food substitution because delivery around here SUCKS. But, it's not that bad, and I have actually turned a couple people onto it.

(I started doing it to prepare for the baby's arrival.)

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I've been to Let's Dish--it's actually pretty decent. It's really nice for the nights when I'm just too pooped to cook (but don't want to spend the money to go out or pull a major calorie splurge by ordering pizza or chinese or something). There have been a couple of entrees that I didn't much care for, but most of the meals are tasty, relatively healthy, and easy to prepare.

As for freezer space, most of the entrees can be flattened out and stacked in a storage-friendly manner. I've done both the 8- and 12-meal packages, and I've never had trouble fitting everything into my teensy apartment freezer.

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The first time I heard about Let's Dish, I honestly had to have the concept explained about 4 times before I understood what the deal was and why on earth one would want to do this. It seems to me that the real value here is for people who don't like to grocery shop and who need to work from a recipe in order to assemble a meal. If you are an intuitive cook and can create a quick meal from pantry staples and refrigerator dregs, you will probably not find this service useful.

I have eaten a few of the Let's Dish meals with some family members, and all I have to say is, "Meh". One dish was some sort of chili-marinated steak, and another was a sort of asian-y shrimp dish. The sauces seem kind of heavy-handed and salty, and frankly assembly and cooking of the dishes takes about as long as making some sort of quick pasta dish or grilled steak/chicken/fish + steamed/nuked veggie + steamed/nuked rice or potato. It's not for me, but I can understand why some love it.

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I have eaten a few of the Let's Dish meals with some family members, and all I have to say is, "Meh". One dish was some sort of chili-marinated steak, and another was a sort of asian-y shrimp dish. The sauces seem kind of heavy-handed and salty, and frankly assembly and cooking of the dishes takes about as long as making some sort of quick pasta dish or grilled steak/chicken/fish + steamed/nuked veggie + steamed/nuked rice or potato. It's not for me, but I can understand why some love it.
If it is too salty, then that is more the fault of the preparer than anyone else. One of the advantages to let's dish is that you can control the quantity of all of the ingredients (except the meat) yourself. I rarely use the suggested amount because I tend to like things with a bit more flavor and less fat. I agree that it takes about the same time to prepare as just grabbing something and putting it together, but sometimes you have neither fresh ingredients nor the desire (or mental capacity) to sort through the pantry to figure something out; this is a much better option. And, the beauty is that nothing is nuked, and thus nothing tastes nuked; you can prepare to your desired doneness. I'm not saying it is the best stuff in the world, but it is much better than anywhere that delivers to my house.

For me, this is a really good Thursday or Friday night meal because I am out of the stuff from the farmer's market, and I am focusing my cooking thoughts on what to make over the weekend.

The one downfall that I have seen is that the meat is not trimmed quite as well as I would like it. It isn't bad, but I prefer it to be trimmed a slight bit more. There is no way to trim while there because the utensils are not available, and once it is all put together, it isn't worth the effort to trim after the fact.

I also make a dish or two a month in large quantities and freeze in individual portion sizes, which effectively does the same thing. But, by doing this also, I can have a bit more variety in my rather small freezer.

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The one downfall that I have seen is that the meat is not trimmed quite as well as I would like it. It isn't bad, but I prefer it to be trimmed a slight bit more. There is no way to trim while there because the utensils are not available, and once it is all put together, it isn't worth the effort to trim after the fact.
Would they let you bring a knife in, or do you have to use what's provided?
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The first time I heard about Let's Dish, I honestly had to have the concept explained about 4 times before I understood what the deal was and why on earth one would want to do this. It seems to me that the real value here is for people who don't like to grocery shop and who need to work from a recipe in order to assemble a meal. If you are an intuitive cook and can create a quick meal from pantry staples and refrigerator dregs, you will probably not find this service useful.

the other people who benefit are those who don't have TIME during the week to prepare good healthy meals for their families- it's great to throw somethng balanced, healhty and delicious in the oven, not worry about dishes since the entreevous dishes come in a disposable pan, and eat as a family. i can help my son with his homework while it cooks and enjoy quality family time instead of cleaning up my mess after.

also- we can ry specialty meals that call for a small quanity of something you may never use again or not use befor it goes bad. there are many lifestyles this fits for. we cook intuitive recipe-less meals on the weekend, when there is more time. for the record- i never cook with a recipe!

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Two questions - Are there any (good) vegetarian options? Do you always have to thaw in advance?

Situation: new baby in house, frequently little/no time to prep something good, generally realize this at last minute. Prefer not to get take out, and microwave/frozen/processed stuff tastes as it does.

I'd like to be able eat something semi-fresh. But if the veg quality is minimal, I'd imagine the veg dishes aren't worth it. Better to block off a Sunday and make it all myself.

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Two questions - Are there any (good) vegetarian options? Do you always have to thaw in advance?

Situation: new baby in house, frequently little/no time to prep something good, generally realize this at last minute. Prefer not to get take out, and microwave/frozen/processed stuff tastes as it does.

I'd like to be able eat something semi-fresh. But if the veg quality is minimal, I'd imagine the veg dishes aren't worth it. Better to block off a Sunday and make it all myself.

I have had some decent vegetarian pasta dishes. I haven't tried any of the other vegetarian meals, but I think that there are some. I would expect them to be pretty good as well. None of the vegetables have been of bad quality, but everything gets frozen after you put it together. Some dishes need to be thawed in advance and some don't. I think actually that it is the meat-based dishes that more often need to be thawed. The website www.letsdish.com has a menu for the next two months, and on the menu it indicates whether the dish is vegetarian and whether it needs to be thawed in advance. Check it out and see if it works for you.
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Two questions - Are there any (good) vegetarian options? Do you always have to thaw in advance?

A friend likes Let's Dish so I looked at their info and particularly the availability of vegetarian dishes because my husband is vegetarian. It looks like you pay the same price whether you get all meat or all vegetarian or both. I felt I wouldn't be getting my money's worth if I got all vegetarian dishes (since they seem sized for sharing) because it seems the cost of the ingredients for the meat dishes would be higher.

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A friend likes Let's Dish so I looked at their info and particularly the availability of vegetarian dishes because my husband is vegetarian. It looks like you pay the same price whether you get all meat or all vegetarian or both. I felt I wouldn't be getting my money's worth if I got all vegetarian dishes (since they seem sized for sharing) because it seems the cost of the ingredients for the meat dishes would be higher.
On the other hand, only the quantity of the meat is really controlled, so you could probably make your veggie dishes a bit heavier. I usually add more vegetables to all my dishes as I like lots of vegatables.
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Two questions - Are there any (good) vegetarian options? Do you always have to thaw in advance?
I'm a pescaterian and have looked at the menus of almost all of the local places (let's dish, dream dinners, can't remember dinner name of any other dinners, blah, blah, blah). They tend to only have (at most) 2-3 dinners that I could eat. It's the main reason I haven't gone in for any of those places. They generally require a 4-8 meal commitment (IIRC, the terms vary), and I just couldn't see loading up on so much of the same meal.

I agree with the other posters though--it's probably worth you looking into yourself online. It's probably been 12months since I've checked, and I think this is something that they may get more demand for. More demand may translate into menus that have changed somewhat.

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Two questions - Are there any (good) vegetarian options? Do you always have to thaw in advance?

Situation: new baby in house, frequently little/no time to prep something good, generally realize this at last minute. Prefer not to get take out, and microwave/frozen/processed stuff tastes as it does.

I'd like to be able eat something semi-fresh. But if the veg quality is minimal, I'd imagine the veg dishes aren't worth it. Better to block off a Sunday and make it all myself.

https://www.entreevous.com/public/menus/?month=200802

they have a hashbrown casserole this month that you can omit bacon from, veggie lasagne next month, and they have veggie sides every monthl NO MINIMUM ORDER! you can put it together yourself so you choose how much of which veggies you make. or you can call ahead and they put it together for you. i;m a huge fan.

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