Joy Magazine

How to Answer the Eternal Question: So, What's for Dinner?

It happens almost every day. Just as you're finishing breakfast, he (or she) will say, "So, what's for dinner?" and you want to scream. It's not that he (or she) is expecting to go hungry, and it's not that you don't plan to prepare supper, whether it's you cooking, you both cooking, getting take out, or going out — it's that your partner or child asks. Every day.

After years of responsible meal preparation, of thinking and planning and shopping and preparing for meat loaf on Monday, rice and beans on Tuesday, chicken paprikash on Wednesday — whatever — it's time to try something new. Something to excite your taste buds and revitalize your culinary interest; something so that you have an answer to that dreaded daily question: how about pickup meals that you prepare at home?

What's it going to cost?

Both Dinners Done Right and Dream Dinners offer meal packages of three, six or 12 meals. The more meals you order, the less expensive the package. Meals are main dishes and while side dishes are not included in the prep, you'll get lots of encouragement and recipes for easy-to-make rice, pasta and vegetables.

At Dinners Done Right, a package of three two to three portion meals will run you about $60. Order a package of six two to three portion meals and your cost will be about $90. And if you're cooking for a larger family, a package of twelve four to six portion meals will be about $190. Package prices at Dream Dinners are based on ingredients.

Both will customize recipes for your particularly dietary needs and allow you to substitute ingredients within reason. They can assemble your meals for pickup if you are running short of time at no additional cost.

FYI Chef's in-home kitchen inventory and cooking lesson will cost around $40, or more if you've arranged for a group class. The ingredients you'll need for your lesson are not included in the cost.

At Dinners Done Right on Delta Waters in Medford, owners Robbie Ross and Phil Pifer spend hours in the kitchen so that you don't have to. Walk into the spotless kitchen and you'll find six gleaming stainless steel stations each filled with the fixings for two main dish meals, just waiting for you in your kiss-the-cook apron. Your mouth will water at the recipes, and the menu changes every month.

Penny Horning drives down from Grants Pass with two or three of her friends every month or so. "We have so much fun when we go there, my friends and I. Usually three of us, we're in and out in about an hour and a half," She says. Some recipes are completed with the crock pot, some are soups, and some you need to cook a little slower. "There's a whole variety and everything's right there," Horning says.

Pifer and Ross have shopped, chopped and portioned out the ingredients for the recipes and organized the spices and condiments you need for the featured menu.

Your job? Customize the recipe for your taste or diet, and assemble! Put a couple of meals in the fridge for this week and the rest in the freezer for later. "You just pull out a bag of food and you don't have to think!" laughs Horning. "And portion control! It's perfectly portioned so you don't eat too much. That's very important for me and my husband." Down home cooking doesn't get much easier than this!

Dream Dinners in Medford's South Gateway Center offers another convenient opportunity to assemble meals.

"It's just a break, one less thing you have to worry about when you get home," says Dream Dinners co-owner Jeanne Heard. "We get new moms and new brides, and kids, too, who want to learn to cook," she reports. "We show them how to follow a recipe, how to measure ingredients, what spices go with what. Some of it's really basic." You'll take home six or 20 dinners, along with cooking instructions, serving instructions and accompaniments.

Another way to answer the eternal "What's for Dinner" question and invigorate your taste buds is to take a cooking class, either in a local kitchen store or in your own home with a personal cooking teacher. Lori Foster with FYI Chef offers customized home cooking classes in Ashland and Medford.

An in-home cooking class is about two hours with FYI Chef. "The most popular is the French cooking class, and some of the ethnic meals, the Japanese and also the specialty classes," Foster explains. "I teach them to cook. I don't like to cook for people. I like to teach them to cook for themselves. I can cook with them, but I don't cook for them, so they learn how to cook for themselves."

Whether you're most interested in convenient preparation of some wonderful meals, learning a new technique or spice combination, or just cooking with friends, you'll have a great time and package up a meal for next week with any of these options.

So, the next time he (or she) asks, "what's for dinner?", just smile graciously, step over to the refrigerator and whip out a perfectly-sized meal of Pesto Cheese Ravioli, Gorgonzola Cheese Burgers, Sole Florentine, Tuscan Steaks, Sesame Crusted Pork Chops, Margarita Chicken, or Pasta Primavera with Shrimp. Voila! It will be there and ready when you are.

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