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Business Fri Mar 30 2007
… but without enough time or confidence to do it, help can be had. The Chicago area now has a store-front DIY kitchen where busy cooks can prepare their own meals, and a seasoned cooking instructor ready to transform would-be chefs, their kitchens and their pantries into lean, mean cooking machines.
Dinner by Design, a food prep kitchen, has opened a local branch in Lakeview. They offer two types of service: You can swing by and pick up a frozen entrée and sides from their well stocked freezer, or you can schedule a time to come in and spend about two hours preparing enough meals to feed you and your friends or family for most of the month ahead. They also schedule parties. You can go with a group of friends, bring a bottle of wine and socialize as you assemble lasagna or bread fish fillets.
I went with some friends for the wine-accompanied version. We chose meals from the month’s menu ahead of time, and when we got to the store, stations had been set up. The meat, pasta or fish servings had been premeasured and packaged. At each station, we were given bowls or freezer bags and could make sauces or marinades easily with ingredients that were already chopped, measured and placed within reach.
Cooking was as easy as it looks on the cooking shows: We were combining wet, dry, liquid and solid ingredients without having to hunt through our spice racks or refrigerators. Without even having to move. And best of all, after the meals were ready to go into the oven (or the freezer until oven time) the Dinner by Design staff would come by and clear away the dirty bowls, measuring cups and spoons. Then it was on to the next station to dirty more bowls and spoons.
I went in a little wary. I usually don’t like frozen dinners. But in the weeks since my visit, my family has enjoyed a shrimp and pasta dinner, a lasagna and stir-fry vegetables (offered with steak, which I left out). Some of the meals that were meant to be made with meat, but I made without meat, ended up tasting like something was missing. But I’d go again, especially if more vegetarian options appear on future menus.
If it’s confidence you're lacking, not time, how about a personal trainer? Marsha Gibson Heuberger, once a local cooking instructor, is now a Personal Cooking Coach. With her "Help I Have a Kitchen" package, Marsha will come into your kitchen, take a look at what you have and what you're lacking, ask about your goals, and help you outfit your kitchen so that you’re prepared to cook. Or prepared for the next session with Marsha, "Methods of Cooking," where you learn to roast, bake, grill, sauté or poach. At the very least, knowing what those words mean might lead to interesting conversations with people who actually do cook. And the ability to add life to a frozen dinner, should the need arise.