Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dashing Dishes

Starting in January, I signed up for a monthly sort of cooking club called Dashing Dishes. They have locations in Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Montreal, Regina, Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Toronto. And as it happens, one of the Calgary locations is in the Silver Springs Community Center, about 30 seconds from our house.

I had to book online ahead of time, and selected 8 different dishes I wanted to make. It was $175 for 8 dishes which have 4 servings each. We left home, drove down, assembled our food, and were home again with everything in the freezer in just over an hour. They do all the grocery shopping, the prep work and the planning - we just had to show up, check in, and assemble each dish into the Ziploc bags provided. Participants are required to wear hair coverings and large aprons, and there are plenty of staff on hand to keep an eye on things. I can't rave enough about how efficient the whole setup is!

They come to Silver Springs once per month, and 8 dishes is about the right amount to take a lot of the stress of meals off my shoulders. With there being 4 generous servings, we usually get a dinner for the two of us, a lunch each, and maybe even one more lunch. What we get from them is a main dish, so by the time we add rice or pasta and a salad or other veggie, it's a really hearty meal. They have a good selection of stovetop, oven and crockpot dishes as well. The first month I had issues, because I kept forgetting that you need to let the food thaw completely in the fridge before cooking, and I never planned ahead far enough. Things seem to take about 48 hours to thaw in the fridge, and I've got the hang of it now.

Some of the dishes have been better then others. There have only been a couple in the last few months that we would rate as a total fail, but the benefits of the program still outweigh the issue of a couple of recipes we didn't like. It's really nice to experiment with some things I wouldn't try normally, without the commitment of having to buy a whole jar of exotic spices or sauces that I then might not want to use.

In January, we had Shrimp Italiano (which was really good), black bean linguine (which was good, but had some different flavours we weren't sold on), Bruschetta Chicken (which was amazing), pot roast with gravy (alas, too onion-y for me!), Korean beef with noodles (we loved this one so much I did actually go out and buy Oyster sauce for future use), Mandarin chicken (just ok), red currant braised pork (sounds better then it was - wasn't currant-y enough), and roasted chicken with artichokes and veg (this one was a fail - watery and flavourless, sadly).

In February, we had beef dippers (very yum!), hoisin shrimp (loved!), honey curry chicken (ok), pork spareribs (I can't tell you how good this one was - we could have eaten them for leftovers all week without getting tired of them, if there'd been enough), sesame chicken stir fry (ok - not a ton of flavour), beef stroganoff (not bad, but I like it better the way I make it), slow roasted pork (this one was not a hit - the meat was tender, but the sauce wasn't very saucy or flavourful), and sweet coconut chicken (we loved this one - I would have never thought of searing a crust of coconut onto chicken before baking it).

In March we had cheesy pasta with peas and sausage (tasty - nice light sauce), crockpot chicken chili (good and hearty - a bit too spicy for my ulcer though, even with me scaling back the amount of spices they recommended), Dijon and herb beef roast (big hit!), honey pecan pork chops (tasty sauce, but the chops themselves weren't that great - a different cut of meat would have been more tender), Hungarian beef (not quite what I was expecting - it was ok), lemon and ginger shrimp (bland sauce), oyster beef (love it!) and pasta with pepperoni and tomato (a bit weird - would classify this one as a fail).

We're working our way through the April batch slowly - I've had a bit more free time to cook from scratch, but I need to get moving with these meals, because I think we have about 6 unused dishes, and only about a week until our next cooking session. We don't have a ton of room in our freezer, otherwise it wouldn't be a big deal, as the dishes will keep for several months in the freezer.

I highly recommend checking them out: If you do sign up, be sure to let them know that I referred you! If I refer enough people, I get a deal. :)

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