Despite being female, my culinary skills are next to nil. I am what you can call an “assembler” – I can open a bunch of cans and bags, throw them in a pot, simmer, and call it soup or stew or chili or rice & beans. I can vaguely follow recipes, but they don’t always come out the right way. Add to this the fact that I hate spending $5 on a jar of a particular spice to use 1/8 of a teaspoon of it and then never use it again until it’s gone bad.
I was excited to find a place in my hometown that solves so many of my cooking problems. It’s a meal assembly kitchen. They’re popping up all over the place, so I’m sure you’ll be able to find one in your hometown, too!
Here’s what I do to fill my freezer full of delicious meals that are impossible to mess up:
- Go to the website, read through the descriptions of meals.
- Sign up for a session date and time, and select which meals I want to prepare.
- Arrive for my session, wash hands, put on apron.
- Walk to the first station, where everything is laid out salad-bar style.
- Read the recipe posted above the station.
- Start to assemble the recipe in a Ziplock bag or an aluminum pan. The best part is that if the recipe calls for 4 oz. of diced tomatoes, the tomatoes are already diced AND the scoop in the tomatoes is a 4 oz scoop. It’s idiot proof!
- Finish assembling meal, walk to wrapping station and wrap meal with plastic wrap. Select the label for the recipe (with detailed cooking directions!) and stick it on the bag.
- Put the meal on my shelf of the fridge and go back to make my next meal.
- Lather, rinse, repeat until done!
NO CLEANING. You leave the station however it was when you were done. Did you crack an egg for those crab cakes? Yeah, you can leave it on the counter. Did you spill some breadcrumbs when breading your Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breasts? It’s ok, just leave it there. It’s the ultimate in cooking – all of the fun but none of the tedious work part.
Now, you may read up on a meal assembly kitchen in your area and say, “But…. this looks like food for people with families! I’m a single geek. Just me and my cat(s)/dog(s)/ferret(s)/lizard(s). What am I going to do with a family’s worth of food?”
This will depend on the kitchen. Most of them have “Half” or “Couples” packages with 2-3 servings, rather than 4-6 for families. My kitchen offers 3 serving portions. For me, this works for two dinners and two lunches (lunches being half a standard portion). Oftentimes, I will have the kitchen cut the meat into smaller portions so I can freeze them separately. Then, instead of having the same pork dish for 4 meals over 2 days, I can have a dinner and lunch early in the month and then another dinner and lunch later in the month. Another way to vary leftovers it to slice some extra steak over a salad or chop up extra pork and make a stir-fry.
It’s great to be driving home from work after a long day and know that all I have to do to have a delicious dinner is throw a pre-marinated steak on the George Foreman and make a quick side dish (steam-in-the-microwave veggies ftw!).
Geeks – liberate yourself from the cycle of pizza, doritos, and Dew! Take the Dominos number off your speed dial. Eat some real food. Also, how cool would it be for a second date to say, “Come over to my house. I make mouthwatering Balsamic Peach Pork Chops.” Pretty cool. Pretty sexy. It’s not a lie, either! At the kitchen, you took the raw pork chops. You added the peaches, the balsamic vinegar, the oil, the spices. You marinated it in your fridge. You cooked it. You are a chef…. and a hero.
Embrace your inner culinary artist, geeks! It’s fun and tasty!