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Cooking out, dining in

Guest blogger Monica Riehl profiles a unique business in Halifax that lets you prepare ready-to-cook meals.

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Guest blogger Monica Riehl (an intern with East Coast Living from the University of King’s College) shares a potential solution to her cooking woes.

When it comes to supper, I rely on cooking shows and recipe websites for new ways to dress-up a pork chop or prepare chicken. I’ll often ask my fiancée and 11-year old son for their suggestions. “What do you guys feel like for supper?” My fiancée: “It doesn’t matter.” My son: “Chicken tacos! Nachos! Hamburger Helper!” (in that order).

Quick-fix feasts usually receive the most praise. Time-consuming dishes like carefully chopped stir-frys and planned-ahead marinades are met with my son’s probing fork and suspicion.

A former co-worker offered me a possible solution: a unique business called What’s for Supper? It helps busy, recipe-stumped people to create an assortment of meals on-site that they bring home, freeze and cook following simple instructions. The best part is there’s no washing, chopping or food prep and you don’t have to clean up.

I’ve heard about places like this but I think this may be the only one operating in Atlantic Canada. I thought perhaps it was a mythical operation, so I had to find out for myself. I stopped by its location in Bayer’s Lake Industrial Park in Halifax and met with owner Krista Melanson. After a tour and a chat, she suggested I prepare a dish from the list of 14 menu items.

I whipped up a freezer-bag full of Mexican Chicken Soup. The work station was clean, the instructions simple and the ingredients and tools ready for me. The soup was suggested to be a hearty weeknight meal but my family enjoyed it for weekend lunches. It was just as easy to cook as it was to prepare, offering a filling bowl with chicken, corn, carrots, peas, rice and black beans.

A chef who trained at Paris’s Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts School, Melanson changes the menu monthly. The portions meet Canadian Food Guidelines, feeding four to six people (though you can also make smaller portions).

It takes about two hours to prepare a dozen menu items at an average cost of $22 per dish. It’s certainly less than take-out but more expensive than prepackaged grocery store meals. I think the advantage is the fresh ingredients, the ability to tweak the recipes to your own taste and the social aspect of preparing food in a group setting. With rising food prices, it also offers an alternative to dining out.

What do you think? Could this kind of approach be the solution to supper challenges in your home?




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