The Hip Mom’s Secret to a Quick and Delicious Dinner
Ah, dinnertime. I bet you didn’t think about that when you first saw those two lines on the pregnancy test, did you? That after about six months of 100 percent breast or bottle milk, you’d have to either prepare dinner – or somehow conjure up something resembling a meal to eat EVERY SINGLE night for the next 18 years? (Unless, of course, you are mega-rich and A. can hire a personal chef, or B. go out to eat every single night. If so, I envy you!) Yes, I know, it’s a lot to contemplate. And even if you enjoy cooking (I happen to love cooking – especially while I’m nursing a nice glass of Shiraz – but I detest baking. Too much precision!), it still takes a lot of planning, shopping, time and a wee bit of practice and skill to get dinner on the table.
Fortunately, though, if you’re not thrilled about cooking, or if you’re short on time and sanity (doesn’t that happen to all of us at various stages of motherhood – and life?), there are some great alternatives for family-friendly, healthy dinners in Tulsa that won’t have you doing the Taco Bueno Drive Thru of Shame.
Dinner’s at 6
Dinner’s at 6 is a new, mom-owned kitchen on 81st Street just past Garnett. It is an ingenious concept: you hop online to their website and choose a day to pick up your 12-15 meals. Then youget to peruse the menus: you can pick from the “family” option (this is what I do because these meals feed a village – or a big family like mine), the “regular” option (these would feed a smaller family, say two parents and two smallish kids), and the “lite” options that serve two. From a selection of 15 choices, you choose 12. Pick your pick-up date, and then the lovely owner, Bridgette, will help you schlep the rather substantial food loot to your car. All of the entrees are hand assembled, and then immediately packaged in foil or Ziploc freezer bags. Then they are flash frozen. At first I admit I’m a little intimidated: there are a lot of foil containers! But everything is beautifully and clearly labelled, and includes a simple sheet with one- or two-sentence directions for each and every meal you have purchased. Most of the entrees just need to be thawed in the refrigerator for 24 hours, and then reheated either in the crockpot or the oven. So you have a delicious entrée, and then you can just round out your meal with a salad and maybe some rolls, and voila! Dinner!
Now, of course, you will still have to go to the grocery store for the drinks, the veg, the kiddie snacks and the diapers. But you won’t have to think very much at all about dinner. It is a real treat for me to not have plan too much: when I order my meals, my parents happen to be in town, and it is just so easy to thaw something and have plenty of good, company-worthy food with little preparation. And all of the entrées are really quite good. Everyone loves the Little Cheddar Meatloaves. The Reuben Meatball Bake is delicious, as is the Tortellini Sausage Soup. The only entrée we have had that is not a home run is the Greek Shrimp Fettuccine; it is possible that I overheat the noodles (they end up mushy), and my kids get a little freaked out over the shrimp. But there is plenty of food with every meal, and it really is fairly economical. For the family option, it is $230 for our twelve meals – so just about $20 to feed 6-8. Maybe a smidge more than you can make on your own, but far, far less than schlepping everyone to Red Robin – or even McDonald’s! What a great option when life is throwing you a curve ball — a new baby (or gift for a new mom?!), a psychopathic toddler, moving, school sports…anything!
Lambrusco’z To Go
Another no-brainer option is Lambrusco’z To Go! Lambrusco’z is a Deli/Catering market right off of 41st and Peoria across the street from Whole Foods. It is chock-full of delicious, deceptively simple dishes, all ready for you to bring home for dinner. Deli salads include Tabouli, Broccoli Toss, or Tortellini Pasta Feta Salad (are you drooling yet?). Then you can add on entrées such as turkey, honey ham, salmon or Tuscan Beef Tenderloin. Add sides such as asparagus, Rosemary Baked Potatoes, or Zucchini and Tomatoes and you have a gorgeous, almost-home-cooked meal…that you may even try to pass off as your own! (Ahem. Not that I would do something like that!) Surely even picky kids will find something to like here. (And, if not, in my house – too bad!) Plus, they have a lovely bakery selection as well – strategically placed for you to ogle as your entrees are assembled. Lambrusco’z also has a wide variety of catering options for parties (because how else are you going to have a party without serious help?). They offer delicious party trays, including canapés, heavy hors d’oeuvres like Tuscan Mixed Grill and Okie Mixed Grill (with a variety of meats and jalapeno pimento cheese), and other delicacies such as Bacon Wrapped Scallops and Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms.
Hanover’s Meat Market
Just by serendipity – and because I had to cancel a date night/steak house excursion with my husband due to puking kids – I decide to investigate Hanover’s Meat Market, just right down from Lambrusco’z. This place is not Whole Foods fancy – all the signs are handwritten, there are dusty cans of Cream of Mushroom soup and Lemon Pepper on the shelves – but this is a real, bona fide meat and fish market. I ask the very kind butcher, Mr. Hanover, to cut my husband something like the filet he is craving. He cuts me a piece of gorgeous-looking steak, gives me some sage advice on how to cook it, and sends me on my way. When my husband opens the meat, I swear he tears up – to a carnivore it is that beautiful. And when he cooks it? He does not care at all that we missed date night!
Finally, you probably have eaten at the wonderful Stonehorse Cafe in Utica Square a time or two…but did you know they have a market there too? I hadn’t ever really noticed it, but it is right next door! The market boasts artisan cheeses, top-of-the-line meats and seafood and many hard-to-find spices and dried goods. There are also homemade salad dressings, breads, preserves and desserts. And the baked goods are heavenly: every morning at six, the baker, Madeline Eller, proofs her dough, fires up her deck ovens, and begins to make some of the best bread you can find in Tulsa. My daughters love the flakey croissants (with a bit – or a pound – of butter!). And my boys are partial to her moist banana nut bread. Plus, they have frozen meals not unlike Dinner’s at 6: frozen entrees and ratatouilles that are easy to heat up with very little thought!
So, dear Mama, there is good food to be had out there, without a whole bunch of blood, sweat and tears on your part – no Burger King required. Bon apetit!