Dashing Dishes meals

Outsource Your Cooking: Dashing Dishes

This is the third in my Outsource Your Cooking series. Our Daily Brett offers beautiful, delicious food, but it’s pricey. Fit Kitchen is a healthy home run, but it’ll cost you $10-15 per (small) portion. For the past two months we’ve been sampling Dashing Dishes, which I was hoping would hit the sweet spot – delicious, healthy and more affordable, with meals sized to easily feed 4-6.

I love the concept. A small local business that preps real, reasonably healthy, family-friendly food you can cook at home? Brilliant!

Unfortunately, our actual experience was a bit of a disappointment. The food is okay, but not fantastic. But it’s better than fast food, most takeout and chain restaurants, so if that’s your “I can’t cook tonight” solution, it might be worth having a few Dashing Dishes meals ready to go in the freezer.

How Does Dashing Dishes Work?

Dashing Dishes
You can pick up your food or have it delivered.

Every month, Dashing Dishes publishes a menu with 14 entrees, of which you select 8 or 12. If you like, you can double-up on your favourites. You reserve a time to pick up your order (Unit 9, 2820 Centre Avenue NE, just north of Memorial Drive, east of Barlow Trail), or for an extra charge, they deliver.

Dashing Dishes takes care of shopping for, cleaning, chopping and measuring ingredients, and they give you each meal in a large ziplock bag with a sticker detailing the final cooking directions. You throw the meals in the freezer and then thaw and cook when needed.

Dashing Dishes meals in a cooler
Our Dashing Dishes order heading home in the cooler.

Is The Food Healthy?

I’d call it a six or seven out of ten, and you can make it into a eight or nine. It’s minimally processed real food, with a good variety of protein choices, including lots of chicken, some vegetarian and shrimp. The sauces are reasonable for sodium, fat, and calories, at least relative to restaurant food, and they give you the nutrition information for each dish.

The reason I’m not more enthusiastic is that there are so few vegetables and whole grains. Six of our eight meals had no (or close to no) vegetables, and the other two had some, but not enough to make up “half your plate.” So if you want to get your veggies (and you do, right?), you’ll still have to make that.

On the whole grain front, just two of our meals came with whole grains (bulgur, oatmeal, and brown rice). Four came with refined grains (white pitas, tortillas, and pasta), and two left you to add your own. If you want to do whole grains, just tell them to leave out the grain products when you place your order, and use your own.

Do both of these and you’ve got a pretty healthy meal, but with a bit less convenience, and a few more dollars on the price tag.

Does it Taste Good?

Unfortunately, we only liked a couple of the entrees. We prefer our food fresh and light, but the meals we tried seemed too processed but also bland. I chose lower-sodium entrees, which they may not do as well with. Again, definitely better than dining out at Boston Pizza, but not quite for us. Here are a few examples:

Dashing Dishes Fusilli with Chicken and Cranberries
Fusilli with Chicken and Cranberries. Easy. Heat and eat. (I added the salad.) Maybe they tried to make the cream sauce too healthy, because it didn’t taste like much at all. And the chicken was bland too. The next day I made a cheddar cheese sauce and tried to pass the leftovers off as macaroni and cheese, but the kids didn’t buy it. Still in the freezer.
Dashing Dishes Veggie Casserole
Veggie Casserole. Slow-cooked vegetarian goodness. One of the few with vegetables. (I added the salad. Half your plate people.)
Dashing Dishes Lentil Loaf
Lentil Loaf (vegetarian). Not much to get excited about on its own, but a fine plant-based protein addition to a salad, wrap, or stir-fry. You guessed it, I added the salad.
Dashing Dishes Hoisin Shrimp with Almonds.
Hoisin Shrimp with Almonds. I added the broccoli and the quinoa hidden below. Again, the taste was flat. Needed a dash of soy sauce.

What Does it Cost?

Dashing Dishes sounds expensive upfront, but if you have a hungry crew and eat all of the food (something we struggled with), the cost per meal isn’t bad. An order of eight entrees is $215, which works out to $26.88 each, easily serving 4-6. Add another $30 or $3.75 per meal for delivery, and a few dollars to put some veggies and whole grains on the side, and you’re up to about $35 for a meal that generously serves a family of four.

Dashing Dishes is certainly a convenient option, and better than many no-cooking solutions people turn to. Have you tried it? I’d love to hear what you thought. Personally, I think we can do better.

In the next few weeks I’ll share some of my favourite “no time to cook” meals. In the meantime, if cooking isn’t your forte, consider signing up for dietitian Kristyn Hall’s Healthy Cooking: Basics and Techniques Hands-on class, read Vincci Tsui’s excellent Secrets to Effortless Cooking blog post, or pick up good basic cookbook, like Cook! from Dietitians of Canada.

I’d be happy to hear your feedback on this review, or suggestions for a future “Outsource Your Cooking” post. Join the conversation on Facebook.

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