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DINING OUT:Dream dinners at Dream Dinners

March 31, 2007|By Melissa Hatef

How many of us plod home after a long day's work, or a long day of anything, for that matter, stand in front of the refrigerator in a fog-like stupor and hope something will jump out at us that's easy and quick to prepare? Like many other working people, when I come home from a full day, the last thing I want to do is worry about creating some fabulous dinner in a short amount of time.

Enter Dream Dinners. Founded in 2002 by two working mothers in Washington, their mission was to bring the family meals back around the dinner table with the least amount of effort. Intrigued by the whole concept, I stopped by one of the many franchises popping up all over the Los Angeles area to find out more and was greeted with a smile by Lisa Uhern, one of the two owners at the La Crescenta store.

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She showed me around the store, which has been open since early 2007. The décor is very welcoming, painted in soft red and yellow tones, designed to excite the senses. Gleaming stainless-steel food counters are stationed in the middle of the room and the atmosphere welcomes you in to have some fun while assembling meals.

Rather than trying to describe how Dream Dinners works, I was invited to one of their "Sneak Peek" preview nights, in which a group of us were shown how to build an entrée to serve either three or six in a family. I showed up for my evening and was greeted by a group of women, most of whom worked for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

We had a moment to socialize briefly and enjoy a glass of wine or coffee, provided by the hostess. Lissa Mooney, Uhern's partner, gave us a brief introduction about Dream Dinners and after a flurry of hand washing, we donned our aprons and were shown to our stations, which were prepped ahead of time with fresh ingredients for each entrée.

The stations have a list of easy-to-follow instructions for either three or six servings. I chose the three-serving size as it would be more than ample for my small family and decided on the Herb-Dijon Chicken Breasts ($4.38/serving). Ready to go, I stood in front of my station and started working on the list of instructions. The chicken breasts were marinated in a savory blend of Dijon mustard, buttermilk and herbs, which I pre-measured into a zip-lock bag and added the chicken.

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