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Behind the scenes help for the hostess with the most-est

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It's 4:30 p.m. You meant to break away from your desk to pick up a few hors d'oeuvres for your party tonight on your lunch break. As luck would have it, you never got a lunch break, so now you don't have the party food you were planning to serve. You know there is a box of Ritz on the shelf in your pantry, but somehow something sitting on a Ritz is not what you had in mind to serve your guests, who by the way, will be arriving by 7 p.m. You are thinking you will be lucky to get home, pull on party clothes, run a comb through your hair and apply fresh lipstick before they arrive.

Relax … Take a deep breath - help is closer than you might think.

Thanks to the ingenious development of meal assembly businesses, hostesses have top- quality food options literally at their fingertips. In our area we can choose from the offerings of three meal preparation businesses: the original meal assembly business Dream Dinners, Dinners Done Right and Cooking Accomplished!

Meal-preparation businesses sprouted up in answer to consumers wishing to serve wholesome foods on a nightly basis, but lacking the ability, time or motivation to make dinner on their own. People order their meals on line, register for a session and go to the location to build their meals, then take them home to freeze and eat throughout the month. The businesses provide a wide variety of delicious, nutritious, restaurant quality meals that are sure to please every family member. Side dishes, desserts and breakfast items are often offered. In some cases, hors d'oeuvres are included on the menu, or can be created with a little alteration of the entrée.

These enterprises are run by smart women who anticipate what we need and make accommodations for us.

n All three businesses offer already constructed meals, perfect for dinner that night.

n If you are short of time, staff people would construct your meals for you, for a small fee, so all you have to do is call, place your order and come and get it.

n For 'grab and go ready made meals' there was not a minimum order. Buy just for tonight or stock up on your favorites.

Here is what I learned:

The Dream Dinners franchise located at 7068 Nyberg Road (where Nyberg meets I-5) is owned by Lake Oswego resident Lois Moll and Tigard's Felicia Rosenthal. On the Web site (www.dreamdinners.com) you can learn about the nutritional information of the dishes, cooking instructions, preview the month's offerings and schedule a session.

They are offering a Holiday Meal Selection featuring an assortment of appetizers, prime rib roast and New York style cheesecake with cranberry raspberry sauce, and a Side Dish medley of Three Cheese Mashed Potato and Green Bean and Mushroom casseroles, savory stuffing, rich gravy, creamy horseradish sauce and herb rub. They also have a gift station where you can put together a bean and split pea soup blend, bag it up in a fancy organza gift bag and voila! You can mark your teacher gifts off the list.

I was looking for entrees I could modify and serve as hors d'oeuvres and found several:

n Pesto cheese ravioli with chicken and walnuts

n Glazed Sirloin Skewers

n Shrimp Scampi Marinara

n Raspberry Glazed Chicken

n Sesame Teriyaki Glazed Meatballs

For more information call Lois or Felicia at 503-692-0245.

Dinners Done Right, located at 1980 Willamette Falls Drive, Suite 100 in West Linn, is a franchise owned by Amy Murphy and Dion Innes. A review of their Web site (www.dinnersdoneright.com) showed that they are offering free meal preparation during December, which saves buyers $30.

They offer a Holiday Dinner package with your choice of ham, prime rib or turkey as the entrée. They also offer a Holiday Brunch package, which includes a Holiday Egg Strata and cinnamon rolls.

A quick scan of their menu revealed entrée items that could be turned into hors d'oeuvres, including:

n Mediterranean Marinated Flank Steak

n Pineapple Teriyaki Chicken

n Southwest Roll-ups

You can reach Amy or Dion at 503-657-8463.

Cooking Accomplished is not a franchise. This meal-preparation business is owned by Shelley McDaniel, a professionally trained chef, who creates the dishes offered at the store, located at 6302 Meadows Road in Lake Oswego. A study of the Web site (www.cookingaccomplished.com) shows that clients have the opportunity to either call their order in by noon, have the staff assemble it and pick it up on your way home or just come raid their freezer - no appointment necessary.

ladies anticipate every need.

Bon Appetite and Happy Holidays!

Randall welcomes your research suggestions and food questions. She can be reached at 503-635-8811 or by e-mail at brandall@lakeoswegore

view.com.