Cooking at home has not only become trendy, but it has become a necessity. Indoor dining restrictions made restaurant visits tricky. Carryout may have occasionally satisfied our cravings, but on a daily basis there was no escaping the inevitable question.
What’s for dinner?
One local farm has made answering that question a little easier for busy families. Zilke Farm Kitchen in Milan offers a meal subscription service, along with ready-to-heat meals, catering options, and more.
Tom and Vicki Zilke began the farm in 2011, offering CSA subscriptions and selling at the Ypsilanti Farmers Market.
“We wanted to have something year-round,” Vicki Zilke said. “We were not a good match for winter growing, which we tried. Getting a healthy dinner on the table was still a major hassle for so many families, despite the fact that they bought really wonderful produce.”
The idea for a meal subscription service seemed like the perfect way to continue offering fresh foods to local families.
“My original focus was busy working moms with kids in several activities, nonstop errands, and a desire to just sit down together and eat dinner,” she said. “Many others quickly came to request my healthy meals — from older couples who just didn’t want to eat the same old same old but still liked a home cooked meal, to singles who really never did cook anything other than what could be heated up in a microwave.”
How It Works
The subscription service is very easy to use and customizable. Subscribers choose the serving sizes and how often they want meals delivered. Meal options for the week are emailed to subscribers prior to pick up. Currently, pick up locations include Saline, Ann Arbor, and the Farm Kitchen in Milan. In the near future, the farm will be launching a new ecommerce platform that will allow them to offer more flexible pickup dates and delivery options for Milan, Ypsilanti, Saline and Ann Arbor.
Let’s Get Cooking!
We tried the meal service with two classic dishes: Chicken and Dumplings and Kielbasa Potato Skillet.
Each meal comes in its own bag with individually portioned ingredients and cooking instructions. Meals may need additional basic items that are not provided, such as oil or butter, chicken broth, and salt and pepper.
Image courtesy of Mary Rose Kulczak.
Our first meal, Chicken and Dumplings, was the ultimate in comfort food. I began by sautéing carrots and celery in olive oil until tender. Next, I added the pre-seasoned chicken and a few cups of chicken broth. At this point, I wondered if I would need additional seasonings for flavor, but this was not necessary. The pre-seasoned chicken provided all the flavor this dish needs. In a separate container, the flour mixture gets blended with milk until a soft dough forms. I used a cookie scoop to add dollops of dough into the bubbling mixture. I put the lid on the skillet and cooked according to the time listed in the instructions.
I served this meal with a big side of green beans, stretching the two-person serving size to accommodate three. The family gave this dish two big thumbs up, and there was plenty for everyone.
Our next meal was the Kielbasa Potato Skillet. I began by sautéing the potatoes in oil, then adding water and cooking until softened. Next, I added the onion and garlic mixture, followed by the sliced kielbasa. Finally, the sliced cabbage gets added to the skillet, and everything caramelizes and cooks down until tender. I seasoned it all with a little kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and a sprinkling of Zehnder’s Chicken Seasoning.
I served this dinner with a side of applesauce. Delicious!
We found the pricing of the meal kits to be very reasonable, and we were impressed with the quality of the items and the preparation involved.
So what is the benefit to choosing a local service over a national company?
“The economic impact small businesses have on communities is well known,” Zilke said. “Spend your dollars intentionally to improve your community!”
For more information, visit the Zilke Farm Kitchen website.