Friday, January 31, 2014

Freezer 911-Autumn Chicken Stew

The current weather conditions in Michigan have definitely kept me inside.  What have I been doing with all of this free time?  Cooking and cleaning of course. 

About every 3 months I go through the freezer and we eat whatever "Freezer Fall-backs"  meals from last season.  I also cook meals from any frozen meat or veggies I find tucked away in my freezer.  By doing this I know I am always rotating my food and eating it instead of wasting it!  So much food gets wasted just because we don't know what we have. This also forces me to get out of a cooking rut.  It's fun to try new recipes and have an activity for my bored teenage son.  Sometimes he cooks and other times he is just the taste tester. 

This recipe used up some frozen cider I had from the fall and turkey stock I made from my Thanksgiving bird.  I also used frozen cooked chicken meat.  I had more than 4 cups so I am going to make BBQ chicken pizza for dinner tonight.  No pictures yet but I will post them when I have them.

Take it One Prep at a Time,
Chef Jackie
Autumn Chicken Stew

medium onion, diced

stalks celery, diced
1 ½
apple cider
butter or olive oil
chicken stock
turnips, peeled and diced (optional)

parsnips, peeled and diced

sweet potato, peeled and diced

carrots, peeled and diced
rutabaga or (1 small whole) , peeled and diced (optional)
garlic, minced
ground ginger
cooked chicken
arrowroot or cornstarch dissolved in a1/4 cup of water


In a heavy bottom stockpot heat butter or oil and sauté onions and garlic until golden brown. Deglaze with apple cider. Add chicken stock and remaining vegetables.
Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for an 45 minutes stirring occasionally or until vegetables are tender crisp. Add cooked chicken and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add dissolved arrowroot and bring to a boil. Cook and stir 2-3 minutes until stew thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
Servings: 8
Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"Beer Cake"

Last year I made this cake for my husband's 50th Birthday.  It is perfect for any adult party.  Even a grooms cake at a wedding.  The possibilities are endless.  Change your beer and the cake color changes.

The bottom layer is a cake stand followed by beers and then I put a cake pan upside right and filled it with more cans of beer.  I did the same for the next layer.  The trays between the layers could be pizza circles, veggie trays or anything that provides a flat surface to place you next layer of "beer cake".

I' m a little anal so you guessed it; my cake is 50 beers exactly!

The field is 2 green bath towels (love it no waste and easy clean up!).  I cut the 50 yard line out of printer paper and wa-la the table was set.

Believe me this is one cake you don't have to worry about leftovers or clean up.

Take it One Prep at a Time,

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hard "Baked" Egg

It has been so cold in Michigan that I haven't wanted to leave the house for any reason except maybe an over priced delicious coffee.  Staying in has saved me money and time and best of all we are eating up all of our food in the house. 

Today I decided that I will probably have to go grocery shopping tomorrow.  We are definitely down to the bare minimum. I made up a few meals for the week and I noticed we still have a few eggs to spare. I put the eggs in their shells into a muffin tin and baked them in a pre-heat 325 degree oven (I have always wanted to do this).  I guessed at how long to cook them. Looks like a made a great guess. Check these babies out!  So much easier than boiled eggs and they peeled no problem. Maybe it was beginners luck or maybe they just peel better when baked rather than boiled.

*Baking time may vary because oven temperatures vary quite a bit.  Make only a few to test the timing of your oven.

As you can see they got a few brown spots were they touch the muffin tin.  No biggies. They cooked, peeled and tasted AWESOME!  

I can't wait for my next egg-venture...

Take it One Prep at a Time,

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Simple Table Decoration

By now I sure you know I love to use household items to decorate. The table decoration below was made for a bride on a budget many years ago.  Her wedding was outdoor at her home.  We made everything from jars she saved, plant clippings from her yard, ribbon and lunch sacks.

The end result was fabulous a reasonable.  The guests were even happy to take home our table decoration creations!

Gather the materials....

 Find clippings.  We used evergreen dried grasses and leaves.

 The end result!
Not bad for about .25 cents!  The only thing we paid for was the lunch sacks and the ribbon.
Take it One Prep at a Time,
Chef Jackie

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Shop at Home-Repurposed Meals

Each week before I going shopping a right out a basic plan of what we will eat for the week.  Before I choose my meals for this week I checked to see what was left from last week and can be made into a meal or frozen.

I don't know about you but after I have had fruits and veggies for a week they no longer seem appetizing to eat but I struggle with throwing away food.

I cook or freeze any leftover groceries from the previous week.  This week I have leftover petite carrots, broccoli, bean salad, chopped cabbage, Pico de Gallo, cooked rice and six boneless skinless chicken thighs. This week's "repurposed meals" were easy. I made Garlic Chicken and Vegetables and a Southwest Chicken and Rice Skillet.  My leftover fruits get frozen and thrown into a smoothie on another day.


Garlic Chicken and Vegetables

  1. Heat chicken stock and garlic in a large skillet.  Add small pieces of raw chicken that has been season with salt and pepper.
  2. Meanwhile steam broccoli and carrots.
  3. Add chopped cabbage and vegetables to the skillet.
  4. Combine 2 tablespoons of chicken stock or water with 2 tablespoons of corn starch.
  5. Add to skillet and stir; cook until thickened; about to minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.  If sauce is too thick add additional chicken stock.

Southwest Chicken and Rice Skillet

  1. Cut chicken into small pieces and toss with salt, pepper and chipotle seasoning (taco seasoning works also).
  2. Heat oil and garlic in a large skillet.  Add chicken pieces.  Once cooked add Pico de Gallo, bean salad and rice. Cook until heated throughout.
After I was done making both meals I cooled and refrigerated them.  We will eat the Garlic Chicken and Vegetables over rice.  It made enough for 2 meals so I if we get sick of it I will freeze the leftovers within 4 days.
The Southwest Chicken and Rice Skillet tastes great hot or cold. I will reheat it in a  steam basket for one meal and toss it with cheese and make quesadillas or enchiladas for another meal. Once again I am not sure if we will want to eat this twice this week or if I will freeze it for a "freezer fall back meal".  Either way I win.
Saved, money and time and best of all I did not waste food. When we have so much it is easy to forget that most of the world is starving and would love to eat the food we throw away.  So next time before you go to the grocery store shop at home and be creative.  You have nothing to lose.
Foods get a second life once you cook them.  If you thaw to much meat or unexpectedly ate out don't waste the food cook it and give it 4-7 more days to be eaten. Or freeze it and give it 3-6 months.
Planning and Prepping Made Simple

The secret to ‘a FAST” weekly meal is planning ahead. Have you ever went to a restaurant and ordered an entrée and magically it appears before you in less than 15 minutes. Prepping and planning ahead is what chefs do every day to insure their restaurant runs smoothly and efficiently.


·    SELECT the menu for the week. Align you menu choice with you weekly schedule. On your busiest nights choose the simplest recipes, freezer meals, crock pot meals or soup – salad combos. On days you have more time chose more in-depth recipes and roast.

·    CREATE a shopping list based on the recipes.

·    DOUBLE ANY RECIPE that can be made ahead and frozen.

·    DEVELOP A RECIPE BOX OF EXPRESS MEALS. Keep weekly plans and shopping list that you like in a weekly recipe box. Next time you want to repeat the plan it with be ready to go.

·    SHOP AND CHOP items that can be made ahead such as clean and chop vegetables and fruit, prepare marinades and dressings.


·    Shop the perimeter of the store for real food.

·    Less is more. Package foods with less ingredients tend to be less processed and contain less additives.

·    Unpackaged foods such as fruits and vegetables are good for you and the environment.

·    Choose real foods. Real foods are foods found in nature that can be gathered, picked, hunted or fished.

·    Choose good fats –nuts, avocado, cold pressed olive oil, flax seed oil, wild fatty fish such a salmon.

·    Choose colorful carbs; such as fruit and vegetables.

·    Choose a variety of whole grains-organic oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, barley.

·    Choose a variety of proteins-meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, nut butters and beans (beans must be served with whole grains to make a complete protein).

·    Read labels and avoid: high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, enriched flour, partially hydrogenated oils, margarine and MSG.

·    Every 4 grams of sugar is approximately one packet of sugar.

·    Try something new each week such as almond butter instead of peanut butter.

·    Introduce you family to a new fruit or vegetable each week.

·    Nuts and trail mixes make a great substitution for snack foods such as chips, candy and other processed foods.

·    Choose only foods that contain ingredients that you recognize and can find in your cupboards or refrigerator.

·    Eliminate ALL artificial sweeteners from your diets, try Stevia as it is the only safe non caloric sweetener, don’t be afraid to use a dab of REAL food to sweeten your food or beverage; honey, maple syrup or palm sugar to name a few.

·    Make sure the foods that you choose will spoil or have an expiration date. Foods that last forever are not good choices.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Coozie, Cozy, Tomatoe, Tomato

Whether or not you call it a coozie or a cozy it's all the same in the end-something to keep your beverage hot or cold and to prevent the glass from sweating. 

My cozies are made from toddler socks found in the dollar section at Target.  Toddler socks work great because they are small enough to stay up.   Of coarse they come in crazy colors and prints.  Once you start putting socks over your jars that you use as drinking glasses it's pretty hard to be inconspicuous so why not embrace it. I say go crazy. Plus they are inexpensive and I can get 2 or 4 for a dollar depending on how I make them. If one gets lost in the wash no biggie sock cozies don't have to be used in pairs.

Fist the 2 for a $1 Cozie

Step 1-Purchas a pair of socks you like!

 Step 2-Turn them inside out

Step 3-Dress up you glass (jar)

Step 4-Make it a double lining and fold it down
Step 5-Tuck the heal under and mismatch your socks!

Now the for 4 four a $1 cozie

Step1-cut up the sock like so....
Step 2 -dress up you glass!
Larger socks are a great way to make themed vases.  Cover a vase with scull and cross bones on Halloween and a heart sock on valentines day.  Think of it as linen for your jars and vases.  It's easier to have lots of linen to change your décor than lots of tables!  Plus it's fun and requires no sewing.  Just a trip to the sock aisle.
Take it One Prep at a Time,
Chef Jackie

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Having a Ball!

Canning jars or "Ball' jars are one of my favorite items in my kitchen. I use them for just about everything.  I love them because they can be used at room temperature, frozen, refrigerated and heated.  They come in so many sizes but only require two lid sizes.  If you happen to break one (which is pretty hard to do) they are easily replaced.  Many of my jars were free.  I don't love them because they were free but it certainly doesn't hurt.  I use them for everything and I am sure you will too.

  • cakes
  • cheesecakes
  • crème brule
  • brownies
  • cupcakes
  • pot pies
  • meat pies

Chocolate Flourless Cake

Pumpkin Pie
I love to bake in them and then put a lid on them and take them with me!
Food Storage:
  • dry seasoning mixes
  • chocolate chips
  • nuts
  • soups
  • stew
  • scrambled egg batter
  • pancake batter
    Ice Cream Sundae
  •  Nuts

            Pancake batter and scrambled egg batter ready to go for the week. 
  • Now that's prepping ahead.  So easy and such a time saver on busy mornings.

  • Seasoning Mixes


Last but not least put them in the freezer and pull them out whenever you want a frosty brew! Okay it might be a bit cold outside for a cold one but tomorrow will be day 18 since we have had school. I might have to make a coffee with a splash of Irish cream. Of coarse I will drink it out of a jar and have ball doing it; but now I just need to decide what size?
Take it One Prep at a Time,
Chef Jackie