Confession. I adore "Shake Cheese." There. I said it out loud!
What is "Shake Cheese?" For those of you that don't know, "Shake Cheese" is little bits of pre-grated Parmesan cheese that come in a plastic shaker bottle. My family calls this little container of heaven, "Shake Cheese." Like most of the cute food names in our home, our oldest, Alyssa, named it when she was little.
With "Shake Cheese," you go to the store. You get the cheese. You buy the cheese. You eat the cheese. Now, now, I know what you're thinking... Brilliant! That is simply BRILLIANT! I agree! When it's time to eat pizza or mac 'n' cheese or gussy up a salad OR make Cheesy Puff Pastry, it's quick and easy. No 'Go to the store. Get the Parmesan hunk. Buy the Parmesan hunk. Grate the Parmesan hunk. Get the bandages because you grated your knuckle AND the Parmesan hunk. (Pick the bits of "you" out of the grated Parmesan hunk for you!) NO! We are a society who craves immediate gratification I tell you! IMMEDIATE! Skip ALL the grating and bandaging nonsense and shamelessly and joyfully reach for the "Shake Cheese.'
Ok. Okay... "Shake Cheese" will not work for all things I agree, BUT, for the tired person who cannot do one more thing in a day, do yourself a favor and have a jar in the refrigerator, please.
Visit my Recipes Page for an easy little treat to make with "Shake Cheese" I call Cheesy Puff Pastry.
A new year presents opportunity for a fresh beginning so today I offer ways to help you pack your bags and get ready for what lies ahead. I bet you're thinking 'What type of "bags" is she referring to?' No, no! I don't mean pack your mother-in-law and ship her out! Come on! How could you possibly be thinking that? Wow! You're mean! I am referring to resealable bags packed with food that are placed in the freezer. Jeez! Now, I am NOT judging BUT if you did pack grandma away in the freezer, this post may also help you...
Anyway, getting back to packing food, although again, NOT judging... This past weekend I took about an hour and packed up two weeks of chicken dinners for my family to be used as "Emergency Food." Here is how I did it:
Select the size of resealable (zip top) bag that is large enough for the portion of food you are preparing. (I made dinners for two people.)
Open each up by folding the zip top part back onto itself. (Do this to help keep the zip top part of the bag clean and the bag open.)
Fill each bag with a portion of oil (you like to use) and seasoning of your choice. The seasoning could be an herb salt, lemon-pepper blend, a barbecue sauce, a balsamic-based vinaigrette dressing, lemon juice, whatever you like. (I recommend a balsamic-based vinaigrette dressing because the sugar in the dressing will caramelize in the oven. ) I recommend you make several types of chicken and group the bags together.
Place the chicken portions in each bag. Seal the bag. Double bag the sealed bag and seal the outer bag. Label each bag with what it contains and how to cook it. Freeze the bag, lying flat, if space in your freezer will allow.
When you are ready to cook the chicken, select the type of chicken you want for dinner, place it, bag and all in a baking dish and allow it to defrost in the refrigerator while you slave away at work. When you get home, pull out the defrosted chicken, dump into the baking dish, cover the dish with foil and bake it at 350-375 degrees in a preheat oven for 30-40 minutes, depending on the size and type of the chicken. If you like, uncover the chicken just before it finishes cooking to allow the breasts to caramelize.
*NOTE: If you place a cold, glass dish in an oven that is NOT preheated, you will have a lot of broken glass and a huge mess to deal with so DO NOT place the dish in an oven that is not preheated to the appropriate temperature. EVER!
A proportion and cooking guide:
Allow about 1/2 Cup of sauce for two pieces of chicken and 1 Tablespoon of oil (at least) per piece of chicken. The salt and pepper amounts are up to you.
Other ideas of foods that freeze well and are great Emergency foods are Lasagna and Chicken Pot Pie. I always make at least a small additional portion of each to freeze. The Lasagna I do not bake before freezing but the Pot Pie I do.
My husband, Russell, was relieved I did not include "husbands" above but that is a good thought...
Sometimes when we travel, we forget to be playful and silly. One of my favorite (and rather quirky) things to do is take silly poses with objects be they a crown (as shown in the photo to the left) or with statues (as shown in the photos below). I get my entire family and unsuspecting friends too, to get in on the fun. The best part about this quirk is the reaction of those around you. The reactions of on-lookers are always positive. You might bring a smile to someone's face. You might inspire someone to do the same thing as you which is cool too. You might even get a mild-mannered traveling companion to participate in the fun as well.
The point I am trying to make here is when you travel, (OR cook for that matter) allow for spontaneity. You may pass a scrumptious-smelling bakery that inspires your next morning pastry recipe. You may come across a chocolate or ice cream shop that inspires you to try a new dessert. Perhaps there is an artist sketching or photographing a detail you may have missed. You may even have an opportunity to be have an entire wing of the transportation section of the Smithsonian American History Museum ALL to yourself!
Here, I had an opportunity to harvest some produce with my friend there and stretch my back after a long day of work. Maybe I will make a side dish...
Here, this nice gentleman was kind enough to share his train tokens with me so I could ride the trolley to my next destination; in this case, dinner.
Taking the time to notice the "little things" over my morning coffee inspired this foggy sunrise picture. A sort of 'now you see it, now you don't' hide and seek with the Washington Monument. The Airforce National Monument was new to me since I had never visited Pentagon City. See, new sights and sounds can be found about any corner, even in a city you have visited numerous times.
The glorious evening sky of Washington, D.C., our Nation's Capitol, offers many lovely views to savor but so do many places.
As with cooking, create a "guide" when traveling, NOT a set agenda, so you may be open to new experiences. Just like in cooking, travel with an open heart and mind. Happy experiencing!
Avid home cook and passionate instructor