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    Entries in get the good stuff (9)


    Let me Introduce my Friend, the Mason Jar.

    As you know, quality is important to me.  Spending money unnecessarily, is not.  One of the categories to which this really applies, is spices.  There are few things better for cooking than good, fresh, quality spices.  (I love you Penzey’s)  I don’t mind, for a minute, paying a premium price for them.  Where I have the problem, is continuing to buy the bottles.  You’d be surprised just how much you’re paying for those little things.  Well, no more.  I have the perfect solution for you.  Mason jars. 

    Or perhaps canning jars is the better term for them.  Whatever you call them, they are the perfect storage containers.  They come in all sorts of sizes ranging from ½ cup all the way up to a quart.  They have both regular and wide mouth of most sizes, and they also sell convenient plastic lids for them all.  Stick a label on top, and you’re good to go!  Ball has even started selling jars with shaker lids as “spice jars”.  I’m pretty sure they stole the idea from me.   

    I’m talking about spices here, because that’s probably my favorite use for mason jars, (aside from canning, obviously) but don’t stop there.  They work great for storing dry pasta or beans, whole grain flours, that extra bit of smoothie that wouldn’t fit in your glass.  Really, just about anything.  They can hold things that are hot or cold, they’re, freezer, refrigerator, and dishwasher safe, and because they’re glass, they don’t hold onto any funky odors. 

    This concludes another episode of Tuesday’s Tips, Tricks, and Treats.  As always, feel free to share your own tips or questions in the comments below.  


    Quick Chicken Trick

    You might think I grew up eating gourmet food, but the truth is, my childhood food experience was just like the vast majority of my generation.  We had casseroles made with condensed soups, and lasagna came from the freezer.  That being said, Mom cooked dinner just about every evening, and I don’t remember having a lot of complaints.  So where did I learn to cook without mixes and canned stuff?  Well, a lot of it has come from trial and error… and there have been plenty of errors.  There have been many flat cookies or broken cream sauces.  For a while, the phrase, “I don’t know what happened”, was a running joke in our house.  So don’t be afraid to try new things.  Worst case scenario, you have a mess in your oven and you’re eating pizza for dinner.  But next time, maybe you’ll have perfection!  The other part of learning has been picking up tricks wherever I can find them.  I’m not ashamed to say I totally stole this trick from my friend Elise Logan.  I was telling her about how much I love Trader Joe’s Healthy 8 Chopped Veggie Mix. 

    Seriously guys, if you have a Trader Joe’s nearby, (I say nearby, but mine is 63 miles away.  Fortunately there is also a Whole Foods and an amazing barbecue place down there, so we go every Sunday.) you have to try this stuff.  Toss it with a bit of your favorite salad dressing, and it makes a fabulous side, snack, or even lunch.  It’s a mixture of broccoli, carrots, green cabbage, red cabbage, jicama, green bell pepper, radish, and celery.   

    Well, Elise said she uses it for chicken salad.  Holy crap!  I’m pretty sure the woman is a genius.  Chicken salad is one of my favorite things, so I wasn’t going to pass up on that trick.  Now I pass the trick onto all of you.  Pile some of the veggie mix on a cutting board.

    Chop it down to whatever size you like.  I prefer mine to be fairly small. 

    Now, in my world, chicken salad isn’t chicken salad without green onions, so those go into the bowl along with the veg and chicken.  I like about a 1 to 1 ratio of chicken and veggies.  Btw, trick #2, rotisseries chickens are fabulous for this, but if you can get your hands on a smoked chicken, they’re even better.  I don’t know if they do in other places, but in my area, Whole Foods has amazing smoked chickens.   

    Add whatever dressing you like.  For me, it’s homemade, low fat ranch.  What, you want that recipe as well?  Alright, I’ll post it soon, but if you need it in the meantime, comment below or use the request form on the right and I’ll be happy to share it with you. 

    Mix that all together and you’re almost to chicken salad perfection.  Look at all those fabulous colors!

    I say almost because in my world, pistachios are a requirement for chicken salad.  They go soft rather quickly, though, so remove whatever you’re not going to eat now to a storage container and then add them to your portion. 

    You have now reached chicken salad heaven, and it took like 10 minutes or less. 

    What are you favorite kitchen tricks?  Post them in the comments below so we can all add them to our repertoire.