Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’


Food Exchange

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 by Lindsey

“What’s for dinner?”  is the five o’clock question heard around every home. I think we can all relate.

Whenever I asked this question, it was with eager anticipation and hope; hope that there is something new and exciting, hope that leftovers was not the answer, hope that it was not the dreaded same meal that seems to grace your plate every week. It is hard today for whoever is trying to balance meal prep with work schedules. In 1950, only 20% of households had both parents working full time jobs, today 60% of household have both parents working outside of the home. The questions of health and cost weigh on us all as well as how to create meals that are quick, easy, inventive, appetizing, all while trying to do everything else that is required of us today.

foodfreezerMy friends introduced me to a wonderful idea that they’ve been practicing once a month in hopes of saving money and time, in addition to creating a warm and healthy meal for their family and friends. They call it the food exchange. Each month, the five of them make five of the same dishes, with some parameters: it needs to either be frozen on delivery or is easy to freeze and it needs to appeal to various taste buds. The following day they get together, socialize and walk out with five frozen meals. They love this practice because it cuts down on trips to the grocery store, saving time and gas. The headache of what to make is gone when they go to the freezer and find five homemade options. They can buy the ingredients in bulk which also saves money. It introduces them to new food ideas, and they pass out the recipe card to go along with the dish so that they can keep the ones their families love the most.

freezerSome tips to host your own a food exchange:

  • Always keep in mind your audience and any food allergies and likes and dislikes, classic meals and simple meals seem to be the most appetizing to families with children.
  • Themed exchanges are fun, like crock pot soup exchange or appetizer exchange.
  • Making dishes that are versatile lets the family enjoying them add their own twist. For example, one meal was a cilantro chicken dish, one family had it on pasta, and another ate it with tortillas. The options are endless.

So if you need some food inspiration, get together with your friends and plan an exchange. Get ideas from an upcoming casserole or crock pot class at The Chopping Block. Check the monthly schedule and then make a plan to share what you learn with your friends.

What do you think of the idea of a food exchange?

Lindsey Marshall hails from the mountains of Park City, Utah, where her mother taught her the importance of healthy, home cooked meals, which were served nightly for family dinners. After working in family law for seven years Lindsey has left the corporate world in pursuit of her many passions; one being cooking and teaching people how to make delicious home cooked meals. While she does personally adhere to a vegan diet she adamantly wants to emphasize the importance of eating well-balanced meals, heavy in locally grown produce. When she is not in the kitchen concocting her newest vegan creation, you can find Lindsey working on her yoga teacher training, traveling, or running through the park with her dog, Lulu.


What’s Your Specialty?

Thursday, July 12th, 2012 by Carrie

I get this question all of the time and people usually do not like my response of “Nothing”.  I answer that way because I like to cook everything!  That is why I like teaching. It enables me to cook many different dishes throughout the week.

The next question I usually get is “What do you like to cook at home?’  I don’t necessarily have a dish that I lean toward or cook all of the time.  Sometimes I draw inspiration from recipes I have enjoyed in class, saw in a magazine or by whatever might be in season and looks delicious at the farmer’s market or grocery store.  Most of the time, my refrigerator is pretty bare, except for some random leftover containers.  The reason I love cooking is the thrill of making something out of nothing.

This has happened a couple of times in the last few weeks.  The first meal was inspired by a peach and tomato salad in one of our classes.  I found some fresh peaches, grape tomatoes and haricot vert at the local farmer’s market.  I grilled the peaches and some red onions, blanched the haricot vert and candied some pecan halves that my Grandmom gave me last time I was home in Alabama.  These were all tossed together as a salad with some apple cider vinegar, fresh basil and olive oil.  Grilled flank steak with chipotle aioli rounded out the plate.  Yum!

The second meal I made with the help of my family as they visited for the Fourth of July.  Even though it was over 100 degrees outside, we wanted to make a grilled vegetable salad and turkey burgers.  First, we grilled corn, zucchini, red peppers and red onions for the salad.  We added arugula and queso fresco, and tossed it with cilantro lime vinaigrette.  My sister and I love grilled asparagus, so we threw a bunch on the grill as a side dish.  For the turkey burgers, I added garlic and chipotle peppers.  My dad took care of the grilling while the rest of us sliced and diced and organized the rest of the meal.  Fun!  Of course, we had to make homemade ice cream for dessert!

So, what’s my specialty?  Making something out of nothing.

Carrie finally found her culinary niche as a Chef Instructor for The Chopping Block in May 2008, but only after a hilariously traumatic demonstration interview (of which you will have to attend one of her classes to hear about). She gets a thrill of sharing the things she’s learned about food and cooking with others and the memories and experiences around food that have made her who she is today. Her hope is to take away the apprehension people have of cooking by pouring on her southern hospitality and charm and having fun in the kitchen. When she isn’t cooking, you can usually find her at a concert, a neighborhood restaurant or just hanging out with friends and enjoying their company.


Home Cooking for Two

Friday, August 19th, 2011 by Tulie

I often hear people say it’s hard to cook interesting food for one or just two, but for many years, I’ve found recipes and food ideas that work for any number of people. It’s really a matter of whether you’re willing to eat leftovers or if you can find a recipe easily cut in half. I recently wanted to add new techniques to make my cooking experience at home more fun, and I wanted to do more cooking with or for other people.

So, a couple of weeks ago, a friend and I started cooking together once a week, and I’ve found my inspiration to cook at home again. I mean cook, not just toss together easy things I’ve done before. My “rules” are pretty loose but the goal is to cook at least one thing I have never made— either through technique or unusual ingredients I don’t have on hand. (This gets me out to the markets or interesting food stores.) We pick ideas or recipes where we can determine our own amounts or easily adapt for two people or four, if we’re up for extras.

We’ve been successful so far with a great fennel/apple slaw paired with BBQ pork chops; lasagna Bolognese (no lasagna assembly since I was a kid!); and my favorite so far, Fried Chicken, recipe courtesy of The Chopping Block. I tried this dish when I worked a Chicken 101 class with Chef Lucio and I couldn’t believe how delicious AND easy the dish was. (I used to get tripped up over handling the leftover frying oil but you can strain it and reuse it, or just cool it completely and pour into a metal container before tossing.)  I’ve also found the sauce to be truly delicious when the chicken is still warm and that cold leftovers were even better!

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Legs and Thighs

Yield: 4 servings

Active time: 35 minutes

Start to finish: 12 hours, 35 minutes (includes marinating in buttermilk)

4 chicken legs and thighs

2 cups buttermilk

Oil for frying

2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons Hungarian sweet paprika

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Flour, for dredging


  1. Place the chicken legs and thighs in a sealable bag or a shallow dish and cover with buttermilk. Allow the chicken to marinate, refrigerated, for about 12 hours.
  2. Place about 1 1/2 inches of vegetable oil in a heavy, deep cast iron pot. (You need just enough oil to completely submerge chicken.) Heat oil, uncovered, over medium heat until it reaches 325º.
  3. While the oil is heating, remove the chicken from the buttermilk and place on a sheet tray.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together the salt, paprika, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Season both sides of the chicken with the salt and spice mixture.
  5. Dredge the chicken though the flour, shaking off any excess.
  6. Place the legs and thighs, skin side down, in the oil.
  7. Fry the chicken until the skin is golden brown and crisp, about 10-12 minutes. Flip and repeat. Continue to cook the chicken until it reads 165° on a meat thermometer.
  8. While the chicken is frying, set up a rack set over a sheet tray. Once the chicken is done, set it on the rack to rest. (You can keep the chicken warm in a 200° oven if needed.)
  9. Serve with Tabasco Honey Butter Sauce (recipe follows).

Tabasco Honey Butter Sauce

Yield: 1 cup

Active time: 10 minutes

Start to finish: 10 minutes


1/2 stick butter

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon Tabasco, or more if desired

Salt to taste


  1. Place the butter in a saucepan and heat gently until melted.
  2. Whisk in the honey and lemon juice and add the Tabasco, to taste.
  3. Season with salt to taste and serve warm. u


Tulie O’Connor is a part-time Class Assistant at The Chopping Block where she loves the creative outlet of helping people learn more about cooking and learning from the chefs as well! In her “full-time” life she focuses on business publishing—helping/encouraging authors to write books, articles or other publications. When not working, Tulie is usually expending energy in a pool or at a Pilates class and of course planning or cooking her next meal with friends or family nearby.