By Ann Cipperly
Jennifer Rezek has a love of cooking and staying organized in the kitchen for her family. With the oldest two of her four children grown, Jennifer took on homeschooling the youngest daughter, Ansley Joy, and began teaching her how to cook and grocery shop as part of the math class. She also taught her how to cook international dishes.
Jennifer is the wife of the Rev. Sean Rezek, senior minister of Trinity United Methodist Church, and a pastor herself, serving at two churches. She preaches at Hatchechubbee United Methodist Church on the first and third Sundays and at Pittsview United Methodist Church on the second and fourth Sundays.
The Rezeks have four children: Christian Rezek, who is a freelance welder; Juliana, a student at Auburn University majoring in agriculture; Emily Grace Rezek, a sophomore at Opelika High School; and Ansley Joy, who is 10 years old.
“Although I had never homeschooled any of our children, Sean and I were considering homeschooling Ansley Joy for various reasons last school year,” Jennifer said. “One being she got sick every month for about two or three days, and she would miss school for one to two weeks with the flu. After prayer and weighing everything, we felt it was best to give homeschool a try.
“When it comes to home school, there are many ways and styles. After researching many ways to homeschool, I have learned there is not a one style fits all or a right and wrong way. I chose what works best with Ansley Joy. I use the Charlotte Mason’s style along with units.
“This means I use everyday practical life living to teach, as well as chapters or units in a subject. A small example of daily practical living is when we cut an orange in half for breakfast, we create two segments; then, she counts the different sections, which transitions her math skills into fractions.
“We talk about why an orange is a citrus fruit and how the acid makes a small cut on your hand sting. Therefore, we just had a science lesson. The smell of an orange is strong which leads in to reinforcing the importance of our five senses and how some people cannot smell due to COVID-19, that lesson sets up an anatomy lesson for another day.”
After they used an orange for breakfast, Jennifer talked about how an orange can start a compost and the benefits it can have on our environment. When they are out of the kitchen, Ansley Joy uses the notes she took and will write a paper on “What we can learn from an orange.”
Jennifer’s sister, Wendy, sent Ansley the American Girl cookbook “Around the World.” Jennifer uses cooking foods from other countries to teach about history, geography, culture and art.
“Ansley Joy and I are not chefs,” she said. “We do not create new recipes, but we almost always alter what we are making. It is not a surprise for Ansley to taste a roux and say it needs more salt, but instead of adding salt, we may add a pinch or squeeze of mustard depending on the meat we are eating it with.
“I think the best thing about using our kitchen as a classroom is it gives room for mistakes with confidence. If we do not like what we made, or if we burn something, we just start over and make it better the next time.”
Some things Ansley has learned from having the classroom in the kitchen include: math, science, reading, history, reasoning, comprehension, patience, hard-work, creativity, confidence and organization.
“Not to be a perfectionist, but effort and hard work can make it perfect in your eyes,” Jennifer said. “Don’t stress; it is what it is.”
Jennifer cooks a little extra since some foods taste better the next day, and she enjoys surprising a neighbor with a dish that could make a difference in their day.
“Most of all, the kitchen as my daughter’s classroom has created a fun, educational environment where priceless memories and an abundance of love is shared,” she said.
The Rezek family moved to Opelika from Graceville, Florida, two and a half years ago. Both Jennifer and Sean are from Pensacola, Florida, where they met in high school.
When Jennifer was growing up, she was influenced by her grandmother’s love of cooking and baking. Her grandmother lived outside Pensacola, where the family would visit her on Sundays and holidays. She would make fried chicken with little pieces of flour balls and serve it with creamed corn and other vegetables from her garden.
As a busy mom, Jennifer does a lot of meal prep and prefers doing as much ahead as possible. She will prepare spaghetti sauce and chili ahead to freeze.
She makes bread in a bread machine and pulls out the dough for making individual pizzas. She will precook sausage and hamburger meat to save time.
Jennifer works on a budget for dinners. For prepping dinner, she will cook enough cube steak for three meals. They will eat one that night and freeze two. She plans menus ahead and has a theme for every night to keep it easy. For instance, Monday night she will prepare an Italian dish and tacos on Tuesdays.
Jennifer relies on a crock-pot for busy weeknights and Sunday meals.
While Ansley recently started back to school for the new semester in January, she is still cooking one night a week and on weekends. She enjoys using the mixer and mixing all of the ingredients together. She asked for a blender this past Christmas.
“I have enjoyed learning how to cook and I think it has given me more confidence in making decisions in other situations not related to cooking,” said Ansley Joy. “My favorite thing to make is oversized popsicles for my horse Dusty.”
On page A11 are homeschool recipes Ansley Joy has been cooking, along with family favorites and crock-pot recipes for Sundays.
Ann Cipperly can be reached at email@example.com.
A basic Italian white sauce for Emily Grace, who does not like red sauce.
1 lb. ground Italian sausage
½ cup butter
1 tsp. minced garlic
3-4 Tbsp. flour
1 cup heavy cream
3 Tbsp. parmigiana, grated
1 oz. prosciutto (finely sliced then shredded, optional
1 dash salt
Grated Parmesan cheese
Cook linguine noodles as directed.
Cook sausage until no longer pink and thoroughly done; set aside.
Melt butter in saucepan; add garlic and sauté over low to medium heat, stirring for about 5 minutes (do not burn).
Add flour and stir until the butter and flour are well combined. Pour in cream and add remaining ingredients, stirring constantly as it thickens.
Add more cream or flour depending on desired consistency.
Add the sausage into the Bechamel Sauce and serve over linguine noodles.
Jamaica Beef Patties
(Sean and I first ate these in Jamaica 23 years ago)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. curry powder
1 dash salt
¼ cup margarine
¼ cup shortening
1/3 cup water
2 Tbsp. margarine
1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, finely diced
1 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
½ cup beef broth
½ cup dry breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine flour, 1 1/2 tsp. curry powder, and pinch of salt. Cut in 1/4 cup margarine and shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in water until mixture forms a ball. Shape dough into a log and cut into 10 equal sections. Roll each section into a six inch circle (approximately 1/8 inch thick). Set aside.
Melt margarine in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion until soft and translucent. Stir in ground beef. Season with 1 tsp. curry powder, thyme, 1 tsp. salt, and pepper.
Cook until beef is evenly brown, stirring constantly. Stir in beef broth and breadcrumbs. Simmer until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat.
Spoon equal amounts of filling into each pastry circle. Fold over and press edges together, making a half circle. Use a fork to press edges and brush the top of each patty with beaten egg.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
ANSLEY JOY’S UNITED STATES RECIPES:
1/2 cup mango, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup cantaloupe, fresh or frozen
1 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen
1 cup pineapple juice (or more to thin)
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend for 10 seconds or until smooth.
Ansley Joy’s Way
Half of a banana
A scoop of peanut butter
A splash of pineapple juice
Use and mixer and mix until you like the thickness, add more pineapple juice to thin or add milk to cut the citrus if you wish.
Peanut Butter Cookies
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
Cream butter, peanut butter, and sugars together in a bowl; beat in eggs.
In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; stir into butter mixture. Put dough in refrigerator for 1 hour.
Roll dough into 1-inch balls and put on baking sheets. Flatten each ball with a fork, making a crisscross pattern. Bake in a preheated 375 degrees F oven for about 10 minutes or until cookies begin to brown.
Peanut Butter Fudge
½ cup butter
16 oz. pkg. brown sugar
½ cup milk
¾ cup peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar and milk. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.
Stir in peanut butter and vanilla. Pour over confectioners’ sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat until smooth; pour into an 8×8 inch dish. Chill until firm and cut into squares.
Half the bagel and toast lightly in a toaster.
Heat marinara sauce, then add the sauce to both sides of the toasted bagel, add pepperoni, and top with mozzarella cheese. Place bagels in the oven on 350 for approximately 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted.
Shhh No One Will Know Brownies
Buy store bought tiny brownies.
Place them on a cookie sheet and place in the oven on 200 for 5 minutes or just enough to get them warm.
Sprinkle a heavy amount (but not too thick) of powder sugar over the top. Serve them in the living room or wherever a conversation is taking place.
We like it home made, which means foods made in our home, altered a bit, and served with love.
Grilled chicken strips
1/2 cup tahini
3 cloves garlic (crushed)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. parsley , finely chopped
Season chicken with pepper and oregano.
Grill on a George Forman grill or similar tabletop grill.
(Great and safer for children to learn on)
Mix all ingredients together and set in the refrigerator about 2 hours for best taste.
Use Tahini sauce as a sauce on the inside of the pita bread or drizzle over the top.
Then stuff pita sauce with the grilled chicken and vegetables.
I like to sauté my tomato and red onion before adding them into the pita sandwich.
½ can petite diced tomatoes, well drained
1 can (8 3/4 oz.) whole kernel corn, well drained
1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. chili pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
Mix all ingredients in medium bowl. Cover.
Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or until ready to serve. Serve with tortilla chips.
Cube steak (venison or beef)
For venison set in cold fresh water every 30 minutes for 3 cycles.
Mix egg and dale sauce together in one bowl.
Mix flour and creole seasonings in one bowl.
Dip cube steak in egg and then in flour (repeat and double breading).
Place a layer of cube steak in the Pyrex dish; place wax paper down, and then add the rest of the cube steak on top.
Place in the refrigerator for about an hour.
On medium heat, add oil to a skillet and sauté slices of onion and bell pepper. Discard onion and bell pepper. Cook cube steak about 3 minutes on each side. Serve.
Salt and pepper
Barbecue chicken or pork
Use fork to poke holes or break skin of potatoes. Cover potatoes with butter and sea salt. Wrap in tin foil; place into crock-pot, cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 (Never open the lid of a crock pot until the cooking time is finished).
Mix the creole seasoning with the sour cream and add it to potatoes or sprinkle seasoning on top.
Crock-Pot Creamy Chicken Tacos
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 can Rotel tomatoes
4 oz. (half of pkg.) cream cheese
Rinse off chicken. Place chicken into the crock-pot. Add Rotel tomatoes on top.
Cook 6 to 8 hours depending on thickness of chicken. Thirty minutes before it is done open the lid and use forks to shred the chicken. The chicken should shred easily at this point.
Then add cream cheese. Don’t stir cheese into the chicken at this point, just leave it for the remainder of the 30 minutes. When final timer goes off, stir softened cream cheese and chicken together.
Serve the creamy chicken in a soft taco shell and enjoy.
Crock-Pot Chicken and Dumplings
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 Tbsp. butter
2 (10.75-oz.) cans condensed cream of chicken soup
½ onion, chopped in chunks (optional)
2 (10-oz.) packages refrigerated biscuit dough, torn into pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
Place chicken, butter, soup and onion in a crock-pot and fill with enough water to cover.
Cover, and cook for 5 to 6 hours on high. About 30 minutes before serving, add torn biscuit dough. Cook until dough is no longer raw in center.