By Ann Cipperly
The mother of four children, Jennifer Rezek has developed organization ideas for getting her children ready for back to school. Jennifer is the wife of the Rev. Sean Rezek, the new senior minister at Trinity United Methodist Church. They moved from Graceville, FL a little over a month ago and have settled in their home in northside Opelika. Jennifer is sharing recipes for easy breakfasts, afternoon snacks and quick dinners for busy days filled with activities.
With her children spread out in ages, Jennifer has learned short cuts for prepping meals and adapting recipes over the years. The Rezeks’ oldest child, Christian, 22, is a traveling welder, while their oldest daughter, Juliana, 18, graduated high school this past May from Graceville High School with 36 collage credits. Juliana will attend Santa Fe Community State College where she will finish her AA degree, then transfer into the agriculture department at the University of Florida, majoring in animal science.
The Rezels’ two younger daughters, Emily Grace (EG) and Ansley Joy (AJ), attend Opelika schools. Thirteen-year-old Emily Grace, who attends Opelika Middle School, has been actively involved in musical theater and cheerleading. Ansley Joy is 7 and will be attending second grade at Southview. Ansley enjoys “running the house” and anything to do with horses.
Both Jennifer and Sean are from Pensacola, FL, 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. They also visited family in the country in McDavid near Atmore. There would always be an abundance of good food there as well.
When the Rezeks purchased their house in Opelika, they had walls removed to provide an open space in the living room and kitchen. The girls do homework on a large 5 by 7-foot table in the kitchen while their mother cooks.
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.
“I food prep most everything, making clean up time much faster,” says Jennifer. “I allow and encourage my children to help me in the kitchen. Not only for bonding time, but to put the math lessons they learn in school to practice. Having a successful turn out in the kitchen gives them quick self-gratification and boosts their self-esteem in a healthy and unspoken way.”
When she is baking, Jennifer will have one or both daughters in the kitchen helping. The girls recently helped make Jennifer’s grandmother’s recipe for fig bars.
She makes bread in a bread machine and pulls out the dough for making individual pizzas. She will precook sausage and hamburger meat and slice pineapple to save time.
Since the girls do not like to eat breakfast, she comes up with creative ideas for the foods they enjoy. She will make taco rollups or ham and cheese sliders that they can hold and eat while walking out the door.
Smoothies are popular on school mornings. Jennifer will have the fruit washed and dried the night before. She will slice bananas and freeze them, so she won’t need to add ice to have a cold drink.
Breakfasts are bigger on weekends. She has a smaller crock pot for making oatmeal overnight for Sunday mornings. She also makes an overnight mason jar parfait for Sunday breakfast.
For afterschool snacks, Jennifer tries to keep it simple but fun. She makes fruit kabobs with pineapple, banana and strawberries. She will wrap pepperoni around string cheese and secure it with a toothpick for a quick snack.
“I try not to be wasteful,” she says. “I take leftover taco meat and make nachos for an afternoon snack. If we have tacos one night, we will have leftovers for a snack the next day. I bake chips with taco meat and cheese on top.
For leftover chili, she will crush tortilla corn chips and put chili and cheese on top and bake until the cheese melts. She also bakes potato tots topped with chili for a hearty snack.
Although Emily doesn’t like some vegetables, she does like edamame, which is similar to sugar peas. Jennifer rarely uses the microwave, but she will quickly cook edamame in the microwave with a sprinkling of sea salt.
Jennifer has adapted or adjusted almost all her recipes to suit her family’s taste. She also names the dishes after her children.
Sean hunts and fishes, so they eat a lot of venison. Jennifer purchases grass fed beef and eggs directly from farmers. She prefers using fresh meat. She cooks chicken the day she buys it.
She 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.
She relies on a crock pot for busy week nights and Sunday meals. She is sharing several of her favorites.
To save time, she will order staples online at night from local grocery stores and picks the order up the following day. She did this when they lived in Graceville.
Sean and Jennifer were married in 1995 shortly after Jennifer finished Pensacola State College with a license in cosmetology. They moved to Montgomery where Sean finished his BS degree at Huntingdon College. He received a Master of Divinity at Emory.
Their first church was in Ramer, where Sean was a student pastor while attending Huntingdon. He was also a student pastor in Georgia. Sean served as senior pastor at Wesley Chapel in Enterprise four years before going to Graceville First United Methodist Church for three years.
Over the past 22 years, Jennifer has enjoyed being a cosmetologist, but recently became a licensed local pastor with the United Methodist church at large, serving in the Alabama West Florida conference.
While she currently is not serving a church, Jennifer feels she is in the will of God by continuing to guide her children in the right direction, as well as supporting her husband in their new ministry at Trinity.
“We purchased a home for the purpose of being here for a long period of time,” she says. “We have been amazed and overwhelmed with joy for the attention, love and being blessed with goodies. The community has been great, and our neighborhood is wonderful for taking walks.
“Emily Grace and Ansley Joy will grow up here,” Jennifer adds. “This is our home now.”
Ann Cipperly can be contacted at email@example.com.
Breakfast Mini Cups
6 eggs scrambled (do not cook)
½ – ¼ lb. ground venison or meat of choice
½ cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
Hot sauce to taste (optional)
Pour eggs into a mini cupcake pan (Coat pan with nonstick spray first.)
Add meat of choice (I use different meats in each cup.)
Sprinkle shredded cheese over each cup.
Bake approximately 20 minutes at 350 or until eggs are done. Freeze leftovers and reheat in microwave at a later date.
Quick and Easy Breakfast Tacos
4 – 6 eggs, scrambled, cooked
½ cup cooked ground venison, turkey or beef
¼ cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
In a small soft torte shell add in all ingredients
Top with hot sauce or salsa (optional).
Put leftovers in a sealed container and reheat and serve with in two days.
Mason Jar Oats
1/2 cup quick pats
1/2 cup low-fat milk
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup blueberries or any berry or banana (combination tastes great)
¼ cup granola
1/2 Tbsp. honey
Pour oats into a mason jar. Pour in milk; add in fruit and Greek yogurt. Add granola and top with honey.
Put the top on the Mason jar and place in the refrigerator overnight.
These are great for breakfast or afternoon snacks.
½ cup Greek plain yogurt (If you are trying to put weight on your child use whole milk and cream.)
¾ cup sliced frozen banana
¼ cup strawberries
A splash of pineapple juice
In a blender, place all the ingredients. Blend and pour into go cup and enjoy on the way to school!
Breakfast Oatmeal Overnight in Crock Pot
1 cup steel cut or regular oats (not quick oats!)
4 cups water
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. cinnamon
Combine all in crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours. Serve with milk and cinnamon sugar.
Make it your own and try these options.
Add up to 1 cup raisins/dried fruit before cooking.
Add 1 chopped fresh apple before cooking.
Top with fresh fruit (in season) or canned fruit (drained).
Add a pat of butter or a dollop of jam/preserves.
Drizzle with honey.
Overnight Grits in Crock Pot
The amount of grits for your family. (I make the amount for 8 servings.)
Double the amount of water suggested in directions.
Salt to taste
Splash of half and half
Toppings: butter, shredded cheese (makes it nice and creamy)
Add the amount of grits for your family into slow cooker. Double the amount of water in directions. Add salt as directed.
Cover and cook on low at least 7 hours.
Check towards the end of cooking to see if you need to add a touch of water.
AFTER SCHOOL SNACKS
My picky eater loves this.
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.
EG’S Tater Tots
Bake frozen tater tots.
½ cup chili (I reheat leftover homemade chili or you can use a can of Hormel.)
½ cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
*Cook tater tots according to package. I cook mine a few minutes longer, so they are a little crunchy. This keeps them from becoming too soggy after adding toppings.
Put tater tots in a bowl and top with chili and cheese.
Add hot sauce (optional).
*For a snack, I take the EG’s Tater Tots and substitute the tater tots with corn chips.
Place slices of banana, strawberries and grapes on tooth picks or wooden skewers.
Edamame steamed in microwave with a little sea salt added.
Sliced apples served with peanut butter.
AJ’s Nacho Cheese
Ansley places about 8 Tostito chips on a plate; add shredded cheese and microwave for 30 seconds.
To make with meat:
Spoonful of ground venison cooked with taco seasoning
Preheat oven to 350. On a baking sheet, spoon seasoned meat into the Tostito’s. Top with cheese.
Bake 10 minutes or until cheeses is melted. Serve with sour cream and salsa.
EG’s Buffalo Chicken Dip
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
½ cup Sweet Bay Ray Buffalo Sauce
½ cup ranch dressing
Preheat oven to 350.
Combine all ingredients and spoon into shallow 1-quart baking dish.
Bake 20 minutes or until mixture is heated through and bubbling on the edges. Serve with chips of choice.
2 – 3 eggs
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.
CROCK POT SUNDAYS
6 – 8 potatoes
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 6-8 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.) pkg. 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.
Grammi’s Fig Bars
These are great for breakfast, snacks or dessert made with fresh or dried figs.
½ cup butter or margarine, softened
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ tsp. vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup fresh figs chopped (sliced) or 9 oz. dried Mission figs, chopped (1 cup)
¾ cup boiling water for fresh figs or 1 cup boiling water for dried figs
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp. cold butter (do not use margarine)
¼ cup quick-cooking oats
¼ cup chopped walnuts
Heat oven to 350. Spray 9-inch square pan with cooking spray.
For crust, beat butter, sugar and vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed until blended.
On low speed, beat in 1 cup flour until soft dough forms. Press dough in bottom of pan. Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until center is set.
Meanwhile, in 2-quart saucepan, cook filling ingredients over medium-high heat 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until figs are tender and most of liquid is absorbed. Spread over crust.
In small bowl, mix flour, brown sugar and butter, using pastry blender or fork, until crumbly. Stir in oats and walnuts. Sprinkle over filling.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until edges are bubbly and topping is light golden brown. Cool completely. Cut into bars. Make a big batch and refrigerate. Reheat for 12 seconds.
Good for afterschool snacks or dessert.
1 box yellow cake mix (non-moist)
½ cup vanilla or cream cheese frosting
Two 12 oz. pkg. milk chocolate chips
Paper straws or lollipop sticks
Prepare and bake cake as directed on box. Let cool completely.
Crumble cake into a large bowl, add frosting and mix thoroughly. The children and I use our hands; it’s more fun that way.
Roll mixture into 1-inch balls. Place a paper straw or lollipop stick in the top of each cake ball. Chill in the refrigerator for approximately 1 hour (or freezer for 30 minutes).
Melt chocolate chips as directed on package. Hold cake ball by stick and place into chocolate. Use a fork to completely coat outside and help to lift it out of the chocolate.
Place on wax paper and sprinkle with confetti sprinkles.
Place in the refrigerator or freezer.
I use the confetti to camouflage the imperfections. Making it with TLC is always the best.
Christian’s Deer Roll Ups
Jalapenos sliced from a jar
Bacon (thin cheap bacon)
Slice back strap about the width and length of two fingers. Add ¼ tsp. of cream cheese. Top with jalapeno. Roll up and wrap bacon around and over it.
Pierce tooth pick through the roll – up. Grill approximately 3 minutes, rotating sides or until bacon is cooked.