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Fox Valley Cooks: Personal chef shares make-ahead ideas

Molly Evans ladels some her healthy corn chowder inbowl.  |  Judy Buchenot~For Sun-Times Media

Molly Evans ladels some of her healthy corn chowder into a bowl. | Judy Buchenot~For Sun-Times Media

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Her recipes

Corn Chowder with
Red Peppers and Rosemary

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 cup diced onion

1 cup diced carrot

1 cup diced celery

10 to 12 ears of corn

5 to 6 cups chicken stock

2 teaspoons fresh minced rosemary

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 diced red pepper

Sauté onion, carrot and celery in olive oil in large pot until vegetables soften, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cut kernels from corn. Reserve one cup and add remainder of corn to vegetables. Add five cups chicken stock and simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until carrots are soft. Add rosemary. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Add stock if soup is too thick. Sauté red pepper in butter for about five minutes. Add red pepper and reserved corn to soup. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days or frozen for two months.

Herb Marinated Chicken

4 chicken breasts

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/2 cup of chopped fresh herbs (like basil, parsley, sage, chives, rosemary, thyme)

2 cloves garlic, minced

Combine all the ingredients except for chicken in a plastic bag. Add chicken and marinate an hour or overnight. Mixture can be refrigerated for two days or frozen for up to one month for later use. Thaw before cooking if frozen. To prepare, grill chicken six to eight minutes per side or until cooked through.

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Updated: September 11, 2012 6:11AM

Molly Evans realizes that not every one has the time and talent to prepare delicious, nutritious meals, so she began offering to do that for her clients. Six years ago, she founded Savory and Sweet Specialties, a personal chef service.

The 40-year-old St. Charles mother of three does all the planning, shopping, chopping and cooking so that her clients can reheat and serve a meal in less time than it takes for the pizza delivery man to arrive. She plans meals to meet the clients’ palate and dietary needs. Evans who is a graduate of Kendall College’s School of Culinary Arts also caters parties and teaches cooking classes. She does most of the food preparation in the clients’ kitchen and has clients throughout the western suburbs. Her website is

“Molly catered a baby shower for me,” Naperville resident Lori Skurka says. “I had about 35 guests in my home, and it was so worth it to have someone to handle all of the cooking and serving of the food. The food was excellent. There were wonderful smells wafting through the house, and I could focus on my guests and the shower.”

Evans says that preparing meals in advance is a great time saver. The process begins with choosing meals to be prepared and then shopping for the ingredients.

“Find a day when you have several hours to get everything ready,” she explains.

She chops all fruits and vegetables and prepares all sauces in advance. She places all of the ingredients in a glass storage container for each meal.

“The ... dishes can go into the freezer, oven or microwave, and they stack well in the refrigerator or freezer,” she says. “Then you just pull out one container, and everything is there to make the dish.”

She finds that most prepared ingredients last three to four days in the refrigerator.

One of her favorite dishes to prepare ahead are stuffed and rolled chicken breasts, flank steaks or pork tenderloin. She butterflies and pounds the meat into thin slices, adds the stuffing, rolls and ties it and then refrigerates the dish, which can be quickly popped into the oven. A stuffing many clients prefer is her mix of roasted red peppers, fresh spinach and provolone.

“You can do your own pizza, too,” Evans says. Begin by purchasing or making your own dough. Pat dough into a pan and bake for about half the time. Add sauce and toppings before wrapping and refrigerating for up to three days. Pop the pizza in the oven for a few minutes and dinner is ready.

Evans usually cuts up her fruits and vegetables to be refrigerated in containers, which make these healthy snacks more appealing. She has found that children are less likely to haul out a whole melon and slice a piece than grab a pre-cut chunk in a container.

Freezing meals allows for longer storage. Mashed or twice-baked potatoes freeze well, Evans notes. Homemade soup is another make-ahead meal that is easily frozen. Meat can be frozen in marinades and then thawed for a quick grilled meal. Some stuffed meat like pork tenderloin with blue cheese and fig stuffing also freeze well. Evans likes to make big batches of cookies and individually wrap them to store in the freezer.

“They are perfect to put in my kids’ lunches,” she adds.

Evans shares two make-ahead meals. One recipe is for healthy corn chowder that can be made from fresh farm stand corn. The soup is thick and creamy but does not contain cream like many other chowder recipes. The second recipe for herb marinated chicken can be refrigerated or frozen.

Know someone who really likes to cook and is good at it? Contact columnist Judy Buchenot at

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