Test Drive

Your Secret Pantry and sunless tanners.Your Secret Pantry: Where There’s No Shoppin’, Choppin’ or Moppin’

By Rosanne Dunkelberger

It was the talk of my bunco group – this great place where you could go and, in just under an hour, walk out toting six freezable, family-sized entrees you had made fresh. My gal pals who had been there were enthused and the rest of us beyond curious: Six dinners? In an hour? Who wrought this miracle?

Her name’s Jenny Eason, and the place is Your Secret Pantry, which opened in mid-January. The concept of a one-stop, assemble-and-go meal-making shop is not unique – there actually are franchise operations – but Eason, a Tallahassee native trained at the Culinary Institute of America, decided to create her business from scratch.

{mosimage} It’s a cheery, open, clean storefront, located in the Publix shopping center across from Lake Ella. I had already registered for my “session” online and chosen the six meals I’d be assembling – stromboli, seafood lasagna, chicken piccatta, beef tips in wine sauce, pork roast and chicken pot pie – from a list of 12 entrees that changes monthly.

By the time the session started, about 10 people were there, ready to cook. (That’s actually a misnomer; you really only assemble each meal and then cook it at home. Eason and staff do precooking when it’s necessary, including making stocks and sauces from scratch.) Because it was morning, there was a mix of stay-at-home moms, retirees and couples cooking together.

There were 12 stations – one for each recipe. My first stop was the beef tips. In front of me were simple recipes and instructions. I ladled a gelled beef stock, mushrooms, dry noodles and a little wine into a Ziploc bag, then reached into the refrigerator underneath for a portion of beef chunks. After a bit of mixing, I slapped on a pre-printed label of cooking instructions (this one would be made in the crock pot), stuck it in the freezer and moved on to my next recipe.

Even with the recipes, there was lots of room to suit your family’s particular tastes. The stromboli (kind of like a calzone) could have either a wheat or white crust, and there were several fillings – pepperoni, spinach, artichokes, olives, ricotta, mozzarella and more. You could use one or all, or put a little extra of the things you especially like.

Some recipes were very quick and simple. For the pork roast, you just rubbed on a spice mixture and rosemary, popped it in a plastic bag and portioned out some pre-made onion jam. The lasagna took a little more time and effort, but still was done within 10 minutes.

But the proof is in the tasting, and for that I enlisted my coworkers, who gravitate to good food like iron filings to a magnet. Not a dud in the bunch. The pork was savory and the chicken pot pie was rich and delicious. Eason said the most popular dishes tend to be comfort foods such as the pot pie and meatloaf.

After my experience, I’d do it again, in perfect agreement with Your Secret Pantry’s motto: “Life is crazy. Dinner doesn’t have to be.”


Which Sunless Tanner Shines?

By Amanda Broadfoot

Self-tanning products have made great strides in the past few years – particularly in the area of ease of application. The latest products feature self-tanners within moisturizers and even-spray aerosols.

{mosimage} Application process: We found the best results with applying the self-tanner to newly showered, exfoliated skin at night before bed. Be sure to wash your hands after application, because even the moisturizer-based products can give your palms a weird orange glow if you aren’t careful. You could wear gloves, but we found it was difficult to spread the product evenly while wearing them. Pay particular attention to your cuticles and any dry skin on your hands, which tends to absorb tanner. Don’t apply product past your wrists or ankles.

The results: Without a doubt, the moisturizer products – Hawaiian Tropic ($7.99), L’Oreal ($4.99), and Jergens ($5.99) – were the easiest to apply without making mistakes, particularly for fair-skinned testers. These products come in a tube and apply just like any other lotion. However, results took longer; the color on your skin builds up over several daily applications. In our trials, Hawaiian Tropic was slightly more effective than the other two. Body Drench Quick Tan ($23.95), which comes in an aerosol can, was true to its word, giving us results on the first day; however, its fast action requires more of an application pro.

The “smell test” was important to us, because you have to wear this stuff around for a while before it starts to work. The best-smelling product, to our noses, was the Hawaiian Tropic moisturizer, with Quick Tan following a close second. The worst-smelling product was the Jergens moisturizer; one of our Jergens testers actually had to take a 2 a.m. shower because she couldn’t stand the scent of her own skin. 

Categories: Quick Reads