Jewels: Santa has elves, and you could have the Personal Chef Approach (PCA™) to help save your sanity through the holidays and all year round! Don’t just take my word for the PCA™’s incredible value and virtues, my very first premium member and frequent guest blogger, Lane Buckman shares how it has made her life and dinners deliciously manageable.

Your very own secret Santa’s helper

Lane: As I type, I have chicken simmering in homemade stock, veggies prepped for two different soups, and a couple of meats marinating, waiting their turn on my tiny, four-eyed stove. My recipe sheets are in separate windows on my laptop, waiting for me to alt+tab through as I get my cooking done for next week.

Lane with her lively 1st grader, “Thor”

I don’t know about you, but with a full-time job, about 10 hours of freelance work every week, a 1st grader who is always ready to play and hungry, and a hard-working husband who looks forward to coming home and staying home every weeknight, the Personal Chef Approach (PCA™) was a life saver for me! During the busy holiday season, it’s been even better.

If you’ve read any of my older blogs for Julie Anne, you know that when I started using her PCA ™, I was notorious for setting the kitchen on fire. It never even occurred to me that you could use a stove setting other than nuclear to cook your food, and my family got used to everything being served blackened. In the past year, though, my ability to cook and my confidence have grown exponentially.  I love being able to set the table and watch food disappear, getting thumbs-up from my family.  The holidays have put all my learning to the test.

A visit with Santa for Tatjana Rhodes

Right around Thanksgiving, I started a new job, going back to my personal field of dreams in a new position that has required training at a location pretty far from our home.  The new hours, plus the commute have taken about 45-minutes out of my already short evenings.  Add in the time needed for Christmas shopping, visits to Santa, holiday decorating, family and friend get-togethers (that require me to bring a covered dish!) and every other last minute thing, and it’s easy for dinner to take a back seat.  And by back seat I mean, it’s easy for dinner to end up in the backseat of the pizza delivery guy’s car.  It’s busy, y’all!

So, I have been thankful for the weekly menus that my Premium Membership to provides, as well as the special menus like the Party Accomplished mini eBbook and the Casseroles Menu that I have employed for my covered dish duties.  Meal planning with the PCA™ as Julie Anne arranges it means a variety of dishes full of flavor that even a newbie can manage.  And it means even with the insanity of my schedule, I’m putting healthy, thoughtful meals on my family’s plates at least five nights a week.

A PCA™ filled fridge

What I like best about the PCA™ is the sense of accomplishment I feel when I have good food ready for my family, and the time it gives back to me to enjoy those people I love. I grew up fantasizing about family breakfasts and hearty roast dinners at a huge table.  My adult reality has been cereal bars on the run and a townhouse that is so small, the dinner table is in storage. We use the coffee table in the living room for the roast-hating family’s meals. Not exactly a Christmas Card.  But even if I’ve just made it home from work with only 2.5 hours until Thor’s bedtime, we can still enjoy hot, healthy, gourmet meals around our tiny table in about fifteen minutes.  And that means we’re all happy.  You don’t get better holidays than that.

If you haven’t already joined, give yourself that gift this year.  Or, share the gift of time with a friend.  Honestly, of all my 2011 purchases, my Premium Membership and woolly-inside boots were the best.

Got taste? Now you can give it too!

Jewels:  Want to give a unique gift? Need a last minute stocking stuffer? Now through December 24th you can purchase Premium Membership Gift Certificates for 1 month, 3 months, or 1 year increments at 10% off for family and friends with any $25.00 minimum purchase. You can also enter to win a free month-long Premium Membership to my site, just by going to The Outside Lane and leaving a comment.

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  • December 12, 2011
    1:37 pm

    Lane is so right about the PCApproach saving one’s sanity! Knowing that you’re only 15 minutes away from a proper meal is comforting even to someone who stays at home all day. You see, that’s the problem, you get too complacent and really don’t put any thought into what you eat unless you plan ahead. Planning ahead saves you money since you don’t cave at the last moment and order in or pick up something. I take comfort in knowing that there are containers of soup, stew, casseroles or what have you, stored in my freezer. I know that all of my entrees have ingredients that I want to have in them, no scary additives and are portioned out appropriately for me since I don’t eat huge servings. This way of cooking ahead just makes sense on so many levels that I am using it for holiday baking today. Six dozen cookies, two pans of butterscotch cookies, two huge pans of rocky road squares and a pan of brownies are cooling and will be cut up and put in appropriate containers. I have a feeling that I still have enough energy to put together more cookies before I call it a day. All these goodies are destined to be holiday gifts as well as being served when friends drop by. Baking every day would be a pain so I would far rather take one day and get it all done and know that I’m prepared should someone drop by unexpectedly. Thank you Jewels for getting me on track! Cyber hugs!

    • December 12, 2011
      3:30 pm

      Thanks Ruthee, and I loved your blog post today

      My dinners are ready in five minutes or less, because I prefer to heat in the microwave. Not only is it faster, you are less likely to cook meat and fish further.

      • December 15, 2011
        7:00 am

        Oh, I use the microwave too! But, I like to set up a place at the table, toss a fresh salad, make a pot of tea. Figure since I’m having a real meal, that I deserve to use the dining table. Some days there are even flowers on it. 🙂 That’s where the 15 minutes gets used up. You’re right about not wanting to overcook the meals! Like my meats at medium and the fish just nicely flaking.

  • December 12, 2011
    5:19 pm

    I really love your food blog! I would like to personally invite you to my quirky Christmas Balls blog party! Link to any “ball” recipe on your blog, new or old!

    Hope to see you there!

  • December 13, 2011
    9:53 am

    Everything Lane said is 1000% true with how amazing Jewel’s PCA approach is.

    I LOVE the menus. My family is soooo happy that I stopped my ‘cycling’. (Oh it’s Tuesday so it’s spaghetti again…) and now we have variety, I’m learning all sorts of new skills in the kitchen, and no one goes to the hospital from my experimenting! (No one ever has, but it’s been made very clear when I’ve failed, lol!)

    I’m going to give one of my girlfriends a gift certificate for a 3-month premium membership for the holidays!

  • December 13, 2011
    7:19 pm

    Julie Anne is the mostest =)

    What are the odds that one of the girls from my junior high “MODELS” scrapbook would be the woman to teach me how to cook? Via the internet even!

  • December 13, 2011
    6:08 pm

    Blushing here.

  • December 14, 2011
    8:51 am

    Great blog Lane and SO true! With being as busy as you are, as busy as we all are… this is the only way to go to keep the sanity of the house. For some reason, both my kids have activities after school that have us getting back anywhere between 5 30 and 6 30. While other parents are bolting out the door at ballet or aikido on their phone to order pizza or off to a busy restaurant, I’m calmly helping kids with boots and coats, congratulating them on the focus and effort they made for that class… then a calm drive home to heat dinner, eat then lots of time to do homework. In fact, yesterday we were making cookies and drawing plans for gingerbread houses at 5 30, doing homework then dinner was on at 6 15 when my husband got in. I was focused on them not jumping up to prep dinner. I’ve also noticed they are enjoying great health while most of their friends have had sickness keeping them home from school. I’m convinced this is to do with them eating more veggies and the once time a week they had processed foods is gone. The 5 year old is more adventurous than the 4 year old but I had to laugh the other night when the 4 year old was hesitant about trying a new dish… the 5 year old told her ” don’t worry, it’s from Julie Anne so you’ll like it” The only way to go!

    • December 14, 2011
      8:57 am

      If I ever get to the point of commercials – I want Ava and Holly to do them. So cute!

  • December 14, 2011
    8:54 am

    I am thrilled that you, and others, are mastering your own kitchens and finding the convenience in the PCA™. It’s exciting for me to hear how you are all getting along so well, enjoying the convenience, money and time saved.