By DEBBIE FLESSNER

Columnist

Anyone who knows me understands that if plans are being made that include food, they can count me in.

As the mother of three sons, pretty much every out of town trip we have taken as a family begins with building an itinerary of where we are going to be dining. In Washington, D.C. on vacation? Yes, yes, we will be taking that White House tour, but more importantly, let’s make sure not to miss the homemade pop tarts at Ted’s Bulletin.

Needless to say, when I found out that Southern Steer Butcher offers food prep classes, where you can assemble 10 family-sized meals to take home, I couldn’t wait to participate.

Southern Steer is a neighborhood-type of butcher shop with locations in both Sarasota and Clearwater. They stock an assortment of fresh cut meats, homemade sausages, healthy side items and out-of-this-world marinated meat selections, which are tumbled in their marinating barrels. The shop also has lots of craft beers and sodas, as well as wines and grocery items.

Three to six times each month, owner Greg Snyder and managing partner Shay Black conduct three types of meal prep classes—Traditional, Paleo and Keto. Each participant gathers around the table, after which ingredients are passed around as each meal is assembled. Greg and Shay guide the process, and the ingredients are pre-measured. You assemble the meals in individual bags and then attach a label to the bag, so you can take it home and either cook right away or freeze. You also get recipes for each, in case you want to replicate a meal in the future.

I was fortunate that the class I went to was also led by a celebrity, Chef Judi Gallagher, author, publisher and until recently, longtime cooking segment host extraordinaire on WWSB in Sarasota. She began our session by giving us each a cup of sangria and then showing us how to make a delicious watermelon gazpacho. After that, she made an unbelievable fruit cobbler, which Shay took back to the kitchen to be cooked and we were treated to at the end of the class.

Besides the ability to effortlessly put together 10 meals that will each feed four to five people, one of the best things about a Southern Steer Meal Prep class is the communal atmosphere. Everyone is having a great time and excited about taking home such fantastic food.

Chef Judi even provided us with a lot of insider tips along the way: The rounder the onion, the more neutral its flavor will be; never buy extra large or jumbo eggs, because they will throw off a recipe; don’t use a spoon when mixing, because it breaks down the composition, use your hands instead; the ribs of a jalapeno pepper is what cause its bite; and most importantly, Irish Butter at all times.

At the end of the class, I left with all my goodies safely stowed away in my cooler (a must when you come to a meal prep event) and a $10 gift card to use in the future at Southern Steer. Best of all, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and felt that I had learned a few tricks. The family is going to be very happy with me for the next couple of weeks.

Debbie Flessner writes the Live Like a Tourist column for Sun newspapers. You may contact her at dj@flessner.net.

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