Hello everyone! It is so amazing how the weather can turn around in one month's time. Last month we had four calamity days. Calamity days are the days that school is cancelled due to bad weather. Two days were for below zero temperatures and the other two were for unbelievable amounts of snow. As I write this newsletter it is a wonderful 70 degrees outside. It is absolutely beautiful. I was wishing this morning that we could go some place warm over spring break. Well, it looks like I don't have to go anywhere. It is right here!
Last month I asked for some ideas for topics for the newsletter. This newsletter is for you and I want to talk about the topics you have questions about. My motto has always been that no question is a too big or too small. It is almost guaranteed that for every question you ask there is at least one other 30 Day Gourmet cook out there with the same exact question - so ask away! I will do my best to answer your questions.
I received a great email from Danielle. She is from Auburn, AL. Read what she has to say:
I LOVE your system, and have been using it off and on for several years. I've even 'taught' a class for my military wives group to help teach them to free up time, especially during deployments.
You mentioned wanting to know what suggestions the readers may have. I have a question that would be great to have you ladies address. I'd like to know how often you use your freezer meals! Do you eat from the freezer every night, just 5 times a week, or for some lunches and dinners? Do you incorporate one fresh from scratch meal a week or a leftover night? Do you ever get tired of the same meals during your menu session and just never get to them? I've had a meatloaf in my freezer for almost a year now, b/c our tastes changed (my husband was post-chemo and didn't want beef), and I finally had to throw it away. Such a sad loss of a good meal.. and I should have given it away to someone else as a blessing to them before it got too old, but I thought his tastes would change back. No such luck. We also have several marinated steaks in our freezer ready to go, and we're slowly using those as he still has some desire for steaks on the grill.
I guess that was more than just one question. Thanks for all that you do!
I posed these questions to Nanci, Tammy and Shelley. We are all going to try and answer these questions for you. I think these are such great questions because everyone cooks differently. I am excited to hear what Nanci, Shelley and Tammy do. I know I have spoken with various family members who are familiar with 30 Day Gourmet. They all have their own way of doing things and it has changed over time for each of them. This is often a topic of conversation at family gatherings.
Do you eat from the freezer every night, just 5 times a week, or for some lunches and dinners? Do you incorporate one fresh from scratch meal a week or a leftover night?
My first reaction to this question is that what I do has changed throughout the years. When I first started with 30 Day Gourmet eight years ago I was working full time. I was looking for some way to avoid eating hot dogs and macaroni and cheese for dinner every week. We began to rely on the meals in the freezer for all of our dinners during the week. We cooked for 30 days at a time. Lunches were still purchased from school.
Since then, I quit my job to stay home until the kids graduate high school so at this point in my life I am trying to save time AND money. We started packing lunches. We are also looking for ways to eat healthier. We still eat in at least 6 nights a week but I have changed that way I cook. We may not make the whole meal ahead of time but just have the prep work done. For example, we make some recipes that have ingredients that are from the freezer and are mixed at time of preparation such as Chicken Cordon Bleu. The chicken is pounded and rolled with the cheese and ham and frozen but I make the sauce on the day I am going to serve it.
Last month I shared some of the recipes that I was planning on using for my Spring quarter menu. We generally plan on eating out two to four times a month so I don't plan lunch for Saturdays. I have backup meals planned in case we are around the house. I always have some hotdogs and buns in the freezer as well as homemade macaroni and cheese. Of course there are omelets and pancakes as well. I do plan for the rest of the meals. That is 52 meals a month!
Planning is one consideration but whether that meal is frozen or cooked from scratch is another. I definitely freeze all my week day lunches ahead of time with the exception of deli meat or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Here is my final version of the Spring 2007 lunch menu. The bold recipes are from the freezer:
I take a different tact for dinners. My goal is to be able to put dinner on the table in under one hour. If I can do it in 30 minutes or less, that is even better! This means that meals that take a lot of prep or cooking time are generally frozen. Any meal that I can make quick or in the slow cooker, I make from scratch. Here is my dinner menu. The bold recipes are from the freezer.
So I would have to say that most of our meals are frozen in one form or another. I like to make a lot of kit meals. A good example of a kit recipe are the Freezer Quesadillas. I make up the filling and place it in a quart freezer bag for each meal. I place the tortillas in a gallon freezer bag and then place the quart bag of filling in the gallon bag as well. This makes it easy to just "grab and go". Add a salad and some fruit and you have a quick meal.
Do you ever get tired of the same meals during your menu session and just never get to them?
Since I am on a quarterly menu, we usually don't see the same recipe again until the next month. That seems to be the right amount of time for my family. We do get "tired" of recipes. When that happens I drop them off the menu at the start of the next quarter and I don't add them back until the next year or until someone asks for them. A good example of this is Wet Tacos. I just added the recipe back to the menu after being absent for a year. It took the spot in the menu where we used to have Soft Tacos. Chances are that if I had left both of the recipes on the menu we would have been tired of them by the end of the quarter.
A lot of people cannot imagine cooking for three months. I get questions on the process all the time but it is not that hard. I usually divide the cooking into several sessions of similar meals. I may have a chicken recipe day, a ground beef day, a soup day or a pasta day (lasagna, shells, etc.). Having so many different recipes in the freezer allows me to serve a great variety of meals to avoid the boredom.
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Last month I talked about buying cheese on sale. Someone posed a question on what I did with the cheese until cooking the next cooking day. This is a very good question. Cheese can be frozen. I will often just put the bags of cheese in the freezer and keep them there until I am ready to use them. This last cooking session I was able to purchase it on sale for my cooking day so I was not forced to store it in the freezer.
Everyone loved the story from Barngranny about the large roast that she tried to cook on her last cooking day. I received lots of comments. Click here if you missed this great story!
Do any of you have a roaster that you use to cook your Thanksgiving turkey? Jil puts hers to use on her cooking day as well. Here is her tip:
I found a great solution for frying large amounts (up to 30 lbs.) of ground beef and for making all my poached chicken breasts....a roaster (the kind you can get at Wal-Mart for $30). I load up my chicken, carrots, celery and onions with my herbs; then cover with water and crank her up to 400 degrees. It takes about 1 1/2 hours to cook 24 breasts. I keep them "in the drink" until I process them. They are wonderful and moist. Good Luck!
And here is a great tip that we received from PJ concerning casserole dishes:
Love your web site.
I've been making ahead meals and freezing them for more years than I like to remember. Back then I only had 1 or 2 casserole dishes and couldn't leave the meals in my pans. Here's a little tip a friend taught me.
Line your casserole dish with foil leaving 8-10 inches on each side of the dish and spray it well with no stick spray. Put your casserole in and top it with the lid. Put it in the freezer long enough for it to freeze. Then pull it out the frozen casserole using the extra foil to wrap the top. Put the frozen casserole into a zip top bag and label. Return the casserole to the freezer and your dish to the cabinet for the next casserole. When you are ready to cook the frozen casserole, spray the dish with no stick spray and just unwrap the casserole and pop it back into the dish.
Keep on cooking/freezing,
I received some great information from Lisa about the Oriental Sesame Dressing Mix. I am going to look for this the next time I visit Kroger.
We LOVE the chicken strips and the salad dressing. When my salvage store stash of Good Season's [ $0.25 per pack--I bought all 12!!!] ran out I found Kroger has a generic and they run sales on their generic. I think it was $0.99 on sale.
I like the pricebook tie-in. It may just get me to do one. Also, you list reminded me of some good stuff for upcoming soccer nights! Thanks!
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Reduced Fat Garlic Alfredo Sauce
I started this quest for a reduced fat Alfredo Sauce two months ago. Thanks for all of your wonderful suggestions!
I started with a recipe sent in by Nancy. The first batch had too much garlic for my son's taste. So I adjusted the amount of garlic and the flour/butter ratio to get the right consistency. We tested the sauce in several recipes. We made a Chicken Garlic Alfredo Pizza and Chicken Alfredo. Both were wonderful with the sauce. Next month I will share these recipes with you. This recipe is something I can feel good about feeding to my family. Here is the nutritional analysis for the final version of the recipe:
Nutritional Info: Per Serving: 72 Calories; 4g Fat (54.0% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 9mg Cholesterol; 139mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Fat.
Click here to view/print this recipe!
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Our winner this month is Cinnamon from Valencia, PA. This is a story that was posted in the Crazy Cooks section of the Cook's Corner message board. The story is titled "and there is food in the freezer??????". I enjoyed the story. I hope you will too.
Let's hear from Cinnamon:
I ordered the Advantage Cooking Software and was VERY excited when it arrived. Everything got planned and purchased basically 'on schedule'! However, cooking day started off with a cranky 1 yr old and 4 yr old to match! 1 yr old began by dropping and breaking a baby food jar of split pea soup - gotta clean that up! Downstairs for broom and pan. Done! Baby won't stop fussing and since she hadn't slept night before, call the doctor because I'm sure it's an ear infection. (8:50 am) Put Apple Squares in the oven to bake. Brown some ground meat, take apple squares out of oven and clean up the mess from them spilling over (must be in the wrong size pan). Drop it all, turn everything off and head off to the doc at 10am. Hmmm, nope ears are fine, just teething! GRRR! Home by 11:45 when DH tells me that I need to take him to the doc for 2:00 because he's too dizzy to drive (even longer story!). Ok, dear! Cut some onions, feed 2 kids (and the dog) bag a few things (how did they get cooked? not sure!). Drop a pound of meatball mix on the floor - guess the dog is happy! Now I pack everyone in the van at 1:45 and zoom to the 2nd doc appt of the day! Race home to get 2 more kids off the bus (just beat them home!) I'm not sure how I did it, but in all this craziness, I actually managed to get 20 main dishes into my freezer! AND I even stopped to play Polly Pocket with my 4 yr old at some point (though I can't remember when - it's more of a blur!) Even though I didn't start off in the order I planned (I wanted to put my cheesecake in the oven 1st), things still worked out! So I woke up Saturday a.m. and stuck the cheesecake in to cook. Smelled good, looked good, cooled off nicely. Cut into slices - looked great! However, once it hit the floor, it didn't look too nice! Yep, it slipped out of my hands and onto the floor! My dog is going to get fat if I continue like this! Oh, well, better her than me!
I hope my crazy day encourages others to stick to it! If I had given up after the 1st doc appt, all I would have in my freezer would be 2 - 1/2 gallons of ice cream and a meatloaf. However, I have 20 main meals (plus a few to give away! love that part) apples squares (the ones that didn't burn on my oven floor), and a bunch of soup--all happily chillin' out in my freezer! THANKS 30 Day Gourmet! Love the Advantage Cooking! Now I'm off to clean my floor - the dog did a good job, but I'm thinking maybe I should scrub a bit, too!
Thanks for the sharing this great story with us!
So, how do you make 30 Day Gourmet work for you? How do you use it to help you deal with a challenge in your life? How do you use it to help others? Do you have a funny cooking story to share? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or post your story on the Cook's Corner message board to be entered in our contest.
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I know I promised to talk about grocery shopping but I thought that you would like to hear how everyone approaches cooking the 30 Day Gourmet way. Next month, I will get back to grocery shopping. I will also talk more about evaluating recipes to package them into "kits" for fast cook time and how I approach my 30 minutes or less goal for dinners. And I will share some recipe ideas for the the Alfredo Sauce.
Do you have any other topics that you would like to cover? Do you have any nagging questions that need to be answered? Email me at email@example.com. I enjoy hearing from you!
Have a Blessed Easter!
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