Hello everyone! Life is exciting here at my house. Do you remember when I shared my goals for the year in the January 2006 issue of the newsletter? I thought you might like an update. I made a promise to myself that I would try and honestly work on these goals. It is exciting when you actually make some progress and start to see that light at the end of the tunnel. I was going to concentrate on three different areas; driving, exercise and mind.
Driving: My twin boys got their temporary permits last Christmas and we have spent the last nine months driving with them. What an experience! The more you go through with your own kids, the more you appreciate what your parents did for you. The boys attended driver's education classes over the summer and then drove with a driving instructor once school started. They both took their driver's test this week and both boys passed on the first try. We are so proud of them and they are so excited to get their licenses!
Exercise: Earlier I shared with you that I was looking for some sort of exercise that I could do at home in the winter months when it is too cold to walk outside. A wonderful thing happened over the summer. Our neighborhood has an annual garage sale where anyone in the neighborhood can participate and take advantage of the group advertising in the local newspapers. It is a tradition that my kids and I walk the neighborhood to scout for that great bargain. This year's bargain was a whopper! We ran across a neighbor who was giving away a Total Gym for free. I could not believe it. We brought it home and set it up in our basement. My next goal: to actually learn how to use it and do it regularly!
Mind: I was able to read the books for book club and now there is another whole list of books to explore. I'm excited. I love to read and some of the books that I read last year have really inspired me. Here are some of the books I am going to read over the next year: When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin, Your People Shall Be My People by Don Finto, The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, Edge of Eternit y by Randy Alcorn, The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, Joshua by Joseph Girzone, and Things We Once Held Dear by Ann Tatlock.
It is great to see progress on goals. It inspires me to set new goals and continue to strive to meet the challenges. This goes for cooking as well. I am always looking for new ideas, new recipes, or a new gadget to make life in the kitchen easier.
In last month's newsletter I talked about different cooking methods and how it does not matter how you approach freezer cooking. What matters is that you do what works for your situation. This topic spurred a lot of questions about cooking methods and also generated some great ideas. I thought I would share them with you.
September Newsletter Question: I enjoy your newsletter each month, plus you talked about one of our favorite soup recipes (Loaded Baked Potato Soup)! You talked about using water, then adding the powdered milk (actually, you could have pointed out that powdered milk is usually cheaper, plus more convenient on the shelf!). My question: Do you mean that you could add the water to the flour and butter mixture, then simply stir in the the powdered milk with the cheese, salt, pepper and bacon? I wondered if the powdered milk needed to cook through to eliminate the "powered milk" taste. Janell
Carol's Answer: Save out some of the water (about 1 cup per recipe) and mix it with the flour until smooth. Boil the rest of the water with the butter. Remove the water from the stove. Add the powdered milk and stir until completely mixed. Add the flour and water mixture and put back on the stove and heat until thickened. Proceed with the recipe. I have not noticed a powdered milk taste. I think the bacon, sour cream and cheese cover it up! I agree with you about the cost of the powdered milk. I use it all the time just for that reason. (This method works extremely well with the lower fat version of the soup - Loaded Baked Potato Soup - Lite.)
Recipe Question: We made the cheese filled shells from your book and our family loves them. However, we were thinking that it would be a whole lot easier to work with the hard uncooked noodles. Have you tried this and if not how do you think it would work to fill the uncooked shells cover with spaghetti sauce and some water and freeze? If so how much water? We are trying to make this great dish easier. The ingredients are bought and we need advice. Thanks a bunch. We love the book. Deb G.
Carol's Answer: I tried this in September. I stuffed the shells before they were cooked and flash froze them on a baking sheet. Once the filling was frozen, I removed the shells from the baking sheets and packaged them in freezer bags. On serving day I placed the shells in a baking dish that was sprayed with cooking spray. I covered the shells with spaghetti sauce. The shells need to be completely covered with sauce and remain this way during cooking. Otherwise, the exposed noodles will be crunchy instead of soft. I also added about 1/2 cup of water to the dish. I baked it for 1 hour and 10 minutes. The shells were done and this method works great! Also, when I make shells, I place the filling in a pastry bag and fill the shells that way. It makes the job of stuffing shells very easy.
Gadget Question: I found your web-site and I must say I am intrigued. I do have a question for you on freezing though. When you assemble a meal, are they assembled in a fashion that you could freeze them in a vacuum seal bag? I have a home sealer that I use currently when I buy in bulk. With 7 of us, that is almost always. I am not a big fan of regular freezer bags so I started vacuum sealing everything. I know when I tried some of the recipes from the library book, vacuum sealing did not work so well and mangled many of the dishes. Any insight or suggestions you could give me on this would be greatly appreciated. I like what I have seen, so I just want to make sure I can use my sealer before I order my book. Michelle
Carol's Answer: There are quite a few postings on the message board with tips on vacuum sealing. If the meal has a lot of liquid, some people make the entrée, freeze it in a container or in an upright vacuum seal bag, and then vacuum seal it after it is frozen. Here are some links to various postings on the Cook's Corner Message Board:
Menu Planning Question: I enjoy your newsletters so much and admire the fact that you seem so organized about meal planning. Since you seem to cook on a quarterly basis, would you consider posting one of your menu plans? You went into elaborate detail one time about the steps you take before cooking, but I would be interested to see how it all ended up. I know in the manual a sample menu plan was given, but I am in awe of the fact that your menu planning includes lunches as well as dinners. I think this would be a great idea for those of us who want to get started OAMC but haven't taken the plunge. Any help would be appreciate and thank you for listening. Barbara
Carol's Answer: I know what you mean. Menu planning can be hard. I have written about lunch planning in a couple of the newsletters. I have even included sample menus. To get some ideas on lunch planning, take a look at the September 2004 and the September 2005 editions of the Chewin' the News newsletter. There is also a page on the website that lists a month of breakfast and lunch ideas. Click here to take a look. As far as planning dinners, there are lots of approaches. The easiest way to start is to say Monday is Italian, Tuesday is Chicken, Wednesday is Chinese, Thursday is grill day, Friday is pizza day, etc. Next list your recipes by category and then start filling in the calendar. The March 2006 editionsof the Chewin' the News newsletter has many pointers on menu planning. There are also lots of great menu planning ideas on our message board. Click here to view one of the postings.
Next month I would like to talk about the tools you use in your kitchen. What gadget is totally indispensable to you? What would you recommend to first time freezer cooks? One of the gadgets I received as a Christmas gift last year was an 8 cup measuring cup with a lid. It really comes in handy when your are chilling chicken stock. Having a lid is great because you don't have to worry about spills. I used to use a two quart pitcher and the family would think that there was some strange kind of juice in the fridge! With the 8 cup measuring cup they know that it is stock.
I love sharing ideas with each other, don't you? Feel free to submit any questions or comments you have at any time. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love hearing from you.
Return to Table of Contents
Ham and Lentil Soup
Now that it's autumn I always add more soups to the menu. I love having a hot bowl of soup, a fresh roll and a crisp salad for dinner. This soup has great flavor and it is filling. If you have never worked with dried beans before, this is a great recipe to try. Lentils are very easy to cook. I usually make this recipe in the slow cooker but it can also be made on the stove.
Click here to view/print this recipe!
Return to Table of Contents
September Recipe of the Month Update
I heard from Kris after sending out the September newsletter. Let's hear from Kris:
"My name is Kris and I live in Grand Rapids, Michigan. My husband and I have 3 children – 9, 8 and 6 – and have been freezer cooking for about 3 years. I work outside the home 30 hours a week and am currently enjoying the first week of school a whole lot more with my freezer full of meals! I did my first have of my fall cooking on Labor Day and will finish up over the weekend. By Saturday, I will have done 6 different chicken recipes (including my Chicken & Stuffing, of course!), 3 beef, 3 breakfast/egg (my family loves breakfast for supper) and 4 side dishes, totaling 56 meals + the sides (whew!). I already know it’s going to be a HUGE help now that soccer for all 3 kids has started, piano lessons, and all our other fall activities. I also do freezer cooking because I find it saves so much money, since I don’t end up buying groceries that are on sale but I don’t need. Now all I have to do is run in for milk, bread and fresh fruits and vegetables and that’s it. I might try to do some stuff for lunches next, but I may need to find more freezer space first. I also just purchased the Advantage Cooking software and love how it thinks for me so I don’t have to. Hope you enjoy the Chicken and Stuffing recipe as much as my family does!"
Click here to view/print the September Recipe of the Month.
Recipe of the Month... Freezer Donuts
Our winner this month is Christi from Grundy Center, IA with her recipe for Freezer Donuts. Fresh donuts in the fall remind me of when I was growing up. It was a tradition at our house for us to pick up some fresh apple cider. There was a cider mill near the town where I grew up. I remember it was such a treat to go there on school field trips. After we picked up the cider, my Dad would make fresh donuts for us. I can still smell them! Let's hear from Christi:
"My make ahead doughnut recipe actually came from my mother. And, I imagine that it is one that once belonged to my grandmother – both of which cooked for large crews of Texas ranch cowboys, anywhere from 8-30 men at a time. Not only did she cook lunch, but she often cooked breakfast for these crews – and these doughnuts have been a favorite with our family for as long as I can remember. They are great to have on hand and make for a fast breakfast or an evening snack! Plus, I have found that they are quick lifesavers when goodies are needed for work occasions or social clubs
I have been a ‘make ahead’ cook for 8 years now, it all started when my husband was ranching and I had to cook for a crew of cowboys everyday! From that, I quickly learned that is was easier to plan ahead than to try to make every thing at one time. I started slowly with baked goods and sweets and then graduated to doing large sessions. I still make large batches, and I now do a monthly supper swap with 12 friends. We each prepare one freezer-friendly main dish that will serve at least six. We have used 30 Day Gourmet’s “Co-op Cooking” as a guide; and it has been invaluable in assisting us in setting up our criteria, rules and the all important recipe hunt. I image that after my ‘Supper Swap Friends’ read this, I’ll have to include a dozen of these doughnuts for each them in our November swap!
My family and I live in Northeast Iowa. I am married with three small children (all under 8) and work full time, managing an Abstract/Title office. After working all day with attorneys, lenders and realtors, cooking is a great way to clear my head after a hectic day of land transactions, foreclosures and court cases! I’ve been lucky enough to have recipes published in several publications, including Taste of Home and Quick Cooking magazines, and my elementary-age daughter and I love to enter recipe contests and cook-offs together. Now, I’m glad to add a ’30-day Gourmet Recipe of the Month’ selection to that list."
Click here to view/print the October Recipe of the Month.
Calling all cooks! I'm looking for your favorite recipes so post them on our message board, the Cook's Corner. Any recipe posting will be considered for the Recipe of the Month contest and a chance to win $25 cash or merchandise from the 30 Day Gourmet store. Just post it under the appropriate category on the message boards. Be sure to include freezing directions! I look forward to hearing what you have to share.
Return to Table of Contents
Our winner this month is Abbie from Martinez, GA. Abbie has a wonderful story of how cooking the 30 Day Gourmet way has helped her get organized and share her story with others.
Let's hear from Abbie:
"I first discovered freezer cooking while on a stay at home mom group. I was pregnant with my second child then. I thought this would be a wonderful way for me to stock up on meals for when my baby was born. My husband agreed to let me try it and even invested in a small freezer to keep meals in.
Fast forward to today. I now have three children. My daughter is 3 1/2. My oldest son is 2 and my youngest son just turned 8 months old. I not only use 30 Day Gourmet on a regular basis, I'm also a big fan of the Advantage Cooking Software.
So, with three children three and under, my house can get pretty chaotic. I also am the coordinator of a moms ministry at our church as well as running my own business out of my home and starting to home school two of my preschoolers.
I was due with my 8 month old right around Christmas. In August and then for half of September, I had mini sessions, and cooked double whatever we were having that night and stored the extra in the fridge. After the baby was born, I did not have to cook any meals for two months! I was so excited to be able to provide home cooked meals for my family and not have to worry about eating out or blowing our budget.
30 Day Gourmet has also helped me to get organized in my meal planning. I recently finished mapping out our grocery store. For about six months now, I have been following a meal plan that I created for the whole year! This plan is on a three month rotation and I left spaces for us to try new recipes every month (one of our favorite things to do). Depending on how busy the month is looking, I will either do one big session or just have several small sessions.
This month, a freezer cooking friend and I will be speaking to the moms ministry at our church about freezer cooking and menu planning. You better believe we will be promoting 30 Day Gourmet. I have been able to share with several friends how to freezer cook and meal plan and I believe it's been very helpful for them. I am excited about this opportunity to share how to freezer cook with a larger group of ladies!
Thanks for all you do."
I heard back from Abbie about how her mom's group presentation went. Here is her update:
"As a follow-up about our mom's ministry speaking engagement...we had about 34 ladies present. All of us were mothers of preschoolers! They were super excited about the information we provided. We had nothing but positive feedback!"
We're glad that cooking the 30 Day Gourmet way has helped you to get organized and has given you the opportunity to share this information with others. Thanks for sharing your 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 email@example.com to be entered in our contest.
Return to Table of Contents
Remember, I would like to hear about the kitchen gadget that you just can't do without! Your hints might just be helpful to another freezer cook just like yourself. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. I enjoy hearing from you!
Return to Table of Contents