Beef Kabobs
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Chewin' the News from 30 Day Gourmet
Kitchen Fun with Carol
Bonus Recipes
Recipe of the Month Contest Winner
Freezer Cook of the Month Contest Winner
Closing Comments from Carol
Freezer Cooking News from Nanci
Company and Website News
Emails from Happy Customers
Consultant News
Closing Comments
Cookin' at the Keyboard with Shelley
Software Suggestions
Closing Comments from Shelley

Kitchen Fun with Carol



Hello everyone and happy spring! There is so much anticipation for spring around my house. You start to look for the sure signs that spring has arrived. The ground comes alive with blooming bulbs (daffodils are my favorite!) and early perennials. Every gas station around starts to sell mulch. The neighborhood comes alive with all the people who start to adventure out of the house! 

It also means changes in the kitchen at my house. I plan a seasonal menu. I usually have a spring/fall menu that is a mix of different dishes. I have some of our favorite winter comfort foods on the menu such as Parsley Parmesan Chicken, Potato Stuffed Meatloaf, and Taco Chili. I also start to add in some of our summer favorites such as April's Chicken Marinade, hamburgers, and our favorite grill packets. 

There is a process that I go through to put together the menu every quarter. I begin by putting together four weeks worth of recipes. I use the Monthly Menu Planner (Worksheet G) from The Freezer Cooking Manual. I use multiple criteria to pick recipes for the menu. 

 

  1. I ask my family their opinion about the recipes on the current menu. Is there something that is your favorite? Is there a recipe that we haven't had for a while that you would like? Is there a recipe you are tired of and would like to skip this time around?
  2. I review the menus that I have saved from past years. Sometimes they come in handy when I am looking for some planning inspiration. They remind me of a recipe that we have not had in a while that would be great to bring back into the rotation.
  3. I rank meals based on their cost. If we need to cut back on expenses, I can choose to make less expensive meals more often, serve more meatless meals, and serve the most expensive recipes only occasionally. 
  4. I group recipes together by serving day cooking method - slow cooker, grill, oven, stove top. I also group them by types - meatless, Mexican, Chinese, soup, sandwich, eggs, beef, poultry, etc. Once the recipes are categorized, I can pick a day of the week for each category. For example:
  • Sunday - quick and easy
  • Monday - slow cooker
  • Tuesday - soup
  • Wednesday - Mexican
  • Thursday - oven
  • Friday - Chinese or grill
  • Saturday - eggs or quick and easy

Once the menu is put together, we rotate the menu for three months in a row. I also go through this process to plan out what I am making for lunch. Once the lunches and the dinners are planned, I make a list of on hand ingredients I need for each week. This becomes the beginning of my grocery shopping list for that week. There's nothing worse than it being 5:00, you start dinner and then you realize you are missing a key ingredient to finish. Making the list ahead of time is a life saver!

I also choose how I am going to cook for the time period. If I am ambitious, I can cook for the entire three months. I usually do this for the summer menu because it can be hectic with everyone's summer schedule. I sometimes cook for one month at a time. Sometimes I plan mini cooking sessions based upon what's on sale. For example, chicken leg quarters were on sale for nineteen cents a pound. I cook them in 10 pound batches. This yields about 10 cups of cooked chicken and 7 cups of chicken stock. With this done, I can easily make the recipes that use cooked chicken and stock such as Turkey and Noodles, Chicken Fried Rice, Chicken/Turkey Patties (member's only recipe), Bowtie Soup and Chicken Pockets.

After the menu is planned and the food is cooked, I take my planning one step further. I create an index card with the serving instructions for the recipes on my menu. I place these cards in a photo "brag book". This is a nice way to store the cards because they don't get messy when you cook. It also makes it easy for anyone in the house to complete a recipe if you are not around. I also put any other non-freezer recipes that I use all the time in this book.  It is such a great time saver to have most the information that you use in one place!

I hope these tips help you with your menu planning. For more tips, read Beth's ideas in the Freezer Cook of the Month section below. She has some great insights on how to save time and money on your next cooking day!



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Bonus Recipes



Cheesecake Bars

My kids and I love cheesecake and I wanted something that you could have stashed away in the freezer for that special occasion. The first time I made them, my kids thought I was making a gigantic pop tart because of the way the peanut butter stripes look on top of the cheese cake. This is a fun treat to make ahead to take to a potluck or any family gathering.

Click here to view/print this recipe!



Creamy Ranch Potatoes

My family loves the Crispy Cheesy Potatoes recipe from the third edition of the Freezer Cooking Manual. I wanted to create a different version that was lower in fat and calories (one of my goals for the New Year!). The ranch dressing mix gives the potatoes a nice flavor.

Click here to view/print this recipe!



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Recipe of the Month Contest Winner



March Recipe of the Month... Broccoli and Corn Casserole

Our winner this month is Cyndee from Cary, NC, with her recipe for Broccoli and Corn Casserole. This recipe was an instant hit with my family. It is a different take on your regular vegetable casserole. It has a great flavor and you will be pleasantly surprised with the broccoli and corn combination.

Let's hear from Cyndee:

"I’m a stay-at-home mom of two boys (ages 6 and 4) and a very rambunctious border collie/springer spaniel mix. I’ve been freezing cooking for about 9 years or so now. I do a lot of marinades in a bag (we love to grill year round), tripling dinner recipes, and piles of Tara’s Favorite Muffins (the chocolate chip variety). Our boys LOVE those muffins!

For about the last 2 years my husband and I have been living on the “South Beach”. We’ve lost about 60 pounds total. The best part is I can still freezer cook! I’ve adapted many of the recipes in the manual and on the boards – substituting Splenda for part of the sugars, replacing white with whole wheat/whole wheat pastry flour, choosing lean meats, etc. It’s all about choosing good carbs and lean meats/dairy…it really works for us.

Last month I helped to present “Supper Secrets” to our MOPS group. The main focus of our talk was freezing cooking. It was great to share tips, recipes, and, of course, the 30 Day Gourmet website with the other moms. It was a BIG hit with our group.

When I’m not mixing up another batch of muffins (seriously, I make well over 100 muffins each month), I’m busy with volunteer work at our church, MOPS, and in my oldest son’s classroom. I also love to spend time working on our scrapbooks.

I hope everyone enjoys this side dish. I find it challenging to find side dishes that will freeze well and that work with our diet. (Granted, this one’s not Beach-approved, but it’s pretty close!)."

Click here to view/print the March Recipe of the Month.

Congratulations Cyndee! Thank you for posting this wonderful recipe.

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.



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Freezer Cook of the Month Contest Winner



Our winner this month is Beth from Edenton, NC. Beth has some great time and money saving tips to share with us.

Beth says:

"My name is Beth, and I've been doing freezer cooking for about 13 years now. I love it!

I just wanted to write in a few tips and ideas that I've developed over the years.

First, I set up in a way that makes clean up easier, since, as y'all know well, by the end of the day, you're exhausted, and the easier the clean up the better. I put a large towel in front of the stove, one in front of the freezer, and one in front of the sink.

I have a 5 gallon bucket that I put next to the trash can (that I put a new liner in). All food scraps and paper trash go in the bucket to go to the compost pile, and the plastic trash goes in the can with the liner. I also pour liquids to be discarded into the bucket. I also have a small clothes hamper that I put a trash bag in and put all wet and/or dirty pot holders, dish cloths, dish towels, and the towels from the floor in. That way I can just dump it into the washer, and start the load at the end of the day.

I also tear my old towels (when I replace them) into washcloth sized squares, and have these stacked on a counter out of the way to use as you would paper towels, when I use these, I toss them into the hamper, also.

When I have extra hamburger after a session, I go ahead and brown it, and freeze it. Then sometimes for lunch I add it to a can of vegetable beef soup, undiluted, and make "sloppy joe" type sandwiches out of it.

Every time I have a cooking session, I also freeze a separate serving of each dish for my neighbor. I gave him a casserole dish that's a single serving size for Christmas a few years ago, and print clear instructions on the freezer bag.

When ever we have leftovers from dinner, I freeze them in individual sized serving packages. Especially Mexican Lasagna and Lasagna. This eliminates the "leftovers again" syndrome, and gives the kids and me a variety to choose from for lunches.

I also pick up ground beef and chicken breasts when they are on sale (just got 50 pounds of hamburger for $.86/lb) and package them in 1 pound packages (2 cups) for the beef and 8 breast packages for the chicken.

I also have a shelf in the freezer for breakfast, one for lunches, and one for dinners, and the drawer in the bottom and my small freezer, I use for snacks/desserts.

I hope this helps someone."

 

Wow! What great tips! The clothes hamper is such a wonderful idea. Thanks for sharing with everyone!


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 carol@30daygourmet.com to be entered in our contest.



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Closing Comments from Carol



A funny thing happened to me last week when I shopped at the grocery store. I always have a grocery list with me when I shop. It just makes it easier when you know what to buy and what not to buy. A young woman came up to me in the store and commented on how she thought it was unusual that I shopped from a list. I guess I never thought about it. After cooking the 30 Day Gourmet way for almost seven years it just seems natural to me to shop with a list! In fact, I think I would be lost without the list. This way of cooking has taught me how to plan, manage my time, how to save money and how to take control of my kitchen. I can’t image doing it any other way.

 

I hope this issue of time and money saving tips and menu planning hints was helpful! 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 carol@30daygourmet.com. I enjoy hearing from you!

 


          Carol



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Freezer Cooking News from Nanci



Wow – hard to believe it’s March already. Our weather has been unpredictable at best. Warm one day and flurries the next. Kaytee is off on spring break right now and working on homework. Becky is trying to make it through until her spring break starts on her 18th birthday – the 24th of March. Was it really 18 years ago that I was having my 2nd child? Oh those years have gone by so quickly.

Many of you first heard of 30 Day Gourmet at a Hearts at Home conference. Hearts at Home is an organization for stay-at-home moms. They hold conferences and send newsletters and provide all kinds of great resources. Back when I had 4 kids under the age of 8 they were a literal lifeline. I still get their monthly e-mail news. I have known Jill, the Hearts at Home director, for several years. She and I are about the same age and our kids are close to the same age. (They added a 5th when they adopted a boy from Russia a few years ago.) Jill’s column in their December newsletter especially made me stop and reflect. It’s about Christmas but applies well to any time of the year. Enjoy!

A Word From Jill Savage, Executive Director

Greetings from Hearts at Home!

We’re setting an extra place at the holiday table this year. Matt made his way into our lives after meeting our daughter, Anne, at Starbucks (of all places!). Since Anne was living in Paris , France , this fall, Matt decided to do an “over-the-top” proposal at the Eiffel Tower . And now we are planning a wedding.

Today is Erica’s 15th birthday. Fifteen years ago she arrived in the middle of the night just a few days before Christmas. Now she’s a beautiful young lady making her journey through the teen years.

With one daughter planning a wedding and another daughter celebrating a birthday, I’ve been thinking about how our family is changing. Evan will be away at college most of the year. Although our younger boys are still in grade school, I don’t want to forget how quickly they will grow up.

With this in mind, I’m giving some different types of gifts this Christmas. After a day in the kitchen with my girls baking holiday cookies and breads, I realized that I had given my daughters a precious gift of mentoring them in their kitchen skills. When I spent yesterday afternoon playing games with my boys, I gave the gift of time. When Evan came home exhausted from his first semester of college, I gave the gift of encouragement. When my husband Mark came home frustrated after a day at work, I gave the gift of a listening ear. When Anne, Erica, and I spent time just talking about girl things, I gave the gift of laughter, conversation, and precious memories. When we worshipped together at church on Sunday, I gave the gift of Jesus.

I’m sure you have a dozen things to do in the next few days. I know I do. But I don’t want to become so focused on the tasks that I miss the people. Join me in giving gifts of relationship this Christmas. Those are the gifts that last a lifetime.

Merry Christmas from your Hearts at Home family!

Jill

Click here to subscribe to the Hearts at Home free e-newsletter. They are a yahoo group just like we are.

Click here to visit the Hearts at Home website. Tons of great info for moms.

Recipes from Hearts at Home

The Hearts at Home newsletter always has a great recipe or two that I like to try out. Here are a few that became winners in our house – of course that, unfortunately means that they are loaded with sugar. A battle for another day!

Turtle Cake
Many of you have a recipe for this Turtle Cake. It’s always a favorite at church suppers or company dinners. The gooey caramel, pecan, chocolate chip center puts it in that “to die for” category of desserts. In our house, though, because of the pecans this would be an “adults only” dessert. Good thing it freezes great! I freeze the individual pieces in rigid freezer containers. This isn’t the type of dessert that you want to be spooning out of a bag?. Warm it up right in the container and dig in!

Click here to view/print this recipe!

4 Layer Cookie Bar
These 4 Layer Cookie Bars were big hits with my kids. They actually liked them better once they had been individually cut and frozen. They really do taste like Twix bars without whatever that commercial processed taste is. It’s just as easy to make three pans of these as one.

Click here to view/print this recipe!



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Company and Website News



Here's a quick list of our items:
Freezer Cooking Manual $14.95 (2-9 are $12.95, 10+ are 11.95)
30 Day Gourmet Logo Apron $19.95
Advantage Cooking Software $34.95
Cook's Assistant Notebook $12.95
Kitchen Pro Calculator $34.95
Kitchen Calculator (handheld) $24.95
Freezer Labels $4 for 1 pkg of 50, $3 for 2-3 pkgs., $2.50 for 4+ pkgs.
Holiday Freezer Cooking $6.95 download OR $8.95 CD
Freezer Cooking on a Budget $6.95 download OR $8.95 CD
Freezer Lunches to Go $6.95 download OR $8.95 CD
Freezer Desserts to Die For! $6.95 download OR $8.95 CD
Freezer Cooking for Daycare Providers & Busy Parents $6.95 download OR $8.95 CD
Healthy Freezer Cooking $6.95 download OR $8.95 CD
Vegetarian Freezer Cooking $6.95 download OR $8.95 CD
Co-op Cuisine $6.95 download OR $8.95 CD

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Emails from Happy Customers



My mom makes the peanut clusters that you had given the recipe for and it is a staple for our Christmas celebrations, but the one addition that I think makes it even better is she adds a cup of chunky peanut butter. It makes them even more creamy and delicious.

Thanks for all the wonderful recipes and ideas that you and your team offer. Erica W.

So glad that you are going to be posting low fat, healthier recipes. I have been fighting the pounds for years. I have tried your recipes numerous times. I always try to make a low fat version. Some times it works and sometimes it doesn't. My daughter and I are both members and we love 30 Day Gourmet. She works and has 2 small children, so she can spend more time with the boys and have stress free evenings. I cook for 2, but this allows me to have more time to enjoy doing something I like. Thank you so much. Terri H.



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Consultant News



Please welcome our new consultants:

Angie Leonelli from McGuire AFB, New Jersey

Emily Pehrson from West Jordan , Utah



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Closing Comments



Happy cooking!

         Nanci

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Cookin' at the Keyboard with Shelley



Kids in the Kitchen

I've said before that every freezer cooking session will look different, and our family's most recent experience proved my point. The combination of dwindling freezer meals and an increasingly concentrated calendar forced us into action. I began by making a run to the grocery store for meat and onions. The amounts were only a guess, but it was a start. While I sat at my desk creating a cooking plan in the software and then printing a grocery report, the girls cooked the chicken and browned the ground beef. Arriving home from my second trip to the store, I started assigning recipes to daughters. By the time the kitchen was clean and the freezer was full, I realized that I had done very little cooking in the process.

While my daughters are both comfortable and capable in the kitchen, this is not the norm. Children today are growing up without learning how to cook. By the phrase "how to cook" I mean something beyond operating the microwave. One wife posted on a cooking forum, "I didn't know how to cook anything for my husband when we got married unless it came in a box with directions on the back." My mother is an excellent cook, but she seldom uses a recipe. Consequently, I didn't learn to cook until I left home. It was trial and error, and lots of long distance phone calls!

Critics say that the devaluation of home economics, along with a lack of parental guidance, is producing adolescents who are ignorant of basic life skills. A three-year study by Stirling University revealed that youngsters today fail miserably in the basics of cooking, cleaning, repairing, and money management. One survey done in conjunction with a kid's cooking contest revealed that a mother's most common objections to cooking with her children are 1) the mess, and 2) a lack of time.

In her book, Children Who Do Too Little, Patricia Sprinkle says, "Training happens at home. It requires dedication and consumes time. It can't be hurried. It is woven day by day on the loom of family life." Rachel Ray, a noted chef and author, states, "Cooking is a wonderful way to help kids build their confidence. I learned at a very early age how fun and rewarding it is to cook with my family, and the strong sense of accomplishment and confidence cooking provides."

If your children are actively learning new skills in the kitchen, I commend you. If not, now might be a good time to start. One of my favorite resources for training my children is the book, Life Skills for Kids, by Christine M. Field. Christine admits, "When I realized my main job was to equip my children, not merely entertain them, my vision for parenting changed radically." Cooking with your kids will not only equip them for the future, but it can also be entertaining and rewarding in the moment.



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Software Suggestions



Advantage Cooking Conversions

I was helping my daughter with her Algebra 2 lesson. I groaned in dread as I started into the text because, as everyone knows:

Long Explanations = Complicated Subject Matter

Fortunately, this is not a universal truth. The "Ingredient Conversion" explanation below may be long, but it's not complicated. Take a deep breath (no groaning allowed) and read on.

Conversions are necessary in order to equate volume measures to weight measures. For example, I buy butter in pounds, but most of my recipes call for butter measured in tablespoons or cups. Advantage Cooking needs to know how many cups are in a pound of butter, or it will punish you by telling you how many teaspoons to buy (now you can groan!)

Here are the steps to solve the problem:
Locate "Butter" in the ingredient list.
Under the Packaging tab enter "Pound Package".
Under the Conversion tab enter the following:

From Amount From Measure To Amount To Measure To Ingredient
.5 Cup 4 Ounces Butter

This entry simply tells the software that = cup of butter is equal to 4 ounces. You could just as easily have entered 1 cup of butter is equal to 8 ounces, etc. I've listed several other conversions below to give you more examples. If the desired packaging is not available, use the "Define Packaging" button at the bottom of the window.

Locate "Sugar" in the ingredient list.
Under the Packaging tab enter as many varieties of packaging as desired,
e.g. "Bag (5 pounds)", "Bag (10 pounds)", "Bag (25 pounds)"
Under the Conversion tab enter this equivalent found on a 10-pound bag of sugar:

From Amount From Measure To Amount To Measure To Ingredient
1134 Teaspoons 10 Pounds Sugar

Locate "Brown Sugar" in the ingredient list.
Under the Packaging tab enter as many varieties of packaging as desired,
e.g. "2 Pound Package", "4 Pound Package"
Under the Conversion tab enter this equivalent found on a 4-pound package of brown sugar:

From Amount From Measure To Amount To Measure To Ingredient
454 Teaspoons 4 Pounds Brown Sugar

Locate "Chocolate Chips" in the ingredient list.
Under the Packaging tab enter as many varieties of packaging as desired,
e.g. "Bag (12 oz)" or "Bag (24 oz)" or "Bag (60 oz)"
Under the Conversion tab enter the following equivalent (notice that a pint doesnt always equal a pound!)

From Amount From Measure To Amount To Measure To Ingredient
2 Cup 12 Ounce Chocolate Chips

Locate "Coconut" in the ingredient list.
Under the Packaging tab enter "Bag (7 oz)"
Under the Conversion tab enter this equivalent found on the bag of coconut:

From Amount From Measure To Amount To Measure To Ingredient
2.67 Cup 7 Ounce Coconut

Locate "Flour" in the ingredient list.
Under the Packaging tab enter as many varieties of packaging as desired,
e.g. "Bag (5 pound)" or "Bag (10 pound)"
Under the Conversion tab enter this equivalent found on a 5-pound bag of flour:

From Amount From Measure To Amount To Measure To Ingredient
17 Cup 5 Pound Flour

Conversions are also important when it comes to ingredients that aren't readily available at the grocery store (e.g. cooked and chopped chicken, chopped onion, or crumbled bacon.) But we'll save that discussion for next month. In the mean time, do you want to know about quadratic equations?

Download a trial version of the software! It's free!



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Closing Comments from Shelley



I intentionally omitted recipe suggestions this month simply because new recipes introduce an element of uncertainty, an unwelcome factor when cooking with my kids. If you're looking for new ideas I would suggest a children's cooking video from the library. Beyond that, choose any one of your favorite recipes.

Make some time, (be prepared to) make a mess, and you'll find you've made more than a meal, you've made a memory!

 

         Shelley



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