Apr 262012

A Week in the Kitchen with Carol

CastIronHappy Spring, everyone! It is great when it starts to warm up outside. We set up the grill and have started to cook our meals outside. I got a new cast iron skillet for my birthday. It’s a small square with ridges. I used it for the first time after seasoning it. Seasoning a cast iron skillet is easy. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Position one rack in the top third of the oven. Position another rack in the bottom third of the oven and place an empty foil lined baking sheet on the bottom rack. This sheet will catch any dripping from the cast iron. Coat the skillet with vegetable oil and place it upside down on the top rack. Bake for one hour. Turn the oven off and allow the pan to cool down in the oven. You may need to do this several times to get a smooth and shiny “nonstick” surface.

It has been a crazy couple of months at my house! My husband and I are now officially “empty nesters”. Our son joined the Marines and has left for basic training. We are so proud of him! I have been trying to clean out the freezer so I can get ready for some new Spring/Summer recipes. It’s not an easy task but I have made some progress. Every time I go through this process I wish I was better at labeling the packages before putting them in the freezer! (I’ll have to work on that!)

Since it is just the two of us, we have been debating about getting rid of the basement freezer and just using the refrigerator freezer for cooking day. Have any of you made this move? I’ve also been creating and testing some recipes that are made for two people instead of four. It’s an adjustment – not just the cooking but the grocery shopping as well. It will take time to adjust!

Product News

FrontCover2As Nanci and I mentioned earlier this month, we released of the second edition of 30 Day Gourmet’s Big Book of Freezer Cooking! What’s different you ask? The book is a paperback with layflat binding, some minor typos were corrected, each page has a new 2012 copyright, our bios were updated, and the pictures and text are now black and white.

The books have arrived from the printer and we have started shipping orders. Click here to order. We are excited and hope that you like the new book. To celebrate we are offering a special introductory price for a short time.

Volume pricing available:
1 for $14.95
2-9 copies are $12.95 each
10 or more are $10.95 each

Order your copy today!

We are also offering a discount on all of our ebooks! Save $1.00 off your next ebook order until 6/1/12. Order as many of our 10 ebooks as you want and save $1.00 off each one! Just use the coupon code $1offebook at checkout.

Here’s a list of our ebooks:

Gluten Free Recipe Follow-up

I received lots of feedback on my gluten free recipes test. Here are some of our readers’ comments:

From Vicki – Have you tried looking into using coconut flour for your gluten free cooking tests? We have been experimenting a bit here, using recipes from www.freecococonutrecipes.com (also accessible from the www.tropicaltraditions.com website).

I saw the coconut flour in the store but I have not tried it. The websites listed above have lots of gluten free recipes that you can try.

From Kelli – Kelli passed along some of her favorite gluten free recipes. She recommends Alison’s Gluten Free Bread from allrecipes.com. She also recommends the All Purpose Gluten Free Flour Mix and the Homemade Gluten Free Bread from glutenfreecookingschool.com.

From Kathleen – The way I save money doing gluten free baking is to make my own flour mixes and I start with buying the whole grains in bulk and grinding my own flour. Before grain grinders were easily available, I just used my Vitamix blender and ground brown rice flour. I did this for years! Now I have a grinder and the flours we use have more variety, like sorghum, teff, garbanzo. I buy all these in bulk from my food co-op (I use Azure Standard) and grind them as I need them. This saves a ton of money over using expensive mixes.

My favorite pizza crust is from the Flying Apron Bakery cookbook. It is quick and simple and delicious. It has brown rice flour, garbanzo flour, and flax meal. Plus a few other simple ingredients. I also really enjoy a simple almond flour crust that has no yeast. It is the quickest and easiest yet.

I was able to check out the Flying Apron Bakery cookbook from our local library. There are lots of good recipes to try. I would recommend checking the book out if it’s available.

In searching for another gluten free pizza crust recipe to test, I ran across a great website with lots of gluten free recipes. Its glutenfreegirl.com. They explain that some people who are trying to cook gluten free can experience digestive issues with xanthan gum. They make a lot of their recipes with flaxseed instead.  They have their own recipes for whole-grain gluten free flour mix and pizza crust. Check it out!

Bonus Recipes

People ask questions about how we create recipes for 30 Day Gourmet and why we have to test the recipes. Creating new recipes for the newsletter, web site, and books is a trial and error process. First you have to try the recipe fresh to see if you like the taste, texture, combination of ingredients. If you don’t, you have to keep trying different combinations until you find something that works. I know from experience that this can take time and lots of patience! Several recipes that I created for the Big Book of Freezer Cooking took several tries to get it right.

Once I find the combination of ingredients that is right, I serve the recipe to friends and family to get their opinion. Does it have the right combination of ingredients. Are the spices right? Is it something missing? Most of the time at this point in the testing process, recipes will pass the initial “fresh” taste test.

Next I have to test the freezing process. Most things will freezer but sometimes the end result is not what you expected. If this is the case, then you have to determine the best method for freezing the recipe. We have to answer the following questions:

  • Can the recipe be frozen fully cooked? (See Sloppy Joe Sandwich Filling)
  • Or should it be frozen uncooked on assembly day and then cooked on serving day? (See Chicken Kabobs)
  • Or can this recipe be frozen either uncooked or fully cooked? (See Chicken Cordon Bleu Lasagna)
  • Is this recipe best packaged as a “kit” (ingredients are packaged separately and assembled on serving day)? (See Stacked Enchiladas)
  • Does the recipe need to be thawed before reheating or cooking on serving day?
  • What’s the best method to reheat the meal – stovetop, microwave, oven, slow cooker?

As you can see, testing the recipe can be a long process and it’s not always a successful one. However, most of the time you can create wonderful freezer friendly recipes for your family. It just takes a little time and patience! Over the next several months I thought it would be fun to post some recipes on Facebook® that I am testing. Give the recipe a try yourself and make some suggestions on how you would serve it and freeze it. Or email me a recipe that you would like converted to a freezer recipe and we can convert it together. I look forward to hearing from you!

HoneyLimeChickenHoney Lime Chicken Marinade

This is a wonderful spring grill recipe. We enjoyed this recipe served as a shish kabob skewered with zucchini, pineapple chunks and peppers (green or red). Serve it with Creamy Garlic Parmesan Rice and a vegetable.


Oatmeal Molasses BreadOatmealBread

I love making homemade bread and this recipe is very nice. It’s a sweet, dark bread with a nice flavor. It’s great warm with some honey butter.



Closing Comments from Carol

Do you have any recipes that you would like to share? I’d love to try and share them with everyone. You can post your recipes on the 30 Day Gourmet Facebook® fan page or click here to send me an email. Or do you have any other topics that you would like me to cover? Click here to send me an email. I enjoy hearing from you!

Have fun in your kitchen!


Carol Santee

Carol is the co-author of the Big Book of Freezer Cooking and the author of 30 Day Gourmet’s Slow Cooker Freezer Favorites, Freezer Lunches To Go and Healthy Freezer Cooking eBooks. She is a computer information specialist and works for a computer software company.

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