Feb 012006

Cookin’ at the Keyboard with Shelley

An Unexpected Place, at an Unexpected Pace

ShelleyA dear friend of mine has five kids – three biological children, ages 12 to 20, and two young foster brothers waiting to be adopted. Her husband owns his own business and works long hours from time to time. They recently purchased a larger, older home in order to make room for the two (very active) little boys, and are in the midst of remodeling. They home school, with the two teenagers taking classes at the local community college. As a family ministry, they have been planning a youth conference sponsored by our church. My friend has been dealing with a season of life that is rolling by at an unexpected pace.

Life was busy enough, she thought…and then the water heater broke and flooded the garage. Then the baby fell and, several hours later, had minor surgery on his eye. Then a car accident, that could have been fatal, put the oldest daughter in ICU for a few days. Sitting by a hospital bed, waiting for the MRI results, my friend found herself in an unexpected place.

Friends and family rallied around them, caring for children, providing meals, grocery shopping, cleaning house, doing laundry. When I offered a day of my time doing anything she needed, she requested some meals for her freezer. There wasn’t much time to plan, so we didn’t do anything elaborate. My daughter and I cubed 10 pounds of raw chicken, chopped 15 pounds of cooked chicken, and browned 25 pounds of  ground beef and a little Italian sausage.

It’s been two weeks since I spent the day at her house. Yesterday she told me on the phone that the youth conference was a success, her daughter is healing beyond the doctor’s expectations, and they’re hoping to be moved in the next six weeks. And with relief in her voice, she thanked me for the taco meat that she pulled from her freezer for dinner that night.

We can’t always foresee or control the place where the road of life will take us. And sometimes the pace at which we travel is even out of our control. But there are things (like freezer meals) that we can do to fill in the pot holes and smooth out the speed bumps along the way, whether it’s your road or someone else’s. (I didn’t think of this until I was driving home from our cooking day. While I was labeling and dating the freezer bags, I wished I would have used the Sharpie to pen a few words of cheer on each of the packages. What a surprise it would have been each time she went to her freezer!)

Recipe Section

No-Cook Lasagna

With the ground beef and Italian sausage already fried, it’s easy to make up this “Lasagna Package” for the freezer. Now you can have lasagna at your fingertips without having to layer all the ingredients before freezing. I left all the ingredients and the recipe with my friend (see above) after our cooking day. She can have a fresh, homemade pan of lasagna in the oven in 10 minutes!

(I don’t have a picture this month, but most lasagnas look alike, don’t they?)

Software Suggestions

Dissecting Recipes

The biology book that my oldest daughters will be studying next year tells me that they’ll be dissecting a crayfish, perch, and frog. The very thing I dreaded in high school is back again, this time it’s likely to happen in my kitchen! Yuck. Although dissecting biology specimens is not exactly my idea of fun, I love to to dissect recipes. Sounds strange, I know, but read on to learn how it works.

When freezing meals I have several goals in mind. Primarily, I want to save time, save money, conserve freezer space, serve delicious food, and make it painless to put a meal on the table. All five of these goals can be accomplished by cooking only part of a recipe. Let’s use the “No-Cook Lasagna” as an example.

After chopping the onion, I fry the ground beef and Italian sausage. Then I grate the mozzarella cheese and hunt for the Parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper. You might want to print the recipe for reference, but I end up with a freezer bag of fried meat, a bag of grated cheese, and a bag of powdered seasonings/spices.

Time is saved because I prepare multiple quantities of the recipe while the time-consuming tasks of chopping onion, frying meat, hunting for seasonings, and washing the pans and utensils need to be done only once. Money is saved because the spaghetti sauce, ricotta cheese, and lasagna noodles aren’t purchased until I serve the meal, or until they’re on sale at the store. Freezer space is conserved because I’m storing only the meat and cheese, not the fully layered casserole. My homemade lasagna is delicious because I’ve cooked the portion of the recipe that, in my opinion, freezes the best. Finally, it’s easy to put the meal on the table; all the time-consuming tasks are done!

Believe it or not, it gets even better. Advantage Cooking actually keeps track of a “dissected” recipe. For any ingredient in a recipe, set the “use on” field to indicate whether this particular ingredient is a “cooking day” or “serving day” item. Serving day ingredients are marked with an asterisk* on the printed recipe. I like to use the Move Ingredient buttons to position the “cooking day” ingredients at the top of the recipe and the “serving day” ingredients below.

In addition, three options are available for the Grocery Report. For any group of recipes selected, the grocery list can include:

  • all ingredients,

  • “cooking day” ingredients only, or

  • “serving day” ingredients only.

Advantage Cooking is a great tool when it comes to dissecting recipes, unfortunately I haven’t thought of a way for it to take my place when it comes to dissecting frogs. If I do, I’ll let you know.

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

Closing Comments from Shelley

My husband and I attended a “Love and Respect” marriage conference at the beginning of the month with Emerson and Sarah Eggerichs. It was excellent. Go to www.loveandrespect.com to learn more.

We had snow on Valentine’s morning. It was our first snow in two years. My oldest daughter said that only in Oregon City do we go out to play in a centimeter of snow. (We did have a little more than that…but not much more.) The girls had a great time walking around in the white powder and we even have a miniature snowman out on the deck. They have been protecting it from the sun for three days, but he’s getting pretty skinny! (Too bad it doesn’t work the same for me.)

God bless your family as we wind up another winter and look forward to spring!



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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