Kitchen Fun with Carol
Hello fellow freezer cooks! Time is flying and it is the middle of February already. Amazing! There are so many things happening in our lives right now. Sometimes it is hard to keep up with it all. There is only two weeks until Spring sports start. I have one son in Track and Field and another son in Tennis. It is also their senior year. There is only three more months until graduation (of course the menu planning for the graduation party has already begun), only two more months to make final decisions on colleges, and it is also time to line up summer jobs. And then there is all the time we have spent applying for scholarships. What a whirlwind of activities!
I received an email from Rhea, last month’s Freezer Cook of the Month. She suggested that everyone should also try the buttermilk cookie recipe. Click here to view the recipe. Rhea also suggested using this recipe to make Chocolate Chip Cookies. Add 2 cups of chocolate chips to the recipe and omit the frosting. They are good. Give them a try!
I am always looking for a bargain for the kitchen. One of my kids’ favorite things to do is to shop the after holiday sale for candy. We did this after Valentine’s Day. We were able to purchase candy at half price. I picked up some Reese’s® Peanut Butter Cups to make Deb’s Reese’s® Peanut Butter Cup Cookies. I also bought some Hershey’s® Hugs. We make Pretzel Sandwiches with them. Take any type of waffle pretzel and place a candy on top. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 2 to 3 minutes or until the candy just starts to melt. Place another pretzel on top to complete the sandwich. They taste great and it is a lot easier than making chocolate covered pretzels.
I also received several price book questions after last month’s newsletter. Here’s one question I received:
Somewhere I read that all grocery stores have certain types of items on sale every 12 weeks or so (like the yearly white sales). I buy in bulk (I hate shopping). I would appreciate that information if you could find out if this is true. It would help everyone, we would know if something was on sale we had better buy now because it would be awhile before this item was really on sale again.
I believe that this is true from my experience shopping. For example, artificial sweetener goes on sale for 25 percent off about every 8 weeks at my local grocery store. A coupon is usually available from our local paper around the time of the sale. I try to buy the sweetener when it is on sale and I have a coupon. This can usually save me almost 3 dollars per bag.
The best way to track sales trends is by using a detailed price book. Here is an example of a Price Book Page. You start off by creating a page for each product that you want to track. You can use a loose leaf binder, spiral bound notebook, journal, or anything that you are comfortable using. The loose leaf notebook works well because you can easily rearrange the pages to make it easier to find the page you want to update. You add dividers to arrange the pages by product type such as dairy, breads, canned goods, produce, etc.
Each page in the notebook is dedicated to one product such as milk, peanut butter, bread, frozen peas, etc. On this page record information about the product as you shop at various stores. You record the store, brand, size, price, unit price and the date that you recorded the information. Anytime an item is on sale make an entry and highlight the price with a highlighter or place an asterisk(*) after the price. When the item is on sale again in the future you can start to gauge how often it goes on sale. This helps you plan the amount to purchase if you are going to stock up until the next sale.
Make sure you keep track of the unit price. The unit price is the price per ounce or pound. This allows you to compare the different prices and sizes equally. The lowest unit price is the best buy. It is good to go through this exercise. Sometimes it pays to buy a larger size if you are going to use the entire quantity.
Freezer Cook of the Month Winner
Our Freezer Cook of the Month is creativemom. She posted a story about her first cooking session! It reminded me of my first cooking session almost 10 years ago. My husband was my cooking partner as well. He is a great prep cook. Here is her posting:
With the start of a new year (and our third child coming in just 2 months) I decided this was the time to learn to fill the freezer for a month!
I had been reading and printing recipes from this website for the past few months along with reading & researching other freezer cooking books and websites. I’ve dabbled in freezer cooking for the past year trying various recipes or buying food (meat, cheese, veggies) in bulk and portioning them for recipes in the future, but never made entrees for a month because the thought of it was too overwhelming! I was definitely envious of those who cooked for the entire month, but I wasn’t sure I could handle the whole month…I was wrong!
With the help of the worksheets from the 30 Day Gourmet Manual (I found an older edition secondhand at a sale a few months ago), I planned out our menu and shopping list for the month of meals. I also took into account what we normally eat (pasta, breakfast for dinner, soups, etc.) and then I built a two week meal plan around it so I could repeat the plan twice in the month. I didn’t want to be too ambitious and not complete the meals so that will be my goal for February – more variety!!!
It helped me to make certain nights of the week certain cuisines (Tuesdays – Italian, Wednesday – breakfasts, Thursdays – Mexican) and it also helped that most Sunday nights are PIZZA nights in our home.
My husband and I spent the afternoon of New Year’s Eve and the morning of New Year’s Day cooking & assembling all the main entrees. It was a fun way to kick off the year together as a family. Our kids, ages 5 and 2, thought it was great that all kinds of foods were being cooked at once, they were especially excited about the mac ‘n’ cheese when I let them sample it!
We made the following:
Baked Ham Sandwiches
Italian Meatballs (spaghetti & subs)
French Toast Casseroles (members can access online)
Awesome Mac n’ Cheese
English Muffin Breakfast Sandwiches
Black Bean Soup
Chicken Tortilla Soup
A few things I learned during my first assembly day:
*Plastic disposable gloves are great for handling meats – especially when making nuggets and meatballs.
*extra measuring cups & spoons, large bowls and spatulas are helpful!
*having a husband who can watch the kids and wash dishes is GREAT-HELP!
Last night we enjoyed spaghetti, meatballs and garlic bread from the freezer along with a salad (made fresh of course) and my husband said “I love freezer dinners!” He knows I have much less meal-prep stress and he’s always amazed at how good the food tastes. Tonight we’re going to have French Toast Casserole & Fruit Slush…can’t wait!
Happy Freezer Cooking!
I was unable to reach creativemom so we’ll have to meet our winner next month. Creativemom, if you read this, please click here to send me an email to claim your prize!
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? You can post your recipes on the 30 Day Gourmet Facebook® fan page or click here to send me an email.
You may not know this but February is American Heart Month. According to the Center for Disease Control, heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. A healthy diet and lifestyle are one of the best ways that you can fight heart disease. For more information on heart disease visit the CDC or American Heart Association websites. This month’s bonus recipes focus on making traditional recipes a little more heart friendly. Enjoy!
Apple Cranberry Crisp
We love apple crisp in our house but we always seem to focus on the topping and not the fruit. This recipe focuses on the flavor of the fruit mixture and adds the new twist of cranberry and orange to traditional apple crisp. Cranberries are high in antioxidants. It is believed that they help protect against heart disease and cancer.
Slow Cooker Chicken Chili
After the release of the ebook Slow Cooker Freezer Favorite, I received several emails about making slow cooker kits for meals that are cooked fresh on the day that you serve them. This recipe is an example of that type of recipe. Chili is a winter staple for my family. This recipe is definitely more heart healthy because it it lower in sodium, fat, and calories than traditional chili. To achieve this, the ground beef was replaced with chicken breast. We also used reduced sodium tomato products such as no salt added tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Replacing canned corn with frozen corn also reduces the sodium content of the recipe. This recipe will be replacing traditional chili on our winter menu.
Closing Comments from Carol
I hope you enjoy the heart healthy recipes. It is a great feeling to know that the meals you are serving your family taste good and are good for them.
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!