Kitchen Fun with Carol
I like to call this the “Year of Change” for my family. My twins are starting high school this fall and have just completed their first high school class – summer phys-ed. My oldest graduated from high school last month and is preparing to go to college in the fall.. Of course with a graduation comes a graduation party! I made a menu of all of the food we would be serving at the party. There were lots of recipes that could be made ahead and stored in the freezer. I put my 30 Day Gourmet skills to good use! We made Creamy Fruit Dip, Brownie Bites, Freezer Cheesecake, Carolyn’s Chocolate Chip Cookies, Sloppy Joes, Turkey Wraps, Swedish Meatballs, Lemonade Cheesecake, Crock Pot Mac ‘N Cheese, Apple Squares, Apple Crisp, and Pecan Pie Bars. Then my husband, daughter and I had a second mini-cooking session the day before the party to finish the rest of the food. We analyzed the recipes and decided what could be done ahead of time. It was tiring but it was fun to spend the day together in the kitchen. The next day, the graduation party immediately followed the ceremony. We borrowed crock pots and set everything out on low before we left. The party was a hit and everyone raved about the food!
Three days after the party, my daughter left to work at her summer job. She’s two hours away from home for the entire summer. That brings our family down to four in the house. It’s been an adjustment. The house is not quite the same without her!
It has also been an adjustment in my cooking. I was surprised what a difference one person makes at the dinner table! It has meant adjusting how much food I cook at each meal. Some of the dishes that I cook for five are too much food for four people. That meant scaling back on some recipes or having to deal with a lot of leftovers!. To help solve this problem, I have changed the way that I package foods. I prepackage a lot of meats in meal sized portions. Two recipes serving six people each now becomes three meals for 4 people. Hamburger patties are packaged in four stacks of 4 burgers per gallon freezer bag. I have also experimented with packaging meals in single size servings so that I can just grab what I need. This works well with Cheese-Filled Shells, Pork BBQ, Meatballs and Crock Pot Roast Beef Sandwiches. It has been a learning experience for me and I am sure it will be even different when the twins leave the house. But I prefer not to think about that right now!
This issue of Chewin’ the News brings you two new recipes from Molly Allen. Molly has been cooking the 30 Day Gourmet way for the last six years. She has some great tips on cooking for singles. Read more about it below in the Bonus Recipes section.
Bonus Recipes from Molly Allen
I started cooking the 30 Day Gourmet way back in October 1999, following surgery for uterine cancer. Nanci and Tara were on a television program and demonstrated sucking the air out of a Ziploc bag containing a quiche by using a straw to prevent freezer burn. I was captivated – what an ingenious idea! So I surfed on over to the website and ordered the manual. My greatest concern prior to surgery, besides the obvious, was how I was going to feed myself and my husband during recovery from major surgery and the radiation therapy that would follow. My husband would willingly survive on pizza and quarter pounders, but that wasn’t going to cut it for me. Tasty, nutritious meals were essential to a speedy recovery from surgery and the stamina to endure the radiation therapy to follow.
The manual arrived the day I got home from the hospital, and I spent lots of time reading through all the information and recipes. I asked my husband to list recipes that sounded good to him. My mother came to help out about a month after my surgery. I wanted her to help me get at least a month’s worth of dinners in the freezer before I went back to work. It actually took us three and a half days, but we managed to load the freezer with “Soup”erior Meatloaf, Mom’s Chicken Noodle Casserole, Chicken Enchiladas, Cheeseburger Quiche, and Burger Bean Bake. I returned to work for half days followed by radiation therapy five days a week for six weeks. Having a good meal ready to pop into the oven while I rested was such a blessing. I was hooked. Over the next five years, I became a 30 DG Whiz-kid, mainly whipping up dinner entrees.
I’m a high school guidance counselor, so each August before I returned to work I’d go on a mad cooking spree and put at least 50 meals in the freezer. With a weekly pizza or take-out Chinese and a leftover or “breakfast for dinner” night, the meals would last till Thanksgiving Break, when I’d do a mini-cooking session to last till Christmas break; then I’d do another big cooking session to carry us to Spring Break. On July 28, 2005, I was getting organized to do the shopping for my annual August cooking session when my husband announced he wanted to be a “wasband”. Stop the prep work and turn off the oven!!! Over the next five and a half weeks we legally separated, our house went on the market and sold, I went back to work, the Boys (our two miniature schnauzers) and I moved to an apartment and my “wasband” left the state. Whew. If cancer didn’t kill me, this divorce wasn’t going to either. But how was I going to cook for just me?
Simple. The way I’d learned to love to cook – the 30 Day Gourmet Way! I got custody of the freezer, so all I had to do was scale back on the number of batches of each recipe I prepare. Most of the recipes in the manual and on the website serve 4-6 people. That usually means four generous individual servings/meals per recipe. Packaging for one person is a little different. I used to use a lot of 8 X 8 inch square foil pans. Now I use mostly quart sized freezer bags or the new disposable containers. I can pop things out of the plastic bag or container into a casserole dish or sauce pot and reheat very easily.
I still make my favorite recipes, I just package them differently. For Chicken Enchiladas, I roll two and put them in the flat rectangular foil pans. Super Easy Chicken Manicotti is a breeze. I flash freeze the stuffed manicottis and put them in a freezer bag. Then when I want to cook a batch, I take out three or four, put them in a small casserole with some spaghetti sauce (about half a jar), top with grated mozzarella and pop them in the oven. I freeze the leftover spaghetti sauce in a rigid container, and use it the next time I want manicotti. Burger Bean Bake and Mom’s Chicken Noodle Casserole freeze well in a bag or plastic container. Thaw overnight in the fridge, and pop into a sauce pan or casserole and heat thoroughly. I make broccoli quiche and when it’s cool, I cut it into quarters and freeze in freezer bags. Thaw overnight and pop it into the microwave for a minute or two till heated through. I still make “Soup”erior Meatloaf – but now I form the loaves into oval-shaped patties and flash freeze. Then I store the patties in a freezer bag. Thaw overnight and cook on a foil lined cookie sheet in the oven, alongside a Time to Spare Spud for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees. One of my new favorite recipes is the Chicken/Turkey Patties. They make a terrific quick meal. I heat two frozen patties in the microwave on high for about two minutes. They are great for sandwiches, crumbled over a salad, or served with mashed potatoes, gravy, and a vegetable.
In April, the Boys and I moved into a cute little ranch house with a big back yard and a special dedicated circuit for my freezer in the garage! 30 Day Gourmet has been a life saver for me in so many ways through the changes I’ve experienced since 1999. The easy adaptability of the system, the great tips in the manual, the yummy recipes, and the camaraderie of the website message boards have removed the stress associated with getting nutritious meals on the table; cooking is an absolute joy! And, an added bonus – I’ve lost 40 pounds since last summer. With 30 Day Gourmet and lots of dog walking, I will continue to my goal weight. Thanks, 30 Day Gourmet!
Enjoy the bonus recipes!
For singles or doubles, flash freezing the filled shells works great! You can take out as many shells as you need and aren’t faced with a huge amount of leftovers. For one, I usually do six shells in an 8 X 8 pan and have leftovers for lunch the next day.
These are great with “Soup”erior Meatloaf! Shape the meatloaf into individual loaves and flash freeze. Reheat the twice baked potatoes along side the meatloaf as it cooks!
Recipe of the Month Contest Winner
Recipe of the Month… Shredded Roast Beef
Our winner this month is Kathy from Ocala, Florida, with her recipe for Shredded Roast Beef. My family loves shredded roast beef sandwiches but I would always have a problem packaging up the right portions for a meal. Well, Kathy has found a great solution to the problem. She creates individual servings by lining a muffin pan with paper liners, filling the cups with the cooked shredded roast beef, and then flash freezing them. What a great idea!
You can also freeze the meat without the paper liners. To remove them from the tin, fill you sink with enough hot water to reach the bottom side of the pan. Place the muffin pan in the hot water for about 30 seconds. This is enough time to just loosen them up form the sides of the pan and you can just pop them out with a fork. This method works well for any shredded meat. Another recipe to try this with is Pork BBQ.
Let’s meet Kathy:
There is just my husband and me at home. I discovered 30 Day Gourmet by accident and fell in love with the idea. Initially, I used make ahead meals as a way of freeing up time for myself to do other things besides cooking. We are in the middle of a big redecorating project and I wanted time to reupholster some furniture, sew window treatments, paint walls, well you get the picture. My husband says that redoing our house is like painting a bridge, when you get to the end, you have to start all over again. I also sew quite a bit, most all of my clothes and hubby’s shirts and pants as well as assorted other things. I like quilting and am a voracious reader. I love experimenting with recipes and am committed to cooking low fat tasty meals as hubby has had open heart surgery and must be on this kind of life style. But above all, healthy food should taste good,
or else why bother.
Click here to view/print the July Recipe of the Month.
Freezer Cook of the Month Contest Winner
Our winner this month is Darcy from Manton, MI, who discovered how just one day’s work can do a lot of good for someone in need.
Last summer, a friend from church was put on bed rest when she was pregnant with twins. She already had a toddler running around and I knew her husband would need some help. Although I couldn’t afford to make her a bunch of dinners, I knew I could help out by making freezer meals if someone helped to buy the food. The church gave me $100 for the groceries and I was able to make them 40 freezer meals. They, as well as the rest of the congregation, was amazed at how many meals they received. Since everything is prepared and frozen, I was able to take advantage of what was on sale and get a lot more food. The meals lasted them until she was off bed rest and all it took me was one day of cooking!
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?
Closing Comments from Carol
I hope you have enjoyed this weekly edition of our Newsletter. Next month we’ll have some great recipes to beat that summertime heat!
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!