Jun 012008

Kitchen Fun with Carol

Single Serving Meal Planning
carol2007Hello everyone and welcome Summer! Our summer has started out to be very hectic. Both of my sons have jobs this summer working for the new water amusement park in town. Yeah! We are very proud of them. This has meant plenty of schedule juggling as we try to coordinate their work schedules with doctor/dentist/orthodontist appointments, cross country practices, carpooling to and from work, extra laundry days to wash uniforms, planning extended family gatherings, and meal times.

The situation of how to handle the meals made me think about a question that was posed to me earlier this year. Here is the question that I received:

I have cooked & froze in the past but primarily “family” meals. What I need to do now is to cook complete frozen meals for ONE — I’m starting a special diet & want to make “balanced” meals (protein, vegetable, etc.) in one flat container, similar to frozen meals. But, I’m not quite sure how to do it — what type of container to use that will take up the least amount of room in the freezer or where to buy. I already have & use a food sealer but that won’t work in this specific case. I’ve save a few frozen dinner trays that I can reuse but, there are not enough and not too sure about the safety of reusing some specific plastics — they’ll be microwaved to reheat.

Any suggestions? The container issue is posing a problem for me in more ways than one! I can handle the cooking part & the freeze/partially freeze part but am stuck on the container(s) issue.

Please help! Thanks!

I know exactly what they mean. I had some old divided Gladware® containers but not enough to handle food for two people on a consistent basis. I decided to try the Rubbermaid TakeAlongs Divided Rectangles. They are very inexpensive. They cost around $2.00 for three containers at Walmart. They are top rack dish washer safe, microwave safe, and freezer safe.

LabelsSo far they have worked out great. I am able to make single serving portions of meals on cooking day. I just place a freezer label on the container with the name of the main dish and the instructions on how to reheat. The boys take it from there. Or when I serve dinner, I can save a portion of every dish in the container – vegetable in the smaller compartment, and the meat and starch for the meal in the larger side. If the leftovers are still around after a couple of days, I can just place a label on the container and put it in the freezer so that it does not go to waste. The system has worked out well.

I have also started freezing single serving of soups in two cup containers. This is about the right size for a thermos so I’ll be able to use this method for lunches when school starts. I also froze my sandwich fillings in single serving portions. I measured out each serving and flash frozen them in muffin tins. Once they were frozen, I popped out the servings and placed them in a freezer bag. This whole process has forced me to reorganize our freezer in our refrigerator. (Yikes!) I had to make a space for single serving storage. But I have to admit it is nice to have the meals right there when you need them.

Food Budget
So, how is everyone doing with their food budget this summer? I have been lucky to find some great sales at one of my local stores. They have been periodically selling boneless, skinless chicken breast for $1.66 a pound so I have been marinating chicken for the summer menu. They also run one particular item on sale just one day a week. They have had ground chuck on sale for $.99 a pound with a 5 pound maximum. So I have been stocking up the freezer with different hamburger meals for the summer.

strawberries_02The stores are starting to stock local produce. I took advantage of flat pricing on strawberries and froze several quart bags. This is very easy to do if you have never done it before. I wash the berries, cut off the tops and then flash freeze them on cookie sheets. When they are solid, I transfer them to freezer bags. It is a fairly easy process and it does not take a lot of time. These are great for strawberry smoothies, shakes, or frozen fruit salads. Another great idea for preserving strawberries in the freezer is to make freezer jam. My grandmother used to make this every year. If you are interested, check out the boxes of Sure-Jell® or Certo® in the canning section of your local supermarket or the Kraft website.

There are also fruits and vegetables coming into season at the local farmers market. I always check the ads in the newspaper to find out what is available. You may even find some u-pick locations where you can pick your own fruits. There are several berry farms in our area. We can usually find strawberries, red raspberries and blue berries.

Tomato_002I have also planted my summer garden. I already picked a bunch of rhubarb that I used for the bonus recipe below. I also have tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. The cucumbers are in bloom and some of the tomato plants have already begun producing. I am hoping to get enough tomatoes to make homemade chili starter, pizza sauce, and spaghetti sauce. I usually freeze the peppers for recipes. If I get enough cucumbers I like to make refrigerator dill pickles. My brother gave me a recipe that my family really likes. It is not that difficult to make. It is basically a mixture (called a brine) of garlic, salt, vinegar, and dill weed.

So what are you doing this summer to stretch your food budget? E-mail them to me at carol@30daygourmet.com and I will share them with everyone in the next newsletter. Have some great recipes to share with everyone? You can post your recipes on the 30 Day Gourmet Facebook® fan page.

Bonus Recipes

Orange Tapioca Salad
I have always loved this salad. It is one of the ones they always have on the salad bar at one of our local  restaurants. I was surprised that it froze so well.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
StrawberryRhubarbCrumble_11This is a once a year treat for the family. I have rhubarb growing in my yard so it is easy to just go out and pick a couple stalks for this recipe. Rhubarb is actually a vegetable but you will often find it paired with strawberries. You can usually find it in the produce (fruit) section of the grocery store. They are long red stalks sometimes with large leaves. This dessert is great served warm with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.


Freezer Cook of the Month

I was really inspired by the women of my church this month. Our church hosts a week long summer camp for about 100 teens. The teens go out into the community to do work projects for people in need, the elderly, etc. During the week they spend at the church, volunteers prepare meals to feed the teens and all the staff/adult volunteers that work with them. It is amazing. A call went out to all the women of the church asking for help making cakes, cookies, Rice Krispie® treats, Scotcheroos, Blondies, muffins, and cobblers. They also needed someone to cook and shred 36 pounds of chicken for sandwiches. WOW!

Our Freezer Cook of the Month reminded me of the women of my church. The winner this month is Monica. Monica shares her story of how 30 Day Gourmet inspired the the Women’s Ministry Team at her church. Let’s hear her story:

Hello! I am very new to 30 Day Gourmet. I heard Karen Ehman mention it during a radio interview one day and decided to check it out. I looked up the website, liked what I saw, and requested a copy of the cooking manual through my local library. I was pouring over the book when our Women’s Ministry Team at church started talking about how much they would like to plan a women’s day at the church cooking freezer meals together to be used when a need arises in the church.. I was so excited! I told them I already had the perfect book to help us do this! It was so easy! I simply chose 4 main dish recipes along with the Fruit Slush recipe to make as a side dish. I typed up an ingredient list based on your helpful guide (we made 3 batches of each recipe) and passed around a sign up sheet. The women were eager to help. All the ingredients and supplies were donated. On our freezer meal day we had 15 ladies show up to help. I had set up the kitchen in stations (with all the ground beef already browned ahead of time). We had 2 ladies per cooking station, with others keeping the dishes washed up and others cutting out labels that we had typed up for each dish. WOW! What an efficient morning we had. Everyone was so impressed with how organized and easy it all was. They requested that we get a copy of the book for our church library. And even those “less domestic” women left inspired to do this for their own families. We had a great morning together, got a lot accomplished, and in a very short amount of time. The very next day we found out a new baby was born to a family in our church. Our hard work immediately paid off.

Thank you!


Thanks for sharing this inspirational story with us.

Closing Comments from Carol

I hope everyone has a wonderful Fourth of July. I look forward to going to the fireworks every year. They make me feel like a kid again. One of the local fireworks display has a concert beforehand with Rick Springfield. Now that takes me back!

Next month I hope to share some more fun summer recipes.

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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