Kitchen Fun with Carol
Hello everyone and happy spring! There is so much anticipation for spring around my house. You start to look for the sure signs that spring has arrived. The ground comes alive with blooming bulbs (daffodils are my favorite!) and early perennials. Every gas station around starts to sell mulch. The neighborhood comes alive with all the people who start to adventure out of the house!
It also means changes in the kitchen at my house. I plan a seasonal menu. I usually have a spring/fall menu that is a mix of different dishes. I have some of our favorite winter comfort foods on the menu such as Parsley Parmesan Chicken, Potato Stuffed Meatloaf, and Taco Chili. I also start to add in some of our summer favorites such as April’s Chicken Marinade, hamburgers, and our favorite grill packets.
There is a process that I go through to put together the menu every quarter. I begin by putting together four weeks worth of recipes. I use the Monthly Menu Planner (Worksheet G) from The Freezer Cooking Manual. I use multiple criteria to pick recipes for the menu.
- I ask my family their opinion about the recipes on the current menu. Is there something that is your favorite? Is there a recipe that we haven’t had for a while that you would like? Is there a recipe you are tired of and would like to skip this time around?
- I review the menus that I have saved from past years. Sometimes they come in handy when I am looking for some planning inspiration. They remind me of a recipe that we have not had in a while that would be great to bring back into the rotation.
- I rank meals based on their cost. If we need to cut back on expenses, I can choose to make less expensive meals more often, serve more meatless meals, and serve the most expensive recipes only occasionally.
- I group recipes together by serving day cooking method – slow cooker, grill, oven, stove top. I also group them by types – meatless, Mexican, Chinese, soup, sandwich, eggs, beef, poultry, etc. Once the recipes are categorized, I can pick a day of the week for each category. For example:
- Sunday – quick and easy
- Monday – slow cooker
- Tuesday – soup
- Wednesday – Mexican
- Thursday – oven
- Friday – Chinese or grill
- Saturday – eggs or quick and easy
Once the menu is put together, we rotate the menu for three months in a row. I also go through this process to plan out what I am making for lunch. Once the lunches and the dinners are planned, I make a list of on hand ingredients I need for each week. This becomes the beginning of my grocery shopping list for that week. There’s nothing worse than it being 5:00, you start dinner and then you realize you are missing a key ingredient to finish. Making the list ahead of time is a life saver!
I also choose how I am going to cook for the time period. If I am ambitious, I can cook for the entire three months. I usually do this for the summer menu because it can be hectic with everyone’s summer schedule. I sometimes cook for one month at a time. Sometimes I plan mini cooking sessions based upon what’s on sale. For example, chicken leg quarters were on sale for nineteen cents a pound. I cook them in 10 pound batches. This yields about 10 cups of cooked chicken and 7 cups of chicken stock. With this done, I can easily make the recipes that use cooked chicken and stock such as Turkey and Noodles, Chicken Fried Rice, Chicken/Turkey Patties (member’s only recipe), Bowtie Soup and Chicken Pockets.
After the menu is planned and the food is cooked, I take my planning one step further. I create an index card with the serving instructions for the recipes on my menu. I place these cards in a photo “brag book”. This is a nice way to store the cards because they don’t get messy when you cook. It also makes it easy for anyone in the house to complete a recipe if you are not around. I also put any other non-freezer recipes that I use all the time in this book. It is such a great time saver to have most the information that you use in one place!
I hope these tips help you with your menu planning. For more tips, read Beth’s ideas in the Freezer Cook of the Month section below. She has some great insights on how to save time and money on your next cooking day!
My kids and I love cheesecake and I wanted something that you could have stashed away in the freezer for that special occasion. The first time I made them, my kids thought I was making a gigantic pop tart because of the way the peanut butter stripes look on top of the cheese cake. This is a fun treat to make ahead to take to a potluck or any family gathering.
My family loves the Crispy Cheesy Potatoes recipe from the third edition of the Freezer Cooking Manual. I wanted to create a different version that was lower in fat and calories (one of my goals for the New Year!). The ranch dressing mix gives the potatoes a nice flavor.
Recipe of the Month Contest Winner
March Recipe of the Month… Broccoli and Corn Casserole
Our winner this month is Cyndee from Cary, NC, with her recipe for Broccoli and Corn Casserole. This recipe was an instant hit with my family. It is a different take on your regular vegetable casserole. It has a great flavor and you will be pleasantly surprised with the broccoli and corn combination.
Let’s hear from Cyndee:
I’m a stay-at-home mom of two boys (ages 6 and 4) and a very rambunctious border collie/springer spaniel mix. I’ve been freezing cooking for about 9 years or so now. I do a lot of marinades in a bag (we love to grill year round), tripling dinner recipes, and piles of Tara’s Favorite Muffins (the chocolate chip variety). Our boys LOVE those muffins!
For about the last 2 years my husband and I have been living on the “South Beach”. We’ve lost about 60 pounds total. The best part is I can still freezer cook! I’ve adapted many of the recipes in the manual and on the boards – substituting Splenda for part of the sugars, replacing white with whole wheat/whole wheat pastry flour, choosing lean meats, etc. It’s all about choosing good carbs and lean meats/dairy…it really works for us.
Last month I helped to present “Supper Secrets” to our MOPS group. The main focus of our talk was freezing cooking. It was great to share tips, recipes, and, of course, the 30 Day Gourmet website with the other moms. It was a BIG hit with our group.
When I’m not mixing up another batch of muffins (seriously, I make well over 100 muffins each month), I’m busy with volunteer work at our church, MOPS, and in my oldest son’s classroom. I also love to spend time working on our scrapbooks.
I hope everyone enjoys this side dish. I find it challenging to find side dishes that will freeze well and that work with our diet. (Granted, this one’s not Beach-approved, but it’s pretty close!).
Click here to view/print the March Recipe of the Month.
Congratulations Cyndee! Thank you for posting this wonderful recipe.
Freezer Cook of the Month Contest Winner
Our winner this month is Beth from Edenton, NC. Beth has some great time and money saving tips to share with us.
My name is Beth, and I’ve been doing freezer cooking for about 13 years now. I love it!
I just wanted to write in a few tips and ideas that I’ve developed over the years.
First, I set up in a way that makes clean up easier, since, as y’all know well, by the end of the day, you’re exhausted, and the easier the clean up the better. I put a large towel in front of the stove, one in front of the freezer, and one in front of the sink.
I have a 5 gallon bucket that I put next to the trash can (that I put a new liner in). All food scraps and paper trash go in the bucket to go to the compost pile, and the plastic trash goes in the can with the liner. I also pour liquids to be discarded into the bucket. I also have a small clothes hamper that I put a trash bag in and put all wet and/or dirty pot holders, dish cloths, dish towels, and the towels from the floor in. That way I can just dump it into the washer, and start the load at the end of the day.
I also tear my old towels (when I replace them) into washcloth sized squares, and have these stacked on a counter out of the way to use as you would paper towels, when I use these, I toss them into the hamper, also.
When I have extra hamburger after a session, I go ahead and brown it, and freeze it. Then sometimes for lunch I add it to a can of vegetable beef soup, undiluted, and make “sloppy joe” type sandwiches out of it.
Every time I have a cooking session, I also freeze a separate serving of each dish for my neighbor. I gave him a casserole dish that’s a single serving size for Christmas a few years ago, and print clear instructions on the freezer bag.
When ever we have leftovers from dinner, I freeze them in individual sized serving packages. Especially Mexican Lasagna and Lasagna. This eliminates the “leftovers again” syndrome, and gives the kids and me a variety to choose from for lunches.
I also pick up ground beef and chicken breasts when they are on sale (just got 50 pounds of hamburger for $.86/lb) and package them in 1 pound packages (2 cups) for the beef and 8 breast packages for the chicken.
I also have a shelf in the freezer for breakfast, one for lunches, and one for dinners, and the drawer in the bottom and my small freezer, I use for snacks/desserts.
I hope this helps someone.
Wow! What great tips! The clothes hamper is such a wonderful idea. Thanks for sharing with everyone!
Closing Comments from Carol
A funny thing happened to me last week when I shopped at the grocery store. I always have a grocery list with me when I shop. It just makes it easier when you know what to buy and what not to buy. A young woman came up to me in the store and commented on how she thought it was unusual that I shopped from a list. I guess I never thought about it. After cooking the 30 Day Gourmet way for almost seven years it just seems natural to me to shop with a list! In fact, I think I would be lost without the list. This way of cooking has taught me how to plan, manage my time, how to save money and how to take control of my kitchen. I can’t image doing it any other way.
I hope this issue of time and money saving tips and menu planning hints was helpful!
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!