Kitchen Fun with Carol
Hello everyone! It is hard to believe that the holidays are here. This is one of my most favorite times of the year. There is so much excitement and expectation. It is amazing how time gets away from you when you have so many things to do and so many meals to prepare.
My husband’s family is getting together at Thanksgiving time this year instead of Christmas. We usually alternate holidays – Thanksgiving one year and Christmas the next. This means that the holiday rush is one month early for us this – especially since Thanksgiving is early this year! We have been shopping for Christmas gifts, planning family activities, and preparing meal plans for the seven days that we have guests in town.
One of our favorite family activities is to visit the Columbus Zoo. They light up the zoo with over one million lights. They have a fully restored carousel, ice skating, visits with Santa, and lots of wonderful animals. We love looking at all of the different light displays. In the past they have had ice sculptors make fabulous sculptures right in front of you. It is amazing what they can do with a block of ice! One of our favorite family traditions for the zoo is to drink hot chocolate and eat roasted nuts. We sometimes make our own toasted nuts at home. You can try the recipe for Cinnamon Toasted Almonds from the website. They also make a nice Christmas gift.
Last month I asked all of you for suggestions on what kitchen gadgets you would recommend to the first time freezer cook. There are several items that I would not cook without. These are items that I would recommend to a new freezer cook.
- A large mixing bowl – This may sound strange but I use the top of an old Tupperware® cake carrier. It is one of the old carriers that you can stack three pies in when you are traveling. It is a wonderful bowl to mix up large batches of meatballs or meatloaf and Salisbury Patties.
- Glad® Ovenware – These are great for freezing. I use the 8×8 size pans for most meals but I also use the 9×13 pans to freeze bags of soups together. I assemble my recipes using the pans and when I am ready to thaw the meal, I pop it out of the pan and put it in a regular glass or metal pan defrost and bake it. They work great! They stack in the freezer nicely.
- Smart Spin storage system – You have probably seen these advertised on TV. I was a little skeptical at first but these are nice to have when you want to freeze things in specific quantities. The containers come in one, two and three cup sizes. I like to use the two cup size for chopped chicken. It’s the perfect amount for stir-fries or chicken salad sandwiches. The three cup size is great for freezing rice and pasta. I use the one cup size for packing fruits and vegetables for lunch.
I also received some very helpful suggestions from some of you.
- Plastic Trays – I heard from several people who cook for just one or two people. They like to use freezer trays to make their own “TV dinners”. Rubbermaid® makes a divided container in TakeAlongs series. I have also used a divided plate from Nordicware®. They last a long time. I have had mine for over 10 years.
- A Good Paring Knife – (submitted by Diane) “I think my most indispensable is my really good paring knife. It is Cutco brand and I use it all the time. I have only had to sharpen it a couple times since we got married 16 years ago.”
- Space – (submitted by Diane) “While I was looking around the kitchen trying to think of something, though, I thought how much I appreciate space. When we moved last year, I did a deep clean of the kitchen, getting rid of all the things that I had rarely or even never used! I couldn’t believe what I had accumulated. I pared down a lot, especially odd shaped pans and dishes that made storage awkward. Now, everything has an easy to get to place and the counters are almost always clean. That makes it so easy to whip up those extra dishes and of course it is not so formidable to do a big kitchen cook like I did this weekend!”
I love seafood. I first tried Crab Rangoon at Mark Pi’s, the Chinese take out restaurant down the street from our house, and it was love at first bite. They have a daily special where you get a dinner sized portion of one of their dishes, Crab Rangoon, and a drink for five dollars. When they make them they are in the shape of a pot sticker but deep fried like an egg roll. This recipe is very close to theirs except I bake them instead of frying them. I think it is fun to try and duplicate recipes!
Pumpkin Pudding Pie
We have been making this recipe for years. It is one of my husband’s all time favorite recipes and it always comes out great every time. Of course he likes the regular pumpkin pie that everyone serves at Thanksgiving but this is a nice alternative especially if you are trying to watch you calories during the holiday. I usually make this recipe with light or fat free whipped topping and sugar free pudding.
Recipe of the Month
Recipe of the Month… Crab Appetizer
Our winner this month is Becky from Manassas,VA, with her recipe for Crab Appetizers. It is always nice to have a tried and true recipe on hand when you are entertaining a large group of people. This is a great recipe to set out as an hors d’oeuvre for family and friends. I always try to keep some type of appetizer in the freezer that I can serve at a minutes notice. You never know when you are going to have unexpected company, especially during the holidays!
Let’s hear from Becky:
I’m a 31 year-old stay-at-home mom. I have a wonderful husband, Tim, and two boys. Andrew is three and Jonathan is just about to turn two. The boys are 15 months apart and they keep me running most of the day. In my *free* time, I am a Co-Coordinator for the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Moms group at our church here in Northern Virginia. My husband and I also attend a Bible study through our church. It was actually through MOPS that I learned about freezer cooking. My husband gave me the 30 Day Gourmet Freezer Cooking Manual for Christmas last year and it has completely changed how we cook. He told me that it was not only the gift of a cookbook, but that he wanted to give time and sanity back to me after having two boys so close together. It has certainly done that. Now, when it’s later in the day, instead of dumping the kids in front of the TV so I can cook or trying to keep them from climbing all over me because they don’t have my undivided attention, I can do my most important job – being with them as their mommy.
We really don’t have a “witching hour” any more and I owe a lot of that to 30 Day Gourmet. It has probably been one of the best gifts I have ever been given, along with his continued support and the time he spends with the boys on my cooking days.
Click here to view/print the November Recipe of the Month.
Calling all cooks! I’m looking for your favorite recipes so post them on the 30 Day Gourmet Facebook® fan page.
Freezer Cook of the Month Contest Winner
Our winner this month is Crystal. Crystal has a great story about her first whirlwind cooking day and the lesson she learned.
Let’s hear from Crystal:
Just a short note to let you know that September was a blessedly easy month for me because I cooked and froze three weeks worth of meals. The 8 recipes I prepared lasted almost all month since each recipe feeds us for 2 or 3 nights.
My husband thought I was nuts when I bought $200 worth of groceries at one time (a lot for us, since it’s just us two), and was awed by my long grocery list and organized pile of recipes. I was so excited I got to cooking as soon as we got home. A very cool surprise was my hubby offered to wash dishes and clean the kitchen between every couple of recipes. This means I could put my feet up for the time he was cleaning, then continue with my cooking mission with like-new kitchen! Three cheers for teamwork!
One thing I will do differently: I figured I wouldn’t need to split the cooking project over 3 days like you suggested, since I was only cooking 1 batch for each recipe. It’s not as if I have a big family like you all do, right? Well, I did all the shopping and cooking on Saturday, which means we left for the grocery at 11am and I put the last meal in the freezer at 10pm. I was totally exhausted and could barely move on Sunday! Next time, I will do one task per day like you told us to!
So thanks for everything you all put into this 30 Day Gourmet system. It works great, and I really appreciate it!
Doing everything in one day can definitely take it out of you. I remember my first whirlwind cooking session was exactly like this. It is amazing how much cooking all day can tire you out. I also appreciate how much I learned from the experience. That knowledge is still with me today! Thanks for sharing your story with us.
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? Click here to send me an email to be entered in our contest.
Closing Comments from Carol
One of our family traditions is going around the table and telling everyone what you are thankful for this year. One year we wrote what we thankful for on paper “feathers” and decorated a paper turkey. Familyfun.com has a similar activity called a Garland of Gratitude. It is a great activity to do with a large group of people.
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 a Happy Thanksgiving!