Notes from Tammy
With the New Year comes change, of course. This is the first of many newsletters I will put together for you, as Nanci has handed that job off to me. My goal is to have the newsletter out the first week of every month. Except for this month, when we have people out on vacations because of the holiday. Also, we’re changing our contests a little bit. The Crazy Cook and Do a Good Deed contests will be combined into one and re-named. The Freezer Cook of the Month contest will be chosen from entries about doing a good deed with your freezer cooking, a crazy story that happened on your cooking day, an interesting story about your cooking day or freezer cooking experience, a helpful tip you post on the boards, etc. Entries may be submitted via email to by clicking here. The Recipe of the Month contest remains the same. The prize for each contest will be a $25 check, or your choice of $25 worth of product from our on-line store.
Have you made your New Year’s Resolutions yet? I won’t ask if you’ve broken them already. Just keep in mind it takes 21 days of doing something before it becomes a habit. So don’t give up on yourself… keep trying! Nanci said a couple of years ago that she gives herself the month of January to get her resolutions set and started. Sounds like a great plan to me!
Since a lot of New Year’s Resolutions have to do with getting organized, I’ve asked our consultants to share some of their organizational tips with us. I got quite a few great ones, some of which I plan to use myself!
Dee Hilliard says “I found that dry erase boards with magnets on the back work great for fridge & freezer. I’m able to leave DH a message of what’s in the fridge & what to do with it. For the freezer, I list what I have in it. I found my boards at a teacher supply store.” I read this and said “Why didn’t I think of that?!?” I could especially see it working for me with the fridge… not only to keep track of left-overs, but to list directions of what I need my hubby to put in the oven if he gets home before me.
Deb Robison shares another great tip. “One thing I do to make my cooking day easier is to keep a few boxes of supplies, that I store between cooking sessions.
- In the first box I keep items to store food, such as ziplock bags, freezer containers, extra casseroles or other freezer-safe dishes. As we use food from the freezer, we wash it and it goes back to the box. I also keep a sharpie marker, freezer tape and extra foil wrap in this box.
- In another box are the super sized bowls, spoons and cookware I use for my cooking day.
- In a third box (or more) are extra things I’ve purchased in-between cooking days. These items are non-perishables, like canned goods, dried pasta, seasonings, etc. that were on sale. Sometimes I’ll take something from this box if there is a call for food items for the local soup kitchen or pantry. I also keep a packet of my favorite Chai Tea in the box. This is my treat to keep me going!” What a great idea!! I would bet most of us would say we didn’t have enough room in our kitchens. As long as you had somewhere to store your boxes, this would really help to give you more space in your kitchen.
Joyce Cassell shares how she maximized the space in her chest freezer. “One thing that really helped for organizing my chest freezer was to get some plastic bins to make compartments. I measured the inside of the freezer and then went to Target with tape measure in hand. I am sure it looked funny if anyone watched me as I set up boxes, bins, and garbage cans in the aisle trying to get as close to filling the space as I could. I now have 2 layers in the freezer and have mapped it out so I know which bin things are in. If something is buried in the bottom I just have to remove the bin on top and maybe move some of the things in the one bin. It is much easier to defrost and keep inventory. I put the code for the storage section in the description.” I don’t have a chest freezer, but can definitely see the value in this tip! I’m sure the next time I’m in Wal-Mart or Target, I’ll see someone setting up baskets and bins in the aisle like Joyce did!
Carol Santee shares “5 Quick Tips for Pantry Organization” with us:
“Even the smallest pantry space can be organized so that all of your staples are within reach. Take a look at the picture for 5 simple things you can do to organize your pantry.
- Install a door rack. You can find these at your local home improvement store. You can use them to store spices, canned goods, bottles, etc. If you are using them for spices and you have a large variety of spices, arrange the rows alphabetically. You can even label each row so you know what goes where.
- If you have wire shelves, install a small hanging basket to hold packets. This could be used for taco seasoning mix, onion soup mix, Kool Aid, etc.
- Install extra shelving and use pull out drawers. This allows you to get to the items in the back of the cupboard with very little effort.
- If you pack lunches, set aside a place to store all your gear. This includes snack bags, sandwich bags, snack items, thermoses or any canned goods you use for lunch.
- Be careful to put tall items in the back and shorter items in the front. This way you’ll be able to see everything and not have to dig through the shelf to find what you are looking for. It also helps you tell at a glance if you have an ingredient on hand so you do not over purchase.”
If you’re fortunate enough to have a pantry, Carol’s tips will help. I especially agree with her idea of installing a door rack, extra shelving and the basket to hold packets. One of the first things we did when we moved into our newly-built home was buy more of the white-wire shelving to add to every closet in the house. We easily doubled and even tripled our storage space, including in the pantry! My current pantry had blank wall space between the inside of the door jamb and the front of the shelf. I bought shelf racks to line that space, floor to ceiling. Look at the space you have, measure, and go see what your home improvement store has that will help you get the most out of your space.
Caryn Parker shares her idea. “It may seem like a no brainer, but after a few cooking days, I finally figured out that it is best to separate my meals out on my freezer shelves as I put them in. I have four shelves, and usually make three of each entree, so I put one portion of each entree on each shelf. That way, when I get in my freezer I work through one shelf at a time. It keeps me organized, and I don’t end up with 5 of the same dish tucked in the back of the shelf like I used to! If you have a chest freezer, I suggest using paper or plastic bags for each week.” Another great idea to help your freezer be easier to use!
I hope you’ve gotten some practical ideas you can put to use! The important thing is to think about how you might be able to make the tips work for you. Maybe not exactly as posted, but adjusted to work better for you. What organizational tips can you share with us?
I don’t think anything is more welcoming than coming home to the wonderful smells of dinner cooking in the slow cooker! Especially when it’s cold and nippy outside! So I went looking for some new slow cooker recipes this month. Did you know you can make dessert in your slow cooker? Imagine coming home to a house that smelled like chocolate! I’d be asking “Where do I sign up?!”
If you haven’t had much experience with slow cookers, don’t be intimidated, because they are very easy to use. For the most part, you put the food in, put the lid on and turn it on. Check back when the recipe says it should be done. For a lot of years, I lifted the lid to stir the recipe a few times during the day. It turns out you actually shouldn’t do that, because of the heat it lets out. Then it takes the slow cooker about 20 minutes to re-heat. Do that 3 or 4 times a day, and you just lost an hour off your cooking time! For more tips about using a slow cooker, click here to read some commonly asked questions about the Crock Pot Slow Cooker.
My family raved about this recipe! They even happily ate the leftovers! And it couldn’t be easier. You mix up the sauce, with cooked ground beef and canned mushrooms, and freeze it. The thawed sauce is cooked in the slow cooker, and you add the dry spaghetti noodles to cook for the last 45-60 minutes. Very saucy, great flavor; you can’t go wrong here!
This casserole gets layered in the slow cooker. Definitely no stirring needed on this one! I love the meld of flavors in this meal. And it isn’t overly spicy, which is good for me, ‘coz I’m a wimp for spicy foods. Kids and adults will appreciate this for dinner.
If you’re fortunate enough to live in Ohio and have access to a Skyline Chili restaurant, I hope you appreciate it!! ‘Coz Skyline is hard to come by when you move away!! Five months after we moved from OH, friends were driving to WV to visit us. They called to let us know they were on the way and when to expect them. They off-handedly asked if we needed anything. I jokingly said “Yeah… run through the Skyline Drive-Thu on your way out of town!” Lots of laughs and “Yeah, right!” met that request. Didn’t they show up 5 hours later with two 5-ways for us?!?! They went right in the freezer, to be enjoyed at a later date. And boy, were they! My brother-in-law and his family visited us a couple months ago, and brought some canned Skyline for us. You’d think they were cans of gold, as excited as we were to see them! I think that’s going to start being the “price of admission” when anyone from OH comes to visit us… you can have a place to stay, as long as you bring a couple cans of Skyline with you!
If you suffer Skyline withdrawals, then this recipe is for you! It’s not exactly what you get in the restaurant, obviously, but it is a close second, especially when you can’t get Skyline at all. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, try the recipe and see for yourself. For the un-initiated, basic Skyline is served as a 3-way… spaghetti with chili and lots of finely grated cheddar cheese on top. A 4-way adds kidney beans or diced onion on top of the chili. A 5-way is spaghetti, chili, kidney beans, diced onion and a mound of finely grated cheddar cheese. Oyster crackers are served on the side, and Tabasco sauce is optional. Then some day when you’re in OH and see a Skyline Chili restaurant, stop in for lunch and see what all the fuss is about.
Triple Chocolate Delight
Dessert in the slow cooker… I never even thought about the possibility. Until this recipe caught my eye! What could be better than triple chocolate? My family raved about this one. You serve it warm, in a bowl, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The texture of the dessert is different… it’s not gooey, but it’s not a normal cake texture either. Very rich and dark-chocolate tasting.
Website News from Nanci
- FREE extra recipes. These are the same as the 50 we have always had except they now include nutritional info and you will be able to download them as one large file. (There are actually only 43 recipes now since we took 7 of them for the 4th edition book).
- 3rd edition recipes not included in the 4th edition. These also include nutritional info. (33 recipes)
- Download section for software owners. This will include zip files for:
-newsletter recipes prior to 1-03
-Recipe of the Month winners prior to 1-03
-43 Free Recipes
-33 Recipes from 3rd edition manual not included in 4th edition
-65 Recipes from 4th edition manual (as of 2-04 software will be pre-loaded with recipes from the 4th edition manual)
- Freezer Cooking Manual recipe additions/variations along with nutritional info
We had hoped to have this all done before the 4th edition manuals began shipping but it’s a big job and he’s close so be patient! Thanks!
OTHER NEW PRODUCTS
Healthy Freezer Cooking: A Guide to Creating Nutritious Meals by Carol Santee.
Carol (author Freezer Lunches to Go) has come up with another winner here. Want to learn how to reduce fat, sugar, cholesterol, and salt in recipes? Then this is the book for you! Book includes sample recipes that show you how to change recipes, tips on menu planning, and 25 recipes. We will send out a special e-mail as soon as the new ebook is available for purchase.
Freezer Cook of the Month Contest Winner
Our first winner in the new Freezer Cook of the Month contest is Linda W., with the following funny story.
This is actually a crazy cooking story that involved my husband. I had planned to make Beef Stew one day for supper, but had to run an unexpected errand before I could start the stew. My husband said he would be glad to get it going for me. When I returned from the errand he told me I needed to get garlic the next time I went to the grocery store since he had used all I had. I didn’t understand this since I knew I had close to a head and the stew recipe only called for one clove. I then realized that he thought a clove meant the entire thing! He had put a whole head of garlic in our stew. We tried to eat it, but as much as I like garlic, that was just too much. I still kid him about that and he hasn’t made stew since.
Gourmet Q&A from Tammy
Q. I don’t like to hand out my email address to everyone who asks for it. Why do you need it? If I post it in my profile, isn’t it likely to be skimmed off there by exactly the people I don’t want to have it? Laurel
A. Good question, Laurel! Since your email is unique to you, we use it to register you on our web site and message boards. Your email is only for our internal use, which means it will NEVER be sold or redistributed to anyone outside of 30 Day Gourmet, Inc. It is very unlikely that someone will lift your email from your profile, because it’s too much work for them to find it. People who are looking to scrape email addresses from web sites lift them in bulk from the “Contact Us” portion of the page, so it’s actually us at 30 Day Gourmet who have our emails lifted and used by unscrupulous characters! And we never share your personal information with anyone. Never.
When you give us your email, you are not setting yourself up to get inundated with emails from us either. If you subscribe to the Newsletter, you will receive that. If we have a special announcement, we may send out an occasional email about that. But I can count on one hand all the times we’ve done that in the last few years. And have a few fingers left over!
If you choose to display your email in your profile for the message boards, you may hear from another cook who has a question about your post. But most of the time, those are just posted right on the boards, and not emailed directly. I personally would love to see everyone display their email in their message boards profile, because it makes my job easier. If I’m trying a recipe as a potential Recipe of the Month, and have a question or two about it, it’s so helpful for me to be able to pull up your profile and email you about it. Otherwise, I have to wait until I can reach the web master to get your email address.
Now, hand-in-hand with that, comes a reminder to check your profile occasionally and update it. That way, if you win one of our contests, we can reach you, so you can claim your prize! Perfect example… we had 3 contest winners for last month’s News. And we have invalid email addresses for all 3 of them. So two $25 prizes and an apron sit unclaimed. We would much rather you have the prizes than us! To change your email or anything else on your profile, go to the message boards and click on a category. On the right hand side of the screen will be a link that says “Edit my Profile”. Click it, make the updates, click “Change Profile”, and you’re done. Please take a minute to check your profile and make sure we have your current email address. I personally would really appreciate it!!!
Cookin’ at the Keyboard with Shelley
New Year’s Resolutions…easy to make…sometimes difficult to keep. If one of your resolutions is to get more organized in the kitchen and freezer cook more consistently, then, of course, Advantage Cooking will help. Let me guess what you’re thinking about now. “Ugh! Entering recipes will take so much time!” Well, I’ve got good news for you. What may seem like a monumental task at the moment can be reduced to something manageable if you’ll use my New Year’s “new recipe” strategy.
A recipe’s two main components are the ingredients and the instructions. While Advantage Cooking needs the recipe ingredients to accumulate a grocery list or generate an action report, the recipe instructions aren’t necessary until you get to the kitchen. Which brings me to the strategy I employ more often than not.
When adding a new recipe, I enter only the recipe category, appliance, ingredients, and containers (i.e. the information necessary to get the reports I want). With the “type-and-fill” data-entry feature, adding this information is a snap. When I get to the instructions, I simply enter something like “See Betty Crocker cookbook, page 134.” And, lickety-split, I’m on to the next recipe!
Once your new recipes are entered, print them and put each one in a sheet protector. If the original recipe was on a recipe card, drop it in the pouch and you’ll have both the ingredients and instructions in the same place. To keep from piling recipe books on the counter as you cook, photocopy the recipe instructions from the corresponding cookbook and include it with the printed recipe in the sheet protector.
When I’m ready to share a recipe, whether by printing or emailing, I do have to take the time to enter the instructions (but it’s certainly no more difficult than hand-writing the recipe). And last, but not least, remember to make a backup of your Advantage Cooking
Another bit of good news: a MasterCook® compatible recipe import program will be included in Advantage Cooking version 1.5, which is now in beta testing and will be available in February. If you’re a MasterCook® user, ignore my strategy and wait for the software to do it for you!
Shelly is the designer of the 30 Day Gourmet Advantage Cooking Software. If you haven’t tried our software yet, click here to learn more about it, and for a free 30 day trial.
30 Day Gourmet in the News
Several of our cooks have been contacted recently by their local newspapers. If that happens to you, please don’t panic. Give me a call or send me an e-mail and I will get in touch with the reporter and answer the “general” freezer cooking questions and give them info on ordering the book, etc.. Then they will probably want to come out and interview you (preferably on a cooking day) to get the “local angle”. For all of your trouble, I’ll even send you a free apron!
A magazine called Texas Co-op Power is going to feature a few of our recipes in their February issue.
St. Louis, Missouri
The St. Louis Dispatch will be doing a story soon on freezer cook Angie Copple who cooks with her husband and her two sisters and their husbands. The article may even appear on the front of the paper’s FOOD section. Watch for it!
Website of the Month
This may be a repeat for some of you, but I gotta go with www.flylady.net as the Website of the Month. If you have any interest in getting your house and your life organized, this is the place to start! I’ve done a lot of reading about getting organized, and FlyLady knows what she’s talking about! I’m sure it will become your second favorite website, after ours, of course!
Coming Up In February
What can we do to show our family we love them? How about a heart-themed dinner for Valentine’s Day?
I hope you’re off to a good start with your New Year’s Resolutions. And I hope freezer cooking is a part of that! If there’s anything we can do to help you with your freezer cooking, please click here to drop me an email. We’re looking forward to a great 2004. Thank you so much for your support of 30 Day Gourmet! We couldn’t do it without you!
Best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!