Jan 012007

Kitchen Fun with Carol

carol2007Hello everyone! I always like to review my cooking plans and quarterly menus after the fact. Holiday menus are no exception! It is always good to make notes on what recipes worked, which ones did not and what you would do differently next time. We hosted three large gatherings over the holidays. Each gathering had different menus. One was a full formal meal, one was a casual meal, and one was a potluck.

Casual meal: 

  • Soft Tacos and Chicken Fajitas with all the toppings including Mexican Rice
  • Layered Dip with tortilla chips and salsa
  • Brownies and ice cream with Hot Fudge Sauce

Formal Meal:


There are several things that I learned from this experience. It was great to have a lot of things made ahead of time. We made all the desserts ahead of time. It was so easy to make a double batch of everything and freezer it until serving day. We cooked the meat ahead of time for the Chicken Fajitas and the Tacos. I baked the chicken, sliced it, and then froze it in large freezer bags. I cooked the hamburger with onions and garlic and froze it in freezer bags as well. All we had to do on serving day was warm the meat up and add the seasonings. It was very convenient.

Another lesson that I learned was that it was hard to estimate the amount of meat needed when planning meals for a large number of children. We ended up with a lot of left over meat. Since it had already been frozen, we were unable to freeze it again. This meant that I had to plan other meals that used the meat that was left over. We used the left over chicken for Fajita Salad and we turned the left over Taco meat into Taco Chili. It worked out well.

On the other hand, I bought an extra large turkey for our formal meal so that I would intentionally have leftover turkey. I used part of the leftovers to make the Turkey Wreath for the potluck meal. I even had enough turkey left over to make more wreaths for the church Christmas party. It pays to plan ahead. This year I bought a second turkey that we cooked for New Years. I used the broth and extra meat to make Bowtie Soup (from the Lunches to Go ebook), Turkey and Cheese Hot Pockets, Turkey and Broccoli Hot Pockets and Turkey and Noodles.

One of our favorite family traditions is to make Christmas cookies. This year I found myself evaluating this as well. We made too many cookies this year! We made Sugar Cookies, BuckeyesChocolate Pizza, Chocolate Dipped Pretzel Sticks, Butterscotch Bars, No-Bake Cookies (members can access online), Chocolate Chip Cookies, Black and Whites and Chocolate Sandwich cookies. They were great but we ended up with too many leftover cookies. I ended up placing them in snack bags and putting them in the freezer. I packed them with my kids’ lunches for weeks. Needless to say, I think that we should scale back next year on the cookie production!

Christmas2006_149One fun thing we did was to create gifts from the kitchen. It is fun, especially if you have little kids on your list. This year we made Monster Cookies,  White Chocolate Snowmen and Peppermint Patties (recipe below). The monster cookies are fun. We made these for all the cousins in the family. Kids love big cookies. They are fun to make for birthday parties as well. The White Chocolate Snowmen are easy to make. Put two marshmallows on a wooden skewer to form the body of the snowman. Dip it into white dipping chocolate which is also known as almond bark. Then decorate the face of the snowman with decorating gels. Each snowman seemed to have its own personality. We made the Peppermint Patties for the grandmas and grandpas. After making them we wrapped them in plastic wrap, tied them with a ribbon bow and packed them in Christmas coffee cups. It makes a very pretty presentation.

And the last thing that I learned over the holiday was to be prepared. If you are not, you may end up with the dreaded “empty freezer” at the end of the holiday. What a shock it is to open the freezer door and see that it is almost empty! I was surprised. With this revelation, I realized that I have to prepare for my next cooking day!

Bonus Recipes

No Knead Bread
I love to make fresh bread in the winter. It goes great with fresh hot homemade soup. This is such an easy recipe to make. What makes it easy is the fact that you can make it in your mixer without the regular kneading that is usually required to make a yeast bread.

Another fun variation of this recipe is No Knead Rolls. One recipe will make 20 rolls. Instead of baking the dough in a regular bread pan you can put it in muffin tins to make individual rolls. It is such an easy way to make homemade rolls.

Peppermint Patties
My husband and mother-in-law love Peppermint Patties. This is a fun recipe to make and give as gifts. This recipe uses dipping chocolate. I like using dipping chocolate because it sets very quickly. This makes it an easy recipe for kids to make.

Freezer Cook of the Month Contest Winner

Our winner this month is Debby from Locust Grove, GA. Debby has some great tips on how to save money by price matching.

Let’s hear from Debby:

  1. Did you know that Wal-Mart matches ANY price (not gimmicks like percentages off or buy one get one) in any ad, including groceries? If Kroger has their generic of an item on sale, Wal-Mart will match with their item if it’s the same size or qty. So, instead of going to 3 stores, I gather all of my grocery ads (Target, Walgreen’s, etc.) and circle the items I need in black marker. Then, I go to my Shopping List.
  2. One thing that has helped me, both in freezer cooking and everyday life is having a pre-printed grocery list. It’s an Excel spreadsheet, one page, front and back. I have it divided by aisles in our Super Wal-Mart. On it are all of the items I buy on a regular basis: Jiff Creamy Reduced Fat Peanut butter, 40oz. for example. (This also helps when you send your husband to the store for you and he has NO idea what brand or size to buy, even though you’ve bought the same thing for the entire 7 years you’ve been married!) There are also blank rows for all of those “special items” that you buy infrequently. The columns are: quantity, item description/size, Wal-Mart price, price match, and store.

I hang my list on our refrigerator, along with 2 highlighters and a pen. When you run out of something, all you have to do is grab a yellow highlighter, highlight the item and write in the qty. (Even your husband can do this!) When shopping time comes, go thru the ads and find everything you need. If it’s a price match item from your ads, grab a blue or pink marker and highlight over it (so the color changes to make it easier to see those when you get to the register!). Write in the price that the ad has and which store. You’ll have to show the cashier the ad and the price. It will make checkout easier if you put all of your price-match things on the belt first, that way you don’t accidentally miss any! Beware though – many of them don’t know how to do it! As soon as she greets you, tell her that you have price matches, that way she can call for help right away!

Doing this helps in several ways:

  • As you use the last of something, you just highlight it and it’s on the list.
  • No more running from store to store!
  • Your husband won’t by a tiny jar of expensive peanut butter instead of the massive cheap one that everyone likes!
  • You know right away when a sale is actually a good deal! So any times, I’d see a price in an ad and ASSUME it was a good sale price! NOT!
  • Catching the meats on sale, you can stock up and save BIG!

It takes a little work, but here in Georgia where things are so spread out it takes more time to go to 3 different stores! Not only have I saved as much as 68% on my groceries by price matching, but with the price of gas I’ve also saved money!

Happy saving!”

Price matching is a great idea – especially when you are doing your shopping for cooking day. Knowing your prices can help you save a lot of money. 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? You can post your recipes on the 30 Day Gourmet Facebook® fan page or click here to send me an email. 

Closing Comments from Carol

Next month I will share with you my recipes for the Black and White Cookies and the Chocolate Sandwich Cookies. They are both fun recipes that are great to make for a school Valentine’s Party. We have taken both cookies to group gatherings and there are never any leftovers. I will also take your through how I built my price book and turned that information into a master shopping list.

Do you have any other topics that you would like to cover? Do you have any nagging questions that need to be answered? You can post your recipes on the 30 Day Gourmet Facebook® fan page or click here to send me an email.

Have a Happy New Year!


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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