Jul 012006

Kitchen Fun with Carol

SanteeHello everyone! It is just amazing how fast the summer flies by when you are busy. My sons have just completed their second year of summer physical education classes. Can you imagine having four hours of gym every day for three weeks? Sounds exhausting, huh! Oh how good it is to be young and to have so much energy. They have also completed the classroom portion of driver’s education. That’s another 3 hours of class a couple times a week. Add in two or three physical therapy sessions each week and you have lots of time running from here to there!

All of this summer activity can really put your menu planning skills to the test! I read recently that 40 percent of the cooks out there decide what they’ll have for dinner just by looking what they have in the fridge. Aren’t you glad that you know there is a better way! I have my menus planned for the month. I keep a calendar (also known as Monthly Menu Planner – Worksheet G in The Freezer Cooking Manual)  posted in the kitchen with lunches and dinners planned for each day of the week.  Knowing what we had planned for the week made it so much easier. I was able to rearrange my menu so that I could have simple meals the days the boys had to have dinner early before driver’s ed. I could make more complex meals when everyone was eating at the same time.

LightHouseIf you’re not into full menu planning, it is still a good to idea keep an updated copy of the Meal Inventory Checklist – Worksheet F (from The Freezer Cooking Manual). This worksheet helps you keep tabs on what you have left from your last cooking session. It also helps you plan for those on hand items you need to complete recipes (such as buns, tortillas, fresh vegetables, etc.). This worksheet is also helpful when putting together your weekly grocery shopping list.

I hope you had a wonderful 4th of July. It is great spending time with family and friends. We had lots of cookouts, saw a couple of firework displays, spent time swimming at the pool and at a local water park, and went to see a lighthouse on Lake Erie. We learned quickly that it is great to have snacks on hand that you can just “grab and go” to all the different group activities. Here are some recipes that are great to have in the freezer so you can just grab them when you are on the run:

It’s also great to have a frozen dessert ready to serve to cool off with after a day in the sun. Here are some great recipes:


Bonus Recipes

ChickenKabobs_2Chicken Kabobs
As I mentioned in the June newsletter, one of my goals for the summer was to try some shish kabob recipes. This recipe is my first (hopefully of many!). My family and I believe that it is a winner. Feel free to substitute any vegetables for ones that you like. You can use the traditional wooden skewers. Just make sure you soak them in water for a half an hour before grilling. This will help prevent the skewers from burning. This recipe is also a great marinade for chicken breasts if you are not interested in doing kabobs. Or you could do a mix if you have a picky eater in the house.

Mexican Rice
This is one of our favorite side dish recipes and it freezes very well. We make this recipe as a “filler” when we are having Chicken Fajitas for dinner. You can also use it in Taco Salad. It can be spicy or mild. You can reduce the amount of chili powder to control the heat. One recipe is enough for two meals for a family of five or six when used as filler for Fajitas.

Freezer Cook of the Month Contest Winner

Our winner this month is Julie. Julie has a great story to share about how her experience cooking the 30 Day Gourmet way has grown into a ministry at her church.

Julie says:

“I purchased the 30 Day Gourmet Cooking Manual when I was 8 months pregnant with our second son; we thought it’d be handy to have prepared meals in our freezer for after his birth. Then after doing Freezer Cooking for over a year, I thought it’d be a fun thing to do with a larger group; so I asked a few girlfriends from church to join me at the building and give it a try. The software was incredibly helpful, and continues to be a huge benefit to our ministry, which we call Meals For A Month.
Our trial run was July 2004, and we offered Cooking Sessions for the next year, until we moved into our new church building. During the break of getting settled in, we had 6 months off, during which we tweaked and improved Meals For A Month even more.

Participants contribute $90 for a 10 entrees, serving 6-8 people each. The leadership team buys the groceries and selects the recipes for the month.

Participants come on the designated Cooking Day and, in VERY ORGANIZED team fashion, make 10 meals for each participating family for the month. We have four menus which we rotate over the year; in the winter, we substitute the grilled recipes for more winter-friendly foods.

Beginning in April of this year, we expanded from one Cooking Session to three. Participants reserve their spots for future Cooking Days by registering and paying in advance. Checks are not cashed until the first of the month, and until then, people are free to change their minds about participating.

The foods are all healthy— we have calculated Weight Watchers Points for each entree; every participant takes home a packet with a refrigerator list- a summary of what non-perishables are needed to cook each entree, how they’re prepared/served, some tips on Crock-Pot Cooking, business cards, and information about what we believe at our church.

At the halfway point of each cooking session, we break for brunch and a short Bible study and prayer. MFAM’s mission is to reach out, invite and involve people who might not otherwise come into a church building, and who don’t know Jesus. It provides a non-threatening way to ask someone to come to church. After all, we all eat, enjoy new healthy foods, save money, and like feeling organized. What a fun way to bring along a guest, introduce them to other Christians, and have fun all at the same time! We stress that this is a non-profit ministry. The planners/leadership team do this as a ministry, not a job.

Another thing we do is prepare Sharing Meals at each session. Those are freezer meals which are assembled, and come with all non-perishable ingredients and preparation instructions, to be distributed to someone who could use a pick-me-up. A friend who’s feeling blue, a new mom, someone recovering from surgery, a new person who moves to the neighborhood, etc.

*Over 2700 meals prepared so far, plus more than 230 Sharing Meals prepared
* Over 160 people have participated, including 62 who aren’t members at our church
* 27 Bible studies


Thanks for reading…and thanks even more for all of the help you have provided to our ministry, and to over 160 families in the Northwest Houston area!”

Wow… what a great story! It is amazing how cooking for a month for your own family grew into such a great ministry and opportunity to share your knowledge with others. Thanks for sharing your story with everyone!

Closing Comments from Carol

I hope you enjoy the recipes!

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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