Jun 012006

Kitchen Fun with Carol

carol2007Hello everyone! It’s good to be back. I appreciate your support in my leave of absence. My family has spent the last two months in crisis mode trying to deal with some hard issues. It is hard to believe how grief and sadness can take away your ability to function. I always thought that I would be able to cook from scratch no matter what the circumstances. It is second nature, right? I was wrong. It took all of my efforts just to keep going every day. It was such a blessing to have food in the freezer that I could just quickly heat and serve. It was also a blessing to have friends and family that supported and encouraged us. I have helped other people in need in the past with meals; family members, church members, a friend of a friend. Little did I realize how much of a difference this makes in the lives of the people we serve until I was on the other end of the situation. If you ever have the opportunity to help someone in need, do it. It will make all the difference in the world.

I know that summer has not officially started but it sure feels like it! We have gone from 70 degree days to 90 degree days in just a couple of weeks. It was such a dramatic shift for me that I went ahead and planned my summer menu. We switched into grilling mode two weeks early. Of course this also meant a whirl wind cooking day had to be planned to make the switch. With this done we are now fully stocked for the summer grilling season!

Summer menu planning is fun! There are so many great recipes to make this time of the year. We make a lot of marinades, barbecue, burgers, and grill packets. (You can read about grill packets in the August 2005 issue of Chewin’ the News.) We like to experiment with cooking different vegetables on the grill. One of my favorites is grilled zucchini. This summer we are going to experiment with different types of shish kabobs. I will keep you posted on the results. I love being able to cook outside, eating dinner together with my family on the deck, and sitting on the swing with my husband reading a good book. That is when you know that life is good. Below are some tips on summer menu planning.


  1. Recipes are usually categorized by main ingredient or recipe type such as beef, poultry, pork, soup, sandwich, main entree, etc. When I am planning for my summer menu I sort my recipes by cooking appliance instead. I am looking for recipes that can be grilled, cooked in the slow cooker, or microwave. I do consider an occasional recipe that is cooked on the stovetop but only if it has a relative short cooking time.
  2. For dinner I like to have a couple of recipes each week that scale up easily. This allows for sporadic entertaining! I always have extra pork chops, chicken breasts, hamburgers, and hot dogs on hand. You never know when you might be preparing food for a crowd.
  3. Take advantage of the great produce prices during the summer months. When fruits are in season, add them to you menu and freeze some extras for later in the year. We always buy extra berries, peaches and apples. We use them later in cobblers, pies, muffins or fruit smoothies. We also grow our own green peppers. I chop them up as they ripen and store them in freezer bags and use them over the winter when produce prices are high.
  4. Remember grills aren’t just for meats. Try grilling some vegetables as a side dish. Our current favorite combination is fresh sliced mushrooms, zucchini and green or red bell pepper. After cooking toss with a little fat free Italian dressing and some Parmesan cheese. It’s wonderful. We also like to grill pizza, corn on the cob, potato wedges, and baked potatoes. Try grilling pineapple slices for dessert. Grilling pineapple intensifies the sweetness of the fruit. Sometimes we add them to hamburgers or we just eat them plain. They are such a treat.
  5. I like to keep a lot of precooked meats on hand for easy summer dinner. This saves so much time in the kitchen when you want to grab a bite and go. I brown hamburger and package in 2-1/2 cup packages. I use this in chili and soft tacos. I cook pounds of chicken breasts on the grill. I slice some to use for sandwiches, fajitas, or to put on top of salad greens. I also cube the chicken to use in chicken salad sandwiches, Chicken Fried Rice, or I mix it in left over pasta salad to make a main dish.


Here are some of recipes that I included on my summer menu:




Bonus Recipes

Iced Oatmeal Cookies

My family has become addicted to these cookies. I picked some up at the local grocery store one week when I knew that I would not have time to make cookies. Everyone loves them. I then set out to make my own version of the cookie. These are not as crisp but have great flavor. The easiest way to ice the cookies is to hold the cookie upside over the icing bowl. Take the cookie and just barely touch the top to the icing. This gives the icing that rippled effect just like the store bought kind. Give it a try!

Oatmeal Scotchie Bars

My husband loved Oatmeal Scotchies as a kid. It was his favorite cookie that his mom made. Here is a bar version of the cookie that is great to pack for lunches. If I keep these around and don’t put them way in the freezer, they will just disappear.

Closing Comments from Carol

I learned an awesome kitchen tip from my sister-in-law, Lori. I always have a hard time opening jars. I’ve tried lots of methods to help me open them easier. I have one of those lid grips. I have tried tapping on the edge of the lid. I have tried try to “pop” the seal by prying the bottom of the lid with a butter knife. Lori showed me the easiest way to open a jar. You just hold it upside down with one hand and hit the bottom of the jar with the palm of your other hand. You’ll hear a hollow sound when you hit the jar. Turn it over and magically it opens with hardly any effort! Thanks Lori for sharing this.

I hope this issue of summer menu planning hints was helpful! Do you have any other topics that you would like 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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