Mar 012009

Kitchen Fun with Carol

Spring2009_01aHello fellow freezer cooks! Spring/cabin fever has officially hit my house. Spring is officially here and I am ready for it! It seems like it has been such a long winter this year but the spring bulbs are starting to bloom and warmer days are in our future. It is amazing how many neighbors come out once it warms up. Everyone is playing outside, riding their bikes, walking their dogs and the grills come out of storage. It is wonderful to walk through the neighborhood and smell all the first aroma of barbecue chicken and steaks on the grill. I have to admit that it inspired me to cook out as well. I am thinking about cooking some Bruschetta Salmon or hamburgers and some Grill Fries. Yum!

We are knee deep in household projects and menu planning as we prepare for the big graduation party in May. I am looking for some new finger food recipes to serve at the party. Does anyone have a recipe to share? You can post your recipes on the 30 Day Gourmet Facebook® fan page or click here to send me an email.  I will try them and share my party menu with you in the May newsletter.

All the planning and projects in addition to the regular spring cleaning can be a little overwhelming at times. We are also still trying to replace some items that were damaged last year in the wind storms. We have spent the past several weeks price shopping gazebos, swing sets, outdoor fabrics and grills. You know how it is when you are shopping for seasonal items. You have to make your decisions quickly before the merchandise is out of stock for the year. It can be very stressful. I am glad I have meals in the freezer that I can put together quickly when we are in a rush.

I cannot believe that time has gone fast enough for it to be time for my youngest to graduate from high school. That just does not seem possible to me. It also made me start thinking about how long my family has been using 30 Day Gourmet. I believe it has been almost 10 years ( fall of 1999) since my sister-in-law, Lisa, introduced us to this wonderful cooking method (Thank you, Lisa!). I was looking through a binder of past menus and I actually have some of my original menus from that time period. They have some of the first recipes that we tried from The Freezer Cooking Manual, from the 30 Day Gourmet message boards, from Lisa’s personal cookbook, and  my own recipes which were adapted for freezer cooking. Wow! It really takes me back.

Even though I have been cooking this way for 10 years it is still amazing to me how adaptable the system is to your own situation. I have definitely changed the way that I cook over the years. When I first started cooking ahead, I would cook everything I possibly could. I was working full time and 30 Day Gourmet helped me get control of my kitchen and helped me serve more nutritious food to my family. Now I use it for those meals that take a lot of prep time and to have lunches made ahead of time. It also helps me save a lot of money by buying and preparing food based on what is on sale. This has helped tremendously over the past 12 to 18 months as we have seen the cost of food sky rocket.

Freezer Cook of the Month

Our Freezer Cook of the Month is Jenn from Ft. Wayne, IN. Jenn has a great story about how cooking the 30 Day Gourmet way has saved her time AND money. Let’s hear Jenn’s story:

For me, 30 Day Gourmet is all about fun, friends, and financial freedom. I’ve done 30 Day Gourmet on and off for about 5 years, now. I end up doing a 6 week meal plan for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks about 4 times per year. We home school, have 5 kids with the youngest being 1 1/2 years old and he REALLY keeps me busy. As I’m cleaning up a drawer he got into, he’s already off finding something else to get into. Between the toddler and all the activities the bigger kids have, I sometimes end up feeling a little overwhelmed with activities. For a few evening’s worth of planning while I sit in front of the TV, one afternoon of shopping and 1 day of cooking; I get the reward of having a chunk of my responsibilities lifted off my shoulders. For me, 30 Day Gourmet is like having an extra adult in the house to help me and releases me to the fun things I WANT to do. Before I began 30 Day Gourmet, I would never have believed how much EASIER it makes my life.
Many times friends will want to visit on cooking day and I let them know that cooking day is on the agenda. They’re usually still eager to stop over for a cup of coffee and end up helping chop veggies while I stir a sauce. It’s a pleasant diversion and a genuine help rather than slowing me down. Before I started 30 Day Gourmet, I thought an entire day of cooking would be a huge imposition on my life and instead it’s become a welcome task that friends can join in.
It’s brought me closer to friends in other ways, too. Since I started doing 30 Day Gourmet, a neighbor and a few friends have begun and at least once a year we do a meal swap. I make 6 of my favorite meals and we swap so I get 6 different kinds of meals I may not have made on my own — and new recipes to try on my family without having to experiment! Recently, I’ve been freezing one portion of each dinner I make in a 30 Day Gourmet session in individual-sized bags. My husband has an elderly uncle who doesn’t cook and once a week, I take from the stores in my upright freezer and put several meals in his refrigerator/freezer. It’s also wonderful that I’m in a position to help a sick friend or someone who just had a baby without setting aside any of the other things I need to do in a day — we just pull out a dinner, write up last minute directions in a card and run it over!
I’ve ended up making 30 Day Gourmet “my own” by incorporating my own recipes and ways of doing things. For example, instead of a full 30 day cooking session, every other session, I’ll buy my meat for the month, cook it all up in various forms, put it in the freezer and cut my evening preparation in half. This allows me maximum flexibility and if someone joins us for dinner, I can just pull out extra meat rather than having to get out an entire meal that may have been too much food for one extra person.
Another twist I’ve done is in my price book. About once a year I update my price book comparing stores in the area. I hate shopping (another benefit of 30 Day Gourmet is that I don’t have to shop often) and so I shop at the overall cheapest store according to my price book rather than running from store to store. In January, I took an evening and my last 30 day grocery receipt and roughly determined the cost of each meal according to the ingredients. I was amazed that some meals I thought were really cheap weren’t and some meals I thought were expensive ended up not being that bad. This has helped me plan my meals and special events much better keeping cost in mind. If we want to buy fish for Lent, which ends up being pretty expensive for us, I just substitute a few cheaper meals or snacks rather than the more expensive ones. Using 30 Day Gourmet, I can pre-determine, almost to the dollar, how much I’ll spend on groceries!We are striving to get out of debt and this is one my thing I can do to contribute to our financial freedom…as well as enjoying my friends and easing up my life for fun – “fun, friends & financial freedom” could be the 30 Day Gourmet subtitle!


It is great to hear how freezer cooking can really make a difference in your life!

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. 

Bonus Recipes

CitrusGingerChicken_01bCitrus Ginger Chicken

As I said before, the warmer weather has really inspired me to get out and grill. This is a nice chicken marinade. It gives the chicken a subtle citrus flavor that is not too overwhelming. We usually make it with yellow mustard but next time I am going to try with spicy brown or honey mustard to give it a little more “kick”!



FocacciaSandwichBread_01aFocaccia Sandwich Bread

Several years ago we took the family to Disney World on vacation. One of the best counter service sandwiches we had during the trip was served on Focaccia bread. The herbs give it a great flavor and aroma. We love to use it for either Chicken or Turkey sandwiches. This recipe also makes great breadsticks!


Closing Comments from Carol

Easter is just around the corner. We have several family visits planned for the weekend. To save time, I plan my cooking ahead of time and pick meals that freeze easily. For example we enjoy having a family breakfast or brunch together on holidays. I like serving Baked French Toast or Breakfast Egg Casserole. The recipes scale well and are great for a crowd. If you are putting out appetizers before the meal, try the Party Cheese BallVeggie Dip, or Raspberry Fruit Dip. There are a lot of great recipes on the web site. Just click on the Recipes button in the upper right hand corner of the web site. Are you looking for a cookbook dedicated to holiday meals? Take a look at the Holiday Freezer Cookbook. It a lot of great recipes that can be used for any holiday gathering.

Do you have any other topics that you would like to cover? Do you have any cooking questions that need to be answered? Click here to send me an email. I enjoy hearing from you!

Happy Easter, everyone.


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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