May 012008

Kitchen Fun with Carol

carol2007Hello everyone! I hope all the mothers out there had a very happy Mother’s Day. We spent the weekend visiting with both sides of the family. We went shopping for flowers. I love going to the local nursery in the spring. It was a beautiful day and many people we know were there so it was wonderful to spend time catching up. I enjoy planning our garden. I make my own planters for the deck and front porch. We also plant tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and cantaloupes. It is worth all the effort of tending the garden when you eat that first ripe tomato. Nothing can match the taste of home grown vegetables.

Cassie_41We also welcomed a new addition to the family this Mother’s Day. In March, our dog, Maggie, passed away. She was with the family for almost 16 years. That’s a long time! I do not know how many of you have pets but it is hard to lose one. We decided that we could not live without a dog in the house so we brought Cassie home. It has been a long time since we have trained a puppy. I am trying to remember how we did everything the first time. She is a good dog and we are happy to have her as a new member of the family.

I wanted to say a big THANK YOU to all of you who passed along great tips since the last newsletter. I received several emails over the last month in response to my request on how you make your meals healthier. This has become a priority to many people I have spoken with in the last month. Several of you shared tips on how to get your family to eat more vegetables. Here are some of tips that I received:

I am in the midst of getting my “summer” batch of meals in the freezer, and re-discovered your website (after 18 months of absence) for inspiration. Cooking healthy is a huge priority for me and here are a few of the things I do.

  1. Since we are not huge fish eaters, I sprinkle flax meal in anything baked and anything saucy (i.e. spaghetti sauce, chili). My family can’t even tell it is in there, and it has more Omega 3 than salmon.
  2. When making spaghetti sauce, I will often microwave some spinach or other veggies, puree them, and add them to the sauce. I have noticed a lot of healthier pastas on the market lately, whole grain, or with flax, so I cook with those.
  3. I also try to shred some zucchini or carrots into muffins – they keep them moist and my family doesn’t even notice them.
  4. Lately I have been draining all the fat out of cooked hamburger.
  5. I shop organic whenever I can afford it and am trying to reduce my dependence on Cream of soups.


I have tried adding zucchini and carrots to muffins. They do make them very moist. They work great in chocolate muffins so the kids can’t see the vegetables. Give it a try. I think you will be pleasantly surprised!

I also drain my hamburger when I cook it. You can also rinse the hamburger to remove even more fat. There are exact instructions for this method included in The Freezer Cooking Manual. Here are some more hamburger tips from Gina:

This is what I do to make my meals more nutritious and get my 10 year old to eat veggies (don’t tell him!)
I put RAW veggies in my food processor and puree them. I add the puree to ground beef and fry them together in a skillet. I use about 3/4 cup veggies per pound of hamburger. Once cooked, you cannot see the vegetables. I have used any combination of broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, onion and green pepper. I am going to try spinach, squash and sweet potatoes next. I have used this in spaghetti, chili, burgers and Sloppy Joes. I am going to try a meatloaf next. This makes the meat so moist and I have even used the puree in sausage at about a 1/2 cup to one pound ratio.Thanks so much for your tips. I enjoy this newsletter so much.
Salem, Indiana

I have done this with onions and green peppers but I have never tried it with other vegetables.

I also received some emails on what people are doing to try and save money. It is amazing how much the prices of food has gone up over the past couple of months. Here are some emails that I have received from newsletter readers:

As for the cost of food – I have been in complete shock over my grocery bill lately, so just like you, I am scouring the specials and making my freezer meals accordingly. Last week hamburger was on sale, so I bought 50 pounds (! – I never want to see another piece of hamburger…) and spent all last weekend making meatballs and gourmet hamburgers (just add whatever flavor you like of Lawry’s Marinade and a handful of shredded cheese). Today I am going to tackle spaghetti sauce, taco meat and fajita meat

I enjoy the website, and I am a complete devotee to freezer cooking! I try to convert everyone I know to this lifestyle. After all these years of doing it this way, I can’t imagine having to cook a complete meal from scratch every night! Freeze On!


I also had the same experience as Deb. Our local store had a one day meat sale a couple of weeks ago. I had to buy the hamburger in bulk to get the discount. I have never seen tubes of hamburger that large in my life! They were almost too long to fit in the refrigerator. I made hamburgers, meatballs (using the Master Meat Mix), plain browned ground beef in 2-1/2 C. packages and Sloppy Joes.

I finally cooked the extra turkey we had in the freezer from Thanksgiving. I ended up with over 14 cups of chopped turkey in addition to the turkey and stuffing that we ate for dinner. That turned into two recipes of Chicken/Turkey Patties (members can access online), Turkey and Noodles and Bowtie Soup (from the Freezer Lunches to Go e-book).

To save even more money I have tried to eliminate food waste. I plan out serving quantities so that there are fewer leftovers. If I do have leftovers, I try to serve them as soon possible. If this is not possible, I freeze what I can.

One thing that has worked out well is freezing left over pasta. I have had great success reheating it by boiling water, adding the frozen pasta, and heating it just until the water begins to boil again. I drain and serve it immediately. It is a great way to reuse left over pasta.

Here’s a comment I received from Teresa about the cost of eggs:

In your newsletter you were talking about the price of eggs being $1.99 a dozen. Well here in my neck of the woods in North Carolina, I have seen them go for $2.59 a dozen. It is high you are right. They are like the price of potatoes. A couple of years back I was giving $5.99-$6.99 for 50 lbs. Next thing I knew, they were up to $9.99 for the same bag. Now I grew up here in North Carolina when you didn’t have anything if you didn’t have potatoes. But now potatoes is as high as meat. Shock to the pocket book. I use to shop around several stores but now with the price of gas, that’s hard to do. What’s a poor person to do? Happy Easter and best to you. Thanks for letting me sound off.


Since I wrote the March newsletter, eggs are now up to 2.39 a dozen at some of the stores. It is extremely hard to deal with. I did have the opportunity to take advantage of an egg sale recently. I was able to purchase them for 1.00 a dozen. I used these to make Breakfast BurritosBreakfast Egg Casserole, and Oven French Toast Sticks from the Freezer Cooking for Childcare Providers and Busy Parents ebook sampler.

I also agree with Teresa about shopping around at several stores. It is hard to do with the price of gas at 4.00 a gallon. I try to group all my errands into one day so that I can get the most out of my gas. I also send my husband to the store to pick up sale items on his way home from work.

How are you and your family coping with the rising prices? Do you have any helpful hints or cooking day tips to share with the rest of the readers? Click here to send me an email and I will share them in the next newsletter with the rest of the 30 Day Gourmet cooks.

Bonus Recipes

Last month I promised that I would share some slow cooker recipes with you. I like using the slow cooker year round. It is nice to use one in the summer because you can have a wonderful meal without heating up the kitchen. Here are some of the great slow cooker recipes on the web site:






Appetizers and Sides:

CreamyPaprikaChicken_1Creamy Paprika Chicken
This last month I happened to walk into the grocery store to pick up a couple of items and I happened to find a sale on chicken leg quarters. They were only .49 a pound. I usually cook 10 pounds in the crock pot with some Italian seasoning and 2 cups of water. This gives me 10 cups of cooked, chopped chicken and about 4 cups of chicken stock. What a great deal! Since I had already cooked the turkey earlier this month I needed some other recipes for my mini cooking session. This recipe is the result of that search. It is great served over hot noodles. You could use chicken breast instead of legs if you prefer.


Freezer Cook of the Month

Our winner this month is Debbi from Star City, AR. Debbi shares her story of how 12 co-workers were able to reach out and help someone else in their time of need. What an inspiration this story was to me! What a relief to have one less thing to worry about.

Let’s hear her story:

One of our co-worker’s adult daughters was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Not only does this young woman have to recover from a complete hysterectomy and go through at least 4 months of chemotherapy treatments but she has an 8-month old baby! Her closest family members are about 1 1/2 hours away. Fortunately someone in her community coordinated week-day meals for the family and they are delivered piping hot every Monday thru Friday evening. This meant that the young woman’s mom, our co-worker would have to prepare week-end meals, catch up on laundry, cleaning, etc as she spent most weekends with her daughter. We wanted to relieve some of this burden so as a freezer cook, I knew how handy freezer meals are. I suggested to the ladies that I work with that we each prepare and freeze one casserole in a labeled disposable pan and bring them to work on a certain day. (We have a refrigerator/freezer at work). On the appointed day, we were able to give our coworker 12 frozen meals to put in her daughter’s freezer…this was enough for 6 weekends! She has thanked us many times for the meals. Since they should all be eaten by now, this week we will provide her with 12 more. I am sure we will repeat this every 6 weeks until her daughter completes her chemo. This was such an easy way to do something that really helped our friend and took very little effort on each person’s part. I am sure I never would have thought of a FROZEN meal if I were not a freezer cook. Also, this is not a story of one person making a dozen meals, but of a dozen people each making just one.

Thanks for sharing this inspirational story with us.

Closing Comments from Carol

I hope everyone enjoys the recipes and the tips. Next month I am looking at family gathering and pot luck recipes. I will also share some ideas for strawberries since they will be in season.

Do you have any recipes that you would like to share? I’d love to try and share them with everyone. You can post your recipes on the 30 Day Gourmet Facebook® fan page or click here to send me an email. Or 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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