The Assembly Line

This blog post is specifically for all the moms in Northern KY who are joining in the dinner assembly line–much like Dream Dinners or My Girlfriend’s Kitchen, only cheaper!

Okay ladies, here’s how I think it will work best.  Since its our first time out, let try for 12 meals each.  That means that each mom will go home with 12 meals for your freezer. 

First, a few guidelines to consider: 

  • Family Size–I am making an assumption that 6 servings per meal is enough for most families, some leftovers likely.
  • Food Allergies–remember that many are allergic to nuts or shellfish.
  • Strong spices or Hot and Spicy foods are usually not family-friendly
  • This is NOT a contest.  No one needs to worry about outdoing the other moms.
  • Health–watch the fat and salt contents, as some moms are health conscious.
  • We will not be cooking on site–this is assemble and freeze.
  • Because this is assemble and freeze, you can adjust your portion sizes as you assemble your meals.  For example, if you only need two portions per meal, instead of assembling one bag with 6 servings, assemble three bags with 2 servings each.  You will go home with 36 meals of 2 servings instead of 12 meals of 6 servings.

Second, a few questions to answer:

  1. Do we want to include sides in our cooking session? 
  2. Food Savers–anyone have one they wouldn’t mind sharing that night?  I have a Seal-A-Meal, and anyone who wants to buy their own bags and use mine is welcome to it at my station.  Might help if we had more than one.
  3. Anyone allergic to specific foods or have a family larger than 6 servings?

Okay, here’s how it will work.  Each mom picks 2 recipes, and brings all the ingredients ready to assemble the meal.  This would mean that any veggies that need to be chopped are chopped, spices in bags/bowls, meats ready to go into bags.  Each meal should feed six, and each recipe should have enough for 6 meals, meaning a total of 36 servings of each recipe.  Please bring appropriate spoons, measuring cups, etc for moms to use in the assembly process.  Every mom should bring 12 containers to put their meals in–be it aluminum pans, casserole dishes, gallon ziploc bags, and so on.  It’s your choice.  I will say that if storage space is a concern for you, using ziploc bags and laying them flat on their sides to freeze will allow them to stack neatly in your freezer and use less space.  Foodsaver bags do the same, and have the added benefit of being usable in the microwave or boiled on the stove, and are reusable if not cooked in.  Last, bring a paper with assembly instructions for moms to follow that night, and printouts of recipe directions–or post its with the directions pre-written for us to use.

We will break the food down into stations–each mom will set out her two meals, and then we will begin moving around the room assembling meals.  Each mom will take home 12 meals.  Please bring a rolling cooler, a laundry basket, something to allow you to carry the 12 meals home.

Plan to spend $10 or less on each “meal” that serves 6.  I would expect most of us to spend between $80-$120 on groceries for this venture–but you get 12 different meals for 6 out of that.

Last, consider adding vegetables to your meal if you can, or sides.  I will wait and see the response on sides, but it might be nice if we can each bring one side dish already cooked and ready to freeze.

Okay, we don’t want all chicken or casseroles, so below is a breakdown list of meal types.  Please reply to this post with your choices.  We don’t need to know your recipe names, just the type of food you will be bringing.  By the way, its okay if your pasta dish has beef or chicken in it, or your casserole has those as well, we just want balance.  And “other” is for the other white meat.  ;P

  1. Chicken
  2. Chicken
  3. Chicken
  4. Chicken
  5. Chicken
  6. Chicken
  7. Beef
  8. Beef
  9. Beef
  10. Beef
  11. Beef
  12. Beef
  13. Pasta
  14. Pasta
  15. Pasta
  16. Pasta
  17. Pasta
  18. Pasta
  19. Casserole/Other
  20. Casserole/Other
  21. Casserole/Other
  22. Casserole/Other
  23. Casserole/Other
  24. Casserole/Other

Baked “fried” chicken

I tried a new recipe yesterday that I wanted to share with everyone.  Its a combination of Paula Deen’s, and Cora Kat’s.  I love Deen’s cooking, but lets face it, its very heavy on the fat.  Cora Kat’s was good on being low fat, but not quite as yummy looking as Deen’s.  This is a simple recipe for baked fried chicken.

 First, I used 8 chicken thighs.  I dredged them in flour mixture (1/2 cup flour, 1 tbsp kosher salt, 1 tsp dry mustard and 1 tsp fresh ground pepper) and then dipped them in buttermilk (made from 1 cup lowfat evaporated milk and 1 tbsp vinegar, let sit for 15 minutes), and then into crushed cornflakes.  I used a broiler pan that was coated with 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil and placed the chicken in it.  I cooked them for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, then for another 40 minutes at 350 degrees.  YUMMY!  The coating was crisp, the chicken was juicy and it all tasted like real fried chicken.  8 thighs=2 meals.

I’m adding this one to my next bulk cooking list!


Laugh Today for your Health!

Many of us know that laughter is good for you.  But do you know just how much?

Not only is it good for the heart, and for reducing stress, but it seems that it lowers blood sugar in diabetics, helps you sleep at night, increases blood flow and helps you fight off the common cold!  Even more shocking…100 belly laughs a day is equal to 10 minutes on the treadmill!  Another study showed that 1 minute of laughing is equal to 6 minutes of cariovascular exercise!

And fake laughter is just as good as a real laugh, studies show.  So go ahead, laugh it up!

http://www.webmd.com/video/laughter-heals


Bulk cooking

Quick update:

Wow! This is a popular topic! I get asked about Bulk Cooking more than any other topic! This page has the most hits too! You guys must be really curious about Bulk Cooking!

Well, I’m going to be sharing more information soon. If you live in the Cincinnati/Northern KY or Louisville area, I am offering in home lessons. Lessons include instructions on how to practice bulk cooking, a small ebook I’m writing, reviewing recipes and tools you already have in your home for Bulk Cooking use. Then you go shopping, buy the ingredients, and I will return to your home to help you cook for the first time!

Beyond that, for those who live out of the area, I am putting together a small ebook that I will sell on the topic. It will have basic instructions, some of my experiences and tips, basic recipes for bulk cooking and how to analyze your own recipes to see if they’re worthy of Bulk Cooking. I’ll let everyone know the minute its finished!

—————————

I get asked about this alot, so I thought I’d just write one blog about it and link everyone to it.

Have you ever wondered about Bulk Cooking? (aka Freezer Cooking or Once a Month Cooking) I was fascinated when I heard about it five months ago, and have been hooked ever since!

What exactly is it? Well, it can be many things. Multiplying the meals you’re already making, or cooking once a month to stock your freezer with 30 meals for the next month, or something in between.

I started with the idea that I wanted to fill up my brand new standing freezer that I’d gotten for Christmas. To begin, I thought I’d just start tripling every meal I made. I was amazed at how simple that was. Cooking fajitas for one dinner took 25 minutes–cooking enough for three meals took 35 minutes. Cooking Coq au Vin for one dinner took 40 minutes, cooking it for 3 meals took 55 minutes. By the end of the first week, I was so bulk cooking crazy I’d stored 10 dinners already! I could see that I was hooked, so I began researching and planning my first Once a Month cook. (OAMC)

I started by writing down the recipes I knew that my family loved, that would freeze well. I started perusing personal chef sites, since that’s what they do, is cook meals and freeze them for their clients. I found several websites online that talked about bulk cooking, and took recipes and tips from them.

By the time the first of the month rolled around, I had 15 meals in the freezer–5 different meals x 3 of each. I wanted a good variety, so I planned on making 25 more. I picked eight meals, and made 3 of each. Since then, I’ve averaged 8-10 different meals each month, plus some staples. I rotate the eight each month so that there’s always a variety in my freezer.

Here’s what you can usually find in my freezer: Lasagna, spaghetti sauce with meatballs, coq au vin, paella, lemon garlic chicken, roasted chicken, roast beef, ribs, pork chops, creamy penne with mushrooms, fajitas, chicken piccata, meatloaf, homemade frozen pizzas, beef bourguinon, manicotti, steaks, chili and triple mushroom bisque.

How do I do it? Well, here’s how one month went. On Saturday, I put dressed and stuffed four whole chickens, and put them in the oven. On top of the stove I browned about 10 lbs of chicken and pork chops. when those were done I pulled them off the stove and let them cool. I took a 15 minute break, and came back to the roasted chickens being done. I put 10 lbs of roast in the oven and let cook all day. I took the veggies, rice and other ingredients, and assembly line fashion, put them into their proper bags/dishes for their meals. Then I added the pre-cooked chicken and pork chops. Zip, seal, toss in freezer and ready to go. There were 9 meals. I wrapped up three of the roasted chickens and threw them in my kitchen freezer. The fourth was picked clean, and used to make the Triple Mushroom Bisque. Froze all of that, and put into the deep freeze. The chickens and beef aren’t ready, so that makes 12 meals down, 3 hours gone. The beef cooks all day on low, at the end of the day I cut it into fours and freeze three. All in all I spent 3 1/2 hours in the kitchen.

Sunday, I make sides. I “bake” 5 lbs of potatoes in the microwave, then smash them in the mixer. I chop up the other 5 lbs of a 10 lb bag, 2.5 lb to roasted potatoes, 2.5 lbs to au gratin potatoes. On the stove is cooking my greens–green beans, broccoli (just blanched) and brussel sprouts. I also cook up wild rice and polenta. I take out the chickens and one roast beef from the fridge, package the chickens and roasts with their side dishes in a gallon ziploc bag, and out those go to the freezer. I chop up the roast into chunks, and assemble in a tray for beef bourguinon. So 18 meals done. Two hours on Sunday.

Monday is beef, pasta and pizza day. I boil hamburger, italian sausage and hot sausage (believe it or not it tastes the same and cuts out tons of fat, and is faster!) for the sauces. I make spaghetti sauce, enough for three dinners and two lasagnas. I mix up bread dough and let it rise, then cut it into sections. Four pizzas, 24 bread rolls. I cut the bread rolls into pieces and freeze–now I’ve got rolls for dinners. I roll out the pizzas, top with the spaghetti sauce, pepperoni and hot sausage, cheese, and done, four frozen pizzas. Then I assemble the lasagna, and whew, package it all, we’re done! About two and a half hours. Let’s see, that’s a total of…..28 meals plus sides!!!!!!

So let’s see, eight hours, 28 meals. Not a bad deal!

It’s been really nice–most mornings I get up, wander out to the standing freezer in the garage, and pick out dinner for the night. I let it thaw all day, then at 5:00 I pop it in the oven, and at 5:45 return to start setting the table. By 6 the whole family is eating together! What a shock in today’s world!

I spend that extra 45 minutes a night with my family, before I head off to class or work. Very nice. As an added benefit, we’re eating healthier, and we’re saving money. With no running to the grocery every few nights, or out for fast food, we’ve cut nearly $100 out of our monthly budget. What wonderful fringe benefit!

Some extra bulk cooking tips….even though there are only four people in the Know it All family, I make every meal to feed 6. That way, there’s enough for seconds and likely leftovers for lunches. Don’t bulk cook a recipe you’ve never made before–try it first then bulk it up. Things like rice, potatoes and noodles freeze well, vinegar and citrus as well, cream sauces too. But never freeze mayonaisse, it breaks apart and is nasty after freezing. Alcohol freezes, so if you cook with wine but don’t finish a bottle, freeze the extras for your next cooking session. If you’re baking a bread that needs to rise when it cooks, make sure to thaw it first. Pizza crusts that are baked frozen are gummy, while crusts that are thawed first rise and crisp. Most people use a combination of aluminum pans and ziplock bags. Vaccuum sealers are nice, especially for sides as they can boil or microwave right in the bag, eliminating dish usage. You can precook the meals, or just assemble them for cooking, it really just matters on your use and the meal’s needs. (Lemon garlic chicken, meatloaf and lasagna are all assembled uncooked and just cooked in the reheating process.) You can also pre-assemble grill meals for the summer–try wrapping up your veggie packets for the grill, seasoning and all in good aluminum wrappings, and simply toss on the grill as it warms. By the time you’re done with your meats, the veggies should be cooked too.

And so on. I’m sure I’ll amend this a thousand times. Feel free to comment or leave your tips!


Know it All Tips and Tricks

Being a wife and a mom of two darling monkeys, I have a lot more things I’d like to share with everyone than just politics.  Politics is a passion of mine, but I wouldn’t truly be Little Miss Know it All if I didn’t, well, know it all.

So starting this week, I’ll be writing on subjects of general interest to me, and filing them under the category More Know it All Tips and Tricks.  Politics will still be the bread and butter of this site, but if you’d like to hear some general life tips, check it out.

Up this week, our adventure with the grocery budget, how we cut $200 out of it and still eat well.


Free Starbucks!

For all you coffee lovers out there, Run to your local Starbucks this morning.  Its free coffee day!  From 10-12 Starbucks will be giving away free Tall coffees at all their stores nationwide.

 You’ll find Little Miss Know it All in line today–without my caffeine I’m none too pleasant in the morning!


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