Saturday, October 10, 2009

And the winner is...

And the winner is...Eva!

"Daily entry:
I would like to try the fajitas
shopgurl101 at gmail dot com"

Congrats and thanks to all who entered the giveaway and I hope that if you were not chosen as the winner you'll still consider picking up a copy of this fabulous cookbook for yourself! It is available in bookstores nationwide now and I've even seen it at the “warehouse” clubs (Sam's, Costco, etc.) as well as on Amazon. It's a great book and we've really enjoyed the meals we've had from our gourmet session so far.

OAMC (Once-A-Month cooking) isn't a new concept in our house. Back when I was working 60+ hours a week as a corporate trainer, it's the only thing that kept my husband and I from having to eat out every meal! Once a month we would set aside a weekend to cook and we really enjoyed not only having hot meals from those sessions, but the fun of being in the kitchen together and sharing time was a double blessing. I highly recommend it to anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation. It's also great for gifting. For instance, when my sister had her baby (my niece, who's now almost 4!) I was able to gift she and her husband with several weeks worth of meals so that when the baby arrived she didn't have to worry about cooking, just thawing and reheating. I know her husband said it was wonderful to have :)

Whenever I start an OAMC (or, in this case, a two week session), I always start with setting up a spreadsheet of ingredients I will need for my session. I include EVERYTHING on this list, including things I KNOW I have in the pantry/fridge/freezer. I include a column to check off the items as well so that I can just go through the grocery/warehouse store and pick things up as I go. One of the wonderful things about THIS book is the pre-made shopping lists at the beginning of each session section. It makes list-making a breeze! Because I have already made up the spreadsheet for the two week gourmet session, I thought I'd share it with you here but please feel free to take it and make it your own. It's an MS Excel document, so you will need to have that to open it, but once you have the basics, it's easy to plug in your ingredients and go. Of course you also need to have the recipes from the session and I will share a couple of our favorites with you below, but one of the other wonderful things about this book is that it has an “assembly order” for each session. These list the process steps you will take to make the dishes so you don't have to figure out what to chop when or how much needs chopped vs. diced, etc. This makes the process MUCH easier and saves you time and calculations. Whenever I do an OAMC session on my own, that's one of the steps I have to take time to work out and believe me, it is time consuming! After coming home from the store, here are some photos of the ingredients that I placed out on the table to make prep much quicker and easier. Of course I put the refrigerator items away so they didn't get too warm, but having the shelf-stable ingredients out and at hand is a time saver.

Pantry ingredients:

Produce:

Dairy:

Frozen items:

Meats:

Canned & Dry Goods:


This session has a total of 14 dishes (two weeks worth) BUT some of the recipes serve more than 4-6 people, so we were able to divide a couple of them to make a couple of extra meals, giving us a total of 18 dinners from this session. We've only tried a few of them so far but all have been very tasty. Our favorites of those we've tried have been:

Pork Roast with Apples and Mushrooms

This is the “pre-freezer” shot:


And the finished roasted pork:

And the plated dish:


and the Spicy Korean Pork Barbecue

Heading to the freezer:

On the grill:

And the plated final dish:

Both of these dishes were great, but for very different reasons. The pork roast was definitely comfort food and perfect for company. We served it up with some buttered noodles and it was very tasty. The barbecue was tangy and slightly spicy (never spicy enough for my chile-head hubby, but enough for most normal people) and was great served with steamed jasmine rice and some Asian veggies. Even my 1 year old like it. I'll share those two recipes below. I also loved the Uptown Joes which are a nice take on sloppy joes with a little tang from the mustard in the mix.

Our only disappointment was in the Chicken-to-Go recipe. I think the fault lies with me in my preparation of this dish and not in the dish itself, but will share my thoughts anyway. The recipe calls for 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, sliced into ½ in. strips. I think we had larger than normal chicken breasts in this case which gave us a whole lot of slices. This in and of itself would probably not have been a problem since we did have plenty of breading, etc. to use for them, but... When you serve this recipe, you use a “round crusty peasant loaf” of bread which you put the chicken strips into. Either my loaf of bread was too small (possible) or I had too many chicken strips but they barely fit into the loaf (as in I crammed them in to make them fit) and then they never got crispy or heated all the way through. So we ended up removing them from the loaf and heating them on a cookie sheet in the oven, but by that time they were gummy from being stuffed into the loaf and just didn't crisp up at all. Meanwhile the bread dried out and was inedible. Flavors were good, but execution was poor in this case. We'll give it a try again in the future and probably just bake the chicken separately from the bread so that it gets crisped up from the start. If you pick up a copy of this cookbook and give this recipe a try, I'd love to hear your experiences with it so I'll know what to do differently next time...

Now for the recipes! As promised, here are two of the recipes from this session, the “Pork Roast with Apples and Mushrooms” and the “Spicy Korean Pork Barbecue”

The Recipes:

Pork Roast with Apples and Mushrooms

1 tbsp dried thyme
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 3-4 lb boneless pork loin roast

Sauce:
2 tbsp butter*
½ cup apple juice
¾ cup chicken broth
¼ cup dry sherry

4 small cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into wedges (2 cups)*
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms*

(* indicates item is not used until serving day)

Combine the thyme, salt and pepper. Package in a sandwich bag. Combine the sauce ingredients and package in a 1-quart bag. Place the pork loin roast (still in it's store packaging) in a 1-gallon freezer bag, tuck in the bag of spices and the sauce bag, label and freeze.

To serve, thaw the roast. Rub the roast with the thyme mixture. Place the roast on a rack in a shallow roasting pan and roast in a 325ºF oven for 2 hours, or until the meat registers 160ºF on a thermometer.

Transfer the meat to a platter and keep warm by tenting it with foil.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet melt the butter. Add the apple juice, chicken broth and sherry, then add the apple wedges and cook and stir until golden. Remove the apple wedges from the skillet with a slotted spoon, reserving the pan juices; keep warm. In the same skillet, cook the mushrooms until tender.

To serve, place the slices of pork roast and apple wedges on individual plates. Spoon the mushroom sauce over meat.

Serves 12-14

Freeze in: 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag; 1 quart Ziploc freezer bag; 1 Ziploc sandwich bag.


Spicy Korean Pork Barbecue

1 lb pork tenderloin, cut into ¼ in. slices
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 ½ tbsp Thai chile paste
½ tsp ground ginger (or 1 tsp grated fresh)
1 tsp dark sesame oil
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 ½ tsp chopped garlic

With kitchen shears, cut the tenderloin diagonally across grain into ¼ in thick slices. Combine the pork with the remaining ingredients in a labeled 1-gallon freezer bag and freeze.

To serve, thaw the pork and marinade and prepare a grill. Place a wire grilling basket on a grill rack. Remove the pork from bag; discard marinade. Place the pork on the grilling basket, coated with nonstick cooking spray. Grill 5 minutes turning frequently, or until you reach the desired doneness.

Summary of Processes: Cut pork diagonally across grain into ¼ in slices.

Serves 4

Freeze in: 1 gallon Ziploc freezer bag.

My Results:

The Pork Roast:

First observation... The Pork Roast recipe doesn't specify, but you need to keep the 2 tbsp butter for the sauce SEPARATE from the other ingredients so that you can melt it during the sauce-making. Instead of “Combine the sauce ingredients” it should say “Combine all sauce ingredients except butter”... so make that adjustment if you try this dish. I always advise reading completely through a recipe before attempting it and since I did that was able to catch this, but thought I'd let you know so you don't accidentally incorporate it into the other ingredients in the first steps. Other than that, the recipe works great and tastes great as well. My apples weren't “small” but were what I would consider “medium” sized and I only needed two to make the two cups of wedges so we used the extra two apples to make apple crisp for dessert :) This was a great recipe and one that I would definitely make for company in the future!

BBQ Pork:

This was our favorite so far. We don't have a grill basket and I didn't feel like firing up the outside grill (we use charcoal, not gas so it's a little more work...) so instead I used our indoor grill pan to make this dish. It grilled up perfectly and was super tasty. Recommend serving it with some steamed rice and veggies for a complete meal. Super yummy!

So those are two of the 14 recipes in just this ONE session of the cookbook. I hope you'll give them a shot and let me know how they turn out for you!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Giveaway week continues! Q&A with the authors...

Ok, as promised, giveaway week is continuing here on my blog... For details about the giveaway and how to enter, refer to this post: It's Giveaway Week! Depending on how this giveaway goes, I've got some future ones planned as well, so be sure to pass the word and get folks entering!!!

Now onto today's content! Today I'm posting a Q&A with the authors of the book along with their bios so you can get to know them a little better. I've been familiar with these two authors for many years as I've used their original book quite a lot. In fact, I'm going to have to buy my fifth(!) copy of the book soon since I've given my own away so many times! Three of the authors favorites mentioned in the Q&A are in the gourmet session we just completed, so be sure to check back tomorrow when I'll be posting more about our own experiences with OAMC and this book...

Without further ado, here's the Q&A and bios:


Q&A with Mary Beth and Mimi on
Once-a-Month Cooking™:


You were the first to publish a book about bulk freezer cooking, and many others have come after you. How did you think of this concept—and what made you feel it would work for so many women?


Mary Beth:
Mimi developed this method at a time when we were writing articles together. She wanted me to call The Denver Post to see if they wanted us to write an article about it. I thought Mimi was crazy, and asked her to call. When the paper sent a reporter and photographer to her home within a week to do a food feature, we knew we were on to something. We’ve found over the years that Mimi’s three reasons for creating the strategy—to save time, money, and make possible good times at the table —resonate with most families.


Mimi: As a mother of three young children, I wanted to streamline my life without taking away from the things I loved. At the time, I was working with Hmong refugees in Denver, trying to sell
their handwork.


I studied my days by writing down how I spent my time in 15-minute increments.
And I found I was wasting the most time in the kitchen. I remember the day I decided I would cook until I ran out of the food I had on hand. I put all the dishes I had prepared on the dining room table. When I counted 30 meals I was ecstatic, because I knew I didn’t have to cook dinner again for a month. Every month for the next year I used the method, once for me and once with a friend, so I was able to perfect it. If someone was having a baby, I’d say “You buy these groceries, and I’ll prepare you a month’s meals.” It became the gift I gave my friends.




What are your top three favorite recipes in the new Once-a-Month Cookbook Family Favorites—and why?


Mary Beth:


1. Country-Style Ribs (This slow cooker entrée provides great aroma-therapy!)


2. Corn Soup with Basil, Avocado, and Crab (This delicious soup proves that frozen entrees can be both elegant and delicious.)


3. Penne in Cream Sauce with Sausage (My son Drew keeps asking me when we’ll have this one.)


Mimi:


1. Lemon Chicken (It’s so fast and tasty! Great for unexpected guests; it can be on the table in ten minutes.)


2. Uptown Joes (Great for picnics or ballgames in wide-mouth thermos.)


3. Beef Pot Roast (I love this one for its smell. There’s nothing like coming into a house that smells good.)


What wisdom could you offer to the busy woman who has never tried this method?


Mimi:
Even preparing two of any entrée at one time will show you how much time this technique can save! In the beginning, try this technique with a friend who can help you with the many tasks, even just answering the door, the phone, taking care of the kids, and making sure the ingredients are ready. The first time you try this, I’d recommend trying the free, downloadable one-week cycle from our website
once-a-monthcooking.com or a two-week cycle from the book to get used to cooking in bulk. And don’t try to shop and cook on the same day if possible, to conserve your energy.


You say that anyone with a side freezer can implement the Once-a-Month Cooking plan—how do you make it work?


Mary Beth: I’ve frozen even the month’s-worth of entrees without a separate freezer. But I have to clean out the freezer before my cooking day, and I freeze most entrees in plastic bags, which can be squished flat or wedged into corners.




Beyond the obvious rewards of reducing food prep time, hassle, and grocery bills, what are you hoping Once-a-Month Cooking Family Favorites will do for busy families?


Mary Beth:
My hope is that this technique will make it possible for families to spend more meals together around a table. The family dinner is a simple concept with profound, measureable advantages for children and parents. We relinquish it too easily to busy schedules. I want other families to discover that a warm meal and good conversation are simple, valuable gifts that anyone would enjoy. Mimi: and I truly believe there isn’t any other family activity that is more meaningful or productive.




Author bios:


Mary Beth Lagerborg and Mimi Wilson's original bestseller Once-a-Month Cooking™ started the bulk freezer cooking phenomenon from recipes made for their own families. Both live in Colorado and continue to share a passion to help today's cooks save time and money while building family relationships over delicious meals.


Mary Beth is the creator of the website dwellingspace.com, providing tools on creating a home full of
acceptance and creativity. She is also the former media director for MOPS International (Mothers of Preschoolers). Mimi travels extensively to regions like Jordan, Ecuador, and Rwanda, and teaches Once-a-Month Cooking principles and benefits internationally.


Find out more at the official Once-a-Month Cooking website, or join our bulk freezer cooking discussion on facebook.


Monday, October 5, 2009

It's Giveaway week!

For those who follow me on Twitter (@scrapcatb) you may recall that several weeks ago I posted a note that I had been selected to do a review and giveaway of a new Once A Month cooking book. Well, this is the week! This past weekend hubby and I spent our Saturday testing out one of the two week cooking sessions that are in the new book:

Once A Month Cooking Family Favorites

This is a GREAT book by the authors of the original Once A Month Cooking book, Mary Beth Lagerborg & Mimi Wilson. (You can still purchase the original book here) Family Favorites contains several "once a month" cooking plans with shopping lists, preparation steps, complete recipes and suggestions as well as a few two-week sessions which are great for smaller families, those short on time to do a big session or those who have never done once-a-month cooking before and would like to give it a short trial before jumping in with both feet. There is even a great "gluten-free" two week cycle in this book for those who are living the GF lifestyle!

Hubby and I decided to give the "Gourmet" two week session a shot this time and I'm very happy so far with the results. I'll be posting a couple of the recipes and my reviews of them during the week so you can see what our experience was like, but the publishers of this great book have generously given me an EXTRA copy of the book so I can do a GIVEAWAY with you, my blog readers!

Giveaway details:

The giveaway starts TODAY, October 5th and runs through Friday, October 9th at midnight central time. There are 5 different ways to enter (two which can be repeated daily), but you MUST do the first one before any of the others... Here's how to enter:

  • To receive 1 daily entry Visit the book's page on Amazon.com, click on the book picture to take a look inside and browse to the index. Then choose one or two recipes you'd like to try and post a comment here listing which one(s) most interest you. This is good for 1 entry each day as long as you post a different recipe or item you'd like to try each day.
  • For 1 additional daily entry Tweet about this blog and the giveaway from your Twitter account and then post back here linking to your tweet.
  • For 1 additional entry, grab my blog button and place it on your blog or homepage, then post a link here letting me know where the button is on your site.
  • For 1 additional entry, blog about this giveaway on your blog with a link back here then post a comment below with a link to your blog post.
  • For 1 addtional entry, follow me on Twitter then post a comment with your twitter username for verification.
This giveaway will end at midnight CST on October 9th when a random number generator will pick the winner of the giveaway. I will post the winner's name on Saturday, October 10th and will contact them via email (so make sure your comment links to your email!) to confirm.

As I mentioned, this is a GREAT book and the first recipe we tasted last night was delish! Tomorrow I will be posting a Q&A with the authors of the book as well as a little background into our experiences with OAMC and then during the week I will share with you photos, recipes, tips etc. from our review of this book. Be sure to tell all your friends and keep checking back for more!