Wednesday, October 29, 2008

October 2008 Kitchen Challenge - LotsofKids Entry


To read about the Kitchen Challenge, click here or here.

I did this challenge on my personal blog, but did it again as the official LOK entry (yeah, I just wanted an excuse to do it again). We were cooking for a family of 11--3 adults, 4 older children, and 4 smaller children. Note, as always, I'm fudging the numbers on some of the ingredients on the upside (usually rounding up), because I want the pricing to be more accurate to what the average family would find at their local store. I typically shop at Aldi and other low-cost grocers. As a result, my actual cost was a bit lower than the noted tally. However, unlike my personal entry, I'm doing a bit more "from scratch" in this challenge.

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BREAKFAST



Pancakes and Syrup
Pancake mix: $1.25
Syrup ($1.50 bottle -- used half bottle): $.75
Total: $2.00

This one was simple. An all-in-one pancakes mix (just add water), and syrup. Yes, it's nice to have a big breakfast with meat and sides, but on average days, quick and easy rules in our house. One box more than fed our family, with a few cakes left over. We used half the bottle of syrup.




One tip I find handy when making pancakes is that I make most regular size, and then make several dollar-size cakes. First of all, the kids love eating the “tiny” pancakes, but it also helps when a kid wants seconds. I find I have less “half-eaten” plates when I give them the smaller cakes.

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LUNCH



Creamy Tuna Macaroni
1 1lb box of elbow macaroni: $1.00
2 cans of tuna: 1.00
1 can of cream of celery soup: $.50
1 can of peas: .50
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs: .25
Total: $3.25

Simple meal, but tasty and satisfying. I cooked the macaroni as indicated, draining well. I prepare soup using regular water, and then added to noodles, mixing well. Flaked in the tuna and added peas, mixing until combined. Seasoned with simple salt and black pepper. I served on plates with a sprinkle of toasted breadcrumbs.


I’ll admit this picture does not make this look very appetizing, but it was actually really good.

Toasted breadcrumbs are one of those little things that can really make a meal special. They can particularly dress up ordinarily bland and boring dishes like mac&cheese. I make them often. Simply place breadcrumbs on a cookie sheet, give them a spritz of non-stick cooking spray, and cook in the broiler for a 2-3 minutes. If you have a toaster oven, this is even easier to do--and this is the way I usually do mine.

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DINNER

Flauta (Taquito) Dinner with Refried Beans and Cheesy Mexican Rice
Where we live, rolled tortillas filled with meat and fried crisp are called flautas (which means flute in Spanish). However, in the mainstream they are more commonly known as taquitos. I came up with this version because my husband loves them, but it is too expensive to regularly get them at a nearby restaurant. I also came up with this variation as a healthier version, since I didn't really like all the high calories of the traditionally deep-fried ones. Flautas can be made with shredded chicken as well, but I chose beef for the challenge.



1 1/2 lbs of beef: $3.00*
1/2 can of sloppy joe mix: $.50*
1 3-dz pkg of corn tortillas: $2
1 lb of pinto beans (2lb bag for $1.50--used half): .75
11/2 cups of rice (I show 2 cups in the picture, but ended up using less): .75
1 can of diced tomatoes and chilis (equivalent to Ro-tel): $1.00
1 cup of cheddar cheese ($2.00 for 2 cup bag--used half): $1.00
1/2 carton sour cream: .50
Flour, margarine, and milk: .25
Total: $9.75

* I purchased a bulk package of ground beef which was $1.99/lb when purchased in 3lbs or more pks, and the package I bought was $5.99. The Manwich was on sale for a $1.00, but I can regularly get a generic sloppy joe mix for that price. I fried up, drained, and mixed in sloppy joe mix. The total cost for this was $7.00. I ended up using half the meat for this dish. The other half was frozen for another meal.

Flauta/Taquitos
Warm tortillas in a hot, dry frying pan, 5-10 seconds on each side, until soft and pliable. Fry up meat, breaking up any large pieces when frying. My family actually prefers to use sloppy joe mix in our taco meat, but you could do this with a can of tomato sauce and some taco seasoning. Add sauce to meat and mix well. Take a tortilla and put a small line of beef on one end. Roll tightly. Place seam down on a greased cookie sheet. Repeat and continue until all tortillas are rolled. Spray the tops of the rolled tortillas with cooking spray. Cook in 425 degree oven 15-20 minutes until crisp. Serve with guacamole, salsa, or other topping of choice. For the challenge, we chose to serve with sour cream.

Refried beans
These are simple. Using whole pinto beans, cook according to package directions. Add a bit of oil and puree in blender (we use a hand blender).

Cheesy Mexican Rice
I prepared the white rice in my rice cooker. I then made a white sauce using a couple tablespoons of margarine, flour, 1 1/2 cups of water, and 1/2 cup of milk. When thickened, I added the cheddar cheese and cooked until smooth. I added the cheese sauce to the rice, blending well. Then I seasoned it with pantry items: salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I drained the tomatoes well and mixed into the rice. This was really good, but too spicy for some of my kids' taste.



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Grand Total: $14.75

I should note that some readers have commented that even with my fudging up, they couldn't do the same meal since food in their area is more expensive. I do want to remind that we are cooking for a mega-family of 11 and this fed us well (albeit without a lot of leftovers). For a more typical large family with 4-6 kids, I think even with pricing a little higher, you could make this meal within the $15 limit.



Since some of our readers have indicated they like to see how to do certain things, I took a few pictures of the taquito-making process.

When cooking your meat, make sure you break up any large pieces. This will allow you to roll the flautas tighter. They should be skinner than a traditional enchilada.

Place a line of meat at one end of the warmed tortilla, leaving a small edge.




Fold the edge over the meat and begin rolling. This may seem easy, but it can be tricky to get the tortilla rolled tightly.



Place the tortilla, seam down on a greased cookie sheet. You want to make sure there is a little space between the taquitos so they cook evenly. As long as you make sure the pan is oiled, you will not have to turn over the flautas when cooking.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Homemade Butter

While poking around the internet for various things, I found this blog entry for homemade butter. Needless to say, after drooling profusely, I bookmarked it and have made it my life's goal (this week at least) to try to do this myself. Yum and yum.

Of course, I thought it would be a nice gesture to share the link with all of you. Enjoy!

Homemade Butter from Little House in the Suburbs

Friday, October 24, 2008

Breakfast at our House

Breakfast is supposed to be the most important meal of the day, but most weekdays, at my house, it is very rushed or ignored all together. When my oldest two were small, I had a rule that they could not leave the house in the morning until they ate "something". Over the years I relaxed that rule & by the time the next two started school the "rule" was a distant memory.

I've recently been trying to get everyone eating "something" first thing in the mornings again. Some days it is a planned and organized meal, but most of the time it is something simple, like English muffins with butter & jelly or even a sandwich bag of dry cereal on their way out to the bus stop. I tried buying frozen waffles & while the kids like them, they are pricey & we always seem to waste almost as many as get eaten. I haven't been motivated enough to make my own waffles & freeze them, but it is something I've started to consider.

We've discovered a few recipes from the Lots of Kids Recipe page (great resource) that are big hits for breakfast and are always on the look out for more. This French Toast sounds delicious, it is on my list of things to try. I also found a recipe for Overnight Casserole that we will be having one cold morning in the near future. Oatmeal Casserole is easy to make the night before & has been a big hit, the little kids & I eat any leftovers as snack cake with our lunch. I also created an Apple & Oatmeal Casserole version of my own.

The kids were resistant at first, now they are eager to get up in the morning to see what I've got cooking. Breakfast really may be the most important meal of the day.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fun Cake Ideas for Children

While I enjoy cooking and consider myself a good cook, I do not consider myself a gourmet or fancy cook. One of the things I want to learn in this life is how to decorate cakes. Even with my lack of ability I can turn out some cute cakes in my opinion. Sometimes things just take some creativity.

For her fifth birthday a couple of years ago, my daughter Cara wanted a doughut cake. Um .. yeah. I was trying to figure out how to do that one. Then I came across this idea.


I used a spring-form pan for the cake. That created my hole in the center. Pouring the cake batter in a greased, round pan with an oven-safe glass (also greased) in the middle would work too. I then heated some chocolate frosting (I am terrible at frosting a cake) and poured it over the finished cake. Adding the candy sprinkles gave it the finishing touch. I then just decorated the plate (an old microwave plate-carousel-thing) with other doughnuts. The worst part was keeping out little fingers. If you look at the swipe in the front, I didn't quite manage that.

For Cara's & Joanna's joint party this past summer, one wanted a chocolate cake with worms and the other a garden cake. I went with cupcakes and came up with this cute idea to appease both girls. I used Mike & Ikes as well as gumdrops for the petals. The gumdrop petals were cut in half top-to-bottom. The boys at the party loved the worms while the pretty flowers appealed to the girls. Everyone was happy and achieved a sugar rush.

For a dirt and worm cake in the past I have also used pretzel sticks for twigs, Whoppers for rocks and crushed Oreos for dirt. Gummy worms and bugs add the finishing touches. I also had the children decorate the cake themselves as a party activity. This was their masterpiece. They were so proud.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Taco Cornbread Pizza

Like most families, I am always in search of new, quick and easy recipes. I stumbled upon the recipe for taco cornbread pizza a couple of years ago, and just recently found it again when searching my hard drive. Essentially, it is taco pizza with a cornbread crust. This sounded interesting to me and certain worth a try. What I wasn't expecting was how really good it was. The cornbread makes a wonderful crust. You could use any type of taco filling. The seasoned beef worked well. Another good thing about this dish is that you can get away with using less cheese than on a traditional pizza.

Here is a picture of the finished crust.



Here's a picture of the finished pizza.



This dish was so filling. 1 or 2 pieces was more than enough for everyone, even our big eaters. The recipe is listed below. When I made it, I used a mexican cheese blend instead of strictly cheddar. When I make it again, the only change would be that I would make the taco meat a little saucier. But otherwise, this one is a keeper! Note: I doubled the recipe when making the above-pizza.




Taco Cornbread Pizza

Ingredients:
1 (8.5 ounce) package corn muffin mix
1 pound ground beef
1 package taco mix
1 package shredded Cheddar, divided

Directions: Prepare corn muffin mix as directed on the package. Spread batter into a 12-inch pizza pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Brown meat; drain. Stir taco seasoning into the meat. Sprinkle half the cheese over baked crust. Top with meat mixture and remaining cheese. Bake for 4 to 5 minutes until cheese is melted. Serve with lettuce, onions, black olives, tomatoes and salsa or hot sauce. Serves 8.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Getting the kids to help

My four youngest kids all LOVE to help in the kitchen. They are 10, 8, 3 & 1. It can be hard to find things for the 3 yr old & the 1 yr old to do, but they enjoy helping so much that I'm always on the look out for simple tasks for them. The 3 yr old's favorite kitchen activity is stirring. She is actually pretty good at it. Yesterday I was making breakfast and needed to mix for an extended amount of time because my brown sugar was lumpy, I turned the bowl over to her & she was thrilled to spend 5 minutes stirring it. Bending over is not my favorite thing to do, my 1 yr old is much closer to the floor than I am, so anytime I need something from the bottom cabinet or I drop something on the floor & need it picked up, she gets the job. She is also GREAT at throwing away empty packaging.

My 8 yr old struggles a little with math and has recently started fractions. Measuring ingredients for a recipe & talking about all the different ways we could make 1 cup with the measuring cups we have is one of the fun & practical ways I've found to help her understand fractions. She considers it a challenge to figure out how to double a recipe. She's also gotten very good at cracking eggs. When she is helping me cook, it never crosses her mind that we are doing math, but she seems to be having less and less trouble with fractions every day.

My 10 yr old son is proficient enough with the microwave that he often makes lunch for himself & his siblings on the weekends. This is NOT a chore he has been assigned, rather it is something he enjoys that we allow. Just in the last few months I have been allowing him to cook on the stove as long as I am in the kitchen with him.....he is sooooo proud of himself. Today he made scrambled eggs all on his own while I watched.

I spend a LOT of time in the kitchen, having the kids helping me means that I also get to spend that much more time interacting with them.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Be Flexible!

If there's nothing else a LOK mom has to learn...it's be to FLEXIBLE! There are just too many factors in how a day goes that can effect the outcome. Like Denise in her post here a meal plan always helps make meal prep easier. Yeah, unless you're me and here's why (semi cross posted on my food blog today)

OK...I'm not a dummy...I know to take the meat out of the freezer WELL before you plan to use it. But do I? Nooooo! Not me, I have to ignore all the plans I made and muck things up.

My original plan was to have...

Tuesday... Bacon wrapped wild turkey breast, sauteed mixed veggies, stuffing
Wednesday... Rice and bean burritos
Thursday... Spaghetti with vodka sauce
Friday... BBQ venison sandwiches
Saturday... Chicken and gravy over rice or biscuits

It was well into Tuesday afternoon when I realized the turkey breast was still in the freezer! It was solid as a rock when it should've been thrown into the oven, covered in it's lovely bacon'ness. I grabbed it out of the freezer and threw it into the fridge figuring we'd have it for dinner on Wednesday instead. For good measure I grabbed some hunks of venison out to defrost for Friday's dinner. Yeah me! :o)

So what to have for dinner? I grabbed a gallon baggie of chicken and stock out of the freezer and threw it in a pot. After it thawed out a bit I realized it probably wasn't enough for everyone so grabbed another bag. Pat was here and was excited...it's his favorite. He made sure to walk out the door with a plate of it. Now what to serve it over? Not enough potatoes. Rice? We were suppose to have rice the next day so I didn't really want to go in that direction. Bread...I'd made 4 loaves of bread the day before and overcooked them just a tad. They weren't burnt, just dark. It was perfect for soaking up the delicious gravy. Dinner saved!

I even have enough chicken and gravy to make potpies. This morning the turkey breast still seemed a bit solid so I decided we'd make the potpies instead. I was going to cheat and use the last few boxes of packaged pie crust in the freezer. But again, they were still abit frozen when I wanted to make the pies. I don't really feel like making rice and burritos like I orignally planned (besides...no cheese or sour cream....blah!) So back into the freezer I go again...VODKA SAUCE!!! Within no time I was warming up the sauce and cooking Penne. Dinner saved again!

So we had Saturday's dinner on Tuesday, eating Thursday's dinner on Wednesday and having Tuesday's dinner on Thursday.

Yep, it's a good thing I make meal plans or I'd be going crazy at night trying to come up with meals! ROFL!

So let's see what the mix-up did...

Tuesday... Chicken and gravy over bread
Wednesday... Vodka sauce over Penne
Thursday... Bacon wrapped wild turkey breasts
Friday... BBQ Venison Sandwiches
Saturday... Figure it out later, might go grocery shopping

The funny thing, since I wrote out this latest menu, I've stopped by Walmart to get a few things. The way things are looking right now I'm not so confident Friday and Saturday will stay within the plan either!

Batch cooking continued

Christina/Mommy Scott asked what I do with the bacon and chicken when I batch cook. I started to write a response in the comments section but it was getting long. I decided to do short 2nd post about it.

Bacon is such a pain to cook. I like to cook as much of it as I can while I'm making a mess. Now that I've found the joy of baking bacon I don't mind cooking it. It's still nice to have a bunch of it ready for quick BLT sandwiches or to throw into a dish (because bacon makes EVERYTHING taste better lol) Cover a cookie sheet with foil, if you have a rack that fits on your cookie sheet it's even better healthwise to cook the bacon up off the cooking surface and melted fat. If not just lay out the bacon on the cookie sheet and throw in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 mins depending on how crunchy you like it. Allow to drain on paper towels, a paper bag or clean newspaper. After drained and cooled just throw it in a baggie and then into the freezer. They usually don't stick together to much and are easy to separate if they do.

Chicken can be done multiple ways. Mostly I boil the pieces (or whole chickens), cool and debone. This works great for leg quarters and thighs. The advantage to this method is that you also end up with stock to add to the deboned chicken which makes awesome chicken and gravy or chicken noodle soup. I also throw the deboned chicken into a baggie and freeze in a lump for BBQ chicken sandwiches, fajitas or a quick throw in for other chicken dishes.

I have to say that boneless skinless chicken breasts don't really lend themselves well to precooking as they dry out if you're not careful. When I do them, I brown a huge bunch, leaving it still a little pink and wet in the center. Slice into strips and package up. Heating up the strips finishes the cooking process.

Bone in breasts go quickly in the oven. Bake like normal, strip the meat off the bone and slice into strips. If you're worried that the freezer will dry out the strips, freeze the whole breast and then slice after thawing. Whichever is easier for you. Since that's what we're after....ease.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Leftovers

My 13 year old son once said that leftovers are left over for a reason. Hardy-har-har ... He is such a funny kid. There are some leftovers that never seem to have a problem disappearing. Cold pizza moves real fast as does leftover stuffing. It is the other leftovers like bits of meat or vegetables that are not as good at the disappearing act.

I have heard different ideas for giving leftovers a makeover. One is freezer soup. I tried that once. I put all bits of meat, sauce, gravy and vegetables in a washed-out ice cream bucket in the freezer. Then when it was full I made what I called Leftover Soup. It is a good idea, but a flop with my family. What do you do with leftover leftover soup?

I pureed it and made baby food out of it actually. My youngest loved it. That leftover makeover works better in our house. Remaining fruits, vegetables and meats become baby food either individually or combined.

Another way to use up leftovers is create a new dish. Bits of meat and/or vegetables also are good when used in fried rice. Fried Rice is a good leftover-user-upper meal. I have used up leftover scrambled eggs, crushed pineapple, peas & carrots, onions, ham among other things. It is a quick and easy dish not mention low cost.

I also use soups but not saving over time like the above freezer method. Baked potatoes become Baked Potato soup which is loaded with all the extra toppings of bacon, cheese and sour cream. Did you know that pureed cooked cauliflower resembles mashed potatoes and substiutes or adds nicely to potato soups? Leftover broccoli becomes a Broccoli and Cheddar Soup. Rice, chicken and cooked carrots become Chicken & Rice Soup. Sloppy Joes and some extra beans can mix with more vegetables to become a Beef and Vegetable Soup.

Another use for leftover mashed potatoes, green beans and/or sloppy joes is Shepherd's Pie. Leftover taco meat and refried beans can be combined with other ingredients (i.e. tomato sauce, kidney beans) to make a thick chili for chili dogs or Frito Pie. Leftover grilled steak or chicken is good in salads, fajitas or alfredo. Leftover roast is shredded to become barbeque sandwiches or toppings for chalupas or in burritos. Leftover spaghetti sauce can become pizza, goulash or part of a chili.

Breads work well too using up leftovers. I have made potato bread with leftover mashed potatoes. What about that half can of pumpkin left? Add it to muffins or pancakes with a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg and ground cloves. I have pureed fruits creeping past their prime to add to waffles or muffins.

Using up leftovers creatively keeps down the mutiny over the same thing for three days but the food bill as well. The biggest problem I have now with leftovers is when I want there to be leftovers (like for my lunch) there aren't. I am still working on how to overcome that problem.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Meal planning

I've recently started writing down a weekly menu. People have recommended this idea to me in the past as a way to save money, but I was resistant.

When I did daycare in my home, I belonged to a food program that provided menus to use for my daycare kids. I HATED it. I did try to stick to them. I was religious about writing in my changes, but it was a total chore & often made doing my job more stressful. The food program claimed I would save money by sticking to their menu, but for me that was never the case. I was always running to the store to pick up things to fit the menu & of course a few extra things just because I was there.

The Lots of Kids Household board has convinced me to give it another try. I could never use one of those services that provides a menu for you, my family is just too picky. Instead, each week when I see the thread about everyone elses menu, I take stock of what is in the house and come up with a dinner menu for the week for my picky family. I do not use my menu to shop, my rule is that I must already have 95% of what is needed for a particular dinner or it doesn't go on the menu. I also allow myself to shift things from one day to another as needed & even make modifications if I just don't feel like whatever I have put on the menu for that day.

Here is the menu I came up with on Monday:
Monday...hamburger & rice (like a stir fry with no veggies)
Tuesday...baked chicken & baked potatoes
Wednesday...pulled pork
Thursday...Tacos
Friday...potluck for the new rector, don't know what I'm taking
Saturday...baked beans w/ground beef
Sunday...pancakes & sausage


Now for our reality so far....
Monday...hamburger & rice
Tuesday...baked beans w/ground beef (moved from Saturday)
Wednesday...chicken strips and baked potatoes (modified & moved from Tuesday)
Thursday...pulled pork (moved from Wednesday)
Friday...still don't know what I'm taking to the potluck
Saturday...Tacos (moved from Thursday)
Sunday...pancakes & sausage.


While I didn't stick to the original days, I did not throw in the towel & order pizza like I might have in the past. I also have only been to the store once this week & all I bought was bbq sauce, milk, bread & butter!!!! Maybe someday I will have it all together enough to actually make up a menu before going shopping & buy only the things needed for my menu. For now, I only buy meat that is on sale & stock up on it when the sales are really good. I buy staples that I know my family will eat with whatever is left & I do my best to limit my grocery store trips to not more than twice a month. I think it is helping financially, but prices are rising so quickly that I'm not getting the reward of "extra money" I had hoped for when I started this. It makes me shudder to think how far underwater we would be if I were still going to the grocery store every other day & buying whatever sounded good at the time regardless of whether it was on sale.

Monday, October 6, 2008

LOK Kitchen Challenge! $10/$15 for a Day.

As was discussed on the LOK Full House blog, we have been doing a little re-tooling of our bi-monthly challenge. It will now include general kitchen challenges, as well as cooking assignments. However, to help promote our new blog here at LOK, our first kitchen challenge will be a cooking one!

This challenge was inspired by this blog posting at CookingWithAnne.com. Anne previously co-hosted the Cooking Challenge, and definitely worth reading. In her most recent entry, Anne talks about the current KFC promotion where families are challenged to feed their family of 4 a comparable meal for under $10. Most frugal moms can feed their family on $10 a day! So that is the goal of the challenge. On a budget of $10, feed a family of 4 for a day. Now, since this is a large family blog, we understand that many of our readers will have 6 or more in their family. So, we will up the amount to $15 for families with 4 or more children.

The meals must include breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast and lunch can be one-dish, but dinner must include a main course and sides. You do not have to include drinks in your budget. Since all dishes are factored into the KFC ad, you must account for everything other than "prepping" staples like seasoning, flour, etc.

Participants should post in the comments section with a link to your entry. If you don't have a web-presence, email us at lotsofkids123[at]aol.com with info for your submission and we'll post it for you.

Contest ends October 31st, with the winner announced November 5th!

For more general information on the LOK Kitchen Challenge, as well as to grab banners to put your website, click HERE.

So, are you up to the challenge? Good luck!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Hi!!! I'm Denise


Since I'm new, I'll start with an introduction. My name is Denise and I am a Mom with 6 kids. I've been married to my high school sweetheart for 22 years. Our oldest is 21, married with his own baby. Our kids still at home are 18, 10, 8, 3 and 1. I've always encouraged my kids to be individuals, but one of the unexpected side effects of that encouragement has been that I have very picky eaters. Unfortunately for me most of them are picky about different things from the others. It can make for some really interesting meals. I try to be accomodating, but I am not above telling whomever reminds me that they "don't eat" whatever I've just put on the table that they are free to fend for themselves or starve.

It seems like I've been cooking my entire life. I grew up the oldest kid in a single Mom household, so cooking fell to me from an early age. By the time I was 10, I was regularly making dinner most nights. We didn't have a microwave and most convenience foods were not in our budget, so I learned to cook mostly from scratch. The Betty Crocker Cookbook was my best friend and the crockpot was one of my favorite tools. I still use them both at least a couple times a week.

Although I don't have to rely on them to cook for the family, I have also taught my kids to cook from a young age. Stirring batter for cookies or even pancakes is a favorite toddler activity in our house. Even the one yr old gets into the act. Cooking together gives us quality time and they feel a great sense of accomplishment when they see the finished product.

Next time I'll share some of my strategies for accomodating picky eaters and some fun easy things to do with the kids in the kitchen.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Get it done ahead of time!


Hi! I'm Kim, mom to 12 kids with 10 of them currently living at home. I love cooking and baking but having to do it EVERY day for this many people can squelch that love pretty quick. One of the things that saves my sanity when it comes to feeding my crew is batch cooking.


Batch cooking doesn't take much more time to do then a single dish. Besides the ingredients, the only things required are bigger bowls or pans. I hardly ever make cookies without mixing up an industrial sized recipe which is usually equal to a quadruple batch. With this I bake enough for my family to enjoy for a few days. The remaining dough then gets doled out into cookie size dollops compactly placed on a cookie sheet. The filled cookie sheet then heads to the freezer for a quick freeze (about an hour). Once the individual cookie dough balls are firm they are then thrown into a freezer bag and back into the freezer. The hard thing is trying to keep your paws off the balls of frozen dough...YUM!

One of my favorite things to batch cook is ground beef. On those nights when you're trying to think of what to make at 5pm (I know, I should use a weekly menu plan to avoid this) being able to pull a baggie of cooked burger out of the freezer is a lifesaver. Half the meal is already done! It's so easy to do too. After bringing in the groceries I throw my megapack (5lbs or more) of burger into my biggest frying pan to cook. Then start putting groceries away...pausing a few times to give the burger a stir. By the time the groceries are put away my burger is cooked, ready to be drained, baggied up into meal size portions and thrown into the freezer. This means tacos, chili, stroganoff, and meat sauce are only minutes away. Ground beef isn't the only meat I do this with...sausage, chicken and even bacon lends itself to this. Warning...the bacon is apt to disappear quickly for some reason. (those pesky sticky fingers!!!)

This method can be used for specific dishes also. Make an extra big batch of chili, freeze half for another meal or use as an ingredient in another dish like Chili Corn Dog Casserole. My pot of chicken and gravy usually is enough for 2 meals and then becomes chicken noodle soup later in the week. This unfortunately can bring my kids to groan about having the "never ending pot of chicken and gravy" AGAIN! The poor babies.

I'd love to hear your shortcuts and time savers. How many meals can you make from one particular dish?

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Kim is a mom to 12 kids ages 24 to 1yo. When she's not in the kitchen she can be found blogging at her personal site Musing Rambling and All Around Blathering or her slightly neglected food site Growlies for the Gang