Cooking INSANITY! (June 12)

by sarahmfry, June 24, 2008
I finally did it! I took the plunge and tried "Once A Month Cooking." I had been planning it for quite awhile, splitting the shopping trips up here and there. But finding an entire day to just COOK proved to be the most challenging part.

Once A Month Cooking is a book that gives you several plans for cooking (and freezing) 30 meals in one day. They told me it would be about 9 hours of cooking on cooking day. I had hoped they meant for inexperienced cooks, and they were exaggerating. They weren't! I doesn't matter now experienced you are. Thirty meals in one day is just downright exhausting.

I got most of the meat for good prices at Meijer. It took at least one other trip to get the bulk of the other ingredients.

I had already assembled a few of the meals before cooking day because of the ingredients involved. Cooking day was long...but not impossible. I just had to keep at it. I have very little counter space, so I pulled the kitchen table over by my tiny little counter to use as close work space.
Lots of meat thawing on the stove....
Spices and ingredients laid out, ready to go!

The end result? I LOVE IT! My freezer is full of healthy meals. I don't have to rush or worry about what to fix. I have meals ready to go if I need to take food to someone. I was a little worried that all the new recipes would be overwhelming to my traditional eaters. But so far, every recipe has been a hit. The Shish Kebobs were the only challenging dish. But that is because it involved vegetables that are new to them. I didn't force the issue, and let them pick and choose off the kebobs what they wanted. The only rule: No complaining! Then I cooked up the remaining marinated meat for fajitas for today's lunch.

Do I plan to do it again? Without a doubt! I'd do a few things differently, though. The book suggests that you do your shopping the day before cooking day. I did some of my shopping early. This made some challenges for freezing the meat. I was also a little nervous that the dates on my cheeses and such would run out before I got to the day. It turned out fine, though. The best way to avoid this is to buy the meat fresh (not frozen) and keep it in the fridge a day or two until your cooking day. The reason? Many of the meals are assembled, not cooked. You need to add marinades and the like before freezing the raw meat, ready to cook. You definately need to xerox the (very easy and organized) shopping list so you can mark all over it. I did some substitutions and needed to record those. Plus it helped keep shopping simple to mark through items as I went.

Freezer space? Not a problem. I have teensy side-by-side freezer. You freeze most of the meals flat in freezer bags. And those plastic 3-cup containers from Aldis. You do need to start with a pretty empty freezer, though. Don't buy ice cream or a quarter beef until you've used up some of your delicious meals.

I have more pictures, but they're not loaded yet onto the computer. I'm planning to do reviews of the recipes as I go. So far, so good! It was completely and totally worth the 9 hours of cooking.

Here's the recipe lineup. The items in parenthesis are suggested sides. I love this, because it jump starts me for ideas and gets me a little out of my steamed broccoli rut. I haven't used the really strange suggestions yet. But it's a brain starter for me.

Once-A-Month Cooking Plan E

Split Pea Soup * (orange and apple slices)
Chili Dogs * (Winter fruit salad)
Jack Burgers * (Greek Pasta Salad)
Deborah’s Sweet-and-Sour Chicken * (Sauteed Apples with Thyme; steamed broccoli tossed with toasted sesame seeds)
French Stew * (Tossed green salad with Creamy Dressing*; French Bread)
Shish Kebabs * (Corn on the cob; Erica’s Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies)
Chicken and Rice Pilaf * (tomato caprese; baked asparagus)
Grandma’s Chili * (multigrain rolls; cottage cheese with pineapple chunks and mandarin orange slices)
Crustless Spinach Quiche * (Fresh sliced tomatoes)
Grilled Ham Slices * (Corn on the cob with chili Butter*)
Green Chile Enchiladas * (shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, avocados)
Chicken a la King * (fresh-baked asparagus; red grapes or melon slices)
Slow Cooker Cranberry Pork * (Sweet Potatoes)
Oriental Chicken * (sautéed napa cabbage; egg rolls; fortune cookies)
Marinated Flank Steak * Cauliflower Mock Potato Salad
Three-Bean Taco Chili * (Bed of corn chips; Spicy Grilled Pineapple)
Sicilian Meat Roll * (Eggplant sauteed with zucchini, tossed green salad with Creamy Dressing)
Dawn’s Lasagna * (Ceasar salad and Asparagus Italiano)
Italian Shepherd’s Pie * (Artichoke Hearts)
Southwestern Chicken Soup * (Watermelon salad*)
Rosie’s Meat Loaf * (Twice-baked Sweet Potatoes; broccoli)
Baked Beans and Hamburger * (corn on the cob; tossed green salad)
Glazed Ham * (Spaghetti Squash; green beans)
Bird’s Nest Pie * (apple spinach salad)
Chicken Tetrazzini * (Gingered Carrots; chocolate cake)
French Dip * (Waldorf salad; carrot strips)
Lemon Chicken * (cucumber salad; rasted grape Tomatoes*)
Grilled Salmon * (Greek Pasta Salad)
Mexican Stroganoff * (Tomatoes Caprese)

Many of the recipes are big enough to 2 meals for our family of 5. I split some of them, but I think if I had it to do over I'd split almost all of them. I'd rather get 2 full meals than one with leftovers.

I also love that the recipes use a huge variety of herbs and spices for seasoning. They are very tasteful, without being weird. I think it will help a little towards stretching the tastebuds of kids (and hubby).

Oh! I almost forgot to mention....the book also has plans for cooking 2 weeks' worth of meals, if you're not up for a month.

Anyone else tried this plan or something similar? This sure takes the idea of browning hamburger and freezing for later up a notch. I'd like to hear your experiences.


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