Once A Month Cooking – A few Highlights from Bulk Cooking

The amount of food a family with 10 kids goes through is…..REEEEEEdicuLOUS!  Seriously, I shock myself.


And a example of some of what the 2nd refrigerator looks like:



My younger girls (9 and 10 yrs old) made 35 burritos in assembly line fashion.  It was a huge accomplishment for them.  They were thrilled with all the stacks of burritos until they figured up that it would barely be 2 meals for our family. We should have bought bigger tortillas.  If we add Mexican rice, salad, chips, we can get two meals!  Yay! That will have to work because we ran out of beans.  More on the burritos later.

My mom found me these awesome restaurant size pans that work great for our lasagnas and casseroles.  I put two lasagnas in them for two meals. That makes 3 1/2 feet of LASAGNA!


For the lasagna, it took 3 boxes of noodles, 2 Costco size tubs of cottage cheese, 8 eggs, a lot of sauce, 3 lbs of cheese and bunch of Italian spices.  My 16 year old made this amazing sauce.


The Mother Load Spaghetti Sauce:

  • 1 and 1/2 jumbo cans of Tomato Sauce.  The number 10 cans! NEXT TIME: we will use two #10 cans
  • 2 chopped onions
  • Several minced garlic cloves
  • 1 Costco size container of mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 chopped bell peppers (sautéed together with the onions, mushrooms, garlic)
  • Lots of Italian spices (basil, oregano, salt, pepper)
  • Cayenne pepper- a few shakes
  • 3 shredded carrots
  • 1 cup of red wine… or two. ;-)
  • 5 lbs of ground hamburger (we could make with ground turkey and it would cost less)

And please note:  She doesn’t measure so beware!  Your mileage may vary!

Make sure you let your sauce cool off a bit before adding the cheese on top or else you will end up with a melted mass.  After the cheese, I garnish with a few shakes of parsley on top.  Then, I wrapped the top of the pan with plastic wrap first, then foil.  Sometimes the tomato sauce reacts with the foil and leaves holes in the foil and aluminum on your food.  So I first wrap with either wax paper or plastic wrap.  Remember to take if off  and just leave the foil on top before you put it in the oven!!!!!!!

Ok, so after the lasagnas, we put together a corn casserole, ham and cheese bake, Mexican stroganoff, meatloaf and rolls.

Not only is it a lot of food,  it is a lot of work managing that amount of food in a regular kitchen.  We are slowing trudging through but it looks like this will be taking days to get 30 mega sized meals in the freezer!  It is sorta depressing, overwhelming and exciting all at the same time.

22 Quart Roaster Oven Vegetable Tomato Juice

wpid-img_20150506_131331.jpgLast year, our tomato plants in the garden went crazy and provided us with hundreds of tomatoes.  We were so overwhelmed with tomatoes that I started freezing them whole.

In addition to our Once a Month Cooking meals we are preparing, my 22 quart roaster oven is simmering full of garden tomatoes.  The smell wafting through the house is Amazing!

I added some of the celery, onion, carrot and garlic scraps from our efforts this morning to the mix.

And don’t forget the salt!

This roaster oven has come in quite handy over the years.  It has cooked a Thanksgiving turkey, rendered lard and now is simmering a bulk amount of vegetable juice that will be perfect for soups and stews!




Freezer Meals For A Month Marathon

We are going crazy this week planning and preparing freezer meals for a month! ….for a family of 12!! Monday was a planning day.  The girls and I made up a fancy tea tray and headed to the back porch with cookbooks, note pads and computers  in hand.  We spent several hours quadrupling recipes and putting together a plan for a big shopping trip.

Tuesday was shopping day.  We hit two stores: Costco and Aldi.  When comparing prices, these stores have the items I need for the best prices.  Aldi does often comes in cheaper than Costco.  I just have to buy multiples of the smaller items.  Aldi did beat Costco this week on butter, eggs, bread, pasta, and many fruits and vegies.  Instead of one large box of eggs at Costco for $9.99, I bought the same amount of eggs for $7.63 at Aldi!  Pasta was a similar scenario.  Costco’s price per pound on pasta was around $1.09.  Aldi was .$89 cents.  Costco does have many quality items in the size and at the price I need.  Organic Coffee, sour cream, cottage cheese, No. 10 cans, organic sugar, organic coconut oil, olive oil, boxes of fruit and awesome monthly deals.  I often stock up on their coupon deals which helps stock the pantry at a price that is unbeatable.  Can you say, ” Costco is awesome!” O.k., so we finished up a big day of shopping, loading, unloading and putting away our massive load.

Wednesday we got started! So here we go.  We have stroganoff, burritos, lasagna,  burgers, chicken soup, casseroles and more to get going.  It used to take me 7 hours to do once a month cooking for a family of 5.  I am anxious to find out how long it takes to prepare 30 meals for a family of 12! So stay tuned!


Plan To Eat Meal Planning Tool

If you have made a New Year’s resolution that has anything to do with cooking healthy, loosing weight, regaining control over meal planning, saving money by cooking at home etc.etc.  I think the Plan to Eat meal planning tool would help you!

I’ve been using Plan to Eat for a while now and love it.

The monthly meal planner is at the heart of Plan to Eat. Easily drag recipes from your recipe book to create your meal plan, and then add additional ingredients, events and notes. You can also change the number of servings, easily view and print recipes and export your meal plan to other calendar programs to sync your meal plan with your schedule.  You can keep up with calorie intake and serving sizes as well.

It is super easy to plan a month of meals in very little time.  The dragging and dropping and instant ability to rearrange on a calendar is awesome.  My other favorite feature is the ability to instantly import a recipe I find on the Internet by using the handy dandy quick import to recipe book button that I installed on my tool bar.  It is sorta like a Pinterest “Pin It” button only it “pins” the new recipe I found to my recipe book quickly and easily for later use.


Here’s how it works:

  • Extensive, Custom Recipe Book: You create an online recipe book that has recipes that you import from websites, blogs or  you can input them from your cookbooks or recipe box.  You can see nutritional values, change serving sizes automatically (which is a huge plus for our big family), and all the recipes are searchable and can be tagged (like Mexican dishes, Easy lunches, vegetarian, soups etc.).  It also keeps track of how often you have planned that specific food or recipe.  Tired of having lasagna 3 times a week… you can easily space out your meals and try new things because you can quickly drag and drop.
  • Drag and Drop Meal Planner: Quickly drag and drop recipes over to your calendar in the breakfast, lunch, supper and snack.  You can also add individual ingredients, notes and events to your calendar.   I love the ability to visually see our week and quickly drag recipes, notes, events to different days on the calendar.  I can also quickly delete and rearrange items.
  • Automated Shopping List Maker: Immediately creates your shopping list!  The shopping list based is created from your meal plan.  I go through my shopping list and put anything that I already have back in to my pantry by clicking ” To Pantry”.
  • Lots of cool features like “cook from the pantry” options.  I can also import items into my pantry and then click the cook from my pantry option and have it pull recipes from my recipe book that I can make based on what ingredients I have.  It will also tell me what recipes I could almost make…like missing 1 ingredient to make Chicken Pasta or missing 2 ingredients to make Banana Bread.
  • Mobile Ready: I love, LOVE this feature!!!  Have a iPhone or Android other smart phone?  Plan To Eat is mobile ready!  Easy shopping list right off your phone from your meal plan.  I check off my grocery shopping list right on my phone.  If I run across an ingredient that I am unsure of what recipe it is for and why I need it, it cross references the ingredients with the recipes those ingredients are used in.  So you can click on the ingredient you need to buy and it will tell you which meals you are using that ingredient in.
  • Share your recipe book with friends…. socially interactive.  I can share my recipe book or a portion of my recipes with other friends.  Neat tool to try out other recipes and interact with other meal planners.
  • They have a free month trial so you can try it out!  After that it is $39 for the year or $4.95 a month.  You can also earn credit for referring people who end up using Plan To Eat.
  • They have a useful blog.  They post interesting recipes on their blog and great cooking tips.

I’ve found it very helpful in saving me time and allowing me to almost effortlessly plan a large menu for a large family with minimal time.  The biggest time investment is in the beginning when you make your recipe book.  Once you get a basic recipe book put together…you’re good to go!   Great tool for getting your daughters involved in meal planning and grocery shopping.  My daughter uses Plan To Eat often to plan meals, look up recipes and add new recipes she finds.

The Plan To Eat meal planning tool has made meal planning quick,  fun and enjoyable.  Check it out here:  Plan to Eat


You can take a virtual tour of the meal planning tool and learn all about it on their website.


Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

Cold and Flu Natural Remedies from the Kitchen

Cold and Flu season is no fun.  It seems like everyone is hacking and coughing.  I want to wear a hazmat suit when I am out in public to protect myself against the swarm of flu bugs in the air.

If or when the cold and flu catch up to me, I like to use my kitchen as the greatest weapon to combat the plague’s ugliness.

In addition using herbs, tinctures, infusions and oils, I like to use food to kick start and support the body’s natural immune system with foods as well.  One way I do this is by cooking cold and flu fighting foods.  Top on my list:

Chicken Broth:

Chicken soup slows down and inhibits inflammation caused by infections.  It thins secretions and helps keep everything moving.  Hot chicken broth calms coughing and soothes a sore throat.  It’s the ultimate sick comfort food!

The best way that I have found to prepare good chicken broth is using a crockpot or stove pot and cooking a whole chicken in water with lots of herbs and spices:  sage, garlic, onion, thyme, salt, pepper.  You can even throw in some powerful immune building Astragalus root and let it simmer all day.  I like to use my crockpot for this job by dumping everything in the crockpot overnight.  By morning, you will have a nice, rich, chicken broth you can strain off in a separate pot and you will have tender chicken you can pick off the bones.

To make chicken soup:  add vegetables to your broth and the chopped chicken.  Don’t forget the onions and garlic!

You should always keep chicken broth on hand for those times when you are sick and can’t make your own broth.  It’s always a great idea to have carton or canned broth quickly and easily available.  I buy organic chicken broth from Costco where it comes 6 cartons in one case.  It is easy to use, stores well and has an excellent, whole foods taste without the preservatives and after taste that most commercial chicken broths have.


Fresh lemons squeezed into hot tea are not only soothing to a sore throat and irritable cough, but they provide good, raw, needed Vitamin C to help fight off nasty bugs.

Hot Tea:

Make and consume hot tea often during a flu bug.  It’s very important to consume lots of fluid while you are sick.  Hot tea is a perfect fluid and the hotness aids in giving much needed relief from pesky cold symptoms.  I prefer hot herbal teas.  I use fresh or loose dry herbs like peppermint, echinacea, elderflower, elderberry, yarrow, rose hips, ginseng to make immune system builder teas.  Sweeten with honey.  Raw honey is especially useful for fighting off colds and flu.


Love it or hate it, you should befriend Garlic.  It is a miracle food!  Garlic has incredible viral and bacterial fighting abilities.  Taking a over the counter garlic pill isn’t going to cut it though.  I’m talking about using the real deal.  The garlic cloves that you peel and crush..that kind of garlic.  If I am really sick, I consume raw garlic that I have crushed by taking on a spoon smothered in honey and chased with a drink of water or juice.  I do that several times a day.  Other ways you can get down crushed garlic is by putting it in your chicken soup or putting in on bread and toasting it.  These are much more pleasant ways to take it.  Garlic works.  My only caution is not to consume garlic on an empty stomach.  It will cause great gastric discomfort.  Eat it with food!  There is a world of great information about garlic’s antiviral and antibacterial effectiveness on the internet.  Read to your heart’s delight.


Pure wildflower honey is a miracle food that should not be overlooked.  I contains vitamins, minerals, enzymes as well as antibiotic agents and antimicrobial compounds.  It is perfect for sweetening hot herbal teas and helping to get garlic down.  In the book, Herbal Antibiotics by Stephen Buhner, ”  Honey is also exceptionally effective in respiratory ailments.  A Bulgarian study…found that honey was effective in improving chronic bronchitis, asthmatic bronchitis, bronchial asthma, chronic and allergic rhinitis, and sinusitis.  It is effective in the treatment of colds, flu, respiratory infections, and general depressed immune problems.”

I have found the best place to purchase honey is from farmers in my local area during the summer or fall months when it is readily available.  I have also found good quality raw honey from Whole Foods, however, it is quite a bit more expensive.  I have also ordered it off of Vitacost of a fraction of the price of Whole Foods.

Here are just a few ideas to help you combat the cold and flu bugs going around.  Good Luck!

Doctor Up Plain Hearty Veggie Beef Soup Tips

With these few tips, you can turn a bland veggie soup into something hearty and tasty.  Here are some basics that will help get your veggie beef soup off to a good start.

  1. Start with sauteing chopped onion and minced garlic with butter in the bottom of the soup pot.  This will add a punch of flavor!
  2. Or you can cook onion and garlic with hamburger in a skillet to add to the soup later.
  3. You can use sausage for an even richer, fuller flavor.  A mixture of spicy sausage and hamburger make veggie beef soup spectacular!
  4. Use chicken, beef or vegetable broth for the soup base instead of water.
  5. Add V-8 juice.  Adding a bit of V-8 juice gives veggie beef soup a rich hearty flavor.
  6. Add a splash of red wine.  Gourmet cooks use wine in cooking because it adds flavor and complexity.  Veggie beef soup is the perfect dish for a splash of red wine!
  7. Add your uncooked harder vegetables first.  Chopped potatoes and carrots first, frozen corn, peas and green beans next, chopped spinach and chopped cabbage next.
  8. Frozen vegetables rather than canned vegetables make a better tasting soup.
  9. Herbs and spices to use with Veggie Beef Soup:  thyme, basil, bay leaf, salt, pepper

You can take any veggie beef soup recipe and alter it and doctor it up using these tips.  Veggie beef soup is a perfect home cooked meal on a cold winter night.  Serve with Foccocia bread or cornbread.

Click the picture for the link to Taste Of Home.  They have a lot of home cooking recipes that are sure to please!

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