To Better Health and Beyond, Part 1

polar ice shelf

I watched a startling movie that kept me on the edge of my seat. It’s been out a while and I’ve thought about seeing it before, but never made it. Last night, I watched Food, Inc. and it opened my eyes to the realities of food production and how our government is involved. It  prompted me to research our local meat prices.

I’ve been toying with the idea of buying local meat the past few years, but I just couldn’t bring it to myself to pay the outlandish prices. It’s nearly two and half times the amount of conventional meat on sale. However, this movie changed my mind and re-opened the thoughts of buying as much as local foods as my pocketbook can afford.

As the movie shared, the prices of local meats are well worth the cost because of the health factors. Grassfed animals, verses conventional animals, are not tainted with dangerous hormones, antibiotics, and fed genetically modified corn. God made cows to eat grass, not corn. The movie didn’t state that, it was my thought. I nearly cried when a mom shared her story about her son dying from a hamburger with e-coli. No wonder she’s an advocate for passing important laws and fought for Kevin’s Law.

Let’s face it, local meat and produce costs more. You can check out your local foods in your area by googling it the city you live in. WNC has an online local food guide, called ASAP.

I’ve done some research for our local meat at Hickory Nut Gap, in Fairview, NC. It  runs $5 to $6.50 per pound depending on what cut you’re buying. Obviously tenderloin is much more. However, when you buy a box of various meats, which includes, ground beef, roasts and steaks, you get that overall price. I’m going to try the 20# box for $130. A 60# box runs $360 and a quarter cow which ranges 70 to 90# runs $500. My suggestion for buying in bulk is finding a friend or neighbor and split. They also have a CSA, which includes meat, pork and chicken, beginning in June. 15# is $600 for 6 months and 10# is $420, made in 2 installments. This info may help you compare your local town.

Warren Wilson College also sells local meat. Their spring sale has started. It looks like it is $6.25 per pound for steaks, roasts, ground, burgers and kabobs. Check out their order form and WWC Farm. They also sell country breakfast sausage, which sounds good. Several of you could go in together and split. Make comments below if you’re looking for someone to split with.

Will I still freezer cook with bulk local meat? You bet I will. The packages are Krylon sealed so I can take my sweet time cooking and prepping the meat. I will thaw the raw meat in bulk and refreeze the cooked meat. I will still make cooked taco meat and meatballs for convenience. I’m organizing my side by side freezer and my chest freezer to accommodate this meat. Later, I’ll see if we have the space to buy in bigger quantities, perhaps a quarter of a cow or share with someone, hint, hint.

I’ve been making homemade bread for a number of years and I cut out most processed foods, except crackers and cereals. I’m finally trying cracker recipes this year-I’ll keep you posted. This was a small step for us and now taking a more expensive plunge is another step in our journey toward better health.

Freezer cooking is a way for me to implement healthy, homemade foods without preservatives for my family. It began in small ways beginning with muffins and bread, then moved on to casseroles,  snacks and now local meats. Freezer cooking can be a small or big part of your life. Everything you freeze helps in the future. It’s a small way of making your family healthier and saving money.

How could you make your family healthier? What baby step could you take to make this happen TODAY? Please share your ideas, we could all benefit from them.

Post linked to Gratituesday.


Frozen, refrozen, refreeze: USDA Question Answered

 Blue Question Mark

We all have burning questions we’d like to ask the experts. I went straight to the source for mine. I contacted the USDA for the following question, because I’ve done it for years, but I wanted to make sure I was passing along tips that were safe for your family.

Q to USDA:

Is it safe use cooked chicken (previously frozen) in a recipe and refreeze it, if it were frozen within a 24 hour period?

For example, I make my own shredded cooked chicken. I like to make chicken enchiladas with the chicken already cooked and frozen. Would it be safe to refreeze a casserole with this same chicken?

A from USDA:

Thank you for writing the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Food poisoning bacteria does not grow in the freezer, so no matter how long  a food is frozen it will be safe to eat. If you thaw a food safely (in the refrigerator) it is safe to refreeze it because it has always been at a safe temperature, that is, a temperature too cold for bacteria to grow. The only thing affected is the flavor (it may not taste as good) or it could dry out.

In the case of your chicken enchiladas, if the chicken is still frozen when you assemble the enchiladas and freeze them there probably won’t be too much effect on the quality since the chicken won’t thaw before you put it back in the freezer.

Food Safety and Inspection Service

My tip of the day: Cook your meat or poultry, cool completely and package in convenience form (1-2 cup portions in quart size bags; I add extra broth to my chicken to keep it moist), then prepare two (one for now and one for later)  chicken enchilada casserole or stromboli or calzone on another day and refreeze the meat . Just make sure it gets back as soon as possible to prevent bacteria growth. Bottom line is cooked meat can be refrozen, but keep it at a safe temperature, and don’t let it go over the 2-3 day limit.

Food safety information is also available 24/7, by going to “Ask Karen,” our automated virtual representative at You may type your food safety question directly into the automated virtual representative feature.

Do you have a burning question to ask the experts? Go ahead and “Ask Karen”. I did.

Last Freezer Cooking Class-Week 6

This is our last freezer cooking class together. We have a bonus class with freebies sponsored by Philly Cooking cream: bamboo wooden spoon, magnetic grocery pad, refrigerator magnet and a coupon for free philly cooking cream. You don’t want to miss this fun class, (we’ll have nachos with philly cream) and we’ll make a freezer casserole or two, but you have to RSVP this week by commenting below. I only have about 5 confirmations and I have 16 philly cream coupons and I can’t make 16 casseroles by myself–or can I? Seriously, I’d love for you to come and join us even if you haven’t been coming to all the classes or you just want to try out one to see if you’d like to take it next semester.

For this week’s class you will need the following supplies: hand mixer, bowl, spoon and cookie scoop to make whole wheat chocolate chip cookies. Choose Eagle Mills whole wheat blend or white wheat flour and unbleached all purpose flour. Make sure you bring all the cookie ingredients to make these in class and scoop into our 9×13 pans for you to take home and freeze.

We’re also making Artisan dough with olive oil or canola oil. Again, you choose your flour and bring along a plastic shoe box. Last, but definitely not the least, I will be giving away my favorite cookbook, I’ve been blogging about for months–Healthy Bread In 5 minutes.

We’ll be discussing how to freeze purees and dry goods and demonstrating how use your Artisan dough you made in class. I hope to see everyone here for our final class and our bonus class. Don’t forget to comment below if you are coming to the bonus class.  Have a blessed weekend.

Freezer Cooking Class-Week 4

Things didn’t work out as planned this week due to sick kids, but freezer cooking class went on without me. And freezer meals are so helpful during times like this. Big thanks to Ouida and Stephanie for leading our class.  The ladies made no cook manicotti and Asian Honey marinade for the meat of their choice.

Next week the ladies are making southwest burritos. I’m giving them a choice of Southwest Wraps (no prep work involved) or Amy’s brown bag burritos (with little prepwork using ground beef). They will bring their ingredient filling and we’ll fill and wrap burritos together for the freezer. Ladies attending should bring items from class 4 supply list, in addition, to the recipe of their choice above.

We’ve been talking about deceptive cooking-adding carrot or sweet potato, zuchinni or whatever you like in the freezer meals we’re preparing. I’ve been graciously gifted with the Double Delicious Deceptive Cookbook by Jessica Seinfeld. This will be a giveway to one blessed winner next week (plus I owe you a thawing box giveaway too).

I’m looking foward to another great class with these sweet ladies. Please comment here how your freeer cooking and menu planning are going. We’d all benefit from any tips/tricks/snags/ you have. God gave, us ladies, the gift of sharing!

Freezer Cooking Class-Week 3-Wholey Cow

We did talk about whole cows during our freezer cooking class!

Our class in full swing at our local church and we are having a lot of fun while we learn together and make items for the freezer. We’ve talked about menu planning, freezer inventories, facebook, double and triple couponing and organic verses conventional foods. Women shared about their experiences with local CSA’s and buying meat in bulk (whole and half cows). 

You might consider getting a group together at your church or community center and duplicating some of the items we have made. So far, we have made black bean lasagna and Italian meatballs. The lasagna was a no cook recipe and it’s so easy to make. The ladies brought their own meatball ingredients and we mixed them in class. I showed them how to mix them with a mixer, instead of by hand, and scoop them out with a 1 inch cookie scoop on a rimmed cookie sheet. They took their meatballs home and baked, cooled and bagged them for their freezer.

This upcoming week we are preparing no cook manicotti. Yep, you heard it right, it’s no boiling of the manicotti prior to freezing. This is a $5 or less recipe I’ve adapted just for the freezer. The ladies do not need to bring a mixing bowl or spoon for this recipe because we throw all the filling ingredients in a gallon size freezer bag (which they do need to bring) and they gently knead the ingredients straight in the bag to mix. We cut the tip of the bag to pipe the filling into the manicotti. 

We’re also making the Asian Honey Sesame marinade for chicken, beef or pork. Each lady will bring the marinade ingredients and a large coffee mug or 2 cup glass measuring cup to stabilize the bag. The marinade will go into two quart size bags for their own meat. I suggest waiting for a meat sale and cutting the meat into desired strips, cubes or leave whole. The meat will go into the freezer and marinate itself while it thaws. It can be grilled or stir-fried.

Ladies, please print your Class 4 supply list and bring it to our next meeting.  Click on the recipe links above for your ingredients.

If you are attending this class, will you please share your thoughts about the class?

Helping Others

Another reason why I freezer cook is to help others. When I first read about the Proverbs 31 woman, I was in awe at what she was able to do. The footnote about her said she was a combination of women and then I breathed a sigh.  Verse 20 She opens her arms to the poor 
and extends her hands to the needy, spoke to my heart. When I have my freezer stocked with food, I am able to give it away on a whim. If my daughter’s teacher is in need because of a surgery I have a meal. If my friend has a cold and she can’t cook for her family I have a meal. If my husband’s co-worker is having a baby, I have a meal.

I have 2 “no cook” freezer meals that I keep in the freezer for such occasions: black bean casserole and three cheese manicotti. Both meals require no advance cooking prior to freezing.

The Lord also put feeding the homeless on my heart several years ago through Cook and Play ministries. We are cook once a month-the second Thursday of every month and we’d love to have your help. It’s such a REAL way to tell your kids to eat their dinners because there are hungry kids out there. Sure enough, when I take my grade school children to help serve, they see the line of hungry kids and women. We serve at shelter, called the Steadfast Home-which is all women and children. We use two women per month to help serve and grade school kids are welcome to help, too. I like to share my love of cooking with the women and give them a great big smile from Jesus. Would you like to help others, also? Visit our website, Cook and Play, and see how you could help.

Yep, freezer cooking allows you to help yourself and others. It’s a blessing to everyone.

Are you still contemplating freezer cooking? What’s holding you back?

Reference for Fridge and Freezer

Question Mark Clip Art

Do you have anything green and fuzzy growing in your refrigerator, which is not a science experiment? I hope not, but I have found a few questionable things in mine before. How many times do we wonder if something is good or not based on smell or sight or even date?

Raise your hand if you’ve bought meat and planned on cooking it, but left it in the fridge too long. You weren’t quite sure if it was good or not when you decided to cook.  I see some hands raised out there.

I found this handy dandy fridge and freezer Reference Guide to post on the outside of your fridge. Drop it in a plastic sleeve to protect it and refer to it the next time you are unsure whether the food is safe to eat.  Did you know boiled eggs (world’s easiest) have a week long shelf-life? If you’ve dated your plastic bag with a sharpie and you have this guide on your fridge, you’re in good shape.

Freezer bags are great for leftovers. They lay flat, you can see what’s inside and they can be written on.  They allow you to see your leftovers and remind you to use your leftovers creatively. If it’s not on your menu plan, freeze it within 24 hours and eat it fresh on another day.

I’ll be posting more references to safety issues in the next few weeks. Stay tuned.

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