Although I am not what is considered a true Once A Month Cooking participant, the first of this month brought an opportunity to participate in Money Saving Mom's Once A Month Cooking Challenge (OAMC) Stoney Crew Style. Since it is only Stoney and I here at the ranch these days, OAMC in the tried and true way would be once a QUARTER cooking if I were to go full out on a real cooking binge. As it is, I would rather batch cook. For example when I thaw out ground beef (2 pound packages usually) I will brown all 2 pounds. Use 1/2 pound for the current recipe and divide and freeze the remaining browned ground beef in 3 separate packages. One mess, multiple meals. The ground beef is then ready for multiple uses...depending on my menu for the week. Want tacos or enchiladas, thaw the cooked beef and add the appropriate seasoning. If I want speghetti, lasagne, or similar "Italian" dish, just add the appropriate ingredients and you are halfway home to dinner on the table. Likewise, when I make Meatloaf, I use a 2 pound package of ground beef and make 3 each 1 pound size Meatloafs. One for dinner that day, and 2 for the freezer for another day.
I make Granola Bars and Banana Nut Muffins in a similar fashion. My recipe for Granola makes 28 bars, cut up, wrapped, and frozen individually. Banana Nut Muffins? 12 at a time so on the first I made 2 dozen, wrapped, and froze them individually. That way Stoney can alternate between Granola Bars and Muffins in his lunch and I had extra to pass out to a couple of folks this week as a treat.
I was looking for an interesting change-up this month while the muffins were baking (I only have muffin tins to bake a dozen at a time, so I had some time to multi-task between batches.) I opted to make Microwave Popcorn.
Stoney likes to have a bag of popcorn in the evenings while watching his favorite TV shows and/or movies. This part of an ongoing effort to wean him off of the more prepackaged, "flavor-enhanced" convenience foods. Side bonus? It was cheaper than buying Orville's! How did I do it? I will say, that I was reading another blog, when this came to my attention...unfortunately, I can't find my notes to give the appropriate credit...but I do remember doing this when we were in high school for after school snacks or as we called it "brain food" for homework time. We also made Carmel Corn in the microwave, I am going to look for that recipe and post in the future...I remember it was made in a brown paper grocery sack!
13 brown paper lunch bags
1 package (2 pounds) Popcorn
1 gallon ZipLoc bag to master pack
Open 13 brown paper lunch bags to create assembly line.
Add 1/3 cup popcorn to each bag
Lay bag flat
Fold open edge over 1/2 inch 3 times and tape with approximately 1 inch tape
Follow folds of bag to fold into thirds and place in "master" Ziploc and store in the freezer. You don't have to store in the freezer, but I do. When I was a kid growing up we grew popcorn in the fields for Orville...to make sure that what we gleaned from the field for our own personal use stayed "pop-r-riffic" until the next harvest, we kept in the freezer. This stops the kernels from continuing their natural drying and makes for a better "pop puff."
When ready to pop, depending on your microwave, place and cook in microwave seam side up for approximately 2-3 minutes. Just like the prepared stuff, you will hear when it is mostly popped.
Admittedly, in order to convert Stoney, I did have to promise to provide a bottle of Squeeze Parkay (or similar) in the refrigerator so that he could squirt some in the bag, add a dash of salt, shake in the bag to cover and eat...but price-wise I still come out ahead on the deal doing this as the cost per package to make is 21 cents per bag compared to 37 cents of the purchased variety. Unless he uses about 3 times the recommended "serving" size of the Parkay!