Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sick of Pasta

There have got to other frugal folks out there reading this blog.  You know who you are - you who make sure each meal has a "filler" food like pasta, rice, potatoes.  Something cheap, filling, and not terribly bad for you. 

(Please don't lecture me about the glycemic index, lack of fiber, etc. of above mentioned food.  I said not TOO bad.)

But I feel burned out on pasta and rice.  Potatoes are super cheap when you get a good sale - sometimes less than 30cents a pound.  But they can take a while to prepare, whether baking, mashing, etc.  On busy days, I'm in favor of convenience.

So, this post is about the beauty of make-ahead potato dishes. 

First, you know you can freeze mashed potatoes, right?  Just prepare them how you typically like them.  Add whatever butter, milk, sour cream, or whatever you normally put in.  Then freeze flat in a ziplock bag.  Before reheating, thaw the potatoes.  They will look a little runny, but don't worry.  They will cook up thick and nice.  Then, just microwave till they are hot.

One of my favorite freezer potato recipes is gnocchi.  This costs a ton in the store, but is super cheap and tasty to make at home.  I plan to have a bunch of this stocked in my freezer, ready for when we return from our trip to China to bring home Levi.

Here's the recipe.

Kristin's Easy Freezer Potato Gnocchi

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs whole baking potatoes
  • 2 beaten egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • Pinch of salt
 Double, triple or quadruple the recipe as you need.  I usually make a ginormous batch at once.

Most gnocchi recipes have you boil unpeeled potatoes, then peel them when they are still hot.  The peel keeps them from getting too waterlogged.  That might work for one small batch, but when you make enough to freeze for a few meals, it is too time intensive.  Instead, you can bake them.  Just scrub up those potatoes and stick them all in the oven till they are tender when poked with a fork.

Once they are cooked, slice them each in half to help them cool faster and, when cool enough to handle, scoop out the potato from the skins. 

(If you don't want to be wasteful, you can rebake the skins, topped with cheese and cooked bacon.  Then sprinkle with green onions and top with sour cream for a yummy snack or side dish)

Most recipes call for the potatoes to be put through a food mill.  (NOT a food processor, which will turn them to a gloopy mess).  Since I don't have one, I just mash it with my potato masher and it works just fine.  Then you mix in the egg yolks, flour, and salt.

Keep mixing till all the flour is incorporated.

Next, you roll it into snakes about the diameter of your finger.  Cut the dough roll at 1 to 2 inch intervals, depending upon how large you want your dumplings.  Traditionally at this time, gnocchi is rolled onto a fork to give it those pretty grooves that hold in sauce.  You can do that.  Or you can poke your finger into the raw dumpling to give it a dimple to hold sauce better.  Or, if you are making giant batches, you can call it a day and be done with it.

The rolling is a fun step kids can help with.

You can either cook them now or freeze for later.  To flash freeze, place gnocchi on a cookie sheet in a single layer.  If you are making lots, you can put a roll of waxed paper over the top of the first layer of gnocchi and put another layer on top.  Freeze till solid, then store in a ziplock bag.  They will remain separated, so you can take out however many you need when you want to make them at a future meal.

Try to keep the sizes fairly uniform so they cook in the same amount of time.


To cook - Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil.  Drop some frozen gnocchi in the pot, bud don't crowd them too much.  When they float to the surface after just a couple of minutes, they are done.  Scoop them out with a large slotted spoon.  After all the gnocchi are out for that batch, boil up another batch till you have cooked as many as you need.

This is good served with pesto over the top, a marinara sauce, browned butter, or anything that is good on top of hot pasta.   

I like fresh shredded basil on top of mine.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I have no words.

Mourning and weeping with those in Newtown, Connecticut.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Levi Update

We just received our first (and probably only) update on Levi.  This is the first information we got about him since we saw his file in July.  The information in the file was already a couple of months old when we saw it, so I guess this is the first updated information since he was 8 months old.  He is 15 months old now.

First, the best news - he seems to be healthy and where we expected him to be developmentally.  That is such a relief.

Second, he is just as cute as ever.  The picture was taken two months ago, not long after his 1 yr. birthday.  Isn't he the cutest baby you've ever seen?  In both of the other pictures we have of him, he has that same "What do you want from me?" expression. 

He's going to love this picture of him in ruffles and pink flowers when he hits the teenage years.

Now, the not as good news.  My baby is little.  He's tiny.  He has gained only 3 pounds in the last 7 months.  He probably fits into 6 month clothes.

Some people have tried to reassure me that he will get bigger once he gets home.  Once we get some more food into him, he'll grow.  But I already know that.  I'm not terribly worried about him staying so far at the bottom of the growth charts that he is not technically even on them.  Although if his genetics have him always stay on the smaller end of things, that's just fine with me.

What has this Mama's heart aching is the knowledge that he will get bigger when he gets home because of better nutrition.  Once his calories go up, he'll be getting bigger.  That's what is so sad about it.  I am sitting here, half a world away, knowing that my baby is hungry.  At that size, he is probably hungry most of the time.

I'm so ready to bring my sweet boy home.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Poor Kitty

Please don't call Animal Protection.

Yes, that is a sherbet lid around my kitty's neck.  And yes, I may have thought it was a good idea to put it there.   And, perhaps it was my hand that squeezed it over the poor cat's head.





You see, we are dealing with an unfortunate case of ringworm.  There is a small tuft of fur missing on the kitty's shoulder (hidden by the homemade e-collar).  She needs to wear the collar so that she doesn't lick off the ringworm medication, get sick, puke all over, and die.  But, cheap that we are, we didn't want to shell out $10-$15 for the official, fancy-pants, "real" e-collar.  Hence a perfect example of at-home, redneck veterinary care.

Do you see how the poor cat has hung her head in shame?  Is she wishing a different family, one that will buy a blinged out e-collar took her home from the Humane Society?  You know.  The kind all the cool cats get when fighting off a fungal infection. 

I admit to feeling pity while looking at her.  She looks like those pictures of wildlife that get their heads stuck in plastic rings and end up starving to death because food is too restricted to get down to their belly.  Once again, please don't call Animal Welfare.  The ring is temporary and not too tight. 

I am glad that there was not a larger patch of ringworm that she would be able to get to with such a small collar on.  I would have hated to go to the enormous ice cream pail lid size.  Now THAT would look downright silly.

I also feel bad that this is her online debut.  Our cat Yoda Bob met an unexpected end a few months back.  So, with the relatively new addition of this cat, we are up to two cats again.

Let me formally introduce you to Miss Ninja Snugglebug.  With this many people in the family, sometimes unusual compromises need to be made on pet names.