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.

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