Monday, September 5, 2011

Oh the proverbial nesting.....and hunger

So nesting with this wee lil angel has set in a bit late I'd say.  Today we made an octupled batch of pancakes and stuffed shells (a regular sized box worth) for the freezer in an effort to have some easy, hot meals ready for when our newest Lil' Miss makes her debut.  I've also found that since we are now the average "2.5 with a dog" family, regular batches of recipes feed us several times over so we've been saving enough to feed ourselves for the meal then leftovers for lunch the next day.  Por ejemplo, my AWESOME 5 quart bare cast iron dutch oven from Lodge (Lodge is the absolute BEST for bare cast iron, but more on that in another post) holds enough slowly simmered chili to feed a grown man, heavily preggo mama and twin toddlers for dinner, lunch the next day and then fill two gallon-sized freezer bags for more meals. (insert preggo note to bake some corn muffins for the freezer here).

The pancakes we can fit about 3 stacks of 3" cakes (about 27) in a gallon bag.  Each bag can feed our family probably 3 times if we all eat the norm (about 3 each for hubby and I then 3 split between the girls).  We got the equivalent of 4 bags worth of the hot cakes.  We use a recipe adapted from this one; but for our purposes here at CB, I've listed ours below:

Super Awesome Fluffy Pancakes

1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Mix it up.  Dump it on.  Flip when bubbly.  Eat when cooked.  Easy. Simple. Delicious.

We split the flour between the good ole AP & WW because we had some whole wheat that we were gonna end up wasting use to get in some healthy whole grains.  The flavor and weight is so mouch better and make the pancakes more filling.  We used extra milk solely because the batter in the original recipes was super-thick.  About a 1/4 cup extra milk really helps the consistency.  We go through these pretty quickly, so I'd say they're definitely good in the freezer for around a month the way we package them.

Onto the goodness from my half-breed Italian booty.  I don't like anything 'florentine' so yous can axe the spinach from my cheesy goods please (sacrilege I know)...but feel super-free to douse the cheese with some grated nutmeg (YUM...not so horrific of me now is it Nonna?)  I wanted something simple and could care less to brown pancetta (nor am I a not-cheapskate in this regard) or dice up some onions and garlic.  Plus there's a ton of crap we need to use in our pantry, so I also took this into account when I was waiting for the shells to boil up.  (Note to self: avoid Food Network when trying to cook with $0 & 0 time)  My recipe was a take on P-Dub's, but, like I said, we either had the ingredients or needed to get creative since I am dumb and didn't make my list from the recipes I wanted to make but rather 'stored' the info in my head with basic ingredients :)  In an effort to save time, we have some jarred pasta sauces on hand to make the transition from freezer to table a lot more 'efficient'.

Stuffed Shells Filling

30 oz container WHOLE Milk Ricotta (whole cause we're fatties up here in our piece)

1/2 cup 'shaky' cheese aka grated parmesean you usually sprinkle on top of you 'ska-teeeeeeee' (as my girls call it)

8 oz package of shredded Mozzarella cheese

3-4 Tbsp Garlic Basil Seasoning (from the now defunct Homemade Gourmet, a company for which I used to be a consultant.......if you can't Ebay this stuff or have me hook you up with some since the company is OOB, I would use about a 50/50 mix of dried basil and dried minced garlic)

salt & ground black pepper to taste (easy on the salt since I "Oops-ed" the shredded cheese and added it all to the ricotta in a blonde/preggo brain moment)

1 large egg

Mix it up then stuff 'em in jumbo shells cooked according to package directions.  A cake decorating bag with a coupler (no tip) works fantastically for piping the filling neatly into the shells.  Now that I am thinking about it, the parchment triangles might work better as they'd be easier to 'refill' with filling should you surprising run into an empty bag like I did (the dump and roll method would be less messy me thinks).  Try to avoid over-filling them.  If I had to guess, filling the shells just enough to the point where the sides of the shell that curl up wrap around the cheese mix and meet to form a 'line' the shells might weigh an ounce or two.  I lined the filled shells on a large cookie sheet as I was going along then wrapped the sheet in tinfoil and stuck the critters in the freezer.  Once they are frozen, I'll transfer them to a gallon-sized bag and take them out as we want to eat them.  If I am making a family dinner, I'll dump a jar of sauce in an oiled rectangular baker such as this one (LOVE me my PC & can hook you up with an awesome consultant), put (line down) in perhaps 10 shells and then dump another jar of sauce on top and liberally sprinkle some shaky cheese on top.  Cover and bake in an oven preheated to about 375 for about an hour give or take and be eating a tasty, cheesy dinner with ease.  Now, if you can get your hands on the PC lid that's been d/c, cover with rocks!  However, if you cannot you could try out their new deep covered baker (it's about the same dimensions and I've heard great things about using it in the microwave).  Why must I pimp Pampered Chef?  Because the stoneware is top-quality and helps to keep something I worked "hard" to put on the table warm and taste just as good as I did taking it right out of the oven if DH is running late from work.  Foil also works fantastically as a 'cover', and I would use that to do a half-batch in the oven in an 8X8 pan.

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