Saturday, July 26, 2008

And it's way better than Stouffers

Six meals for 4 people, $14.

I’ve found that usually when stores put anything on special, it’s probably because they’ve got too much of it and need to get rid of it fast. A lot of times the only way to get the “deal” is to buy more of the product than you really need at one time.

Of course if it’s meat, canned good or non-perishables, this is no problem. Meat can be frozen and the other stuff stored, even if it does mean the Heirs are sleeping on beds made of canned kidney beans and bulk toilet paper.

But what to do with dairy products that can’t be frozen…

This calls for bulk cooking, which is easy when you have room to neatly line up dishes for filling and form assembly lines. If you don’t, you have to cook in stages.

So, when I saw my local supermarket had ricotta cheese on special, but you had to buy two 2-lb. containers of it, I immediately began making batches of simple marinara sauce. One “batch” requires three large cans of crushed tomatoes and two batches were required to complete four meals worth of stuffed shells (plus two meals’ worth of plain old marinara over pasta the day I cooked the sauce).

By Saturday I had all the sauce ready to go. Of course, anyone else could shorten this process and purchase sauce from a jar…Now, you know I’m never going to do that.

Anyway, Saturday was assembly day. Since I was suffering the martyrdom of being chained to the kitchen on a Saturday, I guilted Dirtman into scrubbing the bathroom floor while I put the pasta pot on to boil, then mixed the cheese with three eggs, about 2 tsp. salt and ¼ c. parsley. Having worked so hard at this, I swooned into a chair and said to Dirtman, who was now eyeing his easy chair, “Won’t you please grate the romano cheese for me.”

So he grated the 1½ cups of cheese I needed to stir into the cheese and I boiled two pounds of macaroni shells.

This is the only time I use the familiar red and yellow spray can named after my sister-in-law. It prevents the shells from getting torn when you go to pull them apart to stuff them.

After I oiled each casserole, I spread the bottom with some sauce.

The lovely Dirtman will now demonstrate stuffing the cheese into the shell.

The lovely Dirtman will now demonstrate his idea for speeding up the process of stuffing cheese into shells, which ended up being more trouble than it was worth.

I’m now losing Dirtman’s attention because this is, after all, repetitive work and not at all the thrills and spills of Food Network.

So we slap some aluminum foil on what we’re having for tonight’s dinner. The dishes to be frozen first get a film of plastic wrap and then aluminum foil.

Finally, a note to my future self because I know I won’t remember a thing about what I loaded into this casserole, let alone how I wrapped it. I resisted the temptation to end the notations with a comma and “you idiot.”

I hauled the casserole to the basement freezer.

“There,” I said. “Two more batches to go!”

So, here I am, alone in the kitchen. Sigh.


benning said...

Looks good! I like the idea of cooking ahead to take advantage of stuff on sale. SMart.

So, anyway, feel free to send one of those frozen dishes to me:

c/o benning
the second floor apartment
(the one that's messy)
Largo, Florida

mmMMMMMMMmmmmm! :D

Gwynne said...

Sounds like we spent our Saturdays in similar fashion. But, while you were making a tasty alternative to Stouffer's lasagna, I was cursing at one. ;-)

Sisiggy said...

benning: Would that I could. I read somewhere that back in the day, someone in New York could mail someone in Virginia some fried chicken and it would get there still hot. But I'm not taking any chances...

gwynne: You know my suspicions about the Stouffers. It will bring us down, one freezer at a time...

benning said...

Wellll, nertz!

I guess I'll have to bake some chicken with pepperoni on top.

Me likey dat! LOL