Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ideas for feeding a largish family - Improvisational Pancakes!

Whenever my parents come to visit, they are always surprised how well we can feed our largish family. I really can't say "large" family, because our family currently only has 7 members, and I know lots of families that have 10 or more. Not that I'm judging, just comparing my largish to their large. I digress, back to food.

I have several techniques to keep the food budget manageable, and still provide a decent variety of meals. First is meal planning. There are several schools of thought on this. One is to plan out meals, by day, as I've seen loads of bloggers do for "Menu Plan Monday." Another is to have a decently stocked pantry, and fly by the seat of one's pants, deciding on what to make as the spirit moves you. Yet another is to make the same or sorta the same foods every week. I sorta do all of them.

Breakfast at our house follows a very (almost painfully) predictable pattern.
Sunday - bacon or sausage, eggs, and toast. Yes, EVERY Sunday. It is the only day of the week that we have meat for breakfast, and the eggs provide enough protein that the kids can make it through church without STARVING before lunch.
Monday - Oatmeal. Nearly always oatmeal for Monday. Occasionally, I'll make Cream of Wheat or Quick-cooking steel cut oats, but that's how far I vary from that.
Tuesday - Pancakes. Here I like to have a little fun. I consider pancakes as my way of using up leftovers. Got leftover squash? Throw it in the pancakes. Leftover rice? Throw it in the pancakes. Overripe bananas? Banana pancakes. One apple rolling around the fruit drawer? Apple pancakes! My pancake recipe to follow this post. It is endlessly variable.
Wednesday - Cold cereal, and/or toast and/or yogurt and/or get it yourselves, because this is the one day I don't feel like cooking.
Thursday - Scrambled eggs and toast.
Friday - Usually pancakes again.
Saturday - Whatever I'm feeling like making. This is the one day we might even make waffles, if I'm feeling really motivated. Also, if I've purchased bagels, we'll do them on Saturday.

My Improvisational Pancake Recipe
Makes enough for a hungry family of 7

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (or all purpose flour, or combination of flour and wheat germ, leftover rice, etc.)
1 cup rolled oats (regular or old-fashioned, not instant. If you are mixing in leftover cooked oatmeal, you can use a little more.)
2 teaspoons baking soda (or 1 tablespoon baking powder but don't sour the milk later on.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups milk, soured with vinegar. (unless you're using baking powder, in which case, don't sour)
3 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup vegetable oil (or melted butter, margarine, I've even used shortening when I've been low on everything!)

Directions: Mix up the dry ingredients. Mix up the wet ingredients (and any moist stuff, like squash, bananas, leftover rice or oatmeal, etc.) and pour into the dry ingredients. Stir together. Look at the batter. Does it seem over-thick? Add a little milk. Does it seem runny? Mix in a little more flour. You can decide, because it will vary depending on the ingredients and humidity of the room.

While mixing the stuff together, start getting your skillet hot. You want it pretty hot before you start putting batter on it. Once its hot, and your ingredients are mixed, spray with oil, or just dribble a little bit on and spread it around with your turner, and make your pancakes. I use 1/4 cup (a little on the shy side), but you can make them big or tiny, or in the shapes of little people, or turtles, or whatever.

Serve with butter, syrup, applesauce, or whatever you like.

Some other things you might mix in: blueberries, other berries, cornmeal, chocolate chips, pretty much any non-citrus fruit, dried fruit (make sure to soak it first to soften it if necessary), spices - cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, anise, cardamom, etc., mashed potatoes, yogurt (can sub for some of the milk), cottage cheese, just use your imagination, and the contents of your cupboard and fridge for inspiration.

Next time: What about lunch??