In which I cook, bake and generally surprise myself

It was a Saturday with nothing on the calender and two sweet children who wanted nothing more than to romp all around home with a neighborhood friend or two.  I got up  slowly . . . . I savored coffee and a bagel.  And I reached for a dream.

(I’m writing my dreams down these days and boy it’s amazing to see what you can do once you realize how much you want to!)

I’d seen a number of cool recipes I wanted to try “someday” and  wonder of wonders they all came together into one grand TODAY meal! (this never happens in my life!)

I started late morning by whipping up a batch of Ciabatta bread dough that you can supposedly make in just one minute!  I’d say more like five minutes but still AMAZING!  This was some of the best bread I’ve ever made and certainly the best ciabatta I’ve tasted!  It looked way better than the pictures and took me about two minutes to mix and stick on my stove top and two minutes to throw on a pan for baking! ( the only trick is you gotta let the dough sit for about 8 to 12 hours!)   I kind of missed the kneading (it feels so satisfying, doesn’t it?) but not the time/mess!

Next I started simmering a double batch of bolognese (red sauce) from Mark Bittman’s book . .. . . my kitchen Bible.  This recipe only takes about five hours to produce a rich, satisfying and delicious sauce.  It was pretty amazing.  Most of the time is just simmering so it’s not as bad as it sounds.  And pretty cheap to make.

All this took me long enough that it was time to throw together some lunch for all the hungry kiddos then let them run back to their imaginary worlds!

What else you do you need for lasagna?  Homemade ricotta cheese!  I’d made some batches of this in Uganda but Saturday I was experimenting with some new ideas I’d heard about online . . . (actually my husband emailed them to me; and I grudgingly took the hint).  Turned out beautifully!   Upside: great taste and no special trip to the store for cheese I don’t put in anything else.  Downside:  takes about ten cups of milk to make 3 cups of cheese and the house smells like vinegar for a while!

Next up, the noodles . . . . This was the real dream . . . to make my own pasta from scratch. David bravely joined me in the kitchen for this next phase of the cooking (actually he’d been pretty involved all along . . . . I love how much time we get together these days!)  Pasta from scratch is amazingly easy except for the rolling-out bit.  That dough is incredibly elastic!!  Now I know why people own pasta machines!  David did the brawn part while I boiled the noodles . . . just for one minute!  A quick taste yielded delight!  Once again I followed Bittman’s recipe.

Now it was time to assemble the lasagna, a lot of fun, especially with it’s secret layer of perfectly cooked garlic green beans tucked inside. . . . .

Last but not least we put together the candy cane pie.  This recipe was found in the back of one of our library Christmas reads; How Mrs Claus Saved Christmas. This book is a GEM and we eagerly look forward to reading it again along with some of the other historical fiction by the same author.  We learned so much!  The kids are crazy about candy canes and I still had about ten left over from the holidays so I mixed up the pie.  It’s so very simple; sweet condensed milk and egg yolks and candy canes cooked into a thick custard and topped with whipped cream and more candy canes!  REALLY DELICIOUS! And quite a beautiful presentation. Mark Bittman provided the pie crust recipe – an old favorite.

By this time it is late afternoon and somewhere in the flurry of cooking we decided we had better have someone to share this grand meal with!  We invited neighbors that we knew would sympathize with any mistakes while admiring any successes and of course included our Italian house-mates.

There was candlelight, a lot of eating, and a rousing game of Apples to Apples.  Not to mention pie and champagne for dessert. It was a pretty amazing adventure of a Saturday!  One of the best dates ever with David (yes, we treated it like a date even though children were yelling like banshees from the couch!); several “to try” items finally TRIED;  time with friends; an amazing meal for eight – in short,  another day of celebration.

1 thought on “In which I cook, bake and generally surprise myself”

  1. Love this, and so wish I was there! Did you make the cheese with vinegar and a little baking soda? We just heard how to do that from a lady at a goat farm in NC over Christmas! And now, off to try that Ciabatta recipe… er, well, in the morning anyway 🙂

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