the best kind of day

I love when I have a day with enough free hours to devote to cooking an involved meal – well, at least until the end of the day when my feet and back are aching and my hands are dry and wrinkly from washing so many dishes. 😛 Today I had those free hours and so I made lasagna.

Ever since I made ravioli and found out how easy it is to make homemade pasta – not effortless, certainly, but it isn’t an unattainable goal – I wanted to try making lasagna with fresh homemade pasta.

I was able to borrow a pasta roller from some friends which made it much easier to get the dough nice and thin. The first time through – the “kneading” stage – takes a bit of work to get the dough to go through correctly without tearing, but once everything is smoothed out and kneaded together it rolls beautifully. I’m going to have to consider investing in a roller of my own if I want to continue this pasta-making venture – in fact Mom has a few on watch on eBay for me already.

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I used a different recipe for the pasta this time – the same four ingredients but the proportions were a bit different, I think. For a little bit there I was a bit scared that things weren’t going to work out because the dough seemed a lot drier and not nearly as soft as what I used for the ravioli. But once I added a bit of water, it came together in a nice ball, and then several passes through the roller helped tremendously, as I’ve said.

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Perhaps it’s not as authentic as the broomstick-between-two-chairs method (but then, neither is using a machine to roll the dough), but a drying rack sure worked for, well, drying the pasta. First I draped like so, in wide sheets, and let it dry for about 20 minutes while I did dishes and cleaned the mess of flour on the counter. Then I cut each of the four wide sheets in half and hung them so they were only over one “spindle” of the rack.

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Then when they were almost completely dry I cut each long strip in at least thirds, depending on the length. After they were even drier, I boiled them in small batches for 3-5 minutes, immediately plunging them into cold water to stop the cooking process. After they were all boiled, I just assembled as usual and baked until heated through and the cheese was bubbly. 

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When it came time to enjoy the meal, we were all pretty hungry. It was definitely worth the hours of work. Dad proclaimed it to be G-R-A-T-E, (great) which if you know Dad, means he really likes it. Mom and Ada both said it was delicious. But I think the complete silence as everyone was enjoying their portion was the loudest praise.

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I spent around 6 hours total in the kitchen, between making the pasta, the meat sauce and the ricotta filling, boiling the noodles, assembling everything, doing dishes and cleaning up messes after each stage of the process, making a salad, and a spur-of-the-moment dessert made from three boxed lasagna noodles that were in the cupboard and one homemade one, some cream cheese and powdered sugar, and fresh strawberries, topped with whipped cream and chocolate syrup. Yum. And I enjoyed every minute. 

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A day spent doing things I love to do, with and for the people I love. The best kind of day.

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If at first you don’t succeed…

Friends who have been here from the beginning may remember the ill-fated Earl Grey Tea Cupcakes. It’s hard to believe that was almost two years ago, or that I waited this long to attempt making them again.

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As you can see, this time all went just as it should have. Even the glaze-instead-of-icing switch, which of course was a no-brainer because anyone can mix powdered sugar and lemon juice together.

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Two years ago, baking was on the list of things that I’d only do if I had to, with a few exceptions including things that actually turned out consistently well. But even then I can’t say that I actually enjoyed or looked forward to the process.

Now here I am actually enjoying my time with the measuring cups. What brought about the change? Most likely it’s due to a combination of things like gaining an understanding of the science behind the baking process, acquiring/using helpful tools, and changing my viewpoint when it comes to baking. Instead of saying “I WILL conquer this yet!” and viewing the process as “me vs. it” it was much more helpful to ask “how can I understand this and make it work?” And I’m sure learning to have fun with it and laugh at myself instead of dreading the task and getting mad at myself when things turned out to be flops that I wanted to bury in the backyard helped too.

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And the bigger lesson is, of course, persevering. The admonishment to Keep Moving Forward. I was reminded of this principle in what may seem like an unlikely place this week – at work with the kids. While assisting seven-year-old Logan with building a popsicle-stick house (I had glue-gun duty) we were a bit stumped as to how to design the roof. Rather, I was stumped as to how to how to build what he was describing. And then when we did figure it out, I was also the one doing the majority of the construction. I should be able to handle making a pyramid shape out of craft sticks and hot glue, right? Halfway through I could see that it wasn’t going to work as well as I thought it would, and the final product, to my eyes, was a crudely constructed pyramid that didn’t match up on the ends, didn’t sit flush on the “ceiling” and was definitely not my best work. But Logan proclaimed it “perfect,” the declaration accompanied by his cute toothless grin. But what made me think was eleven-year-old Claye’s comment, who had been making his own craft beside us. “See Miss Lindsey?” he said “you said it wasn’t going to work but he thinks it’s perfect. Aren’t you glad you kept moving forward?” 

Yes, Claye, I am glad I kept at it, both with craft-stick construction and baking. Thanks for inspiring me to revisit the failed attempt at cupcakes that had a part in the start of this journey with flour, sugar, eggs, oil, leavening, and 350* ovens.

Now… perhaps I should turn my attention to understanding more about candy-making, as my second attempt at spun sugar wound up the same way as my first (also yeeeears ago). Some hard candy, anyone?

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because pretty much everyone loves cupcakes

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or maybe just because this makes the nerdy, visual, design & chart-loving side of me smile.  regardless, how cute is this?

via Good Good

{p.s. – the pickled grapes? they were good.}

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not your normal grapes

If you had asked me a year ago what I planned to do to mark the last day of my twenty-first year, I probably would have looked at you just a bit strangely and told you that I had no idea – usually I don’t plan things a year in advance. Perhaps I would have tossed a few ideas out there, like maybe an early celebration with family/friends (which would have, in a way, turned out to be correct, as a bunch of us are going ice skating tonight, though the date was set by someone else and really had nothing to do with my birthday) or something like that.

But I am sure that I wouldn’t have included making pickled grapes on that list.

(DZ, Nina, Nichole, et al., I know.)

On my most recent trip to the library to pick up a book I had on hold, I decided to take a minute or two to glance at the cookbook section. It was a good thing too, because sitting on the shelf was (what appears to be our library system’s only copy of) A Homemade Life. The last time I checked this book out I didn’t get to finish it, as it had to go back to the library to be passed on to whoever was waiting their turn to read it next. Needless to say, it quickly joined the other books in my stack.

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Last night while flipping through the last half of the book, the part that I hadn’t read, I  found this story. And the accompanying recipe for pickled grapes. (the recipe is at the end of the article if you’re interested in trying it for yourself.) Perhaps it was the time-change related sleep deprivation, but once I read the story and the recipe I was immediately sold on the idea. Of course, the fact that I had planned to swing by the store after work this morning and pick up – yes – grapes, may also have had something to do with it.

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So that’s how I found myself in the kitchen at 2:00 this afternoon, mixing vinegar, sugar, and spices in a saucepan, boiling the concoction, and pouring it over freshly washed grapes…

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…and after letting them cool, pouring them into a jar…

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… to be pickled overnight in the fridge. I just  tasted one – it’s been about three hours – and it already tastes rather promising. Not bad at all.

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An introduction, a recipe, and a menu

First, the introduction – meet Rémy!

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Yes, he is named after the adorable little rodent in Ratatouille. (Artisan model > French word > the movie is about cooking and is set in Paris > chrome/silver/grey > Remy. In case you wondered.)

Saturday was Dad’s birthday, and he wanted to go to Shady Maple in East Earl, Pa for breakfast. If you ever find yourself in the area you must not only visit the restaurant but also Good’s, the store at the bottom of the hill. That’s where I found Remy – complete with a discount and rebate that gave me $50 off the $239 shelf price. Good deal!

So today I put him to work. The first thing we made was popovers.

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The recipe is from the little booklet that came with the mixer. I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of really good looking recipes in there.

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I’d never made nor eaten popovers before. I didn’t know what I was missing! They’re lovely little airy puffs of deliciousness, prefect spread with homemade blackberry jam

Popovers

2 eggs

1 cup milk**

1 TB butter, melted

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

 

Place eggs, milk, butter, flour and salt in mixing bowl. Stir until combined, do not overmix.

There are a few options when it comes to baking the popovers. The recipe I have says to use custard dishes placed on a cookie sheet, but you can also use a popover pan or a regular muffin tin. I used a muffin tin. Whichever you use, make sure to grease them well. Fill cups half full. Place in a cold oven and set heat at 450*. Bake for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 350* and bake 20-25 minutes longer. Serve warm with butter, jam, or honey. 

** We were just about out of milk, so I used a half cup of evaporated milk mixed with a half cup of water. I’m not positive, but I think doing this added the littlest bit of sweetness to the popovers. In any case, it worked well.

 

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And the menu. My birthday is next week, and so I took some time last night and this morning to decide just what I wanted to have for my birthday meal. Once I settled on everything, I thought I’d have a bit of fun designing a menu card:

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Recipe sources: Cornish hens, Green beans, Pasta, Cake.  I believe I’ll get some sparking Blood Orange soda from Giant to go with it as well. Mmmm, can’t wait!

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lemony custard

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Original recipe here. Cutesy, modernized recipe made with elements from Pugly Pixel and Shabby Princess.

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Five Senses Friday

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Smelling:

The “sparking citrus” candle I’d forgotten I had… mmm. And fresh air…taking advantage of the warm weather’s short visit.

Seeing:

The prints from the first roll of film from my Smena 7, scans of which are showcased in this post.

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Hearing:

Birds! They seem to be as excited about this unseasonable warm spell as I am. Too bad it’s not here to stay.

Tasting:

Smucker’s natural peanut butter with honey – with jam, with Nutella, with apples, on a whole wheat bagel… yum.

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Feeling:

A sense of accomplishment and satisfaction as my crochet hook slipped through the last loop of the sweater I made for Ada.

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Love

“For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

-Romans 5:7 & 8

 

 

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today

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I made these. You should make them, too.

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bright

Today is grey. Not necessarily in mood but definitely in the outdoor world. Grey sky. Grey slush.

In case you’re in need of some bright things to look at like I am… a small collection of bright happy things!

20732723_070_b Pretty hair things

dress

A lovely & fun dress

rings

stackable rings

dishes

I want these dishes!

blanket

a comfy blanket to ward off any chill

fabric

so many possibilities for this fabric

sunshine

Awwwww

 

There. Much better, don’t you think?

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