Saturday, February 19, 2011
Oh my, it's been a while since I've had a chance to sit down and write!  I've had so much I've wanted to share but finding the time to pull myself away from the daily tasks us moms face has been more difficult the past couple of weeks.  Between the recent increase in stress at work (there's never a dull moment during tax time when you're working in an accounting position!) and the normal goings on of a busy family life, finding some time for myself has been even more limited.  I do have to admit that I've been making some time during the day to sit down and read which I have missed for some time now.

These past few weeks have been filled with a lot more than I had expected possible for myself.  I've been trying extra hard to keep a clean house, never knowing when friends or family may pop by.  It's been nice knowing that if someone called and said they would be stopping over in the next 10-15 minutes that I wasn't frantic to hide whatever mess was lying around.  Rather, I would just tidy up a few things here and there and that would be it.  No more stress in that department.  I've found a pretty reasonable way to keep the entire house clean without feeling like I was spending every waking moment scrubbing or as a personal maid.  I've given myself a weekly schedule of things to do during the week.  Sunday is generally a laundry day where I try to get the bulk of the clothes wash, dried, ironed, and put away.  Since hubby is home on Monday, I try to leave that day free to spend quality time with family.  Tuesday is bathrooms, vacuum and dusting.  Wednesdays are my late day at work but when I get home I try to get at least 1 load of laundry done.  Thursday I take out the trash and thoroughly clean the kitchen (although I try to at least do a light cleaning of the kitchen every day and always clean up after myself as I cook to make the work a little lighter on myself come Thursday night).  Friday I try to give myself a little down time and Saturday I clean the entire house.  My load over all has felt much lighter since I've spread out my work throughout the week.

As for meal time, I'm actually feeling a lot more comfortable in this department.  I've been sampling a few recipes, mostly from my favorite chef of all time, the one and only Mario Batali, like his homemade pasta, gnocchi, red sauce, and milanese.  I've also tried a few recipes I found online like one for swiss chard which is one of my favorite veggies and lasagna.  I've had some bumps along the way like with my pasta.  I did much better than my first attempt with the homemade ravioli.  I rolled the pasta dough much thinner and the taste of the fresh pasta was like nothing I've made before.  There's absolutely no comparison between homemade fresh pasta and store bought boxed pasta.  Homemade is so much better!  And really not all that difficult to make, especially with a stand up mixer.  For all you pasta virgins out there, I strongly recommend you give it a try.  My light fowl up was that I didn't put corn meal on the pasta after rolling it.  No where in the instructions did they mention that but after my husband tried to cook his portion of the meal (since he works late and usually gets home after I'm already asleep) he told me that his pasta was pretty much one big lump of pasta smooshed together.  After rolling out the pasta, it's good to toss it in some corn meal to keep it from sticking to itself.

And then there's the gnocchi!  Over all the gnocchi was good, but I put a little too much potato and not enough flour... the dough was a bit more sticky than I expected and after cooking the pasta, it was not as firm as I had hoped.  Next time I'll add just a little more flour to increase the firmness.  On a side note with the gnocchi, I made the red sauce to go along with the gnocchi and allowed the bison (yes, we do eat buffalo at our house!)  I cooked the red sauce, 4 cups of beef broth, and bison meat for about 2 1/2 hours and when my husband walked in the door he was a little concerned with the smell.  The smell of the thyme in the sauce was a little over powering at first, but once the food was done cooking and it was time to eat, he was surprised at how good it was.  Not too much thyme as he had expected.  That was a pleasant surprise for me.  I was a little concerned that the entire meal would be a flop!

I'd have to say that my 3 favorite things I've made have been the pork chop milanese, lasagna and homemade meat balls.  I wrote about the meat balls in a previous post, but I just have to say once again, they were delicious!  We still have a few in the freezer ready to go whenever we're in the mood for spaghetti and meatballs.  They've held up extremely well in the freezer and are a snap to cook.  Something I didn't mention in my previous post about the meatballs, they don't look or feel like regular meat balls you're typically used to when you think "meatballs".  They're a little more... gooey... for lack of a better word.  So if you try the recipe and you're trying to form perfect meatball "balls", you'll be a little disappointed and think you did something wrong.  They're supposed to be like that.  They don't form the firm balls we're all used to, but trust me, you've never had meatballs like this before.  They are fantastic!

Next would have to be the lasagna.  I just made that the other night and after tasting it was so thrilled with the outcome.  I was even happier that my daughter and husband seemed to like it as much as I did.  When it comes to left overs, they generally don't do too well in our house.  For some reason or another no matter how good the meal was, if it ends up going in the refrigerator it usually only comes back out when it's time to throw away since no one seems to like reheating food in our house.  But this lasagna did and I was beyond proud of that!  There was only one minute piece that didn't get eaten and after finding it the next morning still sitting out on the counter all dried up and pathetic looking, I decided the meal was thoroughly enjoyed 2 nights in a row, it was time to toss the remaining bit.  That's definitely a recipe that will be used again and again!

And last but definitely not least was the pork chop milanese.  Just thinking about it makes my mouth water!  Thankfully, it was such a big success with my daughter that I decided to make it again tonight for dinner, but rather than using pork chop I used some veal I had in the fridge.  It really doesn't matter the cut of meat you use, the simple recipe was easy, quick and oh so good!  I'll definitely continue to use this on different variations of meat from chicken to beef to veal to pork!  I was hesitant about having to fry anything.  The last time I even attempted to fry meat, also a milanese but I used my mom's recipe calling for almost triple the amount of oil than this recipe required, I ended up splattering oil everywhere including on myself, burning my arms so many times that I quit before I even finished cooking my first piece.  As I stood there getting ready to heat up the 1/4 cup of oil, not understanding how this recipe could require such little oil in comparison to my mom's dish which I do have to say is quite tasty, I feared finding myself in the same situation as before.  But this whole task of learning to cook is more than just learning to cook, it's also getting over my fears.  I've already overcome my fear, or should I say loath, of onion (for the most part, but that's a work in progress), I'm working to get over my textural issue with mushrooms, and now it was time to face my fear of frying food.  It's not something I plan on doing often since I'm trying to limit the amount of fried food we consume, but every now and then a little deep fried something or other is just so darn good!  As you can probably tell since I not only made pork chop milanese, but also made veal milanese tonight, I'm over that fear!  Not only have I learned a new dish with success, but I've also overcome another fear of the kitchen.  I feel that much closer to having a better grasp of the whole culinary experience I've craved for so long now.

I'm also extremely proud of the fact that I've cut down my reliance on deliveries.  I do from time to time call for some, but that's usually limited to maybe once a week, if that at all!  I've been successful at giving my family a good home cooked meal at least 5 nights a week and left overs 1-2 times a week.  I think that's a pretty huge accomplishment for me.  The best part about it is that it's been much easier than I expected and I'm finding that I'm looking forward to cooking each night.  Hopefully things will continue to go like this and improve with practice.  I'd love to hear your thoughts and if you have any suggestions on some new recipes for me to try!  I promise to try to write more often, but if you're a mom like me, finding time to do anything for yourself is sometimes simply impossible!  Until then, I'll leave you with a few photos of some of my meals.  Enjoy!

homemade pasta, red sauce and meatballs with shaved parmesan cheese


pork chop milanese with sauteed brocclini


Robin @ Pink Dryer Lint said...

I'm highly impressed! Even in this exceptionally busy time of life, you're whipping out some beautiful dishes. Way to go!

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