Saturday, September 13, 2008

Day 15 of my captivity. The Madness sets in...

Naaah, I'm just keeeding! Or at least, if this is the banal servitude of forced domesticity (I am barefoot and quite pregnant at this moment, after all), I think I'm okay with it! You should see the stuff I've accomplished in the last little bit. There's been the tempest of cooking, plus the dinner I've made almost every single night, plus lots of what Josh likes to call "deep cleaning," like pulling all the DVDs out of the drawers and dusting them. Fun times, and I mean that with only a teeny bit of sarcasm. Obviously if this were my every day, all the time job, it would get pretty old pretty fast, but as a novelty it's kind of fun to play chatelaine.

I am now 13 days away from my due date, but as well-meaning people keep assuring me, this means (less than) nothing. I could go weeks later than that, or I could give birth now - or I could have already given birth and no one's told me yet. Unlike most other women I know, I'm mostly okay with still being pregnant. The "get this thing out of me" urge hasn't quite kicked in yet, probably because I've had a low-key leave so far and am keeping myself fairly well-entertained. Definitely, I'm a lot more tired than I have been, my feet are painfully swollen, my hands look like I have rubber bands tied around my wrists, and the few minutes I spent on my knees scrubbing the tub and bathroom floor yesterday were probably ill-advised. But I am proud to say I walked all the way home from the OB's at 72nd and 5th (a normally 20 minute walk that took closer to 40), so I can't be as decrepit as I fear.

Now as far as keeping oneself entertained while on leave from the office (when boozing and vigorous exercise are sadly not options, and one's husband has firmly limited the number of calls one may make to his place of employment), I have found daytime television and a mix of silly/serious reading to be quite instructive. Rediscovering one's girlish love for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert is always time well-spent, although watching too much of The View will destroy any remaining shred of faith you have in the intelligence of your fellow citizens. Oh, and waiting a daily celebrity news show will quickly cure you of any vague addiction you think you may have to HTH!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Officially off of work!

As of tomorrow, I am officially away with leave!! WOOT! For my first time in, well, ever, I am bossless! Until the sproglet arrives, of course. Expect to see some serious blogging!!

And I've already been pretty productive! I had some Ambitions for the weekend and was overall quite successful, if I do say so myself. We washed all the baby's clothes; got the room set up; picked up all the last minute stuff we need from Babies R Us; I cooked and froze blueberry muffins, cheddar cheese biscuits, one serving of pomodoro sauce and four servings worth of lasagne bolognese; and we still managed to squeeze in a sort of "last hurrah" fancy dinner at Perry St. last night. Hah! This baby thing is going to be a piece of cake! *ducks before lightening strikes*

Tomorrow, I'm hoping to keep up with the cooking/freezing roll I'm on and make some mushroom, spinach and ricotta ravioli, banana-chocolate bread and shrimp shumai. Aaaand then later in the week, pierogies, vegetarian chili, Mexican black beans, corn bread and pizza dough. Meep! I haven't cooked this much in ages and had kind of forgotten how much work it really is. I had to wash a sinkful of dishes like four times today, and Josh did a couple of his own too. This had better be worth it!

FYI, the lasagne I made tonight was AWESOME...seriously, one of the best lasagnes I've ever made. It makes six decent sized portions, when served with salad and/or bread. Enjoy!

Lasagne Bolognese

12 sheets of oven-ready lasagne (the kind you don't need to boil - trust me! It works!)
1 8 oz bag of mixed shredded Italian cheeses (Kraft is good)
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
meat sauce
Bechamel sauce
fresh basil, rolled up and snipped into little bits

Meat Sauce
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 lbs of lean ground beef
2 carrots
2 stalks of celery
1 large red onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 1/4 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
2 - 28 oz cans of diced tomatoes
Italian herbs to taste (I used dried bay leaves, thyme, rosemary and sage)
1 tbsp sugar

Bechamel Sauce
4 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
2 cups whole milk
freshly grated nutmeg


1. Make meat sauce. Start by heating butter and olive oil together. Add chopped carrots, onion, garlic and celery and saute for approximately 10 minutes.

2. Add 2 lbs ground beef and saute at medium-high temperature until no longer pink (note: you may need to drain some of the fat/liquid out). Deglaze pan with white wine and simmer until almost entirely evaporated.

3. Add canned tomatoes, chicken stock and herbs. Bring to a boil, and then decrease heat to very low setting. Cook slowly for one hour, stirring periodically.

4. Add salt, pepper and sugar. Continue to cook at low temperature for another hour. Very little of the liquid should remain by now.

5. While meat sauce is cooking, make the Bechamel (aim for about half an hour before the meat sauce is ready and if you're ready to cook the lasagne, preheat the oven to 375 F). Pour milk into microwave-safe measuring cup and nuke for 2-3 minutes, or until hot.

6. Melt butter and flour together for 1-2 minutes (lots of books will say to get NO color on the flour, but I think a sliiight toast is okay). Add hot milk to this mixture very, very slowly and whisk to avoid lumps.

7. Keep the Bechamel at a low temperature and barely simmer until thickened. Add grated nutmeg, salt and pepper.

8. You're ready to assemble the lasagne now! Use a tsp of vegetable oil to thoroughly grease a large casserole dish (you want one large enough that you can fit three pieces of lasagne side by side with room to spare, since it'll expand). Put a very small amount of meat sauce on the bottom.

9. Put down the first three pieces of lasagne. Add a layer of meat sauce, a layer of Bechamel, shredded cheese and snipped basil. Repeat this step three more times, so that you have four layers in total. Note: you probably won't need all the meat sauce, so make sure to save and freeze - you can keep at least two cups aside, I would say.

10. Sprinkle Parmesan on the top layer and wrap well with foil. Bake at 375, covered, for 30 minutes.

11. Remove foil and bake for 15 more minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for at least five minutes.