Monday, February 18, 2013

Family-sized Family Day Lasagna

We've had a pretty relaxed family day; last night, Hubby, the girls and I had a sleepover at my parents' house, and woke up to a lovely breakfast of waffles. Once we packed up and got home, we did some major cleaning in the basement (boring but necessary) and had a simple lunch of grilled cheese and tomato soup. After lunch, M played and then went upstairs for her nap, while Hubby took D to a free skate at an arena near our place, hosted by our city councillor and local MPP. There were cookies, hot chocolate, and a dragon on skates (or so D told me).

After a weekend of hastily prepared meals, I was keen to make us a hearty dinner, and tonight's lasagna did not disappoint! I've cobbled together my recipe from so many different sources that it doesn't infringe on anyone's copyright. It does take quite a lot of prep time, but it makes for excellent leftovers! We were all ravenous tonight, and we still have half a lasagna for lunches tomorrow.

Incidentally, instead of garlic bread (which Hubby and the girls aren't crazy about), I made some quick honey-oat rolls and spread garlic butter on mine.

Family-sized lasagna
12-15 oven-ready lasagna noodles
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
Meat sauce:
2 Tbsp oil
2 onions
2 cloves of garlic
2 Costco-sized carrots (or 3-4 regular ones)
1 cup other vegetables such as frozen spinach, ribs of celery, green pepper
½ lb ground beef
2 tins of crushed tomatoes
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp Italian spices
1 tsp salt
Cheese sauce:
¼ cup margarine
¼ cup flour
2 ½ cups milk (I used 2%)
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
½ cup cooked, pureed cauliflower (optional)

Make meat sauce: Peel, chop and put vegetables through the food processor; use a garlic press for the garlic, if you have it.
Heat oil in large frying pan; sauté vegetables over medium heat for 10 minutes or so. Light browning is okay.
Transfer vegetables to large saucepan. Scramble-fry ground beef until no longer pink; drain and add to saucepan.
Add to saucepan: tomatoes, sugar, salt and spices. Bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, for up to two hours. Stir from time to time.
Make cheese sauce: Melt margarine over medium heat, then stir in flour. Add milk and stir every few minutes to avoid sticking. Once mixture is thickened, remove pot from heat and add cheese and Dijon mustard.
Assemble lasagna: Ladle a small amount of meat sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan, just enough to thinly cover it. Layer as many lasagna noodles as you can fit (5 in my case). Ladle half the remaining meat sauce onto the noodles, and top with 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat the noodle, meat and cheese layer again. Last layer: place the last 5 lasagna noodles, top with remaining cheese sauce, and sprinkle all the mozzarella cheese on top.
Bake at 350 for one hour.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Valentine's Day 2013

I can't believe I didn't take any pictures yesterday! And it was a pretty good day for all of us here. Despite not planning to go out, I ended up needing to buy eggs and a couple of other ingredients for dinner. My nemesis, FreshCo, had cheese on a crazy sale, but by the time I checked the flyer, the sale was over. They run their sales Thursday to Wednesday, those weirdos. Forget driving out of my way, I thought. It was such a beautiful day that we didn't need the plastic stroller cover!  We had a lovely walk to Sobeys, and got home just before lunchtime.

Hannah and her husband were babysitting for the girls that evening, and I wanted to make them something extra-special. We'd had chicken pot pie together last week, and homemade chicken pot pie is not the kind of thing you usually have time to whip up at the end of the work day. They both loved it so much that they wanted to have it again this week. I made them an extra one to take home. For dessert, I made the dough for the chocolate brioche pretzels- Smitten Kitchen cookbook strikes again! AND I used this amazing full-fat butter that my friend Sarah had brought me at Thanksgiving. They are now all gone, although I do still have half the butter left.

My mom came over unexpectedly in the late afternoon with Valentine's Day prezzies for the girls: plush flowers and red and pink Smarties, as well as a loaned copy of Happy Valentine's Day, Charlie Brown. She left after Hannah arrived, and once I finished dinner preparations, I got ready to go as well. I was meeting Hubby at Som Tum Thai downtown, a sister restaurant of our favourite, Anna Thai. Som Tum just happens to be around the corner from Hubby's office. I got there a few minutes early for our 6pm reservation and I was wearing makeup AND earrings!

They are so speedy at Thai restaurants, in my experience! It helps that we always order the same things: crispy duck with sticky rice for me, beef pad ki mow sans beansprouts for Hubby.  We're rarely there for more than half an hour, unless we're with friends. So it was a 6:30 that we found ourselves heading out to the car. We drove to the Market, parked and walked to Oh So Good, a dessert cafe that I went to a lot in my late teens/early twenties. It's very decadent and probably best suited to special occasions only, at least for us! He had crème brûlée cheesecake and I had chocolate raspberry truffle cake, of which I was only able to finish half. We wrapped up the evening with a couple of episodes of Gilmore Girls. Oh, and I forgot to mention the best part! Hubby surprised me a gift of on-sale cheese, not from FreshCo. A truly lovely day.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Selfish knitting

Hubby started a new job this week, and what a week it's been! Freezing cold for one thing, and much longer days, at least from my perspective. I've been rather spoiled in that Hubby usually comes home between 4:30 and 5pm, by which time the girls are finishing their naps or quiet time. Now that he's working downtown and taking the bus, he gets home closer to 6, around the time I'm just putting supper on the table. I felt very much like a grown-up because I made substantial dinner all week: baked beans with jacket potatoes, beef stew with red wine, roast chicken, hearty tomato soup, chicken pot pie, quiche with sweet potato fries. It's incredibly difficult to make dinner while looking after two small children, and I have more respect for my own mom now than ever!

This morning I'm enjoying some time to myself while Hubby is out running errands with the girls (he was going to take them on the bus for a fun treat, but the snow and the attitude of a certain three-year-old has made that idea impractical). I could do any number of things, like tidy up, vacuum, bake something delicious, even start dinner, but I will only commit to eating breakfast and knitting something selfish. I do tend to knit mostly for other people, so I don't feel badly at all about making something for me. Especially something as gorgeous as this cabled Blackberry Cardigan (no relation to the former RIM)!

The yarn comes from PEI, in fact from the same trip when I bought my dad's Aran yarn. I chose it because I was looking for something that matches my eyes. It's not exactly delightful to knit with, being minimally processed wool. I actually have to regularly pick out bits of straw and other vegetable matter! However, the swatch I knit turned out to be much softer than I had imagined, and I do want the finished product to have the sturdiness afforded by 100% wool. I started it on January 17th, and it's much too early to guess when it'll be done. April would be lovely, but I'll settle for any time before the end of 2013.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Winterlude 2013

Ice sculptures in Confederation Park

Tunnel of Korean lanterns

An ice sculptor in action
Snacktime! Tiny cute face is excited to try a Beavertail

Sleepy monkey and hatless chicken, back at Grandma's for lunch

My mom and I felt brave enough to take the girls downtown for Winterlude yesterday, despite the cold. The plan was originally to visit Snowflake Kingdom where they have the ice slides and other stuff for kids, but it was closed. Instead, we parked at the Rideau Centre and walked over the canal to Confederation Park. I should mention that the girls were in the stroller with its plastic cover, and they stayed nice and toasty! (When I took M out to put her in the car, her cheeks were implausibly warm.)

We checked out the various ice sculptures, D's favourites being anything with wings (fairies, birds, butterflies) or fins (fish and mermaids). After about an hour spent outdoors, we were feeling a little eleven-o'clockish and bought Beavertails as a snack. To get out of the cold, we ducked into one of the heated change huts, and I must say, while they were just fine, I can't see how they possibly could have cost 750, 000$ apiece. For some perspective, my house is worth less than half of that, and we have furniture, appliances, bedrooms, bathrooms, and a kitchen. I'm sure it all comes down to location. All things considered, we had a terrific time, and I'm especially glad we were able to get downtown mid-week when there were no crowds and minimal traffic!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Venturing outdoors

We've been hibernating basically since December, and Hubby wanted us to get outside and do something together as a family. I agreed and we decided to go downtown, either to skate on the canal or visit Snowflake Kingdom (as Winterlude just kicked off yesterday). Now Hubby is very wise, and as we were getting ready, he suggested that we go instead to the outdoor skating rink at a park around the corner from our place. I am also wise, when the fancy strikes me, so I acquiesced.  Good thing, too; the girls lasted all of ten minutes in the cold. D skated around the rink with Hubby while I pulled M around on a little toboggan. At least we got pictures!