Tuesday, September 15, 2009

homemade headache

I read something recently about sewing. Now, I am not a sewer, and there is a reason for that. I can't finish anything, and don't have the fortitude or desire or whatever is needed (like interest) to take the time and read the directions and see the project to its bitter end. But this piece I read was giving some advice for those would-be sewers and some ways to get through the inevitable frustrations that it can bring. Like, stopping before that "hit the wall" mark. Or, carving out a space of time instead of starting 10 minutes before your baby wakes up from her nap.

Well, I don't have a sewing machine and I'm not planning on starting anything thread-related anytime soon, but I did take some of these tips to heart as I headed into a weekend of way too much homemade cooking.

That may sound like I'm being pretentious. "I'm so tired and weary of creating an oasis of Martha Stewart-like ambiance and deliciously healthy homemade meals for my family." But I assure you I am being very sincere. I wish I could say that every homemade attempt of mine is a shocking and stellar success. But, in fact, they are not.

So, at the risk of boring you with the details of my weekend, let me share with you some little tips I learned along the way on my Way-T00-Much-Homemade-Food Weekend.

Tip #1 Once uncorked, wine cannot be stored at room temperature.
Okay, maybe most of you are laughing at me right now, but I'm not a big wine drinker, okay? In our house, a nice brew usually wins the day. Anyway, I do buy wine for cooking but I'm embarrassed to admit that I have normally left it out on the counter after opening it. My friends Carolyn and Steph were here for dinner the other night and informed me of their similar infraction- but they at least found out what the appropriate time frame was for an opened bottle. So, I've been cooking with bad wine. I discovered this AFTER I had made a whole big batch of from-scratch spaghetti sauce as well as a whole batch of marinara sauce for pizza.

Tip #2 Too much bread can be too much of a good thing
When I make spaghetti I like to make Focaccia bread to go with it. I've also been searching for a good pizza crust recipe, since I've yet to be satisfied with all the bland ones I've tried. Since I was already spending the time on the Focaccia, I thought I'd double the recipe and make the other half into pizza crusts. Spaghetti and bread on Sat. night, spaghetti leftovers for lunch on Sunday, and by the time Sunday night rolled around and I was pulling big hunky, crunchy pizzas out of the oven, our eyes were bulging with the sight of yet more carbohydrates to digest. Here's another tip: pre-cooked pizza crusts are way too dried out and crispy if they are cooked a second time. I told you this was not a glamour show of homemade food.

Tip #3 If you are stuffed with Carbs by Sunday night, don't make waffles on Monday morning.
That's right, as a "gift" to Josh I bought him a rare find... a waffle maker here in China. My plan was to get up bright and early with Riley and Ari to whip up some fantastic waffles. That may have been a great idea if we were not all bloated from a weekend of starch. And let me tell you something about homemade waffles- they don't tread lightly. Lots of oil, eggs, sugar, ugh- I'm sick just thinking about it again. And to go with this heart-healthy breakfast we had to make, you guessed it- homemade syrup!- another missing delicacy in our city (well, you can get it for a price$$). I know store-bought syrup has a lot of sugar and other chemicals, but for some reason the homemade kind seems ten times sweeter. Way too much of a good thing. Next time, stick with a fruit bowl and yogurt.

This sad tale does have a happy ending. I went to the market later that Monday and bought lots of fresh, yummy greens and colorful vegetables and we had big bowls of salad for dinner that night. This was topped off with Josh's favorite dessert- cheesecake. You may be wondering how we were able to stomach it... and I'm not sure how either but it's amazing how quickly your body can recover:)

With all the missteps and frustrations that filled my Homemade Weekend, I was thrilled to finally have a winner with this cheesecake. The crust was my favorite part- a mixture of three kinds of nuts (almonds, pecans, and walnuts) and my own special twist- pretzels. It turned out so creamy and smooth. Mmmm... with a mug of strong, hot java to round out the moment.

Here is to hoping your homemade attempts, whatever they may be- are much more successful, enlightened, and healthy than mine!

1 comment:

  1. Hey... love to have found your blog! I found Arugula (rocket) @ Metro today and wished someone (besides Bea) was excited about it as me... then I find your secret gourmet blog about food and think maybe you would be excited too!

    Great work Christine! Let me know when you perfect the pizza crust, then post the recipe!