Little Bundles of Joy

Baby ShoesSo, Beloved and I were driving back from taking Oldest Son to the airport in Cleveland on Monday afternoon, just rambling on as we’re wont to do, when he says, out of nowhere:

“Yup, it’s time one of those kids made us grandparents.”

Now, this is a subject we’ve been sort of circling around for a year or so.  Up until I turned 45, I had no desire to be a grandmother; in fact, I have been known to threaten my grown children with, “Anyone who makes me a grandmother before I turn 50 won’t live to see their offspring!”  I also used to think that if none of the kids chose to procreate, it wouldn’t bother me a bit.

Somewhere, somehow, in the last year that has changed.

Beloved, of course, has always been a little more open to the idea of grandparenthood than myself, but until recently I believe that has sprung largely from a desire to see the “parent’s curse” in action.

You know the “parent’s curse” – of course you do.

“I hope that when you grow up you have kids who act JUST LIKE YOU!”

At any rate, lately we’ve found ourselves considering how much we’d love a sweet little bundle of joy that we can cuddle and play with and load up with sugar before sending them home to their parents.  I mean, really – the more I think about it, the more appealing the whole idea is.  So much so that I’ve begun asking TC and his wife when they’re going to make me a quasi-grandmother now that they’ve bought a house (they’ve politely declined so far, the finks).

You can imagine that no one could be more tickled than I when Beloved’s oldest, Jolly, called from California later that evening and announced that she and her fiance are expecting.

Pardon me while I jump up and down.

SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

It is, of course, all Beloved’s doing, what with his prophetic little statement and all.  Now I’m off to buy twelve pounds of baby yarn and a pattern book for crocheting baby stuff – afghans, booties, sweaters, caps.  For a baby that is due in late August.

Because that’s the way I roll.

Lasagna

LasagnaLasagna tends to be a touchy subject in our home.

Oh, don’t get me wrong – we all love it.  A lot.  It’s just that both Beloved and I have our tried and true recipes – his handed down from his mother, mine developed and honed over many years – and we each are convinced our own recipe is the best.

For the record, my recipe is better.

Naturally.

You see, I believe that a truly good lasagna is like a symphony, with all of the many parts blending together harmoniously, each ingredient complimenting and enhancing all of the others.  My lasagna is a concerto of firm pasta, savory beef, subtle seasonings, tender vegetables and four different cheeses.

Beloved’s family lasagna recipe tastes like tomatoes and sausage.  It’s not their fault – they’re from Ohio, where every dish tastes like tomatoes and sausage.

Including fajitas.

Anyhoo, since my recipe is the better one, it’s the one you’re getting.  Waltz with it.

Lasagna

serves 8 generously

2 pounds lean ground beef

Salt and pepper to taste

2 standard size cans tomato sauce

1 – 4 oz. can tomato paste

8 oz. sliced mushrooms

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium green bell pepper, diced

1 medium red bell pepper, diced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 small container small curd cottage cheese

1 small container full-fat ricotta cheese

1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (NOT the stuff in the can)

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons dried parsley

1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 lb. box lasagna noodles

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Prepare the lasagna noodles according to package directions until al dente; drain and rinse with cold water until they’re cool and no longer sticking together.  Lay them out in a single layer on waxed paper or foil.

Brown ground beef with the mushrooms, onion, garlic and bell pepper over high heat.  Drain if necessary; salt and pepper to taste.  Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, oregano, basil and thyme; reduce heat to a simmer.

While the beef mixture is simmering, combine the cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, parmesan, egg and parsley in a medium sized mixing bowl; mix well.

In a large (9 x 13) baking dish, place a single layer of noodles and spread 1/2 of the cheese mixture, followed by another layer of noodles.  Top with 1/2 of the meat sauce, then 1/2 of the mozzarella.  Repeat, laying another layer of noodles, followed by the other half of the cheese mixture, a layer of noodles, and the remaining meat sauce and mozzarella.

Bake for 30 minutes or until heated through and cheese on top is melted and beginning to brown.  Remove from oven and let stand for 10 – 15 minutes.  Cut into squares and serve.

Back in the Saddle

CowboysYou can gently hum the Gene Autry tune or jam to Aerosmith, it’s entirely up to you – I won’t judge. But at any rate, it’s time to get back into the swing of things and since this is the first time I’ve turned on my laptop since last Wednesday (and the world didn’t end!  Fancy that!) I have a great deal to do.

The first order of business was to read the 108 posts waiting for me in Google reader.  And I read each and every one, too.  I have to say I’m glad I’m not the only blogger who took the majority of the time off and also that everyone seems to have had a lovely holiday (mice and last minute guests on Christmas Eve notwithstanding).

I was also surprised – nay, overwhelmed – to find an homage to the sushi bar over at Goodfather’s blog, courtesy of Sprite’s Keeper’s Spin Cycle.

I am beyond flattered.  Goodfather, you are absolutely one of my favorite blogs, too.  Thank you so much for your kind words and the link love.  As for Sprite’s Keeper…I believe I’ll jump on this Spin Cycle bandwagon for a bit and give it a test drive starting this week.

Which means I have to write about my New Year’s Resolution.  Oh, that ought to be…fun.  (Beloved will begin taking bets on how long it will last on Wednesday.  The winner will receive a refrigerator full of leftovers and three cans of Deluxe Mixed Nuts with all of the cashews picked out.)

So, Christmas here was quite nice.  The Great Office Party of 2008 went smoothly.  My birthday was marvelous – I now have an entire shelf of Jim Shore figurines in my new curio, and I got a steak dinner cooked for me to boot.  Beloved and I didn’t buy anything for each other (the new furniture and shopping spree to Chicago were our gifts), but we bought The Young One an XBox 360 along with several games, which – surprise! – we both like to play.  Frankly, you haven’t lived until you’ve played one of the Katamari games (Beautiful Katamari is an XBox 360 exclusive).  Then there is Viva Piñata, another game which largely defies description and is my new obsession.

The cooking went well, despite my uncharacteristic reluctance for the task.  OH – I have to tell you that Thistle’s sweet potatoes?  Absolutely drool-worthy!  Good gawd, they were yummy.  I also made a double batch of Smart-Mouth Broad’s White Trash.  Holy cow!  Not only was it super easy, it was so very, very tasty.  The Young One has informed us, however, we cannot call it White TrashWhite Trash is apparently racist and therefore unacceptable.  It has now been rechristened White Christmas.

Take that, Jeff Foxworthy.

I have lots of yummy recipes coming up in the days ahead – lasagna, Texas-style chili, cherry pie salad (a new dish I threw in the mix at Christmas dinner that was an immediate hit), scalloped potatoes and warm chocolate souffle, which is really much easier than you might think.

To all of my regulars, it’s good to be back.  To all of the new readers that followed Goodfather’s Spin Cycle post over here, welcome.  Kick back.  Relax.  Leave a comment.

It’s business as usual at the Sushi Bar.

Going Cold Turkey

Cold TurkeyI have been on my computer for all of half an hour the last 3 days.

Heaven help me, I am going through withdrawal.

I am so behind in reading posts, it’s not even funny.  My apologies to all of you – I WILL find time to read and comment.  Honest.  It just won’t be for the next few days, with Oldest Son (who is now sick, oi vey – I’m drowning him in juice and Mucinex) and Miss Jacki here.

I made lasagna last night and wanted to post the recipe today, but I just can’t.  I still don’t know exactly what I’m making for dinner tomorrow and have to go to the grocery store, since I DO know what I’m making tonight – chili and spoonbread (good grief, that stuff has become popular in this house).  I did buy a Honey Baked Ham for dinner tomorrow (which shows you just how desperate I am to avoid really cooking and planning for Christmas dinner this year), but have no idea, beyond Thistle’s sweet potato recipe, what I am making with it.  I will make homemade rolls and a chocolate souffle for dessert, but other than that…maybe some scalloped potatoes and green bean casserole?  That’s not too labor intensive and I could do both in my sleep.

Ah, well, I better get hopping before the stores close (scalloped potatoes and green bean casserole it is).

Have a lovely Christmas, everyone!  Muah!  I’ll be back soon!

Oh, Lookie Here…

No Smoking200 posts.  Wow.  Is there a protocol for your 200th post?  (I’ll spare you 200 facts about me, since I can’t count and you’d end up with 327.)

Anyhoo, that’s not what I wanted to talk about.  What I wanted to talk about is the fact that, as of today, I have not had a cigarette in a year.

Yay, me.

I have to be honest – I wanted to quit.  I was ready to quit.  I didn’t enjoy it any longer, and I was tired of the expense and the smell and the mess.  I was tired of feeling controlled by it.  I was tired of being a social pariah of sorts.

I was tired of being a smoker.

I was also tired of being afraid.  You see, my mother was a life-long smoker and it was a contributing cause to her death at 51.  Once I hit my 40s, I began to get more and more nervous about my fate as a smoker.  Once 45 was staring me in the face, I guess I finally realized that I could no longer say “I’ll quit later, when I’m older” because “later” and “older” were here.  Mom was never able to quit, even after her surgery and I was damned if I was going to let that nasty, dangerous habit rule me for the rest of my life – it already had for long enough.

So, when we got up on the morning of December 23 last year and boarded our plane for Hawaii, I just stopped.  We were in airplanes or airports for 16 hours and I figured if I could go that long without a cigarette, I could go forever.  It was surprisingly easy, and by the time we got home 12 days later I realized that yes, I was done.

I won’t lie – there are times when I still crave one, but I just wait for a few seconds and the desire passes (it’s usually when I have a glass of wine beside me and Beloved lights up).  Most of the time, though, they just smell awful and having Beloved still smoking is a major nuisance, because when he’s not smoking around me I don’t think about it at all.  I try not to nag him, though, because when it’s time for him to quit, he will, and there isn’t anything I can do to change that time table.

I also won’t lie and tell you I haven’t gained any weight, because I have.  Quite a bit, as a matter of fact, but I’ll take that as an acceptable compromise, because I know for a fact I can lose it – I have before.

Perhaps that will be my “I did this for my health” anniversary post for next year.