Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Adventures in Home-Cooking

Well, folks, I have been reducing my arse off.

And by "reducing" of course I mean cooking at home instead of eating at restaurants or via drive through windows or using prepared foods and by "my arse" I literally mean my arse.

(Everything's funnier in the British dialect, no?)

I'm down two pounds. It's probably water weight - all weight loss seems to be water, whereas all weight gain is pure lard - Murphy's Law.

Still, I think it might have something to do with cooking at home a lot more than I usually do.

I am certainly setting cuisine standards that I won't be able to maintain when I get the environmental education job I'm hoping for, but what are standards if you can't blow them to smithereens, right?

Well, this is what I've learned from cooking home for the past couple of weeks:

1. Dishes are wretched. They're EVERYWHERE. All the time. There's a concise mathematical relationship between the deliciousness of the meal you cook and the number of dishes that are dirtied by the cooking. It's exponential.

2. Washing dishes in the dishwasher really does take less water than washing by hand. It also makes you feel less like a Dark Ages kitchen wench.

3. Never, under any circumstances, put bowls on the bottom rack of the dishwasher. It ruins the wash in every dishwasher I've ever owned. So you end up re-washing half the load and transform yourself into a water wasting kitchen wench. With dishpan hands.

4. Even with all the work, I still wouldn't use disposable dishes. Why bother to tear down all of those trees for leaky, flimsy plates when you're going to spend a bunch of time washing the pots and pans anyway? Silly kitchen wench.

Besides doing acres of dishes, I've also cooked some fairly fabulous meals. My favorite so far is a fairly scrumptious baked penne recipe, which I will share with those of you that have waded through my dishwater tirade thus far:

Dorothy's Baked Penne


1 package of Italian Sweet Sausage
1 package organic penne pasta
1 package organic mozzarella (pre-shredded if you can find it)
  • 2 cans organic diced tomatoes
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 1/2 to 1 sweet onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 T. olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Put the water on to boil the pasta.
  3. Dice the carrot, celery, and onion. Saute in olive oil in the bottom of a stock pot.
  4. Mince the garlic. Add it to the saute when the onion starts to turn translucent.
  5. Once the onion is translucent, add the two cans of tomatoes with their juice.
  6. Let this simmer for 20ish minutes while you're busy doing everything else.
  7. Salt the boiling water and put the pasta in to cook when the water has come to a boil.
  8. Squeeze the sausage meat out of the casings into a medium-hi pan. Break up the sausage as it cooks.
  9. Put a little of the tomato sauce in with the sausage so you can use it to deglaze the pan (AKA scrape up and dissolve all of the yummy bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.)
  10. Put the rest of the tomato sauce in a blender or food processor and puree it.
  11. Put the pureed sauce and the cooked sausage back into the stock pot together.
  12. Add a handful of the shredded mozzarella to the sauce mixture.
  13. When the pasta is al dente, strain it and add it to the sauce mixture.
  14. Mix thoroughly.
  15. Spray a 13x9 pan with olive oil (or grease it in any other way you like) and dump the pasta mixture in.
  16. Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella all over the top.
  17. Bake until the mozzarella on top is all bubbly and yummy - takes maybe 10 minutes.
This was a mixture of three different recipes from two different cook books with a lot of improvisation on my part. Next time I'll add parmesan cheese, too.

It got rave reviews from the family and we had leftovers to eat lunch for two days . . . in which time I had just about cleaned all of the dishes I dirtied in making it.

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