Valentine’s Day-The Whole Story

Ryan declared  my Valentine’s Lasagna a success. It was a long, long process. I’m exhausted and the kitchen is a disaster, but I will sleep easy tonight knowing I made a lasagna my husband enjoyed.

I’ve mentioned before how challenging making my mother’s family’s recipes are because of their cryptic nature. When I was young, much younger than I am now (as one often in is stories), my grandmother told me about the envelopes and report cards and other scraps of paper on which  her mother-in-law wrote her would-be-recipe grocery lists. She told me how she had learned to cook from her mother-in-law and that was the only reason she knew what the grocery lists meant. Fearing that I would one day come of age and not know the code for the recipes, I began typing out the lists with my grandmother filling in the details making them recipes. I didn’t get very far, alas.

Last year, my family hosted for me, a bridal shower, for I was to be a bride. The final gift I received was a cookbook my aunt and cousin put together for me with all of our family recipes de-coded. It is this cookbook I have held steadfast to, my anchor in the swarming seas of stews and sauces. I found out tonight, however, that I have taken this record book for granted. When my aunt and cousin compiled these recipes and typed them out with care, they left out steps! Luckily, for the sake of the lasagna, I paid attention during those “life lessons” mom made my sister and I listen to, and I already knew you put sauce on each layer of a lasagna.

Ryan and I are poor. Together, we do not make much money. We are pinching pennies until Ryan graduates in May and finds a “grown-up job.” So for this, our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple, I gave to my husband, a fine dining experience. Or at least as close as I could muster. Dinner consisted of the following, to be described in detail: Lasagna, Asparagus, Garlic Bread and Lemon “Macaroons.”

How the Lasagna Came to Be:

As blogged before, I started the sauce yesterday. This afternoon I added the browned, seasoned meat and cooked the sauce some more. Since the sauce thickened up so much last night, I put the pot over a low heat and more or less heated up the sauce very slowly all day. While the sauce was warming, I made the noodles. Ryan fixed the dough and I rolled it out into noodles. This time I measured with a standard mean and each noodle was eight inches long and four inches wide. I made them as such to fit my 8×8 pyrex pan.

A Lasagna Noodle
Noodles Drying- I made 8

Once the sauce was hot and the noodles were finished, I began assembly. It was about this time that I realized my aunt left out some ingrediants in the layering process. First, I put a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan (it is the same idea behind greesing a pan to keep the noodles from sticking). Then I began the lasagna layering– bottom layer of noodles, dollops of ricotta cheese and sauce…layer of noodles, dollops of ricotta and sauce. I was able to make three layers. The top of the lasagna is a layer of noodles covered with mozzarella cheese. Finally, into the oven at 350 for 30 mins. It is the same as with Manicotti: it isn’t that anything needs to cook, it’s just a matter of it all melting together all gooey like.

Sauce the Pan
Layer of Noodles
Dollops of Ricotta

How the Macaroons Tried so Very Hard to Be:

I browsed through the Better Homes and Garden Cook Book my mom had given Ryan back in his psudo-veggitarian days to try to find a good dessert for my fine dining meal. I decided on Lemon Macaroons because they didn’t look too hard and they had a fancier name than “cookie.” First I had to seperate two eggs. I did good with the first egg, but not so much with thesecond. Four eggs later, I had the whites of two eggs. The instructions were to whip the egg whites, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of lemon zest in a medium bowl with a hand mixer until soft peeks formed. Simple enough, I thought. Wrong I was. I whipped and beat and mixed all in earnest and all I got was a noise complaint and frothy lemon juice. I kept mixing hoping and wishing, but my mixture had plateaued and there was no hope. Since I had already sent Ryan out for coconut, I decided to forage ahead  and add the sugar and coconut. The time for narrative has passed, the only thing for me to say is…this is what happened:

Macaroon Puddles

But, in true Carruth fashion, we scooped out the centers and ate a macaroon hash which was really very tastey.

All in all, I had a lot of fun cooking the fancy meal and documenting it. These are the pictures I couldn’t find space for in the post.

This is why we buy a dozen eggs
Macaroon Hash


4 thoughts on “Valentine’s Day-The Whole Story

  1. The last time I attempted to make lasagna it was a miserable failure. This has inspired me to try again sometime soon. I think my main failure was the lack of complete sauce coverage which resulted in parts of the noodle coming out hard. I have also never made noodles from scratch, which I always say I’m going to do, but never actually do.

    I think I know where your whipped egg whites went wrong. More than likely you probably got some egg yolk (or maybe shell) in the egg white. It has happened to me on several occasions and I end up having to separate more eggs. One trick is to separate each egg into a 3rd container, before putting the whites into the bowl, so you can check if any yolks have gotten into the whites, and at most have to redo only that egg and not all of them.

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