Puppies to Pasta

11 Sep

I want to tell you about my Friday, because I think it’s a perfect example of a day when I had to make choices, left and right, in order to cook and get other things accomplished.  With the budget being tight this month, Dan and I have been making an effort to cook cheaper meals, so I had planned to prepare a pasta sauce we first found online, years ago, and made for my 30th birthday.  At the time, it was a big project for the two of us, which shows me how much we’ve learned in the past eight years, because now it seems fairly simple to me.  I felt  a little like a cheater doing such an easy sauce on a Friday, but it was what Dan wanted, so I planned on it.

At the same time that I was planning Friday’s dinner, we had quite a drama playing out.  William had taken his treasured stuffed blue puppy to an appointment on Wednesday and left it somewhere – either at the building where the appointment was, or a McDonald’s, or the gym…or who knew?  For two days, we’d been unsuccessfully e-mailing and calling people to see if anyone had found it.  Finally, luck was with us.  On Friday the puppy was located at the aforementioned office building (it had spent one night in the women’s bathroom and another in the lobby) and Dan arranged to pick it up on the way home.  William was overjoyed!  On a whim, I told him we should make a cake for Puppy as a surprise when he arrived home.

The minute I said it, I thought “Crap – it’s only an hour until we have William’s class at the Little Gym.”  With only a minute to decide yea or nay, I plunged forward.  I grabbed our Perfect Cakes cookbook, let William help me select a simple white cake, and we proceeded to make a huge mess in the kitchen.  William measured and scraped flour…all over the counter.  We cracked eggs.  We softened butter.  When I wasn’t looking, William tasted the batter with raw eggs in it.  “Mmmm!  That’s SO yummy,” he shouted.  Mmmmmm salmonella.

I figured I would pop this cake in the oven and get it out just in time to rush William and his brother to the Little Gym.  I was supposed to put buttered parchment in the bottom of the pans, but I only had time to do one.  Guess I would take my chances! When it came out of the oven, I didn’t even have time to flip the cakes out of the pans.  I had to leave them on the stove top and jet, praying they didn’t stick.  While it was baking, I chose an icing recipe out of the back of the book.  It called for granulated sugar, eggs, and butter.  All I needed was some more butter.

While William was in Little Gym class, I ran with Cormac to the library to get poor Dan a new audiobook for his commute and then to Giant for more butter and to get wrapping paper for a friend’s birthday gift.  Then back to the Little Gym.  We picked William up and came home.

I knew I should get those cakes out of the pans, so I loosened them around the edges and tipped them experimentally.  The one with the parchment came right out.   The other one…didn’t.  Knife.  Rubber spatula.  Metal spatula.  I finally got the thing out and it was ugly.  But, hey, bottom layer, right?  In an instant, Cormac and William had dragged their stool over and were poking at the layers with their fingers.  Into the cake keeper it went, to await icing.

At this point, it was about 1:15, and I was faced with the question of whether or not to try to get to the gym for my own workout.  Laziness was creeping in.  How easy it would be to excuse not going, I thought.  I have a cake to frost and a pasta sauce to make!  NO!  I would feel better if I did it.  I bundled both boys back in the car after a brief lunch (ummmm – Smucker’s Uncrustables again) and darted to the gym.

We got home at 3:30 and I put Cormac down for his nap.  I had icing to make, because Dan and Puppy were due to arrive home around 5:30.  I pulled out the icing recipe and it dawned on me that the eggs in the icing were eggwhites that were…raw.  Noooooooo!  How could I have been so dense?  I try not to be a phobic about these things, but after having a really bad salmonella experience in 1999, I do fear exposing my children to raw eggs.  I would have to find another recipe.  Unfortunately, every other recipe I found called for confectioner’s sugar (must be something about heating and dissolving sugar and eggs – I don’t know) and we had run out of that.  Crap!

Google search: substitute for confectioner’s sugar.  I was advised to grind sugar in a blender with 1 tsp. cornstarch.  I went for it.  The icing came together pretty quickly.  It was a little grainy, but the taste was good (as William attested – my new taster).  I had the genuine pleasure of giving my son his first beater to lick.  My mom had always given me the beaters.  He loved it, and he felt ownership over the cake.  I felt like a Mom from one of those cheesy Rice Krispies treat ads.  Cormac got up from his nap and I just gave them the mostly-empty bowl of icing to share on the floor.  Sugar?  What me worry?

This is how my kitchen looked when the cake was done.

So at this point, it’s like 4:30 pm and I haven’t even started the pasta sauce.  It occurred to me to really be sucky and wait for Dan to get home so he could chop the onions for me (my most hated task) but I ploughed ahead.  The boys bounced off on their sugar high, so I started smashing garlic, chopping onions, slicing mushrooms, and browning hot Italian sausage.  By the time Cormac came howling to me for whatever reason, I had the sauce bubbling on the stove.  When Dan got home with Puppy at 5:30, the sauce was nearly done.

Dude.  I was so ready for a drink.

But I felt really good about my day.  I certainly hadn’t saved the world, but I had made adjustments so I could go with the flow, had spent really great quality time with William, and enabled two brothers to share their first icing bowl.  Plus, Puppy was very pleased with his cake when he got home.

Besides chutzpah, having certain pantry staples made that lopsided cake possible.  We always keep flour, butter (well – MORE butter would have been good), eggs, vanilla extract, and granulated sugar on hand.  Also cornstarch, baking powder, and baking soda.  Without all that stuff, I couldn’t have made a cake on such short notice.  With the exception of the eggs, this stuff all keeps for a long time, so just buy it.

And when those two whippersnappers were in bed (and Puppy, too) Dan and I collapsed on the couch with a bowl of pasta and said “Friday.  YES.”  On the agenda for Saturday: Wash Puppy in hot water.

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One Response to “Puppies to Pasta”

  1. mealsbysheri September 14, 2010 at 9:44 am #

    I was exhausted just reading your blog! What a day! I can appreciate your flexiblity and creativity as I too, have 2 boys to raise and sometimes just not enough time. Welcome home Puppy, and congrats on a day survived!I invite you to visit my blog and Happy Cookin!

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