And Then Life Happened

My first baby recently moved away. There is a swelling in my heart when I think of her, navigating the world on her own, experiencing the exhaustion and exhilaration of independence, a world of opportunity before her as she creates a recipe for her future. And I am so proud of her. And I miss her deeply. And she came home for dinner this week.

So, I had it all planned out. I was going to make my old friend Joe’s Killer Lasagna and his Marinated Italian Salad because I could do this all the night before. I would have a couple of hours in the evening to leisurely put it together, taking my time with the sauce, chopping and sauteing vegetables, browning the perfect combination of ground beef and Italian sausage, expertly smoothing ricotta over al dente noodles and building layer after layer of gooey lasagna goodness. And I would wake up in the morning knowing that when I got home from work at the end of the day the only thing I’d need to do was pop that baby in the oven and wait for my house to smell amazing…

…And then life happened…

A business call that should have lasted 10 minutes took an hour and a half and just like that my leisurely evening was no more. So I didn’t follow the recipe. Or precook the noodles. And my sauce simmered for a mere 20 minutes while I hastily browned the meat and decided to leave the mushrooms out completely. And instead of shredding the cheese I cut it into chunks and there was to be no careful smoothing of ricotta because it’s a casserole, right? It all spreads out as it bakes anyway. An hour after I hung up the phone my lasagna was in the fridge, my salad was marinating, dishes were done, counters were wiped and I was drifting off for some much needed sleep.

I think life is like that. We start out with a recipe, a time-line, a predetermined idea of how things will be and then “life happens” and we have to do some rethinking. Maybe it’s lost time. Or a missing ingredient. Or we realize right in the middle of things that we don’t have the tools we need for the job we’ve set out to do. And that’s where we learn to think on our feet, to improvise, to forge ahead choosing to believe that the end result will be worth the effort we put in.

And in this case it was. To be completely honest it was the best lasagna I’ve ever made. Or maybe it was the company…

Lasagna Happens
Marinated Italian Salad

The Humble, The Unpretentious And The Sure Thing

You know what I like about carrot cake? It’s unpretentious. Carrot cake doesn’t care what you think of it, it doesn’t try to impress you. It’s simple and rustic and comfortable in its own skin. It’s….humble. And I think that’s what makes it so special. I mean, you can dress up a carrot cake with smooth icing and beautifully piped borders. You can labor over tiny little marzipan carrots and arrange them around the top to mark each serving. You can balance the cake on one hand while impressively spinning it and simultaneously pressing toasted nuts onto its sides. I’ve done them all. But my favorite way to finish a carrot cake is to simply swirl the icing into a cloud of fluffy white abandon…no pretense. Just a humble carrot cake covered in cream cheese icing sitting solid and heavy on a footed glass plate.

We celebrated four birthdays at my parents house yesterday and my contribution was the birthday cake. That morning, as I measured and stirred and baked and whipped I felt peaceful and content moving around in my tiny kitchen. The last year has been a bit of a trial for me…filled with so many changes and, to be perfectly honest, I’ve felt a little lost at times. Maybe unsure is a better word.  So making my cake was therapy. I knew exactly how it would turn out before I even started. The beauty of THIS cake in particular is that it’s uncomplicated. There is no whipping of egg whites or sifting of flour, no concern about overbeating or deflating the batter…I’ve made it so many times that some of the ingredients never even see the inside a measuring cup anymore. It’s a No Fail. A Sure Thing. And who can’t use a sure thing right now??

The Best Carrot Cake Ever

White Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing