When we renovated our house a couple years ago, we had to move out for a few months. We subletted the apartment of a renter who owned a kitchenaid stand mixer as well as the fettuccine and spaghetti pasta attachments. I’d always wanted to try making pasta from scratch, and here was my change to do it. The recipe book promised I’d have delicious egg noodles within an hour. So I put my 1 year old down for her afternoon nap and got to work. I didn’t know what my dough was supposed to look like so I had to watch a few youtube videos and keep adding water and flour until I had what seemed to be the right consistency. And in one video, the women demonstrating how to flatten the dough had a beautiful sheet of dough after only a few runs through the roller attachment. My dough needed significantly more taming. That first effort to turn flour, eggs, and water into spaghetti took considerably longer than 60 minutes. Fortunately, my daughter slept longer, too, so I was able to complete the project without interference. And dinner that night was magical. I could not believe the difference between scratch and boxed pasta.
During our summer in that apartment, I determined to improve my technique since a three-hour process was not going to be regular weekend one. And by the time we moved back into our house, I was ready to invest in my own attachments. (I already had the stand mixer.) I can now make spaghetti and fettuccine in the promised hour, and I rarely use boxed anymore for the carbonara we have twice a month. Homemade pasta makes an everyday meal feel so special and fancy. And it turns your standard spaghetti with Bolognese sauce into a meal worthy of company. It also enables you to have date-night in and still feel like you’re enjoying a restaurant quality meal. It is definitely an investment, but it’s a worthwhile one.
I’ve always loved granola, but I didn’t buy it often because I considered it too expensive. Then I got Deb Perelman’s the smitten kitchen cookbook and saw her recipe for big cluster maple granola. It didn’t look too complicated, so I gave it a try. It was delicious. I’ve since modified it a bit to suit my tastes, and now I always have a batch in the cupboard. My kids have oatmeal topped with granola every school morning, and small containers of it make a great gift. It does take nearly an hour to make, but 90 percent of that is hands off time as it bakes, so you can do other things while your house steadily smells like cinnamon and sugar. Without fail, the days I make it, my eldest walks in the door after school and immediately says, “You made granola!”
RECIPE: The smitten kitchen recipe I started from isn’t available online, so below is the basic recipe I use now:
3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup each sunflower seeds, chopped cashews, chopped pecans, sliced almonds
2 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup maple syrup or honey, or enough to coat
Mix dry ingredients together, then mix in oil, vanilla, and natural sugar. Spread out on baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 50 minutes, flipping halfway through. Let cool and then scoop into a air tight container. I have no idea how long it will last because we go through it so quickly.
Ok, I’m probably pushing it to call this one a staple. But who doesn’t like chocolate pudding? I actually had never particularly enjoyed chocolate pudding–until I made this. When I was a kid, my mom occasionally made tapioca pudding, which I loved. I remember waiting impatiently with my spoon, ready to dig in to the dessert, still warm from the stove. Between my brother and me, I don’t think it lasted the day. I haven’t made tapioca for my kids yet, but I came across Deb’s recipe for Best Chocolate Pudding. It has only six ingredients (JELLO pudding cups have 16) and involves only about 20 minutes of hands on time. (It does have to set for a few hours.) My daughter loves it and I frequently have to disappoint her eager request for some for the third day in a row because I finished it myself while she was at school. #sorrynotsorry It’s actually best eaten within two days because by the third day it gets a bit runny. It’s still delicious, but it loses that wonderful rich thickness and behaves closer to creamy chocolate milk.