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Chapter XVII

because you never know someone from the very beginning

Month

November 2008

I need to end the day.

So will make this quick.  This day has been full of a lot and a little.  Today I thought about my addiction to a variety of web services, including a new one, http://blip.fm/all, where I connected with a friend of mine who is one of the most amazing hip-hop writers/music reviewers of our time.  I also flew 3,000 miles and miss my child being so very far away.  I had a drink with a couple of work colleagues at Shutters.  I missed my husband, but we had a great chat this evening.  I continued to be inspired by our (my firm's) investments generally, and had a really go-get-em chat with a new contact about education investing. 

I connected with a couple of people on Facebook who I knew/know but would like to know better.

There was no exercise.  There was a little wine.

I wrote a first draft of a strategy session document for one company and built a liquidity table for another (love Excel).

I spoke briefly to a friend about how we can perk up another friend.

Said a quick hello to my mom.  Wondered in amazement that Thanksgiving is a week away.  Tried not to be upset thinking Dad is not here for it.  Though, he would say it's no big loss since he did not love turkey anyway.  You gotta' laugh, you know.

And I was really upset to learn that an acquaintance had died.  I had a three hour conversation with this person only 2 months ago at a party at a friend's house.  We argued about the viability of an online food business.  He was a successful business person, father, husband.

So on that, I thought about these times we are living in.  It passes too quickly, you know.  And nothing really matters, I believe this, but your friendships and family.  If you have to give up your home, buy cheaper shoes, eat beans.  It does not matter.  And if you don't believe me, take one step towards living that way and call a friend.  Say hi.  Ask how they are and listen.  Don't multi-task.  Have a real conversation and realize, that is all that matters. 

And if you are in the mood for lasagna, allow me…

No need for much of a preamble here.  Sausage, cheese, tomato sauce, noodles.  Let’s get going:

 

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 pounds of Italian sausage – out of skins and broken up (have used turkey sausage very successfully)

  • 1/2 cup each – celery, onion, carrot diced

  • 2 cans (16 oz) crushed tomatoes

  • 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste

  • 2 to 3 clove garlic, chopped (this depends on your garlic tolerance.  We use 3.  No vampires here.)

  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano

  • 1 t. pepper

  • 1 or 2 boxes of no-cook lasagna noodles.  I am not sure how many we use.  Maybe 10.  Making lasagna is more of an art than a science.  And on the no boil part, use real boil if you want to. I am no Rachel Ray who super shortcuts everything, but I really cannot be bothered with standard lasagna noodles.

  • 3 cups ricotta cheese (I have also successfully used cottage cheese here.  Same amount.  I know, this is heresy, but if you want to make it a little less guilt ridden, try cottage cheese.)

  • 4 egg whites

  • 1 cup grated parmesan

  • 3 or 4 tablespoons chopped parsley

  • 15 oz. pretty thinly sliced mozzarella cheese (Yes, this is about 1.5 packages.  Annoying, perhaps.  But when we cook, we snack.  Therefore, we make good use of that leftover mozzarella.)

  • Salt and pepper.  Very hard to say how much.  I like pepper, and we are not shy with the salt. 

  • Crushed red pepper flakes, if you like things spicy (What, you have no spice in life?  That, my friend, is a shame.)

 

Turning all of the above, into true deliciousness:

  • Pull out all required ingredients; order them neatly on your counter.  Put a trash bowl or bag on your counter (I don’t know why, but it’s just easier to have a bag or something on the counter for all trash bits and pieces created while cooking).  Depending on time of day, open a bottle of wine (not on the ingredients list, but it’s nice to have a glass while cooking.  Cooking, after all is about creativity and inspiration; therefore, wine is in order.

  • Anyway, above, I called for celery, carrots and onion.  Chop them up first thing (again, somewhat small dice, all about the same size).  Put it all into a bowl.

  • Then chop your garlic.  Hold that on the side on the cutting board. 

  • Get out a pan.  I use an All Clad 6 quart sauté pan with a lid.  Use something large with a lid.

  • Oh yes, you need extra virgin olive oil now (sorry, forgot that above.  It’s somewhat standard in my cooking.)

  • After you have chopped all of your vegetables, pour about 3 tablespoons of the olive oil into the pan.  Turn it to medium heat.

  • Open your package of sausage while the oil is heating.  Once the oil heats up (it should shimmer in the pan), toss in all of the chopped vegetables.  Grab a palmful of salt (I use kosher salt) and toss it into the pan.  Also give it a few grinds of black pepper.  Stir it all around.  Let it go for about 3 minutes.  Throw in the garlic and the sausage.  Stir.  Do whatever you need to do to break up the sausage as it cooks in the pan (wooden spoon, potato masher, grab an older child and give them this job).

  • Have a sip of wine.  You do not need the sausage to be fully cooked through.  In fact, best thing to do is not mess with it too much, let it get a little brown here and there.  This will take a few minutes.

  • Once you see some nice browned sausage pieces, add your oregano, red pepper flakes, canned tomatoes and tomato paste.  Stir.  Bring it to low simmer.  Turn the heat down and cover.  This will cook for about 30 minutes.

  • While the tomato sauce is cooking, grate your parmesan cheese and separate your eggs so you have the whites ready to go.  Get a bowl and mix the ricotta cheese, eggs whites and parsley together.  Add some black pepper.  Stir.

  • Cut your mozzarella into slices.  I don’t like mine too thick.

  • At this point, I would clean up whatever is lying around the kitchen.  I hate messy kitchens while I cook.  But that is just me.  Do whatever you like at this point.  You have a few minutes to spare.

  • After about 15 minutes, peak at the sauce.  Taste it and see if it needs salt or pepper.

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

  • After about 15 more minutes, turn the heat off of the sauce.

  • Now it’s assembly line time.  Grab your lasagna pan (did I mention you need a pan to cook the lasagna in?)   I use a Pyrex glass pan.  I think it’s 9×13.  Use whatever you have.  That is part of what makes lasagna an art, not a science.  Order your inputs on your counter: tomato sauce, noodles, ricotta cheese mix, mozzarella slices.

  • Start by putting a bit – not much – of the tomato sauce in the bottom of the pan.  This helps to keep the noodles from sticking.  Next, put a few of the noodles in the pan.  I overlap mine slightly.  Maybe break some up if you have to in order to create a good layer.  Next, add a real layer of the sauce, then add some cheese mix, then a layer of mozzarella.  Repeat.  I usually get to about three layers of noodles.  Estimating the amounts you need in each layer is the key here.   So just guess.  I am sure you will be fine.  I end by grating a bit more parmesan cheese on the top layer (over the mozzarella).  And then it goes into the oven.  Start your timer for 45 minutes.

  • You may have leftover sauce.  I make sure to never have leftover cheese (the mozzarella is often eaten in the cooking process; the ricotta I somehow manage to always use).  Leftover sauce would be great over any other kind of pasta.

  • Now, chill out and wait.  Your house should start to smell great.  Open your windows, watch neighbors swoon and wonder in culinary amazement.  Clean up whatever mess remains in your kitchen.  And when it’s done, take it out and don’t –DON’T – try it yet.  It needs to rest.  About 10 minutes.  I use this time to make a salad.  Then, the moment of truth.  Serve.  

If you make it, I hope you like it. 

P.S. I find this is about a two hour process, start to finish.

 

 

Midnight Snack and Dad on the Steps. Weird.

Just made myself a midnight snack.  My midnight these days is 10PM (I swear, a few years ago my midnight was 2AM.  Really.  I used to be fun.)

The snack was a rather sublime plate of scrambled eggs with leek confit (new obsession) and goat cheese.

One of the last things I did for my dad was make him a plate of scrambled eggs.  That was about three weeks ago.  I think he liked them.  And we served him burnt toast too – just like he liked it.

My mom has my dad at home now.  He is sitting on the steps (cremated).  I suspect she kind of likes him there.  He is near the cremated dog, also at home.  A little too macabre for you?  Wimp.

My daughter has learned to wave.  It's about the cutest thing I have seen ever.

Talked to my friend today who runs Vocation Vacations.  Try out your dream job.  I just love that company.  It's the little company that could, with a great mission – helping people find job satisfaction.

This is about the most stressful time in life I have witnessed yet, in all of my 36 years.  There is change, flux and or stress in almost all areas.  A lot of proverbial plates spinning.  And it's happening all around, with most people I know.  And I feel a tense sense of calm, if that makes any sense.  Calm with a hint of edge, at any moment the breeze could blow me off of my otherwise solid perch and over the cliff.  Crazy times we live in, friends, crazy times.  But good in many ways, many that I am sure we cannot fully appreciate now.  For me and my family, there are remembrances, more efficient living, hunkering down and appreciating what we have rather than focusing on acquiring things we don't have.  And someone wise once said, the key to happiness is wanting what you have.  Well, given everything going on right now in the world, perhaps we can all come through this on cloud nine. 

Tough times call for, more bacon.

Wow what a weekend.  Beautiful day, today was.  It's nice to have beautiful days in the middle of tough times.  At least we have our health AND the weather.

So how do you shift in times like this to deal with tough economic times?  I have noticed I do several things, such as:

  • We eat more chicken thighs.
  • I get cheaper haircuts.
  • Fewer dinners out.  This is easy since with a 9-month old, our days of eating out all the time are pretty much over.  We have people over instead to catch up with friends.
  • I feel EVEN better about skipping brunch.  I always hated waiting in line for $20 eggs I could have cooked better myself.  Now I feel like skipping spendy brunch is the "right" thing to do.
  • No taxis.  Unless I am going to the airport.
  • I closet shop rather than really shop. 
  • We do "not so secret Santa" Christmas giving.
  • I read the books on my shelves.
  • I read the paper online.
  • We eat more vegetables.  And beans.  And fruit.
  • Well, on the last point…mostly we eat more vegetables, etc. BUT, I cannot give up flavor.  So, I cook with more, you guessed it, BACON.  Bacon makes everything taste better.  And it's cheap.  Cheap, good, smoked meat flavor.  And sausage.  Italian sausage/kale/white beans all cooked down in some broth with onions and garlic, tossed with pasta.  You cannot go wrong.

Hmmmm.  Well, those all seem like pretty good things regardless of how challenging times might be.  Chicken thighs taste better than white meat anyway (just ask any real cook).  Dinner parties – way better than eating out (usually).  No subways?  I feel more green.  Books?  I have a lot of great unread books on my shelves.  Who needs to go buy something new?  And the vegetables, beans and fruit?  Last I checked, that was a big part of the formula for good nutrition.  So far, so good.

Cheaper haircuts are, however, a risk.  Hair matters.  I always feel like I am cheating when I don't see Patrick.  I love Patrick.  I will go back.  This is only temporary.  Besides, cheaper stylists always want to make me look like Dorothy Hamill or a TV commentator. 

So all in all, times might be tough, but many of these changes are good for me/us anyway.  OK, feeling good.  Feeling frugal.  Eating better.  Not wasting money on things I should not spend on regardless.

A Few Things, Nothing Too Important

The new baby, not mine, is crying downstairs.  I remember those days.  It's funny how when it was us, we felt panicky, but listening to another's child, you just know it's doing what babies do.

Been a challenging day, for a few reasons but to make matters worse, we met with our tax guy today about 2008.  More check writing.

The weather has been rainy but wonderful.  I love weather like this.

I just finished reading a board package for a meeting tomorrow.  The company is doing pretty well, so that is something to feel good about.  While reading said package, I left a container of chocolate chip cookie dough on the table.  Next to me.  Let's just say I took care of it.  That package won't be hurting anyone, anymore.

Rocky IV is on TV.  I love the training scenes, though could skip the Russian in the white iridescent tights.  But the music – oh what a score!  If that does not make you feel all '80s and workout prone, I don't know what does.  I am going to head out tomorrow in the snow and find myself a log to carry while I run to the top of a mountain!

Dinner tonight was a hot dog pasta that our babysitter made for herself and in the nicest way said "I would love for you to try some!" 

Thoughts of calling Dad today to mention something to him: 1100

Times I have snuck in to look at Super Baby asleep tonight: 4

Man this Rocky score just does not quit.  Hearts On Fire, baby!

Right now

On subway headed home; eating pie (love pie) with neighbors tonight later as we watch Obama win; need to grab bread on the way home – will have garlic croutons with soup I made last night; get to see daughter for 15 minutes before she goes to bed (best 15 minutes of the day); Mom seems to be doing well down at home, adjusting to life without Dad; miss Dad; good day at work…lots happening…what a great thing I get to do – work with entrepreneurs who think big. Need to reinvigorate my exercise habit. It’s almost turkey time. I secretly like that it gets dark earlier. Random Dad memory of the day – he collected Sharpie pens. I now love Sharpie pens.

Voting for That One

Standing in line to vote today. It's a really long line. Wraps around most of the block…got here at about 6:20AM. It feels like a party – people are taking pictures, there are kids in PJs who have been dragged out of bed, people stroll down the line with video cameras marking this occasion. It's quite a site – this is what Americans should want – people willing to – and happy to – wait in lines to be heard. And the election parties tonight – you would think this is the Superbowl or the Oscars. The mood here at PS9 in Brooklyn is jovial and excited. This is a historic day.

Leaf Therapy

Driving up to Bedford. The trees on 684 are amazing. Note to self – autumn leaves are good for the soul. No wonder my dad loved autumn.

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