Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Friday, January 28, 2022

Conclusion of the Lasagna Sagna... er, Saga

Time for the exciting conclusion to the Adventures of Lasagna Making. You’ll recall we left Terrie hunting her neighborhood’s corner stores for lasagna noodles. She regretfully decided to postpone the assembly to the next day. Let’s pick up our story there, in her own words…

Two slow-cookers full of sauce is a lot.

But wait. What would I do with those two crock pots of sauce overnight? Too large for the fridge, I couldn’t risk leaving them at room temperature that long. Out on the deck? They’d attract every cat, squirrel, and skunk for miles. And then they’d freeze. The garage? I didn’t want my sauce tasting like fuel. I simply had to finish the assembling of the three lasagna pans and get them in the freezer.

I ventured out on another walk, this time to Red Apple. I spied several boxes of lasagna noodles on their shelves. Alas, they were all the “oven ready” kind. Not what I wanted. I continued down the sidewalk to Shopper’s where an apologetic sign told me the front doors were closed and I needed to go around back. What if I walked all the way around the block only to discover they didn’t have my noodles? I’d come this far, I may as well keep going to Portage Supermarket. I could see their overhang just ahead.

When I reached the overhang, I realized it belonged to a lawyer’s office. By now, however, the supermarket really was within sight. I went in, purchased my noodles, and walked the eight blocks home. I filled my big stock pot with hot tap water and put it on the stove to heat. While I waited, I recalculated the mozzarella cheese. I pulled up Google to convert to metric again. Woops. I only had half enough cheese! I could have easily grabbed another block while buying noodles! Should I skimp on cheese and serve my family the World’s Fourth-Best Lasagna? No. It could wait another day. I turned off the burner. I squeezed the crock pots into the fridge overnight.

Early the next morning, I drove to my regular store for the additional cheese. Since I was there, I checked out their foil pans. Hey! Deep dish lasagna pans. Those would work so much better than cake pans. I bought three. The cost of my lasagnas now reached over a hundred dollars, but it would be worth it.

Assembly went smoothly, except for having WAY more sauce than I figured I should need. The total measurements of all the called-for liquids did not align with the amount the recipe was telling me to put in each layer. I recalculated everything and couldn’t find any mistakes. Should I use all the sauce and risk runny lasagna? Or go with my gut and risk having it too dry? I did the second thing and froze the extra sauce for another pasta day. Maybe we’d have to settle for the World’s Fifth-Best Lasagna.

Finally found enough noodles.
And cheese.


Ready for freezer ... or oven.

Once all three pans were filled and covered, I carefully laid them in the freezer, cleaned the kitchen, and barely gave them a thought until gathering day. By that time, our numbers were reduced to nine people, so we left one pan behind. My son popped the other two in his oven. Ninety minutes later, when it should have been time to remove the foil covering, they were still cold in the middle. Argh! We’d already dressed the Caesar salad. By the time those lasagnas were properly cooked, everybody was too hungry to mind the soggy salad. The lasagna proved a hit, and we filled out tummies from just one pan.

As it turned out, the same crew gathered again two days later and didn’t mind eating the second lasagna. Even if it was two days old and even if it was Christmas Day.

I’ve since bought a kitchen scale that measures in both Imperial and Metric. Lesson learned. Plus, we still have one whole pan in the freezer for another time. Who would dare complain about the World’s Sixth-Best lasagna?

Friday, January 21, 2022

That Time I Attempted the World's Best Lasagna

Our kids and I agreed that lasagna provided the best solution for our gathering at our son’s house two days before Christmas. Most of the work could be done ahead—by me. On party day, it would be a cinch to pop them out of the freezer into his oven. Cleanup would be a breeze compared to a turkey. With one kid providing salad and another dessert, this mama’s job would pretty much be done.

You know where this is going.

I couldn’t simply throw together my ordinary open-a-can-of-pasta-sauce-don’t-measure-anything lasagna. Not when it was our Christmas dinner. And not with our foodie son-in-law around. I Googled “lasagna recipe” and what popped up but “World’s Best Lasagna.” World’s best? What could top that? I skimmed the ingredients. It looked doable and delicious. Three large pans would feed our crew, which meant tripling everything. Of course, the American recipe listed ingredients in pounds and ounces so again, I used Google to convert to metric. I made my shopping list. 

My shopping list(s)

I should have checked it twice.

In addition to two and a quarter pounds of ground beef, I’d need two pounds of bulk Italian sausage. My store had only one pound. The meat clerk advised I’d get the same product if I bought the links, slit the casing, and simply used the sausage inside. I did.

In the cheese department, I grabbed a large block of mozzarella and some Parmesan. The recipe called for ricotta cheese, but when I saw the price, I reached for good old cottage cheese instead. We could settle for the World’s Second-Best Lasagna.

Besides the lasagna noodles already in my pantry, I’d need 24 more. Lucky for me, one of the better brands was on sale for the same price as the store brand. The print on the box was written in Italian, but I saw a large number “24” on the front. What else could that mean but 24 noodles?

You know where this is going.

When I added the price of all my ingredients, it totaled $30 per pan or almost $2.50 a serving, not counting my labor. But hey, it would be worth it for the World’s Second-Best Lasagna. I happily looked forward to the next morning. Lasagna-making day!

Whoa, that's a lotta sauce!

That’s when I realized all that meat and all those cans of tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste would not fit in my biggest pot. No way. I do own a large stock pot, but I’d need that one for cooking 36 noodles. What to do? If I made the sauce in the stock pot, I’d need to ladle it into something else in order to cook the noodles. Maybe I should cook the noodles first and set them aside. But the sauce was supposed to simmer for an hour and a half. What to do? I ended up browning the meat in my large pot, then dividing everything between two crock pots. It barely fit. Boy, that seemed like an awful lot of sauce. I recalculated everything, confident my measurements were correct according to the recipe. I guess time would tell when I tried to fit everything in the pans.


More calculating

Next, the noodles. Uh oh. The box of fancy Italian noodles held only twelve. Why on earth hadn’t I grabbed two? Should I skimp on noodles and settle for the World’s Third-Best Lasagna? Hubby had the car, so I couldn’t just run back to the store. Would our neighborhood corner store carry lasagna noodles? I ventured the three blocks down the sidewalk, doubting they would. I was right. Oh well. It was a nice day and I needed the exercise. I walked the seven blocks to the next nearest store. No lasagna noodles. That settled it. I’d have to leave the assembling of the lasagna for the next day. You probably know where this is going, but I’m out of space. You’ll need to wait for the rest of my lasagna sagna. Er, saga.

To be continued next week.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Losin' It

Let me preface this by saying I am ordinarily an organized person. Ask anyone. So I should think the odds of misplacing my cell phone, my debit card, my car, and my husband all in the same afternoon, all for the first time, were slim.

I take that back. I once lost my car in a Winnipeg parking garage. By the time I located it, time had expired for me to exit with my receipt. I had to pay extra.

I’ve frequently not known where Hubby is, either, but he seems to always come home.

Anyway, let’s back this train of thought up a bit.

One Wednesday afternoon, I was in the writing zone at my desk, where time is meaningless. Suddenly, it was four o’clock. I was supposed to be picking up Hubby from work. The thermometer read a gazillion-below-zero, too, so everything takes longer. I hurried off.

As planned, we went straight to the Co-op for groceries. While I shopped, Hubby’s jobs were to fill the car with gas and pay a cardlock bill at the service counter.

We should have planned a bit further.

I finished my shopping, paid for the groceries, and wheeled my cart to the foyer. Why had Hubby not come to find me when he finished paying his bill? No sign of him in the parking lot. Strange. Was there a long lineup at the gas bar? Had he run into a long-winded friend? Did he forget all about me and go home?

By this time, darkness was falling. I reached for my cell phone to text him.

My cell phone wasn’t there.

Shoot. I’d left it on my desk for the first time ever. The Twilight Zone theme pressed in. I was immediately pulled back decades, to memories of waiting in the Co-op foyer for Hubby, with a cart full of groceries and no way to reach him. I didn’t know whether to be mad or worried. What if he’d collapsed? I didn’t want to abandon my cart, and I sure wasn’t going to push it all the way across the frozen tundra to the gas bar.

I wheeled my cart to the service counter where I waited, keeping an eye on the front doors, while the clerk helped another customer. I asked her if I could stash my cart behind the counter while I walked over to the gas bar to look for my husband…by the way, had he been in to pay a bill?

Yes, he had. And she had my card.

Huh? What card?

She walked to the safe and pulled something out, then handed me the debit card I’d apparently forgotten to remove from their debit machine. First. Time. Ever.

Then she let me use her phone. In my state of mind, I couldn’t remember Hubby’s cell phone number. She waited on the next customer while I had a good think. Still not sure I recalled it correctly, I gave the clerk a number to dial. After three rings, Hubby answered.

Me: “Where are you?”

Him: “Right in front of the store.”

He confessed he had thought I was taking a while, but after eight hours on his feet in the frigid weather, he felt perfectly content to sit in a warm car as long as necessary. The store’s corner wall blocked his view of me, and a truck blocked my view of him.

How could I be angry? If he’d come and found me, I wouldn’t have known about my missing debit card until the next time I tried to use it.

Shakespeare said, “All’s well that ends well.”

John Lennon is often credited with saying, “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

I prefer Romans 8:28. “…we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” (The Message)

Friday, January 7, 2022

Ain't Nothin' God Can't Use

As I sit at my desk wondering what to write for this first blog post of another new year, a glimpse out my office window speaks to my heart. It’s been a cold, blustery day. The snow has stopped falling, the wind has settled down, the sun is setting. The cloud cover has broken in the west just enough to tease me with a glimmer of sky the color of ripe, freshly sliced cantaloupe. The crisp whiteness on the evergreens and the sparkly blue balls hanging inside my window breathe beauty into winter’s harsh reality.

People find much to feel angry about. Frustrated about. Fearful, sad, and disappointed about. Persistent and fast-spreading variants of Covid-19 have cancelled or postponed holiday celebrations. Family members missed out due to close contacts or positive test results or merely to obey the gathering rules. We’ve had to hold loosely every hope and dream, knowing our plans will change frequently, and often at the last minute.

We’re tired. This has dragged on long enough, we say. Is this how life is going to be from now on? Will it never end?

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but I’m not sure anyone believes that anymore. This pandemic has killed many, literally and figuratively. Besides actual physical death from the virus, it has brought death in other forms. Suicide is rampant. Domestic violence is at an all-time high. Marriages are ending. Factions have formed. Trust has dissolved. Dreams and hopes are dying all around us. Are we stronger?

For those of us who truly believe God could end this with one word, the pandemic might create a crisis of faith. He could end it, yet he does not. We wonder why. Doesn’t he love us? It’s easy to conclude God might be all-powerful, or he might be loving, but he surely cannot be both.

I still choose to believe he is both. Though I have no idea why he allows this to continue, I trust him enough to believe he has his reasons. So far, none of our names are on the need-to-know list. My daily prayer these days is, “God, if we must go through this anyway—and apparently, we do—please don’t let us waste it. Don’t let me waste it. Use the difficulty to make me stronger. Kinder. More compassionate and understanding. Wiser. Braver. Whatever you want, however I need to change, do that. In me. Through this.”

Author Mary Jane Holt says, “Ain’t nothin’ God can’t use to get folks thinking about him and eventually seeking to know him.” I love that.

Ain’t nothin’ God can’t use to teach and to reach us.

Ain’t nothin’ God can’t use to restore the broken.

Ain’t nothin’ God can’t use to improve our perspective.

Ain’t nothin’ God can’t use to bring hope to the hopeless.

Ain’t nothin’ God can’t use to make us more like himself. To make us love each other better. To make us more helpful and less judgmental. More patient, less demanding. More courageous, less fearful. More humble, less entitled. More peaceful, less anxious.

That sliver of rosy sky in the west tells me the sun is still shining even if I cannot see it. It will make itself brilliantly evident once again—if not tomorrow, the next day. Its Creator will do the same, in his perfect time.

He won’t force transformation upon us, but he’ll help us change when we seek his help. When we open ourselves to growth. After nearly two years of this, you’ve already proven you can do hard things. You’re going through this anyway, like it or not. Wouldn’t it be a shame to waste it?

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)