Mondays are my least favorite day. After getting used to sleeping in, and spending forever in bed before finally dragging myself out to search for coffee, I wake up to an alarm at the crack of dawn and have to get out to go to work. This morning I woke up and the cracks in the blinds were playing tricks on me, making me believe it was lighter out than it usually is when I wake up. I jumped up, and looked at my clock to see how late I was for work, and it was still forty minutes before my alarm was set to go off. Try going back to sleep after jolting awake, it's not easy.
I also like to sleep with my window open a crack. I can't fall asleep at night if my room is stuffy or stale. Which means on a Monday morning (or any day, really) when I already am struggling to do the last thing I want to do, it's that much harder because I have to brace myself to leave a warm, cozy retreat, and walk to the bathroom in sub zero temperature.
After I fully wake up, I realize when my alarm goes off I should shut the window, and turn on the space heater, but this stroke of brilliance doesn't occur to me until it's too late. Every morning.
One thing that I was excited about today though, is that I have new food to post about!
On Friday I sat with my cookbooks trying to figure out what I wanted to make for my first dinner after my power returned. It came down to a chicken or pasta dish. I had chosen the chicken dish, and even wrote up the grocery list, but I had this nagging feeling in my stomach that I really wanted to have pasta.
Over the course of last week I found this recipe for Sweet Basil Pork Ragu. What really caught my eye on this was the use of balsamic vinegar in the sauce. If you have read this blog before you know I love balsamic vinegar. A lot. Sometimes I buy bread for the sole purpose of eating it dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar as an after work snack.
If you didn't click on the recipe I will give you a rundown of the ingredients in the next blurb here.
I really liked this recipe, it tasted great, but the real plus is that it was also a bit healthier than my standard meat sauce. My standard meat sauce consists of ground beef, a carrot, half an onion, maybe a celery stick, a large can of tomato sauce (original, so I can add my own spices) and a mix of dried herbs and spices. The dried herbs and spices are usually basil, oregano, garlic salt, red chili flakes, cayenne pepper, and a bay leaf.
This recipe was made with ground pork. While pork doesn't have as much taste as ground beef, it does sop up all the flavors of the sauce. And it's better for you than beef, health wise and pocket wise because ground pork is cheaper.
I used a full onion, one stalk of celery, a cup of mushrooms, and I also added a chopped carrot to the recipe. When I added the vegetables into the meat, there was an equal ratio of vegetables to meat. I am fairly picky when it comes to jarred sauces with vegetables, I will avoid the veggies at all costs. However when I am the one who picks out the vegetables and chops them myself, I will eat them. Back to my point, I liked that the veggies and meat portions were equal. It made me feel better about eating pasta, and also that I haven't had much in the form of fruits and veggies lately.
I also strayed a little and bought a red wine and herb jarred sauce, instead of my usually can of tomato sauce. It was Friday night and I was feeling indulgent. I also used dried basil. Or oregano. I can't tell since they look so similar and I keep them in unmarked jars that are identical. Genius, I know.
I topped mine with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper. Delicious.
I also had the genius idea of making focaccia bread from scratch to go with it. I recommend not making fresh focaccia for dinner, when you start making it at 7 pm. At least with my recipe. It called for rising for an hour, followed with another rising for twenty minutes, followed by a final rising for thirty minutes, before being put in the oven for thirty minutes. This did mean I was eating dinner at 10 pm on Friday.
The recipe called for 3 cups of flour, plus an extra 1/4 cup. I used the 3 cups and noticed as I was kneading (rather, my stand mixer was kneading) that the dough wasn't smooth and elastic. Or at least, what I assumed smooth and elastic should be. I assumed the dough was too dry, but my experience with bread making is slim to none, so what the heck would I know?
By the time the dough had been kneaded, risen, kneaded, risen, poked, risen and baked I knew something was really wrong. The dough didn't roll out right, and the focaccia resembled a lady bug. I did try it, and it tasted alright (especially with some balsamic vinegar), but it wasn't worth the effort.
I complained about this bread the next day to C, who bakes bread, and she mentioned that in Edmonton the weather in the winter is extremely dry and most recipes aren't written with that in consideration, so in the winter sometimes you have to use less flour than what the recipe calls for.
Sigh. This is not improving my opinion of baking in any way.
I will be attempting the bread again, and I will post pictures and the recipe when that time comes.