To say that my life has been full of ups and downs lately is an understatement. Mostly ups, and for that I am grateful. But when you receive devastating news that a friend has suddenly passed away at the young age of forty-five and has left behind a beautiful wife and two young children, it makes you really want to stop and smell the roses and hug your kids. In just the past two weeks, I celebrated my 39th birthday (yes, I am not ashamed to admit my age. Heck, I think life is getting better with each passing year), celebrated my daughter’s 11th birthday, celebrated my Grandpa’s 88th birthday, received news that some good friends are expecting their first child, received news that other good friends are getting married, sent my kids back to school as 4th and 6th graders, and sadly, received the news that we lost a friend too soon. Through all of it, I have calmed my anxiety, excitement, nervousness, sadness, happiness, and tension in the one place that is cheaper than a therapist’s office….the kitchen.
For my birthday, I received a Pasta Attachment Set for my KitchenAid Stand Mixer. I asked for it…I got it…I was nervous to use it. I had never attempted to make pasta and I was imagining a day full of frustration, a mess the size of Mount Vesuvius and a lot of bad words coming out of my mouth. My daughter, who loves to help me in the kitchen and I cherish our cooking time together, was busy in the other room working on a craft project. I quietly decided to give this pasta making idea a try. It’s not that I didn’t want my daughter to help and I would love to teach her how to make fresh pasta, but I didn’t want her beautiful (and let’s face it..perfect) image of me to be ruined when those swear words came flying out of my mouth. I would give this a try on my own and once I perfected the technique, presumably years from now, I would invite her into the kitchen for a pasta making lesson. I was a bit leery of the traditional method of making a well in the middle of a mound of flour on my kitchen counter so I opted for the cheating method and decided to make my pasta dough in the KitchenAid mixer. I’ve got the flour, eggs, salt and water mixing in the bowl when, as luck would have it, my daughter walks in and says, “whatcha doing?” Damn! No, no….wait….Darn! Change of strategy. No bad words! No bad words! Keep repeating…No bad words!
Turns out, I wasn’t going to need to restrain myself. My daughter and I dumped our pasta dough onto the kitchen counter, kneaded it by hand for a few minutes and let it rest for thirty. We attached the pasta roller to the KitchenAid Stand Mixer and proceeded to make fresh pasta for the very first time. And it turned out that I was lucky to have my daughter with me during this process. Just having turned 39 years old a few days prior, I was forced into facing the reality that my eyesight isn’t what it use to be. The pasta roller attachment is stainless steel and bright and shiny. It has small, I would say microscopic, numbers on the side of the dial in the same stainless steel shinyness. The instructions say to start rolling your dough with the dial in the 1 position. Each time you pass your dough through the roller, you rotate the dial to the next number until you’ve reached the consistency you desire. I couldn’t see those little numbers with my old eyes. My young daughter had no trouble at all. I would flour the dough as my daughter would rotate the dial and we would take turns passing it through the sheet maker. It was fun and it was so easy and oddly therapeutic. We got our sheets all rolled out and switched from the sheet roller to the spaghetti cutter. We passed our sheets through the cutter and out came beautiful, fresh spaghetti…in a matter of just minutes. No bad words needed. We ate our fresh spaghetti for lunch that day and it was fantastic! Dare I say that it was so easy even a child could do it? Well she did! She doesn’t like to be called a child these days…she just turned 11. But really? She is still a child. And it was easy. I couldn’t believe that I had been running to the grocery store to buy pasta for so many years. Now I wonder how long the two packages of store bought dried spaghetti in my pantry will collect dust? Maybe until we have a power outage and my KitchenAid Stand Mixer with aforementioned Pasta Attachment won’t run. Perhaps. Ok…lets just be real…if the power is out, I’m headed to nearest fast food joint for dinner. That spaghetti will still be collecting dust.
My daughter getting her very first lesson
in making fresh pasta
Fresh homemade spaghetti
After our success in the pasta making department, I decided that nothing would go better with fresh pasta than fresh sausage. I purchased the Food Grinder attachment for my KitchenAid and the Sausage Stuffer attachment along with some natural casings for the sausage. After the fun and success I had with my daughter (not to mention the cheap therapy), I was looking forward to part two of our lesson: making homemade sausage. But this time, my daughter wanted nothing to do with the lesson. We are all about honesty with our kids. But some things are better left unsaid…like telling your 11 year old daughter what a sausage casing is actually made of. So I was on my own for this one. And I needed a little dose of bravery for myself. Well aware of what casing is comprised of, it took all my courage to pull it out of the bag, find the opening and begin to run water through the long tube of well….pig intestine. I’m still patting myself on the back for this accomplishment. I have yet to this day been able to pull the giblets out of a chicken or turkey. Just the thought makes me shutter in horror. I may have stuffed ground up meat into pig intestines but I absolutely refuse to stuff my hand up a bird and pull out the giblets. It will never happen in this kitchen! So anyway….I did it…I made homemade sausage for the very first time. Spicy Italian Sausage to be exact. We threw those beauties on the grill while I made more homemade spaghetti (by myself because my daughter still refused to come in the kitchen) and dinner was served. Coincidentally, my son loved the pasta AND the sausage. My daughter refused to eat the sausage until Daddy was nice enough to remove it from the casing for her. Oh the things Daddies will do for their little girls.
Making homemade sausage for the very first time
Just like the pros do it
Nothing better than fresh pasta
with homemade Italian sausage
My daughter and I share August birthdays, just five days apart. After all the pasta and sausage excitement, it was time to start preparing for a birthday sleepover marathon with six screaming girls and two wildly crazy boys. We had a packed schedule the first day that started with taking all the kids ice skating, followed by dinner at a restaurant of my daughter’s choosing. Then it was back to our house for a pool party, board games, crafts, movies and anything else the kids could fit into the rest of their evening. At 12:30 in the morning, all eight kids were complaining of hungry bellies. We decided to cook up some frozen pizza. By the time it was done cooking, all 8 kids were fast asleep. Finally time for bed!
The next morning, the kids were awake and begging to go swimming by 8:00am. In order to maintain a good relationship with our neighbors, I needed something to keep them occupied for a few hours and at this point, I needed more therapy. I sent the boys off to play video games and gathered the girls that wanted to help make pasta in the kitchen. Things were a little messier this time around but the memories were worth the mess. The girls listened and followed directions and they had so much fun and for me, it was the best therapy I could ever hope for.
My daughter and two of her best friends making pasta and having fun. Priceless!
We spent the rest of the day swimming and having a great time with some of the best friends anybody could ever ask for. And the pasta that the kids made was turned into a scrumptious Fettucine Alfredo dinner that night for about 20 people. The kids were so proud that everyone was enjoying a dish that they put so much love into making. And I was proud of surviving a marathon sleepover with eight kids with therapy that cost me less than five dollars. We woke the next morning to the news of our friend passing away. I haven’t gotten myself into the kitchen for therapy yet because I had to get my kids back to school. But I will be in the kitchen tonight getting therapy and thinking fondly of our dear friend. Happy Cooking!