The whole world's gone mad. I heard from a friend who now lives just outside Austin, Tx that it was 76 degrees, they'd just had some rain, and although the humidity was still high, they could open their windows and enjoy some cool air. Same thing in Provo - nice cool evenings. In fact, it seems that almost everyone is enjoying proper weather for this time of year, or even a little bit on the cool side. But we here in Southern California? For once we are having weather - the kind they have in HELL.
Where I live it was 108 today. That's desert weather. It rarely gets into the 90s here, let alone hover around 100. But 108? It's just wrong. Completely and utterly wrong. And so of course the dinner I had planned to make tonight was that ever popular fall/winter fare: lasagna. Baked in the oven. It was a special lasagna made with a white sauce and filled with chicken sausage and thin slices of butternut squash. I had to make it tonight because L took today as his once a month work from home day - so he was home to slice that squash up for me. Left on my own I probably wouldn't have had any fingers left. I am knife challenged. It's the left handed thing, I'm convinced. Couple that with the arthritic hands, and there's no way I can slice up raw squash. So we had our lasagna on the hottest day of the year because I had my sous chef home with me today. And you know what? It was pretty good - especially since we didn't eat until 7:30. Hunger helps overcome seasonally inappropriate recipes.
This particular recipe was one I ripped out of a Williams Sonoma catalog - Skillet Lasagna. Except I didn't bake it in a skillet. In the catalog, they were trying to sell the pan to make it in, but I just used a baking dish instead. Skillets in the oven make me nervous since I somehow forget they're hot and have to force myself to remember not to grab the handle with my bare hands...
I also decided to try rice lasagna noodles (which you don't precook) instead of the regular ones in an attempt to be gluten free. (Forgetting all about the fact that I used wheat flour to make the white sauce... "A" for effort anyway...) Instead of regular italian sausage I used sweet chicken sausage. And, in making the white sauce, I used rice milk instead of cow's milk because I shouldn't have dairy, and L can't tolerate soy milk. So basically, it was a completely different recipe from what Williams Sonoma intended, but I like little adventures like that. (If anyone wants to tackle the real recipe, it will be on their website.)
The sauce didn't thicken as much as I thought it would. Because it wasn't supposed to? Because it was rice milk? I don't know. And since I cooked it in a 9 x 13 baking dish instead of a skillet, it was a slightly different configuration - more spread out, less dense. Because the sauce was a little thin, it didn't stick to the layers like a thicker sauce would have. The noodles on the bottom 2 layers were fine but the ones on top just didn't soak up enough sauce and were a little crunchy. (Ahh... I just went to the recipe and read reviews - many people doubled the sauce amount. I will do that next time.)
But I maintain that it's impossible to have an epic disaster when there's a wonderful (if thin) garlic-y white sauce, sweet pieces of butternut squash and good chicken sausage. Leftovers might be even better. My kitchen still smells delicious. I know I made it sound ugly, but it tasted really really good.
I'll make it again, but next time I'll probably throw caution to the wind and use regular milk, and I'll probably forget the gluten free thing and use normal lasagna noodles. OR - I could do it exactly the same, but make more sauce so the top noodles get more soaked. And more freshly grated parmesan cheese. Definitely more cheese. I thought the recipe was a little stingy on the cheese.
Now for dessert, I did a little better. Coconut gelato topped with a fresh pineapple glaze (pineapple caramelized in butter and brown sugar) and sprinkled with coconut flakes and chopped macadamia nuts. L and I pedaled extra hard tonight in 90 degrees to earn our ice cream - like hamsters on a wheel. Rats in a maze. What we won't do for a little treat...
And that was our ball of fire Friday night. I'm not sure what happens to us when we get older, but somewhere along the way we get a little tired. We're very happy to sit watching documentaries on the history of America with our faces in bowls of ice cream. Instead of Friday night movies, we go on Saturday afternoons to the matinee and request our senior discount. WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN? At times it's a little bit upsetting, but then I get so comfortable watching "The Voice" in a tank top and socks (to hold in the Vaseline that I've just slathered my calloused feet with - please don't try to deny that you do the exact same thing) that I get sleepy and forget to be upset. (So this is what it's like to get old...)
So that's why L and I go cycling. We crave the feel of wind on our face, blowing our hair, and gnats in our teeth, if only to remind us of the universal need for speed, and that we're still young enough to move and push ourselves. Even if the wind on our face is so hot it brings to mind Beelzebub and his minions. We're alive, we are no couch potatoes, and we have a desperate need to work off that lasagna and ice cream - both of which were sooooo worth the penalty of cycling later out in Dante's Inferno.