So, this eating in thing seems to be getting easier.  The biggest benefit I’ve seen so far, I think, is in my waistline… I already feel lighter after not eating heavy restaurant meals or a scone or muffin with my latte.

Tonight I made Mark Bittman’s Spinach Lasagna from his recent blog post.  It was relatively unevenful; actually, what was great about it was that it was easier than I thought it would be, and, on the heels of my labor-intensive meal the other night, I implemented a new “philosophy.”

This philosophy would best be described as “good enough.”  This is probably going to sound very self-congratulatory or whatnot, but I have a pretty hard time with “good enough.”  Does this mean I’m a perfectionist?  I feel like that word gets thrown around so much it has no more meaning (overdetermined, you might say, for all you PhD lit folks out there.)  So, I don’t know what I am– you all can help me qualify myself– but I can give you a few examples from lasagna night to illustrate.

It’s a pretty simple lasagna recipe, just spinach and cheese and tomato sauce.  And of course, noodles.  Here’s how my mind works.  I figured, I have to use fresh spinach because it’s just better.  It wasn’t even a question.  I bought fresh spinach that I was going to steam and then chop and then squeeze the living breath out of, as you must with fresh spinach, to get all the water out.  Early on, I realized that I had bought enough fresh spinach but not enough to yield the cooked spinach amount.  Now what?  I realized I probably had some frozen spinach, and lo and behold, I did have a bag of frozen, chopped, organic, pre-cooked, Trader Joe’s spinach in the exact amount I needed.  My first thought?  ”Ok, well, I can steam what I have and add it to the frozen, so at least there will be some fresh…”  And then a miracle happened.

I stopped, and I thought, “Wait.  I think this bag of frozen might be good enough.  I think I can spare myself an extra 20 minutes of work and just use frozen spinach.”

And that, my friends, is what I did.  Revolutionary?  Um, hardly.  But one big step for my kind.

That was the beginning, and then I made a few other decisions along these lines.  At first, I thought that spinach wouldn’t be enough; too boring.  So I was going to sauté mushrooms to add to the spinach and then I thought… no.  The spinach will be good enough.  Yay!  I did it again, saving myself another 20 minutes of work.

And the lasagna?  It was good.  It wasn’t outstanding, but really, can you have an outstanding meal every night?  The kids ate every bit I gave them, which in itself is a good feat.  I rounded the meal out with steamed broccoli and apple slices, and pretty much everyone was happy.  Including me, since it really only took me 30 minutes to toss together that lasagna.  And now there’s enough for at LEAST one more meal!

The slightly more exciting event was that I decided to make some more homemade bread, this time using a different process of “no-knead” bread baking.  I saw this post at The Kitchn, outlining a no-knead bread recipe originally published in the New York Times, and since I’d been making a similar style bread (that is, no knead and little active prep time) for some weeks, I thought I’d try this one.  I was intrigued by the fact that you bake it in a Dutch oven and, having recently purchased my first Dutch oven, figured, what the hey?  It’s supposed to be fast.

Fast in terms of active labor, that is.  Because after you mix stuff together, you have to let it sit for 6 hours, then another hour, and then baking for close to an hour.  So, there’s time involved, and you need to plan ahead.  Waaaaay ahead.

But this bread, people, was amazing.  The first steps are similar to my 5 Minutes a Day bread.  Mix everything together, no kneading, yadda yadda, let it sit.

mixing the ingredients; the "rough and shaggy" dough after mixing

And once it sits for about 6 hours, it looks like this:

doubled in size, I'd say

Then, you form it into a ball, which is kind of absurd because it’s almost the consistency of snot, and it was oozing all over the place.  But I managed something, and then let it sit another hour.  And then you really form it into a ball and put it in a preheated Dutch oven, lid on, in the regular oven and bake it.  You take the lid off halfway through, and all these kind of wackadoodle instructions yielded this:

behold

Is it not a thing of beauty?  And as lovely as it is to look at, it is even better to eat.  And smell.  Divine.  The 3 year old put it pretty nicely: “This bread is as good as THE WORLD!”

I’ll take that as a compliment, thank you very much.

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  • February 25, 2010, 10:50 pm Erika

    I want to eat that bread RIGHT NOW! That looks great.

    I totally get your “good enough” philosophy. Here’s my favorite version–”I should really mince some fresh garlic for this [fill in the blank] but garlic powder is good enough.” It’s freeing!

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  • February 26, 2010, 8:41 am Becky

    I am applauding your “good enough” epiphany! Realize that by preparing this meal for your family yourself, you are already way more than good enough. I had this epiphany last year for Laura’s birthday party, where I went to the grocery store the night before, let her pick out a pre-made birthday cake, and had them write her name on it. Done. And of course it was good, it’s cake.

    I’m going to check out the lasagna recipe. And I will be using frozen spinach (hey, it’s flash-frozen)!

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  • February 26, 2010, 2:19 pm Paola

    We eat Trader Joe’s frozen spinach all the time…I actually like it better than fresh (shhhhh). Good Enough is the new Great!

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