Since Ashlyn passed away the last thing on my mind was a monthly cooking challenge. I love to look around at all the beautiful challenges and get to know as many of the daring bakers as I can. My mind just couldn't sit down and read, as much as I tried to put on a happy front, I was and still am grieving the loss of my daughter. As time moves on, I am finally starting to live on. I watch my 2 year old grow and think about what she would be like with Ashlyn every minute but the pain starts to feel less. We start thinking about our future and realize that we really have little control in the outcome, we endure, we love and we live.
So this month I decided it was time for me to progress back into the things that make life just a little bit sweet and this month that is adding the Daring Bakers back into the mix of thing.
The March 2009 Daring Baking challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.
As much as I wanted to do a sweet treat, this made me excited. I have never made homemade pasta, so why not be challenged to do it. The lasagna consist of just three components and was actually fairly easy to make. The main challenge that had my knees knocking was making homemade pasta. I always wanted to do this, how wonderful to make something and saw, I made it all from scratch including the beautiful noodles you are eating. Too me that is like being at the top of the home chef ladder. A ladder I am still at the bottom trying to climb. The other two components were a bechamel sauce and a ragu. My favorite mac and cheese recipes deals with bechamel so I wasn't worried about that but the ragu was full of meat so I looked for a vegetarian alternative.
OH MY GOODNESS the ragu part of the experience was heaven! Cooking up a beautiful homemade red sauce smells your home up like you would not believe. I loved just sitting in the living room taking a sniff of the beautiful aroma coming from my oven. I know I will be making that sauce over and over again. It was by far my favorite component of the dish.
My pasta experience didn't turn out quite as well as the ragu. When I was mixing up the ingredients I felt as if it was way too dry and wasn't coming together. My assumption was that my 2 eggs were not jumbo enough so I needed to add another. Little did I know that when you start to kneed everything together this problem would have been addressed. Oh well!! I have learned and I no longer fear making pasta. In the future though I will be borrowing my mothers pasta machine. I want to tone my arms but not kill them in one day! I strictly stuck to the recipe on the pasta this time but in the future I want to try and make healthier versions for everyday cooking. In the end I will say I thoroughly enjoyed this daring bakers challenge. I was scared at first but once I started it I loved doing it and succeeded in the end. I feel as if I lived on and endured, its feels good being a Daring Baker again.
Here is to many more months of making homemade pasta and ragu!! Check out Daring Barkers Lasagnas and the whole recipe at the totally cool new home, The Daring Kitchen.
Vegetable Ragu courtesy of the Picky Cook
10 ounces fresh crimini mushrooms,quartered 3 medium carrot, thinly sliced 1 large onion, coarsely chopped 3 medium bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch dice 5 garlic cloves, sliced very thin 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 1 teaspoon dried italian seasoning 1 teaspoon salt 3/4 teaspoon ground pepper olive oil 2 medium zucchini, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch dice 2 cups (or more) canned vegetable broth 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice pinch of red pepper flakes
Preheat oven to 400Â°F. Spread mushrooms, carrots, onion and bell peppers in single layer on baking sheet. Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with italian seasoning, garlic, salt, and pepper. Roast until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. transfer vegetables to a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Add zucchini, red pepper flakes, 2 cups broth, and tomatoes with juices to vegetables; stir to blend well. Continue to roast until zucchini are tender and juices thicken slightly, stirring occasionally and adding more broth if liquid evaporates too quickly, about 30 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper if it is needed. Serve over your favorite pasta and top with parmesean cheese.