Smudged Around the Edges


I would love the house to be immaculate.  The whole house.  At the same time.  All the time.  But I am not a museum curator nor do I live in the pages of Better Homes & Gardens.  I have three little kids.  A husband.  And a life.  The house is never a pig sty, but I’m pretty sure there are some friendly dust bunnies hiding in the corners, venturing out at night to feast upon the crumbs left on the carpet by my daughters.  Yes, I get a little nervous to think what would happen if one of our church members would drop by unannounced.  Would those dust bunnies rush to my rescue and sweep the crumbs, toys, dirt, paper, and small children under the rug and into a temporary black hole?  Or would the grapevine be abuzz with the news that the pastor’s wife is creating a safe haven for a large quantity of gigantic dust bunnies?

I’m learning that for my own sanity, it is good to keep the house at a relatively clean, not-quite-so-cluttered state of being.  But my glass house doesn’t have to be smudge-free, and I’m beginning to think that’s okay for others to see.  So last night, on the heels of some tough weeks, I did a quick swipe through the living room with the vacuum to get the “big stuff”, locked Martha Stewart in the closet, and invited some friends over for supper.  It was simple–skillet baked ziti,  french bread I had wrapped and tucked into the freezer for such an occasion… they brought the salad and beverages… and because I had been baking for a different venue, I happened to have fresh cookies for dessert.  It was a great couple of hours.  We ate.  We drank.  We talked.  We watched the kids play.  We relaxed.  And because our kids are all still little, we were all in bed at a reasonable hour (or at least those in my house were!).

So if someone is going to pay me a visit unannounced and they want to see a spotless house, they better come with rags and cleaner in hand.  Yes, the glass house has streaks and smears, but that usually means a little one has been watching and waiting for someone to come.  Or that she’s been pointing and barking at the birds in the front yard.  Life is too short to worry about the dust.  So, come and enjoy some homemade cookies.  I’ll appreciate the company.  The dust bunnies will appreciate the crumbs.


Skillet Baked Ziti

from The Complete  America’s Test Kitchen  TV Show Cookbook: 2001-2010

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 Tbsp.)
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • Table salt
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cups water
  • 12 ounces ziti (3 3/4 cups) (penne can be used in place of the ziti)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream*
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves**
  • Ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces whole milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)

1.  Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 475 degrees.

Heat the oil in a 12-inch ovensafe nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot.  Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the crushed tomatoes, water, ziti, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Cover and cook, stirring often and adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a vigorous simmer, until the ziti is almost tender, 15 to 18 minutes.

3.  Stir in the cream, Parmesan, and basil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle the mozzarella evenly over the ziti.  Transfer the skillet to the oven (make sure to wrap handle in foil if it’s plastic or rubber-ish) and bake until the cheese has melted and browned, about 10 minutes.  Using potholders (the skillet handle will be hot), remove the skillet from the oven.  Serve.

*I often use whole milk or evaporated milk–whatever I have on hand.  I once used some sour cream thinned with a bit of milk.

**I usually substitute about 1-1/2 tsp. dried basil for the fresh, since fresh basil is not usually in my pantry, except for late summer. 


Big and Chewy Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies

from The Complete  America’s Test Kitchen  TV Show Cookbook: 2001-2010

  • 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (okay, I confess–I usually use the ground stuff from the cupboard)
  • 16 Tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed (7 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cups (9 ounces) old-fashioned oats  (I’ve used quick-cooking, and they work, too–maybe not as well)
  • 1 1/2 cups raisins (optional)

1. Adjust the oven rackes to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg together in a medium bowl; set aside.

2.  In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until combined, about 30 seconds.

3.  Decrease the speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients until combined, about 30 seconds.  Mix in the oats and raisins (if using) until just incorporated.

4.  Divide the dough into 18 portions (I usually divide it into about 24 portions), each a generous 2 tablespoons, and roll them between your hands into balls about 2 inches in diameter.  Place the dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart.

5.  Bake, switching and rotating the sheets halfway through the baking time, until the cookies turn golden brown around the edges, 22 to 25 minutes (if making smaller cookies, then the time may be reduced–no matter what, take the cookies out when they still look moist on the top–not wet, just moist).  Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 2 minutes; using a wide metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.


Here’s the link:

Monster Cookies

I don’t usually use the peanuts and butterscotch chips–the beauty of these cookies is you can customize and personalize them to what you have on hand.  Yesterday it was white chips and m&m’s.  Just make sure you end up with the same amount of “chunks”–so, substitute 1 cup of something for the 1 cup of nuts or whatever. 


4 responses »

    • Thirty minutes is all it takes–you’re entirely welcome! Thank our friends at America’s Test Kitchen for making it a little easier to have delicious. 🙂

  1. Pingback: This Week’s Eats – 10/29 Edition « The Magic Apron

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