For the last couple weeks, Ryan and I have been enjoying the results of my new favorite hobby - baking! Yes, I've been baking most of my life, but for the past 3 months, we didn't have an oven. After many meals cooked on a two-burner stove, I promised myself I would never take an oven for granted again. (I feel the same way about dishwashers, too.) So as an early birthday gift, Ryan bought me a toaster oven! A student was selling it before she left Grenada, and we got a great deal on it. She kept in really good condition, and we'll probably be able to resell it for the same amount when we leave. The best part is, it fits a 13x9" baking dish and a 12" pizza pan, so I can cook just about anything. It has an oven, broiler, and toaster function, heats up in just seconds, and cooks quickly and evenly. I may never go back to a real oven again!
I think I've used the oven at least once a day since I got it. The first night I made apple cinnamon muffins. I brought a few to my friend and her husband who were flying home the next day. But Ryan and I ate the rest in about two days. I loved having a warm muffin with a cup of coffee for breakfast.
The next day I baked a yellow cake with chocolate frosting (Ryan's request) and that lasted almost a week! I should be doing two work-outs a day after all this baking. But I don't. Instead, I use my free time to bake something else! I also tried making gnocchi for the first time. I have only had potato gnocchi, but the grocery store had fresh pumpkin for less than a dollar a pound last week. I bought 2 pounds and looked up a recipe for pumpkin gnocchi. The result: Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi with a Cinnamon Sage Brown Butter. Scrumptious!! I roasted the pumpkin in the oven for about 45 minutes. It was hard to mash it completely smooth, and the dough never stiffened up enough for me to roll it out and shape it into little pillows like traditional gnocchi. Instead I just dropped spoonfulls of the mixture into boiling water when I was ready to cook it. It actually made the process a lot faster, and tasted just the same, although maybe not as pretty to look at. We also had a few steaks in the freezer that I marinated in a dressing of dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, lemon juice, and pepper. I put them under the broiler for a few minutes, and they came out perfectly cooked. We finished off the meal with soy beans and a big slice of cake!
As I'm writing this, a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies is baking in the oven, and our house smells so good! Other baked items this week included roasted potatoes seasoned with crushed red pepper flakes, garlic powder, and basil for Sunday dinner. And my favorite treat: broiled grapefruit with brown sugar. I grew up eating a lot of grapefruit, and for special occasions (Christmas breakfast or a Snow Day breakfast) my parents would make broiled grapefruit for us. I love being able to eat it again!
We also bought a blender (for about $10) and have enjoyed some delicious smoothies. I bought the ingredients to make orange julius and can't wait to try that as well.
In other news, Ryan started classes last Monday for his third and final semester of his MPH. He thinks this will be an easier term as he doesn't have as many classes. He does have a big paper to write, so he's been spending a lot of time in the library recently. Next month he'll fly to Detroit for a friend's wedding, and then a month after that we'll both be flying home! There's still a lot to do before then. The MPH program is having a potluck next Friday, and I'm baking 7 dozen cupcakes for dessert.
Time to get the cookies out, and find something to make for dinner that requires the use of an oven!