By Debbie Koenig
One day after my birthday in late December, we drove up to the house for the holidays. When I got inside, I found one of those giant red bows, the kind you see in car commercials, draped across the 20-year-old range that came with the place. I’d been cursing that thing for a solid year—one burner didn’t work, the burner controls were wildly erratic, and even with the oven thermometer I bought, I could never figure out how to get a reliable temperature in there. My husband and son bounced around like little kids on Christmas morning, proud of themselves for pulling off the perfect birthday gift. The next day, we drove an hour to the nearest Lowe’s and bought the one I’d secretly researched and picked out long ago, when I realized the old range was a dud. Last weekend, it finally came.
Given that I’d had a full month to plan, you’d think I’d have known exactly what to cook first. Nope. The endless possibilities stymied me a bit. Should it be something that simmers for hours, low and slow, to take advantage of the simmer-specific burner at the back? Or pancakes on the griddle pan that sits in the center? Perhaps a roast chicken, to test out the convection oven? I daydreamed about this in the weeks leading up to delivery, but still hadn’t made up my mind by the time the installation guys left. As a lifelong apartment renter, the freedom that came with getting exactly what I wanted made me a little dizzy.
In the end, I wound up with a tweaked version of an old favorite for can’t-decide days: Hail Mary Pasta. I used the oven to roast a pint of cherry tomatoes, 2 chopped small zucchini, 2 sliced cloves of garlic, and a tablespoon of olive oil; the big quick-boil burner for 8 ounces of pasta; and (my son’s suggestion) the center griddle for 2 slices of crisp-cooked bacon. Seven SmartPoints® value per serving seemed like a fine way to inaugurate a new era in my cooking life.
Next weekend, I’m going to try the two-ingredient bagels everyone’s raving about.
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