Monday, November 10, 2014

Kidney stones, broken noodles, and tablets in the kitchen

Brian’s been going through something that I will refer to only as the Wretched Ten-Week Kidney Stone Saga, which should give you enough information to know that:

  • It hasn’t been pleasant
  • You don’t want to hear anything else about it. Trust me.
Suffice it to say we’ve been at the doctor a lot, which is often part of our lives anyhow, because of Chloe. So…things have been even more hectic than usual around here.

Which is why a beautiful Samsung Galaxy Tab, sent to me by the good people at Verizon Wireless* for kitchen-test-driving purposes, has been sitting untouched in the FedEx box it arrived in for quite some time.

Until now. Chloe was doing her homework and didn’t need help with it. Brian was busy convalescing. The dishes were done, and the floor was clean (-ish). I had a rare moment of nothing to do. So I opened the box and pulled out the tablet.

After a couple of embarrassing minutes trying to get it connected to our wireless internet (I might have accidentally taken a picture of the desktop, which made me feel like I wasn’t far from needing one of those evening community college computer classes for old people), I found the fabulous library of recipe apps that the Verizon Wireless folks had loaded onto it for me.

Even though there were hundreds of recipes at my fingertips, I was skeptical about finding something that we’d all like. My family isn’t the easiest to cook for. Chloe is newly vegetarian again, and Brian’s list of absolutely-will-not-eat-it foods include tomato sauce, chocolate, fish, and any meat that is still on the bone (yes, I take apart and cut his meat like he’s my giant man-baby, so what? I love him). He also has trouble digesting dairy. Fun.

Anyhow, I clicked on a recipe that sounded promising: Broken noodles.

Because I like noodles and I break a lot of shit.

The first, enticing words in this recipe’s introduction: “Not even enough time to boil water?”
Yes. This is a machine that knows me.

The Martha Stewart recipe called for broken bits of papardelle to be cooked right in a pot of boiling marinara sauce that’s been thinned with water. It’s served with a dollop of ricotta cheese on top. So easy, so fast. I’m ashamed that I never thought to cook pasta in the sauce before. It’s the ultimate in yummy laziness.

Of course, Brian doesn’t like marinara sauce. But I do, and papardelle is my pasta weakness, so I waited for the day when the kidney-stone saga finally came to an end to make it for myself and Chloe. (My man-baby likes to eat a McDonald’s cheeseburger and fries when he’s feeling under the weather. So what? Want to start something?)

I used an entire jar of Newman’s Own brand marinara sauce, which came to a boil in just a few minutes; much faster than water. Although I had to cook the noodles longer than the recipe called for, and the noodles stuck to the bottom of the pan without pretty regular stirring, the recipe truly was easy. Start-to-finish—from dumping the sauce in the pan to spooning the meal onto the plate—took about 20 minutes. Not bad!

The resulting meal was a thick and rich pasta dish where the sauce was much more a part of the noodles than it would have been if you’d simply poured sauce over cooked noodles. It reminded me of a casserole, in fact. The addition of ricotta cheese made it even thicker and heartier.

I really loved it, but Chloe? Not so much. Turns out, she’s inherited her dad's hazel eyes, his appreciation of The Three Stooges, and his deep dislike of marinara sauce.

Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck

“Why can’t I have plain noodles with butter?” she wondered, like she usually eats when I make pasta. Seriously, kid? Oh well.

Since this post is dedicated to how well the tablet functions in the kitchen, here's a pro/con list:

  • Much easier to use than a cookbook, since there are no pages that flap shut mid-recipe
  • Much easier to browse recipes via apps than in cookbooks, thanks to the search functionality and easy sorting by things like ingredients, chef, etc.
  • Better to use than my smartphone (which I often use to read online recipes during cooking) because all or most of the recipe fit on the entire tablet screen. Also, the font is larger than the one on my phone.
  • Was big enough to stand upright on a cookbook stand 
  • Easy to select and bookmark favorite recipes
  • The tablet screen kept turning dark during cooking for energy savings. I’m sure there’s a setting to make this stop happening, but I was too lazy to look for it.
  • I was very nervous about messy sauce bubbling onto the expensive device. But there are special, plastic tablet covers designed to solve just this problem. (Or just stick the tablet in a gallon-sized plastic bag, as CNET suggests).
Overall, I'd recommend the tablet for cooking, without a doubt.

I would recommend the broken noodles recipe to marinara lovers.

And I wouldn't recommend the kidney stones to anyone.

*Note: Verizon Wireless sent me a tablet to borrow, test, and return. I received no compensation for this post, and all opinions are my own.