What’s for supper? Vol. 171: A whole new world (feat. Chicken)

In this year of our Lord 2019, I, Simcha Fisher, am born anew, for it was on this week that I discovered how easy it is to stuff things inside chicken breasts. Interested, dear reader? Then READ ON. 

SATURDAY
Sugar rub chicken thighs, beer brats, chips and dip

Damien cooked stuff on the big grill he built out of cinder blocks. I’ll put his sugar rub recipe at the end. It makes extremely juicy chicken with a fantastic skin, with tons of warm, spicy flavor.  You can see that I did manage to include something green in this meal for once.

He made a ton of chicken, because he can’t help himself, and I ate them for lunch for several days.

He boils the brats in beer with onions, then grills them and also grills up the onions.

We ate outside after a long day of yard work. And that has made all the difference. 

SUNDAY
Caprese stuffed chicken breasts, salad, garlic bread

I was just delighted at how well this turned out. I saw the recipe in the NYT and tweaked it a bit. I’ll add a card at the end. Basically you cut open chicken breasts and stuff mozzarella, cherry tomato halves, and basil leaves inside, then brown them up a bit in olive oil and garlic, then finish cooking them in the oven. I used toothpicks to hold the edges together, and I was surprised at how well it worked.

I thought everything would fall out and it would be a yummy but ugly meal, but I worked slowly and didn’t crowd the chicken, and it turned out great, although there was a lot of liquid in the pan after baking, so next time I will use a pan with higher sides. 

I used the garlicky oil to make a sauce to spoon over it, and I actually thought the sauce was the star of the show. Would make a great bruschetta topping.

 

Damien thought it was a little too sweet, but I thought it was a nice complement to the chicken. The breasts were big ‘uns, so it was good to have a sauce so there were no bites without a lot of flavor. 

I used the oil and garlic I cooked the chicken in plus more garlic, and simmered it until I stopped worrying about food poisoning. Then I added several glugs of balsamic vinegar and the rest of the tomatoes, and simmered that until the vinegar got thick and the tomatoes fell apart and darkened. I scraped the pan to incorporate the browned bits of garlic and spooned this over the chicken, and served extra to sop up with the garlic bread. Smell this!

And now I’m thinking about all the other lovely things you could stuff inside chicken breasts. Maybe brie and apricots.  Maybe bacon and apple slices and cheddar. I need to make more friends just so I can stuff things into chicken breasts for them. If I really like them, I’ll remind them to take the toothpicks out before eating.

MONDAY
Korean beef bowl and rice, pineapple, snap peas

Apparently I haven’t made this dish in a long time, because everyone was just thrilled and delighted. I was really taken aback. I like this meal fine. It’s a bit sweet for my tastes, but I guess that answers why everyone else likes it so much. Recipe card at the end. 

This is definitely a good recipe to have in your back pocket. It comes together very quickly. Basically as long as it takes to brown up ground beef and cook a pot of rice, that’s how long it takes. I used fresh garlic and fresh ginger, but you can totally get away with using ground ginger and garlic powder. Increase or decrease the sugar and hot pepper flakes as you like. 

TUESDAY
Pork ramen with pickled veg

Another easy one, although you can certainly make it complicated if you add enough toppings. We had our with pork, soft boiled eggs, chopped scallions, pickled ginger, mushrooms in soy sauce, sesame seeds, pea sprouts, and pickled carrots and cucumbers, and a little hot sauce. 

I sautéed the pork in sesame oil, then cut it into slices and cooked it a little longer with some soy sauce. I’ll put the pickled veg recipe card at the end. 

WEDNESDAY
Wendy’s Copycat Harvest Chicken Salad 

Well, kinda. Wendy’s has greens, chicken, candied walnuts, blue cheese, cranberries, green and red apples, and bacon, and some kind of vinaigrette. I forgot about the bacon, and I didn’t candy the walnuts. In fact I burned them. Still a nice meal, and good for a day when people were going to be eating dinner at all different hours.

I made the chicken by drizzling it with olive oil and shaking a generous amount of lemon pepper seasoning over it and cooking it under the broiler, turning once. 

I snuck away and ate mine outside, even though it was drizzling. 

I chunked my plate on the table where I had been potting flowers, and then I thought, “Ooh, it looks like one of those real food blogger photos.” It also makes it appear that I was eating my supper with a trowel, which is sometimes the case; but today I did have a fork. 

I had mine with some diced red onion and just plain red wine vinegar for a dressing. Oh, and when I opened the little tub of blue cheese, Corrie gasped and said, “Ohhh, FANK you, Mama!” and gave me a hug. Kid likes cheese. 

THURSDAY
Sausage subs with sweet peppers

We had the final school concert of the year, so this was a good meal to prepare ahead of time and eat quickly before we left. I snacked so much, I didn’t even want a sandwich, but here are some cooking pics.

Corrie stirred in some jarred sauce, and I sliced up some mozzarella. 

I did give in to the little nagging voice in my head and look up whether charred foods really give you cancer, and it turns out scientists are currently fairly meh on the connection, so I shall continue to char. 

FRIDAY
Giant pancake and scrambled eggs

Do you know about giant pancake? You take the simplest kind of pancake mix, where you just add water, and you add enough water to the whole box to make batter. You can stir in blueberries or chocolate chips or whatever. Pour the batter into a buttered pan and bake at 350 for 15 minutes or so. Cut into wedges. GIANT PANCAKE. And that’s how you know your mother has had about enough. 

Okay, so tell me, what would you stuff inside chicken, given half the chance? You can use a pseudonym if you’d rather, but I really want to know. 

Here are the recipe cards:

Smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups brown sugar
  • .5 cups white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 20 chicken thighs

Instructions

  1. Mix dry ingredients together. Rub all over chicken and let marinate until the sugar melts a bit. 

  2. Light the fire, and let it burn down to coals. Shove the coals over to one side and lay the chicken on the grill. Lower the lid and let the chicken smoke for an hour or two until they are fully cooked. 

 

Caprese stuffed chicken with garlicky tomato balsamic reduction

This dish doesn't require a lot of skill to make, but it's a bit time consuming, especially if you're making a lot of it. But it's packed with flavor and pretty impressive to look at. Serve with garlic bread to sop up any extra tomato sauce. 

Ingredients

  • 12 boneless chicken breasts (one per person)
  • large bunch of basil, stems removed
  • 2 lbs mozzarella in 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices
  • 2-3 pints cherry tomatoes or other tomatoes, halved or sliced
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil for cooking
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, sliced or minced

For the balsamic reduction (sorry, the proportions are just whatever you like)

  • the leftover oil you cooked the chicken in. Pour off some if it seems like too much.
  • balsamic vinegar
  • whatever tomatoes are left
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, sliced or minced

Instructions

The chicken:

  1. Trim the fat off the chicken, dry it, and slice a pocket into each breast, not cutting all the way through.

    Sprinkle all over with salt and pepper

    Stuff a slice or two of cheese, a few basil leaves, and 3 tomato halves or slices into each breast.

    Try to pull the edges together to enclose the stuffing. You can secure it with a few toothpicks, but don't forget to warn people!

    Preheat the oven to 400.

    Heat up the olive oil in a skillet and sauté the garlic until it's slightly browned.

    Add the chicken, a few breasts at a time, leaving plenty of room, and brown them lightly on both sides, turning carefully. They won't be cooked all the way through. It's great if some garlic sticks to the chicken!

    Transfer the chicken to an oven pan and cook for about 20 minutes until they're cooked all the way through. Turn on the broiler for the last few minutes if necessary to brown up the tops.

For the balsamic reduction, to spoon over the chicken:

  1. While the chicken is in the oven, continue cooking the oil and garlic that you cooked the chicken in, adding more garlic if you like, and simmer for a while until you stop worrying about food poisoning. Then add several glugs of balsamic vinegar and the rest of the tomatoes, and simmer until the vinegar reduces and the tomatoes fall apart and darken. Scrape the pan to incorporate the browned bits of garlic. Serve this over the cooked chicken. Comes out very sweet.

    Serve with garlic bread with any extra balsamic tomato sauce

Recipe Notes

12 boneless chicken breasts

large bunch of basil

2 lbs mozzarella, sliced

salt and pepper

olive oil

8 cloves of garlic, sliced or minced

2-3 pints cherry tomatoes (or other tomatoes)

for the sauce:

more garlic if desired

balsamic vinegar

the rest of the tomatoes

Trim the fat off the chicken, dry it, and slice a pocket into each breast, not cutting all the way through.

Sprinkle all over with salt and pepper

Stuff a slice or two of cheese, a few basil leaves, and 3 tomato halves or slices into each breast.

Try to pull the edges together to enclose the stuffing. You can secure it with a few toothpicks, but don't forget to warn people!

Preheat the oven to 400.

Heat up the olive oil in a skillet and sauté the garlic until it's slightly browned.

Add the chicken, a few breasts at a time, leaving plenty of room, and brown them lightly on both sides, turning carefully. They won't be cooked all the way through. It's fine if some garlic sticks to the chicken!

Transfer the chicken to an oven pan and cook for about 20 minutes until they're cooked all the way through. Turn on the broiler for the last few minutes if necessary to brown up the tops.

While it's cooking, continue cooking the oil and garlic that you cooked the chicken in, adding more garlic if you like, and simmer for a while until you stop worrying about food poisoning. Then add several glugs of balsamic vinegar and the rest of the tomatoes, and simmer until the vinegar reduces and the tomatoes fall apart and darken. Scrape the pan to incorporate the browned bits of garlic. Serve this over the cooked chicken. Comes out very sweet.

Serve with garlic bread with any extra balsamic tomato sauce

quick-pickled carrots and/or cucumbers for banh mi, bibimbap, ramen, tacos, etc.

An easy way to add tons of bright flavor and crunch to a meal. We pickle carrots and cucumbers most often, but you can also use radishes, red onions, daikon, or any firm vegetable. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 lb mini cucumbers (or 1 lg cucumber)

For the brine (make double if pickling both carrots and cukes)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar (other vinegars will also work; you'll just get a slightly different flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp sale, preferably kosher

Instructions

  1. Mix brine ingredients together until salt and sugar are dissolved. 

  2. Slice or julienne the vegetables. The thinner they are, the more flavor they pick up, but the more quickly they will go soft, so decide how soon you are going to eat them and cut accordingly!

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

  3. Cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight or longer. Refrigerate if you're going to leave them overnight or longer.

 

Korean Beef Bowl

A very quick and satisfying meal with lots of flavor and only a few ingredients. Serve over rice, with sesame seeds and chopped scallions on the top if you like. You can improve the flavor by using fresh garlic and fresh ginger, but powdered works fine, too. The proportions are flexible, and you can easily add more of any sauce ingredient at the end of cooking. 

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (or less if you're not crazy about sweetness)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil (you can skip this, really, or use olive oil, but it adds flavor)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger (or 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed (or 3/4 tsp garlic powder)
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • scallions, chopped, for garnish
  • sesame seeds for garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat the sesame or other oil in a skillet. Lightly cook then garlic, then add the ground beef and cook, breaking into bits, until the meat is all browned. Drain most of the fat. 

  2. Mix together the brown sugar, ginger, soy sauce, and pepper flakes, and add to the ground beef. Or you can actually just chuck everything in the pan and stir it up right there. Cook a little longer until everything is combined and hot. 

  3. Serve over rice and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds. 

Five Catholic books for littlest kids (and also for their parents)

The books we read as young kids stay with us for a lifetime, so I’m always on the lookout for books that not only have attractive and engaging illustrations, but convey powerful and lasting truths.

I’m especially careful when those books are explicitly about our Faith. Here are a few of my current favorites in that category. They not only tell my kids things I want them to know about God, but I’ve found them moving and engaging myself.

Read my list at The Catholic Weekly

Ten nice springtime things you learn in your mid 40’s

1. The tongue is an incredibly flexible muscle, and if necessary can be re-shaped so as to spread over almost all your hollowboi teeth so as to protect them from dental agony when you have your fucking cocktail with a little lime juice at night. 

2. You can just have a just flower garden. Nobody wants string beans or cucumbers. The kids will figure out where vegetables come from even if you don’t spend your entire summer grubbing around on your knees agonizing over why the pumpkin blossoms are so shy. Just get geraniums, it’s fine.

3. Lots of things taste better than skinny looks. LOTS.

4. You are going to need so many tweezers. Bathroom tweezers, purse tweezers, car tweezers because there’s a sunroof and people can just deal with the sight of you tidying up chinwise. Sometimes finding and eradicating that one really robust but somehow invisible hair is the best thing you will do all day. If they honk, they honk.

5. I guess you can do a pencil skirt and a flowing blouse and a structured jacket, see if I care. 

6. Those earrings aren’t too young for you. They’re earrings. It’s fine, nobody cares.

7. But seriously, go outside. Pretty soon someone will take you where you don’t want to go, but right now you can bloody well take yourself where you don’t want to go, and that’s outside, and you know you’ll be happy you went. What, you’re special and you don’t need sunshine and fresh air? What are you, a robut? Go outside, you stupid bitch. You know you like it. Go water a geranium.

8. You know what’s a fun game? Figuring out a different way to get down stairs every day. You may be surprised at how many different ways there are, once the basic “just walking like a normal human being whose knees aren’t garbage” option is off the table. Let your imagination soar!

9. Whatever works. Whatever works. Whatever works. Whatever works. Whatever works. Whatever works. Everyone is dying. Whatever works. Whatever works. Whatever works. I mean, up to a point. But basically, whatever works.

10. You are so far away from menopause. I know. I didn’t say it was funny. 

Padre Pio’s relics touring North America (and here’s what my husband said about his heart)

Relics of Padre Pio, including his glove and robe, a lock of his hair, a sweat-soaked handkerchief from his deathbed, some blood-stained cotton gauze, and scabs from his stigmata will be visiting several churches in North America for veneration by the faithful.

Yeah, it’s weird! Our faith is weird. 

Here is the full list of cities the relics will visit.

In 2016, the beloved saint’s heart came to Immaculate Conception Church in Lowell, MA, and my husband Damien, who is a newspaper reporter, went to see and venerate it. I asked him a few questions about his experience (originally published in 2016).

***

What made you want to go and see Padre Pio’s heart? 

I really didn’t know that much about Padre Pio, other than the stigmata and “Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry.” I found out about his heart coming to the area just a couple of days before. The relic’s first stop was in Lowell, Massachusetts, which is a 10-minute drive from the paper’s offices. I figured I could get something pretty interesting out of a saint’s heart, and I would get a chance to go see a relic as part of my job. Maybe not entirely noble, but I’m busy.

I like relics, and I like that Catholics have this weird and intense spirituality that includes things like hearts, and fingers, and bits of the True Cross, and incorruptible saints. It’s hard to describe to outsiders, and it is as strange as anything, but it somehow feels right.

What was the scene like in the church? What was the mood like among the people there? 

The line to get in went outside the church. I was later told more than 3,000 people went to this church to see Padre Pio’s heart. There were a lot of people from different religious orders, and a few oddballs, but I was kind of taken aback by how many normal looking people were there. Lots of senior citizens and moms with kids, lots of guys in suits, stopping by on their lunch break. It was a big mix of people. The folks in line with me were really excited to be there.

Inside the church, the priests were leading a rosary in French, and Spanish, and English. Lowell is a big, old New England mill town, with a ton of French Canadian immigrants from decades ago, and a new influx of Latino immigrants. It’s a very Catholic city. But it wasn’t just Lowell people there. There were people from all over New England making the pilgrimage.

What did the actual relic look like? How were people venerating it? 

A stern-looking Capuchin held the reliquary that contained the heart, and people would get a chance to touch it. One by one, they would genuflect and either touch the reliquary, or kiss it. Some people brought prayer cards to touch to the reliquary.

It’s hard to describe, because it was hard to look at. It was red, and in two connected parts. There seemed to be some white bone underneath it. I say it is hard to look at, because I was overcome with a sense of too-muchness. It was too much to see. Not in a gross way, but in a personal way; here was Padre Pio, showing something deeply personal about himself to me.

It wasn’t until I got outside that I realized I was overcome with emotion. I was happy to nearly the point of tears. I felt like something heavy and difficult had been taken away, but I don’t even know what.

Do you feel any differently about Padre Pio now than you did before?

I’ve been reading about him since yesterday, and I am trying to take the experience I had by touching the reliquary that held his heart, and bring it to what I can learn about him.

***

Photos by Damien Fisher, used with permission

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Parents, look for things you’re doing right

If we think back on our own childhoods, we can probably remember bad parenting that hurt us, but also good parenting that stayed with us and continues to strengthen and comfort us even as a memory. This shows that good parenting is real parenting, and it is powerful. So it’s good practice to remind yourself of what you’re doing right. There is probably more than you think, and it probably means more than you realize. Go ahead and list it off for yourself, the slight and the huge, the occasional and the constant. Most parents are doing so much better than they think they are.

Read the rest of my latest at The Catholic Weekly.

Photo by Colin on Unsplash

What’s for supper? Vol. 170: All weather is soup weather

Sorry it’s been quiet on the site this week. There were so many people saying so many things that I just. . . kept shutting up. Anyway, thirty Helens agree: It’s time to talk about what we ate this week! 

SATURDAY
Hamburgers and chips

I think maybe we had burgers on the actual outside grill? I have no memory of Saturday. 

SUNDAY
Deli sandwiches, onion rings, spicy honeyed pineapple with ice cream

Mother’s day! I was showered with gifts and flowers and treats all day, as is truly right and just. We were supposed to go hiking, but it was crummy out, so instead I wandered around Home Depot and picked out some wonderful peonies. And I requested deli sandwiches for my special mother’s day dinner because, dammit, I like deli sandwiches. I think I had roast beef, smoked provolone, bacon, and onions. Mmm. And one of the boys, in addition to giving me a homemade present, ceremoniously threw out his most egregiously ratty sweatpants right before my eyes. *grateful tears*

For dessert, we had caramelized pineapple with vanilla ice cream.

I made some of the pineapple sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar before it went under the broiler, and some dressed with a mixture of honey, olive oil, and tabasco sauce. I had the latter, and I thought it was scrumptious. Some of the fruit crystalizes, and the hot juice mingles gorgeously with the ice cream. Great texture. I absolutely adore sweet, spicy, and creamy flavors together. Next time I will make some rum caramel sauce and maybe sprinkle with pralines, but it was very good as is. (Recipe card at the end.) I should add that I was the only one who liked it, but oh well. 

MONDAY
Tacos

 . . . for the poor unfortunate souls at home. I went skippingly off to the city to meet three friends from college for dinner, and I had such a nice time, I didn’t even take a picture of my food. I did, however, ask if the waitress if had Blue Moon on tap, even though I was sitting directly in front of seven ceiling-high copper brewing vats that wordlessly proclaimed, “We are a brew pub, you witless bumpkin.” Anyway, I had a Cuban panini and sweet potato fries and . . . some kind of beer that was good. 

It snowed. 

TUESDAY
Kielbasa, cabbage, and red potato with mustard vinaigrette; asparagus

A few kids have been asking for this dish, and I’m happy to comply, as it’s a nice easy meal with very little prep work. (Recipe card at the end.) Chop kielbasa and red potatoes and slice up some cabbage, and it’s all in one pan, and the dressing is easy and tasty as well. 

This meal is better if you let it brown up longer, but we were starving.

I also had some asparagus which I just sautéed in olive oil. A little bland, but this is my favorite way to prepare asparagus for texture. 

WEDNESDAY
Bacon tomato bisque; grilled cheese

Wednesday was the first day we finally emerged from the damp, shivery, blustery outrage of late spring in NH. I had to cover my new peonies and geraniums to protect them from the freezing rain. But Wednesday was fair and mild, verging on balmy. So of course I whipped up a heavy, creamy soup. 

Honestly, all weather is soup weather, as far as I’m concerned. Last time I made this soup, I used canned tomatoes. This time, I had fresh. I briefly considered blanching them and maybe seeding them, but then I decided that the extra work would render me too exhausted to enjoy the soup, so I just chunked them in, skins, seeds, and all, and pressed on the food processor button a little bit longer. 

Here’s the magical moment where I added the bacon, rosemary, and cream cheese-tomato puree to the pot:

Yeah, no complaints from anyone. Long live the bisque. Although I think I might add the bacon it at the end, next time, so it stays crisp. The onions and garlic get cooked in bacon fat, so the flavor would still be there. 

THURSDAY
Cumin chicken and chickpeas with red onion and pita

Every single person in my family likes this dish. A few of the kids only eat the chicken, but most of them went for the chickpeas as well. It’s another easy, one-pan dish, and I highly recommend marinating it as long as you can, because the skin is just stupendous.

I don’t necessarily recommend wearing a bright purple shirt in the evening sun when you take your food photos, though. In real life, the food was far less psychedelic. But the chickpeas gleamed like pebbles in a brook. I don’t know how I lived so much of my life without roasted chickpeas. 

As you can see, we had pita and onions with lemon juice and cilantro (and you can see I was still wearing that purple shirt), and I also made a big tub of nice garlicky yogurt sauce. I probably could have made a meal out of just the pita, yogurt, chickpeas, and onions.  

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

I think I’ll once again return to making a white sauce with cheese in a pot, then adding it to the macaroni and baking that in the oven, rather than using the Instant Pot for everything. I somehow never got the hang of adding the right amount of liquid to the IP so pasta reliably comes out cooked. Still love it for some things, just not this.

And now it’s the weekend! I ran the optional hill today, so I am feeling pretty impressed with myself, and shall almost certainly reward myself with food. Hey. It’s an ethos. 

5 from 1 vote
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Yogurt sauce (tzatziki)

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

5 from 1 vote
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Cumin chicken thighs with chickpeas in yogurt sauce

A one-pan dish, but you won't want to skip the sides. Make with red onions and cilantro in lemon juice, pita bread and yogurt sauce, and pomegranates, grapes, or maybe fried eggplant. 

Ingredients

  • 18 chicken thighs
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp cumin, divided
  • 4-6 cans chickpeas
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 red onions, sliced thinly

For garnishes:

  • 2 red onions sliced thinly
  • lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • a bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 32 oz Greek yogurt for dipping sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed

Instructions

  1. Make the marinade early in the day or the night before. Mix full fat Greek yogurt and with lemon juice, four tablespoons of water, and two tablespoons of cumin, and mix this marinade up with chicken parts, thighs or wings. Marinate several hours. 

    About an hour before dinner, preheat the oven to 425.

    Drain and rinse four or five 15-oz cans of chickpeas and mix them up with a few glugs of olive oil, the remaining tablespoon of cumin, salt and pepper, and two large red onions sliced thin.

    Spread the seasoned chickpeas in a single layer on two large sheet pans, then make room among the chickpeas for the marinated chicken (shake or scrape the extra marinade off the chicken if it’s too gloppy). Then it goes in the oven for almost an hour. That’s it for the main part.

    The chickpeas and the onions may start to blacken a bit, and this is a-ok. You want the chickpeas to be crunchy, and the skin of the chicken to be a deep golden brown, and crisp. The top pan was done first, and then I moved the other one up to finish browning as we started to eat. Sometimes when I make this, I put the chickpeas back in the oven after we start eating, so some of them get crunchy and nutty all the way through.

Garnishes:

  1. While the chicken is cooking, you prepare your three garnishes:

     -Chop up some cilantro for sprinkling if people like.

     -Slice another two red onions nice and thin, and mix them in a dish with a few glugs of lemon juice and salt and pepper and more cilantro. 

     -Then take the rest of the tub of Greek yogurt and mix it up in another bowl with lemon juice, a generous amount of minced garlic, salt, and pepper. 

 

5 from 1 vote
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Tomato bisque with bacon


Calories 6 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1/2 - 1 lb bacon
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 35 oz can of whole tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 46 oz tomato juice
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon. Remove from pan, chop it up, and drain out all but a a few teaspoons of grease.

    Add the diced onion and minced garlic to the grease and sauté until soft.

    Add tomatoes (including juices), bay leaves, and tomato juice, and simmer for 20 minutes.

    With a slotted spoon, fish out tomatoes.Puree them in a food processor with the 8 oz of cream cheese.

    Return pureed tomatoes and cream cheese to pot.

    Add chopped bacon. Add rosemary if desired.

    Heat through. 

    Salt and pepper to taste

 

5 from 1 vote
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Spicy honeyed pineapple with ice cream

You could drizzle this with a caramel rum sauce and maybe sprinkle with pralines, but it's good just with fruit and ice cream, too. 

Ingredients

  • 1 pineapple, cut into spears or rings
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • tobasco sauce to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler; or, if grilling outside, let coals die down.

    Mix olive oil, honey, and a few dashes of tobasco sauce, and slather the sauce all over the prepared pineapple.

    Spread in single layer on pan or over grill and cook, turning once, until it's slightly charred. 

    Serve hot with a scoop of ice cream. 

 

5 from 1 vote
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One-pan kielbasa, cabbage, and red potato dinner with mustard sauce

This meal has all the fun and salt of a wiener cookout, but it's a tiny bit fancier.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 lbs kielbasa
  • 3-4 lbs red potatoes
  • 1-2 medium cabbages
  • (optional) parsley for garnish
  • salt and pepper and olive oil

mustard sauce (sorry, I make this different each time):

  • mustard
  • red wine
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400. 

    Whisk together the mustard dressing ingredients and set aside. Chop parsley (optional).

    Cut the kielbasa into thick coins and the potatoes into thick coins or small wedges. Mix them up with olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread them in a shallow pan. 

    Cut the cabbage into "steaks." Push the kielbasa and potatoes aside to make room to lay the cabbage down. Brush the cabbage with more olive oil and sprinkle with more salt and pepper. It should be a single layer of food, and not too crowded, so it will brown well. 

    Roast for 20 minutes, then turn the food as well as you can and roast for another 15 minutes.  

    Serve hot with dressing and parsley for a garnish. 

A lay exhortation on love and mastak’s

***

POST-CATECHISM CLASS LAY EXHORTATION
CARITAS MAJORIS MOMENTI EST
OF THE GOOD GIRL 

BENEDICTA
TO ALL THE LAY FAITHFUL

ON LOVE AND MASTAK’S

***

Love is more inportent then eneything else.
We all make mistak’s, but we lurn from them.
It’s nevr to late to triy agen christ will forgiv you, Evryone has a chois to go to heven or hell.
Go to church a lote.
God want’s us to be good. 
He want us to go to heven with him.
Triy to pray a lote. 
Alwas ramember christ will forgive you and your sin.
Ramember that you love God, and he loves you. 
You shuld love evryone and evrything.
If you have a pet take good kare
Ramember you lurn from your Mastak’s.
And evryone Mak’s Mastaks.

What’s for supper? Vol. 169: Biscuit moron makes good

Recently, there came about in the Fisher household an unusual convergence of a little money, enough time, and sufficient paperwork-filling-outness, and I signed the kids up for classes at the Y as I’ve been promising to do forever. So now, along with Shakespeare club, school paper, part time jobs, drama club, choir practice, and knitting club, we have gymnastics and rock climbing. What I’m trying to say is: Get ready for a lot of frozen chicken burgers.

SATURDAY
Roast beef sandwiches with chimichurri

$2.99 a pound! I got a couple of big roasts which Damien seasoned and seared, then roasted in the oven; and I made a batch of chimichurri (recipe card at the end), and we had it on rolls with Swiss cheese. 

It may please you to know that, because of my terrible, cumbersome system for transferring photos from my phone to my computer, I managed to email this photo of a roast beef sandwich to . . . someone who definitely didn’t ask for it.

SUNDAY
Lasagna, Irish biscuit cake

Confirmation day!

And a gratuitous picture of Benny with flowers in her hair. 

Confirmation kid picked Catherine of Bologna as a patron saint. She’s the patron of artists. We ordered a print of a painting of her by Cecelia Lawrence.

Lots more detail and depth in the print than it appears here. Her gallery is here, and you can order very reasonably priced prints by emailing her.

This led me to realize we hadn’t bought confirmation presents for the last two kids who got confirmed, so I ordered some. I gave one kid her present, and we had the following conversation:

Me: Here is your confirmation present. 
Kid: And it’s only a year late.
Me: Yes. You’re very gracious. 
Kid: Let’s talk about the other times you failed us!
Me: I can’t wait for you to have kids. I cannot wait. 
Kid: Maybe I’ll be a nun!
Me: Then I can’t wait for you to disappoint JESUS!
Kid: MAYBE I ALREADY HAVE!

Come, Holy Spirit. 

Anyway, Damien made this Platonic ideal of lasagna, just absolutely quivering with fresh cheese and basil and homemade sausage ragu. We were so starving when we got home, I didn’t pause to get a great picture, but it was spectacular. 

The boy asked for a dessert he had at a fundraiser one time, which turned out to be ridiculously easy to make: chocolate biscuit cake. Basically you crunch up a bunch of graham crackers and animal crackers, then make a simple sauce out of butter, chocolate chips, and condensed milk, mix it together, press it into pans, and refrigerate it, and slice it up. It makes sort of fudgy biscotti. I didn’t have any, but the kids said it was good. 

The internet calls it Irish, but they must mean Irish American. Anyway, good recipe to know if you need a treat but don’t want to turn on the oven. 

MONDAY
Chicken quesadillas, corn, guacamole and tortilla chips

For my sins, my kids insist on pronouncing quesadillas “kwassadilllas” and guacamole “gwackamowl.” I’m sure I deserve it. Anyway, it finally stopped raining and I ate my food OUTSIDE!

I seasoned the chicken breasts with lots of chili lime powder and roasted and sliced them. A few people didn’t want chicken in the kwassadilllas. Corrie said she wanted hers plain, so I made her one with just cheese. Turns out she wanted it plain, as in just a hot tortilla. I SAID COME HOLY SPIRIT.

TUESDAY
Hot dogs, chips, snap peas 

Actually, I directed dinner remotely while crouching on metal bleachers and wondering when gymnastics class gets to be more than just flopping around; and Damien and I did so much driving, we decided to stay out in between trips and grab some dinner for ourselves. We landed at a little Thai restaurant, and let me tell you, those Thai people have some pretty good ideas. I had some kind of coconut curry with carrot, squash, pepper, melon, and squid, and it arrived in this . . . apparatus with a little candle in it.

Whee! It was delicious. I also had some kind of thing rolled up in rice wrappers with little basil leaves tucked inside. 

Lovely. 

WEDNESDAY
Omelettes, oven fries, salad

When I make my weekly menu, I think, “Oh, I’ll just put omelettes on Wednesday. Just eggs, easy peasy.” This is because I am somehow still not aware that making eleven separate omelettes to order is neither easy nor peasy, but actually takes eleven hours and your arms will fall off.

By the time I got around to making mine, I had lost my will to live, much less my will to make an omelette turn out pretty for the picture. But it was good. I had mine with cheddar, ham, and scallions.

THURSDAY
Pork sliders with coleslaw and spicy curly fries

New recipe. The idea is to serve thin slices of pork on fresh biscuits with a little honey and peach preserves, with coleslaw right in the stack. It’s actually a fine, tasty idea, the only hitch being that if someone came up to me and said, “Make a decent biscuit or I will kill you,” I’d be writing this from the grave. Please don’t give me your biscuit tips. I’ve tried all the techniques and all the recipes and all the special tools and and all the fresh baking powder and everybody’s grandmother’s no-nonsense methods, and I’m just a biscuit moron. That’s all there is to it. 

Yummy supper anyway, though.

I had a pork butt which I sliced as thin as I could and just sautéed it quickly in olive oil with salt and pepper. Basic tangy coleslaw with cabbage, carrot, mayo, vinegar, sugar, and pepper. 

I think you are supposed to pull the biscuit apart to make a top and bottom, but I just built up little open-faced sandwiches. I skipped the preserves and just put a little honey on the biscuit under the pork.

Next time, I’ll make this same meal but use Hawaiian rolls or some other soft roll. It was a great combination and nice and easy, very summery.

FRIDAY
They howled for tuna noodle casserole and I succumbed.

Damien is chaperoning a school field trip to a farm in the rain and heroically brought along Corrie, who heroically brought along her stuffed monkey and of course her ukulele. I’m headed out to pick up kid #1, who’s home from college for the summer! And that’s what it’s all about. 

Here’s a few recipe cards. I just linked to the recipes for the chocolate biscuit cake and the lasagna.

Chimichurri

Dipping sauce, marinade, you name it

Ingredients

  • 2 cups curly parsley
  • 1 cup Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup dried oregano (or fresh if you have it)
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients except olive oil in food processor. Whir until it's blended but a little chunky. 

  2. Slowly pour olive oil in while continuing to blend. 

 

Coleslaw

Ingredients

  • 1 head cabbage, shredded
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 5 radishes, grated or sliced thin (optional)

Dressing

  • 1 cup mayp
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Instructions

  1. Mix together shredded vegetables. 
    Mix dressing ingredients together and stir into cabbage mix. 




White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

 

Pork sliders with coleslaw

I made these with biscuits, but you could use Hawaiian rolls or other rolls

Servings 1

Ingredients

  • Pork butt
  • salt, pepper, olive oil
  • cole slaw
  • honey
  • peach or apricot preserves
  • biscuits or soft rolls

Instructions

  1. Slice the pork thinly and sauté in hot olive oil, seasoning with salt and pepper toward the end.

  2. Split biscuits or open rolls and spread with preserves. Add the pork slices, drizzle with a little honey, and add a small scoop of cole slaw.  

  3. Serve as little sandwiches or open faced sandwiches. 

Parents who are failures, and parents who are not

Not a failure: “My daughter is pregnant.”

Failure: “My daughter had an abortion because she knew damn well what would happen to her if she turned up pregnant in this house.”

 

Not a failure: “My child is severely depressed.” “My child has debilitating anxiety.” “My child is suicidal.” “My child has learning disability.” “My child is non-neurotypical.” 

Failure: “I have no idea what to do, but there’s no way I’m letting stranger into our personal lives. Professional help is for people who can’t hack it, and I don’t belong in a waiting room with that trash.”

 

Not a failure: “We are totally crashing and burning in the home school/private school/religious school/public school we thought would be so perfect for our kind of family.”

Failure: “We are totally crashing and burning, but if we quit, we’ll be failures as parents/let down the community/have to admit we’re wrong/change our lives around. We better keep going, so everyone will know we care about our kids.”

 

Not a failure: “I don’t understand my kid very well, and it’s hard to talk.”

Failure: “My kid has a great relationship with my spouse, or with her teacher, or with her friend’s mom. I undermine this relationship every chance I get, because they’re usurping me. I’m the parent.”

 

Not a failure: “My kid is screwing up in exactly the same ways I did or do.”

Failure: “Boy, does this look familiar, and boy does it make me feel bad. I’ll punish him double, once for each of us.”

 

Not a failure: “Despite our best efforts to raise him right, my kid exercised his free will and is now a druggie, an alcoholic, a criminal.”

Failure: “His name is forbidden in my home.”

 

Not a failure:  “We are too broke to give our kids everything their friends have.”

Failure: “I must do everything possible to get more money, so we can be happy.”

 

Not a failure: “My child is gay.”

Failure: “I refuse to have gay children, so either the kid or the gayness has got to go.”

 

Not a failure: “My child has left the Church.”

Failure: “I raise Catholic children, so I guess this is no longer my child.  How could he betray Me this way?”

 

Not a failure: “I just said or did exactly the wrong thing to my kid.”

Failure: “We must never speak of this again.”

***
***
A version of this post was originally published in 2014. 

Photo by Alon via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The 1997 Odyssey miniseries is hokey, thrilling, and gorgeous

Need a little pick-me-up? The 1997 two part miniseries of The Odyssey is the most entertaining thing I’ve seen in ages. It’s now available for streaming on  Amazon Prime and on the Roku channel, and everyone I know who loves The Odyssey loves this production. 

Don’t get me wrong. Much of the movie, sets, effects, and acting, is hokey to the max. But it’s charmingly, enthusiastically hokey, and every minute of it is made with great love. 

Let’s start with the soundtrack. It is incredibly terrible, and some scenes may actually have been recorded inside a tin can. The incidental music is devastatingly synthetic and cheap sounding, like something from a video game. But then many scenes include people playing actual instruments, and are full of real music — tunes and sounds you can respond to as a human, but which also convey a thoroughly other time and place. 

The show is full of stuff like this: Big, balls-out, broad strokes and spectacle, peppered with startling touches of authenticity that must have come from a scholar or at least a deeply invested amateur. When Odysseus leaves his men at the door to the underworld, for instance, he mentions “the land of the dead” and they all make a reflexive ritual gesture of some kind that may or may not be ancient, but it sure looks both authentic and heartfelt. 

But the real secret of this movie is not that they get everything right. The secret is that they’re enjoying the hell out of it, and that comes through from start to finish. They have an awesome story to tell, and here it is:

Some of the scenes (the show was filmed in Malta, Turkey, England, and the Mediterranean) are clumsy and corny — there’s lots of churning water filmed to look like giant waves when it’s clearly not — but others are inspired.  Viewers are very familiar with movies that take a Cecil B. DeMille-style stab at vaguely barbaric grandeur, with everything pillared and gilded and exotically alluring. This movie also doesn’t hold back, and sometimes bites off more than it can chew; but here, the alien distance of ages is made coherent through dozens of details, the sounds, the fabrics, the hairpins, the utensils. The household gods, for instance, somehow look both sacred and naive, and you can see both that the characters are praying to them sincerely, and that they have built them themselves.

The Island of Circe is stunning and otherworldly; but Ithaca itself is the real island of a real person. I almost wept when Odysseus, still in disguise, first tastes the long-remembered cheese of home. You get a real sense of place, with well-beloved specific trees and blades of grass, and you can feel how much it feels like the entire small world to Odysseus and Penelope. Their tree bed is somewhat vague and disappointingly etherial, but the room where the suitor are slaughtered is real as real, part of an actual house.

Poseidon, as a rolling, roaring face in the waves, is hilarious and also hair-raising. In Hades, the special effects are ridiculous and yet terrifying.

Odysseus stalks right through patches of fire which were clearly pasted in afterward, and gazes in horror at eternally tumbling sheets of lava projected on the green screeniest of green screens. And yet . . . it works. It’s scary as shit in there, and you’re holding your breath the whole time as you watch, because of the fumes, and because you don’t want those shades of the hungry dead to get any closer. I wasn’t crazy about Christopher Lee as a crusty, cranky Tiresias, but I was willing to go with it. 

Which brings us to another miraculous virtue of this movie. The casting is really weird sometimes. Armand Assante as Odysseus? That is NOT how I have always pictured Odysseus. And yet, three minutes in, I was sold. Man has a presence, and he clearly feels bigger than he actually is. You can see why his crew adores him, and you can see how he kept on pushing, year after year, until he makes it home. When he finally lands in Ithaca draped in a red and gold robe with his hair combed and oiled, he is very convincingly the hero we’re still talking about thousands of years later.

Isabella Rossalini as Athena, with those eyes and that posture and that voice and that skin? Brilliant. Absolutely perfect. Bernadette Peters as Circe? Sure, why not? She gives it her witchy all. Vanessa Williams as Calypso? Sufficiently slinky. The guy who plays Hermes is a gilded weirdo zipping around awkwardly in the air, which seems about right. Greta Scacchi, who I’ve never seen in anything else, is a wonderful Penelope. I’d want to come home to her, too.

Her dialogue isn’t profound (none of the dialogue is), but she does convey a complex emotional life besides what you see, and she is grippingly beautiful and strong, and she looks her age. 

I wish they had included the scene where she tests him before she accepts him as her husband. That scene carries a lot of weight to counterbalance all the sex he has with various nymphs. But all the other elements are in place, and the homecoming absolutely hits the mark.

Above all, this production understands the Odyssey not as some kind of effete literary relic but as a really exciting adventure story full of fighting and monsters, with sexy ladies here and there, and a huge, endless love propelling the whole thing. And that is what the Odyssey is. I wouldn’t change a thing. 

***

It being The Odyssey, it’s pretty violent and sexy, so I’d probably show it to kids age 14 at the youngest, depending on the kid. People get graphically ripped to shreds and eaten and stabbed, and there are some very slinky outfits and steamily suggestive scenes. I mean, it is The Odyssey.