What’s for supper? Vol. 220: Livin’ it up on top

Hola, amigos. What gives? I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya, but there’s been all sorts of craziness going on.  But enough about me. Here’s what we cooked this week:

SATURDAY
Pizza

Oh, well, we didn’t actually cook this, as it was Aldi pizza. I mean, we put it in the oven. Saturday was when we got home from our splendid ocean vacation.

Wait, I have a few last pic from last week! Friday was our last full day at the ocean, and after one final swim, the kids stayed at the house and had grilled cheese and candy, I believe, and Damien and I found a restaurant with a breezy terrace

and had llllllllobster. Note my expert technique.

You will find it much easier to crack open a lobster once you’ve had three cocktails made of lemonade, soda water, and blueberry vodka. It just makes you more dextrous overall. Oh, we also had fried calamari and seared tuna.

Dammit, I was okay with not being at the ocean, and now I want to go back. Ah well. I still can’t believe we got to go!

Four of the older kids didn’t come on vacation with us, and they had been implored and entreated and cajoled and importuned not to ignore bad food smells and not to let my flowers die and not to let the puppy become too egregious, and they listened! So it was a pretty easy re-entry. The pool had taken on a vibrant emerald hue, unfortunately, and Damien is still battling the algae. As of today, it’s only chartreuse, which is progress. 

SUNDAY
Burgers and hot dogs

I think? One of our kids was moving into her own apartment on Sunday, and there was some kind of secondary hullabaloo. It’s a duck blur (duck not included). Damien cooked supper.

MONDAY
Pesto chicken pasta

I finally actually cooked something, if not using an actual a recipe. I cooked the chicken breasts in the instant pot and cubed/shredded it and mixed it with farfalle. Then I added a sauce in I made in the food processor with lots of fresh basil, lots of fresh garlic, lots of olive oil, lots of grated parmesan, salt and pepper, and — here’s the secret ingredient — two jars of pesto. 

Not terribly photogenic, but pretty tasty!

While I’m on the subject, did you know you can make pesto out of all kinds of things? The most traditional kind is pine nuts, garlic, basil, parmean, salt, and olive oil, but you can use other herbs and other nuts. I once made a spinach walnut pesto that was fab.

Jump to Recipe

 

I need to revisit various pesti while we’re still livin’ it up on top. [sighs until dead]

Made it to the town pond around sunset for an hour or so.

We still have a few weeks left, right?

TUESDAY
Honey balsamic Brussels sprouts with bacon and eggs

A great one-pan meal which I think is suitable for any time of the day.

Jump to Recipe

It’s a simple recipe, and only a time consuming if you have to make vast quantities, mainly in trimming and halving all those Brussels sprouts, but it’s absolutely a crowd pleaser and takes no particular skill.

I wished I had had some crusty bread, but it was so good. 

I didn’t even follow the recipe for the sauce, just sloshed together a bunch of honey, balsamic vinegar, garlic powder because I was too lazy to crush garlic, and salt and pepper. Mix it up with the sprouts and some chopped bacon, cook it all until the bacon is done, then crack some eggs over it, cook a bit more, and top with parmesan and hot pepper flakes. And I guess a sprinkle of holy water, if that’s the kind of day you’re having:

WEDNESDAY
Tortas, grilled corn

A new dish for us! I had told Damien steak was on sale, and he said, “WAIT.” and sent me some recipes. I checked them out and it idea seems to be “Mexican things, but with bread!” Can do. 

Damien seasoned the steaks heavily with chili lime powder and grilled them rare, then cut them in slices. I found some soft rolls, and I set them out with the meat, refried beans, tomatoes, shredded lettuce, cilantro, pickled jalapeños, lime wedges, sour cream, mayonnaise, and queso fresco. I toasted my roll.

Damien also grilled some corn in the husks over the coals, and I had mine just with lime juice. At some point I guess you could assemble the sandwich and grill the whole thing, but you’d need some kind of containment system. This was a huge shambles of a sandwich. I ate mine outside because it was cooler and also so nobody could see me ravaging it. 

THURSDAY
Chicken caprese sandwiches

On Thursday I finally got around to excavating the jungle of my container garden, and was glad I had chosen to buy some extra basil just in case. The slugs are so bad this year. Next year I’ll . . . do better. Take care of stuff. Or whatever. Anyway, the sandwiches were good. I guess I forgot to take a picture, so here is a chicken caprese sandwich of ages past:

I heavy seasoned the chicken breasts with salt and “Italian seasoning” (I think it’s just basil and oregano) and olive oil and roasted and sliced them. We had plenty of tomatoes, basil, and leftover queso fresco, ciabatta rolls, olive oil and vinegar, salt and pepper. 

We were supposed to go to the drive in movies to see Inside Out and Monty Python Holy Grail, and possibly stay for The Big Lebowski, but I somehow misread the schedule, and they were showing It and Harry Potter and the Part Where It Starts Getting Crappy. So we went mini golfing instead. Corrie got the highest score, which means she won.

And now we are all set with mini golf for another eleven years.

Gosh, I hope drive in movies make a comeback because of the pandemic. Wouldn’t that be neat? The first drive in movie I remember seeing was Superman. I was wearing footie pajamas, and my father put the back seat down in the orange Subaru, and kept it down on the drive home so we could sleep. 

FRIDAY
Tuna boats, curly fries

And that’s it! Hey, I know this sounds stupid because I clearly have a very rich, full, and lucky life, with photographic evidence and everything, but I am actually massively depressed and have been for several weeks and I’m having a hard time climbing out of this hole. Please pray for me and I’ll pray for you, because I know I’m not the only one. Thanks. Duck blur over and out. 

 

5 from 1 vote
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Spinach walnut pesto

You can play with the proportions to get the consistency you like. This version is cheaper than using pine nuts and all basil. Makes 2-3 cups of pesto for adding to pasta or spreading on bruschetta.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cups fresh baby spinach (can include radicchio, etc.)
  • 2 cups walnuts
  • 3 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 8 oz grated parmesan
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Whir nuts in food processor until crumbed. 
    Add basil and greens, and whir until blended. 
    Slowly add olive oil and blend again.
    Add salt, garlic, and parmesan cheese and blend again until it's the consistency you like. 


5 from 1 vote
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Bacon, eggs, and brussels sprouts in honey garlic balsamic sauce

Adapted from Damn Delicious.  An easy and tasty one-pan meal that would work for any meal. Great with a hearty bread like challah. 

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 3 lbs uncooked bacon, cut into 1- or 2-inch pieces
  • 18 eggs
  • oil for greasing pan
  • salt and pepper to taste

Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed

Garnish (optional):

  • parmesan cheese, grated
  • red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Grease two large oven sheets. 


  2. Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Mix Brussels sprouts and bacon together, spread evenly in pans, and pour sauce all over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

  3. Cook until bacon is almost done (almost as crisp as you like it) and Brussels sprouts are very slightly browned, 18-20 minutes.

  4. Pull the pans out of the oven and carefully crack the eggs onto the Brussels sprouts and bacon, here and there.

  5. Return pan to the oven and cook a few minutes longer, just enough to set the eggs. The yolks will get a little film over the top, but don't let them cook all the way through, or you'll have something resembled hard boiled eggs, which isn't as good. You want the yolks to be liquid so you can dip forkfuls of fod into it.

  6. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes and serve. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 219: Your name on a grain of rice!

WE ARE ON VACATION! All this week we’ve been at the ocean, which we adore.

We rented this beach house back in January, but didn’t know until the very last minute if it would be safe to go. But it’s been fine! We don’t share living quarters with anyone, there has been a good, brisk wind all the time, and we like the boring end of the beach with tide pools and no cool people or entertainment anyway. We warned the kids we’d be skipping souvenir shops and playgrounds and indoor restaurants and arcades and just focus on being at the beach. And it’s been great!

But wait, I guess I didn’t do a food post last week? Here are a few of the more photogenic things we ate last week:

A very delicious pizza with cherry tomatoes and basil from the garden, thinly-sliced garlic, red onion, black olives, and parmesan. Very pretty

and did not disappoint. 

They had a nice sale on steak, so I picked up a few, which Corrie helped to season

and then I broiled them, sliced them, and served the meat on mixed greens with plenty of blueberries, blue cheese, and diced red onions, with red wine vinegar, watermelon on the side.

A wonderful summer meal. This is also great with pears or green apples, rather than blueberries.

We also had sausage subs with fried peppers and onions, and here is a photo of the lovely peppers and onions

Yum.

And then we had Vaguely Asian Meatballs,

Jump to Recipe

quick-pickled cucumbers,

Jump to Recipe

white rice and sugar snap peas. A very flavorful meal, savory and filling but not too heavy. 

***

Okay, on to this week! We keep meals very simple when we’re away from home, so this is more of a “yay, beach!” post, interspersed with a couple of food pictures. Of course there are tons of pics, but I’ll mostly link to my Facebook albums, sorry, lazy person. Four of the oldest kids stayed home for various reasons, so it was just the eight of us this year. And the parakeet, whom we brought for reasons.

(We did not bring the cat, the lizard, or, after much debate, the puppy.)

Corrie packed on Friday. She was very, very ready on Friday. Then she wanted to flip a coin to see if we should go on Saturday, or just go on Friday. She dibsed Friday. 

We did whittle her essential luggage down somewhat from here.

SATURDAY
Pizza

And then it was time to go! We got to the beach house around dinner and Damien went to find hunt up some pizza while we unpacked. We don’t have an ocean view from the beach house, but I am not complaining. This is the view from the grownups’ bedroom:

One of the pizzas was sausage and ricotta, which is definitely going into our rotation. Heavens.

SUNDAY
Deli sandwiches

We slept through the 9:15 Mass right down the street, but made it to a 10:45.  Masks and hand sanitizer and social distancing were all enforced, and the priest announced before communion that we should all remember to keep our masks on until right before we receive, and that if we want to receive on the tongue, we have the right to do so, but he asked that anyone who wants that should go to the end of the line so everyone receiving in the hand could go first. Then he stepped into the sacristy to wash his hands thoroughly and mask up. A good solution. 

Then I did grocery shopping. Then we finally got to the beach! It’s such a good beach. 

Here are a bunch more pics from Sunday.

MONDAY
Fried chicken

We packed a lunch and spent the late morning and afternoon at the beach.

More pics from Monday.

Then we went for fried dough, which is Corrie’s main reason for going to the ocean, but it was wayyyy too hot, so we had ice cream. Dinner was cold fried chicken from the supermarket and I think chips and peaches.

Damien and I popped out for drinks in the evening, but I got spooked by the crowds, so we just got some Heinekens and drank them on the beach under the full moon. 

NO COMPLAINTS. 

TUESDAY
Hot dogs, chips

We were expecting major storms, so we stuck close to the house on Tuesday. In the morning, we investigated the foggy, foggy salt marshes behind the house.

More pics from the marshes and the ocean before the storm.

We also made cookies and played games (I brought Bananagrams, some magnet maze games, Battleship, lots of markers and coloring pages, and cookie and cupcake mix) and read books and watched TV. It got pretty blustery, but we didn’t get hit that hard.

Then when the wind and rain stopped, we went to see how the beach was. Still very windy!

More pics from Tuesday evening.

WEDNESDAY
Steak, corn on the cob, chopped salad, bread, S’mores

Day after the storm and the ocean was still out of sorts. Lots of weird stuff on the sand, including this molted baby horseshoe crab shell,

absolute gobs and gobs of seaweed and a million rocks, and the water was murderously cold. This made for a challenging but exhilarating swimming day.

Guys, I cannot even begin to express how much easier it is to be at the beach when you don’t have toddlers or babies. No one wandered away or got lost. No one almost drowned. No one even tried to get drowned. Damien and I could go out and bob around past the breakers together while the younger kids played on the shore, and then sometimes we could lie on a blanket in the sun while the kids played in the water. No one got hysterical because they had sand in their mouth. No one got hysterical at all, or had some kind of diaper emergency. Everyone was reasonable and had a nice time. I never thought we’d get here, but here we are.

 I even had help pulling the wagon.

Bunch o’ more pics from Wednesday.

The steak that was on sale at home last week was now on sale at this supermarket, so I bought a bunch and Damien grilled them. He seasoned them with salt and pepper, lime juice and tequila, and they were very tasty! The corn was just boiled in salted water, and we had plenty of pull-apart bread to stop up the steak juice. 

We were all fairly exhausted and grumpy by afternoon, but I had been promising S’mores forever, and the coals were still hot after dinner, so S’mores time was upon us. I hate S’mores. They are so absurdly overrated, and the name might as well be “Goods” or “Highly Requested.” What the heck. Then we realized (a) we had no sticks to roast the marshmallows with (and not a tree in sight), and (b) the chocolate bars had already melted in their wrappers. One of the kids wanted to freeze them, but I couldn’t see taking melted chocolate and freezing it so as to re-melt it. So we laid a bunch of graham crackers on a pan, snipped the corners off the wrappers and basically extruded chocolate onto the graham crackers, doled marshmallows onto that, then balanced another layer of graham cracker on that. Then we put the pan over the coals until the graham crackers were burnt and the marshmallows were just barely heated. This is exactly the kind of treatment S’mores deserves, in my opinion. Stupid dessert anyway. S’m’less is more like it. 

THURSDAY
Boardwalk food!

We had a lazy morning and a good swim in the afternoon. There were some ducks or something bobbing around, and I told Lucy that, if she could catch one, she could bring it home. This didn’t work out well when I made the same offer about a frog, but so far we are duck-free. 

Here are several pics from Thursday.

At one point during the day, Corrie became The Head of Knowledge, and foretold that our youngest daughter would have rice and seaweed for dinner, but, failing that, that she would settle for a burger. 

 

She had a burger.

We stopped at home to de-sand and then went out again in search of dinner. It turns out the kids all wanted burgers and fries, so that simplified things. Damien and I had steak and cheese, which arrived without cheese or mayo or anything, but I wasn’t gonna start passing food trays back and forth across the counter. Then we got ice cream.

FRIDAY
Grilled cheese? 

I think Damien and I may pop out for an actual seafood dinner, which is something none of this particular group of kids wants or needs. But we may also answer a deeply adult call to lie around and watch TV. Damien has been working about half-time throughout the week (including virtually attending two hearings as a defendant in a free speech case) and I’ve been gloomily writing terrible things that will never see the light of day.

The great thing about this house is that it’s in quiet neighborhood, it’s a very easy walk from the beach, and there is this wonderful view from the bedroom. Two windows show the church steeple and the water tower, and the other window is the salt marsh, where white egrets swoop around and the brackish tide rises and falls throughout the day.

The ground is dense mud covered with waves and waves of cordgrass, and if you look close, there are periwinkles and little crabs all over the place.
Here are a bunch of pictures of our little trip to the marsh. 
The vegetation looks like coarse weeds at first, but up close, they look more like seaweed. Fascinating place. Some of the channels are natural, but some of them are man-made, and there are complicated sluice gates with floating balls to raise them and, I guess, keep the arcades and stuff from flooding. It’s not far from home, but so very different from home!

However, we did promise fried dough back on Monday, and we haven’t yet gotten any fried dough. The Head of Knowledge doesn’t forget these things. So I think we’re getting fried dough if it kills us. And maybe, if the crowds aren’t too bad, your name on a grain of rice.  

***

Okay, I guess my recipe cards this week are just for the Asian meatballs we had last week, and fried dough you can make at home.

Vaguely Asian meatballs with dipping sauce

Very simple meatballs with a vaguely Korean flavor. These are mild enough that kids will eat them happily, but if you want to kick up the Korean taste, you can serve them with dipping sauces and pickled vegetables. Serve with rice.

Servings 30 large meatballs

Ingredients

  • 2.5 lbs ground beef
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed finely
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup minced garlic
  • 2 bunches scallions, chopped (save out a bit for a garnish)
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp ground pepper

For dipping sauce:

  • mirin or rice vinegar
  • soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.

  2. Mix together the meat and all the meatball ingredients with your hands until they are well combined. Form large balls and lay them on a baking pan with a rim.

  3. Bake for about 15 minutes.

  4. Serve over rice with dipping sauce and a sprinkle of scallions.

 

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.

 

Fried dough

Makes about 15 slabs of fried dough the size of a small plate

Ingredients

  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp (half a stick) cold butter
  • 1-1/2 cups lurkworm water
  • 2 cups oil for frying
  • confectioner's sugar for sprinkling
  • cinnamon for sprinkling (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

  2. Cut the cold butter into bits and work it gently into the dough.

  3. Add the water and stir until the dough is all combined.

  4. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it rest for 15 minutes

  5. Separate the dough into pieces and flatten each piece into a thin disk with your fingers. If it's sticky, put a little confectioner's sugar on your work surface.

  6. Heat the oil in a pan. You can deep fry it or use less oil and fry it in a small amount of oil; your choice. The oil is ready when you put a wooden spoon in and little bubbles form around it.

  7. Carefully lay the disc of dough in the hot oil. Let it cook a few minutes, just barely getting brown, and then turn it and cook the other side.

  8. Remove the dough, let the excess oil drain off, and sprinkle it immediately with sugar and cinnamon if you like.

  9. You can keep these hot in the oven for a bit, but they're best when they're very hot.

The grotto behind the church

I told a priest I was so tired of the Catholic Church. I told him I wasn’t leaving, and I wasn’t apostatizing. (Where the hell else would I go?) But I was so tired.

Every encounter I had with Catholics lately seemed to have nothing to do with anything Jesus taught us. I was really rattled. It was murderously hot, and I was sweating and agitated, and full of righteous anger. Sick of the Church, and with good reason.

And he laughed at me. This old, old man with brown, placid eyes waved away a mosquito that floated by his face, and he laughed gently. Birds sang and tears leaked into my mask. We were sitting on benches outdoors, where a safely socially distanced confession could be heard, in front of a grotto for Mary. It was a place I had forgotten existed.

The grotto is a cool, dim spot behind the church, surrounded by trees. It smells of pine, and there are weathered benches grouped around, so you can sit and pray. It turns out they built it because a young boy insisted he saw Mary there. Did he? I have no idea. There is no record that I can find, other than a plaque mounted on the little stone shrine below the statue of Our Lady.

I had to admit, it was a place of unusual peace; a good place to calm down and recollect myself. I had forgotten it was there.

“You know, Jesus said the Church will last until the end of time. The gates of hell won’t prevail, you know,” Fr Bill said, smiling.

And do you know, I had forgotten this. I had fallen into thinking that Jesus was sort of trapped at the center of a clotted tangle of Catholicism, and that as long as I wanted Jesus, I would need to prove myself by fighting my way through that ugly, irrelevant tangle to be with him.

But that’s not really how it is. Jesus doesn’t just sort of put up with the Church, the way you or I put up with pointless rules and regulations before we can get our license or our permit or our degree. He’s not just with the Church because the Church is the hoops you have to jump through. The Church isn’t going anywhere, and its deep and ancient goodness, truth, and beauty are unchanged, changeless.

But sometimes we forget what we have, when we have the Church.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

Shotgun Stories (2007) is downright Shakespearean

About ten minutes into Jeff Nichols’ 2007 movie Shotgun Stories, I asked my husband, “Am I crazy, or is this, like, Shakespeare?”

Check it out: In rural Arkansas in the heat of summer, a woman knocks on the door of a shabby house. Her son opens, and she announces, “Your father’s dead.” The three brothers inside respond to this news in various ways, according to their natures. They next turn up at the funeral held by the dead man’s newer wife and his four newer sons, who enjoyed comfort and security after their father gave up alcohol, took up religion, turned his life around — and abandoned his first family entirely. The oldest son interrupts the eulogy to tell the world “You think he was a good man. But he wasn’t,” and he spits on the coffin. The upgraded family doesn’t take kindly to affront, and they take their revenge — and the bitter feud inevitably unfolds from there.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdVw3_FclyY&feature=emb_title
 

“He made like we were never born,” says the oldest son; and then he spends the rest of the film showing the world that, now that the father is dead, the first son is here, and he will not retreat. It is as if he cannot. Later, when his estranged wife finds out that there was a fight at the funeral, she asks him, “You think that was wise?” and he answers, “Doesn’t matter.” All the men in the movie are caught up in a violent drama that rolls out inexorably, as if it’s beyond anyone’s control. It is very hard to fault them for any of the choices they make, even when they will clearly lead to suffering, because they are behaving as one must in their world. It is as if the death of their father abruptly demands a higher, more elemental way of responding to the world — acting, rather than just enduring. (At the same time, at least some of the sons want the next generation to have something different.)

The three sinned-against sons are drawn in a few deft strokes that make fully-realized characters: One ambitious but prideful, one passive but single-minded, and one meek but intensely loyal. They are, you gradually realize, named “Son,” “Boy,” and “Kid,” (even the family dog has a more human name), while the upgraded family of sons are named after the father and after apostles. There is even a “fool,” a meth cooker named “Shampoo,” who cruises in and out of scenes delivering news, badgering, and instigating more drama. We never even see the father, dead or alive, but we know him well, through the memories of the seven sons he left behind.

There may possibly be an Old Testament/New Testament story being played out between the two families, working through themes of fathers who abandon us and yet somehow ordain our every move. I need to watch it again, because I know I missed a lot the first time around. Here’s a trailer that gives a pretty fair overview, although it doesn’t include the other two brothers, which is a shame:

 

What’s extraordinary about Shotgun Stories, and what also blew me away in Mud, also directed by Jeff Nichols, is the sense of place. Rarely, rarely have I seen such a true and real and immediate world through the lens of a movie camera. When the three brothers slump dejectedly in the street of their cracked, tired old town, I feel like I’ve lived there all my life and I’m sick to death of it. When Son reaches down to clear out the drainage pipe in the fish farm where he works, I feel the mindless weariness of it my sore elbow and my damp shirt cuff. I see exactly which parts of the tract home were fixed up by Son’s fed-up but not heartless wife, and which parts have fallen under the fate-haunted influence of the three brothers. The movie is clearly filmed on a shoestring, but it doesn’t look cheap, just true. 

What I haven’t mentioned is how funny the movie is, in unexpected spurts. The third son, Boy (Douglas Ligon), a gentle, pudgy, part-time basketball coach who lives in a van down by the river, tries at one point to hook up a full size air conditioner to his van; and ever since his attempt, his radio will occasionally start blaring cheesy power ballads, and there’s nothing he can do about it. He endures this several times, at the worst possible moments, and it is only after the fourth time that he thinks to turn the volume down. But it is Boy who eventually becomes the center of the action after Son can’t protect his brothers anymore.

The casting is, as in Mud, impeccable, and the acting is flawless. Michael Shannon as Son is tremendous, infuriating and heartbreaking at once, his face conveying three layers of emotion for every word he tightly utters. Like the dead father, the shotgun of the title barely makes it on screen. Instead, you see scars of the past, and are waiting throughout the entire movie to see whether or not it will go off again, and what will come of it all. You will not be able to take your eyes away.

Shannon is also great in Boardwalk Empire (a flawed but fascinating show) and Knives Out. If you read his IMDB page, you’ll be amazed at how many and what varied things he’s been in.  

Rated PG 13. Some violence and fleeting foul language; very intense in mood; suitable for teenagers. Highly recommended!

Where to watch Shotgun Stories

Was Fr. Damien of Moloka’i a white savior?

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was at the National Statuary Hall Collection in DC on Thursday, and she shared a photo of the statue representing Hawaii on her Instagram account, commenting that “when we select figures to tell the stories of colonized places, it is the colonizers and settlers whose stories are told – and virtually no one else.”

(You’ll have to excuse me for not linking to her story directly. I don’t understand how to use Instagram.)

As often happens with AOC, she wasn’t wrong, but she also managed to say something true in a way that you have to work to defend. The statue representing Hawaii is of Fr. Damien of Moloka’i, a Belgian priest who ministered to Hawaiian lepers and eventually died of the disease. 

“This is what patriarchy and white supremacist culture looks like! It’s not radical or crazy to understand the influence white supremacist culture has historically had in our overall culture & how it impacts the present day,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

She is, as I say, not wrong. She was saying that, when history is written by white people, it tends to present the world in terms of the wise, just, bold, important things white people have done. It makes it seem like white Europeans are the heroes of history, and everyone else is supporting characters at best, villains and savages at worst.

This is what she means by white supremacy, and she’s right. It’s not just a matter of skewing our perception of the past. Learning a white-dominated history makes it easier for white people to continue seeing themselves as realer and more important than dark-skinned people right now. A history that populates the past with white heroes and dark-skinned savages informs the thinking of people like the men who hunted and killed Ahmaud Arbery. They saw a black man in a white man’s world, and they got rid of him. 

She wasn’t even criticizing Fr. Damien specifically, although she chose his statue to feature with her comment. Her office told CNA

“it’s the patterns that have emerged among all of the statues in the Capitol: virtually all white men. Each individual could be worthy, moral people. But the deliberate erasure of women and people of color from our history is a result of the influence of patriarchy and white supremacy.”

Her office later added that “Fr. Damien conducted acts of great good, and his is a story worth telling. It is still worthy for us to examine from a US history perspective why a non-Hawaiian, non-American was chosen as the statue to represent Hawaii in the Capitol over other Hawaiian natives who conducted great acts of good, and why so few women and people of color are represented in Capitol statues at all.”

But, she did feature the statue of Fr. Damien in her commentary. She apparently didn’t realize that the statue wasn’t chosen and donated by white Europeans; it was chosen and donated by the Hawaiian people, who presumably wanted Fr. Damien to represent them.

Why would they chose a white man rather than a native? If you read about Fr. Damien’s life, it was not because he was a white savior, but because he imitated Jesus the savior. 

It’s a touchy topic to compare any man to Christ, especially when contemporaneous accounts of Fr. Damien’s life did explicitly paint him as a white savior descending from above to minister to utter savages living in squalor, helpless until the beatific European man came to the rescue. That is not what happened. This skewed version of his story helps cement the bizarre idea that Christ Himself was white.

But Fr. Damien was so beloved not because of some supernatural ability to appear from on high and single-handedly transform a people, but from a willingness to work and live with them, learn their language, eat their food, and even contract their disease. His mission wasn’t to bestow salvation on them, but to help restore them to a life of dignity that they had been denied, by teaching them about Christ, by helping them to take care of themselves, and most of all by becoming one of them when no one else even wanted to think about them. 

Every saint’s story reflects the life of Christ in one way or another; but the biography of St Damien of Molokai, whose feast day is May 10, is full of unusually striking parallels that have nothing to do with whiteness and everything to do with Christlike-ness.

His sacrifice was entirely voluntary. After the Hawaiian government isolated its lepers on a peninsula to contain the disease, the Church realized that there was no one to tend to their spiritual needs. But the disease was so fearful and so contagious; the Bishop did not insist that any of his subordinates go there to serve. Young Fr Damien, a Belgian priest, willingly volunteered as a missionary, even though he was afraid.

The Son of God was utterly complete before the Incarnation. The birth, works, suffering, and death of Christ were all entirely voluntary, asked for by the Father and willingly accepted by the Son, even though He was afraid.

He was a substitute for his brother. His brother, a member of the same religious order, was originally slated to travel to Molokai, but became sick; so Damien took his place.

Christ took on human flesh and suffered and died to pay the debt of humanity. He became our brother so that He could take our place.

He tended to the body as well as the soul. St Damien’s mission was to preach and bring the sacraments, but he also cared for the lepers’ physical well-being, helping them upgrade their living quarters, organize schools, farms, a legal system, and even a choir.

Along with teaching, forgiving sins, conferring grace, and granting salvation for our souls, Christ healed the blind, made the lame walk, fed the multitudes, and even cooked a breakfast of fish for His friends, because even a mortal body is precious, and our physical needs are true needs.

He didn’t keep himself apart, but lived his life alongside his spiritual children.  Fr Damien didn’t isolate himself out of fear, disgust, or a sense of superiority, but lived with the lepers intimately, eating communal poi with his fingers, bathing corrupted limbs and dressing wounds. He clothed them with his own hands, shared their pipes, and dug their graves, until he finally died of their disease.

Christ did not save us from Heaven, but confined His immensity into a mortal human body, to live alongside the ones He came to save, and even accepted human mortality. 

He was slandered, accused of depravity and dirtiness; and even his own superiors gave him only faint praise, calling him a “peasant” who served God “in his own way.”

Christ was hounded by slander and abuse, culminating in a trial and execution full of insults and false accusations, which He bore without defending Himself.

His good works were not confined to his life span.  When Fr Damien died, he left behind a community that was transformed.

Before He died, Christ established the Church, so that His work would continue after the Resurrection.

 

I can’t help thinking that Fr. Damien himself would have chosen someone else to represent Hawaii, had he been asked. Nothing in his life indicates that he sought fame or recognition. He is the patron saint of outcasts, including HIV patients, a population many Catholics continue to see as untouchable, unworthy. 

Maybe it would have been better to represent him with a statue showing how he looked toward the end of his life, when the disease all but destroyed his white skin. If there is a lesson to draw from finding a Christlike white man representing Hawaii, maybe the lesson is this: Christ was not white; Christ was human. 

***

A portion of this essay was originally published in The Catholic Weekly in May of 2017.

Photo of Fr. Damien by Henry L. Chase / Public domain 

14 family movies we streamed and liked this summer

With museums and movie theaters and amusements parks out, we decided to lean into watching movies — a continuation of our mandatory Friday Lent movie party, but this time, anything is fair game. Damien and I pick something the kids at least might enjoy and appreciate, but that they probably wouldn’t pick on their own. Every few weeks, we let the kids pick what we watch. The idea is to expand their palates a bit and also to have some regular time together, which definitely doesn’t happen on its own.

Our definition of “family movies” may differ from yours! We have a lot of teens and older, so we tend to err on the side of movies that are a bit too old for the minority. We watched a few of these without the youngest kids. In this post, “little guys” refers to kids ages 8 and 5.

We streamed all of these movies, and paid a few dollars for most of them. The information about where to stream movies changes so often, so I just linked to their pages on ReelGood.com and it will show you where you can currently stream them.

I’m gonna cheat and include summaries stolen from various sources:

The Music Man 

Where to watch

When Harold Hill (Robert Preston), a traveling con man, arrives in River City, he convinces the locals to start a band by purchasing the uniforms and instruments from him. His intention is to flee as soon as he receives the money. Librarian Marian Paroo (Shirley Jones) suspects Harold is a fraud, but holds her tongue since her moody brother, Winthrop (Ronny Howard), is excited about the band. As Harold begins to develop feelings for Marian, he faces a difficult decision about skipping town. (Wikipedia)

What a weird movie! Dancing great, music great, really funny stuff. It’s one of those movies you can just enjoy for the syncopation and the choreography and the spectacle, or you can think a bit about who these people are and how they got to be there. I’ve seen it before, but the line “I always think there’s a band, kid” made me cry this time. This was also the first time I thought, “Wait, is Winthrop actually Marion’s secret son?” He could be a change of life baby, but he could also be a secret grandson. Marion tells her mother that the problem isn’t that her standards are too high; it’s that she falls in love too easily, and what she really wants is for someone to stay. There is an awful lot of unacknowledged frenetic sexual energy in this town, as you can see by how easy it is to get everybody dancing like lunatics, but there’s also a heavy layer of refusal to acknowledge it, which amps up the tension.

Anyway, solid, entertaining movie. Some of the kids liked it; some acted like they hated it more than I think they actually did. 

All ages.

North By Northwest

where to watch

North by Northwest is a tale of mistaken identity, with an innocent man pursued across the United States by agents of a mysterious organization trying to prevent him from blocking their plan to smuggle out microfilm which contains government secrets. (Wikipedia)

This is one of Damien’s favorites.   I’ve definitely come to appreciate Cary Grant more over the years. I used to find him so slick and repellant, but he’s much more of a comic actor than I ever realized. This character a man whose life was in trouble long before he accidentally got caught up in foreign intrigue. 

All ages, but younger kids will struggle to follow the plot. 

Young Frankenstein

where to watch

Respected medical lecturer Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) learns that he has inherited his infamous grandfather’s estate in Transylvania. Arriving at the castle, Dr. Frankenstein soon begins to recreate his grandfather’s experiments with the help of servants Igor (Marty Feldman), Inga (Teri Garr) and the fearsome Frau Blücher (Cloris Leachman). After he creates his own monster (Peter Boyle), new complications ensue with the arrival of the doctor’s fiancée, Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn).(Wikipedia)

The most perfect movie ever made. About 40% of the things we say to each other in this house are quotes from Young Frankenstein. If you have seen this movie and didn’t think much of it, I don’t know what to say to you. If you’re one of those, “Oh, I love Mel Brooks! Spaceballs and Robin Hood: Men In Tights are the best things I’ve ever seen!” people, you can just leave. The best Mel Brooks movies are the ones where he’s satirizing genres he knows intimately and loves ardently; the worst ones are the ones where he’s clearly just cashing in on a popular trend. 

All ages, although it’s bit risqué for the younger kids, but I think most of the naughty stuff went over their heads. Younger kids may find it scary.  

Galaxy Quest

where to watch

A parody of and homage to science-fiction films and series, especially Star Trek and its fandom, the film stars Tim AllenSigourney WeaverAlan RickmanTony ShalhoubSam Rockwell and Daryl Mitchell. It depicts the cast of a fictional defunct cult television series, Galaxy Quest, who are visited by actual aliens who think the series is an accurate documentary, and become involved in a very real intergalactic conflict. (Wikipedia)

The kids chose this one. I’ve seen it a few too many times, but it’s entertaining and solid and ultimately very sweet. Great casting, and nice to see a movie where nerdy kids aren’t dunked on. Same plot as The Three Amigos, which I also wouldn’t mind re-watching. 

All ages. There are some scary scenes of chasing and torture. 

Key Largo

where to watch


This classic film noir by John Huston stars Humphrey Bogart as World War II vet Frank McCloud. Visiting Key Largo to pay his respects to the family of his late war buddy, McCloud attempts to comfort his comrade’s widow, Nora (Lauren Bacall), and father, James Temple (Lionel Barrymore), who operate a hotel. But McCloud realizes that mobsters, led by the infamous Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson), are staying in the hotel. When the criminals take over the establishment, conflict is inevitable. (Synopsis by Google)

This movie makes you feel like you’re going cuh-razy. Such fantastic tension and atmosphere and sense of place. Apparently Clare Trevor’s wretchedness and nervousness when she’s forced to sing for her drink were only partially her acting, because she wasn’t given the chance to practice beforehand, and they just filmed a raw take, which was mean but effective. It’s a noir film that shows gangsters as gross and pettily cruel rather than glamorous. It’s so unfair that Frank McCloud has to fight at home after he’s done fighting in the war, but evil be like that. Very satisfying ending.  

All ages, but younger kids may be a bit bored. There is a lot of action, but much of the tension comes from characters having to face interior choices. The kids were, for some reason, fascinated at Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall essentially wearing matching outfits. 

Knives Out

where to watch

The circumstances surrounding the death of crime novelist Harlan Thrombey are mysterious, but there’s one thing that renowned Detective Benoit Blanc knows for sure — everyone in the wildly dysfunctional Thrombey family is a suspect. Now, Blanc must sift through a web of lies and red herrings to uncover the truth. (Google synopsis)
 

The best new movie I’ve seen in years. I had no idea what was going to happen, right down to the last drop, and it worked out so much better than I could have hoped. So funny and weird and exciting. Immensely satisfying and original. Everybody liked it. Totally earned all the accolades it got. It was very tense and fairly violent, so the little guys didn’t watch it, but its moral compass was right on.

This is a movie to own and re-watch. 

Night of the Hunter

where to watch

The Rev. Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) is a religious fanatic and serial killer who targets women who use their sexuality to attract men. Serving time in prison for car theft, he meets condemned murderer Ben Harper (Peter Graves), who confesses to hiding $10,000 in stolen loot. Released from jail, Powell is obsessed with finding the money, and he tracks down Harper’s widow, Willa (Shelley Winters), and her two children, John (Billy Chapin) and Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce). (Google synopsis)

Watch it just for the sheer beauty. If your kids are resistant to watching black and white movies, this might be a good intro. Unforgettable. We had some good conversations about the sort of surreal stylized aesthetic and how some of the characters delivered their lines. It occurs to me that one of the main themes is responsibility: What do you take on and what do you shuffle off on other people? Maybe the real villain is Ben Harper, hmmmm? The preacher, who thinks of himself as some kind of willing vessel of God’s will, is not entirely wrong about being just an agent. There are lots of villains of different degrees in this story. 

All ages, but haunting and may be upsetting for youngest kids. It shows a drowned woman and includes an execution, and the whole movie centers on kids in terrible peril. Those child actors were SO GOOD.

District 9

where to watch

Thirty years ago, aliens arrive on Earth — not to conquer or give aid, but to find refuge from their dying planet. Separated from humans in a South African area called District 9, the aliens are managed by Multi-National United, which is unconcerned with the aliens’ welfare but will do anything to master their advanced technology. When a company field agent (Sharlto Copley) contracts a mysterious virus that begins to alter his DNA, there is only one place he can hide: District 9. (Google synopsis. This isn’t a very good synopsis, fyi.)

Just for the high school kids. Quite violent and disgusting and upsetting, but also one of the most thoughtful science fiction movies I’ve seen. It really worked through how modern people might behave under the circumstances; and they did a wonderful job showing emotion on entirely alien faces, and showed a persuasive change of heart via ordeal. Also very funny. But, I must stress, disgusting. 

Shazam

where to watch

We all have a superhero inside of us — it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In 14-year-old Billy Batson’s case, all he needs to do is shout out one word to transform into the adult superhero Shazam. Still a kid at heart, Shazam revels in the new version of himself by doing what any other teen would do — have fun while testing out his newfound powers. But he’ll need to master them quickly before the evil Dr. Thaddeus Sivana can get his hands on Shazam’s magical abilities. (Google synopsis)

This movie was a little messy, but we all really liked it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie focused on the foster care system before. As such, it was a bit precious, but it is also a kid superhero movie, so I think they earned some wiggle room to portray people in a somewhat cartoonish way, though the lens of an immature person (and in this, they achieved what I think Jojo Rabbit tried and failed to do, and it definitely nailed the way two teenage boys would explore the sudden acquisition of superpowers. The opening scene is pretty violent and shocking, but the rest is scary and tense but not inappropriate for younger kids. We all agreed that, while the seven deadly sins were neat, most of them were just portrayed as generically creepy, when they could have been vividly individual. We loved the scenes where the two boys are testing out the limits of the superpowers, and we liked the very realistic crisis of conscience Billy faces. The kids picked up on how his memory of his mother differs subtly from her own memory, and we talked about people doing their best when their best just isn’t very good. Not a perfect movie, but thought-provoking and entertaining. Definitely worth a re-watch.

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

where to watch

Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are high school buddies starting a band. However, they are about to fail their history class, which means Ted would be sent to military school. They receive help from Rufus (George Carlin), a traveler from a future where their band is the foundation for a perfect society. With the use of Rufus’ time machine, Bill and Ted travel to various points in history, returning with important figures to help them complete their final history presentation. (Google synopsis)

Although I was 14 when this movie came out, I have somehow never seen it. Unexpectedly sweet and funny stuff, and I know it’s not just the nostalgia factor that made me laugh out loud. Some mildly naughty humor, and of course the heroes are not exactly role models, but they kinda are. Really cute.

Yojimbo

where to watch

A nameless ronin, or samurai with no master (Toshirô Mifune), enters a small village in feudal Japan where two rival businessmen are struggling for control of the local gambling trade. Taking the name Sanjuro Kuwabatake, the ronin convinces both silk merchant Tazaemon (Kamatari Fujiwara) and sake merchant Tokuemon (Takashi Shimura) to hire him as a personal bodyguard, then artfully sets in motion a full-scale gang war between the two ambitious and unscrupulous men. (Google synopsis)

This is another one of those movies that makes you feel like you’re going crazy when you watch it, in a good way. You feel like you have grit in your clothes and you feel like a murderous wind is blowing on your sunburned cheeks. Also, I could stare at Toshirô Mifune all day and I don’t care who knows it. Anyone who wants to make a “complicated hero for complicated times” movie should watch this first. Just watch the way he’s always scratching himself, and his posture. 
I kind of wish I could re-score it, though. The music is so dated, it became intrusive after a while. 

All ages. Some of the kids found it just too foreign – not just because it had subtitles, but that is one heckin different culture. I think most of the kids found it at least interesting.

Cast Away

where to watch

Obsessively punctual FedEx executive Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) is en route to an assignment in Malaysia when his plane crashes over the Pacific Ocean during a storm. The sole survivor of the flight, Chuck washes ashore on a deserted island. When his efforts to sail away and contact help fail, Chuck learns how to survive on the island, where he remains for years, accompanied by only his handmade volleyball friend, Wilson. Will Chuck ever return to civilization and reunite with his loved ones? (Google synopsis)

This is another movie that had more on its mind than I remember from last time I watched it. Rare to see a movie where there aren’t any bad guys, just reasonably decent people who could be better, and decent people in bad situations. The island is his ordeal, but his main struggle is, of course, actually with himself . . . or, you know, with life itself; and the same is true of his wife. Really interesting stuff.

We watched this with kids age 9 and up, and they found some scenes terrifying, but not unmanageable. Some left the room during the tooth scene, but everyone liked the movie overall.

True Grit

where to watch

After an outlaw named Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) murders her father, feisty 14-year-old farm girl Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) hires Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), a boozy, trigger-happy lawman, to help her find Chaney and avenge her father. The bickering duo are not alone in their quest, for a Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) is also tracking Chaney for reasons of his own. Together the unlikely trio ventures into hostile territory to dispense some Old West justice. (Google synopsis)

Well, this movie is just heartbreakingly good. Maybe the Cohen brothers’ best. So many appealing and appalling characters, such gorgeous camera work, such impeccable pacing. GOR-GE-OUS.Thrilling and funny and unforgettable. Fairly violent, so probably for middle schoolers and up.

Hamilton

where to watch

It was . . . good. We let all the kids watch it, despite the cussing and the plot that includes adultery and whatnot. I thought it was good, really. Well, probably I should write up a separate review just for Hamilton. 

Okay, that’s it! I know I’m missing some, so maybe I can do a part 2 by the end of the summer. I feel better about the c r a p the kids often watch when I know they’re also watching things I think are worthwhile. 

How about you? Seen anything remarkable lately? 

 

 

 

Not like one of these

Hello, I am 45 years old. I hurt my ankle three months ago, and it’s still not completely well. The stupid part is, I hurt it doing nothing whatsoever. It just randomly swells up from time to time, and then I have to ice and rest and medicate before I can hobble around; and it will probably never be completely fine again.

Sometimes I forget how to sleep; and there are two pills I must take every day if I wish to live. Little bits of my teeth fall off every once in a while; my digestive system is ridiculous; and my eyebrows are slowly disappearing.

I am, in short, starting to get old. Not terribly old. I haven’t lost my marbles yet, and I go running several times a week. Not that you asked, but I could probably even still get pregnant if I really wanted to (which I do not).

I’m reasonably energetic and capable, more or less. But 45 years are certainly enough to cast a faint but undeniable shadow over my days. I am, as they say, over the hill. There’s lots left to do, and I intend to do it, but I can’t deny I’ll be doing it on a downward slide.

I was grumbling about this state of affairs not long ago, and a reader chided me for my fear and weakness. She said that she was not afraid of getting old. She knew that old age led to death and death was the door to Christ! And she loved Christ! So what was there to fear?

What indeed! She wasn’t wrong. But she was, as I suspected, 22 years old. That is why she had no fear of getting old: Because she was young. I wasn’t afraid of getting old, either, when I was in my 20’s, because I was in my 20’s. Nothing easier than bravely facing something you’re not actually facing.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

***

Image: Illustration from “A natural system of elocution and oratory : founded on an analysis of human constitution, considered in its three-fold nature–mental, physiological and expressional” (1886)From via Flickr 

What’s for supper? Vol. 218: In which I make poor choices with peppers

Two or three new recipes this week! And, because you’re very lucky, one of my top notch very expert photoshop jobs so you really feel like you were there when it happened! Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Buffalo chicken salad, pasta salad

The salad was mixed greens, buffalo chicken from frozen, cut in strips; blue cheese, and crunchy fried onions from a can. Clara made a nice pasta salad with one of those infused olive oils, parmesan, feta, lots of garlic, black olives, and basil from the garden.

 

It had a kind of potluck feel, but still a fine summer meal. 

SUNDAY
Hamburgers, pasta salad, cheezy weezies

Damien made the burgers outside

and I spent the afternoon putting in tiles for the backsplash in the kitchen! I’ve never had a backsplash before, much less put in a marble backsplash by myself, and I . . . did not do it right. But it looks pretty and I am happy. I still have to do the ceiling, and then I will do a follow-up kitchen reno post. Here is my post about the walls, floor, and trim

MONDAY
Italian sandwiches

Damien made his trademark Fancy Sandwiches For All. 
He split a bunch of baguettes down the middle and drizzled the bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then layered plenty of ham, prosciutto, salami, and pepperoni, mozzarella, tomatoes, fresh basil, and Italian seasoning.

I know I always say that whatever sandwich I’m currently eating is the ideal sandwich, but I’m telling you, this was a good one. 

TUESDAY
Chicken burgers, chips, strawberries and blueberries

If I were a millionaire, I would still have frozen breaded chicken burgers on potato bread buns with horseradish sauce every few weeks. Yum.

I went shopping on Tuesday and for once remembered to serve the berries on the same day I brought them home. Aldi berries are so cheap — I think the strawberries were $1.29 a pound, and the blueberries were 99 cents a pint — but you really cannot dawdle. 

WEDNESDAY
Chili verde

 

Jump to Recipe

I was at the store and made my usual desperate attempt to match up my pepper list with the pepper bins and the pepper labels, and then I went home and asked Facebook what I had. 

It seems I had four Anaheim peppers and a bunch of habañeros, which was a pepper error, because I meant to get some other kind of pepper, but I forget what. So that was pepper error #1. Pepper error #2 was when I heard everyone saying they were super hot, and I was like, “oh, okay, I like hot stuff, but not too too hot, so I will only use two habañeros in my chili.”

I roasted the peppers along with a bunch of tomatillos and jalapeños on a greased pan.

Then I let everything sort of steam itself under plastic wrap, then I skinned them all. This part is fun.

Then I put all the skinned peppers and tomatillos in the food processor with a bunch of onions and garlic and cilantro, and puréed it. That is fun, too, but the picture came out blurry.

I did not seed any of the peppers first. This was pepper error #2a.

I cut the pork into chunks and seared it in oil with plenty of salt and pepper. I wish I had let it brown up a bit more, but at least I didn’t crowd the pot for once. 

Then I put the puréed salsa verde into the pot with the pork and let it simmer for several hours.

You can add water or chicken broth, but I wanted it fairly thick. Just before serving, I squeezed some limes over it and served it with cilantro and sour cream.

And now for pepper mistake #3: I ate so much of it. It hurt my whole face and I was sweating from my toenails by the time I was done, and I kept getting more sour cream, but I ate so much. I sopped up the sauce with tortillas, and congratulated myself for not even suffering any heartburn afterward. 

My confidence continued until Thursday morning. 

Thursday went something like this:

http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/aztec-human-sacrifice.htm (public domain)

But, that was some really good chili verde. 

THURSDAY
Greek chicken skewers, yogurt sauce, rice

 

Jump to Recipe

I made a marinade out of lemon zest and lemon juice, tons of fresh mint, olive oil, honey, and salt and pepper, and marinated chicken breast chunks for several hours, then threaded them on skewers with grape tomatoes and wedges of red onion. Thunderstorms chased us inside, so we had to broil rather than grill it, but it was still tasty. Fresh mint is the best. 

Corrie took this picture and is very proud of it:

And I was fairly proud of the meal overall. I served it with pita and yogurt sauce and, as you can see, white rice.  Benny made the yogurt sauce. 

Jump to Recipe

 

I spent several hours wondering if I should make stuffed grape leaves, and then realizing it was 5:00 and far too late, so I just made a big pot of rice. I made so much rice I may use the leftover for inauthentic grape leaves made with leftover cooked rice today, and no one can stop me! The wild grapes are going nuts this year, and I love cooking with foraged stuff.

FRIDAY
Eggs migas

We had a spell where we kept running out of eggs, and the kids were just WORN OUT with my incompetence and malfeasance, because they want to cook themselves heaps and heaps of eggs for lunch every day. So I got 3 dozen eggs, and then forgot I had done so, and got 5 dozen eggs.

Guess whose children abruptly stopped cooking eggs? 

It’s fine. I’m trying a new dish: Eggs migas. I bought corn tortillas, which I don’t normally do. The basic idea is to cut or tear up tortillas and fry them up in oil until they’re crisp, then scramble an egg into the pieces. You can add various things in while you’re cooking, or you can serve them as garnishes/sides after cooking. I think we’ll stick with salsa, sour cream, and maybe some refried beans. I’m excited! New Mexican food really hits the spot for me. I shall report back on our success. 

Okay, here’s a few recipe cards: 

Very Spicy Chili Verde

I'm not kidding. This is very spicy. You can decrease the heat by seeding the peppers, using fewer habañeros, or substituting some milder pepper. But if you like it hotsy totsy, this is your recipe.

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs pork shoulder
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for cooking

For the salsa verde:

  • 4 Anaheim peppers
  • 2 habañero peppers
  • 4 jalapeño peppers
  • 4 medium onions
  • 12 tomatillos
  • 1 head garlic, cloves peeled
  • 1 bunch cilantro (optional)

For serving:

  • lime wedges
  • sour cream

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler.

  2. Pull the husks and stems off the tomatillos and rinse them. Cut the ends off all the peppers. Grease a large pan and put the tomatillos and peppers on it. Broil five minutes, turn, and broil five minutes more, until they are slightly charred.

  3. Take the pan out and cover the peppers and tomatillos with plastic wrap or tin foil for ten minutes. When they are cool enough to handle, pull the skins off the peppers and tomatillos. At this point, you can remove the seeds from the peppers to decrease the spiciness if you want.

  4. Put the skinned tomatillos and peppers in a food processor or blender with the onions, garlic, and cilantro. Purée.

  5. In a heavy pot, heat some oil. Salt and pepper the pork chunks and brown them in the oil. You will need to do it in shifts so the pork has enough room and browns rather than simmering.

  6. When all the meat is browned, put it all in the pot and add the puréed ingredients.

  7. Simmer at a low heat for at least three hours until the meat is tender. If you want thinner chili verde, you can add water or chicken broth.

  8. Spoon the chili verde into bowls, squeeze some lime juice over the top, and top with sour cream and fresh cilantro.

 

Greek chicken skewers

Serve with yogurt sauce. Add pita and rice pilaf or stuffed grape leaves for a nice meal.

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs chicken, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 3 pints grape tomatoes
  • 5 red onions, cut into wedges

For the marinade:

  • 4 lemons zested and juiced
  • 4 tsp oregano
  • 1-2 cups fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Mix together the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, honey, mint, oregano, salt, and pepper. Add the chicken chunks and let it marinate for at least three hours.

  2. When you are ready to cook, thread the marinated chicken onto skewers, alternating with tomatoes and onion.

  3. Grill over coals or broil in a pan in the oven until slightly charred.

  4. Serve with yogurt sauce.

 

Yogurt sauce

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. 

Various essays on sex and NFP and glop monsters

It’s NFP Week! I’ll assume you have already read my most excellent book, The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning, and are desperate for more. So here is a little round-up of some of the essays that aren’t in the book. If you’ve read something good on the topic and think other people should read it, too, please leave a link in the comments. 

The Contraceptive mentality is real, but it’s probably not what you think

The Contraceptive Mentality, Part 2: Grave reasons and obedience

Asking couples to use NFP is asking a lot. Can’t the Church help more?

If NFP works, why does she have ten kids?

Help! Help! Humanae Vitae isn’t a rigorous logical treatise!

Please stop saying ‘my cycle’ when you mean ‘my period.’ It matters.

8 Things we need our NFP teachers to know

The privilege of saying ‘no thanks’ to NFP

Sunshine, Buttercups, and Rainbow Flags

and not specifically about NFP, but still relevant:

Don’t be a sex sponge

I’m sorry about the glop monsters. The one and only time I feel sympathy toward the USCCB is once a year when they have to come up with a graphic depicting NFP in a way that doesn’t make people point and snicker. I’m having a Jenna Maroney “Fart So Loud” moment, I guess. A triumph.

What’s for supper? Vol. 217: I got sunshine on a curdy day

Hi! Back in the saddle again. Suppers last week were haphazard while I was working on the kitchen renovation, and this week because . . . I don’t know, it was hot. The best recipes in today’s post are a little vague. Sorry!

Oh, I do have one neat dish to tell you about from last week, from our July 4th party: Shrimp skewers. 

I defrosted a bunch of raw shrimp and pulled the shells off, then skewered them with cherry tomatoes, and set the skewers to marinate in a ton of lime juice, some olive oil, lots of red pepper flakes and coarsely-chopped cilantro, and salt. Then Damien grilled them over the coals. So good. Exactly what I was hoping for.

I wanted some nice charred corn on the cob to go with it, but the corn has been terrible this year. Just puny and terrible. Is this true all over the country? 

SATURDAY
Steak! Mussels! 

Steak and mussels were both super cheap, so I bought them both, planning a special Sunday meal. I did the grocery shopping on Saturday, just to test the waters and see if everyone was still being maskless idiots in the stores on Saturdays. O MY BRETHREN, THEY WERE. Then I got the bonus of discovering that, if you want to go to confession that’s not in a small, sealed-up confessional box where six people have just been in before you without masks, you have to make a special appointment to accommodate your very special request. Bah.

I got home pretty hot and upset. I was planning hot dogs for supper, but Damien reminded me that mussels really need to be cooked asap, so that is what the man did, but not before he insisted I climb into the pool with a can of beer.

Fleischer Studios / Public domain
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/94/Superman_presentation.jpg

For the steaks, he liberally seasoned them with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder, and cooked them rare over the coals. Magnifico. I wish I had bought some crusty bread to sop up all the wonderful juices, but it was such a good meal. This pic does not do it justice, either in quality or quantity. I ate so much.

He made the mussels in a pot on the stove. His recipe: “Heat up a little red pepper flakes and olive oil, then cook up a diced onion in it, throw in some salt, and when the onion is soft, add white wine (actually we had vermouth) and a stick of butter and lemon juice, then throw in the mussels and another stick of butter and a little more wine and lemon juice, and simmer until the mussels open up.”

I seriously ate like a pound of steak and four hundred mussels, and then I drank the juice right out of the bowl.

SUNDAY
Hot dogs, chips

Sunday was . . . what. It was so hot and I found humanity so disappointing. I decided a lemon blueberry tart would make things better. But it was so hot! So I tried to put together a no-oven tart. It, too, was a little disappointing, in part because I used an unbaked graham cracker shell, which is just not very delicious. But the lemon part was good, and working in my nice new lemon-colored kitchen was very good indeed. 

I used this recipe for microwaved lemon curd. It was time consuming because I was making so much of it, but a normal amount would be a quick and easy project. Will definitely make again. It is very creamy and tart. It firmed up nicely after a few hours in the fridge, and turned out just as well as a curd that you stirred for eleven hours over a hot stove. I love lemon curd so much.

As I took this picture, I remember thinking, “We’re so fancy now! I don’t even have to carefully crop out the horrific parts of my kitchen, because all of it is nice!” Then as I uploaded it today, I noticed there is a flosser on the floor. OH WELL. Nice curd, though, eh?

I used this recipe for the blueberry topping, also microwaved, but I didn’t have quite enough corn starch, so it was quite soupy, and I ended up ladling it over the tart, rather than dishing up wedges of a two-layered beauty, as I envisioned.

Someday, SOMEDAY, I will make this lovely Rothoko-esque blueberry lemon curd tart. But not when it’s hot! 

MONDAY
Pulled pork, cole slaw, biscuits

The pulled pork, in keeping with life in general, was lackluster. I threw a hunk of pork in the slow cooker with some Coke, salt, garlic cloves, and some random dried peppers I found in my spice rack. I ended up adding bottled sauce after shredding it. 

My idea was to make giant biscuits that could be used to make little pork sandwiches, but I think this recipe I’ve been using does better with smaller biscuits. It’s still a good recipe, very fluffy inside with a very thin, buttery shell. But the big biscuits didn’t get very lofty.

Still a tasty summer meal.  

I was able to make most of it in the morning before things got too busy and hot. I put the dry ingredients for the biscuits together early on, then right before supper I added the wet and baked them. 

TUESDAY
Taco Tuesday. More importantly, puppy Tuesday! 

Presenting Santino, called Sonny.

He is an eight-week-old boxer and he’s pretty great. Settling right in.

There will be more pictures. BELIEVE IT. 

WEDNESDAY
Grilled ham and cheese on sourdough, carrots and dip

Actually Dora made supper while I brought someone to the walk-in (well, hobble-in) clinic with a puppy-related sprained ankle. Not broken, whew! I made my own sandwich when we got home and I put pickles right in with it, because no one can stop me. 


THURSDAY

Borthday! The borthday child requested calzoni, and brownie sundaes with bananas. 

I forgot to take calzone pictures. Here is my basic filling recipe.

Jump to Recipe

You can definitely fiddle with the proportions. This time I had barely any parmesan, but tons of mozzarella. I had four balls of pizza dough, enough to make sixteen calzoni, assuming no one absconds with one of the lumps of dough, which someone did. Or perhaps I sat in it and it’s still stuck to my ass and I haven’t noticed yet. Here is a calzonus of ages past:

We’re gonna work up some kind of safely distanced party soon, but we did get to the town pond after dinner, and no one was there but us chickens. 

And now we have five teenagers in the house again. Good thing we like teenagers!

She asked for pirate boots for her big present, which made me feel like we are doing something right. 

FRIDAY
Giant pancake with blueberries; scrambled eggs

Plenty of leftover blueberries! 

And now I need to get hopping on the kitchen sink backsplash and a little extra shelving, and, dun dun dunnnn, the ceiling. Well, I will not be hopping on the ceiling, but you know what I mean. I ordered a bunch of polystyrene panels and I am just going to slap them up there in the most amateurish way I can get away with. Maybe I will use a staple gun. Maybe I will use bubble gum. My main goal is to make only one trip to Home Depot, and that’s it. I know in my heart that there’s no such thing as only one trip to Home Depot, but I’m gonna try.

Calzones

This is the basic recipe for cheese calzones. You can add whatever you'd like, just like with pizza. Warm up some marinara sauce and serve it on the side for dipping. 

Servings 12 calzones

Ingredients

  • 3 balls pizza dough
  • 32 oz ricotta
  • 3-4 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup parmesan
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-2 egg yolks for brushing on top
  • any extra fillings you like: pepperoni, olives, sausage, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. 

  2. Mix together filling ingredients. 

  3. Cut each ball of dough into fourths. Roll each piece into a circle about the size of a dinner plate. 

  4. Put a 1/2 cup or so of filling into the middle of each circle of dough circle. (You can add other things in at this point - pepperoni, olives, etc. - if you haven't already added them to the filling) Fold the dough circle in half and pinch the edges together tightly to make a wedge-shaped calzone. 

  5. Press lightly on the calzone to squeeze the cheese down to the ends. 

  6. Mix the egg yolks up with a little water and brush the egg wash over the top of the calzones. 

  7. Grease and flour a large pan (or use corn meal or bread crumbs instead of flour). Lay the calzones on the pan, leaving some room for them to expand a bit. 

  8. Bake about 18 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Serve with hot marinara sauce for dipping.