What’s for supper? Vol. 386: What to cook when it’s too hot to cook

My goodness, it has been hot. So very hot. I know it’s not like Florida or Houston or whatever here, but in New Hampshire, we have made certain trade-offs. Our growing season is four days long! Sometimes in the winter, I have to scrape off the inside of my windshield!  Our heating bills are so high, we conserve energy by only listing two things in a joke, rather than the classic three!

And so we don’t expect to get frizzled for a week at a time like this. 

But that is what happened. So I tried my best to feed everyone without adding extra heat to the house with the oven or stove. Here is what we had: 

Muffaletta sandwiches, chips

I don’t really have a recipe for the olive salad. I think I used two cans of black olives, one jar of green olives, maybe a jar of kalamata olives, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and maybe some red onion. Maybe some jalapeños or possibly banana peppers. Probably some red pepper flakes. Those figured heavily into my meals this week. 

And then we just had, I don’t even know what, capicola, pepperoni, ham, provolone, maybe some prosciutto. And we had it on sweet Hawaiian buns.

Close enough. And no oven!

I do like these sandwiches, and I made tons of olive salad and just snacked on it all week. Mmm.

Southwest chicken salad

I drizzled some chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkled them heavily with Taijin chili lime seasoning, then broiled them. Cut it up and served it on salad greens with cherry tomatoes, shredded pepper jack cheese, and crunchy fried onions, with chipotle ranch dressing, and some of those “street corn” corn chips on the side. 

Very decent salad. It would have been good with that embarassingly-named Mexicorn, or even some beans, but it was nice as it was. 

Tortellini salad, crackers, watermelon

New recipe! I saw it on Sip and Feast and didn’t see how it could possibly be bad. I more or less followed the recipe, except I used capicola instead of sopressata, but I did have some nice peppered hard salami, and all the rest: Spinach, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella, kalamata olives, and cherry tomatoes, and then the dressing is made of red wine vinegar, olive oil, honey, Dijon mustard, oregano, red pepper flakes, garlic, salt, and pepper. 

I cut a watermelon into chunks and put out some boxes of crackers, and it was a really good little summer meal.

 I would eat this way all summer if I could. I did snack on the tortellini salad for the rest of the week, along with the olive salad, and they both got better as the week went on. 

On Monday night, Benny and Corrie and I finally got around to doing this dumb TikTok recipe we saw, called Orange Milk Jelly

This consists of peeling some tangerines or clementines, impaling them on a straw or chopstick inside a bottle

then simmering together some milk, sugar, and unflavored gelatin and filling up the bottle.

I had a lot of extra milk mixture, but we didn’t have another bottle to use as a mold for another orange stack, so we cut up some peaches and put them in a ziplock bag with the rest of the milk. 

We stuck these monstrosities in the refrigerator and walked away. 

BLTs, ice cream pie

Tuesday was Lucy’s birthday, so Damien braved the hot kitchen and fried up a ton of bacon for the requested BLTs. She and her sisters made some ice cream pies in the morning so they would be frozen by evening.

If you haven’t made ice cream pies, you can shop for ingredients, but they’re also a good way to use up little bits of leftover this-and-that from various desserts. I usually start with a graham cracker (or Oreo) crust, but if they freeze long enough, you can make them crustless (or make a simple crust with graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter whirred in a food processor, pressed into a pie plate, and baked for ten minutes or so).

You mash up the ice cream in a bowl with a potato masher until it’s the consistency of soft serve, and then spread that in the crust, and festoon it with whatever you like, anything you might put on a sundae.  Then freeze it for several hours until it’s solid enough to cut into wedges. 

She requested blackberry ice cream and coffee ice cream, gummy bears and worms, Skittles, and mini marshmallows. That sounds like a weird combination, and it is! But she was happy.

Me oh my, another birthday. 

We also got the milk jelly thing out of the bottle by running hot water over the outside and shaking it violently. It did emerge in two parts — lovely, winsome-looking parts, if I may say so —

and we sliced them up, and they turned out looking exactly like in the TikTok

uhhh more or less. 

Guess what? They were not that great. I slightly burned the milk jelly part, so that was not great to begin with.  But it really wasn’t sweet enough to be a dessert, at least not for American tastes, so even if it hadn’t been burned, I think it would have been a swing and a miss.

But what about the peach blob! We blorped that out of its bag, and sliced it up into sort of flabby biscotti shapes

What can I say, it didn’t win any prizes of any kind. Don’t forget, I burned it. And now I can stop thinking about it! Which is why you do TikTok recipes. 

Hamburgers, veg and dip or hummus, chips

Damien made the burgers outside on his cinderblock grill. And very good they are, burgers that somebody else made outside. I forgot to take a picture, even though my veggie platter was very pretty and the burgers were very juicy. 

Pulled pork sandwiches, collard greens

It was shaping up to be a very drivey day, so I started some pulled pork in the morning. It had cooled off a little bit, so I didn’t mind searing the meat on the stovetop before putting it in the Instant Pot to get tender. Here’s my recipe, which is a warm, spicy, cidery kind of pulled pork with lots of cloves and cumin and jalapeños.

Jump to Recipe

Then I ran out to the garden to get some collard greens. We keep having super hot, super humid days with short spells of pounding rain, and then it just goes right back to being punishingly hot and humid again. This is apparently paradise for snails, and they are everywhere. There may or may not be some snails in this picture. I picked off as many as I could find and then I gave up. 

But I can understand why the snails wanted to eat those collards. They are nice and tender, very unlike the tough, rubbery collards you get at the supermarket, so I wasn’t too fussy about removing every bit of stem.I just pulled off the thickest ones and rolled up the leaves to cut them into ribbons

I use this vegan recipe for collard greens, which calls for liquid smoke, just because I rarely have smoked meat or ham hocks or whatever. I cooked the onions and garlic, cider vinegar, greens, broth, pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and paprika in a skillet and then transferred them to the slow cooker to cook the rest of the day.

You know collard greens are ready to eat when they look like something that makes the plumber say, “Well HERE’S your problem right here.”

 But man, they are delicious. 

The pulled pork was quite nice, too. I served it on kaiser buns with Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce

and woof, that was a pretty spicy meal! The air had cooled down enough that I wasn’t mad to be sweating over my dinner, though, and it was nice to just have an Instant Pot pot and a crock pot crock to wash up. 


Or something. Damien is taking a bunch of the kids to the beach with friends for Part II of Lucy’s birthday, and Benny has a library lock-in thing, and I think the few still at home will just have to struggle by with whatever we can scrounge. 

And I will be packing! The main thing I did all week, besides sweat and complain, was to write and write and write to get ahead, because on Saturday we are leaving for VACATION. We don’t manage this every year, and I can’t even actually remember where I got the $$; but back in the winter, I rented a house on an ISLAND, that is only accessible by FERRY, and where the natives DISCOURAGE TOURISM, and I remember there being SEA GLASS. So I am pretty excited!

(Burglars, there will be people staying at the house, so don’t bother breaking in to steal our . . . our very valuable and expensive, uhh . . . . . you know what, go ahead and look around and tell me if you find anything good.)

Okay, that’s a wrap! Don’t burn any milk jelly while I’m gone!

Clovey pulled pork


  • fatty hunk of pork
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for browning
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2/3 cup apple juice
  • 3 jalapeños with tops removed, seeds and membranes intact
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp ground cloves


  1. Cut pork into hunks. Season heavily with salt and pepper.

  2. Heat oil in heavy pot and brown pork on all sides.

  3. Move browned pork into Instant Pot or slow cooker or dutch oven. Add all the other ingredients. Cover and cook slowly for at least six hours.

  4. When pork is tender, shred.

Did God save Donald Trump’s life?

Because I make an effort to stay in contact with people of all political stripes, my social media feed has been…especially stripey lately.

One image that keeps turning up is something A.I. churned out in response to Donald Trump’s recent brush with death: It appears to be Mary, blue-eyed and lipsticked and wearing nice little earrings, placidly extending her middle finger to twitch a bullet (still in its shell casing) out of its deadly path. Her manicured thumb and forefinger form a gesture that reminded many viewers of the white supremacy “OK” sign, but which others have argued looks more like a gesture of blessing common in Orthodox icons.

I’m analyzing this insane image in detail because it is so meaningful—not, perhaps, in the way the A.I. prompter intended, but as an illustration of this political, cultural and religious moment.

The image is being passed around by folks who believe it’s clear that God miraculously and directly intervened to save Trump from death. The bullet fired by Thomas Crooks should have hit him square in the skull, but instead it only grazed his ear, sparing his life and freeing him to go on and do whatever he will do.

And maybe that is what God did! I don’t know what God does or does not do. I’m not under the illusion that the Almighty, blessed be he, is carefully calibrating his decisions based on how a chronically online middle-aged swing state double hater like me might react. God’s ways are not my ways, and thank God for that.

Or maybe it was just a meaningless coincidence that the bullet missed. Maybe a blackfly bit that young man on the elbow right at the moment of truth, and he flinched just enough to shoot his shot millimeters astray. Or maybe he just wasn’t a very good marksman. I don’t know.

A good many commenters do believe they know. A priest prayed for his safety right before the speech, so is this not, argued many, clearly an answer to prayer? God clearly did that! But, protested others, why in the world would God spare the life of an adulterous felon who’s poised to wreak unimaginable havoc on our nation for a second time around? God would never do that!

But once we start thinking about what God clearly made happen or clearly didn’t make happen, it opens up a whole world of uncomfortable questions. If God and/or Mary and/or a flag-shaped angel did nudge that bullet aside to spare the former president’s life, then why did he let another bullet hit firefighter Corey Comperatore right in the head? How could that A.I. Mary look so placid while knowing this was about to happen? Is it because Trump is more powerful and therefore more important than ordinary folk? Was it because Our Lady knew people would be inspired by the man’s heroic death, and it would bring out the best in people who heard the story?

But some people who did hear of Mr. Comperatore’s valiant sacrifice said that it doesn’t matter because only fascists would be at a Trump rally, and “fascists aren’t people” (a comment I read with my own eyeballs on Facebook). Several said that he deserves no praise because he said awful things about Palestinians on Twitter, and it’s just as well he’s gone. You have to wonder: If Trump’s survival was God’s will, why doesn’t God care that it brought out the very worst in so many people?

The answer is to refuse to play this game. God isn’t impressed by the power of a political candidate (even the one we favor), and he doesn’t desire the suffering and humiliation of any human (even our political enemies). When we bring these ugly ideas out into the light, we must see how repugnant they are.

And yet, we do pray. We do ask God for things. If we don’t think that God listens to our prayers and responds to them, then why do we bother?

Oddly enough, dwelling on that grotesque A.I. image of Mary gave me some new thoughts about God’s providence.

I saw another image on social media…. Read the rest of my latest for America Magazine


What’s for supper? Vol. 385: Hot, hot, hot

Happy Friday! We are being unusually sociable this morning, and after making arrangements for Benny to have a little pool party, I took Lucy and Irene to their friend’s house. It’s only 25 minutes away, but very rural, and last time I went there, it was dark and foggy. But I COULD NOT FIND MY PHONE, which I depend on utterly to help me get around.

So, intrepidly, I went to Mapquest and printed out instructions just like in the olde days. And just like in the olde days, we couldn’t find any papere, so had to print over paper that already had something on it, and it ran out of inke before it was done, so we had to write the last few turns in with pen.

But, INTREPID, we started out, and after twenty minutes were pretty thoroughly lost. I shifted fairly seamlessly from my standard “really all it takes to get through life is a little confidence” monologue to my “you know, all my life I thought I was dumb because I got lost all the time, but now I know that everybody’s dumb about something, and it’s okay if you aren’t good at anything” monologue, and then modulated to a slightly desperate commentary on “It sure is pretty out here.” But we got there eventually, and I told the kids to go in and give me the high sign so I know it’s the right house. 

They never did, so I left.

I was — it’s hot. I’m not at my best. And no matter what I say to my teen daughters, I am pretty sure I’m stupid. 

Then I got even more lost on the way home, like, really, really lost. And then I found some roads that looked right, but I wasn’t sure which way I was supposed to be going on them. But eventually I went past a ski lodge that I had a very strong memory of being on the right hand side when I went there to pick up a kid with a sprained wrist, and, long story short, that sure was a big loop I made. But I did get home. And then I found my phone.

If anyone asks, this is a story about how Mapquest is subpar.

Here’s what we ate this week!

Italian sandwiches

Geting ready for the big family independence day party, so I figured just simple sandwiches. Forgot to get sliced meat at Aldi, so I stopped at the deli counter at the second supermarket, and there was an ollllllld man with his olllllllld wife in a Rascal Scooter there, and he kept saying things like, “How’s about a taste of that uhhhhhh say that buffalo chicken?” and the deli guy would fetch the buffalo chicken and put it on the slicer and turn it on and cut a slice and fold it in half and put it on a little plastic square and hand it to the old man, and he would examine it and hand it to his wife, who would carefully unwrap it and, with great dignity, take a small bite, and she would say shakily, “That’s pretty good, but you know Stan I was wondering about the sodium” and the old man would say, “Ohhh, yahhhh, that’s something, the sodium. What about uhhhhh that Krakus ham?”

So I says to myself, I says, I will come back later.

Then I forgot. So I sent Damien out, and he got some meat, and we had sandwiches, and all I can say is, I hope I never turn into one of those ollllllld couples that goes on and on telling pointless stories about —

Hey, have you noticed, this website is free? 


Sunday was just plain great. Lots of family and friends came, and we had lots of food, and my brother Izzy brought lots of sparklers and fireworks. Kids swam in the pool and splashed in the stream and played in the sandbox and on the swingset and trampoline, everyone had plenty to eat and drink, and it was just lovely. Glow sticks, glowing cups, temporary tattoos, torches and sticky kids. This is my favorite party. Bunch of photos here:


Oh, and we rented a COTTON CANDY MACHINE.

I cannot recommend this highly enough. There was a bit of a learning curve, but once we got it going, it was super easy, and it was delightful.

Much cheaper than I expected, too. Loud as heck, but it made a huge amount of cotton candy with each batch, and we ran it three times. It was a nice way to keep the party going, and just about everybody, of every age, wanted at least some. 

The rest of the menu was: Lots and lots of vegetables with dip and hummus

and several watermelons; wonderful savory baked beans from my sorta sister-in-law Elizabeth, guacamole from my brother Joe, and Damien cooked hot dogs, brats, hamburgers, and chicken thighs on the grill, and we had a mountain of chips, and for dessert, red and blue Jello cups with Kool Whip, and ice cream cups, and then just straight up bags of candy in the dark at the end. 

Ah, what a good party. Somebody found some of those weird black snakes, and we lit them all up at once while everyone chanted “SNAKE! SNAKE! SNAKE! SNAKE!” 

We always seem to have chanting at our parties. 

Cookout leftovers!

So many cookout leftovers. 

This would be a good time to talk about the Jello Hand. I had some leftover Jello after filling up all the cups that would fit in the fridge, so I filled up a glove and, because it had recently been the Fourth of July, called it The Invisible Hand of the Market, which, NO, picky-picky, that doesn’t make any sense. 

Some people might find it hard to figure out how to get a Jello hand such as this to stand up and keep its shape while it gels, but it happens that my almost entirely otherwise useless brain is really good at solving this kind of problem.

So then after the party, we had this Jello hand, and we didn’t know what to do with it, so Corrie ate it. 

and that’s-a my story. 

Aldi pizza

Tuesday we still had more cookout leftovers in the fridge, but I couldn’t bring myself to serve them again, but I also couldn’t bring myself to cook anything. And that’s what Aldi pizza is for. 

Chicken pesto pasta, bread

Wednesday I went to West Lebanon to have lunch with my friend Jenni, who I’ve been friends with for something like 24 years but have never met in person!

The internet was basically a mistake, except for the part where you make online friends that are absolutely real friends. (And also the part with the maps that tell you where to go.)

Got home and it was SO HOT. It’s been so hot and so humid all week. Not in the 100’s or anything, like some parts, but still pretty freaking hot, and it’s just exhausting, and everything makes you sweaty, and it’s hard to think or do anything. So I did the quickiest shortcut meal I could think of without heating up the kitchen too much, with ingredients on hand, which was: A few pounds of rotini, a bunch of butter, a bunch of shredded parmesan, and a few jars of pesto, and chunks of chicken breast I had cooked in the Instant Pot. 

A decent summer meal. I honestly don’t think it would have tasted better if I had gone through a whole hot ordeal making a cream sauce or whatever. 

Korean pork ribs, rice, watermelon

An actual recipe! I got a giant rack of pork ribs for like $10, without a solid plan, but found this likely-looking recipe from Glebe Kitchen. Super simple. You just sprinkle the meat with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and cook it in the oven for an hour or so, until it hits 180 degrees.

Toward the end of cooking, you make a quick gochujang sauce, with garlic and ginger, soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, sesame oil, gochujang, and brown sugar. It also calls for fish sauce, which I didn’t have. 

I wanted each rib to have plenty of sauce, so I cut the ribs up first (and that was a bit of a travesty. I think I need a meat cleaver), and then brushed them with sauce

then put it back in the oven for another ten minutes or so, finishing it with the broiler, until they got a little bit blackened in spots, and were sizzling

OH, so good. The sauce was thick and sticky, spicy and a little sweet, and the meat was tender and juicy. Probably could have left it in the oven for another five minutes to really let the glaze get a little thicker, but there were no complaints.

I had made a pot of rice in the Instant Pot and cut up the last remaining watermelon (yes, I bought too many watermelons for the party) and it was an excellent meal.

Briefly considered making Korean-inspired collard greens, because this meal is really callong for something green; but did I mention it’s HOT, and I’m not like other people, and when it’s hot, I don’t want to cook? It’s true. 

Definitely making these ribs again. I was afraid the sauce was going to be too spicy and maybe a little harsh, which is how it tasted when it was just sauce; but once it got cooked onto the meat, it mellowed and was perfect. MANY of us thought it was perfect. 

Many of us had to be cautioned to slow down so as not to accidentally devour our own little fingers, which are not made of Jello. 

Honestly, probably pizza again

You’ll never guess: It’s hot out. Kids are swimming, dog is panting, cat is stretched out pathetically on the bathroom floor, barely even able to muster the strength to bite anybody’s ankles. Very sad. I think he needs some Aldi pizza. 

Speaking of the cat and dog, this week is the anniversary of the days we brought both these worthy animals home — the cat, a year ago, and the dog, four years ago. 

Look at them now!

They’re both such good boys, and such good friends

And you know what else, Damien’s going to pick the kids up from their fun time with friends who live in terra incognita. Because it’s hot.



Don’t listen to thoughts you have when you’re tired

I am a life-long insomniac, and please believe me when I say I have tried everything. I do all the right things, and avoid all the wrong things, to encourage good sleep, but it just seems to be my fate that sometimes I lose the knack, and long periods go by when sleep eludes me, night after night. I just forget how to do it, and the only thing to do is wait until I get the hang of it again. Staying asleep is like trying to stay underwater while clutching a giant beach ball: You can go under for a bit, but pretty soon you’re bobbing around on the surface again, blinking and frustrated, high and dry.

But nighttime is still different from daytime. The thoughts you have when you’re awake, and shouldn’t be, are very different from the thoughts you have when it’s just regular daytime. Nighttime thoughts can take on a certain urgency, even a certain spiritual compulsion.

Not long ago, Catholics on social media were talking about liminality: of “threshold” experiences when we are passing, or trying to pass, from one state or stage to another. We feel a sensation of peculiar and unsettling ambiguity, when we are neither this nor that, here nor there, but maybe we paradoxically feel a sharpened awareness of our in-betweenness.

There are some places on the planet that tend to make people feel this way – mountaintops, caves, very open spaces, heavy fog — and also some experiences: sitting with the dying, having sex, giving birth.

Sometimes insomnia puts us in this state. Eyes wide open in the darkness, body looking for all the world like it’s fully at rest when it’s actually tense and alert. The harder you try to push through from consciousness to unconsciousness, the more stuck you become in this liminal state.

Many people say that, if they can’t sleep, they pray. They say that, if they’re going to be awake anyway, they might as well be sure they’re passing the time well. Someone even told me once that God wouldn’t let her sleep until she said a whole Rosary for me (and I was very grateful when I found out, because I had been in labor, and struggling). And some people freely admit that they just keep on saying Hail Marys until they drop off to sleep. Call it boredom, call it tapping into some kind of mind/body magic, or call it faithfully letting your guardian angel finish the set, but it works for some people.

What I find, more often, is a different kind of spiritual experience…..Read the rest of my latest for Our Sunday Visitor.

“Insomnia” photo by Alyssa L. Miller via Flickr (Creative Commons)

What’s for supper? Vol. 384: What Washoe wants

Happy Friday! I spent most of the week prepping for the big Independence Day family party, which will be Sunday. We had to move it because Saturday looks like wall-t0-wall thunderstorms, and now not everyone can come, but I think it’s going to be lovely anyway. It’s almost always lovely, just like me.

Today’s post has a certain amount of complaining, an unreasonably large and expensive cabbage, pictures of my reasonably chimpy deck, and a few good meals. If that sounds readable to you, then here we go! 

Chicken quesadillas

We had an action-packed day, I forget why, and I got home quite late from shopping. So I did something I’ve never done before: I bought chicken that was not only pre-cooked, it was pre-shredded. 

It was fine. Not bad, even.

I made chicken quesadillas for everybody, but by the time I was done frying them up, I had already experienced enough chicken and oil through my other senses that I didn’t want to eat a chicken quesadilla, so I had a little girl dinner instead.

And very good it was, girl dinner. You’ll notice I still had room for cheese. Alert viewers will also note that I ate it in bed.


Our first day trip of the summer! Last summer, we went to the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, CT, and it was cheaper to get a membership than to buy individual tickets, so even though it’s two-and-a-half hours away, we decided to make the trip again to get a second visit in before the membership ran out. 

The day before, I stopped at Market Basket and got six footlong subs, which are crazy cheap (like $5.50 each) and quite good. (And that makes exactly one good thing about Market Basket.) We cut them in half and there was way more than enough for lunch on the road.

This was the very first time in 26 years that I didn’t obsessively check the weather forecast and insist that everybody bring at least a light jacket. Which of course caused it to pour rain the whole time we were there, interspersed with violent thunderstorms, so we had to shelter in place. BUT, lots of people got scared away by the storms, so when it went back to just plain raining, it wasn’t too crowded!

It’s a good aquarium. The sea lion show is very loud and cheesy, but still lots of fun. We didn’t get to feed the rays this time, because of the rain, but the sharks and turtles and light-up jellyfish were still excellent. They have several belugas, and one of them spends so much time just hanging out upright, they have to rub Coppertone sunblock on her head so she doesn’t get a burn.

Complete doofus. She periodically did this weird head-shaking thing as she hung out, and the top of her head wobbled around like a blanc mange. 

I had Benny and Corrie in my car, and we stopped at Domino’s on the way home, and then again at Wendy’s for Frosties. I had the triple berry one, which tasted exactly like you’d imagine (fine).

For a trip this long, I okay’d the DVD player, and we watched Moana on the way up and the second Harry Potter on the way back. Wow, Moana really holds up. Captivating even if you’re only listening while you drive. I still think the coconut demon part could have been cut, and I still cry when it gets to the part where all the brute force and all the magic in the world is no use, and Moana uses her feminine genius to conquer Ta Fe by reminding her who she really is.

I told this guy they had stolen the heart from inside him, but this does not define him, and he was like, I know, but this is who I truly am.

Fair enough. 

Korean beef bowl, rice, roast broccoli 

Monday was very much back to the summer grind, which is highly preferable to the non-summer grind, but still, fairly grindy. I got so confused, I had to write it down on actual paper

and I’m happy to report that, since this day, one kid who previously needed a ride now owns her own car!  The whole rest of the week was like this, too, but for some reason I was especially confused by Monday. 

So in between, I got a bunch of yard work done while Corrie cooled off, and was cool, on behalf of everybody

Got a big pot of rice going in the Instant Pot, made some quick Korean Beef Bowl (I had fresh garlic and ginger, which is great, but we were out of brown sugar, which was boo, so I used honey, which wasn’t the same. 

Still a yummy, satisfying, and EASY dish.

Jump to Recipe

I was gonna make sesame broccoli,

Jump to Recipe

but I couldn’t find the sesame oil OR the sesame seeds, so I just cut up the broccoli and dumped on some garlic powder, a little salt, and a bunch of soy sauce, and roasted it under the broiler. Not bad at all. 

I forgot to add any kind of oil, and I may actually make it that way going forward. 

Not-caesar chicken salad

Tuesday I spent most of the day working on the deck. I undid a few inadvisable parts and starting on the railing, doing my best impression of a chimpanzee learning how to work power tools, and frequently reminding my simian self that it doesn’t have to look professional; it just has to not be a death trap. And I achieved that!

Then I dragged my knuckles inside to do something about supper. It was supposed to be chicken caesar salad,

Jump to Recipe

but it turned out I forgot to buy anchovies for the dressing, but that’s okay. Oh, I also forgot to buy a wedge of parmesan cheese. Still okay, I guess. But then I discovered we didn’t have any lemons OR bottled lemon juice. I discovered this after I had already started making the dressing.

So, knowing it was terribly wrong, I put lime juice in. 

So, fine, it was disgusting, whatever. Who cares. We had romaine lettuce and roast chicken and I think cucumbers. Also the dog stole one of the chicken breasts, so there wasn’t even that much chicken. What you want from poor old Washoe? Washoe tired. 

Shepherd’s pie

Wednesday it was murderously hot and humid, so of course I spent all day trudging around Home Depot and working on the rest of the deck railing, and then I topped the day off with an extremely heavy and dense casserole. Sometimes you look at your plans, realize they are terrible, and forge ahead anyway, because following through feels better than anything else possibly could. At least that’s what you tell yourself. 

I installed the last of the balusters and topped the whole (well, almost the whole) railing with a PVC gutter, because I just need to protect little hands from the screws that are poking out all over the place. It’s FINE. It’s fine! 

I didn’t even argue with the Home Depot guy when I bought the gutter. I told him what I wanted (a handrail cover, or, failing that, something that would function like a handrail cover; for instance, maybe some PVC gutter) and he told me, “Oh, no, that’s not what you want.” Which is what Home Depot ALWAYS says to me. They either say “Oh no, that’s not what you want” or else they say “That would be a special order” even though I know exactly what I want and they clearly HAVE it, because I can SEE IT, RIGHT THERE; but they insist they don’t have any. Or one time, they installed a water heater for us, and there was a carbon monoxide leak, and I had to throw and absolute FIT to get them to admit that this is a problem. I haven’t forgotten that. 

Anyway, I thanked him for his help and then went over and bought a PVC gutter, and I attached it to the rail with a staple gun, so there. 

I also opened up the pool-facing part of the original platform. It used to look like this:

because it was originally a play structure, not a lifeguard stand. So you had to duck your head to get into the pool 

But now it looks like this:

Wooo, wide open! Go right in! I was pretty nervous about removing half the frame, because I was afraid it would somehow destabilize the whole thing. But it still seems perfectly solid. 

So here is my oddly-shaped but indisputably actual deck:

I also trimmed off a few protruding parts, added a grabbing handle to the ladder at the end, and did miscellaneous fussing, and put one of my finer pallets underneath it, so we have a spot for our hay and straw collection

And there it is. Still needs to be sanded and painted or stained, but I don’t think I can get that done this week.

I wondered if it was really, truly done. I thought long and hard and then went back to Home Depot, looking for a transitional piece to ease the 1-inch drop between the triangular floor section and the long section. But as soon as I got there, I remembered having the same fruitless search when I was redoing the dining room floor, which had its own weird threshold situation. 

So I’m gazing at long pieces of wood and a guy in an orange apron greets me in a booming and friendly voice, and asks how I’m doing. 

I say, “Oh, good, but do you have a moment? I have a question about wood.”

He says, “I just have to get back to this customer, but what do you need to know?”

So I explain what I’m looking for, and he suggests looking in the flooring section. I say I already did that, and then I explain a bit more about what I need. 

So he says he’s going to go help the first customer, but he’ll send someone else over to help me. I thank him. So cordial, so helpful. Home Depot’s not so bad after all!

I start walking to the flooring section, just to take another look, but I’m keeping an eye out for the guy, so he doesn’t have to search for me. And I pass by an aisle, where I hear a booming and friendly voice saying, “Yeah, this lady needs some help, she has some transitional bullshi–”

and then he sees me. The “t” never falls from his lips.

You know what, fair. He wasn’t wrong. It was an hour before close, it’s customer service, and I DID have some transitional bullshit. I’m not even mad. So the other guy (who turned out to be the “oh, no, you don’t want a gutter” guy, haha) walks with me to flooring and we look over our options, which are, as I expected, additional bullshit, which is even worse than transitional bullshit. I can put a stair nosing over the transitional part, which will not help in any way, and is $20, and I would need two.

So I went home! Thanks for nothing, Home Depot. I hate you so much. 

I also bought some flowers, which is what I do when someone hurts my feelings. So I guess I was a little mad, actually. And I also got some fresh sand for the sandbox, and some Killz in a spray can, which I didn’t realize was a thing. The bathroom ceiling is about to find out it’s a thing!

Oh, so the shepherd’s pie was fine. Instant mashed potatoes continue to delight. 

Quite tasty, even if it did slump a bit

Who among us. And did you notice the Fiddler on the Roof? A present from Moe. 

Vietnamese chicken salad, potstickers

Thursday was, of course, the Fourth of July. I got up relatively early and cleaned out the fridge, which was MONSTROUS, and then prepped supper, because I knew I was gonna be running around all day.

I had been waffling all week on what to do with this chicken. I know it sounds like I’m going to make pun about chicken and waffles, but I’ve never even been tempted to make chicken and waffles. That’s just weird and I don’t want to understand.

What I wanted was to make the Milk Street Radio Goi Gà, but I always get lost in a maze of Milk Street logins; so I decided instead to make this Chinese chicken salad from Recipe Tin Eats, a site which has yielded some great recipes. 

This recipe calls for both red cabbage and Napa cabbage, but when I got to the store, they had plenty of red, but only one Napa cabbage, and it was massive. But I was like, haha, it’s one cabbage, Michael, how much could it possibly cost? 

That mofo was $14!!!!!! But it was already our fourth stop and it was already after 5 PM, so I didn’t have it in me to call the manager over to void a cabbage. 

So I had this freaking cabbage the size of a hassock, and then, I don’t even remember why — possibly because there has some kind of giant locust in the house all week, and I have absolutely torn the living room apart and vacuumed everything I can find but I CANNOT FIND THE BUG, and it just sits there screaming all day long! Which can be a little wearing! — but I switched recipes again. I went with a different Vietnamese chicken salad recipe that I cannot even find now. Good heavens. And I ran out of fish sauce, and guess what? I forged ahead, and IT WAS DELICIOUS. 

Basically you have some cooked chicken (I cooked it in the Instant Pot and then shredded it in the standing mixer), a bunch of shredded cabbage (if you can’t find Napa cabbage, just shred some $20 bills), and this garlickly-limey-fish saucy-spicy dressing, and I didn’t have peanuts so I put some cashews in a bag and bashed them with a rolling pin, and I made a big bowl of pickled red onions, and found some crunchy Chinese noodles, and it was so, so good. 

It’s supposed to have cilantro, which I forgot to buy, and fresh mint, which I didn’t use enough of. Still, just about everybody liked at least some part of it, and it made a really pleasant summer meal — filling, but not too heavy, and a real festival of flavors. And pretty! And if you use an Instant Pot, you don’t even have to heat up the kitchen. 

By the end of the day, my hands and feet were all swollen up and I was full of wood splinters and fish sauce and bad opinions about life, and simply could not face the thought of taking the kids to a fireworks show. So Damien, who had been dealing with a Napa cabbage-sized heap of nonsense himself all day, and all week, cheerfully brought them. And they had a nice time. I stayed home and took a shower and lay in front of a fan, and I also had a nice time. 


We just had pizza several times, but we’re having more pizza. Fight me. Topped the garden basil, so I believe we’ll have basil pizza. 

I got some pretty great mail today: Some bins that I was planning to store duck and dog food in, but it turns out they are too small (even though I measure and measured and did tons of research and comparison shopping and even worked out how to covert gallons to pounds), which is a bummer, but then I also got a framed alla prima painting of a skull by Matthew Good. I ordered it kind of on a whim with some money that fell into my lap for a ridiculous reason, so I exchanged it for ONE ART, and I feel wonderful about that. 

When we die, we are not gonna leave our kids any money, because we ate it all, but we are gonna be able to leave them some original art. 

Anyway, this is our current pet food storage system:

and this is what I have now.

Not big enough, but it cannot fail to be an improvement. In some way. Surely. 

I just took a quick break to give Sophia her very first driving lesson, and she did great. Corrie got some sunblock in her eye, and then the other eye, and then the first one again, but we all survived. I planted the grapevines. I moved the eggplants. I weeded around the patio. I staked up the peas. I put the stairs on the bog bridge. I mulched around St. Joseph. I ziptied the flowerpot to the stand so it stops falling down. I trimmed the hydrangeas so the stella d’oro lilies can see the sky. I thinned the collards. I deadheaded absolutely everything. I found a high spot for the flowers the bunnies keep eating. And for the third time this summer, I replaced the sunflowers that the bunnies also keep eating, and this time I smartened up and sprinkled red pepper all over them. And I cleaned up the hundreds of bits and pieces of wood that somehow got thrown all over the yard by some maniac. 

And now I’m ready to have a party! Basically! I just need to go shopping. 

Washoe out!

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 use garlic powder and powdered ginger, but fresh is better. The proportions are flexible, and you can easily add more of any sauce ingredient at the end of cooking to adjust to your taste.


  • 1 cup brown sugar (or less if you're not crazy about sweetness)
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 inches fresh ginger, minced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-4 lb2 ground beef
  • scallions, chopped, for garnish
  • sesame seeds for garnish


  1. In a large skillet, cook ground beef, breaking it into bits, until the meat is nearly browned. Drain most of the fat and add the fresh ginger and garlic. Continue cooking until the meat is all cooked.

  2. Add the soy sauce, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes the ground beef and stir to combine. Cook a little longer until everything is hot and saucy.

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

Sesame broccoli


  • broccoli spears
  • sesame seeds
  • sesame oil
  • soy sauce


  1. Preheat broiler to high.

    Toss broccoli spears with sesame oil. 

    Spread in shallow pan. Drizzle with soy sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds

    Broil for six minutes or longer, until broccoli is slightly charred. 


caesar salad dressing


  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about two large lemons' worth)
  • 1 Tbsp mustard
  • 4 raw egg yolks, beaten
  • 3/4 cup finely grated parmesan


  1. Just mix it all together, you coward.

Leftover lamb shepherd's pie

This recipe uses lots of shortcuts and it is delicious.


  1. Preheat the oven to 350.

  2. Prepare the mashed potatoes and set aside.

  3. Heat and drain the corn. (I heated mine up in beef broth for extra flavor.)

  4. In a saucepan, melt the butter and saute the onion and garlic until soft. Stir in pepper.

  5. Add the flour gradually, stirring with a fork, until it becomes a thick paste. Add in the cream and continue stirring until it is blended. Add in the cooked meat and stir in the Worcestershire sauce.

  6. Add enough broth until the meat mixture is the consistency you want.

  7. Grease a casserole dish and spread the meat mixture on the bottom. Spread the corn over the meat. Top with the mashed potatoes and spread it out to cover the corn. Use a fork to add texture to mashed potatoes, so they brown nicely.

  8. Cook for about forty minutes, until the top is lightly browned and the meat mixture is bubbly. (Finish browning under broiler if necessary.)

Sarah Norton of Conversion Street Studio: Meeting Jesus, again

On Sarah Norton’s second day of college, someone asked her to join a Bible study group. It was the beginning of one of many conversions. But at the time, it just seemed like a way to meet people.

“I needed friends, so I said, ‘OK,’” she said.

Norton, now 33 and the mother of four, as well as the artist owner of Conversion Street Studio, originally went into college as a vocal music major. She was Catholic, but even though she had gone to Catholic school, she perceived her faith as “rules to follow, not a relationship.”

In college, she dropped her faith and started partying. When someone from FOCUS Campus Ministry invited her to join their group, she went along with it, purely for the social aspect. She went to weekly Bible study but didn’t always attend Mass.

It wasn’t until a year in, when the leader asked her to join the ministry as a leader, that it started to get personal.

“I had to come early to college campus, and all the Bible study leaders were going to daily Mass and praying, and they had a joy about them. I wanted that. So I followed them,” she said.

Twelve weeks later, in her sophomore year, she was at Mass and looked up, and she saw Jesus.

“It was him. He gave my whole life to me. I’m gonna give my life to him,” she said.

That process wasn’t seamless. Norton slowly chipped away at the partying lifestyle she was leading and learned how to take her faith more seriously. At the same time, three years into her studies as a music major, she realized that music wasn’t meant to be her life. She ended up with a liberal arts degree and “one hundred minors in music.” And she took a few art classes.

Norton also felt the pull to make good on an inheritance of sorts she had gotten back in fourth grade.

“A family friend died, and her mom was an artist. For whatever reason, I inherited all of her oil paints, thousands and thousands of paints,” she said.

When she changed her degree, she decided to try to make use of this gift. She only had a few art classes under her belt, but quickly discovered she had a love for color and an aptitude for painting.

“I felt like I was dancing when I was painting, and I still do,” she said.

After college, she married her husband (also a FOCUS missionary), and he introduced her to a sort of hidden Marc Chagall museum in D.C.

“This opened my mind,” she said. “I love that he had his own style. I love his floating people. And he was so good at color. And I loved how strongly his Jewish heritage came out, how his religion came out in his art.”

Norton began to paint in earnest, learning through online tutorials, and often following the practices of prayer she learned in FOCUS. In the lectio divina, she said, you meet Jesus in Scripture, intentionally imagining the scenes as described in the Gospels.

“I was pretty on fire,” she said.

She and her husband had their first child right away, and then life shifted… Read the rest of my latest artist profile at Our Sunday Visitor

This is the eleventh in a monthly series of profiles of Catholic and Catholic-friendly artists for Our Sunday Visitor. 
Previous artists featured in this series:
Eileen Cunis
Daniel Mitsui
Mattie Karr
Jaclyn Warren
Daniel Finaldi
Gwyneth Thompson-Briggs
Chris Lewis
Kreg Yingst
Sarah Breisch
Charles Rohrbacher

If you know of (or are) a Catholic or Catholic-friendly artist you think should be featured, please drop me a line! simchafisher at gmail dot com. I’m not always excellent about responding, but I always check out every suggestion. Thanks!

What’s for supper? Vol. 384: One caprese summer (relics notwithstanding)

Happy Friday! I had a week that was just plain weird.

Let me tell you about it, and also what we ate. 


Saturday I was still in the grips of whatever it was that made food into my mortal enemy last week. I went grocery shopping verrrrry slowly and cautiously, and then came home and made nachos, but did not take a photo, because I can buy food and make food, and even eat a little bit of food, but apparently pointing a camera at it is a bridge too far. 

My nachos are not terribly inspiring anyway. I just cook and season some ground beef and sprinkle it over tortilla chips, throw some jalapeños over that, and cover it with shredded cheese, then heat it up, and serve it with sour cream and salsa. It’s one of those dishes I don’t really want to start making better, because then people will expect it, and I need to preserve some quick and brainless meal preps for myself.

In the afternoon, I rested for a bit and then to the flower farm up at the top of the hill, because the rabbits gobbled my beloved poppies up, and I was just feeling tragic about my garden and its stubs. It had been murderously hot and and humid for several days, but it suddenly turned cloudy and breezy, and flower son stood gazing at the horizon, and said, “. . . In about five minutes.” And then it started to sprinkle.

So I scurried around grabbing what I came for (perennial dianthus, tickweed, and some eggplants), but not fast enough. SUCH A DOWNPOUR. I briefly turned into Fielding Mellish

But I got my flars!

Grab whatever

Sunday was a little rough. I ended up having to leave Mass early and go sit in the car because I was feeling so blehhhhh. Not too bleh to take a selfie because my hair was having a nice day, though. 

Clara and Damien went to a Bonny Light Horsemen concert, and a bunch of the other kids were doing this and that, so I couldn’t work up the enthusiasm to cook anything for the small group that was left. I may have had a bagel, but I truly don’t remember.

Steak and peach salad

Monday I was feeling quite a bit better, and agreed to take the kids to the library. Then on the way home, I remembered we needed duck food; and then the exit from the feed store is a weird traffic spot where it’s hard to turn left, so I decided to go right and take the long way home, and as long as we were on that road, I asked the kids if they wanted to hit the Salvation Army. 

And that is how I found the first class relics of Saint Peter, Apostle, and St. Helena, Empress. 

I am not kidding. They were in the jewelry case for $3 each and I was like, “oh, um, could I see those little round pieces, please?” and then I was like, “um, oh, I will take them, please.” I zipped them into my Vera Bradley wallet, because I didn’t know what else to do. And that is where they still are, actually. 

I didn’t have my reading glasses onat the store, so I couldn’t read the little labels until I got home. It just felt too insane to take in, and still does.

But I carefully unscrewed the backs

and saw this:

I talked to Sean Pilcher of Sacra Relics and sent some photos, and he said they are “doubtlessly authentic,” and that the wax seal inside is the seal of Giuseppe Nicolini, the bishop of Assisi who founded the Assisi Network that saved hundreds of Jews during World War II.


I have relics. Most likely.

I still have to pack them up and send them over to be cleaned and repaired, and I hope they can be documented. Pilcher said one of the major misconceptions about relics is that Catholics expect you to accept on blind faith that they are what we say they are; but actually it’s a pretty rigorous process of authentication that draws on expertise from several different fields. So we shall see!

In the mean time, it sure looks like our household picked up a couple of amazing new friends. I’m working on writing a long piece about it, and just trying to understand what it could possibly mean that I’m temporarily sharing a bedroom with some nearly 2000-year-old bone fragments of a man who was chosen by Jesus to be the rock on which the Church is built, and the woman who found the true cross. I’m open to ideas! I’m open to all kinds of things. 

My sister and her husband are making a reliquary for them, for as long as they will be in our house, and I’m waiting to hear back from my pastor about whether our parish wants and can accommodate them, and I talked further with Sean Pilcher and left some messages with Fr. Carlos Martins who hosts Treasures of the Church. My first goal is to have them as local as possible, with as much access for the faithful as possible.

I just. I don’t know. At first I was frightened and distressed, but now I am growing attached. 

Told you I was having a weird week! And yes, I did go back to the Salvation Army to see if there was . . . anything else. Which there was not, except for a silly nicknack from Target or something that looks exactly like a monstrance, except with a mirror in the middle. I talked to the manager about what I had found, and she said that, if someone drops off relics again, they will call a priest. (I was like, “So, for future reference, these are human remains. . . ” and she was like, “We can’t know everything!” and I was like “OH, I KNOW.”)

But! Relics none the less, I still needed to make supper. And this is still a food blog. So.

London broil was on sale, so I got four nice cuts. I seasoned them with salt and pepper, heated a skillet up screamingly hot and melted some butter on it, and then seared each steak for three or four minutes per side. 

Very nice. 

Some of it was a little underdone, even for us, so I threw those pieces back in the pan and finished them up while I cut up a bunch of peaches. So we had mixed greens, beef strips, peaches, crumbled goat cheese, and a sweet vinaigrette. 

Superb. I was feeling extremely depleted in general, so some lovely rare beef really hit the spot. 

Corn dogs and chips

Tuesday I was feeling very much better, and RELICS NONETHELESS, I scurried around getting caught up on weeding and mulching and yard work. The grass was pretty high, and that is how I mowed right over an aerosol can of bug spray, which exploded with a bang and a cloud. No biggie, I have St. Peter and St. Helen in charge of the house now. I can run over whatever I want!

I’m just talking. I don’t know what is going on, for real. 

Caprese pasta

Wednesday was our long-anticipated annual dumpstravaganza, relics howbeit. The kids cheerfully and willingly, just kidding, helped me drag a year’s worth of clutter and horrible crap from the yard into the driveway

and then I ruthlessly cleared off the porch, and four trips to the dump later, it looks like human beings live here.

You know you’re having a wonderful day when the dump guy asks if you’re okay. I was okay! I was just hot and exhausted and deep in “WE HAVE TO THROW EVERYTHING OUT AND WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH THESE PEOPLE AND WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH THIS HOUSE” mode. You’d think a dump guy would be familiar with that look, honestly. 

Got home and decided to tear down the vines that I had spent the last five or six years cultivating to grow over the porch to disguise its shabbiness. I had ordered Concord grape vines, which arrived as bare roots. I dutifully watered and fertilized and trained them, and was so excited that they finally started putting out fruit last year! And that is when I discovered that I may have ordered grape vines, but what they sent me were actually porcelain berry, which is poisonous and invasive. LE SIGH. So we’re starting over. 

Around 5:00, I saw to my dismay that I had scheduled myself to make a brand new recipe, which wasn’t ideal for how hot and pissed off I already was, but I didn’t want to waste the tomatoes and basil I had bought. So I made this caprese pasta from Sip and Feast.

Tiny little bit of prep work

but it came together very fast, and I thought it was delicious. 

Tasted exactly like what it was, of course (you can’t see it, but there are hunks of half-melted fresh mozzarella in there, and a good amount of red pepper flakes), which is a good thing. Lovely summer dish.

And now the last three times I made pasta, I did not overcook it! I can learn. 


On Thursday (relics regardlessly) I finally finally finally got back to working on the deck. In my old age, I have gained enough wisdom to realize that nobody who is feeling weak and shaky needs to be messing with a Sawzall, so I kept putting it off and putting it off.

But Thursday I was ready, and I got so much done. I took out the bad joist and put in a new joist with different hardware (and it fit, and *ahem* I rejoist) and cut and installed some floor planks, to close up the gap between the original structure and the new platform


and after:

Then I added a post on one corner and reinforced it with a sort of sheath of two long boards; and then I put a bottom sort of kickboard thingy (I don’t know what you call anything) and a top railing on. 

So today, all I need to do is buy some spindles or something, to fill in the railing, and then paint or stain it all, and it will be DONE.

I really wanted stairs for it, but that will be next year’s project. It has a ladder on one end and a climbing wall on the other, so it’s easy enough to get up and down. I know this, because I did it approximately 927 times yesterday, because I am constitutionally incapable of thinking about what tools I will need before I climb up a ladder.

I am so pleased with how it’s turning out.  I know it still looks very much like something that most people would be finally getting around to getting rid of; but it’s quite stable and strong, and the kids like hanging out of it. Once it’s had a little sanding and it’s all one color, I think it will look a lot more reputable. I have a vision, I tell you! And my secret is being too dumb to stop even when I realize I don’t know what I’m doing. 

Clara kindly made pizza for us. One pepperoni, one cheese, and one with leftover goat cheese, leftover basil, and red onion, which was fantastic. I forgot to eat all day, so believe me when I tell you. That was some good pizza. Relics notwithstanding. 

Fish tacos

Just tortillas, frozen breaded fish, avocados, salsa, and sour cream. I just this moment realized this is supposed to have shredded cabbage on it, which I forgot to buy. Maybe I will chop up some collard greens, which are coming in nicely and desperately need thinning.

Oh, and fish tacos are supposed to have cilantro and limes. WELL, maybe I will go to the store. Maybe I’ll go to Aldi and find the Ark of the Covenant, who knows? 

Also, in relics notwithstanding news, I think I can say for certain that the weight loss I experienced when I was in full on NO FOOD NO HOW mode was not “just water weight.” I lost nine pounds when I was super sick, but I’ve been back to eating normal food for several days now, and, deliberately riding the wave of encouragement from having lost nine pounds, I lost another three pounds, meaning I’m back under The Terrible Number once again. 

My only regret is that I’m still revolted by even the idea of shrimp. Shrimp used to be my all-time favorite luxury treat, and now it feel like more of a threat. But you know, when I was about six, I had some Crackerjacks and then threw up out the window of my grandfather’s Toyota on the New Jersey Turnpike, and it was years and years before I could even think of Crackerjacks again. But now I can! Crackerjacks, crackerjacks. See? I’m fine. So I’m sure someday I’ll live to shrimp again. 

And that was my week! Headed to adoration in a bit, and I will ask St. Peter and St. Helena to watch over all of you, and make your collards grow or your power tools behave or your fat melt or your kids be helpful or whatever it is that you need. It’s on the house, especially if you’re too dumb to stop when you realize you don’t know what you’re doing. What a world. 



What’s for supper? Vol. 383: In which I finally take portion control seriously

Happy Friday! I just had a cup of coffee! For the first time since last Friday.

And I am now in the awkward position of trying to write a food post after a week of almost comically violent food poisoning, in which I not only didn’t eat supper, I didn’t eat anything for three days, and for the rest of the week, just bananas, rice, applesauce, toast, Gatorade, and Coke Zero, and literally not one other thing. Well, except for one ill-advised bowl of oatmeal, but that hardly counts, because its stay with me was so brief.

But I had coffee today! It was a little scary, and it hurt a little bit, but I drank the whole thing. Amazing. 

SO, here’s what some of us ate this week: 

Saturday I think Damien made burgers. I got sick Friday evening and by Saturday I was absolutely zonked and could barely think over the sound of my teeth chattering. 

Sunday I don’t know what they had. Very focused on trying to persuade my stomach that water was nothing to be afraid of, but no dice. Had to use labor and delivery breathing to get through the night, and I was starting to wonder if I should go to the hospital, because I was starting to be alarmed at the sheer ferocity of the way my body was behaving. Crazy. 

I think pizza rolls? I don’t know. On Monday I could focus my eyes and shuffle around a little, which was exciting. I think it was Monday that I suddenly remembered Imodium exists, and started the BRAT diet.

Tuesday they had hot dogs, and I was most definitely feeling better. I slowly and laboriously put together an Instacart order for the rest of the week, ate some toast and chewed it forty thousand times per bite, and then went back to bed.

Wednesday I felt quite a bit better and even went outside for a bit. Tried not to weep over the state of my garden and especially my poor peach tree, which I had started culling and didn’t finish, and now I’m very afraid it’s going to split under the weight of all those peaches.

Damien did a whole bunch of culling for me, and I hope that will save the tree! I did a little weeding.

I ordered a few Southwest chopped salad kits and two bags of frozen chicken strips, and served that with spinach and some kind of orange dressing. I had rice and a banana. 

Thursday I felt significantly better, and spent the day resting up for the evening, so we could go to the NH Press Association awards dinner. Damien won FOUR awards. Four!

He had chicken piccata, butternut squash ravioli, rolls, and cake. I had a bottle of water and two rolls. The kids at home had deli sandwiches and sweet peppers. 

The kids asked for ravioli, even though I warned them it was going to be hot. Maybe they will eat frozen ravioli. They used to eat frozen peas and mixed veggies when they were little. I myself intend to stay with BRAT at least through today! Maybe I’ll have frozen BRAT for a little treat. But I am feeling so much better. And I had coffee!

SO, WHAT DID I LEARN? Because there always has to be a lesson. 

Number one, people with chronic illnesses are my heroes. It was just so demoralizing to be in so much pain and to not be able to do anything I wanted to do, and to have to constantly argue with myself that I really am sick and really cannot just get it together and get some stuff done. And I knew it was just a temporary thing, and I would get better! I am just in awe of people who suffer every day and still manage to talk about something else sometimes. 

Number one, ever since Ozempic and all those type drugs started making the headlines, I’ve had this little voice in my head like, ,. . . . maybe. . . . maybe . . .  But it has completely shut up. I’m genuinely so glad for people who need those drugs, and for whom they work well, but that is not me. Newp. 

Number three, I forget what three is for. Oh, I need to chew better. 

Sorry, this was a completely unedifying and disgusting post, but I truly have nothing else going on right now. I have so much catching up to do, and I’m so tired! But very grateful to my family, especially Damien, who not only took care of everything and everybody, but constantly reassured me that I wasn’t exaggerating or just trying to get attention, and that I should just rest and recover. 

Oh wait, number four is I lost nine pounds. I know, blah blah blah all that matters is your health and so on, but I’ll tell you what, I really try not to squander golden tickets. I’ve got a full week of portion control, zero snacking, and prudent and careful food choices under my belt, and I am gonna do my best to maintain that while gradually reintroducing actual food. 

And that’s-a my story! 

To rest in liminal spaces

I follow a Facebook page called “Liminal Spaces.” It does give me interesting images, but also some frustration, because lots or even most of them aren’t liminal at all—at least, not in the way I’m familiar with.

The Latin word “limen” means “threshold,” and thus liminality has to do with things that are neither this nor that, or perhaps both this and that, because they are transitional, in-between.

But apparently there is something called “liminal aesthetics,” which just means “eerie” or “otherworldly in an unsettling way.”  In any case, no matter how you’re using the word, liminal places do tend to be eerie or unsettling, and that’s because humans share a desire to know where they are and what is going on.

So it was especially odd to see a photo of a chapel posted on Liminal Spaces. It was one I’ve never seen before: The Traveler’s Chapel in Wall Drug, which is a kitschy, tourist-driven little mall in the tiny town of Wall, South Dakota, that began as a drug store, and grew from there.

It has lots of souvenirs, a few restaurants, an 80-foot statue of a brontosaurus, various hot dogs and homemade doughnuts, and free ice water, which is apparently famous. The more I read about it, the more I think the appropriate word is not “liminal” but “baffling.”

But then there is the chapel. It is extremely simple in design: Just a single, narrow corridor with perhaps 12 pews flush to the wall on the left and an aisle down the right. The walls seem to be made of earth-toned brick, and the ceiling is slightly vaulted and fashioned of highly polished wooden beams. A low, raised platform at one end holds a minimalistic wooden altar flanked by two chairs. Most of the light comes from a rose window under the peaked roof, and under that, taking up about half the wall, is an unadorned wooden cross. That’s all.

I suppose it qualifies as a liminal space because, as the person who posted the photo noted, it was “taken at a s***** strip mall in South Dakota,” and the sheer quiet unexpectedness of something like this in such a setting knocks you back on your heels a bit. Wall Drug has become a destination in itself; but originally it was conceived of as a way station for travelers headed for famous spots like Mount Rushmore. Literally an in-between spot, something so unremarkable in itself that offering free ice water to passers-by was considered a brilliant marketing move.

But one of the top commenters said, “I’m an extremely unreligious person but something about this space feels so comforting to me” and another responded, “I think it’s because it’s single task. Purpose driven. Nothing can happen here without absolute focus to a specific spot. I like it too.”

Just some throwaway comments made in passing on a Facebook group, I know. But notice….Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

Image by Konrad Summers via Flickr

What’s for supper? Vol. 382: All hands on deck

IS it Friday? Apparently it is Friday! Happy Friday. Today, the last kid has her last day of school (the other schools let out last month, last week, and earlier this week, respectively).

We’ve had hot, sunny weather all week, and countless numbers of ceremonies and little parties and I don’t even know what else, and I’ve been spending every spare minute working on the pool deck, and it just this minute started raining. Which is good, because I have been neglecting my garden in favor of working on the deck. 

We had some quick but delicious meals this week, with a real summery feel to them. Here’s what we had:


Saturday was Sophia’s graduation! Little Baby New Year, all done with high school. 

Our first kid to graduate from Catholic high school. And that’s six out of ten kids done with high school!

After graduation she went to a friend’s party, and then we went out to eat, to the restaurant of her choice. Which was CHILI’S, because we have raised her right. Then we got ice cream, and I picked ginger ice cream, which is now on my list of things to make this summer. So refreshing. I want to make ginger ice cream with coconut, and mango ice cream with pecans, or some combination like that. 

Roast beef sandwiches with swiss and chimichurri

Sunday after Mass I made some chimichurri

Jump to Recipe

and got started on the deck, and Damien cooked the roast beef. I attached three legs with carriage bolts on one side and screwed a big X, to reinforce it.

I didn’t bother trying to make the legs even because the ground is so uneven. Just literally leaning into that whole situation.

I’m using all salvaged wood, so a lot of the work is removing old nails and screws and extra bits of wood, and also I’m determined to do as much by myself as possible, so everything took a million billion years, and I truly don’t know what I’m doing, andI disturbed an awful lot of angry ants, so by the time it was dinner, boy oh boy, did that sandwich taste good.

Damien cooked the meat by seasoning it very heavily, like absolutely crusty, with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and then he sears it in hot oil with a bunch of whole garlic cloves. Then he roasts it at 350 for about 45 minutes, and begins checking it for doneness. We like it quite rare, and it turned out juicy and tender and perfect. 

The chimichurri was also excellent.

Jump to Recipe

It’s like the flavor equivalent of if a toddler who just took a bath and escapes from his mother and goes and rolls around in the newly-mowed grass, and it’s the best thing that ever happened to him. 

Scrambled duck eggs with sausage on homemade biscuits

I prepped the biscuit dough in the morning, mixing the dry ingredients in one bowl, and the eggs and milk in another, and I shredded the butter on a box grater and then froze it. (If I’m going to make the dough right away, I freeze the butter first, and then grate it directly into the dry ingredients.) 

Jump to Recipe

Spent some more time on the deck, drilling out the holes for the leg bolts. I couldn’t put the legs on yet, because the deck still needed to be flipped, and I didn’t want it to be too heavy. I also worked on leveling out the ground to seat the post bases, close enough so you can jump off the deck into the pool, but not so close that it damages the pool. 

As I dug and measured and dug again and measured again and cussed and dug, I started having some massive flashbacks of the neverending pool prep we did a few years ago, when we kept digging and digging, trying to find some magical, mystical strata of ground that was not rocky (so it wouldn’t ruin the pool floor) but level (so the pool wouldn’t tip over), and every time we removed a rock, it turned out to be a GIANT ENORMOUS BOULDER, and when we got it out, ope, look at that, the ground wasn’t level anymore. And we DID truck in sand to level it off, but somehow it wasn’t that simple, and I remember it taking something like seventeen years to finish. So that’s why I want to do the deck myself! Because if I’m gonna suffer, at least I’ll only have one person mad at me (myself). 

So about half an hour before dinner I rushed in started sausages cooking, and threw the biscuit dough together, and baked twelve enormous biscuits. They turned out with a wonderful texture, just pillowy soft inside with a thin, crackly, buttery shell on the outside

but they tasted like straight baking soda. I have no idea what happened. Same recipe I always use. Is it because I broke up the assembly process? Is it because the butter was frozen? No idea. But I scrambled up a bunch of eggs and had the kids make orange juice, and it was a good enough meal.

After dinner I did get the kids to help me flip the deck over into the bases, and then while they held it, I attached the other three legs. 

Not! Quite! Straight! But pretty close. And, unlike me, more stable than it looks. 


Totally Unremarkable Tacos.

I took this picture of my taco resting on the arm of the living room chair, and you can see the piles of projects the kids brought home and boxes of miscellaneous stuff cleared out of the laundry room so Damien could work on the dryer and the living room not having been cleaned because I have been working on my deck and not yelling at people to clean more, and just THINGS AND STUFF EVERYWHERE. It’s fine. All manner of things shall be fine. But as you can see, it seemed like too much work to put salsa on. Startin to get a little tired. 

Italian sandwiches, chips, watermelon, birthday cake

Tuesday, Dora and her friend came over to belatedly celebrate her birthday. I scurried around getting the sharpest wood scraps out of the yard, and made a bunch of meat and cheese platters

and we had nice sandwiches

and Clara made a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting. Sadly, she ran out of time and wasn’t able to complete her plan, which was to recreate the Carvel cake that Kelsey Grammar and Jenna order to pull the misspelled cake refund con. So the cake just said FRAJER and we all had to just sort of sit with our choices in life. 

I heard it was delicious, though, unsurprisingly. Clara’s very good. 
And if I may toot my own horn for a mo, I’m sometimes pretty good at buying birthday presents

It was a book from her childhood, which we have been trying to remember the name of for years and years and years.

It’s about an alligator, and whenever I described it, everyone always thought I was talking about Lyle Lyle Crocodile. No! Not Lyle! I know I sound like the guy who is convinced there is a little mouse with a big hat, and he goes very fast, but no, NOT Speedy Gonzales. He’s a mouse! Anyway, she liked her present. Phew. 

I also did some laughably bad work on the deck, reinforcing the legs on the other long end

It was just one of those “all it has to do is not fall down” moments, and I think I arrived. The X I made on the first side has one plank on the inside of the legs crossing over the plank on the outside , but this second side of the deck is too close to the pool wall, so it had to — you know what, never mind. I’m the one who has to live with this; why should you get involved? It’s fine. 

Poke bowls, potstickers

Thursday I attached a ladder to the short end of the deck

and reinforced the legs a bit more, replaced a few planks on top, annnnd started removing the side of the existing lifeguard station thingy on the other short end, with the intent of making it all into one big deck. Which wasn’t the original plan, but what is, these days? 

This may or may not work out. But it may! I added a fairly chimpy joist to join the two platforms, and now I need to buy some hardware to reinforce that, and then I can start adding to the floor, and putting up a railing. 

I haven’t yet decided what to do with the one long end that you see when you look straight at the pool. I have some pallets I could just attach to it, to make it more finished, kinda like this, but two of them

Or I could just attach some kind of other wood. I’m really trying to use just salvaged wood and only buy hardware, so I dunno. I may just save it for another year. My plan is to build steps to replace the ladder next year, and I’m going to stain it when I’m done building this year. 

Dinner was blessedly simple. I had remembered to take the ahi tuna out of the freezer in the morning, and although the cat did find it and start nefariously dragging it across the house like an absolute cartoon character, it was double bagged, so it survived. I started some good rice in the instant pot, got Clara to cut up a bunch of mangos, chopped up some sugar snap peas, and diced up some ahi tuna. So we had rice, tuna, mango, pea sprouts, sugar snap peas, and those spicy chili lime cashews from Aldi, and also the hot sweet Polynesian sauce from Aldi. 

It was SO spicy, but incredibly tasty. What an entertaining treat this meal is. 100% mouth party time.

I wasn’t sure there would be enough food, so I grabbed a couple of bags of frozen potstickers from Alid and just boiled ’em. Everyone was pleased. 

Not actually sure

Last Friday (after I shared last week’s food post), I made lemon garlic shrimp on pasta, and it turned out spectacular.

I used this Sip and Feast recipe and I’m probably gonna make this exact thing again this Friday, because this time the other store had a sale on shrimp and I’m not made of stone. The recipe has a couple more steps than I would do if I were just throwing it together on intuition, but it’s totally worth it. Every flavor just popped right out, and the texture of the shrimp was absolutely perfect. 

Sophia is talking about celebrating the honest-to-goodness start of summer by taking the other kids out for pizza, and if that doesn’t pan out, there is tuna in the house, so there will be something for every palate. 

Oh, last Friday was also the feast of the Sacred Heart, so I also made something I’ve had my eye on for a while: Coeur à la Crème, following this recipe from Mon Petit Four. It was really quite easy, and I think I will make it every year for the solemnity. I need to work on the presentation, but I did achieve that Catholic What-The-Hell-Am-I-Actually-Eating feel.

and everybody thought it tasted good. I thought it would be like cheesecake, dense and heavy, with a light garnish of fruit, but it was actually kind of reversed: A thick, intense fruit compote on top of an airy, not-too-sweet creamy heart. Very pleasant. 

I didn’t have blackberries the recipe called for, so instead I made a compote with about a pound of strawberries and a pint of blueberries, to which I added two or three tablespoons of sugar and two tablespoons of water.

I simmered it for a bit and mashed it from time to time, and then mixed in a good slug of lilac jelly; and then I spooned out some of the liquid and mixed it with a few tablespoons of cornstarch, and added that back into the sauce, cooked it for a bit longer, and then took it off the heat and let it cool until dessert time. 

I don’t think I mentioned what the lilac syrup tastes like! It’s lovely. It does taste floral, but different from rosewater (which I don’t really like). It is sweet, of course, and a little bit citrusy, but not cloyingly sweet, and it just has a bright, lively but not too intense flavor, faintly like blueberry but brighter. I really like it, although it never completely gelled and is more like a very thick syrup than jelly. I think next year, I will put some of the lilac petals into the food processor and put them into the jelly, to give it a little more body. 

Oh, so I made a double recipe of the cream part, and one was in a large silicone heart mold, lined with cheesecloth as the recipe suggested. The rest, I made in small heart molds sprayed with cooking spray, and they did not come out at all. We had to spoon them out. Lesson learned! 

I also learned you can help your cream cheese achieve room temperature by not going shopping until the very last minute, and panicking a bit on the ride home

But like I said, it was hot and sunny!

And now, like I said, it is raining, so I can’t work on the deck, but can only sit here and think happily about not having to water my poor, neglected garden. I think I put 500 miles on the car this week, just to-and-fro-and-to-and-fro, and I’m so happy about today finally being the last day of school, you cannot imagine. I bought Corrie a wooden crow call for some reason, so we have that going for us. 

While I have been doing my completely voluntary deck and bridge projects, Damien has been incredibly busy with far less glamorous projects: The dryer, of course, and his car, and my car, and Moe’s car, and Lena’s car, and now today the dishwasher, and I’m almost certainly forgetting some stuff. The things that man has taught himself how to do just blows my mind. Somebody should make him some shrimp, at the very least. 


Dipping sauce, marinade, you name it


  • 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


  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. 


moron biscuits

Because I've been trying all my life to make nice biscuits and I was too much of a moron, until I discovered this recipe. It has egg and cream of tartar, which is weird, but they come out great every time. Flaky little crust, lovely, lofty insides, rich, buttery taste.


  • 6 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, chilled
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups milk


  1. Preheat oven to 450.

  2. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and cream of tartar.

  3. Grate the chilled butter with a box grater into the dry ingredients.

  4. Stir in the milk and egg and mix until just combined. Don't overwork it. It's fine to see little bits of butter.

  5. On a floured surface, knead the dough 10-15 times. If it's very sticky, add a little flour.

  6. With your hands, press the dough out until it's about an inch thick. Cut biscuits. Depending on the size, you can probably get 20 medium-sized biscuits with this recipe.

  7. Grease a pan and bake for 10-15 minutes or until tops are golden brown.