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
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
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. 

MONDAY
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
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
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
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. 

FRIDAY
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

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. 

SUNDAY
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. 

MONDAY
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. 

TUESDAY
Tacos

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. 

WEDNESDAY
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. 

THURSDAY
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. 

FRIDAY
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. 

Chimichurri

Dipping sauce, marinade, you name it

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

 

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  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.

On my summer list: Less screen time

This is the time of year when I make a list of things I definitely want to do this summer.

Some of it is just for fun, and I consult with all the kids to make sure nobody’s idea of fun gets overlooked (which can happen to the quieter kids in a big family). Visit that aquarium before our membership runs out! Learn how to make mozzarella! Go back to that state park with the waterfalls! Try our hand at paper marbling! Spend time at the ocean!

Some of it is things I must force myself to do: Teach at least one teenager to drive! Do something about the attic! Do something about the bathroom ceiling and the mold thereon! Do something about the teenagers in general!

There is also one thing I must force myself to do, that the kids definitely don’t want to do, but it’s so we can all have fun: Institute a weekly screen-free evening. We already do this during Lent, and most years, we do it during Advent, too. It’s stupidly hard. But the rewards are almost immediate; and I hope they are long-term, as well.

The thing about screen time — whether it’s video games, or TV, or movies, or social media or whatever — is that it doesn’t just take up the time it takes up. If you spend two hours staring at a screen, it’s very hard to just snap back into other activities where you use your body and heart and senses and imagination at the end of those two hours. Screen time leeches the life out of the rest of your day, and makes everything non-screen begin to feel arduous and irrelevant, and before you know it, you can’t really remember how to do anything else. So you don’t. You just look at your screen.

I say this as a screen fiend. I have a very hard time putting my phone down, even if I’m busy and really need to do something else, or if I’m exhausted and really need to sleep, or if everything I see and hear on my screen is intensely irritating or deathly boring. It’s just so easy to scroll, scroll, scroll, and the more I scroll, the harder it is to do anything else. So I have a lot of sympathy for my kids when they don’t want to put their devices down.

But I’m still their mom, and I still get to say what goes on in my house. Here’s one of the great secrets of doing what’s best for children: It often forces you into doing things that are good for you, too, even if only so they can’t accuse you of hypocrisy (which is a child’s greatest joy in life).

Read the rest of my latest for Our Sunday Visitor

Monsters in the walls

When I was little, a lion was living in the walls outside my room. I knew this couldn’t possibly be true, but I was also terrified any time I went into the hall because I could hear him growling.

Years later, I figured out what that sound really was. Our old Victoria-style house had a turbine vent on the roof, and when it got clogged with ice during the winter, it made a deep, ominous growling noise that seemed to be emerging from the walls.

I did not tell anybody, though, because there were actually two things I was afraid of: The lion and being told I was imagining the lion. So I quaked through many nights, terrified.

I am not mad at my parents. It was the ’70s, and parenting standards were different. I’ve done the same thing to my kids—shushing their fears, telling them not to be silly—before I knew better. 

This is one of my earliest memories, and it’s probably why I felt so deeply for the poor kid in North Carolina who turned out to have 60,000 bees living in her walls.

She, unlike me, persistently told her parents for eight months what she heard: monsters. Her parents eventually investigated and sure enough, there was a hive so gigantic that they had to tear into the walls to remove it all. Honey everywhere, dead bees everywhere. A true nightmare.

I first heard about this story because a friend pointed out that, when the bee experts removed all the bees from the toddler’s walls, the mother said to her child: “See? They’re taking the monsters away.” My friend said the mom clearly meant well, but it was a missed opportunity. Bees are not monsters! They are friends and essential to life on earth.

My friend pointed out that the kid will likely have a lifelong fear of bees since the mother affirmed for her that they are indeed monsters. And that would be a monstrous thing in itself, to live forever in fear of something you can’t escape and that is your great helper.

I think that if the child does have trauma, it will have stemmed from three possible causes: the bees themselves, of course, and perhaps the mother affirming that they are monsters. But also those eight months when no one believed her about the bee noise, even though she could hear it.

When you are consistently told, “The distressing thing is silly, and you shouldn’t be upset. You’re making it up. You can’t trust your own experience, and you should be ashamed of thinking you can”—this is a monstrous growl that reverberates well into adulthood, well into every adult relationship, well into your career, well into your understanding of faith and your sense of self. A message like that can be more life-limiting than any specific insect-phobia.

The real solution for the child, of course, would have been to strike a balance. To affirm her fear, to praise her for telling someone, and then eventually, when she was ready, to introduce her to the idea of how wonderful bees really (usually) are.

Why am I writing about this for a Catholic publication? Because I’m thinking, as I seemed doomed to be doing forever, of the sex abuse scandal.

I’m thinking about people who have been terrorized by someone representing the church, and who therefore fear or despise the Catholic Church and maybe even God himself. I’m thinking about how hard it is to respond to them with the right balance.

Read the rest of my latest for America Magazine.

What’s for supper? Vol. 381: Excuse me, stewardess. I speak chive.

I don’t know if you guys realize this, but June is, in fact, bustin’ out all over.
The feeling is getting so intense!
And the Fishers are so busy
That I’m always in a tizzy
But I still have time to make a wattle fence!

Because it’s Junnnnnnne!

And I do what I wannnnnnnt! Overall. 

I do apologize for how dead the site has been lately. I honestly have been writing, and I hope to have more up next week! I also think I have fixed the issue with the com box. If you left a comment last week and it didn’t show up, it’s because I had a leetle spam problem and still have to manually sort through almost 6,000 comments, which, honestly, I might just . . . not do. But like I said, I think I fixed it!

Here’s what we ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, watermelon

Shopping day, uff cawse. I had planned grilled ham and cheese last week, but didn’t make it, so we had plenty of sourdough and sliced cheddar and ham. Easy peasy, and it was a good thing, because one kid had a party to go to (and a present to buy), two kids needed to be at work, and there was an art thing downtown and the non-working kids were helping the other kids set up, and I realized that meant the other kid was gonna be alone all day, so we invited a friend over for her, which turned into her meeting the friend at the beach (not that beach, the other beach) and then coming here, and then everyone needed to be picked up from their parties and jobs and arts and confession and whatnot, and, long story long, we had grilled cheese. 

Kids had a fire and made s’mores after dinner. I will eat many, many disgusting things, but I draw the line at s’mores, for some reason. 

A few months ago, when I still thought we had a 50/50 chance of seeing the parousia before June, I signed up to make dinner for the youth group. But I lost that bet, so on Saturday night I started hacking up pork shoulder and browning it.

I had bought some ludicrous number of pounds of pork, too much to fit in the slow cooker, so I put it in a giant casserole dish and covered it tightly with tinfoil and cooked it in the oven at 225 for about five hours. 

Here’s my pulled pork recipe.

Jump to Recipe

I bumped up all the seasonings a bit, used jarred jalapeño instead of fresh (without the juice), and added a heavy hit of liquid smoke. Oh my dammit, it smelled amazing. I thought I’d have to leave it cooking slowly overnight, but it was shreddy betty and so good. 

SUNDAY
Pulled pork sandwiches, chips, broccoli slaw, watermelon

Sunday was Corpus Christi, which I love so much. My 90-year-old friend has been coming to Mass with us, which is excellent, but of course she wasn’t quite up for a long walk in the blazing hot sun afterward, so I brought her home while the rest of the family joined in the procession. Found out later that Benny, who is not even 90, fainted! Just too much sun and not enough water, and plus we had stayed up late to watch Godzilla Minus One the night before. So down she went, and bopped her head on the pew when she fell. SHE IS FINE. But it was a worrisome day, because we have some medical nonsense in this family to worry about. But she was just very dehydrated. 

It turns out everyone else in the parish is also super busy in early June, so the youth group was a very small group, and even taking that into account, I absolutely CLOBBERED them with food. One smart thing I did, though, was realize that a cooler isn’t just for ice, but will also keep hot food hot. So I didn’t have to muck around with cooking in the church basement and trucking the food over to the other building this time, but just heated everything up at home and then brought it straight to the yoot. 

We had kaiser buns and pulled pork and two kind of BBQ sauce on the side, but the meat truly didn’t need it. Bunch of sliced onions and some of that hot cheese sauce I love so well for the sandwiches, tons of potato chips, tons of watermelon cut into chunks, and tons of soda. At the last minute I also made some broccoli slaw just to have something green.

I threw the broccoli into the food processor and then jammed some carrots in, but I wasn’t thinking clearly, and ended up with basically minced broccoli and discs of carrots. Which is fine, but it looked . . . dated. Can’t explain it, but it looked like someone’s elderly aunt had brought it to a birthday party and called it her famous slaw.

Anyway, I made the dressing from this coleslaw recipe, which calls for mayo, dijon mustard, maple syrup, celery seed, salt, and pepper. I skipped the celery seed and didn’t even notice it called for dijon mustard until about the middle of this sentence. Then I threw in some sliced almonds, and probably would have put in dried cranberries if we had had any. Considered sunflower seeds and realized I’m at least allegedly feeding teenagers, not chipmunks. 

Look, I took a few gummies last night to help me sleep, and I’m feeling too dumb to write short paragraphs, so you’re just gonna get the whole . . . pork. I don’t know. 

Anyway, there was SO much dang pork. Which is not a bad thing! I thought the addition of the liquid smoke was excellent, so I’ll be adding that from now on. 

MONDAY
Roast pork ribs, flavored rice, watermelon, broccoli slaw

Monday I wasn’t ready to look at pulled pork again yet, and I had arranged my day so that I was somehow doing errands for strangers much of the day? I live like I have a personal assistant who has a grudge against me. Anyway I got it all done, and got supper started at like five o’clock. Not pulled pork but roast pork ribs, because they were 99 cents a pound and I’m not made of stone. 

Pork ribs sprinkled heavily with salt and pepper and thrust under a hot broiler, turned once; leftover watermelon (did I mention that watermelons were on sale so I bought four?), leftover broccoli slaw, and something the kids covet ardently and I should probably make more often: Rice cooked in chicken broth. Truly, your jaw would drop if you saw how excited they were about this faintly yellow rice. 

And you know what, it’s good. Tastes like chicken. 

I don’t think I mentioned how the broccoli slaw turned out. The dressing tasted WONDERFUL when I made it, really zippy and nice; but it was one of those mysterious recipes that went flat right away, and got flatter every hour thereafter. So it was quite, quite bland by Monday. I was still happy to have something cool and vegetabally, but it was not exciting. I did like having the crunchy almonds in there. 

TUESDAY
Pizza with chive blossoms

My chives peaked over the weekend, and I had been meaning and meaning to fry the blossoms, but I just did not have time. So I made some pizzas on Tuesday: One pepperoni, one plain cheese, and one with black olive and leftover peppers and onions sauteed up, and then when it came out of the oven, I threw chive blossoms on top of it. 

Kinda wish I had put some of them on first before baking, because I think they would have been nice with a little frizzled, but they were good as they were. Kinda cute, not mindblowing.Tasted like chives. So now I know! 

WEDNESDAY
Pork tacos, watermelon

Wednesday I had to face the fact that I had forgotten to put the leftover pulled pork in the freezer, so it was do or die. Pork or die.

It was supposed to be taco day, so I just heated up the pork and served that with taco fixings. Did not adjust the seasoning or anything, and guess what, it was yummy. 

Or maybe I was just starving because I was going crazy with yard work, but I thought they were great. 

Wednesday I also culled baby peaches. Last year we had a late frost that killed all the buds, and we had zero peaches. This year we have . . . I honestly think over a thousand, on just the one tree. It just went berserk with pent-up peachiness. At first I was delighted, and then I realized that letting that many peaches grow to maturity would yield a bumper crop of small, tasteless peaches, and would probably also split the tree when they got heavy.

I HATE thinning baby plants. It’s not as bad as pinching off blossoms, but it’s pretty rough. Just feels so brutal and wrong. But I want to take care of my tree, so I spent a LONG time plucking off baby peaches, and after about an hour of staring up into the sun between the leaves, calculating six inches between peaches, and repeatedly getting a face full of crispy old peach blossom debris and picking baby peaches out of my cleavage, that particular emotional knife had been blunted quite a bit. 

Here’s what they look like. They’re the size of large olives, and they are too young to have pits. 

I have filled two gallon ziplock bags and I’m maybe 1/4 of the way through the tree. It turns out you can pickle baby peaches. This lady says they don’t taste like much, so they take on whatever flavor you put in the vinegar solution. I told myself I was going to try this, but honestly I think I’ll offer them on buy nothing and let them be someone else’s broken dreams this year. Or maybe just feed them to the ducks. Ducks have no dreams. 

THURSDAY
One-pan garlicky chicken thighs with potatoes and zucchini

Thursday was the first day this week I deliberately cooked something specifically for that day, rather than just dealing with whatever nonsense that hostile PA had set up for me. Samantha, or Simba, or whatever her name is.

What I had was a bunch of chicken thighs that were on sale, and zucchini that reminded me that I once made a zucchini dish that everybody liked, and it was on a week we were replacing the bathroom floor, so I figured it must be easy. So I made it again! Yay!

Got the chicken marinating in the morning. It’s a simple marinade, just olive oil and balsamic vinegar and apple cider vinegar, plus garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper, and fresh basil and garlic. I prepped the garlic by peeling it, putting it in a sandwich bag, and bashing it with the end of a rolling pin, so it was it kind of flattened fragments. I don’t know if there’s a name for this form of garlic, but I find it very useful in marinades, because it imparts garlic flavor to the whole thing, but also has little bits of garlic you can bite into.

So that marinated all day. I forgot to buy summer squash, but I cut up about four pounds of potatoes (skin on) and two large zucchini, also skin on. I cut them into thickish quarter-round wedges, and put them in a bowl covered with cold water to keep them from browning.

Later that day, I was worried they’d be getting soggy, so I drained the water off, recalling that I have heard that potatoes that have been doused with cold water will not get discolored even if you drain the water off. I wish I had done this sooner, so I’d have a better idea of how long you can do this in advance of cooking them, but I can say that they will go at least two hours after draining the water off without turning brown. Nice.

I sprayed a couple of giant sheet pans, put the chicken on, and then arranged the potatoes and zucchini in between the chicken. I didn’t pour all the marinade in, but I did fish out the basil and garlic with a slotted spoon and spread that over the chicken. Then I sprinkled the potatoes and zucchini with more garlic powder, onion powder, and salt, and just cooked it undisturbed for about forty minutes. 

It doesn’t look glamorous, but it’s really delicious. Probably wouldn’t have hurt to stir up the potatoes and zucchini 20 minutes in, so they’d be more brown on the top; but they had a great little crust and wonderful flavor on the bottom, so no complaints.  

 

The fresh garlic and basil are really pleasant and summery, and the chicken came out super juicy. I’m not a giant zucchini fan, but I remembered to cut it into big enough wedges so it didn’t get slimy, and it was really tasty with the slightly sweet, sharp marinade. Would have been good with some crusty bread to sop up the extra sauce. 

If you’re looking for an easy, one-pan meal that’s nice and summery, this is the one!

If you’re looking for something really fantastic to do with zucchini, I recommend this zuchhini agrodulce recipe from Sip and Feast. It’s quite a hassle, but holy wow, it is fantastic. I hope I have time to make this when vacation starts. 

FRIDAY
Lemon garlic shrimp pasta

This bag of shrimp I got on sale a few weeks ago has been in the freezer long enough. I had kind of a long argument with the kids wherein they accused me of CONSTANTLY serving shrimp lo mein, which I KNOW is not true, and even if it were, WHO COMPLAINS ABOUT SHRIMP LO MEIN. They were, of course, just yanking my chain, but I just dangle it out there all the time, begging one or more of our innumerable chain-yankers to come yank it. 

ANYWAY, I’m not going to make shrimp lo mein. I’m going to make lemon garlic shrimp pasta from Sip and Feast, who claims that it is easy and impressive. I like all those words (lemon, garlic, shrimp, pasta, easy, and impressive, not to mention sip and feast), so I don’t see how this can be bad. The jerks can eat plain pasta with butter, which I will admit is also delicious. 

This week the main things I’ve been working on are — well, Millie’s garden and Millie’s fall alert system, to be honest, and also my garden (got the last bits filled in with collard, hooray!) and adding legs to the final piece of salvaged platform, so we can have a little pool deck. I’ve only been to Home Depot three times so far, and I know that’s not going to be enough to satiate the project gods.

Oh, I also did some more work on my wattle fence, which is my pride and joy. It’s very possible it looks stupid and nobody wants to say anything, but I just love it so much. Any time I have more than half an hour free, I get the giant clippers and call the dog, and we go out to the woods and cut down as many saplings as I can drag. Then I sit and trim off all the green and all the twigs, and then I weave what’s left into my fence. It’s deeply satisfying.

I also have an ongoing project that’s less satisfying, and that is putting a lot of energy into not dealing with or even seeing the five trash bags of foam fragments that are in the dining room, which used to be in Corrie’s oversized bean bag chair, and which . . . hey, is there a violent stomach bug going around where you are? Because there is here. All I’m gonna say about that is: If you have a kid who is going through a picky stage and only eats rice for dinner? SOMETIMES THAT’S NOT A BAD THING. 

Anyway, we have ONE WEEK OF SCHOOL LEFT, the peonies all burst open the other day, Merlin says there is an indigo bunting somewhere in my yard, and I’m gonna get those legs on that deck if it kills me. And it will! But I plan to die at home, doing what I love (eating pork). 

Oh, today is the feast of the Sacred Heart, and I’m thinkin of making this Coeur à la Crème with Blackberry Sauce. I’m thinkin about a lot of things. 

Clovey pulled pork

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  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.

One-pan garlicky chicken with potatoes, summer squash, and zucchini

Ingredients

  • 12 chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • fresh basil, chopped
  • more salt, garlic powder, and onion powder for sprinkling
  • 4 lbs potatoes, scrubbed and sliced thickly
  • 6 assorted zucchini and summer squash, washed and sliced into discs with the skin on

Instructions

  1. Combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cider vinegar, garlic, garlic powder, onion, powder, salt, pepper, and fresh basil. Marinate the chicken thighs in this mixture for at least half an hour.

  2. Preheat the oven to 400.

  3. Grease two large baking sheets. Arrange the chicken, potatoes, and vegetables on the sheet with as little overlap as possible.

  4. Sprinkle additional salt, onion powder, and garlic powder on the potatoes and vegetables.

  5. Cook about 40 minutes or until chicken is completely done and potatoes are slightly brown on top.

What’s for supper? Vol. 380: How does Scooby Doo end his prayers?

Happy Friday! And goodbye, May. You were a good May. 

Yesterday I cleaned out the laundry room, because I got a free dryer on Facebook Marketplace and we’re gonna have to take the back door off to get it in, but we can’t reach the door because there is so much misc in there. Getting something for free made me feel like the universe was out of balance, so I recklessly posted a bunch of stuff to give away myself, so today I get to drive around dropping off pots of butternut squash starts and bags of kid clothes that I suddenly worry are absolute garbage, but I can’t tell because I have nostalgia. 

Meanwhile, the other door to the laundry room decided to take itself off, and now randomly sort of LOOMS at people, when all they tried to do was open it. It’s okay, because the kids avoid using that room anyway (it’s our second bathroom, if you’ll recall), because the dryer makes a horrendous squealing noise, and the overhead light flickers kind of menacingly. It does have a little whiff of Gitmo about it, but how long does it take to pee? Big babies. Anyway, we got a new dryer. Well, an old dryer. It’s fine. All manner of things shall be fine. 

So here’s what we had this week: 

SATURDAY
Chicken nuggets, raw peppers, chips

Shopping day! The plan was chicken burgers, but they didn’t have any, so I got nuggets. I haven’t had a chicken nugget for years. They were really pretty good.

I had a sweet chili sauce with mine and actually really enjoyed this meal. 

SUNDAY
Oven fried chicken, corn on the cob, spinach

Sunday I bullied my family into putting the big bridge pieces into place!

You may recall that one big wooden piece tried very hard to kill me and Lena last time I worked on this project. Well, it took seven people to lift each of the two long pieces, which is why progress has been so slow. We each grabbed a support plank and shuffled forward like pall bearers, and at one point, when I pulled my foot out of the muck, part of my sandal refused to come along. But it was just an Aldi sandal, and already smelled of ducks. A small price to pay. 

Here is what the marsh looked like before, with just the cinderblocks in place:

and here is how it looks now:

Progress! Still needs some work, obviously. I need to stain some parts (the undersides are all done, though), and fill in a few gaps, and get some more cinderblocks to level it off more, and I need to figure out what kind of transitional piece to add in the front, so you don’t have to step up onto it. You can’t tell from this picture, but the ground slopes pretty sharply down from the arch to the first bridge piece. I have a little set of stairs I might half-bury in the dirt, to get to the first piece. 

But it’s SOLID. The cross pieces distribute the weight, and they’re resting on dry ground and/or on cinderblocks, and when you walk on it, there’s no wobble, and it’s all up out of the wet. I’m very pleased. 

I also moved the big arch back a bit, to open up the entrance, and added a second arch (it’s hard to see, but it’s there). I have a couple of baby grape vines I’m gonna plant, and the plan is to eventually make a canopy of vines from one arch to the other. In 5-10 years, it’s gonna be just gorgeous. It’s already gorgeous. My plan is always to enhance what’s good about what’s already there, because it’s a lovely, lovely spot. 

So! It’s usable and I can do the rest without dragging anyone else into it. The other big thing I want to do before summer vacation starts is to build a very simple little deck using the rest of the wooden pieces I got along with the bridge pieces.

I know they sell hardware specifically for attaching legs onto platforms, so I figure if I just think hard about weight distribution and kind of overbuild everything, I should be able to make something functional, and less awkward than the lifeguard station we currently have

Sunday I also cleared out my other raised bed, topped it up with lovely compost, made a little support tipi out of last year’s sunflower stalks, and planted my sugar snap peas. 

I think it might be too lightweight, but I can always reinforce it with actual sticks at some point. I’m going to put collard greens in the rest of that space, I think. There are some leftover Brussels sprouts that survived the winter, but they already bolted and I think I’ll just rip them out.

I think it must have been Sunday that I finally got the rest of my vegetable starts in the ground. I’m a little unsure about what’s what, because I didn’t weatherproof the labels (next time I’ll use popsicle sticks and pencil!), but I am pretty sure I have pumpkins, butternut squash, I think two kinds of eggplant, and possibly cucumbers, one of those birdhouse gourds, and also garlic and basil in another spot. 

It’s all a little too close together, because I meant to expand the bed more than I ended up doing. Oh well. They can fight it out. 

No strawberries yet (soon!), and I can’t pick asparagus until next year, and I accidentally let the rhubarb bolt, so I didn’t get much this year. But overall, I am pleased. Gotta finish that wattle fence! 

Oops, I forgot to talk about food. Good thing my yard is INCREDIBLY INTERESTING, so you don’t mind. Well, we had oven fried chicken. I started soaking the drumsticks in milk, eggs, and salt in the morning, and then I dredged it in seasoned flour and started cooking it about an hour before dinner. Melt butter and oil in a pan, lay the chicken down, turn it after a while and let it continue cooking, and voila. 

I love this recipe. The meat is juicy and tender, the skin is crackly and tasty. I think I honestly prefer it to deep fried chicken, and whoever did clean-up that night definitely preferred it. Here’s that recipe:

Jump to Recipe

We also had corn on the cob and just plain raw spinach. 

Fab warm weather meal. I didn’t even add butter to my corn or dressing to my spinach, because everything was so fresh and nice. 

MONDAY
Cookout!

Monday was Memorial Day and we met not one but two boyfriends of daughters. What a to-do! We expected quite a few more people to show up for the cookout than could actually make it, and it did rain like crazy, but we had a nice day anyway, if somewhat lower-key than expected. 

I made an incredibly bland potato salad

and then I went a little crackerdog with the fruit salad and made a watermelon swan boat

and Damien grilled up a ton of burgers, and we just had chips and soda and ice cream.

Damien reconfigured his Interchangeable Cinderblock Meat Altar Situation, and now it has more air circulation and more even heat.

He is talking about making an Interchangeable Cinderblock Smoker Situation, too. You may think we’re complete rednecks, but we actually buy our cinderblocks NEW, so you tell me. 

TUESDAY
Cookout part 2!

Tuesday I cooked the hot dogs we decided not to bother with on Monday, and we basically just had that meal again, with different meat. No complaints. 

Also on Tuesday, I drove the kids to school and every single person who stepped into that car made the same “urk” noise, so I decided it was Time To Find Out What That Smell Was. Got some trash bags, got a pack of baby wipes, set up some music, and prepared myself to launch into a long, arduous search into every nook and cranny to root out the mysterious source of the odor. 

I open the door, and right there on the floor is this.

Maybe we are rednecks after all. 

WEDNESDAY
Pork ramen

Wednesday I went on a bit of a cleaning rampage and cleared out the mountain of scraps and flowerpots and bits of fencing and old rugs and broken tools that I’d been flinging onto the back stairs. I didn’t take a before picture, but this is the after:

Okay, yes, we are definitely rednecks. I see it now. But we’re rednecks who try! Gonna try to get a dryer up those stairs, that’s what we’re gonna try.(Yes I know I need to do something about all that unfinished wood. It’s on my list. It’s on my list!)

Wednesday I put about three hundred sunflower seedlings into the ground, from seeds I gathered from last year’s most successful flowers. I want PHALANXES of sunflowers this year. I have a long row of them in front of the marsh,

a little sprinkle by the pool where some day lilies appeared, a few next to each light post around the patio, and a line of them in front of the trash enclosure. I also moved the last of the cosmos and zinnia seedlings into pots and found spots for them. I think everything I planted over the winter has a home now!

For supper, I had a hunk of boneless pork whatnot, so I sharpened up my knife and cut it really thin, then pan fried it a little bit, then added a bunch of Chinese five spice and a little soy sauce and finished cooking it. Made a giant pot of ramen, soft boiled some eggs, and served it all up with chopped scallions, sugar snap peas, and spinach, and crunchy noodles. 

Delightful. I am steadfastly refusing to find out what good ramen tastes like, because the kind that comes in a case and shrink wrapped in orange plastic is cheap and we like it, and I don’t want to ruin that. 

THURSDAY
Pork gyros

Thursday, I cannot even begin to explain how the universe tried to thwart me. Really unprecedented levels of attempted thwarting! I knew it was gonna be a busy day, even pre-thwarting, but I had already cooked all the easy meals for the week, so I started in and prepped pork gyros first thing in the morning.

Here’s the marinade recipe, which is pretty basic but tasty, and it does make the meat super tender

Jump to Recipe

and I made a big bowl of yogurt sauce

Jump to Recipe

Oh! And I finally got to use my mother’s day present from Clara, which is a handmade juicer. 

Works GREAT. The ceramic pointy thingy takes way more pressure than plastic, and the spout poured very smoothly, which is harder to design than it looks. She’s getting really good.

Then thing started to go a little bit south. But the upshot is that, against all odds, I got Millie’s replacement fall detection sensor set up and tech support APOLOGIZED TO ME AND SAID I WAS RIGHT. So there! And I was only a few minutes late to the school concert, which they were actually calling a “song showcase,” for reasons which are not entirely clear to me, except that I would not have called that a concert, either. I did get there in time to hear one of the kids say into the microphone, “And [kidname], [kidname], and [kidname] will be our socialists” and the music teacher leaped like an antelope over to that microphone and said, “SOLOISTS.”

This happened mere minutes after our golden haired god hero was unjustly and outrageously convicted on 34 bogus felonies in a banana republic-style kangaroo court with an upside down flag!!!! So IT’S ALREADY HAPPENING TO OUR CHILDREN, just like he warned us. But we did not listen.

The good news is, the gyros were great. A complete mess, but still very delicious. 

I made the mistake of trying to open the pita and fill it with meat, rather than rolling the meat up in an intact pita; and I completely forgot to gather fresh mint; and the fries were underdone. But it was extremely late and we were so hungry, and it tasted heavenly. 

FRIDAY
Ravioli

The ravioli I promised but did not deliver last week! But accidentally bought sauce for twice, so now we have so much effing sauce! Maybe I can put it on a buy nothing group. Maybe I’ll put myself on a buy nothing group. 

I do have these chive blossoms

that are clearly at their peak. I’m not a big fan of infused oils – the bacteria threat worries me – but I think I may try frying them. 

Oh! But last night I found a WHOLE OTHER JAR OF MARIGOLD SEEDS.

I may actually offer those on buy nothing, because I don’t know if I have it in me to till anymore ground this year, and every spot that’s open is already sprouting to the max. 

Like I said, a good May. Really good May. 

 

Oven-fried chicken

so much easier than pan frying, and you still get that crisp skin and juicy meat

Ingredients

  • chicken parts (wings, drumsticks, thighs)
  • milk (enough to cover the chicken at least halfway up)
  • eggs (two eggs per cup of milk)
  • flour
  • your choice of seasonings (I usually use salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, and chili powder)
  • oil and butter for cooking

Instructions

  1. At least three hours before you start to cook, make an egg and milk mixture and salt it heavily, using two eggs per cup of milk, so there's enough to soak the chicken at least halfway up. Beat the eggs, add the milk, stir in salt, and let the chicken soak in this. This helps to make the chicken moist and tender.

  2. About 40 minutes before dinner, turn the oven to 425, and put a pan with sides into the oven. I use a 15"x21" sheet pan and I put about a cup of oil and one or two sticks of butter. Let the pan and the butter and oil heat up.

  3. While it is heating up, put a lot of flour in a bowl and add all your seasonings. Use more than you think is reasonable! Take the chicken parts out of the milk mixture and roll them around in the flour until they are coated on all sides.

  4. Lay the floured chicken in the hot pan, skin side down. Let it cook for 25 minutes.

  5. Flip the chicken over and cook for another 20 minutes.

  6. Check for doneness and serve immediately. It's also great cold.

Marinade for pork gyros

Marinate thinly-sliced meat for several hours, then grill over the coals or broil in the oven. Serve wrapped up in pita with cucumbers, tomatoes, french fries, hot sauce, and yogurt sauce. This marinade is enough for about five pounds of meat. 

Ingredients

  • 4 medium tomatoes diced and smashed a bit
  • 2 onions grated
  • 2 Tbsp oregano (or a large handful of fresh oregano, chopped)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • 12 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • kosher salt and pepper

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 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. 

 

The apostles after Judas

People like to make fun of the apostles for sort of bumbling around and having silly arguments and not getting the point. But let’s be fair. How could they be anything else but in a shambles?

I was struck recently by the Gospel passage where, after the ascension, the remaining 11 apostles were trying to choose a replacement for Judas. They talk it over and narrow it down to two men, and then cast lots, asking the Holy Spirit to show them which one it should be.

This is a story we all know. Judas betrays Jesus, Jesus dies, Jesus rises again, and the apostles find a replacement so there are 12 of them again. It sounds straightforward and sensible because we’re familiar with it.

But they weren’t! They had no idea what would happen next, but it must have seemed like anything was possible. Think of what they had been through just in the last several weeks.

Just a very short time after they met Jesus and found out who he was and left their old life utterly behind, they saw him betrayed by one of their own, and then arrested and tortured and executed. Then they buried him, and then they saw him alive again, and then they had various insane conversations with him, and then, just as they were expecting him to restore the kingdom of Israel, he went back up to heaven. Talk about religious trauma. I’m actually amazed that they managed to function at all, much less hold a meeting and rationally figure out what to do next.

I’ve been thinking specifically about how shaken up they must have been by the realization that Judas, who lived and ate and travelled with Jesus just as they did, was capable of such monstrous betrayal. I wonder whether this inexplicable horror put their own faith into doubt, or made them wonder how a person can tell when they’re first diverging from Jesus, and what can be done about it. It’s an especially awful pain when you’re wounded by one of your own. It changes not only how you think of the aggressor, but how you think about yourself.

In Acts, they say that Judas “turned aside to go to his own place,” indicating that what he did was a choice (and one they’ve clearly been talking about with each other); but previously, Jesus said, “None [of the apostles] has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.” It is hard to avoid the idea that, even as he turned aside from Jesus, he was still acting as part of God’s plan. He had free will, because every human being does—but at the same time, God’s work of salvation is sometimes carried out by people who aren’t trying to do any such thing.

These are deep waters. I am not up to the theological task of addressing how God’s plan and free will work together. But I do know that, when we are in deep waters, God gives us something to keep us afloat.

As I said, the apostles must have felt like everything they thought they knew had been called into question. But what they did next was, for once, the best possible course of action. They discussed the situation and the possibilities, and then they prayed for guidance, and then they moved ahead.

There is really no other way to proceed in life, when you’re not sure what to do next: Talk it over with people who know the Lord, and do our best to use our intellect, and then leave it up to God to bring good out of what we ultimately decide. For people who believe both in providence and free will, what else can we possibly do?

But I wasn’t kidding when I said the apostles had been traumatized. Far too many Catholics know how it feels when someone you thought you could depend on turns out to be a traitor, and does something so unspeakable that it makes you feel like absolutely anything could happen, and nothing is secure, and everything you thought was solid ground can shake and tremble and even crumble into dust. And they know what it feels like to realize that, in the aftermath of that earthquake, you have a decision ahead of you: You can either live in the rubble, or you can start to rebuild.

Neither one is appealing when you’ve been wounded. Both are overwhelming. Just when you’re starting to realize how weak and confused and helpless you really are, that’s when you’re confronted with an enormous task.

And this is why I’m especially impressed with how calmly the apostles moved forward as they chose a replacement for Judas….Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

Image: Duccio di Buoninsegna, Appearance On the Mountain In Galilee Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

What’s for supper? Vol. 379: Lilac jelly! It’s a thing!

Happy Friday! I hope May is as great where you are as it is here, because my May is going GREAT. It’s so pretty and it smells so good, and the air is soft and warm, and everything is growing like crazy. So many delicious smells to smell!

So many delicious bugs to eat!

Here’s what we non-ducks ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Potluck

Saturday I did part of the shopping, and then we went to a faith formation dinner. I signed up to bring fruit, and planned to make a fruit salad, but while at the store I felt a profound need not to make a fruit salad. Chopping! Who needs chopping? So I made a platter of grapes, bananas, and clementines, and it was fine. Even washed the grapes. And I even remembered to bring my platter home. 

That reminds me of the time my parents went to a potluck event, and brought a fruit salad. One of my siblings was going to a fancy, toney private school in the Old Money part of Massachusetts, and our family always felt massively out of place, real bumpkins. So when it was graduation and they were supposed to bring a dish to share, they decided that regular fruit salad was too pedestrian, and an exquisitely fragrant custard studded with summer delights would hit just the right note and impress everyone.

So they made it, and followed the recipe exactly. But as you know, custards can be finicky, and my parents weren’t exactly practiced chefs anyway. So what they ended up with was a bowl full of something that tasted fine, but looked exactly like someone had eaten a lot of fruit out of a bowl, and then been sick right back into that bowl. 

BUT FOR SOME REASON, they decided to bring it anyway. I feel like the two-hour trip in the early summer sun can’t possibly have helped the custard situation much, and neither could the extra couple of hours in the car while the graduation went on. You have to understand, my family wasn’t the kind of family that owned, like, ice packs or anything. Somehow. So when it was time to eat, they went ahead and set this bowl of pale yellow fruit puke on the table with an optimistic ladle, in among the canapés and finger sandwiches, and slunk away to mingle.

Nobody ate that fruit puke. Not even one scoop. It just sat there in vomitous shame, getting more and more thoroughly cooked in the sun. And when the ceremony and the luncheon were over and people were reclaiming their serving dishes, my parents couldn’t bring themselves to admit that she shame custard was theirs. So they just left. 

That’s it. That’s the whole story. I don’t know why this seems so funny to me. I just imagine the long tables are still set up in the charming English-style garden to this day, all the students long gone and grown, all the parents and teachers dead and half forgotten, the ragged tablecloths flapping in the wind in the tall grass, and at one end, alone in the moonlight, one Havisham fruit salad. It waits and waits, fruitlessly. Which is funny, because it’s a fruit salad. 

Anyway, people at the church ate my damn bananas.

Saturday evening, Corrie desperately wanted to get into the pool, even though it was like 51 degrees out. So she did (and turned bright red), and Benny and I kept an eye on her while plucking lilac petals.

WHY, you may ask? Because I found out (a) lilacs petals are edible and (b) you can make them into jelly! I started it Saturday evening and finished it Sunday. I’ll go ahead and go through the rest of the week first, and then we shall return to jelly. 

SUNDAY
Chicken caprese sandwiches, cheezy weezies

Sunday I had to finish the shopping. Normally, shopping takes me three hours, but when I break it up into two days, it takes 46 hours. I don’t know why this is so, but anyway we had sandwiches. 

It was still a tiny bit nippy outside, but I was committed to eating on the patio anyway. Love it. 

MONDAY
Pulled pork on fries with cheese and onions

Monday, it suddenly warmed up, but menu is menu, so I started some pulled pork, and then was so delighted to finally get to meet my friend and fake sister-in-law, Elizabeth! (She is my sister’s husband’s sister.) We had a wonderful morning and we are very simpatico. Got home, ran around doing errands, and finished up dinner. 

The pulled pork was this recipe, with apple cider vinegar, cumin, jalapeños, and cloves

Jump to Recipe

and it turned out okay, but kind of tough, I forget why, but it was my fault. (If you follow the recipe, it won’t turn out tough.) But I made a bunch of french fries, put out a bottle of BBQ sauce, sliced up some red onions, and heated up some of that disgusting cheese sauce that comes in a jar, and man, it was a tasty bowl of yum.

Good stuff. 

TUESDAY
Santa Fe Chicken Salad

Tuesday I had a bunch of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, and asked myself, “What would I do if I were on TikTok?” So I sprayed them with olive oil spray and sprinkled them heavily with Taijin chili lime seasoning, and roasted them in the oven. Then I cut them up and sprinkled the pieces with even more Taijin chili lime seasoning. 

Got out a tub of mixed greens and set it out with the chicken, along with those crunchy fried onions that come in a tub, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, shredded pepper jack cheese, and chipotle ranch dressing, or something along those lines. 

I also had some kind of weird Aldi corn chips that were “street corn” flavor or something. They really tasted like corn! And this marks the day when I suddenly realized that regular corn chips don’t actually taste like corn. 

Anyway, great meal, very Sante Fe (or whatever). 

WEDNESDAY
Beef teriyaki stir fry, rice, berry lassi

Wednesday, people had been agitating for a stir fry, so I got a hunk of beef for a treat, and sliced it as thinly as I could (it was half-frozen, which helped) and let it marinate in soy sauce and a little sugar and mirin. I also defrosted a couple of bags of frozen mixed vegetables (I guess broccoli, carrots, maybe some pea pods, and water chestnuts).

I looked at a bunch of teriyaki sauce recipes, and for some reason they all looked annoying, so I just made something up. 

I heated up some oil and sautéed about five cloves of garlic, minced. We were out of fresh ginger and also brown sugar, so I mixed it about a cup of white sugar and whisked that over the heat until it bubbled and turned dark. I threw in about 1/4 cup of mirin and whisked that for another minute. Then I made a little roux with a little soy sauce and quite a bit of corn starch, and whisked that in until it was smooth, along with a bunch of powdered ginger. Then I dumped in a ton of soy sauce and brought it to a light boil. It got nice and thick, which is what I was going for.

I started some rice cooking in the Instant Pot. When it was almost time to eat, I sautéed the meat until it was slightly underdone, added in the vegetables to heat it all up, and then stirred in the sauce. 

Perfect. 

When I was poking around in the fridge that morning, I found some fruit I had bought on the weekend and didn’t use, and it was about to go off. I had cherries, strawberries, and blueberries. So I sliced them all up and put them in the freezer in the morning. 

While supper was finishing up, I dumped them in the blender

and then added in a bunch of plain Greek yogurt, some lime juice, and I think sugar, and a few ice cubes. 

Is this a lassi, or just a smoothie? I’m not sure. But it was a very hot, humid day and the drink was not as thick as I was hoping, but still sweet, berryful, and very refreshing

if a slightly weird accompaniment for beef teriyaki stir fry.

Anyway, we liked it.

THURSDAY
Mussakhan and taboon

Thursday was still super hot and humid, but I only had one meal left on the menu, so I forged ahead and made this mussakhan (Palestinian roast chicken with sumac and onions) from Saveur. I started the chicken marinating in the morning, but discovered I was very low on sumac, which is sad. 

A couple of hours before dinner, I started some taboon dough. Last time, it turned out incredibly fluffy and lovely, but for some reason I had a bad feeling about this dough. But menu is menu, so I forged ahead. Gotta forge ahead. 

When it was about an hour before dinner, I started the chicken roasting in one big pan, and then about twenty minutes before dinner, I got the dough in the other big pan and put that in the oven.

I crowded the chicken a bit, so it wasn’t crispy golden, but still quite delicious. And the taboon was, as I feared, a tiny bit dense and tough. But lookit: Two pans of wonderful savory meat and fresh bread for all, coming out of the oven at the same time

Can’t beat that. I toasted up some pine nuts in oil and chopped up some parsley, and then I put the chicken on the bread and the pine nuts and parsley on the chicken, and the family started grabbing for it before I could even get a picture

So that’s a good sign! Especially since I had to drag everyone out of the pool to come eat. 

If you are thinking of getting a pool, which I heartily recommend, the thing you should know is that the kids will always mad at you for making them come out of the pool, but yet never happy with you for getting them a pool.

But like I said, the chicken and taboon helped a lot. 

Gotta get my hands on some more sumac, though. 

That reminds me, the sumac tree I cut down about five years ago (because it was overshadowing my rock garden) has come roaring back, and now I need to look up if some sumac is poisonous or what, and how to tell, and how hard it is to get sumac from a sumac tree, if it’s not poisonous. 

But gosh, those pine nuts are nice. Did you know they are actually from pine trees? For some reason I assumed they weren’t, but they are. I have no intention of harvesting my own pine nuts, though. I will continue to pay 30 cents a nut, or whatever it is, and then be late with the electric bill. Worth it. 

FRIDAY

I just realized I said I would get ravioli, but I forgot. I forgot a lot of stuff. On Thursday, we were talking over the logistics of Friday. It was one of those cat-fox-basket of corn situations, except the cat needs new tires and her husband has to be in Newport to talk to the county attorney or something, and the upshot was that I decided: School? School?? A sweet, warm Friday in May is no time to send kids to school. So we stayed home. Fight me. In lieu of bedtime Thursday night, I made a fire and the kids roasted marshmallows. No ragrets.

I do have to get some ravioli, though. 

So, now, here is how I made the lilac jelly!

I was following the recipe from Lord Byron’s Kitchen, but I fiddled with it a little bit, for no reason whatsoever. And in fact Lord Byron, if that is indeed his name, says you will need to add blueberries or blackberries to it if you want it to turn pink, but that turned out not to be the case — either because of the aforementioned fiddling, or maybe I just have pinker lilacs, I dunno. 

I picked enough bunches of blossoms to fill up my biggest stock pot, and then we plucked off the petals, trying to get as little of the green in there as possible. 

It took QUITE SOME TIME. But Benny is very pleasant to chat with.

We finally got them all done and we ended up with more than the eight cups the recipe called for. I rinsed them in a colander and then the next step is to steep them. I used the proportions of the rest of ingredients called for, even though I had extra petals. So I ended up with 11 cups of petals and eight cups of water, and I boiled that.

And I was like, ooh, he’s right, this is not gonna be pink or purple or anything nice, oh well.

It said to let it steep for four hours, but I put it in the fridge and went to bed. So it steeped for probably twenty hours. Next day I poured the liquid into a pot, straining it through a double layer of cheesecloth to keep the petals out. 

and it did not look terribly promising. I was pretty resigned to having tannish-yellowish-greenish jelly. 

Then I added eight cups of sugar and 1/4 cup of lemon juice. I think it was at this point that the color started to perk up. 

Then I brought it to a boil again. This is the point where you’re supposed to add the pectin. It calls for 114 grams of pectin. What I had in my cabinet (no, it would not have been possible to check this ahead of time, because I had to go outside and look at flowers) was some pouches of liquid pectin, which is measured in fluid ounces, not grams. They were six fluid ounces each. So I thought about it for a while, and asked my smart speaker, which was not exceedingly helpful. What to do?

Well, if my math is correct, and you want to convert fluid ounces to grams, and six times two is twelve, then that means two pouches is twelve fluid ounces, which is the equivalent of . . . some grams. So that’s what I did. Dumped those grams right in, both pouches of grams.

Then I started to bring it to a boil again.

I don’t even like jelly that much, but I sure do like watching pots of color swirl around. 

As it heated up, a sort of taffy-like foam started to collect on the top, and this is the first time I tasted it to see what was going on in there. 

You’re not gonna believe this, but it tasted like lilacs. I don’t know how else to describe it. Definitely sweet, and of course I could taste a tiny bit of lemon, but mostly it was just . . . floral. Not like rosewater, which I don’t really like, but like lilac. I guess maybe a bit like blueberry or possibly plum, but it was really a new taste for me. Amazing! 

So I boiled it and whisked it for another minute or so, and then let it cool down a bit before pouring it into jars. 

LOOK at this color. 

The recipe has you doing the whole canning water bath thing, but I’m not cut out for that, and I just planned to make refrigerator jelly. 

Lovely, lovely. 

It was the consistency of thick syrup when I poured it into the jars, but either this or another recipe said it could take up to a week to thicken up properly, so I wasn’t worried. 

I gave away a few jars and we have plenty left in the fridge. So far I’ve eaten it on leftover taboon and on Saltines, and I’m absolutely sold. Clara is talking about making shortbread thumbprint cookies (which have a little scoop of jelly on each one). It has thickened up, and is almost the consistency of jelly you’d find at the store, but just slightly looser. 

Oh, and here is the leftover lilac petals, after the liquid was drained off. Poor things! All used up. 

So that’s-a my lilac jelly story. We had SO many lilacs this year, and they seem to be sticking around for an unusually long time; or maybe it’s just that I have more leisure time this year than I usually have, and I’m taking more time to enjoy the lilacs. Or maybe I don’t have more time, and I’m just recklessly choosing to use what I have with messing around with flowers! Either way, I’m very grateful. And I have jelly! And it is pink!

Clovey pulled pork

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  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.

Staying in your lane is the easy way out

For the last several days, my social media feeds have been wall-to-wall responses to Harrison Butker—maybe about 60/40 jeers and adulation, respectively. I saw such a varied response because I make a deliberate effort to stay in touch with people with all kinds of opinions. I know how easy it is to slip into a bubble, and I don’t want to do that.

If you have somehow blessedly evaded this news story, Harrison Butker is a Catholic football star who gave the commencement speech at little Benedictine College, and even though it was kind of dumb and fairly boring, we can’t seem to stop talking about it.

To address the most odious parts of Harrison Butker’s notorious commencement speech—the blithe dismissal of women toward a life of keeping house and the antisemitic dog whistles—I would direct you to Emily Stimpson Chapman, who has written a clear-eyed and charitable response, as well as a series of essays explaining how men like Butker ended up where they are.

But I’ve been mulling over his recurring theme of “staying in your lane,” and I think he’s actually put his finger on something more apt than he realises.

I fully believe that this is a sincere man who thinks he has arrived at indisputable, bedrock principles of how to live a good, Catholic life, and he wants to share them with the audience because he thinks they need to hear encouragement to do what he does. That’s good, as far as it goes, and he’s definitely right about quite a few things.

One thing was apparently invisible to him, and to much of his approving audience, though: The incredibly thick walls of the bubble he lives in. His speech wasn’t primarily a Catholic speech. It was a bubble speech.

One example…Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

Image by Theonewhoknowsnothingatall, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons