OKAY HERE IS WHAT HAPPENED.
Hamburgers, chips, salad
On Saturday, our vacation week house guests arrived! One nephew and two nieces, aged 6, 4, and 2, respectively. I knew I would need anywhere from five to seven pounds of hamburger meat, so I got eight. There were no survivors.
Orange garlic chicken; mashed potatoes; salad; biscuits; strawberry shortcake
On Sunday, we went ahead and had my parents over for dinner, too. I had a couple of big chickens I was planning to roast, but at the last minute I stumbled across this recipe, where you slice oranges and poke them up under the chicken skin; then you stuff the cavity with garlic cloves and more oranges.
The effect was, as Benny would say, “TWEEPY.” The voodoo look was enhanced by the splintery skewers I used to truss up the chicken in lieu of twine. I had to go spend some time thinking happy thoughts about puppies and lollipops after that.
The recipe said to put them breast up in a 340-degree oven, which I complained about bitterly. 340 isn’t a real number! And what about the other side??! But I did it anyway, and the chickens turned out very moist indeed, and festive-looking:
The flavor didn’t knock my socks off, but it was good. If I do this recipe again, I’ll definitely flip them chickens over at some point and let the other side brown up. The flabby, pale underskin bursting with hot orange mush was an unwelcome addition to my mental book of Terrible Chickens I Have Known.
When it was time to whip the cream for the strawberry short cake (I just used store-bought pound cake for the cake, because my time on a Sunday afternoon is worth six dollars), we discovered that my beloved Kitchen Aid standing mixer wouldn’t mix. Nothing we tried made it work. I don’t have another electric mixer. I have one of those hand-cranked rotary beaters, but the model I own was designed for an earlier age when people’s hands were smaller and/or they didn’t mind grating their knuckles into a pulp in the service of whipped cream. Also, the handle is broken off, and the stump is really sharp.
So I resigned myself to forty minutes of whisk action, and started singing a sad song in my head about how Kitchen Aids come and Kitchen Aids go, and all flesh is like grass anyway, and to everything there is a season, turn, turn, turn, only sometimes *sob* the Kitchen Aid . . . won’t . . . turn . . .
Then I heard a loud whirring sound from the kitchen. My husband had hit the mixer really hard, and it started working again. Lesson learned!*
*The lesson being: Here, have some whipped cream.
Oh, and it was early enough in the week that I thought it would be great to have the kids help with the biscuits. I used this basic recipe, except with some butter and some shortening. Butter gives a better flavor, but shortening makes it lighter.
They used the leftover dough to play a three-hour game of Castlemania. It involves a lot of screaming and, apparently, dough. Within the first hour, Benny (5) had gotten Mickey (6) to marry her, and she was waddling proudly around the house with their first babydoll stuffed under her shirt. By noon, I heard her shrieking, “Mitty! Oh, Mitty! Oh, oh, I’m having the baby!” I asked if everything was okay, and she explained that it was just pretend, so that was okay.
By the next day, they had eleven children, and the twelfth was due at midnight. This was exciting enough, but to make tensions even higher, their pretend Castlemania washing machine was broken!!!!!! Would the repairman get there in time??????
French toast casserole; sausages
To break up all the rampant childbearing, we went sledding on Monday, so this was a nice cozy supper afterwards. I followed this basic recipe, but just mixed it up and baked it right away, rather than waiting overnight. Very nice with raspberry jam.
When we went sledding, I decided to be Fun Mom and went down the hill myself. First I went on the toboggan with the seven-year-old, and we both fell off, and that hurt, it hurt, but I got up again. Then I took a break for a while, and then I tried one of those snazzy foam sleds. This time, I fell off much sooner, rolled over once, kept skidding, and did a complete somersault on my head, yat! It was so awful. My belly was flapping in the wind and everything, and there was this fringe of moms watching me with this very familiar mixture of concern, horror, and relief that they were they and not I.
Beef stew; butter and bread
I was running hideously late on Tuesday, which would have made it the perfect time to make Instant Pot beef stew for that instant beef stew experience. But it would be something new, and as my therapist keeps telling me over and over again, new is bad. NEW IS BAD. When I’m already frazzled, I’d rather work ten times as hard and eat at midnight than look up a new recipe.
So I made my regular recipe, and just skipped the “let it stew” part. Perfectly adequate, if a tiny bit gluey.
(My regular recipe: Fry up some crushed garlic in oil. Cube the beef, shake it up with flour, salt, and pepper, and brown it up in the oil. Add wine and beef broth, and then add cubed potatoes, carrots, and string beans. Let it simmer until the carrots and potatoes are soft. I sometimes add sliced mushrooms, diced onions, and/or diced tomatoes.)
Chicken nuggets, corn chips, mashed butternut squash
Wanting to reassure the Instant Pot that I still cared, I used it to steam the butternut squash. It turned out so well last time. This time, I must have crowded the squash or something, because only 3/4 of it got cooked. On the other hand, last time I made two squashes and mashed them, and the kids only ate about a third of it. This way, I was able to save time by throwing it away before it even hit the table. That Instant Pot really is a time saver.
Pork spiedies with peppers and onions; salad; chips; pineapple
By far the best meal of the week. I cut up a big pork loin into chunks and started marinating it the morning before, so it got at least 36 hours to soak. I used this NYT recipe for spiedie marinade.
It was warm on Thursday, but not so warm that the BBQ could be extracted from the ice in the back yard, so I put the meat cubes along with wedges of green pepper and red onion in some shallow pans, rather than threading them onto skewers
and slid them under the broiler. The meat turned out a tiny bit dry, but still wonderfully flavorful. We ate it on grinder rolls.
Can you imagine a world without sandwiches? I can’t.
Oh, I forgot. Last week, I said I was thinking of trying to make pita bread to go with the shakshuka. Well, I did it, and it turned out swell! So pillowy soft and nice. I made about twelve 8-inch pockets with a double recipe (see below). They puffed up like magical bread balloons in the oven, and the gently collapsed when they came out.
I baked three at a time. They only bake for three or four minutes, which is enough time to roll out another three pitas. This is not a recipe for when you’re in a rush, but it wasn’t hard, and the recipe really spells out how to handle each step. Labor intensive, but miles better than any store-bought pita I’ve had.
Today it’s raining hard, so I’m working up my nerve to go to the children’s museum with kids ages 11, 9, 7, 6, 5, 4, 2, and almost 2, and the two youngest are guaranteed to spend most of their time trying to murder each other. That seems like a good idea, right? Something I should pay money to make happen? Maybe we can pick up some new germs to go with our old germs while we’re there.