What’s for supper? Vol. 102: Barely soup

IT IS OCTOBER AND NOW WE CAN HAVE SOUP! I’m trying to pace myself, though. Just one per week. BUT OH BOY!

Jalapeno chicken quesadillas, tortilla chips and salsa

I had tons of leftover chicken from last week, so I roughed it up a bit and added it to the cheddar quesadillas, along with some sliced jalapenos from a jar and some chopped scallions. Excellent, if a little difficult to flip intact. Jarred jalapenos are finding their way into more and more of our meals.

Also on Saturday, we harvested the last thing from our garden

and thanked the Lord of the harvest that we don’t have to survive on things we grow in our garden.


Beef vegetable soup, pumpkin bread, caramel apples

This was supposed to be beef barley soup, but I lost my list

at the beginning of a 3.5-hour shopping trip involving five stores.


Guess what? I remembered every last damn thing on the list, except barley. So I threw some macaroni in the pot, instead, and it was fine.

This may be my favorite soup. First I sauteed up two diced carrots and a diced onion in olive oil, salt and pepper, then I added a few pounds of cubed flank steak and lightly browned it. A couple of cans of diced tomatoes with the juice, about a pound of sliced mushrooms, about eight cups of beef broth, a little water, and a bottle of hard cider (I usually use red wine, but I think the cider is even better), and let it simmer all day. I added the pasta twenty minutes before it was time to eat.

As I made the pumpkin bread, I thought happily to myself what a foolproof, reliable recipe it is, and how it never, ever comes out bad. So you know what happened next. It was flabby and dense, with a harsh, unpleasant taste.

I have no idea what I did. I think maybe the baking soda was too old, and . . . the pumpkin was cursed? I don’t know. I’ll make it again, because I’ve made it fifteen times before with great results. But I’m buying new baking soda first. Oh well.

The soup was so good, I ate it for lunch the rest of the week. Every time I reheated it, the macaroni got a little bigger. It was like an edible coming of age story.

After years of struggling with candy thermometers, I have discovered that those caramel wraps you can buy are so worth the money. The kids can make them almost unassisted, and there is no mess.

We put ours in the oven to soften up and then tried to press rainbow sprinkles in. That was probably the most labor intensive part, and they didn’t stick well. Next time, we’ll just leave them be.


Pulled pork, roast butternut squash, tater tots

Another excellent meal for fall weather (and also a good one to prep ahead, if you are going on a Girl Scout hike and coming home hungry from all that confidence-building).

I have a picture of this meal, but where? Well, pulled pork doesn’t look like much of anything anyway. The squash is so pretty, though.

I put a pork shoulder into the slow cooker with salt and pepper, a quartered onion, several cloves of garlic sliced, and a can of beer. Nice and easy.

I was feeling all cozy and nostalgic about the return of squash season, until I tried peeling the squash. Ten minutes later, I was out of breath, my arms were trembling, I had removed about three square inches of squash skin, and Corrie was looking at me anxiously, trying to figure out why I was so mad.

Happily, I found this cheat. You poke the skin with a fork, cut off the top and bottom, and microwave it for three minutes.  So easy! Then, it says, you “Delight at how easily the skin comes off.” That was the only part that didn’t work. I ended up cutting the squash into pieces and microwaving it several times. It became slightly easier to peel, but there was definitely no delight involved.

I eventually cubed the squash, mixed it with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and laid it on a shallow pan and roasted it at 400 for maybe 35-40 minutes. To me, the sweet, buttery taste of squash goes perfectly with pulled pork. To everyone else, there certainly was a lot of squash for Mama to eat.



Frozen chicken, chips

We tried one of those bags of violently red, ludicrously spicy chicken things, plus a bag of some kind of batter fried honey chicken things. We ate them.


French toast, sausage, grapes

That was for the kids. Damien and I went out to Applebee’s because did you know they have $1 margaritas all through October? Normally we avoid Applebee’s, because the food is shiny and limp, the service is indifferent, the music is worthless and way too loud, and the decor makes you feel like you’re inside a pinball machine. However: $1 margaritas. I had some kind of Asian shrimp and rice ladyfood vegetable nonsense, and Damien had a bacon burger, and we both had . . . kind of a lot of margaritas. Oh, we’ll be back.

(Reminder from a friend: If you send your waitress back and forth many times to fetch you lots of cheap margaritas, calculate your tip based on all that trotting, rather than on the artificially low bill.)


Sausage spinach skillet

Almost good. It certainly is easy and cheap (recipe from Budget Bytes). It’s supposed to be a stand-alone dish, but I made fettucine to serve it over, because I can see into the future and I knew we’d need a back-up dish. My husband thought it would be better in some kind of garlicky sauce, possibly a light cream sauce. Maybe I’ll come back to it. Or maybe I’ll just sit on a mountain and watch my tail grow.



Birthday party! The theme is Clash of the Titans, so we’ll see how that goes. The one thing I know is if you invite a bunch of rail-thin teenage girls over for a party, there needs to be a lot of pizza. A lot.

Book illustration photos from Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel and The Funny Thing by Wanda Ga’g

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13 thoughts on “What’s for supper? Vol. 102: Barely soup”

  1. I tried your pumpkin bread recipe, and I can’t tell you how often I’ve woken up this week, thinking “Well, I don’t want to get up, but if I do, I CAN EAT PUMPKIN BREAD.”
    We are down to only two kids at home, and it’s kind of a miracle to me how long food can last. Who knew?
    Has anyone tried making the pumpkin bread with less sugar? It is kind of a lot. That may be why it’s so good, I guess.

  2. Re squash: I have the same love/hate relationship with it…love butternut squash, despise peeling it. So, I cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, trim off the stem, then put it in a Pyrex baking dish, cut side down, with just a little water and butter at 350 til soft. Take it out of the oven, and you can just scoop out the lovely soft insides, no peeling required! Mash (adding more butter and salt and pepper, should you wish) and inhale!

  3. We have a lot of squash that my husband grows; most in our house won’t eat it either, even a really good squash/apple bake that my grandma used to make a lot.
    Sat: thin-sliced roast beef sandwiches with provolone and au jus. Husband and dutch oven did all the work and I just got to eat the wonderful result.
    Sun: smoked pork sandwiches. Only had to get the pork out of the freezer; I love it when I realize I have good, already-made meals in the freezer that I should use.
    Mon: breakfast for supper in the form of sausage, scrambled eggs, and waffles.
    Tues: leftovers of all of the above
    Wed: roast chicken with potatoes and carrots. Dutch oven ftw again. Though almost everyone wept miserably over the potatoes. Husband and I thought they were good and so did one of the twins. No one else liked them. ???
    Thurs: over at my parents’ house to visit with relatives in town. BBQ brisket and many other good things. We chipped in pumpkin pie and whipped cream.
    Fri: trout. Another good meal both killed and cooked by husband.

  4. That picture is an accurate representation of how squash goes down at my house too. It’s just about the cheapest thing at the grocery store right now, but not even my husband will eat it. I don’t care. I toss it with salt and pepper and olive oil and about 3x the amount of garlic called for in the recipe, roast it, put it in an attractive bowl in the center of the table as if anyone else is going to touch it, and eat it all myself. Their loss.

  5. Oh this was a strange week.

    Monday: meat loaf, mashed potatoes, veggies. Every time I make meatloaf, I stand there in awe of this 3-pound lump of meat, thinking “My, that is a BIG meatloaf,” and happily think about the future leftovers. Then it cooks. And cooks. And I curse the recipe that says in a seductive voice, “Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.” Guess what’s not even CLOSE to 165 degrees internally after 45 minutes at 350? That giant meatloaf. So I baked it for probably an hour and a half, while my hungry family circled the kitchen like sharks, and my husband said, “Just let it bake” because he is not fond of e coli, and FINALLY it was done, and guess what was probably shrunk down to 2/3 of its former self and only gave us one serving of leftovers? That dang meatloaf. Everyone liked it, though.

    Tuesday: I had planned leftovers (and that one piece of leftover meatloaf was snickering at me as I put it in the fridge), or as also call it, “Get What You Want Night,” because the oldest is gone on Tuesday nights, so we short-order cooked it. Scrambled eggs? Sure! Grilled cheese? You betcha!

    Wednesday: Two of the kids had begged me to make something, anything, from the Hobbit Cookbook (An Unexpected Cookbook), and I was flying solo, so I talked them into Roasted Apples, which sounded delightful until I was halfway through the recipe and realized that a) there was no sugar called for in the filling for the apples, and b) the recipe was calling for a buttload of cinnamon and nutmeg, mixed with…minced raisins and butter? Well, maybe the raisins will sweeten it. And as I pointed out, Tolkien would have been familiar with sugar rationing, and not many working class Victorian households had sugar on hand, so….

    Well, they tasted…kind of vile. The apple part was lovely, it was a roasted Pink Lady apple, how bad can it be? But the spice filling…urk. We saved it by putting some vanilla ice cream on it, the six year old ate his ice cream and said it was yummy, and I got full marks for trying. We also had hot dogs, coleslaw and potato chips. The coleslaw was a hit, at least.

    Thursday: Frozen fried shrimp, and fried rice made in the crockpot. The kids went bonkers, they love my fried rice and the shrimp is something I don’t buy all the time because it’s so freaking expensive. But I felt they deserved a treat. We also put together a haunted gingerbread house and then I let them eat it.

    Friday: gonna be pasta and breadsticks and broccoli, if I ever get my game on.

    1. Oh, I forgot. I tried shishito peppers for the first time on Thursday–I found them at Trader Joe’s and had read a recipe that sung the praises of these peppers, when blistered over high heat with a smidge of coconut oil and seasoned with the merest hint of rice vinegar, soy sauce and sesame oil. Well, says I, I like peppers and I’m an adventurous eater. I made them, nearly set the fire alarm off with all the smokin’, and after all that they just tasted like…peppers. Green peppers, with a weird texture. I should have listened to the checker at Trader Joe’s who said, “Yeah, we opened those up and tried them, but they kinda tasted like nothing.”

  6. Jarred jalapenos are my favorite! I actually wish I had a Costco membership *just* because they sell a giant jar of them at a very affordable price (Sam’s Club, where I do have a membership, only sells giant cans which is not my preference for a variety of reasons). So I just wait until my mom is in town and get in on hers to get my jalapenos! Our week’s meals:
    Saturday: some very generous ladies from my church mom’s group hosted a babysitting playdate so that parents could have a night out with free and trustworthy babysitting. It was our first date night since I was 9 months pregnant with our now 1 year old and it was wonderful! We went to Oktoberfest at a brewery, listened to live music, and had the most delicious waffle fries loaded with fried chicken, honey butter, and spicy mayo from a food truck.
    Sunday: Burgers with sliced fresh jalapeno, bacon aioli, and a fried egg on top and a side of diced crispy potatoes. One of the magical things about being an adult is having a craving for a food, and then having the freedom to add it to the meal plan and make it happen!
    Monday: crockpot pork chops smothered in onion and bacon gravy with mashed potatoes and a salad. Felt very pleased with a fairly balanced meal for once.
    Tuesday: National Night Out neighborhood celebration with free Chick-fil-a and chips
    Wednesday: Had a meal all planned out and then my husband told me there was a work-sponsored outing including dinner he was going to so I just had frozen pizza with the kids.
    Thursday: Delicious spaghetti bolognese and disappointing garlic bread, followed by cake for baby’s first birthday!
    Friday: I get to go out to dinner with some friends (also for the first time in over a year); I’m pretty sure my husband is also just going to do a frozen pizza with the kids.
    So, all in all not much cooking this week but I think everyone was happy with the way it all ended up.

  7. >Every time I reheated it, the macaroni got a little bigger. It was like an edible coming of age story.

    This is how a brilliant writer writes when she’s not even trying. Bravo as usual, Simcha.

    1. It’s not the first time you mention your squash peeling battles, so: when it comes to squash, I don’t bother with a peeler, I cut it in thick rounds, then, using the same knife, I cut the skin off. No precooking, no fighting. OR I roast or microwave skin on.

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