I think Corrie speaks for all of us when she says:
Here’s what we ate this week (with some links to Christmas baking and candy recipes at the end):
Birthday! Stuffed shells, garlic bread, veg and dip, birthday cake
Sweet Benny wanted a rose-themed birthday. Easy enough. We made some giant paper flowers and hung them from the ceiling. Here it is, halfway decorated:
and the night before, Benny and I made some fruit roll roses.
She’s a wonderful kid to work with, and she never gets offended if you say, “Sweetheart, Mama’s ears are tired. Can you stop talking for a few minutes?” She just laughs and says, “Yeah, I like to talk.” Then she keeps talking.
I couldn’t find the Fruit by the Foot strips I was looking for, so we got regular fruit roll-ups, unrolled them, cut them into four strips, and pinched the ends together to make one long strip. Then we started rolling it up in a tight roll to make the center of the rose; then we rolled up the rest loosely, twisting and occasionally folding and smooshing the strip. I don’t know if I can describe it better than that. Some of the turned out more rose-like than others!
Then we stuck toothpicks in the bottoms and stuck them in the cake. I used a Wilton leaf tip to make the leaves, and added some dots for garlands on the sides. My first leaves, not too shabby!
She was delighted with her cake. When Damien put it in front of her, she just sat there, smiling and smiling.
She requested stuffed shells. I didn’t have my recipe in front of me, so I checked out the box. Let’s see . . . cottage cheese . . . zucchini . . . yeah, okay, this box is fired. I went and found my recipe. Recipe card at the end.
For a party activity, we made flower crowns. These were first graders, and they definitely needed some help from the moms, but I bet they could do it on their own the second time around. We made circlets out of wired pine garlands, then made standard tissue paper flowers with a little bell at the center, threaded through the pipe cleaner. (Yes, I still call them pipe cleaners instead of chenille stems. Take that!) We attached the flowers on with the pipe cleaners, then tied wisps of tulle to both sides of the flower just to add some poofiness, then tied ribbons to hang down the back. I didn’t get any good pics, but can probably do a tutorial if anyone is interested. Not a bad party activity, and the girls looked adorable, and ready for the Kentucky Derby.
Roast beef sandwiches, chips
Damien roasted a couple of chuck roasts. He covered them in salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and seared them in very hot oil, about three minutes per side, then roasted them in a 325 oven for about 90 minutes. Then he let them rest for a bit, then sliced it up. We put it on rolls with horseradish sauce and provolone, and put them in the oven for a few minutes to toast up. I also had tomatoes in mine.
I had a jar of sliced pepperoncini, but they were a weird color, so I threw them out. Aren’t you glad I’m so tired I thought that was worth writing down?
Ham, mashed potatoes, peas, roast brussels sprouts
Me, sadly flipping through supermarket flyers: So . . . do you guys . . . maybe . . . want ham?
Benny: HAM. HAM. HAMANDMASHEDPOTATOESANDPEAS.
Me: Okay! But how about Brussels sprouts instead of peas, just to mix things up a little? Brussels sprouts are on sale right n-
So that’s what we had. I also roasted some Brussels sprouts, because they were on sale and I like them.
Benny was irate.
Sweet and sour chicken stir fry, rice
Clara had been asking for this meal, which I make very authentically by cutting chicken into pieces and cooking them, then adding steamed vegetables from a bag and sauce from a jar, and schlorping the whole thing over rice.
It was extra schlorpy, because I didn’t drain the vegetables sufficiently. I even found a few cans of water chestnuts in the cabinet. I took them out of the cans and everything.
Oh, I cooked the rice in the Instant Pot using the 1:1 method. Works every time. I like the IP for rice because it comes out nice and sticky, and you can make it ahead of time and just let it stay warm until you’re ready.
Ragù on fettuccine, garlic bread
Damien started making his amazing ragù the night before, and this was the ragù that surpassed all previous ragùs. He uses this Deadspin recipe, and this time, he used a pound of pork, a pound of veal, and . . . hold onto your butts . . . a pound of pancetta, which he ground by hand.
He ran a bunch of onions, celery, and carrots through the food processor, and threw in a bunch of anchovies, wine, and olive oil, and a little tomato paste, and let it cook a good long time. I gained eleven pounds just smelling it.
It was fantastic.
I know it doesn’t look like much in this pic, but it’s one of those foods where the flavor just blooms inside your mouth. Can’t figure out if that’s a creepy thing to say or not, but it sure was exciting. Also, every time the kids asked what was for supper, I would sing out, “ra-GUUUUUUUUUU!” to the tune of Veggie Tales “Cebu,” and it really annoyed them. Ha ha!
Sometimes this gets pretty elaborate, but this time it was just cheapy ramen, some boneless pork ribs sautéed in olive oil with soy sauce and sliced, some sautéed mushrooms, chopped scallions, and soft boiled eggs. Oh, and crunchy noodles. Spicy sesame seeds and hot sauce.
I was starving, and this tasted like heaven. Salty, salty heaven.
Tuna noodle for kids, possibly bouillabaisse for me.
I got some kind of frozen mixed seafood whatnot for like $4 a few weeks ago, and it’s calling to me.
Okay, that’s a wrap! Now, how about Christmas baking? Got anything good? I haven’t even thought about it yet, but I’ll probably make chocolate caramel nuts, which make good token presents. Here’s my post with a photo guide to the recipe from Smitten Kitchen. You really need a photo guide, because it goes through something like eleven alarming stages before things turn out fine at the end. This post includes links to other helpful basic December recipes, including fudge, nut brittle, buckeyes, and rum balls.
Hanukkah is over, but that’s no reason not to make rugelach, so here is my recipe and photo guide for that.
Finally, if you feel like you have to decorate cookies, here is a recipe for sugar cookie dough that you do not have to refrigerate. You can also use this dough recipe for beautiful stained glass cookies, which always impress. This post has some photos of the process.
Just a basic recipe. You can add meat to the sauce or spinach to the cheese, or anything that strikes your fancy. Serves about 10.
- 2 12-oz boxes jumbo shells
- 2 32-oz tubs ricotta cheese
- 8 oz grated parmesan cheese
- 4 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 1 Tbsp garlic powder
- 2 Tbsp dried basil
- 1 Tbsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 4-5 cups pasta sauce
Cook the shells in salted water, drain, and rinse in cool water. Mix them up with olive oil so they don't stick together.
Preheat the oven to 350. Mix into the ricotta cheese all the seasoning, the parmesan, and 3 of the cups of mozzarella.
Spread a little sauce in the bottom of an oven-proof pan or dish. Stuff each shell with about 1/2-1/3 cup of cheese filling and lay the stuffed shells close together.
Top with the rest of the pasta sauce, and sprinkled the remaining mozzarella on top of that. Cover loosely with foil and cook for 45 minutes or longer, until it's bubbly.