What’s for supper? Vol. 239: Nobody tell Marcella Hazan

Wow, is it Friday? Sorry for the radio silence on the site. I’ve been working on a bunch of other projects, like, a BUNCH. It’s a real feast-or-famine life for a freelancer. By which I mean I don’t know how to budget my time and I’m a mess. No, a planner would not help, because I would lose it. Yes, even if it was a special holy planner with stickers and lifestyle bookmarks or whatever you people are doing. 

My mother has COVID. She had her first dose of the vaccine before she tested positive, and her symptoms are fairly mild so far, no fever, just bad cold symptoms. Of course we can’t visit her, and I keep thinking how she used to be such a stoic, but now she doesn’t have any means of understanding what’s happening to her. But she does appear to be recovering, and they are taking good care of her. I keep thinking how this is her favorite kind of weather right now: Sparkling bright, dry, cold, plenty of snow on the ground. She absolutely loved shoveling, for some reason, and I remember being awestruck at her going at it without a jacket on. Here’s a picture of her when she had some dementia but was still living at home:

In the background you can see her beloved grapevine, which she pruned and netted, where she poured out Elijah’s cup after the Passover seder, and where she buried precious things. At some point we are going to have to figure out what to do with that house, but NOTTTTT NOWWWW. P.S., does anybody want to buy literally 12,000 used books? DM me.

Anyway. Distance schooling has been extended for another week. I have lost one of the slippers I got for Christmas, and it’s so dang cold. But, I had a massive craving for cheese before bed last night, and managed to muscle it into submission and just go to bed cheeseless, so **feeble cheer for minor victory**

I need to shake up my menu. People just aren’t eating what I’m cooking, and I’m throwing away so many leftovers. Also, the kids have taken to storing any and all leftovers in ziplock bags, which works, but it’s just so squalid. We need to either buy a goat or,  you know what, maybe I’ll stop buying so many delicious snacks. The snacking situation is UNTENABLE. I’m going to start a system where they can eat as much as they want, as long as they’ve grown it themselves on windowsills in little recycled egg cartons. Then we’ll see who’s hungry for . . . [checks notes] . . . slow cooked . . . thing. Anyway, I need to shake up my menu.

You know who likes my cooking? The birds! Chickadees, tufted titmice, and nuthatches, with the occasional cardinal and dark eyed junco. Here’s my recipe for birdseed cakes, and I’ve discovered a coffee filter makes a great liner when you freeze it. Helps keep the shape and peels off easily. 

5 from 1 vote
Print

bird seed cake

This recipe makes a sturdy hunk of bird food full of fat and protein. It's best for the kind of bird feeder with an enclosure or support system to hold it as the birds peck at it, but you can make your own free-hanging "bird bell" by feeding a loop of thick string into it before you freeze it, or by making a spot for a hole and then threading a rope through afterward.

.

We like the kind of bird feeder that has a little platform and a central prong, so I make the seed cake in a round food storage container lined with parchment paper or, even better, a coffee filter. To make a hole, I roll up a wad of tinfoil to make a column for the center, and pour the bird seed mixture around that, and then dig the tinfoil out when it comes out of the freezer.

.

This recipe makes TWO flat, round cakes about 5" in diameter and 2" deep

Ingredients

  • 1 cups peanut butter
  • 1 cups shortening (can add bacon grease)
  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 2 cups oatmeal
  • 1 cup birdseed

optional:

  • raisins, popped popcorn, cranberries, seeds, nuts

Instructions

  1. Prepare a container for the birdseed for a mold. If it's not a flexible container, line it with parchment paper.

  2. In a pot, melt the shortening and peanut butter over low heat, and stir to combine.

  3. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Pour the mixture into the prepared container. Remember, if you want to hang it or put it on a prong, you will need to put something in so there will be a hole.

  4. Freeze for several hours until the cake is solid. Remove from the mold and put it out for the birdies!

Here’s what the humans had this week:

SATURDAY
Pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw, tater tots

Not much to say about this. I put beer, apple cider vinegar, fresh jalapeños, and a couple other things in the slow cooker and let it cook all day, then fork shredded it. It was fine. Nice with some raw red onions.

We briefly discussed learning how to make actual BBQ sauce, but the concluded that Baby Ray’s or Sugar Ray’s or Honey Ray Ray’s or whatever it’s called is fine, and we always have 11 open bottles anyway.

SUNDAY
Pizza

I made six 16-inch pizzas, and was relieved to discover that was too much pizza. I made one cheese, two pepperoni, one olive, one olive-basil-ricotta,

and one basil-ricotta-fresh garlic-artichoke hearts-red onion-anchovy-red pepper flakes

which melded together verrrrry nicely.

They all got mozzarella, parmesan, and garlic powder and oregano. That last one was magnifico. 

I also had a lovely lunch of scrambled eggs mixed with various fajita beef bowl fixins from last week, so I got rid of some ziplock bags that were sloshing around in the fridge. I was excitedly telling my son about this wonderful lunch option, where you scramble a few eggs while heating up leftovers in the microwave and then jumble it together in a nice bowl, and he just looked at me. In a way that reminded me how we used to look at my mother when she would take whatever was leftover and heat it up in a pot with a giant glug of salsa from her giant salsa jug. 

Ohh the cat’s in the cradle and the salsa jug
Little boy blue and his ugly mug
When you shutting up, kids?
I don’t know when
I just wanna eat my lunch, guys. 
Let your mother eat her lunch.

To be fair, I was the one who called him over to look at my lunch, which is a rookie mistake my mother never would have made. 

MONDAY
Asian meatballs, rice, steamed broccoli

I went grocery shopping on Monday and didn’t get home until after dinner, partly because it was Benny’s shopping turn and she had some business to conduct at the Dollar Store, and these things can’t be rushed; so dinner was a real group effort. Started to make meatballs, sent son out to buy crackers, got daughter to finish making meatballs, asked husband to cook meatballs plus rice and broccoli.

Here are some meatballs I made back when there were sunshine and vegetables

I do like these meatballs. A few ingredients, simple preparation, mild flavor, and not too heavy. If you’re feeling inspired, you can dress up the meatballs with nice sauces and dips, or you can just have soy sauce. Soy sauce, brownest of the brown sauces. So tempting. 

TUESDAY
Spaghetti with bolognese sauce

I got it into my head to make a bolognese sauce, but really what I wanted was a ragu. Don’t ask me why I didn’t use the ragu recipe Damien always makes, which is superb. Well, the reason is that it looked a lot easier. I don’t know what I messed up, but it was extremely watery and kind of bland, despite all the lovely ingredients. I ended up having to siphon off about a quart of liquid, and probably ended up sopping up all the flavor with it.

I used Marcella Hazan’s recipe via Epicurious, and I sized it up x4, and that’s probably where my mistake came in. Also, I guess you’re supposed to use broader pasta with bolognese and save the spaghetti for ragu. This is not Marcella Hazan’s fault. She has been very clear about which sauces go with what pastas, and I just didn’t listen.

Oh well, it was still good. Just not the heavenly treat I was anticipating.

You can see I did buy a block of parmesan and shred it right before supper, so that was nice. 

WEDNESDAY
Instant pot beef teriyaki with rice and steamed vegetables

Another okay meal. I used this recipe and it was fine, but a little sweeter than I’d prefer, and it didn’t thicken up very well. No sauce I have ever made in my life thickens up well. IN MY LIFE. 

I meant to serve this with fresh broccoli very lightly steamed, but I ended up with microwaved bags of mixed vegetables that turned out to have sauce on them already. It was fine. Nice and easy, and the meat did come out very tender.

THURSDAY
Chicken nuggets and pasta salad

I reorganized my cabinets and weeded out a lot of stuff I will want at some point, but not right now. It’s pretty great! Now when I want peanut butter, I can just get it, rather than shoving around coconut cream and matzoh meal and molasses and packets of unflavored gelatin to find it. I know this is why you come to this site: For the amazing kitchen hacks. Tired of having cabinets that need cleaning out? Try cleaning out your cabinets! It really works!

The pasta salad was pretty good.

I had some sun dried tomatoes, fresh garlic, basil-infused olive oil, wine vinegar, pepperoni, feta cheese, and some more of that freshly-shredded parmesan, and plenty of freshly-ground pepper and sea salt. The feta cheese was probably not a great match, but nobody complained. 

I guess I had some kind of spasm at Aldi and bought four bags of chicken nuggets, which is 200 chicken nuggets. At the last moment I didn’t open the fourth bag, but of course that was still too many. But if I had only cooked two bags, there would have been a riot. I don’t know. I don’t know anything. 

I also managed to use three more boxes of my Ludicrous Pasta Backlog. There’s another hack for you. Tired of having nine boxes of pasta hanging around? Try cooking some of it! It really works!

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

Truthfully, only some of this will be macaroni, because in yesterday’s Pasta Hack, I only managed to use three boxes of pasta. They are not the ideal shape to receive cheese sauce. Nobody tell Marcella Hazan.

Here’s the one and only recipe card for the week, unless you want my recipe for chicken nuggets.

Vaguely Asian meatballs with dipping sauce

Very simple meatballs with a vaguely Korean flavor. These are mild enough that kids will eat them happily, but if you want to kick up the Korean taste, you can serve them with dipping sauces and pickled vegetables. Serve with rice.

Servings 30 large meatballs

Ingredients

  • 2.5 lbs ground beef
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed finely
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • entire head garlic, minced
  • 2 bunches scallions, chopped (save out a bit for a garnish)
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp ground pepper

For dipping sauce:

  • mirin or rice vinegar
  • soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.

  2. Mix together the meat and all the meatball ingredients with your hands until they are well combined. Form large balls and lay them on a baking pan with a rim.

  3. Bake for about 15 minutes.

  4. Serve over rice with dipping sauce and a sprinkle of scallions.

Liked it? Take a second to support simchajfisher on Patreon!

11 thoughts on “What’s for supper? Vol. 239: Nobody tell Marcella Hazan”

  1. I’ve said some prayers for your mom.

    Our food waste went way down once I stopped cooking for the family. Now I get a head count in the morning of who’ll be eating whatever’s on the menu. Anyone who doesn’t like what I’m making is on his own. There are always plenty of dino nuggets, eggs, and hot dogs. The boys will sometimes form alliances to put in requests for dinners – tonight by popular demand I’m making copycat Chick-Fil-A nuggets (which I won’t eat due to the sugar in them) but most of the family will.

    That said, I’m a bulk shopper and I’m fortunate to have a large dedicated freezer, which holds plenty of dinos and other frozen foods, and meat I’ve purchased on sale. And I still do throw out a shameful amount of fresh produce (tomatoes and strawberries, mostly) but I am mindful of it and we have been improving upon our food waste since 2019.

  2. Simcha, I so understand that frustrating “my sauce never thickens like it’s supposed to” problem!! Top tip = cornstarch is your friend. (Or potato starch, if you have it and it’s a better fit for the dish in question.)

    Changing up the dinner menu when we’re all bored with everything is why I read your blog! (Well, not the only reason . . .)

  3. I wish I had clever suggestions about what to make for supper. The most interesting new thing I’ve made lately is the IP Balsamic Chicken and Carrots from the blog How to Feed a Loon, but I don’t know if it’d be a pain to scale the servings up, as I haven’t tried Instant Pot cooking for a larger crowd than two adults and two small kids. 🤷‍♀️

  4. I am praying for your mom’s recovery and your peace. My mom got Covid in early December and it was nerve wracking waiting to see the progression of the illness. Thankfully, hers was a mild case.

  5. 5 stars
    Hi🌼 I love your blog posts! And now I get to read every single one because I’m not weeding through hundreds of Facebook posts. Your blog makes me happy. And every bit of that food that you make looks absolutely completely totally SCRUMPTIOUS.
    Hoping hoping hoping that your mom feels healthy and all recovered from Covid very soon! 💛

  6. We have a child who, when younger, acquired the name “Debbie Dawdle,” because EVERY shopping experience with her was interminable.

    We too thought about making our own BBQ sauce. Back when there were fewer kids, we actually did it a couple time. And then found that everyone liked SB Ray’s better anyway, so it is now a staple in our house.

    Thanks again for being so faithful to post these, Simcha. They are a treat to end my week with!

  7. When one of my sons was quite small, he trotted up to me and said, “Mama, we all eat regular food, and you eat girl food.” (All our kids are boys.) I asked him what girl food was, and he said, “Oh, you know, spicy things and salads.”

    He was not wrong. Over a decade later and I’m still the only one who bothers with lettuce on taco night.

  8. I hope your mom continues to get better!

    I can’t believe your kids don’t appreciate your dinner efforts. Well, I can sort of, since I know how kids are, but still. They should try dinner at my house, which is a bland, repetitive rotation of foods that a) work with 2 kids’ medical restrictions; b) meet my husband’s frequently changing ideas of what constitutes “healthy” and c) I actually have the time and energy to make with a toddler hanging off my leg. I enjoy living vicariously through your menu plans, I would eat any of it any time, leftovers too! Tell your kids THEY DON’T KNOW HOW GOOD THEY HAVE IT!! (Because that always works, yes?)

  9. I feel your chicken nugget dilemma – for me, it’s rice and noodles. What ever I make, it’s either way too little or so much extra. and then the storage containers inthe fridge start breeding and you have unknown servings of ancient meals haunting you. I hate leftovers.

  10. Honestly, I would be terrified to tell Marcella Hazan. She has a pretty forbidding tone in her cookbooks. I get the feeling she would freeze me with a Medusa stare if I didn’t follow her directions and ingredients exactly.

    1. I like reading her cookbooks, but they don’t inspire me to cook! It’s just fun reading someone with such a clear, almost audible “voice.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *