What’s for supper? Vol. 270: I went for a more rustic feel

DID YOU KNOW it’s almost Halloween? I just found this out the other day, when one of my kid’s teacher’s apologized for mentioning it to my kids and throwing said kid into a panic. Somehow this week’s Facebook memories of me making costumes didn’t ring a bell, and I just kept along my merry way, not making or even planning costumes, and now look. Panic!

Happily, we have a sweet, sweet employee discount at Joann this year, so that helps. Benny wants to be a pirate, and Corrie wants to be Athena — specifically, the Athena from a specific graphic novel, where Athena is depicted wearing this weird, raggedy-ass goatskin aegis with snakes dangling off it.

Corrie is sure this garment is made of bright yellow felt. We had a little talk about, if I made the costume she was requesting, how it would feel to keep telling people over and over that she was Athena, and she said that it would feel okay. So off we go. Felt is cheap, anyway. 

The rest of the costume should be pretty easy (I have a long post full of DIY costume tips here). I have a white robe, and I’m going to get a tight-fitting brown shirt and roughly spray paint it bronze for the breast plate armor thingy. May or may not make the forearm armor, but if I do, that can be felt and spray paint. I believe her head is still small enough to fit inside a milk jug, so I can make a helmet that way, using craft foam for the crest, and craft foam and a mop handle for the spear. 

Benny discovered the most amazing fabric for her skirt (the only part of her costume I’m making; we bought or already had everything else), and we agree that, if pirates didn’t make their skirts out of this fabric, it’s purely because they didn’t have a Joann. 

She likes it so much, I may actually follow a pattern, rather than slapping something together. Then again, I may not. 

Okay, here’s what I slapped together in the kitchen this week!

SATURDAY
Carnitas, guacamole

John Herreid’s very easy and delicious carnitas recipe. I finally put together a recipe card:

Jump to Recipe

I had to go to the gas station down the road to get some Coke, and had the following conversation with the cashier:

Me: You don’t have any Mexican Coke, do you?
Clerk: No, unfortunately, we do not. And actually, they need to change that name.
Me: Why’s that?
Clerk: It’s just kind of . . . might make people feel kind of . . . you know.
Me: I mean, it’s just, it’s Coke that’s from Mexico.
Clerk: I know, but if they’re gonna change Uncle Ben’s Rice, they need to change it all.
Me: But it’s, really, it’s just, it’s actually the name of the country.

Clerk: But still.

But still, indeed.

There is actually some controversy over whether Mexican Coke actually makes a discernible difference in taste or in cooking. Despite persistent legend, it hasn’t used cane syrup in its production since 2013. That’s what you get! I bet that rice doesn’t have real Uncle Ben in it, either. That’s what you get. 

So you sprinkle the chunks of pork with salt, pepper, and oregano (special imported oregano from Tina’s Greek gift shop in Newburyport, if you have it!), and simmer for a couple hours in ᵐᵉˣᶦᶜᵃⁿ Coke and oil along with orange quarters, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves, pull out the oranges (actually I think I used clementines this time). Pull out the oranges and whatnot once they’ve done their job and your house smells like paradise

 
 
cook it some more,
 
 

drain, shred, and that’s basically it. It takes several hours, but it’s super easy, and it tastes so very very good.

I made a bowl of guacamole

 
and had my carnitas with that and sour cream. 
 
 
One of these days, I’m going to make some beans and rice. Uncle Ben’s rice and beans from Hymietown, how bow dah.
 
I just realized half you guys are so young, you don’t even know who Jesse Jackson is. OH WELL. 
 

SUNDAY
Pork nachos, taquitos, grapes

We had so much meat left over from carnitas, I made a second meal out of it. Then I got nervous and bought some frozen taquitos in case there wasn’t enough food, so then there were lots of leftovers from the “use up the leftovers” meal.

Who’s my own worst enemy? I am! I am! I eat well, though. 

The nachos were just tortilla chips with shredded meat and shredded cheese, and then people could add their own extras, like salsa, sour cream, jalapeños, corn, and cilantro. Some of this was by design, some of it was because I forgot to put it in the nachos. 

Look how dark it’s getting at suppertime. My photos are gonna get worse and worse. 

MONDAY
Buffalo chicken wraps

I became confused while shopping for this meal, and forgot some of the elements (pepper jack cheese, crunchy onions, greens), so we had pita bread with buffalo chicken, shredded mozzarella, and cherry tomatoes, with blue cheese dressing. 

(The orange things in the wrap are tomatoes, part of a “medley” of tomatoes called “Wild Wonders,” which seems to be overstating things a bit. They are tomatoes.) Everyone was absolutely starving and thought it was delicious, so there. We also had carrots and dip.

TUESDAY
Sausage lentil soup, apple hand pies

This week, we codified something that’s been the informal rule for several years: I’m allowed one soup per week. Just one. 

To me, because so many wonderful things fit inside a bowl of soup, that makes it all the more magical. It’s like a terrarium, or a crystal ball, or like the Arquillian Galaxy on Orion’s Belt. It’s almost a miracle that so many delights are contained inside that little bowl! Soup! We get to have soup for supper!

To everyone else, it’s Just Soup For Supper.

So this is why I only make it once a week, and only when it’s certifiably chilly outside. This week, I made sausage lentil soup, because I figured no one was going to eat it anyway, so I might as well use lentils. I adore lentils. I love their flavor, of course, and I love their velvety texture when they’re cooked. I love how they slide around like little go stones when they’re dry, and the slithering sound they make. I like the word “lentil.” It makes me feel thrifty and canny and attuned with ancient ways. They also go good with sausage.

I got the idea for this soup when Instagram showed me some kind of fancy NYT recipe with apples on the top, but it was behind a paywall, so I more or less followed this recipe from Life Made Simple, except I fiddled with the proportions a bit. It has celery, onion, garlic, tomato, smoked sausage and lentil, and chicken stock, and it’s seasoned with salt and pepper, “cajun seasoning,” garlic powder, coriander, and somewhat mysteriously, paprika and ground paprika. I settled for cheap paprika and smoked paprika. 

Verdict: Very tasty. Exactly what you want, if you like this kind of soup. Warming and lively without being too spicy. A little too salty. 

Those are my only notes, except that I made the soup in the morning, so it stayed on warm in the Instant Pot for many hours, so the smoked sausage ended up getting . . . I don’t know what the word is, oversteamed: They kind of turned themselves inside out, giving them a kind of comical floating mini hamburger look.

They tasted fine, though. I stirred it a bit and it looked a little less insane in the pot.

You know that meme about how your salad keeps telling you jokes? I get it, but also I’m the one standing there giggling at my lentil soup, so I dunno. 

It was so quick to make, I decided to make a bunch of hand pies, to soften the blow of serving soup. Time to break in that apple peeling tool I got a few weeks ago.  It works great! You just shove the apple on the prongs and turn the crank, and about five seconds later, you have a peeled, sliced, cored apple. I cranked out a bowlful of sliced apples in a few minutes. 

And the dog gets a formidable opponent in the form of a very long peel that moves in unexpected ways.

Guys, he is kind of dumb. Like, really dumb. 

I also like this device because it’s all one piece. Lots of labor saving devices do their job quickly, but then you spend twenty minutes taking them apart and putting them away, but with this thing, you just give it a good rinsing and dry it off, and you’re set. 

I made a double batch of my trusty fail-proof crust, using the butter I had put in the freezer weeks ago when I originally intended to make apple pie. If you grate frozen butter into flour, it’s already basically incorporated, and you hardly have to do any more cutting, so you can keep it really light. Add a little ice water and squeeze it up, and you have a good crust. 

Jump to Recipe

I’m not saying it will look great. I was extraordinarily distracted, and these were some of the most unsightly hand pies known to mankind.

I mean rustic! I was going for a rustic feel. They were light and flaky, anyway, and tasted lovely. I traced circles of dough on a large soup bowl and put a large scoop of apples mixed with sugar and cinnamon and nutmeg on each one. I meant to add butter, but forgot. I pressed the crust closed with a fork and brushed the tops with beaten egg white, then sprinkled them with sugar. I baked them at 350 for about 35 minutes. Should have baked them at a higher heat and then lowered it after ten minutes, but I had to leave the house while they were baking.

I thought the combination of savory sausage lentil soup and tart, sugary apple pies was perfect. Lovely meal.

The addition of cool Italian parsley to the top of the soup was good for the flavor, and more than just pretty. 

WEDNESDAY
Hamburgers, fries

Just borgers. Damien cooked them outside and I made frozen fries. We assured each other that we had vegetables in the fridge, and then both forgot to serve them. 

THURSDAY
Steak and pear salad with feta

I’m so sad about this meal! It’s such a wonderful treat, and I just bobbled it. The meal is: Mixed greens, steak cooked rare in red wine, fresh pears, feta cheese, maybe some fresh pepper and red wine vinegar. That’s it. So good. Here’s a steak and pear salad of ages past:

Oops, those are blueberries and parmesan. Well, you get the idea.

So I got the meat cooking late, and after about 40 minutes, I realized it was still frozen in the middle. So I transferred it to the Instant Pot, which does great with frozen meat, but, truly, nobody does great with meat that’s halfway cooked and halfway frozen. So it came out a little tough, and then a little bit raw in parts, so I had to cut it up and put some of it back in the oven. 

The other part was, by this time, it was so late that I had eaten four pieces of rye bread and a leftover hand pie, and I truly just wasn’t all that hungry by the time it was time to eat. Old me would have just went ahead and eaten supper anyway, because what are you going to do, not eat supper? But new, somewhat-less-crazy me had to admit that I didn’t actually desire more food in me, so I guess I had four piece of rye bread and a leftover hand pie for supper. Of course I had some bits of meat and cheese and pear while I was waiting for the meat to cook for the third time, because I’m not made of stone.  And that’s my sad story of the steak and pear salad. Alas. 

FRIDAY
Spaghetti

Damien and I are going to a middle eastern restaurant for our still-not-quite-actually 24th anniversary, which I think may be Monday, and the children are having spaghetti. They’re home right now, because there were conferences today and yesterday, and they’re waiting for me to finish so I can do yoga so they can have the TV. I’m typing as fast as I can!

Ooh, but wait, last Friday, I mentioned that Damien was thinking of frying some calamari. He did it, and they turned out wonderful. I’ll get his recipe later, but he used a very light, cornstarch-based coating, and added some Old Bay seasoning after cooking. He served them with chopped pepproncini and an aioli dip, with lemon wedges, and they were tender and perfect. 

We also made some applesauce last weekend. Our apple tree put out tons of apples this year, but they were honestly very poor, very splotchy and misshapen, possibly because we do absolutely nothing to care for this tree. Here’s a typical apple:

You’re not imagining it: It is begging to be release from its existential misery. But I get very bloody minded when I make plans like this, so Benny and Corrie and I picked as many as we could reach, then shook the tree and got a bunch more to fill a big bucket. We cut the apples in half and removed the stems, then simmered them with a few inches of water for about forty minutes, until the apples were soft.

Then we milled the cooked apples, a few scoops at a time, in this lovely foley mill.

(This is supposed to be a gif, but I couldn’t get it to upload properly, oh well.) A very pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon. 

The mill sorts out the cores and seeds and peels as well as crushing the fruit into pulp. To the hot processed apples we added a big hunk of butter, a few scoops of sugar, lots of cinnamon, and a little vanilla, stirred it all up, and ate it warm.

I thought it was fantastic. Nothing like fresh homemade applesauce. I want to make it again, this time from better apples. 

Okay, I think that’s finally everything! Gotta go do not only yoga but my butt-strengthening exercises (this is apparently the root of all my troubles: I have a weak butt, which is putting too my pressure on my hips, which is causing more pain than you’d expect) and then head to adoration. Will pray for you and your butts. 

Recipe cards below! 

John Herreid's Carnitas

Very easy recipe transforms pork into something heavenly. Carnitas are basically pulled pork tacos with the meat crisped up. Serve with whatever you like.

Ingredients

  • pork butt/shoulder, cut into chunks
  • salt and pepper
  • oregano
  • oranges, quartered
  • cinnamon sticks
  • bay leaves
  • Coke or Mexican Coke
  • vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Sprinkle the chunks of pork with salt, pepper, and oregano.

  2. Put them in a heavy pot with the oil and Coke, oranges, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer.

  3. Simmer, uncovered, for at least two hours. The oranges will start to get mushy and the liquid will begin to thicken.

  4. When the meat is tender, remove the oranges, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks. Turn the heat up and continue cooking, stirring often, until the meat has a dark crust. Be careful not to let it burn.

  5. Remove the meat and drain off any remaining liquid. Shred the meat. It it's not as crisp as you like, you can brown it under the oven broiler, or return it to the pot without the liquid and fry it up a bit.

  6. Serve on warm tortillas with whatever you like.

John Herreid's Carnitas

Very easy recipe transforms pork into something heavenly. Carnitas are basically pulled pork tacos with the meat crisped up. Serve with whatever you like.

Ingredients

  • pork butt/shoulder, cut into chunks
  • salt and pepper
  • oregano
  • oranges, quartered
  • cinnamon sticks
  • bay leaves
  • Coke or Mexican Coke
  • vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Sprinkle the chunks of pork with salt, pepper, and oregano.

  2. Put them in a heavy pot with the oil and Coke, oranges, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer.

  3. Simmer, uncovered, for at least two hours. The oranges will start to get mushy and the liquid will begin to thicken.

  4. When the meat is tender, remove the oranges, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks. Turn the heat up and continue cooking, stirring often, until the meat has a dark crust. Be careful not to let it burn.

  5. Remove the meat and drain off any remaining liquid. Shred the meat. It it's not as crisp as you like, you can brown it under the oven broiler, or return it to the pot without the liquid and fry it up a bit.

  6. Serve on warm tortillas with whatever you like.

Basic pie crust

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 sticks butter, FROZEN
  • 1/4 cup water, with an ice cube

Instructions

  1. Freeze the butter for at least 20 minutes, then shred it on a box grater. Set aside.

  2. Put the water in a cup and throw an ice cube in it. Set aside.

  3. In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Then add the shredded butter and combine with a butter knife or your fingers until there are no piles of loose, dry flour. Try not to work it too hard. It's fine if there are still visible nuggets of butter.

  4. Sprinkle the dough ball with a little iced water at a time until the dough starts to become pliable but not sticky. Use the water to incorporate any remaining dry flour.

  5. If you're ready to roll out the dough, flour a surface, place the dough in the middle, flour a rolling pin, and roll it out from the center.

  6. If you're going to use it later, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. You can keep it in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months, if you wrap it with enough layers. Let it return to room temperature before attempting to roll it out!

  7. If the crust is too crumbly, you can add extra water, but make sure it's at room temp. Sometimes perfect dough is crumbly just because it's too cold, so give it time to warm up.

  8. You can easily patch cracked dough by rolling out a patch and attaching it to the cracked part with a little water. Pinch it together.

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12 thoughts on “What’s for supper? Vol. 270: I went for a more rustic feel”

  1. “We had a little talk about, if I made the costume she was requesting, how it would feel to keep telling people over and over that she was Athena, and she said that it would feel okay” cracked me up because I was Corrie so many times as a child.

  2. All the food looks great, as usual (I really need to make that carnitas recipe one of these days), but really I have questions about you doing yoga — when did you start? Any instructors on YouTube (or wherever) you like? I started doing yoga about 4 years ago when I was pregnant, did at least 15-20 min every day of that pregnancy, and it helped so much with sciatic pain and protecting my core a little bit. I’ve done it off and on since then, pretty much every day again this year after my 5th baby was born, and I love it. I like being able to do it at home by myself, I like feeling myself get stronger, and it makes me so much more aware of how I’m feeling and what’s going on in my body. I usually do Yoga with Adriene on YouTube; she’s not very “woo woo,” she explains a lot of what she’s doing/how it should feel, but mostly she stresses “honoring where your body is at today,” and being gentle with yourself, two things which I am really not good at but trying to improve. Yoga (and therapy and the book The Body Keeps the Score, which I highly recommend) have really changed how I feel about my body. I’ve never done an actual class with other people, but I love it.

    1. I’ve only ever done one program, and it’s “30 Day Yoga For Weight Loss with Julia Marie,” which is on Amazon Prime. It sounds very much like the one you describe. She’s very good at describing what you’re supposed to be doing with your body parts, and she’s realistic but encouraging, and not too woo woo. She gives you different options for different difficulty levels and talks a lot about meeting your specific “edge” of effort and not pushing yourself so hard you get injured. The classes are half an hour and there is lots of variety.

      1. I will have to check out that series, thanks! Her approach does sound a lot like Adriene’s, although a lot of Adriene’s videos are shorter.

        1. Fair warning, she sometimes throws in some HIIT yoga in there, so sometimes you’re just grooving along and all of a sudden you’re doing burpees. Of course you can skip the high intensity ones (she does announce it in the beginning of the class), but it’s definitely not just an all-gentle kind of course.

  3. I love these posts! I’m continuing to struggle to get dinner on the table most nights but these roundups don’t make me feel bad about myself. Thanks for the butt prayers!

  4. “Rustic” describes my entire approach to cooking and baking. Coincidentally, I made apple hand pie a couple of weeks ago, but I didn’t even bother tracing perfect circles on the dough, so mine were even more rustic than yours. You win.

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