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.

What’s for supper? Vol. 269: In which I push my luck

Happy Fribeday! Today’s edition includes several delightful foods I certainly did not cook myself, plus some rolls which no one but me could or would have made. And I am wined and dined and manage to complain about it. 

So, Saturday and Sunday and part of Monday, Damien and I were away at a little getaway for an early anniversary trip. 24 years, just about! We somewhat randomly decided to go to Canobie Lake Park Screeemfest, which means their normal amusement park with miscellaneous spooky decorations, plus some haunted houses and shows.

American Halloween is weird, man. It’s such a mishmash of different aesthetics. We both discovered that we don’t like haunted houses at all anymore. I honestly think I would have just gotten completely overwhelmed and not been able to find my way out, so Damien basically grabbed me and pulled me through as fast as possible, and then we sat on a bench for a while until I could stop saying, “My goodness.”  We did go on a bunch of normal rides, including bumper cars, my favorite ecstatic swings-on-chains one, and one that is the same as a washing machine spin cycle, except that, instead of the dirty water going out, it is your blood trying to escape. 

The first thing we did was eat, though, which may have been a tactical error, but I was starving! We both had a smoked brisket sandwich with jalapeños, coleslaw, and beer. Holy cow, it was delicious.

Can’t remember the name of the vendor, but they were set up near the flying rooster ride. I really must learn how to smoke brisket. We used to occasionally have brisket when I was growing up, but Jewish brisket is not the same as smoked brisket on a sandwich. I have no desire to recreate the occasional brisket of my childhood. 

We stayed at the park for a few hours until we began to feel too old, and then made our way to the hotel. We had requested a second night, but hadn’t heard back, so Damien called the front desk, who rather rudely told him to talk to Priceline, who had him wait for a long time before letting him know that they didn’t really know what was going on and he should talk to the hotel, who then informed him that the hotel was all booked up. I was a tiny bit relieved, and it smelled somewhat like wee in there, and I also had it in my head that there might be bedbugs (there weren’t). Damien then booked a room at a much nicer hotel at Hampton Beach for the second night with no problem. This becomes important later. I was a little nervy, with the imaginary bedbugs, and my blood trying to escape, and only slept a few hours, but we were still having fun! I brought orange juice. 

SUNDAY

We got up, went to Mass — well, went to what turned out to be the wrong church, and then launched ourselves to the right church only a few minutes late for Mass — and then proceeded to Newburyport, MA. We didn’t really have a plan, but it looked like a pretty town, so we stopped for lunch.

I quickly realized that it was an aggressively nice town. Half the roads were cobblestone, either original or put in just to be cute, it was hard to say. Absolutely adorable architecture, gift shops selling silver and crystals and mermaid everything everywhere, touristy to the max. A trans woman with long white hair and a long white dress playing a harp in the town commons, and every single damn dog I saw was in a stroller. I quietly renamed it Painintheass, MA in my head. Honestly, a really nice town, but just Too Too Much.  However, after I browsed around the shops and Damien got some work done at a café, we got a table at a lovely restaurant by the riverwalk, and had a magnificent brunch at Sea Level Oyster Bar

We had an order of fried calamari that included batter fried hot peppers, very nice

but the real star was the oysters. I have never had such wonderfully fresh, luscious, tasty oysters. There were three different kinds

and one of the accompaniments was a tart pineapple mignonette. Wowzers. 

I ordered something called Sluice Juice IPA from Bent Water beer. Terrible name, but a really wonderful beer, very citrusy and refreshing, with lots of different flavors. I don’t really like beer unless I’m eating, and this was the absolute perfect beer to go with seafood. 

 

The only non-chocolate dessert was apple pie in a jar, so I ordered that. It came with what must have been a sugared mermaid or fishtail crust garnish, but it looked more like antlers and didn’t taste like much. The rest was lovely, though, tart and fresh with plenty of whipped cream and a kind of streusel on the bottom. 

We had a seat near the water (I think it’s the Merrimack River), the service was fast and friendly, and I would absolutely go back to that very pleasant restaurant.

We spent a little time browsing the antique market (which requires vaccines and masks), and stopped at a Greek gift store, where I had spotted a blue icon sun catcher I wanted, and then got bullied into buying a quite expensive bottle of olive oil from Sparta. Yia Yia was very persuasive. She kept shouting at us, and there was something about her three grandchildren in heaven that she cooks for every night using that same oil. I swear I only had one beer, and that’s what she said. I narrowly avoided buying an entire can of the oil, which was $50. She also threw in some oregano. 

We eventually got back on the road and found ourselves in Seabrook, which has a nuclear power plant, but it turns out you can only see it in the summer. And then we got to Hampton Beach. 

Here’s the short version of what happened next: We had allegedly checked in online, and should have been able to go straight to our room, but it didn’t work. When we tried to check in at the desk, the clerk seemed a little flustered, and asked if my name was [something other than Simcha]. Then she said that there was another family also called Fisher, and that was unusual.

Ok? I didn’t think much of it until we got up to our room and unlocked the door, and … There were already some people in that room! Goodness gracious. So embarrassing. 

At first we apologized, but then we realized our key had opened the door. So I said, “Wait a minute, is your last name Fisher?” And it was.

It turns out the other Fisher family’s credit card had been declined, but the clerk thought we were all together, so they went ahead and put them in the room and charged our card! And then when we checked in, they charged our card again! So we got charged twice, but did not get a room! So I sat down in the hall with our luggage, and Damien went to the desk to straighten things out. And see if they actually had a room for us!

Which they did, eventually. With an upgrade, as is meet and just. We had a great ocean view and a big ol’ bed and a big ol’ balcony, and I opened the door to the ocean and cranked up the heat and we just put our feet up for a while, whuffing the breeze and not doing anything for a while, because it was already evening by this point.  It was at this point that I began to think we had packed in too much walking for someone with arthritis in her hip, and too much driving for people who are supposed to be relaxing, and possibly not accounted for this much ridiculousness for a very short weekend, but what can you do.

We eventually made our way to the hotel restaurant, where I ordered maple bacon scallops and a white Russian

which tasted exactly like it sounds, hot and tasty if not terribly sophisticated. Then I ordered a Reuben and another white Russian, and we just kept reminding each other that there is an employment crisis and the waitress is obviously trying her best, because it took about five hours to get that damn sandwich. 

At this point, I was fairly white Russian, and wasn’t able to make much headway in the sandwich. I will say that that was the most goyishe pickle I’ve ever had in my life. It was just a piece of cucumber having a hard time, that’s all. (Yes, we tipped well. Everybody’s having a hard time.) 

So up to the room and I stashed my leftover Reuben in the mini fridge. All night long, the fridge was making these peculiar clattering, howling sounds, and I kept thinking, “This is the second night in a row that I’m not sleeping at all! I should get up an unplug the fridge! But no, my Reuben is in there!” Finally, around 5 a.m., I drifted off to sleep. At 7 a.m., the neighbors STARTED UP A KARAOKE PARTY. Sweet Caroline, You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, the whole nine yards. Who does that?? Damien called the front desk to complain. This being the same crew that so adroitly arranged the whole Schrödinger’s Fishers rooming situation, they honestly did not do a great job making the neighbors be quiet; but eventually they sang themselves out, and we dozed off again, and then it was time to check out. We somewhat blearily packed up our stuff and put it all in the car, and then we had a few hours to enjoy the beach; only, to be honest we were both freaking exhausted, and it was cold. So we spent a little time breathing in the salt air and watching the seagulls swoop around, then picked out some candy for the kids, and then we were all done. And I forgot my Reuben.

It was a very pretty ride home, though, really the very peak of foliage glory. A few times, we would come around a bend and get smacked in the face with so much color, we both just started laughing. I do love that man. We have the weirdest anniversaries, though. 

MONDAY
Chili

We used to do a big Italian feast for Columbus Day, but we’ve moved that to St. Joseph’s day, because, c’mon. We didn’t have a lot of time to put together anything indigenous, but Damien made a highly delicious chili.

Jump to Recipe

Do you know, it’s not easy to take a photo of chili that shows it looking delicious, but I tried.

I might have knocked down the salt content a bit, but it was nicely spicy and the balance of meat to bean and corn was great. I had mine with sour cream, cheese, and chives.

Did eat leftovers for lunch.

TUESDAY
Chicken caprese sandwiches

On the theory that we may be dead tomorrow anyway, I went ahead and set out the good Greek olive oil and weakly warned the children that it was Very Expensive Indeed, and then just walked away. 

As you can see, I sloshed on as much as I liked. Maybe we’ll be dead tomorrow. It was really good. Tasted like olives. 

WEDNESDAY
Meatball subs on homemade french bread

On Wednesday, Dora borrowed my car and did my afternoon school pick-up, meaning I had the afternoon free to fritter away in whatever manner I pleased. So I made a bunch of meatballs in the morning.

Jump to Recipe

I made them with about four pounds of ground beef and two pounds of ground turkey, which happened to be on sale. This lightens meatballs up quite a bit, and I prefer them this way. I cook my meatballs on a broiler pan in a 450 oven, and then transfer them to a pot with sauce. This is ten thousand times easier, neater, and faster than pan-frying them, and they’re not quite as scrumptious, but they are meatballs, absolute balls of meat, and nobody every complains.

The roll, though.

Aldi was completely out of rolls when I went shopping. Aldi is like that. They have such great prices and some really wonderful products and treats, but then they’ll be like, “Oh sorry, we’re not doing the whole bread thing today” or they’ll act like they never heard of potatoes. You have to assume, when you go to Aldi, that you’ll also be going somewhere else afterward.

OR, you could think, “Wait, I don’t have to go anywhere this afternoon! I could MAKE MY OWN ROLLS!” Forgetting for the moment that you’re kind of a cruddy baker and your bread turns out well maybe one in five times. 

Jump to Recipe

Well, I did remember a good tip, which is that you can proof your dough in the Instant Pot. Grease the pot, plonk your dough in there, cover it with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and press the “yogurt” button. If you need more of a cover, use a plate or a pot lid, not the regular Instant Pot cover, because, as a few friends warned me, you’ll have a horrible time picking the dough out of the sealing ring and the valve and such if it rises too much. 

My dough rose pretty well the first time, but then I decided to start a huge bulb planting project, and I think here is where my bread went wrong, because I had to keep setting timers and dashing in and out of the house, and not always hearing the timer because I was planting bulbs next to the highway and it was pretty loud, what with trucks rushing past and people honking at me. I had a giant tub of cayenne pepper I was spreading around to keep the squirrels from digging up my bulbs, and the wind was blowing, and the cars were honking, and my alarm kept going off, and I kept running in and out, I don’t know. It always goes wrong somehow. Also I was kind of low on flour, so I had to throw some cornmeal in there. Anyway, I decided to make a bunch of short, skinny rolls, and some of them looked so flabby, I tried to scrunch them up a bit before putting them in to bake, and THAT  . . .

IS HOW I GOT TARDIGRADE ROLLS.

Water bear rolls!

Moss piglet(?) rolls!

A lot of them actually turned out looking like normal rolls, but I didn’t take pictures of those, because this isn’t actually a cooking post, sorry. 

They tasted okay. Slightly mealy, no doubt because of the cornmeal. 

THURSDAY
Yakitori chicken, rice

Damien made this fabulous Japanese chicken on the grill. He made a triple recipe of this sauce, and you’re supposed to use it on boneless, skinless chicken on skewers, but I got offended at the boneless, skinless chicken price, so I came home with about 20 intact chicken thighs, and he opted to cook it that way. Great choice. I don’t know if “yakitori” means that it’s on skewers, or if it refers to the sauce. I just don’t know. But look at this chicken!

This is how he prepared it: He whisked together the sauce ingredients and boiled and stirred for 5 minute until it thickened up. He set aside half the sauce and then smoked the chicken for about an hour, coating it on both sides with the sauce a few times. Then he grilled the chicken and coated it over indirect flames, and coated and smoked a little more to make sure everything was cooked all the way.

He served the chicken with the rest of the sauce, plus sesame seeds and chopped scallions. I made a big pot of rice cooked in chicken broth, which the kids consider a delicacy.  

Deee-licious. The sauce is sharp and dark savory and tasted wonderful with the charred chicken skin. I really hope we have this again. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese for the kids, possibly fried calamari 

On the way home from our wanderings on Monday, we stopped to pick up the chili ingredients, and I happened to see a bunch of frozen calamari rings, which I couldn’t turn down because they don’t sell it at my normal supermarkets. How much should I push my luck? How hard could it be? Actually I think Damien is going to make fried calamari. I don’t even know what I’m for around here, anymore. I guess I do yoga and eat, and sometimes I plant flowers for the spring, just in case. 

Meatballs for a crowd

Make about 100 golf ball-sized meatballs. 

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground meat (I like to use mostly beef with some ground chicken or turkey or pork)
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese (about 2 cups)
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.

  2. Mix all ingredients together with your hands until it's fully blended.

  3. Form meatballs and put them in a single layer on a pan with drainage. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or more until they're cooked all the way through.

  4. Add meatballs to sauce and keep warm until you're ready to serve. 

 

French bread

Makes four long loaves. You can make the dough in one batch in a standard-sized standing mixer bowl if you are careful!

I have a hard time getting the water temperature right for yeast. One thing to know is if your water is too cool, the yeast will proof eventually; it will just take longer. So if you're nervous, err on the side of coolness.

Ingredients

  • 4-1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 4-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
  • 10-12 cups flour
  • butter for greasing the pan (can also use parchment paper) and for running over the hot bread (optional)
  • corn meal for sprinkling on pan (optional)

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, put the warm water, and mix in the sugar and yeast until dissolved. Let stand at least five minutes until it foams a bit. If the water is too cool, it's okay; it will just take longer.

  2. Fit on the dough hook and add the salt, oil, and six of the cups of flour. Add the flour gradually, so it doesn't spurt all over the place. Mix and low and then medium speed. Gradually add more flour, one cup at a time, until the dough is smooth and comes away from the side of the bowl as you mix. It should be tender but not sticky.

  3. Lightly grease a bowl and put the dough ball in it. Cover with a damp towel or lightly cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about an hour, until it's about double in size.

  4. Flour a working surface. Divide the dough into four balls. Taking one at a time, roll, pat, and/or stretch it out until it's a rough rectangle about 9x13" (a little bigger than a piece of looseleaf paper).

  5. Roll the long side of the dough up into a long cylinder and pinch the seam shut, and pinch the ends, so it stays rolled up. It doesn't have to be super tight, but you don't want a ton of air trapped in it.

  6. Butter some large pans. Sprinkle them with cornmeal if you like. You can also line them with parchment paper. Lay the loaves on the pans.

  7. Cover them with damp cloths or plastic wrap again and set to rise in a warm place again, until they come close to double in size. Preheat the oven to 375.

  8. Give each loaf several deep, diagonal slashes with a sharp knife. This will allow the loaves to rise without exploding. Put the pans in the oven and throw some ice cubes in the bottom of the oven, or spray some water in with a mister, and close the oven quickly, to give the bread a nice crust.

  9. Bake 25 minutes or more until the crust is golden. One pan may need to bake a few minutes longer.

  10. Run some butter over the crust of the hot bread if you like, to make it shiny and even yummier.

Damien's Indigenous Chili

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs ground beef
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 head garlic, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2 jalapeños, chopped
  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 16 oz canned kidney beans, drained
  • 16 oz canned corn, drained
  • 16 oz beer
  • 16 oz chicken broth
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2+ Tbsp cumin
  • 2+ Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 bottle (?) Frank's Hot Sauce
  • olive oil for frying

sour cream, chopped chives, shredded cheese for serving

Instructions

  1. Cook up the onions garlic and peppers in a little olive oil until soft.

  2. Add meat, brown, and add salt and pepper.

  3. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir and then cover loosely and simmer a couple of hours.

  4. Serve with sour cream, chopped chives, and shredded cheese.

What’s for supper? Vol. 268: The eleven silly eaters

Wasn’t that a long week? We’ve almost made it!  Here’s what we ate this week: 

SATURDAY
I think burgers?

Saturday we also made Mrs. Peters’ birthday cake. This is from the delightful book The Seven Silly Eaters, which I was not yet familiar with when I wrote about positive portrayals of large families in literature.

In the book, this nice mom ends up catering to her seven picky kids more and more, and every day makes each of their favorite foods: applesauce, bread, eggs, milk, lemonade, and oatmeal. One night, exhausted, she realizes it’s her birthday tomorrow. She assumes the family has forgotten, but they haven’t, and the kids sneak downstairs to make their favorite foods for her as a surprise. But it’s harder than it looks, and they end up mixing all the foods together and hiding the mess in the still-warm oven overnight — and Mrs. Peters wakes up in the morning to discover the combined foods have transformed themselves into a delicious birthday cake for her (and from that day forward, the kids all pitch in with the cooking).

It’s a very cute story in non-irritating rhyme with a satisfying end, beautifully illustrated by Marla Frazee. The story and the illustrations both show an understanding of both the delights and the trials of family life. 

Last week, when Corrie was home with a sniffle, she decided to make the cake as described in the book,

with predictable results.

I even left it in the oven for many hours at a very low temperature, just like in the book, because I uh forgot it was in there.

As written, the ingredients could not, of course, actually make anything like a delicious cake; but the author, Mary Ann Hoberman, did put together a recipe based on the story, so that’s what we decided to try on Saturday. 

It turned out . . . okay.

It was exceedingly wet. Like, juice ran out when I turned the cake out of the pan. The flavor was pleasant enough, sort of like apple-y bread pudding. You couldn’t really taste the lemon, but the egg taste was prominent. 

It was unclear if you were supposed to use cooked oatmeal or oats. Possibly using oats would have given us different results, but it did say “oatmeal” in the recipe. I also underbaked it, because I was so afraid of overbaking it, which I always do with cakes. Anyway, I didn’t yell very much when we were baking, and Corrie was pleased with her cake. Actually, she quit halfway through, even though it was her idea, and Benny stuck it out through to the end. And that’s our story. 

I guess that’s our third fictional dessert, really, if you count the Earl Gray tea cake being something like an Amelia Bedelia cake, and the several lemon meringue pies we have made, also inspired by Amelia Bedelia. We have no plans to dip fish in chocolate as yet, although I spent a lot of time thinking about it as a child.

SUNDAY
Normal tacos

I was sick as heck on Sunday and went ahead and used Instacart for the weekly shopping like a millionaire. I hate Instacart. Last time we used it, the gal pestered me for every last thing (me substitute blueberry yogurt instead of mixed berry yogurt? YES, THAT’S FINE) and then delivered $260 worth of groceries to a fence company down the road (I mean a literal fence company. They don’t fence for anybody nefarious, as far as I know) and it took a full day to figure out what happened to the food, and almost a week to get my money back.

This time, the shopper did a pretty good job, but we still ended up with stuff like three peaches instead of three three-pound bags of peaches, and some kind of unexpected chicken, and (ptui) lean ground beef, and five cans of sour cream and onion Pringles.

Excuse me, Stackerz. Oh, did the kids carry on about how ridiculous that was! All those sour cream and onion Stackerz! Actually, I’m not telling them this, but that’s exactly what I ordered: Five cans of sour cream and onion Stackerz. I was sick and didn’t feel like clicking around to get a variety of different flavors, sheesh. It’s like a children’s book in here. Fussy fussy. 

MONDAY
Chicken tortilla soup, giant quesadilla slab

I was feeling a little better — well enough to make soup, sick enough to crave soup, especially soup that gets you right between the eyes. I love this chicken tortilla soup from Two Sleevers.

I gathered up the very last of the outdoor tomatoes and put them in the food processor along with onion, lots of garlic, several chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, a giant jalapeño, and a ton of cilantro, and some salt, and you get this wonderful pungent base

and you sauté that in oil. I did it right in the Instant Pot, nice and easy. Oh my land, the smell. 

Then you throw in your tortillas and chicken and some water and cook it until the chicken is shreddable.

And that’s it. I was going to put some beans and corn in there, but I wanted to appeal to as many silly eaters as possible.

We had it with a nice dollop sour cream, plus avocados and more cilantro, and I think some people had shredded cheddar cheese.

Just great. This soup has a sneaky little punch that builds up as you eat it. Really good for people with head colds. 

I knew several people would be sad we were having soup for supper, and corn muffins would just make them sadder, so I made a giant baked quesadilla slab.

Spray the pan, put on a layer of overlapping tortillas, lots of shredded cheese, and another layer of tortillas, then drizzle on some olive oil and sprinkle on some chili lime powder, and bake at 350 until the cheese is melted and the edges are crunchy. Carve into pieces with the pizza cutter. Boom.

Everyone likes it and it takes about three minutes to throw together. Nice easy side for soup, and they can’t moan at you for making just soup for supper. 

TUESDAY
Chicken burgers, chips, misc.

Strange burgers, weird burgers. I also decided I was going to clean out the fridge and make a giant, attractive charcuterie board of all the miscellaneous leftovers that are crammed in there making my life miserable. In my head, we had all sorts of delectable deli treats and wonderful cheeses, crisp vegetables and appealing tidbits just begging to be appreciated. In reality, there was six or seven dented, half-frozen hardboiled eggs, a handful of horrible blackened avocado in a sandwich bag, a large amount of rancid salami in various sizes and also some rancid gabagool, and some cold leftover tortilla slab, which . . . I mean, I will eat it cold, but I am not everybody. I laid it all out on a tray, smiled at it, scowled at it, and slid it into the garbage, and put out five cans of sour cream and onion Pringles, excuse me, Stackerz. I’ll show you a silly eater. 

One of these days I am going to do something about the grout on my dining room table. But not today. Today, I’m not even going to bother sweeping the crumbs off before dinner. 

WEDNESDAY
Asian meatballs, rice, raw broccoli

When I first discovered this recipe

Jump to Recipe

I loved it so much. It was such a revelation. Lighter than normal meatballs, versatile, tangy, easy, exciting. Then I made it a few more times, and it turned on me. I don’t know what happened, but the last three or four times I’ve made it, it just wasn’t any good. 

This time, I was determined to do everything carefully, use all the freshest ingredients, prep everything fastidiously in the food processor, measure everything meticulously, and time it precisely. The verdict: Still not that great! Way too salty, for one thing. So I have changed the salt from a tablespoon to a teaspoon. But it seems like the problems go deeper than this, and I cannot understand why. It grieves me. I want to retvrn but I don’t know how.

I did eat four meatballs, dipped them in soy sauce, because that’s what you do when something’s too salty. We also had rice and raw broccoli. 

THURSDAY
Pizza

One cheese, one olive, one pepperoni, and one with sliced garlic, roasted red peppers, and anchovies. 

Very nice balance of sweet and savory. Damien and I are thinking we will try a fennel, pepper, and anchovy pizza next; won’t that be nice? Ooh, maybe some spinach. I don’t know about the fennel and spinach together. 

I also took my final crack at that soup, for lunch, and it will still magnificent. Look, it looks like tomato galaxy. 

Of course there were plenty of rather gravid tortilla strips lurking beneath the surface, and lots of shredded chicken. The recipe calls for chicken breast, which certainly shreds easily, but I think I’ll use thighs next time, for a little more flavor.

FRIDAY
Pigsnetti

That’s what one of my kids used to call “spaghetti.”Isn’t that crazy? So much harder to say that “spaghetti” or even “puhsketti” like a normal human child. 

***

Well, I guess the only recipe card I have is the Asian meatballs, which don’t exactly come with a ringing endorsement this week. Maybe you’ll have better luck somehow. 

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
  • 1/2 head garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped (save out a bit for a garnish)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp ground white 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.

What’s for supper? Vol. 267: The ramens of the day

Cozy foods this week! Brussels sprouts! Some fish sauce comparison! Amusing tricks with lemon! The rediscovery of fennel! And more. Come see what we ate. 

Despite my excitement, I didn’t get around to using my new foley mill last week, for applesauce or anything else. We do go to an apple orchard; we did not pick apples from our own tree yet. I did buy a second single-use appliance, though: One of those cast iron apple slicer and peelers that clamps onto the counter and does everything with a crank. Pretty ingenious. 

The kids like to put apple slices on their ham and cheese sandwiches, so this will probably get regular use, beyond just the production of tasty, tasty apple peels

We are really slipping as a family, though. In the past, we would have been knee deep in denuded onions, potatoes, and baseballs,  with little peels of doll heads all over the floor. Now we’re just, “tee hee, I can peel all the apples I want.” We’re slipping.

SATURDAY
Hot dogs and chips

An extremely drivey day that started out with a Saturday morning alarm and two loads of cars through the drive-thru flu shot clinic, and kept going like that. Benny had a pal over, Damien cooked hot dogs on the grill, and we had a campfire and roasted marshmallows. I did buy a skeleton. We haven’t settled on a ludicrous display for the year, but we now have two fully posable skeletons. 

SUNDAY
Salad with chicken, feta, walnuts, cranberries

Sunday was the day we chose to go apple picking. We’ve gotten pretty good at planning day trips. Damien cooked the chicken after Mass, and we had the kids make their Monday lunches and do their evening chores in the afternoon, so when we got home late and full of apples and smelling faintly of goat poo, all we had to do was eat the prepped food and slither into bed. Truly, the greatest organizational hack of all, though, is to not have a baby or a toddler. Nothing beats it. Also, let people go apple picking in their pajamas if they want. 

I myself wore a sweater and leggings, which are pajamas. As I mentioned, we are slipping. (If you care to see our apple picking photos, they are here.)

The dinner we prepped was salad with roast chicken, toasted walnuts (toast on a pan in the oven for a few minutes or, even easier, in the microwave for a few minutes), feta cheese, and dried cranberries. I had mine with wine vinegar. 

Decent and filling. I feel like there was some kind of bread component, but maybe I’m confused.

MONDAY
Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, roast honey balsamic Brussels sprouts with walnuts

My big secret with meatloaf is only to make it a few times a year, so it doesn’t become an emotional burden. The other thing I struggle with, with meatloaf, is the desire to get cute with it. I want to make adorable little meat muffins, and I know nobody wants that, even though I feel like deep down they would enjoy it. 

Or I start pulling out my silicone pans

or I start felling sculptural, and we end up with meat horrors

Or, not pictured, giant meat boobies. It’s just . . . you give me big hunks of raw material, and I want to create. Anyway, this time I just made three big loaves, that’s it. That’s what kind of month it’s been. Here. Here’s yer meat. 

It’s a serviceable recipe, though, as long as you don’t underseason it.

Jump to Recipe

I use red wine and Worcestershire sauce inside and ketchup outside, and it has a pretty good savor. It would make good leftover sandwiches, but that doesn’t fit into my current calorie arrangement, so the leftovers are just hulking in the fridge, awaiting their doom. And who isn’t. 

We also had ten pounds of mashed potatoes, which I meant to make as garlic parmesan mashed potatoes

Jump to Recipe

but I just plain forgot, so they were just plain with milk and butter and salt

and I also forgot how dang long it takes potatoes to cook, so we had supper pretty late.

I also had four pounds of Brussels sprouts, first of the season. They turned out swell, with very little effort. I stemmed and halved them, spread them in a pan, and drizzled them with olive oil and honey, and some balsamic vinegar, pepper and kosher salt, and then – aha! – tossed in a few handfuls of chopped walnuts, and roasted it under the broiler. 

I don’t know why I have two photos of this, but here you are. 

To think that I spent most of my life not knowing about roasted vegetables. You throw a few nuts in there, and it’s almost a meal in itself. Thank you, Aldi, for cheap nuts. 

TUESDAY
Banh mi, pineapple

I have, in the past few years, tried banh mi from various places, and mine is the best. It just is. I recommend mine. I’ve also tried making my same recipe with various meats, and it always tastes the same as very cheap pork, because the sauce is just that powerful. 

Jump to Recipe

I use a lightly toasted baguette with plenty of plain mayo. I put out sriracha mayo for anyone who wants it, but for me, there are enough other spicy elements. Pork, sweet pickled carrots, plain cucumbers, plenty of cilantro, a few jalapeños, and that’s it. It’s just the best sandwich going. 

Here’s the recipe for pickled carrots, which I may fiddle with. It’s a bit sweet.

Jump to Recipe

I served pineapple on the side because I got confused. It was supposed to be for Wednesday, but I had already started cutting it up, so it was too late. 

I also used a different kind of fish sauce in the sauce this time, and it was just as savory and salty and weird, but the smell wasn’t eye-watering. I mean, my eyes were a little concerned, but they weren’t absolutely streaming. Fish sauce is made by mixing anchovies with salt and then I guess letting it sit in giant fermentation vats for several months, and then collecting the runoff, or something? I haven’t looked into this deeply. Anyway, I’m drinking more. 

Now you know everything I know. The less stinky sauce was considerably cheaper, too. 

WEDNESDAY
Pork ramen

I cleverly timed this so we would have leftover vaguely Asian sandwich fixings from Tuesday to top the ramen on Wednesday. Oh, I’ve got a few tricks up my sl– ope, nope, sorry, that’s a carrot. Damn shredded carrots got everywhere. I’m not joking, it was terrible. 

So we just had a big pot of ramen, and I cooked up some boneless pork ribs in sesame oil and sloshed on a little soy sauce toward the end

and sliced them up. I considered messing around with some garlic and brown sugar, but then I remembered how lazy I am.

Also set out soft boiled eggs, cucumbers and carrots from the previous day, some nori, pea shoots, crunchy noodles, sesame seeds, and all the various sauces I could find that seemed like they came from the right hemisphere. 

I do like this meal, and it’s so easy and cheap. I think the most expensive part was the nori.

Top view. Dive in!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THURSDAY
Ina Garten’s roast chicken with carrots and fennel

Damien was in charge of Thursday’s meal, and he went for this spectacular roast chicken and vegetable dish. The chickens are stuffed with garlic, lemon, and thyme, and wow, can you taste it. It’s so juicy and absolutely packed with flavor, not to mention hilarious to look at. 

Hello, lemons! The chickens get roasted on a bed of vegetables, and I think Damien made a separate platter of just vegetables so there would be plenty. I always forget about fennel in between having this dish, and it’s so good. It’s like all the best parts of onion and cabbage, but it takes up other flavors very nicely. People describe fennel as having a licorice-like taste, and I guess it does, but I don’t like licorice (or anise), and I like fennel a lot. It’s just sort of fancy and peasant-y at the same time, sort of elegant and cozy, juicy and crunchy. I don’t know. Don’t even get me started about the carrots. 

This is a very fine meal, very cheering on a gloomy, rainy day. We served it with plenty of baguettes and soft butter to sop up the lovely lemony juices. 

Look at that beautiful fennel, so elegant, so cozy.

FRIDAY
Grilled cheese

Finally Friday. Kind of a draggy week. Just a lot of covid tests and . . . I don’t have to tell you, the same nonsense everyone is dealing with. Everything is medium terrible and I feel medium guilty for not managing it better. Whatever. We live to grill another day. My stupid hip is still endlessly healing up from ??mysterious non injury maybe arthritis?? so I’m on day 2 of a yoga program. It’s this one, which is on Amazon Prime, if you’re interested. It’s not too woo woo, and she’s pretty good at explaining what you’re actually supposed to be doing with your parts. Then at the end she’s like “and now we will pray to honor the body” and I’m like “sorry toots, gotta shower and get to adoration” and I boop it off. 

 

Meatloaf (actually two giant meatloaves)

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground beef
  • 2 lbs ground turkey
  • 8 eggs
  • 4 cups breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 cup milk OR red wine
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

plenty of salt, pepper, garlic powder or fresh garlic, onion powder or minced onions, fresh parsley, etc.

  • ketchup for the top

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450

  2. Mix all meat, eggs, milk, breadcrumbs, and seasonings together with your hands until well blended.

  3. Form meat into two oblong loaves on pan with drainage

  4. Squirt ketchup all over the outside of the loaves and spread to cover with spatula. Don't pretend you're too good for this. It's delicious. 

  5. Bake for an hour or so, until meat is cooked all the way through. Slice and serve. 

 

Garlic parmesan mashed potatoes

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs potatoes
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 8 Tbsp butter
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 8 oz grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Peel the potatoes and put them in a pot. Cover the with water. Add a bit of salt and the smashed garlic cloves.

  2. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer with lid loosely on until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.

  3. Drain the water out of the pot. Add the butter and milk and mash well.

  4. Add the parmesan and salt and pepper to taste and stir until combined.

Pork banh mi

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs Pork loin
  • 1 cup fish sauce
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 minced onion
  • 1/2 head garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1.5 tsp pepper

Veggies and dressing

  • carrots
  • cucumbers
  • vinegar
  • sugar
  • cilantro
  • mayonnaise
  • Sriracha sauce

Instructions

  1. Slice the raw pork as thinly as you can. 

  2. Mix together the fish sauce ingredients and add the meat slices. Seal in a ziplock bag to marinate, as it is horrendously stinky. Marinate several hours or overnight. 

  3. Grill the meat over coals or on a pan under a hot broiler. 

  4. Toast a sliced baguette or other crusty bread. 

 

quick-pickled carrots and/or cucumbers for banh mi, bibimbap, ramen, tacos, etc.

An easy way to add tons of bright flavor and crunch to a meal. We pickle carrots and cucumbers most often, but you can also use radishes, red onions, daikon, or any firm vegetable. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 lb mini cucumbers (or 1 lg cucumber)

For the brine (make double if pickling both carrots and cukes)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar (other vinegars will also work; you'll just get a slightly different flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Mix brine ingredients together until salt and sugar are dissolved. 

  2. Slice or julienne the vegetables. The thinner they are, the more flavor they pick up, but the more quickly they will go soft, so decide how soon you are going to eat them and cut accordingly!

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

  3. Cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight or longer. Refrigerate if you're going to leave them overnight or longer.

What’s for supper? Vol. 266: Ready or not, soup season!

Hup! Here we go! Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Sandwiches and fries

Damien brought home some baguettes and and assortment of deli meats and cheese and some jarred peppers and things. Very tasty. Forgot to take a picture. 

Which reminds me, people complain about Twitter, and sure, it can be rough, but there’s also this:

SUNDAY

Nobody can remember what we had on Sunday. It has been erased from the books, wiped clean from the slate, carved clear of the tablets of history. Probably burgers.

Oh, now I remember: Sunday I was picking up Lena from Granite State Comiccon. She did really well, selling prints, stickers, and masks. I happen to have one of her stickers on my laptop

and these apparently sold very briskly. I’ll let you know when she gets her Etsy store restocked. 

MONDAY
Beef barley soup, pumpkin muffins

Corrie has been begging for beef barley soup and Benny has been begging for pumpkin muffins, so even though it was in the mid 70’s, I caved. The leaves are changing, the ducks are flying south, there’s a fog rolling across the dried grass in the mornings, and people who live within a mile of actual corn fields are paying $7.88 for disinfected stalks of corn from Walmart to attach to their porches with zip ties. Sounds like soup weather to me. 

The beef barley soup turned out very nice, although I forgot to buy mushrooms. I made it on the stovetop, but here is a recipe you can easily make in the Instant Pot if you’d prefer

Jump to Recipe

I also made about 18 pumpkin muffins, and they turned out a little weird. The can of pumpkin I was counting on turned out to be pumpkin pie mix, which already has spices and sugar added to it, plus who knows what else. 

(It’s a good, reliable, hearty recipe IF you use actual just plain canned pumpkin! Jump to Recipe)

Then I didn’t help matters by somehow bobbling the hot pan and dumping every single muffin out onto the oven floor, which is currently foul and horrible. So a bunch of them got charred and a bunch of them picked up miscellaneous oven crap, and they weren’t sweet enough, and they had a weird texture, more like cake than muffins, but somehow not in a good way. 

Corrie has been putting them in her lunch every day, though, so it wasn’t a total loss. Her lunch gets inspected because there is a kid with a nut allergy this year, so either the teacher is impressed that I bake a lot, or the teacher is horrified that I’m sending my kid to school with charred pumpkin lumps, not sure which. 

TUESDAY
Chicken burgers, chips, veggies and dip

A very deluxe meal, as you can see.

I’ve been putting bowls of fruit on the table, to dissuade myself from eating chips. It works, in the sense that I eat fruit with my meal, and then go back after supper and eat everybody’s leftover chips. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken soup with matzoh balls, challah, Earl Grey cake with vanilla bean frosting

Clara’s birthday! She requested this coziest of meals. I more or less followed my mother’s recipe for chicken soup, and the recipe on the can for matzoh balls. I made the soup the day before, so it could cook all day long and get very rich and golden. Forgot to take a pic of the finished soup, but here it is being made. I used just some legs, plus carrots, celery, onions, dill, and parsley, and lots and lots of simmering time:

I made two big challahs and they turned out pretty nice. It was chumid as chell, which maybe made the loaves a little flabbier than strictly necessary, but they were pretty good. 

The Early Gray tea cake from Liv For Cake was quite a project. I am not much of a baker, and have long since resigned myself to making box cakes for most birthdays. I followed this recipe slavishly, though, and it came out well. Maybe a little dry; I guess I baked it a hair too long. And my oven really needs leveling!

You have to make tea milk and add that to the batter, as well as adding ground tea. You can also make tea syrup to brush over the baked cake, which I ended up not having time for. Very pleasant, cozy, old fashioned flavor, almost citrusy, not too sweet, and the cake has a very fine grain. 

The vanilla bean frosting that goes with it was also a little more labor intensive than I normally attempt, and I will be honest, it didn’t taste that spectacular to me. You cream egg whites and sugar, then whisk them over a double boiler, then put them back in the stand mixer and keep whisking until they are stiff, then add in the butter and vanilla bean paste. The texture is extremely light and has a creamy flavor — like it tastes like there is cream in it — but it also tasted like shortening to me, which was pretty disappointing, since the actual ingredients (unsalted butter, vanilla bean paste) were actually pretty expensive. Maybe I just don’t like buttercream that much. Everyone else liked it, and it was very easy to work with. 

For some reason I got the idea to make a Great Wave off Kanagawa cake.

I guess the sort of frothy buttercream looked wavy. If I had planned ahead, I would have bought some nonpareils for the foam, but I just piped it in with a sandwich bag and a butter knife. I forgot to put the boat in. Anyway, Clara liked it. 

THURSDAY
Pizza

Damien made pizzas. He tried toasting the pepperoni before adding it to the pizza, just to give it a little extra crunch. I didn’t try any, but he said it was good, not spectacular. He also made one cheese, one pepperoni, and one with anchovies, artichoke hearts, and garlic. Guess which one I held out for.

FRIDAY
Penne

The kids requested pasta that is shaped like tubes, in sauce that comes in jars. That I can do.

And now I’m excited, because my Foley mill arrived in the mail!

This is a lovely little machine, very well designed. It clips onto the side of a pot or bowl, and when you turn the crank, the high end of the inside blade catches food underneath it and forces it down through the little holes as it turns, so it crushes it and also sorts out the seeds and skins and whatnot; and at the same time, a little pin turns on the bottom

to keep it clear as you work. Very nice. 

I bought it from eBay, to replace the food mill I threw out at some point last year. I guess I was doing some kind of kitchen purge and thought, “What is this dumb thing taking up space? I can’t use it more than once a year!” Well guess what, stupid? Here we are at the one time of year when I want to make applesauce, and a food mill is really the only thing that works. I like to cook the apples with the skin and cores in, and then strain them out afterward. You can do it with a sieve, but it’s horrible work and takes forever, and a food mill is just fun to use. Our terrible little apple tree also has plenty of terrible apples on it this year. They’re not really good for anything else besides apple sauce, but they have an intriguing smoky flavor that makes very pleasant sauce. The tree’s name is Marvin.

If you’ve never made your own apple sauce, it’s super easy, and a good way to use the million apples your toddler took one bite of and then discarded. Cut them into quarters, leaving on the skins and cores, and put them in a big pot with an inch or two of water on the bottom. Cover loosely and let it simmer for . . . okay, I don’t remember how long. Maybe forty minutes? Long enough that, when you poke the apples, they don’t resist at all, but collapse into mush. (Softer apples, like Macintosh, are best for applesauce, obviously.) Then you dump everything into a food mill (or sieve) and crush out all the skins and cores.

Add however much sugar and cinnamon you like, and a little butter, and stir. That’s it. Best applesauce you’ve ever had, and the smell is heavenly.  Warm, rosy homemade applesauce with a little vanilla ice cream on top will bring tears to your eyes.

You can also trim the cores and peels off first, and then you can just use a blender or whatever to make the apples into sauce, but the flavor and color won’t be nearly as nice. 

And that’s it! Headed out to adoration in a bit. Praying for you all, cheese bags. 

 

Beef barley soup (Instant Pot or stovetop)

Makes about a gallon of lovely soup

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion or red onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 3-4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 lbs beef, cubed
  • 16 oz mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 6 cups beef bouillon
  • 1 cup merlot or other red wine
  • 29 oz canned diced tomatoes (fire roasted is nice) with juice
  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy pot. If using Instant Pot, choose "saute." Add the minced garlic, diced onion, and diced carrot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions and carrots are softened. 


  2. Add the cubes of beef and cook until slightly browned.

  3. Add the canned tomatoes with their juice, the beef broth, and the merlot, plus 3 cups of water. Stir and add the mushrooms and barley. 

  4. If cooking on stovetop, cover loosely and let simmer for several hours. If using Instant Pot, close top, close valve, and set to high pressure for 30 minutes. 

  5. Before serving, add pepper to taste. Salt if necessary. 

 

Pumpkin quick bread or muffins

Makes 2 loaves or 18+ muffins

Ingredients

  • 15 oz canned pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup veg or canola oil
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 3.5 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • oats, wheat germ, turbinado sugar, chopped dates, almonds, raisins, etc. optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter two loaf pans or butter or line 18 muffin tins.

  2. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.

  3. In a separate bowl, mix together wet ingredients. Stir wet mixture into dry mixture and mix just to blend. 

  4. Optional: add toppings or stir-ins of your choice. 

  5. Spoon batter into pans or tins. Bake about 25 minutes for muffins, about 40 minutes for loaves. 

 

Challah (braided bread)

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup oil (preferably olive oil)
  • 2 eggs
  • 6-8 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp yeast
  • 2 egg yolks for egg wash
  • poppy seeds or "everything bagel" topping (optional)
  • corn meal (or flour) for pan, to keep loaf from sticking

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, dissolve a bit of the sugar into the water, and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir gently, and let sit for five minutes or more, until it foams.

  2. In the bowl of standing mixer, put the flour (starting with six cups), salt, remaining sugar, oil, and eggs, mix slightly, then add the yeast liquid. Mix with dough hook until the dough doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl, adding flour as needed. It's good if it has a slightly scaly appearance on the outside.

  3. (If you're kneading by hand, knead until it feels soft and giving. It will take quite a lot of kneading!)

  4. Put the dough in a greased bowl and lightly cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm place for at least an hour, until it's double in size.

  5. Grease a large baking sheet and sprinkle it with flour or corn meal. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Roll three into "snakes" and make a large braid, pinching the ends to keep them together. Divide the fourth piece into three and make a smaller braid, and lay this over the larger braid. Lay the braided loaf on the pan.

  6. Cover again and let rise again for at least an hour. Preheat the oven to 350.

  7. Before baking, make an egg wash out of egg yolks and a little water. Brush the egg wash all over the loaf, and sprinkle with poppy seeds or "everything" topping.

  8. Bake 25 minutes or more until the loaf is a deep golden color.

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 265: U jelly bro?

It’s fall! This means grapes! It means squash! It means . . . Korean food, why not! Come along and see; we have some lovely recipes this week. 

SATURDAY
Hamburgers, chips, veg and dip, watermelon

There was a little resurgence of summer weather, so Benny’s pal came over and helped her pick some grapes, and we had a little cookout. I spent a few hours working on my never-ending project, this ultra deluxe raccoon-proof garbage enclosure, with Real Hinged Door that Opens and Closes. 

Eventually it will have a corrugated tin roof, and a locking latch, and it will be wrapped in welded wire fencing, and I really do believe I’ll finish it someday. Someday.  Maybe I can be buried in it. 

SUNDAY
Ragù on fettuccine, garlic bread

Damien made his scrumptous Deadspin ragù, which uses ground pork and veal, shredded carrots and celery, and is just heavenly. You could feast on the aroma alone.

We spent a good part of Sunday and Monday evenings making grape jelly. Sunday we picked grapes, pulled off the stems, and cleaned them,

[this is supposed to be two sets of photos embedded from Instagram, but I can’t tell if they’re showing up properly or not]

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Simcha Fisher (@simchafisher)

 

and Monday we did the actual jelly-making.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Simcha Fisher (@simchafisher)

We ended up with about twelve pounds of grapes, and I got to startle a few family members who weren’t aware we were making jelly.

I firmly told myself that the main goal was to have a nice time with Benny, and not necessarily to come out with some grade A jelly, and that was a good thing, because we achieved the former, but not the latter. We ended up with 4 jars of decent jelly,

and another ten jars of something more like syrup — in some cases, because I didn’t realize that, if you decrease the sugar, you need to buy special low-sugar pectin, and in some cases because I used the right amount of sugar but ran out of liquid pectin and used powdered, misread the directions, and just screwed it up generally. This is after I mouthed off about how my mother never used to read the directions and that’s why her jelly was always turned so weird. 

Oh, I just used the recipe on the pectin boxes. I used Ball RealFruit liquid pectin, which was simple and easy, and Sure Jell powdered pectin, which was a little more involved.

I did learn that Concord grapes are very high in histamines, and if you get impatient with the potato masher and decide to mash them by hand, your hands will light up like Christmas trees. I learned that grape flavored Laffy Taffy is the exact flavor of Concord Grape jelly foam, which is kind of startling. And that’s all I learned. Maybe next year, we’ll just make juice.  

MONDAY
Italian sandwiches

Ciabatta rolls with spicy salami, prosciutto, mozzarella, tomatoes, red pesto, olive oil and vinegar, and a little fresh pepper.

We’ve been having this sandwich about once a week and I’m nowhere near tired of it yet. I mean not this specific sandwich.

TUESDAY
Honey mustard chicken thighs with fall vegetables

A one-pan meal, nice and easy. Let’s launch the beginning of butternut squash season with a useful tip: To easily peel butternut squash, cut off the ends and pierce it several times with a fork, then microwave it for 3-4 minutes. You should be able to peel it with a vegetable peeler and cut it fairly easily after that. 

So for this dish, you cut up your squash and potato, drizzle it with oil and season it with salt and pepper, lay the chicken on top, and then stir up a simple sauce and brush the chicken with the sauce. Then you just roast it all together. 

Jump to Recipe

The sauce runs down into the pan, and vegetables pick it up, it all melds together, nice skin, everybody’s happy. 

I had some leftover broccoli and carrots in the fridge, so I added those in halfway through the cooking, and that worked nicely. 

This meal is subject to endless varieties of vegetables and seasonings, and you can make it all ahead of time. It all goes in one pan, but it’s easy for picky eaters to fish out the things they like.

Win win win. I don’t know why this picture looks like I took it through a butterscotch wrapper, but there it is.

WEDNESDAY
Regular tacos

Nothing to report. I do remember that I kept calling everyone for supper and they kept wandering off, so I got mad and left, and then two hours later Corrie tearfully claimed no one told her it was supper time, and I felt so bad, but then they told me she was on the couch reading Calvin and Hobbes and wouldn’t answer them, and they actually went over and shook her, but she refused to respond. I heated up a taco for her anyway, but by this point, I was confused about who I was supposed to be mad at, so I just sat on the couch and felt mad in general. Does it usually take this long to get used to getting back to school? I don’t remember, but I feel like I’m-a-gonna die. 

THURSDAY
Instant pot bo ssam with spicy walnut sauce, rice, pineapple

This recipe looks like more work than it really is. If you skip most of the extras, basically you just have to find the fattiest hunk of pork you can, slather it with big handfuls of salt and sugar, wrap it up, ignore it for many hours, unwrap and cook it for many more hours, slather some sauce on at the last minute and cook it a little more, then chunk it on the table to gasps or admiration.

Okay, so you have to make two sauces, but one only has three ingredients, and you can make the other one in the food processor. It contains your entire yearly recommended allowance for salt and sugar. This is one of those foods where people are just silent while eating it, and you think, “Maybe they don’t like it very much” but then they get up and RUN to the platter and get more. IT’S VERY GOOD. Especially the parts where the caramelized fat has basically turned into pork candy. Pork candy that makes you weep. 

It’s supposed to cook at least six hours in a 300-degree oven, and I put it in way too late, so after a few hours, I moved it to the Instant Pot and cooked it on high for 45 minutes on the rack with a cup of water, then put it back in the oven for ten minutes to finish the sauce crust. You guys, it was PERFECT. Here is when it came out of the IP:

And here is after ten minutes under the broiler (and yes, I could have moved the rack down a few notches):

When you broke through the shiny, charred exterior, the inside was beautifully shredded and incredibly moist and full of intense flavor. I’ll be using the IP for this recipe from now on. 

The pork itself is quite sweet and salty, not spicy, and most of the kids really liked it. The sauce that goes along with it is spicy and savory and strange. A little goes a long way, but you won’t want to miss it. 

Bo ssam is supposed to be wraps, and I forgot to buy any lettuce to wrap it in, but nobody minded — we just ate the shredded pork with rice. You definitely want rice or something else mild to give your mouth a rest from all that intense flavor. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

I used up only about 20% of the vast stores of leftover cheese that are cluttering up the fridge. However, I only made three pounds of macaroni, which is close to what people will actually eat, so maybe I won’t have created vast stores of leftover macaroni and cheese to clutter up the fridge. Maybe.

And now the adoration chapel has finally opened up again, and we signed our vaccinated asses up for a weekly hour on Fridays. I’ll pray for youse!

One pan honey garlic chicken thighs with fall veg

Adapted from Damn Delicious 

Ingredients

  • 18 chicken thighs
  • 2 lbs broccoli in spears
  • 4-5 lbs potatoes in wedges, skin on if you like
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed

sauce:

  • 1/3+ cup honey
  • 1/3+ tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp dijon or yellow mustard
  • 9 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • olive oil for drizzing

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Prepare the sauce. 

  2. In a large, greased sheet pan, spread the potatoes and squash. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. 

  3. Lay the chicken thighs on top of the potatoes and squash. Brush the sauce over the chicken skins. 

  4. Roast the chicken for thirty minutes or more until they are almost cooked.

  5. Add the broccoli, arranging it on top of the potatoes and in between the chicken. Return the pan to the oven and let it finish cooking another 10 -20 minutes so you don't die. The skins should be golden and the broccoli should be a little charred. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 264: Banger? I barely mashed ‘er

With an audible wrenching sound, I have forced myself to start cooking real meals again, even though we are fully back in school and having to set alarms in the morning and everything. Well, with a few exceptions, like Damien cooking and us buying pizza. Well, I made a few things, anyway. Look, I found my potato masher, and now you have to look at my sausage pictures. 

SATURDAY
Athens pizza

I remember when I used to think that people who went to the Saturday vigil Mass were technically not sinning, but rrreeallly, I mean my goodness, maybe if they just tried a little bit harder, they could make it to actual Sunday morning Mass like a real Catholic. 

Ehh, sorry about that. Anyway, we decided to go to Saturday Mass for the sole purpose of being able to sleep in on Sunday, and then we decided to go out for pizza after Mass for the sole purpose of I don’t wanna cook. I forgot it was some kind of community art festival, and this band had set up across the street in front of a tire store. Lena went over and asked them to play Wonderwall, but they pretended not to hear, which was not very Freebird of them. 

SUNDAY
Chicken quesadillas

I was working on my pallet garbage enclosure all day, and Damien shopped for and cooked dinner, and installed the faucet in the bathroom sink and caulked the vanity into place. I know it sounds like I’m coming out way ahead here, but consider: My husband has allowed — nay, encouraged — all the children to pronounce it “kwassadillas.” They also say “gwack-a-mole.”

MONDAY
Burgers and brats, clams, chips, onions three ways

Labor day! I love Labor Day, because you get to go, “Workers are important; go, unions!” and then you’re all set to have a day off, and you don’t have to carefully arrange your attitude and make sure you’re celebrating properly or enjoying your hamburger in a fashion that’s appropriate to the season or something. Damien grilled up a bunch of burgers, brats, and clams. Oh man, the smells. The smells!

The brats, he boils in beer and onions and then grills. He also fries up a bunch of onions, and also chops up a bunch of raw onions. We just like onions, okay? There are also onions in the clams. 

Here’s the clam recipe, which works with all kinds of shellfish:

Jump to Recipe

TUESDAY
Honey garlic pork ribs, rice, tangy cucumber salad

The pork rib recipe was a real “ship of Theseus” situation. You’re supposed to brine the pork (which is supposed to be chops, not ribs) for 24 hours, then pepper it, then cook it in a low oven for an hour, then pan sear it with this lovely sauce. I ended up brining them, yes, but then broiling, then pouring the sauce over the meat and finishing cooking it covered it foil. It was tasty and juicy, but of course it lacked any kind of glaze. Also I uh ran out of honey and chucked in a bunch of orange marmalade, and used white wine instead of sake. Don’t own a probe thermometer. Sauce never did thicken up. Didn’t even consider garnishing with thyme. And it was kind of undercooked so I had to put it in the microwave. Whatever! You don’t know me! It had a nice sweet, garlicky flavor and just about everyone who likes pork liked it, and I made plenty of rice, which I only burned a little bit. 

I served it with a tangy cucumber salad, which turned out a little more vinegary than was strictly necessary, because as previously mentioned, I was pretty low on honey, and I also couldn’t find my sesame oil, so that made it considerably less flavorful than it might have been.

Jump to Recipe

It’s a nice simple salad, though, and tastes sophisticated and refreshing along with something savory. Just don’t skimp on the honey. 

WEDNESDAY
Bangers and mash with onion sauce, cheesy pretzel bites

The day started off damp and dark, with a shivery, chilly mist enveloping the world. Brr, I thought, how perfect would it be to welcome my family home at the end of the day to a huge platter of steamy, hearty sausages smothered in creamy, garlicky mashed potatoes topped with a rich, savory onion gravy. The only flaw in my plan was that, by the time dinner time rolled around, it was in the high 70’s, sunny, and humid. OH WELL, TOO BAD. EAT YOUR TATERS. 

I made ten pounds of mashed potatoes, intending to make garlic parmesan mashed potatoes,

Jump to Recipe

but unable to find the parmesan cheese. 

I more or less followed this recipe for onion gravy, except I used even more corn starch than it called for and it still didn’t thicken up properly. This is my cross to bear. My gravies don’t thicken. 

I also made several boxes of frozen pretzel bites stuffed with pepper jack cheese from Aldi, which were exactly as advertised — chewy and sour on the outside, melty and salty inside.

Pretty tasty hot, pretty un-tasty as soon as they cooled down. 

THURSDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips, broccoli and carrots

Around 6 PM, my kitchen was full of gigantic adult children shouting at each other about how disappointed they were about how the movie Candyman ended, which caused me to burn half the sandwiches. Not my fault. 

I, virtuous, skipped the chips and just ate vegetables (drowned in french onion dip).

The kids asked me why some of the sandwiches didn’t have ham in them, and I just stared at them, bug-eyed, and shrugged like I couldn’t even believe they would ask such a dumb question. It actually was a perfectly reasonable question, but on the other hand, let’s see how they like it! Ha ha! 

FRIDAY
Shrimp lo mein

It’s been a while since we’ve had lo mein. It’s been . . . lo these meiny months. I don’t know. Some of the kids said they didn’t really like it, and I said what should I make instead, and they said wah wah wah, so I’m making lo mein. (Actually they suggested tuna noodle casserole, which I just don’t like making, so there.)

I cut up some peppers and red onion and scallions, and cleaned the shrimp, and any minute now I’m going to get up off my bed of pain and make some sauce. Then all I have to do is boil up the noodles before supper and we’ll have a lovely little meal to throw together. I really love lo mein, and was delighted to discover what a simple recipe it is.

Jump to Recipe

You can put in whatever vegetables and proteins you like. Here’s one with shrimp and sugar snap peas: 

And that’s my story.

 

Grilled clams or mussels in wine sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 white or red onion
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • live clams or mussels
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cups white wine
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Prepare sauce: Coarsely chop the onion and sautee it in the olive oil with the red pepper flakes. Add salt and pepper. 


  2. Add two sticks of butter and let them melt. Add the wine and lemon juice. 

  3. Light the fire and let it burn to coals. While it's burning down, sort and clean the shellfish, discarding any damaged or dead ones. (If they're open, tap them. If they don't close, they're dead. If they're closed, they're fine.)

  4. Lay shellfish on grill until they pop open. The hotter the fire, the shorter the time it will take - five minutes or more. 

  5. Add shellfish to sauce and stir to mix. 

spicy cucumber salad

A spicy, zippy side dish that you can make very quickly. 

Ingredients

  • 3-4 cucumbers, sliced thin (peeling not necessary)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar or white vinegar
  • 1+ tsp honey
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Optional:

red pepper, diced

  • 1/2 red onion diced

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Serve immediately, or chill to serve later (but the longer you leave it, the softer the cukes will get)

 

Garlic parmesan mashed potatoes

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs potatoes
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 8 Tbsp butter
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 8 oz grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Peel the potatoes and put them in a pot. Cover the with water. Add a bit of salt and the smashed garlic cloves.

  2. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer with lid loosely on until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.

  3. Drain the water out of the pot. Add the butter and milk and mash well.

  4. Add the parmesan and salt and pepper to taste and stir until combined.

 

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 5 tsp sesame oil
  • 5 tsp sugar

for the rest

  • 32 oz uncooked noodles
  • sesame oil for cooking
  • add-ins (vegetables sliced thin or chopped small, shrimp, chicken, etc.)
  • 2/3 cup rice vinegar (or mirin, which will make it sweeter)

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

  2. Boil the noodles until slightly underdone. Drain and set aside.

  3. Heat up a pan, add some sesame oil for cooking, and quickly cook your vegetables or whatever add-ins you have chosen.

  4. Add the mirin to the pan and deglaze it.

  5. Add the cooked noodles in, and stir to combine. Add the sauce and stir to combine.

What’s for supper? Vol. 263: Cardiologist’s delight

Let’s go! No tears! No tears! Where is your mask! Where are your shoes!!! Here’s what we ate this week, which was BACK-TO-SCHOOL WEEK: 

SATURDAY
Prosciutto sandwiches

Damien handled dinner while I took the kids shopping for school supplies on the absolute last possible day I could get away with it. I don’t remember if I actually ate some hemp gummies beforehand, or just planned to, but I’m here now, so I clearly survived somehow. 

My particular sandwich was a length of baguette with prosciutto, provolone, tomato, olive oil and vinegar, fresh pepper, and a schmear of red pesto. Yum yum. I wish I had one right now. 

Sometimes people ask us, “Simcha, Damien, your household seems to run so smoothly, and your children all seem so capable and well-rounded. What’s the secret to your success?” We always smile and gently explain that it’s simple: We invite our children to help us in the kitchen. This not only teaches them skills they’ll lean on for the rest of their lives, it keeps them invested in the immediate well-being of the family, and shows that their actions in the here and now truly are, in a very real way, who we are as a community. Here, for instance, is a tomato one of the children sliced up for dinner in a very real way:

Nice slicing, jerk. I’ll invest you in a very real way.

SUNDAY
Ape law

Clara and I were at the Green River Festival, as I mentioned.

Those are my migraine sunglasses. I know they look stupid but they’re the only frames that don’t squeeze my head. I had a falafel wrap for lunch from Ahli Baba’s Kabob Shop based in Burlington, VT (fresh and tasty, and the pita was top notch) and some kind of pork dumplings and coconut curry for dinner, but I paid cash so my bank statements aren’t reminding me who that vendor was. I also bought some peaches and cream ice pops from Crooked Stick Pops, and they tasted exactly like peaches and cream, so that was nice. 

I am not sure what the people at home had? Possibly grilled burgers and hot dogs. We call this “ape law,” which just means I’m not there and didn’t make any plans or buy any groceries, which just means Damien usually makes burgers and they watch SpongeBob or something. In order to get a really good Ape Law situation going, you have to be not exhausted, and we are all exhausted. 

MONDAY
BLTs

First day of school for college kids and Catholic high school. We had LEFTOVER BACON after supper, can you imagine? I truly just do not know how much food to buy anymore. 

Benny and Corrie made a back-to-school cake together, very cute.

They accidentally added three times too much water, then bulked it up with flour. They then gave this brand of cake mix low ratings because the texture is fine, but it’s kind of bland. And their mother officially has no opinion about that. 

TUESDAY
Vermonter sandwiches, broccoli, bacon-roasted corn on the cob

Orientation day for elementary and middle school charter school kids. This turned out to be a half day, but I somehow missed that detail, so what could have been a mere 3/4 of a day of driving around like an idiot turned into a full day of driving around like an idiot (because they were two different halves of the day and two different towns, but not the same town we live in). This is what people are referring to when they say some parents are just too lazy to homeschool their own children [skin falls off from sheer exhaustion].

Anyway, Vermonter sandwiches are: Roast chicken breast, bacon, sharp cheddar cheese, green apple, and honey mustard on sourdough or ciabatta. 

A good, hearty sandwich, and you can of course make everything ahead of time. If you rinse the apple slices in lemon or lime juice, they won’t go brown.

I also cut up a bunch of raw broccoli, and then forgot I had done so and thought we still needed a side, so I shucked a bunch of corn. I then got a brilliant if not precisely heart-healthy idea: I put the corn on a giant baking pan and poured a bunch of bacon grease and bits over it and rolled it around, and sprinkled it heavily with salt. I covered it loosely with tin foil and roasted it for several minutes until it was making a little noise. Then I uncovered it and let it brown up a bit, and turned it a bit and browned the other side. 

It was pretty fab! Not monstrously, earth-shatteringly wonderful, but it tasted special and crisp and savory, and it sure was easy. Definitely worth doing if you have bacon fat around, especially if you do not feel like heating up a giant pot of water, which I could go the whole rest of my life without feeling like. 

WEDNESDAY
Mexican beef bowls

First day of public high school and first full day of everyone in everything. I wanted to make a hearty and popular meal, but I bobbled it a little bit. I didn’t buy enough meat, and I cooked it too long, and I forgot to get corn chips or avocados, and I accidentally put basil-flavored tomatoes into the beans instead of chili tomatoes, and I burned the rice a bit. Come to think of it, everyone must have been absolutely starving, because I screwed that up pretty bad! Oh well. 

It’s a great marinade, though,

Jump to Recipe

and a good meal if you don’t screw it up. So we had rice, beef, corn, sweet peppers, cilantro, sour cream, beans and tomatoes, cheddar cheese, and limes. I didn’t get around to sautéing the peppers. I did use Taijin powder liberally, which always helps.

I cut the corn off the leftover corn on the cob and heated it up in a pan. Hey, I actually burned that, too. You know what, it was a very trying day, but everyone got fed. 

THURSDAY
Omelettes, sausages, cinnamon buns

I didn’t burn a single omelette, and even managed to do a fancy trifold on some of them, but the photos didn’t turn out great, so you’ll have to use your imagination. We just had your choice of cheddar cheese and ham, and the cinnamon buns were from a can. Everyone was happy. 

FRIDAY
Stuffed shells

Benny has been longing for this meal for weeks, but it’s been way too hot and steamy to even consider it, but I have to admit, today it’s chilly and foggy and perfectly fine for stuffed shells. I always think, “Just because school starts, that doesn’t mean we have to stop going to the beach and stuff! We can still have summer fun on weekends for a while!” but it seems like the temperature plummets the very moment the school year begins, and bam, it’s fall. Oh well. At least we have stuffed shells. I guess I have to heat up a big pot of water, though. 

My recipe isn’t spectacular, but it’s serviceable, and has nutmeg. Gonna shave up a ton of fresh parmesan, which makes a big difference, too. 

Stuffed shells

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. Cook the shells in salted water, drain, and rinse in cool water. Mix them up with olive oil so they don't stick together.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350. Mix into the ricotta cheese all the seasoning, the parmesan, and 3 of the cups of mozzarella.

  3. 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.

  4. 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. 

 

Beef marinade for fajita bowls

enough for 6-7 lbs of beef

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 head garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together.

  2. Pour over beef, sliced or unsliced, and marinate several hours. If the meat is sliced, pan fry. If not, cook in a 350 oven, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. I cook the meat in all the marinade and then use the excess as gravy.

What’s for supper? Vol. 262: Tearwater margaritas

Now I officially only write about two things anymore: Weight loss, and things I ate. Oh, and crying. 

I have other stuff going on, but it’s all . . . yargh. I shalln’t lie, I have been having Kind Of A Hard Time Lately, as who isn’t, and the doctor wasn’t really able to discern if I am Medication Crazy, Lady Crazy, or Actually Crazy. The truth is that I might just be extremely tired from — you know — [waves hands ]–THE THINGS.

Everyone has their THE THINGS these days. Everyone’s so tired. You start out writing about going to an amusement park with your kids, and 900 words later: Oh look, it’s another excruciating personal meditation on

f e a r 

how nice. Already did one of those this week, but let’s have another, waiter.

So Damien took me out for margaritas and I cried at him, because I am fun. Also I got a bundle of papers in the mail, and one of them was a handwriting analysis my mother had done for me. Basically an unexpected letter from my dead mother saying what kind of person she thought I was. And she charged me $7.50! Because she was trying to raise money for a Nigerian seminarian, who, of course, turned out to be a scammer.  What I’m trying to say is, there’s been some ups and downs. But probably it’s the medication. (Brophy voice: That was no medication.) 

Every spare moment has been taken up with the bathroom renovation that never ends, countless trips to [ptui] Home Depot, and neverending speculations on what might possibly bring the world’s weepiest toilet to finally dry its tears and — okay, now I’m projecting, but we really do have a massive condensation problem in there. But we are actually fairly close to the end of this renovation job. I myself put in three portions of actual wall, and waterproofed it all, and tiled and grouted it, and caulked it and put in trim. Where once there were moldy holes, there are now sound walls and floors, and it feels pretty good. And my parents’ house may actually go on the market in a week. And we managed to get to the beach, and we managed to do this thing and that thing, and we’re shopping for school supplies today, and just about everything is crossed off the list. There was a moment where I was applying grout to the wall and literally had my face right in the hole where the toilet used to be and a child came in and asked what was for dinner, and all I said was,”Please ask Daddy,” so if it seems like I had a lot of margaritas this week, that’s why.

Gawd, I never shut up. Let’s talk about food. Here’s what we ate last last week, because I never got around to writing a food post:

FRIDAY
Shrimp tacos

I think I actually mentioned making this, but posted about it before I took a photo, so here it is:

They were delicious. I peeled, deveined, and dried the shrimp, dusted them with … I think cumin, sea salt, and cayenne pepper, or something like that. Let them rest for a bit and then sautéed them quickly in olive oil and chili oil. Served on flour tortillas with shredded cabbage, cilantro, chunks of avocado, hot sauce, and a squeeze of lime juice.

Perfect summer meal along with some cool watermelon. 

SATURDAY
Meatball subs, grapes

Damien made the meatballs. I don’t know what he put in them, but they were tasty. We had them on rolls with sauce from jars.

SUNDAY
Chicken caprese sandwiches, cucumbers, ice cream pies (?)

I split a bunch of baguettes and heated up some frozen chicken patties that were a special buy at Aldi. The “special” part turned out to be that they were in a box, rather than a bag.

Served with tomatoes, basil, sliced cheese; sliced some cucumbers. 

We got home from Mass and I felt the strong urge to make pie. Then I was like, “No, don’t be silly, you’re far too busy for that.” So instead, I made 12 mini pies. Because they’re . . .  smaller. I don’t know. 

I made a double recipe of this reliable Fannie Farmer pie crust recipe

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.

and cut it into 12 pieces, and stretched them over upside-down muffin tins sprayed with cooking spray, and then baked them until they were browned, about 25 minutes. 

They turned out great.  Well, a few cracked, but that would be easy to avoid in the future with a little patching. Not terribly decorative, but perfectly functional. 

The idea was the kids could fill them with ice cream and top them with cherries or whatever they wanted. I don’t know if they actually did this, as I was out drinking a tearwater margarita.

It was a Silver Star Margarita made with Hornitos Plata Tequila, triple sec and elderflower liqueur. When I ordered, the waitress said, “Oh, top drawer!” which made me feel guilty and defensive and angry, which, in retrospect, was probably not her intention. Did I mention how much fun I am? I am twelve miniature empty pie shells worth of fun.

MONDAY
Chicken caesar salad wraps (?)

Roast chicken breast, romaine lettuce, some leftover tomato and cucumber, some of those crunchy parmesan crisps, freshly shredded parmesan, and caesar salad dressing from a bottle, and pita bread. You do what you like. I think most people made wraps.

We used dressing from a bottle, but if you’re feeling ambitious, my renegade homemade dressing has no technique and is pretty snappy. 

5 from 2 votes
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caesar salad dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about two large lemons' worth)
  • 1 Tbsp mustard
  • 4 raw egg yolks, beaten
  • 3/4 cup finely grated parmesan

Instructions

  1. Just mix it all together, you coward.

I ended up tearing up my pita and just having a dinner of bits of things, which is the kind of meal I like the best. 

TUESDAY
Pizza

I went on such an insane snacking frenzy, I had no desire to eat dinner, but I made some pizzas that looked nice, anyway. One cheese, one pepperoni, one garlic, olive, anchovy, and ricotta, and one garlic, olive, and feta.

WEDNESDAY
Canobie! Lake! Park!

Last Wednesday was the last day trip on our list for the summer, and it was a pretty great day. Canobie Lake Park is a wonderful place, clean, friendly, beautiful.  You can head over to my Facebook page to see a few photos of I posted if you like.

We brought a picnic lunch to eat in the parking lot, and the only park food be bought was Dippin’ Dots, the Ice Cream of the Future. I didn’t have any, so I still am unclear about what constitutes its futurosity. At this point, I’d rather it remain a mystery. We stopped at Wendy’s on the way home, and it was hands down the absolute worst Wendy’s experience of my life. I was openly mocked for hoping they would give us our drinks, and the fries were about 30% full. Still, the Son of a Baconator is a damn fine sandwich.

THURSDAY
I think we had nachos 

This was 47 years ago 

FRIDAY
I have no idea

Still with me?  That was the previous week!

Now here’s what we had this past week:

SATURDAY
Sandwiches

Damien shopped for this meal and put it together.

It looks like . . . a baguette with prosciutto, provolone, spicy salami, tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and fresh pepper. Gosh, I wish I had some right now. And some nice green grapes. Grapes are coming back in season, so that’s fun! What would we do if there weren’t always some fruit coming into season. 

MONDAY
Chicken bakeadillas and guacamole

Feeling like an absolute degenerate, I bought a couple of rotisserie chickens to make into quesadillas, because I knew I wasn’t going to be up for shopping, then cooking chicken, then frying quesadillas. Well, it turns out I also wasn’t up for frying quesadillas, even though Clara shredded cheese for me. So I got the idea of making a giant baked quesadilla in the oven.

You guys, it turned out great. Not quite as tasty as an individually fried quesadillas, but more than serviceable, and so much easier. I sprayed a large pan with cooking spray, then covered it with six large overlapping tortillas, then shredded cheese, then shredded chicken, more cheese, chili lime powder, and another layer of overlapping tortillas. Then I drizzled it with olive oil and spread it around a bit and sprinkled it generously with salt, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Baked at 400 about 15 minutes.

We cut it into slabs with a pizza cutter and served it with sour cream and guacamole.

You could easily add all kinds of things to this: Salsa, beans, whatever. You could make several layers of tortillas with different fillings in between layers. You can do whatever you want; you’re the chief of police!

TUESDAY
Vaguely middle eastern chicken

I doused some chicken breast with spices from a jar that said “KAFTA” and broiled it. Sliced it up and served it with raw spinach, carrots, tomatoes, feta, all kinds of olives, and some yogurt sauce. I didn’t have much pita, so I cut it up into triangles and made a nice fan shape, and this created the illusion of plenty. 

Or maybe it actually was plenty, and I’m just insane.

I also cut up a watermelon into chunks and served that along with dinner.  A fine summer meal, if not quite the shawarma everyone kept asking if it was when they saw me setting all those olives and feta out on the counter.

If you do want to make shawarma, AND YOU DO, here’s my recipe:

5 from 2 votes
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Chicken shawarma

Ingredients

  • 8 lbs boned, skinned chicken thighs
  • 4-5 red onions
  • 1.5 cups lemon juice
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 entire head garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Mix marinade ingredients together, then add chicken. Put in ziplock bag and let marinate several hours or overnight.

  2. Preheat the oven to 425.

  3. Grease a shallow pan. Take the chicken out of the marinade and spread it in a single layer on the pan, and top with the onions (sliced or quartered). Cook for 45 minutes or more. 

  4. Chop up the chicken a bit, if you like, and finish cooking it so it crisps up a bit more.

  5. Serve chicken and onions with pita bread triangles, cucumbers, tomatoes, assorted olives, feta cheese, fresh parsley, pomegranates or grapes, fried eggplant, and yogurt sauce.

And don’t forget the yogurt sauce:

5 from 2 votes
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Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

WEDNESDAY
Confused alligator noises

I spent most of the day working on the bathroom and making multiple trips to Home Depot and various other supply stores, and around dinner time, I left the house while hastily voice-to-texting the kids that I had left frozen hot dogs, frozen meatballs, and a leftover rotisserie chicken on the table, and they should heat everything up and eat it while I was out. They opted instead to let the hot dogs and meatballs thaw out, eat the chicken cold, and have some ice cream. This is fine. Damien brought home some sushi for the two of us, and then I stayed up past midnight tiling behind the toilet. 

THURSDAY
Pork?

I think the people at home had pork. On Thursday I took a bunch of the kids to the town pond for several hours, and then Lena and I went fabric shopping because the living room curtains are moldy (I mean they have been moldy for years, but it suddenly got to me), and then we went to Margaritas, which we’ve been talking about doing all summer, and here it is the end of August. 

To a casual reader, it may seem like I go to Margaritas and drink margaritas and cry constantly, but it’s really only about once a week that I do this. And I only cried a little bit! I would say that, considering how many margaritas I drank, I really barely even cried at all. They were delicious, thanks. We both had the steak chimichangas and told some very funny stories. Or so it seemed at the time. Listen, I’m a good tipper and I didn’t spill anything. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 261: Thornton Wilder can make his own sandwich, how bow dah

What’s for supper? Well, I’ll tell you.

First I must once again beg your pardon for how little I’ve been writing. Last time I said was going to tell you all about our exciting progress on fixing up Damien’s bob house office, and there has been exciting progress, but then he — well, essentially got fired for being too good, and then got a better job literally ten minutes later, and it’s been a whole thing. So that, too, was exciting.

But first the basement flooded repeatedly, and while that was going on, our only toilet absolutely disassembled itself, and we had to tear up the entire bathroom floor and replace it, and it turned out some of the wall was also no good and had to be removed, and that was a whole thing. We do have a working toilet again, but the sink is still in the yard, there are exposed wall joists, and I have set up an impossible situation for myself involving angled tiles and quarter round, and there are several distinct . . . shambles situations . . . .in the bathroom, kitchen, and dining room. 

Here’s fateful screenshot I took of my calendar and happily posted on Facebook, rashly tempting the fates. A friend commented, “Just wait.” Hours later, the toilet went kablooey

But I didn’t want our last bit of summer to turn into nothing but stress and renovations, so we really pushed and, in between fixing stuff, went to see a drive-in movie (Jungle Cruise, or more properly, Jungle Crungle, on account of how highly crungly it was), and a concert, and of course everybody had to be driven to work and to their friend’s houses and hwhatnot, and Moe was in Our Town, right in Peterborough which the play is based on; but it got rained out, so then we went back a couple of days later, and then we went to the ocean, and while we were at the ocean, suddenly there came a lot of totally unpredictable work deadlines! No way of predicting this!

And I am supposed to be finalizing plans to have my parents’ house cleaned out and getting the kids to meet with the person who’s going to train them to work on a farm, and also talk to someone about vaccines, and do something about a scholarship situation I don’t really understand, and also teach two kids to drive before school starts.  I don’t know when school starts. Not yet, I am guessing.

But other than that, I think I am all caught up! Except for the bathroom floor. And every time I go out, I keep lugging home roses on clearance, and free pallets to build a garbage enclosure and stuff, because there is a big part of me that still believes that, if I paint myself into a corner, I’ll get stuff done. And I’m usually right.

However, every time someone asks me where all the toothbrushes are, I keep saying, “On the treadmill,” and for some reason, I’m fine with that.

Also mostly fine with the hallway stacked up with large sections of bathroom wall plaster with salvageable tile stuck to it. You know, we were going to have a labor day party this year, but maybe not after all.

Consequentemente, I do not have a lot of innovative dinner recipes to share with you this week. When I look through my camera roll, it it showing me . . . other things. Not meals. Here are some things I thought it was worth documenting these last few weeks, instead of my dinner plate:

The dress I wore for a Zoom speech I gave for NFP week. Honest to God, people pay me to talk. I took this photo because I was happy to see I can zip up this dress again. I still have a ways to go, but yay me! This is especially impressive considering how much take-out food we’ve been resorting to these past few weeks. I blame the child tax credit advance thing. 

Here’s  board game I decided not to purchase at an antique store I browsed with Clara while killing time between confession and Mass. 

A very specific bumper sticker that is apparently for sale, which I also did not buy, even though it is true

 

A rather handsome grasshopper. I guess I needed to step outside for a bit after the toilet went kablooey. I shall call him “Gawain.”

Oh yes, here is my murderboat. The geranium is doing well this year. 

Oh look, we did have a yummy meal! Pulled pork, biscuits, and coleslaw. I remember this because the pulled pork was fantastic and I did not write down what went into it. 

Good biscuits, too,

and here is the recipe:

moron biscuits

Because I've been trying all my life to make nice biscuits and I was too much of a moron, until I discovered this recipe. It has egg and cream of tartar, which is weird, but they come out great every time. Flaky little crust, lovely, lofty insides, rich, buttery taste.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, chilled
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450.

  2. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and cream of tartar.

  3. Grate the chilled butter with a box grater into the dry ingredients.

  4. Stir in the milk and egg and mix until just combined. Don't overwork it. It's fine to see little bits of butter.

  5. On a floured surface, knead the dough 10-15 times. If it's very sticky, add a little flour.

  6. With your hands, press the dough out until it's about an inch thick. Cut biscuits. Depending on the size, you can probably get 20 medium-sized biscuits with this recipe.

  7. Grease a pan and bake for 10-15 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

So the rundown of what we actually did in the bathroom is this:

Pulled up the flooring, underlayment, subfloor, and insulation, which was all wet.
Pulled out some wall tiles and drywall.
Removed toilet and vanity cabinet.
Removed some rotten wall studs and replaced them.
Sprayed moldy joists with concrobium and let it dry.
Put in some mysteriously missing heating ducts.
Put in new insulation.
Cut and installed new DryPly subfloor.
Cut but did not install hardieboard for wall. 
Gave subfloor two coats of RedGard.
Installed new vinyl flooring. 
Installed new, insulated toilet with rubber ring instead of wax. 

There was a lot of lying on the floor with your nose in the sewer pipe, gouging away at wet plywood with a crowbar, and there were also various plumbing complications that I did not understand, that Damien dealt with. I’m not sharing photos because honestly it’s just exhausting to even look at.

We have some kind of bizarre plumbing situation because our well water is very cold, which makes the tank sweat, causing excessive condensation. And even though there is a window and a fan in the bathroom, the whole room is just very swampy. And we did have a catastrophic bathtub leak a while back that we were not able to deal with in a reasonable way, and honestly, our only real option is to set the house on fire, but that is a project for another day. Right now, we are aiming for a solid B- repair of the part of the floor that is visible if you don’t think about it too hard, and that is going to have to do. 

It took days and days and days, and we absolutely 100% do not know what we are doing. As I mentioned, this is our only toilet, so we worked very strategically, and ended up dropping the kids off downtown with a wad of cash for many hours, instructing them to avail themselves of as many public bathrooms as possible while they could. Then we did the same thing the next day.

Changing pace, here is an actual good meal: Korean BBQ steaks, sautéed pepper and onion, and pineapple.

I used this Damn Delicious marinade and Damien grilled the steaks outside. Absolutely magnificent steak. The marinade has grated pear in it, and I can’t say I could taste it specifically, but that was some very good meat. 

At one point, I suddenly couldn’t stand to ignore Corrie’s hair anymore,

and spent an hour and a half Doing Something About It

Phew.

Here’s the dog at the library concert.

He does like John Philip Sousa, as who does not, but what he really likes is dragging his balls across the grass under the impression that he is technically still “down” while still sneaking over to go be with the kids playing in the sand pit. 

I will spare you the next 46 pictures of the bathroom progress and Home Depot. I went to Home Depot so many times and I felt so sorry for myself. I also went to Aubuchon and Harbor Freight many times, and at one point straight up yelled at them because they are a hardware store that did not carry either buckets or shims, which is ridiculous.

In situations like this, people always suggest that they actually prefer visiting their local mom and pop hardware store, where the people are actually very friendly and knowledgeable and want to help. This is an excellent idea, and I would someday like to do the same. Our local hardware store is literally called “Mother’s Hardware” and it is literally closed. Like, always. Like there is probably some hour of some day when it is literally open, but I literally do not know when that might be, or how it stays in business. So off to fucking Home Depot I go, and I guess I’m what’s wrong with the world. Oh, the reason I needed a bucket was so we had something to poop in, which probably accounts for my mood. I did get to teach Corrie the womanly art of peeing in a Solo cup, which she thought was hilarious. 

Lucy shaved her head, and why the heckamadoodle not

And we had. I knew this was a food blog, deep down. You can see it has sun dried tomatoes, fresh basil, red onion, dry salami, thinly-sliced garlic, and freshly-shredded parmesan, wine vinegar and olive oil, and butterfly pasta.

Oh, and black olives.

Here is Benny’s shopping turn. She made some extra money by cleaning out the car, and spent most of it at the Dollar Tree

Here’s a picture I took of a chipmunk while I was waiting for Damien to finish running.

We went out of for a run together. I got all suited up, and I got my ibuprofen and my special anti-chafing stuff and my water and my special socks and everything, and we stretched, and we warmed up, and we took about two steps and I was like NOPE. So I went for a 1.5-mile walk, and then I went to go sit down and take fuzzy pictures of chipmunks while Damien ran.

Here’s a picture of Freud’s mother, in case you, too, were wondering

Here’s a diagram of the most unreasonable sink countertop in the world.

Those measurements are correct. I have been trying to find something, anything, to fit underneath it, so we can stop brushing our teeth in the kitchen sink. You will say, “Just go to IKEA!” but we do not have an IKEA and they do not ship to us, so shut up. Yes, I have considered just using industrial metal shelving as a stopgap. The toothbrushes are on the treadmill. 

Here’s a game of Go Fish with ol’ Poker Face

Here’s the picture of Moe, who built the stage for and had a small part in Our Town with Gordon Clapp, who, if you recall, was Greg Medavoy in NYPD Blue.

I have never read or seen Our Town and honestly, I really hated it. It was very well done, but it made me feel terrible. I’ve been talking it over with Damien and there’s definitely more to it than I first realized (my first reaction was “Hallmark card nihilism”), but it still was not precisely what my spirit craved, what with all the dead people and agnosticism. I think there are probably people out there who need to be reminded that life is fleeting and there is meaning in transitory, ordinary moments, but I am not one of those people. I am all set. 

[more Home Depot shots, redacted]

Here are a dozen Italian subs I made for the beach. They were just meat and cheese, but they were still pretty good. 

I didn’t get very good pictures because there is something wrong with my phone battery. 

We had a really nice time, a wonderful time. At one point, this dude refused to come out of the water when the lifeguard was blowing his whistle, so they had to call in a special lifeguard with a badge, and they threw him and his family off the beach. Never seen such a thing. Probably has a MOLON LABE bumper sticker.

At one point, we lost Corrie, but she immediately found a nice Hispanic grandmother who took her hand and kept her safe. At another point, we didn’t know where the middle girls were, and Benny said they were on the rocks, so we went to the rocks and were surprised and alarmed to find that Benny wasn’t there, so we went back to the blanket, where Benny was. I don’t know. We just don’t sleep anymore, and have become morons. At another point, I went down to the water to look for Corrie and I couldn’t find her, because I was looking for a little girl, and she is not; she is big. Then I felt so bad, I just about died. But it passed eventually.

We bobbed around in the waves, had fried dough and frozen lemonade, toddled around in the tide pools, played skee ball in the arcade, defended our food from the maniac seagulls, and left before anyone really melted down. On the way home, I guess someone hit a utility pole, and it fell across the road and lit on fire, so a two-hour ride was extended by forty minutes, and boyyyyyyy was I tired. When we got home, I cried and cried, and I don’t even know why. I mean, I guess I was tired. Oh, I am so tired. At least the shower was working.

Yeah, I guess that’s my problem with Our Town. You do not have to tell a mom that human love is about stuff like making twelve carefully-wrapped Italian sandwiches that will just get gobbled up and forgotten, and that’s where our immortality lies, because you want your kids to have gone to the ocean. We have already figured out that the ancient pyramids had more going on than the treasure records of kings. Who doesn’t know that? I already know how fleeting it is. I already know my little girl isn’t little. I already know it’s killing me. I’ve already learned how to live with it. I guess the whole “dead people have special knowledge that the living can’t possible comprehend” kind of pissed me off. You know who knows this stuff? Moms. Because we’re up making sandwiches at midnight. And dads know it too, because they’re lying on their ears hacking away at the toilet pipes. But moms are thinking about it. I don’t know. Anyway, I could have done without the play, and maybe if Thornton Wilder had made his own sandwich, he could have figured it out for himself without making everybody sit in the rain. 

Here is a chipmunk from yesterday morning.

Yesterday I ran a mile and a half and couldn’t stop thinking about the cold leftover Mexican food I decided to get up and eat at midnight the previous night, and rather than do another lap, I was like, NOPE, and I went to sit down and take blurry photos of chipmunks while Damien finished running.

I didn’t even try to go running today. I haven’t even put a bra on. I’m just sitting here in stretchy clothes wondering who’s going to write the one more essay I have due this week. Who’s gonna fix my bathroom wall. Who’s gonna ride your wild horses. Who’s gonna tell Thornton Wilder to make his own damn sandwich. 

And that’s what’s for supper this week. Today we’ll be having fish tacos and shrimp tacos. Yesterday I started reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to the kids, just because there’s only so much “this is not how the summer was supposed to go” I can take. We got up to the part where he just picks up his head and rides away, and, not being made of stone, the kids are interested. So there.