What’s for supper? Vol. 382: All hands on deck

IS it Friday? Apparently it is Friday! Happy Friday. Today, the last kid has her last day of school (the other schools let out last month, last week, and earlier this week, respectively).

We’ve had hot, sunny weather all week, and countless numbers of ceremonies and little parties and I don’t even know what else, and I’ve been spending every spare minute working on the pool deck, and it just this minute started raining. Which is good, because I have been neglecting my garden in favor of working on the deck. 

We had some quick but delicious meals this week, with a real summery feel to them. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY

Saturday was Sophia’s graduation! Little Baby New Year, all done with high school. 

Our first kid to graduate from Catholic high school. And that’s six out of ten kids done with high school!

After graduation she went to a friend’s party, and then we went out to eat, to the restaurant of her choice. Which was CHILI’S, because we have raised her right. Then we got ice cream, and I picked ginger ice cream, which is now on my list of things to make this summer. So refreshing. I want to make ginger ice cream with coconut, and mango ice cream with pecans, or some combination like that. 

SUNDAY
Roast beef sandwiches with swiss and chimichurri

Sunday after Mass I made some chimichurri

Jump to Recipe

and got started on the deck, and Damien cooked the roast beef. I attached three legs with carriage bolts on one side and screwed a big X, to reinforce it.

I didn’t bother trying to make the legs even because the ground is so uneven. Just literally leaning into that whole situation.

I’m using all salvaged wood, so a lot of the work is removing old nails and screws and extra bits of wood, and also I’m determined to do as much by myself as possible, so everything took a million billion years, and I truly don’t know what I’m doing, andI disturbed an awful lot of angry ants, so by the time it was dinner, boy oh boy, did that sandwich taste good.

Damien cooked the meat by seasoning it very heavily, like absolutely crusty, with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and then he sears it in hot oil with a bunch of whole garlic cloves. Then he roasts it at 350 for about 45 minutes, and begins checking it for doneness. We like it quite rare, and it turned out juicy and tender and perfect. 

The chimichurri was also excellent.

Jump to Recipe

It’s like the flavor equivalent of if a toddler who just took a bath and escapes from his mother and goes and rolls around in the newly-mowed grass, and it’s the best thing that ever happened to him. 

MONDAY
Scrambled duck eggs with sausage on homemade biscuits

I prepped the biscuit dough in the morning, mixing the dry ingredients in one bowl, and the eggs and milk in another, and I shredded the butter on a box grater and then froze it. (If I’m going to make the dough right away, I freeze the butter first, and then grate it directly into the dry ingredients.) 

Jump to Recipe

Spent some more time on the deck, drilling out the holes for the leg bolts. I couldn’t put the legs on yet, because the deck still needed to be flipped, and I didn’t want it to be too heavy. I also worked on leveling out the ground to seat the post bases, close enough so you can jump off the deck into the pool, but not so close that it damages the pool. 

As I dug and measured and dug again and measured again and cussed and dug, I started having some massive flashbacks of the neverending pool prep we did a few years ago, when we kept digging and digging, trying to find some magical, mystical strata of ground that was not rocky (so it wouldn’t ruin the pool floor) but level (so the pool wouldn’t tip over), and every time we removed a rock, it turned out to be a GIANT ENORMOUS BOULDER, and when we got it out, ope, look at that, the ground wasn’t level anymore. And we DID truck in sand to level it off, but somehow it wasn’t that simple, and I remember it taking something like seventeen years to finish. So that’s why I want to do the deck myself! Because if I’m gonna suffer, at least I’ll only have one person mad at me (myself). 

So about half an hour before dinner I rushed in started sausages cooking, and threw the biscuit dough together, and baked twelve enormous biscuits. They turned out with a wonderful texture, just pillowy soft inside with a thin, crackly, buttery shell on the outside

but they tasted like straight baking soda. I have no idea what happened. Same recipe I always use. Is it because I broke up the assembly process? Is it because the butter was frozen? No idea. But I scrambled up a bunch of eggs and had the kids make orange juice, and it was a good enough meal.

After dinner I did get the kids to help me flip the deck over into the bases, and then while they held it, I attached the other three legs. 

Not! Quite! Straight! But pretty close. And, unlike me, more stable than it looks. 

TUESDAY
Tacos

Totally Unremarkable Tacos.

I took this picture of my taco resting on the arm of the living room chair, and you can see the piles of projects the kids brought home and boxes of miscellaneous stuff cleared out of the laundry room so Damien could work on the dryer and the living room not having been cleaned because I have been working on my deck and not yelling at people to clean more, and just THINGS AND STUFF EVERYWHERE. It’s fine. All manner of things shall be fine. But as you can see, it seemed like too much work to put salsa on. Startin to get a little tired. 

WEDNESDAY
Italian sandwiches, chips, watermelon, birthday cake

Tuesday, Dora and her friend came over to belatedly celebrate her birthday. I scurried around getting the sharpest wood scraps out of the yard, and made a bunch of meat and cheese platters

and we had nice sandwiches

and Clara made a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting. Sadly, she ran out of time and wasn’t able to complete her plan, which was to recreate the Carvel cake that Kelsey Grammar and Jenna order to pull the misspelled cake refund con. So the cake just said FRAJER and we all had to just sort of sit with our choices in life. 

I heard it was delicious, though, unsurprisingly. Clara’s very good. 
And if I may toot my own horn for a mo, I’m sometimes pretty good at buying birthday presents

It was a book from her childhood, which we have been trying to remember the name of for years and years and years.

It’s about an alligator, and whenever I described it, everyone always thought I was talking about Lyle Lyle Crocodile. No! Not Lyle! I know I sound like the guy who is convinced there is a little mouse with a big hat, and he goes very fast, but no, NOT Speedy Gonzales. He’s a mouse! Anyway, she liked her present. Phew. 

I also did some laughably bad work on the deck, reinforcing the legs on the other long end

It was just one of those “all it has to do is not fall down” moments, and I think I arrived. The X I made on the first side has one plank on the inside of the legs crossing over the plank on the outside , but this second side of the deck is too close to the pool wall, so it had to — you know what, never mind. I’m the one who has to live with this; why should you get involved? It’s fine. 

THURSDAY
Poke bowls, potstickers

Thursday I attached a ladder to the short end of the deck

and reinforced the legs a bit more, replaced a few planks on top, annnnd started removing the side of the existing lifeguard station thingy on the other short end, with the intent of making it all into one big deck. Which wasn’t the original plan, but what is, these days? 

This may or may not work out. But it may! I added a fairly chimpy joist to join the two platforms, and now I need to buy some hardware to reinforce that, and then I can start adding to the floor, and putting up a railing. 

I haven’t yet decided what to do with the one long end that you see when you look straight at the pool. I have some pallets I could just attach to it, to make it more finished, kinda like this, but two of them

Or I could just attach some kind of other wood. I’m really trying to use just salvaged wood and only buy hardware, so I dunno. I may just save it for another year. My plan is to build steps to replace the ladder next year, and I’m going to stain it when I’m done building this year. 

Dinner was blessedly simple. I had remembered to take the ahi tuna out of the freezer in the morning, and although the cat did find it and start nefariously dragging it across the house like an absolute cartoon character, it was double bagged, so it survived. I started some good rice in the instant pot, got Clara to cut up a bunch of mangos, chopped up some sugar snap peas, and diced up some ahi tuna. So we had rice, tuna, mango, pea sprouts, sugar snap peas, and those spicy chili lime cashews from Aldi, and also the hot sweet Polynesian sauce from Aldi. 

It was SO spicy, but incredibly tasty. What an entertaining treat this meal is. 100% mouth party time.

I wasn’t sure there would be enough food, so I grabbed a couple of bags of frozen potstickers from Alid and just boiled ’em. Everyone was pleased. 

FRIDAY
Not actually sure

Last Friday (after I shared last week’s food post), I made lemon garlic shrimp on pasta, and it turned out spectacular.

I used this Sip and Feast recipe and I’m probably gonna make this exact thing again this Friday, because this time the other store had a sale on shrimp and I’m not made of stone. The recipe has a couple more steps than I would do if I were just throwing it together on intuition, but it’s totally worth it. Every flavor just popped right out, and the texture of the shrimp was absolutely perfect. 

Sophia is talking about celebrating the honest-to-goodness start of summer by taking the other kids out for pizza, and if that doesn’t pan out, there is tuna in the house, so there will be something for every palate. 

Oh, last Friday was also the feast of the Sacred Heart, so I also made something I’ve had my eye on for a while: Coeur à la Crème, following this recipe from Mon Petit Four. It was really quite easy, and I think I will make it every year for the solemnity. I need to work on the presentation, but I did achieve that Catholic What-The-Hell-Am-I-Actually-Eating feel.

and everybody thought it tasted good. I thought it would be like cheesecake, dense and heavy, with a light garnish of fruit, but it was actually kind of reversed: A thick, intense fruit compote on top of an airy, not-too-sweet creamy heart. Very pleasant. 

I didn’t have blackberries the recipe called for, so instead I made a compote with about a pound of strawberries and a pint of blueberries, to which I added two or three tablespoons of sugar and two tablespoons of water.

I simmered it for a bit and mashed it from time to time, and then mixed in a good slug of lilac jelly; and then I spooned out some of the liquid and mixed it with a few tablespoons of cornstarch, and added that back into the sauce, cooked it for a bit longer, and then took it off the heat and let it cool until dessert time. 

I don’t think I mentioned what the lilac syrup tastes like! It’s lovely. It does taste floral, but different from rosewater (which I don’t really like). It is sweet, of course, and a little bit citrusy, but not cloyingly sweet, and it just has a bright, lively but not too intense flavor, faintly like blueberry but brighter. I really like it, although it never completely gelled and is more like a very thick syrup than jelly. I think next year, I will put some of the lilac petals into the food processor and put them into the jelly, to give it a little more body. 

Oh, so I made a double recipe of the cream part, and one was in a large silicone heart mold, lined with cheesecloth as the recipe suggested. The rest, I made in small heart molds sprayed with cooking spray, and they did not come out at all. We had to spoon them out. Lesson learned! 

I also learned you can help your cream cheese achieve room temperature by not going shopping until the very last minute, and panicking a bit on the ride home

But like I said, it was hot and sunny!

And now, like I said, it is raining, so I can’t work on the deck, but can only sit here and think happily about not having to water my poor, neglected garden. I think I put 500 miles on the car this week, just to-and-fro-and-to-and-fro, and I’m so happy about today finally being the last day of school, you cannot imagine. I bought Corrie a wooden crow call for some reason, so we have that going for us. 

While I have been doing my completely voluntary deck and bridge projects, Damien has been incredibly busy with far less glamorous projects: The dryer, of course, and his car, and my car, and Moe’s car, and Lena’s car, and now today the dishwasher, and I’m almost certainly forgetting some stuff. The things that man has taught himself how to do just blows my mind. Somebody should make him some shrimp, at the very least. 

Chimichurri

Dipping sauce, marinade, you name it

Ingredients

  • 2 cups curly parsley
  • 1 cup Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup dried oregano (or fresh if you have it)
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients except olive oil in food processor. Whir until it's blended but a little chunky. 

  2. Slowly pour olive oil in while continuing to blend. 

 

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.

What’s for supper? Vol. 381: Excuse me, stewardess. I speak chive.

I don’t know if you guys realize this, but June is, in fact, bustin’ out all over.
The feeling is getting so intense!
And the Fishers are so busy
That I’m always in a tizzy
But I still have time to make a wattle fence!

Because it’s Junnnnnnne!

And I do what I wannnnnnnt! Overall. 

I do apologize for how dead the site has been lately. I honestly have been writing, and I hope to have more up next week! I also think I have fixed the issue with the com box. If you left a comment last week and it didn’t show up, it’s because I had a leetle spam problem and still have to manually sort through almost 6,000 comments, which, honestly, I might just . . . not do. But like I said, I think I fixed it!

Here’s what we ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, watermelon

Shopping day, uff cawse. I had planned grilled ham and cheese last week, but didn’t make it, so we had plenty of sourdough and sliced cheddar and ham. Easy peasy, and it was a good thing, because one kid had a party to go to (and a present to buy), two kids needed to be at work, and there was an art thing downtown and the non-working kids were helping the other kids set up, and I realized that meant the other kid was gonna be alone all day, so we invited a friend over for her, which turned into her meeting the friend at the beach (not that beach, the other beach) and then coming here, and then everyone needed to be picked up from their parties and jobs and arts and confession and whatnot, and, long story long, we had grilled cheese. 

Kids had a fire and made s’mores after dinner. I will eat many, many disgusting things, but I draw the line at s’mores, for some reason. 

A few months ago, when I still thought we had a 50/50 chance of seeing the parousia before June, I signed up to make dinner for the youth group. But I lost that bet, so on Saturday night I started hacking up pork shoulder and browning it.

I had bought some ludicrous number of pounds of pork, too much to fit in the slow cooker, so I put it in a giant casserole dish and covered it tightly with tinfoil and cooked it in the oven at 225 for about five hours. 

Here’s my pulled pork recipe.

Jump to Recipe

I bumped up all the seasonings a bit, used jarred jalapeño instead of fresh (without the juice), and added a heavy hit of liquid smoke. Oh my dammit, it smelled amazing. I thought I’d have to leave it cooking slowly overnight, but it was shreddy betty and so good. 

SUNDAY
Pulled pork sandwiches, chips, broccoli slaw, watermelon

Sunday was Corpus Christi, which I love so much. My 90-year-old friend has been coming to Mass with us, which is excellent, but of course she wasn’t quite up for a long walk in the blazing hot sun afterward, so I brought her home while the rest of the family joined in the procession. Found out later that Benny, who is not even 90, fainted! Just too much sun and not enough water, and plus we had stayed up late to watch Godzilla Minus One the night before. So down she went, and bopped her head on the pew when she fell. SHE IS FINE. But it was a worrisome day, because we have some medical nonsense in this family to worry about. But she was just very dehydrated. 

It turns out everyone else in the parish is also super busy in early June, so the youth group was a very small group, and even taking that into account, I absolutely CLOBBERED them with food. One smart thing I did, though, was realize that a cooler isn’t just for ice, but will also keep hot food hot. So I didn’t have to muck around with cooking in the church basement and trucking the food over to the other building this time, but just heated everything up at home and then brought it straight to the yoot. 

We had kaiser buns and pulled pork and two kind of BBQ sauce on the side, but the meat truly didn’t need it. Bunch of sliced onions and some of that hot cheese sauce I love so well for the sandwiches, tons of potato chips, tons of watermelon cut into chunks, and tons of soda. At the last minute I also made some broccoli slaw just to have something green.

I threw the broccoli into the food processor and then jammed some carrots in, but I wasn’t thinking clearly, and ended up with basically minced broccoli and discs of carrots. Which is fine, but it looked . . . dated. Can’t explain it, but it looked like someone’s elderly aunt had brought it to a birthday party and called it her famous slaw.

Anyway, I made the dressing from this coleslaw recipe, which calls for mayo, dijon mustard, maple syrup, celery seed, salt, and pepper. I skipped the celery seed and didn’t even notice it called for dijon mustard until about the middle of this sentence. Then I threw in some sliced almonds, and probably would have put in dried cranberries if we had had any. Considered sunflower seeds and realized I’m at least allegedly feeding teenagers, not chipmunks. 

Look, I took a few gummies last night to help me sleep, and I’m feeling too dumb to write short paragraphs, so you’re just gonna get the whole . . . pork. I don’t know. 

Anyway, there was SO much dang pork. Which is not a bad thing! I thought the addition of the liquid smoke was excellent, so I’ll be adding that from now on. 

MONDAY
Roast pork ribs, flavored rice, watermelon, broccoli slaw

Monday I wasn’t ready to look at pulled pork again yet, and I had arranged my day so that I was somehow doing errands for strangers much of the day? I live like I have a personal assistant who has a grudge against me. Anyway I got it all done, and got supper started at like five o’clock. Not pulled pork but roast pork ribs, because they were 99 cents a pound and I’m not made of stone. 

Pork ribs sprinkled heavily with salt and pepper and thrust under a hot broiler, turned once; leftover watermelon (did I mention that watermelons were on sale so I bought four?), leftover broccoli slaw, and something the kids covet ardently and I should probably make more often: Rice cooked in chicken broth. Truly, your jaw would drop if you saw how excited they were about this faintly yellow rice. 

And you know what, it’s good. Tastes like chicken. 

I don’t think I mentioned how the broccoli slaw turned out. The dressing tasted WONDERFUL when I made it, really zippy and nice; but it was one of those mysterious recipes that went flat right away, and got flatter every hour thereafter. So it was quite, quite bland by Monday. I was still happy to have something cool and vegetabally, but it was not exciting. I did like having the crunchy almonds in there. 

TUESDAY
Pizza with chive blossoms

My chives peaked over the weekend, and I had been meaning and meaning to fry the blossoms, but I just did not have time. So I made some pizzas on Tuesday: One pepperoni, one plain cheese, and one with black olive and leftover peppers and onions sauteed up, and then when it came out of the oven, I threw chive blossoms on top of it. 

Kinda wish I had put some of them on first before baking, because I think they would have been nice with a little frizzled, but they were good as they were. Kinda cute, not mindblowing.Tasted like chives. So now I know! 

WEDNESDAY
Pork tacos, watermelon

Wednesday I had to face the fact that I had forgotten to put the leftover pulled pork in the freezer, so it was do or die. Pork or die.

It was supposed to be taco day, so I just heated up the pork and served that with taco fixings. Did not adjust the seasoning or anything, and guess what, it was yummy. 

Or maybe I was just starving because I was going crazy with yard work, but I thought they were great. 

Wednesday I also culled baby peaches. Last year we had a late frost that killed all the buds, and we had zero peaches. This year we have . . . I honestly think over a thousand, on just the one tree. It just went berserk with pent-up peachiness. At first I was delighted, and then I realized that letting that many peaches grow to maturity would yield a bumper crop of small, tasteless peaches, and would probably also split the tree when they got heavy.

I HATE thinning baby plants. It’s not as bad as pinching off blossoms, but it’s pretty rough. Just feels so brutal and wrong. But I want to take care of my tree, so I spent a LONG time plucking off baby peaches, and after about an hour of staring up into the sun between the leaves, calculating six inches between peaches, and repeatedly getting a face full of crispy old peach blossom debris and picking baby peaches out of my cleavage, that particular emotional knife had been blunted quite a bit. 

Here’s what they look like. They’re the size of large olives, and they are too young to have pits. 

I have filled two gallon ziplock bags and I’m maybe 1/4 of the way through the tree. It turns out you can pickle baby peaches. This lady says they don’t taste like much, so they take on whatever flavor you put in the vinegar solution. I told myself I was going to try this, but honestly I think I’ll offer them on buy nothing and let them be someone else’s broken dreams this year. Or maybe just feed them to the ducks. Ducks have no dreams. 

THURSDAY
One-pan garlicky chicken thighs with potatoes and zucchini

Thursday was the first day this week I deliberately cooked something specifically for that day, rather than just dealing with whatever nonsense that hostile PA had set up for me. Samantha, or Simba, or whatever her name is.

What I had was a bunch of chicken thighs that were on sale, and zucchini that reminded me that I once made a zucchini dish that everybody liked, and it was on a week we were replacing the bathroom floor, so I figured it must be easy. So I made it again! Yay!

Got the chicken marinating in the morning. It’s a simple marinade, just olive oil and balsamic vinegar and apple cider vinegar, plus garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper, and fresh basil and garlic. I prepped the garlic by peeling it, putting it in a sandwich bag, and bashing it with the end of a rolling pin, so it was it kind of flattened fragments. I don’t know if there’s a name for this form of garlic, but I find it very useful in marinades, because it imparts garlic flavor to the whole thing, but also has little bits of garlic you can bite into.

So that marinated all day. I forgot to buy summer squash, but I cut up about four pounds of potatoes (skin on) and two large zucchini, also skin on. I cut them into thickish quarter-round wedges, and put them in a bowl covered with cold water to keep them from browning.

Later that day, I was worried they’d be getting soggy, so I drained the water off, recalling that I have heard that potatoes that have been doused with cold water will not get discolored even if you drain the water off. I wish I had done this sooner, so I’d have a better idea of how long you can do this in advance of cooking them, but I can say that they will go at least two hours after draining the water off without turning brown. Nice.

I sprayed a couple of giant sheet pans, put the chicken on, and then arranged the potatoes and zucchini in between the chicken. I didn’t pour all the marinade in, but I did fish out the basil and garlic with a slotted spoon and spread that over the chicken. Then I sprinkled the potatoes and zucchini with more garlic powder, onion powder, and salt, and just cooked it undisturbed for about forty minutes. 

It doesn’t look glamorous, but it’s really delicious. Probably wouldn’t have hurt to stir up the potatoes and zucchini 20 minutes in, so they’d be more brown on the top; but they had a great little crust and wonderful flavor on the bottom, so no complaints.  

 

The fresh garlic and basil are really pleasant and summery, and the chicken came out super juicy. I’m not a giant zucchini fan, but I remembered to cut it into big enough wedges so it didn’t get slimy, and it was really tasty with the slightly sweet, sharp marinade. Would have been good with some crusty bread to sop up the extra sauce. 

If you’re looking for an easy, one-pan meal that’s nice and summery, this is the one!

If you’re looking for something really fantastic to do with zucchini, I recommend this zuchhini agrodulce recipe from Sip and Feast. It’s quite a hassle, but holy wow, it is fantastic. I hope I have time to make this when vacation starts. 

FRIDAY
Lemon garlic shrimp pasta

This bag of shrimp I got on sale a few weeks ago has been in the freezer long enough. I had kind of a long argument with the kids wherein they accused me of CONSTANTLY serving shrimp lo mein, which I KNOW is not true, and even if it were, WHO COMPLAINS ABOUT SHRIMP LO MEIN. They were, of course, just yanking my chain, but I just dangle it out there all the time, begging one or more of our innumerable chain-yankers to come yank it. 

ANYWAY, I’m not going to make shrimp lo mein. I’m going to make lemon garlic shrimp pasta from Sip and Feast, who claims that it is easy and impressive. I like all those words (lemon, garlic, shrimp, pasta, easy, and impressive, not to mention sip and feast), so I don’t see how this can be bad. The jerks can eat plain pasta with butter, which I will admit is also delicious. 

This week the main things I’ve been working on are — well, Millie’s garden and Millie’s fall alert system, to be honest, and also my garden (got the last bits filled in with collard, hooray!) and adding legs to the final piece of salvaged platform, so we can have a little pool deck. I’ve only been to Home Depot three times so far, and I know that’s not going to be enough to satiate the project gods.

Oh, I also did some more work on my wattle fence, which is my pride and joy. It’s very possible it looks stupid and nobody wants to say anything, but I just love it so much. Any time I have more than half an hour free, I get the giant clippers and call the dog, and we go out to the woods and cut down as many saplings as I can drag. Then I sit and trim off all the green and all the twigs, and then I weave what’s left into my fence. It’s deeply satisfying.

I also have an ongoing project that’s less satisfying, and that is putting a lot of energy into not dealing with or even seeing the five trash bags of foam fragments that are in the dining room, which used to be in Corrie’s oversized bean bag chair, and which . . . hey, is there a violent stomach bug going around where you are? Because there is here. All I’m gonna say about that is: If you have a kid who is going through a picky stage and only eats rice for dinner? SOMETIMES THAT’S NOT A BAD THING. 

Anyway, we have ONE WEEK OF SCHOOL LEFT, the peonies all burst open the other day, Merlin says there is an indigo bunting somewhere in my yard, and I’m gonna get those legs on that deck if it kills me. And it will! But I plan to die at home, doing what I love (eating pork). 

Oh, today is the feast of the Sacred Heart, and I’m thinkin of making this Coeur à la Crème with Blackberry Sauce. I’m thinkin about a lot of things. 

Clovey pulled pork

Ingredients

  • fatty hunk of pork
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for browning
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2/3 cup apple juice
  • 3 jalapeños with tops removed, seeds and membranes intact
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp ground cloves

Instructions

  1. Cut pork into hunks. Season heavily with salt and pepper.

  2. Heat oil in heavy pot and brown pork on all sides.

  3. Move browned pork into Instant Pot or slow cooker or dutch oven. Add all the other ingredients. Cover and cook slowly for at least six hours.

  4. When pork is tender, shred.

One-pan garlicky chicken with potatoes, summer squash, and zucchini

Ingredients

  • 12 chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • fresh basil, chopped
  • more salt, garlic powder, and onion powder for sprinkling
  • 4 lbs potatoes, scrubbed and sliced thickly
  • 6 assorted zucchini and summer squash, washed and sliced into discs with the skin on

Instructions

  1. Combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cider vinegar, garlic, garlic powder, onion, powder, salt, pepper, and fresh basil. Marinate the chicken thighs in this mixture for at least half an hour.

  2. Preheat the oven to 400.

  3. Grease two large baking sheets. Arrange the chicken, potatoes, and vegetables on the sheet with as little overlap as possible.

  4. Sprinkle additional salt, onion powder, and garlic powder on the potatoes and vegetables.

  5. Cook about 40 minutes or until chicken is completely done and potatoes are slightly brown on top.

What’s for supper? Vol. 380: How does Scooby Doo end his prayers?

Happy Friday! And goodbye, May. You were a good May. 

Yesterday I cleaned out the laundry room, because I got a free dryer on Facebook Marketplace and we’re gonna have to take the back door off to get it in, but we can’t reach the door because there is so much misc in there. Getting something for free made me feel like the universe was out of balance, so I recklessly posted a bunch of stuff to give away myself, so today I get to drive around dropping off pots of butternut squash starts and bags of kid clothes that I suddenly worry are absolute garbage, but I can’t tell because I have nostalgia. 

Meanwhile, the other door to the laundry room decided to take itself off, and now randomly sort of LOOMS at people, when all they tried to do was open it. It’s okay, because the kids avoid using that room anyway (it’s our second bathroom, if you’ll recall), because the dryer makes a horrendous squealing noise, and the overhead light flickers kind of menacingly. It does have a little whiff of Gitmo about it, but how long does it take to pee? Big babies. Anyway, we got a new dryer. Well, an old dryer. It’s fine. All manner of things shall be fine. 

So here’s what we had this week: 

SATURDAY
Chicken nuggets, raw peppers, chips

Shopping day! The plan was chicken burgers, but they didn’t have any, so I got nuggets. I haven’t had a chicken nugget for years. They were really pretty good.

I had a sweet chili sauce with mine and actually really enjoyed this meal. 

SUNDAY
Oven fried chicken, corn on the cob, spinach

Sunday I bullied my family into putting the big bridge pieces into place!

You may recall that one big wooden piece tried very hard to kill me and Lena last time I worked on this project. Well, it took seven people to lift each of the two long pieces, which is why progress has been so slow. We each grabbed a support plank and shuffled forward like pall bearers, and at one point, when I pulled my foot out of the muck, part of my sandal refused to come along. But it was just an Aldi sandal, and already smelled of ducks. A small price to pay. 

Here is what the marsh looked like before, with just the cinderblocks in place:

and here is how it looks now:

Progress! Still needs some work, obviously. I need to stain some parts (the undersides are all done, though), and fill in a few gaps, and get some more cinderblocks to level it off more, and I need to figure out what kind of transitional piece to add in the front, so you don’t have to step up onto it. You can’t tell from this picture, but the ground slopes pretty sharply down from the arch to the first bridge piece. I have a little set of stairs I might half-bury in the dirt, to get to the first piece. 

But it’s SOLID. The cross pieces distribute the weight, and they’re resting on dry ground and/or on cinderblocks, and when you walk on it, there’s no wobble, and it’s all up out of the wet. I’m very pleased. 

I also moved the big arch back a bit, to open up the entrance, and added a second arch (it’s hard to see, but it’s there). I have a couple of baby grape vines I’m gonna plant, and the plan is to eventually make a canopy of vines from one arch to the other. In 5-10 years, it’s gonna be just gorgeous. It’s already gorgeous. My plan is always to enhance what’s good about what’s already there, because it’s a lovely, lovely spot. 

So! It’s usable and I can do the rest without dragging anyone else into it. The other big thing I want to do before summer vacation starts is to build a very simple little deck using the rest of the wooden pieces I got along with the bridge pieces.

I know they sell hardware specifically for attaching legs onto platforms, so I figure if I just think hard about weight distribution and kind of overbuild everything, I should be able to make something functional, and less awkward than the lifeguard station we currently have

Sunday I also cleared out my other raised bed, topped it up with lovely compost, made a little support tipi out of last year’s sunflower stalks, and planted my sugar snap peas. 

I think it might be too lightweight, but I can always reinforce it with actual sticks at some point. I’m going to put collard greens in the rest of that space, I think. There are some leftover Brussels sprouts that survived the winter, but they already bolted and I think I’ll just rip them out.

I think it must have been Sunday that I finally got the rest of my vegetable starts in the ground. I’m a little unsure about what’s what, because I didn’t weatherproof the labels (next time I’ll use popsicle sticks and pencil!), but I am pretty sure I have pumpkins, butternut squash, I think two kinds of eggplant, and possibly cucumbers, one of those birdhouse gourds, and also garlic and basil in another spot. 

It’s all a little too close together, because I meant to expand the bed more than I ended up doing. Oh well. They can fight it out. 

No strawberries yet (soon!), and I can’t pick asparagus until next year, and I accidentally let the rhubarb bolt, so I didn’t get much this year. But overall, I am pleased. Gotta finish that wattle fence! 

Oops, I forgot to talk about food. Good thing my yard is INCREDIBLY INTERESTING, so you don’t mind. Well, we had oven fried chicken. I started soaking the drumsticks in milk, eggs, and salt in the morning, and then I dredged it in seasoned flour and started cooking it about an hour before dinner. Melt butter and oil in a pan, lay the chicken down, turn it after a while and let it continue cooking, and voila. 

I love this recipe. The meat is juicy and tender, the skin is crackly and tasty. I think I honestly prefer it to deep fried chicken, and whoever did clean-up that night definitely preferred it. Here’s that recipe:

Jump to Recipe

We also had corn on the cob and just plain raw spinach. 

Fab warm weather meal. I didn’t even add butter to my corn or dressing to my spinach, because everything was so fresh and nice. 

MONDAY
Cookout!

Monday was Memorial Day and we met not one but two boyfriends of daughters. What a to-do! We expected quite a few more people to show up for the cookout than could actually make it, and it did rain like crazy, but we had a nice day anyway, if somewhat lower-key than expected. 

I made an incredibly bland potato salad

and then I went a little crackerdog with the fruit salad and made a watermelon swan boat

and Damien grilled up a ton of burgers, and we just had chips and soda and ice cream.

Damien reconfigured his Interchangeable Cinderblock Meat Altar Situation, and now it has more air circulation and more even heat.

He is talking about making an Interchangeable Cinderblock Smoker Situation, too. You may think we’re complete rednecks, but we actually buy our cinderblocks NEW, so you tell me. 

TUESDAY
Cookout part 2!

Tuesday I cooked the hot dogs we decided not to bother with on Monday, and we basically just had that meal again, with different meat. No complaints. 

Also on Tuesday, I drove the kids to school and every single person who stepped into that car made the same “urk” noise, so I decided it was Time To Find Out What That Smell Was. Got some trash bags, got a pack of baby wipes, set up some music, and prepared myself to launch into a long, arduous search into every nook and cranny to root out the mysterious source of the odor. 

I open the door, and right there on the floor is this.

Maybe we are rednecks after all. 

WEDNESDAY
Pork ramen

Wednesday I went on a bit of a cleaning rampage and cleared out the mountain of scraps and flowerpots and bits of fencing and old rugs and broken tools that I’d been flinging onto the back stairs. I didn’t take a before picture, but this is the after:

Okay, yes, we are definitely rednecks. I see it now. But we’re rednecks who try! Gonna try to get a dryer up those stairs, that’s what we’re gonna try.(Yes I know I need to do something about all that unfinished wood. It’s on my list. It’s on my list!)

Wednesday I put about three hundred sunflower seedlings into the ground, from seeds I gathered from last year’s most successful flowers. I want PHALANXES of sunflowers this year. I have a long row of them in front of the marsh,

a little sprinkle by the pool where some day lilies appeared, a few next to each light post around the patio, and a line of them in front of the trash enclosure. I also moved the last of the cosmos and zinnia seedlings into pots and found spots for them. I think everything I planted over the winter has a home now!

For supper, I had a hunk of boneless pork whatnot, so I sharpened up my knife and cut it really thin, then pan fried it a little bit, then added a bunch of Chinese five spice and a little soy sauce and finished cooking it. Made a giant pot of ramen, soft boiled some eggs, and served it all up with chopped scallions, sugar snap peas, and spinach, and crunchy noodles. 

Delightful. I am steadfastly refusing to find out what good ramen tastes like, because the kind that comes in a case and shrink wrapped in orange plastic is cheap and we like it, and I don’t want to ruin that. 

THURSDAY
Pork gyros

Thursday, I cannot even begin to explain how the universe tried to thwart me. Really unprecedented levels of attempted thwarting! I knew it was gonna be a busy day, even pre-thwarting, but I had already cooked all the easy meals for the week, so I started in and prepped pork gyros first thing in the morning.

Here’s the marinade recipe, which is pretty basic but tasty, and it does make the meat super tender

Jump to Recipe

and I made a big bowl of yogurt sauce

Jump to Recipe

Oh! And I finally got to use my mother’s day present from Clara, which is a handmade juicer. 

Works GREAT. The ceramic pointy thingy takes way more pressure than plastic, and the spout poured very smoothly, which is harder to design than it looks. She’s getting really good.

Then thing started to go a little bit south. But the upshot is that, against all odds, I got Millie’s replacement fall detection sensor set up and tech support APOLOGIZED TO ME AND SAID I WAS RIGHT. So there! And I was only a few minutes late to the school concert, which they were actually calling a “song showcase,” for reasons which are not entirely clear to me, except that I would not have called that a concert, either. I did get there in time to hear one of the kids say into the microphone, “And [kidname], [kidname], and [kidname] will be our socialists” and the music teacher leaped like an antelope over to that microphone and said, “SOLOISTS.”

This happened mere minutes after our golden haired god hero was unjustly and outrageously convicted on 34 bogus felonies in a banana republic-style kangaroo court with an upside down flag!!!! So IT’S ALREADY HAPPENING TO OUR CHILDREN, just like he warned us. But we did not listen.

The good news is, the gyros were great. A complete mess, but still very delicious. 

I made the mistake of trying to open the pita and fill it with meat, rather than rolling the meat up in an intact pita; and I completely forgot to gather fresh mint; and the fries were underdone. But it was extremely late and we were so hungry, and it tasted heavenly. 

FRIDAY
Ravioli

The ravioli I promised but did not deliver last week! But accidentally bought sauce for twice, so now we have so much effing sauce! Maybe I can put it on a buy nothing group. Maybe I’ll put myself on a buy nothing group. 

I do have these chive blossoms

that are clearly at their peak. I’m not a big fan of infused oils – the bacteria threat worries me – but I think I may try frying them. 

Oh! But last night I found a WHOLE OTHER JAR OF MARIGOLD SEEDS.

I may actually offer those on buy nothing, because I don’t know if I have it in me to till anymore ground this year, and every spot that’s open is already sprouting to the max. 

Like I said, a good May. Really good May. 

 

Oven-fried chicken

so much easier than pan frying, and you still get that crisp skin and juicy meat

Ingredients

  • chicken parts (wings, drumsticks, thighs)
  • milk (enough to cover the chicken at least halfway up)
  • eggs (two eggs per cup of milk)
  • flour
  • your choice of seasonings (I usually use salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, and chili powder)
  • oil and butter for cooking

Instructions

  1. At least three hours before you start to cook, make an egg and milk mixture and salt it heavily, using two eggs per cup of milk, so there's enough to soak the chicken at least halfway up. Beat the eggs, add the milk, stir in salt, and let the chicken soak in this. This helps to make the chicken moist and tender.

  2. About 40 minutes before dinner, turn the oven to 425, and put a pan with sides into the oven. I use a 15"x21" sheet pan and I put about a cup of oil and one or two sticks of butter. Let the pan and the butter and oil heat up.

  3. While it is heating up, put a lot of flour in a bowl and add all your seasonings. Use more than you think is reasonable! Take the chicken parts out of the milk mixture and roll them around in the flour until they are coated on all sides.

  4. Lay the floured chicken in the hot pan, skin side down. Let it cook for 25 minutes.

  5. Flip the chicken over and cook for another 20 minutes.

  6. Check for doneness and serve immediately. It's also great cold.

Marinade for pork gyros

Marinate thinly-sliced meat for several hours, then grill over the coals or broil in the oven. Serve wrapped up in pita with cucumbers, tomatoes, french fries, hot sauce, and yogurt sauce. This marinade is enough for about five pounds of meat. 

Ingredients

  • 4 medium tomatoes diced and smashed a bit
  • 2 onions grated
  • 2 Tbsp oregano (or a large handful of fresh oregano, chopped)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • 12 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • kosher salt and pepper

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 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. 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 379: Lilac jelly! It’s a thing!

Happy Friday! I hope May is as great where you are as it is here, because my May is going GREAT. It’s so pretty and it smells so good, and the air is soft and warm, and everything is growing like crazy. So many delicious smells to smell!

So many delicious bugs to eat!

Here’s what we non-ducks ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Potluck

Saturday I did part of the shopping, and then we went to a faith formation dinner. I signed up to bring fruit, and planned to make a fruit salad, but while at the store I felt a profound need not to make a fruit salad. Chopping! Who needs chopping? So I made a platter of grapes, bananas, and clementines, and it was fine. Even washed the grapes. And I even remembered to bring my platter home. 

That reminds me of the time my parents went to a potluck event, and brought a fruit salad. One of my siblings was going to a fancy, toney private school in the Old Money part of Massachusetts, and our family always felt massively out of place, real bumpkins. So when it was graduation and they were supposed to bring a dish to share, they decided that regular fruit salad was too pedestrian, and an exquisitely fragrant custard studded with summer delights would hit just the right note and impress everyone.

So they made it, and followed the recipe exactly. But as you know, custards can be finicky, and my parents weren’t exactly practiced chefs anyway. So what they ended up with was a bowl full of something that tasted fine, but looked exactly like someone had eaten a lot of fruit out of a bowl, and then been sick right back into that bowl. 

BUT FOR SOME REASON, they decided to bring it anyway. I feel like the two-hour trip in the early summer sun can’t possibly have helped the custard situation much, and neither could the extra couple of hours in the car while the graduation went on. You have to understand, my family wasn’t the kind of family that owned, like, ice packs or anything. Somehow. So when it was time to eat, they went ahead and set this bowl of pale yellow fruit puke on the table with an optimistic ladle, in among the canapés and finger sandwiches, and slunk away to mingle.

Nobody ate that fruit puke. Not even one scoop. It just sat there in vomitous shame, getting more and more thoroughly cooked in the sun. And when the ceremony and the luncheon were over and people were reclaiming their serving dishes, my parents couldn’t bring themselves to admit that she shame custard was theirs. So they just left. 

That’s it. That’s the whole story. I don’t know why this seems so funny to me. I just imagine the long tables are still set up in the charming English-style garden to this day, all the students long gone and grown, all the parents and teachers dead and half forgotten, the ragged tablecloths flapping in the wind in the tall grass, and at one end, alone in the moonlight, one Havisham fruit salad. It waits and waits, fruitlessly. Which is funny, because it’s a fruit salad. 

Anyway, people at the church ate my damn bananas.

Saturday evening, Corrie desperately wanted to get into the pool, even though it was like 51 degrees out. So she did (and turned bright red), and Benny and I kept an eye on her while plucking lilac petals.

WHY, you may ask? Because I found out (a) lilacs petals are edible and (b) you can make them into jelly! I started it Saturday evening and finished it Sunday. I’ll go ahead and go through the rest of the week first, and then we shall return to jelly. 

SUNDAY
Chicken caprese sandwiches, cheezy weezies

Sunday I had to finish the shopping. Normally, shopping takes me three hours, but when I break it up into two days, it takes 46 hours. I don’t know why this is so, but anyway we had sandwiches. 

It was still a tiny bit nippy outside, but I was committed to eating on the patio anyway. Love it. 

MONDAY
Pulled pork on fries with cheese and onions

Monday, it suddenly warmed up, but menu is menu, so I started some pulled pork, and then was so delighted to finally get to meet my friend and fake sister-in-law, Elizabeth! (She is my sister’s husband’s sister.) We had a wonderful morning and we are very simpatico. Got home, ran around doing errands, and finished up dinner. 

The pulled pork was this recipe, with apple cider vinegar, cumin, jalapeños, and cloves

Jump to Recipe

and it turned out okay, but kind of tough, I forget why, but it was my fault. (If you follow the recipe, it won’t turn out tough.) But I made a bunch of french fries, put out a bottle of BBQ sauce, sliced up some red onions, and heated up some of that disgusting cheese sauce that comes in a jar, and man, it was a tasty bowl of yum.

Good stuff. 

TUESDAY
Santa Fe Chicken Salad

Tuesday I had a bunch of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, and asked myself, “What would I do if I were on TikTok?” So I sprayed them with olive oil spray and sprinkled them heavily with Taijin chili lime seasoning, and roasted them in the oven. Then I cut them up and sprinkled the pieces with even more Taijin chili lime seasoning. 

Got out a tub of mixed greens and set it out with the chicken, along with those crunchy fried onions that come in a tub, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, shredded pepper jack cheese, and chipotle ranch dressing, or something along those lines. 

I also had some kind of weird Aldi corn chips that were “street corn” flavor or something. They really tasted like corn! And this marks the day when I suddenly realized that regular corn chips don’t actually taste like corn. 

Anyway, great meal, very Sante Fe (or whatever). 

WEDNESDAY
Beef teriyaki stir fry, rice, berry lassi

Wednesday, people had been agitating for a stir fry, so I got a hunk of beef for a treat, and sliced it as thinly as I could (it was half-frozen, which helped) and let it marinate in soy sauce and a little sugar and mirin. I also defrosted a couple of bags of frozen mixed vegetables (I guess broccoli, carrots, maybe some pea pods, and water chestnuts).

I looked at a bunch of teriyaki sauce recipes, and for some reason they all looked annoying, so I just made something up. 

I heated up some oil and sautéed about five cloves of garlic, minced. We were out of fresh ginger and also brown sugar, so I mixed it about a cup of white sugar and whisked that over the heat until it bubbled and turned dark. I threw in about 1/4 cup of mirin and whisked that for another minute. Then I made a little roux with a little soy sauce and quite a bit of corn starch, and whisked that in until it was smooth, along with a bunch of powdered ginger. Then I dumped in a ton of soy sauce and brought it to a light boil. It got nice and thick, which is what I was going for.

I started some rice cooking in the Instant Pot. When it was almost time to eat, I sautéed the meat until it was slightly underdone, added in the vegetables to heat it all up, and then stirred in the sauce. 

Perfect. 

When I was poking around in the fridge that morning, I found some fruit I had bought on the weekend and didn’t use, and it was about to go off. I had cherries, strawberries, and blueberries. So I sliced them all up and put them in the freezer in the morning. 

While supper was finishing up, I dumped them in the blender

and then added in a bunch of plain Greek yogurt, some lime juice, and I think sugar, and a few ice cubes. 

Is this a lassi, or just a smoothie? I’m not sure. But it was a very hot, humid day and the drink was not as thick as I was hoping, but still sweet, berryful, and very refreshing

if a slightly weird accompaniment for beef teriyaki stir fry.

Anyway, we liked it.

THURSDAY
Mussakhan and taboon

Thursday was still super hot and humid, but I only had one meal left on the menu, so I forged ahead and made this mussakhan (Palestinian roast chicken with sumac and onions) from Saveur. I started the chicken marinating in the morning, but discovered I was very low on sumac, which is sad. 

A couple of hours before dinner, I started some taboon dough. Last time, it turned out incredibly fluffy and lovely, but for some reason I had a bad feeling about this dough. But menu is menu, so I forged ahead. Gotta forge ahead. 

When it was about an hour before dinner, I started the chicken roasting in one big pan, and then about twenty minutes before dinner, I got the dough in the other big pan and put that in the oven.

I crowded the chicken a bit, so it wasn’t crispy golden, but still quite delicious. And the taboon was, as I feared, a tiny bit dense and tough. But lookit: Two pans of wonderful savory meat and fresh bread for all, coming out of the oven at the same time

Can’t beat that. I toasted up some pine nuts in oil and chopped up some parsley, and then I put the chicken on the bread and the pine nuts and parsley on the chicken, and the family started grabbing for it before I could even get a picture

So that’s a good sign! Especially since I had to drag everyone out of the pool to come eat. 

If you are thinking of getting a pool, which I heartily recommend, the thing you should know is that the kids will always mad at you for making them come out of the pool, but yet never happy with you for getting them a pool.

But like I said, the chicken and taboon helped a lot. 

Gotta get my hands on some more sumac, though. 

That reminds me, the sumac tree I cut down about five years ago (because it was overshadowing my rock garden) has come roaring back, and now I need to look up if some sumac is poisonous or what, and how to tell, and how hard it is to get sumac from a sumac tree, if it’s not poisonous. 

But gosh, those pine nuts are nice. Did you know they are actually from pine trees? For some reason I assumed they weren’t, but they are. I have no intention of harvesting my own pine nuts, though. I will continue to pay 30 cents a nut, or whatever it is, and then be late with the electric bill. Worth it. 

FRIDAY

I just realized I said I would get ravioli, but I forgot. I forgot a lot of stuff. On Thursday, we were talking over the logistics of Friday. It was one of those cat-fox-basket of corn situations, except the cat needs new tires and her husband has to be in Newport to talk to the county attorney or something, and the upshot was that I decided: School? School?? A sweet, warm Friday in May is no time to send kids to school. So we stayed home. Fight me. In lieu of bedtime Thursday night, I made a fire and the kids roasted marshmallows. No ragrets.

I do have to get some ravioli, though. 

So, now, here is how I made the lilac jelly!

I was following the recipe from Lord Byron’s Kitchen, but I fiddled with it a little bit, for no reason whatsoever. And in fact Lord Byron, if that is indeed his name, says you will need to add blueberries or blackberries to it if you want it to turn pink, but that turned out not to be the case — either because of the aforementioned fiddling, or maybe I just have pinker lilacs, I dunno. 

I picked enough bunches of blossoms to fill up my biggest stock pot, and then we plucked off the petals, trying to get as little of the green in there as possible. 

It took QUITE SOME TIME. But Benny is very pleasant to chat with.

We finally got them all done and we ended up with more than the eight cups the recipe called for. I rinsed them in a colander and then the next step is to steep them. I used the proportions of the rest of ingredients called for, even though I had extra petals. So I ended up with 11 cups of petals and eight cups of water, and I boiled that.

And I was like, ooh, he’s right, this is not gonna be pink or purple or anything nice, oh well.

It said to let it steep for four hours, but I put it in the fridge and went to bed. So it steeped for probably twenty hours. Next day I poured the liquid into a pot, straining it through a double layer of cheesecloth to keep the petals out. 

and it did not look terribly promising. I was pretty resigned to having tannish-yellowish-greenish jelly. 

Then I added eight cups of sugar and 1/4 cup of lemon juice. I think it was at this point that the color started to perk up. 

Then I brought it to a boil again. This is the point where you’re supposed to add the pectin. It calls for 114 grams of pectin. What I had in my cabinet (no, it would not have been possible to check this ahead of time, because I had to go outside and look at flowers) was some pouches of liquid pectin, which is measured in fluid ounces, not grams. They were six fluid ounces each. So I thought about it for a while, and asked my smart speaker, which was not exceedingly helpful. What to do?

Well, if my math is correct, and you want to convert fluid ounces to grams, and six times two is twelve, then that means two pouches is twelve fluid ounces, which is the equivalent of . . . some grams. So that’s what I did. Dumped those grams right in, both pouches of grams.

Then I started to bring it to a boil again.

I don’t even like jelly that much, but I sure do like watching pots of color swirl around. 

As it heated up, a sort of taffy-like foam started to collect on the top, and this is the first time I tasted it to see what was going on in there. 

You’re not gonna believe this, but it tasted like lilacs. I don’t know how else to describe it. Definitely sweet, and of course I could taste a tiny bit of lemon, but mostly it was just . . . floral. Not like rosewater, which I don’t really like, but like lilac. I guess maybe a bit like blueberry or possibly plum, but it was really a new taste for me. Amazing! 

So I boiled it and whisked it for another minute or so, and then let it cool down a bit before pouring it into jars. 

LOOK at this color. 

The recipe has you doing the whole canning water bath thing, but I’m not cut out for that, and I just planned to make refrigerator jelly. 

Lovely, lovely. 

It was the consistency of thick syrup when I poured it into the jars, but either this or another recipe said it could take up to a week to thicken up properly, so I wasn’t worried. 

I gave away a few jars and we have plenty left in the fridge. So far I’ve eaten it on leftover taboon and on Saltines, and I’m absolutely sold. Clara is talking about making shortbread thumbprint cookies (which have a little scoop of jelly on each one). It has thickened up, and is almost the consistency of jelly you’d find at the store, but just slightly looser. 

Oh, and here is the leftover lilac petals, after the liquid was drained off. Poor things! All used up. 

So that’s-a my lilac jelly story. We had SO many lilacs this year, and they seem to be sticking around for an unusually long time; or maybe it’s just that I have more leisure time this year than I usually have, and I’m taking more time to enjoy the lilacs. Or maybe I don’t have more time, and I’m just recklessly choosing to use what I have with messing around with flowers! Either way, I’m very grateful. And I have jelly! And it is pink!

Clovey pulled pork

Ingredients

  • fatty hunk of pork
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for browning
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2/3 cup apple juice
  • 3 jalapeños with tops removed, seeds and membranes intact
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp ground cloves

Instructions

  1. Cut pork into hunks. Season heavily with salt and pepper.

  2. Heat oil in heavy pot and brown pork on all sides.

  3. Move browned pork into Instant Pot or slow cooker or dutch oven. Add all the other ingredients. Cover and cook slowly for at least six hours.

  4. When pork is tender, shred.

What’s for Supper? Vol. 378: In which nobody goes to the emergency room

In haste! In haste! For today is a half day, and I have to go get my punkass kids. It is the final day of teacher appreciation week, and I love that they’re topping it off by making all the kids go away. Truly the gift from the heart. 

Speaking of gifts from the heart, this week having been mother’s day week, I decided to make all foods that I like this week. It was a very tasty week! But also very stupid, as you will see. 

SATURDAY
Hot dogs, chips

Well, I do like hot dogs, but this was more about convenience on a shopping day. But I do like hot dogs. And convenience!

SUNDAY
Italian sandwiches, fries, lemon meringue pie with strawberry compote

Damien shopped for and put together these excellent sandwiches (toasted baguettes with red pesto, olive oil, and vinegar, with provolone, prosciutto, capicola, sandwich pepperoni, tomatoes, and fresh basil), and made fries

and Clara made some wonderful pies, using my pie crust recipe

Jump to Recipe

and the filling and meringue from Sally’s Baking Addiction,

plus, as you can see, a layer of homemade strawberry compote between the lemon and meringue

Absolutely splendid. Perfect. I wish I had gotten pictures from the morning, when she made it, because by dessert time it had gone the way meringues tend to go, but it was still airy and wonderful. 

All the kids came over, and showered me with thoughtful and delightful presents. I spent most of the day following my heart, which meant working on my bog bridge. I worked on it off and on throughout the week, when I had 45 minutes to spare and it wasn’t raining, and it’s almost ready to put in place! I AM VERY EXCITED. In fact, at one point I got a little over-excited. As you will see. 

MONDAY
Fajita beef bowl, pineapple

London broil was on sale, so I got a bunch and sliced it up thin and marinated it most of the day in this yummy marinade

Jump to Recipe

I did all the prep work in the morning: Sauteed some sweet peppers, roasted some corn, chopped cilantro, cut up some limes, and found the shredded cheese, sour cream, and corn chips, and I prepped the rice in the Instant Pot. Sometimes we also have black beans with this dish, but we just had them last week and I just wasn’t bean ready yet. We also usually have chopped scallions, but I forgot. 

Before dinner, I cranked up the broiler and (to be honest, slightly over)cooked the meat

and I piled up my bowl with rice and meat and toppings and ate outside with the birdies. 

Oh, I also cut up the pineapple I meant to serve last week. Lovely meal, very popular. 

TUESDAY
Two pizzas, not three

On Tuesday, I was super busy all day with I don’t even remember what, so I as soon as I got home in the afternoon, I made three pizzas very fast. One olive, one half plain and half Hawaiian using the leftover pineapple from Monday, and one pepperoni using leftover pepperoni from the Italian sandwiches. We had a lot of pepperoni left, so I was pretty lavish with the toppings on this.

Feeling very brisk and accomplished, I preheated the oven, set the pizzas on the counter, and asked Elijah to put them in at 5:10. Then I went outside to work on my bridge. 

I was slapping wood stain on as fast as I could, and even though I was increasingly covered with wood stain and blackfly bites, feeling pretty great about life in general, when Elijah comes out and says, “You don’t have to come inside or anything, but how many pizzas are there?”

I say there are three. I’m the tiniest bit annoyed, because it’s not like it’s a big kitchen or something. Three extra large pizzas, pretty much front and center, can’t really miss them. Definitely three pizzas. 

He says, “Okay, I can only find two. And there is an empty pan.” 

So of course I go inside, and he is correct. Two pizzas which are now in the oven, and one pizza pan, still on the counter, with smears of grease and flour on it.

WHAT COULD HAVE POSSIBLY HAPPENED TO IT? 

What indeed.

Now, you know I’m sharing this story because the dog did not die. I will also confess that we did not take him to the vet. If we took that dog to the vet every time he ate something stupid, we’d be investigated by GoFundMe for an implausible number of emergencies. 

And to be honest, we weren’t 100% convinced it was the dog who made the pizza disappear. First we searched all over the house in case it somehow . . . left. Which sounds dumb, but it was very strange! The pan was there, the pizza was gone. We thought of the cat, who does steal whatever food he can carry and has no conscience at all. And we thought of, uh, other possibilities

And the dog seemed fine! He wasn’t bloated or uncomfortable or acting like his butt was any more haunted than usual.

But we couldn’t think of any other place the pizza might have gone, besides down his gullet. He does have very poor impulse control, even for a dog. 

The danger is that the dough would expand in his tummy and do terrible twisty things to his innards, or that it would produce alcohol and poison him from the inside out. Soooo Damien stayed up until 2 a.m. observing him. That makes nine full hours after the dog apparently ate the raw pizza. He did burp. And that was all. 

Friends, this is the almighty power of a boxer’s digestive system. You can judge us if you want for not taking him to the ER, but Sonny himself would give you some side eye for that. 

Well, maybe not a side eye, because his eye placement doesn’t really allow for that, but he would do his best. Sonny always does his best. As do we all. 

WEDNESDAY
Sweet spicy Korean meatballs, sweet pepper lo mein

New recipe! I came across this recipe for gochujang meatballs with apricot glaze and couldn’t look away. I followed the recipe exactly, except that I used fresh ginger instead of powdered. Super easy, and it was fab. Tasted like party food. You just mix up the meatball ingredients and bake them, and then roll them around in the heated glaze which is just three ingredients, and serve.

I had already served rice that week and I was planning to do it agin, so rather than making rice as a side, I made a vegetable lo mein, as you can see. I usually make lo mein with linguine or fettuccine, but this time I had some very thin Chinese noodles I had grabbed at the International Market. They boiled up in no time, like two minutes, which was fun. I did my easy lo mein sauce

Jump to Recipe

I sauteed up some minced ginger and garlic, then added the leftover sweet peppers, then a little mirin, then the noodles and sauce and heated it all up. Delicious. The whole meal came together, start to finish, in like 45 minutes (moving fast). 

Definitely making these meatballs again. They tasted like party food. They would also be good, maybe even better, with ground turkey.

THURSDAY
Chicken biryani, giant taboon

I’ve had biryani on my mind for a few weeks, so today was the day. This recipe calls for chicken thighs, and that really is the superior kind of chicken for it, but what was on sale was chicken ribs, so that’s what I used. 

I also used actual basmati rice, which I sometimes am too cheap for. I had forgotten this, but it cooks up much faster than short grain white rice; so if you struggle with getting the rice cooked all the way through with biryani, it definitely helps to have the right rice! Anyway I anticipated undercooked rice, so I made the biryani in the morning and put it in the slow cooker for the rest of the day, which generally takes care of any chompy rice by dinner time. 

Turned out great. This being Mother’s Choice week, I did not omit the golden raisins, which the kids don’t like. But they’re easy to pick out, so that’s what they did.

And maybe I went around after dinner and ate up all the little plump, savory, leftover golden raisins on their plates, who can say. Maybe I’m the one who ate the pizza!

(I did not.) So, the chicken breast was a little bit dry, as I expected. Still a wonderful dish. I keep thinking I might try a different biryani recipe, but everyone likes this one, so why. 

At the last minute, I decided to make a Giant Taboon. My naan is kind of hit or miss, mostly miss, and it was too late to start it anyway, but taboon is fast and easy and delightful. Five minutes to put the ingredients together, an hour to rise, ten minutes to rest the dough, and 10-15 minutes to bake. I called everyone down for supper, and then I pulled this lovely pneumatic lady out of the oven:

I made it with a big rolled lip out of force of habit, because I usually make tabboon to go along with mussakhan (Palestian chicken with sumac and red onions) and you serve the chicken right on top of the bread

and I like to make a little lip to keep the juices in. Aghh, I gotta make mussakhan again. It’s so good. 

Oh, I’m almost at the end of the week and I didn’t tell you about my leetle misadventure with wood. The short version is that I had already cut away the rotten wood, replaced it with sound wood, and attached cross pieces on, and stained the underside; and also retrieved the pieces I already laid into the swamp before I realized I really needed to stain them. So then I wanted to flip the two long pieces over so I could stain the other side; but I couldn’t do it the horizontal way, which is easier, because I didn’t want to snap the cross pieces off

So I did what any mother would do: I dragged the kids into it. Four of us hoisted up one short end and carefully walked our hands down until it was basically standing on its end. Then I was like, “Okay, now just me and Lena, and everyone else get out of the way, and Lena, you stand to the side, because it might leap out!” 

You know this is a dumb story. Dumber than the dog eating the whole raw pizza, because his excuse is that he is a dog, whereas I am a college graduate and this was a very dumb idea. 

So we gave it a big shove, and of course it did leap out, but not like I expected, and it thwacked both me and Lena so hard that we both fell down and its fwiggen lucky we didn’t both have multiple broken bones. Do you want to see my leg?? 

Well, I just spent kind of a long time trying to figure out how to insert some code for one of those “click to see image” things, but I’m too full of raw dough, I mean I can’t figure it out, but for some misbegotten reason I really want to show you my leg, which isn’t even that bad. Lena’s is much worse. I’ll put the image at the end of the recipes, and if you are really motivated, you can scroll all the way down and see my leg. I find bruises fascinating, and this one kind of looks like a leaping rabbit. Madeline would be proud.

Oh, so then the long piece was somehow suspended in the air like this

I slapped a bunch of stain on it and dragged a tarp over it just as it began to rain, because I may be an idiot, but I’m not really sure how this sentence is supposed to end.

Damien promised that, when I was ready to flip the second long piece over, I should call him and he he would come over and say, “No, not like that! You’ll get hurt!” (He also said he would help flip it over.) This is what you call traditional marriage roles, and I didn’t even have to become a football player to figure it out. 

P.S. The dog did go to the vet today for his shots, and they confirmed that he is fine, and just likes pizza. Who among us. 

FRIDAY
I don’t know. 
I was planning tuna boats, but Moe and Eliora are coming over, so maybe I will take it up a notch. Or maybe not! Maybe I will throw some wood at them and pretend I thought they ate the pizza. This is MY WEEK, and I can do what I want! Which always turns out well. 

 

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.

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.

 

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.

taboon bread

You can make separate pieces, like pita bread, or you can make one giant slab of taboon. This makes enough to easily stretch over a 15x21" sheet pan.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups bread flour
  • 4 packets yeast
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. Mix the flour, salt, and yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer.

  2. While it is running, add the olive oil. Then gradually add the water until the dough is soft and sticky. You may not need all of it. Let it run for a while to see if the dough will pull together before you need all the water. Knead or run with the dough hook for another few minutes.

  3. Put the dough in a greased bowl, grease the top, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm spot for at least an hour until it has doubled in size.

  4. Preheat the oven to 400. Put a greased pan or a baking stone in the oven to heat up.

  5. If you are making separate pieces, divide it now and cover with a damp cloth. If you're making one big taboon, just handle it a bit, then put it back in the bowl and cover it with a damp cloth. Let rest ten minutes.

  6. Using a little flour, roll out the dough into the shape or shapes you want. Poke it all over with your fingertips to give it the characterstic dimpled appearance.

  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes until it's just slightly browned.

 

WATCH OUT, HERE COMES A PICTURE OF MY LEG 

Probably not as bad as you were expecting, with all that build-up. But doesn’t it look like a rabbit? 

What’s for supper? Vol. 377: In which we make it through the week in one piece

Happy Friday! I truly don’t know what I did this week. It felt dramatic and exhausting, and yet I don’t have very much to show for it. Unlike the natural world, which is putting on a completely spectacular show this spring. Every last little thing is absolutely laden with blossoms. We’re still not quite safe to plant most things outside, here, but I’ve been starting all the seeds I can get my hands on indoors. When I finally move everything into the garden, the house is going to feel huge and empty! 

Someone was asking me WHERE I put all these open pots of soil, and the answer is: On windowsills, on countertops, on chairs,

and on shelves that I’ve cleared off and stuffed all the former occupants in bags. Of. But the real answer is, I don’t have babies or toddlers. That turns out to be the solution to a lot of things! Simply have ten children, rest up for nine years, and then you can start some seeds.

The other answer is that I’ve been using the cold sowing technique indoors, as well as outdoors, meaning I use juice bottles and milk jugs and salad and  strawberry cartons, add drainage holes if necessary, cut the top 2/3 off but leaving a hinge, fill the bottom with soil and plant some seeds, water it, and then tape it shut. This not only makes it harder to spill if someone knocks it over (we do have an extremely naughty cat, who doesn’t mind walking on toothpicks), but if you’re bad at remembering to water seedlings, this is the method for you.

It’s basically a little terrarium, and you do need to water it occasionally when you notice no droplets condensing on the top, but none of this “keep soil evenly moist” nonsense. 

Anyway, this year I have started: Marigolds, sunflowers, zinnias, creeping veronica, cosmos, and morning glories; basil, garlic, pumpkins, butternut squash, and eggplants; and I just put some gladioli and clematis in the ground, plus a Sarah Bernhardt peony root.  I have sugar snap peas and glass gem corn that will probably do better if I sow it directly outside. May 30 is the magic day! But this weekend, I will take the straw covering off my strawberries and asparagus. And the rhubarb is visibly growing day to day. The Brussels sprouts survived the winter, but I think I’ll pull them out, because I’m a little tired of them. Definitely doing more collard greens this year. I am also going to direct sow more sunflowers, marigolds, and cosmos with the rest of the seeds I saved from last year. I know some people do ten times this much every year, but this is by far my most elaborate planting effort, and I’m pretty excited!

Anyway, five paragraphs in, let’s talk about food. Here is what we ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Chicken salad with blueberries and almonds

Saturday, shopping day. Nothing spectacular, but a pleasant salad of roast chicken breast on greens with almonds and blueberries. This salad is better with feta cheese or goat cheese, diced red onion, and some buttery croutons, but I made up for that by eating it outside, which is the butteriest crouton of them all

in a certain sense. 

I need to figure out what’s going into the St. Joseph garden once the tulips and daffodils pass by. It’s shaded about half the day by the peach tree, and I’d love some suggestions for a bright perennial or two I can plant on top of/alongside bulbs!

SUNDAY
Chicken shawarma, pita

Sunday was Cinco de Mayo, but I hadn’t planned anything spectacular, and Clara is home for the summer and Moe was over to learn how to change oil, so I changed it to Shawarma de Mayo.

Same old yummy shawarma recipe

Jump to Recipe

except maybe I bumped up the hot pepper flakes a little, because it did taste a little peppier than usual. No complaints! Boneless, skinless chicken thighs is the best kind of chicken for this dish.

I also decided to make pita, and I’m not really happy with the recipes I’ve tried in the past, so I tried a new one, because I was enthralled by the sheer puffiness of the photo in this recipe. This one had you fry the pita for thirty seconds on one side, then thirty seconds on the other, then brush it with oil and fry another five minutes, flipping it frequently. I thought six minutes sounded excessive, but I’m trying to swear off going straight from “why does my food never turn out like the picture” to “she’s crazy, I’m not doing that” to “why does my food never turn out etc etc,” so I did it by the timer. 
GUESS WHAT? The pita burned. 

This doesn’t look too burned, because I wised up about halfway through and decreased the time and temperature, but I’m telling you. I have some kind of middle eastern curse on me, and my pita just never turns out, no matter what I do. I mean everybody ate it and said nice things about it, but I was a little sad. 

Can’t be too sad when you’re eating shawarma with tomatoes and cucumbers and olives and feta cheese and parsley and garlicky yogurt sauce, though. 

Simply can’t! 

MONDAY
Shepherd’s pie

Speaking of Cinco de Mayo, the local supermarkets seem to have noticed that there’s some trickiness around an overwhelmingly white population suddenly making a lot of tacos and margaritas on May 5 because it’s the Fourth of July or something; so they hedge their bets by putting ground beef on sale and suggesting some chili recipes, but not saying why. 

It’s possible I’m overthinking this, but I do spend a lot of time looking at supermarket flyers, and I know I’m right. The upshot is that I bought quite a bit of ground beef, and for Cuatro de Mayo I made shepherd’s pie. 

I remembered that I had written a wonderful recipe for this

Jump to Recipe

so I checked it out, and discovered that you guys are very polite, and never mention how terrible my recipes are. I didn’t, for instance, feel the need to write down ANY MEASUREMENTS. The recipe is basically, “Hey, remember how good shepherd’s pie is? You should make that! With corn.”

Sorry about that. Anyway, I did make that.

But for some reason I can’t remember, I put tin foil on the top and then left the house. I texted one of the kids to remove the tinfoil toward the end, and when I got home, I turned on the broiler to brown it up. This gave the potato top a nice crisp top, but unfortunately the inside had kind of steamed inside the foil, so it was just so gloppy when I served it up. 

Or maybe I made the white sauce for the meat too thin because I hadn’t written down any proportions, who can say. It tasted great. Just kinda gloppy. 

Also on Monday, I suddenly faced a truth I had been avoiding: The wooden ramps I was planning to make into the bog bridge has some very rotten spots on it.

So I dragged out the reciprocating saw, which is a truly terrible tool. It seems designed, in a way that other power saws aren’t, to turn on you and carve you up. So I was talking out loud to myself, as you will not be surprised to learn that I do, and I said, “Oh, I hate this machine. I’m always afraid I’m going to hurt myself” and then immediately whacked myself in the eyeball with the end of the power cord. 

This minor injury apparently propitiated the power tool gods, and I didn’t lose any limbs or even digits. I did cut off a bunch of rotten wood, which was satisfying

and then got out the drill, which doesn’t scare me as much, and screwed on a long beam to replace the part I had removed. Got that on nice and tight.

Then I noticed that the new beam also had a rotten part.

Then I said some other things out loud to myself, and went inside. 

TUESDAY
Burgers, party mix, corn, birthday cake

Tuesday was Moe’s birthday, and he requested burgers. That’s a can do. 

He asked for a chocolate cake and to be surprised with the decoration, even knowing what . . . mixed . . . results this can sometimes yield. But I had a brain wave and remembered that he used to be absolutely crazy about One Piece. I remember some rides home from school where it was nothing but him shouting “AND THEN THE MONKEY WHO HAS BILLIARD BALLS FOR HANDS ATE THE MAGIC TOOTSI FRUITSI BEAN AND HE GOT THE POWER TO MAKE PEOPLE THINK HE WAS A POTTED PLANT EVEN THOUGH HE WASN’T ACTUALLY AND THAT’S HOW HE DEFEATED THE SEWING MACHINE CLAN THAT LIVES ON THE ISLAND OF PICKLE JUICE” while I just focused on not driving off a bridge. Apparently it’s actually a fairly tragic story, but that part eluded me, because of all the shouting. 

The thing I do know about One Piece is that is has a logo that is mostly made of circles. So I says to myself, I says, this is a job for fondant. I haven’t really used fondant before, and it turns out they are not kidding when they say you should wash your hands a lot. Which I did, but it was still one of my smudgier cakes. But he liked it!

I liked working with fondant. Gum paste is good for molding 3D figures, but the fondant was super easy to roll and cut flat shapes. I was rushing, so I didn’t make it as smooth or even as I might have, but I know how to if I have time next time!

And I, perhaps alone in the world, like the taste of fondant. So there. 

Oh, it was just a box cake, but for the chocolate frosting, I used this King Arthur recipe, which turned out well. 

WEDESDAY
Tacos and beans

For Seis de Mayo, we had tacos. (For those keeping track, this is ground beef incident #3 for the week.) I seasoned the meat with garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder. I also made a pot of black beans in the Instant Pot

Jump to Recipe

and they looked so good to me, I just had beans on tortilla chips. 

Thinking about those beans. 

Also on Wednesday, I faced the fact that I really truly need to put some kind of waterproof stain on the bog bridge, if I don’t want it to go right back to being rotten, or more rotten, or rotten fixed with things that also turn out to be rotten. Truth be told, I’m feeling a little bit down about stuff in general! Ah well. 

So I bought some stain and got the kids to move them into an upright position for me, and that is as far as that’s gotten. 

THURSDAY
Pizza

Nothing to report, except that I wanted to use up some sandwich pepperoni, so I cut that into fourths and put it on the pizza, and then filled in the gaps with normal small, round pepperoni. The result was something that struck me as slightly rad, somehow. 

Doesn’t this look like an early 90’s pizza? Like a Rugrats pizza or something? I don’t know. I’m disabled, I got attacked by a reciprocating saw and I’ve never been the same. 

FRIDAY

Mac and cheese, I suppose. We have to go see the endocrinologist so the doctor can say the kid’s numbers are good, and I can pretend that’s somehow due to my attentive maintenance, rather than sheer luck. And then there is a family dance party this evening that Corrie desperately wants to go to, and she is planning to wear her dress with the mushroom print and her green cloak. I love that she goes to a school where this is FINE. People will say “cool cloak!” and that is all. 

I think the last time I danced was . . . yes, at my own wedding. Maybe I’ll wear a cloak, too. 

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.

 

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 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. 

 

Leftover lamb shepherd's pie

This recipe uses lots of shortcuts and it is delicious.

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.

  2. Prepare the mashed potatoes and set aside.

  3. Heat and drain the corn. (I heated mine up in beef broth for extra flavor.)

  4. In a saucepan, melt the butter and saute the onion and garlic until soft. Stir in pepper.

  5. Add the flour gradually, stirring with a fork, until it becomes a thick paste. Add in the cream and continue stirring until it is blended. Add in the cooked meat and stir in the Worcestershire sauce.

  6. Add enough broth until the meat mixture is the consistency you want.

  7. Grease a casserole dish and spread the meat mixture on the bottom. Spread the corn over the meat. Top with the mashed potatoes and spread it out to cover the corn. Use a fork to add texture to mashed potatoes, so they brown nicely.

  8. Cook for about forty minutes, until the top is lightly browned and the meat mixture is bubbly. (Finish browning under broiler if necessary.)

Instant Pot black beans

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 16-oz cans black beans with liquid
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Put olive oil pot of Instant Pot. Press "saute" button. Add diced onion and minced garlic. Saute, stirring, for a few minutes until onion is soft. Press "cancel."

  2. Add beans with liquid. Add cumin, salt, and cilantro. Stir to combine. Close the lid, close the vent, and press "slow cook."

What’s for supper? Vol. 375: Laurus! Eagle! Burger!

Happy Friday!

First order of business: I am asking your prayers for a dear person who should be just about out of cancer surgery right now. There is a very good prognosis, but still! Thank you!

And here is our week. 

I didn’t look up a single recipe this week. Most of the kids were on April Vacation and I had it planned out down to the half-day, according to everyone’s work schedule and my to-do list and the weather forecast in two states. My friends, I did every single thing I meant to do. I am very proud of myself, and I had a really nice week with the kids.

The downside is, when I stop using recipes, I relapse straight into “hot meat topped with hot cheese” territory. Which is not necessarily a bad thing! Just, you know, not very vegeteful.  

SATURDAY
Bagel, egg, cheese, and sausage sandwiches

Saturday of course I went shopping, then did a ton of yard clearing. I picked up SO much trash, including burnt-out fireworks from July 4th, and hacked away a bunch of wild blackberry canes (and I do mean wild. I’m still digging thorn tips out of my skin), and I cleared out a bunch of flower beds, mostly stuff that is just barely coming up and is still just green babies, but also some stuff I put in while utterly loopy with Covid

The tulips are done, but the daffodils will keep on multiplying for years to come. Sometimes when you’re out in the woods, you’ll see the remains of scattered stone walls, and you can guess that this was once pasture land, back when New Hampshire was wall-t0-wall sheep. Or sometimes you will even see the remnants of a root cellar or the foundations of the house, all smothered and overgrown with greenery, and you will think, “This grove of pines is standing right where someone used to have their kitchen.”

Or sometimes, there will be only a few stray rocks, and it’s hard to tell if they were set there on purpose by human hands, or just by the slow rearranging of the world by the push of water and crumbling earth. But then you see daffodils, evenly spaced, and that is all that is left of someone’s home. They’re not as easy to get rid of as something temporary like a homestead! So, this is why I plants lots and lots of daffodils every fall. 

I also put together an extremely chimpy little potting station

which might not look like much, but now I have a PLACE for things. I’m not saying I WILL put my trowel and my clippers and my zip ties away when I’m done with them, but now I CAN. 

And then I came in and sorted shoes, threw away many, many ragged, stinky pairs, and matched up 90% of the boots and put them away, started washing the winter jackets and snow pants, and bagged the hats and gloves. Whew! So then we had a quick, easy dinner.

The kids claim not to like duck eggs, but they eat them as long as I don’t tell them they’re duck eggs. As if you can’t tell! Look at that giant yolk. 

SUNDAY
Blackened chicken thigh sandwiches with peppers and cheese

Sunday I did a ton of writing and then we had spicy chicken thigh sandwiches with shishito peppers, melted cheese, red onion, and barbecue sauce, using this recipe from Sip and Feast.

I usually make this recipe when boneless, skinless chicken thighs are on sale, but this time I got plain thighs and skinned and de-boned them myself. I was surprised to find that they take much longer to cook this way, probably because . . . something something muscle fiber integrity and moisture retention, I don’t know. Just something to know for the future.

You just season them heavily (I used Tony Chachere’s) and fry them slowly in oil on both sides. When they were finally cooked, I shifted them into one pan and laid the cheese on to melt, while blistering up the peppers and toasting the buns.

Served them with BBQ sauce and raw red onion, yum yum.

I made a giant raw vegetable platter and we had that with dip. 

That evening, we had a long-promised fire and roasted marshmallows. I often struggle with building fires, so I was really happy to discover that I do fine with wood and kindling I have gathered myself. I just struggle with lighting fires from gross, waxy chunks of wood with a plastic handle stapled to it that I purchased at the supermarket. 

I HATE buying wood. I might build a little shelter and spend an afternoon gathering up a summer’s worth of dry wood, just for marshmallow purposes. But this was a fine fire. 

Then we doused it with water and stirred it with a stick. 

MONDAY
Pizza

Monday I did more writing and more flowerbed clearing and forgot to take the pizza dough out of the freezer in time, so I had to defrost it in the microwave, which produces less-than-satisfactory results. It wasn’t inedible, but definitely not the finest crust. 

I made one olive pizza, one pepperoni, and one misc refrigerator discoveries: Leftover shishito peppers, leftover red onion, some fresh garlic, and some ricotta cheese. 

Pretty tasty, even with the bum crust. 

TUESDAY
Hamburgers, chips

Tuesday, some of the kids and I set out to explore Otter Brook Dam. Damien and I have kayaked on the lake, and sometimes Damien and Moe go fishing there, but we’ve never tried out the hiking path. Excellent day. 

 

And we saw a bald eagle! When I was growing up, there were zero nesting pairs in NH, and I never thought I’d see an eagle in the wild. Now there are about 100 active nesting pairs, and they’re all over! Amazing. I love a good recovery story. 

I figured we’d be hungry after hiking, so we had hamburgers again. I make burgers in the oven under a hot broiler, using 70% lean beef. The fattier ground beef is much easier to handle and shape, and it’s cheaper, too; and then you cook them over something with drainage

and they turn out juicy but not greasy. 

Burgers and chips, yay!

I think this was the night we watched Men In Black. That movie is hilarious and really holds up. 

WEDNESDAY
Pan fried chicken, fries

Wednesday was rainy, and I girded my loins and we cleaned Corrie’s half of the room. No power under heaven could make me show you a “before” or even an “after” picture, but we cleaned that room. She agreed it was time to pass along the rocking horse known as “Toe Crusher” to some other lucky family, and I found one (1) bag of corn (previously frozen, now thawed and halfway to moonshine). And it turns out she DOES have pants. I told her she had pants. 

I had been planning to make chicken cooked in this yakitori sauce, plus rice and maybe fried eggplant, but I ran out of time, so I just seasoned the chicken with salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder, and chili powder, and slowly fried it in hot oil. 

and I cooked a bunch of frozen fries. Not spectacular, but I was running so late, everyone was starving by supper time. For the amount of time it took, I could have made breaded and oven-fried chicken, which is a tasty recipe

Jump to Recipe

but the oven was full of fries. It was good enough!

THURSDAY

On Thursday we took advantage of the free kid’s ticket deal at Old Sturbridge Village, which is, in fact, like the 1830’s except without the racists, and I bet you five bucks Taylor Swift went to Old Sturbridge Village in fourth grade just like I did. I remembered exactly two things from that trip: The lady making cookies on a fire, and the gift shop. So I wasn’t actually sure how much fun it would be, but it was great! We met my friend Theresa

We strolled around for several hours. Bunch of pictures here:

 

Really good day, and everyone enjoyed it. We stopped at McDonald’s on the way home. I wanted to listen to the Trump trial on the way there, but on the way back, Lucy took charge and we were treated to her curated Box Social Playlist, which includes De La Soul, The Killers, The Beastie Boys, a little French Electroswing, and so on. My kids are all such interesting monsters. 

I stayed up super late because we went to bed around midnight and then I thought I would read for ten minutes or so to help me drift off to sleep, and the book I picked up was Laurus, and the part I was up to was the part where he meets Ustina . . .

So, if you have read this book, you will know that I did not drift off to sleep. I read for two hours with my eyes bugging out and other parts of me clenched, and when I finally forced myself to put the book down and go to sleep, I had some weird frickin dreams. NO SPOILERS PLEASE. I’m only on page 101!

FRIDAY
Ravioli

Ravioli is what they wanted, so ravioli they shall get. And maybe I will do something with that eggplant. 

We’ve had a certain amount of duck drama this week. Spring is an emotional time for ducks, especially drakes, and EJ and Coin had some interpersonal issues to work out; and then, in an unrelated incident, EJ hurt his leg, so he’s been spending his nights in the infirmary, which happens to be Damien’s office. But he’s doing much better and hobbling around and looking good (I mean EJ, not Damien. Damien always looks good, but he was not hobbling!), which is a relief, because if I was going to kill and eat anyone, I would really prefer it to be Coin.

And now Ducklings Annie and Bebe are outside for the first time in their lives, so get ready for a bunch of duckling content while we work on integrating them with the big ducks! Corrie just went to get some peas, and not one but two of my kids intercepted her to nab some frozen peas for themselves before the ducks got them. So, stay tuned for increased vegetable content this coming week, too, I guess. 

Oven-fried chicken

so much easier than pan frying, and you still get that crisp skin and juicy meat

Ingredients

  • chicken parts (wings, drumsticks, thighs)
  • milk (enough to cover the chicken at least halfway up)
  • eggs (two eggs per cup of milk)
  • flour
  • your choice of seasonings (I usually use salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, and chili powder)
  • oil and butter for cooking

Instructions

  1. At least three hours before you start to cook, make an egg and milk mixture and salt it heavily, using two eggs per cup of milk, so there's enough to soak the chicken at least halfway up. Beat the eggs, add the milk, stir in salt, and let the chicken soak in this. This helps to make the chicken moist and tender.

  2. About 40 minutes before dinner, turn the oven to 425, and put a pan with sides into the oven. I use a 15"x21" sheet pan and I put about a cup of oil and one or two sticks of butter. Let the pan and the butter and oil heat up.

  3. While it is heating up, put a lot of flour in a bowl and add all your seasonings. Use more than you think is reasonable! Take the chicken parts out of the milk mixture and roll them around in the flour until they are coated on all sides.

  4. Lay the floured chicken in the hot pan, skin side down. Let it cook for 25 minutes.

  5. Flip the chicken over and cook for another 20 minutes.

  6. Check for doneness and serve immediately. It's also great cold.

What’s for supper? Vol. 373: Little lamb, who ate thee?

Happy Friday! This week at our house was A DOOZY. Possibly multiple doozies. Luckily, most of it was scheduled dooze, except for both cars having issues (my sliding door stopped closing, and one of Damien’s tires blew out spectacularly, and also his alternator lost its will to alternate) and also Damien has been working on Dora’s car, so, you remember how Damien once added “and cheese” to every item on my shopping list? It was like that, except every day had “and everybody needs a ride” added to it. 

BUT IT IS SPRING. And that counts for so much! We had a big snowstorm last week, but it slowly warmed up over the weekend, and it’s been raining for a few days, so the snow is now mostly gone. 

I tried THREE new recipes this week and a new decorating technique, and Corrie had TWO sacraments, and NO ducks died, although some of them tried to kill each other. I think there is a dead mouse somewhere in the WALLS. And we are having SPAGHETTI for supper. We are all pretty TIRED. But it is spring, for real! 

SATURDAY
Pizza? 

Saturday I did a monstrous shopping because I skipped shopping last week. I feel like there was something else big going on, but I don’t remember what. We had just regular pizza. 

SUNDAY
Banh mi, german chocolate cake 

Sunday we celebrated Lena’s birthday! They had pork belly on sale at Aldi, so I poked around for recipes and decided to try the Crispy Pork Belly Banh Mi from Recipe Tin Eats, because Nagi has never failed to delight, and also because, despite our best efforts, we still had chopped liver in the house.

Before I forget, here is my chopped liver recipe. Chicken livers are cheap and this is an easy recipe. Why not make up a bunch, separate it into servings, and keep some in the freezer in case of banh mi? I think you should. 

So, pork belly is the cut of meat that’s made into bacon. If fat upsets you, you will not like this recipe! But if you are someone who has fond and lavish imaginings of what could possibly be meant by “crispy pork belly,” then I urge you to give this a shot. It was magnificent. And easy! But it did take some planning. 

You have to let the meat dry out in the fridge overnight, or at least several hours. Then you rub the flesh side with oil, kosher salt, white pepper, and Chinese five spice, and make a sort of foil packet to enclose the sides and bottom, so none of the juice will escape while it’s cooking. Then you cook it in a low oven for two hours.

You’re supposed to check it halfway through and tighten up the foil, because it shrinks as it cooks, but I forgot. The pork will have changed shape at this stage, so you level it off by putting balls of tinfoil under the lower side. 

Then you turn the oven way up to 465 and let it brown up for about half an hour, rotating it halfway through and using foil to protect any spots that are browning too fast. You salt it at some point, but I forget when. 

Sooo, here is how it came out:

ooooh. 

Probably could have let it get a little browner, but I really have no regrets.

This particular dish is meant to be cut into chunks, rather than shredded, so I cut it up

and served it on toasted baguettes with mayo, cilantro, pickled carrots, cucumbers, jalapeños, chopped liver (paté) and the wonderful, velvety sauce suggested in the recipe (hoisin sauce, coconut milk, and a little soy sauce), and also some crunchy fried onions from a can. 

Amazing. Pretty different from the banh mi I usually make, which has fish sauce and is a different texture. 

Jump to Recipe

This was sweeter and less bitey but also richer and more complex. An excellent, excellent sandwich, and the sauce was so good. I did make the pickled carrots using her recipe, and I think I prefer mine, which are less sweet,

Jump to Recipe

but it was a negligible difference. 

The pork belly chunks were sublime. The fat layer on top was salty and crackly, and the flesh inside was so juicy and succulent, and it had layers of fat inside that were meltingly tender. No chewiness in any part, and each individual piece of meat was, I’m a little embarrassed to say this, but almost like a layered sandwich in itself. So it was like a sandwich full of little baby sandwiches. Not, uhhhhh, an everyday food, for a variety of reasons. But I enjoyed it so much. 

And I made a cake! I decided to use the Tastes Better From Scratch recipe for German Chocolate Cake. I actually made the two frostings on Saturday, to save time, but then left them sitting on the stove all night by mistake. One has egg in it, and I wasn’t crazy about the texture anyway, so I decided to remake it. Because I was being smart. 

I then proceeded to be very dumb and decided that, when I got to the part of the cake recipe where you add a cup of boiling water to the batter, I would use a metal measuring cup without a handle.

Do you know, boiling water is hot? I didn’t realize this. So I basically tipped a little water in and then shrieked and flung the measuring cup into the moving mixer, with predictable results

So I wiped down every single surface of every single thing that was in the kitchen and then I remade the coconut pecan frosting. I made a double recipe of the cake, and it came out, like so many of us these days, a little too fragile. Also the chocolate frosting was so thick, you couldn’t really spread it, but you could squish it, so that is what I did. So the resulting cake looks a little like someone held it at shoulder level and then dropped it

but everyone assured me it was delicious! You have to agree, this is definitely a lot of cake. I have finally started on Emgality, so who knows, maybe some day I will have chocolate again, and find out for myself. 

MONDAY
Eclipse! 

Monday, if you recall, was the eclipse! We were in the 95% range, and we’ve seen a partial eclipse before; so I decided to excuse the kids from school and hop in the car to see totality. Our goal was St. Johnbury, VT, which is normally about two hours away. It took about 3.5 hours, so I deployed the car DVD player, which is reserved for the longest trips, and we watched Ice Age, which holds up, at least if you’re only listening to it. 

We were thrilled to see clear skies, and it was one of the warmest days of the year so far, so we felt very lucky. Staked out a spot, ate our sandwiches, checked out the craft tables and information booths, and then the moon started to steal across the sun, and then . . . 

I don’t know if you guys realize this, but the sun is what is making us alive, and when it gets covered up, things change DRAMATICALLY and IMMEDIATELY. We went from sweating in the sun to shivering, and the light was . . . not twilight, like when the sun is going down. It also wasn’t “there’s a storm brewin'” light. It was light I have never seen before in my life, and there above me were immense heavenly bodies silently moving themselves in a completely new way. Everybody stood up. People shouted and cried out. I wept. It was quiet and cold. I don’t know what to say.

I did take a few pictures

but of course they aren’t anything like what it was like. Neither, I may say, are the dramatic, high resolution pictures that people have been sharing. If you haven’t seen a total eclipse, it is simply not like anything else

We did bring a colander and use it as a pinhole projector to make the little crescent shapes before totality.

Strange, strange stuff. The whole thing was just so strange. And it was just the sun, and the moon! The sun and the moon, that we already know about and have lived with all these years. If this is how strange the physical world can get, it makes you wonder what other surprises may be in store. Phew. Phew. Quite a day. 

Lots of people turned right around and zipped off to their cars the very second totality was over, but we hung out and kind of caught our breaths, and then headed over to the Fairbanks Museum, which is a strange little natural history museum full of taxidermy and cultural oddities from all over the world. I enjoyed every bit of it, including the document hand written by Robert Louis Stevenson deeding his birthday over to a little local girl who had the misfortune of having been born on Christmas. Sweet man. 

 

Oh, I forgot to mention that just before totality, we saw strange ruby-red gems of light on the bottom edge of the sun. These turned out to be something called Bailey’s Beads, and it is the sunlight leaking out between the crags of the moon just before the moon moves totally over the sun. 

So after the museum, we plunged back into traffic and spent another 3.5 hours getting home. We watched Help on the way back, and Corrie lost a tooth, and we sampled Wendy’s Orange Dreamsicle Frosties (exactly what you’d expect), and then we came home and collapsed. 

TUESDAY
Chicken burgers, chips

Tuesday I was like, wow, I’m not even that tired. I got the kids to school, took one kid to a rather fraught doctor appointment, cleaned out the car for the first time in months because Corrie lost her tooth and then lost it again, and was pretty distraught about it; and then I decided that it was time to do something about the duck house, which was in a truly shocking state. And then I thought I would sit down for a minute, and of course I fell asleep. SO asleep. So ASLEEP. It was such a deep nap, I feel like I’m still waking up several days later. Man. 

So yes, chicken burgers and chips for supper. It was finally warm enough to eat outside, so that is what I did!

WEDNESDAY
Hot dogs, fries

Wednesday was the rehearsal for Corrie’s First Communion and confirmation right around supper time, so I got Elijah to manage supper and we got it done! Wednesday was supposed to be nachos for supper, but I had so many other things to do, we didn’t even have time for that, so hot dogs. 

After dinner, I made a cake for the next day – just a box mix, which are really quite good these days. I made some kind of white cake that uses just egg whites.

THURSDAY
Qeema and rice with minty sour cream and coriander chutney; white cake 

Thursday I just . . . didn’t want to make nachos. I don’t know why. So I went back to Recipe Tin Eats begging for a ground beef recipe, and dear Nagi said I could make qeema. 

I’m telling you, that lady does not miss. I minced up a bunch of garlic and ginger, cooked that a bit, added finely diced onion, cooked it some more, and then added the ground beef along with kosher salt, cayenne pepper, garam masala, cumin, coriander, and turmeric, and browned up the meat. Then you just add some water and simmer it until most of the water evaporates.

And that’s it! I set up some rice in the Instant Pot for Damien to start while I got the kids, and I wanted to make some yogurt sauce, but since I had been planning nachos, I had bought sour cream, and we didnt’t have yogurt. So I defrosted a couple of the mint cubes I had put away last fall

and stirred that in with the sour cream (I froze them with a little olive oil. I also found a bottle of coriander chutney in the cabinet and chopped up some cilantro, and IT WAS ALL DELICIOUS.

Definitely making this meal again. I told the kids it was like Korean Beef Bowl

Jump to Recipe

except Indian, which is sort of true, but also kind of a silly thing to say. It was not spicy, but was absolutely bristling with garlic and ginger, which I love. Just a wonderful, warm, homey taste, and the sauce from the meat soaked right into the rice and made the whole thing savory and good, and so nice with the cool chutney and minty sour cream. Great meal, and really quick (or a great make-ahead meal). 

I also realized that I’m very tired of not really knowing how much meat I actually have (the ground beef was in a ziplock bag from last week, after I divided a giant package and used the first part on areyes. So I got a cheap kitchen scale, and I’m looking forward to seeing if this improves my baking, too, if I can measure dry ingredients by weight rather than volume. Probably not! I think I’m just a mediocre baker, and I’m mostly okay with that. But who knows, maybe this will change everything. Anyway, I’ll know how much meat I have. 

We ate really early and then headed off for Corrie’s confirmation and First Holy Communion! 

Bunch of pictures here. 

It was lovely. Just lovely. Clara was her sponsor, and she chose the name Casilda, who is a saint she learned about from Meg Hunter-Kilmer’s excellent book Saints Around the World. It didn’t ring a bell at the time, but Saint Casilda of Toledo is the subject of this famous painting by Francisco de Zurbaran

which was the reference for a painting by Roméo Mivekannin which we saw in person a few months ago at the Currier Museum in Manchester.

 We do get around. 

For the cake, I often make a stained glass cake for sacrament parties. You cover the cake in royal icing to make a stable surface, let it dry, pipe lines in black, and the carefully fill them in with various jellies whipped up with a little water. This isn’t the greatest example, but it gives the general idea:

I wanted to try something different, so I frosted the cake and then melted some white candy melts and just kind of dabbed them onto parchment paper

When they were dry, I peeled them off and arranged them into a flower. 

I thought it was pretty, if a little rough; but it didn’t really say “Catholic” to me. First I attempted to make crosses out of candy melt. They looked pretty terrible when I cut them out with a knife; and when I tried to use a cookie cutter, they kept breaking when I tried to release them. So I found some gum paste and

behold, it’s THE LITTLE LAMBY OF GOD. 

This is the cutest religious cake I have ever made. Corrie loved it, and I’m happy to have a new way to decorate cakes. I see many possibilities. 

I’ve been on a poem-printing kick lately. I follow several poets and poetry lovers on social media, and the printer has been amazingly obliging lately (= it prints things???), so any time something strikes my fancy, I print it out and stick it to the wall. Here’s The Lamb by William Blake, if you’d like to do the same. When we were at the Fairbanks and I pointed out the Robert Louis Stevenson document to the kids, I reminded them that he was the one who wrote At the Sea-Side (“When I was down beside the sea/A wooden spade they gave to me…”) which is the poem that’s been hanging in the bathroom for several years, and my favorite poem of all time; and one of my kids said, “Oh, I have it memorized. I stare at it every time I take a dump!” So I guess you could say [looks smugly at fingernails] I really know my stuff, parent-wise. 

And now, my friends, all ten of my children have been baptized and confirmed and they’ve all been to confession and received Communion. And they’ve memorized at least one poem. I’m not saying my work is done, but it sure feels like a milestone. 

FRIDAY
Spaghetti? 

I believe we’re having spaghetti. I gotta clean up the kitchen from yesterday (it was Benny’s turn, but we got home so late), and the ducklings are meep-meep-meeping and the dog is whining and I’m still in my pajamas and there are things overdue and there simply isn’t time for it all, but I am so glad for my life. What a life! 

And look at my flowers, which did NOT DIE.

The greens are daffodils and possibly red tulips, I don’t remember. Some of my winter sowing jugs are finally poking out of the dirt. And the buds on my peach tree look fine! We had a freeze and I was rushing around in the dark, draping sheets over things and weeping, as one does, but it looks like everything survived. 

Happy Friday! I’ll pray for yez all at adoration this afternoon. 

 

5 from 1 vote
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Korean Beef Bowl

A very quick and satisfying meal with lots of flavor and only a few ingredients. Serve over rice, with sesame seeds and chopped scallions on the top if you like. You can use garlic powder and powdered ginger, but fresh is better. The proportions are flexible, and you can easily add more of any sauce ingredient at the end of cooking to adjust to your taste.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar (or less if you're not crazy about sweetness)
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 inches fresh ginger, minced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-4 lb2 ground beef
  • scallions, chopped, for garnish
  • sesame seeds for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, cook ground beef, breaking it into bits, until the meat is nearly browned. Drain most of the fat and add the fresh ginger and garlic. Continue cooking until the meat is all cooked.

  2. Add the soy sauce, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes the ground beef and stir to combine. Cook a little longer until everything is hot and saucy.

  3. Serve over rice and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds. 

5 from 1 vote
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Pork banh mi

Ingredients

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

5 from 1 vote
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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. 372: MEATSTER

Happy Friday! Happy Friday that is within the octave of Easter, and you know what that means: Every Good Boy Deserves Flesh. And that’s why, right now, there are two giant racks of pork ribs rubbed all over with sugar and spice, waiting for the heat. Resurrexit!

HOLY SATURDAY
Seder!

Actual Passover is not for several weeks, but because our family celebrates it both to mark the liberation of our people from slavery, and as a precursor to Easter, so we have it on Holy Saturday; and we don’t have it on Holy Thursday, because there’s so much food. It also marked the liberation of the freezer from an enormous stock pot and a growing number of foil-wrapped bundles. 

First we do the ceremonious part of the seder, and then we eat. All my Passover recipes except for the sponge cake are here!

The menu:
Chicken soup with matzoh balls

Gefilte fish, because it’s spectacularly unphotogenic;

Chopped liver

Cinnamon garlic chicken

Roast lamb

and Charoset, which I also didn’t take a picture of, even though it’s quite beautiful (actually it doesn’t look like anything much). 

I did make spinach pie, but while making it suffered several of what my friend Francesca calls a “menty b,” and it was so bad. Just tasted truly bad. So I threw it out! For the vegetable, we had giant pickles, instead. 

Then for dessert:

Citrus sponge cake

This is a new-to-me recipe, and it turned out excellent. Passover baking is tricky because you can’t use leavening agents, so all the airiness comes from egg whites. It is pretty fussy, but the results were worth it. I made it on Thursday and it was still soft, fluffy, and tender on Saturday. I had one angel food cake pan, and one springform pan which I lined with parchment paper, and then I put a can full of rocks in the middle. Both worked great. Definitely using this recipe in the future. 

For dessert we also had chocolate caramel matzoh, with and without almonds, and various store-bought macaroons, halvah, jelly rings, and fruit slices.

Then we went to the Easter Vigil! It was three hours long! Five baptisms and confirmations, and two confirmations, and it was great. Nothing like the Easter Vigil, man. 

EASTER SUNDAY
Feast of leftovers!

Everyone got up at a leisurely pace and got to work on their Easter baskets. The little basket gifty this year was a Lady of Guadalupe mirror key chain, very classy. 

For supper, there was enough soup and matzoh balls for everyone to have one bowl, and there were plenty of leftovers of everything else, phew. We made SO much charoset this year, to everyone’s delight. I think we went through 15 pounds of apples. 

The rest of the day was just for eating candy and making eggs. This year I got one of those EggMazing egg spinner things, which the younger kids really enjoyed. 

I got it into my head to try embroidered eggs, which unsurprisingly turned out to be extremely fiddly and time-consuming, so I only made one. I cut an access hole in the back of a raw duck egg with little curved nail scissors, emptied it and washed it out, dried it, and coated the outside with Mod Podge. Then I used the nail scissors to make holes, and then embroidered it, getting a little confused about the design as I went.

With egg embroidery, you can only do stitches where the holes have space in between, obviously, or else you’ll wreck the shell. You could do cross stitch, but I really hate the look of cross stitch for some reason. It just pisses me off. So instead I made this thing, and now I can stop thinking about it, which is the main reason I do crafts. 

I also made an eclipse egg and a sort of Medieval astronomy egg,

which I wish I had planned out better and added some red, but, again, now it’s out of my head. I made the designs with clear nail polish. 

The reason I’m mainly showing my eggs and not the kids’ is because they did eggs that were like “Frasier’s Red Scare Egg” and it’s bad enough I have to know about it. They are just so weird. 

THEN I DID SOME DISHES.

Not pictured: The other kitchen counter, which also looked like this. But I was fueled with jelly beans, so I powered right through the first layer and then left the rest for the kids. 

MONDAY
Shepherd’s pie

We had quite a bit of leftover lamb, so I diced it finely and made shepherd’s pie. I checked out a bunch of recipes and decided this is something I can definitely wing. And, for the first time in my life, I used instant potatoes. 

Guys. Guys. I may never mash another potato. At very least, I’m definitely using instant for shepherd’s pie. Everybody just loved the taste, and it was ten thousand times easier than peeling, boiling, and mashing all those potatoes. I know the rest of you have already long since figured this out, but it’s a revelation to me! 

So I whipped up three packs of potatoes with cheese, heated up some frozen corn, and made a savory sauce for the lamb

threw it all in a greased dish, and baked it until it was bubbly and the top was browned

and it was completely delicious. 

Very glad I wrote down the recipe as I made it,

Jump to Recipe

because I’m going to do it exactly like this next time. 

TUESDAY
BLT’s, nacho chips, birthday batcake 

Tuesday was Irene’s birthday, and she requested BLTs. That’s a can do. 

(You can see that, at this point, we had washed the Passover dishes, but not yet put them away. It’s a process!) 

She also asked for Batman-themed cake, leaving the details up to me. So, uh, I immediately thought of this:

and it turned out kinda, well, look. It had homemade cream cheese frosting. Let’s lean on that. 

You can’t really see it, but I molded a little can of shark repellant spray out of gum paste, and tucked that into Batman’s hand. 

The little signs are labels identifying everything on the cake

Did I mention it had homemade cream cheese frosting? I used a sifter and everything!

WEDNESDAY
Areyes with yogurt sauce, Jerusalem salad

Wednesday I tried a new recipe. I think I saw a video on Instagram, alerting me to a food I never knew existed: Areyes, which is Lebanese street food. It’s just seasoned ground meat fried inside pita, and I didn’t see how that could fail to be delicious. And I was right!

I used the recipe from RecipeTinEats, which is almost always good stuff. Pretty basic seasonings, nothing too exotic: onion and garlic, coriander, cumin, paprika, allspice, cayenne pepper, and kosher salt. I put the onion through the food processor, since I was making a lot of it, and then you just mix everything all together

and divide it up into about 1/4 cup per sandwich.

Cut the pitas in half and carefully open them, and then press the meat flat and slide it in. 

The recipe called for spraying them with oil spray and then frying them. I did this, but they didn’t come out as crisp as I was hoping. 

Still extremely delicious, though. Just about everybody liked them. I made a Jerusalem salad for a side (cucumbers, tomatoes, fresh lemon juice and parsley, and a little salt) and a big bowl of garlicky yogurt sauce, and it was a lovely meal

Definitely making this again, but I need to figure out something to make them more crisp. Maybe still use the oil spray, but cook them at a lower heat so they spend longer in the pan, or possibly fry them in butter. Anyway, the idea is that you fry them up with the meat still raw, so it kind of melds with the inside of the bread, more like a quesadilla than a hamburger. Brilliant. 

Also on Thursday I managed to pack up all the plates and glasses and whatnot! It’s not really that hard! But I hate it!

THURSDAY
Chicken and salad

Thursday I just roasted some chicken with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and served it over salad, and I got some rolls from the store. I hardly ate any because I broke down and completely abandoned myself to gobbling down a childhood snack: Matzoh smeared with butter and sprinkled with salt. The incredible power of food to turn you six years old again. What a thing. 

I also got the kids to haul all the Passover stuff back up into the attic. It has to be a week-long ordeal; it’s a tradition. 

FRIDAY
Pork ribs, risotto, asparagus

And today is MEATSTER, as I said, so Damien is making those ribs. I’m gonna make some risotto — not sure if I will go whole-hog and do it on the stovetop

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or take a shortcut and make it in the Instant Pot,

Jump to Recipe

which is quite good but not sublime like slow stovetop risotto — and some asparagus, the first of the season (from the store, I mean. My own asparagus bed is under about six inches of snow right now, alas). I will probably just lightly saute it in a pan and serve it with lemon wedges. 

Oh, and last weekend I processed the last of the maple sap. I had about four gallons and made a little batch of maple sugar candy, which is quite simple, as long as you have a candy thermometer: You just boil the sap until it’s syrup at 220 degrees, and then you keep boiling it until it hits 235. (You can start with syrup! No need to start with sap.) 

Then you let it cool to 175, stir it up until it turns light and creamy, and pour it into your molds. I let mine cook a little too long, because I was goofing off, so it dried out a bit and was somewhat crumbly, and I had to smoosh it into the molds, rather than pour it. It was still undeniably candy, though. I stirred in a bunch of finely-chopped walnuts, and I was pleased. It tasted intensely of maple, and it melted in your mouth like it’s supposed to. 

And now that’s something else I can stop thinking about!

Still thinking about those ribs, though. 

All my passover recipes are here, and here are the recipe cards for the week. 

I woke up in a little panic, thinking it was eclipse day and we were missing it. But that’s Monday! Some of the family is going to the Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury, where they’re supposed to have a good ninety seconds of totality. We are bringing tons of food, extra gas, and possibly one of those portable women’s urinals, because I really don’t know what the traffic will be like, but I’m guessing horrendous. But, AN ECLIPSE. I AM EXCITE. 

Leftover lamb shepherd's pie

This recipe uses lots of shortcuts and it is delicious.

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.

  2. Prepare the mashed potatoes and set aside.

  3. Heat and drain the corn. (I heated mine up in beef broth for extra flavor.)

  4. In a saucepan, melt the butter and saute the onion and garlic until soft. Stir in pepper.

  5. Add the flour gradually, stirring with a fork, until it becomes a thick paste. Add in the cream and continue stirring until it is blended. Add in the cooked meat and stir in the Worcestershire sauce.

  6. Add enough broth until the meat mixture is the consistency you want.

  7. Grease a casserole dish and spread the meat mixture on the bottom. Spread the corn over the meat. Top with the mashed potatoes and spread it out to cover the corn. Use a fork to add texture to mashed potatoes, so they brown nicely.

  8. Cook for about forty minutes, until the top is lightly browned and the meat mixture is bubbly. (Finish browning under broiler if necessary.)

Instant Pot Risotto

Almost as good as stovetop risotto, and ten billion times easier. Makes about eight cups. 

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground sage
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups rice, raw
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • pepper
  • 1.5 cups grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Turn IP on sautee, add oil, and sautee the onion, garlic, salt, and sage until onions are soft.

  2. Add rice and butter and cook for five minutes or more, stirring constantly, until rice is mostly opaque and butter is melted.

  3. Press "cancel," add the broth and wine, and stir.

  4. Close the top, close valve, set to high pressure for 9 minutes.

  5. Release the pressure and carefully stir in the parmesan cheese and pepper. Add salt if necessary. 

 

Suppli (or Arancini)

Breaded, deep fried balls of risotto with a center of melted mozzarella. 
Make the risotto first and leave time to refrigerate the suppli before deep frying. 

Ingredients

  • 12 cups chicken stock
  • 8 + 8 Tbs butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 4 cups raw rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

To make suppli out of the risotto:

  • risotto
  • 1 beaten egg FOR EACH CUP OF RISOTTO
  • bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs
  • plenty of oil for frying
  • mozzarella in one-inch cubes (I use about a pound of cheese per 24 suppli)

Instructions

  1. Makes enough risotto for 24+ suppli the size of goose eggs.


    Set chicken stock to simmer in a pot.

    In a large pan, melt 8 Tbs. of the butter, and cook onions slowly until soft but not brown.

    Stir in raw rice and cook 7-8 minutes or more, stirring, until the grains glisten and are opaque.

    Pour in the wine and boil until wine is absorbed.

    Add 4 cups of simmering stock and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until the liquid is almost absorbed.

    Add 4 more cups of stock and cook until absorbed.

    If the rice is not tender by this point, keep adding cups of stock until it is tender. You really want the rice to expand and become creamy.

    When rice is done, gently stir in the other 8 Tbs of butter and the grated cheese with a fork.

  2. This risotto is wonderful to eat on its own, but if you want to make suppli out of it, read on!

  3. TO MAKE THE SUPPLI:

    Beat the eggs and gently mix them into the risotto.


    Scoop up about 1/4 cup risotto mixture. Press a cube of mozzarella. Top with another 1/4 cup scoop of risotto. Roll and form an egg shape with your hands.


    Roll and coat each risotto ball in bread crumbs and lay in pan to refrigerate. 


    Chill for at least an hour to make the balls hold together when you fry them.


    Put enough oil in pan to submerge the suppli. Heat slowly until it's bubbling nicely, but not so hot that it's smoking. It's the right temperature when little bubbles form on a wooden spoon submerged in the oil. 


    Preheat the oven if you are making a large batch, and put a paper-lined pan in the oven.


    Carefully lower suppli into the oil. Don't crowd them! Just do a few at a time. Let them fry for a few minutes and gently dislodge them from the bottom. Turn once if necessary. They should be golden brown all over. 


    Carefully remove the suppli from the oil with a slotted spoon and eat immediately, or keep them warm in the oven. 

 

sugar smoked ribs

the proportions are flexible here. You can adjust the sugar rub to make it more or less spicy or sweet. Just pile tons of everything on and give it puh-lenty of time to smoke.

Ingredients

  • rack pork ribs
  • yellow mustard
  • Coke
  • extra brown sugar

For the sugar rub:

  • 1-1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp white pepper

Instructions

  1. Coat the ribs in yellow mustard and cover them with sugar rub mixture

  2. Smoke at 225 for 3 hours

  3. Take ribs out, make a sort of envelope of tin foil and pour Coke and brown sugar over them. close up the envelope.

  4. Return ribs to smoker and cook another 2 hours.

  5. Remove tinfoil and smoke another 45-min.

  6. Finish on grill to give it a char.

What’s for supper? Vol. 371: St. Joseph’s Pizza!

Happy Friday! I’m going through my food photos and noticing that we are not doing great with the part of Lent where you don’t eat a lot. But really, there are two whole other important pillars of Lent. To wit: Praying, and giving alms. And those are going very, you know what, mind your own business.

Here’s what we had this week: 

SATURDAY
Chicken burgers, chips

Saturday I went shopping, of course, so we just had chicken burgers and chips for supper. I did make a second batch of maple syrup, even smaller than the last one, though.

Annnd I may have overcooked it a skosh. 

I was planning an Irish breakfast for Sunday, which was St. Patrick’s day. But I couldn’t find sourdough bread at either supermarket, so I decided to try making my own. In my usual thorough researchly fashion, I Googled “sourdough bread without a starter” and clicked on the first recipe that popped up. Started the dough and set it to rise in a warm spot (in the box of socks in the laundry room, which is over a heating vent) overnight. 

I also, feeling very pleased with myself for all the things I was getting done, put both ice cream bowls in the freezer for the next day.

I also rented a pickup truck for the next day, so I could pick up an amazing offer from Facebook marketplace: Two docks, one 8×8 feet, one 16×4 feet, and the long skinny one had a handrail!!! Free!!!! And only about half an hour away. 

The reason I wanted these was because I’m planning to build a bog bridge over the swampy area of the yard so we can get to the stream more easily. I had thrilling plans of using the long dock as a sturdy entrance point to the bridge, and the square one as a sort of floating deck halfway there, and I was thinking of adding birdhouses and solar-powered lights and geraniums in terra cotta pots, and a couple of tasteful deck chairs, and it would be such a lovely little project that would really transform that part of the property, and I was feeling incredibly lucky to have been the first one to jump on the offer, and they were really well-made, solid docks with no rotten wood, and it was all coming together!

You can probably tell, based on how excited I am about this, that it all went to hell. It really, really did. Read on! 

SUNDAY
Irish breakfast, maple walnut ice cream

Sunday we went to Mass, I started some maple walnut ice cream going, using the syrup I had made yesterday, which I warmed up in a pot of water until it was soft enough to stir. (Here’s a similar ice cream recipe, and just ignore the part about coconut cream, and instead add 1/4 cup maple syrup, and then stir in some chopped walnuts after you churn it)

Jump to Recipe

I also made a batch of chocolate chip ice cream (same base, but add chocolate chips). Jammed those in the freezer and headed out to get my wonderful docks. 

Okay. So. I really can’t stand to revisit every last horrible detail, but it included a woman screaming “STOP!” and a man shouting, “What are you DOING??” and then when we got past that part and found the right field instead of the Very Wrong Field, there was a long spell where Damien and I were standing in the rain in that field, coming up with every last possible scenario we could that might possibly end up with us loading up these docks and bringing them home.

When we got to the part where I suggested going back home, getting our mini chainsaw and as many teenagers as we could find, and then using all our might to load the hacked-up pieces of dock into the truck and making maybe five or six trips to get it home, and then returning the pickup truck to U-Haul on time, we just kind of looked at each other and said, ” . . . Yeah, no.”

It was sad. It was tragic. But the fact is, we really needed a winch and a flatbed for this job. I did call a flatbed company and had a short argument with the dispatcher, but when they finally called back, I missed the call, and that was the final chapter in a long and stupid story called “It Was Just Not Meant To Be.”

So I went home and cried a little bit, to be honest with you, because I really wanted those docks, and also I felt like I was the dumbest person in the world because nothing every works out, boo hoo hoo, and the maple syrup was all my fault, and I had forgotten to buy potatoes for the Irish breakfast, and then I fetched the dough for the alleged soda bread that had been rising for 20 hours, and it was . . . in keeping with the rest of my efforts that day.

 

HOWEVER, I baked what I had, and they turned out somewhat reminiscent of bread.

Damien made the bacon, and we actually had a really tasty meal. I roasted some mushrooms with — I don’t remember, probably garlic, salt, pepper, butter, oil, and then some lemon juice at the end, and I roasted some tomato halves with olive oil, salt, and pepper. 

 I cut the bread into thick little wedges

and I heated up some baked beans, and then I fried a bunch of duck eggs in bacon grease, and yes, all together it was delicious. 

Even without potatoes. 

But! The ice cream didn’t freeze! I don’t know why! Maybe my freezer is overstuffed and the bowls are not getting sufficiently chilled. What can one say. Begorrah. We definitely ate it anyway, but it was more like a thin milkshake than ice cream. 

MONDAY
Mussel lo mein

Monday I was pretty ready to have everything go better, and it did. Aldi was selling pouches of cooked mussel meat for $3 a pound a while back, so I pulled those out of the freezer and let them defrost while I did yoga. My sprained (or whatever) ankle was finally feeling well enough to do a full class again, so that was nice; and the cat stole one of the bags of mussels but did not manage to open it, so that was also nice!

At dinner time, I boiled three pounds of linguine, and started the lo mein with minced garlic and ginger, then added diced red onion and sugar snap peas, and then the mussels,

and then I put in 2/3 of the pasta and the sauce, and it was a lovely lo mein.

I served the rest of the pasta plain, for people who prefer that. 

The lo mein was so good. I adore this recipe. It’s so fast and easy, and just delicious, and you can put whatever you want in it. 

TUESDAY
Pizza, cannoli 

Tuesday I had to face the fact that, even though I love St. Joseph very much, I had just plain forgotten that it was his feast day. Most years, we do a big Italian feast, but we were pretty zonked this week, so I just made pizza. 

I did make a pretty deluxe pizza for the wild card one (I generally make one pepperoni, one plane, and one wild card pizza): Fresh garlic, roast tomatoes (left over from the Irish meal), spinach, anchovies, artichoke hearts, and black olives. 

Ahem: 
 
I can see a new horizonUnderneath the blazin’ sky.I’ll be where the sauce is flyin’(Not Srebenica!)

Gonna be your mom in motionAll I need’s this bag of cheese.Take me where my future’s lyin’St. Joseph’s pizza! 

Look, the original song doesn’t make any sense, either. 

We also happened to have cannoli shells in the house, which Damien grabbed months ago because they aren’t always in stores, so you get them while you can. I made a basic filling (ricotta cheese, vanilla, cinnamon, and powdered sugar) and piped it into the shells, then decorated them with rainbow sprinkles. 

Not actually very swanky (I didn’t have time to let the filling drain, so it was kinda wet), but heyyy. St. Joseph. Not Srebenica. 

WEDNESDAY
Butter chicken, rice, dal

Wednesday was duckling day! We ordered them a while back, thinking they would arrive after Easter when things had “”””””calmed down a little,”””””” but in fact they came on Wednesday. Here they are, noisily waiting in the post office to be picked up

The last batch of ducks we got were named after some of Damien’s great uncles, E.J., Coin, Fay, and Ray; so these ones are named after my paternal grandmother, Annie, and her sisters Mickey and Bebe.

They’re a little confused

but quite winsome

Here’s a couple of videos from the first and second day, meeting the rest of the animals. 

They are Black Swedish ducks, and their personalities are somewhat different from the last little flock we got, which are pekin ducks. They are less sleepy and more jumpy, and they already look more duck-shaped than the pekins did at this age. (The pekins were just fuzzy blobs for about a week, but these guys have discernible necks already.) 

Last time, we got a straight run, meaning nobody had figured out yet what sex they are. We ended up with two boys and two girls, which is not ideal (there are some power struggles). So this time we paid extra to get them sexed, and these are all girls. They’re supposed to be friendly and cold-hearty and good foragers, and the shells of their eggs will be a darker, bluish shade. This is what they will look like as adults

One of my upcoming projects is to make a better fence, because our current flock finds it very easy to escape, and they’ve been roaming all over the property and also off the property, and we’re not really sure if everyone else finds them as charming as we do. They do get plenty of exercise this way, and nobody has eaten them yet. 

Anyway! Still had to make supper, and the menu said butter chicken and dal. I’ve never had or even seen, much less made dal before. I followed the recipe in Julie Sahni’s cookbook, except I think I had the wrong kind of lentils. It said yellow or pink, and I had ones that were kind of orangey and are called “football lentils.” 

Anyway it was a super easy recipe. You just simmer the lentils in water with turmeric until they’re tender,

whisk them until they’re blended (that was fun), and then at the end, add some oil that you’ve browned a bunch of sliced garlic in.

I think it came out much thicker than it’s supposed to be — more of a paste than anything you could conceivably sip — but it was DELICIOUS. 

The butter chicken is also so easy. You just have to start early (or the night before) so it can marinate, but then I followed this recipe from RecipeTinEats, except I accidentally bought vanilla yogurt instead of plain, so I used sour cream instead. Worked great. You just cook up the chicken, then put in your tomato, cream, salt, and sugar, and let it simmer a bit longer.

I ended up with a lot more sauce than we needed for the chicken (possibly it was thinner because it was sour cream instead of yogurt? I don’t know), but better too much than too little. 

I sure wish I had some naan or some other kind of bread, but I was — well, to be honest, I was tired because I was so excited about the ducks. So I just made a big pot of rice to go with it. Set out some more cilantro and there it was. 

Such a nice, lovely meal. I ate so much.  Just about everybody likes butter chicken. The dal was not a huge hit, but I myself loved it, so I’m probably going to try again on a day when I can also make naan, and maybe I can talk them into it that way. 

THURSDAY
Banh mi, Doritos

Thusday we had banh mi, which we haven’t had for quite some time, because the smell is a bit of a trial for some people who live in this house. 

I made a very slight tweak in the marinade

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(running the cilantro through the food processor, rather than just chopping it up coarsely) and I liked it, so I’ll do it that way from now on.

I quick-pickled some carrots 

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and did the ol’ glass-skull-full-of-pickled-carrots maneuver 

I just cut up the cucumbers and left them unpickled, because there are so many sharp, attention-getting flavors in this sandwich already. 

The meat turned out extremely tender.

I had my sandwich with pickled carrots and fresh cilantro and some sriracha mayo, but I forgot to add cucumbers and jalapeños. I did toast the rolls, though, which I don’t always bother to do. 

Magnificent. This is truly one of the great lights in the universe of sandwiches. My only regret was the pickled carrots were too sweet, but (so) the kids liked them a lot. We also had Doritos, which were a surprisingly good accompaniment to this sandwich. Or maybe I just like Doritos. 

Late Thursday night, we lost one of the ducklings. I mean it died, we didn’t lose track of it. They were only a few days old and I don’t really know what happened. It just happens sometimes. The other two seem pretty hale and hearty, and now . . . I have to figure out which name I should assign to the one who didn’t make it, which is an unforeseen pitfall of naming brand-new ducklings after real people!

Ah well. 

FRIDAY
Bagel, egg, cheese sandwiches

Friday was Benny’s school conference (Corrie’s was Thursday afternoon), and we made a stop afterwards at a favorite thrift store, where Benny found an absolutely lovely, brand new dress that fits her like a dream, and I found eighteen matching tiny wine glasses for $4. Perfect for Passover, which we will be celebrating on Holy Saturday as usual. Which is . . . .coming right up, isn’t it. There isn’t much in the way of Passover food to be found in the supermarkets, because actual Passover isn’t for more than another month, but I’ll figure it out. 

Deep down, I’m glad I’m not frantically trying to figure out what to do about the two docks that are in my driveway right now. It just took a couple of days to realize I felt that way. 

It is snowing.

Ben and Jerry's coconut ice cream

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups whipping cream or heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 15 oz coconut cream

Instructions

  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs for two minutes until fluffy.

  2. Add in the sugar gradually and whisk another minute.

  3. Pour in the milk and cream and coconut cream (discarding the waxy disk thing) and continue whisking to blend.

  4. Add to your ice cream maker and follow the directions. (I use a Cuisinart ICE-20P1 and churn it for 30 minutes, then transfer the ice cream to a container, cover it, and put it in the freezer.)

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.

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Pork banh mi

Ingredients

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

 

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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.