What’s for supper? Vol. 237: Creative naan compliance

Look up! I just flew by! No, not in the Chinese spy balloon. I’m in an airplane, off for a quick visit to a very dear friend, and I’ll be back late Monday. Whee!

Meanwhile, here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Tacos

Or really tostadas without beans, because something happened that I honestly never thought would happen: We ran out of tortillas. We’ve had a ludicrous tortilla backlog for so long, I had truly forgotten that it was something you need to buy at some point. So I did not, and so a few people had soft tortillas with stale edges, and a few people had rather elderly crunchy tostada shells. 

They were fine. We were hungry. And that has made all the difference. 

SUNDAY
Chicken sorta-caprese sandwiches, chips

Chicken breasts were on sale, so I broiled them with olive oil, garlic powder, oregano, salt, and pepper, sliced them, and served them on baguettes with tomato and basil and miscellaneous cheese. The miscellaneous cheese part was tolerable, but then it turned out we were out of balsamic vinegar, which caused a stir. I had mine with olive oil and red wine vinegar.  

It was fine. Honestly, I will eat just about anything on a baguette. I would eat a baguette sandwich, like bread on bread. Serve it in a bread bowl, I don’t care. 

MONDAY
Monday, Damien and I had to go to a meeting at 5:30, so I set the kids up with lots of ramen and leftover chicken, crunchy noodles and a few vegetables and eggs and things, and told them to have what they wanted. We two went to Wendy’s, and I had some kind of burger with crunchy fried onions on it. My word, it was delicious. I rarely have a burger and fries at a fast food place, but every once in a while, yes. 

TUESDAY
Chicken biryani and naan

Oh, now here we go. I’m thinking a lot about Indian food, but I wanted to get started with a recipe I’ve tried before, so I made this mild chicken biryani. As I remarked on Facebook, of all the cuisines I have attempted to cook, Indian food is the most straight up fun. All the colors, and of course all the smells. It’s just a good time. 

So in this recipe, you sear the chicken thighs in oil, then cook up your onion and ginger, then turmeric and cardamom in the oil, then add the jasmine rice in, put the chicken back in, and add cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, golden raisins, and chicken broth. Cover it up and let all those beautiful flavors meld together as the rice cooks. 

I know from experience that the rice is always still a little chompy at the end, so I make it in the morning and then move it to the slow cooker and keep it warm all day. (Full disclosure, I managed to slop a lot of the chicken broth out onto the floor, so there wasn’t really enough liquid in it and it turned out chompy anyway. But still delicious!) 

I also really wanted to make naan, and I had pretty good luck with the King Arthur recipe last time.  My bread flour had mysteriously disappeared, and I also mysteriously got it into my head that I wanted to knead it by hand, rather than using the stand mixer. I don’t know why, and I don’t know why I didn’t change my mind when it became apparent that it wasn’t going well, but that is what I did. I kneaded that dough forehhhhhhhver and it just didn’t get any smoother, but stayed all knobbly and mottled. 

So eventually I gave up and set it to rise, and did this and that, and came back and cut it into 24 pieces, and decided I really didn’t have time to fry it before it was time to go. 

And that was probably the first good decision I made with this naan, because waiting until just before dinner to cook it meant that Corrie was home, and she wanted to help. Guess what? She was genuinely helpful. 

Naan cooks up really quickly, in less than two minutes, so you want to be rolling out one piece to get it ready while the first piece is frying. You throw it on a very hot, dry pan and watch for it to start forming these bubbles 

and then flip it over and cook it for an even shorter time, and that’s how naan gets those characteristic brown circles. They are fried bubbles. 

Anyway, Corrie was great at it. She has a wonderful feel for cooking, and doesn’t get flustered, and immediately figured out what to watch for and how to time it. 

She brushed each piece of naan with melted butter as it came off the pan, and we had piping hot bread to go with the biryani, which we topped with toasted silvered almonds and chopped cilantro.

Splendid meal. Delightful. 

What next for Indian food? I need more ideas! I get overwhelmed and I never know what to do next. 

WEDNESDAY
Korean beef bowl 

Wednesday was busy-busy-busy, and I didn’t have a chance to start dinner until it was evening. Korean beef bowl to the rescue.

Jump to Recipe

Even with fresh ginger and fresh garlic, it comes together super fast, all in one pot, and it’s just tasty and satisfying. 

I made a pot of rice in the Instant Pot and chopped up some scallions, and there it was. It actually came together so fast that it was done by 5:00, and suddenly realized I could actually get a yoga workout in before dinner. Which I did, very grudgingly and wobbly-ly. 

The worst part was, fresh off a workout, I only felt like eating one reasonable portion of food, and then I was completely satiated. Which is baloney. It’s propaganda, that’s what it is. 

THURSDAY
Pork gyros

First of all, I would like to say that if I were a grocery store selling fresh SAGE, and some lady who has already been to two stores came in looking for fresh OREGANO, this is NOT HOW I WOULD PACKAGE IT. 

Humph. Anyway, if anyone needs some sage, come see me. I don’t even like sage. Wanted oregano. Don’t care if it’s organic. 

Nevertheless, I forged ahead and made a nice marinade

Jump to Recipe

with fresh garlic, fresh rosemary, DRIED oregano, red onion, honey, and olive oil, and got the pork sliced and marinating by 10:30. Sliced up some more red onions, cubed a bunch of feta cheese, made some yogurt sauce with garlic and fresh lemon juice,

Jump to Recipe

chopped up some mint leaves, and cut up a bunch of cucumbers. I briefly considered prepping some eggplant to fry, but that seemed like a bridge too far. 

Dinner time hove around and I pan-fried the meat in batches

and cooked a few pans of seasoned fries, and set out the meat and fries and all my prepped toppings with pita bread. And some hot sauce. 

SO GOOD. So tender and juicy. This particular recipe is a lot more herby and sweet than spicy, but you can add as much heat as you want with the hot sauce, and be generous with the garlicky yogurt sauce, and it’s fab. When I was done eating, I had to wipe off not only my phone but my glasses. 

FRIDAY
Pasta with Marcella Hazan’s red sauce

At least I think so!

Jump to Recipe

Damien is shopping and cooking this weekend as I flit and float away like a giant balloon, but please do not shoot at me. I mean no harm. I promise to come home again. 

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. 

 

honey garlic marinade for gyros

Marinate thin strips of pork for several hours, then grill or broil. This is a mild, somewhat sweet marinade that makes the meat quite tender.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 lbs pork shoulder or butt, sliced into thin strips
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • small bunch fresh rosemary, chopped
  • small bunch fresh oregano, chopped

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. 

 

Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce

We made a quadruple recipe of this for twelve people. 

Keyword Marcella Hazan, pasta, spaghetti, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes, broken up
  • 1 onion peeled and cut in half
  • salt to taste
  • 5 Tbsp butter

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a heavy pot.

  2. Simmer at least 90 minutes. 

  3. Take out the onions.

  4. I'm freaking serious, that's it!

What’s for supper? Vol. 236: Lardum et labora

What’s for supper? WEWLL, as Corrie used to say, if you read Wednesday’s post about menu planning and shopping, you already know most of it! Nevertheless, here is the thrilling conclusion to my story about sale pork and such.

We’ve had multiple snow storms and slush storms and whatnot, so this is the week for winter cooking to shine. Damien did this

and Corrie did this

and I just mainly hovered around the stove and cooked. 

Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Spaghetti with sauce and sausage

As anticipated, the people who went sledding on Saturday were happy to come home to a big pot of hot spaghetti and sausage. 

Sorry it’s a terrible picture, but I was starving and didn’t feel like messing around.

I also grabbed a few boxes of brownie mix and made brownies. I have a long and dopey history of accidentally buying brownie mix when I meant to buy chocolate cake mix. Once I even went to buy cake mix, bought brownie mix by mistake, went back to the store to correct my mistake, and bought brownie mix again. (You may think this is because I secretly like brownies so much and am subconsciously sabotaging my plans so as to have more brownies, but, as I am constantly whining about, I can’t even eat chocolate at all! I’m just stupid.) So I was expecting to get razzed about the brownies a bit, but everyone was distracted by the fact that I made the brownies, put them in the oven, set the timer, let them bake, and turned off the timer, but forgot to take the brownies out of the oven, and so we got a giant chocolate brick for dessert, and nobody could tell what it was supposed to be. That’ll larn ’em.

SUNDAY
Hamburgers, chips, homemade ice cream

Sunday was the Lunar New Year Festival in Brattleboro. We didn’t eat much because it was a potluck and we hadn’t brought anything, but I did daringly try some kind of exotic egg dish which turned out to be hard boiled eggs with a little splash of soy sauce. We had fun, though. Here’s a few albums:


 

Corrie did a Korean rope tug, the girls and I tried to learn a circle dance, and we followed a dragon through the downtown. Then we came home and had hamburgers. 

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this in a while, but my method for making hamburgers, when we can’t grill them outside, is to use high fat ground beef, flatten the hell out of them, and then broil them in the oven on a pan with drainage. They come out yummy and juicy and you don’t throw grease all over your kitchen. 

Sunday I also made some ice cream. I made two batches of plain sweet cream base (2 eggs, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 cup milk, 2 cups heavy cream per batch), and put chocolate chips in one, and maraschino cherries and mini marshmallows in the other.

That ice cream maker has been an unfailing bright spot in family life. Maybe that sounds silly, but it’s been a tough year, and it’s nice to have something that just straight up worked out great. It’s a quick creative outlet, it almost always turns out well, and when people hear the machine churning, they go, “OOH, what are you making?” and they’re not disappointed like they are when they hear what I’m making for supper. And we get ice cream! If I could change one thing, it would be not having to remember to put the freezer bowls in the freezer the night before, but I usually manage. 

MONDAY
Roast chicken, mashed butternut squash, salad

The dreaded roast chickens. I’ve been trying harder to stick to what we have in the house and not be constantly running out to buy this and that, so I used what we happened to have, which was two elderly lemons, some rather decrepit garlic, and some rosemary that I bought for the soup later in the week.

I just kinda rubbed these on the chicken and then shoved them into the cavity, then added a little olive oil and salt and pepper and hot pepper flakes and more garlic powder to the skin, and roasted them chickens. They were fine. 

The reason whole chickens are dreaded is mainly because we had sooooo much chicken when we were poor, because it was cheap and I could get several meals out of it. I got extraordinarily sick of every part of the process of dealing with a whole chicken, and it hasn’t worn off yet. The whole thing just feels bitter and sad. Feel free to share your special tasty wonderful recipe so other people can enjoy it, but I don’t think I will get over my chicken resentment! 

I did put the carcasses in the freezer, so I suppose we’ll be having soup or something at some point. 

The part of the meal I did enjoy was the mashed squash. This is a surprisingly pleasant and tasty dish.

Jump to Recipe

I loosened up the squash in the microwave for a few minutes so it would be easier to cut, then I sprinkled the quarters with baking soda and kosher salt and put them in the Instant Pot with water, and cooked them for a good long time. 

Removed the seeds, scooped out the flesh, and mashed it up with plenty of butter, some brown sugar, and a little nutmeg, and man, it is cozy, fluffy, and delicious.

It’s like sweet potatoes went to finishing school and learned how to entertain. 

TUESDAY
Bo ssam with lettuce and rice and pickled radishes

The night before, I mixed a cup of salt and a cup of sugar together like an absolute criminal and rubbed it all over a big fatty hunk of pork, and sealed it in a ziplock bag in the fridge overnight. Tuesday, I put it the pork a foil-lined pan at 300 around 11:30 and, boop, the main part of supper was taken care of. 

You make a simple sauce (7 Tbsp brown sugar, 2 Tbsp cider vinegar, and 1 Tbsp sea salt) and spread that on top of the meat and turn the heat up for the last ten minutes of cooking, but that’s the only other thing you have to do. 

Then I needed to figure out what to do with the radishes.

A lot of Korean radish dishes are for Korean radishes, which are a whole other vegetable from radishes, and are also called daikon, which they had at the store but I did not buy. ACTUALLY, a Korean radish is something called “mu,” which is a kind of daikon radish. All I know is they don’t seem to sell mu in the store, and what I had were western radishes, the little round, reddish, peppery kind. The round, reddish peppery kind that are 𝓕𝓞𝓡 𝓨𝓞𝓤

So I pickled them, yay! A cup of rice vinegar, a cup of water, a cup of sugar, and a little sea salt, and a pound of radishes. I simmered the sauce ingredients until the sugar was dissolved, sliced the radishes thinly in the food processor, then poured the sauce over the radishes.

Then I refrigerated it until dinner, and they had turned a delightful pink

Not quite as dark as they look here, but more of a flamingo color. 

They were very nice. Quite sweet and tangy, and truthfully you could’t taste more than a faint a radish taste, but mostly just the texture. It was like pickled ginger, but not, you know, gingery. I thought they made a very pleasant accompaniment to the bo ssam, which is ferociously salty. 

Everyone was very happy with this meal and nobody was mad at me. So I guess it was 𝓕𝓞𝓡 𝓜𝓔 after all.

WEDNESDAY
Tomato bisque, grilled cheese

All week, I was looking forward to this soup. I made a few adjustments to this recipe since last I made it (more tomatoes, more garlic, and add the bacon right at the end), and man, it was scrumptious.

Jump to Recipe

Garlic, onion, tomato, rosemary, boom, you taste it all. (There’s also a bay leaf but I’m starting to believe that’s mainly a superstition.) 

I made cheddar and sourdough sandwiches and grilled them in bacon grease, which probably wasn’t absolutely necessary, but it did make them CRRRRRISP and nobody complained.

Just an excellent little meal, so cozy and good. 

I could eat this meal every week. Gotta have it at least once while there’s snow on the ground. 

THURSDAY
Gochujang bulgoki, pineapple, nori, rice, leftover pickled radishes, a little broccoli

The second pork hunk. It was a two-hour school delay, so the day got all messed up and I really wasn’t feeling terribly ambitious about dinner, but I had painted myself into a corner. So I sharpened my knife and started to hack away at the meat. I was listening to a radio show about people who are lobbying for the right to have more fixable appliances, and how they make videos for other people about how to fix things, and they give free advice about what kind of glue to use and stuff like that, and by the time I was halfway through that pork butt, the magic of doing things with your own two hands had taken over. I could have stood there all day, locating the direction of the muscle fibers, carefully trimming the fat, and thriftily separating away only the most inedible layers of onion skin with the tip of my freshly-honed knife. I even decided to trim a bag of baby carrots into matchsticks, which is insane, but the spirit of imaginary stick-to-it-iveness lay about me like a mantle, so that’s what I did.

I snapped out of it, though, because I had shit to do. Like yoga. I had to change out of my pajama pants into my yoga pants and do yoga, which was a special cardio glute burn, and then I took a shower and changed into my leggings so I could pick up the kids, and then I changed back into my pajama pants. Truly the American spirit breathes through my every pore.

I forget what we were talking about. Oh, bulgoki. Well it marinated all day and then I pan fried it, and it was tender and delicious. 

And you know what, it really is better with matchstick carrots than any other kind of carrots.

I made a pot of rice in the Instant Pot, cut up a couple of pineapples, and set out some lettuce and nori, and that is one super meal.

You make little bundles, either with the lettuce or nori, and grab up a little meat and rice and pop it in your mouth, and it’s so tasty, honeyed and savory with just a little gochujang burn. You can easily adjust the marinade to make it sweeter or spicier, but you should know that cooking takes the heat down quite a bit, so if you taste the marinade, it won’t be as hot as you expect.

Jump to Recipe

Although gochujang sneaks up on you a bit. 

FRIDAY
Pizza

Today I shall make four pizzas. And then this week can bite my butt. We are all so exhausted! Life is tiring! Better than the alternative. 

Hey, thanks for being interested in my shopping and planning post. I was unexpectedly moved to hear that people actually read through the whole thing. There is just so much dang work in the world that goes unwitnessed and unacknowledged, not just in big families, but in every family, in every life. It’s a lot of work to keep ourselves alive, isn’t it? I salute you, my dear reader who is getting it together one more time to figure out what’s for supper, whether it’s for a crowd or for your own self, whether you feel up to it or not. You made it to Friday, and you did good. L’chaim. 

5 from 2 votes
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Instant Pot Mashed Acorn Squash

Ingredients

  • 1 acorn quashes
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Cut the acorn squashes in half. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt on the cut surfaces.

  2. Put 1/2 a cup of water in the Instant Pot, fit the rack in it, and stack the squash on top. Close the lid, close the valve, and cook on high pressure for 24 minutes. Do quick release.

  3. When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop it out into a bowl, mash it, and add the rest of the ingredients.

 

5 from 2 votes
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Tomato bisque with bacon

Calories 6 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 lb bacon (peppered bacon is good)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 56 oz can of whole tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 46 oz tomato juice
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • crispy fried onions (optional garnish)

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon until crisp. Remove from pan, chop it up, and drain out all but a a few teaspoons of grease.

  2. Add the diced onion and minced garlic to the grease and sauté until soft.

  3. Add tomatoes (including juices), bay leaves, rosemary, and tomato juice, and simmer for 20 minutes. Save some rosemary for a garnish if you like.

  4. With a slotted spoon, fish out the bay leaf, the tomatoes, and most of the rosemary, leaving some rosemary leaves in. Discard most of the rosemary and bay leaf. Put the rest of the rosemary and the tomatoes in a food processor with the 8 oz of cream cheese until it's as smooth as you want it.

  5. Return pureed tomato mixture to pot. Salt and pepper to taste.

  6. Heat through. Add chopped bacon right before serving, or add to individual servings; and top with crispy fried onions if you like. Garnish with more rosemary if you're a fancy man. 

 

5 from 2 votes
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Gochujang bulgoki (spicy Korean pork)


Ingredients

  • 1.5 pound boneless pork, sliced thin
  • 4 carrots in matchsticks or shreds
  • 1 onion sliced thin

sauce:

  • 5 generous Tbsp gochujang (fermented pepper paste)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 cloves minced garlic

Serve with white rice and nori (seaweed sheets) or lettuce leaves to wrap

Instructions

  1. Combine pork, onions, and carrots.

    Mix together all sauce ingredients and stir into pork and vegetables. 

    Cover and let marinate for several hours or overnight.

    Heat a pan with a little oil and sauté the pork mixture until pork is cooked through.

    Serve with rice and lettuce or nori. Eat by taking pieces of lettuce or nori, putting a scoop of meat and rice in, and making little bundles to eat. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 325: (salad)

Okay, this may be a little obnoxious but I am not spending more money on groceries these days. I’m just being more strict with the budgeting habits I’ve followed for years. Would people be interested in a separate post explaining how I plan my weekly menu and how I make my shopping list? It won’t be useful for everyone, but it might be interesting. I promise not to try to sell you a $60 planner. 

Anyway, here is what we had this week: 

SATURDAY
??

I certainly do not remember what we had for supper on Saturday. It was the kind of day that made me google “minimum age child at home alone legal NH,” because there were a lot of duck-fox-basket of corn situations, including the celebration of Sophia’s birthday.

Halfway through our first batch of teenager birthdays, we discovered that, for a surprisingly reasonable price, you can rent an entire small theater a couple of towns over, and they will play a DVD you bring. So she obviously brought The Mummy and invited some pals, and Damien popped a ton of popcorn and they had a nice time. Clara made this snazzy chocolate BTS cake:

and we got some Aldi pizza for lunch. By the time dinner came around, it was a blur. 

SUNDAY
Pork ribs, rice, honey roasted Brussels sprouts

Everything with very simple seasoning. Pork ribs heavily salted and peppered, and roasted right under the broiler, turned once; rice cooked in chicken broth, which the kids desire most ardently; and Brussels sprouts roasted with olive oil, honey, and sea salt. 

I had to do a little fancy footwork with the pork and the brussels sprouts pans, to make sure they both got a turn under the broiler and the brussels sprouts didn’t get overcooked, but Somehow I Managed. Little blorp of bottled sauce and you got yourself a decent meal. This concludes this week’s Spotlight On Pork. I will spare you the other pork photos I took, which look disconcertingly like Martin Luther King Jr’s uhhhhh arm. 

MONDAY
Beef barley soup, butternut squash muffins

They had big hunks of beef on sale for $2.99 a pound, so I got two big ones and cut one up for soup. Here is my trusty, hearty, cozy beef barley soup recipe:

Jump to Recipe

I’m still waiting for my Instant Pot replacement float valve to arrive, so I cooked this on the stovetop, and forgot to keep an eye on it, so the barley and mushrooms gobbled up most of the broth. So we had a savory assemblage of beef, barley, tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots, garlic, and onions, graced with a little whisper of beef broth. Honestly, no complaints. 

I really wanted some bread to go with, but I didn’t have time to let anything rise, and we didn’t have any beer to make a beer bread (which is a great easy quick bread to know. Here’s that recipe: Jump to Recipe); and we didn’t have any canned pumpkin to make pumpkin muffins. 

We did, however, have half a butternut squash left over from last week’s one pan chicken thighs. So I covered it with damp napkins and put it in the microwave for about 15 minutes, three minutes at a time, until it was forkable.

Then I scooped it out and mashed it and used it in place of pumpkins in this very reliable pumpkin bread recipe, which makes two loaves or 18 muffins

Jump to Recipe

and hoooo doggie they were delicious muffins.

Light and kind of buttery and very tender. (I don’t know why I felt it was necessarily to get right up in this muffin’s face for the only photo I took, but at least you can really see the texture!) This is a nice, easy recipe (which any muffin recipe should be), and I often turn to it when I need a quick side for soup. 

I like the pumpkin muffins very much, but these squash ones were clearly superior. More flavor, more interesting texture, lighter. I don’t know if it’s because butternut squash is a better vegetable than pumpkin overall, or because I was using fresh squash instead of canned pumpkin. Probably both reasons. Anyway, I’m going to do it this way from now on, whenever I can. They were a good accompaniment to the soup, as a sweetish quick bread, but if you added a cream cheese icing, they would easily work for a dessert. 

Some of the kids had them for breakfast the next day, too, so I felt massively accomplished. 

TUESDAY
Pizza

Tuesday was my first band practice! Very exciting! I started playing clarinet in 4th grade and continued playing in the school band all through high school. I noodled around a bit after that, but this is my the first time playing in a group in more than thirty years. What an absolute joy. It’s a band for adults just like me, who used to play and are getting back into it, or who are just learning to play, so it’s very friendly and encouraging, and I absolutely love it. Damien got me a clarinet that packs up into a cute little backpack for Christmas, and I got myself a folding music stand, and my fingers are all, “yep, we remember this,” and away we go. It’s awesome. If you are an old bat and feeling a little bit now-what-ish about your life, I strongly recommend checking to see if there’s a New Horizons band in your area. I also dropped my high school band director a note just to let him know I’m still playing and that I have happy memories of band. Wish I could write to Mr. Faro,  who taught me to play all those years ago, but he passed away quite young. Sweet man.

Speaking of sweet men, Damien made pizzas because I was in a bit of a tizzy about my first practice. He made two cheese, one pepperoni, and one garlic, onion, anchovy, and artichoke heart. Veddy good.

WEDNESDAY
Chicken burgers, leftovers

I’m trying to throw away less food, and I can’t seem to actually cook less food, so I cooked some frozen chicken burgers and then heated up some of the massive amounts of leftovers clogging up the fridge, so we had chicken burgers, rice, Brussels sprouts, and nachos. The kids complained a lot, which tells me we need to do this more often so they get used to it, because it was perfectly good food! 

Oh, you know what, we must have had nachos on Saturday, because there were leftover nachos in the fridge. 

THURSDAY
Steak and pear salad, french bread

Not really steak, but I don’t know what to call it. “Beef salad” just sounds gross, and this meal was actually delightful. Damien took the other large on-sale hunk of roast beef, chuck roast or whatever it was; seasoned it, and seared it in oil with garlic cloves, then cooked it slowly in the oven

until it was beautifully rare inside, which I swear I took a photo of, but apparently it was on my imagination camera.

I served it with mixed greens, sliced pears, toasted walnuts (microwaved for two minutes), crumbled blue cheese, diced red onion, and white wine vinegar for a dressing. 

Absolutely delicious. 

I got it into my head that there was’t enough meat (there absolutely was), and we needed a side, so I made some french bread. I started somewhat late in the day, so the bread came out of the oven right at supper time

and my poor family was forced to eat piping hot french bread with melted butter sliding off the top. 

If you are wondering why one of the loaves has a little jog at the end, that’s what happens when you balance a large pan of rising dough on top of a toaster when people are rushing around in the kitchen, and it gets knocked onto the floor but miraculously flips over and the dough lands on the floor on top of the plastic wrap because, well, God loves you all the time, and sometimes he shows it by not letting your bread dough get all crapped up on the dirty floor. So that was nice! One loaf got a little jog at the end of it, but who among us. 

FRIDAY
Tuna noodle or salmon 

It is a snow day! See?

A snow day that they announced yesterday, so we could turn off our alarms, and they sent the kids home with work packets, so the day off won’t get counted against their summer vacation, and the kids industriously did their packets yesterday. I am rewarding them with tuna noodle (which I was planning to make anyway, but they do like it), and the big people are having salmon of some kind, because I happened to be at Aldi right when salmon hit the “sell or freeze by” date and it was 50% off. 

Not sure exactly how I will prepare the salmon. I might just pan fry it and serve it with, hmmm, steamed potatoes and peas or something. My goal is not to run out to the store. Or make anyone else run to the store. 

Anyway, let me know if you want that “how I plan and shop” thing. It might just be annoying, I don’t know. 

 

Beef barley soup (Instant Pot or stovetop)

Makes about a gallon of lovely soup

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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


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

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

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

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

 

Beer bread

A rich, buttery quick bread that tastes more bready and less cake-y than many quick breads. It's so easy (just one bowl!) but you really do want to sift the flour.

This recipe makes two large loaf pan loaves.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups flour, sifted
  • 2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 12-oz cans beer, preferably something dark
  • 1 stick butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375

  2. Butter two large loaf pans. Melt the stick of butter.

  3. I'm sorry, but you really do want to sift the flour.

  4. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients, and stir in beer until it's all combined and nice and thick.

  5. Pour the batter into the loaf pans and pour the melted butter over the top.

  6. Bake for about 50 minutes until it's crusty and knobbly on top.

 

Pumpkin quick bread or muffins

Makes 2 loaves or 18+ muffins

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

 

French bread

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

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 323: We are an Epiphany people are we are going to bed

Happy Epiphany! It’s Epiphany, right? I get all my liturgical information through social media, and generally through a lens of people arguing over whether it’s actually [whatever day] or not, and if not, which bishop is to blame for this outrage. The impression I have today is that Benedict XVI is in heaven going, “This Beatific Vision is prettty good, but BOY AM I MAD THAT SOME PEOPLE HAVE ALREADY THROWN OUT THEIR TREES.” This is what’s known as “being an Easter people.”  

What I know for sure is this is the time of year when we just have massive dump trucks of food crashing through the walls of the house and unloading food after food after food, and I am powerless to stop it. And I guess I didn’t do a WFS last week, because I didn’t know what day it was, not for liturgical reasons, but just because I am self-employed and my boss is kind of an idiot. So I’ll just do a highlights reel, and you must imagine crowds of cinnamon buns and leftover egg rolls and fudge and buckeyes and rapidly staling tree cookies pushing in from the wings, clamoring to be eaten.  

TUESDAY after Christmas
Chicken salad with pears, pecans, blue cheese

Absolutely desperate for some kind of vegetable two days after Christmas, I made a salad with mixed greens, grilled chicken, sliced pears, toasted pecans, and crumbled blue cheese, with something called “champagne dressing,” which turned out to taste sort of fruity and violently salty, and not in the fun way.

The rest of the salad was good, though. It really was good to have something green that wasn’t green icing. 

WEDNESAY 
Spaghetti carbonara 

I made it with plenty of butter, flat leaf parsley, and freshly-grated parmesan, and it was fab.

Spotlight on carbonara! I think the eggs cost more than the bacon, alas. Strange times.

I think my recipe plugin should be functional again, so here’s the card:
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THURSDAY
Chicken shawarma

Everybody was mad on Thursday and nobody said anything nice about my shawarma, so humph, I said it to myself. This shawarma was simply delicious.
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Boneless skinless chicken thighs were on sale, which is the easiest, tastiest thing to make oven chicken shawarma with.

Marinate in the morning, dump it in a pan with onions in the evening, and do a little chopping and stirring, and you have a top notch meal.We had all the usuals, olives, tomatoes, cukes, feta cheese, pita, and yogurt sauce.

Briefly considered making homemade pita or fried eggplant, but I’m toooooo tired. 

SATURDAY, New Year’s Eve
Lamb, sushi, pork dumplings

I bought a boneless leg of lamb back when it was $4.99 a pound a few months ago, and Damien slow roasted it all day until it was tender and lovely. We have tried more laborious recipes, but this very simple one always turns out the most toothsome.
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Turns out it’s scrumptious with a little dab of wasabi. Boo, I didn’t get any pictures. Too busy eating lamb. 

My contribution was something new this year: Pork dumplings. I followed this recipe for the filling. I had my doubts about a Chinese recipe by someone named Emma Christensen, but man, it was perfect. It only has a few ingredients — ground pork, Napa cabbage, kosher salt, soy sauce, scallions, cilantro, fresh ginger, sesame oil, and eggs — and it’s easy. You shred the cabbage, sprinkle it with salt, and then squeeze it to get the moisture out, and the mix it together with everything else. 

This was my first time using my dumpling press. You just put the wrapper on, plop a heaping tablespoon of filling on it, wet half the wrapper edge, and close the press firmly. 

Very quickly fifty dumplings took shape!

When it was time to eat, I set my bamboo steamer in a pan of gently boiling water and steamed 8-10 dumplings at a time for ten minutes.

It is a double-decker steamer, and you have to line the inside trays with something so the dumplings don’t stick to the bamboo. At first I tried coffee filters with steam holes poked in them, because they were the perfect size, but they still stuck, so I used parchment paper with steam holes, and that worked perfectly, and I used the same paper for all the batches. 

They were just scrumptious. The perfect blend of sharp and savory and gingery with a tiny bit of crunch from the cabbage.  I had some with some jarred sauce, but they were wonderful on their own. Just delighted to have this in my repertoire. 

I made a 2.5X batch of the filling, because that’s how much pork I had, and I ended up only using half of it before I ran out of wrappers; so I froze the left over, and we shall have dumplings again! You can also fry them or boil them. 

New Year’s Eve is also . . . .SHUSHI DAY. Clara had a friend over and Moe came over and we had a lovely time. I made a giant bowl of sweet, sticky sushi rice.

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I sprang for a couple sacks of really good short-grain rice

rinsed it a propitious number of times and cooked it in the Instant Pot, and then the next part takes three people: One to dump the rice into a bowl, one to slowly add the sauce and fold it into the rice without mushing it, and one to fan it vigorously so it dries. 

I have no idea if this really makes a difference for how the rice turns out, but it’s part of the tradition at this point.

Then we also had . . . 

raw tuna (frozen at sea and sliced thin)
cooked shrimp
fake crab legs
coconut shrimp
red roe 
pickled ginger
cucumber
avocado
mango
sesame seeds
furikake
and also 
duck sauce
hot mustard
wasabi
soy sauce
and then honestly just whatever asian-looking bottles I could find in the fridge

The kids gave me lots of little bowls and ramekins for Christmas, because that’s what I like, so had fun arranging things prettily. 

This is a really neat way to set up a party, because it encourages people to keep circulating and trying new combinations of things.

And we had fun! Everyone at plenty of food, and we had store-bought cheesecake and cream pies, and we watched Duck Soup and toasted the new year. Phew. 

SUNDAY
Calzones, tiramisu

Sunday was Sophia’s birthday, and she requested calzones and tiramisu, which meant an easy supper for me
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and a rather more time consuming dessert for Damien to make. Here is the recipe he uses. I never seem to get a good photo of tiramisu, but it is luscious and wonderful. 

MONDAY
Taco Bell

No bones day. We just got a bunch of tacos. 

TUESDAY
Italian meatloaf, french bread

New recipe! It was a chilly, drizzly, grey day and the recipe email from Jim at Sip and Feast featured this very cozy-looking meatloaf smothered in mushrooms and crushed tomatoes, and I knew what I had to do. It’s just a regular meatloaf, with a few elevated ingredients like plenty of freshly-grated parmesan, fresh parsley, and minced garlic, and you drench it in dry red wine and surround it with crushed tomatoes. Put it in the oven to cook and start frying up a generous bunch of mushrooms and onions in olive oil with a little salt, and then add those to the meatloaf, and let it finish cooking.

I mean, how could it. not be good. It was so good.  Hands down the best, happiest meatloaf I’ve ever had. (I used 5.5 pounds of meat and made two loaves, so it took closer to an hour and a half to cook.)

I had the opposite of the zoomies, and so Damien shopped for me and Clara picked up the kids for me, leaving me at home to putter around the kitchen with my meatloaf, and I thought how nice it would be to have some fresh bread to sop up all that lovely mushroom and tomato sauce.

So I used my trusty french bread recipe

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and turned out four pretty, golden loaves.

Every time I make french bread, I’m grateful and astonished that I happened to stumble upon some kind of success accidentally. But I have to admit that this happens every time I make bread, and if it were anyone else, I would conclude that this means this is, you know, a person who knows how to make french bread. Not me, though. I’m a moron who gets lucky every time. But who cares, as long as there’s squishy hot bread! Bread now, self-worth later. 

WEDNESDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, fruit salad

Wednesday I finally finally went shopping for the week, and let me tell you, it was again a no-bones day. We had some grilled ham and cheese and a fruit salad made of pineapple, grapes, blueberries, and kiwi, which is a special recipe made of only the most carefully selected elements that were on sale at Aldi.

Then I went to lie down for a minute and suddenly it was nine o’clock and someone had drooled on my face (me). So I got up and watched a little TV and then went back to bed, because I am an easter people and I am going to bed. 

THURSDAY
Chicken burgers, chips

Nothin to report. Well, except that I had an apple instead of chips [insert medal].

FRIDAY
Fish tacos

Yeah! It’s been a while. Got some batter fried fish fillets, tortillas, avocados, cabbage, limes, sour cream, and salsa. I also grabbed a bag of frozen shrimp I could sauté up with a little lime juice or whatever, but I may just pretend I forgot about it by the time dinner rolls around. 

I’m vaguely considering putting together some kind of king cake, but I usually palm that off on Clara and I don’t have any experience with it. Anyone have a very simple recipe? I have all the normal staples in the house. 

Spaghetti carbonara

An easy, delicious meal.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs bacon
  • 3 lbs spaghetti
  • 1 to 1-1/2 sticks butter
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • lots of pepper
  • 6-8 oz grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon until it is crisp. Drain and break it into pieces.

  2. Boil the spaghetti in salted water until al dente. If you like, add some bacon grease to the boiling water.

  3. Drain the spaghetti and return it to the pot. Add the butter, pieces of bacon, parmesan cheese, and pepper and mix it up until the butter is melted.

  4. Add the raw beaten egg and mix it quickly until the spaghetti is coated. Serve immediately.

 

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.

 

Tom Nichols' Grandmother's Leg of Lamb

Ingredients

  • boneless leg of lamb
  • olive oil
  • garlic powder
  • garlic salt
  • oregano

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325.

  2. Slash the meat several times, about an inch deep.

  3. Fill the cuts with plenty of garlic powder.

  4. Slather olive oil all over the meat.

  5. Crust it with garlic salt. Sprinkle with all the oregano you own.

  6. Cover meat loosely with tinfoil and cook three hours. Uncover and cook for another 30 minutes.

 

Sushi rice

I use my Instant Pot to get well-cooked rice, and I enlist a second person to help me with the second part. If you have a small child with a fan, that's ideal.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups raw sushi rice
  • 1 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp salt

Instructions

  1. Rinse the rice thoroughly and cook it.

  2. In a saucepan, combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt, and cook, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved.

  3. Put the rice in a large bowl. Slowly pour the vinegar mixture over it while using a wooden spoon or paddle to fold or divide up the cooked rice to distribute the vinegar mixture throughout. You don't want the rice to get gummy or too sticky, so keep it moving, but be careful not to mash it. I enlist a child to stand there fanning it to dry it out as I incorporate the vinegar. Cover the rice until you're ready to use it.

Calzones

This is the basic recipe for cheese calzones. You can add whatever you'd like, just like with pizza. Warm up some marinara sauce and serve it on the side for dipping. 

Servings 12 calzones

Ingredients

  • 3 balls pizza dough
  • 32 oz ricotta
  • 3-4 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup parmesan
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-2 egg yolks for brushing on top
  • any extra fillings you like: pepperoni, olives, sausage, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. 

  2. Mix together filling ingredients. 

  3. Cut each ball of dough into fourths. Roll each piece into a circle about the size of a dinner plate. 

  4. Put a 1/2 cup or so of filling into the middle of each circle of dough circle. (You can add other things in at this point - pepperoni, olives, etc. - if you haven't already added them to the filling) Fold the dough circle in half and pinch the edges together tightly to make a wedge-shaped calzone. 

  5. Press lightly on the calzone to squeeze the cheese down to the ends. 

  6. Mix the egg yolks up with a little water and brush the egg wash over the top of the calzones. 

  7. Grease and flour a large pan (or use corn meal or bread crumbs instead of flour). Lay the calzones on the pan, leaving some room for them to expand a bit. 

  8. Bake about 18 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Serve with hot marinara sauce for dipping.  

 

French bread

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

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 321: Fly me to taboon (and let me play among za’atar)

Busy busy! Aren’t we all! Here’s what we had this week, including two birthday cakes (and this is why we don’t really do St. Lucy’s day or St. Nicholas day or what have you. December is already full up): 

SATURDAY
Benny’s birthday party! Pizza and cake

Benny had an ancient Egypt-themed birthday party. More guests than expected showed up, and it was a little bit bananas, and they were less interested in the activities we planned (making necklaces out of clay cartouches with their names in hieroglyphs; getting eye makeup and posing in the sarcophagus photo booth; and doing a toilet paper mummy wrapping contest) and more interested in running around screaming. But we powered through. We decorated with gold and blue plastic tablecloths tacked onto the walls, with details added with a Sharpie. 

and we did get a few sarcophagus shots

and the birthday girl was highly pleased with the cake.

I made two nine-inch square cakes and one deep loaf cake, and just kept carving them up and stacking the pieces on top of each other and sticking them together with icing, and by the time it looked like a pyramid, there was very little left over

I frosted it with tub frosting and pressed colored sugar into the sides, added lines with a toothpick, and then made some camels and trees with chocolate melting discs, and pressed those into the sides, with crushed graham crackers for sand. 

Uh, the reason it says “HAPY BIRTDAY” is because I showed her the cool golden letter candles I had bought, and asked if they were good for her cake, and she said, “Yes, as long as there are 11 of them.” Of course there are 13 letters in “happy birthday,” so I suggested “hapy birtday,” and that worked for her.

This is my #1 parenting rule: Discuss expectations ahead of time, and you will save everyone so much heartache. 

SUNDAY
Chicken burgers, chips, broccoli 

Aldi had a clearance on their bottles of that garlic aioli mayo stuff, so I bought several bottles. I complain a lot when people clutter up my limited cabinet space with unnecessary bottles, but we’re talking about garlic aioli may stuff here. I’m not sharing a picture of my chicken sandwich because I put a disgusting amount of mayo on and it looks obscene. 

I also got crafty real quick on Sunday and did a fast project I’ve been saving the materials for for a while: This pretty pinecone zinnia wreath. 

Some pinecones, not all, really look like zinnias on their undersides, especially if you paint them. I clipped the tops off with garden shears, leaving the central “spine” mostly intact; hot glued them to a grapevine wreath from the thrift store, painted them with tempera, and then picked out a few of the vines of the wreath in two shades of green. I considered adding ribbon or berries, but it’s so bright and simple, I think I like it this way.  The wreath has a kind of wild grass look, which reminds me of Cape Cod, which is where I gathered the pine cones. 

MONDAY
Ham, peas, garlic parmesan mashed potatoes

Just in case they forgot who’s the best mother in the whole world: Ham, peas, and mashed potatoes, that’s who. 

Here’s my garlic parmesan mashed potato recipe, should you need it:

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TUESDAY
Mussakhan and taboon, feta cheese, pomegranates, meghli and sahlab

This meal really got away from me, in the best way. I had spotted this recipe for mussakhan a while back. It’s apparently the national Palestinian dish, and it’s easy and delicious: Sumac chicken with onions. If you like middle eastern food, this hits all those best notes. It has not just sumac, but allspice, cumin, cinnamon, lemon, and garlic. You slash the chicken (I used drumsticks and thighs) across the grain and rub the marinade in, and let it marinate several hours with sliced red onions, and then you just roast it in the oven. 

What puts it over the top is, right at the end, you brown up some pine nuts in olive oil and sprinkle these over the top, along with some flat leaf parsley and a little extra sumac. 

What puts it into the stratosphere is you serve it oven taboon, which is a dimpled, chewy flatbread which is supposed to be made in a clay oven or at least on a pizza stone, but guess what? I made one big giant slab o’ taboon on a sheet pan in my regular oven and it was AMAZING. 

I had to run out and buy bread flour, so I almost decided to just pick up some store bought pita instead, but I’m so glad I went for the homemade taboon.

Here’s the recipe:

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IT’S SO EASY. You guys know I’m kind of a dunce with baking and with bread in particular, but this was an unqualified success. I just mixed up the ingredients in my standing mixer, let it rise for an hour or so, scronched it and let it rest for ten minutes, and then rolled it out and stretched it into the pan, and baked it while the chicken finished cooking.

So at dinner time, I put the piping hot taboon on the table and then I served the chicken right on top of the bread, and poured all the cooking juices over it, and sprinkled the sizzling pine nuts over that, and finished with the parsley and sumac. 

Everyone just grabbed some chicken and tore off whatever bread they wanted and, oh man, it was fantastic. 

I wish I had taken some pictures of the inside of the taboon, but it was just barely browned and crisp on the bottom; the top was a little bit chewy, and the inside was fluffy and pillowy. So nice. The little dimples sop up the juices. 

I also had some feta cheese because I bought too much for spanakopita for Thanksgiving; and I had a bunch of pomegranates I got for Benny’s Egypt party and forgot to serve. So that went perfectly. 

I also suddenly remembered that, this summer, I had bought two pudding mixes: meghli and sahlab.

I had no idea what either of these were; I just liked the names, and I love puddings of all kind. The sahlab required you to add four cups of milk and heat and stir until it thickens, and then you can either drink it as a hot beverage, or else chill and serve as a pudding; the meghli required four cups of cold water, heat and stir to boil, and then chill. 

I chilled them both and served them with dried coconut. (Sorry about the inelegant picture. I was absolutely stuffed with food and could not be bothered to get up and find a pretty ramekin at this point.)

The sahlab had a pleasant silky texture, but tasted very strongly of rosewater and not much else, and I’m not a big fan. Rosewater just tastes like perfume to me. The kids liked it, though. If you like rosewater, I definitely recommend this mix. It was very easy to make.

The meghli was weird but nice. I liked the flavor, which is apparently predominantly anise, caraway, and cinnamon. I didn’t really taste the anise, but really mainly the cinnamon. But the flavor wasn’t really strong enough, though, and it tasted watery, and that was a little off-putting. It was also kind of pulpy. It’s possible I made it wrong, although all I had to do was stir it, so I don’t know how I could have messed it up! I might try it again and see if it comes out different. 

But all in all, a fantastic meal, very popular. Four new foods! It was a little expensive just because of the pine nuts and sumac, but I’m going to shop around and see if I can find them for cheaper, because I want to make this whole meal again. 

WEDNESDAY
Muffaletta sandwiches, fries 

It’s been a while. The olive salad turned out particularly nice, who knows why. I threw in two cans of black olives, one jar of green, and one jar of kalamata, a few pepproncini, some mild banana peppers, a bunch of red wine vinegar and olive oil, and a bunch of flat leaf parsley, and I think that’s it. I had some marinated red peppers, but they got shoved into the back of the fridge and froze. 

I served it on baguettes. For meats and cheese, I came up with leftover ham, genoa salami, hard salami, and some good provolone. None of this – not the olive salad, not the meats, not the bread, not the proportions of any of it – is authentic muffaletta, but it tasted good, and hardly anyone went and had cereal, so. 

I’m trying SO hard not to eat a meal’s worth of snacks while I wait for supper time, so instead I made a salami rose 

and that has made all the difference.

THURSDAY
My birthday!

Now I am 48! So far, it’s better than being dead.

The day started out a little squalid, and I drove the kids to school while Damien drove some to the dentist, then I drove to the dentist, while he drove one of them home because we got confused about the work schedule, then I drove some of them from the dentist to school, then I did a little Christmas shopping, then home, then drove the kid to work and picked up a prescription, then went home and had a telehealth doctor visit where I was like “I’m not really fine” and she was like “yes you are” and I was like “oh ok”; and then we had to go to a meeting where they were like, how are you suckers going to pay for your kid to go to Rome, eh? And we were like, duh, I dunno, she managed to sell three pots of poinsettias and we thought that would cover it, but apparently not.

BUT THEN, that was all the things we had to do! and Damien offered to take me wherever I wanted to go, and I really wanted to go get pizza. I chose eggplant, artichoke, anchovy, and garlic, and it was frickin delicious. 

I also laughed my head off because, as I ate, I watched as the cashier tell this teenage boy that he had been noticed trying to walk out with one of the restaurant’s two-foot glittery reindeer decorations hidden under his shirt, and they weren’t going to make a big deal about it because it was Christmas, but he needed to give it back. Teenage boys are so dumb. Just, so dumb. How are they even alive. 

And then we went home and everyone showered me with lovely, thoughtful presents

and Clara had baked me a spectacular cake

It was a coconut cream cake from Sally’s Baking Addiction, to which she had added lime zest and crushed pineapple, both brilliant ideas. Oh, what a moist, wonderful cake. So it was a great birthday! I felt very cherished and cared-for. Also, earlier, I was supposed to pick up the kids from school, but instead Damien did it, and I just took a nap. And he came home with flowers. 

FRIDAY
Pizza

It is a snow day. A snow day that they told us about the day before, so we just turned off the alarms and slept in! I slept kind of late and now I’m scrambling to get caught up. Good thing we’re having pizza. 

 

Garlic parmesan mashed potatoes

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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
  • 1 Tbsp + 3 tsp 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.

What’s for supper? Vol. 320: Cat, dog, hen, only each of us is all three of them

Happy Friday! Because it was somehow actually cheaper than continuing to have my old phone, I got a new phone with a fancy new camera, I haven’t had much chance to play around with it yet. That’s not true; I’ve had lots of time. I’m just stupid and easily intimidated by technology. What I’m trying to tell you is some of the food photos turned out a little weird and overly dramatic this week. You’ve been warned!

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Little brown meal

That is what my parents used to call it when they were super poor in the kibbutz in Israel and all they could afford was, I think, hard boiled eggs and eggplant? That doesn’t make sense, though, because those things aren’t brown. Anyway, my father refused to eat either of those foods for the rest of his life, so they must have had them a lot. “Little brown meal” for us is when you’re all about delivering nutrients and that’s really your only goal. 

On Saturday, that meant pizza rolls, two kinds of taquitos, and smile fries or whatever you call these misbegotten things formed from mashed potatoes in the very bowls of hell. (Don’t get me wrong; they’re delicious. But they’re not exactly food.) 

When I say the kids liked this meal, you can believe I am telling the truth. I truly shudder to think how often I would have to serve it before they would refuse to ever eat it again. 

SUNDAY
Vermonter sandwiches

We just had these a few weeks ago, but the kids suggested it and I didn’t have any other bright ideas, and boneless skinless chicken breast was $1.49 a pound. If you missed it last time, this sandwich is sourdough bread or ciabatta rolls, roast chicken breast, bacon, slices of Granny smith apples, slices of sharp cheddar cheese, and honey mustard. 

And now for the world’s most dramatic Vermonter Sandwich photo:

Eh? Eh? It looks like it’s about to knock the casting director’s socks off with “And I Am Telling You I Am Not Going.” 

MONDAY
Chicken quesadillas, guacamole and chips

These were fine. Boneless skinless chicken thighs were also $1.49 a pound, and normally I would do something tasty and middle eastern with them — in fact I have a number of tabs open, begging me to do just that, but [impulsively cuts Monday’s throat with my demon barber razor] I HAVEN’T THE TIME. So I roasted up the chicken with some oil and Taijin, sliced it up, and made a bunch of quesadillas and then burned most of them, oh well. 

The guacamole turned out pretty well, though. 

Jump to Recipe

I have gotten out of the habit of keeping limes in the house, though, because I cut out my evening cocktail, so I had to use bottled lime juice. I also tried one of those rocking garlic press things that everyone keeps telling me will change my life, and I can say definitively: Meh. (That is an affiliate link even though I’m not actually recommending it, because what if you don’t listen to me and I earn a commission anyway?) It left behind some sort of garlic sheets — like the outermost layer of the clove — that I couldn’t get it to crush no matter what, so I really didn’t end up saving myself time or effort in the end. Is there a trick to this? I just went back to my trusty old squasher press, which is slow, but it does work. 

TUESDAY
Italian wedding soup, garlic knots

Tuesday was supposed to be taco day, but it just felt soupy. Italian wedding soupy!

Jump to Recipe

I had a large pitcher of turkey bone broth in the freezer from the Thanksgiving carcass, so I defrosted that (and it looked quite photogenic in the process, let me tell you. Check out that ring of schmaltz)

and I made a bunch of little baby meatballs with ground pork, lots of freshly-grated parmesan, fresh garlic, fresh parsley, even freshly ground salt and pepper, and of course some eggs and breadcrumbs; and I fried them in batches in a little olive oil.

I blooped the fried meatballs into the broth, added a bunch of torn-up kale, and let it simmer all day; then about half an hour before dinner, I added some ancini de pepe and cooked it until it was soft.

Little more pepper and that was it. A little parsley and parmesan on the top. 

Darn it, I underseasoned the meatballs. It really could have been a wonderful soup, but it was merely okay. The broth from the turkey was very nice, and the kale made the broth a lot greener than I was expecting. It doesn’t aways do that, so I don’t know what that was about. I mean like the color really got into the liquid. I dunno. 

I also made garlic knots using premade pizza dough. Usually I made the knots and top each one with a pat of butter and a sprinkle of garlic powder and salt, and then just bake them at 450 for (I have no idea, I don’t know how long anything bakes, sorry) but this time I baked them bare. Then I melted a stick of butter and mixed it with garlic powder and salt and poured that over the hot, baked knots and tossed them up, and holy cow, that was excellent. 

I believe it was Staša — you know Staša –who suggested this method.

I had baked the garlic knots a greased pan sprinkled with fine corn meal, and some of the corn meal got mixed up with the butter and added a little texture to the whole thing. Gonna do it this way every time. Some fresh parsley would not have been amiss, either. 

WEDNESDAY
Tacos and corn chips

Just boring, nothing to report. 

THURSDAY
Chicken cutlets with basil and provolone; homemade ice cream

Benny’s birthday! She asked for one of Damien’s specialties, the delicious Deadspin recipe for  breaded fried chicken cutlets smothered in provolone with a secret fresh basil leaf, topped with a scoop of wonderful homemade red sauce. 

I didn’t take a photo, but here is a previous one:

Full confession, I gobbled up my chicken and then went back and just got a bowl of sauce for seconds. I love that sauce so much. 

She’s going to have her party this weekend, which is going to be ancient Egypt-themed with a sphinx cake, so she asked for just ice cream on her actual birthday. She wanted M&M and then, knowing I can’t have chocolate, requested a batch of strawberry so I could have some. (I have kind of mixed feelings about how thoughtful it is to request that I go out and buy strawberries, process and macerate them, and make ice cream, because she wants me to be able to eat ice cream; but on the other hand, I ate it, and it was delicious).

I used the Ben and Jerry recipe for both batches.

Jump to Recipe

(For the M&M ice cream, I just made the sweet cream base, as described in the recipe, and didn’t do the strawberry part, but instead stirred in some M&M’s after the ice cream was done churning, before putting it in the freezer to solidify. I froze the M&M’s for a while before stirring them in, to keep them from blurring when I stirred them in.) 

Easy peasy, but I managed to splatter cream all over the whole kitchen somehow. I was thinking about how annoyed I would have been if someone else had made it and then claimed not to know how it happened, but honest to goodness, I have no idea. I did clean it up, though! I live my life as all the characters in the Little Red Hen, simultaneously. 

Yes, this is a Brideshead reference and a Shakespeare reference and a Little Red Hen reference all in one, FOR NO REASON. So far no one has discovered a use for my brain. I have been on Lexapro for over a month and it still does shit like this.

FRIDAY

Uh I forgot to plan or buy anything. May possibly have been hoping the world would come to an end before supper. I don’t know, what are you having? Maybe we will have leftover ice cream. Maybe we will have eggplant and hard boiled eggs. Maybe the world will come to an end. 

If not, here’s my little reminder that I have that monster list of recommended gifts! I’m about 18% done with shopping, myself, if that makes you feel any better. 

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

Italian Wedding Soup with pork meatballs

Lots of variations to this pleasant, nourishing soup with little meatballs.

Ingredients

For the meatballs:

  • 4-5 lbs ground pork (can mix in some ground beef or turkey)
  • 5 eggs
  • 2-1/2 cups bread crumbs
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • 1 bunch fresh Italian parsley, chopped fine
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups freshly-shredded parmesan
  • 1/2 cup butter for frying

For the soup:

  • 3 lg carrots, diced
  • 1 lg onion, diced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 cups chicken broth
  • 3 cups white wine
  • 3-4 cups raw kale, torn into pieces
  • 2 cups uncooked small pasta like ditalini
  • pepper
  • more parmesan and Italian parsley for garnish

Instructions

To make the meatballs:

  1. Thoroughly combine all the ingredients (except the butter) with your hands. Form them into small meatballs. In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter and lightly brown the meatballs in batches. They do not need to be cooked all the way through, as they will continue cooking in the soup.

To make the soup:

  1. Remove the meatballs from the pot. Put the onions and carrots into the butter and cook until they're slightly soft. Add in the garlic and continue cooking until the garlic is fragrant but not too browned.

  2. Add the meatballs back in. Add the broth and white wine, the kale, and the pepper to taste. Simmer for several hours.

  3. About half an hour before serving, add the uncooked pasta and turn up the heat to cook.

  4. Serve with shredded or grated parmesan and coarsely chopped Italian parsley for a garnish.

 

Ben and Jerry's Strawberry Ice Cream

Ingredients

For the strawberries

  • 1 pint fresh strawberries
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

For the ice cream base

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

Instructions

  1. Hull and slice the strawberries. Mix them with the sugar and lemon juice, cover, and refrigerate for an hour.

Make the ice cream base:

  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 continue whisking to blend.

Put it together:

  1. Mash the strawberries well, or puree them in a food processor. Stir into the ice cream base.

  2. 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.)

What’s for supper? Vol. 319: In which I rest on pie laurels

Hap the Friday! I didn’t do a What’s For Supper last week because of course it was the day after Thanksgiving, and I assumed you already knew what we were having for supper. We aren’t amazing turkey leftover wizards anyway, so the following week wasn’t too spectacular. How about if I just do the highlights of the last two weeks? Who will stop me?

Here’s some of what we had the last few weeks: 

Pulled pork, cole slaw, french fries, Hawaiian rolls

Damien made this yummy pulled pork using the Deadspin recipe. For me, pulled pork is what you make when you have lost all interest in life and yet there is this hunk of meat to deal with, so you conceal it inside some kind of pot as quickly as possible and then pull it out at dinner time when it’s too late for anyone to get away; but Damien took a lot more trouble over it, and it showed. 

The next day, Damien also made a gigantic lasagna or possibly two lasagnas, also from Deadspin

Somewhat less photogenic, but ravishingly delicious. This recipe requires you to make a ragù and a béchamel sauce and let me tell you, any time I have to use the ålternate keybœard twïce in a sêntence, you know it’s going to be tæsty. 

Beef barley soup and store bought croissants 

Yaas, beef barley soup. This one, I made, and it was a cold, drizzly day, just perfect for building up a hearty, heartening soup. Garlic, salt and pepper and olive oil, carrots and onions, beef broth and red wine, beef, barley, and then mushrooms. 

Jump to Recipe

That was the week before Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving went great! I started baking on Tuesday. On Thursday, all my weird little chickens came home to roost, if temporarily

and my son’s gf also came over, and my brother and his bf, and we all had an excellent time, talking and laughing and shouting important opinions about obscure movies. Damien made the turkey injected and basted with white wine and lime juice and stuffed with sausage and oyster stuffing. I didn’t see or get a photo of it roasted, but here is the carving:

and he also made the gravy. He also made the mashed potatoes at the very last minute, because I put all the food on the table and told everyone dinner was served and then wandered around with a confused expression, and then he suddenly realized all I had done was boil a bunch of potatoes. So he mashed them and threw in a bunch of milk and butter, and mashed them, oops! Everything he made was scrumptious.

You can find the recipes for all my Thanksgiving foods here. 

I did fully made candied sweet potatoes using this recipe from My Forking Life, and they turned out great. This recipe includes a little fresh orange juice, which is nice. I think next time I may include actual slices of oranges. 

I had my annual internal query about what the difference is between yams and sweet potatoes. Sometimes I look it up and sometimes I don’t, but it doesn’t matter, because I never remember. So I thought about it for a while while I was cutting them up, and then I double-checked the bag, and it said “Mr. Yammy Sweet Potatoes.” So there you go. 

I also made parker house rolls using my own recipe, and they turned out nice and cute,

hard as a rock, and dry as a bone, and just about tasteless, so I need to find a new recipe.

I made cranberry orange bread which was fine, a little dry

spanakopita triangles to start us off, which were delightful

and we had a cranberry sauce vortex!!!

and three pumpkin pies, and a festive pecan pie that turned out rather pretty

I learned how to make pie crust roses from this website. Good to know! Very easy.

and I was inspired to make an apple pie that turned out quite lovely.

Refrigerating the pie for half an hour before baking helps all the decoration keep its shape). I gave it a little egg wash and sugar sprinkle and it was nice

Although the apples inside were a little chompy, to be honest. Can’t have everything.

I also made a few quarts of vanilla ice cream, and a quart of butternut squash ice cream with curry candied nuts, following a recipe from Blue Apron. (I ran out of pecans and they were like a dollar each this year, so I made it with 3/4 walnuts.) 

I really really liked the squash ice cream. It distinctly had all the flavors in the title — squash, curry, candied nuts — and it just worked. Really good autumnal flavor with just a little fiery edge from the curry. 

And finally, Dewey brought a lovely dense, moist gingerbread made using the Smitten Kitchen recipe,  plus a jar of heavy cream that the kids shook to whip up into whipped cream, so that was fun

Oh and I made a bunch of mulled cider with cinnamon stick and orange slices. 

And that was Thanksgiving, and it was great! 

Moving on!

Turkey ala king

When I was little, we had turkey ala king constantly, and I really loved it. I don’t know if it was the fun of having toast with dinner or what, but it felt like such a treat, and it was just so cozy and comforting, even with the mushy, muddy peas. So I was determined to recreate it, even though I knew in my heart that not many people would want it. I think my mother used to make it just by adding some cream of mushroom soup to leftover turkey, and throwing in some canned peas and heating it up; so I decided to elevate it by making a cream sauce with real cream, and adding fresh mushrooms, and using frozen peas (well, that’s not elevated very high, but it’s better than canned!). 

And it tasted . . . fine.

I think I was the only one who ate it, except for also one kid who came home super late and would have gladly eaten microwaved roadkill. So I guess I got that out of my system. I’ll probably forget and try it again in five years or so, and rediscover that this is just an intrinsically medium-okay dish and I can just move on with my life. 

Anyway, we used up the turkey. 

I also threw the picked-over carcass in the Instant Pot with water and some carrots and celery, onions, salt and pepper, and a little cider vinegar. I would have added herbs and whatnot, but we were fresh out.

I cooked it on high pressure for two hours, and I got about a gallon of good, golden bone broth, which I put in the freezer for future souping. 

Chicken broccoli stir fry and rice 

Boneless skinless chicken thighs were on sale, so I cut it in strips and fried it up with broccoli spears, sliced mushrooms, and two bottles of teriyaki sauce, and served it over rice.

Right after Thanksgiving, I always jump at the opportunity to buy bottles of sauce, because it’s one of the few weeks of the year I know I won’t give myself a hard time about it. It’s normal and fine to buy bottled sauce. It’s there for a reason, and people should never feel guilty about it. Except me. I’m different, and I should feel bad. 

And that’s it! Today I’m running away to go see the great and glorious Leticia Ochoa Adams speak, so I don’t really know what they’re having for supper at home! Spaghetti, I suppose. Maybe they can have nothing ala king. 

Beef barley soup (Instant Pot or stovetop)

Makes about a gallon of lovely soup

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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


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

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

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

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 318: That’s the way the Brussel sprouts

Friday! We made it! Nobody has to make a lunch for tomorrow! What bliss. 

Speaking of lunch, let me tell you about an excellent lunch I’ve been making for myself pretty often these days, because it’s cold and drizzly and I crave deeply nourishing foods: 

Heat up a pan, spray it with cooking spray, and throw on two or three big handfuls of spinach. Cook it a little bit to slightly wilt it. Then crack two eggs into it and continue cooking lightly until the whites are firm but the yolk is still runny. Grind some fresh pepper and sea salt over all.

Eat with a side of  cherry-on-bottom Greek yogurt, and a large green apple cut up slowly with a paring knife. 

I don’t know why, but this is just a restorative meal, a lunch of great balance. It’s also less than 400 calories for kind of a lot of food. You could grate some parmesan over the egg while it’s cooking, but you don’t need to.

I spent most of the week being sick and complaining about being sick, and dragging myself off one couch only to land heavily on the other, so nothing super inventive happened in the kitchen this week. Still, we had some decent meals, including one final homegrown vegetable (Brussels sprouts). 

SATURDAY
Spaghetti and Marcella Hazan’s three-ingredient red sauce 

Yum.

Damien shopped for and made this. Always unreasonably delicious. Just tomatoes, butter, and onions. 

Jump to Recipe

I always say this, but it really does taste like there’s some kind of meat involved in this sauce. But nope. 

SUNDAY
Italian sandwiches, fries

Damien shopped for this and put it together. Also yum. 

Red pesto, so nice. 

MONDAY
Hamburgers, chips

This is the third picture in a row that was actually taken some previous month or year, because I was too tired to take pictures of my actual food this week. For shame! From now on, only authentic Nov. 2022 food photos.

TUESDAY
Chicken cutlets with leftover red sauce, raw broccoli and dip

I cut the chicken breasts in half lengthwise and soaked them in seasoned milk and egg. Actually I languished on the couch and begged Elijah to do it for me. Then sometime when dinner really began to loom, I heated up the leftover red sauce from the other day, heated up some oil and butter, dredged the chicken in seasoned panko crumbs, and fried those mofos

and we had chicken cutlets with sauce. 

Quite good. I felt like the chicken should have had provolone and basil, or else pasta, or else it should have been on a sandwich, but it was pretty tasty.  Panko is certainly your friend. We had plain broccoli on the side, and talked about fried breaded broccoli and how, yes indeed, people do that. People do whatever they want. I had broccoli tempura at a Japanese restaurant in New York City when I was very little and I never forgot it. I forget why we were in New York City, but I remember that broccoli. We were probably talking about some other meal while we were eating it, too. 

WEDNESDAY
Meatloaf, roast butternut squash and baby Brussels sprouts

We got our first snow, finally, on Wednesday. Just enough to get the kids wound up, and then it turned to rain. That was my cue to go outside and finally harvest the Brussels sprouts

which, and this is crazy, I planted six months ago. I just looked it up: May 20, and harvested Nov. 16. I’m not gonna say I put a ton of work into them, but I did keep them watered, and I did fertilize them, and put up a little fence to keep Mr. Nibbly Rabbit away, and then a mere six months later, there I was, bringing in a grand harvest of an entire pint of Brussels sprouts, some of them somewhat larger than a pea.

Of course the real benefit to this crop was checking on it every time I went out and getting excited at the progress they were making, and laughing at what silly plants they are

and being glad something was still growing when everything else was dead or dying. Brussels sprouts actually get a little sweeter if they’re exposed to a light frost or two. Ain’t that the way. 

So this is how many Brussels sprouts I grew for my family:

Can you even imagine making a garden that would actually feed your whole family all year ’round? CAN YOU? I simply cannot. But the sprouts were sweet, and tiny and tender. I cut some butternut squash in thin little wedges so it would cook quickly, and tossed it together. I drizzled it all with olive oil and sprinkled it with brown sugar and kosher salt and a little hit of wine vinegar, and roasted it at a high heat, and it was nice. 

The meatloaf was fine. A good dollop of Worcestershire sauce in there makes it pretty tasty, and yes, I spread ketchup on the outside before cooking it.

Jump to Recipe

The secret to meatloaf is not making it too often, so people still get excited about it.

THURSDAY
Chicken tortilla soup, toasted tortilla strips

You’ll never believe this, but it was cold and drizzly on Thursday. Soup to the rescue! I like this soup because it has plenty of flavor, but you don’t have to go through a whole song and dance. It’s easy to make when you want a hot soup because you’re feeling poorly, but you’re feeling poorly and you don’t feel like cooking much.

You just jam them everything in the food processor and puree it 

(that’s garlic, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, some chipotle peppers in adobo sauce from a can, and several fresh tomatoes)

and then you heat up some oil in the Instant Pot (or obviously you could do this on the stove top) and thicken up that purée for a little bit. Then add some water and toss in your hunks of raw chicken, and cook it until the chicken is done. Pull the chicken out

shred it up

and put it back in.

At this point you’re supposed to add in tortilla strips, which are supposed to be corn, which thickens up the soup. But I don’t like corn tortillas, so I used to use the flour kind, then I started using nothing, and then I started making crunchy tortilla strips instead. And this is how I always make it now. It doesn’t thicken the soup, but it bulks it up, and it adds texture and flavor, and it’s just fun.

You cut up a bunch of tortillas into strips, spread them in a shallow layer on a pan, toss with oil, sprinkle heavily with chili lime powder, and bake at 350, stirring every 10- 15 minutes, until they are toasted. 

I aways heap too many in there so they don’t all get toasted and some of them stay chewy. Guess what, I like them that way. I like chewy, gummy, floppy things. There is a part of me*, especially when I am tired and blue, that would probably just eat flour paste all day long. Maybe I would put it in the microwave, but maybe not. 

So it’s not a thick soup, but a kicky broth with plenty of chicken. You top it off with a good handful of crunchy chili lime tortilla strips, and some of them get soaked with broth and some of them stay crunchy; plus chopped scallions, sliced avocados, cilantro (or parsley if that’s what you have), shredded cheese, and sour cream.

 

Truly a great soup for when you’re sick. I made it pretty spicy, and it cleans out your head like a son of a gun. 

FRIDAY
French toast casserole, OJ

I planned this meal to make myself deal with how much bread is building up in the house. So far it’s gotten to the stage of me hearing the kids blame each other for not doing anything about it, and that’s pretty good, but it’s not sustainable. 

French toast casserole is just you tear up your old bread and soak it in egg and milk and some sugar, and a little cinnamon and vanilla if you like. Butter a pan, pour it in, maybe dot it with butter, maybe sprinkle some cinnamon sugar on top, and bake at 350 until the custard is cooked. Serve in wedges with syrup or jam. 

Here’s a rather arty photo, from back when stone fruit was in season: 

Today what’s in season is I have is a can full of ashes from the wood stove, that I’m saving to spread under the peach tree for next year. Ah well, it’s almost Advent. 

*my mouth, I should hope

 

Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup

Adapted from twosleevers.com. This is a very flavorful chicken soup. It has a little hotsy totsy burst of spice with the first taste, and then the more complex flavors come through slowly. Magic.

It's fairly brothy, and then you heap up all the garnishes you want on top.

This is a little over a gallon of soup.

Ingredients

  • 2 med onions
  • 1 lb (4 medium) tomatoes
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 3 chiles in adobo sauce plus some of the sauce
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (include seeds for more heat)
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • water
  • salt to taste
  • garnishes: avocado slices, sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, tortilla strips, chopped scallions

Instructions

  1. Cut the onions and tomatoes into chunks so they will fit in the blender or food processor. Put the onions, tomatoes, jalapeño, chili pepper and sauce, garlic and cilantro into a blender or food processor and blend it until it's a thick sauce. You may need to do it in batches, or just keep poking the big pieces down so everything gets blended in.

  2. Add enough oil to the Instant Pot pot to cover the bottom. Press "sauté" and let the oil heat up for a few minutes.

  3. Pour in the tomato mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes, until any liquid is mostly absorbed. You may need to press "sauté" again to keep it hot.

  4. Cut the chicken breasts into pieces and put them in the pot. Add six cups of water.

  5. Close the top, seal the valve, and press "pressure cook," then the + button until it goes to 20 minutes. When it's done cooking, let it naturally release for 10 minutes, then release the remaining pressure manually.

  6. Open the top and fish out the chicken. Shred it and return it to the pot. Add salt to taste.

  7. Serve the soup with garnishes: avocado slices, sour cream, tortilla strips, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, and chopped scallions.

 

Meatloaf (actually two giant meatloaves)

Ingredients

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

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

  • ketchup for the top
  • 2 onions diced and fried (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450

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

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

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

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

 

 

Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce

We made a quadruple recipe of this for twelve people. 

Keyword Marcella Hazan, pasta, spaghetti, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes, broken up
  • 1 onion peeled and cut in half
  • salt to taste
  • 5 Tbsp butter

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a heavy pot.

  2. Simmer at least 90 minutes. 

  3. Take out the onions.

  4. I'm freaking serious, that's it!

Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup

Adapted from twosleevers.com. This is a very flavorful chicken soup. It has a little hotsy totsy burst of spice with the first taste, and then the more complex flavors come through slowly. Magic.

It's fairly brothy, and then you heap up all the garnishes you want on top.

This is a little over a gallon of soup.

Ingredients

  • 2 med onions
  • 1 lb (4 medium) tomatoes
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 3 chiles in adobo sauce plus some of the sauce
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (include seeds for more heat)
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • water
  • salt to taste
  • garnishes: avocado slices, sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, tortilla strips, chopped scallions

Instructions

  1. Cut the onions and tomatoes into chunks so they will fit in the blender or food processor. Put the onions, tomatoes, jalapeño, chili pepper and sauce, garlic and cilantro into a blender or food processor and blend it until it's a thick sauce. You may need to do it in batches, or just keep poking the big pieces down so everything gets blended in.

  2. Add enough oil to the Instant Pot pot to cover the bottom. Press "sauté" and let the oil heat up for a few minutes.

  3. Pour in the tomato mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes, until any liquid is mostly absorbed. You may need to press "sauté" again to keep it hot.

  4. Cut the chicken breasts into pieces and put them in the pot. Add six cups of water.

  5. Close the top, seal the valve, and press "pressure cook," then the + button until it goes to 20 minutes. When it's done cooking, let it naturally release for 10 minutes, then release the remaining pressure manually.

  6. Open the top and fish out the chicken. Shred it and return it to the pot. Add salt to taste.

  7. Serve the soup with garnishes: avocado slices, sour cream, tortilla strips, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, and chopped scallions.

What’s for supper? Vol. 317: Little Bear food

This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Happy Friday! Another week of nippy weather, and I’m really settling into cozy fall cooking. I’m doing some planning for Thanksgiving, by which I mean I bought a second potato masher at the thrift store. I have always been a wiggly line potato masher kind of gal, but now I’m branching out into the grid-on-a-circle style, and I have high hopes. Because I just don’t make very good mashed potatoes, and it’s probably the masher’s fault.

However, I am happy to announce that I used up the last of the apples! Very satisfactory. Read on. 

SATURDAY

I’m skeptical Saturday even happened. I have no idea what we ate. 

SUNDAY
Pizza

You may recall how, last time I made pizza, I committed the high crime of not making any just-cheese pizza. Well, this time I did! And the kids made exactly as big a fuss about it as if I hadn’t (“Well SHEESH, Mama, the only reason we’re ASKING is because LAST time . . . “). But I did make a cheese pizza. I really did.  I also made one pepperoni and one olive, fresh garlic, and anchovy. 

Man, I need to do something about that grout. Good pizza, though. 

MONDAY
Pork ribs, applesauce, mashed acorn squash, risotto

APPLE ARMAGEDDON. There were dozens and dozens of soft, spotty, dinged-up apples hanging around the dining room in bags and boxes and government-owned mail cartons driving me mad, so on Monday I gathered them up, hacked them  into quarters, threw them in my biggest pot, added a little water (too much, like I do every year), and let them simmer loosely covered for a few hours. 

I left everything intact, peels, cores, everything, and when they were soft enough to collapse under the weight of a wooden spoon, I ran them through my wonderful food mill, very similar to this one (affiliate link):

 

The food mill is one of the few once-a-year kitchen gadgets I allow to take up space in my tiny kitchen, because nothing else does exactly what a food mill does (i.e. not only smooshes the food, but separates out the undesirable parts). I was a little dismayed to dismayed to discover that someone had put it away last year after using it to make applesauce but not necessarily super duper washing it out, bleh. It has a pot with handle and bowl clips, a crank and blade, and a screw with a sweeping arm for underneath, and [deep shuddery breath] you really do need to take it apart to clean it properly. 

But a little scrubbing did the trick, and I was soon cranking out sweet, beauteous applesauce.

I didn’t take a picture of the refuse because it’s just not pretty, but I’m always impressed at how efficient the food mill is. If you keep cranking, it really gets every last possible scrap of edible material, and just leaves the barest minimum of waste behind. Then you crank it backwards a few turns and it scrapes the leavings up into a little heap for you to whack out into the trash. Very satisfying activity altogether.

After several batches, I was left with a heavy, steaming bowl of fragrant, rosy applesauce, and it smelled so nice, I was tempted to just leave it at that. But I did pitch in a bunch of cinnamon, a generous drizzle of honey, and a lump of butter, and mix it up.

I covered it and left it alone, and it was so dense, it stayed warm until dinnertime. I felt like a fairy tale mother. Everyone was very pleased. 

I served it with pork ribs, just roasted quickly on a rack in a very hot oven with salt and pepper, and some rich, cheesy Instant Pot risotto, and some mashed acorn squash

What an excellent meal. Here is the recipe for Instant Pot risotto, which isn’t quite quite as creamy and luxurious as stovetop risotto, but it’s pretty darn close, and it’s easy enough to throw together on a weeknight, with onions, sage, white wine, and chicken broth.

Jump to Recipe

You can add in any number of things, including squash if you’re not already serving squash. 

But I was, and I was trying a new method. Normally I roast it in the oven and then mash it. This time, I cooked it in the Instant Pot, and I learned a tip to sprinkle it with kosher salt and baking soda first, allegedly to help caramelize it, before mashing it with your add-ins. Here’s the full recipe:

Jump to Recipe

and whoa, it was excellent.

I have no idea if the process really made that much of a difference or if i just got hold of some really tasty squash, but it was amazingly flavorful. Yay! Damien really liked it, so I’ll definitely do it this way from now on. 

TUESDAY
Ima’s Everything Soup and overnight bread

On Monday night, I started some bread dough using an exceedingly vague recipe someone, I’m sorry I can’t remember who, put on Facebook. To wit:

Ingredients
3 cups All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
 
In a large bowl combine flour, active dry yeast and salt. Mix together. Add water, and stir until blended; dough will be sticky. Give it ten good folds. Cover bowl with a tea towel. Let dough rest overnight for 10 to 12 hours at room temp.
 
In the morning, your dough will have grown x2- then give it a few folds (I basically scraped the dough off the sides of the bowl towards the middle), empty it out onto a piece of parchment paper and let it rest for 30 minutes. If dough is sticky and hard to work with, add a bit of flour so it doesn’t stick to your hands. Score your bread with a knife. (I made an “x” on the top.)
 
While dough is resting, preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Put a covered 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (Dutch oven, enamel, ceramic) in oven as it heats for about 30 minutes.
 
Carefully remove pot from oven. IT’S VERY HOT. Pick up parchment paper with dough and slide directly into pot (ie dough sitting on the parchment).  Cover with lid and bake 35-40 minutes at 425 Degrees F. LID WILL BE HOT – remove lid and bake another 10-15 minutes, until loaf is golden brown.
 
You can eat it warm with butter or wait until it cools.

Okay, that seemed simple enough!  I tripled the recipe and left it in a big bowl to rise overnight. I ended up using more flour than it called for because it was not just “sticky,” it was like batter, and really couldn’t be called dough. 

The next day, it had risen nicely and was more dough-like, but I did add yet more flour to be able to handle it. I poured it out in two batches onto parchment paper and let it rest 30 minutes as directed. 

I don’t seem to have any dutch ovens (the contents of my kitchen are always vaguely mysterious to me), so I heated up a glass casserole dish and a large iron frying pan, and baked it in two batches in that. You’re supposed to bake it with the lid on, then uncover it and finish baking. Since my containers didn’t have lids, I used tin foil, which stuck to the dough, so when I pulled it off, it peeled some of the bread crust off with it. I could have avoided this by spraying it with cooking spray, or covering it with a bowl or something else with more clearance. 

But overall, it came out of the oven looking like bread!

Quite dense and rather chewy, but real bread, a really good return for the miniscule amount of labor and very basic ingredients I put into it. 

So that was nice. It was pretty good with a little soft butter and a sprinkle of salt, and it hit the spot along with the hearty soup I made.

This seems to be a version of Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread that everybody got all worked up about a while ago. He gives more precise directions and his technique requires more time, but does seem to produce a nicer loaf. So now you know everything I do. 

The soup is an adaptation of my mother’s minestrone soup, which she used to call “everything soup.” Minstrone soup usually has vegetables, greens, beans, tomato, and some kind of pasta or rice. My mother’s version doesn’t have tomato and it does have meat. She used ground beef; I used mild sausage. She used celery; I swapped in zucchini instead. She specified frozen spinach, and I used fresh. I skipped the wine and used fresh parmesan. But otherwise, this is basically her recipe, which is basically minestrone. Or not! It has onions, garlic, carrots, zucchini, chick peas, sausage, spinach, beef broth (and wine) and is topped with a little parmesan.

I cooked it a little too long and it got a little blurry, but it was tremendously nourishing and cozy. This is Little Bear food. 

Together with the world’s most basic bread, it was a very fine little meal for a chilly day. 

And here is where I have to express my admiration for people who cook but don’t enjoy the process. I salute you! I like to eat; goodness knows, I like to eat. But I like to cook almost as much, if not more. The sight and sounds and sensations, the smells and textures and patterns of food being processed are a constant delight to me, even when I’m in a hurry. Peeling and cutting and chopping and grating, rinsing and stirring, steaming and simmering and tossing. Every onion is different inside! Every head of lettuce has its own music when it’s torn. The colors, the colors. It is all absolutely my jam.

What a treat to peer down through the top of a shiny box grater and watch the little torrents of parmesan billowing through the holes as I shred, and then sensing that the grater is stuffed full and needs to be knocked empty against the scarred wooden board, until it spills out its little bounty of delicate curls into the sun.

And then I also like to eat! Lucky me. 

WEDNESDAY
Shawarma

Honest to goodness, I thought it was Thursday, and I was so annoyed at myself for putting off this meal all week, so I was painted into a Thursday corner and had to make a slightly laborious dinner twice in a row, first the soup and bread, then the shawarma. I had been up all night with a cold and fever, struggling with the delusion that I had hidden a terrible, purple secret on top of a mountain and so needed to get my socks off. Then I got up and I was like, OH NO, AND NOW I HAVE TO MAKE SHAWARMA, I HAVE NO CHOICE BECAUSE IT’S THURSDAY. In retrospect, I may still have been a little sick. Luckily, shawarma is actually easy enough that you can make it when you’re a little loopy. 

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs were on sale, and that is the best kind of chicken to use for shawarma, so I didn’t have to do much processing, just trim the fat off a bit. The marinade is easy, and the rest is just really chopping and opening  jars and cans. And crushing plenty of garlic. 

Jump to Recipe

So I set several pounds of chicken to marinate in the morning, and made up a big bowl of yogurt sauce

Jump to Recipe

Corrie was home too, so she juiced lemons for me, and also cut up the cucumbers. So we had pita, cucumbers, tomatoes, black and kalamata olives, feta cheese, yogurt sauce, and hummus. I marinated just the chicken and then spread red onions over the top of the chicken before I cooked it. And that was it! Great meal. Everyone loves it. A little bit of work on the front end, but it’s all easy, with no exotic ingredients, and it’s just so tasty. 

Sometimes I make homemade pita or stuffed grape leaves or fried eggplant with this meal, but this is the basic form and it’s great as is. 

THURSDAY
Taco Thursday

Thursday turned out to be Thursday, for whatever reason, and so we had tacos. I don’t make the rules. (Well, I do, but I don’t have to explain myself.) 

FRIDAY
Spaghetti pangrattato

Something new for us. Pasta with lemon, parsley, seasoned breadcrumbs, capers, and bits of fried egg!! from Smitten Kitchen. I think this is one of those delicious, delicious poverty dishes the Italians are so good at. I’m guessing most of the kids will just want plain pasta, but you never know.

Or maybe we’ll just have spaghetti! The kids have the day off for Veteran’s Day and maybe I’ll do the weekend shopping on Friday and have the actual weekend off for once, to do something fun. Although so far all I have managed to do is sleep for twelve hours, which I haven’t done in years, and I think that means I am still sick. 

Oh, I just remembered what we had on Saturday. Corn dogs! Corn dogs and hot pretzels. With a side of mustard. 

5 from 2 votes
Print

Instant Pot Mashed Acorn Squash

Ingredients

  • 1 acorn quashes
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Cut the acorn squashes in half. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt on the cut surfaces.

  2. Put 1/2 a cup of water in the Instant Pot, fit the rack in it, and stack the squash on top. Close the lid, close the valve, and cook on high pressure for 24 minutes. Do quick release.

  3. When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop it out into a bowl, mash it, and add the rest of the ingredients.

Ima's Everything Soup

heavily adapted from a sort-of-minestrone soup my mother used to make

Ingredients

  • 1+ lbs loose mild sausage (my mother used ground beef)
  • olive oil if necessary
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1-1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced with the skin on
  • 6-12 cups beef broth
  • 4 cups fresh spinach (frozen is also fine)
  • 1/4 cup red wine (optional)
  • 1 cup small pasta like pastina, raw
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. In a pot, cook the sausage, crumbling, until it's cooked through. Add olive oil if necessary to keep from burning. (If using an Instant Pot, use the sauté function for the first two steps.)

  2. Add in garlic, onion, oregano, and pepper. Cook another several minutes until the onion is soft.

  3. Add in the carrots and zucchini, and pour in the broth (and wine if using), and stir. If cooking on stovetop, cover loosely and let simmer for twenty minutes. (If using an Instant Pot, add all the ingredients except the cheese, close the lid, close the valve, and press "soup.")

  4. Add in the spinach and chickpeas and continue simmering another ten minutes. Add in the pasta ten minutes before serving and cook until soft. If the soup is too thick and too much broth has been absorbed, add another 4-5 cups of broth. Top with parmesan.

 

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. 

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. 

 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 316: All Fall

We made it through Halloween and the Spooky Triduum! Plenty of cozy fall foods this week, although no applesauce as of yet. Here’s what we did have: 

SATURDAY
Vermonter sandwiches

By popular request. Your choice of ciabatta rolls or sourdough bread, roast chicken breast, bacon, thick slices of sharp cheddar, slices of tart Granny Smith apples, and honey mustard dressing.

Just an excellent sandwich. Nestle plate in among fabric paint and other craft materials because you are still frantically finishing up Halloween costumes. 

SUNDAY
Spaghetti and ragù; garlic bread; blueberry and pumpkin walnut ice cream 

Damien made this, following the Deadspin recipe. It turns out a little different each time. This time was a little spicy, and wonderfully — look, nobody likes it when I describe a meat sauce as “fluffy,” but the English language is just not helping me out. Here, have a picture:

If you’re thinking of pasta with a standard sluggish tomato sauce with some ground meat thrown in, think that no more. This is entirely different, and absolutely scrumptious. 

The kids miraculously scooped out the pumpkins on Friday while we were out of town, sorted out the pulp and seeds, and cleaned up. I know! So over the weekend, they carved their pumpkins, and all I had to do was roast the seeds.

I spread them in shallow pans, drizzled them with oil and sprinkled them with kosher salt, then cooked them in a 250 oven, stirring them occasionally, and switching the pans once so they’d cook evenly, until they are crunchy but not burnt.

I never know how long this takes because I always, always forget they are in the oven and almost burn them. Maybe forty minutes? I have no idea. 

I had a slightly better handle on dessert. Blueberries were on sale, so I bought a few pints, planning to make ice cream, with lemon pound cake from a mix. But then I felt bad that I hadn’t made any kind of Halloween-themed meal or dessert, so I decided it was important to make pumpkin ice cream.  (In the past, for Halloween I have made SPOOKY MEATLOAF

and once I made those mummy hot dogs

and you know, that was not a good use of my time. As usual, I’m the only one putting pressure on myself to come up with this stuff. Anyway, the ice cream turned out to be a great idea. I thought the two flavors would be terrible together (Watch: This Food Blogger Thinks Dessert Will Be Terrible But Makes It Anyway For Some Reason!), but they were actually great.

The blueberry was sweet and a tiny bit tart, and the pumpkin had all the comfy, custardy flavors of pumpkin pie, and somehow together they worked in the same way that peanut butter and jelly work together. They didn’t taste like peanut butter and jelly, you understand; it was just the same kind of combination. Fruity + earthy, or something. 

I did also make the lemon pound cake mix, but overbaked it, and I was worried the lemon would not go well with the other flavors (I had bought it just thinking lemon + blueberry), and this time I was right. Should have just skipped the cake. Oh well!

Imma have to come back later and write out the ice cream directions. I used Ben and Jerry’s recipes for both, except that I doubled the amount of blueberries for one, and added walnuts to the other, and increased the spices a bit. They both use the basic sweet cream base and do not require cooking. I will say that double blueberry was too much, and the berries clumped together in a way that wasn’t completely pleasant, because the tiny seeds get a little gritty one you get a certain volume of blueberry (they were macerated but not cooked). Next time I’ll just follow the recipe! But the walnuts were an excellent addition to the pumpkin ice cream, and I stand by that. I may make this again for Thanksgiving, or possibly this butternut squash ice cream with candied curry pecans.

MONDAY
Chicken nuggets; candy

Halloween! Dinner is only there to keep child protective services away. The kids had parties at school and ate all kinds of nonsense, then we zipped home and hurried to get costumes on for trick or treating. 

Benny and Corrie were Sarah and Duck

and I assisted them as Scarf Lady 

Lucy, Sophia, and Irene were Doc Ock, Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle, and a robot 

You can’t really tell, but the robot has three special features: It lights up in several colors, it has a little secret compartment for storing things, and it is wearing a fanny pack full of diabetic supplies for its sister, so as not to mess up her Doc Ock costume.

The other kids dispersed to various parties and promised me they would send pictures, but they did not!

TUESDAY
Bagel, sausage, egg, cheese sandwiches; caramel apples

On Tuesday I had an easy meal planned (bagels with sausages, egg, and cheese)

because everyone was exhausted and of course we had to get to Mass for All Saints Day, but I also suddenly couldn’t stand how there were apples all over the place, so I made caramel apples. We usually get the easy-peasy kind where you just stretch a sheet of caramel over the apple and warm it up to meld it on, but the boxes can be a little misleading, so I had two kits of the kind you need a candy thermometer.

Which reminds me of the last time we attempted this, which was one of my favorite Irene moments, when she was about seven. 

Irene, stirring caramel: “We don’t want it to get too hot. Not hard ball. Or hard crack. Or . . . [peering at thermometer] fish donut.”

WELL, THAT’S WHAT IT SAYS. The adult world can be very confusing, and you just have to go with it, even if it sounds a little fish donut.

So I made about 20 apples. 

They turned out lovely, but I surely did not have room for 20 sticky apples to cool and harden in the fridge, so I just left them out all afternoon. Usually our kitchen is about as cool as a refrigerator anyway, but we’re having a little warm snap, and by evening, the caramel had ooooozed its way downward until what I had was a panful of apples, each with its own caramel penumbra, sitting in a pool of caramel. Oh well! At least I got rid of the apples. Some weeks, cooking is like a game whose goal is to get rid of all the food. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken and salad; soul cakes

This was an okay idea that didn’t quite come off. I had the vague idea to serve a Greek-inspired salad with chicken. While I was out, Damien roasted some chicken breasts with plenty of lemon pepper seasoning, and I sliced up the meat and served it with a big green salad, black olives, feta cheese, pomegranate seeds, chopped walnuts, and cucumbers and tomatoes.

I think the tomatoes were the mistake.  You really can’t have tomatoes on pomegranates in the same plate. They threw the whole thing off. Also I forgot to buy any kind of dressing, so we were forced to dig through the fridge and take our chances. Damien found some creamy Italian dressing, and I was trying to tell him that we also had some kind of vinaigrette, but I couldn’t think of the word, so I called it “greasy Italian.” Which goes to show that describing things accurately is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I also just this minute remembered that I bought pita chips to go with this salad, and totally forgot about them. 

Regarding the pomegranates, I briefly considered looking up some clever TikTok idea for how to get the seeds off the rind in no time flat, but these things never, ever work for me. It’s always a video of some sun-kissed woman with shining, blue-black hair and a peasant blouse, standing in her garden going, “Oh, you cut up your pineapple with a knife, you DUMBASS? Try it like this!” and she grins at the camera and sticks a toothpick in the bottom, and all the pineapple just falls out into a basin in perfect little edible chunks and she eats one with very white teeth. Or else there is some perky dude with weirdly inflated biceps bopping around a spotless kitchen showing us how, when he wants 400 cloves of peeled garlic, all he does is make a little slit in the side and then tap it with a spoon, and the garlic absolutely cannot wait to scurry off and arrange itself into useful rows, all perfectly peeled and not a bit wasted. So I watch this stuff and it looks quite easy, so I imitate them exactly, and somehow slice the tips off my three favorite fingers, and then I have to explain to the ER nurse that I was trying to be like someone on TikTok.

So I decided to just cut the pomegranate into quarters and then just sort of scrabble at it until the seeds came out. And I got a bowlful that way. 

And then I took a picture, so there. 

OH, I also made soul cakes on Wednesday. I guess soul cakes are the original treats that people would give to beggars who would come to their house, and offer to pray for the souls of the dead in exchange for a cookie? I don’t know. I still had a shit ton of apples left, so I was getting ready to make applesauce when I suddenly remembered that the kids had asked about soul cakes, so that’s what I made. 

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It’s a very quick recipe, and I do like the taste. They have a faint cidery flavor from the cider vinegar, and they’re soft and a little spicy, very nice. I cut out two kinds and told the kids they represented souls before and after being prayed for. 

Raisins in purgatory, and then you upgrade to half a dried apricot when you go to heaven. That’s some high octane theology for you. 

THURSDAY
Mexican beef bowls and beans

Everyone was pretty excited about this meal. I actually started marinating the meat the night before. 

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I had already cut up the meat before marinating it, so I just fried it up in a giant pan along with the marinade. 

Earlier in the day, I made a big bowl of guacamole

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and a pot of black beans. The beans were completely yummy,

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but I wish I had cooked them with the lid off for a little longer (they were in the Instant Pot on “slow cook” most of the day) to simmer off more of the liquid. 

But all in all, a very tasty meal.  I made a big pot of rice, put out salsa, chopped scallions, sour cream, lime wedges, and corn chips, shredded some cheese, and heated up some corn. Everyone found something they liked to eat.

Mmm, I think I will have leftover beans for lunch. 

FRIDAY
Quesadillas

Lots of leftover fixins from Thursday’s meal, so I’m just going to make plain cheese quesadillas and people can dress it up as they like. I also bought some plantain chips, which I will no doubt forget to serve. 

Happy Friday! If you want some apples, come over. I have a lot. 

Soul cakes

Servings 18 flat cakes the size of large biscuits

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, chilled
  • 3-3/4 cup sifted flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp allspice (can sub cloves)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar (can sub white vinegar)
  • 4-6 Tbsp milk
  • powdered sugar to sprinkle on top

optional:

  • raisins, currants, nuts, candied citrus peels, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350

  2. Put the flour in a large bowl. Grate the chilled butter on a vegetable grater and incorporate it lightly into the flour.

  3. Stir in the sugar and spices until evenly distributed.

  4. In a smaller bowl, beat together the eggs, vinegar and milk. Stir this into the flour mixture until it forms a stiff dough.

  5. Knead for several minutes until smooth and roll out to 1/4 thick.

  6. Grease a baking pan. Cut the dough into rounds (or other shapes if you like) and lay them on the pan, leaving a bit of room in between (they puff up a bit, but not a lot). If you're adding raisins or other toppings, poke them into the top of the cakes, in a cross shape if you like. Prick cakes with fork.

  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes until very lightly browned on top.

  8. Sprinkle with powdered sugar while they are warm

 

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.

 

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."

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly.