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):
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.
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.
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:
Jump to Recipe
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:
Jump to Recipe
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.
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.
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.
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
garlic, peeled and smashed
salt and pepper
Peel the potatoes and put them in a pot. Cover the with water. Add a bit of salt and the smashed garlic cloves.
Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer with lid loosely on until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.
Drain the water out of the pot. Add the butter and milk and mash well.
Add the parmesan and salt and pepper to taste and stir until combined.
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.
Tbsp + 3 tsp
Mix the flour, salt, and yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer.
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.
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.
Preheat the oven to 400. Put a greased pan or a baking stone in the oven to heat up.
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.
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.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until it's just slightly browned.