What’s for supper? Vol. 190: Beef barley soup! Pumpkin cranberry walnut muffins! And more!

We have hurtled through another week! I did a few site updates, so let’s see if the new “jump to recipe” thing works:

Jump to Recipe

Works? I think it works. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Nachos, pineapple

Easy peasy. Damien cooked the ground beef and added some sort of proprietary blend of seasonings, and I dumped it over some chips and shredded a bunch of cheese over it and slid it in the oven. We had salsa and sour cream and cilantro. 

If you squint, it looks sort of like salad. 

SUNDAY
Roast beef sandwiches, onion rings, veg and dip, strawberry shortcake

I had worked up a wonderful migraine overnight, which turned me into a blob of glup, so I stayed in bed for most of the day while someone covered my faith formation class and Damien took the kids to Mass and made dinner. He seasoned the roasts and sauteéd them in a pan, then put them in the oven to roast slowly. We had the sliced meat on rolls with provolone and horseradish sauce and tomatoes.

I put mine in the oven to toast up. If I were running away from the Visigoths and had a sandwich with me and someone said, “Would you like that toasted?” I would take the extra time to toast it.

My MIL came over with strawberry shortcake. It looked very promising, but my head was just starting to recover by evening, and I didn’t want to jinx it with anything sugary. 

MONDAY
Beef orzo soup, pumpkin cranberry walnut muffins

A much-loved cold weather meal in this house. Jump to Recipe

This was supposed to be beef barley soup, but I forgot to get barley, so I subbed orzo, which was a little disappointing in the texture department. Beef, carrots, onions, tomato, garlic, wine, beef broth, salt and pepper, mushrooms, some kind of grain, and that’s it. Bay leaf if you’re fancy. Always a hit.

I had it for lunch as the week went on, and the orzo got bigger and bigger.

When it becomes one single mighty grain of orzo having within it all soupiness, then it’s time to rinse out the pot and start over. 

The kids have also been clamoring for pumpkin muffins. Jump to RecipeI made 12 regular:

and 12 with dried cranberries and chopped walnuts. I may have gotten a little carried away with the stir-ins.

They turned out more like cranberries and walnuts trifles with a light coating of muffin.

TUESDAY
Pizza

One cheese, one pepperoni, one pepperoni with leftover provolone, one olive, and one mushroom, onion, olive, and provolone. Corrie has been very, very busy in the kitchen this week, and cut up a bunch of mushrooms of her own initiative. Come to think of it, that explains why I discovered an entire garlic clove, still in its wrapper, baked right into the cheese. (Yes, I ate it.)

WEDNESDAY
Cheesy chicken chili with bacon, corn bread

This is one of those recipes that has “crack” in the title, and yet doesn’t contain any cocaine at all. I think they mean “bacon, cheese, and ranch flavoring” and I will acknowledge that that is a fine combination, but that is as far as it went. 

Chicken, tomato with chilis, corn, black beans, pieces of bacon, cream cheese, ranch dressing powder, and some seasonings. Dump it all, cook, shred the chicken, and put shredded cheddar on top. I wasn’t expecting it to taste sophisticated, but it definitely looked easy and flavorful. The most labor intensive part was cooking and chopping the bacon. 

This is a crock pot recipe, but it was almost 5:00 before I got started, so I used the Instant Pot. Which would have been fine, except I chose 15 minutes, and that wasn’t quite long enough. So I put it in for another 8. The thing about the Instant Pot is that if you cook something for 8 minutes, that means waiting about 10 minutes for it to come to pressure, then cooking it 8 minutes, then releasing the pressure for another 5 minutes. This is fine, as long as it’s what you’re expecting. It’s less fine if you are winging the recipe and have to go through the process twice so you don’t die of salmonella. 

Of course there was little chance of that happening since not one of the kids even tasted it, even though it had bacon in it. I thought it tasted pretty good. It definitely had that “everyone at the potluck wants my recipe, tee hee hee!” flavor to it. 

I also made corn muffins, for reasons unclear. It used to be that only I was the one who liked corn muffins, but my taste for them has decreased over the years, possibly soured by loneliness and crumbs. It also doesn’t help that every time I say “corn muffins” someone says “OH HONEY YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE SAYING” and I get a long treatise on  pre-industrial revolution corn and how sugar factored in to perceptions of class, and how people who don’t use cast iron corn-shaped molds can just go straight to hell, bless. Just let me make my bad muffins and then throw them away, okay? 

Here are my muffins: 

I like to run a little butter over the top while they’re still hot, so they will be shinier in the garbage. 

THURSDAY
Hot dogs, smiley fries, pomegranates

We had parent teacher conferences, and then I spent the rest of the day driving around like a silly person and then finally getting going on Halloween costumes. This year we have Scooby Doo and Daphne, Star from Star Vs. the Forces of Evil, Naruto and Kakashi or something, and some Dragonball whathaveyou. And I think an Autumn Fairy. I leaned on the kid whose costume was giving me the most trouble, and she made dinner. I also taught one kid how to use the sewing machine! I foresee a whole new generation of lopsided cloaks, puckered curtains, and pillowcases that are a tiny bit too small.

FRIDAY
Boxaroni for the kids. 

We’re going out, because it’s our anniversary! 22 years. A few months ago, I needed some nighttime reading and grabbed Turgenev off the shelf, and this photo was tucked in the pages.

 

1997. (Yes, it looks like we had just had a roll in the hay, but the photo surface is just scratched up. My goodness, you people.) 

A friend remarked that we looked so joyful and innocent, and didn’t I want to kind of warn the people in the picture that life is coming for them?

I responded, “Do you know, I think I was more cynical then. I didn’t know how hard things could be, for sure, but I also had no idea how good things could be.” We have had some really hard and awful times. Some of them were not that long ago. But still, it feels like the joy and innocence we have together are building, not waning. I don’t know if it was dumb luck or if we can take any credit at all for finding and choosing each other, but it was the best thing we ever did.

Well! Here are the recipe cards:

Beef barley soup (Instant Pot or stovetop)

Makes about a gallon of lovely soup

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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


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

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

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

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

Pumpkin quick bread or muffins

Makes 2 loaves or 18+ muffins

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 105: I may have overdone things

Lordy, what a busy week! Between running around, huge cleaning projects, cars being unreliable, prepping for parties and outings, going on field trips, making Halloween costumes, parent-teacher conferences, painting the cat green (okay, Corrie helped with that), and various alarms in the night, it was, lordy, a busy week. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Aldi pizza

The kids had pizza at home while Damien and I went to our college reunion!

Great food, great company. Check out the centerpiece on our table:

Kyra, there was a chapter all about you.

For those who were with us at TMC, here is a somewhat blurry pic of the guests of honor:

Ms. Enos was there, too, but she will murder me if I post the truly amazing photo I got of her talking about being the token WASP.

***

SUNDAY
Chicken thighs with fall vegetables, ice cream sundaes

A very, very fine fall dish from Damn Delicious, and a true one-pan dish (not “cook eleven things separately using every pot and pan you own and then put it all together in one pan, ta-dah!”).

I guiltily brought out the jar of “Italian Seasoning” I bought for a dollar. It has all the stuff I was planning to put on the chicken anyway. It’s like one of those packets with the matching birthday candles, streamers, balloons, plates, cups, and forks all in one. It makes you a bad person! I don’t know why.

Anyway, you cut up all the veg, drag ’em around in a simple sauce, lay them chicken thighs on top, sprinkle a little Bad Person Spice on the skins, and cook it up all together. It’s delicious and beautiful, and it’s easy for people to pick out the veg they don’t like.

I made too much, and we had tons of leftovers.

***

MONDAY
Pulled pork on onion rolls, chips

I tried using apple cider for the pulled pork in the Crock Pot, plus a quartered onion, some minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Not impressed. It tasted fine, just bland. Damien put pickled peppers on his, which was a good idea.

On Monday, we went to an apple orchard with the Girl Scouts, where we learned that, during Prohibition, FBI agents burned countless orchards to prevent the making of hard cider, and the country lost more than a thousand varieties of apples! Just gone! I know they were not apples for eating, but still! The bastards. Anyway, I was very impressed by how many heirloom varieties they had at this place. Some of them tasted more like pear or banana, some were kind of bready, some were like nectar. Apples are amazing.

I made too much pork, and we had tons of leftovers.

***

TUESDAY
Spaghetti with turkey pesto meatballs

Ground turkey was on sale, so I got 6.5 pounds of it, to which I added:
7 eggs
3.5 cups breadcrumbs
1/3 c minced garlic
3 Tbs Italian seasoning
1 Tbs salt
1 c parmesan
and a little jar of pesto sauce I found, probably 6-7 ounces. I cooked them in a 400 oven for half an hour or so

then put them in a pot with jarred tomato sauce. Is there anything finer than spaghetti with meatballs?

Actually, yes. The meatballs could have been beef and pork. Turkey just isn’t my favorite. It never feels like it’s completely cooked, and it needs so much help to taste like anything. They are lighter, though, so you don’t feel so bogged down afterward. Next time I try this, I’ll buy more pesto.

I made too much, and we had tons of leftovers.

***

WEDNESDAY
Oven roasted pork ribs, lazy pierogies on noodles

Tried out a new side dish suggested by my friend Anne. I cut cabbage into ribbons and fried it up with a ton of butter, plus chopped onions and sliced crimini mushrooms. (This is how it looked after just a bit of cooking.)

I let it cook for a long time, maybe longer than 40 minutes, until it was tender, then added salt and pepper and some paprika.

We ate this over buttered egg noodles.

I liked it better than anyone else did. I don’t think it quite deserves the name “pierogies,” even qualified with “lazy” but it was flavorful, and vegetablish. I had a premonition and only used half a head of cabbage, and sure enough, there were still leftovers. Which I ate cold for breakfast. I cant help it; I have a cabbage deficiency.

I made too much pork, and we had tons of leftovers.

***

THURSDAY
Pizza, taquitos, roast chicken with fall vegetables, pork ribs, meatballs, and noodles

It was supposed to be sausage and mushroom omelettes, but things got away from me, and suddenly it was almost seven o’clock. Luckily, we had tons of leftovers, so I heated everything up and then added some silly food from the freezer.

The roasted fall vegetables really benefitted from sitting in the fridge all week and thinking about accepting balsamic vinegar as their lord and savior.

***

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese for the kiddos, I think, and I also bought 160 pieces of candy and a cubic yard of potato chips for a Stranger Things party.

D and I, however, are going out for our anniversary (20th! We did a podcast on the actual day, which was Wednesday. You can hear it here for free). I checked out the menu ahead of time, and one of the appetizers includes wild boar sausages. I mean, I’m not made out of stone.

***
Terra Cotta army photo: CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=672042

Anniversary Podcast!

And here it is! Our 20th anniversary podcast, which we’re making free to all comers. OF COURSE we had some equipment trouble and ended up having to share a microphone. Made me a little uncomfortable sitting so close to this virtual stranger, but we muddled through.

We answered, sorta, the following questions generously provided by Facebook friends:

How did you meet?
What is one thing that you didn’t know/realize about each other when you got married, but now it’s your favorite thing?
What is the name of the podcast?
What’s the funniest thing that went wrong at your wedding?
Are you going to be doing anything special for your anniversary?
What had been your biggest “why did no one tell us this!?” revelation about marriage?
When did we realize you don’t know nearly as much about marriage as you thought you did?
What were some of our hardest times?
Why it is OK to have a big family and not a seven-figure income?
How do you keep that spark sparkling when children and work take all your time and energy?
And I read a poem by Adam Zagajewski.

Thanks for all the happy anniversary wishes! I’m so grateful for the support of my patrons and all my readers. Cheers!

Marriage advice from two who know

YES, it’s our twentieth anniversary! We’ve learned a thing or two along the way. Here are none of them:

People think marriage is expensive, but there are so many costs you can halve when you become one flesh. Hello, one toothbrush. Hello savings! And thriftiness can be sexy, too. Take turns with it and watch each other brush. Up and down, up and down, side-side-side-side-side! This is hot.

Communication is at the heart of unity, and many people are most comfortable communicating constant expressions of disappointment. Start there, then work your way up to berating each other in the Wendy’s drive thru because why the hell would a grown man truly need that much ketchup, until you’re known far and wide as They’re At It Again. Eventually, the police dispatcher will have a special code just for you two. Embroider it on a pillow.

If you would like to broadcast your love to the world, pose often with your hands touching each other in claw-like fashion, or I guess it’s a heart shape. Grr! Love! Grrrr! I’ll scratch your eyes out!

Compromise, compromise, compromise. Try only being an irrational son of a bitch half the time.

Frequently tell your beloved that you cherish every tiny bit of them, from head to toe. Then, on a milestone anniversary, prove it by presenting them with a romantic pillow stuffed with years of carefully gathered toenail clippings, belly button lint, and drain hair. Pinterest has some good ideas for how to make this project happen. Tip: Don’t spend too much time on Pinterest. It’s not healthy.

When you take a picture of the two of you, hold up an empty frame in front of you. People are doing this. There must be a reason. It can’t be meaningless, can it?

Try to find hobbies you can do together. Accrue debt in both your names. Develop contagious skin conditions you can share. Work your way through vast quantities of cheese and meet in the middle. Grow identical beards.

Cultivate pet names for each other. Consider “sweet cheeks,” “sugar lips,” “xylitol assy cheeks,” or “partially-hydrogenated-palm-oil-me-lad.”

Keep a sense of mystery alive in your marriage. One woman was mad at her husband for forty-three years and refused to say why! And he kept up his end, too. She had no idea what was going on in that basement bathroom the whole time, with the rolled-up towel stuffed under the door and the scuffling noises.

Mason jars aren’t just de rigeur for the wedding reception; they must be carefully featured and maintained throughout your entire marriage. Commute to work in a mason jar if you have to. Tout pour l’amour! Tout, I say!

Romantic: Getting matching tattoos.
Even more romantic: Surprising each other with the tattoos you give your spouse while he or she is unconscious.
Even more romantic: Discovering what kind of tattoos you thought it was a good idea to surprise each other with while you were unconscious. How is it even physically possible for the Tasmanian Devil to accomplish . . . that . . . with a dolphin? Only your id knows.

Never underestimate the power of “pillow talk.” Try, “Mphhh grphhh umph bhh.” Also very evocative: Pillow screaming.

***

Happy anniversary, man. You know I don’t mean it. But I meant it when I said “I do.”

***
Image by Stephan Nakatani via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Up from Unity Candles

My marriage is now an adult! It’s eighteen years old as of yesterday.

wedding pic

Oct. 25, 1997 and Oct. 25, 2015

Here’s a piece I wrote back in 2011, wherein I recount some of the ridiculous things that happened during our wedding ceremony, and how little they mattered.

***

Here is a nice little explanation of what a Catholic wedding looks like, compared to what you might see on TV. No one “gives the bride away,” for instance, because a valid marriage requires that the bride and groom freely give themselves. Likewise, the priest does not pronounce the couple man and wife, because his function is as a witness: The ministers of the sacrament are the man and woman themselves. (For another perspective on what the typical Catholic wedding actually looks like, you might check out this post by Reverend Know-it-all.)

My own wedding, a bunch of years ago, was somewhere in between the one described in the first article and the circuses in the second. Everyone had the best intentions, but it was perhaps not the most meticulously-planned ceremony known to Christendom. The priest, for instance, referred to me as “Simminy” throughout the ceremony. (To my husband: I checked, and it’s still all valid. So put that suitcase down.)

For another thing, I had to give my little brother strict instructions not to squeeze the ring-bearer’s pillow too hard as he carried it up the aisle. This is because I had forgotten until the night before that we’d be needing a ring-bearer’s pillow, and although the one I hastily made looked lovely, it was held together with packing tape. Crackle crackle!

During the sermon, the priest wanted me to list the priorities of a married woman. At one point I nervously blurted “Parents?” Which was silly enough, but everyone thought I said “pets.” Seriously, who quizzes the bride? Sheesh.

But the low point of the ceremony was the Unity Candle. I know, I know—you’re not supposed to have a Unity Candle. It’s tacky and newfangled, a superfluous gesture in a sacrament that already expresses unity quite nicely. We didn’t so much plan the ceremony as get swept along by it, though—so I was as surprised as anyone else to find myself next to my new husband (who is a good foot taller than I) with a taper in my hand, trying to light the stupid thing.

The idea was that we each had a little flame, and were supposed to reach up and join our little flames together in one big flame, and then that would be Unity, like marriage is unity, plus love. Or something.

What actually happened was that my husband reached up and lit his part of the candle, no problem. I, on the other hand, was too short even in heels to even see where the wick was. So I fiddled around for a bit, then pulled my taper down to see if I had done it.

It had gone out.

So I tried to relight it from the Unity Candle, but it wouldn’t go. I whispered to my husband, “My candle went out!” At this point in the ceremony, we had been standing up there for a suspiciously long time, and people were beginning to cough and stir in their seats a bit, maybe thinking about all that delicious deli meat and pasta salad waiting uneaten in the church basement below. And so my resourceful husband whispered back to me, “JUST FAKE IT!”

And that is what I did. Giggling spastically and making the most unbridelike snorting noises through my nose, I twitched my candle around over my head until I figured it might as well be lit. And we slunk back to our seats.

As it turned out, that little gaffe was actually the best possible symbol for our marriage, inauspicious and embarrassing though it was: If it’s not working out the way you hoped, JUST FAKE IT. Every little detail isn’t important. There are plenty of other candles, so just keep the show moving. The guests were cheerful and hungry, the music played, we had some cake and then zipped away for our little honeymoon.

The next morning, we attended Sunday Mass in a little church we’d never been to before. Nobody knew our names, or that we had been husband and wife for less than 24 hours. I don’t know why, but the priest went straight over to us and asked if we’d like to bring up the gifts.

And this second sacrament in that quiet, sunny church was the simple, grace-filled moment that we had missed at our actual wedding. We brought up the bread and wine together and went back to our seats, full of joy, ready to begin our strange and wonderful journey toward unity.

New couples, listen to me: If your candle goes out, all is not lost. Unity is a long, long lesson that takes practice, patience, and most of all TIME. It doesn’t happen in a moment. Sometimes, it’s okay to fake it. A moment’s symbolism is nothing compared to what’s in your heart. You are the ministers of the sacrament—not just at the wedding, but every day of your married life.

 

#Patheos5Yrs (In which I use both hands to celebrate Patheos’ fifth anniversary)

Wellity wellity wellity, look who is five years old! No, not that Puerto Rican tire fire. No, not sixty gazillion Isabellas and Sophies, Aidens, Jaydens, and Bradens. No, not even that weird protuberance on the side of my foot that doesn’t hurt or anything, so I’m just going to officially not know about it anymore.

NO, CRAZY, IT’S PATHEOS!

Like the gracious host it be, Patheos central is inviting us bloggers to share our favorite posts.

I’ve  been blogging for about seven years — my first blog being a Blogspot joint, which I set to “private,” and now I can’t remember how to invite myself back in.  This seems like some kind of metaphor for blogging. Something about not being able to find your own blog with both hands and a flashlight. Anyway, I’ve only been with Patheos since June of 2013, so I’m going to share posts from that month on. (If you have a hankering to browse through other posts, remember I have archives dating back to 2010. You can find them in my sidebar without even a flashlight.)

Without further butt jokes, here are a few of my favorite posts from the past yearish:

 what do we know about human beings? They sin. They sin, and they sin, and they sin. Sometimes they enter into a valid marriage and then they cheat. Sometimes they understand fully what they are supposed to do, and they just don’t feel like doing it. Sometimes calamity strikes, and they crumple under the blow.  Sometimes they let their own sorrows and weaknesses and selfishness overcome the love that is offered to them. Sometimes — no, my friends, always — they are a tangled ball of good intentions and bad habits, unhealed wounds and unfounded desires.
You know what’s scandalous? It’s scandalous to tell suffering people, “Don’t you speak.” It’s scandalous to tell them that their sorrows are making other people sad.  Good heavens. There are worse things than being sad. One of them is being happy and telling other people that, if only they were stronger, they’d be happy too.

PIC bearded stoner

  • On an entirely different note:  the day they took me where I did not want to go:  A long holy Saturday

Those are the worst nightmares:  the wave comes, the darkness falls, the crowd sweeps by, and your child is gone.  Where did he go?  Why didn’t I hold on tighter?  My husband would have gone and dug up the frozen ground to bury the body, but there is nothing to bury.  He has been washed away, and I don’t even know when.  Maybe he died weeks ago, when he was too little to be seen.  Maybe I was happily patting someone who was already gone.

It wouldn’t change anything if I could have buried him. But I wish I could have done it.

I encourage my kids to listen mostly to the [Beatles’] earlier stuff, where their technical brilliance can be enjoyed unimpeded with the navel gazing muzziness that came later.  We have discussed how people in Hell are probably holding hands and singing “Imagine” right now; and I have taught them to identify the sitar, when played by a white man, as the sound of bullshit.

But . . . oh, I don’t even know what to say.  I’ve said it so many times, and I don’t know if there’s any way to persuade people who don’t already see it so clearly.  We’re Catholic. Our main job isn’t to apply “censor” bar across everything that doesn’t come straight from the Baltimore Catechism.  We take what is good. We’re supposed to beexperts at identifying what is good.  We’re not supposed to be screaming meemies who bite our lips and blush every time someone dips into a minor key.  We’re supposed to use sifters, not dump trucks, when sorting through culture.

[Abortionists] liked it when the gory pictures were out there.  It made their job easier.  Women literally ran toward abortion.
  • A finally, few reasons being fat might be the right choice for you . . . today!!!: Seven Fat Takes

 #4. You get to discover that your husband is really, really in love with you, or else he’s a fantastic and indefatigable actor.  Just think, if I were still the proportions I was when he met me (36-24-38, just two inches away from being zoned as a brick house!), I would always wonder if he was sticking around all these years because of me, or my measurements.  Now that I’ve added the equivalent of a six-year-old child to my frame, I know it must be true love.

AND, I figured out how to use the video camera on my thing, except I held it sideways. I realize now that I achieved that “won’t you rescue this poor puppydog who fell into a well” camera angle, but that’s only because I didn’t want you to see how many chins I have. But seriously, this was my favorite Patheos moment, and I mean it:

Well, happy birthday Patheos! And thank you, my dear, dear readers, for sticking with me. Patheos will be hosting and featuring videos from bloggers on all channels, as well as “best of” posts, so keep your eyes peeled, as my mother used to horribly say. So much talent on Patheos, you definitely don’t need a flashlight to find it.