What’s for supper? Vol. 367: I knead you so badly

Happy Friday! We’ve been eating a little too well for Lent. Don’t tell my bishop. Or, actually go ahead and tell him. I went and got fired from the diocesan magazine already last week, so do your worst. (I don’t really know why it happened, other than that I am annoying. It’s fine. Something else always turns up, and I can go be annoying to a slightly different subset of readers, inshallah.)

Anyway, here’s what we had this week, which was February vacation for most of the kids:  

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips

Usually, for grilled cheese, I buy a few loaves of sourdough bread that comes in very large pieces, but they were out of them at Aldi, so I got some pleasant-looking Italian loaves that seemed likely. Dinner time comes along, I open the bag, and here is what the individual slices look like:

and I’m like, huh. Possibly I’m a pervert, but this feels slightly awkward. Maybe they will look more normal if I put mayonnaise on them

Ah well, we’ll just call it theology of the body and fry ’em up. 

Yes, they all looked like this. 

So everyone got one and we also had pickles and let us never speak of this again. Definitely not to the bishop. 

SUNDAY
40 garlic whole chickens, orzo al limone

I have mentioned in the past how allergic I am to cooking whole chickens, because we had them SO often when we were super poor and they used to be like 49 cents a pound, and I just feel so gloomy and oppressed by whole chickens now. But I’m trying really hard to shop the sales, so I made a tremendous penitential Lenten effort and bought two whole chickens for cheap, which I prepared using this recipe for 40 garlic clove chickens

You melt butter and oil in a dutch oven and brown the chickens on all sides, take out the chicken and drain off some of the fat, and stir in the garlic cloves. Yes, we peeled 80 cloves of garlic.

In fact, it was after we peeled about 65 cloves of garlic that I more carefully read the recipe I was going to use, and discovered that it calls for unpeeled garlic. So I quickly switched to the recipe I linked above, which doesn’t specify. No, I will not read to the end of a recipe before starting it! You can’t make me!!

So then you put the chicken back in along with a little water, and lemon juice, salt, thyme (it calls for dried but I had fresh), and pepper, cover the dutch oven, and bake it in the oven for 90 minutes.  I don’t actually have a dutch oven, so I browned the chicken in a pot and then transferred it to a giant oven pan, covered it with tinfoil, and then put a second pan on top. 

Good enough! When I opened it up, the chickens were [Danny Kaye doing his drooling Clever Gretel voice] nicely cooked

I cooked them breast-side-down in “humble frog” position, because I knew the skin wasn’t going to be the star of this chicken anyway, and I really wanted the meat to be juicy. It was not the most visually stunning chicken I have ever met, but it was extremely juicy and full of flavor. I actually used quite a bit more lemon juice than it called for, and I have no regrets.

Before I made the chicken, I started on the orzo. I was using this recipe from delish, and if it sounds tasty to you (and it will), I recommend taking a screenshot, because they limit how many free page views you get. I assemble the ingredients and knew this would be a winner. Just look:

It’s basically the same as risotto. Sauté some garlic, then lemon zest, and oops, I threw my chives in there too soon 

then add your orzo with salt and pepper and toast it a bit. Then you add chicken broth, a bit at a time, so the orzo slowly absorbs it.

Yeah man. 

When it’s cooked, stir in the cheese (it called for Pecorino Romano, but I had parmesan) and the parsley, lemon juice, and chives. 

I actually cooked the orzo first and then put it in the slow cooker, and then got to work on the chicken.

They were SO nice together. 

Some asparagus or spinach would have put this meal over the top, but it was pretty great as it was. The cloves of garlic were as soft as boiled potatoes, so what I did was just fork-mash them onto my chicken 

and we were all in garlic heaven. “We” being the chicken and the orzo and me. 

The orzo is amazing. I loved it so much. It was rich and creamy and cozy, but also piquant and sharp with the garlic and lemon and herbs. Some of the kids did not like the texture, probably because they are used to risotto and it’s not the same. But Damien and I thought it was great. 

On Sunday, I also did some winter sowing, which is something I only recently discovered. The idea is that you can start seeds outdoors in late winter even if it’s cold and snowy out, because you’re planting in milk jugs that act as little greenhouses; and then when the frost is past and your seedlings are big enough to transplant into the ground, you don’t have to harden them off, because they’re already acclimated. I have never successfully hardened seedlings off, because I take it too personally and all I can think is that nobody ever carried me in and out and in and out because my little leafies might get cold. 

You cut the milk jugs about four inches up from the bottom, leaving the last bit intact for a hinge. Fill the bottom with seed starter material, plant your seeds, water, and put the top back and tape it shut. That’s it. 

I was delighted to find a sack of seed starter I had bought on clearance last year, so I got out my saved seed stash and did three jugs of eggplants, three of pumpkin, and two butternut squash; and I did two jugs of morning glories for my friend Millie, who is in the nursing home again. And I got some more spiles and tubing for maple sugaring! But I used up all the milk jugs, so we have to build up some more supply before I can get going on that.

MONDAY
Spicy chicken sandwiches, fruit salad

Monday I went to see Millie in the morning. If you could keep her in your prayers, please, I’d appreciate it! She’s going to be 90 the first week in March and she’s hoping to be able to get back to her house and garden soon. 

I had some boneless, skinless chicken thighs I had stashed in the freezer when they were on sale a few weeks ago, and I made these wonderful sandwiches that everybody likes. They come together really fast. You just season the chicken thighs with Cajun seasoning — actually I used Tony Chachere’s, which is creole, but close enough — and then pan fry them on both sides. While they are cooking, you cut up some shishito peppers (just cut the tops off) and slice some red onions. When the chicken is done, you blister up the peppers in another pan, and lay some American cheese on top of the chicken and put a lid on it so it melts. 

(I didn’t actually cook the chicken this close together; I used two pans, and then transferred the chicken to one pan for the cheese treatment.)

Layer the chicken, peppers, and onions on brioche buns, with BBQ sauce top and bottom. Boom, amazing sandwich.

I just love this sandwich because it’s so SIMPLE. One bottle of spice, one step with the peppers, easy sliced cheese, bottled sauce. You really couldn’t improve it if you made it complicated and fiddly (although I’m sure Sam Sifton would like to try). 

You can see that I made a fruit salad, which we haven’t had for a while. Strawberries, blueberries, grapes, and kiwis. Nice to have some color. 

TUESDAY
Beef barley soup, french bread

Beef was on sale, so I got a likely-looking hunk and made some soup. Garlic, onion, and carrots, chunks of beef, tomatoes, beef broth, mushrooms, and barley, and plenty of pepper. So good. 

Jump to Recipe

This is the soup I sometimes make in my head when I can’t sleep. 

While that was simmering, I thought it was high time to test out my lovely new marble countertop, which I purposely installed lower than the rest of the counter, to make it easier to knead dough. (I’m kind of short; I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this.)

IT WAS PERFECT. Made such a difference. I never realized I was struggling with dough on the higher countertop, but now that I have a lower one, it was so much easier. 

Here is the simple french bread recipe I use:

Jump to Recipe

It makes four long loaves — or, in this case, three long ones and three shorties, because I was sending some food over to one of the kids. 

I do love rolling the loaves out. Zoop!

Then I set them for a second rise and managed to drop BOTH pans as I was moving them, so they got kind of wadded up, but they baked up well enough. 

They had a really nice thin little shattering crust on the outside, and they were soft and tender on the inside. Good stuff. 

So we had the soup and the bread

and at this point I’m just dragging the narrative out because I have more pictures. 

And now I’m done!

WEDNESDAY
Korean beef bowl, rice, raw veg, crunchy rice rolls

Wednesday we had a bunch of errands – haircuts and what have you – and I started supper late, but it was a quickie: Good old Korean Beef Bowl. I had bought extra ground beef when it was on sale for the Super Bowl, and this is a fast, easy recipe, even if you do go for fresh garlic and fresh ginger, which I did. 

Jump to Recipe

So I put the cooked beef in the slow cooker, and made some rice in the instant pot, cut up some cucumbers and took out the packages of crunchy rice rolls I had been saving. 

Tasty little meal. The beef has sesame seeds and chopped scallions for garnishes. I don’t know why I feel the need to point that out, but there you are. 

On Wednesday I cut up the leftover chicken and made a simple chicken salad (just mayo, I think maybe lemon juice or cider vinegar, salt and pepper, celery, and green apple), and then I made soup with the rest of the carcasses, just so as not to waste it. I had a brainwave and realized I could freeze it all and get a jump start on Passover cooking this year! I really hate making the chicken soup some years, so I’m delighted to have this already done. I will need to add parsley and dill, but it already has the chicken, carrots, celery, and onion in it

THURSDAY
Pizza

The kids had mainly been playing board games all week (including Dixit, which was a Christmas present, and turned out to be a hit) for vacation week, but I did promise/threaten a trip to an art museum; so five of the kids and I went to the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester. Great stuff. Admission is reasonable (one adult, two students, two youth, and a kid got in for $35) and their descriptive cards are good, providing enough context and explanation to help you see, but without leading you too much. They have a really solid, varied collection for a small museum.

Interesting things happening in the contemporary art world! There is still a certain amount of “hoo HOO, I bet THIS transgressive bit of plastic really pushes your conventional little buttons, DOESN’T IT??” getting churned out, but also some far more interesting stuff. (Yes, I realize I opened this post with some penis sandwiches, so maybe I should shut my yap about who’s childishly transgressive. On the other hand, they were just sandwiches.) I was especially taken with two large works by Kara Walker, who will have an entire exhibit there soon, but there were other thoughtful, skilled, intriguing, moving contemporary pieces as well. I shared a few images on Facebook:

It is a small museum, so we did a thorough tour in two hours. Then we hit a few thrift stores just for fun, and then we got pizza and talked about art. Lovely day with my lovely kids. On the way there, they played an ice breaker game (“If you were an animal, what kind would you be? What is your favorite movie” etc.), but they played as different characters, so everyone had to guess who they were. Let me tell you, if we had run out of gas, we could have made it home under the sheer white hot heat of the quantity of in-jokes flying around. I had no idea what was going on, but they had fun. 

FRIDAY
Tilapia tacos and guacamole

I don’t really have a solid plan for this fish, but I’m tired of having it in my freezer. It was on clearance at Walmart quite some time ago, and I don’t want to look at it anymore. Hoping the avocados I got aren’t totally overripe by now. 

And I need to make a cake! A Squirtle cake! For tomorrow is Corrie’s birthday party. It’s going to be Pokémon-themed, and Sophia is making a treasure hunt and Irene is making a piñata. This has honestly been one of our nicest February vacations, despite some trials which, nay, I shan’t mention. Love seeing my kids enjoy being with each other. 

My other thing is that I’m a little frustrated with yoga lately, partially because I managed to injure both knees (one by falling on the ice, one by doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING; the little fucker just started hurting for no reason, and now I go up and down stairs looking like I imagine Strega Nona would, on stairs), so I have started pilates. I kind of hate it, but it keeps my attention because you have to be SO SPECIFIC about what muscles you’re using, so at least it’s not boring. I did one random class on YouTube and then I found this lady, Banks (that’s how she refers to herself, as “Banks”), and I have done three of her thirty-minute core classes for beginners. Tough stuff, but I’m hanging on. She is very specific about what you’re supposed to be doing and how it’s supposed to feel, which I appreciate, and she’s not especially annoying. So, now you know everything I 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. 

 

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.

 

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. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 357: Ich bin ein ludicrous display

Happy birthday to me! Today, for my birthday, I wish for you a very happy take your vitamins and drink some water, and many happy returns of the move your body and thank God for the day. 

Yesterday, we got some . . . medium-rotten financial news, which I delivered while Damien was replacing his brakes on his car, one of the kids called because their car had broken down, and while I was picking her up, my check engine light came on, and then we got home and one of the kids tested positive for Covid, which would explain a thing or two. We’re supposed to be getting ready for Benny’s birthday party, but of course we had to cancel. El bummer supremo.  

However, excelsior. Right? What is the other option? This year was better than last year, and I can only conclude that the coming year will be even better. I am 49 and I thank God for the day.

Hey, this is the year I finally got the hang of deep frying things without freaking out or trashing the kitchen. AS YOU WILL SEE. 

Here is what we ate this week!

SATURDAY
Chic-ken-bur-gers! [clap! clap! clap-clap-clap!]

And chips. 

SUNDAY
Ham, peas, and mashed potatoes

The supermarket Dora works for got a shipment of . . . mislabeled hams, or something? So everybody got hams. Some days, the two most beautiful words in the English language are “fully cooked.” 

On Sunday I decided it was time to finally get around to dealing with the rugelach dough I made last week or possibly the week before. If you are wondering, the dough is still good! It’s just butter and cream cheese and flour, so it’s hard to hurt, as long as you wrap it up good. 

Jump to Recipe

The dough becomes sweet, and it gets a lovely little fragile crisp outside, because you roll it out on drifts of sugar. It’s really surprisingly tender, considering how dense the ingredients are.

Then you spread your fillings over the circle you’ve rolled out, cut it into triangles with a pizza cutter, and roll them rugelachim up

Then you do it 4,000 more times, and bake them on sprayed baking racks. This was my big breakthrough with rugelach production, because the filling leaks out now matter what I do. This way, it leaks onto the pan below (which you have lined with parchment paper), and the rugelach stay above the fray.

Let the rugelach cool for about ten minutes before you try to remove them from the rack. The easiest way is to push up on them from underneath, to pop them off the rack in one piece. 

So I ended up making some Nutella, some apricot walnut, some strawberry jam, and some with honey, cinnamon, and pistachios.

These are unbaked, demonstrating that you can re-use the parchment paper and bake several batches without having to clean the pan. 

And here are the honey pistachio cinnamon ones, baked. I made some with the pistachios sprinkled over the dough, and some with the pistachios rolled right into the dough. I also drizzled more honey over the top of the second variety. 

And I could not taste the difference. They were all good! 

It’s always a little startling to see how few you come up with, after such a long time rolling and baking, but on the other hand, I think we still have a few leftover today, Friday (after giving away several tins of them), so I guess it was the right number. 

You can save time by rolling the dough into a rectangle, rather than a circle, and spreading the filling on and then rolling it up in a log, like you would cinnamon buns; and then you just slice it into a bunch of little pastries all at once. Much faster. But then you get spirals/rosettes, rather than these sort of snail-shaped treats, and I just like them better this way. Why can’t more things be snail shaped? 

Tonight is the last night of Chanukah, but I am here to tell you that you can still make rugelach all through December and beyond, because nobody says “no” to rugelach. 

MONDAY
Muffaletta sandwiches and raw veg

I started (I mean years ago) trying to make these sandwiches as close to the authentic originals as possible, but now we just do whatever. This time it was baguettes for the bread, ham, turkey, salami, pepperoni, and I think some Italian speck, and provolone, and I used the food processor to make an olive salad with black and green olives, banana peppers, and red onion, with olive oil and wine vinegar, salt and pepper.

Maybe not authentic muffaletta sandwiches, but they were good. 

I made a big platter of raw vegetables

and I’ve been snacking on it all week. There is a time of day, every day, when I’m really not hungry in any meaningful way, but I cannot seem to convince my mouth that it doesn’t need to be chomping on something, so it’s helpful to have some pre-cut vegetables. Easy to transport, easy to grab.

So I snack on these, and THEN I start gobbling leftover cookies and whatnot. Follow me for more strategies on putting a ton of energy into not losing weight. 

TUESDAY
Chicken biryani, pomegranates

Been thinking about biryani for several weeks now. I use this basic recipe and adjust the seasoning as I see fit. It’s not hard at all. You just have to brown up the chicken, which you have opened up by slicing it along the bone

and then cook up your onion and ginger and spices in the hot oil, and then add in the rest of your stuff. It’s a little more involved than that, but it’s all in one big pan.

I didn’t have golden raisins, so I chopped up some apricots

So I cook it all up as early in the day as I can, and then transfer it to the slow cooker and keep it warm all day. This almost always makes the rice/liquid proportions come out even, and you don’t end up with soupy biryani or chompy rice

I accidentally threw the cilantro in with the chicken when I was cooking it, so I just added more fresh on top, along with some toasted almonds. Yum. We also had pomegranates. 

Oh, the apricots kind of turned to mush, which was disappointing. I didn’t think of it, but I guess raisins are better because they cook inside their little skins. It wasn’t bad, but the apricots didn’t really add anything. 

WEDNESDAY
Pizza

I was informed that one cheese, one olive, and one pepperoni pizza would “do numbers,” so that’s what I made. 

I also felt a sudden urge to make sufganiyot before Chanukah was over. I used this recipe from Once Upon a Chef. I made the dough in the early afternoon and set it to rise while I did my afternoon errands. When I got back, I rolled it out and cut it into 48 squares

and then you just fry them in a few inches of oil, about six at a time, and they puff up.

I always have a larf when I get out my candy thermometer. I can’t remember if I’ve told this story before, but when Irene was little, we were making caramel for something, and she said, while stirring: “We don’t want it to get too hot. Not hard ball. Or hard crack. Or . . . [peering at thermometer] fish donut.” 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Little kids are heroes. They are so willing to accept so much NONSENSE from the adult world. They’re just like, “Welp, I guess fish donut is a thing, and I just have to deal with it,” and off they go. 

We just made donuts, though. No fish involved. 

When the donuts are cool enough to handle, you cut a little slit in the side and get some filling in there. I used pastry bags and did half raspberry jelly

and half vanilla pudding.

Then you dust them with powdered sugar and eat them up. They were nice! They didn’t inflate as nicely as the ones in the recipe picture, so they stayed pretty square-ish, which was a little odd; but they were cooked all the way through, and had a nice crisp exterior and fluffy interior. I’ll probably use this recipe in the future. Everyone was very impressed, and 48 turned out to be the right number. (They’re smaller than, say, Dunkin’ Donut donuts, but bigger than Munchkins or whatever they’re called.)

THURSDAY
Roast turkey, cranberry sauce, brussels sprouts and squash, potato latkes

I had bought an extra turkey while they were still on sale for Thanksgiving, and Damien roasted it slowly with lemon halves and an entire head of garlic shoved inside, and salt, pepper, and garlic powder outside. Delicious and moist. 

I roasted a pan of Brussels sprouts and butter nut squash wedges along with, I don’t know, olive oil and honey, salt and pepper, and shoved that in the oven while I was frying up the potato latkes. 

Jump to Recipe

Every year I think I’m going to try some interesting variation on the recipe, or at least some onion or something, but every year, Chanukah comes right when I’m barely keeping my head above water with a million other projects. So basically just potatoes, eggs, flour, and little salt and pepper it is! And lots of oil, of course, which is what makes it a Chanukah food. 

They turned out pretty good. 

I served them with sour cream and mashed-up whole berry cranberry sauce, which turned out to be not really a great companion for latkes. So now I know! But it was a nice meal. 

We also discovered our dreidels are all missing, so I made one out of a paper plate and a matchstick,

annnnd then drew the letters on upside down by mistake. 

But it spun fine and fairly, and that’s what matters. I had bought chocolate coins back when everyone else was getting ready for St. Nicholas day, so that was set, anyway. The kids had a surprisingly good time playing dreidel. 

 

We have been doing okay keeping up with Chanukah candles and Advent candles and the Jesse tree. By “okay,” I mean we mostly didn’t skip it, and when we did do it, nobody got into a fist fight. Mehr licht

Thursday was the day I put up my annual Ludicrous Display (this began years ago, when I nailed a giant garbage bag spider on the shed for Halloween, and I kind of thought Hurricane Irene would take care of it after Halloween, but it didn’t, because I used so many nails; so we just put a Santa hat on it and let it stay. Thus began a tradition of putting up Halloween decorations with an eye toward longevity, so if there are skeletons, they put on bunny ears for Easter, and so on.

This is less funny than it used to be, because lots of people now have permanent skeletons; so I was looking for something a little different this year, and for some reason I got it into my head that we needed a Sacred Heart. So I made one out of foam and zip ties.

and added some lights and gold whatnot. Then I took the Groucho glasses and bats and whatnot off our front skeletons and made them look like they were paying impressed, and I put the heart up, and 

ehhh, I thought maybe it would look better in the dark

but it still looks kinda dumb! I guess it needs some work. Or whatever. I was okay with weird, but this is just confusing. Anyway, I took the bats down. 

The mailbox looks pretty good

and we haven’t gotten one of those chiding postcards from the post office yet. 

FRIDAY
??

I don’t know, I got tuna and fries for the kids, thinking Damien and I could go out for my birthday, but I think I’ve done enough plague superspreading for one week, going to the store 5,000 times and not realizing we all had Covid. (This year’s Covid seems to look like feeling kinda low and yucky for a few days and then throwing up one time, and then feeling much better, but sneezing.)

Oh, speaking of feeling better, I started a 30-day plank challenge group on Facebook, if anyone wants to join. We’re on day 4 today. No pressure, and nobody’s a super athlete or anything. It’s just easier to get this kind of thing going if you’re not alone! 

And that’s my story.  Next year, I’m gonna make blintzes. Blintzes with blueberry and pot cheese. Then we’ll see a ludicrous display. 

Rugelach

These are tender little pastries for Chanukah or any time. Use whatever kind of filling you like: Jams, preserves, cinnamon sugar, nutella, etc. These are time consuming, but don't take much skill, and they freeze well, so they make pretty little gifts.

Servings 80 rugelach

Ingredients

dough

  • half pound butter
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup or more sugar, for rolling

filling

  • 1/4-1/2 cup preserves or other filling
  • 1/4-1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, combine the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Slowly add in the flour and keep mixing until smooth. You can do this by hand, but it will take a while! The dough should be fairly stiff and not sticky when it's done.

  2. Divide the dough into 8 balls. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

  3. Preheat the oven to 400.

  4. Prepare a pan by lining it with parchment paper, then spraying a baking rack and putting the rack on the parchment paper. Line a second pan with parchment paper, to which you will remove the rugelach when they come out of the oven.

  5. Use the sugar to cover your work space, and use a rolling pin to roll a ball of dough into a round shape the size of a large plate. It should be thin enough to flap a bit when you give it a shake. If your rolling pin sticks, sprinkle more sugar on. You can turn the dough over to make sure both sides get sugared. It doesn't have to be perfectly round, as it will be cut into pieces.

  6. Spread the jam or other filling over the dough, leaving an open space in the middle. If you're adding nuts, sprinkle them over the filling.

  7. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 16-20 triangles.

  8. Roll each triangle up from the outside in. Place each rolled rugelach on the sprayed baking rack on the pan, with the skinny point down. They puff up a bit, so leave the space of one rugelach in between.

  9. Repeat for each ball of dough.

  10. Bake for ten minutes. If the dough isn't golden brown, give it another two minutes. These go from perfect to burnt very quickly, so be alert.

  11. When they bake, the filling will ooze out and pool and burn on the parchment paper, but the rugelach will not burn.

  12. When the rugelach come out of the oven, immediately use a butter knife to transfer them to another pan or rack to cool.

  13. Once they are cool, they can be wrapped in plastic and kept in the freezer for weeks without harm.

Potato latkes

Serve with sour cream and/or apple sauce for Hanukkah or ANY TIME. Makes about 25+ latkes

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs potatoes, peeled
  • 6 eggs beaten
  • 6 Tbsp flour (substitute matzoh meal for Passover)
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Grate the potatoes. Let them sit in a colander for a while, if you can, and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. 

  2. Mix together the eggs, salt and pepper, and flour. Stir into the potato mixture and mix well. 

  3. Turn the oven on to 350 and put a paper-lined pan in the oven to receive the latkes and keep them warm while you're frying. 

  4. Put 1/4 to 1/2 and inch of oil in your frying pan and heat it up until a drop of batter will bubble.  

  5. Take a handful of the potato mixture, flatten it slightly, and lay it in the pan, leaving room between latkes. Repeat with the rest of the mixture, making several batches to leave room in between latkes. Fry until golden brown on both sides, turning once. Eat right away or keep warm in oven, but not too long. 

  6. Serve with sour cream and/or applesauce or apple slices. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 355: I like my men like I like my Kentucky Hot Brown. . .

. . . not necessarily especially brown, but actually just named after a hotel. 

I swear this seemed like a joke in my head.

Anyway, here’s what we ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Turkey sandwiches, spanakopita triangles, chips

The last of the Thanksgiving leftovers. Not spectacular sandwiches, just a split baguette with turkey, lettuce, tomato, and Swiss cheese.

Damien reheated the last of the spanakopita triangles, and even though they’re amazing when they’re piping hot fresh out of the oven the first time, they’re still pretty darn good when they’re a little soft and old and leftover. As who among us is not. 

If you’re having a party in December, I do heartily recommend spanakopita triangles. They’re easy to make if you get ready made phyllo dough (what are you, crazy? of course get ready made) and they come out great if you make them ahead of time and keep them in the fridge until the guests are almost there, and then you just pop them in the oven. 

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So nice. 

SUNDAY
Green masala beef curry, rice, naan

I had bought a couple of of those weirdly cheap lamb breast plates several weeks ago, and threw it in the freezer, planning to make this excellent green masala curry. I also picked up a few extra lamb chops just to make sure there was enough meat. 

So, but, when it was time to cook, the lamb just did not smell right. I inquired on social media, and most folks claimed lamb is supposed to smell weird. Gamey, metallic, and so on, especially if the butcher wasn’t careful and let the wool contact the meat, giving it a lanolin flavor. I just kept sniffing and sniffing it, and I wasn’t sure if it was normal-weird or rancid-weird. 

Then I recalled that a few kids already had a stomach bug even before eating potentially bad meat, and I threw that meat away. No ragrets. I had been planning to make beef barley soup later in the week, so I cut up the beef I have saving and used that instead of mutton.

This is quite an easy recipe. I ground up everything in my food processor and set it to marinate with the meat in the morning. Then the only thing left to do is wake up some spices in oil (I didn’t have everything, just cinnamon, cloves and bay leaves)

and then add the meat and marinade, and let it cook. 

I do prefer lamb or goat, but the beef was great. Extremely tender, and the sauce is lovely, not too spicy but very warming. I actually did quite a few substitutions: I had black cardamom instead of green; I forgot jalapeños, so I just threw some green Tobasco sauce in there; and I forgot cilantro, so I used Italian parsley and extra mint (I had some of those cubes of frozen mint I saved from before the frost). I forgot the poppy seeds, and of course it was beef instead of mutton. STILL GOOD. Indian cooking is so forgiving. 

I decided we wanted homemade naan, so I pulled up the King Arthur recipe and made a double batch. It needs about an hour to rise, and then you separate the dough into balls

and let it rest for twenty minutes. Then you just fry each one on both sides in a hot pan, and brush it with butter or ghee

I find it helpful to keep a damp cloth by the stove to wipe the flour out of the pan in between each piece. Otherwise, it just hangs around and gets black and makes your naan taste burnt when it isn’t.

I put the naan in a pan and kept it warm in the oven, but I forgot to cover it, so some of them were a little too crisp and dry by the time it was dinner; but a lot of the were still chewy and reasonably tender. Nothing I bake really comes out very tender, but fresh hot naan is fresh hot naan! 

I splurged on basmati rice and made a big pot of that. I moved the meat into a pot on the stove, and used the Instant Pot to make the basmati rice. I did a 1:1 with rinsed rice and water, taking out a bit of the water afte measuring, to compensate for what would be on the rice after rinsing it; and I cooked it for ten minutes with ten minutes of natural release before venting. And we had a lovely meal.

I want to try more Indian recipes, but the few I have are so tasty, I just keep coming back to them. Maybe next week!

MONDAY
Turkey barley soup, hot pretzels

When I pulled the last turkey off the Thanksgiving bird over the weekend, I simmered the carcass all day in water with carrots, onions, and parsley, thinking it would be nice to have some good stock for later. So I figured Monday counted as later, and just pulled that out again and threw some more carrots and a bunch of barley and some mushrooms in, and we had some okay soup. 

I guess I just don’t like turkey soup that much. It was fine, just nothing to write home about. I heated up some frozen hot pretzels and it was fine. 

TUESDAY
Ham, mashed acorn squash, green beans with cashews

The kids were a little dismayed that I had not planned their ideal dinner, which is ham, peas, and mashed potatoes, but I’m not ready to mash potatoes again yet. Instead, I mashed squash! That’ll larn ’em!

I cut two acorn squashes in half, scooped out the seeds and gunk (and I saved the seeds! My empire of saved seeds continues to expand), sprinkled them with baking soda and a little kosher salt, and put them in the Instant Pot with half a cup of water. (The reasoning behind the baking soda is that it raises the pH of the squash, which hastens and deepens the caramelization that happens when you cook it. Does this really work? Nobody knows, but it’s so easy that I’m not gonna do an experiment and risk having slightly less flavorful squash.) I cooked the squash at high pressure for like 24 minutes. 

I couldn’t find the little metal trivet that keeps the food from touching the bottom, so I put some mason jar rings in there under the squash, and it worked fine. Probably raised the pH even more, who can say. 

Then I scooped them out, burning myself forty-six times; and then mashed it up with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon and cloves. The recipe I usually follow

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calls for nutmeg, but it had disappeared. My kitchen is like a shifting mirage, where things drift in and out of reality without regard for the fact that I am trying to get supper on the table. But the cinnamon and cloves tasted great. I love this dish. 

The ham was already cooked, so Damien heated it up the oven while I went to get the kids, and then while the squash was cooking, I made some quick string beans. 

I had cashews left over from the green curry, so I chopped up a bunch. I trimmed the string beans and cooked them in boiling water for like four minutes. Then I drained them and ran cold water over them until they were cool. (This is because, when they get hot enough, they will continue cooking away inside their little skins, even if you take them out of the hot water, and they get overcooked very quickly; so you need to cook them just a little and then make sure they stop cooking!)

Then I heated up some olive oil in a pan, slightly browned up the chopped-up cashews, and added the string beans back in and kept them moving until they were hot. I guess I added salt and pepper at this point. 

And it was a nice little meal!

If I had to do it over, I’d cook the string beans in butter, rather than oil. They were a little greasy. But still pretty good. 

WEDNESDAY
Regular tacos

100% regular. I heard the kids reading the blackboard menu and commenting that “regular tacos” sounded a little suspicious, like probably I was trying a little too hard to lull them into thinking that it was going to be a normal meal, WHEN IT WASN’T. Joke’s on them: They really were just normal tacos. Everybody wins, except the taco. 

THURSDAY
Kentucky Hot Brown

So, in retrospect, what would have made my turkey soup better is if it had had more turkey in it. But actually I had pulled the meat off the carcass and frozen it, and then I took the meat out on Thursday to try this sandwich recipe. But because I’m the queen of making things hard on myself for no reason, preferably over the course of several days, the meat I saved was enough meat for soup, but not really enough for sandwiches. So we ended up with sub-par soup, and then I had to run out anyway and buy some chicken and roast it so we’d have enough meat for the sandwiches, which are perfect for when you have tons of leftover turkey in the house and you don’t know what to do with it, and/or you are crazy. 

NEVERTHELESS, they were good sandwiches! I had some thick Italian bread which I toasted in the oven, and on top of that you put the turkey, then some sliced tomatoes, then a mornay sauce (which is just a white sauce with cheese in it. I used freshly grated parmesan, some cheddar, and a little pepper jack) with plenty of nutmeg (which had graciously appeared again), and then bacon on top of that. 

You’re supposed to toast the whole thing under the broiler, but I forgot. Still good!

I made the mornay sauce in the pan that the bacon had been fried in, because fat.

FRIDAY
Quesadillas I guess

I think I saw the writing on the wall (the writing saying “Mene mene you keep using up food that you meant to save for another meal, you dope!”) and, when I was making the mornay sauce, I actually hid some cheese from myself, so I would have some for the quesadillas and not have to go to the supermarket yet again. I don’t know where I hid it, but it’s gotta be in the fridge somewhere, and WHEN I FIND IT . . . I’m gonna make some quesadillas. 

And that’s why they call me Kentucky Hot Brown. (They do not.) 

Spanakopita triangles

Ingredients

  • 1 lbs spinach
  • 1 stick butter, plus 1 Tbsp for sautéing spinach
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups crumbled feta
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 roll phyllo dough, thawed

Instructions

To make the filling:

  1. In a big pan, melt the 1 Tbsp butter and sauté the spinach until it's soft. It will be a giant heap of greens at first, but it cooks way down and will fit in the pan when you're done!

  2. Let the spinach cool and then squeeze out as much water as you can.

  3. In a bowl, mix together the cooked spinach with the salt, pepper and nutmeg, and stir in the feta until it's combined. Set aside.

  4. Preheat the oven to 375

  5. Melt the stick of butter and set it aside. You'll need it handy for assembling the triangles.

  6. Unroll the phyllo dough and cover it with a slightly damp cloth to keep it from getting brittle. Take what you need and keep the rest of the stack covered.

To assemble the triangles:

  1. Carefully lay a phyllo dough square on your workspace, long side horizontal. Brush it with melted butter. Lay another sheet on top of it and brush that with butter.

  2. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into three strips.

  3. Put a scoop of spinach mixture at the bottom of each strip. Then fold that section of dough up diagonally, enclosing the spinach, so it forms a triangle. Continue folding up to make triangles, like you'd fold a flag, until you reach the top of the dough. If you're having trouble figuring out how to fold it, here is a helpful video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVwA3i_tmKc&t=2s

  4. If there's a bit of leftover dough on the triangle, fold it under. Lay the finished triangle on a baking sheet, seam side down. Brush with butter again.

  5. Continue until the phyllo dough is gone. I made 18 pockets, two sheets thick, with one roll of phyllo dough, but you can change the proportions and make lots of smaller triangles if you like.

  6. Bake about 25 minutes until golden brown. Let them sit in the pan for a moment before removing. Serve hot or cold.

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.

What’s for supper? Vol. 352: I’ll die with a challah in my hand, Lord, Lord

Happy Friday! Happy Veteran’s Day, sort of! My kids have the day off and they are celebrating by standing around in the kitchen, shouting. HOWEVER, my trip to the neurologist last week was very fruitful, at least potentially. He took me off one of my “feel terrible” drugs, confirmed that another “feel terrible” drug was stupid and useless and I was right to stop taking it, and gave me a prescription for monthly injections I can do at home. The insurance company is still consulting their in-office oracle to see if I’m worthy, but SOON I should be able to start. So I’m excited! I also started using those no-snore nose strips at night, so Damien and I are both sleeping a little better, and I finished Alba Avella’s thirty day yoga for flexibility challenge, and it only took me like ninety days. And I went to confession and I bought a giant bottle of Vitamin D and I’m actually taking it this time, and basically I’m kicking November’s ass. Potentially. 

The cold weather has started in earnest, brr. We’ve had some frost and snow, but I managed to get some last final bulbs in the ground and get my perennial beds prepped for winter before the ground froze, which makes me feel amazing. I trimmed my strawberries and asparagus and covered them with straw and secured it with plastic fencing and bricks, and I made a lovely compost ring around my baby rhubarb.

This is my first time digging into my compost heap, and I didn’t know what I was going to find. I didn’t do anything you’re supposed to do – no turning, no mixing, no careful layering. I just dumped soil and kitchen scraps and duck bedding on it, and sometimes drained the duck water into it. 

So, inside toward the bottom, it is SO RICH. I was afraid it would be, like, just some banana peels and eggshells just hanging out undisturbed, looking at me, like “What?” But everything has decomposed really nicely, and the soil is like chocolate. Amazing.  What a world. 

I also gathered up the last of the marigold, cosmos, and sunflower seeds. I’ve been saving, drying, and storing flower and vegetable seeds for a few months, and it feels better than money in the bank.

Which is good, because there is no money in the bank. But I’m going to have a wonderful garden! 

Anyway! Back to food. I did make a lot of yummy cold-weather food this week. Here’s what we had: 

SATURDAY
Pork ribs, rolls, green beans

Church basement ass kinda meal, but I got home super late from shopping, so we get credit for putting hot food on the table. I thought I was buying frozen peas, but they turned out to be green beans, oh well. 

Ribs just seasoned with salt and pepper and roasted quickly under the broiler. The green beans were delicately flavored with salt. No complaints. 

SUNDAY
Quiche, challah, onion soup, pomegranates

Sunday, nobody had to GO anywhere, and Damien and Moe were working on Moe’s car, and the kids were yakking about challah, so I offered to show Sophia how to make it. We each made one batch of dough, and we did a little John Henry thing and I made mine with the dough hook in the standing mixer, and she mixed and kneaded hers by hand. Here’s the recipe:

Jump to Recipe

I ended up using more flour in mine to get it to the elastic texture I wanted, so my loaf turned out a little bigger. I’m not sure if that was the only reason it was bigger, or if it also rose differently? Anyway they both turned out good!

Sophia put sesame seeds on hers

Isn’t it lovely? Not bad for her first challah!

and I just left mine plain

Like I said, it was a little bigger, and I wish I had let it bake longer because it was a little damp inside. 

So hers actually turned out better!  I do love challah. I’m not about to start kneading stuff by hand, though. Gotta save my wrists for Crow Pose.  

I also made a couple of quiches. I used to make quiche all the time, and people got pretty burnt out on it, but it’s been years, so I figured it was time. I bought premade pie shells, which I blind baked. Then in one I put baby spinach, crisp bacon and . . . some kind of cheese, which I tragically cannot remember the name of. It was flavored with rosemary. 

In the other quiche, I put crumbled hot sausage and sauteed mushrooms, and more cheese. 

I basically followed this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction, except it calls for half milk and half cream, so I used .. . half and half? I’m no mathemagician, but I think that makes sense. 

They did turn out lovely.

The bacon and spinach one was vastly more popular than the mushroom and sausage one, because bacon. Next time, I’ll just make two bacon.

Then I decided it was cold enough that we really needed soup, so I made some simple onion soup. 

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So we had the soup, the quiches, and lots of challah, and it was a cozy, cheerful meal for a cold day.

As you can see, I had a few pomegranates to serve, as well. Pomegranates have many good qualities, not least how you can frighten people who wander into the kitchen and not instantly realize you’re just prepping dinner, and not settling scores

Moe and Eliora came over, and Benny and Corrie made appetizers out of a Halloween kit I bought on clearance. 

Very chic:

I’ll tell you, I got invited to some kind of fancy salon dinner thingy in NY, and if they’re not serving sticky clearance ghost pops, I’m leaving. 

MONDAY
Garlicky turkey meatballs, pork fried rice, kiwi

Monday, ground turkey was still on sale (cheaper than ground beef), so I made Vaguely Asian Meatballs, which Damien and I really like. 

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The key is using fresh ginger and garlic, and you can make these with beef, but I vastly prefer the lighter texture of turkey or chicken. This is a great, easy dish to prep in the morning and then quickly cook before dinner. 

So I made meatballs, and then used the leftover pork to make pork fried rice, which I don’t really have a recipe for. I just chop up whatever aromatics and vegetables I’m using and saute them in sesame oil, then dump on some brown sugar and let it get bubbly and dark. This time I threw in some shredded cabbage and carrot and some leftover diced red onion from something or other

Then the diced up meat, then you add your cooked rice, slosh on a lot of oyster sauce, a medium amount of soy sauce, and a little fish sauce, and then I stir in the scrambled eggs. 

Is this how you make fried rice? It’s how EYE make fried rice, and it was pretty popular. I thought it was to sweet, but people liked it. 

I cut up some kiwis and put out some sweet chili sauce for the meatballs, and it was a great little meal, and I used up a lot of leftovers.

TUESDAY
Salad with beef, pears, and goat cheese

Tuesday’s meal was a bit of a disappointment. I had a big hunk of roast beef and I meant to cook it rare and slice it up to serve over salad. I started off okay, by seasoning it heavily and searing it in hot oil, but then I got confused and, rather than roasting it in the oven in red wine where I could keep an eye on it, I chucked it in the Instant Pot and let it cook for way too long. I forget why I did this. Original sin, no doubt. 

So it came out kinda stewed, which is not what I was going for at all. Oh well. So the salad was just mixed greens, your choice of feta or goat cheese and sliced pears, plus some buttery croutons I made with the leftover challah.

It wasn’t a bad meal, but I grieved over what could have been. I adore rare roast beef with greens and pears and cheese. 

WEDNESDAY
Batter fried fish sandwiches, coleslaw, chips

Wednesday I had to face the tilapia again. They keep having this insanely cheap tilapia at Walmart, and I keep trying to find a way that the kids will like it. I figured everyone likes batter fried food, so even though it was a bit of a hassle, I made batter fried tilapia using this recipe . It’s quite simple and if you don’t crowd the pan, it comes out crisp and golden 

I even got nice brioche buns to sweeten the deal, and I served the sandwiches with coleslaw and chips, with lemon and mayo for the fish

I think four people ate it. OH WELL.

I had a lot of leftover batter, so I decided to fry it up as a wad,

and one child who shall remain anonymous sat there eating the fried batter wad despite all warnings that human tummies were not made for such things, and then said child did indeed throw up. On the stairs.  This is honestly my fault, because why would I fry a wad so nice and golden and crisp, and then tell people not to eat half of it? Anyway I cleaned the stairs. 

The good news is, I still have plenty of tilapia in the freezer!

THURSDAY
Nachos, beans and rice with collards

Thursday was just plain old nachos. I made one pan with chips, unseasoned beef, and cheddar cheese, and one pan with chips, seasoned beef (I think salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, and paprika), cheddar cheese, pepper jack cheese, jalapenos, scallions, and a little chili powder on top. 

I noticed we had some leftover plain cooked rice from the fried rice, so I decided to make beans and rice

Jump to Recipe

Just very quickly, but I thought it was tasty. I just used the Instant Pot to saute some chopped onions in oil with salt, pepper, garlic powder, some chili powder and lots of cumin, and then I threw in the rice, a can of black beans, and a can of tomatoes with chili peppers. Then I remembered I still had some collard greens in the garden, so I chopped up a bunch of those and threw them in as well, along with a little liquid smoke, and just let it mingle for a while. Not bad at all. 

I’m not crazy about nachos, at least not the way I make them. They’re kind of “neither fish nor fowl” food. I like either having a readily identifiable portion of food, like a chicken thigh or a stuffed shell or something; or else if it’s going to be just a sort of food area that you can scoop from, I want it to be the same all the way through, like soup or casserole. But nachos are so disorganized and variable. They’re just a mess. I’d rather have a taco, and I don’t even like tacos that much. I did like that beans and rice with collards, though. I’m totally sold on liquid smoke. I used to feel like it was cheating somehow, but now I just feel like I like liquid smoke. 

FRIDAY
LOBSTAR? 

LOBSTAR INDEED. Dora is the manager of the fish counter at the supermarket, and she’s been promising anniversary lobsters, but her roommate got covid, so it got postponed. But this morning, she delivered! They’re scrabbling around in the fridge right now. The kids will have tuna boats and potato puffs, and Damien and I will have steamed lobsters and let’s face it, potato puffs. Potato puffs with drawn butter and fresh lemon, how bow dah. 

Oh, so I gathered up the last of my butternut squash. 

We do like it mashed, and we do like it roasted with other vegetables (maybe brussels sprouts, which is the very last thing left in my garden still to be harvested). I haven’t made butternut risotto in a while, but that’s good stuff. Maybe this year is the year I’ll finally make butternut bisque. But I would love to hear your suggestions! 

Challah (braided bread)

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Simple French onion soup

Serve with a piece of toasted baguette at the bottom of each bowl. Finish with cheese on top.

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 4 cups onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 4-6 cups beef broth (can also use chicken broth or a combination of water and white wine)
  • pepper
  • parmesan or mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  1. In a heavy pot, melt the butter and then add the onions. Cook very slowly over a low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and somewhat darkened.

  2. Stir in the sugar until dissolved. Stir in the flour and mix to coat.

  3. Add the broth (or water and wine). Add pepper to taste and simmer for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer.

  4. Serve with a hunk of toasted bread in the bottom of each bowl. Sprinkle cheese on top, and if you have oven-safe dishes, brown under the broiler to form a skin on top of the soup.

Vaguely Asian meatballs with dipping sauce

Very simple meatballs with a vaguely Korean flavor. These are mild enough that kids will eat them happily, but if you want to kick up the Korean taste, you can serve them with dipping sauces and pickled vegetables. Serve with rice.

Servings 30 large meatballs

Ingredients

  • 2.5 lbs ground beef
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed finely
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 head garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped (save out a bit for a garnish)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp ground white pepper

For dipping sauce:

  • mirin or rice vinegar
  • soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.

  2. Mix together the meat and all the meatball ingredients with your hands until they are well combined. Form large balls and lay them on a baking pan with a rim.

  3. Bake for about 15 minutes.

  4. Serve over rice with dipping sauce and a sprinkle of scallions.

Beans and rice

A good side dish, a main course for meatless meals, or to serve inside carnitas, etc.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups uncooked white rice
  • 1 15-oz cans red or black beans, drained
  • 1 20-oz can diced tomatoes with some of the juice
  • 1 diced jalapeno
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Cook rice. Add rest of ingredients, adjusting spices to taste. If it's too dry, add more tomato juice. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 351: In which I finally get my head examined

Happy Friday! Gevalt, what a week. Today, in just a little bit, I am going to a REAL NEUROLOGIST. I am very excited. And we had a busy little week, full of candy and screaming! Here’s what we ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Tacos for kids, Indian food for adults

Saturday was the last installment in our rolling 26th anniversary celebration. Damien and I took the kayaks out on the Ashuelot River down by one of the covered bridges. We paddled upstream as far as we could until an uprooted tree blocked the way, and then we floated gently back down again among the yellow leaves.

We took a little detour into — I don’t know what you’d call it, the equivalent of a cul-de-sac for a river. It was SO QUIET in there, and the buggies were jumping around on top of the water because no one would bother them, and a giant blue heron lifted off and flapped away. By the time we got back where we started, it was getting chilly and a little dark, and it really was time to go, but we didn’t want to leave quite yet, so we paddled under the covered bridge. I howled a little bit, because of the acoustics, and then as soon as we popped out the other side, I SAW AN EAGLE. I’ve never seen one before. Absolutely unmistakable. What a wonderful trip. 

 

We stopped off home to change out of our damp clothes, and make sure the kids tore themselves away from that new Mario whatnot to get some tacos started, and we went to Royal Spice in Troy. We got an appetizer of assorted vegetable thingies, and then Damien got lamb saag and I got lamb biryani. Very, very fine. 

I also had a laugh because the waitress (who was very nice) asked us if we wanted “Naan? Nyaaaayn? Bread?” We had all three, thank you very much. Also papadum. 

SUNDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, tomato bacon bisque

Sunday the plan was grilled ham and cheese, but it was so gray and drizzly, and there was this stray pound of bacon in the fridge, so I got the idea of tomato bisque in my head, and couldn’t get it out even after I looked up the recipe and discovered I was missing, like, five ingredients. 

Jump to Recipe

Not that it’s a complicated recipe, but it does have more than bacon and a can of tomatoes in it. But I realized if I had to run to the store, that would be an excuse to go pick up Clara and bring her to the house for pumpkin carving. So that was nice. 

And dinner was very nice indeed! Perfect for a chilly, rainy day. 

I also realized it really was getting cold, and this was a trend that wasn’t likely to reverse itself soon, so if I was gonna pick some mint for the winter, then today was probably the day. So that’s what I did. 

I still haven’t fixed my food processor, so I made do with the Ninja blender, and blended it up as best I could with a little olive oil. My best wasn’t very good, and I lost a little enthusiasm for the project at this point, and then squunched the kind of uneven results into an ice cube tray, 

and lost at least another 20% of enthusiasm when I saw what I had done. I dunno. I just wrapped it up and chucked it in the freezer, and next time I want some mint for a marinade or something, let’s see if I remember it’s in there. 

I also have these ghost peppers in my garden. I don’t know what to do with them. 

Why did I grow them? I don’t know. 

I spent the rest of the evening putting the next-to-last last touches on the Halloween costumes. And I remembered to take the pizza dough out of the freezer!

MONDAY
Under-over pizza

My pride at remembering to defrost the pizza evaporated when I realized I had forgotten that the oven was still broken. So I did what any red-blooded American would do (?): I broiled the pizzas until the top was bubbly, and then put them on the stovetop, carefully rotating them over the hot burner, in an attempt to firm up the underside of the crust. 

It . . . didn’t completely not work. 

Good effort, edible pizza. And anyway, we had Halloween costumes to finish.

TUESDAY
Hot dogs, popcorn

Tuesday was, of course, Halloween, so we had our traditional quickie meal, at a table graciously decorated appropriately for the day:

and then we were off trick or treating! Here’s some photos from the evening: 

 

A successful night, and boy am I old and tired. Got home, lit the jack-o’- lanterns just to see them lit (nobody comes to our house because we don’t have sidewalks), and put on Army of Darkness, which I slept through. 

I had just snuggled in under the covers of my bed when I suddenly remembered I was planning bo ssam the next day. And that means getting the meat going the night before. SO I DID.  Hero! I’m a dinner hero. 

WEDNESDAY
Bo ssam, rice, kiwi

Wednesday was All Saint’s Day and we let the kids stay home from school because, not because of the saints at all, we were just tired. So tired! And there was a real hard frost. The nerve.  We made it to the noon Mass with just a little screaming.

Wednesday I did remember the oven situations and was prepared to make the bo ssam in the Instant Pot and finish it up under the broiler, but Damien, who is the other hero around here, fixed the oven in the morning. I was so excited about it being fixed that I put the pork in right away, so it was done cooking at like 4 PM. So then I moved it to the slow cooker (not the Instant Pot, because I needed that to make rice) so it would stay warm but not dry out, and then back to the oven about ten minutes before supper with the little finishing glaze of brown sugar, sea salt, and cider vinegar that gives it that opulent caramelized crust. I use the My Korean Kitchen recipe, but I just do the salt and pepper overnight part, and then the brown sugar glaze part at the end. Very basic and easy, big return. 

Everybody likes bo ssam! We had lettuce to wrap up the rice and shreds of meat it, and I added some sweet chili sauce to mine, which was tasty. 

I also cut up a bunch of kiwis because I like to have something cool and juicy with this meal, because the meat is so outrageously salty. 

 

A very fine meal. 

THURSDAY
Shakshuka (eggs in purgatory), soul cakes, pomegranates, pumpkin seeds

Thursday was All Soul’s Day and I must have my little joke and serve eggs in purgatory, which is basically shakshuka, and soul cakes. 

In the morning, I dropped off all the kids and spotted a ton of free fencing on the side of the road, but got a text from Moe that his battery was dead. So I started stuffing fencing into the car as fast as I could, sincerely wishing I had remembered to take the Dalek out of the back. A crusty old Yankee stopped to help, and we fit all but two rolls of fencing. I explained that I have a little duck problem , and that’s my story. He understood. The Dalek goes in front. I drive into town, locate Moe’s car, annnd discover my jumper cables are missing a clamp. So we decide to drive to Harbor Freight, but first we have to put the Dalek into Moe’s car so there’s room in my car for Moe.
 
I can’t just go into the store myself because I am wearing bright pink pajamas.
 
So he buys the cables, I Google instructions, we fearfully hook it up, wait five minutes, and it works! Moe goes off, I go home with the alarm
going off the whole time because the back door is slightly open, and unload the fence, which I’m 80% sure is terrible fence and useless, and all is well. I may need a tetanus shot from getting poked with fence wires. I forgot the Dalek.
 
I sat there for a few minutes on the couch trying to figure out if I was an idiot or not. Then I just had some coffee and wrote two essays and made some dough. 
 
Here’s the recipe:
Jump to Recipe
 

made the shakshuka sauce and moved it into the slow cooker

(here’s the recipe:)

Jump to Recipe

and prepped a bunch of pumpkin seeds, and then it was time to go again, and I had to stop at Walmart, and then I went to the school, and GUESS WHAT? 

There was still some free fence on the side of the road! And there was no Dalek in my car anymore, due to me having forgotten. So this time, there was plenty of room. Sort of. 

So then we got home, and the kids cut out the soul cakes. This year we did skulls, ghosts, and angels. There’s some silly little theological allegory there but we’ll just skip it

I added some detail with this weird dried fruit I had in the cabinet, that I got on clearance at the International Market a while back, and then I sifted some powdered sugar over them when they came out of the oven. 

The fruit is called Tutti Frutti Mix, which implies in not one but two ways that there are two or three kinds of fruit in there. Right? “Tutti” and “Mix,” not to mention that “Frutti” is surely plural. 

It turns out it’s just papaya! 

It tasted fine, and the texture was pleasant. I was expecting a kind of gummy consistency, like those red and green cherries that go in one of those yucky fruitcakes, but it was chewy with a little edge, almost nutty. So there you go. I have a lot more of it (IT WAS ON SALE).

So first I made the pumpkin seeds

and I remembered to save a few dozen out to dry, rather than roasting them, so we can plant some nice big pumpkins in the spring. (I just tossed them with olive oil and sprinkled them with kosher salt and spread them in two shallow pans in a 350 oven, stirring them up every twenty minutes or so, for maybe forty minutes or an hour.)

When those were done, I baked the soul cakes, and when those were almost done, I started poaching the eggs in the shakshuka sauce

You’re supposed to have parmesan or feta, and parsley, for the top; but I didn’t have either. It was a nice sauce, though, with plenty of vegetables, and rather spicy. 

I cut up the pomegranates I’d been withholding all week

and we had ourselves a weird little meal for All Soul’s Day

And that’s my story!

FRIDAY
Shrimp lo mein

If I make it home alive. 

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. 

 

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

 

Eggs in purgatory

Ingredients

  • 1 lb spicy loose Italian sausage
  • 30 oz diced tomatoes
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 8 eggs
  • parmesan cheese

optional:

  • 1 thinly sliced onion
  • 2 thinly sliced bell peppers
  • dash chili oil
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste, if you like it firmer
  • coarsely chopped parsley for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a wide, shallow pan, brown up the sausage and garlic (and pepper flakes if using).

  2. If you're using onions or peppers, add them and cook until slightly soft.

  3. Add the diced tomatoes with juice. Cover and let it simmer for at least 30 minutes. Add the tomato paste if you want it firmer.

  4. Make eight shallow indentations in the sauce and carefully break an egg into each one.

  5. Cover the pan loosely and let it poach for six or seven minutes, until the egg whites are cooked and the yolks are as solid as you want them to be.

  6. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese toward the end, and serve immediately in scoops or wedges. Garnish with parsley if you like.

 

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

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

for the rest

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

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

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

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

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

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 347: Wouldn’t it be chili with no skin on?

In elementary school, we used to sing this Halloween round:

Have you seen the ghost of John?
Long white bones, 
With the rest all go-o-o-o-ne,
Oooooooh!
O00-ooo-ooo-ooo-ooooh!
Wouldn’t it be chilly with no skin on?

WELL, it all comes together in today’s post. 

SATURDAY
Hot dogs, hot pretzels, raw broccoli and dip

I woke up SO late on Saturday and everything got pushed forward SO far, I’m pretty impressed we had three actual distinct things for supper. 

Nothing else to report, except that I suddenly remembered a kid going through a phase of playing restaurant, and one of the featured items was “pretziles.” Which makes me remember I haven’t made homemade hot pretzels in a while. 

[Daphne Moon voice:] I don’t know whyyyy.

On Saturday, I also finally put up an extra little shelf that I’ve been meaning to put up, and now I officially have room for all my spices! If you’ll recall, this is what it looked like before. 

Then I got a bunch of spice jars and bunch of mason jars; and now I have an extra shelf as well, so here it is:

It’s . . . sigh . . . better. I swear it’s better. Only a few things are still in sacks, and everything is labelled, top and side. And I have hooks for red and yellow onions, and a little basket for my ginger and garlic. 

I haven’t organized the spices, though. There are just too many other people using them, and trying to keep them in the order I want would be asking for constant heartache.

I also still haven’t managed to re-hang the other shelf that came crashing down, that used to hold all my oils and vinegars, so that’s all crammed in there as well. It’s less upsetting if I think of it all as WEALTH, which it is. Never thought I’d need a spot just for all my various salts and peppers! My various oil! Look how lucky I am. 

SUNDAY
Hamburgers, chips, further raw broccoli

On Sunday I did a bunch of tragic gardening (I planted a few hundred bulbs and spent the time repeatedly reminding myself that absolutely none of them are going to come up and everything just dies anyway and what’s the point, oh boo hoo hoo hoo) and also put up some more skeletons. For, uh, self care. 

We have a number of skeletons year-round, partly because it helps Instacart find our house when GPS insists on sending them to the fence company and saying that’s our house; but mostly because I have had a lifelong love for skeletons. 

This one, I think the kids named Shakespeare 

and this one, Insulon, is new this year (his eyes light up):

Then we have Baba Mailbox, which doesn’t really make sense, but whatcha gonna do:

and of course The Gardener:

and also new this year is Horbert, who lives by himself.

Here is a short video of The Hoisting of Horbert:

 

who didn’t end up as high as I expected, considering how hard it was to hold that tree down. 

Then we had hamburgers for supper.

I don’t know if it’s been a long time since we’ve had burgers, or maybe I just worked up a good appetite tragically gardening and tree wrestling, but those were some especially delicious burgers. 

MONDAY
Chili verde on rice; corn

This is a nice recipe that I discovered a little shortcut for this week.

Jump to Recipe

Normally when I make chili verde, I blister the peppers and tomatillos under the broiler, then let them sit and loosen, then pull off the skins and put the insides in the food processor, along with onion, garlic, and cilantro.

This time, I suddenly wondered what would happen if I left the skins on. I also put the onions in the oven, rather than adding them raw to the blender. Time to find out! Exciting! 

I cut the pork shoulder into chunks, seasoned it heavily with salt and pepper, browned it in oil, blended up the vegetables, and then added the resulting green salsa to the pot with the pork, and let it cook slowly on the stovetop all day. 

It turned out thicker than usual and quite a bit spicier than usual, a real sinus clearer. And absolutely delicious. Mayyybe a tiny bit bitter, but not in an unpleasant way. The family polished it off, to my delight. I might add some chicken broth in the future, to make it a little thinner, but I think I will stick with leaving the skins on. It made my life easier, and the flavor was great. If anyone knows of some reason why I should be taking the skins off, speak now! 

I was gonna make corn bread or corn muffins, but a quick poll revealed that nobody actually wants that, so I just cooked up some frozen corn, and made a bunch of white rice, and that was what they wanted. We had lime wedges and sour cream for toppings, and we really needed that sour cream to ease up the spice!

Wish I had had a little more cilantro to top it off. But it was a good meal. Everyone either has, just had, or is about to get a cold, and it’s been damp and foggy out, so this worked nicely. 

On Wednesday I also got a very subtle haircut. Usually I got to Head Whompers and pay $12 to get most of my hair chopped off, but this time I went to a Fancy Place and paid quite a bit more to get little bits here and there removed.

I’m still not sure how I feel about it, but Damien said my head looked fluffier, so I think that’s good. 

TUESDAY
Beef barley soup, pumpkin muffins

Jubilation. This is a highly-anticipated meal (second only to ham-peas-mashed potatoes) that I hold off making until the frost is on the pumpkin or whatever. I forgot to get mushrooms, but it was still very tasty.

Here’s the soup recipe: 

Jump to Recipe

This is the soup I make in my head when I can’t fall asleep. I go through it as slowly and meticulously as possible, paying close attention to each detail, cleaning as I go, and if I don’t actually fall asleep by the end, I usually at least feel less anxious. Thanks, soup!

In real life, it was a soccer day, so I made the soup in the morning, except for the barley, and then put together the wet ingredients and the dry ingredients for the pumpkin muffins

Jump to Recipe

and then combined them when I got home, and quickly baked them right before supper. 

Full disclosure, the muffins were a tiny bit squashy (I mean technically they were 100% squashy, since canned pumpkin is actually squash; but I meant they were somewhat underdone) and the barley was a little bit chompy, because I forgot how long it takes to cook; but it was still a well-received meal. 

Piping hot muffins and a bowl of soup with tender beef, lots of wine and tomatoes, plenty of carrots and onions and pepper. What’s not to love?

Next time I need to make more soup! Some people have come around to soup recently, to my delight.

This is why I stick to my policy of just making food that seems good to me, and offering it over and over and over again. People really do come around eventually, often enough. Or if they don’t, that’s also fine. I just don’t want to fight about food. There’s enough fights. 

WEDNESDAY
Pizza

One cheese, one pepperoni, and one Things Mother Likes. To wit: Black olive, fresh garlic, red onion, fresh basil, ricotta, anchovy.

This absolute cartoon cat got to clean out the anchovy can for recycling

and I got to eat two pieces of this scrumptious pizza

so everybody was happy.

THURSDAY
Asian meatballs, pork fried rice, pineapple

I made extra rice when I made the chili verde, for the express purpose of having leftovers for fried rice. Wasn’t that smart? I feel like I am waking up out of a fog this week. I’ll probably live to regret saying this, but I stopped taking Propranalol because it wasn’t doing anything for my headaches anyway, and within a few days I felt much more awake and much less pukey; and without changing my diet, I lost three pounds. So. Go to hell, Propranalol. I have a real live appointment with an honest-to-goodness neurologist, and I’m going to insist they stick needles in my cheeks or install a skull steam valve or something. But no more stupid drugs that make me stupid! I’m already stupid enough! 

Anyway, the fried rice was good. I minced some ginger and garlic and threw it in the pan with hot oil for a bit, then added pieces of leftover pork and diced red onion, and then I dumped a bunch of brown sugar on top of that and let it get bubbly and dark.

Then I added scrambled egg (I didn’t think I was up for scrambling the egg directly into the rice today), some bagged broccoli, carrot, and water chestnut, and the leftover rice, and then I dumped on a bunch of oyster sauce, a little fish sauce, and quite a bit of soy sauce, and heated it all up.

Pretty tasty!

I made the meatballs in the morning, and cooked them while I was making the rice. I used a recipe I’ve used before (it’s not letting me put the “jump to recipe” button in, for some reason, but the recipe is at the bottom of the page: Vaguely Asian Meatballs), except instead of ground beef, I used ground turkey, which happened to be $3 a pound. I cooked them at 425 for about 20 minutes before dinner

and served them with a jar of sweet chili sauce, and they were delicious. Light and garlicky and just very pleasant to eat. 

I also cut up a couple of pineapples and sprinkled some more chopped scallions over everything, and it was an easy, successful meal. 

When I make two kinds of Asian-inspired food, my goal is to not use the exact same ingredients in both dishes, and I achieved this by refraining from putting ginger in the meatballs. My breath was still glowing in the dark that night from all the garlic. 

FRIDAY
Quesadillas? 

Yes, I think quesadillas. I have a bunch of spinach in the fridge that I never used, so I think I’ll make spinach quesadillas, which are very nice. 

 It occurs to me that one of those skeletons should be named John, or Chili Verde, or Tomatillo, or something. Well, there’s always next year. 

Spicy Chili Verde

You can decrease the heat by seeding the peppers, using fewer habañeros, or substituting some milder pepper. It does get less spicy as it cooks, so don't be alarmed if you make the salsa and it's overwhelming!

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs pork shoulder
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for cooking
  • 2 cups chicken broth or beer (optional)

For the salsa verde:

  • 4 Anaheim peppers
  • 2 habañero peppers
  • 4 jalapeño peppers
  • 4 medium onions
  • 12 tomatillos
  • 1 head garlic, cloves peeled
  • 1 bunch cilantro

For serving:

  • lime wedges
  • sour cream
  • additional cilantro for topping

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler.

  2. Pull the husks and stems off the tomatillos and rinse them. Cut the ends off all the peppers. Grease a large pan and put the tomatillos and peppers on it. Broil five minutes, turn, and broil five minutes more, until they are slightly charred.

  3. Take the pan out and cover the peppers and tomatillos with plastic wrap or tin foil for ten minutes. When they are cool enough to handle, pull the skins off the peppers and tomatillos. At this point, you can remove the seeds from the peppers to decrease the spiciness if you want.

  4. Put the skinned tomatillos and peppers in a food processor or blender with the onions, garlic, and cilantro. Purée.

  5. In a heavy pot, heat some oil. Salt and pepper the pork chunks and brown them in the oil. You will need to do it in shifts so the pork has enough room and browns rather than simmering.

  6. When all the meat is browned, put it all in the pot and add the puréed ingredients.

  7. Simmer at a low heat for at least three hours until the meat is tender. If you want thinner chili verde, you can add chicken broth or beer. At some point, if you don't want the pork in large chunks, press the meat with the back of a spoon to make it collapse into shreds.

  8. Spoon the chili verde into bowls, squeeze some lime juice over the top, and top with sour cream and fresh cilantro.

 

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. 

 

5 from 1 vote
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Pumpkin quick bread or muffins

Makes 2 loaves or 18+ muffins

Ingredients

  • 30 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. 

Vaguely Asian meatballs with dipping sauce

Very simple meatballs with a vaguely Korean flavor. These are mild enough that kids will eat them happily, but if you want to kick up the Korean taste, you can serve them with dipping sauces and pickled vegetables. Serve with rice.

Servings 30 large meatballs

Ingredients

  • 2.5 lbs ground beef
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed finely
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 head garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped (save out a bit for a garnish)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp ground white pepper

For dipping sauce:

  • mirin or rice vinegar
  • soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.

  2. Mix together the meat and all the meatball ingredients with your hands until they are well combined. Form large balls and lay them on a baking pan with a rim.

  3. Bake for about 15 minutes.

  4. Serve over rice with dipping sauce and a sprinkle of scallions.

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 346: Babe, you ok? You barely touched your Earl Gray Preminger Tea Cake

Happy Monday! Don’t worry, it’s Monday, not Friday! I just didn’t get to finish this last week, so I’m doing it now. 

Here’s what we had last week:

SATURDAY
Chicken soup with matzoh balls, challah, Earl Grey Tea Cake 

Saturday we had a little meal for Clara’s birthday: chicken soup with matzoh balls, and challah for dinner. Here’s my challah recipe:

Jump to Recipe

I once again attempted to do a four-strand braid. Last time I followed a video, and that didn’t go well (I cried), so this time I used a pictorial step-by-step guide, and I still cried. I fervently believe that if you took a CAT scan of my brain, there would just be a little missing chunk for the part for what to do when something crosses over something else. That is where everything goes haywire, whether I’m braiding or dancing or installing a light fixture or anything. As soon as one thing crosses over another thing, I just start to cry and I don’t know what to do.

But I’m an adult, and I quickly remembered it’s just bread, so I can just smoosh it together and it doesn’t matter. And I was right! 

The chicken soup was good, if not terribly photogenic.

and the matzoh balls turned out fluffy! I’m going to cling to that little victory, because of what happened with the cake. 

Clara asked for an Earl Gray tea cake, which I have made before using this recipe from this recipe from Liv For Cake, and it was a tremendous pain in the pants. So I looked around for a different recipe, and found one that seemed a little simpler, although it was intended for actual tea cakes — not only made with tea, but cut up into little cakes, glazed, and served with tea. The recipe is from Taste Made, and I made the glaze that goes with it, and also the vanilla bean buttercream frosting from the previous recipe.

So, now, in my defense, at this point, I was making soup, bread, cake, glaze, and frosting all at the same time, and I was about a week into a new migraine medication that quite magically made my headaches much worse and also gave me constant nausea. So when I got to the point where the frosting recipe said to whisk the egg whites and sugar over a double boiler, I was like

NOT 

ONE

MORE 

POT

so, I whisked the eggs and sugar over the soup. 

and you know what, this did not work great. 

Anyway, I don’t know what the hell else I did wrong, but that cake turned out so dense. It was absolutely GUMMY. It was CLAGGY. It was STODGY. It was all the worst things Prue could say about a cake. 

But, not content with a cake that tasted weird, I thought I would go ahead and decorate it in a horrendous way as well. So I thought, Hey, Clara really used to like that Barbie in The Princess and the Pauper movie with Martin Short as the villain Preminger. So I will make a Preminger cake! AS ONE DOES. 

If you’re not familiar, many of these animated Barbie movies are actually worth watching, and some of them have really good voice actors. Here’s the “How Can I Refuse” number:

annnd here’s the cake:

I . . . an attempt was made. She laughed. Hey, did I tell you how fluffy my matzoh balls were? 

SUNDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, pickles, chips

Sunday I still hadn’t done my shopping, but was undeniably felled with not-Covid-but-some-fwiggin-thing, and decided to do Instacart. We had grilled ham and cheese sandwiches on sourdough bread with cute little pickles on the side, and chips. 

Except I had an apple instead of chips, because I looked up the serving size and it was something like seven chips, and that’s just offensive. Might as well have a fwiggin apple. 

MONDAY
Domino’s pizza

Monday I forget what happened, but Damien assessed my general situation and decided that sometimes being the spiritual head of the family means insisting that we order pizza. Bless. 

TUESDAY
Spicy chicken sandwiches with peppers; grapes, cucumbers

Tuesday I pulled some chicken breasts out of the freezer and we had these lovely sandwiches from Sip and Feast that I adore. They’re even better with boneless chicken thighs, but still pretty darn good with breast sliced in half lengthwise. 

Look, if nobody else in your life is willing to say that sometimes American cheese is the best cheese for the job, I’ll say it. I’ll be that person for you. 

I cooked the peppers in the same pan that the chicken had been in

and once the cheese was melted, we piled up them sandwiches.

So it’s a nice soft, sweet brioche buns, BBQ sauce, chicken coated in cajun seasoning and sauteed slowly with American cheese melted on top, some slightly charred shishito peppers, red onion rings, and more BBQ sauce. 

For sides I just served grapes and cucumbers, which is a little weird but whatcha gonna do. 

This sandwich is just excellent. I was afraid I wouldn’t like it as much the second time (you know how sometimes you’re just dazzled by a new recipe, and then you make it again and it turns out you were just having a nice day in general, and that food itself wasn’t that great?), but I DID. It’s yummy and everyone liked it. 

WEDNESDAY
Spicy penne with butternut squash, mozzarella, and spinach; garlic bread

Wednesday I was still feeling extremely punk, but at this point I was mad about being sick, so I decided to . . . show them [shakes fist migrainously at destiny] and try a New York Times recipe.

This is not uhhhh best practice. It was a bad idea. It was an okay recipe, and I’m already familiar with how much work it is to process butternut squash, so I wasn’t taken aback by that as so many of the commenters were; but it was still kind of a lot of work and just didn’t amount to much. I don’t know. I even got the nice fresh mozzarella, and I had fresh spinach and fresh jalapeños and a butternut squash from my garden, and it just tasted kind of meh. 

Oh, here is the recipe, because of course the NYT one is paywalled. And here is a picture of me with my butternut squash. It’s the very first one I picked from my garden, and this is the first year I have grown squash, so I wanted to document it. Turns out it’s kind of hard for a decent Christian lady to take a picture of herself holding a butternut squash in a way that won’t get you in trouble with Tito Edwards.

Anyway the recipe started off well enough, cooking the squash in olive oil with cumin and red pepper flakes.

I prepped the heck out of all the other ingredients, so I could just throw it together when I got home.

I even had enough time to take the leftover challah, slice it up, and make garlic bread

and you know, there’s a reason people don’t do that. It was okay, just not really a texture you necessarily want with garlic bread. 

The whole meal was okay. I kept thinking maybe if the pasta had crumbled sausage in it. I don’t know. I doubt I’ll make it again. It’s now in my head as a bad, sad dish, so I probably won’t go back to it. You may have other results.

On Thursday evening we were talking about apple picking, and how that late spring frost killed off so many apple blossoms, lots of local orchards aren’t even offering PYU apples this year. Our terrible little tree did manage to put out some terrible apples, though, and I realized I was planning to cook pork the next day, so we decided to go ahead and pick the apples that evening.

 

I suppose if I ever did even one single thing to take care of this tree, it might make better apples, but as it is, the dog and the ducks love the miserable little fruits it produces, and we have our annual little ritual of picking apples and searching for the foley mill, so it serves its purpose. I promised the kids I wouldn’t make the applesauce until they got home from school the next day. 

THURSDAY
Roast pork ribs, crabapple sauce, garlic mashed potatoes

The pork ribs were just heavily seasoned with salt and pepper and roasted under a hot broiler, and the mashed potatoes were just mashed potatoes with several cloves of garlic thrown into the water and then mashed along with it, with butter and milk. 

The apples were really especially terrible this year. 

A lot of them were just rotten and had to be thrown out, but I ended up with a few dozen that were misshapen but basically sound

so I just cut them in half and put them in a stock pot with a little water at the bottom, covered it loosely, and set it to simmer. You’re supposed to let it go for a few hours so the apples can really collapse into mush, but I didn’t have enough time, so we ended up kind of violently forcing the mostly-cooked apples through the foley mill

and then I threw in some butter and cinnamon, and tasted it, and decided that hmm, this was a year to add some sugar. 

Some years, our homemade applesauce is a lovely, dusky rose color, and it’s fragrant and cozy and wonderful, with a faint, pleasantly smoky taste that seems to come from this particular tree. Some years it doesn’t need any sweetening, and still has a beautiful nectary flavor. 

This year’s applesauce was yellowish brown and it tasted like paste.

But the kids were delighted anyway, probably because of the little red hen factor, so I didn’t clue them in that it was very bad applesauce indeed. And that’s how you do that! 

FRIDAY
Shrimp and fish lo mein

Friday I was very pleased with myself, because not only did supper turn out really good, but I used lots of leftovers successfully. I made my normal lo mein recipe

Jump to Recipe

starting with fresh ginger and garlic, and then I added some red onions I found in the fridge, then I threw in some shrimp and cut-up pieces of tilapia (I had two filets in the freezer that I didn’t cook a couple of weeks ago); then I chopped up some leftover shishito peppers (I put them in late because they were already cooked, and just needed heating), and then after I added the noodles and sauce, I threw some leftover Italian parsley on top.

Hot damn, it was delicious. 

The shrimp and fish weren’t overcooked and neither were the noodles, the veg were crunchy, the sauce wasn’t too sweet, and the ginger and the garlic were nice and sharp, and the fresh parsley really put it over the top. I was happy to end on a high note, because it’s been kind of a sucky week, and good lo mein is happy food. 

Okay, that’s it! Don’t forget what I told you, about the thing!

(I’m just kidding, I didn’t tell you anything. I don’t know anything. Who wants some applesauce? We have leftover.) 

Challah (braided bread)

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

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

for the rest

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

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

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

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

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

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

 

I’ve been bowing, I’ve been scraping
I’ve been lying like a rug
And for ten long years I’ve had to pay my dues
But today I am escaping
For the last gold has been dug
It was waiting there, so how could I refuse?

I’m returning home a hero
Who’s discovered mighty wealth
And what better husband could a princess choose?
I’m the suitor who will suit her
Bring the kingdom back to health
And I’ll wear the crown, for how could I refuse?

Raise every glass and rouse every cheer
Praise that the reign of Preminger is here
Master in charge of all that I see
All hail me

And by marrying the princess
I get all that I desire
Like a moat, an ermine coat and palace views
Even though she treats me coldly
It’s a sign of inner fire
For inside she’s thinking “How can I refuse?”

[NACK, spoken]
Right, except for this one little problem, boss

[PREMINGER, spoken]
Prince Boss to you!

[NACK, spoken]
Right, the queen decided to marry her off to the King of Dulcinea next week

[PREMINGER, spoken]
What? Making a decision without me? Who does she think she is?

[NICK, spoken]
Uh, the Queen?

[PREMINGER, spoken]
You simpering simpleton!

[NICK, spoken]
Well, she is the Queen. She’s got a crown and a scepter and sits in her big fancy chair and always—

[PREMINGER]
Silencio!
No! I won’t let go!
This peasant son won’t turn and run because some reckless royal chose another beau
Ah!

It’s a temporary setback
It’s a momentary lapse
But conveniently my ego doesn’t bruise
And the moment that I get back
I will show them who’s the boss
You can bet your bullion there’ll be no “I do’s”

Yes, suppose the girl goes missing
So the king says “Au revoir
Then I find her, bring her back and make the news
Then the queen will be so grateful
That she’ll pledge the heir to moi
And I’ll humbly tell her “How can I refuse?”

When our ceremony’s over
I’ll arise and take the throne
And that nitwit Anneliese can kiss my shoes
For the kingdom and the castle
Will be mine and mine alone
If the crown should fit, then how can I refuse?

[PREMINGER, NACK & NICK]
So get ready with the roses (So get ready with the roses)
And stand by with the champagne (And stand by with the champagne)
When you’ve got a brilliant plan you never lose (When you’ve got a brilliant plan you never lose)
Yes, before this chapter closes (Yes, before this chapter closes)
I’ll be big as Charlemagne (He’ll be big as Charlemagne)
It’s a thankless job but how can I refuse? (It’s a thankless job but how can he refuse?)
How can I refuse? (How can he refuse?)

What’s for supper? Vol. 339: Inshallah, I’ll take pistachio

Happy Friday! I see lots of you poor suckers are going back to school already. We, on the other hand, are still enjoying the last lazy days of summer, by which I mean frantically running around Doing Vacation Things and feeling terrible and panicked about summer being almost over, and also mortality (maybe that’s just me. I am fun). 

I also made two wonderful culinary discoveries this week: Collard greens, and lamb breast plate. We had two days of rather elaborate meals and then a bunch of very much not so meals. Read on!

SATURDAY
Varia 

On Saturday, the Fishers were uncharacteristically sociable. Lena was carousing with a friend in Boston, Clara met up with Dora and they went off to see The Mountain Goats; Sophia, Lucy, and Irene had tickets to see Ricky Montgomery; and Damien, after bowing to his fate and driving them to said concert, brought Benny and Corrie to see the new turtle movie. That just left Elijah, who had to work, and me, who had ten minutes at home COMPLETELY ALONE, which I spent eating TWO cartons of yogurt without explaining myself to anybody, and going to the bathroom with the door open, before going shopping. Then I picked up Elijah and, since it was just the two of us, we had dinner at Chili’s. I had some kind of salad with shrimp. I almost always order some kind of shrimp when I eat at a restaurant. It’s just good! Elijah had a burger, presumably for the same reason. We talked about Godzilla.

SUNDAY
McDonald’s 

Sunday we got to the ocean! The sky was blue, the sun was hot, and the water was about twelve degrees. Seriously, that one year when we went a few miles further south with slightly warmer water has absolutely ruined me for frigid New Hampshire beaches. I did go in the water, out of sheer honesty, but I spent most of my time on the shore saying, “Whoa, that was a big one! Woo, look at you!” and wondering if it’s as much fun to be a seagull as it looks like. 

Bunch of pictures here:

We chose Hampton Beach because, if you’re only going to have one day at the ocean, it should be ocean that has fried dough and skee ball. We packed sandwiches and fruit and Twizzlers for lunch, and hit the drive-thru on the way back for dinner. 

MONDAY
Hot dogs, chips, corn on the cob

A little yellow dinner. Sometimes that’s just what you want. (And if that’s a thing on Urban Dictionary, I don’t want to know about it.) 

TUESDAY
Nachos, pineapple

Damien mentioned that maybe the nachos I make could use a little more cheese, so I thought I would be fancy and buy a second KIND of cheese, and a Mexican one, at that.

Sadly, I am dumb, so I picked something called “queso fresco,” which is apparently known for its incredible ability to withstand heat. So we had tortilla chips with seasoned ground beef, cheddar that melted and queso fresco that did not, jalapeños, and some corn I shaved off the leftover corn from yesterday, and then sour cream and salsa. Pineapple on the side. 

It wasn’t bad, but next time I’ll just buy extra cheddar for that “more cheese” experience.

I was feeling pretty good on Tuesday, though, because I got home from my annual physical knowing my blood pressure is NORMAL. I cannot tell you how good it feels to have that back under control, after it was so bonkers for so long. I also haven’t lost the weight I gained when I tried Lexapro, but I haven’t gained any more, and I been eating nachos, so that seemed fair. And I’m not anemic and my lungs seem more or less back to normal. I guess I had Covid, I don’t know. My OBGYN was trying to convince me to go on an IUD for medical reasons, and I was trying to tell her that I don’t have any ethical problems with getting one for medical reasons, but right now I have all my other symptoms like 

and I don’t want to MESS with anything.

Anyway, we had nachos. 

WEDNESDAY
Oven fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, biscuits, collard greens, watermelon

This meal came about because a few months ago, I was looking for strawberry plants and they were sold out, but they had some collard greens on clearance, so I got a few plants and stuck them in my garden. Now they look like this

and everything else in my garden is making flowers or vegetables or something, but the collard greens are just getting bigger and bigger, so it was time to figure out what they heck they are for. 

Chicken drumsticks and thighs were 99 cents a pound, so I figured chicken and collard greens sounded like a thing. First thing in the morning, I started soaking the chicken in milk and eggs (one cup of milk per two eggs) with salt and pepper.

Then I made some biscuits.  I actually have an excellent biscuit recipe

Jump to Recipe

but it only turns out really well if you bake them right after you make the dough; or maybe if you refrigerate the dough and then bake it. I never remember this, though, and always make the dough and cut out the biscuits in the morning, when I have time, and then bake them in the afternoon, because I want hot biscuits, and so the butter has softened and the biscuits turn out flat. I swear, it’s a good recipe! Just don’t leave the dough out like I do. 

Anyway, the chicken “recipe” I followed last time calls for putting a few inches of melted butter and canola oil (half and half) in a couple of roasting pans in a 425-degree oven and letting that heat up, but I had used up all the butter in the biscuits, and all I had in the house was olive oil, so OH WELL, I guess I had to use that. 

So I put plenty of flour in a bowl and heavily seasoned it salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika and I think some chili powder. I put the chicken in the pans of oil, skin side down, and let it cook for about half an hour, then turned it and let it finish cooking for another 25 minutes or so, baking the biscuits at the same time. 

And yes, I felt might accomplished pulling these two huge pans of hot food out of the oven. 

But back to the collard greens! You can make them with bacon or ham hocks, but I didn’t have either one, so I poked around until, to my immense relief, I found the website that carried the information I was too shy to google directly: BlackPeoplesRecipes.com. This is the link for vegan collard greens, and it uses liquid smoke. I always feel like that’s cheating, but at what, I’m not exactly sure. 

Anyway, you fry up some onions and garlic, smoked paprika and hot pepper flakes, and then add in some cider vinegar to sweeten the bitter collard greens. 

I washed the greens very well (because I’ve been watering them with duck poo water) and then stripped the stems off

and cut them into strips, and put them into the hot onion mixture and cooked them down a bit, then added chicken broth (no longer a vegan recipe, but that’s what I had) and liquid smoke, and some salt and pepper. Then I moved it to the Instant Pot and set it on “slow cook” for the rest of the day.

They were magnificent. 

Just a beautifully intense, smoky, savory dish. The closest flavor I can think of is kale, but the texture was much more tender, between cabbage and spinach. Damien and I thought it was just wonderful, and we’ll definitely be having this again. 

Benny helped me make a giant pot of mashed potatoes (I saved out a little pat of butter for this purpose), and I made a pot of gravy with the chicken pan drippings and some flour and some leftover chicken broth from the collard greens. 

OH WHAT A MEAL. 

I didn’t even finish the chicken or the mashed potatoes, although they were very good, but I went back for seconds of the collard greens.

Okay, I had three biscuits, because I’m a monster.

But wow, everything was so tasty. The chicken was crisp on the outside and juice and tender inside, just perfect. It felt so good to cook a big meal from scratch, which I haven’t done in a while. 

And it was nice having leftover baked goods in the house, which certain other people enjoy with jelly the next morning.

Also on Wednesday, I started some ice cream going for the next day. Mid-August, and I’ve barely made any ice cream! I made one batch of strawberry, using the Ben and Jerry’s recipe

Jump to Recipe

and one of mango-peach-nectarine, which less fancy than it sounds. I just couldn’t find any pureed mango in cans, which I usually use, so I ended up mashing up all the fruit in the house that was about the same color and just blending it together.

Jump to Recipe

When the ice cream was done churning, I put the freezer bowls back in the freezer, hoping to make at least another batch the next day. 

THURSDAY
Lamb breast plate, stuffed grape leaves, yogurt sauce, taboon; strawberry, mango, and almond ice cream

Thursday was the day I was ready to find out what I had bought on Saturday. I can’t remember what the original plan was, but I got to Aldi and discovered several packs of something called “lamb breast plate” for $2.99 a pound.

Nothing lamb is ever $2.99 a pound, so I bought three three-to-four-pound packs of it, and then went back for a fourth pack later. I put two packs in the freezer and cooked two on Thursday. 

Moses and his girlfriend were coming over, and I wanted a middle eastern meal, and I briefly, longingly considered a recipe where you slit the meat open to make a pocket, and stuff it with rice, dried fruit, nuts, and more ground lamb, and then sew it shut; but prudence prevailed, and I went with this recipe from I’mHungryForThat, because all you do is marinade it, cook it slowly, and then pour a little sauce on at the end. 

The marinade is hot pepper flakes, cumin, sumac, pepper, brown sugar, minced garlic, vinegar, olive oil, and sea salt, all of which I had, and juniper berries, which I did not, but I substituted fresh rosemary. 

Then I just rubbed it all over the meat and let it be.

So, you can see that lamb breast plate has little ribs and is quite fatty, and the meat is mostly in between the bones, plus there are sort of flaps of meat on the other side. Everything I read said that this is a severely underrated cut of meat, and is very tasty and tender as long as you prepare it properly. 

While that was marinating, I went out to gather grape leaves. I usually only make stuffed grape leaves once a year, when they are flush and green and tender. This is mid-August, and they are somewhat past their prime, and many had succumbed to beetles, but were also twining all over the place, in places grapes have never been before (I have three Concord grape vines I planted, and several wild grape vines in other spots in the yard). I found one enormous leaf, the size of a dinner plate, sagging under the burden of two overgrown wild blackberries that had fallen under their own weight and half rotted already, too much for even the birds and bugs to keep up with, and I suddenly realized I was standing right next to the spot where my old garden used to be.

When we moved here, the whole yard was overgrown and formless, and I hacked and chopped and mowed and cleared, and dug and sifted and cultivated, and moved so many rocks around, and made a clear spot to grow my little patch of vegetables, and I kept it up for several years.

I have raised beds now, in a different spot, and the old garden spot has disappeared. It’s hip-high in green again, all overgrown and thorny, just wild grapes, wild blackberries, goldenrod, whatever. And it happened so fast.

I’ll tell you, people worry about not leaving a trace when they go out in nature, and they fret about disruptive hikers piling up rocks or disturbing the natural balance of things. They don’t want the world to know that they were ever here. They don’t want to be arrogant and intrusive. Let me tell you, “leave no trace” is going happen anyway, faster than you think. You pass through and it closes right up behind you, and that’s that. 

Anyway, I got a good pile of leaves and went back inside.  Washed ’em good to get rid of any leggy passengers, and dunked them in boiling water for two minutes to soften them up, and then left them in cold water. 

Last time, we tried making stuffed grape leaves with leftover cooked rice, and it was pretty sloppy. This time, I used raw rice with a bunch of herbs and spices (chopped wild mint, salt and pepper, I think sumac, nutmeg, cinnamon, I think coriander and cumin, and I don’t know what, and minced onions) and rolled them. Corrie helped this time. 

Not the absolute tidiest production, but we made plenty of them, and for once I ran out of grape leaves and filling at about the same time. 

Then I line the Instant Pot with parchment paper, carefully piled the rolled grape leaves in it, threw some lemon slices in, and filled it about halfway up with chicken broth. Then I somewhat recklessly pressed the “rice” button.

I think they may have come out okay with this cooking method, but then I just left them there for quite a bit longer, and the end result was some rather overcooked rice. They were okay! Just kinda, well, you know what overcooked rice is like. I also wish I had used more of every kind of seasoning I put in. It was a good flavor, but I wanted more of it. 

About two hours before dinner, I put the lamb into the oven, covered with tinfoil. I also made a batch of dough for taboon bread

Jump to Recipe

which I think I like even more than pita, and it’s easier, because you’re not trying to get a pocket to form. Sometimes, if I’m make a juicy meat dish, I’ll make a big slab of taboon bread and serve the meat right on top of it; but sometimes I made separate little pieces, and that’s what I did this time. This recipe is enough for twelve little loaves about 8-10 inches across. I love this recipe because it only has to rise once, and it bakes in about twelve minutes, so you can decide almost at the last minute that you feel like making bread after all. 

Oh, and I made a bowl of yogurt sauce with fresh garlic and fresh lemon juice, and a little salt and pepper. I misread the lamb recipe, and you’re supposed to take the tinfoil off and finish cooking it and then pour some sauce on; but I poured the sauce on and then finished cooking it. (The sauce is chopped mint, lemon juice, and brown sugar.)

IT WAS STILL VERY GOOD INDEED.

Super juicy.

I would recommend getting some shears to separate the ribs, though. We struggled a little with cutting it, not because the meat was tough, but because it was so fatty. The meat itself was so good, though. Tremendously savory and tender. If you like lamb, this is a wonderful way to prepare it. 

The bread and the lamb finished cooking at the same time, and I once again felt pretty pleased with myself for hauling out all these giant, laden pans of food onto the table. 

I had hoped to make some kind of ice cream with at least a middle eastern nod, but I just ran out of time. People needed to be driven here and there and Thursday was the day the cat, as Damien put it, took his vows, and I went to drop off a kid at work and take another kid for a haircut, and I was like, I think that’s it? That’s all the people I’m responsible for right this minute? So I started to drive home, and then I remembered OH THE CAT.

Pretty rough day for the little guy. First the cut his balls off, then they forget to pick him up. To add insult to injury, we found out that this cat which we got a month ago, and who was allegedly eight weeks old at the time, is NOW eight weeks old. So he was only four weeks old when we got him, poor baby!

We knew he was younger than they claimed, but didn’t realize how much younger. No wonder he sucks on blankets. Anyway, today he is feeling frisk and fine and we just have to keep the dog away from his stitches for a week, which should be easy as pie, hahah ahaha hahahhaaa. 

Anyway, I decided to make some almond ice cream, which is the same as the strawberry ice cream recipe, below, except you add a few teaspoons of almond extract, you skip strawberries of course, and you let the ice cream freeze for a few hours, and then stir in 2/3 of a cup or so of toasted almonds, and then let it finish freezing. 

The kitchen was pretty hot by the time I got around to making this third batch of ice cream, so it didn’t really freeze up right. I don’t actually mind when this happens, as it results in a kind of ice milk with a pleasant crystalized texture. The flavor was great (I actually used 1 tsp of almond extract and 1 tsp of vanilla) and it was quite popular. It would be great with some bittersweet chocolate chips, but it was good on its own. 

Here’s the three ice creams, looking dramatic:

I also discovered that, if I really wanted to make middle eastern ice cream, I would make something called booza, which has mastic in it and is stretchy. I am fascinated with this idea and would absolutely love to try some, but chances of me making it myself are pretty low, because anything that depends on being a certain texture is not my forte. Perhaps in paradise. The leaves will close over me, all traces will disappear, and Allah will appear in a blaze of glory and hand me a bowl of stretchy ice cream. That sounds pretty great. I’ll take pistachio. 

FRIDAY
I believe we’re going to have scrambled eggs, maybe beans and rice, and leftovers. There MUST be leftovers in this house.

I leave you with one final image. This is the white board which I mounted to the front door, the door through which everyone goes when they leave the house. As you can see, it has the days of the week on it, and I BEGGED and PLEADED and IMPLORED and ABASED MYSELF to the kids, in the hopes that they might deign to write their schedules on it, so I would know before the last minute who needed to be where and when. 

Here is that white board now: 

Little bastards. Good thing I love them. Maybe I’ll make them some more biscuits, or some ice cream. 

moron biscuits

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.)

 

Mango ice cream

Ingredients

  • 30 oz (about 3 cups) mango pulp
  • 2 cups heavy or whipping cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 mango, chopped into bits

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, whisk the milk, sugar, and salt until blended.

  2. Add in the mango pulp and cream and stir with a spoon until blended.

  3. Cover and refrigerate two hours.

  4. Stir and transfer to ice cream maker. Follow instructions to make ice cream. (I use a Cuisinart ICE-20P1 and churn it for 30 minutes.)

  5. After ice cream is churned, stir in fresh mango bits, then transfer to a freezer-safe container, cover, and freeze for several hours.

taboon bread

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revisit abandoned spiritual practices; you may be surprised

Not long ago, I played my clarinet in a concert. It was the first performance I’ve been in for over 30 years. I used to play a long time ago, and although I never got very good, I stuck with it as long as there was a group to keep me going. It always made me a little sad to come across my old, broken-down instrument and wish I could be in a band again. So this past Christmas, my husband bought me a new clarinet, and my daughter spotted an ad for a community band, and away I went.

And guess what? I’ve gotten better. Not a lot, but unmistakably, I’m a better player than I was 30 years ago. This is somewhat counterintuitive, because, at age 48, my fingers ache in a way they did not when I was a teenager, and my lung capacity is certainly worse. I now need reading glasses to see the notes, and sometimes I still can’t see the measure numbers without sticking my face right in the page.

But my sight reading is much faster than it was, and my posture is better, too. My musical sense in general has matured. And there are more subtle things: I don’t get my feelings hurt when I’m stuck playing the harmony, rather than the melody; I’m patient with my own mistakes, and just try again, rather than getting frustrated and embarrassed and giving up.

I find it easier to listen to the director and accept that she knows what she’s talking about, rather than rolling my eyes because she’s bossy. I’m better at listening to the band as a whole, and trying to play my part as it’s written, rather than impress anyone. I also try my best to play all the music well, even if it’s not my favorite, because I’m just not as bratty as I used to be. These are things that I’ve learned to do in the last few decades, even while never so much as touching a clarinet. So now I’m a better musician.

The clarinet is not the only old hobby I’ve revisited recently, and it’s not the only thing I’ve discovered I’ve gotten better at, simply by taking several decades off and growing up a bit.

A few examples: I used to be the world’s worst baker. My biscuits were dense, my cakes were crooked and flat, my cookies were rubbery and always burnt. I could make cornbread, because it was almost impossible to do it wrong, but pretty much everything else was garbage. I resorted to mixes and store bought baked goods for decades. But then slowly, gradually, I recently started to experiment with baking some simple things from scratch— french bread, basic cakes—and guess what? I can bake fine. I’m no expert, but I’m completely competent, and the things I bake usually look like the picture on the recipe page.

How did this happen? For one thing, I’ve gotten better at assessing which recipes are going to be suitable for my skill level, and only attempting trickier ones when I know I will have the time and energy to focus on them. In the past, I would have approached an outrageously difficult recipe with the attitude of “but I WANT to” and then predictably ruined it, and then gotten angry and disgusted, and then had my confidence shattered for next time, making it harder to do well with a recipe that really was within my grasp.  I’ve also just gotten my competent in the kitchen in general. I’ve spent countless hours cooking, and many of those skills translate to baking—and the confidence and sense of self-worth absolutely translate. I don’t get flustered and distracted as easily, and if I make a mistake, I don’t automatically panic and make things worse. Some of my terrible baking was, I’ve discovered, due to me straight up refusing to follow recipes because I thought I knew better, based on zero evidence, for no reason at all. Now I know better. So now I’m a better baker!

The same thing happened with drawing. I used to desperately, achingly long to be an artist, but I hit a plateau in my rendering skills, and it became a miserable exercise because what I drew never looked anything like what I imagined in my head. Now, I can choose a subject, get an idea of what I would like it to look like, and render it pretty faithfully in a reasonable amount of time. Not every time, but fairly reliably. I haven’t had any lessons in the intervening years.

What has changed is that I’ve calmed the heck down. I have reasonable expectations, and I no longer feel like my whole identity is riding on what turns up on the page. I also don’t draw to impress anyone, but simply because I enjoy the process, and therefore focus better on the process. And that often makes for better work.

There are other examples, but you get the point.

Guess what? You can do this with spiritual exercises, as well: You can revisit long-since abandoned spiritual practices that you gave up because they weren’t working for you, or you didn’t like them, or they didn’t fit into your life, and see if they might work better for you now. Sometimes you just need to grow up a bit, and that makes a big difference.

Is there some saint that everyone loves, and they never really clicked with you? Maybe they’re not the saint for you—or maybe they were simply not the saint for younger you. Might be worthwhile taking another look and seeing if there’s more there than you realized. If not, that’s okay, too. But if it’s been a decade or more, chances are you’ll have changed so much, it will hit different this time around.

Maybe the rosary always felt like a terrible, pointless slog when you were younger, and you very reasonably set it aside, because it just wasn’t meaningful, and some other form of prayer was. But if you’re once again casting around for something to help anchor you to Christ, don’t be afraid to go back and try old things again. Relationships change, and prayer is about your relationship with God, so maybe it will strike a chord now.

The same goes for any spiritual practice that is licit, but just wasn’t working for you a long time ago. Things can change! People are supposed to change. If you let something go because it was hurting you, or because it’s associated with some trauma, that’s a different matter; but if you simply didn’t get much out of it, or it felt like you weren’t getting the hang of it, maybe give it another shot. Maybe you’re ready now.

One of the great things about the Catholic faith is that it’s so varied. There are countless ways to make and keep and renew contact with God. What works for one person may not work for another person, and that’s perfectly fine, because there are very many options out there.

But it’s also good to remember that what didn’t work for you once may work for you now. It’s thrilling and illuminating to find something new, but it’s even more gladdening to discover that something that once felt stiff and unnatural is now fruitful and profound, because you now have more capacity to appreciate and understand and receive it. This is part of what it means to grow spiritually: Discovering not only more about who God is, but who you are.

**
A version of this essay was originally published at The Catholic Weekly in May of 2023.

Image by Reuven Hayoon from Pixabay 

What’s for supper? Vol. 331: Rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb

Happy Friday! Are you ready for some PEPPERSSSSSS!!!!!!!

But first, just like old times, there’s a little dust-up going on in my combox, which began when one reader wanted to know how it is that I’m over here eating kale salads and lean protein crumbles, but yet feeding my kids buttered corn dog nuggets and hot salt slop noodle casserole pie. A few readers jumped to my defense, which I appreciate very much, but the real answer is simple: I don’t like my kids. Please address any further questions to my menu planning assistant, who can be contacted here.  

I kid, I kid. I love yez all, more or less. 

The real question of the day is, WHAT DO WE DO WITH ALL THIS RHUBARB? 

Short version, I planted a rhubarb root in early spring, and it didn’t come up at all, but by the time I had given up hope, nobody in town was selling rhubarb anymore. Or so I thought! I stopped by the Cheshire Floral Farm, honestly mainly just to cheer myself up, because it’s so pretty up there. It’s a nursery built on top of a hill, and it’s the cleanest air I’ve ever breathed in my life. Even the birdsong has a special clarity, because the air is so clear. The man who owns it is 74 years old, and he has thousands and thousands of plants which he appears to know intimately, individually, and everything is thriving. He showed me the rows of pots with seedlings he has prepped for next spring. Next spring!

So I mentioned rhubarb, and he started hiking up to the top of the hill, and I panted up after him. There were half a dozen potted rhubarb plants about two feet high, and half a dozen smaller ones. He said, “This rhubarb has a history, you know.” It started as a plant in England that his grandfather grew, and they divided the root and brought it over, and he planted it here in New England, and off it went. I chose a smaller plant, and he knocked the seeds off and told me to dig a deep hole and fill it with manure. Then he kept walking up hill, so I followed, panting. We went through a gate, across a lawn, past a garden, and around a shed, and there, my friends, were three rhubarb plants, each as big as a Volkswagon Bug. He snapped off three stalks and presented them to me. 

So now I have rhubarb! Rhubarb for now, and for tomorrow, and for all my days to come, if I don’t screw it up. Usually I just make strawberry rhubarb pie, because it’s expensive and I only get it once a year, and that’s my favorite treat. But now I have plenty! What else do you like to make? Pickled rhubarb? Rhubarb jam? 

He also said you can chop up the poisonous leaves along with some tobacco leaves, boil them, and make an insecticide, which you use as a spray. I’ll probably leave that one alone, but I love knowing that there’s a use for the leaves besides murder. 

Okay! So here’s what we ate this week. And I apologize in advance, but I added in a lot of medical complaining, because it was that kind of week. 

SATURDAY
Hot dogs

H.O.T. D.O.G.S., and I think fries

SUNDAY
Cuban sandwiches, coleslaw, fruit salad

Sunday I took a big step forward with the patio, finally. I salvaged some pressure treated lumber from various old projects, and shoved them in around the perimeter, and staked them in place with lawn stakes. I rented a vibrating plate compactor and ran it over the soil. Then I roped the kids into trucking the gravel down to the backyard, spread that out, ran over it with a makeshift screed, and ran over it with the compactor several more times.

Then the dog ran over it several times, because of course he did. It’s fine. He’s helping compact everything. The gravel I ended up getting is not exactly what I wanted, but I did want to move forward, and I achieved that! So, hoot hoot. Next is sand, and then finally bricks. 

A few hours in, I remembered “oh, supper,” and I had a boneless pork loin or something, so I threw it in the Instant Pot along with several giant glugs of apple cider vinegar, some water, a lot of cumin and garlic powder and some salt and pepper. I pressure cooked it on high for 22 minutes and it came out non-beautiful but very tender and quite tasty. 

For the sandwiches, I had big pieces of sourdough bread, and I built them in this order: bread, mustard, Swiss cheese, pork, pickles, ham, more Swiss cheese, mustard. Mayo on the outside, fried in butter. 

There is no particular reason this heavy, greasy, carby sandwich appears to be leering at you. You’re just imagining it. 

I made a nice fruit salad with watermelon, mango, strawberries, and blueberries, and a quick coleslaw with cabbage and carrot with a dressing of mayo, cider vinegar, a little olive oil, and freshly ground pepper. 

MONDAY
Lemon pepper chicken, taboon, and muhammara (red pepper walnut dip)

Last week, I asked for more recipes with pomegranate molasses, which I had used so deliciously in the cherry walnut herb salad. Several people suggested muhammara, which is a Turkish red pepper walnut dip.

SEVERAL PEOPLE WERE RIGHT. I followed this recipe from The Mediterranean Dish, and made a triple recipe. It calls for two red bell peppers, but I had four red and two orange. I keep learning and then forgetting again that red and orange (and yellow) bell peppers are just green bell peppers at different stages of ripeness (and therefore sweetness). Red is the sweetest; orange is the medium stage. (Yellow, which I didn’t have, is the first “turning” stage.) But it’s all the same pepper. 

Anyway, I oiled and roasted them peppers, which is something I enjoy.

So pretty. 

These recipes always tell you to cover the roasted peppers with plastic wrap and let them steam themselves, to loosen up the skins; but I have found (by the scientific process of forgetting to do it) that this isn’t necessary. The skins come off just as easily if you just let them sit. 

So I pulled off the skins, which I enjoy, and yanked out the core and scraped off most of the seeds. This is about half the pepper flesh. 

And then you just whiz it up in a food processor along with toasted walnuts, olive oil, raw garlic, tomato paste, bread crumbs, of course pomegranate molasses, sugar, sumac, and salt. Now, this recipe also calls for Aleppo pepper, and says cayenne pepper is optional. I didn’t have either, and suddenly got an attack of the cheaps at the store, so I only bought cayenne.

Since I had so much dip, I divided it and added cayenne pepper (somewhat more than the recipe called for) to only one portion. 

Friends, for something so earthy, it is heavenly. This is one of these profoundly nourishing, joyful foods. It just tastes like it’s feeding your whole being. It’s wonderfully tart but not in an aggressive way. The heat in the peppered one built gradually, and it tasted good with chicken, with vegetables, and with bread. And just by itself. 

I made twelve little taboon breads. Last time I was a little unhappy with how they turned out, rather tough and chewy. Not sure if this is what caused it, but I realized that I forgot to put the pan in the oven to heat up before putting the dough on it to bake. This time I followed that step, and they turned out much more tender and fluffy. I love taboon. 

It’s so easy, and you can start it less than two hours before you want to eat. Fast as a quick bread, but with the texture and heft of a yeast bread. So good. It doesn’t puff up and separate into a pocket like pita, so don’t expect that. It’s more bready, while still being a flatbread, so you could use it for wraps, or for scooping or sopping purposes.

I just made very simple roast chicken breast sprinkled with a lemon pepper seasoning mix and cut up, and spinach, black olives, and cherry tomatoes.

Damien and I ate the muhammara steadily for lunch and snacks for the rest of the week. It was wonderful with those flattened pretzel chip things, and also really nice with baby carrots, and with cucumbers. I am completely sold on muhammara. 

Still happy to hear about more pomegranate molasses recipes, but if this is all I ever use it for in the future, diyenu

TUESDAY
Tacos

Tuesday I made a bunch of taco meat, put it in the slow cooker, and then I was like, screw it, I’m going to the ER. Here’s the most exciting part:

Yes, that is my blood pressure. No, I did not eat tacos when I eventually got home, even though they had ruled out heart attack, as well as cancer and pulmonary embolism. But I do not recommend this blood pressure, at all. 

WEDNESDAY
Shawarma

Wednesday I wanted to get back to normal as much as possible, but I had lots of help! Clara made the shawarama marinade, Corrie made the yogurt sauce and Benny cut up the cucumbers and gathered and chopped the mint, and I had bought readymade pita and hummus, so it was just a matter of finishing everything up.

And very good it is, shawarma. 

At this point, I had learned that there was, in fact, nothing wrong with my heart, and all my lab work so far came back showing that I’m actually extremely healthy, except for when my terrible doctor takes me off my medication and makes my blood pressure go nutsy; so yeah, I had a big blob of yogurt sauce. Ugh, I guess I’m self conscious about my food pictures now. Boo. 

THURSDAY
Aldi pizza

Thursday I drove up to the pulmonologist in Lebanon and they did all the breathing tests. I stopped to check on my parents’ grave (they are still dead, whew), and the lilac tree and rose bushes I planted made it through the winter, so that was nice! I said a decade and went on my way. Damien bought and served Aldi pizza, and Moe came by and helped with the driving. 

FRIDAY
Spinach chickpea stew

Friday morning I found out that my lungs are very healthy, capable, and working fine! Which is great, except . . . you know, I still can’t breathe, and my chest still hurts, and my lungs still make a sound like bacon frying at night. Like, other people can hear it, so I can’t be making it up. I don’t know! I don’t know. I’m getting an echocardiogram at the end of July, and I’m going to look into chronic anemia and sleep apnea, because I don’t know what else it might be. It’s not the smoke from the wildfires, because this has been going on since November. Albuterol doesn’t help at all. Maybe I’m just making bacon in my lungs. If anyone could, I would.

ANYWAY, today we are having this lovely lemon chickpea spinach stew

the recipe for which you can find here at Saveur. This weekend I’m going to work on my patio without worrying it’s going to be my last act on earth, so that will be nice. 

Anyway, rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb. Allegedly that’s what crowds of extras on movie sets are supposed to say, in order to convincingly sound like they are having a conversation in the background. Someone smarter than me can write an essay about turning food into the logos. Imma go lie down.

taboon bread

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.