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

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

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

SATURDAY
Hot dogs, chips

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

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

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

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

Jump to Recipe

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

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

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

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

MONDAY
Fajita beef bowl, pineapple

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

Jump to Recipe

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

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

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

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

TUESDAY
Two pizzas, not three

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT COULD HAVE POSSIBLY HAPPENED TO IT? 

What indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEDNESDAY
Sweet spicy Korean meatballs, sweet pepper lo mein

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

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

Jump to Recipe

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

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

THURSDAY
Chicken biryani, giant taboon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Beef marinade for fajita bowls

enough for 6-7 lbs of beef

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 head garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together.

  2. Pour over beef, sliced or unsliced, and marinate several hours. If the meat is sliced, pan fry. If not, cook in a 350 oven, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. I cook the meat in all the marinade and then use the excess as gravy.

Basic pie crust

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 sticks butter, FROZEN
  • 1/4 cup water, with an ice cube

Instructions

  1. Freeze the butter for at least 20 minutes, then shred it on a box grater. Set aside.

  2. Put the water in a cup and throw an ice cube in it. Set aside.

  3. In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Then add the shredded butter and combine with a butter knife or your fingers until there are no piles of loose, dry flour. Try not to work it too hard. It's fine if there are still visible nuggets of butter.

  4. Sprinkle the dough ball with a little iced water at a time until the dough starts to become pliable but not sticky. Use the water to incorporate any remaining dry flour.

  5. If you're ready to roll out the dough, flour a surface, place the dough in the middle, flour a rolling pin, and roll it out from the center.

  6. If you're going to use it later, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. You can keep it in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months, if you wrap it with enough layers. Let it return to room temperature before attempting to roll it out!

  7. If the crust is too crumbly, you can add extra water, but make sure it's at room temp. Sometimes perfect dough is crumbly just because it's too cold, so give it time to warm up.

  8. You can easily patch cracked dough by rolling out a patch and attaching it to the cracked part with a little water. Pinch it together.

 

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

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

for the rest

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

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

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

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

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

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

taboon bread

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

WATCH OUT, HERE COMES A PICTURE OF MY LEG 

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

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

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

Here’s what we had this week: 

SATURDAY
Chicken burgers, chips

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

Annnd I may have overcooked it a skosh. 

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

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

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

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

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

SUNDAY
Irish breakfast, maple walnut ice cream

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

Jump to Recipe

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 I cut the bread into thick little wedges

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

Even without potatoes. 

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

MONDAY
Mussel lo mein

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

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

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

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

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

TUESDAY
Pizza, cannoli 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEDNESDAY
Butter chicken, rice, dal

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

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

They’re a little confused

but quite winsome

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THURSDAY
Banh mi, Doritos

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

I made a very slight tweak in the marinade

Jump to Recipe

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

I quick-pickled some carrots 

Jump to Recipe

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

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

The meat turned out extremely tender.

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

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

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

Ah well. 

FRIDAY
Bagel, egg, cheese sandwiches

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

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

It is snowing.

Ben and Jerry's coconut ice cream

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

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

for the rest

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

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

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

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

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

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

5 from 1 vote
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Pork banh mi

Ingredients

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

Veggies and dressing

  • carrots
  • cucumbers
  • vinegar
  • sugar
  • cilantro
  • mayonnaise
  • Sriracha sauce

Instructions

  1. Slice the raw pork as thinly as you can. 

  2. Mix together the fish sauce ingredients and add the meat slices. Seal in a ziplock bag to marinate, as it is horrendously stinky. Marinate several hours or overnight. 

  3. Grill the meat over coals or on a pan under a hot broiler. 

  4. Toast a sliced baguette or other crusty bread. 

 

5 from 1 vote
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quick-pickled carrots and/or cucumbers for banh mi, bibimbap, ramen, tacos, etc.

An easy way to add tons of bright flavor and crunch to a meal. We pickle carrots and cucumbers most often, but you can also use radishes, red onions, daikon, or any firm vegetable. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 lb mini cucumbers (or 1 lg cucumber)

For the brine (make double if pickling both carrots and cukes)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar (other vinegars will also work; you'll just get a slightly different flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Mix brine ingredients together until salt and sugar are dissolved. 

  2. Slice or julienne the vegetables. The thinner they are, the more flavor they pick up, but the more quickly they will go soft, so decide how soon you are going to eat them and cut accordingly!

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

  3. Cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight or longer. Refrigerate if you're going to leave them overnight or longer.

What’s for supper? Vol. 370: Meatball style

Happy Friday! I’m sitting outside the library typing in my car, because it has been and continues to be That Kind Of Week. Despite the week’s worst intentions, we did manage to have a few tasty meals, though. Read on!

SATURDAY
Hot dogs and chips

Into every life, a little hot dog must fall. I happen to love hot dogs and would serve them once a week if I could get away with it. Alas. 

But piping hot, natural casing hot dogs are just so good. The only thing that could make this better is a little sauerkraut and the square kind of bun with the ends all torn up and inhabiting a space just barely this side of food, rather than some kind of cotton batting. And the bun should be steamed like at a baseball game. And I guess maybe a plate, but that is negotiable.

SUNDAY
Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, salad

On Sunday, I faced my fate and made dinner for the youth group. Actually I made the meatballs Saturday night, because everything always takes longer than it should, and I wanted to have that part squared away. 

As you can see, I put them on baking racks and cooked them in the oven, which is the fastest and tidiest way to make a large amount of meatballs. 

On Sunday, I chopped up a bunch of carrots and cucumbers and made a bunch of garlic bread and a quadruple batch of brownies, and then I dragooned Clara into helping me lug it over to the church basement, where I started a giant pot of water heating up, and prepped everything. 

It was completely delightful to be back in an industrial kitchen. The dank smell of propane and the sharp smell of stainless steel, the faint milky stank of the giant refrigerator, the no-nonsense aprons, the vast rolls of plastic wrap, the capacious ladles, the quantity of tongs. I don’t even know how many kitchens I’ve worked in, but it’s a lot! My natural habitat. 

HOWEVER, it’s been a while, and I did forget just how long it takes for one of those massive pots of water to boil. It was a nail-biter (not literally. We are very sanitary here, and we keep our paws out of our mouths), but I did get the pasta cooked just in the nick of time.

The church hall, where the kitchen is, has some bathroom issues they’re working on, so the group was eating in a separate building on the second floor, rather than next to the kitchen. So we lugged over a big pot of sauce and meatballs, a big bowl of spaghetti, the pans of garlic bread, the salad, several jugs of juice, salad dressing and grated cheese, and a big platter of frosted brownies. They offered to have us eat with them, but we decided instead to skulk back to the kitchen and clean it in peace, and then we went home to eat. I did sign up to make another meal in a few months, but I think I’m gonna serve something cold next time. I can cook or I can lug, but I don’t want to do both. 

I had also made spaghetti and meatballs for the people at home, and the best way to describe the situation we found ourselves in at the end of that day is: That sure was a lot of meatballs.  

MONDAY
Meatball subs, raw vegetables

Truly, a lot of meatballs. I had been planning to make spiedies this week, but I put the pork back in the freezer and used the rolls for meatballs subs. 

And I made a giant platter of raw vegetables, because I’m half rabbit these days. 

TUESDAY
Pizza

Tuesday I had a longish trip in the morning and came back feeling pretty floppy, so Damien made these pizzas: One pepperoni, one cheese, and one, you’ll never guess, or maybe you will guess: meatball. 

This may or may not have been the last of the meatballs. Either the last of them went on the pizza, or the last of them pissed someone off and they threw them away. Doesn’t matter which one. I feel like justice was served, meatball style. 

Also on Tuesday, I started boiling my maple sap. I made some dumb mistakes storing it, and I don’t want to talk about it, but I found myself at a crossroads, so it was boil or nothing, and for various other reasons that I also don’t want to talk about, it was also boil inside or nowhere. I started out with about four gallons

and let them simmer for several hours, until it was time to go to bed, and I had this:

and then the next morning, I started boiling it again until it reached 220 degrees, and I got this:

Nice color, intense flavor, plenty thick, not much of it! I’m still collecting sap and hope to have a second boil this weekend, and I’m thinking of making what I’ve got into maple walnut ice cream. 

WEDNESDAY
Italian wedding soup, pumpkin muffins

And now for something completely different! A  . . . different kind of meatball!!!!

Ground turkey was $3/lb., so I made a one-and-a-half recipe of this Sip and Feast version of Italian wedding soup. The changes I made were: Skipped the celery because I accidentally ate it all (see: rabbit), I used kale instead of escarole because I remembered the recipe wrong when I was shopping, and I used orzo because I did buy acini de pepe specifically for the soup, but it disappeared when it came home and nobody knows how. 

It’s oh such a pleasant, nourishing soup, though. First I made the meatballs, which I baked on parchment paper. Then you chop and sauté your veggies. (I threw the onion and carrots in the food processor, which doesn’t make the most elegant results, but it does the job.)

Then add chicken stock. You’re supposed to add the pasta now and then the meatballs and then serve, but I was making soup in the morning and didn’t want the pasta to get mushy, so I put the meatballs in and let it simmer all day, and then added the orzo shortly before dinner. Turned out perfect. Lovely, lovely soup. 

It would have been great with hot, crusty bread or some garlic knots, but what I had on hand was muffin ingredients, so I made a batch of these pumpkin muffins 

Jump to Recipe

This recipe makes two loaves or 18 muffins, and I have made dozens of times, and it only turned out bad one time that I can recall. 

They are just tender and pleasant, nothing earthshaking, but reliable and a great way to round out a meal. 

Sometimes you want something that is the same all the way through. No tricks! Just muffin. 

I had a little more parmesan cheese to top the soup (the meatballs also have grated parmesan in them) and it was a very fine meal. 

Also MILLIE came home on Wednesday! so I brought her a few muffins and she gave me a sewing machine. So nature has been restored. 

THURSDAY 
Japanese chicken thighs, rice, cucumbers; strawberry rhubarb pie and peach pineapple pie

Thursday some of the kids had dentist appointments, and the driving situation was such that I decided it made more sense to just keep those kids home for the rest of the day. Which they thought was a great idea until the middle schooler realized she was missing the Pi recitation contest at school, because March 14 is Pi Day, and she hadn’t exactly been working hard to memorize pi, but she had definitely been stressing out about it, and now she was missing it. So I was more or less forced to make a couple of pies. 

The truth is, I’m almost always on the verge of making pies, and it takes very little to push me over the edge. 

First I made a sauce for the chicken, though. It’s nice and easy – you just throw everything into a pan and get your resident nine-year-old to stir it for you until it thickens up. This particular child approaches cooking just like I do: Recipes are all very well, and of course it would be nice to end up with something that tastes good, but the main part is staring at the pan and thinking about why bubbles are like that. 

This is the recipe I used, which is intended for chicken yakitori, which is pieces of chicken on skewers. Someday I will actually make that, but in the mean time, the sauce is top notch. I actually double the amount of fresh garlic and ginger, and I stand by that. When it was close to dinner time, I lined a pan with parchment paper, tossed the chicken thighs in the sauce so they were all coated, and just cooked them in a 350 oven for maybe thirty minutes. 

Juicy and delicious. If I had been cooking the chicken by itself, I probably would have turned the heat up, and maybe broiled it at least at the end, but I was also baking some pies, so we all had to make some compromises. The chicken was great, I just would have liked the skin a little more crisp. 

The flavor was tremendous, though. As you can see, I made some rice and cut up a bunch of plain cucumbers. I had made a triple batch of the sauce and saved out a third of it, and served it on the side for dipping and for the rice.

Make the sauce! It’s so good.

So now the pies. I made a double recipe of this pie crust

Jump to Recipe

and made the mistake of thinking to myself, “My pie crust always turns out so good. I should make a video to show people how I do it.” So of course you know what happened. The frickin’ stuff would not hold together, and it was just a crumbly mess. No idea why. (I do know why:  Not enough water. The mystery is, why didn’t I add more water? I don’t know.)

I managed to roll out two bottom crusts and get them in pie plates, and then I had to figure out the filling. I did NOT want to go to the store, so I found a can of sliced peaches and a can of crushed pineapple in the cabinet, drained them, and added a cup of sugar, half a cup of flour, some cinnamon, a little lemon juice, a little vanilla, and some butter on top

You can see the raggy-ass crust I was dealing with here. I did manage to piece together a lattice top, which looks difficult but is super forgiving once it’s baked, especially if you brush it with egg and sprinkle it with sugar. 

Then I dragged out the rhubarb I threw in the freezer last summer and chopped that up.

I toyed with the idea of a rhubarb pear pie, and I still think that sounds good, but also like a good way to go to a lot of trouble making a pie that only you eat, which doesn’t serve anybody’s purposes, except possibly — no, really nobody’s. 

So I settled on strawberry rhubarb, and asked Damien to bring home some strawberries. This does not count as going to the store, because we also needed milk, and half-and-half, and various things, and a little Spongebob figurine for the sea monkey tank, and so on. I more or less followed the Sally’s Baking Addiction recipe for the filling. I have such mixed feelings about old Sally. She gives you SO much detail, and she’s so bossy about every little thing, but on the other hand, she indisputably knows what she’s talking about. I bet she never gets stuck with meatballs for four days.

I only had a little crust left because, well, I had eaten a lot of the dough. So I rolled it out and, remembering how pretty the elite pita turned out last week, I used the swirly embossed rolling pin, thinking it might turn out decorative and ornate, maybe? 

Probably if the dough had been more supple, I would have had something, but as it was, the crust just came out looking less decorative, and more like I don’t know how to make pie crust, which allegations I cannot beat. 

Blorp.

It was delicious, though. Sweet and tart and tender, and honestly the crust was great. Not beautiful, but very flaky and tender. 

The peach pineapple one came out looking a little more respectable, except I overbaked it by a few minutes

And it tasted . . . exactly like what it was. If I were trying to sell this recipe, I’d say it was a nostalgic throwback to those cans of fruit cocktail that mom used to serve for lunch. Not bad! Just not terribly sophisticated. No regrets, because we had pie. 

My other big excitement on Thursday was that I got a big load of pressure treated wood from Facebook Marketplace. I’m really gonna make that walkway across the marsh!

Here’s the spot I want to span:

and here’s the two piles of wood I have to work with:

Some of the short pieces are pretty thick, so I might be able to use them as supports to go underneath; or I might scout around and see if I can find a fallen tree, and cut that into sections; OR, I might get some barrels and use those. It’s about sixty feet of space and I really think I can do this, and then the stream will be so much more accessible. Right now it’s an adventure with thorns and muck, and it’s worth it, but sometimes you just can’t make yourself do it. 

But imagine if I had a lovely wooden walkway, and maybe a string of lights and a birdhouse or two? Maybe.

FRIDAY
Tuna burgers, tater tots

There is some kind of terrible dance recital this evening. I would really just as soon stay home with the kids and make precious memories of watching TV, but that’s not how you get a free T-shirt, so I guess we’re going. 

If I have time, I will make tuna burgers, which is one drained can of tuna, one egg, and half a cup of breadcrumbs, plus whatever seasonings you want, and then you form them into four patties (or possibly two, per can? I haven’t made this in a long time), and fry them gently in oil until they are brown on both sides and hot all the way through. I think exactly two people in the family like tuna burgers. I did buy tater tots, so that should get me something. 

This will only be possible if we can get the car started, though. I’m currently outside the library sitting in a dead car, waiting for Damien to come rescue me again. Such. Is. Life. At least we had plenty of meatballs.

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. 

Basic pie crust

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 sticks butter, FROZEN
  • 1/4 cup water, with an ice cube

Instructions

  1. Freeze the butter for at least 20 minutes, then shred it on a box grater. Set aside.

  2. Put the water in a cup and throw an ice cube in it. Set aside.

  3. In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Then add the shredded butter and combine with a butter knife or your fingers until there are no piles of loose, dry flour. Try not to work it too hard. It's fine if there are still visible nuggets of butter.

  4. Sprinkle the dough ball with a little iced water at a time until the dough starts to become pliable but not sticky. Use the water to incorporate any remaining dry flour.

  5. If you're ready to roll out the dough, flour a surface, place the dough in the middle, flour a rolling pin, and roll it out from the center.

  6. If you're going to use it later, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. You can keep it in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months, if you wrap it with enough layers. Let it return to room temperature before attempting to roll it out!

  7. If the crust is too crumbly, you can add extra water, but make sure it's at room temp. Sometimes perfect dough is crumbly just because it's too cold, so give it time to warm up.

  8. You can easily patch cracked dough by rolling out a patch and attaching it to the cracked part with a little water. Pinch it together.

What’s for supper? Vol. 369: In which I trust the process

Friday again! What do you know about that. I had no way of knowing this was coming, but here we are. 

Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Chicken burgers, chips

I guess I went shopping, and I guess we had chicken burgers when I got home. Plausible, but I have no memory of it. 

SUNDAY
Cumin chicken with chickpeas, elite pita

I sort of remember Sunday. Some of the older kids were over, and chicken thighs were on sale, so I made this simple but tasty sheet pan meal: Lemony, cuminous chicken thighs marinated in yogurt with onions and chickpeas. 

Jump to Recipe

I got the chicken marinating in the yogurt sauce in the morning, and I made the red onion, parsley, and lemon juice side dish, but discovered to my sorrow that I hadn’t bought enough yogurt to also make yogurt sauce. 

I did, however, make homemade pita. I followed the recipe from TheKitchn, which has directions for both oven-baked and pan-cooked pita. I started a double recipe of dough and set it to rise, and then I finally got around to tapping some maple trees.

We have 1.25 acres of land, and I went around with my Picture This app, identifying leafless trees, and we have more trees than I can count . . . except maple. We turned out to have a grand total of two maple trees, and one of them is just a little guy.

I tapped it anyway, as you can see, but it hasn’t produced much. (Normally I’d be excited to see the stream running and not frozen, but it barely froze this year!)

The other tree is a pretty good producer, although the nights have been warming up, so it’s stop-and-start.  

I had been storing the sap outside in bags inside a bin, but I misjudged the temperature, and I’m afraid the sap I already collected may have spoiled. I made a new dumb mistake every year I do this, very exciting! Anyway there’s still some late winter left, so I haven’t given up. Too dumb to give up.

I also scoped out the wattle materials situation, and I gathered up a variety of straight, supple branches that I will probably practice on before I invest in a large amount of stakes. Trying out all different kinds of wood and vines. 

And I planted the last of my winter sowing jugs. I didn’t end up with as many as I wanted, but there’s a lot of variety, vegetables and flowers.

The group I’m in keeps saying “trust the method,” which is what groups always say when things are clearly going horribly wrong, but I also have not given up on this. It was WONDERFUL WONDERFUL WONDERFUL to be outside in the fresh air. And I have a variety of flowers and vegetables sprouting indoors, as well. 

So then, feeling frisk and fine, I went inside and slid the chicken and chickpeas in the oven and started on the pita.

Now, I own a wooden rolling pin and a marble rolling pin and even a pink plastic toy rolling pin that can be useful in a pinch, but they had all vanished into . . . I don’t know where. I imagine there is some shadowy, cthonic kitchen cabinet somewhere with all my useful kitchen stuff in it, waiting fearfully in the dark for what comes next. There abide the whisk with the nice handle, floating around eerily, wreathed in mist and flour; biscuit dough cutters flickering in and out of visibility and wailing, unheard, longing to be touched by human hands once more. That one butter knife with the pretty pattern on the handle, just clattering fruitlessly around in the gloom.

However, I did find the embossed rolling pin we got one of the kids for Christmas one time, and that is how I made my very first . . . . 

ELITE PITA

Isn’t that lovely?

I wasn’t sure if the pattern would stay when I baked it, but it did! 

Only on one side, of course, because rolling the dough out presses it flat on the other side. So the other side got the characteristic “pressed bubble” pita pattern when I flipped it over in the pan. 

I used an iron frying pan, and kept a little olive oil and a brush nearby, as well as a wad of napkins for wiping out the oil and flour in between pitas. This keeps the pita from getting blackened residue on it when you cook it.

I was delighted with this pita. It tasted good, too. 

I also discovered, about 7/8 of the way through the 16 pieces of pita, that they do puff up if I leave them in the pan about ninety seconds longer than I think I should. This is something I discover every single time I make pita, about 7/8 of the way through. I would trust the process, but I’m too dumb. 

The chicken turned out great. The onions are crackly-crisp, the chickpeas are nutty and crunchy with a hot, mealy core, and the chicken has a ridiculously delicious skin, and it’s all set off beautifully by the piquant lemon onions. 

I forgot to take a picture, but here is an old one:

It was about 50% tragic that we didn’t have garlicky yogurt sauce to dip everything in, but it was still a pretty good meal. The pita got all eaten up, which made me happy. It’s so embarrassing to make something you think of as a treat, and then have tons and tons of leftovers!

MONDAY
Hammy mac and cheese, raw veg and hummus

On Monday I faced last week’s leftover ham that was still lurking in the fridge. I made two batches of mac and cheese, one plain and once with diced ham. (I don’t really have a recipe; I just made a bunch of white sauce, then shred up any cheese I can find and mix it all up, then stir that up with cooked macaroni, and top it with buttered breadcrumbs and bake it until it’s bubbly. I usually add mustard or hot sauce or both to the cheese sauce, but since I was adding ham, I didn’t think it needed it.)

It was pretty good. 

About half of the ham one and half of the cheese one got eaten, so I call that a success.

I also made a tremendous platter of raw vegetables and put that out, along with hummus. My goal is to make a tremendous platter of raw vegetables early in the week every week, and then keep putting it out until it’s gone. This is basically me lately, on the right: 

Ol’ Melon Pelvis, they call me. Olllll’ Corn Ulna. Lady Kale Pecs. 

TUESDAY 
Pork fried rice, egg rolls, raw veg

Tuesday I got the small hunk of pork out of the freezer that I stashed away a few weeks ago, when I made most of it into chili verde. I’m getting better at this “buy what’s on sale and use it all” thing. I cut it into little bits and made some fried rice, using the vegetables I had on hand, which turned out to be peas, carrots, scallions, onions, cabbage, and mushrooms, and of course garlic and ginger.

The ducks are laying reliably again, so I scrambled up three eggs and tossed that in as well. 

I guess I’ve made this often enough that I should do a recipe card, so here’s that:

Jump to Recipe

It’s less of a recipe and more of a “recipe,” but I do consult it every time I make this, so it seemed worth making a card!

We also had some frozen egg rolls for Aldi (not bad) and some raw vegetables. 

On Tuesday night, I baked a cake and started some gum paste decorations, because I wanted them to be dry by Wednesday.

I even remembered to anchor some toothpicks in them while they were still wet, so they would stay put on the cake. I am a golden god. 

WEDNESDAY
Bacon cheeseburgers, fries, birthday cake

Wednesday I had a bunch of errands and cuckoo running around to do in the afternoon, so I got hopping on the cake right away. Mr. Birthday had requested a Shadow the Hedgehog cake, and sent me these reference images:

and I was willing to make a gum paste hedgehog head, hands, and feet, but for some reason I just didn’t want to make a gum paste hedgehog torso. Just didn’t want to do it.

So I looked at the reference images again, and thought I could probably get away with having him busting out of the cake in a sort of explosive . . . exploding cake situation. Couldn’t be simpler!!!

Then I thought, oh, he sent the logo as a separate image, so that must be important. I printed one out and did one of those icing transfer things. You print an image backwards, tape it to the counter, tape parchment paper or wax paper over it, and use a piping bag to trace the image. Then you freeze it, flip it onto your cake, and carefully pull the paper away. Trust the process, right? 

Well, this only works if you . . . you know what, never mind. Never mind. All you need to know is that, within half an hour, I was feeling the need to remind myself that I used to be a National Merit Scholar, and lots of people struggle with candy melts, and my hand tremor is not my fault, and if he got a terrible cake it would probably be good for his character in some way. I ended up starting over twice and significantly downgrading my vision, and at the last minute I decided that the logo thingy needed to stand up, rather than lie flat. So I used candy melt to cement a couple of lollipop sticks to the back of the logo.

Then I used more candy melt to color in the feet and head, and then ran out to the store to get some hard candies. 

I bashed them up in a bag with a rolling pin and spread them out on parchment paper in a medium oven for a few minutes — one butterscotch with pieces of ruined candy melt logo mixed in, for embers

and one just butterscotch, and I sort of feathered the edges while it was still hot, for flames

Then I let it cool and broke the candy sheets into pieces. Then I had another mental breakdown or two but eventually THIS IS HOW IT TURNED OUT

Shadow the Hedgehog APOCALYPSE. But I didn’t think through the angle of the feet when I was making them, so I had to pipe some little legs on, and it ended up looking like he is sort of angrily lounging in some kind of extremely hot hot tub. I was laughing so hard while I was putting it together. It was at this point that I called Irene over to see my cake, and she said, “Well . . . it has heart!”

Here’s how it looks with 20 candles:

It turns out twenty candles will absolutely melt a candy logo in the time it takes you to sing “Happy Birthday.” Now I know!

Anyway, the birthday boy liked it and, whew. 

Damien made the requested bacon cheeseburgers

and some of the adult kids came over and we had a nice time. Whew. 

And there was . . . leftover bacon. It’s still in the fridge right now. I really don’t understand. 

THURSDAY
Spaghetti with sausage sauce

The plan was just loose sausage and jarred sauce, but I seemed to have a lot of canned tomatoes, so I cooked some diced onion along with the sausage, then broke up the tomatoes and added those in along with some tomato paste and some bay leaves and salt and sugar, and oops, some belated oregano, and some hot pepper flakes. Good enough for the likes of us. 

Actually, it was just plain good. This is one of those meals, like whole chicken, that I used to make constantly when we were broke, so I’m kind of sour on it, but every once it a while, on a foggy, rainy day, it’s perfect. 

FRIDAY
Pepper and egg sandwiches

We have quite a backlog of duck eggs, so this meal seemed like a good Friday choice.

Beat a bunch of eggs and set them aside. Then chop or slice green peppers and onions and sauté them in olive oil in a large pan for a few minutes, then add a little water, cover the pan, and let them cook gently for several minutes until they are soft. Uncover the pan and cook a few more minutes to let the remaining water evaporate, and then season the peppers and onions with ground pepper and salt. Add in a little more olive oil, then add the beaten eggs and scramble it all up together. Serve on nice rolls. (I think I got potato rolls, but kaiser buns would have been better.) I like mine with a little hot sauce. 

Previous egg and pepper sandwiches:

I wish we had fruit salad, but we may have to settle for string beans.

Okay! And that is what we ate!

Couple of food chat odds and ends: One is that I found a perfectly good TAGINE for sale at the thrift store.

A tagine is the name of a variety of North African stews, and also the name of the vessel you cook it in. I, myself, would enjoy something with lamb and pistachios and apricots and nonsense like that, like this restaurant meal we had a few years ago for an anniversary or something:

but I don’t think anyone else would want that. So what would you cook in a tagine? 

Second thing is that I recklessly signed up to cook dinner for the youth group, assuming the world would come to and end before the date came up, but it turns out it didn’t. Or at least, it hasn’t yet (fingers crossed for Sunday). It’s only about 20 people. Our current youth says that, if you make anything besides pasta, they laugh at you. I say I don’t mind being laughed at by teenagers, but I actually do. I did just find out that the vegan kids are not going to be there this week, so that’s easier (my plan had been to serve them a hot steaming bowl of Tough Luck anyway). 

In the past, for youth group, I have made shawarma, rice pilaf, pita and hummus, and baklava, and then last time we made Marcella Hazan’s three-ingredient sauce on spaghetti, with garlic bread and fruit and salad. I think I’ll just have one large oven to cook or heat food in, otherwise I’d just made a bunch of pizzas. It’s supposed to be a main dish, a side, dessert, and drinks. I may just do stuffed shells, but I’m not happy about it, so if you can think of something relatively cheap that 20 kids would eat without too much scorn, I would love to hear it. 

5 from 1 vote
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Cumin chicken thighs with chickpeas in yogurt sauce

A one-pan dish, but you won't want to skip the sides. Make with red onions and cilantro in lemon juice, pita bread and yogurt sauce, and pomegranates, grapes, or maybe fried eggplant. 

Ingredients

  • 18 chicken thighs
  • 32 oz full fat yogurt, preferably Greek
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp cumin, divided
  • 4-6 cans chickpeas
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 red onions, sliced thinly

For garnishes:

  • 2 red onions sliced thinly
  • lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • a bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 32 oz Greek yogurt for dipping sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed

Instructions

  1. Make the marinade early in the day or the night before. Mix full fat Greek yogurt and with lemon juice, four tablespoons of water, and two tablespoons of cumin, and mix this marinade up with chicken parts, thighs or wings. Marinate several hours. 

    About an hour before dinner, preheat the oven to 425.

    Drain and rinse four or five 15-oz cans of chickpeas and mix them up with a few glugs of olive oil, the remaining tablespoon of cumin, salt and pepper, and two large red onions sliced thin.

    Spread the seasoned chickpeas in a single layer on two large sheet pans, then make room among the chickpeas for the marinated chicken (shake or scrape the extra marinade off the chicken if it’s too gloppy). Then it goes in the oven for almost an hour. That’s it for the main part.

    The chickpeas and the onions may start to blacken a bit, and this is a-ok. You want the chickpeas to be crunchy, and the skin of the chicken to be a deep golden brown, and crisp. The top pan was done first, and then I moved the other one up to finish browning as we started to eat. Sometimes when I make this, I put the chickpeas back in the oven after we start eating, so some of them get crunchy and nutty all the way through.

Garnishes:

  1. While the chicken is cooking, you prepare your three garnishes:

     -Chop up some cilantro for sprinkling if people like.

     -Slice another two red onions nice and thin, and mix them in a dish with a few glugs of lemon juice and salt and pepper and more cilantro. 

     -Then take the rest of the tub of Greek yogurt and mix it up in another bowl with lemon juice, a generous amount of minced garlic, salt, and pepper. 

5 from 1 vote
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Basic stir fried rice

This is a very loose recipe, because you can change the ingredients and proportions however you like

Ingredients

  • cooked rice
  • sesame oil (or plain cooking oil)
  • fresh garlic and ginger, minced
  • vegetables, diced or shredded (onion, scallion, peas, bok choy, carrots, sugar snap peas, cabbage, etc.)
  • brown sugar
  • raw or cooked shrimp, or raw or cooked meat (pork, ham, chicken), diced
  • soy sauce
  • oyster sauce
  • fish sauce
  • eggs

Instructions

  1. In a very large pan, heat up a little oil and sauté the ginger and garlic for a few minutes. If you are using raw meat, season it with garlic powder and ginger powder and a little soy sauce, add it to the pan, and cook it through. If you are using shrimp, just throw it in the pan and cook it.

  2. Add in the chopped vegetables and continue cooking until they are cooked through. If you are using cooked meat, add it now.

  3. Add the brown sugar and cook, stirring, until the brown sugar is bubbly and darkened.

  4. Add in the cooked rice and stir until everything is combined.

  5. Add in a lot of oyster sauce, a medium amount of soy sauce, and a little fish sauce, and stir to combine completely.

  6. In a separate pan, scramble the eggs and stir them in. (Some people scramble the eggs directly into the rest of the rice, but I find it difficult to cook the eggs completely this way.)

  7. If you are using cooked shrimp, add it at the end and just heat it through.

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.

 

5 from 1 vote
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Korean Beef Bowl

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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. 

 

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.