What’s for supper? Vol. 311: In which I go astray with lemons

Apparently it is Friday! I had no idea. Follow me for more organizational tips. 

Like most of the country, we’re feeling a bit pinched financially, so I’m trying to pare things down a bit. I stuck to my usual method (looking up the supermarket flyers and basing the menu around the meat and produce that’s on sale), but I was a little more severe about it than usual, and managed to slice quite a bit off the grocery bill this week, so that felt good. We still ate pretty well. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Fancy chicken sandwiches, raw broccoli, fake Pringles

Just regular chicken burgers, but on ciabatta rolls, with red onion, tomato, aioli mayo, and smoked gouda (which was on sale). A very pleasant, flavorful sandwich. 

If you are wondering what the difference is between aioli and mayo, aioli is made with garlic and olive oil and and mayo is made with egg yolks and canola oil. I suppose aioli mayo is made with eggs, olive oil, and garlic, although I didn’t check the label. Just slathered that stuff on.

SUNDAY
Apple pancakes, sausages, OJ; gingerbread cake with lemon frosting

Damien had to go to Florida for a quick business trip, so we did the ol’ “Daddy’s away, let’s just have pancakes” routine. You know how, when you’re making pancakes, the first batch turns out terrible? This was like that, except all the other batches were also terrible. I have no idea what my problem was, but I absolutely massacred these pancakes. I also got very frugal and chopped up and threw in some quite elderly apples that I probably should have just let go in peace. The kids were very gracious, though, and ate everything up. 

I had more success with dessert, which was a belated birthday cake for Clara. I used the King Arthur gingerbread cake recipe. I am a pretty poor baker, prone to mid-recipe panics and irrational sulks, but King Arthur has saved my bacon more than once, and I recommend them if you are a baker who lacks confidence.

This is a classic gingerbread cake recipe, with coffee, plenty of molasses, and all the cozy autumn spices.

I made a double recipe and baked it in silicone rounds, and they turned out lovely. 

You’re supposed to serve gingerbread with just a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, or maybe some whipped cream, or possibly a light glaze, but this was a birthday cake, so I went whole hog and made a big batch of thick lemon buttercream frosting. I followed this Sally’s Baking Addiction recipe (it’s just a basic buttercream recipe, made with heavy cream, plus fresh lemon juice and lemon zest), and that, too, turned out lovely, very rich and lemony, and a pleasant pale yellow (more so than it looks in the photo below). Here I have just tossed a handful of lemon zest on top. 

Then I got the brilliant idea to candy some lemon slices for garnishes. I have candied lemon peel before, for lemon meringue pie, but I wanted something a little more flashy, so I bought a bunch of hard lemon candies, smashed them with the marble rolling pin I got at the dump

and — okay, here is where I went astray. 

First I sliced up some lemons and laid them on a pan on parchment paper. My first mistake is I should have laid them on paper towel, or something absorbent, because lemons do weep. My second mistake is that I smashed the candies and then decided I would melt them in the microwave and pour the melted candy over the lemon slices. This . . . kind of worked. 

But the candy started sort of boiling before it was completely melted all the way through, and I was afraid of ruining it, so I didn’t have a lot to work with. 

What I should have done, maybe, was sprinkle the crushed candy bits over the lemon slices and put the pan in the oven to melt it all together that way. I think. You can see that I also didn’t take out the seeds. I remember making the decision not to do this, and telling myself it would be more authentic or something, but obviously I just didn’t feel like picking the seeds out. 

Anyway, I ended up with more or less candied lemon slices that were a tiny bit floppier than I would have liked, and a little bit weepy. As someone who got a little bit weepy over a Gary Larson cartoon yesterday, I really cannot judge the lemons for this. 

Then I watched my ten millionth video on how to frost a cake, frosted the cake, loused it up completely like I always do, and decorated it with sort-of candied lemon slices, marigolds (which are edible), and some candied ginger slices. I also threw on some candy squiggles that I had the foresight to make, once I realized that the candy was going to end up squiggly whether I wanted it to or not. And it turned out kind of pretty!

Weird, but pretty. The candy squiggles give it a bit of a doctor’s signature look, which I always think is nice. And see, you can see how the lemons are weeping.

There there, lemons. 

Actually, I think it’s the lemon candy that’s weeping. It’s too bright to be lemon juice. I don’t know. Well, the cake itself was good. Moist and dense, but still tender, and not gummy.

The lemon frosting was maybe a little too sweet, but that’s buttercream for you. A successful cake overall, I thought. 

MONDAY
Pasta with meat sauce

Damien was still away, so I reverted to an old kid-friendly meal: twisty pasta with jarred spaghetti sauce and ground beef. I did fry up a chopped onion, but I think that’s as far as I went with the seasoning. And wow, was it bland. I used to cook like this all the time.

TUESDAY
Pizza

Tuesday was a little experiment: I made just three pizzas, to see if it would be enough. In our heyday, I would make six extra-large pizzas, and there would only be scanty leftovers. As the family shifts and the birdies fly the next, I keep decreasing how many pizzas I make, and this week I had to acknowledge that, when I make four pizzas, there are leftovers hanging around all week long. So I made three, and there were three or four pieces left after everyone ate. This does not sit right, but the data is in. 

Here is a pie chart demonstrating how much pizza our family ate:

Tee hee. (Then we ate the rest of it.)

WEDNESDAY
Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits

Last week, while frying chicken for the chicken biryani, I thought to myself that I really ought to try frying chicken for a main course again, because it was surprisingly simple and easy, and why not? 

So, the answer to this question is: Frying up six or seven pieces of chicken to go in a larger dish later in the day is one thing. Frying up 24 pieces of chicken while everyone hungrily waits for dinner on a school night is quite another. It was not simple! It was not easy! And also I forgot that only one of the big burners on the stove works properly, and the other one just stays on high and burns everything, and the other two are tiny and useless. So, that’s why not. 

I don’t have regrets, though. But I’m starting much earlier in the day, next time. I more or less followed this recipe, except that I dredged the milk-soaked chicken in regular flour seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. I have to admit, it was frrrrrreaking delicious. 

I over cooked it somewhat, so the outside wasn’t exactly beautiful, but it was tasty as heck, the meat was juicy, and all the kids said it was great and I should make it again. So that’s a win! Here’s my unbeautiful but tasty plate:

As you can see, I also made garlic mashed potatoes that were kind of not great. They were very small potatoes and I was rushing, so I decided not to peel them, which works okay if you are going to mash them very thoroughly, which I did not. Oh well. I make mashed potatoes infrequently enough that the kids consider them a treat and were happy to have them. Here’s the recipe, if you want to do it right:

Jump to Recipe

I also made a few dozen biscuits that turned out pretty well.

I have a reliable biscuit recipe that calls for cream of tartar and egg, and the biscuits come out rich and fluffy, with a fragile, buttery crust.

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Overall a popular meal. Gravy would have been great, but I just ran out of time. I also wished I had some sauteed spinach, but again, time. 

THURSDAY
Leftover fried chicken, fries, corn

I was planning (well, “planning”) Greek chicken something something yogurt sauce I dunno, but there was a lot of fried chicken left over, so we just picked up some frozen fries, heated up some frozen corn, and had chicken again. 

You can see that the coating adhered nicely, even unto the second day, so I’ll definitely stick with this recipe next time. Maybe even make some gravy.

FRIDAY
Quesadillas, chips, salsa

And then, like I said, apparently it is Friday! At least that’s what it says here. And now I’m headed to the windowsill. 

Garlic parmesan mashed potatoes

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

moron biscuits

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 309: In which I recommend thighs

Friday again! Can it be believed? I’ll spare you the tiresome story of how I filled the refrigerator with food and then it filled itself with warm air, but I didn’t want to acknowledge what was happening right away, and so most of the meat and dairy went bad and had to be replaced. Like many things, it was my fault, for overstuffing the freezer, which blocked the vents, which prevented the cold air from reaching the fridge. Unlike many things, I was able to fix it, by throwing out a lot of stupid frozen crap and hitting the inside of the freezer with a wooden spoon. But then we had to buy all new food (or rather, Damien did, because I do not have a car), and that was a bummer. P.S. The car is also my fault.

Oops, I guess I didn’t spare you the story. Sorry. Well, here’s what we ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Aldi pizza

Saturday was the first day of our grape adventure, and of course I also went shopping. In retrospect, when did we do all that grape stuff? In the morning, I guess. Sounds like a good day for store-bought pizza. I really like Aldi pizza. The crust, in particular, satisfies some deep ancient transgressive urge to eat hot cardboard. 

SUNDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, raw veg and dip

Sunday was grapetime, part II. I had some ciabatta rolls left over from last week, so I used those to grill some provolone and ham, and that was pretty tasty. 

If you look closely, you can tell I was sitting on the steps, eating my grilled cheese in the rain. Sometimes this is the way. 

MONDAY
Burgers, chips, quinoa with kale

I snacked so much (on marshmallows, if you must know) while making dinner that I wasn’t hungry for a burger at all, so I just had a heaping plate of quinoa and kale (steamed in the microwave) and a big glass of grape juice for dinner.

Strange but satisfying. 

TUESDAY
Cumin chicken with chickpeas, lemony onions and yogurt sauce; homemade pita

Tuesday was dark and thunderstormery, so a good day for a warming, savory dish and a little bit of baking. This is another meal that takes very little skill but turns up tons of flavor. There is a bit of prep work, but then you can just slide a pan in the oven before supper and it’s a great meal.

Jump to Recipe

In the morning, you make a simple yogurt marinade, and marinate the chicken. Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are best, but drumsticks or wings are okay. The skin turns out really excellent, so I really recommend thighs. 

You also make yogurt sauce and a side of lemony onions with cilantro. You can also prep some more onions and the chickpeas (you just drain and season them), but it takes like ten seconds. When it’s time to cook, you spread the chickpeas and onions in the pan with olive oil and a little seasoning, snuggle the marinated chicken in, and cook it. I make two big pans and switch their positions halfway through so they cook evenly. 

The light was not cooperating, so this looks a little drab. In real life, the skin was a wonderful, varnished amber, and the chickpeas were shining like little gems. They are crunchy on the outside and hot and mealy inside, and the cooked onions are crisp and deeply savory. The chicken comes out incredibly moist and tender inside. 

You serve this with the bright, piquant lemon onions with cilantro and the garlicky yogurt sauce

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and of course some pita bread. Most of the time I buy pita, but since I’m carless and it was raining, it definitely felt like a homemade pita day. I made a triple batch of this recipe from The Kitchn and I guess I’m going to need someone’s grandmother to come over and smack the back of my hands with a wooden spoon if I’m ever going to get better at making bread, but I had fun, anyway. 

It’s an easy recipe. You just mix it all up, knead, let the dough rise once, and then divide it into lumps

and then roll it into discs and quickly bake or fry it. The kids remembered how the kitchen speaker was listening in and judging me last time I made pita and tried frying it, so the hell with that. This time, I baked it and I did it while everyone was in school. 

They really came out lovely. 

Not quite as airy and pillowy soft as the picture in the recipe, and by the time it was dinner, they had of course collapsed and turned a little tough; but I myself ate two straight out of the oven for lunch, along with a peach and a plum, and it was very good. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken nuggets and fall pasta salad

Grabbed this lovely “fall shaped” pasta from Aldi several weeks ago. I overcooked it because I can’t help myself, but it was still pretty. 

Not the most inspired pasta salad. I added olive oil and balsamic vinegar, a bunch of pesto from a jar, the last tomatoes from the garden, and the last string beans from the garden. 

I had a terrible problem with beetles or something this year, so I got a very puny string bean crop. Oh well. 

THURSDAY
Gochujang bulgoki, rice

Great little Korean recipe, also quite easy, high flavor, moderate effort. The marinade is gochujang, honey, soy sauce, garlic, and a little sugar. 

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I sliced up a pork loin as thinly as I could and let it marinate most of the day along with several carrots and an onion sliced thin in the food processor. The carrots are supposed to be matchstick, but I do them different each time because I am a free spirit. 

Then at suppertime, I got a big pot of rice going in the Instant Pot and fried up the meat in oil on the stovetop.

Everyone kept coming in to see what the wonderful smell is, which is always encouraging. I hit the honey pretty hard in the marinade, to be honest, because I wanted people to eat dinner. 

This meal is supposed to have rice and lettuce and/or seaweed, but I forgot to buy either, so we just had rice. I did buy some broccoli to make as a side, but it went bad. So we just had the rice and bulgoki, and it was pretty tasty, if a bit spare. 

In retrospect, there are some scallions on my windowsill that I could have chopped up for at least a little green. Oh well. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

And that’s the end of that chapter! 

I have spent the week prepping my busted underwater car to sell, trying not to take extremely low offers personally, and looking for a replacement. I may have found one! We shall see. Excelsior, right? At least we have macaroni. 

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. 

 

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

 

Gochujang bulgoki (spicy Korean pork)


Ingredients

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

sauce:

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

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

Instructions

  1. Combine pork, onions, and carrots.

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

    Cover and let marinate for several hours or overnight.

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

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 287: In which I mislead my children about the Irish

Rather pretty photos this week! I love being able to eat dinner while the sun is up, but a close second is being able to take food photos while the sun is up. 

Here’s what we cooked this week: 

SATURDAY
Italian sandwiches, fries

Wow, Saturday seems like a long time ago. I think we had various salamis, capicola, prosciutto (Aldi prosciutto. We’re not millionaires) and provolone, with some red pesto. Looks like I was too hungry to take a photo. 

 

SUNDAY
Ina Garten’s roast chicken and vegetables

Damien made this gorgeous chicken that is absolutely packed with flavor and looks like the true feast it is.

The chicken is stuffed with lemon halves, entire heads of garlic, and sprigs of thyme,

and then you have beautiful heaps of roasted, caramelized carrots, onions, and fennel. Damien also added ten sliced potatoes.

Very moist and scrumptious. I just sat there eating fennel and carrots like a complete vegetable goblin. 

MONDAY
Chicken burgers, chips, crispy shredded Brussels sprouts

Shredded Brussels sprouts is a new-to-us thing. I preheated the oven to 425, cut the stems off two pounds of Brussels sprouts, and sliced them thinly with the food processor, then spread them in a thin layer on two large parchment paper-covered pans with olive oil, honey, salt, and lots of red pepper flakes, and chopped walnuts.

Then I forgot about them and parts of them burned a little, so I switched pans and stirred them up a bit and cooked them a bit more, and they turned out . . . pretty good.

I was hoping for something a little more crunchy, and this didn’t quite get there, but reminded me a little bit of coleslaw. Probably if I had spread it out more thinly, they would have gotten more crisp. Damien thought it was great as it was, and I did like the flavor a lot. Nice to have something new for a side dish, and I can imagine tons of variations in what you add to the Brussels sprouts. It’s also a great way to stretch a small amount of vegetables. I can imagine adding in carrots. 

TUESDAY
Mexican beef bowls 

Kind of an inelegant photo, but a very tasty meal. 

One kid said, “Wow, I never tried this food before. I just assumed it was gross. But it’s delicious!” What do you know about that. Wait till you find out I was right about everything else, too. 

There wasn’t a ton of meat, so I wanted to make sure there were plenty of other good toppings. Namely, yummy beans. I made them in the instant pot, and I thought they were quite toothsome. 

Jump to Recipe

I also sautéed up a bunch of sweet pepper and put out sour cream, shredded cheese, cilantro, scallions, and skillet roasted (skillet roasted? Is that a thing) corn with Taijin seasoning, some corn chips, and a big pot of white rice. I forgot to put out the lime. wedges. The star of this meal is the wonderful gravy from the meat, and the star of the gravy is Worcestershire sauce, which I love even more now that I know it has tamarind in it.

Very rich and piquant meal. 

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WEDNESDAY
Cumin chicken with chickpeas, onion salad, homemade pita

Last time I made pita bread, I complained about what a huge amount of work it was. I think that was mostly due to the newness of the recipe (I have massive baking anxiety, and every step feels monumental), and the fact that I quadrupled it. I gathered up my courage and tried this recipe again, and it was actually very simple. You just stir up the dough and knead it well, let it rise once,

divide it, roll the pieces into rounds,

and slap them in a hot oven for threeish minutes, and hope they puff.

It takes a long time if you are making 32 of them and can only fit three on a pan, but there are far less pleasant ways to spend a morning than rolling and baking 32 pieces of pita bread. 

I did try pan frying one, and it turned out so flat and rubbery, I went back to the oven method, which was working well enough. While I was complaining about it, I apparently triggered a smart speaker command, so the next three-minute alarm that went off wasn’t just a chime; it was a perky woman’s voice saying “Three minutes the last one fried in the pan turned out really rubbery!” NOBODY ASKED YOU, PERKY KITCHEN ROBOT. 

Anyway, everybody liked the pita. Next time I will bake them right before supper, because they are divine when they are piping hot; but even several hours old, they were still nice. (The same child who was amazed the Mexican beef wasn’t disgusting complimented me on the pita, saying he loved how tough and chewy it was. I did not murder said child, because soon enough he will be eating his own cooking, and then we’ll all see what’s tough.)

The whole meal was so good.

 

The cumin chicken is super easy. You stir up a simple yogurt marinade for the chicken in the morning (I used thighs and drumsticks), and then about an hour before dinner, spread some seasoned chickpeas in a pan, nestle your chicken in it, maybe throw some onions on top, and shove it in the oven. 

The skin on this chicken is so great. The meat turns out really tender, but the best part is the skin, and it takes zero skill. 

Jump to Recipe

Also, Clara was juicing lemons for some reason, so she had some freshly-squeezed juice to spare for the onion salad, and wow, I forgot what a difference it makes over bottled.

It’s just red onions, lemon juice, chopped cilantro, and some salt and pepper, but it’s so bright and fresh, it’s really wonderful with the earthy flavors of the cumin in the chickpeas and chicken.  

Make a nice bowl of garlicky yogurt sauce,

Jump to Recipe

and it’s a perfectly balanced plate of flavors. Cool, bright, sharp, earthy, and then the sour-floury pita brings it all together.

Lovely. 

THURSDAY
Irish breakfast

Damien heroically took the three middle girls into Boston on the evening of St. Patrick’s day to see Conan Gray. They ate at one of Guy Fieri’s restaurant because if there’s one thing those kids can do, it’s commit to the bit. 

We at home continued our tradition of acknowledging we don’t really like corned beef, and we had what may or may not be an authentic Irish breakfast instead. The Irish sausage wasn’t too popular last year, so we skipped that and had bacon, thick sourdough toast, roast potatoes, fried mushrooms, baked beans, roasted tomatoes, and eggs fried in bacon grease. 

This meal gave the kids the impression that the Irish eat very well indeed. Oops.

I had some trouble getting so many different things hot at the same time, so I fudged it a bit, and the mushrooms (mushrooms, parsley, salt, bacon fat) started out well

but got a bit overcooked, and then I decided to broil the tomatoes in the oven

and long before they got any kind of char, they really collapsed. I don’t know if there’s another method of cooking sliced tomatoes so they don’t fall apart, or if that’s just how it be. They were good, just surprisingly fragile, kind of like the Ir–I’m sorry, somebody was shouting and I lost track of what I was saying. 

I’ll let this hero round out the day for us all.  

FRIDAY
Vietnamese garlic noodles

Gonna try this simple recipe from the NYT, which says it’s a San Francisco dish. Butter, lots of garlic, oyster sauce, soy sauce, spaghetti, parmesan, and scallions. How often does the NYT run a recipe using ingredients you already have! I’ll let you know how it turns out. Garlicky, I’m guessing. 

And we have St. Joseph’s day coming right up tomorrow! Although we’ll probably celebrate on Sunday, just because Saturday is always so crazy-go-nuts. Thinking of an antipasto of pickled vegetables and cheeses and cured meats,

suppli (maybe made by Lucy, since they turned out so well last time),

spaghetti and meatballs (probably made by Damien),

and Clara may make zeppole, which is the traditional St. Joseph’s Day dessert, and which I mangled pretty severely when I tried.

I would like to try pannacotta with fruit (haven’t settled on a recipe yet), just so the kitchen doesn’t forget whose kitchen it is. We just finished The Great British Baking Show and a lot of Giuseppe’s recipes seemed highly desirable to me. But that is a lot of cooks in a small kitchen, so I think today we’ll plan out who makes what when. 

This is also a lot of tasty food for the middle of Lent, but St. Joseph has been mucho helpful for our family and the least we can do for him is eat a lot. Just like the Irish. 

Instant Pot black beans

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 16-oz cans black beans with liquid
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Put olive oil pot of Instant Pot. Press "saute" button. Add diced onion and minced garlic. Saute, stirring, for a few minutes until onion is soft. Press "cancel."

  2. Add beans with liquid. Add cumin, salt, and cilantro. Stir to combine. Close the lid, close the vent, and press "slow cook."

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.

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

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. 

Some great TV and books we’re enjoying lately

Lots of variety here! 

Here’s what we’re reading: 

Our current read-aloud book for the little kids (ages 6 and 10) is Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

I haven’t ever seen the movie, but have heard that the movie and book are both good, but quite different. I’m enjoying the book a lot. It’s weird and entertaining, and reads aloud very well. It’s easy to get the tone of voice right in dialogue without having to read ahead, and there is plenty of variety in the sentence structure, which I always appreciate when reading aloud. It gives some clues to the characters’ interior lives, without overexplaining; and the storytelling is so deft, it helps you accept some really outlandish situations without blinking.  My only quibble is that the chapters are different lengths, which can be frustrating when we only have a certain amount of time allotted to read. 

Also reading Christopher West’s Theology of the Body for Beginners to the middle kids (ages 12, 14, 16, and 17).

I wouldn’t say they’re enjoying it, exactly, but I chose it so at least we would have some kind of common vocabulary, and then if they want to disagree with me (or if I want to disagree with West, which I’m not ruling out), at least we could have somewhere to start. I don’t know. The world has gotten very strange very quickly and I have no idea what to do about it. I know there are issues with Christopher West, but it’s pretty solid so far, and the kids have moved from snarky to reluctantly interested. I just don’t want them to grow up thinking that the Church’s main teaching is “Adam and Eve, sex bad, be careful, marriage, the end.” 

This is what we are doing, by the way, rather than the parish whole-family religious education program. (We also send them to Dead Theologian’s Society, but we’ve been skipping because it includes a meal, and it omicron time.) Between covid and who knows what else, our parish stopped doing individual religious education classes and started this thing where I guess the whole family goes in together, and then you have to go home and teach your own kids anyway? Which sounds like the worst of both worlds. So we’re just doing this, and also:

Damien is reading St. Patrick’s Summer by Marigold Hunt to the younger kids (Benny did her first confession, first communion, and confirmation last year, but Corrie hasn’t done any of that yet).

I read this to the older kids when they were younger and remember liking it a lot — it’s a catechism told through a story, where a couple of 20th century kids meet St. Patrick and some other spiritual figures — but Damien says the content is good, but he’s finding the style hard to read. I think we were homeschooling when we read it, and probably just had a wider tolerance for weird books. Anyway, I recommend it for people who are looking for a solid catechism but maybe don’t want to go the Baltimore Catechism route for whatever reason. It has really good stuff about doctrine, like the trinity, etc., that many adults probably missed learning. I remember it as being fairly winsome in tone, definitely not preachy, but surprisingly natural in the way it conveyed doctrine through dialogue. 

On my own, I’m reading Piranesi by Susanna Clark, which I got for Christmas, and I’m enjoying immensely.

It’s wonderful to read a book that’s been written so deliberately. I’m constantly astonished at how carelessly so many popular books are written. Like, the story is interesting and the characters are fine, but the author doesn’t seem to have gone to any trouble over the writing itself? Even though they are an author?? I don’t think we should put up with this. 

Anyway, Piranesi is wonderfully engaging and fascinating and I have no idea whatsoever what is going to happen, and I can’t wait to find out. 

Also reading Midnight Is a Place by Joan Aiken

Joan Aiken is always worth reading. Never writes down to kids, but knows what kinds of things are important to kids. This is not actually one of my favorites — there are too many characters, and I’m finding the action a tiny bit confusing — but it’s got lots of adventure, appealing characters, pathos, comedy, an excellent sense of place, and a bit of social conscience, all of which are Aiken trademarks. 

This one is about a young lonely teenage boy growing up lonely in a decrepit mansion as the ward of a titan of industry. He longs for a friend and is dismayed to find himself instead put in charge of a little French girl. The two of them get swept up in an intrigue in the streets of the Industrial Revolution slums of the hellish city of Blastburn. The book includes a lot of peril and the death of children, so may not be appropriate for sensitive young readers. 

Lately we’ve been watching:

The Book of Boba Fett on Disney+

I’ve been hearing a lot of belly-aching about this show, and the arguments against never strike me as critiques of the actual work, but more that the show didn’t fulfill the particular desires that happened to reside in that particular viewer’s psyche. It’s possible I just have the right combination of fondness for Star Wars and ignorance of the lore minutiae, but I’m finding it to be the most entertaining thing I’ve watched in ages. I do think it stands up on its own as a cinematic spectacle and on its own narrative integrity. It’s not groundbreaking, and it’s not supposed to be. It’s well-known that the original Star Wars trilogy was a space western. The Mandalorian and now Boba Fett really bring that out of the realm of suggestion and right up to the surface. It may as well be a John Ford movie, just transplanted. I just about lost my mind when the train showed up in episode 2. So beautifully shot, and thrilling! People said it was boring, and I just don’t understand what they were watching. It’s exciting! It’s beautiful! It has monsters! And trains! And a good-bad man that you come to understand more and more as the show goes on. I’ll watch that story again, why not. It doesn’t hurt that my kids keep shrieking with joy as little obscure references and inside jokes keep turning up (and going over my head).

One essay complained about the exploitation of the story of the Tusken Raiders. It said that, while previous Star Wars movies were clearly written by the victors, portraying the tribe as witless savages, Boba Fett gives them the space to be revealed as a true culture with a backstory and a grievance which explains why they’re so aggressive — but then it obliterates them offscreen once they perform the service of giving Boba Fett some character development. And that’s true! But I’m not sure why it’s a problem! This is the kind of thing that happens all the time in a John Ford western, and I think people just need to watch more of them. Start with The Searchers and relax your ass.  

We’re also watching I, Claudius again. The 1976 BBC series based on the historical novels by Robert Graves.

I did read the book a long time ago, but I really don’t remember it, so I can’t say how faithful the series is, but it has won numerous awards. It’s rather dated and very British in some ways, but once you get going, it’s gripping. I mean how could it not be! It’s told from the point of view of the emperor Claudius at the end of his life, putting together his autobiography and his horrible family history. Lots of poisoning, orgies, and intrigue, betrayal, heartbreak, oracles, and people deciding just how many compromises they can stand to make. I’m not great at following all the ins and outs of the politics, but it doesn’t really matter. You just have to understand which people will do anything for power, and see everyone else eventually get squished. Lots of great acting, spectacular costumes, so sad and funny and terrifying. (Tony Soprano’s mother Livia is clearly a nod to the uber-ambitious wife of emperor Augustus.) I recall it has some very grim and gory stuff further on with Caligula, so viewer beware.

We’re watching this series on disc, but you can stream it in a few places (nowhere free currently, unfortunately).

And, for something totally different, we’re watching The Great British Baking Show, season 9, on Netflix.

We’re only about three or four episodes in, so please don’t tell me who wins! We finished up the previous season, and it was just delightful. Stressful! Always surprisingly stressful. But overall a lovely show, structured very differently from any American reality show. 

It starts out with 12 amateur (but extremely good) bakers who have to produce a series of pastries and other baked goods. Sometimes they have a chance to practice and develop their recipe ahead of time; sometimes the assignment is a complete surprise, they’ve never heard of it, and the recipes are vague and unhelpful. Sometimes they have to make a dozen, identical pieces of some relatively simple sweet; sometimes they’re expected to produce outlandish, elaborate edible projects like chandeliers or childhood toys that you can really play with. One baker is eliminated each week, so you really get to know them over the course of the show, and they each bring in their own traditions, ethnic backgrounds, aesthetic preferences, and neurosis. They do a great job of choosing a variety of contestants with different strengths and weaknesses and different kinds of appeal. They encourage and sometimes even help each other, and although the judges are sometimes stern and the pressure is intense, this isn’t a cruel show. We save it for Sundays, because it’s so pleasant and I don’t want to wear it out. 

They include short bits where the judges horse around with each other and do stupid little gimmicky jokes, and these are lame, but not too intrusive, and they focus mainly on the bakers and the baking. It’s all done outdoors under a giant tent, and the setting is breathtakingly lovely. (And yes, one of the hosts is the guy who plays Richmond on The IT Crowd.)

Listening to:

I’m not listening to anything! I have nothing. I’m listening to the dog making glorping noises with his stupid loose face and I’m going to lose my mind. What are you listening to? 

What’s for supper? Vol. 268: The eleven silly eaters

Wasn’t that a long week? We’ve almost made it!  Here’s what we ate this week: 

SATURDAY
I think burgers?

Saturday we also made Mrs. Peters’ birthday cake. This is from the delightful book The Seven Silly Eaters, which I was not yet familiar with when I wrote about positive portrayals of large families in literature.

In the book, this nice mom ends up catering to her seven picky kids more and more, and every day makes each of their favorite foods: applesauce, bread, eggs, milk, lemonade, and oatmeal. One night, exhausted, she realizes it’s her birthday tomorrow. She assumes the family has forgotten, but they haven’t, and the kids sneak downstairs to make their favorite foods for her as a surprise. But it’s harder than it looks, and they end up mixing all the foods together and hiding the mess in the still-warm oven overnight — and Mrs. Peters wakes up in the morning to discover the combined foods have transformed themselves into a delicious birthday cake for her (and from that day forward, the kids all pitch in with the cooking).

It’s a very cute story in non-irritating rhyme with a satisfying end, beautifully illustrated by Marla Frazee. The story and the illustrations both show an understanding of both the delights and the trials of family life. 

Last week, when Corrie was home with a sniffle, she decided to make the cake as described in the book,

with predictable results.

I even left it in the oven for many hours at a very low temperature, just like in the book, because I uh forgot it was in there.

As written, the ingredients could not, of course, actually make anything like a delicious cake; but the author, Mary Ann Hoberman, did put together a recipe based on the story, so that’s what we decided to try on Saturday. 

It turned out . . . okay.

It was exceedingly wet. Like, juice ran out when I turned the cake out of the pan. The flavor was pleasant enough, sort of like apple-y bread pudding. You couldn’t really taste the lemon, but the egg taste was prominent. 

It was unclear if you were supposed to use cooked oatmeal or oats. Possibly using oats would have given us different results, but it did say “oatmeal” in the recipe. I also underbaked it, because I was so afraid of overbaking it, which I always do with cakes. Anyway, I didn’t yell very much when we were baking, and Corrie was pleased with her cake. Actually, she quit halfway through, even though it was her idea, and Benny stuck it out through to the end. And that’s our story. 

I guess that’s our third fictional dessert, really, if you count the Earl Gray tea cake being something like an Amelia Bedelia cake, and the several lemon meringue pies we have made, also inspired by Amelia Bedelia. We have no plans to dip fish in chocolate as yet, although I spent a lot of time thinking about it as a child.

SUNDAY
Normal tacos

I was sick as heck on Sunday and went ahead and used Instacart for the weekly shopping like a millionaire. I hate Instacart. Last time we used it, the gal pestered me for every last thing (me substitute blueberry yogurt instead of mixed berry yogurt? YES, THAT’S FINE) and then delivered $260 worth of groceries to a fence company down the road (I mean a literal fence company. They don’t fence for anybody nefarious, as far as I know) and it took a full day to figure out what happened to the food, and almost a week to get my money back.

This time, the shopper did a pretty good job, but we still ended up with stuff like three peaches instead of three three-pound bags of peaches, and some kind of unexpected chicken, and (ptui) lean ground beef, and five cans of sour cream and onion Pringles.

Excuse me, Stackerz. Oh, did the kids carry on about how ridiculous that was! All those sour cream and onion Stackerz! Actually, I’m not telling them this, but that’s exactly what I ordered: Five cans of sour cream and onion Stackerz. I was sick and didn’t feel like clicking around to get a variety of different flavors, sheesh. It’s like a children’s book in here. Fussy fussy. 

MONDAY
Chicken tortilla soup, giant quesadilla slab

I was feeling a little better — well enough to make soup, sick enough to crave soup, especially soup that gets you right between the eyes. I love this chicken tortilla soup from Two Sleevers.

I gathered up the very last of the outdoor tomatoes and put them in the food processor along with onion, lots of garlic, several chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, a giant jalapeño, and a ton of cilantro, and some salt, and you get this wonderful pungent base

and you sauté that in oil. I did it right in the Instant Pot, nice and easy. Oh my land, the smell. 

Then you throw in your tortillas and chicken and some water and cook it until the chicken is shreddable.

And that’s it. I was going to put some beans and corn in there, but I wanted to appeal to as many silly eaters as possible.

We had it with a nice dollop sour cream, plus avocados and more cilantro, and I think some people had shredded cheddar cheese.

Just great. This soup has a sneaky little punch that builds up as you eat it. Really good for people with head colds. 

I knew several people would be sad we were having soup for supper, and corn muffins would just make them sadder, so I made a giant baked quesadilla slab.

Spray the pan, put on a layer of overlapping tortillas, lots of shredded cheese, and another layer of tortillas, then drizzle on some olive oil and sprinkle on some chili lime powder, and bake at 350 until the cheese is melted and the edges are crunchy. Carve into pieces with the pizza cutter. Boom.

Everyone likes it and it takes about three minutes to throw together. Nice easy side for soup, and they can’t moan at you for making just soup for supper. 

TUESDAY
Chicken burgers, chips, misc.

Strange burgers, weird burgers. I also decided I was going to clean out the fridge and make a giant, attractive charcuterie board of all the miscellaneous leftovers that are crammed in there making my life miserable. In my head, we had all sorts of delectable deli treats and wonderful cheeses, crisp vegetables and appealing tidbits just begging to be appreciated. In reality, there was six or seven dented, half-frozen hardboiled eggs, a handful of horrible blackened avocado in a sandwich bag, a large amount of rancid salami in various sizes and also some rancid gabagool, and some cold leftover tortilla slab, which . . . I mean, I will eat it cold, but I am not everybody. I laid it all out on a tray, smiled at it, scowled at it, and slid it into the garbage, and put out five cans of sour cream and onion Pringles, excuse me, Stackerz. I’ll show you a silly eater. 

One of these days I am going to do something about the grout on my dining room table. But not today. Today, I’m not even going to bother sweeping the crumbs off before dinner. 

WEDNESDAY
Asian meatballs, rice, raw broccoli

When I first discovered this recipe

Jump to Recipe

I loved it so much. It was such a revelation. Lighter than normal meatballs, versatile, tangy, easy, exciting. Then I made it a few more times, and it turned on me. I don’t know what happened, but the last three or four times I’ve made it, it just wasn’t any good. 

This time, I was determined to do everything carefully, use all the freshest ingredients, prep everything fastidiously in the food processor, measure everything meticulously, and time it precisely. The verdict: Still not that great! Way too salty, for one thing. So I have changed the salt from a tablespoon to a teaspoon. But it seems like the problems go deeper than this, and I cannot understand why. It grieves me. I want to retvrn but I don’t know how.

I did eat four meatballs, dipped them in soy sauce, because that’s what you do when something’s too salty. We also had rice and raw broccoli. 

THURSDAY
Pizza

One cheese, one olive, one pepperoni, and one with sliced garlic, roasted red peppers, and anchovies. 

Very nice balance of sweet and savory. Damien and I are thinking we will try a fennel, pepper, and anchovy pizza next; won’t that be nice? Ooh, maybe some spinach. I don’t know about the fennel and spinach together. 

I also took my final crack at that soup, for lunch, and it will still magnificent. Look, it looks like tomato galaxy. 

Of course there were plenty of rather gravid tortilla strips lurking beneath the surface, and lots of shredded chicken. The recipe calls for chicken breast, which certainly shreds easily, but I think I’ll use thighs next time, for a little more flavor.

FRIDAY
Pigsnetti

That’s what one of my kids used to call “spaghetti.”Isn’t that crazy? So much harder to say that “spaghetti” or even “puhsketti” like a normal human child. 

***

Well, I guess the only recipe card I have is the Asian meatballs, which don’t exactly come with a ringing endorsement this week. Maybe you’ll have better luck somehow. 

Vaguely Asian meatballs with dipping sauce

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

Servings 30 large meatballs

Ingredients

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

For dipping sauce:

  • mirin or rice vinegar
  • soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.

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

  3. Bake for about 15 minutes.

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 234: In which I discover how to make rugelach without burnt bottoms!

Raise your hand if you’ve been falling asleep on the couch every night. Not that hand, you’re still holding a glass of wine! Oh well, those were old pants anyway.

Before we go any further, here is some Creedence, with Keep On Chooglin’. 

Good for any old time, but especially when you have set yourself up to make 160 little rugelach and every time someone comes into the kitchen, they comment that you just keep on rugelin’, which is true.

Here’s what else we ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Loaded baked potatoes, onion soup

I made this meal mainly so I could stop wondering how this meal would go over, even though I knew the answer would be: Okay. I baked a bunch of giant potatoes and set them out with bacon, sour cream, french onion dip, chili, cheese, scallions, and I forget what else. And I made a pot of onion soup just so they couldn’t say I only fed them potatoes for supper. 

I honestly believe this was just as filling and interesting as any meal I make, but some people just couldn’t get past the mental roadblock of having a side dish as a main dish. So now I can cross that off my “how to be a monster” list, and get back to serving real meals of meat and potato, rather than fake meals of potato and meat. 

They didn’t really complain, but they definitely pondered and discussed for longer than absolutely necessary. Some people don’t remember when the dinner we could afford was oatmeal soup, and it shows! Come to think of it, I don’t really have a problem with that.

Here is my basic onion soup recipe. 

Jump to Recipe

I made it in the Instant Pot just to keep it out of the way, which is legitimately handy sometimes, but there was no other advantage to using the IP instead of the stove to caramelize onions, despite what lies people may tell. You have to let the pot come to pressure, then cook the onions, then release the pressure, and then finish them up on sauté anyway, so it takes exactly as long. I guess there is a little less stirring, but it definitely isn’t a time saver.

SUNDAY
Beef fajita bowls

Last time I made this dish, I went on autopilot and accidentally cut up the meal before marinating it, and then pan fried it. That was very tasty, but this time, I marinated the roasts whole, and oven roasted them (350 for about 40 minutes) and then sliced them up.

(Sorry, I know it’s Friday.)

A vast improvement to an already delicious dish. My goodness, it was so tender and juicy and flavorful. This is a really tangy, savory marinade.

Jump to Recipe

I had mine with rice, meat, guacamole, beans and tomatoes with chili peppers, cilantro, sour cream, fresh lime, and corn chips, and I scooped up some of the sauce from the meat pan and gave everything an extra little gravy baptism, mmmmm hmmmmm.

Somehow I’ve gone most of my life without using Worcestershire sauce, and I did not associate it with Mexican food at all, probably because of the. name. When you live in rural NH, you have to figure these things out the hard way (by reading recipes on the internet). Well, I’m a big fan now! Not quite up to putting it on my pizza, but a fan nonetheless. 

The guacamole was definitely B grade guacamole. Canned tomatoes, garlic powder instead of fresh, canned jalapeños instead of fresh, and the avocados were overripe, so I had to mash them pretty hard, rather than leaving some nice chunks. Here’s my recipe for decent guac:

Jump to Recipe

MONDAY
Hot dogs, chips, beans

Monday was shopping day, so we needed something fast and easy. I used to buy cheapo hot dogs and then a few Hebrew National or something yummier for people who cared. Then I discovered people who care prefer natural casing hot dogs to Hebrew National, so I bought a few of those. Then more people started caring, so I started buying more natural casing hot dogs. But I had it in my head that there needed to be an alternative hot dog, so now I buy a big box of natural casing hot dogs plus a small package of terrible cheap weenies. A few people asked me why, and I had to admit that I did not know. 

TUESDAY
Ravioli, chocolate strawberries

Tuesday was Benny’s birthday. We’re having an at-home party on Saturday, but she really wanted to do some special stuff on the actual day, so she chose dinner (frozen ravioli, can do) and we made chocolate-dipped strawberries. Actually I made one, and then I left the room. This is generally the best way to ensure the kids have a fun kitchen experience. 

She opened one of her presents, Moe made her french toast, and then we played hooky from virtual school and got Wendy’s for lunch, which we attempted to eat on the bridge by the waterfall

but it turned out it’s December, so we finished our meal in the heated car. Which is where I found out that she thought a Baconator was pronounced “buh-CON-ah-torr,” like “matador,” so that was a little present for me, too.  

Then we went to Walmart and bought a new zipper pull for her jacket and a Mickey Mouse balloon, and then Dora stopped by the house with a present of a stack of books she liked when she was that age. Benny ended up having a wonderful day, because she is a wonderful kid.

WEDNESDAY
Chicken thighs with chickpeas

This is one of my favorite meals. I got up and got the chicken thighs marinating in the yogurt marinade pretty early, and also got the yogurt dipping sauce and the onion salad made; so when it was time to eat, all I had to do was open a bunch of cans of chickpeas and throw it all on a pan to cook. 

If you like shawarma, you will probably like this meal. If you like crispy, toothsome chicken skin, you will adore this meal. 

We had plenty of pita bread and I was so happy, tearing off bits and dunking it in the yogurt sauce and scooping up a little bright, lemony red onion and cilantro. The chicken just falls off the bone, and the salty chickpeas are a little chompy on the outside and tender and mealy on the inside. So good. The yogurt sauce came out so garlicky, my breath was glowing in the dark.

THURSDAY
Salad with chicken

Bit of a lackluster meal. I was planning a hearty, harvest-y salad, like this one, maybe with candied yams on the side, but I ended up just roasting some chicken breast and serving it on greens with dried cranberries and crumbled goat cheese. Oh, I did make a big batch of croutons from our vast collection of stale rolls and hot dog buns.

I didn’t even end up eating dinner, because I got caught up in a sudden baking frenzy. I made rum balls and, because it was the first night of Chanukah, three kinds of rugelach. 

Jump to Recipe

 (this is an updated recipe card, with step by step pictures, simplified and improved from the previous version I’ve shared)

Let me tell you about rugelach. To me, they taste normal and cozy when the bottoms are absolutely burnt to hell, like this:

This is because, no matter how thinly you spread the filling on the dough, it oozes out, pools around the pastry, and then burns. Normal, but so frustrating. 

WELL.

I always say I hate baking, but really what I hate is feeling stupid, and baking almost always makes me feel stupid. But this one time, I felt smart! I made a big batch of rugelach dough, enough for eight batches, and I kept on experimenting until I figured out how to get golden brown rugelach without a burned bottom.

 You line a pan with parchment paper to contain the mess, but you put a baking rack on top of that, spray it with cooking spray, and bake the rugelach on the rack, and then the filling still oozes out, but it oozes onto the parchment paper below

leaving your rugelach unburnt!

Then you move the rugelach off the rack onto a lined tray as soon as they come out of the oven. If you wait, they will just cement themselves to the rack, and they won’t burn, but the bottoms will get torn up. I find a butter knife is the best tool for this job, and you will absolutely burn your fingers, oh well. 

I made three kinds: Apricot walnut (my favorite)

blueberry, which for some reason doesn’t brown up as much,

and Nutella.

Lovely. This recipe is labor intensive, but requires very little skill. The dough comes out light and tender, but it’s much, much easier than pie crust or other kinds of pastry dough. It holds together very well and doesn’t need a light touch. It’s just butter, cream cheese, and flour, and then you roll it in tons of sugar. Spread your filling on, cut it in triangles, roll them up, and bake, doop! Here’s the recipe again:

Jump to Recipe

Some fruit fillings ooze more than others, but you won’t really know until you try them. I really love rugelach. They are so cute and nice, and they freeze well, too, so you can make a bunch and give them out as gifts. 

Oh, the rum balls, I made using this recipe, but I used chocolate wafers rather than vanilla ones, because that’s what they had at Aldi. I can’t taste them because migraine, but the kids said they were good. I made some rolled in powdered sugar and some rolled in little candy balls. Wishing I had done some in finely-chopped nuts, but I have no idea where I put the nuts.

FRIDAY
Pizza

And don’t you forget it! I got some olives and artichoke hearts and we’ll just have to see what’s nessa. 

Okay, here are the recipe cards!  We made it through another week, and good for us. 

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.

 

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.

 

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

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

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

 

chocolate-dipped strawberries (or chocolate-dipped anything)

Basic chocolate dip for just about anything. The shortening makes it smoother and helps it harden into a shell, rather than remaining gooey. Do not use Aldi chocolate chips! They melt very badly. Also be sure to dry strawberries thoroughly, or the chocolate won't adhere well.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb strawberries, washed and dried thoroughly
  • 12 oz chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbsp shortening

Instructions

  1. In the microwave or the top pot of a double boiler, heat the chocolate chips and shortening until they are melted, stirring frequently until the mixture is smooth.

  2. Grasping the strawberries by the leaves, dip them in the melted chocolate and shake them gently to get excess chocolate off.

  3. Lay them on a tray covered with wax paper or parchment paper and let them harden in a cool spot for an hour. If you leave them in the refrigerator for more than a day, the chocolate will begin to separate slightly from the strawberry.

 

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. 

 

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

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.

 

What’s for supper, Vol. 230: In which I mise all over the place

Ho hum, what a dull week. At least we have food to talk about. Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Cheeseburgers and candy

Halloween! We had some kind of complicated plan with multiple cars and pick ups and drop offs before trick or treating, so Damien bought a sack of Wendy’s burgers and distributed them to anyone who would slow down long enough to eat one, and/or could bend their arms enough to reach their mouths with their costumes on. 

We had a really good costume year. Clara taught herself how to sew and made a dress and a cloak, and went as an autumn warrior elf or something. 

Elijah spent about 900 hours cutting, shaping, sanding, gluing, and painting bits of foam, and came out with this incredible Mandalorian costume

Lucy and Sophia had store-bought costumes and wigs, Tsuyu and Ochako, which they bought with money they earned by working, and Lucy made her boots out of foam

Irene was Grunkle Stan (I made the fez and she made the 8 ball cane)

Benny was a fairy princess dragon

and Corrie was Jim from Troll Hunters

And that was that! Only about half as many people as usual were giving out treats, but they made up for numbers with enthusiasm, ingenious candy delivery devices, and of course candy. 

SUNDAY
Pulled chicken sandwiches, coleslaw, french fries

Wanted to try something easy but different. This didn’t knock anyone’s socks off, but it was fine. I served it with red onions and little dill pickles.

I used this recipe that calls for grated onion, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and bottled BBQ sauce, and it came out tasting exactly like I had just used bottled BBQ sauce. Next time I’ll either skip the extra ingredients and just do that, or else I’ll find a recipe that delivers more for the effort. It’s nice to have something else to do with chicken, anyway. 

MONDAY
Beef barley soup, pumpkin muffins (and soul cakes)

A snowy, blustery day, great for soup and muffins. Beef barley soup is popular with more than half the family, which is pretty good. My version has onions, carrots, mushrooms, tender beef, tomatoes, barley, and a rich beef broth with red wine, and plenty of pepper. 

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I made it in the Instant Pot, but this recipe easily adapts for stovetop. 

Poor Benny made her first batch of pumpkin muffins all by herself last week, and just as she was ready to pop them in the oven, the pan tipped over and it all flopped out on the floor. So she was especially glad to see these. 

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I think my baking soda may be a bit feeble, or maybe I just didn’t fill the tins high enough; but they turned out well enough, if not lofty and huge. 

I made a double recipe, which gave me enough for 24 muffins and a large loaf. For the loaf, I added dried cranberries and sunflower seeds. 

I had to leave the house while it was still baking, so it stayed in the oven a little too long and got too dry; but it was still pleasant and hearty. I’ll use this combination again, or maybe walnuts instead of sunflower seeds.

And it being All Souls Day, Clara made these lovely soul cakes, as I mentioned

Good smell day at the Fisher house. 

TUESDAY
Asian meatballs and rice

Election day. I wanted something I could prep ahead of time and serve without a lot of fuss, because Damien and I were both out after dinner covering election results. So I went with Asian meatballs, which is a foolproof recipe. 

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OR SO I THOUGHT.

My fellow Americans, these meatballs were horrendous.  I don’t know what happened. I was in such a rush and ended up eyeballing the spices, and, well, I guess I know what happened. They were so horribly salty and harsh and awful! Oh well. It’s a good recipe if you follow it. 

That’s hot sauce, not ketchup. And no, putting hot sauce on your painfully salty meatballs doesn’t make them better. After I took this picture, I tried adding duck sauce, which also, you’ll never guess, didn’t help. I don’t even know what is wrong with me. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken burgers, chips, quinoa and kale

I made a big speech about how I bought a bag of steamable quinoa and kale because I happen to like it, and they are welcome to have some if they want, but no one has to eat it, and they can just eat their fake Pringles, and they just aren’t allowed to give me a hard time about my quinoa and kale. 

They did give me a hard time, though, the little creeps.

I happen to like quinoa and kale!  Leave me alone with my mountain of quinoa and kale! Love is love. In this house we believe you should leave your mother alone. 

THURSDAY
Banh mi

A long-promised meal. This really is the queen of all sandwiches. 

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I guess this was the only meal that really turned out this week. I didn’t want to mention it before, but the mushrooms in the beef barley soup were a little past their prime, and I tried to pretend it was fine, but the soup was really not that great. And to be honest, I should have cooked this banh mi pork right in the pan, rather than on a rack, because it was a little dry. 

But I did toast-and-not-burn the baguettes, and I pickled ever so many carrots,

Jump to Recipe

and there were cucumbers, plenty of cilantro, pickled jalapeños, and sriracha mayo, and it’s a dem fine sandwich. A dem fine sandwich. Worth the effort. 

It’s killing me that today is meatless Friday. We may even have some leftover rice, and I could be having a leftover banh mi bowl right now. I was talking it over with Lena and we agreed, we need more bowls of things in our life. Vote for me; I’ll get you a bowl of something. 

FRIDAY
Eggs migas with refried beans

I don’t even have to look; I can feel that we have 346 bags of tortillas in the house. The eggs are probably all frozen, but what the hell. We even have some refried beans, and that has made all the difference.

I guess I haven’t written up a migas recipe yet. Don’t tell anyone I said that, but it’s basically matzoh brei for Mexicans. You slice some tortillas thin and fry them until crisp, then add in some beaten eggs and scramble it together. You can add in other stuff while it cooks, but I like to cook it simply and then serve the extras as toppings and sides. 

And there it is. I’m projecting a win for everyone at dinnertime today.

Here’s the recipe cards for the week. Enjoy!

Coleslaw

Ingredients

  • 1 head cabbage, shredded
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 5 radishes, grated or sliced thin (optional)

Dressing

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 cup cider or white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Mix together shredded vegetables. 
    Mix dressing ingredients together and stir into cabbage mix. 

Soul cakes

Servings 18 flat cakes the size of large biscuits

Ingredients

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

optional:

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350

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

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

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

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

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

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

  8. Sprinkle with powdered sugar while they are warm

Beef barley soup (Instant Pot or stovetop)

Makes about a gallon of lovely soup

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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


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

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

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

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

 

Pumpkin quick bread or muffins

Makes 2 loaves or 18+ muffins

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

 

Pork banh mi

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs Pork loin
  • 1 cup fish sauce
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 minced onion
  • 1/2 head garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1.5 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. 

 

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.

All soul’s day menu: Eggs in purgatory and soul cakes

Happy all soul’s day! If you’re like me, everyday liturgical living is usually far beyond you; but it’s easy to do it right today. Say this:

May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. 

Done! You did the thing. It’s a great practice to pray this every day, not just today. You could add it to grace before meals. Takes two seconds, frightens guests, and pays into that bank of grace. If you help souls get out of purgatory, you can bet that they’ll help you when it’s your turn. 

And now for food! If you do have a yen to serve a liturgically themed dinner, a fairly easy meal is eggs in purgatory and soul cakes. 

The Egg in Purgatory are very similar to shakshuka, popular in the Middle East.

Here’s how to make it:

 

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.

And now for the soul cakes. They’re not fancy to look at, but they’re very tender and cozy, especially if you eat them warm.

Here’s a dressier version Clara just pulled out of the oven:

I honestly don’t have the mental energy to plow through the history of soul cakes and see if they’re actually Christian or Gaelic pagan or what. I do know you’re pronouncing “samhain” wrong. It’s actually pronounced /bəˈloʊni/ and I cannot be persuaded otherwise.

We like these dense, fragrant little cakey buns because they help us step down gently from candy bingeing. They are sweet, but also pleasantly spicy and old-fashioned tasting. You can add currents or raisins or nuts or whatever you want. There are many versions, some calling for yeast, but these are very simple.

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

Clara says that medieval bakers would test the heat of the oven by sticking their hands in and saying the Our Father, and whatever phrase they got to when they couldn’t stand it anymore is how hot it was. I may start writing recipes that way: Preheat the oven to “our trespasses.” 

Clara taught herself to sew and made this dress for Halloween as part of an ensemble, and she’s wearing it to make this year’s soul cakes, partly because we may be a little behind on laundry, but partly just for nice. 

Highly recommended to have a Clara in the house. I should add that to my recipes, too. 

P.S. If your family doesn’t like this food, tell them to offer it up for the souls in purgatory, so there.

What’s for supper? Vol. 214: Hot, hot, hot

Last week, it was snowing. This week, it was in the 90’s, so we went all in with the summer food. No ragrets!

SATURDAY
Double cheeseburgers! 

We had another long day of lugging rocks, and Damien grilled. I was so hungry, I almost ate my own hand along with the burger, so I didn’t get a picture.

SUNDAY
Cumin chicken thighs and chickpeas with lemony onions, pita, and yogurt sauce

We haven’t had this dish for a while! Very popular. Extremely juicy chicken with a fabulous skin, crunchy, flavorful chickpeas, and piquant onions.

It’s just an excellent meal.

 

Jump to Recipe

The yogurt marinade is just a few ingredients, but you want to set it up early so you can marinate the chicken for at least a few hours. That’s how the chicken gets so juicy and the skin gets so fabulous. Then you can walk away from it for the rest of the day, and throw the chicken and chickpeas on a pan to cook in the oven,

and make the yogurt sauce and lemony onions while it’s cooking.

So much flavor with very little effort. I actually only found the lemons in time to make the yogurt sauce, so I quietly used lime juice in the marinade and the onions, and no one noticed. 

MONDAY
Grilled meats

We usually have a big family cookout on Memorial Day. Sigh, sigh, sigh. Damien did make his excellent sugar rubbed smoked chicken thighs

 

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and beer brats with onions three ways on his amazing interchangeable cinderblock meat altar situation.

Delicious as always. I had my beer brat with onions boiled in beer and a sweet, hot mustard of some kind, and it was very tasty.

Dora made potato salad

 

Jump to Recipe

 

and I cut up the first watermelon of the year. 

TUESDAY
Grilled ham and cheese on sourdough, little pickles, cherries

A very fine summer meal. There was some consternation over the fact that I only bought one package of ham, so I offered to have salami in mine, which caused even more consternation. I’m not saying ham and salami are interchangeable, but they’re . . . you know what, I’m not on trial here. I took my plate outside, where only the birds were shouting

WEDNESDAY
Caprese chicken sandwiches, fries

Another summer favorite. The tomatoes are improving. I roasted the chicken breasts in olive oil and plenty of salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and I had some sliced provolone instead of mozzarella. We had the sandwiches with ciabatta rolls, tomatoes and basil, chicken, and plenty of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and kosher salt. The pepper has mysteriously disappeared.

Someday, I will make a balsamic vinegar reduction, but on this day, easy was perfect. 

THURSDAY
Carnitas, beans and rice

J.R.’s Art Place carnitas recipe to the rescue again. Pork butt, salt, pepper, oregano, Mexican coke, oil, oranges, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves.

It’s so tasty and so easy, but I’m gonna adapt it for the Instant Pot next time I make it.  Summer is when I like this appliance the best, because you can make a hot meal without turning the whole kitchen into an oven. 

I also made some quick beans and rice.

 

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It was too dry, so I glopped in some Goya Culantro Cooking Base. It wasn’t the best beans and rice I ever had, but it was fine. Love the carnitas. Some salsa verde would have made this meal perfect. 

 

FRIDAY

Today I intend to make this mango crumb coffee cake, eggs, and something called “baby cakes,” which seem to be small, round hash browns. The only reason I bought them is because they are called “baby cakes.” 

Since I haven’t made dinner yet, I don’t have a picture. But I do have a picture of my menu blackboard.

I can see I’m going to have to start hiding the chalk. 

Smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups brown sugar
  • .5 cups white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 20 chicken thighs

Instructions

  1. Mix dry ingredients together. Rub all over chicken and let marinate until the sugar melts a bit. 

  2. Light the fire, and let it burn down to coals. Shove the coals over to one side and lay the chicken on the grill. Lower the lid and let the chicken smoke for an hour or two until they are fully cooked. 

 

potato salad

Ingredients

  • 3-4 lbs potatoes, scrubbed (peeled if you like)
  • 3 ribs celery, stringed and chopped
  • 1 med red onion, diced
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped
  • 1/8 cup olive oil

for dressing:

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/8 cup vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Put potatoes and the three eggs in pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down, cover loosely, and simmer until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork (15 minutes or so) 

  2. Drain the potatoes. Fish out the eggs, peel, and chop them.

  3. When they are cool enough to handle, cut them into bite-sized pieces and mix them up with the olive oil. 

  4. Add the chopped eggs, celery, onion, and parsley. 

  5. Mix together the dressing ingredients and add to potatoes. Salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate and serve cold.  

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. 

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

 

 

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. 198: In which I do not die

Sorry about the dearth of posts this week. I’ve been busily tapping away at other stuff that will bob to the surface eventually. Also I thought I was dying, which was distracting. (Spoiler: I did not die.)

On Monday I stopped being able to ignore these chest pains and unexplained swelling that sounded a lot like some very un-fun heart attack/lethal blood clot nonsense, so with my family history, I chewed up some aspirin and had a kid drive me to the ER. My heart is okay, thanks be to God. I think it is stress, which is embarrassing, but there it is. So now I have to do these fricken breathing exercises like a stupid hippie. 

Nobody said I had to stop eating like someone who’s trying to induce a heart attack, though.  Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Buffalo chicken with salad

This is quickly becoming my new fast and easy but not-quite-junk-food meal (which means that the family is quickly becoming sick and tired of it). It’s mixed greens topped with shredded carrots, crumbled blue cheese, crunchy fried onions from a pouch, and buffalo chicken from frozen, drizzled with buffalo ranch dressing. 

Quite a nice combination, sharp and yummy, but there’s an actual salad involved, so, santo subito

SUNDAY
Bacon, eggs, Brussels sprouts; homemade french bread

One of my favorite one-pan meals, and it’s so easy.

Jump to Recipe

You just have to cut up a bunch of Brussels sprouts and cut up a bunch of raw bacon, stir up a quick balsamic honey sauce, mix it all together, and cook it all in a big sheet pan. Shortly before it’s done, you crack some eggs on top and cook it a little longer, then top it with parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes.

SO GOOD. These flavors together are just so cozy and savory. 

Every time I make this dish, I say it needs fresh, warm bread, so this time I went for it.

I was feeling peppy after a successful faith formation class (we acted out the visit of the magi and the flight to Egypt. You should have seen that little star of Bethlehem waving and waving and waving her hands. Here’s the baby! Here He is! It was adorable) and didn’t need to do anything right away, so it was a good time. I chose this french bread recipe, which looked reasonable. I haven’t made french bread for something like ten years, and I was very nervous about the yeast. 

Someone told it’s better if the water is a little too cool, rather than too hot. So I erred on coolness and gave it almost 20 minutes to foam, and it foamed!  Hooray! The rest was pretty easy. I used the dough hook on my standing mixer to do the kneading for me, so it came out plenty smooth. And the idiots who designed my kitchen built a cabinet and countertop over the heating vent. We’ve since torn out the cabinets, but there is still a little makeshift shelf there, so I have the perfect warm, protected dough-rising spot.

So I let it rise in the bowl, then formed the loaves (I made a double recipe, so I had four big loaves) and let them rise, and slashed them after the second rise. Then I went out of the room for a minute. When I came back, one of my children was leaning on the loaf with her elbow. Just . . . .leaning on it. And it wasn’t like, “Oops, oh no, my goodness, I can’t believe I leaned in your dough!” It was more like, “Yeah, I can see spending my life here. What’s she yelling about now?” 

Anyway. I reformed the loaf, even if it’s not possible to do that with the child.

This recipe calls for tossing some ice cubes into the oven along with the bread, to put moisture in there and give it a nice crust.

I thought it came out a little soft and pale for my liking, but I didn’t want to over bake it and dry it out; so I melted some butter and brushed that on. They were so glossy and golden and lovely, I just about died, I was so proud of myself.

The taste was a little bland, which is okay, since the purpose of this bread was so sop up the spectacularly flavorful balsamic-honey-bacon-egg yolk pan drippings of the meal. 

Sorry, one last bread picture. I made bread!

I don’t feel confident enough to write up my own recipe card yet, but I’ll try this a few more times and then get that going. Yay, bread!

MONDAY
Domino’s

So this was the day I decided I was actually dying, and not from bread pride, so instead of the planned meal, we ordered pizza. And yes, I pulled off my cardiac electrodes, put my back shirt on, came home, and ate cold pepperoni pizza standing up. We die like Americans.

TUESDAY
Chicken quesadillas and guacamole 

Broiled some chicken in the oven, well crusted with salt, pepper, chili powder, and cumin, and sliced it up, then sliced up a ton of cheese, and fixed a big bowl of guacamole. The rest of the day is a bit of a blur. I think I went to bed and Damien made quesadillas. 

I do remember how remarkably perfect the avocados were, though. I bought them on Saturday and chose exactly the right day to cut them up. Aren’t they lurvely?

The guacamole was not, to be honest, my very best. I should have mashed them avocados more, cut the tomatoes smaller, and juiced some more limes. Still tasty, though. 

 

Jump to Recipe

WEDNESDAY
Bacon cheeseburgers, Doritos

Wednesday was, despite his best efforts, Damien’ birthday, and he requested that he be allowed to shop for and cook this meal. What a prima donna, right? We also had stuffed clams, because why not. (Here I would like to remind you that the doctor said my heart is entirely healthy and all my numbers are good. I only ate half a bacon cheeseburger, though, because I was full of stuffed clams.)

Now the kids are supposed to stop harassing me about being older than Damien, as we are now both 45, but they have not stopped. 

THURSDAY
Pulled pork sandwiches, tater tots, coleslaw

Easy peasy. I bought one of those giant shrink wrapped sandworm pork hunks at Aldi and chonked it in the slow cooker with some beer and hot pepper flakes, and let it cook all day. Shredded it and mixed it up with a bottle of BBQ sauce

and let that warm up while I made coleslaw

Jump to Recipe

 

which we ate by the light of the it’s-still-Christmas lights.

We also had the birthday dessert I had purchased on Wednesday but which we were all too stuffed to eat. This is what you get when you can’t say what you really want for your birthday. You get this:

No, he doesn’t especially like Raisinets.

Not pictured: Two kinds of ice cream, fresh whipped cream, hot fudge, and cherries. 

FRIDAY
Grilled cheese and tomato soup. 

Tomato soup from a can, I say! *shakes fist whats-for-supperly*

Recipe cards below!

Bacon, eggs, and brussels sprouts in honey garlic balsamic sauce

Adapted from Damn Delicious.  An easy and tasty one-pan meal that would work for any meal. Great with a hearty bread like challah. 

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 3 lbs uncooked bacon, cut into 1- or 2-inch pieces
  • 18 eggs
  • oil for greasing pan
  • salt and pepper to taste

Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed

Garnish (optional):

  • parmesan cheese, grated
  • red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Grease two large oven sheets. 


  2. Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Mix Brussels sprouts and bacon together, spread evenly in pans, and pour sauce all over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

  3. Cook until bacon is almost done (almost as crisp as you like it) and Brussels sprouts are very slightly browned, 18-20 minutes.

  4. Pull the pans out of the oven and carefully crack the eggs onto the Brussels sprouts and bacon, here and there.

  5. Return pan to the oven and cook a few minutes longer, just enough to set the eggs. The yolks will get a little film over the top, but don't let them cook all the way through, or you'll have something resembled hard boiled eggs, which isn't as good. You want the yolks to be liquid so you can dip forkfuls of fod into it.

  6. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes and serve. 

 

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

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

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

 

Coleslaw

Ingredients

  • 1 head cabbage, shredded
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 5 radishes, grated or sliced thin (optional)

Dressing

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 cup cider or white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Mix together shredded vegetables. 
    Mix dressing ingredients together and stir into cabbage mix.