What’s for supper? Vol. 256: Sweet potato fries and unicorn pies

Happy Friday! Some of my kids have been on vacation all week, one has been on vacation since yesterday, and one still has one more week to go. Most of them are currently in the kitchen, shouting and throwing food around. I have a door that locks. This is fine. 

Here’s what we et this week:

SATURDAY
Turkey bacon wraps, pickles

Always a popular meal. 

I had spinach-colored wraps (I couldn’t discern any spinach flavor, despite what the package said) with smoked turkey, bacon, tomatoes, provolone, and spinach. Damien shopped for and cooked this meal, and brought home some Nathan’s dill pickles, which are swell. It reminded me that I want to take another crack at homemade pickles. Last time I tried, they came out too salty. I like salt an awful lot, but these were violently salty. Also the jar broke and there was broken glass in the pickles. But I think we’ll have better luck if we try again. 

Do you make pickles? What do you put in there, and how long do you let it sit?

SUNDAY
Frozen pizza and sundaes for the kids, Chili’s for adults

I still hadn’t gone grocery shopping, I forget why, and I thought I would blow the kids’ minds by offering ice cream sundaes for dinner. They made unhappy growling noises, because they’re not real children; they’re unnatural monsters. So I picked up some frozen pizzas, too, and they made happier growling noises. Damien and I went to Chili’s, and then we wandered around Target because we couldn’t quite get excited about going home yet. 

MONDAY
Regular tacos, guacamole and chips

Just regular tacos made with orange powder from envelopes, and guacamole and chips. 

My guacamole recipe:
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I bought scoop-style chips, which won me some favor among the monsters. 

TUESDAY
Chicken caprese sandwiches, sweet potato fries

On Tuesday I managed to finally buy some groceries, and because I was running very late and it was extremely hot out, I decided it would be a swell time to make homemade sweet potato fries. I peeled about five pounds of potatoes, sliced them thin, and fried them in vegetable oil in batches, then drained them and sprinkled them with sea salt.

But not before I burned the ever loving hell out of my fingers. This is how it always goes: I hate deep frying, so the only time I ever consider doing it is when I’m in some deranged state of mind — the very state of mind that makes me terrible at deep frying. I was thinking about something else while I cooked, and carelessly tossed a handful of fries into the oil, which sloshed up over three of my fingers. HURT LIKE A MOTHER MOTHER MOTHER. MOTHER!!!! Nothing makes me angrier than burning myself. My finger’s still all purple and blistered. Dammit! It’s fine now, but I’m still mad.

The fries were fine. They tasted fine, maybe a little soggy. 

I roasted some chicken breasts with basic seasonings and served the chicken with baguettes, tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper, olive oil and vinegar. 
 

I also put out provolone but forgot to put any on my sandwich, alas. Some day I shall make a balsamic reduction, but not today.

WEDNESDAY
Beef and broccoli on rice

This is the best sauce I’ve found for beef and broccoli. I followed this Damn Delicious recipe exactly, except I used fresh ginger instead of powdered, and that’s how you should do it. This actually makes more sauce than you will need.

It’s a sweet and savory sauce with a sneaky amount of heat that creeps up on you. Very good meal to prep ahead of time, and then you can cook it in just a few minutes. I served it over rice made in the Instant Pot using the 1:1 method (equal amounts of rice and water, close the valve, press “rice,” and that’s it. I have stopped rinsing my rice, because either it doesn’t make a difference or else it comes out better that way but I have forgotten in what way).

THURSDAY
Sugar rub smoked chicken thighs, potato salad, corn on the cob, unicorn pie

Thursday was the day everyone in the family would hit two weeks after their second vaccination, so we had a no-mask cookout. We haven’t been masking outdoors anyway, but it still felt like a milestone!

Damien made his smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub. He smoked the thighs for about an hour and a half, then grilled them to caramelize the sugar rub and give the skin a little char. This is an unfailingly delightful and delicious way to prepare meat, and you can use the rub with chicken or pork. I think we need to try it with steak. 

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He cooked the corn right in the husks, which is a very easy way to prepare it if you’ve got the space on your grill. 

Just peel and eat. I was going to put out butter and elote seasoning, but people were already tearing in, so I didn’t bother. 

So we had the chicken, the corn, and a little potato salad. Very simple recipe: Just boiled yellow potatoes with skins, diced red onion, and a dressing made of mayo, cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and celery salt. As they say on Cutthroat Kitchen, it reminded me of potato salad, so there you go. 

 

 I got it into my head to make some pies. One of the greatest triumphs of my late 40’s is that I can make a pie crust without freaking out, and I haven’t ruined a crust in years. (Maybe someday I’ll achieve this with deep frying, who knows.) I shred the butter and use ice water, I use only my fingers to incorporate the butter, I use plenty of flour on the counter, I only roll in one direction, and that’s all my secrets. I made a double recipe of this recipe

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and it was more than enough for two pie shells and two decorative tops. Probably could have made two full tops with it. 

I also brushed the top crust with egg white and shpronkled it with sugar, to give it a little sparkle. Well, Corrie did. 

As you can see, they needed sparkle because they were STAR AND UNICORN PIES. Look how pretty! 

Pretty pretty. 

I made the filling with three quarts of strawberries and one quart of blueberries. Or, maybe they were pints. I don’t know, big boxes. I used this fruit filling recipe

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(obviously substituting the strawberries and blueberries for the cherries). The almond extract gives it a nice cozy taste.

I baked it in a 400 oven for twenty minutes, then 350 for another 15, and it was a little overdone, oh well. I was smart enough to put a pan under the pies, which caught a ton of the syrup that bubbled over. 

Served with whipped cream. 

The filling was too liquidy, but probably would have firmed up if we had let it sit for longer before eating it. The flavor was wonderful, so juicy and summery, and not too sweet. 

And ha, I just realized I probably got the idea to make a prancing unicorn pie from this Twitter thread with its theory about cave art. My subconscious is always going, “Yes, but how can we apply this to FOOD?” 

FRIDAY
Shrimp lo mein, frozen egg rolls and dumplings

And lo, it was Friday again. I think people are getting a little tired of lo mein, but NOT ME. I adore this recipe.

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The sauce is so simple and flavorful, and you can add in whatever you want. Today we’re having sugar snap peas, shrimp, with fresh minced garlic and ginger to brighten it up. Maybe some red onion or asparagus. 

A few people have asked about the noodles I use.  You can make lo mein with anything you could reasonably call a “noodle,” including spaghetti (and linguine, etc.), and nobody will arrest you or anything. I like using rice fettuccine, for the taste and for the amount of surface area for grabbing up the sauce. It is pricier than pasta, but you can get away with serving less of it than if you were just serving spaghetti, especially if you add plenty of vegetables and/or meat. Just be sure to cook it al dente, so it doesn’t get mushy when you add in your other stuff. 

And that’s it! That’s all my secrets. Don’t forget to leave tips about making pickles of you have any!

 

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. 

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. 

Basic pie crust

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cherry pie filling for TWO pies

Keyword cherries, cherry pie, desserts, fruit desserts, pie

Ingredients

  • 7 cups cherries pitted
  • 2-2/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 3 Tbsp butter

Instructions

To pit cherries:

  1. Pull the stem off the cherry and place it, stem-side down, in a bottle with a narrow neck, like a beer bottle. Drive the blunt end of a chopstick down through the cherry, forcing the pit out into the bottle.

To make the filling:

  1. Mix together the pitted cherries, sugar, and cornstarch in a bowl and let it sit for ten minutes or so until they get juicy. 

  2. Stir the almond extract into the cherry mixture and heat in a heavy pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, for several minutes. Stir in the butter.

  3. Let the mixture cool a bit, then pour into pie shells. 

Recipe Notes

This would also be fine over ice cream. 

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

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

for the rest

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

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

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

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

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

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

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 252: The bright-eyed marinator

Apparently it’s Friday! Here’s what we cooked this week:

SATURDAY 
Meatball subs

Had my sub outside with a short, chatty person who, after a rather violent bath, was drying her hair in the setting sun. 

I could try to pass off that sub as the sub that a silly child has clearly started eating sideways, but in fact that is my sub.

Damien made the meatballs. He uses the same recipe I do,

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except he’s much, much better at seasoning meat than I am, and they turned out very yummy indeed. 

SUNDAY
Beef gyros

This is it. This is the simplest, tastiest gyro marinade yet.

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It’s just olive oil, lots of garlic, fresh mint, oregano, and paprika, and salt and pepper. The wild mint has come up in the yard, so I added a big bunch chopped up. 

I don’t remember how I cooked the meat. Maybe I seared it and then roasted it, or maybe I just roasted it. It sliced up beautifully rare and juicy.

I served it with fries and sliced cucumbers and tomatoes and plenty of spicy yogurt sauce, and a little hot sauce. Three of the kids spontaneously said it was good! I don’t know if you realize what a dazzling triumph that is for me. 

I took some of the marinade and added it to some plain Greek yogurt, for a zippy dipping sauce. I also made my usual yogurt sauce, with fresh garlic, pepper, salt, and lemon juice. This is definitely the recipe I’ll be using from now on. 

MONDAY
Cumin chicken and chickpeas with yogurt sauce, pita, and red onion salad

An easy, very appealing one-pan meal I haven’t made in some time. You marinate the chicken thighs in a cumin yogurt sauce for several hours before cooking, then just spread it out on a pan with some seasoned chickpeas, and away it goes. The meat is SO juice and the skin is SO crisp and tasty. You really must try it. 

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Really lovely with some fresh pita bread, garlicky yogurt sauce, and red onions and cilantro with lemon juice.

Great for people who like middle eastern food, but mild enough for people who don’t especially. 

TUESDAY
Kielbasa, cabbage, red potatoes; green beans

Another easy one-pan meal (or two pans, as the case may be)

I normally flip the components halfway through cooking, but skipped it this time, and that was a bit of a mistake. The kielbasa got a little burnt on bottom, and the cabbage was a bit flabby, but that was my fault, not the recipe’s.

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I usually make a mustard sauce with honey and wine vinegar and fresh garlic, but also skipped that, and put out a bottle of some kind of fancy trick mustard from Aldi.

Not bad at all. It was a hot, salty meal that you could easily eat with a fork, and I had no complaints. 

WEDNESDAY
Beef and broccoli on rice, red bean buns

Another surprisingly popular meal! I followed the marinade recipe from Damn Delicious to the letter, so I didn’t bother writing up a recipe card (which I generally only do if I alter the recipe). Slightly spicy (courtesy of sriracha and hot pepper flakes). The sauce didn’t thicken, but I wasn’t expecting that. My sauces just don’t thicken. I accept this. Yes, I used corn starch.

The pictures turned out bad, but it was a pretty dish, as well as tasty.

I had some bean buns in the freezer, that I grabbed when we ventured into a different supermarket a few weeks ago. I wasn’t really sure how to cook them, so I put them in the Instant Pot on the rack with a cup of water and set it to high pressure for 8 minutes. I also wasn’t really sure how they were supposed to taste, but that worked well enough, although I crammed twelve of them in there, so they stuck together a bit. 

What do you normally eat bean buns with? Are they an appetizer? These were sweet. I’m still very much a country mouse and don’t know much about other cuisines. 

THURSDAY
Chicken nuggets/supermarket sushi

I’ve spared you all the details of how busy we’ve been this week, but suffice it to say the schedule made me cry more than once, and also the car broke down again because of course it did. Hence Thursday’s meal. I accidentally bought something called “teriyaki chicken sushi,” which is an abomination. I mean, I ate it, but still. 

FRIDAY
Domino’s, and cake 

Today is Benny’s first communion and Benny, Irene, Lucy, and Sophia’s confirmation! There’s a long sad story about how we kept traveling over diocesan lines right when various parishes were switching order of sacraments, and then when we got caught up, we got covid symptoms and had to stay home. So we’re finally finally getting this done, and then having cake and pizza. Clara made this pretty “stained glass” cake:

We make this by covering a cooled cake with royal icing, which gives you a flat, dry surface to work on.

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Then you make your stained glass design with black icing (you can plot out the design with a toothpick first), then carefully fill in the spaces between the lines by spooning in jellies and jams of various colors. You can whip up the jelly with a little water to make it more spreadable. Very handy for people who have a lot of sacrament parties. 

And that’s it! 
 

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Meatballs for a crowd

Make about 100 golf ball-sized meatballs. 

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground meat (I like to use mostly beef with some ground chicken or turkey or pork)
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese (about 2 cups)
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.

  2. Mix all ingredients together with your hands until it's fully blended.

  3. Form meatballs and put them in a single layer on a pan with drainage. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or more until they're cooked all the way through.

  4. Add meatballs to sauce and keep warm until you're ready to serve. 

 

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. 

 

One-pan kielbasa, cabbage, and red potato dinner with mustard sauce

This meal has all the fun and salt of a wiener cookout, but it's a tiny bit fancier, and you can legit eat it in the winter. 

Ingredients

  • 3-4 lbs kielbasa
  • 3-4 lbs red potatoes
  • 1-2 medium cabbages
  • (optional) parsley for garnish
  • salt and pepper and olive oil

mustard sauce (sorry, I make this different each time):

  • mustard
  • red wine if you like
  • honey
  • a little olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400. 

    Whisk together the mustard dressing ingredients and set aside. Chop parsley (optional).

    Cut the kielbasa into thick coins and the potatoes into thick coins or small wedges. Mix them up with olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread them in a shallow pan. 

    Cut the cabbage into "steaks." Push the kielbasa and potatoes aside to make room to lay the cabbage down. Brush the cabbage with more olive oil and sprinkle with more salt and pepper. It should be a single layer of food, and not too crowded, so it will brown well. 

    Roast for 20 minutes, then turn the food as well as you can and roast for another 15 minutes.  

    Serve hot with dressing and parsley for a garnish. 

Marinade for beef gyros

enough for 4-5 lbs of meat, plus a little extra to mix into yogurt sauce if you like

Ingredients

  • handful fresh mint, chopped fine
  • 1 head garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1-1/3 cups olive oil
  • 4 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together and marinate meat. If you like, take a few spoonfuls of the marinade and mix it into 2-3 cups of Greek yogurt with a little water, for a sauce.

Royal icing

An icing that dries hard, so you can use it to glue pieces together, or use as a flat surface to decorate. Add less sugar to make it thinner and pour over cookies or petits fours; add more sugar to make it more thick for spreading or piping. It will be stiff enough to decorate over within about half an hour, and it will be like cement in four hours.

Ingredients

  • 4 egg whites
  • 6 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
  • 2 tsp lemon juice

Instructions

  1. In an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites on high until they are opaque and foamy.

  2. Add the sugar a little scoop at a time, continuing to whisk on high. Add the lemon juice.

  3. Keep whisking on high until the icing is as thick as you want it. Adjust how much sugar you add to make it as thick as you want.

  4. Keep the icing covered tightly, with plastic wrap touching the icing, until you're ready to use it because it starts drying out immediately.