“How do you do it?” they ask. “How do you manage all these kids and still get everything done?”
There are several different ways to answer this very reasonable question…
“How do you do it?” they ask. “How do you manage all these kids and still get everything done?”
There are several different ways to answer this very reasonable question…
What’s your “Yay, It’s Finally Fall Weather!” dish? Something that you only cook or bake or eat at this time of year. It’s okay if it’s some kind of pumpkin spice bullshit. This is a safe space. Here’s what our week in food looked like:
Today it’s raining, and we’ve had a few frosts already, and have turned on the heat for the year. Love that cozy smell of toasted dust. But last Saturday, it was still warm, and Mr. Husband cooked the burgers outside:About a month ago, Aldi had this American cheese on sale for ten cents a package, so I bought an armful. Check it out: it has pictures on it. Not only that, but it looks like this one one side:and this on the other side:THESE ARE THE SAME TWO PIECES OF CHEESE, FOLKS. God bless America. I made fries using this cold oil method I just heard about. It’s supposed to be easier, less smoky, and just less hassle all around.The first batch definitely was less hassle; but then I had to make about five more batches, and the oil was already hot, so no more newfangled cold oil method for me. But they were good! And I never would have taken the plunge if I hadn’t thought the recipe would make things easier, so I’m glad.Some of the kids sprinkled vinegar on their hot fries. Here I am, dealing with one of the slightly overdone ones:If you squint, it looks almost liturgical.
Beef stew and apple pie are my “Yay, it’s Fall!” dishes. For stew, I use a pretty basic recipe: Cut beef into small chunks, and shake them up in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. In a heavy pot, fry up some crushed garlic in a little oil, then throw the floured meat in, plus the extra flour. Fry it up until it’s slightly browned. Add some combination of water, beef broth, and red wine*. Add in cubed potatoes, chopped onions and carrots, diced tomatoes with juice (canned is fine), and string beans (frozen is fine). Add a few bay leaves, and add more liquid if necessary; or, if it’s not thick enough, make a little roux (flour and butter paste) and stir that in. Cover and simmer for several hours. If you have mushrooms, add them in an hour or so before serving. Oh, here’s a tip for feeding hot foods to babies: mix in a few frozen vegetables. This cools the food without diluting it:Tried this popover recipe for the first time. You make the batter in a blender. I ended up using the standing mixer with the whisk attachment, because a triple recipe of batter didn’t fit in the blender. Popovers are supposed to be light and airy, and they are supposed to puff up to great heights and then collapse when you pull them out of the oven. Mine were kind of dense and hearty, and just kind of sat there looking eggy. Everyone loved them anyway, and they sure were easy to throw together, so I will probably make them again, even if I don’t get the hang of it.I have now used that mini muffin pan exactly three times in six years: once to make mini quiches for a baby shower, once to make bacon roses for father’s day, and once for these popovers. I can’t use the spots in the middle, because I drilled holes in them to let out the grease for the bacon roses. I should have a TV cooking show called “The Stupid Kitchen.” So, pie! I had to make at least one pie before we ran out of apple orchard apples. I think Cortland apples are technically best for pie, since they are flavorful and keep their shape, but I love the taste of Mackintosh the best, so that’s what I use, even though they get mushy. I have plateaued in my pie crust-making skills, so I just bought some frozen ones and threw in a bunch of apple slices with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, a little flour, and some butter. Irene helped with the apple prep, but quickly discerned that there were too many damn applesand went to watch Spiderman. *Pinecroft. It’s crazy cheap – maybe $3 a bottle – and it tastes completely okay for all your okay-wine-drinking needs.
A new recipe for me from Damn Delicious. I had to buy Brussels sprouts, which are unreasonably expensive, because a woodchuck ate pretty much everything in my garden this year. I planted peas, beans, tomatoes, lettuce, radicchio, spinach, basil, pumpkins, cucumbers, and Brussels sprouts, and every time I went out to weed or water, something else would be gone. Just chewed into oblivion, everything except one pumpkin. It was infuriating.Next year, I’m buying a gun, and I’ll share my recipe for pan roasted friggin woodchuck with the vegetables of vengeance. Anyway, this recipe was a big hit. My family loves anything with a balsamic vinegar taste. I associate balsamic vinegar with light, summery, Italian dishes, but it went really well with this cozy, autumnal meal. It was a really good dish for putting together in the morning and then chucking in the oven in the evening. And it looked GORGEOUS. And it’s a smorgasbord of vitamins, too. I felt like sending a picture to my pediatrician with the heading, “SEE?”Oh, so butternut squash is much easier to peel if you cut the shaft off the round part, and peel them separately. I tried peeling the whole thing, and Benny thought it looked like a phone. I wanted to take a picture of her talking on the squash phone, but she wouldn’t let me, and insisted that she take a picture of me talking on the squash phone. So I let her, while thinking, “This is the kind of precious, overstaged nonsense that makes people hate mommy bloggers.”I’m posting it here because the dog intervened. Also, plus, real reason: look how skinny I look! This is a trick of perspective. I’m super fat right now. Hey, here’s some chicken:
Just regular old tacos with ground beef and spice from a packet, nothing to write home about. I stopped taking pictures at this point in the week, because it was mainly me driving around for hours and hours, and then me lying down and playing Tokyo to Corrie’s Godzilla:
And yes, that is a treadmill with clothes draped on it.
Cooked up some sweet sausages, fried up some peppers and onions, added a few cans of diced tomatoes, and mixed it up with pasta, jarred sauce, shredded mozzarella, and grated parmesan, and heated the whole thing in a casserole dish. We ate this meal approximately 946 times after I had the baby, so I’ve shied away from it for a while, but I think it’s time to put it back in the rotation. Another good make-ahead dish.
We went out on the spur of the moment. Three cheers for having four teenagers in the house!
This is what we’re having today. It’s a Budget Bytes recipe. Her recipes are really reliable — they turn out just as described, and are usually fairly easy to put together. The ricotta gets creamy and yummy, and it is cheap, and you can totally use frozen spinach. Phew. Made it through the week. What’s you eat this week? And don’t forget the question of the week, la di da: What’s your favorite fall dish?
Just the facts!
These are not only delicious, easy to make, and filling, but they are cheaper than making pizza, especially if you use pre-made dough when you make pizza. I find that I use about half the amount of cheese and sauce as I do to make pizza for the same number of people.
We made these with cheese, pepperoni, and some bottled pesto. Spread the outsides of the sandwich with butter mixed with garlic powder and oregano
and on the inside, spread sauce on each slice of bread, then add a handful of cheese, and whatever filling you like. Then put it together and grill as you would normal grilled cheese sandwich. I like to grill them until they’re golden on the outside, then put them in a warm oven for a bit, to make sure they’re cooked all the way through, because they are pretty thick.
This recipe works well with sturdier bread, like sourdough or something. Or, if you are using softer bread, just make sure the butter is nice and soft, using whatever kitchen tools you have on hand, like a potato masher or an elephant
Hey, I didn’t kill anybody this week. Where’s my medal?
Poach chicken breast, then dice or shred it. Cook and drain a bunch of pasta (farfalle/bowtie/butterfly pasta is good for chunky recipes like this. We used penne, because it was what we had, and it was fine), mix it with the chicken, and add in a bunch of pesto*, a bunch of crushed fresh garlic, and a ton of grated parmesan cheese. Add salt and pepper. Serve hot or cold.
*I didn’t even make pesto, I just chopped up a bunch of fresh basil and mixed it with olive oil. Pretty yummy. Better the second day.
This really needed a side dish, but I went to lie down instead.
I’m the only one in my house who thinks this is funny.
What they don’t realize is that it takes all my effort to resist making a nice perky set of Double D meatloaves.
Our meatloaf recipe: good old Fannie Farmer. As she says, this recipe is “susceptible to many variations.”
Acorn squash! So seasonal! My usual recipe is to buy it, put it on the counter, look at it guiltily a few times a day for a few weeks, notice someone has stabbed it with a screwdriver and there is now something squirmy living inside, and throw it in the swamp out back; but here’s the technique we used this time, and it was much more popular:
Cut squash in half, scoop out seeds and pulp, put them face down on a pan and bake at 350 for half an hour. Turn them over, but a blob of butter and brown sugar in each one, and put them back in the oven for another half hour. Tasty.
I feel like we had something else, too, but I forget what.
Definitely a low point of the week, food-wise. English muffins undertoasted, eggs burned, sausages are fine because how the hell do you screw up frozen sausages, cantaloupe dessicated and improperly peeled, and the quinoa, well . . . I bought this pre-flavored, pre-vegetabled quinoa and it turned out looking like something that nobody wants because nobody needs. And it was expensive!
Boy, I had really high hopes for this recipe, which I got from the NYT; and it smelled fantastic as it was cooking. TO BE FAIR, I was missing a lot of the ingredients. I think it’s worth making again when I have more stuff on hand, because pork is still cheap; but I was expecting this dish to redeem the entire week, and it did not do that.
It didn’t help that I didn’t fry up the meat nearly long enough after it was shredded, and I think that’s not cilantro. I think that’s parsley. Also, I forgot that corn tortillas are bloody awful when you don’t fry them. Boo.
The “raw broccoli and sweet pepper” part is the voice of optimism speaking. But I do feel like I can heat up some frozen fish sticks, and probably strong-arm some teenager into making a pot of rice.
In conclusion, this week can eat my poo. Did I say that last week? Well, still.
I’m struggling a bit with InLinkz. I paid the little fee so that entry thumbnails would be displayed at the bottom of the page, but I think you still had to click through last time. Grr. Here’s hoping it works this week. Anyway, I hope you join in! Anything you want to say about food, here’s the place.
Alternate title for this week’s dinner round-up: This Is Why I’m Fat. Hey, if you have to die young, might as well die young while full of cheese. Specifically, feta, parmesan, mozzarella, pepper jack, cheddar, and provolone, all in one week. And we’re not even vegetarians. The cheese was just to help all the meat find its way around. Whee!
At the end of the post, there will be a little blue InLinkz button, so you can add your own post; or feel free to leave a comment. You don’t have to be a fancy pants chef! This is just a place to talk about food, the good, the bad, and the cheesy. Don’t forget to link back to this post!
Here’s what we had this past week:
To you, that’s “hash browns” and “sausages.”
Everyone likes omelette night. Anything made to order is always a hit, if somewhat complicated.
Their choices were mushroom, feta, pepper jack, fried onions, ham, and tears of a mermaid
Was there even any promotion for this movie? It’s fantastic. One of my all-time favorites, just bizarre and hilarious, and feast for the eyes.
I was never able to make decent omelettes, or anything else that involved frying, until I got a decent pan. I use this T fal stainless steel 12-inch pan, and it turns out I’m not actually a terrible cook! I just had terrible pans. So that was nice.
Pork was still on sale, so my husband made a dry rub from what we happened to have in the cabinet, which happened to be brown sugar, white sugar, garlic powder, salt, pepper, cumin, chile powder, and paprika, and he grilled the ribs outside.
I honestly thought it was going to be too sweet, but holy cow, they were fantastic. The sugar turned into this glorious, savory, mahogany, yes-life-is-worth-living glaze, and I made a complete pig of myself.
My oldest daughter made a wonderful coleslaw with a recipe I can’t find at the moment, but it was pretty standard. We don’t have a food processor, but the cheese grater works well enough. We didn’t have buttermilk, either, but used some plain yogurt instead. (You can also make a buttermilk substitute by adding a splash of vinegar to regular milk and letting it sit for a bit.)
My husband had the day off for Labor Day, so he and my third daughter made his sumptuous chicken cutlets, which involves pounding the chicken flat, breading, and frying it, and then topping it with a basil leaf and a slice of provolone, and then garnishing the whole thing with a ladle of homemade tomato sauce, so it all melts together.
The recipe is here, on Deadspin, which has many wonderful recipes, all full of cussing (which I can totally deal with) and a lot of extraneous narration (which I cannot deal with, but my husband can). I cannot say enough about this dish. It is so good. So good.
I tried a new roasted broccoli recipe from Damn Delicious, and I added a bunch of sliced mushrooms. It was tasty, and the recipe was super easy, but I will roast it longer next time, and probably dry off the broccoli better. It turned out a little damp. Probably the mushrooms added moisture, which I had forgotten they would do.
My daughter had made chocolate chip cookies the other day, and we miraculously had leftovers, so we used them to make ice cream sandwiches.
I have no idea if we’ve always had tacos on Tuesdays anyway, or if the Lego movie made us do it, but we sure have tacos on Tuesdays a lot. We love this movie, too, by the way. So weird and funny and sweet.
We’ve also figured out where to store the tortillas so they’re safe from the infamous ravening tortilla hound, who just can’t help himself.
The completely wrong dish for a brutally humid day, but oh well. We had leftover (unseasoned) ground beef from the tacos, plus leftover wonderful sauce from the chicken cutlets, so I added those things to Aldi’s jarred sauce, which is not bad at all, and cooked up some sweet Italian sausages.
I seem to recall salad.
Lovely pizza. One pepperoni, one olive, one olive and basil, and one basil, pepperoni, and red onion.
I like to put the toppings under the cheese, so they don’t get dried out in the oven; and I like to sprinkle garlic powder, oregano, and grated parmesan on top of the mozzarella, to give it a nice crust.
This is what’s on the menu today. I use the Fannie Farmer white sauce + cheese recipe, but I tend to throw in a lot more cheese than is called for. I don’t even know how much I use, but it’s a hell of a lot more than half a cup. “Half a cup of cheese” is not even a thing, as far as I’m concerned.
For a topping, I either mix together melted butter and breadcrumbs (I find this technique easier than buttering each individual breadcrumb, ho ho), or else crushed Ritz crackers, because there aren’t enough calories in eleven cups of cheese.
My goal for next week: less cheese, more vegetables. Corrie’s goals remain the same: EAT EVERYTHING.
The main reason we home schooled for six years was because home schoolers don’t have to know where their shoes are. Ditto for water bottles. Need to go outside? Lie down with a manga until the feeling passes. Thirsty? Just drink directly out of the faucet like my son — or, like my son when he’s being fancy, drink out of a plate.
I have failed.
Anyway, now we have to be shod and watered every morning. Behold, I have some solutions for you, especially if you have a lot of kids and not much space.
For shoes, you want to buy a bunch of stacking bins, like these:
They’re meant for office supplies, but they work fine for shoes, especially for kids. One bin for each kid, and you can configure them however you want, AND you can empty them out and hose them down as required.
For water bottles, an over-the-door shoe organizer like this is poifect.
We had a million water bottles clattering around the counter, and the tops were, of course, nowhere to be found. I want to make sure the bottles air out, so we keep all the lids in 2-3 pockets, and the bottles in the rest.
The thing I like about these systems is that they’re cheap, and you don’t have to actually install anything — so if it’s not working for you, you can just scrap them, no big deal.
And of course, like an organizational system, they only work if you actually use them! My kids are genetically predisposed to be slobs, and most of them will only put their stuff away if I remind them every single time. So these systems don’t automatically make our house tidy and clutter-free; but they do make it possible to clean. There is somewhere to put stuff if the urge strikes you. When someone (me) suddenly can’t take it anymore, someone (me) can go into an angry, white-hot cleaning frenzy fueled by self-loathing and dust allergies, and can turn a ghastly heap back into a living space again without having to think about it too hard. Success!
Now I’m going to share pictures of what our shoes and water bottles look like right now, a week before school starts. I haven’t done any organizing or cleaning yet, and I’m in the middle of a huge painting job, so these areas are both at peak disgustingness, everything is out of place, and I haven’t been making anyone put anything away because it’s just not my top priority at the moment. I’m painting cabinets, too, so everything that was in those cabinets is now cleverly being stored in the middle of the dining room. But they’re still better than what we had before!
The water bottles:
Why, yes, that is a tattered copy of “The Walrus and the Carpenter” hanging up on the door, from the last time I was panicking about my kids not having a good foundation in poetry; and yes, that door is on the For the Love of All That Is Holy, Please Paint Me list. I call this picture “Palimpsest of Things I Was Worrying About.”
The shoe area:
To the casual observer, this would appear to be the shameful evidence of a slovenly and chaotic household; but to me, it’s a picture called “Simcha Loves You and Wants You to Feel Better about Your Own Life.” Extra points if you can spot the kid who doesn’t appreciate air conditioning.
As soon as my new camera gets here, I’ll take some “after” pictures, and you can laugh at me all over again, because it will still suck.
In a couple of months, I’ll show you how I came up with a brilliant system which doesn’t keep our mittens paired up and readily accessible, but it could.
How about you? Do you have any smart systems to share? Or maybe you’d like to pay someone to clean my house?
One of two things is happening here today. Either
(a) I’m launching a recurring feature sharing my family’s weekly dinner menu. While I’m no cooking jainyus, I do manage to feed twelve people, seven days a week, without spending a million dollars and without anyone getting rickets.
I’ll list our dinners and include any recipes that might be interesting, and I hope readers will share their menus and recipes, too, so we can all get some good ideas from each other. If there’s enough interest, I may start a weekly blog link-up;
(b) I’m launching a dumb, useless thing that everyone hates, and in a few weeks I’ll sheepishly kick some dead leaves over it and hope everyone forgets it ever happened.
Come onnn, (a)!
We’re busy people. I work from home, I have two pre-schoolers and eight other kids in three different schools, my husband works late most nights and has a long commute, the kids all have clubs and activities and jobs, and I spend two hours in the van on a good day. I don’t expect myself to cook like someone who’s home all afternoon, or someone who has leisure in the evening, or someone who cares deeply and intensely about optimal diets. We can’t afford the farmer’s market, and our garden stinks.
I stay within a certain budget, but I no longer have to shop as cheaply as possible. It’s worth it to me to pay a little more for convenience or variety. We now have an Aldi nearby, which means that foods that used to be luxuries are now staples.
I don’t have a crock pot or a microwave, because I’m stubborn and I enjoy suffering.
I started making a weekly menu several years ago, planning and listing and buying only exactly what we needed to eat, because we were super broke and I had to make, say, $30 stretch for seven days. The menu habit stuck after our situation improved, and I’m glad it did. I hate hate hate grinding out the menu on Saturday morning, but I love always knowing what’s for dinner each night, and always having all the ingredients on hand.
How I make my weekly menu:
On Saturday morning, I write the days of the week on a piece of paper, and I make note of any upcoming events that will affect what food I buy (a birthday, which means the kid picks dinner; or lots of dentist appointments, which means I’ll be out of the house during the day; or an evening concert, which means we’ll need to eat early and clean up quickly; or a radio spot right at dinner time, so the kids need to be able to just heat and eat; etc.).
I write in easy meals for whichever days seem like they will be trickiest.
Then I look up online supermarket flyers and add a few meals based on what’s on sale.
At this point, kids start swirling around me, and, seeing food on my computer screen, they start shouting out meal names. I yell at them to leave me alone and let me drink my coffee, and then guiltily fill in at least one meal that they shouted for the loudest.
Then, if I can’t think of anything else easily to fill in the rest of the days, I go to Budget Bytes, AllRecipes, the NYT food pages, Epicurious, Good Eats, and Pioneer Womanfor inspiration, if not for actual recipes. (Sometimes I’ll be like, “Oh yeah, chicken! I forgot about chicken.”) Most of my staple recipes are from the Fannie Farmer cookbook, which I recommend highly as a comprehensive, clear, and encouraging resource.
Then I make a list.
Well, you guys know how to make a list.
Suddenly I’m nervous that you’re going to think, “Why is she telling about these dumb, boring, obvious, yucky foods?” Well, maybe I’m just trying to make you feel better, you fancy person.
Okay, here goes. This past week we had . . .
Saturday: Corn dogs and frozen french fries. We had an insane-o busy day and it’s a miracle I managed this much. Anyway, I like corn dogs. We had rice krispie treats for dessert because I was afraid someone might mistake us for people of good breeding.
Sunday: Sesame chicken* (quadruple recipe) and white rice (5 cups uncooked rice). I usually make sesame chicken with steamed broccoli, but I forgot to buy broccoli. This recipe is much easier than it looks, but don’t crowd the chicken! Also, put on the air conditioner, or else you will get hot and frazzled and will accidentally just throw the chicken in the garbage when you meant to transfer it onto a tray. P.S. the most expensive part of this recipe is the sesame seeds. I’m going to look into growing my own sesame tree. I’ve made this recipe with inauthentic white vinegar, vegetable oil, and powdered ginger, and it still tastes fine. Dessert: fancy Aldi cookies and orange sherbet, much to my husband’s dismay. (Whoever’s shopping turn it is gets to choose dessert.)
Monday: Hamburgers, fried red onions, potato chips, and raw sweet peppers and baby carrots with hummus. (This is a “kids heat and eat” dish, because I was on the radio.) We use about 3 lbs. of 70/30 ground beef for the 11 of us. I’ve found that the easiest way to make hamburgers is to make the patties really flat, season them, and lay them on a two-piece broiler pan, so the fat runs off. Put the broiler on “high” and flip the burgers once.
Tuesday: slow-cooked pork tenderloin* (about 5 lbs), two loaves of beer bread, and an enormous basin of salad. I don’t have a slow cooker, so I just put the pork in the oven at 250 and covered it with tin foil. I also ran out of baking soda, so I used this baking powder+cream of tartar substitution, and it turned out great. The pork sauce is savory and fantastic, if you like salt, which we do. When it gets colder, I’ll make this dish with mashed potatoes.
Wednesday: Giant Pancake with chocolate chips, and scrambled eggs. The chocolate chips are because it’s still summer vacation, hoop de doo. I had plans to cut up a pineapple, but I got mad and tired, and went to bed with a handful of eggs, instead. The pineapple went bad, too bad. Giant Pancake is just pancake mix, you add water, you throw it in a shallow pan and chuck it in a 350 oven until it puffs up. Everyone gets a giant wedge and they tell Daddy “DUESS WHAT? WE HAD TATE FOR SUPPER.”
Thursday: Nachos!!! Three giant trays of tortilla chips, layered with ground pork and beef cooked with a few envelopes of taco spice, refried beans, corn, shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, salsa, sour cream, and guacamole*. (Our guacamole is: avocados, fresh garlic and tomatoes, onion, jalapenos, cilantro, lime juice, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes.)
Friday: Tuna noodle casserole and salad. This is the guilt dish that some kids were begging for, although I will admit, I like tuna noodle. I got a frozen pizza for Damien, who never did become reconciled to this dish. Our tuna noodle is: cooked egg noodles mixed with six cans of drained tuna and a three cans of condensed cream of mushroom soup. Put the mixture in a buttered casserole dish, and top with crushed potato chips and corn flakes. Bake at 350 until the topping is toasted. Serve with dressing made from ketchup, mayo, and vingar. Tell people online that this is what you eat. Take a bow, you prince among chefs.
*I recently discovered that you can crush garlic without peeling the individual cloves. I can’t believe I didn’t know this. You have to pick the peels out in between crushing cloves, but it’s SO much faster than peeling first.
Now you know! And I’d love to hear what you’re eating at your house this week. Remember, everyone has different priorities and situations, so don’t feel like you need to be fancy or fascinating. Whatcha got?