What’s for supper? Vol. 235: In which we fight in the shade

Today, we are having potato latkes and noodle kugel, as described here. This is because, being only Jewish, I thought today was the last night of Chanukah. It was actually Thursday night, as we discovered when we ran out of candles on Thursday night. Oops! But there’s definitely no rule you can only have latkes and kugel during Chanukah, so away we go.

I’m about to put my kugel in the oven. I goosed my childhood recipe with apple bits and blonde raisins soaked in rum, and a little of this and that, and I think it’s going to be delicious. The kids are positively disposed toward it, because “kugel” is a silly word. 

Latkes recipe:

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Kugel recipe:

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Here’s what else we had this week:

SATURDAY
Lasagna, birthday cake

Speaking of delicious, we had Benny’s birthday party this weekend, and she requested Damien’s famous lasagna.This is a Burneko recipe and he really puts you through your paces, with a béchamel sauce, a pork ragu, fresh mozzarella and parmesan, and the works. It takes about 300 hours to make and it is heavenly. I always get bad pictures, but it is pure bliss. 

Slightly better picture from the next day, when I had leftovers for lunch:

Since we couldn’t invite people over for a party, we had a spa day in the living room. I decorated with yards and yards of tulle, and we hung paper birds from threads, and blew up dozens of balloons.

We had assorted fancy snacks (mini eclairs, chocolate kiss pretzel bites, chocolate covered cherries, etc.) and grape soda with bendy straws, and then we proceeded to put on terrifying facial masks and tried to balance chilled cucumbers on our eyes.

When we had enough of that, we painted each other’s nails while listening to Taylor Swift. It was everything a spa day ought to be.

Benny and I made some birds out of marzipan, which is harder than I expected. We colored them with gel food coloring and watercolor brushes. Then we made little nests out of melted chocolate and shredded coconut. The end result was . . . really something.

Anyway, we had fun, and Benny was happy. Here she is wearing her new bird dress and wearing the glasses that make rainbow hearts appear around light sources, including birthday candle flames. 

Oh, we also made these cute little caprese ladybug snacks. A cracker, a slice of mozzarella, a basil leaf, and a tomato half with an olive head. 

The dots are, unfortunately, icing. We need to figure out something savory that clings like icing. 

SUNDAY
Meatloaf, roast potatoes and squash

I honestly don’t remember Sunday. We were definitely running around. Damien made the meatloaf

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and I cut up some butternut squash and questionable potatoes, and roasted them with olive oil, salt and pepper. 

Yes, we are eating meatloaf on paper plates. I started using paper plates when I was pregnant, and oopsie, never stopped. 

I feel like I always say this, but just in case: To easily cut and peel butternut squash, stab it several times with a fork and the microwave it for 4 minutes. This doesn’t cook it, but loosens it up enough that you can process it without needing a machete or chainsaw.

MONDAY
Nachos

Easy peasy. I cooked up some ground beef with orange powder from some envelopes, sprinkled it over tortilla chips, and topped it with shredded cheese from a bag, then heated it up. I set out red and green salsa, sour cream, and jalapeño slices, and I think that’s it. Bloop.

I also have this little jar of corn queso that I keep taking in and out of the fridge. I’m afraid to open it and heat it up, because what if nobody wants it, and it goes to waste? So I put it out on the table unopened, and if someone wants it, they can open it. Of course they don’t, because it’s not open, and they’re afraid I’ll yell at them for opening it. Then, after everyone’s eaten, I put it back in the fridge. I wish there were some way of getting paid for being this stupid. At this point, it’s an actual achievement. 

TUESDAY
Sandwiches, carrot cake

Tubesday was my birthday! I only had a little work to do and barely lifted a finger, while Damien did all the driving and meal prep. He made (and, this is important: shopped for) the delicious sandwiches I requested.

He splits some baguettes and gives them a good olive oiling, then lays on — I don’t even know what, prosciutto, capicola, salami, provolone, fresh basil, sun dried tomatoes, and misc. They are delicious.

He also bought an assortment of frozen appetizers, and some excellent carrot cakes. 

Well, first, for reasons unclear to me, the girls brought in an invisible cake

then Damien brought in the carrot cake

and I managed to blow out the candles with only eleven tries

Now I am 46. I had a lovely day and am happy to be alive with this family for another year!

WEDNESDAY
Pepperoncini beef sandwiches, fries, pomegranates 

A very tasty meal with minimal effort. You chunk some roasts into the slow cooker with a jar of pepperoncini and juice and shake in a good amount of Worcestershire sauce. I’m very excited about Worcestershire sauce these days. Cook, shred the meat,

pick out a few peppers, and serve on crusty rolls with provolone and mayonnaise.

A fine sammich. 

THURSDAY
Hamburgers and chips

It was supposed to be a meal of summery picnic food (honey mustard chicken drumsticks, biscuits, coleslaw), but we all spent the day digging out of two feet of snow, so I switched to something heartier. I did make a big pot of hot chocolate, and we also fed the birds (recipes in the post). We got our first junco yesterday! We’ve had lots of chickadees and tufted titmice, plus regular visits from wrens, nuthatches, cardinals, and the occasional bluejay. We like to watch birds, and we also like to watch the dog watching the cat watching birds. At least it’s an ethos. 

If that stimulus money ever comes through, we may actually buy a snowblower this year. There was so much snow, I was reduced to actually helping with the shoveling, and I’m too old, dammit. I have a horrible feeling a snowblower is going to be one of those things you spend more time fixing than using, but it can’t be worse than shoveling your driveway by the light of the headlights. 

FRIDAY

Today, the potato latkes with sour cream and applesauce, and noodle kugel with rum raisins and apple! I’m waiting for the boy to come back from the store with eggs. Yes indeed, another child with a license. 

Word on the street is you can rinse your shredded potato in cold water and that will prevent them from turning grey. I always thought they had to be actually covered in cold water to prevent discoloration, which makes them harder to squeeze out properly. I will report my findings. I don’t actually care if the potatoes turn grey — it doesn’t affect the taste, and they turn golden brown when they cook — but it would be nice not to frighten the children. 

And that’s it! It’s the kids’ last day of school. We’re all going to confession, and then I’m taking the little girls Christmas shopping. This feels like the wrong order of events. I may sedate myself first.

Potato latkes

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Noodle kugel with apple and rum raisins

A cozy baked noodle custard. Some people make savory kugels, but this one is decidedly sweet.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups raisins, regular or blonde
  • 1 cup spiced rum
  • 1 lb egg noodles
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 2 lbs cottage cheese
  • 4 cups sour cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 12 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 4 apples peeled, cored, and cut into bits

Instructions

  1. Put the raisins and rum in a dish and let them soak for at least half an hour.

  2. Preheat the oven to 375.

  3. While the raisins are soaking, boil and strain the noodles.

  4. Strain the raisins. In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients and stir in the raisins, then stir in the drained noodles.

  5. Pour the mixture into a greased casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes or more, until the custard is set and the top is golden brown.

Meatloaf (actually two giant meatloaves)

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground beef
  • 2 lbs ground turkey
  • 8 eggs
  • 4 cups breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 cup milk OR red wine
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

plenty of salt, pepper, garlic powder or fresh garlic, onion powder or minced onions, fresh parsley, etc.

  • ketchup for the top

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450

  2. Mix all meat, eggs, milk, breadcrumbs, and seasonings together with your hands until well blended.

  3. Form meat into two oblong loaves on pan with drainage

  4. Squirt ketchup all over the outside of the loaves and spread to cover with spatula. Don't pretend you're too good for this. It's delicious. 

  5. Bake for an hour or so, until meat is cooked all the way through. Slice and serve. 

 

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Beef pepperoncini sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 1 hunk beef
  • 1 jar pepperoncini
  • several glugs Worcestershire sauce
  • rolls
  • sliced provolone

Instructions

  1. Put the beef in a slow cooker with a jar of pepperoncini and the juice. If you like, cut the stems off the pepperoncini. If there isn't enough juice, add some beer. 

  2. Cover, set to low, and let it cook for several hours until the meat falls apart when poked with a fork. 

  3. Shred the meat. If you like, chop up a few of the pepperoncini. 

  4. Serve meat on rolls with mayo if you like. Lay sliced provolone over the meat and slide it under the broiler to toast the bread and melt the cheese. Serve the juice on the side for dipping. 

Snow day! Bird seed cakes, hot chocolate, sugar cookies, and 6-sided snowflakes

Continue reading “Snow day! Bird seed cakes, hot chocolate, sugar cookies, and 6-sided snowflakes”

It’s a great loss when we train ourselves to stop receiving beauty

I can learn to decipher what their calls might mean, but it would be a great loss, a bizarre and ungrateful act, to deliberately train myself to stop hearing their music as music.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Still fat, still running, still bugging you to do Couch to 5k

A little over a year ago, I told you how great the Couch to 5K program is. I describe why I started the program, exactly what it entails, and how it helped me physically, mentally, and emotionally. Here’s an update in our transformation from sad blobs to happier, somewhat more toned people with some blobby aspects.

It turned out that having a built-in babysitter was the lynchpin for regular physical fitness, and once those babysitters left for college, it got super hard to keep running regularly. We did try. We ran separately, and it was lonely. We tried running at night in the winter, and that was horrible.  I also tried these marching workout videos, and they were pretty good, but I slacked off after several weeks. In January, I consoled myself by writing a satirical news story about how I was fooling myself, but that only takes you so far. Then we got a Y membership so we could stow the baby hobbit in childcare and run around the track, but man, it is not the same. You have to make twelve circuits for a mile, and the air is dry and weird, and you can’t have loud, panting conversations about NFP when you’re running at the Y. And then some lady runs right in front of you wearing bright pink running pants with a thong-shaped pattern on it, as is her constitutional right, and you get mad your husband, which isn’t fair, but that’s how it is.

So, with less and less exercise, I slid further and further into blobby despond. Our whole household is terribly sad over the winter anyway, so it was not a good scene. People were making caramel popcorn with entire sticks of butter before 11 a.m. We were scrolling through Facebook with our noses, because it was too exhausting to move our thumbs.

Then the college kids came back home, and . . . now we can go running again. And that’s how it is! We’re running anywhere from three to seven times a week. To our delight, we didn’t have to start from zero, even after taking so much time off.  We’re not as fit as we were by the end of last summer, when we were topping four miles sometimes, but we’re well on our way, and can easily do two+ miles.

The kids, age 9 and up, will be starting Couch to 5K when school gets out in a few weeks. I highly recommend it!  And do get outside as much as possible. I’m glad we used the treadmill when we first started, because it was better than nothing, and I know the track at the Y kept us from losing too much ground; but being outdoors is fantastic. I’m trying to learn more about the ever-changing flora and fauna that surrounds us. So far, we’ve identified a pretty little friend called an arctic starflower

By Jason Hollinger (Arctic StarflowerUploaded by Amada44) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
we’ve brought home, looked up, and abruptly threw away some fascinating, luminous objects called spongy oak apple galls

which look like magical seed pods, but are made by gall wasps out of oak leaf tissue to cushion their developing larvae. Eek!

. . . and, with the help of friends, discovered that that weird sound that almost sounds like an alien toy, like one of those plastic tubes you whip around in a circle over your head, is actually the song of a hermit thrush:

We see wild turkeys, just birding around, and meandering deer, and flame-red salamanders. I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to figure out what weed produces that intoxicatingly wild, dusky, spicy smell, but I can’t get enough of it. Best of all, Damien and I have regular time together that’s just for us. That’s my favorite part of my life right now.

I still eat too much to be losing significant weight, but getting regular exercise does so much to put food back in its rightful place, as fuel rather than hobby or master. I’m much happier with my shape, my posture, and my energy levels and confidence than I have been in many months. I bought a frickin’ two-piece bathing suit yesterday. Even if I never wear it, the fact that I thought I might is a big deal!

My blood pressure is great. I have zero back pain and haven’t had a single migraine since we started running regularly. Since my migraine meds were messing with my heart, this is a relief.

I’m not a great runner. I’m very slow, and my form is inefficient and silly. It’s hard to start, every single time, and I generally feel very strongly that the first 1/8 mile is bullshit, just bullshit. But sooner and sooner in each run, I’m hitting that moment where I feel strong, competent, and optimistic, and that feeling sometimes lasts for hours.

So if you’re feeling bad, this is me pestering you to try Couch to 5K. If I can do it, you definitely can. You guys know me. I’m not a go-getter or thing-achiever, but I’m telling you, this program changed my life.

 

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