What’s for supper? Vol. 325: (salad)

Okay, this may be a little obnoxious but I am not spending more money on groceries these days. I’m just being more strict with the budgeting habits I’ve followed for years. Would people be interested in a separate post explaining how I plan my weekly menu and how I make my shopping list? It won’t be useful for everyone, but it might be interesting. I promise not to try to sell you a $60 planner. 

Anyway, here is what we had this week: 

SATURDAY
??

I certainly do not remember what we had for supper on Saturday. It was the kind of day that made me google “minimum age child at home alone legal NH,” because there were a lot of duck-fox-basket of corn situations, including the celebration of Sophia’s birthday.

Halfway through our first batch of teenager birthdays, we discovered that, for a surprisingly reasonable price, you can rent an entire small theater a couple of towns over, and they will play a DVD you bring. So she obviously brought The Mummy and invited some pals, and Damien popped a ton of popcorn and they had a nice time. Clara made this snazzy chocolate BTS cake:

and we got some Aldi pizza for lunch. By the time dinner came around, it was a blur. 

SUNDAY
Pork ribs, rice, honey roasted Brussels sprouts

Everything with very simple seasoning. Pork ribs heavily salted and peppered, and roasted right under the broiler, turned once; rice cooked in chicken broth, which the kids desire most ardently; and Brussels sprouts roasted with olive oil, honey, and sea salt. 

I had to do a little fancy footwork with the pork and the brussels sprouts pans, to make sure they both got a turn under the broiler and the brussels sprouts didn’t get overcooked, but Somehow I Managed. Little blorp of bottled sauce and you got yourself a decent meal. This concludes this week’s Spotlight On Pork. I will spare you the other pork photos I took, which look disconcertingly like Martin Luther King Jr’s uhhhhh arm. 

MONDAY
Beef barley soup, butternut squash muffins

They had big hunks of beef on sale for $2.99 a pound, so I got two big ones and cut one up for soup. Here is my trusty, hearty, cozy beef barley soup recipe:

Jump to Recipe

I’m still waiting for my Instant Pot replacement float valve to arrive, so I cooked this on the stovetop, and forgot to keep an eye on it, so the barley and mushrooms gobbled up most of the broth. So we had a savory assemblage of beef, barley, tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots, garlic, and onions, graced with a little whisper of beef broth. Honestly, no complaints. 

I really wanted some bread to go with, but I didn’t have time to let anything rise, and we didn’t have any beer to make a beer bread (which is a great easy quick bread to know. Here’s that recipe: Jump to Recipe); and we didn’t have any canned pumpkin to make pumpkin muffins. 

We did, however, have half a butternut squash left over from last week’s one pan chicken thighs. So I covered it with damp napkins and put it in the microwave for about 15 minutes, three minutes at a time, until it was forkable.

Then I scooped it out and mashed it and used it in place of pumpkins in this very reliable pumpkin bread recipe, which makes two loaves or 18 muffins

Jump to Recipe

and hoooo doggie they were delicious muffins.

Light and kind of buttery and very tender. (I don’t know why I felt it was necessarily to get right up in this muffin’s face for the only photo I took, but at least you can really see the texture!) This is a nice, easy recipe (which any muffin recipe should be), and I often turn to it when I need a quick side for soup. 

I like the pumpkin muffins very much, but these squash ones were clearly superior. More flavor, more interesting texture, lighter. I don’t know if it’s because butternut squash is a better vegetable than pumpkin overall, or because I was using fresh squash instead of canned pumpkin. Probably both reasons. Anyway, I’m going to do it this way from now on, whenever I can. They were a good accompaniment to the soup, as a sweetish quick bread, but if you added a cream cheese icing, they would easily work for a dessert. 

Some of the kids had them for breakfast the next day, too, so I felt massively accomplished. 

TUESDAY
Pizza

Tuesday was my first band practice! Very exciting! I started playing clarinet in 4th grade and continued playing in the school band all through high school. I noodled around a bit after that, but this is my the first time playing in a group in more than thirty years. What an absolute joy. It’s a band for adults just like me, who used to play and are getting back into it, or who are just learning to play, so it’s very friendly and encouraging, and I absolutely love it. Damien got me a clarinet that packs up into a cute little backpack for Christmas, and I got myself a folding music stand, and my fingers are all, “yep, we remember this,” and away we go. It’s awesome. If you are an old bat and feeling a little bit now-what-ish about your life, I strongly recommend checking to see if there’s a New Horizons band in your area. I also dropped my high school band director a note just to let him know I’m still playing and that I have happy memories of band. Wish I could write to Mr. Faro,  who taught me to play all those years ago, but he passed away quite young. Sweet man.

Speaking of sweet men, Damien made pizzas because I was in a bit of a tizzy about my first practice. He made two cheese, one pepperoni, and one garlic, onion, anchovy, and artichoke heart. Veddy good.

WEDNESDAY
Chicken burgers, leftovers

I’m trying to throw away less food, and I can’t seem to actually cook less food, so I cooked some frozen chicken burgers and then heated up some of the massive amounts of leftovers clogging up the fridge, so we had chicken burgers, rice, Brussels sprouts, and nachos. The kids complained a lot, which tells me we need to do this more often so they get used to it, because it was perfectly good food! 

Oh, you know what, we must have had nachos on Saturday, because there were leftover nachos in the fridge. 

THURSDAY
Steak and pear salad, french bread

Not really steak, but I don’t know what to call it. “Beef salad” just sounds gross, and this meal was actually delightful. Damien took the other large on-sale hunk of roast beef, chuck roast or whatever it was; seasoned it, and seared it in oil with garlic cloves, then cooked it slowly in the oven

until it was beautifully rare inside, which I swear I took a photo of, but apparently it was on my imagination camera.

I served it with mixed greens, sliced pears, toasted walnuts (microwaved for two minutes), crumbled blue cheese, diced red onion, and white wine vinegar for a dressing. 

Absolutely delicious. 

I got it into my head that there was’t enough meat (there absolutely was), and we needed a side, so I made some french bread. I started somewhat late in the day, so the bread came out of the oven right at supper time

and my poor family was forced to eat piping hot french bread with melted butter sliding off the top. 

If you are wondering why one of the loaves has a little jog at the end, that’s what happens when you balance a large pan of rising dough on top of a toaster when people are rushing around in the kitchen, and it gets knocked onto the floor but miraculously flips over and the dough lands on the floor on top of the plastic wrap because, well, God loves you all the time, and sometimes he shows it by not letting your bread dough get all crapped up on the dirty floor. So that was nice! One loaf got a little jog at the end of it, but who among us. 

FRIDAY
Tuna noodle or salmon 

It is a snow day! See?

A snow day that they announced yesterday, so we could turn off our alarms, and they sent the kids home with work packets, so the day off won’t get counted against their summer vacation, and the kids industriously did their packets yesterday. I am rewarding them with tuna noodle (which I was planning to make anyway, but they do like it), and the big people are having salmon of some kind, because I happened to be at Aldi right when salmon hit the “sell or freeze by” date and it was 50% off. 

Not sure exactly how I will prepare the salmon. I might just pan fry it and serve it with, hmmm, steamed potatoes and peas or something. My goal is not to run out to the store. Or make anyone else run to the store. 

Anyway, let me know if you want that “how I plan and shop” thing. It might just be annoying, I don’t know. 

 

Beef barley soup (Instant Pot or stovetop)

Makes about a gallon of lovely soup

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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


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

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

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

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

 

Beer bread

A rich, buttery quick bread that tastes more bready and less cake-y than many quick breads. It's so easy (just one bowl!) but you really do want to sift the flour.

This recipe makes two large loaf pan loaves.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups flour, sifted
  • 2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 12-oz cans beer, preferably something dark
  • 1 stick butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375

  2. Butter two large loaf pans. Melt the stick of butter.

  3. I'm sorry, but you really do want to sift the flour.

  4. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients, and stir in beer until it's all combined and nice and thick.

  5. Pour the batter into the loaf pans and pour the melted butter over the top.

  6. Bake for about 50 minutes until it's crusty and knobbly on top.

 

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. 

 

French bread

Makes four long loaves. You can make the dough in one batch in a standard-sized standing mixer bowl if you are careful!

I have a hard time getting the water temperature right for yeast. One thing to know is if your water is too cool, the yeast will proof eventually; it will just take longer. So if you're nervous, err on the side of coolness.

Ingredients

  • 4-1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 5 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
  • 10-12 cups flour
  • butter for greasing the pan (can also use parchment paper) and for running over the hot bread (optional)
  • corn meal for sprinkling on pan (optional)

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, put the warm water, and mix in the sugar and yeast until dissolved. Let stand at least five minutes until it foams a bit. If the water is too cool, it's okay; it will just take longer.

  2. Fit on the dough hook and add the salt, oil, and six of the cups of flour. Add the flour gradually, so it doesn't spurt all over the place. Mix and low and then medium speed. Gradually add more flour, one cup at a time, until the dough is smooth and comes away from the side of the bowl as you mix. It should be tender but not sticky.

  3. Lightly grease a bowl and put the dough ball in it. Cover with a damp towel or lightly cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about an hour, until it's about double in size.

  4. Flour a working surface. Divide the dough into four balls. Taking one at a time, roll, pat, and/or stretch it out until it's a rough rectangle about 9x13" (a little bigger than a piece of looseleaf paper).

  5. Roll the long side of the dough up into a long cylinder and pinch the seam shut, and pinch the ends, so it stays rolled up. It doesn't have to be super tight, but you don't want a ton of air trapped in it.

  6. Butter some large pans. Sprinkle them with cornmeal if you like. You can also line them with parchment paper. Lay the loaves on the pans.

  7. Cover them with damp cloths or plastic wrap again and set to rise in a warm place again, until they come close to double in size. Preheat the oven to 375.

  8. Give each loaf several deep, diagonal slashes with a sharp knife. This will allow the loaves to rise without exploding. Put the pans in the oven and throw some ice cubes in the bottom of the oven, or spray some water in with a mister, and close the oven quickly, to give the bread a nice crust.

  9. Bake 25 minutes or more until the crust is golden. One pan may need to bake a few minutes longer.

  10. Run some butter over the crust of the hot bread if you like, to make it shiny and even yummier.

What’s for supper? Vol. 321: Fly me to taboon (and let me play among za’atar)

Busy busy! Aren’t we all! Here’s what we had this week, including two birthday cakes (and this is why we don’t really do St. Lucy’s day or St. Nicholas day or what have you. December is already full up): 

SATURDAY
Benny’s birthday party! Pizza and cake

Benny had an ancient Egypt-themed birthday party. More guests than expected showed up, and it was a little bit bananas, and they were less interested in the activities we planned (making necklaces out of clay cartouches with their names in hieroglyphs; getting eye makeup and posing in the sarcophagus photo booth; and doing a toilet paper mummy wrapping contest) and more interested in running around screaming. But we powered through. We decorated with gold and blue plastic tablecloths tacked onto the walls, with details added with a Sharpie. 

and we did get a few sarcophagus shots

and the birthday girl was highly pleased with the cake.

I made two nine-inch square cakes and one deep loaf cake, and just kept carving them up and stacking the pieces on top of each other and sticking them together with icing, and by the time it looked like a pyramid, there was very little left over

I frosted it with tub frosting and pressed colored sugar into the sides, added lines with a toothpick, and then made some camels and trees with chocolate melting discs, and pressed those into the sides, with crushed graham crackers for sand. 

Uh, the reason it says “HAPY BIRTDAY” is because I showed her the cool golden letter candles I had bought, and asked if they were good for her cake, and she said, “Yes, as long as there are 11 of them.” Of course there are 13 letters in “happy birthday,” so I suggested “hapy birtday,” and that worked for her.

This is my #1 parenting rule: Discuss expectations ahead of time, and you will save everyone so much heartache. 

SUNDAY
Chicken burgers, chips, broccoli 

Aldi had a clearance on their bottles of that garlic aioli mayo stuff, so I bought several bottles. I complain a lot when people clutter up my limited cabinet space with unnecessary bottles, but we’re talking about garlic aioli may stuff here. I’m not sharing a picture of my chicken sandwich because I put a disgusting amount of mayo on and it looks obscene. 

I also got crafty real quick on Sunday and did a fast project I’ve been saving the materials for for a while: This pretty pinecone zinnia wreath. 

Some pinecones, not all, really look like zinnias on their undersides, especially if you paint them. I clipped the tops off with garden shears, leaving the central “spine” mostly intact; hot glued them to a grapevine wreath from the thrift store, painted them with tempera, and then picked out a few of the vines of the wreath in two shades of green. I considered adding ribbon or berries, but it’s so bright and simple, I think I like it this way.  The wreath has a kind of wild grass look, which reminds me of Cape Cod, which is where I gathered the pine cones. 

MONDAY
Ham, peas, garlic parmesan mashed potatoes

Just in case they forgot who’s the best mother in the whole world: Ham, peas, and mashed potatoes, that’s who. 

Here’s my garlic parmesan mashed potato recipe, should you need it:

Jump to Recipe

TUESDAY
Mussakhan and taboon, feta cheese, pomegranates, meghli and sahlab

This meal really got away from me, in the best way. I had spotted this recipe for mussakhan a while back. It’s apparently the national Palestinian dish, and it’s easy and delicious: Sumac chicken with onions. If you like middle eastern food, this hits all those best notes. It has not just sumac, but allspice, cumin, cinnamon, lemon, and garlic. You slash the chicken (I used drumsticks and thighs) across the grain and rub the marinade in, and let it marinate several hours with sliced red onions, and then you just roast it in the oven. 

What puts it over the top is, right at the end, you brown up some pine nuts in olive oil and sprinkle these over the top, along with some flat leaf parsley and a little extra sumac. 

What puts it into the stratosphere is you serve it oven taboon, which is a dimpled, chewy flatbread which is supposed to be made in a clay oven or at least on a pizza stone, but guess what? I made one big giant slab o’ taboon on a sheet pan in my regular oven and it was AMAZING. 

I had to run out and buy bread flour, so I almost decided to just pick up some store bought pita instead, but I’m so glad I went for the homemade taboon.

Here’s the recipe:

Jump to Recipe

IT’S SO EASY. You guys know I’m kind of a dunce with baking and with bread in particular, but this was an unqualified success. I just mixed up the ingredients in my standing mixer, let it rise for an hour or so, scronched it and let it rest for ten minutes, and then rolled it out and stretched it into the pan, and baked it while the chicken finished cooking.

So at dinner time, I put the piping hot taboon on the table and then I served the chicken right on top of the bread, and poured all the cooking juices over it, and sprinkled the sizzling pine nuts over that, and finished with the parsley and sumac. 

Everyone just grabbed some chicken and tore off whatever bread they wanted and, oh man, it was fantastic. 

I wish I had taken some pictures of the inside of the taboon, but it was just barely browned and crisp on the bottom; the top was a little bit chewy, and the inside was fluffy and pillowy. So nice. The little dimples sop up the juices. 

I also had some feta cheese because I bought too much for spanakopita for Thanksgiving; and I had a bunch of pomegranates I got for Benny’s Egypt party and forgot to serve. So that went perfectly. 

I also suddenly remembered that, this summer, I had bought two pudding mixes: meghli and sahlab.

I had no idea what either of these were; I just liked the names, and I love puddings of all kind. The sahlab required you to add four cups of milk and heat and stir until it thickens, and then you can either drink it as a hot beverage, or else chill and serve as a pudding; the meghli required four cups of cold water, heat and stir to boil, and then chill. 

I chilled them both and served them with dried coconut. (Sorry about the inelegant picture. I was absolutely stuffed with food and could not be bothered to get up and find a pretty ramekin at this point.)

The sahlab had a pleasant silky texture, but tasted very strongly of rosewater and not much else, and I’m not a big fan. Rosewater just tastes like perfume to me. The kids liked it, though. If you like rosewater, I definitely recommend this mix. It was very easy to make.

The meghli was weird but nice. I liked the flavor, which is apparently predominantly anise, caraway, and cinnamon. I didn’t really taste the anise, but really mainly the cinnamon. But the flavor wasn’t really strong enough, though, and it tasted watery, and that was a little off-putting. It was also kind of pulpy. It’s possible I made it wrong, although all I had to do was stir it, so I don’t know how I could have messed it up! I might try it again and see if it comes out different. 

But all in all, a fantastic meal, very popular. Four new foods! It was a little expensive just because of the pine nuts and sumac, but I’m going to shop around and see if I can find them for cheaper, because I want to make this whole meal again. 

WEDNESDAY
Muffaletta sandwiches, fries 

It’s been a while. The olive salad turned out particularly nice, who knows why. I threw in two cans of black olives, one jar of green, and one jar of kalamata, a few pepproncini, some mild banana peppers, a bunch of red wine vinegar and olive oil, and a bunch of flat leaf parsley, and I think that’s it. I had some marinated red peppers, but they got shoved into the back of the fridge and froze. 

I served it on baguettes. For meats and cheese, I came up with leftover ham, genoa salami, hard salami, and some good provolone. None of this – not the olive salad, not the meats, not the bread, not the proportions of any of it – is authentic muffaletta, but it tasted good, and hardly anyone went and had cereal, so. 

I’m trying SO hard not to eat a meal’s worth of snacks while I wait for supper time, so instead I made a salami rose 

and that has made all the difference.

THURSDAY
My birthday!

Now I am 48! So far, it’s better than being dead.

The day started out a little squalid, and I drove the kids to school while Damien drove some to the dentist, then I drove to the dentist, while he drove one of them home because we got confused about the work schedule, then I drove some of them from the dentist to school, then I did a little Christmas shopping, then home, then drove the kid to work and picked up a prescription, then went home and had a telehealth doctor visit where I was like “I’m not really fine” and she was like “yes you are” and I was like “oh ok”; and then we had to go to a meeting where they were like, how are you suckers going to pay for your kid to go to Rome, eh? And we were like, duh, I dunno, she managed to sell three pots of poinsettias and we thought that would cover it, but apparently not.

BUT THEN, that was all the things we had to do! and Damien offered to take me wherever I wanted to go, and I really wanted to go get pizza. I chose eggplant, artichoke, anchovy, and garlic, and it was frickin delicious. 

I also laughed my head off because, as I ate, I watched as the cashier tell this teenage boy that he had been noticed trying to walk out with one of the restaurant’s two-foot glittery reindeer decorations hidden under his shirt, and they weren’t going to make a big deal about it because it was Christmas, but he needed to give it back. Teenage boys are so dumb. Just, so dumb. How are they even alive. 

And then we went home and everyone showered me with lovely, thoughtful presents

and Clara had baked me a spectacular cake

It was a coconut cream cake from Sally’s Baking Addiction, to which she had added lime zest and crushed pineapple, both brilliant ideas. Oh, what a moist, wonderful cake. So it was a great birthday! I felt very cherished and cared-for. Also, earlier, I was supposed to pick up the kids from school, but instead Damien did it, and I just took a nap. And he came home with flowers. 

FRIDAY
Pizza

It is a snow day. A snow day that they told us about the day before, so we just turned off the alarms and slept in! I slept kind of late and now I’m scrambling to get caught up. Good thing we’re having pizza. 

 

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.

taboon bread

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Jump to Recipe

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. 293: I’ll tell YOU what’s yakitori

Happy Friday! I am headed to adoration in a bit, and shall yell at Jesus about your intentions. 

Quick covid report: Everybody in the house eventually got it, except for one kid, who is either supernatural, or somehow got false negatives on a LOT of tests. The other kids only got a little bit sick, happily, and some didn’t get sick at all. They are all completely better. I’m definitely on the mend. I don’t think I even took a nap yesterday! And my splendid covid rash actually retreated a bit yesterday, rather than spreading, for the first time since it made its debut. Damien has started running again, and I have slowly, carefully started up yoga. I’m wheezy, but not horribly wheezy. Today I’m exactly three weeks out from the day I tested positive, so I guess that’s pretty normal. In conclusion, covid is stupid but not nearly as stupid as it could have been, so, Deo gratias. 

Spring has sprung for real. 

The ticks are ticking, the dog is romping, Damien is battling the pool water, and away we go. Outdoor cooking season is fully underway, happily, as you will see.

Here’s what we ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Smoked pork ribs, cole slaw, chips

Damien made three luscious racks of ribs in the smoker with a sugar rub and mustard. 

Jump to Recipe

It doesn’t really taste mustardy; it just has a savory tang with a little muted fireworks aftertaste, and they are incredibly juicy and flavorful. I can never tell if these “cutting up meat” pictures look amazing to other people, or just kind of grisly, but they look amazing to me.

I took a picture of a demure plate with two ribs, but I was just getting warmed up. 

Great meal. 

I also had the great fun of briefly meeting an old friend who was selling her wonderful prints at a local craft fair. Do check out Rabbit Dog Fine Arts on Etsy for some really striking, lively work, very very reasonably priced. I, uh, bought four prints because I couldn’t help myself.

SUNDAY
Italian sandwiches, french fries; lemon cake

Sunday was Mother’s Day, and I’m happy to report that, in a few short decades, I’ve successfully made the transition from having a painful, bitter day when I feel unappreciated and neglected, to getting showered with gifts and attention and feeling a little guilty about it. But not too guilty! 

I requested Italian sandwiches and a lemon-based dessert, both very delicious.

I do love lemon desserts. We recently saw the Great British Baking Show with the Sussex Pond Pudding, which is a pastry with a lard crust that contains butter, sugar, and an entire cooked lemon. I think I would eat that? Yeah, I’m pretty sure I would eat that. I would eat that.

I also went to Home Depot to finally get started on some gardening, finally. I am at a point in my life where, yes yes, I live in New Hampshire, but I just don’t want to dig up any more rocks, at all, ever. So that means container gardening. But I don’t just want buckets of dirt all over the place, either. But I don’t want to pay for lumber. So I wandered around in the yard with a measuring tape making vague diagrams, got to Home Depot, made a wild guess about how many cinder blocks we might need (um, 60?), loaded up as many as we could pull on a single cart, and, full of anxious foreboding about the expensive, cell-like, somehow-still-inadequate structure I was going to build, and how bad it was going to be on the car to bring it home, I went off to find a second cart, and on the way, discovered that for about the same price I could buy . . . look at this . . . four galvanized steel window wells, that are food safe because they are galvanized steel, and are already designed to be jammed into the ground.

But they turned out to be $20 each, not $10 as I originally thought, so I put the back, and felt sad about it, and looked at the cinder blocks again, but then I thought about how rotten I would feel if I came home with nothing, and I decided that not feeling that way was worth at least $30, and I would just eat the extra $10, because it was Mother’s Day. So I abandoned the cinder blocks and bought four metal thingies instead. This is how I do math. This is how I live. It’s better than digging up rocks, I guess.

The plan is make two long ovals, with a few cinder blocks stacked up between the pieces to form the long ends. I think maybe we have a few cinder blocks in our yard somewhere, left over from my last boneheaded project. Those are free, because it was last year.

Anyway, I finally got started, and that’s the main thing. And we stopped at the local nursery and bought several varieties of lettuce, some Brussels sprouts, and some celery, which are all plants I can leave outside even if it gets cold again, which it will. We’re not doing seeds this year. We’re just not.

MONDAY
Cuban sandwiches, chips, carrots and dip; birthday cake

Monday we celebrated Moe’s birthday. He requested Cuban sandwiches on ciabatta rolls. I started the pork a bit late, and ended up just roasting it in the oven covered with tinfoil and with lots of salt and pepper, garlic powder, oregano, and cumin, and doused with cider vinegar, and it was fine, if a tiny bit bland.

So, bread, mustard, pickles, Swiss cheese, pork, ham, more cheese,

and fried in an alarming amount of butter.

I pressed the heck out of the sandwiches with in iron frying pan as they fried,

and then put them in a warm oven to seal the deal, by which I mean the cheese.

This picture makes me laugh. This sandwich looks like it has its mouth full. Happy murfmay, Mofef! That is what the sandwich says.

He requested a whale shark cake,

and maybe if I had had more time time to prepare, it would have come out better, but maybe not. 

TUESDAY
Meatloaf, baked potatoes, salad

The secret of my meatloaf is I don’t make it very often, so the kids think it’s a treat. And it’s really pretty good; it’s just that there’s only a certain amount of good that meatloaf can be. My meatloaf has red wine, Worcestershire sauce, and fried onions in it. I always think I should make a gravy to go along with it, but it’s really fine as is. It’s meatloaf.  

Jump to Recipe

Certainly looked portentous coming out of the oven. I’m pretty happy the sun is up for dinner again. 

We had baked potatoes and salad. Did I already say that? I think I already said that. Well, here’s proof. 

WEDNESDAY
Yakitori chicken, rice, sesame string beans

Now this was a tasty meal. I made the sauce and Damien cooked the chicken on the grill. He used half the sauce to baste the chicken as he cooked it,

and then we served the other half for dipping. The meat comes out sweet, tangy, and gingery, and wonderfully glossy. 

You don’t have to marinate this meat; it gets plenty of flavor from basting. I made a triple recipe of this sauce, but I massively increased the amount of fresh garlic and ginger, and I cooked it considerably longer than she said. I cooked it through the entire third movement of Mendellsohn’s “Reformation” symphony before it thickened up. 

We used skinless, boneless chicken thighs but did not bother cutting them and putting them on skewers, but just sort of unfurled them and grilled them whole. They were wonderful that way, but technically they are not yakitori, which really is supposed to be on skewers. Although [snort, snort] technically “yaki” means “roast” and “tori” means “bird,” so I guess it depends if you want to be pedantic, or just, you know, eat the yummy chicken. 

Everyone was very enthusiastic about this meal. Served with sesame seeds and chopped scallions and more sauce, as you can see, which had a sharper, brighter flavor as a dipping sauce than it did when basted onto the chicken. Gosh, it was so good. I wish I had some right now, but it’s Friday, so I’m having some fwiggin yogurt and hummus and carrots. 

THURSDAY
Chicken burgers, cheezy weezies

Everyone was also very enthusiastic about this meal, served with mayonnaise. And buns from Aldi. 

FRIDAY
Seafood lo mein

We haven’t had lo mein for a while. I just bought some linguine or fettuccine, I forget which, for the noodles. Basically you just need something flat and slurpy that will pick up the tasty sauce and make a happy home for whatever you want to add in. 

Jump to Recipe

I often put in sugar snap peas, asparagus, or shrimp.

This time, I bought a little bag of mixed seafood from Aldi, which seems to have shrimp, scallops, some kind of shellfish, and misc. I’m a little concerned about the various cooking times it will need, but only a little concerned. 

Okay, that’s it! Here’s some recipe cards for yez. Do try the yakitori (or whatever) sauce. 

Smoked pork ribs with mustard rub

Ingredients

  • 2 racks pork ribs

Pork rub

  • 1-1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • Yellow mustard
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. The night before or several hours before dinner, mix together the rub spices. 



  2. Spread yellow mustard all over the rack of ribs and apply the rub. Cover and refrigerate. Let it come back to room temp before cooking.

  3. Light the fire and let it die down. Put the meat on the grill off to the side, where it will get indirect heat. Put the cover down and let it cook at least four hours. 

  4. Add salt and pepper, then separate the ribs and enjoy. 

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, fresh parsley, etc.

  • ketchup for the top
  • 2 onions diced and fried (optional)

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. 

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. 286: Sauce on your face! You big disgrace!

Hey! Who’s fasting? Ready to suffer? Let’s look at some delicious food pictures. Here’s what we cooked and ate this week: 

SATURDAY
I think Aldi pizza? 

We went to see Moe in The Winter’s Tale and needed something fast to throw at kids. 

SUNDAY
Chicken cutlets with basil; dinosaur cake

Sunday was Elijah’s birthday. Another (alleged) adult in the house! He requested Damien’s wonderful breaded chicken cutlets with the provolone on top and a little secret basil tucked inside,

with a hot scoop of slightly spicy marinara sauce over it all to melt the cheese onto the chicken.

So good. 

I once again reassured Damien that this meal was totally worth the hours and hours he spends in the kitchen. I’m the only one who thinks this is funny, but I keep saying it anyway. 

Elijah was reminiscing about the dinosaur cake with a volcano and blue Jello gazing pool I once made him when he was little, so Clara decided to recreate him. 

And a very dinosaur birthday it was.

MONDAY
Rigatoni alla disgraziata

I knew there would be lots of leftover sauce and probably some leftover chicken, so I planned a new-to-us pasta dish for Monday to roll things over, and it was all very tasty.

Rigatona all disgraziata is not only the most delicious food you can have while still keeping meatless, it’s the most fun you can have pronouncing a dish while making reference to being wretched. That’s what the “disgraziata” part means: It’s “poor wretch” food, because it calls for mozzarella, but if you don’t have that, you can just use breadcrumbs. 

If you do have mozzarella, though, you . . . well, first you toast up the breadcrumbs in a little olive oil (I used breadcrumbs from a can, but I do want to try homemade a some point), then you brown the eggplant in a lot of olive oil,

then salt it and add in the sauce that your husband has made yesterday (he used this Deadspin recipe).

Cook and drain the rigatoni, add in the saucy eggplant, mix in the toasted breadcrumbs, throw in some shredded mozzarella, and warm it all up together, and sprinkle some parmesan on top.

Fabulous.

Here’s a more detailed recipe:
Jump to Recipe

I undercooked the eggplant a little bit, so it was a tiny bit too chewy, but this was still a monstrously delicious and filling meal, even without the addition of the leftover chicken, which I heated up and served on the side. Definitely going into the rotation for meatless meals. We also thought it would be nice if some crumbled Italian sausage happened to fall in. 

TUESDAY
Hot dogs, french fries, corn

I have no memory of Tuesday. Corrie has been packing cold, leftover hot dogs in her lunch all week, though, so I know it happened. 

WEDNESDAY
Garlic ginger chicken with mint; coconut rice; garlic string beans

My second foray into Indian cooking. This one was mildly disappointing, as the marinade for the chicken seemed exciting and tasted intense,

but the finished chicken came out much more mild. The ingredients are: Fresh ginger, fresh garlic, fresh cilantro and mint, fresh lemon juice, olive oil, coriander, turmeric (which I know I have somewhere, but I couldn’t find), and amchur, which is dried, unripe mango powder, and is super tart. 

Here is the recipe from Bon Apetit. I must warn you to save the recipe if you plan to use it, because they now limit the number of free views. 

You marinate the chicken, then brown it in oil, then cook it at a low temperature in a pan for ten minutes, then turn the heat off and let it finish cooking for fifteen minutes in its own steam. 

This worked well enough, and the chicken came out extremely moist and tender. But I could tell that it wasn’t as flavorful as I had hoped, so I cut it up and tossed it in the pan with the drippings, to coat all the pieces with as much flavor as possible.

And it was good! Just predominantly garlicky and gingery, and the rest of the flavor was harder to discern. I put plenty of fresh mint and cilantro on top to help it out. 

I had some misadventures with the rice, as well. I used this straightforward recipe and made a big pot of coconut basmati rice in the Instant Pot. The second time I got a burn message, I transferred it to the stove and finished it there, where it cooked somewhat unevenly. Not terrible, but I don’t know why I’m struggling so much with rice! Maybe I need to try another brand. I’ve been buying basmati rice at Aldi. Anyone know anything? Tell me it’s not my fault. 

For the string beans, I just drizzled them with olive oil and sprinkled them liberally with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, spread them in a shallow pan and shoved them up under a hot broiler until they were a little blistered.

Easy and tasty. 

It was a good meal, just a little tamer than I was expecting. Onward and upward. I still have a shelf overflowing with Indian spices and I’m not discouraged. 

THURSDAY
Regular tacos

None of my funny globalist tricks. No lemon grass or fish sauce or tree ears or balsamic reductions. I even got the crunchy shells that come in a box, which the kids think are a treat because I don’t usually get them because they’re noisy. Everyone was happy and loved me. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

And there’s plenty of rigatoni left over, too. IN THIS HOUSE [extremely lawn sign voice] we eat five-day-old rigatoni. 

We also add hot sauce and sometimes mustard to our otherwise pretty pedestrian mac and cheese. 

5 from 1 vote
Print

Rigatoni alla disgraziata

A hearty, meatless pasta dish with eggplant, breadcrumbs, and mozzarella

Ingredients

  • 2 lg eggplants with ends cut off, cut into one-inch pieces (skin on)
  • salt
  • 3/4 cup olive oil, plus a little extra for frying bread crumbs
  • 3 cups bread crumbs
  • 3 lbs rigatoni
  • 6 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 lb mozzarella
  • grated parmesan for topping

Instructions

  1. In a very large skillet or pot, heat up a little olive oil and toast the bread crumbs until lightly browned. Remove from pan and set aside.

  2. Put the 3/4 cup of olive oil in the pan, heat it again, and add the cubed eggplant. Cook for several minutes, stirring often, until eggplant is soft and slightly golden. Salt to taste. Add in sauce and stir to combine and heat sauce through. Keep warm.

  3. In another pot, cook the rigatoni in salted water. Drain. Add the pasta to the eggplant and sauce mixture. Add in the toasted breadcrumbs and the shredded mozzarella. Stir to combine. Serve with grated parmesan on top.

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 279: We don’t talk about shiitake mushrooms

What a short week, and how unproductive! And how stupidly cold. And stupid in general. We did have a few good meals, though. Here’s what we ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Buffalo chicken salad

Those pesky shupply change issues came for the frozen buffalo chicken, and I couldn’t find any, so I bought some regular chicken. So we had greens with chicken, grape tomatoes, shredded pepper jack cheese, crunchy fried onions (the kind that come in a canister), blue cheese dressing, and then some buffalo sauce on that. 

Tasted great. I think buffalo chicken is too hot anyway. 

SUNDAY
Museum 

Sunday, I took Sophia and some of her friends to the Worcester Art Museum for her birthday. We masked all the way there in the car, and then stopped to grab some lunch, and I looked in the rear view mirror, and they were sharing an ice tea. Two honor students, one straw. ANYWAY, the museum was great. You can check out some of the photos I took here. (They’re not really a representative sample of their excellent collection! I’ve been there many times and didn’t snap pics of their more famous works. If you’re in the area at all, you should go. It’s small enough that you can see absolutely everything in under three hours, but there’s plenty worth seeing, and the descriptive cards are top notch, very informative.)

Afterward, I offered to take them to a restaurant of her choice, and she chose Chili’s. I support this. Chili’s offers reliably B- food with reliably B+ service, and the floors are usually not gritty. I swear I would have taken her somewhere fancier, but it had been a long day and I totally understand her choice. (I had shrimp tacos and they were kind of weird, to be honest. I guess I didn’t read the description and wasn’t expecting them to be absolutely baggy with coleslaw, but that’s what you get.) 

I believe they had some kind of pasta with red sauce, peppers, and sausage at home. 

MONDAY
Pork ribs, garlic mashed potatoes, honey balsamic roasted Brussels sprouts with walnuts

This was a low-skill, popular meal. The pork ribs were just plenty of salt and pepper, roasted on both sides under the broiler. The mashed potatoes were made with an entire peeled head of garlic boiled and mashed in with the potatoes. And the Brussels sprouts, I trimmed and halved, drizzled with olive oil, a little balsamic vinegar, lots of honey, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, and a large handful of chopped walnuts, and roasted under the broiler. 

I LOVE roast vegetables with nuts. This is how kings eat their vegetables. Real kings, not stupid kings. 

I wish I had let everything cook a tiny bit longer, but we were all so hungry. It’s been so cold, and all I want to do is eat. 

TUESDAY
Bugogi dubap (garlic soy beef on rice) 

A much-anticipated meal. Strips of garlicky, gingery beef, with onions, scallions, and mushrooms served over rice. Somewhat sweeter than many similar recipes I’ve tried. Not like a sweet and sour dish, but just a little fruity. 

I slightly adapted the recipe from Cook Korean! by Robin Ha. It turned out very well, although next time I will put less of the marinade in with the meat when I cook it. It was just too pulpy, and I would have liked a little more of a sear on the meat.

The marinade includes kiwi, which is what provides the acid to tenderize the meat, and wow, it works well. It was . . . there isn’t really a synonym for “tender” that works well for meat, so I guess we’ll stick with that. (When my little brother was about 5, he couldn’t remember the word for “chicken tender,” so he told the waitress he wanted “chicken softies.” So you see what I mean.) 

It’s served, as I said, over rice with scallions and sesame seeds. Tons of flavor, nice and bright, with loads of garlic and fresh ginger. 

Next time I will not bother paying for shiitake mushrooms. I’m sure some people can taste the difference, but I sure can’t. I can taste the difference when they’re raw, but not when they’re cooked! (Not to mention that the first batch of mushrooms I bought got moldy, so I had to run out and buy more, and I was late picking the kids up from Dungeons and Dragons, so I decided to go to the co-op for my replacement shiitake mushrooms, rather than the supermarket, and . . . you know what, we’ll just let a shiver pass through our system one last time and then quietly turn the page in the ledger and not think about that part of the food budget anymore.)

The recipe in the book calls for soju, a dry Korean rice liquor, but it doesn’t mention what to do with it. Presumably you throw it into the marinade, but possibly you’re supposed to deglaze the pan with it. In any case, I didn’t have any. I was planning to substitute vodka, but I forgot. So now you know as much as I do. Possibly it would have cut the sweetness slightly. 

Verdict: Definitely making this recipe again, with cheaper mushrooms, less marinade and more room and heat in the pan. Loved the garlic and ginger and kiwi, loved how simple it was, adored how tender it made the beef.  A very good way to treat a cheap cut of beef. 

WEDNESDAY
Hamburgers, chips

Nothing to report, other than that the burgers turned out long, for some reason. This is what passes for entertainment around here.

THURSDAY
Muffaletta sandwiches, tater tots

Not true muffaletta sandwiches, no doubt. You’re supposed to have a specific kind of bread, specific meats and cheeses, and a particular blend of olives. We had all the deli meats I felt like paying for (some ham, a few kinds of salami, a little bit of capicola and a little bit of prosciutto) and a delightful salad made of things that fell out of my cupboard into my food processor.

I think I used three cans of black olives, two skinny jars of green olives, maybe six little pepproncini, half a jar of capers, some olive oil, and a little wine vinegar. I would have put some giardiniera salad in there, but I couldn’t find it. Our refrigerator is a travesty. Parsley would have been good, but we had none. 

This picture makes me laugh because the sandwich appears to be eating itself. Monch monch.

We ate very early because Sophia had an art show. They made it fancy, with a little jazz band, and the whiter the kids were, the harder the adults in the audience bopped their heads, as if they could will rhythm into existence with their necks. The good will in a room full of parents listening to their teenagers playing jazz solos will save the world. 

I thought Sophia’s self portrait was pretty good!

Although as you can see, in real life she doesn’t actually have a mouth or nose, so she had to use her imagination. Strange times. 

While we were gone, Clara whipped up a Bruno and Rat cake, as one does. 

I still haven’t seen Encanto, but this seems like a good cake to me. 

Best rat cookies I’ve seen in quite some time. 

I’m not sure what these are for.

Some kind of interactive element? I guess we will find out when the kids come home from school today. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

I didn’t even buy any cheese. I can feel how much cheese there is in this house. By the end of the day, God willing, there will be less. 

In conclusion, I just noticed I have tagged this post both “olive salad” and “olives salid,” and I guess that’s fine. 

Bulgogi dupap (soy garlic beef)

A Korean dish of tender strips of sweet and savory garlicky beef, served over rice. Adapted from Cook Korean! by Robin Ha

Ingredients

  • 4-5 lbs beef chuck, sliced as thinly as you can
  • 3 onions (divided)
  • 1-1/2 heads garlic (20 cloves or more)
  • 3 inches fresh ginger
  • 2 kiwis
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup sesame oil (divided)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 bunch scallions, divided
  • 12 oz mushrooms

cooked rice

sesame seeds for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a blender or food processor, combine 1.5 of the onions, the garlic, the ginger, the kiwis, the soy sauce, 3 tablespoons of the sesame oil, and the sugar and pepper. Combine until blended. Marinate the sliced beef in this for at least three hours.

  2. Cut the mushrooms and the remaining 1.5 onions into thin slices. Cut most of the scallion (green parts) into three-inch pieces. Save out a few and slice thinly for a garnish.

  3. Heat the sesame oil in a large skillet and sauté the beef until it's just slightly browned, then add the onions, scallions, and mushrooms and continue cooking until the meat is fully cooked. You may have to cook in batches to avoid crowding the pan.

  4. Serve meat and vegetables over cooked rice. Top with scallion garnish and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

What’s for supper? Vol. 275: It’s “tah-ZHEEN”

Happy Friday! Or whatever! Tell me it’s any day at all, and I’ll believe you. Tell me it’s the 34th Throosday in Blorgvent and I’ll believe you. It’s been the kind of week where I’m literally dreaming about sleeping. I seem to have two weeks of What’s For Suppers to catch up on, so I’ll just hit the highlights of last week: 

Two Fridays ago was ramen with shrimp, broccoli, and soft boiled eggs. I’m sharing a pic because I so infrequently manage to actually soft boil eggs. I always go hard. 

The shrimp was tasty. I think Damien sauteed it in sesame oil and garlic and then squeezed lemon over it, or something along those lines. 

Another fine meal was toward the end of Chanukah, when we had
Potato latkes and homemade applesauce, smoked chicken thighs and homemade barbecue sauce

Latkes are easy to make,

Jump to Recipe

but when you’re making a lot of them, it’s a problem to know how to manage all those potato shreds ahead of time. Normally, peeled potatoes discolor very quickly, and I usually solve this by keeping them in water until I’m ready to use them; but if you’re going to fry several batches of them, it’s a hassle to get all the water off first so the hot oil doesn’t spatter. This year, I tried something new: I shredded the potatoes in the food processor, and then I just rinsed the shreds thoroughly in very cold water, left them in the colander, and covered them with plastic wrap. Guess what happened? THEY STAYED WHITE. 

Amazing. 

Now, the absolute truth is that, when I added the eggs and flour and salt and pepper, the potatoes ended up giving up so much water, they were pretty wet anyway, and I still ended up having to squeeze the mixture pretty vigorously before putting the latkes in the oil. But I still got a little thrill because at least they weren’t brownish purple. 

The latkes turned out well, crisp on the outside and tender and mealy inside. It’s dark as heck and after all these years, I haven’t figure out how to rig up some good indoor lighting to take good food pictures during winter, so here you go:

We had them with sour cream and homemade applesauce, which I made in the Instant Pot. I peeled and cored a few dozen apples and put them in the IP with about a cup of water and cooked them on high for maybe eight minutes, twelve minutes, I don’t know. Then I drained off what turned out to be too much water and added some butter, vanilla, and cinnamon, and gave it a little stir, and that was it. Hot damn, homemade apple sauce is just the best thing in the world. 

I was astonished at what a lovely rose color I got even without the peels. 

I don’t think I added sugar, because these are still local, in-season apples and the flavor shouldn’t be tampered with much.  I used Cortland, Macintosh, and Granny Smith, which are all on the tart end of the scale. 

Damien made his wonderful sugar smoked chicken thighs out on the grill, and he used the same spices to made a homemade barbecue sauce which turned out a little spicier than expected, so he served it for dipping, rather than brushing it on. 

Man, it smelled good in the house, with the smoked chicken, the warm apple sauce, and whatnot. A strange meal, but hearty and tasty. I never know what to make with latkes! The only thing I can think of is chicken soup, which we have at other times, and brisket, which I remember from my childhood with loathing. 

Then I squeaked in a bit batch of rugelach on the very last day of Chanukah. I do love rugelach, and I give you my blessing to make them for Christmas, because they are delicious and not hard to make and they’re adorable. (And you can take advantage of my brilliant ooze rescue method.)

I ended up with four varieties this year: Cinnamon honey walnut, ginger walnut, cherry, and blueberry. Lovely, lovely. They ended up a little fluffier and less flaky than normal this year, for reasons unknown, but I did not mind.  

Last Wednesday was Benny’s birthday and she requested Damien’s delectable basil chicken cutlets with homemade red sauce and provolone. He uses this Deadspin recipe and it has never been anything but excellent. Juicy chicken in a fluffy breading with a basil leaf tucked under a slice of provolone, served with a scoop of hot red sauce over it, so the cheese melts and melds the whole thing together. 

He made so much, we had it the second day, layered into a casserole dish and heated up like a giant chicken lasagna. So good. 

Over the weekend was her birthday party, which we managed to have almost entirely outdoors, because NH is all ate up with Covid again. We had a pallet bonfire, and the kids whooped it up on the trampoline in the dark with glow sticks, and then we came in for presents, went outside to set off fireworks, and came in for cake. Some party photos on Facebook here and here

We decided to make bonfire cupcakes, which are very easy to make, but are pretty impressive. Chocolate frosting, broken hazelnut Pirouline wafers for the logs, shredded coconut with green food coloring for the grass. We put a bunch of Jolly Ranchers in a bag and smashed it with a hammer, then spread the chunks in a parchment paper-lined pan in a low oven for a few minutes until the candy melted. Then we let it harden into a sheet, then cracked it into little “flames.” Stick a few in between the logs, sprinkle on some gold sugar for embers, and you have little cupcake campfires. 

 

Top each one with a mini marshmallow on a toothpick, and it’s just cute.

I did toast each one with a butane lighter because my life was ruined anyway.

And that was last week! This week, let’s see. 

MONDAY
Carbonara 

A sweet Facebook friend sent me three pounds of most excellent smoked bacon from Tennessee, with a warning not to attempt to eat it straight like breakfast bacon, because it’s powerful stuff.  My dears, I’ve never had such bacon. Such an intense, earthy, smoky flavor. It was really exciting! I really get the best mail and have the nicest readers. I didn’t get very good pictures because I was in a bit of a hurry to start gobbling it up.

If you’re not familiar with carbonara, it may be the most cheering, flavorful dish you can make with the fewest number of ingredients. Just pasta, bacon, eggs, pepper, and parm. Well, I guess that’s five, and maybe not so surprising that it tastes so good, but it really is wonderful, and you should make it soon. 

Jump to Recipe

TUESDAY
Vaguely Mediterranean chicken on pita with yogurt sauce; Greek vegetable salad

Not exactly shawarma, but I did throw together several of the ingredients for the marinade

Jump to Recipe

and put some chicken thighs in it for several hours. Then I broiled it, turning once

and served it with pita pockets and yogurt sauce, and a little salad. Pretty tasty with very little effort. 

I served it with grape tomatoes, baby cucumbers, black olives, red onion, fresh parsley and dill, kosher salt, and olive oil.

We also had some kalamata olives, which I ended up serving on the side, thinking they had pits in them, but they did not, oops. And some hunks of feta cheese. 

It was a really good meal, and I liked it a lot. Fresh squeezed lemon juice in the marinade on a Tuesday! Freshly pressed garlic in the yogurt sauce! Two kinds of fresh herbs! I’m making a fuss because NOBODY ELSE DID, which for some reason still bothers me even at this late date after all these years. Oh well. 

WEDNESDAY
My birthday!

The kids had chicken nuggets and Damien and I ran away to Luca’s, where we haven’t been for many a year. I went ahead and ordered the garlicky escargot, because I’ve never had escargot, and if not when your husband has offered to take you to a Rather Expensive Restaurant, then when? 

They were . . . fine. I don’t know why you would have escargot if you could have seafood, though. They were just kind of chewy and muddy, kind of like if someone was trying to somehow reconstitute mussels or oysters from scratch but had only heard them described. So now I know! 

Then, after surreptitiously looking up how to pronounce “tagine,” I ordered the Moroccan lamb tagine, and that was a good idea.

The lamb was braised tenderly in a lovely, slightly spicy broth, and it had carrots, fingerling potatoes, apricots, and pistachios, and I forget what else, served with a yogurt sauce. Very  pretty, warming, and interesting to eat. I also had a couple of delicious cocktails made with pear vodka, ginger liqueur, and nutmeg on the rim, and the whole meal was extremely pleasant and autumnal. 

Then we saw West Side Story, which Damien and I both loved. The older kids and Damien got me excellent, thoughtful gifts, and the younger kids made me wonderful cards. (The middle kids acted like I was some sort of vaguely familiar insect who was late picking them up, but what are you gonna do.) 

THURSDAY
Korean beef bowl on rice; sugar snap peas

Always tasty, even when you run out of brown sugar and have to use honey, and don’t have red pepper flakes and have to use chili powder. I did put red pepper flakes on the list right away, though. We felt that loss more keenly than the brown sugar part. Although it was a bit dry, because we didn’t have the sugar melting into a sauce. Being hungry helped. Write that down. 

Jump to Recipe

FRIDAY
Omelettes and hash browns

But I have to buy more eggs! The kids have been doing distance school all week, and apparently that means Egg Time. 

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. 

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. 

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.

 

Spaghetti carbonara

An easy, delicious meal.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs bacon
  • 3 lbs spaghetti
  • 1 to 1-1/2 sticks butter
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • lots of pepper
  • 6-8 oz grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon until it is crisp. Drain and break it into pieces.

  2. Boil the spaghetti in salted water until al dente. If you like, add some bacon grease to the boiling water.

  3. Drain the spaghetti and return it to the pot. Add the butter, pieces of bacon, parmesan cheese, and pepper and mix it up until the butter is melted.

  4. Add the raw beaten egg and mix it quickly until the spaghetti is coated. Serve immediately.

 

Chicken shawarma

Ingredients

  • 8 lbs boned, skinned chicken thighs
  • 4-5 red onions
  • 1.5 cups lemon juice
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 entire head garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Mix marinade ingredients together, then add chicken. Put in ziplock bag and let marinate several hours or overnight.

  2. Preheat the oven to 425.

  3. Grease a shallow pan. Take the chicken out of the marinade and spread it in a single layer on the pan, and top with the onions (sliced or quartered). Cook for 45 minutes or more. 

  4. Chop up the chicken a bit, if you like, and finish cooking it so it crisps up a bit more.

  5. Serve chicken and onions with pita bread triangles, cucumbers, tomatoes, assorted olives, feta cheese, fresh parsley, pomegranates or grapes, fried eggplant, and yogurt sauce.

 

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. 

Korean Beef Bowl

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 266: Ready or not, soup season!

Hup! Here we go! Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Sandwiches and fries

Damien brought home some baguettes and and assortment of deli meats and cheese and some jarred peppers and things. Very tasty. Forgot to take a picture. 

Which reminds me, people complain about Twitter, and sure, it can be rough, but there’s also this:

SUNDAY

Nobody can remember what we had on Sunday. It has been erased from the books, wiped clean from the slate, carved clear of the tablets of history. Probably burgers.

Oh, now I remember: Sunday I was picking up Lena from Granite State Comiccon. She did really well, selling prints, stickers, and masks. I happen to have one of her stickers on my laptop

and these apparently sold very briskly. I’ll let you know when she gets her Etsy store restocked. 

MONDAY
Beef barley soup, pumpkin muffins

Corrie has been begging for beef barley soup and Benny has been begging for pumpkin muffins, so even though it was in the mid 70’s, I caved. The leaves are changing, the ducks are flying south, there’s a fog rolling across the dried grass in the mornings, and people who live within a mile of actual corn fields are paying $7.88 for disinfected stalks of corn from Walmart to attach to their porches with zip ties. Sounds like soup weather to me. 

The beef barley soup turned out very nice, although I forgot to buy mushrooms. I made it on the stovetop, but here is a recipe you can easily make in the Instant Pot if you’d prefer

Jump to Recipe

I also made about 18 pumpkin muffins, and they turned out a little weird. The can of pumpkin I was counting on turned out to be pumpkin pie mix, which already has spices and sugar added to it, plus who knows what else. 

(It’s a good, reliable, hearty recipe IF you use actual just plain canned pumpkin! Jump to Recipe)

Then I didn’t help matters by somehow bobbling the hot pan and dumping every single muffin out onto the oven floor, which is currently foul and horrible. So a bunch of them got charred and a bunch of them picked up miscellaneous oven crap, and they weren’t sweet enough, and they had a weird texture, more like cake than muffins, but somehow not in a good way. 

Corrie has been putting them in her lunch every day, though, so it wasn’t a total loss. Her lunch gets inspected because there is a kid with a nut allergy this year, so either the teacher is impressed that I bake a lot, or the teacher is horrified that I’m sending my kid to school with charred pumpkin lumps, not sure which. 

TUESDAY
Chicken burgers, chips, veggies and dip

A very deluxe meal, as you can see.

I’ve been putting bowls of fruit on the table, to dissuade myself from eating chips. It works, in the sense that I eat fruit with my meal, and then go back after supper and eat everybody’s leftover chips. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken soup with matzoh balls, challah, Earl Grey cake with vanilla bean frosting

Clara’s birthday! She requested this coziest of meals. I more or less followed my mother’s recipe for chicken soup, and the recipe on the can for matzoh balls. I made the soup the day before, so it could cook all day long and get very rich and golden. Forgot to take a pic of the finished soup, but here it is being made. I used just some legs, plus carrots, celery, onions, dill, and parsley, and lots and lots of simmering time:

I made two big challahs and they turned out pretty nice. It was chumid as chell, which maybe made the loaves a little flabbier than strictly necessary, but they were pretty good. 

The Early Gray tea cake from Liv For Cake was quite a project. I am not much of a baker, and have long since resigned myself to making box cakes for most birthdays. I followed this recipe slavishly, though, and it came out well. Maybe a little dry; I guess I baked it a hair too long. And my oven really needs leveling!

You have to make tea milk and add that to the batter, as well as adding ground tea. You can also make tea syrup to brush over the baked cake, which I ended up not having time for. Very pleasant, cozy, old fashioned flavor, almost citrusy, not too sweet, and the cake has a very fine grain. 

The vanilla bean frosting that goes with it was also a little more labor intensive than I normally attempt, and I will be honest, it didn’t taste that spectacular to me. You cream egg whites and sugar, then whisk them over a double boiler, then put them back in the stand mixer and keep whisking until they are stiff, then add in the butter and vanilla bean paste. The texture is extremely light and has a creamy flavor — like it tastes like there is cream in it — but it also tasted like shortening to me, which was pretty disappointing, since the actual ingredients (unsalted butter, vanilla bean paste) were actually pretty expensive. Maybe I just don’t like buttercream that much. Everyone else liked it, and it was very easy to work with. 

For some reason I got the idea to make a Great Wave off Kanagawa cake.

I guess the sort of frothy buttercream looked wavy. If I had planned ahead, I would have bought some nonpareils for the foam, but I just piped it in with a sandwich bag and a butter knife. I forgot to put the boat in. Anyway, Clara liked it. 

THURSDAY
Pizza

Damien made pizzas. He tried toasting the pepperoni before adding it to the pizza, just to give it a little extra crunch. I didn’t try any, but he said it was good, not spectacular. He also made one cheese, one pepperoni, and one with anchovies, artichoke hearts, and garlic. Guess which one I held out for.

FRIDAY
Penne

The kids requested pasta that is shaped like tubes, in sauce that comes in jars. That I can do.

And now I’m excited, because my Foley mill arrived in the mail!

This is a lovely little machine, very well designed. It clips onto the side of a pot or bowl, and when you turn the crank, the high end of the inside blade catches food underneath it and forces it down through the little holes as it turns, so it crushes it and also sorts out the seeds and skins and whatnot; and at the same time, a little pin turns on the bottom

to keep it clear as you work. Very nice. 

I bought it from eBay, to replace the food mill I threw out at some point last year. I guess I was doing some kind of kitchen purge and thought, “What is this dumb thing taking up space? I can’t use it more than once a year!” Well guess what, stupid? Here we are at the one time of year when I want to make applesauce, and a food mill is really the only thing that works. I like to cook the apples with the skin and cores in, and then strain them out afterward. You can do it with a sieve, but it’s horrible work and takes forever, and a food mill is just fun to use. Our terrible little apple tree also has plenty of terrible apples on it this year. They’re not really good for anything else besides apple sauce, but they have an intriguing smoky flavor that makes very pleasant sauce. The tree’s name is Marvin.

If you’ve never made your own apple sauce, it’s super easy, and a good way to use the million apples your toddler took one bite of and then discarded. Cut them into quarters, leaving on the skins and cores, and put them in a big pot with an inch or two of water on the bottom. Cover loosely and let it simmer for . . . okay, I don’t remember how long. Maybe forty minutes? Long enough that, when you poke the apples, they don’t resist at all, but collapse into mush. (Softer apples, like Macintosh, are best for applesauce, obviously.) Then you dump everything into a food mill (or sieve) and crush out all the skins and cores.

Add however much sugar and cinnamon you like, and a little butter, and stir. That’s it. Best applesauce you’ve ever had, and the smell is heavenly.  Warm, rosy homemade applesauce with a little vanilla ice cream on top will bring tears to your eyes.

You can also trim the cores and peels off first, and then you can just use a blender or whatever to make the apples into sauce, but the flavor and color won’t be nearly as nice. 

And that’s it! Headed out to adoration in a bit. Praying for you all, cheese bags. 

 

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. 

 

Challah (braided bread)

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup oil (preferably olive oil)
  • 2 eggs
  • 6-8 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp yeast
  • 2 egg yolks for egg wash
  • poppy seeds or "everything bagel" topping (optional)
  • corn meal (or flour) for pan, to keep loaf from sticking

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, dissolve a bit of the sugar into the water, and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir gently, and let sit for five minutes or more, until it foams.

  2. In the bowl of standing mixer, put the flour (starting with six cups), salt, remaining sugar, oil, and eggs, mix slightly, then add the yeast liquid. Mix with dough hook until the dough doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl, adding flour as needed. It's good if it has a slightly scaly appearance on the outside.

  3. (If you're kneading by hand, knead until it feels soft and giving. It will take quite a lot of kneading!)

  4. Put the dough in a greased bowl and lightly cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm place for at least an hour, until it's double in size.

  5. Grease a large baking sheet and sprinkle it with flour or corn meal. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Roll three into "snakes" and make a large braid, pinching the ends to keep them together. Divide the fourth piece into three and make a smaller braid, and lay this over the larger braid. Lay the braided loaf on the pan.

  6. Cover again and let rise again for at least an hour. Preheat the oven to 350.

  7. Before baking, make an egg wash out of egg yolks and a little water. Brush the egg wash all over the loaf, and sprinkle with poppy seeds or "everything" topping.

  8. Bake 25 minutes or more until the loaf is a deep golden color.