What’s for supper? Vol. 144: Chocolate garnicht

Welcome, again, to new readers! And also old readers, you old bats. Most Fridays, I write a food post, wherein I describe the meals I cooked over the past week. I have ten kids and not a giant budget, so if you’re here to find recipe ideas or just to gawk, please pull up a chair. That sounded rude. I didn’t mean it to be rude. I gawk at myself all the time.

Anyway, I haven’t written up the recipe cards for this week yet; will add them when I get back.

And my big kitchen revelation this week: I have needed a paella pan all my life. I got one on sale last week. I still haven’t made or ever eaten paella or fully understand what it is, but boy, is that a useful pan. It has a lot of hot surface area and high, sloped sides, which makes it ideal for cooking or heating large quantities of sloppy food for large quantities of sloppy people. Get you one!

Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Chicken basil cutlets, garlic bread, salad, chocolate cupcakes

Birthday! The birthday girl — or technically birthday adult. We now have three technically adults children. Gevalt — requested Damien’s world-stopping chicken cutlets with fresh basil and provolone with homemade red sauce. If there were no heaven but only food, this is what the saints would be served. He made it with panko crumbs, too, cranking the scrumptious fluffiness up to eleven, and the sauce was bright and sweet and a little spicy.

You pound the chicken, bread it, and fry it, then lay a basil leaf on top, cover that with provolone, and ladle the sauce over all to make the cheese melt.

It only takes about eleven hours to prepare, and the rest of us who don’t spend eleven hours preparing it think we should eat it every day! So freaking good, especially since he cooked it in the wonderful, dark olive oil he found for cheap in this weird, off-brand store that carries such things for cheap.

The Birthday One requested chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting for dessert, but I had just been diagnosed with bronchitis that morning and knew that my already feeble and pathetic baking skills would dialed down to be nil; so I got boxed mix and canned frosting, and concentrated my efforts on the garnish.

Speaking of garnish, in German, gar nicht means “not at all.” This doesn’t mean anything; I just can’t stop thinking about it, and maybe now that I’ve told you, I can move along.

So I — well, I didn’t look up a recipe for some reason, but texted my husband to pick up a bar of Baker’s chocolate and some confectioner’s sugar. These I melted in a double boiler until it was more or less smooth. Then we put the melted chocolate in a sandwich bag (we had a pastry bag once, but do we have one now? Gar nicht.), lined a pan with waxed paper, and piped the chocolate into different shapes. Here she is, doing her magic:

She just piped out whatever popped into her head.

I was afraid it wouldn’t set, so we put the finished designs in the freezer for a few hours. They came out great! They peeled right off the wax paper and held their shapes perfectly when we stuck them in the frosting. Here are a few. A chocolate fishie:

 

a chocolate pumpkin:

a chocolate rose:

and of course a chocolate duck:

Changes I will make next time: I will use bittersweet or semisweet chocolate. The sugar I added barely made a dent in the baker’s chocolate taste! I will maybe add a little shortening, to make the chocolate smoother and a little more viscous. Or do I mean less viscous? I mean squeezy. And I will let it cool a bit in the bag before squeezing it (ow). Other than that, this turned out great. It was quite easy, and I’m sure we’ll be using this technique in the future. One friend said she doesn’t have much artistic talent, so she prints out designs and puts them under the wax paper to trace in chocolate. Brilliant!

 

SUNDAY
Basil chicken on spaghetti

There was so much food left over, we ate it again. Damien cut up the chicken and heated it up in the sauce, then served it all over spaghetti. Scrumptious.

MONDAY
Aunt Rosie’s Thai steak salad

Steak was on sale and my husband’s sister texted him about a salad that sounded good, so I took a stab at it. We had mixed greens, chopped red, yellow, and orange peppers, chili lime cashews, chopped cilantro, and mandarin oranges

and sliced steak, which I cooked under the broiler with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then sliced thin. Okay, it was actually a roast, not steak. I realize there is a difference between different cuts of meat, but deep in the cheapness of my heart, I refuse to acknowledge that it really matters, especially if it’s the difference between pretending roast is steak and just buying pork again.

It was good. It was tasty and fun.

But here is where I went wrong: I made a dressing which would have been excellent as a marinade for the steak. But as a dressing, it was savage. I mean, I had seconds, but it was savage. The dressing was rice vinegar, sesame oil, fish sauce, minced garlic, and cilantro. I know, fish sauce. The children reminded me once again that it smells like cat frow-up, and once again, they were right.

Anyway, this meal is definitely going on the list, but next time I’ll marinate the meat in the sauce, and then we’ll just have a little vinaigrette to dress the salad. And I won’t open the cans of mandarin oranges until dinner is ready; or else I’ll buy five cans just for Corrie. Conversation we had about the mandarin oranges:

Me: No more, now. We have to save some for the others.
Corrie: Awwwwww!
Me: Okay, two more, but that’s all.
Corrie: Siddy Mama. [helps herself to six more]

And I let her get away with it, too, because I’m just so old. So old.

TUESDAY
Honey garlic chicken thighs with broccoli, potato, and squash

Sheet pan meals! They’re the best. This one is really easy, and susceptible to many adaptions, depending on what vegetables you have hanging around. I’ve somehow turned into the kind of person that gasps in delight to see squash on sale at the supermarket, so I snapped up a nice big one.

Butternut squash is about as easy to peel as a cinder block, but I know a trick! Cut both ends up and chuck it in the microwave for three minutes. Then you can peel it. It’s also helpful to have one of those horizontal peelers, rather than a vertical one.

So you put the vegetables on the pan, put the chicken on the pan, make the sauce and slop that over the chicken, and cook it most of the way. Then add broccoli and finish cooking, then lay on table next to decorative gourds.

Easy squeazy broccolisi, and if someone doesn’t like some part of it (squash), it’s easy to pick it out.

I like squash, though, and I love this meal. The honey sauce makes the chicken skin crisp and tasty, and the sweetness of it seeps into the vegetables in a lovely way. You don’t have to season the broccoli, even though it sits on top, gar nicht! It draws up the juice like a sponge.

WEDNESDAY
Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, peas

Oh, the hosannas. I don’t know how many times I could produce this meal and still be considered a hero by my kids, but I haven’t hit that number yet. Behold the splendor of this meal above all other meals:

My meatloaf is nothing special. I used five pounds of ground beef and two pounds of ground turkey, seven eggs, four cups of bread crumbs, Worcestershire sauce, minced garlic, salt, pepper, and oregano. I form the loaves on a broiler pan with drainage, so it doesn’t get all soggy as it cooks.

Where I really shine, though, is in my mashed potatoes. I make them with potatoes, butter, and milk, and also salt and pepper, if you can believe it. For the peas, I used my special technique of grasping a bag between my fingers and then opening it. I also use a pot and some water, but I don’t want to overwhelm you, so I’ll tell you about that next week.

THURSDAY
Bacon, eggs, and Brussels sprouts in balsamic honey sauce

Another excellent sheet pan meal, very tasty and satisfying. We got home so freaking late because of a cross country meet, so I was glad I had halved four pounds of Brussels sprouts and chopped up three pounds of bacon earlier in the day. Then you just make up a quick sauce, mix it with the sprouts and the bacon, and spread it in a pan and cook. Once the Brussels sprouts are tender and the bacon is just about done, you crack a bunch of eggs over the food, sprinkle with parmesan and red pepper flakes, and let the eggs cook up. That’s it! It would be great with a crusty bread or maybe pita or even cinnamon buns.

It’s a shame the daylight was gone by the time we ate, because this doesn’t look nearly as good as it tasted (even though I did undercook the bacon and overcook the eggs).

FRIDAY
Pizza

And not a moment too soon.

Well nuts, I still haven’t put together those recipe cards. I’m not on trial here! This week, I’ve been to urgent care, my old therapist, my new therapist, adoration, and my new spiritual director. So this is basically me now:

However, I will get those recipe cards to you soon.

Thai Steak Salad

Ingredients

  • steak
  • mixed salad greens
  • cashews (chili lime are good)
  • bell peppers (red, green, yellow, or orange)
  • mandarin oranges, drained

marinade:

  • 3/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Mix together all marinade ingredients and marinate steak a few hours. 

  2. Grill or broil steak; slice thinly. 

  3. Put together salad, add steak on top. Dress with more wine vinegar if you like. 

One pan honey garlic chicken thighs with fall veg

Adapted from Damn Delicious 

Ingredients

  • 18 chicken thighs
  • 2 lbs broccoli in spears
  • 4-5 lbs potatoes in wedges, skin on if you like
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed

sauce:

  • 6 tbsp honey
  • 6 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp dijon or yellow mustard
  • 3 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • olive oil for drizzing

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Prepare the sauce. 

  2. In a large, greased sheet pan, spread the potatoes and squash. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. 

  3. Lay the chicken thighs on top of the potatoes and squash. Brush the sauce over the chicken skins. 

  4. Roast the chicken for thirty minutes or more until they are almost cooked.

  5. Add the broccoli, arranging it on top of the potatoes and in between the chicken. Return the pan to the oven and let it finish cooking another 10 -20 minutes so you don't die. The skins should be golden and the broccoli should be a little charred. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 132: Girls like shwarms of things, don’t they?

Can you believe we’re not on summer vacation? That’s crazy, right? One more week! Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Boy cookout

Our eighth grader wanted an end-of-year party, and since he has not recently angered us, we agreed. Damien got a bunch of cheap hot dogs and pre-made burger patties, all the chips in the tri-state area, and a million sodas, plus water balloons and squirters. A bunch of boys came over and it was a howling success, literally. I got no pictures because I couldn’t trust those crumbs not to squirt my camera.

SUNDAY
Sugar rub chicken, grilled mussels in wine sauce, chips

Beautiful man makes beautiful chicken. Here’s Damien’s sugar chicken rub:

Brown sugar 1.5 cups
White Sugar .5 cups
Chili powder 2 table spoons
Garlic powder 2 table spoons
Salt/Pepper
2 tsp chili pepper flakes

Last week’s grilled chicken was good, but maybe a little too charred, so this time, he shoved all the coals to one side, and set the chicken on the other side to cook slowwwwwwly:

Did it come out better? OH MY YES.

But before we even laid eyes on these lovely thighs, we flexed our mussels. That doesn’t mean anything, does it? Damien scrubbed the mussels, discarding the despondent ones, and laid them on the grill until they popped open.

Then he mixed them up with a swanky sauce of half a bottle of white wine, the juice of many lemons, twelve vats of melted butter, and two sweet, darling red onions.

Hot damn, they were good. Tender meat, tart sauce, so good. I was gonna take a picture of one of the mussels opened up, but this is a family blog.

It was another beautiful, golden weekend. We got some good runs in. I got a lot of overdue planting in — a plum and nectarine tree, some gladioli, some tomatoes in their own little fenced playground. The kids picked out tomatoes called, no kidding, “Lemon Boys.” I even mulched, like a fancy person! We cut down the old fence and put up a new fence. I paid the kids to lug rocks, and now we have a new fire pit and a strange, lumpy spot where the old fire pit used to be. My husband pretended to agree that this plan made sense. The first firefly moved into the living room. We ate outside and drank domestic beer. A golden weekend.

MONDAY
Muffaletta sandwiches, fruit salad in DORAMELON

Monday was Dora’s birthday, but her party was the next day. However, we had a stray watermelon, so I carved it up, and added sliced mango and strawberries to the cubed watermelon.

As I’m carving it, Irene comes by and says indignantly, “How come you didn’t make one of those for meeee on myyyyyy birthday?”
I said, defensively, despite myself, “Because it didn’t occur to me! I think of things when I think of them! And anyway, your birthday is in April! They weren’t even selling watermelons then!”
She says, “Yes, they were.”
Me: “They were?”
Irene: “Yeah. You made me a watermelon pirate ship, remember?”

Irene, in happier times

Creep! They’re all creeps. Several others came by and made their creepy watermelon demands, so I ended up promising all of them, one by one, that when it was their birthday, I’d make them each a watermelon with “Dora” carved in it, too. Fair’s fair.

We had muffaletta sandwiches, or some approximation thereof. All I could find was sourdough bread, and there were no complaints. I bought honey ham, genoa salami, a little prosciutto, pepper salami, hot capocollo (I checked the package, and that’s what it says. Not capicola), hot calabrese, hot richard, and provolone.

Then, I put one jar of giardiniera vegetables, a can of black olives, and a small jar of green olives into la bella machina, gave it a few whirs, and we had olive salad. Hot damn.

It’s a party on bread, confetti and everything! Some of the kids also put mayo on their sandwiches, but I thought the olive salad covered all the bases, sandwich-wise. I suppose you could drizzle it with olive oil, if your olive needs had not yet been met.

TUESDAY
Chicken shawarma, ice cream pies

For her party, the child wanted shawarama. That’s a can do. They had these weird boneless chicken legs in five-pound bags for $4.99. Not being made of stone, I bought three bags, even though I’ve never heard of boneless legs before. It’s a little weird.

I had a recipe that called for two pounds, which I had scaled up to eight pounds, and then I tripled it for fifteen, and . . . it was a lot of meat. We had to marinate it in a garbage bag. I mean, it’s just a bag. So what if it’s called “garbage?”

We set it to marinate Sunday night, actually, and I don’t know what happened, but, because the food processor makes things a little too easy, we ended up with enough onion to fill a minor league stadium. You could have marinated meat in the smell alone.

Here’s the marinade, a simplified version of the NYT recipe. This is enough marinade for about eight pounds of chicken and four or five red onions:

1.5 cups lemon juice
2 c olive oil
4 tsp kosher salt
2 Tbs, 2 tsp pepper
2 Tbs, 2 tsp cumin
1 Tbs red pepper flakes
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbs minced garlic

When you’re ready to cook, oil a rimmed pan and lay the chicken and onions on with a little of the marinade. Cook at 425 for about forty minutes, until the edges of the chicken are crisp. Let it cool a little and then slice or break it up. It should be ridiculously tender.

We served it with triangles of pita bread, black and kalamata olives, wedges of tomato and cucumbers, feta, fresh parsley, and plenty of yogurt sauce. Here’s the yogurt sauce recipe:

32-oz tub of full fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup lemon juice
salt and pepper
2 Tbs. minced garlic

Sadly, I got zero pics of the shawarma or the ice cream pies, which Dora made with mini graham cracker crusts, ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, jimmies, candy, and cherries. She made individual pies so it would be easier to tote up the carbs for Lucy. I do love my kids.

WEDNESDAY
Nachos

I threw together chips topped with ground beef and taco seasoning from envelopes, shredded cheese, and salsa and sour cream on the side. I started to take a picture and said, “Ohh, this doesn’t look very good.” So the kids helped it look better.

Thanks, kids!

THURSDAY
Korean beef bowl, rice, peas

I made a quintuple recipe of this old standby. Thursday afternoon sorely tried my patience. Sorely. I was terribly grateful for how easy this dish is. Cook up de meat, put in the stuff, done. Pot of rice, choppy-uppy-scallions, done. Sesame seeds. I put out peas on the side for no particular reason.

Here’s a pic from previous times:

This is also a good meal to make in the morning and keep in the slow cooker all day. All the better if you make rice in the Instant Pot. Put them food robots to work!

FRIDAY
Pizza

Five large ones. See if I don’t.

***

I’m gonna skip the carbs this week, because there were so many meals I didn’t write down. At one point during the week, Lucy had a frozen pizza, two marshmallows, and a popsicle for dinner, because we knew how many carbs there were in a frozen pizza, two marshmallows, and a popsicle. And that’s how you diabetes!

What’s for supper? Vol. 120: TeamDonutEyes

Oh, what a week. Let’s talk about food.

SATURDAY
Pork ramen

Still not tired of it. Kyra (you know Kyra) reminded me about Chinese five spice, so I dusted some boneless chops with it and sauteed them in olive oil. Succulent and delicious.

Big pot of ramen noodles with your choice of sliced pork, soft boiled eggs, frozen stir fry veggies, chopped scallions, sesame seeds, soy sauce, and hot sauce. So cheap, fast, and delicious.

SUNDAY
“Greek nachos,” birthday cake

Corrie’s birthday!

 

Yep, we bought one of those helium tanks from Walmart. It comes with 30 balloons and ribbon, and, well . . .

The “Greek nachos” recipe is from Damn Delicious. It wasn’t as outrageously delicious as I remember, but the kids all loved it, and it was very pretty and satisfying. Lots of prep work, though. LOTS.

Basically you make homemade pita chips (these are the best part of the meal). Cut pita into triangles, drizzle them with olive oil, and add a little salt, then bake them. On top of these, you have pieces of grilled chicken, olives, feta cheese, cucumbers, red onion, fresh herbs, and roasted red peppers. And of course tzatziki sauce. Full fat Greek yogurt is my middle name.

I decided to roast my own peppers, for some reason. It wasn’t hard, but I don’t think they tasted any better than the jarred ones. Cheaper, anyway. I used Ina Garten’s directions.  You preheat the oven to 500, put them peppers on a pan, and roast them for 35 minutes or so, until they’re all wrinkly and a little charred. I forgot to turn them. I lost the pic I took, but they were pretty ghastly, very alien autopsy.

Then you let them cool a bit. The stem and seeds come off pretty easily, and you can pull the skin right off, which is fun. The peppers make juice while roasting, so you put that in with the skinned pepper flesh and add some olive oil, and there you are.

Corrie wanted a rainbow cake, and she and Benny decorated it together with Skittles.

MONDAY
Pork and peanut dragon noodles, garlicky string beans

New recipe! Only a few of the kids liked it, but Damien and I thought it was fantastic. This is from Budget Bytes. So easy and cheap. The sauce has just three ingredients.

You brown up the pork, add the sauce and chopped peanuts, and simmer it while you’re cooking some ramen noodles. Then put it all together. That’s it!  Very savory and peppy, with a great texture from the peanuts. I don’t usually like peanuts in meat dishes, but this combination of flavors was perfect. I made a quadruple recipe, with two pounds of pork.

It calls for chili garlic sauce. All I had was sambal oelek, for some reason, which is marinated crushed pepper paste. It seemed fairly strong, if sweet, so I used about half of what the recipe called for, and it was great.

We couldn’t not have garlic, so I heated up some olive oil and browned up a tablespoon or so of minced garlic, then added a few pounds of trimmed string beans and some sesame oil. Then I just kept it moving in the hot pan until the string beans were a little charred. Tons of flavor, and nicely crunchy.

TUESDAY
Quesdillas, corn chips

I added leftover scallions to mine.

The children insist on pronouncing it “quassa-dillllas.” They also say “GWACK-a-mole,” to rhyme with “whack-a-mole.” They do this because they are savages, savages, barely even human.

WEDNESDAY
Egg in toast?

I forget. We made homemade bagels, which I intended as dinner, but the day got away from me.
I used this recipe from King Arthur Flour, appreciating the detail that if you’re using a mixer, the dough “will ‘thwap’ the sides of the bowl.” I couldn’t find my dough hook, so there was somewhat less thwapping, sadly, but it’s very stiff dough.

I also didn’t have as much yeast as I thought, so I was only able to make a double recipe, or 16 bagels.

They turned out . . . okay. With bagels, you make the dough, let it rise, make the dough into balls, let them rise, poke holes, boil them, add toppings, and then bake them. The main problem was that I was yakking with another mom the whole time, and made the grievous mistake of using 1-1/2 cups of water for the water bath. That’s the amount of water that goes into the dough; the water bath is supposed to be two quarts.

Here you can see me in the act of thinking, “Something ain’t right here . . . ”

This is the same kind of thinking that led me, in 7th grade Home Ec class, to read the directions to take the two skirt panels and sew the side together, and to conclude that I ought to I sew both sides of one panel together, and then sew both sides of the other panel together. Rather than sewing . . . you know, let’s just move along.  Poor Mrs. Dakin.

In my defense, look at my kitchen. Look at it! It’s ridiculous. Although I did buy a hutch yesterday, and that tangle of cords is soon going to be moved away from the stove, so people can stop accidentally charging their phones in the toaster.

So, the poor bagels had to splash around in a little kiddie pool of a water bath, rather than being dunked into the deep end. Also, the sugar-to-water ratio was way off, so they were quite sweet. Here is how they looked after their water bath, before baking:

They still would have been all right, except that I burned half of them. OH WELL. They did all get eaten! I made eight sesame, four poppy seed, and four kosher salt.

And we had a pretty good time. Some of us had a very very good time.

THURSDAY
FISHERS DINE OUT!

Vacation’s almost over, so we went to the local children’s museum, which I love. It’s quite low-tech, and very lovingly designed by someone who really understands kids. There is also a pretend dentist section with a really comfortable dentist chair just the right size for a tired mother and her cell phone.

By the way, I am solidly #teamdonuteyes

Corrie did quite well, and only flipped out once, in the dress-up section, where she literally had to share the stage with another toddler, and she didn’t want to.

Then we went out for pizza. It was early, so I thought it would be empty, but it was jam-packed.  This is just a casual pizza joint, not a place that takes reservations. There’s not really any room for waiting for a table, so it was very awkward.

Then the manager came over, beamed at everyone, gave the kids enormous homemade cookies to ease the wait, and made sure we knew he had a table in mind for us, and would seat us as soon as possible. They made us feel like they were glad we were there.

Waitresses and hostesses, please be more like this to big families, if you can.  Act welcoming, just like you would for any customer. I know it’s stressful to have a large party, but most big families don’t go out very often. Please don’t make us feel like we’re nothing but a hassle for you, even if that’s what we are. It meant so much to me to feel like a normal, valued customer instead of a problem. We went to a different restaurant for Mardi Gras, and I felt like they couldn’t wait to get us out of there.

I also ordered one of the pizzas half anchovy, because that’s how mothers get leftovers for once.

FRIDAY
Grilled cheese, salad, chips

Damien and I were supposed to whisk ourselves away to NH’s tiny little bit of coast for the night, but of course it’s March, and so we must have a nor’easter with flooding and catastrophic winds predicted. And so we change our plans, tra la la.

What’s for supper? Vol. 112: Salvation is from the jus

Where would we be without the jus?

***

SATURDAY
Aldi pizza

Saturday was the kindergartener’s birthday party. Every other year, she’s requested either a Spiderman party or a Frozen party. This year, she wanted both. The house was already pretty hemmed in with Christmas decorations, so we limited ourselves to a birthday tree

 

here pictured with limited edition Zooming Spiderman; and a snowflake web cake.

I call this cake “You Too Can Learn To Live With a Familiar Tremor.”
The pretty child was pleased.

I had a brilliant idea for an activity: Stained glass cookies. My oldest made this reliable no-chill sugar cookie dough before hand, and the guests had fun sorting and smashing Jolly Ranchers. I recommend triple bagging the candy before smashing it.

For these cookies, roll the dough fairly thick, then use your largest cookie cutters to cut shapes, and then use a smaller one (or a small-necked bottle) to punch out holes in the cookies. Then fill the holes with smashed Jolly Ranchers and bake the cookies on parchment paper. Here’s a pic from a previous year:

One guest was allergic to wheat, so she used the larger bits of Jolly Ranchers and arranged them on parchment paper around wooden skewers. We baked these in a low oven until they were melted and then let them dry, and they made pretty, if blobby, lollipops.

AND THAT’S IT. NO MORE BIRTHDAYS FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR. (We do have a birthday January first, but NO MORE THIS YEAR.)

***

SUNDAY
Hot dogs, chips

I had to do the Saturday shopping on Sunday, so hot dogs it warr.

***

MONDAY
Chicken cranberry pecan salad

This salad is supposed to have greens topped with grilled chicken, dried cranberries, toasted pecans, chunks of green apple, and blue cheese or feta cheese, plus a sweet vinaigrette of some kind. I forgot the cheese and the dressing and was too tired to cut up apples, so it was a little blah.

I cooked the chicken in the Instant Pot, I think 6 minutes of high pressure. I just chucked them in with a bunch of lemon juice. This produced chicken that was definitely cooked, yes it was. Oh well, not my finest hour. Moving along.

***

TUESDAY
Korean beef bowl and rice

Still a winner. I used less brown sugar than the recipe calls for, and had a heavy hand with the ginger. Both improvements.

I served it over rice with chopped scallions and sesame seeds.

***

WEDNESDAY
French dip sandwiches, baked potatoes, salad

This meal was the high point of the week. Honestly, it was only medium high. Not bad, but not the joyous mouth festival I was anticipating.

I used This Old Gal’s recipe, which calls for pepperoncini, beef broth, and Italian dressing seasoning packets. I don’t normally buy seasoning packets — just a random bit of snobbery, nothing to see here — but I didn’t have the emotional strength to look for a different recipe.

The meat obligingly shredded at the mere touch of a fork (if you like shredded meat, the IP is unsurpassable).

 

I toasted rolls, and actually toasted them, instead of burning them. I had my sandwich with lots of horseradish sauce and Swiss cheese, but some chose provolone or pepper jack.

 

Fancily, I dished out the dipping juice in ramekins I got at a yard sale. Sadly, Corrie heard “jus” and drew the wrong conclusions. When she found out it was meat juice, she got over her disappointment quickly and then just went ahead and drank meat juice out her special cup. She’s flexible.

I like this meal, but I think next time beef is on sale, I’ll skip the pepperoncini and just make it savory instead of spicy, maybe using red wine and onions along with beef broth.

There is way more juice than you can possibly use for dipping sandwiches, so I’m not saying you have to crumble your baked potato into the juice and eat it that way, but you might, rabbit. You might.

In closing: “au jus” means “with juice.” You can not serve “au jus” with your sandwiches, unless you also intend to ask for another scoop of “alamode” with your pie. Get it together, America. These are the things that separate us from the animals.

***

THURSDAY
Fancy ramen

I sauteed boneless pork ribs in a pan and then, once they had cooled a bit, I sliced them thin. Then I used the same pan to cook up some mixed frozen stir fry vegetables. Another pot for ramen, and another pot to boil some eggs. I’ve made this entire meal in the Instant Pot, but that’s a lot of putting in and taking out, and nobody wants that at 6 p.m. on a Thursday when you still haven’t bought stocking stuffers.

We had crunchy noodles, scallions, a few sesame seeds, and hot sauce to sprinkle on top. A very satisfying meal for cheap.

***

FRIDAY
Spaghetti

A placeholder meal while I gather strength for the next few days. I keep telling myself I’m feeling better, or at least not getting sicker, but it’s a lurty die. Anyway, alllll my kids are home, Damien has an honest-to-goodness vacation this year, I managed to get some outdoor lights up to make the house look classy

(and discovered you can buy a light timer for $10!) and knocked just about everything else off my Christmas to-do list.

Our Christmas food tradition is a breakfast of cinnamon buns, bacon ($3.33 a pound for bits and pieces, which I actually prefer), grapes, pomegranates, orange juice, and egg nog; and a dinner of — well, there is an excellent Chinese restaurant 3/4 of a mile down the road, and I got nothing to prove.

Egg nog was, like, a dollar an ounce, so we’re making our own this year. Check it out: According to Serious Eats,

A team of microbiologists at Rockefeller University, in what sounds like a late-night-at-the-holiday-party-inspired bit of good science, proved that, at least in lab conditions, given an alcohol content of 20%, eggnog comes out the other end completely sterile after just 24 hours of resting. That’s cleaner than eggnog bought in sealed cartons from the supermarket.

The article above also concludes that egg nog does not actually taste better if you deliberately leave it in the fridge for a year before drinking it. Science!

And I guess that’s it from me until after Christmas! A merry and blessed Christmas to you, my friends. Don’t forget the jus.

Why this non-lover of animals is a great James Herriot fan

Today’s the birthday of James “Alf” Wight, better known by his pen name, James Herriot, author of the deservedly popular series that begins with All Creatures Great and Small. Last year on this day would have been his one hundredth birthday, and although I’m not especially interested in animals, I’ll never get tired of trying to get people to read his books.

He didn’t start writing until he was fifty years old, after much urging from his wife Joan (“Helen” in his books); and he continued working as a vet long after his books became bestsellers.

Most of his semi-autobiographical books tell stories from his career as a country vet and surgeon in rural England, beginning just before the advent of modern drugs, and continuing past the era of subsistence farms and into the day when he was called upon mainly to work with pets, rather than working animals. His stories betray a great tenderness toward animals, but even more so toward people, even as he delicately exposes their ridiculous and occasionally cruel sides.

I’m fascinated by his ability to write cozy, nostalgic, charming stories that somehow rarely even approach sentimentality. It was more evident in some chapters than in others that he was fictionalizing his experience (a more-fictional one that springs to mind is the chapter where he describes a wealthy man whose indolent wife and daughter despise him, and then contrasts it to a visit to an impoverished farm, where the father works his fingers to the bone and his bonny, smiling daughter cheerfully bikes down the mountain with a few precious coins to buy her beloved Da a bottle of beer); but you will forgive his blurring of fact when as you meet his enormous cast of brilliantly-drawn characters, some startlingly universal, some fascinatingly unique.

Although many of his anecdotes end in self-deprecating lessons learned (“Dinna meddle wi’ thing ye ken nuthin’ aboot!” shouts an angry coalman after he gets his comeuppance after taking liberties with a strange horse), not all of his stories have pat, tidy morals. He describes with real sorrow and helplessness the sensation of leaving a lonely pensioner alone with the body of a beloved dog he was forced to euthanize, and his awe is sincere when he remembers the time he met a farmer who worked so hard, his only luxury in life is waking up in the night and realizing he can go back to sleep.

A good many of his stories are of him trying to impress someone, and being utterly crushed with humiliation — a theme for which, I confess, I have an endless appetite.  I almost swallowed my own tongue laughing over the chapter where he and his boss Siegfried had high hopes of breaking into the upper crust by judging some purebred horses at a fair. They happen to meet an old school friend from years ago, and they happened to head over to the beer tent, and one thing lead to another until his high toned guests are tired of being ignored, and decide to leave. The pickled Siegfried tries to salvage the situation with gallantry, offering:

“The windscreen is very dirty. I’ll give it a rub for you.” The ladies watched him silently as he weaved round to the back of the car and began to rummage in the boot. The love light had died from their eyes. I don’t know why he took the trouble; possibly it was because, through the whisky mists, he felt he must re-establish himself as a competent and helpful member of the party. But the effort fell flat; the effect was entirely spoiled. He was polishing the glass with a dead hen.

Maybe the thing that defines Herriot’s writing and makes his stories so appealing is that, just as in his veterinary practice, he never gets bored. He describes the fascination of watching, perhaps for the hundredth time, a mother cow instinctively licking her newborn calf. He and the hard-bitten farmer stop for a moment, amazed once again at how she knows what to do. There’s a freshness and sincerity there that keep me coming back to these stories over and over.

He’s likewise endlessly fascinated by people, their folly, their resilience, and their unpredictability. Reading Herriot’s books is a restorative exercise. He has a rare gift for describing the world in a way that makes it look familiar, but also better than you remembered.

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 94: Meat the rainbow!

Sorry this post is so long. I just can’t seem to stop talking.

Quick question: Do the photos load up more slowly or look different from usual? I’m trying a slightly different thing. Let me know!

On to the food.

SATURDAY
Birthday party!

It was a beach party, so of course the day started with thunder and downpours. But it cleared up! The rain just chased all the cowards away, so we had the place to ourselves by party time.

It was sort of a Moana party, so we cleaned out the last of the luau decorations and leis from the dollar store. The cake was the Heart of Te Fiti:

Ehh, close enough. If we needed it to restore the life to our island, I would have looked harder for the green sugar.

I tried Wilton food color spray (affiliate link, certified Kosher, not for sale in Catalina Island. Now you know) for the first time. I was terrified of making it like amateurish graffiti, so I didn’t use enough. Will probably try this stuff again if I need to do a sunset cake or an underwater effect. It smelled like chicken noodle soup, though.

I honestly can’t remember what we had for supper. Maybe burgers.

***

SUNDAY
Kids had hot dogs, chips, strawberries and blueberries; we had steak

What happened, see, was we are planning to take the kids to a giant water-and-amusement park this weekend, so we felt okay skipping the county fair this year. But then I had a sudden thought. What if we just went ourselves? 

We do have happy times at the fair, but it’s so exhausting and stressful with a crowd of kids. Without them, there would be no bracelets that cost a million dollars, no emotional agony as one kid sorely regrets squandering his One Food Treat on fried dough instead of cotton candy, no sunburned babies, no panic when kids wander away to check out the goats, no grousing, no exhausted toddlers, no “sorry, you’re still not tall enough to ride this ride,” no throwing up, no dehydration, etc.

None of this:

Just fun! Fun fun fun!

So off we went, and . . . very quickly ran out of things to do. I got some fried pickles. We pretended to consider buying a piglet. We went on the Tilt-a-Whirl, and that was nice, but then Pharaoh’s Fury was horrible. HORRIBLE. Just plain scary, with no delightful terror or exquisite tingle of fear. We just both felt like we were going to die the whole time, which we were, and it went on and on and on as death whistled past our ears and everything familiar and safe careened far, far away. When it was finally over, we staggered over to a bench and just sat there wobbling for a while. Then we gave our tickets to some kid and went to Chili’s.

***

MONDAY
Cilantro lime chicken, rice

A new-to-me recipe from Damn Delicious. It’s supposed to be for the slow cooker, but Fisher quantities didn’t fit in one Crock Pot, and I feel like the Instant Pot slow cooker isn’t hot enough.

I took a “before” picture because it was so pretty, and I wasn’t sure what it would look like cooked:

So I started it out in the IP for a few hours, then put it on high pressure manual for five minutes. I added a little water, because I wasn’t sure if there was enough liquid for the IP, but it would have been better without; it was a little soupy. I shredded the chicken easily with a fork and served it over white rice or wrapped in tortillas.

It was a good combination of flavors and textures, subject to lots of variation. Will definitely make again. Damn Delicious bills this as a make-ahead freezer meal, because you just prep everything and then throw it into the pot all together, and that’s it.

I know it’s tiresome, but it really is true that fresh ingredients make food so much better. Some days I feel very bitter about going to the trouble of those extra steps (usually because I forgot to buy the quickie version), but I’m always glad I did it when it’s time to eat. Fresh lime juice, fresh cilantro, fresh garlic, yaaas. I did use frozen corn, and it was snappy and flavorful.

***

TUESDAY
Deconstructed pork shish kabob, watermelon

Bone-in pork picnic was super cheap, so I bought two, for maybe seven pounds total. I cut the meat off the bone, trimmed the fat, and cubed it, then mixed it up with four sweet peppers, about 16 ounces of halved mushrooms, two red onions, and a few cups of marinade. All the food was cut to the size you’d want for threading it on a skewer.

The marinade: olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, minced garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, red pepper flakes.

I didn’t have time to let it marinate, but just spread it in a single layer on my two giant sheet pans (which I continue to love. We’ve put them through their paces and they have not warped a bit)

and put them under a hot broiler (one pan at a time, so they could get direct heat) until it was blackened.

Everyone loved it. It wasn’t quite the same as food cooked on the grill, because what is? But it was still delicious.

Definitely making this again. You could easily use bottled Italian dressing for the marinade. Although [irritating ticking noise made with my cheek] fresh ingredients, ya know.

***

WEDNESDAY
Kids had fish tacos, we had Chinese

Our plan was to ditch the kids again (because it’s summer! Adults should have fun in summer, too!) and I’d meet my husband at his office an hour away, and we’d have Indian take-out on a blanket for an outdoor Bollywood movie.

But I had only cleared half my schedule, and realized I’d be a country mouse fighting rush-hour traffic in the city, and then we’d have to go home in separate cars at the end of the night. Too much like dorm life with curfews! So we ditched the kids anyway, and he taught me how to drive stick shift in a parking lot. Our last stick shift lesson was almost twenty years ago. This one went better than the last time, in the same way that . . . well, you’ll just have to supply your own joke about something that was a miserable disaster the first time, but then was fine the second time. Then we got Chinese food (I had hot and sour soup, a dragon roll, and a silly drink called a Fog Cutter) and a little walk and a little drive in the dark. I do love that man.

And I love having kids who can put together a meal at home! They cooked, ate, cleaned up, changed the baby, and organized tooth brushing before we got back. IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU. All you need is five teenagers.

***

THURSDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, hot pretzels

I was completely wiped out by dinner time, so I asked the kids to deal with it. It seems I forgot to buy extra bread for sandwiches, so dinner was on the feeble side. Oh, well. We were supposed to have string beans from the garden, but nobody felt like picking them except for the really incompetent ones.

***

FRIDAY
I think spaghetti.

***
And it’s time to start thinking about last hurrah of summer meals! Or maybe special eclipse meals. Or Perseid meals. Whatcha got?

What’s for supper? Vol. 86: ¿Qué pasa, kielbasa?

I’m having a flashback to a former life: Everyone’s schedule is all screwey for end-of-year stuff, so we spent the morning at the park trying not to throw ourselves into the waterfall, and then we got a blister so we had to cool our feet at the library. There are pregnant women chasing toddlers everywhere, and every cell in my body is shrieking out silent thanksgiving that I’m not one of ’em.

Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Pizza, birthday cake, ice cream

Birthday party! We had no end of pizza, and birthday cake in the shape of – what else? – Devil’s Tower.

It was a Close Encounters of the Third Kind party, what else? It turns out the birthday girl was kidding about wanting me to mash some potatoes so she could have a mountain-sculpting contest with her friends. Humph.

***

SUNDAY
Chicken shawarma; Cheesecake with strawberries and chocolate ganache

Birthday girl requested shawarma. I treated myself to skinned, boned chicken and set it to marinate the night before. It turned out to be breast meat, not thigh, which was a little disappointing; but it’s still always a fabulous meal. We use this recipe for oven-roasted shawarma from the NYT.

We had it with tomatoes, cucumbers, three kind of olives, feta cheese, pita bread, hummus, and yogurt sauce. I added pepper, lemon juice, and a bunch of minced garlic to plain yogurt and then basically wallowed around in it for the rest of the evening. Garlic yogurt speaks to me on a cellular level. A microcellular level. A nano-micro-weensy-cellular level. Just keep zooming in, and it’s garlic and yogurt, all the way down.

I briefly considered making the cheesecake in the Instant Pot, but then remembered that I am disgusting and don’t really clean it too good, so it’s kind of meaty in there. If there are people in the world who prefer their cheesecake meaty, I don’t want to know about it. I used this simple recipe (no sour cream) with a graham cracker crust, and used a silicone pan instead of springform. Unlike the photo, it turned out swell.

I crushed up a bunch of fresh strawberries with sugar and rum vanilla. We wanted a chocolate ganache, but I remembered in the nick of time that Aldi chocolate chips don’t really melt. So I made this hot fudge sauce with cocoa powder, butter, and condensed milk. Veddy nice.

***

MONDAY
Hot dogs, corn on the cob, salad

It was horrendously hot, so I thought we might avoid filling the kitchen with corn steam if I cooked the corn on the cob in the Instant Pot instead of in a big pot of water. I guess it worked? But you do have to release the steam at the end anyway, so we kind of got it all at once. I think it helped a bit overall. It’s definitely cooler than stovetop cooking while it’s cooking.

I tried This Old Gal’s recipe for IP corn on the cob, which includes sugar, milk, and butter. It was certainly easy, and the corn was, well, sweet, creamy, and buttery. Kinda gilding the lily, though, and not really worth the extra calories. I’ll probably use the IP for just cooking plain unflavored corn on the cob in the future, though, just because it was easier than wrestling with a giant stock pot sloshing with boiling water. I always scald my abdomen.

I have the eight-quart Instant Pot (affiliate link), which fits twelve whole ears of corn comfortably, see?

***

TUESDAY
Pulled pork sandwiches, chips, salad

Just so you know I’m no Instant Pot cultist

I will here discuss an IP semi-failure: I put the pork into the IP with salt, pepper, and a can of Coke, and set it to “slow cook.” This took four hours, and then it automatically went to “keep warm” mode for the rest of the day. It came out dry and tough, and we had to pull pretty hard, which nobody wanted to do. I’m not sure if that means it was too low heat, or too high heat, or what, but it just wasn’t the same as the regular old slow cooker. Maybe if I pressed “slow cook” again after four hours, I dunno.

***

WEDNESDAY
Oven roasted kielbasa, red potatoes, and cabbage with mustard vinaigrette

From Budget Bytes, a new dish for us, and a hit! It’s very easy to make: Cut up the things, put the things on a pan, make the things hot. Add yummy dressing.

I used three 14-ounce packages of kielbasa, about four pounds of red potatoes, and one large cabbage, and tripled the recipe for dressing. It’s hearty and summery, and I liked the looks of it, too.

The only sad thing was that I finally had to admit it was time to get rid of the two giant “disposable” catering pans we got from the Chinese restaurant at Christmas. They have developed leaks, so I’m getting some Real Pans. Yet another thing I finally have enough money to buy, now that the kids are leaving home and we don’t need it as badly anymore. Oh well.

***

THURSDAY
Chicken muggets, frozen corn

We had the option to add an extra hour and a half of driving at the end of the school day in order to get to two campuses for portfolio night, or we could get ice cream.

Then we came home and had chicken nuggets. Corrie was mad because she only got to eat her ice cream and Dora’s ice cream,

and then when she dropped Dora’s ice cream, we wouldn’t get her another one. So when it was supper time, she threw herself on the floor and howled, “NO NO NO TSITSIN MUGGETS!” It’s a shame we never do anything nice for her.

***

FRIDAY

Child #2 graduates from high school this year (with honors in math!!!), so Damien and I will be in attendance this evening while the kids at home struggle along with a case of boxaroni. Cheers!

When Ella Fitzgerald had no one to watch over her

Ella Fitzgerald’s voice means warmth, joy, careless brilliance, strength wrapped in velvet. But her early life was cold, rough, harsh.

It’s Ella Fitzgerald’s 100th birthday today, and on NPR’s Morning Edition, Susan Stamberg reports that Fitzgerald, born poor, was orphaned at 15. Her surviving stepfather was hard on her, and she lived for a time with an aunt, but then started skipping school, eventually living on the streets.

“She was on the streets of Harlem dancing for tips” [Smithsonian Curator of American Music John] Hasse says.

She earned more pennies as a lookout for cops outside a brothel. At one point, she was arrested for truancy and sent to a reform school, where she was regularly beaten. So she ran away — this awkward, gawky girl with skinny legs and old, cast-off boots — with no money, living on the streets and sleeping where she could.

Around this time, Fitzgerald used to say, she first began to sing on stage. She was 17, and found herself terrified in front of a brutal audience at Amatuer Night at the Apollo. She had been planning to dance, but her legs shook too badly; so instead, she sang. And everyone loved it, so she kept on singing. At least that’s the way she tells it.

Who can describe her voice? Instead of talking about it, let’s listen. The velvety ballads are my favorites. Here’s one of the greatest:

Oh, how I need. What a miracle of vocal engineering that she goes all high and hoarse without losing an ounce of power. Happy birthday, you beautiful woman. Someone I’d really like to know.

Image: Ella in 1940, photo by Carl Van Vechten [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

What’s for supper? Vol, 77: Fish tacos are real, man.

In which we have an awful lot of cake for the home stretch of Lent.

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and pepper jack cheese sandwiches, roast asparagus with butter and lemon

I’m trying to wean the family off expecting some kind of potato-based side dish with every meal. That’s one Saturday under our belts. No one has died of chip deficiency, yet.

***

SUNDAY
Just pretty much all the food in the world

Sunday, we had two confirmations

and a birthday

The confirmandi requested red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and tiramisu, respectively, and the birthday girl asked for ice cream sodas for her special dessert.
I like this picture because you can see everyone spring into action when I put the food out:


Damien made the tiramisu with this excellent recipe the night before, and added chocolate shavings right before serving. This time, I bought him ladyfingers fresh from the bakery, and guess what? They sop up a lot more rum than stale, pre-packaged ladyfingers. The party got pretty hot for a while there.

The red velvet cake was from a box. Actually, because I don’t know my colors yet, it turned out to be one box of red velvet cake and one box of yellow cake; so I swirled them together and attempted to pass it off as a flame pattern for the descent of the Holy Spirit or something.

I used this basic recipe for cream cheese frosting.

So we had cake and fruit salad and fruit punch and cookies and cheese and crackers at the reception after the confirmation, then went home and had pizzas, veggies and hummus, cake with strawberries and cream cheese frosting and tiramisu for lunch, and then for dinner, cheeseburgers and chips, and ice cream sodas for dessert.

***

MONDAY
Fish tacos, corn chips

For reasons I don’t fully understand, several of the children felt unwell on Monday and stayed home from school. Something about their stomachs not feeling great.

They recovered in time for dinner.

I’ve heard a lot of grousing about how there is no such thing as fish tacos, or fish tacos aren’t a thing. But (a) they are delicious and (b) here is a picture, so I guess we’ll keep eating them.

Just regular old cheapo fish sticks, with nice, crunchy shredded cabbage, sliced avocados, salsa, cilantro, sour cream, and a personal lime on a tortilla. Best imaginary meal ever.

***

TUESDAY
Gochujang bulgoki, white rice, nori

Normally, I prep this dish the night before, so it can marinate overnight. But I forgot, and made it in the morning, and it was still great by evening. I also grated the carrots, since I didn’t feel like cutting matchsticks, and that was great, too. I sliced a hunk of pork thin and mixed it up with the carrots and a couple of sliced onions, along with a triple recipe of this sauce:

5 Tbs gochujang
2 Tbs honey
2 tsp sugar
2 Tbs soy sauce
5 cloves minced garlic

So then you let it marinate as long as you can, and then fry it up in a little oil while the rice is cooking.
It’s a wonderful meal, very warming and peppy. You can, no, you must use the nori (or Romaine lettuce) to scoop up little bundles of meat and rice for gobbling purposes.

(This is an old picture. We ate zero string beans.)

That reminds me, time to order some more gochujang. It’s very handy to have around. Try it with tuna instead of mayo. Ha cha cha!

***

WEDNESDAY
Quesadillas, raw veggies

I think this was the day we suddenly remembered we hadn’t brought in a school treat for the aforementioned birthday kid. Her teacher requests treats of fruit or veggies, and that’s fine, that’s fine, it’s not communist or anything. We subverted it by making these alarming little disembodied apple grins with peanut butter and mini marshmallows.

They were well-received.

***

THURSDAY
Pepperoncini beef sandwiches, potato puffs, salad, German chocolate cake

Another birthday! My oldest requested this wonderfully easy meal:  Throw a chuck roast in a slow cooker with a jar of pepperoncini with the tops cut off and the juice, and off you go.

At 11 a.m., I suddenly remembered to pull the meat out of the freezer. So this situation, along with the risotto situation, is where the Instant Pot really shines: In less than two hours, a rock-hard roast was cooked all the way through. It actually finished cooking too soon, so I kept it on “keep warm” for several hours, and ended up overcooking it. Oops. Still yummy.

We sliced it up and served it on rolls with pepper jack cheese and horseradish sauce.

I’m counting on your Friday meat deprivation to make this horrible cell phone picture look good.

Birthday girl also had her heart set on a German chocolate cake. Know why it’s called that? Because the guy who invented it was named “German.” Now you know something! This cake is a tremendous pain in the neck, but so good. We went with this recipe from food.com. The cake was good, but I had to fight the urge to just sort of swim around in that coconut pecan frosting.

Here’s the birthday girl getting some help with her birthday candles:

Sigh, oldest and youngest, 19 and 2. SIGH SIGH SIGH. I’m fine. We’re all fine.

***

FRIDAY
French toast casserole, mangoes

This is where I get back at the kids for leaving the bread bags open all week, so the bread gets all stale and crushed. It’s not really very good revenge, because it’s delicious.

***
OKAY, we have our seder on Holy Saturday, so all next week is when the schmaltz hits the road. Stay tuned. . .  if you dare. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 75: Garlic will save the world

Good grief, Vol. 75? What do you know about that?

The little rats stole my chalk, so my weekly menu blackboard isn’t telling me anything. Here’s the best I can recall:

SATURDAY
Calzones; birthday cake

We had four extra 13-year-old boys in the house for a sleepover, and the birthday boy requested calzones for dinner. Easy enough! I used premade pizza dough, and divided each ball into four calzones. Roll ’em out, add a scoop of filling, fold the dough over and pinch it closed. We made twenty calzones, plus an extra pizza for weirdos who don’t like calzones, plus a gluten-free pizza for that one guest. This is one of the benefits of being used to cooking for twelve. You  might as well cook for sixteen, and you might as well also make cupcakes, plus special cupcakes, plus this, plus that, why not. Your life is already ruined anyway.


For the filling, I used either eight or twelve cups of shredded mozzarella, probably eight, and 32 oz. of ricotta, plus a bunch of parmesan. After you crimp the edges shut, you can press on them to distribute the filling more evenly. Lay them in a greased pan with space to expand (I put three on a full-sized cookie sheet), and brush with egg wash.

Bake for about 20 minutes in a 450 oven. Serve with warm tomato sauce for dipping.

The cake was just one disaster after another. It was supposed to be chocolate, but I got yellow mix. So I was going to add cocoa powder, but we were out. So I told him I’d make chocolate frosting. Then I somehow bought cream cheese frosting. Then I reversed the colors on the design by mistake; then the sugar sheets I bought were too dry to use, so I piped in the designs with frosting in a sandwich bag that I bit a hole in.
But, I did NOT spell his name wrong.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the cake I was trying to copy and the cake I eventually presented to my beloved son:

Ehhh, whaddaya whaddaya. He liked it. We also made a Super Smash Ball pinata, which turned out just as malformed and blobby as the cake, even though a Smash Ball is just a round ball with different colors all over it. He liked that, too. We like him!

***

SUNDAY
Spaghetti carbonara; salad; garlic bread; ice cream sundaes

Unaware that the Solemnity of St. Joseph was moved to Monday, we went ahead and celebrated with bacon and ice cream on Sunday. A not-great photo of a terrifically yummy meal here:

If you’re not familiar with carbonara, it’s easy and wonderful. You fry up some bacon and cut it into bits, then cook up a bunch of pasta. Drain it, add in the bacon and a truly ridiculous amount of parmesan, butter, and tons of pepper, and mix it up. Then, you stir in a bunch of raw egg, which cooks itself right onto the strands of pasta, melding with the cheese and the bacon. Heavenly.

Here’s the recipe from Fannie Farmer. Please note that the very next recipe is for Spaghetti with Lima Beans. This shows that even the great Fanner Farmer has her limitations.

***

MONDAY
Beef barley soup; garlic knots

A tiny bit disappointing, but I’m not sure why.
I cut up the beef (chuck roast or something) into cubes and sauteed it in the Instant Pot along with diced onions and garlic. When it was almost all browned, I added diced carrots, a can of diced tomatoes and juice, some beef broth and red wine, and most of a little pouch of mixed grains.

I couldn’t find barley anywhere, and last time I asked a stock boy for help, he was a huge jerk about it, and I was mad for ten days. I just want barley! You work at a supermarket! Do you even understand that you wouldn’t have a job if people like me didn’t need things like barley? Maybe I’ll just go home without buying anything, and then you can have your ideal work day of nobody bringing money into your place of employment! That seems like a solid business model! Jerk.

I pressed the “soup” button, because I was making soup and feeling belligerent, and didn’t feel like checking if that’s how you’re supposed to do it. Looking back, there was a lot of belligerent cooking this week. Hence all the garlic, I guess.

The soup was fine; it just didn’t live up to the Platonic ideal of beef barley soup, and this grieved me. Should’ve added more garlic.

For the garlic knots, I used readymade balls of pizza dough. Cut each ball into twelve pieces, roll them into snakes, tie them in a knot, and top each one with garlic or garlic powder, parmesan cheese, and a little salt. Bake on a greased pan at 425 for . . . I dunno, eleven minutes. Always a hit.

***

TUESDAY
Hot dogs; cucumber salad

There are suddenly these giant, beautiful cucumbers for really cheap, so I bought . . . kind of an inappropriate number of giant cucumbers. They just looked good, okay?

Tito Edward’s eye just started ticcing, and he doesn’t even know why.

I sliced them pretty thin and mixed them with a dressing made of plain yogurt, tons of minced garlic, a little lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and salt. Wish I had had some parsley and red onions. It was tasty and interesting, although it probably wasn’t necessary to add nuclear holocaust levels of garlic; but I’ll probably do it again next time.

I took a picture, which I’m adding only because I forgot to take a picture of the next meal, which was actually good to look at.

The other day, my son woke up and couldn’t find any clean jeans or khakis, so he was forced to put on dress pants. He evened it out by wearing a ratty T-shirt.

***

WEDNESDAY
Pepperoncini beef sandwiches with provolone; french fries; raw stringbeans

A swell and laughably easy meal in the slow cooker or Instant Pot.

You just dump a hunk of beef in, empty a jar of pepperoncini in with the juice, and let it cook until it’s tender. I’ve always made this dish in the slow cooker, and it comes out ready to fall apart, like pulled pork. This time, I used the “slow cook” button on the IP, which runs for four hours. It wasn’t quite done when I checked, so I pressed the button again, and let it run for another hour-and-a-half. It wasn’t shreddy, but nicely tender, so I sliced it. I think I prefer it that way. Less time probably would have worked even better.

I forgot to cut the tops off the peppers before adding them to the pot, so it was only mildly spicy.

I served the meat on ciabatta rolls with sliced provolone and horseradish sauce. Tragically, I had snacked so much before dinner, I wasn’t hungry enough to eat it. But it smelled fab-u-lous.

Stringbeans finally look decent again. Just popped the stems off and served them raw. Spring is coming, dammit. We can have juicy green things again.

***

THURSDAY
Roasted chicken on salad; grapes

We were home for a total of about eleven minutes on Thursday, so it’s a miracle I got dinner made. I doused the chicken breasts with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and shoved them under the broiler for 25 minutes or so, then sliced it up and served it on bagged greens. Bagged greens will save the world.

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FRIDAY
Eggs and risotto and . . . frozen peas? Salad? Maybe green peppers?

It’s been a week without risotto so far! This aggression will not stand, man. (For more on risotto and how it alone can justify the purchase of an Instant Pot, see last week’s post.)

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What’s for supper at your house? What’s the longest you can go without garlic?