What’s for supper? Vol. 174: Tiramisu! OH!!!!!! Tiramisu.

Another birthday! The birthday girl asked for Damien’s tiramisu. Without even having to ask, he got plenty of help from Corrie. Here, I ask Corrie about the ingredients she’s using:

And now you know. (If you need it to be more specific, here is the recipe he uses.) He made it without shaved chocolate out of respect for my migraines. I forgot to take a pic, but here is a slice from ages past:

We love tiramisu, not only for the heavenly taste, but because we get to sing the song. When Irene was little, she used to sing the Kalamazoo song from Wonderpets — only she would go, “Tamazooooo . . . OHHHHHH!!!!! . . . Tamazoooooo . . . ” and on the “ohhhhh” part, she would tip her chin up and close her eyes and howl like a little wolf. So all day long, there was a lot of happy howling. 

SATURDAY
Cumin chicken with chickpeas and tabbouleh

I’ve had a hankering for tabbouleh for weeks now. Unfortunately, this meal did not dehanker me. I couldn’t find any bulghur, so I used couscous. That would have been fine, but I didn’t drain it properly, and it was soggy. The flavor was good, though, and I’m not gonna pretend I didn’t have it for lunch the rest of the week. I made it with lemon juice, kosher salt and pepper, tomatoes and cucumbers, and lots of fresh parsley and mint. And yes, that was me saying “Wait a minute!” out loud in the produce aisle, quickly googling “is wild mint edible” and then thriftily putting back the store-bought mint. Take that, invasive species. 

I also put mint in the lemony onions, because I forgot to save back parsley; but I forgot to eat any onions, so I don’t know if it was good. 

The cumin chicken with chickpeas and yogurt sauce and pita is a reliably yummy meal, and once again I must emphasize that if you never have the chicken skin that’s been roasted after marinating in cumin and yogurt, your life has been a sham.

I also intend to roast many more chickpeas this summer. These chickpeas in the picture are a little less crunchy, which is how the kids like them, Little olive oil and whatever seasoning you like, and if you take your time and roast them until they’re crunchy, they make a wonderful snack. 

SUNDAY
Grilled ham and cheese pita pockets, strawberries, fries

This is an ideal childhood meal. Adorable round sandwiches, fried gently in butter, cheerfully patterned like a giraffe, and stuffed with melted cheddar and a slice of ham. 

So of course they all acted like I was serving them garbage stuffed with garbage. Ingrates! 

MONDAY
Hamburgers, chips, raw broccoli

As you can see, I was eating a hamburger in bed. I had a reason, but I forget what. 

TUESDAY
BIIIIIIIG SANDWICHES, party mix, tiramisu

One morning, when Clara was a toddler, she was having a bad day, feeling sick, screaming at everything. We finally just put her to bed, and she slept for hours and hours, all day long. Clara was this teeny, weeny little person. Her middle name is “Petra,” but her sisters used to call her “Clara Paper,” because she was so fair and slight, with enormous grey eyes, a heavy mop of dark gold curls.

When she finally woke up, it was almost dinner time, and we asked what she would like to eat. She said in her squeaky little voice, “I want . . . I want BIIIIIIIIIIIG SANDWICHES!” and pointed straight up to the ceiling. So that’s what we call it now, when we have sandwiches with everything possible on them. AND TODAY, THAT LITTLE GIRL IS GRADUATING FROM HIGH SCHOOL.

So this Tuesday was Dora’s birthday, and she modestly asked for Big Sandwiches, party mix, and tiramisu for her birthday meal. For my big sandwich, I had roast beef and capicola, provolone, tomatoes, and bacon.

It turns out I can’t eat party mix unless I want to spend the rest of the day listening to my heart try to escape from my chest, so that’s exciting. The bacon stays, though. 

Here is the birthday girl admiring how well her new salt lamp deionizes things and whatnot. 

WEDNESDAY
Faintly gingery pork, peppers, onions, mushrooms; corn on the cob

I cut up a bunch of pork, Corrie cut up a bunch of peppers, and then I called Clara and told her to cut up a bunch of green and sweet peppers and onions and mix it all together with a bottle of ginger salad dressing. This is how most meals get made at my house: as a group effort, over the course of many hours, with phone calls. It’s a miracle we don’t all just eat hamburgers in bed every day. 

So I spread it all in some shallow pans and stuck it under the broiler.

I had it in my head that everyone loves this meal, but it turns out I love it and everyone else has been barely tolerating it. OH WELL. To be fair, the marinade turned out to be extremely bland, and did not produce the gingery wonderland I was anticipating. 

I also boiled up some corn on the cob. Shucking the corn helped Corrie through that awful, painful transition between watching TV (happiness) and not watching TV (intense and intolerable suffering).

THURSDAY
Drunken noodles with beef

I’ve made this once before, after modifying a Jet Tila recipe. My recipe card is at the end.

I did all the chopping and stuff in the morning, and had it all laid out in separate bowls like on a cooking show

so it came together really quickly when it was supper time. You boil up the noodles and set them aside, then brown up some garlic, add egg and peppers, then add beef and onions, then put the tomatoes, sauce, and noodles back in, and heat it all through. I made TONS of it, because I can’t help myself. Happily, it’s good cold.

I’m not sure if it was better this time, or if I was just hungrier because I didn’t snack on a full meal’s worth of ingredients while I was still cooking. Either way, it was delicious. A really zippy, flavorful sauce, but not too terribly spicy (and some people added red pepper flakes). The fish sauce mellows out just enough and is right at home with the beef and tomatoes. 

A great all-in-one meal, and you could use different kinds of meat or seafood. One of my kids put parmesan cheese on it. I don’t even freaking know what to say. Don’t do that. 

FRIDAY
Tuna boats, smiley fries

According to tradition, we’ll be going out to eat with the graduating senior, while the people at home toil with tuna. I’m not sure what I will order, but she chose an Italian restaurant, which is always good, and someone else will be cooking, which is always always always always good.

Okay, here are the recipe cards!

 

Cumin chicken thighs with chickpeas in yogurt sauce

A one-pan dish, but you won't want to skip the sides. Make with red onions and cilantro in lemon juice, pita bread and yogurt sauce, and pomegranates, grapes, or maybe fried eggplant. 

Ingredients

  • 18 chicken thighs
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp cumin, divided
  • 4-6 cans chickpeas
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 red onions, sliced thinly

For garnishes:

  • 2 red onions sliced thinly
  • lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • a bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 32 oz Greek yogurt for dipping sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed

Instructions

  1. Make the marinade early in the day or the night before. Mix full fat Greek yogurt and with lemon juice, four tablespoons of water, and two tablespoons of cumin, and mix this marinade up with chicken parts, thighs or wings. Marinate several hours. 

    About an hour before dinner, preheat the oven to 425.

    Drain and rinse four or five 15-oz cans of chickpeas and mix them up with a few glugs of olive oil, the remaining tablespoon of cumin, salt and pepper, and two large red onions sliced thin.

    Spread the seasoned chickpeas in a single layer on two large sheet pans, then make room among the chickpeas for the marinated chicken (shake or scrape the extra marinade off the chicken if it’s too gloppy). Then it goes in the oven for almost an hour. That’s it for the main part.

    The chickpeas and the onions may start to blacken a bit, and this is a-ok. You want the chickpeas to be crunchy, and the skin of the chicken to be a deep golden brown, and crisp. The top pan was done first, and then I moved the other one up to finish browning as we started to eat. Sometimes when I make this, I put the chickpeas back in the oven after we start eating, so some of them get crunchy and nutty all the way through.

Garnishes:

  1. While the chicken is cooking, you prepare your three garnishes:

     -Chop up some cilantro for sprinkling if people like.

     -Slice another two red onions nice and thin, and mix them in a dish with a few glugs of lemon juice and salt and pepper and more cilantro. 

     -Then take the rest of the tub of Greek yogurt and mix it up in another bowl with lemon juice, a generous amount of minced garlic, salt, and pepper. 

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 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. 

Drunken noodles with beef (after Jet Tila)

This is a less-spicy version. For more heat, use jalapenos or other hotter peppers, leave the membranes and seeds in and add red pepper flakes before or after cooking. 

Ingredients

Sauce:

  • 6 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 6 Tbsp oyster sauce
  • 9 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 6 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Sriracha or hot sauce
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 6 oz fresh basil leaves in a chiffonade (sliced into thin ribbons)
  • 30+ oz wide rice noodles

canola oil for cooking

  • 8 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 8 eggs beaten
  • 6 serrano chiles or jalapeños, seeded and sliced thin
  • 2 lg onions, sliced thin
  • 4 oz fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 pints grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3-4 lbs roast beef, sliced as thinly as possible

Instructions

  1. Cook the rice noodles according to directions, and set them aside. 

    Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. 

    Heat a very large sauté pan with oil and brown the minced garlic. Add chiles and beaten eggs, and scramble in the pan until the eggs are in cooked bits. 

    Add onion and sliced beef and cook until beef is barely browned. 

    Add cooked noodles, tomatoes, chopped basil leaves, and sauce. 

    Keep stirring and combining until everything is saucy and hot. Serve immediately. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 162: It’s the chim churriest time of the year!

Here I am at the airport, waiting to fly to Chicago for the FemCatholic Conference! I can even list all the many things I’m looking forward do about this weekend. It’s going to be awesome.

But first, the food! Here’s what I’m having for lunch right now:

Bland, but not terrible. I did dribble tzatziki sauce all over my shirt. And here’s what else we dribbled on ourselves this week:

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, sweet peppers and dip

Nothing to report. I didn’t take a picture.

SUNDAY
Birthday pizza and cake

Yes, Corrie’s birthday! She asked for only one present: A Chompo bar. I know Chompo Bars have a soft nougat part inside, and there is a chewy caramel part around that, and the outside is chocolate with nuts; but Corrie said they are all chocolate with no nuts and with a green wrapper, and when you’re the birthday girl, you get to say what’s q-p-m and what’s c-r-n. So I printed out a wrapper and glued it to a Hershey bar

and she ate the whole thing herself, because she was the birthday girl.

She had also asked for a Puffin Rock cake, but without any puffins or anything on it.

I’m not gonna claim it wasn’t 40% tin foil, but she liked it. Bababa boo!

She also requested pizza and Abba. Can do.

MONDAY
Chicken quesadillas, nacho chips

I coated the chicken breasts with olive oil, then dusted them generously with chili lime powder, and roasted them, then cut them into thin slices, and sprinkled it in with the cheese in the quesadillas. Quesadillas are awesome. They are another food I never ate until I was in college, or possibly in my 30’s. It just goes to show.

I forgot to take a picture of this as well, so here’s a photo of quesadillas of yesteryear, back when there was still a sun.

TUESDAY
Out for pizza!

Because it’s vacation, that’s why. We got almost all the way through the meal before Corrie discovered that one wall was entirely covered with mirrors.

WEDNESDAY
Fettuccine with ragù, garlic bread

Damien made this. He always uses this Deadspin recipe, but it turns out different every time! I liked this iteration a lot. Very tender but you could really taste the wine, and the anchovies could not be denied. It’s ground meat, milk, vegetables, a little tomato paste, wine, and misc. If you thought a pasta meat sauce needed to be red, prepare to be the wrongest person in the world, that’s all.

Clara made enough garlic bread to . . . I can’t think of something that you need a lot of things for. It was good garlic bread.

THURSDAY
Beef skewers with chimichurri, honey goat cheese, fig paste, cranberries, snap peas, and crackers

Some much-anticipated guests had their travel plans derailed, so that was a bummer, but we did have a good meal. This beef is much better threaded on skewers and grilled over the coals, but it was still far to Februaryish to send Damien out into the yard, so I just sliced the beef thin, doused it in olive oil and salt and pepper, and roasted it in the over right under the broiler.Then I just set out bowls of everything else and let people put together their own combinations.

Chimichurri:

Pickled onions:

Yum.

FRIDAY

Tuna noodle casserole again, because (a) it’s vacation and I will say yes to anything, as long as it’s not a lot of trouble, and (b) I won’t even be in the same time zone by dinner time!

Here’s some recipe cards:

Beef skewers

We used a cheap cut of oven roast and it turned out just great (but I'm sure steak would be good, too!). Serve with chimichurri and pickled onions for a wonderful treat. 

Ingredients

  • beef
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Soak wooden skewers in water for at least half an hour before skewering meat. 

  2. Slice beef across the grain into wide strips, trimming off fat if necessary. Thread them, accordion style, onto the skewers.

  3. Build the fire and let it die down to coals. 
    Just before cooking, drizzle the skewers with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then lay the skewers over the grill, turning occasionally, until they are sizzling. 

  4. Serve with chimichurri and pickled red onions. 

Chimichurri

Dipping sauce, marinade, you name it

Ingredients

  • 2 cups curly parsley
  • 1 cup Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup dried oregano (or fresh if you have it)
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients except olive oil in food processor. Whir until it's blended but a little chunky. 

  2. Slowly pour olive oil in while continuing to blend. 

 

Pickled red onions

A nice side dish for beef skewers with chimichurri

Ingredients

  • 2 red onions, sliced thin
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup red wine or cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • water

Instructions

  1. Dissolve sugar into vinegar. Add onions and cilantro. Add water if necessary to cover onions. Cover and let sit for several hours before serving. 

What’s for Supper? Vol. 155: I didn’t get a fa la la out of that guy!

Fast away the old year passes! Fa la la la la, la la la la!
Glad it’s gone, you bet your asses! Fa la la la la, la la la la!

I skipped What’s For Supper? last week because we had a ton of convenience food, since everything else last week was so very far from convenient. You know how it is. There were a few standout meals, though, mainly on my birthday.

Damien made me a wonderful shrimp fettuccine, which includes cooking the pasta in water in which the shrimp shells have been boiled, so the whole meal has a bright oceanic feel to it. He uses the Deadspin recipe.  Love this meal so much.

Then we had cheesecake with cherry topping, which Corrie volunteered to deliver while singing “Happy Birthday.” I died.

The next day the man and I went to the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton MA. If there’s any way you can go, I can’t recommend it enough. But, like, eat some protein first, and rest up, because it is intense. It’s small and well-organized, and offers a good amount of information without getting in the way of the icons. We had all day to be there, but we had to leave after about an hour and a quarter, because I was full up. Just absolutely full up.

Then we stopped at the Old Timer, which is everything a beloved little old creaky varnished wooden Irish tavern with cloudy windows ought to be. We had a couple of pints and then told the bartender we were ready to head out. Then he brought us another round. I guess he misheard us, but I wasn’t going to argue, because it was my birthday. We did leave eventually, strolled around in the nippy air, and decided that middle eastern food was calling us from a little place called Zaytoon. Not fancy, but oh man, that food. I had some kind of lamb thing

with rice and lentil soup and all sorts of yumminess

who can say what? (I mean obviously that is hummus and bean salad, but there were mysteries sprinkled throughout.) The guy running it was also immensely genial and hospitable. They had a lavish buffet, too, which I will definitely check out if we ever go back. All in all, it was a perfect day, and I don’t deserve to be this happy, but I just can’t help it!

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips

You guys know what grilled ham and cheese looks like! Like this, from some other Saturday. We have this sandwich on Saturdays a lot, it’s true.

SUNDAY
Roast beef sandwiches, fries

Chuck roast was super cheap, so I got two big ‘uns, and Damien crusted them with tons of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano, then browned them up in a heavy pot in olive oil, then put them in a 325 oven for about an hour and forty minutes. Then he let them rest a bit and sliced it up.

We had the meat on toasted rolls with horseradish sauce and provolone.

This, too, is actually a previous sandwich. It’s hard to believe, but I think I may have eaten this week’s roast beef sandwich without taking a picture first.

MONDAY
Creamy roast mushroom soup, deli sandwiches

I tried this nice recipe from Damn Delicious, knowing full well that two kids and I would enjoy it, and the rest of them would be complete jerks about it, even though we were also having sandwiches and I had no intention of forcing soup on anyone. Here’s a picture of one such sandwich, just to prove I did sustain them in their sorrow.

They were nice sandwiches, too, with ciabatta bread, olive oil and vinegar, smoked turkey, salami, and even some shredded prosciutto, because my daughter who works in a deli got her hands on a prosciutto end, duh-rool, duh-rool.

Look, look at the lovely roasted mushrooms! Lovely.

The soup was rich and gently savory, just what a creamy roasted mushroom soup ought to be. I took this pic before it finished cooking, so the finished product was an earthier shade.

Sometimes I rush through soups and just chuck everything in and let it sort itself out, but this time I did it step by step and let the flavor develop.

I . . . couldn’t tell the difference. I like soup. Good soup, bad soup, hurry-up soup, proper soup, whatever. The only time I absolutely refused to eat some soup was when I had thriftily turned a Thanksgiving turkey carcass into about four gallons of soup, slipped in a puddle, and spilled the entire pot under the refrigerator, and all the kids cheered. I forget what it was that was so horrible about that soup, but it was bad enough that I was relieved I only had to clean it up, and not eat it.

Damien also made Alton Brown’s eggnog, which is superb. It’s like dessert in a cup, and nicely boozy. He snickered at me (Damien, not Alton Brown) for licking out my cup to get all the boozy, nutmeggy, creamy foam, but whose fault was that?

TUESDAY
Christmas brunch, Chinese food

Christmas! Yes. We went to 10 PM Mass (no midnight Mass available this year, to my mixture of disappointment and relief) the night before. Corrie was Corrie.

and we are we.

and then we bundled them off to bed, finished up the stockings and such, and then in the morning we could just chilllllll out with our presents and our candy and our filthy eastern ways.

We had our traditional brunch of Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon rolls, a mountain of bacon, grapes and clementines. I made the dough for the cinnamon rolls the night before, and honestly, this year ends that tradition. It’s not hard, but they somehow turn out a little worse each year, and nobody really looks forward to them except out of habit. So I need to come up with some other kind of nice baked good for a Christmas morning tradition. I didn’t even take a picture this year. Here is some Christmas morning cinnamons rolls of yesteryear:

For supper, we always have Chinese take out. I didn’t even know this is a Jew thing to do; we just happen to have very good restaurant 1/10 of a mile down the road from us, and we all realized one year that Christmas is delicious enough, and we didn’t need to salt it with the tears of an exhausted cook. Behold the Pu Pu Platter for 16:

I did cook up a giant pot of rice, because I love my family. BUT NO VEGETABLE.

WEDNESDAY
Pu Pu leftovers, shrimp cocktail

The shrimp was actually supposed to be for Christmas eve, but we found ourselves unable to find even a shrimp-sized empty spot in our bellies. I made a concerted effort not to have too much food this year, but guess what? We had too much food.

THURSDAY
Spaghetti and meatballs

The children had begun to develop a bad attitude toward Chinese food, so we had the opposite, which is spaghetti and meatballs. You need to shut about about spaghetti being Chinese. Nobody wants to hear that. I’ll put my recipe card for basic meatballs at the end.

Maybe you noticed, we had a misunderstanding and one of the kids used the big holes to grate up the parmesan cheese, so we had parmesan shreds. You know? It was pretty good! Parmesan will melt when it’s not grated up with bits of fluffy wood pulp. Guys, we have so much nice cheese in the house, I have lost track of what cheeses we currently have.

FRIDAY
Pizza

And we’re off to learn everything we need to know about insulin pumps! Alas, our insurance doesn’t cover traditional pumps such as what you can buy from Home Depot, so we have a bit of a trip ahead of us.

Speaking of ahead of us, New Year’s Eve is coming right up, so if you hold out a little bit longer, you can make it the rest of the year without eating any more vegetables. Last year, we had a make-your-own sushi party, and it was so so so much fun, so we’re doing it again.

Last year’s shopping list: Nishiki rice and several packages of nori, soy sauce, rice vinegar, wasabi, pickled ginger, roe, tuna steaks, some seared and seasoned tuna, maybe some canned salmon for the sissies, fake crab legs, toasted sesame seeds, avocados, mangos, and carrots and cucumbers for pickling. We made cones, rather than rolls, and everyone found something to like.

Not sure what we will do for dessert. A few weeks ago, I snapped up some cannoli shells, which are hard to find around here, so we may have the cannoli we didn’t manage to make on Columbus Day. If crab rangoon goes with a Pu Pu platter, than cannoli go with sushi. Fa la la la la!

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Meatballs for a crowd

Make about 100 golf ball-sized meatballs. 

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.

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

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

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 154: Ragu! Sing it with me! Raguuuuuuu!

I think Corrie speaks for all of us when she says:

Here’s what we ate this week (with some links to Christmas baking and candy recipes at the end):

SATURDAY
Birthday! Stuffed shells, garlic bread, veg and dip, birthday cake

Sweet Benny wanted a rose-themed birthday. Easy enough. We made some giant paper flowers and hung them from the ceiling. Here it is, halfway decorated:

and the night before, Benny and I made some fruit roll roses.

She’s a wonderful kid to work with, and she never gets offended if you say, “Sweetheart, Mama’s ears are tired. Can you stop talking for a few minutes?” She just laughs and says, “Yeah, I like to talk.” Then she keeps talking.

I couldn’t find the Fruit by the Foot strips I was looking for, so we got regular fruit roll-ups, unrolled them, cut them into four strips, and pinched the ends together to make one long strip. Then we started rolling it up in a tight roll to make the center of the rose; then we rolled up the rest loosely, twisting and occasionally folding and smooshing the strip. I don’t know if I can describe it better than that. Some of the turned out more rose-like than others!

Then we stuck toothpicks in the bottoms and stuck them in the cake. I used a Wilton leaf tip to make the leaves, and added some dots for garlands on the sides. My first leaves, not too shabby!

She was delighted with her cake. When Damien put it in front of her, she just sat there, smiling and smiling.

She requested stuffed shells. I didn’t have my recipe in front of me, so I checked out the box. Let’s see . . . cottage cheese . . . zucchini . . . yeah, okay, this box is fired. I went and found my recipe. Recipe card at the end.

For a party activity, we made flower crowns. These were first graders, and they definitely needed some help from the moms, but I bet they could do it on their own the second time around. We made circlets out of wired pine garlands, then made standard tissue paper flowers with a little bell at the center, threaded through the pipe cleaner. (Yes, I still call them pipe cleaners instead of chenille stems. Take that!) We attached the flowers on with the pipe cleaners, then tied wisps of tulle to both sides of the flower just to add some poofiness, then tied ribbons to hang down the back. I didn’t get any good pics, but can probably do a tutorial if anyone is interested. Not a bad party activity, and the girls looked adorable, and ready for the Kentucky Derby.

SUNDAY
Roast beef sandwiches, chips

Damien roasted a couple of chuck roasts. He covered them in salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and seared them in very hot oil, about three minutes per side, then roasted them in a 325 oven for about 90 minutes. Then he let them rest for a bit, then sliced it up. We put it on rolls with horseradish sauce and provolone, and put them in the oven for a few minutes to toast up. I also had tomatoes in mine.

I had a jar of sliced pepperoncini, but they were a weird color, so I threw them out. Aren’t you glad I’m so tired I thought that was worth writing down?

MONDAY
Ham, mashed potatoes, peas, roast brussels sprouts

Me, sadly flipping through supermarket flyers: So . . . do you guys . . . maybe . . . want ham?
Benny: HAM. HAM. HAMANDMASHEDPOTATOESANDPEAS.
Me: Okay! But how about Brussels sprouts instead of peas, just to mix things up a little? Brussels sprouts are on sale right n-
Benny:

So that’s what we had. I also roasted some Brussels sprouts, because they were on sale and I like them.

Benny was irate.

TUESDAY
Sweet and sour chicken stir fry, rice

Clara had been asking for this meal, which I make very authentically by cutting chicken into pieces and cooking them, then adding steamed vegetables from a bag and sauce from a jar, and schlorping the whole thing over rice.

It was extra schlorpy, because I didn’t drain the vegetables sufficiently. I even found a few cans of water chestnuts in the cabinet. I took them out of the cans and everything.

Oh, I cooked the rice in the Instant Pot using the 1:1 method. Works every time. I like the IP for rice because it comes out nice and sticky, and you can make it ahead of time and just let it stay warm until you’re ready.

WEDNESDAY
Ragù on fettuccine, garlic bread

Damien started making his amazing ragù the night before, and this was the ragù that surpassed all previous ragùs. He uses this Deadspin recipe, and this time, he used a pound of pork, a pound of veal, and . . . hold onto your butts . . . a pound of pancetta, which he ground by hand.

He ran a bunch of onions, celery, and carrots through the food processor, and threw in a bunch of anchovies, wine, and olive oil, and a little tomato paste, and let it cook a good long time. I gained eleven pounds just smelling it.

It was fantastic.

I know it doesn’t look like much in this pic, but it’s one of those foods where the flavor just blooms inside your mouth. Can’t figure out if that’s a creepy thing to say or not, but it sure was exciting. Also, every time the kids asked what was for supper, I would sing out, “ra-GUUUUUUUUUU!” to the tune of Veggie Tales “Cebu,” and it really annoyed them. Ha ha!

THURSDAY
Pork ramen

Sometimes this gets pretty elaborate, but this time it was just cheapy ramen, some boneless pork ribs sautéed in olive oil with soy sauce and sliced, some sautéed mushrooms, chopped scallions, and soft boiled eggs. Oh, and crunchy noodles. Spicy sesame seeds and hot sauce.

I was starving, and this tasted like heaven. Salty, salty heaven.

FRIDAY
Tuna noodle for kids, possibly bouillabaisse for me.

I got some kind of frozen mixed seafood whatnot for like $4 a few weeks ago, and it’s calling to me.

Okay, that’s a wrap! Now, how about Christmas baking? Got anything good? I haven’t even thought about it yet, but I’ll probably make chocolate caramel nuts, which make good token presents. Here’s my post with a photo guide to the recipe from Smitten Kitchen. You really need a photo guide, because it goes through something like eleven alarming stages before things turn out fine at the end. This post includes links to other helpful basic December recipes, including fudge, nut brittle, buckeyes, and rum balls.

Hanukkah is over, but that’s no reason not to make rugelach, so here is my recipe and photo guide for that.

Finally, if you feel like you have to decorate cookies, here is a recipe for sugar cookie dough that you do not have to refrigerate. You can also use this dough recipe for beautiful stained glass cookies, which always impress. This post has some photos of the process.

 

Stuffed shells

Just a basic recipe. You can add meat to the sauce or spinach to the cheese, or anything that strikes your fancy. Serves about 10.

Ingredients

  • 2 12-oz boxes jumbo shells
  • 2 32-oz tubs ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp dried basil
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 4-5 cups pasta sauce

Instructions

  1. Cook the shells in salted water, drain, and rinse in cool water. Mix them up with olive oil so they don't stick together.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350. Mix into the ricotta cheese all the seasoning, the parmesan, and 3 of the cups of mozzarella.

  3. Spread a little sauce in the bottom of an oven-proof pan or dish. Stuff each shell with about 1/2-1/3 cup of cheese filling and lay the stuffed shells close together.

  4. Top with the rest of the pasta sauce, and sprinkled the remaining mozzarella on top of that. Cover loosely with foil and cook for 45 minutes or longer, until it's bubbly. 

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?