What’s for supper? Vol. 206: Thank God for canned tomatoes.

Let’s talk about food! Hope you have plenty at your house. Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Brats, chips, strawberries

Damien boils the brats in beer and onions, then browns them up with more onions. Some of the kids eat theirs with still further, raw onions, but I feel that is too many onions. 

SUNDAY
Braised Pork All’arrabbiata, garlic parmesan mashed potatoes, salad, grapes

Someone mentioned this recipe on Twitter, and I happened to have two hunks of panic pork picnic in the fridge, aging rapidly. So I hacked it up and cooked it, and MAN IT WAS GOOD. 

You brown the hunks of pork with salt and pepper, then cook up some onions, tomato paste, garlic, red pepper flakes, red wine, and diced tomatoes on the stovetop, then put it all in the oven for a few hours until the pork is tender. 

Jump to Recipe

This is one of those recipes where you could really subsist on the smell alone. Fabulous. Nice and easy, too, and cheap if you can get pork cheap. The red pepper gives it a little dazzle up front, but it’s not super spicy, just very rich and warming. Of course you could adjust it to make it hotter.

I went with parmesan garlic mashed potatoes, which I somehow have never made before. They were a big hit. I put smashed garlic cloves right in with the water to boil the potatoes, and then mashed them along. 

Jump to Recipe

Check it out: I says to myself, I say, HOW WOULD IT BE if we were to put a layer of pork all’arrabbiata in a casserole dish, sprrrrread some garlic parmesan mashed potatoes on that, sprinkle it with a bit more cheese, and slide the whole thing into a medium oven to think about what’s it’s done until the top is nicely browned? I think it would be wonderful. 

I know people use pork arrabbiata as a sauce for pasta, but that just doesn’t appeal to me. I think it would be great with egg noodles, though. Or on toast!

MONDAY
Asian meatballs, rice, steamed broccoli

I just love these tasty little meatballs. I had plenty of scallions and fresh garlic, which I chopped pretty coarsely, and I added some extra soy sauce. The only other ingredients are crushed Ritz crackers, kosher salt, and pepper. And ground beef, yes. 

An easy, quick meal that just about everyone likes. I make a nice little dipping sauce, half soy sauce and half mirin, to give it a little extra zing. Damien prefers his with sriracha. These are flavorful enough that you could use ground turkey, if you really needed to, what with the war on and all, and they would still be good. 

We had it with white rice and some broccoli which I’ll call “steamed,” but it was really drowned. I am not used to cooking frozen veg!

TUESDAY
Chicken quesadillas

I actually skipped the chicken for mine and just had cheddar and jalapeños. Not my finest frying effort; whatcha gonna do. 

I made the chicken by sprinkling it lavishly with chili lime powder and cooking it very slowly in oil, then slicing it up. I know I bought tortilla chips at some point, but they had disappeared off the face of the earth. I said I would slice up some sweet peppers, but I did not. 

WEDNESDAY
Omelettes and challah

I offered the choice of sausage, pepper jack cheese, or both. Then someone leaked the news that we also had cheddar, and there was a panic. I guess there has to be a panic about something. 

The challah turned out great!

Jump to Recipe

 

I made a double recipe, enough for two huge loaves, and my poor old mixer is getting so old and wobbly, I was afraid I would break it, so I pulled the dough out to knead by hand. Man, I am weak. That was exhausting. I eventually gave up long before it reached the required “feels like a boob” stage, cut the dough in half, and threw it back into the mixer a batch at a time, but I still rushed it a bit, and set the dough to rise when it was still pretty knobbly. 

But like I said, it turned out great! I was most pleased.

It looks flat in this picture, but in real life, it was most pneumatic. 

Look at the sheen on that crust. 

I made exactly two nice, tidy omelettes, and the next ten looked like they were the best I could offer with my broken arm (I do not have a broken arm).

THURSDAY
Pizza

Two pepperoni, two olive, one plain. And them’s the facts. I used the leftover sauce Damien made last week. 

FRIDAY

Pasta again, I believe. This pandemic is taking on a distinct canned tomato flavor. 

 

braised pork all'arrabbiata

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs pork, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 medium onions, diced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 5 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 28-oz cans diced tomatoes with juice
  • more salt and pepper if needed

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325.

  2. Salt and pepper the pork chunks. In a heavy pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil and brown the pork on all sides. Do it in shifts if necessary, to make sure all the pork gets browned.

  3. Remove the pork from the oil and set it aside. Add the diced onions to the oil and cook a few minutes until soft.

  4. Add the minced garlic, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, a few minutes more.

  5. Add the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce becomes thick.

  6. Add the diced tomatoes with juice and combine with the sauce. Put the pork back in and stir so it's all coated with sauce.

  7. Put a lid on, or cover tightly with tinfoil, and put the pot in the oven for at least two hours, until the pork is very tender and stew-like.

  8. When the pork is done, the sauce should be thick, not liquidy. If necessary, simmer on the stovetop to cook off the excess liquid.

  9. If the pork is very fatty, shove the pork to one side of the pot, let the fat collect on one end, and drain it out with a spoon.

  10. Serve with parmesan mashed potatoes.

 

Garlic parmesan mashed potatoes

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs potatoes
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 8 Tbsp butter
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 8 oz grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Peel the potatoes and put them in a pot. Cover the with water. Add a bit of salt and the smashed garlic cloves.

  2. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer with lid loosely on until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.

  3. Drain the water out of the pot. Add the butter and milk and mash well.

  4. Add the parmesan and salt and pepper to taste and stir until combined.

Vaguely Asian meatballs with dipping sauce

Very simple meatballs with a vaguely Korean flavor. These are mild enough that kids will eat them happily, but if you want to kick up the Korean taste, you can serve them with dipping sauces and pickled vegetables. Serve with rice.

Servings 30 large meatballs

Ingredients

  • 2.5 lbs ground beef
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed finely
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup minced garlic
  • 2 bunches scallions, chopped (save out a bit for a garnish)
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp ground pepper

For dipping sauce:

  • mirin or rice vinegar
  • soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.

  2. Mix together the meat and all the meatball ingredients with your hands until they are well combined. Form large balls and lay them on a baking pan with a rim.

  3. Bake for about 15 minutes.

  4. Serve over rice with dipping sauce and a sprinkle of scallions.

Challah (breaded bread)

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 204: Get yer carnal desires here

Here please insert a joke about carnitas, carnal desires during Lent, incarnation, whatever. 

SATURDAY
Waffles, scrambled eggs, sausages, hash browns, OJ

Nice and easy. 

SUNDAY
Carnitas, pico de gallo, guacamole and chips, honey sriracha pineapple

This is a recipe from John Herreid, who posted it as an extra on his Facebook art account, J.R.’s Art Place, which you should definitely be following. He shares a very wide range of fine art, things you’ve never seen before, often with illuminating or amusing little tidbits of information. You should follow it!

The carnitas recipe was very easy. You just chunk up some pork, sprinkle it with salt, pepper, and oregano, and cook it in a pot with a cup of oil and Mexican Coke or some other soda containing cane syrup; and orange wedges, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves, and simmer for several hours. Take out everything but the meat and cook it a bit longer, until it gets a dark, glazey crust. Then shred it and you’re set. John’s recipe said to drain it, but the meat I made had absorbed just about all the liquid by the time it was done. 

Oh my land, the smell. 

It just got better and better, and the flavor was intense and wonderful. 

I couldn’t find Mexican Coke and ended up using root beer, so it had a sort of anise-y tinge to it. Most definitely making this recipe again. 

I made up a big batch of simple pico de gallo

 

Jump to Recipe

 

and also a big batch of guacamole.

 

Jump to Recipe

 

Fantastic meal. I had resorted to cooking bland pork and seasoning it after shredding, because I just couldn’t seem to get much flavor into the meat itself. Those days are gone, my friends. 

I served one pineapple raw and just grilled (actually broiled) a few pieces, because Lena and I are the only ones who really like it, and I suspect Lena’s just being polite. I made a little sauce of olive oil, honey, and sriracha, and rolled the pineapple spears around in it, then put them under the broiler, turning once, for a few minutes. 

You get a little caramelization on the charred ends, and it’s just nice. 

 

Jump to Recipe

 

MONDAY
Hot dogs, potato salad, string beans

A few of my kids are pretty passionate about potato salad. So I made some, partly to assuage my guilt for serving hot dogs. Then I ruined everything by accidentally drowning it in pepper. 

It wasn’t actually ruined, but it kind of separated the men from the boys.

I don’t really have a potato salad recipe. I throw a few whole eggs in with the potatoes to boil. I made a dressing out of mayo, apple cider vinegar, salt, and of course pepper. I like it with diced red onion and celery or even some diced pickles, and fresh dill, but no one else likes any of those things, the monsters. At least I managed to make a sane amount this time around, so it was gone by day 2, rather than lingering around getting icy in the back of the fridge and then getting thrown out by a wrathful child who is the onnnnnnnly one who ever throws things away around here. 

TUESDAY
Spaghetti and meatballs, fresh bread

I sort of got tricked into making bread.

 

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Lena is home from college this week, and she and Corrie made some plans over the weekend to make bread. I said Tuesday would be a good day, since we’re having spaghetti. But when it came down to it, Corrie didn’t really want to stop watching Scooby Doo, so it was left to Lena, who doesn’t actually know how to make bread. So I showed her, but I had to keep leaving the house and shouting vague instructions as I went out the door. The upshot was that the rising loaves got moved around from pan to pan a lot, which is not something that rising loaves enjoy. So we ended up with some rather dense, earthy bread. 

You know what, fresh, hot bread is fresh, hot bread! No ragrets. 

Oh, the meatballs:

Jump to Recipe

WEDNESDAY
Pizza

Tuesday’s meal was really a ruse to make leftover meatball pizza on Wednesday. Meatball pizza is unreasonably delicious. 

THURSDAY
Chicken tortilla soup

I really like this recipe, which I have adapted from Two Sleevers.

 

Jump to Recipe

 

You make a puree in the blender or food processor

(uh, it might be smarter to do this in batches)

then cook the puree up in oil for a bit, add the water and chicken, and pressure cook it. (Of course you can easily adapt this for the stove top; just simmer, rather than pressing buttons.) Fish out the chicken, shred it,

and throw it back in, and there it is. I wish I had cooked the puree a little longer to develop the flavor, but it was still pleasantly spicy and warming.

Tortilla soup is, um, supposed to have tortillas in it. You’re supposed to use corn tortillas, which thicken the soup up. But I just don’t like corn tortillas. They taste bad and sour and gritty to me. So instead, I made spicy, crunchy flour tortilla strips and put them on as a topping, along with sour cream, shredded cheese, scallions, and cilantro. I really wanted avocados, which I used up making guacamole earlier in the week, but I had this overwhelming, passionate need not to stop at Aldi on a Thursday afternoon. 

Oh no, you’re onto me, I’m not a real Mexican! 

I made the tortilla strips by cutting them into slices, drizzling them with olive oil and sprinkling them generously with Tajín chili lime seasoning, which is just chili powder, sea salt, and dehydrated lime juice, so if you can’t find it in stores because of COVID-19, you can easily make your own by running some limes through your dehydrator three days previously and then pulverizing it with your butt. Write this down, it’s important. Then you spread them on a pan and bake them slowly in a medium oven, stirring occasionally, and then you burn them. Every. Single. Damn. Time. 

Everyone still liked them, though. 

FRIDAY
Tuna noodle

Today is Elijah’s birthday. His birthday almost always lands in Lent, but this year is special, as it’s a Friday in Lent. Also, he has to stay after school to do some work with his math teacher. It’s hard out there for an Elijah. We’ll whoop it up on Sunday, though. 

 

 

Pico De Gallo

quick and easy fresh dip or topping for tacos, etc.

Ingredients

  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced OR 1/2 serrano pepper
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/8 cup lime juice
  • dash kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Mix ingredients together and serve with your favorite Mexican food

 

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

Spicy honeyed pineapple with ice cream

You could drizzle this with a caramel rum sauce and maybe sprinkle with pralines, but it's good just with fruit and ice cream, too. You can also serve the pineapple as a side dish (without ice cream!) for many Mexican foods.

Ingredients

  • 1 pineapple, cut into spears or rings
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • sriracha sauce to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler; or, if grilling outside, let coals die down.

    Mix olive oil, honey, and a few dashes of sriracha sauce, and slather the sauce all over the prepared pineapple.

    Spread in single layer on pan or over grill and cook, turning once, until it's slightly charred. 

    Serve hot with a scoop of ice cream. 

 

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. 

 

French bread

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

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

  6. Butter some large pans. Sprinkle them with cornmeal if you like. You can also line them with parchment paper. Lay the loaves on the pans and give each one several diagonal slashes with a sharp knife. This will allow the loaves to rise without exploding.

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

  8. Put the pans in the oven and throw some ice cubes in or spray some water in with a mister, and close the oven quickly, to give it a nice crust.

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

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

Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup

Adapted from twosleevers.com. This is a very flavorful chicken soup. It has a little hotsy totsy burst of spice with the first taste, and then the more complex flavors come through slowly. Magic.

It's fairly brothy, and then you heap up all the garnishes you want on top.

This is a little over a gallon of soup.

Ingredients

  • 2 med onions
  • 1 lb (4 medium) tomatoes
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 3 chiles in adobo sauce plus some of the sauce
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (include seeds for more heat)
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • water
  • salt to taste
  • garnishes: avocado slices, sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, tortilla strips, chopped scallions

Instructions

  1. Cut the onions and tomatoes into chunks so they will fit in the blender or food processor. Put the onions, tomatoes, jalapeño, chili pepper and sauce, garlic and cilantro into a blender or food processor and blend it until it's a thick sauce. You may need to do it in batches, or just keep poking the big pieces down so everything gets blended in.

  2. Add enough oil to the Instant Pot pot to cover the bottom. Press "sauté" and let the oil heat up for a few minutes.

  3. Pour in the tomato mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes, until any liquid is mostly absorbed. You may need to press "sauté" again to keep it hot.

  4. Cut the chicken breasts into pieces and put them in the pot. Add six cups of water.

  5. Close the top, seal the valve, and press "pressure cook," then the + button until it goes to 20 minutes. When it's done cooking, let it naturally release for 10 minutes, then release the remaining pressure manually.

  6. Open the top and fish out the chicken. Shred it and return it to the pot. Add salt to taste.

  7. Serve the soup with garnishes: avocado slices, sour cream, tortilla strips, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, and chopped scallions.

What’s for supper? Vol. 203: Custody of the pies

Every Lent, I try to work out how to write an entire post about food on Fridays without being a complete monster. I futzed around with some html code for a while, trying to get the food pictures to be blurred out with a button that says “remove custody of the eyes” that you can click to see the food, but it stopped being funny long before I figured it out. So here’s some food, you suffering bastards. 

SATURDAY
Turkey bacon wraps, mozzarella sticks and jalapeño poppers

This was popular last week, so I made it again, even though I know this is a tactical error. It could be the most fabulous dish in the world, but if you make it too often, it becomes loathed. Still in the grace period, though. 

I had mine on a multigrain wrap with smoked turkey, bacon, spinach, tomatoes, lacy Swiss, and horseradish sauce. Lots of good sharp flavors. But I have not yet figured out how to arrange the fillings for a wrap in such a way that they are both photogenic and in the right order for wrapping and eating. 

I also bought some miscellaneous frozen snacky things and heated them up. I have to say, Aldi’s bacon has improved immensely in flavor, but their version of jalapeño poppers is nothing to write home about. The texture is bad and it just tastes harsh and slimy. No bueno. 

SUNDAY
Linguine with clam sauce, homemade bread, salad that nobody touched

I made Pioneer Woman’s recipe. It sure is easy, and it’s pretty cheap for a fancy-tasting meal, even if you use fresh lemons and parsley and heavy cream (which you should). Specially yummy with freshly-grated parmesan cheese, which Fishers can have for a treat. 

With some trepidation, I made French bread, hoping against hope that my initial success with this recipe wasn’t just a fluke. It wasn’t! The bread turned out lovely. I made up a recipe card for four loaves, with a few adaptations and reassurances. 

Jump to Recipe

I didn’t score one loaf deeply enough, though, and the poor thing sploded. 

My father came over, bearing a used glockenspiel. Yes, he asked first, and yes, I said he should bring it over, and that we wanted it. We do! We’re just … taking a little glockenpause for a few days now.

Oh, I had my heart set on making mango royale for dessert, but my little plebes requested ice cream pie, instead.

We made it with graham cracker crusts, two kinds of ice cream, chocolate and strawberry and butterscotch sauce, Frozen II marshmallows, and of course blobs of store brand kool whip. It was, of course, delicious. 

MONDAY
Beef vegetable soup; hot pretzels

I thought the kids were still bananas about beef barley soup, but I got a wilting, “oh, okay” response when I told them I was making it, so I switched plans mid-shopping and decided to make minestrone, but with beef. So it had onions, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, wine, pasta shells, beef, and mushrooms. The result was hearty, but a little incoherent, and the broth was thinner than I would like. 

Next time I’ll add some tomato paste and probably skip the mushrooms, and add peas. I wrote up a recipe card incorporating the changes I’ll make next time. 

Jump to Recipe

I sold it by calling it “Little Bear Birthday Soup.” 

This is the exact look I had on my face while I was serving it, too.

It went over okay. There was leftover bread and also hot pretzels. 

TUESDAY
Mardi Gras, and Corrie’s birthday!

We killed two birds with one stone and went to Chili’s. The original plan was to go to one of those Japanese restaurants where they put on a little show and cook things right on the table in front of you, but when I asked one of the kids if she wanted to go there, she said she wasn’t sure, because she doesn’t really like Italian food. So we went to Chili’s. 

The birthday girl ordered nothing but side dishes: Fries, steamed broccoli, mandarin oranges, and corn. 

We had a nice time! My kids may be goons, but they care about each other. 

And then sometimes spontaneously tell the entire plot of Gawain and the Green Knight while waiting for the food.

Then we came home and had some cake. Corrie had requested an Otis (from Milo and Otis) cake with a pink bow. 

I made the bow and tongue by putting Starbursts in the microwave for a few seconds, mooshing them into shape, adding details with a knife, and freezing them. I’ve been meaning and meaning to try my hand at fondant, but honestly, this seems just as good (as long as you can find the right colors), and it has to taste better. 

She was pleased with my efforts.

She was pleased, pleased, pleased all day long. 

She finally unwrapped the giant dinosaur we bought when it was on sale in December and have been hiding in our bedroom since then. We have a pretty small bedroom, and it also has a treadmill, a sewing machine, a folding desk, a heater, and miscellaneous heaps of garbage in it, so the oversized dinosaur was something of a trial for us all. I had to keep covering and re-covering it with a blanket, and it kept poking out. It got the point where Corrie would come in, see a piece of tail or snout sticking out, and go, “oops!” and cover it with a blanket herself, so it wouldn’t ruin the surprise. However, five-year-olds are magical and unpredictable creatures, and she was delighted with her surprise dinosaur, and promptly named it “Tall-y Tall.” 

The rule is that very intelligent, imaginative kids come up with profoundly dull names for their toys and pets. This is the way. (She also has a smaller dino named “Dino-dino.”)

Her other big present was a Super Corrie outfit she’s been longing for. I was up until 2 a.m., and there was a lot of this kind of thing

but I finished it, by gum! And she loves it. Her powers are Rainbow Powers and Flying (and, if you hit her in the right mood, really fast cleaning). 

(I hemmed it later in the day. I just needed to measure it first! The cape has a panel of sparkly blue down the back.)

Oh, here’s what I had at Chili’s. One of those miscellaneous American Buckets Of Shiny Food. It was good.

Ayyyy, Fat Tuesday. 

WEDNESDAY
Grilled cheese and cream of tomato soup

Ash Wednesday, of course. Grilled cheese and tomato soup from a can never tasted so good.

THURSDAY
Hamburgers with mushrooms, chips, veggies and hummus

Nothing much to report. I had a carton of mushrooms left over from the soup, so I sliced them up and sautéed them in olive oil for the burgers.

I, virtuous, skipped the chips. 

FRIDAY
Pahster, I guess.

We have been on vacation this week, but my car has been in the shop, lying back and having money poured into it, so we didn’t go anywhere or do anything, and anyway, the first week of Lent is always a tricky time to go vacationing. It was okay, though! The kids just lurked about harassing each other and throwing popcorn and orange peels on the floor, and it was kind of nice. I like those kids. I wish they would eat my soup, though. 

 

French bread

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

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

  6. Butter some large pans. Sprinkle them with cornmeal if you like. You can also line them with parchment paper. Lay the loaves on the pans and give each one several diagonal slashes with a sharp knife. This will allow the loaves to rise without exploding.

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

  8. Put the pans in the oven and throw some ice cubes in or spray some water in with a mister, and close the oven quickly, to give it a nice crust.

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

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

 

Instant Pot Everything Soup

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 med onion, diced
  • 3 carrots diced
  • 1 lb mushrooms, sliced
  • 28 oz canned diced tomatoes with juice
  • 2 small cans tomato paste
  • 2.5 lbs chuck roast
  • 1.5 cups red wine
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 3 med potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 cups water
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Put the onions, carrots, and olive oil in the pot and press "sauté" and then the "+" button until it reads 10 minutes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are slightly soft Add pepper to taste.

  2. Add beef and press "sauté" again, stirring occasionally until beef is slightly browned.

  3. Add the rest of the ingredients, including 3 cups of water. Stir to combine the tomato paste. Close the top, seal the vent, and press "soup."

  4. Quick release, but be ready for a bit of spraying!

What’s for supper? Vol. 198: In which I do not die

Sorry about the dearth of posts this week. I’ve been busily tapping away at other stuff that will bob to the surface eventually. Also I thought I was dying, which was distracting. (Spoiler: I did not die.)

On Monday I stopped being able to ignore these chest pains and unexplained swelling that sounded a lot like some very un-fun heart attack/lethal blood clot nonsense, so with my family history, I chewed up some aspirin and had a kid drive me to the ER. My heart is okay, thanks be to God. I think it is stress, which is embarrassing, but there it is. So now I have to do these fricken breathing exercises like a stupid hippie. 

Nobody said I had to stop eating like someone who’s trying to induce a heart attack, though.  Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Buffalo chicken with salad

This is quickly becoming my new fast and easy but not-quite-junk-food meal (which means that the family is quickly becoming sick and tired of it). It’s mixed greens topped with shredded carrots, crumbled blue cheese, crunchy fried onions from a pouch, and buffalo chicken from frozen, drizzled with buffalo ranch dressing. 

Quite a nice combination, sharp and yummy, but there’s an actual salad involved, so, santo subito

SUNDAY
Bacon, eggs, Brussels sprouts; homemade french bread

One of my favorite one-pan meals, and it’s so easy.

Jump to Recipe

You just have to cut up a bunch of Brussels sprouts and cut up a bunch of raw bacon, stir up a quick balsamic honey sauce, mix it all together, and cook it all in a big sheet pan. Shortly before it’s done, you crack some eggs on top and cook it a little longer, then top it with parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes.

SO GOOD. These flavors together are just so cozy and savory. 

Every time I make this dish, I say it needs fresh, warm bread, so this time I went for it.

I was feeling peppy after a successful faith formation class (we acted out the visit of the magi and the flight to Egypt. You should have seen that little star of Bethlehem waving and waving and waving her hands. Here’s the baby! Here He is! It was adorable) and didn’t need to do anything right away, so it was a good time. I chose this french bread recipe, which looked reasonable. I haven’t made french bread for something like ten years, and I was very nervous about the yeast. 

Someone told it’s better if the water is a little too cool, rather than too hot. So I erred on coolness and gave it almost 20 minutes to foam, and it foamed!  Hooray! The rest was pretty easy. I used the dough hook on my standing mixer to do the kneading for me, so it came out plenty smooth. And the idiots who designed my kitchen built a cabinet and countertop over the heating vent. We’ve since torn out the cabinets, but there is still a little makeshift shelf there, so I have the perfect warm, protected dough-rising spot.

So I let it rise in the bowl, then formed the loaves (I made a double recipe, so I had four big loaves) and let them rise, and slashed them after the second rise. Then I went out of the room for a minute. When I came back, one of my children was leaning on the loaf with her elbow. Just . . . .leaning on it. And it wasn’t like, “Oops, oh no, my goodness, I can’t believe I leaned in your dough!” It was more like, “Yeah, I can see spending my life here. What’s she yelling about now?” 

Anyway. I reformed the loaf, even if it’s not possible to do that with the child.

This recipe calls for tossing some ice cubes into the oven along with the bread, to put moisture in there and give it a nice crust.

I thought it came out a little soft and pale for my liking, but I didn’t want to over bake it and dry it out; so I melted some butter and brushed that on. They were so glossy and golden and lovely, I just about died, I was so proud of myself.

The taste was a little bland, which is okay, since the purpose of this bread was so sop up the spectacularly flavorful balsamic-honey-bacon-egg yolk pan drippings of the meal. 

Sorry, one last bread picture. I made bread!

I don’t feel confident enough to write up my own recipe card yet, but I’ll try this a few more times and then get that going. Yay, bread!

MONDAY
Domino’s

So this was the day I decided I was actually dying, and not from bread pride, so instead of the planned meal, we ordered pizza. And yes, I pulled off my cardiac electrodes, put my back shirt on, came home, and ate cold pepperoni pizza standing up. We die like Americans.

TUESDAY
Chicken quesadillas and guacamole 

Broiled some chicken in the oven, well crusted with salt, pepper, chili powder, and cumin, and sliced it up, then sliced up a ton of cheese, and fixed a big bowl of guacamole. The rest of the day is a bit of a blur. I think I went to bed and Damien made quesadillas. 

I do remember how remarkably perfect the avocados were, though. I bought them on Saturday and chose exactly the right day to cut them up. Aren’t they lurvely?

The guacamole was not, to be honest, my very best. I should have mashed them avocados more, cut the tomatoes smaller, and juiced some more limes. Still tasty, though. 

 

Jump to Recipe

WEDNESDAY
Bacon cheeseburgers, Doritos

Wednesday was, despite his best efforts, Damien’ birthday, and he requested that he be allowed to shop for and cook this meal. What a prima donna, right? We also had stuffed clams, because why not. (Here I would like to remind you that the doctor said my heart is entirely healthy and all my numbers are good. I only ate half a bacon cheeseburger, though, because I was full of stuffed clams.)

Now the kids are supposed to stop harassing me about being older than Damien, as we are now both 45, but they have not stopped. 

THURSDAY
Pulled pork sandwiches, tater tots, coleslaw

Easy peasy. I bought one of those giant shrink wrapped sandworm pork hunks at Aldi and chonked it in the slow cooker with some beer and hot pepper flakes, and let it cook all day. Shredded it and mixed it up with a bottle of BBQ sauce

and let that warm up while I made coleslaw

Jump to Recipe

 

which we ate by the light of the it’s-still-Christmas lights.

We also had the birthday dessert I had purchased on Wednesday but which we were all too stuffed to eat. This is what you get when you can’t say what you really want for your birthday. You get this:

No, he doesn’t especially like Raisinets.

Not pictured: Two kinds of ice cream, fresh whipped cream, hot fudge, and cherries. 

FRIDAY
Grilled cheese and tomato soup. 

Tomato soup from a can, I say! *shakes fist whats-for-supperly*

Recipe cards below!

Bacon, eggs, and brussels sprouts in honey garlic balsamic sauce

Adapted from Damn Delicious.  An easy and tasty one-pan meal that would work for any meal. Great with a hearty bread like challah. 

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 3 lbs uncooked bacon, cut into 1- or 2-inch pieces
  • 18 eggs
  • oil for greasing pan
  • salt and pepper to taste

Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed

Garnish (optional):

  • parmesan cheese, grated
  • red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Grease two large oven sheets. 


  2. Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Mix Brussels sprouts and bacon together, spread evenly in pans, and pour sauce all over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

  3. Cook until bacon is almost done (almost as crisp as you like it) and Brussels sprouts are very slightly browned, 18-20 minutes.

  4. Pull the pans out of the oven and carefully crack the eggs onto the Brussels sprouts and bacon, here and there.

  5. Return pan to the oven and cook a few minutes longer, just enough to set the eggs. The yolks will get a little film over the top, but don't let them cook all the way through, or you'll have something resembled hard boiled eggs, which isn't as good. You want the yolks to be liquid so you can dip forkfuls of fod into it.

  6. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes and serve. 

 

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

 

Coleslaw

Ingredients

  • 1 head cabbage, shredded
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 5 radishes, grated or sliced thin (optional)

Dressing

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 cup cider or white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Mix together shredded vegetables. 
    Mix dressing ingredients together and stir into cabbage mix. 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 122: Why is Walmart garlic powder taking over the world?

The theme this week was “very basic ingredients.” The most exotic seasoning to pass through my hands all week was garlic powder. Part of the New Three Sisters: salt, pepper, and garlic powder. And you know what? We ate really well. We had some snow days, so I even baked!

SATURDAY
Roast beef sandwiches, chips, strawberries

Chuck roast was as cheap as it ever gets around here, so I got a five-pound hunk. Damien coated it with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and browned it in a heavy pot in oil until it was crisp on all sides, then put it in the oven at 350 for about an hour. We like it rare, as you see.

We had it on rolls with horseradish sauce and slices of provolone, and I put mine in the oven to melt dat cheese.


Man. Pork is great, chicken is swell, but there is nothing like a slice of rare beef. It’s just what meat is supposed to taste like.

***

SUNDAY
Salmon burgers, asparagus, fries

I wrestled with my conscience for a while, then graciously conceded and  bought a crap ton of salmon filets that were on sale because it’s “the Lenten holiday.”

Here’s the cooking technique: Dry the filets and salt them lightly. Heat up a pan like crazy, coat the bottom with oil, and lay the filets down, skin side down. Let them cook more than halfway up, then carefully turn them over, and cook for a few more minutes. Serve sizzling hot.

I served them on soft, sweet little brioche rolls, because they too were on sale. A good companion to the tender fish, with pesto mayonnaise (my recipe: put pesto in mayonnaise) and some lettuce.

Veddy good.

MONDAY
Hot dogs, cheezy weezies, broccoli

I forget what happened Monday, but it wasn’t pretty.

TUESDAY
Meatball subs, salad

Birthday! Like fresh meat needs salt, a fourteen-year-old boy needs meatball subs on his birthday. I took seven pounds of ground beef and added seven beaten eggs, about four cups of breadcrumbs, and tons garlic powder, salt, pepper, oregano, and minced onion.

I bake them at 350 for about forty minutes or more on a pan with drainage. See how much fat gets drained away? So easy.

Then I layer them in a glass pan with sauce, cover, and keep them warm for several hours, so the sauce has a chance to soak in a bit. Pass the parmesan.

WEDNESDAY
Roman egg drop soup, roast chicken, salad, challah

We had yet another storm, and for other complicated and boring reasons were homebound all day; so I decided to make challah. I am a terrible baker, but challah is easy, as long as you have lots of time and a warm spot in your house.

Here’s the recipe I used. I doubled it to make two giant loaves:

In a bowl, I mixed together:
6 cups bread flour
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp salt

Then I added:
2 beaten eggs
1/2 cup canola oil

In a small bowl, I put
1-1/2 cups warm water
and dissolved into it one envelope of fast-acting yeast.
Then I mixed this into the other ingredients.

I tried kneading it in my Kitchen Aid with the dough hook, but it was just too much dough (remember, I made a double recipe. If you make a single, this method should work fine), so I had to knead it by hand. I hate kneading dough, and always give up too soon. The dough should be smooth, but very thick and not sticky at all. You may have to add more water or more flour. My dough was still kind of knotty when I got tired of kneading.

I put plastic wrap (you can also use a damp cloth) on the bowl of dough and put it in the oven to rise. (I have a cold kitchen, so to let dough rise, I turn the oven on for a few minutes, then turn it off, let it cool a bit with the door open, and then put the dough in.)

I let it rise for maybe an hour, then punched it down and formed the loaves. For each loaf, I divided the dough into four balls which we rolled into long snakes. We braided three of the snakes, pinching the ends together, and then divided the fourth one into three again, braiding those, and laying the smaller braid on top of the larger one.

Then I laid the loaves on a buttered, floured pan (I prefer corn meal to flour, but we were out), covered them again, and let them rise again for another hour or so.

Then I took the loaves out, preheated the oven to 350, and prepared an egg wash with a few egg yolks and a little water beaten up in a cup. We brushed that over the dough.

We were out of poppy seeds, or we would have sprinkled those over the top. And yes, I made Corrie put a shirt on just for the picture.

Then I baked the loaves in the middle of the oven for maybe half an hour, until the top was all golden.

Isn’t it lovely, hmmmm?

The insides were a little dense,

I suppose because I got lazy with kneading; but it was still soft and delicious. Sweet and eggy, and so fragrant. Coziest bread in the world.

The egg drop soup is a new recipe to me. Basically you take chicken broth, add some spinach, and then mix together raw egg and shredded cheese, and then whisk that briskly into the broth. It’s very cheap and simple, so I hoped it would become a miraculous new family favorite.

Instead, I got what looked remarkably like a warm pot o’ vomit.

The eggs are supposed to turn into delicate, wispy shreds when you whisk them into the broth. Mine clumped. Also, I used frozen spinach, which turned out to be in shreds. Then I overheated it, and the egg mixture kind of boiled up to the surface and got clotty.

I don’t know about you, but I prefer my soup non-clotty. Just one of my peculiarities.

It did look better in individual bowls.

The taste was actually pleasant, if not thrilling. It reminded me of quiche, or of my grandmother’s noodle kugel. If anyone has any tips on how to make them eggs shred, I may even make it again. It certainly is fast, easy, and cheap. JUST LIKE ME. Womp.

The chickens, I just slathered with olive oil and sprinkled with salt, pepper, and, you’ll never guess, garlic powder. I cooked them in a 375 oven, breast down, for forty minutes, then flipped them over, seasoned the other side, and kept cooking them until they were done. You get more tasty skin this way.

I hate cooking whole chickens, and I don’t even know why. Oh shucks, the challah got into the picture again! That keeps happening. Hello, lovely! I see you!

THURSDAY
Pork ribs, risotto, Brussels sprouts

Sometimes, it’s nice to just let pork be pork. You put the ribs on a pan with drainage, sprinkle them generously with salt and pepper (but not garlic powder. Let’s not be silly), and slide them under a hot broiler, turning once, until they are sizzling. So good.

The Brussels sprouts were just boiled from frozen, so not the greatest, but on the other hand, vegetable.

I’ve decided 2018 is officially a good year because I can now make Instant Pot risotto without checking the recipe. Here’s how (and this serves about 10. You can halve it):

Press the “sauté” button and add a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add a diced onions and a few teaspoons of minced garlic, plus a bunch of salt, pepper, and sage. Brown the onions.

Add four cups of raw rice, still on “sauté.” Keep stirring the rice with a wooden spoon until it’s all opaque, about five minutes. Then add eight cups of chicken broth, stir it up, put on the lid, close the valve, and set it to “pressure cook” on “high” for seven minutes.

When you suddenly notice it’s been done for a while while you were gooning around on Facebook, do a quick release, and then dump in as much parmesan cheese as your conscience will allow. I find it’s helpful to say to oneself, “This is the last time I will ever eat parmesan cheese. I wonder how much I should add?” and then see what happens.

Stir in the cheese carefully and serve immediately. Then, if your rotten, no-good son ever gets around to sending you the picture you took with his phone, you can post a picture of it.

EDIT: Oh, what a good boy.

About the risotto: Someone asked if I use regular rice instead of arborio. I do! Just plain old white rice. It doesn’t turn out as good as arborio rice, but it’s still very, very good. And food you actually make always tastes better than food you can’t afford to buy.

FRIDAY
Spaghetti

Done-zo.

What’s for supper? Vol. 119: It is almost March.

Well, it’s February and everything is terrible. That’s my excuse for letting things languish around here. Someone spilled something on my computer again, and the quick and easy warranty process only took eleven steps and nine years to complete. Everyone is throwing up. Corrie is hallucinating sad gazebos in the heating vent, and won’t drink Pedialyte or breast milk, only tonic water (Schweppes). If I were in charge of the liturgical calendar, I would put Lent in a month where it wasn’t already so bloody obvious that everything will return dust, but what do I know. Anyway, soon it will be March. Right? Soon?

And, now that I have a computer again, we’ll have our podcasts up and running again asap. Thanks for your patience with that. We’ll also be transferring archives to iTunes and opening them up for non-subscribers, so stay tuned, you stay-tuners!

And now for the food.

SATURDAY
Cheeseburgers and chips

Husband makes good cheeseburgers.

SUNDAY
Pork banh mi, rice, spicy grilled pineapple

I’ve been thinking about banh mi forever, and the time was right. The recipe I used calls for beef, but pork is cheaper, and pork takes on more of the flavor. For this meal, I go around warning everyone that it smells like the Grim Reaper’s jock strap while it’s cooking, but the taste is really very good! This will demonstrate my marketing skills.

I took about four pounds of boneless pork loin, trimmed the fat, and sliced it as thin as I could. Then (this was actually Saturday night that I did this prep work) I put it in a ziplock bag with the marinade, which was:

2/3 cup fish sauce (this is where the “death crotch” smell comes in)
8 Tbs sugar
6 Tbs minced garlic
one onion, minced
a bunch of freshly-ground pepper

So this marinated about twenty hours in the fridge. I also pickled some vegetables ahead of time. I sliced about half a pound of carrots and two long, seedless cukes thin, and set them in jars with a mixture of water, white vinegar, and sugar. I wish I had added more sugar, and I kind of wish I had left the cukes unpickled. There were so many savory, spicy flavors, the sandwiches could have used more cooling.

Before dinner, I spread the meat and most of the marinade in a single layer and slid it right up under a very hot broiler. I turned the meat once so it got a little charred on the edges.

I toasted a bunch of sub rolls, and coarsely chopped a bunch of cilantro; and I mixed about a tablespoon of Sriracha sauce into a cup of mayonnaise. I also set out plain mayo, and some jarred jalapeno slices.

Sublime sandwiches. Just the best. You line the bread with mayo, pack it with pork, then stuff the pickled vegetables in the sides, and sprinkle cilantro over the top. If you do the prep work the night before, this meal comes together in a very short time.

I also made a bunch of white rice in my Instant Pot (affiliate link. I’ll make a small commission if you click through and buy one!), using the 1:1 method. (I took five cups of rice and rinsed it clean in a colander, then put them in the IP with five cups of water. Close the top, close the vent, and press the “rice” button. It automatically sets the time, and this rice comes out springy and a little sticky, which is how I prefer it for asian meals.)

The pineapple was pretty good, not excellent. I’ll try again in the summer, when we can use a real outdoor grill. I sliced two pineapples (does everyone know the easy way to process fresh pineapple?) into long spears, then tossed them with a sweet, spicy sauce made of 3/4 of a stick of melted butter, about half a cup of honey, and about a tablespoon of Sriracha sauce, and a little salt. Next time, I will use olive oil instead of butter, and maybe less honey.

I put them on a greased pan with drainage and put them up under the broiler while we were putting the sandwiches together. It took much longer than I expected for the pineapple to get singed — maybe twelve minutes, after I turned them once.

I liked the flavor a lot, and the slightly firey honey taste was a great accompaniment to the banh mi; but they got a little too soft during that cooking time. As I say, next time we’ll cook them over the coals. They were not bad cold the next day — almost candy-like. Weird, juicy candy.

The meal also made nice leftovers for lunch, with a bowl of rice topped with meat and veggies warmed up. Yum.

MONDAY
Beef barley soup, pesto beer bread

I diced an onion and about five carrots, then put them in the IP with about a tablespoon of minced garlic, some olive oil, salt, and pepper. I used the saute setting until they were a little soft, then added about a pound-and-a-half of cubed beef. When the beef was brown, I pressed “cancel,” then added two small cans of diced tomatoes with the juice, 3/4 of a pound of sliced mushrooms, a cup-and-a-half of red wine, and seven cups of beef broth. Then I added one of those little packets of mixed grains from Aldi, closed the lid, sealed the vent, and set it on high pressure for eleven minutes.

There is a “soup” button, but I’m too old to learn how to use it. Anyway, this turned out swell, and only got the one pot dirty. I left it on “stay warm” for the rest of the day.

I have had this little jar of pesto in the cabinet forever, so I decided to add it to this good old reliable beer bread recipe. I made two loaves. It was . . . okay. I guess I like pesto and I like beer bread, but they don’t do much for each other.

I mean, I ate it. I ate a lot of it.

TUESDAY
Fish tacos with guacamole, tortilla chips

Pretty guac, how I love thee. I could have eaten just guacamole for supper.  Four avocados coarsely chopped, about a cup of grape tomatoes, the juice of two limes, lots of salt, some chili powder and freshly-ground pepper, a few teaspoons of minced garlic, and maybe 1/3 cup of chopped cilantro. I only had jarred jalapenos, so I minced about 1/8 cup of them, and it worked out fine. I forgot onions, but didn’t really miss them. Zippy and good.

GUAC PIC

We also had shredded cabbage, sour cream, salsa, and lime wedges with frozen fish and flour tortillas.

WEDNESDAY
Hot dogs, tater tots

This was when the throwing really gathered speed.

THURSDAY
Chicken and salad, fresh croutons

Not everyone was sick, so we still needed food. I just doused the chicken in Italian salad dressing and shoved it under the broiler, sliced it, and served it with some bagged salad mix.

CHICKEN SALAD PIC

We had tons of bread left over from this and that, so I cut up a bunch of it into cubes, mixed it up with melted butter, salt, pepper, oregano, and garlic powder, and put it in a pan in a 300 oven for about forty minutes. Everybody likes croutons.

FRIDAY
Giant pancake and scrambled eggs

That’s what it says on the blackboard, anyway. We’ll see whose tummy is ready for that.

Oh, there was no food post last week, but I do have a few photos to share. The birthday girl went sledding with her friends, and then Elijah genially manned the hot chocolate bar when they got home.

Our hot chocolate recipe: For each mug of hot chocolate, you put into a heavy pot: one heaping tablespoon of cocoa powder and two heaping tablespoons of sugar, and stir it up with a little water. You heat this paste until the sugar melts a bit, and then slowly add the milk, plus a little vanilla if you like. I made two crock pots’ worth of hot chocolate, and the guests could choose whipped cream, marshmallows, and rainbow sprinkles.

Decorations were just paper snowflakes on threads, but I liked how the cake turned out. I frosted it with chocolate frosting, then laid a paper snowflake on it and used one of those squeeze sifters (affiliate link) to sift powdered sugar over it. Then I carefully pulled the paper off. Ta dah!

It would have been lovely as is, but the birthday girl requested little candy balls, so we added those on the edge. This stencil technique is great if you want a complicated design but have shaky hands. Whatever design you want, google that + silhouette, then print it out and cut it out carefully. Then go ahead with the frosting and sugar as above. Very dramatic, and almost no skill required.

I feel like there was something else I wanted to tell you, but now I forget. It is almost March, right?

Why you should care about gluten-free Communion—even if you eat wheat

After watching many secular media outlets butcher these very ready facts about gluten in the Eucharist, though, and after seeing educated Catholics retreat huffily into their corners, I began to wonder if I have a dog in this fight, after all. Maybe we all do. Because maybe this is not the first time we’ve seen some version of this fight.

Read the rest of my latest for America Magazine.

What’s for supper? Vol. 78: Hallelujah! Let’s eat!

Hooray, a Friday food post again! I actually spent last Friday, Good Friday, cooking and not tasting. IT WAS HARD. But I was way behind on Passover cooking, so that’s how it turned out.

Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY 

Holy Saturday is when we have our Passover seder. On the menu for the feast:
Chicken soup with matzo balls

The soup turned out much buttier than usual; no idea why. It’s supposed to be on the clear side, and “golden” (i.e. shimmering with fat). Tasted great, though.

Chopped liver


Gefilte fish (store bought) with horseradish


Charoset


Spinach pie


and Garlic cinnamon chicken and
A tiny bit of roast lamb (it hadn’t gone on sale yet!)

You can find recipes for all of the foods above in this post.

The only thing I intentionally made different this year was to cook the spinach pies in mini muffin tins, rather than in a pie plate. I just don’t think you should hear “pie” and then taste spinach and onions. (For some reason “spinach muffin” doesn’t trouble me.) I thought they were cute and tasty this way, and will make them this way again.

I didn’t have a meat grinder this year (but am eyeing this attachment for my Kitchen Aid), so I made the four pounds of chopped liver in small batches in the blender. This was not a gratifying experience. It wasn’t velvety smooth, but still delicious.

Dessert:
Chocolate walnut cake with apricot
Lemon sponge cake
Four kinds of macaroons (store bought)
Chocolate-covered jelly rings
Chocolate-covered halvah (sesame candy)
Sesame crunch candies
Pistachios and almonds
Chocolate caramel matzoh

I moaned and groaned over not having any fruit slice candy this year, but we survived.
Both cakes were from new recipes this year. The chocolate one had a nice flavor, but it was squashier than I would like. Pretty, though.


The lemon one also tasted fine, but man, it was dense. No sponge about it. I just don’t have a light touch with baking, and baking without flour or yeast is just asking for some really compact treats! I think I used the recipe on the side of the potato starch can.

***

SUNDAY
Seder leftovers!

And boy, there were plenty.  And of course hard boiled eggs, and a world of Easter candy.

***

MONDAY
Matzo brei, salami, dill pickles, grapes

Matzo brei is a weird little recipe that everyone should know. You take a sheet of matzo, break it into chunks in a bowl, and pour hot water over it. Let it sit for thirty seconds or so, and then press the water out. Then beat up two eggs, stir in the drained matzo, and fry the mixture up in some hot oil, turning once, until the edges are crisp.

You can serve it with jelly, you can serve it with salt and pepper and fried onions, whatever. It’s SO GOOD. Worth venturing into the Jewby aisle to get yourself a box of two of matzo, believe me.

***

TUESDAY
Beef banh mi

Remember when I asked how to make Easter last for fifty days? You could do worse than making a lot of banh mi, especially if you just happen to have a lot of leftover chopped liver in the house. These sandwiches were out of this world.

In the morning, I sliced up some carrots as thin as I could, then put them in a jar to pickle with some white vinegar, a little water, and some sugar.

Then I sliced the meat (I used London broil) pretty thin and put it in a bag to marinate, using this recipe. I let it go for about six hours. My husband cooked up the meat — well, first he ran out for more bread, because I burned the first batch while toasting it. Then he toasted more bread, and then he cooked up the meat in a single layer on a roasting pan under a hot broiler, just enough to blacken the edges a tiny bit.

So, the smell. This marinade calls for garlic, shallots, and fish sauce. Benny spent the dinner hour hiding under a fleece Our Lady of Guadalupe blanket and weeping because the house smelled “wike dog frow up.” Which, well, she wasn’t wrong, especially early in the cooking. But it tasted so good.

Toasted rolls with mayonnaise, lots of cilantro, pickled carrots, sliced cucumbers, the meat, and then chopped liver. Oh, my stars. The sweet, savory meat frolicking with the snappy, sour carrots, and the strong, bitey liver cuddling up to the cool cucumbers and cilantro. It was so good, it was almost indecent.

***

WEDNESDAY
Hot dogs, chips

I spent the afternoon sorting winter clothes to be stored away. Four hours from start to finish:

so the kids made hot dogs.

***

THURSDAY
Instant pot mac and cheese

I made a triple recipe of this in my Instant Pot (associates link). The hot sauce and mustard give it a good flavor. This is miles easier and faster than cooking the pasta, cooking the sauce, and then mixing them together and baking it. Also, this time, I read the directions more carefully and did not shoot a geyser of yellow cheese at the ceiling through the steam vent.

***

FRIDAY
Roast lamb, challah, maybe asparagus if I remember to get some

Today is Friday within the octave of Easter, or, as it’s traditionally known, Meatster Friday. Leg of lamb was at the astonishing price of $2.99 a pound, so I got a niiiiiice big one. Gonna stud it with slivered garlic and rosemary, slather it with white wine and honey, and roast it.

Gonna try out this challah recipe. Here’s a pic of the last time I made challah:

And now I’m running out to buy some yeast. Benny says, “Yeast makes everything rise! God thought of it! He thought of everything! He made friends and family! He made sisters and brothers! And cousins! Well . . . I’m not so sure about cousins.”

Sorry, cousins. I don’t know how you earned a place in Benny’s theodicy, but there it is.
Happy Easter! Happy Meatster! He is risen! Let’s eat.

What’s for supper? Vol. 9: Tortellini Entropy and Bread Machine Challah

whats for supper

My mother used to eat leftovers for lunch, and sometimes for breakfast. Her method was to take whatever she could find, put it in a pot, douse it with the salsa that she bought by the half-gallon, and stir until it was all hot and horrible. You may think that she did this just so she wouldn’t have to share it with her eight locust children, but she actually liked it that way!  Although there is that disconcerting thing that happens to you when you’ve been a mother for a while, when you honestly can’t remember if you like something, or if you’ve just put up with it until it feels familiar, and that’s close enough.

Question of the week: Do you have a crazy food combination that only you think is delicious?

SATURDAY
OMELETTES; HASH BROWNS

Omelettes (mushroom, leftover ham from last week, and cheese) and frozen hash browns, served with a shining lake of ketchup.

There are really only a few times when I feel like we have a really big family. When I stand over the counter cracking 36 eggs into a bowl is one of those times.

food blog eggs

I always catch myself thinking, “Why don’t they sell giant bulk egg?” I know they sell bags of frozen egg product, but can’t someone just make chickens bigger, so I can just be like, “I’ll take one egg, please, 48-oz. size, and a hammer. And this lamp, and that’s all I need.”

 

SUNDAY
HAMBURGERS; CHIPS; ICE CREAM SUNDAES

Hamburgers! Chips! Ice cream sundaes! I’m the best mother ever. Also I let them eat donuts

food blog donuts

 

and ice off the wading pool

 

food blog ice

 

MONDAY
SPINACH TOMATO TORTELLINI SOUP; QUICK GARLIC CHEESE BREAD

This meal had such promise. The soup (recipe from Damn Delicious) was very fast to throw together, but it would have tasted much better if we had eaten it right away. But I made it in the morning and let it simmer all day, out of soup habit, and by the time we ate it, tortellini entropy had set in, and the spinach was not a pleasant color. I’ll make this recipe again, but I won’t overcook it.

And next time I won’t BURN IT *sob*. So depressing. I kept telling myself I couldn’t really taste the burn, but people who can’t taste burn don’t have to say things like that to themselves.

Does this look burnt? WELL, IT IS.

Does this look burnt? WELL, IT IS.

 

The quick garlic cheese bread was quick, and it was bread. I know it was also garlic and cheese because I put those ingredients in with my own two paws, but you sure couldn’t taste either garlic or cheese. It’s good to know there is a quick bread that doesn’t taste like dessert, but I’ll keep looking for a different recipe.  And someday, oh someday, I will master the art of Mixing Batter All the Way Down, so I don’t get Surprise Flour.

 

food blog cheese bread

So these are my new silicone pans! They were $2.99 at Aldi. All my loaf pans are rusty and gross, so I thought this would be a good time to find out if silicone is really so great. So far so good! The loaves popped right out, no trouble. My hope is that some kind of horrible petrochemical leeches into our food and we all turn into monstrous hybrids, half human, half Aldi loaf pan.

TUESDAY 
AMAZING SQUASH PORK FOOD

Either I invented something amazing, or I was very, very hungry on Tuesday.

Acorn squash mashed with butter and brown sugar,
topped with raw red onions,
topped with pulled pork,
topped with barbeque sauce,
shoved into my face with unseemly groaning noises.

Yeah, I was probably just hungry.

 

WEDNESDAY
NACHOS; RICE

According to local son Moe Fisher, “They were so good! I ate until I almost puked!” No picture was available at publication.

 

THURSDAY
PIZZA

We tried Aldi pizza dough for the first time. It stretched pretty well, and it tasted okay.  Kind of tough, but I never know if that’s a bad thing, or just a style of pizza dough. Anyway, it was cheap! I know you can make your own pizza dough, but I don’t feel like it. We make four extra large pizzas.

Oh, that reminds me, I saw an unspeakable thing at Hannaford (which is where I usually buy pizza dough) in the pizza ingredients section:

Bacon Dust Vegetarian Pizza Dough.

Yes. That is what it said. With those words together in one line on the label, like they actually meant something edible.

I tried to find a picture of it, but the closest I could come was this:

bacon dust vegetarian pizza dough

Does it make me a jerk that I didn’t blank out the guy’s name? It’s only because I think he’s a hero, that’s all.

 

FRIDAY
SHAKSHUKA; CHALLAH; SWEET PEPPERS and HUMMUS

 

NYT:

Shakshuka may be at the apex of eggs-for-dinner recipes, though in Israel it is breakfast food, a bright, spicy start to the day with a pile of pita or challah served on the side. (It also makes excellent brunch or lunch food.) It’s a one-skillet recipe of eggs baked in a tomato-red pepper sauce spiced with cumin, paprika and cayenne. First you make that sauce, which comes together fairly quickly on top of the stove, then you gently crack each of the eggs into the pan, nestling them into the sauce. The pan is moved into the oven to finish. Shakshuka originated in North Africa, and like many great dishes there are as many versions as there are cooks who have embraced it. This one strays from more traditional renditions by adding crumbled feta cheese, which softens into creamy nuggets in the oven’s heat.

I’ve never made shakshuka before, but I’ve been assured it’s delicious, especially if you are drunk. Does it count if I wish I were? Here is the recipe we’re going to use.

Since some of the kids have the day off school, we’re going to seize the opportunity of actually being home, and make some challas to go with it. Here is a recipe for making the dough in your bread machine. (I don’t think that your bread machine will braid it for you, though, so you should do that part yourself.)

In the bucket of the bread machine, in this order, put:

1 1/2 cups warm water

1/2 cup oil

2 eggs

6 cups flour (I used bread flour – not sure how important that is)

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp. salt

Make a dent in the top and put in

1 1/2 tsp. bread machine yeast

 

Set it to knead the dough.  Watch the dough ball — it should be smooth and elastic and not stick to the sides.  Add water or flour if necessary.

When the dough is done, divide it into four pieces.  Roll three pieces into snakes and braid them together, pinching it together at the ends.  Take the fourth piece, divide it into three, and braid it, too — then lay the smaller braid on top of the larger one.

Grease a baking pan and sprinkle it with corn meal.  Lay the loaf in the pan, cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth, and let it rise in a warm place until it’s almost double in size.

Beat 2-3 egg yolks up with a little water and brush the egg wash over the loaf.  Sprinkle it with poppy seeds.

Bake uncovered in 350 oven for 20 minutes until the loaf is a deep golden brown.

You can slice it or tear it into hunks.

***

Okay, I probably wouldn’t have chosen a new recipe and homemade bread for Friday if I had remembered that we’re having a Hobbit birthday party on Saturday, but there it is. We are using a few ideas from An Unexpected Cookbook: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery.

unexpected cookbook

You know I’ll let you know how it comes out, whether you care or not.

***

Last week, I skipped the InLinkz button, because it was giving me grief, and I didn’t think there was much demand for it anyway; but I’d be happy to put it back if people want. What do you guys think?  I’ll keep up the Friday food posts either way.

Don’t forget the question of the week!