What’s for supper? Vol. 201: Potatoes and other tornadoes

Well! I’m fat; how are you? Here’s what we ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Bagel, egg, sausage, and cheese sandwiches; blueberries

Easy peasy weekend meal. There really isn’t much better than a lovely fried egg with crisp, lacy edges and a runny yolk. Goodness gracious. 

The blueberries weren’t terrible, for Februberries. 

SUNDAY
Hot wings, sausage rolls, potato tornados, hot pretzels

Sunday, you may recall, was . . . something. Nothing. Nothing happened. Everybody liked it and there was nothing funny about it at all! Mostly what I did was cook and eat. 

Damien made scrumptious hot wings with blue cheese dip and celery. He uses the Deadspin recipe and he says it’s very easy.

 

I had been meaning for several weeks to make sausage rolls, which is something Damien once mentioned enjoying as a kid in Australia.

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I guess they are street food, to be enjoyed with ketchup. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to replicate them, but the basic idea sounded yummy. 

OH, THEY WERE YUMMY.

I read a bunch of recipes and whittled it down to a very basic form. You fry up some diced onions and mix them up with loose sausage (I used sweet Italian sausage squoze out of the casings) and egg and some seasonings. Cut puff pastry into strips, lay the raw sausage mixture in a line down the middle of the strips

fold it up into a long roll, cut it into separate rolls, brush with egg, and bake. I put “everything” seasoning on some of them before baking, and that was a good idea. 

Oh man, they were delicious. Flaky, buttery layers of pastry melding gradually into the savory filling. Absolutely fantastic. 

I was truly surprised that none of the kids liked them! The tastes were not challenging in the slightest. I ended up eating them myself throughout the week. They were good cold. They were good reheated, if a little less perky in texture.

I really hope you make these. They are so easy, and really pay off in flavor and chompability. You can make them well ahead of time and keep them refrigerated

then throw them in the oven just before guests come over.

Okay, now you can listen to my sad story about the potatoes.

Around midnight, my Facebook feed switches over to other continents, and a couple of weeks ago, I saw some East Asian dad I’m apparently friends with showing off pics of his kids enjoying some kind of weird street food I had never seen. I googled around a bit and discovered they are called “potato springs,” “potato twists,” or, escalatedly, “potato tornados.” It’s a spiral-cut potato stuck on a skewer and deep fried. Intrigued, I googled some more, and found a recipe where a guy used crushed Doritos for seasoning. That is my kind of guy. 

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If you’re a street vendor, you will have a potato spiralizer; but if you’re an idiot, you’ll try using a cheese slicer first. You sort of hook the skewer into the slice part and press and turn the potato at the same time. In the video, this resulted in a potato neatly spiraled around a skewer. In real life, I got this:

So I gave up and stomped out of the kitchen. But then I thought, well, the problem was that the skewer wasn’t stable, and the potato kept slipping around, and what if I used a box grater, and anchored the end of the skewer on the inside of the box grater? 

And that actually worked really well! I got halfway through the potato and it was all tidily coiled up on the skewer inside the box grater. So I kept going, and what do you think?

I grated the skewer in half. 

So I got mad again and stomped out of the kitchen and complained about how stupid it was to Damien, and he fully supported me in giving up on this stupid project. 

But then I thought, “But wait. Is there anything intrinsically superior about a potato in a spiral, or is it just that, when one has a spiralizing machine, that’s how it turns out? The point is to have thin, battered slices of potato on a stick, is it not?” So I decided to make one last try. This time I bring plenty-a gas! And I just took the freaking potato and cut it up into slices that weren’t attached to each other, and stuck them on a stick by the handful.

Then, uh, I did it eleven more times with eleven other potatoes. It’s not that my honor was at stake, exactly. I think I’m just dumb. 

So I mixed up the batter an crushed up the Doritos and set it aside until it was time for frying in a few hours. This, it turns out, was a tactical error in what had heretofore been an entirely streamlined and efficient process. The batter is supposed to be thin, so you can just kind of slosh it over the potato sticks and fry it up. But when you make it ahead of time and leave flour-based batter sitting around for a few hours, guess what it turns into? Correct: Glop. This is doubly true if you have added Dorito crumbs to it, and the Dorito crumbs swell up and absorb all the liquid.

Well, by this time, my honor really was at stake, and I was still dumb. So I heated up a big pot of oil and, using the impasto technique I learned in the oil paint section of Mr. Bennet’s Portfolio Development class, I forced the batter in, on, and around the potato skewers. It didn’t want to stick but I made it stick, and then fried the hell out of them. 

Some of them turned out, you know, fine, if not exactly elegant.

Some of them turned out like a cry for an exorcist

I managed this by showering them with kosher salt

They kind of reminded me of when those guys pour molten aluminum down into a termite nest and then pull it out of the sand, and then they put it in their house for some reason.

Well, the kids ate them. I ate one, and felt that it would probably carry me through my potato needs for about eleven weeks. 

The final verdict: Not a total disaster? I guess there are varieties with cheese and pleasant, piquant seasonings, and it would definitely help to batter them before the batter solidifies. My version would have been great if we had been walking around in the freezing sleet for a few hours and our fingers and noses were numb. Otherwise, it was just, wow, a lot. 

We also had hot pretzels.

MONDAY
Chicken caprese sandwiches, fries

A fine make-ahead meal. Damien roasted some chicken breasts in the morning and sliced them up, and we put the sandwiches together in the evening. 

Ciabatta rolls, chicken, tomato, basil, provolone, plenty of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and freshly-ground salt and pepper. 

TUESDAY
Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, squash abbondanza

I started dinner going and then remembered we had a middle school planning committee thingy to go to, so I yelled some hazy instructions to the kids about how to finish it up and serve it. So I don’t have any photos of dinner, but I do have this:

Oops, my ringer was off. They did boil, drain, and mash the potatoes with butter and milk, and they did cook and slice the meatloaf. They also took the squash out of the oven, pack it into a dish, cover it, and send it directly into refrigerator exile without benefit of being on the table for even a minute. I don’t know what I expected. I threw it away the next day. I like butternut squash, but if you lose momentum, it’s really hard to get it back. 

Here is my basic meatloaf recipe, if you care:
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And here is one of my squash recipes:
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WEDNESDAY
Pulled pork nachos

I put a big hunk of pork in the slow cooker with a can of beer, about a cup of cider vinegar, several cloves of garlic, and some jarred jalapeños. I let it cook all day, then fished it out, shredded it, mixed it up with plenty of salt, garlic powder, dried onions, cumin, chili powder, and pepper flakes, and spread it on top of chips, and topped it with plenty of shredded cheese. 

Shoved it into a hot oven until the cheese was melted and served with sour cream, salsa, cilantro, and limes.

I also put queso on mine because I’m too thin and people are worried. 

THURSDAY
Pork ramen 

Thin slices of pork sautéed in sesame oil with soy sauce, pea shoots, soft boiled eggs, shredded carrots, and cucumbers. I had mine with soy sauce and tabasco sauce.

We had a snow day and the kids went sledding, then the little ones watched The Sound of Music. A cheery supper for a chilly day. Sometimes I quick pickle the vegetablesJump to Recipe, but I didn’t bother, and no one seemed to notice. 

FRIDAY
Ravioli?

It says ravioli, but I seem to have forgotten to buy any. I should have saved that cold squash.

 

5 from 2 votes
Print

Sausage rolls

Servings 36 rolls

Ingredients

  • 2.5 lbs sausage, loose or squeezed out of casings
  • 1 lg onion
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil for cooking
  • 1.5 lbs puff pastry dough (1.5 packages)
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • "Everything" seasoning, if you like

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.

  2. Dice the onion and sauté in the olive oil until it's slightly browned

  3. Put the raw, loose sausage in a bowl. Beat two of the eggs and add them to the bowl along with the cooked onions. Mix thoroughly.

  4. Cut the puff pastry into six long strips. On a floured surface, roll them out until they're somewhat thinner.

  5. Divide the sausage mixture into six portions and spoon it out into a long rows down the middle of each strip of puff pastry

  6. Form the sausage mixture into a tidier strip, leaving a margin of dough on each side.

  7. With a pastry brush, paint the dough margins on both sides.

  8. Fold the pastry up over the sausage on both sides, to form a long roll.

  9. Flip the roll over and lay it in a greased pan with the creased side down.

  10. Cut each roll into six smaller sections. (You can make them whatever size you like, really.) Leave a little space in between rolls on the pan.

  11. Brush each little roll with the rest of the beaten egg. Sprinkle with "everything" seasoning if you like.

  12. Bake for 20 minutes until the sausage is cooked and the rolls are golden brown. Serve hot or cold.

 

5 from 2 votes
Print

Dorito fried potato sticks

Ingredients

  • 12 small-to-medium potatoes, scrubbed, peel on
  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 11 oz Doritos or your favorite chips, crushed into crumbs
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • salt

Instructions

  1. Slice each potato into as thin slices as possible, and thread the slices onto skewers.

    If you're not going to cook them right away, you can keep them in water to keep the potatoes from turning brown. Try to fan the potatoes out so there is a little space in between but don't forget to leave enough room on the skewer so there's something to hold onto.

  2. Start heating the oil in a heavy pot. Prepare a pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.

  3. In a shallow dish, mix together the flour, water, and crushed chips. It should be thin and drippy.

  4. Dip the potato skewers into the batter and spoon more batter over them, so the slices are thoroughly coated.

  5. When the oil is hot enough (you will see bubbles form steadily if you dip a wooden spoon in), dip the skewers into the hot oil. Cook for XXXXX minutes until they are crisp.

  6. Remove to a pan lined with paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

What’s for supper? Vol. 194: Cranberry brie tarts! Spanakopita pockets! Sausage oyster stuffing! The Thanksgiving 2019 feast.

Just a one-day post this week, and you know which day! All week we had no-brainer meals like hamburgers and hot dogs while I baked and shopped and cleaned, and then we had a very delicious Thanksgiving. I tried two new recipes this year, and both are keepers. Here’s what we had:

There was so much phyllo dough left over from the youth group shawarma feast, I decided to make two appetizers: cranberry brie tarts, and spanakopita. Both were delicious! They didn’t take much skill to put together, but the tarts were a bit of a hassle. I assembled them ahead of time, and then threw them in the oven when the guests arrived. 

Phyllo dough cups with honey, then brie, then sugared cranberries, baked then topped with fresh sage and a little honey-butter-almond syrup. They would make lovely Christmas party treats, and were just melty and tart and exciting.   

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I wish I had let them sit in the pan a few more minutes before attempting to pull them out, but they eventually all came out intact. 

These are little tarts, made in a mini muffin pan, but I also made some bigger ones in a standard-size muffin tin. I prefer the mini ones, but both were tasty. 

Aren’t they pretty? I may spring for some better brie next time, but the creamy, slightly earthy cheese with the sharp snap of the cranberries was very nice indeed. You could also use thyme instead of sage, but I thought the little breath of green on top of the honey was wonderful. Altogether a really great cold-weather appetizer, very festive. 

While people were eating the cranberry tarts, I baked the spankopita pockets, which people ate while the turkey was resting. I’ve never even seen spanakopita before, but these little pockets were quite easy to make and tasted wonderful. Fresh spinach sautéed in butter with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, mixed with plenty of feta, then wrapped up in buttery phyllo dough, brushed with more butter, and baked. YUHM. Very filling and cozy.

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I read the directions on how to fold them up and just kept going, “. . . what? . . . . WHAT?” so I finally looked up a video, which helped tremendously. I’ve included a link to the video in the recipe card. I need to do this again to get my folding technique down, and maybe use a bit less filling so it doesn’t burst out, but they sure tasted good.

Then of course the turkey. We think brining delivers very little for the hassle, so Damien seasons the birds with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, stuffs them, and cooks them at 350 on a rack, basting every thirty minutes with melted butter and tequila. We had two large birds and they were swell. 

One had stuffing with onions, celery, and mushrooms, and one had stuffing with sausage and oysters. It was freaking delicious. You could skip the turkey and just feast on the stuffing. 

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On Thanksgiving morning, I make a giblet broth with the hilarious neck and any organs they give us, other than the liver, and some celery and onions and carrots, and set that simmering to use later in the gravy. I fry up the liver with with some onions, then cut that into pieces and fry some more until it’s in little crisp bits. Then, in a heavy pot, I melt plenty of butter, then add flour and salt and pepper, then add the giblet broth a little at a time until it’s the right consistency. Then I stir in the little liver and onion bits, and after the turkey is removed from the pan, I shove in a ton of pan scrapings and some of the fat from the turkey. It was some very fine turkey this year, a rich, dark brown and full of exciting savory bits.

My dad brought mashed potatoes made with cheddar cheese, sour cream, and cream cheese. Fantastic. I need to get that recipe. 

My brother’s friend brought some sautéed asparagus, which was very tasty, and we also had roasted Brussels sprouts and butternut squash, broiled with salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic, and balsamic vinegar, and a bit charred. I skipped the honey, because there were so many sweet things in the meal, but here’s a recipe that explains how to process butternut squash for cooking.

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See? Vegetables!

Clara made her famous hobbit bread, from An Unexpected Cookbook (Which would make a great Christmas present for Lord of the Rings fans, by the way). It’s a braided loaf (well, three braided loaves) stuffed with mushrooms, onions, herbs, and cheese. I guess the theme here was “every dish could have been a meal in itself.”

A little burnt, as we were cramming pans in on top of other pans. We really need a second oven, or at least a third oven rack. 

Of course we had mountains of cranberry sauce, and I made a ton of cranberry orange bread

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which was a bit dry but still pretty, and some banana bread

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which I was too stuffed to even look at. This was half of the bread pile:

We had wine and various beers and hard ciders, plus mulled cider, which I cleverly set up in the crock pot in the morning with some cinnamon sticks. Dessert was pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and apple pie, with ice cream and whipped cream (both canned and freshly whipped, both!), and some eclairs courtesy of my mother-in-law. See my pies! See my pies!

I’m finally able to make pretty reliable pie crust.

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 The secret is to freeze the butter and shred it on a box shredder, and then just lightly mix it into the flour and salt, then sprinkle with ice water until it’s the right consistency. Then you go ahead and manhandle that crust however you like. I heard a great tip on Milk Street Radio: Lots of people think their pie crust needs more flour or more water, but really it’s at the wrong temperature. My pie crust is often too cold, making it crumbly and stiff, and giving it an extra half hour to warm up before I try and roll it out really helps. 

The lattice top pie came out nice. 

The free-form floral one turned out kind of confusing. 

Then I made this:

If I hadn’t been at a low ebb, I would have made little owls to sit in the holes, or little flowers, or even little tentacles. But the best I could come up with was a sort of progressive eclipse theme, which didn’t end up looking like much. Oh well! IT IS PIE. 

For the pecan pie, I used real maple syrup and whisky instead of corn syrup, and it made it so much more palatable. I made the pecan pie section of this insane mega pie. Still not my favorite pie, but a far more reasonable pie. [Marvin the Martian voice:] Isn’t it lovely, hmmm?

I also made three pumpkin pies using ready-made graham cracker crust just like Squanto showed us. 

I put the pies together earlier in the week and froze them, then thawed them Thanksgiving morning and baked them while we were eating dinner, so they were warm for dessert. I think I’ll be doing it that way every year.

I was planning to make some rolls and some sweet potatoes, but you know what? That would have been too much food. And the last thing we want at Thanksgiving is too much food. 

As you can see, I don’t exactly lay an elegant table. We didn’t have enough seating for everyone at the table, and we couldn’t get all the food laid out at once anyway, because the oven is too small. So we just kept hucking more and more platters of food at people as they finished cooking, and they kept loading their plates and then carrying them off to whatever spot they could find. There was a dog and four-year-old scrambling around under the table. People had birds in their pockets. The cat almost had a stroke. I had crock pots plugged in in weird places. Corrie flossed to “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah.” I do believe everyone had a nice day! I hope you did, too. 

And here are the recipe cards:

Cranberry brie tarts

This recipe looks complicated, but you can simplify or alter it however you like. Basically you want some kind of pastry, brie, cranberries with sugar, and honey, and an herb on top. A delicious and beautiful little appetizer, great for Thanksgiving or Christmas parties.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 roll phyllo dough
  • 6-8 oz brie
  • small bunch fresh sage or thyme, coarsely chopped

cranberries:

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • dash salt
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter for cranberries

honey mixture:

  • 2 Tbsp butter for honey mixture
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425

  2. In a little pot, combine the honey, the butter, and the extract. Heat through and set aside.

  3. In a bowl, mix the cranberries with melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and a dash of salt. Set aside.

  4. Cut brie into 24 equal pieces and set aside.

  5. Prepare a 24-hole mini cupcake pan with butter or spray. You can also use a full-size cupcake pan, but the tarts will be a little unwieldy and won't hold together as well.

  6. Unroll the phyllo dough and cut it into twelve equal stacks. Cover the dough with a damp cloth while you're working so the dough doesn't get brittle.

  7. Pull out one stack of phyllo dough squares and use half the squares to line a cupcake tin, fanning them out to make a little cup. Make sure the bottom of the tin has several layers of dough, so it won't fall apart when you take it out of the pan.

  8. When you have arranged all the pastry cups, drizzle them with half the honey-butter mixture.

  9. Lay a piece of brie in the bottom of each cup, then put a scoop of sugared cranberries on top of that. Drizzle with the rest of the honey-butter mixture.

  10. Bake for 15 minutes or so until the pastry is just golden brown.

  11. Top each cup with a bit of chopped herbs.

  12. Let the tarts sit in the pan for five minutes before serving. Serve hot.

 

Spanakopita triangles

Ingredients

  • 1 lbs spinach
  • 1 stick butter, plus 1 Tbsp for sautéing spinach
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups crumbled feta
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 roll phyllo dough, thawed

Instructions

To make the filling:

  1. In a big pan, melt the 1 Tbsp butter and sauté the spinach until it's soft. It will be a giant heap of greens at first, but it cooks way down and will fit in the pan when you're done!

  2. Let the spinach cool and then squeeze out as much water as you can.

  3. In a bowl, mix together the cooked spinach with the salt, pepper and nutmeg, and stir in the feta until it's combined. Set aside.

  4. Preheat the oven to 375

  5. Melt the stick of butter and set it aside. You'll need it handy for assembling the triangles.

  6. Unroll the phyllo dough and cover it with a slightly damp cloth to keep it from getting brittle. Take what you need and keep the rest of the stack covered.

To assemble the triangles:

  1. Carefully lay a phyllo dough square on your workspace, long side horizontal. Brush it with melted butter. Lay another sheet on top of it and brush that with butter.

  2. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into three strips.

  3. Put a scoop of spinach mixture at the bottom of each strip. Then fold that section of dough up diagonally, enclosing the spinach, so it forms a triangle. Continue folding up to make triangles, like you'd fold a flag, until you reach the top of the dough. If you're having trouble figuring out how to fold it, here is a helpful video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVwA3i_tmKc&t=2s

  4. If there's a bit of leftover dough on the triangle, fold it under. Lay the finished triangle on a baking sheet, seam side down. Brush with butter again.

  5. Continue until the phyllo dough is gone. I made 18 pockets, two sheets thick, with one roll of phyllo dough, but you can change the proportions and make lots of smaller triangles if you like.

  6. Bake about 25 minutes until golden brown. Let them sit in the pan for a moment before removing. Serve hot or cold.

 

Sausage oyster stuffing for turkey

Ridiculously savory and delicious. Stuff as much as you can in the turkey and bake the rest in a separate pan, covered with tinfoil to keep it from drying out.

Ingredients

  • 16 oz stuffing mix (we used pre-seasoned, for simplicity)
  • 1 lb loose sweet Italian sausage
  • 2 8-oz cans of oysters
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1-1/2 cup broth
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • salt ad pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Sauté the onions, mushrooms, and celery in the butter.

  2. In a separate pan, fry up the sausage, crumbling it as you cook, until it's browned. Combine the sausage, including the fat, with the vegetables, and add in the oysters with their broth.

  3. Put the dry stuffing in a bowl. Add the broth and stir gently until it's all moistened. Add the vegetable-oyster- sausage mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.

 

Cranberry muffins or bread

A pretty, sweet loaf or 12 muffins.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 stick butter, chilled and grated into shreds
  • zest of one orange
  • juice of two oranges
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup cranberries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Prepare muffin tins; butter and flour loaf pan.

  2. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients and lightly incorporate the shredded butter.

  3. In another bowl, mix together the egg, orange juice, and orange zest.

  4. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir just until dry ingredients are incorporated. Lightly mix in the cranberries and walnuts. Pour batter into tins or loaf pan.

  5. Bake muffins for about half an hour, loaf for an hour or more.

 

Banana muffins (or bread)

Makes two loaves or 24 muffins. Quick, easy, and pleasant. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium ripe bananas
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 cups chopped nuts (optional)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter loaf pans or muffin tins, or use cupcake papers.

  2. Mash the bananas in a bowl. Beat the eggs and blend the into the bananas. 

  3. In another bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients. Add the dry mixture to the banana mixture and stir just until blended. Stir in nuts if desired. 

  4. Pour batter into pans or tins. Bake about 28 minutes for muffins, about 1 hour for loaves. 

 

Roasted butternut squash with honey and chili

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash
  • olive oil
  • honey
  • salt and pepper
  • chili powder

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler to high

  2. To peel the squash: Cut the ends off the squash and poke it several times with a fork. Microwave it for 3-4 minutes. When it's cool enough to handle, cut it into manageable pieces and peel with a vegetable peeler or sharp paring knife. Scoop out the pulp and seeds.

  3. Cut the squash into cubes.

  4. In a bowl, toss the squash with honey and olive oil. You can use whatever proportions you like, depending on how sweet you want it.

  5. Spread the squash in a shallow pan and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and chili powder.

  6. Broil for 15 minutes until the squash is slightly charred.

Basic pie crust

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 sticks butter, FROZEN
  • 1/4 cup water, with an ice cube

Instructions

  1. Freeze the butter for at least 20 minutes, then shred it on a box grater. Set aside.

  2. Put the water in a cup and throw an ice cube in it. Set aside.

  3. In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Then add the shredded butter and combine with a butter knife or your fingers until there are no piles of loose, dry flour. Try not to work it too hard. It's fine if there are still visible nuggets of butter.

  4. Sprinkle the dough ball with a little iced water at a time until the dough starts to become pliable but not sticky. Use the water to incorporate any remaining dry flour.

  5. If you're ready to roll out the dough, flour a surface, place the dough in the middle, flour a rolling pin, and roll it out from the center.

  6. If you're going to use it later, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. You can keep it in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months, if you wrap it with enough layers. Let it return to room temperature before attempting to roll it out!

  7. If the crust is too crumbly, you can add extra water, but make sure it's at room temp. Sometimes perfect dough is crumbly just because it's too cold, so give it time to warm up.

  8. You can easily patch cracked dough by rolling out a patch and attaching it to the cracked part with a little water. Pinch it together.

Sausage oyster stuffing for turkey

Ridiculously savory and delicious. Stuff as much as you can in the turkey and bake the rest in a separate pan, covered with tinfoil to keep it from drying out.

Ingredients

  • 16 oz stuffing mix (we used pre-seasoned, for simplicity)
  • 1 lb loose sweet Italian sausage
  • 2 8-oz cans of oysters
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1-1/2 cup broth
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • salt ad pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Sauté the onions, mushrooms, and celery in the butter.

  2. In a separate pan, fry up the sausage, crumbling it as you cook, until it's browned. Combine the sausage, including the fat, with the vegetables, and add in the oysters with their broth.

  3. Put the dry stuffing in a bowl. Add the broth and stir gently until it's all moistened. Add the vegetable-oyster- sausage mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.

What’s for supper? Vol. 192: Paremsan paprika chicken! Gochujang bulgoki! Sesame broccoli! Cranberry muffins! And more

How is it Friday? How?

Here’s what we had this week: 

SATURDAY
Chicken burgers, Smartfood, string beans 

Nothing to report. Thank goodness for frozen chicken burgers.

SUNDAY
Bagel, egg, cheese, and bacon sandwiches; roast chili butternut squash 

I was the only one who ate the squash, but boy did I enjoy it, and it tasted fantastic with the bacon and eggs with a runny yolk. Jump to Recipe If you’re thinking you won’t bother reading it because butternut squash is so hard to peel, hang on! You cut off the two ends and jab it all over with a fork. Then microwave it for 3-4 minutes. When it cools, you should be able to peel it with a vegetable peeler and cut it without too much trouble. 

This is the time of year when I really lean into food prep as something to savor. I love eating, as my pants size will attest, but I also adore so many of the things that go into cooking. The secret patterns inside onions and Brussels sprouts and red cabbages. The hidden juices that emerge under heat. The gratifying sensation of sliding a knife into just the right spot to separate fat from flesh. It’s a whole thing, let me tell you, and when everything is brown and grey outside, I needs me some butternut squash. I eat up the color with my eyes long before it’s cooked and ready to eat with anyone’s mouth.

I made the squash with olive oil, honey, freshly-ground pepper and sea salt, and a little chili powder. 

Look!

Did I mention that a little runny egg yolk with bacon and roast squash is a thing? It’s a thing. 

Screw you, November. 

MONDAY
Beef barley soup, cranberry muffins

We just had this soup recently, but there were some bad feelings about how I used orzo instead of barley, so I made it again, with barley. Jump to Recipe

This time, there were bad feelings because I made cranberry muffins Jump to Recipeinstead of pumpkin muffins. Jump to RecipeIt’s a shame how I never put much effort into cooking for my family. I am ashamed. 

The truth is, the muffins were a bit of a flop, literally. I made the batter but got distracted by something or other, and didn’t bake it until later, and I guess it rose and fell before it hit the oven, so the muffins came out flat. 

Still a good flavor, though, even though the kids requested no walnuts.

TUESDAY
Paprika chicken with tomatoes and peppers

New recipe! I got this recipe from the NYT and went ahead and bought expensive smoked paprika for it, too. Solid choice. This is a gorgeous, fragrant, satisfying one-pan meal, and very easy to throw together. Jump to RecipeNext time, I might make a hearty bread like challah Jump to Recipeor maybe some buttered egg noodles, but it was good by itself, too. 

I simplified it a bit, so I’ll put my card at the end. You toss chicken parts in a simple little dressing including paprika and apple cider vinegar, and put them in a pan with lovely tomatoes and peppers

top with parmesan

and cook it all together. You can fuss with the sauce at the end, but I just sprinkled some more cider vinegar on top, and a little parsley, and it was yummy.

Sweet, bright, and moist, with that wonderful smoked paprika giving it some good depth of flavor. 

Easy and popular! The hardest part was cutting up all those tomatoes, but if you’re not cooking for a crowd, that won’t take long. Definitely going into the rotation. Jump to Recipe

WEDNESDAY
Hamburgers and chips, carrots and dip

Nothing to report, except that, for over twenty years, I’ve been making hamburgers in the oven, instead of on the stove top. I make nice, flat patties between two plates, season them heavily, and put them on a broiler pan with drainage, then slide them under a hot broiler, turning once. This way, I don’t get all greasy while cooking, a lot of the fat drains away, and the patties don’t puff up into balls. This is, as I say, how I’ve been doing it for over twenty years. 

So on Wednesday, I made a bunch of patties, seasoned them, and started cooking them in pans on the stovetop, for no reason at all. I didn’t even know I was doing it until I heard them sizzling and wondered where the sound was coming from. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Now if you’ll stop hassling me, maybe I can get back to my RV and do another cook. 

THURSDAY
Gochujang bulgoki with rice and nori; roasted sesame broccoli

This was a sad day for me. I was so excited that the boneless pork ribs I forgot to freeze hadn’t gone bad, but once I got them all sliced up, and cut up a bunch of onions, and chopped up a bunch of carrots using the hand grater after ordering a new slicing disk for the food processor I bought at the Salvation Army, I went to make the gochujang sauce and discovered . . . we were out of guchujang. 

https://www.maxpixel.net/Statue-Venice-Ancient-Myth-Sculpture-Orpheus-3153008 (Creative Commons)

Last I knew, I was the proud owner of a one-pound tub of gochujang (Korean fermented hot pepper paste) and a five-pound tub of gochujang. But all I could find was a pathetic little tube of gochujang sauce I had bought one time in a fit of weakness. It turns out I had paid one of the kids to clean out the fridge and told him to use his judgement about what to save, and this was the choice he made. 

https://pixabay.com/photos/eye-manipulation-tears-art-sad-2274884/ (Creative Commons)

Well. Sometimes these things happen, and you just have to pick yourself up and go on with your life, so that is what I did. I used the gochujang sauce in place of the gochujang in my gochujang sauce, and it bore a passing resemblance to gochujang bulgoki. I went ahead and ordered some more gochujang, and it arrived this morning. Sometimes these things happen. Jump to Recipe

It was actually decent meal, just not what I was expecting. You can take a piece of nori and use it to grab up a bite of pork and rice and eat it in little bundles. 

The broccoli is a nice, simple recipe. Cut broccoli into spears, drizzle with sesame oil and soy sauce, sprinkle with pepper and sesame seeds, spread in a shallow pan, and roast. Delicious. Jump to Recipe

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

I have gone back to making the cheese sauce in a pan and then adding it to the cooked macaroni and then baking it in the oven. The Instant Pot recipe is okay in a pinch, but we really prefer it the old fashioned way. I do like adding some hot sauce to the cheese sauce. Good stuff. Jump to Recipe

There are a lot of recipes this week, so I’m going to make them on a separate page. It might be a bit hard to find until I figure out a better way, so be sure to look for the little box with a 2 in it, and click on that! That will bring you to the recipe page. Happy Friday, cheese bags.

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 156: Cutthroat Fishers

Pretty good week of food! Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Regular-person tacos

Every once in a while, I like to treat the kids to just regular old tacos with ground beef, orange spice from a little envelope, pre-shredded Mexican-style cheese, and so on. No fish sauce or pickled carrots or Asian pears or microgreen nonsense.

SUNDAY
Drunken noodles with beef

We have taken to watching Cutthroat Kitchen (currently streaming on Hulu) on family laundry-folding night. I love this show. It’s just mean and weird enough to be entertaining, but you also get some good food ideas. Also, Irene has taken to describing anything terrible as “going for more of a rustic feel.” Their favorite episode was the one where that guy made berry muffins that were just a sticky pile of crumbs. They talk about it all the time. The only part I don’t like is where they make the winner do a little money dance at the end, and 99% of them clearly do not want to be dancing for the camera.

Anyway, Damien is a big fan of drunken noodles (which, to my surprise, are not made with alcohol. They are called that because they are so spicy, they make you want to drink a lot), so I figured I would look up the recipe by Jet Tila, who is often a judge on the show. Turns out the recipe I chose is significantly different from what Damien’s been ordering, but he absolutely loved what I came up with. I used beef rather than the shrimp the recipe called for, so I’ll go ahead and rewrite it as I made it. I also chose to make it less spicy than it might have been, because you can always add heat after cooking, but you can’t really take it away. So we just sprinkled some red pepper flakes on top, and that was good, and brought out the other flavors nicely.

There are several steps to this recipe and a certain amount of slicing, but it’s not difficult, and it was so good. Damien and I both found ourselves eating our first helping as quickly as we could so we could get up and get another helping.

Because I used regular basil instead of Thai basil, and I trimmed out the pepper seeds and membranes, it had a slightly Italian taste in combination with the tomatoes. This blended shockingly well with the sweet, spicy Asian sauce. I made a ton of it

and it got gobbled up.

Definitely adding this to the rotation, and I foresee endless variations, too. Next time, I hope I can find wider rice noodles.

MONDAY
Blueberry chicken salad with homemade croutons

Blueberries were on sale, so I chose this always-popular meal. I opted to cook the chicken breast in the Instant Pot with lemon juice, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, which wasn’t the absolute best. Roasted would have been better.

I cut the chicken into chunks and served it over mixed greens with toasted almonds (toast them easily in the microwave for two minutes), feta cheese, diced red onion, the blueberries, and some lovely croutons I made with the mountain of stale hamburger buns I’ve been collecting.

To make croutons, cut the bread into cubes, drizzle them with melted butter, and season them heavily with salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, or whatever else you like. Spread them in a shallow pan and toast them in a 325 oven for half an hour or more, until they are crunchy all the way through.

I had mine with just balsamic vinegar, and it was very good.

TUESDAY
BLTs and tiramisu

Damien made this for his b*rthd*y. Some of the January tomatoes were what Corrie would call “puffetic.”

But most of them were okay, and we had a lovely meal.

Damien made a gigantic tiramisu following this recipe,but he added grated chocolate to the top along with the cocoa powder.

WEDNESDAY
One-pan roasted chicken thighs with balsamic vegetables

A true one-pan dish, none of this “sauté this, then braise that, then toast these, then whirl that through your food processor, reduce, deglaze, make a roux, roll out crust to top, pour into springform pan, steam, release, take it for a nice walk down to the park in a sieve, perform reverse osmosis on the juices and run the resulting curds through your KitchenAid centrifuge, and then simply put in one pan!” stuff. You prep the vegetables, put them in the pan, add balsamic and olive oil, salt and pepper, mix it up in the pan, put the chicken on top of the vegetables which are in the pan, and season the chicken that is in the pan. Then put the pan in the oven. Then get one of your stronger kids to drag it out for you while following her with a camera.

(Actually I made two pans’ worth.)

It turns out so tasty. Not everyone liked all the vegetables, but everyone had something. I made this version with red potatoes, brussels sprouts, a butternut squash, and baby carrots. The vegetables draw up the sauce very nicely and take on a kind of glaze, without you having to do anything but put the pan in the oven and turn it on.

So, the butternut squash has been hanging around my kitchen for a good six weeks now, starting balefully at me and sending out almost-audible hoots of derision. So I showed it! I cut its ends off with my newly-sharpened knife and tossed that sucker in the microwave for three minutes. Then I scooped out the seeds, peeled it, and cut it into chunks.

No, I lied. First I held it against my sinuses for an unseemly amount of time.

 

I briefly considered sharing this as a tip for other migraine sufferers, but then I remembered what happened last time I shared a picture of myself becoming overly familiar with a vegetable

Tito Edwards unfriended me, that’s what happened. And that’s why I live at the P.O.

Oh, if you’re wondering, it’s totally fine to eat a 6-week-old butternut squash. Keep it in a cool, dry place and don’t let anyone stab it, and they keep for a really long time. In fact, they get sweeter and sweeter as they age, unlike people who live at the P.O.

Hey, who wants to talk about my kitchen ceiling? Nice, isn’t it? I think it’s nice.

THURSDAY
Beef stroganoff

I was under the impression that Damien didn’t like this dish, so I planned it for when he was going to be away covering a meeting. As it turns out, he does like it, and also I decided to go to the town meeting with him, because I like him. So I threw together the stroganoff ludicrously quickly — really, it was like a Betty Boop cartoon, except not horrifyingly sexy — and we all ate at 4:30, then we went to the meeting. Which turned out to be a dud — just another Cranky Yankee night — but we did stop for a couple of pints on the way home.

Oh, here is the strogranoff.

Not much to see, but it was tasty, if a little lacking in creaminess. I forgot to buy sour cream, so I used Greek yogurt, which should have worked, except I didn’t really have enough. It really was still tasty, though! I can’t quite bring myself to write up a recipe card for this, but the basic idea is:

Chop up a bunch of onions and fry them in oil, then add a bunch of ground beef and cook it up in the onions, crumbling it up into bits. Then glug in a ton of red wine and a huge heap of sliced mushrooms, plus salt and pepper. Then stir in a big tub of sour cream or Greek yogurt. Serve over egg noodles.

In closing: The decision to grab a little bit more cold stroganoff before heading to bed at 1 a.m. after a delayed bedtime due to diabetic nuttiness? Turned out to be a poor decision. Which I learned and re-learned repeatedly throughout the night.

FRIDAY
Tuna burgers, fries, broccoli

One of the kids surprised me by actually asking for tuna burgers. Or maybe just mentioning tuna, and me figuring out a way to make it into something the kids won’t enjoy.

 

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. 

One-pan balsamic chicken thighs and vegetables

A true one-pan dish that works well with lots of variations of seasonings and vegetables

Ingredients

  • 18 chicken thighs with skin and bone
  • 1 butternut squash in cubes
  • 3 lbs red potatoes in cubes
  • 1 lb baby carrots
  • 2 lbs brussels sprouts, halved
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • salt (preferably kosher)
  • pepper
  • oregano
  • basil

Instructions

  1. Grease a large, shallow pan. Preheat the oven to 400.

  2. Mix together the olive oil and vinegar with a tablespoon of salt and pepper. Spread the vegetables in the pan, pour the mixture over them, and stir them up to coat, then spread them out again. 

  3. Lay the chicken breasts on top of the vegetables. Sprinkle more salt and pepper, basil and oregano over the whole pan. 

  4. Cook for 30 minutes or more, until vegetables and chicken are cooked through and chicken skins are golden and crisp. 

  5. If necessary, broil for a few minutes to add a little char. 

Tuna burgers

Ingredients

  • 1 can tuna
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • seasonings, minced onion, etc.
  • oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Drain the tuna.

  2. Mix tuna thoroughly with egg, bread crumbs, and whatever seasonings you like. Form into two patties. 

  3. Heat oil in pan. Fry tuna patties on both sides until golden brown. 

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. 114: Hello, chicken, my old friend

Sorry for the light posting this week! It’s just been crazy-go-nuts.
Thanks so much for the prayers for my father as he recovers from his triple bypass surgery on Monday. He has had some ups and downs, as you can imagine. He is recovering, but it is a tough road for sure, especially as they work on managing his pain without too many bad side effects.

At the end, I have a few things to say to Etsy merchants and other craftsmen, plus a hat recommendation, because it’s a food blog. I don’t know.

**

SATURDAY
Chicken blueberry salad

Blueberries were 99 cents a pint at Aldi, so I changed my menu on the fly. I roasted some chicken breasts and sliced them thin. We had mixed greens (no Romaine lettuce, just to be safe) with the chicken, plus minced red onions, toasted walnuts we never managed to bake with over Christmas, feta cheese, blueberries, and balsamic vinegar dressing.

So pretty and delicious.

***

SUNDAY
Chicken cutlets with basil

The Husband wanted to cook, so he made homemade marinara sauce and these magnificent chicken cutlets. Very labor intensive, but so worth it, especially when your husband is making it.

You pound the chicken, bread it (he used panko bread crumbs, which are so nicely fluffy), fry it, top it with a fresh basil leaf and a slice of provolone, and then ladle some hot marina sauce over it all so the cheese melts and tucks in the basil leaf like a sweet little sleeping child which you then devour.

 

Whenever he suggests making this dish, I think, “Oh, we should have some pasta. Just chicken and sauce isn’t enough.” I am always wrong. This meal is paradise in your mouth. Even the savages appreciate what a treat it is.

We also had a ridiculous chocolate trifle for dessert. I made enough for two nights, which was not truly a problem, as problems go.

I baked one box of triple chunk chocolate brownies, then broke it up into little pieces. I made four boxes of instant pudding, two chocolate and two mocha, and I grated one giant chocolate bar and six or seven Heath bars, and then whipped up some cream with sugar and a healthy amount of Kahlua. Then I just layered everything up in several layers in two glass bowls.

I only got lousy pictures, but this is truly a fail-proof dessert, and is going on the list of fancy-danciness. I don’t yet own a trifle bowl, but oh, I see more trifle in our future.

***

MONDAY
Hot dogs and chips

Monday we had my sister’s little kids over so she could drive up and be with my father during and after his surgery, so we kept dinner simple.

***

TUESDAY
Kids still here. Arms getting tired. Chicken nuggets and . . . something. Oh, frozen corn. It turns out I am old and frail, and yell a lot.

***

WEDNESDAY
Chicken quesadillas with cheddar and jalapenos.

Wednesday I drove up to see my father in the hospital, an Damien took a sick day to hold down the fort at home. When he makes quesadillas, he folds the tortilla in half on the pan, and then he turns the tip over again, to seal it like an envelope. Maybe I was feeling sentimental, but this seemed so tidy and brilliant and wonderful to me. No chicken escaped.

It was also on Wednesday that everyone noticed I had made a weekly menu that was just wall-to-wall chicken. This was unintentional. I guess we were simply having a wonderful Chickentime.

***

THURSDAY
One-pan chicken thighs with roast vegetables

Everyone loves this dish from Damn Delicious.

I used a large butternut squash, two pounds of Brussels sprouts, three pounds of red potatoes, a pound of baby carrots, and about 18 or 20 chicken thighs. It was way too much food, but I can’t help myself. I filled my two giant quarter sheet pans, which, by the way, continue to be my smartest purchase ever. No warping, and they are useful for so many things — containing the mess when rolling out cookie or pastry dough, for instance, or keeping beads or buttons from rolling away while the little guys play, or for preserving unfinished board games if you have to clear the table to eat. We also use them as serving trays to organize meals with lots of little bowls and saucers and bottles of things. Pans!

I am old and frail. I yell about pans.

I was able to prep all the vegetables in about 25 minutes in the morning, and then I finished it up pretty quick right before supper. It’s a lot of chopping, obviously, but then you just season everything, put it all in the pan together, and chunk it in the oven. It takes slightly longer than the recipe says. Here’s an old pic of pre-cooked veg, because I have lost track of the ones I took yesterday. Isn’t it pretty? You want color in January.

I cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise and scooped out the pulp, then put it in the microwave for 4-5 minutes to soften up a bit. Then I could peel it pretty easily with a sharp knife. I have lost my potato peeler, so I’ve been using a cheese plane, but I lost that, too. Somehow I can always put my hand on a knife, though, she said somewhat ominously.

Why is it “omInous” instead of “omEnous?” I protest.

Ah, I found a picture! Here’s the cooked dish:

So nice. I’m having leftover veg for lunch right now.

***

FRIDAY
Fish tacos

Frozen fish sticks on tortillas with shredded cabbage, sliced avocado, salsa, sour cream, cilantro, and lime. Good schtuff. Here’s a picture from a previous meal:

Oh, I’m trying out a new affiliate program called Skimlinks. It’s sort of an umbrella affiliate system that works with hundreds (maybe thousands?) of merchants. So the links above, to the pans, the cheese planer, and the trifle bowl are affiliate links which can earn me a small profit. So click away, me hearties! (As far as I can tell, Skimlinks just requires bloggers to follow FTC regulations about disclosing relationships with merchants, so fingers crossed I’m not violating anyone’s arcane TOS this time!)

I’ve also become an Etsy affiliate, and will be doing a monthly Etsy artisan feature. In the meantime, may I point you toward an awesome shop called Hats By Charlotte? We ordered this hand-knit Samus hat for our oldest for Christmas, and it’s awesome.

It’s soft, comfortable, and well-made, and Charlotte was a pleasure to communicate with. We ordered late and the hat came sooner than we could reasonably expect. Highly recommended! Lots of neat, geeky patterns.

ONE MORE THING. I’ll be doing a handmade Valentine’s Day feature here in a few weeks. If you have romantic or relationship-related gifts to sell, especially unusual or hard-to-find items, please drop me a line at simchafisher[at]gmail[dot]com with “Handmade Valentine Feature” in the subject heading, with links and photos of one or two items with a short description. Deadline is January 26. Thank you!
(Open to all, not just Catholics. Not all submissions will be featured. No essential oils, please. They give me a headache even just online.)

 

What’s for Supper? Vol. 108: In which we have two vegetables for Thanksgiving, not counting potatoes!

Just the Thanksgiving food this time! I know it makes more sense to share Thanksgiving recipes before Thanksgiving, but none of this stuff would be out of place for a Christmas meal, either, except maybe pumpkin pie and stuffing.

All of my kids genuinely helped. Except for Corrie. Corrie mainly supervised.

They chopped, sliced, trimmed, buttered, grated, juiced, stirred, basted, and baked, and I would have been a complete wreck without their help. We started baking and cooking on Wednesday evening, and by Thursday afternoon, I felt calm, confident, cheerful, and ready. I highly recommend having kids who are old enough to help!

Here’s what we had:

Turkey with gravy and stuffing. I have no desire to argue with anyone about how to make a turkey. Not Alton Brown, nor his acolytes, nor anyone. I’ve roasted dozens of turkeys. I butter it and sprinkle it with salt and pepper, turn it breast down on a rack for half the roasting, then flip it for the rest of the time, and I (well, my sons) baste it every half hour. It turns out good.

The skin is crisp and varnished-looking, the meat is moist and flavorful. I don’t want to argue about it! Your way is good, too! Hooray for your way! I like my way! Hooray!

I made stuffing (Pepperidge Farm herbed cubes, I think) with sauteed onions, mushrooms, and celery. Not original, but always good.

I wanted to get the gravy over with, so I started with a ton of melted butter, then added a ton of flour until it was a thick paste, then thinned it gradually with turkey stock I had made with giblets and neck, celery, scallions. Then, when the turkey was done, I added salt and pepper, a fried and diced turkey liver, and plenty of pan drippings, scrapings, and fat.

Lyonnaise Potatoes. My father brought this dish. Will add the recipe when I get it! Very tasty, and it reminded me of my grandmother’s cooking, which is high praise.

Sweet potatoes with blue cheese and walnuts. A simplified version of this recipe, which also calls for dates, parsley, and gorgonzola, rather than blue cheese. I baked the potatoes, sliced them open, mashed in the toppings, and then reheated them in the microwave before dinner.

Parkerhouse rolls. I’ve made this recipe before, with good success, but this year we just bought frozen dough. My daughter rolled the dough into golf ball-sized balls and put them in buttered cupcake tins — one ball in the mini tins, and three balls in the regular size.

 

Hobbit Bread (braided bread stuffed with onions, mushrooms, and cheese). This is (according to my 17-year-old) the best recipe in An Unexpected Cookbook: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery.  I’ll paste the whole recipe into the bottom of this post. She used frozen bread dough for this, too, and added poppy seeds to the top.

Oven roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon. Easy peasy. Boys trimmed and halved the Brussels sprouts, daughter snipped a pound of bacon into pieces, and I mixed it up with oil, salt, and pepper, and spread it in a shallow pan, then roasted at 400 for about twenty minutes. The bacon wasn’t as crisp as I would have liked (I should have laid it on top, rather than mixing it in), but the Brussels sprouts still magically gathered in a ton of bacon flavoring. It was great.

Hasselback butternut squash with bay leaves. This dish puts the hassle in butternut squash, let me tell you. But it was worth it. So pretty and exciting. I made it the night before, then warmed it up for the meal. We ended up using jalapeno peppers instead of Fresno chilis, fresh bay leaves instead of dried, fake maple syrup instead of real, canola oil instead of olive, and salted butter instead of unsalted! Still great! We’ve never had a spicy dish for Thanksgiving before. It found myself cooling my tongue with cranberry sauce in between bites of squash. Here’s the recipe from Bon Appetit.

Cranberry orange nut bread. Worth the trouble to zest the oranges and squeeze fresh juice, especially if you have kid slaves to do it for you. They also chopped the nuts and cranberries with my lovely mezzaluna knife. Recipe from Epicurious. This is very festive-looking, with the bright cranberries and flecks of orange zest, and it makes the house smell wonderful.

Banana nut bread. I always start baking for Thanksgiving with banana bread, because it’s so dang easy. Fannie Farmer has the classic recipe.

Apple pie. I don’t really follow a recipe for the filling – just sliced apples, sugar, a little flour, cinnamon and a little numeg, and dots of butter on the top – but here is the crust recipe I use — except I use butter, which I freeze (or even just chill) and grate it into the flour, so it only takes a few jabs with a butter knife to fully incorporate it. The butter does warm up in your hand as you grip it, so be careful of your knuckles if it slips!

My 17-year-old used cookie cutters to make stars and flowers, and made an overlapping pieced crust, which was lovely. We brushed it with an egg wash (beaten up egg with a little warm water) and then sprinkled sugar on top before baking.

I baked the pies until they were almost done the day before, then put them back in the oven at 250 while we were eating the meal. By dessert time, they were hot again and perfectly browned.

Pumpkin pie. I used readymade graham cracker crust and followed the recipe on the side of the pumpkin can. And yes, I had to run to the convenience store and buy evaporated milk, because all I had was condensed milk. I always know what the difference is, except for two times: when I’m shopping, and when I’m baking.

We had whipped cream and ice cream for the pies. I intended the kids to have a choice, but they intended to have both ice cream and whipped cream on everything. Corrie skipped the pie and just had ice cream and whipped cream.

Crock pots were very useful. I made the gravy on the stovetop, then transferred it to a slow cooker, to free up space and keep it warm, and filled the gravy boat from that. I also microwaved the gravy boat, so it stayed warm while it was on the table. I used my other slow cooker for mulled apple cider.

It was my husband’s turn to worry that there wouldn’t be enough food, so he bought an extra turkey breast, so we roasted that, too. I helpfully added garlic eyes so it could glare at us.

And now for the Hobbit bread recipe!

Next time she makes it, I’ll take pictures at different stages, so you can see how the dough gets that braided effect.

Braided Bread Stuffed with Mushrooms, Onions, and Cheese

This hearty bread is practically a meal unto itself. In celebration of Hobbits well known love of mushrooms, this is stuffed with mushrooms, onions, cheese, and English country herbs. It’s best fresh from the oven while the cheese is still runny, but the leftovers are almost as good served alongside supper to help soak up a hearty plate of mutton or venison gravy.

Dough:
1 ½ c / 300 g water
1 tbsp active dry yeast
4 tbsp / 85 g honey
4 eggs
½ c oil
6 ½ -7 c / 825 – 850 g bread flour
1 tbsp coarse salt
8 cloves minced garlic
1 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves
1 tsp fresh basil leaves, minced

Filling:
2 tbsp butter
2 c / 200 g sliced mushrooms
2 onions, diced
2 c / 250 g shredded mozzarella
2 cloves garlic in filling
1 tbsp rosemary in each
1 tsp basil
1 tbsp coarse salt
To make a loaf , start by dissolving your yeast in the warm water. Feel free to add an extra tsp of honey at this stage to help kick start your yeast. Walk away for ten minutes. When you come back, the yeast should have bloomed so it looks like a mushroom cap rising up out of your bowl. It knows its fate.

Mix in the eggs, oil, salt, and the rest of the honey. When you achieve a soupy mass, add the minced garlic , fresh rosemary leaves, and fresh basil. It should smell delicious.

Now mix in the bread flour. Modern cooks with a stand mixer can attach the dough hook and let it knead away for 6-8 minutes. If you want to get a real feel for the period, knead it by hand for 8-10 minutes. The dough should be soft, pliant, and not too tacky.

Form it into a ball, cover it with a clean dishtowel, and let it rise for an hour, or until double in size.

Meanwhile, make your filling. Melt your butter in a large skillet over a medium-high heat. Add your onions and cook until they start to brown . You want them to lose a lot of moisture while gaining some flavor.

Once the onions start to brown, add your garlic, rosemary, and basil. Keep cooking for another 3-4 minutes, or until the garlic barely starts to brown . Finally add the mushrooms. You don’t want to overcook them. Mix them in and cook for another 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Take the pan off the heat and finish it with the coarse salt. Set it aside to cool while the dough continues rising.

Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down. Flour a clean surface and roll the dough into a rectangle . Put that rectangle on a sheet of parchment paper so you can easily move the finished loaf to a pan. Trim away any rough edges.

Now that you have a trimmed rectangle of dough, mentally divide the rectangle into thirds. The center third is where you place your filling. The outer two thirds will be cut into braid strips. To give it an attractive , braided top, make neat, even, 1 inch 2.5 cm wide cuts along each side. Make a bed of cheese in the middle ⅓ of your bread. Pile the mushroom filling on top of that. Cover the filling with any remaining cheese. Fold both end pieces inwards so they cover some of the filling.

To create the braided top, pull the cut edges of dough over the center, alternating sides and tugging tight, so the dough completely covers the filling. This makes a single, massive rectangular loaf . Slide it onto your largest cooking pan. If you don’t have any oversized baking sheets, just slide it into a heavily buttered 9×13 glass baking pan. Either way, let it rise for another hour. You put this much work into it, so you might as well make the bread pretty. Whisk together an egg and 1 tbsp of water to make an egg wash.

Use a pastry brush to paint the surface of the bread. If you’d like, sprinkle another 1 tsp of coarse salt on top. Bake the bread at 350F / 180C for 35-40 minutes. If the top starts to get too brown, cover it with foil.

Due to the moist interior, the bottom of this bread has a tendency to get soggy if you leave it out overnight. That means it’s your duty to consume the entire loaf before bedtime. If you don’t have a party of dwarves or a couple teenagers on hand to help you finish it, you can always use the leftovers to make savory mushroom bread pudding for tomorrow’s dinner.

Hobbit book link and mezzaluna knife link are Amazon Associate links. That means I make a small commission if you buy the product I’m linking to. Or if you buy any product from Amazon, after you get there from using one of my links.

If you’re shopping on Amazon any time, please consider using my links! It should be exactly the same Amazon shopping experience for you, but it really adds up and makes a huge difference for my family. Here are the links for the US, the UK, and Canada. If you could bookmark these links and use them every time you shop, I’d be so grateful! Thank you.

United States: http://amzn.to/2uvKq6y
Canada: http://amzn.to/2tcrN3v
UK: http://amzn.to/2uFe9dJ

What’s for supper? Vol. 104: I put the fannie in Fannie Farmer

The theme for the week is YOUR FRIEND BUTTER. Butter is your friend. Don’t listen to your doctor. Your doctor is DOO-DOO. You need more butter!

And you also need my pal Fannie Farmer. This week, what with the cold and the colored leaves and the swirling mists and the ennui, I found myself turning again and again to this cookbook I’ve been using for over twenty years now. Good old Fannie taught me how to roast pork ribs, how to make pie crust and pie filling, how to wait for the onions in onion soup, and so much more.

Fun fact: The author, Marion Cunningham, was briefly married to a then-unknown Thurgood Marshall when they were both teenagers. The couple broke up within days of the wedding, apparently after a bitter all-night dispute over rigatoni.

That’s . . . that’s not true. I’m sorry.

Short version of what we had this week: Butter.
Long version:

SATURDAY
Chicken burgers, chips, carrots and hummus

I have no memory of Saturday.

***

SUNDAY
Chicken pecan salad; apple pie

They keep asking for this dish, so I keep making it.

Coat chicken breasts in oil, salt, and pepper, and roast them in the oven, then cube the meat. Serve over greens with dried cranberries, toasted pecans (or almonds or walnuts), crumbled blue cheese or feta cheese, diced red onions, and some kind of sweet vinaigrette. This time we had pomegranate. I burned the nuts, but they were still good.

I finally got around to making a pie, long after we ate up all the apples we picked at the orchard. I used the Fannie Farmer pie crust, but used butter instead of shortening. I also did the trick of freezing the sticks of butter for half an hour and then shredding them with a cheese grater. This does 90% of the work of incorporating the fat into the flour without overworking it, and this crust turned out light and supple without sacrificing taste. It won’t work on Thanksgiving, though. It only works if I make a pie for no particular reason. On Thanksgiving, my pie crust will be doo-doo.

I rolled out the dough for the top crust and turned it over to the kids, who used Halloween cookie cutters to make a pie of great spooooookiness.

They used kind of a lot of them, so it has sort of an indeterminate “well of souls” look, I guess.  I wet the crust a bit and sprinkled sugar on the top, also spooky. You could also brush on a little beaten egg white to give it some gloss, if you’re into that.

***

MONDAY
Oven roasted pork ribs, rice, mashed butternut squash, apple pie

A very fine autumn meal

and still the best way to prepare pork ribs indoors. Just plenty of salt and pepper and a very hot oven and turn the ribs once, until they are browned. So juicy and easy. Be a meat hero!

For the squash, I cut them in half, scooped out the pulp and seeds, and just cooked them as-is in a medium oven until they were soft, maybe 30 minutes or so. Peeled off the skin and mashed the squash up with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Cozy.

The kids were by far most excited by the rice, which I cooked in beef broth instead of water. This is their idea of Ultimate Fanciness.

We had an entire leftover pie from Sunday! I don’t understand what is happening to our family. “Leftover pie.” Clarification?

***

TUESDAY
Taco Tuesday! and corn chips

I learned from previous weeks that too much cumin can make your taco meat taste like angry dirt, so I eased up on the cumin and added plenty of salt, pepper, chili powder, and garlic powder.

The iceberg lettuce I was saving turned out to be cabbage. So I shredded that, and it was fine. Our fridge has a trick of freezing everything in back, and it turns out sour cream does not recover from being frozen. It gets separated and mealy, bleh. But we did have tomatoes and plenty of cheese, plus jarred jalapeno rings. Good enough for the likes of us.

***

WEDNESDAY
Onion soup, Italian sausages, beer bread

Just sausages! I really wanted onion soup, but a significant faction in the family needs to have meat. A few pounds of sweet Italian sausages in the pan, and there it was: Supper.

I absolutely love this simple onion soup recipe. I used about 6-7 pounds of yellow onions and just acres and acres of butter. I used beef broth instead of water (skip the salt if you use broth), and tons of pepper and Parmesan cheese at the end. Nothing to it, and it doesn’t look like much, but it’s so good.

Beer bread is another recipe I won’t shut up about. It’s so easy, a . . . a . . . I don’t know, a naked toddler could make it.

You don’t need quite as much butter as the recipe says (and it’s not strictly necessary to bathe in the flour, either), but as long as you don’t be a big lazy baby and you take the time to sift, this bread comes up fluffy and golden and moist every time, with a gorgeous cobbled crust.

It’s much less crumbly and cake-like and more chewy and bread-like than most quick breads. And you can make it all in one bowl. Mix up the dry, add the beer, stir it up and chunk it in the pan. It says to bake an hour, but start checking at 40 minutes or so. It has an earthy, slightly honeyed taste. (This varies with the beer, of course. I used Narragansett.)

***

THURSDAY
Grilled cheese with ham and apple

Extremely popular here. They didn’t even ask if there were chips coming. (There were not.)

I put a layer of cheddar cheese top and bottom, with the ham and apples in the middle, and then put the sandwiches in the oven for a bit after grilling, to make sure it’s all melted. I have been using this wonderful sourdough bread from Aldi lately. It’s perfect for grilled sandwiches.

We make our grilled sandwiches with a thin layer of mayo on the outside. It doesn’t give it a mayonnaise taste, but it adds a sort of thin, crunchy crust to the entire sandwich. (Yes, you still use butter on the pan after spreading mayo on the bread. Yes, this is why we’re fat. WORTH IT.)

I really wanted some leftover onion soup, but the sandwich was completely filling, and I had to admit, I was truly stuffed. So I just ate the sandwiches the kids didn’t eat. Whatever, I went running this morning. Whatever!

***

FRIDAY
Giant pancake with chocolate chips, scrambled eggs

I felt guilty about something last week, I forget what, so I bought a bag of chocolate chips.

Giant pancake, if you don’t know, is this: You take an entire box of pancake mix and add enough water to make thick batter. Butter a pan, spread the batter in, and bake at 350 for ten minutes or so. Serve in wedges and go lie down. Bring a stick of butter with you, just in case.

What’s for supper? Vol. 102: Barely soup

IT IS OCTOBER AND NOW WE CAN HAVE SOUP! I’m trying to pace myself, though. Just one per week. BUT OH BOY!

SATURDAY
Jalapeno chicken quesadillas, tortilla chips and salsa

I had tons of leftover chicken from last week, so I roughed it up a bit and added it to the cheddar quesadillas, along with some sliced jalapenos from a jar and some chopped scallions. Excellent, if a little difficult to flip intact. Jarred jalapenos are finding their way into more and more of our meals.

Also on Saturday, we harvested the last thing from our garden

and thanked the Lord of the harvest that we don’t have to survive on things we grow in our garden.

***

SUNDAY
Beef vegetable soup, pumpkin bread, caramel apples

This was supposed to be beef barley soup, but I lost my list

at the beginning of a 3.5-hour shopping trip involving five stores.

 

Guess what? I remembered every last damn thing on the list, except barley. So I threw some macaroni in the pot, instead, and it was fine.

This may be my favorite soup. First I sauteed up two diced carrots and a diced onion in olive oil, salt and pepper, then I added a few pounds of cubed flank steak and lightly browned it. A couple of cans of diced tomatoes with the juice, about a pound of sliced mushrooms, about eight cups of beef broth, a little water, and a bottle of hard cider (I usually use red wine, but I think the cider is even better), and let it simmer all day. I added the pasta twenty minutes before it was time to eat.

As I made the pumpkin bread, I thought happily to myself what a foolproof, reliable recipe it is, and how it never, ever comes out bad. So you know what happened next. It was flabby and dense, with a harsh, unpleasant taste.

I have no idea what I did. I think maybe the baking soda was too old, and . . . the pumpkin was cursed? I don’t know. I’ll make it again, because I’ve made it fifteen times before with great results. But I’m buying new baking soda first. Oh well.

The soup was so good, I ate it for lunch the rest of the week. Every time I reheated it, the macaroni got a little bigger. It was like an edible coming of age story.

After years of struggling with candy thermometers, I have discovered that those caramel wraps you can buy are so worth the money. The kids can make them almost unassisted, and there is no mess.

We put ours in the oven to soften up and then tried to press rainbow sprinkles in. That was probably the most labor intensive part, and they didn’t stick well. Next time, we’ll just leave them be.

***

MONDAY
Pulled pork, roast butternut squash, tater tots

Another excellent meal for fall weather (and also a good one to prep ahead, if you are going on a Girl Scout hike and coming home hungry from all that confidence-building).

I have a picture of this meal, but where? Well, pulled pork doesn’t look like much of anything anyway. The squash is so pretty, though.

I put a pork shoulder into the slow cooker with salt and pepper, a quartered onion, several cloves of garlic sliced, and a can of beer. Nice and easy.

I was feeling all cozy and nostalgic about the return of squash season, until I tried peeling the squash. Ten minutes later, I was out of breath, my arms were trembling, I had removed about three square inches of squash skin, and Corrie was looking at me anxiously, trying to figure out why I was so mad.

Happily, I found this cheat. You poke the skin with a fork, cut off the top and bottom, and microwave it for three minutes.  So easy! Then, it says, you “Delight at how easily the skin comes off.” That was the only part that didn’t work. I ended up cutting the squash into pieces and microwaving it several times. It became slightly easier to peel, but there was definitely no delight involved.

I eventually cubed the squash, mixed it with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and laid it on a shallow pan and roasted it at 400 for maybe 35-40 minutes. To me, the sweet, buttery taste of squash goes perfectly with pulled pork. To everyone else, there certainly was a lot of squash for Mama to eat.

(Dramatization)

***

TUESDAY
Frozen chicken, chips

We tried one of those bags of violently red, ludicrously spicy chicken things, plus a bag of some kind of batter fried honey chicken things. We ate them.

***

WEDNESDAY
French toast, sausage, grapes

That was for the kids. Damien and I went out to Applebee’s because did you know they have $1 margaritas all through October? Normally we avoid Applebee’s, because the food is shiny and limp, the service is indifferent, the music is worthless and way too loud, and the decor makes you feel like you’re inside a pinball machine. However: $1 margaritas. I had some kind of Asian shrimp and rice ladyfood vegetable nonsense, and Damien had a bacon burger, and we both had . . . kind of a lot of margaritas. Oh, we’ll be back.

(Reminder from a friend: If you send your waitress back and forth many times to fetch you lots of cheap margaritas, calculate your tip based on all that trotting, rather than on the artificially low bill.)

***

THURSDAY
Sausage spinach skillet

Almost good. It certainly is easy and cheap (recipe from Budget Bytes). It’s supposed to be a stand-alone dish, but I made fettucine to serve it over, because I can see into the future and I knew we’d need a back-up dish. My husband thought it would be better in some kind of garlicky sauce, possibly a light cream sauce. Maybe I’ll come back to it. Or maybe I’ll just sit on a mountain and watch my tail grow.

***

FRIDAY
Pizza

Birthday party! The theme is Clash of the Titans, so we’ll see how that goes. The one thing I know is if you invite a bunch of rail-thin teenage girls over for a party, there needs to be a lot of pizza. A lot.

***
Book illustration photos from Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel and The Funny Thing by Wanda Ga’g