What’s for supper? Vol. 95: Life in the fast lane!

Oh, hello! I didn’t see you there. My name is Simcha Fisher, and you may remember me as that lady who used to blog occasionally, a long time ago. This week, more urgent things came up than I could shake a stick at, and so blogging here just had to go shake a stick at itself. Sorry! Back in the saddle we go. Right after I set up this rock tumbler it seemed important to buy and set up. What is the matter with me.

SATURDAY
Papa Gino’s

On Saturday, we went to the fabulous, thrilling amusement park/water park and stayed for ten hours! We had such a good time, I took almost no pictures! This is the first time we’ve gone to a place like this all together. The kids went on the upside-down roller coaster and everything. I confined myself to rides that were only a little terrifying, like the log flume. My absolute favorite: DaVinci’s Dream, which is like a giant rotating mushroom with swings on long chains, so when it comes up to speed and starts to tilt, you float through the night like a, like a, night air manta ray. It does something mystical to my brain pan.

Seeing the little girls on the carousel, on the other hand, makes my heart explode.

Boy, did they have a good time.

For dinner, we dragged ourselves into a Papa Gino’s right before they closed and devoured some pizzas on the way home.

Very hot pizza. I’ll say it again: Papa Gino’s pizza is better than you have any reason to expect. They are a Pepsi, not a Coke establishment, though. Forewarned is forearmed.

Anyway, if you’re in NH, I heartily recommend Canobie Lake Park. It’s reasonably priced, you can come and go so you can eat lunch outside the park, and there is a huge variety of rides, and everything was very clean and orderly. The layout was very smart, so you never get stuck in dead patches with nothing to do. They had live music (nice music! Not horrible music!) and little shows and attractions everywhere, and weren’t constantly haranguing you to pay for extra stuff; and there were fireworks over the lake at the end of the night. There are tons of benches and shade trees throughout the park, and the whole thing is just as pleasant as can be.

***

SUNDAY
Blueberry chicken salad

Probably the last one of the summer. I roasted some chicken breasts with oil, salt, and pepper, and cut it into chunks. Served on top of mixed greens with feta cheese, blueberries, red onion, toasted pecans, and dijon vinaigrette (recipe here).

I chopped the greens up small so as to make it taste fancier, but it just kind of pre-wilted everything. Oops.

***

MONDAY
Scrambled eggs, sausages, oven roasted home fries

Three dozen eggs, fifty sausages, and about six pounds of potatoes, if you’re interested. The Amazing Elongated 13-year-old Boy still made himself a few sandwiches after supper, as usual. He actually makes two sandwiches, one for each hand, and somehow eats them both at the same time. I’ve seen it happen and I still can’t believe it.

***

TUESDAY
Honey sesame chicken, rice rolls

I had high hopes for this slow cooker recipe from Damn Delicious, but it was damn disappointing. The flavor was kind of harsh, and it turned out drippy. I also made the mistake of serving it with crunchy rice rolls from Aldi, too, instead of on a bed of rice. Everyone was a pretty good sport, but lots of people were making sandwiches.

***

WEDNESDAY
English muffin pizzas

I have no memory of Wednesday. It’s like there has to be one day out of each week that just gets sucked down a memory hole, as a propitiation to Hectic and Frantic, the twin gods of late August.

***

THURSDAY
Pork ribs, french fries, peas

Some cousins magically appeared, so I ran out for more pork ribs and french fries, and then somehow burned all the pork and undercooked the fries. The peas were a hit, though. By which I mean they hit each other with peas.

***

FRIDAY
Quesadillas, corn chips, beans and rice

Or maybe not, because one of the cousins just threw up! And our really quite new washing machine, for which we bought a warranty and an extended warranty, has been broken for almost two weeks. They are apparently now mining for the ore with which to fashion a new lid lock, which we told them it needed over a week ago and which we can expect to arrive sometime next week. But don’t worry, they will partially reimburse us for laundromat expenses! If we can produce receipts. You know, the receipt you get when you put a bunch of quarters into a washing machine. And we’re going to Rhode Island for a family reunion tomorrow, and I cleverly left all the carseats out in the driveway, and it poured rain last night. SO MAKE YOUR OWN QUESADILLAS.

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

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

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

On to the food.

SATURDAY
Birthday party!

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

None of this:

Just fun! Fun fun fun!

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

***

MONDAY
Cilantro lime chicken, rice

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

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

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

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

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

***

TUESDAY
Deconstructed pork shish kabob, watermelon

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

WEDNESDAY
Kids had fish tacos, we had Chinese

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

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

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

***

THURSDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, hot pretzels

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

***

FRIDAY
I think spaghetti.

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 92: Never trust a man who skimps on garlic

Time’s a-wastin. Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Apple chicken pecan salad

A fine summer meal. I mixed up the chicken with bottled Italian dressing, then broiled it and sliced it. I served the warm chicken over salad greens along with diced green apples, bleu cheese, dried cranberries and toasted pecans.

I bought a bottle of raspberry vinaigrette. I love the combination of the tart apple and sour creese with the sweet cranberries and dressing.

Always toast your pecans! It makes the texture so much more pleasing, and brings out the flavor so much. Just run them into a medium oven in a shallow pan for 8-10 minutes, until the color darkens. So worth it.

***

SUNDAY
Garlic chicken thighs, bread, asparagus

I was agonizing over an essay about Pope Francis for an upcoming book, so I abandoned Damien with some trays of chicken thighs and two bags of asparagus. He proceeded to drive me insane with the aromas of paradise (namely, roasted garlic) as he prepared Roasted Garlic Clove Chicken from Food Network. He even sent me tantalizing pictures to distract me from my work:

Never trust a man who skimps on garlic.

The chicken was very good, the garlic was scrumptious, but the sauce was out of this world.

The bread was essential in that it stopped me from putting my face in the plate and doing unspeakable things with that sauce. Just remarkable. I’m definitely going to permit him to make this for us again.

***

MONDAY
Hot dogs, beans, chips

I have no memory of Monday.

***

TUESDAY
BBQ Korean pork ribs, mangoes, pasta

Another splendid meal. We spent the afternoon clambering about in a deep, romantic chasm of a local gorge. Gorges are my favorite kind of landscape. They have everything you need. I forgot to take pictures, though.

I had a bunch of country style pork ribs, so I mixed them up with gochujang, honey, sugar, soy sauce, onions, and fresh garlic (I found a spare head quaking in fear behind a bottle of corn syrup. It alone was spared in the great Garlic Massacre of Husband Cooking), and let them marinate most of the day. My husband cooked them up on the grill in the evening. Superb. The best possible meal for hungry gorge-clamberers.

We were supposed to have rice on the side, but we had run out, so I cooked up a bunch of plain noodles, thinking half the kids wouldn’t want spicy Korean pork anyway. The little creeps gobbled that meat up! I do remember wishing they would develop more sophisticated palates, but on the other hand, they are now eating all my spicy Korean pork. They ate the noodles, too.

We also had sliced mango, which was a wonderful, cooling side dish for the pork.

***

WEDNESDAY
Fish tacos, chips

The kids were excited about this meal, because then they could go, “Mmm, fish dinner!” in a creepy voice for a reason for once. I was a bit disappointed because I forgot so many of the ingredients, and plus the cabbage turned out to be a head of lettuce. A lot of guys were shouting stuff.

***

THURSDAY
Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, salad

My sister and her kids came for a visit, hooray! We took ten pounds of ground beef and two pounds of ground turkey (you know, for our health), a dozen eggs, breadcrumbs and seasoning and  . . . well, then I left the house, and my oldest daughter magically transformed it into untold meatballs. I can’t believe she didn’t count them, but here is a blurry picture, pre-cooking:

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I need to again empower you to free yourself from the tyranny of individually-fried meatballs. Put them in a hot oven on shallow pans on something that allows the fat to drain, and there you are.

***

FRIDAY
French toast

So let it be written; so let it be done.

I asked on Facebook for ideas for chicken thighs, and got tons of them, including the one Damien made on Sunday. Anyone interested in a separate post with just yummy-looking recipes for chicken thighs?

What’s for Supper? Vol. 89: Hot dogs and hamburgers all the way down!

What did we eat this week? I thought you’d never ask.

SATURDAY
Hamburgers and hot dogs, chips, birthday cake and ice cream

My son turned 15 (actually it was kind of a while ago), and his wingspan, from fingertip to fingertip, is now six feet. He can almost touch the floor and the ceiling at the same time. We have low ceilings, but still. Size 14 shoes. Boxing lessons. Life is strange, and fast.

He wanted to go to the beach with his friends and then home for a hamburger and hot dogs cookout, and so it was done. He also requested, SIGH SIGH SIGH, a laundry bag cake.

This is from the new MST3K series, where the invention exchange includes a Carvel Cake Wheel of all the possible cakes one could make with a Carvel Whale Cake Pan. Including a laundry bag cake. Considering I don’t have a whale cake pan, I thought this cake designed to look like a cake designed to look like it’s made despite owning a whale cake pan turned out pretty good.

***

SUNDAY
Curried chicken salad

I chucked a bunch of chicken breasts in the Instant Pot (YES, MY HUSBAND FOUND THE MISSING VALVE COVER BEHIND A PHALANX OF LAUNDRY BASKETS!) with a can of coconut milk and a little water, and pressed the “poultry” button.

I mixed a tub of unflavored yogurt with plenty of curry powder and added the cooked, cubed chicken to that. One of the kids chopped up the salad greens nice and small, so as to, I don’t know, make it more exotic. The recipe called for raisins or grapes mixed into the curry sauce, but I didn’t like the sound of that, so we had grapes on the side, plus chopped walnuts.

It was a pretty okay dish. The people who liked curry liked it, the people who didn’t like curry didn’t like it, and there were a couple who kept asking what curry was, but refusing to taste it, so I threw them out the window. Anyway, it was easy. I also gave two of my teenage daughters a driving lesson, and then unrelatedly headed briskly to the liquor store.

***

MONDAY
Grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, chips

There was a Big Clean a-comin’, so we had a simple meal Monday. Actually we had already pressed everyone into servitude getting the house ready for the last party, not to mention the one before that, so there wasn’t all that much left to do. Relatively speaking. You set your standards to “Low Low Low,” pretend it’s okay not to own a vacuum cleaner, and off you go.

We went to the town fireworks display that night, didn’t get into any fights with any yahoos, and came home with the right number of kids in the dark, so that was a success. Corrie proclaimed the fireworks “orange” and then fell asleep.

***

TUESDAY
July 4th Cookout!

What a spectacular day. We had something like forty people, including my one and only cousin whom I haven’t seen in twenty years. Everyone brought something to eat or drink, and my father brought fireworks and read the Declaration of Independence

and handed out sparklers. The kids played in the stream and swung on swings, everyone gorged on watermelon and meat, the entire neighborhood filled up with smoke, we played Johnny Cash, and it was swell. A really happy day.

We had hamburgers, hot dog, and pork spiedies, chips, potato salad, pasta salad, corn on the cob, watermelon, cookies, and brownies. There was no end of beer and soda, plus Dark and Stormies (dark rum, ginger beer, and lime). And cigars. Actual conversation, one of many similar types of conversations:

Damien: We need fifty pounds of ice. No, sixty. Better get a hundred.
Me: Are you sure?
Damien: The bags are five pounds.
Me: You sure you want me to get twenty bags of ice?
Damien: I don’t know, I’m crazy.
Me: That just seems like a lot. I’ll get ten bags.
Me, loading ten bags into cart: This doesn’t seem like enough. I better get some more. [loads several more bags into cart]
Husband texts me to say there is not going to be enough beer, so I stop at another store to buy more beer.
Me at the next store: I don’t know if we have enough ice. Here, grab that bag for me. No, the twenty-pound one.
Husband texts me to say never mind, we have plenty of beer.
WHICH WE CERTAINLY DID. Then it turned out basically everyone at the party had some reason for not drinking, so we were stuck with enough beer to float a free boat off Craigslist in, and the quantity of Dark and Stormies I personally consumed turned into Three Days of Darkness and Stormies, all with lime. I do what I can.

The spiedies were insanely good, if I do say so myself. I got about sixteen pounds of pork loin and my husband cut them into hefty chunks, which we marinated overnight in this marinade. We soaked the wooden skewers in water to keep everything moist, and my husband grilled them veddy nicely. So juicy and flavorful! There really isn’t anything better you can do for pork.

I forgot to take pictures of any food. That’s how good of a party it was!

***

WEDNESDAY
Cookout leftovers

The kids started the day eating cold pork and hamburgers, so we were reduced to leftover hot dogs and watermelon by dinner time.

***

THURSDAY
One-pan honey garlic chicken and red potatoes, salad

This is a great recipe from Damn Delicious. It tastes even better if you have not allowed the chicken to go bad. Blehhh. We all had one bite, spit it out, and ended up eating potato puffs and scrambled eggs for supper. Boo.

***

FRIDAY
Pizza

I said to my husband this morning, “I don’t know what we’re having next week, but it definitely won’t be hamburgers or hot dogs.” Then he reminded me we’re camping next week.

So . . . who’s got camp food ideas besides hamburgers and hot dogs?

What’s for supper? Vol. 83: It will loop around eventually

This week, we had one very fine meal to look forward to (pork banh mi). Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to make it. Here is what we had instead:

SATURDAY
Aldi pizzas

On Saturday, we woke up early to go run two miles, and then . . .
I’ll just wait here while you check whose blog you’re reading. Still me.
We ran, I say, then we drove into the city to buy my new vehicle which is not a rusty white van,

ate some gyros,

went to confession finally,

drove home, and then Benny lost a tooth,

and then I did the grocery shopping.

***

SUNDAY
Hamburgers and chips

Mr. Husband held down the fort all day while I drove to visit my parents. My mother is confused about many things, but still clear on the merits of ice cream.

We ate steak tips with mushrooms on egg noodles (the other half of an enormous recipe I made last month in the slow cooker. It fell apart a little when defrosted, but it was still tasty and tender).

***

MONDAY
Pork chops, baked potatoes, cole slaw

Salt, pepper, meat, and heat. We had so many places to be, it was a miracle we ate while it was still technically Monday.

***

TUESDAY
Greek salad and chicken

Tuesday was a good day for a make-ahead meal, as there was yet another evening concert. I liked the singing. Well, most of it. That one kid who always beatboxes is really begging for the hook, but otherwise, they sang well.

But my friends, there were seven songs, and then a nine-hour interlude for awards for “most improved alto in the women’s jazz ensemble . . . most improved alto in the presumably more elite women’s jazz ensemble . . . most outstanding alto appearing in the greatest number of jazz ensembles . . . ” and then everyone had to stagger across the stage in their ludicrous cork-heeled shoon and give the choir director another hug because they humorously forgot to give her a hug the first time, and as I sat there being proud and supportive, a tiny, agonized voice at the base of my skull kept whispering directly into the bruised void of my psyche, “It says here there are still eight more songs to go . . . ”

Well, my friends, the final song was “Imagine,” by John Lennon . . . with hand motions. A tear blinded my ee, and I may or may not have been the one softly calling, “Booo-urns” while I applauded. And I think that was pretty restrained, considering this ill deed done to me.

Oh crap, this is a food blog. Well, we had “Greek” salad. Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, hard boiled eggs, black olives, and cold chicken.

I used the Instant Pot (affiliate link) to make hard boiled eggs. If you eat a lot of hard boiled eggs, the IP is super. It steams them, and the shells slide off very easily.

I make salad with cold chicken a lot in the summer. Normally I marinate the chicken and then throw it under the broiler, but this time I tried out the Instant Pot “poultry” button.

In the pot, I put about seven boneless chicken breasts, some white wine, a lot of lemon juice, a splash of water, a little olive oil, and kosher salt, pepper, olive oil, paprika, dried basil, and several cloves of minced garlic, and mixed it all up. The liquid came about halfway up the chicken.

Instant Pot recipes can be misleading, because they will say “cook on high pressure for six minutes,” but that’s just how long it’s actually cooking. The six minutes doesn’t include how long it takes for the IP to come up to pressure and how long it takes to release the pressure, but your life is certainly still ticking by during that time.

Kind of, she remarked bitterly, like those NFP booklets that promise, “Oh, you’ll only have to abstain for six days a month!” because they are using some kind of voodoo calculations based on the Aztec calendar, non-typical circadian rhythms, people who are only in the same bed together twice a year anyway, so everything more than that counts as bonus, right? And plus they are lying. See? It only takes six minutes!

Not wishing to be part of the problem, I put the chicken and liquid into the pot at 10:25 a.m. and pressed the poultry button, and it was completely ready to come out of the pot at 10:54 a.m. Less than half an hour start to finish. That includes adding an extra minute because sometimes being open to life means being careful your kitchen doesn’t kitchen asplode right now, and you think God feels the same way.

So, Instant Pot chicken is good. It comes out moist, and the flavor permeated the meat. I don’t think it’s faster than the oven broiler method; but the pot is easier to clean than a broiler pan. More importantly, the IP doesn’t heat up the kitchen, so it’s a good choice for summer cooking.

***

 

WEDNESDAY
Bagel, fried egg, cheese, and sausage sandwiches

We went running again on Wednesday. It was an evening run, and I’ve been harassing my husband for weeks to try a new route; so we started out on our same path, which is about 75% flat

but then took a right instead of looping around. He kept saying it would loop eventually, and I kept thinking, “When does the looping happen?”; but on the other hand, we were now running downhill, and I didn’t want to stop.

So we ended up . . . somewhere. I don’t know. We ran and ran and only stopped when some guy with a teardrop tattoo on his eye wanted to know where Mountain View Road was. I helpfully pointed out where the frigging mountain was, anyway. The reason I knew where the mountain was, was that we’d been running straight up it for a good twenty minutes.

After that, I found that I was unable to stop thinking about how old I am; so we walked. Then we ran for a while. Then we walked some more. Then we got to a muddy patch and figured as long as we were clearly going to break our ankles, we might as well cut through the woods and save time. Discussed bear avoidance strategies for a while. Swallowed a bug. Came across a sign that said “ARE YOU FRIENDS? FAMILY? DELIVERY? IF NOT THEN THIS IS PRIVATE PROPERTY SO DON’T.” Walked some more, a little faster.

Then, guess what? It looped around!

***

THURSDAY
Hot dogs, donuts, Doritos

I don’t even want to talk about it. There was a school play right before supper. It was raining. The baby sobbed every time her sister went off stage. There was a Holy Day of Obligation right after supper and only one adult, and you don’t want to know how hard I had to squeeze the bulletin to give up the information about when and where Mass would be. There was one point during all the to and fro where the kids were all starving, so I got donuts. Heard from the back of the car, “Can I have your donut?”

I said, “No, I already gave mine to the baby,” and then I looked in the rear view mirror and realized that she wasn’t talking to me. She was talking to her sister on the phone. Her sister who is currently in California. And then they sang, “Go Make a Difference!”

***

FRIDAY
Quesadillas; red beans and rice

Quesadillas with havarti, to be exact. It was on sale. If you know havarti doesn’t work for quesadillas, you need to keep it to yourself.

What’s for supper? Vol. 81: How very Montessori

Yipe, it’s late! Never mind the introduction where I mention that we were extremely busy this week. Here’s what we ate:

SATURDAY
Pizza and birthday cake

Another birthday! Actually, this birthday was last month, but we finally got around to having the party and sleepover. Child requested calzones, but I bargained her down to pizza. The cake, I refuse to show you. Turns out it’s very possible to go very, very wrong with a simple Deathly Hallows symbol.

A few of the decorations turned out pretty good, though. Here are the candles floating over the table:

They are rolls of cardstock with electric tea lights stuck in one end, hanging from threads.

Other quickie Harry Potter party ideas: We drew banners for the four houses on poster board, and drew on white balloons to make them look like owls. We printed out “wanted” signs for the villains and tacked them up, and also printed out and cut out a photo of Moaning Myrtle, and taped that to the toilet. We wrote “The chamber of secrets has been opened” in lipstick on the front window.

Party food was not super inspired – just orange soda labelled “pumpkin juice” and lots of gourmet jelly beans labelled “Bertie Bott’s.” For an activity, the kids dipped pretzel rods in candy melt and then decorated them with various sugars and sprinkles, for wands.

***

SUNDAY
Bacon cheeseburgers, chips, ice cream sundae cones

This was the actual birthday of #1 Son, who requested this fine meal. I want to say there was salad, but I don’t think there was. We got hot fudge and hot caramel, and put one in the bottom of the cone and one on top of the ice cream. Birthday!

***

MONDAY
Oven roasted pork ribs, roast mushrooms, fruit salad

Still the best way to make ribs if you can’t grill them outside. Salt and pepper on a rack in a real hot oven until they’re sizzling hot. So good.

Mushrooms were 79 cents for eight ounces, so I bought six packages and went to town. Here’s the recipe from Deadspin (which means it’s rambling and profane and oddly endearing). This picture is from my very worst camera, but — oooh, that smell.

Strawberries and blueberries were also on sale, so we mixed them together and pretended it wasn’t a weird side dish.

I’m trying to get away from serving potatoes all the time. Not because I have some kind of theory about dietary starches, or because I’m ashamed of my Hobbit forefathers, but . . . I don’t know why, I guess I’m just bored.

***

TUESDAY
Hot dogs, onion rings, corn on the cob

Remember how we had hot dogs last week? Well, this week, we had hot dogs again.

The corn on the cob was first of the season, and middle-of-May corn tastes a lot like “too soon.” But setting the kids to shuck some corn is a quick way to redeem part of one day from what has lately become a discouraging stream of rushing in and out of the car, gobbling pre-packaged junk food, and realizing Sophia the First and her very unlikely rabbit friend have been gabbling away for four hours straight. Here! Shuck some good old corn! Be wholesome for a minute! Maybe we can string wooden beads later, or even — stop me if this sounds crazy — go outside.

So I get them set up with twelve ears of corn and, as I go about my business in the other room, I hear the honest, timeless sound of happy, unspoiled children hard at work at the domestic arts, up to their elbows in the fruits of the earth, smelling green smells, rediscovering the joys of industry. Then I hear,

Corrie is up on the table and she has nothing on her bottom! THE CORN! IS GOING! TO TASTE! LIKE BOTTOM!!!”

Sure enough. How very Montessori.

***

WEDNESDAY
Chicken apple salad, risotto

This meal was a copycat version of a salad I often get at Wendy’s. I got a few bags of mixed greens and let the kids choose their combination of warm grilled chicken, crumbled bleu cheese, diced green apples, sweet dried cranberries, toasted walnuts, and some bottled berry vinaigrette dressing. (Wendy’s version has two kinds of apples, sugared pecans, and pomegranate vinaigrette.)

Fancy!

It’s totally worth the quick extra step to toast the nuts. Put them in a single layer in a baking pan in a 350 oven for about ten minutes. I know everyone is always talking about how this and that brings out the flavor of this and that, but toasting really does bring out the flavor of nuts. It also makes them, I don’t know, more pleasing to the teeth. It turns them into interesting, adult nuts instead of stupid, immature nuts. Just do it!)

I made the chicken by marinating it all day in a bag with some bottled Italian dressing, then roasting it under the broiler on a pan with some drainage. This meal was a big hit. Definitely making it again.

We also had magic Instant Pot (Amazon Affiliate link!) risotto using this recipe (skipping the squash). I’m including a picture because it looks like a lovely little cumulous butt floating through the sky.

Imagine if butts were made with sauteed onions and parmesan cheese. What would they rain down? Pure joy, that’s what.

***

THURSDAY
English muffin pizzas

We were home for about twelve minutes in between school and a concert, so English muffin pizzas did the trick. We made about 45 of them with what turned out to be, oops, cheddar cheese.
Here’s an after-concert group portrait:

Back row: My Mother Made Me Wear This Shirt and It Burnssssssss
Front Row, Left to right: Pretty Much Always Having a Wonderful Time; Angry Because Mama Said We Can Swing On the Swings Anytime, But Not Right Now; This Skirt Is Not Who I Am; and Kind of a Violin Prodigy, Kind of Over Having Siblings

***

FRIDAY
Fish tacos and corn chips

Just frozen fish sticks, shredded cabbage, jarred salsa, sour cream, and limes on tortillas, and maybe some guacamole if I can still lift my arms by the end of the day.

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 80: We built this city on salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

Another week of many toils, trials and snares! Happily, ground beef was on sale, which helped. Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Hamburgers, chips, sweet peppers and hummus

Boy, Saturday was a long time ago.

***

SUNDAY
Vermont turkey sandwiches

So good. You pile on sliced turkey (smoked if you got it), bacon, sharp cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, and slices of Granny Smith apple on ciabatta bread with honey mustard dressing and plenty of pepper. Really excellent combination of flavors and textures.

We also had potato salad, made by my 17-year-old. I am not sure which recipe she used — something basic, with mayo, vinegar, hard boiled eggs, and celery.

***

MONDAY
Pulled pork, french fries, cole slaw

For the pulled pork, I used a bottle of Blue Moon Beer and lots of salt and pepper with the pork butt in the slow cooker. I think this is my favorite beer so far for pulled pork. It has a nice malty, orangey flavor. Or whatever. It tastes different from Budweiser, okay?

I piled up my plate with skinny french fries, heaped the pulled pork on that, squirted on some bottled BBQ sauce, and added some dreadful yellow cheese sauce that I had heated in the microwave. Magnificent.

Here’s the cole slaw recipe we like. It’s a tiny bit runny, but so tart and bright-tasting, it makes a wonderful side dish for a heavy, savory main dish. I think I may chop the cabbage in little squares instead of shredding it, next time. Excitement.

***

TUESDAY
Hot dogs, cheez puffs, beans

I had Mr. Thirteen-year-old make supper. Okay, I told him to cook some hot dogs in a pan. I didn’t tell him when to stop cooking the hot dogs. They were . . . crunchy.

Our kitchen may not be fancy, but there is a window next to the stove. And that has made all the difference.

***

WEDNESDAY
Chicken thighs roasted with potatoes; steamed asparagus

This is a good meal to prep in the morning and throw in the oven in the evening.

I laid chicken thighs and drunksticks [ha, I mean “drumsticks,” but drunksticks sound like fun, don’t they? At least until the next morning] in a shallow pan, then put potato wedges, skin on, all along the edges and in between the chicken. Drizzle the whole thing with olive oil and sprinkle it with tons of salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

Put it in a 400 oven for maybe half an hour, then turn on the broiler to finish browning it at the end. So good and easy.

It turned out a little wetter than I would have liked, so I may use a slotted broiler pan next time to let it drain a bit.

Now that I’ve discovered roast asparagus, steamed is no longer my favorite; but the oven was occupied. Steaming is fine, as long as you take the asparagus out promptly, while it’s still a little crunchy. Little lemon juice and you’re all set.

***

THURSDAY
Meatball subs

I usually make meatballs with half a cup of breadcrumbs per pound of meat and some milk, but we hardly had any breadcrumbs. So I used rolled oats, with lots of trepidation.

I guess it was five pounds of ground beef, two pounds of ground turkey, about six cups of oats, seven eggs, and (following this week’s theme of exotic seasoning) tons of salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I was in a huge rush, so no diced onions, parsley, fresh garlic, or anything. I forgot to add milk.

I make meatballs in a 350 oven, in pans with some drainage. They keep their shape, they’re not too greasy, and you can do it in all one batch.

I made probably eighty meatballs. They turned out great! Very light. I think I’ll use oats from now on. I thought the kids would be turned off if they could see the oats stuck in the meat, but after cooking, they looked no different from normal meatballs.

Yes, I realize I just implied that my kids are normal meatballs. I stand by that.

***

FRIDAY
Ricotta spinach pasta

Here’s a recipe from Budget Bytes that I haven’t tried in a while. I remember it being creamy, satisfying, and easy. I even sprung for actual fettucine, because the flat noodles pick up more creamy sauce than spaghetti does. I spent most of my life thinking that pasta came in different shapes just because Italians get bored easily, but there’s also some sheer physics involved.

***

And now a question for my educated readers. We’re having a birthday party on Saturday, and one of the guests has a dairy and gluten allergy. The kids have so many friends with allergies, I’m used to making safe cakes, but what can you suggest for snacks and candy? The theme is Harry Potter, if that helps.

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

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

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

SATURDAY
Calzones; birthday cake

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


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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

MONDAY
Beef barley soup; garlic knots

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

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

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

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

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

***

TUESDAY
Hot dogs; cucumber salad

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

THURSDAY
Roasted chicken on salad; grapes

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

***

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

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

***

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 74: This is why everyone needs an Instant Pot

Maybe you’re wondering what is the big deal about the Instant Pot. Is it really so great? Why does everyone go so cuckoo over it? Should I be worried that my spouse has bought a pair of spotless doves and is sharpening a knife?

And why does Simcha insist on making these embarrassingly chimpy images with very primitive software and a crying toddler on her lap?

I have the answer.  To the first question, not the second.

It’s because of risotto.

Risotto, risotto, risotto. I love risotto with my whole heart, but it is a pain in the neck to make. Hovering over the pan, stirring, adding in a little broth, stirring, waiting, simmering, waiting, stirring, adding some more broth, stirring, waiting, and it smells divine, but your entire life is passing you by while you wait for it to be done.

In the Instant Pot, it’s easy. Truly easy, and fast. And it tastes just as good as the difficult kind. This, in itself, is a reason to own an Instant Pot. All the other stuff is bonus. Now you know!

Here is the obligatory reminder that all my links to Amazon products are Amazon Associates links, and I get a small percentage of every purchase made using my links. Amazon is restructuring its pay scale soon, to the detriment of people who mostly plug books and toys; so I would be very, very grateful if you could bookmark my link and use it any time you shop on Amazon!

I’m gonna come right out and tell you: we rely on Amazon for our car payments. My husband has a 1.3-hour commute, and absolutely needs a reliable car. So! Please use my links, so my husband doesn’t have to drive to work in the Instant Pot. It’s good, but it’s not that good.

Thank you.

And now, back to risotto.

Last Friday, we had tuna fish patties and butternut squash risotto. I used this butternut squash risotto recipe from Good Housekeeping. I used onions instead of shallots, ground sage instead of fresh, and regular old white rice instead of arborio. It was fabulous. Creamy but not mushy and packed with flavor. Amazing.

I spent a good half hour wandering around the house, taking people by the shoulders, holding them with my glittering eye and quothing at them, “Do you even realize the possibilities?” Risotto with fresh tomatoes. Risotto with bacon. Risotto with scallops or garlicky shrimp. Risotto with asparagus and gorgonzola. Risotto with lemon, mint, and peas. Risotto with hazelnuts. Risotto with saffron and fennel. I don’t even know what fennel is! But I will!

The other reason for having an Instant Pot is because venting the steam is fun. Some days, it is the most fun you will have all day.

***

SATURDAY
Hamburgers, chips

Cousins over again. They responded very positively, with shrieking, to the idea of hamburgers and chips. So let it be written; so let it be done. I had planned sweet peppers and hummus, but there were just too many runny noses and double dippers in the population, so, in the interest of good health, we skipped the veg.

***

SUNDAY
Chicken cutlets with basil; mushroom risotto; salad

Farewell to cousins and hello to my parents. Here is my niece with one of her favorite playthings: My father’s beard.

Damien made one of his absolute most magnificent dishes, the late lamented Deadspin’s chicken cutlets. You pound the chicken flat, bread it (Damien used panko crumbs), fry it (Damien used olive oil and butter), then top it with a fresh basil leaf and a slice of cheese (Damien used mozzarella, but provolone is great, too), and ladle some homemade tomato sauce over that.

This meal makes me go absolutely insane. It’s so good, you can’t imagine. As I ate it, I thought of starving people in the third world and then thought, “TOO BAD.” With these chicken cutlets, you could — dare I say it? Rule the world.  

Also, I had some mushroom left over from last week, when I accidentally didn’t make soup. So I went with this mushroom risotto recipe from This Old Gal. This Old Gal discourages using plain old regular mushrooms, but I did it anyway, and it was good. I didn’t have fennel or parsley, so I went with sage again, and really peppered it up. Completely delicious.

***

MONDAY
Leftovers with spaghetti

Damien had made 38 chicken cutlets, so we put the leftovers in a pan, spread the rest of the sauce over it, added a layer of sliced cheese, and warmed it up in the oven, then served it on spaghetti.

There was no leftover risotto because I devoured it for lunch.

I feel like there was salad.

***

TUESDAY
Korean beef bowl; rice; steambed broccoli and cauliflower

I just noticed that I wrote “steambed” instead of “steamed,” but I think the “b” expresses how lightly I didn’t steam them.

Have you tried Korean beef bowl yet? You won’t regret it.

It’s so easy, and it’s just spicy enough to be warming and comforting, without assailing your mouth. Wonderful use for ground beef. Also a wonderful use for immortal zombie scallions, if you happen to have any haunting your kitchen.

I used, you’ll never guess, the Instant Pot for the rice. This really is easier than stovetop rice. It comes out slightly sticky, which we like, and you just put in water, rinse the rice and dump it in, and then press a button and walk away.

Oh, I thought of another advantage for the Instant Pot. InstantPot.com has plenty of useful, simple recipes, like the rice one above. It also has a slew of completely bonkers recipes that were apparently written by a malicious robot who flunked out of ESL. Here is one of my current favorites: Beer Potato Fish!

A photo of something, who knows what?

“The Beer Potato Fish would be a challenge for a non-professional cooker,” it muses, shaking its head in empathy for the old, dark days so tragically rife with amateurish attempts at beer potato fish, “But it is now a different story with Instant Pot Programmable Pressure Cooker.”

It calls for a pound of fish, some oyster flavored sauce, a cup of beer, and a tablespoon of rock candy. Doesn’t that sound tasty? It also instructs you to push the fish button, which does not exist. I suppose someone is making money off this in some way, and I kind of feel like they deserve it.

***

WEDNESDAY
Oven-roasted pork ribs; mashed potatoes; mixed veg

The Instant Pot had acquitted itself so well this week, I thought maybe I’d try one of the many, many pork rib recipes that are available. But then I remembered that I could also sit on the couch and tell my son how to some pork ribs in a 450 oven on a roasting rack with a little salt and pepper, and I knew they would be scrumptious. And so I did, and so they were.

If there’s a better way to prepare pork ribs, I just don’t care.

I also considered making Instant Pot mashed potatoes, but the recipes all looked more complicated than stovetop recipes. So I just went ahead and boiled them in a non-instant pot and mashed them. I left the skin on, which I almost never do. To me, this adds excitement and piquancy. To others, it’s like hanging around with that weirdo who keeps on harping on the idea that, in many regions, apple cores, corn cobs, and chicken bones are considered a delicacy.

The vegetables were that good old supermarket blend of frozen peas, carrots, corn, string beans, and lima beans. This makes me feel six years old, in a good way.

***

THURSDAY
English muffin pizzas

Since our bishop has given us a St. Patrick’s Day dispensation to eat meat on Friday, we did our meatless meal on Thursday. Except I forgot, and had leftover Korean beef bowl for lunch. For my penance, I had massive heartburn all night, and dreamt I was endlessly editing and re-editing a blog post about best and worst dresses of the Oscars; only I had to do it on taped-together paper with sidewalk chalk and then take photos of it with a Kodak disc film camera.

So, I am all caught up on Lent.

***

FRIDAY
Corned beef boiled dinner; Dublin coddle

So, St. Patrick is, like, the second-tier patron of our regional arch-diacistry, or something; and my husband is tremendously Irish, so we prayerfully discerned that have no choice but to eat three different kinds of meat today.

The kids love boiled dinner, so I’ll be cooking up some corned beef with red potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and adorable little onions, and serving it with gobs of mustard, as St. Patrick himself did. It’s how he drove the snakes away.

We’re also trying a new dish, Dublin coddle (recipe from Southeast Missourian, for some reason) which is a nice little thing with bacon, sausage, sweet and russet potatoes, herbs, carrots and apples. No argument from me. The two other recipes on this page actually sound way better. Maybe when I win the lottery.

Nobody likes soda bread, because it is terrible. Last year, I looked up authentic irish desserts, and quickly discovered why people usually just go with, like, brownies with green frosting.

What’s for supper? Vol. 73: Detachment à la mode con Fleischenttäuschung con Dan Brown

First, a reminder! If you subscribed more than a few weeks ago, I’m afraid your subscription no longer works! I’m so sorry. You’ll need to resubscribe using the form on the right sidebar.

Second, another reminder. If you’ve bookmarked this site and your bookmark isn’t working, please try changing the “https” to “http.” If anyone knows a free or very cheap way to redirect this automatically, please let me know!

Okay, I think that’s all the blog business, except a reminder that the weekly podcast went out last night. It’s password protected for subscribers only. To subscribe, pledge $1 a more through Patreon. I know, I know, it’s kind of involved, but once you get it set up, it’s easy peasy. I do the podcast with my husband, and it’s fun and stupid and drinky, and often has sound effects, offensive jokes, and poetry, all for less than 25 cents a week. WHAT A DEAL.

***

Now for the food.

This week’s food post has no food photos.
Holy reason: It’s Lent, and tempting images of food would not be in keeping with the spirit of the liturgical season.
Real reason: Can’t find my iPad. Instead, please enjoy this photo of Dan Brown being allowed to be in front of a microphone that is turned on. That should be suitably penitential.

And we’re off!

SATURDAY
Sliced ham, fried eggs, raw peppers

Because Jesus is coming, ham is on sale, so I bought a big ‘un. Here is my genius idea: You slice it up first, early in the day, and put it in a pan with a little water and cover it with tinfoil. Then you can throw it in the oven and heat it up quickly before dinner. I fried up a few dozen eggs and sliced up about a bushel of red, yellow, orange, and green peppers.

We still had my nephew and three nieces on Saturday, and this dinner was a big hit with all the kids. Very bright and pretty.

I rate this meal zero Dan Browns, because it was easy, cheap, and well-received. Not penitential at all.

***

SUNDAY
Bò Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew), French bread and butter

The big disappointment of the week. On the penitential food scale, it rates a full three Dan Browns, which is not good.

This Instant Pot recipe from Nom Nom Paleo calls for all kinds of thrilling ingredients. Lemongrass! Curry powder! Fresh ginger! Star Anise! Fish sauce! I followed the directions pretty closely for once, and it smelled wonderful. But the taste was harsh and metallic, yet boring. I just didn’t like it at all. It was like regular old ‘Murkin beef stew, except angrier. What a waste of meat. I felt overwhelming Fleischenttäuschung

Happily, we also celebrated Corrie’s birthday on Sunday. We had chocolate cake (box mix) and cream cheese frosting using this recipe, except I used about half the sugar they called for.  I made a heart-shaped cake, frosted it yellow, and pushed fancy jelly beans into the frosting all around the edge. Then we remembered a pack of little candy hatchets with blood on the blades that I got on clearance after Halloween. They seemed about right for Mama’s widdle axe murderer, so we stuck those in, too.

Suddenly becoming the other kind of two-year-old, she ran away and hid in her crib when we brought the cake out. You guys. It is so hard being two.

***

MONDAY
Hot dogs, baked beans

Nothing to report, nothing to regret. No Dan Browns, because we like hot dogs.

***

TUESDAY
Carnitas with guacamole and chips; hot fudge and butterscotch ice cream sundaes

Taco Tuesday was, of course, Fat Tuesday or Carnevale, which literally means “farewell to meat,” so I thought carnitas make a good send-off. And they were good. I’ve made pork carnitas a few times, but it somehow escaped me until now that you are supposed to fry the meat after slow cooking it; and then you douse it with its own oniony gravy while you fry it. So carnal.

This meal gets half a Dan Brown, only because the salsa turned out to have fermented, and not in the good way.

Sorry you got the half with most of his chin in it.

I used this Instant Pot carnitas recipe from Paint the Kitchen Red. This is a good site if you’re new to the Instant Pot. It really walks you through each step, with copious photos of the Instant Pot buttons and screen, and it warns you how long everything will take. Tasty meat, too.

Now I’m really suffering. I took such gorgeous pictures of that guacamole. There is no more attractive kitchen rubble than guacamole rubble, n’est pas? The shining avocado pits, the papery garlic skins, the feathery cilantro, the gleaming limes. OH WELL. I hope all the souls in purgatory appreciate what I’m going through.

***

ASH WEDNESDAY
Spaghetti, bread and butter, salad

Spaghetti from a box with sauce from a jar with bread from a bag and salad from a pouch never tasted so good. No D.B. at all.

***

THURSDAY
Broiled chicken breast, salad with croutons, pinkaroni salad

I made a marinade of olive oil, lime juice, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and basil. Not terribly coherent, but it tasted okay. You let it marinate for a couple of hours and then slide it under the broiler, turning once. Slice it up and serve it over salad for a Meal of Great Virtue.

I used up the old hamburger buns for croutons. These are so good if you don’t burn them, which I did. Cube the bread, drizzle it with melted butter or olive oil, and then toss them with whatever seasonings you like. I just grabbed some adobo powder, which was fine, if a bit too salty. Then you put them in a shallow pan in a 300-degree oven for forty minutes or so, stirring them up occasionally, until they are toasted all the way through. You can make a ton at a time and store them in an airtight container for a long time. Or, you can just burn them and then eat them all up.

There wasn’t as much green salad as I thought, so I made some macaroni salad, more or less following this recipe. But instead of peppers, I used chopped beets, which turned the mayonnaise dressing pink, which delighted the kids.   Two Dan Browns for the burnt croutons and some expired Thousand Island dressing.

***

FRIDAY               
Fish sticks, chips, broccoli(?)

Current mood:


If you find my iPad, please tell me. Thanks.