What’s for supper? Vol. 308: A kind of Koyaanisqatsi mouthfeel

This week starts so well.

But, dear reader, read on. 

SATURDAY
Italian sandwiches, fries

Always a tasty option. A variety of cured meats from the deli, some jarred pesto, olive oil and vinegar, basil and tomatoes, and plenty of fries. 

And cheese! Do not forget the cheese. 

SUNDAY
Bagel, bacon, egg, cheese sandwiches, OJ

Ran out of eggs; was not sad to have to send a kid to go get some fresh local eggs, some with those lovely blue shells. Fresh eggs just fry up different, especially in bacon fat. 

I set a timer for eighty seconds to toast the bagels in the oven, and immediately forgot they were in there, so if you were wondering how quickly I can forget something, it’s much shorter than eighty seconds. 

This reminds me of a joke Irene once told when she was four, when she owned a riddle book and would adjust most of the jokes to make them funnier:

Irene: Will you remember me in a year?
Me: Yes.
Irene: Will you remember me in eight years?
Me: Yes.
Irene: Will you remember me in a million years?
Me: Yes.
Irene: Knock-knock.
Me: Who’s there?
Irene: HIYA, GRAMPAW!!!!!!!!!
 
Anyway, I didn’t burn the bagels OR the bacon. 

 

Still some chances to eat outside. The hummingbirds have departed, though. 

On Sunday I also made two batches of ice cream for Monday, as I will describe shortly. 

MONDAY
Smoked pork ribs, coleslaw, grapes; homemade ice cream

Monday was Labor Day, and the two moved-out kids came by for dinner, which was lovely. Damien smoked three racks of pork ribs for several hours using his sugar rub and Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce. (This recipe says “chicken thighs,” but it’s the same rub)

Jump to Recipe

An absolute pile of luscious, juicy, tender ribs, so good. Lena made a bowl of wonderfully tart coleslaw and I contributed by washing off some grapes. 

We all liked the ribs, but Corrie really enjoyed them. 

Then for dessert, we had ice cream sundaes. I made two kinds of ice cream: Chocolate and Lucky Charms. I just now had to google “Marshmallow Mateys vs” to remember the phrase “Lucky Charms,” because my brain is too smooth to remember the name of rich person’s cereal at this late date.

I followed the recipe at We Are Not Martha because they told a sad story about how they once got picked up by Bon Appétit but now the food blogging world is clogged with Pinterest copycats and people who put all their effort into photography, and I guess I have a soft spot for people who lead with a kvetch. 

The recipe was fairly labor intensive, because they are trying to get the taste of cereal without including actual cereal, which would be gross. So you have to infuse some milk with Lucky Charms cereal for half an hour, then strain out the cereal

and then use that milk to make a custard

Any time I use a thermometer in a recipe, I feel so put-upon. I feel like I’m using a bellows or an Erlenmeyer flask or forceps or something. Of course this was all 100% my idea, but never ind. I have the ability to create resentment against nobody at all, out of thin air, and to sustain it for hours. So you whisk and heat this custard and then mix it with heavy cream and push it through a sieve again, cover it with plastic wrap, and chill it for four hours. And then you can actually put it in your ice cream machine. 

I churned it for thirty minutes, then added some marshmallow fluff and the marshmallows I suddenly realized I needed to pick out of the remaining box of cereal; and then I refrigerated it overnight. I have to admit, it turned out great. It’s very cute ice cream. The ice cream has a very cozy, custard-y taste that absolutely reminds you of watching cartoons on a Saturday morning, which is something I don’t think I ever actually did. We did not have a TV when I was growing up. I remember once my father brought home a film projector from the college where he worked, and he tacked up a sheet on the living room sliding doors and we watched Koyaanisqatsi, and that’s why I am the way I am.

The marshmallows softened slightly, but some of them still had that peculiar cereal marshmallow crunch. I skipped the sauce and whipped cream and just had ice cream with a cherry. 

I also made chocolate ice cream, which I somehow haven’t made yet, in all our ice cream-making adventures. I was reading over the various recipes and Corrie was looking over my shoulder and reading the little recipe descriptions. 

Corrie: ‘Mouthfeel?’ What’s mouthfeel? 
Me:  It just means how it feels in your mouth. I think I’ll make this simpler recipe, instead.
Corrie: Dang. I like mouthfeel.
So obviously you know how this story ends. I used the Ben and Jerry recipe for Jerry’s Chocolate, which is the version with, as the book says, “a more complex texture. Jerry refers to this as ‘mouthfeel.'” 
It’s a slightly more time-consuming recipe than some of the others I’ve been making, but mainly just because you have to chill the cream mixture for a few hours before you pour it into the machine to churn. I froze it overnight and our freezer is having some kind of personal crisis, and parts of it are MUCH colder than others, so this one came out so hard, I couldn’t scoop it at all. I had to pry it out of the container with a pancake flipper and then carve it into blocks with a knife. Yes, I covered it. I bought a special container with a lid, and lectured the family about how it was just for ice cream, and everything.
 

It was delicious, though. I already had a migraine, so I had a spoonful, and it was very rich, like the ice cream version of very good hot chocolate. And that mouthfeel! Superb. 

TUESDAY
Taco Tuesday!

Back to school. My car mysteriously broke down, so we had to do a rigamarole with borrowed cars to get everyone to school. I shalln’t keep you in suspense: We just got the call today that my car will need an ennnnntirrrrreee newwwww enginnnnne. Yes this is my “nice” “new” car, which I took out a loan to pay for for the first time in my life, which I have had for less than a year and a half, and which already required, among other major repairs, a new t i m i n g c h a i n, which takes twenty hours of labor. My feelings about the car are . . . not very mouthfeel, let me tell you. 

Unless you would like to buy it from me. In which case it’s a great little vehicle, very clean, hardly driven. DM me. 

Anyway, we had tacos. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken shawarma with pita and yogurt sauce

On Tuesday, because I was carless at home, I decided to prep Wednesday’s meal ahead of time, so I marinated the shawarma meat. Then on Wednesday, all I had to do was cut up some cucumbers, wash a bunch of little tomatoes, chop up some parsley, make a batch of yogurt sauce

Jump to Recipe

open a bunch of cans and bottles of various kinds of olives, cut up a bunch of feta, pile up a bunch of pita bread, and slice up a bunch of onions. I’m making it sound like a lot, but it’s like 20 minutes of work, and the rest is just fishing the meat out of the marinade where it has been resting all night,

Jump to Recipe

spreading it in a pan, festooning it with onions, and cooking it just nicely. This is such a low-skill, high-reward meal. Look at this lovely chicken. I included some breasts, some thighs. Red onions are better than yellow, but it’s all good. The thighs are the superior meat for this dish, but it’s all good. 

And here’s my lovely tasty plate. 

Just a fantastic meal. Everybody likes at least a few elements of this meal, and several people like every last bit of it. Everyone’s happy on shawarma night. 

THURSDAY
Pulled pork, cheesy cabbage, hash browns

On Thursday I industriously got the pork into the slow cooker bright an early. I added half a liter of Coke, some onion quarters, a few chopped jalapeños, and bunch of cumin, salt, and pepper, and I set it to low and went away happy. 

Several hours later, I realized Suzy Homemaker here never plugged the damn thing in.

Luckily, the Coke was very cold and the crock pot kept it chilled, so the meat was okay. I moved it all to the Instant Pot and pressure cooked it on high for 22 minutes, then moved it back to the slow cooker for the rest of the day. Came out looking promising.

and it shredded well enough.

I had been planning coleslaw, but I’m a little tired of coleslaw, so I looked up other cabbage recipes, and guess what? They all suck. The only one that seemed remotely tasty was a kind of au gratin idea, with a cheese sauce and maybe a buttered crumb topping. But I was caught between some obnoxiously high brow recipes that called for gruyere and heavy cream and braising, and some distressingly trashy ones that wanted you to smother the whole thing with Cheez Wiz and top it with Ritz crackers. Caught between two worlds, story of my life, very tragic.

So I ended up cutting the cabbage into eight wedges, drizzling it with olive oil and salting and peppering it, and roasting it for about 45 minutes. Then I made a white sauce and added in plenty of various kinds of cheese, plus paprika, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. This I spread over the roasted cabbage, and topped it with crunchy fried onions and parsley. Then I baked it in a high oven for about 20 minutes until the cheese was melted. 

It was disgusting. Never making this again. I don’t know what I was thinking. Cabbage can go screw. 

Here’s a nice picture I took before I tasted it.

I mean it was not the worst thing I’ve ever had in my face. But the cabbage was underdone and the cheese only reached the top layer, so most of it was just plain cabbage; and the cheese sauce had a flavor I can only describe as . . . bricky. It tasted like if you ground up a brick and tried to pass it off as seasoning, with cheese. Maybe put some pennies in there. I don’t know what happened. 

I also served some hash browns. Well, that was the plan. I bought four bags of what it said were hash browns (and this may actually explain what was up with the freezer. That is too many bags), but which turned out to be just straight up shredded potatoes, nothing else. Which is fine, but look, I don’t know, I guess I can’t read. I definitely cannot think. By this time the sun was low in the sky and I was already worried about the cabbage, not to mention the demoralizing Suzy Homemaker situation, so I just spread the potato shreds in a pan, drizzled it with oil, and sprinkled it with salt, and cooked it at a high heat until some of it was burnt and some of it was pale and limp, and it was just going to have to do. Good grief. We did have some leftover Baby Ray’s sauce and everyone was very nice about it.

FRIDAY
We have two different school cookouts that we’re supposed to be at, and we were going to try to split up and go to both, IF the mechanic was done with my car by now. And you know how that story ends! It ends well! My car is diagnosed as having a terminal case of cheesy cabbage and there is no hope. Oh well, maybe there’s some ice cream left. 

Speaking of ice cream, this weekend I intend to hide from reality and spend my time picking the millions of concord grapes we grew for some reason, make some grape juice, and see about making grape gelato. The only reason people don’t make grape gelato more often is that they are cowards, I’m sure of it. 

God save the queen. 

Smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups brown sugar
  • .5 cups white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 20 chicken thighs

Instructions

  1. Mix dry ingredients together. Rub all over chicken and let marinate until the sugar melts a bit. 

  2. Light the fire, and let it burn down to coals. Shove the coals over to one side and lay the chicken on the grill. Lower the lid and let the chicken smoke for an hour or two until they are fully cooked. 

Jerry's Chocolate Ice Cream

This is the more textured chocolate ice cream from the Ben and Jerry's ice cream recipe book. It has a rich, dusky chocolate flavor and texture. Makes 2 quarts. This recipe requires some chill time before you put the cream mixture into the machine.

Ingredients

  • 4 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 cups milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups heavy or whipping cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Melt the unsweetened chocolate. I used a double boiler, but you can use a microwave if you're careful. Whisk in the cocoa and continue heating until it's smooth. It's okay if it's clumpy. Continue heating and whisk in the milk gradually until it's all blended together. Remove from heat and let cool.

  2. In another bowl, whisk, the eggs until light and fluffy. Gradually whisk in the sugar and continue whisking until completely blended. Add in the cream and vanilla and continue whisking until blended.

  3. Add the chocolate mixture into the cream mixture and stir to blend. Cover and refrigerate for about three hours, or until it is cold.

  4. Use the cold mixture in your ice cream machine. I used my Cuisinart and let it churn for thirty minutes, then let it cure overnight.

Chicken shawarma

Ingredients

  • 8 lbs boned, skinned chicken thighs
  • 4-5 red onions
  • 1.5 cups lemon juice
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 entire head garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Mix marinade ingredients together, then add chicken. Put in ziplock bag and let marinate several hours or overnight.

  2. Preheat the oven to 425.

  3. Grease a shallow pan. Take the chicken out of the marinade and spread it in a single layer on the pan, and top with the onions (sliced or quartered). Cook for 45 minutes or more. 

  4. Chop up the chicken a bit, if you like, and finish cooking it so it crisps up a bit more.

  5. Serve chicken and onions with pita bread triangles, cucumbers, tomatoes, assorted olives, feta cheese, fresh parsley, pomegranates or grapes, fried eggplant, and yogurt sauce.

 

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

The Stupids buy an ice cream machine

I know it’s just about the end of summer, but I promised a homemade ice cream report in my last What’s For Supper, so here it is!

First of all, this is the machine I got: A Cuisinart ICE-20P1.

It is about $70 new, but I got mine on Facebook marketplace for much cheaper.  There is a newer model of this same basic machine, the ICE-20P1. There seem to be lots of like-new ice cream machines for sale for cheap, probably because people get them as unwanted presents, or decide they’re not worth the counter space. I have decided no such thing. I love making ice cream.

The other kind of machine in my price range were hand-cranked ones that require salt and ice and tend to have a much larger capacity. The smaller, automatic ones are smaller, but they are automatic (no, I don’t have a writing agent, why do you ask?), and I am definitely at a point in my life where I want to push a button and walk away for a while.

The machine is very simple. The bowl has liquid inside its walls, and you put the bowl in the freezer for many hours, preferably 12 or more, until the liquid is completely frozen. When you’re ready to make ice cream, you fit the bowl onto the machine, put the dasher inside the bowl, fit the large plastic guard over both, turn it on, and pour your ingredients in while it is running. And that’s it. The machine turns the frozen bowl and the dasher stays in place, so the ice cream freezes and gets churned.

You can peek in the top and watch it churning, and maybe even stick a spoon in and grab a taste. 

After about 25 minutes, the ice cream is like soft serve and you can eat it that way if you like. If you want harder ice cream, you pour it into a container and return it to the freezer for another 4-6 hours. (If you are going to leave it in the freezer longer than that, cover it with wax paper.) 

The machine makes 1.5 quarts of ice cream, which is about as much ice cream as one of those oblong cartons from the supermarket.

In theory, you can make one batch, empty it into a container, and re-use the still-frozen bowl to make a second batch of ice cream. But every time I try this, it just doesn’t freeze properly, probably because my kitchen is just too hot and the bowl thaws out too much. So I bought a second bowl on eBay (the same size works for the older and newer model of Cuisinart), so I can make one batch after another. They do take up room in the freezer, but nobody has complained yet. 

Okay, on to the ice cream! Here is what we have made so far:

VANILLA

My first foray. I just used the recipe in the Cuisinart booklet, which is:

Whisk together 1 cup of milk and 3/4 cup of sugar. 
Stir in 2 cups chilled heavy cream. 
Add in 2 tsp vanilla extract. 
Pour into machine and mix 25-30 minutes. 

We ate it right out of the machine, so it was soft serve consistency. It was delicious, but it was then that I discovered that 1.5 quarts was not as much as I thought. 

PEACH

I followed the recipe from Like Mother Like Daughter. (Totally different mother and daughter, FYI. She doesn’t even yell at you or try to sell you a set of expensive books while reminding you that working women inevitably raise crack whores; she just gives you the recipe for peach ice cream. Who knows, maybe it’ll catch on.)

Nice and easy. You peel and chop fresh peaches and macerate them in sugar, then throw them in the food processor, then mix the blended peaches with a standard mixture of milk, cream, vanilla, and more sugar, and then churn and freeze.

It came out very pleasant and peachy with little bits of fruit all through it, and the ice cream itself was mildly peach flavored. This time, I let the ice cream harden up, but I served it in wedges, which blunted its appeal somewhat. It also didn’t help that it was on the plate next to this– well, you’ll see.

Buying an ice cream scoop and being able to serve nice curled-up scoops of ice cream made a big difference for how well the ice cream was received. I might make this recipe again with a little cinnamon and/or ginger or maybe rum, especially when the peaches on our tree ripen up. 

BLUEBERRY GINGER MINT SORBET I GUESS

So I made one batch of peach ice cream and wanted to make a second batch of something contrasting to go with it. I found this amazingly, suspiciously simple recipe for a blueberry mint ginger lime sorbet. My spidey sense told me the website looked hinky, but as you may know, my specialty is forging ahead through hinkiness, for no reason at all. 

Yeah, so, it turned out terrible. It was kind of gritty and pulpy and much too gingery, and it certainly didn’t freeze right, so it was kind of like a very chilly . . . relish. The crazy thing is, I can’t find the recipe at all now. I can’t find it online, and it’s somehow not in my search history. I swear I did not hallucinate this dreadful recipe, and yet. Let’s just move along. 

NEAPOLITAN TRAIL MIX

After the blueberry relish debacle, I promised the kids something yummy and fun would be next. Aldi had these bags of trail mix with chocolate chips, vanilla chips, strawberry chips shaped like ice cream cones, cashews, almonds, and freeze-dried strawberries. 

What really sold me was the ice cream cone-shaped chips. I really needed it to be crystal clear that this was ice cream we were dealing with. Ice cream!

By this time, my Ben and Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book had arrived

so I used the recipe for Sweet Cream Base 1, which is what they recommend for fruit, cookies, and candy. It is similar to the recipes I’d used before, except it has eggs. The recipe:

Whisk 2 eggs for 1-2 minutes. Gradually add in 3/4 cup sugar and continue whisking for another minute. Add in 2 cups heavy cream and 1 cup milk and blend. This makes a quart of ice cream.

I churned up a double recipe of this and then stirred in the trail mix, which I had been keeping in the freezer. This turned out just excellent. I built in time to let it sit in the freezer for four hours before dinner, and I even bought an ice cream scoop, so it came out just like “real” hard pack ice cream.

Very rich, smooth, and creamy. I was afraid the whole nuts would be too big and I should have chopped them up, but they were just right. The only flaw was the freeze-dried strawberries, which were somewhat hard to chew, being both freeze-dried and frozen. But everyone liked this ice cream and said I should make it again. 

By this point, I was in the habit of washing out the freezer bowls, drying them off, and returning them to the freezer as soon as the ice cream was done churning. 

LEMONADE SLUSHIES

On a whim, I made a big pitcher of lemonade (water, bottled lemon juice, and sugar), and dumped it into the machine and let it go for 25 minutes. It came out just a tiny bit more watery than a frozen drink you’d get at the 7-11 or whatever, but there were no complaints. There was a bit left over, which I poured into a cup and froze. Voila, an Italian ice with which to bribe an intractable child the next day. 

My only sadness is that no one in this house is young enough to call them “Flushies” anymore. 

GINGER ALE SLUSHIES

Next day, we tried the same thing with ginger ale, and it did not work at all! The dasher froze to the bottom of the machine, and we just ended up with very cold ginger ale with some drifts of slush floating in it. I have no idea why this happened. 

SAFFRON ROSEWATER PISTACHIO (BASTANI) 

Back on my bullshit. You can see, I have been alternating between cute, fun, summery, silly ice cream, and effete, exotic, difficult frozen confections. Time for something difficult!

There were many recipes for this ice cream, which is Persian and is called “bastani,” so I listened to my heart and chose the one from the site called The Delicious Crescent. One mark against it is that you have to stand there whisking a custard for a long time until it thickens up. Most people can manage this, but I have custard problems, and it always takes eleven times longer than normal, if it thickens at all. 

One mark in its favor was that it has you grind up saffron with salt using a mortar and pestle, which I got for mother’s day and haven’t had a chance to use yet. That was fun! Here is a nice handful of saffron threads

and here it is, all ground up in the mortar with a little salt

You make a simple custard and chill it in an ice bath, and then soak the ground saffron in rosewater

then stir that into the custard along with cream, and chill that in an ice bath. Lots of exciting changes in color along the way!

Then you pour the final chilled saffron rosewater custard into your ice cream maker and churn it. You add the pistachios in afterward, and then continue freezing. The recipe called for unsalted pistachios, but I had salted, and I thought they were great. I also omitted the vanilla that the recipe called for, and did not miss it at all.

I made a triple batch of this recipe and to me it seemed like the most successful yet. Wonderful, silky, creamy consistency, and a very rich flavor.

Many of the kids just didn’t like it, because saffron and rosewater, but I thought it was lovely. I don’t know how to describe it, because nothing else really tastes like saffron or rosewater. The flavors intensified over time, especially the rosewater, which I discovered because I kept going back for more over the next few days, and I did valiantly eventually manage to eat the whole thing. 

Next! Orange slushie!

We gave slushies another chance, this time with orange soda, and it worked great. 

Nice and frozen, very refreshing. It comes out more frozen along the edges, and you stir it up to even it out the consistency before ladling it into cups. I like knocking on kid’s doors and they groan, ” . . . whaaaaaaat” thinking I’m going to say “Can you please take the garbage out?” but instead I say, “Do you want a little orange slushie?” They do!

VANILLA M&M

Yesterday morning, I made a double recipe of Ben and Jerry’s basic cream base plus a little vanilla, and threw in a bag of M&M’s when it was done churning. The M&M’s got a little blurry as I stirred them in, and gave the ice cream a kind of swirly pastel effect, which wasn’t terrible, but it was a little unexpected. I think I could have prevented this, and kept the M&M’s more intact, by freezing them for an hour or so. I just forgot to do that, and they were probably pretty warm from sitting on the shelf.

I put the churned ice cream back in the freezer for about four hours, and it came out somewhere between hard pack and soft serve. Solid enough to cut into wedges, but a tiny bit softer than I would have liked for our purposes. Benny made chocolate chip cookies, which she spread into pans and cut into bars, so people could make ice cream sandwiches.

I didn’t taste either, because me and chocolate don’t get along, but everyone said it was good, except for one kid who was inexplicably complaining about HOMEMADE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE M&M ICE CREAM SANDWICHES. It’s hard to believe a child of mine would turn out to be a complainer, and yet here we are.

NEXT! 

Next up: My plan is white chocolate chips, maraschino cherry halves, and cashews. Eh? Eh? I think that sounds like party ice cream, and yes it will give me a headache, but probably not a migraine. Gonna remember to freeze the white chocolate chips this time. 

I have also bought a few bars of baker’s chocolate, so I can make some chocolate ice cream. It is absolutely time to start experimenting with something besides the basic sweet cream base. 

I’m also looking, heaven help me, at recipes for Lucky Charms ice cream. They have brought home a box of actual store brand Lucky Charms and requested that I made it into ice cream. All the recipes require you to make a bowl of Lucky Charms-infused milk, run it through a sieve, and then make a custard out of that, and hey ,why not make your own bespoke marshmallow fluff as long as you’re insane? and for some reason I’m thinking about how much fun it would be to clean the dusty grease off the top of the refrigerator, instead. But I guess if I can make rosewater bastani, I can make Lucky Charms ice cream. 

I actually have a kid who works in an ice cream shop, and the other day a customer was asking about various toppings, and she was trying to explain that one of the choices was Fruity Pebbles; but having been brought up in dire poverty, she kept saying “Fruity Dyno-Bites” instead, and they had to call the manager over the clear up the confusion. You know, people are always going on and on about lead paint and predatory landlords and no running water, blah blah blah, but you never hear about the devastating hardship of growing up so poor that, when you talk about cereal, you speak Malt-O-Meal, and nobody knows what you’re talking about. O, the humanity!

I’m also looking at my grapes.

This is the view from my murderboat, which has been utterly consumed by grapes in the last few years.

Last year, we made grape jelly, for reasons that are kind of unclear, because we don’t super duper like grape jelly, and we sure did make a lot of it. I’ve been promising the kids we would just make grape juice this year, which people actually want to consume. But I’m thinking grape gelato could be pretty wonderful. We’ll see! And the war between fun and effete wages on. Maybe I should buy a second ice cream machine. 

Go ahead, give up chocolate for Lent

An old woman asked a young girl—her name was Cassidy, if I remember right—what she planned to give up for Lent. Cassidy said she was going to give up popcorn.

“Popcorn!” the old woman scoffed. Pathetic! In her day, girls used to do real penances, make real sacrifices, she said. Cassidy should give up all desserts, at least. Or chocolate. When she was a child, she gave up chocolate, she said.

Cassidy mumbled that her dad would make her popcorn every night and she ate it while they watched basketball on the couch together. It actually sounded like a large and meaningful sacrifice, but the old woman’s message had hit home. Her Lenten practice was not good enough. It was childish, not meaningful.

The moral of this story? If someone asks you what you’re giving up for Lent, run away!

Or, an even better moral: When you’re deciding what to do for Lent, be childlike, not childish.

Here’s what I mean. When someone argues “Don’t just give up chocolate for Lent” they are using shorthand for the idea that giving up some little food treat is a cheap and childish way to sneak through the season. They’re saying that it means we’re just checking off the “sacrifice” box and skating by, and if we expect some kind of true spiritual growth, we should be seeking something more meaningful and profound. Rather than giving up chocolate or something else, we should be adding something, some spiritual practice, some good works, some new and challenging way of approaching the day or each other or God.

And this may be true. Sometimes when people “just give up chocolate for Lent,” it’s because they’re doing the easy, thoughtless thing. Sometimes it makes sense for us to urge each other to dig a little deeper, look a little harder at our spiritual lives, and think a little longer about what the Lord is asking from us.

But this year, in particular, feels different. And I think it calls for a different approach.

We’ve all been through the wringer, in one way or another. Lots of people have had their faith shaken, and we may find ourselves facing Lent 2022 with especially low enthusiasm and especially ramped up cynicism. Many of us are grieving. Many of us are physically healing, or still suffering. It has been a soul-crushing, exhausting time of constant risk assessment, constant weighing of expectations against reality and the constant wretched need to question other people’s trustworthiness—all while still trying to keep alive some spark of hope and good will toward our fellow man. When is the last time it hasn’t been Lent? And now you’re telling me I need to impose some new wound, this time self-inflicted?

That’s how I feel. But in my heart of hearts, I know that is not what Lent is meant to be. So I find it helpful to ask myself, when I’m discerning some spiritual practice: Is this childish? Or is it childlike?

Read the rest of my latest for America Magazine

Image by Marco Verch via Flickr (Creative Commons

What’s for supper? Vol. 187: In which I make good choices and bad choices

I know I said I was ready to start cooking cold weather food, but this time, I mean it. Come for the honey chili acorn squash, homemade applesauce, and heavenly bacon tomato bisque, stay to feel better about the birthday cake you bought at Safeway. Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Beer brats with onions, chips

The kids unexpectedly begged for beer brats with onions, and that could be arranged. Damien boiled them in beer and onions and then browned them up in a pan. For me, however, he bought a surprise steak, since I was feeling low. 

It helped!

SUNDAY
Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, chocolate cake

This was a birthday meal for Moe. Moe’s birthday is in May. 

Now, you may think it’s pathetic that we wouldn’t get around to celebrating a May birthday until October, but you are mistaken. That’s not pathetic! THIS CAKE IS PATHETIC! 

You will have to take my word for it that the theme was not “mangled remains of a once-proud city after a nuclear holocaust.” It really wasn’t. He is very into theater, so the theme was “comedy and tragedy,” and I made a comedy and tragedy mask with ribbons, and a bunch of olive leaves.

See, last time we made little garnishes out of melted chocolate, they turned out great.

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

It was easy, even. I don’t know what the hell happened this time. I guess maybe possibly I was rushing a bit. And also, it’s possible my confidence was a little shaky after the cake I had made last week, for Clara’s birthday. 

Now Clara, if you will recall, already had a huge blowout birthday in August when we went to Hadestown

A quick review of Hadestown, which you should sell a kidney to see

So I’m not saying I didn’t try to make a good cake, but after a birthday like that, I did feel less pressure to absolutely nail the cake part.

That being said, this was one garbage cake.

I had meant so bake it the night before, but it turns out I bought cake mix that requires egg whites, and we were out of eggs, and the quik-e-mart was closed, and there’s really no substitute for egg whites. So I asked Damien to bake it the next day while I was shopping. I couldn’t find the right pans, so I ended up giving him two round pans and one flower-shaped pans. 

In my head, it would look something like this:

A sort of grim, underworld nod to a wedding cake, topped with a glowing red blossom and dripping with shiny, dark chocolate. EASY ENOUGH, RIGHT?

So I set about fashioning a glowing red blossom out of fruit rolls and toothpicks, as one does. That part was actually not terrible, except that I got tired of feeling sticky, and didn’t make enough petals.

The inspiration:

And the execution:

To be fair, this was halfway through. It did end up looking a little better. A little.

Then the cake cracked a bit when it baked. That’s fine, that happens. But then, I decided to put the layers together without leveling them off. Why? Who can say? Maybe I suffered a mental injury while trying to fashion a blossom out of toothpicks and fruit rolls. Of course the unleveled cake cracked even more, and continued to crack, in a way that was no longer fine. So I broke up some wooden skewers so they’d be nice and splintery, and jammed them in to keep the layers together. 

But wait, it gets worse! Let’s talk about the chocolate ganache, which was going to rescue the whole wobbly mess by gracing it with a rich, glossy chocolate coating that dripped decadently down the sides.

I have never once in my life been able to make a chocolate ganache. It’s just beyond my capability. Doesn’t matter what recipe I use, what ingredients I splurge on. It never comes out. I’ve wrecked it so many times, and so consistently and so thoroughly, that we’re way beyond the point that there’s anything remotely admirable about trying again. There is a section in the DSM about people who still try to make a chocolate ganache with my ganache history. So naturally, that is what I tried.

You’ll never guess. It didn’t turn out.

It was grainy and soupy and bad. I slopped it on the cake anyway, hoping that a last-minute birthday miracle would make it magically coalesce into something edible. That did not come about. It did not come about, even though I helped it along by dumping a lot of gold sugar into the crack in an effort to make it look symbolic!

So.  That was what I had in my arsenal of cake confidence while approaching this other cake. Yeah, remember the other cake?

I didn’t mean for it to look like a photo you show to a cricket when threatening him about what you could do to his family if he doesn’t spill what he knows. I didn’t mean for it to be straight out of the “this is why you never go to sleep with a cell phone charging under your pillow. Poor Madyson now has a plastic bag where her jaw once was, and she wants you to look at this picture and think hard about your choices” file. It just turned out that way, all by itself.  

The good news is, there are no birthdays in November. 

MONDAY
Buffalo chicken salad

This actually tasted far better than it looks.  And yes, that is a sheet in the background. I was eating salad in bed. 

I wanted to make something like the salad I had at Wendy’s. I love Wendy’s salads. They are fresh and delicious, and let’s face it, sometimes you get a little surprise, especially if Pilar is working that day. 

I bought two bags of breaded chicken strips, one regular and one buffalo. I cooked those and cut them up and served them along with mixed greens and shredded pepper jack cheese, with buffalo ranch dressing and some of those crunchy fried onion things people put on that gross Thanksgiving string bean casserole. I thought it was very good! And of course extremely easy. The cheese didn’t really hit the spot, and I did mean to get tomatoes. I think maybe blue cheese next time. But there will be a next time for this salad.

TUESDAY
Pork ribs with applesauce, mashed squash, mashed potatoes

It’s edible squash season, motherfuckers.

I had the kids pick all the terrible apples they could reach from our terrible apple tree, Marvin.  We don’t do anything at all to take care of this tree, and the apples aren’t great for eating, but most of them are just a little spotty and weird, so fine for cooking. 

Well, some of them are terrifying. 

Doesn’t it look like it wished it could scream? This one didn’t go into the pot.

We also had an awful lot of bruised, dinged, maltreated apples left over from apple picking. 

I cut out all the bad spots, quartered them, and chucked them, peels and cores and all, into a big pot with a few inches of water, and set it to simmer with a loose lid. A few hours later, the apples were mushy and collapsed, and the kitchen smelled heavenly, and I suddenly remembered I had gotten rid of my food mill. So I was reduced to shoving the cooked apples through a strainer to get the peels, cores, and seeds out. Bah.

 I still stand by leaving the peels on when you cook the apples, for color and flavor, but if you don’t have a food mill, be smart and core them before cooking. Bah. What a stupid week. Anyway, I put the strained applesauce back into the pot and added a hunk of butter, some cinnamon, and some honey and let it cook down a little bit more. SO GOOD. There is nothing like warm, homemade applesauce.

I had two acorn squashes. I cut them in half and scooped them out, then put them in a pan in a 400 oven for about an hour, until the flesh was soft. Look how October it is:

Then I scooped it out, mashed it a bit, and added butter, honey, a little salt, and chili powder. I figured I was the only one who would eat it anyway.

I thought it was delicious! And yes, I was the only one who ate it. 

The pork ribs, I just sprinkled generously with salt and pepper on all side and put them in a 450 oven for about 25 minutes, turning once. This is the best way to make pork ribs. Fight me. 

Behold, my Salute to October:

WEDNESDAY
Meatball pizza

Aw yisss, leftover meatballs! I did not take a picture. Too busy eating meatball pizza.  

THURSDAY
Bacon tomato bisque, grilled cheese

This really is the soup of all soups. It takes even less skill than some soups, but it tastes both delicious and fancy. It is absolutely packed with flavor. I tweaked it a bit after last time I shared the recipe card (below). Bacon, garlic, onion, rosemary, tomato, and so creamy and rich. 

I also sprinkled the top of mine with some of those crunchy onion things we had left, and that was an excellent choice. 

I made a bunch of grilled cheese sandwiches with sourdough bread and American cheese, because dammit, I like American cheese. It melts good. I cooked them in the pan that the bacon, onions, and garlic had been cooked in. 

FRIDAY
I don’t know. I think I wrote spaghetti. 

***

Tomato bisque with bacon

Calories 6 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1/2 - 1 lb bacon (peppered bacon is good)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 35 oz can of whole tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 46 oz tomato juice
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • crispy fried onions (optional garnish)

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon until crisp. Remove from pan, chop it up, and drain out all but a a few teaspoons of grease.

  2. Add the diced onion and minced garlic to the grease and sauté until soft.

  3. Add tomatoes (including juices), bay leaves, rosemary, and tomato juice, and simmer for 20 minutes. Save some rosemary for a garnish if you like.

  4. With a slotted spoon, fish out the bay leaf, the tomatoes, and most of the rosemary, leaving some rosemary leaves in. Discard most of the rosemary and bay leaf. Put the rest of the rosemary and the tomatoes in a food processor with the 8 oz of cream cheese until it's as smooth as you want it.

  5. Return pureed tomato mixture to pot. Salt and pepper to taste.

  6. Heat through. Add chopped bacon right before serving, and top with crispy fried onions if you like. Garnish with more rosemary if you're a fancy man. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 169: Biscuit moron makes good

Recently, there came about in the Fisher household an unusual convergence of a little money, enough time, and sufficient paperwork-filling-outness, and I signed the kids up for classes at the Y as I’ve been promising to do forever. So now, along with Shakespeare club, school paper, part time jobs, drama club, choir practice, and knitting club, we have gymnastics and rock climbing. What I’m trying to say is: Get ready for a lot of frozen chicken burgers.

SATURDAY
Roast beef sandwiches with chimichurri

$2.99 a pound! I got a couple of big roasts which Damien seasoned and seared, then roasted in the oven; and I made a batch of chimichurri (recipe card at the end), and we had it on rolls with Swiss cheese. 

It may please you to know that, because of my terrible, cumbersome system for transferring photos from my phone to my computer, I managed to email this photo of a roast beef sandwich to . . . someone who definitely didn’t ask for it.

SUNDAY
Lasagna, Irish biscuit cake

Confirmation day!

And a gratuitous picture of Benny with flowers in her hair. 

Confirmation kid picked Catherine of Bologna as a patron saint. She’s the patron of artists. We ordered a print of a painting of her by Cecelia Lawrence.

Lots more detail and depth in the print than it appears here. Her gallery is here, and you can order very reasonably priced prints by emailing her.

This led me to realize we hadn’t bought confirmation presents for the last two kids who got confirmed, so I ordered some. I gave one kid her present, and we had the following conversation:

Me: Here is your confirmation present. 
Kid: And it’s only a year late.
Me: Yes. You’re very gracious. 
Kid: Let’s talk about the other times you failed us!
Me: I can’t wait for you to have kids. I cannot wait. 
Kid: Maybe I’ll be a nun!
Me: Then I can’t wait for you to disappoint JESUS!
Kid: MAYBE I ALREADY HAVE!

Come, Holy Spirit. 

Anyway, Damien made this Platonic ideal of lasagna, just absolutely quivering with fresh cheese and basil and homemade sausage ragu. We were so starving when we got home, I didn’t pause to get a great picture, but it was spectacular. 

The boy asked for a dessert he had at a fundraiser one time, which turned out to be ridiculously easy to make: chocolate biscuit cake. Basically you crunch up a bunch of graham crackers and animal crackers, then make a simple sauce out of butter, chocolate chips, and condensed milk, mix it together, press it into pans, and refrigerate it, and slice it up. It makes sort of fudgy biscotti. I didn’t have any, but the kids said it was good. 

The internet calls it Irish, but they must mean Irish American. Anyway, good recipe to know if you need a treat but don’t want to turn on the oven. 

MONDAY
Chicken quesadillas, corn, guacamole and tortilla chips

For my sins, my kids insist on pronouncing quesadillas “kwassadilllas” and guacamole “gwackamowl.” I’m sure I deserve it. Anyway, it finally stopped raining and I ate my food OUTSIDE!

I seasoned the chicken breasts with lots of chili lime powder and roasted and sliced them. A few people didn’t want chicken in the kwassadilllas. Corrie said she wanted hers plain, so I made her one with just cheese. Turns out she wanted it plain, as in just a hot tortilla. I SAID COME HOLY SPIRIT.

TUESDAY
Hot dogs, chips, snap peas 

Actually, I directed dinner remotely while crouching on metal bleachers and wondering when gymnastics class gets to be more than just flopping around; and Damien and I did so much driving, we decided to stay out in between trips and grab some dinner for ourselves. We landed at a little Thai restaurant, and let me tell you, those Thai people have some pretty good ideas. I had some kind of coconut curry with carrot, squash, pepper, melon, and squid, and it arrived in this . . . apparatus with a little candle in it.

Whee! It was delicious. I also had some kind of thing rolled up in rice wrappers with little basil leaves tucked inside. 

Lovely. 

WEDNESDAY
Omelettes, oven fries, salad

When I make my weekly menu, I think, “Oh, I’ll just put omelettes on Wednesday. Just eggs, easy peasy.” This is because I am somehow still not aware that making eleven separate omelettes to order is neither easy nor peasy, but actually takes eleven hours and your arms will fall off.

By the time I got around to making mine, I had lost my will to live, much less my will to make an omelette turn out pretty for the picture. But it was good. I had mine with cheddar, ham, and scallions.

THURSDAY
Pork sliders with coleslaw and spicy curly fries

New recipe. The idea is to serve thin slices of pork on fresh biscuits with a little honey and peach preserves, with coleslaw right in the stack. It’s actually a fine, tasty idea, the only hitch being that if someone came up to me and said, “Make a decent biscuit or I will kill you,” I’d be writing this from the grave. Please don’t give me your biscuit tips. I’ve tried all the techniques and all the recipes and all the special tools and and all the fresh baking powder and everybody’s grandmother’s no-nonsense methods, and I’m just a biscuit moron. That’s all there is to it. 

Yummy supper anyway, though.

I had a pork butt which I sliced as thin as I could and just sautéed it quickly in olive oil with salt and pepper. Basic tangy coleslaw with cabbage, carrot, mayo, vinegar, sugar, and pepper. 

I think you are supposed to pull the biscuit apart to make a top and bottom, but I just built up little open-faced sandwiches. I skipped the preserves and just put a little honey on the biscuit under the pork.

Next time, I’ll make this same meal but use Hawaiian rolls or some other soft roll. It was a great combination and nice and easy, very summery.

FRIDAY
They howled for tuna noodle casserole and I succumbed.

Damien is chaperoning a school field trip to a farm in the rain and heroically brought along Corrie, who heroically brought along her stuffed monkey and of course her ukulele. I’m headed out to pick up kid #1, who’s home from college for the summer! And that’s what it’s all about. 

Here’s a few recipe cards. I just linked to the recipes for the chocolate biscuit cake and the lasagna.

Chimichurri

Dipping sauce, marinade, you name it

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

 

Coleslaw

Ingredients

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

Dressing

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

Instructions

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

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

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

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

 

Pork sliders with coleslaw

I made these with biscuits, but you could use Hawaiian rolls or other rolls

Servings 1

Ingredients

  • Pork butt
  • salt, pepper, olive oil
  • cole slaw
  • honey
  • peach or apricot preserves
  • biscuits or soft rolls

Instructions

  1. Slice the pork thinly and sauté in hot olive oil, seasoning with salt and pepper toward the end.

  2. Split biscuits or open rolls and spread with preserves. Add the pork slices, drizzle with a little honey, and add a small scoop of cole slaw.  

  3. Serve as little sandwiches or open faced sandwiches. 

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:

  • 1/3+ cup honey
  • 1/3+ tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp dijon or yellow mustard
  • 9 cloves garlic, minced
  • 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. 113: Just pretty much all the food. All of it.

First a prayer request: My father is in the hospital, waiting for heart surgery. He’ll have a triple bypass, or possibly a quadruple bypass, on Tuesday. We’re very glad this surgery is available, and have high hopes he’ll start feeling better than he has in a long time once he’s recovered; but of course the recovery is long and hard, especially since he is 75 and has other medical issues. He lives alone, close to where my mother’s nursing home, but an hour or more away from all his children, so the logistics are a little daunting.
Thank you!

And now the food! We ate so much ridiculously good food this past week:

SATURDAY

Gosh, this seems like so long ago. Saturday we went ice skating and came home to have hot chocolate, popcorn, and grilled ham and cheese. Corrie was very very enthusiastic about skating and won all the races.

I did a lot of skating with Benny, until the moment came when I leaned too hard on the skating frame and it collapsed. Le sigh.

***

SUNDAY
New Year’s Eve. We pretty much ate all the food that is available to the known universe. 

Some friends sent a huge, spectacular hamper packed with luxurious treats, so we hauled out all the various tea sets you accumulate when you have eight daughters, and had a sort of rolling English tea party. Tragically, I forgot to take pictures of my own, but you must take my word for it that it was fancy beyond all reason:

If you don’t have extraordinarily generous friends who send you luxury hampers, I recommend getting some right away.

While everyone continued feasting and being fancy, my husband casually strolled into the kitchen to prepare, you know, a little sauteed scallops topped with shredded duck and Hollandaise sauce.This photo miserably fails to capture how rich and sumptuous this dish is.

If you don’t have a husband who likes to casually stroll into the kitchen and make your dreams come true, I recommend getting one right away.

This dish is not an obvious combination of flavors, but it makes so much sense once you’re shoveling it into your mouth.I thought duck would be more or less like dark turkey meat, but it’s really almost closer to lamb. So good. A wonderful meal for a special treat. (Aldi has both duck and scallops on sale every so often!)

And now the sushi! Yes, we had a sushi party on the same day as our English tea and our duckstravaganza. It made sense at the time.

First, I bought good rice and several packages of nori, soy sauce, rice vinegar, wasabi, pickled ginger, a little jar of roe, tuna steaks that were frozen at sea, some seared and seasoned tuna, canned salmon for the sissies, fake crab legs, toasted sesame seeds, avocados, mangos, carrots, cucumbers, and chop sticks, which we forgot to use.

I bought a sack of Nishiki rice, which is just gorgeous, like mother of pearl. It is expensive, but definitely worth it for a treat. I used the sushi rice recipe in this post (after skimming, with growing horror, through numerous other recipes that discussed whether it was more auspicious to rinse the rice 54 or 128 times before cooking), except I didn’t use quite that much salt. I cooked six cups of raw rice in the Instant Pot, which makes good sticky rice.

While the rice was cooking, I peeled the carrots into strips and pickled them, and we stirred some hot sauce into some mayo, and sliced the tuna as thin as I could, and the kids helped prep the avocados, mangoes, and cucumbers. It was all so lovely.

Now that I have ramekins, I use them all the time. Ramekins!

When the rice was done, I carefully sprinkled the vinegar mixture over it (I sextupled the recipe, but didn’t need that much) and then Benny’s moment of glory came: She used her special gold lace fan to vigorously fan the rice while I carefully turned it:

I guess you fan it to evaporate the vinegar, so the rice takes on the flavor without getting mushy. It worked!

We couldn’t find the rolling mat, so we opted for sushi cones, where you break a panel of nori in half, set the rice and fillings on one side, and roll it up diagonally. It took a while to get the hang of it, and they were not dainty, but on the other hand, NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM.

We kept the rice covered while everyone took turns building their sushi cones.  A few variations:

It was fantastic. Just about everyone found some combination to their liking. Some of the kids skipped the nori altogether, and made deconstructed sushi; some of them just used rice and vegetables; some of them (okay, me) just parked themselves in front of the tray and systematically worked through eleven different combinations.

We’re doing this every New Year’s Eve from now on. What ingredients would you add?

***

MONDAY
Birthday! Baby New Year turned twelve and requested calzones. 

To make twelve calzones, I used three balls pizza dough divided into fourths, then made the cheese filling (this was more than enough):

32 oz ricotta
3-4 cups shredded mozzarella
3/4 cup parmesan
1 Tbs garlic powder
2 tsp oregano

1 tsp salt

I stretched the dough portions into the size of small plates, then added a ball of cheese mixture, plus whatever fillings were requested. I folded the dough over and pinched the ends tightly shut, then pressed the calzone to spread out the filling evenly.

We greased two baking trays with shortening and sprinkled them with corn meal, laid the calzones on (with a few inches in between, as they puff up), and brushed the with egg yolk beaten with a little water.

I baked them at 450 for — okay, I don’t remember how long. Maybe 15 minutes?

 

Then we served them with ramekins (ramekins!) of hot marinara sauce for dipping.

We made this one-bowl chocolate cake recipe. I didn’t taste it, as chocolate is a huge migraine trigger, but it looked pretty good. Decorations courtesy of the 90% off shelf after Halloween. I’m a saver.

We made chocolate frosting with a recipe on the side of the cocoa powder can. I think it was just shortening (we had run out of butter!), chocolate, and powdered sugar.

My son took a few pictures of his sister blowing out her candles, and then Google helpfully and spontaneously merged them into this horrifying glimpse into the spirit realm of birthdays:

I don’t want to know what that creature wished for.

***

TUESDAY
Chicken enchiladas and beans and rice

One of the college girls offered to make chicken enchiladas before she flies away again. They were so good. She used boneless chicken thighs with Pioneer Woman’s recipe,   and made thirty nice enchilada longbois, some red and some green.

I made some quickie beans and rice. Cooked up a few cups of rice and added a can of black beans and a can of chili kidney beans, drained, a can of Ro-Tel tomatoes, some jarred jalapenos, and a bunch of cumin, chili powder, and salt.

***

WEDNESDAY
Pork ramen

We just had this, but I like it. I browned up some boneless pork ribs in olive oil, then sliced them thin, and then I cooked up some frozen stir fry veggies in the pork pan. I made a dozen or so soft-boiled eggs in the Instant Pot. The trick is to do a quick release after cooking, then dunk them in ice water, and then shells slide right off, almost in one piece. Not necessarily easier than using the stove, but a good trick if the stove is in use or if you really want unblemished whites.

 

I served a big pot of cheap ramen and let people choose pork, veggies, and eggs, plus sesame seeds, hot sauce, soy sauce, and chopped scallions.

Do you make fancy ramen? What do you add? I like this meal, but would like some more variety in the add-ins.

***

THURSDAY
French toast?

I am not sure. We had a pretty good storm going, and school was cancelled, but we got the news in the morning that my dad was going to need heart surgery, and was going to meet with the surgeons on this day.

So Damien and I rolled slowly north through the storm to the hospital while the kids managed at home. We had a good visit (the only thing my father requested was The Odyssey, Fagles translation) and I like the surgeon.

We thought we’d have to spend the night, but the snow slowed down toward evening, so we pushed ahead to get home, stopping only for Five Guys, because where else would you go on your way home from a visit to the cardiology wing?

I know this isn’t the popular opinion, but while their fries were quite good, I thought the burgers were just okay. The meat was kind of mealy, and the buns were just too greasy to be enjoyable. Huge portions, though. You can see that I am not complaining.

Then we trundled the rest of the way home through the last of the storm, and Damien installed me on the couch with a lot of red wine and The Big Lebowski. 

***

FRIDAY
I think we are having beef stew.

We’ll say an extra decade of the rosary because it’s Friday, but I have this big hunk of beef going unheeded in the fridge, and it has been quite a week.

QUITE A WEEK. Here is a picture of my dad from this summer, talking (possibly about the Declaration of Independence) with my brother Joe:

My father’s name is Phil, if you’d care to mention him in your prayers! Thank you.

How to make chocolate caramel almonds without panicking

When we manage to make treats for Christmas, we usually make fudge and buckeyes, sometimes rum balls or peanut brittle, and of course rugelach. Last year, looking for something a little more decorative, I tried chocolate caramelized almonds from Smitten Kitchen. You don’t need a candy thermometer to make them, and you can use whatever kind of sugar or sprinkles you like, so they are adaptable gifts for just about any holiday.

Here’s the ingredients list from Smitten Kitchen:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cup whole almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaky salt
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • Approximately 1/2 cup cocoa powder, sanding or coarse sugar, or sprinkles to coat

You will want a good, heavy pot and some parchment paper or silicone pads for this, too.

I’m trying very hard not to run afoul of recipe copyright laws here, so I’m going to send you right to her page to get the detailed directions. Basically you put sugar and water in a pot and bring it to a simmer, add the almonds and simmer them until they’re caramelized, stir in the salt, and then spread the almonds out on a pan covered with parchment paper.

Put the pan in the freezer for a few minutes until they are set. Then break them up and dip them in melted chocolate; then roll the chocolate-coated almonds in various fancy coatings. Let them set again, and then you can store them for quite a long time at room temperature.

Here’s my reason for writing a whole post about it: In the detailed instructions for caramelizing the almonds, she says,

“Once the liquid has fully evaporated, it will become sandy and you will think something has gone wrong; it has not. Continue stirring and the sandiness will dissolve into a bronzed but clear liquid; this is the caramel.”

I was glad of the reassurance, and prepared myself not to freak out. But then! I freaked out anyway! Weird stuff happens in that pot!!! So I’m sharing the photos of the caramelization process here, so you can see how it goes and maybe not panic like I did.

Here we are simmering, fine, very good:

then it got thicker, and yes, there are soap-like bubbles forming:

the the liquid was just about evaporated, and all was well:

then, sure enough, it started to get dry and a little bit cakey, and I was like, “Wow, she was right! That is sandy.”

Then it got dry and even more sandy, and I thought, “Good thing she warned me, because this does not look normal at all. I would definitely be worrying right now.”

Then this happened. And it went on and on. Just kept on being sandy. I didn’t stop stirring, but it was the stirring of futility. I assumed the candy gods were onto me, and knew I had no business in any kitchen, smitten or otherwise. Look at this!

Yeah, these are totally ruined. Great, now they’re clumping. No one said anything about clumping. Dammit. Almonds are expensive! Dammit!

But wait! Down there in the center of the pot, under all the nuts, there’s a little, kind of syrupy patch!

Well, hallelujah! Those little bastiches are caramelizing after all, aren’t they.

And there they were, coated with caramel, just like Smitten Kitchen said. So I put them on parchment paper, slid them in the freezer, and went to sit down for a bit.

I was so emotionally spent by this time that I left them in the freezer for a few days, rather than the suggested five minutes, until I did the next step. I don’t recommend this, as they got a little soggy; but you will be the best judge of what kind of load you can carry at this point in the evening. It still worked, but they weren’t as crunchy as they might have been.

Now I’ll send you back to Smitten Kitchen for the rest of the directions. You’re going to pour the nuts into melted chocolate, stir to coat, and then pick out the almonds and roll them around in your sugars or sprinkles or whatever. It’s messy and time-consuming, especially if you’re making a large batch, so don’t think you can just zoop-zoop-zoop (as my mother used to say) and be done with it.

The good news is, you can make them ahead of time and then store them at room temperature for a long time. Here’s the finished product:

I wish I had a brighter picture of the finished product. They were so pretty, especially the sugar-coated ones! They looked like little Christmas gems. (I buy up expensive seasonal-themed sugars and sprinkles after holidays, when they are marked way down. This doesn’t work, as the kids tend to develop an unconquerable hunger for tiny little bats in May, but it’s a good theory.)

I think these almonds make nice treats on their own, or they would make lovely accents to a package of fudge or cookies. Just keep telling yourself, “It’s supposed to look this way,” and you’ll probably be right.

 

 

 

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

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

Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Pizza, birthday cake, ice cream

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

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

***

SUNDAY
Chicken shawarma; Cheesecake with strawberries and chocolate ganache

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

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

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

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

***

MONDAY
Hot dogs, corn on the cob, salad

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

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

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

***

TUESDAY
Pulled pork sandwiches, chips, salad

Just so you know I’m no Instant Pot cultist

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

THURSDAY
Chicken muggets, frozen corn

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

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

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

***

FRIDAY

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