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

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

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

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

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

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

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

with rice and lentil soup and all sorts of yumminess

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

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips

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

SUNDAY
Roast beef sandwiches, fries

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

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

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

MONDAY
Creamy roast mushroom soup, deli sandwiches

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

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

Look, look at the lovely roasted mushrooms! Lovely.

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

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

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

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

TUESDAY
Christmas brunch, Chinese food

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

and we are we.

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

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

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

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

WEDNESDAY
Pu Pu leftovers, shrimp cocktail

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

THURSDAY
Spaghetti and meatballs

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

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

FRIDAY
Pizza

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

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

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

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

5 from 1 vote
Print

Meatballs for a crowd

Make about 100 golf ball-sized meatballs. 

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.

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

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

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 112: Salvation is from the jus

Where would we be without the jus?

***

SATURDAY
Aldi pizza

Saturday was the kindergartener’s birthday party. Every other year, she’s requested either a Spiderman party or a Frozen party. This year, she wanted both. The house was already pretty hemmed in with Christmas decorations, so we limited ourselves to a birthday tree

 

here pictured with limited edition Zooming Spiderman; and a snowflake web cake.

I call this cake “You Too Can Learn To Live With a Familiar Tremor.”
The pretty child was pleased.

I had a brilliant idea for an activity: Stained glass cookies. My oldest made this reliable no-chill sugar cookie dough before hand, and the guests had fun sorting and smashing Jolly Ranchers. I recommend triple bagging the candy before smashing it.

For these cookies, roll the dough fairly thick, then use your largest cookie cutters to cut shapes, and then use a smaller one (or a small-necked bottle) to punch out holes in the cookies. Then fill the holes with smashed Jolly Ranchers and bake the cookies on parchment paper. Here’s a pic from a previous year:

One guest was allergic to wheat, so she used the larger bits of Jolly Ranchers and arranged them on parchment paper around wooden skewers. We baked these in a low oven until they were melted and then let them dry, and they made pretty, if blobby, lollipops.

AND THAT’S IT. NO MORE BIRTHDAYS FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR. (We do have a birthday January first, but NO MORE THIS YEAR.)

***

SUNDAY
Hot dogs, chips

I had to do the Saturday shopping on Sunday, so hot dogs it warr.

***

MONDAY
Chicken cranberry pecan salad

This salad is supposed to have greens topped with grilled chicken, dried cranberries, toasted pecans, chunks of green apple, and blue cheese or feta cheese, plus a sweet vinaigrette of some kind. I forgot the cheese and the dressing and was too tired to cut up apples, so it was a little blah.

I cooked the chicken in the Instant Pot, I think 6 minutes of high pressure. I just chucked them in with a bunch of lemon juice. This produced chicken that was definitely cooked, yes it was. Oh well, not my finest hour. Moving along.

***

TUESDAY
Korean beef bowl and rice

Still a winner. I used less brown sugar than the recipe calls for, and had a heavy hand with the ginger. Both improvements.

I served it over rice with chopped scallions and sesame seeds.

***

WEDNESDAY
French dip sandwiches, baked potatoes, salad

This meal was the high point of the week. Honestly, it was only medium high. Not bad, but not the joyous mouth festival I was anticipating.

I used This Old Gal’s recipe, which calls for pepperoncini, beef broth, and Italian dressing seasoning packets. I don’t normally buy seasoning packets — just a random bit of snobbery, nothing to see here — but I didn’t have the emotional strength to look for a different recipe.

The meat obligingly shredded at the mere touch of a fork (if you like shredded meat, the IP is unsurpassable).

 

I toasted rolls, and actually toasted them, instead of burning them. I had my sandwich with lots of horseradish sauce and Swiss cheese, but some chose provolone or pepper jack.

 

Fancily, I dished out the dipping juice in ramekins I got at a yard sale. Sadly, Corrie heard “jus” and drew the wrong conclusions. When she found out it was meat juice, she got over her disappointment quickly and then just went ahead and drank meat juice out her special cup. She’s flexible.

I like this meal, but I think next time beef is on sale, I’ll skip the pepperoncini and just make it savory instead of spicy, maybe using red wine and onions along with beef broth.

There is way more juice than you can possibly use for dipping sandwiches, so I’m not saying you have to crumble your baked potato into the juice and eat it that way, but you might, rabbit. You might.

In closing: “au jus” means “with juice.” You can not serve “au jus” with your sandwiches, unless you also intend to ask for another scoop of “alamode” with your pie. Get it together, America. These are the things that separate us from the animals.

***

THURSDAY
Fancy ramen

I sauteed boneless pork ribs in a pan and then, once they had cooled a bit, I sliced them thin. Then I used the same pan to cook up some mixed frozen stir fry vegetables. Another pot for ramen, and another pot to boil some eggs. I’ve made this entire meal in the Instant Pot, but that’s a lot of putting in and taking out, and nobody wants that at 6 p.m. on a Thursday when you still haven’t bought stocking stuffers.

We had crunchy noodles, scallions, a few sesame seeds, and hot sauce to sprinkle on top. A very satisfying meal for cheap.

***

FRIDAY
Spaghetti

A placeholder meal while I gather strength for the next few days. I keep telling myself I’m feeling better, or at least not getting sicker, but it’s a lurty die. Anyway, alllll my kids are home, Damien has an honest-to-goodness vacation this year, I managed to get some outdoor lights up to make the house look classy

(and discovered you can buy a light timer for $10!) and knocked just about everything else off my Christmas to-do list.

Our Christmas food tradition is a breakfast of cinnamon buns, bacon ($3.33 a pound for bits and pieces, which I actually prefer), grapes, pomegranates, orange juice, and egg nog; and a dinner of — well, there is an excellent Chinese restaurant 3/4 of a mile down the road, and I got nothing to prove.

Egg nog was, like, a dollar an ounce, so we’re making our own this year. Check it out: According to Serious Eats,

A team of microbiologists at Rockefeller University, in what sounds like a late-night-at-the-holiday-party-inspired bit of good science, proved that, at least in lab conditions, given an alcohol content of 20%, eggnog comes out the other end completely sterile after just 24 hours of resting. That’s cleaner than eggnog bought in sealed cartons from the supermarket.

The article above also concludes that egg nog does not actually taste better if you deliberately leave it in the fridge for a year before drinking it. Science!

And I guess that’s it from me until after Christmas! A merry and blessed Christmas to you, my friends. Don’t forget the jus.

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. 65: The importance of being parchment paper

Ooh, I’m in such a hurry! We’re headed out for a day trip as vacation week wraps up. I’ll just have to talk about food and skip the jokes, to save time.

SATURDAY
Chicken burgers

We decorate the tree on Christmas eve, and then we went to “midnight Mass” at 10 PM. Part of me was sad and a little irritated that the parish wasn’t giving us our rare and special twice-a-year midnight liturgy this year; but the other part was like, HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT, WOOOOO! Because we did manage to get all forty presents wrapped, but there were still ten stockings to fill . . .

SUNDAY
Christmas brunch; Pupu Platter for 15

Our traditional Christmas morning brunch is  cinnamon rolls, bacon, grapes, orange juice, and egg nog.

christmas-brunch

 

Tip: The way to keep kids from drinking egg nog until they throw up is . . . buy tiny cups. Cheers!

eggnog-small-cups

I made Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon roll dough the day before, and rolled out the rolls in the morning.

cinnamon-buns-red-pan

I made a double recipe, which was insane. I make this same mistake every year. We ended up throwing out both unused dough and uneaten cinnamon buns, and we brought a pan to my mother-in-law’s house, too.

We ordered Chinese from the restaurant down the road. We used to do the whole “Thanksgiving recreation” meal, or sometimes a glazed ham with cherries and pineapple rings, until we realized nobody wanted a huge, formal meal, and also it was kind of crappy that everyone else gets to relax and have fun on Christmas, but I was spending all day cooking. So, Pupu platter!

pupu

MONDAY
Leftover chinese food, leftover chicken burgers

Plus some extra frozen pork rolls my husband picked up because he is crazy. I also threw in some sad peppers and avocados I found in the fridge, because it felt like we hadn’t eaten vegetables in six years. Somehow the vegetables are always the first to drop out.

leftover-pupu

Finished making caramel chocolate-covered almonds from Smitten Kitchen today. This project had been lagging on and on for weeks. We eked out a few batches in time to give to teachers, and finally finished the rest on Monday.

If anyone’s interested, I have a series of photos showing exactly what the caramel should look like while it’s cooking. It goes through an alarming series of transformations, all of which are normal. Just say the word and I will share the pics.

I made the first few batches right, but then I got lazy and didn’t separate the caramelized almonds properly. So I just broke it up into clusters, rather than individual almonds and dipped those into chocolate, which was way easier and faster and just as good. I thought the gold sugar was especially pretty.

almonds-done

This recipe could be used for any time of year — just change the colors of sugar and sprinkles you use.

TUESDAY
Hamburgers, chips

Husband ran out to the store for meat while we all lazed around eating chocolate and playing video games.
We also made stained glass cookies, on the principle that it is better to make Christmas cookies late and slightly crabby then not to make Christmas cookies at all. We used this foolproof sugar cookie recipe for the dough. Then we sorted out some Jolly Ranchers by color, bagged them, and smashed them.

candy-crush

Then we cut them out and used smaller cookie cutters or knives to make cut-outs inside the cookie shapes. You’re supposed to bake the cookies part of the way, then fill them with candy bits, and then finish baking, but I forgot, and filled them before baking.

filling-cookies

They turned out great! Note the parchment paper.

cookies-baked

Look, I even made a corny pro-life cookie.

baby-cookie

That baby head-to-pelvis ratio is pretty accurate for Corrie, as I remember it.
Irene, of course, made a skull with glowing red eyes:

skull-cookie

Murry Christmas, weirdo. The key to the success of this recipe is, and I cannot stress this enough, USE PARCHMENT PAPER. Not wax paper, and not (brrr, your poor molars) tin foil. Parchment paper. If you don’t have parchment paper, do not make these cookies!

WEDNESDAY
Bacon, Brussels sprouts, and eggs; french fries

How I love this one-pan dish from Damn Delicious. It would make a wonderful brunch, but I think it’s super for supper, too. Bacon needs balsamic honey, eggs need hot pepper, and everyone plays well with Brussels sprouts, what do you know about that?

bacon-eggs-pan

I had microwaved leftovers for breakfast the next day, and had a banner day for productivity. I owe it all to protein, and Brussels sprouts. Even kinda congealed, it was so very good.

bacon-leftovers

THURSDAY
Spaghetti and meatballs, salad

I stuck with Fannie Farmer’s recipe for meatballs, which is basically one egg and half a cup of breadcrumbs for every pound of meat, plus whatever spices and herbs. I used about 6.5 pounds of beef and a little ground turkey, and made 85 wonderful meatballs. Rather than frying them, I put them on a broiler pan and cook them in a medium-hot oven. They keep their shape and don’t get all greasy, and it’s so much easier.

meatballs-pan

Yum yum. We were pretty much snowed in all day, so I was happy to have a very hearty meal.

spaghetti-meatballs

Speaking of snowed in, here is my recipe for completely delicious hot chocolate: Put into a pot one heaping tablespoon of cocoa powder and two heaping tablespoons of sugar for every mug of hot chocolate you want. Add enough water to make a thick syrup, and mix over low heat until the sugar is all melted. Then add the milk and a glug of vanilla. Stir and heat until it’s hot.

Benny insisted on drinking out of her doll tea set. As I mentioned before, the key to success and happiness in life is and always will be TINY CUPS.

FRIDAY
I think pizza.

And now my poor family is waiting for me in the car! Happy trails. Hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas and using parchment paper like I said. I’m not kidding.