What’s for supper? Vol. 212: The best things in life are jiggly

This week, I cleaned a lot and ate a lot, and now you people are gonna hear about it. 

SATURDAY
Aldi pizza

Since I’m no longer shopping on Saturdays, I decided I had time to tackle The Middle Room, which has four girls in it. I normally pretend the upstairs doesn’t exist at all, but every so often, it demands to be recognized, usually by whispering phrases like “fire hazard” and “child protective services” into my psyche at 3 a.m.

I had the kids take everything downstairs. EVERYTHING.

We did it this way because if I go upstairs to sort, I end up drowning in guilt and throwing up with dust, and the rage and disgust and regret overwhelm me before I get to the bottom of things. So I make them bring the mess to me, and then I have to push through and finish the project no matter how bad it feels, or I don’t get my living room back. Maybe someday I’ll finish a task without deliberately entrapping myself, but not today.

So they lugged everything downstairs in bags and boxes, and they stripped that room like we were planning to move out. Then we moved the furniture, and vacuumed everything, and wiped it all down. Then everything they own got a pass or fail (the older kids were allowed to have crates of belongings that I didn’t personally sort through, as long as they were reasonably contained and didn’t smell of rotten fruit). Then we sorted out what was left and put it all back again. 

Guys, we threw out thirteen bags of junk. And we bought a new mattress, and new lights, and new storage tubs and crates and shelves, and new hanging organizers. And a new vacuum cleaner. We finished around 8:45 p.m. The finished bedroom still looks like most people’s “before,” but I’m pleased. And we got our living room back. 

Oops, this is a food blog. Well, Damien exerted his husbandly authority and commanded me to let him pick up some frozen pizzas. 

SUNDAY
Mac and cheese with kielbasa, sausage rolls

Mother’s day! I was showered with truly wonderful homemade gifts and treats, and visited my favorite local nursery to pick out some peonies and lilies of the valley. The original plan was to go on a hike and a picnic, but it was windy and nippy out, so we settled for a picnic in the back yard with strawberries and giant sandwiches Damien made with all kinds of special meats and cheeses, and it was a lovely day all day.

I made my normal mac and cheese (just basically a ton of white sauce with whatever cheese we have lying around melted into it), but added sliced up kielbasa.

As with so many people, more and more of our meals are the result of whatever we could find in the stores, so they are getting weird. I liked the mac and cheese with kielbasa, though. It tasted like exactly what it was.

I also made a tray of sausage rolls. 

 

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Last time I made this recipe, I used puff pastry, and that’s a better choice than the phyllo dough I used this time. (This was the very last roll of phyllo dough left over from the time I made baklava for the Dead Theologians Society. Yes, packaged phyllo dough really keeps that long in the fridge.) 

These are savory little pastries stuffed with sausage and onions, brushed with egg and topped with “everything” seasoning. They were very tasty, and I was amazed all over again that the kids didn’t want them. They are quite easy to make, and would be great for party snacks, or for when it’s mother’s day and you can make what you like and people aren’t going to be jerks for once. 

MONDAY
Different Asian meatballs with lime sauce, rice

Last time I mentioned this moderately popular Asian meatball recipe I make

 

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someone recommended a recipe that included a different, more exciting dipping sauce made with sesame oil, lime, and cilantro. Fool that I am, I messed with moderate success and also tried the new meatball recipe that went along with the new sauce.

Those meatballs were not great. Also, I had some medium-bad migraine brain and repeatedly confused teaspoons and tablespoons, and also I didn’t read the recipe all the way through, and had put all the ingredients in with the meat, including the ingredients which any feeble minded cat would have known were for the sauce, and weren’t supposed to be mixed in with the meat. So I had to scrape a bunch of wet crap off the meat and start over again.

The sauce was good, though! Eventually! I’ll make the sauce again, with the superior meatballs, once we recover from our unpleasant associations with this meal. I also got it into my head to scrub the hell out of the bathtub on Monday, so the day wasn’t a total loss. Nothing beats good old fashioned Comet.

TUESDAY
Hot dogs, fries

I went grocery shopping on Tuesday. My strategy is: a mask to protect other people, my sacred heart necklace to remind me of who I am so I don’t murder anyone, and an extra dose of Buspar to seal the deal. Then I got home and collapsed like a bunch of broccoli and Damien made hot dogs and fries. I feel like there was some vegetable, but that may have been a hallucination.

WEDNESDAY
Bibimbap and berry cheese cake

Earlier in the week, I had bribed Corrie with cake-making videos while I braided her hair. She likes the recipes that involve either morbidly peppy blonde ladies who don’t know when to stop, or else extremely together Asian women making deft little movements with specially-shaped spatulas in their little glass bowls, and then boop! They produce a magical raindrop cake with a flower made of strawberries suspended inside. So I got it in my head that we needed to make our own fantastical dessert of some kind. Here is what we came up with (there were two of them):

They were . . .  intriguing. Even compelling. And wiggly. All the best desserts are wiggly. We used the no-bake cheesecake part of this recipe, but only because I was going for oven avoidance rather than taste; and for the top, we used clear gelatin sweetened with ginger ale. I’ll include the recipe for how we made the Jell-o part, mainly because I went to the trouble of writing it up. 

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The graham cracker base partially fell apart because I used silicone pans, because I have a permanent grudge against springform pans; and the one jell-o mold that came out of the bowl intact had a textured surface, so it wasn’t crystal clear. At this time, I am accepting zero advice about how to get better results next time, as there will be no next time. The kids had fun, I ate some cheesecake, and that’s what we were going for. Ta dah!

I think Wednesday was also when I decluttered and reorganized the kitchen. Maybe? The days are running together. Someone definitely cleaned my kitchen, and I remember being mad, so it was probably me. Spring cleaning hit hard this year, you guys. And I found the bag of powdered milk that I bought when I first realized that this corona thing wasn’t going to just blow over. I guess I’ll hold onto that. 

For the bibimbap, I made a big pot of rice, and cooked up some sliced-up pork and onions in a gochujang sauce

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Clara made some quick pickled carrots

 

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and I set out raw spinach, crunchy noodles, chopped scallions, and miscellaneous sauces and sesame seeds and whatnot. Everyone took what they wanted, and then lined up for their fried egg on top. 

 

Gosh, I love this meal. I like to fry my egg until it’s crisp on the bottom, then flip it over just for a second, then flip it back and slide it on top of the spinach, so it wilts the greens a little. Then some hot sauce. 

You got the cold crunchy carrots and noodles with the egg yolk running into it, you got the meat sauce slowly sinking into the rice. Great meal. I’ve tried many different sauces, but I think I’ll stay with the gochujang one from now on.

THURSDAY
Quicken quesadillas and chips with pico de gallo

These were, of course, chicken quesadillas, not quicken. I may still have a migraine, and also part of my tooth fell off again. Nevertheless, Thursday was yet another big cleaning project: The Dining Room Heap. It was an ugly afternoon, but I only discovered one backpack full of rotten fruit in the process. And now no one has to crab-walk to get to the dining room table. Such luxury!

And boy, dinner tastes good after you’ve been working hard. 

Clara roasted up the chicken and Lena made the pico de gallo

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and I shredded the cheese and finally succeeded in coaxing Corrie out of a 48-hour snit by shouting, “HAVE SOME CHEESE, RAT!” and throwing cheese at her. 

FRIDAY
Fish tacos

Today I open up the bag of avocados and see how I did. I am inordinately proud of my skill at choosing avocados for their ripeness stage. I also have some pineapples and mangoes I’ve been avoiding all week.

Okay, that’s it! I gained forty-three pounds this week, how about you? 

Sausage rolls

Servings 36 rolls

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Vaguely Asian meatballs with dipping sauce

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

Servings 30 large meatballs

Ingredients

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

For dipping sauce:

  • mirin or rice vinegar
  • soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.

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

  3. Bake for about 15 minutes.

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

 

quick-pickled carrots and/or cucumbers for banh mi, bibimbap, ramen, tacos, etc.

An easy way to add tons of bright flavor and crunch to a meal. We pickle carrots and cucumbers most often, but you can also use radishes, red onions, daikon, or any firm vegetable. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 lb mini cucumbers (or 1 lg cucumber)

For the brine (make double if pickling both carrots and cukes)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar (other vinegars will also work; you'll just get a slightly different flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp sale, preferably kosher

Instructions

  1. Mix brine ingredients together until salt and sugar are dissolved. 

  2. Slice or julienne the vegetables. The thinner they are, the more flavor they pick up, but the more quickly they will go soft, so decide how soon you are going to eat them and cut accordingly!

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

  3. Cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight or longer. Refrigerate if you're going to leave them overnight or longer.

 

2 berry domes for cheesecakes or just for excitement

Ingredients

  • 8 envelopes clear unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 lbs strawberries
  • 6 oz blackberries
  • 6 oz raspberries
  • 6 cups gingergale (about 3.5 cans)

Instructions

  1. Slice the strawberries. Mix them up with the other berries.

  2. Spray a large bowl or two smaller bowls with cooking spray. Put the berries in and try to arrange them as far up the sides as possible. Set aside.

  3. In a large bowl, mix together the gelatin and the sugar.

  4. Boil the water and whisk it into the gelatin and sugar until the gelatin is dissolved.

  5. Add the ginger ale and stir to combine.

  6. Carefully pour the gingerale-gelatin mixture into the prepared bowls of berries.

  7. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours until firmly set.

Gochujang bulgoki (spicy Korean pork)


Ingredients

  • 1.5 pound boneless pork, sliced thin
  • 4 carrots in matchsticks or shreds
  • 1 onion sliced thin

sauce:

  • 5 generous Tbsp gochujang (fermented pepper paste)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 cloves minced garlic

Serve with white rice and nori (seaweed sheets) or lettuce leaves to wrap

Instructions

  1. Combine pork, onions, and carrots.

    Mix together all sauce ingredients and stir into pork and vegetables. 

    Cover and let marinate for several hours or overnight.

    Heat a pan with a little oil and sauté the pork mixture until pork is cooked through.

    Serve with rice and lettuce or nori. Eat by taking pieces of lettuce or nori, putting a scoop of meat and rice in, and making little bundles to eat. 

Pico De Gallo

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

How to clean your Tohu wa-bohu

There is nothing I like better to read than plans, tips, and strategies for keeping the house clean and orderly. A large household in a relatively small living space quickly degenerates into chaos and disorder without constant vigilance and persistent rectification of why is this sticky. Can I not just once in my life sit down without getting all sticky.

So that’s why I like to sit there with my feet up, reading about how to clean.

I especially like the schedules that tell you exactly what to do, how often. You’ve seen these: mop up spills immediately, tidy living areas daily, deep-clean bathrooms weekly, scrub baseboards monthly, douse upholstery with kerosene, strike a match, and delight in the glorious inferno of the final answer to domesticity quarterly. I mean, “never.” Never even think of that. What is the matter with you?

The one thing I haven’t found anywhere is a guide for what kind of cleaning to do depending on what kind of guest you’re expecting.  It does make a difference, n’est-ce pas, you animal? From my Tohu wa-bohu to yours:

Female guests age 11 and up: Scrub shower curtain, because women are insane and are going to judge you on your shower curtain, even if they aren’t taking a shower. Decades from now, the master of ceremonies at your funeral is going to ask, “Does anyone have a memory to share of our extraordinary friend Simcha, who lived to be 106 years old, won the Nobel Peace Prize twice, and figured out how to desalinate ocean water with a simple wooden spool and a paper clip?” and that woman who stopped by to pick up a free typewriter you listed on Craigslist, and who asked if she could use your bathroom, will stand up and she will say, “Her shower curtain had mildew.”

Did you know you can just put the whole shower curtain in the washing machine? Don’t actually run the machine with a shower curtain in it, stupid; you’ll tear it to shreds. I’m just saying, you can put it in there.

Nice French Canadian ladies named Enid and Célestin who are bringing over a casserole because you just had a baby: Just have the baby waiting by the door. They are there for the baby, and the casserole is their ticket inside. If you want to make them extra happy, hang up some gooey picture of Our Lady of Maybelline. Note: Do not let them leave with the baby. Check their bags. Nice try, Célestin.

Any kids age 7 and under; and boys age 12 and under: Just clear a pathway, practice those breathing exercises for when they start tracking unspeakable things through the hallway, and make sure at least one toilet works and/or you know where the shovel is.

Priest in the house: Buy extra beer and extra meat, and crate the dog. Other than that, do nothing. He really needs to know what goes on.

Husband’s work friend: Meet him in the driveway and shunt him directly into the backyard where the beer is. He definitely doesn’t need to know what goes on.

College friends who always thought you were fairly dim, because you fairly were: Upgrade bathroom reading material. Aim for Lexile score of 1400 or higher. National Geographic is acceptable, as long as it’s not too wet and nobody has written “ha ha boobie” on the African parts. If you went liberal arts, poetry anthologies are a solid choice. No Magic Tree House or Animorphs. They wouldn’t understand.

Anybody: No NFP charts on the fridge. Come on. And yes, everybody knows what “I” or “*” or “:)” or “ha cha cha” notations mean, especially if they’re clustered around the end of the month. No visible cups of pee, even if there is a good and holy reason for having cups of pee hanging around. No boxes of test strips that say “HELPS YOU GET SUPER EXTRA PREGNANT MUCH MUCH FASTER!” Even people who love you, love your kids, and are totally on board with the whole “culture of life” thing are going to stand there, transfixed, their eyes darting back and forth between the forty-six toothbrushes you somehow have, and the toilet paper you’re forced to buy in bulk sizes that would shame an army barracks, and those words “PREGNANT FASTER,” and they’re going to think, “I need to leave before these people try to hide a spare baby in my purse.”

Hey, come on back. There’s plenty of beer in the back yard.

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Image: sketch by Edward Lear via Pixabay (Creative Commons)

The case for accepting disorder

We will never get to the bottom of it. One virtue most modern people could stand to cultivate: looking in the mirror, seeing our vices, our virtues and our sweet, melancholy, guilty entanglements—and simply shrugging. Let God sort it out.

Read the rest of my latest for America Magazine here.

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Image by Aristocrats-hat via Flickr (Creative Commons)