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.

What’s for supper? Vol. 71: Your feta has given me wings!

Another week has come and gone and kicked my butt. Here’s what we had to eat:

SATURDAY
Aldi pizza 

All of Saturday was consumed with the installation of our new couch from Craigslist. Sometimes, living in a 5/8ths-scale house is just stupid, especially if you just got a swell deal on a truly enormous overstuffed sectional.

If you think Valentine’s Day is romantic, you should see my husband obligingly sweating his way through an absurd, five-hour, perpetually escalating “if you give a mouse a cookie” situation, and not even swearing.

Here, we see the old, faithful couch cast out after years of service, and the new one being broken in with My Little Pony and cheese sticks.

That’s how it goes. It’s a hard knock life for couch.

***

SUNDAY
Chicken shawarma

Shawarma is one of the greatest contributions the east has ever made to the west. Almost makes up for algebra. It’s even better if you marinate it starting the night before, but marinating all day is good, too.

Like a maniac, I bought sixteen pounds of chicken thighs, and by the time I skinned and trimmed them all, I was pretty much over the raw chicken experience, so I left the bones in and marinated and cooked them that way, rather than de-boning.

It wasn’t a mistake, exactly, but it definitely detracted from the delectability of this dish (NYT recipe here). This is a meal that you want to be able to gather up with eager fingers and pop into your mouth with glee, while mumbling insincere resolves to stop eating soon. Bones just slow you down.

We served it with pita bread, cucumbers, feta cheese, red pepper hummus, olives, parsley, and yogurt mixed with fresh garlic and lemon juice.

I also fried up some eggplant, but that did not turn out great. I couldn’t get enough of that cool, sharp yogurt sauce, though. Man.

I give this meal a A for content, B+ for execution. Wish I had gotten some tomatoes.

***

MONDAY
Penne with sausage sauce, salad

Snow day! Again! A good day for hearty pasta. Damien took the kids sledding, while I bravely stayed home and fried up diced onions and loose sausage, basil, and oregano, added a few jars of spaghetti sauce, and some red wine, and let it cook for a while, then served the sauce over penne with parmesan.

I also made hot chocolate again, which is why, this morning, I had to stop at the minimart and buy a gallon of milk for $4.79 to get us through the day. Humph.

***

TUESDAY
Corn dogs, chips

I have no memory of Tuesday. Oh, wait: I remember seeing a plate holding a pile of tattered and discarded corn dog batter. Animals.

Oh, wait, I remember more. It was Valentine’s Day, which I like, so there. I made a cheesecake using this basic Philly cheesecake recipe, and it turned out just fine. (It did crack, but I don’t care.) I made a chocolate ganache which turned out garbage, so we just had strawberries on top. I also made some fudge using Skaarup’s Lunatic Fudge recipe, which is fast and easy, no candy thermometer required. I made it in a heart-shaped pan, because I like that.

***

WEDNESDAY
Panic omelettes, biscuits, leftover chicken, salad

Because supper was going to be easy, I thought I’d go lie down for ten minutes and surf through Facebook until it was time to get things going. Next thing you know, I’ve accidentally made the acquaintance of some extraordinarily imaginative folks who, when they open their eyeballs in the morning, see nothing but a menacing horde of their fellow Catholics who are using NFP for the wrong reasons.

You know and I know that there is no worse use of one’s time than trying to make sense of a conversation like this, but I did it anyway. And so, suddenly, it’s half an hour after we should be sitting down to eat, and I’m just now staggering into the kitchen, wondering what would in the world would motivate someone to try and make marriage harder, and also where all the friggin eggs went.

(They went into the cheesecake, and also everyone has to make eggs on a snow day. It’s the rule.)

I usually make omelettes to order; but since I could only find eleven eggs, that seemed futile. So I made a six-egg omelette with pepper jack cheese, turned it too soon, got mad, and burned the rest. Then I ripped up some ham and did the same thing with the rest of the eggs. I divvied them up, and then discovered that my 12-year-old son was waiting for the next batch, which there warn’t none. SADNESS. Good thing I had made sixteen pounds of chicken not long ago.

We also had biscuits, which I made with Benny. Come to think of it, we made them before supper, so I can’t have been arguing about the scourge of wild, unrestrained Humanae Vitae parties at the same time. I guess that was a different day. Well, we used this recipe, anyway.

***

THURSDAY
Japanese-style beef stew, rice, rice rolls

This seemed like a really swell dish — chunks of beef and sweet potatoes and fresh ginger slices in chicken stock with soy sauce, pepper, honey, and lemon juice —  but it turned out no better than adequate. I don’t know what I did wrong, but it must have been more than one thing.

There weren’t any clean bowls, so I served it angrily over rice.

You know what’s going to make my cooking a lot better? Spring. So I can have some natural light to take food pictures with.

I also managed to cook it in a skillet, transfer it to a dutch oven, put it in the fridge, take it out of the fridge, transfer it into the crock of a crock pot, and heat it up in the microwave. Thank goodness for all these labor-saving devices. Next, I plan to pour the leftovers into one of those plastic bags that you seal up with a vacuum cleaner, then store it under my bed, sell the house at a stunning loss, and move into a wood-panelled van in Martha Stewart’s back yard.

Also on Thursday, I made 53 stained glass heart cookies, and Damien dipped sixty strawberries in chocolate, because I signed up to bring treats in for three separate classrooms for a belated Valentine’s Day party.

The cookies are not hard to make, but they take forehhhhhhhhver. You use this basic, no chill sugar cookie recipe, and cut out large cookies with a cookie cutter. Lay them on the baking sheet on parchment paper or silicone baking mats, cut out a smaller shape inside each cookie, and fill up the cut-out with crushed hard candies; then bake as usual, or a tiny bit longer. The candy melts and makes a little colored window, very pretty.

They turned out fine, if a little bleary. But they took forehhhhhhhhver.

***

FRIDAY
Shakshuka 

Here’s a pic from last time I made it:

There are many things to love about shakshuka, and not least is that you can sing it to the tune of “Volare” and really bother the children. If I have time, I want to try this pita recipe. I have until 3:45 to come up with an irritating pita song.

Oh, Dean. Just shut up.

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.