What’s for supper? Vol. 245: Pugsy

Did you read the CNN article about What it says about us when we want a cook’s recipe but not their humanity? You have to get through quite a few paragraphs before they get to the punchline, which is that, when you just skip to to the recipe and don’t read all the chit chat and cultural background and tips about the best way to deflower a butternut squash, you are at risk of treating food like a commodity

Ope, that wasn’t supposed to be a joke? All right.

Anyway, as a more or less bona fide albeit very small time food blogger, I will tell you a secret: The reason food bloggers write so much extra stuff is because that makes people stay on the page longer, and then they get paid more. That’s it. That’s the reason. Many people, me included, also enjoy talking about food; but the main driving force behind chatty food blogs is that the person who did the work needs to get paid, and that means ads, which means eyeballs, which means words and pictures.

There is nothing nefarious about this. Some of these bloggers work their absolute tails off developing recipes, producing and editing videos, taking dozens of process shots, formatting everything, and promoting it all, and it’s not a volunteer situation! They have to get paid for their work. On food blogger message boards, they’re constantly agonizing over how to keep people there longer without annoying them so much that they leave.  Of course its tiresome when the best they can come up with is very obvious padding, like,  “Do you like corn? I do. Corn is just the best. When I see corn in the supermarket, I always think, ‘Gotta get some!’ and I load my cart right up! It just feels like summer. Summer in every bite. I will show you how to get that good old summer-in-every-bite feeling with this simple recipe that shows you how to cook corn, because corn is just the best” stuff. But the recipe is free, so.

There is also nothing wrong or dehumanizing, as the CNN article suggests, with a reader deciding they don’t care about all the extries and they just want the recipe card. Sometimes it’s 5:12 PM and you just need the recipe card. It’s just something to keep in mind: Food bloggers are not ravening egomaniacs who think the world is desperate to hear their opinions on copycat Southwest Chicken Irresist-a-bowl. They’re just trying to get paid in exchange for a service, just like everyone else. (I’m different, of course. I have a weird set up and unusually supportive readers who are nonetheless probably just about done hearing my thoughts on this topic.)

WELL, now that I’ve dragged you through 424 pointless words about words about food, I guess we can talk about food. Sorry. Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Bacon cheeseburgers, fries, birthday cake

Elijah’s birthday! Following her magnificent performance with Corrie’s Teen Titans cookie cake a few weeks ago, she volunteered to do Elijah’s cake as well. This was a Sonic the Hedgehog cake

and it included Sonic, some other colorful characters that I have strenuously avoiding familiarity with, and also, if you look closely at what is lurking in the background, something called Pugsy

which is a character Elijah made up for the sole purpose of annoying his sisters. 

We intend to let Clara leave the house at some point, but not yet. Not when birthday season is just getting started. 

SUNDAY
Aldi pizza

There was some kind of hullabloo, I forget what, so we just had Aldi pizza. 

MONDAY
Blueberry chicken salad

Always popular. I drizzled a bunch of boneless chicken breasts with olive oil and seasoned them heavy with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano, and broiled and sliced them up. 

We had acres and acres of leftover buns and rolls in the house, so I made a ton of croutons. Ended up burning half of them, but nobody complained. And that is the magic of using a ludicrous amount of butter on your croutons. 

We also had diced red onion, blueberries of course, and toasted almonds. I had my salad with red wine vinegar. 

Nut note: You can easily toast almonds and other nuts by spreading them on a plate and microwaving them for two minutes or so. They come out much more even than with toasting in the oven, and it’s harder to burn them. Some of us are always on the lookout for opportunities to burn things.

TUESDAY
Eggplant parmesan sandwiches on unfortunately multigrain bread

My car was in the shop, so Damien did all the driving for most of the week, which meant I had an unbroken swath of time in the kitchen. I decided to try eggplant parmesan over spaghetti. Then I thought I’d made some french bread for a side, too. Then, I decided I’d made eggplant parm sandwiches on homemade bread, instead.

So I’m making the dough with this very reliable recipe,

Jump to Recipe

and what should randomly and unpredictably occur with no possible way of being warned? I ran out of flour. Facebook friends suggested I could actually use it, wet as it was

and just give it much longer to rise, and then bake it in a hot dutch oven, and I’d get a nice crusty loaf. I didn’t have the extra time, though. So I put some oats in the blender and ground them up pretty fine. I added a bunch of this, but it still looked too wet, so I uhh dumped in some pancake mix. 

I will be honest, I was starting to unravel a tiny bit at this point. I already knew people were not going to be thrilled at having a meatless meal in the middle of the week, so I was really counting on the promise of lovely fresh bread to make it seem appealing. And now I had a bunch of fricken oats in there. 

One smart thing I did was proof the dough in the Instant Pot. I just sprayed the pot with cooking spray and chucked the dough in there, sealed the top, and pressed “yogurt.” An hour later it was more than doubled, and zero cats had trod in it, which is by no means a given when I proof dough anywhere else in the house. 

Then I divided the dough into twelve lumps and set them to rise again. They didn’t rise terribly well, but by this time it was getting close to dinner, so I baked those mofos. They came out . . .  okay. They would have been fine with soup or something, but really not what you want for sandwich rolls. 

They were kind of tired-looking, and very grainy and crumbly inside, and they tasted like oats for some unknown reason. 

The eggplant turned out perfect. I salted, rinsed, dried, breaded, and fried the slices, then layered them with sauce and mozzarella cheese, and baked the whole thing, then carved it up so everyone got a nice stack of cheesy saucy eggplant on their roll, plus a scoop of sauce on top. 

It still tasted like eggplant, though. I always forget this about eggplant. Eggplants have wasted all their splendor in how they look when they’re fresh off the vine, and by the time you eat them, they have very little left to offer, other than a faint muskiness. The mild sauce, mild cheese, and crumbly oaty bread together with eggplant was . . . well, my husband described it as “filling,” and it was that. 

The only eggplant recipe I’ve ever loved is this one for spicy, crisp fried eggplant with yogurt sauce. 

I wish I had some right now. *sob*

WEDNESDAY
Gochujang pork chops, rice, sesame carrot slaw

I had twelve unexciting pork chops and just slathered them with this spicy Korean marinade

Jump to Recipe

for about an hour before shoving them under the broiler, turning once. Voila, exciting! Great flavor, no skill required. I ordered another little tub gochujang while it cooked. 

I really wanted gochujang bulgoki with the carrots and onions and nori and everything, but I was in a rush, and had the wrong kind of pork. So I cribbed the carrot slaw recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod and made some modifications (I made it a little simpler and quite a bit sweeter). I’ll put my recipe card at the end. 

Pretty popular. It’s sweet and bright and spicy and crunchy, and made a very nice accompaniment to the somewhat heavy and sticky marinade on the meat. So, hooray, another side possibility! I’m always hunting for more sides. If I never bake another potato in my whole life, I will be content. 

THURSDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips

Nothing to report. Well, I usually say that my secret is I apply a little skim of mayonnaise on the outside of the bread before frying the sandwich in butter. The truth is, I apply the mayo with a spatula, and it’s considerably more than a skim. What, you want to make a skinny corpse someday? Have some mayo.

FRIDAY
Khachapuri (Georgian cheese bread)

Another new recipe that’s been haunting me for a few years now, so I’m finally trying it today. It’s little kayak-shaped bread bowls full of three kinds of cheese, with an egg cooked into it. Eh? Eh? We’ll see if I screw up the breadPROBABLY but it sounds very promising.

I also grabbed some asparagus, which I will probably sauté, and some cans of tomato soup. Sounds like dinner to me. 

5 from 2 votes
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Fried eggplant

You can salt the eggplant slices many hours ahead of time, even overnight, to dry them before frying.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • salt for drying out the eggplant

1/2 cup veg oil for frying

2 cups flour

  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp veg oil
  • optional: kosher salt for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. Cut the ends off the eggplant and slice it into one-inch slices.
    Salt them thoroughly on both sides and lay on paper towels on a tray (layering if necessary). Let sit for half an hour (or as long as overnight) to draw out some of the moisture. 

  2. Mix flour and seasonings in a bowl, add the water and teaspoon of oil, and beat into a batter. Preheat oven for warming. 

  3. Put oil in heavy pan and heat until it's hot but not smoking. Prepare a tray with paper towels.

  4. Dredge the eggplant slices through the batter on both sides, and carefully lay them in the hot oil, and fry until crisp, turning once. Fry in batches, giving them plenty of room to fry.

  5. Remove eggplant slices to tray with paper towels and sprinkle with kosher salt if you like.. You can keep them warm in the oven for a short time.  

  6. Serve with yogurt sauce or marinara sauce.

5 from 2 votes
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French bread

Makes four long loaves. You can make the dough in one batch in a standard-sized standing mixer bowl if you are careful!

I have a hard time getting the water temperature right for yeast. One thing to know is if your water is too cool, the yeast will proof eventually; it will just take longer. So if you're nervous, err on the side of coolness.

Ingredients

  • 4-1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 4-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
  • 10-12 cups flour
  • butter for greasing the pan (can also use parchment paper) and for running over the hot bread (optional)
  • corn meal for sprinkling on pan (optional)

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, put the warm water, and mix in the sugar and yeast until dissolved. Let stand at least five minutes until it foams a bit. If the water is too cool, it's okay; it will just take longer.

  2. Fit on the dough hook and add the salt, oil, and six of the cups of flour. Add the flour gradually, so it doesn't spurt all over the place. Mix and low and then medium speed. Gradually add more flour, one cup at a time, until the dough is smooth and comes away from the side of the bowl as you mix. It should be tender but not sticky.

  3. Lightly grease a bowl and put the dough ball in it. Cover with a damp towel or lightly cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about an hour, until it's about double in size.

  4. Flour a working surface. Divide the dough into four balls. Taking one at a time, roll, pat, and/or stretch it out until it's a rough rectangle about 9x13" (a little bigger than a piece of looseleaf paper).

  5. Roll the long side of the dough up into a long cylinder and pinch the seam shut, and pinch the ends, so it stays rolled up. It doesn't have to be super tight, but you don't want a ton of air trapped in it.

  6. Butter some large pans. Sprinkle them with cornmeal if you like. You can also line them with parchment paper. Lay the loaves on the pans.

  7. Cover them with damp cloths or plastic wrap again and set to rise in a warm place again, until they come close to double in size. Preheat the oven to 375.

  8. Give each loaf several deep, diagonal slashes with a sharp knife. This will allow the loaves to rise without exploding. Put the pans in the oven and throw some ice cubes in the bottom of the oven, or spray some water in with a mister, and close the oven quickly, to give the bread a nice crust.

  9. Bake 25 minutes or more until the crust is golden. One pan may need to bake a few minutes longer.

  10. Run some butter over the crust of the hot bread if you like, to make it shiny and even yummier.

 

5 from 2 votes
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Sesame carrot slaw

Ingredients

Salad:

  • 2 lbs carrots, shredded
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and sliced thin

Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup veg oil
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup lime juice (about three large limes' worth)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1 Tbsp powdered ginger
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. Mix dressing ingredients together. Combine in bowl with carrots and peppers.

 

5 from 2 votes
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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. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 243: Teen Titans and other captivating compositions

Hi! Food! Here we go:

SATURDAY
Hot dogs, chips

I did buy hot dog buns, but not nearly enough. I’m new here and have no way of knowing how to shop for food. But of course you can turn a mediocre meal into something very different, with the right presentation. 

I’m tempted to enter this in Eva Kosmas Flores#captivatingComposition challenge but she seems like a nice lady and I don’t want to upset her.

SUNDAY
Roast pork ribs, peas, pink risotto

Pretty good meal, but I ran out of white wine for the risotto and had to add some red, and I really just don’t prefer it that way. Can’t beat white wine, butter, and onions. Oh, I also used beef broth instead of chicken, because I couldn’t find my chicken bouillon cubes. Several years ago, I switched from using bouillon cubes to using a giant jar of powdered chicken bouillon. YEARS ago. But I hid this information from myself for some reason, and also somehow didn’t see the giant jar of powdered chicken bouillon I keep on the counter. So I was forced to use beef.

It’s a good recipe, when you follow it!

Jump to Recipe

 

The pork ribs, I just seasoned heavily with salt and pepper and shoved them under a hot broiler, turning once, and they always turn out juicy and nice. The hardest part is running over to turn off the smoke alarm when you turn the ribs over. The whole meal tasted better than it looks. We’re getting some more light these days, but still not enough to make food look good in the evening. 

MONDAY
Mexican beef bowls

Everybody’s favorite meal this week. I adore this meal. The marinade is only a few ingredients, and then you just have to roast the meat for 40 minutes or so, slice it up, and put in a little time prepping the other toppings — not really more work than prepping for tacos or something. 

 

Jump to Recipe

The only hitch was I only had three cups of rice; but I had picked up these silly taco shell boats (“Fiesta Flats“) on a whim, and was dubbed Mother Hero for my efforts. We had fried onions and sweet peppers, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, plenty of cilantro, black beans + tomatoes and chili (one can of each, drained and dumped together), and some sweet corn charred in a pan with olive oil. And lime wedges and corn chips. 

This meat is so good, so tangy and savory. My current favorite thing to do to beef when it goes on sale. Whenever we make this meal, I scoop up plenty of the gravy and pour it over the whole thing. I firmly believe this is good for my heart and will enable me to live forever, a Gravy-filled Hero Mother forever.

TUESDAY
Nobody knows what we ate on Tuesday. I don’t have any pictures, so it probably wasn’t very good. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken caprese sandwiches, fries

A fine meal. I took some chicken breasts, drizzled them with olive oil, and heavily seasoned them with salt, garlic powder, and oregano and dried basil and rosemary, and roasted them, then sliced them thin. February tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, freshly ground sea salt and pepper. Toasted buns. Very nice.

We ate late because I had spent a good part of the day shopping for Corrie’s birthday party, putting her presents together, and baking a ridiculous cake, as you will see.

THURSDAY
Domino’s pizza

Corrie’s birthday! We’re still not having guests, so we made it as festive as possible with just us chickens, considering that several of us chickens had to work during the day.

She requested a Teen Titans cake, and drew this helpful diagram for me:

Sure, kid.
So I did what any loving mother would do: I begged one of my other kids to deal with it. I did bake a cake, and decorate it so it looked sort of like a sort of comic book city at night, sort of:

And then Clara made EXTRAORDINARY cookies of the Teen Titans. She printed pictures of the characters, cut them out, traced them in dough, cut the cookies out, and then I guess just freehanded in the design with icing.


Note, her decorating equipment consisted of plastic sandwich bags with a little hole cut in the corner.

The most amazing part was that she worked on them all day, and then when it was time to serve the cake, she didn’t even wince as we went ahead and ATE them. Two of them played wishbone with Beast Boy’s legs. 

So, Corrie loved her cake, loved her presents (well, except for the one she opened after waking up shortly after dawn, and it wasn’t exactly the way she expected, and she did not love that), loved the piñata Irene made for her, loved her Teen Titans decorations

and pretty much liked her party games. She had asked for a balloon shooting game with a stuffed animal for the big prize and then bad prizes for the rest of the prizes. It turns out that a combination of darkness and snow and a very old BB gun and balloons is . . . less than ideal.

The balloons wouldn’t pop! We had to bring the game inside and stab the balloons with a knife. Coincidentally, Corrie won the big prize, and everyone else got bad prizes, which included some seltzer and a can of tomato paste. 

Phew. That was some day. I honestly think it would have been easier and more relaxing to invite a bunch of kindergarteners over for a few hours. 

FRIDAY
Elijah’s mac and cheese

I had the brilliant idea to get the kids to pick a favorite meal and cook it for everyone during vacation week. But I didn’t shop until Tuesday, and then we had various things going on that confused me, and now vacation is just about over, and here it is Friday. So today, Elijah is going to make mac and cheese. 

I think we can squeeze some kid-made dinners out over the weekend, too. Irene is going to make stuffed shells, and Lucy is going to make breaded mozzarella sticks. Sophia earned some side eye by volunteering to make English muffin pizza, but dinner is dinner. Clara already earned her stripes with the Teen Titan cookies, and Lena was going to make the caprese chicken sandwiches but I forgot and made them myself by mistake.  Moe has been doing inventory at work and I didn’t have the heart to ask him to cook, too. 

Okay, that’s it for this week! Here’s some recipe cards for yez. And stay tuned, patrons, for a new podcast episode! This week Double Feature with the Fishers tackles Master and Commander and Appaloosa

Instant Pot Risotto

Almost as good as stovetop risotto, and ten billion times easier. Makes about eight cups. 

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground sage
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups rice, raw
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • pepper
  • 1.5 cups grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Turn IP on sautee, add oil, and sautee the onion, garlic, salt, and sage until onions are soft.

  2. Add rice and butter and cook for five minutes or more, stirring constantly, until rice is mostly opaque and butter is melted.

  3. Press "cancel," add the broth and wine, and stir.

  4. Close the top, close valve, set to high pressure for 9 minutes.

  5. Release the pressure and carefully stir in the parmesan cheese and pepper. Add salt if necessary. 

 

Beef marinade for fajita bowls

enough for 6-7 lbs of beef

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 head garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together.

  2. Pour over beef, sliced or unsliced, and marinate several hours. If the meat is sliced, pan fry. If not, cook in a 350 oven, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. I cook the meat in all the marinade and then use the excess as gravy.

Snow day! Bird seed cakes, hot chocolate, sugar cookies, and 6-sided snowflakes

Continue reading “Snow day! Bird seed cakes, hot chocolate, sugar cookies, and 6-sided snowflakes”

What’s for supper? Vol. 173: The pineapple gets the works

Today, I bought dental insurance. That has nothing to do with what’s for supper. I just wanted to tell someone. I’m pretty excited, as this is basically me and Damien:

SONY DSC

(Image by William Murphy via Flickr )

Why dental heath is not included in regular health, I’ll never know. I guess it’s because teeth are just inside your head and your skull, so how important could they be. Anyway. Onward! 

SATURDAY
Regular tacos

This is my meal when I’m feeling merciful toward the kids. No fermented vegetables, no sprouts, no seasonings with diacritical marks in their names. Just ground beef with orange powder from a little packet, sour cream, salsa from a jar, and shredded cheddar cheese. Completely unchallenging food has its charms.

I had to put greens on mine because I am a mom and that’s the rule.

SUNDAY
Spiedies, raw peppers, blueberry tart

This recipe is really, really good if you have the time to zest lemons and chop fresh mint and such, marinate the meat overnight, skewer it, and cook it over the coals. It’s still quite nice if you just slosh in a bunch of stuff, chop some cheap pork into chunks, let it marinate for a few hours, and shove it under a hot broiler.

Serve the meat on toasted rolls with a lot of mayo. It comes out tender, juice, and a little spicy. 

The original recipe is a NYT one which is currently behind a paywall. The quickie one I threw together was olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, kosher salt, oregano, crushed garlic, red pepper flakes. Basically Italian dressing but with extra lemon juice and red pepper flakes. 

For dessert, Clara made a blueberry tart. Every single last damn time I go to write “tart,” I type “tard” first. I choose to believe this is because I have watched so much Dr. Who, and not because I don’t deserve to live in the 21st century. Anyway, here’s the picture.

If you zoom in, you can see that I accidentally sprinkled yarrow pollen all over it while trying to get an Instaworthy photo. If I could figure out the right SEO for this post, I could probably form a partnership with Gwyneth Paltrow and pass it off as a cure for yarrow allergies, uterine prolapse, and ennui. 

Clara and I worked on this together, and it certainly did highlight the difference between our cooking styles; it certainly did. She is more of a “wait, stop, what is seven eights of a cup times two and a half?” baker, and I’m more of a “just mash faster, no one will know” baker.

Between the two of us, we came up with something tasty, anyway, although it was reluctant to leave the pie plate. To appease the Visigoths, we chose the kind of whipped cream that comes squirting out of a can.

I’ll get the recipe link from her when she gets home.

MONDAY
Chicken enchilada rice bowls, corn chips, pineapple

This meal looked better than it tasted. I was going for a “all the ingredients you love in Mexican food, but without a tortilla, for some reason” kind of meal. So I cooked up a pot of rice, then roasted some chicken with lots of chili lime powder. Then I cut up the chicken and cooked it again in green enchilada sauce from a can. I mixed together some black beans, chili beans, and diced tomato with chili peppers in it. We had limes, cilantro, sour cream, and shredded cheese, and corn chips.

It was. . . fine. I will just go ahead and make enchiladas next time. 

The exciting part was I finally bought a pineapple corer from Aldi for like $3, and it was so cool! I thought it would just extract the core so you can peel it and get rings, but it cores and peels it, and leaves you will a continues spiral of pineapple. Corrie and I made a video, and we hope it blows your mind. 

This is my first attempt at including a food video, and I hope it’s not terrible, because people keep telling me this is the only way to make some money, and if you can’t make money sharing a video of yourself testing a $3 pineapple corer, than is this even really America? 

TUESDAY
Pizza

Tuesday was the final school concert of the year. If you wish to hear my views on school concerts, I can make that happen. This time, I dropped the kid off, nipped over to the liquor store and picked up some liquid courage in small bottles, and zipped back to my seat before the curtain. And now I have a brand new plan for school concerts.

I made a few pizzas before I left. There was a limited edition “everything dough” available, so I got some. It wasn’t everything, per se, but it certainly had poppy seeds in it.

Oh. You know about the “Make me one with everything” joke, right? This remains my favorite moment ever recorded on video. Especially the part where he leans in and goes, “Know what I mean?”

It’s so beautiful. 

Oh, here are the pizzas. I only made four, for some reason. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken burgers

What was I even doing on Wednesday? I think I was writing like a maniac while Damien brought Lucy to the pediatric endocrinologist and then rock climbing. And that’s what chicken burgers are for. 

THURSDAY
Deli sandwiches, fruit salad, chips, cookies

Actually, that was lunch. I had planned cumin chicken thighs, yogurt sauce, pita, and tabbouleh for supper, but in lieu of that, I took a nap, and everyone just ate more lunch. But what a lunch it was! One of my favorite families in the whole world, John and Aletheia Herreid and their wonderful kids were in town. The weather was great, Clara made a ton of cookies, we have a trampoline for bouncing and stream for floundering, John and my older kids swapped sketch books, Aletheia brought sunshine to the whole world as she so often does, and they brought cheese and beer and a luchador mask, and it was just swell. 

FRIDAY
Ravioli

Just frozen ravioli. Not one of my most thrilling culinary weeks, but it was a good week. And thorough. 

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.