What’s for supper? Vol. 190: Beef barley soup! Pumpkin cranberry walnut muffins! And more!

We have hurtled through another week! I did a few site updates, so let’s see if the new “jump to recipe” thing works:

Jump to Recipe

Works? I think it works. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Nachos, pineapple

Easy peasy. Damien cooked the ground beef and added some sort of proprietary blend of seasonings, and I dumped it over some chips and shredded a bunch of cheese over it and slid it in the oven. We had salsa and sour cream and cilantro. 

If you squint, it looks sort of like salad. 

SUNDAY
Roast beef sandwiches, onion rings, veg and dip, strawberry shortcake

I had worked up a wonderful migraine overnight, which turned me into a blob of glup, so I stayed in bed for most of the day while someone covered my faith formation class and Damien took the kids to Mass and made dinner. He seasoned the roasts and sauteéd them in a pan, then put them in the oven to roast slowly. We had the sliced meat on rolls with provolone and horseradish sauce and tomatoes.

I put mine in the oven to toast up. If I were running away from the Visigoths and had a sandwich with me and someone said, “Would you like that toasted?” I would take the extra time to toast it.

My MIL came over with strawberry shortcake. It looked very promising, but my head was just starting to recover by evening, and I didn’t want to jinx it with anything sugary. 

MONDAY
Beef orzo soup, pumpkin cranberry walnut muffins

A much-loved cold weather meal in this house. Jump to Recipe

This was supposed to be beef barley soup, but I forgot to get barley, so I subbed orzo, which was a little disappointing in the texture department. Beef, carrots, onions, tomato, garlic, wine, beef broth, salt and pepper, mushrooms, some kind of grain, and that’s it. Bay leaf if you’re fancy. Always a hit.

I had it for lunch as the week went on, and the orzo got bigger and bigger.

When it becomes one single mighty grain of orzo having within it all soupiness, then it’s time to rinse out the pot and start over. 

The kids have also been clamoring for pumpkin muffins. Jump to RecipeI made 12 regular:

and 12 with dried cranberries and chopped walnuts. I may have gotten a little carried away with the stir-ins.

They turned out more like cranberries and walnuts trifles with a light coating of muffin.

TUESDAY
Pizza

One cheese, one pepperoni, one pepperoni with leftover provolone, one olive, and one mushroom, onion, olive, and provolone. Corrie has been very, very busy in the kitchen this week, and cut up a bunch of mushrooms of her own initiative. Come to think of it, that explains why I discovered an entire garlic clove, still in its wrapper, baked right into the cheese. (Yes, I ate it.)

WEDNESDAY
Cheesy chicken chili with bacon, corn bread

This is one of those recipes that has “crack” in the title, and yet doesn’t contain any cocaine at all. I think they mean “bacon, cheese, and ranch flavoring” and I will acknowledge that that is a fine combination, but that is as far as it went. 

Chicken, tomato with chilis, corn, black beans, pieces of bacon, cream cheese, ranch dressing powder, and some seasonings. Dump it all, cook, shred the chicken, and put shredded cheddar on top. I wasn’t expecting it to taste sophisticated, but it definitely looked easy and flavorful. The most labor intensive part was cooking and chopping the bacon. 

This is a crock pot recipe, but it was almost 5:00 before I got started, so I used the Instant Pot. Which would have been fine, except I chose 15 minutes, and that wasn’t quite long enough. So I put it in for another 8. The thing about the Instant Pot is that if you cook something for 8 minutes, that means waiting about 10 minutes for it to come to pressure, then cooking it 8 minutes, then releasing the pressure for another 5 minutes. This is fine, as long as it’s what you’re expecting. It’s less fine if you are winging the recipe and have to go through the process twice so you don’t die of salmonella. 

Of course there was little chance of that happening since not one of the kids even tasted it, even though it had bacon in it. I thought it tasted pretty good. It definitely had that “everyone at the potluck wants my recipe, tee hee hee!” flavor to it. 

I also made corn muffins, for reasons unclear. It used to be that only I was the one who liked corn muffins, but my taste for them has decreased over the years, possibly soured by loneliness and crumbs. It also doesn’t help that every time I say “corn muffins” someone says “OH HONEY YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE SAYING” and I get a long treatise on  pre-industrial revolution corn and how sugar factored in to perceptions of class, and how people who don’t use cast iron corn-shaped molds can just go straight to hell, bless. Just let me make my bad muffins and then throw them away, okay? 

Here are my muffins: 

I like to run a little butter over the top while they’re still hot, so they will be shinier in the garbage. 

THURSDAY
Hot dogs, smiley fries, pomegranates

We had parent teacher conferences, and then I spent the rest of the day driving around like a silly person and then finally getting going on Halloween costumes. This year we have Scooby Doo and Daphne, Star from Star Vs. the Forces of Evil, Naruto and Kakashi or something, and some Dragonball whathaveyou. And I think an Autumn Fairy. I leaned on the kid whose costume was giving me the most trouble, and she made dinner. I also taught one kid how to use the sewing machine! I foresee a whole new generation of lopsided cloaks, puckered curtains, and pillowcases that are a tiny bit too small.

FRIDAY
Boxaroni for the kids. 

We’re going out, because it’s our anniversary! 22 years. A few months ago, I needed some nighttime reading and grabbed Turgenev off the shelf, and this photo was tucked in the pages.

 

1997. (Yes, it looks like we had just had a roll in the hay, but the photo surface is just scratched up. My goodness, you people.) 

A friend remarked that we looked so joyful and innocent, and didn’t I want to kind of warn the people in the picture that life is coming for them?

I responded, “Do you know, I think I was more cynical then. I didn’t know how hard things could be, for sure, but I also had no idea how good things could be.” We have had some really hard and awful times. Some of them were not that long ago. But still, it feels like the joy and innocence we have together are building, not waning. I don’t know if it was dumb luck or if we can take any credit at all for finding and choosing each other, but it was the best thing we ever did.

Well! Here are the recipe cards:

Beef barley soup (Instant Pot or stovetop)

Makes about a gallon of lovely soup

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion or red onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 3-4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 lbs beef, cubed
  • 16 oz mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 6 cups beef bouillon
  • 1 cup merlot or other red wine
  • 29 oz canned diced tomatoes (fire roasted is nice) with juice
  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy pot. If using Instant Pot, choose "saute." Add the minced garlic, diced onion, and diced carrot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions and carrots are softened. 


  2. Add the cubes of beef and cook until slightly browned.

  3. Add the canned tomatoes with their juice, the beef broth, and the merlot, plus 3 cups of water. Stir and add the mushrooms and barley. 

  4. If cooking on stovetop, cover loosely and let simmer for several hours. If using Instant Pot, close top, close valve, and set to high pressure for 30 minutes. 

  5. Before serving, add pepper to taste. Salt if necessary. 

Pumpkin quick bread or muffins

Makes 2 loaves or 18+ muffins

Ingredients

  • 15 oz canned pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup veg or canola oil
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 3.5 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • oats, wheat germ, turbinado sugar, chopped dates, almonds, raisins, etc. optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter two loaf pans or butter or line 18 muffin tins.

  2. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.

  3. In a separate bowl, mix together wet ingredients. Stir wet mixture into dry mixture and mix just to blend. 

  4. Optional: add toppings or stir-ins of your choice. 

  5. Spoon batter into pans or tins. Bake about 25 minutes for muffins, about 40 minutes for loaves. 

 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 184: Treasures of the sea and other travesties

And just like that, it was fall. Crisp weather, slanted light, ripening apples and towering corn, ragged mists rising slowly over the fields of goldenrod, people dealing inappropriately with the stress of transition. It’s glorious. 

Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Burgers, chips

I was gloomily making my shopping list, thinking about the rising tide of autumnal stews and squashes and other cold weather foods, and then I saw that lobsters were on sale. And a very good sale it was! Seized with a sudden urge to possess something carefree and summery, I boldly decided we would end our week with fresh steamed lobsters, and who could blame us?

But when I got to the store, they were all gone. So I ordered some for Sunday and arranged to pick them up before dinner, which felt somewhat less impetuous and madcap, but still. Lobster. 

We had hamburgers and chips on Saturday. 

SUNDAY
Lobster, risotto, corn, strawberries, chicken nuggets

Finally lobster time! But when I got to the store on Sunday, they wanted to charge me Sunday’s price, which was most assuredly not on sale. I was disappointed, and was about to go away sad, but then I said to myself, “I’m a grown woman. It’s not unreasonable for them to accommodate a loyal customer and give me the price I was expecting to pay. At very least, it couldn’t hurt to ask.” So I spoke up, using the kindly brontosaurus technique, and the fish man talked to his manager, and it worked! I got four 1.5-pound Sunday lobsters for a Saturday price.

They offered to steam them for me, but again, I didn’t want to settle for second best and let them get all rubbery on the ride home, so I took them alive. I felt very alive. Lobsters!

You know, when you get to be in your mid-forties, you find out you can do all kinds of things that used to seem scary. You can very often just take a deep breath, push your way through, and do the thing, and it turns out it doesn’t kill you after all. It’s very liberating to find out how strong and capable you actually are. 

Still, I was a little nervous about those lobsters, so I gave myself plenty of time. I set a big pot of salted water to heat up, melted a bunch of butter, and cut up some lemon wedges. I made the risotto in the Instant Pot, and I shucked the corn. The bag of lobsters sat quietly on the counter. I set out plates on the table and counted forks. 

Then lobster water began to boil. It was time. I peeked into the bag and those lobsters seemed really docile and resigned, and were only waving their antlers around a little bit. They were clearly alive, but not, you know, like, alive. I knew I could handle this, and I really do love steamed lobster. I gathered up all my womyncourage and dumped the bag out into a bowl so I could see what I was up against. 

Well, those horrible little fuckers started flopping around and scrabbling and trying to organize a mutiny in my kitchen. So I did the only thing I could do for an accomplished adult in my station in life: I screamed and ran away and stood in a corner and refused to talk to anyone. Then I sent one of my sons in to deal with the horror, one of my giant hulking sons who towers over my head, and he tried with some tongs, but then he also screamed and ran away.

So Damien had to do it. I was so proud of all of us. 

The lobster was delicious. I don’t know what else to say. It’s kind of liberating to eat lobster? Because it tastes good? I was glad I only bought four, because most of the kids were horrified and traumatized by the whole thing, not sure why. They had chicken nuggets. 

Oh hey, I’ll put my risotto recipe at the end. Because I’m a grown woman and I’m not afraid to use a pressure cooker. 

MONDAY
Chicken thighs with squash and Brussels sprouts

Normally a well-liked one-pan dish for cool weather. I don’t know where I went wrong, but it just wasn’t that great. I skipped potatoes, for one thing. That was wrong. Never skip the potatoes. 

Anyway, I’ll put my recipe at the end, and probably you’ll do it better. It’s just big pieces of hearty vegetables in a simple balsamic sauce with roast chicken thighs on top. It’s usually good, I promise! Maybe it’s supposed to have honey in it? I don’t know. 

TUESDAY
Chili and corny corn bread

Damien made chili. I’ll get his recipe when he gets home. I like chili, but I gave up making it many years ago, because nobody else liked it; but Damien’s cooking style is so different from mine, I thought there was a shot they would like his. I felt guilty about not cooking on a weekday, so I decided to make cornbread. Also nobody likes cornbread, but I figured it would be a fun and easy baking project for me and the little girls. 

Well, they wanted to play Just Dance instead. So I made the cornbread by myself. I had the bright idea to add some fresh corn from the leftover corn from Sunday, and then I threw in some chili powder. How did it turn out? Bad, that’s how. Flabby and weird, just like the rest of us. Hooray!

Damien and I liked the chili. Nobody else did. Hooray!

WEDNESDAY
Pizza

Everybody likes pizza. Here’s a picture of pizza. 

THURSDAY
Carnitas and rice

I took a half pork loin and put it in the slow cooker with a can of beer and a can of peppers in adobo sauce. By evening, it was falling apart. I fished the meat out, shredded it, and spread it in a pan and broiled it so it was slightly crisp. 

I had been planning beans and rice, but I realized the meat was quite spicy, and the kids would be sad if they didn’t have anything bland and white to eat. So I just served white rice.  Then for some reason I decided to put leftover chili on the tortilla along with the pork. I also had sour cream and cilantro, but the whole thing was just confusing.

I mean, I ate it, but I was confused. 

FRIDAY
Pizza?

My aunt and uncle are coming for a visit and they did say they would bring pizza.

In conclusion: Yes, I know I said “lobster antlers.” Fight me. 

***

 

Instant Pot Risotto

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

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground sage
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups rice, raw
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 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 cook for five minutes or more, stirring constantly, until rice is mostly opaque.

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


  4. Close the top, close valve, set to high pressure for 8 minutes.

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

One-pan balsamic chicken thighs and vegetables

A true one-pan dish that works well with lots of variations of seasonings and vegetables

Ingredients

  • 18 chicken thighs with skin and bone
  • 1 butternut squash in cubes
  • 3 lbs red potatoes in cubes
  • 1 lb baby carrots
  • 2 lbs brussels sprouts, halved
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • salt (preferably kosher)
  • pepper
  • oregano
  • basil

Instructions

  1. Grease a large, shallow pan. Preheat the oven to 400.

  2. Mix together the olive oil and vinegar with a tablespoon of salt and pepper. Spread the vegetables in the pan, pour the mixture over them, and stir them up to coat, then spread them out again. 

  3. Lay the chicken breasts on top of the vegetables. Sprinkle more salt and pepper, basil and oregano over the whole pan. 

  4. Cook for 30 minutes or more, until vegetables and chicken are cooked through and chicken skins are golden and crisp. 

  5. If necessary, broil for a few minutes to add a little char.