What’s for supper? Vol. 86: ¿Qué pasa, kielbasa?

I’m having a flashback to a former life: Everyone’s schedule is all screwey for end-of-year stuff, so we spent the morning at the park trying not to throw ourselves into the waterfall, and then we got a blister so we had to cool our feet at the library. There are pregnant women chasing toddlers everywhere, and every cell in my body is shrieking out silent thanksgiving that I’m not one of ’em.

Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Pizza, birthday cake, ice cream

Birthday party! We had no end of pizza, and birthday cake in the shape of – what else? – Devil’s Tower.

It was a Close Encounters of the Third Kind party, what else? It turns out the birthday girl was kidding about wanting me to mash some potatoes so she could have a mountain-sculpting contest with her friends. Humph.

***

SUNDAY
Chicken shawarma; Cheesecake with strawberries and chocolate ganache

Birthday girl requested shawarma. I treated myself to skinned, boned chicken and set it to marinate the night before. It turned out to be breast meat, not thigh, which was a little disappointing; but it’s still always a fabulous meal. We use this recipe for oven-roasted shawarma from the NYT.

We had it with tomatoes, cucumbers, three kind of olives, feta cheese, pita bread, hummus, and yogurt sauce. I added pepper, lemon juice, and a bunch of minced garlic to plain yogurt and then basically wallowed around in it for the rest of the evening. Garlic yogurt speaks to me on a cellular level. A microcellular level. A nano-micro-weensy-cellular level. Just keep zooming in, and it’s garlic and yogurt, all the way down.

I briefly considered making the cheesecake in the Instant Pot, but then remembered that I am disgusting and don’t really clean it too good, so it’s kind of meaty in there. If there are people in the world who prefer their cheesecake meaty, I don’t want to know about it. I used this simple recipe (no sour cream) with a graham cracker crust, and used a silicone pan instead of springform. Unlike the photo, it turned out swell.

I crushed up a bunch of fresh strawberries with sugar and rum vanilla. We wanted a chocolate ganache, but I remembered in the nick of time that Aldi chocolate chips don’t really melt. So I made this hot fudge sauce with cocoa powder, butter, and condensed milk. Veddy nice.

***

MONDAY
Hot dogs, corn on the cob, salad

It was horrendously hot, so I thought we might avoid filling the kitchen with corn steam if I cooked the corn on the cob in the Instant Pot instead of in a big pot of water. I guess it worked? But you do have to release the steam at the end anyway, so we kind of got it all at once. I think it helped a bit overall. It’s definitely cooler than stovetop cooking while it’s cooking.

I tried This Old Gal’s recipe for IP corn on the cob, which includes sugar, milk, and butter. It was certainly easy, and the corn was, well, sweet, creamy, and buttery. Kinda gilding the lily, though, and not really worth the extra calories. I’ll probably use the IP for just cooking plain unflavored corn on the cob in the future, though, just because it was easier than wrestling with a giant stock pot sloshing with boiling water. I always scald my abdomen.

I have the eight-quart Instant Pot (affiliate link), which fits twelve whole ears of corn comfortably, see?

***

TUESDAY
Pulled pork sandwiches, chips, salad

Just so you know I’m no Instant Pot cultist

I will here discuss an IP semi-failure: I put the pork into the IP with salt, pepper, and a can of Coke, and set it to “slow cook.” This took four hours, and then it automatically went to “keep warm” mode for the rest of the day. It came out dry and tough, and we had to pull pretty hard, which nobody wanted to do. I’m not sure if that means it was too low heat, or too high heat, or what, but it just wasn’t the same as the regular old slow cooker. Maybe if I pressed “slow cook” again after four hours, I dunno.

***

WEDNESDAY
Oven roasted kielbasa, red potatoes, and cabbage with mustard vinaigrette

From Budget Bytes, a new dish for us, and a hit! It’s very easy to make: Cut up the things, put the things on a pan, make the things hot. Add yummy dressing.

I used three 14-ounce packages of kielbasa, about four pounds of red potatoes, and one large cabbage, and tripled the recipe for dressing. It’s hearty and summery, and I liked the looks of it, too.

The only sad thing was that I finally had to admit it was time to get rid of the two giant “disposable” catering pans we got from the Chinese restaurant at Christmas. They have developed leaks, so I’m getting some Real Pans. Yet another thing I finally have enough money to buy, now that the kids are leaving home and we don’t need it as badly anymore. Oh well.

***

THURSDAY
Chicken muggets, frozen corn

We had the option to add an extra hour and a half of driving at the end of the school day in order to get to two campuses for portfolio night, or we could get ice cream.

Then we came home and had chicken nuggets. Corrie was mad because she only got to eat her ice cream and Dora’s ice cream,

and then when she dropped Dora’s ice cream, we wouldn’t get her another one. So when it was supper time, she threw herself on the floor and howled, “NO NO NO TSITSIN MUGGETS!” It’s a shame we never do anything nice for her.

***

FRIDAY

Child #2 graduates from high school this year (with honors in math!!!), so Damien and I will be in attendance this evening while the kids at home struggle along with a case of boxaroni. Cheers!

What’s for supper? Vol. 84: Eat your feelings!

Here we go!

SATURDAY
Fancied-up chicken burgers, chips

The chicken burgers from Aldi are pretty good, and taste like actual chicken. We dressed them up with bacon, honey mustard, and in-sandwich onion rings. Not bad atall. Probably didn’t need to serve chips alongside a sandwich that actually contained onion rings, but the freedom to make this kind of decision is what being an adult is all about. That and a little sex, and some booze, lots of interior pep talks, frightening conversations about major appliances, and you’re the only one who can change the toilet paper. And coffee.

***

SUNDAY
Pork Bánh mì

We’ve made steak bánh mì a few times, and it is delightful, but expensive. Pork, however, is cheap cheap cheap. So I got me a half loin (about four pounds), sliced it thin, and started it marinating in the morning using this recipe from Serious Eats.
I also sliced several carrots into thin coins and set them to quickle-pickle in wine vinegar and some sugar.

In the evening, I spread the pork slices in a single layer on broiler pans and put them right up under a hot broiler, turning once. We toasted some rolls and piled them up with the pork, pickled carrots, sliced cucumbers, jalapeno slices from a jar, lots of chopped cilantro, and plenty of mayo. (You can stir some sriracha into the mayo, but there’s plenty of flavor without the extra spice, and I appreciated a little creamy coolness.)

Verdict: It smelled completely revolting as it cooked, because fish sauce; but the taste was superb. The pork picked up much more of the salty, tangy fish flavor than the beef. Put it together with the sweet, crisp carrots and the cool cukes and cilantro and the zippy jalapenos, and it was just a swingin’ party in your mouth. Ha cha cha!

***

MONDAY
BBQ chicken thighs and sausages, fruit salad, spicy grilled corn, S’mores

My husband cooked the meat outside, in the drizzle, in air so cold we could see our breath. Stupid New England. Here’s how he describes the rub he made for the meat:
Lots of kosher salt, like unhealthy amount, lots of brown sugar and white sugar, generous amounts of garlic powder, little bit of cumin, paprika, and chili powder. Works for pork, too.

I thought it was fantastic, but he is researching different chicken-cooking methods with more indirect heat. I happen to like it charred, but I will probably force myself to eat the next meal he cooks, too, because I’m a good and generous wife that way.

It’s still a bit early for really good corn, but check it out! You grill it, roll it in butter, sprinkle on a little parmesan cheese and paprika, then squeeze on some lime juice.

So nice.

Some of the kids had read about S’mores and really wanted to make them (even though they shivered as they toasted their marshmallows). S’mores are completely lost on me. They are fine, I guess. I feel resistance toward foods that don’t have a food for the noun. Corrie approved.

***

TUESDAY
Tacos, tortilla chips

Nothing to report, except that I finally smartened up and bought two tubs of sour cream, one for the family and one for Corrie.

***

WEDNESDAY
Cuban sandwiches, cucumber avocado salad

It Instant Pot time! (affiliate link) I’ve made Cuban sandwiches before, using oven-roasted pork that I marinated for several hours ahead of time. This time, I took a four-pound half loin and threw it in the IP with a bottle of Goya Mojo Criollo marinade. I don’t quite trust the “meat” button yet, so I set it to manual high pressure for 45 minutes. Perfect. It was very moist but cooked all the way through, and the marinade had permeated the meat. No yummy crust, of course, but it was fast and easy, didn’t heat up the kitchen (yeah, it suddenly got hot out. Stupid New England), and clean-up was a snap. I let it stay on “warm” for several hours until I was ready to make the sandwiches.

I sliced the meat up and put it on ciabatta with deli ham, pickles sliced into long flats, swiss cheese, and mustard. Grilled the sandwiches in butter, then pressed them hard on both sides with a glass pie plate. They were excellent and insanely filling. Here is a terrible picture:

I think authentic Cuban sandwiches are supposed to be made with spongier bread, and probably heaped ridiculously high with meat and cheese but I had zero complaints with our results.

The side was something I took from The New York Times Cooking. I took it, and then I made it slimy somehow, I dunno. My version had red onion, avocado, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, leftover grilled corn, fresh lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, and feta, and I ended up just mixing everything together, rather than spooning things over other things.

It was good, but it tasted like guacamole that left home on a quest to become pasta salad, but couldn’t find any pasta, so went back home, only to discover that the guacamole family no longer accepted it. Probably won’t bother with this again. Stupid New York Times.

***

THURSDAY
Pizza

Didn’t take pictures of pizza. Husband did snap a photo of the river as we slogged by on our evening run.

Stupid New England. I mean, wait! Lovely, gorgeous New England, my love! Feeling better and being more in shape are fine incentives, but really I’m in it for the pretty views and the husband time.

***

FRIDAY
Tuna, maybe risotto?

Stupid Friday.

Tell me what you ate and how you felt about it!

What’s for supper? Vol. 81: How very Montessori

Yipe, it’s late! Never mind the introduction where I mention that we were extremely busy this week. Here’s what we ate:

SATURDAY
Pizza and birthday cake

Another birthday! Actually, this birthday was last month, but we finally got around to having the party and sleepover. Child requested calzones, but I bargained her down to pizza. The cake, I refuse to show you. Turns out it’s very possible to go very, very wrong with a simple Deathly Hallows symbol.

A few of the decorations turned out pretty good, though. Here are the candles floating over the table:

They are rolls of cardstock with electric tea lights stuck in one end, hanging from threads.

Other quickie Harry Potter party ideas: We drew banners for the four houses on poster board, and drew on white balloons to make them look like owls. We printed out “wanted” signs for the villains and tacked them up, and also printed out and cut out a photo of Moaning Myrtle, and taped that to the toilet. We wrote “The chamber of secrets has been opened” in lipstick on the front window.

Party food was not super inspired – just orange soda labelled “pumpkin juice” and lots of gourmet jelly beans labelled “Bertie Bott’s.” For an activity, the kids dipped pretzel rods in candy melt and then decorated them with various sugars and sprinkles, for wands.

***

SUNDAY
Bacon cheeseburgers, chips, ice cream sundae cones

This was the actual birthday of #1 Son, who requested this fine meal. I want to say there was salad, but I don’t think there was. We got hot fudge and hot caramel, and put one in the bottom of the cone and one on top of the ice cream. Birthday!

***

MONDAY
Oven roasted pork ribs, roast mushrooms, fruit salad

Still the best way to make ribs if you can’t grill them outside. Salt and pepper on a rack in a real hot oven until they’re sizzling hot. So good.

Mushrooms were 79 cents for eight ounces, so I bought six packages and went to town. Here’s the recipe from Deadspin (which means it’s rambling and profane and oddly endearing). This picture is from my very worst camera, but — oooh, that smell.

Strawberries and blueberries were also on sale, so we mixed them together and pretended it wasn’t a weird side dish.

I’m trying to get away from serving potatoes all the time. Not because I have some kind of theory about dietary starches, or because I’m ashamed of my Hobbit forefathers, but . . . I don’t know why, I guess I’m just bored.

***

TUESDAY
Hot dogs, onion rings, corn on the cob

Remember how we had hot dogs last week? Well, this week, we had hot dogs again.

The corn on the cob was first of the season, and middle-of-May corn tastes a lot like “too soon.” But setting the kids to shuck some corn is a quick way to redeem part of one day from what has lately become a discouraging stream of rushing in and out of the car, gobbling pre-packaged junk food, and realizing Sophia the First and her very unlikely rabbit friend have been gabbling away for four hours straight. Here! Shuck some good old corn! Be wholesome for a minute! Maybe we can string wooden beads later, or even — stop me if this sounds crazy — go outside.

So I get them set up with twelve ears of corn and, as I go about my business in the other room, I hear the honest, timeless sound of happy, unspoiled children hard at work at the domestic arts, up to their elbows in the fruits of the earth, smelling green smells, rediscovering the joys of industry. Then I hear,

Corrie is up on the table and she has nothing on her bottom! THE CORN! IS GOING! TO TASTE! LIKE BOTTOM!!!”

Sure enough. How very Montessori.

***

WEDNESDAY
Chicken apple salad, risotto

This meal was a copycat version of a salad I often get at Wendy’s. I got a few bags of mixed greens and let the kids choose their combination of warm grilled chicken, crumbled bleu cheese, diced green apples, sweet dried cranberries, toasted walnuts, and some bottled berry vinaigrette dressing. (Wendy’s version has two kinds of apples, sugared pecans, and pomegranate vinaigrette.)

Fancy!

It’s totally worth the quick extra step to toast the nuts. Put them in a single layer in a baking pan in a 350 oven for about ten minutes. I know everyone is always talking about how this and that brings out the flavor of this and that, but toasting really does bring out the flavor of nuts. It also makes them, I don’t know, more pleasing to the teeth. It turns them into interesting, adult nuts instead of stupid, immature nuts. Just do it!)

I made the chicken by marinating it all day in a bag with some bottled Italian dressing, then roasting it under the broiler on a pan with some drainage. This meal was a big hit. Definitely making it again.

We also had magic Instant Pot (Amazon Affiliate link!) risotto using this recipe (skipping the squash). I’m including a picture because it looks like a lovely little cumulous butt floating through the sky.

Imagine if butts were made with sauteed onions and parmesan cheese. What would they rain down? Pure joy, that’s what.

***

THURSDAY
English muffin pizzas

We were home for about twelve minutes in between school and a concert, so English muffin pizzas did the trick. We made about 45 of them with what turned out to be, oops, cheddar cheese.
Here’s an after-concert group portrait:

Back row: My Mother Made Me Wear This Shirt and It Burnssssssss
Front Row, Left to right: Pretty Much Always Having a Wonderful Time; Angry Because Mama Said We Can Swing On the Swings Anytime, But Not Right Now; This Skirt Is Not Who I Am; and Kind of a Violin Prodigy, Kind of Over Having Siblings

***

FRIDAY
Fish tacos and corn chips

Just frozen fish sticks, shredded cabbage, jarred salsa, sour cream, and limes on tortillas, and maybe some guacamole if I can still lift my arms by the end of the day.