What’s for supper? Vol. 194: Cranberry brie tarts! Spanakopita pockets! Sausage oyster stuffing! The Thanksgiving 2019 feast.

Just a one-day post this week, and you know which day! All week we had no-brainer meals like hamburgers and hot dogs while I baked and shopped and cleaned, and then we had a very delicious Thanksgiving. I tried two new recipes this year, and both are keepers. Here’s what we had:

There was so much phyllo dough left over from the youth group shawarma feast, I decided to make two appetizers: cranberry brie tarts, and spanakopita. Both were delicious! They didn’t take much skill to put together, but the tarts were a bit of a hassle. I assembled them ahead of time, and then threw them in the oven when the guests arrived. 

Phyllo dough cups with honey, then brie, then sugared cranberries, baked then topped with fresh sage and a little honey-butter-almond syrup. They would make lovely Christmas party treats, and were just melty and tart and exciting.   

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I wish I had let them sit in the pan a few more minutes before attempting to pull them out, but they eventually all came out intact. 

These are little tarts, made in a mini muffin pan, but I also made some bigger ones in a standard-size muffin tin. I prefer the mini ones, but both were tasty. 

Aren’t they pretty? I may spring for some better brie next time, but the creamy, slightly earthy cheese with the sharp snap of the cranberries was very nice indeed. You could also use thyme instead of sage, but I thought the little breath of green on top of the honey was wonderful. Altogether a really great cold-weather appetizer, very festive. 

While people were eating the cranberry tarts, I baked the spankopita pockets, which people ate while the turkey was resting. I’ve never even seen spanakopita before, but these little pockets were quite easy to make and tasted wonderful. Fresh spinach sautéed in butter with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, mixed with plenty of feta, then wrapped up in buttery phyllo dough, brushed with more butter, and baked. YUHM. Very filling and cozy.

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I read the directions on how to fold them up and just kept going, “. . . what? . . . . WHAT?” so I finally looked up a video, which helped tremendously. I’ve included a link to the video in the recipe card. I need to do this again to get my folding technique down, and maybe use a bit less filling so it doesn’t burst out, but they sure tasted good.

Then of course the turkey. We think brining delivers very little for the hassle, so Damien seasons the birds with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, stuffs them, and cooks them at 350 on a rack, basting every thirty minutes with melted butter and tequila. We had two large birds and they were swell. 

One had stuffing with onions, celery, and mushrooms, and one had stuffing with sausage and oysters. It was freaking delicious. You could skip the turkey and just feast on the stuffing. 

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On Thanksgiving morning, I make a giblet broth with the hilarious neck and any organs they give us, other than the liver, and some celery and onions and carrots, and set that simmering to use later in the gravy. I fry up the liver with with some onions, then cut that into pieces and fry some more until it’s in little crisp bits. Then, in a heavy pot, I melt plenty of butter, then add flour and salt and pepper, then add the giblet broth a little at a time until it’s the right consistency. Then I stir in the little liver and onion bits, and after the turkey is removed from the pan, I shove in a ton of pan scrapings and some of the fat from the turkey. It was some very fine turkey this year, a rich, dark brown and full of exciting savory bits.

My dad brought mashed potatoes made with cheddar cheese, sour cream, and cream cheese. Fantastic. I need to get that recipe. 

My brother’s friend brought some sautéed asparagus, which was very tasty, and we also had roasted Brussels sprouts and butternut squash, broiled with salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic, and balsamic vinegar, and a bit charred. I skipped the honey, because there were so many sweet things in the meal, but here’s a recipe that explains how to process butternut squash for cooking.

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See? Vegetables!

Clara made her famous hobbit bread, from An Unexpected Cookbook (Which would make a great Christmas present for Lord of the Rings fans, by the way). It’s a braided loaf (well, three braided loaves) stuffed with mushrooms, onions, herbs, and cheese. I guess the theme here was “every dish could have been a meal in itself.”

A little burnt, as we were cramming pans in on top of other pans. We really need a second oven, or at least a third oven rack. 

Of course we had mountains of cranberry sauce, and I made a ton of cranberry orange bread

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which was a bit dry but still pretty, and some banana bread

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which I was too stuffed to even look at. This was half of the bread pile:

We had wine and various beers and hard ciders, plus mulled cider, which I cleverly set up in the crock pot in the morning with some cinnamon sticks. Dessert was pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and apple pie, with ice cream and whipped cream (both canned and freshly whipped, both!), and some eclairs courtesy of my mother-in-law. See my pies! See my pies!

I’m finally able to make pretty reliable pie crust.

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 The secret is to freeze the butter and shred it on a box shredder, and then just lightly mix it into the flour and salt, then sprinkle with ice water until it’s the right consistency. Then you go ahead and manhandle that crust however you like. I heard a great tip on Milk Street Radio: Lots of people think their pie crust needs more flour or more water, but really it’s at the wrong temperature. My pie crust is often too cold, making it crumbly and stiff, and giving it an extra half hour to warm up before I try and roll it out really helps. 

The lattice top pie came out nice. 

The free-form floral one turned out kind of confusing. 

Then I made this:

If I hadn’t been at a low ebb, I would have made little owls to sit in the holes, or little flowers, or even little tentacles. But the best I could come up with was a sort of progressive eclipse theme, which didn’t end up looking like much. Oh well! IT IS PIE. 

For the pecan pie, I used real maple syrup and whisky instead of corn syrup, and it made it so much more palatable. I made the pecan pie section of this insane mega pie. Still not my favorite pie, but a far more reasonable pie. [Marvin the Martian voice:] Isn’t it lovely, hmmm?

I also made three pumpkin pies using ready-made graham cracker crust just like Squanto showed us. 

I put the pies together earlier in the week and froze them, then thawed them Thanksgiving morning and baked them while we were eating dinner, so they were warm for dessert. I think I’ll be doing it that way every year.

I was planning to make some rolls and some sweet potatoes, but you know what? That would have been too much food. And the last thing we want at Thanksgiving is too much food. 

As you can see, I don’t exactly lay an elegant table. We didn’t have enough seating for everyone at the table, and we couldn’t get all the food laid out at once anyway, because the oven is too small. So we just kept hucking more and more platters of food at people as they finished cooking, and they kept loading their plates and then carrying them off to whatever spot they could find. There was a dog and four-year-old scrambling around under the table. People had birds in their pockets. The cat almost had a stroke. I had crock pots plugged in in weird places. Corrie flossed to “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah.” I do believe everyone had a nice day! I hope you did, too. 

And here are the recipe cards:

Cranberry brie tarts

This recipe looks complicated, but you can simplify or alter it however you like. Basically you want some kind of pastry, brie, cranberries with sugar, and honey, and an herb on top. A delicious and beautiful little appetizer, great for Thanksgiving or Christmas parties.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 roll phyllo dough
  • 6-8 oz brie
  • small bunch fresh sage or thyme, coarsely chopped

cranberries:

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • dash salt
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter for cranberries

honey mixture:

  • 2 Tbsp butter for honey mixture
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425

  2. In a little pot, combine the honey, the butter, and the extract. Heat through and set aside.

  3. In a bowl, mix the cranberries with melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and a dash of salt. Set aside.

  4. Cut brie into 24 equal pieces and set aside.

  5. Prepare a 24-hole mini cupcake pan with butter or spray. You can also use a full-size cupcake pan, but the tarts will be a little unwieldy and won't hold together as well.

  6. Unroll the phyllo dough and cut it into twelve equal stacks. Cover the dough with a damp cloth while you're working so the dough doesn't get brittle.

  7. Pull out one stack of phyllo dough squares and use half the squares to line a cupcake tin, fanning them out to make a little cup. Make sure the bottom of the tin has several layers of dough, so it won't fall apart when you take it out of the pan.

  8. When you have arranged all the pastry cups, drizzle them with half the honey-butter mixture.

  9. Lay a piece of brie in the bottom of each cup, then put a scoop of sugared cranberries on top of that. Drizzle with the rest of the honey-butter mixture.

  10. Bake for 15 minutes or so until the pastry is just golden brown.

  11. Top each cup with a bit of chopped herbs.

  12. Let the tarts sit in the pan for five minutes before serving. Serve hot.

 

Spanakopita triangles

Ingredients

  • 1 lbs spinach
  • 1 stick butter, plus 1 Tbsp for sautéing spinach
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups crumbled feta
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 roll phyllo dough, thawed

Instructions

To make the filling:

  1. In a big pan, melt the 1 Tbsp butter and sauté the spinach until it's soft. It will be a giant heap of greens at first, but it cooks way down and will fit in the pan when you're done!

  2. Let the spinach cool and then squeeze out as much water as you can.

  3. In a bowl, mix together the cooked spinach with the salt, pepper and nutmeg, and stir in the feta until it's combined. Set aside.

  4. Preheat the oven to 375

  5. Melt the stick of butter and set it aside. You'll need it handy for assembling the triangles.

  6. Unroll the phyllo dough and cover it with a slightly damp cloth to keep it from getting brittle. Take what you need and keep the rest of the stack covered.

To assemble the triangles:

  1. Carefully lay a phyllo dough square on your workspace, long side horizontal. Brush it with melted butter. Lay another sheet on top of it and brush that with butter.

  2. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into three strips.

  3. Put a scoop of spinach mixture at the bottom of each strip. Then fold that section of dough up diagonally, enclosing the spinach, so it forms a triangle. Continue folding up to make triangles, like you'd fold a flag, until you reach the top of the dough. If you're having trouble figuring out how to fold it, here is a helpful video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVwA3i_tmKc&t=2s

  4. If there's a bit of leftover dough on the triangle, fold it under. Lay the finished triangle on a baking sheet, seam side down. Brush with butter again.

  5. Continue until the phyllo dough is gone. I made 18 pockets, two sheets thick, with one roll of phyllo dough, but you can change the proportions and make lots of smaller triangles if you like.

  6. Bake about 25 minutes until golden brown. Let them sit in the pan for a moment before removing. Serve hot or cold.

 

Sausage oyster stuffing for turkey

Ridiculously savory and delicious. Stuff as much as you can in the turkey and bake the rest in a separate pan, covered with tinfoil to keep it from drying out.

Ingredients

  • 16 oz stuffing mix (we used pre-seasoned, for simplicity)
  • 1 lb loose sweet Italian sausage
  • 2 8-oz cans of oysters
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1-1/2 cup broth
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • salt ad pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Sauté the onions, mushrooms, and celery in the butter.

  2. In a separate pan, fry up the sausage, crumbling it as you cook, until it's browned. Combine the sausage, including the fat, with the vegetables, and add in the oysters with their broth.

  3. Put the dry stuffing in a bowl. Add the broth and stir gently until it's all moistened. Add the vegetable-oyster- sausage mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.

 

Cranberry muffins or bread

A pretty, sweet loaf or 12 muffins.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 stick butter, chilled and grated into shreds
  • zest of one orange
  • juice of two oranges
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup cranberries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Prepare muffin tins; butter and flour loaf pan.

  2. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients and lightly incorporate the shredded butter.

  3. In another bowl, mix together the egg, orange juice, and orange zest.

  4. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir just until dry ingredients are incorporated. Lightly mix in the cranberries and walnuts. Pour batter into tins or loaf pan.

  5. Bake muffins for about half an hour, loaf for an hour or more.

 

Banana muffins (or bread)

Makes two loaves or 24 muffins. Quick, easy, and pleasant. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium ripe bananas
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 cups chopped nuts (optional)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter loaf pans or muffin tins, or use cupcake papers.

  2. Mash the bananas in a bowl. Beat the eggs and blend the into the bananas. 

  3. In another bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients. Add the dry mixture to the banana mixture and stir just until blended. Stir in nuts if desired. 

  4. Pour batter into pans or tins. Bake about 28 minutes for muffins, about 1 hour for loaves. 

 

Roasted butternut squash with honey and chili

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash
  • olive oil
  • honey
  • salt and pepper
  • chili powder

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler to high

  2. To peel the squash: Cut the ends off the squash and poke it several times with a fork. Microwave it for 3-4 minutes. When it's cool enough to handle, cut it into manageable pieces and peel with a vegetable peeler or sharp paring knife. Scoop out the pulp and seeds.

  3. Cut the squash into cubes.

  4. In a bowl, toss the squash with honey and olive oil. You can use whatever proportions you like, depending on how sweet you want it.

  5. Spread the squash in a shallow pan and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and chili powder.

  6. Broil for 15 minutes until the squash is slightly charred.

Basic pie crust

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 sticks butter, FROZEN
  • 1/4 cup water, with an ice cube

Instructions

  1. Freeze the butter for at least 20 minutes, then shred it on a box grater. Set aside.

  2. Put the water in a cup and throw an ice cube in it. Set aside.

  3. In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Then add the shredded butter and combine with a butter knife or your fingers until there are no piles of loose, dry flour. Try not to work it too hard. It's fine if there are still visible nuggets of butter.

  4. Sprinkle the dough ball with a little iced water at a time until the dough starts to become pliable but not sticky. Use the water to incorporate any remaining dry flour.

  5. If you're ready to roll out the dough, flour a surface, place the dough in the middle, flour a rolling pin, and roll it out from the center.

  6. If you're going to use it later, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. You can keep it in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months, if you wrap it with enough layers. Let it return to room temperature before attempting to roll it out!

  7. If the crust is too crumbly, you can add extra water, but make sure it's at room temp. Sometimes perfect dough is crumbly just because it's too cold, so give it time to warm up.

  8. You can easily patch cracked dough by rolling out a patch and attaching it to the cracked part with a little water. Pinch it together.

Sausage oyster stuffing for turkey

Ridiculously savory and delicious. Stuff as much as you can in the turkey and bake the rest in a separate pan, covered with tinfoil to keep it from drying out.

Ingredients

  • 16 oz stuffing mix (we used pre-seasoned, for simplicity)
  • 1 lb loose sweet Italian sausage
  • 2 8-oz cans of oysters
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1-1/2 cup broth
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • salt ad pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Sauté the onions, mushrooms, and celery in the butter.

  2. In a separate pan, fry up the sausage, crumbling it as you cook, until it's browned. Combine the sausage, including the fat, with the vegetables, and add in the oysters with their broth.

  3. Put the dry stuffing in a bowl. Add the broth and stir gently until it's all moistened. Add the vegetable-oyster- sausage mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.

What’s for supper? Vol. 193: Baklava! Shawarma! Rice pilaf! Banh mi! Italian wedding soup! Pumpkin bread! AND MORE!

Hello! You may remember me from that time you used to get an email from me every time I posted. But then, several weeks ago, WordPress stopped sending emails; but I didn’t realize until recently. I’ve been plugging along, wondering where 40% of my readers went. My brother fixed it for me last night. Sorry about that! I think it happened when we updated WordPress.  I believe some people got an email called “test,” and also some people got one with lots of links (I have no idea why that one random post was chosen to be sent out).

Would it be helpful to have a round-up post with links to all the posts you may have missed for the last several weeks? Or should we just move along? 

Anyway, here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Nachos

Damien made three platters of nachos, including one with lots of jalapeños and queso. I hardly ever buy a jar of queso, because I am completely shameless. I could be actively dying of a heart attack and I would bat away the defibrillator so I could run my finger around the inside of the queso jar one more time. But it’s okay, because I went to the Y a couple weeks ago.

SUNDAY
Shawarma! Rice pilaf! Baklava!

So, I’m not pregnant, we have no babies or even really toddlers, Damien’s home for dinner most nights, we’re not drowning in poverty, nobody’s having a health crisis, and we can finally relax a bit. So what do we do? We sign up for All The Things. This week, it was the themed dinner for the Dead Theologians Society youth group. If you have this in your parish, you should totally sign up! Really neat program, especially for kids who are allergic to LifeTeen stuff. The kids have a social time, then they learn about a saint, then they have prayer time, and then they eat a meal related to the saint. This week it was Mary Magdalene, who apparently comes from a region of Israel renowned for its pickled fish. 

Coward that I am, I settled on shawarma. (And now I’m imagining swooping in and settling, bat-like, on a pan of shawarma to devour it noisily, which is, in fact, what happened.) I thought there would be about 25 people, so I prepared 20 pounds of chicken. Terrified it wouldn’t be enough food, I made about a barrel full of rice pilaf and loaded up the church kitchen counter with pita, tomatoes, cucumbers, stirred up a bunch of yogurt sauce, dished out so many black and red olives and so much feta cheese and parsley, and chopped up some pomegranates, and then I made baklava for dessert. I did buy store-bought hummus.

Yeah, so, it was enough food. This is about half of what I made. 

I surveyed a bunch of rice pilaf recipes, and ended up just winging it. It was fine, if a bit bland. I cooked up a bunch of basmati rice, then stirred in blonde raisins, pepitos, parsley, curry powder, cumin, cinnamon, pepper, and whatnot. I didn’t get a great pic, but it was kind of meh anyway. It smelled fantastic, though. 

Pepitos, it turns out, are pumpkin seeds without the outer shell. I thought they were squash seeds! Now I know something. 

I got the baklava recipe from Pioneer Woman, and I followed it slavishly, so I won’t make my own recipe card. I did use almond extract along with the vanilla, and that was nice. I also used less of the syrup than it called for, since I always find baklava way too sweet and sticky. It was still very sweet, but not monstrously so.

You can definitely make baklava! It’s a little time-consuming, but not difficult, and it would make good Christmas treats. Basically you brush a ton of sheets of phyllo dough with butter and spread a few layers of chopped walnuts and cinnamon in between some, then bake it and cut it, then pour a hot syrup of honey, butter, sugar, and extracts over that (and the sizzling is a lot of fun), and let it sit. 

I started pouring the honey over the butter and then though, “Ooh, other people are gonna want to see this.” I’ve never had so much honey in one place before. 

 

 

If you listen carefully, you can hear me breathing heavily, and if you listen really carefully, you can hear my heart saying, “Really? After our little talk about all that queso, really?”

Once it was thoroughly soaked, I put the pieces in cupcake papers. I ended up with about 50 large pieces of baklava from a double recipe.

It was pretty popular!

Next time, I will experiment with adding different things to the walnuts. Maybe some bits of candied citrus, hmmmmm. 

I didn’t get any pics of the shawarma itself, but I’d call the meal a success. I’ll put the shawarma and yogurt sauce recipe cards at the end 

*****Note! The recipe cards are on a second page! You will need to click on the little 2 in a box to get to the next page and see the recipe cards! Unless the Jump to Recipe thing is magically working today*****

and harass you one last time to make some shawarma. It’s so easy — just make a simple marinade for chicken and onions, and you slide it into a pan, cook, and then chop it up — and the flavor is out of this world. Dish up a bunch of cheerful little toppings so picky people can pick what they like, and you get one happy evening. 

MONDAY
Chicken sandwiches with basil, tomato, and mozzarella; chips

This is what I was planning for Sunday, somehow not realizing we’d have a mountain of shawarma leftovers. Damien picked up some frozen herb and parmesan-crusted chicken breasts, and we had those on ciabatta rolls with tomato, basil, and fresh mozzarella. 

I make mine with plenty of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and freshly-ground salt and pepper, as you can see. So good, even though November tomatoes are rather weary. 

Also, check out my pretty new drinking glasses! A great score at the Salvation Army. I’m slowly replacing our plastic ware with ceramic, glass, and steel before we all grow phthalate tails out of our faces.

TUESDAY
Banh mi

Another dish that used to seem intimidating and now is routine but delicious. You slice up the pork and get it marinating in the morning and quick pickle some carrots, and by evening all you have to do is throw the meat in a pan and broil it, and you have an amazing sandwich just exploding with flavor.

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It helps if you have a little bear to help you with the carrots. 

I shared this on Facebook and several people pointed out that it’s not necessary to peel carrots, if you give them a quick scrub. Never occurred to me! I wonder how many of my kitchen habits are outmoded. It seems to me carrot peels used to be tougher and dirtier, but I really don’t know. I’m thinking of the woman whose husband asked her why she always cuts the ends off roast beef before she cooks it, and she said she learned it from her mother. So they asked her mother, and she said she learned it from her mother. So they go visit old granny at the rest home, and she says, “Oh, it’s because the only pan I had was too small to fit a whole roast.” 

Anyway, it kept Corrie busy for a good ten minutes, so that’s a good enough reason for me. I also had some luck with a bag of dried beans and a cupcake pan. This bought me over half an hour!

What was I talking about? Oh, banh mi. I like my sandwich on toasted bread, with plain cucumbers, a bunch of cilantro, and some mayo with sriracha sauce stirred in. 

The kids don’t even complain about the smell of fish sauce anymore! Or maybe they all just have colds. Anyway, I’m drinking more. 

WEDNESDAY
Italian wedding soup, pumpkin muffins

I didn’t really have a recipe for this. I just surveyed a bunch of recipes and figured I had the basic idea. I’ll add my recipe card at the end (Jump to Recipe), but you can definitely put your own spin on this. 

I made about 70 meatballs with ground turkey, parmesan, and fresh parsley. You could also use pork or a combination of ground meats. I boiled them in chicken broth, but I may bake them in the oven next time before adding to the soup, as they got a little blurry. 

So it’s just chicken broth with bunch of tasty little meatballs, and then I threw in a few handfuls of ance di pepe (that is pasta in little nubbins; other small pastas would work fine) and a ton of torn-up spinach, and let it simmer. You can top it with more parmesan and some fresh pepper. I thought it was great, and so easy. 

We had pumpkin bread (Jump to Recipe) because I promised Benny, but I would rather have had a more bready bread with this dish. Still, a cozy, hearty meal for a sniffly, drizzly day. 

THURSDAY
Pizza

I flexed my pizza muscles a bit and made one cheese pizza, two pepperoni, one olive, and one *ahem* olive, garlic, feta, tomato, spinach, and parmesan.

Veddy good.

FRIDAY
Spaghetti

And that’s that. I’m going to put the recipe cards on page 2! If you wish to see the recipe cards, then you must click on the little box with a “2” in it! Here is a screen shot of what will be at the bottom of the page. Please click on the 2!

Oh, and one more thing: I have sooo much phyllo dough left over from the baklava. Might as well use it for Thanksgiving. What’s your favorite phyllo dough recipe that isn’t baklava? Could be dessert or a side dish, like an asparagus tart or whatever.

Also, what’s the verdict on a “here’s what you missed” post, for people who weren’t getting my emails? Yes or no?

What’s for supper? Vol. 174: Tiramisu! OH!!!!!! Tiramisu.

Another birthday! The birthday girl asked for Damien’s tiramisu. Without even having to ask, he got plenty of help from Corrie. Here, I ask Corrie about the ingredients she’s using:

And now you know. (If you need it to be more specific, here is the recipe he uses.) He made it without shaved chocolate out of respect for my migraines. I forgot to take a pic, but here is a slice from ages past:

We love tiramisu, not only for the heavenly taste, but because we get to sing the song. When Irene was little, she used to sing the Kalamazoo song from Wonderpets — only she would go, “Tamazooooo . . . OHHHHHH!!!!! . . . Tamazoooooo . . . ” and on the “ohhhhh” part, she would tip her chin up and close her eyes and howl like a little wolf. So all day long, there was a lot of happy howling. 

SATURDAY
Cumin chicken with chickpeas and tabbouleh

I’ve had a hankering for tabbouleh for weeks now. Unfortunately, this meal did not dehanker me. I couldn’t find any bulghur, so I used couscous. That would have been fine, but I didn’t drain it properly, and it was soggy. The flavor was good, though, and I’m not gonna pretend I didn’t have it for lunch the rest of the week. I made it with lemon juice, kosher salt and pepper, tomatoes and cucumbers, and lots of fresh parsley and mint. And yes, that was me saying “Wait a minute!” out loud in the produce aisle, quickly googling “is wild mint edible” and then thriftily putting back the store-bought mint. Take that, invasive species. 

I also put mint in the lemony onions, because I forgot to save back parsley; but I forgot to eat any onions, so I don’t know if it was good. 

The cumin chicken with chickpeas and yogurt sauce and pita is a reliably yummy meal, and once again I must emphasize that if you never have the chicken skin that’s been roasted after marinating in cumin and yogurt, your life has been a sham.

I also intend to roast many more chickpeas this summer. These chickpeas in the picture are a little less crunchy, which is how the kids like them, Little olive oil and whatever seasoning you like, and if you take your time and roast them until they’re crunchy, they make a wonderful snack. 

SUNDAY
Grilled ham and cheese pita pockets, strawberries, fries

This is an ideal childhood meal. Adorable round sandwiches, fried gently in butter, cheerfully patterned like a giraffe, and stuffed with melted cheddar and a slice of ham. 

So of course they all acted like I was serving them garbage stuffed with garbage. Ingrates! 

MONDAY
Hamburgers, chips, raw broccoli

As you can see, I was eating a hamburger in bed. I had a reason, but I forget what. 

TUESDAY
BIIIIIIIG SANDWICHES, party mix, tiramisu

One morning, when Clara was a toddler, she was having a bad day, feeling sick, screaming at everything. We finally just put her to bed, and she slept for hours and hours, all day long. Clara was this teeny, weeny little person. Her middle name is “Petra,” but her sisters used to call her “Clara Paper,” because she was so fair and slight, with enormous grey eyes, a heavy mop of dark gold curls.

When she finally woke up, it was almost dinner time, and we asked what she would like to eat. She said in her squeaky little voice, “I want . . . I want BIIIIIIIIIIIG SANDWICHES!” and pointed straight up to the ceiling. So that’s what we call it now, when we have sandwiches with everything possible on them. AND TODAY, THAT LITTLE GIRL IS GRADUATING FROM HIGH SCHOOL.

So this Tuesday was Dora’s birthday, and she modestly asked for Big Sandwiches, party mix, and tiramisu for her birthday meal. For my big sandwich, I had roast beef and capicola, provolone, tomatoes, and bacon.

It turns out I can’t eat party mix unless I want to spend the rest of the day listening to my heart try to escape from my chest, so that’s exciting. The bacon stays, though. 

Here is the birthday girl admiring how well her new salt lamp deionizes things and whatnot. 

WEDNESDAY
Faintly gingery pork, peppers, onions, mushrooms; corn on the cob

I cut up a bunch of pork, Corrie cut up a bunch of peppers, and then I called Clara and told her to cut up a bunch of green and sweet peppers and onions and mix it all together with a bottle of ginger salad dressing. This is how most meals get made at my house: as a group effort, over the course of many hours, with phone calls. It’s a miracle we don’t all just eat hamburgers in bed every day. 

So I spread it all in some shallow pans and stuck it under the broiler.

I had it in my head that everyone loves this meal, but it turns out I love it and everyone else has been barely tolerating it. OH WELL. To be fair, the marinade turned out to be extremely bland, and did not produce the gingery wonderland I was anticipating. 

I also boiled up some corn on the cob. Shucking the corn helped Corrie through that awful, painful transition between watching TV (happiness) and not watching TV (intense and intolerable suffering).

THURSDAY
Drunken noodles with beef

I’ve made this once before, after modifying a Jet Tila recipe. My recipe card is at the end.

I did all the chopping and stuff in the morning, and had it all laid out in separate bowls like on a cooking show

so it came together really quickly when it was supper time. You boil up the noodles and set them aside, then brown up some garlic, add egg and peppers, then add beef and onions, then put the tomatoes, sauce, and noodles back in, and heat it all through. I made TONS of it, because I can’t help myself. Happily, it’s good cold.

I’m not sure if it was better this time, or if I was just hungrier because I didn’t snack on a full meal’s worth of ingredients while I was still cooking. Either way, it was delicious. A really zippy, flavorful sauce, but not too terribly spicy (and some people added red pepper flakes). The fish sauce mellows out just enough and is right at home with the beef and tomatoes. 

A great all-in-one meal, and you could use different kinds of meat or seafood. One of my kids put parmesan cheese on it. I don’t even freaking know what to say. Don’t do that. 

FRIDAY
Tuna boats, smiley fries

According to tradition, we’ll be going out to eat with the graduating senior, while the people at home toil with tuna. I’m not sure what I will order, but she chose an Italian restaurant, which is always good, and someone else will be cooking, which is always always always always good.

Okay, here are the recipe cards!

 

Cumin chicken thighs with chickpeas in yogurt sauce

A one-pan dish, but you won't want to skip the sides. Make with red onions and cilantro in lemon juice, pita bread and yogurt sauce, and pomegranates, grapes, or maybe fried eggplant. 

Ingredients

  • 18 chicken thighs
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp cumin, divided
  • 4-6 cans chickpeas
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 red onions, sliced thinly

For garnishes:

  • 2 red onions sliced thinly
  • lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • a bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 32 oz Greek yogurt for dipping sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed

Instructions

  1. Make the marinade early in the day or the night before. Mix full fat Greek yogurt and with lemon juice, four tablespoons of water, and two tablespoons of cumin, and mix this marinade up with chicken parts, thighs or wings. Marinate several hours. 

    About an hour before dinner, preheat the oven to 425.

    Drain and rinse four or five 15-oz cans of chickpeas and mix them up with a few glugs of olive oil, the remaining tablespoon of cumin, salt and pepper, and two large red onions sliced thin.

    Spread the seasoned chickpeas in a single layer on two large sheet pans, then make room among the chickpeas for the marinated chicken (shake or scrape the extra marinade off the chicken if it’s too gloppy). Then it goes in the oven for almost an hour. That’s it for the main part.

    The chickpeas and the onions may start to blacken a bit, and this is a-ok. You want the chickpeas to be crunchy, and the skin of the chicken to be a deep golden brown, and crisp. The top pan was done first, and then I moved the other one up to finish browning as we started to eat. Sometimes when I make this, I put the chickpeas back in the oven after we start eating, so some of them get crunchy and nutty all the way through.

Garnishes:

  1. While the chicken is cooking, you prepare your three garnishes:

     -Chop up some cilantro for sprinkling if people like.

     -Slice another two red onions nice and thin, and mix them in a dish with a few glugs of lemon juice and salt and pepper and more cilantro. 

     -Then take the rest of the tub of Greek yogurt and mix it up in another bowl with lemon juice, a generous amount of minced garlic, salt, and pepper. 

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

Drunken noodles with beef (after Jet Tila)

This is a less-spicy version. For more heat, use jalapenos or other hotter peppers, leave the membranes and seeds in and add red pepper flakes before or after cooking. 

Ingredients

Sauce:

  • 6 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 6 Tbsp oyster sauce
  • 9 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 6 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Sriracha or hot sauce
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 6 oz fresh basil leaves in a chiffonade (sliced into thin ribbons)
  • 30+ oz wide rice noodles

canola oil for cooking

  • 8 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 8 eggs beaten
  • 6 serrano chiles or jalapeños, seeded and sliced thin
  • 2 lg onions, sliced thin
  • 4 oz fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 pints grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3-4 lbs roast beef, sliced as thinly as possible

Instructions

  1. Cook the rice noodles according to directions, and set them aside. 

    Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. 

    Heat a very large sauté pan with oil and brown the minced garlic. Add chiles and beaten eggs, and scramble in the pan until the eggs are in cooked bits. 

    Add onion and sliced beef and cook until beef is barely browned. 

    Add cooked noodles, tomatoes, chopped basil leaves, and sauce. 

    Keep stirring and combining until everything is saucy and hot. Serve immediately. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 170: All weather is soup weather

Sorry it’s been quiet on the site this week. There were so many people saying so many things that I just. . . kept shutting up. Anyway, thirty Helens agree: It’s time to talk about what we ate this week! 

SATURDAY
Hamburgers and chips

I think maybe we had burgers on the actual outside grill? I have no memory of Saturday. 

SUNDAY
Deli sandwiches, onion rings, spicy honeyed pineapple with ice cream

Mother’s day! I was showered with gifts and flowers and treats all day, as is truly right and just. We were supposed to go hiking, but it was crummy out, so instead I wandered around Home Depot and picked out some wonderful peonies. And I requested deli sandwiches for my special mother’s day dinner because, dammit, I like deli sandwiches. I think I had roast beef, smoked provolone, bacon, and onions. Mmm. And one of the boys, in addition to giving me a homemade present, ceremoniously threw out his most egregiously ratty sweatpants right before my eyes. *grateful tears*

For dessert, we had caramelized pineapple with vanilla ice cream.

I made some of the pineapple sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar before it went under the broiler, and some dressed with a mixture of honey, olive oil, and tabasco sauce. I had the latter, and I thought it was scrumptious. Some of the fruit crystalizes, and the hot juice mingles gorgeously with the ice cream. Great texture. I absolutely adore sweet, spicy, and creamy flavors together. Next time I will make some rum caramel sauce and maybe sprinkle with pralines, but it was very good as is. (Recipe card at the end.) I should add that I was the only one who liked it, but oh well. 

MONDAY
Tacos

 . . . for the poor unfortunate souls at home. I went skippingly off to the city to meet three friends from college for dinner, and I had such a nice time, I didn’t even take a picture of my food. I did, however, ask if the waitress if had Blue Moon on tap, even though I was sitting directly in front of seven ceiling-high copper brewing vats that wordlessly proclaimed, “We are a brew pub, you witless bumpkin.” Anyway, I had a Cuban panini and sweet potato fries and . . . some kind of beer that was good. 

It snowed. 

TUESDAY
Kielbasa, cabbage, and red potato with mustard vinaigrette; asparagus

A few kids have been asking for this dish, and I’m happy to comply, as it’s a nice easy meal with very little prep work. (Recipe card at the end.) Chop kielbasa and red potatoes and slice up some cabbage, and it’s all in one pan, and the dressing is easy and tasty as well. 

This meal is better if you let it brown up longer, but we were starving.

I also had some asparagus which I just sautéed in olive oil. A little bland, but this is my favorite way to prepare asparagus for texture. 

WEDNESDAY
Bacon tomato bisque; grilled cheese

Wednesday was the first day we finally emerged from the damp, shivery, blustery outrage of late spring in NH. I had to cover my new peonies and geraniums to protect them from the freezing rain. But Wednesday was fair and mild, verging on balmy. So of course I whipped up a heavy, creamy soup. 

Honestly, all weather is soup weather, as far as I’m concerned. Last time I made this soup, I used canned tomatoes. This time, I had fresh. I briefly considered blanching them and maybe seeding them, but then I decided that the extra work would render me too exhausted to enjoy the soup, so I just chunked them in, skins, seeds, and all, and pressed on the food processor button a little bit longer. 

Here’s the magical moment where I added the bacon, rosemary, and cream cheese-tomato puree to the pot:

Yeah, no complaints from anyone. Long live the bisque. Although I think I might add the bacon it at the end, next time, so it stays crisp. The onions and garlic get cooked in bacon fat, so the flavor would still be there. 

THURSDAY
Cumin chicken and chickpeas with red onion and pita

Every single person in my family likes this dish. A few of the kids only eat the chicken, but most of them went for the chickpeas as well. It’s another easy, one-pan dish, and I highly recommend marinating it as long as you can, because the skin is just stupendous.

I don’t necessarily recommend wearing a bright purple shirt in the evening sun when you take your food photos, though. In real life, the food was far less psychedelic. But the chickpeas gleamed like pebbles in a brook. I don’t know how I lived so much of my life without roasted chickpeas. 

As you can see, we had pita and onions with lemon juice and cilantro (and you can see I was still wearing that purple shirt), and I also made a big tub of nice garlicky yogurt sauce. I probably could have made a meal out of just the pita, yogurt, chickpeas, and onions.  

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

I think I’ll once again return to making a white sauce with cheese in a pot, then adding it to the macaroni and baking that in the oven, rather than using the Instant Pot for everything. I somehow never got the hang of adding the right amount of liquid to the IP so pasta reliably comes out cooked. Still love it for some things, just not this.

And now it’s the weekend! I ran the optional hill today, so I am feeling pretty impressed with myself, and shall almost certainly reward myself with food. Hey. It’s an ethos. 

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

Cumin chicken thighs with chickpeas in yogurt sauce

A one-pan dish, but you won't want to skip the sides. Make with red onions and cilantro in lemon juice, pita bread and yogurt sauce, and pomegranates, grapes, or maybe fried eggplant. 

Ingredients

  • 18 chicken thighs
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp cumin, divided
  • 4-6 cans chickpeas
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 red onions, sliced thinly

For garnishes:

  • 2 red onions sliced thinly
  • lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • a bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 32 oz Greek yogurt for dipping sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed

Instructions

  1. Make the marinade early in the day or the night before. Mix full fat Greek yogurt and with lemon juice, four tablespoons of water, and two tablespoons of cumin, and mix this marinade up with chicken parts, thighs or wings. Marinate several hours. 

    About an hour before dinner, preheat the oven to 425.

    Drain and rinse four or five 15-oz cans of chickpeas and mix them up with a few glugs of olive oil, the remaining tablespoon of cumin, salt and pepper, and two large red onions sliced thin.

    Spread the seasoned chickpeas in a single layer on two large sheet pans, then make room among the chickpeas for the marinated chicken (shake or scrape the extra marinade off the chicken if it’s too gloppy). Then it goes in the oven for almost an hour. That’s it for the main part.

    The chickpeas and the onions may start to blacken a bit, and this is a-ok. You want the chickpeas to be crunchy, and the skin of the chicken to be a deep golden brown, and crisp. The top pan was done first, and then I moved the other one up to finish browning as we started to eat. Sometimes when I make this, I put the chickpeas back in the oven after we start eating, so some of them get crunchy and nutty all the way through.

Garnishes:

  1. While the chicken is cooking, you prepare your three garnishes:

     -Chop up some cilantro for sprinkling if people like.

     -Slice another two red onions nice and thin, and mix them in a dish with a few glugs of lemon juice and salt and pepper and more cilantro. 

     -Then take the rest of the tub of Greek yogurt and mix it up in another bowl with lemon juice, a generous amount of minced garlic, salt, and pepper. 

 

4 from 1 vote
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Tomato bisque with bacon

Calories 6 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1/2 - 1 lb bacon (peppered bacon is good)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 35 oz can of whole tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 46 oz tomato juice
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • crispy fried onions (optional garnish)

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon until crisp. Remove from pan, chop it up, and drain out all but a a few teaspoons of grease.

  2. Add the diced onion and minced garlic to the grease and sauté until soft.

  3. Add tomatoes (including juices), bay leaves, rosemary, and tomato juice, and simmer for 20 minutes. Save some rosemary for a garnish if you like.

  4. With a slotted spoon, fish out the bay leaf, the tomatoes, and most of the rosemary, leaving some rosemary leaves in. Discard most of the rosemary and bay leaf. Put the rest of the rosemary and the tomatoes in a food processor with the 8 oz of cream cheese until it's as smooth as you want it.

  5. Return pureed tomato mixture to pot. Salt and pepper to taste.

  6. Heat through. Add chopped bacon right before serving, and top with crispy fried onions if you like. Garnish with more rosemary if you're a fancy man. 

 

5 from 1 vote
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Spicy honeyed pineapple with ice cream

You could drizzle this with a caramel rum sauce and maybe sprinkle with pralines, but it's good just with fruit and ice cream, too. 

Ingredients

  • 1 pineapple, cut into spears or rings
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • tobasco sauce to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler; or, if grilling outside, let coals die down.

    Mix olive oil, honey, and a few dashes of tobasco sauce, and slather the sauce all over the prepared pineapple.

    Spread in single layer on pan or over grill and cook, turning once, until it's slightly charred. 

    Serve hot with a scoop of ice cream. 

 

One-pan kielbasa, cabbage, and red potato dinner with mustard sauce

This meal has all the fun and salt of a wiener cookout, but it's a tiny bit fancier, and you can legit eat it in the winter. 

Ingredients

  • 3-4 lbs kielbasa
  • 3-4 lbs red potatoes
  • 1-2 medium cabbages
  • (optional) parsley for garnish
  • salt and pepper and olive oil

mustard sauce (sorry, I make this different each time):

  • mustard
  • red wine if you like
  • honey
  • a little olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400. 

    Whisk together the mustard dressing ingredients and set aside. Chop parsley (optional).

    Cut the kielbasa into thick coins and the potatoes into thick coins or small wedges. Mix them up with olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread them in a shallow pan. 

    Cut the cabbage into "steaks." Push the kielbasa and potatoes aside to make room to lay the cabbage down. Brush the cabbage with more olive oil and sprinkle with more salt and pepper. It should be a single layer of food, and not too crowded, so it will brown well. 

    Roast for 20 minutes, then turn the food as well as you can and roast for another 15 minutes.  

    Serve hot with dressing and parsley for a garnish. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 169: Biscuit moron makes good

Recently, there came about in the Fisher household an unusual convergence of a little money, enough time, and sufficient paperwork-filling-outness, and I signed the kids up for classes at the Y as I’ve been promising to do forever. So now, along with Shakespeare club, school paper, part time jobs, drama club, choir practice, and knitting club, we have gymnastics and rock climbing. What I’m trying to say is: Get ready for a lot of frozen chicken burgers.

SATURDAY
Roast beef sandwiches with chimichurri

$2.99 a pound! I got a couple of big roasts which Damien seasoned and seared, then roasted in the oven; and I made a batch of chimichurri (recipe card at the end), and we had it on rolls with Swiss cheese. 

It may please you to know that, because of my terrible, cumbersome system for transferring photos from my phone to my computer, I managed to email this photo of a roast beef sandwich to . . . someone who definitely didn’t ask for it.

SUNDAY
Lasagna, Irish biscuit cake

Confirmation day!

And a gratuitous picture of Benny with flowers in her hair. 

Confirmation kid picked Catherine of Bologna as a patron saint. She’s the patron of artists. We ordered a print of a painting of her by Cecelia Lawrence.

Lots more detail and depth in the print than it appears here. Her gallery is here, and you can order very reasonably priced prints by emailing her.

This led me to realize we hadn’t bought confirmation presents for the last two kids who got confirmed, so I ordered some. I gave one kid her present, and we had the following conversation:

Me: Here is your confirmation present. 
Kid: And it’s only a year late.
Me: Yes. You’re very gracious. 
Kid: Let’s talk about the other times you failed us!
Me: I can’t wait for you to have kids. I cannot wait. 
Kid: Maybe I’ll be a nun!
Me: Then I can’t wait for you to disappoint JESUS!
Kid: MAYBE I ALREADY HAVE!

Come, Holy Spirit. 

Anyway, Damien made this Platonic ideal of lasagna, just absolutely quivering with fresh cheese and basil and homemade sausage ragu. We were so starving when we got home, I didn’t pause to get a great picture, but it was spectacular. 

The boy asked for a dessert he had at a fundraiser one time, which turned out to be ridiculously easy to make: chocolate biscuit cake. Basically you crunch up a bunch of graham crackers and animal crackers, then make a simple sauce out of butter, chocolate chips, and condensed milk, mix it together, press it into pans, and refrigerate it, and slice it up. It makes sort of fudgy biscotti. I didn’t have any, but the kids said it was good. 

The internet calls it Irish, but they must mean Irish American. Anyway, good recipe to know if you need a treat but don’t want to turn on the oven. 

MONDAY
Chicken quesadillas, corn, guacamole and tortilla chips

For my sins, my kids insist on pronouncing quesadillas “kwassadilllas” and guacamole “gwackamowl.” I’m sure I deserve it. Anyway, it finally stopped raining and I ate my food OUTSIDE!

I seasoned the chicken breasts with lots of chili lime powder and roasted and sliced them. A few people didn’t want chicken in the kwassadilllas. Corrie said she wanted hers plain, so I made her one with just cheese. Turns out she wanted it plain, as in just a hot tortilla. I SAID COME HOLY SPIRIT.

TUESDAY
Hot dogs, chips, snap peas 

Actually, I directed dinner remotely while crouching on metal bleachers and wondering when gymnastics class gets to be more than just flopping around; and Damien and I did so much driving, we decided to stay out in between trips and grab some dinner for ourselves. We landed at a little Thai restaurant, and let me tell you, those Thai people have some pretty good ideas. I had some kind of coconut curry with carrot, squash, pepper, melon, and squid, and it arrived in this . . . apparatus with a little candle in it.

Whee! It was delicious. I also had some kind of thing rolled up in rice wrappers with little basil leaves tucked inside. 

Lovely. 

WEDNESDAY
Omelettes, oven fries, salad

When I make my weekly menu, I think, “Oh, I’ll just put omelettes on Wednesday. Just eggs, easy peasy.” This is because I am somehow still not aware that making eleven separate omelettes to order is neither easy nor peasy, but actually takes eleven hours and your arms will fall off.

By the time I got around to making mine, I had lost my will to live, much less my will to make an omelette turn out pretty for the picture. But it was good. I had mine with cheddar, ham, and scallions.

THURSDAY
Pork sliders with coleslaw and spicy curly fries

New recipe. The idea is to serve thin slices of pork on fresh biscuits with a little honey and peach preserves, with coleslaw right in the stack. It’s actually a fine, tasty idea, the only hitch being that if someone came up to me and said, “Make a decent biscuit or I will kill you,” I’d be writing this from the grave. Please don’t give me your biscuit tips. I’ve tried all the techniques and all the recipes and all the special tools and and all the fresh baking powder and everybody’s grandmother’s no-nonsense methods, and I’m just a biscuit moron. That’s all there is to it. 

Yummy supper anyway, though.

I had a pork butt which I sliced as thin as I could and just sautéed it quickly in olive oil with salt and pepper. Basic tangy coleslaw with cabbage, carrot, mayo, vinegar, sugar, and pepper. 

I think you are supposed to pull the biscuit apart to make a top and bottom, but I just built up little open-faced sandwiches. I skipped the preserves and just put a little honey on the biscuit under the pork.

Next time, I’ll make this same meal but use Hawaiian rolls or some other soft roll. It was a great combination and nice and easy, very summery.

FRIDAY
They howled for tuna noodle casserole and I succumbed.

Damien is chaperoning a school field trip to a farm in the rain and heroically brought along Corrie, who heroically brought along her stuffed monkey and of course her ukulele. I’m headed out to pick up kid #1, who’s home from college for the summer! And that’s what it’s all about. 

Here’s a few recipe cards. I just linked to the recipes for the chocolate biscuit cake and the lasagna.

5 from 1 vote
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Chimichurri

Dipping sauce, marinade, you name it

Ingredients

  • 2 cups curly parsley
  • 1 cup Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup dried oregano (or fresh if you have it)
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients except olive oil in food processor. Whir until it's blended but a little chunky. 

  2. Slowly pour olive oil in while continuing to blend. 

 

Coleslaw

Ingredients

  • 1 head cabbage, shredded
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 5 radishes, grated or sliced thin (optional)

Dressing

  • 1 cup mayp
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Instructions

  1. Mix together shredded vegetables. 
    Mix dressing ingredients together and stir into cabbage mix. 




5 from 1 vote
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White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

 

Pork sliders with coleslaw

I made these with biscuits, but you could use Hawaiian rolls or other rolls

Servings 1

Ingredients

  • Pork butt
  • salt, pepper, olive oil
  • cole slaw
  • honey
  • peach or apricot preserves
  • biscuits or soft rolls

Instructions

  1. Slice the pork thinly and sauté in hot olive oil, seasoning with salt and pepper toward the end.

  2. Split biscuits or open rolls and spread with preserves. Add the pork slices, drizzle with a little honey, and add a small scoop of cole slaw.  

  3. Serve as little sandwiches or open faced sandwiches. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 168: For the love of Miguel

What’s For Supper is back! I took a few weeks off — first because two Fridays ago was Good Friday, and then the next Friday was Exhausted Friday. But here we are again, and I have some lovely meals to tell you about. 

SATURDAY
Hamburgers, chips

It was a long time ago, but I feel like I remember Damien made these on the grill in the rain. I like him. 

SUNDAY
Chicken rice bowls, strawberry short cake

I didn’t have a clear plan for this meal, but it turned out well enough. Needs some tweaks, but we’ll definitely have it again in some form.  

I cooked some chicken breasts in the Instant Pot on high pressure for eight minutes with about a cup of Goya Mojo Criollo marinade, and then I shredded it and returned it to the marinade to stay warm. Then I made a big pot of white rice. I set out the rice, the shredded chicken, shredded cheese, chopped scallions, black beans, lime wedges, tomatoes with diced chiles, sour cream, hot sauce, and chili lime powder, and I heated up a can of green enchilada sauce. Everyone made whatever combination they wanted. 

I wanted everything.

I deliberately kept things bland so more kids would eat it, though. Damien and I agreed that it needed something crunchy, like corn chips, and maybe the rice and/or beans could have been seasoned. But overall, a quick and easy meal.

For dessert, we got some of those sponge cake shells (I prefer actual shortcake, which is just basically a sweet biscuit, but no one else does) and piled on sugared, lightly mashed strawberries and whipped cream. 

MONDAY
Chicken burgers, terrible potato salad

Despite years of evidence, I still firmly believe I can whip up some delicious potato salad without really thinking about it. Some of the kids thought it was great, but it was not. It was weird and bad.

I diced some potatoes and boiled them, then mixed them up with mayo, vinegar, hard boiled eggs, leftover scallions, dried dill, pickle relish, and paprika. These are all potato salad ingredients, but it is two or three recipes merged together in an unholy union which shall be potatonathema. I should have skipped the pickle relish, or the dill, or all that paprika. I should have skipped town.

TUESDAY
Salami caprese sandwiches, string beans, cheesy bread sticks

Always a hit, and so simple. Ciabatta rolls, genoa salami, fresh tomato, fresh basil, sliced mozzarella (or provolone works, too), olive oil, vinegar, and freshly-ground pepper and sea salt. Yes, it has to be freshly-ground pepper and sea salt or else you have to pinch yourself viciously the whole time you’re chewing. I don’t make the rules! 

We also had some cheesy bread sticks I got at Aldi. There was some dolor and confusion as, according to some, I allegedly announced we were having cheese sticks as a side, leading people to believe I meant cheese sticks; and then some people asked other people if they could eat their cheese sticks, and the other people said they could, because they thought they meant cheese sticks, not cheesy bread sticks. When I mentioned there were also nice, fresh string beans, well, that just made it worse.

WEDNESDAY
Tacos al pastor with pico de gallo

Something I’ve always wanted to try. I made the marinade the day before, and let me tell you, it was a pain in the neck. But it was fantastic. But it was a pain the neck. But it was so good! I think I need to find a simpler recipe that delivers the same flavor. 

This is a Mexican-Lebanese fusion dish. The BBC says:

How is al pastor different from carnitas, chorizo, pollo, pescado and other common taco toppings? For starters, by the way it’s cooked: the pork is first marinated with various spices (including achiote, which is native to Mexico) and then roasted by an open flame via the trompo. Next, the pork is carved off, placed inside a corn tortilla and topped with cilantro, onion and pineapple – much like lamb is shaved from a spit and served in some pita bread at a shwarma place.

I guess it’s the paprika, cinnamon, and cumin that give it a middle eastern twist, as well as the way the meat is supposed to be cooked. I did not happen to have a trompo, so I just put the thinly-sliced marinated meat in a shallow pan and shoved it under a hot broiler. For the recipe I used, from the cleverly-named site Carlsbad Cravings, you are supposed to slice the meat, then marinate it, then cook it, then chop it into bits, but I skipped the last step. No regrets.

First I broiled some pineapple spears on a greased pan. I love grilled/broiled pineapple. It amps up the syrupy sweetness, and the juicy pump under singed edges make an exciting texture. To me, okay?

I also made some simple pico de gallo from tomato, jalapeño, onion, cilantro, lime juice, and a little salt

and I had my tacos with sour cream, meat, pineapple, pico de gallo, and that’s it. Magnificent.

The pineapple is also supposed to be cut into chunks, but I left mine in spears – and again, no regrets. I used flour tortillas, which I prefer to corn, and which I warmed in the oven for 20 minutes before serving. 

So, that marinade. It’s not tremendously spicy, but instead has a warm, smoky, faintly nutty taste that’s set off gorgeously by the caramelized pineapple. Then the bright, piquant pico de gallo just makes it sing. Gosh, I wish I had some right now.

But as I said: Tremendous pain in the neck. I knew I wouldn’t be able to find dried Guajillo chiles in any local supermarket, so I bought them on Amazon. They came out of the bag flat and glossy, like fruit leather

but when I heated them up in a skillet to give them a singe, they puffed up like balloons, which was hilarious. (I have had kind of shitty week and I guess I was ready to be amused.)

Then you seed them and FOR THE LOVE OF MIGUEL DO NOT TOUCH YOUR EYES

then you simmer them to soften them up, which is lovely as well

and then you add them to the thirteen other ingredients in the food processor. One of the ingredients is achiote paste, which I also didn’t have, but which you can approximate by mixing together . . . eight other ingredients. So you can see how this was going. It wasn’t difficult, but it was a lot of ingredients! It was so tasty that I will make this recipe again someday; but I also wouldn’t mind if someone could suggest a simpler recipe. Also, you could speed up the process by not gasping and stopping to take pictures every few minutes, but where’s the fun in that?

We had tortilla chips to scoop up the rest of the pico de gallo. I’ll put a recipe card at the end for that. 

THURSDAY
Pizza

Damien made the pizzas while I lay down and practiced being tired. I’m getting pretty good at it!

FRIDAY
Spaghetti

Least that’s what it says here. I think Damien’s going to make Marcella Hazan’s amazing three-ingredient sauce (recipe card below).

And now my story is all told. I think Damien is making some simple syrup so we can celebrate Cinqo de Gringo in style this year. How about you? Anything neat going on in your kitchen?

Pico De Gallo

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce

We made a quadruple recipe of this for twelve people. 

Keyword Marcella Hazan, pasta, spaghetti, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes, broken up
  • 1 onion peeled and cut in half
  • salt to taste
  • 5 Tbsp butter

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a heavy pot.

  2. Simmer at least 90 minutes. 

  3. Take out the onions.

  4. I'm freaking serious, that's it!

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 129: In which I let the extra mile fend for itself

Can’t remember the last time I was so glad to see a week be over. The food was good, though. Here’s what we had (carb counts at the end of the post):

SATURDAY
Grilled ham, cheddar, and apple sandwiches; onion rings 

Sometimes you show up at Aldi, and in the place where there’s supposed to be those wonderful, heavy sourdough loaves, they just have a torn-up bag with some stale, loose bread sprinkled around on the shelf. So, with a heavy heart, you buy some ciabatta rolls instead, and ask your husband to make dinner.

Sliced cheddar cheese, deli ham, slices of Granny Smith apples, and a little mayonnaise on the outside to help it fry nicely. Lemon meringue pie was supposed to be for dessert, but I got started way too late. The onion rings were from frozen, obviously.

SUNDAY
Gochujang pork ribs, rice with nori, raw broccoli; lemon meringue pie

I set the pork to marinate the night before, using a double recipe of this sauce:

5 generous Tbs gochujang
2 Tbs honey
2 tsp sugar
2 Tbs soy sauce
5 cloves minced garlic

But I didn’t feel like slicing the pork up, and I didn’t feel like slicing up carrots or onions, even though I had splurged on a real working $7 food processor from the Salivation Army. So I just dunked the meat in the sauce and walked away. I just walked away! Well, I sat on the couch and drank gin. On Sunday, Damien cooked the meat on the grill, and it was fab.

But someday soon, I’m going to go the whole nine yards and make bulgoki. We did have seaweed to wrap up the rice in. Guess who likes seaweed? The cat. Too bad.

I made some sort of promise regarding lemon meringue pie to a certain Amelia Bedelia fan, and it seemed like as good a time as any to get that over with. Oh lord, what a pain in the neck. I even bought ready-made crusts and bought boxes of pudding mix, but it still consumed far, far too much time. So much stirring! Meringue is pretty easy to make, though. I bought four boxes of pudding, for some reason, so I had way more pie filling than crust; so I filled up a bunch of ramekins.

Simcha Fisher, Person Who Owns Ramekins. Take that, alumni association.

MONDAY
Hamburgers, chips, strawberries

Nothing to report. I was expecting Damien home not too late, so I just made burgers for the kids, and set aside the ones for the adults to cook later. Then, after watching the kids tear into their burgers, I made myself a burger. What, do you want me to get anemic?

TUESDAY
Kielbasa, red potato, and cabbage with mustard sauce

A good one-pan meal, pretty popular. You just chop up kielbasa, slice up potatoes, and slice up cabbage (just don’t call it steak!), oil and season it, and shove it in the oven. The sauce is good, but way too oily in the recipe from Budget Bytes. I changed the proportions to 1/2 cup olive oil, 4 Tbs red wine vinegar, 3 Tbs mustard, and 2 Tbs minced garlic, plus plenty of salt and pepper. Much better.

As you can see, I had parsley in the house. I’m a big believer in fresh parsley. I don’t know if it actually makes food taste better, or if it just signals to the 8-year-old in my brain, “ooooh, we’re going to get something fancy!” but I like it.

WEDNESDAY
Chicken enchiladas

How, do you wonder, do I manage to fulfill all my obligations and still produce a fabulous meal for my family at the end of the day? Really all you have to do is plan ahead. Specifically, eighteen years previously, you give birth to a daughter who will one day offer to make enchiladas for supper. And there you go.

She used Pioneer Woman’s recipe. I mysteriously only bought half the sauce we needed, but they truly did not suffer by not being smothered into hot tortilla flab by all that sauce.  I may make them this way deliberately in the future. So good.

THURSDAY
Chicken and chickpeas, yogurt sauce

This meal is normally almost panic-inducingly delicious, but I skipped a few steps, and it was just quite good, instead. I had about ten pounds of chicken thighs and 64 ounces of Greek yogurt to work with, but was short on red onions, and lost my cilantro altogether (but still had parsley, as you can see). I also would have liked some pita bread, and some grapes or pomegranates. Still, a pretty meal, and tasty.Full recipe in this previous post.

These particular chicken thighs had tons of skin attached, which is perfect for this recipe.

Check out that skin. It would make a meal in itself, if you’re some kind of a weirdo.

I was too impatient to let the chickpeas and the onions get crunchy. Will definitely keep making, but the extra steps and garnishes are worth while.

I took tons of pictures, so here’s another one:

Mustn’t waste film.

FRIDAY
Ziti with jarred sauce

But I’m not going to swear I won’t be sneaking into the bedroom with a platter of sopressata, mozzarella, and sun dried tomatoes, just in case there’s a husband in there who likes that kind of thing.

***

And now for the carbs. I really struggled with working out carbs this week. I don’t know if my brain was just sluggish, or I chose recipes where the math was especially vexatious, but it sucked. If you’re cooking for a diabetic, please be alert when using my numbers!

GRILLED HAM AND CHEESE SANDWICHES:
I don’t seem to have written this down. Ham, cheese, mayo, and pickles are all low- or no-carb, though, so you just have to count the bread and apple.

GOCHUJANG meal:

Gochujang sauce

10 Tbs gochujang: 100

4 Tbs honey : 68
4 tsp sugar: 16.8
4Tbs soy sauce: 3.2
2 Tbs minced garlic : 6 g
100+68+16.8+3.2+6 = 194
12.94 in Lucy’s serving
____
Total sauce:
sauce on Lucy’s portion: 12.94
pork: 0
seaweed: 1 per sheet
cooked rice: 45 g per cup
broccoli: 1/2 cup: 3
quadruple recipe for some reason:
Lemon meringue pie:
My-T-Fine lemon pudding mix:  272
sugar: 400
8 egg yolks: 0
crust: 88
meringue (egg white, sugar, cream of tartar): 201.8
____
961.8 per four pies
240.85 per pie
30.6 per 1/8 pie
40.14 per 1/6 pie

HAMBURGERS:

hamburger with salt and pepper: 0

l’Oven Fresh hamburger bun: 23
ketchup, 1 Tbs: 5
1 onion slice: 1
mustard: 0
15 chips: 16g
5 medium strawberries: 4.5
16 +23 + 4.5 = 48.5
2 ice pops: 18
____
67.5 meal

CABBAGE, POTATO, KIELBASA:

cabbage: 4.1g per cup

red potato: 26g per potato
kielbasa: 21 g per 14-oz kielbasa; .875 per piece, cut into 24 pieces each
olive oil, salt, pepper: 0
—–
2 potatoes: 52
cup cabbage: 4.1
5 pieces kielbasa: 4.375
sauce:
olive oil: 0
red vinegar: 0
mustard:0
minced garlic: 2 tsp, 2 carbs
salt: 0
pepper: 0
8.475 + 52 = 60.475
ice tea: 18
—-
78.475
ENCHILADAS:

2 Tbs green enchilada sauce: 2.25g

tortilla: 34
chicken, salt, pepper, chili powder, oil: 0
onions, 2 Tbs: 3g
cheese: 2 Tbs., .5 g
sour cream: 2 Tbs, 2g
salsa: (doesn’t want)
32 corn chips: 16

CHICKEN AND CHICKPEA:

Marinade:
Greek yogurt: 35g
1/2 cup lemon juice: 0
1/2 cup water: 0
1/4 cup cumin:10.8g
45.8g in 32 oz/ 65 Tbs of marinade; 2 Tbs per chicken = .073 per tablespoon of marinade
chicken:
chicken thighs: 0
red onions: 3.84 per large ring
olive oil: 0
cumin: 2.7g per Tbs
sat and pepper: 0
chickpeas: 8g per Tbs
sauce:
yogurt 35g per 32 oz/65 Tbs
lemon juice :0
garlic powder: 7g per Tbs
salt: 0
pepper: 0
.65 per Tbs of sauce

parsley: negligible

What’s for supper? Vol. 114: Hello, chicken, my old friend

Sorry for the light posting this week! It’s just been crazy-go-nuts.
Thanks so much for the prayers for my father as he recovers from his triple bypass surgery on Monday. He has had some ups and downs, as you can imagine. He is recovering, but it is a tough road for sure, especially as they work on managing his pain without too many bad side effects.

At the end, I have a few things to say to Etsy merchants and other craftsmen, plus a hat recommendation, because it’s a food blog. I don’t know.

**

SATURDAY
Chicken blueberry salad

Blueberries were 99 cents a pint at Aldi, so I changed my menu on the fly. I roasted some chicken breasts and sliced them thin. We had mixed greens (no Romaine lettuce, just to be safe) with the chicken, plus minced red onions, toasted walnuts we never managed to bake with over Christmas, feta cheese, blueberries, and balsamic vinegar dressing.

So pretty and delicious.

***

SUNDAY
Chicken cutlets with basil

The Husband wanted to cook, so he made homemade marinara sauce and these magnificent chicken cutlets. Very labor intensive, but so worth it, especially when your husband is making it.

You pound the chicken, bread it (he used panko bread crumbs, which are so nicely fluffy), fry it, top it with a fresh basil leaf and a slice of provolone, and then ladle some hot marina sauce over it all so the cheese melts and tucks in the basil leaf like a sweet little sleeping child which you then devour.

 

Whenever he suggests making this dish, I think, “Oh, we should have some pasta. Just chicken and sauce isn’t enough.” I am always wrong. This meal is paradise in your mouth. Even the savages appreciate what a treat it is.

We also had a ridiculous chocolate trifle for dessert. I made enough for two nights, which was not truly a problem, as problems go.

I baked one box of triple chunk chocolate brownies, then broke it up into little pieces. I made four boxes of instant pudding, two chocolate and two mocha, and I grated one giant chocolate bar and six or seven Heath bars, and then whipped up some cream with sugar and a healthy amount of Kahlua. Then I just layered everything up in several layers in two glass bowls.

I only got lousy pictures, but this is truly a fail-proof dessert, and is going on the list of fancy-danciness. I don’t yet own a trifle bowl, but oh, I see more trifle in our future.

***

MONDAY
Hot dogs and chips

Monday we had my sister’s little kids over so she could drive up and be with my father during and after his surgery, so we kept dinner simple.

***

TUESDAY
Kids still here. Arms getting tired. Chicken nuggets and . . . something. Oh, frozen corn. It turns out I am old and frail, and yell a lot.

***

WEDNESDAY
Chicken quesadillas with cheddar and jalapenos.

Wednesday I drove up to see my father in the hospital, an Damien took a sick day to hold down the fort at home. When he makes quesadillas, he folds the tortilla in half on the pan, and then he turns the tip over again, to seal it like an envelope. Maybe I was feeling sentimental, but this seemed so tidy and brilliant and wonderful to me. No chicken escaped.

It was also on Wednesday that everyone noticed I had made a weekly menu that was just wall-to-wall chicken. This was unintentional. I guess we were simply having a wonderful Chickentime.

***

THURSDAY
One-pan chicken thighs with roast vegetables

Everyone loves this dish from Damn Delicious.

I used a large butternut squash, two pounds of Brussels sprouts, three pounds of red potatoes, a pound of baby carrots, and about 18 or 20 chicken thighs. It was way too much food, but I can’t help myself. I filled my two giant quarter sheet pans, which, by the way, continue to be my smartest purchase ever. No warping, and they are useful for so many things — containing the mess when rolling out cookie or pastry dough, for instance, or keeping beads or buttons from rolling away while the little guys play, or for preserving unfinished board games if you have to clear the table to eat. We also use them as serving trays to organize meals with lots of little bowls and saucers and bottles of things. Pans!

I am old and frail. I yell about pans.

I was able to prep all the vegetables in about 25 minutes in the morning, and then I finished it up pretty quick right before supper. It’s a lot of chopping, obviously, but then you just season everything, put it all in the pan together, and chunk it in the oven. It takes slightly longer than the recipe says. Here’s an old pic of pre-cooked veg, because I have lost track of the ones I took yesterday. Isn’t it pretty? You want color in January.

I cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise and scooped out the pulp, then put it in the microwave for 4-5 minutes to soften up a bit. Then I could peel it pretty easily with a sharp knife. I have lost my potato peeler, so I’ve been using a cheese plane, but I lost that, too. Somehow I can always put my hand on a knife, though, she said somewhat ominously.

Why is it “omInous” instead of “omEnous?” I protest.

Ah, I found a picture! Here’s the cooked dish:

So nice. I’m having leftover veg for lunch right now.

***

FRIDAY
Fish tacos

Frozen fish sticks on tortillas with shredded cabbage, sliced avocado, salsa, sour cream, cilantro, and lime. Good schtuff. Here’s a picture from a previous meal:

Oh, I’m trying out a new affiliate program called Skimlinks. It’s sort of an umbrella affiliate system that works with hundreds (maybe thousands?) of merchants. So the links above, to the pans, the cheese planer, and the trifle bowl are affiliate links which can earn me a small profit. So click away, me hearties! (As far as I can tell, Skimlinks just requires bloggers to follow FTC regulations about disclosing relationships with merchants, so fingers crossed I’m not violating anyone’s arcane TOS this time!)

I’ve also become an Etsy affiliate, and will be doing a monthly Etsy artisan feature. In the meantime, may I point you toward an awesome shop called Hats By Charlotte? We ordered this hand-knit Samus hat for our oldest for Christmas, and it’s awesome.

It’s soft, comfortable, and well-made, and Charlotte was a pleasure to communicate with. We ordered late and the hat came sooner than we could reasonably expect. Highly recommended! Lots of neat, geeky patterns.

ONE MORE THING. I’ll be doing a handmade Valentine’s Day feature here in a few weeks. If you have romantic or relationship-related gifts to sell, especially unusual or hard-to-find items, please drop me a line at simchafisher[at]gmail[dot]com with “Handmade Valentine Feature” in the subject heading, with links and photos of one or two items with a short description. Deadline is January 26. Thank you!
(Open to all, not just Catholics. Not all submissions will be featured. No essential oils, please. They give me a headache even just online.)

 

How to make chocolate caramel almonds without panicking

When we manage to make treats for Christmas, we usually make fudge and buckeyes, sometimes rum balls or peanut brittle, and of course rugelach. Last year, looking for something a little more decorative, I tried chocolate caramelized almonds from Smitten Kitchen. You don’t need a candy thermometer to make them, and you can use whatever kind of sugar or sprinkles you like, so they are adaptable gifts for just about any holiday.

Here’s the ingredients list from Smitten Kitchen:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cup whole almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaky salt
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • Approximately 1/2 cup cocoa powder, sanding or coarse sugar, or sprinkles to coat

You will want a good, heavy pot and some parchment paper or silicone pads for this, too.

I’m trying very hard not to run afoul of recipe copyright laws here, so I’m going to send you right to her page to get the detailed directions. Basically you put sugar and water in a pot and bring it to a simmer, add the almonds and simmer them until they’re caramelized, stir in the salt, and then spread the almonds out on a pan covered with parchment paper.

Put the pan in the freezer for a few minutes until they are set. Then break them up and dip them in melted chocolate; then roll the chocolate-coated almonds in various fancy coatings. Let them set again, and then you can store them for quite a long time at room temperature.

Here’s my reason for writing a whole post about it: In the detailed instructions for caramelizing the almonds, she says,

“Once the liquid has fully evaporated, it will become sandy and you will think something has gone wrong; it has not. Continue stirring and the sandiness will dissolve into a bronzed but clear liquid; this is the caramel.”

I was glad of the reassurance, and prepared myself not to freak out. But then! I freaked out anyway! Weird stuff happens in that pot!!! So I’m sharing the photos of the caramelization process here, so you can see how it goes and maybe not panic like I did.

Here we are simmering, fine, very good:

then it got thicker, and yes, there are soap-like bubbles forming:

the the liquid was just about evaporated, and all was well:

then, sure enough, it started to get dry and a little bit cakey, and I was like, “Wow, she was right! That is sandy.”

Then it got dry and even more sandy, and I thought, “Good thing she warned me, because this does not look normal at all. I would definitely be worrying right now.”

Then this happened. And it went on and on. Just kept on being sandy. I didn’t stop stirring, but it was the stirring of futility. I assumed the candy gods were onto me, and knew I had no business in any kitchen, smitten or otherwise. Look at this!

Yeah, these are totally ruined. Great, now they’re clumping. No one said anything about clumping. Dammit. Almonds are expensive! Dammit!

But wait! Down there in the center of the pot, under all the nuts, there’s a little, kind of syrupy patch!

Well, hallelujah! Those little bastiches are caramelizing after all, aren’t they.

And there they were, coated with caramel, just like Smitten Kitchen said. So I put them on parchment paper, slid them in the freezer, and went to sit down for a bit.

I was so emotionally spent by this time that I left them in the freezer for a few days, rather than the suggested five minutes, until I did the next step. I don’t recommend this, as they got a little soggy; but you will be the best judge of what kind of load you can carry at this point in the evening. It still worked, but they weren’t as crunchy as they might have been.

Now I’ll send you back to Smitten Kitchen for the rest of the directions. You’re going to pour the nuts into melted chocolate, stir to coat, and then pick out the almonds and roll them around in your sugars or sprinkles or whatever. It’s messy and time-consuming, especially if you’re making a large batch, so don’t think you can just zoop-zoop-zoop (as my mother used to say) and be done with it.

The good news is, you can make them ahead of time and then store them at room temperature for a long time. Here’s the finished product:

I wish I had a brighter picture of the finished product. They were so pretty, especially the sugar-coated ones! They looked like little Christmas gems. (I buy up expensive seasonal-themed sugars and sprinkles after holidays, when they are marked way down. This doesn’t work, as the kids tend to develop an unconquerable hunger for tiny little bats in May, but it’s a good theory.)

I think these almonds make nice treats on their own, or they would make lovely accents to a package of fudge or cookies. Just keep telling yourself, “It’s supposed to look this way,” and you’ll probably be right.

 

 

 

How (and how not) to make rugelach for Hanukkah

Hey, it’s your friendly neighborhood Jew lady! It’s the first night of Hanukkah tonight, and I’m here to show you how to make rugelach (and what horrible errors to avoid). The fact that I kept on chugging even after screwing it up so many times tells you how good rugelach are.

Rugelach (pronounced “ROO-guh-lachhh,” possibly Yiddish for “little twists,”) are sticky little filled pastries, made of insanely rich, tender dough and rolled up with any kind of sweet filling you like. My favorite is apricot and walnut, but you can also use raspberry or any other fruit preserves, nuts-and-cinnamon, sour cherry, raisins, poppy seeds, even Nutella. A few years ago, for Thanksgivukkah, and I made pecan pie rugelach. Rugelach will work with you.

Other spellings: rugelakh, rugulach, rugalach, ruggalach, rogelach. These are all plurals. I don’t know what the singular is, because who could eat only one? This recipe is from my sister, Abby Tardiff, who reminds us that these freeze beautifully.

I’ll share the ingredients and very basic directions first, and then go through it step by step with photos and more detailed instructions. This recipe will make about eighty little pastries or more.

INGREDIENTS

Dough
Two sticks of butter (half a pound)
One 8-oz package of cream cheese
Two cups of flour
White sugar for rolling

Filling: 
Maybe 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of preserves or jam
1/2 to 1 cup finely chopped walnuts

You will also need parchment paper and a pizza cutter.

BASIC DIRECTIONS

Blend dough ingredients together. Roll dough into 6- 8 balls, cover, and chill them in fridge.
Roll chilled dough in sugar into a round. Add filling, leaving the center bare. Cut into triangles, roll from wide end, place on pan on parchment paper, and chill rugelach again.
Bake at 400 for 11-14 minutes.

Now here’s the more detailed instructions, with photos:

Blend the dough ingredients together until it’s smooth. This is not like pie crust dough; you can use the standing mixer and really manhandle it.

Divide and roll the dough into 6-8 balls, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour. Chilling it should make the dough less sticky and easier to work with.

Preheat the oven to 400. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Rugelach get very messy while baking.

Sprinkle the counter (or a very large sheet pan, if you have it, to contain the mess) heavily with sugar.

Yep, you’re going to roll out the dough in sugar, rather than in flour. Roll it out as thin as you can, so it’s the size of a large dinner plate. I like to turn the dough over a few times while rolling it, so both sides get coated.

It doesn’t have to come out perfectly round.

Swizzle up your jam with a fork to make it more spreadable. Spread the filling and sprinkle the nuts all over the dough, leaving a circle in the middle bare.

You really just want a thin skim of filling, even less than what is shown here. Too much will bubble over and make a horrible mess. If you are using nuts, it’s also good to chop them finer than I did here, so they stay put.

You can make more than one kind of rugelach at a time. This pic shows too much filling, though, so don’t do that.

Cut it like a pizza into 16 triangles. I use a rolling pizza cutter. It helps to hold the center in place with one finger so the dough doesn’t curl up while you cut.

Roll each triangle up, starting from the wide end.

Put the rolled-up rugelach, tip down, on the pan covered with parchment paper. Leave at least two rugelach’s width between pastries. In this picture, I had put several batches in one pan to chill! Do not bake them this close together!

Chill them again for half an hour or more before baking. At this point, turn on the oven so it can preheat while the rugelach are chilling. You can make a ton of rugelach ahead of time and chill them all, then put them on pans in smaller batches to bake.

Bake them in the preheated oven for 11-14 minutes. They should be slightly golden on top.

They will leak a bit when baking. This is inevitable, and this is why you used parchment paper! Just let them cool for ten minutes or so before you peel them off the pan.

After much trial and error, I came out with three batches that turned out pretty good. Did I take pictures of them? No, I did not! I am very angry at myself. But you can get the general idea.

The finished rugelach will be slightly crisp on the outside, studded with sparkling sugar, and tender, sweet, and rich inside.

And now here are some horrible errors you can commit:

You can spread too much jam on and bake them too close together, so the filling will all leak out and form one solid platform of jam taffy with little rugelach islands trapped in it.

You can still eat them, but it cuts down considerably on how presentable they are. It’s only really a problem if you use too much filling, bake them too close together, and burn them, too:

I’m here to tell you that you can still eat them like this, if you break them apart. I did it for science.

Believe it or not, you can also get tired of waiting for them to bake, and turn on the broiler for “just a second” to brown up the tops, and then you forget to turn the broiler off before sliding the next batch in:

This, too, cuts down on their general attractiveness, as they become quite turdly.

Good luck! They’re a lot of work, but so worth it.