What’s for supper? Vol. 361: Who then, my mother?

Happy Friday? I meant to put an exclamation mark, but I’ll let it stand. Up until yesterday, I kept seeing memes about how awful and long and exhausting January is, and I kept thinking everyone is being silly, and this is just a normal month; and then today I realized I’ve been feeling that way for four months, and all four of those months have been January. Bah. Boo. But at least it must be almost over, anyway.

[checks date]

WELL GREAT. 

Anyway, some of that January futilitism crept into my cooking this week, and despite making as much as my second-best efforts, everything turned out . . . basically tolerable. Oh well. I also wrote 40% of several essays and they all suck.

However, I did do a really neat interview with an artist yesterday, someone you may not know about, but should. So there’s something to look forward to! There’s always something to look forward to, even if it’s just bidding farewell and good riddance to the week. 

Here’s what we had, and it was all FINE:

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips, chicken barley soup

We had lots of leftover soup from last week, so I reheated that and then burned every single grilled ham and cheese sandwich. Some of it was because I forgot to spread mayo on the outside of both sides of the sandwich, and some of them, I just burned for fun. 

I did get a few people who hadn’t done so before to try squeezing lemon juice over their bowl of soup, and they agreed it was very tasty that way. Here’s the soup recipe. Definitely worth making. Still plenty of winter left. 

s  t  i  l  l   p  l  e  n  t  y   o  f    w  i  n  t  e  r

SUNDAY
Gochujang bulgoki, coconut stringbeans, pineapple; kalakand

On Sunday, it just happened to work out that all my kids could come for dinner! So I was planning a big Indian meal, with vindaloo, coconut string beans, tomato yogurt salad, naan, rice, and dessert. But I did the thing I will apparently never ever ever stop doing, and I just skimmed the recipe, and discovered too late that you’re supposed to marinate the meat for at least eight hours. Soooo did some quick menu switches, and ended up with a half-Korean, half-Indian menu. I had little warning bells going off in my head that this was not a good idea, and I was right! Bah. 

The food was . . . fine. I made gochujang bulgoki with thinly sliced pork, matchstick carrots, and plenty of onion

Jump to Recipe

because that does need to marinate, but it can be just a few hours. I had much less gochujang (the actual fermented hot pepper paste) than I thought, though,

and it just didn’t hit the mark. Also I severely crowded the pan, so the meat was more braised than pan fried. It was tender, but just bland and slightly watery.

I decided to forge ahead with the string bean recipe I was originally planning to make, because they are Aldi string beans and you use ’em or lose ’em. But she called for cooking the string beans for twenty minutes, which is insane. It’s one thing if you want string beans cooked to a mush, which might work out for certain recipes, but she specified not to overcook, so they don’t lose their crunch. Insane!

I have since discovered that string beans in India are a different variety, and they are tougher, and do need a lot more cooking. So I did just cook them for a few minutes, and then added them to the mustard seeds heated till “spluttering” in hot oil (I love how many Indian recipes use the word “spluttering,” and I wonder if there is some cognate in some Indian language. 

Anyway, the result was . . . fine. 

Maybe I would have enjoyed them more if they had accompanied a dish with seasoning that made more sense along with the mustard seed, coconut, and jalapeno, but watery gochujang was not it. Boo. 

I made a big pot of rice and cut up a bunch of lettuce and also put out the last of the seaweed sheets from New Year’s Eve, and I did have fun making the little grabby bundles of seaweed, bulgoki, and rice

I do like some bundled food. 

Oh, it looks like we also had pineapple, which, again, was fine, but just . . . not quite the thing. 

There was enough food, anyway, so that was a relief, and everybody had a good time and I heard uproarious laughter coming from the dining room, so that was lovely. I was a little bummed about the meal, though, and then suddenly realized wait! I had made dessert!

The dessert was something called kalakand, which is a sort of sweet milk cake which you make with paneer, but not THAT kind of paneer; you are supposed to make your own paneer, which is soft set. OR, you can use ricotta cheese. It so happened I had a bunch of ricotta left over from birthday calzones, which is why I decided to make this recipe. 

It does say you will need to stir it longer if you use ricotta, and Swasthi was not kidding about that. It says “ten minutes,” and it took me at least forty minutes of stirring. 

Corrie had a friend over, and it was just as well I had to park myself in the kitchen and stir, because I could keep an eye on them, rather than ducking and covering, which is what my animal instinct tells me to do when these two get together. So I stirred that mofo forever and eventually decided that it was as thick as it was ever gonna get, and put it into a lined pan and pressed slivered almonds into the top. 

I let it chill in the fridge for several hours, and then brought it out after dinner with lots of caveats about how uncertain I was about the whole thing. 

People liked it, I think? I don’t think it came out right. It certainly wasn’t cake-like in any way. It helped that nobody had any idea what it was supposed to taste like. I suggested “Cheesecake Play-Doh,” and that got the most votes. 

In conclusion, I kept forgetting what it was called, and when I was searching for the recipe today (because I keep dozens of tabs open, but not the ones that I know I will need on Friday), I turned up this:

I don’t know what this song is about, and if it’s offensive, you have only your polyglotismo to blame.  

MONDAY
Regular tacos with pico de gallo

Monday was a day off, and I thought we all needed something a little more normal, so I just made regular tacos. Actually I sneaked a pound of ground sausage into the three pounds of ground beef, because it somehow worked out to be cheaper that way, and nobody noticed. 

I had the tomatoes I was planning to make into yogurt salad, so I made a bowl of pico de gallo with them. I was super tired and didn’t feel like chopping, so I just threw tomatoes, onions, and cilantro into the food processor, and then added some olive oil, salt, and some lemon juice, because I ran out of limes. 

It was fine. Everything is fine. 

TUESDAY
One-pan kielbasa, red potato, Brussels sprouts; challah

The kids have been agitating for kielbasa, so I made this one-pan meal

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(well, two pans of it), except I used Brussels sprouts instead of cabbage, and rather than serving the sauce along with the meal, I cooked the food for 20 minutes, then added in the sauce, switched the pans and finished cooking it for another 12 minutes or so.

It was super cold out, and I kept thinking about fresh, hot bread, and I had some work to avoid, so I made challah. 

Jump to Recipe

I made a double recipe, which is what I usually do, but usually I make one batch in the standing mixer and one batch by hand. It’s not dumb if it works! But for some reason I decided to make a double batch all in one bowl, with the very predictable result that it spurted jets and fountains of flour all over the kitchen. 

Then I put the bowl to rise on top of the coffee maker, which is the warmest spot in the house right now, and then I completely forgot about it. So it rose plenty. 

Oops. I wisely decided I was in no mental state to make another attempt at a four-strand braid, which I try from time to time, and it always makes me cry. I just divided the dough monster in half and then cut each one into four balls, then rolled out three and made a big braid, and cut the remaining ball of each batch into thirds and made it into a smaller braid to lay on top. I let them rise again, brushed them with egg wash, and then baked them. 

They turned out pretty!

I made them with duck eggs, including a duck egg for the egg wash on top. You will never find an eggier egg than duck eggs. 

I couldn’t find the poppy seeds, so as you can see, I used sesame seeds on one. Which made me think of this quick little bit from You Don’t Have To Be Jewish:

 

If I didn’t clip it right, the whole album is here, and the bit in question starts at about 20:17. 

Anyway, it was an okay-to-pretty good supper. The bread was a tiny bit underdone, so it was a little damp in the middle, but just a tiny bit; and even though I switched the meat and potato pans, one got a lot crisper than the other. But it was fine. 

Fine, I tell you! 

WEDNESDAY
Pizza

Wednesday I didn’t even feel like messing around one tiny bit, so I just made three pizzas, one cheese, one black olive, and one pepperoni. I took a picture so I would remember what we had

A perfectly fine pizza, with pre-shredded cheese that doesn’t taste like anything, and I couldn’t find the garlic powder or the block of parmesan. It was so cold in the kitchen that the dough didn’t 100% defrost, so the crust was a little bit CLAGGY. But I managed to stick to my meal plan for once, so it tasted pretty great anyway. 

THURSDAY
Glazed ham, baked potato, mysteriously spicy mashed squash

On Thursday morning, I remembered that we still had leftover coconut string beans in the refrigerator, so I put them out for the ducks, who were incredibly rude about it. 

Possibly angry at me for making their children into challah, but I don’t think so. We have to run and get the eggs in the morning before these dopes step on them and crush them. 

On Thursday morning, driving the kids to school, I turned on the classical music station and tried to guess the nationality and era of the piece that came on. I guessed German, 1820. And guess what! It turned out to be Karl Maria von Weber, written in 1815! I felt SO SMART. Then the dog turned on the hazard lights and I couldn’t figure out how to turn them off, so I had to pull into a parking lot and watch a short YouTube video. 

If you are wondering, the hazard light button is the giant, centrally located button with the big “HAZARD” symbol prominently displayed in red, which is why I couldn’t find it. Probably my Instant Pot gasket is in the glove box, where I put it while not reading all the way through the vindaloo recipe and buying the wrong kind of beans. 

Anyway, Thursday was the day we were supposed to have the bulgoki, but I had already used the meat, and I had Corrie with me at the store when I was shopping for a replacement; and if you take Corrie to the store with you, you’re going to come out with ham. 

So I got a big spiral-cut ham with a glaze packet on sale, and she pushed really hard for peas and mashed potatoes, but nobody felt like peeling potatoes, and I felt like I had to assert some kind of authority, so we had baked potatoes and mashed squash.

I usually cook the squash in the Instant Pot to save room in the oven,

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but when I was dealing the challah flour explosion, I also decided to thoroughly clean the IP top and had hidden the gasket from myself, so I shoved things around and just cooked the ham, baked potatoes, and squash  all at 400, which is not the right temperature for any of them. My motto is, if we can’t all be happy, then we’ll satisfy justice by all being miserable.

I sprinkled some baking soda and sea salt on top of the squash before roasting it, and it came out perfectly nice

and then I grabbed some butter and some spices that were handy: Cinnamon, cayenne pepper, salt, and scooped out the flesh and started adding lots and lots of cinn– ope, actually that was cayenne pepper. Wuite a lot of it. Corrie advised me to cover my mistake by also adding lots and lots of cinnamon, so that is what I did. I skipped the sugar because you really don’t need it with a decent squash. Some nutmeg would have been nice, but it didn’t seem like the time to rummage through little tippy bottles, so I just mashed that mofo and set it out. It was actually pretty good! Spicy! For some reason. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

Just mac and cheese. I’m sure it will be fine. 

When I insisted on making squash instead of peas, I told Corrie that I only recently started liking squash. In fact, the very first time I had mashed squash was in the hospital, right after giving birth to her, and it was the best thing I had ever tasted in my life. And from then on, I’ve had a thing for butternut squash. So it was really her fault. The rest of the kids then turned on Corrie in anger like Joseph’s brothers, because she was the cause of their cruel, heartless mother sometimes making mashed squash for dinner and not making anyone eat it or anything. I am truly a monster! Next time I’ll feed them all to the ducks. Then we’ll see who gets mashed. 

Gochujang bulgoki (spicy Korean pork)


Ingredients

  • 1.5 pound boneless pork, sliced thin
  • 4 carrots in matchsticks or shreds
  • 1 onion sliced thin

sauce:

  • 5 generous Tbsp gochujang (fermented pepper paste)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 cloves minced garlic

Serve with white rice and nori (seaweed sheets) or lettuce leaves to wrap

Instructions

  1. Combine pork, onions, and carrots.

    Mix together all sauce ingredients and stir into pork and vegetables. 

    Cover and let marinate for several hours or overnight.

    Heat a pan with a little oil and sauté the pork mixture until pork is cooked through.

    Serve with rice and lettuce or nori. Eat by taking pieces of lettuce or nori, putting a scoop of meat and rice in, and making little bundles to eat. 

 

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. 

 

Challah (braided bread)

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup oil (preferably olive oil)
  • 2 eggs
  • 6-8 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp yeast
  • 2 egg yolks for egg wash
  • poppy seeds or "everything bagel" topping (optional)
  • corn meal (or flour) for pan, to keep loaf from sticking

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, dissolve a bit of the sugar into the water, and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir gently, and let sit for five minutes or more, until it foams.

  2. In the bowl of standing mixer, put the flour (starting with six cups), salt, remaining sugar, oil, and eggs, mix slightly, then add the yeast liquid. Mix with dough hook until the dough doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl, adding flour as needed. It's good if it has a slightly scaly appearance on the outside.

  3. (If you're kneading by hand, knead until it feels soft and giving. It will take quite a lot of kneading!)

  4. Put the dough in a greased bowl and lightly cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm place for at least an hour, until it's double in size.

  5. Grease a large baking sheet and sprinkle it with flour or corn meal. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Roll three into "snakes" and make a large braid, pinching the ends to keep them together. Divide the fourth piece into three and make a smaller braid, and lay this over the larger braid. Lay the braided loaf on the pan.

  6. Cover again and let rise again for at least an hour. Preheat the oven to 350.

  7. Before baking, make an egg wash out of egg yolks and a little water. Brush the egg wash all over the loaf, and sprinkle with poppy seeds or "everything" topping.

  8. Bake 25 minutes or more until the loaf is a deep golden color.

 

Instant Pot Mashed Acorn Squash

Ingredients

  • 1 acorn quashes
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Cut the acorn squashes in half. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt on the cut surfaces.

  2. Put 1/2 a cup of water in the Instant Pot, fit the rack in it, and stack the squash on top. Close the lid, close the valve, and cook on high pressure for 24 minutes. Do quick release.

  3. When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop it out into a bowl, mash it, and add the rest of the ingredients.

What’s for supper? Vol. 343: Duck eggs and fox nuts

Happy Friday! Today I am here to make you feel relatively stable and sane. 

Here’s what we ate:

SATURDAY
Regular tacos

Nothing to report. I took this picture mainly to remind me what we ate on Saturday, but best practice is to include lots of photos in the post, so here ya go.

Oh, I guess I actually have to report that I wasn’t paying attention when I sprinkled in the hot pepper flakes, and a lot of people made “wooooo!” sounds when they tasted the meat, which I took as a compliment. 

SUNDAY
Pizza

Sunday was freeeeeaking hot. I made myself do some gardening anyway, because I know that, by the time it’s time to plant bulbs, I’m going to have strep throat or tendonitis or the cold robbies something, and I won’t be able to manage it. So I prepped the little patio St. Joseph garden, which had gotten to look like this:

and now it looks like this

Now it just needs to get a little colder, and I can stuff the mulched area full of daffodil, tulips, and crocus bulbs. This will be nice in the spring, but it’s mostly to give me something to think about all winter, so I don’t kuh-kuh-kuh-kay em ess. 

I’ve also been gathering cosmos and marigold seeds. I’ve been deadheading my marigolds several times a week, and putting the heads up to dry for a week or so, and then pulling the seeds out, which is fun. LOOK how many seeds I have. 

And there’s more to come! Next year, I will have an UNSPEAKABLE amount of marigolds. 

Then, after gardening, it was time to make pizza! One olive, one pepperoni, and one arugula and prosciutto. I guess it’s time to make up a recipe card for this pizza. Here you go: 

Jump to Recipe

I actually had a mix of arugula and spinach, and I have to say, I prefer just arugula for this pizza. It stays a little snappier in texture, and the peppery flavor is nice. I also couldn’t find the olive oil. We have had a week of Everything Breaking, and one of the more minor things that broke was the shelf where I keep all my bottles, daily pills, and most-used measuring cups and spoons

Just came crashing down,

and it’s proved strangely difficult to put it up again (as you can see by the variety of screws, anchors, and adhesive whatnot on display now). So everything is here and there and not to be found, which is aggravating.

Despite these handicaps, it was still very delicious pizza. I did not hold back with the parmesan.

I had two pieces and didn’t really want a third, but I really, really wanted some more pizza crust, which I mentioned wistfully, so Damien got another piece and ate it except for the crust, which he offered to me. Find yourself a man who etc. etc.

MONDAY
Burgers and brats

Monday, Labor Day, we executed a plan we had . . . sort of worked out. That is to say, we’d been planning to do it for about a week, and had thought about the details up to a point, but maybe not quite as granularly as we mights have. Which is to say we left five hours later than we meant to, and it turns out two kayaks and a canoe are not really enough boats to get ten people to an island, unless your husband is willing to paddle back and forth a ridiculous number of times, dragging empty kayaks behind him.

The other part of the plan was that we would visit the island, then go get ice cream, and then get home at a normal time and have a little cookout, but I had already made various other errors during the week, and already used up some of Monday’s burger meat to compensate for those errors, but was then so overwhelmed by Boat Happenstances that I forgot this had happened, so, you know whattt, mistakes were made. Basically Dora was at our house for three hours playing with the cat and waiting for us to get home and give her a burger, and she eventually gave up and went home, and then the rest of us went and got ice cream in the dark, except for me because I was still in a swim suit, because my clothes were sopping wet because I have forgotten how to get in and out of a boat without falling in the water; and Damien went home and cooked not-quite-enough-burgers in the even darker, and the rest of us went home and ate them. Good thing it’s just labor day and not a real holiday!

Anyway, while we were on the island, we met a family with a little girl named Elise, maybe four years old, who was VERY ADAMANT THAT WE REMEMBER HER. Her name is Elise, and don’t you forget it. She blew us several kisses as her somewhat weary-looking mom paddled her away. They, too, seemed to be running a bit behind schedule on this, the most laborious of holidays. 

TUESDAY
Tuna and shrimp poke bowls, tropical fruit, and caramelized lotus pods

This was quite a delicious meal. Last time I made poke bowls, they were so good, I saw no reason to try any other variation, so I just recreated them: A big pot of rice, raw ahi tuna cut into little chunks, shrimp sautéed in chili oil with minced garlic and a little lime juice,

and chili lime cashews, and pea shoots and raw sugar snap peas, and some Polynesian sweet hot sauce. 

Boy, it was good. I also made a platter of watermelon, mango, and papaya, which accidentally formed itself into an Eye of Sauron, but was mostly harmless

The other thing was the lotus pods. Also known as — no, not monkey nuts. Foxnuts. Wow, if you knew how many things I had to stop and look up today, you would wonder if I were still fit to be Senate Minority Leader. Anyway, Clara gave me a couple packets of lotus seed pods,

and I thought the most popular thing to do would be to candy them, so that’s what I did, forgetting for the moment that I’m an idiot and do really poorly with caramelizing anything. 

So I followed this recipe, mainly because I had bought some jaggery quite a while back and really wanted to use it. The author, Ruchi, introduces her page by saying, “Welcome to my incredible food paradise! If you are passionate about food, this is the right place to explore exquisite recipes. From tasty starters, delicious meals, and blissful sweet delights, here you will find everything to please the gourmet in you.” Which, I will be honest, I was just not in the mood for. My therapist wants me to keep a food journal, and write down how I feel and what I think when I eat more than I plan to, and even though I am passionate about food, getting welcomed to an incredible food paradise by Ruchi with her foxnuts is just not helping anything.

I mean, yes, I realize that, as usual I realize that [waves arms dramatically like an exasperated orchestra conductor], I’m the one choosing to do all of this, but it still pissed me off. All of it. The cooking, the new recipe, the fox nuts, the therapy, everything. Whatever. If you had seen me trying to get out of a kayak while everyone was watching, maybe you would alter your opinions of exactly how much I’m in control of my actions. 

Anyway, I fucked up the fox nuts. I burned them, and then I added coconut and burned the coconut, too. Then I switched pans, to get away from the burny taste a little bit. That wasn’t a terrible idea, but then I still had to get the jaggery to the right temperature, and I’m really just awful at making candy, and it was also extremely humid out. So I ended up with this:

It may look like a platter of snacky bits, but it’s all one solid piece. You can break off individual pods, but they were hard as rocks. YES I ATE THEM ANYWAY. What do you take me for. 

And it was a delicious meal. What’s that? How did I feeeeel while I was eating it? I felt great! Eating makes me feel great! That’s why I do it all the time! Stupid question. Boring conversation anyway [shoots food journal].

WEDNESDAY
Kielbasa, potato, Brussels sprouts with honey mustard sauce

Wednesday, I somehow managed to forget that I had to make dinner altogether until it was almost five o’clock. This is what’s called “learning moderation.” And that’s what sheet pan meals are for! 

Every time I make this meal, I veer further and further away from a recipe. This time, I preheated the oven to 425 and trimmed and halved three pounds of Brussels sprouts, sliced five pounds of red potatoes (that were mysteriously the same price as yellow potatoes), and three ropes of kielbasa. I spread all the pieces of everything on two big sheet pans, drizzled it with oil, sprinkled it with salt and pepper, and chunked it in the oven for twenty minutes. 

While it was cooking, I mixed up a bunch of honey, some wine vinegar, some salt and pepper, and some stone ground mustard (after floating the idea that stone ground mustard is the boba tea of mustards, which is disgusting but kinda true), and decided I was too lazy to crush up any garlic. When twenty minutes was up, I poured half the sauce over one pan, and then decided I wanted to take a pretty picture in the afternoon light, so I poured on a little more

and then realized I didn’t have enough left for the second pan. So I just drizzled on a bunch of honey and glopped on some mustard and swazzled on some wine vinegar on that one, mixed everything up so it wouldn’t stick, and threw both pans back in the oven, switching the top and bottom pans. Cooked it for another ten minutes or so.

When it came out, I mixed both pans together to even out the sauce situation

Maybe it was the boba mustard or maybe it was the “oops, I forgot to eat today,” but this was a very popular meal, even among husbands who don’t really like kielbasa. 

Wait, that can’t be it, because we had lunch! We had lunch of DUCK EGGS.

That’s right, Wednesday was the second day SOME of our pets started to finally pull their weight around here. 

Not them.

To be fair, I don’t think even I would eat a dog egg. Fox nuts, yes. But I have my limits. 

Gosh, I just talk talk talk. Anyway, our dear lady ducks, the interchangeable Fay and Ray

finally started to lay eggs on Tuesday,

and they did it again on Wednesday  

and again on Thursday

so I guess it’s gonna be a thing! What do you know about that! I was halfway convinced they were either just do-nothing ducks, or else laying secret eggs in the woods somewhere, and we were never going to find them; but they actually just lay them demurely in the hay in the corner of their duck house first thing every morning before breakfast. Amazing. 

On Wednesday, I made fried eggs for lunch for me and Damien. Fresh eggs are always head and shoulders above supermarket eggs. They just cook up better and the whites are fluffier. Duck eggs are like that, and they’re also bigger than chicken eggs, and the yolks are extremely rich. 

I was so proud of the ducks, I gave them some watermelon, which they devoured with great splurting violence. One of these days I will give them some cherries or beets or pomegranates, and I will film it in low light, and I will win a Sam Peckinpah award. 

THURSDAY
Mexican beef bowl again … OR WILL I???

Everybody liked it last time, so I’m a-makin’ it agin. Actually we had leftovers from the steak and cheese subs last week, so I stashed it in the freezer, with the intention of using the power of Worcestershire sauce and lime to thriftily transform it into Mexican beef bowls.

Jump to Recipe

But I took a look at how much meat it is this morning, and, through the magic of not wanting a repeat of Monday, I realized it it’s not as much meat as I thought! Need more. 

So I was dropping the kids off at school and thought I would just quickly nip into the supermarket for a little more beef, so I asked the kids if I could shop dressed the way I was. They said, “With your shirt inside out?” This was news to me, because I thought I only had my skirt on inside out. I then became aware that I also had no shoes on, and also no underwear. FOXNUTS! 

UPDATE: I wrote the above paragraph on Thursday morning. By Thursday afternoon, it was in the 90’s and super humid, more than one person was mad at me (???) because we had to pick up a kid at soccer, and my desire to not cook several different foods had reached a tipping point, so I just got Aldi pizza.

No ragrets.

FRIDAY
Salmon tacos

Regular fish tacos with cheapo fish sticks was the plan, but sometimes having a kid who works at the fish counter pays off, like when they can text you about a flash sale because someone ordered way too much salmon.  So I picked up a big filet and I am going to try Ina Garten’s recipe for roasted salmon tacos, which looks pretty tasty. I have everything but dill, and there are even some cucumbers very ready to be picked from the garden right meow. As soon as I get off the couch. 

Just one duck egg this morning! Maybe somebody had a bad dream. 

Oh, last chance to enter the giveaway for the new Tomie dePaola book

Okay, I really think that’s everything. Going to adoration this afternoon, bringing all yer lousy intentions with me.

Prosciutto arugula pizza

Ingredients

  • oil or butter and flour for pan
  • pizza dough
  • sauce
  • shredded mozzarella
  • olive oil
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • rosemary (fresh or dried)
  • prosciutto, torn up
  • arugula
  • fresh lemon juice
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450. Grease and flour the pizza pan, stretch the dough over it, pierce it with a fork, spread the sauce, sprinkle the cheese as usual.

  2. Spread the garlic and a little rosemary on the cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil if you like. Cook as usual.

  3. While it is cooking, make a salad of the arugula, lemon juice, and a little olive oil, plus salt and pepper.

  4. When the pizza comes out, lay the torn-up prosciutto over the top and throw the arugula on top of that. Top with parmesan cheese. Let it sit for a few minutes before slicing, to let the arugula wilt slightly.

 

Beef marinade for fajita bowls

enough for 6-7 lbs of beef

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together.

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 334: Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high

Happy summer! This is the week that always starts to feel like real summer to me, because the big family party is over and we get going on all the other stuff we haven’t quite had time for, mainly lounging around, eating ice pops, and watching Buffy

I didn’t get a WFS out last week, because of all the running around, so the quick version is: I don’t remember. Probably really easy, fast, boring stuff; except one day we had 

Kielbasa, Brussels sprouts, and potatoes sheet pan dinner with honey mustard sauce

I have stopped consulting a recipe for this meal.  (Here is one if you want, though! Jump to Recipe

I had three ropes of kielbasa cut into chunks, three pounds of Brussels sprouts halved, and probably three pounds of potato wedges with the skin on, tossed with salt and pepper and olive oil and spread on a sheet pan, and I cooked them at 425 for about 20 minutes. I mixed up a sauce from a bunch of dijon mustard, honey, balsamic vinegar or maybe wine vinegar, and pepper, kosher salt, and crushed garlic, then drizzled the sauce on the food

and stirred it up, and slid it back in the oven for another maybe 10-15 minutes until it was a little browned.

Sorry, not really a recipe, but you can just make it according to your taste and then cook it until it looks done. 

I used to make this meal with wedges of cabbage, but the kids vastly prefer Brussels sprouts. I also used to make it with the sauce to dip, but now I do the “cook, then add sauce and finish cooking” thing, and it comes out flavorful and keeps everything from drying out. Great summer meal, easy and hearty. 

And another day we had

Taijin chicken with scallions, mango, hot pretzels

This was supposed to be a NYT recipe, buuut I forgot to buy oranges, and you’re supposed to add orange zest and juice. So instead, I looked around furtively, opened a can of mandarin oranges, smushed up the contents, and dumped it into the sauce. 

The original recipe calls for 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sea salt, 1/2 cup honey, 1/2 cup orange juice, 1 tsp orange zest, 3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce and 1/4 cup adobo sauce, 6 garlic cloves, 2 Tbs. olive oil, and 1 Tbsp Taijin, which is the ingredient that caught my attention in the first place, but which we turned out to have two almost-empty bottles of, along with only a small can of chipotle chiles and only a little honey.

I also broiled this in the oven, rather than grilling it; so it was basically a Ship of Theseus recipe at this point.

But honestly, it still tasted fine. Kinda citrusy, quite spicy. If you like the taste of Taijin, you will like this chicken. It didn’t knock my socks off, but it was easy and tasty.

(I threw in some scallions, as directed, but those didn’t fare very well under the broiler, and weren’t terribly appealing.) For sides, I cut up a bunch of mangoes and served the hot pretzels I was too tired to cook the other day.

A decent if slightly weird meal.

SUNDAY
Independence Day Party!

I spent most of last week scurrying around finishing the infamous patio, (which I am sitting on right now, and let me tell you, it is birdy and lovely)

and getting all the other stuff ready for the party, knowing all along that it was going to rain all day. I did have the option to change the party to Saturday, which was supposed to be sunny and hot, but not everyone could make it. Argh!

Eventually I decided it made more sense to have a family party with rain and all the family, then a family party with sun and lots of people missing. It was a good choice! It did rain quite a bit, but we had two canopies and a tarp, 

and my sister brought another giant tarp which two of my brothers-in-law set up like a giant tent. 

Easy for me to say it was the right choice, since I didn’t have to drive home long distance in soggy clothes, but it seemed like everyone had a nice time. I love my family and I’m so glad we get together like this every year. I didn’t put up my father’s monstrous (in size, I mean) American flag, because of the rain, and we forgot to read the Declaration of Independence, but it was still a very good party.

Glow sticks, snappers, sparklers, fireworks, shiny necklaces, and the dog got bossed around by so many little girls, which is his heart’s desire.

Our July 4th menu is not very exotic; we go for volume, rather than novelty. Damien cooked hamburgers and hot dogs, veggie burgers and tofu dogs, and three racks of pork ribs

Jump to Recipe

This year, in addition to the rub he usually puts on them before smoking, he sprayed them with cider vinegar as they cooked. They were done a long time after the rest of the food,

which actually worked out great, because it had gotten a little chilly by then, and we were all ready for a second course, and it was pretty great to sit by the fire gobbling up sizzling, tender ribs

I made potato salad and bought I think 18 bags of chips, and made several big platters of raw veggies. My brother’s BF also brought some delicious spicy peanut noodles, which everyone loved. We had watermelon, which we shared with the ducks, and for dessert, the traditional red and blue Jello cups with Kool Whip

as well as ice cream cups and brownies, which Benny made.

And then candy after the fireworks, to ease the pain of the party winding down. 

Bunch more photos here if you want to take a look.

MONDAY
Leftovers

Monday we were all smooshed into a paste of exhaustion, so I cooked the leftover hot dogs and set out some cold ribs and that was perfect. The town fireworks we were planning to go to got rained out and postponed until July 28, to my great relief. 

TUESDAY
Burgers

Tuesday we went with some friends to The Caterpillar Lab, which we’ve been meaning to do forever. If you’re anywhere in Southwest NH and looking for a way to spend an hour or two, this is an excellent little free visit, fascinating and educational for kids and adults.

We saw amazing things unfolding right before our eyes, on the counter at eye level, and also magnified on a big screen; and the staff was very chill and well-informed and ready to answer questions and chat about what we were seeing. There were lots of things for the kids to touch, and I liked how it was set up in a beautiful way, including a long wooden table set with decorative bottles, each holding a green branch with a different kind of caterpillar living on it, with an informational card on the table. Sort of reminiscent of a Victorian curiosity cabinet, but with things you could handle. A very pleasant and exciting way to spend a rainy morning. 

(I actually have a bit of a moth and butterfly phobia, which I have been working on, but there was nothing flapping around being horrible and out of control, so the experience was well within my tolerance zone. Very different from a butterfly garden, for instance, which is a nightmare for me.) 

Then we came home and played Forbidden Island, which I reviewed here.

Damien bought more meat and cooked more burgers.

We ate late and they were absolutely scrumptious. Definitely starting to get that vacation feel. 

WEDNESDAY
Aldi pizza

Wednesday Benny hosted a tea party, with animal crackers topped with Kool Whip, hot dog ends on toothpicks, and candy, and of course tea

and then we went to the library, and Damien brought home Aldi pizzas. Then I went on the library website and looked up their actual policies, and discovered that, newp, I’m not imagining it, the librarian is actually being a jerk to our family and possibly breaking the law. So we’ll see about that. Humph. (This is why, don’t talk to me about “ohhh, if only WXMYN could be in power, THEN we would see an end to all this terrible CORRUPTION! You give women a teensy tiny bit of power and they will find a way to abuse it. Which is not to say that women shouldn’t have power! Just don’t expect it to magically fix corruption.)

THURSDAY
Italian sandwiches

Thursday it was HOT HOT HOT (for New Hampshire), so I finally broke down and put in the air conditioner

Then I couldn’t put off shopping any longer, so I got some sandwich ingredients, and then when I got my other work done, I took four of the kids to the town pond, ahhh.

They swam for a while, and played Parco Molo, and then we had Italian sandwiches, cherries, and cheezy weezies. 

What a lovely spot it is. I opened my Merlin app and it picked up something like twenty different birds. I did some actual reading from an actual book (The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope, who is so unkind to some of his characters), and wow has my life gotten easier than it used to be. 

FRIDAY
Fish tacos

Moe and his lovely GF and I think Dora are coming by for dinner, and we’re having fish tacos (just frozen batter fried fish fillets) on tortillas with shredded cabbage, sour cream, limes, salsa, and I guess guacamole.

Jump to Recipe

Am I forgetting something? Maybe I will make some lime crema. 

Jump to Recipe

I started some ice cream this morning, but it was so hot in the kitchen, the first batch (made with that Neopolitan trail mix from Aldi) didn’t freeze properly, so I turned on the AC and I’m currently making the second batch (strawberry with a little lime) in the cooler room. 

The ducks are frolicking in the sprinkler

the birds are singing, lots of things are blooming, I’m sitting in the shade in my own yard for the first time ever, and if this ain’t the life, I don’t know what is!

***

sugar smoked ribs

the proportions are flexible here. You can adjust the sugar rub to make it more or less spicy or sweet. Just pile tons of everything on and give it puh-lenty of time to smoke.

Ingredients

  • rack pork ribs
  • yellow mustard
  • Coke
  • extra brown sugar

For the sugar rub:

  • 1-1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp white pepper

Instructions

  1. Coat the ribs in yellow mustard and cover them with sugar rub mixture

  2. Smoke at 225 for 3 hours

  3. Take ribs out, make a sort of envelope of tin foil and pour Coke and brown sugar over them. close up the envelope.

  4. Return ribs to smoker and cook another 2 hours.

  5. Remove tinfoil and smoke another 45-min.

  6. Finish on grill to give it a char.

 

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. 

 

Lime Crema

Keyword Budget Bytes, crema, lime, lime crema, sour cream, tacos

Ingredients

  • 16 oz sour cream
  • 3 limes zested and juiced
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. 

Recipe Notes

So good on tacos and tortilla chips Looking forward to having it on tortilla soup, enchiladas, MAYBE BAKED POTATOES, I DON'T EVEN KNOW.

 

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. 

Ben and Jerry's Strawberry Ice Cream

Ingredients

For the strawberries

  • 1 pint fresh strawberries
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

For the ice cream base

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups heavy or whipping cream
  • 1 cup milk

Instructions

  1. Hull and slice the strawberries. Mix them with the sugar and lemon juice, cover, and refrigerate for an hour.

Make the ice cream base:

  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs for two minutes until fluffy.

  2. Add in the sugar gradually and whisk another minute.

  3. Pour in the milk and cream and continue whisking to blend.

Put it together:

  1. Mash the strawberries well, or puree them in a food processor. Stir into the ice cream base.

  2. Add to your ice cream maker and follow the directions. (I use a Cuisinart ICE-20P1 and churn it for 30 minutes, then transfer the ice cream to a container, cover it, and put it in the freezer.)

I’ve got a heart like a duck

The first time we almost bought a duck was 25 years ago, when my oldest daughter was a toddler, and very duckling-like herself. The one bright spot in our awful neighborhood was an agricultural supply shop that occasionally had ducklings, and they were so charming and appealing, we almost got one. But even dumb as we were, we had to admit that people who live in a one bedroom apartment with no yard whatsoever should really not own livestock. So we forebore. For 25 years, we forebore.

But look at us now! We have no end of grass, and our ducks are thriving in the back yard. It is finally the right time. I’ll tell you a little bit about it, because I’m openly pressuring you to consider whether it might be the right time for you, too, to get a duck or four. They are quite low-maintenance, at least so far, and they are a delight. 

We have four Pekin ducks that we ordered from our local Agway supply center. We ordered them in February for $12 each, and they arrived in the middle of April when they were about a week old. We took them home in a little cardboard box.

They were unreasonably adorable. They looked exactly like a plushie or a cartoon of a duckling. 

They just ran around like maniacs going “PEEP-PEEP-PEEP-PEEP-PEEP-PEEP-PEEP” or WEEB-WEEB-WEEB-WEEB-WEEB-WEEB-WEEB.” They liked being cuddled, and they would huddle up and fall asleep in your hand or on your lap, or sometimes scramble up your chest and crawl around behind your head.

They liked exploring,

but mostly they wanted to be together. If you ever separated one of them from the group, they would all set up a huge racket and keep it up until you reunited them; and then they would just huddle up together and go to sleep.

They are still kind of like that. They sleep together, and have a habit of piling themselves on top of each other, and resting their heads on each other.

As soon as we got them home, they started growing like crazy. I mean like crazy. They were visibly bigger day to day. First they were just round heads, round bodies, and little leggies and feet. Then their bodies started to get a little bigger and elongated. Then they got shoulders; they they got necks.

Then their legs and feet started to grow, and their heads changed shape. Their fuzzy yellow down started to turn whitish and real feathers started to grow in. There have been so many awkward stages in between. Sometimes the down-to-feather transition is very comical, and the new feathers look like place markers, like “tail goes here, insert tab B.”

Their feet grew faster than their bodies, just like on teenage boys.

Their feet still look a little big for their bodies, so I think they’re not quite full size yet. 

Their wings are also hilarious.  I feel guilty thinking so, but they look exactly like, well, you know, wings, like you could just snip them off and fry them up with hot sauce and blue cheese dressing. (I am not going to do this.) 

They’re starting to get some longer wing feathers now, so the shape of them is less naked, but they’re clearly still pretty useless. Every once in a while, the ducks will rear up tall and vigorously stretcccccch and FLAP-FLAP-FLAP their wings, and then fold and tuck them back behind them exactly like a fussy little man tucking his thumbs into his vest or something. It’s so funny. 

@simchafisher660 delicious protein crumbles for the ducks #ducks #pekinducks #ducklings #pekins ♬ original sound – simchafisher

 

We chose Pekin ducks because they are hearty, friendly, and relatively smart about predators (meaning they will run away, rather than just stand there going “duh” when something wants to eat them). They make good pets and don’t get sick a lot, and they’re okay in cold weather; and they’re too fat to fly. When you think “duck,” it’s probably a Pekin duck you’re imagining. 

Here is what they look like now, a little over a month later.

They have thighs and chests and everything!

Let’s see, what else might you want to know? 

Other equipment we bought for the ducks: A big sack of protein crumbles (the same brand they’d been eating in the store, about $20 that lasts about ten days), a feeder, a watering tray, a heat lamp to keep them warm, especially at night or if they got wet; several giant packs of pine shavings, and a big plastic tub. That was enough for the first month or so.

When ducklings are with their mother, she grooms them with her oils and waterproofs them; but when they’re on their own, they’re not really ready to go swimming right away, so we resisted the urge to toss them in the bathtub when they were little. But we did give them a tupperware tub with some holes cut in it for water when they got to be a few weeks old, because they needed to be able to clean their nares (nostrils) out.

These ducks are the most disorderly creatures on the face of the earth. Utter agents of chaos. You put them in a box of clean, fresh pine shavings with a little tub of a food and a little drinky-drink of water, and within three minutes, the water is gone and the tub is upside down, half the food is sprayed all over the place, and two of the ducks are soaking wet and standing on their brother, and the fourth one is running around in circles meeping his head off, and there is a giant turd on his back. What happened? Nobody knows! MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP!!!

Oh! Let’s talk about duck poop! My friends, if you are not okay with duck poop, I mean really, truly okay with duck poop, then do not get a duck, not even a little bit. They poop . . . . . . . . . . . so much. Like you have never seen any living creature poop this much, and you probably never imagined it was possible. And maybe you are thinking to yourself, “Oh, if they poop that often, it’s probably like a newborn baby, where it’s so fast and so constant and so pure, it probably doesn’t even small that bad.” NOPE. If you are indoors, it smells like Satan threw up in a microwave! It is so heinous! You (by which I mean your husband) will change the pine shavings twice a day, and it will still smell like someone has done something illegal to a corpse and then concealed it in a sauna for several months. It’s just the stenchiest, and I don’t think I would have been able to handle it if I had been pregnant.  

They do slow down with the pooping as they get older, but I’m not kidding when they say that if you have these creatures indoors, you will KNOW IT. Outdoors, it’s fine. I honestly don’t even smell them when I sit by their pen in the open air. It’s just kind of comical how fluffy and angelic and etherial their down is, and they gaze at you with this blank, innocent expression, and all the time they’re producing this criminal stank.

The upside is, their poop is so liquidy, you can put it (or the shavings or hay or water it’s mixed into) directly onto your garden, and it’s supposed to be amazing for the soil. Most animal manure has to be composted or rotted for a while, because it’s too high in nitrogen or something, but not duck manure. I quickly got in over my head with composting information, but I did mix an awful lot of duck-smelling pine shavings into my raised beds this year, so we’ll see how that works out. 

When we first got the ducks, you could hold one in each palm of your hand.

Now, just over a month later, it’s all you can do to catch one of them with both arms while they run away, squawking, and wrestle to stuff them into their duck house because they don’t WANT to go to bed and it’s not FAIR.

The kids are learning to wear long sleeves when they handle them, because the little claws tipping their webbed feet are no joke, and can really scratch you up. They like us and they know us, but they’re not especially placid creatures. I would classify them more as “hysterical morons.” 

One of them, EJ, is quite a bit bigger than the others, and I suspect he is a male. EJ has a paler, pinker bill than the rest, who have orange beaks (that doesn’t seem to signify anything in particular; it’s just how we can tell he’s EJ). Coin, the other somewhat larger, feistier one, had a bald spot on the side of his head, which has transformed into a lighter feathered spot that is fading as he turns all white. The other two, Fay and Ray, are smaller and more docile, and are harder to tell apart.

They’re much more amenable to being picked up and snuggled.

It’s actually been a while since I’ve been able to tell them apart. Today I bought some colored plastic bands to put on their legs, so that should help. 

We still don’t know if they’re male or female. The males have tail feathers the curl up and over fancily, but the female duck butts are more plain. Our ducks are still growing their adult feathers in, so it’s too soon to say.

I would be delighted if we got some eggs eventually.  Pekins lay about 3-5 eggs a week starting at about 20 weeks of age (so around August, I guess). Duck eggs are large and rich and delicious. But honestly, we mainly got the ducks as pets, and also as a way to get used to having poultry. I figured once we had ducks for a while, it would be easier to transition to getting chickens, which really would be for the purpose of having eggs. I’m not especially interested in chickens, but fresh eggs are freaking fantastic.

Oh, another change they’ve been going through is learning how to quack! EJ started quacking first, and it was just exactly like when an adolescent boy’s voice starts to crack: Startling, unexpectedly deep, and pretty funny, and clearly not in his control. Some of the other ducks have started mutter-quacking more and more, and now they “peep” and “weep” about half the time and quack the other half. Hilarious. They quack a lot, but they’re not very loud. They do set each other off, and if one quacks, they all quack. Sometimes they quack at the wind. 

When we’d had them for about a month, they were so big that they had begun to squabble with each other in their tub at night, and were panting because they were too hot indoors, but kept spilling their water so they had nothing to drink. So it was time to move them out! Damien built a lovely solid duck house. 

A duck house just needs to be a big, secure box to protect them from weather and predators, that is off the ground so their feet don’t get too cold, and had some ventilation so their humid duck breath doesn’t make it moldy in there. It has a slanted roof so the snow will slide off it, and it has a giant door in front for opening up to clean it out, and smaller door inset in that, for the ducks to go in and out on a ramp (but we need to add some kind of grips to help them get up and down). The floor is covered with hay that needs to be changed once a week. It’s painted inside, and we still need to paint the outside. 

Pekin ducks are quite cold tolerant. You mainly have to give them straw, and protect their feet from getting too cold (which is why the house is raised up on cinder blocks). When it gets below 20 degrees this winter, we’ll move them into a dog crate in the basement, which is unfinished but heated.

Their duck house is surrounded by an old upside-down trampoline frame with chicken wire zip-tied onto the legs. Ducks are not clever escape artists, so this is enough to keep them enclosed, and they’re very happy to eat grass, hunt bugs, and scrabble in the mud. They are in sight of the house during the day, so we can keep an eye on them, and we put them into their duck house at night, to protect them from predators (raccoons and skunks, and occasionally coyotes, foxes, bears, and anything else that might wander through. We have a highway on one side of the house, but conservation land on the other, so you never know what might be in the yard). 

They also have a kiddie pool for drinking, splashing around, and washing themselves, and a tray for their protein crumbles. We have also been giving them more and more kitchen scraps, like peas, kale, lettuce cores, and strawberry tops. They go absolutely bananas when they eat. Like the Cookie Monster, but even more so. It’s like they’re blind and in a panic and the food is running away and there are sirens going off. And then they just suddenly lose interest and stroll away, with a streamer of kale dangling casually off their head. They’re so entertaining! 

We don’t plan to give them meat, because it can make them a little mean, but they do love bugs and worms. Boy do they love worms.

They love to splash the water out of their pool and make mud. They are constantly making themselves filthy and then washing and fluffing themselves. It’s a full time job, which is good because I don’t think they can read or anything.

There is absolutely zero brain power in them. They’re so dumb, they’re not even dumb. Like, you wouldn’t call a bunch of dandelions or a sky full of clouds dumb, and a bunch of ducks exist in the world in the same way. They’re just a little force of nature, and they are what they are. For some reason, this makes them very soothing to watch in action. I like to just sit down on a rock and watch them duck around. Sometimes they give me a little duck side eye, which is hilarious. 

The other animals adapted to the ducks very quickly. The cat took one look at them and just decided, yeah, this isn’t happening. This was smart, as the ducks work as a team and would have beaten the crap out of him, even when they were little. It’s hilarious, though. He won’t even look at them. He goes outside and literally looks anywhere besides in their direction. 

The dog ADORES THEM. He thinks they are his AMAZING FOUR NEW BEST FRIENDS and they SMELL SO INCREDIBLE and they DEFINITELY WANT TO SEE THE COOL STICK HE FOUND and SOMETIMES THEY BITE HIS FACE HA HA GOOD ONE DUCKS and LET’S HAVE ANOTHER SMELL. He is constantly begging to go outside, and as soon as you open the door, he rushes right over to the ducks. Just can’t get enough of them. They either ignore him or jump at him and bite his face. They have never been scared of him. They don’t especially dislike him, but they’re not as impressed as he thinks they are.

The parakeet has started imitating their peeps when he wants attention. The lizard just keeps his own council. Never know what that guy is thinking. 

And I think that’s it! Go ahead and ask me anything. I love these ducks. Not one second of regret so far. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 326: Wads for supper

All week long, the kids have been asking me why it is raining. I don’t know why they’re asking me. It’s not like they think I know anything. The truth is, I made it happen, partially because I like to suffer, and partly so I could make soup one more time before summer. But I didn’t tell them that; I just made the soup, so we could all suffer. (It was delicious soup!)

SATURDAY
Fried chicken caprese sandwiches, Aldi Cheetos

I bought one of those enormous sacks of miscellaneous chicken breasts suspended in frozen wads of broth, with the intention of doling them out over three meals. It actually worked, to my surprise (I was expecting doom and disaster, as usual). This chicken is actually okay, as long as you’re using it as a sort of raw material, like tofu or polymer clay, rather than as a centerpiece. 

Saturday we had chicken caprese sandwiches. If I have actual fresh chicken breasts, I will roast them with oil, salt, and pepper, but I thought these chicken wads needed more help than that. So I dredged them in eggs and milk and then seasoned panko crumbs, pan fried them, and then put them in the oven for a while to make sure they were done all the way through. 

I served them on ciabatta rolls with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and of course mozzarella, tomatoes and basil. Not spectacular, but fine. 

I haven’t really started my garden yet (we can’t plant anything but the heartiest things until May), but I’m already feeling the freedom of knowing I have decided not to grow tomatoes this summer. Homegrown tomatoes bring me nothing but grief, and hardly any tomatoes. I’m just going to excuse myself this time, and grow mostly flowers, plus a bunch of vegetables that don’t have all this weird cultural “oh yeahhhh, this here is the good life” baggage. I’m planning rhubarb and asparagus and strawberries and maybe some eggplant, probably various squashes and pumpkins, and I think some Brussels sprouts made it through the winter. And flowers! 

SUNDAY
Spicy pulled pork on tater tots with cheese

First I started some focaccia dough for Tuesday. I saw all those beautiful focaccia loaves people made over the pandemic, with little garden scenes picked out in vegetables, but I never got around to trying it. But Sip and Feast promised an easy, no-knead recipe that is best if you start it fermenting several days in advance, so that’s what I made. 

So much olive oil, goodness! I made a double recipe. 

So I put that away in the fridge, rested on my laurels for a minute, feeling domestic goddess-y and accomplished thinking about how Tuesday’s dinner was already halfway done, until I suddenly realized we also needed to eat something today. Boo.

But, pulled pork is easy. It was a bit of a strange combination in the slow cooker, but here is what I did: First I cut the pork into hunks, seasoned it heavily with salt and pepper, and browned it in oil. Then I put it in the Instant Pot with a can of Cherry Coke Zero, three clementines cut in half and squeezed, a few big dark reg, glossy guajillo peppers, a handful of little orange arbol peppers, a heaping tablespoon of cumin, and a bunch of oregano. I left all the seeds in the peppers, and just tore the tops off.

Then I pressed “meat,” which just makes me laugh. Do it! Go be meat! Away! and left it alone to think about life for the rest of the day. 

When it was almost time to eat, I pulled out most of the clementine rinds and about half the peppers, and shredded the meat.

I drained the liquid, but ended up adding some back into keep the meat moist while it was heating back up while I cooked some tater tots and shredded some cheese and sliced some onions.

I had my pile of food in this order: Tater tots, then shredded cheddar cheese, then hot pork to melt the cheese; then cool onions and sauce on top of that.

It was really good. Not a delicate or sophisticated dinner, but REALLY GOOD. I did a bunch of digging and heavy yard work on Sunday, and this was a fine reward. 

MONDAY
Cobb salad

On Monday I drove an hour and a quarter to a super Newhampshirey-ish place to pick up a free load of bricks, and let me tell you, it was a lot of bricks! A! Lot! 

I haven’t figured out exactly how many I will need for my patio, but if the answer turns out to be “quite a few,” I may have arrived. I did start digging, and I’m gonna do a lot more digging this weekend, when it stops raining. 

For supper: Chicken wads, day 2! I broiled them with oil, salt, and pepper and served them in slices with salad greens, chopped bacon, hard boiled eggs, red onions, leftover croutons from last week, shredded cheese, and those crunchy fried onions that come in a pouch.

Nice little salad, much protein. I had mine with ranch dressing. This isn’t strictly speaking a Cobb salad, which is supposed to be laid out in cute little stripes and is supposed to have avocados, tomatoes, and I forget what else — I think chives, and probably some other kind of dressing. Get off my back, man! Cobb salad  sounds better than “wadd salad!” 

TUESDAY
Sausage and kale soup, focaccia bread

Tuesday it was time to take the dough out of the fridge, that had been lurking there since Sunday afternoon. It needed 3-4 hours to rise, and then you just spread it in a pan, let it rest a little bit and then re-spread it, and then let it rise a little more, and then you can decorate it and bake it

I was rushing a bit and hadn’t really made a plan for how to decorate it, so I just grabbed what I could find, which was grape tomatoes, radishes, scallions, some garlic scrapes, red onions, and kale.

I thought the design turned out pretty (well, one did. The other one was kind of lame), but I didn’t know how well it would hold up in the oven. 

I actually baked it for slightly less time than it recommended, but one pan was still slightly burned, and the other was right on the verge. 

Still pretty, though! The dough is very stable as it bakes, so the design stays where you put it. I call it a success. 

Although the truth is, if you ever want me to do anything, anything at all, just offer me hot tomatoes baked into fresh bread. I will walk off a cliff with my eyes wide open, if I think there’s hot tomatoes baked into fresh bread at the bottom. 

It had a thin crust and was quite chewy, and the inside had very large air holes

(which I imagine was the result of letting it ferment for three days). I’m not a big focaccia expert, but I think this is how it’s supposed to come out. 

Guess what? Most of the kids wouldn’t even try it, because it had kale on it. Honest to goodness. Kale isn’t even that big of a deal. I feel like it’s like Sriracha sauce or Mondays or the word moist: NOT EVEN THAT BIG OF A DEAL. It’s just that people keep talking and talking about it, until everyone’s like, “oh my gosh, KALE, what is it even for, it’s garbage, only insane aliens would be in the same room with it!” Like, it’s a leafy green, it has a mildly sweet taste, and you can put it in salads or soups or whatever you want. It’s kind of dense, but who the fuck isn’t. People need to settle down about kale. 

Anyway, then I made some soup, also from Sip and Feast, with sausage, potato, cannellini beans, and kale. Very simple, easy li’l soup, tastes nice. I took a bunch of extremely blurry pictures for some reason. 

I grated some parmesan and set that out with the soup and the piping hot focaccia

and everyone stared at it and went to get some ramen or frosted flakes. I’m actually only pretending to be mad. I ate most of both loaves of focaccia myself. Can’t be mad. Too full of focaccia, here at the bottom of my cliff. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken fried rice, steamed pork and mushroom dumplings

On Wednesday, Elijah made supper, hooray! He took a cooking class last year and has a few recipes he likes. 

It was tasty if basic,with rice, onions and garlic, some frozen veg, chunks of chicken, scrambled eggs, and soy sauce. 

But nothing can beat that wonderful flavor of someone else making dinner, let me tell you. And we also got a lot of mileage out of “you telling me ELIJAH fried this” etc etc.

I stopped at the Keene International Market and picked up some frozen pork and mushroom dumplings, which I steamed in my nice little bamboo steamer,

and I served them in one of the dozens of dishes Clara brought home from pottery class. 

I’ll tell you, one minute you’re wiping bottoms, pouring juice all day long, and begging them to stop eating crayons, and then next minute you’re eating the dinner they cooked you off the pottery they made by hand. And looking the other way while they eat crayons, because you know everyone is on a journey. 

But seriously, Clara brought home some amazing pottery. 

 

and we don’t even have crayons in this house. 

THURSDAY
Koftas, yogurt sauce, Jerusalem salad, pita

Thursday I made what probably can’t really be called koftas, because they’re round instead of sausage-shaped, and broiled in the oven rather than grilled or roasted on a spit, and not on sticks. They were, however, juicy and delicious and to me they tasted middle eastern. 

I mixed about five pounds of ground beef, five eggs, and then just started slamming in anything that smelled like it belonged in a hot tent: sumac, coriander, paprika, cinnamon, onion powder, garam masala, za’atar, and salt, and a big handful of fresh mint from the yard. Then I discovered I had used up all my breadcrumbs on the chicken on Sunday, so I made about six pieces of toast, and then microwaved them to really blitz the moisture out, and then ran them through the food processor. 

When it was almost time to eat, I cooked the meatballs on pans on racks in a 450 oven for about 25 minutes.

I also made a bunch of yogurt sauce with fresh garlic and fresh lemon juice and kosher salt, and I made a nice Jerusalem salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh mint, fresh flat-leaf parsley, a little red onion, fresh lemon juice, and salt. And that was it! A simple but nicely balanced meal. 

I briefly considered making pita or maybe making taboon bread, but we still had leftover focaccia, so I just stopped at the store and bought some pita. 

FRIDAY
I think we are having quesadillas. Truly, I hated this week. Everyone was fighty and bighty, especially me, and it rained a lot, and I forgot about a bunch of forms I was supposed to fill out, and even though the sack of chicken wads worked out, it made me mad all week. The more I think about it, the more it was clearly the chicken’s fault. 

However, the ducks are growing nicely. EJ has started quacking, not just peeping, and Corrie has been great with them. They’re huge! Almost ready to live outside.

And I think the sun is going to come out this weekend. Literally, I mean, and also maybe figuratively; who can say? And I do have a lot of bricks. And ducks. Oh, and I fixed the What’s for supper volume numbering. Well, I didn’t fix it, but I got back on track. It went: 323, 324, 325, 236, 237, 238, 239, 240, 242, 242, 243, 244, 245, 11. But now we’re back on track. Quack! 

What’s for supper? Vol. 245: Got any duck food?

Happy Friday! But first, a word from the ducklings:

PEEP.

Seriously, that’s what they say. Peep peep! Peep peep peep! Or sometimes, Weep weep! Weep weep weep! 

They’re terribly shy, as you can see:

and they don’t fit in at our house at all. 

It’s quite sad, how neglected they are.

They still only eat something called “protein crumbles” and they are VERY EXCITED ABOUT IT and also VERY EXCITED ABOUT GETTING FRESH WATER and then they fall asleep. AND THEN THEY WAKE UP AND PEEP PEEP PEEP!!! and then they fall asleep again.

And that’s duck news! We had something a little more elaborate than protein crumbles this week, as follows: 

SATURDAY
Burgers and chips

Cooked outside! It’s finally warm enough, hooray! Damien cooked the burgers outside and they were juicy and delicious. 

Speaking of outside, I have such big plans for our yard this year. I’m moving the garden beds I built (and really kicking myself for putting rocks on the bottom layer for drainage. I PUT ROCKS IN THE DIRT. On purpose!!!) to the other side of the yard, and planning a little patio encompassing the St. Joseph garden and the young peach tree. It is going to be so bougie, you will throw up, I’m telling you. Cannot wait. Those tacky cafe string lights and a little propane fire pit and everything. 

SUNDAY
Spinach salad with hot bacon dressing; matzoh brei

New recipe! I slavishly followed this recipe from the delightful Sip and Feast, which hasn’t steered me wrong yet. Well, I used about twice the amount of bacon it called for, actually. The salad is baby spinach, red onion, mushrooms, and chopped bacon, and you mix it with a hot dressing made of bacon fat, olive oil and wine vinegar, sautéed minced shallots, honey, dijon mustard, salt and pepper, and a little grated cheese. 

So the spinach wilts a bit when you pour some of the hot dressing on, and then you toss it and let people add on more dressing if they want. Oh land, it was so good. 

I sprang for good ingredients, thick bacon, freshly-grated cheese, actual shallots, and so on, and it was just wonderfully savory and tangy, with a fantastic array of textures. It was easy to make, and tasted like it came from an expensive restaurant. I only wish I had sliced the mushrooms thinner. They were a bit too chunky and sort of interrupted the flavor party, but only slightly. 

I also made matzoh brei for those who wanted it. Matzo brei is a weird little recipe that everyone should know: You take a sheet of matzo, break it into chunks in a bowl, and pour hot water over it. Let it sit for thirty seconds or so, and then press the water out. Then beat up two eggs, stir in the drained matzo, and fry the mixture up in some hot oil, turning once, until the edges are crisp.

People sometimes eat matzoh brei with jelly, or cinnamon and sugar, or any sweet breakfasty way you can think of; but I vastly prefer it savory. It’s so good just with salt and pepper, hot out of the pan, with the little morsels of still-crisp matzoh poking out of the egg. 

This is the best way to approach a box of matzoh:

@simchafisher660what’s in the box?♬ original sound – simchafisher660

 

Oh nooooo! That can’t be kosher! Better find another box.

(I’m not really on TikTok, not really. Just trying to figure out where to put the ten thousand little duck videos I now have. I did notice that, after finally managing to retrain myself to turn the camera sideways to take videos, I guess now you’re supposed to not turn it sideways for TikTok. Whatever! Shame on you! Where’s my cane!)

I also made some ice cream, and it turned out weird, and I don’t know why.

I made the same recipes I’ve used many times, Ben and Jerry’s strawberry ice cream, and Ben and Jerry’s sweet cream base with M&M’s stirred in. They just didn’t freeze in the ice cream maker, and so when I put them in the freezer, they came out a few hours later more like ice milk, with shards of ice surrounded by fast-melting cream. The taste was fine, but it just wasn’t ice cream. I have no idea. An ice cream mystery. The only thing I can think of was the cream was a little old, but it smelled and tasted fine. I dunno.

MONDAY
Chicken quesadillas with spinach and caramelized onions

I had four chicken legs, which I skinned, drizzled with oil, and sprinkled heavily with Tajin seasoning, then roasted. 

Then I shredded the meat. I forget why, but I found myself with a little extra time before dinner, so I sliced up about five onions and caramelized them. Then I made up quesadillas to order. Only a few people chose all the available options (chicken, cheddar cheese, fresh spinach, and onions) but those who did were rewarded with a tasty treat indeed. 

Quesadillas are something I never had or even heard of until I was in college. I realize these aren’t authentically Mexican or whatever, but they’re delicious. What do you like to add to yours, besides cheese? 

TUESDAY
Corn dogs and chips

Tuesday was Corrie’s little play, in which she was Mother Rabbit. She told Peter and the others to stay out of Mr. McGregor’s garden, but did they listen? THEY DID NOT. 

How the tables have turned, Mother Rabbit.

It was super cute, but between having to be in another town at 5 and various other people needing to be in yet another town and picked up in another town, respectively, at 5:30 and 6, it was beginning to look a lot like corn dogs. 

I love corn dogs. If corn dogs were the only thing America had ever invented, it would be enough. That and Magic Eraser. 

WEDNESDAY
Banh mi

I planned banh mi for this week because I thought we’d have leftover chopped liver to put on the sandwiches. But I forgot to tell the fridge-cleaning kid not to throw the leftover chopped liver away! It was a liver tragedy. Luckily, banh mi on its own is still delicious. 

Speaking of liver tragedies, I gained a bunch of weight when I started taking Lexapro for PMDD back in November or December. It works great for PMDD, which is actually life changing, but I gained 15 pounds, and that was a bummer, but, now I’m finally tapered off Lexapro (I’m trying Prozac) and it is time to get my punk ass in gear again, by which I mean I can’t just wander around the house eating everything I find and saying “ooh, I hate these meds, they make me gain sooo much weight.”

What I’m trying to tell you is that, I’m really trying, and by the time dinner came around, I was SO HUNGRY, so possibly that’s why these sandwiches seemed so good. 

Another possibility is that they were just damn fine sandwiches. Maybe both things can be true.

I marinated the meat for about four hours, and I cut up a bunch of cucumbers, chopped up a bunch of cilantro, did a quick pickle of some carrots and radishes.

Jump to Recipe

I actually pickled the carrots for a few hours, then just before dinner, I re-used the brine to pickle the radishes, which I had sliced very thin

but not before having a larf over the branding 

I mean, yes, I paid for them, so I should hope. Next time, ask me! I will come up with a better name! Sunny Day Radishes! Fatso’s Radishes! Chompsville Radish Farm! Mrs. Rabbit’s Radish Party! Those are all better than what they actually went with. But nobody asks me. 

Anyway, pickled radishes will turn a pretty salmon pink if you let them sit for a couple of hours,

but if you slice them thin (I used the long, flat holes on the cheese grater), they do take on flavor right away.

I set out mayo, sriracha, and sriracha mayo. I forgot the jalapeños, but nobody complained. We again had a sort of rolling dinner because everyone was going to and fro all evening again, so I toasted a length of french bread and heated up some meat in the microwave, then assembled my sandwich, and it was just perfecto. 

I only had half the amount of fish sauce the recipe called for, and you know what? It was better. So I have amended the recipe to show that.

Jump to Recipe

I also used more pepper, just because I was having fun turning the crank, I guess, so I amended that in the recipe, too. I am a whimsical food god and with a careless swipe of my finger will change the recipe of banh mi at will, just try and stop me. If you are still reading, put an X here   [     ] yes  [     ] no

THURSDAY
Fancy ramen

My plan was to serve ramen the day after the banh mi so there would be leftover pickled vegetables, but they all got eaten. Oh well. 

I had some boneless pork ribs and sliced them into strips, sautéed them in chili oil, and then doused them with soy sauce when they were almost done cooking. 

I ended up with that, some nice sprouts, plus shredded cabbage left over from last week’s fish tacos, spinach left over from the vast quantities of spinach I buy every week because I’ve become a spinach fiend, some crunchy noodles, some boiled eggs, and various sauces and some sesame seeds.

 

It’s a decent meal. 

I like to line the bowl with spinach and pour the hot ramen on top of that, so there is a tasty treat waiting at the bottom. I really am a spinach fiend.

One of these days I’m actually going to make a good ramen broth, rather than using the little packets, but I know it will spoil us all, and we won’t be able to go back, and then I’ll lose another easy meal, and I’m not ready for that! Don’t take away my protein crumbles! Peep peep peep!

FRIDAY
Mac! and! cheese!

Just because it’s been a while. 

In closing, let me say: PEEP PEEP PEEP PEEP PEEP! Hope you are same.

Pork banh mi

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs Pork loin
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 minced onion
  • 1/2 head garlic, minced or crushed
  • 2 tsp pepper

Veggies and dressing

  • carrots
  • cucumbers
  • vinegar
  • sugar
  • cilantro
  • mayonnaise
  • Sriracha sauce

Instructions

  1. Slice the raw pork as thinly as you can. 

  2. Mix together the fish sauce ingredients and add the meat slices. Seal in a ziplock bag to marinate, as it is horrendously stinky. Marinate several hours or overnight. 

  3. Grill the meat over coals or on a pan under a hot broiler. 

  4. Toast a sliced baguette or other crusty bread. 

 

quick-pickled carrots and/or cucumbers for banh mi, bibimbap, ramen, tacos, etc.

An easy way to add tons of bright flavor and crunch to a meal. We pickle carrots and cucumbers most often, but you can also use radishes, red onions, daikon, or any firm vegetable. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 lb mini cucumbers (or 1 lg cucumber)

For the brine (make double if pickling both carrots and cukes)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar (other vinegars will also work; you'll just get a slightly different flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Mix brine ingredients together until salt and sugar are dissolved. 

  2. Slice or julienne the vegetables. The thinner they are, the more flavor they pick up, but the more quickly they will go soft, so decide how soon you are going to eat them and cut accordingly!

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

  3. Cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight or longer. Refrigerate if you're going to leave them overnight or longer.

“Free on Craiglist” and other words of doom

Can we get some credit for how many stupid ideas we don’t act on?

We have a trampoline, but not an in-ground trampoline.
We have zero life-sized, purple hippopotamuses rescued from defunct mini golf places, despite a clear opportunity.
We have many broken chairs and couches, but none of them has been packed with topsoil, covered with chicken wire, and planted with grass seed to make living lawn furniture.

We have a washing machine drum flower planter for our statue of Mary

but we do not have a permanent porch fixture made from the industrial-sized colander that wouldn’t fit through the door, much less in my sink.

And we still don’t have any damn ducks. Not a single khaki campbell duck, noted for its high egg production, paddling happily in an in-ground (free on Craigslist!) hot tub in harmony with a booming population of meat turtles.

We do have a beloved canoe

($100 on Craigslist! Billed as “The world’s ugliest canoe,” and so it is). But we do not have a large, ungainly, unrealistic project boat sitting stupidly in our yard as a testament to our inability to turn a thing down just because it’s free on Craigslist.

UNTIL NOW.

This fine vessel was free on Craigslist

and we’re fixing to drag it down to the stream, chain it to some trees on either side, and sit back while our kids enjoy the greatest childhood known to mankind since that kid got stuck on that island with that horse.

There are a few issues. One is that the boat is gutted

We are about 73% sure this happened because someone started renovating and then realized it was too much work, and not because it is a murderboat. (I’m sure that head-sized compartment I can’t bring myself to open is just full of maps and sunblock. I’m sure of it.)

So we need a floor. Gonna lay some slats across it, then fit a board over that, screw everything down, and voilà . It just needs to be sturdy and safe,

not seaworthy or lovely.

The second issue is that the boat is in the yard, but the stream is in the back back back backyard, over the grass, around the firepit, through some thorns, across the Dead Marshes, and on the other side of a sturdy bank of trees and rocks and maybe some barbed wire I’ve been meaning to take care of.

But the boat has already more than paid for itself, in two distinct ways.

One is that my husband and I both learned how to use a trailer hitch.

 

The Craigslist ad said “Dont want to answer questions just want it gone,” so no one (sober) was available to help us mount the boat trailer (free on Craigslist!) to the vehicle.

It seemed simple enough, though: You stand there shouting at your husband, “Back-back-back-back-back-back-back, keep going, keep going, a little this way, this way, this way, back-back-back-back-back, keep goNO STOP!!!!!” until the ball part is perfectly situated under the trailer thingy.

Then you shove it with your foot a little, wind the crank until it’s all lined up, clamp the clamp thingy, hook up the chains, remove the wheel blocks, and . . . you are good to go? I guess?

So off we crept, and O YE GODS AND O YE LITTLE FISHES, what a horrible noise it made. It was a noise to freeze the marrow in your bones, a grinding, scraping, clattering, screeching squeal that proclaimed to all ears within fifty miles, “Here indeed are people who should not have a boat!”

We just kept going. I asked my husband if he wanted me to look up the hand signals for right and left; but for some reason, traffic was doing a very good job of avoiding us all by itself.

We made the perilous turn off the dirt road onto the highway. Only another mile or two until we reached home. At this point (and this is the second benefit of boat ownership we’ve already enjoyed) we had each lost about fourteen pounds of weight through the sheer isometric exercise of clenching every muscle in our bodies in abject fear.

My husband fixated mainly on the boat breaking loose, roaring freely down the highway, and crushing an unsuspecting mailman flat. I, though, couldn’t stop thinking about how it would feel when we hit a downhill slope, the hitch snapped, and the boat came charging through the rear window to devour us like an avenging whale.

What happened instead was that the horrible sound got even more horrible, until we couldn’t stand it anymore. My husband pulled over to a shoulder, and gathered his courage to softly asked that fatal question: “Is it supposed to be making that noise, do you think?”

I muttered through aching teeth, “Well . . . I think that little wheel in the front . . . is not making contact with the ground the whole time . . . and the noise we’re hearing . . . is when it is making contact. So maybe if we turn the crank, we can make it move . . . .”

I was going to say “down,” so that the wheel would be on the ground the whole time we were driving.

And then it hit me: That little wheel is not supposed to be touching the ground. It’s just there to hold the trailer stable while you load your boat up, and then you’re supposed to crank it up out of the way. Our only clue that this was so: This wheel is about five inches across, and about as sturdy as your average rollerblade wheel, and is very clearly not intended for highway travel. I’m sorry, did you not get the word? We are people who should not have a boat.

So we skipped out of the car and cranked that sucker up as high as it would go, got back in, and cruised home as silently and smoothly as if the boat were already in water. Which it will be, as soon as we figure out how to get it across the yard.

 

Hey, we didn’t bring home any ducks. That has to count for something.