What’s for supper? Vol. 324: O tempora, o meatballs

What a weird week!  Anyone else having a weird week? Just a weird ol’ week. But I just opened the curtains and there was a bluebird sitting on roof of the shed. First one I’ve seen this year. Bluebirds are neat. They’re a little bit boisterous, but very graceful, and they are happy to hang around in gangs at the feeder, without chasing other birds away. Very decorative birds, always a welcome visitor. 

Here’s a slow mo video I took last year:

Anyway, here’s what we had while boistrously hanging around our feeder: 

SATURDAY
Chicago style hot dogs, chips

These were not quite 100% authentic, which would require poppy seed buns, some kind of bright green relish, and sport peppers, but we did have tomatoes, pickled peppers, relish, mustard, pickle spears, chopped onion, and celery salt. 

Really delicious. I got the idea for this from that meme that says the existence of a Chicago style hot dog implies the existence of an MLA style hot dog, which is a silly joke, but on the other hand, mmm, hot dogs. 

SUNDAY
Steak, pork dumplings, cheesecake, strawberry ice cream

Sunday was my favorite husband’s birthday, so we had some of his favorite foods. He cooked steaks for everyone, pan fried in butter with garlic

(sorry, I know it’s Friday, sorry!)

and I used the pork dumpling filling I had stashed in the freezer from New Year’s Eve which is this recipe. I had seen one of those amazing videos where someone’s twinkling fingers forms dumplings into all kinds of beguiling shapes with a few simple pinches and folds, and woop! You have a dahlia and a lotus and a pinwheel. So even though I had dumpling wrappers that were fairly stiff and paper-like, and the video showed dumpling dough that was soft and pliable, I thought, “I CAN DO THAT.” 

Friends, I could not.

But I gave it the old college try, and I did get some raw pork on my phone. And then I went back to using my dumpling press, which works great. So everyone had steamed dumplings while waiting for their steaks. In fact, I had leftover filling after I used up all the wrappers, so I added some panko bread crumbs and made little meatballs

so some people had little birthday meatballs.

I also made a bunch of strawberry ice cream

following the Ben and Jerry recipe, which always turns out light and sweet and lovely 

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and I made a gigantic cheesecake. I have been sworn to secrecy about the particulars of this recipe, but LOOK AT MY CHEESECAKE

I think this is the first time I’ve achieved no cracks. I put all the ingredients out to come to room temperature the night before; I mixed it very lightly, so as to introduce as little air as possible, and scraped down the bowl often; and I baked it in a water bath, and then turned off the oven and let it sit in the cooling oven for a few hours before I took it out and started to chill it. 

It was luscious.

I wish I had started 24 hours sooner, so I could have chilled it over night after baking it, but it was rich and smooth and lovely, and about a mile high. 

MONDAY
One-pan garlic chicken thighs and roast veg

I used to make these one-pan chicken thigh meals a lot, and got kind of burnt out on them, so I backed off for a while. I guess it’s been long enough, because this was very popular.

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You can add whatever vegetables you want. My advice is to think about how long they need to cook, and try to cut them to the appropriate thickness, so they end up done at the same time. 

I used about three pounds of potatoes with the skin on and few zucchinis and half a large butternut squash in wedges. In this variation, you season the vegetables, then lay the chicken on top and brush them (well, really smear them, as it’s pretty thick) with a garlicky brown sugar sauce, and then just chunk it in the oven. 

Quite tasty. The sugar runs down into the pan and caramelizes the bottom of the potatoes, giving them a nice little crunch, and the chicken is juicy and the vegetables are tender. 

TUESDAY
Meatball subs, fries

I wish I could remember what I did to these meatballs, because they were much better than my usual meatballs. Humph. I have become aware that I tend to underseason things, so possibly I just took a heavier hand with everything I sprinkled. 

I briefly considered pan frying them, but then I remembered the shortness of life and just threw them on a broiler pan and baked them in a hot oven like I usually do, then transferred them to a crock pot with plenty of jarred sauce.

Good enough for the likes of us. O tempora, o meatballs. 

WEDNESDAY
Chili verde, chips and pico de gallo, cornbread, pineapple, vanilla and peach-mango ice cream

On Wednesday, our friend Fr. Matt from Louisiana came for supper! My chili verde recipe

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is reasonably spicy, and calls for specific peppers. Well, the supermarket didn’t have those specific peppers. It just had bags of mixed peppers called “hot pepper combo” or something, and the label was one of those “may contain one or more of the following.” This is what I got:

I liked the looks of that, so I roasted them. I also tweaked my recipe a bit and roasted the onions and garlic along with them, rather than putting them onions and garlic into the food processor raw

then I puréed it all up with some cilantro, browned up a good amount of fatty, salted and peppered pork chunks in oil, and —

here is the point where I was already several hours behind schedule, because the school called to say that Benny had bruised her eyeball, and what should they do??? I had no idea, so I spent the new few hours calling various doctors and trying to get an appointment with the right person, and sending a kid to the store with a list of stuff I forgot to buy, and making other kids clean up the hideous house because we are really still in shock from Christmas and the house was looking PRETTY ROUGH, and by the time I got back to my chili, it was laaate. So I threw it in the Instant Pot, because it could tenderize the meat faster.

Unless, of course, the Instant Pot float valve is mysteriously missing. Which it was. So I put everything back in the regular non-instant pot, hoped it would cook fast enough, whizzed through making some corn bread (I just used the recipe on the package, which is fine)

and some pico de gallo

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and rescued the kitchen from complete squalor, and then one kid went to pick up some of the kids, and I called the school to tell them to tell Benny to wait for me to pick her up, and we went to the eye doctor and her eye is fine, thank God, just a little creepy; and when I got home, the chili was, if I may say so, perfect. The pork shredded readily with a wooden spoon

and when Fr. Matt got here, we had a lovely meal. 

I made two kinds of ice cream: Plain vanilla, which is just two eggs, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 cups milk, one cup heavy cream, and a dash of vanilla; and then I wanted to make mango, which I made for our anniversary baked alaska, but I couldn’t find mango pulp anywhere. (Here’s the recipe anyway, in case you can.)

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In theory, you can use your big brain and make mango pulp by pureeing mango, but I was being smart (even bigger brain time), and I knew that was a bridge too far. Just altogether too much work, and I definitely didn’t have time for that. So instead (tiny brain time) I went to the other store and bought some canned peaches, and pureed those, and also bought some fresh mangos and cut them up and macerated them in sugar with (possible big brain?) a little ground cloves. 

The ice cream was . . . fine. I think peach and mango would have been fine, and peach and mango and cloves might possibly have worked, but peach, mango, cloves, and onion . . . now that really is a bridge too far. Yep, everyone was too polite to mention it, but I had cut the mangos up on the wooden cutting board and they had picked up an undeniable onion flavor (very tiny brain). Oh well! That’s why I made vanilla (big brain, with vanilla ice cream on top).

THURSDAY
Old Bay drumsticks, risotto, leftover cornbread

On Thursday I collapsed like a bunch of broccoli. I did something I almost never do: I got the kids to school (which took two trips, because one kid promised twice that she was awake, but then when it was time to go, she was just stumbling out of bed, so I had to come back for her) and then just went back to bed and conked out for another three hours. And then when I did get up, I was so dang dopey. Really the only thing I accomplished all day was to make risotto. 

BUT WHAT RISOTTO. I was planning a butternut squash instant pot risotto, because I still had half the squash in the fridge left over from the chicken thigh meal; but oops, the instant pot pin was still missing. So I was tragically forced to spend a good amount of time slowly stirring ladles of chicken broth into the creamy rice and dreamily stirring it around, smelling the fragrant, buttery clouds of steam, and occasionally tasting it to make sure it was still, uh, I don’t know, I was just eating it. 

Toward the end I threw in a giant mound of freshly-grated parmesan cheese and a big fistful of chopped parsley. You know what, no one complained that it didn’t have butternut squash in it. 

The drumsticks were fine. I just roasted them in melted butter with plenty of Old Bay seasoning, and I set out the leftover corn bread. 

We had to run off and get to an art show that the two high school girls had pieces in. Arty kids! We met the art teacher and warned her about the kid who’s coming next year. The general principle is that, if you’ve met one Fisher kid, you’ve met one Fisher kid, but this is especially true with Irene. 

FRIDAY
Seafood lo mein 

And finally Friday. Man.

I haven’t made lo mein for a while. It’s easy, and Damien and Lena and I and maybe one other person really like it, but no one else does. 

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When I made the chili verde, I got some cup o’ noodle for the kids who wouldn’t want it, so I expect they’ll be returning to that well for this meal. I don’t insist that people eat what I make. They’re welcome to fix themselves something else, as long as they’re not rude about it and don’t make a huge mess. I aim to make foods that most of the family will enjoy for about five days a week, and then one or two meals can be things that people with more cultivated palates will enjoy. I have found that this no-pressure constant exposure to different foods is as good a way as any to introduce kids to a variety of foods, and pretty often, they start venturing into new territory of their own volition, just out of curiosity. But if they don’t (and some kids don’t), that’s okay, too. Because it’s just food. There are plenty of other things to fight about! I do care about food, a lot, but I care more about not making anyone miserable over food. 

Guys, I’m trying so hard to bring this back around to bluebirds, but it’s just not working, so I’ll just say goodbye. 

 

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.)

One pan honey garlic chicken thighs with fall veg

Adapted from Damn Delicious 

Ingredients

  • 18 chicken thighs
  • 2 lbs broccoli in spears
  • 4-5 lbs potatoes in wedges, skin on if you like
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed

sauce:

  • 1/3+ cup honey
  • 1/3+ cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp dijon or yellow mustard
  • 9 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • olive oil for drizzing

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Prepare the sauce. 

  2. In a large, greased sheet pan, spread the potatoes and squash. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. 

  3. Lay the chicken thighs on top of the potatoes and squash. Brush the sauce over the chicken skins. 

  4. Roast the chicken for thirty minutes or more until they are almost cooked.

  5. Add the broccoli, arranging it on top of the potatoes and in between the chicken. Return the pan to the oven and let it finish cooking another 10 -20 minutes so you don't die. The skins should be golden and the broccoli should be a little charred. 

 

Mango ice cream

Ingredients

  • 30 oz (about 3 cups) mango pulp
  • 2 cups heavy or whipping cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 mango, chopped into bits

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, whisk the milk, sugar, and salt until blended.

  2. Add in the mango pulp and cream and stir with a spoon until blended.

  3. Cover and refrigerate two hours.

  4. Stir and transfer to ice cream maker. Follow instructions to make ice cream. (I use a Cuisinart ICE-20P1 and churn it for 30 minutes.)

  5. After ice cream is churned, stir in fresh mango bits, then transfer to a freezer-safe container, cover, and freeze for several hours.

Spicy Chili Verde

You can decrease the heat by seeding the peppers, using fewer habañeros, or substituting some milder pepper. It does get less spicy as it cooks, so don't be alarmed if you make the salsa and it's overwhelming!

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs pork shoulder
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for cooking
  • 2 cups chicken broth or beer (optional)

For the salsa verde:

  • 4 Anaheim peppers
  • 2 habañero peppers
  • 4 jalapeño peppers
  • 4 medium onions
  • 12 tomatillos
  • 1 head garlic, cloves peeled
  • 1 bunch cilantro

For serving:

  • lime wedges
  • sour cream
  • additional cilantro for topping

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler.

  2. Pull the husks and stems off the tomatillos and rinse them. Cut the ends off all the peppers. Grease a large pan and put the tomatillos and peppers on it. Broil five minutes, turn, and broil five minutes more, until they are slightly charred.

  3. Take the pan out and cover the peppers and tomatillos with plastic wrap or tin foil for ten minutes. When they are cool enough to handle, pull the skins off the peppers and tomatillos. At this point, you can remove the seeds from the peppers to decrease the spiciness if you want.

  4. Put the skinned tomatillos and peppers in a food processor or blender with the onions, garlic, and cilantro. Purée.

  5. In a heavy pot, heat some oil. Salt and pepper the pork chunks and brown them in the oil. You will need to do it in shifts so the pork has enough room and browns rather than simmering.

  6. When all the meat is browned, put it all in the pot and add the puréed ingredients.

  7. Simmer at a low heat for at least three hours until the meat is tender. If you want thinner chili verde, you can add chicken broth or beer. At some point, if you don't want the pork in large chunks, press the meat with the back of a spoon to make it collapse into shreds.

  8. Spoon the chili verde into bowls, squeeze some lime juice over the top, and top with sour cream and fresh cilantro.

 

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

 

Suppli (or Arancini)

Breaded, deep fried balls of risotto with a center of melted mozzarella. 
Make the risotto first and leave time to refrigerate the suppli before deep frying. 

Ingredients

  • 12 cups chicken stock
  • 8 + 8 Tbs butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 4 cups raw rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

To make suppli out of the risotto:

  • risotto
  • 1 beaten egg FOR EACH CUP OF RISOTTO
  • bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs
  • plenty of oil for frying
  • mozzarella in one-inch cubes (I use about a pound of cheese per 24 suppli)

Instructions

  1. Makes enough risotto for 24+ suppli the size of goose eggs.


    Set chicken stock to simmer in a pot.

    In a large pan, melt 8 Tbs. of the butter, and cook onions slowly until soft but not brown.

    Stir in raw rice and cook 7-8 minutes or more, stirring, until the grains glisten and are opaque.

    Pour in the wine and boil until wine is absorbed.

    Add 4 cups of simmering stock and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until the liquid is almost absorbed.

    Add 4 more cups of stock and cook until absorbed.

    If the rice is not tender by this point, keep adding cups of stock until it is tender. You really want the rice to expand and become creamy.

    When rice is done, gently stir in the other 8 Tbs of butter and the grated cheese with a fork.

  2. This risotto is wonderful to eat on its own, but if you want to make suppli out of it, read on!

  3. TO MAKE THE SUPPLI:

    Beat the eggs and gently mix them into the risotto.


    Scoop up about 1/4 cup risotto mixture. Press a cube of mozzarella. Top with another 1/4 cup scoop of risotto. Roll and form an egg shape with your hands.


    Roll and coat each risotto ball in bread crumbs and lay in pan to refrigerate. 


    Chill for at least an hour to make the balls hold together when you fry them.


    Put enough oil in pan to submerge the suppli. Heat slowly until it's bubbling nicely, but not so hot that it's smoking. It's the right temperature when little bubbles form on a wooden spoon submerged in the oil. 


    Preheat the oven if you are making a large batch, and put a paper-lined pan in the oven.


    Carefully lower suppli into the oil. Don't crowd them! Just do a few at a time. Let them fry for a few minutes and gently dislodge them from the bottom. Turn once if necessary. They should be golden brown all over. 


    Carefully remove the suppli from the oil with a slotted spoon and eat immediately, or keep them warm in the oven. 

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 5 tsp sesame oil
  • 5 tsp sugar

for the rest

  • 32 oz uncooked noodles
  • sesame oil for cooking
  • add-ins (vegetables sliced thin or chopped small, shrimp, chicken, etc.)
  • 2/3 cup rice vinegar (or mirin, which will make it sweeter)

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

  2. Boil the noodles until slightly underdone. Drain and set aside.

  3. Heat up a pan, add some sesame oil for cooking, and quickly cook your vegetables or whatever add-ins you have chosen.

  4. Add the mirin to the pan and deglaze it.

  5. Add the cooked noodles in, and stir to combine. Add the sauce and stir to combine.

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 323: We are an Epiphany people are we are going to bed

Happy Epiphany! It’s Epiphany, right? I get all my liturgical information through social media, and generally through a lens of people arguing over whether it’s actually [whatever day] or not, and if not, which bishop is to blame for this outrage. The impression I have today is that Benedict XVI is in heaven going, “This Beatific Vision is prettty good, but BOY AM I MAD THAT SOME PEOPLE HAVE ALREADY THROWN OUT THEIR TREES.” This is what’s known as “being an Easter people.”  

What I know for sure is this is the time of year when we just have massive dump trucks of food crashing through the walls of the house and unloading food after food after food, and I am powerless to stop it. And I guess I didn’t do a WFS last week, because I didn’t know what day it was, not for liturgical reasons, but just because I am self-employed and my boss is kind of an idiot. So I’ll just do a highlights reel, and you must imagine crowds of cinnamon buns and leftover egg rolls and fudge and buckeyes and rapidly staling tree cookies pushing in from the wings, clamoring to be eaten.  

TUESDAY after Christmas
Chicken salad with pears, pecans, blue cheese

Absolutely desperate for some kind of vegetable two days after Christmas, I made a salad with mixed greens, grilled chicken, sliced pears, toasted pecans, and crumbled blue cheese, with something called “champagne dressing,” which turned out to taste sort of fruity and violently salty, and not in the fun way.

The rest of the salad was good, though. It really was good to have something green that wasn’t green icing. 

WEDNESAY 
Spaghetti carbonara 

I made it with plenty of butter, flat leaf parsley, and freshly-grated parmesan, and it was fab.

Spotlight on carbonara! I think the eggs cost more than the bacon, alas. Strange times.

I think my recipe plugin should be functional again, so here’s the card:
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THURSDAY
Chicken shawarma

Everybody was mad on Thursday and nobody said anything nice about my shawarma, so humph, I said it to myself. This shawarma was simply delicious.
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Boneless skinless chicken thighs were on sale, which is the easiest, tastiest thing to make oven chicken shawarma with.

Marinate in the morning, dump it in a pan with onions in the evening, and do a little chopping and stirring, and you have a top notch meal.We had all the usuals, olives, tomatoes, cukes, feta cheese, pita, and yogurt sauce.

Briefly considered making homemade pita or fried eggplant, but I’m toooooo tired. 

SATURDAY, New Year’s Eve
Lamb, sushi, pork dumplings

I bought a boneless leg of lamb back when it was $4.99 a pound a few months ago, and Damien slow roasted it all day until it was tender and lovely. We have tried more laborious recipes, but this very simple one always turns out the most toothsome.
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Turns out it’s scrumptious with a little dab of wasabi. Boo, I didn’t get any pictures. Too busy eating lamb. 

My contribution was something new this year: Pork dumplings. I followed this recipe for the filling. I had my doubts about a Chinese recipe by someone named Emma Christensen, but man, it was perfect. It only has a few ingredients — ground pork, Napa cabbage, kosher salt, soy sauce, scallions, cilantro, fresh ginger, sesame oil, and eggs — and it’s easy. You shred the cabbage, sprinkle it with salt, and then squeeze it to get the moisture out, and the mix it together with everything else. 

This was my first time using my dumpling press. You just put the wrapper on, plop a heaping tablespoon of filling on it, wet half the wrapper edge, and close the press firmly. 

Very quickly fifty dumplings took shape!

When it was time to eat, I set my bamboo steamer in a pan of gently boiling water and steamed 8-10 dumplings at a time for ten minutes.

It is a double-decker steamer, and you have to line the inside trays with something so the dumplings don’t stick to the bamboo. At first I tried coffee filters with steam holes poked in them, because they were the perfect size, but they still stuck, so I used parchment paper with steam holes, and that worked perfectly, and I used the same paper for all the batches. 

They were just scrumptious. The perfect blend of sharp and savory and gingery with a tiny bit of crunch from the cabbage.  I had some with some jarred sauce, but they were wonderful on their own. Just delighted to have this in my repertoire. 

I made a 2.5X batch of the filling, because that’s how much pork I had, and I ended up only using half of it before I ran out of wrappers; so I froze the left over, and we shall have dumplings again! You can also fry them or boil them. 

New Year’s Eve is also . . . .SHUSHI DAY. Clara had a friend over and Moe came over and we had a lovely time. I made a giant bowl of sweet, sticky sushi rice.

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I sprang for a couple sacks of really good short-grain rice

rinsed it a propitious number of times and cooked it in the Instant Pot, and then the next part takes three people: One to dump the rice into a bowl, one to slowly add the sauce and fold it into the rice without mushing it, and one to fan it vigorously so it dries. 

I have no idea if this really makes a difference for how the rice turns out, but it’s part of the tradition at this point.

Then we also had . . . 

raw tuna (frozen at sea and sliced thin)
cooked shrimp
fake crab legs
coconut shrimp
red roe 
pickled ginger
cucumber
avocado
mango
sesame seeds
furikake
and also 
duck sauce
hot mustard
wasabi
soy sauce
and then honestly just whatever asian-looking bottles I could find in the fridge

The kids gave me lots of little bowls and ramekins for Christmas, because that’s what I like, so had fun arranging things prettily. 

This is a really neat way to set up a party, because it encourages people to keep circulating and trying new combinations of things.

And we had fun! Everyone at plenty of food, and we had store-bought cheesecake and cream pies, and we watched Duck Soup and toasted the new year. Phew. 

SUNDAY
Calzones, tiramisu

Sunday was Sophia’s birthday, and she requested calzones and tiramisu, which meant an easy supper for me
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and a rather more time consuming dessert for Damien to make. Here is the recipe he uses. I never seem to get a good photo of tiramisu, but it is luscious and wonderful. 

MONDAY
Taco Bell

No bones day. We just got a bunch of tacos. 

TUESDAY
Italian meatloaf, french bread

New recipe! It was a chilly, drizzly, grey day and the recipe email from Jim at Sip and Feast featured this very cozy-looking meatloaf smothered in mushrooms and crushed tomatoes, and I knew what I had to do. It’s just a regular meatloaf, with a few elevated ingredients like plenty of freshly-grated parmesan, fresh parsley, and minced garlic, and you drench it in dry red wine and surround it with crushed tomatoes. Put it in the oven to cook and start frying up a generous bunch of mushrooms and onions in olive oil with a little salt, and then add those to the meatloaf, and let it finish cooking.

I mean, how could it. not be good. It was so good.  Hands down the best, happiest meatloaf I’ve ever had. (I used 5.5 pounds of meat and made two loaves, so it took closer to an hour and a half to cook.)

I had the opposite of the zoomies, and so Damien shopped for me and Clara picked up the kids for me, leaving me at home to putter around the kitchen with my meatloaf, and I thought how nice it would be to have some fresh bread to sop up all that lovely mushroom and tomato sauce.

So I used my trusty french bread recipe

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and turned out four pretty, golden loaves.

Every time I make french bread, I’m grateful and astonished that I happened to stumble upon some kind of success accidentally. But I have to admit that this happens every time I make bread, and if it were anyone else, I would conclude that this means this is, you know, a person who knows how to make french bread. Not me, though. I’m a moron who gets lucky every time. But who cares, as long as there’s squishy hot bread! Bread now, self-worth later. 

WEDNESDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, fruit salad

Wednesday I finally finally went shopping for the week, and let me tell you, it was again a no-bones day. We had some grilled ham and cheese and a fruit salad made of pineapple, grapes, blueberries, and kiwi, which is a special recipe made of only the most carefully selected elements that were on sale at Aldi.

Then I went to lie down for a minute and suddenly it was nine o’clock and someone had drooled on my face (me). So I got up and watched a little TV and then went back to bed, because I am an easter people and I am going to bed. 

THURSDAY
Chicken burgers, chips

Nothin to report. Well, except that I had an apple instead of chips [insert medal].

FRIDAY
Fish tacos

Yeah! It’s been a while. Got some batter fried fish fillets, tortillas, avocados, cabbage, limes, sour cream, and salsa. I also grabbed a bag of frozen shrimp I could sauté up with a little lime juice or whatever, but I may just pretend I forgot about it by the time dinner rolls around. 

I’m vaguely considering putting together some kind of king cake, but I usually palm that off on Clara and I don’t have any experience with it. Anyone have a very simple recipe? I have all the normal staples in the house. 

Spaghetti carbonara

An easy, delicious meal.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs bacon
  • 3 lbs spaghetti
  • 1 to 1-1/2 sticks butter
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • lots of pepper
  • 6-8 oz grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon until it is crisp. Drain and break it into pieces.

  2. Boil the spaghetti in salted water until al dente. If you like, add some bacon grease to the boiling water.

  3. Drain the spaghetti and return it to the pot. Add the butter, pieces of bacon, parmesan cheese, and pepper and mix it up until the butter is melted.

  4. Add the raw beaten egg and mix it quickly until the spaghetti is coated. Serve immediately.

 

Chicken shawarma

Ingredients

  • 8 lbs boned, skinned chicken thighs
  • 4-5 red onions
  • 1.5 cups lemon juice
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 entire head garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Mix marinade ingredients together, then add chicken. Put in ziplock bag and let marinate several hours or overnight.

  2. Preheat the oven to 425.

  3. Grease a shallow pan. Take the chicken out of the marinade and spread it in a single layer on the pan, and top with the onions (sliced or quartered). Cook for 45 minutes or more. 

  4. Chop up the chicken a bit, if you like, and finish cooking it so it crisps up a bit more.

  5. Serve chicken and onions with pita bread triangles, cucumbers, tomatoes, assorted olives, feta cheese, fresh parsley, pomegranates or grapes, fried eggplant, and yogurt sauce.

 

Tom Nichols' Grandmother's Leg of Lamb

Ingredients

  • boneless leg of lamb
  • olive oil
  • garlic powder
  • garlic salt
  • oregano

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325.

  2. Slash the meat several times, about an inch deep.

  3. Fill the cuts with plenty of garlic powder.

  4. Slather olive oil all over the meat.

  5. Crust it with garlic salt. Sprinkle with all the oregano you own.

  6. Cover meat loosely with tinfoil and cook three hours. Uncover and cook for another 30 minutes.

 

Sushi rice

I use my Instant Pot to get well-cooked rice, and I enlist a second person to help me with the second part. If you have a small child with a fan, that's ideal.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups raw sushi rice
  • 1 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp salt

Instructions

  1. Rinse the rice thoroughly and cook it.

  2. In a saucepan, combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt, and cook, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved.

  3. Put the rice in a large bowl. Slowly pour the vinegar mixture over it while using a wooden spoon or paddle to fold or divide up the cooked rice to distribute the vinegar mixture throughout. You don't want the rice to get gummy or too sticky, so keep it moving, but be careful not to mash it. I enlist a child to stand there fanning it to dry it out as I incorporate the vinegar. Cover the rice until you're ready to use it.

Calzones

This is the basic recipe for cheese calzones. You can add whatever you'd like, just like with pizza. Warm up some marinara sauce and serve it on the side for dipping. 

Servings 12 calzones

Ingredients

  • 3 balls pizza dough
  • 32 oz ricotta
  • 3-4 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup parmesan
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-2 egg yolks for brushing on top
  • any extra fillings you like: pepperoni, olives, sausage, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. 

  2. Mix together filling ingredients. 

  3. Cut each ball of dough into fourths. Roll each piece into a circle about the size of a dinner plate. 

  4. Put a 1/2 cup or so of filling into the middle of each circle of dough circle. (You can add other things in at this point - pepperoni, olives, etc. - if you haven't already added them to the filling) Fold the dough circle in half and pinch the edges together tightly to make a wedge-shaped calzone. 

  5. Press lightly on the calzone to squeeze the cheese down to the ends. 

  6. Mix the egg yolks up with a little water and brush the egg wash over the top of the calzones. 

  7. Grease and flour a large pan (or use corn meal or bread crumbs instead of flour). Lay the calzones on the pan, leaving some room for them to expand a bit. 

  8. Bake about 18 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Serve with hot marinara sauce for dipping.  

 

French bread

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

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 226: In which we dedicate an entire day to dumplings and do not regret it

Hello, I have bronchitis. It’s a pretty mild case, but I’m milking it for all it’s worth, so let’s go ahead and say that’s why I haven’t written anything all week. And my car started leaking gas and the headlights both went out, which, you know, me too. So poor Damien has been doing all the driving as well as all his own work. It has not been a good week. 

We did cook, though! A few nice meals this week. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Pork spiedies, cole slaw, chips

Here you can witness my complete disregard for cuts of meat. I got two hunks of pork and I don’t even know what they were, except that they were definitely two very different cuts. It always works out fine. This is actually the most important part of enjoying your own cooking: Just not caring that much. I guess it works for other people’s cooking, too. If I had to come up with a motto, it would be: Just eat it, okay? 

Most of the wild mint has survived the cold weather, so I added plenty to this nice spiedie marinade, which is worth the slight hassle, and marinated the meat for several hours. . 

Jump to Recipe

Then I spread the pork in pans with mushrooms and red onion wedges and broiled it until it had a little char.

We ate it on sandwich rolls with mayonnaise, and it was tasty. I like this combination of meat, onion, and mushroom, because they all end up getting cooked to the right point at the same time. Juicy, tender meat, crunchy onions, and the mushrooms grabbed up so much flavor. 

There was leftover cabbage from last week’s fish tacos, so I made a simple cole slaw, and we had chips. 

SUNDAY
Pork dumplings, hot and sour soup, white rice, sesame broccoli

Sunday, we expected (but didn’t quite manage) to be home all day, so we planned a rather elaborate meal. I thought it was delicious, but definitely a learning process. 

I made the pork filling and sauce for the dumplings ahead of time, and then Damien and I experimented with different methods of forming the dumplings. I used this recipe.

We ended up with about eighty, I think.

The dough is not very pliable, but as long as you don’t overstuff them, they hold together well enough with a dab of water and a pinch. I ended up putting a teaspoon of filling in the center, folding it corner-to-corner, and then making crimps along the edge. 

When we had a good supply, Damien started cooking them. The recipe calls for frying them in oil on both sides and then adding water to steam them. 

This resulted in a gluey mess, and it was not a cooking method conducive to many batches. Some of the dumplings held together, but many of them got both slobbery and burnt. So we decided, hey, it’s our food, we can do what we want. So he just fried the rest and put them in the oven for a bit, to make sure they were fully cooked, and they were absolutely delicious that way.

We may have overcooked them a bit, because we’re a little paranoid about undercooked pork, but they were so nice. Crunchy and crisp on the outside, wonderfully savory inside, and the dipping sauce was perfect.

I won’t change a thing about the filling ingredients. It tasted exactly like what they serve at our favorite restaurants. I considered making handmade wrappers, but luckily Damien hunted down some readymade wonton wraps at the Coop. 

Next time, we will probably deep fry them, though, so they get more evenly cooked. There will be a next time! I bought a little dumpling press (at 3:30 a.m., perfectly normal) and that should speed up the assembly next time. 

The soup was another story. I used this recipe from Damn Delicious. It was SO so salty. Next time I will use low sodium soy sauce (which the recipe did call for, and I ignored!), and probably less of it. It also never took on that slightly — what’s a nice word for slimy? — consistency that you look for, but was just brothy. I just don’t ever have luck thickening things, and that’s a fact. 

But I loved everything else about it. It was sour and tangy and rich and full of weird stuff, shiitake mushrooms, firm tofu, bamboo shoots, and those wonderful silky egg strands suspended all through it. If you have a cold, a bowl of this will clear out your head pretty quick.

All in all, a wonderful meal.

We had vanilla bean ice cream and fortune cookies for dessert. I was too wiped out to cut up the pineapples I bought. 

I ended up eating the soup for lunch for three days and then regretfully getting rid of the rest. I made way, way too much of it, and it was just time. Next time, I’ll make something a little more accessible, like won ton soup, so more people will eat it! But I don’t regret making something that I really wanted to eat myself.  

Oh, I did save out the leftover dumpling wraps, slice them thin, and fry them up in hot sesame oil, and the kids absolutely loved them. So light and crunchy.

We also had roasted sesame broccoli, but we ran out of oven space and had to eat it for a second course. Here’s my simple roast sesame broccoli recipe.

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Always popular.

MONDAY
Hamburgers

Back to basics! We may have had a vegetable, but I doubt it. 

TUESDAY
Chicken burgers

I feel like I did something to fancy these up a bit, but there’s no photographic evidence, so probably we just had chicken burgers.

WEDNESDAY
Roast beef sandwiches

Chuck roast was $1.99 a pound, so I scooped up three nice big ones. I slathered them with olive oil and absolutely smothered them with a combination of kosher salt, ground pepper, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning. Then I put them in a low oven, I think maybe 250, for about an hour and a half. And that’s it. It would have been swell with some overnight marinating or fresh herbs or whatever, but this was great. 

My policy is to cook it rare, and if the little cretins want to throw it in the microwave, they can.

I sliced it as thinly as I could and then poured the drippings over it.

Moist and flavorful. We had it on kaiser rolls with mayo, tomatoes, and muenster cheese. I was too impatient to toast it and melt the cheese.

And onion rings from frozen. I do love onion rings.

THURSDAY
Pizza

I couldn’t find pepperoni in either supermarket, so all I got was black olives, and then mooched around for whatever else I could find for toppings. I ended up with one plain cheese pizza, one olive, one olive and ricotta cheese, one ricotta cheese, red onion, fresh garlic, and fresh basil

and one, ahem, ricotta, tomato, garlic, hot pepper flakes, and broccoli.

The broccoli isn’t quite what I was hunting for. I think what I really want is an eggplant pizza. What I really want is to be lost and freezing cold from a sudden drenching rain in Rome, and to duck into a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant and order a piping hot eggplant calzone, and have it be the best thing I’ve ever experienced with my mortal flesh. But failing that, I may try eggplant pizza next time. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese.

Jump to Recipe

We certainly have a lot of cheese in this house. We certainly do. 

Okay, that’s it! Boy, now I’m thinking about dumplings again. Soon, my pretties. Soon. 

pork spiedies (can use marinade for shish kebob)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup veg or olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup red or white wine vinegar
  • 4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4-5 lbs boneless pork, cubed
  • peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, cut into chunks

Instructions

  1. Mix together all marinade ingredients. 

    Mix up with cubed pork, cover, and marinate for several hours or overnight. 

    Best cooked over hot coals on the grill on skewers with vegetables. Can also spread in a shallow pan with veg and broil under a hot broiler.

    Serve in sandwiches or with rice. 

 

Sesame broccoli

Ingredients

  • broccoli spears
  • sesame seeds
  • sesame oil
  • soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat broiler to high.

    Toss broccoli spears with sesame oil. 

    Spread in shallow pan. Drizzle with soy sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds

    Broil for six minutes or longer, until broccoli is slightly charred. 

 

5 from 1 vote
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Baked macaroni and cheese

This is a vague recipe. You can change the proportions of the ingredients to make it thicker or thinner, more or less cheesy. I don't care!

Servings 12