Happy Monday! Don’t worry, it’s Monday, not Friday! I just didn’t get to finish this last week, so I’m doing it now.
Here’s what we had last week:
Chicken soup with matzoh balls, challah, Earl Grey Tea Cake
Saturday we had a little meal for Clara’s birthday: chicken soup with matzoh balls, and challah for dinner. Here’s my challah recipe:Jump to Recipe
I once again attempted to do a four-strand braid. Last time I followed a video, and that didn’t go well (I cried), so this time I used a pictorial step-by-step guide, and I still cried. I fervently believe that if you took a CAT scan of my brain, there would just be a little missing chunk for the part for what to do when something crosses over something else. That is where everything goes haywire, whether I’m braiding or dancing or installing a light fixture or anything. As soon as one thing crosses over another thing, I just start to cry and I don’t know what to do.
But I’m an adult, and I quickly remembered it’s just bread, so I can just smoosh it together and it doesn’t matter. And I was right!
The chicken soup was good, if not terribly photogenic.
and the matzoh balls turned out fluffy! I’m going to cling to that little victory, because of what happened with the cake.
Clara asked for an Earl Gray tea cake, which I have made before using this recipe from this recipe from Liv For Cake, and it was a tremendous pain in the pants. So I looked around for a different recipe, and found one that seemed a little simpler, although it was intended for actual tea cakes — not only made with tea, but cut up into little cakes, glazed, and served with tea. The recipe is from Taste Made, and I made the glaze that goes with it, and also the vanilla bean buttercream frosting from the previous recipe.
So, now, in my defense, at this point, I was making soup, bread, cake, glaze, and frosting all at the same time, and I was about a week into a new migraine medication that quite magically made my headaches much worse and also gave me constant nausea. So when I got to the point where the frosting recipe said to whisk the egg whites and sugar over a double boiler, I was like
so, I whisked the eggs and sugar over the soup.
and you know what, this did not work great.
Anyway, I don’t know what the hell else I did wrong, but that cake turned out so dense. It was absolutely GUMMY. It was CLAGGY. It was STODGY. It was all the worst things Prue could say about a cake.
But, not content with a cake that tasted weird, I thought I would go ahead and decorate it in a horrendous way as well. So I thought, Hey, Clara really used to like that Barbie in The Princess and the Pauper movie with Martin Short as the villain Preminger. So I will make a Preminger cake! AS ONE DOES.
If you’re not familiar, many of these animated Barbie movies are actually worth watching, and some of them have really good voice actors. Here’s the “How Can I Refuse” number:
annnd here’s the cake:
I . . . an attempt was made. She laughed. Hey, did I tell you how fluffy my matzoh balls were?
Grilled ham and cheese, pickles, chips
Sunday I still hadn’t done my shopping, but was undeniably felled with not-Covid-but-some-fwiggin-thing, and decided to do Instacart. We had grilled ham and cheese sandwiches on sourdough bread with cute little pickles on the side, and chips.
Except I had an apple instead of chips, because I looked up the serving size and it was something like seven chips, and that’s just offensive. Might as well have a fwiggin apple.
Monday I forget what happened, but Damien assessed my general situation and decided that sometimes being the spiritual head of the family means insisting that we order pizza. Bless.
Spicy chicken sandwiches with peppers; grapes, cucumbers
Tuesday I pulled some chicken breasts out of the freezer and we had these lovely sandwiches from Sip and Feast that I adore. They’re even better with boneless chicken thighs, but still pretty darn good with breast sliced in half lengthwise.
Look, if nobody else in your life is willing to say that sometimes American cheese is the best cheese for the job, I’ll say it. I’ll be that person for you.
I cooked the peppers in the same pan that the chicken had been in
and once the cheese was melted, we piled up them sandwiches.
So it’s a nice soft, sweet brioche buns, BBQ sauce, chicken coated in cajun seasoning and sauteed slowly with American cheese melted on top, some slightly charred shishito peppers, red onion rings, and more BBQ sauce.
For sides I just served grapes and cucumbers, which is a little weird but whatcha gonna do.
This sandwich is just excellent. I was afraid I wouldn’t like it as much the second time (you know how sometimes you’re just dazzled by a new recipe, and then you make it again and it turns out you were just having a nice day in general, and that food itself wasn’t that great?), but I DID. It’s yummy and everyone liked it.
Spicy penne with butternut squash, mozzarella, and spinach; garlic bread
Wednesday I was still feeling extremely punk, but at this point I was mad about being sick, so I decided to . . . show them [shakes fist migrainously at destiny] and try a New York Times recipe.
This is not uhhhh best practice. It was a bad idea. It was an okay recipe, and I’m already familiar with how much work it is to process butternut squash, so I wasn’t taken aback by that as so many of the commenters were; but it was still kind of a lot of work and just didn’t amount to much. I don’t know. I even got the nice fresh mozzarella, and I had fresh spinach and fresh jalapeños and a butternut squash from my garden, and it just tasted kind of meh.
Oh, here is the recipe, because of course the NYT one is paywalled. And here is a picture of me with my butternut squash. It’s the very first one I picked from my garden, and this is the first year I have grown squash, so I wanted to document it. Turns out it’s kind of hard for a decent Christian lady to take a picture of herself holding a butternut squash in a way that won’t get you in trouble with Tito Edwards.
Anyway the recipe started off well enough, cooking the squash in olive oil with cumin and red pepper flakes.
I prepped the heck out of all the other ingredients, so I could just throw it together when I got home.
I even had enough time to take the leftover challah, slice it up, and make garlic bread
and you know, there’s a reason people don’t do that. It was okay, just not really a texture you necessarily want with garlic bread.
The whole meal was okay. I kept thinking maybe if the pasta had crumbled sausage in it. I don’t know. I doubt I’ll make it again. It’s now in my head as a bad, sad dish, so I probably won’t go back to it. You may have other results.
On Thursday evening we were talking about apple picking, and how that late spring frost killed off so many apple blossoms, lots of local orchards aren’t even offering PYU apples this year. Our terrible little tree did manage to put out some terrible apples, though, and I realized I was planning to cook pork the next day, so we decided to go ahead and pick the apples that evening.
I suppose if I ever did even one single thing to take care of this tree, it might make better apples, but as it is, the dog and the ducks love the miserable little fruits it produces, and we have our annual little ritual of picking apples and searching for the foley mill, so it serves its purpose. I promised the kids I wouldn’t make the applesauce until they got home from school the next day.
Roast pork ribs, crabapple sauce, garlic mashed potatoes
The pork ribs were just heavily seasoned with salt and pepper and roasted under a hot broiler, and the mashed potatoes were just mashed potatoes with several cloves of garlic thrown into the water and then mashed along with it, with butter and milk.
The apples were really especially terrible this year.
A lot of them were just rotten and had to be thrown out, but I ended up with a few dozen that were misshapen but basically sound
so I just cut them in half and put them in a stock pot with a little water at the bottom, covered it loosely, and set it to simmer. You’re supposed to let it go for a few hours so the apples can really collapse into mush, but I didn’t have enough time, so we ended up kind of violently forcing the mostly-cooked apples through the foley mill
and then I threw in some butter and cinnamon, and tasted it, and decided that hmm, this was a year to add some sugar.
Some years, our homemade applesauce is a lovely, dusky rose color, and it’s fragrant and cozy and wonderful, with a faint, pleasantly smoky taste that seems to come from this particular tree. Some years it doesn’t need any sweetening, and still has a beautiful nectary flavor.
This year’s applesauce was yellowish brown and it tasted like paste.
But the kids were delighted anyway, probably because of the little red hen factor, so I didn’t clue them in that it was very bad applesauce indeed. And that’s how you do that!
Shrimp and fish lo mein
Friday I was very pleased with myself, because not only did supper turn out really good, but I used lots of leftovers successfully. I made my normal lo mein recipeJump to Recipe
starting with fresh ginger and garlic, and then I added some red onions I found in the fridge, then I threw in some shrimp and cut-up pieces of tilapia (I had two filets in the freezer that I didn’t cook a couple of weeks ago); then I chopped up some leftover shishito peppers (I put them in late because they were already cooked, and just needed heating), and then after I added the noodles and sauce, I threw some leftover Italian parsley on top.
Hot damn, it was delicious.
The shrimp and fish weren’t overcooked and neither were the noodles, the veg were crunchy, the sauce wasn’t too sweet, and the ginger and the garlic were nice and sharp, and the fresh parsley really put it over the top. I was happy to end on a high note, because it’s been kind of a sucky week, and good lo mein is happy food.
Okay, that’s it! Don’t forget what I told you, about the thing!
(I’m just kidding, I didn’t tell you anything. I don’t know anything. Who wants some applesauce? We have leftover.)
Challah (braided bread)
- 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
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.
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.
(If you're kneading by hand, knead until it feels soft and giving. It will take quite a lot of kneading!)
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.
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.
Cover again and let rise again for at least an hour. Preheat the oven to 350.
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.
Bake 25 minutes or more until the loaf is a deep golden color.
basic lo mein
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)
Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.
Boil the noodles until slightly underdone. Drain and set aside.
Heat up a pan, add some sesame oil for cooking, and quickly cook your vegetables or whatever add-ins you have chosen.
Add the mirin to the pan and deglaze it.
Add the cooked noodles in, and stir to combine. Add the sauce and stir to combine.
I’ve been bowing, I’ve been scraping
I’ve been lying like a rug
And for ten long years I’ve had to pay my dues
But today I am escaping
For the last gold has been dug
It was waiting there, so how could I refuse?
I’m returning home a hero
Who’s discovered mighty wealth
And what better husband could a princess choose?
I’m the suitor who will suit her
Bring the kingdom back to health
And I’ll wear the crown, for how could I refuse?
Raise every glass and rouse every cheer
Praise that the reign of Preminger is here
Master in charge of all that I see
All hail me
And by marrying the princess
I get all that I desire
Like a moat, an ermine coat and palace views
Even though she treats me coldly
It’s a sign of inner fire
For inside she’s thinking “How can I refuse?”
Right, except for this one little problem, boss
Prince Boss to you!
Right, the queen decided to marry her off to the King of Dulcinea next week
What? Making a decision without me? Who does she think she is?
Uh, the Queen?
You simpering simpleton!
Well, she is the Queen. She’s got a crown and a scepter and sits in her big fancy chair and always—
It’s a temporary setback
It’s a momentary lapse
But conveniently my ego doesn’t bruise
And the moment that I get back
I will show them who’s the boss
You can bet your bullion there’ll be no “I do’s”
Yes, suppose the girl goes missing
So the king says “Au revoir”
Then I find her, bring her back and make the news
Then the queen will be so grateful
That she’ll pledge the heir to moi
And I’ll humbly tell her “How can I refuse?”
When our ceremony’s over
I’ll arise and take the throne
And that nitwit Anneliese can kiss my shoes
For the kingdom and the castle
Will be mine and mine alone
If the crown should fit, then how can I refuse?
[PREMINGER, NACK & NICK]
So get ready with the roses (So get ready with the roses)
And stand by with the champagne (And stand by with the champagne)
When you’ve got a brilliant plan you never lose (When you’ve got a brilliant plan you never lose)
Yes, before this chapter closes (Yes, before this chapter closes)
I’ll be big as Charlemagne (He’ll be big as Charlemagne)
It’s a thankless job but how can I refuse? (It’s a thankless job but how can he refuse?)
How can I refuse? (How can he refuse?)