Area Woman Pinning An Awful Lot On That One Run

Area woman Simcha Fisher rebounded from her Christmas and New Year’s slump with a brisk one-mile run this week.

“It’s so good to get moving again,” Fisher said, toweling off her neck with a mitten. “Whew, it’s been too long!” Fisher didn’t say so out loud, but she privately believed her hips had actually already gotten a little bit smaller even in that one run, probably because the fat was just temporary silly holiday fat, and not actual regular fat.

All through December, Fisher had allowed countless phalanxes of cookies and cake, various smoked meats and soft cheeses, sugared nuts, candied fruit, and cream-filled alcoholic beverages to parade down her gullet like a conquering army marching down the streets of an occupied city. But she did go for that one run, and is going to run some more at some point soon, so.

“It’s actually a huge relief to be back in the routine of working out again,” Fisher continued, mentally scoffing at her former bad habits that may have crept up a bit over the course of the last few weeks, during which her only physical activities were cooking, baking, shopping for more food, and cutting mammoth wedges off panettone sweet bread, which is just bread, and not really cake.

Fisher slenderly untied her virtuous running shoes, saying, “I’m going to take tomorrow off and then bump it up to two miles the next day.” She laughed quietly to herself as her abdomen bulged over the waist of her leggings.

“That belly doesn’t even bother me, because I know I’m already working on it,” she said. “I even started running again!” She then rolled her eyes derisively some of those poor suckers who were just starting out at the gym this year, and who were actually fat, instead of just temporarily silly fat.

Fisher than sat on a stool and ate some quick granola, just a little bit to keep the energy up, and then, ooh, there is some of that smoked gouda left, while making her schedule for the coming week. She noted that January was going to be really busy, and it would be hard to find time to get to the gym.

“Well, I’ll fit it in when I can,” she said. “It just feels so good to be active again.”

Actually, that run was last week.

 

***

Dancing Venus by Nina Paley

Making poor people pray

Many years ago, despite hard work, thrift, and a small family, we were poor.  As in no-heat-no-car-no-food poor.  And so I started traveling to a church which hosted weekly grocery nights, when needy people could browse over tables of expired dry goods, wilted produce, and drippy ice cream at cut-rate prices.  I remember the thrill of putting a true luxury, a box of crackers, into my bag, and feverishly calculating how many meals I could squeeze out of a single chicken breast.

That part of it was great.  But the part I didn’t like was in the beginning:  Before they opened the auditorium, they made us pray.

I hated that part.

Let me explain.  I pray.  I did pray at the time, I will always pray, and I will always be in favor of people praying, and in favor of encouraging other people to pray and to become closer to God.

But I am vehemently opposed to insisting that people suddenly start praying aloud, or giving intimate details about their spiritual life to a stranger, just because they happen to be vulnerable or in need.  Too many Christian ministries, including food pantries, crisis pregnancy centers, and homeless shelters, include mandatory prayer in their good works, and I think it ought to stop.

Well!  You may say.  Those who are vulnerable or in need are exactly the ones who need to hear about God!  Should we leave these poor souls in their misery?  Man does not live by bread alone.  Should we feed only the bodies of those in need, but leave their souls hungry?

Also:  what, should we be ashamed of our faith?  Should we hide our light under a bushel, cover over the name of Christ like those weasly Georgetown Jesuits?

The Good News is never out of place or inappropriate.  It’s always a good time to pray, and anyone who suggests otherwise is denying our Lord.

Okay, then.  How come you never insist that rich people pray?  When’s the last time you made it very clear to someone in a nice suit that he needs to start being thankful, out loud, right this minute?  Why is this on-command spirituality only standard practice for a guest who’s already on the ropes?

I know these good Christian folks had kind intentions.  They meant it like this:  we have a chance to do a corporal work of mercy—and while they’re here, we have the chance to share his glorious Good News with people.  So let’s be like the early Christians—let’s pray!  That’s all they meant.  And I was truly grateful for the food, and for the time they volunteered.

But let me tell you what messages I, as a bona fide wretched poor person, actually received:

1.  “We can see that you’re poor because of some spiritual failing, so let’s take care of that.”

2.  “Don’t you forget for a moment that we’re doing you a favor.  So before you get your dented box of Special K, let me see you bow your head.”

Now, there may have been someone at that grocery night who was smitten to the core—who needed to be there, needed to be forced to pray.  Maybe his life was changed forever by those mandatory prayers.

But I was there.  I guarantee you that thirty more people in that auditorium learned to connect the name of God with humiliation and intrusion.

Being poor means you never have a choice in anything.  Even while you’re grateful for bags of free clothes, boxes of food, and rides from volunteers, never having a choice about what to wear, what to eat, or when to come and go—it stings.  It makes you feel like crap.  Whether you’re poor because of bad luck and tough circumstances, or because of laziness and stupidity, being poor doesn’t make you sub-human.  It shouldn’t give other people an excuse to treat you like a child, even if they’re helping you.

So here is my suggestion to people who, God bless them, want to help the poor, and want to evangelize at the same time:  be quiet.  Put up lots of crosses and statues and Bible verses on the wall, wear T-shirts and medals—go nuts.  But don’t say a word, unless someone asks.  At the very most, extend an invitation:  “We are available to tell you about our faith—just let us know!” or “Don’t forget to check out our lending library, if you’re wondering why we’re here.”  Poor isn’t the same as stupid:  people notice when help always comes from someone who believes in God.

So please, never require someone to have a spiritual experience in exchange for your help.  The first thing about personal relationship, with God or with anyone else?  It’s not a quid pro quo.  It’s never mandatory.

***
Photo: Steven Depolo via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Feeding time in the Father’s nest

Sometimes we’ve developed such a strong taste for unhealthy, unnatural foods that good, plain ingredients taste bland and pointless to us. We have to retrain our palates before we can enjoy or even tolerate the things our tongues were designed to delight in.

And the same is true for the words of God. If the Gospel sounds dull, if the laws of God seem stodgy and arbitrary, if prayer always feels tiresome — well, there could be many reasons for this, but one common reason is that maybe you’ve ruined your spiritual palate by training it only to respond to cheap thrills and passing pleasures. Time to retrain.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Image: Robert Lynch via Public Domain Pictures

What’s for supper? Vol, 77: Fish tacos are real, man.

In which we have an awful lot of cake for the home stretch of Lent.

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and pepper jack cheese sandwiches, roast asparagus with butter and lemon

I’m trying to wean the family off expecting some kind of potato-based side dish with every meal. That’s one Saturday under our belts. No one has died of chip deficiency, yet.

***

SUNDAY
Just pretty much all the food in the world

Sunday, we had two confirmations

and a birthday

The confirmandi requested red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and tiramisu, respectively, and the birthday girl asked for ice cream sodas for her special dessert.
I like this picture because you can see everyone spring into action when I put the food out:


Damien made the tiramisu with this excellent recipe the night before, and added chocolate shavings right before serving. This time, I bought him ladyfingers fresh from the bakery, and guess what? They sop up a lot more rum than stale, pre-packaged ladyfingers. The party got pretty hot for a while there.

The red velvet cake was from a box. Actually, because I don’t know my colors yet, it turned out to be one box of red velvet cake and one box of yellow cake; so I swirled them together and attempted to pass it off as a flame pattern for the descent of the Holy Spirit or something.

I used this basic recipe for cream cheese frosting.

So we had cake and fruit salad and fruit punch and cookies and cheese and crackers at the reception after the confirmation, then went home and had pizzas, veggies and hummus, cake with strawberries and cream cheese frosting and tiramisu for lunch, and then for dinner, cheeseburgers and chips, and ice cream sodas for dessert.

***

MONDAY
Fish tacos, corn chips

For reasons I don’t fully understand, several of the children felt unwell on Monday and stayed home from school. Something about their stomachs not feeling great.

They recovered in time for dinner.

I’ve heard a lot of grousing about how there is no such thing as fish tacos, or fish tacos aren’t a thing. But (a) they are delicious and (b) here is a picture, so I guess we’ll keep eating them.

Just regular old cheapo fish sticks, with nice, crunchy shredded cabbage, sliced avocados, salsa, cilantro, sour cream, and a personal lime on a tortilla. Best imaginary meal ever.

***

TUESDAY
Gochujang bulgoki, white rice, nori

Normally, I prep this dish the night before, so it can marinate overnight. But I forgot, and made it in the morning, and it was still great by evening. I also grated the carrots, since I didn’t feel like cutting matchsticks, and that was great, too. I sliced a hunk of pork thin and mixed it up with the carrots and a couple of sliced onions, along with a triple recipe of this sauce:

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

So then you let it marinate as long as you can, and then fry it up in a little oil while the rice is cooking.
It’s a wonderful meal, very warming and peppy. You can, no, you must use the nori (or Romaine lettuce) to scoop up little bundles of meat and rice for gobbling purposes.

(This is an old picture. We ate zero string beans.)

That reminds me, time to order some more gochujang. It’s very handy to have around. Try it with tuna instead of mayo. Ha cha cha!

***

WEDNESDAY
Quesadillas, raw veggies

I think this was the day we suddenly remembered we hadn’t brought in a school treat for the aforementioned birthday kid. Her teacher requests treats of fruit or veggies, and that’s fine, that’s fine, it’s not communist or anything. We subverted it by making these alarming little disembodied apple grins with peanut butter and mini marshmallows.

They were well-received.

***

THURSDAY
Pepperoncini beef sandwiches, potato puffs, salad, German chocolate cake

Another birthday! My oldest requested this wonderfully easy meal:  Throw a chuck roast in a slow cooker with a jar of pepperoncini with the tops cut off and the juice, and off you go.

At 11 a.m., I suddenly remembered to pull the meat out of the freezer. So this situation, along with the risotto situation, is where the Instant Pot really shines: In less than two hours, a rock-hard roast was cooked all the way through. It actually finished cooking too soon, so I kept it on “keep warm” for several hours, and ended up overcooking it. Oops. Still yummy.

We sliced it up and served it on rolls with pepper jack cheese and horseradish sauce.

I’m counting on your Friday meat deprivation to make this horrible cell phone picture look good.

Birthday girl also had her heart set on a German chocolate cake. Know why it’s called that? Because the guy who invented it was named “German.” Now you know something! This cake is a tremendous pain in the neck, but so good. We went with this recipe from food.com. The cake was good, but I had to fight the urge to just sort of swim around in that coconut pecan frosting.

Here’s the birthday girl getting some help with her birthday candles:

Sigh, oldest and youngest, 19 and 2. SIGH SIGH SIGH. I’m fine. We’re all fine.

***

FRIDAY
French toast casserole, mangoes

This is where I get back at the kids for leaving the bread bags open all week, so the bread gets all stale and crushed. It’s not really very good revenge, because it’s delicious.

***
OKAY, we have our seder on Holy Saturday, so all next week is when the schmaltz hits the road. Stay tuned. . .  if you dare. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 71: Your feta has given me wings!

Another week has come and gone and kicked my butt. Here’s what we had to eat:

SATURDAY
Aldi pizza 

All of Saturday was consumed with the installation of our new couch from Craigslist. Sometimes, living in a 5/8ths-scale house is just stupid, especially if you just got a swell deal on a truly enormous overstuffed sectional.

If you think Valentine’s Day is romantic, you should see my husband obligingly sweating his way through an absurd, five-hour, perpetually escalating “if you give a mouse a cookie” situation, and not even swearing.

Here, we see the old, faithful couch cast out after years of service, and the new one being broken in with My Little Pony and cheese sticks.

That’s how it goes. It’s a hard knock life for couch.

***

SUNDAY
Chicken shawarma

Shawarma is one of the greatest contributions the east has ever made to the west. Almost makes up for algebra. It’s even better if you marinate it starting the night before, but marinating all day is good, too.

Like a maniac, I bought sixteen pounds of chicken thighs, and by the time I skinned and trimmed them all, I was pretty much over the raw chicken experience, so I left the bones in and marinated and cooked them that way, rather than de-boning.

It wasn’t a mistake, exactly, but it definitely detracted from the delectability of this dish (NYT recipe here). This is a meal that you want to be able to gather up with eager fingers and pop into your mouth with glee, while mumbling insincere resolves to stop eating soon. Bones just slow you down.

We served it with pita bread, cucumbers, feta cheese, red pepper hummus, olives, parsley, and yogurt mixed with fresh garlic and lemon juice.

I also fried up some eggplant, but that did not turn out great. I couldn’t get enough of that cool, sharp yogurt sauce, though. Man.

I give this meal a A for content, B+ for execution. Wish I had gotten some tomatoes.

***

MONDAY
Penne with sausage sauce, salad

Snow day! Again! A good day for hearty pasta. Damien took the kids sledding, while I bravely stayed home and fried up diced onions and loose sausage, basil, and oregano, added a few jars of spaghetti sauce, and some red wine, and let it cook for a while, then served the sauce over penne with parmesan.

I also made hot chocolate again, which is why, this morning, I had to stop at the minimart and buy a gallon of milk for $4.79 to get us through the day. Humph.

***

TUESDAY
Corn dogs, chips

I have no memory of Tuesday. Oh, wait: I remember seeing a plate holding a pile of tattered and discarded corn dog batter. Animals.

Oh, wait, I remember more. It was Valentine’s Day, which I like, so there. I made a cheesecake using this basic Philly cheesecake recipe, and it turned out just fine. (It did crack, but I don’t care.) I made a chocolate ganache which turned out garbage, so we just had strawberries on top. I also made some fudge using Skaarup’s Lunatic Fudge recipe, which is fast and easy, no candy thermometer required. I made it in a heart-shaped pan, because I like that.

***

WEDNESDAY
Panic omelettes, biscuits, leftover chicken, salad

Because supper was going to be easy, I thought I’d go lie down for ten minutes and surf through Facebook until it was time to get things going. Next thing you know, I’ve accidentally made the acquaintance of some extraordinarily imaginative folks who, when they open their eyeballs in the morning, see nothing but a menacing horde of their fellow Catholics who are using NFP for the wrong reasons.

You know and I know that there is no worse use of one’s time than trying to make sense of a conversation like this, but I did it anyway. And so, suddenly, it’s half an hour after we should be sitting down to eat, and I’m just now staggering into the kitchen, wondering what would in the world would motivate someone to try and make marriage harder, and also where all the friggin eggs went.

(They went into the cheesecake, and also everyone has to make eggs on a snow day. It’s the rule.)

I usually make omelettes to order; but since I could only find eleven eggs, that seemed futile. So I made a six-egg omelette with pepper jack cheese, turned it too soon, got mad, and burned the rest. Then I ripped up some ham and did the same thing with the rest of the eggs. I divvied them up, and then discovered that my 12-year-old son was waiting for the next batch, which there warn’t none. SADNESS. Good thing I had made sixteen pounds of chicken not long ago.

We also had biscuits, which I made with Benny. Come to think of it, we made them before supper, so I can’t have been arguing about the scourge of wild, unrestrained Humanae Vitae parties at the same time. I guess that was a different day. Well, we used this recipe, anyway.

***

THURSDAY
Japanese-style beef stew, rice, rice rolls

This seemed like a really swell dish — chunks of beef and sweet potatoes and fresh ginger slices in chicken stock with soy sauce, pepper, honey, and lemon juice —  but it turned out no better than adequate. I don’t know what I did wrong, but it must have been more than one thing.

There weren’t any clean bowls, so I served it angrily over rice.

You know what’s going to make my cooking a lot better? Spring. So I can have some natural light to take food pictures with.

I also managed to cook it in a skillet, transfer it to a dutch oven, put it in the fridge, take it out of the fridge, transfer it into the crock of a crock pot, and heat it up in the microwave. Thank goodness for all these labor-saving devices. Next, I plan to pour the leftovers into one of those plastic bags that you seal up with a vacuum cleaner, then store it under my bed, sell the house at a stunning loss, and move into a wood-panelled van in Martha Stewart’s back yard.

Also on Thursday, I made 53 stained glass heart cookies, and Damien dipped sixty strawberries in chocolate, because I signed up to bring treats in for three separate classrooms for a belated Valentine’s Day party.

The cookies are not hard to make, but they take forehhhhhhhhver. You use this basic, no chill sugar cookie recipe, and cut out large cookies with a cookie cutter. Lay them on the baking sheet on parchment paper or silicone baking mats, cut out a smaller shape inside each cookie, and fill up the cut-out with crushed hard candies; then bake as usual, or a tiny bit longer. The candy melts and makes a little colored window, very pretty.

They turned out fine, if a little bleary. But they took forehhhhhhhhver.

***

FRIDAY
Shakshuka 

Here’s a pic from last time I made it:

There are many things to love about shakshuka, and not least is that you can sing it to the tune of “Volare” and really bother the children. If I have time, I want to try this pita recipe. I have until 3:45 to come up with an irritating pita song.

Oh, Dean. Just shut up.

What’s for Supper, Vol. 69: Instant Pot! Superbowl recipes! and stomach bug.

If I had to sum up this week in single word, it would be: I tried.

SATURDAY
Grilled chicken and salad

chicken-and-salad

Mr. Husband made this while I did something or other, probably drawing kittens on the backs of Corrie’s hands, or maybe just drinking. Under my evil influence, he cracked open another box or two of stolen poor person’s bacon and sprinkled that over the salad. It tastes a little bit better each time, if you were wondering.

I would like you to notice that, in an attempt to dress up this terrible, terrible food photo, I spread some paper bags under it. Then I moved them around a little to hide the bar codes, and then I decided I would just eat my food.

SUNDAY
Pork roast; oven roasted potatoes; cole slaw

I stabbed the pork all over, decided I was too lazy to mess around with garlic cloves, and rolled the meat around in Goya Mojo Criollo Marinade and let it wallow all day. We cooked it at 375 for a couple of hours and sliced it up.  Look how juicy! The flavor went right through to the middle, yum yum.

pork-potatoes-cole-slaw

The potatoes are mixed up with oil and some standard seasonings and slid into the oven for forty minutes or so.

Lena made cole slaw, which was a tiny bit of an odd pairing with the pork and potatoes, but it’s such a good, snappy cole slaw recipe, there will always be a spot on my plate for it.

MONDAY
Chicken burgers, chips, salad

Probably someone somewhere could think of something to say about this meal, but not me, not now.

Oh, wait! It is good with horseradish sauce. There.

TUESDAY
Fish tacos; tortilla chips

Irene careened into the kitchen on roller skates and started flailing around, knocking all the fish to the floor. But it was all right, because, she explained, it was already battered.

irene-fish

This February vacation, she’ll be bussing tables in the Catskills. Please tip generously, and let us know if you hear anything.

Fish, shredded cabbage, avocados, salsa, sour cream, and lime juice on flour tortillas. Can’t believe I went my whole life without knowing fish tacos were a thing.

fish-taco

I had cilantro, too but it mysteriously rotted away into pulp.
UPDATE: Corrie turned the refrigerator to 2, the stinker.

WEDNESDAY
Pizzas

Olive and pepperoni. One briefly and mysteriously burst into flame when all I did was drop it onto the heating coil, sheesh.

pizza-flambe

Oh, check it out: Benny is so good at making pizzas, she is now taking on apprentices.

pizza-apprentice

I know this is a blurry picture, but that expression of overwhelmed-by-cuteness, plus pride, just killed me. Good thing we had Corrie! Benny was born to be a big sister.

THURSDAY
Roast chicken thighs and potatoes; sweet peppers and hummus; chocolate rice pudding

This is the closest thing I came to trying a new recipe this week, and I didn’t come close enough to actually make it.

A dear lady sent me AN EIGHT-QUART INSTANT POT!!!!! It gleams and it is enormous and beautiful. Even Mighty Joe Young is impressed.

corrie-instant-pot-back

I’ve been hearing all about the life-changing magic of pressure cooking, so I was super excited and made plans for this pressure cooker butter chicken recipe. But then I recalled that we had spent the week frolicking with a stomach bug, and tomato sauce and garam masala did not seem like the best choice, not after a week full of things like battered fish and pork in citrus sauce. Not that I ended up making something light and bland instead of butter chicken, but at least there was no tomato sauce.

(I put the chicken thighs in a shallow pan with a bunch of sliced potatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder, and rosemary, and cooked them at 375 for about thirty-five minutes, then turned on the broiler to brown them up a bit. Very easy and surprisingly tasty.)

I also discovered that I’ve been stockpiling peppers and hummus, so I sliced them all up and made a pretty rainbow pepper plate, thinking my kids would be delighted. I keep forgetting that they are not all four years old.

Anyway, they ate some vegetables.

colored-peppers

The van was in the shop all day, so I had some more time at home and was casting around for something to make in my brand new bella machina. With the ingredients I had on hand, and ignoring ideas like “but that doesn’t go with this meal in the slightest,” I settled on creamy rice pudding.

chicken-potato-peper-rice-pudding

I skipped the raisins because my family are a bunch of inauthentic swine and don’t care for raisins in things, and added some cocoa paste to the milk to give it a mild chocolate flavor. Very nice! Just like rice pudding should be, creamy and fragrant. We ate it warm and claimed it was for Candlemas, whatever that is.

The Instant Pot is FUN. Okay, releasing the steam valve is FUN. I showed the kids lots of pictures of pot lids embedded in the ceiling and pot bases embedded in the countertop, and now they are all properly terrified of it and will let me play with it all by myself.

FRIDAY
I got some heart-shaped pasta, thinking it would please Benny.
I . . . think it did?

benny-pasta-face

Not sure.

***

Okay, so I have TWO questions for you, with some likely overlap.

1.There is that Sportsball thing coming up on Sunday. Hit me up with your favorite Sportsball party recipe, please. I tend to shy away from things like devilled eggs compressed into football shapes, or ham sandwiches trimmed into rectangles and dyed green to look like a football field. My one and only surefire Sportsball recipe is Jalapeno Popper Dip, which is completely disgusting, and has enough calories to light up the Eiffel tower, and you will suddenly notice that you accidentally ate all of it without chewing.

Oh, probably that bacon ranch crack bread stuff we made would go over well, too. This is the kind of food I’m looking for: Food that makes you feel equal parts shame and defiance the whole time you’re gobbling it down, and then it’s so salty that you require beer.

Second question: Whooooo has spectacular Instant Pot recipes for me — things for which the IP is just a godsend? I have been browsing through all the sites, and I joined a group, but you are the ones I trust. Main dishes, side dishes, veggies, soups, desserts, I want to know!

And finally, thanks again to the dear lady who sent me the Instant Pot! I would like you to know that, as I was reading through the manual, Corrie took a look under the lid, stuck her face right into the shiny inner pot, and then shouted with delight, “It ME!”

corrie-instant-pot-reflection

I don’t know how I’m ever going to top that dish, but I will try.

What’s for supper? Vol. 68: A peaceful transfer of power, yum yum

At least we still have food.

I cooked my little heart out this week. No particular reason. Next week, it’ll be all hot dogs and heavy drinking, and then we’ll see who transfers what.

Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Bagel, egg, cheese, and sausage sandwiches, frozen hash browns

 

bagel-sandwiches

Great meal for a busy day. I love it.

SUNDAY
Broccoli, cheese, chicken pockets, French onion soup

broccoli-cheese-pockets

There was a recipe, but I made a ton of substitutions, so I’ll just tell you how I made it.

Put oil, salt, and pepper on some chicken breasts and roast them, then slice them.
Cut broccoli into small florets and steam them.
Mix together a tub of French onion dip, a few cups of shredded cheddar cheese and 3/4 cup of pepper jack, and about 1/4 cup of mayo.
Mix the broccoli and chicken in with the cheese mix, then stuff pita pockets with the mixture. (If you open the pita pockets by cutting them open in a straight line, they are more likely to tear, so cut them in a curved line.)

Preheat oven to 350.

Heat up some oil in a skillet and fry the pockets on both sides just until the pita bread is golden brown. Then move the pockets onto a pan in the oven and heat them up until the cheese is melty and nice.

This recipe would make a lot more sense if you already had leftover chicken, which I did not. Kind of a pain in the neck to do all those steps, but it sure tasted good. The kids didn’t like them, probably because I worked hard on them.

We also had sorta French onion soup. I should have done more than glance at the recipe, and I used chicken broth instead of beef, which was a mistake. I forgot to add sugar, and I couldn’t find any cheese, and I was too lazy to make croutons. Still, I spent over an hour hanging out in the afternoon sun, babysitting a heap of onions as they cozied up with melted butter. I regret nothing.

MONDAY
Zuppa Toscana, pumpkin bread

zuppa-toscana

See how it shines? That’s how soup is supposed to look. A shining soupy on a hill.

I fried up some sweet sausage (after squeezing it out of the casings, blushing faintly and calling upon Paul VI for aid and comfort) and fried it up with diced onions and minced garlic. Then I added in some diced up bacon (I still have five boxes of Christmas bacon that I now refuse to give to the poor. Let them start a tax-free savings account and withdraw their bacon from that, the lazies) and some thinly-sliced potatoes with the skin on. Red potatoes would have been good, but regular Idaho whatever was fine.

Then I added in several cups of chicken broth and let it simmer until the potatoes were soft.
Then a ton of half-and-half, and a bunch of chopped-up kale, and more simmering until the kale was soft. I had some mushrooms, but they didn’t seem quite right for this soup, so I skipped them.
A little salt and pepper at the end, and it was really swell. The bacon was fine, but it didn’t actually add much.

Here’s the recipe for pumpkin bread. The crumbs ran off with my can opener, so I was reduced to chopping the can open with a knife that I tapped with the other can of pumpkin, since the crumbs also ran off with my hammer. (Here are directions for how to open a can with a knife.)

pumpkin-bread-fox-plate
Since I needed one can to open the other can, I could only make one can’s worth of bread. This was actually good luck, because, as I always forget, a single recipe makes three loaves of bread. I sprinkled steel cut oats on the top, which was pleasantly crunchy.

This is a sweet, moist, fluffy bread, really almost cake. I usually reduce the sugar somewhat and put nuts or oats on top, so as to pretend it’s not cake.

TUESDAY
Shakshuka, pita 

Shakshuka has been on my radar forever, so I finally tried it. I guess it is Israeli, or maybe North African.

My husband came home unusually early, just in time to see me stirring feta cheese into the tomato sauce. The skepticism in the air was so thick, you could cut it with a knife and then fry it up with garlic, cumin, paprika, pepper flakes, onions, peppers and tomatoes and stir feta cheese into it, then crack some eggs on top and slide it into the oven, then overcook the eggs by just a minute or two, sprinkle parsley and a little hot sauce on top, and serve with pita.

shakshuka

Even my skeptical husband thought it was tasty, and several kids said it was better than they expected it to be, which is sky high praise. It didn’t rock my world, but it was good, very filling, and cheap. Next time I have the time, I’ll make challah. That would be a splendid meal.

Hey, now we have another meatless meal for the rotation, so that’s a win.

WEDNESDAY
Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, salad

I honestly can’t tell if this meatloaf picture looks amazing or horrifying. Look how it glistens!

 . . . look how it glistensssss . . . 

two-meatloaves

Pictures of food are weird.

I more or less followed the Fannie Farmer recipe (using five pounds of ground beef and two pounds of turkey). Feeling impulsive and jazzlike, I embellished the whole thing with ketchup before I put it in the oven. Baked ketchup tastes good on meat. (This is why you read my food posts: Because I have the guts to say stuff like that.) It’s like meat ketchup taffy. (Too far?)

We also had ten pounds of mashed potatoes, which, to my relief, turned out to be too much. Sometimes I feel like there can be no such thing as enough food, but there can.

Here is Corrie coaching Benny on proper mashing technique:

girls-mashing-potatoes

“It HAHHHT!” she counsels. So young, such wisdom.

THURSDAY
Roast chicken drumsticks, rice made with chicken broth, salad, mangoes

chicken-rice-salad-mango
Nothing thrilling, but I felt very good about going from zero to hot meal with vegetable in about 35 minutes. Mangoes keep being on sale.

FRIDAY

Corrie got into this week’s raw pasta, too, so we’ll see.

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 67: Tiramiswho?

It’s a race against time as my battery dies, so never mind the intro, here’s the weekly menu:

SATURDAY
Nachos, root beer floats

Very basic. Tortilla chips, seasoned ground beef, cheese on top, served with sour cream and salsa. No complaints. Oh, I happened to have some cilantro, which I used copiously.

nachos-with-cilantro

I even took some off before taking the picture, because I’m not kidding about the copious, but then I put it on again before eating it. I try hard to taste cilantro as soapy, but it just tastes like freshness, hope, and summertime to me. You are all crazy and I refuse to affirm your stupid life experience.

SUNDAY
Antipasto, fettucine with ragu, garlic bread, tiramisu

Sunday was my husband’s birthday, and he wanted nothing more than to spend the day cooking, so I let him. I also let him take the kids sledding. My generosity is boundless.

The antipasto dish was nothing inspired, just some fresh mozzarella, dry salami, and olives and marinated artichoke hearts, served with pita chips.

The ragu, however, was completely amazing. He used two pounds of ground pork and one of beef, and by the time it was done cooking, the meat was velvety. You will read this recipe and think, “Well, this is just a meat sauce,” but it’s not. Try it, trust me. It’s heavenly.

ragu

 

You could almost feast on the smell alone, but then you also get to eat it! This picture is so sadly inadequate. The worst thing about winter is that by the time it’s dinner time, it’s too dark to take a decent picture with my rotten camera. YES, it’s the WORST THING.

Here is the tiramisu recipe he used. He made it the day before, so it soaked all night. Benny helped him by putting on a tutu and licking the beaters.

benny-licking-mixer

He also grated a chocolate bar over the top before serving.

tiramisu

The tiramisu was perfect. Never had better anywhere. I woke up in the middle of the night with a horrible stab of guilt because I forgot to put birthday candles on it, but I suspect I am the only one losing sleep over that.

MONDAY
Beef vegetable soup, beer bread

This was supposed to be beef barley soup, but I forgot to put barley in. It had a great flavor, but it was weird to have an obvious missing ingredient. It was like listening to someone with a not-unpleasant speech impediment. It doesn’t bother you, but it’s hard not to keep noticing it.

I fried up minced garlic with diced onions and carrots in a little olive oil, then added strips of a chuck roast or something, and fried that until it was almost done.
Then I added a can of diced tomatoes, a few cups of beef broth, a bunch of red wine, and a bunch of sliced mushrooms and some pepper, and let be cozy in the slow cooker all day.

We also had two loaves of beer bread, which I got my teenage daughter to make. For reasons I trust I don’t need to explain, we had some leftover chocolate bock (ptui, ptui) in the house. I mean that I trust I don’t need to explain the “leftover,” as in “undrunk,” as in “not ever,” as in “chocolate? Why would you do that to beer?” part. I can explain why it was in the house in the first place, but my battery is dying fast and I don’t have a charger today. So I’ll just give you the recipe and let you know that beer bread tastes fine with chocolate bock, and getting baked for an hour is a fitting sentence for the crime of being chocolate bock.

TUESDAY
Chicken nuggets, baked potatoes, peas

All undercooked! I like to have a theme.

WEDNESDAY
Slow cooker sweet and sour chicken mango wraps, rice

This was my new recipe for the week, from A Year of Slow Cooking. I liked it! I’m predisposed to like this website because she’s got several recipes tagged as “flops,” to warn you away from trying them. I appreciate that approach to cooking and to blogging.

I made one crock with just the jam and soy sauce, for very mild chicken for timid children, and one with all the stuff, jalapenos and ginger and everything. The flavor was great. I took a terrible picture which will probably dissuade you from trying it, but I recommend this dish.

chicken-mango-wrap

It would, as the website says, make a nice light summer meal. I also bought some spinach-imbued wraps for those who can’t see their way to clear to wrapping up meat in lettuce, and those were good, too.

THURSDAY
Quesadillas, chips, carrots

I had “grilled ham and cheese” on the menu, but I bought shredded cheese, apparently thinking of quesadillas, so that’s what we had, because there are always millions of tortillas in the house. Benny insisted on grilled ham. No cheese, just hot bread with ham in it.

FRIDAY
Giant pancake, scrambled eggs

 

BYE, WEEK. I HATED YOU.

And now I have a yen for some new kind of meat soup. Who’s got something exciting for me to try?

What’s for supper? Vol. 66: Food is magic

We certainly ate a lot this week! Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips, carrots and dip

Saturday we were winding up vacation, so we took the kids ice skating and to a Chinese buffet for lunch, where we proceeded to eat so much that most of us swore off food forever. That didn’t last, so we had grilled cheese for supper. For some reason, I took a picture of it.

image4

At the buffet, I thought briefly of viruses and plagues and a citizenry innocent of basic hygiene practices, and then I threw caution to the wind and loaded up on stuffed mushrooms, sushi, and tapioca, because if you’re going to die, you might as well have some stuffed mushroom, sushi, and tapioca first.

It was a pretty good spread, with crab legs, barbequed ribs, and probably more than a hundred other yummy items to choose from, all you can eat. The most popular choice with the kids? That ancient and venerable dish of the far orient: Banana halves with strawberry syrup on them. They also each ate their weight in Oreos.

We had a pretty good time ice skating, but nothing lodges in my mind like last time we went ice skating, about six weeks before Corrie was born:

benny-on-ice

An attendant came over and told us to get off the ice. I almost kissed him.

Here’s Corrie now, with her widdle nose pushed up against the glass.

corrie-watching-ice-skating

She then had hysterics and had to be driven around the byroads of rural Vermont until she fell asleep, and she and my husband hung out in the van while the rest of us did a year’s worth of damage to muscles that we normally don’t even acknowledge.

At home, we salved our pain with hot chocolate and popcorn. Gosh, we eat a lot. Sometimes, I think, “Shouldn’t we be encouraging the kids to learn how to mark happy occasions, respond to strong emotions, and pass the time, day and and day out, with something other than food?” And then I think, “There, there, you seem overwrought. Here, did you know there was leftover goat cheese?”

Look, food is magic. It just is.

SUNDAY
Calzones

Birthday! Damien took the kids sledding at the stupendous sledding hill over by the town dump:

sledding-hill

and then the birthday girl very brilliantly suggested pepperoni and olive calzones for supper.

Yes ma’am! I used three balls of pizza dough to make twelve calzones, and followed this recipe for the filling, only I never heard tell of putting breadcrumbs in calzone filling, so I skipped it.

This is an easy meal, but it takes forever. When you make twelve of them, anyway. The thing to remember about calzones is you can manhandle them pretty badly before they go into the oven (say, if you want to get the cheese distributed more evenly after you have crimped the edges) and they will still puff up beautifully anyway. The other thing to remember is don’t crowd them, because they need room to puff up!

image2

 

YUHM. Heat up a little sauce for dipping, and you have yourself a lovely birthday meal. We also happened to have some salami and muffaletta salad in the house, so those went out too. Would have been better with some bruschetta and maybe some cheese, but it was a good companion dish.

image3

The birthday girl requested cheesecake for dessert, but I thought that would be . . . I’m sorry for what I’m about to say . . . too much cheese for one meal. So we had banana splits instead. With cheese!

MONDAY
Hot dogs, chips, salad

No memory of Monday.

TUESDAY
Pulled pork o’ my heart

We were a little low on beer, so I cooked the pork in the slow cooker with salt, pepper, and a can of Coke. GOOD CHOICE. I hear that Dr. Pepper is also a winner with pork.

I did buy rolls for sandwiches, but then I realized that I could make a sort of pyre of tater tots, pile some juicy pork on top of that, drizzle it with dreadful hot cheese from a jar, scatter some winsome red onions on top, and launch the whole thing off to a toward a delirious dream of the afterlife by blessing it with a final smattering of barbeque sauce. Of course those jerks had loosened the top, so most of the bottle fell out onto my plate, but I did not care. I didn’t even use a fork. Good heavens, it was good.

Food. Is. Magic.

WEDNESDAY
Pork posolish, corn bread

The plan was to make pork posole with this recipe, but it turns out that hominy is some kind of corn, I guess? And not really the same as polenta, which is what I had. Also, I forgot to buy chile peppers. So I made some soup this way:

I fried up a bunch of diced red onion and several diced garlic cloves in olive oil. Then I threw a bunch of leftover pulled pork, a can of drained black beans, a can of diced tomatoes with juice, a can of tomato paste, some cumin and chili powder, and several cups of beef broth, and a little water.

I let it cook for several hours, and then served it with chopped cilantro and sour cream, and some fresh lime juice squeezed over the top. The lime was a great addition. The soup tasted a lot like the chicken tortilla soup I made the other week (duh, lots of the same ingredients), but it was sturdier, almost like a pot roast, and very warming. I was the only one who ate it, of course. The jerks had toast.

There is a photo of this fine soup on my daughter’s phone, but I’m writing this at 11 PM and I don’t want to message her to send it to me, because that would make her phone buzz and would wake her up, and I’m a good mother. Not only do I make them soup, I let them sleep while I write about it. A+ And what do they do? They laugh at me when I get half a bottle of barbeque sauce slopped all over my pulled pork prye. F-.

The cornbread was terrible. I didn’t check the temp and baked it at too low of a heat, so it was dense and mushy. Bleh. I mean, I ate it, but it wasn’t magic.

THURSDAY
Beef and cabbage stir fry, rice, raw broccoli

I love this recipe from Budget Bytes. I made the sauce and shredded the veg ahead of time, and then it went together so fast when we got home stupid late. Very tasty.

image1

Very satisfying, and the ginger, garlic, and sriracha cleared up everyone’s stuffy noses at least for the dinner hour.

FRIDAY
Pastahhhhhhhh?

Corrie has actually taken to eating raw ziti when she can get her hands on it, so we’ll see what’s left.

What’s magic at your house?

What’s for supper? Vol. 63: Nuh-no.


SATURDAY
Chicken burgers, chips

Nothing to report. I do remember asking my husband if we should have salad, and he said no, and I took that to mean that we should just sort of avoid vegetables all week. This, we accomplished.


SUNDAY
Gochujang bulkgoki with nori, rice, roast broccoli

This is such a swell recipe. I cut up the pork and set it to marinate the night before, so on Sunday we had our normal busy day and still had a great supper at a normal hour. Here’s the recipe:

per 1.5 pounds sliced pork:

1 bag matchstick carrots
1 white onions sliced thin

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

Mix the sauce together and then combine it with the meat, carrots, and onions, and then let it sit in the fridge overnight. Then fry it up in a little oil and serve it with rice. You can make nice little bite-sized bundles on your plate with lettuce or nori.

gochujang-plate

And now I have a caucasoid confession: this time, I used way, way less gochujang than the recipe calls for. Some of my kids are super tired of spicy food, and I really wanted them to eat it; so I cut it by a third. Mistake. It was still spicy by kid standards (duh: even a little fermented pepper paste is still fermented pepper paste), but it just tasted so diminished. Never again. I am so sorry.

The broccoli was also not great. I cut it up small and put it on baking sheets with olive oil, soy sauce, garlic powder, and sesame seeds and put it under the broiler. I used too much soy sauce, and it tasted kind of harsh, and damp. Bleh. I mean, it was a pretty good meal, but it could have been so much better!


MONDAY
Pepperoncini beef rolls

Well, all the sadness and regret of the past was washed away with Monday’s meal, also from my friend Elizabeth, who gave me the bulgoki recipe. So you take some cheap chuck roast and put it in a crock pot along with some jarred pepperoncini with the stems cut off. Let it cook all day. And that’s it!

pepperoncini-beef-in-pot

Shred and serve on rolls with cheese and horseradish sauce.

I used potato rolls because they were cheap, but crusty bread would have been even nicer. I put the rolls under the broiler for a minute to toast them up a bit before adding the meat and cheese. I had swiss cheese, which was perfect, but provolone or havarti would be good, too.

pepperoncini-beef-sandwiches

Don’t forget to save some juices for dipping, because he who dips hot sandwiches into meat drippings is happy indeed. So toothsome, so fulfilling, so gratifying for all your senses.

This goes right into the rotation, no question. YUM.


TUESDAY
Taco Tuesday!!

I snuck a pound of turkey meat, which was on sale, in with the beef, and no one noticed.


WEDNESDAY
Sausage, egg, and cheese muffins

I didn’t burn the muffins! I think this might be the first time ever. I also am thrilled all over again with my two-burner nonstick griddle.

muffins-eggs-and-sausages

I can make dinner for twelve in two batches, instead of in five or six. Maybe I was just hungry, but these tasted so good, I was offended all over again when I thought about last time I had breakfast at McDonald’s.


THURSDAY
Chicken Olé! and chips; cake and cake and cake

Chicken thighs were on sale, so I had this great idea to put them in the crock pot with a bunch of jarred salsa verde, and then just sit back and let deliciousness happen.

Cold, hard, chicken facts had other plans.

First, utterly predictably, I had the infuriating job of trying to de-bone piping hot chicken thighs. And then, as I know perfectly well but forgot, thighs don’t really shred very well; they just kind of separate into slabs, and a low, slow heat makes them kind of slimy. Also, the salsa verde got very thin from cooking all day. So I was left with a kind of greenish soup.

We drained the meat and piled it on tortillas with lots of cheese, sour cream, and jarred jalapenos, but it was not great.

chicken-ole

Oh well! It was easy! This would have been a fine combination of flavors; it just wasn’t great in the crock pot. Live and learn. Maybe someday, I’ll look up an actual recipe.

Thursday was my birthday, and my dear husband had a stray use-it-or-lose-it vacation day, so he made a cake with the preschoolers while I loafed around eating Skittles and watching Clash of the Titans.

benny-mama-cake

(Abba, check out the apron! I forgot to tell you, she loves it. She did write a thank-you note, but the picture on it was so alarming and weird, I couldn’t bring myself to send it. She is a strange child.)

The cake came directly out of a five-year-old’s imagination. So cute.

my-cake

Then, my friend Roberta stopped by with the cake and cupcakes from her office party. There was a lot. I let the kids just eat all the cupcakes they wanted all day. I’m telling you, there were a lot of cupcakes. After I decided they had had enough, I made a huge rookie mistake and left the box on the table. So Corrie went back

corrie-cake-2

and, bearlike, helped herself one last time

savaged-cake

I asked her what she was doing, and she explained very earnestly, “I nuh-no, Mama!”

corrie-cake-3

And I believe her. I nuh-no what happened to that giant bag of Skittles, either.


FRIDAY
Says here “spaghetti.” I think I can manage that. 


Oh, I meant to tell you, I found a quite easy recipe that we’re making as token gifts for various people. It’s chocolate caramel crunch almonds from Smitten Kitchen, and you have to scroll way down to the end of the page to get to it. It’s technically candy, but you don’t need a candy thermometer. This recipe won my heart with this line:

Once the liquid has fully evaporated, it will become sandy and you will think something has gone wrong; it has not.

And guess what? It got sandy, and I thought to myself, “Oh, it’s just like she said! I won’t worry, because this is supposed to happen.” Then it stayed sandy for way longer than I thought it should, and I went ahead and thought something had gone wrong after all. But then it changed into caramel. Amazing.

You can get nice, cheap almonds at Aldi, but do not use Aldi chocolate chips to coat the almonds! Aldi chocolate chips do not melt! Weird, but true.

Making or baking anything neat for Christmas? I wouldn’t mind a second recipe to go with the almonds. I was thinking of candy cane fudge, but I’m pretty tired of fudge.