What’s for supper? Vol. 213: Pied beauty

Holy cow, that was a fast week. We worked hard and ate hard this week.

Wow, that does not sound right. 

Well, here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Meatloaf, cheezy weezies

Saturday was big dig day. Dig dig dig!

Why dig? Well, like everyone else, we don’t know what the summer is going to look like, so we went and bought a 20-foot above ground pool! To prepare the ground, you have to make it level, and remove all the rocks from the soil, so nothing pointy or poky makes a hole in the bottom. 

Well, as you can see, there are a lot of rocks. 

The ground is also not level, so we’re just . . . digging some more. And in some cases, hitting a giant hunk of gneiss with a sledgehammer until it’s flat enough to cover with soil. It’s an immense amount of work, but I am openly, obnoxiously enjoying having the whole family working wholesomely outside together on a project. Eventually we’ll get this done, and then we’ll level it, cover it with sand, level that, put down some foam, then a ground cover, and then POOL. Pool pool pool!

Oh, so I didn’t want to stop digging, so I sent Dora in to make some meatloaf. 

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SUNDAY
Cobb salad

Well, approximately. We had lettuce (which I didn’t bother chopping), tomato, cucumber, avocado, hard boiled eggs, bacon, chicken, and some kind of shredded cheese, and some kind of dressing. 

You’re supposed to have chives and Roquefort cheese, but nobody was complaining. They were too busy complaining that I only made four pounds of bacon. 

You know, I’ve been beating myself up over my careless, slipshod ways because the grocery bills have been so high lately. So high, for like . . . two months now . . . oh. Yeah, right about the time we started having twelve people home 24 hours a day, I started spending more on food. SHAME ON ME. 

Next time I’ll get more bacon.

MONDAY
Chicken burgers, raw veggies and dip

This picture makes me laugh because at first you’re like, “oh, good for her, look at all the vegetables” and then you’re like “wait, is that a demitasse cup brimming with french onion dip?” Yes, it is, and I licked it clean. 

TUESDAY
Buffalo chicken salad, hot pretzels

Tuesday I went shopping. This is a great meal to throw together in a short amount of time: Salad greens, buffalo chicken cut into strips, crunchy fried onions from a can, shredded carrots, and either blue cheese or shredded pepper jack.

It’s better with ranch dressing, or buffalo ranch dressing, but it’s also good with whatever you have, if you’re hungry enough.

WEDNESDAY
Grilled pork ribs, cole slaw, strawberry rhubarb buckle

Damien made a sugar rub for the pork ribs, and grilled them over the coals. Nice and juicy.

Lena made a nice snappy peppy coleslaw.

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Look at that lovely color on the pork (no filter!). That sugar rub is magic– lots of flavor, and it gives it a wonderful caramelized crust.

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It says “chicken thighs,” but you can use it on all kinds of meat. 

Now let’s talk about rustic fruit desserts!
Rus!
Tic!
Fruit-des-serts!
[clap!clap!clap-clap-clap]

There are a lot of them, with lots of subtle variations, but there are more names than there are variations. You know what pie is. You know what a crumble is. But what about cobbler? What about crisp? What about betty, buckle, slump, and grunt? The answer is: some are oven, some are stovetop, some are steamed, some have streusel, and some are just from Connecticut, so who knows. And honestly, which is more fun? Just quietly knowing something, or looking it up and then insisting your kids stand there and listen while you read out loud about it? I think we know. 

I wanted to make something that was just fruity on bottom and sweet and crumbly on top, but I couldn’t find any cornstarch, so I ended up making a buckle, which is a sort of coffee cake with fruit layers. It was quite easy, and pretty delicious. And pretty. 

It has a layer of cake, then a layer of strawberry, then cake mixed with sugared rhubarb, then a streusel. We had it with whipped cream on top, because it is Wednesday, my dudes.

When I shared this picture on Facebook, I captioned it “O my chevalier!” It’s okay if you didn’t understand right away that I said that because it’s a buckle. That’s a weird joke and doesn’t make sense. HOWEVER, don’t you think I should write a cookbook in the style of G.M. Hopkins? You’d buy that, right, you weirdo? I could call it Sprungform Rhythm Pans. I could call it Carrot Cake Comfort. I could call it . . . PIED BEAUTY THAT IS MADE OUT OF ACTUAL PIE. 

I use my college degree all the time, why do you ask?

THURSDAY
Meatball subs 

Dora to the rescue again. I was so useless on Thursday, and I’ll tell you why, so you can feel smart. I got up and grabbed my two morning pill bottles, which have my green thyroid and purple blood pressure pills in them. I thought to myself, “Huh, they’re white, that’s weird,” and I swallowed them. Then I thought, “Ooh, I need to call in a refill for these.” So I started calling it in, and then I was like, “Hey, how come these bottles have someone else’s name on them? That’s so weird!”

So yeah, I took someone else’s drugs, for no reason at all. That’s how dopey I was before I started to feel the side effects of someone else’s drugs, which included dopiness. (Luckily, the dopiness and a headache, because of course there had to be a headache, was all that happened.) I can’t explain how I could have come to do something so stupid, but there it is. I’m sure this brain fog will get better as I get older though, HO HO HO HO HO HO HO.

Anyway, here is the meatball sub:

And here is the oven-baked, less-mess meatball recipe:

Jump to Recipe

 

FRIDAY
Pizza

All I have to say about this is we are now a six extra large pizza family. Five pizzas is enough for dinner, but not enough for people to have cold pizza for breakfast the next day, so now we make six. I’m a good mother.

 

Meatloaf (actually two giant meatloaves)

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground beef
  • 2 lbs ground turkey
  • 8 eggs
  • 4 cups breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 cup milk

salt, pepper, garlic powder or fresh garlic, onion powder or minced onions, fresh parsley, etc.

  • ketchup for the top

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450

  2. Mix all meat, eggs, milk, breadcrumbs, and seasonings together with your hands until well blended.

  3. Form meat into two oblong loaves on pan with drainage

  4. Squirt ketchup all over the outside of the loaves and spread to cover with spatula. Don't pretend you're too good for this. It's delicious. 

  5. Bake for an hour or so, until meat is cooked all the way through. Slice and serve. 

 

Smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups brown sugar
  • .5 cups white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 20 chicken thighs

Instructions

  1. Mix dry ingredients together. Rub all over chicken and let marinate until the sugar melts a bit. 

  2. Light the fire, and let it burn down to coals. Shove the coals over to one side and lay the chicken on the grill. Lower the lid and let the chicken smoke for an hour or two until they are fully cooked. 

 

Coleslaw

Ingredients

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

Dressing

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 cup cider or white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pepper to taste

Instructions

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

 

Strawberry rhubarb buckle

You can substitute in all different combinations of fruit. Makes two buckles in 9-inch pie dishes. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 4 stalks rhubarb, stringed and diced

For the cake:

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 cup milk

For the streusel:

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp almond extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and grease two 9" round pans

To make the cake:

  1. In a bowl, beat together the butter and sugar.

  2. Beat in the vanilla and sugar.

  3. Stir in the baking powder, salt, and nutmeg

  4. Alternate adding in the flour and the milk, a bit at a time. Set the batter aside.

To make the streusel:

  1. Cut the butter into pieces, and then add in the other ingredients, mixing until it is crumby but not pasty.

To put it together:

  1. Spread about 1/4 of the cake batter in each buttered pan.

  2. Spread the sliced strawberries on top of that.

  3. Add the rhubarb to the remaining batter and stir to combine. Spoon the rhubarb-batter mixture over the strawberries in each pan as evenly as you can (it's okay if it's gloppy).

  4. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the batter in each pan.

  5. Bake for about an hour, until the top is a bit browned and a toothpick comes out clean.

  6. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

 

 

Meatballs for a crowd

Make about 100 golf ball-sized meatballs. 

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground meat (I like to use mostly beef with some ground chicken or turkey or pork)
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese (about 2 cups)
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.

  2. Mix all ingredients together with your hands until it's fully blended.

  3. Form meatballs and put them in a single layer on a pan with drainage. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or more until they're cooked all the way through.

  4. Add meatballs to sauce and keep warm until you're ready to serve. 

Easter and other people

We made it to the Easter Vigil most years when I was little, often bundled in down jackets over our frilly Easter clothes.

We could just barely hear Fr. Stan‘s voice, muffled with age and with an aging sound system as he read the opening prayers. Then there was silence while we waited inside the church, twisted halfway around in our pews, wanting to follow the action outside but feeling so odd to turn our backs to the tabernacle. There would be swishing and clanking noises as the fire was prepared, and sometimes a whispered warning to the altar boys with their wide, flammable sleeves. Then more silence, and then . . .

Christ our light!” would come crackling from the twilight outside.

Then a kind of magic that made you forget your awkwardness: Here came the flame. First we could only see a few points of light in the dark, then a few dozen, then enough to make the dark stained glass flicker, and then only a few pews were left separating you and . . .

some guy with a Bic lighter. Every single damn year, one of our well-meaning brothers in Christ thought he could speed things up, make Easter a little more efficient. No sense standing around waiting for that one flame to make its way all the way ovah heah! Here ya go, yut, no problem.

It makes me laugh now, but it didn’t seem funny at the time. We wanted the real Easter flame, not the fake butane one! Here it comes, contaminating the entire church! Somebody do something!

Well. It’s surely not in the spirit of the risen Christ to get all snippy and say “No thanks” when someone offers you a little light in the darkness.

On the other hand, every other single damn day of the year is a day for substitutes, for good intentions, for not-the-point, for whatcha-gonna-do.  Surely we can get it right on Easter. Surely we have that much coming to us. What is more pure than the light of Christ? What is more simple and searing than a candle that divides itself but is not dimmed? When are we allowed to experience this loveliness except in the middle of the night in fragile, early spring, with the ground still trembling from the stone as it was rolled away?

And . . . what if there was more than one guy with a Bic out there, and we just didn’t know it?

I hope you’re not looking for a lesson here, because I don’t have one. We were way too tired to go to the vigil Mass this year. I spent most of Easter yelling at everyone I love the most, and I don’t even know why. I was sorry afterward, if that helps. I was even sorry during. Still, if I were all alone, without all these damn people, I’d get it right. I know I would. Would I rather be alone?

Christ plays in ten thousand places, better in the face of someone who just wanted to help than in someone who loves beauty and is enraged when she doesn’t get it. The idea that hell is other people made me laugh then, but it doesn’t seem funny now. To be alone, getting everything the way I want it: That is Hell.

Come to think of it, I can’t remember a single year when the Easter candle wasn’t adulterated with a helpful, dopey Bic lighter or two. Whatcha gonna do. Even though there never was even one time when we did it right, I still have it in my mind that there was something pure and holy there in that congregation, or else there wouldn’t have been anything to be spoiled.

We don’t want to miss His approach, but we don’t want to turn our backs to Him, so we plant our feet on the ground facing East, we twist at the knee, and we wait for someone else to get it right. And the Lord, too gracious to sigh at yet another night of missed-the-point, came to us without delay.

“Christ our light!” comes to us over an aging system. But it does come. Next time someone offers me a dumb little butane flame, I’ll try to accept it with thanks, in honor of the undimmable loveliness of the Lord. Because ten thousand places is so much better than none.

***

Photo: Steve Moses via Flickr (Creative Commons)

WWJD about AI? Be more human.

All of humanity needed help. All of humanity cried out in earnest, “I want to die!” And He responded. He saw history as a whole, as a single story of humans warring hard to blot ourselves out with whatever technology we could put our hands on, from the stick Cain used to bash his brothers head in, to the lithe, latex limbs molded with precision by the techs at the RealDoll lab. He saw us and He conceived the strange and fearful answer: to become more human.

Read the rest of my latest for America Magazine.

Image by Edgarodriguezmunoz (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons