What’s for supper? Vol. 187: In which I make good choices and bad choices

I know I said I was ready to start cooking cold weather food, but this time, I mean it. Come for the honey chili acorn squash, homemade applesauce, and heavenly bacon tomato bisque, stay to feel better about the birthday cake you bought at Safeway. Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Beer brats with onions, chips

The kids unexpectedly begged for beer brats with onions, and that could be arranged. Damien boiled them in beer and onions and then browned them up in a pan. For me, however, he bought a surprise steak, since I was feeling low. 

It helped!

SUNDAY
Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, chocolate cake

This was a birthday meal for Moe. Moe’s birthday is in May. 

Now, you may think it’s pathetic that we wouldn’t get around to celebrating a May birthday until October, but you are mistaken. That’s not pathetic! THIS CAKE IS PATHETIC! 

You will have to take my word for it that the theme was not “mangled remains of a once-proud city after a nuclear holocaust.” It really wasn’t. He is very into theater, so the theme was “comedy and tragedy,” and I made a comedy and tragedy mask with ribbons, and a bunch of olive leaves.

See, last time we made little garnishes out of melted chocolate, they turned out great.

What’s for supper? Vol. 144: Chocolate garnicht

It was easy, even. I don’t know what the hell happened this time. I guess maybe possibly I was rushing a bit. And also, it’s possible my confidence was a little shaky after the cake I had made last week, for Clara’s birthday. 

Now Clara, if you will recall, already had a huge blowout birthday in August when we went to Hadestown

A quick review of Hadestown, which you should sell a kidney to see

So I’m not saying I didn’t try to make a good cake, but after a birthday like that, I did feel less pressure to absolutely nail the cake part.

That being said, this was one garbage cake.

I had meant so bake it the night before, but it turns out I bought cake mix that requires egg whites, and we were out of eggs, and the quik-e-mart was closed, and there’s really no substitute for egg whites. So I asked Damien to bake it the next day while I was shopping. I couldn’t find the right pans, so I ended up giving him two round pans and one flower-shaped pans. 

In my head, it would look something like this:

A sort of grim, underworld nod to a wedding cake, topped with a glowing red blossom and dripping with shiny, dark chocolate. EASY ENOUGH, RIGHT?

So I set about fashioning a glowing red blossom out of fruit rolls and toothpicks, as one does. That part was actually not terrible, except that I got tired of feeling sticky, and didn’t make enough petals.

The inspiration:

And the execution:

To be fair, this was halfway through. It did end up looking a little better. A little.

Then the cake cracked a bit when it baked. That’s fine, that happens. But then, I decided to put the layers together without leveling them off. Why? Who can say? Maybe I suffered a mental injury while trying to fashion a blossom out of toothpicks and fruit rolls. Of course the unleveled cake cracked even more, and continued to crack, in a way that was no longer fine. So I broke up some wooden skewers so they’d be nice and splintery, and jammed them in to keep the layers together. 

But wait, it gets worse! Let’s talk about the chocolate ganache, which was going to rescue the whole wobbly mess by gracing it with a rich, glossy chocolate coating that dripped decadently down the sides.

I have never once in my life been able to make a chocolate ganache. It’s just beyond my capability. Doesn’t matter what recipe I use, what ingredients I splurge on. It never comes out. I’ve wrecked it so many times, and so consistently and so thoroughly, that we’re way beyond the point that there’s anything remotely admirable about trying again. There is a section in the DSM about people who still try to make a chocolate ganache with my ganache history. So naturally, that is what I tried.

You’ll never guess. It didn’t turn out.

It was grainy and soupy and bad. I slopped it on the cake anyway, hoping that a last-minute birthday miracle would make it magically coalesce into something edible. That did not come about. It did not come about, even though I helped it along by dumping a lot of gold sugar into the crack in an effort to make it look symbolic!

So.  That was what I had in my arsenal of cake confidence while approaching this other cake. Yeah, remember the other cake?

I didn’t mean for it to look like a photo you show to a cricket when threatening him about what you could do to his family if he doesn’t spill what he knows. I didn’t mean for it to be straight out of the “this is why you never go to sleep with a cell phone charging under your pillow. Poor Madyson now has a plastic bag where her jaw once was, and she wants you to look at this picture and think hard about your choices” file. It just turned out that way, all by itself.  

The good news is, there are no birthdays in November. 

MONDAY
Buffalo chicken salad

This actually tasted far better than it looks.  And yes, that is a sheet in the background. I was eating salad in bed. 

I wanted to make something like the salad I had at Wendy’s. I love Wendy’s salads. They are fresh and delicious, and let’s face it, sometimes you get a little surprise, especially if Pilar is working that day. 

I bought two bags of breaded chicken strips, one regular and one buffalo. I cooked those and cut them up and served them along with mixed greens and shredded pepper jack cheese, with buffalo ranch dressing and some of those crunchy fried onion things people put on that gross Thanksgiving string bean casserole. I thought it was very good! And of course extremely easy. The cheese didn’t really hit the spot, and I did mean to get tomatoes. I think maybe blue cheese next time. But there will be a next time for this salad.

TUESDAY
Pork ribs with applesauce, mashed squash, mashed potatoes

It’s edible squash season, motherfuckers.

I had the kids pick all the terrible apples they could reach from our terrible apple tree, Marvin.  We don’t do anything at all to take care of this tree, and the apples aren’t great for eating, but most of them are just a little spotty and weird, so fine for cooking. 

Well, some of them are terrifying. 

Doesn’t it look like it wished it could scream? This one didn’t go into the pot.

We also had an awful lot of bruised, dinged, maltreated apples left over from apple picking. 

I cut out all the bad spots, quartered them, and chucked them, peels and cores and all, into a big pot with a few inches of water, and set it to simmer with a loose lid. A few hours later, the apples were mushy and collapsed, and the kitchen smelled heavenly, and I suddenly remembered I had gotten rid of my food mill. So I was reduced to shoving the cooked apples through a strainer to get the peels, cores, and seeds out. Bah.

 I still stand by leaving the peels on when you cook the apples, for color and flavor, but if you don’t have a food mill, be smart and core them before cooking. Bah. What a stupid week. Anyway, I put the strained applesauce back into the pot and added a hunk of butter, some cinnamon, and some honey and let it cook down a little bit more. SO GOOD. There is nothing like warm, homemade applesauce.

I had two acorn squashes. I cut them in half and scooped them out, then put them in a pan in a 400 oven for about an hour, until the flesh was soft. Look how October it is:

Then I scooped it out, mashed it a bit, and added butter, honey, a little salt, and chili powder. I figured I was the only one who would eat it anyway.

I thought it was delicious! And yes, I was the only one who ate it. 

The pork ribs, I just sprinkled generously with salt and pepper on all side and put them in a 450 oven for about 25 minutes, turning once. This is the best way to make pork ribs. Fight me. 

Behold, my Salute to October:

WEDNESDAY
Meatball pizza

Aw yisss, leftover meatballs! I did not take a picture. Too busy eating meatball pizza.  

THURSDAY
Bacon tomato bisque, grilled cheese

This really is the soup of all soups. It takes even less skill than some soups, but it tastes both delicious and fancy. It is absolutely packed with flavor. I tweaked it a bit after last time I shared the recipe card (below). Bacon, garlic, onion, rosemary, tomato, and so creamy and rich. 

I also sprinkled the top of mine with some of those crunchy onion things we had left, and that was an excellent choice. 

I made a bunch of grilled cheese sandwiches with sourdough bread and American cheese, because dammit, I like American cheese. It melts good. I cooked them in the pan that the bacon, onions, and garlic had been cooked in. 

FRIDAY
I don’t know. I think I wrote spaghetti. 

***

4 from 1 vote
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Tomato bisque with bacon

Calories 6 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1/2 - 1 lb bacon (peppered bacon is good)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 35 oz can of whole tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 46 oz tomato juice
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • crispy fried onions (optional garnish)

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon until crisp. Remove from pan, chop it up, and drain out all but a a few teaspoons of grease.

  2. Add the diced onion and minced garlic to the grease and sauté until soft.

  3. Add tomatoes (including juices), bay leaves, rosemary, and tomato juice, and simmer for 20 minutes. Save some rosemary for a garnish if you like.

  4. With a slotted spoon, fish out the bay leaf, the tomatoes, and most of the rosemary, leaving some rosemary leaves in. Discard most of the rosemary and bay leaf. Put the rest of the rosemary and the tomatoes in a food processor with the 8 oz of cream cheese until it's as smooth as you want it.

  5. Return pureed tomato mixture to pot. Salt and pepper to taste.

  6. Heat through. Add chopped bacon right before serving, and top with crispy fried onions if you like. Garnish with more rosemary if you're a fancy man. 

What’s for supper? Vol.159: Bisquey business

How’s it hanging? Straight down? Yeah.

Here’s what we had for supper this week:

SATURDAY
Chicken marinara sandwiches; broccoli and dip

We had lots of wonderful sauce left over from the chicken cutlets last week, so Damien roasted some chicken breasts in the oven and we had them on toasted rolls with sauce and slices of provolone.

Feeble picture, excellent sandwich. I looked for basil, but the stores were completely out, for some reason. Probably all those people whipped up into hysteria by the weather forecasters. You best go out and pick up some basil, Travis!

SUNDAY
Chicken with chickpeas, pita and yogurt sauce; fried eggplant

Old reliable. You marinate the chicken (thighs or wings are best, and you MUST leave the skin on) in a cumin yogurt sauce for several hours, and the skin takes on the most amazing texture when you cook it.

I usually make two pans, with the chickpeas spread in among the chicken, which results in some crisp chickpeas on the edges and some rather soggy ones. So this time, tapping my finger cleverly against my temple, I put all the chicken in one pan and all the chickpeas in the other, on a lower oven rack. It worked! The chickpeas came out crisp and wonderful, with nice layers of crunch and a little soft center.

 

Then the kids told me they prefer them soggy. Tra la la.

I usually serve this with lemony red onion slices and fresh cilantro, but I forgot to buy onions, lemons, and cilantro, so it was a struggle.

I bought the eggplants purely out of a magpie impulse. So shiny, so pneumatic, so purply purple.

 

Such a lot of work to make them taste like anything. It actually wasn’t that hard, though. In the morning, I sliced the eggplant (leaving the skin on) and sprinkled both sides of the slices generously with salt, then laid them on napkins on a tray.

This draws out the moisture, and you can do it way, way ahead of time.

Before dinner, I made up a batter of flour, baking powder, water, and seasonings, and just dredged the eggplant through it before frying them in a few inches of hot oil.

This recipe turned out to be enough for about 1.5 large eggplants, so I will make a double recipe next time.  I had to skimp a bit on the batter, which is sad.

Very good. The texture was perfect, crisp and knobbly outside and tender inside.

 

The spices in the batter did a kind of slow burn rather than packing a punch, so I may up the seasoning next time, but I may not. In any case, now I know I can make fried eggplant! About half the kids ate it. Hey, it’s hot, batter fried food with salt on top that you can dip in stuff. They kept saying it was good zucchini, just to drive me crazy. I really don’t like zucchini.

The kids also made a lemon cake from a mix and topped it with strawberries. Pretty!

MONDAY
Pork ramen with pickled carrots

I forgot to make soft boiled eggs for this, but it was still a good, filling meal. I cooked up the boneless pork ribs in oil until they were almost done, then sliced them thinly, doused them with soy sauce, and finished cooking.

We also had pickled carrots (recipe card at end), fresh snow peas, scallions, sautéed mushrooms, and sesame seeds, soy sauce, wasabi sauce, and crunchy noodles of some kind.

Boy, those snow peas were great. Little sriracha sauce on top, yum yum.

TUESDAY
Meatloaf; roasted brussels sprouts and carrots

Nothing spectacular, but everyone is always happy on meatloaf day. I make my meatloaf with salt, pepper, fresh garlic, oregano, and plenty of Worcestershire sauce, mostly beef with some ground turkey, one egg and and half a cup of breadcrumb per pound of meat, and ketchup on the outside. Ghastly but tasty.

I made the vegetables with a sauce of balsamic vinegar, honey, and olive oil and some basic seasonings, and spread them in a shallow pan to roast.

Oh man, those little charred outside leaves of the Brussels sprouts.

The carrots were underdone and it looks like I didn’t do a great job of combining the binder with the meat, but we were too hungry to care.

WEDNESDAY
Bacon tomato bisque; grilled cheese

I was thrilled with this soup. I’ll make it again in the summer when there are decent fresh tomatoes, but it was delicious with canned, and very easy. Fry up bacon, then cook up onions and garlic in the bacon grease. Add tomatoes and tomato juice and bay leaf, and simmer for a while. Then take the tomatoes out and puree them with cream cheese, and put that back into the soup. I threw in some fresh rosemary we had from last week’s porchetta.

I had some cream to add, but it didn’t end up needing it. Tons of flavor and texture.

We had grilled cheese with muenster on sourdough, and it was an immensely satisfying winter meal.

I briefly considered putting out salad, but fought past that impulse.

THURSDAY
Omelettes; home fries

Choice of ham, cheddar cheese, sautéed mushrooms, and scallions.

All ten omelettes I made tasted fine, but were very unsightly. It’s time for me to admit that I am just too jumpy to make good-looking omelettes.

Oh well. We started on a high note because Corrie made her very own omelette (all I did was the folding part)

and she was so extremely proud of herself, it lit up the whole house.

We also had home fries. Potatoes cut in wedges, mixed up with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika, and cooked in a hot oven for forty minutes or so.

I cooked them in the morning and heated them up in the evening. I had mine with hot sauce, and now I shall do this for the rest of my life.

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

I think we’re kind of tired of the Instant Pot kind, so I’ll go back to the old style, which I learned from the WIC cookbook, where you make the cheese sauce separately and then add it to the cooked macaroni.

This is actually a really good marker of how my standards have changed. It used to seem like SO MUCH TROUBLE to make a sauce from scratch, cook pasta separately, and combine them in a dish. You end up making two pots AND a casserole dish dirty, and that’s not counting the pan for buttering the bread crumbs; and that felt intolerable. I’ve gotten much more used to the idea of putting time and effort into dinner.

But my life is also much, much easier now, with the kids being older, me sleeping most nights, life being calmer and more predictable in general, and Damien being home so much. And never underestimate how stressful and exhausting it is to be always about to run out of money, and to know that, if you fall in a hole, there won’t be any foreseeable way out. It colors everything you do.

Which is to say: If you cook mainly easy things, and more complex dishes seem out of your grasp, chances are good you’re not lazy or terrible. Your life is just hard right now, and your mental and physical energy needs to go elsewhere. If nobody is starving, you’re doing fine. I just wanted you to know that.

Here are this week’s recipe cards:

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

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

Ingredients

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

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

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

Instructions

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

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

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

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

Fried eggplant

You can salt the eggplant slices many hours ahead of time, even overnight, to dry them before frying.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • salt for drying out the eggplant

1/2 cup veg oil for frying

2 cups flour

  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp veg oil
  • optional: kosher salt for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. Cut the ends off the eggplant and slice it into one-inch slices.
    Salt them thoroughly on both sides and lay on paper towels on a tray (layering if necessary). Let sit for half an hour (or as long as overnight) to draw out some of the moisture. 

  2. Mix flour and seasonings in a bowl, add the water and teaspoon of oil, and beat into a batter. Preheat oven for warming. 

  3. Put oil in heavy pan and heat until it's hot but not smoking. Prepare a tray with paper towels.

  4. Dredge the eggplant slices through the batter on both sides, and carefully lay them in the hot oil, and fry until crisp, turning once. Fry in batches, giving them plenty of room to fry.

  5. Remove eggplant slices to tray with paper towels and sprinkle with kosher salt if you like.. You can keep them warm in the oven for a short time.  

  6. Serve with yogurt sauce or marinara sauce.

Cumin chicken thighs with chickpeas in yogurt sauce

A one-pan dish, but you won't want to skip the sides. Make with red onions and cilantro in lemon juice, pita bread and yogurt sauce, and pomegranates, grapes, or maybe fried eggplant. 

Ingredients

  • 18 chicken thighs
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp cumin, divided
  • 4-6 cans chickpeas
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 red onions, sliced thinly

For garnishes:

  • 2 red onions sliced thinly
  • lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • a bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 32 oz Greek yogurt for dipping sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed

Instructions

  1. Make the marinade early in the day or the night before. Mix full fat Greek yogurt and with lemon juice, four tablespoons of water, and two tablespoons of cumin, and mix this marinade up with chicken parts, thighs or wings. Marinate several hours. 

    About an hour before dinner, preheat the oven to 425.

    Drain and rinse four or five 15-oz cans of chickpeas and mix them up with a few glugs of olive oil, the remaining tablespoon of cumin, salt and pepper, and two large red onions sliced thin.

    Spread the seasoned chickpeas in a single layer on two large sheet pans, then make room among the chickpeas for the marinated chicken (shake or scrape the extra marinade off the chicken if it’s too gloppy). Then it goes in the oven for almost an hour. That’s it for the main part.

    The chickpeas and the onions may start to blacken a bit, and this is a-ok. You want the chickpeas to be crunchy, and the skin of the chicken to be a deep golden brown, and crisp. The top pan was done first, and then I moved the other one up to finish browning as we started to eat. Sometimes when I make this, I put the chickpeas back in the oven after we start eating, so some of them get crunchy and nutty all the way through.

Garnishes:

  1. While the chicken is cooking, you prepare your three garnishes:

     -Chop up some cilantro for sprinkling if people like.

     -Slice another two red onions nice and thin, and mix them in a dish with a few glugs of lemon juice and salt and pepper and more cilantro. 

     -Then take the rest of the tub of Greek yogurt and mix it up in another bowl with lemon juice, a generous amount of minced garlic, salt, and pepper. 

4 from 1 vote
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Tomato bisque with bacon

Calories 6 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1/2 - 1 lb bacon (peppered bacon is good)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 35 oz can of whole tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 46 oz tomato juice
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • crispy fried onions (optional garnish)

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon until crisp. Remove from pan, chop it up, and drain out all but a a few teaspoons of grease.

  2. Add the diced onion and minced garlic to the grease and sauté until soft.

  3. Add tomatoes (including juices), bay leaves, rosemary, and tomato juice, and simmer for 20 minutes. Save some rosemary for a garnish if you like.

  4. With a slotted spoon, fish out the bay leaf, the tomatoes, and most of the rosemary, leaving some rosemary leaves in. Discard most of the rosemary and bay leaf. Put the rest of the rosemary and the tomatoes in a food processor with the 8 oz of cream cheese until it's as smooth as you want it.

  5. Return pureed tomato mixture to pot. Salt and pepper to taste.

  6. Heat through. Add chopped bacon right before serving, and top with crispy fried onions if you like. Garnish with more rosemary if you're a fancy man. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 136: Charlotte was neither

Something something food something! Ho ho, Sam Sifton, aioli. Remoulade, cabanas with that wonderful old-fashioned smell of hot canvas, and gin rummy. At any rate, then we all popped over to Sonya Yoncheva’s flat, where the most amusing thing happened with some lobster knuckles, ho ho ho. Then here’s what we had the rest of the week:

SATURDAY
Giant grilled ham and cheddar cheese, strawberries, chips

We normally have these sandwiches on sourdough bread, but Aldi had this ludicrously big loaves on sale. I forget what it’s called — something Italian — but those were some hearty sandwiches, let me tell you. For size reference, this is a twelve-inch pan they’re cooking in:

Nice summer meal, yum.

If you don’t know the trick of skimming a little mayo on the outside of your grilled cheese before frying it in butter, you should. It’s a good trick.

SUNDAY
Cookout!

We usually have a huge family reunion party on July 4th, but too many people couldn’t make it, so we rescheduled for the 8th — and then a bunch of people got sick and couldn’t make it. So we had the party anyway, with a small but cheerful group, and we’re shooting for Memorial Day to get the band back together.

We had burgers and hot dogs and chicken, chips, watermelon, potato salad, ice cream, and cookies, with sparklers, fireworks, and the Declaration of Independence. Three cheers!

MONDAY
Pork ribs, rice, string beans

I didn’t even know there was such a thing as supper at 5, but by 5:45, we had oven roasted pork ribs, white rice, and raw string beans. Pork ribs with salt and pepper in a pan with drainage, slide under a hot broiler for maybe 8 minutes, turning once. Rice using the 1:1 method in the Instant Pot. String beans thrust at unwilling children for stem removal, standards lowered as necessary. Boom, dinner. I had mine with gochujang sauce to make it even more boom.

TUESDAY
Apricot chicken salad

I had a recipe, but I didn’t like the looks of it, so I invented something brand new not to like. The recipe called for greens and cooked chicken, fresh apricots, celery, blue cheese, and some kind of peculiar buttermilk dressing. We all agree that buttermilk is problematic, because we’ve all read Charlotte’s Web and now expect buttermilk to taste like ambrosia, rather than bad milk, and it never does. (We also have some inappropriate notions about potato peels and old cabbage cores, but never mind.) So I skipped the dressing, and happened upon some white balsamic peach vinaigrette dressing at Aldi, which, it turns out, is only offered for a short time for a reason, the reason being that it is yucky.

Well, apricots aren’t quite in season yet, it turns out, so I bought dried apricots. Just like you can substitute raisins for grapes, okay? It’s the same thing!

So, the salad was okay. We ate it. I could redo it when apricots are in season, I guess, but I think we’ll just move along [shakes fist at passing spider].

WEDNESDAY
Pizzas by Irene

For our child-led dinner series (which I say because I’ve forgotten how to talk), Irene chose pizza. So, you know how some parents watch their children get all upset and stressed out while trying to accomplish something tricky, and they respond to that stressed-out child by shouting, “Calm down! Just take it easy, okay? Calm down!” and you know how that’s not helpful at all?

Well, you go ahead and watch the world’s least chill 9-year-old attempt to stretch somewhat cold pizza dough over five extra large pans, and see what happens when she gets a hole in the dough and it’s the ennnnnnnnnd of the world. You see what comes out of your mouth!

Anyway, she actually did very well. We all did very well. Yes. [shakes fist at passing spider]

THURSDAY
Carnitas with salsa verde

We just had carnitas last week, but I wanted to try some new toppings for it. I had big plans, but ended up settling for just one new thing: salsa verde. Oh my stars, this was a good choice.

I took about fifteen tomatillos and unwrapped them, and put them on a pan with three medium jalapenos, a quartered onion, and about ten cloves of garlic. I roasted them for a few minutes until they were a little charred.

Look how dramatic the onions got!

Then I cut the stems off the jalapenos (I left all the seeds in), pulled the wrappers off the garlic cloves, and trimmed the ends off the onions, and shoved everything in the food processor with a big handful of cilantro and about 3/4 tsp of sugar. I blended it until it was pulpy.

Then I heated up a frying pan with a little olive oil and put the salsa mixture in, and heated it, stirring, until it was a bit thickened. Then I added about 3/4 cup of chicken broth and about 1/4 cup of lime juice; then I let it simmer for another 15 minutes until a lot of the liquid was absorbed.

I will admit that I have only tasted salsa verde once before in my life, but I do believe this is how it’s supposed to taste. Sweet and hot and greeeeen. So very nice.

It was a wonderful accompaniment to the pork, which I made in the slow cooker with a can of beer and two cans of diced tomatoes with chiles. When the meat was tender, I trimmed off the considerable fat, shredded it, and spread it in a shallow pan to be browned up under the broiler.

The meat came out a bit bland, but the salsa verde more than made up for it. I had my carnitas with salsa verde, sour cream, raw red onions sliced thin, and a little fresh lime juice. More fresh cilantro would have been nice.

FRIDAY
Penne and sauce

Oh, we had a birthday in there, too. Sonny wanted to go have pizza with his friends and then sleep in the yard in a tent, so my main contribution was this . . . thing.

Look, he wanted a cake with a bearded dragon wearing a top hat, and that’s what he got. In real life, bearded dragons are even stupider-looking. [shakes fist at passing spider]

What’s for supper? Vol. 99! The best meal in town!

Not really. Do they have The 99 Restaurant and Pub where you live? Do I have a jingle stuck in my head that no one else remembers? I can’t recall if I’ve ever eaten a meal there, but I have definitely been there, and it did not feel like the kind of place at which the best meal in town could possibly be provided.

I just Googled “The 99 the” to see if the slogan in my head is still in current use, and here is what I got:

Now you know as much as I do.

***

SATURDAY
Grilled cheese with ham and apple on sourdough, chips, Siberian pickles

Got the idea from a Kraft ad on Facebook. Deli ham, cheddar cheese, and granny smith apples on sourdough bread, with lots of mayo spread on the outside before grilling. Really delicious (made by Damien). I seem to have lost the photo, though.

I don’t know if they were really specifically Siberian pickles, but my husband was visiting #1 daughter at college, and they popped into a Siberian market, as one does. He brought home pickles, pumpkin seeds, and . . . something. White, poofy balls, sort of like gritty meringue marshmallows. My cyrillic is not up to speed. I ate one and got a blinding headache, so I stuck with the pickles.

***

SUNDAY
Beef bourguignon, fresh bread

I’ve been hearing about beef bourguignon for years, and didn’t really know what it was. It turns out it’s . . . stew.

This is exactly how I make stew. I followed this Sur La Table recipe, designed for the Instant Pot, and served it over noodles, and baked three loaves of bread from readymade frozen dough.

It was good, and the meat was very tender, but not blow-your-face-off-amazing, as I’d been led to expect. And it did taste better than my regular stew, which kind of ticked me off.

I think it’s the same principle at work as when someone loses weight and feels more energetic, and their skin clears up, when they start eating acai berries or rubbing charcoal in their armpits or whatever stupid bullshit people are doing now.

It’s not that the thing itself is especially effective. It’s that once you’ve done some research and bought some products and committed to using it, you’re signalling to yourself that you’re worth the effort, and that makes you feel better, which triggers other good self-care habits. And those are what’s making you feel better, but you paid money for it, so you’re like, “Wow, this acai charcoal is changing my life!”

In this case, I was actually following a recipe for something with a French name, rather than just schlepping around my kitchen making some fwiggin’ stew; and that prompted me to take the trouble to slice the garlic thin and patiently brown each piece of meat, or whatever. So it tasted better than stew. Whatever.

We had chocolate pudding with cool whip for dessert. I was planning to make tiny, individual pie shells by cutting flower shapes out of pie crust and folding up the petals before baking, but I forgot I had to write a thing, so I ran out of time. No one complained about pudding that wasn’t in piecrust flowers. I heroically didn’t have any dessert, but then I ate the leftover cool whip for lunch the next day. I did use a spoon, even though no one was watching.

***

MONDAY
Hamburgers, broccoli

That’s what it says. I have no memory of Monday. Oh wait, here’s a picture:

I do remember! It tasted so good, because we went running in the dark, and then Damien cooked me a burger and made it all gloppy with ketchup and mustard, just the way I like it. It was good.

***

TUESDAY
Hot dogs, hot pretzels, grapes

We had fixings left over from our Hot Dogs O’ Many Nations buffet, so I really had to buy more hot dogs. I had a buffalo dog with bleu cheese, scallions, and buffalo sauce. It did not disappoint.

***

WEDNESDAY
Kids had pork ramen, we went running and then went to Chili’s

I haven’t adjusted to having two fewer teenagers in the house yet, so I bought way too many pork ribs last week, and then sliced up the leftovers and froze them. On Wednesday, I heated the meat up in a little water while the ramen was cooking. Cooked up some frozen spinach and boiled a bunch of eggs, and put it all on the table in separate bowls with sesame seeds and crunchy chow mein noodles, which were the most expensive part of this meal.

Because my special gift is ordering food a restaurant doesn’t specialize in, I had Chili’s unfamous clam chowder and fresca salad, plus about eleven cubic yards of those hot, thin, salty, greasy tostada chips, and a couple of margaritas.

***

THURSDAY
Meatball subs, watermelon

I used about five pounds of beef and a pound of ground turkey, six eggs, three or four cups of breadcrumbs, and whatever seasonings were in the front of the Clementine box. I put the meatballs on a double pan with drainage and put them in a 450 oven for probably 25 minutes, then moved them to a baking pan with tomato sauce to warm them up before supper.

I hope this is the last watermelon of the year. The kids insisted on buying it, but it makes me sad because you can’t find watermelons with seeds anymore. I like watermelon, but it’s so sad that it doesn’t have seeds.

Probably I should note that on my chart. “CD 26: Fatigue; irritability; food cravings; thinks it’s sad that watermelons don’t have seeds anymore.”

***

FRIDAY
The ever longed-for tuna noodle casserole.

Tuna fish, cream of mushroom soup, and egg noodles, topped with crushed potato chips and corn flakes, drizzled with a sauce of ketchup, mayo, and vinegar. If you didn’t grow up eating it, you’ll never enjoy it. If you grew up eating it, it will make you feel five years old again, in a good way.

***

Guess what? I just remembered it’s actually “The 99! The best deal in town!” not the best meal in town. That explains a thing or two.