What’s for supper? Vol. 355: I like my men like I like my Kentucky Hot Brown. . .

. . . not necessarily especially brown, but actually just named after a hotel. 

I swear this seemed like a joke in my head.

Anyway, here’s what we ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Turkey sandwiches, spanakopita triangles, chips

The last of the Thanksgiving leftovers. Not spectacular sandwiches, just a split baguette with turkey, lettuce, tomato, and Swiss cheese.

Damien reheated the last of the spanakopita triangles, and even though they’re amazing when they’re piping hot fresh out of the oven the first time, they’re still pretty darn good when they’re a little soft and old and leftover. As who among us is not. 

If you’re having a party in December, I do heartily recommend spanakopita triangles. They’re easy to make if you get ready made phyllo dough (what are you, crazy? of course get ready made) and they come out great if you make them ahead of time and keep them in the fridge until the guests are almost there, and then you just pop them in the oven. 

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So nice. 

SUNDAY
Green masala beef curry, rice, naan

I had bought a couple of of those weirdly cheap lamb breast plates several weeks ago, and threw it in the freezer, planning to make this excellent green masala curry. I also picked up a few extra lamb chops just to make sure there was enough meat. 

So, but, when it was time to cook, the lamb just did not smell right. I inquired on social media, and most folks claimed lamb is supposed to smell weird. Gamey, metallic, and so on, especially if the butcher wasn’t careful and let the wool contact the meat, giving it a lanolin flavor. I just kept sniffing and sniffing it, and I wasn’t sure if it was normal-weird or rancid-weird. 

Then I recalled that a few kids already had a stomach bug even before eating potentially bad meat, and I threw that meat away. No ragrets. I had been planning to make beef barley soup later in the week, so I cut up the beef I have saving and used that instead of mutton.

This is quite an easy recipe. I ground up everything in my food processor and set it to marinate with the meat in the morning. Then the only thing left to do is wake up some spices in oil (I didn’t have everything, just cinnamon, cloves and bay leaves)

and then add the meat and marinade, and let it cook. 

I do prefer lamb or goat, but the beef was great. Extremely tender, and the sauce is lovely, not too spicy but very warming. I actually did quite a few substitutions: I had black cardamom instead of green; I forgot jalapeños, so I just threw some green Tobasco sauce in there; and I forgot cilantro, so I used Italian parsley and extra mint (I had some of those cubes of frozen mint I saved from before the frost). I forgot the poppy seeds, and of course it was beef instead of mutton. STILL GOOD. Indian cooking is so forgiving. 

I decided we wanted homemade naan, so I pulled up the King Arthur recipe and made a double batch. It needs about an hour to rise, and then you separate the dough into balls

and let it rest for twenty minutes. Then you just fry each one on both sides in a hot pan, and brush it with butter or ghee

I find it helpful to keep a damp cloth by the stove to wipe the flour out of the pan in between each piece. Otherwise, it just hangs around and gets black and makes your naan taste burnt when it isn’t.

I put the naan in a pan and kept it warm in the oven, but I forgot to cover it, so some of them were a little too crisp and dry by the time it was dinner; but a lot of the were still chewy and reasonably tender. Nothing I bake really comes out very tender, but fresh hot naan is fresh hot naan! 

I splurged on basmati rice and made a big pot of that. I moved the meat into a pot on the stove, and used the Instant Pot to make the basmati rice. I did a 1:1 with rinsed rice and water, taking out a bit of the water afte measuring, to compensate for what would be on the rice after rinsing it; and I cooked it for ten minutes with ten minutes of natural release before venting. And we had a lovely meal.

I want to try more Indian recipes, but the few I have are so tasty, I just keep coming back to them. Maybe next week!

MONDAY
Turkey barley soup, hot pretzels

When I pulled the last turkey off the Thanksgiving bird over the weekend, I simmered the carcass all day in water with carrots, onions, and parsley, thinking it would be nice to have some good stock for later. So I figured Monday counted as later, and just pulled that out again and threw some more carrots and a bunch of barley and some mushrooms in, and we had some okay soup. 

I guess I just don’t like turkey soup that much. It was fine, just nothing to write home about. I heated up some frozen hot pretzels and it was fine. 

TUESDAY
Ham, mashed acorn squash, green beans with cashews

The kids were a little dismayed that I had not planned their ideal dinner, which is ham, peas, and mashed potatoes, but I’m not ready to mash potatoes again yet. Instead, I mashed squash! That’ll larn ’em!

I cut two acorn squashes in half, scooped out the seeds and gunk (and I saved the seeds! My empire of saved seeds continues to expand), sprinkled them with baking soda and a little kosher salt, and put them in the Instant Pot with half a cup of water. (The reasoning behind the baking soda is that it raises the pH of the squash, which hastens and deepens the caramelization that happens when you cook it. Does this really work? Nobody knows, but it’s so easy that I’m not gonna do an experiment and risk having slightly less flavorful squash.) I cooked the squash at high pressure for like 24 minutes. 

I couldn’t find the little metal trivet that keeps the food from touching the bottom, so I put some mason jar rings in there under the squash, and it worked fine. Probably raised the pH even more, who can say. 

Then I scooped them out, burning myself forty-six times; and then mashed it up with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon and cloves. The recipe I usually follow

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calls for nutmeg, but it had disappeared. My kitchen is like a shifting mirage, where things drift in and out of reality without regard for the fact that I am trying to get supper on the table. But the cinnamon and cloves tasted great. I love this dish. 

The ham was already cooked, so Damien heated it up the oven while I went to get the kids, and then while the squash was cooking, I made some quick string beans. 

I had cashews left over from the green curry, so I chopped up a bunch. I trimmed the string beans and cooked them in boiling water for like four minutes. Then I drained them and ran cold water over them until they were cool. (This is because, when they get hot enough, they will continue cooking away inside their little skins, even if you take them out of the hot water, and they get overcooked very quickly; so you need to cook them just a little and then make sure they stop cooking!)

Then I heated up some olive oil in a pan, slightly browned up the chopped-up cashews, and added the string beans back in and kept them moving until they were hot. I guess I added salt and pepper at this point. 

And it was a nice little meal!

If I had to do it over, I’d cook the string beans in butter, rather than oil. They were a little greasy. But still pretty good. 

WEDNESDAY
Regular tacos

100% regular. I heard the kids reading the blackboard menu and commenting that “regular tacos” sounded a little suspicious, like probably I was trying a little too hard to lull them into thinking that it was going to be a normal meal, WHEN IT WASN’T. Joke’s on them: They really were just normal tacos. Everybody wins, except the taco. 

THURSDAY
Kentucky Hot Brown

So, in retrospect, what would have made my turkey soup better is if it had had more turkey in it. But actually I had pulled the meat off the carcass and frozen it, and then I took the meat out on Thursday to try this sandwich recipe. But because I’m the queen of making things hard on myself for no reason, preferably over the course of several days, the meat I saved was enough meat for soup, but not really enough for sandwiches. So we ended up with sub-par soup, and then I had to run out anyway and buy some chicken and roast it so we’d have enough meat for the sandwiches, which are perfect for when you have tons of leftover turkey in the house and you don’t know what to do with it, and/or you are crazy. 

NEVERTHELESS, they were good sandwiches! I had some thick Italian bread which I toasted in the oven, and on top of that you put the turkey, then some sliced tomatoes, then a mornay sauce (which is just a white sauce with cheese in it. I used freshly grated parmesan, some cheddar, and a little pepper jack) with plenty of nutmeg (which had graciously appeared again), and then bacon on top of that. 

You’re supposed to toast the whole thing under the broiler, but I forgot. Still good!

I made the mornay sauce in the pan that the bacon had been fried in, because fat.

FRIDAY
Quesadillas I guess

I think I saw the writing on the wall (the writing saying “Mene mene you keep using up food that you meant to save for another meal, you dope!”) and, when I was making the mornay sauce, I actually hid some cheese from myself, so I would have some for the quesadillas and not have to go to the supermarket yet again. I don’t know where I hid it, but it’s gotta be in the fridge somewhere, and WHEN I FIND IT . . . I’m gonna make some quesadillas. 

And that’s why they call me Kentucky Hot Brown. (They do not.) 

Spanakopita triangles

Ingredients

  • 1 lbs spinach
  • 1 stick butter, plus 1 Tbsp for sautéing spinach
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups crumbled feta
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 roll phyllo dough, thawed

Instructions

To make the filling:

  1. In a big pan, melt the 1 Tbsp butter and sauté the spinach until it's soft. It will be a giant heap of greens at first, but it cooks way down and will fit in the pan when you're done!

  2. Let the spinach cool and then squeeze out as much water as you can.

  3. In a bowl, mix together the cooked spinach with the salt, pepper and nutmeg, and stir in the feta until it's combined. Set aside.

  4. Preheat the oven to 375

  5. Melt the stick of butter and set it aside. You'll need it handy for assembling the triangles.

  6. Unroll the phyllo dough and cover it with a slightly damp cloth to keep it from getting brittle. Take what you need and keep the rest of the stack covered.

To assemble the triangles:

  1. Carefully lay a phyllo dough square on your workspace, long side horizontal. Brush it with melted butter. Lay another sheet on top of it and brush that with butter.

  2. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into three strips.

  3. Put a scoop of spinach mixture at the bottom of each strip. Then fold that section of dough up diagonally, enclosing the spinach, so it forms a triangle. Continue folding up to make triangles, like you'd fold a flag, until you reach the top of the dough. If you're having trouble figuring out how to fold it, here is a helpful video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVwA3i_tmKc&t=2s

  4. If there's a bit of leftover dough on the triangle, fold it under. Lay the finished triangle on a baking sheet, seam side down. Brush with butter again.

  5. Continue until the phyllo dough is gone. I made 18 pockets, two sheets thick, with one roll of phyllo dough, but you can change the proportions and make lots of smaller triangles if you like.

  6. Bake about 25 minutes until golden brown. Let them sit in the pan for a moment before removing. Serve hot or cold.

Instant Pot Mashed Acorn Squash

Ingredients

  • 1 acorn quashes
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Cut the acorn squashes in half. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt on the cut surfaces.

  2. Put 1/2 a cup of water in the Instant Pot, fit the rack in it, and stack the squash on top. Close the lid, close the valve, and cook on high pressure for 24 minutes. Do quick release.

  3. When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop it out into a bowl, mash it, and add the rest of the ingredients.

What’s for supper? Vol. 350: In which I do not really use the oven

Hola, amigos. I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya. I actually wrote quite a bit this week, but ended up doing whatever the digital version is of crumpling up the paper, and whatever the sitting on your ass version is of stomping off to go stand in a corner and sulk. This has not been a wonderful week for (a) a Jew who (b) has been following the Catholic sex abuse scandal closely for years and (c) lives next door to Maine. You know what doesn’t help? When the 12-year-old public radio host who is reading the headlines suddenly puts on her raggedy, tormented sad kitty voice and says, “Hope you’re taking care of yourself today. Deep breaths, everybody,” before abruptly perking up and announcing that it will be sunny this weekend and there will be a punkin festibal. I’ll sunny you! Good heavens. 

Anyway, I’ve been making steady progress with Halloween costumes this week, so I’ve got that going for me. I managed to almost completely avoid sewing this year. LOTS of duct tape, lots of hot glue, and a tremendous number of zip ties, though. Corrie is going to be Dalek Sec, with a light-up helmet

and Benny is going to be Classic Green Goblin. 

They both needs more work, but we’re in pretty good shape for Oct. 28. 

The oven broke on Sunday (just the bottom heating element) and we haven’t had a chance to fix it yet, but I lucked out and happened to have planned a menu that can be made with the broiler, the stovetop, and of course the Instant Pot. Here’s what we had this week: 

SATURDAY
Pulled pork sandwiches, chips

On Saturday we went to a rummage sale in the morning. We love rummage sales. Corrie has been losing just dozens of teeth lately, so she had a glass jar stuffed with bills to spend. The first thing she bought was, practically, a wallet. She then transferred her money to the wallet and went on an incredible spending spree. She was buying Crayola Glow Domes, she was buying Christmas earrings, she was buying t-shirts bragging about our Bernese Mountain Dog. Zero regrets.

I myself bought a leather motorcycle jacket for some reason (well, the reason was that it was $12) and a bunch of kitchen wares. The duality of mom.

Then we came home and I got some pulled pork going in the Instant Pot

and then we all went to the Pumpkin Festival in Keene. 

it was raining, but we had a pretty good time. The theme this year was “Please Do Not Light Any Cars on Fire” and with an undertone of “How Much Can We Charge For Fried Dough and Still Sleep At Night?” and they nailed it. 

We all got home pretty wet and tired, so I was mighty pleased to have a hot pot of pulled pork waiting. We had sandwiches and chips. 

I made up a new card for the new way I make pulled pork.

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I like the flavor so much, I don’t even put BBQ sauce on my sandwich. You definitely can, but it’s plenty flavorful by itself. This is a rare recipe of mine that doesn’t have any garlic in it! Behold, it can be done! It has a wonderful, warming, autumnal taste with the apple cider, apple juice, cumin, and cloves. You can remove the jalapeño seeds and/or membranes to make it less spicy, but it’s not overpowering as is, just perky. 

SUNDAY
Chicken burgers, nacho chips

Sunday was when we noticed the oven was broken, and also when we discovered you can broil frozen chicken burgers and they turn out fine. 

MONDAY
English muffin pizzas

We used to have this alllllll the time. It’s been several years, I think, and it’s a meal a few of the kids have been agitating for. Damien was going to be out of town, so I took the opportunity. I even got little bitty mini pepperonis to make it cute

I don’t really miss this meal, but it wasn’t terrible. I feared and hated the sourness of English muffins when I was little, and I still have to consciously flip a switch in my head to enjoy the taste of them. 

TUESDAY
Chicken tortilla soup, quesadillas

I had some leftover rotisserie chicken from last week I had chucked into the freezer, so I used that to make one of my favorite soups. The recipe

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calls for cooking the raw chicken directly into the broth, and I wasn’t going to do that, so I added extra chicken bouillon to make sure it had some flavor. It also calls for chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, and I couldn’t find that at all in the three stores I went to. So I just added more of all the other ingredients. 

The result was . . . honestly, pretty bland soup. 

Pretty, though. Aldi had these fancy tri-colored crunchy tortilla strips for toppings, so I grabbed a bag of those, and I also topped mine with avocado and cilantro. I made a bunch of quesadillas. It was fine. Not an amazing meal, but it wasn’t the recipe’s fault. 

WEDNESDAY
Mexican beef bowls, pineapple

On Wednesday, I re-burnished my reputation somewhat with a meal everybody likes: Mexican beef bowls.

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Roast beef was on sale, so I made the lovely, piquant marinade in the morning and sliced the meat thinly, and let it marinate all day

When it got to be close to supper, I made a pot of rice, sliced up a few pineapples, shredded some cheese, roasted some corn, chopped some cilantro, cut up some limes, and dug up some sour cream, and then I broiled the meat

Honestly I overcooked it, because I forgot how thin it was, but it was fine. 

So yummy. Tons of flavors. 

Earlier in the day, I also made a pot of black beans. Actually I only had one can of beans and one can of kidney beans, so that’s what we had. 

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Only a few people like beans, so I added as much spice and garlic as I wanted, which was a lot. I’m a huge bean fan. (I realize that’s a slightly ambiguous sentence. I mean it all the ways.) So much so that the kids stored the leftovers in a ziplock bag, and I ate cold bagged beans as a snack the next day and managed to feel guilty about the opulent luxury of it all.

THURSDAY
Blackened shishito chicken sandwiches; veggies and hummus

This is one of my favorite sandwiches, quite popular at our house. This time I had Tony CHachere’s seasoning, rather than some kind of generic “cajun seasoning,” and I forgot how salty Tony CHachere’s is! So they were a little overly aggressive, salt-wise. Still so tasty, though. 

This is a Sip and Feast recipe. You season the chicken thighs and cook them slowly and thoroughly in hot oil 

(this pan is one of my rummage sale finds! A lovely multi-ply stainless steel pan, very sturdy. I love stainless steel the best)

and then you top them with American cheese and let that melt

and while those keep warm, you quickly blister up the shishito peppers in the pan that you cooked the chicken in

and serve it all on toasted or untoasted brioche buns with barbecue sauce and red onion slices

and it’s just a damn fine, sloppy, tasty, delicious sandwich, even if you burn the buns like I did. 

FRIDAY
Regular spaghetti

On Friday, we had already been a million places, and we had a million places to be, so all signs pointed to spaghetti with sauce from a jar. And that’s my story! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with some Dalekanium and a hot glue gun. I suggest taking shallow breaths and being hard on yourself, and writing legally actionable hate mail to your local public radio host. But you know yourself. 

Clovey pulled pork

Ingredients

  • fatty hunk of pork
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for browning
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2/3 cup apple juice
  • 3 jalapeños with tops removed, seeds and membranes intact
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp ground cloves

Instructions

  1. Cut pork into hunks. Season heavily with salt and pepper.

  2. Heat oil in heavy pot and brown pork on all sides.

  3. Move browned pork into Instant Pot or slow cooker or dutch oven. Add all the other ingredients. Cover and cook slowly for at least six hours.

  4. When pork is tender, shred.

 

Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup

Adapted from twosleevers.com. This is a very flavorful chicken soup. It has a little hotsy totsy burst of spice with the first taste, and then the more complex flavors come through slowly. Magic.

It's fairly brothy, and then you heap up all the garnishes you want on top.

This is a little over a gallon of soup.

Ingredients

  • 2 med onions
  • 1 lb (4 medium) tomatoes
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 3 chiles in adobo sauce plus some of the sauce
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (include seeds for more heat)
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • water
  • salt to taste
  • garnishes: avocado slices, sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, tortilla strips, chopped scallions

Instructions

  1. Cut the onions and tomatoes into chunks so they will fit in the blender or food processor. Put the onions, tomatoes, jalapeño, chili pepper and sauce, garlic and cilantro into a blender or food processor and blend it until it's a thick sauce. You may need to do it in batches, or just keep poking the big pieces down so everything gets blended in.

  2. Add enough oil to the Instant Pot pot to cover the bottom. Press "sauté" and let the oil heat up for a few minutes.

  3. Pour in the tomato mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes, until any liquid is mostly absorbed. You may need to press "sauté" again to keep it hot.

  4. Cut the chicken breasts into pieces and put them in the pot. Add six cups of water.

  5. Close the top, seal the valve, and press "pressure cook," then the + button until it goes to 20 minutes. When it's done cooking, let it naturally release for 10 minutes, then release the remaining pressure manually.

  6. Open the top and fish out the chicken. Shred it and return it to the pot. Add salt to taste.

  7. Serve the soup with garnishes: avocado slices, sour cream, tortilla strips, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, and chopped scallions.

 

Beef marinade for fajita bowls

enough for 6-7 lbs of beef

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 head garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together.

  2. Pour over beef, sliced or unsliced, and marinate several hours. If the meat is sliced, pan fry. If not, cook in a 350 oven, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. I cook the meat in all the marinade and then use the excess as gravy.

 

Instant Pot black beans

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 16-oz cans black beans with liquid
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Put olive oil pot of Instant Pot. Press "saute" button. Add diced onion and minced garlic. Saute, stirring, for a few minutes until onion is soft. Press "cancel."

  2. Add beans with liquid. Add cumin, salt, and cilantro. Stir to combine. Close the lid, close the vent, and press "slow cook."

What’s for supper? Vol. 346: Babe, you ok? You barely touched your Earl Gray Preminger Tea Cake

Happy Monday! Don’t worry, it’s Monday, not Friday! I just didn’t get to finish this last week, so I’m doing it now. 

Here’s what we had last week:

SATURDAY
Chicken soup with matzoh balls, challah, Earl Grey Tea Cake 

Saturday we had a little meal for Clara’s birthday: chicken soup with matzoh balls, and challah for dinner. Here’s my challah recipe:

Jump to Recipe

I once again attempted to do a four-strand braid. Last time I followed a video, and that didn’t go well (I cried), so this time I used a pictorial step-by-step guide, and I still cried. I fervently believe that if you took a CAT scan of my brain, there would just be a little missing chunk for the part for what to do when something crosses over something else. That is where everything goes haywire, whether I’m braiding or dancing or installing a light fixture or anything. As soon as one thing crosses over another thing, I just start to cry and I don’t know what to do.

But I’m an adult, and I quickly remembered it’s just bread, so I can just smoosh it together and it doesn’t matter. And I was right! 

The chicken soup was good, if not terribly photogenic.

and the matzoh balls turned out fluffy! I’m going to cling to that little victory, because of what happened with the cake. 

Clara asked for an Earl Gray tea cake, which I have made before using this recipe from this recipe from Liv For Cake, and it was a tremendous pain in the pants. So I looked around for a different recipe, and found one that seemed a little simpler, although it was intended for actual tea cakes — not only made with tea, but cut up into little cakes, glazed, and served with tea. The recipe is from Taste Made, and I made the glaze that goes with it, and also the vanilla bean buttercream frosting from the previous recipe.

So, now, in my defense, at this point, I was making soup, bread, cake, glaze, and frosting all at the same time, and I was about a week into a new migraine medication that quite magically made my headaches much worse and also gave me constant nausea. So when I got to the point where the frosting recipe said to whisk the egg whites and sugar over a double boiler, I was like

NOT 

ONE

MORE 

POT

so, I whisked the eggs and sugar over the soup. 

and you know what, this did not work great. 

Anyway, I don’t know what the hell else I did wrong, but that cake turned out so dense. It was absolutely GUMMY. It was CLAGGY. It was STODGY. It was all the worst things Prue could say about a cake. 

But, not content with a cake that tasted weird, I thought I would go ahead and decorate it in a horrendous way as well. So I thought, Hey, Clara really used to like that Barbie in The Princess and the Pauper movie with Martin Short as the villain Preminger. So I will make a Preminger cake! AS ONE DOES. 

If you’re not familiar, many of these animated Barbie movies are actually worth watching, and some of them have really good voice actors. Here’s the “How Can I Refuse” number:

annnd here’s the cake:

I . . . an attempt was made. She laughed. Hey, did I tell you how fluffy my matzoh balls were? 

SUNDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, pickles, chips

Sunday I still hadn’t done my shopping, but was undeniably felled with not-Covid-but-some-fwiggin-thing, and decided to do Instacart. We had grilled ham and cheese sandwiches on sourdough bread with cute little pickles on the side, and chips. 

Except I had an apple instead of chips, because I looked up the serving size and it was something like seven chips, and that’s just offensive. Might as well have a fwiggin apple. 

MONDAY
Domino’s pizza

Monday I forget what happened, but Damien assessed my general situation and decided that sometimes being the spiritual head of the family means insisting that we order pizza. Bless. 

TUESDAY
Spicy chicken sandwiches with peppers; grapes, cucumbers

Tuesday I pulled some chicken breasts out of the freezer and we had these lovely sandwiches from Sip and Feast that I adore. They’re even better with boneless chicken thighs, but still pretty darn good with breast sliced in half lengthwise. 

Look, if nobody else in your life is willing to say that sometimes American cheese is the best cheese for the job, I’ll say it. I’ll be that person for you. 

I cooked the peppers in the same pan that the chicken had been in

and once the cheese was melted, we piled up them sandwiches.

So it’s a nice soft, sweet brioche buns, BBQ sauce, chicken coated in cajun seasoning and sauteed slowly with American cheese melted on top, some slightly charred shishito peppers, red onion rings, and more BBQ sauce. 

For sides I just served grapes and cucumbers, which is a little weird but whatcha gonna do. 

This sandwich is just excellent. I was afraid I wouldn’t like it as much the second time (you know how sometimes you’re just dazzled by a new recipe, and then you make it again and it turns out you were just having a nice day in general, and that food itself wasn’t that great?), but I DID. It’s yummy and everyone liked it. 

WEDNESDAY
Spicy penne with butternut squash, mozzarella, and spinach; garlic bread

Wednesday I was still feeling extremely punk, but at this point I was mad about being sick, so I decided to . . . show them [shakes fist migrainously at destiny] and try a New York Times recipe.

This is not uhhhh best practice. It was a bad idea. It was an okay recipe, and I’m already familiar with how much work it is to process butternut squash, so I wasn’t taken aback by that as so many of the commenters were; but it was still kind of a lot of work and just didn’t amount to much. I don’t know. I even got the nice fresh mozzarella, and I had fresh spinach and fresh jalapeños and a butternut squash from my garden, and it just tasted kind of meh. 

Oh, here is the recipe, because of course the NYT one is paywalled. And here is a picture of me with my butternut squash. It’s the very first one I picked from my garden, and this is the first year I have grown squash, so I wanted to document it. Turns out it’s kind of hard for a decent Christian lady to take a picture of herself holding a butternut squash in a way that won’t get you in trouble with Tito Edwards.

Anyway the recipe started off well enough, cooking the squash in olive oil with cumin and red pepper flakes.

I prepped the heck out of all the other ingredients, so I could just throw it together when I got home.

I even had enough time to take the leftover challah, slice it up, and make garlic bread

and you know, there’s a reason people don’t do that. It was okay, just not really a texture you necessarily want with garlic bread. 

The whole meal was okay. I kept thinking maybe if the pasta had crumbled sausage in it. I don’t know. I doubt I’ll make it again. It’s now in my head as a bad, sad dish, so I probably won’t go back to it. You may have other results.

On Thursday evening we were talking about apple picking, and how that late spring frost killed off so many apple blossoms, lots of local orchards aren’t even offering PYU apples this year. Our terrible little tree did manage to put out some terrible apples, though, and I realized I was planning to cook pork the next day, so we decided to go ahead and pick the apples that evening.

 

I suppose if I ever did even one single thing to take care of this tree, it might make better apples, but as it is, the dog and the ducks love the miserable little fruits it produces, and we have our annual little ritual of picking apples and searching for the foley mill, so it serves its purpose. I promised the kids I wouldn’t make the applesauce until they got home from school the next day. 

THURSDAY
Roast pork ribs, crabapple sauce, garlic mashed potatoes

The pork ribs were just heavily seasoned with salt and pepper and roasted under a hot broiler, and the mashed potatoes were just mashed potatoes with several cloves of garlic thrown into the water and then mashed along with it, with butter and milk. 

The apples were really especially terrible this year. 

A lot of them were just rotten and had to be thrown out, but I ended up with a few dozen that were misshapen but basically sound

so I just cut them in half and put them in a stock pot with a little water at the bottom, covered it loosely, and set it to simmer. You’re supposed to let it go for a few hours so the apples can really collapse into mush, but I didn’t have enough time, so we ended up kind of violently forcing the mostly-cooked apples through the foley mill

and then I threw in some butter and cinnamon, and tasted it, and decided that hmm, this was a year to add some sugar. 

Some years, our homemade applesauce is a lovely, dusky rose color, and it’s fragrant and cozy and wonderful, with a faint, pleasantly smoky taste that seems to come from this particular tree. Some years it doesn’t need any sweetening, and still has a beautiful nectary flavor. 

This year’s applesauce was yellowish brown and it tasted like paste.

But the kids were delighted anyway, probably because of the little red hen factor, so I didn’t clue them in that it was very bad applesauce indeed. And that’s how you do that! 

FRIDAY
Shrimp and fish lo mein

Friday I was very pleased with myself, because not only did supper turn out really good, but I used lots of leftovers successfully. I made my normal lo mein recipe

Jump to Recipe

starting with fresh ginger and garlic, and then I added some red onions I found in the fridge, then I threw in some shrimp and cut-up pieces of tilapia (I had two filets in the freezer that I didn’t cook a couple of weeks ago); then I chopped up some leftover shishito peppers (I put them in late because they were already cooked, and just needed heating), and then after I added the noodles and sauce, I threw some leftover Italian parsley on top.

Hot damn, it was delicious. 

The shrimp and fish weren’t overcooked and neither were the noodles, the veg were crunchy, the sauce wasn’t too sweet, and the ginger and the garlic were nice and sharp, and the fresh parsley really put it over the top. I was happy to end on a high note, because it’s been kind of a sucky week, and good lo mein is happy food. 

Okay, that’s it! Don’t forget what I told you, about the thing!

(I’m just kidding, I didn’t tell you anything. I don’t know anything. Who wants some applesauce? We have leftover.) 

Challah (braided bread)

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup oil (preferably olive oil)
  • 2 eggs
  • 6-8 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp yeast
  • 2 egg yolks for egg wash
  • poppy seeds or "everything bagel" topping (optional)
  • corn meal (or flour) for pan, to keep loaf from sticking

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, dissolve a bit of the sugar into the water, and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir gently, and let sit for five minutes or more, until it foams.

  2. In the bowl of standing mixer, put the flour (starting with six cups), salt, remaining sugar, oil, and eggs, mix slightly, then add the yeast liquid. Mix with dough hook until the dough doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl, adding flour as needed. It's good if it has a slightly scaly appearance on the outside.

  3. (If you're kneading by hand, knead until it feels soft and giving. It will take quite a lot of kneading!)

  4. Put the dough in a greased bowl and lightly cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm place for at least an hour, until it's double in size.

  5. Grease a large baking sheet and sprinkle it with flour or corn meal. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Roll three into "snakes" and make a large braid, pinching the ends to keep them together. Divide the fourth piece into three and make a smaller braid, and lay this over the larger braid. Lay the braided loaf on the pan.

  6. Cover again and let rise again for at least an hour. Preheat the oven to 350.

  7. Before baking, make an egg wash out of egg yolks and a little water. Brush the egg wash all over the loaf, and sprinkle with poppy seeds or "everything" topping.

  8. Bake 25 minutes or more until the loaf is a deep golden color.

 

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

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

for the rest

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

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

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

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

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

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

 

I’ve been bowing, I’ve been scraping
I’ve been lying like a rug
And for ten long years I’ve had to pay my dues
But today I am escaping
For the last gold has been dug
It was waiting there, so how could I refuse?

I’m returning home a hero
Who’s discovered mighty wealth
And what better husband could a princess choose?
I’m the suitor who will suit her
Bring the kingdom back to health
And I’ll wear the crown, for how could I refuse?

Raise every glass and rouse every cheer
Praise that the reign of Preminger is here
Master in charge of all that I see
All hail me

And by marrying the princess
I get all that I desire
Like a moat, an ermine coat and palace views
Even though she treats me coldly
It’s a sign of inner fire
For inside she’s thinking “How can I refuse?”

[NACK, spoken]
Right, except for this one little problem, boss

[PREMINGER, spoken]
Prince Boss to you!

[NACK, spoken]
Right, the queen decided to marry her off to the King of Dulcinea next week

[PREMINGER, spoken]
What? Making a decision without me? Who does she think she is?

[NICK, spoken]
Uh, the Queen?

[PREMINGER, spoken]
You simpering simpleton!

[NICK, spoken]
Well, she is the Queen. She’s got a crown and a scepter and sits in her big fancy chair and always—

[PREMINGER]
Silencio!
No! I won’t let go!
This peasant son won’t turn and run because some reckless royal chose another beau
Ah!

It’s a temporary setback
It’s a momentary lapse
But conveniently my ego doesn’t bruise
And the moment that I get back
I will show them who’s the boss
You can bet your bullion there’ll be no “I do’s”

Yes, suppose the girl goes missing
So the king says “Au revoir
Then I find her, bring her back and make the news
Then the queen will be so grateful
That she’ll pledge the heir to moi
And I’ll humbly tell her “How can I refuse?”

When our ceremony’s over
I’ll arise and take the throne
And that nitwit Anneliese can kiss my shoes
For the kingdom and the castle
Will be mine and mine alone
If the crown should fit, then how can I refuse?

[PREMINGER, NACK & NICK]
So get ready with the roses (So get ready with the roses)
And stand by with the champagne (And stand by with the champagne)
When you’ve got a brilliant plan you never lose (When you’ve got a brilliant plan you never lose)
Yes, before this chapter closes (Yes, before this chapter closes)
I’ll be big as Charlemagne (He’ll be big as Charlemagne)
It’s a thankless job but how can I refuse? (It’s a thankless job but how can he refuse?)
How can I refuse? (How can he refuse?)

What’s for supper? Vol. 340: Happy new sandwich to me!

Friday again! It’s Friday again. I remember when the weeks were long, but they ain’t long now. 

Here’s what we ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Sausage and pepper sandwiches, raw veggies and dip

Satisfying little meal. Fried peppers and onions, sausages in jarred sauce. Easy peasy.

Aldi didn’t have any sausage-shaped rolls, so we had kaiser rolls and did not die. 

SUNDAY
McDonald’s

Sunday we went to Mystic Aquarium! A wonderful place with some very personable belugas. 

We also fed the cow nose rays, who have the most alien faces I’ve ever encountered on a creature that size. Their noses are bifurcated, sort of like a cow’s, and then when they want to eat, the bottom of their face sort of unfolds like origami;

but their actual mouths are  underneath this part, and you can feel them avidly vacuuming up the food between ridged plates of teeth. Freaky!

We also caught the seal show, and we saw the jellyfish that light up, and the octopus with his toy, and the leering sharks, and the little tiny baby sharks thrashing silently around inside their egg cases, and everyone had fun. We packed sandwiches for lunch, and grabbed McDonald’s on the way home.

I’m still getting used to having family outings that are so straightforward, because everyone’s so grown up. No diapers, no nursing stops, no need to pack three changes of clothes and a plastic bag to sequester the pants that have become unspeakably soiled; no constant terror that someone’s going to wander off and drown; no random meltdowns because small people are having too much fun. We didn’t even have drama in the gift shop, because some people have their own spending cash, and others have started to catch on that a smushed penny really is a cooler souvenir than a stuffie that you could get at the dollar store back home. I am somehow managing to feel sad about this, because I have the superpower of turning any experience into melancholy, hooray. 

Anyway, our family is still big enough that a family membership is cheaper than buying individual tickets, so we hope to go back within the year! It was extremely hot, so it would be nice to go back on a day when it’s less tempting to dive into the pool with the sea lions and take your chances. But if you’re within driving distance of this aquarium, I recommend it. Mystic Seaport is also really cute and fun to explore (they have a drawbridge in the middle of town), but we didn’t have time to go there this time. 

MONDAY
Korean beef bowl, rice, crunchy rice rolls, sugar snap peas

Monday, I suddenly couldn’t stand the mess in the dining room for one more second, and I sorted shoes and threw out about 1/3 of them. This isn’t even the most Converse we’ve ever had at the same time, and all but one pair was in absolutely disgraceful condition.

So I swept and wiped and organized, and now you can actually walk through the room, rather than dodging and sashaying and squirming your way through a clear path down the center.

Won’t last long, but it feels good for now. 

Supper was quick and easy: Some rice in the Instant Pot, and some Korean beef bowl on the stove.

Jump to Recipe

Aldi had those yummy crunchy rice rolls in stock, so I bought several packages, and we had raw sugar snap peas. 

Sugar snap peas are one of the few vegetables that really do satisfy the craving for something crunchy. Love ’em. 

It was also my turn to clean the kitchen. I have Mondays, Damien has Tuesdays, and the kids who don’t have jobs do the rest of the days, and the older kids fill in as needed. There were so many fruit flies and I was so hot and aggravated by the time I was done, I set my phone to play some Bach guitar music, slithered into the pool, and just sloshed around by myself in the dark until I felt human again. 

Also on Monday, Clara moved out! Oh me oh my. She’s still close by and we’ll see her soon. 

TUESDAY
Oven fried chicken, peach salad

Chicken wings were 99 cents a pound, and everyone liked the oven fried chicken from last week so much, I figured I’d do that again. Tuesday was the Assumption, so I quietly told myself we would have wings for the assumption, ho ho ho. Got to the noon Mass. 

The oven fried chicken recipe: Make a milk and eggs mix (two eggs per cup of milk), enough to at least halfway submerge the chicken, and add plenty of salt and pepper, and let that soak for a few hours before supper.

About half an hour to 40 minutes before dinner, heat the oven to 425. In an oven-safe pan with sides, put about a cup of oil and a stick or two of butter and let that melt and heat up.

Then put plenty of flour in a bowl (I always give myself permission to use a lot and waste some flour, because I hate it when there’s not enough and you have to patch it together from whatever’s left, and it gets all pasty) and season it heavily with salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and whatever else you want – chili powder, cumin, etc. It should have some color in it when you’re done seasoning! Take the chicken out of the milk mix and dredge it in the flour. 

Then pull the hot pan out of the oven and lay the chicken, skin side down, in the pan, return it to the oven and cook for about 25 minutes. Then flip it and let it continue cooking, probably for another 15 minutes or more, depending on how big the pieces of chicken are. 

It turned out fine. It wasn’t as good as last time, probably because last time all I had in the house was olive oil, but this time all I had was canola oil and margarine, which I haven’t used in years.  

The side was a peach salad, which I had qualms about, and I should have listened to my qualms. I follow this recipe except I skipped the corn, because that just didn’t sound right. I don’t know what the problem was. The goat cheese just kind of went pasty, and the peaches were maybe overripe, and –oh, one big problem was I used real maple syrup in the dressing, and discovered too late that it had gone rancid, which I forgot syrup can do! 

It looks okay, but it just wasn’t great. The whole meal was just a bit disappointing. It was STODGY. 

What I really want is to recreate this amazing peach burrata dish with cherry tomatoes, prosciutto, and a balsamic reduction that I had at a restaurant a while back:

Man, that was outstanding. Oh well. 

Anyway, we had fried chicken and fresh peach salad with goat cheese and toasted almonds on a Tuesday, so I did try! Sometimes it just doesn’t come together, oh well. Excelsior. 

WEDNESDAY
Pizza

Wednesday we had to hit urgent care with Lucy with a possible broken foot, but happily it’s just a sprain. The doctor recommended, rather than an ice pack, filling a bucket with cold water and soaking it for 20 minutes while spelling the alphabet with your foot. So on the way home from the hospital, I bought a bucket, and also some other things we needed: milk, half and half, and a sack of duck food. Lucy said that sounded like a tasty bucket of breakfast. And that’s why I’m in charge of the menu and she is not. 

Got home, made some pizza. All they had at the store for dough was wheat dough and something called “bac’n dust,” neither of which are food words. It tasted okay, not bad, but not something I’d ever make any effort to recreate. I made one plain cheese pizza, one olive, and one with pepperoni and leftover sausage. 

Here we see one of Van Gogh’s less known sunflower works, in which he experimented with both a limited palette and leftover meat.

Look, these are the jokes. Excelsior. 

THURSDAY
Spicy chicken sandwich with peppers, chips

On Thursday, the big kids all had plans, so I decided to take Benny and Corrie out school shopping. We usually do this with everyone at the same time, at the last possible minute, to create the maximum stress, but apparently you don’t have to do it this way.

So we got school supplies, and also TMNT shirts, unicorn headbands on clearance, new shoes, a fuzzy pink hoodie because we’re still planning to go see Barbie, and so on. We also stopped at a thrift store I like, and I got a Ninja blender for $20, so we’ll see what smoothies may be. 

We have this very wimpy Oster blender that can only manage, like, chocolate milk. Looking forward to pulverizing stuff. Also Corrie got a recorder at the thrift store, which I said yes to. 

Supper came together fast, and it was an absolute triumph, as far as I’m concerned. I followed this recipe from Sip and Feast, which has so far never steered me wrong. The only thing I wasn’t sure about was what he calls “blackened seasoning.” I thought I had some Tony Chachere’s, but couldn’t find it, so I used a stray bottle of McCormick Perfect Pinch Cajun seasoning. 

First I blistered the shishito peppers. You just cut the tops off and blacken them quickly in a hot pan with oil and a little salt, turning once. 

You’re supposed to do this after you cook the chicken, but I did it first and just kept it on the stove on the plate, and it stayed warm enough.

Then I took boneless, skinless chicken thighs (one per person) and seasoned them heavily with the Cajun seasoning, and cooked them slowly in hot oil on medium heat, turning once. 

When the chicken was almost done cooking, I put a slice of American cheese on each one and covered the pan, and let the cheese melt for a few minutes. 

Then I toasted some brioche buns (he recommends putting them in the pan to toast, but the rest of the food seemed greasy enough), put a little BBQ sauce on the bottom (we like Sweet Baby Ray’s), then the chicken with cheese, then the blistered peppers, then some sliced red onion, more BBQ sauce, and the top bun.

Guys, this is one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had, at home or anywhere. Sweet, tangy, spicy, with the little crunch from the peppers and onions and the melty cheese . . . wow. The whole thing was just a treat, and I would absolutely serve this to guests.

 Of course you can grill the meat and peppers, if you don’t want to pan fry them. Definitely spring for the brioche buns. The shishito peppers (which I’ve never had before) were great, mild and sweet, like bell peppers in jalapeño form. If you can’t find them, the guy suggests poblano for a substitute, or you could go with jalapeños if you really want it spicy. I loved having whole peppers with their skins on piled onto the sandwich, though, so it was nicer than bell peppers; and it was very easy to just wash them and chop the tops off and chuck ’em in the pan. I also didn’t bother trimming the fat off the thighs, so it was just simple all around. 

FRIDAY
Tuna noodle for kids; for adults: ??

The kids wanted tuna noodle casserole (canned tuna, cream of mushroom soup, and egg noodles in a casserole dish, topped with toasted corn flakes and potato chips, served with “pink stuff” dressing, which is ketchup, mayo, and vinegar) and I didn’t want to make it, but then they said they would make it, and I’m no dummy. But I think Damien and I may run away and get some supermarket sushi and take the kayaks out. What with one thing and another, it’s been a hell of a week, and the urge to just  . . . paddle away . . . is strong.

But we always come home again. That’s the deal. You can leave, but you have to come back. 

Hey, my garden is finally getting going. I’ve had a bunch of big hearty butternut squashes so far, but that was it; but suddenly there are cucumbers, four or five eggplants, some bitty little ghost peppers, and a watermelon the size of a gumball. And more collard greens, and some cute little Brussels sprouts, and a steady trickle of strawberries. Asparagus and rhubarb are just getting started this year, but in a few years, I expect a nice little harvest from them. 

And grapes!

We’re just going to make juice this year. UNLIMITED JUICE. 

 

Korean Beef Bowl

A very quick and satisfying meal with lots of flavor and only a few ingredients. Serve over rice, with sesame seeds and chopped scallions on the top if you like. You can use garlic powder and powdered ginger, but fresh is better. The proportions are flexible, and you can easily add more of any sauce ingredient at the end of cooking to adjust to your taste.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar (or less if you're not crazy about sweetness)
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 inches fresh ginger, minced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-4 lb2 ground beef
  • scallions, chopped, for garnish
  • sesame seeds for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, cook ground beef, breaking it into bits, until the meat is nearly browned. Drain most of the fat and add the fresh ginger and garlic. Continue cooking until the meat is all cooked.

  2. Add the soy sauce, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes the ground beef and stir to combine. Cook a little longer until everything is hot and saucy.

  3. Serve over rice and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 338: Please refer to the affidavit

Happy Friday! I have been bumbling around with a migraine all week, and I managed to lose my freshly-refilled bottle of migraine meds before I got any of it. It wasn’t the worst headache in the world, but I was CONFUSED and CONFUSED and also did not know what was going on. So a few of these meals are a little ,,, irregular. 

You may also notice that most of these photos are either outside or on my bed, because I was hiding from everybody all week. I love them all but they are fricken LOUD. 

I feel so much better today, though, thank the Lord. I woke up this morning with no headache, dizziness, nausea, jaw pain, tooth pain, or photophobia to speak of, and I am so glad. So glad!

Although I just got through all my photos, and finished uploading the last one of the Teenage Mutant Ninj’ Turtle cake with all the buttercream icing, and I’m remembering how much icing I ate and . . . I think maybe I know where my headache started. Huh. 

Well, here is what we had: 

SATURDAY
Chicken caprese burgers, chips

Just frozen chicken burgers on buns with tomatoes, basil from the garden, sliced cheese, salt and pepper, olive oil and vinegar. 

I wanted to be a hero, so I bought salt and vinegar chips. Works every time. 

SUNDAY
Turkey bacon wraps, chips; blueberry rose tarts with candied lemon

On Sunday, we had promised to take the kids kayaking, which we did! Benny and Corrie had their first experience paddling on their own, and they did great. 

 

But first, I got it into my head that I needed to make blueberry pie, which I haven’t made yet this summer. So I planned an easy dinner because I knew dessert was going to be time consuming. 

Damien fried the bacon, and we had sliced turkey (actually I think it was chicken), some leftover fancy salami from opera nite, and on mine I skipped cheese and had spinach and ranch dressing, and the wrap was allegedly spinach flavored, but this was not discernible. I think I put cheese out, but I skipped that. 

I love wraps. Probably if we had them more often, they wouldn’t seem like such a treat, but I find them so enjoyable to eat, so festive and friendly. 

I cut up a bunch of peppers and broccoli and set out baby carrots and dip.

For dessert, I thought it would be fun to make separate blueberry tarts, rather than two big pies. I made a double recipe of this reliable pie crust recipe

Jump to Recipe

But I was super hot and getting a little flustered, and it took much more water than usual, for some reason, so I was struggling. I eventually got eleven large ramekins lined with pastry dough, and then made the filling using the recipe on this site. I had my doubts, because it calls for lemon zest, which is good, but also both flour and corn starch, which sounds STODGY; but I followed it. 

My original plan was to make individual lattice tops, but I had eaten so much raw pie dough that there wasn’t enough left for that. So instead, Benny and I made some dough roses. 

Roses are quite easy to make. You just cut out 4-5 discs, stick them together in a line, roll them up, cut the rolled-up cylinder in half, and pinch the flat edge together; then carefully tease open the other end, to open up the petals. Here’s the site where I learned to do it

Our roses were a little bit chunky because we were lough on dough and made them out of only four circles each, rather than five. I also rolled them out a little too thick. My baking style can best be described as — remember that Doctor Who episode where Mickey gets changed into a plastic guy and his hands are just big mallets and he goes lurching around the room whacking things? That’s how I make little pastry roses. 

So I baked them, and I thought they needed a little dressing up, so I made some candied lemon slices. I followed the very simple recipe here. Basically you just cook up some sugar water with a little lemon juice in it and simmer the lemon slices in it for 15 minutes, and then fish them out and let them dry.

They don’t dry completely, but stay a bit tacky. But they are very good and very pretty. The peels are edible, but most definitely still lemon peels (delicious if you like lemon!). If you wanted to make them sweeter and more candy-like, I imagine you could roll them in sugar when they come out of the pan; but that would ruin the stained glass effect of the candied pulp. 

So when the tarts came out, I sort of twisted up the lemon slices and tucked two into each one, to make little leaves or wings. 

Awfully pretty in the afternoon sun.

I took several pictures, and now you people are gonna hear about it. 

So they were definitely cute, but I saw room for so much improvement. The ramekins just weren’t the right vessels for this dish. I should have made them in cupcake tins or something with slanted sides, so I had some shot at pulling them out of the pans. I also didn’t roll the dough thin enough, so the roses were just kind of wads, and too much dough for people to eat. I also meant to brush the roses with egg white and sprinkle them with sugar, to make them shiny and sweeter, but I forgot. And I meant to make the edges more decorative, at least pressing them with a fork, rather than just leaving them ragged, but I forgot that, as well. 

But the biggest problem was the blueberry filling. It was just bland and too thick. You want fresh blueberry pie to be juicy and messy and luscious. This almost tasted store-bought. I was really disappointed! BUT THEY WERE PRETTY. Oh well. I made some whipped cream, which was good. Honestly, everyone liked these pies and ate them up, so this is just me complaining. 

Anyway, blueberry season isn’t over, and I will probably take another crack at this. I loved the candied lemon thing. Blueberries and lemons forever, man. Maybe I will make a blueberry lemon panna cotta! Who will stop me!

Or I still have some rhubarb in the freezer. Maybe I’ll make a blubarb pie. Maybe I’ll make a UNICORN blubarb pie. 

This one looks like . . . cherry and strawberry, actually? I don’t remember. But it looks like I remembered to glaze and sugar the dough, anyway. 

MONDAY
Mexican beef bowls

Beef was on sale, which it rarely is these days, so I got several hunks, sliced it up, and marinated it in this lovely sauce with lots of lime juice, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce. 

Jump to Recipe

Normally, I make this meal with rice, beef, charred corn, maybe some fried onions and sweet peppers, and then things like salsa, sour cream, shredded cheese, cilantro, etc., and I often make a pot of delicious black beans, too

Jump to Recipe

But I was just so spacey while I was shopping. It turned out we only had a little rice in the house, so I cooked a few cups of rice, and people filled out the dish with tortilla chips or corn chips. I did buy beans, but I was too tired to cook them. I forgot corn altogether. It was still a tasty meal, just a little irregular. 

Oh, I see there were avocados and lime wedges! That actually looks really good. Anyway, this marinade is very tasty and you should try it. 

TUESDAY
Pulled pork grilled cheese; veggies and dip

Last week, the phrase “pulled pork grilled cheese” popped into my head, and I knew there was only way to get it out again. This was probably the most planned meal of the week, and oddly it was a little disappointing. 

The pulled pork part of it turned out great, though. I hacked up a fatty hunk of pork loin or something and seasoned it heavily with salt and pepper, some oregano and lots of cumin, and browned it on all sides in hot oil.

Then I moved it into the Instant Pot and added about 3/4 -1 cup cider vinegar and one juice box of apple juice, three fresh jalapeños with the seeds, a chopped onion, some red pepper flakes, and a lot of ground cloves. 

I closed the valve and hit the “meat” button, and then let it do a natural release and keep warm for the rest of the day. When I was ready to make the sandwiches, I pulled the meat out, and it absolutely shattered to pieces under the fork. It was very tasty, spicy and warming with the jalapeño and cloves, but not fiery hot, and worked really well with the cumin and apple. (The oregano was pointless and I will skip it next time.) 

I had meant to buy American cheese, because I wanted something kind of bland and very melty, but I forgot. And the convenience store didn’t have any! So I used what we had in the fridge, which was extra sharp cheddar. I had sourdough bread, which I spread with a little skim of mayonnaise and then fried in butter. 

It was good. But the cheese completely overpowered the flavor of the pulled pork, and it just tasted like a highly textural grilled cheese sandwich. Next time I will use American cheese, and I will maybe add fried onions or jalapeños. 

Or I’ll just make this version of pulled pork on its own, because it was really good!

I also made a bowl of unremarkable coleslaw. 

Onward!

WEDNESDAY
Pizza

One pepperoni, one plain, and one with leftovers from various other meals, which turned out to be: Feta, red onion, black olive, pesto, sliced garlic, red pepper flakes, and some fresh parmesan shredded over the top.

I forgot to buy pepperoni for the pizza, but we had some sandwich pepperoni from some sandwiches last week, so I sliced it up and put it on the other pizza. This is what passes for ingenuity at our house!

THURSDAY
Ramen with some kind of chicken situation

Usually when I make “fancy ramen,” we have some kind of pork, but for some reason I bought chicken; and I usually get some kind of crunchy Chinese noodles, but I forgot. So I ended up drizzling the chicken breasts with olive oil, sprinkling them with Chinese five spice, and then heaping some brown sugar on top, and then roasting them.

It tasted . . . fine? It was a little unsettling, because it was hard to shake the “why isn’t this pork” sensation, but it didn’t taste bad. It certainly got supper on the table fast.

I chopped up a bunch of scallions, and set out raw spinach, and I sliced up some giant mushrooms and sautéed them in olive oil and soy sauce, and when I cooked the ramen, I threw some eggs in the pot, and if people wanted an egg, they had to fish it out and shell it themselves like absolute peasants. 

Not a bad meal, considering I had zero plan and went from cold kitchen to dinner time in about 25 minutes. I also put out sugar snap peas and some kind of hot yuzu sauce, which I didn’t end up yuzing myself. 

Here’s another picture, because I have two pictures and I’ve lost my ability to make small decisions:

Look at that fricken mushroom. I actually could have made a full meal of just the broth, the spinach, and the mushrooms. Aldi has two big portobello mushrooms for $1.49 or something crazy, and I think I need to buy them more often. Mushrooms are such a gift. 

FRIDAY
Tuna sandwiches, fries

No tricks, just tuna sandwiches. Tuna sandwich and no headache; I’ll take it! 

Oh wait, I forgot to share pictures of the TMNT cake I made last Friday after the food post went up! I more or less followed the coconut cake recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction, which is pretty easy and turned out well, tender and moist. I made three rounds and about a dozen cupcakes. I stacked up two of the rounds and then sort of dug holes for the cupcakes, which I anchored with toothpicks.

I used fondant to cover the bottom and buttercream on the cupcakes, with candy eyeballs and fondant masks.

At this point, I stopped, and thought pretty hard about what shape turtles’ heads actually are. I thought about how hot it was in the kitchen, and about the limits of buttercream, and then I went into the other room and basically made the kid sign an affidavit that she understood and acknowledged that her mother did try.

Then I put the third round on a circle of cardboard, to keep it from cracking, and set it on top of the cupcakes, stuck it on with buttercream, and covered that with fondant as well. 

And then I made a series of mistakes and irreversible bad decisions involving black sugar and continued hot kitchen, which seemed funnier and funnier to me as they devolved. I ended up using a paintbrush to paint the cake with black icing from a tube, and it looked really neat for a while, but then I ruined it, because I was very hopped up on icing and had no judgment left. These turtles were absolutely leering at me, and I couldn’t stop laughing and making it worse. 

I ended up deciding to make a logo out of fondant and more brushwork, which was a pain in the neck, but fairly effective. Except I knew I should sketch out the letters with a toothpick first, to make sure there was room; I knew I should. But I just didn’t want to. So it says “TEENAGE MUTANT NINJ'” because I ran out of room.

But there were turtles!

Or, or something. Anyway there were four green entities, with red, yellow, blue, and purple . . . . things. 

I feel like it’s a cake the Teenage Mutant Ninj’ Turtles themselves would have appreciated, anyway. (And Lucy liked it, too, even though it continued to slide and melt after I took these pictures, and then it turned out the candles I got were actually trick candles, and she had to blow them out about fifteen times and then finally dunk them in water. Please refer to the affidavit.) 

 

Basic pie crust

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 sticks butter, FROZEN
  • 1/4 cup water, with an ice cube

Instructions

  1. Freeze the butter for at least 20 minutes, then shred it on a box grater. Set aside.

  2. Put the water in a cup and throw an ice cube in it. Set aside.

  3. In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Then add the shredded butter and combine with a butter knife or your fingers until there are no piles of loose, dry flour. Try not to work it too hard. It's fine if there are still visible nuggets of butter.

  4. Sprinkle the dough ball with a little iced water at a time until the dough starts to become pliable but not sticky. Use the water to incorporate any remaining dry flour.

  5. If you're ready to roll out the dough, flour a surface, place the dough in the middle, flour a rolling pin, and roll it out from the center.

  6. If you're going to use it later, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. You can keep it in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months, if you wrap it with enough layers. Let it return to room temperature before attempting to roll it out!

  7. If the crust is too crumbly, you can add extra water, but make sure it's at room temp. Sometimes perfect dough is crumbly just because it's too cold, so give it time to warm up.

  8. You can easily patch cracked dough by rolling out a patch and attaching it to the cracked part with a little water. Pinch it together.

 

Beef marinade for fajita bowls

enough for 6-7 lbs of beef

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 head garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together.

  2. Pour over beef, sliced or unsliced, and marinate several hours. If the meat is sliced, pan fry. If not, cook in a 350 oven, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. I cook the meat in all the marinade and then use the excess as gravy.

 

Instant Pot black beans

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 16-oz cans black beans with liquid
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Put olive oil pot of Instant Pot. Press "saute" button. Add diced onion and minced garlic. Saute, stirring, for a few minutes until onion is soft. Press "cancel."

  2. Add beans with liquid. Add cumin, salt, and cilantro. Stir to combine. Close the lid, close the vent, and press "slow cook."

What’s for supper? Vol. 246: Comfort food

It’s been quite a couple of weeks. If you are thinking to yourself, “They are not eating like it’s Lent!” you are right. We are eating like a family who are being very nice to a grieving person who went a little bit crackerdog after the funeral, and whose comfort food is food.  Damien and the kids have done so much of the cooking. (For those who don’t know, my mom died two weeks ago.)

These are the food highlights of the last 2.5 weeks or so:

Khachapuri and asparagus

I shared the recipe for this on the morning before I made it, and all I had to report at the time were high hopes. Well, they were absolutely delicious. This is a Georgian (as in the country) dish, a cheese-filled bread boat with an egg cooked into the middle. I made a triple recipe of this recipe. FABULOUS. 

I didn’t end up using much more than half of the filling, though, and they still overflowed.

The kids immediately started suggesting variations of various meats and sauces that could be added, which I am not opposed to, but there’s also something to be said for not turning everything into pizza. 

Anyway, will definitely make again. I may use ready-made dough next time to speed things along. You can see that you add and cook the egg just briefly toward the end, and then you can break up the yolk and stir it into the hot cheese. I also threw some hot pepper flakes on top.

I also pan-cooked a bunch of asparagus in olive oil and squeezed fresh lemon juice on top. The lemon juice seeped into the khapachuri on my plate, and that was not a problem at all. 

Comfort-your-wife sandwiches

One night Damien made a big platter of sandwiches with all kinds of lovely salamis and other cured meats, cheeses, tomatoes, and lots of basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and freshly-ground salat and pepper

and another night he made Reubens with kosher dills and jalapeño kettle chips, which isn’t necessarily a photogenic meal, but oh man.

The deli a special sale on sliced corned beef (which either is or isn’t the same thing as pastrami, I forget) and Swiss cheese together, so he got a bunch and made grilled sandwiches with Russian dressing and sauerkraut. Heavenly.

St. Patrick’s Day

Everyone having finally acknowledged no one is really crazy about the corned beef boiled dinner, Damien made a full Irish breakfast instead. Completely delicious, and an insane amount of food. 

Irish bangers, bacon, baked beans, grilled tomatoes, roast potatoes and mushrooms, sourdough toast, and fried eggs on top, and everything cooked in lots of butter and bacon grease. Here’s a better view of those wonderful mushroom and potatoes:

I wasn’t a big fan of the Irish bangers — they were kind of mealy — but other than that, I think we’ll have this for St. Patrick’s Day every year from now on. 

St. Joseph’s Day

We moved our annual Italian feast from Columbus Day to St. Joseph’s day. Works for me. Clara put together a giant antipasto plate, which she replenished several times as it was ravaged 

and Damien made his lovely pork and veal ragu with fettucine (you can’t see the lovely savory gravyish part here, but there was lots of it) 

and I made a stab at making suppli, but I forgot you have to chill the risotto really well to form it into balls. So I just put it back in the fridge (and everyone was already pretty stuffed anyway}. We had Italian ices for dessert, just as St. Joseph would have wanted. 

Then on Sunday, Clara made the risotto into suppli while I took the kids to the farm, and then I fried them up for dinner, and even the stove was happy

I had to throw some of the suppli back in the oven for a while to make sure the cheese inside was completely melted. Worth the wait.

We also had the leftover ragu, and I made cannoli, which was also supposed to be on Friday.

I made the filling with just ricotta cheese, powdered sugar, and a little almond extract. The taste was perfect, but I wish it was a little thicker and less runny. Other than letting it sit in the colander longer, any tips on that? 

Ham and biscuits

Only worth mentioning because one of the biscuits, the one formed out of all the leftover scraps crammed together, kinda looked like a turkey.

It is a good recipe. A little weird, as it calls for cream of tartar and eggs, but they always come out light inside, with a nice fragile buttery crust.

Jump to Recipe

Pizza

We’re basically empty-nesters, with only nine children at home, and I’m finally ready to face the fact that we don’t need six extra large pizzas anymore. That is too much pizza. But the final Pizza No. 6 was a doozy: Olives, red onions, artichoke hearts, fresh garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and little blobs of pesto. 

We usually use Portland Pie frozen pizza dough,  which comes in generous portions and is easy to handle, especially the beer one. This time we tried their Everything dough (with “everything bagel” seasoning mixed it). I’m not a fan. It tore very easily and didn’t rise well, and I guess I just don’t want poppy seeds in my pizza dough after all.

Here’s a pro tip for you: While you’re sitting in the kitchen for forty minutes cooking two pizzas at a time, it’s okay to pass the time by snacking on a few sun-dried tomatoes, but it’s not a great idea to mindlessly scarf down about a cubic foot of them, unless you are angry at your stomach and wish to punish it. And everyone watching TV with you that evening when it’s too chilly to open a window. Wooooo-eeeeee. I sure do like them sun-dried tomaters. 

Tonight Damien is going to teach Irene how to make Marcella Hazan’s magic sauce, since she is its biggest fan.

Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce

We made a quadruple recipe of this for twelve people. 

Keyword Marcella Hazan, pasta, spaghetti, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes, broken up
  • 1 onion peeled and cut in half
  • salt to taste
  • 5 Tbsp butter

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a heavy pot.

  2. Simmer at least 90 minutes. 

  3. Take out the onions.

  4. I'm freaking serious, that's it!

Suppli (or Arancini)

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

Ingredients

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

To make suppli out of the risotto:

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

Instructions

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


    Set chicken stock to simmer in a pot.

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

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

    Pour in the wine and boil until wine is absorbed.

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

    Add 4 more cups of stock and cook until absorbed.

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

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

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

  3. TO MAKE THE SUPPLI:

    Beat the eggs and gently mix them into the risotto.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

moron biscuits

Because I've been trying all my life to make nice biscuits and I was too much of a moron, until I discovered this recipe. It has egg and cream of tartar, which is weird, but they come out great every time. Flaky little crust, lovely, lofty insides, rich, buttery taste.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, chilled
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450.

  2. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and cream of tartar.

  3. Grate the chilled butter with a box grater into the dry ingredients.

  4. Stir in the milk and egg and mix until just combined. Don't overwork it. It's fine to see little bits of butter.

  5. On a floured surface, knead the dough 10-15 times. If it's very sticky, add a little flour.

  6. With your hands, press the dough out until it's about an inch thick. Cut biscuits. Depending on the size, you can probably get 20 medium-sized biscuits with this recipe.

  7. Grease a pan and bake for 10-15 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

What’s for supper? Vol. 244: Armed with cheeses

What with one thing and another, I never really went shopping this week (which I was supposed to do on Tuesday). I just kept running to the store and muddling through, and it ended up a pretty delicious week. We had already made plans for the kids to do some cooking, so that helped. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Tacos al pastor, plantain chips

Almost a very delicious meal. I made too much meat, which means I crowded the pan. I CROWDED THE PAN. Actually I didn’t even use a pan! There was so much meat, I attempted to broil it in the oven, and I crowded the oven.

So the flavors were all there, but rather than being seared and juicy, the meat was in sort of wads, covered in a flavorful paste. Rather sad when you think what could have been. 

I cooked the pineapple separately on the stove, and they turned out great. Gosh, I love seared pineapple.

I more or less followed this recipe, except I used pineapple juice instead of orange juice, and I used too much pineapple in the marinade and didn’t reserve enough for the tacos. The extra pineapple pulp did not help the pasty wad situation. But it’s a relatively simple recipe, and I admired the combination of ancho chili and pineapple. Very warming, and then you get your lime and cilantro and red onion, and it’s at least potentially a little party. 

Guys, I’m not a very good cook. I’m adventurous, but I have terrible technique, and no respect for recipes, and I panic and make bad decisions that I know are bad decisions. The only thing that keeps me going is the promise that I can take pictures of food. Anyway, we’re gonna revisit this recipe when it’s warm enough to cook on the grill. I did remember to warm up the tortillas for once, so that was nice. 

SUNDAY
Stuffed shells, fried mozzarella sticks

A Lucy and Irene meal! Irene made the stuffed shells, which turned out to be a bit more work than she had bargained for, but she forged ahead.

Jump to Recipe

They turned out perfect!

Lucy made fried mozzarella sticks, which we haven’t made before. Much easier than I expected, and definitely worth the trouble.

Jump to Recipe

Basically you slice each string cheese stick down the middle, then dredge in flour, then in egg with a little milk, then panko crumbs, then egg again, then crumbs again, then freeze, then deep fry. 

Also delicious. We put them in the oven for a few minutes to make sure the cheese was melted, although that probably wasn’t necessary, as you can see it oozing out. The outside was crisp and crunchy and the inside was hot and melty. Perfect.  

A lovely cheesy meal. And, uh, we had cheesecake for dessert. Look, we like cheese. 

I don’t know if the kids had any great sense of accomplishment for what they produced, but I was proud of them, and so was Corrie. 

Oh, and last Friday, Elijah made the mac and cheese, which is some knowledge he especially felt like he needed to be armed with before he leaves the nest. 

Turned out great. My big secret about mac and cheese is just a normal white sauce with plenty of whatever cheese you have lying around, and then a nice squirt of mustard and/t several sloshes of tabasco sauce mixed in before you add it to the macaroni. And very buttery bread crumbs for the top. We use about three pounds of raw macaroni for the family, if you’re interested (and we generally have leftovers.)

So at least three of the kids are now armed with cheese skills. I made a big effort to just give directions to them, and not do it myself, which is a skill I am learning.

MONDAY
English muffin pizzas

This was the meal Sophia chose to make. They turned out great, but I didn’t do as well with my end, and complained that there weren’t enough, even though I never told her how many to make. Also I forgot to take a picture. 

TUESDAY
Roast beef sandwiches

I think Damien made a paste of oil and garlic and salt and various things, pan seared the meat, and then roasted it in the oven. Whatever he did, it was fabulous as always. 

Okay, here’s my hot sandwich dilemma. What if you want a toasted bun and also melted cheese? If you put it all together and then put it in the oven to melt the cheese, only the outside of the bun gets toasted, and the inside gets soggy, especially if you use horseradish sauce. But if you toast the inside of the bun first, and then put the stuff in and toast it again to melt the cheese, then the bun gets over toasted. It’s a problem. 

Am I doing Lent right? 

WEDNESDAY
Aldi pizza

Nothing to report. It’s okay pizza, and pretty cheap for the size. 

THURSDAY
One-pan chicken thighs with butternut squash and garlic, green salad

Drop, drop, slow tears. 

(This is the butternut squash fresh out of the microwave, where I cooked it on high for four minutes to make it yielding enough to cut, peel, and seed. It weeps.)

I changed up my normal “one-pan chicken and whatnot” recipe a bit, and I liked it. I added whole cloves of garlic, lots of paprika, hot pepper flakes, and a little maple syrup with the olive oil. I think I also put kosher salt, pepper, and maybe thyme. 

Could have stayed in the oven a few minutes longer to get a little darker roast on the garlic, but it was tasty. A little spicy but just mainly warming, faintly sweet. 

And several of us ate a green vegetable. It’s been a while. 

FRIDAY
I think seared scallops in cream sauce over fettuccine. 

Ahem, continuing our spare and penitential menu. It’s not my fault the stores put seafood on sale for Lent! I grabbed a few bags a few weeks ago and stashed them in the freezer, and Damien volunteered to make something delicious with them. He said something about mixing cheese in with the pasta water so it coats the noodles.  (Although he said that before he spent the morning digging through the ice so he could park his car next to my car so he could jump start it because I left the keys in it overnight.)

Some of the kids are fairly seafood averse, so I was trying to explain how accessible and inoffensive scallops are. If you are in this situation, I suggest avoiding the term “fish gumdrops.” It doesn’t help. 

And now I’d like to point out that I cooked supper exactly twice this week: The tacos al pastor, and the chicken with squash. We had frozen pizza once, and everything else was Genuine Hot Dinner Made By Someone Else.  Ghost of mother who has escaped babyland is here to say: Someday it could happen to youuuuuuu!

Stuffed shells

Just a basic recipe. You can add meat to the sauce or spinach to the cheese, or anything that strikes your fancy. Serves about 10.

Ingredients

  • 2 12-oz boxes jumbo shells
  • 2 32-oz tubs ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp dried basil
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 4-5 cups pasta sauce

Instructions

  1. Cook the shells in salted water, drain, and rinse in cool water. Mix them up with olive oil so they don't stick together.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350. Mix into the ricotta cheese all the seasoning, the parmesan, and 3 of the cups of mozzarella.

  3. Spread a little sauce in the bottom of an oven-proof pan or dish. Stuff each shell with about 1/2-1/3 cup of cheese filling and lay the stuffed shells close together.

  4. Top with the rest of the pasta sauce, and sprinkled the remaining mozzarella on top of that. Cover loosely with foil and cook for 45 minutes or longer, until it's bubbly. 

 

Fried mozzarella sticks

Ingredients

  • 18 sticks of string cheese, split lengthwise
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4-5 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2+ panko bread crumbs
  • oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Beat the eggs together with the milk in a shallow dish. Put the flour in another shallow dish, and the bread crumbs in a third.

  2. Take each split cheese stick, roll it in flour, dip it in egg, and roll it in panko crumbs, then dip it in egg again, then panko crumbs again.

  3. When you've coated all the cheese sticks, cover and freeze them for at least an hour.

  4. Heat the oil in a heavy pot. You want enough oil that you can submerge the cheese sticks. If you put a wooden spoon in the oil and lots of little bubbles collect on it, the oil is hot enough.

  5. Fry the cheese sticks for just a few minutes a few at a time until they are lightly browned all over.

  6. Drain them on a paper towel and serve while still piping hot. If the cheese isn't melted inside, you can pop the cheese sticks in the oven for a few minutes.

What’s for supper? Vol. 241: What gets blossomed next?

And a happy Friday to you, week who just about killed us. We’re very glad most of the kids are back in school in person, but YEESH. We Fishers do not excel at transitions; we certainly do not. It didn’t help that we had lots of Nighttime Diabetes Excitement, which is one of my least favorite kinds of excitement. 

Pretty good food, though. Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Meatball subs

I always say “nothing to report” when I make meatballs, but guess what? I have something to report! I have been under seasoning them. I bumped up all the seasoning by maybe 20%, and then I added a healthy glug of red wine. So nice! Just a little more savory and rich. I didn’t take a photo, possibly because of being busy eating.

I used the leftover sauce from Friday’s spaghetti with Marcella Hazan’s magical sauce. And that was a good meal. 

SUNDAY
Hot chicken wings, beer brats, bloomin’ onions, a vast assortment of crunchy snackeroos and dips

Super Bowl food! Damien made his easy peasy hot chicken wings with blue cheese dip, and lots of beer brats with onions three ways (cooked in beer with onions and served with sautéed onions and raw onions); and, fearing that wasn’t enough onions, I made three bloomin’ onions. 

The hot wings were fantastic, as usual. Damien used full wings, rather than wingettes (gosh I hate that word), which I actually prefer. 

The bloomin’ onions were probably more fun to make than they were to eat. People were obliging, but we only ended up eating about half. I guess I had it in my head that it was a party since it was the Super Bowl, so I made three giant onions. 

Here I am demonstrating the lovely job my little onion blossomer does:

I didn’t show this part, but because the onion sits on a little base that’s lower than the blades, the “petals” are still attached at the root end when you take it off the cutter, which is how you can fry the onion all in one piece.  Now I’m wondering what else I can use this device to cut. Definitely a cantaloupe. We will have melon blossoms come summer, let me tell you, with little berries here and there. And maybe . . . potatoes! I’m seriously considering making some deep fried potato blossoms for Valentine’s Day.

And I’m almost ashamed to tell you this, but what I really want to try is a pork blossom. I’ll get a nice piece of lean, boneless pork, maybe marinate it for a while, and then freeze it for an hour or two to firm it up, and then . . . VOOM. Pork blossom. I guess I could deep fry if after that.  THIS IS BIG BRAIN TIME, EVERYBODY. I feel like there is some disadvantage to my plan, or some wrinkle I’m not anticipating, but I also feel like it’s going to happen anyway. 

I took so many damn pictures of these onions at various stages, I might as well share them.

Onions in ice water, firming up:

Onions coated in seasoned flour:

Onions coated in seasoned flour, then dipped in egg batter, then seasoned flour again, waiting for the oil to heat up:

Onion merrily frying in oil:

You have to fry them upside down first, shoving them down pretty hard in the pot to force the petals open; then flip it over and finish cooking it right side up. Then you can pull it out . . . 

drain it, and set it on a plate with a little dish of sauce.

Then you pull the petals off and dip. 

I used the flour, batter, and sauce recipes on this page, but next time I make this, I’ll use more ketchup and less horseradish in the sauce, which tasted a bit harsh. A bloomin’ onion should be nothing but fun and delight, no harshness at all. 

MONDAY
Turkey bacon avocado wraps; leftovers

I figured there would be lots of leftovers, and I was very right. So we had what passed for a light meal (supplemented by wings and brats): Spinach wraps, deli turkey, bacon, avocado, and Swiss cheese, with honey mustard dressing.

I don’t know why wraps feel like more of a treat than sandwiches, but they do. Maybe because I always used to order one after giving birth, and I associate them with having room service (and that first meal you eat after you have a baby is just indescribably delicious). Now I just need my own chipped ice machine and I can live that swanky hospital life every day. 

TUESDAY
Golden rice with salmon; egg rolls

New recipe. Frozen salmon is actually fairly cheap if you’re not making a giant slab of salmon your main course. We didn’t have any furikake. I don’t even know what furikake is (okay, I looked it up, and it sounds neat), but I thought the rest of it sounded delicious enough that we could limp along without it. 

Alas, this dish was not a hit, despite lots of fresh ginger and garlic and both parts of the scallion. You cook the rice, then coat it with egg yolk before stir frying it.

Also you fry up the egg whites in the pan separately and then add them into the rice. This recipe has an awful lot of putting things into the pan and then taking them out again and then adding them back in, then making a little space in the middle of the thing you’re cooking and cooking something else in there, and then combining it with the other thing . . . to be honest, I was a little relieved that it wasn’t a popular dish, because it was too much work and I don’t want to do it again!

It wasn’t bad, just bland. Needed furikake, no doubt. I also crowded the pan when cooking the salmon, so the fish part was kind of soggy, rather than crisp and toasted, which is sad. We ended up adding soy sauce and/or hot sauce. I did like the egg-coated rice, and will probably adopt that for another recipe. It gave the rice a nice richness, plus of course a cheery yellow color. And I did like the addition of the fluffy egg whites in with the rice. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken shawarma

I was going to make this over the weekend, but it seemed like everyone needed cheering up mid-week, so I made shawarma, which everyone loves. 

We had these cute little mini pita breads, which aren’t really better than normal pita, but they are cute. Tons of various kinds of olive, feta, cucumbers and tomatoes, parsley, yogurt sauce. So much garlic in everything, my lips were fizzing. So good. 

I usually put the onions in with the chicken to marinate, but I just didn’t feel like dealing with onions first thing in the morning, so I just spread them over the chicken right before I cooked it, and it turned out fabulous.

Probably do it that way from now on. There is plenty of flavor in the meat, and I liked having the onions a bit more crisp. 

THURSDAY
Pork nachos

Another successful meal that I decided on at the last minute. I’ve made John Herreid’s carnitas many times, and everyone likes them, but I was going to be driving around all day, so I chunked a piece of fatty pork into the Instant Pot with a bottle of Mexican coke, some cinnamon sticks, a quartered orange, some bay leaves, a splash of canola oil, and tons of oregano, salt, and pepper, and pressed the “meat” button. This still cracks me up. YOU MAKE MEAT NOW. *boop*

It cooked it on high pressure for 35 minutes, and then I left it on warm for a few hours until dinner, when I took the meat out and shredded it, then spread it over tortilla chips and sprinkled it with shredded cheese, and broiled it.

My land, it was good. Really tasty and tender, middling spicy and warming but not too sweet, with no need to add additional seasoning. I had mine with scallions and sour cream.

FRIDAY

I think we are having migas. The kids are having their Valentine’s Parties at school, so I’m hoping they’ll be full of hygienic store-bought individually wrapped treats and won’t care very much that it’s migas for supper, which they don’t like because they are culinary fools. 

(Pictured: Past migas)
I may make some beans and rice, but then again, I may not. Maybe I’ll just have some Pixy Stix.

Hey, don’t forget to leave your suggestions for what gets blossomed next around here! Although we all know it’s going to be a potato. (And yes, I looked up “getting blossomed” on Urban Dictionary to make sure it’s not a kink of some kind. It is not.)

Here’s the recipe cards!

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. 

 

Hot chicken wings with blue cheese dip (after Deadspin)

Basic, tasty hot wings with blue cheese sauce

Ingredients

  • chicken wingettes
  • oil for frying

For the hot sauce:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/8 cup tabasco sauce
  • 1/8 cup sriracha sauce
  • salt
  • vinegar (optional)

Blue cheese sauce:

  • sour cream
  • blue cheese
  • optional: lemon juice, mayonnaise
  • celery sticks for serving

Instructions

  1. Fry the wingettes in several inches of oil until they are lightly browned. Do a few at a time so they don't stick together. Set them on paper towels to cool.

  2. Melt the butter and mix together wit the rest of the hot sauce ingredients. Toss the wings in the hot sauce.

  3. Mix together the sour cream and crumbled blue cheese. Use a food processor or whisk vigorously to break up the blue cheese. You can add lemon juice or a little mayonnaise to thin it.

  4. Serve with blue cheese dip and celery sticks.

 

Chicken shawarma

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

  2. Preheat the oven to 425.

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

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

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

 

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 240: If I’m going to eat salad…

This week’s menu was designed with weight loss in mind. All you have to do is completely avoid these seven meals, and the pounds will simply melt away, ho ho ho.

Here’s what we had:

SATUDAY
Monte Cristo sandwiches with honey

I’ve tried croque monsieur sandwiches, which are similar, except they have a cheese sauce on the outside, and I thought they were kind of gross. These are also ham and cheese but dipped in seasoned egg before frying, so they are hearty but not gloppy.

Some people serve these with powdered sugar and I just couldn’t get my brain to accept powdered sugar that close to mustard. But I did drizzle my sandwich with honey, and that bridged the gap between sweet and savory very nicely.

I didn’t invest in gruyere, but just bought a bunch of Swiss. I did buy a nicer ham and some niceish bread. So I spread mustard on one slice and mayo on the other, then cheese, ham, and more cheese, and you dip the whole thing in beaten eggs, then fry in plenty of butter. I thought they were delicious, definitely more of a treat than plain old grilled ham and cheese.

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I feel like I must have served a side dish. Maybe an apple? 

SUNDAY
Cheesy pepperoni chicken breast rolls, french bread

Love making keto recipes and then baking four loaves of french bread to go with it. 

The chicken turned out fine. It tasted like exactly what it was: Chicken breasts cut in half, pounded thin, and rolled up around pepperoni and mozzarella, then baked with marinara sauce. I have a very nice picture of it, where you can really see how the pepperoni is peeking out from inside the cheese layer and it’s all wrapped up in chicken breast, but a little bird tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Simcha, that’s not pepperoni chicken. That is yoni chicken.” And the bird was right. So here’s a different picture instead, without so much sacred feminine in it.

As you can see, I secured the chicken with a wooden skewer to keep it in place, and that worked fine. Oh, I guess I sprinkled a bunch of fresh-grated parmesan on top before baking. I covered it with tin foil for most of the baking time, then took it off toward the end. 

It was pretty quick to make, and if I were ever going to attempt to fuel a work crew for hammering out a tunnel through a mountain, and they needed a lot of protein and calories, I would definitely make it again. But not otherwise. It was just too . . . HERE, MEAT.

I don’t know. I like meat, but I don’t need a wall of meat. 

Sophia was interested in learning how to make bread, so I mostly just advised her while she made this easy french bread recipe. 

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Turned out great! It’s a wonderful feeling, knowing you can make a decent loaf of bread.

MONDAY
Sausage, egg, and cheese sandwiches on bagels

Nothing to report. We were out of butter, so I fried the eggs in oil, which does make the whites bubble up a bit more, and gives them a neat little crust.

Everyone was pretty excited about the orange juice. 

TUESDAY
Hamburgers, veggies and dip

Nothing to report. Ground beef was on sale because of the Super Bowl, so the burgers were Rather Large. I did manage to serve broccoli before it went bad, which is the first time in months. I throw out broccoli like it’s my job.

We also had chips, but I heroically abstained from eating any. Just kidding! I ate them before I took the picture. 

WEDNESDAY
Buffalo chicken quesadillas, guacamole and chips

Something a little different. I bought a few bags of frozen buffalo chicken tenders (also on Super Bowl sale) which I cooked and cut into strips and fried in quesadillas with cheddar cheese. I was going to sprinkle in some crumbled blue cheese, but do you know, it’s really hard to tell if very old blue cheese is too old or not, so I made a few people smell it and then threw it away. 

I also chopped up a bunch of scallions but then randomly got mad and didn’t feel like adding them. I still wanted to get blue cheese in there, so I added some blue cheese dressing to some sour cream, and it was . . . not actually delicious. Maybe I just don’t like blue cheese, I don’t know. 

Anyway, ths quesadillas variation was very tasty and I will definitely make it again.  Look, you can see my pretty new flower-shaped dishes! I found a set of 8 in various sizes at the Salvation Army. Some are white, some are green, and some are yellow. 

Made a ton of guacamole (avocados 49 cents, courtesy of football!)

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and everyone was happy. 

THURSDAY
Chicken salad with feta, green apples, red onions, and candied walnuts

The original plan for this meal was a nice salad with chicken, blueberry, feta, red onions, and almonds. I get to the store and they are all out of blueberry. Fine, we decide to have green apples instead. A child earnestly requests croutons, and I agree, because I’m feeling bad about the blueberries. Oh no, all the old bread is moldy! This salad is going to be a salad of sadness! I realized we had tons of walnuts in the house from Christmas treats I never got around to making, so I made candied walnuts.

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Very simple recipe — you just stand there stirring walnuts, butter, and sugar in a pot until the butter and sugar melt and coat the nuts, and then you spread it in a pan and break it up so they don’t clump, and that’s it. It turns out this takes KIND OF A LONG TIME if you’re sextupling the recipe. But they turned out great. 

These would be useful for any number of salads, or just for snacking on, and you could fiddle with the seasonings and add chili powder or cinnamon or whatever. 

Look how pretty the salad was! 

I had mine with balsamic vinegar. Very filling. If I’m going to have a salad for dinner, there has to be serious detritus at the bottom of the plate.

FRIDAY
Marcella Hazan’s red sauce with spaghetti

The real reason I wanted to make this is so I could get a second giant can of whole tomatoes and make some stilts for Corrie. Because we need more clomping and falling down, I don’t know. We used to have giant coffee cans in the house all the time, used mainly for stilts, banks, and crayon cans. The smells of crayons and coffee are forever wedded in my head. 

If you haven’t tried this sauce yet, I beg of you. The time has come. It has three, count ’em, THREE ingredients, plus a pinch of salt; it requires no skill, and it tastes like you slaved over it for hours. The recipe says to take out the onion before serving, but we have at least one kid who prefers to keep the onion, for purposes of devouring it whole.

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Oh, here’s my post with four recipe ideas for your Super Bowl party which you are having with people who already live in your house! Sausage rolls, potato tornados, a deli meat sandwich bake, and hot wings with blue cheese (if of course you like blue cheese). 

Here’s the recipe cards for the week.

Monte Cristo sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 2 slices sturdy white bread
  • 4 slices cheese (gruyere is traditional, but use what you like)
  • 3 slices ham
  • mayonnaise
  • mustard
  • egg
  • salt and pepper
  • butter for frying
  • honey for serving

Instructions

  1. Beat up the egg and add a little salt and pepper.

  2. Spread one slice of cheese with mayonnaise and one with mustard. Make a sandwich with cheese, then ham, then cheese.

  3. Dip the entire sandwich in the beaten egg.

  4. Fry the sandwich in butter, turning once.

  5. If the cheese isn't completely melted, slide it into the oven for a few minutes.

  6. Drizzle with honey and serve.

French bread

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

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

 

Candied nuts (walnuts or pecans)

Ingredients

  • 6 cups nuts, whole or in large pieces
  • 1-1/2 cups white sugar
  • 6 Tbsp butter

optional:

  • any spices or seasonings, you want: cinnamon, cayenne pepper, etc.

Instructions

  1. Line a large pan with parchment paper.

  2. Put all ingredients in a heavy pot and cook on medium, stirring frequently, until the butter and sugar are melted together and the nuts are all coated. Be careful not to let them burn.

  3. Pour the sugared nuts onto the prepared pan and immediately break them up so they don't clump. Let them sit for several minutes so the sugar coating hardens.

  4. Eat immediately or store them in an airtight container for several weeks.

 

Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce

We made a quadruple recipe of this for twelve people. 

Keyword Marcella Hazan, pasta, spaghetti, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes, broken up
  • 1 onion peeled and cut in half
  • salt to taste
  • 5 Tbsp butter

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a heavy pot.

  2. Simmer at least 90 minutes. 

  3. Take out the onions.

  4. I'm freaking serious, that's it!

What’s for supper? Vol. 237: Follow me for more potatoes with butts

Hey, the world didn’t end! Per se! And I didn’t even pack up to go live at the P.O., although I was tempted. Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
One pan chicken thighs with squash and potatoes

Old reliable. This is even better when you have a big variety of vegetables, but just potatoes and squash is good, and it’s stupid easy to make, and nice, honey garlic, mmm. In conclusion, you may think it’s easy to be a food writer, but it’s actually hard, with words, booo. 

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Speaking of stupid, it was only some technical difficulties that prevented me from starting a Twitter account called @potatoeswithbutts.

I uhhhh have a collection. This poor fellow appears to have a pilonidal cyst, which is unusual in potatoes, and you can see by his posture that it’s really getting him down. Yes, I have work to do, what do you mean?

SUNDAY
Chinese roast pork and vegetable lo mein

Here was something new I tried, because I’m bored to death of all my pork recipes. You marinate the meat in chunks in a simple sauce, then roast it over a pan of water, then cut it up. 

I had mine with some excellent pepper jelly we got for Christmas, and it was a great match. It would also be good with that super strong Chinese mustard, or any number of sauces. 

This is most certainly an Americanized Cantonese recipe, and there’s nothing wrong with that, especially if you don’t like five spice because, try as you might, you just can’t get used to *ptui* anise.  I’ll go ahead and write up a recipe card

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but I expect to change it a bit. Next time I will buy fattier meat and cook it in bigger chunks before slicing it. It was a tiny bit dry. If I make those changes, I’ll be able to cook it longer and work up a little crust on the outside. The boiling water made it tender and taste was good, though, if slightly bland. It would also be great cut up and added to stir fries or lo mein. 

SPEAKING OF LO MEIN, this continues to be a popular dish around here. I had bought some flat rice noodles intending to try some kind of Vietnamese noodle bowl (which is what I bought the pork for), but for once in my life I listened to the “nobody’s going to eat that” alarm going off in my head, and made lo mein instead. The only vegetable in the house was green pepper, so I added that, plus some red onion and . . . and this was a most excellent choice . . . some fresh minced ginger, which I’ve started keeping in the house routinely. 

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I was careful not to overcook the vegetables, so they were still crunchy. Man, what a high-yield dish for flavor, with very minimal effort. Sometimes I will add a little fish sauce or oyster sauce, but it’s honestly fine without. 

MONDAY
Tacos, tortilla chips

I do not remember making or eating tacos. I do remember people saying, “You should have made this on Tuesday for taco Tuesday!” and me going “bahhhhhh” in a growly voice. 

TUESDAY
Chicken caprese sandwiches, grapes

Tuesday was grocery shopping day this week, so I needed something very easy. Aldi had big cartons of frozen breaded chicken cutlets, so there was my answer. 

We had basil from the Vietnamese noodle bowls I never made, and no end of cheese from various cheese adventures. I was planning to make a shortcut version of the lovely chicken cutlets Damien makes for special occasions, but while shopping, I became confused, and bought a large amount of tomatoes, so we had caprese chicken sandwiches, which I usually make with grilled chicken, but it turned out nobody cares about the arbitrary chicken rules in my head, especially when it’s very late and everyone’s hongry.

WEDNESDAY
Meatball subs, raw broccoli and hummus

Again, nothing special, but always a popular meal. 

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This was my third day of watching Bridgerton for a review, and let me tell you, if you have to lock yourself in your bedroom and watch four episodes of Bridgerton in a row, getting up and making eighty meatballs is a good antidote. 

THURSDAY
Beef barley soup and pumpkin muffins

A couple of the kids have been begging for this meal. Benny and Corrie were done with their school work early, so they made the muffins with just a little supervision. This is a good recipe, very reliable.

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This is a light, tender pumpkin bread, not some kind of challenging artisinal loaf-log. It has a hearty flavor but is pretty fine-grained. We made a double recipe which gave us 18 muffins plus a small loaf. 

You can add all kinds of things to these muffins (or bread) — oats, nuts, raisins, dried cranberries, chocolate chips if you’re a monster, sunflower seeds, chunky sugar, etc. You can add more sugar to make them more dessert-y, but as is, they make a fine dish dish.

The soup was good, too.

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Although, as you can see, I couldn’t find the barley, so I used pasta rings instead, because I happen to have a lot of different kinds of pasta in my cabinets. Which immediately led the kids to assume I had WASHED OFF SPAGHETTIO-S AND PUT THEM IN THE SOUP. I told them I had not and would not, but they just stared at me. And that’s why, if I lived at the P.O., why. 

The other reason I might live at the P.O. is that, before Christmas, I bought about nine boxes of different kinds of pasta in various shapes, because I made myself believe we were going to make Christmas tree ornaments out of pasta, hot glue, and gold spray paint, and now here we are in January and I can’t find the barley because my cabinets are crammed with pasta. Shut up, it’s a good craft. We just didn’t do it, that’s all. Hey, have you seen my potato butt? And my food writing? It’s very good. 

FRIDAY
Tuna noodle casserole and Brussels sprouts

That’s a little weird, but that’s what the blackboard says. I feel like the Brussels sprouts were expensive, too, so I better actually make them. And you know what, maybe tuna noodle can be made with pasta rather than egg noodles. Because I have–

Aw, skip it. Here’s the recipe cards: 

One pan honey garlic chicken thighs with fall veg

Adapted from Damn Delicious 

Ingredients

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

sauce:

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Prepare the sauce. 

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

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

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

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

Chinese Roast Pork

This is a recipe in progress, but it's easy and reasonably tasty as is. Serve with any number of sauces.

Ingredients

  • 6-8 lbs boneless pork
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2 Tbsp bean paste
  • 2 tsp salt
  • RED FOOD COLORING, DO IT

Instructions

  1. Cut the pork into long chunks

  2. Mix together all the sauce ingredients and marinate the meat for several hours or overnight.

  3. Preheat the oven to 375

  4. Boil some water (I used a tea kettle)

  5. Line a large roasting pan with tin foil and put cake racks over it. Lay the meat on the racks, put it in the oven, and then carefully add the boiling water to the pan.

  6. Roast for an hour or more, adding water if it cooks away. Turn meat once during cooking. The outside of the meat should be dark and glossy.

  7. Slice and serve hot or cold.

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

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

for the rest

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

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

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

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

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

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

 

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. 

 

5 from 1 vote
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Pumpkin quick bread or muffins

Makes 2 loaves or 18+ muffins

Ingredients

  • 30 oz canned pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup veg or canola oil
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 3.5 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • oats, wheat germ, turbinado sugar, chopped dates, almonds, raisins, etc. optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter two loaf pans or butter or line 18 muffin tins.

  2. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.

  3. In a separate bowl, mix together wet ingredients. Stir wet mixture into dry mixture and mix just to blend. 

  4. Optional: add toppings or stir-ins of your choice. 

  5. Spoon batter into pans or tins. Bake about 25 minutes for muffins, about 40 minutes for loaves. 

 

Beef barley soup (Instant Pot or stovetop)

Makes about a gallon of lovely soup

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion or red onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 3-4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 lbs beef, cubed
  • 16 oz mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 6 cups beef bouillon
  • 1 cup merlot or other red wine
  • 29 oz canned diced tomatoes (fire roasted is nice) with juice
  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy pot. If using Instant Pot, choose "saute." Add the minced garlic, diced onion, and diced carrot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions and carrots are softened. 


  2. Add the cubes of beef and cook until slightly browned.

  3. Add the canned tomatoes with their juice, the beef broth, and the merlot, plus 3 cups of water. Stir and add the mushrooms and barley. 

  4. If cooking on stovetop, cover loosely and let simmer for several hours. If using Instant Pot, close top, close valve, and set to high pressure for 30 minutes. 

  5. Before serving, add pepper to taste. Salt if necessary.