What’s for supper? Vol. 186: The world is cold, but food is warm.

Everyone is sick and mopey and overworked, and there is frost on the windshield in the morning. And we’ve decided that Corrie is watching far too much TV, so we are doing a little detox there, which is hard on everyone.  So I focused on cozy, unchallenging meals for this week. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Steak, hot bread, salad

Well, London broil. That’s a steak, right? Everyone looked so droopy and sad, I thought we could all use some steak, and it happened to be on sale. Damien seasoned and broiled them, and I bought a few of those pull-apart bread rings and threw them in the oven right before supper. I put out some salad but it remained largely unmolested. 

The pictures are lackluster but the meat was great. Much better than the other way around, as sometimes happens. 

SUNDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips

Sunday we went to Mass and I led my first faith formation class, which went great! Overall. Some of those kids know a lot and some of them know hardly anything, but they are all interested in Jesus! And why not? He is an interesting guy. 

We came home for lunch and some of us were clever enough to fix ourselves steak and cheese sandwiches. 

Then we met my dad and went apple picking at our absolute favorite orchard, Wellwood Orchards in Springfield, Vt. It’s way up in the mountains where the air is so clean and good. You buy your bags and then get into a wagon, and a tractor pulls you wherever you want to go. We wanted mostly Macintosh, Macouns, and Cortlands, although some of the younger and more naive children were swayed by the deceit of that apple that calls itself “delicious.” 

This orchard has a little farm animal petting zoo, with cute little goaties and fancy ridiculous chickens, and the sun shone down, and the air smelled like apples, and it was just a good day. There are a bunch of pictures on my FB page. Here’s my favorite:

We also stopped at the Vermont Country Store and spent more money on candy than I have ever imagined it was possible to spend on candy. Irene bought wax lips with fangs, because Monday is school picture day and she’s not made of stone. 

MONDAY
French toast casserole, sausages, plums, OJ

Continuing the theme of “life is cold; here is some food that is hot.”

I’ll do my best to make a recipe for french toast casserole, but it turns out different every time. It’s definitely a good meal for kids to help you make. Although I would not recommend letting your very contagious four-year-old mix the orange juice in the other room. We ended up making a whole separate batch for those who did not wish to drink plague juice. 

I browned up some frozen breakfast sausages and set out a bowl of sweet little plums, lovely, dusky little plums. 

TUESDAY
Pork and ricotta meatballs on spaghetti with Marcella Hazan’s sauce

Sometimes you see a recipe and you just know. This one, from the NYT, calls for ground pork, ricotta, parmesan, bread crumbs, eggs, and salt and pepper, and that’s it. You bake them, so it’s nice and easy.

They don’t look like much, but they are delightfully fluffy and so full of flavor (although I thought the amount of salt it called for was way too much), with little creamy pockets of cheese. I ended up using three pounds of pork and one pound of ground beef, and more parm than the recipe called for, and panko bread crumbs; so I guess that’s a good enough reason to make up my own recipe card. I had to cook them ahead of time and then heat them up in the sauce, but next time I want to cook them right before we eat them, so they can be as light as possible. They did soak up a lot of the sauce, which was unexpected. Possibly because of the panko bread crumbs.

I made Marcella Hazan’s miraculous three-ingredient sauce in the morning in the crock pot.

Boy, does it not look like it’s going to be delicious. BUT IT IS. 

This was a popular meal, and we have been snacking on meatballs all week. In fact, the other day, I was working and thinking about meatballs and asked Benny to snag me a couple. This is what she brought me:

WEDNESDAY
Hot dogs, beans, fries

This meal was just a gift to myself. I actually asked Benny and Corrie to make it for me, and they somehow didn’t do a very good job, but still. 

THURSDAY
Nachos

Again, no culinary adventures, but everyone was happy. I spread tortilla chips in a pan, spread cooked, seasoned ground beef over that, and sprinkled it heavily with shredded cheddar, and then topped it with chopped scallions. The scallions were third gen, if anyone cares. 

I had mine with salsa and sour cream. And very good they are, nachos. 

FRIDAY
Fish tacos

I splurged on batter-fried frozen fish instead of the breaded kind. We have tortillas, shredded cabbage, cute li’l cherry tomatoes, lime wedges, sour cream, and ooops, I forgot to buy avocados. 

Here’s the recipe cards!

 

5 from 1 vote
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French toast casserole

An easy, kid-pleasing meal, pleasant and cozy for breakfast, brunch, or brinner. Use any kinds of bread you have in the house. You can also add raisins, slices of apple, or whatever sounds good. 

I'm not putting measurements in, because you can make this so many different ways, so it's more pastry-like or more custardy. Use the same proportions you'd use to make regular french toast and it will be good. 

Ingredients

  • bread, torn up
  • eggs
  • milk
  • dash of salt
  • white or brown sugar
  • cinnamon
  • vanilla

Instructions

  1. Grease a casserole dish or cake pan. Preheat the oven to 350.

  2. Tear the bread up into chunks and spread them in the buttered pans.

  3. Mix together the eggs, milk, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla, and pour the batter over the bread. Stir up the bread so all of it is wet. 

  4. If you like, you can let the casserole sit for a few hours to let the egg soak in, but it's not essential.  

  5. Sprinkle the top with more sugar and cinnamon, if you like. Bake for 40 minutes or so, until the egg is all cooked and it's a little toasted on top. Serve in wedges and drizzle with syrup, sprinkle with powdered sugar, or serve with jam or fruit toppings. 

Pork and ricotta meatballs

Adapted from a NYT recipe, found here.  Very easy to put together, and the extra creamy, fluffy, cheesiness make these remarkable. 

Ingredients

  • 1 lbs ground pork
  • 1 lb ground beef or turkey
  • 2+ cups panko bread crumbs
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 32 oz ricotta
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 4 tsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.

  2. Lightly mix together all ingredients in a bowl. The ricotta doesn't need to be completely incorporated. Form into balls. This makes about 75 walnut-sized meatballs. 

  3. Grease a rimmed baking sheet and arrange the meatballs on it. 

  4. Bake for about half an hour, until the meatballs are slightly browned. 

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. 183: Sandwiches, sandwiches, barely even human

Dramatization of me making the menu for the week:

Me: Okay, now, concentrate! What’s for supper all week long? Let’s make a list! Good! Fun!
Me: Can’t.
Me: Yes, you can! 
Me: Can’t.
Me: Yes you can. This is your job, and it’s easy. Just think of what people like to eat. What do people like to eat?
Me: I mean . . . I guess . . . food?
Me: Yes, good! And what kind of food? Can you think of some?
Me: Like . . . like . . . the kind you put in your . . . mouth?
Me: Good! You’re doing so well! And what kind of food do we put in our mouth?
Me: Like . . .
. . . .
. . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . sandwiches?

Me: YES.

[feebly writes down “sandwiches” several times, lets pen loll out of fingers. Late August housefly coasts in and lands on my shopping list. It marches across the page with arrogance and disdain. A single tear of weariness leaks out of my eyeball and trickles down my cheek and onto the paper, zig-zagging across the crumpled page until it seems to spell out b-a-c-k-t-o-s-c-h-o-o-l.]

SATURDAY
Pizza

Saturday, Damien had a hunting safety course all day and I had a planning session for faith formation (I’m going to teach second grade, hoop de doo!); and then I drove Lena back to college. We both got home quite late, and Damien got pizza of some kind, either Domino’s or Aldi. 

I tried bubble tea for the first time. I had sesame matcha. I will tell you, if the very idea of bubble tea repels you, then bubble tea itself will definitely repel you; but if you’re thinking to yourself, “I could go for some gummy black blobs in my beverage right about meow,” then you will love it. I loved it.

Sending your kids off to college is bullshit, though. SIGH SIGH SIGH.

SUNDAY
Hamburgers, chips, cannoli

Sunday Damien had more training and I had to do the shopping I didn’t do Saturday. I had a hunch we’d be pretty wiped out and I was not wrong, so I bought pre-made burger patties, because such are the blessings of capitalism, and who am I to turn them down? 

It was Elijah’s shopping turn, and as fall approaches, a young man’s fancy turns to cannoli. We didn’t see cannoli shells, so we got some pizzelle. I made very simple cream filling with ricotta cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla, and we had a scoop of cheese on the cookie topped with shaved chocolate and maraschino cherries. I know I have almond extract somewhere, but it was hiding. 

MONDAY
Sandwiches, chips, watermelon, candy

Monday was the very last day of summer vacation, and it’s become our tradition to spend “all day” at the beach. In practice, this meant running around like a maniac doing errands all morning while the kids focused on being disgruntled, and then heading out to the town pond around 2:00. We did spent about four hours there, which is definitely long enough to get that “no one tells me what to do” feeling. We had the place to ourselves, except for a few silent, stringy old people and many, many dragonfly engaged in l’amour

Sometimes I think my kids are getting spoiled and worldly, and then I realize at least half of them still think it’s a huge treat to get the really big jar of pickles and to be allowed to just stick their hands in their and wipe them off on the grass. So we are doing okay. 

I took many pictures, but this one sums up the tone of the meal pretty well:

I texted Damien that we were on our way home, so he started a fire in the firepit, and we gathered around and told moderately spooky stories in the sorta-getting-dark. I did this knowing full well that it was exactly the kind of thing that would immediately become a Very Important Tradition That We Always Do. 

TUESDAY
Pork ramen

So Tuesday school finally happened. We have two in college, one taking a gap year and working on a big illustrating job, two in high school, and the rest are in 8th, 6th, 5th, and 2nd, and Corrie is home. I actually expect this year to be somewhat easier than last year. When I ask myself why, I’m not sure, but even thinking so is a pretty good sign. According to my therapist. What does he know, the giant weirdo. 

I keep forgetting it’s a food blog today. Let’s see, I cut up some boneless pork chops and sautéed them in oil, then sliced them and dashed in some soy sauce and finished cooking them. I chopped up some scallions and sugar snap peas, and I soft boiled a bunch of eggs. I sliced some mushrooms and sautéed them in the pan with the porky oil. We had crunchy noodles, sesame seeds, and hot sauce for toppings.

Everyone came home hungry and they were happy with a big pot of ramen and pork.

WEDNESDAY
Banh mi

Oh look, sandwiches! But to be fair, these are the greatest sandwiches known to mankind. I made the marinade and sliced a boneless pork loin in the late morning and let it marinate the rest of the day. I quick pickled a bunch of carrots, but decided to let the cucumbers just be plain, so there was a cool taste with all the bitey tastes. I chopped up a bunch of cilantro, and made some spicy mayo (I couldn’t find sriracha, so I just used hot sauce. Not as good). And I had a jar of jalapenos. 

I did toast the bread, which I hate doing, for some reason, but it makes a big difference for these sandwiches. Gosh, I love this meal. I prepped everything in the morning, and then before supper I just had to fish the meat out of the marinade, spread it on a pan, and broil it.

If you haven’t made these sandwiches before, they’re delicious way out of proportion to how hard they are to make. However, when you’re cooking the meat, it smells horrendous way out of proportion to . . . anything. Really, nothing this side of hell should smell like that. But it’s worth it! Recipe card at the end.

Wednesday was also the day this happened:

We had to leave to pick up the kids, but Corrie didn’t want to get out of the bath. I did everything I could think of to get her out, and she ended up on the floor, screaming and writhing. She’s amazingly heavy and strong, and when she’s wet, she’s just about impossible to pick up and hold, much less dry off and get dressed. I was getting madder and madder, so I stepped away to collect myself, and when I came back and opened the door, the stool and wastebasket were knocked over, the towels were all dragged onto the floor, and I could hear violent splashing.

I thought, “Oh great, she’s back in the tub and I’ll have to start all over again.” But when I pulled back the curtain, she wasn’t in the tub.

And that’s when I realized she was so mad, she had jumped right into the toilet.

THURSDAY
Grilled pizza sandwiches

We used to have these a lot, but haven’t for a while, so the kids were pretty excited. I was honestly not at my best as a chef by Thursday. We’re still staying up stupidly late, but now waking up stupidly early. I like to spice things up in the middle of the night by stupidly worrying about stupid things for a while, too. Put it all together, and you get someone who is not going to do a great job flipping heavy sandwiches stuffed with shredded cheese. 

Even the sandwiches look skeptical.

This particular one actually looks kinda like Attorney General William Barr, shown here with Lamar Alexander, who is also full of cheap cheese:

Office of Senator Lamar Alexander [Public domain]
Office of Senator Lamar Alexander [Public domain]
I feel like I haven’t sufficiently made my case here. Look at this:

Maybe? 

I know you want to know how to make these wondrous grilled Wiliam Barr sandwiches, so here is how: Sourdough bread spread with sauce, then cheese, then pepperoni, then topped with another piece of bread spread with sauce. Then the outsides are brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with garlic powder and oregano, then fried in a pan with more butter. It’s actually better to spread them with softened butter with garlic powder and oregano mixed in, but I accidentally melted it.

It would also be a heck of a lot easier to manage if it had slices of mozzarella, rather than wads of shreds, but did I think of that when I was shopping? Nopey.

I grill them and then slide them in the oven for a few minutes to make sure the cheese is melted and can prosecute on behalf of our Lord, the King. This is a attorney general joke and it’s the best I can do right meow.

FRIDAY
Quesadillas, chips and salsa

Not technically a sandwich! And we made it through the first week. There were no guarantees.

***

Pork banh mi


Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs Pork loin
  • 1 cup fish sauce
  • 12 Tbs sugar
  • 1 minced onion
  • 4 Tbs minced garlic
  • 1.5 tsp pepper

Veggies and dressing

  • carrots
  • cucumbers
  • vinegar
  • sugar
  • cilantro
  • mayonnaise
  • Sriracha sauce

Instructions

  1. Slice the raw pork as thinly as you can. 

  2. Mix together the fish sauce ingredients and add the meat slices. Seal in a ziplock bag to marinate, as it is horrendously stinky. Marinate several hours or overnight. 

  3. Grill the meat over coals or on a pan under a hot broiler. 

  4. Toast a sliced baguette or other crusty bread. 

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

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

Ingredients

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

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

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

Instructions

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

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

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 175: The rain it raineth every day

So, last time I did an AMA, and every time, a few people ask about how to get kids to eat better food and how to cook decent food when you have little kids. It is clearly a constant source of worry and frustration for so many parents; and oh how clearly I remember that worry and frustration. I remember reading about other moms who were always trying new and exciting recipes and serving side dishes that don’t come out of a greasy bag with a comical pig on the outside, and wondering what was wrong with me. 

So I just wanted to remind everyone:

I have two adult children and four teenagers living at home right now. They all help me cook, or help me with other stuff while I cook. My husband works from home, and he often helps me cook, or helps me with other stuff while I cook, or he cooks dinner outright. He even looks up recipes and shops for ingredients. 

I don’t have any babies, and am not massively sleep deprived; and I’m not nursing anyone, so I can regularly sit down and do a task from start to finish without a thousand interruptions. 

And even despite all these advantages, if I took a few weeks off writing about food, my routine would slide really quickly back into chicken nuggets and frozen peas, and I certainly wouldn’t be arranging it on the plate so it looks as pretty as possible. Part of the purpose of Friday food posts is to force me to try harder with food. It propels me to find new and interesting things to cook, so I don’t die of boredom or shame.

Just a little disclaimer, in case you needed it. Here is my explainer for why I refuse to worry about what my kids eat for dinner. In general, I firmly believe that if you’re keeping your family alive and no one has rickets or scurvy, it is perfectly okay to have other priorities besides making pretty plates and mixing up adventurous marinades. Sometimes, there are other things that are more important than interesting food, and you can’t make everything a priority. You just can’t. 

Okay, now on to the food! Which was decent this week, but not especially adventurous, except for Sunday. 

SATURDAY
Fish tacos

I get home pretty late on Saturdays from shopping (which takes 3+ hours and often includes confession, haircuts, shoe shopping, etc.), so it has to be something fast, but I’m awfully tired of serving grilled ham and cheese or hamburgers on Saturdays. Fish tacos is fast, as long as you use frozen fish and don’t get too fancy with salsas and slaws and whatnot. 

Looks like I forgot a picture, but mine had sour cream, salsa, avocado, shredded cabbage, and fresh lime juice on a tortilla with batter fried fish of some kind. Please don’t ask if I got scrod. That information is private, and open only to subscribers.

I heard this thing on the radio about mango salsa, and I forgot all about mango salsa. ‘Tis the season, isn’t it! I think next week will be mango week. Just not on Saturday.

SUNDAY
Fadder’s Day cookout!

My own fadder was out of town visiting other family members, so we had a nice quiet day at home. By which I mean Benny had a fever, so Damien got up and went to the early Mass so he could stay home with the little guys while I took the others to a later Mass, because Elijah was serving. Hey, it was better than the father’s day he spent scrubbing poop out of the mesh sides of a port-a-crib. We did have a nice little brunch.

For dinner, one of the kids bought two enormous steaks for Damien and me — one a sirloin, and one a flank steak, which we’ve never had before.  Damien made a rub for the sirloin out of kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, and a little chili powder.

So, flank steak is lean and somewhat tough, so it needs marinating, but it has an extraordinary flavor. After it marinated several hours in olive oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, and brown sugar, he seasoned it with kosher salt and pepper, then he seared both steaks on the grill in the rain. I don’t know if rain was a necessary ingredient, but it always seems to be present on grilling days. 

The sirloin was great. The flank steak was out of this world. The texture was startling to me — very lean and fibrous, but you cut it across the grain thinly and it has a very intense flavor I can only describe as . . . meaty. I know that’s not helpful, but it’s like ever-so-much-more-so beef.  This is not a great photo, but you can see the texture:

We also had little rolls, guacamole and chips, and strawberries and cream on angel food cake. 

The guac turned out okay (recipe card at end), although the store had put up a sign that said “avocados ripe today!” but really, agreed the lady in the store and I as we sorted and squeezed, they meant “avocados ripe yesterday;” so it was a little mushier than I like it.

The strawberries and cream were just as one would hope. Lightly mashed strawberries with a little sugar, freshly whipped cream with a little sugar, and store bought angel food cake.

Moe gave Damien some good chocolate and a gift card for a cigar shop, but he wrapped it in a “live animal” box from Petco. Because if you can’t almost give your father a heart attack, is it even really father’s day?

Also on this day, Corrie helped herself to no one knows how many chocolate-covered espresso beans, so it was ever-so-much-more-so Corrie until pretty late at night. 

Oh, to make the day even more special, we rearranged the living room so we could settle the piano in.

Did I tell you I bought a piano? I know you’re supposed to never pay for a piano, but what if it’s a nice lady raising money for Kiwanis and she delivers, eh? We still had to rent ramps and Damien still hurt his back (this was last week), but it’s a lovely little instrument in good condition, and it fits into our miniature living room, which is close to miraculous. I bought the Bastien book for Older Beginners, and I finished the first unit last night. I’m excited! There’s life in the old dame yet.

MONDAY
Bagel sandwiches

There was also tons of leftover steak, so, for duty and humanity, I had cold flank steak over baby spinach for lunch. 

For supper, we had bagel sandwiches with sausage, egg, and cheese. 

A cozy little meal for, you guessed it, a rainy day.

TUESDAY
Berry chicken salad

Just a great summer dish, and good for those days when everyone comes home to eat at different times.

Chicken breast roasted in the oven with olive oil and lemon pepper seasoning, and then cooled and sliced; mixed greens, strawberries and blueberries, feta cheese, and toasted almonds. 

I bought some kind of fancy pants berry vinaigrette, which disappeared long before Tuesday. No one ate it; it just disappeared. So I had balsamic vinegar, which was fine. I hope balsamic vinegar is good for you, because I have it on everything. 

WEDNESDAY
Hot dogs, chips

Last day of school! It was a half day and then the school has an unofficial final field trip to the local beach. I spent most of the time standing on the shore, thinking about how much easier life is now that the kids are older, and I don’t have to freak out and panic the entire time they’re in the water.

Then we got home and, my voice hoarse after shouting, “Corrie, come back, that’s deep enough! Corrie, come back, that’s deep enough! Corrie, I said COME BACK NOW!!!!” forty-six thousand times, I collapsed. Actually, come to think of it, it’s fricking exhausting to be at the beach with kids, even if they are older. It would have been easier if I had gone in the water with them, but my body positivity project hasn’t gotten up to the chapter where you’re okay with taking off your clothes in front of all the other parents. 

Then we came home and had hot dogs and chips. Actually Damien made them. I was too busy still collapsing hoarsely. 

THURSDAY
Pulled pork sandwiches, curly fries, coleslaw

We haven’t had pulled pork for a while. I meant to start it in the slow cooker early in the morning, since the cut I had was not the most tender. I forget what I had, but it’s the kind you get from Aldi all cryogenically wrapped so it looks like a Sandworm.

But suddenly it was afternoon. So I hacked in half and chunked it in the Instant Pot, had Corrie dump in a can of Coke, and, after a fruitless search for some kind of pepper or whatnot, I just sealed up the lid and pressed the “meat” button. When it beeped, I shouted at someone to press the “meat” button again. Close to dinner, I got a “burn” message, because I didn’t put it enough liquid. I opened it up and it looked awful. The liquid was all gone, and there was this dark sludge on the bottom. I nervously pulled the meat out with tongs and sniffed it. Okay, not actually burnt, but surely it will be tough as leather.

Dude, it was perfect. It fell apart with the mere thought of a fork. I scraped up all the sludge from the bottom, and dumped in a bottle of Carolina BBQ sauce, and it was moist, tender, and delicious. 

So remember: Dump, meat, meat, burn, sludge, scrape, glug. That’s my recipe, and I’m sticking to it.

I also made some quick coleslaw with cabbage, carrot, mayo, vinegar, sugar, and pepper, and we had seasoned curly fries, and I ate outside in the rain, which was just a little rain.

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese, string beans

I’ve been avoiding these string beans all week, but I think the time has come. Dora brought me home a treasure trove of cheese ends from the deli. Some of that cheese has speckles in it. Speckles! And it’s barely even raining today. 

***

5 from 1 vote
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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. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 171: A whole new world (feat. Chicken)

In this year of our Lord 2019, I, Simcha Fisher, am born anew, for it was on this week that I discovered how easy it is to stuff things inside chicken breasts. Interested, dear reader? Then READ ON. 

SATURDAY
Sugar rub chicken thighs, beer brats, chips and dip

Damien cooked stuff on the big grill he built out of cinder blocks. I’ll put his sugar rub recipe at the end. It makes extremely juicy chicken with a fantastic skin, with tons of warm, spicy flavor.  You can see that I did manage to include something green in this meal for once.

He made a ton of chicken, because he can’t help himself, and I ate them for lunch for several days.

He boils the brats in beer with onions, then grills them and also grills up the onions.

We ate outside after a long day of yard work. And that has made all the difference. 

SUNDAY
Caprese stuffed chicken breasts, salad, garlic bread

I was just delighted at how well this turned out. I saw the recipe in the NYT and tweaked it a bit. I’ll add a card at the end. Basically you cut open chicken breasts and stuff mozzarella, cherry tomato halves, and basil leaves inside, then brown them up a bit in olive oil and garlic, then finish cooking them in the oven. I used toothpicks to hold the edges together, and I was surprised at how well it worked.

I thought everything would fall out and it would be a yummy but ugly meal, but I worked slowly and didn’t crowd the chicken, and it turned out great, although there was a lot of liquid in the pan after baking, so next time I will use a pan with higher sides. 

I used the garlicky oil to make a sauce to spoon over it, and I actually thought the sauce was the star of the show. Would make a great bruschetta topping.

 

Damien thought it was a little too sweet, but I thought it was a nice complement to the chicken. The breasts were big ‘uns, so it was good to have a sauce so there were no bites without a lot of flavor. 

I used the oil and garlic I cooked the chicken in plus more garlic, and simmered it until I stopped worrying about food poisoning. Then I added several glugs of balsamic vinegar and the rest of the tomatoes, and simmered that until the vinegar got thick and the tomatoes fell apart and darkened. I scraped the pan to incorporate the browned bits of garlic and spooned this over the chicken, and served extra to sop up with the garlic bread. Smell this!

And now I’m thinking about all the other lovely things you could stuff inside chicken breasts. Maybe brie and apricots.  Maybe bacon and apple slices and cheddar. I need to make more friends just so I can stuff things into chicken breasts for them. If I really like them, I’ll remind them to take the toothpicks out before eating.

MONDAY
Korean beef bowl and rice, pineapple, snap peas

Apparently I haven’t made this dish in a long time, because everyone was just thrilled and delighted. I was really taken aback. I like this meal fine. It’s a bit sweet for my tastes, but I guess that answers why everyone else likes it so much. Recipe card at the end. 

This is definitely a good recipe to have in your back pocket. It comes together very quickly. Basically as long as it takes to brown up ground beef and cook a pot of rice, that’s how long it takes. I used fresh garlic and fresh ginger, but you can totally get away with using ground ginger and garlic powder. Increase or decrease the sugar and hot pepper flakes as you like. 

TUESDAY
Pork ramen with pickled veg

Another easy one, although you can certainly make it complicated if you add enough toppings. We had our with pork, soft boiled eggs, chopped scallions, pickled ginger, mushrooms in soy sauce, sesame seeds, pea sprouts, and pickled carrots and cucumbers, and a little hot sauce. 

I sautéed the pork in sesame oil, then cut it into slices and cooked it a little longer with some soy sauce. I’ll put the pickled veg recipe card at the end. 

WEDNESDAY
Wendy’s Copycat Harvest Chicken Salad 

Well, kinda. Wendy’s has greens, chicken, candied walnuts, blue cheese, cranberries, green and red apples, and bacon, and some kind of vinaigrette. I forgot about the bacon, and I didn’t candy the walnuts. In fact I burned them. Still a nice meal, and good for a day when people were going to be eating dinner at all different hours.

I made the chicken by drizzling it with olive oil and shaking a generous amount of lemon pepper seasoning over it and cooking it under the broiler, turning once. 

I snuck away and ate mine outside, even though it was drizzling. 

I chunked my plate on the table where I had been potting flowers, and then I thought, “Ooh, it looks like one of those real food blogger photos.” It also makes it appear that I was eating my supper with a trowel, which is sometimes the case; but today I did have a fork. 

I had mine with some diced red onion and just plain red wine vinegar for a dressing. Oh, and when I opened the little tub of blue cheese, Corrie gasped and said, “Ohhh, FANK you, Mama!” and gave me a hug. Kid likes cheese. 

THURSDAY
Sausage subs with sweet peppers

We had the final school concert of the year, so this was a good meal to prepare ahead of time and eat quickly before we left. I snacked so much, I didn’t even want a sandwich, but here are some cooking pics.

Corrie stirred in some jarred sauce, and I sliced up some mozzarella. 

I did give in to the little nagging voice in my head and look up whether charred foods really give you cancer, and it turns out scientists are currently fairly meh on the connection, so I shall continue to char. 

FRIDAY
Giant pancake and scrambled eggs

Do you know about giant pancake? You take the simplest kind of pancake mix, where you just add water, and you add enough water to the whole box to make batter. You can stir in blueberries or chocolate chips or whatever. Pour the batter into a buttered pan and bake at 350 for 15 minutes or so. Cut into wedges. GIANT PANCAKE. And that’s how you know your mother has had about enough. 

Okay, so tell me, what would you stuff inside chicken, given half the chance? You can use a pseudonym if you’d rather, but I really want to know. 

Here are the recipe cards:

Smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

 

Caprese stuffed chicken with garlicky tomato balsamic reduction

This dish doesn't require a lot of skill to make, but it's a bit time consuming, especially if you're making a lot of it. But it's packed with flavor and pretty impressive to look at. Serve with garlic bread to sop up any extra tomato sauce. 

Ingredients

  • 12 boneless chicken breasts (one per person)
  • large bunch of basil, stems removed
  • 2 lbs mozzarella in 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices
  • 2-3 pints cherry tomatoes or other tomatoes, halved or sliced
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil for cooking
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, sliced or minced

For the balsamic reduction (sorry, the proportions are just whatever you like)

  • the leftover oil you cooked the chicken in. Pour off some if it seems like too much.
  • balsamic vinegar
  • whatever tomatoes are left
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, sliced or minced

Instructions

The chicken:

  1. Trim the fat off the chicken, dry it, and slice a pocket into each breast, not cutting all the way through.

    Sprinkle all over with salt and pepper

    Stuff a slice or two of cheese, a few basil leaves, and 3 tomato halves or slices into each breast.

    Try to pull the edges together to enclose the stuffing. You can secure it with a few toothpicks, but don't forget to warn people!

    Preheat the oven to 400.

    Heat up the olive oil in a skillet and sauté the garlic until it's slightly browned.

    Add the chicken, a few breasts at a time, leaving plenty of room, and brown them lightly on both sides, turning carefully. They won't be cooked all the way through. It's great if some garlic sticks to the chicken!

    Transfer the chicken to an oven pan and cook for about 20 minutes until they're cooked all the way through. Turn on the broiler for the last few minutes if necessary to brown up the tops.

For the balsamic reduction, to spoon over the chicken:

  1. While the chicken is in the oven, continue cooking the oil and garlic that you cooked the chicken in, adding more garlic if you like, and simmer for a while until you stop worrying about food poisoning. Then add several glugs of balsamic vinegar and the rest of the tomatoes, and simmer until the vinegar reduces and the tomatoes fall apart and darken. Scrape the pan to incorporate the browned bits of garlic. Serve this over the cooked chicken. Comes out very sweet.

    Serve with garlic bread with any extra balsamic tomato sauce

Recipe Notes

12 boneless chicken breasts

large bunch of basil

2 lbs mozzarella, sliced

salt and pepper

olive oil

8 cloves of garlic, sliced or minced

2-3 pints cherry tomatoes (or other tomatoes)

for the sauce:

more garlic if desired

balsamic vinegar

the rest of the tomatoes

Trim the fat off the chicken, dry it, and slice a pocket into each breast, not cutting all the way through.

Sprinkle all over with salt and pepper

Stuff a slice or two of cheese, a few basil leaves, and 3 tomato halves or slices into each breast.

Try to pull the edges together to enclose the stuffing. You can secure it with a few toothpicks, but don't forget to warn people!

Preheat the oven to 400.

Heat up the olive oil in a skillet and sauté the garlic until it's slightly browned.

Add the chicken, a few breasts at a time, leaving plenty of room, and brown them lightly on both sides, turning carefully. They won't be cooked all the way through. It's fine if some garlic sticks to the chicken!

Transfer the chicken to an oven pan and cook for about 20 minutes until they're cooked all the way through. Turn on the broiler for the last few minutes if necessary to brown up the tops.

While it's cooking, continue cooking the oil and garlic that you cooked the chicken in, adding more garlic if you like, and simmer for a while until you stop worrying about food poisoning. Then add several glugs of balsamic vinegar and the rest of the tomatoes, and simmer until the vinegar reduces and the tomatoes fall apart and darken. Scrape the pan to incorporate the browned bits of garlic. Serve this over the cooked chicken. Comes out very sweet.

Serve with garlic bread with any extra balsamic tomato sauce

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

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

Ingredients

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

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

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

Instructions

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

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

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

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

 

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 improve the flavor by using fresh garlic and fresh ginger, but powdered works fine, too. The proportions are flexible, and you can easily add more of any sauce ingredient at the end of cooking. 

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (or less if you're not crazy about sweetness)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil (you can skip this, really, or use olive oil, but it adds flavor)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger (or 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed (or 3/4 tsp garlic powder)
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • scallions, chopped, for garnish
  • sesame seeds for garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat the sesame or other oil in a skillet. Lightly cook then garlic, then add the ground beef and cook, breaking into bits, until the meat is all browned. Drain most of the fat. 

  2. Mix together the brown sugar, ginger, soy sauce, and pepper flakes, and add to the ground beef. Or you can actually just chuck everything in the pan and stir it up right there. Cook a little longer until everything is combined and hot. 

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 167: At last comes the primavera!

Pretty nice food week! Maybe not the lunches, so much

But the suppers were pretty, pretty nice. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Chicken quesadillas with lime crema; corn chips and salsa

Yum. Lime crema is quick to make, but it really elevates basic meals (recipe card at the end). I made the chicken with plenty of chili lime powder. I meant to have some kind of green whathaveyou, but I forgot.

Took some lovely lime zest pictures, though.

If I were a therapist and people came to me feeling bad, I would say, “Have you considered getting an extra hour of daylight in the evening?” I would make a million dollars. 

SUNDAY
Ravioli, garlic bread

The kids made a nice sauce for the ravioli at home while Damien and I and Thing 3 and Thing 4 went to check out Thomas Aquinas College’s new campus in Massachusetts. Pretty swanky!  The dorm rooms are bigger than my bedroom. My phone died after I took this rather overwrought photo outside the chapel. 

If you’re familiar with Thomas Aquinas in CA, it sounds like they intend to import the exact same curriculum into their new campus, which is in Northfield, MA, where the Northfield Mount Hermon prep school used to be. I’m not sure it’s the right fit for my kids (I honestly don’t think I could have hacked it, myself, as a student), who lean heavily toward art and literature, but it was refreshing to hear speeches about a truly Catholic college without a lot of “we’re at war, it’s us vs. them” hype, and without any hint of purity culture garbage, either. A really rigorous liberal arts education. 

MONDAY
Cuban sandwiches, pineapple

There was leftover ham from last week when we had wall to wall ham. I seared up a nice pork butt with plenty of seasoning in a pan, and then roasted it slowly for several hours.

Then I sliced it and and piled up those sandwiches pretty good. Mustard, Swiss cheese, ham, pickles, pork, more Swiss cheese, more mustard. I used Italian bread, and fried them in lots of butter, and we had pineapple on the side. 

Corrie was desperate to help, so I told her to put a piece of ham on every sandwich. And that is what she did. 

You are supposed to press these sandwiches, but when it came down to it, I just didn’t feel like it. What I did feel like was taunting Pascal Emmanuel Gobry, who hadn’t eaten for many hours, with photos of my sandwiches on Twitter. Honest to goodness, I’ll be the last one left in purgatory, because I just had to taunt Pascal Emmanuel Gobry with photos of Cuban sandwiches on Twitter. 

TUESDAY
Strawberry chicken salad

Nice and easy. Greens, sliced strawberries, toasted almonds, and chicken with balsamic vinegar. We also had some leftover Chinese noodles that added an extra crunch along with the almonds. I forgot the feta cheese, but we survived. 

I was afraid I hadn’t bought enough chicken, so I made some quick banana muffins. These really are the quickest of muffins, and foolproof. Recipe card at end. 

WEDNESDAY
Pasta primavera

I happen to love this dish. The broccoli had gone bad, but I had plenty of other vegetables, having been swept up in a primavera enthusiasm while I was shopping.

I ended up with carrots, red onions, asparagus tips (just the tips! I SO FANCY!), green peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, and snap peas, and the sauce was just lovely, with plenty of onions and garlic and butter, chicken broth and white wine, cream, pepper, and parmesan. Some people put tomatoes in this dish, and that would also be nice.

I wish I had chosen some other pasta besides spaghetti, to grab up more sauce, and I wish I had used less pasta for the amount of sauce I made, but it was still a filling and pleasant meal, creamy, a little sweet, with plenty of snappy veggies. 

Of course we made plain spaghetti and served it with the leftover ravioli sauce. I think exactly one kid even tried the primavera. 

And this goes out to Miss Ellis:

At last comes the primavera, ai, primavera, ai, primavera, ai ai!
The deep winter snows are melting high in the sierra, high in the sierra.
(Something something something);
Blue skies are showing;
Through the empty arroyos
New streams are flowing,
New streams are flowing.
 

Recipe card at the end. And I am incapable of typing out “primavera” on the first try. It always comes out “primavery,” which makes me Yosemite Sam. Have a cee-gar with your primavery!

THURSDAY
Lemon pepper pork, pepper, and onions; yogurt sauce and pita; za’atar rice with ca’arots

I didn’t have a clear idea about this meal, so I just wung it.

For the rice, I made plain rice in the Instant Pot. Then I shredded some carrots and sautéed them in olive oil with some za’atar and red pepper flakes. Then I added in some of the rice, then some more za’atar, and heated it through. I really don’t think you can call this pilaf in any way, but I guess that’s what I was aiming for. It was okay. Yogurt sauce helped a lot; and it did make a decent, warm-tasting accompaniment for the meat and vegetables, which had a sharper flavor. 

I cut up plenty of red onions and green peppers into chunks and mixed them up with chunks of pork and sliced zucchini, then dressed it all with olive oil, lemon juice, and plenty of lemon pepper seasoning. I spread it in a shallow pan and shoved it under the broiler until it was a little charred.

Then we had yogurt sauce (Greek yogurt with minced garlic, pepper, a little salt, and lemon juice) and pita. It wasn’t a completely smashing meal, but it worked well enough, and it sure was fast to put together. 

Oh, about the zucchini. I’m not a fan. I know I served it twice this week, but that’s just because I bought a lot of it. Why I bought a lot of it, I don’t know. Anyway, lemon pepper zucchini in garlicky yogurt sauce? Is so tasty. I may make a dish of just that in the future. 

FRIDAY
I honestly don’t know. I thought something would have come to me by now. ¡Ai ai!

Lime Crema

Keyword Budget Bytes, crema, lime, lime crema, sour cream, tacos

Ingredients

  • 16 oz sour cream
  • 3 limes zested and juiced
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. 

Recipe Notes

So good on tacos and tortilla chips Looking forward to having it on tortilla soup, enchiladas, MAYBE BAKED POTATOES, I DON'T EVEN KNOW.

Banana muffins (or bread)

Makes two loaves or 24 muffins. Quick, easy, and pleasant. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium ripe bananas
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 cups chopped nuts (optional)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter loaf pans or muffin tins, or use cupcake papers.

  2. Mash the bananas in a bowl. Beat the eggs and blend the into the bananas. 

  3. In another bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients. Add the dry mixture to the banana mixture and stir just until blended. Stir in nuts if desired. 

  4. Pour batter into pans or tins. Bake about 28 minutes for muffins, about 1 hour for loaves. 

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 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. 

Pasta Primavera

Pasta in a pleasant cream sauce with an assortment of snappy vegetables. You can use whatever vegetables you like, really. 

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs cooked pasta
  • 4 carrots, sliced into thin discs
  • 1 green pepper in short spears
  • 1 zucchini, skin on, sliced thinly
  • 12 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 lb asparagus, chopped (or asparagus tips)
  • olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup half and half or cream
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 med onion, diced
  • handful peas or snow pea pods, chopped
  • 1 cup chicken broth

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Cook the carrots and peppers until slightly soft. Remove the veg and set aside. 

  2. Add the butter and a little more oil to the skillet. When the butter is melted, add the mushrooms, zucchini, and asparagus. Cook until slightly soft. Remove veg and set aside. 

  3. Add garlic and onions to skillet. Cook until slightly soft. 

  4. Add chicken broth and wine, and cook, stirring, until it reduces to about half. 

  5. Add cream and parmesan and stir to blend. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

  6. Add all the vegetables back into the skillet. Add the raw peas. 

  7. Put the cooked pasta in a bowl, add the sauce and vegetables, and combine. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 164: Nailed it!

Hey, great, it’s snowing. It’s okay. It’s fine. Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Pizza and birthday cake
.

Poor Elijah. He keeps having his birthday during Lent. Some people put dry peas in their shoes, some subsist on nothing but dewdrops collected off the tombstone of St. Nicholas of Myra. Elijah gets terrible birthday cakes, and he’s a really good sport about it. He asked for Dragonball Z balls.

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I thought, “Ah, those gourmet lollipops would be perfect!” And they would have, but I couldn’t find any. So instead he got this:

They are made of rice krispie treats dipped in candy melt, and a lot of them fell apart when I dipped them, and the candy melt solidified faster than I expected. The kids helped by shrieking “NAILED IT!!!!”  Anyway, a cake was had, along with a multitude of pizzas, and the dragonblobs did have the right number of starblobs on them.
.

 

SUNDAY
Boiled dinner
.

Every year, I pretend I hate this meal, but I really love it. Well, this year, I changed things up by pretending to hate it, and then actually hating it. I blame the Irish.
.

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In other years, we’ve tried making other, more authentically Irish meals, and somehow we always return to boiling carrots.
.

MONDAY
Egg, cheese, sausage bagel sandwiches
.

I have no memory of Monday. Oh wait, yes I do! We had dozens and dozens of eggs in the house for weeks and weeks, so I didn’t buy eggs. Then Monday came along, and we had four eggs left. So Damien ran out to the gas station, and they had these lovely ones from a nearby farm:

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Fresh eggs are wonderful. Look at that yolk!
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Not gonna start keeping chickens, though. I’ve seen what happens.
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TUESDAY
Grilled chicken parmesan sandwiches, risotto, zeppolle
.

Benny was in a play. She was an owl.

An owl who remembered all her lines! She discovered she likes talking into a microphone. That’s my girl.

Damien made a nice simple tomato sauce, and I roasted up a bunch of chicken breasts, which I sliced and served on rolls with fresh basil, provolone, and a good scoop of sauce.
.

.
I also made some risotto, and man, it did not turn out great. I don’t even want to say why, but it was my fault and it was pretty stupid.
.

HOWEVER, in the morning we made zeppole for the first time, for St. Joseph’s feast day, using this reasonably simply recipe. It’s important to dress correctly for this project.
.

.
We’re pretty big St. Joseph fans around here. We started out piping the dough with a star tip, until it fell out.
.

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Then we just squirted it out of a bag; then we just went with spoonfuls. The last method actually turned out best. I had a feeling I’d be pushing my luck to make the cream custard filling from scratch, so I just got a bunch of instant vanilla pudding and piped that into the zeppole, then dusted it with powdered sugar.
.

It was fun. We had fun. I ate a lot of zeppole. Yay St. Joseph!
.

WEDNESDAY
Deli meat sandwich bake, asparagus
.

Corrie and I worked together to roll out and stretch the dough over the pan for the bottom crust.


.

We had a few friendly disputes over how to distribute the ham, but the cheeses and the salami and whatnot went fairly well. Then it came time to put the top crust on. She wanted to do it herself. As an awesome mom, I was willing to let her try, but I did want to start it off in the right spot. No go. She went immediately to “I NEVER WANT YOU TO BE MY MUDDER ANYMORE” and “THIS DOUGH IS VERY IMPORTANT TO ME.”  I made a few repair attempts, suggesting cooperation and taking turns and not being an insanely ridiculous person for once, but I just got more screeching and gurgling and drama. So I stepped away, thinking I’d just let her burn herself out.
.

Which she did! I did some work on my computer, and before long she climbed down off the stool and trotted away to the next room, where I soon heard her singing Moana songs to herself– something about her wish to be the puhfect daughter. Well pleased, I turned back to the pan to finish spreading out the dough.
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And . . . it was gone. She was sitting at the table with the entire ball of dough in her hand, just eating it.
.

So the dough was not in great shape. But I tucked some leftover basil leaves in with the meat
.

.
and I thought it was pretty, pretty good. You brush some beaten egg over the top and then sprinkle on poppy seeds or onion or whatever you have on hand (in my case, nothing), then bake covered, then uncovered, for about 35 minutes.
.

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You slice it into strips or squares, and it makes a nice yummy brunchy thing. We also had the first asparagus of the season, which I just sautéed in a little olive oil.
.


.

THURSDAY
I dunno

Thursday, I took #1 son to the orgal surgeon. I actually meant “oral surgeon,” of course, but there is a certain poetry to that typo. The orgal surgeon is a strange, strange man, as they always are. He has a southern accent which I can’t quite shake the feeling is fake, and he makes the exact same jokes every time (we have a lot of teeth out). I don’t blame him for that, but they are pretty strange jokes to begin with. Anyway, I had gotten four hours of sleep, and then I was hanging out at the orgal surgeon, and I suddenly realized I was supposed to turn in a book review for a book that I . . . look, I was almost done reading it. I’m not on trial here! So what I’m trying to say is that, no matter what the menu board says, this was no time to whip up a new kind of marinade with hoisin sauce and shred stuff and make lettuce wraps with rice noodles. So Damien just broiled the chicken breasts, cooked up some fries, and washed off a bunch of snap peas. I heated up the leftover deli sandwich bakey thingy, and it was a perfectly good supper for the likes of us.
.

FRIDAY
I guess pasta?
.

Umph, just two recipe cards this week! Whatcha gonna do. I am feeling pretty okay because, as of this minute, I have nothing due. No articles, no blog posts, no reviews, no interviews, no speeches I’m supposed to be working on. Just the regular old existential dread, but that’s a long term project. Oh, and we haven’t done a podcast in such a long time. There it is, I guess. Also, it is snowing.

 

Instant Pot Risotto

Almost as good as stovetop risotto, and ten billion times easier. Makes about eight cups. 

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground sage
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups rice, raw
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • pepper
  • 1.5 cups grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Turn IP on sautee, add oil, and sautee the onion, garlic, salt, and sage until onions are soft.

  2. Add rice and cook for five minutes or more, stirring constantly, until rice is mostly opaque.

  3. Press "cancel," open the lid, and add the broth and wine, and stir.


  4. Close the top, close valve, set to high pressure for 8 minutes.

  5. Release the pressure and carefully stir in the parmesan cheese and pepper. Add salt if necessary. 

5 from 1 vote
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Deli brunch sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 6 8-oz. tubes crescent rolls
  • 3/4 lb sliced ham
  • 1/2 lb sliced Genoa salami
  • 3 oz Serrano (dry cured) ham
  • 33 slices Swiss cheese
  • any other meats and cheese that seem yummy
  • 2-3 eggs
  • 2 tsp garlic powder, minced onions, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.

Unroll 3 of the tubes of crescent rolls without separating the triangles, and fit the dough to cover an 11 x 25-inch pan.

  1. Layer the meat and cheese, making it go all the way to the edges of the pan. This part is subject to any kind of variation you like. 

  2. Unroll the remaining 3 tubes of crescent rolls and spread the dough to cover the meat and cheese. It's okay if you have to stretch and piece it together. 

Beat 2-3 eggs and brush it over the top of the dough, and sprinkle with garlic powder, onions, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, etc.

  1. Cover pan loosely and bake for 20 minutes. Then uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes until dough is slightly browned and egg is completely cooked. 

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

How’s it hanging? Straight down? Yeah.

Here’s what we had for supper this week:

SATURDAY
Chicken marinara sandwiches; broccoli and dip

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

MONDAY
Pork ramen with pickled carrots

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

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

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

TUESDAY
Meatloaf; roasted brussels sprouts and carrots

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

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

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

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

WEDNESDAY
Bacon tomato bisque; grilled cheese

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

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

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

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

THURSDAY
Omelettes; home fries

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

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

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

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

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

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

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

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

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

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

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

Here are this week’s recipe cards:

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

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

Ingredients

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

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

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

Instructions

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

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

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

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

Fried eggplant

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

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • salt for drying out the eggplant

1/2 cup veg oil for frying

2 cups flour

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

  6. Serve with yogurt sauce or marinara sauce.

Cumin chicken thighs with chickpeas in yogurt sauce

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

Ingredients

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

For garnishes:

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

Garnishes:

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

     -Chop up some cilantro for sprinkling if people like.

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

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

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Tomato bisque with bacon

Calories 6 kcal

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 158: And there it is.

In this space, I will skip the part where I complain about how tired I am and what a long week it is and how busy we all are. Food is good! Here is food:

SATURDAY
Hamburgers, chips

Nothing to report. Actually Damien tried frying some of the burgers up in an iron frying pan in butter, rather than broiling them in the oven on a slotted pan like we usually do. It was good, I didn’t think it made that much difference. I asked him if he just likes me fat and he said yes.

SUNDAY
Caprese salad, garlic bread, pork roast, strawberry almond cream cake

Damien and Clara made supper. Or, more accurately, they made three suppers, but we ate it all in one night. And oh, what a three meals it was!

He made a red sauce from this Deadspin recipe, and the pork roast after a NYT recipe. I’ll make a recipe card for the end, because I think it’s behind a paywall, and he just picks the fattiest pork he can find, and we can never find fennel fronds, so that makes it a brand new recipe! Look how scrumptious.

You make a kind of paste out fennel seed, rosemary, sage, crushed garlic, lemon zest, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and olive oil and rub it in good. Damien made it the night before and I don’t know if it was the long marinating time or what, but it absolutely fell off the bone. So insanely juicy and tender, and the fat crisped up into this wonderful crust that would have been a meal in itself. Man.

The pasta sauce was also wonderful. It’s unexpectedly spicy and sweet.  You really should try it.

Clara based the cake on a recipe from An Unexpected Cookbook: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery. Lena also made a heart-shaped chocolate cake with Benny and Corrie, apparently because she’s vying for sainthood. I didn’t get any dessert pictures, but I did catch this in medias pasta picture that captures the scene nicely.

Yep, we still have Christmas lights up outside. They are on a timer. It’s cold and icy out there. I do believe we’re just going to get used to them.

MONDAY
Split pea soup, hot pretzels

We’ve read Owl at Home many times and we’ve watched A Christmas Carol many times, and yet at least half the kids have never shuffled themselves backward into a wingback chair with a bowl of hot split pea soup in their laps. So I made some. Most of them didn’t eat it, because, well, you know. It tastes great, but it sure looks like it has already made the acquaintance of someone’s digestive tract and then retraced its steps right back into the bowl.

Tasted good, though! I didn’t have leftover ham and couldn’t find a ham hock, so I just bought a big ham steak, chopped it up, and chucked it in. Damien and I both thought it would have been even better with bacon instead of ham. So let it be written! Recipe card at the end.

TUESDAY
Egg and sausage sandwiches on bagels, hot chocolate

I had a sudden need to be loved, so I made a big pot of hot chocolate. My basic recipe per cup: One Tablespoon of cocoa powder, two tablespoons of sugar, heated and stirred into syrup with a little water. Then add milk and finish heating. We also happened to have moshmeddows in the house.

WEDNESDAY
Oven-roasted pork ribs, honeyed Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes

Corrie and I prepped the veg and potatoes in the morning so we could have a tea party with a clear conscience. She is a big help as long as you are not in any kind of hurry.

Such a simple, satisfying meal. We made the mashed potatoes in the morning and then heated them up in the microwave at dinner time.
The Brussels sprouts, I trimmed and halved, spread in a pan, and drizzled with olive oil, honey, and wine vinegar, salt and pepper, and roasted until they were a little charred; then I moved the pan to the bottom of the oven so they could finish cooking while the pork took a turn under the broiler.

I understand that some people don’t have a broiler in their oven. I am so sorry.

THURSDAY
Roast beef sandwiches, tater tots, sweet peppers and onion dip

All week, I was planning to make ropa vieja, a beef stew with peppers, which is the national dish of Cuba. This led to a long, frustrating conversation about what Cuba is. Corrie is three. She has a lot of questions.

Anyway, I somehow forgot to buy both pimientos and roasted red peppers, and I had my doubts about this meal anyway. I would definitely eat it, but for everyone else, it looked like a big pot of disappointment with olives, smoked paprika or no. So at the last minute, I decided to just make sandwiches, which everyone likes.

I crusted the chuck roasts heavily with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and browned them on all sides in a heavy pot in very hot olive oil. Then I put the roasts in a pan in the oven at 350 for half an hour or so. I let them sit for a bit, then sliced them up and spread the meat in the pan and slid it back in the oven for a few minutes to bring it from way too rare/quite rare to medium-rare.

I’m actually embarrassed at how many sexy pictures of roast beef I took. If I went blind, I bet I would lose fifty pounds.

Boy, I’m glad I didn’t make ropa vieja. We had the slices of hot beef on long boys with horseradish sauce and provolone, toasted up a bit in the oven, with tater tots and sweet peppers with french onion dip. Look at these peppers!

Hashtag no filter! Take that, January evening with wet ice falling out of the sky!

FRIDAY
Pasta, garlic knots

Usually I put butter, salt, garlic powder, and parmesan on the dough before baking, but Staša suggested I bake them first, then toss them up with herbed, garlicky butter.

I melted butter and olive oil together and added garlic (powder; couldn’t find the garlic press for fresh), salt, and chopped-up basil and let that sizzle up a bit. I liked it? Not sure if it was better than the other way, but definitely a good way to do it. I mean, I ate three of them, whatever.

And that’s a week! Whadja have? Anything good? I need to start all over again.

Pork Roast

Ingredients

  • 6-8 lb fatty hunk of pork
  • 1/4 cup rosemary, chopped
  • 2 tsp chopped sage leaves
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 lemon, zest thereof
  • 1-1/5 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 3/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. Score pork all over. 

    In a food processor, blend all the rest of the ingredients together, adding oil in last. 

    Rub paste all over pork. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least six hours, preferably overnight. 

    Bring pork out of refrigerator an hour or two before cooking. Preheat oven to 450.

    Put pork in shallow, rimmed pan and cook for 35 minutes. 

    Reduce heat to 325 and cook another 3 to 4 hours. (Boneless roasts will cook faster.)

 

Split Pea Soup

Looks terrible. Tastes perfect. 

Ingredients

  • 1/4 butter
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 carrots diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 pound dried split peas, rinsed and sorted
  • 1 ham hock (can get away with skipping)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 6 cups chicken broth (+ 2 cups water)
  • 1 cup diced ham OR 1/2 lb bacon, fried crisp and broken into bits

Instructions

  1. In the pot, (using sauté button if using Instant pot) melt the butter and sauté the carrots, onion, and celery until soft.

    Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute.

    Add bay leaf, thyme, split peas, and ham bone and stir.

    Add the broth. If using stovetop, bring to a boil, turn to low, cover loosely, and simmer for an hour until peas are soft and soup is thickened. Add diced ham in last fifteen minutes of cooking.

    If using IP, cover, close valve, press "cancel" and then press "soup/broth." Cook, do natural release, open lid, add diced ham, and press "slow cook." Let cook for 15 minutes.

    Remove ham bone, if you used one. Stir in plenty of pepper. Leave the bay leaf in because whoever finds it gets good luck or whatever. 



What’s for supper? Vol. 157: Banh mi, banh you (uh-hunhhhhh)

My father kept telling me time will speed up when you get older, and he was right. Sorry I’ve been a bit scarce on the blog lately. I have a bunch of big projects I’m working on, and they’re kicking my butt. Here’s what we apparently ate this week, in a blur:

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese on sourdough, broccoli, chips

I put out the sandwiches and broccoli, waited ten minutes, and then admitted there were also chips. It was worth a shot. (It didn’t work.)

SUNDAY
Pork banh mi with pickled vegetables

Fabulous. Just so ridiculously tasty. Sometimes I leave the cucumbers unpickled, and have plain mayo instead of sriracha, and skip the jalapeños, but this time I went for the full heat. Grrrrrr.

You can make this with steak, but I actually prefer pork, because it takes on more of the marinade flavor (FISH SAUCE). I pickled the cukes and carrots and sliced and marinated the meat when we got home from Mass, and then almost the whole family went out to see Into the Spiderverse, and wow, it was great! I loved every minute of it. Parts of it were too scary and overwhelming for Corrie, but she got through them and enjoyed the rest. If you only rarely see movies in the theater, this is one to splurge on.

We got back very late and I was so glad all I had to do was cook the meat. I spread it in pans and broiled it up. I also decided to grill the bread on on iron skillet with a little olive oil, and I liked that; but toasting in the oven works fine, too. The ideal bread for this sandwich is a crusty split baguette, but the generic sub rolls we had were fine.

Banh mi and pickled veg recipe cards at the end.

MONDAY
Southwest chicken salad

This was not as popular as I thought it would be. The idea was mixed greens, spicy grilled chicken, corn with red pepper, black beans, avocado slices, grape tomatoes, and spicy, crunchy tortilla strips, with lime wedges. I even bought some kind of name brand Chipotle Ranch Dressing in one of those bottles designed to be upside down like millionaires have.

I got a resounding “meh” from the family. True, I accidentally bought frozen rice with corn in it, rather than frozen corn with peppers in it, but I don’t think the success of this meal was entirely riding on the corn aspect of it. I dunno. I thought it was okay! Oh well.

To make the tortilla strips, I (you’ll never guess) cut tortillas into strips, then tossed them with olive oil and sprinkled them with plenty of chili lime powder. Then I spread them in a shallow pan and baked them at 300 for maybe half an hour, stirring occasionally, until they were crunchy.

I actually burned the first batch and started all over again; that’s how dedicated I was. Anyway, these tortilla strips would make a good topping for all kinds of salads or soups.

TUESDAY
Chicken spinach-walnut pesto pasta salad and garlic knots

The kids have been asking for this dish, which I used to make a lot. I like it, although it seems like more of a side dish to me; but it’s labor-intensive enough that I definitely don’t want to make a main course in addition. So I forged ahead.

I can’t decide if I can really even call what I made “pesto” or not. I usually make this dish with just basil, olive oil, garlic, and parmesan, because pine nuts are expensive. But I did have tons of walnuts in the house from when I was still telling myself I’d just have to go ahead and bake after Christmas. (I did not.)

So I fed about two cups of walnuts into the food processor until they were pretty crumbed. I had a giant bunch of basil, but it had been pushed to the back of the fridge, where it froze. I figured it was going to be pulverized anyway, so maybe it didn’t matter? So that went in, too. But it looked way too nutty, so I says, “Spinach is a leaf, just like basil!” But all I had was a box of mixed greens including spinach, and I sure didn’t feel like sorting leaves. So I just shoved a few big handfuls of mixed greens in, and then about a cup of olive oil, a teaspoon of kosher salt, tons of minced garlic, and an entire jar (I guess 8 oz?) of shredded parmesan cheese. Corrie was helping me at this point, so. We just kept shoving stuff in and pressing the button.

The end result actually tasted nice. Definitely walnutty, but not in a bad way, especially with all that cheese. I think it may have come out more spreadable if I had toasted the walnuts, but I didn’t think of that.

The basil held its own against the spinach and whatnot. I wasn’t crazy about the texture — it was very pasty. But it was definitely too late to turn back, so I pressure cooked some chicken thighs and broke them into bits, and boiled up some farfalle, and just shlorped the whole thing together.

They liked it! I liked it. I guess I will go ahead and make a recipe card. Definitely cheaper than pure pesto. Hard to get a decent picture of it, though. It doesn’t look like a heap of garbage in real life.

For the garlic knots, I just cut balls of pre-made pizza dough into eight lumps, rolled them into snakes, tied them in knots, and topped each one with a pat of butter and a sprinkle of kosher salt, garlic powder, and parmesan. They get baked in a 400 oven on a greased, floured (or better, corn mealed) pan for 12-15 minutes, if I recall.

I made enough for everyone to have two. Corrie had four.

I love these inordinately. Something about how nicely they come apart and how steamy hot their tender insides are. I am not actually a bird of prey, despite how I sound here.

WEDNESDAY
Pizza

Five of them.

I took this picture because I heard myself saying, “Ugh, it’s after noon and I haven’t gotten anything done today!” Then I realized I had taken the kids to school, conducted a phone interview, written a 900-word essay, and made five pizzas, or, as I like to call it, “getting nothing done.” This is what Damien calls having a head full of bullshit, and it may never clear, but at least I can challenge it. Those were fine pizzas.

THURSDAY
Chicken enchiladas

Dora made Pioneer Woman’s chicken enchiladas, may her name be praised. Eighteen red and eighteen green.  Yadda-dadda-dadda-dadda-dai-dai-dai!  I didn’t get an enchilada photo because I wrote through dinner time and didn’t eat until 8:30 or so, and couldn’t spare a second. Here’s something, though:

And there it is.

FRIDAY
Fish taco rice bowls

A new dish I’ll be trying today. I got the idea from Damn Delicious, but I have no energy to make the pico de gallo, sadly. We’ll just have rice topped with batter fried frish (I’m gonna leave that typo because it’s funny), shredded red cabbage, sliced avocado, cilantro, salsa, and fresh limes. She includes what looks like a yummy recipe for cilantro lime dressing, which I bought Greek yogurt for, but I just remembered I ate half of it with honey. Should I buy more, or maybe just make a lime crema? I don’t really see any downside with this. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Banh mi with pickled vegetables

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs pork butt (or other boneless cut), trimmed and sliced thinly

10-12 rolls, split and toasted or grilled

  • 1-2 bunches cilantro, chopped coarsely
  • mayo, with or without sriracha stirred in
  • jalapeños, sliced thinly

For the marinade:

  • 1 cup fish sauce
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 18 cloves garlic, minced (8-9 Tpsp)
  • 1/2 medium onion, minced (or a few shallots, minced)
  • 2 tsp ground pepper

Instructions

  1. Mix all sauce ingredients together. Mix up with sliced pork, seal in ziplock bag, and let marinate overnight or for at least five hours. 

  2. Remove meat from marinade and grill over low heat or under broiler.

  3. Spread mayo or sriracha mayo on toasted or grilled bread, lay on meat, add pickled vegetables (see recipe card), jalapeños, and cilantro.

 

Lime Crema

Keyword Budget Bytes, crema, lime, lime crema, sour cream, tacos

Ingredients

  • 16 oz sour cream
  • 3 limes zested and juiced
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. 

Recipe Notes

So good on tacos and tortilla chips Looking forward to having it on tortilla soup, enchiladas, MAYBE BAKED POTATOES, I DON'T EVEN KNOW.

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

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

Ingredients

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

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

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

Instructions

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

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

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

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

Spinach walnut pesto

You can play with the proportions to get the consistency you like. This version is cheaper than using pine nuts and all basil. Makes 2-3 cups of pesto for adding to pasta or spreading on bruschetta.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cups fresh baby spinach (can include radicchio, etc.)
  • 2 cups walnuts
  • 3 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 8 oz grated parmesan
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Whir nuts in food processor until crumbed. 
    Add basil and greens, and whir until blended. 
    Slowly add olive oil and blend again.
    Add salt, garlic, and parmesan cheese and blend again until it's the consistency you like. 


What’s for supper? Vol. 154: Ragu! Sing it with me! Raguuuuuuu!

I think Corrie speaks for all of us when she says:

Here’s what we ate this week (with some links to Christmas baking and candy recipes at the end):

SATURDAY
Birthday! Stuffed shells, garlic bread, veg and dip, birthday cake

Sweet Benny wanted a rose-themed birthday. Easy enough. We made some giant paper flowers and hung them from the ceiling. Here it is, halfway decorated:

and the night before, Benny and I made some fruit roll roses.

She’s a wonderful kid to work with, and she never gets offended if you say, “Sweetheart, Mama’s ears are tired. Can you stop talking for a few minutes?” She just laughs and says, “Yeah, I like to talk.” Then she keeps talking.

I couldn’t find the Fruit by the Foot strips I was looking for, so we got regular fruit roll-ups, unrolled them, cut them into four strips, and pinched the ends together to make one long strip. Then we started rolling it up in a tight roll to make the center of the rose; then we rolled up the rest loosely, twisting and occasionally folding and smooshing the strip. I don’t know if I can describe it better than that. Some of the turned out more rose-like than others!

Then we stuck toothpicks in the bottoms and stuck them in the cake. I used a Wilton leaf tip to make the leaves, and added some dots for garlands on the sides. My first leaves, not too shabby!

She was delighted with her cake. When Damien put it in front of her, she just sat there, smiling and smiling.

She requested stuffed shells. I didn’t have my recipe in front of me, so I checked out the box. Let’s see . . . cottage cheese . . . zucchini . . . yeah, okay, this box is fired. I went and found my recipe. Recipe card at the end.

For a party activity, we made flower crowns. These were first graders, and they definitely needed some help from the moms, but I bet they could do it on their own the second time around. We made circlets out of wired pine garlands, then made standard tissue paper flowers with a little bell at the center, threaded through the pipe cleaner. (Yes, I still call them pipe cleaners instead of chenille stems. Take that!) We attached the flowers on with the pipe cleaners, then tied wisps of tulle to both sides of the flower just to add some poofiness, then tied ribbons to hang down the back. I didn’t get any good pics, but can probably do a tutorial if anyone is interested. Not a bad party activity, and the girls looked adorable, and ready for the Kentucky Derby.

SUNDAY
Roast beef sandwiches, chips

Damien roasted a couple of chuck roasts. He covered them in salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and seared them in very hot oil, about three minutes per side, then roasted them in a 325 oven for about 90 minutes. Then he let them rest for a bit, then sliced it up. We put it on rolls with horseradish sauce and provolone, and put them in the oven for a few minutes to toast up. I also had tomatoes in mine.

I had a jar of sliced pepperoncini, but they were a weird color, so I threw them out. Aren’t you glad I’m so tired I thought that was worth writing down?

MONDAY
Ham, mashed potatoes, peas, roast brussels sprouts

Me, sadly flipping through supermarket flyers: So . . . do you guys . . . maybe . . . want ham?
Benny: HAM. HAM. HAMANDMASHEDPOTATOESANDPEAS.
Me: Okay! But how about Brussels sprouts instead of peas, just to mix things up a little? Brussels sprouts are on sale right n-
Benny:

So that’s what we had. I also roasted some Brussels sprouts, because they were on sale and I like them.

Benny was irate.

TUESDAY
Sweet and sour chicken stir fry, rice

Clara had been asking for this meal, which I make very authentically by cutting chicken into pieces and cooking them, then adding steamed vegetables from a bag and sauce from a jar, and schlorping the whole thing over rice.

It was extra schlorpy, because I didn’t drain the vegetables sufficiently. I even found a few cans of water chestnuts in the cabinet. I took them out of the cans and everything.

Oh, I cooked the rice in the Instant Pot using the 1:1 method. Works every time. I like the IP for rice because it comes out nice and sticky, and you can make it ahead of time and just let it stay warm until you’re ready.

WEDNESDAY
Ragù on fettuccine, garlic bread

Damien started making his amazing ragù the night before, and this was the ragù that surpassed all previous ragùs. He uses this Deadspin recipe, and this time, he used a pound of pork, a pound of veal, and . . . hold onto your butts . . . a pound of pancetta, which he ground by hand.

He ran a bunch of onions, celery, and carrots through the food processor, and threw in a bunch of anchovies, wine, and olive oil, and a little tomato paste, and let it cook a good long time. I gained eleven pounds just smelling it.

It was fantastic.

I know it doesn’t look like much in this pic, but it’s one of those foods where the flavor just blooms inside your mouth. Can’t figure out if that’s a creepy thing to say or not, but it sure was exciting. Also, every time the kids asked what was for supper, I would sing out, “ra-GUUUUUUUUUU!” to the tune of Veggie Tales “Cebu,” and it really annoyed them. Ha ha!

THURSDAY
Pork ramen

Sometimes this gets pretty elaborate, but this time it was just cheapy ramen, some boneless pork ribs sautéed in olive oil with soy sauce and sliced, some sautéed mushrooms, chopped scallions, and soft boiled eggs. Oh, and crunchy noodles. Spicy sesame seeds and hot sauce.

I was starving, and this tasted like heaven. Salty, salty heaven.

FRIDAY
Tuna noodle for kids, possibly bouillabaisse for me.

I got some kind of frozen mixed seafood whatnot for like $4 a few weeks ago, and it’s calling to me.

Okay, that’s a wrap! Now, how about Christmas baking? Got anything good? I haven’t even thought about it yet, but I’ll probably make chocolate caramel nuts, which make good token presents. Here’s my post with a photo guide to the recipe from Smitten Kitchen. You really need a photo guide, because it goes through something like eleven alarming stages before things turn out fine at the end. This post includes links to other helpful basic December recipes, including fudge, nut brittle, buckeyes, and rum balls.

Hanukkah is over, but that’s no reason not to make rugelach, so here is my recipe and photo guide for that.

Finally, if you feel like you have to decorate cookies, here is a recipe for sugar cookie dough that you do not have to refrigerate. You can also use this dough recipe for beautiful stained glass cookies, which always impress. This post has some photos of the process.

 

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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.