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
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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.
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SUNDAY
Boiled dinner
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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.
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MONDAY
Egg, cheese, sausage bagel sandwiches
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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
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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It was fun. We had fun. I ate a lot of zeppole. Yay St. Joseph!
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WEDNESDAY
Deli meat sandwich bake, asparagus
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Corrie and I worked together to roll out and stretch the dough over the pan for the bottom crust.


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

 

5 from 1 vote
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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. 

5 from 1 vote
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Tomato bisque with bacon


Calories 6 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1/2 - 1 lb bacon
  • 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

Instructions

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

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

    Add tomatoes (including juices), bay leaves, and tomato juice, and simmer for 20 minutes.

    With a slotted spoon, fish out tomatoes.Puree them in a food processor with the 8 oz of cream cheese.

    Return pureed tomatoes and cream cheese to pot.

    Add chopped bacon. Add rosemary if desired.

    Heat through. 

    Salt and pepper to taste

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.

 

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. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 151: Sauté, girls, sauté!

Oh lordy, I’m running so late. But we finally did a podcast! Did you hear our podcast? You might like it! I thought it was pretty funny, and we have a name, a logo, and new mics, and are taking a slightly different approach. This one is free, and we’re working on moving toward getting the archives on iTunes. I know I say this every few months, but this time I mean it!

But you’re here for the food, and that’s cool, that’s cool. Here’s what we had this week.

Oh wait, before I forget: Would it be easier if I made a second page for each Friday food post, just for recipe cards? I know it’s a pain to scroll down, but I want to keep them together, and not intersperse them in the post. Let me know.

SATURDAY
Hamburgers, chips

Nothing to report. Running around like maniacs, as usual.

SUNDAY
Salad with chicken and giant croutons

I slathered the chicken breasts with oil and seasoned them liberally with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano, then roasted them and sliced them. Served on mixed greens with dried cranberries, crumbled feta, diced red onion, and toasted almonds.

I feel like such an adult when I put out bowls of things for salad. No particular reason. I just like bowls of things.

Reminder: Nuts toast up very nicely in the microwave. Spread them on a plate and set it for two minutes. Easy peasy.

We also made croutons from some rolls I accidentally bought. Cut bread into cubes, pour melted butter on top, season however you like, and spread them in a pan. Leave at least 40 minutes or more to toast them slowly in a 300 oven or so, so they dry out completely. Confession: If you are in a rush, you can just turn it up and toast them on the outside, and they will be chewy and bready on the inside, and not a single person will complain, because here is a pan of hot buttery bread cubes.

MONDAY
Croque monsieur, fries, pomegranates 

Okay. So this has been on my list to make for a few weeks. It’s apparently French pub food, and is really just a hot sandwich of nice ham and nice cheese with cheese sauce on top. But I read a few recipes a few times, and couldn’t figure out what the hell they were talking about. I can follow complex recipes, but I guess the fact that it was complex and yet still just a cheese sandwich was too much for my pea brain.

Anyway, I finally watched an Ina Garten video, and then it made sense. You trim the crusts off white bread, put shredded gruyere and ham and dijon mustard inside, then put cheese sauce made with gruyere and parmesan on top, then a bit more shredded gruyere, then bake, then broil. Here is what they look like before baking:

And here they are, fresh out of the oven:

Damien loved them, and the kids thought they were good. I wasn’t crazy about them. I never thought I’d say this, but it was just too much damn cheese. I like cheese a lot, but I don’t want to feel like cheese is the air I breathe, and that’s how croque monsieur made me feel. Anyway, if this looks appealing to you, you could totally use cheddar instead of gruyere.

“Croque monsieur” means “crunch sir,” if you’re wondering. If you put a fried egg on top, that makes it a “croque madame,” and that’s why French kids don’t have ADHD, if by ADHD you mean “All Done Having Dairy.” Please don’t think about this joke. It doesn’t deserve your time.

TUESDAY
Regular tacos, tortilla chips, guacamole

The kids requested regular tacos, with regular ground beef seasoned with regular spices that come in a regular little packet. No fish, no spicy cabbage, no lime or cilantro or kimchee or Korean-inspired nonsense, just regular tacos. Fine.

Dora made the guacamole. Avocados were 59 cents each! Cheapest I’ve ever seen, so we made plenty. Recipe card at the end. I don’t seem to have taken any photos.

WEDNESDAY
Pulled pork Bibimbap

I do love bibimbap, but I’m never sure about the meat and sauce part. I’m fairly sure I haven’t hit on an authentic recipe yet. I had some boneless pork ribs, so I put them in the Instant Pot with the sauce from this recipe. It was quick and easy, and they came out looking good:

and shredded up very well.

The taste was not my absolute favorite, though. It was a little harsh and had a weird, tomatoe-y taste to it, somehow, despite not having any tomatoes in it. Still a fab meal. I’ll probably use the Instant Pot to make shredded pork for bibimbap in the future, just not with that sauce.

I put rice in the bowl, then the meat and sauce on that, and then baby pea shoots, quick pickled carrots and cukes, and a lovely, runny fried egg on top, with sesame seeds, Sriracha sauce, and some crunchy noodles.

Party in a bowl! I meant to sauté some mushrooms and spinach, but I was too tired. This is a popular dish at our house because everyone can build their own meal. Everyone likes at least two things, not counting the egg.

If you live in a town with a restaurant that serves authentic bibimbap, please talk to your pastor about hiring me to speak at your thing, so I can have some bibimbap.

Sidenote: every time I sauté something, I have to Google it and cut and paste the e with the accent over it, because I don’t know how to do it on my computer. I could learn how, but I’d forget, and then I’d just have to look that up each time. And then I wouldn’t have the fun of rediscovering one more time (really, I cannot overemphasize how poor my memory is) that a sauté is also a ballet thing, where you jump off both feet and land in a hot pan with a little olive oil.

THURSDAY
Beef barley soup, pumpkin mumkins

Irene has been dying for beef barley soup, so I saved her life. The mushrooms had gone bad (my husband wanted to know how that was even possible, since they are already fungus. He’s from Barcelona), so there was more broth than I usually like, but it was still mighty tasty.

 

And Irene got to live.

I also made a huge batch of those foolproof pumpkin muffins (24 muffins and an oversized loaf from a double recipe). Corrie helped me, and I think we somehow got significantly more eggs into the batter than I intended to, but they still turned out fine, tender and a little spicy.

 

Corrie started calling them pumpkin mumkins, and if you think anyone corrected her, you’re out of your gourd. She advised us: “You put your pumpkin mumkin into your soup, and den, BOOM, you EAT your pumpkin mumkin!”

FRIDAY
Instant Pot mac and cheese

Dora promised to bring me a bag of cheese ends from the deli, but she forgot! It’s fine, I still love her. But I won’t forget.

 

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. 

 

Beef barley soup (Instant Pot or stovetop)

Makes about a gallon of lovely soup

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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


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

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

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

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

Pumpkin quick bread or muffins

Makes 2 loaves or 18+ muffins

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

 

5 from 1 vote
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Instant Pot macaroni and cheese

Adapted from a CopyKat recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds raw macaroni
  • 2 tsp hot sauce
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2-3 pounds cheese of your choice
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1-2 cups buttered bread crumbs for topping (optional)

Instructions

  1. Put macaroni in Instant Pot with enough water to barely cover. Put hot sauce, and mustard on top and mix it well. Mixing may be superstitious; not sure. 

  2. Set IP to high pressure for six minutes. Do quick release. 

  3. Drain any excess water. Add milk, butter, and cheese, and mix until macaroni is coated. 

  4. Serve as is; or butter a pan and pour the macaroni into it, top with buttered bread crumbs, and heat in oven until breadcrumbs are toasted. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 150: Now and forever, let it be meat

I see this is a milestone edition, #150. The only conclusion I can draw is I’ve finally hit upon a surefire way to make sure I stick with something: Let it be meat.

A little music, maestro!

I bless the day I found food
I want to stay around food
And so I beg you,
Let’s go and eat.
 
Don’t take this bacon from one
If fat must cling to someone
Now and forever,

let it be meat.

Each time we eat, love
I find complete love
Without this meatloaf, 
what would life be?
 
So never leave me starving
Tell me that’s beef you’re carving
And that you’ll always
Let me go eat.
Ahem. Excuse me. Here’s what we had this week:
SATURDAY
Sugar rub chicken thighs, brats, chips

Damien made supper. Good stuff. Chicken rub recipe card below.

SUNDAY
Cuban sandwiches, cole slaw, mangoes

Something I’ve been thinking about for a while, Cuban sandwiches. Damien roasted the pork in a low oven, and then I sliced it and layered it on sourdough bread with mustard, Swiss cheese, ham, pickles, and more Swiss, and then grilled and pressed it. YUHM.
The cole slaw was very basic, just cabbage, mayo, vinegar, sugar, and pepper. I just needed to not serve chips or fries for once. The mangoes were good.

Overall, too much sweet in this meal, but I somehow forced myself to eat it.
MONDAY
Sausage, mushroom, and cheddar omelettes, home fries
I occasionally make omelettes to order, which is a pain in the neck, but it’s the only way I can come up with a decent omelette for me and Damien: By screwing up many, many other omelettes first. It seriously takes at least seven tries before I know what I’m doing. The first one, I’m like, “Hurr? Is the egg supposed to be in the shell or out of the shell? And is this a pan that one operates with one’s elbows?”
But by the time I get up to the adult omelettes, I am clear: You let the pan heat thoroughly before dropping on plenty of butter; you tilt it to spread the egg out evenly; you sprinkle your fillings on the side that’s less cooked, so you can flip the more-cooked side over more easily; you wait a little bit longer than you think you should have to before folding it over; and you approach the folding part with confidence, even arrogance. Eggs know when you are frightened, and they retaliate by splurting, damn their eyes. Ha!! Because “ei” in German is “egg,” and . . . that’s not a joke. Never mind.

The home fries or oven potatoes or whatever you want to call them are always a hit: Scrub and cut potatoes into wedges, cut some onions into big wedges, and mix it all up with olive oil, salt and pepper, garlic powder, paprika, whatever. Roast ’em up.

TUESDAY
Zuppa toscana, apple pie

Tuesday was, of course, (ptui ptui) election day, and the sky wept. It was drizzly and gusty and miserable and so were we all, so it was a good day for soup. It’s such a simple recipe, and you can add whatever you like. I liked olive oil, sausage, onions, red potatoes, plenty of kale, mushrooms, chicken broth, plenty of pepper, and half-and-half thickened with flour. (Recipe card below.)
After I made the soup and read some political commentary, I felt an urgent need to make some apple pie. I used the Fannie Farmer crust recipe, and had some help from my trusty pastry assistant.
Fannie Farmer is usually an honest gal and a straight shooter, but when she says “enough dough for a nine-inch two crust pie,” she’s lying through her teeth. I know this, and yet that’s the dough I made anyway. So I ended up making an open-face apple pie and covering the apple’s nakedness with ice cream.
Thanksgiving is coming. Do you know the pie crust secret? You chill the butter and then grate it on a cheese grater. This makes it so easy to incorporate into the dry ingredients without overworking it. Of course some of us prefer to overwork it.
I don’t really have an apple pie filling recipe. We peeled, cored, and sliced apples until it looked like enough, then added some flour, sugar, and cinnamon and a little salt, then stirred it up and piled it into the dough in the pan.
Then we added some dots of butter on top.
I covered the pie with a metal bowl for most of it so it wouldn’t dry out, and then took it off for the final ten minutes or so to brown up the edge crust.

You know what, let’s call it a galette. That galette got et.

WEDNESDAY
Grilled chicken on salad greens with almonds, feta, and cranberries Dominos

Guess who splurged on boneless skinless chicken tenders to cook up easily, and then never put them in the freezer? Hillary! I mean me. I did it. And it went bad. So I sent Damien out for pizza. We all agreed that whatever it is they sprinkle on their crusts (it’s garlic salt), it’s delicious and wonderful. It’s garlic salt.

THURSDAY

Spaghetti and meatballs
I have five pounds of ground beef, but the moths had gotten into the breadcrumbs. That’s what I get for laying up for myself breadcrumbs on earth. So I used what panko crumbs I had, and then made up the rest with an entire jar of parmesan cheese. Yeah, I’ll be doing that from now on. Yuhm.
I make my meatballs in the oven on a pan with drainage (this is an old pic, but it demonstrates how much grease you miss out on when you cook the meatballs this way)
then I transferred them into the IP on slow cook with the sauce, and let it simmer all day.

I also threw in a bunch of leftover sliced mushrooms and some leftover sausage, and life was good, at least while we were eating.

FRIDAY
Quesdillas with jalapenos and scallions

Actually, we’re probably headed to Applebees, since my son is in Mama Mia and I remember how important the after-show party at Applebees is, but I sure don’t want to drive into town and back one more stinking time.
Oh, we also made soul cakes last week. It’s supposed to be for All Soul’s Day, but from what I hear, dead people stay dead all throughout the month of November, so we made them late. (recipe in link above)
Someone remarked that she’s impressed at how often I let the kids help out in the kitchen.
This is something of an illusion, like when you take a picture of yourself on the rare days your hair looks awesome, and then years later you look through pictures and think, “Aw, my hair used to look so awesome all the time!” I will let the little guys grate cheese or mix stuff occasionally, and I will lean on the older kids to finish up meals if I’m out of the house, but in general, I find it very stressful to have kids in the kitchen when I’m cooking.
However, I remember how it was The Fun To Crown All Funs to cook and bake when I was little, so I do force myself to do it occasionally.
We do soul cakes once a year, and I approach it as an activity for the kids that I help with, not as a baking project that I let them help me with. Soul cakes is a good recipe to do this with, as they really aren’t very good, so the stakes are not high. They are basically thick, soft cookies, and have a mildly spicy, cider-y taste. They’re not bad, but they’re just, you know, brown. Sift a little powdered sugar on top and eat them hot.
Anyway! Here are some pictures of the kids making them, which I am posting to make you feel like an inferior mother. They are pictured wearing their church clothes. Usually they dress in stained rags with trashy sequins and immodest Walmart leggings with holes in the knee. Still feel bad? Blame Hillary, why the shit not.
Here’s the recipe cards for the week:

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. 

Cuban sandwiches

A spectacular way to use up leftover pork, but also worth cooking pork just to make these sandwiches

Ingredients

  • sturdy bread. We like sourdough
  • olive oil for grilling
  • pork roast, sliced thickly
  • sliced ham
  • mustard
  • Swiss cheese, sliced
  • sour pickles, sliced thinly

Instructions

  1. Make sandwiches in this order:
    Bread, mustard, cheese, ham, pork, pickles, cheese, mustard, bread.

  2. Brush grill and bread with olive oil. Grill sandwich for a bit, then press hard with something heavy. Turn and do the same on the other side. 

  3. If cheese isn't completely melted, put sandwich in a medium oven for a while. 

Coleslaw

Ingredients

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

Dressing

  • 1 cup mayp
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Instructions

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




Zuppa Toscana

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. sweet Italian sausages
  • 1-2 red onion(s), diced
  • 4 medium red potatoes, sliced thin with skin on
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 cups kale, chopped
  • 4 cups half and half
  • 9 cups chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • olive oil for cooking
  • pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour

Instructions

  1. Squeeze the sausage out of the casings. Saute it up in a little olive oil, breaking it into pieces as it cooks. When it's almost done, add the minced garlic, diced onion, and sliced potatoes. Drain off excess olive oil.



  2. When onions and potatoes are soft, add flour, stir to coat, and cook for another five minutes. 

  3. Add chicken broth and half and half. Let soup simmer all day, or keep warm in slow cooker or Instant Pot. 

  4. Before serving, add chopped kale and sliced onions and cook for another ten minutes (or set Instant Pot for three minutes) until kale and mushrooms are soft. Add pepper. Add salt if necessary, but the sausage and broth contribute salt already. 

  5. This makes a creamy soup. If you want it thicker, you can add a flour or cornstarch roux at the end and cook a little longer. 

5 from 1 vote
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Meatballs for a crowd

Make about 100 golf ball-sized meatballs. 

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.

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

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

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 146: Tutto il Formaggio

What did we eat this week? Oh, wait till I tell you.

Recipe cards at the end.

SATURDAY

On Friday and Saturday, l’uomo and I went away! We did! It’s our anniversary this month. Twenty-one years, my friends, and it gets better and better. We had three days and two nights at the beach — longer than we’ve ever been kidless together since the day we got married — and enjoyed ourselves immensely. But I’m only gonna tell you about the food.

First night, he had the surf and turf

and I had about a bathtub’s worth of lobster formaggio.

Sharp, creamy, and wonderful. We also had lobster-stuffed mushrooms and lobster rangoon. We, um, we like lobster. I only ate half and then of course accidentally left my leftover package in the restaurant, rather than bringing it to the hotel and then accidentally leaving it in the mini fridge.

We staggered back to our room, with its sweet little ocean view balcony and there were champagne and strawberries waiting for us, plus a lovely little plate of cheeses and fruits

I’m finding it hard to believe that we ate this that same night, to be honest, after all that lobster. Maybe we ate it the next day? I do recall having a hearty breakfast the next day, and then we spent a lot of time clambering around on rocks gawking at tide pools and snickering over the people waiting in line to get into the Social Distortion concert. Someone had written BRIANNA I WILL NEVER FORGET YOU on one of the shuttered souvenir shops. And then there was this:

This has been my approach, as well, and it’s worked well for me. Hey, it’s the off season. And then more tide pools! Tide pools are the best. Look at all those little baby mussels!

We weren’t ready for dinner, as such, but a little light snack sounded all right, so we had some cocktails with a dozen oysters with plenty of horseradish, and a charcuterie board. I didn’t know what that was, but food that comes on boards has never yet disappointed me. This one was exceptionally good, with various dried meats, roast beef, pickled vegetables, sharp and tender cheeses, hot crusty bread, honey, fig paste, and the most amazing mustard.

It seems silly, but I can’t say enough about this mustard. It just transformed everything. Tell me about fancy mustards that you know about! I don’t even know what to search for, but I have a food processor and I want to be a part of this.

I think maybe it was now that we brought the strawberries out? And the other cheeses? What I’m trying to say is, salt air really gives you an appetite. We didn’t drink the champagne, because we never drink the champagne. We now have three bottles of champagne in the refrigerator, left over from last Valentine’s Day and also our 20th anniversary. I honestly don’t know why we keep buying it. If you want it, you can come over and get it. The mustard is all gone, though, so don’t get your hopes up.

Anyway, we had a nice time. Such a nice time. I love that man.

SUNDAY
Vermonter sandwiches

Back to life! Back to sandwiches without even a little bit of lobster in them. These particular sandwiches are a favorite around here. Slices of roast chicken or turkey, slices of tart green apples, bacon, thick cheddar cheese, and honey mustard on ciabatta rolls.

You can toast the whole thing for a few minutes if you like. Yum yum.

MONDAY
Various antipasti; suppli; linguine with ragu; lemon ices; pizzelle cannoli

So, on some random Monday in early October, we have a day off school for no reason and eat Italian food. Fine, it was for Columbus Day. Fight me.

We start with suppli, also sometimes called arancini. These are breaded, deep-fried balls of risotto with a core of melted mozzarella. YEAH, SORRY ABOUT COLUMBUS DAY. I’m so glad you don’t celebrate Columbus Day, because then you don’t have to eat suppli. They’re really not very good. They aren’t the food of the gods or anything. You wouldn’t wet yourself because of how meltingly fabulous they are. Don’t be silly.

When they’re frying, you don’t have to physically restrain yourself from reaching into the hot oil to grab a wonderful golden ball of glory

They don’t rest on the plate, fragrant and smiling, inviting you to break through the tender, crisp shell into the creamy risotto within

and when you break it open you won’t whimper with delight as the mozzarella meltingly swoons across your plate

It’s just food. It can’t possibly be that good, my stars. Get ahold of yourself.

We also had an assortment of antipasti, into which I put very little effort, because making suppli is exhausting, man. I cut several Bosc pears into wedges and wrapped them with paper-thin prosciutto, and that was nice. We also had various olives and marinated vegetables, cheeses, salamis, breadsticks, artichoke hearts, pesto, sun dried tomato bruschetta, and whatnot. Very pretty.

I knew I shouldn’t eat another suppli, but I did it anyway.

The night before, Damien had made his magnificent ragu, which is a tomato-less meat sauce with ground pork and beef, celery and carrots, garlic, lots of red pepper flakes, and tons of anchovies that just sort of melt. We briefly considered grinding up some pancetta, but life suddenly seemed short, so we went with a mere two meats. I haven’t written up a recipe card yet, so I’ll just link to the Deadspin recipe for now. You must try this. It’s so simple and so amazingly good.

Does it look like much? No, it does not.

But it smells and tastes like if pasta went to heaven, and this is who it gets to spend eternity with: ragu. I don’t know where me eating it fits into this cosmology, but there you are.

I had made a desultory supermarket search for cannoli shells, but quickly gave up and bought those snowflake-shaped pizzelle cookies

(photo from Wikimedia Commons)

and topped them with a scoop of simple cheese filling (ricotta with confectioner’s sugar and a little almond extract), shaved dark chocolate, and a few maraschino cherries. Nobody complained! But I forgot to take a picture.

And! I just found out this minute that you can actually make cannoli shells using pizzelle cookies. You put them in the microwave on high for 30-40 seconds and quickly roll them around something round, like a broom handle. They harden right up, and then you can fill them. What do you know! Next year in Jerusalem or what have you.

TUESDAY
More ragu on spaghetti and garlic bread

We had so much leftover food, I didn’t even need to cook more pasta. I just boiled some water and dunked the cooked leftover linguine in for a minute, swished it around, and then drained it. Good enough for the likes of us. We even had leftover garlic bread, which is unheard of in these parts.

WEDNESDAY
Pork ramen and roasted Brussels sprouts

I’ve never had “real” ramen, but it’s on my list, and in the meantime, this is a happy little meal. In the morning, I sliced up a bunch of carrots on the wide blade of the cheese grater and put them in a bowl covered with vinegar and sugar. Then I soft boiled a dozen eggs, and then cooked up some boneless pork chops in olive oil until they were almost done, then sliced them thin and finished cooking them with soy sauce.

When it was dinner time, I re-heated the pork in the microwave and cooked up a big pot of ramen, and served it with the pork, the carrots, the eggs, plus some hot sauce (where did my sriracha sauce go? I don’t know) and sesame seeds and crunchy noodles. Good stuff. So many nice variations for Fancy Ramen Nite.

The Brussels sprouts were actually supposed to be part of the Italian meal, but the very idea of green vegetables had been forced vehemently out of my head by vengeful and jealous risotto god. I trimmed them and cut them in half, then mixed them up with plenty of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted them in a shallow pan. Oh gosh, the crisp little charred leaves on the outside. Magnificent.

Roasting is by far my favorite way to prepare Brussels sprouts. You could add bacon or balsamic vinegar or honey, but it doesn’t really need it.

THURSDAY
Beef barley soup and pumpkin date muffins

It suddenly got chilly and rainy after a weirdly hot and humid week, so I was glad I had put off making soup until Thursday. I do a nice, basic recipe: garlic, red onion, carrot, and beef, then beef broth, red wine, and diced tomatoes with the juice, then mushrooms and barley toward the end. You can make the whole thing in the Instant Pot pretty quickly, if you can’t leave it simmering on the stovetop.

 

I also made pumpkin muffins, the first of the season. These are so fast and reliable, with a cozy, spicy flavor, and you can add all kinds of friendly toppings — oats, almonds, wheat germ, or turbinado sugar. This time, I stirred some chopped dates that were lurking about in the cabinet for some reason.

These muffins always turn out wonderfully tender and moist. I got the original recipe from Allrecipes, but I use half the sugar it calls for, and they’re still quite sweet. We usually have these as a quick bread along with soups, or to put in lunches so I feel like a good mother, but you could increase the sugar (or not) and add cream cheese frosting for a pleasant dessert.

Of course you can use this recipe to make loaves, as well. We do muffins because it’s easier to keep track of carbs that way. Speaking of which: T1D kid has over six months under her belt and we haven’t killed her yet! High fives all around! She’s even running cross country now, the maniac.

FRIDAY
Pizza

We have a birthday! I have made some vague promises of a cake. We shall see.

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Suppli (or Arancini)

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

Ingredients

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

To make suppli out of the risotto:

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

Instructions

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


    Set chicken stock to simmer in a pot.

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

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

    Pour in the wine and boil until wine is absorbed.

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

    Add 4 more cups of stock and cook until absorbed.

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

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

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

  3. TO MAKE THE SUPPLI:

    Beat the eggs and gently mix them into the risotto.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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Vermonter sandwiches

Ingredients

  • ciabatta rolls
  • grilled chicken or turkey, sliced
  • crisp bacon
  • Granny smith apples, cored and sliced
  • cheddar cheese, sliced thickly
  • honey mustard sauce

Instructions

  1. Layer all sandwich elements on roll. If you like, toast the sandwich before adding the apple slices and honey mustard. 

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Cannoli filling

Use to fill cannoli shells, or put a scoop on top of pizzelle cookies. Top with shaved chocolate, rainbow sprinkles, maraschino cherries, etc. 

Ingredients

  • 32 oz ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp almond extract or vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Mix ingredients together and refrigerate until you're ready to use it.

Beef barley soup (Instant Pot or stovetop)

Makes about a gallon of lovely soup

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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


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

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

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

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

Pumpkin quick bread or muffins

Makes 2 loaves or 18+ muffins

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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