That’s what the kids at home made and ate. Damien and I took our latest high school graduate out to eat for a celebration meal, and we all ate long past the point of regret. Someone’s gonna put fresh, hot bread and herbed olive oil, seafood chowder, fried calamari, and shrimp scampi in front of me, what am I gonna do? I’m not made of stone. But I said no to the berry mascarpone torte, mainly because I was still finishing my beer.
My daughter made us proud all through high school, and graduated with honors in math (MATH!). Here is her crowning achievement:
Isn’t she cute?
SUNDAY Burgers, hot dogs, chips, brownie sundaes
This was Father’s Day, and maybe not our best effort. Something about everyone feeling about as peppy and energetic as a, a, a thing that is tired and having a hard time coming up with interesting descriptions. So he cooked up meat on the grill and it was good.
MONDAY Turkey avocado provolone wraps, raw veggies and hummus, grapes
For some reason, everyone was super enthusiastic about this meal. We had some leftover rolls and a bunch of leftover tortillas, which I set out with deli turkey and salami, avocados, onions, provolone, and various kinds of dressing. I chose honey mustard, which doesn’t even go.
I mean, it didn’t taste bad or anything, but I wasn’t prepared for the choruses of hosannas. I think it may have been the grapes, actually.
Here is a moment that Benny wanted to memorialize:
TUESDAY Blueberry chicken salad
I intended to use this recipe, but ran out of time to make the special dressing or chop anything small, so we had chicken, mixed bagged greens, bleu cheese, sliced almonds, red onions, and blueberries, with balsamic vinegar. I can’t seem to find the picture I took, so here’s the pic from last time:
Again, I was taken aback at how delighted everyone was. I do love these hearty salads with nuts, cheese, meat, and fruit. Very pretty and filling.
It was the LAST DAY OF SCHOOL FINALLY, and we went to the beach, and by the time we got home, I had zero interest in making dinner, and 100% interest in letting the kids make French toast while I languished on the couch. Then I got up and ate scrambled eggs and the ice cream I virtuously declined on Sunday.
Instead, I put together a triple recipe of this teriyaki sauce and mixed it up with cubed pork and big wedges of onion, and let that marinate a few hours. Then I put the meat and onions on a pan with a rack and shoved it up right under the broiler, turning it once. Yummeh.
The rice, I made in the Instant Pot (affiliate link) using the 1:1 method and the rice button. I don’t understand why you have to rinse the rice, but it always comes out perfect, so I won’t argue.
We had five large mangoes which I peeled and cut up in no time using a metal cup. You try to figure out which way the pit lies and then cut the “cheeks” off the mango, leaving the pit inside a flat section of fruit.
Then you take a glass or metal cup with a thin rim and just, vooooop, slide the cup rim just under the skin and scoop the flesh right out in one piece.
Very satisfying and efficient.
It’s a little tricker to trim the rest of the flesh off the pit, but overall, this method makes mangoes worth eating, rather than an exercise in sticky, pulpy futility.
My damn wiener kids do lose them and bend them, but they do not break them! Ha!
Child requested tuna noodle casserole. So let it be written, so let it be done. My husband despises this food, but he will be out picking up my oldest kid from the airport, hooray! We sure missed her.
Okay, the Fourth of July looms! We’ll probably do burgers and hot dogs and pork spiedies using this recipe, plus chips and corn on the cob (maybe fancy corn on the cob with lime, paprika, and parmesan), watermelon, and potato salad. As predictable a menu as Thanksgiving, but with food you actually want to eat. Who has exciting ideas for a picnic dessert for a big crowd? Or some kind of razzle dazzle side dish that kids would like?
I’m having a flashback to a former life: Everyone’s schedule is all screwey for end-of-year stuff, so we spent the morning at the park trying not to throw ourselves into the waterfall, and then we got a blister so we had to cool our feet at the library. There are pregnant women chasing toddlers everywhere, and every cell in my body is shrieking out silent thanksgiving that I’m not one of ’em.
Here’s what we had this week:
SATURDAY Pizza, birthday cake, ice cream
Birthday party! We had no end of pizza, and birthday cake in the shape of – what else? – Devil’s Tower.
It was a Close Encounters of the Third Kind party, what else? It turns out the birthday girl was kidding about wanting me to mash some potatoes so she could have a mountain-sculpting contest with her friends. Humph.
SUNDAY Chicken shawarma; Cheesecake with strawberries and chocolate ganache
Birthday girl requested shawarma. I treated myself to skinned, boned chicken and set it to marinate the night before. It turned out to be breast meat, not thigh, which was a little disappointing; but it’s still always a fabulous meal. We use this recipe for oven-roasted shawarma from the NYT.
We had it with tomatoes, cucumbers, three kind of olives, feta cheese, pita bread, hummus, and yogurt sauce. I added pepper, lemon juice, and a bunch of minced garlic to plain yogurt and then basically wallowed around in it for the rest of the evening. Garlic yogurt speaks to me on a cellular level. A microcellular level. A nano-micro-weensy-cellular level. Just keep zooming in, and it’s garlic and yogurt, all the way down.
I briefly considered making the cheesecake in the Instant Pot, but then remembered that I am disgusting and don’t really clean it too good, so it’s kind of meaty in there. If there are people in the world who prefer their cheesecake meaty, I don’t want to know about it. I used this simple recipe (no sour cream) with a graham cracker crust, and used a silicone pan instead of springform. Unlike the photo, it turned out swell.
I crushed up a bunch of fresh strawberries with sugar and rum vanilla. We wanted a chocolate ganache, but I remembered in the nick of time that Aldi chocolate chips don’t really melt. So I made this hot fudge sauce with cocoa powder, butter, and condensed milk. Veddy nice.
MONDAY Hot dogs, corn on the cob, salad
It was horrendously hot, so I thought we might avoid filling the kitchen with corn steam if I cooked the corn on the cob in the Instant Pot instead of in a big pot of water. I guess it worked? But you do have to release the steam at the end anyway, so we kind of got it all at once. I think it helped a bit overall. It’s definitely cooler than stovetop cooking while it’s cooking.
I tried This Old Gal’s recipe for IP corn on the cob, which includes sugar, milk, and butter. It was certainly easy, and the corn was, well, sweet, creamy, and buttery. Kinda gilding the lily, though, and not really worth the extra calories. I’ll probably use the IP for just cooking plain unflavored corn on the cob in the future, though, just because it was easier than wrestling with a giant stock pot sloshing with boiling water. I always scald my abdomen.
I will here discuss an IP semi-failure: I put the pork into the IP with salt, pepper, and a can of Coke, and set it to “slow cook.” This took four hours, and then it automatically went to “keep warm” mode for the rest of the day. It came out dry and tough, and we had to pull pretty hard, which nobody wanted to do. I’m not sure if that means it was too low heat, or too high heat, or what, but it just wasn’t the same as the regular old slow cooker. Maybe if I pressed “slow cook” again after four hours, I dunno.
WEDNESDAY Oven roasted kielbasa, red potatoes, and cabbage with mustard vinaigrette
From Budget Bytes, a new dish for us, and a hit! It’s very easy to make: Cut up the things, put the things on a pan, make the things hot. Add yummy dressing.
I used three 14-ounce packages of kielbasa, about four pounds of red potatoes, and one large cabbage, and tripled the recipe for dressing. It’s hearty and summery, and I liked the looks of it, too.
The only sad thing was that I finally had to admit it was time to get rid of the two giant “disposable” catering pans we got from the Chinese restaurant at Christmas. They have developed leaks, so I’m getting some Real Pans. Yet another thing I finally have enough money to buy, now that the kids are leaving home and we don’t need it as badly anymore. Oh well.
THURSDAY Chicken muggets, frozen corn
We had the option to add an extra hour and a half of driving at the end of the school day in order to get to two campuses for portfolio night, or we could get ice cream.
Then we came home and had chicken nuggets. Corrie was mad because she only got to eat her ice cream and Dora’s ice cream,
and then when she dropped Dora’s ice cream, we wouldn’t get her another one. So when it was supper time, she threw herself on the floor and howled, “NO NO NO TSITSIN MUGGETS!” It’s a shame we never do anything nice for her.
Child #2 graduates from high school this year (with honors in math!!!), so Damien and I will be in attendance this evening while the kids at home struggle along with a case of boxaroni. Cheers!
The chicken burgers from Aldi are pretty good, and taste like actual chicken. We dressed them up with bacon, honey mustard, and in-sandwich onion rings. Not bad atall. Probably didn’t need to serve chips alongside a sandwich that actually contained onion rings, but the freedom to make this kind of decision is what being an adult is all about. That and a little sex, and some booze, lots of interior pep talks, frightening conversations about major appliances, and you’re the only one who can change the toilet paper. And coffee.
SUNDAY Pork Bánh mì
We’ve made steak bánh mì a few times, and it is delightful, but expensive. Pork, however, is cheap cheap cheap. So I got me a half loin (about four pounds), sliced it thin, and started it marinating in the morning using this recipe from Serious Eats.
I also sliced several carrots into thin coins and set them to quickle-pickle in wine vinegar and some sugar.
In the evening, I spread the pork slices in a single layer on broiler pans and put them right up under a hot broiler, turning once. We toasted some rolls and piled them up with the pork, pickled carrots, sliced cucumbers, jalapeno slices from a jar, lots of chopped cilantro, and plenty of mayo. (You can stir some sriracha into the mayo, but there’s plenty of flavor without the extra spice, and I appreciated a little creamy coolness.)
Verdict: It smelled completely revolting as it cooked, because fish sauce; but the taste was superb. The pork picked up much more of the salty, tangy fish flavor than the beef. Put it together with the sweet, crisp carrots and the cool cukes and cilantro and the zippy jalapenos, and it was just a swingin’ party in your mouth. Ha cha cha!
MONDAY BBQ chicken thighs and sausages, fruit salad, spicy grilled corn, S’mores
My husband cooked the meat outside, in the drizzle, in air so cold we could see our breath. Stupid New England. Here’s how he describes the rub he made for the meat: Lots of kosher salt, like unhealthy amount, lots of brown sugar and white sugar, generous amounts of garlic powder, little bit of cumin, paprika, and chili powder. Works for pork, too.
I thought it was fantastic, but he is researching different chicken-cooking methods with more indirect heat. I happen to like it charred, but I will probably force myself to eat the next meal he cooks, too, because I’m a good and generous wife that way.
It’s still a bit early for really good corn, but check it out! You grill it, roll it in butter, sprinkle on a little parmesan cheese and paprika, then squeeze on some lime juice.
Some of the kids had read about S’mores and really wanted to make them (even though they shivered as they toasted their marshmallows). S’mores are completely lost on me. They are fine, I guess. I feel resistance toward foods that don’t have a food for the noun. Corrie approved.
TUESDAY Tacos, tortilla chips
Nothing to report, except that I finally smartened up and bought two tubs of sour cream, one for the family and one for Corrie.
It Instant Pot time! (affiliate link) I’ve made Cuban sandwiches before, using oven-roasted pork that I marinated for several hours ahead of time. This time, I took a four-pound half loin and threw it in the IP with a bottle of Goya Mojo Criollo marinade. I don’t quite trust the “meat” button yet, so I set it to manual high pressure for 45 minutes. Perfect. It was very moist but cooked all the way through, and the marinade had permeated the meat. No yummy crust, of course, but it was fast and easy, didn’t heat up the kitchen (yeah, it suddenly got hot out. Stupid New England), and clean-up was a snap. I let it stay on “warm” for several hours until I was ready to make the sandwiches.
I sliced the meat up and put it on ciabatta with deli ham, pickles sliced into long flats, swiss cheese, and mustard. Grilled the sandwiches in butter, then pressed them hard on both sides with a glass pie plate. They were excellent and insanely filling. Here is a terrible picture:
I think authentic Cuban sandwiches are supposed to be made with spongier bread, and probably heaped ridiculously high with meat and cheese but I had zero complaints with our results.
The side was something I took from The New York Times Cooking. I took it, and then I made it slimy somehow, I dunno. My version had red onion, avocado, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, leftover grilled corn, fresh lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, and feta, and I ended up just mixing everything together, rather than spooning things over other things.
It was good, but it tasted like guacamole that left home on a quest to become pasta salad, but couldn’t find any pasta, so went back home, only to discover that the guacamole family no longer accepted it. Probably won’t bother with this again. Stupid New York Times.
Didn’t take pictures of pizza. Husband did snap a photo of the river as we slogged by on our evening run.
Stupid New England. I mean, wait! Lovely, gorgeous New England, my love! Feeling better and being more in shape are fine incentives, but really I’m in it for the pretty views and the husband time.
This week, we had one very fine meal to look forward to (pork banh mi). Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to make it. Here is what we had instead:
SATURDAY Aldi pizzas
On Saturday, we woke up early to go run two miles, and then . . .
I’ll just wait here while you check whose blog you’re reading. Still me.
We ran, I say, then we drove into the city to buy my new vehicle which is not a rusty white van,
ate some gyros,
went to confession finally,
drove home, and then Benny lost a tooth,
and then I did the grocery shopping.
SUNDAY Hamburgers and chips
Mr. Husband held down the fort all day while I drove to visit my parents. My mother is confused about many things, but still clear on the merits of ice cream.
Salt, pepper, meat, and heat. We had so many places to be, it was a miracle we ate while it was still technically Monday.
TUESDAY Greek salad and chicken
Tuesday was a good day for a make-ahead meal, as there was yet another evening concert. I liked the singing. Well, most of it. That one kid who always beatboxes is really begging for the hook, but otherwise, they sang well.
But my friends, there were seven songs, and then a nine-hour interlude for awards for “most improved alto in the women’s jazz ensemble . . . most improved alto in the presumably more elite women’s jazz ensemble . . . most outstanding alto appearing in the greatest number of jazz ensembles . . . ” and then everyone had to stagger across the stage in their ludicrous cork-heeled shoon and give the choir director another hug because they humorously forgot to give her a hug the first time, and as I sat there being proud and supportive, a tiny, agonized voice at the base of my skull kept whispering directly into the bruised void of my psyche, “It says here there are still eight more songs to go . . . ”
Well, my friends, the final song was “Imagine,” by John Lennon . . . with hand motions. A tear blinded my ee, and I may or may not have been the one softly calling, “Booo-urns” while I applauded. And I think that was pretty restrained, considering this ill deed done to me.
Oh crap, this is a food blog. Well, we had “Greek” salad. Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, hard boiled eggs, black olives, and cold chicken.
I used the Instant Pot (affiliate link) to make hard boiled eggs. If you eat a lot of hard boiled eggs, the IP is super. It steams them, and the shells slide off very easily.
I make salad with cold chicken a lot in the summer. Normally I marinate the chicken and then throw it under the broiler, but this time I tried out the Instant Pot “poultry” button.
In the pot, I put about seven boneless chicken breasts, some white wine, a lot of lemon juice, a splash of water, a little olive oil, and kosher salt, pepper, olive oil, paprika, dried basil, and several cloves of minced garlic, and mixed it all up. The liquid came about halfway up the chicken.
Instant Pot recipes can be misleading, because they will say “cook on high pressure for six minutes,” but that’s just how long it’s actually cooking. The six minutes doesn’t include how long it takes for the IP to come up to pressure and how long it takes to release the pressure, but your life is certainly still ticking by during that time.
Kind of, she remarked bitterly, like those NFP booklets that promise, “Oh, you’ll only have to abstain for six days a month!” because they are using some kind of voodoo calculations based on the Aztec calendar, non-typical circadian rhythms, people who are only in the same bed together twice a year anyway, so everything more than that counts as bonus, right? And plus they are lying. See? It only takes six minutes!
Not wishing to be part of the problem, I put the chicken and liquid into the pot at 10:25 a.m. and pressed the poultry button, and it was completely ready to come out of the pot at 10:54 a.m. Less than half an hour start to finish. That includes adding an extra minute because sometimes being open to life means being careful your kitchen doesn’t kitchen asplode right now, and you think God feels the same way.
So, Instant Pot chicken is good. It comes out moist, and the flavor permeated the meat. I don’t think it’s faster than the oven broiler method; but the pot is easier to clean than a broiler pan. More importantly, the IP doesn’t heat up the kitchen, so it’s a good choice for summer cooking.
WEDNESDAY Bagel, fried egg, cheese, and sausage sandwiches
We went running again on Wednesday. It was an evening run, and I’ve been harassing my husband for weeks to try a new route; so we started out on our same path, which is about 75% flat
but then took a right instead of looping around. He kept saying it would loop eventually, and I kept thinking, “When does the looping happen?”; but on the other hand, we were now running downhill, and I didn’t want to stop.
So we ended up . . . somewhere. I don’t know. We ran and ran and only stopped when some guy with a teardrop tattoo on his eye wanted to know where Mountain View Road was. I helpfully pointed out where the frigging mountain was, anyway. The reason I knew where the mountain was, was that we’d been running straight up it for a good twenty minutes.
After that, I found that I was unable to stop thinking about how old I am; so we walked. Then we ran for a while. Then we walked some more. Then we got to a muddy patch and figured as long as we were clearly going to break our ankles, we might as well cut through the woods and save time. Discussed bear avoidance strategies for a while. Swallowed a bug. Came across a sign that said “ARE YOU FRIENDS? FAMILY? DELIVERY? IF NOT THEN THIS IS PRIVATE PROPERTY SO DON’T.” Walked some more, a little faster.
Then, guess what? It looped around!
THURSDAY Hot dogs, donuts, Doritos
I don’t even want to talk about it. There was a school play right before supper. It was raining. The baby sobbed every time her sister went off stage. There was a Holy Day of Obligation right after supper and only one adult, and you don’t want to know how hard I had to squeeze the bulletin to give up the information about when and where Mass would be. There was one point during all the to and fro where the kids were all starving, so I got donuts. Heard from the back of the car, “Can I have your donut?”
I said, “No, I already gave mine to the baby,” and then I looked in the rear view mirror and realized that she wasn’t talking to me. She was talking to her sister on the phone. Her sister who is currently in California. And then they sang, “Go Make a Difference!”
FRIDAY Quesadillas; red beans and rice
Quesadillas with havarti, to be exact. It was on sale. If you know havarti doesn’t work for quesadillas, you need to keep it to yourself.
You know, this isn’t the way I always imagined an ocean voyage. Here’s what we had this week:
SATURDAY Grilled ham and provolone in pita pockets; spicy fries; raw broccoli
I do love grilled pita pockets. I grilled them in butter. They are so cozy and filling.
SUNDAY Steak, salad, strawberry rhubarb pie with whipped cream
Irene’s First Holy Communion and Mother’s Day! We’ve had so many parties lately, we decided Sunday would be just us chickens. Irene had a very good morning.
We planned to spend the day gardening, but it was, SIGH SIGH SIGH, windy and raining and snowing. So we made some pie together
This is Irene’s Happy Pie face. The kid just loves pie. She gave everyone mini pies from Walmart for Christmas. I think it was her early exposure to Amelia Bedelia. She just loves pie! And so do I.
I made the lattice one. I wove it for a while, then got bored and just started slapping bits of dough on. Irene’s crust was made of hearts and ducks, much like her soul.
We used this recipe from the 1896 Fannie Farmer cookbook. It was new to me, and really did taste old fashioned, especially the crust, which had a pleasantly sharp, salty flavor. The crust turned out pretty light and flaky. It was a little hard to work with, but it added more to the overall taste of the dish than the typical bland crust. I did use the neat trick of freezing the butter and then grating it with a cheese grater, so it’s very easy to incorporate it into the flour without overhandling it.
Damien made everyone steaks. I like mine so rare, you can have a conversation with it while you eat.
Raise your hand if this picture makes you feel uncomfortable! Too bad! It was my mother’s day! And the steak was delicious. (And I had a lovely, lovely day, all day, thank you. Many wonderful gifts and thoughtful attentions.)
MONDAY Pork ramen, coconut rice, peas
Delicious, but more of a hassle than expected, probably because I had to make so much of it. (It was simplified somewhat with the beloved Instant Pot, because I could cook the meat and vegetables, deglaze, and finish the broth all in one pot. Sometimes having even one fewer pot to wash is a big freaking deal.) I found a complicated recipe and simplified it, thus:
Sear some pork ribs in olive oil until browned on all sides. Take pork out, slice very thin, set aside. Add a coarsely chopped onion, about eight cloves of minced garlic, and a few scoops of ginger paste. Saute to brown. Add a cup of chicken broth to deglaze. Add seven more cups of broth, plus 8-10 oz. sliced mushrooms, and return pork to pot. Slow cook for several hours.
Just before dinner, have a kid cook a giant bunch of ramen noodles and some soft boiled eggs.
To serve, put ramen in individual bowls, ladle pork and broth over that, add a few halves of eggs, and throw something green on top. We happened to have some zombie scallions.
It was tasty and satisfying, and the pork was very tender after cooking all day. I adore thin slices of pork in soup.
For the coconut rice, I use this Instant Pot recipe from This Old Gal, who loves unnecessary complications. I have had about enough of This Old Gal. I did have coconut milk and coconut cream, but not toasted coconut or coconut sugar. I am skeptical there is actually something called coconut sugar.
The rice was pleasant, but not amazing. Who has a recipe that makes lovely, sticky coconut rice like in a Thai restaurant? Wanty.
I wish I had chopped up the greens smaller, to integrate them more with the other ingredients, rather than making a bed for them to lie on, but the combination of flavors and textures was excellent.
So: mixed greens, broiled chicken, blueberries, blue cheese, red onions, and toasted nuts (we had walnuts and almonds. There must have been a nut sale at some point. Again, I highly recommend taking the extra few minutes to toast the nuts); and a sweetish dressing made of olive oil, wine vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.
I served everything in separate bowls. To my delight, most of the kids chose to include blue cheese and onions in theirs. When I was that age, the harshly challenging flavor of something exotic, like yellow mustard, would have sent me into howling despair, but my kids are so much more adventurous. I never insist they eat anything, but I do keep serving things that I think are yummy, and I offer it to everyone every time. And here they are eating onions and blue cheese! I did a thing!
Not my finest hour. My plan was very basic: tortilla chips, ground meat and pre-made taco spice, jarred cheese substance, and salsa on the side.
I had to run out unexpectedly, so I directed the meat cooking and draining via cell phone, which turned out to be only slightly less nerve-wracking for both parties than when a passenger has to step up and land a damaged airplane with the help of a pilot on the ground.
Then I dashed home and dashingly forgot that the label said not to heat the cheese in the jar. Why? Because, we discovered, it balloons up like a ghastly yellow nightmare, then collapses into a rubbery hunk. Excuse me, rubbery hunk olé.
Then I set the chips on fire.
If you’re wondering why I never clean my oven: I do. I just immediately follow the cleaning with another spill. Then I set some chips on fire.
FRIDAY Penne with jarred sauce
Assuming I can figure out how to open a jar.
It occurs to me that a few of my readers may not be familiar with the phrase “and two hard boiled eggs.” Let’s fix that right now:
Yipe, it’s late! Never mind the introduction where I mention that we were extremely busy this week. Here’s what we ate:
SATURDAY Pizza and birthday cake
Another birthday! Actually, this birthday was last month, but we finally got around to having the party and sleepover. Child requested calzones, but I bargained her down to pizza. The cake, I refuse to show you. Turns out it’s very possible to go very, very wrong with a simple Deathly Hallows symbol.
A few of the decorations turned out pretty good, though. Here are the candles floating over the table:
They are rolls of cardstock with electric tea lights stuck in one end, hanging from threads.
Other quickie Harry Potter party ideas: We drew banners for the four houses on poster board, and drew on white balloons to make them look like owls. We printed out “wanted” signs for the villains and tacked them up, and also printed out and cut out a photo of Moaning Myrtle, and taped that to the toilet. We wrote “The chamber of secrets has been opened” in lipstick on the front window.
Party food was not super inspired – just orange soda labelled “pumpkin juice” and lots of gourmet jelly beans labelled “Bertie Bott’s.” For an activity, the kids dipped pretzel rods in candy melt and then decorated them with various sugars and sprinkles, for wands.
This was the actual birthday of #1 Son, who requested this fine meal. I want to say there was salad, but I don’t think there was. We got hot fudge and hot caramel, and put one in the bottom of the cone and one on top of the ice cream. Birthday!
MONDAY Oven roasted pork ribs, roast mushrooms, fruit salad
Still the best way to make ribs if you can’t grill them outside. Salt and pepper on a rack in a real hot oven until they’re sizzling hot. So good.
Mushrooms were 79 cents for eight ounces, so I bought six packages and went to town. Here’s the recipe from Deadspin (which means it’s rambling and profane and oddly endearing). This picture is from my very worst camera, but — oooh, that smell.
Strawberries and blueberries were also on sale, so we mixed them together and pretended it wasn’t a weird side dish.
I’m trying to get away from serving potatoes all the time. Not because I have some kind of theory about dietary starches, or because I’m ashamed of my Hobbit forefathers, but . . . I don’t know why, I guess I’m just bored.
TUESDAY Hot dogs, onion rings, corn on the cob
Remember how we had hot dogs last week? Well, this week, we had hot dogs again.
The corn on the cob was first of the season, and middle-of-May corn tastes a lot like “too soon.” But setting the kids to shuck some corn is a quick way to redeem part of one day from what has lately become a discouraging stream of rushing in and out of the car, gobbling pre-packaged junk food, and realizing Sophia the First and her very unlikely rabbit friend have been gabbling away for four hours straight. Here! Shuck some good old corn! Be wholesome for a minute! Maybe we can string wooden beads later, or even — stop me if this sounds crazy — go outside.
So I get them set up with twelve ears of corn and, as I go about my business in the other room, I hear the honest, timeless sound of happy, unspoiled children hard at work at the domestic arts, up to their elbows in the fruits of the earth, smelling green smells, rediscovering the joys of industry. Then I hear,
“Corrie is up on the table and she has nothing on her bottom! THE CORN! IS GOING! TO TASTE! LIKE BOTTOM!!!”
Sure enough. How very Montessori.
WEDNESDAY Chicken apple salad, risotto
This meal was a copycat version of a salad I often get at Wendy’s. I got a few bags of mixed greens and let the kids choose their combination of warm grilled chicken, crumbled bleu cheese, diced green apples, sweet dried cranberries, toasted walnuts, and some bottled berry vinaigrette dressing. (Wendy’s version has two kinds of apples, sugared pecans, and pomegranate vinaigrette.)
It’s totally worth the quick extra step to toast the nuts. Put them in a single layer in a baking pan in a 350 oven for about ten minutes. I know everyone is always talking about how this and that brings out the flavor of this and that, but toasting really does bring out the flavor of nuts. It also makes them, I don’t know, more pleasing to the teeth. It turns them into interesting, adult nuts instead of stupid, immature nuts. Just do it!)
I made the chicken by marinating it all day in a bag with some bottled Italian dressing, then roasting it under the broiler on a pan with some drainage. This meal was a big hit. Definitely making it again.
Imagine if butts were made with sauteed onions and parmesan cheese. What would they rain down? Pure joy, that’s what.
THURSDAY English muffin pizzas
We were home for about twelve minutes in between school and a concert, so English muffin pizzas did the trick. We made about 45 of them with what turned out to be, oops, cheddar cheese.
Here’s an after-concert group portrait:
Back row: My Mother Made Me Wear This Shirt and It Burnssssssss
Front Row, Left to right: Pretty Much Always Having a Wonderful Time; Angry Because Mama Said We Can Swing On the Swings Anytime, But Not Right Now; This Skirt Is Not Who I Am; and Kind of a Violin Prodigy, Kind of Over Having Siblings
FRIDAY Fish tacos and corn chips
Just frozen fish sticks, shredded cabbage, jarred salsa, sour cream, and limes on tortillas, and maybe some guacamole if I can still lift my arms by the end of the day.
Can’t remember the last time I’ve been so glad to see a week be done. Here’s what we had:
SATURDAY Sausage, fried eggs, and muenster cheese on bagels
I will never complain when there are sandwiches for supper.
SUNDAY Lamb lo mein with spaetzle; rice; pot stickers; rice
Probably the weirdest meal of the week. We had a nice meaty bone left over from last week’s lamb feast, so I cut the meat into bits and added it to this simple lo mein recipe from Damn Delicious. I made it even simpler by just chucking in a couple of bags of frozen stir fry vegetables, rather than using fresh. Then I made it weirder by using a few bags of spaetzle for the noodles. The result was a multi-ethnicish meal that soared to the level of Not Bad At All.
No one in my family has actually tasted lo mein before, so they were the right audience, I guess.
The potstickers were frozen from Hannaford. Kind of a pain for frozen food – you have to brown them in oil and then steam them – but they were tasty. One kid ate just the wrapper, and left behind little bundles of steamed cabbage and chicken, which I of course ate also.
You are thinking, “Why did she also make rice, with all that other stuff?” The answer is that at least three of my kids are currently following a strict Rice and Tears diet.
On Monday, I looked at my driving schedule for the week and let out a weak whimper. Seriously considering buying each kid a moped and just letting them get where they need to be on their own. I’ll take out a credit card in the choir director’s name. Add an entire extra concert with rehearsals every night for two weeks right when all the other teachers are realizing we need to squeeze in all those field trips and special projects and fundraisers, will you? EAT MOPED DEBT AND DIE.
Oh, so we had tacos. It turns out cumin can be fairly overwhelming if you angrily shake in half the jar, but you can disguise it with extra salt.
Nothing to report. Luckily, I have two pepperoni distribution specialists living in my very house.
WEDNESDAY Steak tips with mushrooms on noodles; rolls; roast asparagus
I mixed up the asparagus with a little olive oil, spread it on a pan, and slid it right under a hot broiler, then sprinkled it with lemon juice when it was done. Did you know you are supposed to eat asparagus with your fingers? Do you know it’s hard, but not impossible, to drive while licking your plate?
THURSDAY Korean beef bowl, rice, roast sesame broccoli
Still a great meal, still easy. In the morning, I cooked up the meat and then transferred it to the slow cooker; I set up the rice in the Instant Pot (affiliate link!) (the 1:1 formula works fine); and prepped the broccoli. So when I tore into the kitchen that afternoon knowing half of us had to be out the door again in 25 minutes, we still had a swell meal.
Have I mentioned how I love roasting vegetables? I drizzled the broccoli with sesame oil, spread it in a single layer, sprinkled it with sesame seeds, and slid it right under the broiler until the edges got a little blackened. So many veggies taste good this way.
Hooray, a Friday food post again! I actually spent last Friday, Good Friday, cooking and not tasting. IT WAS HARD. But I was way behind on Passover cooking, so that’s how it turned out.
Here’s what we had this week:
Holy Saturday is when we have our Passover seder. On the menu for the feast:
Chicken soup with matzo balls
The soup turned out much buttier than usual; no idea why. It’s supposed to be on the clear side, and “golden” (i.e. shimmering with fat). Tasted great, though.
Gefilte fish (store bought) with horseradish
and Garlic cinnamon chicken and
A tiny bit of roast lamb (it hadn’t gone on sale yet!)
You can find recipes for all of the foods above in this post.
The only thing I intentionally made different this year was to cook the spinach pies in mini muffin tins, rather than in a pie plate. I just don’t think you should hear “pie” and then taste spinach and onions. (For some reason “spinach muffin” doesn’t trouble me.) I thought they were cute and tasty this way, and will make them this way again.
I didn’t have a meat grinder this year (but am eyeing this attachment for my Kitchen Aid), so I made the four pounds of chopped liver in small batches in the blender. This was not a gratifying experience. It wasn’t velvety smooth, but still delicious.
Chocolate walnut cake with apricot
Lemon sponge cake
Four kinds of macaroons (store bought)
Chocolate-covered jelly rings
Chocolate-covered halvah (sesame candy)
Sesame crunch candies
Pistachios and almonds
Chocolate caramel matzoh
I moaned and groaned over not having any fruit slice candy this year, but we survived.
Both cakes were from new recipes this year. The chocolate one had a nice flavor, but it was squashier than I would like. Pretty, though.
The lemon one also tasted fine, but man, it was dense. No sponge about it. I just don’t have a light touch with baking, and baking without flour or yeast is just asking for some really compact treats! I think I used the recipe on the side of the potato starch can.
SUNDAY Seder leftovers!
And boy, there were plenty. And of course hard boiled eggs, and a world of Easter candy.
MONDAY Matzo brei, salami, dill pickles, grapes
Matzo brei is a weird little recipe that everyone should know. You take a sheet of matzo, break it into chunks in a bowl, and pour hot water over it. Let it sit for thirty seconds or so, and then press the water out. Then beat up two eggs, stir in the drained matzo, and fry the mixture up in some hot oil, turning once, until the edges are crisp.
You can serve it with jelly, you can serve it with salt and pepper and fried onions, whatever. It’s SO GOOD. Worth venturing into the Jewby aisle to get yourself a box of two of matzo, believe me.
TUESDAY Beef banh mi
Remember when I asked how to make Easter last for fifty days? You could do worse than making a lot of banh mi, especially if you just happen to have a lot of leftover chopped liver in the house. These sandwiches were out of this world.
In the morning, I sliced up some carrots as thin as I could, then put them in a jar to pickle with some white vinegar, a little water, and some sugar.
Then I sliced the meat (I used London broil) pretty thin and put it in a bag to marinate, using this recipe. I let it go for about six hours. My husband cooked up the meat — well, first he ran out for more bread, because I burned the first batch while toasting it. Then he toasted more bread, and then he cooked up the meat in a single layer on a roasting pan under a hot broiler, just enough to blacken the edges a tiny bit.
So, the smell. This marinade calls for garlic, shallots, and fish sauce. Benny spent the dinner hour hiding under a fleece Our Lady of Guadalupe blanket and weeping because the house smelled “wike dog frow up.” Which, well, she wasn’t wrong, especially early in the cooking. But it tasted so good.
Toasted rolls with mayonnaise, lots of cilantro, pickled carrots, sliced cucumbers, the meat, and then chopped liver. Oh, my stars. The sweet, savory meat frolicking with the snappy, sour carrots, and the strong, bitey liver cuddling up to the cool cucumbers and cilantro. It was so good, it was almost indecent.
WEDNESDAY Hot dogs, chips
I spent the afternoon sorting winter clothes to be stored away. Four hours from start to finish:
so the kids made hot dogs.
THURSDAY Instant pot mac and cheese
I made a triple recipe of this in my Instant Pot (associates link). The hot sauce and mustard give it a good flavor. This is miles easier and faster than cooking the pasta, cooking the sauce, and then mixing them together and baking it. Also, this time, I read the directions more carefully and did not shoot a geyser of yellow cheese at the ceiling through the steam vent.
FRIDAY Roast lamb, challah, maybe asparagus if I remember to get some
Today is Friday within the octave of Easter, or, as it’s traditionally known, Meatster Friday. Leg of lamb was at the astonishing price of $2.99 a pound, so I got a niiiiiice big one. Gonna stud it with slivered garlic and rosemary, slather it with white wine and honey, and roast it.
And now I’m running out to buy some yeast. Benny says, “Yeast makes everything rise! God thought of it! He thought of everything! He made friends and family! He made sisters and brothers! And cousins! Well . . . I’m not so sure about cousins.”
Sorry, cousins. I don’t know how you earned a place in Benny’s theodicy, but there it is.
Happy Easter! Happy Meatster! He is risen! Let’s eat.
The little rats stole my chalk, so my weekly menu blackboard isn’t telling me anything. Here’s the best I can recall:
SATURDAY Calzones; birthday cake
We had four extra 13-year-old boys in the house for a sleepover, and the birthday boy requested calzones for dinner. Easy enough! I used premade pizza dough, and divided each ball into four calzones. Roll ’em out, add a scoop of filling, fold the dough over and pinch it closed. We made twenty calzones, plus an extra pizza for weirdos who don’t like calzones, plus a gluten-free pizza for that one guest. This is one of the benefits of being used to cooking for twelve. You might as well cook for sixteen, and you might as well also make cupcakes, plus special cupcakes, plus this, plus that, why not. Your life is already ruined anyway.
For the filling, I used either eight or twelve cups of shredded mozzarella, probably eight, and 32 oz. of ricotta, plus a bunch of parmesan. After you crimp the edges shut, you can press on them to distribute the filling more evenly. Lay them in a greased pan with space to expand (I put three on a full-sized cookie sheet), and brush with egg wash.
Bake for about 20 minutes in a 450 oven. Serve with warm tomato sauce for dipping.
The cake was just one disaster after another. It was supposed to be chocolate, but I got yellow mix. So I was going to add cocoa powder, but we were out. So I told him I’d make chocolate frosting. Then I somehow bought cream cheese frosting. Then I reversed the colors on the design by mistake; then the sugar sheets I bought were too dry to use, so I piped in the designs with frosting in a sandwich bag that I bit a hole in.
But, I did NOT spell his name wrong.
Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the cake I was trying to copy and the cake I eventually presented to my beloved son:
Ehhh, whaddaya whaddaya. He liked it. We also made a Super Smash Ball pinata, which turned out just as malformed and blobby as the cake, even though a Smash Ball is just a round ball with different colors all over it. He liked that, too. We like him!
Unaware that the Solemnity of St. Joseph was moved to Monday, we went ahead and celebrated with bacon and ice cream on Sunday. A not-great photo of a terrifically yummy meal here:
If you’re not familiar with carbonara, it’s easy and wonderful. You fry up some bacon and cut it into bits, then cook up a bunch of pasta. Drain it, add in the bacon and a truly ridiculous amount of parmesan, butter, and tons of pepper, and mix it up. Then, you stir in a bunch of raw egg, which cooks itself right onto the strands of pasta, melding with the cheese and the bacon. Heavenly.
A tiny bit disappointing, but I’m not sure why.
I cut up the beef (chuck roast or something) into cubes and sauteed it in the Instant Pot along with diced onions and garlic. When it was almost all browned, I added diced carrots, a can of diced tomatoes and juice, some beef broth and red wine, and most of a little pouch of mixed grains.
I couldn’t find barley anywhere, and last time I asked a stock boy for help, he was a huge jerk about it, and I was mad for ten days. I just want barley! You work at a supermarket! Do you even understand that you wouldn’t have a job if people like me didn’t need things like barley? Maybe I’ll just go home without buying anything, and then you can have your ideal work day of nobody bringing money into your place of employment! That seems like a solid business model! Jerk.
I pressed the “soup” button, because I was making soup and feeling belligerent, and didn’t feel like checking if that’s how you’re supposed to do it. Looking back, there was a lot of belligerent cooking this week. Hence all the garlic, I guess.
The soup was fine; it just didn’t live up to the Platonic ideal of beef barley soup, and this grieved me. Should’ve added more garlic.
For the garlic knots, I used readymade balls of pizza dough. Cut each ball into twelve pieces, roll them into snakes, tie them in a knot, and top each one with garlic or garlic powder, parmesan cheese, and a little salt. Bake on a greased pan at 425 for . . . I dunno, eleven minutes. Always a hit.
TUESDAY Hot dogs; cucumber salad
There are suddenly these giant, beautiful cucumbers for really cheap, so I bought . . . kind of an inappropriate number of giant cucumbers. They just looked good, okay?
Tito Edward’s eye just started ticcing, and he doesn’t even know why.
I sliced them pretty thin and mixed them with a dressing made of plain yogurt, tons of minced garlic, a little lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and salt. Wish I had had some parsley and red onions. It was tasty and interesting, although it probably wasn’t necessary to add nuclear holocaust levels of garlic; but I’ll probably do it again next time.
I took a picture, which I’m adding only because I forgot to take a picture of the next meal, which was actually good to look at.
The other day, my son woke up and couldn’t find any clean jeans or khakis, so he was forced to put on dress pants. He evened it out by wearing a ratty T-shirt.
WEDNESDAY Pepperoncini beef sandwiches with provolone; french fries; raw stringbeans
A swell and laughably easy meal in the slow cooker or Instant Pot.
You just dump a hunk of beef in, empty a jar of pepperoncini in with the juice, and let it cook until it’s tender. I’ve always made this dish in the slow cooker, and it comes out ready to fall apart, like pulled pork. This time, I used the “slow cook” button on the IP, which runs for four hours. It wasn’t quite done when I checked, so I pressed the button again, and let it run for another hour-and-a-half. It wasn’t shreddy, but nicely tender, so I sliced it. I think I prefer it that way. Less time probably would have worked even better.
I forgot to cut the tops off the peppers before adding them to the pot, so it was only mildly spicy.
I served the meat on ciabatta rolls with sliced provolone and horseradish sauce. Tragically, I had snacked so much before dinner, I wasn’t hungry enough to eat it. But it smelled fab-u-lous.
Stringbeans finally look decent again. Just popped the stems off and served them raw. Spring is coming, dammit. We can have juicy green things again.
THURSDAY Roasted chicken on salad; grapes
We were home for a total of about eleven minutes on Thursday, so it’s a miracle I got dinner made. I doused the chicken breasts with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and shoved them under the broiler for 25 minutes or so, then sliced it up and served it on bagged greens. Bagged greens will save the world.
FRIDAY Eggs and risotto and . . . frozen peas? Salad? Maybe green peppers?
It’s been a week without risotto so far! This aggression will not stand, man. (For more on risotto and how it alone can justify the purchase of an Instant Pot, see last week’s post.)
What’s for supper at your house? What’s the longest you can go without garlic?
Maybe you’re wondering what is the big deal about the Instant Pot. Is it really so great? Why does everyone go so cuckoo over it? Should I be worried that my spouse has bought a pair of spotless doves and is sharpening a knife?
And why does Simcha insist on making these embarrassingly chimpy images with very primitive software and a crying toddler on her lap?
I have the answer. To the first question, not the second.
It’s because of risotto.
Risotto, risotto, risotto. I love risotto with my whole heart, but it is a pain in the neck to make. Hovering over the pan, stirring, adding in a little broth, stirring, waiting, simmering, waiting, stirring, adding some more broth, stirring, waiting, and it smells divine, but your entire life is passing you by while you wait for it to be done.
In the Instant Pot, it’s easy. Truly easy, and fast. And it tastes just as good as the difficult kind. This, in itself, is a reason to own an Instant Pot. All the other stuff is bonus. Now you know!
I’m gonna come right out and tell you: we rely on Amazon for our car payments. My husband has a 1.3-hour commute, and absolutely needs a reliable car. So! Please use my links, so my husband doesn’t have to drive to work in the Instant Pot. It’s good, but it’s not that good.
And now, back to risotto.
Last Friday, we had tuna fish patties and butternut squash risotto. I used this butternut squash risotto recipe from Good Housekeeping. I used onions instead of shallots, ground sage instead of fresh, and regular old white rice instead of arborio. It was fabulous. Creamy but not mushy and packed with flavor. Amazing.
I spent a good half hour wandering around the house, taking people by the shoulders, holding them with my glittering eye and quothing at them, “Do you even realize the possibilities?” Risotto with fresh tomatoes. Risotto with bacon. Risotto with scallops or garlicky shrimp. Risotto with asparagus and gorgonzola. Risotto with lemon, mint, and peas. Risotto with hazelnuts. Risotto with saffron and fennel. I don’t even know what fennel is! But I will!
The other reason for having an Instant Pot is because venting the steam is fun. Some days, it is the most fun you will have all day.
SATURDAY Hamburgers, chips
Cousins over again. They responded very positively, with shrieking, to the idea of hamburgers and chips. So let it be written; so let it be done. I had planned sweet peppers and hummus, but there were just too many runny noses and double dippers in the population, so, in the interest of good health, we skipped the veg.
SUNDAY Chicken cutlets with basil; mushroom risotto; salad
Farewell to cousins and hello to my parents. Here is my niece with one of her favorite playthings: My father’s beard.
Damien made one of his absolute most magnificent dishes, the late lamented Deadspin’s chicken cutlets. You pound the chicken flat, bread it (Damien used panko crumbs), fry it (Damien used olive oil and butter), then top it with a fresh basil leaf and a slice of cheese (Damien used mozzarella, but provolone is great, too), and ladle some homemade tomato sauce over that.
This meal makes me go absolutely insane. It’s so good, you can’t imagine. As I ate it, I thought of starving people in the third world and then thought, “TOO BAD.” With these chicken cutlets, you could — dare I say it? Rule the world.
Also, I had some mushroom left over from last week, when I accidentally didn’t make soup. So I went with this mushroom risotto recipe from This Old Gal. This Old Gal discourages using plain old regular mushrooms, but I did it anyway, and it was good. I didn’t have fennel or parsley, so I went with sage again, and really peppered it up. Completely delicious.
MONDAY Leftovers with spaghetti
Damien had made 38 chicken cutlets, so we put the leftovers in a pan, spread the rest of the sauce over it, added a layer of sliced cheese, and warmed it up in the oven, then served it on spaghetti.
There was no leftover risotto because I devoured it for lunch.
I feel like there was salad.
TUESDAY Korean beef bowl; rice; steambed broccoli and cauliflower
I just noticed that I wrote “steambed” instead of “steamed,” but I think the “b” expresses how lightly I didn’t steam them.
It’s so easy, and it’s just spicy enough to be warming and comforting, without assailing your mouth. Wonderful use for ground beef. Also a wonderful use for immortal zombie scallions, if you happen to have any haunting your kitchen.
Oh, I thought of another advantage for the Instant Pot. InstantPot.com has plenty of useful, simple recipes, like the rice one above. It also has a slew of completely bonkers recipes that were apparently written by a malicious robot who flunked out of ESL. Here is one of my current favorites: Beer Potato Fish!
“The Beer Potato Fish would be a challenge for a non-professional cooker,” it muses, shaking its head in empathy for the old, dark days so tragically rife with amateurish attempts at beer potato fish, “But it is now a different story with Instant Pot Programmable Pressure Cooker.”
It calls for a pound of fish, some oyster flavored sauce, a cup of beer, and a tablespoon of rock candy. Doesn’t that sound tasty? It also instructs you to push the fish button, which does not exist. I suppose someone is making money off this in some way, and I kind of feel like they deserve it.
The Instant Pot had acquitted itself so well this week, I thought maybe I’d try one of the many, many pork rib recipes that are available. But then I remembered that I could also sit on the couch and tell my son how to some pork ribs in a 450 oven on a roasting rack with a little salt and pepper, and I knew they would be scrumptious. And so I did, and so they were.
If there’s a better way to prepare pork ribs, I just don’t care.
I also considered making Instant Pot mashed potatoes, but the recipes all looked more complicated than stovetop recipes. So I just went ahead and boiled them in a non-instant pot and mashed them. I left the skin on, which I almost never do. To me, this adds excitement and piquancy. To others, it’s like hanging around with that weirdo who keeps on harping on the idea that, in many regions, apple cores, corn cobs, and chicken bones are considered a delicacy.
The vegetables were that good old supermarket blend of frozen peas, carrots, corn, string beans, and lima beans. This makes me feel six years old, in a good way.
THURSDAY English muffin pizzas
Since our bishop has given us a St. Patrick’s Day dispensation to eat meat on Friday, we did our meatless meal on Thursday. Except I forgot, and had leftover Korean beef bowl for lunch. For my penance, I had massive heartburn all night, and dreamt I was endlessly editing and re-editing a blog post about best and worst dresses of the Oscars; only I had to do it on taped-together paper with sidewalk chalk and then take photos of it with a Kodak disc film camera.
So, I am all caught up on Lent.
FRIDAY Corned beef boiled dinner; Dublin coddle
So, St. Patrick is, like, the second-tier patron of our regional arch-diacistry, or something; and my husband is tremendously Irish, so we prayerfully discerned that have no choice but to eat three different kinds of meat today.
The kids love boiled dinner, so I’ll be cooking up some corned beef with red potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and adorable little onions, and serving it with gobs of mustard, as St. Patrick himself did. It’s how he drove the snakes away.