What’s for supper? Vol. 118: Everyday Gras

You will become fatter just reading this post.

SATURDAY
Grilled chicken with cranberry salad

Quick quick, gobble gobble.

I doused some chicken with olive oil, salt and pepper, and plenty of garlic powder, and broiled it, turning once, then cut it into slices. Bag o’ mixed greens, a few pouches of dried cranberries, some crumbled feta cheese, and a bag of chopped walnuts, toasted for a few minutes while the chicken was finishing up. I could eat this every day. As long as you plan ahead, it takes maybe twenty minutes to put together.

SUNDAY
Hot dogs, hot wings, terrible Russian pickles, chips, ice cream sundaes

Food fit for a superb owl.

Damien made these hot wings from Deadspin . We agreed they could have been cooked a tiny bit longer before they got sauced, to make them a little more crisp, but they were still extremely tasty. He made a big bowl of sauce with sour cream and blue cheese, which I ate with the wings, with the celery, with the hot dogs, and with anything else I could fit in my paw, one little dippy dab at a time, for the rest of the week.

We happened to stop into the Siberian Food Mart and Damien told me to pick out something nice for myself, so I chose this imposing jar of giant pickles.

Well, it took three people and a knife to get the lid off, and they tasted mostly of ammonia. Boo! We also spotted one of our kids casually hanging around on the label of a box of cocoa or something.

MONDAY
Meatloaf, baked potato, salad

Guess what tastes great on baked potatoes? BLUE CHEESE SAUCE.

My basic meatloaf recipe:
Mix together with your hands:
Five pounds of ground beef, two pounds of ground turkey
About four cups of bread crumbs
Seven beaten eggs
Maybe a cup and a half of milk.
Tons of minced garlic, salt, and pepper and whatever.

Form into two tapered loaves on a pan with some drainage. Drizzle the outside with ketchup, you with your filthy eastern ways. Put them in a 400 oven for about two hours, until it’s done all the way through.

I actually had to put it back in the oven for 25 minutes or so after I took this pic.

You can add all kinds of things to the meat mixture, of course. Minced onions, worcestershire sauce. Actually that’s all I can think of. I don’t know, maybe horseradish. You can use oatmeal instead of bread crumbs, too.

Oh, check out this potato. Check out this frickin’ potato.

This is why you support independent Catholic journalism. Who else will show you frickin’ potatoes like that? No one named Leila, that’s who.

TUESDAY
Sausage and spinach risotto; roasted balsamic vegetables

The NYT had a recipe for sausage risotto, but instead of reading it, I wung it.

In the morning, I squeezed the meat out of a few pounds of sweet Italian sausages and browned it and drained it. Then, closer to dinner time, I made a big batch of basic risotto in the Instant Pot. Here is the recipe, adapted from Good Housekeeping. I tripled the recipe, but here’s the amounts for about four servings:

1.Put some olive oil or butter into the IP, enough to coat the bottom. Add whatever spices you like, plus diced onions if you like. Use the “sauté” setting until whatever you chose is browned up and smelling nice.
2.Add two cups of uncooked rice, and keep it moving with a wooden spoon for about four minutes (longer if you use more rice, obviously), until the rice starts turning opaque. Don’t let it brown. Press “cancel.”
3.Add four cups of chicken broth or other broth, and stir the rice so it’s all submerged.
4.Lock the lid, close the valve, and set it on high pressure for six minutes.
5.When it’s done, do a quick release, then dump in so much parmesan cheese. Add pepper, and more salt if needed.

For this meal, I put the cooked, drained sausage in with the broth and let the risotto cook that way. Then, after adding the parmesan, I stirred in a few handfuls of raw baby spinach, letting the heat wilt it.

For the vegetables, I combined a pound of whole baby Brussels sprouts, one head of cauliflower florets, one cubed butternut squash, and a pound of quartered mushrooms. I spread them in a shallow pan in a single layer, then drizzled them with honey, olive oil, and red wine vinegar, rustled it up a bit, and sprinkled salt and pepper on top. Then I slid it right under a hot broiler until it was a little bit charred.

For the record, this was a completely magnificent meal. The risotto was creamy and savory; the vegetables were toothsome and sweet. I was the only one in my house who thought so. Corn flakes and frozen pizza were consumed. Too bad for them.

I also ate kind of a lot of pretzels dipped in blue cheese sauce while waiting for the Instant Pot to stop venting.

WEDNESDAY
Pulled pork sandwiches; fries

Wednesday was a snow day, and since we are having guests on the weekend, I made the kids do a lot of cleaning. One cleaned out the refrigerator. She found a small bowl of some lumpy, white substance, and she . . . threw it out. Thus was broken the thrall of blue cheese sauce over my heart.

For the pulled pork, I just chunked the meat into two slow cookers with some Narragansett beer, a lot of salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and the remains of some jars of sweet pepper rings and jalapeno peppers with the juice, and put it on low for six hours.

This meal never tastes quite as good as it smells, but it smells like a meat god has descended on your kitchen and it will be your last day on earth, so I guess a step or two down from that is okay. I served the meat with sub rolls, bottled BBQ sauce, and red onions.

I brought up the possibility of broccoli, but everyone just flapped their hands at me dismally, so I saved myself the effort.

THURSDAY
Ham and egg English muffin sandwiches

With a side of No-Choice Broccoli.

FRIDAY

Oh, wait till I tell you. A friendly priest is passing through the area, and arranged for this to be delivered:

and this:

So, I’m gonna get some beer and some French bread and make some green salad and potato salad and rice, and I believe we’re going to have a Vendredi Gras (?).

And what about you, ma fren? Do you have plans for Mardi Gras?

What’s for supper? Vol. 116: Cream of what?

Our week started off not with a bang, nor with a whimper, but with a splat. Yarr, they warr pukin’. Only a few kids started throwing up, but we figured it was only a matter of time before the upchuck duet became a whole-family vomit chorale.

The way this goes, though, is that only a few people are sick at a time; so I tried to plan the menu with meals that would be okay for people recovering from a stomach bug, food that people who were perfectly healthy wouldn’t hate, and food that, well, wasn’t red. Because. You know.

So here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Hamburgers and chips. 
This was, of course, before the plague descended and we still lived like upright men and women.

***

SUNDAY
Grilled chicken with salad

No tasty toasted nuts, no stinky cheeses, no dried fruit, no buttery, herbed croutons. Just grilled chicken on greens with cukes.

***

MONDAY
Cream of wheat, homemade applesauce

I do love filling the house with the nostalgic smell of applesauce as it slowly burbles away on the stove, but I was going to be in and out all day. So I speeded things up by using the Instant Pot . Or so I thought.

I quartered about 12 pounds of apples and cut out the stems and cores, but left the skins on, for flavor and color. Then I put the apples in the pot, filling probably 3/4 of my 8 quart IP (affiliate link!) with about a cup-and-a-half of water. I set it for eight or nine minutes, then did a quick release. There was tons of water left, so I strained that out and kept in a sipping jar, where it was lovely and dusky rose, almost like a light syrup or cider.

Then I remembered I had thrown out my trusty food mill (affiliate link!), because I never make applesauce anymore. So I dumped the apples in a colander and tried to press the applesauce through the holes while straining the peels. That didn’t work. It just made more apple juice. So I thought maybe I could put everything in a blender (affiliate link!) and just maybe blend the peels right it. Then I remembered our blender base is lost. So I put it in the standing mixer with the whisk attachment . . .

At this point, I had used six bowls, eleven pots, two jars, a colander, a blender, a spoon, a spatula, two saucepans, a defibrillator, a whisk, a miniature postage scale, one mug, four duck eggs, and a centrifuge  we got at a rummage sale (affiliate link!).

. . . I put it in the standing mixer bowl, I say, with the whisk attachment, and let it go. Believe it or not, this worked, sort of. The whisk gathered in most of the peels and trapped them inside itself, leaving beautiful pink fragrant applesauce for my poor sick children. I stirred in a bit of butter and some cinnamon. I took the whisk and retreated to my bed, where I ate all the hot peels because I was feeling sad.

We also had cream of wheat.

***

TUESDAY
French toast casserole. 

I had purposely bought lots of extra bread. I didn’t follow a recipe, but just tore up a few loaves, then beat up a bunch of eggs and milk, added sugar and vanilla, stirred the egg stuff into the bread, put it in a buttered pan, sprinkled sugar and cinnamon on top, and baked it at 350 for 25 minutes or so. They ate a bit of it, the little bastards.

***

WEDNESDAY
Beef barley soup, hot pretzels

Beef barley soup would not be a lot of fun to clean up if someone threw it up, but at least it’s not a cream soup. I was in a hurry, so I chunked everything in at once: Cubed beef, diced carrots and onions, salt, pepper, minced garlic, olive oil. A little browning, then I added a whole lot of beef broth, somewhat less red wine, a few cans of diced tomatoes and juice, and a bunch of sliced mushrooms. Then I let it simmer on the “slow cook” setting of the Instant Pot.

When it was almost supper, I opened it, added in a pouch of mixed grains (I think it was barley, spelt, farro, and bunk, and fwap) and set the IP to “high” for eleven minutes. Just totally winging it. I don’t know how to use that thing. It cooked the soup.

***

THURSDAY
At this point, I noticed that nobody had really gotten sick. Just a couple of jerks throwing up early on for no reason at all. We had chicken burgers and mashed potatoes and frozen vegetables. They made snowmen with the mashed potatoes. What did I care?

***

FRIDAY
I suppose mac and cheese. I have to return that defibrillator I borrowed, though.

Image: By myself (Picture of a wallpainting in a Laotian monastery) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

What’s for supper? Vol. 115: If you believe in yourself, you can bibimbap.

I still want to talk about food.

Here’s what we had this week, with hardly any pictures, because I used my son’s camera for most of them, and he’s . . . somewhere.

SATURDAY
Oh, I don’t know. Hamburgers. Yes. 

***

SUNDAY
Bibimbap

When Benny was little, she used to call herself “Bem,” and so we did, too. Then I became aware there was a ubiquitous Korean dish called “bibimbap,” or “bibembop.” So we started calling her “Bem-bop.” Then we became aware there is a Japanese anime character called “Bem, the Human Monster.”

So  . . . . well, we were at the pediatrician’s for a well-child visit, and the doctor says, “I have a theory about the youngest child of big families. Does little Benny have a strange, complicated nickname?” And we had to confess that, yes, we call her “Bem-Bem-Bop, the Human Monster.” There’s a little tune, too.

Anyway, bibimbap (rice with meat and vegetables) is amazing. It’s fantastic. It’s the strongest it’s the quickest it’s the best! It’s one of those dishes that you can make with whatever elements you like, more or less. You’re supposed to have a stone bibimbap bowl, too (Affiliate link!), so you can serve it up in one big dish and keep it warm on the table. Apparently the rice on the bottom gets crunchy over time, which sounds lovely.

Our kids are much more likely to eat new dishes if they can pick and choose what goes into them, so I set out bowls and plates of ingredients, and everyone got some rice in their own bowl, added whatever they wanted, and then lined up for their fried egg topper.

I used up the rest of that lovely expensive rice we had for our New Year’s Eve sushi party and set out bowls of the following:
pickled carrots and pickled cukes (in the morning, I sliced them as thin as possible and set them in a jar with white vinegar and a few tablespoons of sugar, and they were quick-pickled by dinner time), raw bean sprouts, and spinach sauteed in olive oil and a little sesame oil. OH I’M SO FANCY. Oh, and sauteed mushrooms, too. I didn’t buy tree ears or any crazy Asian mushrooms, just regular buttons. And some sesame seeds and soy sauce.

I looked through recipes for meat, and they didn’t look great, so I went ahead and made gochujang pork again. I just sliced it up thin and let it marinate overnight, then fried it up at dinner time.

I also made some cheater’s kimchi. My source (oh no, I didn’t name her! Now I’m all discredited and whatnot!) says bibimbap isn’t really a kimchi dish; but on the other hand, bibimbap is whatever you like. So I made the fake kimchi. This is pure white lady food, and I don’t care who knows it. I squeezed out about a cup of sauerkraut, added some gochujang (chili paste) and some sambal oelek (also chili paste) (fine, I have no idea what the difference is. See: white lady), minced garlic from a jar, and squeeze ginger from a bottle.

So everyone got a big scoop of rice in their bowl, then piled whatever they wanted on top, and then got a fried egg with a runny yolk on top. So good.

SO GOOD.

And here, my friends, is a picture of Bem-Bem-Bop eating Bibimbap.

Ain’t she cute?  I got her that hat at the Salvation Army and she wears it all day long.

***
MONDAY
Onion soup; bacon cheese garlic bread

I usually make a very simple French onion soup using Fannie Farmer’s recipe. It does take a long darn time to caramelize all those onions, but I had heard you could do it quickly in, you’ll never guess, the Instant Pot (Affiliate link!)

I used these directions from Serious Eats, which explain the science behind what happens. You saute the onions in the open pot first, with butter, salt, and a pinch of baking soda (“Baking soda raises the pH of the mixture, which speeds up the rate of the Maillard reaction,” it says, and I believe it), then close the lid and cook it on high pressure for 2o minutes, then vent the steam. Then you open it and cook it some more while stirring until the liquid boils off.

The recipe says the onions will then be “ready to be piled on your burger, stuffed into your grilled cheese, added to your stews or sauces or gravies, spooned over your steak.” I guess? But it was basically pulp. It tasted wonderful, amazingly sweet and rich, but I don’t see how you could pile them on anything. It certainly didn’t save any time or labor, overall. Overall, I rate this technique an M for “meh.”

Anyway, I just added a bunch of beef broth, pepper, and parmesan and piled the soup into bowls. It was tasty.

One of the kids had been begging for onion soup (and I don’t want to believe it was only to annoy her sister, who hates and fears onions), but I knew we’d have a riot if I served it without meat. So I went with this ridiculous bacon bread stuff. You split loaves of french bread in half lengthwise, make it into long loaves of garlic bread, and toast it slightly (I SAID SLIGHTLY! Aw, dammit). Then mix together ranch dressing, shredded cheddar, and crumbled bacon, spread that on the bread, and put it back in the oven to melt the cheese. I burned the hell out of it, but they gobbled it up anyway.

***

TUESDAY
Scrambled eggs, sausage, harsh browns

This was supposed to be omelettes, but I just didn’t have enough life force, so it was just one big pan of eggs.

***

WEDNESDAY
Roast chicken drumsticks, mushroom risottto, salad

Small resurgence of life force. Not having made omelettes the day before, I had a bunch of mushrooms. So I sliced them and sauteed them in olive oil with diced red onions and minced garlic, salt and sage. Then I followed this reliable risotto recipe for the Instant Pot (skipping the butternut squash). It turned out great! Mushrooms and risotto get along so well, and sage was a good choice.

***

THURSDAY
Pizza

Burned the hell out of it.

***

FRIDAY
Spaghetti and meatballs

I have no idea why I wrote meatballs. I’m not making meatballs.

Happy Friday to all, even you rat bastards!

What’s for supper? Vol. 113: Just pretty much all the food. All of it.

First a prayer request: My father is in the hospital, waiting for heart surgery. He’ll have a triple bypass, or possibly a quadruple bypass, on Tuesday. We’re very glad this surgery is available, and have high hopes he’ll start feeling better than he has in a long time once he’s recovered; but of course the recovery is long and hard, especially since he is 75 and has other medical issues. He lives alone, close to where my mother’s nursing home, but an hour or more away from all his children, so the logistics are a little daunting.
Thank you!

And now the food! We ate so much ridiculously good food this past week:

SATURDAY

Gosh, this seems like so long ago. Saturday we went ice skating and came home to have hot chocolate, popcorn, and grilled ham and cheese. Corrie was very very enthusiastic about skating and won all the races.

I did a lot of skating with Benny, until the moment came when I leaned too hard on the skating frame and it collapsed. Le sigh.

***

SUNDAY
New Year’s Eve. We pretty much ate all the food that is available to the known universe. 

Some friends sent a huge, spectacular hamper packed with luxurious treats, so we hauled out all the various tea sets you accumulate when you have eight daughters, and had a sort of rolling English tea party. Tragically, I forgot to take pictures of my own, but you must take my word for it that it was fancy beyond all reason:

If you don’t have extraordinarily generous friends who send you luxury hampers, I recommend getting some right away.

While everyone continued feasting and being fancy, my husband casually strolled into the kitchen to prepare, you know, a little sauteed scallops topped with shredded duck and Hollandaise sauce.This photo miserably fails to capture how rich and sumptuous this dish is.

If you don’t have a husband who likes to casually stroll into the kitchen and make your dreams come true, I recommend getting one right away.

This dish is not an obvious combination of flavors, but it makes so much sense once you’re shoveling it into your mouth.I thought duck would be more or less like dark turkey meat, but it’s really almost closer to lamb. So good. A wonderful meal for a special treat. (Aldi has both duck and scallops on sale every so often!)

And now the sushi! Yes, we had a sushi party on the same day as our English tea and our duckstravaganza. It made sense at the time.

First, I bought good rice and several packages of nori, soy sauce, rice vinegar, wasabi, pickled ginger, a little jar of roe, tuna steaks that were frozen at sea, some seared and seasoned tuna, canned salmon for the sissies, fake crab legs, toasted sesame seeds, avocados, mangos, carrots, cucumbers, and chop sticks, which we forgot to use.

I bought a sack of Nishiki rice, which is just gorgeous, like mother of pearl. It is expensive, but definitely worth it for a treat. I used the sushi rice recipe in this post (after skimming, with growing horror, through numerous other recipes that discussed whether it was more auspicious to rinse the rice 54 or 128 times before cooking), except I didn’t use quite that much salt. I cooked six cups of raw rice in the Instant Pot, which makes good sticky rice.

While the rice was cooking, I peeled the carrots into strips and pickled them, and we stirred some hot sauce into some mayo, and sliced the tuna as thin as I could, and the kids helped prep the avocados, mangoes, and cucumbers. It was all so lovely.

Now that I have ramekins, I use them all the time. Ramekins!

When the rice was done, I carefully sprinkled the vinegar mixture over it (I sextupled the recipe, but didn’t need that much) and then Benny’s moment of glory came: She used her special gold lace fan to vigorously fan the rice while I carefully turned it:

I guess you fan it to evaporate the vinegar, so the rice takes on the flavor without getting mushy. It worked!

We couldn’t find the rolling mat, so we opted for sushi cones, where you break a panel of nori in half, set the rice and fillings on one side, and roll it up diagonally. It took a while to get the hang of it, and they were not dainty, but on the other hand, NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM.

We kept the rice covered while everyone took turns building their sushi cones.  A few variations:

It was fantastic. Just about everyone found some combination to their liking. Some of the kids skipped the nori altogether, and made deconstructed sushi; some of them just used rice and vegetables; some of them (okay, me) just parked themselves in front of the tray and systematically worked through eleven different combinations.

We’re doing this every New Year’s Eve from now on. What ingredients would you add?

***

MONDAY
Birthday! Baby New Year turned twelve and requested calzones. 

To make twelve calzones, I used three balls pizza dough divided into fourths, then made the cheese filling (this was more than enough):

32 oz ricotta
3-4 cups shredded mozzarella
3/4 cup parmesan
1 Tbs garlic powder
2 tsp oregano

1 tsp salt

I stretched the dough portions into the size of small plates, then added a ball of cheese mixture, plus whatever fillings were requested. I folded the dough over and pinched the ends tightly shut, then pressed the calzone to spread out the filling evenly.

We greased two baking trays with shortening and sprinkled them with corn meal, laid the calzones on (with a few inches in between, as they puff up), and brushed the with egg yolk beaten with a little water.

I baked them at 450 for — okay, I don’t remember how long. Maybe 15 minutes?

 

Then we served them with ramekins (ramekins!) of hot marinara sauce for dipping.

We made this one-bowl chocolate cake recipe. I didn’t taste it, as chocolate is a huge migraine trigger, but it looked pretty good. Decorations courtesy of the 90% off shelf after Halloween. I’m a saver.

We made chocolate frosting with a recipe on the side of the cocoa powder can. I think it was just shortening (we had run out of butter!), chocolate, and powdered sugar.

My son took a few pictures of his sister blowing out her candles, and then Google helpfully and spontaneously merged them into this horrifying glimpse into the spirit realm of birthdays:

I don’t want to know what that creature wished for.

***

TUESDAY
Chicken enchiladas and beans and rice

One of the college girls offered to make chicken enchiladas before she flies away again. They were so good. She used boneless chicken thighs with Pioneer Woman’s recipe,   and made thirty nice enchilada longbois, some red and some green.

I made some quickie beans and rice. Cooked up a few cups of rice and added a can of black beans and a can of chili kidney beans, drained, a can of Ro-Tel tomatoes, some jarred jalapenos, and a bunch of cumin, chili powder, and salt.

***

WEDNESDAY
Pork ramen

We just had this, but I like it. I browned up some boneless pork ribs in olive oil, then sliced them thin, and then I cooked up some frozen stir fry veggies in the pork pan. I made a dozen or so soft-boiled eggs in the Instant Pot. The trick is to do a quick release after cooking, then dunk them in ice water, and then shells slide right off, almost in one piece. Not necessarily easier than using the stove, but a good trick if the stove is in use or if you really want unblemished whites.

 

I served a big pot of cheap ramen and let people choose pork, veggies, and eggs, plus sesame seeds, hot sauce, soy sauce, and chopped scallions.

Do you make fancy ramen? What do you add? I like this meal, but would like some more variety in the add-ins.

***

THURSDAY
French toast?

I am not sure. We had a pretty good storm going, and school was cancelled, but we got the news in the morning that my dad was going to need heart surgery, and was going to meet with the surgeons on this day.

So Damien and I rolled slowly north through the storm to the hospital while the kids managed at home. We had a good visit (the only thing my father requested was The Odyssey, Fagles translation) and I like the surgeon.

We thought we’d have to spend the night, but the snow slowed down toward evening, so we pushed ahead to get home, stopping only for Five Guys, because where else would you go on your way home from a visit to the cardiology wing?

I know this isn’t the popular opinion, but while their fries were quite good, I thought the burgers were just okay. The meat was kind of mealy, and the buns were just too greasy to be enjoyable. Huge portions, though. You can see that I am not complaining.

Then we trundled the rest of the way home through the last of the storm, and Damien installed me on the couch with a lot of red wine and The Big Lebowski. 

***

FRIDAY
I think we are having beef stew.

We’ll say an extra decade of the rosary because it’s Friday, but I have this big hunk of beef going unheeded in the fridge, and it has been quite a week.

QUITE A WEEK. Here is a picture of my dad from this summer, talking (possibly about the Declaration of Independence) with my brother Joe:

My father’s name is Phil, if you’d care to mention him in your prayers! Thank you.

So you got an Instant Pot for Christmas

Congratulations! You’re the new owner of a gorgeous, gleaming, rather intimidating Instant Pot.

It can be a little overwhelming at first. Not to worry! There’s an entire community of seasoned Instant Potheads who are ready and willing to guide you through your first few recipes.

A few of the most commonly asked questions are easy to answer. For instance:

Q. Why is there steam coming out?
A. Because you left the steam valve open.

Q. Why does my machine say “BURN?”
A. Because it is burning.

Q. All the recipes say to press the “pressure level” button, but I can’t find it anywhere on my machine!
A. This is because your otherwise intelligent husband has bought you a slow cooker for Christmas.

So those are the basics. Here are a few more advanced issues you might find yourself tussling with as you become more familiar with your new device:

Q. I’ve just made a savory dish with lots of onion, garlic, and cumin, and I want to make rice custard next. Will the silicone ring pick up the smells and transfer them to other foods?

A. If you have an IP Chachacha-9000, no, it will not. Your IPC9K is equipped with Olfactogard™ technology, which negates smell molecules by harnessing the power of snozz. You should be able to move seamlessly from meat to custard and back again, just like when you were young.

If you’re concerned, though, simply remove the original ring and stuff a sock up in there (black is best, but you know your tastes) and proceed as normal.

Q. Where is the best place to store my Instant Pot?

A. You can store it anywhere. Some folks may worry that leaving an Instant Pot on the stovetop is inviting disaster, and that one careless knock of the stove dial may melt your expensive new appliance into oblivion before you even realize what’s happening, but this is largely an urban legend. You’re different, and this will never, ever happen to you.

Q. I know the Instant Pot works by building up pressure under a tight seal, but it’s so hard to let my food cook without checking on it. Can’t I just take a little peek?

A Oh, you scamp! Of course you can.  Just make it quick and no one will know the difference. Make sure you put your face nice and close so you don’t miss anything.

 

Q. My Instant Pot is dented, but it appears to be only on the outside. Is it still safe?

A. Maybe, or maybe not. The exterior housing is largely to for structural, hygienic, and aesthetic purposes, but there may be interior damage that’s not obvious at first.

Test it for soundness by situating your IP with the dent facing away from you. Tap it lightly with a wooden spoon, listen for an echo, tap again, give it a gentle shake, then casually knock it onto the floor as if by accident, and then suddenly let loose, jumping on it a few times while sobbing, “You bastard! You bastard! I never shoulda trusted you, but I’m just too soft, that’s what’s wrong with me!” Then throw it out the window, pick your way over the broken glass, get in your van, and run over it a few times while the mailman watches with his mouth hanging open. Open the cover and whisper into your Instant Pot, “I’m just too soft, that’s all,” and shake your head while your nose runs into your apron pocket.

Pick up your Instant Pot and carefully examine the condensation collector at the base. If it appears to be misaligned, your IP is probably not safe to use.

Q. Can I do canning in my Instant Pot?

A. Yes, sure, because everyone wants canned food.

***
Because I’m not entirely heartless, here is a layman’s guide by Lisa Love with some actual good advice for newbies. Good luck, you crazy kids.

What’s for supper? Vol. 112: Salvation is from the jus

Where would we be without the jus?

***

SATURDAY
Aldi pizza

Saturday was the kindergartener’s birthday party. Every other year, she’s requested either a Spiderman party or a Frozen party. This year, she wanted both. The house was already pretty hemmed in with Christmas decorations, so we limited ourselves to a birthday tree

 

here pictured with limited edition Zooming Spiderman; and a snowflake web cake.

I call this cake “You Too Can Learn To Live With a Familiar Tremor.”
The pretty child was pleased.

I had a brilliant idea for an activity: Stained glass cookies. My oldest made this reliable no-chill sugar cookie dough before hand, and the guests had fun sorting and smashing Jolly Ranchers. I recommend triple bagging the candy before smashing it.

For these cookies, roll the dough fairly thick, then use your largest cookie cutters to cut shapes, and then use a smaller one (or a small-necked bottle) to punch out holes in the cookies. Then fill the holes with smashed Jolly Ranchers and bake the cookies on parchment paper. Here’s a pic from a previous year:

One guest was allergic to wheat, so she used the larger bits of Jolly Ranchers and arranged them on parchment paper around wooden skewers. We baked these in a low oven until they were melted and then let them dry, and they made pretty, if blobby, lollipops.

AND THAT’S IT. NO MORE BIRTHDAYS FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR. (We do have a birthday January first, but NO MORE THIS YEAR.)

***

SUNDAY
Hot dogs, chips

I had to do the Saturday shopping on Sunday, so hot dogs it warr.

***

MONDAY
Chicken cranberry pecan salad

This salad is supposed to have greens topped with grilled chicken, dried cranberries, toasted pecans, chunks of green apple, and blue cheese or feta cheese, plus a sweet vinaigrette of some kind. I forgot the cheese and the dressing and was too tired to cut up apples, so it was a little blah.

I cooked the chicken in the Instant Pot, I think 6 minutes of high pressure. I just chucked them in with a bunch of lemon juice. This produced chicken that was definitely cooked, yes it was. Oh well, not my finest hour. Moving along.

***

TUESDAY
Korean beef bowl and rice

Still a winner. I used less brown sugar than the recipe calls for, and had a heavy hand with the ginger. Both improvements.

I served it over rice with chopped scallions and sesame seeds.

***

WEDNESDAY
French dip sandwiches, baked potatoes, salad

This meal was the high point of the week. Honestly, it was only medium high. Not bad, but not the joyous mouth festival I was anticipating.

I used This Old Gal’s recipe, which calls for pepperoncini, beef broth, and Italian dressing seasoning packets. I don’t normally buy seasoning packets — just a random bit of snobbery, nothing to see here — but I didn’t have the emotional strength to look for a different recipe.

The meat obligingly shredded at the mere touch of a fork (if you like shredded meat, the IP is unsurpassable).

 

I toasted rolls, and actually toasted them, instead of burning them. I had my sandwich with lots of horseradish sauce and Swiss cheese, but some chose provolone or pepper jack.

 

Fancily, I dished out the dipping juice in ramekins I got at a yard sale. Sadly, Corrie heard “jus” and drew the wrong conclusions. When she found out it was meat juice, she got over her disappointment quickly and then just went ahead and drank meat juice out her special cup. She’s flexible.

I like this meal, but I think next time beef is on sale, I’ll skip the pepperoncini and just make it savory instead of spicy, maybe using red wine and onions along with beef broth.

There is way more juice than you can possibly use for dipping sandwiches, so I’m not saying you have to crumble your baked potato into the juice and eat it that way, but you might, rabbit. You might.

In closing: “au jus” means “with juice.” You can not serve “au jus” with your sandwiches, unless you also intend to ask for another scoop of “alamode” with your pie. Get it together, America. These are the things that separate us from the animals.

***

THURSDAY
Fancy ramen

I sauteed boneless pork ribs in a pan and then, once they had cooled a bit, I sliced them thin. Then I used the same pan to cook up some mixed frozen stir fry vegetables. Another pot for ramen, and another pot to boil some eggs. I’ve made this entire meal in the Instant Pot, but that’s a lot of putting in and taking out, and nobody wants that at 6 p.m. on a Thursday when you still haven’t bought stocking stuffers.

We had crunchy noodles, scallions, a few sesame seeds, and hot sauce to sprinkle on top. A very satisfying meal for cheap.

***

FRIDAY
Spaghetti

A placeholder meal while I gather strength for the next few days. I keep telling myself I’m feeling better, or at least not getting sicker, but it’s a lurty die. Anyway, alllll my kids are home, Damien has an honest-to-goodness vacation this year, I managed to get some outdoor lights up to make the house look classy

(and discovered you can buy a light timer for $10!) and knocked just about everything else off my Christmas to-do list.

Our Christmas food tradition is a breakfast of cinnamon buns, bacon ($3.33 a pound for bits and pieces, which I actually prefer), grapes, pomegranates, orange juice, and egg nog; and a dinner of — well, there is an excellent Chinese restaurant 3/4 of a mile down the road, and I got nothing to prove.

Egg nog was, like, a dollar an ounce, so we’re making our own this year. Check it out: According to Serious Eats,

A team of microbiologists at Rockefeller University, in what sounds like a late-night-at-the-holiday-party-inspired bit of good science, proved that, at least in lab conditions, given an alcohol content of 20%, eggnog comes out the other end completely sterile after just 24 hours of resting. That’s cleaner than eggnog bought in sealed cartons from the supermarket.

The article above also concludes that egg nog does not actually taste better if you deliberately leave it in the fridge for a year before drinking it. Science!

And I guess that’s it from me until after Christmas! A merry and blessed Christmas to you, my friends. Don’t forget the jus.

What’s for supper? Vol. 111: Make America grate again

I have a doctor’s note that says I don’t have to write a pointless introduction today. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips

Aldi was out of those wonderful sourdough loaves, so we had our sandwiches on ordinary bread. It was sadder than I expected. Thank goodness there were pickles.

***

SUNDAY
Pork gyros

New recipe!  Pork gryos from the New York Times. And it’s a doozy. I found myself standing in the kitchen on a Sunday morning, still in my pajamas, and grating a tomato. Worth it. (I had purposely bought large, firm tomatoes for this recipe.) The marinade (olive oil, lemon juice, grated onion and grated tomato, minced garlic, paprika, salt and pepper, and fresh oregano leaves) on its own is extremely delicious, and would not be out of place as bruschetta topping.

So you slice the pork shoulder thin, marinate it, add a quartered onion, and roast the meat and onion in a shallow, oiled pan at 450 for 40 minutes or so. When it was close to being done, I took a rocking knife and broke it up a bit, then put it back in the oven, and then used the broiler toward the end to crisp it up a bit. I wish I had sliced it even thinner so it roasted up a little more crisply, but we were too hungry to keep messing with it. It was fantastic.

I gave the kids plain pita bread, because I’m lazy, but Damien browned up a few pitas in olive oil for the two of us. Lordy. I served it with triangles of cucumber, grape tomatoes, crisp french fries, hot sauce, and a basic yogurt sauce (Greek yogurt with lots of minced garlic, lemon juice, and a little salt). If you’re somehow not familiar with gyros, you wrap everything, even the french fries, up in the warm pita bread

and just cram in into your face.  You look at your husband, who is doing the same, and you just nod wordlessly at each other as you chew. Gyros.

I think the NYT recipe is locked, but really all you need to know is the marinade ingredients for 2.5 pounds of pork shoulder:

  •  Juice of 2 lemons
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 medium-size tomato
  • 2 medium-size yellow onions, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon smoked or sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, approximately 5 sprigs

One onion is for the marinade, and the other gets quartered and added to the meat when you cook it. Next time, I’ll get more fresh oregano to sprinkle on top, or maybe some mint leaves. I made a double recipe, which was juuuuuust enough for everyone.

***

 

MONDAY
Roasted kielbasa, cabbage, red potato, cauliflower

Everyone except my husband likes this dish. I was extremely hungry while shopping, and this head of cauliflower looked amazing to me (?), so I cut that up and added it to the mix. It wasn’t mind-blowing, but it wasn’t out of place, either. I love the texture of roasted cauliflower, as long as I’m not required to pretend it’s rice or pizza dough or some friggin thing.

Here’s the recipe from Budget Bytes. Cheap, tasty, and very easy to prep right before dinner time, and it’s a true one-pan meal. I like the sauce, but reduce the amount of oil by quite a bit.

This is an old picture, sans cauliflower, plus parsley. I remember being very proud of that parsley.

***

TUESDAY
Beef barley soup

In this topsy turvey world in which we live in, steak is cheaper than stewing beef, so I got a few pounds of steak. Cubed it and sautéed it gently in the Instant Pot with a little olive oil, a diced onion, a tablespoon or more of minced garlic, a few diced carrots, and oregano and fresh pepper. When the meat was brown, I added three small (15 oz?) cans of tomatoes with the juice, about eight cups of beef broth, and about 15 oz of sliced mushrooms. When the vegetable were all soft, I added some more water, about a cup of red wine, and about a cup of barley, and gave that a little boil until the barley was soft (probably half an hour or more).

I like adding wine toward the end of soup-making, so you can really taste it. That may be uncouth, but I like it. Also, I kept eating this soup for lunch for the rest of the week, and the barley and the broth just kept improving.

It was the first night of Hanukkah, so I planned to make potato latkes, but it turned out that doing the Advent wreath, the Jesse tree, and the menorah was enough to keep me busy on a Tuesday night, so we had bread and butter.

***

WEDNESDAY
English muffin pizzas, salad

I have no memory of Wednesday. Something about cheese.

***

THURSDAY
Chicken burgers, tater tots

I actually took a nap before supper, and then decided someone who was that tired could legitimately be excused from making another salad.

***

FRIDAY
I think mac and cheese?

There’s no end of cheese in the house from various dinners, so I’ll use this yummy and reliable recipe from Copy Kat for Instant Pot mac and cheese. If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll put it in a casserole dish and add some buttered bread crumbs on top.

And it’s my birthday! I’m 43. I’m sitting here on the couch sharing a blanket with my curly-headed toddler, watching Masha and the Bear, still feeling nicely full from the special breakfast my husband made me before he left for work, and looking forward to presents and cheesecake tonight. Muy contento. We’re super busy this weekend, so I’m gonna request a birthday outing in January to see the Winslow Homer oil exhibit in Worcester. Eeee!

What’s for supper? Vol. 109: When bad things happen to good pots

After years of training, self-discipline, and habit of forcing my will do to things that make no sense, are utterly uncalled-for, and should be shot in the face, I went shopping for more food on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Then I cooked it. But I didn’t like it!

Little did I know, the post-Thanksgiving malaise was a mere nothing compared to the stark onslaught of tragedy ahead. [The following post contains images that may be disturbing to some viewers.]

Here’s what happened:

SATURDAY
Pepperoncini beef sandwiches and chips

A delicious meal, and so fast. If you are on the fence about buying an Instant Pot for Christmas, listen to this:

I got home from shopping at 5:00. About seven minutes later, I had chopped a four-pound round roast in half, put it in the pot, and dumped in a jar of pepperoncini with the juice, and set it to cook. By 6:28, the meat was tender and ready to shred with forks.

I served it on crusty rolls with sliced provolone and horseradish sauce. No dishes except the one pot. Didn’t turn on the oven or the stove. Pressed some buttons and went to lie down until supper was ready. Everyone liked it. I was practically wriggling in delight to be using my IP again! It had been out of commission for a few weeks because I lost the steam release handle, and the replacement took forever to come. But it finally came!

Little did I know how quickly that spicy beef would turn bittersweet in my memories. Or something. You see, my friends, I didn’t put my Instant Pot away. I left it, in fact, on the stovetop. The child who cleaned the stove somehow bumped the stove dial. It turned on. We all wondered what that burning smell was. We thought maybe it was the lamp in the living room.

It was not.

Yep, that’s the base of my beloved Instant Pot. I know it’s real life, but I haven’t processed it yet. Meat cooks quickly, but grief comes slow.

But I know you’re not gonna say, “That’s why you should never leave appliances on the stove top.” I know you’re not gonna say it.

***

SUNDAY
Hamburgers and chips

Damien made the burgers. They were good.

***

MONDAY
Mismatched chicken salad

Without my Instant Pot, I was forced to roast the chicken in the oven like a brute cave-dweller. I had some pomegranates I forgot to serve at Thanksgiving, so I thought they’d make a nice salad topping, along with the leftover walnuts I’d been hoarding. But then I got some overripe tomatoes involved, so I don’t know what kind of salad this was.

We had cucumbers and some kind of raspberry vinaigrette dressing, which gave me a mild allergic reaction, much to the kid’s amusement. Well, I guess they were partly laughing at me for going ahead and finishing the salad anyway. There were walnuts at the bottom!

***

TUESDAY
Bagel, egg, and sausage sandwiches

Always a crowd pleaser. Fried eggs, round sausages, everything bagels, and cheese if you can find it. I didn’t burn the bagels, either, which means that Cardinal Burke was right.

***

WEDNESDAY
Filipino pork adobo on rice; roasted balsamic Brussels sprouts and carrots

Two new recipes on Wednesday; two!! One was a bit of a disappointment, one was a pleasant surprise. The punch line is, even if they had both turned out well, they didn’t belong in the same meal together. Oh, well.

I tried this Filipino pork adobo recipe from Salu Salo. It was certainly easy, fast, and cheap, but the sauce turned out gray and soupy, rather than a rich, glossy chestnut, like in the picture; and the flavor was a mite harsh. I might actually make it again, but maybe adding vegetables in to mitigate the strong flavor of the sauce. I ended up cooking the meat in the slow cooker at the end, it was quite tender.

Oh, I happened to grab some sriracha-flavored toasted sesame seeds (I’m just linking because I’m an Amazon hound. I did not pay $11.99 for 3.5 oz. of sesame seeds!) so I sprinkled those on top of the meat and rice. I’m not crazy about sriracha in general, but these little crunchy kicks of heat were a nice addition to the meal, and would do a lot to perk up, say, plain steamed broccoli.

My post-Thanksgiving funk prevented me from planning a suitable side dish. Brussels sprouts were on sale, and we had a lot of baby carrots which I keep buying so I will eat them instead of fruit snacks. So I did a quick ingredient search and found this recipe from Damn Delicious. It was so good! Sweet, with tons of flavor. I didn’t have cranberries, but I may buy some to make this recipe again. It would definitely make a better side dish for something not southeast asian.

Not a ravishing photo, but you get the idea. Sweet, charred veggies with a little crunch left in them. Mmwah.

***

THURSDAY
Pizza

And we had to cut it with scissors. Everybody’s against me.

***

FRIDAY
I guess pasta. 

Now tell me something good.

What’s for supper? Vol. 100: Same as it ever was

Once, an single young man tried to persuade me that NFP was bad because you might not be able to have sex on Valentine’s Day. He had me there.

Along not-really-similar lines, here we are at this momentous occasion of my one hundredth “What’s for Supper?” post, and I’m just marking it by telling you what we had for supper. Hey, at least I know what day it is. I even put on this special potholder just for you.

SATURDAY
Grilled ham, apple, and cheddar sandwiches on sourdough bread; pickles; chips

It was so good last week, we had it again.

The pickles, sadly, were not Siberian this time.

***

SUNDAY
BBQ Korean pork ribs with rice and nori, roast broccoli, strawberries

I made a marinade with about 3/4 cup of gochujang, 1/3 cup of honey, 2 Tbs sugar, 2 Tbs soy sauce, and a bunch of minced garlic (which I’ve started buying in jars), mixed in some sliced onions, and let the meat sit and dream beautiful dreams about the future all day. Then my husband cooked the meat over the coals, and there was rejoicing.

I cut the broccoli into small pieces, mixed them up with olive oil, pepper, a little soy sauce, and sesame seeds, and put them in a shallow pan in a hot oven for twelve minutes or so, until it was a little blackened at the tips. Sesame oil is better, but I was out.

The rice was from the Instant Pot, using the 1:1 method. I prefer the Instant Pot if you want the rice a little sticky but are too cheap to spring for good rice. I ate as much pork as I could manage, then made a roll out of seaweed, rice, and the spicy onions. Hot damn.

***

MONDAY
Honey mustard chicken thighs with red potatoes and broccoli 

I actually didn’t have any honey left after the Korean pork (a worthy sacrifice), so I made sauce with a little maple syrup and brown sugar, plus dijon mustard, lemon juice, olive oil, and whatever, salt and pepper and garlic powder or something.

Probably I should have mixed the sauce with the potato wedges, then added the meat and seasoned it separately, and then added the broccoli near the end of the cooking, but I just tossed it all up together and put it in a greased pan and cooked it at 425 for about forty minutes. It turned out fine. The broccoli soaked up a lot of the sauce, which made it damp but tasty. Not bad at all.

I have a strong memory of taking pictures of this dish — the crisp chicken skin was especially pretty in the last dying light of afternoon — but I have no idea where they went.

***

TUESDAY
Egg-in-toast, grapes

So nice. Such a reassuring food. Use plenty of butter.

***

WEDNESDAY
Nachos

I says to my kids, I says, Someday you’re going to grow up and begin your own life and form new relationships, and then someone’s going to give you a tray of actual nachos, and you’re going to be very angry at me.

Just chips, ground beef, and pepper jack cheese. I bought sour cream, but it got pushed to the back of the fridge and froze. We had salsa, but it got pushed to the back of the fridge, and then it worked its way back up to the front, where it presented itself as fresh. IT WAS NOT. It was fermented. I spent the next three hours going “Phbbbbblehhh.”

***

THURSDAY
Spaghetti with sausage, salad

Just jarred sauce with hot sausage, peppers, and onions added in.

Everyone was hungry, so it went over well.

***

FRIDAY
Chicken shawarma and pita

It’s Friday, but it’s also CLARA’S BIRTHDAY! And when the birthday girl wants shawarma on Friday, she gets shawarma on Friday. She will also eventually get presents. Amazon Prime ain’t what it used to be.

Clara, however, will always be this:

in my head, anyway.

What’s for supper? Vol. 97: Beautiful schlopp

Hold the cherry.

SATURDAY
Steak and pear salad, rolls, fruit cobbler and ice cream

Well, steak was still on sale, and I’m not made of stone. My husband heavily seasoned and perfectly grilled the meat over the coals

and then sliced it up, and I put together mixed greens, scallions, blue cheese, and sliced red pears.

It’s so good, you can’t imagine. A little fresh pepper and a vinaigrette on top. Damn.

I got some snowflake rolls from the supermarket, and the shopping turn kid wanted rhubarb pie, but I guess rhubarb is over for the year. Instead, we got strawberries, blueberries, and peaches

and made a basic cobbler, to be topped with vanilla ice cream. Cobbler, if you recall, is very easy to make.

Well, we ended up having ice cream with hot, delicious fruit schlopp ladled over it. Oh well. It tasted good, even if it was completely formless. It’s a swell combination of fruits, perfect for late summer. I SAID “LATE SUMMER.” Not fall. Back off, man.

We did run 5k on Sunday for the first time!

It felt fantastic. Since then, with school and no babysitters, we’ve been fitting in shorter runs in the evening, which is far, far less exhilarating; especially, as most people wouldn’t have to learn the hard way, if you accidentally eat a drippy pork carnita with sour cream forty minutes before you head out. See: Wednesday.

***

SUNDAY
Burgers and hot dogs, chips, brownies

This was supposed to be our traditional end-of-summer “head out with a giant bag of candy and swim at the pond all day long and never, ever, ever have to go home until we want to” day, but kids were throwing up. So we just cooked stuff on the grill. We had brownies even though people were puking because puking kids are not the boss of us.

On Sunday, which was also the day the Mormons came, I also took a big step in Operation Very Slowly Renovate Kitchen: I yanked down rotten, miserable, useless wall cabinet. I don’t even know what this thing was for: It had shelves all way across, but a door on only one side, with the hinge in the middle. So you had to pull everything out if you wanted to reach the stuff on the left side. Also, it was falling off the wall, so the door swung out and bonked everyone in the head all the time. Some things hurt more, but few things make you hurt angrier than getting conked in the top of the skull unexpectedly by a rogue cabinet door.

Anyway, here is a crummy before-and-after shot:

You can’t really tell, but it’s SO much more light and open in there. I also took the doors off most of the remaining cabinets, and I’m going to paint them yellow. I bought some rather corny rustic, cast iron shelf brackets off eBay, and I’m going to put in open shelving where the miserable, rotten cabinet was.

Now we just need to do something about the ceiling, which is stained, sagging acoustic tile full of dead mice, and the floor, which is torn linoleum designed by Satan and installed by also Satan.

***

MONDAY
Chicken nuggets, sweet potato fries, raw string beans

This was supposed to be our very, very last chance to have summer fun that is fun, even if all we do is go to a playground or something, because there were still a few kids left who hadn’t started school yet. I don’t even remember what happened, but we just ended up having chicken nuggets and no fun. I think there was some kind of lizard emergency.

***

TUESDAY
Pizza

First day of school. And the first day since 1998 where it was routine to be home alone with one child. I was nervous, since the child in question had spent a good part of the the last three weeks rolling around on the floor, gnashing her teeth, and spurting hot tears over, for instance, “NO, YOU NOT [whatever you just did because she told you to do it]!!!!!!”

But it went fine. We had a very peaceful day, and was remarkably undemanding when she has no competition. She is an adorably earnest help in the kitchen. She also packed some Altoids in a sandwich bag, zipped them into a spare backpack, and announced she is going to high school.

***

WEDNESDAY
Pork carnitas, Doritos

Pretty good. I put a half pork loin (I actually did this Tuesday, that’s how easy Tuesday was) in the slow cooker with some Coke, salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, pepper, cloves of garlic, and chopped onion. I let it cook all day, then shredded it and spread it out in a pan and browned it up under the broiler.

Served on tortillas with sour cream, salsa, and cheese.

Did I mention that it was too dark to run in our usual spot, so we drove downtown and trotted back and forth for two miles on sidewalk, much to the fascination of the people taking their ease with fancy nitrogen ice cream? At least I didn’t throw up.

***

THURSDAY
Mac and cheese with kielbasa; peas

Corrie helped again. We made this nice, simple Instant Pot mac and cheese recipe from CopyKat, and added chunks of browned up kielbasa. Then I put it in a buttered pan and added buttered bread crumbs on top. Everyone who likes mac and cheese and kielbasa liked this dish of mac and cheese and kielbasa.

Damien and I actually snuck out to Chili’s. I had the baby back ribs I’ve been hearing about all my life. Meh.

***

FRIDAY
Tuna burgers, risotto

Who has neat ideas for tuna burgers? I usually make them by adding one beaten egg and half a cup of bread crumbs and some seasoning to each can of drained tuna, then forming patties, and frying them up in a little oil. What would make them more interesting? I feel like I’ve asked this before, but I can’t find the answers. I do have horseradish sauce.

Okay, now I need some other inspiration. For Labor Day, we’re going to fulfill a request for Hot Dogs of Many Nations. Sort of a hot dog buffet with everything you could possibly want on a hot dog. This is not my wheelhouse. What do I set out? My ideas so far: Chili, onions, sauerkraut, cheese . . . . maybe bacon . . . I don’t know.