What’s for supper? Vol. 123: House of carbs

Sometime before dawn, a shelf holding my son’s swords collapsed, falling on the hamster cage, which released the hamster, which caused the cat to go berserk and knock over some boxes of tools. That’s what woke me up, and I leaped out of bed thinking this was clearly the noise of my daughter struggling to get to my door before she crumpled into a diabetic coma.

Which hasn’t actually happened yet. Yay! We’re doing fine, overall. She’s doing great. I’m trying to strike a balance between reading enough real-life accounts of managing the inevitable crises so I know what to do when it happens, and not reading so much that I feel like we’re always about to fall off a cliff. We’re doing fine, overall. Oh, and the hamster survived, who cares.

Anyway, CARBS. We’re counting them, and starting to venture into figuring out how different kinds of carbs affect blood sugar. Most days, diabetes management feels like a hassle, more than a calamity, and basic recipes have suddenly become unfamiliar territory, because I can’t eyeball anything anymore.

I won’t bore you with more details. I’ll just say that even though I wasn’t grateful to Mrs. Dootlittle when I was in third grade and she made us learn math, I’m grateful now. (Yes, we have a calculator. You still have to know what the hell you’re doing.)

So here’s what we had. You can see that Lucy is not on a special diet, exactly, except the “for crying out loud, let’s get some meat on your bones” diet. She eats normal food; we just have to know exactly what’s in it and how much she gets, and keep an eye on her. I’m going to include the carb counts at the end, in case anyone’s interested. Let me know if this is something you’d like to continue to see in food posts.

SATURDAY
Cranberry pecan chicken salad

I had a migraine, so Damien roasted some chicken breasts, and served them sliced up over mixed greens with dried cranberries, toasted pecans, feta cheese, and balsamic vinegar. Always a popular meal (although I noticed that the younger kids ate everything except the greens, so I probably shouldn’t call it salad. Salad bar, maybe).

This meal was so low carb, Lucy had an entire chocolate bar for dessert and still stayed within her target.

SUNDAY
Shrimp linguine, garlic bread, roast Brussels sprouts

There was a crazy sale on frozen whole shrimp at Aldi, so I bought . . . kind of a lot. Damien used this Deadspin recipe, which starts with boiling a big pot of saltwater. Not salty water, but saltwater, “like the ocean, briny and harsh and intense.” Then you shell and devein the shrimp and dump the shells in the water, too, and then fish them out, and then you cook the pasta. The recipe notes, “You may now dump those shells in the trash and tell them that you will see them in hell.” Then you cook up the shrimp with olive oil, minced garlic, hot pepper flakes, and white wine. There are more steps, but you can see what kind of ridiculously flavorful deliciousness this is.

Normally, a dish like this will have you working through some insipid pasta to get to the occasional bright light of the shrimp, but this dish was worth your full attention with every bite.

I ate so much, and I’m not even sorry. I had it for lunch the next two days, too.

The Brussels sprouts were cut in half, mixed with olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper, and I think parmesan cheese, and put under a hot broiler until they were gorgeously charred. The chompy texture was the perfect accompaniment to the creamy shrimp linguine.

We had Italian ices for dessert.

And here is Clara getting the garlic bread ready, so you can see exactly how well our kitchen renovations are going.

MONDAY
Tacos and tortilla chips

Nothing to report.

TUESDAY
Pork ribs, risotto, frozen peas

Still the best way to serve pork ribs, if you’re not going to get all fancy with smokers and three-day commitments. Sprinkle the ribs with plenty of salt and pepper, put them on a shallow pan with drainage, and shove them under a hot broiler for a few minutes on each side until they’re browned and sizzling. Juicy and wonderful.
I made a double recipe of risotto in the Instant Pot, using this recipe minus the squash. I forgot to take pictures.

WEDNESDAY
Beef teriyaki stir fry, crunchy noodles, white rice

Blithely ignoring what cut of meat it was, I trimmed and sliced the hunk of beef as thin as I could in the morning, then set it to marinate in half a bottle of teriyaki sauce. At dinner time, I sauteed the meat, then added two bag of frozen mixed stir fry veggies and the rest of the bottle of sauce. Made a bunch of white rice and put out crunchy noodles. No complaints.

THURSDAY
Chicken nuggets, raw veggie platter and dip, deviled eggs, chocolate milk

Sort of a “preschooler’s delight” meal. If we haven’t hit Lucy’s carb target for a meal, we often make it up with milk, and this time, we had so much to make up, we had chocolate milk. So of course everyone had to have chocolate milk. Again, no complaints.

Well, Corrie threw up, but we think that was more because she ate most of a bag of salted pumpkin seeds not long before dinner. But it was good for a good two-hour terror while I thought about what would happen if it was a virus and Lucy started throwing up. This is why there is Buspar in the world. Not that I took any, because I am stupid.

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese, raw veg

I haven’t worked out the carbs yet, but I’ll probably use this Instant Pot recipe, and maybe add a layer of buttered bread crumbs on the top.

And there it is. Now I’ll list the carb counts for these meals. Don’t forget to let me know if you feel strongly, either way, about me including these in the future!

Cranberry chicken salad:

2 cups Aldi Simply Nature organic spring mix: 3
chicken:  0
pecans 1/4 c : 3
dried cranberries 1/4 c: 25
2 Tbs Italian dressing: 3
(doesn’t want feta)

Shrimp linguine meal:

1 cup cooked linguine 43
shrimp – 0
garlic and white wine – 2
garlic bread – 1/8 baguette from Hannaford – 28
1/2 cup brussels sprouts – 4

Italian ice: 26

Tacos:

tortilla: 18g each per small fajita size (20 count bag)

ground beef: 0
Alsi Casa Mamita taco seasoning mix is 2 tsp, 3 g; 12 tsp total in package; usually use 2 packs
cheddar cheese: 1 g
roma tomato: 3 g per whole tomato
sour cream – 1 carb per Tbs
salsa – 3 g per 2 Tbs
tortilla chips 19 g per 7 chips

Pork, risotto, peas:

rice 4 cups uncooked: 576

beef broth 8 cups: 5.6

olive oil: –

onion medium red: 11
garlic minced 1 Tbs: 3 g
sage 1 tsp: 1.2
salt and pepper: .5 (1/2 tsp pepper)
parmesan cheese 8 oz (full jar): 0
risotto total: 597.3 for ten cups of cooked risotto

about 60 g per cup

pork: 0
peas: 2/3 cup is 13 g

Beef stir fry with rice and noodles:beef: 0

cooked rice: 45 g per cup
sauce: entire bottle, 192 Kikkoman teriyaki original sauce
vegetables: 48 g total in TWO bags Birds Eye broccoli stir fry vegetables (broccoli, carrots, onions, red peppers, water chestnuts, mushrooms, and celery)
MeeTu chinese noodles: 20 g per 1/13 of a bag
10 cups of meat, veg, and sauce: entire = 240 entire batch
1 cup rice: 45
1 meat, veg, sauce: 24
2 moderate daddy handfuls of noodles: 20

Chicken nuggets meal:

I guess I forgot to save this info.

Mac and cheese:

Not ready to face this yet.

What’s for supper? Vol. 123: I got the no bo ssam blues.

The thing you need to understand about this week is that, for no good reason, I was up until 1, 2, or even 2:30 a.m. most nights, and got stupider and stupider as the week went on. We had multiple snow days, multiple storms, and my car was in the shop having all its brakes worked on. Then we ran out of sugar. I put it on the list, and then proceeded to visit no fewer then four stores that sold sugar, without buying any, and then two more stores the next day, also stores with sugar, also with me no getting any.

It was downhill from there.

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, chips

You can picture this, surely. It looked like sandwiches.

SUNDAY
Chicken and chickpeas with tzatziki; grapes; cheesecake with fudge sauce and strawberries

It was supposed to be bo ssam Sunday. Bo ssam Sunday! I’ve been led to believe that bo ssam is one of those miraculous recipes where you spend mere pocket change on ingredients and make some casual nodding gestures toward the kitchen while putting your feet up. Then, just a short time later, you pass around chopsticks and wasabi, and the local news is pounding at your door, wanting an exclusive interview with you, the greatest cook of the century.

But when I opened up the recipe in the early afternoon, it started out all “So, having marinated the meat overnight, you will then cook it for three days in a low, low oven” deals.

So fine, we can have bo ssam later. Instead, we had the chicken and chickpea thing, which is a very fine Sunday meal.

The recipe is a simplified version of this recipe from the NYT), and serves 10- 12 people.

Make the marinade early in the day or the night before. Take half a large tub of full fat Greek yogurt and mix it with four tablespoons of lemon juice, four tablespoons of water, and two tablespoons of cumin, and mix this marinade up with chicken parts, thighs or wings. I had about eight pounds of chicken, and started marinating it about five hours before dinner.

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

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

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

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

While the chicken is cooking, you prepare your three garnishes:
-Chop up some cilantro.
-Slice another two red onions nice and thin, and mix them in a dish with a few glugs of lemon juice and salt and pepper.
-Then take the rest of the tub of Greek yogurt and mix it up in another bowl with lemon juice, a generous amount of minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
I just set these three dishes out and let people use them as they liked.

I like serving this meal with pomegranates, but I guess the season is over, so we had red grapes, which was almost as good. I completely lose my mind over that chicken skin. It’s just stupidly good.

***

And now dessert! The child whose shopping turn it was decided she wanted cheese cake in a graham cracker crust with fresh strawberries and chocolate sauce. It being still the weekend and me being not dead yet, I agreed.

I bought readymade graham cracker pie crusts, and so should you. I used this recipe from My Cultured Palate, which is What’s For Supper? for the Upside Down. Good cheesecake, though, and not too sweet. I made a double recipe, which was enough to fill three pie shells plus some batter left over, which we certainly didn’t eat, as it is full of raw eggs. We certainly did not.

Nice simple recipe, and they came out pretty, but you do have to bake them, then leave them in the oven for an hour, and then refrigerate overnight. I must have made these Saturday night, come to think of it.

On Sunday, we sliced up about three pounds of strawberries and put them in a bowl with some sugar. I cautioned everyone to give that fruit some privacy, as it would be macerating. And that’s my cultured kitchen!

And that was the frickin’ last of the sugar, and I had already run out to the store sixty-three more times that day, each time returning triumphantly without sugar. Why? Because I am stupid! So I found a chocolate sauce recipe that’s just condensed milk, cocoa powder, and butter. Melt a stick of butter, stir in 6 Tbs cocoa powder, add a can of condensed milk, stir it up. It’s the consistency of hot fudge sauce, and if you let it harden in the fridge, you can soften it again by heating it up.

MONDAY
Ham, mashed potatoes

One of my ham lovers has been campaigning hard for ham and mashed potatoes. And let me tell you, this pig lived a life of leisure. The damn thing was 3/4 fat. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was fluffy. You don’t want your ham to be fluffy.

The mashed potatoes, though, were of sterner stock, and were trim and worthy specimens. I ran out and bought three potato peelers (I don’t want to talk about it) and we got the job done.

I thought for a moment that, since supper was so easy, I could start marinating bo ssam for tomorrow, until I discovered that the same sugar we were still out of that morning, when we wanted it for coffee? Is the same sugar we were out of for making bo ssam marinade. So.

TUESDAY
Beef stew

Kinda mad about this. Beef stew is one of the things you should be able to make in the Instant Pot very easily, but I always screw it up.

Here’s how I did:
Cube the beef, sprinkle it with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, dust it heavily with flour.
Heat oil in the pot, add the floured beef, and brown it slightly.
Add a bunch of beef broth, some red wine, and some baby carrots, a few diced onions, several cubed potatoes, some sliced mushrooms, a can of tomato paste, and some thyme. I think it was thyme. I think I added some brown sugar and soy sauce. Look, I was following a recipe.
Then I closed the lid and set it for something or other, I forget.  I was following several recipes by this point, to be honest.
So the damn thing cooks forever, and then it starts screaming that it’s burning, oh, mother, mother, it’s burning! I vent it, which takes forever, and open the lid. It’s nowhere near burning, and the carrots are still raw. There’s tons of liquid.
So I stir it a bit to placate it, then close the lid and reset it. Same thing happens. What burning? What? Vent forever, open the lid, and it’s cooked.

It tasted pretty good, but I was mad. You really take the edge off convenience when you don’t know what the hell is going on. I’ll show you burning!

We also had rolls. And I bought some sugar.

WEDNESDAY
Chicken nuggets, fries, leftover stew, leftover ham

So remember how I gave up sleeping for Lent? We also got eleven feet of snow in twelve hours, and my husband had to be gone for three days and two overnights in a row and I’m not making that last part up. I really missed him. I wanted to be kept awake by him snoring,* instead of being kept awake by him not being there. Humph. Finally having sugar in the house just did not make up for that.

THURSDAY
Pork carnitas, rice

So I had to face that enormous pork butt. In the fridge! I was still telling myself that, now that there was sugar in the house, I could easily whip up a sherry ginger sauce, and maybe a peanut lime slaw for sides, and bo ssam would happen. This is what I told myself, up until about 11 a.m. on Wednesday.

Then I interiorly took myself firmly by the shoulders, administered a few bracing shakes and maybe a remedial smeck or two, and said, “You are not making bo ssam this week. Nobody is making bo ssam this week!”

So sulked a little, then trimmed the fat, cut the pork into hunks, and put it in the slow cooker with a can of UFO beer, a tablespoon or more of adobe adobo powder [yes, that is the whitest typo I’ve ever made], and about 3/4 cup of pickled jalapeno slices with the juice. I let it cook for about six hours, took the meat out of the juice, and shredded it.

Then I spread it in a thin layer in a flat, greased pan and put it under a hot broiler until it was a little browned up.

I served the meat with some of the ten thousand tortillas I’ve diligently collected over the last few months, plus sour cream, chopped cilantro, salsa, and fresh limes. And rice.

It was no bo ssam, but it was good.

FRIDAY
Sleepover! Make your own pizza!

I have tons of dough, cheese, sauce, and toppings, and disposable foil pans, and those boys can just make their own pizzas.

The boy is making his own chocolate birthday cake, which he would like to be frosted with chocolate frosting, and then covered with Oreos. I think I can manage this. Especially since we now have sugar in the house. And three potato peelers.

*I also snore.

What’s for supper? Vol. 122: Why is Walmart garlic powder taking over the world?

The theme this week was “very basic ingredients.” The most exotic seasoning to pass through my hands all week was garlic powder. Part of the New Three Sisters: salt, pepper, and garlic powder. And you know what? We ate really well. We had some snow days, so I even baked!

SATURDAY
Roast beef sandwiches, chips, strawberries

Chuck roast was as cheap as it ever gets around here, so I got a five-pound hunk. Damien coated it with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and browned it in a heavy pot in oil until it was crisp on all sides, then put it in the oven at 350 for about an hour. We like it rare, as you see.

We had it on rolls with horseradish sauce and slices of provolone, and I put mine in the oven to melt dat cheese.


Man. Pork is great, chicken is swell, but there is nothing like a slice of rare beef. It’s just what meat is supposed to taste like.

***

SUNDAY
Salmon burgers, asparagus, fries

I wrestled with my conscience for a while, then graciously conceded and  bought a crap ton of salmon filets that were on sale because it’s “the Lenten holiday.”

Here’s the cooking technique: Dry the filets and salt them lightly. Heat up a pan like crazy, coat the bottom with oil, and lay the filets down, skin side down. Let them cook more than halfway up, then carefully turn them over, and cook for a few more minutes. Serve sizzling hot.

I served them on soft, sweet little brioche rolls, because they too were on sale. A good companion to the tender fish, with pesto mayonnaise (my recipe: put pesto in mayonnaise) and some lettuce.

Veddy good.

MONDAY
Hot dogs, cheezy weezies, broccoli

I forget what happened Monday, but it wasn’t pretty.

TUESDAY
Meatball subs, salad

Birthday! Like fresh meat needs salt, a fourteen-year-old boy needs meatball subs on his birthday. I took seven pounds of ground beef and added seven beaten eggs, about four cups of breadcrumbs, and tons garlic powder, salt, pepper, oregano, and minced onion.

I bake them at 350 for about forty minutes or more on a pan with drainage. See how much fat gets drained away? So easy.

Then I layer them in a glass pan with sauce, cover, and keep them warm for several hours, so the sauce has a chance to soak in a bit. Pass the parmesan.

WEDNESDAY
Roman egg drop soup, roast chicken, salad, challah

We had yet another storm, and for other complicated and boring reasons were homebound all day; so I decided to make challah. I am a terrible baker, but challah is easy, as long as you have lots of time and a warm spot in your house.

Here’s the recipe I used. I doubled it to make two giant loaves:

In a bowl, I mixed together:
6 cups bread flour
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp salt

Then I added:
2 beaten eggs
1/2 cup canola oil

In a small bowl, I put
1-1/2 cups warm water
and dissolved into it one envelope of fast-acting yeast.
Then I mixed this into the other ingredients.

I tried kneading it in my Kitchen Aid with the dough hook, but it was just too much dough (remember, I made a double recipe. If you make a single, this method should work fine), so I had to knead it by hand. I hate kneading dough, and always give up too soon. The dough should be smooth, but very thick and not sticky at all. You may have to add more water or more flour. My dough was still kind of knotty when I got tired of kneading.

I put plastic wrap (you can also use a damp cloth) on the bowl of dough and put it in the oven to rise. (I have a cold kitchen, so to let dough rise, I turn the oven on for a few minutes, then turn it off, let it cool a bit with the door open, and then put the dough in.)

I let it rise for maybe an hour, then punched it down and formed the loaves. For each loaf, I divided the dough into four balls which we rolled into long snakes. We braided three of the snakes, pinching the ends together, and then divided the fourth one into three again, braiding those, and laying the smaller braid on top of the larger one.

Then I laid the loaves on a buttered, floured pan (I prefer corn meal to flour, but we were out), covered them again, and let them rise again for another hour or so.

Then I took the loaves out, preheated the oven to 350, and prepared an egg wash with a few egg yolks and a little water beaten up in a cup. We brushed that over the dough.

We were out of poppy seeds, or we would have sprinkled those over the top. And yes, I made Corrie put a shirt on just for the picture.

Then I baked the loaves in the middle of the oven for maybe half an hour, until the top was all golden.

Isn’t it lovely, hmmmm?

The insides were a little dense,

I suppose because I got lazy with kneading; but it was still soft and delicious. Sweet and eggy, and so fragrant. Coziest bread in the world.

The egg drop soup is a new recipe to me. Basically you take chicken broth, add some spinach, and then mix together raw egg and shredded cheese, and then whisk that briskly into the broth. It’s very cheap and simple, so I hoped it would become a miraculous new family favorite.

Instead, I got what looked remarkably like a warm pot o’ vomit.

The eggs are supposed to turn into delicate, wispy shreds when you whisk them into the broth. Mine clumped. Also, I used frozen spinach, which turned out to be in shreds. Then I overheated it, and the egg mixture kind of boiled up to the surface and got clotty.

I don’t know about you, but I prefer my soup non-clotty. Just one of my peculiarities.

It did look better in individual bowls.

The taste was actually pleasant, if not thrilling. It reminded me of quiche, or of my grandmother’s noodle kugel. If anyone has any tips on how to make them eggs shred, I may even make it again. It certainly is fast, easy, and cheap. JUST LIKE ME. Womp.

The chickens, I just slathered with olive oil and sprinkled with salt, pepper, and, you’ll never guess, garlic powder. I cooked them in a 375 oven, breast down, for forty minutes, then flipped them over, seasoned the other side, and kept cooking them until they were done. You get more tasty skin this way.

I hate cooking whole chickens, and I don’t even know why. Oh shucks, the challah got into the picture again! That keeps happening. Hello, lovely! I see you!

THURSDAY
Pork ribs, risotto, Brussels sprouts

Sometimes, it’s nice to just let pork be pork. You put the ribs on a pan with drainage, sprinkle them generously with salt and pepper (but not garlic powder. Let’s not be silly), and slide them under a hot broiler, turning once, until they are sizzling. So good.

The Brussels sprouts were just boiled from frozen, so not the greatest, but on the other hand, vegetable.

I’ve decided 2018 is officially a good year because I can now make Instant Pot risotto without checking the recipe. Here’s how (and this serves about 10. You can halve it):

Press the “sauté” button and add a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add a diced onions and a few teaspoons of minced garlic, plus a bunch of salt, pepper, and sage. Brown the onions.

Add four cups of raw rice, still on “sauté.” Keep stirring the rice with a wooden spoon until it’s all opaque, about five minutes. Then add eight cups of chicken broth, stir it up, put on the lid, close the valve, and set it to “pressure cook” on “high” for seven minutes.

When you suddenly notice it’s been done for a while while you were gooning around on Facebook, do a quick release, and then dump in as much parmesan cheese as your conscience will allow. I find it’s helpful to say to oneself, “This is the last time I will ever eat parmesan cheese. I wonder how much I should add?” and then see what happens.

Stir in the cheese carefully and serve immediately. Then, if your rotten, no-good son ever gets around to sending you the picture you took with his phone, you can post a picture of it.

EDIT: Oh, what a good boy.

About the risotto: Someone asked if I use regular rice instead of arborio. I do! Just plain old white rice. It doesn’t turn out as good as arborio rice, but it’s still very, very good. And food you actually make always tastes better than food you can’t afford to buy.

FRIDAY
Spaghetti

Done-zo.

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.

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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.

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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.

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WEDNESDAY
English muffin pizzas, salad

I have no memory of Wednesday. Something about cheese.

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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.

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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!