What’s for supper? Vol. 360: A secret soup that Simcha made and pleased the group

I lied. I lied for the sake of a title. It only pleased about half the group. But it was a wonderful soup! Read on. 

SATURDAY
Domino’s pizza, birthday cake

Saturday was Benny’s birthday party, finally. She asked for a Gravity Falls-themed party, but she is old enough that her friends basically entertained each other, so I just did decorations and a cake and then let them go. So, just a bunch of red, yellow, and gold balloons, and a Bill Cipher zodiac tablecloth

plus a levitating, rather wrinkly Bill Cipher, who was still dripping glue when the guests came

and then outside, I set up a nice propane fire with a hot chocolate station and a s’mores station.

and that was that. Nobody’s been happy about the so-far-almost-snowless winer, but it does make it easier to throw a party!

The cake was well-received.

Just a chocolate box mix cake with frosting from a tub, decorated with details made of gum paste and colored with edible gold spray. 

Gum paste stiffens when it’s exposed to air, much more so than fondant, and you can roll it very thin, so it’s a good choice for small or flat decorations. Some day, I’m gonna make gum paste roses. If my kids ever stop asking for weird cakes (challenge: impossible).

Then Damien picked up Domino’s pizzas and the guests jumped on the trampoline in the dark and screamed a lot, and it was a good party! I ran out to clean everything up off the patio afterward, because I knew there was a storm coming, and I managed to knock a glass bowl full of mini marshmallows onto the bricks. Smash! Marshmallows! Candy canes! Shards of glass in the darkness! Really wished I had made friends with the ants and the sparrows, but you always think of these things too late. Did not go to the ball. Instead dozed off on the couch while drinking seltzer and watching NYPD Blue, which was just as good. 

SUNDAY
Corn dogs, chips

Sunday it snowed alllll day, and it had been snowing all night, so we were prepared. Damien went to the vigil Mass on Saturday and then got up early to clear the driveway, and the rest of us went to the late Mass on Sunday, which was Epiphany. We were prepared for the strident guitars and the off-pitch, hairy-sounding violin and the whitest tambourine in the western hemisphere. We were not prepared for A RETELLING OF THE ENTIRE CHRISTMAS STORY SET TO LEONARD COHEN’S HALLELUJAH. 

Epiphany indeed. Usually I sternly tell my kids not to criticize the Mass because it’s the Mass, but I am not made of stone. I did shut it down when they started proposing new liturgically-appropriate lyrics for “Blood On the Tracks.” 

Anyway, we had corn dogs. 

But you don’t really care for mustard, do ya?

MONDAY
Bacon cheeseburgers, Doritos

I still hadn’t gone shopping, because of the snow and I am a delicate flower, so Damien shopped for and made bacon cheeseburgers.

And very good they were, bacon cheeseburgers.

TUESDAY
Oven roasted pork ribs, mashed potatoes, peas

I planned a simple make-ahead meal for Tuesday, because three kids had dentist appointments. One got sick the night before, so we cancelled her appointment, one got sick that morning, so we cancelled hers and then then dentist said they didn’t super duper want to get in the mouth of the remaining kid with two sick siblings. Fair. It was still nice to have an easy meal. I made the mashed potatoes in the morning and then put them in the slow cooker to stay warm, and made the pork ribs heavily salted and peppered and roasted until sizzling under the broiler. 

I had mine with mango chutney, yum yum. 

WEDNESDAY
Oven fried chicken, chips, veg and dip

Wings were 1.99 a pound, so I got a bunch of wings and drumsticks and made oven fried chicken. Finally got around to making a card for this recipe, which is so easy and honestly comes out better than when I try to pan fry chicken. 

Jump to Recipe

I know this because I ran out of room in the sheet pan in the oven, and I didn’t want to make a second pan dirty, so instead I pan fried a few pieces (because it’s okay to make a second pan dirty as long as it’s on the stove? I don’t know) and I burnt the hell out of them, like I always do.

The oven ones turned out perfect, though. 

This is a terrible picture. I’m just including it to show that it actually was just cooked in the oven, easily peasily. The chicken was actually amazing, and SO gratifying because I knew how hands-off it was. 

Yes, I served chips for the third time this week. And also vegetables! With dip. 

But do try oven fried chicken. It makes everybody happy, and you don’t end up with grease spattered everywhere.

THURSDAY
Persian chicken and barley soup, pita

Thursday I knew dinner time was going to be crazy, because the kids had to be at the gallery to set up their life-sized Barbie house at 5 PM, and then the show actually opened at 6, so it was a great reason to try this soup I’ve had my eye on: Persian chicken barley soup. I followed the recipe exactly as written, except that it called for two chicken breasts and I was doubling it, and I only used about 2/3 of the chicken, and it was still the most chickenful soup I’ve ever encountered. I’m just saying, the chickens who contributed these breasts were on track to dominate at Sharky’s wet t-shirt contest at Hampton. So I ended up throwing a bag of shredded chicken in the freezer, and I’m sure you’ll be hearing about it again. 

I also lost my phone and didn’t take any process photos, but it was an enjoyable soup to make. You fry up onions and then add garlic and shredded carrots (holding some back to add in later). I didn’t soak the barley, as suggested, because I knew I’d be simmering the soup all day. 

Oh, I also turned out not to have any celery. You know, I don’t think I really followed the recipe all that closely. But usually when I make a soup, I just saute some stuff and then dump everything else in and just walk away, and this was a tiny bit more involved than that! Anyway I did pull some of the soup out and whir it up in the food processor and then add it back in, as suggested. I stirred in Greek yogurt, and used fresh cilantro and freshly-squeezed lemon juice. 

I moved it to the Instant Pot and used the “keep warm” feature, and it thickened up even more, as I expected, with all that barley. 

I threw some more cilantro on top, ground some pepper over it and squeezed on a little more lemon juice when I served up a bowl, and I put out some store-bought pita and rolls. 

Heavens to betsy. What a charming soup. It’s just as nourishing and comforting as any chicken soup ought to be, but it had just the merest thread of complexity because of the cilantro and lemon. It was thick but not gluey or pasty or even heavy. Just . . . nice. A nice soup, through and through. Will absolutely make again. The recipe makes a lot, too.

Speaking of a lot, here are the girls in front of the Barbie house!

You can see some more pics of the interior here:

 

This was for their 3D art class, and the assignment was to make something using materials you find lying around. They acknowledged that the original task kind of got lost in the pink fever dream, but it was extremely impressive. So much work, and very nicely designed. 

Oh, but speaking of soup, I meant to remind you that you can use your standing mixer (or a hand-held mixer, I suppose!) to quickly and evenly shred cooked chicken. For some reason I hate shredding meat, even when it’s nicely cooked and comes apart easily. The standing mixer takes care of it in a very short time. Hallelujah. 

FRIDAY
Poke bowls

I recalled when we made sushi a few weeks ago that ahi tuna is actually not prohibitively expensive, at least not in a world where everything is prohibitively expensive. And when everything is prohibitive, nothing is prohibited. So I bought a bunch of frozen ahi tuna from Walmart, and today we’re having poke bowls, which is just diced raw fish along with whatever you want, as far as I can tell.

I am, in fact, still in bed (I basically work from bed in the winter, so sue me) and haven’t even taken the fish out of the freezer yet, but this is a super easy meal to throw together. Look!

I got some mangos that should be ripe by now, and we still have some nice short-grain rice left over from New Year’s Even, and I bought a pouch of those yummy chili lime cashews from Aldi, plus pea shoots and sugar snap peas, and people can just add whatever they want from the various bottles and jars of red and yellow and brown sauces rolling around in the fridge. 

I think I also got some frozen shrimp, so I’ll probably just sauté that up in sesame oil or chili oil with a little salt and lime juice.

And even if it all goes wrongI’ll stand right here like a big ding dongWith nothing, nothing on my tongue but What’s for supper?

What’s for supper? What’s for supper?
What’s for supper? 
What’s for suuuuuuu

perrrrrrrrr

rrrrrrrrrr.

Leonard Cohen is a novelty act, there I said it. 

Oven-fried chicken

so much easier than pan frying, and you still get that crisp skin and juicy meat

Ingredients

  • chicken parts (wings, drumsticks, thighs)
  • milk (enough to cover the chicken at least halfway up)
  • eggs (two eggs per cup of milk)
  • flour
  • your choice of seasonings (I usually use salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, and chili powder)
  • oil and butter for cooking

Instructions

  1. At least three hours before you start to cook, make an egg and milk mixture and salt it heavily, using two eggs per cup of milk, so there's enough to soak the chicken at least halfway up. Beat the eggs, add the milk, stir in salt, and let the chicken soak in this. This helps to make the chicken moist and tender.

  2. About 40 minutes before dinner, turn the oven to 425, and put a pan with sides into the oven. I use a 15"x21" sheet pan and I put about a cup of oil and one or two sticks of butter. Let the pan and the butter and oil heat up.

  3. While it is heating up, put a lot of flour in a bowl and add all your seasonings. Use more than you think is reasonable! Take the chicken parts out of the milk mixture and roll them around in the flour until they are coated on all sides.

  4. Lay the floured chicken in the hot pan, skin side down. Let it cook for 25 minutes.

  5. Flip the chicken over and cook for another 20 minutes.

  6. Check for doneness and serve immediately. It's also great cold.

What’s for supper? Vol. 338: Please refer to the affidavit

Happy Friday! I have been bumbling around with a migraine all week, and I managed to lose my freshly-refilled bottle of migraine meds before I got any of it. It wasn’t the worst headache in the world, but I was CONFUSED and CONFUSED and also did not know what was going on. So a few of these meals are a little ,,, irregular. 

You may also notice that most of these photos are either outside or on my bed, because I was hiding from everybody all week. I love them all but they are fricken LOUD. 

I feel so much better today, though, thank the Lord. I woke up this morning with no headache, dizziness, nausea, jaw pain, tooth pain, or photophobia to speak of, and I am so glad. So glad!

Although I just got through all my photos, and finished uploading the last one of the Teenage Mutant Ninj’ Turtle cake with all the buttercream icing, and I’m remembering how much icing I ate and . . . I think maybe I know where my headache started. Huh. 

Well, here is what we had: 

SATURDAY
Chicken caprese burgers, chips

Just frozen chicken burgers on buns with tomatoes, basil from the garden, sliced cheese, salt and pepper, olive oil and vinegar. 

I wanted to be a hero, so I bought salt and vinegar chips. Works every time. 

SUNDAY
Turkey bacon wraps, chips; blueberry rose tarts with candied lemon

On Sunday, we had promised to take the kids kayaking, which we did! Benny and Corrie had their first experience paddling on their own, and they did great. 

 

But first, I got it into my head that I needed to make blueberry pie, which I haven’t made yet this summer. So I planned an easy dinner because I knew dessert was going to be time consuming. 

Damien fried the bacon, and we had sliced turkey (actually I think it was chicken), some leftover fancy salami from opera nite, and on mine I skipped cheese and had spinach and ranch dressing, and the wrap was allegedly spinach flavored, but this was not discernible. I think I put cheese out, but I skipped that. 

I love wraps. Probably if we had them more often, they wouldn’t seem like such a treat, but I find them so enjoyable to eat, so festive and friendly. 

I cut up a bunch of peppers and broccoli and set out baby carrots and dip.

For dessert, I thought it would be fun to make separate blueberry tarts, rather than two big pies. I made a double recipe of this reliable pie crust recipe

Jump to Recipe

But I was super hot and getting a little flustered, and it took much more water than usual, for some reason, so I was struggling. I eventually got eleven large ramekins lined with pastry dough, and then made the filling using the recipe on this site. I had my doubts, because it calls for lemon zest, which is good, but also both flour and corn starch, which sounds STODGY; but I followed it. 

My original plan was to make individual lattice tops, but I had eaten so much raw pie dough that there wasn’t enough left for that. So instead, Benny and I made some dough roses. 

Roses are quite easy to make. You just cut out 4-5 discs, stick them together in a line, roll them up, cut the rolled-up cylinder in half, and pinch the flat edge together; then carefully tease open the other end, to open up the petals. Here’s the site where I learned to do it

Our roses were a little bit chunky because we were lough on dough and made them out of only four circles each, rather than five. I also rolled them out a little too thick. My baking style can best be described as — remember that Doctor Who episode where Mickey gets changed into a plastic guy and his hands are just big mallets and he goes lurching around the room whacking things? That’s how I make little pastry roses. 

So I baked them, and I thought they needed a little dressing up, so I made some candied lemon slices. I followed the very simple recipe here. Basically you just cook up some sugar water with a little lemon juice in it and simmer the lemon slices in it for 15 minutes, and then fish them out and let them dry.

They don’t dry completely, but stay a bit tacky. But they are very good and very pretty. The peels are edible, but most definitely still lemon peels (delicious if you like lemon!). If you wanted to make them sweeter and more candy-like, I imagine you could roll them in sugar when they come out of the pan; but that would ruin the stained glass effect of the candied pulp. 

So when the tarts came out, I sort of twisted up the lemon slices and tucked two into each one, to make little leaves or wings. 

Awfully pretty in the afternoon sun.

I took several pictures, and now you people are gonna hear about it. 

So they were definitely cute, but I saw room for so much improvement. The ramekins just weren’t the right vessels for this dish. I should have made them in cupcake tins or something with slanted sides, so I had some shot at pulling them out of the pans. I also didn’t roll the dough thin enough, so the roses were just kind of wads, and too much dough for people to eat. I also meant to brush the roses with egg white and sprinkle them with sugar, to make them shiny and sweeter, but I forgot. And I meant to make the edges more decorative, at least pressing them with a fork, rather than just leaving them ragged, but I forgot that, as well. 

But the biggest problem was the blueberry filling. It was just bland and too thick. You want fresh blueberry pie to be juicy and messy and luscious. This almost tasted store-bought. I was really disappointed! BUT THEY WERE PRETTY. Oh well. I made some whipped cream, which was good. Honestly, everyone liked these pies and ate them up, so this is just me complaining. 

Anyway, blueberry season isn’t over, and I will probably take another crack at this. I loved the candied lemon thing. Blueberries and lemons forever, man. Maybe I will make a blueberry lemon panna cotta! Who will stop me!

Or I still have some rhubarb in the freezer. Maybe I’ll make a blubarb pie. Maybe I’ll make a UNICORN blubarb pie. 

This one looks like . . . cherry and strawberry, actually? I don’t remember. But it looks like I remembered to glaze and sugar the dough, anyway. 

MONDAY
Mexican beef bowls

Beef was on sale, which it rarely is these days, so I got several hunks, sliced it up, and marinated it in this lovely sauce with lots of lime juice, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce. 

Jump to Recipe

Normally, I make this meal with rice, beef, charred corn, maybe some fried onions and sweet peppers, and then things like salsa, sour cream, shredded cheese, cilantro, etc., and I often make a pot of delicious black beans, too

Jump to Recipe

But I was just so spacey while I was shopping. It turned out we only had a little rice in the house, so I cooked a few cups of rice, and people filled out the dish with tortilla chips or corn chips. I did buy beans, but I was too tired to cook them. I forgot corn altogether. It was still a tasty meal, just a little irregular. 

Oh, I see there were avocados and lime wedges! That actually looks really good. Anyway, this marinade is very tasty and you should try it. 

TUESDAY
Pulled pork grilled cheese; veggies and dip

Last week, the phrase “pulled pork grilled cheese” popped into my head, and I knew there was only way to get it out again. This was probably the most planned meal of the week, and oddly it was a little disappointing. 

The pulled pork part of it turned out great, though. I hacked up a fatty hunk of pork loin or something and seasoned it heavily with salt and pepper, some oregano and lots of cumin, and browned it on all sides in hot oil.

Then I moved it into the Instant Pot and added about 3/4 -1 cup cider vinegar and one juice box of apple juice, three fresh jalapeños with the seeds, a chopped onion, some red pepper flakes, and a lot of ground cloves. 

I closed the valve and hit the “meat” button, and then let it do a natural release and keep warm for the rest of the day. When I was ready to make the sandwiches, I pulled the meat out, and it absolutely shattered to pieces under the fork. It was very tasty, spicy and warming with the jalapeño and cloves, but not fiery hot, and worked really well with the cumin and apple. (The oregano was pointless and I will skip it next time.) 

I had meant to buy American cheese, because I wanted something kind of bland and very melty, but I forgot. And the convenience store didn’t have any! So I used what we had in the fridge, which was extra sharp cheddar. I had sourdough bread, which I spread with a little skim of mayonnaise and then fried in butter. 

It was good. But the cheese completely overpowered the flavor of the pulled pork, and it just tasted like a highly textural grilled cheese sandwich. Next time I will use American cheese, and I will maybe add fried onions or jalapeños. 

Or I’ll just make this version of pulled pork on its own, because it was really good!

I also made a bowl of unremarkable coleslaw. 

Onward!

WEDNESDAY
Pizza

One pepperoni, one plain, and one with leftovers from various other meals, which turned out to be: Feta, red onion, black olive, pesto, sliced garlic, red pepper flakes, and some fresh parmesan shredded over the top.

I forgot to buy pepperoni for the pizza, but we had some sandwich pepperoni from some sandwiches last week, so I sliced it up and put it on the other pizza. This is what passes for ingenuity at our house!

THURSDAY
Ramen with some kind of chicken situation

Usually when I make “fancy ramen,” we have some kind of pork, but for some reason I bought chicken; and I usually get some kind of crunchy Chinese noodles, but I forgot. So I ended up drizzling the chicken breasts with olive oil, sprinkling them with Chinese five spice, and then heaping some brown sugar on top, and then roasting them.

It tasted . . . fine? It was a little unsettling, because it was hard to shake the “why isn’t this pork” sensation, but it didn’t taste bad. It certainly got supper on the table fast.

I chopped up a bunch of scallions, and set out raw spinach, and I sliced up some giant mushrooms and sautéed them in olive oil and soy sauce, and when I cooked the ramen, I threw some eggs in the pot, and if people wanted an egg, they had to fish it out and shell it themselves like absolute peasants. 

Not a bad meal, considering I had zero plan and went from cold kitchen to dinner time in about 25 minutes. I also put out sugar snap peas and some kind of hot yuzu sauce, which I didn’t end up yuzing myself. 

Here’s another picture, because I have two pictures and I’ve lost my ability to make small decisions:

Look at that fricken mushroom. I actually could have made a full meal of just the broth, the spinach, and the mushrooms. Aldi has two big portobello mushrooms for $1.49 or something crazy, and I think I need to buy them more often. Mushrooms are such a gift. 

FRIDAY
Tuna sandwiches, fries

No tricks, just tuna sandwiches. Tuna sandwich and no headache; I’ll take it! 

Oh wait, I forgot to share pictures of the TMNT cake I made last Friday after the food post went up! I more or less followed the coconut cake recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction, which is pretty easy and turned out well, tender and moist. I made three rounds and about a dozen cupcakes. I stacked up two of the rounds and then sort of dug holes for the cupcakes, which I anchored with toothpicks.

I used fondant to cover the bottom and buttercream on the cupcakes, with candy eyeballs and fondant masks.

At this point, I stopped, and thought pretty hard about what shape turtles’ heads actually are. I thought about how hot it was in the kitchen, and about the limits of buttercream, and then I went into the other room and basically made the kid sign an affidavit that she understood and acknowledged that her mother did try.

Then I put the third round on a circle of cardboard, to keep it from cracking, and set it on top of the cupcakes, stuck it on with buttercream, and covered that with fondant as well. 

And then I made a series of mistakes and irreversible bad decisions involving black sugar and continued hot kitchen, which seemed funnier and funnier to me as they devolved. I ended up using a paintbrush to paint the cake with black icing from a tube, and it looked really neat for a while, but then I ruined it, because I was very hopped up on icing and had no judgment left. These turtles were absolutely leering at me, and I couldn’t stop laughing and making it worse. 

I ended up deciding to make a logo out of fondant and more brushwork, which was a pain in the neck, but fairly effective. Except I knew I should sketch out the letters with a toothpick first, to make sure there was room; I knew I should. But I just didn’t want to. So it says “TEENAGE MUTANT NINJ'” because I ran out of room.

But there were turtles!

Or, or something. Anyway there were four green entities, with red, yellow, blue, and purple . . . . things. 

I feel like it’s a cake the Teenage Mutant Ninj’ Turtles themselves would have appreciated, anyway. (And Lucy liked it, too, even though it continued to slide and melt after I took these pictures, and then it turned out the candles I got were actually trick candles, and she had to blow them out about fifteen times and then finally dunk them in water. Please refer to the affidavit.) 

 

Basic pie crust

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 sticks butter, FROZEN
  • 1/4 cup water, with an ice cube

Instructions

  1. Freeze the butter for at least 20 minutes, then shred it on a box grater. Set aside.

  2. Put the water in a cup and throw an ice cube in it. Set aside.

  3. In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Then add the shredded butter and combine with a butter knife or your fingers until there are no piles of loose, dry flour. Try not to work it too hard. It's fine if there are still visible nuggets of butter.

  4. Sprinkle the dough ball with a little iced water at a time until the dough starts to become pliable but not sticky. Use the water to incorporate any remaining dry flour.

  5. If you're ready to roll out the dough, flour a surface, place the dough in the middle, flour a rolling pin, and roll it out from the center.

  6. If you're going to use it later, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. You can keep it in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months, if you wrap it with enough layers. Let it return to room temperature before attempting to roll it out!

  7. If the crust is too crumbly, you can add extra water, but make sure it's at room temp. Sometimes perfect dough is crumbly just because it's too cold, so give it time to warm up.

  8. You can easily patch cracked dough by rolling out a patch and attaching it to the cracked part with a little water. Pinch it together.

 

Beef marinade for fajita bowls

enough for 6-7 lbs of beef

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 head garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together.

  2. Pour over beef, sliced or unsliced, and marinate several hours. If the meat is sliced, pan fry. If not, cook in a 350 oven, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. I cook the meat in all the marinade and then use the excess as gravy.

 

Instant Pot black beans

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 16-oz cans black beans with liquid
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Put olive oil pot of Instant Pot. Press "saute" button. Add diced onion and minced garlic. Saute, stirring, for a few minutes until onion is soft. Press "cancel."

  2. Add beans with liquid. Add cumin, salt, and cilantro. Stir to combine. Close the lid, close the vent, and press "slow cook."

What’s for supper? Vol. 243: The next big hing

Here it is Friday again! What do you know about that. 

Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, veg and dip

Damien made these, and they were yummy. Nothing much else to report, except look at the pretty dish Clara made. 

SUNDAY
Pasta carbonara

Bacon was on sale and we had leftover parmesan in the house, so I was powerless. Carbonara was calling and would not be denied. 

Here’s my easy peasy nicely greasy recipe:

Jump to Recipe

And very good it was, pasta carbonara. 

MONDAY
Ham, peas, mashed potatoes

The meal for when ham is on sale for Easter and you’re planning to make a big Passover meal the day before Easter so you don’t need ham for that, but despoiling the Egyptians is always in season. Or something. Anyway, the kids like ham. 

I don’t know why there is a marble on my plate. 

On Monday, despite being full of potatoes, I was already getting excited about Tuesday’s meal, when I would finally get to use my little bottle of hing. 

Hing is the Hindi word for asafoetida, which means “stinky ass.” Not really, but kinda really. It is made from the resin of giant fennel plants and whoever smelled it and thought, “boy, I bet this is just the thing to make my food taste really excellent!” must have been super high. It smells like . . . did you ever have a kid who got really really attached to a pair of green rubber boots with frogs on the toe, and he insists on wearing them all summer long, but won’t wear socks? And then finally takes them off and fills them with hot shrimp ramen? Hing kind of smells like the ramen that comes out of those boots. 

So naturally I was quite excited about adding this ingredient to my family’s menu. I decided to test the waters with another ingredient I also haven’t tried before: Flattened rice. 

Look at those guys! Look at them dance!

I cannot possibly miss when I have poha and hing on my side!

The recipe I landed on described itself as “mild,” and “easy” and “quick” and “for complete dumbasses” so I thought it would be a good first foray. 

Benny and Corrie had never seen a fresh coconut before, so we had fun stabbing it in the eyes and beating it over its hairy head with a hammer. Then I sent them off to bed and shredded the meat, which I was was the boring part, but really I wanted to keep all the end pieces for myself to gnaw on.

Then I bagged it for the next day, pretty excited about the poha to come. 

TUESDAY
Indian roast chicken, coconut poha, mango

First let me tell you about the main dish, which was roast chicken. As I have mentioned, I get kind of crabby when I have to roast a whole chicken, but mixing together a bunch of pungent Indian spices did cheer me up. I followed this easy recipe from Aarthi at YummyTummy, and it turned out great. I quadrupled the recipe and it made more than enough marinade paste for two six-pound chickens.

You just stab the chickens all over, rub the marinade in, including inside cavity, and roast it covered, and then uncovered. You do have to change the temperature once, and baste it toward the end. 

It was juicy and delicious. I didn’t have every last ingredient, but it had a little fiery burst at the first bite, which mellowed out quickly and just became warm and cheering and lively. The kids are very quickly acclimating to Indian flavors, and most of them ate the chicken happily, including the rather spicy skin, which was very crisp and packed with flavor. 

Definitely going to make this again. I may keep it covered a bit longe, just to avoid blackening the marinade quite so much. That being said, several people went back to the kitchen to scrape pieces of said blackened marinade off the pan after dinner, so the color clearly wasn’t a deterrent. 

And now for the poha. I more or less followed this recipe from SharmisPassions , except I had peanuts instead of cashews, dried ground mustard instead of mustard seeds, and I didn’t have any jeera. I also misread the directions and left the nuts in the pan when I was tempering the peppers and curry leaves and spices, so the nuts got a little burned.

THAT BEING SAID, I had hing, darn it! I had been led to believe (possibly by myself) that if you have hing, the magic of umami is going to grab you by the taste buds and drag you straight to flavortown.

This . . . did not happen. I swear I used plenty of it, and I had so many fresh ingredients, fresh curry leaves, fresh coconut, and did I mention hing, and I let it splutter and everything like the recipe said! But the whole dish just tasted like hot wet shredded paper with burned peanuts in it. 

Oh well. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t taste like much of anything, and was more baffling than anything else. I don’t know, maybe I got confused somehow and messed up the proportions when I was sizing it up. I have lots more poha, and I’m definitely going to try again! Just . . . not that particular recipe. (I don’t blame the recipe, but it’s cursed now, and I have to move along.)

The chicken was great, the poha was at least hot, and the fresh mango was nice. Still a pretty good meal, just weird. 

WEDNESDAY
Chinese pork, chopped salad, pineapple 

Now this was a bit of a triumph, and made me feel better about my cooking. I had this big lump of pork and only the very vaguest of plans. I had bought a little red cabbage, and a bag of kale on clearance — sale kale, if you will — and some crunchy noodles, and that was as far as I got. It seemed like we’ve been having a lot of rice lately, so I wanted to make something different. And it was kind of late in the day to start char siu. 

So I mooched around some recipes, and decided to try something that I thought should work.  Famous last words, right?

I put together some classic Chinese roast pork ingredients — soy sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, honey, white pepper, and five spice — and I just mixed it together and hucked it all in the Instant Pot with the meat for 22 minutes. It came out undercooked, which was okay, because I was planning to finish it on the stovetop.

I put the sliced meat in a big pan with all the sauce and just simmered it slowly 

stirring it occasionally, to make sure all the sides of the pieces of meat got coated. And I’ll be darned if it didn’t reduce way down until it was sticky and glossy and dark reddish-brown, and truly delicious. 

It took about half an hour, maybe forty minutes, and it really, really tasted like restaurant roast Chinese pork. I was so pleased. Very little effort. I was afraid the pork would be tough with all that cooking, but it was not. 

I chopped up the red cabbage and kale and just served the meat on top of it with the crunchy noodles, and it was fab. I bought some bottled sesame dressing, but ended up not using it, because the meat had such an intense flavor. I served pineapple on the side just to round the meal out. 

Extremely pleased with this. I was so nervous about serving meat without rice, but I think it worked so well. The meat has a very potent flavor and is very sticky, so it was good to have the fresh crunchy vegetables for texture contrast, and the extra snap of the thin noodles made it perfect.

Here’s the recipe with the exact directions:

Jump to Recipe

You could really taste the white pepper in the sauce, too. I highly recommend getting a canister of white pepper to keep around, even if you only use it every once in a while. There really is no substitute for that strange little sizzle it adds. (Warning: It smells like horse manure for some reason.)

THURSDAY
Burgers and chips

When I tell you how relieved I was to look at the menu and see it was just burgers and chips. I know I’m the one who makes these stupid complicated menus, but still! Why do I do this to myself! Because I like good food, that’s why. But still, I was relieved. And burgers are good food, too. 

I was determined to take a more interesting picture of a burger, and the only thing I could think of was to deliberately stick my finger in the frame.

This struck me as hilarious at the time. Then I took a two-hour nap. 

In other food news, on Thursday morning we did try poha again, this time as a sweet breakfast dish. I soaked the poha in water for about five minutes, squeezed it out, doused it in milk, and heated it in the microwave for two minutes, then put honey on top. 

(It occurred to me too late that I could have just soaked it in milk and saved myself a step, and also made it taste richer.) The little kids liked it. I tried a bit and it was nice, reminiscent (understandably) of rice pudding. My kids like hot cereals — oatmeal, cornmeal mush — and this is along those lines, although the grains of rice don’t meld together into porridge but stay separate and sort of fluffy. Neat stuff!  

FRIDAY
Sabanekh bil hummus for adults, tuna for kids

We had this stew just a few weeks ago, but we’re headed toward spring and I only have a little bit of soup season left. It’s been blustery and nippy out, so a nice pot of this earthy, nourishing Palestinian spinach and chickpea soup with a lemony twist while the predicted rain washes away the last of the snow is going to be just the thing. 

And if you don’t like it, you can have tuna! Sprinkle some hing on it, see if I care.

(I do.)

Spaghetti carbonara

An easy, delicious meal.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs bacon
  • 3 lbs spaghetti
  • 1 to 1-1/2 sticks butter
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • lots of pepper
  • 6-8 oz grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon until it is crisp. Drain and break it into pieces.

  2. Boil the spaghetti in salted water until al dente. If you like, add some bacon grease to the boiling water.

  3. Drain the spaghetti and return it to the pot. Add the butter, pieces of bacon, parmesan cheese, and pepper and mix it up until the butter is melted.

  4. Add the raw beaten egg and mix it quickly until the spaghetti is coated. Serve immediately.

 

Quick Chinese "Roast" Pork Strips

If you have a hankering for those intensely flavorful strips of sweet, sticky Chinese roast pork but you don't want to use the oven for some reason, this works well, and you can have it in about an hour and a half, start to finish. You will need to use a pressure cooker and then finish it on the stovetop.

Ingredients

  • 4+ lbs pork roast

For sauce:

  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup oyster sauce
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp Chinese five spice

Instructions

  1. Blend all sauce ingredients together. Put the pork in the Instant Pot, pour the sauce over it, close the lid, close the valve, and set to high pressure for 22 minutes.

  2. When pork is done, vent. Remove pork and cut into strips, saving the sauce.

  3. Put the pork in a large sauté pan with the sauce and heat on medium high, stirring frequently, for half an hour or more, until sauce reduces and becomes thick and glossy and coats the meat.

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 311: In which I go astray with lemons

Apparently it is Friday! I had no idea. Follow me for more organizational tips. 

Like most of the country, we’re feeling a bit pinched financially, so I’m trying to pare things down a bit. I stuck to my usual method (looking up the supermarket flyers and basing the menu around the meat and produce that’s on sale), but I was a little more severe about it than usual, and managed to slice quite a bit off the grocery bill this week, so that felt good. We still ate pretty well. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Fancy chicken sandwiches, raw broccoli, fake Pringles

Just regular chicken burgers, but on ciabatta rolls, with red onion, tomato, aioli mayo, and smoked gouda (which was on sale). A very pleasant, flavorful sandwich. 

If you are wondering what the difference is between aioli and mayo, aioli is made with garlic and olive oil and and mayo is made with egg yolks and canola oil. I suppose aioli mayo is made with eggs, olive oil, and garlic, although I didn’t check the label. Just slathered that stuff on.

SUNDAY
Apple pancakes, sausages, OJ; gingerbread cake with lemon frosting

Damien had to go to Florida for a quick business trip, so we did the ol’ “Daddy’s away, let’s just have pancakes” routine. You know how, when you’re making pancakes, the first batch turns out terrible? This was like that, except all the other batches were also terrible. I have no idea what my problem was, but I absolutely massacred these pancakes. I also got very frugal and chopped up and threw in some quite elderly apples that I probably should have just let go in peace. The kids were very gracious, though, and ate everything up. 

I had more success with dessert, which was a belated birthday cake for Clara. I used the King Arthur gingerbread cake recipe. I am a pretty poor baker, prone to mid-recipe panics and irrational sulks, but King Arthur has saved my bacon more than once, and I recommend them if you are a baker who lacks confidence.

This is a classic gingerbread cake recipe, with coffee, plenty of molasses, and all the cozy autumn spices.

I made a double recipe and baked it in silicone rounds, and they turned out lovely. 

You’re supposed to serve gingerbread with just a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, or maybe some whipped cream, or possibly a light glaze, but this was a birthday cake, so I went whole hog and made a big batch of thick lemon buttercream frosting. I followed this Sally’s Baking Addiction recipe (it’s just a basic buttercream recipe, made with heavy cream, plus fresh lemon juice and lemon zest), and that, too, turned out lovely, very rich and lemony, and a pleasant pale yellow (more so than it looks in the photo below). Here I have just tossed a handful of lemon zest on top. 

Then I got the brilliant idea to candy some lemon slices for garnishes. I have candied lemon peel before, for lemon meringue pie, but I wanted something a little more flashy, so I bought a bunch of hard lemon candies, smashed them with the marble rolling pin I got at the dump

and — okay, here is where I went astray. 

First I sliced up some lemons and laid them on a pan on parchment paper. My first mistake is I should have laid them on paper towel, or something absorbent, because lemons do weep. My second mistake is that I smashed the candies and then decided I would melt them in the microwave and pour the melted candy over the lemon slices. This . . . kind of worked. 

But the candy started sort of boiling before it was completely melted all the way through, and I was afraid of ruining it, so I didn’t have a lot to work with. 

What I should have done, maybe, was sprinkle the crushed candy bits over the lemon slices and put the pan in the oven to melt it all together that way. I think. You can see that I also didn’t take out the seeds. I remember making the decision not to do this, and telling myself it would be more authentic or something, but obviously I just didn’t feel like picking the seeds out. 

Anyway, I ended up with more or less candied lemon slices that were a tiny bit floppier than I would have liked, and a little bit weepy. As someone who got a little bit weepy over a Gary Larson cartoon yesterday, I really cannot judge the lemons for this. 

Then I watched my ten millionth video on how to frost a cake, frosted the cake, loused it up completely like I always do, and decorated it with sort-of candied lemon slices, marigolds (which are edible), and some candied ginger slices. I also threw on some candy squiggles that I had the foresight to make, once I realized that the candy was going to end up squiggly whether I wanted it to or not. And it turned out kind of pretty!

Weird, but pretty. The candy squiggles give it a bit of a doctor’s signature look, which I always think is nice. And see, you can see how the lemons are weeping.

There there, lemons. 

Actually, I think it’s the lemon candy that’s weeping. It’s too bright to be lemon juice. I don’t know. Well, the cake itself was good. Moist and dense, but still tender, and not gummy.

The lemon frosting was maybe a little too sweet, but that’s buttercream for you. A successful cake overall, I thought. 

MONDAY
Pasta with meat sauce

Damien was still away, so I reverted to an old kid-friendly meal: twisty pasta with jarred spaghetti sauce and ground beef. I did fry up a chopped onion, but I think that’s as far as I went with the seasoning. And wow, was it bland. I used to cook like this all the time.

TUESDAY
Pizza

Tuesday was a little experiment: I made just three pizzas, to see if it would be enough. In our heyday, I would make six extra-large pizzas, and there would only be scanty leftovers. As the family shifts and the birdies fly the next, I keep decreasing how many pizzas I make, and this week I had to acknowledge that, when I make four pizzas, there are leftovers hanging around all week long. So I made three, and there were three or four pieces left after everyone ate. This does not sit right, but the data is in. 

Here is a pie chart demonstrating how much pizza our family ate:

Tee hee. (Then we ate the rest of it.)

WEDNESDAY
Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits

Last week, while frying chicken for the chicken biryani, I thought to myself that I really ought to try frying chicken for a main course again, because it was surprisingly simple and easy, and why not? 

So, the answer to this question is: Frying up six or seven pieces of chicken to go in a larger dish later in the day is one thing. Frying up 24 pieces of chicken while everyone hungrily waits for dinner on a school night is quite another. It was not simple! It was not easy! And also I forgot that only one of the big burners on the stove works properly, and the other one just stays on high and burns everything, and the other two are tiny and useless. So, that’s why not. 

I don’t have regrets, though. But I’m starting much earlier in the day, next time. I more or less followed this recipe, except that I dredged the milk-soaked chicken in regular flour seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. I have to admit, it was frrrrrreaking delicious. 

I over cooked it somewhat, so the outside wasn’t exactly beautiful, but it was tasty as heck, the meat was juicy, and all the kids said it was great and I should make it again. So that’s a win! Here’s my unbeautiful but tasty plate:

As you can see, I also made garlic mashed potatoes that were kind of not great. They were very small potatoes and I was rushing, so I decided not to peel them, which works okay if you are going to mash them very thoroughly, which I did not. Oh well. I make mashed potatoes infrequently enough that the kids consider them a treat and were happy to have them. Here’s the recipe, if you want to do it right:

Jump to Recipe

I also made a few dozen biscuits that turned out pretty well.

I have a reliable biscuit recipe that calls for cream of tartar and egg, and the biscuits come out rich and fluffy, with a fragile, buttery crust.

Jump to Recipe

Overall a popular meal. Gravy would have been great, but I just ran out of time. I also wished I had some sauteed spinach, but again, time. 

THURSDAY
Leftover fried chicken, fries, corn

I was planning (well, “planning”) Greek chicken something something yogurt sauce I dunno, but there was a lot of fried chicken left over, so we just picked up some frozen fries, heated up some frozen corn, and had chicken again. 

You can see that the coating adhered nicely, even unto the second day, so I’ll definitely stick with this recipe next time. Maybe even make some gravy.

FRIDAY
Quesadillas, chips, salsa

And then, like I said, apparently it is Friday! At least that’s what it says here. And now I’m headed to the windowsill. 

Garlic parmesan mashed potatoes

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs potatoes
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 8 Tbsp butter
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 8 oz grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Peel the potatoes and put them in a pot. Cover the with water. Add a bit of salt and the smashed garlic cloves.

  2. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer with lid loosely on until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.

  3. Drain the water out of the pot. Add the butter and milk and mash well.

  4. Add the parmesan and salt and pepper to taste and stir until combined.

moron biscuits

Because I've been trying all my life to make nice biscuits and I was too much of a moron, until I discovered this recipe. It has egg and cream of tartar, which is weird, but they come out great every time. Flaky little crust, lovely, lofty insides, rich, buttery taste.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, chilled
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450.

  2. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and cream of tartar.

  3. Grate the chilled butter with a box grater into the dry ingredients.

  4. Stir in the milk and egg and mix until just combined. Don't overwork it. It's fine to see little bits of butter.

  5. On a floured surface, knead the dough 10-15 times. If it's very sticky, add a little flour.

  6. With your hands, press the dough out until it's about an inch thick. Cut biscuits. Depending on the size, you can probably get 20 medium-sized biscuits with this recipe.

  7. Grease a pan and bake for 10-15 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

What’s for supper? Vol. 296: Never mind 5G, we have 6S

Friday! I just wrote one of these food posts, and I don’t know about you, but I’m totally ready for another one, cementing my notion that it would be best if I just settled into writing about food and nothing but food all the time.

There are, of course, plenty of people who do exactly this. In fact, they do far less food writing than I do. They write maybe one recipe a week, and it’s usually something like “Best Ever Summer Vacation Spice-’em-Up Celebration Wowzer Cake” and it’s, like, Betty Crocker red velvet cake mix plus a teaspoon of Old Bay seasoning (Amazon Associates link included), with eleven photos taken directly up the cake’s nostrils.  But they also send out bi-weekly newsletters with optimized RPM plugins and native lazy loading, plus of course their static homepage has Gutenberg blocks that’s always running various tag managers in parallel to implementing UTM parameters; and because of this, they’re earning $600 a day with the wowzer cake alone.

I don’t begrudge them at all. Every six months or so, I think, how hard could it be? I’ll just look into it and do some very simple, basic SEO things just to streamline the site a bit and attract more viewers. Just simple stuff. So I open a tab, and oop! I’m fifteen years old and I’m back in Mr. Stockwell’s physics class and the board is full of strange markings that mean nothing to me. I have no idea what the hell he’s talking about, but I started getting confused back in October, and now it’s June and it’s far, far too late to do anything about it. 

Inertia. I do remember learning about inertia. I guess that’s what we’re dealing with here. Plus also crying. Anyway, here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
I truly do not remember. I don’t have any photos, and I know we went shopping on Saturday, so it probably wasn’t anything good. 

SUNDAY
Burgers, chips

Sunday we did a massive amount of yard work. Damien did all the glamorous parts, like scrubbing and vacuuming out the pool, fixing the back steps, and weed whacking the dog area so he could shovel poop so he could mow. Then he washed up and made supper. Such a prima donna, that man. Meanwhile I really carried the family by transplanting daisies and watering my strawberries and whatnot. Everybody works! 

MONDAY
Smoked chicken thighs, brats, chips, mac and cheese, watermelon, lemon meringue pie

Monday we finished up some projects and then I took the kids to the beach for the first time this year. Lovely little town pond. Less than lovely crowd, but maybe next time those particular folks will all have been sent into outer space by means of a richly-deserved fist. Memorial Day is often a little dicey.

For supper, Damien made his most excellent smoked chicken thighs with the spicy sugar rub. This rub is good on all kinds of meats, and you can adapt it however you want.

Jump to Recipe

The sugar caramelizes and gives the skin a terrific texture, and the sweet and spicy combo of the seasoning is so good with a cold beer.

He also made brats boiled in beer with onions and then grilled, served with chopped onions, and my friend Laina came over and brought some swanky, melty mac and cheese with gorgonzola, which I’ve been eating all week. 

We also had chips and watermelon, and Benny and I made a couple of lemon meringue pies.

This is a very simple recipe, with only a few ingredients. It’s not sophisticated, but it hits all the marks. 

Jump to Recipe

We decided to be fancy and pipe the meringue on, but we aren’t fancy enough to own a piping bag just now (sometimes we have one and sometimes we don’t. Nobody knows what causes this), so we used a plastic bag with a hole in it. Here was our inspiration:

And here were our results. They were a little. . . . cephalopodian. 

Also, I left both pies out in a warm kitchen and they got very weepy before dinner (a common problem around here). But they still tasted fine, and we had fun. Gonna eat outside as much as possible this summer! Gonna eat as much as possible this summer, in general. 

TUESDAY
Southwest chicken salad

Someone really needs to wrench the word “salad” away from me. There was a base of greens, but it was laboring under a very heavy load of many other things.

Delicious things! I drizzled olive oil on some chicken breasts and seasoned them heavily with something called “elote powder,” which I believe has powdered cheese, chili powder, cumin, salt, and some kind of very sharp citrus in it, and who knows what else. It’s very orange. Then roasted the chicken and cut it into chunks.

I also splurged on some of those little multicolored tomatoes, plus avocados cut into chunks, chopped bacon, corn, and corn chips, and some kind of creamy chipotle lime dressing, I forget what I got. There’s a salad dressing for every possible desire you could have.

I absolutely loved this meal. The bacon wasn’t absolutely necessary, but it certainly won me some friends. 

WEDNESDAY
Spiedies, french fries, sugar snap peas

Another great summer recipe I’m happy to be returning to. A little bit of effort in the morning, and you can tumble home half an hour before dinner and cook up a very tasty meal. 

The wild mint has come back, and Corrie was home from school with a momentary sniffle, so I sent her out to forage a giant handful, and we made the marinade together.

A wonderful marinade. Very sharp and summery and fresh. Olive oil, lemon juice, wine vinegar, red pepper flakes, a little sugar, a lot of fresh garlic, and a lot of fresh mint. 

Jump to Recipe

I had a nice fatty cut of pork and cut it into fairly big chunks, and let it marinate most of the day.

In the evening, pulled the meat out of the marinade, spread it on a pan, and added some large chunks of onion and bell pepper, and roasted it all.

I toasted some buns, spread them with mayo, and it was magnificent. The meat was incredibly tender, and had taken on tons of flavor.

You could add in cherry tomatoes and big chunks of mushroom, if you wanted. Spiedies are really supposed to be cooked on a skewer (the Italian word “spiedo” means “spit”), and that would be delicious, but this method turns out very well and saves a lot of time if you’re cooking for a crowd. 

We had french fries, which I heroically avoided in favor of sugar snap peas. And that definitely made up for the way I’ve been digging out handfuls of cold gorgonzola mac and cheese all week. That is how it works! 

THURSDAY
Omelettes

I do know how to cook omelettes. I just choose to make them like this, instead. 

Everybody had their choice of sausage, cheese, and mushroom, but nobody had the choice of whether or not I massacred their omelette. There were no survivors.

We also had orange juice from a can, and biscuits from a can. I took them out of the can and everything. 

FRIDAY

There’s fish in the freezer and a cabbage on the counter, and we do have limes and sour cream and salsa and tortillas, so I deduce I’m supposed to be making fish tacos. I guess I need to buy more avocados, though. That seems like a meal, right? Probably we have leftover corn chips.

Oh, I have one more picture in this week’s batch: A school lunch from earlier in the week, that really screams “June.” 

and here’s a picture of a recent school day breakfast 

Both total wins, because the breakfast has a protein (custard and meringue), fruit (lemon), milk (condensed), and grain (graham cracker crust), and is superior to last week’s breakfast, which was just popcorn, which is a whole grain, but also includes microwaving, which strips the nutrients of their healthful riboflavins, as I understand it from Mr. Stockwell’s physics class.

The lunch is even better, because it not only has a protein and is nut-free, it contains both salami (culturally enriching) and a secret message (“6S” spelled out in mustard, for “six salami”).

Well, goodbye. 

 

Smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

 

Cheater's lemon meringue pie

I like a pie shell made from several cups of animal cracker crumbs whirred into a sandy texture, mixed with a stick of melted butter and 1/4 cup of brown sugar and a dash of salt. Mix well and press into the pan.

Ingredients

  • 1 pie shell

For the lemon layer:

  • 14 oz sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested

For the meringue:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350

  2. Mix together the condensed milk, egg yolks, lemon juice, and lemon zest until well combined. Pour the mixture into the pie shell.

  3. Bake 10-15 minutes until the mixture has a little skin.

  4. While it's baking, use an electric mixer with a whisk attachment to beat the egg whites until it has soft peaks. Then gradually add the sugar until it has stiff peaks.

  5. When the lemon layer comes out of the oven, spread the meringue over the top and make a little peaks all over it with a fork or spatula.

  6. Return the pie to the oven and bake for another ten minutes or so until the meringue is slightly browned.

 

pork spiedies (can use marinade for shish kebob)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup veg or olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup red or white wine vinegar
  • 4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4-5 lbs boneless pork, cubed
  • peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, cut into chunks

Instructions

  1. Mix together all marinade ingredients. 

    Mix up with cubed pork, cover, and marinate for several hours or overnight. 

    Best cooked over hot coals on the grill on skewers with vegetables. Can also spread in a shallow pan with veg and broil under a hot broiler.

    Serve in sandwiches or with rice. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 293: I’ll tell YOU what’s yakitori

Happy Friday! I am headed to adoration in a bit, and shall yell at Jesus about your intentions. 

Quick covid report: Everybody in the house eventually got it, except for one kid, who is either supernatural, or somehow got false negatives on a LOT of tests. The other kids only got a little bit sick, happily, and some didn’t get sick at all. They are all completely better. I’m definitely on the mend. I don’t think I even took a nap yesterday! And my splendid covid rash actually retreated a bit yesterday, rather than spreading, for the first time since it made its debut. Damien has started running again, and I have slowly, carefully started up yoga. I’m wheezy, but not horribly wheezy. Today I’m exactly three weeks out from the day I tested positive, so I guess that’s pretty normal. In conclusion, covid is stupid but not nearly as stupid as it could have been, so, Deo gratias. 

Spring has sprung for real. 

The ticks are ticking, the dog is romping, Damien is battling the pool water, and away we go. Outdoor cooking season is fully underway, happily, as you will see.

Here’s what we ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Smoked pork ribs, cole slaw, chips

Damien made three luscious racks of ribs in the smoker with a sugar rub and mustard. 

Jump to Recipe

It doesn’t really taste mustardy; it just has a savory tang with a little muted fireworks aftertaste, and they are incredibly juicy and flavorful. I can never tell if these “cutting up meat” pictures look amazing to other people, or just kind of grisly, but they look amazing to me.

I took a picture of a demure plate with two ribs, but I was just getting warmed up. 

Great meal. 

I also had the great fun of briefly meeting an old friend who was selling her wonderful prints at a local craft fair. Do check out Rabbit Dog Fine Arts on Etsy for some really striking, lively work, very very reasonably priced. I, uh, bought four prints because I couldn’t help myself.

SUNDAY
Italian sandwiches, french fries; lemon cake

Sunday was Mother’s Day, and I’m happy to report that, in a few short decades, I’ve successfully made the transition from having a painful, bitter day when I feel unappreciated and neglected, to getting showered with gifts and attention and feeling a little guilty about it. But not too guilty! 

I requested Italian sandwiches and a lemon-based dessert, both very delicious.

I do love lemon desserts. We recently saw the Great British Baking Show with the Sussex Pond Pudding, which is a pastry with a lard crust that contains butter, sugar, and an entire cooked lemon. I think I would eat that? Yeah, I’m pretty sure I would eat that. I would eat that.

I also went to Home Depot to finally get started on some gardening, finally. I am at a point in my life where, yes yes, I live in New Hampshire, but I just don’t want to dig up any more rocks, at all, ever. So that means container gardening. But I don’t just want buckets of dirt all over the place, either. But I don’t want to pay for lumber. So I wandered around in the yard with a measuring tape making vague diagrams, got to Home Depot, made a wild guess about how many cinder blocks we might need (um, 60?), loaded up as many as we could pull on a single cart, and, full of anxious foreboding about the expensive, cell-like, somehow-still-inadequate structure I was going to build, and how bad it was going to be on the car to bring it home, I went off to find a second cart, and on the way, discovered that for about the same price I could buy . . . look at this . . . four galvanized steel window wells, that are food safe because they are galvanized steel, and are already designed to be jammed into the ground.

But they turned out to be $20 each, not $10 as I originally thought, so I put the back, and felt sad about it, and looked at the cinder blocks again, but then I thought about how rotten I would feel if I came home with nothing, and I decided that not feeling that way was worth at least $30, and I would just eat the extra $10, because it was Mother’s Day. So I abandoned the cinder blocks and bought four metal thingies instead. This is how I do math. This is how I live. It’s better than digging up rocks, I guess.

The plan is make two long ovals, with a few cinder blocks stacked up between the pieces to form the long ends. I think maybe we have a few cinder blocks in our yard somewhere, left over from my last boneheaded project. Those are free, because it was last year.

Anyway, I finally got started, and that’s the main thing. And we stopped at the local nursery and bought several varieties of lettuce, some Brussels sprouts, and some celery, which are all plants I can leave outside even if it gets cold again, which it will. We’re not doing seeds this year. We’re just not.

MONDAY
Cuban sandwiches, chips, carrots and dip; birthday cake

Monday we celebrated Moe’s birthday. He requested Cuban sandwiches on ciabatta rolls. I started the pork a bit late, and ended up just roasting it in the oven covered with tinfoil and with lots of salt and pepper, garlic powder, oregano, and cumin, and doused with cider vinegar, and it was fine, if a tiny bit bland.

So, bread, mustard, pickles, Swiss cheese, pork, ham, more cheese,

and fried in an alarming amount of butter.

I pressed the heck out of the sandwiches with in iron frying pan as they fried,

and then put them in a warm oven to seal the deal, by which I mean the cheese.

This picture makes me laugh. This sandwich looks like it has its mouth full. Happy murfmay, Mofef! That is what the sandwich says.

He requested a whale shark cake,

and maybe if I had had more time time to prepare, it would have come out better, but maybe not. 

TUESDAY
Meatloaf, baked potatoes, salad

The secret of my meatloaf is I don’t make it very often, so the kids think it’s a treat. And it’s really pretty good; it’s just that there’s only a certain amount of good that meatloaf can be. My meatloaf has red wine, Worcestershire sauce, and fried onions in it. I always think I should make a gravy to go along with it, but it’s really fine as is. It’s meatloaf.  

Jump to Recipe

Certainly looked portentous coming out of the oven. I’m pretty happy the sun is up for dinner again. 

We had baked potatoes and salad. Did I already say that? I think I already said that. Well, here’s proof. 

WEDNESDAY
Yakitori chicken, rice, sesame string beans

Now this was a tasty meal. I made the sauce and Damien cooked the chicken on the grill. He used half the sauce to baste the chicken as he cooked it,

and then we served the other half for dipping. The meat comes out sweet, tangy, and gingery, and wonderfully glossy. 

You don’t have to marinate this meat; it gets plenty of flavor from basting. I made a triple recipe of this sauce, but I massively increased the amount of fresh garlic and ginger, and I cooked it considerably longer than she said. I cooked it through the entire third movement of Mendellsohn’s “Reformation” symphony before it thickened up. 

We used skinless, boneless chicken thighs but did not bother cutting them and putting them on skewers, but just sort of unfurled them and grilled them whole. They were wonderful that way, but technically they are not yakitori, which really is supposed to be on skewers. Although [snort, snort] technically “yaki” means “roast” and “tori” means “bird,” so I guess it depends if you want to be pedantic, or just, you know, eat the yummy chicken. 

Everyone was very enthusiastic about this meal. Served with sesame seeds and chopped scallions and more sauce, as you can see, which had a sharper, brighter flavor as a dipping sauce than it did when basted onto the chicken. Gosh, it was so good. I wish I had some right now, but it’s Friday, so I’m having some fwiggin yogurt and hummus and carrots. 

THURSDAY
Chicken burgers, cheezy weezies

Everyone was also very enthusiastic about this meal, served with mayonnaise. And buns from Aldi. 

FRIDAY
Seafood lo mein

We haven’t had lo mein for a while. I just bought some linguine or fettuccine, I forget which, for the noodles. Basically you just need something flat and slurpy that will pick up the tasty sauce and make a happy home for whatever you want to add in. 

Jump to Recipe

I often put in sugar snap peas, asparagus, or shrimp.

This time, I bought a little bag of mixed seafood from Aldi, which seems to have shrimp, scallops, some kind of shellfish, and misc. I’m a little concerned about the various cooking times it will need, but only a little concerned. 

Okay, that’s it! Here’s some recipe cards for yez. Do try the yakitori (or whatever) sauce. 

Smoked pork ribs with mustard rub

Ingredients

  • 2 racks pork ribs

Pork rub

  • 1-1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • Yellow mustard
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. The night before or several hours before dinner, mix together the rub spices. 



  2. Spread yellow mustard all over the rack of ribs and apply the rub. Cover and refrigerate. Let it come back to room temp before cooking.

  3. Light the fire and let it die down. Put the meat on the grill off to the side, where it will get indirect heat. Put the cover down and let it cook at least four hours. 

  4. Add salt and pepper, then separate the ribs and enjoy. 

Meatloaf (actually two giant meatloaves)

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground beef
  • 2 lbs ground turkey
  • 8 eggs
  • 4 cups breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 cup milk OR red wine
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

plenty of salt, pepper, garlic powder or fresh garlic, onion powder, fresh parsley, etc.

  • ketchup for the top
  • 2 onions diced and fried (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450

  2. Mix all meat, eggs, milk, breadcrumbs, and seasonings together with your hands until well blended.

  3. Form meat into two oblong loaves on pan with drainage

  4. Squirt ketchup all over the outside of the loaves and spread to cover with spatula. Don't pretend you're too good for this. It's delicious. 

  5. Bake for an hour or so, until meat is cooked all the way through. Slice and serve. 

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 5 tsp sesame oil
  • 5 tsp sugar

for the rest

  • 32 oz uncooked noodles
  • sesame oil for cooking
  • add-ins (vegetables sliced thin or chopped small, shrimp, chicken, etc.)
  • 2/3 cup rice vinegar (or mirin, which will make it sweeter)

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

  2. Boil the noodles until slightly underdone. Drain and set aside.

  3. Heat up a pan, add some sesame oil for cooking, and quickly cook your vegetables or whatever add-ins you have chosen.

  4. Add the mirin to the pan and deglaze it.

  5. Add the cooked noodles in, and stir to combine. Add the sauce and stir to combine.

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 280: Comfort, comfort food, o my people

Comfort! Comfort! Baked ziti with sausage, and chili verde with corn bread, and juicy, vaguely Asian beef for your ramen, o my people. And some adorable lemon tarts you can probably make even if you’re terrible with desserts. O my people.

Also, I hope you guys like pictures, because I took a lot of pictures this week.

SATURDAY
Hot dogs, chips? 

Maybe? 

SUNDAY
Baked ziti with sausage, breadsticks, mini lemon meringue tarts

We had such a nice day on Sunday. Damien made dinner, Elijah, who is taking a cooking class in school, decided we needed homemade breadsticks, and I got a yen for lemon meringue tarts. Other than the cozy kitchen activities, we just went to Mass and played with the animals and dyed hair and hung out. 

First the ziti. We used to have baked ziti allllll the time, and we really got burnt out on it. But that would not have happened if we had been using this recipe. A Deadspin recipe.

The picture, sadly, doesn’t capture even a fraction of its massive, creamy, meltingly cheesy, chaotic, flavorful glory. It has three kinds of cheese, fresh herbs, sausage, hunks of tomato, everything good. It’s like lasagna showed up at your house and got hysterical, but in the most entertaining way.

Here’s Elijah kneading his second batch of breadstick dough.

He made a batch of breadsticks just for snacks, and they got gobbled up right away, so he went right back and made another double batch for dinner. I’ll see if I can get his recipe.

And now for dessert. So, these lemon tarts are . . . not sophisticated. They have two flavors: LEMON!! and SUGAR!! If you like those two things, you will like this dessert, which is bright and cute and not hard to make, although it’s a bit labor intensive. 

Jump to Recipe

Last time I made this recipe, I just made pie. This time, I thought it would be fun to have individual little tarts. 

I ended up using a full box of animal crackers (I told you it wasn’t sophisticated) which made enough crust for 24 cupcake-sized tarts. I didn’t have faith that they would hold together, so I used cupcake papers. This turned out to be unnecessary, as the crust and the lemon layer are both quite sturdy, and it just gave me an extra step to do when I had to peel them all off after baking. Anyway, I whirred the animal crackers, butter, and brown sugar in the food processor until it felt like damp sand, then deposited a heap into each cupcake tin. Then I pressed each one with a cup, to make, well, a cup shape. 

You do not need to bake these shells before filling. Then you just mix together condensed milk, egg yolks, lemon juice, and lemon zest, and pour it into the shells, and bake. 

Shiny!

Then the meringue is just egg whites and powdered sugar. Note that this is the third kind of sugar in this recipe already, gevalt. This is where your teeth are really going to start to bother you. So you just whip it into stiff peaks, glop it on top of the baked lemon, and then bake it a little more. 

But wait! You need these to be a little more lemony and a little more sugary! So you are going to make some candied lemon peels, which are surprisingly easy and quick to whip up.

Basically, you scoop out the pulp, cut the lemon peel thinly, boil it in plain water three times to cut the bitterness, then boil it in sugar water, drain it and let it dry a bit, then toss it with sugar and ginger. 

Jump to Recipe

 

In real life, they look less like french fries. 

I couldn’t quite, quite figure out how to place the lemon peel garnishes.  Hmm?

Do you like my hat?

The meringue had plenty of little ledges and curls, so it wasn’t hard to make a half-dozen lemon peels stay on each tart, but they looked a little inelegant. 

Maybe next time I will insert the peels in between the meringue and the curd. That would probably work!

Okay, they kind of look like french fries. 

I think next time I do this, I will use ginger snaps for the crust, and probably leave more pith on the lemon peel, and maybe cut them a little thicker, because I tasted more sugar than lemon. But overall, everyone liked it, and in retrospect, this was the dessert that launched a migraine that hasn’t let up all week, so you know it’s good.

Really, what is wrong with me.

MONDAY
Chili verde, corn bread, rice, pineapple

Speaking of food that hurts, here is another dish I’ve been craving, but I felt some trepidation about coming home with the right peppers, after my experience last time and also that other time. I always tell myself, Now look, you’re a functioning adult. You can read and everything. All you have to do is look carefully at the tags, maybe consult that plastic binder they have, and you’ll be able to tell which kind of pepper is which. You’ll be able to tell!

And I try; I really do. I’m highly motivated. And yet somehow I always end up coming home with, like, a Columbian dolor extremo pepper or a — guys, I’m really tired and I can’t seem to come up with a fake funny pepper name, but you get the idea. I’m a pepper idiot. Soy pimienta idiota. 

Anyway, this time, I got lucky, because the spiciness was perfect. Whatever these are, they were good.

In this recipe you roast the peppers along with the tomatillos,

then pull off the skins, and I also removed about 80% of the seeds and membrane. Then you puree it all in the food processor along with lots of onions, garlic, and cilantro. Mmmm.

Brown up some seasoned pork chunks in oil in batches,

then throw the puree into the pot with the pork and let it simmer. I did this part in the crock pot and let it go all day, and oh boy, it was so tender and savory and wonderful by dinner time.

Serve it over rice to sop up the wonderful juices, squeeze a little lime over the top and put a little sour cream to cool it down, and it was amazing.

Spicy enough to wake up my whole face, but it didn’t cause any pain. Good stuff.

This is fork-tender, so you can easily shred it if you want, but I felt like leaving it in chunks. You can also add some broth before you start it simmering, to, well, make it more brothy; but I liked having it fairly thick. Just so you know, there are options. 

I made a tray of corn bread that I didn’t overbake for once in my life. I have switched to a more finely milled corn meal, so maybe that helps. This picture is from Picasso’s cornbread period:

You don’t need a cornbread recipe, right? It’s just regular cornbread. 

TUESDAY
Roast drumsticks, baked potatoes, steamed veggies

Dinner had been challenging for certain people for the last couple of days, so I decided to go with a kid-pleaser: Just regular normal drumsticks seasoned with salt and pepper, baked potatoes with butter and sour cream, and mixed vegetables that went straight from a bag in the freezer, to a bowl on the table, to the garbage, no mess, no fuss. 

I have to admit, it was a tasty meal. Nothing wrong with drumsticks and baked potatoes. I also made some frozen butternut squash, which I ate out of a sense of duty to eat something that was not brown, but it was not great. 

What was great was this POTATO BUTT.

I believe this is what the kids call an “absolute unit.” To see this and other absolute units, follow @PotatoesButts on Twitter. This will not profit you in any way. 

WEDNESDAY
Vermonter sandwiches, Bugles

A much-longed-for sandwich. Toasted ciabatta rolls, honey mustard, thick slices of roast chicken, slices of sharp cheddar, bacon, and slices of green apple. 

Someday I’ll take a good picture of this very fine, tart, hearty sandwich, but not today. 

THURSDAY
Beef and tofu ramen 

Usually, “fancy ramen” includes some boneless pork ribs sauteed in soy sauce and sliced up. I was pretty tired of this, so I got a big hunk of beef chuck roast, intending to marinate it. Then somehow it came to be 4 PM on Thursday, and the beef was still sitting there and hadn’t even bothered to magically marinate itself, the lazy thing.  So I rubbed some brown sugar on top, sprinkled it heavily with garlic powder and dried ginger and lightly with salt

and put it in a 400 oven for about half an hour, then sliced it up. 

Not bad! It had achieved a vaguely Asian taste, and it was juicy, and that was what I was going for. 

We also had soft boiled eggs, pea shoots, scallions, spinach, firm tofu, and various sauces. I put a blob of sambal oelek on the edge of my bowl and added a dab to every third spoonful or so. 

I also had meant to do more with the tofu, but I just ran out of time, so I just cut it into cubes, warmed it in the microwave, and threw it in my bowl. It was fine. I like tofu. But I wouldn’t mind trying some more exciting things with it, if anyone has some low-skill ideas for me.

Gosh, I love this meal. I love all my meals. I love food. 

FRIDAY

Today we are doing some kind of outdoor winter fundraising thing, and I’m experiencing a bad attitude about it. I plan to buy some Aldi pizza on the way home, and also something for dinner tomorrow, because it sure looks like we’re gonna be snowed it. Maybe I’ll make some pie. 

Cheater's lemon meringue pie

I like a pie shell made from several cups of animal cracker crumbs whirred into a sandy texture, mixed with a stick of melted butter and 1/4 cup of brown sugar and a dash of salt. Mix well and press into the pan.

Ingredients

  • 1 pie shell

For the lemon layer:

  • 14 oz sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested

For the meringue:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350

  2. Mix together the condensed milk, egg yolks, lemon juice, and lemon zest until well combined. Pour the mixture into the pie shell.

  3. Bake 10-15 minutes until the mixture has a little skin.

  4. While it's baking, use an electric mixer with a whisk attachment to beat the egg whites until it has soft peaks. Then gradually add the sugar until it has stiff peaks.

  5. When the lemon layer comes out of the oven, spread the meringue over the top and make a little peaks all over it with a fork or spatula.

  6. Return the pie to the oven and bake for another ten minutes or so until the meringue is slightly browned.

 

candied lemon peels

use as garnishes, or just eat as candy

Ingredients

  • 3 lemons
  • 2 cups sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • dash ginger (optional)

Instructions

  1. Cut the lemons in half or quarters. Scoop out all the pulp.

  2. Cut the rind into strips as thinly as you can. It's fine to leave the pith attached.

  3. Put the strips in a small pot, cover with cold water, bring to a boil, then drain. Do this three times. This is to reduce the bitterness of the pith.

  4. After the third boil, drain off the water, remove the strips and set them aside.

  5. Combine two cups of sugar with two cups of water and heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Return the citrus strips to the pot. Simmer, stirring often, until the pith is translucent.

  6. At this point you have a few options:

    (a) You can keep the citrus peels in the sugar water and store it that way. They are less decorative this way, but they will keep in the refrigerator; or

    (b) You can drain the sugar water off and spread the citrus peels out on a tray to dry. Toss them with more sugar, or colored sugar, and powdered ginger if you like. They will be dry enough to use as garnishes in about half an hour, but they will feel more candied if you let them dry overnight. They will keep for several weeks if you store them in an airtight container.

Spicy Chili Verde

You can decrease the heat by seeding the peppers, using fewer habañeros, or substituting some milder pepper. It does get less spicy as it cooks, so don't be alarmed if you make the salsa and it's overwhelming!

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs pork shoulder
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for cooking
  • 2 cups chicken broth or beer (optional)

For the salsa verde:

  • 4 Anaheim peppers
  • 2 habañero peppers
  • 4 jalapeño peppers
  • 4 medium onions
  • 12 tomatillos
  • 1 head garlic, cloves peeled
  • 1 bunch cilantro

For serving:

  • lime wedges
  • sour cream
  • additional cilantro for topping

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler.

  2. Pull the husks and stems off the tomatillos and rinse them. Cut the ends off all the peppers. Grease a large pan and put the tomatillos and peppers on it. Broil five minutes, turn, and broil five minutes more, until they are slightly charred.

  3. Take the pan out and cover the peppers and tomatillos with plastic wrap or tin foil for ten minutes. When they are cool enough to handle, pull the skins off the peppers and tomatillos. At this point, you can remove the seeds from the peppers to decrease the spiciness if you want.

  4. Put the skinned tomatillos and peppers in a food processor or blender with the onions, garlic, and cilantro. Purée.

  5. In a heavy pot, heat some oil. Salt and pepper the pork chunks and brown them in the oil. You will need to do it in shifts so the pork has enough room and browns rather than simmering.

  6. When all the meat is browned, put it all in the pot and add the puréed ingredients.

  7. Simmer at a low heat for at least three hours until the meat is tender. If you want thinner chili verde, you can add chicken broth or beer. At some point, if you don't want the pork in large chunks, press the meat with the back of a spoon to make it collapse into shreds.

  8. Spoon the chili verde into bowls, squeeze some lime juice over the top, and top with sour cream and fresh cilantro.

 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 267: The ramens of the day

Cozy foods this week! Brussels sprouts! Some fish sauce comparison! Amusing tricks with lemon! The rediscovery of fennel! And more. Come see what we ate. 

Despite my excitement, I didn’t get around to using my new foley mill last week, for applesauce or anything else. We do go to an apple orchard; we did not pick apples from our own tree yet. I did buy a second single-use appliance, though: One of those cast iron apple slicer and peelers that clamps onto the counter and does everything with a crank. Pretty ingenious. 

The kids like to put apple slices on their ham and cheese sandwiches, so this will probably get regular use, beyond just the production of tasty, tasty apple peels

We are really slipping as a family, though. In the past, we would have been knee deep in denuded onions, potatoes, and baseballs,  with little peels of doll heads all over the floor. Now we’re just, “tee hee, I can peel all the apples I want.” We’re slipping.

SATURDAY
Hot dogs and chips

An extremely drivey day that started out with a Saturday morning alarm and two loads of cars through the drive-thru flu shot clinic, and kept going like that. Benny had a pal over, Damien cooked hot dogs on the grill, and we had a campfire and roasted marshmallows. I did buy a skeleton. We haven’t settled on a ludicrous display for the year, but we now have two fully posable skeletons. 

SUNDAY
Salad with chicken, feta, walnuts, cranberries

Sunday was the day we chose to go apple picking. We’ve gotten pretty good at planning day trips. Damien cooked the chicken after Mass, and we had the kids make their Monday lunches and do their evening chores in the afternoon, so when we got home late and full of apples and smelling faintly of goat poo, all we had to do was eat the prepped food and slither into bed. Truly, the greatest organizational hack of all, though, is to not have a baby or a toddler. Nothing beats it. Also, let people go apple picking in their pajamas if they want. 

I myself wore a sweater and leggings, which are pajamas. As I mentioned, we are slipping. (If you care to see our apple picking photos, they are here.)

The dinner we prepped was salad with roast chicken, toasted walnuts (toast on a pan in the oven for a few minutes or, even easier, in the microwave for a few minutes), feta cheese, and dried cranberries. I had mine with wine vinegar. 

Decent and filling. I feel like there was some kind of bread component, but maybe I’m confused.

MONDAY
Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, roast honey balsamic Brussels sprouts with walnuts

My big secret with meatloaf is only to make it a few times a year, so it doesn’t become an emotional burden. The other thing I struggle with, with meatloaf, is the desire to get cute with it. I want to make adorable little meat muffins, and I know nobody wants that, even though I feel like deep down they would enjoy it. 

Or I start pulling out my silicone pans

or I start felling sculptural, and we end up with meat horrors

Or, not pictured, giant meat boobies. It’s just . . . you give me big hunks of raw material, and I want to create. Anyway, this time I just made three big loaves, that’s it. That’s what kind of month it’s been. Here. Here’s yer meat. 

It’s a serviceable recipe, though, as long as you don’t underseason it.

Jump to Recipe

I use red wine and Worcestershire sauce inside and ketchup outside, and it has a pretty good savor. It would make good leftover sandwiches, but that doesn’t fit into my current calorie arrangement, so the leftovers are just hulking in the fridge, awaiting their doom. And who isn’t. 

We also had ten pounds of mashed potatoes, which I meant to make as garlic parmesan mashed potatoes

Jump to Recipe

but I just plain forgot, so they were just plain with milk and butter and salt

and I also forgot how dang long it takes potatoes to cook, so we had supper pretty late.

I also had four pounds of Brussels sprouts, first of the season. They turned out swell, with very little effort. I stemmed and halved them, spread them in a pan, and drizzled them with olive oil and honey, and some balsamic vinegar, pepper and kosher salt, and then – aha! – tossed in a few handfuls of chopped walnuts, and roasted it under the broiler. 

I don’t know why I have two photos of this, but here you are. 

To think that I spent most of my life not knowing about roasted vegetables. You throw a few nuts in there, and it’s almost a meal in itself. Thank you, Aldi, for cheap nuts. 

TUESDAY
Banh mi, pineapple

I have, in the past few years, tried banh mi from various places, and mine is the best. It just is. I recommend mine. I’ve also tried making my same recipe with various meats, and it always tastes the same as very cheap pork, because the sauce is just that powerful. 

Jump to Recipe

I use a lightly toasted baguette with plenty of plain mayo. I put out sriracha mayo for anyone who wants it, but for me, there are enough other spicy elements. Pork, sweet pickled carrots, plain cucumbers, plenty of cilantro, a few jalapeños, and that’s it. It’s just the best sandwich going. 

Here’s the recipe for pickled carrots, which I may fiddle with. It’s a bit sweet.

Jump to Recipe

I served pineapple on the side because I got confused. It was supposed to be for Wednesday, but I had already started cutting it up, so it was too late. 

I also used a different kind of fish sauce in the sauce this time, and it was just as savory and salty and weird, but the smell wasn’t eye-watering. I mean, my eyes were a little concerned, but they weren’t absolutely streaming. Fish sauce is made by mixing anchovies with salt and then I guess letting it sit in giant fermentation vats for several months, and then collecting the runoff, or something? I haven’t looked into this deeply. Anyway, I’m drinking more. 

Now you know everything I know. The less stinky sauce was considerably cheaper, too. 

WEDNESDAY
Pork ramen

I cleverly timed this so we would have leftover vaguely Asian sandwich fixings from Tuesday to top the ramen on Wednesday. Oh, I’ve got a few tricks up my sl– ope, nope, sorry, that’s a carrot. Damn shredded carrots got everywhere. I’m not joking, it was terrible. 

So we just had a big pot of ramen, and I cooked up some boneless pork ribs in sesame oil and sloshed on a little soy sauce toward the end

and sliced them up. I considered messing around with some garlic and brown sugar, but then I remembered how lazy I am.

Also set out soft boiled eggs, cucumbers and carrots from the previous day, some nori, pea shoots, crunchy noodles, sesame seeds, and all the various sauces I could find that seemed like they came from the right hemisphere. 

I do like this meal, and it’s so easy and cheap. I think the most expensive part was the nori.

Top view. Dive in!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THURSDAY
Ina Garten’s roast chicken with carrots and fennel

Damien was in charge of Thursday’s meal, and he went for this spectacular roast chicken and vegetable dish. The chickens are stuffed with garlic, lemon, and thyme, and wow, can you taste it. It’s so juicy and absolutely packed with flavor, not to mention hilarious to look at. 

Hello, lemons! The chickens get roasted on a bed of vegetables, and I think Damien made a separate platter of just vegetables so there would be plenty. I always forget about fennel in between having this dish, and it’s so good. It’s like all the best parts of onion and cabbage, but it takes up other flavors very nicely. People describe fennel as having a licorice-like taste, and I guess it does, but I don’t like licorice (or anise), and I like fennel a lot. It’s just sort of fancy and peasant-y at the same time, sort of elegant and cozy, juicy and crunchy. I don’t know. Don’t even get me started about the carrots. 

This is a very fine meal, very cheering on a gloomy, rainy day. We served it with plenty of baguettes and soft butter to sop up the lovely lemony juices. 

Look at that beautiful fennel, so elegant, so cozy.

FRIDAY
Grilled cheese

Finally Friday. Kind of a draggy week. Just a lot of covid tests and . . . I don’t have to tell you, the same nonsense everyone is dealing with. Everything is medium terrible and I feel medium guilty for not managing it better. Whatever. We live to grill another day. My stupid hip is still endlessly healing up from ??mysterious non injury maybe arthritis?? so I’m on day 2 of a yoga program. It’s this one, which is on Amazon Prime, if you’re interested. It’s not too woo woo, and she’s pretty good at explaining what you’re actually supposed to be doing with your parts. Then at the end she’s like “and now we will pray to honor the body” and I’m like “sorry toots, gotta shower and get to adoration” and I boop it off. 

 

Meatloaf (actually two giant meatloaves)

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground beef
  • 2 lbs ground turkey
  • 8 eggs
  • 4 cups breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 cup milk OR red wine
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

plenty of salt, pepper, garlic powder or fresh garlic, onion powder, fresh parsley, etc.

  • ketchup for the top
  • 2 onions diced and fried (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450

  2. Mix all meat, eggs, milk, breadcrumbs, and seasonings together with your hands until well blended.

  3. Form meat into two oblong loaves on pan with drainage

  4. Squirt ketchup all over the outside of the loaves and spread to cover with spatula. Don't pretend you're too good for this. It's delicious. 

  5. Bake for an hour or so, until meat is cooked all the way through. Slice and serve. 

 

Garlic parmesan mashed potatoes

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs potatoes
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 8 Tbsp butter
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 8 oz grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Peel the potatoes and put them in a pot. Cover the with water. Add a bit of salt and the smashed garlic cloves.

  2. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer with lid loosely on until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.

  3. Drain the water out of the pot. Add the butter and milk and mash well.

  4. Add the parmesan and salt and pepper to taste and stir until combined.

Pork banh mi

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs Pork loin
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 minced onion
  • 1/2 head garlic, minced or crushed
  • 2 tsp pepper

Veggies and dressing

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

Instructions

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

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

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

  4. Toast a sliced baguette or other crusty bread. 

 

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

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

Ingredients

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

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

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

Instructions

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

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

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

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