What’s for supper? Vol. 354: That cranberry tart

Welcome to the post Thanksgiving debriefing! How much butter did you go through? I think we did six pounds, but I wasn’t really keeping track. I’ll let, ahem, my body keep the score. 

This year on the internet, the big fuss seemed to be that brilliant scarlet cranberry curd tart, and ube pie. (I’m sure some of you have been making these for years, but they were suddenly everywhere this year.) We’re huge cranberry fans here (the kids were snacking on raw cranberries — RAW CRANBERRIES — while working on Jesse Tree ornaments today), so even though I bought eight cans of cranberry sauce and made two dozen cranberry muffins, I knew what I had to do. And that was make some tarts. 

First, a quick run-down of the rest of the week: 

SATURDAY
Hamburgers and chips

SUNDAY

Damien and I went to see Moe’s directorial debut, Moriarty’s Daughters.

It was great! All of those kids (middle schoolers) were all in, and it was a complicated play, with tons of dialogue, scene changes, and choreography. Excellent work. 

The kids at home had french toast casserole (torn up leftover bread soaked in a milk, egg, vanilla, and sugar batter, and then baked in a buttered casserole dish with some more sugar and cinnamon on top) and I don’t know what else, and Damien and I went to The Winchester, I mean Chili’s, after the play. I really like Chili’s. It’s cheap, the food is reliable, and it doesn’t draw as much of a “OMG Cayden, I found my stepmom’s Visa and we can get as many Berry Merry Daquiris as we want!” crowd as Applebee’s tends to. I had some kind of chipotle salad nonsense. And then we went to Walmart to get some mouse poison. THREE venues, quite an evening out for Mr. and Mrs. Fisher.

MONDAY
Pizza

One pepperoni, one olive, and one half cheese, half garlic and roast red peppers.

On Monday evening, I suddenly realized I had promised to send in a pie for the school thing, so I made a slightly weird apple pie.

I forgot to put my name on the pie plate, so farewell to thee, pie plate. 

TUESDAY
Hot dogs

On Tuesday, I started Thanksgiving baking in earnest. I made a two pies and two dozen cranberry muffins. 

First I made an apple pie.  I made a big slab pie in a casserole dish. 

The crust design was, again, a little weird. First I made a lattice crust, but with broad strips of dough, rather than narrow ones. It looked a little plain, so I added some flowers and stems and leaves, and it still looked weird, but it wasn’t the only pie on my agenda, so I had to let it go. 

Then I made a pecan pie. I usually make a standard recipe with corn syrup and bourbon, but I decided to try a different one this year, because why not, from my friend Melanie. Gotta make up a proper recipe card, but in the mean time, here it is: 

* 1 cup brown sugar
* 1/4 cup white sugar
* 1/2 cup butter
* 3 eggs
* 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
* 1 tablespoon milk
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 tablespoon white vinegar
* 1-2 cups chopped pecans
Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, beat eggs until foamy, and stir in melted butter. Stir in the brown sugar, white sugar and the flour; mix well. Last add the milk, vanilla, vinegar and nuts.
3. Pour into an unbaked 9-in pie shell. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes at 400 degrees, then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until done.
 

I sprinkled some extra pecans on top in a swirl pattern. The pie swelled up and came out with almost a crust on top, like on a baked custard. I think this is the clearest picture I have of it:

And I haven’t tried it yet! So I will have to report back soon. 

I also tried a new recipe for cranberry muffins. They usually come out with a nice flavor but too dense, so I tried the Sally’s Baking Addiction recipe. She usually has good recipes for light baked goods. I didn’t realize until after I filled the muffin tins that the recipe doesn’t include walnuts! Oh well. Next time, I’ll just add walnuts in. (Unless. . . that might make them less light. . . . hmm.)

It does have an orange glaze, which I thought that was lovely. It ran over the tops and ended up soaking the bottoms of the muffins, so they were very sticky and moist on the bottom and tender and cake-like inside, with lots of bright cranberries and bits of orange peel.

She also had the tip to save out some cranberries and sprinkle them over the tops before you put it in the oven, so they are more colorful. Definitely doing it that way from now on.

WEDNESDAY
Mac and cheese and kielbasa

Wednesday I made two pumpkin pies (just following the recipe on the pumpkin can, using the zoom feature on my camera so I could read the recipe on the pumpkin can) in pre-made graham cracker crusts, and two cranberry curd tarts, spanakopita, and vanilla and strawberry ice cream.

Then I put my feet up for a while, and then I made candied sweet potatoes and peeled ten pounds of white potatoes. Then I processed the last of the butternut squash from my garden

and candied some walnuts with honey and curry powder,

to make ice cream with the next day. Should have chopped them a bit more, but oh well. 

The pumpkin pies turned out fine. I made one moderately fancy with some leftover pecans and some crust cut in the shape of . . . this. 

I inquired on Twitter. I thought a brain hastening away was the most likely thing, but Joanne finally clued me in that they are turkeys that have been squashed in the drawer. 

Now I know! Anyway, here’s the pie:

I made spanakopita with two pounds of spinach (which is a LOT of spinach) and I just straight up used a house paintbrush to apply the melted butter to the phyllo dough sheets. 

I didn’t count how many I made, but the dough and the spinach and cheese filling ran out at about the same time, so that was a win!

Covered and put in the fridge for the next day. 

The cranberry tarts were next. Those were fun to make, but listen to me: START EARLY. This is a pie that needs to sit around a lot before you can even put it in the fridge. I followed the recipe from America’s Test Kitchen (limitless views here

The recipe has instructions for an almond crust, but I thought it would be pushing my luck to try so many new things; so I just bought two premade pecan crusts. 

You mix the cranberries with sugar and water

take a photo for social media (mandatory), and simmer them until they all pop

then separately whisk up some egg yolk and cornstarch, and put that and the cranberry mixture into the food processor and whir it all up

I’m here to tell you that you CAN fit a double recipe of hot cranberry curd into an eight-cup food processor, but make sure your affairs are in order first. 

 

Then you have to let it cool down to 125 degrees. This took quite some time! Then you add butter in and whir it up again, and press the mixture through a sieve

You save out a few tablespoons of the cranberry mix to be whipped up later with cream to decorate it, and you pour the rest of the cranberry mix into the crust, and let it sit at room temp for another four hours.

Then I covered it and put it in the fridge for overnight (it keeps well), and started on the ice cream, which I should have done earlier in the day, but what can one do. I made one batch of vanilla and one of strawberry

Mindful of the tip with the cranberry muffins, I saved some of the strawberries and sprinkled them on top. 

Then I somewhat grumpily made some mac and cheese and kielbasa for dinner.

After dinner, I made the candied sweet potatoes using this recipe from My Forking Life, except I sliced up an orange and cooked the slices along with the sweet potatoes. 

Then I peeled the white potatoes. I think it was at this point where, being a little tired, I had a little mishap with the potato peeler, which, hooray for fingernails, or else that would have ended differently. And hooray that I don’t care what my nails look like. 

And THEN I processed the butternut squash. I was following this recipe from Blue Apron, which calls for curried candied pecans, but I used walnuts instead. Look, some people make a shopping list, lose it, make another shopping list, also lose that, and then just go to the supermarket and buy everything that looks more or less Thanksgiving-y, and it more or less works out. I’ll tell you, though, every time I thought I had found my list, it turned out to actually be a paper with a drawing of a cat called SNUFFLES on it. Every damn time. I will swear to you that I threw it away, but then a few hours later I would be like, hey, where’s my list? And I would find it, and then –OH NO, IT’S SNUFFLES AGAIN. This was before I cut the tip of my finger off. 

This ice cream is somewhat labor intensive, because you have to process the squash and make the candied nuts, and the ice cream itself is the cooked custard type

but gosh it’s delicious. It’s sophisticated flavors and comfort food all in one. 

And then I put my whole ass in bed.

THURSDAY
THABKSGIVING!

Thursday! Thanksgiving itself! 

Damien was in charge of the turkey, the stuffing, and the gravy. The turkey was juicy and delicious, as always. We don’t have any special tricks, just lots of basting. 

and Sophia made some bacon jalapeño cheddar biscuits that turned out SCRUMPTIOUS

I’ll get her recipe when she comes home from work!

So on Thursday, all that was left for me to do was make mulled cider, bake the apple pie, cook the mashed potatoes, and bake the spanakopita, and finish making the squash nut ice cream.

I truly wish I had a second freezer and a second oven. But we just did a lot of juggling and shuffling and strategizing. I made the mulled cider in the Instant Pot (cinnamon sticks, cloves, halved clementines) and kept the mashed potatoes in the slow cooker, and I ended up bringing out hot dishes to the table as they finished baking, and it was nice! 

Some of my spanakopita triangles burst open, but there were no complaints. 

Everybody ate their fill and told funny stories.

 

But WordPress is being a bag of butts and won’t let me upload any more pictures! I’ll have to embed the rest from Facebook. 

After we ate, I whipped up the cranberry-flavored whipped cream, and Clara decorated the cranberry tarts with it. 

The ice cream was not my best effort. The vanilla and strawberry didn’t freeze properly in the ice cream maker, for some reason, so I put the churned ice cream in the freezer while it was still liquidy, which makes it freeze in a sort of splintery fashion. The butternut squash ice cream came out of the machine very unevenly frozen, for some reason. I think the dasher got stuck, and didn’t keep the ice cream churning, but I didn’t notice because there were so many other things making loud scronching noises at the time; so it was much more frozen in some spots than in others. The flavor was wonderful, though. It’s mellow and custardy, and the candied curried nuts give it a nice kick. I love this ice cream. 

So, we had a really good day. All our kids and Moe’s girlfriend came, and just about everyone was hungry and cheerful. 

We had our traditional annual fight about whether it’s traditional to watch National Treasure on Thanksgiving (it’s not, but it’s now traditional to fight about it), and ended up watching The Road to El Dorado. I made sure to point out to the kids that while Cortes is portrayed in a truly horrible light, really cruel and ravening, they shouldn’t think all Catholics are like that. Really, it’s just that all Spanish people are like that. They said okay Mama. They were so good about it that I didn’t go on my traditional “I’m sorry, HOW old is Chel?” rant. 

FRIDAY
Leftovers. Long live leftovers. I was planning to do yoga today, but I accidentally ate a bunch of pie, and I have learned that you can power through pie when you’re in downward facing dog, but it is not advisable. 

And that’s my story! If you didn’t make the cranberry curd tart but you think it sounds nice, make it for Christmas! It’s so pretty and bright, very tart indeed, and it was a big hit. Some people decorate it with sugared and candied fruits, or nuts, or rosemary, or whatever you want. The scarlet and the white really lend themselves to lots of elegant designs.

And I was thinking . . . . this would be amazing as the top layer of a cheesecake. Yes it would. 

No, I’m not doing yoga today. Maybe tomorrow. 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 339: Inshallah, I’ll take pistachio

Happy Friday! I see lots of you poor suckers are going back to school already. We, on the other hand, are still enjoying the last lazy days of summer, by which I mean frantically running around Doing Vacation Things and feeling terrible and panicked about summer being almost over, and also mortality (maybe that’s just me. I am fun). 

I also made two wonderful culinary discoveries this week: Collard greens, and lamb breast plate. We had two days of rather elaborate meals and then a bunch of very much not so meals. Read on!

SATURDAY
Varia 

On Saturday, the Fishers were uncharacteristically sociable. Lena was carousing with a friend in Boston, Clara met up with Dora and they went off to see The Mountain Goats; Sophia, Lucy, and Irene had tickets to see Ricky Montgomery; and Damien, after bowing to his fate and driving them to said concert, brought Benny and Corrie to see the new turtle movie. That just left Elijah, who had to work, and me, who had ten minutes at home COMPLETELY ALONE, which I spent eating TWO cartons of yogurt without explaining myself to anybody, and going to the bathroom with the door open, before going shopping. Then I picked up Elijah and, since it was just the two of us, we had dinner at Chili’s. I had some kind of salad with shrimp. I almost always order some kind of shrimp when I eat at a restaurant. It’s just good! Elijah had a burger, presumably for the same reason. We talked about Godzilla.

SUNDAY
McDonald’s 

Sunday we got to the ocean! The sky was blue, the sun was hot, and the water was about twelve degrees. Seriously, that one year when we went a few miles further south with slightly warmer water has absolutely ruined me for frigid New Hampshire beaches. I did go in the water, out of sheer honesty, but I spent most of my time on the shore saying, “Whoa, that was a big one! Woo, look at you!” and wondering if it’s as much fun to be a seagull as it looks like. 

Bunch of pictures here:

We chose Hampton Beach because, if you’re only going to have one day at the ocean, it should be ocean that has fried dough and skee ball. We packed sandwiches and fruit and Twizzlers for lunch, and hit the drive-thru on the way back for dinner. 

MONDAY
Hot dogs, chips, corn on the cob

A little yellow dinner. Sometimes that’s just what you want. (And if that’s a thing on Urban Dictionary, I don’t want to know about it.) 

TUESDAY
Nachos, pineapple

Damien mentioned that maybe the nachos I make could use a little more cheese, so I thought I would be fancy and buy a second KIND of cheese, and a Mexican one, at that.

Sadly, I am dumb, so I picked something called “queso fresco,” which is apparently known for its incredible ability to withstand heat. So we had tortilla chips with seasoned ground beef, cheddar that melted and queso fresco that did not, jalapeños, and some corn I shaved off the leftover corn from yesterday, and then sour cream and salsa. Pineapple on the side. 

It wasn’t bad, but next time I’ll just buy extra cheddar for that “more cheese” experience.

I was feeling pretty good on Tuesday, though, because I got home from my annual physical knowing my blood pressure is NORMAL. I cannot tell you how good it feels to have that back under control, after it was so bonkers for so long. I also haven’t lost the weight I gained when I tried Lexapro, but I haven’t gained any more, and I been eating nachos, so that seemed fair. And I’m not anemic and my lungs seem more or less back to normal. I guess I had Covid, I don’t know. My OBGYN was trying to convince me to go on an IUD for medical reasons, and I was trying to tell her that I don’t have any ethical problems with getting one for medical reasons, but right now I have all my other symptoms like 

and I don’t want to MESS with anything.

Anyway, we had nachos. 

WEDNESDAY
Oven fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, biscuits, collard greens, watermelon

This meal came about because a few months ago, I was looking for strawberry plants and they were sold out, but they had some collard greens on clearance, so I got a few plants and stuck them in my garden. Now they look like this

and everything else in my garden is making flowers or vegetables or something, but the collard greens are just getting bigger and bigger, so it was time to figure out what they heck they are for. 

Chicken drumsticks and thighs were 99 cents a pound, so I figured chicken and collard greens sounded like a thing. First thing in the morning, I started soaking the chicken in milk and eggs (one cup of milk per two eggs) with salt and pepper.

Then I made some biscuits.  I actually have an excellent biscuit recipe

Jump to Recipe

but it only turns out really well if you bake them right after you make the dough; or maybe if you refrigerate the dough and then bake it. I never remember this, though, and always make the dough and cut out the biscuits in the morning, when I have time, and then bake them in the afternoon, because I want hot biscuits, and so the butter has softened and the biscuits turn out flat. I swear, it’s a good recipe! Just don’t leave the dough out like I do. 

Anyway, the chicken “recipe” I followed last time calls for putting a few inches of melted butter and canola oil (half and half) in a couple of roasting pans in a 425-degree oven and letting that heat up, but I had used up all the butter in the biscuits, and all I had in the house was olive oil, so OH WELL, I guess I had to use that. 

So I put plenty of flour in a bowl and heavily seasoned it salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika and I think some chili powder. I put the chicken in the pans of oil, skin side down, and let it cook for about half an hour, then turned it and let it finish cooking for another 25 minutes or so, baking the biscuits at the same time. 

And yes, I felt might accomplished pulling these two huge pans of hot food out of the oven. 

But back to the collard greens! You can make them with bacon or ham hocks, but I didn’t have either one, so I poked around until, to my immense relief, I found the website that carried the information I was too shy to google directly: BlackPeoplesRecipes.com. This is the link for vegan collard greens, and it uses liquid smoke. I always feel like that’s cheating, but at what, I’m not exactly sure. 

Anyway, you fry up some onions and garlic, smoked paprika and hot pepper flakes, and then add in some cider vinegar to sweeten the bitter collard greens. 

I washed the greens very well (because I’ve been watering them with duck poo water) and then stripped the stems off

and cut them into strips, and put them into the hot onion mixture and cooked them down a bit, then added chicken broth (no longer a vegan recipe, but that’s what I had) and liquid smoke, and some salt and pepper. Then I moved it to the Instant Pot and set it on “slow cook” for the rest of the day.

They were magnificent. 

Just a beautifully intense, smoky, savory dish. The closest flavor I can think of is kale, but the texture was much more tender, between cabbage and spinach. Damien and I thought it was just wonderful, and we’ll definitely be having this again. 

Benny helped me make a giant pot of mashed potatoes (I saved out a little pat of butter for this purpose), and I made a pot of gravy with the chicken pan drippings and some flour and some leftover chicken broth from the collard greens. 

OH WHAT A MEAL. 

I didn’t even finish the chicken or the mashed potatoes, although they were very good, but I went back for seconds of the collard greens.

Okay, I had three biscuits, because I’m a monster.

But wow, everything was so tasty. The chicken was crisp on the outside and juice and tender inside, just perfect. It felt so good to cook a big meal from scratch, which I haven’t done in a while. 

And it was nice having leftover baked goods in the house, which certain other people enjoy with jelly the next morning.

Also on Wednesday, I started some ice cream going for the next day. Mid-August, and I’ve barely made any ice cream! I made one batch of strawberry, using the Ben and Jerry’s recipe

Jump to Recipe

and one of mango-peach-nectarine, which less fancy than it sounds. I just couldn’t find any pureed mango in cans, which I usually use, so I ended up mashing up all the fruit in the house that was about the same color and just blending it together.

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When the ice cream was done churning, I put the freezer bowls back in the freezer, hoping to make at least another batch the next day. 

THURSDAY
Lamb breast plate, stuffed grape leaves, yogurt sauce, taboon; strawberry, mango, and almond ice cream

Thursday was the day I was ready to find out what I had bought on Saturday. I can’t remember what the original plan was, but I got to Aldi and discovered several packs of something called “lamb breast plate” for $2.99 a pound.

Nothing lamb is ever $2.99 a pound, so I bought three three-to-four-pound packs of it, and then went back for a fourth pack later. I put two packs in the freezer and cooked two on Thursday. 

Moses and his girlfriend were coming over, and I wanted a middle eastern meal, and I briefly, longingly considered a recipe where you slit the meat open to make a pocket, and stuff it with rice, dried fruit, nuts, and more ground lamb, and then sew it shut; but prudence prevailed, and I went with this recipe from I’mHungryForThat, because all you do is marinade it, cook it slowly, and then pour a little sauce on at the end. 

The marinade is hot pepper flakes, cumin, sumac, pepper, brown sugar, minced garlic, vinegar, olive oil, and sea salt, all of which I had, and juniper berries, which I did not, but I substituted fresh rosemary. 

Then I just rubbed it all over the meat and let it be.

So, you can see that lamb breast plate has little ribs and is quite fatty, and the meat is mostly in between the bones, plus there are sort of flaps of meat on the other side. Everything I read said that this is a severely underrated cut of meat, and is very tasty and tender as long as you prepare it properly. 

While that was marinating, I went out to gather grape leaves. I usually only make stuffed grape leaves once a year, when they are flush and green and tender. This is mid-August, and they are somewhat past their prime, and many had succumbed to beetles, but were also twining all over the place, in places grapes have never been before (I have three Concord grape vines I planted, and several wild grape vines in other spots in the yard). I found one enormous leaf, the size of a dinner plate, sagging under the burden of two overgrown wild blackberries that had fallen under their own weight and half rotted already, too much for even the birds and bugs to keep up with, and I suddenly realized I was standing right next to the spot where my old garden used to be.

When we moved here, the whole yard was overgrown and formless, and I hacked and chopped and mowed and cleared, and dug and sifted and cultivated, and moved so many rocks around, and made a clear spot to grow my little patch of vegetables, and I kept it up for several years.

I have raised beds now, in a different spot, and the old garden spot has disappeared. It’s hip-high in green again, all overgrown and thorny, just wild grapes, wild blackberries, goldenrod, whatever. And it happened so fast.

I’ll tell you, people worry about not leaving a trace when they go out in nature, and they fret about disruptive hikers piling up rocks or disturbing the natural balance of things. They don’t want the world to know that they were ever here. They don’t want to be arrogant and intrusive. Let me tell you, “leave no trace” is going happen anyway, faster than you think. You pass through and it closes right up behind you, and that’s that. 

Anyway, I got a good pile of leaves and went back inside.  Washed ’em good to get rid of any leggy passengers, and dunked them in boiling water for two minutes to soften them up, and then left them in cold water. 

Last time, we tried making stuffed grape leaves with leftover cooked rice, and it was pretty sloppy. This time, I used raw rice with a bunch of herbs and spices (chopped wild mint, salt and pepper, I think sumac, nutmeg, cinnamon, I think coriander and cumin, and I don’t know what, and minced onions) and rolled them. Corrie helped this time. 

Not the absolute tidiest production, but we made plenty of them, and for once I ran out of grape leaves and filling at about the same time. 

Then I line the Instant Pot with parchment paper, carefully piled the rolled grape leaves in it, threw some lemon slices in, and filled it about halfway up with chicken broth. Then I somewhat recklessly pressed the “rice” button.

I think they may have come out okay with this cooking method, but then I just left them there for quite a bit longer, and the end result was some rather overcooked rice. They were okay! Just kinda, well, you know what overcooked rice is like. I also wish I had used more of every kind of seasoning I put in. It was a good flavor, but I wanted more of it. 

About two hours before dinner, I put the lamb into the oven, covered with tinfoil. I also made a batch of dough for taboon bread

Jump to Recipe

which I think I like even more than pita, and it’s easier, because you’re not trying to get a pocket to form. Sometimes, if I’m make a juicy meat dish, I’ll make a big slab of taboon bread and serve the meat right on top of it; but sometimes I made separate little pieces, and that’s what I did this time. This recipe is enough for twelve little loaves about 8-10 inches across. I love this recipe because it only has to rise once, and it bakes in about twelve minutes, so you can decide almost at the last minute that you feel like making bread after all. 

Oh, and I made a bowl of yogurt sauce with fresh garlic and fresh lemon juice, and a little salt and pepper. I misread the lamb recipe, and you’re supposed to take the tinfoil off and finish cooking it and then pour some sauce on; but I poured the sauce on and then finished cooking it. (The sauce is chopped mint, lemon juice, and brown sugar.)

IT WAS STILL VERY GOOD INDEED.

Super juicy.

I would recommend getting some shears to separate the ribs, though. We struggled a little with cutting it, not because the meat was tough, but because it was so fatty. The meat itself was so good, though. Tremendously savory and tender. If you like lamb, this is a wonderful way to prepare it. 

The bread and the lamb finished cooking at the same time, and I once again felt pretty pleased with myself for hauling out all these giant, laden pans of food onto the table. 

I had hoped to make some kind of ice cream with at least a middle eastern nod, but I just ran out of time. People needed to be driven here and there and Thursday was the day the cat, as Damien put it, took his vows, and I went to drop off a kid at work and take another kid for a haircut, and I was like, I think that’s it? That’s all the people I’m responsible for right this minute? So I started to drive home, and then I remembered OH THE CAT.

Pretty rough day for the little guy. First the cut his balls off, then they forget to pick him up. To add insult to injury, we found out that this cat which we got a month ago, and who was allegedly eight weeks old at the time, is NOW eight weeks old. So he was only four weeks old when we got him, poor baby!

We knew he was younger than they claimed, but didn’t realize how much younger. No wonder he sucks on blankets. Anyway, today he is feeling frisk and fine and we just have to keep the dog away from his stitches for a week, which should be easy as pie, hahah ahaha hahahhaaa. 

Anyway, I decided to make some almond ice cream, which is the same as the strawberry ice cream recipe, below, except you add a few teaspoons of almond extract, you skip strawberries of course, and you let the ice cream freeze for a few hours, and then stir in 2/3 of a cup or so of toasted almonds, and then let it finish freezing. 

The kitchen was pretty hot by the time I got around to making this third batch of ice cream, so it didn’t really freeze up right. I don’t actually mind when this happens, as it results in a kind of ice milk with a pleasant crystalized texture. The flavor was great (I actually used 1 tsp of almond extract and 1 tsp of vanilla) and it was quite popular. It would be great with some bittersweet chocolate chips, but it was good on its own. 

Here’s the three ice creams, looking dramatic:

I also discovered that, if I really wanted to make middle eastern ice cream, I would make something called booza, which has mastic in it and is stretchy. I am fascinated with this idea and would absolutely love to try some, but chances of me making it myself are pretty low, because anything that depends on being a certain texture is not my forte. Perhaps in paradise. The leaves will close over me, all traces will disappear, and Allah will appear in a blaze of glory and hand me a bowl of stretchy ice cream. That sounds pretty great. I’ll take pistachio. 

FRIDAY
I believe we’re going to have scrambled eggs, maybe beans and rice, and leftovers. There MUST be leftovers in this house.

I leave you with one final image. This is the white board which I mounted to the front door, the door through which everyone goes when they leave the house. As you can see, it has the days of the week on it, and I BEGGED and PLEADED and IMPLORED and ABASED MYSELF to the kids, in the hopes that they might deign to write their schedules on it, so I would know before the last minute who needed to be where and when. 

Here is that white board now: 

Little bastards. Good thing I love them. Maybe I’ll make them some more biscuits, or some ice cream. 

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.

 

Ben and Jerry's Strawberry Ice Cream

Ingredients

For the strawberries

  • 1 pint fresh strawberries
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

For the ice cream base

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups heavy or whipping cream
  • 1 cup milk

Instructions

  1. Hull and slice the strawberries. Mix them with the sugar and lemon juice, cover, and refrigerate for an hour.

Make the ice cream base:

  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs for two minutes until fluffy.

  2. Add in the sugar gradually and whisk another minute.

  3. Pour in the milk and cream and continue whisking to blend.

Put it together:

  1. Mash the strawberries well, or puree them in a food processor. Stir into the ice cream base.

  2. Add to your ice cream maker and follow the directions. (I use a Cuisinart ICE-20P1 and churn it for 30 minutes, then transfer the ice cream to a container, cover it, and put it in the freezer.)

 

Mango ice cream

Ingredients

  • 30 oz (about 3 cups) mango pulp
  • 2 cups heavy or whipping cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 mango, chopped into bits

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, whisk the milk, sugar, and salt until blended.

  2. Add in the mango pulp and cream and stir with a spoon until blended.

  3. Cover and refrigerate two hours.

  4. Stir and transfer to ice cream maker. Follow instructions to make ice cream. (I use a Cuisinart ICE-20P1 and churn it for 30 minutes.)

  5. After ice cream is churned, stir in fresh mango bits, then transfer to a freezer-safe container, cover, and freeze for several hours.

taboon bread

You can make separate pieces, like pita bread, or you can make one giant slab of taboon. This makes enough to easily stretch over a 15x21" sheet pan.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups bread flour
  • 4 packets yeast
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. Mix the flour, salt, and yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer.

  2. While it is running, add the olive oil. Then gradually add the water until the dough is soft and sticky. You may not need all of it. Let it run for a while to see if the dough will pull together before you need all the water. Knead or run with the dough hook for another few minutes.

  3. Put the dough in a greased bowl, grease the top, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm spot for at least an hour until it has doubled in size.

  4. Preheat the oven to 400. Put a greased pan or a baking stone in the oven to heat up.

  5. If you are making separate pieces, divide it now and cover with a damp cloth. If you're making one big taboon, just handle it a bit, then put it back in the bowl and cover it with a damp cloth. Let rest ten minutes.

  6. Using a little flour, roll out the dough into the shape or shapes you want. Poke it all over with your fingertips to give it the characterstic dimpled appearance.

  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes until it's just slightly browned.

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. 288: Paneer, and yet so far

I do believe I’ve picked up some new readers! Welcome. Also welcome to a few people who are fasting and praying for my conversion, what the heck. To everyone who’s here for whatever reason, I usually do a Friday food round-up, with photos and recipes of the meals we cooked for our large family for the week. Except I didn’t get around to it yesterday, or last Friday. So here’s a little catching up:

Oh, but first, there was the Friday before that! I was threatening to make those San Francisco Vietnamese garlic noodles from the NYT. A few friends warned me they were rather bland, despite the garlic — kind of a lot of garlic, if you’re tripling the recipe —

 oyster sauce, and fish sauce, so I decreased the amount of pasta and increased the sauce ingredients, and I thought it was tasty. (I also used asiago rather than parmesan, because they are both triangles and I can’t read.) A nice combination of savory and creamy with a tiny bite, not overpowering, but a little off the beaten path.

It didn’t knock my socks off, but I’ll probably make it again, as I usually have these ingredients in my house. And sometime when it’s not Lent, I’ll add caviar as suggested, or maybe scallops.

We also had our Italian feast for St. Joseph’s day with a nice antipasto of whatever wasn’t too expensive at Aldi, and whatever hadn’t expired in the back of my cabinet:

Looks like some fresh mozzarella, some various salamis and other cured meats, pickled vegetables, and tomatoes. I think there were some pickled hot peppers with some kind of cheese filling. And cantaloupe. If you ever had a job prepping breakfast in a hotel while you were pregnant, and the smell of rotten cantaloupe was the most miserable thing you ever inhaled, and you were wondering how many years it would take you to get over it and enjoy cantaloupe again, the answer seems to be [feverish calculations] twenty-five. 

So Damien made spaghetti and meatballs and garlic bread, Lucy made suppli, or arancini (breaded fried risotto balls with melted mozzarella in the center)

Jump to Recipe

and Clara made zeppole. Must hunt down her recipe, because they were fab.

And I just sat there and ate. Buona Festa, San Giuseppe!

Looks like that week we also had a pretty chicken salad with toasted almonds, strawberries, and croutons that I did NOT BURN FOR ONCE

That would be mixed greens, grilled chicken breast, fresh strawberries, feta cheese, diced red onion, and toasted almonds, and croutons made of stale hot dog buns, with red wine vinegar.

(And here’s my periodic reminder that the easiest way to toast nuts, to make them crunchy and bring out their flavor, but not to burn them, is to spread them on a plate and microwave them for a few minutes. You can do it in the oven, but there’s no real advantage, and they’re very easy to burn.)

. . . and it looks like I finally got around to putting fennel on a pizza, like I’ve been threatening to do for some time. This one had fennel, fresh garlic, anchovies, feta, fresh parmesan, and artichoke hearts.

What a stupendous pizza. I sliced the fennel in rings, which I feel isn’t quite right, but it tasted great. No ragrets.

Ooh, then on Friday, it was the Annunciation, which is a meat Friday in Lent, so we had roast beef sandwiches with provolone and horseradish sauce on toasted buns,

and a side of caprese salad, which is always nice. 

The roast beef, Damien made by crusting it with I think salt and pepper and garlic powder and searing it in olive oil with lots of garlic cloves, and then roasting it at 350 for about 45 minutes, and then he starts checking it. He lets it rest for a while before slicing it. 

The caprese salad is just fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, freshly ground salt and pepper. I didn’t bother reducing anything.

Okay! Caught up. Now for the week we just finished:

SUNDAY
Chicken quesadillas

Nothing to report. Chicken, cheddar cheese, jalapeños in the quesadillas, salsa and sour cream on the side. 

I do remember that I went shopping and had made up my mind that I was finally going to buy one of those giant smoked turkeys they had at Aldi, that I had been thinking about for several weeks, and that I had planned at least two meals around it. Got there and . . . they were just regular frozen turkeys. Note even a good price. I tried to persuade myself that I wanted to do  Thanksgiving in the middle of the week in March, but it turns out I very much did not. So I wung it. 

MONDAY
Ham, garlic parmesan mashed potatoes, salad, rolls

Meal number 1 that I wung: A “join us for dinner in the church basement”-style dinner. Nothing wrong with that! I did not make an ambrosia salad, however, because that’s an abomination. 

My only tip is that, if you’re not planning to glaze the ham or stick pineapples to it or anything, you can slice it ahead of time and then heat it up, and it makes an easy meal even easier. 

Oh, here’s my recipe for garlic parmesan mashed potatoes. I made five pounds and warned everyone not to go nuts, because there were only five pounds, and they acted like it was death camp rations. That is nearly half a pound of potato per person, not counting the butter, milk, and parmesan! I guess we burn all those extra calories by making an ungodly fuss about everything all the time. 

Jump to Recipe

TUESDAY
Gochujang pork chops, sesame broccoli, rice

Now this was a tasty meal with minimal effort. I started the pork chops marinating in the morning with this sauce

Jump to Recipe

made of gochujang, honey, sugar, garlic, and soy sauce. I heated up the broiler nice and hot and shoved the chops right under it, and turned them once. They were on the thin side, so I was careful not to overcook them. 

I also love using this marinade on pork ribs and giving them to Damien to cook outside, but the chops turned out great. (It’s also wonderful for gochujang bulgoki, when you include matchstick carrots, sliced onions, and slice the pork before marinating, and you serve it with nori. It’s really just a fine, fine marinade.)

I made a big batch of basmati rice in the Instant Pot, and a big tray of toothsome sesame broccoli

which there is a recipe for

Jump to Recipe

but it’s easy as can be. You just drizzle the broccoli spears with sesame oil and soy sauce, salt, pepper, and sesame seeds, and send them for a short ride under a hot broiler to turn bright green with a tiny bit of char. 

Delicious meal, very easy, minimal cook time. 

WEDNESDAY
Bagels sandwiches with egg and cheese, choice of ham or sausage; OJ

Nothing to report. Well, I employed the very healthful method of frying the eggs in a truly ludicrous amount of butter, and not flipping them over, but cooking the tops by spooning melted butter repeatedly over the yolk, which causes the white to bubble up around the yolk and sort of support it, so you get a little film over the top of the yolk, but it’s still runny on the inside. 

THURSDAY
Nachos

This was the second meal (wait, third?) I planned on the fly, and Damien offered to make it while I was doing . . . something or other. Probably crying. It was an insane week with about 60% more meetings and driving and assignments and complications and drama than necessary. I cooked some ground beef with garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, chili powder, and cumin, and he made one tray with just that, and one tray with that and also jalapeños, and leftover roast beef, and leftover chicken, and of course cheese. 

Maybe it was just the “somebody else made dinner” talking, but I thought it was delicious. 

FRIDAY
Saag paneer, naan

Well, this was a semi-tragic finale to an exhausting week. All week, I had been looking forward to trying this Instant Pot recipe (it also has stovetop instructions). I love Indian food, I love spinach, I love creamy things. I figured the kids wouldn’t like it, but they can go to hell, I mean make themselves toast. I did have an extremely busy schedule, but I got up and finished up some editing and sent off some articles and wrote some interview questions, then briskly set to work prepping all my saag paneer ingredients and making the dough for naan. 

Or, well, I was going to, but we were out of yogurt, and so was the only convenience store in town. So I zipped into the next town because I needed paneer, anyway. I was still sort of unclear about what paneer was, exactly. I made some inquiries, and learned that it is cottage cheese, sort of, but not really. And it has been a kind of trying week, and I couldn’t bring myself to ask social media a cheese question. I just wasn’t feeling up to it. So I went to the international market, and they had one kind of paneer, so that settled that. Bought two blocks and zipped home.  

I cooked the first part of the saag paneer with all the vegetables, and of course it smelled great

— and here I had a little larf to myself, because I experienced Spinach Panic, where you follow the directions for cooking a pound of spinach but it still seems like THIS CAN’T POSSIBLY BE RIGHT

but it is right, it’s just cooking with fresh spinach. Two minutes later, it was fine:

Did a little more work, went to adoration, went to pick up the kids from school, and then got back to finish up this meal, with the house already smelling most excellently. 

I open the Instant Pot top, and it’s going along great, and then I get up to the part where you add the little blocks of paneer. Which I did. And I waited for them to melt, and they did not. I stirred, I adjusted the heat, I pressed on them, I stirred some more, I did everything I could think of. They remained intact. 

Okay, if you’ve ever cooked with paneer, you know what the problem is: The problem is, I’m an idiot. Paneer is not supposed to melt. Because it’s . . . cottage cheese, sort of. And I would have known this, if I had asked social media, or . . . READ THE RECIPE. Which clearly states, “Add Paneer cubes and Garam Masala to it. And cook it further on saute mode for about 5 minutes. Your Palak Paneer is ready.”

Why did I think the paneer would melt? I have no idea. The recipe also included a photo of the finished dish, clearly showing the green puree with the white paneer cubes bobbing merrily around on top. This made no impression on me whatsoever. I was still angrily prodding the paneer with a wooden spoon, trying to force it to melt, because it is cheese!  So I finally poured the whole thing into the food processor and whirred it until it was all blended, and I put some more salt and garam masala and chili powder and lemon juice in, heated it up again, and that is what I served. 

It was actually really good. Very hearty, lots of flavor. Just . . . not really saag paneer.

The good(?) news is, I have a whole other block of paneer, and lots of leftover saag paneer with paneer blended up in it, so if I wanted to, I could make ultra paneer saag paneer! If I wanted to. Or I could just draw a veil over this whole episode and have my husband take me out for Chinese. 

Hey, the naan turned out great. It was tender and pleasant to eat. I made 32 pieces, which is kind of a miracle, considering I was frying it one piece at a time at the end of the day at the end of the week while having a mental breakdown over the fucking paneer. 

So, for the naan, I used this King Arthur recipe, which is nice and simple. It takes about an hour to rise, and then you just cut it up, let it rest, roll the pieces out, and fry them in a hot pan. I used the standing mixer to knead the dough and it turned out a little stickier than it was supposed to, so I used lots of flour when rolling the pieces out. I found it was helpful to keep a wet dishtowel by the stove to wipe out the burnt flour the accumulated in the the pan, in between frying. I tried both an iron frying pan, as the recipe called for, and a T-Fal double wall stainless steel frying pan, and didn’t notice any difference. 

This is a picture of last time I made naan. I have a new picture of the new naan, but I lost my phone. I can hear it dinging somewhere in my bed, but I can’t find it. 

And now we are all caught up. If you have any tips about cooking, please keep them to yourself, as my brain has completely smoothened over and is not accepting new information at this time, thank you. 

Suppli (or Arancini)

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

Ingredients

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

To make suppli out of the risotto:

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

Instructions

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


    Set chicken stock to simmer in a pot.

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

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

    Pour in the wine and boil until wine is absorbed.

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

    Add 4 more cups of stock and cook until absorbed.

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

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

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

  3. TO MAKE THE SUPPLI:

    Beat the eggs and gently mix them into the risotto.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

 

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.

 

Gochujang bulgoki (spicy Korean pork)


Ingredients

  • 1.5 pound boneless pork, sliced thin
  • 4 carrots in matchsticks or shreds
  • 1 onion sliced thin

sauce:

  • 5 generous Tbsp gochujang (fermented pepper paste)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 cloves minced garlic

Serve with white rice and nori (seaweed sheets) or lettuce leaves to wrap

Instructions

  1. Combine pork, onions, and carrots.

    Mix together all sauce ingredients and stir into pork and vegetables. 

    Cover and let marinate for several hours or overnight.

    Heat a pan with a little oil and sauté the pork mixture until pork is cooked through.

    Serve with rice and lettuce or nori. Eat by taking pieces of lettuce or nori, putting a scoop of meat and rice in, and making little bundles to eat. 

 

Sesame broccoli

Ingredients

  • broccoli spears
  • sesame seeds
  • sesame oil
  • soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat broiler to high.

    Toss broccoli spears with sesame oil. 

    Spread in shallow pan. Drizzle with soy sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds

    Broil for six minutes or longer, until broccoli is slightly charred. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 279: We don’t talk about shiitake mushrooms

What a short week, and how unproductive! And how stupidly cold. And stupid in general. We did have a few good meals, though. Here’s what we ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Buffalo chicken salad

Those pesky shupply change issues came for the frozen buffalo chicken, and I couldn’t find any, so I bought some regular chicken. So we had greens with chicken, grape tomatoes, shredded pepper jack cheese, crunchy fried onions (the kind that come in a canister), blue cheese dressing, and then some buffalo sauce on that. 

Tasted great. I think buffalo chicken is too hot anyway. 

SUNDAY
Museum 

Sunday, I took Sophia and some of her friends to the Worcester Art Museum for her birthday. We masked all the way there in the car, and then stopped to grab some lunch, and I looked in the rear view mirror, and they were sharing an ice tea. Two honor students, one straw. ANYWAY, the museum was great. You can check out some of the photos I took here. (They’re not really a representative sample of their excellent collection! I’ve been there many times and didn’t snap pics of their more famous works. If you’re in the area at all, you should go. It’s small enough that you can see absolutely everything in under three hours, but there’s plenty worth seeing, and the descriptive cards are top notch, very informative.)

Afterward, I offered to take them to a restaurant of her choice, and she chose Chili’s. I support this. Chili’s offers reliably B- food with reliably B+ service, and the floors are usually not gritty. I swear I would have taken her somewhere fancier, but it had been a long day and I totally understand her choice. (I had shrimp tacos and they were kind of weird, to be honest. I guess I didn’t read the description and wasn’t expecting them to be absolutely baggy with coleslaw, but that’s what you get.) 

I believe they had some kind of pasta with red sauce, peppers, and sausage at home. 

MONDAY
Pork ribs, garlic mashed potatoes, honey balsamic roasted Brussels sprouts with walnuts

This was a low-skill, popular meal. The pork ribs were just plenty of salt and pepper, roasted on both sides under the broiler. The mashed potatoes were made with an entire peeled head of garlic boiled and mashed in with the potatoes. And the Brussels sprouts, I trimmed and halved, drizzled with olive oil, a little balsamic vinegar, lots of honey, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, and a large handful of chopped walnuts, and roasted under the broiler. 

I LOVE roast vegetables with nuts. This is how kings eat their vegetables. Real kings, not stupid kings. 

I wish I had let everything cook a tiny bit longer, but we were all so hungry. It’s been so cold, and all I want to do is eat. 

TUESDAY
Bugogi dubap (garlic soy beef on rice) 

A much-anticipated meal. Strips of garlicky, gingery beef, with onions, scallions, and mushrooms served over rice. Somewhat sweeter than many similar recipes I’ve tried. Not like a sweet and sour dish, but just a little fruity. 

I slightly adapted the recipe from Cook Korean! by Robin Ha. It turned out very well, although next time I will put less of the marinade in with the meat when I cook it. It was just too pulpy, and I would have liked a little more of a sear on the meat.

The marinade includes kiwi, which is what provides the acid to tenderize the meat, and wow, it works well. It was . . . there isn’t really a synonym for “tender” that works well for meat, so I guess we’ll stick with that. (When my little brother was about 5, he couldn’t remember the word for “chicken tender,” so he told the waitress he wanted “chicken softies.” So you see what I mean.) 

It’s served, as I said, over rice with scallions and sesame seeds. Tons of flavor, nice and bright, with loads of garlic and fresh ginger. 

Next time I will not bother paying for shiitake mushrooms. I’m sure some people can taste the difference, but I sure can’t. I can taste the difference when they’re raw, but not when they’re cooked! (Not to mention that the first batch of mushrooms I bought got moldy, so I had to run out and buy more, and I was late picking the kids up from Dungeons and Dragons, so I decided to go to the co-op for my replacement shiitake mushrooms, rather than the supermarket, and . . . you know what, we’ll just let a shiver pass through our system one last time and then quietly turn the page in the ledger and not think about that part of the food budget anymore.)

The recipe in the book calls for soju, a dry Korean rice liquor, but it doesn’t mention what to do with it. Presumably you throw it into the marinade, but possibly you’re supposed to deglaze the pan with it. In any case, I didn’t have any. I was planning to substitute vodka, but I forgot. So now you know as much as I do. Possibly it would have cut the sweetness slightly. 

Verdict: Definitely making this recipe again, with cheaper mushrooms, less marinade and more room and heat in the pan. Loved the garlic and ginger and kiwi, loved how simple it was, adored how tender it made the beef.  A very good way to treat a cheap cut of beef. 

WEDNESDAY
Hamburgers, chips

Nothing to report, other than that the burgers turned out long, for some reason. This is what passes for entertainment around here.

THURSDAY
Muffaletta sandwiches, tater tots

Not true muffaletta sandwiches, no doubt. You’re supposed to have a specific kind of bread, specific meats and cheeses, and a particular blend of olives. We had all the deli meats I felt like paying for (some ham, a few kinds of salami, a little bit of capicola and a little bit of prosciutto) and a delightful salad made of things that fell out of my cupboard into my food processor.

I think I used three cans of black olives, two skinny jars of green olives, maybe six little pepproncini, half a jar of capers, some olive oil, and a little wine vinegar. I would have put some giardiniera salad in there, but I couldn’t find it. Our refrigerator is a travesty. Parsley would have been good, but we had none. 

This picture makes me laugh because the sandwich appears to be eating itself. Monch monch.

We ate very early because Sophia had an art show. They made it fancy, with a little jazz band, and the whiter the kids were, the harder the adults in the audience bopped their heads, as if they could will rhythm into existence with their necks. The good will in a room full of parents listening to their teenagers playing jazz solos will save the world. 

I thought Sophia’s self portrait was pretty good!

Although as you can see, in real life she doesn’t actually have a mouth or nose, so she had to use her imagination. Strange times. 

While we were gone, Clara whipped up a Bruno and Rat cake, as one does. 

I still haven’t seen Encanto, but this seems like a good cake to me. 

Best rat cookies I’ve seen in quite some time. 

I’m not sure what these are for.

Some kind of interactive element? I guess we will find out when the kids come home from school today. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

I didn’t even buy any cheese. I can feel how much cheese there is in this house. By the end of the day, God willing, there will be less. 

In conclusion, I just noticed I have tagged this post both “olive salad” and “olives salid,” and I guess that’s fine. 

Bulgogi dupap (soy garlic beef)

A Korean dish of tender strips of sweet and savory garlicky beef, served over rice. Adapted from Cook Korean! by Robin Ha

Ingredients

  • 4-5 lbs beef chuck, sliced as thinly as you can
  • 3 onions (divided)
  • 1-1/2 heads garlic (20 cloves or more)
  • 3 inches fresh ginger
  • 2 kiwis
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup sesame oil (divided)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 bunch scallions, divided
  • 12 oz mushrooms

cooked rice

sesame seeds for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a blender or food processor, combine 1.5 of the onions, the garlic, the ginger, the kiwis, the soy sauce, 3 tablespoons of the sesame oil, and the sugar and pepper. Combine until blended. Marinate the sliced beef in this for at least three hours.

  2. Cut the mushrooms and the remaining 1.5 onions into thin slices. Cut most of the scallion (green parts) into three-inch pieces. Save out a few and slice thinly for a garnish.

  3. Heat the sesame oil in a large skillet and sauté the beef until it's just slightly browned, then add the onions, scallions, and mushrooms and continue cooking until the meat is fully cooked. You may have to cook in batches to avoid crowding the pan.

  4. Serve meat and vegetables over cooked rice. Top with scallion garnish and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

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.

What’s for supper? Vol. 264: Banger? I barely mashed ‘er

With an audible wrenching sound, I have forced myself to start cooking real meals again, even though we are fully back in school and having to set alarms in the morning and everything. Well, with a few exceptions, like Damien cooking and us buying pizza. Well, I made a few things, anyway. Look, I found my potato masher, and now you have to look at my sausage pictures. 

SATURDAY
Athens pizza

I remember when I used to think that people who went to the Saturday vigil Mass were technically not sinning, but rrreeallly, I mean my goodness, maybe if they just tried a little bit harder, they could make it to actual Sunday morning Mass like a real Catholic. 

Ehh, sorry about that. Anyway, we decided to go to Saturday Mass for the sole purpose of being able to sleep in on Sunday, and then we decided to go out for pizza after Mass for the sole purpose of I don’t wanna cook. I forgot it was some kind of community art festival, and this band had set up across the street in front of a tire store. Lena went over and asked them to play Wonderwall, but they pretended not to hear, which was not very Freebird of them. 

SUNDAY
Chicken quesadillas

I was working on my pallet garbage enclosure all day, and Damien shopped for and cooked dinner, and installed the faucet in the bathroom sink and caulked the vanity into place. I know it sounds like I’m coming out way ahead here, but consider: My husband has allowed — nay, encouraged — all the children to pronounce it “kwassadillas.” They also say “gwack-a-mole.”

MONDAY
Burgers and brats, clams, chips, onions three ways

Labor day! I love Labor Day, because you get to go, “Workers are important; go, unions!” and then you’re all set to have a day off, and you don’t have to carefully arrange your attitude and make sure you’re celebrating properly or enjoying your hamburger in a fashion that’s appropriate to the season or something. Damien grilled up a bunch of burgers, brats, and clams. Oh man, the smells. The smells!

The brats, he boils in beer and onions and then grills. He also fries up a bunch of onions, and also chops up a bunch of raw onions. We just like onions, okay? There are also onions in the clams. 

Here’s the clam recipe, which works with all kinds of shellfish:

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TUESDAY
Honey garlic pork ribs, rice, tangy cucumber salad

The pork rib recipe was a real “ship of Theseus” situation. You’re supposed to brine the pork (which is supposed to be chops, not ribs) for 24 hours, then pepper it, then cook it in a low oven for an hour, then pan sear it with this lovely sauce. I ended up brining them, yes, but then broiling, then pouring the sauce over the meat and finishing cooking it covered it foil. It was tasty and juicy, but of course it lacked any kind of glaze. Also I uh ran out of honey and chucked in a bunch of orange marmalade, and used white wine instead of sake. Don’t own a probe thermometer. Sauce never did thicken up. Didn’t even consider garnishing with thyme. And it was kind of undercooked so I had to put it in the microwave. Whatever! You don’t know me! It had a nice sweet, garlicky flavor and just about everyone who likes pork liked it, and I made plenty of rice, which I only burned a little bit. 

I served it with a tangy cucumber salad, which turned out a little more vinegary than was strictly necessary, because as previously mentioned, I was pretty low on honey, and I also couldn’t find my sesame oil, so that made it considerably less flavorful than it might have been.

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It’s a nice simple salad, though, and tastes sophisticated and refreshing along with something savory. Just don’t skimp on the honey. 

WEDNESDAY
Bangers and mash with onion sauce, cheesy pretzel bites

The day started off damp and dark, with a shivery, chilly mist enveloping the world. Brr, I thought, how perfect would it be to welcome my family home at the end of the day to a huge platter of steamy, hearty sausages smothered in creamy, garlicky mashed potatoes topped with a rich, savory onion gravy. The only flaw in my plan was that, by the time dinner time rolled around, it was in the high 70’s, sunny, and humid. OH WELL, TOO BAD. EAT YOUR TATERS. 

I made ten pounds of mashed potatoes, intending to make garlic parmesan mashed potatoes,

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but unable to find the parmesan cheese. 

I more or less followed this recipe for onion gravy, except I used even more corn starch than it called for and it still didn’t thicken up properly. This is my cross to bear. My gravies don’t thicken. 

I also made several boxes of frozen pretzel bites stuffed with pepper jack cheese from Aldi, which were exactly as advertised — chewy and sour on the outside, melty and salty inside.

Pretty tasty hot, pretty un-tasty as soon as they cooled down. 

THURSDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips, broccoli and carrots

Around 6 PM, my kitchen was full of gigantic adult children shouting at each other about how disappointed they were about how the movie Candyman ended, which caused me to burn half the sandwiches. Not my fault. 

I, virtuous, skipped the chips and just ate vegetables (drowned in french onion dip).

The kids asked me why some of the sandwiches didn’t have ham in them, and I just stared at them, bug-eyed, and shrugged like I couldn’t even believe they would ask such a dumb question. It actually was a perfectly reasonable question, but on the other hand, let’s see how they like it! Ha ha! 

FRIDAY
Shrimp lo mein

It’s been a while since we’ve had lo mein. It’s been . . . lo these meiny months. I don’t know. Some of the kids said they didn’t really like it, and I said what should I make instead, and they said wah wah wah, so I’m making lo mein. (Actually they suggested tuna noodle casserole, which I just don’t like making, so there.)

I cut up some peppers and red onion and scallions, and cleaned the shrimp, and any minute now I’m going to get up off my bed of pain and make some sauce. Then all I have to do is boil up the noodles before supper and we’ll have a lovely little meal to throw together. I really love lo mein, and was delighted to discover what a simple recipe it is.

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You can put in whatever vegetables and proteins you like. Here’s one with shrimp and sugar snap peas: 

And that’s my story.

 

Grilled clams or mussels in wine sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 white or red onion
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • live clams or mussels
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cups white wine
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Prepare sauce: Coarsely chop the onion and sautee it in the olive oil with the red pepper flakes. Add salt and pepper. 


  2. Add two sticks of butter and let them melt. Add the wine and lemon juice. 

  3. Light the fire and let it burn to coals. While it's burning down, sort and clean the shellfish, discarding any damaged or dead ones. (If they're open, tap them. If they don't close, they're dead. If they're closed, they're fine.)

  4. Lay shellfish on grill until they pop open. The hotter the fire, the shorter the time it will take - five minutes or more. 

  5. Add shellfish to sauce and stir to mix. 

5 from 3 votes
Print

spicy cucumber salad

A spicy, zippy side dish that you can make very quickly. 

Ingredients

  • 3-4 cucumbers, sliced thin (peeling not necessary)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar or white vinegar
  • 1+ tsp honey
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Optional:

red pepper, diced

  • 1/2 red onion diced

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Serve immediately, or chill to serve later (but the longer you leave it, the softer the cukes will get)

 

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.

 

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. 233: The secret ingredient

Back in the saddle again! I didn’t do a WFS on Friday because I already did a Thanksgiving recipe round-up, and the rest of the week was just basic food made while prepping for Thanksgiving. If you twist my arm, I can share some pie photos, though:

This is my hugs and kisses salted bourbon pecan pie, with which I hoped to ingratiate myself with the eight-year-old (it worked):

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This is my “oh no, this pie is full of buttons or something” apple pie, which I made while Damien was telling me something upsetting about the Legion, and which made me forget that I was making pie, so I just slapped a plain crust on and then slashed at it a bunch of times. When I calmed down, I tried to make it less of an anger pie, so I made some long slits at an angle and folded the triangles down, then stuck a bunch of dough circles into the openings. It certainly was a pie.

I also made some pumpkin pies, a chocolate cream pie, and another apple pie, but they weren’t much to look at. 

I will share my cranberry brie tart recipe again, because it’s a great one for Christmas or New Year’s, too – very pretty, and easy to make. I messed mine up eleven different ways, including thinking I had phyllo dough when really it was puff pastry, and I ran out of honey, and just screwed it up generally. They just weren’t as nice, and I overbaked them, so the brie kind of vanished into the dough. Still nice, though. Just not top notch.

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This year, we also had the best gravy I’ve ever made. I have no idea what made the difference, but it was just so rich, dark, and delicious. And salty. Probably that was it. I really like salt. 

One final picture: We didn’t have guests and didn’t set a formal table, but I did ask a child — a child who is old enough to drive! — to open up some cans of cranberry sauce and arrange them so they look fancy and nice. This is what he did:

Onward and upward! Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Aldi pizza

Friday we had Thanksgiving redux, and Saturday we were ready for something completely different but very easy. Aldi pizza it was. 

SUNDAY
Roast beef sandwiches, chips

I had bought a couple of roasts when they were on sale a while back, and forgot to take them out of the freezer in time to roast them Sunday, so they weren’t fully thawed. It turns out this is actually a life hack, and keeps the center nice and rare like we like it.

I had mine on a toasted roll with horseradish sauce, provolone, and some tomatoes. 

MONDAY
Chicken parm sandwiches, cheesy bread sticks

I went shopping on Monday, rather than the weekend, for fear of the plague rats, I mean fellow human beings who are worthy of being treated with dignity but dammit, it’s December and masks are now officially keeping your face warm so just WEAR THEM for crying out loud, sheeeesh, and we got home extremely late. We had ciabatta rolls with frozen chicken patties, topped with a slice of provolone and a scoop of warm sauce.

If you, too, were wondering, it is fine to call this chicken parm even though there is no parm involved, as the dish was originally from Parma, Italy, which is coincidentally where Aldi was invented. Check here if you are still reading: ___ YES ____NO

Not a spectacular meal, but quick and somewhat more satisfying than just frozen chicken burgers. 

TUESDAY
Ham, peas, garlic mashed potatoes

The favorite meal of a surprising number of Fishers. I did get a pre-cooked ham, which makes it super easy, but forgot my (literal) ham hack, which is to cut it up while it’s cold and then heat it in the oven. So boo hoo, so people had to heat theirs up in the microwave. 

I made ten whole pounds of mashed potatoes, and boiled an entire peeled head of garlic along with the water, and then dumped in a whole canister of parmesan along with the butter and milk. RECOMMENDED, as long as you like being fat, which, you know, [ragged panting sounds] evidently. 

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I also recommend using Aldi’s sweet and spicy mustard on your ham. It’s nicely tangy and really dresses it up. 

WEDNESDAY
Pork ribs, risotto, roasted acorn squash rings

A pretty good meal that could be thrown together in about half an hour, if you have an Instant Pot. Hwitch I do. And which now sports this amazing steam-breathing dragon, thanks to my friend Laura.

 

 

(It’s actually a useful device because the valve sends steam straight up in the air, so if your IP is under a cabinet, it can wreck things. This diverts the steam to the side. There are several cute styles for sale on Amazon.)

Sadly, I only had a little white wine in the house (somebody drank it, me), so it was a tiny bit bland. Great texture, though, very melty and creamy. I’ve updated my recipe to include butter and a longer cook time, and it’s a vast improvement. 

The pork ribs, I just sprinkled heavily with salt and pepper on both sides and broiled them, turning once. 

Actual footage of me, turning once:

 

via GIPHY

I tried a new recipe for acorn squash, and it was okay, not amazing. You cut the top off and scoop out the seeds, then cut the squash into thin rings. This is the neat part, as they come out looking like 70’s flowers. 

Then you brush the rings with maple syrup, olive oil, sriracha, and salt and pepper, and broil them. I don’t know, they were just kind of greasy and spicy. I wanted to like them, but either they need different proportions, or better quality syrup, or something. You were supposed to sprinkle cilantro over the top, but I don’t see how that would have helped. I thought the kids would like them because they were at least cute to look at, but they simply admired them from afar while shoveling in more risotto. 

THURSDAY
Bibimbap

It’s bibeen too long! I got the pork sliced nice and thin and marinating in a gochujang sauce in the morning

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and set some carrots to pickling

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and even measured out the water and rice in the IP ahead of time. None of the stores had alfalfa sprouts or pea shoots, so I grabbed some baby spinach and bok choy, plus some crunchy noodles. Then I lost the spinach I bought, but it was still lovely. I love this meal. Fry up them eggs in hot oil and give them a crunchy edge, but leave the yolks runny. 

I don’t know if I was especially hungry or what, but this was the best bibimbap I’ve ever made. I made myself a second egg when I was halfway through, just to prolong the experience.

The runny egg yolk with the spicy tender pork and the fluffy rice and the crunchy noodles and bok choy — oh boy. We’ve had a lot of rainy, dreary days and this hit the spot. This is a popular meal because people can pick whatever they want and assemble their own bowls. One kid just has rice and egg, and that’s fine with me.

FRIDAY

Friday I drove up north a ways to go see my mom in the nursing home, then did some Christmas shopping, and when I got home I was so wiped out, I just made a plate of scrambled eggs and a tray of toast, and burned it all. The kids were very nice about it. There was also some leftover risotto, which helped. 

Oh, about the title. The secret ingredient is salt. Oh, and after most of the kids went to bed, Damien and I sliced up a baguette and toasted it with olive oil and freshly ground salt and pepper, then topped it with brie, smoked salmon, and cheap caviar. [heart explodes]

Here’s some recipe cards! Have fun, you crazy kids, and don’t forget the salt. 

Salted bourbon pecan pie filling

This pecan pie is somewhat more mellow and less screamingly sweet than some. A one-crust pie, but it's nice if you have some extra pie dough to make leaf or other shapes to arrange over the top.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp bourbon
  • 1-2 cups raw pecans (whole)
  • sea salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.

  2. In a standing mixer, cream together the sugar and butter until well combined.

  3. Add eggs one at a time until well combined. Then add the maple syrup, salt, vanilla, and bourbon. Continue mixing until well combined.

  4. Add half of the pecans and stir in with a fork. Pour the filling into an unbaked pie shell.

  5. Carefully arrange the rest of the pecans over the top of the filling.

  6. Bake pie for 45-55 minutes. Center will still be slightly jiggly when it comes out of the oven, but it will firm up.

  7. Cool completely. Sprinkle with sea salt before serving.

 

Cranberry brie tarts

This recipe looks complicated, but you can simplify or alter it however you like. Basically you want some kind of pastry, brie, cranberries with sugar, and honey, and an herb on top. A delicious and beautiful little appetizer, great for Thanksgiving or Christmas parties.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 roll phyllo dough
  • 6-8 oz brie
  • small bunch fresh sage or thyme, coarsely chopped

cranberries:

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • dash salt
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter for cranberries

honey mixture:

  • 2 Tbsp butter for honey mixture
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425

  2. In a little pot, combine the honey, the butter, and the extract. Heat through and set aside.

  3. In a bowl, mix the cranberries with melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and a dash of salt. Set aside.

  4. Cut brie into 24 equal pieces and set aside.

  5. Prepare a 24-hole mini cupcake pan with butter or spray. You can also use a full-size cupcake pan, but the tarts will be a little unwieldy and won't hold together as well.

  6. Unroll the phyllo dough and cut it into twelve equal stacks. Cover the dough with a damp cloth while you're working so the dough doesn't get brittle.

  7. Pull out one stack of phyllo dough squares and use half the squares to line a cupcake tin, fanning them out to make a little cup. Make sure the bottom of the tin has several layers of dough, so it won't fall apart when you take it out of the pan.

  8. When you have arranged all the pastry cups, drizzle them with half the honey-butter mixture.

  9. Lay a piece of brie in the bottom of each cup, then put a scoop of sugared cranberries on top of that. Drizzle with the rest of the honey-butter mixture.

  10. Bake for 15 minutes or so until the pastry is just golden brown.

  11. Top each cup with a bit of chopped herbs.

  12. Let the tarts sit in the pan for five minutes before serving. Serve hot.

 

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.

 

Instant Pot Risotto

Almost as good as stovetop risotto, and ten billion times easier. Makes about eight cups. 

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground sage
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups rice, raw
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • pepper
  • 1.5 cups grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Turn IP on sautee, add oil, and sautee the onion, garlic, salt, and sage until onions are soft.

  2. Add rice and butter and cook for five minutes or more, stirring constantly, until rice is mostly opaque and butter is melted.

  3. Press "cancel," add the broth and wine, and stir.

  4. Close the top, close valve, set to high pressure for 9 minutes.

  5. Release the pressure and carefully stir in the parmesan cheese and pepper. Add salt if necessary. 

 

Korean sauce for bibimbap or other dishes with meat

A sweet, spicy, savory Korean sauce for cooking, marinating, or brushing on to grill. Susceptible to many adjustments if you like it sweeter or spicier, thicker or thinner. This recipe makes enough to cook 4-5 lbs of meat.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup gochujang (fermented pepper paste)
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar or plain vinegar
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Blend all ingredients together. If you're cooking in the Instant Pot, you may want to add 1/4 cup water or so to make sure there is enough liquid to prevent burning. 

 

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.

What’s for supper? Vol. 222: Back to Zuul

Sorry, there will be no follow-up Ghostbusters reference in this What’s For Supper. I just ran out of title ideas. We did go back to school, though. 

If you look closely, you’ll notice that all the food photos this week were taken either outside, or in my bedroom. This is because I’m spending half my time pining for the kids because they’re at school, and the other half hiding from them because they’re home.

Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Pork ribs, mashed potatoes, corn

Damien made his lovely sugar rub for the pork ribs, and cooked them on the grill. Scrumptious as always. Great little char, great caramelization, a little sweet, a little hot, nice and juicy inside.

You could make a big batch of this sugar rub and have it on hand in a baggie for just about any kind of meat, and it really makes it special. 

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I made seven pounds of mashed potatoes, and it wasn’t enough. Next time, a full ten. I also remembered too late about garlic parmesan mashed potatoes, where you boil the garlic cloves right along with the potatoes and then mash them in, then embarrass yourself with how much cheese you add.

 

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Next time! 

SUNDAY
Spaghetti carbonara

Always popular.

Damien made dinner while I languished or something. Oh, wait, I was doing school supply shopping! Really down to the wire this year. I remember the first year I did school shopping, when we were SO broke and having SO much culture shock after years of home schooling. I remember being so heartbroken and outraged that I was expected to buy a thumb drive for my innocent sixth grader. It seemed like they were trying to turn her into a faceless drone, enslaved to technology and commercialism. So, this year, Corrie got a P.J. Masks backpack and Frozen II water bottle and a shiny gold Wonder Woman dress and Lion King socks and whatever the hell else she wanted. And all Crayola, no Rose Art at all. You can judge for yourself if that’s progress or not. Anyway, Damien made dinner.

 

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MONDAY
Aldi pizza

For the first day of school, a nice, easy meal was in order, especially since I had somehow made myself believe school was still a full week away, so we had zero acclimatization to the new bed times. 

School is . . . okay. The kids are okay with masks. The school has set up tents for outdoor classes and lunch, and the kids sit on yoga mats, and no one spends more than 45 minutes in a room with other people, and they have fans going all the time. They do temperature checks every morning. They ask my five-year-old if she’s been out of the country (and I always listen closely for her answer, because you never know). It is okay. I have no idea if they’re learning anything. Corrie has learned a dinosaur song and a fishie song and has a friend named Greta. She has a classmate named Oliver who is silly. We have no idea how long this all will last, but for now, it’s okay. 

Mirabile dictu, no one in the school has life-threatening allergies this year, so we can pack whatever we want for lunch, so there’s that. In a few weeks, we’ll add in hybrid public high school and Catholic high school, and eventually the college kids will go back to college. Moe is in quarantine. It’s been several days since anyone called Clara “Hitler” for enforcing mask rules in the store.  Walmart is selling unscented hand sanitizer again, so you don’t have to go around smelling like fermented cranberry fart. It’s okay. How are you?

TUESDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, carrots and hummus, broccoli salad

I cleaned out the cabinet and discovered I’ve been diligently stocking up on sunflower seeds and dried cranberries, for some reason. So I poked around and found a recipe that uses both of them, along with broccoli and a basic dressing (mayo, white vinegar, sugar, pepper). 

Everyone liked it well enough, and it was a nice change from coleslaw. Vaguely autumnal. Some people also add bacon, but I was trying to pretend it was a vegetable. You could also put minced red onion.  Maybe a little blue cheese. But it was nice in its simple form. 

WEDNESDAY
Steak teriyaki stir fry, white rice

Feeling unambitious, I bought two bottles of ginger teriyaki sauce. I’m often unhappy with my stir fries because they are watery and the vegetables are overcooked, because I crowd the pan and overcook some ingredients while others are catching up. So this time, I cooked the food in batches and in stages. I heated up some sesame oil and cooked the strips of beef in batches until just barely not pink, then took the meat out of the pan. Then I cooked the broccoli in the meaty pan until just barely done, and then I added the red peppers and cooked them just a little. Then I put the meat back in and added the sauce and just stirred everything up quickly so it was heated through, and served it over rice.

Good results! The vegetables were crunchy, the meat wasn’t chewy, and the sauce did not get watery. I made a bunch of rice in the Instant Pot, and it was a tasty, pretty meal. 

Steak continues to be cheap, and I’m running out of ideas! We’ve had steak and cheese, steak salad, steak steak, and tortas. What else do you make with steak? Never thought I’d have this problem

THURSDAY
Carnitas with guacamole, corn on the cob

Not the very fine carnitas from J.R.’s Art Place that you cook in a pot until the meat’s all lacquered and lovely, but still not bad. I put a giant bone-in pork picnic in the Instant Pot with a can of Coke, some cinnamon sticks and bay leaves, orange quarters, salt, pepper, and oregano, and cooked it for 35 minutes on high. It wasn’t really tender, so I gave it another 35 minutes. It still wasn’t as tender as I wanted, but I was out of time, so I pulled the meat out and shredded what I could, and cut the rest off. Then I spread it in a pan and sprinkled it heavily with chili powder and salt, and crisped it up under the broiler.

I flirted with the notion of beans and rice, but it seemed hard, so we just had the meat with guacamole, and cheese, sour cream, salsa, lime wedges, and cilantro. 

I made some rather tomato-heavy guacamole with the few avocados that didn’t turn out to be all sad and grey inside. What the heck is wrong with avocados lately? They’re not overripe, they’re just blighted or something. What do you expect: These are Joe Biden’s avocados. Ask yourself if you’re really prepared for four more years of Joe Biden’s avocados.

FRIDAY
Tuna burgers, cheesy tomato soup

This may just be a fantasy. Most likely, people will request plain tuna with mayo. But I will offer the option of tuna burgers.

 

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And I will offer tomato soup from a can, and they can put cheese in it. Or they can act like it’s not even exciting that it’s finally almost soup season. But it is exciting! It is. 

 

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. 

 

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.

 

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.

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

 

Tuna burgers

Ingredients

  • 1 can tuna
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • seasonings, minced onion, etc.
  • oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Drain the tuna.

  2. Mix tuna thoroughly with egg, bread crumbs, and whatever seasonings you like. Form into two patties. 

  3. Heat oil in pan. Fry tuna patties on both sides until golden brown.