What’s for supper? Vol. 316: All Fall

We made it through Halloween and the Spooky Triduum! Plenty of cozy fall foods this week, although no applesauce as of yet. Here’s what we did have: 

SATURDAY
Vermonter sandwiches

By popular request. Your choice of ciabatta rolls or sourdough bread, roast chicken breast, bacon, thick slices of sharp cheddar, slices of tart Granny Smith apples, and honey mustard dressing.

Just an excellent sandwich. Nestle plate in among fabric paint and other craft materials because you are still frantically finishing up Halloween costumes. 

SUNDAY
Spaghetti and ragù; garlic bread; blueberry and pumpkin walnut ice cream 

Damien made this, following the Deadspin recipe. It turns out a little different each time. This time was a little spicy, and wonderfully — look, nobody likes it when I describe a meat sauce as “fluffy,” but the English language is just not helping me out. Here, have a picture:

If you’re thinking of pasta with a standard sluggish tomato sauce with some ground meat thrown in, think that no more. This is entirely different, and absolutely scrumptious. 

The kids miraculously scooped out the pumpkins on Friday while we were out of town, sorted out the pulp and seeds, and cleaned up. I know! So over the weekend, they carved their pumpkins, and all I had to do was roast the seeds.

I spread them in shallow pans, drizzled them with oil and sprinkled them with kosher salt, then cooked them in a 250 oven, stirring them occasionally, and switching the pans once so they’d cook evenly, until they are crunchy but not burnt.

I never know how long this takes because I always, always forget they are in the oven and almost burn them. Maybe forty minutes? I have no idea. 

I had a slightly better handle on dessert. Blueberries were on sale, so I bought a few pints, planning to make ice cream, with lemon pound cake from a mix. But then I felt bad that I hadn’t made any kind of Halloween-themed meal or dessert, so I decided it was important to make pumpkin ice cream.  (In the past, for Halloween I have made SPOOKY MEATLOAF

and once I made those mummy hot dogs

and you know, that was not a good use of my time. As usual, I’m the only one putting pressure on myself to come up with this stuff. Anyway, the ice cream turned out to be a great idea. I thought the two flavors would be terrible together (Watch: This Food Blogger Thinks Dessert Will Be Terrible But Makes It Anyway For Some Reason!), but they were actually great.

The blueberry was sweet and a tiny bit tart, and the pumpkin had all the comfy, custardy flavors of pumpkin pie, and somehow together they worked in the same way that peanut butter and jelly work together. They didn’t taste like peanut butter and jelly, you understand; it was just the same kind of combination. Fruity + earthy, or something. 

I did also make the lemon pound cake mix, but overbaked it, and I was worried the lemon would not go well with the other flavors (I had bought it just thinking lemon + blueberry), and this time I was right. Should have just skipped the cake. Oh well!

Imma have to come back later and write out the ice cream directions. I used Ben and Jerry’s recipes for both, except that I doubled the amount of blueberries for one, and added walnuts to the other, and increased the spices a bit. They both use the basic sweet cream base and do not require cooking. I will say that double blueberry was too much, and the berries clumped together in a way that wasn’t completely pleasant, because the tiny seeds get a little gritty one you get a certain volume of blueberry (they were macerated but not cooked). Next time I’ll just follow the recipe! But the walnuts were an excellent addition to the pumpkin ice cream, and I stand by that. I may make this again for Thanksgiving, or possibly this butternut squash ice cream with candied curry pecans.

MONDAY
Chicken nuggets; candy

Halloween! Dinner is only there to keep child protective services away. The kids had parties at school and ate all kinds of nonsense, then we zipped home and hurried to get costumes on for trick or treating. 

Benny and Corrie were Sarah and Duck

and I assisted them as Scarf Lady 

Lucy, Sophia, and Irene were Doc Ock, Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle, and a robot 

You can’t really tell, but the robot has three special features: It lights up in several colors, it has a little secret compartment for storing things, and it is wearing a fanny pack full of diabetic supplies for its sister, so as not to mess up her Doc Ock costume.

The other kids dispersed to various parties and promised me they would send pictures, but they did not!

TUESDAY
Bagel, sausage, egg, cheese sandwiches; caramel apples

On Tuesday I had an easy meal planned (bagels with sausages, egg, and cheese)

because everyone was exhausted and of course we had to get to Mass for All Saints Day, but I also suddenly couldn’t stand how there were apples all over the place, so I made caramel apples. We usually get the easy-peasy kind where you just stretch a sheet of caramel over the apple and warm it up to meld it on, but the boxes can be a little misleading, so I had two kits of the kind you need a candy thermometer.

Which reminds me of the last time we attempted this, which was one of my favorite Irene moments, when she was about seven. 

Irene, stirring caramel: “We don’t want it to get too hot. Not hard ball. Or hard crack. Or . . . [peering at thermometer] fish donut.”

WELL, THAT’S WHAT IT SAYS. The adult world can be very confusing, and you just have to go with it, even if it sounds a little fish donut.

So I made about 20 apples. 

They turned out lovely, but I surely did not have room for 20 sticky apples to cool and harden in the fridge, so I just left them out all afternoon. Usually our kitchen is about as cool as a refrigerator anyway, but we’re having a little warm snap, and by evening, the caramel had ooooozed its way downward until what I had was a panful of apples, each with its own caramel penumbra, sitting in a pool of caramel. Oh well! At least I got rid of the apples. Some weeks, cooking is like a game whose goal is to get rid of all the food. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken and salad; soul cakes

This was an okay idea that didn’t quite come off. I had the vague idea to serve a Greek-inspired salad with chicken. While I was out, Damien roasted some chicken breasts with plenty of lemon pepper seasoning, and I sliced up the meat and served it with a big green salad, black olives, feta cheese, pomegranate seeds, chopped walnuts, and cucumbers and tomatoes.

I think the tomatoes were the mistake.  You really can’t have tomatoes on pomegranates in the same plate. They threw the whole thing off. Also I forgot to buy any kind of dressing, so we were forced to dig through the fridge and take our chances. Damien found some creamy Italian dressing, and I was trying to tell him that we also had some kind of vinaigrette, but I couldn’t think of the word, so I called it “greasy Italian.” Which goes to show that describing things accurately is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I also just this minute remembered that I bought pita chips to go with this salad, and totally forgot about them. 

Regarding the pomegranates, I briefly considered looking up some clever TikTok idea for how to get the seeds off the rind in no time flat, but these things never, ever work for me. It’s always a video of some sun-kissed woman with shining, blue-black hair and a peasant blouse, standing in her garden going, “Oh, you cut up your pineapple with a knife, you DUMBASS? Try it like this!” and she grins at the camera and sticks a toothpick in the bottom, and all the pineapple just falls out into a basin in perfect little edible chunks and she eats one with very white teeth. Or else there is some perky dude with weirdly inflated biceps bopping around a spotless kitchen showing us how, when he wants 400 cloves of peeled garlic, all he does is make a little slit in the side and then tap it with a spoon, and the garlic absolutely cannot wait to scurry off and arrange itself into useful rows, all perfectly peeled and not a bit wasted. So I watch this stuff and it looks quite easy, so I imitate them exactly, and somehow slice the tips off my three favorite fingers, and then I have to explain to the ER nurse that I was trying to be like someone on TikTok.

So I decided to just cut the pomegranate into quarters and then just sort of scrabble at it until the seeds came out. And I got a bowlful that way. 

And then I took a picture, so there. 

OH, I also made soul cakes on Wednesday. I guess soul cakes are the original treats that people would give to beggars who would come to their house, and offer to pray for the souls of the dead in exchange for a cookie? I don’t know. I still had a shit ton of apples left, so I was getting ready to make applesauce when I suddenly remembered that the kids had asked about soul cakes, so that’s what I made. 

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It’s a very quick recipe, and I do like the taste. They have a faint cidery flavor from the cider vinegar, and they’re soft and a little spicy, very nice. I cut out two kinds and told the kids they represented souls before and after being prayed for. 

Raisins in purgatory, and then you upgrade to half a dried apricot when you go to heaven. That’s some high octane theology for you. 

THURSDAY
Mexican beef bowls and beans

Everyone was pretty excited about this meal. I actually started marinating the meat the night before. 

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I had already cut up the meat before marinating it, so I just fried it up in a giant pan along with the marinade. 

Earlier in the day, I made a big bowl of guacamole

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and a pot of black beans. The beans were completely yummy,

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but I wish I had cooked them with the lid off for a little longer (they were in the Instant Pot on “slow cook” most of the day) to simmer off more of the liquid. 

But all in all, a very tasty meal.  I made a big pot of rice, put out salsa, chopped scallions, sour cream, lime wedges, and corn chips, shredded some cheese, and heated up some corn. Everyone found something they liked to eat.

Mmm, I think I will have leftover beans for lunch. 

FRIDAY
Quesadillas

Lots of leftover fixins from Thursday’s meal, so I’m just going to make plain cheese quesadillas and people can dress it up as they like. I also bought some plantain chips, which I will no doubt forget to serve. 

Happy Friday! If you want some apples, come over. I have a lot. 

Soul cakes

Servings 18 flat cakes the size of large biscuits

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, chilled
  • 3-3/4 cup sifted flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp allspice (can sub cloves)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar (can sub white vinegar)
  • 4-6 Tbsp milk
  • powdered sugar to sprinkle on top

optional:

  • raisins, currants, nuts, candied citrus peels, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350

  2. Put the flour in a large bowl. Grate the chilled butter on a vegetable grater and incorporate it lightly into the flour.

  3. Stir in the sugar and spices until evenly distributed.

  4. In a smaller bowl, beat together the eggs, vinegar and milk. Stir this into the flour mixture until it forms a stiff dough.

  5. Knead for several minutes until smooth and roll out to 1/4 thick.

  6. Grease a baking pan. Cut the dough into rounds (or other shapes if you like) and lay them on the pan, leaving a bit of room in between (they puff up a bit, but not a lot). If you're adding raisins or other toppings, poke them into the top of the cakes, in a cross shape if you like. Prick cakes with fork.

  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes until very lightly browned on top.

  8. Sprinkle with powdered sugar while they are warm

 

Beef marinade for fajita bowls

enough for 6-7 lbs of beef

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together.

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

 

Instant Pot black beans

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 287: In which I mislead my children about the Irish

Rather pretty photos this week! I love being able to eat dinner while the sun is up, but a close second is being able to take food photos while the sun is up. 

Here’s what we cooked this week: 

SATURDAY
Italian sandwiches, fries

Wow, Saturday seems like a long time ago. I think we had various salamis, capicola, prosciutto (Aldi prosciutto. We’re not millionaires) and provolone, with some red pesto. Looks like I was too hungry to take a photo. 

 

SUNDAY
Ina Garten’s roast chicken and vegetables

Damien made this gorgeous chicken that is absolutely packed with flavor and looks like the true feast it is.

The chicken is stuffed with lemon halves, entire heads of garlic, and sprigs of thyme,

and then you have beautiful heaps of roasted, caramelized carrots, onions, and fennel. Damien also added ten sliced potatoes.

Very moist and scrumptious. I just sat there eating fennel and carrots like a complete vegetable goblin. 

MONDAY
Chicken burgers, chips, crispy shredded Brussels sprouts

Shredded Brussels sprouts is a new-to-us thing. I preheated the oven to 425, cut the stems off two pounds of Brussels sprouts, and sliced them thinly with the food processor, then spread them in a thin layer on two large parchment paper-covered pans with olive oil, honey, salt, and lots of red pepper flakes, and chopped walnuts.

Then I forgot about them and parts of them burned a little, so I switched pans and stirred them up a bit and cooked them a bit more, and they turned out . . . pretty good.

I was hoping for something a little more crunchy, and this didn’t quite get there, but reminded me a little bit of coleslaw. Probably if I had spread it out more thinly, they would have gotten more crisp. Damien thought it was great as it was, and I did like the flavor a lot. Nice to have something new for a side dish, and I can imagine tons of variations in what you add to the Brussels sprouts. It’s also a great way to stretch a small amount of vegetables. I can imagine adding in carrots. 

TUESDAY
Mexican beef bowls 

Kind of an inelegant photo, but a very tasty meal. 

One kid said, “Wow, I never tried this food before. I just assumed it was gross. But it’s delicious!” What do you know about that. Wait till you find out I was right about everything else, too. 

There wasn’t a ton of meat, so I wanted to make sure there were plenty of other good toppings. Namely, yummy beans. I made them in the instant pot, and I thought they were quite toothsome. 

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I also sautéed up a bunch of sweet pepper and put out sour cream, shredded cheese, cilantro, scallions, and skillet roasted (skillet roasted? Is that a thing) corn with Taijin seasoning, some corn chips, and a big pot of white rice. I forgot to put out the lime. wedges. The star of this meal is the wonderful gravy from the meat, and the star of the gravy is Worcestershire sauce, which I love even more now that I know it has tamarind in it.

Very rich and piquant meal. 

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WEDNESDAY
Cumin chicken with chickpeas, onion salad, homemade pita

Last time I made pita bread, I complained about what a huge amount of work it was. I think that was mostly due to the newness of the recipe (I have massive baking anxiety, and every step feels monumental), and the fact that I quadrupled it. I gathered up my courage and tried this recipe again, and it was actually very simple. You just stir up the dough and knead it well, let it rise once,

divide it, roll the pieces into rounds,

and slap them in a hot oven for threeish minutes, and hope they puff.

It takes a long time if you are making 32 of them and can only fit three on a pan, but there are far less pleasant ways to spend a morning than rolling and baking 32 pieces of pita bread. 

I did try pan frying one, and it turned out so flat and rubbery, I went back to the oven method, which was working well enough. While I was complaining about it, I apparently triggered a smart speaker command, so the next three-minute alarm that went off wasn’t just a chime; it was a perky woman’s voice saying “Three minutes the last one fried in the pan turned out really rubbery!” NOBODY ASKED YOU, PERKY KITCHEN ROBOT. 

Anyway, everybody liked the pita. Next time I will bake them right before supper, because they are divine when they are piping hot; but even several hours old, they were still nice. (The same child who was amazed the Mexican beef wasn’t disgusting complimented me on the pita, saying he loved how tough and chewy it was. I did not murder said child, because soon enough he will be eating his own cooking, and then we’ll all see what’s tough.)

The whole meal was so good.

 

The cumin chicken is super easy. You stir up a simple yogurt marinade for the chicken in the morning (I used thighs and drumsticks), and then about an hour before dinner, spread some seasoned chickpeas in a pan, nestle your chicken in it, maybe throw some onions on top, and shove it in the oven. 

The skin on this chicken is so great. The meat turns out really tender, but the best part is the skin, and it takes zero skill. 

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Also, Clara was juicing lemons for some reason, so she had some freshly-squeezed juice to spare for the onion salad, and wow, I forgot what a difference it makes over bottled.

It’s just red onions, lemon juice, chopped cilantro, and some salt and pepper, but it’s so bright and fresh, it’s really wonderful with the earthy flavors of the cumin in the chickpeas and chicken.  

Make a nice bowl of garlicky yogurt sauce,

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and it’s a perfectly balanced plate of flavors. Cool, bright, sharp, earthy, and then the sour-floury pita brings it all together.

Lovely. 

THURSDAY
Irish breakfast

Damien heroically took the three middle girls into Boston on the evening of St. Patrick’s day to see Conan Gray. They ate at one of Guy Fieri’s restaurant because if there’s one thing those kids can do, it’s commit to the bit. 

We at home continued our tradition of acknowledging we don’t really like corned beef, and we had what may or may not be an authentic Irish breakfast instead. The Irish sausage wasn’t too popular last year, so we skipped that and had bacon, thick sourdough toast, roast potatoes, fried mushrooms, baked beans, roasted tomatoes, and eggs fried in bacon grease. 

This meal gave the kids the impression that the Irish eat very well indeed. Oops.

I had some trouble getting so many different things hot at the same time, so I fudged it a bit, and the mushrooms (mushrooms, parsley, salt, bacon fat) started out well

but got a bit overcooked, and then I decided to broil the tomatoes in the oven

and long before they got any kind of char, they really collapsed. I don’t know if there’s another method of cooking sliced tomatoes so they don’t fall apart, or if that’s just how it be. They were good, just surprisingly fragile, kind of like the Ir–I’m sorry, somebody was shouting and I lost track of what I was saying. 

I’ll let this hero round out the day for us all.  

FRIDAY
Vietnamese garlic noodles

Gonna try this simple recipe from the NYT, which says it’s a San Francisco dish. Butter, lots of garlic, oyster sauce, soy sauce, spaghetti, parmesan, and scallions. How often does the NYT run a recipe using ingredients you already have! I’ll let you know how it turns out. Garlicky, I’m guessing. 

And we have St. Joseph’s day coming right up tomorrow! Although we’ll probably celebrate on Sunday, just because Saturday is always so crazy-go-nuts. Thinking of an antipasto of pickled vegetables and cheeses and cured meats,

suppli (maybe made by Lucy, since they turned out so well last time),

spaghetti and meatballs (probably made by Damien),

and Clara may make zeppole, which is the traditional St. Joseph’s Day dessert, and which I mangled pretty severely when I tried.

I would like to try pannacotta with fruit (haven’t settled on a recipe yet), just so the kitchen doesn’t forget whose kitchen it is. We just finished The Great British Baking Show and a lot of Giuseppe’s recipes seemed highly desirable to me. But that is a lot of cooks in a small kitchen, so I think today we’ll plan out who makes what when. 

This is also a lot of tasty food for the middle of Lent, but St. Joseph has been mucho helpful for our family and the least we can do for him is eat a lot. Just like the Irish. 

Instant Pot black beans

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

Beef marinade for fajita bowls

enough for 6-7 lbs of beef

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together.

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

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

Cumin chicken thighs with chickpeas in yogurt sauce

A one-pan dish, but you won't want to skip the sides. Make with red onions and cilantro in lemon juice, pita bread and yogurt sauce, and pomegranates, grapes, or maybe fried eggplant. 

Ingredients

  • 18 chicken thighs
  • 32 oz full fat yogurt, preferably Greek
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp cumin, divided
  • 4-6 cans chickpeas
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 red onions, sliced thinly

For garnishes:

  • 2 red onions sliced thinly
  • lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • a bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 32 oz Greek yogurt for dipping sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed

Instructions

  1. Make the marinade early in the day or the night before. Mix full fat Greek yogurt and with lemon juice, four tablespoons of water, and two tablespoons of cumin, and mix this marinade up with chicken parts, thighs or wings. Marinate several hours. 

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

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

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

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

Garnishes:

  1. While the chicken is cooking, you prepare your three garnishes:

     -Chop up some cilantro for sprinkling if people like.

     -Slice another two red onions nice and thin, and mix them in a dish with a few glugs of lemon juice and salt and pepper and more cilantro. 

     -Then take the rest of the tub of Greek yogurt and mix it up in another bowl with lemon juice, a generous amount of minced garlic, salt, and pepper.