What’s for supper? Vol. 201: Potatoes and other tornadoes

Well! I’m fat; how are you? Here’s what we ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Bagel, egg, sausage, and cheese sandwiches; blueberries

Easy peasy weekend meal. There really isn’t much better than a lovely fried egg with crisp, lacy edges and a runny yolk. Goodness gracious. 

The blueberries weren’t terrible, for Februberries. 

SUNDAY
Hot wings, sausage rolls, potato tornados, hot pretzels

Sunday, you may recall, was . . . something. Nothing. Nothing happened. Everybody liked it and there was nothing funny about it at all! Mostly what I did was cook and eat. 

Damien made scrumptious hot wings with blue cheese dip and celery. He uses the Deadspin recipe and he says it’s very easy.

 

I had been meaning for several weeks to make sausage rolls, which is something Damien once mentioned enjoying as a kid in Australia.

Jump to Recipe

I guess they are street food, to be enjoyed with ketchup. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to replicate them, but the basic idea sounded yummy. 

OH, THEY WERE YUMMY.

I read a bunch of recipes and whittled it down to a very basic form. You fry up some diced onions and mix them up with loose sausage (I used sweet Italian sausage squoze out of the casings) and egg and some seasonings. Cut puff pastry into strips, lay the raw sausage mixture in a line down the middle of the strips

fold it up into a long roll, cut it into separate rolls, brush with egg, and bake. I put “everything” seasoning on some of them before baking, and that was a good idea. 

Oh man, they were delicious. Flaky, buttery layers of pastry melding gradually into the savory filling. Absolutely fantastic. 

I was truly surprised that none of the kids liked them! The tastes were not challenging in the slightest. I ended up eating them myself throughout the week. They were good cold. They were good reheated, if a little less perky in texture.

I really hope you make these. They are so easy, and really pay off in flavor and chompability. You can make them well ahead of time and keep them refrigerated

then throw them in the oven just before guests come over.

Okay, now you can listen to my sad story about the potatoes.

Around midnight, my Facebook feed switches over to other continents, and a couple of weeks ago, I saw some East Asian dad I’m apparently friends with showing off pics of his kids enjoying some kind of weird street food I had never seen. I googled around a bit and discovered they are called “potato springs,” “potato twists,” or, escalatedly, “potato tornados.” It’s a spiral-cut potato stuck on a skewer and deep fried. Intrigued, I googled some more, and found a recipe where a guy used crushed Doritos for seasoning. That is my kind of guy. 

Jump to Recipe

If you’re a street vendor, you will have a potato spiralizer; but if you’re an idiot, you’ll try using a cheese slicer first. You sort of hook the skewer into the slice part and press and turn the potato at the same time. In the video, this resulted in a potato neatly spiraled around a skewer. In real life, I got this:

So I gave up and stomped out of the kitchen. But then I thought, well, the problem was that the skewer wasn’t stable, and the potato kept slipping around, and what if I used a box grater, and anchored the end of the skewer on the inside of the box grater? 

And that actually worked really well! I got halfway through the potato and it was all tidily coiled up on the skewer inside the box grater. So I kept going, and what do you think?

I grated the skewer in half. 

So I got mad again and stomped out of the kitchen and complained about how stupid it was to Damien, and he fully supported me in giving up on this stupid project. 

But then I thought, “But wait. Is there anything intrinsically superior about a potato in a spiral, or is it just that, when one has a spiralizing machine, that’s how it turns out? The point is to have thin, battered slices of potato on a stick, is it not?” So I decided to make one last try. This time I bring plenty-a gas! And I just took the freaking potato and cut it up into slices that weren’t attached to each other, and stuck them on a stick by the handful.

Then, uh, I did it eleven more times with eleven other potatoes. It’s not that my honor was at stake, exactly. I think I’m just dumb. 

So I mixed up the batter an crushed up the Doritos and set it aside until it was time for frying in a few hours. This, it turns out, was a tactical error in what had heretofore been an entirely streamlined and efficient process. The batter is supposed to be thin, so you can just kind of slosh it over the potato sticks and fry it up. But when you make it ahead of time and leave flour-based batter sitting around for a few hours, guess what it turns into? Correct: Glop. This is doubly true if you have added Dorito crumbs to it, and the Dorito crumbs swell up and absorb all the liquid.

Well, by this time, my honor really was at stake, and I was still dumb. So I heated up a big pot of oil and, using the impasto technique I learned in the oil paint section of Mr. Bennet’s Portfolio Development class, I forced the batter in, on, and around the potato skewers. It didn’t want to stick but I made it stick, and then fried the hell out of them. 

Some of them turned out, you know, fine, if not exactly elegant.

Some of them turned out like a cry for an exorcist

I managed this by showering them with kosher salt

They kind of reminded me of when those guys pour molten aluminum down into a termite nest and then pull it out of the sand, and then they put it in their house for some reason.

Well, the kids ate them. I ate one, and felt that it would probably carry me through my potato needs for about eleven weeks. 

The final verdict: Not a total disaster? I guess there are varieties with cheese and pleasant, piquant seasonings, and it would definitely help to batter them before the batter solidifies. My version would have been great if we had been walking around in the freezing sleet for a few hours and our fingers and noses were numb. Otherwise, it was just, wow, a lot. 

We also had hot pretzels.

MONDAY
Chicken caprese sandwiches, fries

A fine make-ahead meal. Damien roasted some chicken breasts in the morning and sliced them up, and we put the sandwiches together in the evening. 

Ciabatta rolls, chicken, tomato, basil, provolone, plenty of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and freshly-ground salt and pepper. 

TUESDAY
Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, squash abbondanza

I started dinner going and then remembered we had a middle school planning committee thingy to go to, so I yelled some hazy instructions to the kids about how to finish it up and serve it. So I don’t have any photos of dinner, but I do have this:

Oops, my ringer was off. They did boil, drain, and mash the potatoes with butter and milk, and they did cook and slice the meatloaf. They also took the squash out of the oven, pack it into a dish, cover it, and send it directly into refrigerator exile without benefit of being on the table for even a minute. I don’t know what I expected. I threw it away the next day. I like butternut squash, but if you lose momentum, it’s really hard to get it back. 

Here is my basic meatloaf recipe, if you care:
Jump to Recipe

And here is one of my squash recipes:
Jump to Recipe

 

WEDNESDAY
Pulled pork nachos

I put a big hunk of pork in the slow cooker with a can of beer, about a cup of cider vinegar, several cloves of garlic, and some jarred jalapeños. I let it cook all day, then fished it out, shredded it, mixed it up with plenty of salt, garlic powder, dried onions, cumin, chili powder, and pepper flakes, and spread it on top of chips, and topped it with plenty of shredded cheese. 

Shoved it into a hot oven until the cheese was melted and served with sour cream, salsa, cilantro, and limes.

I also put queso on mine because I’m too thin and people are worried. 

THURSDAY
Pork ramen 

Thin slices of pork sautéed in sesame oil with soy sauce, pea shoots, soft boiled eggs, shredded carrots, and cucumbers. I had mine with soy sauce and tabasco sauce.

We had a snow day and the kids went sledding, then the little ones watched The Sound of Music. A cheery supper for a chilly day. Sometimes I quick pickle the vegetablesJump to Recipe, but I didn’t bother, and no one seemed to notice. 

FRIDAY
Ravioli?

It says ravioli, but I seem to have forgotten to buy any. I should have saved that cold squash.

 

5 from 2 votes
Print

Sausage rolls

Servings 36 rolls

Ingredients

  • 2.5 lbs sausage, loose or squeezed out of casings
  • 1 lg onion
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil for cooking
  • 1.5 lbs puff pastry dough (1.5 packages)
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • "Everything" seasoning, if you like

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.

  2. Dice the onion and sauté in the olive oil until it's slightly browned

  3. Put the raw, loose sausage in a bowl. Beat two of the eggs and add them to the bowl along with the cooked onions. Mix thoroughly.

  4. Cut the puff pastry into six long strips. On a floured surface, roll them out until they're somewhat thinner.

  5. Divide the sausage mixture into six portions and spoon it out into a long rows down the middle of each strip of puff pastry

  6. Form the sausage mixture into a tidier strip, leaving a margin of dough on each side.

  7. With a pastry brush, paint the dough margins on both sides.

  8. Fold the pastry up over the sausage on both sides, to form a long roll.

  9. Flip the roll over and lay it in a greased pan with the creased side down.

  10. Cut each roll into six smaller sections. (You can make them whatever size you like, really.) Leave a little space in between rolls on the pan.

  11. Brush each little roll with the rest of the beaten egg. Sprinkle with "everything" seasoning if you like.

  12. Bake for 20 minutes until the sausage is cooked and the rolls are golden brown. Serve hot or cold.

 

5 from 2 votes
Print

Dorito fried potato sticks

Ingredients

  • 12 small-to-medium potatoes, scrubbed, peel on
  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 11 oz Doritos or your favorite chips, crushed into crumbs
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • salt

Instructions

  1. Slice each potato into as thin slices as possible, and thread the slices onto skewers.

    If you're not going to cook them right away, you can keep them in water to keep the potatoes from turning brown. Try to fan the potatoes out so there is a little space in between but don't forget to leave enough room on the skewer so there's something to hold onto.

  2. Start heating the oil in a heavy pot. Prepare a pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.

  3. In a shallow dish, mix together the flour, water, and crushed chips. It should be thin and drippy.

  4. Dip the potato skewers into the batter and spoon more batter over them, so the slices are thoroughly coated.

  5. When the oil is hot enough (you will see bubbles form steadily if you dip a wooden spoon in), dip the skewers into the hot oil. Cook for XXXXX minutes until they are crisp.

  6. Remove to a pan lined with paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

What’s for supper? Vol. 193: Baklava! Shawarma! Rice pilaf! Banh mi! Italian wedding soup! Pumpkin bread! AND MORE!

Hello! You may remember me from that time you used to get an email from me every time I posted. But then, several weeks ago, WordPress stopped sending emails; but I didn’t realize until recently. I’ve been plugging along, wondering where 40% of my readers went. My brother fixed it for me last night. Sorry about that! I think it happened when we updated WordPress.  I believe some people got an email called “test,” and also some people got one with lots of links (I have no idea why that one random post was chosen to be sent out).

Would it be helpful to have a round-up post with links to all the posts you may have missed for the last several weeks? Or should we just move along? 

Anyway, here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Nachos

Damien made three platters of nachos, including one with lots of jalapeños and queso. I hardly ever buy a jar of queso, because I am completely shameless. I could be actively dying of a heart attack and I would bat away the defibrillator so I could run my finger around the inside of the queso jar one more time. But it’s okay, because I went to the Y a couple weeks ago.

SUNDAY
Shawarma! Rice pilaf! Baklava!

So, I’m not pregnant, we have no babies or even really toddlers, Damien’s home for dinner most nights, we’re not drowning in poverty, nobody’s having a health crisis, and we can finally relax a bit. So what do we do? We sign up for All The Things. This week, it was the themed dinner for the Dead Theologians Society youth group. If you have this in your parish, you should totally sign up! Really neat program, especially for kids who are allergic to LifeTeen stuff. The kids have a social time, then they learn about a saint, then they have prayer time, and then they eat a meal related to the saint. This week it was Mary Magdalene, who apparently comes from a region of Israel renowned for its pickled fish. 

Coward that I am, I settled on shawarma. (And now I’m imagining swooping in and settling, bat-like, on a pan of shawarma to devour it noisily, which is, in fact, what happened.) I thought there would be about 25 people, so I prepared 20 pounds of chicken. Terrified it wouldn’t be enough food, I made about a barrel full of rice pilaf and loaded up the church kitchen counter with pita, tomatoes, cucumbers, stirred up a bunch of yogurt sauce, dished out so many black and red olives and so much feta cheese and parsley, and chopped up some pomegranates, and then I made baklava for dessert. I did buy store-bought hummus.

Yeah, so, it was enough food. This is about half of what I made. 

I surveyed a bunch of rice pilaf recipes, and ended up just winging it. It was fine, if a bit bland. I cooked up a bunch of basmati rice, then stirred in blonde raisins, pepitos, parsley, curry powder, cumin, cinnamon, pepper, and whatnot. I didn’t get a great pic, but it was kind of meh anyway. It smelled fantastic, though. 

Pepitos, it turns out, are pumpkin seeds without the outer shell. I thought they were squash seeds! Now I know something. 

I got the baklava recipe from Pioneer Woman, and I followed it slavishly, so I won’t make my own recipe card. I did use almond extract along with the vanilla, and that was nice. I also used less of the syrup than it called for, since I always find baklava way too sweet and sticky. It was still very sweet, but not monstrously so.

You can definitely make baklava! It’s a little time-consuming, but not difficult, and it would make good Christmas treats. Basically you brush a ton of sheets of phyllo dough with butter and spread a few layers of chopped walnuts and cinnamon in between some, then bake it and cut it, then pour a hot syrup of honey, butter, sugar, and extracts over that (and the sizzling is a lot of fun), and let it sit. 

I started pouring the honey over the butter and then though, “Ooh, other people are gonna want to see this.” I’ve never had so much honey in one place before. 

 

 

If you listen carefully, you can hear me breathing heavily, and if you listen really carefully, you can hear my heart saying, “Really? After our little talk about all that queso, really?”

Once it was thoroughly soaked, I put the pieces in cupcake papers. I ended up with about 50 large pieces of baklava from a double recipe.

It was pretty popular!

Next time, I will experiment with adding different things to the walnuts. Maybe some bits of candied citrus, hmmmmm. 

I didn’t get any pics of the shawarma itself, but I’d call the meal a success. I’ll put the shawarma and yogurt sauce recipe cards at the end 

*****Note! The recipe cards are on a second page! You will need to click on the little 2 in a box to get to the next page and see the recipe cards! Unless the Jump to Recipe thing is magically working today*****

and harass you one last time to make some shawarma. It’s so easy — just make a simple marinade for chicken and onions, and you slide it into a pan, cook, and then chop it up — and the flavor is out of this world. Dish up a bunch of cheerful little toppings so picky people can pick what they like, and you get one happy evening. 

MONDAY
Chicken sandwiches with basil, tomato, and mozzarella; chips

This is what I was planning for Sunday, somehow not realizing we’d have a mountain of shawarma leftovers. Damien picked up some frozen herb and parmesan-crusted chicken breasts, and we had those on ciabatta rolls with tomato, basil, and fresh mozzarella. 

I make mine with plenty of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and freshly-ground salt and pepper, as you can see. So good, even though November tomatoes are rather weary. 

Also, check out my pretty new drinking glasses! A great score at the Salvation Army. I’m slowly replacing our plastic ware with ceramic, glass, and steel before we all grow phthalate tails out of our faces.

TUESDAY
Banh mi

Another dish that used to seem intimidating and now is routine but delicious. You slice up the pork and get it marinating in the morning and quick pickle some carrots, and by evening all you have to do is throw the meat in a pan and broil it, and you have an amazing sandwich just exploding with flavor.

Jump to Recipe

It helps if you have a little bear to help you with the carrots. 

I shared this on Facebook and several people pointed out that it’s not necessary to peel carrots, if you give them a quick scrub. Never occurred to me! I wonder how many of my kitchen habits are outmoded. It seems to me carrot peels used to be tougher and dirtier, but I really don’t know. I’m thinking of the woman whose husband asked her why she always cuts the ends off roast beef before she cooks it, and she said she learned it from her mother. So they asked her mother, and she said she learned it from her mother. So they go visit old granny at the rest home, and she says, “Oh, it’s because the only pan I had was too small to fit a whole roast.” 

Anyway, it kept Corrie busy for a good ten minutes, so that’s a good enough reason for me. I also had some luck with a bag of dried beans and a cupcake pan. This bought me over half an hour!

What was I talking about? Oh, banh mi. I like my sandwich on toasted bread, with plain cucumbers, a bunch of cilantro, and some mayo with sriracha sauce stirred in. 

The kids don’t even complain about the smell of fish sauce anymore! Or maybe they all just have colds. Anyway, I’m drinking more. 

WEDNESDAY
Italian wedding soup, pumpkin muffins

I didn’t really have a recipe for this. I just surveyed a bunch of recipes and figured I had the basic idea. I’ll add my recipe card at the end (Jump to Recipe), but you can definitely put your own spin on this. 

I made about 70 meatballs with ground turkey, parmesan, and fresh parsley. You could also use pork or a combination of ground meats. I boiled them in chicken broth, but I may bake them in the oven next time before adding to the soup, as they got a little blurry. 

So it’s just chicken broth with bunch of tasty little meatballs, and then I threw in a few handfuls of ance di pepe (that is pasta in little nubbins; other small pastas would work fine) and a ton of torn-up spinach, and let it simmer. You can top it with more parmesan and some fresh pepper. I thought it was great, and so easy. 

We had pumpkin bread (Jump to Recipe) because I promised Benny, but I would rather have had a more bready bread with this dish. Still, a cozy, hearty meal for a sniffly, drizzly day. 

THURSDAY
Pizza

I flexed my pizza muscles a bit and made one cheese pizza, two pepperoni, one olive, and one *ahem* olive, garlic, feta, tomato, spinach, and parmesan.

Veddy good.

FRIDAY
Spaghetti

And that’s that. I’m going to put the recipe cards on page 2! If you wish to see the recipe cards, then you must click on the little box with a “2” in it! Here is a screen shot of what will be at the bottom of the page. Please click on the 2!

Oh, and one more thing: I have sooo much phyllo dough left over from the baklava. Might as well use it for Thanksgiving. What’s your favorite phyllo dough recipe that isn’t baklava? Could be dessert or a side dish, like an asparagus tart or whatever.

Also, what’s the verdict on a “here’s what you missed” post, for people who weren’t getting my emails? Yes or no?

What’s for supper? Vol. 190: Beef barley soup! Pumpkin cranberry walnut muffins! And more!

We have hurtled through another week! I did a few site updates, so let’s see if the new “jump to recipe” thing works:

Jump to Recipe

Works? I think it works. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Nachos, pineapple

Easy peasy. Damien cooked the ground beef and added some sort of proprietary blend of seasonings, and I dumped it over some chips and shredded a bunch of cheese over it and slid it in the oven. We had salsa and sour cream and cilantro. 

If you squint, it looks sort of like salad. 

SUNDAY
Roast beef sandwiches, onion rings, veg and dip, strawberry shortcake

I had worked up a wonderful migraine overnight, which turned me into a blob of glup, so I stayed in bed for most of the day while someone covered my faith formation class and Damien took the kids to Mass and made dinner. He seasoned the roasts and sauteéd them in a pan, then put them in the oven to roast slowly. We had the sliced meat on rolls with provolone and horseradish sauce and tomatoes.

I put mine in the oven to toast up. If I were running away from the Visigoths and had a sandwich with me and someone said, “Would you like that toasted?” I would take the extra time to toast it.

My MIL came over with strawberry shortcake. It looked very promising, but my head was just starting to recover by evening, and I didn’t want to jinx it with anything sugary. 

MONDAY
Beef orzo soup, pumpkin cranberry walnut muffins

A much-loved cold weather meal in this house. Jump to Recipe

This was supposed to be beef barley soup, but I forgot to get barley, so I subbed orzo, which was a little disappointing in the texture department. Beef, carrots, onions, tomato, garlic, wine, beef broth, salt and pepper, mushrooms, some kind of grain, and that’s it. Bay leaf if you’re fancy. Always a hit.

I had it for lunch as the week went on, and the orzo got bigger and bigger.

When it becomes one single mighty grain of orzo having within it all soupiness, then it’s time to rinse out the pot and start over. 

The kids have also been clamoring for pumpkin muffins. Jump to RecipeI made 12 regular:

and 12 with dried cranberries and chopped walnuts. I may have gotten a little carried away with the stir-ins.

They turned out more like cranberries and walnuts trifles with a light coating of muffin.

TUESDAY
Pizza

One cheese, one pepperoni, one pepperoni with leftover provolone, one olive, and one mushroom, onion, olive, and provolone. Corrie has been very, very busy in the kitchen this week, and cut up a bunch of mushrooms of her own initiative. Come to think of it, that explains why I discovered an entire garlic clove, still in its wrapper, baked right into the cheese. (Yes, I ate it.)

WEDNESDAY
Cheesy chicken chili with bacon, corn bread

This is one of those recipes that has “crack” in the title, and yet doesn’t contain any cocaine at all. I think they mean “bacon, cheese, and ranch flavoring” and I will acknowledge that that is a fine combination, but that is as far as it went. 

Chicken, tomato with chilis, corn, black beans, pieces of bacon, cream cheese, ranch dressing powder, and some seasonings. Dump it all, cook, shred the chicken, and put shredded cheddar on top. I wasn’t expecting it to taste sophisticated, but it definitely looked easy and flavorful. The most labor intensive part was cooking and chopping the bacon. 

This is a crock pot recipe, but it was almost 5:00 before I got started, so I used the Instant Pot. Which would have been fine, except I chose 15 minutes, and that wasn’t quite long enough. So I put it in for another 8. The thing about the Instant Pot is that if you cook something for 8 minutes, that means waiting about 10 minutes for it to come to pressure, then cooking it 8 minutes, then releasing the pressure for another 5 minutes. This is fine, as long as it’s what you’re expecting. It’s less fine if you are winging the recipe and have to go through the process twice so you don’t die of salmonella. 

Of course there was little chance of that happening since not one of the kids even tasted it, even though it had bacon in it. I thought it tasted pretty good. It definitely had that “everyone at the potluck wants my recipe, tee hee hee!” flavor to it. 

I also made corn muffins, for reasons unclear. It used to be that only I was the one who liked corn muffins, but my taste for them has decreased over the years, possibly soured by loneliness and crumbs. It also doesn’t help that every time I say “corn muffins” someone says “OH HONEY YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE SAYING” and I get a long treatise on  pre-industrial revolution corn and how sugar factored in to perceptions of class, and how people who don’t use cast iron corn-shaped molds can just go straight to hell, bless. Just let me make my bad muffins and then throw them away, okay? 

Here are my muffins: 

I like to run a little butter over the top while they’re still hot, so they will be shinier in the garbage. 

THURSDAY
Hot dogs, smiley fries, pomegranates

We had parent teacher conferences, and then I spent the rest of the day driving around like a silly person and then finally getting going on Halloween costumes. This year we have Scooby Doo and Daphne, Star from Star Vs. the Forces of Evil, Naruto and Kakashi or something, and some Dragonball whathaveyou. And I think an Autumn Fairy. I leaned on the kid whose costume was giving me the most trouble, and she made dinner. I also taught one kid how to use the sewing machine! I foresee a whole new generation of lopsided cloaks, puckered curtains, and pillowcases that are a tiny bit too small.

FRIDAY
Boxaroni for the kids. 

We’re going out, because it’s our anniversary! 22 years. A few months ago, I needed some nighttime reading and grabbed Turgenev off the shelf, and this photo was tucked in the pages.

 

1997. (Yes, it looks like we had just had a roll in the hay, but the photo surface is just scratched up. My goodness, you people.) 

A friend remarked that we looked so joyful and innocent, and didn’t I want to kind of warn the people in the picture that life is coming for them?

I responded, “Do you know, I think I was more cynical then. I didn’t know how hard things could be, for sure, but I also had no idea how good things could be.” We have had some really hard and awful times. Some of them were not that long ago. But still, it feels like the joy and innocence we have together are building, not waning. I don’t know if it was dumb luck or if we can take any credit at all for finding and choosing each other, but it was the best thing we ever did.

Well! Here are the recipe cards:

Beef barley soup (Instant Pot or stovetop)

Makes about a gallon of lovely soup

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion or red onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 3-4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 lbs beef, cubed
  • 16 oz mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 6 cups beef bouillon
  • 1 cup merlot or other red wine
  • 29 oz canned diced tomatoes (fire roasted is nice) with juice
  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy pot. If using Instant Pot, choose "saute." Add the minced garlic, diced onion, and diced carrot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions and carrots are softened. 


  2. Add the cubes of beef and cook until slightly browned.

  3. Add the canned tomatoes with their juice, the beef broth, and the merlot, plus 3 cups of water. Stir and add the mushrooms and barley. 

  4. If cooking on stovetop, cover loosely and let simmer for several hours. If using Instant Pot, close top, close valve, and set to high pressure for 30 minutes. 

  5. Before serving, add pepper to taste. Salt if necessary. 

Pumpkin quick bread or muffins

Makes 2 loaves or 18+ muffins

Ingredients

  • 15 oz canned pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup veg or canola oil
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 3.5 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • oats, wheat germ, turbinado sugar, chopped dates, almonds, raisins, etc. optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter two loaf pans or butter or line 18 muffin tins.

  2. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.

  3. In a separate bowl, mix together wet ingredients. Stir wet mixture into dry mixture and mix just to blend. 

  4. Optional: add toppings or stir-ins of your choice. 

  5. Spoon batter into pans or tins. Bake about 25 minutes for muffins, about 40 minutes for loaves. 

 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 186: The world is cold, but food is warm.

Everyone is sick and mopey and overworked, and there is frost on the windshield in the morning. And we’ve decided that Corrie is watching far too much TV, so we are doing a little detox there, which is hard on everyone.  So I focused on cozy, unchallenging meals for this week. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Steak, hot bread, salad

Well, London broil. That’s a steak, right? Everyone looked so droopy and sad, I thought we could all use some steak, and it happened to be on sale. Damien seasoned and broiled them, and I bought a few of those pull-apart bread rings and threw them in the oven right before supper. I put out some salad but it remained largely unmolested. 

The pictures are lackluster but the meat was great. Much better than the other way around, as sometimes happens. 

SUNDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips

Sunday we went to Mass and I led my first faith formation class, which went great! Overall. Some of those kids know a lot and some of them know hardly anything, but they are all interested in Jesus! And why not? He is an interesting guy. 

We came home for lunch and some of us were clever enough to fix ourselves steak and cheese sandwiches. 

Then we met my dad and went apple picking at our absolute favorite orchard, Wellwood Orchards in Springfield, Vt. It’s way up in the mountains where the air is so clean and good. You buy your bags and then get into a wagon, and a tractor pulls you wherever you want to go. We wanted mostly Macintosh, Macouns, and Cortlands, although some of the younger and more naive children were swayed by the deceit of that apple that calls itself “delicious.” 

This orchard has a little farm animal petting zoo, with cute little goaties and fancy ridiculous chickens, and the sun shone down, and the air smelled like apples, and it was just a good day. There are a bunch of pictures on my FB page. Here’s my favorite:

We also stopped at the Vermont Country Store and spent more money on candy than I have ever imagined it was possible to spend on candy. Irene bought wax lips with fangs, because Monday is school picture day and she’s not made of stone. 

MONDAY
French toast casserole, sausages, plums, OJ

Continuing the theme of “life is cold; here is some food that is hot.”

I’ll do my best to make a recipe for french toast casserole, but it turns out different every time. It’s definitely a good meal for kids to help you make. Although I would not recommend letting your very contagious four-year-old mix the orange juice in the other room. We ended up making a whole separate batch for those who did not wish to drink plague juice. 

I browned up some frozen breakfast sausages and set out a bowl of sweet little plums, lovely, dusky little plums. 

TUESDAY
Pork and ricotta meatballs on spaghetti with Marcella Hazan’s sauce

Sometimes you see a recipe and you just know. This one, from the NYT, calls for ground pork, ricotta, parmesan, bread crumbs, eggs, and salt and pepper, and that’s it. You bake them, so it’s nice and easy.

They don’t look like much, but they are delightfully fluffy and so full of flavor (although I thought the amount of salt it called for was way too much), with little creamy pockets of cheese. I ended up using three pounds of pork and one pound of ground beef, and more parm than the recipe called for, and panko bread crumbs; so I guess that’s a good enough reason to make up my own recipe card. I had to cook them ahead of time and then heat them up in the sauce, but next time I want to cook them right before we eat them, so they can be as light as possible. They did soak up a lot of the sauce, which was unexpected. Possibly because of the panko bread crumbs.

I made Marcella Hazan’s miraculous three-ingredient sauce in the morning in the crock pot.

Boy, does it not look like it’s going to be delicious. BUT IT IS. 

This was a popular meal, and we have been snacking on meatballs all week. In fact, the other day, I was working and thinking about meatballs and asked Benny to snag me a couple. This is what she brought me:

WEDNESDAY
Hot dogs, beans, fries

This meal was just a gift to myself. I actually asked Benny and Corrie to make it for me, and they somehow didn’t do a very good job, but still. 

THURSDAY
Nachos

Again, no culinary adventures, but everyone was happy. I spread tortilla chips in a pan, spread cooked, seasoned ground beef over that, and sprinkled it heavily with shredded cheddar, and then topped it with chopped scallions. The scallions were third gen, if anyone cares. 

I had mine with salsa and sour cream. And very good they are, nachos. 

FRIDAY
Fish tacos

I splurged on batter-fried frozen fish instead of the breaded kind. We have tortillas, shredded cabbage, cute li’l cherry tomatoes, lime wedges, sour cream, and ooops, I forgot to buy avocados. 

Here’s the recipe cards!

 

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French toast casserole

An easy, kid-pleasing meal, pleasant and cozy for breakfast, brunch, or brinner. Use any kinds of bread you have in the house. You can also add raisins, slices of apple, or whatever sounds good. 

I'm not putting measurements in, because you can make this so many different ways, so it's more pastry-like or more custardy. Use the same proportions you'd use to make regular french toast and it will be good. 

Ingredients

  • bread, torn up
  • eggs
  • milk
  • dash of salt
  • white or brown sugar
  • cinnamon
  • vanilla

Instructions

  1. Grease a casserole dish or cake pan. Preheat the oven to 350.

  2. Tear the bread up into chunks and spread them in the buttered pans.

  3. Mix together the eggs, milk, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla, and pour the batter over the bread. Stir up the bread so all of it is wet. 

  4. If you like, you can let the casserole sit for a few hours to let the egg soak in, but it's not essential.  

  5. Sprinkle the top with more sugar and cinnamon, if you like. Bake for 40 minutes or so, until the egg is all cooked and it's a little toasted on top. Serve in wedges and drizzle with syrup, sprinkle with powdered sugar, or serve with jam or fruit toppings. 

Pork and ricotta meatballs

Adapted from a NYT recipe, found here.  Very easy to put together, and the extra creamy, fluffy, cheesiness make these remarkable. 

Ingredients

  • 1 lbs ground pork
  • 1 lb ground beef or turkey
  • 2+ cups panko bread crumbs
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 32 oz ricotta
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 4 tsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.

  2. Lightly mix together all ingredients in a bowl. The ricotta doesn't need to be completely incorporated. Form into balls. This makes about 75 walnut-sized meatballs. 

  3. Grease a rimmed baking sheet and arrange the meatballs on it. 

  4. Bake for about half an hour, until the meatballs are slightly browned. 

Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce

We made a quadruple recipe of this for twelve people. 

Keyword Marcella Hazan, pasta, spaghetti, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes, broken up
  • 1 onion peeled and cut in half
  • salt to taste
  • 5 Tbsp butter

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a heavy pot.

  2. Simmer at least 90 minutes. 

  3. Take out the onions.

  4. I'm freaking serious, that's it!

What’s for supper? Vol. 148: Meat and other good ideas

Pretty meat-heavy week. When my imaginative powers run low, the default is just meat. I did end up altering a few recipes for the better, though (and utterly ruining a very familiar recipe for no reason at all). Here’s what we had (recipe cards at the end):

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, cheezy weezies

Nothing to report. Damien and Dora were on a road trip to Maryland, Moe and Clara were helping their cousin with a theater fundraising auction (and come home with the revelation that rich people really, really care about two things: trees, and alcohol), and Elijah was volunteering at a haunted hay ride. And of course Lena is at college. Which meant that I was home with five children for a very long time.

Guess what? It turns out I haven’t become more patient or calm over the years; not at all. I have just gotten used to having another adult and five teenagers around to help me. Take them away, and it’s just all yelling all the time! Oh well. That’s an abnormal state anyway, to be the only adult caring for five kids. It’s a skill no one should have to develop.

SUNDAY
Pork ribs, risotto, string beans

Oven roasted pork ribs still give the biggest return for the least amount of work. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper on a pan with drainage, put under a hot broiler, and turn once, and eat them with BBQ sauce while they’re sizzling hot. So good. We are fans of Carolina style BBQ sauce lately, which is lighter and tangier than the dark brown, thicker kind we usually get.

With the memory of arancini fresh in my head, I wanted risotto again. I made Instant Pot risotto, but changed the recipe a bit, and it came out great. Maybe not quite as good as stove-cooked risotto, but creamy and flavorful. Recipe card at the end.

The string beans, I just trimmed and steamed and served bare. I suppose I could have put butter or pepper on them, but hey, vegetable.

MONDAY
Ham, mashed potatoes, and peas

Benny has been begging for this, her ideal meal, for weeks now. We got home super late for some reason, but I had bought a pre-cooked ham, and I finally realized you can slice it first, then heat it up, and it gets hot much faster than the other way around.

Then I started peeling potatoes and chucking them in the Instant Pot for some quick mashed potatoes. But I somehow underestimated the time, and when I opened the lid, a few of the bigger potatoes were still half raw. This was so upsetting that I looked up whether you can cook milk in an Instant Pot, and I learned that you cannot, because it foams and spurts and curdles and burns. This was even more upsetting, so I put milk in, closed the lid, and set it to cook for a few more minutes. Then I got the “burn” message!  This was very upsetting! So I opened the lid, put in some butter, and tried crushing the still-half-raw potatoes sitting in burned milk, which works even less well than you’d think.

Happily, it was extremely late by this time, and everyone was starving. So they ate the salvageable part of the potatoes, the overcooked peas, and the ham, which was really quite hot by this time, without complaint. Excelsior! I’d do it again, too.

TUESDAY
French toast and sausages

Nothing to report. I bought frozen OJ, but forgot to make it.

WEDNESDAY
Pork nachos

Pork was on sale, but I’m awfully tired of the same old pork things. So this time, I put a pork shoulder in the slow cooker with salt, pepper, minced garlic, and beer in the morning and let it cook all day. It was super tender and shreddy by evening. I spread the shredded pork in a shallow pan with lots of cumin and chili lime seasoning and browned it under the broiler.

Then — this is the part that was different — I spread tortilla chips in a pan, spread the meat over than, and topped it with shredded cheese, and put it back in the warm oven to melt. I forgot sour cream, but we had a nice lime salsa, fresh cilantro, and more chili lime powder, and I thought it was fantastic. So much interesting than my regular nachos, with just ground beef, but barely any extra work.

Maybe the meat was a little overcooked, so next time I’ll either brown it while it’s on the chips, or brown it less before returning it to the oven to melt the cheese. But I would seriously accept these as fancy party snacks, if they were dished up separately as hors d’oeuvres.

I’m very grateful that I like cilantro, and I’m not one of those unfortunate souls who think it tastes soapy. How often can you spend $1 and ten seconds chopping, and turn a meal from fine to wonderful?

THURSDAY
Cheesy chicken and red potatoes

All week, I was planning to make this slow cooker garlic parmesan chicken and potato dish. But this is the last full week before Halloween, and that means we don’t live at home anymore; we live at the Salvation Army and Walmart, and we come home feeling sad and panicked and most of all angry at your mother, who now gets to get dinner started at 5 pm. Not really the time to try out a new slow cooker recipe.

So I made up something, and I thought it was swell. I put the chicken and red potato wedges in a pan, drizzled them with olive oil and seasoned them, and then suddenly remembered I have a canister of fried shallots from Kyra’s magical bag of weird Canadian food. So I added a healthy layer of those, and then slud it into a hot oven for about an hour. When it was all browned, I suddenly remembered we had a wedge of sharp provolone, so we shredded that and sprinkled it on, then added a thick layer of grated parmesan

and put it back in the oven to melt. Then I suddenly remembered I had bought a little jar of fancy whole grain mustard, and plus I had some fresh parsley, I don’t even know why.

All together, it was wonderful. Again, it was extremely late by this time, so maybe it wasn’t as good as I thought; but the crunchy shallots, the sharp, snappy cheese, the mellow mustard, and the fresh parsley really played nicely together.

The skin was wonderfully crisp and the chicken was moist. If you have dried minced onions, that would be almost as good as the shallots.

Furthermore, I went to lie down for a while afterwards, and Corrie came in with a bowl of parsley and insisted on feeding me “eating flowers.” It was very cute, and I felt very privileged, but on the other hand, it’s easier than you might think to eat too much parsley.

So, this mustard. I grabbed up this little jar of whole grain mustard at Aldi a few weeks ago. It’s so good! More mild than I was expecting, and the texture is more like relish.

This will dress up sandwiches and cold meats nicely, and I can see serving it with kielbasa or even roast beef.

FRIDAY
I believe we’ll just have rigatoni or something.

Yesterday was our actual anniversary (which we celebrated in style a few weeks ago) and after a week of school conferences, doctor appointments, unexpected car repairs, mysterious furnace issues, and miscellaneous adult bullshit, we were too wiped out to make a fuss, but we did force ourselves to drink at least some of our massive champagne stockpile. Resolved: We really just don’t like champagne. Some people take twenty-one years to figure this out, that’s all. The marriage, however, has been a good idea from the beginning.

Speaking of the best man of all men, I don’t think I mentioned the nice little snack Damien rustled up the other day. You have a little slice of crusty bread, then a slice of smoked salmon, then a dab of creme fraiche, and then, um, some caviar on top. If you have any lying around. Or you could use sour cream, and maybe a little sprig of dill. I know it’s hard to believe, but this tastes really, really good, and, um, we keep buying it. We feel that buying caviar and pouring champagne down the sink pairs well with a lifestyle that also includes massively overcooked ham, and I stand by that.

Instant Pot Risotto

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

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground sage
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups rice, raw
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 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 cook for five minutes or more, stirring constantly, until rice is mostly opaque.

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


  4. Close the top, close valve, set to high pressure for 8 minutes.

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

Cheesy one-pan chicken thighs and red potatoes

An easy and tasty dish. Serve with whole grain mustard and fresh parsley. 

Ingredients

  • chicken thighs
  • red potatoes, cut into wedges
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper, oregano
  • fried shallots or minced, dried onions
  • parmesan cheese
  • shredded sharp cheese

Serve with whole grain mustard and chopped fresh parsley

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450

  2. Lay chicken thighs in pan, and add the potato wedges in between the chicken. Drizzle both with olive oil and season generously. Sprinkle on fried shallots (or dried onion)


  3. Cook for 40 minutes or more until chicken is done and potatoes and chicken skins are crisp.

  4. Sprinkle cheeses on chicken and potatoes and return to oven for a few minutes to melt cheese. 

    Serve with whole grain mustard and fresh parsley. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 132: Girls like shwarms of things, don’t they?

Can you believe we’re not on summer vacation? That’s crazy, right? One more week! Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Boy cookout

Our eighth grader wanted an end-of-year party, and since he has not recently angered us, we agreed. Damien got a bunch of cheap hot dogs and pre-made burger patties, all the chips in the tri-state area, and a million sodas, plus water balloons and squirters. A bunch of boys came over and it was a howling success, literally. I got no pictures because I couldn’t trust those crumbs not to squirt my camera.

SUNDAY
Sugar rub chicken, grilled mussels in wine sauce, chips

Beautiful man makes beautiful chicken. Here’s Damien’s sugar chicken rub:

Brown sugar 1.5 cups
White Sugar .5 cups
Chili powder 2 table spoons
Garlic powder 2 table spoons
Salt/Pepper
2 tsp chili pepper flakes

Last week’s grilled chicken was good, but maybe a little too charred, so this time, he shoved all the coals to one side, and set the chicken on the other side to cook slowwwwwwly:

Did it come out better? OH MY YES.

But before we even laid eyes on these lovely thighs, we flexed our mussels. That doesn’t mean anything, does it? Damien scrubbed the mussels, discarding the despondent ones, and laid them on the grill until they popped open.

Then he mixed them up with a swanky sauce of half a bottle of white wine, the juice of many lemons, twelve vats of melted butter, and two sweet, darling red onions.

Hot damn, they were good. Tender meat, tart sauce, so good. I was gonna take a picture of one of the mussels opened up, but this is a family blog.

It was another beautiful, golden weekend. We got some good runs in. I got a lot of overdue planting in — a plum and nectarine tree, some gladioli, some tomatoes in their own little fenced playground. The kids picked out tomatoes called, no kidding, “Lemon Boys.” I even mulched, like a fancy person! We cut down the old fence and put up a new fence. I paid the kids to lug rocks, and now we have a new fire pit and a strange, lumpy spot where the old fire pit used to be. My husband pretended to agree that this plan made sense. The first firefly moved into the living room. We ate outside and drank domestic beer. A golden weekend.

MONDAY
Muffaletta sandwiches, fruit salad in DORAMELON

Monday was Dora’s birthday, but her party was the next day. However, we had a stray watermelon, so I carved it up, and added sliced mango and strawberries to the cubed watermelon.

As I’m carving it, Irene comes by and says indignantly, “How come you didn’t make one of those for meeee on myyyyyy birthday?”
I said, defensively, despite myself, “Because it didn’t occur to me! I think of things when I think of them! And anyway, your birthday is in April! They weren’t even selling watermelons then!”
She says, “Yes, they were.”
Me: “They were?”
Irene: “Yeah. You made me a watermelon pirate ship, remember?”

Irene, in happier times

Creep! They’re all creeps. Several others came by and made their creepy watermelon demands, so I ended up promising all of them, one by one, that when it was their birthday, I’d make them each a watermelon with “Dora” carved in it, too. Fair’s fair.

We had muffaletta sandwiches, or some approximation thereof. All I could find was sourdough bread, and there were no complaints. I bought honey ham, genoa salami, a little prosciutto, pepper salami, hot capocollo (I checked the package, and that’s what it says. Not capicola), hot calabrese, hot richard, and provolone.

Then, I put one jar of giardiniera vegetables, a can of black olives, and a small jar of green olives into la bella machina, gave it a few whirs, and we had olive salad. Hot damn.

It’s a party on bread, confetti and everything! Some of the kids also put mayo on their sandwiches, but I thought the olive salad covered all the bases, sandwich-wise. I suppose you could drizzle it with olive oil, if your olive needs had not yet been met.

TUESDAY
Chicken shawarma, ice cream pies

For her party, the child wanted shawarama. That’s a can do. They had these weird boneless chicken legs in five-pound bags for $4.99. Not being made of stone, I bought three bags, even though I’ve never heard of boneless legs before. It’s a little weird.

I had a recipe that called for two pounds, which I had scaled up to eight pounds, and then I tripled it for fifteen, and . . . it was a lot of meat. We had to marinate it in a garbage bag. I mean, it’s just a bag. So what if it’s called “garbage?”

We set it to marinate Sunday night, actually, and I don’t know what happened, but, because the food processor makes things a little too easy, we ended up with enough onion to fill a minor league stadium. You could have marinated meat in the smell alone.

Here’s the marinade, a simplified version of the NYT recipe. This is enough marinade for about eight pounds of chicken and four or five red onions:

1.5 cups lemon juice
2 c olive oil
4 tsp kosher salt
2 Tbs, 2 tsp pepper
2 Tbs, 2 tsp cumin
1 Tbs red pepper flakes
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbs minced garlic

When you’re ready to cook, oil a rimmed pan and lay the chicken and onions on with a little of the marinade. Cook at 425 for about forty minutes, until the edges of the chicken are crisp. Let it cool a little and then slice or break it up. It should be ridiculously tender.

We served it with triangles of pita bread, black and kalamata olives, wedges of tomato and cucumbers, feta, fresh parsley, and plenty of yogurt sauce. Here’s the yogurt sauce recipe:

32-oz tub of full fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup lemon juice
salt and pepper
2 Tbs. minced garlic

Sadly, I got zero pics of the shawarma or the ice cream pies, which Dora made with mini graham cracker crusts, ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, jimmies, candy, and cherries. She made individual pies so it would be easier to tote up the carbs for Lucy. I do love my kids.

WEDNESDAY
Nachos

I threw together chips topped with ground beef and taco seasoning from envelopes, shredded cheese, and salsa and sour cream on the side. I started to take a picture and said, “Ohh, this doesn’t look very good.” So the kids helped it look better.

Thanks, kids!

THURSDAY
Korean beef bowl, rice, peas

I made a quintuple recipe of this old standby. Thursday afternoon sorely tried my patience. Sorely. I was terribly grateful for how easy this dish is. Cook up de meat, put in the stuff, done. Pot of rice, choppy-uppy-scallions, done. Sesame seeds. I put out peas on the side for no particular reason.

Here’s a pic from previous times:

This is also a good meal to make in the morning and keep in the slow cooker all day. All the better if you make rice in the Instant Pot. Put them food robots to work!

FRIDAY
Pizza

Five large ones. See if I don’t.

***

I’m gonna skip the carbs this week, because there were so many meals I didn’t write down. At one point during the week, Lucy had a frozen pizza, two marshmallows, and a popsicle for dinner, because we knew how many carbs there were in a frozen pizza, two marshmallows, and a popsicle. And that’s how you diabetes!