What’s for supper? Vol. 237: Creative naan compliance

Look up! I just flew by! No, not in the Chinese spy balloon. I’m in an airplane, off for a quick visit to a very dear friend, and I’ll be back late Monday. Whee!

Meanwhile, here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Tacos

Or really tostadas without beans, because something happened that I honestly never thought would happen: We ran out of tortillas. We’ve had a ludicrous tortilla backlog for so long, I had truly forgotten that it was something you need to buy at some point. So I did not, and so a few people had soft tortillas with stale edges, and a few people had rather elderly crunchy tostada shells. 

They were fine. We were hungry. And that has made all the difference. 

SUNDAY
Chicken sorta-caprese sandwiches, chips

Chicken breasts were on sale, so I broiled them with olive oil, garlic powder, oregano, salt, and pepper, sliced them, and served them on baguettes with tomato and basil and miscellaneous cheese. The miscellaneous cheese part was tolerable, but then it turned out we were out of balsamic vinegar, which caused a stir. I had mine with olive oil and red wine vinegar.  

It was fine. Honestly, I will eat just about anything on a baguette. I would eat a baguette sandwich, like bread on bread. Serve it in a bread bowl, I don’t care. 

MONDAY
Monday, Damien and I had to go to a meeting at 5:30, so I set the kids up with lots of ramen and leftover chicken, crunchy noodles and a few vegetables and eggs and things, and told them to have what they wanted. We two went to Wendy’s, and I had some kind of burger with crunchy fried onions on it. My word, it was delicious. I rarely have a burger and fries at a fast food place, but every once in a while, yes. 

TUESDAY
Chicken biryani and naan

Oh, now here we go. I’m thinking a lot about Indian food, but I wanted to get started with a recipe I’ve tried before, so I made this mild chicken biryani. As I remarked on Facebook, of all the cuisines I have attempted to cook, Indian food is the most straight up fun. All the colors, and of course all the smells. It’s just a good time. 

So in this recipe, you sear the chicken thighs in oil, then cook up your onion and ginger, then turmeric and cardamom in the oil, then add the jasmine rice in, put the chicken back in, and add cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, golden raisins, and chicken broth. Cover it up and let all those beautiful flavors meld together as the rice cooks. 

I know from experience that the rice is always still a little chompy at the end, so I make it in the morning and then move it to the slow cooker and keep it warm all day. (Full disclosure, I managed to slop a lot of the chicken broth out onto the floor, so there wasn’t really enough liquid in it and it turned out chompy anyway. But still delicious!) 

I also really wanted to make naan, and I had pretty good luck with the King Arthur recipe last time.  My bread flour had mysteriously disappeared, and I also mysteriously got it into my head that I wanted to knead it by hand, rather than using the stand mixer. I don’t know why, and I don’t know why I didn’t change my mind when it became apparent that it wasn’t going well, but that is what I did. I kneaded that dough forehhhhhhhver and it just didn’t get any smoother, but stayed all knobbly and mottled. 

So eventually I gave up and set it to rise, and did this and that, and came back and cut it into 24 pieces, and decided I really didn’t have time to fry it before it was time to go. 

And that was probably the first good decision I made with this naan, because waiting until just before dinner to cook it meant that Corrie was home, and she wanted to help. Guess what? She was genuinely helpful. 

Naan cooks up really quickly, in less than two minutes, so you want to be rolling out one piece to get it ready while the first piece is frying. You throw it on a very hot, dry pan and watch for it to start forming these bubbles 

and then flip it over and cook it for an even shorter time, and that’s how naan gets those characteristic brown circles. They are fried bubbles. 

Anyway, Corrie was great at it. She has a wonderful feel for cooking, and doesn’t get flustered, and immediately figured out what to watch for and how to time it. 

She brushed each piece of naan with melted butter as it came off the pan, and we had piping hot bread to go with the biryani, which we topped with toasted silvered almonds and chopped cilantro.

Splendid meal. Delightful. 

What next for Indian food? I need more ideas! I get overwhelmed and I never know what to do next. 

WEDNESDAY
Korean beef bowl 

Wednesday was busy-busy-busy, and I didn’t have a chance to start dinner until it was evening. Korean beef bowl to the rescue.

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Even with fresh ginger and fresh garlic, it comes together super fast, all in one pot, and it’s just tasty and satisfying. 

I made a pot of rice in the Instant Pot and chopped up some scallions, and there it was. It actually came together so fast that it was done by 5:00, and suddenly realized I could actually get a yoga workout in before dinner. Which I did, very grudgingly and wobbly-ly. 

The worst part was, fresh off a workout, I only felt like eating one reasonable portion of food, and then I was completely satiated. Which is baloney. It’s propaganda, that’s what it is. 

THURSDAY
Pork gyros

First of all, I would like to say that if I were a grocery store selling fresh SAGE, and some lady who has already been to two stores came in looking for fresh OREGANO, this is NOT HOW I WOULD PACKAGE IT. 

Humph. Anyway, if anyone needs some sage, come see me. I don’t even like sage. Wanted oregano. Don’t care if it’s organic. 

Nevertheless, I forged ahead and made a nice marinade

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with fresh garlic, fresh rosemary, DRIED oregano, red onion, honey, and olive oil, and got the pork sliced and marinating by 10:30. Sliced up some more red onions, cubed a bunch of feta cheese, made some yogurt sauce with garlic and fresh lemon juice,

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chopped up some mint leaves, and cut up a bunch of cucumbers. I briefly considered prepping some eggplant to fry, but that seemed like a bridge too far. 

Dinner time hove around and I pan-fried the meat in batches

and cooked a few pans of seasoned fries, and set out the meat and fries and all my prepped toppings with pita bread. And some hot sauce. 

SO GOOD. So tender and juicy. This particular recipe is a lot more herby and sweet than spicy, but you can add as much heat as you want with the hot sauce, and be generous with the garlicky yogurt sauce, and it’s fab. When I was done eating, I had to wipe off not only my phone but my glasses. 

FRIDAY
Pasta with Marcella Hazan’s red sauce

At least I think so!

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Damien is shopping and cooking this weekend as I flit and float away like a giant balloon, but please do not shoot at me. I mean no harm. I promise to come home again. 

Korean Beef Bowl

A very quick and satisfying meal with lots of flavor and only a few ingredients. Serve over rice, with sesame seeds and chopped scallions on the top if you like. You can use garlic powder and powdered ginger, but fresh is better. The proportions are flexible, and you can easily add more of any sauce ingredient at the end of cooking to adjust to your taste.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar (or less if you're not crazy about sweetness)
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 inches fresh ginger, minced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-4 lb2 ground beef
  • scallions, chopped, for garnish
  • sesame seeds for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, cook ground beef, breaking it into bits, until the meat is nearly browned. Drain most of the fat and add the fresh ginger and garlic. Continue cooking until the meat is all cooked.

  2. Add the soy sauce, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes the ground beef and stir to combine. Cook a little longer until everything is hot and saucy.

  3. Serve over rice and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds. 

 

honey garlic marinade for gyros

Marinate thin strips of pork for several hours, then grill or broil. This is a mild, somewhat sweet marinade that makes the meat quite tender.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 lbs pork shoulder or butt, sliced into thin strips
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • small bunch fresh rosemary, chopped
  • small bunch fresh oregano, chopped

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. 

 

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. 236: Lardum et labora

What’s for supper? WEWLL, as Corrie used to say, if you read Wednesday’s post about menu planning and shopping, you already know most of it! Nevertheless, here is the thrilling conclusion to my story about sale pork and such.

We’ve had multiple snow storms and slush storms and whatnot, so this is the week for winter cooking to shine. Damien did this

and Corrie did this

and I just mainly hovered around the stove and cooked. 

Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Spaghetti with sauce and sausage

As anticipated, the people who went sledding on Saturday were happy to come home to a big pot of hot spaghetti and sausage. 

Sorry it’s a terrible picture, but I was starving and didn’t feel like messing around.

I also grabbed a few boxes of brownie mix and made brownies. I have a long and dopey history of accidentally buying brownie mix when I meant to buy chocolate cake mix. Once I even went to buy cake mix, bought brownie mix by mistake, went back to the store to correct my mistake, and bought brownie mix again. (You may think this is because I secretly like brownies so much and am subconsciously sabotaging my plans so as to have more brownies, but, as I am constantly whining about, I can’t even eat chocolate at all! I’m just stupid.) So I was expecting to get razzed about the brownies a bit, but everyone was distracted by the fact that I made the brownies, put them in the oven, set the timer, let them bake, and turned off the timer, but forgot to take the brownies out of the oven, and so we got a giant chocolate brick for dessert, and nobody could tell what it was supposed to be. That’ll larn ’em.

SUNDAY
Hamburgers, chips, homemade ice cream

Sunday was the Lunar New Year Festival in Brattleboro. We didn’t eat much because it was a potluck and we hadn’t brought anything, but I did daringly try some kind of exotic egg dish which turned out to be hard boiled eggs with a little splash of soy sauce. We had fun, though. Here’s a few albums:


 

Corrie did a Korean rope tug, the girls and I tried to learn a circle dance, and we followed a dragon through the downtown. Then we came home and had hamburgers. 

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this in a while, but my method for making hamburgers, when we can’t grill them outside, is to use high fat ground beef, flatten the hell out of them, and then broil them in the oven on a pan with drainage. They come out yummy and juicy and you don’t throw grease all over your kitchen. 

Sunday I also made some ice cream. I made two batches of plain sweet cream base (2 eggs, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 cup milk, 2 cups heavy cream per batch), and put chocolate chips in one, and maraschino cherries and mini marshmallows in the other.

That ice cream maker has been an unfailing bright spot in family life. Maybe that sounds silly, but it’s been a tough year, and it’s nice to have something that just straight up worked out great. It’s a quick creative outlet, it almost always turns out well, and when people hear the machine churning, they go, “OOH, what are you making?” and they’re not disappointed like they are when they hear what I’m making for supper. And we get ice cream! If I could change one thing, it would be not having to remember to put the freezer bowls in the freezer the night before, but I usually manage. 

MONDAY
Roast chicken, mashed butternut squash, salad

The dreaded roast chickens. I’ve been trying harder to stick to what we have in the house and not be constantly running out to buy this and that, so I used what we happened to have, which was two elderly lemons, some rather decrepit garlic, and some rosemary that I bought for the soup later in the week.

I just kinda rubbed these on the chicken and then shoved them into the cavity, then added a little olive oil and salt and pepper and hot pepper flakes and more garlic powder to the skin, and roasted them chickens. They were fine. 

The reason whole chickens are dreaded is mainly because we had sooooo much chicken when we were poor, because it was cheap and I could get several meals out of it. I got extraordinarily sick of every part of the process of dealing with a whole chicken, and it hasn’t worn off yet. The whole thing just feels bitter and sad. Feel free to share your special tasty wonderful recipe so other people can enjoy it, but I don’t think I will get over my chicken resentment! 

I did put the carcasses in the freezer, so I suppose we’ll be having soup or something at some point. 

The part of the meal I did enjoy was the mashed squash. This is a surprisingly pleasant and tasty dish.

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I loosened up the squash in the microwave for a few minutes so it would be easier to cut, then I sprinkled the quarters with baking soda and kosher salt and put them in the Instant Pot with water, and cooked them for a good long time. 

Removed the seeds, scooped out the flesh, and mashed it up with plenty of butter, some brown sugar, and a little nutmeg, and man, it is cozy, fluffy, and delicious.

It’s like sweet potatoes went to finishing school and learned how to entertain. 

TUESDAY
Bo ssam with lettuce and rice and pickled radishes

The night before, I mixed a cup of salt and a cup of sugar together like an absolute criminal and rubbed it all over a big fatty hunk of pork, and sealed it in a ziplock bag in the fridge overnight. Tuesday, I put it the pork a foil-lined pan at 300 around 11:30 and, boop, the main part of supper was taken care of. 

You make a simple sauce (7 Tbsp brown sugar, 2 Tbsp cider vinegar, and 1 Tbsp sea salt) and spread that on top of the meat and turn the heat up for the last ten minutes of cooking, but that’s the only other thing you have to do. 

Then I needed to figure out what to do with the radishes.

A lot of Korean radish dishes are for Korean radishes, which are a whole other vegetable from radishes, and are also called daikon, which they had at the store but I did not buy. ACTUALLY, a Korean radish is something called “mu,” which is a kind of daikon radish. All I know is they don’t seem to sell mu in the store, and what I had were western radishes, the little round, reddish, peppery kind. The round, reddish peppery kind that are 𝓕𝓞𝓡 𝓨𝓞𝓤

So I pickled them, yay! A cup of rice vinegar, a cup of water, a cup of sugar, and a little sea salt, and a pound of radishes. I simmered the sauce ingredients until the sugar was dissolved, sliced the radishes thinly in the food processor, then poured the sauce over the radishes.

Then I refrigerated it until dinner, and they had turned a delightful pink

Not quite as dark as they look here, but more of a flamingo color. 

They were very nice. Quite sweet and tangy, and truthfully you could’t taste more than a faint a radish taste, but mostly just the texture. It was like pickled ginger, but not, you know, gingery. I thought they made a very pleasant accompaniment to the bo ssam, which is ferociously salty. 

Everyone was very happy with this meal and nobody was mad at me. So I guess it was 𝓕𝓞𝓡 𝓜𝓔 after all.

WEDNESDAY
Tomato bisque, grilled cheese

All week, I was looking forward to this soup. I made a few adjustments to this recipe since last I made it (more tomatoes, more garlic, and add the bacon right at the end), and man, it was scrumptious.

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Garlic, onion, tomato, rosemary, boom, you taste it all. (There’s also a bay leaf but I’m starting to believe that’s mainly a superstition.) 

I made cheddar and sourdough sandwiches and grilled them in bacon grease, which probably wasn’t absolutely necessary, but it did make them CRRRRRISP and nobody complained.

Just an excellent little meal, so cozy and good. 

I could eat this meal every week. Gotta have it at least once while there’s snow on the ground. 

THURSDAY
Gochujang bulgoki, pineapple, nori, rice, leftover pickled radishes, a little broccoli

The second pork hunk. It was a two-hour school delay, so the day got all messed up and I really wasn’t feeling terribly ambitious about dinner, but I had painted myself into a corner. So I sharpened my knife and started to hack away at the meat. I was listening to a radio show about people who are lobbying for the right to have more fixable appliances, and how they make videos for other people about how to fix things, and they give free advice about what kind of glue to use and stuff like that, and by the time I was halfway through that pork butt, the magic of doing things with your own two hands had taken over. I could have stood there all day, locating the direction of the muscle fibers, carefully trimming the fat, and thriftily separating away only the most inedible layers of onion skin with the tip of my freshly-honed knife. I even decided to trim a bag of baby carrots into matchsticks, which is insane, but the spirit of imaginary stick-to-it-iveness lay about me like a mantle, so that’s what I did.

I snapped out of it, though, because I had shit to do. Like yoga. I had to change out of my pajama pants into my yoga pants and do yoga, which was a special cardio glute burn, and then I took a shower and changed into my leggings so I could pick up the kids, and then I changed back into my pajama pants. Truly the American spirit breathes through my every pore.

I forget what we were talking about. Oh, bulgoki. Well it marinated all day and then I pan fried it, and it was tender and delicious. 

And you know what, it really is better with matchstick carrots than any other kind of carrots.

I made a pot of rice in the Instant Pot, cut up a couple of pineapples, and set out some lettuce and nori, and that is one super meal.

You make little bundles, either with the lettuce or nori, and grab up a little meat and rice and pop it in your mouth, and it’s so tasty, honeyed and savory with just a little gochujang burn. You can easily adjust the marinade to make it sweeter or spicier, but you should know that cooking takes the heat down quite a bit, so if you taste the marinade, it won’t be as hot as you expect.

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Although gochujang sneaks up on you a bit. 

FRIDAY
Pizza

Today I shall make four pizzas. And then this week can bite my butt. We are all so exhausted! Life is tiring! Better than the alternative. 

Hey, thanks for being interested in my shopping and planning post. I was unexpectedly moved to hear that people actually read through the whole thing. There is just so much dang work in the world that goes unwitnessed and unacknowledged, not just in big families, but in every family, in every life. It’s a lot of work to keep ourselves alive, isn’t it? I salute you, my dear reader who is getting it together one more time to figure out what’s for supper, whether it’s for a crowd or for your own self, whether you feel up to it or not. You made it to Friday, and you did good. L’chaim. 

5 from 2 votes
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Instant Pot Mashed Acorn Squash

Ingredients

  • 1 acorn quashes
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Cut the acorn squashes in half. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt on the cut surfaces.

  2. Put 1/2 a cup of water in the Instant Pot, fit the rack in it, and stack the squash on top. Close the lid, close the valve, and cook on high pressure for 24 minutes. Do quick release.

  3. When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop it out into a bowl, mash it, and add the rest of the ingredients.

 

5 from 2 votes
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Tomato bisque with bacon

Calories 6 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 lb bacon (peppered bacon is good)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 56 oz can of whole tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 46 oz tomato juice
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • crispy fried onions (optional garnish)

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon until crisp. Remove from pan, chop it up, and drain out all but a a few teaspoons of grease.

  2. Add the diced onion and minced garlic to the grease and sauté until soft.

  3. Add tomatoes (including juices), bay leaves, rosemary, and tomato juice, and simmer for 20 minutes. Save some rosemary for a garnish if you like.

  4. With a slotted spoon, fish out the bay leaf, the tomatoes, and most of the rosemary, leaving some rosemary leaves in. Discard most of the rosemary and bay leaf. Put the rest of the rosemary and the tomatoes in a food processor with the 8 oz of cream cheese until it's as smooth as you want it.

  5. Return pureed tomato mixture to pot. Salt and pepper to taste.

  6. Heat through. Add chopped bacon right before serving, or add to individual servings; and top with crispy fried onions if you like. Garnish with more rosemary if you're a fancy man. 

 

5 from 2 votes
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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. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 323: We are an Epiphany people are we are going to bed

Happy Epiphany! It’s Epiphany, right? I get all my liturgical information through social media, and generally through a lens of people arguing over whether it’s actually [whatever day] or not, and if not, which bishop is to blame for this outrage. The impression I have today is that Benedict XVI is in heaven going, “This Beatific Vision is prettty good, but BOY AM I MAD THAT SOME PEOPLE HAVE ALREADY THROWN OUT THEIR TREES.” This is what’s known as “being an Easter people.”  

What I know for sure is this is the time of year when we just have massive dump trucks of food crashing through the walls of the house and unloading food after food after food, and I am powerless to stop it. And I guess I didn’t do a WFS last week, because I didn’t know what day it was, not for liturgical reasons, but just because I am self-employed and my boss is kind of an idiot. So I’ll just do a highlights reel, and you must imagine crowds of cinnamon buns and leftover egg rolls and fudge and buckeyes and rapidly staling tree cookies pushing in from the wings, clamoring to be eaten.  

TUESDAY after Christmas
Chicken salad with pears, pecans, blue cheese

Absolutely desperate for some kind of vegetable two days after Christmas, I made a salad with mixed greens, grilled chicken, sliced pears, toasted pecans, and crumbled blue cheese, with something called “champagne dressing,” which turned out to taste sort of fruity and violently salty, and not in the fun way.

The rest of the salad was good, though. It really was good to have something green that wasn’t green icing. 

WEDNESAY 
Spaghetti carbonara 

I made it with plenty of butter, flat leaf parsley, and freshly-grated parmesan, and it was fab.

Spotlight on carbonara! I think the eggs cost more than the bacon, alas. Strange times.

I think my recipe plugin should be functional again, so here’s the card:
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THURSDAY
Chicken shawarma

Everybody was mad on Thursday and nobody said anything nice about my shawarma, so humph, I said it to myself. This shawarma was simply delicious.
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Boneless skinless chicken thighs were on sale, which is the easiest, tastiest thing to make oven chicken shawarma with.

Marinate in the morning, dump it in a pan with onions in the evening, and do a little chopping and stirring, and you have a top notch meal.We had all the usuals, olives, tomatoes, cukes, feta cheese, pita, and yogurt sauce.

Briefly considered making homemade pita or fried eggplant, but I’m toooooo tired. 

SATURDAY, New Year’s Eve
Lamb, sushi, pork dumplings

I bought a boneless leg of lamb back when it was $4.99 a pound a few months ago, and Damien slow roasted it all day until it was tender and lovely. We have tried more laborious recipes, but this very simple one always turns out the most toothsome.
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Turns out it’s scrumptious with a little dab of wasabi. Boo, I didn’t get any pictures. Too busy eating lamb. 

My contribution was something new this year: Pork dumplings. I followed this recipe for the filling. I had my doubts about a Chinese recipe by someone named Emma Christensen, but man, it was perfect. It only has a few ingredients — ground pork, Napa cabbage, kosher salt, soy sauce, scallions, cilantro, fresh ginger, sesame oil, and eggs — and it’s easy. You shred the cabbage, sprinkle it with salt, and then squeeze it to get the moisture out, and the mix it together with everything else. 

This was my first time using my dumpling press. You just put the wrapper on, plop a heaping tablespoon of filling on it, wet half the wrapper edge, and close the press firmly. 

Very quickly fifty dumplings took shape!

When it was time to eat, I set my bamboo steamer in a pan of gently boiling water and steamed 8-10 dumplings at a time for ten minutes.

It is a double-decker steamer, and you have to line the inside trays with something so the dumplings don’t stick to the bamboo. At first I tried coffee filters with steam holes poked in them, because they were the perfect size, but they still stuck, so I used parchment paper with steam holes, and that worked perfectly, and I used the same paper for all the batches. 

They were just scrumptious. The perfect blend of sharp and savory and gingery with a tiny bit of crunch from the cabbage.  I had some with some jarred sauce, but they were wonderful on their own. Just delighted to have this in my repertoire. 

I made a 2.5X batch of the filling, because that’s how much pork I had, and I ended up only using half of it before I ran out of wrappers; so I froze the left over, and we shall have dumplings again! You can also fry them or boil them. 

New Year’s Eve is also . . . .SHUSHI DAY. Clara had a friend over and Moe came over and we had a lovely time. I made a giant bowl of sweet, sticky sushi rice.

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I sprang for a couple sacks of really good short-grain rice

rinsed it a propitious number of times and cooked it in the Instant Pot, and then the next part takes three people: One to dump the rice into a bowl, one to slowly add the sauce and fold it into the rice without mushing it, and one to fan it vigorously so it dries. 

I have no idea if this really makes a difference for how the rice turns out, but it’s part of the tradition at this point.

Then we also had . . . 

raw tuna (frozen at sea and sliced thin)
cooked shrimp
fake crab legs
coconut shrimp
red roe 
pickled ginger
cucumber
avocado
mango
sesame seeds
furikake
and also 
duck sauce
hot mustard
wasabi
soy sauce
and then honestly just whatever asian-looking bottles I could find in the fridge

The kids gave me lots of little bowls and ramekins for Christmas, because that’s what I like, so had fun arranging things prettily. 

This is a really neat way to set up a party, because it encourages people to keep circulating and trying new combinations of things.

And we had fun! Everyone at plenty of food, and we had store-bought cheesecake and cream pies, and we watched Duck Soup and toasted the new year. Phew. 

SUNDAY
Calzones, tiramisu

Sunday was Sophia’s birthday, and she requested calzones and tiramisu, which meant an easy supper for me
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and a rather more time consuming dessert for Damien to make. Here is the recipe he uses. I never seem to get a good photo of tiramisu, but it is luscious and wonderful. 

MONDAY
Taco Bell

No bones day. We just got a bunch of tacos. 

TUESDAY
Italian meatloaf, french bread

New recipe! It was a chilly, drizzly, grey day and the recipe email from Jim at Sip and Feast featured this very cozy-looking meatloaf smothered in mushrooms and crushed tomatoes, and I knew what I had to do. It’s just a regular meatloaf, with a few elevated ingredients like plenty of freshly-grated parmesan, fresh parsley, and minced garlic, and you drench it in dry red wine and surround it with crushed tomatoes. Put it in the oven to cook and start frying up a generous bunch of mushrooms and onions in olive oil with a little salt, and then add those to the meatloaf, and let it finish cooking.

I mean, how could it. not be good. It was so good.  Hands down the best, happiest meatloaf I’ve ever had. (I used 5.5 pounds of meat and made two loaves, so it took closer to an hour and a half to cook.)

I had the opposite of the zoomies, and so Damien shopped for me and Clara picked up the kids for me, leaving me at home to putter around the kitchen with my meatloaf, and I thought how nice it would be to have some fresh bread to sop up all that lovely mushroom and tomato sauce.

So I used my trusty french bread recipe

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and turned out four pretty, golden loaves.

Every time I make french bread, I’m grateful and astonished that I happened to stumble upon some kind of success accidentally. But I have to admit that this happens every time I make bread, and if it were anyone else, I would conclude that this means this is, you know, a person who knows how to make french bread. Not me, though. I’m a moron who gets lucky every time. But who cares, as long as there’s squishy hot bread! Bread now, self-worth later. 

WEDNESDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, fruit salad

Wednesday I finally finally went shopping for the week, and let me tell you, it was again a no-bones day. We had some grilled ham and cheese and a fruit salad made of pineapple, grapes, blueberries, and kiwi, which is a special recipe made of only the most carefully selected elements that were on sale at Aldi.

Then I went to lie down for a minute and suddenly it was nine o’clock and someone had drooled on my face (me). So I got up and watched a little TV and then went back to bed, because I am an easter people and I am going to bed. 

THURSDAY
Chicken burgers, chips

Nothin to report. Well, except that I had an apple instead of chips [insert medal].

FRIDAY
Fish tacos

Yeah! It’s been a while. Got some batter fried fish fillets, tortillas, avocados, cabbage, limes, sour cream, and salsa. I also grabbed a bag of frozen shrimp I could sauté up with a little lime juice or whatever, but I may just pretend I forgot about it by the time dinner rolls around. 

I’m vaguely considering putting together some kind of king cake, but I usually palm that off on Clara and I don’t have any experience with it. Anyone have a very simple recipe? I have all the normal staples in the house. 

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.

 

Chicken shawarma

Ingredients

  • 8 lbs boned, skinned chicken thighs
  • 4-5 red onions
  • 1.5 cups lemon juice
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 entire head garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Mix marinade ingredients together, then add chicken. Put in ziplock bag and let marinate several hours or overnight.

  2. Preheat the oven to 425.

  3. Grease a shallow pan. Take the chicken out of the marinade and spread it in a single layer on the pan, and top with the onions (sliced or quartered). Cook for 45 minutes or more. 

  4. Chop up the chicken a bit, if you like, and finish cooking it so it crisps up a bit more.

  5. Serve chicken and onions with pita bread triangles, cucumbers, tomatoes, assorted olives, feta cheese, fresh parsley, pomegranates or grapes, fried eggplant, and yogurt sauce.

 

Tom Nichols' Grandmother's Leg of Lamb

Ingredients

  • boneless leg of lamb
  • olive oil
  • garlic powder
  • garlic salt
  • oregano

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325.

  2. Slash the meat several times, about an inch deep.

  3. Fill the cuts with plenty of garlic powder.

  4. Slather olive oil all over the meat.

  5. Crust it with garlic salt. Sprinkle with all the oregano you own.

  6. Cover meat loosely with tinfoil and cook three hours. Uncover and cook for another 30 minutes.

 

Sushi rice

I use my Instant Pot to get well-cooked rice, and I enlist a second person to help me with the second part. If you have a small child with a fan, that's ideal.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups raw sushi rice
  • 1 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp salt

Instructions

  1. Rinse the rice thoroughly and cook it.

  2. In a saucepan, combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt, and cook, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved.

  3. Put the rice in a large bowl. Slowly pour the vinegar mixture over it while using a wooden spoon or paddle to fold or divide up the cooked rice to distribute the vinegar mixture throughout. You don't want the rice to get gummy or too sticky, so keep it moving, but be careful not to mash it. I enlist a child to stand there fanning it to dry it out as I incorporate the vinegar. Cover the rice until you're ready to use it.

Calzones

This is the basic recipe for cheese calzones. You can add whatever you'd like, just like with pizza. Warm up some marinara sauce and serve it on the side for dipping. 

Servings 12 calzones

Ingredients

  • 3 balls pizza dough
  • 32 oz ricotta
  • 3-4 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup parmesan
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-2 egg yolks for brushing on top
  • any extra fillings you like: pepperoni, olives, sausage, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. 

  2. Mix together filling ingredients. 

  3. Cut each ball of dough into fourths. Roll each piece into a circle about the size of a dinner plate. 

  4. Put a 1/2 cup or so of filling into the middle of each circle of dough circle. (You can add other things in at this point - pepperoni, olives, etc. - if you haven't already added them to the filling) Fold the dough circle in half and pinch the edges together tightly to make a wedge-shaped calzone. 

  5. Press lightly on the calzone to squeeze the cheese down to the ends. 

  6. Mix the egg yolks up with a little water and brush the egg wash over the top of the calzones. 

  7. Grease and flour a large pan (or use corn meal or bread crumbs instead of flour). Lay the calzones on the pan, leaving some room for them to expand a bit. 

  8. Bake about 18 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Serve with hot marinara sauce for dipping.  

 

French bread

Makes four long loaves. You can make the dough in one batch in a standard-sized standing mixer bowl if you are careful!

I have a hard time getting the water temperature right for yeast. One thing to know is if your water is too cool, the yeast will proof eventually; it will just take longer. So if you're nervous, err on the side of coolness.

Ingredients

  • 4-1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 5 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
  • 10-12 cups flour
  • butter for greasing the pan (can also use parchment paper) and for running over the hot bread (optional)
  • corn meal for sprinkling on pan (optional)

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, put the warm water, and mix in the sugar and yeast until dissolved. Let stand at least five minutes until it foams a bit. If the water is too cool, it's okay; it will just take longer.

  2. Fit on the dough hook and add the salt, oil, and six of the cups of flour. Add the flour gradually, so it doesn't spurt all over the place. Mix and low and then medium speed. Gradually add more flour, one cup at a time, until the dough is smooth and comes away from the side of the bowl as you mix. It should be tender but not sticky.

  3. Lightly grease a bowl and put the dough ball in it. Cover with a damp towel or lightly cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about an hour, until it's about double in size.

  4. Flour a working surface. Divide the dough into four balls. Taking one at a time, roll, pat, and/or stretch it out until it's a rough rectangle about 9x13" (a little bigger than a piece of looseleaf paper).

  5. Roll the long side of the dough up into a long cylinder and pinch the seam shut, and pinch the ends, so it stays rolled up. It doesn't have to be super tight, but you don't want a ton of air trapped in it.

  6. Butter some large pans. Sprinkle them with cornmeal if you like. You can also line them with parchment paper. Lay the loaves on the pans.

  7. Cover them with damp cloths or plastic wrap again and set to rise in a warm place again, until they come close to double in size. Preheat the oven to 375.

  8. Give each loaf several deep, diagonal slashes with a sharp knife. This will allow the loaves to rise without exploding. Put the pans in the oven and throw some ice cubes in the bottom of the oven, or spray some water in with a mister, and close the oven quickly, to give the bread a nice crust.

  9. Bake 25 minutes or more until the crust is golden. One pan may need to bake a few minutes longer.

  10. Run some butter over the crust of the hot bread if you like, to make it shiny and even yummier.

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 318: That’s the way the Brussel sprouts

Friday! We made it! Nobody has to make a lunch for tomorrow! What bliss. 

Speaking of lunch, let me tell you about an excellent lunch I’ve been making for myself pretty often these days, because it’s cold and drizzly and I crave deeply nourishing foods: 

Heat up a pan, spray it with cooking spray, and throw on two or three big handfuls of spinach. Cook it a little bit to slightly wilt it. Then crack two eggs into it and continue cooking lightly until the whites are firm but the yolk is still runny. Grind some fresh pepper and sea salt over all.

Eat with a side of  cherry-on-bottom Greek yogurt, and a large green apple cut up slowly with a paring knife. 

I don’t know why, but this is just a restorative meal, a lunch of great balance. It’s also less than 400 calories for kind of a lot of food. You could grate some parmesan over the egg while it’s cooking, but you don’t need to.

I spent most of the week being sick and complaining about being sick, and dragging myself off one couch only to land heavily on the other, so nothing super inventive happened in the kitchen this week. Still, we had some decent meals, including one final homegrown vegetable (Brussels sprouts). 

SATURDAY
Spaghetti and Marcella Hazan’s three-ingredient red sauce 

Yum.

Damien shopped for and made this. Always unreasonably delicious. Just tomatoes, butter, and onions. 

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I always say this, but it really does taste like there’s some kind of meat involved in this sauce. But nope. 

SUNDAY
Italian sandwiches, fries

Damien shopped for this and put it together. Also yum. 

Red pesto, so nice. 

MONDAY
Hamburgers, chips

This is the third picture in a row that was actually taken some previous month or year, because I was too tired to take pictures of my actual food this week. For shame! From now on, only authentic Nov. 2022 food photos.

TUESDAY
Chicken cutlets with leftover red sauce, raw broccoli and dip

I cut the chicken breasts in half lengthwise and soaked them in seasoned milk and egg. Actually I languished on the couch and begged Elijah to do it for me. Then sometime when dinner really began to loom, I heated up the leftover red sauce from the other day, heated up some oil and butter, dredged the chicken in seasoned panko crumbs, and fried those mofos

and we had chicken cutlets with sauce. 

Quite good. I felt like the chicken should have had provolone and basil, or else pasta, or else it should have been on a sandwich, but it was pretty tasty.  Panko is certainly your friend. We had plain broccoli on the side, and talked about fried breaded broccoli and how, yes indeed, people do that. People do whatever they want. I had broccoli tempura at a Japanese restaurant in New York City when I was very little and I never forgot it. I forget why we were in New York City, but I remember that broccoli. We were probably talking about some other meal while we were eating it, too. 

WEDNESDAY
Meatloaf, roast butternut squash and baby Brussels sprouts

We got our first snow, finally, on Wednesday. Just enough to get the kids wound up, and then it turned to rain. That was my cue to go outside and finally harvest the Brussels sprouts

which, and this is crazy, I planted six months ago. I just looked it up: May 20, and harvested Nov. 16. I’m not gonna say I put a ton of work into them, but I did keep them watered, and I did fertilize them, and put up a little fence to keep Mr. Nibbly Rabbit away, and then a mere six months later, there I was, bringing in a grand harvest of an entire pint of Brussels sprouts, some of them somewhat larger than a pea.

Of course the real benefit to this crop was checking on it every time I went out and getting excited at the progress they were making, and laughing at what silly plants they are

and being glad something was still growing when everything else was dead or dying. Brussels sprouts actually get a little sweeter if they’re exposed to a light frost or two. Ain’t that the way. 

So this is how many Brussels sprouts I grew for my family:

Can you even imagine making a garden that would actually feed your whole family all year ’round? CAN YOU? I simply cannot. But the sprouts were sweet, and tiny and tender. I cut some butternut squash in thin little wedges so it would cook quickly, and tossed it together. I drizzled it all with olive oil and sprinkled it with brown sugar and kosher salt and a little hit of wine vinegar, and roasted it at a high heat, and it was nice. 

The meatloaf was fine. A good dollop of Worcestershire sauce in there makes it pretty tasty, and yes, I spread ketchup on the outside before cooking it.

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The secret to meatloaf is not making it too often, so people still get excited about it.

THURSDAY
Chicken tortilla soup, toasted tortilla strips

You’ll never believe this, but it was cold and drizzly on Thursday. Soup to the rescue! I like this soup because it has plenty of flavor, but you don’t have to go through a whole song and dance. It’s easy to make when you want a hot soup because you’re feeling poorly, but you’re feeling poorly and you don’t feel like cooking much.

You just jam them everything in the food processor and puree it 

(that’s garlic, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, some chipotle peppers in adobo sauce from a can, and several fresh tomatoes)

and then you heat up some oil in the Instant Pot (or obviously you could do this on the stove top) and thicken up that purée for a little bit. Then add some water and toss in your hunks of raw chicken, and cook it until the chicken is done. Pull the chicken out

shred it up

and put it back in.

At this point you’re supposed to add in tortilla strips, which are supposed to be corn, which thickens up the soup. But I don’t like corn tortillas, so I used to use the flour kind, then I started using nothing, and then I started making crunchy tortilla strips instead. And this is how I always make it now. It doesn’t thicken the soup, but it bulks it up, and it adds texture and flavor, and it’s just fun.

You cut up a bunch of tortillas into strips, spread them in a shallow layer on a pan, toss with oil, sprinkle heavily with chili lime powder, and bake at 350, stirring every 10- 15 minutes, until they are toasted. 

I aways heap too many in there so they don’t all get toasted and some of them stay chewy. Guess what, I like them that way. I like chewy, gummy, floppy things. There is a part of me*, especially when I am tired and blue, that would probably just eat flour paste all day long. Maybe I would put it in the microwave, but maybe not. 

So it’s not a thick soup, but a kicky broth with plenty of chicken. You top it off with a good handful of crunchy chili lime tortilla strips, and some of them get soaked with broth and some of them stay crunchy; plus chopped scallions, sliced avocados, cilantro (or parsley if that’s what you have), shredded cheese, and sour cream.

 

Truly a great soup for when you’re sick. I made it pretty spicy, and it cleans out your head like a son of a gun. 

FRIDAY
French toast casserole, OJ

I planned this meal to make myself deal with how much bread is building up in the house. So far it’s gotten to the stage of me hearing the kids blame each other for not doing anything about it, and that’s pretty good, but it’s not sustainable. 

French toast casserole is just you tear up your old bread and soak it in egg and milk and some sugar, and a little cinnamon and vanilla if you like. Butter a pan, pour it in, maybe dot it with butter, maybe sprinkle some cinnamon sugar on top, and bake at 350 until the custard is cooked. Serve in wedges with syrup or jam. 

Here’s a rather arty photo, from back when stone fruit was in season: 

Today what’s in season is I have is a can full of ashes from the wood stove, that I’m saving to spread under the peach tree for next year. Ah well, it’s almost Advent. 

*my mouth, I should hope

 

Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup

Adapted from twosleevers.com. This is a very flavorful chicken soup. It has a little hotsy totsy burst of spice with the first taste, and then the more complex flavors come through slowly. Magic.

It's fairly brothy, and then you heap up all the garnishes you want on top.

This is a little over a gallon of soup.

Ingredients

  • 2 med onions
  • 1 lb (4 medium) tomatoes
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 3 chiles in adobo sauce plus some of the sauce
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (include seeds for more heat)
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • water
  • salt to taste
  • garnishes: avocado slices, sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, tortilla strips, chopped scallions

Instructions

  1. Cut the onions and tomatoes into chunks so they will fit in the blender or food processor. Put the onions, tomatoes, jalapeño, chili pepper and sauce, garlic and cilantro into a blender or food processor and blend it until it's a thick sauce. You may need to do it in batches, or just keep poking the big pieces down so everything gets blended in.

  2. Add enough oil to the Instant Pot pot to cover the bottom. Press "sauté" and let the oil heat up for a few minutes.

  3. Pour in the tomato mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes, until any liquid is mostly absorbed. You may need to press "sauté" again to keep it hot.

  4. Cut the chicken breasts into pieces and put them in the pot. Add six cups of water.

  5. Close the top, seal the valve, and press "pressure cook," then the + button until it goes to 20 minutes. When it's done cooking, let it naturally release for 10 minutes, then release the remaining pressure manually.

  6. Open the top and fish out the chicken. Shred it and return it to the pot. Add salt to taste.

  7. Serve the soup with garnishes: avocado slices, sour cream, tortilla strips, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, and chopped scallions.

 

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. 

 

 

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!

Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup

Adapted from twosleevers.com. This is a very flavorful chicken soup. It has a little hotsy totsy burst of spice with the first taste, and then the more complex flavors come through slowly. Magic.

It's fairly brothy, and then you heap up all the garnishes you want on top.

This is a little over a gallon of soup.

Ingredients

  • 2 med onions
  • 1 lb (4 medium) tomatoes
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 3 chiles in adobo sauce plus some of the sauce
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (include seeds for more heat)
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • water
  • salt to taste
  • garnishes: avocado slices, sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, tortilla strips, chopped scallions

Instructions

  1. Cut the onions and tomatoes into chunks so they will fit in the blender or food processor. Put the onions, tomatoes, jalapeño, chili pepper and sauce, garlic and cilantro into a blender or food processor and blend it until it's a thick sauce. You may need to do it in batches, or just keep poking the big pieces down so everything gets blended in.

  2. Add enough oil to the Instant Pot pot to cover the bottom. Press "sauté" and let the oil heat up for a few minutes.

  3. Pour in the tomato mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes, until any liquid is mostly absorbed. You may need to press "sauté" again to keep it hot.

  4. Cut the chicken breasts into pieces and put them in the pot. Add six cups of water.

  5. Close the top, seal the valve, and press "pressure cook," then the + button until it goes to 20 minutes. When it's done cooking, let it naturally release for 10 minutes, then release the remaining pressure manually.

  6. Open the top and fish out the chicken. Shred it and return it to the pot. Add salt to taste.

  7. Serve the soup with garnishes: avocado slices, sour cream, tortilla strips, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, and chopped scallions.

What’s for supper? Vol. 317: Little Bear food

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Happy Friday! Another week of nippy weather, and I’m really settling into cozy fall cooking. I’m doing some planning for Thanksgiving, by which I mean I bought a second potato masher at the thrift store. I have always been a wiggly line potato masher kind of gal, but now I’m branching out into the grid-on-a-circle style, and I have high hopes. Because I just don’t make very good mashed potatoes, and it’s probably the masher’s fault.

However, I am happy to announce that I used up the last of the apples! Very satisfactory. Read on. 

SATURDAY

I’m skeptical Saturday even happened. I have no idea what we ate. 

SUNDAY
Pizza

You may recall how, last time I made pizza, I committed the high crime of not making any just-cheese pizza. Well, this time I did! And the kids made exactly as big a fuss about it as if I hadn’t (“Well SHEESH, Mama, the only reason we’re ASKING is because LAST time . . . “). But I did make a cheese pizza. I really did.  I also made one pepperoni and one olive, fresh garlic, and anchovy. 

Man, I need to do something about that grout. Good pizza, though. 

MONDAY
Pork ribs, applesauce, mashed acorn squash, risotto

APPLE ARMAGEDDON. There were dozens and dozens of soft, spotty, dinged-up apples hanging around the dining room in bags and boxes and government-owned mail cartons driving me mad, so on Monday I gathered them up, hacked them  into quarters, threw them in my biggest pot, added a little water (too much, like I do every year), and let them simmer loosely covered for a few hours. 

I left everything intact, peels, cores, everything, and when they were soft enough to collapse under the weight of a wooden spoon, I ran them through my wonderful food mill, very similar to this one (affiliate link):

 

The food mill is one of the few once-a-year kitchen gadgets I allow to take up space in my tiny kitchen, because nothing else does exactly what a food mill does (i.e. not only smooshes the food, but separates out the undesirable parts). I was a little dismayed to dismayed to discover that someone had put it away last year after using it to make applesauce but not necessarily super duper washing it out, bleh. It has a pot with handle and bowl clips, a crank and blade, and a screw with a sweeping arm for underneath, and [deep shuddery breath] you really do need to take it apart to clean it properly. 

But a little scrubbing did the trick, and I was soon cranking out sweet, beauteous applesauce.

I didn’t take a picture of the refuse because it’s just not pretty, but I’m always impressed at how efficient the food mill is. If you keep cranking, it really gets every last possible scrap of edible material, and just leaves the barest minimum of waste behind. Then you crank it backwards a few turns and it scrapes the leavings up into a little heap for you to whack out into the trash. Very satisfying activity altogether.

After several batches, I was left with a heavy, steaming bowl of fragrant, rosy applesauce, and it smelled so nice, I was tempted to just leave it at that. But I did pitch in a bunch of cinnamon, a generous drizzle of honey, and a lump of butter, and mix it up.

I covered it and left it alone, and it was so dense, it stayed warm until dinnertime. I felt like a fairy tale mother. Everyone was very pleased. 

I served it with pork ribs, just roasted quickly on a rack in a very hot oven with salt and pepper, and some rich, cheesy Instant Pot risotto, and some mashed acorn squash

What an excellent meal. Here is the recipe for Instant Pot risotto, which isn’t quite quite as creamy and luxurious as stovetop risotto, but it’s pretty darn close, and it’s easy enough to throw together on a weeknight, with onions, sage, white wine, and chicken broth.

Jump to Recipe

You can add in any number of things, including squash if you’re not already serving squash. 

But I was, and I was trying a new method. Normally I roast it in the oven and then mash it. This time, I cooked it in the Instant Pot, and I learned a tip to sprinkle it with kosher salt and baking soda first, allegedly to help caramelize it, before mashing it with your add-ins. Here’s the full recipe:

Jump to Recipe

and whoa, it was excellent.

I have no idea if the process really made that much of a difference or if i just got hold of some really tasty squash, but it was amazingly flavorful. Yay! Damien really liked it, so I’ll definitely do it this way from now on. 

TUESDAY
Ima’s Everything Soup and overnight bread

On Monday night, I started some bread dough using an exceedingly vague recipe someone, I’m sorry I can’t remember who, put on Facebook. To wit:

Ingredients
3 cups All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
 
In a large bowl combine flour, active dry yeast and salt. Mix together. Add water, and stir until blended; dough will be sticky. Give it ten good folds. Cover bowl with a tea towel. Let dough rest overnight for 10 to 12 hours at room temp.
 
In the morning, your dough will have grown x2- then give it a few folds (I basically scraped the dough off the sides of the bowl towards the middle), empty it out onto a piece of parchment paper and let it rest for 30 minutes. If dough is sticky and hard to work with, add a bit of flour so it doesn’t stick to your hands. Score your bread with a knife. (I made an “x” on the top.)
 
While dough is resting, preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Put a covered 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (Dutch oven, enamel, ceramic) in oven as it heats for about 30 minutes.
 
Carefully remove pot from oven. IT’S VERY HOT. Pick up parchment paper with dough and slide directly into pot (ie dough sitting on the parchment).  Cover with lid and bake 35-40 minutes at 425 Degrees F. LID WILL BE HOT – remove lid and bake another 10-15 minutes, until loaf is golden brown.
 
You can eat it warm with butter or wait until it cools.

Okay, that seemed simple enough!  I tripled the recipe and left it in a big bowl to rise overnight. I ended up using more flour than it called for because it was not just “sticky,” it was like batter, and really couldn’t be called dough. 

The next day, it had risen nicely and was more dough-like, but I did add yet more flour to be able to handle it. I poured it out in two batches onto parchment paper and let it rest 30 minutes as directed. 

I don’t seem to have any dutch ovens (the contents of my kitchen are always vaguely mysterious to me), so I heated up a glass casserole dish and a large iron frying pan, and baked it in two batches in that. You’re supposed to bake it with the lid on, then uncover it and finish baking. Since my containers didn’t have lids, I used tin foil, which stuck to the dough, so when I pulled it off, it peeled some of the bread crust off with it. I could have avoided this by spraying it with cooking spray, or covering it with a bowl or something else with more clearance. 

But overall, it came out of the oven looking like bread!

Quite dense and rather chewy, but real bread, a really good return for the miniscule amount of labor and very basic ingredients I put into it. 

So that was nice. It was pretty good with a little soft butter and a sprinkle of salt, and it hit the spot along with the hearty soup I made.

This seems to be a version of Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread that everybody got all worked up about a while ago. He gives more precise directions and his technique requires more time, but does seem to produce a nicer loaf. So now you know everything I do. 

The soup is an adaptation of my mother’s minestrone soup, which she used to call “everything soup.” Minstrone soup usually has vegetables, greens, beans, tomato, and some kind of pasta or rice. My mother’s version doesn’t have tomato and it does have meat. She used ground beef; I used mild sausage. She used celery; I swapped in zucchini instead. She specified frozen spinach, and I used fresh. I skipped the wine and used fresh parmesan. But otherwise, this is basically her recipe, which is basically minestrone. Or not! It has onions, garlic, carrots, zucchini, chick peas, sausage, spinach, beef broth (and wine) and is topped with a little parmesan.

I cooked it a little too long and it got a little blurry, but it was tremendously nourishing and cozy. This is Little Bear food. 

Together with the world’s most basic bread, it was a very fine little meal for a chilly day. 

And here is where I have to express my admiration for people who cook but don’t enjoy the process. I salute you! I like to eat; goodness knows, I like to eat. But I like to cook almost as much, if not more. The sight and sounds and sensations, the smells and textures and patterns of food being processed are a constant delight to me, even when I’m in a hurry. Peeling and cutting and chopping and grating, rinsing and stirring, steaming and simmering and tossing. Every onion is different inside! Every head of lettuce has its own music when it’s torn. The colors, the colors. It is all absolutely my jam.

What a treat to peer down through the top of a shiny box grater and watch the little torrents of parmesan billowing through the holes as I shred, and then sensing that the grater is stuffed full and needs to be knocked empty against the scarred wooden board, until it spills out its little bounty of delicate curls into the sun.

And then I also like to eat! Lucky me. 

WEDNESDAY
Shawarma

Honest to goodness, I thought it was Thursday, and I was so annoyed at myself for putting off this meal all week, so I was painted into a Thursday corner and had to make a slightly laborious dinner twice in a row, first the soup and bread, then the shawarma. I had been up all night with a cold and fever, struggling with the delusion that I had hidden a terrible, purple secret on top of a mountain and so needed to get my socks off. Then I got up and I was like, OH NO, AND NOW I HAVE TO MAKE SHAWARMA, I HAVE NO CHOICE BECAUSE IT’S THURSDAY. In retrospect, I may still have been a little sick. Luckily, shawarma is actually easy enough that you can make it when you’re a little loopy. 

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs were on sale, and that is the best kind of chicken to use for shawarma, so I didn’t have to do much processing, just trim the fat off a bit. The marinade is easy, and the rest is just really chopping and opening  jars and cans. And crushing plenty of garlic. 

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So I set several pounds of chicken to marinate in the morning, and made up a big bowl of yogurt sauce

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Corrie was home too, so she juiced lemons for me, and also cut up the cucumbers. So we had pita, cucumbers, tomatoes, black and kalamata olives, feta cheese, yogurt sauce, and hummus. I marinated just the chicken and then spread red onions over the top of the chicken before I cooked it. And that was it! Great meal. Everyone loves it. A little bit of work on the front end, but it’s all easy, with no exotic ingredients, and it’s just so tasty. 

Sometimes I make homemade pita or stuffed grape leaves or fried eggplant with this meal, but this is the basic form and it’s great as is. 

THURSDAY
Taco Thursday

Thursday turned out to be Thursday, for whatever reason, and so we had tacos. I don’t make the rules. (Well, I do, but I don’t have to explain myself.) 

FRIDAY
Spaghetti pangrattato

Something new for us. Pasta with lemon, parsley, seasoned breadcrumbs, capers, and bits of fried egg!! from Smitten Kitchen. I think this is one of those delicious, delicious poverty dishes the Italians are so good at. I’m guessing most of the kids will just want plain pasta, but you never know.

Or maybe we’ll just have spaghetti! The kids have the day off for Veteran’s Day and maybe I’ll do the weekend shopping on Friday and have the actual weekend off for once, to do something fun. Although so far all I have managed to do is sleep for twelve hours, which I haven’t done in years, and I think that means I am still sick. 

Oh, I just remembered what we had on Saturday. Corn dogs! Corn dogs and hot pretzels. With a side of mustard. 

5 from 2 votes
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Instant Pot Mashed Acorn Squash

Ingredients

  • 1 acorn quashes
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Cut the acorn squashes in half. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt on the cut surfaces.

  2. Put 1/2 a cup of water in the Instant Pot, fit the rack in it, and stack the squash on top. Close the lid, close the valve, and cook on high pressure for 24 minutes. Do quick release.

  3. When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop it out into a bowl, mash it, and add the rest of the ingredients.

Ima's Everything Soup

heavily adapted from a sort-of-minestrone soup my mother used to make

Ingredients

  • 1+ lbs loose mild sausage (my mother used ground beef)
  • olive oil if necessary
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1-1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced with the skin on
  • 6-12 cups beef broth
  • 4 cups fresh spinach (frozen is also fine)
  • 1/4 cup red wine (optional)
  • 1 cup small pasta like pastina, raw
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. In a pot, cook the sausage, crumbling, until it's cooked through. Add olive oil if necessary to keep from burning. (If using an Instant Pot, use the sauté function for the first two steps.)

  2. Add in garlic, onion, oregano, and pepper. Cook another several minutes until the onion is soft.

  3. Add in the carrots and zucchini, and pour in the broth (and wine if using), and stir. If cooking on stovetop, cover loosely and let simmer for twenty minutes. (If using an Instant Pot, add all the ingredients except the cheese, close the lid, close the valve, and press "soup.")

  4. Add in the spinach and chickpeas and continue simmering another ten minutes. Add in the pasta ten minutes before serving and cook until soft. If the soup is too thick and too much broth has been absorbed, add another 4-5 cups of broth. Top with parmesan.

 

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. 

Chicken shawarma

Ingredients

  • 8 lbs boned, skinned chicken thighs
  • 4-5 red onions
  • 1.5 cups lemon juice
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 entire head garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Mix marinade ingredients together, then add chicken. Put in ziplock bag and let marinate several hours or overnight.

  2. Preheat the oven to 425.

  3. Grease a shallow pan. Take the chicken out of the marinade and spread it in a single layer on the pan, and top with the onions (sliced or quartered). Cook for 45 minutes or more. 

  4. Chop up the chicken a bit, if you like, and finish cooking it so it crisps up a bit more.

  5. Serve chicken and onions with pita bread triangles, cucumbers, tomatoes, assorted olives, feta cheese, fresh parsley, pomegranates or grapes, fried eggplant, and yogurt sauce.

 

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. 

 

 

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. 

Jump to Recipe

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. 

Jump to Recipe

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,

Jump to Recipe

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. 307: If you’ll just step this way, sir

My sincere apologies for not getting anything up on the site this week. We started school again this week, and we are all exhaustipated. I knew that would happen, so last weekend, I pulled up a bunch of old back-to-school essays I had written, thinking I could dust them off and re-publish. But the funny ones were so dated, and the earnest ones were so naive, it really didn’t help with my little moroseness problem. I really hate this time of year. Like old Emily says, there is this fucking slant of light. I wish everything would just die and get it over with, rather than dragging us all through this long, drawn-out process where everything explodes into one final flame of exquisite color but it’s clearly the final fever ignited by the face of death. What kind of system is that, sheesh. Maybe I’ll hire a tour bus to come and look at it and buy postcards, that seems nice! I don’t know what is the matter with people. Yes I do.

Anyway, as I say, it was our first week of school, so I wanted to cook foods that everybody likes, because even a good first week of school is challenging, and comfort food helps. Here is what we had:

SATURDAY
Various

Lena actually took me out to eat to Thai Garden in Keene, and the people at home had hot dogs. I didn’t get pics of the delicious appetizers, which included golden triangles, but I did capture my main course, which the waitress recommended. I forget what it was called, but it was some kind of chicken coconut curry with lots of vegetables and two kinds of noodles, some soft, and then some crunchy fried ones on top. Very tasty. 

I wish to compliment the Thai people on their brilliance. So good. We always have a nice time at Thai Garden. Fast, friendly service, tasty, hot food, and decent prices, and if you dither long enough, the waitress will just tell you what to order, and she will be correct. 

SUNDAY
Sandwiches at the beach

Sunday was the last possible day for me to fulfill my annual pledge to take them to the pond and stay as long as they wanted to stay and have dinner there and eat as much candy as they wanted. We packed grapes, watermelon, and blueberries, baguettes, meats, and cheeses, bags of chips, and most importantly, lots and lots of candy.

Hardly anyone else was there. It was a little on the cool side, and it turns out we don’t have quite the beach staying power we once did. We used to play-play-play until after the sun went down, but this year, we only made it about three hours, had an early dinner, and packed it in. But not before Corrie made herself exactly the sandwich she wanted:

And then we said goodbye to the beach for the year. We always say we can keep going a few more times even if vacation is over, but it never works out. 

MONDAY
Pizza

I made four pizzas, one pepperoni, one plain, and then two that I’ve been wanting to try: One Greek, with black olives, fresh garlic, black olives, feta, ricotta, fresh spinach, and tomatoes from the garden

I also bought a jar of marinated red peppers, but I forgot to put them on. It was pretty good!

But the other one was really the star. First I made a little salad with arugula, red onion, fresh lemon juice, good olive oil, and salt and pepper, and set it aside. I cooked the pizza with just sauce and mozzarella, fresh garlic slices, and fresh rosemary from the garden, and some more olive oil and a little extra salt and pepper. Then when it came out, I topped it with lots of torn-up prosciutto and the arugula salad.

I planned to add some freshly-shredded parmesan to the top, but the parmesan mysteriously disappeared. The pizza was full of flavor as it was. Really excellent. I loved the combination of raw and cooked elements, savory, tart, peppery and . . . herbaceous. The arugula did wilt a tiny bit from the heat of the pizza, so it all just melded together beautifully.

Most definitely making this pizza again. Aldi prosciutto and parmesan make it very affordable. 

And now, since Moe moved out and the family continues to dwindle, I’m making my first tentative efforts to face the idea that four pizzas is too many. We used to polish off six extra large pizzas! 

TUESDAY
Spaghetti and meatballs

Nothing special. In fact the sauce was a little skimpy, as you can see. 

No complaints, though. It was too hot for spaghetti and meatballs, but it was the first full day back, and everyone was very happy for this comfort meal. 

Jump to Recipe

I made five pounds of meatballs and added lots of Worcestershire sauce.

WEDNESDAY
Pork ribs, peas, risotto

Pork ribs: just lots of salt and pepper, roasted up under the broiler until they are juicy. Possibly the tastiest possible meat with the littlest effort.  

The risotto, I goosed so much, I’m almost ashamed. I’m including my recipe below

Jump to Recipe

but I added 50% more butter, 50% more parmesan cheese (which mysteriously reappeared. My refrigerator has portals or something), and — this is a little gauche, but I made the chicken broth with at least double the amount of bouillon powder. So it was very intensely flavored and very salty, which is how the kids like it. And so do I. It was absolutely gooey

You know what? I make no apology. Don’t run away from your feelings. We’re all doing it!

(Yes, my entire excuse is because I said “gauche.”)

Speaking of things you may not find attractive, here is my pork and risotto, which was not especially photogenic, but it’s on my camera, so here you go. 

If you want kids packing risotto in their lunches and staying up late to microwave a little extra for themselves before bed, this is how to do it. 

THURSDAY
Kielbasa, cabbage, and red potato sheet pan bake; hot pretzels

This is a kind of cute recipe we haven’t had for a while. I used three 12-oz ropes (that’s what they’re called) of kielbasa, a large cabbage, and about four pounds of red potatoes. It’s super easy. You just cut everything up, douse it with olive oil and salt and pepper, put your thick slices of cabbage in there with more oil and salt and pepper, and cook it all. You flip everything at some point, and it takes about half an hour.

Jump to Recipe

You can see that I got lazy and just flipped the cabbage, and let the potatoes and kielbasa be, so they only really got browned on one side, but it was fine. 

I did chop up some parsley and make the nice garlicky mustard sauce with red wine vinegar. 

We also had a bunch of hot pretzels. 

Once things settle down a bit, I’m going to make homemade hot pretzels again. They turned out pretty nice when I tried them back in February, and they’re not difficult. According the the King Arthur people, you can make the dough in the morning and keep it in the fridge, then form the pretzels and bake them later in the day. Or you can make them completely but slightly underbake them, and then heat them up when it’s dinner time —  probably more realistic for a weekday. 

FRIDAY
Tuna noodle casserole

The final installment in the “comfort, o my people” meal plan. Our tuna noodle is canned tuna and canned cream of mushroom soup mixed with egg noodles, cooked in a casserole dish with a topping of corn flakes and potato chips, with a dressing made of mayo, ketchup, and vinegar. Damien, who grew up with an entirely different set of monstrous casseroles, is talking about making spaghetti and clams, though. 

And that’s it. Sorry about all the whining. 

Meatballs for a crowd

Make about 100 golf ball-sized meatballs. 

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground meat (I like to use mostly beef with some ground chicken or turkey or pork)
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese (about 2 cups)
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.

  2. Mix all ingredients together with your hands until it's fully blended.

  3. Form meatballs and put them in a single layer on a pan with drainage. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or more until they're cooked all the way through.

  4. Add meatballs to sauce and keep warm until you're ready to serve. 

 

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. 

 

One-pan kielbasa, cabbage, and red potato dinner with mustard sauce

This meal has all the fun and salt of a wiener cookout, but it's a tiny bit fancier, and you can legit eat it in the winter. 

Ingredients

  • 3-4 lbs kielbasa
  • 3-4 lbs red potatoes
  • 1-2 medium cabbages
  • (optional) parsley for garnish
  • salt and pepper and olive oil

mustard sauce (sorry, I make this different each time):

  • mustard
  • red wine if you like
  • honey
  • a little olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400. 

    Whisk together the mustard dressing ingredients and set aside. Chop parsley (optional).

    Cut the kielbasa into thick coins and the potatoes into thick coins or small wedges. Mix them up with olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread them in a shallow pan. 

    Cut the cabbage into "steaks." Push the kielbasa and potatoes aside to make room to lay the cabbage down. Brush the cabbage with more olive oil and sprinkle with more salt and pepper. It should be a single layer of food, and not too crowded, so it will brown well. 

    Roast for 20 minutes, then turn the food as well as you can and roast for another 15 minutes.  

    Serve hot with dressing and parsley for a garnish. 

 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 305: We all scream “bastani!”

Hi! Hi! I meant to do a food-and-ocean pictures post last week, when we were in Cape Cod, but I became overwhelmed and it languishes unfinished in my drafts folder. It’s worth summarizing, though, because I realized I actually have a routine down for vacation week, though, which takes into account limited budget, limited packing space, and a desire to avoid that “Mom Spends Beach Vacation Assuming All Household Duties In Closer Proximity To Ocean” effect, but also a desire to not just eat boring everyday food, because we are near the ocean. (I should note that, at home and at the beach, Damien does all the laundry! And in fact he did most of the cooking while we were on vacation, too, so there.) Here is what we had (and what we did): 

First day: Sandwiches on baguettes (the most portable bread) and fake Pringles (the most compact chips). We have to bring a cooler anyway, for use at the beach, so I cram it with as much deli meat and cheese as possible, and we have this for our first meal, plus for lunch throughout the week. I also brought coffee, milk and cereal for the first breakfast, so we don’t have to leave the house until at least mid-morning of the second day.
Here are some pics on Facebook from our first day, discovering that the water on this part of Cape Cod is amazingly warm. 

Second day: 
Pics on Facebook from day 2. Our lovely house was literally a one-minute walk from the beach, but we wanted to see what else was in walking distance. Turns out, other beaches! But this one had a sign warning you not to swim there if you are bleeding, and not to wear dangly, shiny jewelry, or be too delicious. 

This picture is for all the haterz who ever wanted to BURY ME (I got out)

Before the beach, I went shopping, came home with rotisserie chickens and salad and chips, plus food for the rest of the week.

I had beach town supermarket sticker shock, so between that and the fact that Corrie came shopping with me, I came back with an awful lot of Jello, which came in handy later in the week when it was rainy and we needed something to fling around the kitchen.

Third day: 
We went to Paine’s Creek Beach and explored the tide pools. A dreamlike spot I’d love to go back to someday.

I think we actually went to a second beach that day? It’s all a blur. Damien grilled tasty burgers outside and made fries in the oven for dinner.

Fourth day: Seafood boil. We had some half-assed plans to dig our own clams, but there were complications with the permit and the equipment, so we decided to buy the seafood this year and plan to plan ahead next year. Still a huge treat. Recipe from the Narraganett beer can:

Damien made this meal as well. He got a bunch of littleneck clams, a few oysters, lots of mussels, and some kind of other big clams, and some kind of Spanish sausage, and we had cute little red potatoes and onions, bay leaves and peppercorns and parsley. Skipped the breakfast sausage. It’s all supposed to get boiled together, but we ran out of room, so he grilled the corn in its husks on the grill, and that turned out great. Man, that was a delicious meal. 

The tragedy was we didn’t think of getting some crusty bread to sop up the broth, which was tremendous. I liked the little neck clams best. Oh, what a feast. I had, uh, four helpings.

Most of the kids had chicken nuggets and corn, because what do they know. 

This was the day we rented kayaks and canoes! We paddled up Swan River, out into the ocean a bit, and then back down the river. A most excellent adventure, and now I am absolutely on the prowl for some used kayaks so we can do this more often. 

Fifth day: Restaurant

It rained and thundered, so we went to the movies, and then went out to eat and got ice cream. We always have one restaurant day when we go on vacation. We descended upon Kate’s Fried Seafood and Ice Cream in Brewster, which was very good. I kind of regret not ordering a big fried platter like the others did, because it turned out to be not greasy and just nice, but the salmon burger and sweet potato fries I picked was also very tasty and fresh.

That night we played poker for Swedish Fish and I believe it was also that night Damien and I both fell asleep on the couch for some reason. 

Sixth day: Frozen pizza
The weather cleared up enough for some more swimming, and there was a spectacular sunset for our final evening. 

Last day: Supermarket sandwiches on the way home. We had to be checked out by 10:00, so we had a quick breakfast, cleaned like maniacs, drove for a while, stopped for cheeseburgers, drove more, fulfilled my recently acquired lifelong dream to tour the U.S.S. Constitution, which is the world’s oldest ship still afloat!

and then to be honest the day started to go downhill, but Damien always listens to my stupid plans, so we walked a mile to the T station and rode the train to Chinatown. This would not have been a bad idea except that it was at the tail end of a very long and exhausting day and week, and nobody was at their best. So we got some reasonably tasty treats,

wandered around for a bit, and discovered they were having some kind of amazing food and dance festival at this very spot tomorrow, and decided to call it a day. Back on the T, another mile walk, couldn’t super duper remember where I parked the car, found the car, drove about an hour, stopped and got sandwiches at the supermarket, drove another two hours home, and BOY was the dog happy to see us. BOY WAS HE. 

And that was vacation. It was beautiful. 

Here’s what we had this past week: 

SUNDAY
Spaghetti with marinara sauce, garlic bread

Damien shopped for and made dinner. Absolutely delicious. 

His recipe, and I’m running so ludicrously late today, I don’t have time to make a recipe card at the moment:

One chopped onion per can of tomatoes, (he used 4 cans) and a diced head of garlic. Heat olive oil and red pepper flakes until you can smell the oil in the room, then add the onions only and cook till soft. Add a little salt. Add the garlic and cook some more, and then add tomato paste (one can per can of tomatoes, so four cans.) Cook that a bit then add sugar and some glugs of wine. Add the tomatoes and simmer, adding wine and a little olive oil as needed/wanted. When most of the tomatoes are broken down it’s pretty much ready.

It was good to be home. And the weather was suddenly autumnal, which was kind of unnerving. We expect to have some more summer heat soon, but we have definitely rounded a corner. 

MONDAY
Chicken sandwiches with marinara sauce, provolone and basil; lemon rosemary olive oil cake

There was lots of wonderful sauce left over, so I bought some chicken burgers and cut up some baguettes, and we had sandwiches with a slice of provolone, a few basil leaves, and generous scoop of hot sauce to melt the cheese over everything. 

Always tasty.  

And then Clara made an amazing cake for the Assumption: A lemon olive oil rosemary cake with rosewater. She said there was a lot of prep work, with all the chopping and zesting, but the baking itself was quite simple, and it came out light and luscious, and you could really taste all the elements. 

So pretty. So nice to have someone else spontaneously coming up with cakes!

TUESDAY
Tostadas

Tostada Tuesday! Like Taco Tuesday, but when all the stores are out of taco shells so you suddenly realize that you can buy that bag of tostada shells you’ve been walking past and not buying your whole life, and no one will stop you. 

I’m not going to say tostada Tuesday changed my life, but it was fun, like discovering a new shape of pasta or a new . . . uhh, I don’t know, I got nothing. I gave up alcohol over a week ago and I’ve been sleeping through the night every night for the first time in many years, but it’s just made me stupider, which doesn’t seem fair. Anyway, I wonder what else I’ve been walking past all these years, week after week, and never even considering buying, besides tostada shells. 

I also made a big bowl of guacamole.

Jump to Recipe

The avocados looked fine, but they tasted so pale and watery. No one else noticed, but I was really dismayed. Hope it’s a fluke. Not an actual fluke. That would be disgusting. 

WEDNESDAY
Vermonter sandwiches

I planned these solely because people were kind of cranky and I wanted them to like me again. A Vermonter sandwich is thick, crusty bread (preferably sourdough or ciabatta, but I got baguettes), thick slices of roast chicken or turkey, lots of bacon, thick slices of sharp cheddar cheese, slices of tart green apple, and lots of honey mustard dressing. 

It is a very hearty, cheering sandwich and it will make you friends. Corrie claimed that, once, I bought cheddar cheese that was so sharp, she cut her finger, and she absolutely insisted that this literally happened, and she will die clinging to this story. 

THURSDAY
Bo ssam, rice and lettuce, Asian cucumber salad, watermelon; saffron rosewater pistachio ice cream 

Thursday was supposed to be pork ribs, and they were supposed to be $1.49 a pound, but the supermarket flier lied to me, so I ended up pacing back and forth in front of the meat section, snarling quietly to myself, and then gloomily purchasing a giant fatty pork butt with no particular plans. 

Sometime during the week, the bottle of rosewater left over from the Assumption cake began to work on my brain, though, and I realized I had a jar of saffron threads I had never used, and Lucy had given me a mortar and pestle for mother’s day that I had likewise never used, and all that was lacking was a bag of pistachios, and then I could make . . . BASTANI. Bastani is persian ice cream made with, as you no doubt surmised, saffron, rosewater, and pistachios, and the idea of it has been haunting me. If you’ve never been haunted by the idea of persian ice cream, then baby, you are missing out. 

So from there, I says to myself, I says, what kind of pork goes with this kind of ice cream? And of course the answer was bo ssam. Usually I make bo ssam and then figure out what kind of soothing, mild thing I will serve along with it, but this time, I worked in the other direction. 

I have made bo ssam half a dozen times, and I keep simplifying the recipe, until I’m not even sure if it’s bo ssam anymore. All I do is, starting the night before, I mix a cup of salt with a cup of sugar and rub it all over a fatty piece of pork butt or shoulder, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate it overnight. Then around noon I heavily line a pan with tinfoil, unwrap the meat, and put it in the pan, and cook it for six hours at 300. That’s it. We eat it with lettuce, rice, and whatever Asian sauce I can find, and something soothing to the palate.

I’m telling you, I could make this with recipe with my eyes closed. I could make this recipe with my feet. It’s so simple, and everybody acts like I’m some kind of conquering hero genius, and they gobble it up. It is so tender, it is just barely holding itself together under the caramelized salt and sugar crust. It’s ridiculous meat. There should be a law! 

I cut a watermelon into chunks, I made a pot of rice in the Instant Pot, and I made a bowl of Asian cucumber salad, which is always refreshing and pretty and takes literally five minutes to throw together. 

Jump to Recipe

And there it all was. I brought my plate outside and ate alone so no one would see me acting like a monster with it. This was just a spectacular meal, an absolute festival of flavors. 

Everybody ate a lot, and had to rest up for a while, and then I brought out the ice cream! PERSIAN ICE CREAM.

Not gonna lie, this was kind of a pain in the pants to make. I am going to write a whole separate post about various ice creams I have been making since I got my ice cream maker, so I will go into more detail there, but I made a triple recipe, and it just took a long time because you have to stand there whisking the custard until it thickens, and I have a special knack for making custards take a ludicrously long time to thicken (well, probably because I’m always making triple recipes). I thought it turned out great, though. About half the family liked it, which is not bad. You could smell but not taste the rosewater. It was a wonderful color, and I was very pleased with how the saffron tasted warm, because it was saffron, but cold, because it was ice cream. I used plenty of salted pistachios (the recipe calls for unsalted) because that’s what I could find, and that turned out perfect. I did not use vanilla, and didn’t miss it. All in all, a success. But I have promised them to go back to something like chocolate chip or rocky road for the next batch. They are pretty good sports, but they have their limits with my globalist nonsense. 

FRIDAY
Pizza

There are four balls of pizza dough defrosting on the counter, and that is as far as I have gotten. Next thing you know, people will want me to get dressed. 

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. 

 

5 from 3 votes
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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)

What’s for supper? Vol. 304: It’s souvlaki all the way down

Happy Friday! The name of the game this week was souvlaki! We didn’t really have that much Greek food; I just like saying “souvlaki,” and apparently so do Greek people, because every time I look up a recipe for something Greek, they let it slip somewhere in the recipe that this is souvlaki. No matter what it is. I have looked it up, and apparently the main ingredient necessary, in order for a dish to qualify as authentic Greek souvlaki, is “various meats.”

This is what makes me take a dim view of arguments that such-and-such dish isn’t really authentic. I mean, if it’s made of sawdust, then no, it’s not authentic cuisine. One time I told my kid I was eating imitation crab meat, and she said with great condescension, “Weww, Mama, I woudln’t eat wubba cwab if I was you.” But that is as far as I’m willing to go. Beyond that, it’s all authentic souvlaki as far as I’m concerned. (This is a complicated joke about fake meat, mock turtle soup, and turtles all the way down, if you like. If you don’t like, you can just keep reading, and eventually there is a nice picture of pork.) 

Weww, Mama, here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Hamburgers, veggies and dip, chips, cherry pies with ice cream

My sister and five of her kids came over on Friday. On Saturday, we had a lovely guest for lunch, Fr. Michael Eades, a Toronto Oratorian who was passing through, so we had a little cookout in the middle of the day, and then we went to the beach, and then we came home and had another little cookout, because It Is Summer. 

I had a lot of fun making the pies. I do recommend sitting down in the afternoon and pitting several pounds of cherries while chatting with your beloved sister, and all your kids goof around playing cousin games and being silly. It’s just nice. Then I made the pies and Corrie brushed them with egg wash for me

and of course I managed to burn them, but they still got ate up. 

Here’s my reliable pie crust recipe:

Jump to Recipe

SUNDAY
Spaghetti al carbonara 

Other meats have gotten more expensive, but bacon, which was always expensive, has stayed about the same, so I convinced myself this counted as a cheap meal, because I hadn’t gone shopping yet and it was literally the only dinner I could think of. 

Just about everybody likes it, and I managed not to burn the bacon, anyway. I bet you haven’t made carbonara for a while! Why not make it this week?

Jump to Recipe

Just pasta, bacon, parmesan, eggs, butter, and lots of pepper. Sticks to your ribs, as my grandfather used to say. You can make it fancier if you want, but the basic version is so easy and good.

MONDAY
Chicken drumsticks, pasta salad

Drumsticks really are cheap, to my sorrow. I hate drumsticks. I mean, they’re fine. On the drumsticks, I put olive oil, salt, garlic powder, and paprika, and roasted them, turning them once. The pasta salad had olive oil, wine vinegar, black olives, red onions, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, minced garlic, and I imagine salt and pepper. 

Not a sophisticated meal, but I went shopping in the afternoon, got home late, got the food put away because the grocery-put-away kid was at work, and then cooked supper, so everyone has hungry and appreciated food. 

TUESDAY
Taco Tuesday!

I used to think Taco Tuesday was so silly. The kids would get so excited if I served tacos on Tuesday, and I just could not see what the big deal was. It was just tacos, regular tacos, and it happened to be on a day that also started with T, big deal. 

But you know what? Taco Tuesday performs the valuable service of letting me not figure something out. What day is it? Tuesday. What are we having? Tacos. What are people? Happy. Take a little nap, brain. THIS IS WORTH FORTY MILLION DOLLARS.

To the drained ground beef, I added lots of cumin, lots of chili powder, salt, plenty of garlic powder and onion powder, and some water. I guess I am officially weaned off using those little packets of taco seasoning. The secret ingredient is, as I suspected, salt. 

I went to take a picture of my tacos, and the camera was open the other way and captured this somewhat portentous photo of myself, looking like I am considering devouring not only the tacos, but the entire world, because the world is asking for it.

 

And here is the picture of my tacos.

WEDNESDAY
Pork gyros (souvlaki), homemade vanilla ice cream

The star meal of the week. I had a pork loin that I cut into thin slices and marinated in the morning. I sorta kinda followed this recipe (souvlaki), except I used a lot more garlic than it says, skipped the thyme, and went with fresh rosemary and fresh oregano. The one important thing is that this marinade includes honey, which he claims (and which I have no reason to doubt) breaks down the pork fibers. I marinated the meat about five hours and then pan-fried it in batches, and it certainly came out amazingly, yieldingly tender. 

I also made a big batch of garlicky yogurt sauce

Jump to Recipe

and cut up a bunch of tomatoes and cucumbers, and we cooked some french fries and I sent the girls out for a bunch of wild mint leaves, we and wrapped it all up in pita with feta cheese and hot sauce. 

Hot damn, it was delicious. (Actually I skipped the fries because I ran out of room and I secretly think it’s kind of gross.) I forgot to take a picture of it actually wrapped up like a wrap, because I just gobbled it up. You really cannot beat fresh herbs in a wrap. I think I’m going to take another stab at growing herbs inside this winter, because it makes such a difference. 

THEN, my ice cream maker arrived! Actually it arrived on Tuesday. I’ve been haunting Facebook Marketplace, and found a great deal on a Cuisinart ice cream maker (this one, and I didn’t spend any $83.10 on it!). We dashed out (that’s an ice cream maker joke) for some heavy cream and decided to just start with vanilla. I had put the bowl in the freezer in the morning (this is the kind you don’t need ice or salt for, but you do need to freeze the bowl for at least six hours ahead of time), and we made one batch that came out great, but the bowl did not stay cold enough in our sweltering kitchen to make a second batch. So I went ahead and ordered a second bowl from eBay, plus the Ben and Jerry’s recipe book everyone is telling me is the best. 

Benny always strives to dress appropriately for the occasion. 

So, no thrilling ice cream tales so far, but our first foray was pleasant enough. The machine is very simple to use. The ice cream comes out of th machine like soft serve, but I spread it in a pie plate and put it in the freezer for a few hours, and it came out like high quality hard pack ice cream.

There are some peaches on our peach tree, and we intend to make them into ice cream when they’re ripe; and we’re planning some ginger ice cream for next time we have Asian food, and probably, oh yes, blackberry ice cream when we get back from vacation and haven’t been scrounging away at the blackberry bushes for a whole week. 

THURSDAY
Pork ribs, cheezy weezies

Just good old oven broiled ribs with salt and pepper with the fat crisped up, nothing better. I was planning mashed potatoes, but it was and is way way too hot, so cheezy weezies it was. It’s been so hot all week. Hot hot hot. I actually got a bunch of work done on Thursday morning and then did something I haven’t done in decades: I draped myself over a floatie and just drifted around in the pool thinking about nothing. Just drifted like a screensaver, drift, bonk, driffffft. 

Actually before that, I went to jump off the little deck, got caught on a nail, and left most of my swim suit bottoms behind. Straight out of Looney Tunes. The kids may never recover. 

I’ll show you various meats. 

One of my kids immediately climbed out of the pool and went to find me a towel to cover my modesty. And another of my kids immediately shouted, “Not that one! That’s my towel!” And I am taking notes. 

Anyway, after that is when I decided I would just drift for a while. For some reason, the kids got out of the pool after my comic mishap. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

And now, I can hardly believe my luck, but we are getting ready to go to the ocean for a week. I planned (and, in a stroke of good sense, pre-paid for) this vacation back in the middle of winter, and boy oh boy. Are we going to swim in the ocean. We usually go to Hampton Beach, but we’re venturing a little further down the coast this year. I bought Aldi’s entire stock of oversized towels on clearance, and we have our shark-spotting app all fired up, and we might not have our absolute favorite kind of insulin, but we do have insulin, and the check engine lights are on but are not flashing, so off we go! The house we rented has a small balcony and a SPIRAL STAIRCASE in it. And is near the ocean!!!!!!!!!! It allegedly has a little boardwalk leading to a private beach 300 yards away, but many of those words can mean all kinds of things, so we shall see. But still. The. Ocean. I’ll probably be posting photos on Facebook and possibly Instagram if you want to see what we’re up to.

Yes, there will be someone watching the house at home, so please do not feel free to rob us of all our cool and valuable possessions, such as our, um, our very valuable, you know what, go for it. I guess the printer is only a few years old if you want. I may have a Creedence tape in there somewhere.

 

Basic pie crust

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

 

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. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 299: Love is something when you have a hole in the floor

In haste! In haste! For today we are diving into the big renovation project for the summer, which is putting a new floor in the laundry room so we can turn the toilet back on and have TWO TOILETS before July 4th.

We had this renovation (converting a 3/4 bathroom into a laundry room with a toilet) done several years ago by some folks I can only describe as a team of supergoons, and they put the toilet in wrong; it leaked massively; the floor was ruined; we despaired; and things went from there. We’ve had one working toilet for all, for years and years, all through norovirus and everything. But we’ve since learned (the very hard way) that we’re capable of putting a new floor and subfloor in, so that’s-a-what we’re gonna do. And this time, it just means no washing machine for a few days, rather than no toilet. A breeze, I tell you. 

And, but first, I’m really sorry I haven’t gotten anything up on the site this week. Really struggling with the whole “writing words down” thing lately. If anyone has something fun and neat I can write about it, seriously let me know, because I got nothin’ in my noggin. 

Here is what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Italian sandwiches, chips

Tasty as always. I had prosciutto and spicy capocollo, salami, tomato and basil, mozzarella, and red pesto, and balsamic vinegar on a length of baguette.

All from Aldi. The tomatoes are good this year. I have seven tomato plants going, myself, but they are all still green, except for a few yellow ones that are supposed to be yellow, which I just ate right off the vine while they were still warm from sunshine, without telling anyone. Except for you guys.

SUNDAY
Steak, chips, coleslaw; strawberry shortcake

Father’s day! Damien grilled some steaks, Lena made coleslaw, Clara made a pound cake and served it with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.

A tasty treat for all. 

MONDAY
Garlicky chicken thighs with potatoes, zucchini, and summer squash

A new recipe, and it turned out great!  A pretty simple marinade with some cider vinegar and onion powder that gave it a little pleasantly acrid pop, along with the rough-cut garlic and fresh basil. 

I ended up cooking the potatoes in one large pan, and the chicken and vegetables in the other, and they were still a bit crowded.

This led to the zucchini and squash coming out a little, well, squashy. Next time I will cut them thicker and give them more space to cook; but I like the flavors a lot. The chicken turned out very juicy and full of flavor, and the whole meal was popular with almost everybody. 

Jump to Recipe

This is maybe the third time in my life I’ve cooked with zucchini. I don’t know why I even bought it, since I have it in my head that it’s just this wretched, slimy, flavorless monstrosity of a veg. It is a little slimy, but who isn’t these days.

I also found a cold Sicilian sweet and sour zucchini dish with onions that I’m dying to try next. Well, not dying, but I do have a recipe tab open on my laptop and my phone. 

TUESDAY
Tacos

Taco Tuesday! Taco Tuesday.

Feast your eyes on me valiantly skipping the sour cream and rapidly becoming the trimmest, lithest mother of ten in the entire tri-state area. 

WEDNESDAY
Rigatoni alla disgraziata with sausage

We’ve been having rainy, chilly days, so this heavy, fragrant pasta dish was very welcome. People kept coming in and asking what I was making, because it smells so wonderful, and I kept getting to take a deep breath, strike an obnoxious Warrior 2 pose, and intone, “Rrrrrrigatoni alla disgrrrrraziata!” 

Made it once, thought it was delicious, thought it would be even better with some meat, so I added sausage. And it was good, but honestly not necessarily improved. It’s an immensely hearty dish to begin with, with pasta, sauce, eggplant, toasted breadcrumbs, and mozzarella, with parmesan on top; so adding the sausage was fairly gratuitous, and it kind of fought with the breadcrumbs a bit. I think I’ll keep this as a meatless dish in the future.

Jump to Recipe

It’s fun to make. You toast the breadcrumbs in oil, then fry up the eggplant,

then add the sauce, then cook up the pasta, drain it, and mix it all together, then add back in the breadcrumbs, plus some mozzarella you’ve torn up. Then more freshly-grated parm on top just for fun. 

My goodness. I just had jarred sauce, because some overzealous person had tossed the leftover homemade tomato sauce I was planning to use; but it was still very fine. 

This is the Deadspin directions for the sauce my husband usually makes: 

[W]hip out a medium-sized saucepot and start a basic tomato sauce. Cook some chili flakes and chopped onions and garlic in oil for a few minutes; dump a big can of whole tomatoes (San Marzano if you can find ’em; um, not San Marzano if you cannot find San Marzano) on top of the aromatics, break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon, chuck in some tomato paste and a few glugs of cheap red wine, and let this stuff simmer in the background while you cook everything else.

The eggplant dish definitely benefits from a sauce with chunky tomatoes in it. 

THURSDAY
Chicago hot dogs, fries

I guess you’re supposed to have a steamed poppy seed roll for this. As an Aldi shopper, I count myself lucky if they have hot dog buns at all. Or bread in general. So we had hot dogs on regular buns with tomatoes, pickle relish, mustard, raw onions, a dill pickle, and some pickled peppers, and celery salt. 

You would think the pickle relish plus the pickle would be too much total pickle, but they’re really very different things. Some of us were also pretty enthusiastic about the celery salt. It’s neat stuff! Like savory pixie dust. What else do you use it in? I need more. I guess it must be what makes Old Bay seasoning taste like that, along with paprika.

Moe prepped this meal while I started clearing out the laundry room. Here are some before pics:

 

You can’t see it, but there is indeed a hole in the floor and I did indeed fall into it while cleaning, even though I knew it was there because it was the whole reason I was in there, cleaning. But I broke my fall by grabbing the shelf, which indeed came down on my head, spilling out many year’s worth of outdated prescription drugs, first aid supplies, cleaning products, lightbulbs, and kind of a lot of Halloween makeup. So I have that going for me. 

Then we ate hot dogs, and then we went to Home Depot to get a bunch of lumber and screws, because guess what??? We’re replacing not only the laundry room floor, but the back stairs. Two home improvement projects; two!! I confessed to Damien that I had briefly entertained the idea of just replacing the back steps with a slide, so we could just, zoop, slide out the back, and he said it was okay, because he thought maybe we should just put one of those pirate climbing ropes in. You know, I remember leaving the hospital with our first baby, and both of us thinking, “They’re just going to let us go home with this whole baby? When we’re not even grown-ups?” That situation has not improved.

FRIDAY
I don’t know. Oh wait, pizza. 

Okay, that’s it! Gotta finish up work, gotta go to adoration, gotta go to a healing Mass they’re having at our parish and we’re definitely not going to miss, and then PIRATE SLIDE!!!! I mean new back stairs.

Oh, so when my big sisters were little, they went to camp and learned the song about “Love is something when you give it away, give it away, give it away, love is something when you give it away, you end up having more!” Except one of the kids went around singing, “Love is something when you have a hole in your pants, have a hole in your pants, have a hole in your pants…” I never did find out what the final line was. This is why you should never send your kids to a Jesuit college, I mean summer camp. 

And here are the recipe cards!

One-pan garlicky chicken with potatoes, summer squash, and zucchini

Ingredients

  • 12 chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • fresh basil, chopped
  • more salt, garlic powder, and onion powder for sprinkling
  • 4 lbs potatoes, scrubbed and sliced thickly
  • 6 assorted zucchini and summer squash, washed and sliced into discs with the skin on

Instructions

  1. Combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cider vinegar, garlic, garlic powder, onion, powder, salt, pepper, and fresh basil. Marinate the chicken thighs in this mixture for at least half an hour.

  2. Preheat the oven to 400.

  3. Grease two large baking sheets. Arrange the chicken, potatoes, and vegetables on the sheet with as little overlap as possible.

  4. Sprinkle additional salt, onion powder, and garlic powder on the potatoes and vegetables.

  5. Cook about 40 minutes or until chicken is completely done and potatoes are slightly brown on top.

5 from 1 vote
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Rigatoni alla disgraziata

A hearty, meatless pasta dish with eggplant, breadcrumbs, and mozzarella

Ingredients

  • 2 lg eggplants with ends cut off, cut into one-inch pieces (skin on)
  • salt
  • 3/4 cup olive oil, plus a little extra for frying bread crumbs
  • 3 cups bread crumbs
  • 3 lbs rigatoni
  • 6 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 lb mozzarella
  • grated parmesan for topping

Instructions

  1. In a very large skillet or pot, heat up a little olive oil and toast the bread crumbs until lightly browned. Remove from pan and set aside.

  2. Put the 3/4 cup of olive oil in the pan, heat it again, and add the cubed eggplant. Cook for several minutes, stirring often, until eggplant is soft and slightly golden. Salt to taste. Add in sauce and stir to combine and heat sauce through. Keep warm.

  3. In another pot, cook the rigatoni in salted water. Drain. Add the pasta to the eggplant and sauce mixture. Add in the toasted breadcrumbs and the shredded mozzarella. Stir to combine. Serve with grated parmesan on top.