What’s for supper? Vol. 228: Easy does it, more or less

How is it Friday already? I guess I spent the week driving, sleeping, and wheezing. And making Halloween costumes, and cooking.  I tried Instacart again and it’s definitely growing on me. My one complaint is that the default tip is 5%. Five percent! That’s just gross. I know you can raise it, and I do, but what the heck, Instacart. Why would you make that seem normal? Shopping is hard work. 

Here’s what we had this week. A couple new recipes and a lot of easy comfort food. 

SATURDAY
BLTs

Show me a person who doesn’t love BLTs and I’ll happily eat his BLT. 

SUNDAY
Chinese pork ribs, vegetable lo mein

The most elaborate meal of the week. Damien marinated some pork ribs in this lovely Chinese sauce. I didn’t get a great pic of the cooked ribs, but here they are, waiting to be cooked. Lovely thick ribs. I’ll get his recipe when he gets back from his run.

Next time, we’ll make this outside on the grill, but it felt like an oven broiling kind of day.

We’ve been doing a lot of Asian-style meals lately, but are pretty, pretty tired of rice, so I poked around a bit and it turns out a simple lo mein (which means “stirred noodles”) is super easy and delicious.

Jump to Recipe

I made an absolute bare bones sauce with soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar, boiled some noodles, cooked the veg, deglazed with mirin, and added the noodles and sauce, and that’s it. 

It was perfect, just like good take-out. I used red and yellow bell peppers, red onion, and sugar snap peas, and maybe garlic, I forget. The noodles darkened quite a bit from the sauce as I continued cooking it. Next time I may add some fish sauce or hoisin sauce or oyster sauce or fresh ginger or something, but truly, truly I may not. This was so easy and flavorful and just about the whole family enjoyed it, and what kind of fool would mess with that?

The answer, of course, is my kind of fool. I always mess with things. But at least we’ll have this one happy noodle memory. 

MONDAY
Buffalo chicken on salad

Always popular.

Salad greens, buffalo chicken from frozen, blue cheese, and crunchy onions from a can, with a drizzle of blue cheese dressing. You can addd red onion and shredded carrot and tomato, but you have my permission to not. 

TUESDAY
Bagel, egg, sausage, cheese sandwiches and OJ

Most of the kids want an egg or two fried in plenty of butter and not flipped. I firm up the yolk a little bit by covering the pan for a few minutes toward the end. What kind of egg is that? Sunny side up? It’s even better if you use tons of butter and spoon the hot butter over the yolk as it cooks, but it felt like too much work. Then I went and overcooked mine anyway, oh well.

I had mine with a little hot sauce, and I chose American cheese, because I like American cheese.

WEDNESDAY
Nachos

Basic basic. Tortilla chips, seasoned ground beef, and shredded cheese. One pan with jalapeños, one without.  I also heated up a can of refried beans and a bag of frozen corn, and they were surprisingly popular. I sprinkled a little chili lime powder on top; olé.

We also had salsa and the small amount of sour cream that didn’t get frozen. If anyone knows a use for frozen sour cream, I’d be glad to know it. You can thaw it out, but it gets all grainy and horrible. And here I made an entirely gratuitous joke about people who have been in academia too long, but I took it out because fratelli tutti or whatever. Again I say to you, olé.

THURSDAY
Bacon tomato bisque, challah

I put this one effortful meal on the menu and kept putting it off until there was only one day left to make it, and of course the weather turned warm and muggy. Oh well! It’s a wonderful, hearty soup, even with canned tomatoes.

Jump to Recipe

Tomatoes, cream cheese, fresh rosemary, bay leaves, onions, garlic, bacon, all good. 

I thought it would be pleasant to try a round challah instead of my usual big braid-little braid stacked loaf.

Jump to Recipe

It looked pretty, but I guess it needs more baking time, because it was still quite damp on the inside. And you can see I let it rise too much for the second rising, and it got kind of blurry, instead of being the plump, pull-apart rosette I was imagining.

Still, hot eggy bread, mmmm. I did alter the recipe a tiny bit by adding an extra half teaspoon of salt and using olive oil instead of canola oil, and that helped the flavor a lot.

With these challahs I finally got through my entire 25-pound pandemic bag of flour, and now I just have my second 25-pound pandemic bag of flour to use. I know some of you go through that amount of flour every other week, but I do not. I love baking about as much as I love paper machéing: I do it if because there is a still, small voice inside me insisting that this is the only way my family will know I love them, even though my actual family with the big, loud voice is begging me to just buy the thing at the store. I yam what I yam.

FRIDAY
French onion soup, roast mushrooms, baguettes, and tuna

Ooh, looks like I never made a recipe card for my very simple french onion soup. Here’s a photo of onion soup past, and here’s the card:

Jump to Recipe

I’m going to try my hardest to make only a small pot of soup. We still have lots of other soup left over from yesterday, and the refrigerator situation is a travesty, just a travesty. (And yes, this is why the sour cream keeps getting frozen. It’s horribly crowded in there, and refrigerator needs proper air circulation. Well, we all have needs, so GET IN LINE, FRIGIDAIRE.) 

I think Damien is going to make the roast mushroom dish. We haven’t had it in ages and it’s sooooo savory and yummy. It’s one of Burneko’s Deadspin recipes. Dishes with capers in them can go either way, but this one is absolutely smashing. 

And there will be some tuna for the people who are gonna cry about capers.

 

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sugar

for the rest

  • 6 oz uncooked noodles
  • sesame oil for cooking
  • add-ins (vegetables sliced thin or chopped small, shrimp, chicken, etc.)
  • 2 Tbsp mirin

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

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

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

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

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

Tomato bisque with bacon

Calories 6 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1/2 - 1 lb bacon (peppered bacon is good)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 35 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, and top with crispy fried onions if you like. Garnish with more rosemary if you're a fancy man. 

 

Challah (braided bread)

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup oil (preferably olive oil)
  • 2 eggs
  • 6-8 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp yeast
  • 2 egg yolks for egg wash
  • poppy seeds or "everything bagel" topping (optional)
  • corn meal (or flour) for pan, to keep loaf from sticking

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, dissolve a bit of the sugar into the water, and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir gently, and let sit for five minutes or more, until it foams.

  2. In the bowl of standing mixer, put the flour (starting with six cups), salt, remaining sugar, oil, and eggs, mix slightly, then add the yeast liquid. Mix with dough hook until the dough doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl, adding flour as needed. It's good if it has a slightly scaly appearance on the outside.

  3. (If you're kneading by hand, knead until it feels soft and giving. It will take quite a lot of kneading!)

  4. Put the dough in a greased bowl and lightly cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm place for at least an hour, until it's double in size.

  5. Grease a large baking sheet and sprinkle it with flour or corn meal. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Roll three into "snakes" and make a large braid, pinching the ends to keep them together. Divide the fourth piece into three and make a smaller braid, and lay this over the larger braid. Lay the braided loaf on the pan.

  6. Cover again and let rise again for at least an hour. Preheat the oven to 350.

  7. Before baking, make an egg wash out of egg yolks and a little water. Brush the egg wash all over the loaf, and sprinkle with poppy seeds or "everything" topping.

  8. Bake 25 minutes or more until the loaf is a deep golden color.

Simple French onion soup

Serve with a piece of toasted baguette at the bottom of each bowl. Finish with cheese on top.

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 4 cups onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 4-6 cups beef broth (can also use chicken broth or a combination of water and white wine)
  • pepper
  • parmesan or mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  1. In a heavy pot, melt the butter and then add the onions. Cook very slowly over a low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and somewhat darkened.

  2. Stir in the sugar until dissolved. Stir in the flour and mix to coat.

  3. Add the broth (or water and wine). Add pepper to taste and simmer for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer.

  4. Serve with a hunk of toasted bread in the bottom of each bowl. Sprinkle cheese on top, and if you have oven-safe dishes, brown under the broiler to form a skin on top of the soup.

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 227: Notes from Slab City

As I mentioned, I was in quarantine for part of the week. My car was already in the shop and continues to be in the shop, and Damien has been doing absolutely everything, and as far as I know, he only took one nap, and did not kill anybody at all. I hope this isn’t one of those situations where your plant looks okay from the outside but then you accidentally bump it and it crumbles into dust. 

While in the hole, I finally broke down and started using Instacart. It’s fine. I hate exactly the parts I knew I would hate (not being able to see the meat and produce, not being able to browse the aisles and be inspired as I shopped), but the shopper communicated well and it was very fast. I’m sure my impoverished, exhausted past self would want to kick my current ass for whining about it, but, whatever. It’s fine. Everything is fine. 

ANYWAY, here’s what we ate this week. 

SATURDAY
Meatball subs

I can’t blame Instacart for this one. I was shopping in person at the store and deliberately picked out eleven pounds of ground beef. I guess I was hungry. I made about 110 large meatballs.

If you are thinking, “Goodness, imagine having to make that many meatballs!” think it no more, because I did not have to make that many meatballs. It was Too Many Meatballs. I just lost my head. 

My recipe is nothing special.

Jump to Recipe

The onliest thing is that I bake my meatballs on a broiler pan, which is fast, easy, tidy, and great. They’re not quite as good as fried meatballs, but they are pretty close. Then you can put them in a slow cooker or a covered dish in the oven with sauce, and keep them warm for hours.  

Or, you can do what I did and put them in a pot and forget about them until they were cold, then add some sauce and realize you don’t have enough, so your husband has to go to the inconvenience store, and you have to stand there turning them over and over with a spatula so they don’t burn.

 I also got it into my head to make a deep dish apple pie, seeing as we’re knee-deep in apples from the orchard. Nice, eh?

I guess this is technically a slab pie, which sounds so hardscrabble, like it must be filled with rocks and served with kerosene. But it wasn’t hardscrabble at all! It was the best pie I’ve ever made, and of course I have no idea what I did differently.

I used my trusty Fannie Farmer crust recipe.

Jump to Recipe

A double recipe, which was enough for a lattice top and full bottom crust for — I can’t find the dimensions, but it’s the middle-sized Anchor Hocking rectangular glass casserole dish. I did the trick of grating the butter and just very lightly incorporating it into the flour. I also brushed it with beaten egg white and sprinkled it with sugar before baking it, and that was very nice. I made the inside less sweet so the sugary crust wouldn’t be overpowering. I also like that it had all different kinds of apples in it.

It was just a damn good pie and I wish I had some right now. I did have some for breakfast on Sunday.

SUNDAY
Chinese chicken wings and spring rolls with peanut sauce

Quarantine, day 1. Lena made the spring rolls and Damien made the chicken wings. They were both so, so, insanely good. Sorry about the photo quality. Bedroom lighting is not ideal food lighting, and I’m not going to argue about plating when people deliver food to my door. 

Damien got the chicken wings recipe from a guy whose dad had a Chinese restaurant, and every morning would start with a mountain of chicken wings frying, to be fried again later in the day. I can’t tell you anything about the process, but it seemed to take a long time and it was the most fabulous chicken I’ve ever had. Way, way better than even our very favorite Chinese restaurant. 

I guess you fry it twice? Here is the first fry:

and here is another shot, not sure where in the process:

The texture and seasoning of the skin was absolutely scrumptious and the meat was so juicy, with perfectly balanced spices. Delightful. I was glad I was alone in my room because I was an absolute animal with those chicken wings.

For the spring rolls, I forwarded this recipe to Lena, and I have no idea how faithfully she followed it, but I did eat four spring rolls and only stopped out of shame. There is a recipe for peanut sauce attached, but I think they just bought a jar of sauce. SO GOOD. 

MONDAY
Antipasto, Spaghetti with Marcella Hazan’s sauce, sausage and meatballs, garlic bread

Quarantine, day 2. This would be a fine time for you to finally try this miraculous red sauce, which has a mere THREE ingredients, but somehow manages to taste savory and complex. 

Jump to Recipe

I had been doing FaceTime with Benny and Corrie so we could read at night, but apparently Corrie fell apart at suppertime, so we FaceTimed supper, too.

And here’s my plate. 

You can see that I did a bunch of sketches while I was locked up. I have them on Instagram if you’re interested. Not my greatest work, but I didn’t go batty. 

TUESDAY
Meatloaf, chips

Quarantine, day 3. And very tasty meatloaf it was.

Jump to Recipe

I think he put some Worcestershire sauce in there, which is a good idea.

I was making a stab at recalibrating my attitude toward food while in the hole, so I requested salad and an apple with mine. 

WEDNESDAY
Pork ribs, rice, mashed butternut squash

Wednesday I was RELEASED, and planned to celebrate by making some stovetop risotto. Then I realized I was still getting winded by shuffling into the kitchen, so I decided Instant Pot risotto was good enough. Then I discovered the Instant Pot valve had gone missing. So I chucked some sabor de pollo into the water and made Light Brown Rice, which the kids actually adore.

I have a picture somewhere, but not here!

Damien seasoned the pork ribs with just kosher salt and pepper, I think, and I broiled them, and they were delicious as always. You really can’t beat salt and pepper and high, direct heat for pork ribs. 

The mashed squash was tasty, too. I cut it in half, roasted it for about an hour, then scooped out the flesh and mashed it. 

Yes, this is just a one-second video of squash, steaming. 

I used butter, honey, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. I, uh, ordered six pounds of cayenne pepper while in quarantine, for reasons.

THURSDAY
Hot dogs, homemade fries, veg and dip

Moe made the fries by slicing them thin, drizzling them with salt, pepper, and oil, and baking them. Pretty good! I made the hot dogs by making hot dogs. I also opened some bags of carrots, and then I went to lie down. 

FRIDAY
Domino’s

And that’s the end of that chapter! And not a moment too soon. 

 

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. 

 

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.

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!

 

Meatloaf (actually two giant meatloaves)

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground beef
  • 2 lbs ground turkey
  • 8 eggs
  • 4 cups breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 cup milk

salt, pepper, garlic powder or fresh garlic, onion powder or minced onions, fresh parsley, etc.

  • ketchup for the top

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. 

 

Roasted butternut squash with honey and chili

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash
  • olive oil
  • honey
  • salt and pepper
  • chili powder

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler to high

  2. To peel the squash: Cut the ends off the squash and poke it several times with a fork. Microwave it for 3-4 minutes. When it's cool enough to handle, cut it into manageable pieces and peel with a vegetable peeler or sharp paring knife. Scoop out the pulp and seeds.

  3. Cut the squash into cubes.

  4. In a bowl, toss the squash with honey and olive oil. You can use whatever proportions you like, depending on how sweet you want it.

  5. Spread the squash in a shallow pan and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and chili powder.

  6. Broil for 15 minutes until the squash is slightly charred.

What’s for supper? Vol. 176: Damien’s Amazing Interchangeable Cinderblock Meat Altar Situation

Oh Friday! I was whooping it up in Princeton, NJ for a big part of the week. Great trip, wonderful people, tiny airplane, glad to be home. Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Chicken quesadillas, tortilla chips, guacamole

Corrie is always trying to get me to watch food videos with her, and I kept saying “not now.” So, as she says: “I like food videos, so I may as wewll make my own!” This video will make you feel better about the cleanliness of your food preparation area, about your efficiency with avocados, and most of all, about your Spanish. But it may make you wish you had a cooking companion and videographer like I have.

I don’t want to hear and kvetching about the vertical camera! She’s four!

For the quesadillas, I drizzled the chicken with olive oil and sprinkled on plenty of chili lime powder, then roasted it. I think I either left the house or went to lie down at this point, because I don’t remember making quesadillas, but I do remember eating some. 

And very good they are, quesadillas that somebody else made.

SUNDAY
Grilled chicken, bratwurst, pork ribs, and shrimp with mango salsa; chips and guacamole; strawberries and ice cream

Damien’s mom came by to watch Into the Spiderverse with the kids, and Damien smoked up a feast.

Now, here is where you may begin to notice a certain theme: Mandatory Meat vs. Optional Meat. I like meat? I really do. But I can imagine a happy life without it, unlike some husbands. I am most certainly not complaining! It just wouldn’t occur to me to cook a meal featuring four different meats; and it wouldn’t occur to him to go to a restaurant and not order meat. I guess between the two of us, we even out. As with so many other things. 

He used the same rub for the ribs as he does for the chicken, but for the ribs, he put some mustard on first, before smoking it. (I think he seared it on the grill and then moved it to a smoker? His ways are mysterious.)

He boiled the brats in beer and onions before grilling them. The shrimp, he marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, garlic powder, chili powder, and a little salt and pepper, and skewered them on skewers that had been soaked in water, then grilled them. 

So good. That chicken is so juicy and the skin is so crisp.

Have I told you about Damien’s Amazing Interchangeable Cinderblock Meat Altar Situation? He wanted a really big grill, but we don’t especially care for, you know, paying for things. We keep buying cheap grills and then leaving them out in the rain to rust, and that’s no good.

So he got a bunch of cinderblocks and built up this giant monolith for the base. Then he has an assortment of little blocks and chunks, grates of various sizes, chimneys, tongs, different charcoals and whatnot, and he just builds to suit, depending on how much fire he wants, how high the grate and how much air circulations, how many different fires he needs at the same time, and so on.

He does want one big grill to go over the whole thing, for when we have a lot of guests. And today is the day I found out he’s too much of a fancy man to even consider stealing a shopping cart. 

Anyway, the mango salsa was pretty tasty. I did say I was interested in mangos! So pretty, too. 

I do like the taste, but I’d probably buy them just for how the peels look. 

I’ll put a recipe card at the end. Oh, it’s so good to eat outside again! Even the plates are happy. 

Oh, mangoes have not seen the last of me. 

And I do believe Corrie is firmly in the “carnem et carnem solum” camp. 

MONDAY
Creamy lemon sausage pasta

I saw this recipe in the New York Times and it looked easy enough, and everybody likes lemon and cheese. But I figured I better get some meat in there, for the more carnal amongst us. I also tweaked the proportions so there was more sauce per pasta.

So, you just cook pasta, then cook up the sausage, then mix it together with ricotta and parmesan, lemon juice and lemon zest, salt and pepper, and some of the pasta water to thin it out, and stir all that into the cooked pasta, and put some fresh basil and red pepper flakes on top. 

It was good? It was almost good. It was not great. It was filling, and a little odd, but definitely cheap and easy. I would have liked to have the lemon and cheese filling in ravioli, probably; but as a sauce, and with the sausage, I was not entranced. I don’t know if it was the combination of sausage and lemon, or if this just wasn’t the dish for us. Oh well, onward and upward. 

TUESDAY

I was gone, wasn’t I! On Tuesday I did a Theology on Tap with the beautiful and indefatigable Kait Mayer, who also took me out to eat beforehand at Triumph Brewing, where I had . . . 

Well, look, now we’re back to the difference between me and Damien. I ordered the tempura mushroom banh mi, and I stand by it. The mushroom had a lovely, crisp coating, the bun was soft and giving, and the shredded vegetables were copious, flattered winsomely with a spicy mayo just as the gods ordained. It was delicious. 

WEDNESDAY

I had lunch at EFES Mediterranean Grill with my Aunt Joan and Uncle Lloyd. Lovely little place! Athough I wanted to want lamb dumplings or something along those lines, it was tremendously hot and humid, so I just ordered an appetizer, which was plenty. Homemade yogurt with spinach and walnuts with a basket of pita, and there were also little cups of sauce — something orange and very warming, and something minty and cooling. I got a very clear message that I need more mint in my life.

Then we did a mini-tour of Princeton campus, and then I mooched around the Princeton Art Museum. I only had time for the ancient art gallery, which was, as the kids say, extremely my jam. I posted a bunch of photos on Instagram. What a gorgeous place, and free admission. 

Then the gracious Claire Gmachl and the monsignor took me out for dinner at the Blue Point Grill, where I had arctic char and wild rice. I had to ask what arctic char is, since I am a bumpkin. It turns out it’s like salmon, but more salmony. And I fully expected to see a wiggly red line appear under “salmony” as I typed, but it turns out salmony is so a word. Then I thought maybe it was some obscure legal term, like simony, only more salmony. Oh, you want it in a sentence? Then how about The Sporting Review’s observation:

“This stream, which forms the Cascade de Con, abounds with a delicious little trout, the best flavoured and the most salmony I ever ate.”

Or perhaps this 1906 entry in Horticulture by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society will satisfy you:

“The color is pretty much the shade seen in Queen Alexandra, a salmony bronze, one of the kinds commonly called off-colors…”

This seems interesting to me. But I did not sleep a lot this week. I did go ahead and look up “arctic char” to see if the internet would rush to offer the information that it’s rather salmony, but all I learned was that its distribution is circumpolar. I feel that same way myself. 

After my talk, I got to hang out with Tom and Elizabeth McDonald, who are SO MUCH FUN. And I have a photo which I am currently saving in case I ever need to blackmail Tom. 

THURSDAY
Pizza

Damien insisted on making dinner while I lay down. Benny brought me dinner in bed:

Then they went to the beach while I lay down some more! I hope my current life isn’t the opposite of working out your purgatory on earth so you don’t have to do it after you die, because I feel like I’m racking up a lot of rewards that I haven’t quite earned.

FRIDAY

It says on the blackboard “giant choc chip pancake – eggs” and I don’t feel like I can argue with that, even though I’m sitting here smelling the pancakes they are making themselves for brunch. 

Coming up: our giant family July 4th cookout and mostly-legal fireworks display! We’ll be having, you guessed it, lots of kinds of meat, plus all the usual summer foods — potato salad, corn on the cob, watermelon, and a variety of refreshing beverages. What should we do for dessert? The kids want a cake in the shape of a flag, with red and blue berries, but I’m fairly anti-cake in the summer. I think we have done ice cream cups and a giant mountain of cookies in the past. That may be perfect; but I’d love to hear other ideas, too. Whatcha got?

Mango salsa

Good for shrimp, pork, chicken, or just tortilla chips

Ingredients

  • 6 mangoes, peeled, pitted, and diced
  • 1 med red onion, diced
  • 1 large jalapeño, minced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, diced or sliced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • chili powder to taste
  • lime juice to taste

Instructions

  1. That's it, dude.

Smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

 

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. 148: Meat and other good ideas

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

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, cheezy weezies

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

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

SUNDAY
Pork ribs, risotto, string beans

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

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

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

MONDAY
Ham, mashed potatoes, and peas

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

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

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

TUESDAY
French toast and sausages

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

WEDNESDAY
Pork nachos

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

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

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

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

THURSDAY
Cheesy chicken and red potatoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instant Pot Risotto

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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


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

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

Cheesy one-pan chicken thighs and red potatoes

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

Ingredients

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

Serve with whole grain mustard and chopped fresh parsley

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450

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


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

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

    Serve with whole grain mustard and fresh parsley. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 139: Cashew! Gesundheit.

Looking back, I’m shocked at how much actual hot food I prepared, considering how hot and steamy it was all week. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips, strawberries

That’s what it says on my menu blackboard. I have no memory of Saturday. What a long week.

SUNDAY
Smoked ribs, cole slaw, biscuits

I got two huge racks of pork ribs, and Damien put a rub on them the night before with mustard, then smoked the ribs on the grill for several hours.

This is our first attempt at smoking meat. Big success! Very juicy and flavorful.

Although cutting up the ribs afterwards is always such a struggle.

Is there some special trick or tool to make this part easier, or do you just have to hack away until it’s done?

I made biscuits using Pioneer Woman’s recipe. I had my doubts about these biscuits, because someone had put a bunch of pink chalk in the bottle of vinegar. I’m pretty good at ignoring things that people have put into my food, but chalk seemed like something that might change the chemical balance of vinegar, I dunno. Luckily, it wasn’t an issue, because even though I can read, I didn’t read the part where they are called “self rising biscuits” or the part where it called for self-rising flour, and I used regular flour. And those biscuits self stayed flat. I mean, I ate four, but they were flat.

We also had a good, snappy cole slaw that Lena made. Recipe card at the end.

My father came over, much to Corrie and Benny’s delight. They traded magic tricks, and my father provided this impressive multi-cake.

MONDAY
Deli sandwich bake

New recipe! A friend recommended this Italian Layer Bake, which calls for crescent roll dough top and bottom, with deli meats and cheese and egg layered inside. I like the idea of it, but was somewhat skeptical about all that egg, so I modified it to be less casserole-like and more sandwich-like.

So I just spread out crescent roll dough (and it turns out that, sometime in the last few years, I’ve changed from being someone who gets a kick out of popping open those cardboard tubes into someone who trembles in fear and then shrieks involuntarily when they burst open. I don’t like carnival rides anymore, either. I guess real life is thrilling enough. Anyway, I’m drinking more) in a pan, then layered all kinds of deli meats and cheese

then put more dough on top. When I say “put,” I mean I unrolled two cans without much trouble, but the third one was a travesty, all shredded and stuck together, so I just stretched out the bits as best I could to cover everything up.

Then I glopped some beaten egg on top (I would say “brushed, but I couldn’t find either of my pastry brushes, and the kids acted like my using that combination of words was the last bit of evidence they needed for my involuntary commitment; so I glopped it on) and sprinkled it with garlic powder and dried minced onion. I considered poppy seeds, too.

Then I put it in the oven covered for about 20 minutes, then uncovered for another 15-20 until it was a little brown on top.

It was very tasty! The pieced-together dough on top was not a problem at all. I cut it into twelve squares for twelve people, and then sliced the squares into, you know, slicees. Very filling and yummy, a very cheery food.

Definitely more brunchy than dinner-y, but definitely not breakfast-y. This would make great party food, and you can make just about any alterations you like. Everyone liked it. It was a little hard on my stomach, to be honest, but I’m old and digestively fragile. Please don’t tell me about probiotics. I’d rather suffer.

TUESDAY
Cashew chicken lettuce wraps and rice

‘Nother new recipe! This one was more popular with the older set. Pretty easy: You just cut up chicken and sauté it, dump in a simple sauce sauce and let it thicken, throw in the nuts, and spoon everything into lettuce leaves. Throw some chopped scallions on top.

It calls itself wraps, but it was too messy for any real wrapping, so we just ate it out of the lettuce. It was quite flavorful and didn’t really need the sriracha sauce I added at the end. Good basic Asian sauce, wonderful texture, easy to make ahead and then cook in a few minutes before dinner. Will probably make again. I simplified the ingredients and cooking process from the Better From Scratch recipe above.

I made the rice in the Instant Pot while the meat was cooking. I adore the Instant Pot on hot, muggy days. You can just tell it what to do and then get the hell out of the kitchen.

WEDNESDAY
Pizza

Taught another kid how to make pizza. We are now a five-pizza family, did I mention?.Two pepperoni, two cheese, and one half-and-half, because I forgot to buy olives.

We like to sprinkled garlic powder, oregano, and parmesan cheese on top before baking. I go back and forth on the merits of putting the pepperoni and other toppings under the mozzarella. I do like having a juicy surprise waiting under the cheese (and yes, that will be the opening sentence in my upcoming book, entitled It’s A Mystery Why I’m Fat), but the little crisp edges of pepperoni are also very fine. What a world.

THURSDAY
Pulled pork, steak fries, cole slaw, buffalo chicken salad, chocolate cake

Another self-imposed incoherent potluck meal. I put a pork in the crock pot with a can of beer and half a jar of jalapenos and juice, but I started too late, and it wasn’t really shreddy by dinner time, so I put it in the standing mixer, which got me something like cat food.

Dora wanted more buffalo chicken salad, so she won the honor of making it. I’ll add a recipe card at the end, but here’s what it looks like from a previous meal:

She also wanted to make chocolate cake with the little girls, and who am I to stand in the way of progress? I forgot to take pictures, though.

FRIDAY
Tuna burgers

We’ve recommitted to strict meatless Fridays, as a mild penance for our diocese. This is more of a penance for me, as it means I’ll go to the trouble of making tuna burgers and getting my hands all smelly, and they kids will throw them away and eat cereal. So I’m propping up the diocese and General Mills. Let God sort it out.

And here are the recipe cards. I can see that the categories are a little wonky on some of these, but I’m too pressed for time to fix them now! I’ll get the hang of this. We like the cards, yes?

 

5 from 3 votes
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Smoked pork ribs with mustard rub

Ingredients

  • 2 racks pork ribs

Pork rub

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

Instructions

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



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

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

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

Coleslaw

Ingredients

  • 1 head cabbage, shredded
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 5 radishes, grated or sliced thin (optional)

Dressing

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 cup cider or white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Mix together shredded vegetables. 
    Mix dressing ingredients together and stir into cabbage mix. 

5 from 2 votes
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Deli brunch sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 6 8-oz. tubes crescent rolls
  • 3/4 lb sliced ham
  • 1/2 lb sliced Genoa salami
  • 3 oz Serrano (dry cured) ham
  • 33 slices Swiss cheese
  • any other meats and cheese that seem yummy
  • 2-3 eggs
  • 2 tsp garlic powder, minced onions, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.

Unroll 3 of the tubes of crescent rolls without separating the triangles, and fit the dough to cover an 11 x 25-inch pan.

  1. Layer the meat and cheese, making it go all the way to the edges of the pan. This part is subject to any kind of variation you like. 

  2. Unroll the remaining 3 tubes of crescent rolls and spread the dough to cover the meat and cheese. It's okay if you have to stretch and piece it together. 

Beat 2-3 eggs and brush it over the top of the dough, and sprinkle with garlic powder, onions, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, etc.

  1. Cover pan loosely and bake for 20 minutes. Then uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes until dough is slightly browned and egg is completely cooked. 

5 from 3 votes
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Cashew chicken lettuce wraps

Servings 12

Ingredients

  • 6.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, with salt and pepper
  • 2-3/4 cups cashews

romaine lettuce or other broad-leaf lettuce

  • 1 bunch scallions
  • Sriracha sauce (optional)

2 Tbsp sesame oil for cooking

Sauce

  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 6 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 3/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 6 Tbsp corn starch
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder or minced garlic

Instructions

  1. Cut the chicken into small pieces and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

  2. Make the sauce by mixing all the ingredients together. 

  3. Heat the sesame oil in a large pan and add the chicken. Cook until it's done (duh)

  4. Add the sauce to the chicken and cook at a medium heat, stirring, until the sauce thickens. Stir in the cashews.

  5. Spoon chicken mixture into lettuce leaves. Add chopped scallions to top, plus sriracha sauce if you like. 

5 from 3 votes
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Buffalo chicken pasta salad

Servings 10

Ingredients

  • 3 boneless chicken breasts
  • 4 stalks celery
  • 36 ounces dry pasta. Radiatore (ruffled spirals) is good, but anything with texture will do.

Dressing

  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 10 oz blue cheese dressing (or mayo with blue cheese)
  • 1/2 cup buffalo sauce
  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • pepper

Instructions

  1. Cook the chicken.
    Instant Pot instructions: Put chicken in Instant Pot with a cup of water. Set to "high pressure" for seven minutes. Do quick release. Allow chicken to cool, then dice it. 

Cook pasta and drain (duh)

Peel and chop four stalks of celery.

Mix together sauce ingredients.

  1. Put pasta, chicken, and celery in a large bowl. Stir in the dressing and mix to coat. 

Tuna burgers

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Drain the tuna.

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

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