What’s for supper? Vol. 239: Nobody tell Marcella Hazan

Wow, is it Friday? Sorry for the radio silence on the site. I’ve been working on a bunch of other projects, like, a BUNCH. It’s a real feast-or-famine life for a freelancer. By which I mean I don’t know how to budget my time and I’m a mess. No, a planner would not help, because I would lose it. Yes, even if it was a special holy planner with stickers and lifestyle bookmarks or whatever you people are doing. 

My mother has COVID. She had her first dose of the vaccine before she tested positive, and her symptoms are fairly mild so far, no fever, just bad cold symptoms. Of course we can’t visit her, and I keep thinking how she used to be such a stoic, but now she doesn’t have any means of understanding what’s happening to her. But she does appear to be recovering, and they are taking good care of her. I keep thinking how this is her favorite kind of weather right now: Sparkling bright, dry, cold, plenty of snow on the ground. She absolutely loved shoveling, for some reason, and I remember being awestruck at her going at it without a jacket on. Here’s a picture of her when she had some dementia but was still living at home:

In the background you can see her beloved grapevine, which she pruned and netted, where she poured out Elijah’s cup after the Passover seder, and where she buried precious things. At some point we are going to have to figure out what to do with that house, but NOTTTTT NOWWWW. P.S., does anybody want to buy literally 12,000 used books? DM me.

Anyway. Distance schooling has been extended for another week. I have lost one of the slippers I got for Christmas, and it’s so dang cold. But, I had a massive craving for cheese before bed last night, and managed to muscle it into submission and just go to bed cheeseless, so **feeble cheer for minor victory**

I need to shake up my menu. People just aren’t eating what I’m cooking, and I’m throwing away so many leftovers. Also, the kids have taken to storing any and all leftovers in ziplock bags, which works, but it’s just so squalid. We need to either buy a goat or,  you know what, maybe I’ll stop buying so many delicious snacks. The snacking situation is UNTENABLE. I’m going to start a system where they can eat as much as they want, as long as they’ve grown it themselves on windowsills in little recycled egg cartons. Then we’ll see who’s hungry for . . . [checks notes] . . . slow cooked . . . thing. Anyway, I need to shake up my menu.

You know who likes my cooking? The birds! Chickadees, tufted titmice, and nuthatches, with the occasional cardinal and dark eyed junco. Here’s my recipe for birdseed cakes, and I’ve discovered a coffee filter makes a great liner when you freeze it. Helps keep the shape and peels off easily. 

5 from 1 vote
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bird seed cake

This recipe makes a sturdy hunk of bird food full of fat and protein. It's best for the kind of bird feeder with an enclosure or support system to hold it as the birds peck at it, but you can make your own free-hanging "bird bell" by feeding a loop of thick string into it before you freeze it, or by making a spot for a hole and then threading a rope through afterward.

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We like the kind of bird feeder that has a little platform and a central prong, so I make the seed cake in a round food storage container lined with parchment paper or, even better, a coffee filter. To make a hole, I roll up a wad of tinfoil to make a column for the center, and pour the bird seed mixture around that, and then dig the tinfoil out when it comes out of the freezer.

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This recipe makes TWO flat, round cakes about 5" in diameter and 2" deep

Ingredients

  • 1 cups peanut butter
  • 1 cups shortening (can add bacon grease)
  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 2 cups oatmeal
  • 1 cup birdseed

optional:

  • raisins, popped popcorn, cranberries, seeds, nuts

Instructions

  1. Prepare a container for the birdseed for a mold. If it's not a flexible container, line it with parchment paper.

  2. In a pot, melt the shortening and peanut butter over low heat, and stir to combine.

  3. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Pour the mixture into the prepared container. Remember, if you want to hang it or put it on a prong, you will need to put something in so there will be a hole.

  4. Freeze for several hours until the cake is solid. Remove from the mold and put it out for the birdies!

Here’s what the humans had this week:

SATURDAY
Pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw, tater tots

Not much to say about this. I put beer, apple cider vinegar, fresh jalapeños, and a couple other things in the slow cooker and let it cook all day, then fork shredded it. It was fine. Nice with some raw red onions.

We briefly discussed learning how to make actual BBQ sauce, but the concluded that Baby Ray’s or Sugar Ray’s or Honey Ray Ray’s or whatever it’s called is fine, and we always have 11 open bottles anyway.

SUNDAY
Pizza

I made six 16-inch pizzas, and was relieved to discover that was too much pizza. I made one cheese, two pepperoni, one olive, one olive-basil-ricotta,

and one basil-ricotta-fresh garlic-artichoke hearts-red onion-anchovy-red pepper flakes

which melded together verrrrry nicely.

They all got mozzarella, parmesan, and garlic powder and oregano. That last one was magnifico. 

I also had a lovely lunch of scrambled eggs mixed with various fajita beef bowl fixins from last week, so I got rid of some ziplock bags that were sloshing around in the fridge. I was excitedly telling my son about this wonderful lunch option, where you scramble a few eggs while heating up leftovers in the microwave and then jumble it together in a nice bowl, and he just looked at me. In a way that reminded me how we used to look at my mother when she would take whatever was leftover and heat it up in a pot with a giant glug of salsa from her giant salsa jug. 

Ohh the cat’s in the cradle and the salsa jug
Little boy blue and his ugly mug
When you shutting up, kids?
I don’t know when
I just wanna eat my lunch, guys. 
Let your mother eat her lunch.

To be fair, I was the one who called him over to look at my lunch, which is a rookie mistake my mother never would have made. 

MONDAY
Asian meatballs, rice, steamed broccoli

I went grocery shopping on Monday and didn’t get home until after dinner, partly because it was Benny’s shopping turn and she had some business to conduct at the Dollar Store, and these things can’t be rushed; so dinner was a real group effort. Started to make meatballs, sent son out to buy crackers, got daughter to finish making meatballs, asked husband to cook meatballs plus rice and broccoli.

Here are some meatballs I made back when there were sunshine and vegetables

I do like these meatballs. A few ingredients, simple preparation, mild flavor, and not too heavy. If you’re feeling inspired, you can dress up the meatballs with nice sauces and dips, or you can just have soy sauce. Soy sauce, brownest of the brown sauces. So tempting. 

TUESDAY
Spaghetti with bolognese sauce

I got it into my head to make a bolognese sauce, but really what I wanted was a ragu. Don’t ask me why I didn’t use the ragu recipe Damien always makes, which is superb. Well, the reason is that it looked a lot easier. I don’t know what I messed up, but it was extremely watery and kind of bland, despite all the lovely ingredients. I ended up having to siphon off about a quart of liquid, and probably ended up sopping up all the flavor with it.

I used Marcella Hazan’s recipe via Epicurious, and I sized it up x4, and that’s probably where my mistake came in. Also, I guess you’re supposed to use broader pasta with bolognese and save the spaghetti for ragu. This is not Marcella Hazan’s fault. She has been very clear about which sauces go with what pastas, and I just didn’t listen.

Oh well, it was still good. Just not the heavenly treat I was anticipating.

You can see I did buy a block of parmesan and shred it right before supper, so that was nice. 

WEDNESDAY
Instant pot beef teriyaki with rice and steamed vegetables

Another okay meal. I used this recipe and it was fine, but a little sweeter than I’d prefer, and it didn’t thicken up very well. No sauce I have ever made in my life thickens up well. IN MY LIFE. 

I meant to serve this with fresh broccoli very lightly steamed, but I ended up with microwaved bags of mixed vegetables that turned out to have sauce on them already. It was fine. Nice and easy, and the meat did come out very tender.

THURSDAY
Chicken nuggets and pasta salad

I reorganized my cabinets and weeded out a lot of stuff I will want at some point, but not right now. It’s pretty great! Now when I want peanut butter, I can just get it, rather than shoving around coconut cream and matzoh meal and molasses and packets of unflavored gelatin to find it. I know this is why you come to this site: For the amazing kitchen hacks. Tired of having cabinets that need cleaning out? Try cleaning out your cabinets! It really works!

The pasta salad was pretty good.

I had some sun dried tomatoes, fresh garlic, basil-infused olive oil, wine vinegar, pepperoni, feta cheese, and some more of that freshly-shredded parmesan, and plenty of freshly-ground pepper and sea salt. The feta cheese was probably not a great match, but nobody complained. 

I guess I had some kind of spasm at Aldi and bought four bags of chicken nuggets, which is 200 chicken nuggets. At the last moment I didn’t open the fourth bag, but of course that was still too many. But if I had only cooked two bags, there would have been a riot. I don’t know. I don’t know anything. 

I also managed to use three more boxes of my Ludicrous Pasta Backlog. There’s another hack for you. Tired of having nine boxes of pasta hanging around? Try cooking some of it! It really works!

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

Truthfully, only some of this will be macaroni, because in yesterday’s Pasta Hack, I only managed to use three boxes of pasta. They are not the ideal shape to receive cheese sauce. Nobody tell Marcella Hazan.

Here’s the one and only recipe card for the week, unless you want my recipe for chicken nuggets.

5 from 1 vote
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Vaguely Asian meatballs with dipping sauce

Very simple meatballs with a vaguely Korean flavor. These are mild enough that kids will eat them happily, but if you want to kick up the Korean taste, you can serve them with dipping sauces and pickled vegetables. Serve with rice.

Servings 30 large meatballs

Ingredients

  • 2.5 lbs ground beef
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed finely
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • entire head garlic, minced
  • 2 bunches scallions, chopped (save out a bit for a garnish)
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp ground pepper

For dipping sauce:

  • mirin or rice vinegar
  • soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.

  2. Mix together the meat and all the meatball ingredients with your hands until they are well combined. Form large balls and lay them on a baking pan with a rim.

  3. Bake for about 15 minutes.

  4. Serve over rice with dipping sauce and a sprinkle of scallions.

What’s for supper? Vol. 238: Will the real potato butt please stand up?

First, some important news. I don’t mean to be melodramatic, but this week, we all saw the dawn of a new era in America. It’s easy to sit around and hope for great things on a macro level, but it behooves us all to look around and see what changes we can make on a personal level. I’ve been thinking hard about the direction I want to go in, and after much prayer and reflection, I’m ready to announce the launching of a brand new project, and I truly hope you will all join me. It’s called Potatoes with butts, and you can follow it @PotatoesButts.What it is, is a twitter account that is just photos of potatoes with butts. I got the idea last week, when I saw this potato with a butt.

Here’s the thing, folks. This won’t work if I try to do it alone. My DMs are always open, and you can submit your photos of potatoes with butts and I will share them with mankind, and together we will do our part to make the world a little more full of photos of potatoes with butts. In these unprecedented times let us all work toward unity, and never allow ourselves to be cleft in two unless we are a potato with a butt. 

In other news, I am determined to be less of a potato butt on a personal level, so I started on my treadmill again, and I was passing the time by processing some food photo files. Here’s a little preview of what you’re in for this week:

That does sound tasty!

EDIT: I have unintentionally caused confusion with this joke. The screenshot above shows what autocorrect does to the names of my food photos when I’m on the treadmill and huffing and puffing too much to fix it while I upload them. If you wanted to, you could guess which of the following photos match up with irk chops, yffalo doh, hi ken plate, and Eminem inside chicken. I regret to inform you that “chickens vertical” is actually what I meant to type. I had a number of chicken photos, and in this particular one, well, they weren’t horizontal. 

Okay, here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Spaghetti carbonara, french bread

Delightful as always, and low-skill (although cooking for a crowd does require you to keep your head). I used four pounds of bacon and 3-1/2 pounds of spaghetti, and 423 mashed ends of butter sticks, and a whole thing of parmesan cheese.

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Some day I’ll get a block of parmesan and grate it fresh into the carbonara, but even the jarred stuff makes a great meal.

I haven’t made fresh bread for a while, so I was a little nervous, but it turned out well, fragrant, light, and a little sweet.

Nice simple recipe, just flour, water, salt, yeast, sugar, oil. A little cornmeal for the pan and a little butter to run over the hot top. 

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This recipe makes four long, fat loaves. (I do not intend to start a Twitter account for loaves of french bread that look like something it’s not. Because it’s VULGAR, that’s why.) A couple of them split, as you can see, because I didn’t slash them deeply enough, but no one complained. If you’re not great with bread, this is a reliable recipe, as long as you give it plenty of time to rise (it takes two rises). 

SUNDAY
Ina Garten’s roast chicken with fennel and lemon, candied sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce

Now here is a tasty roast chicken. Damien volunteered to make the main course, and he followed Ina Garten’s recipe, which calls for stuffing the bird with lemons, garlic, and thyme, and roasting it atop a bed of fennel, onion, carrots.

Very, very juicy and tasty. The lemon, garlic, and thyme flavors really make themselves known in the meat, but it was the caramelized vegetables that really wowed me, especially the fennel. Must get more fennel into life.

This led to me browsing my way through Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Classic Cooking, so we shall see what fennel may come. 

And here, for the curious, is a picture of Eminem inside chicken:

I also opened up some cans of cranberry sauce, which turned out to be whole berry because I’m a monster; and I made some candied sweet potatoes. It’s a fine recipe

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but in retrospect, something less sweet would have been a better foil for the other two dishes. 

MONDAY
Hot dogs of many nations, cheezy weezies

Not even really hot dogs of many nations. I intended to serve Chicago-style hot dogs (mustard, tomatoes, pickles, pickle relish, onion, pickled peppers, and celery salt) and buffalo hot dogs (blue cheese, scallions, and hot sauce), but by the time dinner came, buffalo seemed adventurous enough. 

Ugh, I will be so glad when it’s finally light at dinnertime again. The lighting is killing me. You can see all the grime in my house, but everything looks so garish and dire. Oh well. 

TUESDAY
Oven fried pork chops, pink risotto, peas

I’m just over here exhausted with all my same old same old pork recipes, so I poked around a little and tried something different, yet decidedly un-exotic: Breaded fried pork chops.

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I was planning to just chunk them in the oven, but at the last minute I thought they really needed a little browning up first, so I fried them in oil just to cook the outside

and then baked them to make sure the meat was done. I thought they were great, if a little bit of a hassle (because I made 12).

Will make again, probably using boneless pork ribs. The breading could easily be made more spicy, but it had a good, balanced flavor, and the texture was perfect, crunchy and light, and the meat was juicy. My mother used to make pork chops often, and they looked and tasted like a mitten that had fallen in the slush by the bus stop and been run over repeatedly, so I feel pretty good about this.

I made my reliable Instant Pot risotto, which is so easy and always turns out creamy and lovely, especially when I’m generous with the butter and cheese. On this day I was a little low on cheese, so it was slightly less gooey than normal, but still very nice.

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It calls for chicken broth and white wine, but all I had was three half-empty bottles of rosé and merlot, so in they went. Predictably, this changed the flavor slightly, and the color dramatically. 

I definitely prefer white wine in this, but the kids thought pink risotto was amusing, and I cleared up some counter space, so overall a win. 

WEDNESDAY
Pork ramen

The last few times I made fancy ramen, it caused a lot of suffering, I mean really bad suffering, like really bad, because someone’s mother had made JUST RAMEN FOR SUPPER (and meat and vegetables and crunchy noodles and sprouts and sauces and eggs), and so there was a lot left over. So this time, I only made six packages of ramen. You will be surprised to hear that everyone was very excited about ramen for supper, because it’s SO GOOD, and they gobbled it up and howled for more. So Lena made some more, but by the time it was ready, everyone had left to go lie on their necks and listen to K-pop. 

Anyway, here’s my ramen.

I ha it with wilted spinach, scallions, accidentally hard boiled eggs, quick-pickled carrots, scallions, pea shoots, a little broccoli, and pork sautéed in sesame oil, then sliced and simmered in soy sauce. I usually put hot sauce on it, but I tried some sweet chili oil and it wasn’t great. The carrots and vegetables added enough sweetness. 

THURSDAY
Beef fajita bowls

I love this meal. I got the meat marinating first thing, using this very sharp, savory marinade

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I actually used lemon juice rather than lime, and didn’t really notice the difference. Then, close to dinner time, I was afraid there wasn’t enough meat, so I went out and bought more, so some of the meat only had an hour to marinate. 

Ladies and gentlemen, marinating is magic. I was too hungry to stop and take a picture, but the difference between the two hunks of meat was astounding. The acid in the lemon (or lime) juice and the Worcestershire sauce breaks down the connective tissue and makes it so tender and yielding, and really opens it up to receive the flavor. 

I made a big pot of rice in the Instant Pot, and I set out bowls of everything so people could build their dinner as they pleased. I chose, uh, everything: Rice, beef, some sweet corn slightly charred in oil, scallions, fried onions and sweet peppers, black beans with tomatoes and chili peppers, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and corn chips. Oh, and some Taijin chili lime powder.

I scooped up a bunch of the gravy and poured it over the bowl because I can’t get enough of that tangy, garlicky juice. So good. 

I really love this meal. Beef is my favorite meat by far, and this is one of my favorite things to do with it. 

FRIDAY
Fish tacos

I guess just tortillas, batter-fried fish from frozen, shredded cabbage, salsa, sour cream, limes, and avocados. This would be great with guacamole, or, even better, pico de gallo, but we always have it on Fridays when my ambition is so low.

Well, adios. Don’t forget to send me your potatoes with butts. DM my Twitter, or email it to simchafisher at gmail dot com, or message me through Facebook, or just throw it through my window as you drive by. 

5 from 3 votes
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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.

 

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
  • 4-1/2 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.

5 from 3 votes
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Candied sweet potatoes

Easy and pleasant. Please do not top with marshmallows, as that is an abomination.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks. Canned is fine, although they will be slightly mushier.
  • 6 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400. Grease a baking dish.

  2. Combine the sugar, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Add the melted butter and stir to make a paste.

  3. If you're using canned sweet potatoes, drain them. Spread the potatoes in the dish and distribute the butter-sugar mixture evenly over them. Use a spoon or spatula to toss the potatoes so they are coated with the mixture.

  4. Cook for 30-40 minutes. If you're using fresh potatoes, stir every 15 minutes to keep the sauce distributed well. If you're using canned, let it be, so they don't turn into mush.

5 from 3 votes
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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. 

5 from 3 votes
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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.

What’s for supper? Vol. 233: The secret ingredient

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SATURDAY
Aldi pizza

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

SUNDAY
Roast beef sandwiches, chips

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

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

MONDAY
Chicken parm sandwiches, cheesy bread sticks

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

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

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

TUESDAY
Ham, peas, garlic mashed potatoes

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

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

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

WEDNESDAY
Pork ribs, risotto, roasted acorn squash rings

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

 

 

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

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

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

Actual footage of me, turning once:

 

via GIPHY

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

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

THURSDAY
Bibimbap

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

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and set some carrots to pickling

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

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

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

FRIDAY

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

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

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

Salted bourbon pecan pie filling

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cranberry brie tarts

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

Ingredients

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

cranberries:

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

honey mixture:

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Garlic parmesan mashed potatoes

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs potatoes
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 8 Tbsp butter
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 8 oz grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Peel the potatoes and put them in a pot. Cover the with water. Add a bit of salt and the smashed garlic cloves.

  2. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer with lid loosely on until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.

  3. Drain the water out of the pot. Add the butter and milk and mash well.

  4. Add the parmesan and salt and pepper to taste and stir until combined.

 

5 from 3 votes
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Instant Pot Risotto

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

 

Korean sauce for bibimbap or other dishes with meat

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

 

quick-pickled carrots and/or cucumbers for banh mi, bibimbap, ramen, tacos, etc.

An easy way to add tons of bright flavor and crunch to a meal. We pickle carrots and cucumbers most often, but you can also use radishes, red onions, daikon, or any firm vegetable. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 lb mini cucumbers (or 1 lg cucumber)

For the brine (make double if pickling both carrots and cukes)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar (other vinegars will also work; you'll just get a slightly different flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Mix brine ingredients together until salt and sugar are dissolved. 

  2. Slice or julienne the vegetables. The thinner they are, the more flavor they pick up, but the more quickly they will go soft, so decide how soon you are going to eat them and cut accordingly!

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

  3. Cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight or longer. Refrigerate if you're going to leave them overnight or longer.

What’s for supper? Vol. 231: Beef fajita bowls! Harvest chicken salad! Improved Instant Pot risotto! and endless pizza

How much pizza did we consume this week? All de pizza! Starting with Aldi pizza, ho ho ho.

SATURDAY
Aldi pizza

Like I said. 

SUNDAY
Pork chops, risotto

I was still feeling pretty punk on Sunday (health report: I do not have covid or pneumonia. I have Nonspecific Virus That Takes Forever to Recover From, plus massive reflux causing shortness of breath and chest pain, plus fluid in my ears), so I spent nine and a half hours trying to order food from Instacart. First they delivered it to the wrong house, but never texted me, so the food sat there for hours before I realized what had happened. Then they told me they could simply reorder the food, and I’d have it in two hours. Three hours later, they said: Oops, actually we don’t have any shoppers, but we can totally get it to you sometime tomorrow.

So I cancelled the second order, and they handsomely promised to refund my money within five days. BOO. This is my first bad Instacart experience. So I got to spend all day on Sunday shopping but not getting food, and then also go shopping on Monday. 

Luckily, we had pork chops and rice in the house (because when I say I don’t feel up to shopping, I mean I only feel up to going to two stores, not three), so I made this rather lackluster meal of broiled pork chops and Instant Pot risotto with Random Cucumbers. I think the dirty countertop really sells it. 

The yellow is duck sauce, which helped a bit. The fancy plate is because all the other plates were dirty.

The risotto actually turned out great, pretty darn close to laborious stovetop risotto. I increased the cook time by a minute, and it came wonderfully creamy. I also sautéed the rice in olive oil and then added extra butter along with the broth and wine, and that did not hurt one bit. 

Jump to Recipe

 

MONDAY
Harvest chicken salad

Monday we had a sort of Thanksgiving Lite Preview: Salad topped with pieces of roast chicken, dried cranberries, green apples, toasted pecans, blue cheese, and a balsamic fig dressing. It was so tasty and harvest-y. Bringing in the sheaves and whatnot.

Then I was struck with sudden pangs of guilt because I was serving my family “just salad” (even though you can barely see any green struggling away under the load of toppings). I happened to have a dozen graham cracker pie shells I bought on a whim a few weeks ago, and a can of pumpkin puree with a recipe on the label, and some heavy cream, so I made these cute little pies to serve along with dinner.

The kids were delighted. Yes, I will buy their love with pie. 

TUESDAY
Hot dogs, chips

Not even the good kind of hot dog! *shakes fist at Instacart*

WEDNESDAY
Fajita beef bowls

I hereby announce, proclaim, declare, set forth, and otherwise shriek that I know “fajita” originally referred to a certain cut of steak, and then began to mean grilled strips of meat served on a tortilla. So you will see that, because there is neither skirt steak nor tortillas in this dish, it doesn’t really makes sense to call these “fajita bowls.” But I don’t know what else to call them. Texmexibowls. Spicy bois. You see my problem. So let’s just pull together in these troubled times and not be pedantic, all right? It was good food, so there.

They had these hunks of beef, maybe like a chuck roast or something, on sale. I cut them up into strips, marinated it for several hours, and then pan fried it. Here’s the marinade, with lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, fresh garlic, cumin, salt and pepper, paprika, chili powder, and fresh cilantro:

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Then I made a big pot of Instant Pot rice, and set it out with the meat and a bunch of toppings: Corn I sautéed in oil to give it a little char, fried onions, black beans with tomatoes and diced chili peppers; fresh cilantro, sour cream, limes, and corn chips. 

It was a hit! It definitely would have been nice to have some avocados or guacamole, pico de gallo, or fried peppers, but everyone liked at least some part of this meal. Some of the kids had rice and corn chips for supper, and I don’t care.

Very happy to have another option for when beef is cheap, but not so cheap we can all have steak. If there is a nicer cut of beef to be had, I may marinate it whole and then grill it, and slice it afterward; but the slice-marinate-panfry method was not a bad option. 

THURSDAY
Pizza

I did ask the kids if it was going to be okay to have pizza on the menu twice, especially since most of them get pizza for lunch on Fridays. They all said it was okay. 

They didn’t have pepperoni in either store, for some reason, so I made one cheese, two black olive, one sausage, one red onion, basil, garlic, and ricotta, and one black olive, basil, sausage, garlic, and ricotta. I top them all with oregano and garlic powder. I sometimes put parmesan on top of that, but I forgot. 

I am liking the results of using no more than about a tablespoon of ricotta in dollops all over the pizza, with red pepper flakes baked in. 

So nice. 

FRIDAY
Ginger scallion noodles

I don’t even have a recipe for this yet, but I plucked the idea off the internet airwaves, so I’m sure I’ll find something good. I definitely have some linguine and fresh ginger in the house, and so many little cups of sprouting scallions on the windowsills, so that sounds like a recipe, right? 

And the kids are eating pizza for lunch as we speak. It’s okay with me. 

5 from 3 votes
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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. 

 

5 from 3 votes
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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.

What’s for supper, Vol. 230: In which I mise all over the place

Ho hum, what a dull week. At least we have food to talk about. Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Cheeseburgers and candy

Halloween! We had some kind of complicated plan with multiple cars and pick ups and drop offs before trick or treating, so Damien bought a sack of Wendy’s burgers and distributed them to anyone who would slow down long enough to eat one, and/or could bend their arms enough to reach their mouths with their costumes on. 

We had a really good costume year. Clara taught herself how to sew and made a dress and a cloak, and went as an autumn warrior elf or something. 

Elijah spent about 900 hours cutting, shaping, sanding, gluing, and painting bits of foam, and came out with this incredible Mandalorian costume

Lucy and Sophia had store-bought costumes and wigs, Tsuyu and Ochako, which they bought with money they earned by working, and Lucy made her boots out of foam

Irene was Grunkle Stan (I made the fez and she made the 8 ball cane)

Benny was a fairy princess dragon

and Corrie was Jim from Troll Hunters

And that was that! Only about half as many people as usual were giving out treats, but they made up for numbers with enthusiasm, ingenious candy delivery devices, and of course candy. 

SUNDAY
Pulled chicken sandwiches, coleslaw, french fries

Wanted to try something easy but different. This didn’t knock anyone’s socks off, but it was fine. I served it with red onions and little dill pickles.

I used this recipe that calls for grated onion, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and bottled BBQ sauce, and it came out tasting exactly like I had just used bottled BBQ sauce. Next time I’ll either skip the extra ingredients and just do that, or else I’ll find a recipe that delivers more for the effort. It’s nice to have something else to do with chicken, anyway. 

MONDAY
Beef barley soup, pumpkin muffins (and soul cakes)

A snowy, blustery day, great for soup and muffins. Beef barley soup is popular with more than half the family, which is pretty good. My version has onions, carrots, mushrooms, tender beef, tomatoes, barley, and a rich beef broth with red wine, and plenty of pepper. 

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I made it in the Instant Pot, but this recipe easily adapts for stovetop. 

Poor Benny made her first batch of pumpkin muffins all by herself last week, and just as she was ready to pop them in the oven, the pan tipped over and it all flopped out on the floor. So she was especially glad to see these. 

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I think my baking soda may be a bit feeble, or maybe I just didn’t fill the tins high enough; but they turned out well enough, if not lofty and huge. 

I made a double recipe, which gave me enough for 24 muffins and a large loaf. For the loaf, I added dried cranberries and sunflower seeds. 

I had to leave the house while it was still baking, so it stayed in the oven a little too long and got too dry; but it was still pleasant and hearty. I’ll use this combination again, or maybe walnuts instead of sunflower seeds.

And it being All Souls Day, Clara made these lovely soul cakes, as I mentioned

Good smell day at the Fisher house. 

TUESDAY
Asian meatballs and rice

Election day. I wanted something I could prep ahead of time and serve without a lot of fuss, because Damien and I were both out after dinner covering election results. So I went with Asian meatballs, which is a foolproof recipe. 

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OR SO I THOUGHT.

My fellow Americans, these meatballs were horrendous.  I don’t know what happened. I was in such a rush and ended up eyeballing the spices, and, well, I guess I know what happened. They were so horribly salty and harsh and awful! Oh well. It’s a good recipe if you follow it. 

That’s hot sauce, not ketchup. And no, putting hot sauce on your painfully salty meatballs doesn’t make them better. After I took this picture, I tried adding duck sauce, which also, you’ll never guess, didn’t help. I don’t even know what is wrong with me. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken burgers, chips, quinoa and kale

I made a big speech about how I bought a bag of steamable quinoa and kale because I happen to like it, and they are welcome to have some if they want, but no one has to eat it, and they can just eat their fake Pringles, and they just aren’t allowed to give me a hard time about my quinoa and kale. 

They did give me a hard time, though, the little creeps.

I happen to like quinoa and kale!  Leave me alone with my mountain of quinoa and kale! Love is love. In this house we believe you should leave your mother alone. 

THURSDAY
Banh mi

A long-promised meal. This really is the queen of all sandwiches. 

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I guess this was the only meal that really turned out this week. I didn’t want to mention it before, but the mushrooms in the beef barley soup were a little past their prime, and I tried to pretend it was fine, but the soup was really not that great. And to be honest, I should have cooked this banh mi pork right in the pan, rather than on a rack, because it was a little dry. 

But I did toast-and-not-burn the baguettes, and I pickled ever so many carrots,

Jump to Recipe

and there were cucumbers, plenty of cilantro, pickled jalapeños, and sriracha mayo, and it’s a dem fine sandwich. A dem fine sandwich. Worth the effort. 

It’s killing me that today is meatless Friday. We may even have some leftover rice, and I could be having a leftover banh mi bowl right now. I was talking it over with Lena and we agreed, we need more bowls of things in our life. Vote for me; I’ll get you a bowl of something. 

FRIDAY
Eggs migas with refried beans

I don’t even have to look; I can feel that we have 346 bags of tortillas in the house. The eggs are probably all frozen, but what the hell. We even have some refried beans, and that has made all the difference.

I guess I haven’t written up a migas recipe yet. Don’t tell anyone I said that, but it’s basically matzoh brei for Mexicans. You slice some tortillas thin and fry them until crisp, then add in some beaten eggs and scramble it together. You can add in other stuff while it cooks, but I like to cook it simply and then serve the extras as toppings and sides. 

And there it is. I’m projecting a win for everyone at dinnertime today.

Here’s the recipe cards for the week. 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. 

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 barley soup (Instant Pot or stovetop)

Makes about a gallon of lovely soup

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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


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

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

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

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

 

Pumpkin quick bread or muffins

Makes 2 loaves or 18+ muffins

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

 

5 from 1 vote
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Vaguely Asian meatballs with dipping sauce

Very simple meatballs with a vaguely Korean flavor. These are mild enough that kids will eat them happily, but if you want to kick up the Korean taste, you can serve them with dipping sauces and pickled vegetables. Serve with rice.

Servings 30 large meatballs

Ingredients

  • 2.5 lbs ground beef
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed finely
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • entire head garlic, minced
  • 2 bunches scallions, chopped (save out a bit for a garnish)
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp ground pepper

For dipping sauce:

  • mirin or rice vinegar
  • soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.

  2. Mix together the meat and all the meatball ingredients with your hands until they are well combined. Form large balls and lay them on a baking pan with a rim.

  3. Bake for about 15 minutes.

  4. Serve over rice with dipping sauce and a sprinkle of scallions.

 

Pork banh mi

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs Pork loin
  • 1 cup fish sauce
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 minced onion
  • 1/2 head garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1.5 tsp pepper

Veggies and dressing

  • carrots
  • cucumbers
  • vinegar
  • sugar
  • cilantro
  • mayonnaise
  • Sriracha sauce

Instructions

  1. Slice the raw pork as thinly as you can. 

  2. Mix together the fish sauce ingredients and add the meat slices. Seal in a ziplock bag to marinate, as it is horrendously stinky. Marinate several hours or overnight. 

  3. Grill the meat over coals or on a pan under a hot broiler. 

  4. Toast a sliced baguette or other crusty bread. 

 

quick-pickled carrots and/or cucumbers for banh mi, bibimbap, ramen, tacos, etc.

An easy way to add tons of bright flavor and crunch to a meal. We pickle carrots and cucumbers most often, but you can also use radishes, red onions, daikon, or any firm vegetable. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 lb mini cucumbers (or 1 lg cucumber)

For the brine (make double if pickling both carrots and cukes)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar (other vinegars will also work; you'll just get a slightly different flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Mix brine ingredients together until salt and sugar are dissolved. 

  2. Slice or julienne the vegetables. The thinner they are, the more flavor they pick up, but the more quickly they will go soft, so decide how soon you are going to eat them and cut accordingly!

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

  3. Cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight or longer. Refrigerate if you're going to leave them overnight or longer.

What’s for supper? Vol. 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.

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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. 

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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.

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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 OR red wine
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

plenty of 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. 226: In which we dedicate an entire day to dumplings and do not regret it

Hello, I have bronchitis. It’s a pretty mild case, but I’m milking it for all it’s worth, so let’s go ahead and say that’s why I haven’t written anything all week. And my car started leaking gas and the headlights both went out, which, you know, me too. So poor Damien has been doing all the driving as well as all his own work. It has not been a good week. 

We did cook, though! A few nice meals this week. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Pork spiedies, cole slaw, chips

Here you can witness my complete disregard for cuts of meat. I got two hunks of pork and I don’t even know what they were, except that they were definitely two very different cuts. It always works out fine. This is actually the most important part of enjoying your own cooking: Just not caring that much. I guess it works for other people’s cooking, too. If I had to come up with a motto, it would be: Just eat it, okay? 

Most of the wild mint has survived the cold weather, so I added plenty to this nice spiedie marinade, which is worth the slight hassle, and marinated the meat for several hours. . 

Jump to Recipe

Then I spread the pork in pans with mushrooms and red onion wedges and broiled it until it had a little char.

We ate it on sandwich rolls with mayonnaise, and it was tasty. I like this combination of meat, onion, and mushroom, because they all end up getting cooked to the right point at the same time. Juicy, tender meat, crunchy onions, and the mushrooms grabbed up so much flavor. 

There was leftover cabbage from last week’s fish tacos, so I made a simple cole slaw, and we had chips. 

SUNDAY
Pork dumplings, hot and sour soup, white rice, sesame broccoli

Sunday, we expected (but didn’t quite manage) to be home all day, so we planned a rather elaborate meal. I thought it was delicious, but definitely a learning process. 

I made the pork filling and sauce for the dumplings ahead of time, and then Damien and I experimented with different methods of forming the dumplings. I used this recipe.

We ended up with about eighty, I think.

The dough is not very pliable, but as long as you don’t overstuff them, they hold together well enough with a dab of water and a pinch. I ended up putting a teaspoon of filling in the center, folding it corner-to-corner, and then making crimps along the edge. 

When we had a good supply, Damien started cooking them. The recipe calls for frying them in oil on both sides and then adding water to steam them. 

This resulted in a gluey mess, and it was not a cooking method conducive to many batches. Some of the dumplings held together, but many of them got both slobbery and burnt. So we decided, hey, it’s our food, we can do what we want. So he just fried the rest and put them in the oven for a bit, to make sure they were fully cooked, and they were absolutely delicious that way.

We may have overcooked them a bit, because we’re a little paranoid about undercooked pork, but they were so nice. Crunchy and crisp on the outside, wonderfully savory inside, and the dipping sauce was perfect.

I won’t change a thing about the filling ingredients. It tasted exactly like what they serve at our favorite restaurants. I considered making handmade wrappers, but luckily Damien hunted down some readymade wonton wraps at the Coop. 

Next time, we will probably deep fry them, though, so they get more evenly cooked. There will be a next time! I bought a little dumpling press (at 3:30 a.m., perfectly normal) and that should speed up the assembly next time. 

The soup was another story. I used this recipe from Damn Delicious. It was SO so salty. Next time I will use low sodium soy sauce (which the recipe did call for, and I ignored!), and probably less of it. It also never took on that slightly — what’s a nice word for slimy? — consistency that you look for, but was just brothy. I just don’t ever have luck thickening things, and that’s a fact. 

But I loved everything else about it. It was sour and tangy and rich and full of weird stuff, shiitake mushrooms, firm tofu, bamboo shoots, and those wonderful silky egg strands suspended all through it. If you have a cold, a bowl of this will clear out your head pretty quick.

All in all, a wonderful meal.

We had vanilla bean ice cream and fortune cookies for dessert. I was too wiped out to cut up the pineapples I bought. 

I ended up eating the soup for lunch for three days and then regretfully getting rid of the rest. I made way, way too much of it, and it was just time. Next time, I’ll make something a little more accessible, like won ton soup, so more people will eat it! But I don’t regret making something that I really wanted to eat myself.  

Oh, I did save out the leftover dumpling wraps, slice them thin, and fry them up in hot sesame oil, and the kids absolutely loved them. So light and crunchy.

We also had roasted sesame broccoli, but we ran out of oven space and had to eat it for a second course. Here’s my simple roast sesame broccoli recipe.

Jump to Recipe

Always popular.

MONDAY
Hamburgers

Back to basics! We may have had a vegetable, but I doubt it. 

TUESDAY
Chicken burgers

I feel like I did something to fancy these up a bit, but there’s no photographic evidence, so probably we just had chicken burgers.

WEDNESDAY
Roast beef sandwiches

Chuck roast was $1.99 a pound, so I scooped up three nice big ones. I slathered them with olive oil and absolutely smothered them with a combination of kosher salt, ground pepper, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning. Then I put them in a low oven, I think maybe 250, for about an hour and a half. And that’s it. It would have been swell with some overnight marinating or fresh herbs or whatever, but this was great. 

My policy is to cook it rare, and if the little cretins want to throw it in the microwave, they can.

I sliced it as thinly as I could and then poured the drippings over it.

Moist and flavorful. We had it on kaiser rolls with mayo, tomatoes, and muenster cheese. I was too impatient to toast it and melt the cheese.

And onion rings from frozen. I do love onion rings.

THURSDAY
Pizza

I couldn’t find pepperoni in either supermarket, so all I got was black olives, and then mooched around for whatever else I could find for toppings. I ended up with one plain cheese pizza, one olive, one olive and ricotta cheese, one ricotta cheese, red onion, fresh garlic, and fresh basil

and one, ahem, ricotta, tomato, garlic, hot pepper flakes, and broccoli.

The broccoli isn’t quite what I was hunting for. I think what I really want is an eggplant pizza. What I really want is to be lost and freezing cold from a sudden drenching rain in Rome, and to duck into a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant and order a piping hot eggplant calzone, and have it be the best thing I’ve ever experienced with my mortal flesh. But failing that, I may try eggplant pizza next time. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese.

Jump to Recipe

We certainly have a lot of cheese in this house. We certainly do. 

Okay, that’s it! Boy, now I’m thinking about dumplings again. Soon, my pretties. Soon. 

pork spiedies (can use marinade for shish kebob)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup veg or olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp dried mint
  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4-5 lbs boneless pork, cubed
  • peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, cut into chunks

Instructions

  1. Mix together all marinade ingredients. 

    Mix up with cubed pork, cover, and marinate for several hours or overnight. 

    Best cooked over hot coals on the grill on skewers with vegetables. Can also spread in a shallow pan with veg and broil under a hot broiler.

    Serve in sandwiches or with rice. 

 

Sesame broccoli

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat broiler to high.

    Toss broccoli spears with sesame oil. 

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

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

 

5 from 1 vote
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Baked macaroni and cheese

This is a vague recipe. You can change the proportions of the ingredients to make it thicker or thinner, more or less cheesy. I don't care!

Servings 12

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 224: Gentle woman, serviceable dove

Oh dear, I skipped another week! We’ll do a highlights reel of last week before moving on to this week.

Cumin chicken thighs and chickpeas  with yogurt sauce and lemony onions

An easy meal, pleasant and tasty, even though I forgot to buy pita bread.

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There were a few leftover wraps in the house, so that was fine. 

I sure do like roasted chickpeas. So nice and salty and savory, with a little crisp ridge outside and a chewy inside. Mmm.

Pizza

Nothing much to report except that my favorite meatless topping combo is now fresh basil, fresh garlic slices, thin red onions, ricotta cheese, and red pepper flakes baked right into the ricotta cheese. Yuhm. We’ve had several frosts, but I brought all six basil plants inside and found homes for everybody, so we should be set for a while. Also plenty of geraniums to get us through the winter. Mmm, geraniums.

Lemon garlic chicken, oven roasted potatoes, mashed acorn squash

It was SUPPOSED to be beef barley soup day.

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Some of the kids have been begging for beef barley soup, and it was finally cold enough. I really gave it my all. First I burned the onions, then I burned my hand on steam, and then I went ahead and burned the entire pot of soup, probably six quarts of it. I was distraught, let me tell you. But Damien drained off the liquid and portioned it out, and the dog has been feasting on cold burned beef barley soup for breakfast all week, and he couldn’t be happier.

Luckily, we had some chickens thawed, so he made this wonderful lemon garlic roast chicken from Ina Garten, which calls for stuffing the bird cavity with halves of lemon and entire heads of garlic cloven (har har) in half, with onions on the outside.

Oh my friends, it was so juicy and flavorful. I can’t imagine going back to normal roast chicken. Here’s the inside, so you can see I’m not kidding about the garlic.

Oh yes, I helped myself to some of that garlic.

I made two giant trays of oven roasted potatoes (skin-on potato wedges, olive oil, and misc seasonings, roasted until slightly crisp) and cooked a couple of acorn squashes in the Instant Pot, and Damien mashed the squash and added I think butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar. A lovely early autumn meal. 

 

Manicotti and garlic bread, Holy Spirit cake or whatever

The original plan was to get three of the kids confirmed, but, covid. So we stayed home and I decided to go ahead with the meal plans, which were for stuffed shells (one of the more festive meatless meals I can manage on a weekday). Well, I don’t know if Chrissy Tiegen made something with stuffed shells and caused a panic or what, but there was exactly one box of pasta shells in the store (which is definitely not enough for our family). So I got manicotti, and man, there is a reason I don’t usually make manicotti. I boiled the pasta tubes in water with oil, rinsed them, and carefully laid them in layers between parchment paper to keep them from sticking together. Guess what, they stuck together. And none of the stuffing systems I rigged up (pastry bag, fake pastry bag, soda bottle extruder) worked. So I ended up carefully spooning cheese filling into 40 stuck-together pasta tubes that kept tearing, and I did not enjoy that. 

It tasted good, though. I just followed the recipe on the box, plus I added a little nutmeg to the cheese mixture.

And there was tons of garlic bread. Which I burned half of, because why not.

I also made a cake, to signify the way in which the Holy Spirit will someday allegedly descend with seven gifts for the kids. It was supposed to be just a giant fire cake, with flames made of hard candies melted on parchment paper in a low oven, cooled, and shattered into flame shapes for a dramatic three-dimensional stained glass effect. This does work! I’ve done it before! I won an award from the Boy Scouts for my flame cake! But somehow none of the stores I went to had the right kind of candy. So I ended up with cinnamon discs and butterscotch discs, which melted very sluggishly and stayed thick and cloudy. I bashed them up anyway and made a kind of ember effect around the outside of the cake,

and piped in a serviceable dove on top, and spooned on a bunch of yellow sugar.

I love that song, don’t you? Gentle woman . . . serviceable dove . . . teach us wisdom . . . here’s a cake. Anyway, we had cake and people were kind of jerks about it, to be honest. I guess we’re all tired.

SATURDAY
Korean beef bowl, rice, sesame roast broccoli

Korean beef bowl:
Jump to Recipe

Sesame broccoli:
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My lovely assistant helped with the broccoli,

which was made with sesame oil, soy sauce, a little salt, and some sesame seeds, and then roasted slightly crisp

Always a popular meal, and very easy.

SUNDAY
Chinese pork roast, rice, pineapple, string beans; lemon meringue pie

Here’s a recipe suggested by John Herreid.

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It was very easy and very popular, but you have to have a big chunk of time to cook it. I marinated the roast for a full 24 hours and then cooked it for a total of six hours, basting every ten minutes for the last hour. It looked a little less grisly in person

and next time I will cover it while it’s cooking at least part of the time, so the crust isn’t quite as crusty. But oh man, it was tasty. The outside was so savory and rich, and once you bashed through to the inside, it was tender as heck. I could have cut it with a wooden popsicle stick.

I made a ton of rice and cut up some pineapples. I just plain ran out of steam by the time it was time to think about string beans, so we just had them raw. I do like raw vegetables to balance out a really rich meat anyway. 

THEN, those of us who have been reading Amelia Bedelia had a sudden yen for lemon meringue pie, but I didn’t have a yen for all that work, so I found a cheaty recipe, which I modified a bit.

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I made the crust by whirring up our vast animal cracker reserves, and then mixing the crumbs with a ludicrous amount of melted butter and a little brown sugar. It made a good crust, maybe a bit too thick, but with a pleasant taste, and sturdy.

I guess it’s just me, but I really value sturdiness in desserts. I’m always so embarrassed when my desserts slump and slosh and wallow around in the pan, which they almost always do. But this was one stand up pie! The lemon part was more opaque and custard-like, less glisten-y than you normally see in lemon meringue pie, and the meringue did relax a bit, because I left it on the hot stove for a few hours, duh; but overall, LOOKIT THIS DAMN PIECE OF PIE, IN THE SHAPE OF A PIECE OF PIE.

Totally hit the spot, and it was way, way less work than a more authentic lemon meringue pie.

MONDAY
Chicken quesadillas, corn chips

Kinda lackluster. I just threw some frozen chicken into the Instant Pot with a cup of water and, when it was shreddable, I shredded it and sprinkled on some chili lime powder. Hey, it was hot. I burned one, but we happen to have one kid who likes burned food, so there. 

TUESDAY
Chicken soup with matzoh balls, challah; birthday cake

Tuesday was Clara’s birthday, and she requested chicken soup with matzoh balls, which I normally only make on Passover, but why not? And I made two pneumatic challahs, very pretty, if slightly bland.

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I eyeballed the salt and I think I under salted it, so go ahead and measure the salt.

I started the soup in the morning and cooked it all day, and made the matzoh balls right before supper. Everyone was pleased, and the house smelled so happy.

She couldn’t decide what kind of cake she wanted, so I went with an Over the Garden Wall theme.

It was a box cake mix, but I made a royal icing to decorate it, and it hardened up nicely. I forgot how easy it is to make (it’s just egg whites and sugar and a little lemon juice).

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You can make it thinner if you want to pour it over cookies or petits fours or something, or thicker if you want to spread it or pipe it, which I did. It would have come out smoother if I had added less sugar. Next time! You can also run over it with a hot hairdryer if you really want a smooth surface, but it’s a little perilous. 

WEDNESDAY
Aldi pizza

Heck yes. 

THURSDAY
Beef barley soup for real this time

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I tried again, and I didn’t burn it! Nice and chonky. I also had some hot pretzels in the freezer, but I forgot all about them.

FRIDAY
I believe the kids are having their choice of tuna noodle or boxaroni, and Damien and I are running away from home (and then coming right back again after we eat). 

Hokay! That’s a lot of food. Here are the recipe cards. 

Cumin chicken thighs with chickpeas in yogurt sauce

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

Ingredients

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

For garnishes:

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

Garnishes:

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

     -Chop up some cilantro for sprinkling if people like.

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

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

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 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. 

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 improve the flavor by using fresh garlic and fresh ginger, but powdered works fine, too. The proportions are flexible, and you can easily add more of any sauce ingredient at the end of cooking. 

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (or less if you're not crazy about sweetness)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil (you can skip this, really, or use olive oil, but it adds flavor)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger (or 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed (or 3/4 tsp garlic powder)
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • scallions, chopped, for garnish
  • sesame seeds for garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat the sesame or other oil in a skillet. Lightly cook then garlic, then add the ground beef and cook, breaking into bits, until the meat is all browned. Drain most of the fat. 

  2. Mix together the brown sugar, ginger, soy sauce, and pepper flakes, and add to the ground beef. Or you can actually just chuck everything in the pan and stir it up right there. Cook a little longer until everything is combined and hot. 

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

 

Sesame broccoli

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat broiler to high.

    Toss broccoli spears with sesame oil. 

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

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

Chinese pork roast

Marinate the meat overnight, and leave six hours for cooking. Serve over rice

Ingredients

  • 10 lbs pork
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup wine
  • 1 Tbsp Chinese five spice

Instructions

  1. Mix the marinade ingredients together and marinate the meat overnight.

  2. Drain the marinade and put the meat on a pan with a lip. Cook at 300 for five hours. Cover with tinfoil if the meat is cooking too quickly.

  3. After five hours of cooking, pour the reserved marinade over the meat. Every ten minutes for an additional hour, baste the meat.

  4. Let the roast rest for ten minutes before carving.

Cheater's lemon meringue pie

I like a pie shell made from several cups of animal cracker crumbs whirred into a sandy texture, mixed with a stick of melted butter and 1/4 cup of brown sugar and a dash of salt. Mix well and press into the pan.

Ingredients

  • 1 pie shell

For the lemon layer:

  • 14 oz sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested

For the meringue:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350

  2. Mix together the condensed milk, egg yolks, lemon juice, and lemon zest until well combined. Pour the mixture into the pie shell.

  3. Bake 10-15 minutes until the mixture has a little skin.

  4. While it's baking, use an electric mixer with a whisk attachment to beat the egg whites until it has soft peaks. Then gradually add the sugar until it has stiff peaks.

  5. When the lemon layer comes out of the oven, spread the meringue over the top and make a little peaks all over it with a fork or spatula.

  6. Return the pie to the oven and bake for another ten minutes or so until the meringue is slightly browned.

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.

Royal icing

An icing that dries hard, so you can use it to glue pieces together, or use as a flat surface to decorate. Add less sugar to make it thinner and pour over cookies or petits fours; add more sugar to make it more thick for spreading or piping. It will be stiff enough to decorate over within about half an hour, and it will be like cement in four hours.

Ingredients

  • 4 egg whites
  • 6 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
  • 2 tsp lemon juice

Instructions

  1. In an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites on high until they are opaque and foamy.

  2. Add the sugar a little scoop at a time, continuing to whisk on high. Add the lemon juice.

  3. Keep whisking on high until the icing is as thick as you want it. Adjust how much sugar you add to make it as thick as you want.

  4. Keep the icing covered tightly, with plastic wrap touching the icing, until you're ready to use it because it starts drying out immediately.

 
 

Beef barley soup (Instant Pot or stovetop)

Makes about a gallon of lovely soup

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Pork ribs, mashed potatoes, corn

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

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

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

 

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Next time! 

SUNDAY
Spaghetti carbonara

Always popular.

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

 

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MONDAY
Aldi pizza

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEDNESDAY
Steak teriyaki stir fry, white rice

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

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

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

THURSDAY
Carnitas with guacamole, corn on the cob

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

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

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

FRIDAY
Tuna burgers, cheesy tomato soup

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

 

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

 

Smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

 

Garlic parmesan mashed potatoes

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs potatoes
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 8 Tbsp butter
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 8 oz grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Peel the potatoes and put them in a pot. Cover the with water. Add a bit of salt and the smashed garlic cloves.

  2. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer with lid loosely on until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.

  3. Drain the water out of the pot. Add the butter and milk and mash well.

  4. Add the parmesan and salt and pepper to taste and stir until combined.

 

5 from 3 votes
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Spaghetti carbonara

An easy, delicious meal.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs bacon
  • 3 lbs spaghetti
  • 1 to 1-1/2 sticks butter
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • lots of pepper
  • 6-8 oz grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon until it is crisp. Drain and break it into pieces.

  2. Boil the spaghetti in salted water until al dente. If you like, add some bacon grease to the boiling water.

  3. Drain the spaghetti and return it to the pot. Add the butter, pieces of bacon, parmesan cheese, and pepper and mix it up until the butter is melted.

  4. Add the raw beaten egg and mix it quickly until the spaghetti is coated. Serve immediately.

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

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

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

 

Tuna burgers

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Drain the tuna.

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

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