That’s what the kids at home made and ate. Damien and I took our latest high school graduate out to eat for a celebration meal, and we all ate long past the point of regret. Someone’s gonna put fresh, hot bread and herbed olive oil, seafood chowder, fried calamari, and shrimp scampi in front of me, what am I gonna do? I’m not made of stone. But I said no to the berry mascarpone torte, mainly because I was still finishing my beer.
My daughter made us proud all through high school, and graduated with honors in math (MATH!). Here is her crowning achievement:
Isn’t she cute?
SUNDAY Burgers, hot dogs, chips, brownie sundaes
This was Father’s Day, and maybe not our best effort. Something about everyone feeling about as peppy and energetic as a, a, a thing that is tired and having a hard time coming up with interesting descriptions. So he cooked up meat on the grill and it was good.
MONDAY Turkey avocado provolone wraps, raw veggies and hummus, grapes
For some reason, everyone was super enthusiastic about this meal. We had some leftover rolls and a bunch of leftover tortillas, which I set out with deli turkey and salami, avocados, onions, provolone, and various kinds of dressing. I chose honey mustard, which doesn’t even go.
I mean, it didn’t taste bad or anything, but I wasn’t prepared for the choruses of hosannas. I think it may have been the grapes, actually.
Here is a moment that Benny wanted to memorialize:
TUESDAY Blueberry chicken salad
I intended to use this recipe, but ran out of time to make the special dressing or chop anything small, so we had chicken, mixed bagged greens, bleu cheese, sliced almonds, red onions, and blueberries, with balsamic vinegar. I can’t seem to find the picture I took, so here’s the pic from last time:
Again, I was taken aback at how delighted everyone was. I do love these hearty salads with nuts, cheese, meat, and fruit. Very pretty and filling.
It was the LAST DAY OF SCHOOL FINALLY, and we went to the beach, and by the time we got home, I had zero interest in making dinner, and 100% interest in letting the kids make French toast while I languished on the couch. Then I got up and ate scrambled eggs and the ice cream I virtuously declined on Sunday.
Instead, I put together a triple recipe of this teriyaki sauce and mixed it up with cubed pork and big wedges of onion, and let that marinate a few hours. Then I put the meat and onions on a pan with a rack and shoved it up right under the broiler, turning it once. Yummeh.
The rice, I made in the Instant Pot (affiliate link) using the 1:1 method and the rice button. I don’t understand why you have to rinse the rice, but it always comes out perfect, so I won’t argue.
We had five large mangoes which I peeled and cut up in no time using a metal cup. You try to figure out which way the pit lies and then cut the “cheeks” off the mango, leaving the pit inside a flat section of fruit.
Then you take a glass or metal cup with a thin rim and just, vooooop, slide the cup rim just under the skin and scoop the flesh right out in one piece.
Very satisfying and efficient.
It’s a little tricker to trim the rest of the flesh off the pit, but overall, this method makes mangoes worth eating, rather than an exercise in sticky, pulpy futility.
My damn wiener kids do lose them and bend them, but they do not break them! Ha!
Child requested tuna noodle casserole. So let it be written, so let it be done. My husband despises this food, but he will be out picking up my oldest kid from the airport, hooray! We sure missed her.
Okay, the Fourth of July looms! We’ll probably do burgers and hot dogs and pork spiedies using this recipe, plus chips and corn on the cob (maybe fancy corn on the cob with lime, paprika, and parmesan), watermelon, and potato salad. As predictable a menu as Thanksgiving, but with food you actually want to eat. Who has exciting ideas for a picnic dessert for a big crowd? Or some kind of razzle dazzle side dish that kids would like?
I’m having a flashback to a former life: Everyone’s schedule is all screwey for end-of-year stuff, so we spent the morning at the park trying not to throw ourselves into the waterfall, and then we got a blister so we had to cool our feet at the library. There are pregnant women chasing toddlers everywhere, and every cell in my body is shrieking out silent thanksgiving that I’m not one of ’em.
Here’s what we had this week:
SATURDAY Pizza, birthday cake, ice cream
Birthday party! We had no end of pizza, and birthday cake in the shape of – what else? – Devil’s Tower.
It was a Close Encounters of the Third Kind party, what else? It turns out the birthday girl was kidding about wanting me to mash some potatoes so she could have a mountain-sculpting contest with her friends. Humph.
SUNDAY Chicken shawarma; Cheesecake with strawberries and chocolate ganache
Birthday girl requested shawarma. I treated myself to skinned, boned chicken and set it to marinate the night before. It turned out to be breast meat, not thigh, which was a little disappointing; but it’s still always a fabulous meal. We use this recipe for oven-roasted shawarma from the NYT.
We had it with tomatoes, cucumbers, three kind of olives, feta cheese, pita bread, hummus, and yogurt sauce. I added pepper, lemon juice, and a bunch of minced garlic to plain yogurt and then basically wallowed around in it for the rest of the evening. Garlic yogurt speaks to me on a cellular level. A microcellular level. A nano-micro-weensy-cellular level. Just keep zooming in, and it’s garlic and yogurt, all the way down.
I briefly considered making the cheesecake in the Instant Pot, but then remembered that I am disgusting and don’t really clean it too good, so it’s kind of meaty in there. If there are people in the world who prefer their cheesecake meaty, I don’t want to know about it. I used this simple recipe (no sour cream) with a graham cracker crust, and used a silicone pan instead of springform. Unlike the photo, it turned out swell.
I crushed up a bunch of fresh strawberries with sugar and rum vanilla. We wanted a chocolate ganache, but I remembered in the nick of time that Aldi chocolate chips don’t really melt. So I made this hot fudge sauce with cocoa powder, butter, and condensed milk. Veddy nice.
MONDAY Hot dogs, corn on the cob, salad
It was horrendously hot, so I thought we might avoid filling the kitchen with corn steam if I cooked the corn on the cob in the Instant Pot instead of in a big pot of water. I guess it worked? But you do have to release the steam at the end anyway, so we kind of got it all at once. I think it helped a bit overall. It’s definitely cooler than stovetop cooking while it’s cooking.
I tried This Old Gal’s recipe for IP corn on the cob, which includes sugar, milk, and butter. It was certainly easy, and the corn was, well, sweet, creamy, and buttery. Kinda gilding the lily, though, and not really worth the extra calories. I’ll probably use the IP for just cooking plain unflavored corn on the cob in the future, though, just because it was easier than wrestling with a giant stock pot sloshing with boiling water. I always scald my abdomen.
I will here discuss an IP semi-failure: I put the pork into the IP with salt, pepper, and a can of Coke, and set it to “slow cook.” This took four hours, and then it automatically went to “keep warm” mode for the rest of the day. It came out dry and tough, and we had to pull pretty hard, which nobody wanted to do. I’m not sure if that means it was too low heat, or too high heat, or what, but it just wasn’t the same as the regular old slow cooker. Maybe if I pressed “slow cook” again after four hours, I dunno.
WEDNESDAY Oven roasted kielbasa, red potatoes, and cabbage with mustard vinaigrette
From Budget Bytes, a new dish for us, and a hit! It’s very easy to make: Cut up the things, put the things on a pan, make the things hot. Add yummy dressing.
I used three 14-ounce packages of kielbasa, about four pounds of red potatoes, and one large cabbage, and tripled the recipe for dressing. It’s hearty and summery, and I liked the looks of it, too.
The only sad thing was that I finally had to admit it was time to get rid of the two giant “disposable” catering pans we got from the Chinese restaurant at Christmas. They have developed leaks, so I’m getting some Real Pans. Yet another thing I finally have enough money to buy, now that the kids are leaving home and we don’t need it as badly anymore. Oh well.
THURSDAY Chicken muggets, frozen corn
We had the option to add an extra hour and a half of driving at the end of the school day in order to get to two campuses for portfolio night, or we could get ice cream.
Then we came home and had chicken nuggets. Corrie was mad because she only got to eat her ice cream and Dora’s ice cream,
and then when she dropped Dora’s ice cream, we wouldn’t get her another one. So when it was supper time, she threw herself on the floor and howled, “NO NO NO TSITSIN MUGGETS!” It’s a shame we never do anything nice for her.
Child #2 graduates from high school this year (with honors in math!!!), so Damien and I will be in attendance this evening while the kids at home struggle along with a case of boxaroni. Cheers!
The chicken burgers from Aldi are pretty good, and taste like actual chicken. We dressed them up with bacon, honey mustard, and in-sandwich onion rings. Not bad atall. Probably didn’t need to serve chips alongside a sandwich that actually contained onion rings, but the freedom to make this kind of decision is what being an adult is all about. That and a little sex, and some booze, lots of interior pep talks, frightening conversations about major appliances, and you’re the only one who can change the toilet paper. And coffee.
SUNDAY Pork Bánh mì
We’ve made steak bánh mì a few times, and it is delightful, but expensive. Pork, however, is cheap cheap cheap. So I got me a half loin (about four pounds), sliced it thin, and started it marinating in the morning using this recipe from Serious Eats.
I also sliced several carrots into thin coins and set them to quickle-pickle in wine vinegar and some sugar.
In the evening, I spread the pork slices in a single layer on broiler pans and put them right up under a hot broiler, turning once. We toasted some rolls and piled them up with the pork, pickled carrots, sliced cucumbers, jalapeno slices from a jar, lots of chopped cilantro, and plenty of mayo. (You can stir some sriracha into the mayo, but there’s plenty of flavor without the extra spice, and I appreciated a little creamy coolness.)
Verdict: It smelled completely revolting as it cooked, because fish sauce; but the taste was superb. The pork picked up much more of the salty, tangy fish flavor than the beef. Put it together with the sweet, crisp carrots and the cool cukes and cilantro and the zippy jalapenos, and it was just a swingin’ party in your mouth. Ha cha cha!
MONDAY BBQ chicken thighs and sausages, fruit salad, spicy grilled corn, S’mores
My husband cooked the meat outside, in the drizzle, in air so cold we could see our breath. Stupid New England. Here’s how he describes the rub he made for the meat: Lots of kosher salt, like unhealthy amount, lots of brown sugar and white sugar, generous amounts of garlic powder, little bit of cumin, paprika, and chili powder. Works for pork, too.
I thought it was fantastic, but he is researching different chicken-cooking methods with more indirect heat. I happen to like it charred, but I will probably force myself to eat the next meal he cooks, too, because I’m a good and generous wife that way.
It’s still a bit early for really good corn, but check it out! You grill it, roll it in butter, sprinkle on a little parmesan cheese and paprika, then squeeze on some lime juice.
Some of the kids had read about S’mores and really wanted to make them (even though they shivered as they toasted their marshmallows). S’mores are completely lost on me. They are fine, I guess. I feel resistance toward foods that don’t have a food for the noun. Corrie approved.
TUESDAY Tacos, tortilla chips
Nothing to report, except that I finally smartened up and bought two tubs of sour cream, one for the family and one for Corrie.
It Instant Pot time! (affiliate link) I’ve made Cuban sandwiches before, using oven-roasted pork that I marinated for several hours ahead of time. This time, I took a four-pound half loin and threw it in the IP with a bottle of Goya Mojo Criollo marinade. I don’t quite trust the “meat” button yet, so I set it to manual high pressure for 45 minutes. Perfect. It was very moist but cooked all the way through, and the marinade had permeated the meat. No yummy crust, of course, but it was fast and easy, didn’t heat up the kitchen (yeah, it suddenly got hot out. Stupid New England), and clean-up was a snap. I let it stay on “warm” for several hours until I was ready to make the sandwiches.
I sliced the meat up and put it on ciabatta with deli ham, pickles sliced into long flats, swiss cheese, and mustard. Grilled the sandwiches in butter, then pressed them hard on both sides with a glass pie plate. They were excellent and insanely filling. Here is a terrible picture:
I think authentic Cuban sandwiches are supposed to be made with spongier bread, and probably heaped ridiculously high with meat and cheese but I had zero complaints with our results.
The side was something I took from The New York Times Cooking. I took it, and then I made it slimy somehow, I dunno. My version had red onion, avocado, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, leftover grilled corn, fresh lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, and feta, and I ended up just mixing everything together, rather than spooning things over other things.
It was good, but it tasted like guacamole that left home on a quest to become pasta salad, but couldn’t find any pasta, so went back home, only to discover that the guacamole family no longer accepted it. Probably won’t bother with this again. Stupid New York Times.
Didn’t take pictures of pizza. Husband did snap a photo of the river as we slogged by on our evening run.
Stupid New England. I mean, wait! Lovely, gorgeous New England, my love! Feeling better and being more in shape are fine incentives, but really I’m in it for the pretty views and the husband time.
You know, this isn’t the way I always imagined an ocean voyage. Here’s what we had this week:
SATURDAY Grilled ham and provolone in pita pockets; spicy fries; raw broccoli
I do love grilled pita pockets. I grilled them in butter. They are so cozy and filling.
SUNDAY Steak, salad, strawberry rhubarb pie with whipped cream
Irene’s First Holy Communion and Mother’s Day! We’ve had so many parties lately, we decided Sunday would be just us chickens. Irene had a very good morning.
We planned to spend the day gardening, but it was, SIGH SIGH SIGH, windy and raining and snowing. So we made some pie together
This is Irene’s Happy Pie face. The kid just loves pie. She gave everyone mini pies from Walmart for Christmas. I think it was her early exposure to Amelia Bedelia. She just loves pie! And so do I.
I made the lattice one. I wove it for a while, then got bored and just started slapping bits of dough on. Irene’s crust was made of hearts and ducks, much like her soul.
We used this recipe from the 1896 Fannie Farmer cookbook. It was new to me, and really did taste old fashioned, especially the crust, which had a pleasantly sharp, salty flavor. The crust turned out pretty light and flaky. It was a little hard to work with, but it added more to the overall taste of the dish than the typical bland crust. I did use the neat trick of freezing the butter and then grating it with a cheese grater, so it’s very easy to incorporate it into the flour without overhandling it.
Damien made everyone steaks. I like mine so rare, you can have a conversation with it while you eat.
Raise your hand if this picture makes you feel uncomfortable! Too bad! It was my mother’s day! And the steak was delicious. (And I had a lovely, lovely day, all day, thank you. Many wonderful gifts and thoughtful attentions.)
MONDAY Pork ramen, coconut rice, peas
Delicious, but more of a hassle than expected, probably because I had to make so much of it. (It was simplified somewhat with the beloved Instant Pot, because I could cook the meat and vegetables, deglaze, and finish the broth all in one pot. Sometimes having even one fewer pot to wash is a big freaking deal.) I found a complicated recipe and simplified it, thus:
Sear some pork ribs in olive oil until browned on all sides. Take pork out, slice very thin, set aside. Add a coarsely chopped onion, about eight cloves of minced garlic, and a few scoops of ginger paste. Saute to brown. Add a cup of chicken broth to deglaze. Add seven more cups of broth, plus 8-10 oz. sliced mushrooms, and return pork to pot. Slow cook for several hours.
Just before dinner, have a kid cook a giant bunch of ramen noodles and some soft boiled eggs.
To serve, put ramen in individual bowls, ladle pork and broth over that, add a few halves of eggs, and throw something green on top. We happened to have some zombie scallions.
It was tasty and satisfying, and the pork was very tender after cooking all day. I adore thin slices of pork in soup.
For the coconut rice, I use this Instant Pot recipe from This Old Gal, who loves unnecessary complications. I have had about enough of This Old Gal. I did have coconut milk and coconut cream, but not toasted coconut or coconut sugar. I am skeptical there is actually something called coconut sugar.
The rice was pleasant, but not amazing. Who has a recipe that makes lovely, sticky coconut rice like in a Thai restaurant? Wanty.
I wish I had chopped up the greens smaller, to integrate them more with the other ingredients, rather than making a bed for them to lie on, but the combination of flavors and textures was excellent.
So: mixed greens, broiled chicken, blueberries, blue cheese, red onions, and toasted nuts (we had walnuts and almonds. There must have been a nut sale at some point. Again, I highly recommend taking the extra few minutes to toast the nuts); and a sweetish dressing made of olive oil, wine vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.
I served everything in separate bowls. To my delight, most of the kids chose to include blue cheese and onions in theirs. When I was that age, the harshly challenging flavor of something exotic, like yellow mustard, would have sent me into howling despair, but my kids are so much more adventurous. I never insist they eat anything, but I do keep serving things that I think are yummy, and I offer it to everyone every time. And here they are eating onions and blue cheese! I did a thing!
Not my finest hour. My plan was very basic: tortilla chips, ground meat and pre-made taco spice, jarred cheese substance, and salsa on the side.
I had to run out unexpectedly, so I directed the meat cooking and draining via cell phone, which turned out to be only slightly less nerve-wracking for both parties than when a passenger has to step up and land a damaged airplane with the help of a pilot on the ground.
Then I dashed home and dashingly forgot that the label said not to heat the cheese in the jar. Why? Because, we discovered, it balloons up like a ghastly yellow nightmare, then collapses into a rubbery hunk. Excuse me, rubbery hunk olé.
Then I set the chips on fire.
If you’re wondering why I never clean my oven: I do. I just immediately follow the cleaning with another spill. Then I set some chips on fire.
FRIDAY Penne with jarred sauce
Assuming I can figure out how to open a jar.
It occurs to me that a few of my readers may not be familiar with the phrase “and two hard boiled eggs.” Let’s fix that right now:
Yipe, it’s late! Never mind the introduction where I mention that we were extremely busy this week. Here’s what we ate:
SATURDAY Pizza and birthday cake
Another birthday! Actually, this birthday was last month, but we finally got around to having the party and sleepover. Child requested calzones, but I bargained her down to pizza. The cake, I refuse to show you. Turns out it’s very possible to go very, very wrong with a simple Deathly Hallows symbol.
A few of the decorations turned out pretty good, though. Here are the candles floating over the table:
They are rolls of cardstock with electric tea lights stuck in one end, hanging from threads.
Other quickie Harry Potter party ideas: We drew banners for the four houses on poster board, and drew on white balloons to make them look like owls. We printed out “wanted” signs for the villains and tacked them up, and also printed out and cut out a photo of Moaning Myrtle, and taped that to the toilet. We wrote “The chamber of secrets has been opened” in lipstick on the front window.
Party food was not super inspired – just orange soda labelled “pumpkin juice” and lots of gourmet jelly beans labelled “Bertie Bott’s.” For an activity, the kids dipped pretzel rods in candy melt and then decorated them with various sugars and sprinkles, for wands.
This was the actual birthday of #1 Son, who requested this fine meal. I want to say there was salad, but I don’t think there was. We got hot fudge and hot caramel, and put one in the bottom of the cone and one on top of the ice cream. Birthday!
MONDAY Oven roasted pork ribs, roast mushrooms, fruit salad
Still the best way to make ribs if you can’t grill them outside. Salt and pepper on a rack in a real hot oven until they’re sizzling hot. So good.
Mushrooms were 79 cents for eight ounces, so I bought six packages and went to town. Here’s the recipe from Deadspin (which means it’s rambling and profane and oddly endearing). This picture is from my very worst camera, but — oooh, that smell.
Strawberries and blueberries were also on sale, so we mixed them together and pretended it wasn’t a weird side dish.
I’m trying to get away from serving potatoes all the time. Not because I have some kind of theory about dietary starches, or because I’m ashamed of my Hobbit forefathers, but . . . I don’t know why, I guess I’m just bored.
TUESDAY Hot dogs, onion rings, corn on the cob
Remember how we had hot dogs last week? Well, this week, we had hot dogs again.
The corn on the cob was first of the season, and middle-of-May corn tastes a lot like “too soon.” But setting the kids to shuck some corn is a quick way to redeem part of one day from what has lately become a discouraging stream of rushing in and out of the car, gobbling pre-packaged junk food, and realizing Sophia the First and her very unlikely rabbit friend have been gabbling away for four hours straight. Here! Shuck some good old corn! Be wholesome for a minute! Maybe we can string wooden beads later, or even — stop me if this sounds crazy — go outside.
So I get them set up with twelve ears of corn and, as I go about my business in the other room, I hear the honest, timeless sound of happy, unspoiled children hard at work at the domestic arts, up to their elbows in the fruits of the earth, smelling green smells, rediscovering the joys of industry. Then I hear,
“Corrie is up on the table and she has nothing on her bottom! THE CORN! IS GOING! TO TASTE! LIKE BOTTOM!!!”
Sure enough. How very Montessori.
WEDNESDAY Chicken apple salad, risotto
This meal was a copycat version of a salad I often get at Wendy’s. I got a few bags of mixed greens and let the kids choose their combination of warm grilled chicken, crumbled bleu cheese, diced green apples, sweet dried cranberries, toasted walnuts, and some bottled berry vinaigrette dressing. (Wendy’s version has two kinds of apples, sugared pecans, and pomegranate vinaigrette.)
It’s totally worth the quick extra step to toast the nuts. Put them in a single layer in a baking pan in a 350 oven for about ten minutes. I know everyone is always talking about how this and that brings out the flavor of this and that, but toasting really does bring out the flavor of nuts. It also makes them, I don’t know, more pleasing to the teeth. It turns them into interesting, adult nuts instead of stupid, immature nuts. Just do it!)
I made the chicken by marinating it all day in a bag with some bottled Italian dressing, then roasting it under the broiler on a pan with some drainage. This meal was a big hit. Definitely making it again.
Imagine if butts were made with sauteed onions and parmesan cheese. What would they rain down? Pure joy, that’s what.
THURSDAY English muffin pizzas
We were home for about twelve minutes in between school and a concert, so English muffin pizzas did the trick. We made about 45 of them with what turned out to be, oops, cheddar cheese.
Here’s an after-concert group portrait:
Back row: My Mother Made Me Wear This Shirt and It Burnssssssss
Front Row, Left to right: Pretty Much Always Having a Wonderful Time; Angry Because Mama Said We Can Swing On the Swings Anytime, But Not Right Now; This Skirt Is Not Who I Am; and Kind of a Violin Prodigy, Kind of Over Having Siblings
FRIDAY Fish tacos and corn chips
Just frozen fish sticks, shredded cabbage, jarred salsa, sour cream, and limes on tortillas, and maybe some guacamole if I can still lift my arms by the end of the day.
Another week of many toils, trials and snares! Happily, ground beef was on sale, which helped. Here’s what we had this week:
SATURDAY Hamburgers, chips, sweet peppers and hummus
Boy, Saturday was a long time ago.
SUNDAY Vermont turkey sandwiches
So good. You pile on sliced turkey (smoked if you got it), bacon, sharp cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, and slices of Granny Smith apple on ciabatta bread with honey mustard dressing and plenty of pepper. Really excellent combination of flavors and textures.
We also had potato salad, made by my 17-year-old. I am not sure which recipe she used — something basic, with mayo, vinegar, hard boiled eggs, and celery.
MONDAY Pulled pork, french fries, cole slaw
For the pulled pork, I used a bottle of Blue Moon Beer and lots of salt and pepper with the pork butt in the slow cooker. I think this is my favorite beer so far for pulled pork. It has a nice malty, orangey flavor. Or whatever. It tastes different from Budweiser, okay?
I piled up my plate with skinny french fries, heaped the pulled pork on that, squirted on some bottled BBQ sauce, and added some dreadful yellow cheese sauce that I had heated in the microwave. Magnificent.
Here’s the cole slaw recipe we like. It’s a tiny bit runny, but so tart and bright-tasting, it makes a wonderful side dish for a heavy, savory main dish. I think I may chop the cabbage in little squares instead of shredding it, next time. Excitement.
TUESDAY Hot dogs, cheez puffs, beans
I had Mr. Thirteen-year-old make supper. Okay, I told him to cook some hot dogs in a pan. I didn’t tell him when to stop cooking the hot dogs. They were . . . crunchy.
Our kitchen may not be fancy, but there is a window next to the stove. And that has made all the difference.
WEDNESDAY Chicken thighs roasted with potatoes; steamed asparagus
This is a good meal to prep in the morning and throw in the oven in the evening.
I laid chicken thighs and drunksticks [ha, I mean “drumsticks,” but drunksticks sound like fun, don’t they? At least until the next morning] in a shallow pan, then put potato wedges, skin on, all along the edges and in between the chicken. Drizzle the whole thing with olive oil and sprinkle it with tons of salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
Put it in a 400 oven for maybe half an hour, then turn on the broiler to finish browning it at the end. So good and easy.
It turned out a little wetter than I would have liked, so I may use a slotted broiler pan next time to let it drain a bit.
Now that I’ve discovered roast asparagus, steamed is no longer my favorite; but the oven was occupied. Steaming is fine, as long as you take the asparagus out promptly, while it’s still a little crunchy. Little lemon juice and you’re all set.
THURSDAY Meatball subs
I usually make meatballs with half a cup of breadcrumbs per pound of meat and some milk, but we hardly had any breadcrumbs. So I used rolled oats, with lots of trepidation.
I guess it was five pounds of ground beef, two pounds of ground turkey, about six cups of oats, seven eggs, and (following this week’s theme of exotic seasoning) tons of salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I was in a huge rush, so no diced onions, parsley, fresh garlic, or anything. I forgot to add milk.
I make meatballs in a 350 oven, in pans with some drainage. They keep their shape, they’re not too greasy, and you can do it in all one batch.
I made probably eighty meatballs. They turned out great! Very light. I think I’ll use oats from now on. I thought the kids would be turned off if they could see the oats stuck in the meat, but after cooking, they looked no different from normal meatballs.
Yes, I realize I just implied that my kids are normal meatballs. I stand by that.
FRIDAY Ricotta spinach pasta
Here’s a recipe from Budget Bytes that I haven’t tried in a while. I remember it being creamy, satisfying, and easy. I even sprung for actual fettucine, because the flat noodles pick up more creamy sauce than spaghetti does. I spent most of my life thinking that pasta came in different shapes just because Italians get bored easily, but there’s also some sheer physics involved.
And now a question for my educated readers. We’re having a birthday party on Saturday, and one of the guests has a dairy and gluten allergy. The kids have so many friends with allergies, I’m used to making safe cakes, but what can you suggest for snacks and candy? The theme is Harry Potter, if that helps.
In which we have an awful lot of cake for the home stretch of Lent.
SATURDAY Grilled ham and pepper jack cheese sandwiches, roast asparagus with butter and lemon
I’m trying to wean the family off expecting some kind of potato-based side dish with every meal. That’s one Saturday under our belts. No one has died of chip deficiency, yet.
SUNDAY Just pretty much all the food in the world
Sunday, we had two confirmations
and a birthday
The confirmandi requested red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and tiramisu, respectively, and the birthday girl asked for ice cream sodas for her special dessert.
I like this picture because you can see everyone spring into action when I put the food out:
Damien made the tiramisu with this excellent recipe the night before, and added chocolate shavings right before serving. This time, I bought him ladyfingers fresh from the bakery, and guess what? They sop up a lot more rum than stale, pre-packaged ladyfingers. The party got pretty hot for a while there.
The red velvet cake was from a box. Actually, because I don’t know my colors yet, it turned out to be one box of red velvet cake and one box of yellow cake; so I swirled them together and attempted to pass it off as a flame pattern for the descent of the Holy Spirit or something.
So we had cake and fruit salad and fruit punch and cookies and cheese and crackers at the reception after the confirmation, then went home and had pizzas, veggies and hummus, cake with strawberries and cream cheese frosting and tiramisu for lunch, and then for dinner, cheeseburgers and chips, and ice cream sodas for dessert.
MONDAY Fish tacos, corn chips
For reasons I don’t fully understand, several of the children felt unwell on Monday and stayed home from school. Something about their stomachs not feeling great.
They recovered in time for dinner.
I’ve heard a lot of grousing about how there is no such thing as fish tacos, or fish tacos aren’t a thing. But (a) they are delicious and (b) here is a picture, so I guess we’ll keep eating them.
Just regular old cheapo fish sticks, with nice, crunchy shredded cabbage, sliced avocados, salsa, cilantro, sour cream, and a personal lime on a tortilla. Best imaginary meal ever.
TUESDAY Gochujang bulgoki, white rice, nori
Normally, I prep this dish the night before, so it can marinate overnight. But I forgot, and made it in the morning, and it was still great by evening. I also grated the carrots, since I didn’t feel like cutting matchsticks, and that was great, too. I sliced a hunk of pork thin and mixed it up with the carrots and a couple of sliced onions, along with a triple recipe of this sauce:
So then you let it marinate as long as you can, and then fry it up in a little oil while the rice is cooking.
It’s a wonderful meal, very warming and peppy. You can, no, you must use the nori (or Romaine lettuce) to scoop up little bundles of meat and rice for gobbling purposes.
(This is an old picture. We ate zero string beans.)
I think this was the day we suddenly remembered we hadn’t brought in a school treat for the aforementioned birthday kid. Her teacher requests treats of fruit or veggies, and that’s fine, that’s fine, it’s not communist or anything. We subverted it by making these alarming little disembodied apple grins with peanut butter and mini marshmallows.
They were well-received.
THURSDAY Pepperoncini beef sandwiches, potato puffs, salad, German chocolate cake
Another birthday! My oldest requested this wonderfully easy meal: Throw a chuck roast in a slow cooker with a jar of pepperoncini with the tops cut off and the juice, and off you go.
At 11 a.m., I suddenly remembered to pull the meat out of the freezer. So this situation, along with the risotto situation, is where the Instant Pot really shines: In less than two hours, a rock-hard roast was cooked all the way through. It actually finished cooking too soon, so I kept it on “keep warm” for several hours, and ended up overcooking it. Oops. Still yummy.
We sliced it up and served it on rolls with pepper jack cheese and horseradish sauce.
I’m counting on your Friday meat deprivation to make this horrible cell phone picture look good.
Birthday girl also had her heart set on a German chocolate cake. Know why it’s called that? Because the guy who invented it was named “German.” Now you know something! This cake is a tremendous pain in the neck, but so good. We went with this recipe from food.com. The cake was good, but I had to fight the urge to just sort of swim around in that coconut pecan frosting.
Here’s the birthday girl getting some help with her birthday candles:
Sigh, oldest and youngest, 19 and 2. SIGH SIGH SIGH. I’m fine. We’re all fine.
FRIDAY French toast casserole, mangoes
This is where I get back at the kids for leaving the bread bags open all week, so the bread gets all stale and crushed. It’s not really very good revenge, because it’s delicious.
OKAY, we have our seder on Holy Saturday, so all next week is when the schmaltz hits the road. Stay tuned. . . if you dare.
Maybe you’re wondering what is the big deal about the Instant Pot. Is it really so great? Why does everyone go so cuckoo over it? Should I be worried that my spouse has bought a pair of spotless doves and is sharpening a knife?
And why does Simcha insist on making these embarrassingly chimpy images with very primitive software and a crying toddler on her lap?
I have the answer. To the first question, not the second.
It’s because of risotto.
Risotto, risotto, risotto. I love risotto with my whole heart, but it is a pain in the neck to make. Hovering over the pan, stirring, adding in a little broth, stirring, waiting, simmering, waiting, stirring, adding some more broth, stirring, waiting, and it smells divine, but your entire life is passing you by while you wait for it to be done.
In the Instant Pot, it’s easy. Truly easy, and fast. And it tastes just as good as the difficult kind. This, in itself, is a reason to own an Instant Pot. All the other stuff is bonus. Now you know!
I’m gonna come right out and tell you: we rely on Amazon for our car payments. My husband has a 1.3-hour commute, and absolutely needs a reliable car. So! Please use my links, so my husband doesn’t have to drive to work in the Instant Pot. It’s good, but it’s not that good.
And now, back to risotto.
Last Friday, we had tuna fish patties and butternut squash risotto. I used this butternut squash risotto recipe from Good Housekeeping. I used onions instead of shallots, ground sage instead of fresh, and regular old white rice instead of arborio. It was fabulous. Creamy but not mushy and packed with flavor. Amazing.
I spent a good half hour wandering around the house, taking people by the shoulders, holding them with my glittering eye and quothing at them, “Do you even realize the possibilities?” Risotto with fresh tomatoes. Risotto with bacon. Risotto with scallops or garlicky shrimp. Risotto with asparagus and gorgonzola. Risotto with lemon, mint, and peas. Risotto with hazelnuts. Risotto with saffron and fennel. I don’t even know what fennel is! But I will!
The other reason for having an Instant Pot is because venting the steam is fun. Some days, it is the most fun you will have all day.
SATURDAY Hamburgers, chips
Cousins over again. They responded very positively, with shrieking, to the idea of hamburgers and chips. So let it be written; so let it be done. I had planned sweet peppers and hummus, but there were just too many runny noses and double dippers in the population, so, in the interest of good health, we skipped the veg.
SUNDAY Chicken cutlets with basil; mushroom risotto; salad
Farewell to cousins and hello to my parents. Here is my niece with one of her favorite playthings: My father’s beard.
Damien made one of his absolute most magnificent dishes, the late lamented Deadspin’s chicken cutlets. You pound the chicken flat, bread it (Damien used panko crumbs), fry it (Damien used olive oil and butter), then top it with a fresh basil leaf and a slice of cheese (Damien used mozzarella, but provolone is great, too), and ladle some homemade tomato sauce over that.
This meal makes me go absolutely insane. It’s so good, you can’t imagine. As I ate it, I thought of starving people in the third world and then thought, “TOO BAD.” With these chicken cutlets, you could — dare I say it? Rule the world.
Also, I had some mushroom left over from last week, when I accidentally didn’t make soup. So I went with this mushroom risotto recipe from This Old Gal. This Old Gal discourages using plain old regular mushrooms, but I did it anyway, and it was good. I didn’t have fennel or parsley, so I went with sage again, and really peppered it up. Completely delicious.
MONDAY Leftovers with spaghetti
Damien had made 38 chicken cutlets, so we put the leftovers in a pan, spread the rest of the sauce over it, added a layer of sliced cheese, and warmed it up in the oven, then served it on spaghetti.
There was no leftover risotto because I devoured it for lunch.
I feel like there was salad.
TUESDAY Korean beef bowl; rice; steambed broccoli and cauliflower
I just noticed that I wrote “steambed” instead of “steamed,” but I think the “b” expresses how lightly I didn’t steam them.
It’s so easy, and it’s just spicy enough to be warming and comforting, without assailing your mouth. Wonderful use for ground beef. Also a wonderful use for immortal zombie scallions, if you happen to have any haunting your kitchen.
Oh, I thought of another advantage for the Instant Pot. InstantPot.com has plenty of useful, simple recipes, like the rice one above. It also has a slew of completely bonkers recipes that were apparently written by a malicious robot who flunked out of ESL. Here is one of my current favorites: Beer Potato Fish!
“The Beer Potato Fish would be a challenge for a non-professional cooker,” it muses, shaking its head in empathy for the old, dark days so tragically rife with amateurish attempts at beer potato fish, “But it is now a different story with Instant Pot Programmable Pressure Cooker.”
It calls for a pound of fish, some oyster flavored sauce, a cup of beer, and a tablespoon of rock candy. Doesn’t that sound tasty? It also instructs you to push the fish button, which does not exist. I suppose someone is making money off this in some way, and I kind of feel like they deserve it.
The Instant Pot had acquitted itself so well this week, I thought maybe I’d try one of the many, many pork rib recipes that are available. But then I remembered that I could also sit on the couch and tell my son how to some pork ribs in a 450 oven on a roasting rack with a little salt and pepper, and I knew they would be scrumptious. And so I did, and so they were.
If there’s a better way to prepare pork ribs, I just don’t care.
I also considered making Instant Pot mashed potatoes, but the recipes all looked more complicated than stovetop recipes. So I just went ahead and boiled them in a non-instant pot and mashed them. I left the skin on, which I almost never do. To me, this adds excitement and piquancy. To others, it’s like hanging around with that weirdo who keeps on harping on the idea that, in many regions, apple cores, corn cobs, and chicken bones are considered a delicacy.
The vegetables were that good old supermarket blend of frozen peas, carrots, corn, string beans, and lima beans. This makes me feel six years old, in a good way.
THURSDAY English muffin pizzas
Since our bishop has given us a St. Patrick’s Day dispensation to eat meat on Friday, we did our meatless meal on Thursday. Except I forgot, and had leftover Korean beef bowl for lunch. For my penance, I had massive heartburn all night, and dreamt I was endlessly editing and re-editing a blog post about best and worst dresses of the Oscars; only I had to do it on taped-together paper with sidewalk chalk and then take photos of it with a Kodak disc film camera.
So, I am all caught up on Lent.
FRIDAY Corned beef boiled dinner; Dublin coddle
So, St. Patrick is, like, the second-tier patron of our regional arch-diacistry, or something; and my husband is tremendously Irish, so we prayerfully discerned that have no choice but to eat three different kinds of meat today.
The kids love boiled dinner, so I’ll be cooking up some corned beef with red potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and adorable little onions, and serving it with gobs of mustard, as St. Patrick himself did. It’s how he drove the snakes away.
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Okay, I think that’s all the blog business, except a reminder that the weekly podcast went out last night. It’s password protected for subscribers only. To subscribe, pledge $1 a more through Patreon. I know, I know, it’s kind of involved, but once you get it set up, it’s easy peasy. I do the podcast with my husband, and it’s fun and stupid and drinky, and often has sound effects, offensive jokes, and poetry, all for less than 25 cents a week. WHAT A DEAL.
Now for the food.
This week’s food post has no food photos. Holy reason: It’s Lent, and tempting images of food would not be in keeping with the spirit of the liturgical season. Real reason: Can’t find my iPad. Instead, please enjoy this photo of Dan Brown being allowed to be in front of a microphone that is turned on. That should be suitably penitential.
And we’re off!
SATURDAY Sliced ham, fried eggs, raw peppers
Because Jesus is coming, ham is on sale, so I bought a big ‘un. Here is my genius idea: You slice it up first, early in the day, and put it in a pan with a little water and cover it with tinfoil. Then you can throw it in the oven and heat it up quickly before dinner. I fried up a few dozen eggs and sliced up about a bushel of red, yellow, orange, and green peppers.
We still had my nephew and three nieces on Saturday, and this dinner was a big hit with all the kids. Very bright and pretty.
I rate this meal zero Dan Browns, because it was easy, cheap, and well-received. Not penitential at all.
SUNDAY Bò Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew), French bread and butter
The big disappointment of the week. On the penitential food scale, it rates a full three Dan Browns, which is not good.
This Instant Pot recipe from Nom Nom Paleo calls for all kinds of thrilling ingredients. Lemongrass! Curry powder! Fresh ginger! Star Anise! Fish sauce! I followed the directions pretty closely for once, and it smelled wonderful. But the taste was harsh and metallic, yet boring. I just didn’t like it at all. It was like regular old ‘Murkin beef stew, except angrier. What a waste of meat. I felt overwhelming Fleischenttäuschung.
Happily, we also celebrated Corrie’s birthday on Sunday. We had chocolate cake (box mix) and cream cheese frosting using this recipe, except I used about half the sugar they called for. I made a heart-shaped cake, frosted it yellow, and pushed fancy jelly beans into the frosting all around the edge. Then we remembered a pack of little candy hatchets with blood on the blades that I got on clearance after Halloween. They seemed about right for Mama’s widdle axe murderer, so we stuck those in, too.
Suddenly becoming the other kind of two-year-old, she ran away and hid in her crib when we brought the cake out. You guys. It is so hard being two.
MONDAY Hot dogs, baked beans
Nothing to report, nothing to regret. No Dan Browns, because we like hot dogs.
TUESDAY Carnitas with guacamole and chips; hot fudge and butterscotch ice cream sundaes
Taco Tuesday was, of course, Fat Tuesday or Carnevale, which literally means “farewell to meat,” so I thought carnitas make a good send-off. And they were good. I’ve made pork carnitas a few times, but it somehow escaped me until now that you are supposed to fry the meat after slow cooking it; and then you douse it with its own oniony gravy while you fry it. So carnal.
This meal gets half a Dan Brown, only because the salsa turned out to have fermented, and not in the good way.
Sorry you got the half with most of his chin in it.
Now I’m really suffering. I took such gorgeous pictures of that guacamole. There is no more attractive kitchen rubble than guacamole rubble, n’est pas? The shining avocado pits, the papery garlic skins, the feathery cilantro, the gleaming limes. OH WELL. I hope all the souls in purgatory appreciate what I’m going through.
ASH WEDNESDAY Spaghetti, bread and butter, salad
Spaghetti from a box with sauce from a jar with bread from a bag and salad from a pouch never tasted so good. No D.B. at all.
THURSDAY Broiled chicken breast, salad with croutons, pinkaroni salad
I made a marinade of olive oil, lime juice, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and basil. Not terribly coherent, but it tasted okay. You let it marinate for a couple of hours and then slide it under the broiler, turning once. Slice it up and serve it over salad for a Meal of Great Virtue.
I used up the old hamburger buns for croutons. These are so good if you don’t burn them, which I did. Cube the bread, drizzle it with melted butter or olive oil, and then toss them with whatever seasonings you like. I just grabbed some adobo powder, which was fine, if a bit too salty. Then you put them in a shallow pan in a 300-degree oven for forty minutes or so, stirring them up occasionally, until they are toasted all the way through. You can make a ton at a time and store them in an airtight container for a long time. Or, you can just burn them and then eat them all up.
There wasn’t as much green salad as I thought, so I made some macaroni salad, more or less following this recipe. But instead of peppers, I used chopped beets, which turned the mayonnaise dressing pink, which delighted the kids. Two Dan Browns for the burnt croutons and some expired Thousand Island dressing.
If I had to sum up this week in single word, it would be: I tried.
SATURDAY Grilled chicken and salad
Mr. Husband made this while I did something or other, probably drawing kittens on the backs of Corrie’s hands, or maybe just drinking. Under my evil influence, he cracked open another box or two of stolen poor person’s bacon and sprinkled that over the salad. It tastes a little bit better each time, if you were wondering.
I would like you to notice that, in an attempt to dress up this terrible, terrible food photo, I spread some paper bags under it. Then I moved them around a little to hide the bar codes, and then I decided I would just eat my food.
I stabbed the pork all over, decided I was too lazy to mess around with garlic cloves, and rolled the meat around in Goya Mojo Criollo Marinade and let it wallow all day. We cooked it at 375 for a couple of hours and sliced it up. Look how juicy! The flavor went right through to the middle, yum yum.
The potatoes are mixed up with oil and some standard seasonings and slid into the oven for forty minutes or so.
Lena made cole slaw, which was a tiny bit of an odd pairing with the pork and potatoes, but it’s such a good, snappy cole slaw recipe, there will always be a spot on my plate for it.
MONDAY Chicken burgers, chips, salad
Probably someone somewhere could think of something to say about this meal, but not me, not now.
Oh, wait! It is good with horseradish sauce. There.
TUESDAY Fish tacos; tortilla chips
Irene careened into the kitchen on roller skates and started flailing around, knocking all the fish to the floor. But it was all right, because, she explained, it was already battered.
This February vacation, she’ll be bussing tables in the Catskills. Please tip generously, and let us know if you hear anything.
Fish, shredded cabbage, avocados, salsa, sour cream, and lime juice on flour tortillas. Can’t believe I went my whole life without knowing fish tacos were a thing.
I had cilantro, too but it mysteriously rotted away into pulp.
UPDATE: Corrie turned the refrigerator to 2, the stinker.
Olive and pepperoni. One briefly and mysteriously burst into flame when all I did was drop it onto the heating coil, sheesh.
Oh, check it out: Benny is so good at making pizzas, she is now taking on apprentices.
I know this is a blurry picture, but that expression of overwhelmed-by-cuteness, plus pride, just killed me. Good thing we had Corrie! Benny was born to be a big sister.
THURSDAY Roast chicken thighs and potatoes; sweet peppers and hummus; chocolate rice pudding
This is the closest thing I came to trying a new recipe this week, and I didn’t come close enough to actually make it.
A dear lady sent me AN EIGHT-QUART INSTANT POT!!!!! It gleams and it is enormous and beautiful. Even Mighty Joe Young is impressed.
I’ve been hearing all about the life-changing magic of pressure cooking, so I was super excited and made plans for this pressure cooker butter chicken recipe. But then I recalled that we had spent the week frolicking with a stomach bug, and tomato sauce and garam masala did not seem like the best choice, not after a week full of things like battered fish and pork in citrus sauce. Not that I ended up making something light and bland instead of butter chicken, but at least there was no tomato sauce.
(I put the chicken thighs in a shallow pan with a bunch of sliced potatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder, and rosemary, and cooked them at 375 for about thirty-five minutes, then turned on the broiler to brown them up a bit. Very easy and surprisingly tasty.)
I also discovered that I’ve been stockpiling peppers and hummus, so I sliced them all up and made a pretty rainbow pepper plate, thinking my kids would be delighted. I keep forgetting that they are not all four years old.
Anyway, they ate some vegetables.
The van was in the shop all day, so I had some more time at home and was casting around for something to make in my brand new bella machina. With the ingredients I had on hand, and ignoring ideas like “but that doesn’t go with this meal in the slightest,” I settled on creamy rice pudding.
I skipped the raisins because my family are a bunch of inauthentic swine and don’t care for raisins in things, and added some cocoa paste to the milk to give it a mild chocolate flavor. Very nice! Just like rice pudding should be, creamy and fragrant. We ate it warm and claimed it was for Candlemas, whatever that is.
The Instant Pot is FUN. Okay, releasing the steam valve is FUN. I showed the kids lots of pictures of pot lids embedded in the ceiling and pot bases embedded in the countertop, and now they are all properly terrified of it and will let me play with it all by myself.
I got some heart-shaped pasta, thinking it would please Benny.
I . . . think it did?
Okay, so I have TWO questions for you, with some likely overlap.
1.There is that Sportsball thing coming up on Sunday. Hit me up with your favorite Sportsball party recipe, please. I tend to shy away from things like devilled eggs compressed into football shapes, or ham sandwiches trimmed into rectangles and dyed green to look like a football field. My one and only surefire Sportsball recipe is Jalapeno Popper Dip, which is completely disgusting, and has enough calories to light up the Eiffel tower, and you will suddenly notice that you accidentally ate all of it without chewing.
Oh, probably that bacon ranch crack bread stuff we made would go over well, too. This is the kind of food I’m looking for: Food that makes you feel equal parts shame and defiance the whole time you’re gobbling it down, and then it’s so salty that you require beer.
Second question: Whooooo has spectacular Instant Pot recipes for me — things for which the IP is just a godsend? I have been browsing through all the sites, and I joined a group, but you are the ones I trust. Main dishes, side dishes, veggies, soups, desserts, I want to know!
And finally, thanks again to the dear lady who sent me the Instant Pot! I would like you to know that, as I was reading through the manual, Corrie took a look under the lid, stuck her face right into the shiny inner pot, and then shouted with delight, “It ME!”
I don’t know how I’m ever going to top that dish, but I will try.