What’s for supper? Vol. 381: Excuse me, stewardess. I speak chive.

I don’t know if you guys realize this, but June is, in fact, bustin’ out all over.
The feeling is getting so intense!
And the Fishers are so busy
That I’m always in a tizzy
But I still have time to make a wattle fence!

Because it’s Junnnnnnne!

And I do what I wannnnnnnt! Overall. 

I do apologize for how dead the site has been lately. I honestly have been writing, and I hope to have more up next week! I also think I have fixed the issue with the com box. If you left a comment last week and it didn’t show up, it’s because I had a leetle spam problem and still have to manually sort through almost 6,000 comments, which, honestly, I might just . . . not do. But like I said, I think I fixed it!

Here’s what we ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, watermelon

Shopping day, uff cawse. I had planned grilled ham and cheese last week, but didn’t make it, so we had plenty of sourdough and sliced cheddar and ham. Easy peasy, and it was a good thing, because one kid had a party to go to (and a present to buy), two kids needed to be at work, and there was an art thing downtown and the non-working kids were helping the other kids set up, and I realized that meant the other kid was gonna be alone all day, so we invited a friend over for her, which turned into her meeting the friend at the beach (not that beach, the other beach) and then coming here, and then everyone needed to be picked up from their parties and jobs and arts and confession and whatnot, and, long story long, we had grilled cheese. 

Kids had a fire and made s’mores after dinner. I will eat many, many disgusting things, but I draw the line at s’mores, for some reason. 

A few months ago, when I still thought we had a 50/50 chance of seeing the parousia before June, I signed up to make dinner for the youth group. But I lost that bet, so on Saturday night I started hacking up pork shoulder and browning it.

I had bought some ludicrous number of pounds of pork, too much to fit in the slow cooker, so I put it in a giant casserole dish and covered it tightly with tinfoil and cooked it in the oven at 225 for about five hours. 

Here’s my pulled pork recipe.

Jump to Recipe

I bumped up all the seasonings a bit, used jarred jalapeño instead of fresh (without the juice), and added a heavy hit of liquid smoke. Oh my dammit, it smelled amazing. I thought I’d have to leave it cooking slowly overnight, but it was shreddy betty and so good. 

SUNDAY
Pulled pork sandwiches, chips, broccoli slaw, watermelon

Sunday was Corpus Christi, which I love so much. My 90-year-old friend has been coming to Mass with us, which is excellent, but of course she wasn’t quite up for a long walk in the blazing hot sun afterward, so I brought her home while the rest of the family joined in the procession. Found out later that Benny, who is not even 90, fainted! Just too much sun and not enough water, and plus we had stayed up late to watch Godzilla Minus One the night before. So down she went, and bopped her head on the pew when she fell. SHE IS FINE. But it was a worrisome day, because we have some medical nonsense in this family to worry about. But she was just very dehydrated. 

It turns out everyone else in the parish is also super busy in early June, so the youth group was a very small group, and even taking that into account, I absolutely CLOBBERED them with food. One smart thing I did, though, was realize that a cooler isn’t just for ice, but will also keep hot food hot. So I didn’t have to muck around with cooking in the church basement and trucking the food over to the other building this time, but just heated everything up at home and then brought it straight to the yoot. 

We had kaiser buns and pulled pork and two kind of BBQ sauce on the side, but the meat truly didn’t need it. Bunch of sliced onions and some of that hot cheese sauce I love so well for the sandwiches, tons of potato chips, tons of watermelon cut into chunks, and tons of soda. At the last minute I also made some broccoli slaw just to have something green.

I threw the broccoli into the food processor and then jammed some carrots in, but I wasn’t thinking clearly, and ended up with basically minced broccoli and discs of carrots. Which is fine, but it looked . . . dated. Can’t explain it, but it looked like someone’s elderly aunt had brought it to a birthday party and called it her famous slaw.

Anyway, I made the dressing from this coleslaw recipe, which calls for mayo, dijon mustard, maple syrup, celery seed, salt, and pepper. I skipped the celery seed and didn’t even notice it called for dijon mustard until about the middle of this sentence. Then I threw in some sliced almonds, and probably would have put in dried cranberries if we had had any. Considered sunflower seeds and realized I’m at least allegedly feeding teenagers, not chipmunks. 

Look, I took a few gummies last night to help me sleep, and I’m feeling too dumb to write short paragraphs, so you’re just gonna get the whole . . . pork. I don’t know. 

Anyway, there was SO much dang pork. Which is not a bad thing! I thought the addition of the liquid smoke was excellent, so I’ll be adding that from now on. 

MONDAY
Roast pork ribs, flavored rice, watermelon, broccoli slaw

Monday I wasn’t ready to look at pulled pork again yet, and I had arranged my day so that I was somehow doing errands for strangers much of the day? I live like I have a personal assistant who has a grudge against me. Anyway I got it all done, and got supper started at like five o’clock. Not pulled pork but roast pork ribs, because they were 99 cents a pound and I’m not made of stone. 

Pork ribs sprinkled heavily with salt and pepper and thrust under a hot broiler, turned once; leftover watermelon (did I mention that watermelons were on sale so I bought four?), leftover broccoli slaw, and something the kids covet ardently and I should probably make more often: Rice cooked in chicken broth. Truly, your jaw would drop if you saw how excited they were about this faintly yellow rice. 

And you know what, it’s good. Tastes like chicken. 

I don’t think I mentioned how the broccoli slaw turned out. The dressing tasted WONDERFUL when I made it, really zippy and nice; but it was one of those mysterious recipes that went flat right away, and got flatter every hour thereafter. So it was quite, quite bland by Monday. I was still happy to have something cool and vegetabally, but it was not exciting. I did like having the crunchy almonds in there. 

TUESDAY
Pizza with chive blossoms

My chives peaked over the weekend, and I had been meaning and meaning to fry the blossoms, but I just did not have time. So I made some pizzas on Tuesday: One pepperoni, one plain cheese, and one with black olive and leftover peppers and onions sauteed up, and then when it came out of the oven, I threw chive blossoms on top of it. 

Kinda wish I had put some of them on first before baking, because I think they would have been nice with a little frizzled, but they were good as they were. Kinda cute, not mindblowing.Tasted like chives. So now I know! 

WEDNESDAY
Pork tacos, watermelon

Wednesday I had to face the fact that I had forgotten to put the leftover pulled pork in the freezer, so it was do or die. Pork or die.

It was supposed to be taco day, so I just heated up the pork and served that with taco fixings. Did not adjust the seasoning or anything, and guess what, it was yummy. 

Or maybe I was just starving because I was going crazy with yard work, but I thought they were great. 

Wednesday I also culled baby peaches. Last year we had a late frost that killed all the buds, and we had zero peaches. This year we have . . . I honestly think over a thousand, on just the one tree. It just went berserk with pent-up peachiness. At first I was delighted, and then I realized that letting that many peaches grow to maturity would yield a bumper crop of small, tasteless peaches, and would probably also split the tree when they got heavy.

I HATE thinning baby plants. It’s not as bad as pinching off blossoms, but it’s pretty rough. Just feels so brutal and wrong. But I want to take care of my tree, so I spent a LONG time plucking off baby peaches, and after about an hour of staring up into the sun between the leaves, calculating six inches between peaches, and repeatedly getting a face full of crispy old peach blossom debris and picking baby peaches out of my cleavage, that particular emotional knife had been blunted quite a bit. 

Here’s what they look like. They’re the size of large olives, and they are too young to have pits. 

I have filled two gallon ziplock bags and I’m maybe 1/4 of the way through the tree. It turns out you can pickle baby peaches. This lady says they don’t taste like much, so they take on whatever flavor you put in the vinegar solution. I told myself I was going to try this, but honestly I think I’ll offer them on buy nothing and let them be someone else’s broken dreams this year. Or maybe just feed them to the ducks. Ducks have no dreams. 

THURSDAY
One-pan garlicky chicken thighs with potatoes and zucchini

Thursday was the first day this week I deliberately cooked something specifically for that day, rather than just dealing with whatever nonsense that hostile PA had set up for me. Samantha, or Simba, or whatever her name is.

What I had was a bunch of chicken thighs that were on sale, and zucchini that reminded me that I once made a zucchini dish that everybody liked, and it was on a week we were replacing the bathroom floor, so I figured it must be easy. So I made it again! Yay!

Got the chicken marinating in the morning. It’s a simple marinade, just olive oil and balsamic vinegar and apple cider vinegar, plus garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper, and fresh basil and garlic. I prepped the garlic by peeling it, putting it in a sandwich bag, and bashing it with the end of a rolling pin, so it was it kind of flattened fragments. I don’t know if there’s a name for this form of garlic, but I find it very useful in marinades, because it imparts garlic flavor to the whole thing, but also has little bits of garlic you can bite into.

So that marinated all day. I forgot to buy summer squash, but I cut up about four pounds of potatoes (skin on) and two large zucchini, also skin on. I cut them into thickish quarter-round wedges, and put them in a bowl covered with cold water to keep them from browning.

Later that day, I was worried they’d be getting soggy, so I drained the water off, recalling that I have heard that potatoes that have been doused with cold water will not get discolored even if you drain the water off. I wish I had done this sooner, so I’d have a better idea of how long you can do this in advance of cooking them, but I can say that they will go at least two hours after draining the water off without turning brown. Nice.

I sprayed a couple of giant sheet pans, put the chicken on, and then arranged the potatoes and zucchini in between the chicken. I didn’t pour all the marinade in, but I did fish out the basil and garlic with a slotted spoon and spread that over the chicken. Then I sprinkled the potatoes and zucchini with more garlic powder, onion powder, and salt, and just cooked it undisturbed for about forty minutes. 

It doesn’t look glamorous, but it’s really delicious. Probably wouldn’t have hurt to stir up the potatoes and zucchini 20 minutes in, so they’d be more brown on the top; but they had a great little crust and wonderful flavor on the bottom, so no complaints.  

 

The fresh garlic and basil are really pleasant and summery, and the chicken came out super juicy. I’m not a giant zucchini fan, but I remembered to cut it into big enough wedges so it didn’t get slimy, and it was really tasty with the slightly sweet, sharp marinade. Would have been good with some crusty bread to sop up the extra sauce. 

If you’re looking for an easy, one-pan meal that’s nice and summery, this is the one!

If you’re looking for something really fantastic to do with zucchini, I recommend this zuchhini agrodulce recipe from Sip and Feast. It’s quite a hassle, but holy wow, it is fantastic. I hope I have time to make this when vacation starts. 

FRIDAY
Lemon garlic shrimp pasta

This bag of shrimp I got on sale a few weeks ago has been in the freezer long enough. I had kind of a long argument with the kids wherein they accused me of CONSTANTLY serving shrimp lo mein, which I KNOW is not true, and even if it were, WHO COMPLAINS ABOUT SHRIMP LO MEIN. They were, of course, just yanking my chain, but I just dangle it out there all the time, begging one or more of our innumerable chain-yankers to come yank it. 

ANYWAY, I’m not going to make shrimp lo mein. I’m going to make lemon garlic shrimp pasta from Sip and Feast, who claims that it is easy and impressive. I like all those words (lemon, garlic, shrimp, pasta, easy, and impressive, not to mention sip and feast), so I don’t see how this can be bad. The jerks can eat plain pasta with butter, which I will admit is also delicious. 

This week the main things I’ve been working on are — well, Millie’s garden and Millie’s fall alert system, to be honest, and also my garden (got the last bits filled in with collard, hooray!) and adding legs to the final piece of salvaged platform, so we can have a little pool deck. I’ve only been to Home Depot three times so far, and I know that’s not going to be enough to satiate the project gods.

Oh, I also did some more work on my wattle fence, which is my pride and joy. It’s very possible it looks stupid and nobody wants to say anything, but I just love it so much. Any time I have more than half an hour free, I get the giant clippers and call the dog, and we go out to the woods and cut down as many saplings as I can drag. Then I sit and trim off all the green and all the twigs, and then I weave what’s left into my fence. It’s deeply satisfying.

I also have an ongoing project that’s less satisfying, and that is putting a lot of energy into not dealing with or even seeing the five trash bags of foam fragments that are in the dining room, which used to be in Corrie’s oversized bean bag chair, and which . . . hey, is there a violent stomach bug going around where you are? Because there is here. All I’m gonna say about that is: If you have a kid who is going through a picky stage and only eats rice for dinner? SOMETIMES THAT’S NOT A BAD THING. 

Anyway, we have ONE WEEK OF SCHOOL LEFT, the peonies all burst open the other day, Merlin says there is an indigo bunting somewhere in my yard, and I’m gonna get those legs on that deck if it kills me. And it will! But I plan to die at home, doing what I love (eating pork). 

Oh, today is the feast of the Sacred Heart, and I’m thinkin of making this Coeur à la Crème with Blackberry Sauce. I’m thinkin about a lot of things. 

Clovey pulled pork

Ingredients

  • fatty hunk of pork
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for browning
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2/3 cup apple juice
  • 3 jalapeños with tops removed, seeds and membranes intact
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp ground cloves

Instructions

  1. Cut pork into hunks. Season heavily with salt and pepper.

  2. Heat oil in heavy pot and brown pork on all sides.

  3. Move browned pork into Instant Pot or slow cooker or dutch oven. Add all the other ingredients. Cover and cook slowly for at least six hours.

  4. When pork is tender, shred.

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

  2. Preheat the oven to 400.

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

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

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 380: How does Scooby Doo end his prayers?

Happy Friday! And goodbye, May. You were a good May. 

Yesterday I cleaned out the laundry room, because I got a free dryer on Facebook Marketplace and we’re gonna have to take the back door off to get it in, but we can’t reach the door because there is so much misc in there. Getting something for free made me feel like the universe was out of balance, so I recklessly posted a bunch of stuff to give away myself, so today I get to drive around dropping off pots of butternut squash starts and bags of kid clothes that I suddenly worry are absolute garbage, but I can’t tell because I have nostalgia. 

Meanwhile, the other door to the laundry room decided to take itself off, and now randomly sort of LOOMS at people, when all they tried to do was open it. It’s okay, because the kids avoid using that room anyway (it’s our second bathroom, if you’ll recall), because the dryer makes a horrendous squealing noise, and the overhead light flickers kind of menacingly. It does have a little whiff of Gitmo about it, but how long does it take to pee? Big babies. Anyway, we got a new dryer. Well, an old dryer. It’s fine. All manner of things shall be fine. 

So here’s what we had this week: 

SATURDAY
Chicken nuggets, raw peppers, chips

Shopping day! The plan was chicken burgers, but they didn’t have any, so I got nuggets. I haven’t had a chicken nugget for years. They were really pretty good.

I had a sweet chili sauce with mine and actually really enjoyed this meal. 

SUNDAY
Oven fried chicken, corn on the cob, spinach

Sunday I bullied my family into putting the big bridge pieces into place!

You may recall that one big wooden piece tried very hard to kill me and Lena last time I worked on this project. Well, it took seven people to lift each of the two long pieces, which is why progress has been so slow. We each grabbed a support plank and shuffled forward like pall bearers, and at one point, when I pulled my foot out of the muck, part of my sandal refused to come along. But it was just an Aldi sandal, and already smelled of ducks. A small price to pay. 

Here is what the marsh looked like before, with just the cinderblocks in place:

and here is how it looks now:

Progress! Still needs some work, obviously. I need to stain some parts (the undersides are all done, though), and fill in a few gaps, and get some more cinderblocks to level it off more, and I need to figure out what kind of transitional piece to add in the front, so you don’t have to step up onto it. You can’t tell from this picture, but the ground slopes pretty sharply down from the arch to the first bridge piece. I have a little set of stairs I might half-bury in the dirt, to get to the first piece. 

But it’s SOLID. The cross pieces distribute the weight, and they’re resting on dry ground and/or on cinderblocks, and when you walk on it, there’s no wobble, and it’s all up out of the wet. I’m very pleased. 

I also moved the big arch back a bit, to open up the entrance, and added a second arch (it’s hard to see, but it’s there). I have a couple of baby grape vines I’m gonna plant, and the plan is to eventually make a canopy of vines from one arch to the other. In 5-10 years, it’s gonna be just gorgeous. It’s already gorgeous. My plan is always to enhance what’s good about what’s already there, because it’s a lovely, lovely spot. 

So! It’s usable and I can do the rest without dragging anyone else into it. The other big thing I want to do before summer vacation starts is to build a very simple little deck using the rest of the wooden pieces I got along with the bridge pieces.

I know they sell hardware specifically for attaching legs onto platforms, so I figure if I just think hard about weight distribution and kind of overbuild everything, I should be able to make something functional, and less awkward than the lifeguard station we currently have

Sunday I also cleared out my other raised bed, topped it up with lovely compost, made a little support tipi out of last year’s sunflower stalks, and planted my sugar snap peas. 

I think it might be too lightweight, but I can always reinforce it with actual sticks at some point. I’m going to put collard greens in the rest of that space, I think. There are some leftover Brussels sprouts that survived the winter, but they already bolted and I think I’ll just rip them out.

I think it must have been Sunday that I finally got the rest of my vegetable starts in the ground. I’m a little unsure about what’s what, because I didn’t weatherproof the labels (next time I’ll use popsicle sticks and pencil!), but I am pretty sure I have pumpkins, butternut squash, I think two kinds of eggplant, and possibly cucumbers, one of those birdhouse gourds, and also garlic and basil in another spot. 

It’s all a little too close together, because I meant to expand the bed more than I ended up doing. Oh well. They can fight it out. 

No strawberries yet (soon!), and I can’t pick asparagus until next year, and I accidentally let the rhubarb bolt, so I didn’t get much this year. But overall, I am pleased. Gotta finish that wattle fence! 

Oops, I forgot to talk about food. Good thing my yard is INCREDIBLY INTERESTING, so you don’t mind. Well, we had oven fried chicken. I started soaking the drumsticks in milk, eggs, and salt in the morning, and then I dredged it in seasoned flour and started cooking it about an hour before dinner. Melt butter and oil in a pan, lay the chicken down, turn it after a while and let it continue cooking, and voila. 

I love this recipe. The meat is juicy and tender, the skin is crackly and tasty. I think I honestly prefer it to deep fried chicken, and whoever did clean-up that night definitely preferred it. Here’s that recipe:

Jump to Recipe

We also had corn on the cob and just plain raw spinach. 

Fab warm weather meal. I didn’t even add butter to my corn or dressing to my spinach, because everything was so fresh and nice. 

MONDAY
Cookout!

Monday was Memorial Day and we met not one but two boyfriends of daughters. What a to-do! We expected quite a few more people to show up for the cookout than could actually make it, and it did rain like crazy, but we had a nice day anyway, if somewhat lower-key than expected. 

I made an incredibly bland potato salad

and then I went a little crackerdog with the fruit salad and made a watermelon swan boat

and Damien grilled up a ton of burgers, and we just had chips and soda and ice cream.

Damien reconfigured his Interchangeable Cinderblock Meat Altar Situation, and now it has more air circulation and more even heat.

He is talking about making an Interchangeable Cinderblock Smoker Situation, too. You may think we’re complete rednecks, but we actually buy our cinderblocks NEW, so you tell me. 

TUESDAY
Cookout part 2!

Tuesday I cooked the hot dogs we decided not to bother with on Monday, and we basically just had that meal again, with different meat. No complaints. 

Also on Tuesday, I drove the kids to school and every single person who stepped into that car made the same “urk” noise, so I decided it was Time To Find Out What That Smell Was. Got some trash bags, got a pack of baby wipes, set up some music, and prepared myself to launch into a long, arduous search into every nook and cranny to root out the mysterious source of the odor. 

I open the door, and right there on the floor is this.

Maybe we are rednecks after all. 

WEDNESDAY
Pork ramen

Wednesday I went on a bit of a cleaning rampage and cleared out the mountain of scraps and flowerpots and bits of fencing and old rugs and broken tools that I’d been flinging onto the back stairs. I didn’t take a before picture, but this is the after:

Okay, yes, we are definitely rednecks. I see it now. But we’re rednecks who try! Gonna try to get a dryer up those stairs, that’s what we’re gonna try.(Yes I know I need to do something about all that unfinished wood. It’s on my list. It’s on my list!)

Wednesday I put about three hundred sunflower seedlings into the ground, from seeds I gathered from last year’s most successful flowers. I want PHALANXES of sunflowers this year. I have a long row of them in front of the marsh,

a little sprinkle by the pool where some day lilies appeared, a few next to each light post around the patio, and a line of them in front of the trash enclosure. I also moved the last of the cosmos and zinnia seedlings into pots and found spots for them. I think everything I planted over the winter has a home now!

For supper, I had a hunk of boneless pork whatnot, so I sharpened up my knife and cut it really thin, then pan fried it a little bit, then added a bunch of Chinese five spice and a little soy sauce and finished cooking it. Made a giant pot of ramen, soft boiled some eggs, and served it all up with chopped scallions, sugar snap peas, and spinach, and crunchy noodles. 

Delightful. I am steadfastly refusing to find out what good ramen tastes like, because the kind that comes in a case and shrink wrapped in orange plastic is cheap and we like it, and I don’t want to ruin that. 

THURSDAY
Pork gyros

Thursday, I cannot even begin to explain how the universe tried to thwart me. Really unprecedented levels of attempted thwarting! I knew it was gonna be a busy day, even pre-thwarting, but I had already cooked all the easy meals for the week, so I started in and prepped pork gyros first thing in the morning.

Here’s the marinade recipe, which is pretty basic but tasty, and it does make the meat super tender

Jump to Recipe

and I made a big bowl of yogurt sauce

Jump to Recipe

Oh! And I finally got to use my mother’s day present from Clara, which is a handmade juicer. 

Works GREAT. The ceramic pointy thingy takes way more pressure than plastic, and the spout poured very smoothly, which is harder to design than it looks. She’s getting really good.

Then thing started to go a little bit south. But the upshot is that, against all odds, I got Millie’s replacement fall detection sensor set up and tech support APOLOGIZED TO ME AND SAID I WAS RIGHT. So there! And I was only a few minutes late to the school concert, which they were actually calling a “song showcase,” for reasons which are not entirely clear to me, except that I would not have called that a concert, either. I did get there in time to hear one of the kids say into the microphone, “And [kidname], [kidname], and [kidname] will be our socialists” and the music teacher leaped like an antelope over to that microphone and said, “SOLOISTS.”

This happened mere minutes after our golden haired god hero was unjustly and outrageously convicted on 34 bogus felonies in a banana republic-style kangaroo court with an upside down flag!!!! So IT’S ALREADY HAPPENING TO OUR CHILDREN, just like he warned us. But we did not listen.

The good news is, the gyros were great. A complete mess, but still very delicious. 

I made the mistake of trying to open the pita and fill it with meat, rather than rolling the meat up in an intact pita; and I completely forgot to gather fresh mint; and the fries were underdone. But it was extremely late and we were so hungry, and it tasted heavenly. 

FRIDAY
Ravioli

The ravioli I promised but did not deliver last week! But accidentally bought sauce for twice, so now we have so much effing sauce! Maybe I can put it on a buy nothing group. Maybe I’ll put myself on a buy nothing group. 

I do have these chive blossoms

that are clearly at their peak. I’m not a big fan of infused oils – the bacteria threat worries me – but I think I may try frying them. 

Oh! But last night I found a WHOLE OTHER JAR OF MARIGOLD SEEDS.

I may actually offer those on buy nothing, because I don’t know if I have it in me to till anymore ground this year, and every spot that’s open is already sprouting to the max. 

Like I said, a good May. Really good May. 

 

Oven-fried chicken

so much easier than pan frying, and you still get that crisp skin and juicy meat

Ingredients

  • chicken parts (wings, drumsticks, thighs)
  • milk (enough to cover the chicken at least halfway up)
  • eggs (two eggs per cup of milk)
  • flour
  • your choice of seasonings (I usually use salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, and chili powder)
  • oil and butter for cooking

Instructions

  1. At least three hours before you start to cook, make an egg and milk mixture and salt it heavily, using two eggs per cup of milk, so there's enough to soak the chicken at least halfway up. Beat the eggs, add the milk, stir in salt, and let the chicken soak in this. This helps to make the chicken moist and tender.

  2. About 40 minutes before dinner, turn the oven to 425, and put a pan with sides into the oven. I use a 15"x21" sheet pan and I put about a cup of oil and one or two sticks of butter. Let the pan and the butter and oil heat up.

  3. While it is heating up, put a lot of flour in a bowl and add all your seasonings. Use more than you think is reasonable! Take the chicken parts out of the milk mixture and roll them around in the flour until they are coated on all sides.

  4. Lay the floured chicken in the hot pan, skin side down. Let it cook for 25 minutes.

  5. Flip the chicken over and cook for another 20 minutes.

  6. Check for doneness and serve immediately. It's also great cold.

Marinade for pork gyros

Marinate thinly-sliced meat for several hours, then grill over the coals or broil in the oven. Serve wrapped up in pita with cucumbers, tomatoes, french fries, hot sauce, and yogurt sauce. This marinade is enough for about five pounds of meat. 

Ingredients

  • 4 medium tomatoes diced and smashed a bit
  • 2 onions grated
  • 2 Tbsp oregano (or a large handful of fresh oregano, chopped)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • 12 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • kosher salt and pepper

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 376: Lassi, get help!

Hap the Friday! We had another super busy week, because late April and May are “quick get this in before school ends” time, and then rather than using my free time to get caught up on writing, I made the irrational but irresistible choice to get started on my bog bridge and some other stuff. I cannot tell you how good it is to be outside building again, with all the sounds and smells and busy creatures of spring. I may have shouted, “HELLO, BEAUTIFUL. YOU ARE SO BEAUTIFUL” at a wasp, who was not impressed. But have you seen the world?

My dear peach tree has more blossoms than I’ve ever seen on it, and the tulips all suddenly popped open yesterday.

Just delightful. I have a very beautiful life. 

Here’s what we ate!

SATURDAY
Italian deli sandwiches, chips

Saturday was shopping day, of course, and I opted for nice, easy sandwiches. Baguettes and various salamis and whatnot, plus tomatoes and red pesto, olive oil and vinegar, salt and pepper. 

The ideal Saturday meal, even if I did forget the basil. 

SUNDAY
Rigatoni alla disgraziata

Sunday I dug up some of the yard and put together a little raised bed next to the rhubarb. I’m very pleased with myself for spending zero doll hairs on this.

 

The border is partly wattle fence harvested from the woods, partly slabs of wood stolen from Damien’s woodpile, and partly rocks that I’m about 83% are not pet grave markers. I filled it with compost from my compost heap, which I’ve haven’t touched all winter. I didn’t do any of the things: Didn’t water it, didn’t turn it, didn’t layer it, whatever. I just dumped anything biodegradable there — soil from other yard projects, food waste, and used duck bedding. I was nervous about digging into it, not knowing if it would be horrible wads of banana peels and eggshells mixed in with sprouting weeds, or what. 

Behold, my gorgeous compost:

Isn’t that lovely? It is soooo rich and dark.

I’ll probably plant peas and eggplants in this bed. You can see the strawberries and asparagus are still covered with straw. We can’t really grow much outdoors until the end of May here. 

 

Speaking of eggplant, I had a few eggplants I bought and didn’t use last week, so I made rigatoni alla disgraziata,

Jump to Recipe

which is very tasty and filling. Once I added sausage to this dish, but it just felt like overkill, so this time I made it with just the regular ingredients: Toasted breadcrumbs, chunks of eggplant, pasta, a red sauce, and plenty of cheese (good mozzarella and freshly-grated parmesan on top)

I was actually rushing a bit and undercooked the eggplant slightly, so it wasn’t as soft and well-combined as it could have been, but it was still delicious. I also made a quick sauce to go with it:  Sautéed some garlic and onions in olive oil, then added a couple of cans of whole tomatoes, torn up, with the juice; a couple of little cans of tomato paste, some red wine and some water, and red pepper flakes. Savory and lovely. 

On Sunday I also discovered that Sonny has been roaming the whole neighborhood, and not just our property, as I foolishly believed. This is not great because the neighbors have a rescue dog who doesn’t think Sonny is charming at all, and in fact wants to kill him. So he’s been having supervised outdoor trips all week, which is exhausting for us and baffling for him; so, it looks like we’re going to spend the weekend making some kind of stupid ass fence out of the snow fence I picked off the side of the road a while back. I was planning to make an enlarged duck pen with the snow fence, but while it turns out the ducks also have been visiting the neighbors, they’re smarter than Sonny, and stay away from ferocious dogs.

in short, we are the problem. Can’t even smooth things over with free duck eggs, because everyone around here has ducks. Perhaps a dozen dog eggs– no no, that’ll never work. 

MONDAY
Pork chops, asparagus cheese tart

Monday I had some pork chops, which is not my favorite.  Hard to know what to do with them so they don’t dry out. I decided to make a quick sauce using this recipe from Recipe Tin Eats (which is a whole meal with potatoes, but I just made the sauce). I was extremely distracted and the sauce came out really thin, and I didn’t feel like basting the chops, so guess what? The pork chops were dry. 

I thought I’d make up for it with a sure-fire side dish, an asparagus tart. This is super easy: You just roll out some puff pastry dough, sprinkle it with shredded cheese (I had gruyère), lay the asparagus on top, and bake it until it’s puffy and lightly browned. 

I myself thought it was delicious, but the kids were not terribly impressed. I definitely ate cold, chewy asparagus tart for lunch for the rest of the week, though, so not a total loss. 

So this meal fell a little flat

But! I ate it outside under the peach tree with the sparrows and cardinals hollering happily from the bushes, so no real complaints. 

TUESDAY
Chicken burgers, vegetables and dip

Tuesday we had appointments in the morning and then an awards ceremony in the evening, so this was a problem only chicken burgers could solve. I did cut up a big tray of vegetables and serve it with dip. Did not take a picture of food; did manage to snap Sophia being recognized for her art.

and it’s a good thing she was recognized, because you wouldn’t be able to do that based on my photography! (She is holding a puppet of the head of her art teacher, who wasn’t able to be there in person.) 

WEDNESDAY
Frozen whatnot

Wednesday I swear I was writing some stuff, but then somehow I was out in the woods cutting down young aspens to clip and make into more wattle fence.

Sonny had some business of his own to attend to, but there’s nothing really terrible he can do in that direction, so I let him roam, and then we went back to work on the fence. 

This sometimes causes misunderstandings, because at other times, I like to play “No, that’s MY stick! You can’t have it! You give me that stick back!” with Sonny, and he thinks it’s hilarious. But when I’m working on the fence, I really mean it, and it’s very confusing for him. Poor guy. 

Anyway, does the fence look elegant and wonderful? Not really! But it’s surprisingly sturdy, and I immensely enjoy sitting on a plastic milk crate (which is the absolute best seat for outdoor work, if you get a real milk crate, not one of those flimsy college dorm storage things) and forcing whippy little branches in out of stakes. It’s like a little puzzle, choosing the right one to go next, and also figuring out if it should go in the front or the back of each stake. 

I am now quite sure there is something amiss with my brain, because I have a VERY very hard time with simple alternating patterns. Same thing happens with left/right movements in yoga. Sometimes I just can’t see it, and the harder I push, the more confused I get. Brains are weird. Luckily, this is completely made-up project that I’m doing just because I enjoy it, so I can just go, “Hey, brain-o, you tried” and get back to wattling. 

Wednesday we were supposed to go the youth group cookout, but the afternoon quickly devolved into WHY NOT SPEND HOURS DRIVING, INSTEAD? and the kids thought Aldi pizza would save the day. But Aldi, being Aldi, was out of pizza. Well, they had some cauliflower crust pizza, and some pizza with teriyaki chicken or something on it, which. Listen. 

So I got a bunch of frozen taquitos and found some pigs in a blanket in the freezer

and nobody was mad. I also bought them soda just because they asked for it. But I got store brand, because I’m still the boss.

THURSDAY
Green masala lamb curry, rice, minty yogurt sauce, mango lassi

Thursday, I got dinner started in the morning. I had bought one of those weird lamb breast plates on sale a while back, so I defrosted that and got it marinating in this green curry from Flavours Of My Kitchen. Not gonna lie, it has a lot of ingredients

and I think I used too much mint. The mint is the weird icy green cubes you see in the bowl, top right, with the jalapeños. I was using some mint I had frozen last fall, so it was hard to judge how much I was using, and I think it overpowered the cilantro a bit. (The other bowl is yogurt with turmeric and salt.) Plus I used black coriander instead of green, which I KNOW is not the same; and also jalapeños are not the right pepper. But I was having fun anyway, because Indian cooking is just a lot of fun.

So I made the curry paste and got the meat marinating, and then, again without making any conscious decisions, I just found myself outside working on the bog bridge. The area looked like this:

The dark part in back is the stream, which is a heavenly spot, but not very easy to get to.

So first I waded in (it’s VERY wet this year) and picked out the trash and pulled out those rotting pallets we laid down a few years ago when it was less wet. And let me tell you, I’m kind of a connoisseur of schlorping sounds, and the schlorp those pallets made when I dragged them out of their muddy home was top notch. Just exquisite. 

Well, when it’s done, I’ll probably write a whole other post about my ridiculous process, but the upshot is I DID make progress and I did NOT step on any nails and although I THREATENED to drill a hole in the dog’s head and let the sap run out, I did not follow through. 

And when I ran out of outdoor screws, I resisted the urge to use drywall screws, or little random bent nails, or hot glue. Maybe I have learned something after all. 

Anyway, I eventually went back inside and scraped a tremendous amount of smelly mud and swamp slime off my legs and got back to dinner. First I warmed up some spices in oil

in the Instant Pot. Then I moved it to a skillet for more space, fried up a bunch of red onions, and then seared the lamb in the onions. 

Then I moved it all back to the Instant Pot and pressure cooked it with a little water for 22 minutes on high. Then I moved it back to the skillet to keep warm while I cooked the rice. (This is why I don’t make cooking videos: Because it’s mostly me going, “oh, crap, I need to make rice. Argh” and the fishing a dirty pan out of the sink.)

While the rice was cooking, I decided the curry tasted a little bit harsh, because of my aforementioned ingredient substitutions; so I thought a cooling sauce would help, and added some mint and lemon juice and a little salt to yogurt. Then I thought, speaking of cooling, dang, I could make mango lassi.

Frozen mango chunks are really cheap at Walmart, and I keep them in the house for snacks. Can’t find the lassi recipe I used, but I just threw some frozen mango chunks in the food processor along with a bunch of plain Greek yogurt, some milk, and a little sugar, and blended it until it was smooth and pretty. I couldn’t find my ground cardamom, so I added cinnamon. I think a little lime juice would have been nice, but I didn’t think of it. (If you’re using mango that isn’t frozen, you’ll need to add ice.)

It was a good meal! I found a little jar of coriander chutney, which I adore, and it was just yummy all around. 

You can see the mango lassi was nice and thick, based on how alertly that straw is standing at attention. Definitely making lassi again. The kids were enthusiastic. 

I will probably take a break from lamb breast plate, though. It is SO fatty, and it’s impossible to eat without being an absolute caveman about it. What meat there was was super tender, though, and juicy like crazy. 

FRIDAY
Tuna noodle?

We are going to an awards ceremony for Moe this time, so I’m not sure who is eating what and where. The kids did say they’d make themselves tuna noodle if I got the ingredients. 

And that’s it! I’ll end this on a musical note. Corrie is going to her first dance (she’s in third grade, so I guess this is going to be a pretty wholesome event) and they asked kids to list their most-wished-for songs. Here is her list:

 

 

 

She is available to DJ your wedding. Must be fed mango lassis. 

Rigatoni alla disgraziata

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 374: In which we all forge ahead

Happy Friday! Pretty straightforward meals this week, because everything else was complicated enough. Spring is undeniably here, finally, even though there are still a few sodden, grimy hills of snow lurking about here and there. Every tree has a little halo of high green or red, right on the verge of exploding into true green. I see my peonies wriggling their peculiar dark red stalks up out of the soil, and the first of the daffodils have bloomed, and most of the crocuses. The tulips are biding their time, and so are the day lilies, irises, and lilies of the valley. The lupines are back, and maybe they’ll even flower this year. Sedum is raring to go, cat mint is forging ahead, and I’m forcing myself to wait before I uncover the strawberries and asparagus, but I have high hopes. Lots of buds on the apple trees and the mock orange and the lilacs, and yes, on the peach tree! 

I made a little progress on my wattle fence, this time trying a bunch of aspen saplings. The first row was a variety of things, grapevine and misc., and those turned out to be too thin. I probably should have pulled that part out and started over, but I just compressed the first row and started weaving branches on top of it. The result would definitely get me kicked out of even the least discerning medieval guild, but it is SO MUCH FUN, and it is sturdy, so I think it will keep soil in, which is my goal.

My compost heap looks rich and lovely, and I have squash, pumpkin, eggplant, and pea seedlings ready to move once the danger of frost has passed (in about a month!), and I think I bought some gem glass corn seeds, and probably a bunch of other stuff I bought on whims. I have to go out and cut down a ton more wood for the fence, which is also extremely enjoyable. Tromping around on the old, dry sticks of last year and seeking out what’s new and useful for the spring, wow. Sonny comes along and frolics, which he believes to be helpful, which it kind of is. I bought some more grape vines and some blueberry bushes on clearance at Walmart (what a world), too. Go go go!

I also got some poppy roots, and I feel like this year is the year I will finally be able to grow poppies, unlike the other six times I attempted it. I’ve been using my most excellent hori hori garden knife to plant things

which was a birthday or Christmas present, I forget which. I love this thing so much. It bites right into the ground and you give it a little twist and excavate a precise little hole, exactly where you want it. As you can see, it’s marked with measurements so you can get to the right depth. Wonderful tool.

SATURDAY
Aldi pizza

Saturday I just went shopping and we had Aldi pizza for supper. Damien spent his weekend writing and working on various cars. We don’t have babies anymore; instead, we have ducks and cars. 

SUNDAY
Chicken enchiladas

I was toying with the idea of putting enchilada filling in empanadas, but the kids told me that when I take a meal that everyone likes and then MESS with it, it’s upsetting. So I just made enchiladas. My enchiladas are what they are. Every time I mention them, someone who grew up near the southern border expresses polite amazement that I am calling these “enchiladas,” so instead I will call then “my kids eat theses.” Which is what I was going for!

Anyway, I basically follow Pioneer Woman’s recipe, except I use flour tortillas and I don’t brown them. So it’s just seasoned chicken (I actually used thighs, not breasts) browned up

and then shredded (don’t forget you can use your mixer to shred meat)

and then a ton of onions,

which I cooked slowly in the chickeny pan (and yes, PW is one of those people who directs you to caramelize onions in 4-5 minutes. I will never do this to you. It took at least half an hour, and I hurried it).

Then I shredded a bunch of cheese, dipped the tortillas in enchilada sauce, and rolled up the chicken, onions, and cheese in the tortillas, and laid it in a saucy pan, and then poured more sauce on top, and then sprinkled more cheese and cumin and chili powder on top. 

I think you’re supposed to just roll up enchiladas, but I always forget this and tuck the ends in as I roll, like for a burrito. Whatever. I made a whole bunch of them, some red, some green, and served them with cilantro and sour cream, and they were yummy. 

It was a chilly, rainy day, and these Authentic Mexican Kid-eat-ums hit the spot.

MONDAY
Kielbasa, potato, and Brussels sprouts one-pan meal; adults went out

Monday I heard the cry of my people for kielbasa, and made this easy and popular one-pan meal 

Jump to Recipe

In the morning, just to signal to myself that I was serious, I put out the bag of red potatoes, the packages of Brussels sprouts, and the kielbasa, and the savage and carnivorous cat immediately pounced on . . . 

the Brussels sprouts. Beware, o thou cruciferous ones! There will be no peace for you with this mighty hunter prowling abroad. 

I made up the honey mustard garlic sauce, which you can add halfway through cooking, or reserve for dipping at the end. Or you can put half of it on halfway through cooking and use the rest for dipping. Be like the cat and follow your heart. 

I made two big pans. This is both pans combined; you will want them to have more space to cook when you’re making it. 

You can also make this dish with wedges of cabbage, which I prefer; but the kids like Brussels sprouts better. I didn’t get a vote because Damien and I went out to eat, which we haven’t done in a WHILE. We wanted to try this newish taco place in town, but it closed at 8, which, what do I know. Maybe that’s a reasonable time for a taco place to close. So we went to Mi Jalisco, which has decent Mexican food but sometimes incredibly slow service. I mean like a few times when we went, we honestly thought they forgot about us. Anyway this time it was slowish, but not terrible. Gosh, this is a boring story. 

Anyway, Damien got carne asada and I got some kind of shrimp and mushroom dish, which was tasty. 

I wasn’t quite sure how to pronounce the name of this dish, which I confessed to the waiter, and he said he didn’t either. Let us all take a moment and salute the intrepid white guy working at a Mexican restaurant, just sweating and doing his best and forging ahead. 

TUESDAY
Chicken on salad

Tuesday I felt the need to reintroduce the family to green vegetables, so we had roast chicken on salad, with feta cheese, toasted almonds, and dried cranberries. 

A decent meal that was elevated by IT BEING WARM ENOUGH OUTSIDE TO EAT OUTSIDE. 

There are lilies popping up in those planters, and I have a bunch of marigold and morning glory and zinnia seedlings waiting to be transplanted. ALMOST. ALMOST time. 

On Wednesday night, I prepped some pork for tomorrow’s meal, so it could brine itself overnight. I mixed together a cup of sugar and a cup of salt and rubbed that all over a hunk of fatty pork shoulder, wrapped it up, and put it in the fridge.

WEDNESDAY
Bo ssam, rice, pineapple

Around noon, I unwrapped the pork and put it, uncovered, in a pan in a 300 oven. I was so pleased with myself for planning this out, because I had an interview in the morning, and then the afternoon was …. well, it took many revisions, but the final form was:

Damien takes the kids to school, Elijah takes my car to class and on the way home, picks up Lucy who had early release because of PSATs; Lena takes Damien’s car to work; Damien takes my car and drops off me and Elijah at U-Haul; I drive the rented truck back and Elijah drops my car off for Damien; Lucy and Elijah and I go and get the free wood, and stop and get ice cream because I felt bad about ruining their day, because that wood was frickin heavy; Sophia walks to work; Corrie goes into aftercare and Benny goes to the library, and Lena drives herself home from work and then picks them both up; I stop home and dragoon Irene, who got home on the bus, into helping to unload the wood; then I return the truck and Elijah picks me up at U-Haul with my car, I text Lena to press the “rice” button on the Instant Pot, and we pick up Sophia from work and then we GO HOME. 

My car now has FOUR warning lights lit up, and one of them is flashing, but WE WILL GET TO IT. By which I mean Damien. My job is to wring my hands and fret, and then Damien fixes the car while I think about fun projects I can do.

Anyway, by the time we all got home, the rice was just about cooked, and the meat was ready for its final step, which is just a little extra sauce and then high heat for ten minutes. 

I lost my phone, so I don’t have a pic, but here’s a previous finished bo ssam:

Here’s the whole recipe, such as it is, in one spot: 

Mix together a cup of sugar and a cup of salt, and rub this all over a fatty pork shoulder.
Wrap it up in plastic and put it in the fridge overnight. 

Six hours before you want to eat, turn the oven to 300, line a pan with at least two layers of tin foil and put the pork in, fatty side up. (Don’t bother to transfer all the salt and sugar, except what’s clinging to the meat.)
Cook the meat, uncovered for six hours.
Ten minutes before you want to eat, mix together seven tablespoons of brown sugar, two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, and a sprinkle of sea salt, and rub this paste all over the top of the meat and crank the oven up to 500.
Serve whole, and people can pull off bits and shreds of meat and wrap it in lettuce, with rice. 

If you want a more detailed recipe and you want to make a truly delicious sauce and sides to go with it, check out My Korean Kitchen’s recipe. This dish is VERY salty and sweet, so it’s good to have rice and something cooling to go with it, like mango. I had pineapple, which was decent (although I’m one of those “wow, I love pineapple, but it’s crazy how it’s such a popular fruit even though makes everyone’s mouth itchy and their lips swell up” people. Don’t care, love pineapple, forging ahead).

So, the WOOD I got used to be a small deck and a wheelchair ramp. So I now have three long, thin sections which will go a long way toward the bog bridge I keep talking about, to bridge this area, which is much wetter than it looks

and the rest of the wood is three or four square sections which I think will make a lovely pool deck. Right now, there are two ways to get into the pool: On a rickety ladder that is embarrassingly slightly narrower than my hips, or via a cannibalized wooden swing set I put together a few years ago. The swing set thing has worked well enough — mainly I wanted something I could sit on and act as lifeguard, without having to be in the pool myself — but it does have some structurally necessary pieces of wood that make it extremely awkward to enter and exit. SO, I’m going to add some legs to the square pieces and bolt them onto the lifeguard thing, and IN THEORY, we will have an actual deck. Or not. Probably yes, though! 

Anyway, it turns out I am old, and driving a gigantic scary truck for two hours and lugging extremely heavy wood around is my limit for the day, and I was chatting with Benny after dinner and apparently dozed off mid-sentence, and she turned off the light and tiptoed away, and I spent the next hour drooling all over my own face until the evening screaming and quacking brought me back to the land of the living. 

You know what, those ducklings are jusssssst about old enough to move outside. I really like them, but dang, they are loud, and smelly. 

Look how big they got! Annie is the one with the mostly white chest, and Bebe is the one with more spots.

Annie started to quack a few days ago, but Bebe is still meep-meep-meeping. The cat is okay with them (I encouraged them from day one to spend time together, because it seemed like less work than constantly being on alert to keep them from killing each other; and yes, they were all equally at risk), but I think he will be relieved when they move out. 

THURSDAY
Hamburgers and chips

Nothing to report. Actually I have to report that the Dollar Store version of Pringles are really, really terrible. 

And they’re not even a dollar! Everything is $1.25 now, except there is also an aisle where things are $3 or even $5. What a world (derogatory).

The burgers were fine, though. We ate really early because we had one final family faith formation parent meeting for the year. I was kind of scratching my head over why we didn’t manage to make it to more meetings, and then I realized we spent the year getting Corrie prepped for first confession and first communion and confirmation, which is not all supposed to be in one year! So we ended up missing a lot of the classes which were directed at families who were not prepping kids for sacraments.

This is our first year doing whole family faith formation, and I must grudgingly admit that it’s kind of brilliant. Gonna write that up in a bit. 

FRIDAY
Quesadillas, chips and salsa

Or maybe we will all just go outside and graze on free wood. I sure have a lot of free wood. This is the view from my bedroom window:

No ragrets! But I might treat myself to a cordless impact driver, which Ryan says I will want, and Ryan is usually right. 

I am HOPING to have one or both of these projects (bog bridge and pool deck) done by July 4th, but if I had to pick one, I would pick the bog bridge; but I think MAYBE I can do both. I did manage to get my brick patio done by July 4th last year, if you’ll recall. (Yes, I was laying bricks in the dark while weeping on the evening of July 3rd, but I did get it done!) I got this wood from a fellow who said he had been planning to make a koi pond in his back yard, but never got around to it, so I’m gonna forge ahead on his behalf. 

Okay, I think that’s it. I shall pray for all you cheesebags at adoration (right after I swing by the school and drop off the overnight bag I forgot to pack for the kid who’s going on a sleepover, oops). 

UPDATE: Corrie remembered on her own to pack bags! Three of them! Meep meep meep! All the ducklings growing up. Everybody forging ahead. 

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

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

Ingredients

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

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

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400. 

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

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

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

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

    Serve hot with dressing and parsley for a garnish. 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 373: Little lamb, who ate thee?

Happy Friday! This week at our house was A DOOZY. Possibly multiple doozies. Luckily, most of it was scheduled dooze, except for both cars having issues (my sliding door stopped closing, and one of Damien’s tires blew out spectacularly, and also his alternator lost its will to alternate) and also Damien has been working on Dora’s car, so, you remember how Damien once added “and cheese” to every item on my shopping list? It was like that, except every day had “and everybody needs a ride” added to it. 

BUT IT IS SPRING. And that counts for so much! We had a big snowstorm last week, but it slowly warmed up over the weekend, and it’s been raining for a few days, so the snow is now mostly gone. 

I tried THREE new recipes this week and a new decorating technique, and Corrie had TWO sacraments, and NO ducks died, although some of them tried to kill each other. I think there is a dead mouse somewhere in the WALLS. And we are having SPAGHETTI for supper. We are all pretty TIRED. But it is spring, for real! 

SATURDAY
Pizza? 

Saturday I did a monstrous shopping because I skipped shopping last week. I feel like there was something else big going on, but I don’t remember what. We had just regular pizza. 

SUNDAY
Banh mi, german chocolate cake 

Sunday we celebrated Lena’s birthday! They had pork belly on sale at Aldi, so I poked around for recipes and decided to try the Crispy Pork Belly Banh Mi from Recipe Tin Eats, because Nagi has never failed to delight, and also because, despite our best efforts, we still had chopped liver in the house.

Before I forget, here is my chopped liver recipe. Chicken livers are cheap and this is an easy recipe. Why not make up a bunch, separate it into servings, and keep some in the freezer in case of banh mi? I think you should. 

So, pork belly is the cut of meat that’s made into bacon. If fat upsets you, you will not like this recipe! But if you are someone who has fond and lavish imaginings of what could possibly be meant by “crispy pork belly,” then I urge you to give this a shot. It was magnificent. And easy! But it did take some planning. 

You have to let the meat dry out in the fridge overnight, or at least several hours. Then you rub the flesh side with oil, kosher salt, white pepper, and Chinese five spice, and make a sort of foil packet to enclose the sides and bottom, so none of the juice will escape while it’s cooking. Then you cook it in a low oven for two hours.

You’re supposed to check it halfway through and tighten up the foil, because it shrinks as it cooks, but I forgot. The pork will have changed shape at this stage, so you level it off by putting balls of tinfoil under the lower side. 

Then you turn the oven way up to 465 and let it brown up for about half an hour, rotating it halfway through and using foil to protect any spots that are browning too fast. You salt it at some point, but I forget when. 

Sooo, here is how it came out:

ooooh. 

Probably could have let it get a little browner, but I really have no regrets.

This particular dish is meant to be cut into chunks, rather than shredded, so I cut it up

and served it on toasted baguettes with mayo, cilantro, pickled carrots, cucumbers, jalapeños, chopped liver (paté) and the wonderful, velvety sauce suggested in the recipe (hoisin sauce, coconut milk, and a little soy sauce), and also some crunchy fried onions from a can. 

Amazing. Pretty different from the banh mi I usually make, which has fish sauce and is a different texture. 

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This was sweeter and less bitey but also richer and more complex. An excellent, excellent sandwich, and the sauce was so good. I did make the pickled carrots using her recipe, and I think I prefer mine, which are less sweet,

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but it was a negligible difference. 

The pork belly chunks were sublime. The fat layer on top was salty and crackly, and the flesh inside was so juicy and succulent, and it had layers of fat inside that were meltingly tender. No chewiness in any part, and each individual piece of meat was, I’m a little embarrassed to say this, but almost like a layered sandwich in itself. So it was like a sandwich full of little baby sandwiches. Not, uhhhhh, an everyday food, for a variety of reasons. But I enjoyed it so much. 

And I made a cake! I decided to use the Tastes Better From Scratch recipe for German Chocolate Cake. I actually made the two frostings on Saturday, to save time, but then left them sitting on the stove all night by mistake. One has egg in it, and I wasn’t crazy about the texture anyway, so I decided to remake it. Because I was being smart. 

I then proceeded to be very dumb and decided that, when I got to the part of the cake recipe where you add a cup of boiling water to the batter, I would use a metal measuring cup without a handle.

Do you know, boiling water is hot? I didn’t realize this. So I basically tipped a little water in and then shrieked and flung the measuring cup into the moving mixer, with predictable results

So I wiped down every single surface of every single thing that was in the kitchen and then I remade the coconut pecan frosting. I made a double recipe of the cake, and it came out, like so many of us these days, a little too fragile. Also the chocolate frosting was so thick, you couldn’t really spread it, but you could squish it, so that is what I did. So the resulting cake looks a little like someone held it at shoulder level and then dropped it

but everyone assured me it was delicious! You have to agree, this is definitely a lot of cake. I have finally started on Emgality, so who knows, maybe some day I will have chocolate again, and find out for myself. 

MONDAY
Eclipse! 

Monday, if you recall, was the eclipse! We were in the 95% range, and we’ve seen a partial eclipse before; so I decided to excuse the kids from school and hop in the car to see totality. Our goal was St. Johnbury, VT, which is normally about two hours away. It took about 3.5 hours, so I deployed the car DVD player, which is reserved for the longest trips, and we watched Ice Age, which holds up, at least if you’re only listening to it. 

We were thrilled to see clear skies, and it was one of the warmest days of the year so far, so we felt very lucky. Staked out a spot, ate our sandwiches, checked out the craft tables and information booths, and then the moon started to steal across the sun, and then . . . 

I don’t know if you guys realize this, but the sun is what is making us alive, and when it gets covered up, things change DRAMATICALLY and IMMEDIATELY. We went from sweating in the sun to shivering, and the light was . . . not twilight, like when the sun is going down. It also wasn’t “there’s a storm brewin'” light. It was light I have never seen before in my life, and there above me were immense heavenly bodies silently moving themselves in a completely new way. Everybody stood up. People shouted and cried out. I wept. It was quiet and cold. I don’t know what to say.

I did take a few pictures

but of course they aren’t anything like what it was like. Neither, I may say, are the dramatic, high resolution pictures that people have been sharing. If you haven’t seen a total eclipse, it is simply not like anything else

We did bring a colander and use it as a pinhole projector to make the little crescent shapes before totality.

Strange, strange stuff. The whole thing was just so strange. And it was just the sun, and the moon! The sun and the moon, that we already know about and have lived with all these years. If this is how strange the physical world can get, it makes you wonder what other surprises may be in store. Phew. Phew. Quite a day. 

Lots of people turned right around and zipped off to their cars the very second totality was over, but we hung out and kind of caught our breaths, and then headed over to the Fairbanks Museum, which is a strange little natural history museum full of taxidermy and cultural oddities from all over the world. I enjoyed every bit of it, including the document hand written by Robert Louis Stevenson deeding his birthday over to a little local girl who had the misfortune of having been born on Christmas. Sweet man. 

 

Oh, I forgot to mention that just before totality, we saw strange ruby-red gems of light on the bottom edge of the sun. These turned out to be something called Bailey’s Beads, and it is the sunlight leaking out between the crags of the moon just before the moon moves totally over the sun. 

So after the museum, we plunged back into traffic and spent another 3.5 hours getting home. We watched Help on the way back, and Corrie lost a tooth, and we sampled Wendy’s Orange Dreamsicle Frosties (exactly what you’d expect), and then we came home and collapsed. 

TUESDAY
Chicken burgers, chips

Tuesday I was like, wow, I’m not even that tired. I got the kids to school, took one kid to a rather fraught doctor appointment, cleaned out the car for the first time in months because Corrie lost her tooth and then lost it again, and was pretty distraught about it; and then I decided that it was time to do something about the duck house, which was in a truly shocking state. And then I thought I would sit down for a minute, and of course I fell asleep. SO asleep. So ASLEEP. It was such a deep nap, I feel like I’m still waking up several days later. Man. 

So yes, chicken burgers and chips for supper. It was finally warm enough to eat outside, so that is what I did!

WEDNESDAY
Hot dogs, fries

Wednesday was the rehearsal for Corrie’s First Communion and confirmation right around supper time, so I got Elijah to manage supper and we got it done! Wednesday was supposed to be nachos for supper, but I had so many other things to do, we didn’t even have time for that, so hot dogs. 

After dinner, I made a cake for the next day – just a box mix, which are really quite good these days. I made some kind of white cake that uses just egg whites.

THURSDAY
Qeema and rice with minty sour cream and coriander chutney; white cake 

Thursday I just . . . didn’t want to make nachos. I don’t know why. So I went back to Recipe Tin Eats begging for a ground beef recipe, and dear Nagi said I could make qeema. 

I’m telling you, that lady does not miss. I minced up a bunch of garlic and ginger, cooked that a bit, added finely diced onion, cooked it some more, and then added the ground beef along with kosher salt, cayenne pepper, garam masala, cumin, coriander, and turmeric, and browned up the meat. Then you just add some water and simmer it until most of the water evaporates.

And that’s it! I set up some rice in the Instant Pot for Damien to start while I got the kids, and I wanted to make some yogurt sauce, but since I had been planning nachos, I had bought sour cream, and we didnt’t have yogurt. So I defrosted a couple of the mint cubes I had put away last fall

and stirred that in with the sour cream (I froze them with a little olive oil. I also found a bottle of coriander chutney in the cabinet and chopped up some cilantro, and IT WAS ALL DELICIOUS.

Definitely making this meal again. I told the kids it was like Korean Beef Bowl

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except Indian, which is sort of true, but also kind of a silly thing to say. It was not spicy, but was absolutely bristling with garlic and ginger, which I love. Just a wonderful, warm, homey taste, and the sauce from the meat soaked right into the rice and made the whole thing savory and good, and so nice with the cool chutney and minty sour cream. Great meal, and really quick (or a great make-ahead meal). 

I also realized that I’m very tired of not really knowing how much meat I actually have (the ground beef was in a ziplock bag from last week, after I divided a giant package and used the first part on areyes. So I got a cheap kitchen scale, and I’m looking forward to seeing if this improves my baking, too, if I can measure dry ingredients by weight rather than volume. Probably not! I think I’m just a mediocre baker, and I’m mostly okay with that. But who knows, maybe this will change everything. Anyway, I’ll know how much meat I have. 

We ate really early and then headed off for Corrie’s confirmation and First Holy Communion! 

Bunch of pictures here. 

It was lovely. Just lovely. Clara was her sponsor, and she chose the name Casilda, who is a saint she learned about from Meg Hunter-Kilmer’s excellent book Saints Around the World. It didn’t ring a bell at the time, but Saint Casilda of Toledo is the subject of this famous painting by Francisco de Zurbaran

which was the reference for a painting by Roméo Mivekannin which we saw in person a few months ago at the Currier Museum in Manchester.

 We do get around. 

For the cake, I often make a stained glass cake for sacrament parties. You cover the cake in royal icing to make a stable surface, let it dry, pipe lines in black, and the carefully fill them in with various jellies whipped up with a little water. This isn’t the greatest example, but it gives the general idea:

I wanted to try something different, so I frosted the cake and then melted some white candy melts and just kind of dabbed them onto parchment paper

When they were dry, I peeled them off and arranged them into a flower. 

I thought it was pretty, if a little rough; but it didn’t really say “Catholic” to me. First I attempted to make crosses out of candy melt. They looked pretty terrible when I cut them out with a knife; and when I tried to use a cookie cutter, they kept breaking when I tried to release them. So I found some gum paste and

behold, it’s THE LITTLE LAMBY OF GOD. 

This is the cutest religious cake I have ever made. Corrie loved it, and I’m happy to have a new way to decorate cakes. I see many possibilities. 

I’ve been on a poem-printing kick lately. I follow several poets and poetry lovers on social media, and the printer has been amazingly obliging lately (= it prints things???), so any time something strikes my fancy, I print it out and stick it to the wall. Here’s The Lamb by William Blake, if you’d like to do the same. When we were at the Fairbanks and I pointed out the Robert Louis Stevenson document to the kids, I reminded them that he was the one who wrote At the Sea-Side (“When I was down beside the sea/A wooden spade they gave to me…”) which is the poem that’s been hanging in the bathroom for several years, and my favorite poem of all time; and one of my kids said, “Oh, I have it memorized. I stare at it every time I take a dump!” So I guess you could say [looks smugly at fingernails] I really know my stuff, parent-wise. 

And now, my friends, all ten of my children have been baptized and confirmed and they’ve all been to confession and received Communion. And they’ve memorized at least one poem. I’m not saying my work is done, but it sure feels like a milestone. 

FRIDAY
Spaghetti? 

I believe we’re having spaghetti. I gotta clean up the kitchen from yesterday (it was Benny’s turn, but we got home so late), and the ducklings are meep-meep-meeping and the dog is whining and I’m still in my pajamas and there are things overdue and there simply isn’t time for it all, but I am so glad for my life. What a life! 

And look at my flowers, which did NOT DIE.

The greens are daffodils and possibly red tulips, I don’t remember. Some of my winter sowing jugs are finally poking out of the dirt. And the buds on my peach tree look fine! We had a freeze and I was rushing around in the dark, draping sheets over things and weeping, as one does, but it looks like everything survived. 

Happy Friday! I’ll pray for yez all at adoration this afternoon. 

 

5 from 1 vote
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Korean Beef Bowl

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

5 from 1 vote
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Pork banh mi

Ingredients

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

5 from 1 vote
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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. 371: St. Joseph’s Pizza!

Happy Friday! I’m going through my food photos and noticing that we are not doing great with the part of Lent where you don’t eat a lot. But really, there are two whole other important pillars of Lent. To wit: Praying, and giving alms. And those are going very, you know what, mind your own business.

Here’s what we had this week: 

SATURDAY
Chicken burgers, chips

Saturday I went shopping, of course, so we just had chicken burgers and chips for supper. I did make a second batch of maple syrup, even smaller than the last one, though.

Annnd I may have overcooked it a skosh. 

I was planning an Irish breakfast for Sunday, which was St. Patrick’s day. But I couldn’t find sourdough bread at either supermarket, so I decided to try making my own. In my usual thorough researchly fashion, I Googled “sourdough bread without a starter” and clicked on the first recipe that popped up. Started the dough and set it to rise in a warm spot (in the box of socks in the laundry room, which is over a heating vent) overnight. 

I also, feeling very pleased with myself for all the things I was getting done, put both ice cream bowls in the freezer for the next day.

I also rented a pickup truck for the next day, so I could pick up an amazing offer from Facebook marketplace: Two docks, one 8×8 feet, one 16×4 feet, and the long skinny one had a handrail!!! Free!!!! And only about half an hour away. 

The reason I wanted these was because I’m planning to build a bog bridge over the swampy area of the yard so we can get to the stream more easily. I had thrilling plans of using the long dock as a sturdy entrance point to the bridge, and the square one as a sort of floating deck halfway there, and I was thinking of adding birdhouses and solar-powered lights and geraniums in terra cotta pots, and a couple of tasteful deck chairs, and it would be such a lovely little project that would really transform that part of the property, and I was feeling incredibly lucky to have been the first one to jump on the offer, and they were really well-made, solid docks with no rotten wood, and it was all coming together!

You can probably tell, based on how excited I am about this, that it all went to hell. It really, really did. Read on! 

SUNDAY
Irish breakfast, maple walnut ice cream

Sunday we went to Mass, I started some maple walnut ice cream going, using the syrup I had made yesterday, which I warmed up in a pot of water until it was soft enough to stir. (Here’s a similar ice cream recipe, and just ignore the part about coconut cream, and instead add 1/4 cup maple syrup, and then stir in some chopped walnuts after you churn it)

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I also made a batch of chocolate chip ice cream (same base, but add chocolate chips). Jammed those in the freezer and headed out to get my wonderful docks. 

Okay. So. I really can’t stand to revisit every last horrible detail, but it included a woman screaming “STOP!” and a man shouting, “What are you DOING??” and then when we got past that part and found the right field instead of the Very Wrong Field, there was a long spell where Damien and I were standing in the rain in that field, coming up with every last possible scenario we could that might possibly end up with us loading up these docks and bringing them home.

When we got to the part where I suggested going back home, getting our mini chainsaw and as many teenagers as we could find, and then using all our might to load the hacked-up pieces of dock into the truck and making maybe five or six trips to get it home, and then returning the pickup truck to U-Haul on time, we just kind of looked at each other and said, ” . . . Yeah, no.”

It was sad. It was tragic. But the fact is, we really needed a winch and a flatbed for this job. I did call a flatbed company and had a short argument with the dispatcher, but when they finally called back, I missed the call, and that was the final chapter in a long and stupid story called “It Was Just Not Meant To Be.”

So I went home and cried a little bit, to be honest with you, because I really wanted those docks, and also I felt like I was the dumbest person in the world because nothing every works out, boo hoo hoo, and the maple syrup was all my fault, and I had forgotten to buy potatoes for the Irish breakfast, and then I fetched the dough for the alleged soda bread that had been rising for 20 hours, and it was . . . in keeping with the rest of my efforts that day.

 

HOWEVER, I baked what I had, and they turned out somewhat reminiscent of bread.

Damien made the bacon, and we actually had a really tasty meal. I roasted some mushrooms with — I don’t remember, probably garlic, salt, pepper, butter, oil, and then some lemon juice at the end, and I roasted some tomato halves with olive oil, salt, and pepper. 

 I cut the bread into thick little wedges

and I heated up some baked beans, and then I fried a bunch of duck eggs in bacon grease, and yes, all together it was delicious. 

Even without potatoes. 

But! The ice cream didn’t freeze! I don’t know why! Maybe my freezer is overstuffed and the bowls are not getting sufficiently chilled. What can one say. Begorrah. We definitely ate it anyway, but it was more like a thin milkshake than ice cream. 

MONDAY
Mussel lo mein

Monday I was pretty ready to have everything go better, and it did. Aldi was selling pouches of cooked mussel meat for $3 a pound a while back, so I pulled those out of the freezer and let them defrost while I did yoga. My sprained (or whatever) ankle was finally feeling well enough to do a full class again, so that was nice; and the cat stole one of the bags of mussels but did not manage to open it, so that was also nice!

At dinner time, I boiled three pounds of linguine, and started the lo mein with minced garlic and ginger, then added diced red onion and sugar snap peas, and then the mussels,

and then I put in 2/3 of the pasta and the sauce, and it was a lovely lo mein.

I served the rest of the pasta plain, for people who prefer that. 

The lo mein was so good. I adore this recipe. It’s so fast and easy, and just delicious, and you can put whatever you want in it. 

TUESDAY
Pizza, cannoli 

Tuesday I had to face the fact that, even though I love St. Joseph very much, I had just plain forgotten that it was his feast day. Most years, we do a big Italian feast, but we were pretty zonked this week, so I just made pizza. 

I did make a pretty deluxe pizza for the wild card one (I generally make one pepperoni, one plane, and one wild card pizza): Fresh garlic, roast tomatoes (left over from the Irish meal), spinach, anchovies, artichoke hearts, and black olives. 

Ahem: 
 
I can see a new horizonUnderneath the blazin’ sky.I’ll be where the sauce is flyin’(Not Srebenica!)

Gonna be your mom in motionAll I need’s this bag of cheese.Take me where my future’s lyin’St. Joseph’s pizza! 

Look, the original song doesn’t make any sense, either. 

We also happened to have cannoli shells in the house, which Damien grabbed months ago because they aren’t always in stores, so you get them while you can. I made a basic filling (ricotta cheese, vanilla, cinnamon, and powdered sugar) and piped it into the shells, then decorated them with rainbow sprinkles. 

Not actually very swanky (I didn’t have time to let the filling drain, so it was kinda wet), but heyyy. St. Joseph. Not Srebenica. 

WEDNESDAY
Butter chicken, rice, dal

Wednesday was duckling day! We ordered them a while back, thinking they would arrive after Easter when things had “”””””calmed down a little,”””””” but in fact they came on Wednesday. Here they are, noisily waiting in the post office to be picked up

The last batch of ducks we got were named after some of Damien’s great uncles, E.J., Coin, Fay, and Ray; so these ones are named after my paternal grandmother, Annie, and her sisters Mickey and Bebe.

They’re a little confused

but quite winsome

Here’s a couple of videos from the first and second day, meeting the rest of the animals. 

They are Black Swedish ducks, and their personalities are somewhat different from the last little flock we got, which are pekin ducks. They are less sleepy and more jumpy, and they already look more duck-shaped than the pekins did at this age. (The pekins were just fuzzy blobs for about a week, but these guys have discernible necks already.) 

Last time, we got a straight run, meaning nobody had figured out yet what sex they are. We ended up with two boys and two girls, which is not ideal (there are some power struggles). So this time we paid extra to get them sexed, and these are all girls. They’re supposed to be friendly and cold-hearty and good foragers, and the shells of their eggs will be a darker, bluish shade. This is what they will look like as adults

One of my upcoming projects is to make a better fence, because our current flock finds it very easy to escape, and they’ve been roaming all over the property and also off the property, and we’re not really sure if everyone else finds them as charming as we do. They do get plenty of exercise this way, and nobody has eaten them yet. 

Anyway! Still had to make supper, and the menu said butter chicken and dal. I’ve never had or even seen, much less made dal before. I followed the recipe in Julie Sahni’s cookbook, except I think I had the wrong kind of lentils. It said yellow or pink, and I had ones that were kind of orangey and are called “football lentils.” 

Anyway it was a super easy recipe. You just simmer the lentils in water with turmeric until they’re tender,

whisk them until they’re blended (that was fun), and then at the end, add some oil that you’ve browned a bunch of sliced garlic in.

I think it came out much thicker than it’s supposed to be — more of a paste than anything you could conceivably sip — but it was DELICIOUS. 

The butter chicken is also so easy. You just have to start early (or the night before) so it can marinate, but then I followed this recipe from RecipeTinEats, except I accidentally bought vanilla yogurt instead of plain, so I used sour cream instead. Worked great. You just cook up the chicken, then put in your tomato, cream, salt, and sugar, and let it simmer a bit longer.

I ended up with a lot more sauce than we needed for the chicken (possibly it was thinner because it was sour cream instead of yogurt? I don’t know), but better too much than too little. 

I sure wish I had some naan or some other kind of bread, but I was — well, to be honest, I was tired because I was so excited about the ducks. So I just made a big pot of rice to go with it. Set out some more cilantro and there it was. 

Such a nice, lovely meal. I ate so much.  Just about everybody likes butter chicken. The dal was not a huge hit, but I myself loved it, so I’m probably going to try again on a day when I can also make naan, and maybe I can talk them into it that way. 

THURSDAY
Banh mi, Doritos

Thusday we had banh mi, which we haven’t had for quite some time, because the smell is a bit of a trial for some people who live in this house. 

I made a very slight tweak in the marinade

Jump to Recipe

(running the cilantro through the food processor, rather than just chopping it up coarsely) and I liked it, so I’ll do it that way from now on.

I quick-pickled some carrots 

Jump to Recipe

and did the ol’ glass-skull-full-of-pickled-carrots maneuver 

I just cut up the cucumbers and left them unpickled, because there are so many sharp, attention-getting flavors in this sandwich already. 

The meat turned out extremely tender.

I had my sandwich with pickled carrots and fresh cilantro and some sriracha mayo, but I forgot to add cucumbers and jalapeños. I did toast the rolls, though, which I don’t always bother to do. 

Magnificent. This is truly one of the great lights in the universe of sandwiches. My only regret was the pickled carrots were too sweet, but (so) the kids liked them a lot. We also had Doritos, which were a surprisingly good accompaniment to this sandwich. Or maybe I just like Doritos. 

Late Thursday night, we lost one of the ducklings. I mean it died, we didn’t lose track of it. They were only a few days old and I don’t really know what happened. It just happens sometimes. The other two seem pretty hale and hearty, and now . . . I have to figure out which name I should assign to the one who didn’t make it, which is an unforeseen pitfall of naming brand-new ducklings after real people!

Ah well. 

FRIDAY
Bagel, egg, cheese sandwiches

Friday was Benny’s school conference (Corrie’s was Thursday afternoon), and we made a stop afterwards at a favorite thrift store, where Benny found an absolutely lovely, brand new dress that fits her like a dream, and I found eighteen matching tiny wine glasses for $4. Perfect for Passover, which we will be celebrating on Holy Saturday as usual. Which is . . . .coming right up, isn’t it. There isn’t much in the way of Passover food to be found in the supermarkets, because actual Passover isn’t for more than another month, but I’ll figure it out. 

Deep down, I’m glad I’m not frantically trying to figure out what to do about the two docks that are in my driveway right now. It just took a couple of days to realize I felt that way. 

It is snowing.

Ben and Jerry's coconut ice cream

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups whipping cream or heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 15 oz coconut cream

Instructions

  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs for two minutes until fluffy.

  2. Add in the sugar gradually and whisk another minute.

  3. Pour in the milk and cream and coconut cream (discarding the waxy disk thing) and continue whisking to blend.

  4. Add to your ice cream maker and follow the directions. (I use a Cuisinart ICE-20P1 and churn it for 30 minutes, then transfer the ice cream to a container, cover it, and put it in the freezer.)

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 5 tsp sesame oil
  • 5 tsp sugar

for the rest

  • 32 oz uncooked noodles
  • sesame oil for cooking
  • add-ins (vegetables sliced thin or chopped small, shrimp, chicken, etc.)
  • 2/3 cup rice vinegar (or mirin, which will make it sweeter)

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.

5 from 1 vote
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Pork banh mi

Ingredients

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

 

5 from 1 vote
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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. 361: Who then, my mother?

Happy Friday? I meant to put an exclamation mark, but I’ll let it stand. Up until yesterday, I kept seeing memes about how awful and long and exhausting January is, and I kept thinking everyone is being silly, and this is just a normal month; and then today I realized I’ve been feeling that way for four months, and all four of those months have been January. Bah. Boo. But at least it must be almost over, anyway.

[checks date]

WELL GREAT. 

Anyway, some of that January futilitism crept into my cooking this week, and despite making as much as my second-best efforts, everything turned out . . . basically tolerable. Oh well. I also wrote 40% of several essays and they all suck.

However, I did do a really neat interview with an artist yesterday, someone you may not know about, but should. So there’s something to look forward to! There’s always something to look forward to, even if it’s just bidding farewell and good riddance to the week. 

Here’s what we had, and it was all FINE:

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips, chicken barley soup

We had lots of leftover soup from last week, so I reheated that and then burned every single grilled ham and cheese sandwich. Some of it was because I forgot to spread mayo on the outside of both sides of the sandwich, and some of them, I just burned for fun. 

I did get a few people who hadn’t done so before to try squeezing lemon juice over their bowl of soup, and they agreed it was very tasty that way. Here’s the soup recipe. Definitely worth making. Still plenty of winter left. 

s  t  i  l  l   p  l  e  n  t  y   o  f    w  i  n  t  e  r

SUNDAY
Gochujang bulgoki, coconut stringbeans, pineapple; kalakand

On Sunday, it just happened to work out that all my kids could come for dinner! So I was planning a big Indian meal, with vindaloo, coconut string beans, tomato yogurt salad, naan, rice, and dessert. But I did the thing I will apparently never ever ever stop doing, and I just skimmed the recipe, and discovered too late that you’re supposed to marinate the meat for at least eight hours. Soooo did some quick menu switches, and ended up with a half-Korean, half-Indian menu. I had little warning bells going off in my head that this was not a good idea, and I was right! Bah. 

The food was . . . fine. I made gochujang bulgoki with thinly sliced pork, matchstick carrots, and plenty of onion

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because that does need to marinate, but it can be just a few hours. I had much less gochujang (the actual fermented hot pepper paste) than I thought, though,

and it just didn’t hit the mark. Also I severely crowded the pan, so the meat was more braised than pan fried. It was tender, but just bland and slightly watery.

I decided to forge ahead with the string bean recipe I was originally planning to make, because they are Aldi string beans and you use ’em or lose ’em. But she called for cooking the string beans for twenty minutes, which is insane. It’s one thing if you want string beans cooked to a mush, which might work out for certain recipes, but she specified not to overcook, so they don’t lose their crunch. Insane!

I have since discovered that string beans in India are a different variety, and they are tougher, and do need a lot more cooking. So I did just cook them for a few minutes, and then added them to the mustard seeds heated till “spluttering” in hot oil (I love how many Indian recipes use the word “spluttering,” and I wonder if there is some cognate in some Indian language. 

Anyway, the result was . . . fine. 

Maybe I would have enjoyed them more if they had accompanied a dish with seasoning that made more sense along with the mustard seed, coconut, and jalapeno, but watery gochujang was not it. Boo. 

I made a big pot of rice and cut up a bunch of lettuce and also put out the last of the seaweed sheets from New Year’s Eve, and I did have fun making the little grabby bundles of seaweed, bulgoki, and rice

I do like some bundled food. 

Oh, it looks like we also had pineapple, which, again, was fine, but just . . . not quite the thing. 

There was enough food, anyway, so that was a relief, and everybody had a good time and I heard uproarious laughter coming from the dining room, so that was lovely. I was a little bummed about the meal, though, and then suddenly realized wait! I had made dessert!

The dessert was something called kalakand, which is a sort of sweet milk cake which you make with paneer, but not THAT kind of paneer; you are supposed to make your own paneer, which is soft set. OR, you can use ricotta cheese. It so happened I had a bunch of ricotta left over from birthday calzones, which is why I decided to make this recipe. 

It does say you will need to stir it longer if you use ricotta, and Swasthi was not kidding about that. It says “ten minutes,” and it took me at least forty minutes of stirring. 

Corrie had a friend over, and it was just as well I had to park myself in the kitchen and stir, because I could keep an eye on them, rather than ducking and covering, which is what my animal instinct tells me to do when these two get together. So I stirred that mofo forever and eventually decided that it was as thick as it was ever gonna get, and put it into a lined pan and pressed slivered almonds into the top. 

I let it chill in the fridge for several hours, and then brought it out after dinner with lots of caveats about how uncertain I was about the whole thing. 

People liked it, I think? I don’t think it came out right. It certainly wasn’t cake-like in any way. It helped that nobody had any idea what it was supposed to taste like. I suggested “Cheesecake Play-Doh,” and that got the most votes. 

In conclusion, I kept forgetting what it was called, and when I was searching for the recipe today (because I keep dozens of tabs open, but not the ones that I know I will need on Friday), I turned up this:

I don’t know what this song is about, and if it’s offensive, you have only your polyglotismo to blame.  

MONDAY
Regular tacos with pico de gallo

Monday was a day off, and I thought we all needed something a little more normal, so I just made regular tacos. Actually I sneaked a pound of ground sausage into the three pounds of ground beef, because it somehow worked out to be cheaper that way, and nobody noticed. 

I had the tomatoes I was planning to make into yogurt salad, so I made a bowl of pico de gallo with them. I was super tired and didn’t feel like chopping, so I just threw tomatoes, onions, and cilantro into the food processor, and then added some olive oil, salt, and some lemon juice, because I ran out of limes. 

It was fine. Everything is fine. 

TUESDAY
One-pan kielbasa, red potato, Brussels sprouts; challah

The kids have been agitating for kielbasa, so I made this one-pan meal

Jump to Recipe

(well, two pans of it), except I used Brussels sprouts instead of cabbage, and rather than serving the sauce along with the meal, I cooked the food for 20 minutes, then added in the sauce, switched the pans and finished cooking it for another 12 minutes or so.

It was super cold out, and I kept thinking about fresh, hot bread, and I had some work to avoid, so I made challah. 

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I made a double recipe, which is what I usually do, but usually I make one batch in the standing mixer and one batch by hand. It’s not dumb if it works! But for some reason I decided to make a double batch all in one bowl, with the very predictable result that it spurted jets and fountains of flour all over the kitchen. 

Then I put the bowl to rise on top of the coffee maker, which is the warmest spot in the house right now, and then I completely forgot about it. So it rose plenty. 

Oops. I wisely decided I was in no mental state to make another attempt at a four-strand braid, which I try from time to time, and it always makes me cry. I just divided the dough monster in half and then cut each one into four balls, then rolled out three and made a big braid, and cut the remaining ball of each batch into thirds and made it into a smaller braid to lay on top. I let them rise again, brushed them with egg wash, and then baked them. 

They turned out pretty!

I made them with duck eggs, including a duck egg for the egg wash on top. You will never find an eggier egg than duck eggs. 

I couldn’t find the poppy seeds, so as you can see, I used sesame seeds on one. Which made me think of this quick little bit from You Don’t Have To Be Jewish:

 

If I didn’t clip it right, the whole album is here, and the bit in question starts at about 20:17. 

Anyway, it was an okay-to-pretty good supper. The bread was a tiny bit underdone, so it was a little damp in the middle, but just a tiny bit; and even though I switched the meat and potato pans, one got a lot crisper than the other. But it was fine. 

Fine, I tell you! 

WEDNESDAY
Pizza

Wednesday I didn’t even feel like messing around one tiny bit, so I just made three pizzas, one cheese, one black olive, and one pepperoni. I took a picture so I would remember what we had

A perfectly fine pizza, with pre-shredded cheese that doesn’t taste like anything, and I couldn’t find the garlic powder or the block of parmesan. It was so cold in the kitchen that the dough didn’t 100% defrost, so the crust was a little bit CLAGGY. But I managed to stick to my meal plan for once, so it tasted pretty great anyway. 

THURSDAY
Glazed ham, baked potato, mysteriously spicy mashed squash

On Thursday morning, I remembered that we still had leftover coconut string beans in the refrigerator, so I put them out for the ducks, who were incredibly rude about it. 

Possibly angry at me for making their children into challah, but I don’t think so. We have to run and get the eggs in the morning before these dopes step on them and crush them. 

On Thursday morning, driving the kids to school, I turned on the classical music station and tried to guess the nationality and era of the piece that came on. I guessed German, 1820. And guess what! It turned out to be Karl Maria von Weber, written in 1815! I felt SO SMART. Then the dog turned on the hazard lights and I couldn’t figure out how to turn them off, so I had to pull into a parking lot and watch a short YouTube video. 

If you are wondering, the hazard light button is the giant, centrally located button with the big “HAZARD” symbol prominently displayed in red, which is why I couldn’t find it. Probably my Instant Pot gasket is in the glove box, where I put it while not reading all the way through the vindaloo recipe and buying the wrong kind of beans. 

Anyway, Thursday was the day we were supposed to have the bulgoki, but I had already used the meat, and I had Corrie with me at the store when I was shopping for a replacement; and if you take Corrie to the store with you, you’re going to come out with ham. 

So I got a big spiral-cut ham with a glaze packet on sale, and she pushed really hard for peas and mashed potatoes, but nobody felt like peeling potatoes, and I felt like I had to assert some kind of authority, so we had baked potatoes and mashed squash.

I usually cook the squash in the Instant Pot to save room in the oven,

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but when I was dealing the challah flour explosion, I also decided to thoroughly clean the IP top and had hidden the gasket from myself, so I shoved things around and just cooked the ham, baked potatoes, and squash  all at 400, which is not the right temperature for any of them. My motto is, if we can’t all be happy, then we’ll satisfy justice by all being miserable.

I sprinkled some baking soda and sea salt on top of the squash before roasting it, and it came out perfectly nice

and then I grabbed some butter and some spices that were handy: Cinnamon, cayenne pepper, salt, and scooped out the flesh and started adding lots and lots of cinn– ope, actually that was cayenne pepper. Wuite a lot of it. Corrie advised me to cover my mistake by also adding lots and lots of cinnamon, so that is what I did. I skipped the sugar because you really don’t need it with a decent squash. Some nutmeg would have been nice, but it didn’t seem like the time to rummage through little tippy bottles, so I just mashed that mofo and set it out. It was actually pretty good! Spicy! For some reason. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

Just mac and cheese. I’m sure it will be fine. 

When I insisted on making squash instead of peas, I told Corrie that I only recently started liking squash. In fact, the very first time I had mashed squash was in the hospital, right after giving birth to her, and it was the best thing I had ever tasted in my life. And from then on, I’ve had a thing for butternut squash. So it was really her fault. The rest of the kids then turned on Corrie in anger like Joseph’s brothers, because she was the cause of their cruel, heartless mother sometimes making mashed squash for dinner and not making anyone eat it or anything. I am truly a monster! Next time I’ll feed them all to the ducks. Then we’ll see who gets mashed. 

Gochujang bulgoki (spicy Korean pork)


Ingredients

  • 1.5 pound boneless pork, sliced thin
  • 4 carrots in matchsticks or shreds
  • 1 onion sliced thin

sauce:

  • 5 generous Tbsp gochujang (fermented pepper paste)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 cloves minced garlic

Serve with white rice and nori (seaweed sheets) or lettuce leaves to wrap

Instructions

  1. Combine pork, onions, and carrots.

    Mix together all sauce ingredients and stir into pork and vegetables. 

    Cover and let marinate for several hours or overnight.

    Heat a pan with a little oil and sauté the pork mixture until pork is cooked through.

    Serve with rice and lettuce or nori. Eat by taking pieces of lettuce or nori, putting a scoop of meat and rice in, and making little bundles to eat. 

 

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

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

Ingredients

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

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

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400. 

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

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

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

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

    Serve hot with dressing and parsley for a garnish. 

 

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.

 

Instant Pot Mashed Acorn Squash

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 360: A secret soup that Simcha made and pleased the group

I lied. I lied for the sake of a title. It only pleased about half the group. But it was a wonderful soup! Read on. 

SATURDAY
Domino’s pizza, birthday cake

Saturday was Benny’s birthday party, finally. She asked for a Gravity Falls-themed party, but she is old enough that her friends basically entertained each other, so I just did decorations and a cake and then let them go. So, just a bunch of red, yellow, and gold balloons, and a Bill Cipher zodiac tablecloth

plus a levitating, rather wrinkly Bill Cipher, who was still dripping glue when the guests came

and then outside, I set up a nice propane fire with a hot chocolate station and a s’mores station.

and that was that. Nobody’s been happy about the so-far-almost-snowless winer, but it does make it easier to throw a party!

The cake was well-received.

Just a chocolate box mix cake with frosting from a tub, decorated with details made of gum paste and colored with edible gold spray. 

Gum paste stiffens when it’s exposed to air, much more so than fondant, and you can roll it very thin, so it’s a good choice for small or flat decorations. Some day, I’m gonna make gum paste roses. If my kids ever stop asking for weird cakes (challenge: impossible).

Then Damien picked up Domino’s pizzas and the guests jumped on the trampoline in the dark and screamed a lot, and it was a good party! I ran out to clean everything up off the patio afterward, because I knew there was a storm coming, and I managed to knock a glass bowl full of mini marshmallows onto the bricks. Smash! Marshmallows! Candy canes! Shards of glass in the darkness! Really wished I had made friends with the ants and the sparrows, but you always think of these things too late. Did not go to the ball. Instead dozed off on the couch while drinking seltzer and watching NYPD Blue, which was just as good. 

SUNDAY
Corn dogs, chips

Sunday it snowed alllll day, and it had been snowing all night, so we were prepared. Damien went to the vigil Mass on Saturday and then got up early to clear the driveway, and the rest of us went to the late Mass on Sunday, which was Epiphany. We were prepared for the strident guitars and the off-pitch, hairy-sounding violin and the whitest tambourine in the western hemisphere. We were not prepared for A RETELLING OF THE ENTIRE CHRISTMAS STORY SET TO LEONARD COHEN’S HALLELUJAH. 

Epiphany indeed. Usually I sternly tell my kids not to criticize the Mass because it’s the Mass, but I am not made of stone. I did shut it down when they started proposing new liturgically-appropriate lyrics for “Blood On the Tracks.” 

Anyway, we had corn dogs. 

But you don’t really care for mustard, do ya?

MONDAY
Bacon cheeseburgers, Doritos

I still hadn’t gone shopping, because of the snow and I am a delicate flower, so Damien shopped for and made bacon cheeseburgers.

And very good they were, bacon cheeseburgers.

TUESDAY
Oven roasted pork ribs, mashed potatoes, peas

I planned a simple make-ahead meal for Tuesday, because three kids had dentist appointments. One got sick the night before, so we cancelled her appointment, one got sick that morning, so we cancelled hers and then then dentist said they didn’t super duper want to get in the mouth of the remaining kid with two sick siblings. Fair. It was still nice to have an easy meal. I made the mashed potatoes in the morning and then put them in the slow cooker to stay warm, and made the pork ribs heavily salted and peppered and roasted until sizzling under the broiler. 

I had mine with mango chutney, yum yum. 

WEDNESDAY
Oven fried chicken, chips, veg and dip

Wings were 1.99 a pound, so I got a bunch of wings and drumsticks and made oven fried chicken. Finally got around to making a card for this recipe, which is so easy and honestly comes out better than when I try to pan fry chicken. 

Jump to Recipe

I know this because I ran out of room in the sheet pan in the oven, and I didn’t want to make a second pan dirty, so instead I pan fried a few pieces (because it’s okay to make a second pan dirty as long as it’s on the stove? I don’t know) and I burnt the hell out of them, like I always do.

The oven ones turned out perfect, though. 

This is a terrible picture. I’m just including it to show that it actually was just cooked in the oven, easily peasily. The chicken was actually amazing, and SO gratifying because I knew how hands-off it was. 

Yes, I served chips for the third time this week. And also vegetables! With dip. 

But do try oven fried chicken. It makes everybody happy, and you don’t end up with grease spattered everywhere.

THURSDAY
Persian chicken and barley soup, pita

Thursday I knew dinner time was going to be crazy, because the kids had to be at the gallery to set up their life-sized Barbie house at 5 PM, and then the show actually opened at 6, so it was a great reason to try this soup I’ve had my eye on: Persian chicken barley soup. I followed the recipe exactly as written, except that it called for two chicken breasts and I was doubling it, and I only used about 2/3 of the chicken, and it was still the most chickenful soup I’ve ever encountered. I’m just saying, the chickens who contributed these breasts were on track to dominate at Sharky’s wet t-shirt contest at Hampton. So I ended up throwing a bag of shredded chicken in the freezer, and I’m sure you’ll be hearing about it again. 

I also lost my phone and didn’t take any process photos, but it was an enjoyable soup to make. You fry up onions and then add garlic and shredded carrots (holding some back to add in later). I didn’t soak the barley, as suggested, because I knew I’d be simmering the soup all day. 

Oh, I also turned out not to have any celery. You know, I don’t think I really followed the recipe all that closely. But usually when I make a soup, I just saute some stuff and then dump everything else in and just walk away, and this was a tiny bit more involved than that! Anyway I did pull some of the soup out and whir it up in the food processor and then add it back in, as suggested. I stirred in Greek yogurt, and used fresh cilantro and freshly-squeezed lemon juice. 

I moved it to the Instant Pot and used the “keep warm” feature, and it thickened up even more, as I expected, with all that barley. 

I threw some more cilantro on top, ground some pepper over it and squeezed on a little more lemon juice when I served up a bowl, and I put out some store-bought pita and rolls. 

Heavens to betsy. What a charming soup. It’s just as nourishing and comforting as any chicken soup ought to be, but it had just the merest thread of complexity because of the cilantro and lemon. It was thick but not gluey or pasty or even heavy. Just . . . nice. A nice soup, through and through. Will absolutely make again. The recipe makes a lot, too.

Speaking of a lot, here are the girls in front of the Barbie house!

You can see some more pics of the interior here:

 

This was for their 3D art class, and the assignment was to make something using materials you find lying around. They acknowledged that the original task kind of got lost in the pink fever dream, but it was extremely impressive. So much work, and very nicely designed. 

Oh, but speaking of soup, I meant to remind you that you can use your standing mixer (or a hand-held mixer, I suppose!) to quickly and evenly shred cooked chicken. For some reason I hate shredding meat, even when it’s nicely cooked and comes apart easily. The standing mixer takes care of it in a very short time. Hallelujah. 

FRIDAY
Poke bowls

I recalled when we made sushi a few weeks ago that ahi tuna is actually not prohibitively expensive, at least not in a world where everything is prohibitively expensive. And when everything is prohibitive, nothing is prohibited. So I bought a bunch of frozen ahi tuna from Walmart, and today we’re having poke bowls, which is just diced raw fish along with whatever you want, as far as I can tell.

I am, in fact, still in bed (I basically work from bed in the winter, so sue me) and haven’t even taken the fish out of the freezer yet, but this is a super easy meal to throw together. Look!

I got some mangos that should be ripe by now, and we still have some nice short-grain rice left over from New Year’s Even, and I bought a pouch of those yummy chili lime cashews from Aldi, plus pea shoots and sugar snap peas, and people can just add whatever they want from the various bottles and jars of red and yellow and brown sauces rolling around in the fridge. 

I think I also got some frozen shrimp, so I’ll probably just sauté that up in sesame oil or chili oil with a little salt and lime juice.

And even if it all goes wrongI’ll stand right here like a big ding dongWith nothing, nothing on my tongue but What’s for supper?

What’s for supper? What’s for supper?
What’s for supper? 
What’s for suuuuuuu

perrrrrrrrr

rrrrrrrrrr.

Leonard Cohen is a novelty act, there I said it. 

Oven-fried chicken

so much easier than pan frying, and you still get that crisp skin and juicy meat

Ingredients

  • chicken parts (wings, drumsticks, thighs)
  • milk (enough to cover the chicken at least halfway up)
  • eggs (two eggs per cup of milk)
  • flour
  • your choice of seasonings (I usually use salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, and chili powder)
  • oil and butter for cooking

Instructions

  1. At least three hours before you start to cook, make an egg and milk mixture and salt it heavily, using two eggs per cup of milk, so there's enough to soak the chicken at least halfway up. Beat the eggs, add the milk, stir in salt, and let the chicken soak in this. This helps to make the chicken moist and tender.

  2. About 40 minutes before dinner, turn the oven to 425, and put a pan with sides into the oven. I use a 15"x21" sheet pan and I put about a cup of oil and one or two sticks of butter. Let the pan and the butter and oil heat up.

  3. While it is heating up, put a lot of flour in a bowl and add all your seasonings. Use more than you think is reasonable! Take the chicken parts out of the milk mixture and roll them around in the flour until they are coated on all sides.

  4. Lay the floured chicken in the hot pan, skin side down. Let it cook for 25 minutes.

  5. Flip the chicken over and cook for another 20 minutes.

  6. Check for doneness and serve immediately. It's also great cold.

What’s for supper? Vol. 359: Angel eyes

Happy Friday! We just about made it through the first week of 2024. Hey, I have a great idea! Let’s eat. 

SATURDAY
Chicken burgers, chips

Frozen chicken burgers reporting for duty. 

SUNDAY
DIY sushi, steamed pork dumplings, red bean and Nutella taiyaki

New year’s eve, a.k.a. a reason to eat sushi and dumplings! In the morning, I made about fifty pork dumplings using this recipe. You’re supposed to salt and then drain the extra moisture out of the shredded Napa cabbage, but I flaked out and forgot, and just shredded the cabbage and dumped it in. 

I had some consternation, but I didn’t have any more pork, so I just went ahead and made the dumplings, using my smallest dumpling press.

Zip zap zop! Fifty dumplings. 

Later in the day, I started prepping the sushi ingredients. I got ahi tuna and Damien found some lovely salmon, and we also had pre-cooked little shrimpies, some fake crab (I also dug up an old can of real crab, but it looked horribly mushy, so I tossed it), cucumber spears, mango, avocado, radishes, carrot matchsticks, pickled ginger, and then just all the bottled Asian things I could find, plus sesame seeds, panko breadcrumbs, and red and black caviar, and a nice big package of nori sheets. And crunchy noodles.

I made some nice short-grain rice in the Instant Pot and then folded in the seasoning sauce

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with the help of some avid fanners armed with paper plates.

Truth be told, I didn’t come up with any amazing combinations, and my rolling and cutting skills were not at their peak. Luckily, even boring sushi is delicious. 

I think this one was tuna, radishes, and mango with red caviar and some kind of spicy mayo on top. 

I also bought some calamari rings, which I read somewhere you can use to make sushi inside of (I can’t think of a better way of saying that), but I forgot about it until the last minute, so I just boiled them and then doused them with seasoned rice vinegar. This is not the ideal preparation, but I did take a stab at making a calamari-ring sushi by cramming some rice and salmon inside, and sprinkling black caviar on top

and it tasted exactly like what it was! What do you know about that. 

I got to use my new thrift store bamboo steamer for the first time. I now have two double-decker steamers, which means I can make fifty little dumplings in just two batches. I mean eight batches, but in just two . . . installments. 

I love these dumplings. I don’t even use a dipping sauce; they’re so tasty and lovely on their own. 

There was absolutely no problem with the non-drained cabbage. The dumplings held together fine, and the filling was not drippy or anything. I honestly didn’t notice any difference, so I’ll probably just skip that step in the future. 

I ended up with some extra filling, which I froze, and will probably make into fried meatballs at some point, which I have done before. 

Poorhaps I will put them in soup.

Then Benny made a bunch of taiyaki with her new taiyaki iron. It has a simple recipe that came with the machine — basically waffle batter, but it uses cake flour and additional corn starch, which I believe makes them more tender. (We made cake flour by subtracting a tablespoon from a cup of flour and adding a tablespoon of corn starch.)  They are fluffy inside and have a pleasantly thin, crisp outside.

She made some with Nutella and some with red bean baste, which I ADORE

In conclusion, this is the logo on the can of red bean paste:

Indeed. 

Then we watched A Night At the Opera and at midnight Damien fired off a $5 confetti blaster I got at Walmart, and that . . . was the end of 2023. Whew.

MONDAY
Calzoni, “Angel” cake 

Monday was Sophia’s birthday. She requested olive and pepperoni calzoni, which is nice and easy.

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I label them with a little piece of what’s inside, which is inelegant but effective. 

I asked her what she wanted for a cake, and she said a strawberry box mix cake with lemon cream cheese frosting. Decorated how? She said surprise her with something cool and silly, and I could ask Lucy and Irene for ideas. 

Okay. Now, I don’t know if you have ever had three teenage girls at the same time, but if you do, you will know that EVERYTHING’S A TRAP, especially for moms. All you can do is do your best, and remember that you are a human being with dignity, no matter what they say about you. 

So anyway, Lucy and Irene agreed that Sophia would want Angel from Buffy doing that Angel pose with his hands. I can’t find a picture of David Boreanaz doing it, but it’s like this:
 
 
and this has become part of some kind of running joke that I don’t fully  understand. 
 
Perfect. I told Damien my plan, and HE said he heard Lucy, Sophia and Irene discussing how the one thing she DIDN’T want was Angel.
 
So I went back to the girls and said that I had further intel, and needed clarification. They said they were now unsure, and maybe she would like it, and maybe she would hate it. So then I was telling Elijah about this whole situation, and Corrie said SHE was in the room when they were discussing it.
 
Corrie said, “They were doing one of their ‘what-if’ scenarios, and the scenario was if Sophia said she didn’t want a thing, and she said surprise me with anything but that thing, and then someone did surprise her with that.”
 
See what I mean about traps? Somebody was clearly setting somebody up, but I didn’t know who. So I made a strawberry box mix cake, and I made some lemon cream cheese frosting, and I made an Angel cake. More or less. 
 
It even had the right number of candles! And it . . . sort of looked like Angel, kind of. 
 
 
Maybe more like Peter Lorre crossed with the Fonz, but what are you gonna do. The dude is basically shoulders, hair, and eyebrows, but mostly eyebrows, and it’s really important to get them right. 
 
I . . . did not get them right.
 
 

Frosting is an unforgiving medium! Next time I’ll just do this:

 
 
 
But I did do the hands thing:
 
 
Which I also did not nail. But it made her laugh!
And as you may have noticed in the above picture, I had another trick up my sleeve. After we established that it was sort of unclear to me whether Sophia actually wanted an Angel cake or not, I whipped out a little addition I had made of melty candy and toothpicks, and added it to the cake:
 
 

See? Ha! Angel cake, OR NOT. Your choice! Take that! I outwitted them all. And that’s what birthdays are all about. 

 

TUESDAY
Chicken caesar salad

After all the Christmas and New Year’s food and whatnot, it felt like high time to have a salad. But not without some dressing! I made this caesar salad dressing,

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but without anchovies, because we didn’t have any anchovies. Still very rich and kicky

and incidentally about the same color as my dining room walls. 

I roasted some boneless, skinless chicken with oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano, and served it over romaine lettuce with shaved parmesan cheese and homemade croutons. 

A very fine meal. 

That night, I prepped a giant pork shoulder for tomorrow’s meal . . . 

WEDNESDAY
Bo ssam, rice, raw broccoli, pineapple 

Bo ssam! Everybody loves bo ssam. I have whittled the recipe down to the very basics, which means dry brining a fatty pork shoulder in a cup of salt and and a cup of sugar the night before, wrapping it up in plastic wrap; and then just unwrapping it and chunking it in the oven low and slow (a 300. oven) for about six hours on a pan you’ve covered with a few layers of tin foil; and then right before dinner, you spread a paste made of seven tablespoons of brown sugar,  sea salt, and two teaspoons of cider vinegar on top

crank the oven up to 500 and put the pork back in for ten minutes or so until it has a lovely glaze.

And that’s it. It has a wonderful, caramelized crust on top and the meat inside is outandingly juicy and tender.

Bo ssam is supposed to be eaten with lettuce wraps, but I forgot to buy lettuce. Somehow we forged ahead. This is such a great meal because you don’t even have to cut it up. You just give everybody a fork and let them go to town. 

I made a big pot of rice, cut up some raw broccoli, and cut up a pineapple, and that was that. 

Live forever, bo ssam. 

THURSDAY
Old Bay drumsticks, baked potatoes, mashed squash, coleslaw 

Thursday I knew we were going to go out in the evening (nothing amazing, just a family faith formation meeting), so I oven roasted the drumsticks with a bunch of melted butter and Old Bay seasoning, and then served them cold

along with big hot baked potatoes. I very rarely serve baked potatoes, mainly so it will seem like a treat when I do. 

There was a cabbage in the house (which someone mistakenly bought thinking it was lettuce for the bo ssam, oops), so I made a quick coleslaw with leftover matchstick carrots from the sushi and a dressing of mayo, cider vinegar, and pepper

and, feeling like an absolute homesteader, I took out of the freezer the cubed butternut squash cubed I had prepped a few weeks ago. I usually make mashed squash by cooking it in the Instant Pot

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but the trivet has gone missing, and there’s no good substitute if the squash is already cubed! So I roasted it with a little baking soda and kosher salt, and then mashed it up with butter, cinnamon, and a little cayenne pepper. I also usually add brown sugar or honey, but decided to see how it was without it, and it was great!

Definitely sweet enough on its own. So now I know! Nobody noticed the difference. 

FRIDAY
??

I wrote “scrambled eggs and biscuits” on the menu board, which is a little weird. I guess I can make biscuits,

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but Damien and I are going to adoration and then First Friday Mass, so maybe we’ll just ditch the kids and get a pizza. I did one of those “see if you have money in various places you forgot about!” things, and I got a check from the state for $6.42, so I feel like throwing money around. And that’s my story. 

Sushi rice

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Rinse the rice thoroughly and cook it.

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

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

 

 

Calzones

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

Servings 12 calzones

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. 

  2. Mix together filling ingredients. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

caesar salad dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about two large lemons' worth)
  • 1 Tbsp mustard
  • 4 raw egg yolks, beaten
  • 3/4 cup finely grated parmesan

Instructions

  1. Just mix it all together, you coward.

Instant Pot Mashed Acorn Squash

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

 

moron biscuits

Because I've been trying all my life to make nice biscuits and I was too much of a moron, until I discovered this recipe. It has egg and cream of tartar, which is weird, but they come out great every time. Flaky little crust, lovely, lofty insides, rich, buttery taste.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, chilled
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450.

  2. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and cream of tartar.

  3. Grate the chilled butter with a box grater into the dry ingredients.

  4. Stir in the milk and egg and mix until just combined. Don't overwork it. It's fine to see little bits of butter.

  5. On a floured surface, knead the dough 10-15 times. If it's very sticky, add a little flour.

  6. With your hands, press the dough out until it's about an inch thick. Cut biscuits. Depending on the size, you can probably get 20 medium-sized biscuits with this recipe.

  7. Grease a pan and bake for 10-15 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

What’s for supper? Vol. 353: SOMEBODY in this house is possessed by soup.

Friday has arriven! It’s about damn time. And may I just say, my food pictures are really pretty this week. I tried THREE new recipes. One (butternut squash soup with coconut and spinach) turned out great, one (Turkish flatbread) was pretty bad, and one (cranberry chicken) was fine. That’s how you find out! 

Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Caprese chicken burgers; veg and dip

Quick frozen meal for shopping day, with a little extry to make it nice. Aldi’s chicken burgers are actually pretty good, for processed chicken patties. They have a pleasant texture and the breading is crip. So I cooked those and put out tomatoes and basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and then got into a protracted argument with a kid about cheese. This particular kid, see, is PAID to put the groceries away every week, and so you’d think that when I ask a simple question like . . 

you know what, never mind. If you have kids, you’ve heard enough. Anyway I found a little package of fresh mozzarella in the back of the fridge, and SOME of us had nice cheese on their sandwiches. Everyone else had pre-sliced whatevercheese.

I cut up a bunch of peppers and broccoli and set out a tray with French onion dip. No chips and no French fries! They said it couldn’t be done! But I’ve been snacking on leftover vegetables all week and only feel prey to clearance Halloween candy one time, so you tell me. 

SUNDAY
Omelets for kids; Chinese food for adults

Sunday, Moe and his girlfriend took me and Damien out to eat, just to be nice! Wasn’t that nice? We had an excellent Chinese meal at Cherry Garden in Keene. I had pork gyoza and a spicy coconut chicken curry. Splendid. 

The kids at home opted to have omelets. Lucy is reigning omelet queen these days.

They also had some kind of waffle fries. 

Look at us! One kid takes us out to eat, and one kid feeds all the rest! Amazing. It could happen to you too. 

MONDAY
Sausage, egg, and cheese bagel sandwiches; OJ

Monday I took a little drive to pick up something from Facebook marketplace for Corrie’s birthday, which is in February. Sometimes you have to snap up a good deal when it comes along, and then you drive around with a giant secret tortoise habitat in the back of your car for a few months, so what. So we had a quick meal. I didn’t burn the bagels or the eggs!

I must say, I’m looking forward to spring when the ducks start laying eggs again. They knocked off for the year several weeks ago, and we have to struggle along with these inferior chicken eggs. 

TUESDAY
Butternut squash soup with lentils and spinach; yufka; grilled cheese

Tuesday it really snowed for real. It only stuck around for a few hours, but as it fell, it whispered “soup,” so I was powerless. I was still thinking about that lovely coconut curry I had, so I found this recipe for lentil butternut squash soup with coconut and spinach.  Very promising ingredients: 

Pretty simple seasonings, just cayenne pepper and cumin along with the onion and garlic, which you cook up with some tomato paste

Add in the cubed butternut squash (from my garden!), chicken stock, and lentils, and let that cook.

I had brown lentils instead of red, but the next step was to blend it anyway, so I didn’t think it mattered much. Then you add the coconut milk and puree it all.

Another small triumph: I remembered before it was too late that hot liquid expands when you puree it, so I did it in batches in the blender

and there was no hot fountain of orange goo, not at all! Not this time. 

Hey, this is a good time to make sure you have anything you might need to order for Thanksgiving, which is less than a week away. I finally got around to ordering a new bowl for my food processor. The blender actually did really well with this particular job, though. I like the pouring spout on top.

Then you return the puree to the pot and put the spinach in and let it cook down, and that’s it. I transferred it to the Instant Pot and set it on “keep warm” and just left it for the rest of the day. The IP’s “warm” button is not as hot as a crock pot, but if you have enough time, it’s fine. 

I had been listening to Milk Street Radio and they were talking about this flaky Turkish bread, yufka, that you can make it no time – like 25 minutes, allegedly. It doesn’t have any leaven, and you just have to let the dough rest a few times before you fry it up. 

Welp, I couldn’t access the recipe they mentioned, so I found a similar one, except you don’t let it rest as much. Then you roll the pieces out and cook it them a hot pan, and that’s it.

So, I’m not sure where I went wrong with this. I made the dough in the morning and let it rest at room temperature, and then I put it in the fridge, which it said you could do. Maybe I used too much olive oil? Maybe the pan wasn’t hot enough? 

They were . . . okay. They looked okay. 

But they were so rubbery! A few parts tasted more or less like I expected, but they were so dang dense. Oh well. The soup more than made up for it. The recipe suggest squeezing some fresh lime juice over the top, and I was skeptical about that, but it was AMAZING. Just a fabulous combination of creamy and piquant flavors. I also floated a few roasted  pumpkin seeds over the top and that was a good idea as well.

Okay so the color of this soup is not necessarily the most elegant. It’s kind of orangey-yellowy-green. I think if I had used red lentils, it would have been a cheerier yellowy-orange. But the taste was superb. It was so warming and nourishing, but not heavy or muddy, like if pea soup went to finishing school, and it had a little sizzling spicy kick with the cayenne and cumin. So good. I had two bowls and had to stop myself from going back for more. 

I also made grilled cheese, because I was pretty sure the soup would not be popular, and I was right.

WEDNESDAY
Carnitas, guacamole 

Good old pork butt still goes for 99 cents a pound pretty often. I got a couple of big hunks and off we went. This is such an easy recipe with tons of flavor.

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You heavily season the pork chunks and then just chuck them in the pot with oil, Coke, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, and some orange quarters (I had clementines).

Then you just cook it down for several hours until it gets dark and yummy

You can drain off the liquid and keep cooking it at this point, or you can do what I did and just pull the meat out, shred it, and brown it up under the broiler. I added back a little of the yummy citrusy pot juice along with the meat before putting it under the heat, to keep it from drying out. 

I often make beans and rice with carnitas, but I just did guacamole this time.  Boy, is it satisfying when you choose the perfect day to slice open the avocados. I forgot to buy tomatoes, so this guac just had avocados lightly mashed, jalapenos, cilantro, onion, garlic, lime juice, and salt and pepper.

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It was great! I may skip the tomato from now on. 

I put out all the regular stuff for carnitas – tortillas, sour cream, salsa, and lime wedges – but I didn’t feel like putting together the whole thing. I heated up some frozen corn and I opted for pretzels instead of chips, and I enjoyed the heck out of this slightly peculiar plate, modified for those who want to lose weight but are choosing their battles. 

And that’s my story. I am down ten pounds at last count, so there.

THURSDAY
Cranberry skillet chicken; roast potatoes, butternut squash, and Brussels sprouts

I was planning just some kind of sheet pan thing with chicken and vegetables, but I saw this recipe from a local supermarket chain, and I did have a bag of cranberries, so, again, powerless. It’s a very simple recipe. You season the chicken and brown up the skin side, then take it out of the pan

then add in some diced onion and cook that in the chickeny oil, then add in the cranberries, some brown sugar, and some oregano, and let it all bubble around a bit 

and then you put the chicken back into the cranberry mixture and put the whole thing in the oven to finish cooking. I knew I was going to be out around dinner time (another Facebook Marketplace adventure for a different birthday kid. Here’s a tip: Raise your kids to understand that used is FINE), so I cooked this in the morning and moved it into a casserole dish; but technically that is a one-pan dish and can be made in a single skillet.

Pretty! I only had one bag of cranberries, but I had a bunch of chicken, so I just browned up the rest up with oil and salt and pepper, and also put that  in a separate dish to finish cooking. 

Then I went out and harvested my poor Brussels sprouts. They struggled early on in the growing season with a brassica-specific bacteria, and they never really bounced back; but I thought I had lost them altogether, so I was pretty happy to have even these little bitty sprouts.

I popped them all off their stems and washed them well (there was one worm stowaway) and beheld my mighty harvest.

Eh, that’s what supermarkets are for. I also had another butternut squash from the garden, and a few pounds of red potatoes. I spread it all in a pan and hit them with olive oil, cider vinegar because my wine vinegar looked weird, honey, and salt and pepper. So I roasted that up before dinner while heating up the chicken 

So it was all . . . fine. Everything was a little too greasy. I think the chicken would have been quite good if I had just cooked it and served it right away. Cooking it in the morning and heating it up in the evening turned the cranberries into mush, sadly. 

Live and learn! At least I finally did something with those dumb brussels sprouts and I can stop thinking about them. Next year, I’ll remember to pull the leaves off the plants so I get more sprouts. Somebody enjoyed the leaves, though. 

THE ASSASSIN, that’s who. 

Who, meeee? Me-MEOWWWWW? 

Oh gosh, that reminds me. Tell your kids, “SOMEBODY in this house is possessed by an owl.” Then when they say “Who?” you just stare at them. 

Anyway, I might make this cranberry dish again when I can do it properly. It was so easy, and people weren’t fully against it. 

FRIDAY
Pasta with Marcella Hazan’s magic 3-ingredient sauce

We haven’t had this savory, stupid-easy sauce for a while. Seriously, three ingredients. You will be tempted to add garlic or basil or so forth, but it really doesn’t need it. It’s simple and perfect, and truly absurdly easy. 

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You’re supposed to take the onions out before serving it, but we all like the onions, so we leave them in. 

And that’s my story! Try the soup! 

John Herreid's Carnitas

Very easy recipe transforms pork into something heavenly. Carnitas are basically pulled pork tacos with the meat crisped up. Serve with whatever you like.

Ingredients

  • pork butt/shoulder, cut into chunks
  • salt and pepper
  • oregano
  • oranges, quartered
  • cinnamon sticks
  • bay leaves
  • 1 can Coke or Mexican Coke
  • 1 cup or less vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Sprinkle the chunks of pork with salt, pepper, and oregano.

  2. Put them in a heavy pot with the oil and Coke, oranges, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer.

  3. Simmer, uncovered, for at least two hours. The oranges will start to get mushy and the liquid will begin to thicken.

  4. When the meat is tender, remove the oranges, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks. Turn the heat up and continue cooking, stirring often, until the meat has a dark crust. Be careful not to let it burn.

  5. Remove the meat and drain off any remaining liquid. Shred the meat. It it's not as crisp as you like, you can brown it under the oven broiler, or return it to the pot without the liquid and fry it up a bit.

  6. Serve on warm tortillas with whatever you like.

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. 

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!