We made it through Halloween and the Spooky Triduum! Plenty of cozy fall foods this week, although no applesauce as of yet. Here’s what we did have:
By popular request. Your choice of ciabatta rolls or sourdough bread, roast chicken breast, bacon, thick slices of sharp cheddar, slices of tart Granny Smith apples, and honey mustard dressing.
Just an excellent sandwich. Nestle plate in among fabric paint and other craft materials because you are still frantically finishing up Halloween costumes.
Spaghetti and ragù; garlic bread; blueberry and pumpkin walnut ice cream
Damien made this, following the Deadspin recipe. It turns out a little different each time. This time was a little spicy, and wonderfully — look, nobody likes it when I describe a meat sauce as “fluffy,” but the English language is just not helping me out. Here, have a picture:
If you’re thinking of pasta with a standard sluggish tomato sauce with some ground meat thrown in, think that no more. This is entirely different, and absolutely scrumptious.
The kids miraculously scooped out the pumpkins on Friday while we were out of town, sorted out the pulp and seeds, and cleaned up. I know! So over the weekend, they carved their pumpkins, and all I had to do was roast the seeds.
I spread them in shallow pans, drizzled them with oil and sprinkled them with kosher salt, then cooked them in a 250 oven, stirring them occasionally, and switching the pans once so they’d cook evenly, until they are crunchy but not burnt.
I never know how long this takes because I always, always forget they are in the oven and almost burn them. Maybe forty minutes? I have no idea.
I had a slightly better handle on dessert. Blueberries were on sale, so I bought a few pints, planning to make ice cream, with lemon pound cake from a mix. But then I felt bad that I hadn’t made any kind of Halloween-themed meal or dessert, so I decided it was important to make pumpkin ice cream. (In the past, for Halloween I have made SPOOKY MEATLOAF
and once I made those mummy hot dogs
and you know, that was not a good use of my time. As usual, I’m the only one putting pressure on myself to come up with this stuff. Anyway, the ice cream turned out to be a great idea. I thought the two flavors would be terrible together (Watch: This Food Blogger Thinks Dessert Will Be Terrible But Makes It Anyway For Some Reason!), but they were actually great.
The blueberry was sweet and a tiny bit tart, and the pumpkin had all the comfy, custardy flavors of pumpkin pie, and somehow together they worked in the same way that peanut butter and jelly work together. They didn’t taste like peanut butter and jelly, you understand; it was just the same kind of combination. Fruity + earthy, or something.
I did also make the lemon pound cake mix, but overbaked it, and I was worried the lemon would not go well with the other flavors (I had bought it just thinking lemon + blueberry), and this time I was right. Should have just skipped the cake. Oh well!
Imma have to come back later and write out the ice cream directions. I used Ben and Jerry’s recipes for both, except that I doubled the amount of blueberries for one, and added walnuts to the other, and increased the spices a bit. They both use the basic sweet cream base and do not require cooking. I will say that double blueberry was too much, and the berries clumped together in a way that wasn’t completely pleasant, because the tiny seeds get a little gritty one you get a certain volume of blueberry (they were macerated but not cooked). Next time I’ll just follow the recipe! But the walnuts were an excellent addition to the pumpkin ice cream, and I stand by that. I may make this again for Thanksgiving, or possibly this butternut squash ice cream with candied curry pecans.
Chicken nuggets; candy
Halloween! Dinner is only there to keep child protective services away. The kids had parties at school and ate all kinds of nonsense, then we zipped home and hurried to get costumes on for trick or treating.
Benny and Corrie were Sarah and Duck
and I assisted them as Scarf Lady
Lucy, Sophia, and Irene were Doc Ock, Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle, and a robot
You can’t really tell, but the robot has three special features: It lights up in several colors, it has a little secret compartment for storing things, and it is wearing a fanny pack full of diabetic supplies for its sister, so as not to mess up her Doc Ock costume.
The other kids dispersed to various parties and promised me they would send pictures, but they did not!
Bagel, sausage, egg, cheese sandwiches; caramel apples
On Tuesday I had an easy meal planned (bagels with sausages, egg, and cheese)
because everyone was exhausted and of course we had to get to Mass for All Saints Day, but I also suddenly couldn’t stand how there were apples all over the place, so I made caramel apples. We usually get the easy-peasy kind where you just stretch a sheet of caramel over the apple and warm it up to meld it on, but the boxes can be a little misleading, so I had two kits of the kind you need a candy thermometer.
Which reminds me of the last time we attempted this, which was one of my favorite Irene moments, when she was about seven.
Irene, stirring caramel: “We don’t want it to get too hot. Not hard ball. Or hard crack. Or . . . [peering at thermometer] fish donut.”
WELL, THAT’S WHAT IT SAYS. The adult world can be very confusing, and you just have to go with it, even if it sounds a little fish donut.
So I made about 20 apples.
They turned out lovely, but I surely did not have room for 20 sticky apples to cool and harden in the fridge, so I just left them out all afternoon. Usually our kitchen is about as cool as a refrigerator anyway, but we’re having a little warm snap, and by evening, the caramel had ooooozed its way downward until what I had was a panful of apples, each with its own caramel penumbra, sitting in a pool of caramel. Oh well! At least I got rid of the apples. Some weeks, cooking is like a game whose goal is to get rid of all the food.
Chicken and salad; soul cakes
This was an okay idea that didn’t quite come off. I had the vague idea to serve a Greek-inspired salad with chicken. While I was out, Damien roasted some chicken breasts with plenty of lemon pepper seasoning, and I sliced up the meat and served it with a big green salad, black olives, feta cheese, pomegranate seeds, chopped walnuts, and cucumbers and tomatoes.
I think the tomatoes were the mistake. You really can’t have tomatoes on pomegranates in the same plate. They threw the whole thing off. Also I forgot to buy any kind of dressing, so we were forced to dig through the fridge and take our chances. Damien found some creamy Italian dressing, and I was trying to tell him that we also had some kind of vinaigrette, but I couldn’t think of the word, so I called it “greasy Italian.” Which goes to show that describing things accurately is not all it’s cracked up to be.
I also just this minute remembered that I bought pita chips to go with this salad, and totally forgot about them.
Regarding the pomegranates, I briefly considered looking up some clever TikTok idea for how to get the seeds off the rind in no time flat, but these things never, ever work for me. It’s always a video of some sun-kissed woman with shining, blue-black hair and a peasant blouse, standing in her garden going, “Oh, you cut up your pineapple with a knife, you DUMBASS? Try it like this!” and she grins at the camera and sticks a toothpick in the bottom, and all the pineapple just falls out into a basin in perfect little edible chunks and she eats one with very white teeth. Or else there is some perky dude with weirdly inflated biceps bopping around a spotless kitchen showing us how, when he wants 400 cloves of peeled garlic, all he does is make a little slit in the side and then tap it with a spoon, and the garlic absolutely cannot wait to scurry off and arrange itself into useful rows, all perfectly peeled and not a bit wasted. So I watch this stuff and it looks quite easy, so I imitate them exactly, and somehow slice the tips off my three favorite fingers, and then I have to explain to the ER nurse that I was trying to be like someone on TikTok.
So I decided to just cut the pomegranate into quarters and then just sort of scrabble at it until the seeds came out. And I got a bowlful that way.
And then I took a picture, so there.
OH, I also made soul cakes on Wednesday. I guess soul cakes are the original treats that people would give to beggars who would come to their house, and offer to pray for the souls of the dead in exchange for a cookie? I don’t know. I still had a shit ton of apples left, so I was getting ready to make applesauce when I suddenly remembered that the kids had asked about soul cakes, so that’s what I made.Jump to Recipe
It’s a very quick recipe, and I do like the taste. They have a faint cidery flavor from the cider vinegar, and they’re soft and a little spicy, very nice. I cut out two kinds and told the kids they represented souls before and after being prayed for.
Raisins in purgatory, and then you upgrade to half a dried apricot when you go to heaven. That’s some high octane theology for you.
Mexican beef bowls and beans
Everyone was pretty excited about this meal. I actually started marinating the meat the night before.Jump to Recipe
I had already cut up the meat before marinating it, so I just fried it up in a giant pan along with the marinade.
Earlier in the day, I made a big bowl of guacamoleJump to Recipe
and a pot of black beans. The beans were completely yummy,Jump to Recipe
but I wish I had cooked them with the lid off for a little longer (they were in the Instant Pot on “slow cook” most of the day) to simmer off more of the liquid.
But all in all, a very tasty meal. I made a big pot of rice, put out salsa, chopped scallions, sour cream, lime wedges, and corn chips, shredded some cheese, and heated up some corn. Everyone found something they liked to eat.
Mmm, I think I will have leftover beans for lunch.
Lots of leftover fixins from Thursday’s meal, so I’m just going to make plain cheese quesadillas and people can dress it up as they like. I also bought some plantain chips, which I will no doubt forget to serve.
Happy Friday! If you want some apples, come over. I have a lot.
- 1 cup butter, chilled
- 3-3/4 cup sifted flour
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1 tsp allspice (can sub cloves)
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp cider vinegar (can sub white vinegar)
- 4-6 Tbsp milk
- powdered sugar to sprinkle on top
- raisins, currants, nuts, candied citrus peels, etc.
Preheat the oven to 350
Put the flour in a large bowl. Grate the chilled butter on a vegetable grater and incorporate it lightly into the flour.
Stir in the sugar and spices until evenly distributed.
In a smaller bowl, beat together the eggs, vinegar and milk. Stir this into the flour mixture until it forms a stiff dough.
Knead for several minutes until smooth and roll out to 1/4 thick.
Grease a baking pan. Cut the dough into rounds (or other shapes if you like) and lay them on the pan, leaving a bit of room in between (they puff up a bit, but not a lot). If you're adding raisins or other toppings, poke them into the top of the cakes, in a cross shape if you like. Prick cakes with fork.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until very lightly browned on top.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar while they are warm
Beef marinade for fajita bowls
enough for 6-7 lbs of beef
- 1 cup lime juice
- 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 head garlic, crushed
- 2 Tbsp cumin
- 2 Tbsp chili powder
- 1 Tbsp paprika
- 2 tsp hot pepper flakes
- 1 Tbsp salt
- 2 tsp pepper
- 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
Mix all ingredients together.
Pour over beef, sliced or unsliced, and marinate several hours. If the meat is sliced, pan fry. If not, cook in a 350 oven, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. I cook the meat in all the marinade and then use the excess as gravy.
Instant Pot black beans
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 16-oz cans black beans with liquid
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1 Tbsp cumin
- 1-1/2 tsp salt
- pepper to taste
Put olive oil pot of Instant Pot. Press "saute" button. Add diced onion and minced garlic. Saute, stirring, for a few minutes until onion is soft. Press "cancel."
Add beans with liquid. Add cumin, salt, and cilantro. Stir to combine. Close the lid, close the vent, and press "slow cook."
White Lady From NH's Guacamole
- 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
Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two.
Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.
Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly.