What’s for supper? Vol. 138: Notes from Bism

Trying something new this week. I’ll blab about my cooking as usual, then put recipe cards at the end, so you can save them if you like. Just for the things that turn out good, mind you. Do let me know if this is useful or not.

SATURDAY
Spaghetti and Sausage with What Can Only Rightly Be Called Awesomesauce

Damien says he wants to try some kind of new tomato sauce, and I’m all: silly husband, there is no such thing as “new tomato sauce.” But when the man wants to cook, the woman lets him cook. So he made this ridiculous recipe by the apparently famous Marcella Hazan. (recipe card below)

You put canned tomatoes in a pot. You put a bunch of butter in the pot. You peel a couple of onions and put them in the pot. You cook the pot things for a while. You take out the onions. And that’s freaking it.

He says he kept wanting to add, you know, tomato sauce things. Bay leaf, garlic, oregano, something.  Nopey, just the three things. Okay, salt if you’re fancy. It was so good. I don’t know why! It tasted like a whole meal in itself! It tasted like meat and wine! So savory, so interesting! Crazy, man. I couldn’t get enough of it.

He also made about a roomful of garlic bread, which I ate as if it were the only way to save the world.

SUNDAY
Hamburgers, brats, chips, dip

He built this gargantuan grill for himself out of cinder blocks in the backyard

and he cooked supper on it. And sent me gifs of the fire while I was lying down. I still have more calculating to do, but I think I got a good deal.

MONDAY
Chicken sorta caprese sandwiches; cucumber salad; cherry pie with whipped cream

These sandwiches were so good last week, I made them again. This time, I used ciabatta bread instead of kaiser rolls and provolone instead of mozzarella. Grilled chicken, prosciutto, provolone, fresh basil, sliced tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Yuhm.

For some reason I dug in my heels about buying frozen fries this week, so I made a cucumber salad instead. I mostly-peeled about four cucumbers (I like to leave some festive stripes of green peel like Chef Pat always did. It makes me think of the early 90’s, Squeeze, things like that) into half circles and mixed them with a red onion sliced very thin. Then I mixed together some white wine vinegar and water and some sugar tossed it together.

I wish I had had some fresh dill. It wasn’t fabulous, but it was refreshing, and fine for a summery side. Would have gone well with fries.

The cherry pies, I had actually made Sunday night, but Lucy’s pancreas was having some kind of fit, so we saved the pie for Monday. I was in a rush, so I just made the cherry filling and poured it into pre-made pie shells and baked them that way, no lattice topor anything. I served it with whipped, unsweetened cream, and that was the right choice because the pie was so very sweet.

It was a bit of a mess when I cut it, but oh, cherries. So wonderful.

Also, so dramatic as they sat there macerating in the sun, like the juiceable gemstones from Bism.

TUESDAY
Mac and cheese with chicken and broccoli

My friend Maureen’s sister once made me a cheesy chicken casserole after I had a baby, and it was the best damn thing I ever ate in my life. I’ve been trying to replicate it ever since, even though I know perfectly well the missing ingredient is “just had a baby.” Once I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that was the best damn sandwich I ever had, right after I had a baby. Really, it brought tears to my eyes. Such jelly! Such peanut butter! Gevalt.

Anyway, this was not terrible, unlike the picture I took but can’t find.

I made mac and cheese in the Instant Pot (using farfalle instead of macaroni) based off this recipe from Copy Kat, only I realized for the first time that her recipe calls for one pound of one kind of cheese, and one cup of another kind. What the hell kind of recipe is that? I also ran across a recipe that called for ten teaspoons of something. Ten teaspoons. Honest to goodness, I’m the only adult on the internet.

So then (okay, first I burned the noodles because I’m too stupid to push a button without burning something) I steamed some cut-up broccoli spears and some chicken that I had I guess cooked in the Instant Pot previously. Okay, this is also a terrible recipe. I’m sorry.

Upshot: It was fine. I guess I put it in a buttered pan and put it in the oven until it melted together a bit. It would have been better if I had just had a baby, but I don’t think you can do that in the Instant Pot.

WEDNESDAY
Tacos with lime crema; tortilla chips with more lime crema

Just regular old tacos, but!!!!! I got this easy recipe for lime crema from Budget Bytes, and now I realize how brave I’ve been to have gotten through 43 years without lime crema. SO BRAVE.

I zested and juiced a couple of limes and then thought, “Oh, let’s not be stingy!” and zested and juiced one more. I added the zest and juice to a 16-oz tub of sour cream, glopped in a few tablespoons of minced garlic, and stirred it all in with a little salt.

I did get some help cutting up the tomatoes from a . . . blue fairy of some sort.

See? We finally redid the floor, just like we said we would this summer! Shut up! It’s still August! *sob*

We had some lettuce, but no fairies appeared to cut it up for me, and I discovered plenty of leftover pea shoots from the fancy ramen last week. I thought it would be weird, but it was great! Spicy meat, fresh tomatoes, springy pea shoots, and plenty of that wonderful lime crema. You don’t have to tell your abuela that this is what we call tacos, but we’re not going to stop.

THURSDAY
Chicken quesadillas

I saw to my dismay that there was yet more chicken in the fridge, so I slumped over to the Instant Pot and snarled, “You know what to do.” I threw a bunch of chili lime powder in there with the chicken and a cup or so of water and set it for 7 minutes high pressure, but it came out tasting like just water anyway. I let the chicken cool, but not enough, and skinned, boned, and shredded it. Ow, still hot.

Some people had cheddar, some had pepper jack, some had jalapenos from a jar. I always regret letting people order special combinations, but then again, some people are easy to please.

 

Yes, we had potato chips with quesadillas. Don’t tell abuela.

FRIDAY
Eggs and harsh browns

And that’s it! It’s the end of the week! Ha! I win again!

And here are my nearly professional recipe cards. Lemme know what you think.

5 from 2 votes
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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!

 

5 from 2 votes
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Cherry pie filling for TWO pies

Keyword cherries, cherry pie, desserts, fruit desserts, pie

Ingredients

  • 7 cups cherries pitted
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 3 Tbsp butter

Instructions

  1. Mix together the pitted cherries, sugar, and cornstarch in a bowl and let it sit for ten minutes or so until they get juicy. 

  2. Put all ingredients except butter in a heavy pot over medium heat and bring to a boil Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, for several minutes. Stir in the butter.

  3. Let the mixture cool a bit, then pour into pie shells. 

Recipe Notes

This would also be fine over ice cream. 

 

5 from 1 vote
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Lime Crema

Keyword Budget Bytes, crema, lime, lime crema, sour cream, tacos

Ingredients

  • 16 oz sour cream
  • 3 limes zested and juiced
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. 

Recipe Notes

So good on tacos and tortilla chips Looking forward to having it on tortilla soup, enchiladas, MAYBE BAKED POTATOES, I DON'T EVEN KNOW.

 

5 from 2 votes
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Chicken Caprese Sandwiches

Keyword basil, chicken, mozzarella, prosciutto, provolone, sandwiches, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • Ciabatta rolls, Italian bread, or any nice bread
  • Sliced grilled, seasoned chicken
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Sliced prosciutto
  • Sliced mozzarella or provolone
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • Optional: Pesto mayonnaise

Instructions

  1. Preheat broiler. Drizzle chicken breasts with olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, whatever. Put chicken on shallow pan with drainage, and shove under broiler, turning once, until chicken is browned on both sides. Let cool and slice thickly, you animal. 

  2. Toast bread if you like. Spread pesto mayo on roll if you like. Slice tomatoes. 

  3. Pile chicken, tomatoes, basil, cheese, and a slice or two of prosciutto, sprinkling with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper a few times as you layer. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 125: Tuesday is the new Friday

Sorry for the delay! Last week was a week of great stupitude and everything is late. Here’s what we had. Carb counts at the end.

SATURDAY
Chicken quesadillas, tortilla chips, strawberries

I drizzled a bunch of chicken breasts with olive oil and dusted them thoroughly with salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder, then broiled them, let them cool a bit, and sliced them.

People could choose a combination of cheddar cheese, chicken, jalapeño slices, and chopped scallions for their quesadillas.

Served with sour cream and salsa, strawberries on the side. Lovely.

SUNDAY
Chicken sandwiches with bacon, green apple, and cheddar on sourdough; spicy fries

A very fine sandwich. My husband used olive oil, salt, and pepper and broiled the chicken, then cut it into thick slices. Each sandwich had chicken, a few pieces of crisp bacon, a slice or two of Granny Smith apple, and a thick slice of sharp cheddar, all on thick, toasted sourdough bread with honey mustard dressing. So good.

We had spicy fries, from frozen, on the side.

MONDAY
Ramen with pork and pickled vegetables

In the morning, I set some carrots and baby cucumbers pickling. I sliced the cukes into thin coins, and used a horizontal vegetable peeler to make wide ribbons of the carrots. I put them in a bowl with some white vinegar and a quarter cup or so of sugar. Pickled vegetables add a wonderful crunch and brightness to otherwise dull food.

Before dinner, I dusted some thick pork ribs with salt and pepper and sautéed them in olive oil. While they were cooing, I soft boiled a bunch of eggs, chopped scallions, and started some ramen cooking. Then I sliced the pork thin and served everything in separate bowls, along with sesame seeds, sriracha sesame seeds, wasabi sauce, and soy sauce.

And how delighted I am to be eating dinner while the sun is still up. HOW DELIGHTED.

TUESDAY
Stuffed shells, salad

Benny has been begging for lasagna, and I have a real mental block about making lasagna. I always end up like the Three Stooges in the one where they’re hanging wallpaper. So I made stuffed shells instead.

I cooked two 12-oz boxes of jumbo shells, and stuffed them with this filling:

2 32-oz tubs of ricotta cheese
8 oz. grated parmesan
4 beaten eggs
1 Tbs garlic powder
2 Tbs dried basil
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
3 cups of shredded mozzarella

I put sauce in the casserole dish, then put in the stuffed shells, then added more sauce and topped it with another cup of mozzarella cheese. I covered it and put it in a 350 oven for maybe 40 minutes. I forgot to eat that day, so I almost devoured my own hand in my haste to put stuffed shells inside my face. The kids who weren’t starving also thought they were quite good, too.

WEDNESDAY
Hamburgers, spicy roast cauliflower

I’m trying to serve chips less reflexively, so I tried cauliflower. Because I happen to like cauliflower, and not because I think it’s some kind of magical hylomorphic substance that can be browbeaten into becoming anything your carb-loving heart desires. Yes, I know that’s not what hylomorphic means. Don’t care. I just like cauliflower.

So I broke it into florets and mixed it up with olive oil, salt, pepper, tons of minced garlic, and some hot pepper flakes, and shoved the pan under a hot broiler until the cauliflower was a little charred. It was okay. I thought it would be exciting, but it was just kind of hot. I forgot to take a picture, but you can probably imagine.

THURSDAY
Pizza and birthday cake

A sleepover party with I don’t even know how many little nine-year-olds. Guess what? They were so much better behaved than the three high school kids who slept over the night before. Land.

This party was a pirate party. We’ve thrown a lot of parties, and my greatest tip is: Have a few bucks to spare so you can just run out and buy a bunch of crap right before the party. I spray painted a skull and crossbones on a plastic tablecloth and blew up balloons, and that was decorations.

I cut a watermelon into a pirate ship full of fruit salad, which is honest to goodness not that hard if you stay calm. Look at the little carrot cannons! The girls supplied little clay mermaids to lounge here and there.

You cut the melon in half lengthwise and slice the fruit in the bottom like a grid and scoop it out with a big spoon. Then scoop out the top rind and trim it into a few sail shapes, and put it together with wooden skewers for masts. I had to put some extra shell bits in the bottom to anchor the skewers. I also cut holes in the side for baby carrot cannons, and taped a little flag to the top. In other lifetime, I’ll go nuts with scrolling and scrimshaw and little flags and spars and rope ladders, but not this lifetime.

Then I made a treasure chest cake! Sort of!

It looks a little bit like a clam eating Oreos, but it also looks a little bit like a treasure chest, don’t you think?

I made a double recipe, and used about 1/4 of the batter to make a round base, which I frosted and then sprinkled with crushed graham cracker for sand (pirate sand). Then I poured the rest of the batter into a large loaf pan, to make the chest. When it was cool, I sliced the rounded top off for a lid, and frosted the bottom.

I used gold food grade spray (affiliate link!) to make gold coins out of Oreos. I have no idea why I didn’t use yellow Oreos, but I didn’t. (There were also gluten free cupcakes, and I topped them with GF chocolate chip cookies sprayed gold, to be gold nuggets, I guess.

Piratey! It took two cans of spray to cover all the cookies on both sides.) Then I arranged the coins on the bottom/chest part of the cake with a plastic necklace, put the top “lid” back on, and frosted that.

Then I added the trim.

If I had had more time, I would have mixed different shades of chocolate frosting together to make the chest look like wood, and I would have used chocolate chips for the rivets. Next time! I thought it turned out well, though, and the birthday girl was pleased.

The kids made their own pizzas. This is a great party activity, as it’s both project and meal.

Everyone had a red pirate head scarf ($1 each at Walmart) and an eye patch (which I bought in bulk here – affiliate link!). To make pirate scarves, fold the kerchief into a triangle. Lay it over the head, fold the two side corners in, tucking in the folds that makes, and tie a knot at the nape of the neck. Works best for kids without a cubic yard of curly hair.

They played “walk the plank” down by the stream. I don’t know what that entails, but everyone did come back.

FRIDAY
Blintzes and grits

Yep, that’s what we had. As befitted such a meal, I didn’t take any pictures.

***

So here’s the carb counts, more or less:

Chicken apple sandwiches:

Sourdough bread – 23 carbs per slice – 46 for sandwich
Chicken 0
Bacon 0
Honey Mustard dressing – 6 carb per 2 tablespoons
alternate:
Mustard – 0
Mayonnaise – 0

Spicy fries – 21 carbs per 14 fries
Ketchup – 10 carbs per two tablespoons
***

Chicken quesadillas:

Pueblo Lindo large burrito size tortilla: 34

Chicken with olive oil, cumin, pepper, salt, chili powder: negligible
Cheddar cheese: negligible
jalapenos: doesn’t want

scallions: doesn’t want

Clancy’s restaurant style tortilla chips: 14 chips, 38 carbs

salsa: doesn’t want
sour cream 2 Tbs: 2
4 medium-large strawberries: 4
orange cream bar: 17
___
total: 95
***

Pork ramen:

1 package Top Ramen, chicken flavor: 26
Pork cooked in olive oil and sesame oil: 0

soft boiled egg: 0
one 7″ carrot and 1 mini cuke, pickled in vinegar and sugar: 10
scallions: 1.1 per scallion
(sauteed mushrooms, 4 medium sliced: 2.4)
spinach: 1.1 per cup, raw
sesame seeds: .7 per teaspoon
(soy sauce: .8 per Tbs.)
sriracha sauce:

iced tea: 34 grams per two cups of Lipton lemonade/iced tea mix

***

Stuffed shells:

  • 2 32-oz tubs of ricotta cheese, approx 8 cups: 45 per container, 90 total recipe
  • 8 oz grated Parmesan cheese: 0
  • 4 eggs: 0
  • 1 Tbs garlic powder: 7
  • 2 Tbs dried basil: 4.2
  • 2 tsp salt: 0
    1 tsp pepper: negligible
    4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese: 16
  • Makes about 9 cups cheese filling: 117.2 total
    2 boxes of Jumbo Shells, 12 oz each: 246 per box,
  • carbs in six shells:
    41 g per six pasta shells
    Reggano marinara sauce, 1/2 cup (divided top and bottom): 13
    cheese filling, i cup: 13.02
    _______
    67.2 per six shells
salad made of iceberg, spinach, and greenleaf lettuce: 2 c, about 2 carbs
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar: 2.7
 
TOTAL MEAL: 71.9
***

Pizza and cake:

260 total ball of Portland Pie white dough

1/4 of a pizza:

65 carbs for 1/4 ball pizza dough
1/4 cup Hunts sauce: 5.5
1/2 cup shredded cheese: 2
72.5 for 1 mini pizza
cupcake:
1 of 12 Live GF yellow cake : 37
frosting:20
oreo: 866138.5 total meal
***

Blintz and grits:

blintz 13

grits, 3 Tbs: 29
apple: 15
granola bar: 19
milk, 2 cups: 24
—–
100

What’s for supper? Vol. 114: Hello, chicken, my old friend

Sorry for the light posting this week! It’s just been crazy-go-nuts.
Thanks so much for the prayers for my father as he recovers from his triple bypass surgery on Monday. He has had some ups and downs, as you can imagine. He is recovering, but it is a tough road for sure, especially as they work on managing his pain without too many bad side effects.

At the end, I have a few things to say to Etsy merchants and other craftsmen, plus a hat recommendation, because it’s a food blog. I don’t know.

**

SATURDAY
Chicken blueberry salad

Blueberries were 99 cents a pint at Aldi, so I changed my menu on the fly. I roasted some chicken breasts and sliced them thin. We had mixed greens (no Romaine lettuce, just to be safe) with the chicken, plus minced red onions, toasted walnuts we never managed to bake with over Christmas, feta cheese, blueberries, and balsamic vinegar dressing.

So pretty and delicious.

***

SUNDAY
Chicken cutlets with basil

The Husband wanted to cook, so he made homemade marinara sauce and these magnificent chicken cutlets. Very labor intensive, but so worth it, especially when your husband is making it.

You pound the chicken, bread it (he used panko bread crumbs, which are so nicely fluffy), fry it, top it with a fresh basil leaf and a slice of provolone, and then ladle some hot marina sauce over it all so the cheese melts and tucks in the basil leaf like a sweet little sleeping child which you then devour.

 

Whenever he suggests making this dish, I think, “Oh, we should have some pasta. Just chicken and sauce isn’t enough.” I am always wrong. This meal is paradise in your mouth. Even the savages appreciate what a treat it is.

We also had a ridiculous chocolate trifle for dessert. I made enough for two nights, which was not truly a problem, as problems go.

I baked one box of triple chunk chocolate brownies, then broke it up into little pieces. I made four boxes of instant pudding, two chocolate and two mocha, and I grated one giant chocolate bar and six or seven Heath bars, and then whipped up some cream with sugar and a healthy amount of Kahlua. Then I just layered everything up in several layers in two glass bowls.

I only got lousy pictures, but this is truly a fail-proof dessert, and is going on the list of fancy-danciness. I don’t yet own a trifle bowl, but oh, I see more trifle in our future.

***

MONDAY
Hot dogs and chips

Monday we had my sister’s little kids over so she could drive up and be with my father during and after his surgery, so we kept dinner simple.

***

TUESDAY
Kids still here. Arms getting tired. Chicken nuggets and . . . something. Oh, frozen corn. It turns out I am old and frail, and yell a lot.

***

WEDNESDAY
Chicken quesadillas with cheddar and jalapenos.

Wednesday I drove up to see my father in the hospital, an Damien took a sick day to hold down the fort at home. When he makes quesadillas, he folds the tortilla in half on the pan, and then he turns the tip over again, to seal it like an envelope. Maybe I was feeling sentimental, but this seemed so tidy and brilliant and wonderful to me. No chicken escaped.

It was also on Wednesday that everyone noticed I had made a weekly menu that was just wall-to-wall chicken. This was unintentional. I guess we were simply having a wonderful Chickentime.

***

THURSDAY
One-pan chicken thighs with roast vegetables

Everyone loves this dish from Damn Delicious.

I used a large butternut squash, two pounds of Brussels sprouts, three pounds of red potatoes, a pound of baby carrots, and about 18 or 20 chicken thighs. It was way too much food, but I can’t help myself. I filled my two giant quarter sheet pans, which, by the way, continue to be my smartest purchase ever. No warping, and they are useful for so many things — containing the mess when rolling out cookie or pastry dough, for instance, or keeping beads or buttons from rolling away while the little guys play, or for preserving unfinished board games if you have to clear the table to eat. We also use them as serving trays to organize meals with lots of little bowls and saucers and bottles of things. Pans!

I am old and frail. I yell about pans.

I was able to prep all the vegetables in about 25 minutes in the morning, and then I finished it up pretty quick right before supper. It’s a lot of chopping, obviously, but then you just season everything, put it all in the pan together, and chunk it in the oven. It takes slightly longer than the recipe says. Here’s an old pic of pre-cooked veg, because I have lost track of the ones I took yesterday. Isn’t it pretty? You want color in January.

I cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise and scooped out the pulp, then put it in the microwave for 4-5 minutes to soften up a bit. Then I could peel it pretty easily with a sharp knife. I have lost my potato peeler, so I’ve been using a cheese plane, but I lost that, too. Somehow I can always put my hand on a knife, though, she said somewhat ominously.

Why is it “omInous” instead of “omEnous?” I protest.

Ah, I found a picture! Here’s the cooked dish:

So nice. I’m having leftover veg for lunch right now.

***

FRIDAY
Fish tacos

Frozen fish sticks on tortillas with shredded cabbage, sliced avocado, salsa, sour cream, cilantro, and lime. Good schtuff. Here’s a picture from a previous meal:

Oh, I’m trying out a new affiliate program called Skimlinks. It’s sort of an umbrella affiliate system that works with hundreds (maybe thousands?) of merchants. So the links above, to the pans, the cheese planer, and the trifle bowl are affiliate links which can earn me a small profit. So click away, me hearties! (As far as I can tell, Skimlinks just requires bloggers to follow FTC regulations about disclosing relationships with merchants, so fingers crossed I’m not violating anyone’s arcane TOS this time!)

I’ve also become an Etsy affiliate, and will be doing a monthly Etsy artisan feature. In the meantime, may I point you toward an awesome shop called Hats By Charlotte? We ordered this hand-knit Samus hat for our oldest for Christmas, and it’s awesome.

It’s soft, comfortable, and well-made, and Charlotte was a pleasure to communicate with. We ordered late and the hat came sooner than we could reasonably expect. Highly recommended! Lots of neat, geeky patterns.

ONE MORE THING. I’ll be doing a handmade Valentine’s Day feature here in a few weeks. If you have romantic or relationship-related gifts to sell, especially unusual or hard-to-find items, please drop me a line at simchafisher[at]gmail[dot]com with “Handmade Valentine Feature” in the subject heading, with links and photos of one or two items with a short description. Deadline is January 26. Thank you!
(Open to all, not just Catholics. Not all submissions will be featured. No essential oils, please. They give me a headache even just online.)

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 102: Barely soup

IT IS OCTOBER AND NOW WE CAN HAVE SOUP! I’m trying to pace myself, though. Just one per week. BUT OH BOY!

SATURDAY
Jalapeno chicken quesadillas, tortilla chips and salsa

I had tons of leftover chicken from last week, so I roughed it up a bit and added it to the cheddar quesadillas, along with some sliced jalapenos from a jar and some chopped scallions. Excellent, if a little difficult to flip intact. Jarred jalapenos are finding their way into more and more of our meals.

Also on Saturday, we harvested the last thing from our garden

and thanked the Lord of the harvest that we don’t have to survive on things we grow in our garden.

***

SUNDAY
Beef vegetable soup, pumpkin bread, caramel apples

This was supposed to be beef barley soup, but I lost my list

at the beginning of a 3.5-hour shopping trip involving five stores.

 

Guess what? I remembered every last damn thing on the list, except barley. So I threw some macaroni in the pot, instead, and it was fine.

This may be my favorite soup. First I sauteed up two diced carrots and a diced onion in olive oil, salt and pepper, then I added a few pounds of cubed flank steak and lightly browned it. A couple of cans of diced tomatoes with the juice, about a pound of sliced mushrooms, about eight cups of beef broth, a little water, and a bottle of hard cider (I usually use red wine, but I think the cider is even better), and let it simmer all day. I added the pasta twenty minutes before it was time to eat.

As I made the pumpkin bread, I thought happily to myself what a foolproof, reliable recipe it is, and how it never, ever comes out bad. So you know what happened next. It was flabby and dense, with a harsh, unpleasant taste.

I have no idea what I did. I think maybe the baking soda was too old, and . . . the pumpkin was cursed? I don’t know. I’ll make it again, because I’ve made it fifteen times before with great results. But I’m buying new baking soda first. Oh well.

The soup was so good, I ate it for lunch the rest of the week. Every time I reheated it, the macaroni got a little bigger. It was like an edible coming of age story.

After years of struggling with candy thermometers, I have discovered that those caramel wraps you can buy are so worth the money. The kids can make them almost unassisted, and there is no mess.

We put ours in the oven to soften up and then tried to press rainbow sprinkles in. That was probably the most labor intensive part, and they didn’t stick well. Next time, we’ll just leave them be.

***

MONDAY
Pulled pork, roast butternut squash, tater tots

Another excellent meal for fall weather (and also a good one to prep ahead, if you are going on a Girl Scout hike and coming home hungry from all that confidence-building).

I have a picture of this meal, but where? Well, pulled pork doesn’t look like much of anything anyway. The squash is so pretty, though.

I put a pork shoulder into the slow cooker with salt and pepper, a quartered onion, several cloves of garlic sliced, and a can of beer. Nice and easy.

I was feeling all cozy and nostalgic about the return of squash season, until I tried peeling the squash. Ten minutes later, I was out of breath, my arms were trembling, I had removed about three square inches of squash skin, and Corrie was looking at me anxiously, trying to figure out why I was so mad.

Happily, I found this cheat. You poke the skin with a fork, cut off the top and bottom, and microwave it for three minutes.  So easy! Then, it says, you “Delight at how easily the skin comes off.” That was the only part that didn’t work. I ended up cutting the squash into pieces and microwaving it several times. It became slightly easier to peel, but there was definitely no delight involved.

I eventually cubed the squash, mixed it with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and laid it on a shallow pan and roasted it at 400 for maybe 35-40 minutes. To me, the sweet, buttery taste of squash goes perfectly with pulled pork. To everyone else, there certainly was a lot of squash for Mama to eat.

(Dramatization)

***

TUESDAY
Frozen chicken, chips

We tried one of those bags of violently red, ludicrously spicy chicken things, plus a bag of some kind of batter fried honey chicken things. We ate them.

***

WEDNESDAY
French toast, sausage, grapes

That was for the kids. Damien and I went out to Applebee’s because did you know they have $1 margaritas all through October? Normally we avoid Applebee’s, because the food is shiny and limp, the service is indifferent, the music is worthless and way too loud, and the decor makes you feel like you’re inside a pinball machine. However: $1 margaritas. I had some kind of Asian shrimp and rice ladyfood vegetable nonsense, and Damien had a bacon burger, and we both had . . . kind of a lot of margaritas. Oh, we’ll be back.

(Reminder from a friend: If you send your waitress back and forth many times to fetch you lots of cheap margaritas, calculate your tip based on all that trotting, rather than on the artificially low bill.)

***

THURSDAY
Sausage spinach skillet

Almost good. It certainly is easy and cheap (recipe from Budget Bytes). It’s supposed to be a stand-alone dish, but I made fettucine to serve it over, because I can see into the future and I knew we’d need a back-up dish. My husband thought it would be better in some kind of garlicky sauce, possibly a light cream sauce. Maybe I’ll come back to it. Or maybe I’ll just sit on a mountain and watch my tail grow.

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FRIDAY
Pizza

Birthday party! The theme is Clash of the Titans, so we’ll see how that goes. The one thing I know is if you invite a bunch of rail-thin teenage girls over for a party, there needs to be a lot of pizza. A lot.

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Book illustration photos from Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel and The Funny Thing by Wanda Ga’g