What’s for supper? Vol. 299: Love is something when you have a hole in the floor

In haste! In haste! For today we are diving into the big renovation project for the summer, which is putting a new floor in the laundry room so we can turn the toilet back on and have TWO TOILETS before July 4th.

We had this renovation (converting a 3/4 bathroom into a laundry room with a toilet) done several years ago by some folks I can only describe as a team of supergoons, and they put the toilet in wrong; it leaked massively; the floor was ruined; we despaired; and things went from there. We’ve had one working toilet for all, for years and years, all through norovirus and everything. But we’ve since learned (the very hard way) that we’re capable of putting a new floor and subfloor in, so that’s-a-what we’re gonna do. And this time, it just means no washing machine for a few days, rather than no toilet. A breeze, I tell you. 

And, but first, I’m really sorry I haven’t gotten anything up on the site this week. Really struggling with the whole “writing words down” thing lately. If anyone has something fun and neat I can write about it, seriously let me know, because I got nothin’ in my noggin. 

Here is what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Italian sandwiches, chips

Tasty as always. I had prosciutto and spicy capocollo, salami, tomato and basil, mozzarella, and red pesto, and balsamic vinegar on a length of baguette.

All from Aldi. The tomatoes are good this year. I have seven tomato plants going, myself, but they are all still green, except for a few yellow ones that are supposed to be yellow, which I just ate right off the vine while they were still warm from sunshine, without telling anyone. Except for you guys.

SUNDAY
Steak, chips, coleslaw; strawberry shortcake

Father’s day! Damien grilled some steaks, Lena made coleslaw, Clara made a pound cake and served it with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.

A tasty treat for all. 

MONDAY
Garlicky chicken thighs with potatoes, zucchini, and summer squash

A new recipe, and it turned out great!  A pretty simple marinade with some cider vinegar and onion powder that gave it a little pleasantly acrid pop, along with the rough-cut garlic and fresh basil. 

I ended up cooking the potatoes in one large pan, and the chicken and vegetables in the other, and they were still a bit crowded.

This led to the zucchini and squash coming out a little, well, squashy. Next time I will cut them thicker and give them more space to cook; but I like the flavors a lot. The chicken turned out very juicy and full of flavor, and the whole meal was popular with almost everybody. 

Jump to Recipe

This is maybe the third time in my life I’ve cooked with zucchini. I don’t know why I even bought it, since I have it in my head that it’s just this wretched, slimy, flavorless monstrosity of a veg. It is a little slimy, but who isn’t these days.

I also found a cold Sicilian sweet and sour zucchini dish with onions that I’m dying to try next. Well, not dying, but I do have a recipe tab open on my laptop and my phone. 

TUESDAY
Tacos

Taco Tuesday! Taco Tuesday.

Feast your eyes on me valiantly skipping the sour cream and rapidly becoming the trimmest, lithest mother of ten in the entire tri-state area. 

WEDNESDAY
Rigatoni alla disgraziata with sausage

We’ve been having rainy, chilly days, so this heavy, fragrant pasta dish was very welcome. People kept coming in and asking what I was making, because it smells so wonderful, and I kept getting to take a deep breath, strike an obnoxious Warrior 2 pose, and intone, “Rrrrrrigatoni alla disgrrrrraziata!” 

Made it once, thought it was delicious, thought it would be even better with some meat, so I added sausage. And it was good, but honestly not necessarily improved. It’s an immensely hearty dish to begin with, with pasta, sauce, eggplant, toasted breadcrumbs, and mozzarella, with parmesan on top; so adding the sausage was fairly gratuitous, and it kind of fought with the breadcrumbs a bit. I think I’ll keep this as a meatless dish in the future.

Jump to Recipe

It’s fun to make. You toast the breadcrumbs in oil, then fry up the eggplant,

then add the sauce, then cook up the pasta, drain it, and mix it all together, then add back in the breadcrumbs, plus some mozzarella you’ve torn up. Then more freshly-grated parm on top just for fun. 

My goodness. I just had jarred sauce, because some overzealous person had tossed the leftover homemade tomato sauce I was planning to use; but it was still very fine. 

This is the Deadspin directions for the sauce my husband usually makes: 

[W]hip out a medium-sized saucepot and start a basic tomato sauce. Cook some chili flakes and chopped onions and garlic in oil for a few minutes; dump a big can of whole tomatoes (San Marzano if you can find ’em; um, not San Marzano if you cannot find San Marzano) on top of the aromatics, break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon, chuck in some tomato paste and a few glugs of cheap red wine, and let this stuff simmer in the background while you cook everything else.

The eggplant dish definitely benefits from a sauce with chunky tomatoes in it. 

THURSDAY
Chicago hot dogs, fries

I guess you’re supposed to have a steamed poppy seed roll for this. As an Aldi shopper, I count myself lucky if they have hot dog buns at all. Or bread in general. So we had hot dogs on regular buns with tomatoes, pickle relish, mustard, raw onions, a dill pickle, and some pickled peppers, and celery salt. 

You would think the pickle relish plus the pickle would be too much total pickle, but they’re really very different things. Some of us were also pretty enthusiastic about the celery salt. It’s neat stuff! Like savory pixie dust. What else do you use it in? I need more. I guess it must be what makes Old Bay seasoning taste like that, along with paprika.

Moe prepped this meal while I started clearing out the laundry room. Here are some before pics:

 

You can’t see it, but there is indeed a hole in the floor and I did indeed fall into it while cleaning, even though I knew it was there because it was the whole reason I was in there, cleaning. But I broke my fall by grabbing the shelf, which indeed came down on my head, spilling out many year’s worth of outdated prescription drugs, first aid supplies, cleaning products, lightbulbs, and kind of a lot of Halloween makeup. So I have that going for me. 

Then we ate hot dogs, and then we went to Home Depot to get a bunch of lumber and screws, because guess what??? We’re replacing not only the laundry room floor, but the back stairs. Two home improvement projects; two!! I confessed to Damien that I had briefly entertained the idea of just replacing the back steps with a slide, so we could just, zoop, slide out the back, and he said it was okay, because he thought maybe we should just put one of those pirate climbing ropes in. You know, I remember leaving the hospital with our first baby, and both of us thinking, “They’re just going to let us go home with this whole baby? When we’re not even grown-ups?” That situation has not improved.

FRIDAY
I don’t know. Oh wait, pizza. 

Okay, that’s it! Gotta finish up work, gotta go to adoration, gotta go to a healing Mass they’re having at our parish and we’re definitely not going to miss, and then PIRATE SLIDE!!!! I mean new back stairs.

Oh, so when my big sisters were little, they went to camp and learned the song about “Love is something when you give it away, give it away, give it away, love is something when you give it away, you end up having more!” Except one of the kids went around singing, “Love is something when you have a hole in your pants, have a hole in your pants, have a hole in your pants…” I never did find out what the final line was. This is why you should never send your kids to a Jesuit college, I mean summer camp. 

And here are the recipe cards!

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.

5 from 1 vote
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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.

Things I learned while DIYing

Lately, I have discovered I have a knack for minor home renovations, and by “minor” I mean “the entire household gets turned upside down for 72 hours,” and by “knack” I mean “nobody stops me.”

It started when I painted the kitchen and put in a new floor and trim and backsplash and ceiling, and then we put in a new bathroom floor (although that was because we had to, due to Sudden Catastrophic Bathroom Collapse; not recommended), and also several new walls and new tiles; and then suddenly the living room ceiling felt intolerable as it was, and so did the dining room ceiling, and then I was like, YOU KNOW WHAT THIS DINING ROOM NEEDS? And because it was afraid of me, it quavered out, “Please give me yellow and white paint and a new black and white floor with stars on it, and install a breakfast nook!” and so I did.

As a chronic over-sharer, I generally document my progress on social media, and people kindly say things like. “You have so much energy!” and this is true. It’s not a virtue. I was just born that way, and I choose to channel it into home renovation instead of world domination, because I don’t know what I did with my passport. They also say ,”You are learning how to do so many things!” And this is also true. In a certain sense.

Here is what I have learned about home renovation projects:

If you’re attempting a project you’ve never done before, always start with the most visible part of the room. This way, by the time you’ve actually acquired some technical skill, you’ll have worked your way around to the part that’s behind the box of mismatched roller skates, and no one will ever see the fruits of your great proficiency; but the section that looks like it was done by a baboon with a meth problem will be front and center for you and your guests to behold every day of your life.

Relatedly: If it’s something you already know how to do, always start the project, when you have plenty of energy and enthusiasm, with the big, easy parts, and leave the fiddly, exhausting, trying bits for the end when you are seeing double, the back of your neck is on fire, and your confidence and self-esteem are at rock bottom.

The reasons for these two rules are unclear, but I follow them every single time, no matter what the project, so they must be vital.

Also important to remember: Many of today’s problems have solutions the seeds for which were planted in your brain many years ago. In today’s project, for instance, I accidentally glued the front door shut. I’m not especially eager to have guests anyway, but my husband was on his way home with hamburgers, so it was looking pretty tragic for a minute.

But then I remembered a little something I had learned many years ago in physics class, a little something about inclined planes, and thinking about it made me remember how stupid I used to feel in physics class, because I never knew what was going on, because I never did the homework; and feeling stupid makes me feel mad, and I got so mad that I kicked the door really hard, and it popped open! And then my husband came home with the hamburgers. So you see, physics really works.

It’s not just you: They really have started printing directions smaller and lighter. What helps me is to fetch my reading glasses, turn on my phone’s flashlight, sometimes take a photo with my phone, enlarge it, and THEN ignore it completely and do it however I feel like, and then become baffled and enraged when it turns out horrible, the glue doesn’t stick, the pieces don’t join, the screws strip, the bits fall out, the center does not hold, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, and also some stray macaroni gets painted right into the windowsill. It’s not just you. It’s a conspiracy.

It’s very easy to lose track of time when you’re immersed in a long project, but you do want to pace yourself. If you’re not sure what time it is and you can’t see a clock, just look at the bit of work in front of you and imagine hitting it with a hammer. If the very notion makes your brain go red with hot, hot desire, the hour is probably Late, and you should probably take a little break. Stand up for a while, stretch your legs, and go lurk by the kitchen sink and eat fistfuls of stale cake and questionable deli meat. This will clear your head until you can admit to yourself that you already hit the thing with the hammer, probably more than once, and you know perfectly well that’s not what “wabi sabi” means.

You can probably cover the smash marks with caulk, though. But you still may want to stop for the day, because the doctor has asked you to try to avoid the redbrain thing if possible.

Finally, don’t forget your yoga. Many of the stretches and poses will come in handy to help you sustain your peace of mind throughout the project. For instance, suddenly climb down from your ladder and assume corpse pose. This not only relieves tension in your whole body, it terrifies the children, and they stop asking stupid questions and run away.

I hope these tips help you in any projects you may undertake. Remember, if you have any questions at all, do not hesitate to reach out and ask, and I’ll be happy to help if I can. My door is always open. Unless I’ve glued it shut again.

 

A version of this essay was originally published in The Catholic Weekly on February 20, 2022.

What’s for supper? Vol. 277: Lamb

Yesterday, Epiphany, we went to Mass.

IN OUR DINING ROOM.

I still can’t even believe it happened, and I will never ever forget it. This is why I’ve been pushing so hard to finish the dining room renovations! I got it all more or less done in time (and I will write a whole other thing about that with copious before and after photos). Meantime, here’s our What’s for Supper for the week, including Epiphany, when WE HAD MASS IN OUR DINING ROOM.

ON OUR DINING ROOM TABLE. I still can’t even believe it. 

SATURDAY
New Year’s

Oh wait, first, we did have homemade sushi for New Year’s Eve, as planned. My sushi rolls turned out okay, not amazing. But the sushi party was fun, and there was lots of tasty food.

Everybody found something they liked, including the cat.

We watched a Marx Brothers movie (the one where they go to college. A college widow is a woman who dates college students and then still lives in town after they graduate, thereby making her a “widow” of sorts every year when they leave. We have to look it up every few years) and then an MST3K episode (Reptilicus). Corrie could have stayed up all night, I believe. 

And now I also have to tell you about one of the most boneheaded things I have done in the kitchen in ages. Earlier in the week, I had scouted around town and found a large and beautiful lamb shank, probably six pounds. I intended to roast it on New Year’s Eve and serve it with pita bread for a nice little treat. So on Saturday afternoon, I got all the other ingredients and all the stuff for sushi, and got home just in time to season the lamb and get it in the oven before we need to get the sushi rice going. 

And . . . I couldn’t find it. I could not find this rather large piece of lamb, which, as I mentioned, is at least six pounds. How do you lose a hunk of lamb? True, we have two refrigerators, but we ended up taking everything out of both of them, and I simply could not find that lamb. I knew I had put it in there! I felt like I was losing my mind! The only thing I could find was this piece of pork, and where did that even come from? Didn’t I already cook the pork a few days ago for those kind of mediocre . . . nachos . . . 

Oh no. 

Yes, friends, I had made a terrible mistake. Somehow, I was so busy and stressed out and dopey that I had tossed a giant $7-a-pound lamb shank into the crock pot and boiled the hell out of it, shredded it, and served it on top of store brand tortilla chips with wads of melted cheese. LAMB NACHOS. We had lamb nachos, and we didn’t even know it. 

Here’s a picture of the lamb nachos that I thought were pork nachos.

I am eating them on a box of shoes and miscellaneous crap because I was in the middle of putting in a new dining room floor and was *sob* just gulping down my food, not even really tasting it. 

So . . . we just had sushi for New Year’s Eve, no lamb, and Damien fried up some frozen dumplings and heated up some egg rolls and dumplings, and it was plenty.

You know, when I was working on the floor, at one point there was a big gaping hole leading directly to the basement, the the dog of course came along and instantly lost his Christmas ball down the hole. And he could not figure out what had happened. Ball . . .no ball! No ball. No ball! Where ball go? There was ball, now ball no here! No ball! Was ball . . . but now . . . no ball! Even after we got it for him, you could see that there was still this cold pocket of confusion in his brain, and I still think that even to this day, he hasn’t completely gotten over it. 

Well, that’s what I was like with this friggin’ lamb. I knew I had cooked it and eaten it and it was gone, and it wasn’t coming back. But I still spent the next few hours opening boxes and lifting cushions and peeking under tables, like it was going to be there waiting for me. Which would be weird! But I couldn’t help myself.  

A fitting way to end the year. 

ANYWAY. 
SUNDAY
NEW YEAR’S DAY
BIRTHDAY!

Baby New Year requested her traditional birthday meal, calzones and tiramisu. The calzones are my job, and I have a reliable but unspectacular method with pre-made pizza dough and sauce. Everyone likes it well enough, so I don’t mess with it.

Damien made the tiramisu using this recipe, and it was light and creamy and delicious as always. 

She elected to go visit an art museum with some of her friends in lieu of a party. 

MONDAY
Sheet pan lemon chicken on potatoes, garlic knots

I had a bunch of chicken thighs and no clear plan, so I tried out this NYT recipe, more or less. I skimmed, I skimmed. Basically you lay down a bunch of scallions, then a bunch of sliced potatoes, then some chicken thighs. You’re supposed to save out half the potatoes and arrange them around the chicken, so they probably would have come out more crisp than mine did if I had done that. You drizzle olive oil and sprinkle on plenty of salt and pepper on each layer. Then you cook it, allegedly for 35 minutes. For whatever reason, it took more like an hour and 15 minutes. Some chicken be like that. 

Then you remove the food from the pan, deglaze it, throw in some lemon juice and capers, and I also added some white wine, and make a little sauce to spoon over the chicken.

Serve with more lemon. And you can see the little girls also made up a bunch of garlic knots for us out of pizza dough. 

It was fine. It definitely would have been better if I had distributed the food over two pans to crisp it up more. But it was super easy to make, and I can imagine all kinds of combinations of things instead of the scallions and the potatoes. So there you go. I do love lemons and capers.

TUESDAY
Banh mi

Some of the family is tired of banh mi, but some of them still love it, and I happen to be a member of the latter group, so guess what’s staying in the rotation. 

Yes, I used the pork that was supposed to be nachos. A fitting way to bring closure to my lamb grief. My Lammkummer. 

WEDNESDAY
Burgers

Nothing to report. This seems like eleven years ago. 

THURSDAY
Shawarma, stuffed grape leaves, king cakes

So Thursday was Epiphany, the big day I had been pushing to get ready for all week. I, addition to putting in a new floor and trim, I bought a breakfast nook off Craigslist. I have been thinking of a breakfast nook ever since we moved into this house, and the perfect one finally turned up at the perfect time. 

The only thing wrong with it was that it smells like cigarette smoke. But this turns out to be not a catastrophe when it’s wood. (It was a catastrophe when I bought a giant curved leather couch that turned out to smell like cigarette smoke. I solved that by not sitting on the couch for several years, and then throwing the couch away.) I scrubbed it down with vinegar and then just let it air out, and the smell is almost gone. 

It came with a square table which has a Patriot’s logo stained and woodburned into it. I may eventually start using that as our main table. But that was not the table I was going to use when we had Mass at our house. Instead, Lena scoured and scrubbed and bleached the heck out of the old wood and tile one we’ve been using for almost 25 years, and I covered it with a fresh white cloth, and . . . guys, we had Mass on our dining room table.

I supplied our friend Fr. Matthew with some candles and a bowl to wash his hands, and he brought his Mass kit and a little bag with hosts for everyone in the family, and we set up chairs facing the table, and we had Mass.

I didn’t take any pictures during Mass, because I wanted to be as present as possible. But if you are picturing an intensely reverent atmosphere, that ain’t it. We were running a little behind schedule and made the tactical error of just throwing the dog into his crate, rather than giving him time to figure out that Fr. Matthew is an okay guy. So the entire Mass was set to the horrible music of a frantic boxer expressing profound self-pity and woe, woe, woe, woe, woooooooe. Then, right after the Sanctus, the kitchen timer went off for the shawarma, and then of course the smoke alarm went off. In other words, there is no way it could have been any other way, and Jesus came to us, and it was beautiful and ridiculous and holy. And the Benadryl we gave the dog eventually kicked in, sort of. 

I did take some photos of the rest of the evening! Pardon me while I do a bit of a photo dump. We did the Epiphany house blessing, with the blessed chalk on the door way 

and holy water in the four corners of the main rooms. 

and the kids did some of the readings for the blessing. 

Then we had chicken shawarma and stuffed grape leaves and fruit. We had the chicken with pita, yogurt sauce, cucumbers and tomatoes, various olives, feta, and hummus; and grapes and pomegranates. The stuffed grape leaves were a mish mash of various recipes, but they were filled with rice seasoned mainly with mint and dill. 

They were pretty good, if not very tidy. I definitely prefer fresh grape leaves. These were from a jar. 

Then we at the two Rouse’s king cakes Fr. Matthew carried on a plane from Louisiana, because that’s the kind of priest he is

and then we had some piano time,

some guitar and ukulele and kalimba time,

and some more animal time. 

Corrie sang all the verses of “Mississippi,” her favorite murder ballad, and some of us discovered we can sing in harmony when pressed. And then we all got a blessing and then it was time to go! I have never had a more wonderful Epiphany day. 

I will tell you, when Fr. Matthew suggested having Mass at our house, I almost turned him down, because it seemed overwhelming, and we’re not the kind of people who etc. etc. But if you ever have the opportunity, please do it. It was a joy. 

And good grief, you guys. I just realized. The last thing I did in 2021 was lose the lamb that was supposed to go on our table.

The first thing we did in 2022 was . . . this. 

Well. 

And now this seems like a terrible anti-climax, but this is still a food blog, so. . .

FRIDAY
Quesadillas

Having quesadillas today! And then I am going to drop dead, because I am exhausted. 

 

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.  

 

Pork banh mi

Ingredients

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

Veggies and dressing

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

Instructions

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

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

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

  4. Toast a sliced baguette or other crusty bread. 

 

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

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

Ingredients

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

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

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

Instructions

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

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

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

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

Chicken shawarma

Ingredients

  • 8 lbs boned, skinned chicken thighs
  • 4-5 red onions
  • 1.5 cups lemon juice
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 entire head garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Mix marinade ingredients together, then add chicken. Put in ziplock bag and let marinate several hours or overnight.

  2. Preheat the oven to 425.

  3. Grease a shallow pan. Take the chicken out of the marinade and spread it in a single layer on the pan, and top with the onions (sliced or quartered). Cook for 45 minutes or more. 

  4. Chop up the chicken a bit, if you like, and finish cooking it so it crisps up a bit more.

  5. Serve chicken and onions with pita bread triangles, cucumbers, tomatoes, assorted olives, feta cheese, fresh parsley, pomegranates or grapes, fried eggplant, and yogurt sauce.

 

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. 

 

Be patient with priests, but not with clericalism

The National Catholic Reporter has published a strange story about what happens to a parish when arrogant, ultra-trad priests move in and start making the church over in their own image. I say it’s a strange story because it’s hard to tell exactly what happened. Some of the details seem damning — book burnings, secrecy around finances — but others sound like they might be innocuous (oh no, incense?) or even commendable.

The pastor, for instance, is accused of bringing the Eucharist to a sick parishioner rather than letting a lay minister do it. Maybe that was an example of the priest trying to control everything, or maybe it was an example of the priest trying to serve his flock because that’s his job.

Let’s assume for a moment that what the article describes really is part of the great traddening of the Church, wherein rigid hardliners bulldoze over their goodhearted congregation and drive out love and tolerance with inflexibility and retrograde thinking. That is a thing that happens; I’ve seen it.

I’m also old enough to remember priests doing something very similar to our local church. Only they weren’t ultraconservative; they were ultra liberal. In a very short time, they laid waste to building and to the liturgy, removing the ornate crucifix and replacing it with a modernist corpus sans cross dangling in midair. They had clown masses and balloon masses, and they taught frank heresy in the school, in marriage preparation, and from the pulpit.

They tore the tabernacle off the wall and reinstalled it somewhere out of sight. And — I remember this so clearly — there had been a lovely midnight blue half-dome wall decorated with golden stars behind the altar. This, they painted over, and made it flat beige.

I was only a little kid at the time. I knew my parents were upset about something or other at church, but most of the changes went over my head. But when they took away the golden stars, it felt unforgivable. Why would they do such a thing? Who would want that?

Someone must have wanted it, and the more profound changes it symbolized, but many more did not, and I was not the only one who felt dismayed and betrayed. My parents, fairly new Catholics themselves, did their best to push back against the most egregious changes that were so abruptly imposed, but after they were kicked off parish groups for the crime of adhering to basic doctrine, they eventually gave in and found a new place to worship, where things weren’t perfect, but at least they weren’t bonkers.

I wondered how many others did the same, but ended up outside the Catholic church — not so much because they didn’t like the way things were, but because the people making the decisions clearly didn’t care what they needed. They were there not to serve, but to exert control.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

 
DAlanHirt, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

What’s for supper? Vol. 117: Cumin is king

Ready, set, food.

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, pickles, chips

This weekend, the kitchen ceiling fell in. We knew it was on its way out (here was one hint from earlier that day:)

but the schedule got pushed up abruptly in a shower of dirt, pencils, and mouse poop. We mulled it over, did a few tests for lead paint, and decided our lives were already ruined anyway, so I tacked up some plastic sheeting and spent the day pulling down the stained, droopy, acoustic tiles that remained.

Underneath, as we suspected? A very promising stamped tin ceiling

with, um, a few problematic areas.

and

for instance.

Also we found a very fetching mouse skeleton, which, in my frenzy of productivity, I threw away. I now regret this. I also wonder where his head went.

We bought out house from the bank with no information, and have had to do some sleuthing to patch together a history. The previous owners’ home improvement choices are a mixed bag. When the basement was on fire, they just walled that area up. Okay, fair enough. But after the kitchen fire(s), they apparently decided that re-insulating was too much of a hassle, that the ceiling could easily be four inches lower, and that cheap and crappy never goes out of style. And who can fault them?

Oh yeah, us. We fault them! We fault them!

Anyway, here is what the ceiling looks like now:

When we have the emotional wherewithal, we’ll take those beams down (they were just nailed to the tin as a base for the acoustic tiles), remove as much paint as possible, shove a bunch of insulation (and a soupcon of mouse poison) into the holes and patch them up, and paint. Onward and upward.

Here’s an account of some of our previous half-assed kitchen renovations.

SUNDAY
Enchilada bake

Several friends tipped me off about making enchiladas so much easier by simply layering the components in a pan, as for lasagna, rather than rolling individual enchiladas.

The result: Yes, far far easier. Not much to look at, though.

The taste is, of course, just the same. I used too much sauce, so they turned out flabbier than even I would like (and I like flabby foods a lot). Verdict: will make again, because they were tasty and satisfying; but will also roll individual enchiladas again, if I have the time, because they’re nicer.

To make them, I coated some chicken breasts with oil, chili powder, salt, pepper, cumin, and garlic powder, and broiled them, then shredded the meat. In some casserole dishes, I made layers of tortillas, chicken, canned enchilada sauce (I did one pan with red and one with green), shredded cheddar cheese, and sauteed, diced onions — probably 3-4 layers of each ingredient– and then baked it in a 350 oven for maybe forty minutes.

We also had sour cream, but I personally declined. I was prepared to scarf down eleventy million calories in chicken and cheese, but forbore to indulge in a dollop of sour cream on top. Please! I am not from Havana!

MONDAY
Moroccan (?) chicken with chickpeas, pomegranates

Pretty fancy meal for a Monday! I was having such a productive day on Sunday, I went ahead and started the chicken marinating then. The rest comes together very quickly. It’s a simplified version of this recipe from the NYT Cooking.

 

And this is the recipe that taught me I’ve been spelling and saying “turmeric” wrong my entire life. I solved that little problem this time by being clean out of turmeric. I never did have fennel. I decided that as of now, cumin is king.

Let me tell you, there was nothing lacking in flavor for this meal.

It was just screamingly delicious. My husband who hates chickpeas loves this meal.

To make the marinade, I took half a large tub of Greek yogurt and mixed it with four tablespoons of lemon juice, four tablespoons of water, and two tablespoons of cumin. This I used to marinate probably eight pounds of chicken thighs and wings. I normally don’t like wings — they don’t seem worth the trouble — but for this dish, they were perfect. I let it marinate for 36 hours, but a few hours would work, too.

About an hour before dinner, I drained and rinsed four 15-oz cans of chickpeas and mixed them up with a few glugs of olive oil, a few more spoonfuls of cumin, salt and pepper, and two red onions sliced thin.

I spread the seasoned chickpeas in a single layer on two large sheet pans, then made room among the chickpeas for the marinated chicken. Then it all went in a 425 oven for almost an hour. The chickpeas and the onions may start to blacken a bit, and this is a-ok. You want the chickpeas to be crunchy, and the skin of the chicken to be a deep golden brown, and crisp. The top pan was done first, and then I moved the other one up to finish browning as we started to eat.

While the chicken is cooking, you prepare your three garnishes:
Chop up some cilantro.
Slice another two onions nice and thin, and mix them in a dish with a few glugs of lemon juice and salt and pepper.
Then take the rest of the Greek yogurt and mix it up in another bowl with lemon juice, a generous amount of minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
I just set these three dishes out and let people use them as they liked.

The sweet, tart pomegranate seeds are just delightful with the crunchy, savory chicken skin and the creamy yogurt sauce. Everyone got a quarter of a pomegranate and just dug in.

This is one of those meals where we kept shouting “SO GOOD! SO GOOD!” like a, like I don’t know what. But it was so good! This is a fairly cheap dish, too. Especially if you skip the turmeric.

TUESDAY
Spaghetti with jarred sauce and sausages, salad

I had about a dozen long Italian sausages, which I started to cook and then forgot about. Miraculously, they did not burn; but by the time it was dinner, I was so enervated that I just couldn’t bring myself to cut them into normal pieces. So everyone just got a bowl of pasta with a giant sausage lounging on top. No complaints.

WEDNESDAY
Taco Tuesday

Oops.

THURSDAY
Pizza

Nothing to say about that, except that I tried out one of those pizza pans with holes in the bottom (affiliate link through Skimlinks), and it did make the bottom more crisp. Usually we slide the pizza out of its pan for the last several minutes of baking, but this method is far less of an invitation to cheesy disaster.

FRIDAY
Tuna boats, roast cauliflower, french fries

Ooh, I think I have some sweet pepper and hummus, too.

Make the chicken! You won’t be sorry! Cumin is king!!!!

The kitchen that wanted to be nice

Who wants to talk about my very slow motion kitchen renovation?

If you actually saw my house, you’d actually fall into two distinct pieces laughing at the idea of me giving renovation tips. But, as the sea captain said to his wife, you are there and I am here; so off we go.

Background: My kitchen was put together by grade A morons.

Some cabinets were built directly over the heating vent, so in the winter, the meat you set out to defrost at 8 a.m. would still be frozen by dinnertime. The built-in drawers were all broken, but the hardware was impossible to remove, so the remaining gap was almost useless for other things.

In another spot, someone mounted what was meant to be a corner cabinet in the middle of the wall, so there were shelves all the way across, but a door on only one side, hinged in the middle.

All the cabinets were dark and malproportioned, and the doors were always flapping open, because our entire house lists to one side like a sinking ship. The bottoms were falling out of the floor cabinets, and must needs be held up with a can of squash. And so on.

The result? A tiny kitchen with several big windows and lots of sun, that was nevertheless dark and cramped-feeling. I was perpetually losing my pans and pie dishes into the Black Hole of Calcutta, so if I wanted to make muffins, I had to lie down on my side and feel around with my arm, right in there with all the exposed staples and cobwebs and astonishingly bold mice.

Not cool, kitchen. Not cool at all.

We had next to no money to spend, but I felt a powerful urge to Do Something. So here is what we did:

Tore out all the floor cabinets, which formerly held pots and pans, with a reciprocating saw ($40).

Before:

During:

This took a couple of hours. My husband shored up the remaining countertop (which is not beautiful, but it’s functional) with wooden beams (maybe $20). These were supposed to just be temporary until we could decide what kind of open shelving to put in there; but I think I can live with this:

Functionality is beautiful enough, especially when you’ve been working with dysfunction for so long. So I put the three recycling bins under there, and it’s fine. We keep larger bowls and pots on top of the bins sometimes. Not only can we actually see what’s in there, the whole room looks brighter and more open.
To do: Replace the more Dr. Seuss-looking beams, and put in two shelves under the counter, to store flat pans and cutting boards and such.

Took the doors off most of the remaining cabinets ($0. We do own a screwdriver). Now all the food and plates and stuff are exposed, but it’s so much better and brighter and more open than having the doors always swinging open, bonking people in the face, and blocking the light.

Before:

After:

I don’t know if that looks better to you, but I like it! I like knowing what I have and where it is.

To do: paint at least the fronts of the cabinets bright yellow, to match the window frame. I love bright yellow, especially in winter.

Tore the world’s dumbest wall cabinet off, with a screwdriver and my Donkey Kong ambitions ($0). Before (and yes, it was falling off long before I started tearing it down):

I scrubbed the wall, and my husband put up two long shelves ($40 on eBay for a set of six brackets, $15 for lumber). After:

To do: Nothing! I love it! I just need to rearrange stuff so it’s more decorative. But it’s a bazillion times prettier than it was before.

I still have a corner of shame with miscellaneous stuff stored in a laundry basket and a milk crate (which, come to think of it, I stole from the kitchen in my college! More shame!!):

that I need to figure out. Probably I will buy a couple of metal shelving units (maybe $20 each) and keep pans and bowls there. And switch which side of the mini fridge the door opens on.

Things we have already done in the last ten years: moved the washer and dryer out of the kitchen and into the bathroom; replaced the refrigerator, dishwasher, and stove; bought an island with lots of storage space; put in two sets of metal shelves for large appliances and large amounts of fruit; replaced the dreadful tubular fluorescent light fixture with sharp, rusty edges and put in a nice glass fixture that is kind of dangling, but still much better; and replaced the one window that opens. I’m saying this mainly to encourage myself, because sometimes it feels like we’ve been living here forever and haven’t gotten around to anything. But we have!

Still to do: replace this other area of shame,

 

maybe with more wall shelving and hooks, or possibly a baker’s rack. I’m resigned to always having three baskets of laundry there. Notice the tattered label that says “STUFF ONLY.”

There was originally more to that label, making me seem somewhat less crazy, but only marginally.

Replace the floor. The floor is purgatorial. In some places, you can see through the horrible old linoleum to see patches of the even more horrible even older linoleum. Look at this. It’s not even dirty here, it’s just mean.

I feel like I want a tile floor, but that would mean lots of broken glass and lots of concussions, right? Who can recommend flooring that looks clean even when it’s not?

Replace the ceiling. It’s a crappy, acoustic, water-stained tile ceiling that wants to fall down and rain dead mice on our heads while we’re making stir fry.

Guess what’s under it? STAMPED TIN CEILING. No shit. Do you know how expensive that stuff is? But I haven’t worked up the courage to tear down all the tile and see how salvageable the original ceiling is.

Repaint the walls. I adore the walls. They are wide, tongue in groove wooden planks. Exactly what I would have chosen, given the choice. Maybe they just need a good scrubbing

The dishwasher is also a disaster but I don’t want to talk about it. The only good thing about it is it’s not the previous dishwasher:

It always looked like it wanted to see its son with its own eyes one time before it died.

Thing I am resigned to: This windowsill.

Everyone needs to cram random crap on this windowsill, and I accept that. I clear it off every few months, and they load it up again.

I would like to replace the windows themselves, as they currently house many, many spiders that I can’t get at; but it’s not at the top of my list. The porch outside the window makes it dark anyway. Maybe we just need to tear the porch off . . .

And here’s where I practice saying “Baby steps” to myself, even though “cleansing fire” sounds so much better.