What’s for supper? Vol. 81: How very Montessori

Yipe, it’s late! Never mind the introduction where I mention that we were extremely busy this week. Here’s what we ate:

SATURDAY
Pizza and birthday cake

Another birthday! Actually, this birthday was last month, but we finally got around to having the party and sleepover. Child requested calzones, but I bargained her down to pizza. The cake, I refuse to show you. Turns out it’s very possible to go very, very wrong with a simple Deathly Hallows symbol.

A few of the decorations turned out pretty good, though. Here are the candles floating over the table:

They are rolls of cardstock with electric tea lights stuck in one end, hanging from threads.

Other quickie Harry Potter party ideas: We drew banners for the four houses on poster board, and drew on white balloons to make them look like owls. We printed out “wanted” signs for the villains and tacked them up, and also printed out and cut out a photo of Moaning Myrtle, and taped that to the toilet. We wrote “The chamber of secrets has been opened” in lipstick on the front window.

Party food was not super inspired – just orange soda labelled “pumpkin juice” and lots of gourmet jelly beans labelled “Bertie Bott’s.” For an activity, the kids dipped pretzel rods in candy melt and then decorated them with various sugars and sprinkles, for wands.

***

SUNDAY
Bacon cheeseburgers, chips, ice cream sundae cones

This was the actual birthday of #1 Son, who requested this fine meal. I want to say there was salad, but I don’t think there was. We got hot fudge and hot caramel, and put one in the bottom of the cone and one on top of the ice cream. Birthday!

***

MONDAY
Oven roasted pork ribs, roast mushrooms, fruit salad

Still the best way to make ribs if you can’t grill them outside. Salt and pepper on a rack in a real hot oven until they’re sizzling hot. So good.

Mushrooms were 79 cents for eight ounces, so I bought six packages and went to town. Here’s the recipe from Deadspin (which means it’s rambling and profane and oddly endearing). This picture is from my very worst camera, but — oooh, that smell.

Strawberries and blueberries were also on sale, so we mixed them together and pretended it wasn’t a weird side dish.

I’m trying to get away from serving potatoes all the time. Not because I have some kind of theory about dietary starches, or because I’m ashamed of my Hobbit forefathers, but . . . I don’t know why, I guess I’m just bored.

***

TUESDAY
Hot dogs, onion rings, corn on the cob

Remember how we had hot dogs last week? Well, this week, we had hot dogs again.

The corn on the cob was first of the season, and middle-of-May corn tastes a lot like “too soon.” But setting the kids to shuck some corn is a quick way to redeem part of one day from what has lately become a discouraging stream of rushing in and out of the car, gobbling pre-packaged junk food, and realizing Sophia the First and her very unlikely rabbit friend have been gabbling away for four hours straight. Here! Shuck some good old corn! Be wholesome for a minute! Maybe we can string wooden beads later, or even — stop me if this sounds crazy — go outside.

So I get them set up with twelve ears of corn and, as I go about my business in the other room, I hear the honest, timeless sound of happy, unspoiled children hard at work at the domestic arts, up to their elbows in the fruits of the earth, smelling green smells, rediscovering the joys of industry. Then I hear,

Corrie is up on the table and she has nothing on her bottom! THE CORN! IS GOING! TO TASTE! LIKE BOTTOM!!!”

Sure enough. How very Montessori.

***

WEDNESDAY
Chicken apple salad, risotto

This meal was a copycat version of a salad I often get at Wendy’s. I got a few bags of mixed greens and let the kids choose their combination of warm grilled chicken, crumbled bleu cheese, diced green apples, sweet dried cranberries, toasted walnuts, and some bottled berry vinaigrette dressing. (Wendy’s version has two kinds of apples, sugared pecans, and pomegranate vinaigrette.)

Fancy!

It’s totally worth the quick extra step to toast the nuts. Put them in a single layer in a baking pan in a 350 oven for about ten minutes. I know everyone is always talking about how this and that brings out the flavor of this and that, but toasting really does bring out the flavor of nuts. It also makes them, I don’t know, more pleasing to the teeth. It turns them into interesting, adult nuts instead of stupid, immature nuts. Just do it!)

I made the chicken by marinating it all day in a bag with some bottled Italian dressing, then roasting it under the broiler on a pan with some drainage. This meal was a big hit. Definitely making it again.

We also had magic Instant Pot (Amazon Affiliate link!) risotto using this recipe (skipping the squash). I’m including a picture because it looks like a lovely little cumulous butt floating through the sky.

Imagine if butts were made with sauteed onions and parmesan cheese. What would they rain down? Pure joy, that’s what.

***

THURSDAY
English muffin pizzas

We were home for about twelve minutes in between school and a concert, so English muffin pizzas did the trick. We made about 45 of them with what turned out to be, oops, cheddar cheese.
Here’s an after-concert group portrait:

Back row: My Mother Made Me Wear This Shirt and It Burnssssssss
Front Row, Left to right: Pretty Much Always Having a Wonderful Time; Angry Because Mama Said We Can Swing On the Swings Anytime, But Not Right Now; This Skirt Is Not Who I Am; and Kind of a Violin Prodigy, Kind of Over Having Siblings

***

FRIDAY
Fish tacos and corn chips

Just frozen fish sticks, shredded cabbage, jarred salsa, sour cream, and limes on tortillas, and maybe some guacamole if I can still lift my arms by the end of the day.

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 74: This is why everyone needs an Instant Pot

Maybe you’re wondering what is the big deal about the Instant Pot. Is it really so great? Why does everyone go so cuckoo over it? Should I be worried that my spouse has bought a pair of spotless doves and is sharpening a knife?

And why does Simcha insist on making these embarrassingly chimpy images with very primitive software and a crying toddler on her lap?

I have the answer.  To the first question, not the second.

It’s because of risotto.

Risotto, risotto, risotto. I love risotto with my whole heart, but it is a pain in the neck to make. Hovering over the pan, stirring, adding in a little broth, stirring, waiting, simmering, waiting, stirring, adding some more broth, stirring, waiting, and it smells divine, but your entire life is passing you by while you wait for it to be done.

In the Instant Pot, it’s easy. Truly easy, and fast. And it tastes just as good as the difficult kind. This, in itself, is a reason to own an Instant Pot. All the other stuff is bonus. Now you know!

Here is the obligatory reminder that all my links to Amazon products are Amazon Associates links, and I get a small percentage of every purchase made using my links. Amazon is restructuring its pay scale soon, to the detriment of people who mostly plug books and toys; so I would be very, very grateful if you could bookmark my link and use it any time you shop on Amazon!

I’m gonna come right out and tell you: we rely on Amazon for our car payments. My husband has a 1.3-hour commute, and absolutely needs a reliable car. So! Please use my links, so my husband doesn’t have to drive to work in the Instant Pot. It’s good, but it’s not that good.

Thank you.

And now, back to risotto.

Last Friday, we had tuna fish patties and butternut squash risotto. I used this butternut squash risotto recipe from Good Housekeeping. I used onions instead of shallots, ground sage instead of fresh, and regular old white rice instead of arborio. It was fabulous. Creamy but not mushy and packed with flavor. Amazing.

I spent a good half hour wandering around the house, taking people by the shoulders, holding them with my glittering eye and quothing at them, “Do you even realize the possibilities?” Risotto with fresh tomatoes. Risotto with bacon. Risotto with scallops or garlicky shrimp. Risotto with asparagus and gorgonzola. Risotto with lemon, mint, and peas. Risotto with hazelnuts. Risotto with saffron and fennel. I don’t even know what fennel is! But I will!

The other reason for having an Instant Pot is because venting the steam is fun. Some days, it is the most fun you will have all day.

***

SATURDAY
Hamburgers, chips

Cousins over again. They responded very positively, with shrieking, to the idea of hamburgers and chips. So let it be written; so let it be done. I had planned sweet peppers and hummus, but there were just too many runny noses and double dippers in the population, so, in the interest of good health, we skipped the veg.

***

SUNDAY
Chicken cutlets with basil; mushroom risotto; salad

Farewell to cousins and hello to my parents. Here is my niece with one of her favorite playthings: My father’s beard.

Damien made one of his absolute most magnificent dishes, the late lamented Deadspin’s chicken cutlets. You pound the chicken flat, bread it (Damien used panko crumbs), fry it (Damien used olive oil and butter), then top it with a fresh basil leaf and a slice of cheese (Damien used mozzarella, but provolone is great, too), and ladle some homemade tomato sauce over that.

This meal makes me go absolutely insane. It’s so good, you can’t imagine. As I ate it, I thought of starving people in the third world and then thought, “TOO BAD.” With these chicken cutlets, you could — dare I say it? Rule the world.  

Also, I had some mushroom left over from last week, when I accidentally didn’t make soup. So I went with this mushroom risotto recipe from This Old Gal. This Old Gal discourages using plain old regular mushrooms, but I did it anyway, and it was good. I didn’t have fennel or parsley, so I went with sage again, and really peppered it up. Completely delicious.

***

MONDAY
Leftovers with spaghetti

Damien had made 38 chicken cutlets, so we put the leftovers in a pan, spread the rest of the sauce over it, added a layer of sliced cheese, and warmed it up in the oven, then served it on spaghetti.

There was no leftover risotto because I devoured it for lunch.

I feel like there was salad.

***

TUESDAY
Korean beef bowl; rice; steambed broccoli and cauliflower

I just noticed that I wrote “steambed” instead of “steamed,” but I think the “b” expresses how lightly I didn’t steam them.

Have you tried Korean beef bowl yet? You won’t regret it.

It’s so easy, and it’s just spicy enough to be warming and comforting, without assailing your mouth. Wonderful use for ground beef. Also a wonderful use for immortal zombie scallions, if you happen to have any haunting your kitchen.

I used, you’ll never guess, the Instant Pot for the rice. This really is easier than stovetop rice. It comes out slightly sticky, which we like, and you just put in water, rinse the rice and dump it in, and then press a button and walk away.

Oh, I thought of another advantage for the Instant Pot. InstantPot.com has plenty of useful, simple recipes, like the rice one above. It also has a slew of completely bonkers recipes that were apparently written by a malicious robot who flunked out of ESL. Here is one of my current favorites: Beer Potato Fish!

A photo of something, who knows what?

“The Beer Potato Fish would be a challenge for a non-professional cooker,” it muses, shaking its head in empathy for the old, dark days so tragically rife with amateurish attempts at beer potato fish, “But it is now a different story with Instant Pot Programmable Pressure Cooker.”

It calls for a pound of fish, some oyster flavored sauce, a cup of beer, and a tablespoon of rock candy. Doesn’t that sound tasty? It also instructs you to push the fish button, which does not exist. I suppose someone is making money off this in some way, and I kind of feel like they deserve it.

***

WEDNESDAY
Oven-roasted pork ribs; mashed potatoes; mixed veg

The Instant Pot had acquitted itself so well this week, I thought maybe I’d try one of the many, many pork rib recipes that are available. But then I remembered that I could also sit on the couch and tell my son how to some pork ribs in a 450 oven on a roasting rack with a little salt and pepper, and I knew they would be scrumptious. And so I did, and so they were.

If there’s a better way to prepare pork ribs, I just don’t care.

I also considered making Instant Pot mashed potatoes, but the recipes all looked more complicated than stovetop recipes. So I just went ahead and boiled them in a non-instant pot and mashed them. I left the skin on, which I almost never do. To me, this adds excitement and piquancy. To others, it’s like hanging around with that weirdo who keeps on harping on the idea that, in many regions, apple cores, corn cobs, and chicken bones are considered a delicacy.

The vegetables were that good old supermarket blend of frozen peas, carrots, corn, string beans, and lima beans. This makes me feel six years old, in a good way.

***

THURSDAY
English muffin pizzas

Since our bishop has given us a St. Patrick’s Day dispensation to eat meat on Friday, we did our meatless meal on Thursday. Except I forgot, and had leftover Korean beef bowl for lunch. For my penance, I had massive heartburn all night, and dreamt I was endlessly editing and re-editing a blog post about best and worst dresses of the Oscars; only I had to do it on taped-together paper with sidewalk chalk and then take photos of it with a Kodak disc film camera.

So, I am all caught up on Lent.

***

FRIDAY
Corned beef boiled dinner; Dublin coddle

So, St. Patrick is, like, the second-tier patron of our regional arch-diacistry, or something; and my husband is tremendously Irish, so we prayerfully discerned that have no choice but to eat three different kinds of meat today.

The kids love boiled dinner, so I’ll be cooking up some corned beef with red potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and adorable little onions, and serving it with gobs of mustard, as St. Patrick himself did. It’s how he drove the snakes away.

We’re also trying a new dish, Dublin coddle (recipe from Southeast Missourian, for some reason) which is a nice little thing with bacon, sausage, sweet and russet potatoes, herbs, carrots and apples. No argument from me. The two other recipes on this page actually sound way better. Maybe when I win the lottery.

Nobody likes soda bread, because it is terrible. Last year, I looked up authentic irish desserts, and quickly discovered why people usually just go with, like, brownies with green frosting.