Happy Friday! Happy Veteran’s Day, sort of! My kids have the day off and they are celebrating by standing around in the kitchen, shouting. HOWEVER, my trip to the neurologist last week was very fruitful, at least potentially. He took me off one of my “feel terrible” drugs, confirmed that another “feel terrible” drug was stupid and useless and I was right to stop taking it, and gave me a prescription for monthly injections I can do at home. The insurance company is still consulting their in-office oracle to see if I’m worthy, but SOON I should be able to start. So I’m excited! I also started using those no-snore nose strips at night, so Damien and I are both sleeping a little better, and I finished Alba Avella’s thirty day yoga for flexibility challenge, and it only took me like ninety days. And I went to confession and I bought a giant bottle of Vitamin D and I’m actually taking it this time, and basically I’m kicking November’s ass. Potentially.
The cold weather has started in earnest, brr. We’ve had some frost and snow, but I managed to get some last final bulbs in the ground and get my perennial beds prepped for winter before the ground froze, which makes me feel amazing. I trimmed my strawberries and asparagus and covered them with straw and secured it with plastic fencing and bricks, and I made a lovely compost ring around my baby rhubarb.
This is my first time digging into my compost heap, and I didn’t know what I was going to find. I didn’t do anything you’re supposed to do – no turning, no mixing, no careful layering. I just dumped soil and kitchen scraps and duck bedding on it, and sometimes drained the duck water into it.
So, inside toward the bottom, it is SO RICH. I was afraid it would be, like, just some banana peels and eggshells just hanging out undisturbed, looking at me, like “What?” But everything has decomposed really nicely, and the soil is like chocolate. Amazing. What a world.
I also gathered up the last of the marigold, cosmos, and sunflower seeds. I’ve been saving, drying, and storing flower and vegetable seeds for a few months, and it feels better than money in the bank.
Which is good, because there is no money in the bank. But I’m going to have a wonderful garden!
Anyway! Back to food. I did make a lot of yummy cold-weather food this week. Here’s what we had:
Pork ribs, rolls, green beans
Church basement ass kinda meal, but I got home super late from shopping, so we get credit for putting hot food on the table. I thought I was buying frozen peas, but they turned out to be green beans, oh well.
Ribs just seasoned with salt and pepper and roasted quickly under the broiler. The green beans were delicately flavored with salt. No complaints.
Quiche, challah, onion soup, pomegranates
Sunday, nobody had to GO anywhere, and Damien and Moe were working on Moe’s car, and the kids were yakking about challah, so I offered to show Sophia how to make it. We each made one batch of dough, and we did a little John Henry thing and I made mine with the dough hook in the standing mixer, and she mixed and kneaded hers by hand. Here’s the recipe:Jump to Recipe
I ended up using more flour in mine to get it to the elastic texture I wanted, so my loaf turned out a little bigger. I’m not sure if that was the only reason it was bigger, or if it also rose differently? Anyway they both turned out good!
Sophia put sesame seeds on hers
Isn’t it lovely? Not bad for her first challah!
and I just left mine plain
Like I said, it was a little bigger, and I wish I had let it bake longer because it was a little damp inside.
So hers actually turned out better! I do love challah. I’m not about to start kneading stuff by hand, though. Gotta save my wrists for Crow Pose.
I also made a couple of quiches. I used to make quiche all the time, and people got pretty burnt out on it, but it’s been years, so I figured it was time. I bought premade pie shells, which I blind baked. Then in one I put baby spinach, crisp bacon and . . . some kind of cheese, which I tragically cannot remember the name of. It was flavored with rosemary.
In the other quiche, I put crumbled hot sausage and sauteed mushrooms, and more cheese.
I basically followed this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction, except it calls for half milk and half cream, so I used .. . half and half? I’m no mathemagician, but I think that makes sense.
They did turn out lovely.
The bacon and spinach one was vastly more popular than the mushroom and sausage one, because bacon. Next time, I’ll just make two bacon.
Then I decided it was cold enough that we really needed soup, so I made some simple onion soup.Jump to Recipe
So we had the soup, the quiches, and lots of challah, and it was a cozy, cheerful meal for a cold day.
As you can see, I had a few pomegranates to serve, as well. Pomegranates have many good qualities, not least how you can frighten people who wander into the kitchen and not instantly realize you’re just prepping dinner, and not settling scores
Moe and Eliora came over, and Benny and Corrie made appetizers out of a Halloween kit I bought on clearance.
I’ll tell you, I got invited to some kind of fancy salon dinner thingy in NY, and if they’re not serving sticky clearance ghost pops, I’m leaving.
Garlicky turkey meatballs, pork fried rice, kiwi
Monday, ground turkey was still on sale (cheaper than ground beef), so I made Vaguely Asian Meatballs, which Damien and I really like.Jump to Recipe
The key is using fresh ginger and garlic, and you can make these with beef, but I vastly prefer the lighter texture of turkey or chicken. This is a great, easy dish to prep in the morning and then quickly cook before dinner.
So I made meatballs, and then used the leftover pork to make pork fried rice, which I don’t really have a recipe for. I just chop up whatever aromatics and vegetables I’m using and saute them in sesame oil, then dump on some brown sugar and let it get bubbly and dark. This time I threw in some shredded cabbage and carrot and some leftover diced red onion from something or other
Then the diced up meat, then you add your cooked rice, slosh on a lot of oyster sauce, a medium amount of soy sauce, and a little fish sauce, and then I stir in the scrambled eggs.
Is this how you make fried rice? It’s how EYE make fried rice, and it was pretty popular. I thought it was to sweet, but people liked it.
I cut up some kiwis and put out some sweet chili sauce for the meatballs, and it was a great little meal, and I used up a lot of leftovers.
Salad with beef, pears, and goat cheese
Tuesday’s meal was a bit of a disappointment. I had a big hunk of roast beef and I meant to cook it rare and slice it up to serve over salad. I started off okay, by seasoning it heavily and searing it in hot oil, but then I got confused and, rather than roasting it in the oven in red wine where I could keep an eye on it, I chucked it in the Instant Pot and let it cook for way too long. I forget why I did this. Original sin, no doubt.
So it came out kinda stewed, which is not what I was going for at all. Oh well. So the salad was just mixed greens, your choice of feta or goat cheese and sliced pears, plus some buttery croutons I made with the leftover challah.
It wasn’t a bad meal, but I grieved over what could have been. I adore rare roast beef with greens and pears and cheese.
Batter fried fish sandwiches, coleslaw, chips
Wednesday I had to face the tilapia again. They keep having this insanely cheap tilapia at Walmart, and I keep trying to find a way that the kids will like it. I figured everyone likes batter fried food, so even though it was a bit of a hassle, I made batter fried tilapia using this recipe . It’s quite simple and if you don’t crowd the pan, it comes out crisp and golden
I even got nice brioche buns to sweeten the deal, and I served the sandwiches with coleslaw and chips, with lemon and mayo for the fish
I think four people ate it. OH WELL.
I had a lot of leftover batter, so I decided to fry it up as a wad,
and one child who shall remain anonymous sat there eating the fried batter wad despite all warnings that human tummies were not made for such things, and then said child did indeed throw up. On the stairs. This is honestly my fault, because why would I fry a wad so nice and golden and crisp, and then tell people not to eat half of it? Anyway I cleaned the stairs.
The good news is, I still have plenty of tilapia in the freezer!
Nachos, beans and rice with collards
Thursday was just plain old nachos. I made one pan with chips, unseasoned beef, and cheddar cheese, and one pan with chips, seasoned beef (I think salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, and paprika), cheddar cheese, pepper jack cheese, jalapenos, scallions, and a little chili powder on top.
I noticed we had some leftover plain cooked rice from the fried rice, so I decided to make beans and riceJump to Recipe
Just very quickly, but I thought it was tasty. I just used the Instant Pot to saute some chopped onions in oil with salt, pepper, garlic powder, some chili powder and lots of cumin, and then I threw in the rice, a can of black beans, and a can of tomatoes with chili peppers. Then I remembered I still had some collard greens in the garden, so I chopped up a bunch of those and threw them in as well, along with a little liquid smoke, and just let it mingle for a while. Not bad at all.
I’m not crazy about nachos, at least not the way I make them. They’re kind of “neither fish nor fowl” food. I like either having a readily identifiable portion of food, like a chicken thigh or a stuffed shell or something; or else if it’s going to be just a sort of food area that you can scoop from, I want it to be the same all the way through, like soup or casserole. But nachos are so disorganized and variable. They’re just a mess. I’d rather have a taco, and I don’t even like tacos that much. I did like that beans and rice with collards, though. I’m totally sold on liquid smoke. I used to feel like it was cheating somehow, but now I just feel like I like liquid smoke.
LOBSTAR INDEED. Dora is the manager of the fish counter at the supermarket, and she’s been promising anniversary lobsters, but her roommate got covid, so it got postponed. But this morning, she delivered! They’re scrabbling around in the fridge right now. The kids will have tuna boats and potato puffs, and Damien and I will have steamed lobsters and let’s face it, potato puffs. Potato puffs with drawn butter and fresh lemon, how bow dah.
Oh, so I gathered up the last of my butternut squash.
We do like it mashed, and we do like it roasted with other vegetables (maybe brussels sprouts, which is the very last thing left in my garden still to be harvested). I haven’t made butternut risotto in a while, but that’s good stuff. Maybe this year is the year I’ll finally make butternut bisque. But I would love to hear your suggestions!
Challah (braided bread)
- 1.5 cups warm water
- 1/2 cup oil (preferably olive oil)
- 2 eggs
- 6-8 cups flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 1.5 tsp yeast
- 2 egg yolks for egg wash
- poppy seeds or "everything bagel" topping (optional)
- corn meal (or flour) for pan, to keep loaf from sticking
In a small bowl, dissolve a bit of the sugar into the water, and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir gently, and let sit for five minutes or more, until it foams.
In the bowl of standing mixer, put the flour (starting with six cups), salt, remaining sugar, oil, and eggs, mix slightly, then add the yeast liquid. Mix with dough hook until the dough doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl, adding flour as needed. It's good if it has a slightly scaly appearance on the outside.
(If you're kneading by hand, knead until it feels soft and giving. It will take quite a lot of kneading!)
Put the dough in a greased bowl and lightly cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm place for at least an hour, until it's double in size.
Grease a large baking sheet and sprinkle it with flour or corn meal. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Roll three into "snakes" and make a large braid, pinching the ends to keep them together. Divide the fourth piece into three and make a smaller braid, and lay this over the larger braid. Lay the braided loaf on the pan.
Cover again and let rise again for at least an hour. Preheat the oven to 350.
Before baking, make an egg wash out of egg yolks and a little water. Brush the egg wash all over the loaf, and sprinkle with poppy seeds or "everything" topping.
Bake 25 minutes or more until the loaf is a deep golden color.
Simple French onion soup
Serve with a piece of toasted baguette at the bottom of each bowl. Finish with cheese on top.
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 4 cups onion, thinly sliced
- 1 Tbsp flour
- 1 tsp white sugar
- 4-6 cups beef broth (can also use chicken broth or a combination of water and white wine)
- parmesan or mozzarella cheese
In a heavy pot, melt the butter and then add the onions. Cook very slowly over a low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and somewhat darkened.
Stir in the sugar until dissolved. Stir in the flour and mix to coat.
Add the broth (or water and wine). Add pepper to taste and simmer for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer.
Serve with a hunk of toasted bread in the bottom of each bowl. Sprinkle cheese on top, and if you have oven-safe dishes, brown under the broiler to form a skin on top of the soup.
Vaguely Asian meatballs with dipping sauce
Very simple meatballs with a vaguely Korean flavor. These are mild enough that kids will eat them happily, but if you want to kick up the Korean taste, you can serve them with dipping sauces and pickled vegetables. Serve with rice.
- 2.5 lbs ground beef
- 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed finely
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 head garlic, minced
- 1 bunch scallions, chopped (save out a bit for a garnish)
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp ground white pepper
For dipping sauce:
- mirin or rice vinegar
- soy sauce
Preheat the oven to 425.
Mix together the meat and all the meatball ingredients with your hands until they are well combined. Form large balls and lay them on a baking pan with a rim.
Bake for about 15 minutes.
Serve over rice with dipping sauce and a sprinkle of scallions.
Beans and rice
A good side dish, a main course for meatless meals, or to serve inside carnitas, etc.
- 3 cups uncooked white rice
- 1 15-oz cans red or black beans, drained
- 1 20-oz can diced tomatoes with some of the juice
- 1 diced jalapeno
- 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 2 Tbsp minced garlic
- chili powder
- salt and pepper
Cook rice. Add rest of ingredients, adjusting spices to taste. If it's too dry, add more tomato juice.