What’s for supper? Vol. 237: Creative naan compliance

Look up! I just flew by! No, not in the Chinese spy balloon. I’m in an airplane, off for a quick visit to a very dear friend, and I’ll be back late Monday. Whee!

Meanwhile, here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Tacos

Or really tostadas without beans, because something happened that I honestly never thought would happen: We ran out of tortillas. We’ve had a ludicrous tortilla backlog for so long, I had truly forgotten that it was something you need to buy at some point. So I did not, and so a few people had soft tortillas with stale edges, and a few people had rather elderly crunchy tostada shells. 

They were fine. We were hungry. And that has made all the difference. 

SUNDAY
Chicken sorta-caprese sandwiches, chips

Chicken breasts were on sale, so I broiled them with olive oil, garlic powder, oregano, salt, and pepper, sliced them, and served them on baguettes with tomato and basil and miscellaneous cheese. The miscellaneous cheese part was tolerable, but then it turned out we were out of balsamic vinegar, which caused a stir. I had mine with olive oil and red wine vinegar.  

It was fine. Honestly, I will eat just about anything on a baguette. I would eat a baguette sandwich, like bread on bread. Serve it in a bread bowl, I don’t care. 

MONDAY
Monday, Damien and I had to go to a meeting at 5:30, so I set the kids up with lots of ramen and leftover chicken, crunchy noodles and a few vegetables and eggs and things, and told them to have what they wanted. We two went to Wendy’s, and I had some kind of burger with crunchy fried onions on it. My word, it was delicious. I rarely have a burger and fries at a fast food place, but every once in a while, yes. 

TUESDAY
Chicken biryani and naan

Oh, now here we go. I’m thinking a lot about Indian food, but I wanted to get started with a recipe I’ve tried before, so I made this mild chicken biryani. As I remarked on Facebook, of all the cuisines I have attempted to cook, Indian food is the most straight up fun. All the colors, and of course all the smells. It’s just a good time. 

So in this recipe, you sear the chicken thighs in oil, then cook up your onion and ginger, then turmeric and cardamom in the oil, then add the jasmine rice in, put the chicken back in, and add cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, golden raisins, and chicken broth. Cover it up and let all those beautiful flavors meld together as the rice cooks. 

I know from experience that the rice is always still a little chompy at the end, so I make it in the morning and then move it to the slow cooker and keep it warm all day. (Full disclosure, I managed to slop a lot of the chicken broth out onto the floor, so there wasn’t really enough liquid in it and it turned out chompy anyway. But still delicious!) 

I also really wanted to make naan, and I had pretty good luck with the King Arthur recipe last time.  My bread flour had mysteriously disappeared, and I also mysteriously got it into my head that I wanted to knead it by hand, rather than using the stand mixer. I don’t know why, and I don’t know why I didn’t change my mind when it became apparent that it wasn’t going well, but that is what I did. I kneaded that dough forehhhhhhhver and it just didn’t get any smoother, but stayed all knobbly and mottled. 

So eventually I gave up and set it to rise, and did this and that, and came back and cut it into 24 pieces, and decided I really didn’t have time to fry it before it was time to go. 

And that was probably the first good decision I made with this naan, because waiting until just before dinner to cook it meant that Corrie was home, and she wanted to help. Guess what? She was genuinely helpful. 

Naan cooks up really quickly, in less than two minutes, so you want to be rolling out one piece to get it ready while the first piece is frying. You throw it on a very hot, dry pan and watch for it to start forming these bubbles 

and then flip it over and cook it for an even shorter time, and that’s how naan gets those characteristic brown circles. They are fried bubbles. 

Anyway, Corrie was great at it. She has a wonderful feel for cooking, and doesn’t get flustered, and immediately figured out what to watch for and how to time it. 

She brushed each piece of naan with melted butter as it came off the pan, and we had piping hot bread to go with the biryani, which we topped with toasted silvered almonds and chopped cilantro.

Splendid meal. Delightful. 

What next for Indian food? I need more ideas! I get overwhelmed and I never know what to do next. 

WEDNESDAY
Korean beef bowl 

Wednesday was busy-busy-busy, and I didn’t have a chance to start dinner until it was evening. Korean beef bowl to the rescue.

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Even with fresh ginger and fresh garlic, it comes together super fast, all in one pot, and it’s just tasty and satisfying. 

I made a pot of rice in the Instant Pot and chopped up some scallions, and there it was. It actually came together so fast that it was done by 5:00, and suddenly realized I could actually get a yoga workout in before dinner. Which I did, very grudgingly and wobbly-ly. 

The worst part was, fresh off a workout, I only felt like eating one reasonable portion of food, and then I was completely satiated. Which is baloney. It’s propaganda, that’s what it is. 

THURSDAY
Pork gyros

First of all, I would like to say that if I were a grocery store selling fresh SAGE, and some lady who has already been to two stores came in looking for fresh OREGANO, this is NOT HOW I WOULD PACKAGE IT. 

Humph. Anyway, if anyone needs some sage, come see me. I don’t even like sage. Wanted oregano. Don’t care if it’s organic. 

Nevertheless, I forged ahead and made a nice marinade

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with fresh garlic, fresh rosemary, DRIED oregano, red onion, honey, and olive oil, and got the pork sliced and marinating by 10:30. Sliced up some more red onions, cubed a bunch of feta cheese, made some yogurt sauce with garlic and fresh lemon juice,

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chopped up some mint leaves, and cut up a bunch of cucumbers. I briefly considered prepping some eggplant to fry, but that seemed like a bridge too far. 

Dinner time hove around and I pan-fried the meat in batches

and cooked a few pans of seasoned fries, and set out the meat and fries and all my prepped toppings with pita bread. And some hot sauce. 

SO GOOD. So tender and juicy. This particular recipe is a lot more herby and sweet than spicy, but you can add as much heat as you want with the hot sauce, and be generous with the garlicky yogurt sauce, and it’s fab. When I was done eating, I had to wipe off not only my phone but my glasses. 

FRIDAY
Pasta with Marcella Hazan’s red sauce

At least I think so!

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Damien is shopping and cooking this weekend as I flit and float away like a giant balloon, but please do not shoot at me. I mean no harm. I promise to come home again. 

Korean Beef Bowl

A very quick and satisfying meal with lots of flavor and only a few ingredients. Serve over rice, with sesame seeds and chopped scallions on the top if you like. You can use garlic powder and powdered ginger, but fresh is better. The proportions are flexible, and you can easily add more of any sauce ingredient at the end of cooking to adjust to your taste.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar (or less if you're not crazy about sweetness)
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 inches fresh ginger, minced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-4 lb2 ground beef
  • scallions, chopped, for garnish
  • sesame seeds for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, cook ground beef, breaking it into bits, until the meat is nearly browned. Drain most of the fat and add the fresh ginger and garlic. Continue cooking until the meat is all cooked.

  2. Add the soy sauce, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes the ground beef and stir to combine. Cook a little longer until everything is hot and saucy.

  3. Serve over rice and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds. 

 

honey garlic marinade for gyros

Marinate thin strips of pork for several hours, then grill or broil. This is a mild, somewhat sweet marinade that makes the meat quite tender.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 lbs pork shoulder or butt, sliced into thin strips
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • small bunch fresh rosemary, chopped
  • small bunch fresh oregano, chopped

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. 

 

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!

What’s for supper? Vol. 320: Cat, dog, hen, only each of us is all three of them

Happy Friday! Because it was somehow actually cheaper than continuing to have my old phone, I got a new phone with a fancy new camera, I haven’t had much chance to play around with it yet. That’s not true; I’ve had lots of time. I’m just stupid and easily intimidated by technology. What I’m trying to tell you is some of the food photos turned out a little weird and overly dramatic this week. You’ve been warned!

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Little brown meal

That is what my parents used to call it when they were super poor in the kibbutz in Israel and all they could afford was, I think, hard boiled eggs and eggplant? That doesn’t make sense, though, because those things aren’t brown. Anyway, my father refused to eat either of those foods for the rest of his life, so they must have had them a lot. “Little brown meal” for us is when you’re all about delivering nutrients and that’s really your only goal. 

On Saturday, that meant pizza rolls, two kinds of taquitos, and smile fries or whatever you call these misbegotten things formed from mashed potatoes in the very bowls of hell. (Don’t get me wrong; they’re delicious. But they’re not exactly food.) 

When I say the kids liked this meal, you can believe I am telling the truth. I truly shudder to think how often I would have to serve it before they would refuse to ever eat it again. 

SUNDAY
Vermonter sandwiches

We just had these a few weeks ago, but the kids suggested it and I didn’t have any other bright ideas, and boneless skinless chicken breast was $1.49 a pound. If you missed it last time, this sandwich is sourdough bread or ciabatta rolls, roast chicken breast, bacon, slices of Granny smith apples, slices of sharp cheddar cheese, and honey mustard. 

And now for the world’s most dramatic Vermonter Sandwich photo:

Eh? Eh? It looks like it’s about to knock the casting director’s socks off with “And I Am Telling You I Am Not Going.” 

MONDAY
Chicken quesadillas, guacamole and chips

These were fine. Boneless skinless chicken thighs were also $1.49 a pound, and normally I would do something tasty and middle eastern with them — in fact I have a number of tabs open, begging me to do just that, but [impulsively cuts Monday’s throat with my demon barber razor] I HAVEN’T THE TIME. So I roasted up the chicken with some oil and Taijin, sliced it up, and made a bunch of quesadillas and then burned most of them, oh well. 

The guacamole turned out pretty well, though. 

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I have gotten out of the habit of keeping limes in the house, though, because I cut out my evening cocktail, so I had to use bottled lime juice. I also tried one of those rocking garlic press things that everyone keeps telling me will change my life, and I can say definitively: Meh. (That is an affiliate link even though I’m not actually recommending it, because what if you don’t listen to me and I earn a commission anyway?) It left behind some sort of garlic sheets — like the outermost layer of the clove — that I couldn’t get it to crush no matter what, so I really didn’t end up saving myself time or effort in the end. Is there a trick to this? I just went back to my trusty old squasher press, which is slow, but it does work. 

TUESDAY
Italian wedding soup, garlic knots

Tuesday was supposed to be taco day, but it just felt soupy. Italian wedding soupy!

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I had a large pitcher of turkey bone broth in the freezer from the Thanksgiving carcass, so I defrosted that (and it looked quite photogenic in the process, let me tell you. Check out that ring of schmaltz)

and I made a bunch of little baby meatballs with ground pork, lots of freshly-grated parmesan, fresh garlic, fresh parsley, even freshly ground salt and pepper, and of course some eggs and breadcrumbs; and I fried them in batches in a little olive oil.

I blooped the fried meatballs into the broth, added a bunch of torn-up kale, and let it simmer all day; then about half an hour before dinner, I added some ancini de pepe and cooked it until it was soft.

Little more pepper and that was it. A little parsley and parmesan on the top. 

Darn it, I underseasoned the meatballs. It really could have been a wonderful soup, but it was merely okay. The broth from the turkey was very nice, and the kale made the broth a lot greener than I was expecting. It doesn’t aways do that, so I don’t know what that was about. I mean like the color really got into the liquid. I dunno. 

I also made garlic knots using premade pizza dough. Usually I made the knots and top each one with a pat of butter and a sprinkle of garlic powder and salt, and then just bake them at 450 for (I have no idea, I don’t know how long anything bakes, sorry) but this time I baked them bare. Then I melted a stick of butter and mixed it with garlic powder and salt and poured that over the hot, baked knots and tossed them up, and holy cow, that was excellent. 

I believe it was Staša — you know Staša –who suggested this method.

I had baked the garlic knots a greased pan sprinkled with fine corn meal, and some of the corn meal got mixed up with the butter and added a little texture to the whole thing. Gonna do it this way every time. Some fresh parsley would not have been amiss, either. 

WEDNESDAY
Tacos and corn chips

Just boring, nothing to report. 

THURSDAY
Chicken cutlets with basil and provolone; homemade ice cream

Benny’s birthday! She asked for one of Damien’s specialties, the delicious Deadspin recipe for  breaded fried chicken cutlets smothered in provolone with a secret fresh basil leaf, topped with a scoop of wonderful homemade red sauce. 

I didn’t take a photo, but here is a previous one:

Full confession, I gobbled up my chicken and then went back and just got a bowl of sauce for seconds. I love that sauce so much. 

She’s going to have her party this weekend, which is going to be ancient Egypt-themed with a sphinx cake, so she asked for just ice cream on her actual birthday. She wanted M&M and then, knowing I can’t have chocolate, requested a batch of strawberry so I could have some. (I have kind of mixed feelings about how thoughtful it is to request that I go out and buy strawberries, process and macerate them, and make ice cream, because she wants me to be able to eat ice cream; but on the other hand, I ate it, and it was delicious).

I used the Ben and Jerry recipe for both batches.

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(For the M&M ice cream, I just made the sweet cream base, as described in the recipe, and didn’t do the strawberry part, but instead stirred in some M&M’s after the ice cream was done churning, before putting it in the freezer to solidify. I froze the M&M’s for a while before stirring them in, to keep them from blurring when I stirred them in.) 

Easy peasy, but I managed to splatter cream all over the whole kitchen somehow. I was thinking about how annoyed I would have been if someone else had made it and then claimed not to know how it happened, but honest to goodness, I have no idea. I did clean it up, though! I live my life as all the characters in the Little Red Hen, simultaneously. 

Yes, this is a Brideshead reference and a Shakespeare reference and a Little Red Hen reference all in one, FOR NO REASON. So far no one has discovered a use for my brain. I have been on Lexapro for over a month and it still does shit like this.

FRIDAY

Uh I forgot to plan or buy anything. May possibly have been hoping the world would come to an end before supper. I don’t know, what are you having? Maybe we will have leftover ice cream. Maybe we will have eggplant and hard boiled eggs. Maybe the world will come to an end. 

If not, here’s my little reminder that I have that monster list of recommended gifts! I’m about 18% done with shopping, myself, if that makes you feel any better. 

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

Italian Wedding Soup with pork meatballs

Lots of variations to this pleasant, nourishing soup with little meatballs.

Ingredients

For the meatballs:

  • 4-5 lbs ground pork (can mix in some ground beef or turkey)
  • 5 eggs
  • 2-1/2 cups bread crumbs
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • 1 bunch fresh Italian parsley, chopped fine
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups freshly-shredded parmesan
  • 1/2 cup butter for frying

For the soup:

  • 3 lg carrots, diced
  • 1 lg onion, diced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 cups chicken broth
  • 3 cups white wine
  • 3-4 cups raw kale, torn into pieces
  • 2 cups uncooked small pasta like ditalini
  • pepper
  • more parmesan and Italian parsley for garnish

Instructions

To make the meatballs:

  1. Thoroughly combine all the ingredients (except the butter) with your hands. Form them into small meatballs. In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter and lightly brown the meatballs in batches. They do not need to be cooked all the way through, as they will continue cooking in the soup.

To make the soup:

  1. Remove the meatballs from the pot. Put the onions and carrots into the butter and cook until they're slightly soft. Add in the garlic and continue cooking until the garlic is fragrant but not too browned.

  2. Add the meatballs back in. Add the broth and white wine, the kale, and the pepper to taste. Simmer for several hours.

  3. About half an hour before serving, add the uncooked pasta and turn up the heat to cook.

  4. Serve with shredded or grated parmesan and coarsely chopped Italian parsley for a garnish.

 

Ben and Jerry's Strawberry Ice Cream

Ingredients

For the strawberries

  • 1 pint fresh strawberries
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

For the ice cream base

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups heavy or whipping cream
  • 1 cup milk

Instructions

  1. Hull and slice the strawberries. Mix them with the sugar and lemon juice, cover, and refrigerate for an hour.

Make the ice cream base:

  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs for two minutes until fluffy.

  2. Add in the sugar gradually and whisk another minute.

  3. Pour in the milk and cream and continue whisking to blend.

Put it together:

  1. Mash the strawberries well, or puree them in a food processor. Stir into the ice cream base.

  2. Add to your ice cream maker and follow the directions. (I use a Cuisinart ICE-20P1 and churn it for 30 minutes, then transfer the ice cream to a container, cover it, and put it in the freezer.)

What’s for supper? Vol. 318: That’s the way the Brussel sprouts

Friday! We made it! Nobody has to make a lunch for tomorrow! What bliss. 

Speaking of lunch, let me tell you about an excellent lunch I’ve been making for myself pretty often these days, because it’s cold and drizzly and I crave deeply nourishing foods: 

Heat up a pan, spray it with cooking spray, and throw on two or three big handfuls of spinach. Cook it a little bit to slightly wilt it. Then crack two eggs into it and continue cooking lightly until the whites are firm but the yolk is still runny. Grind some fresh pepper and sea salt over all.

Eat with a side of  cherry-on-bottom Greek yogurt, and a large green apple cut up slowly with a paring knife. 

I don’t know why, but this is just a restorative meal, a lunch of great balance. It’s also less than 400 calories for kind of a lot of food. You could grate some parmesan over the egg while it’s cooking, but you don’t need to.

I spent most of the week being sick and complaining about being sick, and dragging myself off one couch only to land heavily on the other, so nothing super inventive happened in the kitchen this week. Still, we had some decent meals, including one final homegrown vegetable (Brussels sprouts). 

SATURDAY
Spaghetti and Marcella Hazan’s three-ingredient red sauce 

Yum.

Damien shopped for and made this. Always unreasonably delicious. Just tomatoes, butter, and onions. 

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I always say this, but it really does taste like there’s some kind of meat involved in this sauce. But nope. 

SUNDAY
Italian sandwiches, fries

Damien shopped for this and put it together. Also yum. 

Red pesto, so nice. 

MONDAY
Hamburgers, chips

This is the third picture in a row that was actually taken some previous month or year, because I was too tired to take pictures of my actual food this week. For shame! From now on, only authentic Nov. 2022 food photos.

TUESDAY
Chicken cutlets with leftover red sauce, raw broccoli and dip

I cut the chicken breasts in half lengthwise and soaked them in seasoned milk and egg. Actually I languished on the couch and begged Elijah to do it for me. Then sometime when dinner really began to loom, I heated up the leftover red sauce from the other day, heated up some oil and butter, dredged the chicken in seasoned panko crumbs, and fried those mofos

and we had chicken cutlets with sauce. 

Quite good. I felt like the chicken should have had provolone and basil, or else pasta, or else it should have been on a sandwich, but it was pretty tasty.  Panko is certainly your friend. We had plain broccoli on the side, and talked about fried breaded broccoli and how, yes indeed, people do that. People do whatever they want. I had broccoli tempura at a Japanese restaurant in New York City when I was very little and I never forgot it. I forget why we were in New York City, but I remember that broccoli. We were probably talking about some other meal while we were eating it, too. 

WEDNESDAY
Meatloaf, roast butternut squash and baby Brussels sprouts

We got our first snow, finally, on Wednesday. Just enough to get the kids wound up, and then it turned to rain. That was my cue to go outside and finally harvest the Brussels sprouts

which, and this is crazy, I planted six months ago. I just looked it up: May 20, and harvested Nov. 16. I’m not gonna say I put a ton of work into them, but I did keep them watered, and I did fertilize them, and put up a little fence to keep Mr. Nibbly Rabbit away, and then a mere six months later, there I was, bringing in a grand harvest of an entire pint of Brussels sprouts, some of them somewhat larger than a pea.

Of course the real benefit to this crop was checking on it every time I went out and getting excited at the progress they were making, and laughing at what silly plants they are

and being glad something was still growing when everything else was dead or dying. Brussels sprouts actually get a little sweeter if they’re exposed to a light frost or two. Ain’t that the way. 

So this is how many Brussels sprouts I grew for my family:

Can you even imagine making a garden that would actually feed your whole family all year ’round? CAN YOU? I simply cannot. But the sprouts were sweet, and tiny and tender. I cut some butternut squash in thin little wedges so it would cook quickly, and tossed it together. I drizzled it all with olive oil and sprinkled it with brown sugar and kosher salt and a little hit of wine vinegar, and roasted it at a high heat, and it was nice. 

The meatloaf was fine. A good dollop of Worcestershire sauce in there makes it pretty tasty, and yes, I spread ketchup on the outside before cooking it.

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The secret to meatloaf is not making it too often, so people still get excited about it.

THURSDAY
Chicken tortilla soup, toasted tortilla strips

You’ll never believe this, but it was cold and drizzly on Thursday. Soup to the rescue! I like this soup because it has plenty of flavor, but you don’t have to go through a whole song and dance. It’s easy to make when you want a hot soup because you’re feeling poorly, but you’re feeling poorly and you don’t feel like cooking much.

You just jam them everything in the food processor and puree it 

(that’s garlic, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, some chipotle peppers in adobo sauce from a can, and several fresh tomatoes)

and then you heat up some oil in the Instant Pot (or obviously you could do this on the stove top) and thicken up that purée for a little bit. Then add some water and toss in your hunks of raw chicken, and cook it until the chicken is done. Pull the chicken out

shred it up

and put it back in.

At this point you’re supposed to add in tortilla strips, which are supposed to be corn, which thickens up the soup. But I don’t like corn tortillas, so I used to use the flour kind, then I started using nothing, and then I started making crunchy tortilla strips instead. And this is how I always make it now. It doesn’t thicken the soup, but it bulks it up, and it adds texture and flavor, and it’s just fun.

You cut up a bunch of tortillas into strips, spread them in a shallow layer on a pan, toss with oil, sprinkle heavily with chili lime powder, and bake at 350, stirring every 10- 15 minutes, until they are toasted. 

I aways heap too many in there so they don’t all get toasted and some of them stay chewy. Guess what, I like them that way. I like chewy, gummy, floppy things. There is a part of me*, especially when I am tired and blue, that would probably just eat flour paste all day long. Maybe I would put it in the microwave, but maybe not. 

So it’s not a thick soup, but a kicky broth with plenty of chicken. You top it off with a good handful of crunchy chili lime tortilla strips, and some of them get soaked with broth and some of them stay crunchy; plus chopped scallions, sliced avocados, cilantro (or parsley if that’s what you have), shredded cheese, and sour cream.

 

Truly a great soup for when you’re sick. I made it pretty spicy, and it cleans out your head like a son of a gun. 

FRIDAY
French toast casserole, OJ

I planned this meal to make myself deal with how much bread is building up in the house. So far it’s gotten to the stage of me hearing the kids blame each other for not doing anything about it, and that’s pretty good, but it’s not sustainable. 

French toast casserole is just you tear up your old bread and soak it in egg and milk and some sugar, and a little cinnamon and vanilla if you like. Butter a pan, pour it in, maybe dot it with butter, maybe sprinkle some cinnamon sugar on top, and bake at 350 until the custard is cooked. Serve in wedges with syrup or jam. 

Here’s a rather arty photo, from back when stone fruit was in season: 

Today what’s in season is I have is a can full of ashes from the wood stove, that I’m saving to spread under the peach tree for next year. Ah well, it’s almost Advent. 

*my mouth, I should hope

 

Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup

Adapted from twosleevers.com. This is a very flavorful chicken soup. It has a little hotsy totsy burst of spice with the first taste, and then the more complex flavors come through slowly. Magic.

It's fairly brothy, and then you heap up all the garnishes you want on top.

This is a little over a gallon of soup.

Ingredients

  • 2 med onions
  • 1 lb (4 medium) tomatoes
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 3 chiles in adobo sauce plus some of the sauce
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (include seeds for more heat)
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • water
  • salt to taste
  • garnishes: avocado slices, sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, tortilla strips, chopped scallions

Instructions

  1. Cut the onions and tomatoes into chunks so they will fit in the blender or food processor. Put the onions, tomatoes, jalapeño, chili pepper and sauce, garlic and cilantro into a blender or food processor and blend it until it's a thick sauce. You may need to do it in batches, or just keep poking the big pieces down so everything gets blended in.

  2. Add enough oil to the Instant Pot pot to cover the bottom. Press "sauté" and let the oil heat up for a few minutes.

  3. Pour in the tomato mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes, until any liquid is mostly absorbed. You may need to press "sauté" again to keep it hot.

  4. Cut the chicken breasts into pieces and put them in the pot. Add six cups of water.

  5. Close the top, seal the valve, and press "pressure cook," then the + button until it goes to 20 minutes. When it's done cooking, let it naturally release for 10 minutes, then release the remaining pressure manually.

  6. Open the top and fish out the chicken. Shred it and return it to the pot. Add salt to taste.

  7. Serve the soup with garnishes: avocado slices, sour cream, tortilla strips, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, and chopped scallions.

 

Meatloaf (actually two giant meatloaves)

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground beef
  • 2 lbs ground turkey
  • 8 eggs
  • 4 cups breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 cup milk OR red wine
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

plenty of salt, pepper, garlic powder or fresh garlic, onion powder, fresh parsley, etc.

  • ketchup for the top
  • 2 onions diced and fried (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450

  2. Mix all meat, eggs, milk, breadcrumbs, and seasonings together with your hands until well blended.

  3. Form meat into two oblong loaves on pan with drainage

  4. Squirt ketchup all over the outside of the loaves and spread to cover with spatula. Don't pretend you're too good for this. It's delicious. 

  5. Bake for an hour or so, until meat is cooked all the way through. Slice and serve. 

 

 

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!

Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup

Adapted from twosleevers.com. This is a very flavorful chicken soup. It has a little hotsy totsy burst of spice with the first taste, and then the more complex flavors come through slowly. Magic.

It's fairly brothy, and then you heap up all the garnishes you want on top.

This is a little over a gallon of soup.

Ingredients

  • 2 med onions
  • 1 lb (4 medium) tomatoes
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 3 chiles in adobo sauce plus some of the sauce
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (include seeds for more heat)
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • water
  • salt to taste
  • garnishes: avocado slices, sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, tortilla strips, chopped scallions

Instructions

  1. Cut the onions and tomatoes into chunks so they will fit in the blender or food processor. Put the onions, tomatoes, jalapeño, chili pepper and sauce, garlic and cilantro into a blender or food processor and blend it until it's a thick sauce. You may need to do it in batches, or just keep poking the big pieces down so everything gets blended in.

  2. Add enough oil to the Instant Pot pot to cover the bottom. Press "sauté" and let the oil heat up for a few minutes.

  3. Pour in the tomato mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes, until any liquid is mostly absorbed. You may need to press "sauté" again to keep it hot.

  4. Cut the chicken breasts into pieces and put them in the pot. Add six cups of water.

  5. Close the top, seal the valve, and press "pressure cook," then the + button until it goes to 20 minutes. When it's done cooking, let it naturally release for 10 minutes, then release the remaining pressure manually.

  6. Open the top and fish out the chicken. Shred it and return it to the pot. Add salt to taste.

  7. Serve the soup with garnishes: avocado slices, sour cream, tortilla strips, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, and chopped scallions.

What’s for supper? Vol. 316: All Fall

We made it through Halloween and the Spooky Triduum! Plenty of cozy fall foods this week, although no applesauce as of yet. Here’s what we did have: 

SATURDAY
Vermonter sandwiches

By popular request. Your choice of ciabatta rolls or sourdough bread, roast chicken breast, bacon, thick slices of sharp cheddar, slices of tart Granny Smith apples, and honey mustard dressing.

Just an excellent sandwich. Nestle plate in among fabric paint and other craft materials because you are still frantically finishing up Halloween costumes. 

SUNDAY
Spaghetti and ragù; garlic bread; blueberry and pumpkin walnut ice cream 

Damien made this, following the Deadspin recipe. It turns out a little different each time. This time was a little spicy, and wonderfully — look, nobody likes it when I describe a meat sauce as “fluffy,” but the English language is just not helping me out. Here, have a picture:

If you’re thinking of pasta with a standard sluggish tomato sauce with some ground meat thrown in, think that no more. This is entirely different, and absolutely scrumptious. 

The kids miraculously scooped out the pumpkins on Friday while we were out of town, sorted out the pulp and seeds, and cleaned up. I know! So over the weekend, they carved their pumpkins, and all I had to do was roast the seeds.

I spread them in shallow pans, drizzled them with oil and sprinkled them with kosher salt, then cooked them in a 250 oven, stirring them occasionally, and switching the pans once so they’d cook evenly, until they are crunchy but not burnt.

I never know how long this takes because I always, always forget they are in the oven and almost burn them. Maybe forty minutes? I have no idea. 

I had a slightly better handle on dessert. Blueberries were on sale, so I bought a few pints, planning to make ice cream, with lemon pound cake from a mix. But then I felt bad that I hadn’t made any kind of Halloween-themed meal or dessert, so I decided it was important to make pumpkin ice cream.  (In the past, for Halloween I have made SPOOKY MEATLOAF

and once I made those mummy hot dogs

and you know, that was not a good use of my time. As usual, I’m the only one putting pressure on myself to come up with this stuff. Anyway, the ice cream turned out to be a great idea. I thought the two flavors would be terrible together (Watch: This Food Blogger Thinks Dessert Will Be Terrible But Makes It Anyway For Some Reason!), but they were actually great.

The blueberry was sweet and a tiny bit tart, and the pumpkin had all the comfy, custardy flavors of pumpkin pie, and somehow together they worked in the same way that peanut butter and jelly work together. They didn’t taste like peanut butter and jelly, you understand; it was just the same kind of combination. Fruity + earthy, or something. 

I did also make the lemon pound cake mix, but overbaked it, and I was worried the lemon would not go well with the other flavors (I had bought it just thinking lemon + blueberry), and this time I was right. Should have just skipped the cake. Oh well!

Imma have to come back later and write out the ice cream directions. I used Ben and Jerry’s recipes for both, except that I doubled the amount of blueberries for one, and added walnuts to the other, and increased the spices a bit. They both use the basic sweet cream base and do not require cooking. I will say that double blueberry was too much, and the berries clumped together in a way that wasn’t completely pleasant, because the tiny seeds get a little gritty one you get a certain volume of blueberry (they were macerated but not cooked). Next time I’ll just follow the recipe! But the walnuts were an excellent addition to the pumpkin ice cream, and I stand by that. I may make this again for Thanksgiving, or possibly this butternut squash ice cream with candied curry pecans.

MONDAY
Chicken nuggets; candy

Halloween! Dinner is only there to keep child protective services away. The kids had parties at school and ate all kinds of nonsense, then we zipped home and hurried to get costumes on for trick or treating. 

Benny and Corrie were Sarah and Duck

and I assisted them as Scarf Lady 

Lucy, Sophia, and Irene were Doc Ock, Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle, and a robot 

You can’t really tell, but the robot has three special features: It lights up in several colors, it has a little secret compartment for storing things, and it is wearing a fanny pack full of diabetic supplies for its sister, so as not to mess up her Doc Ock costume.

The other kids dispersed to various parties and promised me they would send pictures, but they did not!

TUESDAY
Bagel, sausage, egg, cheese sandwiches; caramel apples

On Tuesday I had an easy meal planned (bagels with sausages, egg, and cheese)

because everyone was exhausted and of course we had to get to Mass for All Saints Day, but I also suddenly couldn’t stand how there were apples all over the place, so I made caramel apples. We usually get the easy-peasy kind where you just stretch a sheet of caramel over the apple and warm it up to meld it on, but the boxes can be a little misleading, so I had two kits of the kind you need a candy thermometer.

Which reminds me of the last time we attempted this, which was one of my favorite Irene moments, when she was about seven. 

Irene, stirring caramel: “We don’t want it to get too hot. Not hard ball. Or hard crack. Or . . . [peering at thermometer] fish donut.”

WELL, THAT’S WHAT IT SAYS. The adult world can be very confusing, and you just have to go with it, even if it sounds a little fish donut.

So I made about 20 apples. 

They turned out lovely, but I surely did not have room for 20 sticky apples to cool and harden in the fridge, so I just left them out all afternoon. Usually our kitchen is about as cool as a refrigerator anyway, but we’re having a little warm snap, and by evening, the caramel had ooooozed its way downward until what I had was a panful of apples, each with its own caramel penumbra, sitting in a pool of caramel. Oh well! At least I got rid of the apples. Some weeks, cooking is like a game whose goal is to get rid of all the food. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken and salad; soul cakes

This was an okay idea that didn’t quite come off. I had the vague idea to serve a Greek-inspired salad with chicken. While I was out, Damien roasted some chicken breasts with plenty of lemon pepper seasoning, and I sliced up the meat and served it with a big green salad, black olives, feta cheese, pomegranate seeds, chopped walnuts, and cucumbers and tomatoes.

I think the tomatoes were the mistake.  You really can’t have tomatoes on pomegranates in the same plate. They threw the whole thing off. Also I forgot to buy any kind of dressing, so we were forced to dig through the fridge and take our chances. Damien found some creamy Italian dressing, and I was trying to tell him that we also had some kind of vinaigrette, but I couldn’t think of the word, so I called it “greasy Italian.” Which goes to show that describing things accurately is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I also just this minute remembered that I bought pita chips to go with this salad, and totally forgot about them. 

Regarding the pomegranates, I briefly considered looking up some clever TikTok idea for how to get the seeds off the rind in no time flat, but these things never, ever work for me. It’s always a video of some sun-kissed woman with shining, blue-black hair and a peasant blouse, standing in her garden going, “Oh, you cut up your pineapple with a knife, you DUMBASS? Try it like this!” and she grins at the camera and sticks a toothpick in the bottom, and all the pineapple just falls out into a basin in perfect little edible chunks and she eats one with very white teeth. Or else there is some perky dude with weirdly inflated biceps bopping around a spotless kitchen showing us how, when he wants 400 cloves of peeled garlic, all he does is make a little slit in the side and then tap it with a spoon, and the garlic absolutely cannot wait to scurry off and arrange itself into useful rows, all perfectly peeled and not a bit wasted. So I watch this stuff and it looks quite easy, so I imitate them exactly, and somehow slice the tips off my three favorite fingers, and then I have to explain to the ER nurse that I was trying to be like someone on TikTok.

So I decided to just cut the pomegranate into quarters and then just sort of scrabble at it until the seeds came out. And I got a bowlful that way. 

And then I took a picture, so there. 

OH, I also made soul cakes on Wednesday. I guess soul cakes are the original treats that people would give to beggars who would come to their house, and offer to pray for the souls of the dead in exchange for a cookie? I don’t know. I still had a shit ton of apples left, so I was getting ready to make applesauce when I suddenly remembered that the kids had asked about soul cakes, so that’s what I made. 

Jump to Recipe

It’s a very quick recipe, and I do like the taste. They have a faint cidery flavor from the cider vinegar, and they’re soft and a little spicy, very nice. I cut out two kinds and told the kids they represented souls before and after being prayed for. 

Raisins in purgatory, and then you upgrade to half a dried apricot when you go to heaven. That’s some high octane theology for you. 

THURSDAY
Mexican beef bowls and beans

Everyone was pretty excited about this meal. I actually started marinating the meat the night before. 

Jump to Recipe

I had already cut up the meat before marinating it, so I just fried it up in a giant pan along with the marinade. 

Earlier in the day, I made a big bowl of guacamole

Jump to Recipe

and a pot of black beans. The beans were completely yummy,

Jump to Recipe

but I wish I had cooked them with the lid off for a little longer (they were in the Instant Pot on “slow cook” most of the day) to simmer off more of the liquid. 

But all in all, a very tasty meal.  I made a big pot of rice, put out salsa, chopped scallions, sour cream, lime wedges, and corn chips, shredded some cheese, and heated up some corn. Everyone found something they liked to eat.

Mmm, I think I will have leftover beans for lunch. 

FRIDAY
Quesadillas

Lots of leftover fixins from Thursday’s meal, so I’m just going to make plain cheese quesadillas and people can dress it up as they like. I also bought some plantain chips, which I will no doubt forget to serve. 

Happy Friday! If you want some apples, come over. I have a lot. 

Soul cakes

Servings 18 flat cakes the size of large biscuits

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, chilled
  • 3-3/4 cup sifted flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp allspice (can sub cloves)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar (can sub white vinegar)
  • 4-6 Tbsp milk
  • powdered sugar to sprinkle on top

optional:

  • raisins, currants, nuts, candied citrus peels, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350

  2. Put the flour in a large bowl. Grate the chilled butter on a vegetable grater and incorporate it lightly into the flour.

  3. Stir in the sugar and spices until evenly distributed.

  4. In a smaller bowl, beat together the eggs, vinegar and milk. Stir this into the flour mixture until it forms a stiff dough.

  5. Knead for several minutes until smooth and roll out to 1/4 thick.

  6. Grease a baking pan. Cut the dough into rounds (or other shapes if you like) and lay them on the pan, leaving a bit of room in between (they puff up a bit, but not a lot). If you're adding raisins or other toppings, poke them into the top of the cakes, in a cross shape if you like. Prick cakes with fork.

  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes until very lightly browned on top.

  8. Sprinkle with powdered sugar while they are warm

 

Beef marinade for fajita bowls

enough for 6-7 lbs of beef

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 head garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together.

  2. Pour over beef, sliced or unsliced, and marinate several hours. If the meat is sliced, pan fry. If not, cook in a 350 oven, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. I cook the meat in all the marinade and then use the excess as gravy.

 

Instant Pot black beans

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 16-oz cans black beans with liquid
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Put olive oil pot of Instant Pot. Press "saute" button. Add diced onion and minced garlic. Saute, stirring, for a few minutes until onion is soft. Press "cancel."

  2. Add beans with liquid. Add cumin, salt, and cilantro. Stir to combine. Close the lid, close the vent, and press "slow cook."

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 315: When in doubt, add butter

Another week! Nobody told me that Halloween was Monday, so now I’m scurrying around like a DIY rat, scouring the local stores for yellow duct tape and a green knit hat and other things that ought to be easy to find but aren’t. And it just now occurred to me I could spray paint a hat the right color, couldn’t I? And so I shall. Anyway, despite the scurrying, we had some pretty spectacular food this week, and that has made all the difference. Read on!

SATURDAY
Hot dogs, chips

Saturday we went to the local pumpkin festival, which they had carefully renamed “Gathering of the Gourds.” The festival has been a Whole Thing, because for several years they tried to beat the world record for greatest number of illuminated pumpkins. It was fun, but also very overwhelming and expensive for the town, as tons of people poured into town to see the giant towers of jack-o’-lanterns.

Then came October of 2014, and I think I was in . . . Georgia? I forget where, but definitely away from home giving a speech, and I came down to the hotel lobby to get my free continental breakfast and blearily became aware that the TV was saying there had been riot with tear gas and rubber bullets, fires in the street, and a car tipped over, and I recognized the street. Called home and established that, while Damien and the kids had indeed been at the festival, they had not personally torn a parking meter out of the ground or thrown a beer bottle at anyone’s head. So that was okay.

Anyway, the pumpkin festival has been pretty hit or miss since then, and Covid was really the kiss of death. This year it was basically some stores giving out candy, a pile of pumpkins you could carve if you wanted to, and a bunch of vendors in a parking lot — including Clara and Elijah, so that was cool.

So we did that, and Benny had a party to attend, and I think we worked on Halloween costumes and baked Alaska, and days like this is why they make hot dogs. We also had a Wolf Man movie to watch. We started with Frankenstein, then Bride of Frankenstein, then Son of Frankenstein, and then we had to watch The Wolf Man so we could watch Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. The kids keep saying, “Well, that has to be the last one, now, because he clearly died at the end” and then we explain once again the concept of a movie studio backing up a truckload of cash to one’s house. I think next is a movie that has Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, and Dracula. And a truckload of cash. (I recommend all of these movies, by the way, especially the Frankenstein ones. They are gorgeous, they move right along, and their entire agenda is to be creepy and scare you with spookiness, which is very refreshing.)

SUNDAY
Bastardized jambalaya

Last week I heard myself say I didn’t really know what to do with kielbasa except make a sheet pan meal with potatoes, but then I immediately remembered: hark! you can make jambalaya. I told my husband that I was probably going to make some kind of bastardized version, but he said that was okay, because he was kind of a bastard himself. Who among us.

Jambalaya is one of those things people get a little huffy about, but I myself feel that you should cook what tastes good to you, and as long as you’re not running up to first generation immigrants and saying “try it like this, stupid! It’s so much better my way!” then THERE IS NO PROBLEM. It’s food, food is for eating, boom. 

So here is my quickie whatever jambalaya, made with kielbasa and shrimp.

Jump to Recipe

I was planning to throw some leftover chicken in there, but I did ask the kids to clean out the fridge really thoroughly, and I forgot to specify to save the chicken. Well, it was completely delicious, really filling, and it was done in about 45 minutes, start to finish. Obviously you can adjust the spices as you see fit. 

MONDAY
Chicken cutlet sandwiches, fries

Monday was supposed to be chicken burger day, but I can only find frozen chicken burgers half the time these days. I blame Hunter Biden, for some reason. So I had a sudden memory of the delicious chicken cutlets my mother used to make, and that became the plan. 

I don’t even really have a recipe. I sliced chicken breasts lengthwise, dunked them in beaten egg with a little milk and salt and pepper, then dredged them in panko crumbs seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. Then I pan fried them in canola oil and melted butter. 

Much faster and tidier than whole pieces of fried chicken, like thighs or drumsticks. I easily could have served them as is, maybe with a lemon wedge, but I was already on a sandwich track, so I put out sliced cheese, sliced onions, and sliced tomatoes. I couldn’t find the aioli mayonnaise, so I just had regular, and it was scrumptious. 

I love things fried in panko crumbs. If you fried a socket wrench in panko crumbs, I would be like, “Ohh, it’s so fluffy and nice” and I would have seconds. The chicken stayed juicy, and it was just a tasty treat all around. I also bought some malt vinegar for the fries, and that was a hit. 

TUESDAY
Korean fried chicken, roast broccoli, rice, baked Alaska

This was our anniversary meal!  The baked Alaska, I already wrote about in excruciating detail yesterday Now we must talk about the meal we had, that Damien made. It was magnificent. 

He took a chance with a new recipe, and I think it was the best chicken I’ve ever had. It was one of those twice-fried recipes, with a sauce that dances around in your taste buds in three distinct phases. It has a crackly, crunchy skin and is coated in a sticky, sweet, gingery sauce that is just TRANSPORTATIVE. I can confidently say that it was totally worth all the time and energy Damien put into it.

Didn’t hurt my feelings at all that he spent the afternoon cooking and wearing the kilt I got him, either. Ahem.

The chicken recipe is from delish.com, and it also has a recommended side dish of large pieces of grilled broccoli in a hot garlicky sauce with parmesan, which Damien also made, and which was also fantastic.

I made a big pot of plain rice in the Instant Pot and man, what a feast.

It was really hard to stop eating. 

WEDNESDAY
Zuppa Toscana, french bread

Wednesday was supposed to be nacho day, but it was rainy and chilly and just begging for soup, so I complied. I made a big pot of Zuppa Toscana, which only has nine or ten ingredients (which is not a lot for soup) and is absolutely the soul of comfort and coziness. Mild sausage, red potatoes, cream, and kale.

Jump to Recipe

I had heavy cream left over from all the ice cream making, so I used that along with the half and half, and wow, it was rich. 

I was in a rush, so you can see I ended up putting the soup out before the kale was completely soft. It was cooked all the way, but it wasn’t noodle-soft. It wasn’t bad, just different! 

I also made four loaves of French bread. I was literally running around trying to get stuff done, and was trying to sell emergency raffle tickets that it suddenly turned out we had to unload twenty of before tomorrow, and we had to get to a soccer game, and I kept forgetting I was making bread, so it’s a miracle it turned out at all. This should be a testament to how easy this recipe is!

Jump to Recipe

The loaves were not terribly photogenic, and I suspect someone squonched one of them before I put it in the oven, and if I were on the Great British Baking Show and they really wanted me to produce four completely identical loaves, I would not have gotten a handshake

but man they tasted good! Piping hot from the oven, so perfect with the rich, creamy soup. 

I did run a little butter over the tops when they came out of the oven. The purpose of this is to make them more buttery. Look, I’m working on building up my neck fold. For winter. 

I also did the trick of throwing a few ice cubes into the oven along with the unbaked loaves, which is supposed to produce a cloud of steam, giving the bread a thin, fragile crust. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. This time it worked great. The inside was pillowy soft, and the crust absolutely shattered when I cut it.

Couldn’t be more pleased.

THURSDAY
Pork nachos

Didn’t have a super solid plan for this. I had a big bone-in pork shoulder, and put it in a shallow pan with a bunch of cider vinegar, then rubbed it with mustard and rubbed in a bunch of salt, garlic powder, a little chili powder, and lots of cumin, covered it loosely with tinfoil, and cooked it at 325 for several hours. 

Usually I will shred the meat and distribute it over the chips and melt cheese over it for nachos, but this time I made the chips and cheese separately (one pan with jalapeños, one without), and let people make their own choices about pork, which they appreciated. 

The best thing about this picture is that I labelled it “nacho table” and my phone was like, uh, no, ‘scuse me, that a macho navel.

FRIDAY
Kids are making tuna noodle, Damien and I are scooting away for a little day trip to round out anniversary week. Smell ya later! 

Oh, here’s some recipe cards for the week: 

bastardized jambalaya

completely inauthentic, just things that seem tasty to me

Ingredients

  • 2-3 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 rope jambalaya, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 5 stalks celery, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp oregano
  • 2 tbsp cajun seasoning
  • raw shrimp
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 5 cups raw brown or long grain rice
  • 10-oz can diced tomatoes with chilies

Instructions

  1. In a heavy pot, heat up the oil. Brown up the kielbasa. Add in the onions, celery, and green pepper and continue stirring and cooking over medium heat until the vegetables are somewhat soft.

  2. Add in the garlic and spices and cook a few minutes more. Add in the raw shrimp and stir.

  3. Pour in the chicken broth, rice, and tomatoes with any juice. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes or until rice is cooked.

Zuppa Toscana

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. sweet Italian sausages
  • 1-2 red onion(s), diced
  • 4 medium red potatoes, sliced thin with skin on
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 3 cups kale, chopped
  • 4 cups half and half
  • 9 cups chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • olive oil for cooking
  • pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour

Instructions

  1. Squeeze the sausage out of the casings. Saute it up in a little olive oil, breaking it into pieces as it cooks. When it's almost done, add the minced garlic, diced onion, and sliced potatoes. Drain off excess olive oil.

  2. When onions and potatoes are soft, add flour, stir to coat, and cook for another five minutes. 

  3. Add chicken broth and half and half. Let soup simmer all day, or keep warm in slow cooker or Instant Pot. 

  4. Before serving, add chopped kale (and sliced mushrooms, optional) and cook for another ten minutes (or set Instant Pot for three minutes) until kale and mushrooms are soft. Add pepper. Add salt if necessary, but the sausage and broth contribute salt already. 

  5. This makes a creamy soup. If you want it thicker, you can add a flour or cornstarch roux at the end and cook a little longer. 

French bread

Makes four long loaves. You can make the dough in one batch in a standard-sized standing mixer bowl if you are careful!

I have a hard time getting the water temperature right for yeast. One thing to know is if your water is too cool, the yeast will proof eventually; it will just take longer. So if you're nervous, err on the side of coolness.

Ingredients

  • 4-1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 5 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
  • 10-12 cups flour
  • butter for greasing the pan (can also use parchment paper) and for running over the hot bread (optional)
  • corn meal for sprinkling on pan (optional)

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, put the warm water, and mix in the sugar and yeast until dissolved. Let stand at least five minutes until it foams a bit. If the water is too cool, it's okay; it will just take longer.

  2. Fit on the dough hook and add the salt, oil, and six of the cups of flour. Add the flour gradually, so it doesn't spurt all over the place. Mix and low and then medium speed. Gradually add more flour, one cup at a time, until the dough is smooth and comes away from the side of the bowl as you mix. It should be tender but not sticky.

  3. Lightly grease a bowl and put the dough ball in it. Cover with a damp towel or lightly cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about an hour, until it's about double in size.

  4. Flour a working surface. Divide the dough into four balls. Taking one at a time, roll, pat, and/or stretch it out until it's a rough rectangle about 9x13" (a little bigger than a piece of looseleaf paper).

  5. Roll the long side of the dough up into a long cylinder and pinch the seam shut, and pinch the ends, so it stays rolled up. It doesn't have to be super tight, but you don't want a ton of air trapped in it.

  6. Butter some large pans. Sprinkle them with cornmeal if you like. You can also line them with parchment paper. Lay the loaves on the pans.

  7. Cover them with damp cloths or plastic wrap again and set to rise in a warm place again, until they come close to double in size. Preheat the oven to 375.

  8. Give each loaf several deep, diagonal slashes with a sharp knife. This will allow the loaves to rise without exploding. Put the pans in the oven and throw some ice cubes in the bottom of the oven, or spray some water in with a mister, and close the oven quickly, to give the bread a nice crust.

  9. Bake 25 minutes or more until the crust is golden. One pan may need to bake a few minutes longer.

  10. Run some butter over the crust of the hot bread if you like, to make it shiny and even yummier.

What’s for supper? Vol. 313: The eptimistic kitchen

You did it! You made it to Friday! In lieu of a treat, here is a little food post.

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips

I think people may be well and truly burnt out on grilled ham and cheese, even with the good sourdough bread. We had a good run. I’ll try again in May or so. Or next time I cannot think of literally any other kind of food that people eat for dinner. 

SUNDAY
Aldi pizza 

We were supposed to go apple picking on Saturday, but people were too busy, and then Sunday, but then someone threw up, so, no. 

We did go ahead and make the long-promised giant garbage bag spider. As the name implies, this is made with garbage bags, plus packing tape zip ties. The legs are stuffed with giant weeds, and the body is stuffed with a slightly deflated pool floatie. It looks . . . fine. 

It’s just not what I was hoping. I think if I make a second big round part and make that be the head, and put a lot more eyes on it, and maybe fangs. And maybe give the skeletons some swords, or maybe a fly swatter. I don’t know. It’s just a little lackluster. But I did get it done, and being able to cross “giant garbage bag spider” off your list is not nothing. 

MONDAY
Beef barley soup, pumpkin empanadas 

Nobody was throwing up, so we thought maybe possibly we’d go apple picking on Monday, because nobody had school, except a few people did, and then also oops, I had therapy, but we could still go after that, but then it rained. It was also only about 50 degrees and windy, and driving an hour and half in the afternoon to pick wet apples in the cold wind and then driving home in the dark honestly just did not sound like a lot of fun, even by our standards, even if we stopped to plant crocus bulbs on my parents’ grave, which, yes, was part of my fun-fun plan. So we didn’t do any of that, and instead I stayed home and made soup and empanadas, and that was actually quite nice. 

First beef barley soup of the season. Pretty popular meal in a family that is fairly soup skeptical. It’s just so full of tasty things, and it’s so cozy and colorful. Plenty of carrots and onions and garlic, beef and mushrooms, tomatoes and barley, and the broth is made with red wine. Super easy and if give it plenty of time to cook, the beef gets wonderfully tender. 

This recipe has instructions for stovetop and Instant Pot. 
Jump to Recipe

I got some empanada dough discs at the supermarket, after the NYT comments section clued me in that Goya frozen dough was just as good as homemade, and it’s like $2 for a package of ten.  The Goya dough discs are very easy to work with. They go from totally frozen to workable within about twenty minutes, and they stretch well and don’t tear easily. You can bake or fry them.

For the filling, I sorta followed this recipe, which is just canned pumpkin, vanilla, brown sugar, and pumpkin spice. (I think I used cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.) I decreased the amount of sugar by about 25% and it was still a bit sweeter than I thought was necessary. You just cook it in a pot for a few minutes, then spoon a heaping spoonful onto the discs, seal them up with a fork, brush them with egg wash, and bake them on parchment paper.

I was a little concerned that the empanadas wouldn’t hold together, because the filling was the consistency of thick homemade applesauce. I briefly considered adding egg or flour, but it didn’t seem like a good day for winging anything, and in the end they didn’t leak. I do think something more solid would have been a bit more appealing, though. Here’s the inside:

This isn’t a flaw of the recipe, it just wasn’t exactly what I wanted (even though it was exactly what I made, duh). They certainly were easy to put together, and they came out of the oven glossy and cheery. This particular dough is flavored with annatto, which gives it a very mild peppery taste and a pleasant ruddy color. 

Corrie has been having homemade empanadas for breakfast and packing them in her lunch all week, which I am telling myself offsets the fact that it took me three days to notice her lunchbox is moldy.

Someone said something about pineapple empanadas, and this intrigues me! And I did, in fact, buy another several packs of empanada discs to keep in the freezer for next time. Maybe pineapple empanadas next time we have chili verde, or tacos al pastor. Maybe apple empanadas next time we go apple picking. Which we’re going to do if it kills us. 

TUESDAY
Ham, peas, mashed potatoes

We are contractually obligated to have this exact meal at least three times a year. I know it’s because they like to make little sculptures with it, and I don’t care, because it’s a damn tasty meal. Ham, peas, and mashed potatoes. 

Also, last time I made mashed potatoes, they came gross, because  I left the skins on and then slightly undercooked and undermashed them, so this was my chance to redeem myself. 

I also redeemed myself by having leftover soup for lunch.

This is a very specific kind of redemption, redemption soup. Limited in its way, but also very tasty, and full of carrots. All I ever have, / redemption soup.

WEDNESDAY
Pork gyros

Yes. Yes. Gyro time. In the morning, I cut up a big, cheap pork shoulder into thin strips and marinated it. I made the marinade with honey, wine vinegar, olive oil, fresh garlic, red onions, fresh rosemary and oregano (the very last from the garden), and then some dried oregano, too, just to be on the safe side. This is a pleasantly mild, somewhat sweet, herby-tasting marinade, and it makes the meat nicely tender. 

Jump to Recipe

At dinner time, I just spread it in a shallow pan and roasted it with the marinade, stirring it up a bit halfway through to keep it from burning

while cooking some french fries in a second pan. I sliced up some more red onions, then cut up some tomatoes and cucumbers, and made a big dish of garlicky lemony yogurt sauce, and gathered up plenty of big pieces of fresh wild mint.

AND THEN WE FEASTED.

I skipped the french fries in mine and just went for plenty of yogurt and hot sauce. A perfectly satisfying meal, the tender juicy meat and hot sauce and the cool, garlicky yogurt all playing so nicely with the crunchy fresh vegetables. Just couldn’t be better.  The fresh mint leaves really put it over the top. 

THURSDAY
Meatball subs, veg and dig

I often make the meatballs in the oven, but this time I felt like frying them, which really does make them better. I just browned them in a pan in batches

with the help of a supervisor

and then let them finish cooking in the oven, went to pick up the kids, and then moved the meatballs to a pot of red sauce to continue heating up until supper. 

Nothing extraordinary, but good for a rainy fall day. 

FRIDAY
Shrimp lo mein

For some reason, the price of frozen shrimp has remained the same while everything else has expanded to … the opposite of shrimp-like, in price size.

That reminds me, Corrie is very interested in opposites lately. She wanted to know the opposite of optimistic, and when I told her, she informed me that Sonny is optimistic, but the cat is pessimistic. Which is true.

Then the next day, she forgot the word “pessimistic” and referred to something as “eptimistic,” and was embarrassed; so we decided that eptimistic was a perfectly good word that must mean the opposite of being inept. Like if you know how to cook, you’re pretty eptimistic in the kitchen. Let’s make this happen, everybody. Let’s eptimistically whip up a quick little lo mein sauce, and make a surprisingly simple, tasty dinner

Jump to Recipe

with a couple pounds of store brand fettuccine and maybe some chopped up zucchini and yellow bell pepper. Won’t that be pretty? I’m feeling fairly optimistic about it. 

And we are going to go apple picking this weekend if it kills us. And it will! 

Beef barley soup (Instant Pot or stovetop)

Makes about a gallon of lovely soup

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion or red onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 3-4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 lbs beef, cubed
  • 16 oz mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 6 cups beef bouillon
  • 1 cup merlot or other red wine
  • 29 oz canned diced tomatoes (fire roasted is nice) with juice
  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy pot. If using Instant Pot, choose "saute." Add the minced garlic, diced onion, and diced carrot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions and carrots are softened. 


  2. Add the cubes of beef and cook until slightly browned.

  3. Add the canned tomatoes with their juice, the beef broth, and the merlot, plus 3 cups of water. Stir and add the mushrooms and barley. 

  4. If cooking on stovetop, cover loosely and let simmer for several hours. If using Instant Pot, close top, close valve, and set to high pressure for 30 minutes. 

  5. Before serving, add pepper to taste. Salt if necessary. 

 

honey garlic marinade for gyros

Marinate thin strips of pork for several hours, then grill or broil. This is a mild, somewhat sweet marinade that makes the meat quite tender.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 lbs pork shoulder or butt, sliced into thin strips
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • small bunch fresh rosemary, chopped
  • small bunch fresh oregano, chopped

Meatballs for a crowd

Make about 100 golf ball-sized meatballs. 

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground meat (I like to use mostly beef with some ground chicken or turkey or pork)
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese (about 2 cups)
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.

  2. Mix all ingredients together with your hands until it's fully blended.

  3. Form meatballs and put them in a single layer on a pan with drainage. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or more until they're cooked all the way through.

  4. Add meatballs to sauce and keep warm until you're ready to serve. 

 

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 5 tsp sesame oil
  • 5 tsp sugar

for the rest

  • 32 oz uncooked noodles
  • sesame oil for cooking
  • add-ins (vegetables sliced thin or chopped small, shrimp, chicken, etc.)
  • 2/3 cup rice vinegar (or mirin, which will make it sweeter)

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

  2. Boil the noodles until slightly underdone. Drain and set aside.

  3. Heat up a pan, add some sesame oil for cooking, and quickly cook your vegetables or whatever add-ins you have chosen.

  4. Add the mirin to the pan and deglaze it.

  5. Add the cooked noodles in, and stir to combine. Add the sauce and stir to combine.

What’s for supper? Vol. 311: In which I go astray with lemons

Apparently it is Friday! I had no idea. Follow me for more organizational tips. 

Like most of the country, we’re feeling a bit pinched financially, so I’m trying to pare things down a bit. I stuck to my usual method (looking up the supermarket flyers and basing the menu around the meat and produce that’s on sale), but I was a little more severe about it than usual, and managed to slice quite a bit off the grocery bill this week, so that felt good. We still ate pretty well. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Fancy chicken sandwiches, raw broccoli, fake Pringles

Just regular chicken burgers, but on ciabatta rolls, with red onion, tomato, aioli mayo, and smoked gouda (which was on sale). A very pleasant, flavorful sandwich. 

If you are wondering what the difference is between aioli and mayo, aioli is made with garlic and olive oil and and mayo is made with egg yolks and canola oil. I suppose aioli mayo is made with eggs, olive oil, and garlic, although I didn’t check the label. Just slathered that stuff on.

SUNDAY
Apple pancakes, sausages, OJ; gingerbread cake with lemon frosting

Damien had to go to Florida for a quick business trip, so we did the ol’ “Daddy’s away, let’s just have pancakes” routine. You know how, when you’re making pancakes, the first batch turns out terrible? This was like that, except all the other batches were also terrible. I have no idea what my problem was, but I absolutely massacred these pancakes. I also got very frugal and chopped up and threw in some quite elderly apples that I probably should have just let go in peace. The kids were very gracious, though, and ate everything up. 

I had more success with dessert, which was a belated birthday cake for Clara. I used the King Arthur gingerbread cake recipe. I am a pretty poor baker, prone to mid-recipe panics and irrational sulks, but King Arthur has saved my bacon more than once, and I recommend them if you are a baker who lacks confidence.

This is a classic gingerbread cake recipe, with coffee, plenty of molasses, and all the cozy autumn spices.

I made a double recipe and baked it in silicone rounds, and they turned out lovely. 

You’re supposed to serve gingerbread with just a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, or maybe some whipped cream, or possibly a light glaze, but this was a birthday cake, so I went whole hog and made a big batch of thick lemon buttercream frosting. I followed this Sally’s Baking Addiction recipe (it’s just a basic buttercream recipe, made with heavy cream, plus fresh lemon juice and lemon zest), and that, too, turned out lovely, very rich and lemony, and a pleasant pale yellow (more so than it looks in the photo below). Here I have just tossed a handful of lemon zest on top. 

Then I got the brilliant idea to candy some lemon slices for garnishes. I have candied lemon peel before, for lemon meringue pie, but I wanted something a little more flashy, so I bought a bunch of hard lemon candies, smashed them with the marble rolling pin I got at the dump

and — okay, here is where I went astray. 

First I sliced up some lemons and laid them on a pan on parchment paper. My first mistake is I should have laid them on paper towel, or something absorbent, because lemons do weep. My second mistake is that I smashed the candies and then decided I would melt them in the microwave and pour the melted candy over the lemon slices. This . . . kind of worked. 

But the candy started sort of boiling before it was completely melted all the way through, and I was afraid of ruining it, so I didn’t have a lot to work with. 

What I should have done, maybe, was sprinkle the crushed candy bits over the lemon slices and put the pan in the oven to melt it all together that way. I think. You can see that I also didn’t take out the seeds. I remember making the decision not to do this, and telling myself it would be more authentic or something, but obviously I just didn’t feel like picking the seeds out. 

Anyway, I ended up with more or less candied lemon slices that were a tiny bit floppier than I would have liked, and a little bit weepy. As someone who got a little bit weepy over a Gary Larson cartoon yesterday, I really cannot judge the lemons for this. 

Then I watched my ten millionth video on how to frost a cake, frosted the cake, loused it up completely like I always do, and decorated it with sort-of candied lemon slices, marigolds (which are edible), and some candied ginger slices. I also threw on some candy squiggles that I had the foresight to make, once I realized that the candy was going to end up squiggly whether I wanted it to or not. And it turned out kind of pretty!

Weird, but pretty. The candy squiggles give it a bit of a doctor’s signature look, which I always think is nice. And see, you can see how the lemons are weeping.

There there, lemons. 

Actually, I think it’s the lemon candy that’s weeping. It’s too bright to be lemon juice. I don’t know. Well, the cake itself was good. Moist and dense, but still tender, and not gummy.

The lemon frosting was maybe a little too sweet, but that’s buttercream for you. A successful cake overall, I thought. 

MONDAY
Pasta with meat sauce

Damien was still away, so I reverted to an old kid-friendly meal: twisty pasta with jarred spaghetti sauce and ground beef. I did fry up a chopped onion, but I think that’s as far as I went with the seasoning. And wow, was it bland. I used to cook like this all the time.

TUESDAY
Pizza

Tuesday was a little experiment: I made just three pizzas, to see if it would be enough. In our heyday, I would make six extra-large pizzas, and there would only be scanty leftovers. As the family shifts and the birdies fly the next, I keep decreasing how many pizzas I make, and this week I had to acknowledge that, when I make four pizzas, there are leftovers hanging around all week long. So I made three, and there were three or four pieces left after everyone ate. This does not sit right, but the data is in. 

Here is a pie chart demonstrating how much pizza our family ate:

Tee hee. (Then we ate the rest of it.)

WEDNESDAY
Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits

Last week, while frying chicken for the chicken biryani, I thought to myself that I really ought to try frying chicken for a main course again, because it was surprisingly simple and easy, and why not? 

So, the answer to this question is: Frying up six or seven pieces of chicken to go in a larger dish later in the day is one thing. Frying up 24 pieces of chicken while everyone hungrily waits for dinner on a school night is quite another. It was not simple! It was not easy! And also I forgot that only one of the big burners on the stove works properly, and the other one just stays on high and burns everything, and the other two are tiny and useless. So, that’s why not. 

I don’t have regrets, though. But I’m starting much earlier in the day, next time. I more or less followed this recipe, except that I dredged the milk-soaked chicken in regular flour seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. I have to admit, it was frrrrrreaking delicious. 

I over cooked it somewhat, so the outside wasn’t exactly beautiful, but it was tasty as heck, the meat was juicy, and all the kids said it was great and I should make it again. So that’s a win! Here’s my unbeautiful but tasty plate:

As you can see, I also made garlic mashed potatoes that were kind of not great. They were very small potatoes and I was rushing, so I decided not to peel them, which works okay if you are going to mash them very thoroughly, which I did not. Oh well. I make mashed potatoes infrequently enough that the kids consider them a treat and were happy to have them. Here’s the recipe, if you want to do it right:

Jump to Recipe

I also made a few dozen biscuits that turned out pretty well.

I have a reliable biscuit recipe that calls for cream of tartar and egg, and the biscuits come out rich and fluffy, with a fragile, buttery crust.

Jump to Recipe

Overall a popular meal. Gravy would have been great, but I just ran out of time. I also wished I had some sauteed spinach, but again, time. 

THURSDAY
Leftover fried chicken, fries, corn

I was planning (well, “planning”) Greek chicken something something yogurt sauce I dunno, but there was a lot of fried chicken left over, so we just picked up some frozen fries, heated up some frozen corn, and had chicken again. 

You can see that the coating adhered nicely, even unto the second day, so I’ll definitely stick with this recipe next time. Maybe even make some gravy.

FRIDAY
Quesadillas, chips, salsa

And then, like I said, apparently it is Friday! At least that’s what it says here. And now I’m headed to the windowsill. 

Garlic parmesan mashed potatoes

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs potatoes
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 8 Tbsp butter
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 8 oz grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Peel the potatoes and put them in a pot. Cover the with water. Add a bit of salt and the smashed garlic cloves.

  2. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer with lid loosely on until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.

  3. Drain the water out of the pot. Add the butter and milk and mash well.

  4. Add the parmesan and salt and pepper to taste and stir until combined.

moron biscuits

Because I've been trying all my life to make nice biscuits and I was too much of a moron, until I discovered this recipe. It has egg and cream of tartar, which is weird, but they come out great every time. Flaky little crust, lovely, lofty insides, rich, buttery taste.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, chilled
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450.

  2. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and cream of tartar.

  3. Grate the chilled butter with a box grater into the dry ingredients.

  4. Stir in the milk and egg and mix until just combined. Don't overwork it. It's fine to see little bits of butter.

  5. On a floured surface, knead the dough 10-15 times. If it's very sticky, add a little flour.

  6. With your hands, press the dough out until it's about an inch thick. Cut biscuits. Depending on the size, you can probably get 20 medium-sized biscuits with this recipe.

  7. Grease a pan and bake for 10-15 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

What’s for supper? Vol. 310: Back on my biryani

GOOD
MORN-ING
GIRLS-AND-BOYS!

{Good morn-ing, Miss El-lis!}

Sweet, sweet Miss Ellis, our music teacher who seemed to have descended from another era and remained untouched by all the very small town 1980’s public schooliness that swirled around her modestly clad ankles. She died relatively young, and so she still remains in my mind as a tall, gentle, slightly stooped, slightly pained-looking woman with a feathered bob, still wearing the plaid jumpers, clogs, and clunky folk jewelry that looked right to her while the rest of the world succumbed to Cyndi Lauper. She had us tootling into our recorders and scraping away at our lummi sticks while she labored away on her autoharp, teaching us folk songs from around the world against our will. And I still remember them, dozens of them. What a lovely woman. Good morning, Miss Ellis!

I guess it’s just fall, remembering time. It’s also cool weather, drizzly weather, and time to really start leaning into things that smell lovely and warm you up from the inside out. It helped that I didn’t have a car all week, so I was home to cook and take my time at it. Here’s what we had: 

SUNDAY
Italian sandwiches, fries

Damien made this meal while I sweated and slaved over a hot computer, putting together an Instacart order. Nobody’s tired of Italian sandwiches yet. I’ll tell you, this has not been a great year for tomatoes, though. They look okay, but they just don’t taste like much. The basil is fine, though. 

Sandwiches are a fine time to practice your pepper grinding skills. Also don’t be afraid to really bend that elbow when you’re pouring the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Tips!

MONDAY
Carnitas, guacamole

Just another manic Monday, that’s my carnita day. You start out with some hunks of pork sprinkled heavily with salt, pepper, and oregano, and simmer them nicely in a ton of oil and some Coke, a few quartered oranges, some cinnamon sticks, and a few bay leaves.

Jump to Recipe

Give it plenty of time. 

Pull the extries out and keep cooking it until the meat just gives up. 

and then maybe cook it a little longer just to give it a little more texture and color. 

I like carnitas with pico de gallo and sometimes beans and rice, but this time I just made a bowl of guacamole. 

Jump to Recipe

It wasn’t the greatest, and I’m not sure why. I forgot to order tomatoes, so that was missing, but it also just had a kind of harsh taste. Maybe the onions were a little old? Not sure. I mean don’t get me wrong, I ate plenty. It just wasn’t the greatest. 

The carnitas were good. Sweet and a little smoky or something. Not smoky, I don’t know. I had plenty. 

TUESDAY
Chicken biryani, coconut mango sorta-sorbet

A new recipe! I could not have been more pleased with how this turned out. This is from Simply Recipes and I followed it exactly, except for extending the cooking time, which I was prepared for, because last time I made biryani, the rice was so underdone. Oh, I also used chicken broth instead of water, and I skipped the golden raisins, because I knew it would prejudice the kids against this meal. 

I started cooking in the morning. First I gathered the spices. Salt and pepper for the chicken, and then onion, fresh ginger, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon sticks and bay leaves. 

Next, I accidentally dumped about 1/4 cup cardamom down the heating vent. This is not a bad way to begin the heating season, and I may sell this idea to Martha Stewart. I did manage to get the rest into the mortar and pestle and grind it up.

The next step is to prep your rice (I just used regular shorty rice, no fancy basmati or anything) and set that aside; and then slice the chicken thighs up along the bone, then season and fry them in oil. 

At this point, I realized that my almost lifelong horror of frying chicken is probably outdated and unnecessary. When I think of frying chicken, I think of a miserable, stressful catastrophe with hot oil spattered all over the place, billowing clouds of smoke, people screaming, the earth cracking open like a giant egg, species going extinct, I don’t know. Just a bad chicken scene in general. 

But that’s probably because last time I tried to fry chicken, I had a ton of little kids in the kitchen literally hanging off my legs, if not my boobies, while I fried. I probably had a terrible, thin, warped pan to cook with, and not enough oil, and no tongs, and maybe a broken stove, and I was probably in the habit of constantly telling myself what a rotten cook I was while I cooked; and supper was probably late, and everyone was upset, and the earth was probably cracking open like a giant egg. The odds, in short, were against me at the time. A bad chicken scene indeed. 

But things are different now! I have better equipment, I’m a much more confident and skilled cook, and I almost always cook alone. Or if someone comes in, I tell them to go away, and they do. 

What I’m saying is, I’m going to fry some chicken next week. I will probably still tell myself I’m a rotten cook, but, per my therapist, I will catch myself saying this. 

Anyway, back to the biryani. The next thing is to take the chicken out of the pan and fry up the onions and ginger in the oil. Lovely, lovely. Then you add in the turmeric and cardamom and it gets even better. Turmeric, as you know, is this deep golden hue, and you wonder if it’s going to stay so golden when you mix it in to other things, or if it will become diluted. And you will not be disappointed! Oh, I enjoyed myself so much.

Cook a bit more and then add your rinsed rice into the pan

and then add in the chicken, the broth, and the bay leaves and cinnamon. 

My friends, I had to physically force myself to put a lid on the pan. The aroma was straight from paradise and I did not want to be separated from it. 

So it just simmered for about 20 minutes, and when I took the lid off, this magic had occurred:

I don’t know what I expected, but I was just thrilled. Look at it! It’s biryani! 

According to the recipe, the biryani is now cooked. As I expected, though, it was cooked unevenly, and much of the rice was still crunchy. This is a very common issue with biryani, apparently. This is why I started in the morning. So I transferred the whole thing to the slow cooker and set it on low, and let it steam itself for the rest of the day. 

By dinner time, it was piping hot and thoroughly cooked, but not mushy or anything. 

I served it up with some toasted almonds and some chopped cilantro. 

They liked it! Just about everybody liked it. This dish has plenty of depth and cozy layers of flavor, but it’s not spicy at all. This recipe is most certainly going into the rotation, and I may even sneak some golden raisins in next time. So delicious. 

I love that I was able to make it all in the morning. It would make a great party dish. Tasted even better the next day. Wonderful stuff. 

Now for the sorta-sorbet. As I mentioned the other week, the Concord grape sorbet I made turned out so well, I thought a mango sorbet would be great to go with Indian food. The mangoes I ordered were nowhere near ripe, though, so I asked Damien to bring home some frozen mango chunks, and then quickly chose this recipe, which looked simple but promising enough. 

Foolish Simcha, ignoring the biggest red flag at all. She calls it a “sorbet dessert,” rather than just sorbet. This is classic recipe vacillation language, when you come out with something kind of gloppy and you don’t really know what it is, so you just straight up lie about it, and then call it “dessert” to cover your butt. 

Or maybe I screwed up, who knows. Anyway, you’re supposed to blend the mango, coconut milk, lime juice, honey, vanilla, and a little salt in a blender, and …. that’s it. 

In her world, this comes out of her blender the consistency of thick, creamy soft serve ice cream, and she scoops it into an adorable coconut-shaped ramekin and boops a mint leaf on top for the photo. 

In my world, it looked like someone ate a mango and then their stomachs changed their mind. 

I tried freezing it in separate little cups and everything. No dice. I mean it was fine. It tasted fine. It wasn’t any damn sorbet, though. I probably should have put it through my ice cream maker, but by this time, I was kind of mad, and decided not to, on principle. I comforted myself with more biryani. 

WEDNESDAY
Bacon, brussels sprouts, and eggs

Second dark, rainy day in a row. This is a most excellent, one-pan meal that comes together pretty quickly, and that just about everybody likes. I kifed this recipe from Damn Delicious, and I like Chungah, but she calls for four pieces of bacon, and what is that. I used four pounds of bacon, plus three pounds of brussels sprouts, and about fifteen eggs. It was too much bacon, but on the other hand, it was dark and rainy out

You make a nice little sauce with balsamic vinegar, honey, fresh garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and you cook the bacon and brussels sprouts with this on a sheet pan

Then you crack some raw eggs carefully over the pan, sprinkle some red pepper flakes and freshly-grated parmesan cheese over that, and some more salt and pepper, and cook it several minutes longer, just until the whites set but the yolks are still wobbly.

And that’s it. So easy. Gosh, it’s delicious. The bacon and brussels sprouts soak up the sweet vingary garlicky sauce, and you can pick up forkfuls of this and dip it in the hot egg yolk and just have a wonderful time. 

Would have been great with some hot crusty bread or some hot pretzels. I think I served tortilla chips. 

THURSDAY
Chicken soup with matzoh balls, rolls, pizza rolls, cake

Thursday was Clara’s birthday! I still owe her a decent cake and a real present, because the whole entire day was eaten up with the worthy project of BUYING A CAR. 

There is a whole long agonizing story about the old car, which is still unresolved, but I did miraculously find this lovely 2010 Honda Odyssey and now it’s mine. Well, I guess technically it belongs to the Service Credit Union, but in five short years it will be mine! I truly love it. I haven’t heard a single bad thing about Honda Odysseys, and this one has heated seats and a sunroof and it only smells a little bit weird, and only in a cat way, not in an automotive way.

Clara modestly asked for chicken soup with matzoh balls for her birthday, and I had the foresight to get the soup going the night before. The soup could not be simpler. It’s really a broth with a few garnishes, more than a soup. A big pot of water with chicken parts with bones, big pieces of carrots, onion, and celery, salt and pepper, and a big handful of fresh dill and fresh parsley. Simmer all day, then strain. Put back as much of the solid bits of chicken and vegetables as you like, but understand that it’s mostly for texture and looks, as the taste has gone into the broth. Let the broth cool and skim off the fat if there’s too much. Then reheat and use as you wish. (I wish to use it to cook matzoh balls.)

So on Thursday I got the matzoh ball dough going when I got home (it needs to chill for at least half an hour), then strained the soup, heated it up, and started cooking some pizza rolls I bought in a panic because what if there’s not enough food? Then I made about 50 matzoh balls and let them simmer and steam for about half an hour.

Served with some soft rolls because what if there’s not enough etc etc
I threw a little fresh dill and parsley on top of the soup, and it was very nice.

I don’t know if all of the matzoh balls were cooked properly, but all the ones I got were!

And then we had a STORE-BOUGHT CAKE. Because I may be an idiot, but even I know that if you get home after 6 PM, it is too late to start baking a cake. I still owe Clara a real cake. Maybe this weekend. 

FRIDAY
Land, I don’t know. I think we are having spaghetti. 

 

John Herreid's Carnitas

Very easy recipe transforms pork into something heavenly. Carnitas are basically pulled pork tacos with the meat crisped up. Serve with whatever you like.

Ingredients

  • pork butt/shoulder, cut into chunks
  • salt and pepper
  • oregano
  • oranges, quartered
  • cinnamon sticks
  • bay leaves
  • 1 can Coke or Mexican Coke
  • 1 cup or less vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Sprinkle the chunks of pork with salt, pepper, and oregano.

  2. Put them in a heavy pot with the oil and Coke, oranges, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer.

  3. Simmer, uncovered, for at least two hours. The oranges will start to get mushy and the liquid will begin to thicken.

  4. When the meat is tender, remove the oranges, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks. Turn the heat up and continue cooking, stirring often, until the meat has a dark crust. Be careful not to let it burn.

  5. Remove the meat and drain off any remaining liquid. Shred the meat. It it's not as crisp as you like, you can brown it under the oven broiler, or return it to the pot without the liquid and fry it up a bit.

  6. Serve on warm tortillas with whatever you like.

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

Bacon, eggs, and brussels sprouts in honey garlic balsamic sauce

Adapted from Damn Delicious.  An easy and tasty one-pan meal that would work for any meal. Great with a hearty bread like challah. 

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 3 lbs uncooked bacon, cut into 1- or 2-inch pieces
  • 18 eggs
  • oil for greasing pan
  • salt and pepper to taste

Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed

Garnish (optional):

  • parmesan cheese, grated
  • red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Grease two large oven sheets. 


  2. Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Mix Brussels sprouts and bacon together, spread evenly in pans, and pour sauce all over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

  3. Cook until bacon is almost done (almost as crisp as you like it) and Brussels sprouts are very slightly browned, 18-20 minutes.

  4. Pull the pans out of the oven and carefully crack the eggs onto the Brussels sprouts and bacon, here and there.

  5. Return pan to the oven and cook a few minutes longer, just enough to set the eggs. The yolks will get a little film over the top, but don't let them cook all the way through, or you'll have something resembled hard boiled eggs, which isn't as good. You want the yolks to be liquid so you can dip forkfuls of fod into it.

  6. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes and serve. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 308: A kind of Koyaanisqatsi mouthfeel

This week starts so well.

But, dear reader, read on. 

SATURDAY
Italian sandwiches, fries

Always a tasty option. A variety of cured meats from the deli, some jarred pesto, olive oil and vinegar, basil and tomatoes, and plenty of fries. 

And cheese! Do not forget the cheese. 

SUNDAY
Bagel, bacon, egg, cheese sandwiches, OJ

Ran out of eggs; was not sad to have to send a kid to go get some fresh local eggs, some with those lovely blue shells. Fresh eggs just fry up different, especially in bacon fat. 

I set a timer for eighty seconds to toast the bagels in the oven, and immediately forgot they were in there, so if you were wondering how quickly I can forget something, it’s much shorter than eighty seconds. 

This reminds me of a joke Irene once told when she was four, when she owned a riddle book and would adjust most of the jokes to make them funnier:

Irene: Will you remember me in a year?
Me: Yes.
Irene: Will you remember me in eight years?
Me: Yes.
Irene: Will you remember me in a million years?
Me: Yes.
Irene: Knock-knock.
Me: Who’s there?
Irene: HIYA, GRAMPAW!!!!!!!!!
 
Anyway, I didn’t burn the bagels OR the bacon. 

 

Still some chances to eat outside. The hummingbirds have departed, though. 

On Sunday I also made two batches of ice cream for Monday, as I will describe shortly. 

MONDAY
Smoked pork ribs, coleslaw, grapes; homemade ice cream

Monday was Labor Day, and the two moved-out kids came by for dinner, which was lovely. Damien smoked three racks of pork ribs for several hours using his sugar rub and Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce. (This recipe says “chicken thighs,” but it’s the same rub)

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An absolute pile of luscious, juicy, tender ribs, so good. Lena made a bowl of wonderfully tart coleslaw and I contributed by washing off some grapes. 

We all liked the ribs, but Corrie really enjoyed them. 

Then for dessert, we had ice cream sundaes. I made two kinds of ice cream: Chocolate and Lucky Charms. I just now had to google “Marshmallow Mateys vs” to remember the phrase “Lucky Charms,” because my brain is too smooth to remember the name of rich person’s cereal at this late date.

I followed the recipe at We Are Not Martha because they told a sad story about how they once got picked up by Bon Appétit but now the food blogging world is clogged with Pinterest copycats and people who put all their effort into photography, and I guess I have a soft spot for people who lead with a kvetch. 

The recipe was fairly labor intensive, because they are trying to get the taste of cereal without including actual cereal, which would be gross. So you have to infuse some milk with Lucky Charms cereal for half an hour, then strain out the cereal

and then use that milk to make a custard

Any time I use a thermometer in a recipe, I feel so put-upon. I feel like I’m using a bellows or an Erlenmeyer flask or forceps or something. Of course this was all 100% my idea, but never ind. I have the ability to create resentment against nobody at all, out of thin air, and to sustain it for hours. So you whisk and heat this custard and then mix it with heavy cream and push it through a sieve again, cover it with plastic wrap, and chill it for four hours. And then you can actually put it in your ice cream machine. 

I churned it for thirty minutes, then added some marshmallow fluff and the marshmallows I suddenly realized I needed to pick out of the remaining box of cereal; and then I refrigerated it overnight. I have to admit, it turned out great. It’s very cute ice cream. The ice cream has a very cozy, custard-y taste that absolutely reminds you of watching cartoons on a Saturday morning, which is something I don’t think I ever actually did. We did not have a TV when I was growing up. I remember once my father brought home a film projector from the college where he worked, and he tacked up a sheet on the living room sliding doors and we watched Koyaanisqatsi, and that’s why I am the way I am.

The marshmallows softened slightly, but some of them still had that peculiar cereal marshmallow crunch. I skipped the sauce and whipped cream and just had ice cream with a cherry. 

I also made chocolate ice cream, which I somehow haven’t made yet, in all our ice cream-making adventures. I was reading over the various recipes and Corrie was looking over my shoulder and reading the little recipe descriptions. 

Corrie: ‘Mouthfeel?’ What’s mouthfeel? 
Me:  It just means how it feels in your mouth. I think I’ll make this simpler recipe, instead.
Corrie: Dang. I like mouthfeel.
So obviously you know how this story ends. I used the Ben and Jerry recipe for Jerry’s Chocolate, which is the version with, as the book says, “a more complex texture. Jerry refers to this as ‘mouthfeel.'” 
It’s a slightly more time-consuming recipe than some of the others I’ve been making, but mainly just because you have to chill the cream mixture for a few hours before you pour it into the machine to churn. I froze it overnight and our freezer is having some kind of personal crisis, and parts of it are MUCH colder than others, so this one came out so hard, I couldn’t scoop it at all. I had to pry it out of the container with a pancake flipper and then carve it into blocks with a knife. Yes, I covered it. I bought a special container with a lid, and lectured the family about how it was just for ice cream, and everything.
 

It was delicious, though. I already had a migraine, so I had a spoonful, and it was very rich, like the ice cream version of very good hot chocolate. And that mouthfeel! Superb. 

TUESDAY
Taco Tuesday!

Back to school. My car mysteriously broke down, so we had to do a rigamarole with borrowed cars to get everyone to school. I shalln’t keep you in suspense: We just got the call today that my car will need an ennnnntirrrrreee newwwww enginnnnne. Yes this is my “nice” “new” car, which I took out a loan to pay for for the first time in my life, which I have had for less than a year and a half, and which already required, among other major repairs, a new t i m i n g c h a i n, which takes twenty hours of labor. My feelings about the car are . . . not very mouthfeel, let me tell you. 

Unless you would like to buy it from me. In which case it’s a great little vehicle, very clean, hardly driven. DM me. 

Anyway, we had tacos. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken shawarma with pita and yogurt sauce

On Tuesday, because I was carless at home, I decided to prep Wednesday’s meal ahead of time, so I marinated the shawarma meat. Then on Wednesday, all I had to do was cut up some cucumbers, wash a bunch of little tomatoes, chop up some parsley, make a batch of yogurt sauce

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open a bunch of cans and bottles of various kinds of olives, cut up a bunch of feta, pile up a bunch of pita bread, and slice up a bunch of onions. I’m making it sound like a lot, but it’s like 20 minutes of work, and the rest is just fishing the meat out of the marinade where it has been resting all night,

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spreading it in a pan, festooning it with onions, and cooking it just nicely. This is such a low-skill, high-reward meal. Look at this lovely chicken. I included some breasts, some thighs. Red onions are better than yellow, but it’s all good. The thighs are the superior meat for this dish, but it’s all good. 

And here’s my lovely tasty plate. 

Just a fantastic meal. Everybody likes at least a few elements of this meal, and several people like every last bit of it. Everyone’s happy on shawarma night. 

THURSDAY
Pulled pork, cheesy cabbage, hash browns

On Thursday I industriously got the pork into the slow cooker bright an early. I added half a liter of Coke, some onion quarters, a few chopped jalapeños, and bunch of cumin, salt, and pepper, and I set it to low and went away happy. 

Several hours later, I realized Suzy Homemaker here never plugged the damn thing in.

Luckily, the Coke was very cold and the crock pot kept it chilled, so the meat was okay. I moved it all to the Instant Pot and pressure cooked it on high for 22 minutes, then moved it back to the slow cooker for the rest of the day. Came out looking promising.

and it shredded well enough.

I had been planning coleslaw, but I’m a little tired of coleslaw, so I looked up other cabbage recipes, and guess what? They all suck. The only one that seemed remotely tasty was a kind of au gratin idea, with a cheese sauce and maybe a buttered crumb topping. But I was caught between some obnoxiously high brow recipes that called for gruyere and heavy cream and braising, and some distressingly trashy ones that wanted you to smother the whole thing with Cheez Wiz and top it with Ritz crackers. Caught between two worlds, story of my life, very tragic.

So I ended up cutting the cabbage into eight wedges, drizzling it with olive oil and salting and peppering it, and roasting it for about 45 minutes. Then I made a white sauce and added in plenty of various kinds of cheese, plus paprika, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. This I spread over the roasted cabbage, and topped it with crunchy fried onions and parsley. Then I baked it in a high oven for about 20 minutes until the cheese was melted. 

It was disgusting. Never making this again. I don’t know what I was thinking. Cabbage can go screw. 

Here’s a nice picture I took before I tasted it.

I mean it was not the worst thing I’ve ever had in my face. But the cabbage was underdone and the cheese only reached the top layer, so most of it was just plain cabbage; and the cheese sauce had a flavor I can only describe as . . . bricky. It tasted like if you ground up a brick and tried to pass it off as seasoning, with cheese. Maybe put some pennies in there. I don’t know what happened. 

I also served some hash browns. Well, that was the plan. I bought four bags of what it said were hash browns (and this may actually explain what was up with the freezer. That is too many bags), but which turned out to be just straight up shredded potatoes, nothing else. Which is fine, but look, I don’t know, I guess I can’t read. I definitely cannot think. By this time the sun was low in the sky and I was already worried about the cabbage, not to mention the demoralizing Suzy Homemaker situation, so I just spread the potato shreds in a pan, drizzled it with oil, and sprinkled it with salt, and cooked it at a high heat until some of it was burnt and some of it was pale and limp, and it was just going to have to do. Good grief. We did have some leftover Baby Ray’s sauce and everyone was very nice about it.

FRIDAY
We have two different school cookouts that we’re supposed to be at, and we were going to try to split up and go to both, IF the mechanic was done with my car by now. And you know how that story ends! It ends well! My car is diagnosed as having a terminal case of cheesy cabbage and there is no hope. Oh well, maybe there’s some ice cream left. 

Speaking of ice cream, this weekend I intend to hide from reality and spend my time picking the millions of concord grapes we grew for some reason, make some grape juice, and see about making grape gelato. The only reason people don’t make grape gelato more often is that they are cowards, I’m sure of it. 

God save the queen. 

Smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups brown sugar
  • .5 cups white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 20 chicken thighs

Instructions

  1. Mix dry ingredients together. Rub all over chicken and let marinate until the sugar melts a bit. 

  2. Light the fire, and let it burn down to coals. Shove the coals over to one side and lay the chicken on the grill. Lower the lid and let the chicken smoke for an hour or two until they are fully cooked. 

Jerry's Chocolate Ice Cream

This is the more textured chocolate ice cream from the Ben and Jerry's ice cream recipe book. It has a rich, dusky chocolate flavor and texture. Makes 2 quarts. This recipe requires some chill time before you put the cream mixture into the machine.

Ingredients

  • 4 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 cups milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups heavy or whipping cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Melt the unsweetened chocolate. I used a double boiler, but you can use a microwave if you're careful. Whisk in the cocoa and continue heating until it's smooth. It's okay if it's clumpy. Continue heating and whisk in the milk gradually until it's all blended together. Remove from heat and let cool.

  2. In another bowl, whisk, the eggs until light and fluffy. Gradually whisk in the sugar and continue whisking until completely blended. Add in the cream and vanilla and continue whisking until blended.

  3. Add the chocolate mixture into the cream mixture and stir to blend. Cover and refrigerate for about three hours, or until it is cold.

  4. Use the cold mixture in your ice cream machine. I used my Cuisinart and let it churn for thirty minutes, then let it cure overnight.

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. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 305: We all scream “bastani!”

Hi! Hi! I meant to do a food-and-ocean pictures post last week, when we were in Cape Cod, but I became overwhelmed and it languishes unfinished in my drafts folder. It’s worth summarizing, though, because I realized I actually have a routine down for vacation week, though, which takes into account limited budget, limited packing space, and a desire to avoid that “Mom Spends Beach Vacation Assuming All Household Duties In Closer Proximity To Ocean” effect, but also a desire to not just eat boring everyday food, because we are near the ocean. (I should note that, at home and at the beach, Damien does all the laundry! And in fact he did most of the cooking while we were on vacation, too, so there.) Here is what we had (and what we did): 

First day: Sandwiches on baguettes (the most portable bread) and fake Pringles (the most compact chips). We have to bring a cooler anyway, for use at the beach, so I cram it with as much deli meat and cheese as possible, and we have this for our first meal, plus for lunch throughout the week. I also brought coffee, milk and cereal for the first breakfast, so we don’t have to leave the house until at least mid-morning of the second day.
Here are some pics on Facebook from our first day, discovering that the water on this part of Cape Cod is amazingly warm. 

Second day: 
Pics on Facebook from day 2. Our lovely house was literally a one-minute walk from the beach, but we wanted to see what else was in walking distance. Turns out, other beaches! But this one had a sign warning you not to swim there if you are bleeding, and not to wear dangly, shiny jewelry, or be too delicious. 

This picture is for all the haterz who ever wanted to BURY ME (I got out)

Before the beach, I went shopping, came home with rotisserie chickens and salad and chips, plus food for the rest of the week.

I had beach town supermarket sticker shock, so between that and the fact that Corrie came shopping with me, I came back with an awful lot of Jello, which came in handy later in the week when it was rainy and we needed something to fling around the kitchen.

Third day: 
We went to Paine’s Creek Beach and explored the tide pools. A dreamlike spot I’d love to go back to someday.

I think we actually went to a second beach that day? It’s all a blur. Damien grilled tasty burgers outside and made fries in the oven for dinner.

Fourth day: Seafood boil. We had some half-assed plans to dig our own clams, but there were complications with the permit and the equipment, so we decided to buy the seafood this year and plan to plan ahead next year. Still a huge treat. Recipe from the Narraganett beer can:

Damien made this meal as well. He got a bunch of littleneck clams, a few oysters, lots of mussels, and some kind of other big clams, and some kind of Spanish sausage, and we had cute little red potatoes and onions, bay leaves and peppercorns and parsley. Skipped the breakfast sausage. It’s all supposed to get boiled together, but we ran out of room, so he grilled the corn in its husks on the grill, and that turned out great. Man, that was a delicious meal. 

The tragedy was we didn’t think of getting some crusty bread to sop up the broth, which was tremendous. I liked the little neck clams best. Oh, what a feast. I had, uh, four helpings.

Most of the kids had chicken nuggets and corn, because what do they know. 

This was the day we rented kayaks and canoes! We paddled up Swan River, out into the ocean a bit, and then back down the river. A most excellent adventure, and now I am absolutely on the prowl for some used kayaks so we can do this more often. 

Fifth day: Restaurant

It rained and thundered, so we went to the movies, and then went out to eat and got ice cream. We always have one restaurant day when we go on vacation. We descended upon Kate’s Fried Seafood and Ice Cream in Brewster, which was very good. I kind of regret not ordering a big fried platter like the others did, because it turned out to be not greasy and just nice, but the salmon burger and sweet potato fries I picked was also very tasty and fresh.

That night we played poker for Swedish Fish and I believe it was also that night Damien and I both fell asleep on the couch for some reason. 

Sixth day: Frozen pizza
The weather cleared up enough for some more swimming, and there was a spectacular sunset for our final evening. 

Last day: Supermarket sandwiches on the way home. We had to be checked out by 10:00, so we had a quick breakfast, cleaned like maniacs, drove for a while, stopped for cheeseburgers, drove more, fulfilled my recently acquired lifelong dream to tour the U.S.S. Constitution, which is the world’s oldest ship still afloat!

and then to be honest the day started to go downhill, but Damien always listens to my stupid plans, so we walked a mile to the T station and rode the train to Chinatown. This would not have been a bad idea except that it was at the tail end of a very long and exhausting day and week, and nobody was at their best. So we got some reasonably tasty treats,

wandered around for a bit, and discovered they were having some kind of amazing food and dance festival at this very spot tomorrow, and decided to call it a day. Back on the T, another mile walk, couldn’t super duper remember where I parked the car, found the car, drove about an hour, stopped and got sandwiches at the supermarket, drove another two hours home, and BOY was the dog happy to see us. BOY WAS HE. 

And that was vacation. It was beautiful. 

Here’s what we had this past week: 

SUNDAY
Spaghetti with marinara sauce, garlic bread

Damien shopped for and made dinner. Absolutely delicious. 

His recipe, and I’m running so ludicrously late today, I don’t have time to make a recipe card at the moment:

One chopped onion per can of tomatoes, (he used 4 cans) and a diced head of garlic. Heat olive oil and red pepper flakes until you can smell the oil in the room, then add the onions only and cook till soft. Add a little salt. Add the garlic and cook some more, and then add tomato paste (one can per can of tomatoes, so four cans.) Cook that a bit then add sugar and some glugs of wine. Add the tomatoes and simmer, adding wine and a little olive oil as needed/wanted. When most of the tomatoes are broken down it’s pretty much ready.

It was good to be home. And the weather was suddenly autumnal, which was kind of unnerving. We expect to have some more summer heat soon, but we have definitely rounded a corner. 

MONDAY
Chicken sandwiches with marinara sauce, provolone and basil; lemon rosemary olive oil cake

There was lots of wonderful sauce left over, so I bought some chicken burgers and cut up some baguettes, and we had sandwiches with a slice of provolone, a few basil leaves, and generous scoop of hot sauce to melt the cheese over everything. 

Always tasty.  

And then Clara made an amazing cake for the Assumption: A lemon olive oil rosemary cake with rosewater. She said there was a lot of prep work, with all the chopping and zesting, but the baking itself was quite simple, and it came out light and luscious, and you could really taste all the elements. 

So pretty. So nice to have someone else spontaneously coming up with cakes!

TUESDAY
Tostadas

Tostada Tuesday! Like Taco Tuesday, but when all the stores are out of taco shells so you suddenly realize that you can buy that bag of tostada shells you’ve been walking past and not buying your whole life, and no one will stop you. 

I’m not going to say tostada Tuesday changed my life, but it was fun, like discovering a new shape of pasta or a new . . . uhh, I don’t know, I got nothing. I gave up alcohol over a week ago and I’ve been sleeping through the night every night for the first time in many years, but it’s just made me stupider, which doesn’t seem fair. Anyway, I wonder what else I’ve been walking past all these years, week after week, and never even considering buying, besides tostada shells. 

I also made a big bowl of guacamole.

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The avocados looked fine, but they tasted so pale and watery. No one else noticed, but I was really dismayed. Hope it’s a fluke. Not an actual fluke. That would be disgusting. 

WEDNESDAY
Vermonter sandwiches

I planned these solely because people were kind of cranky and I wanted them to like me again. A Vermonter sandwich is thick, crusty bread (preferably sourdough or ciabatta, but I got baguettes), thick slices of roast chicken or turkey, lots of bacon, thick slices of sharp cheddar cheese, slices of tart green apple, and lots of honey mustard dressing. 

It is a very hearty, cheering sandwich and it will make you friends. Corrie claimed that, once, I bought cheddar cheese that was so sharp, she cut her finger, and she absolutely insisted that this literally happened, and she will die clinging to this story. 

THURSDAY
Bo ssam, rice and lettuce, Asian cucumber salad, watermelon; saffron rosewater pistachio ice cream 

Thursday was supposed to be pork ribs, and they were supposed to be $1.49 a pound, but the supermarket flier lied to me, so I ended up pacing back and forth in front of the meat section, snarling quietly to myself, and then gloomily purchasing a giant fatty pork butt with no particular plans. 

Sometime during the week, the bottle of rosewater left over from the Assumption cake began to work on my brain, though, and I realized I had a jar of saffron threads I had never used, and Lucy had given me a mortar and pestle for mother’s day that I had likewise never used, and all that was lacking was a bag of pistachios, and then I could make . . . BASTANI. Bastani is persian ice cream made with, as you no doubt surmised, saffron, rosewater, and pistachios, and the idea of it has been haunting me. If you’ve never been haunted by the idea of persian ice cream, then baby, you are missing out. 

So from there, I says to myself, I says, what kind of pork goes with this kind of ice cream? And of course the answer was bo ssam. Usually I make bo ssam and then figure out what kind of soothing, mild thing I will serve along with it, but this time, I worked in the other direction. 

I have made bo ssam half a dozen times, and I keep simplifying the recipe, until I’m not even sure if it’s bo ssam anymore. All I do is, starting the night before, I mix a cup of salt with a cup of sugar and rub it all over a fatty piece of pork butt or shoulder, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate it overnight. Then around noon I heavily line a pan with tinfoil, unwrap the meat, and put it in the pan, and cook it for six hours at 300. That’s it. We eat it with lettuce, rice, and whatever Asian sauce I can find, and something soothing to the palate.

I’m telling you, I could make this with recipe with my eyes closed. I could make this recipe with my feet. It’s so simple, and everybody acts like I’m some kind of conquering hero genius, and they gobble it up. It is so tender, it is just barely holding itself together under the caramelized salt and sugar crust. It’s ridiculous meat. There should be a law! 

I cut a watermelon into chunks, I made a pot of rice in the Instant Pot, and I made a bowl of Asian cucumber salad, which is always refreshing and pretty and takes literally five minutes to throw together. 

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And there it all was. I brought my plate outside and ate alone so no one would see me acting like a monster with it. This was just a spectacular meal, an absolute festival of flavors. 

Everybody ate a lot, and had to rest up for a while, and then I brought out the ice cream! PERSIAN ICE CREAM.

Not gonna lie, this was kind of a pain in the pants to make. I am going to write a whole separate post about various ice creams I have been making since I got my ice cream maker, so I will go into more detail there, but I made a triple recipe, and it just took a long time because you have to stand there whisking the custard until it thickens, and I have a special knack for making custards take a ludicrously long time to thicken (well, probably because I’m always making triple recipes). I thought it turned out great, though. About half the family liked it, which is not bad. You could smell but not taste the rosewater. It was a wonderful color, and I was very pleased with how the saffron tasted warm, because it was saffron, but cold, because it was ice cream. I used plenty of salted pistachios (the recipe calls for unsalted) because that’s what I could find, and that turned out perfect. I did not use vanilla, and didn’t miss it. All in all, a success. But I have promised them to go back to something like chocolate chip or rocky road for the next batch. They are pretty good sports, but they have their limits with my globalist nonsense. 

FRIDAY
Pizza

There are four balls of pizza dough defrosting on the counter, and that is as far as I have gotten. Next thing you know, people will want me to get dressed. 

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

 

5 from 3 votes
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spicy cucumber salad

A spicy, zippy side dish that you can make very quickly. 

Ingredients

  • 3-4 cucumbers, sliced thin (peeling not necessary)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar or white vinegar
  • 1+ tsp honey
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Optional:

red pepper, diced

  • 1/2 red onion diced

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Serve immediately, or chill to serve later (but the longer you leave it, the softer the cukes will get)