What’s for supper? Vol. 377: In which we make it through the week in one piece

Happy Friday! I truly don’t know what I did this week. It felt dramatic and exhausting, and yet I don’t have very much to show for it. Unlike the natural world, which is putting on a completely spectacular show this spring. Every last little thing is absolutely laden with blossoms. We’re still not quite safe to plant most things outside, here, but I’ve been starting all the seeds I can get my hands on indoors. When I finally move everything into the garden, the house is going to feel huge and empty! 

Someone was asking me WHERE I put all these open pots of soil, and the answer is: On windowsills, on countertops, on chairs,

and on shelves that I’ve cleared off and stuffed all the former occupants in bags. Of. But the real answer is, I don’t have babies or toddlers. That turns out to be the solution to a lot of things! Simply have ten children, rest up for nine years, and then you can start some seeds.

The other answer is that I’ve been using the cold sowing technique indoors, as well as outdoors, meaning I use juice bottles and milk jugs and salad and  strawberry cartons, add drainage holes if necessary, cut the top 2/3 off but leaving a hinge, fill the bottom with soil and plant some seeds, water it, and then tape it shut. This not only makes it harder to spill if someone knocks it over (we do have an extremely naughty cat, who doesn’t mind walking on toothpicks), but if you’re bad at remembering to water seedlings, this is the method for you.

It’s basically a little terrarium, and you do need to water it occasionally when you notice no droplets condensing on the top, but none of this “keep soil evenly moist” nonsense. 

Anyway, this year I have started: Marigolds, sunflowers, zinnias, creeping veronica, cosmos, and morning glories; basil, garlic, pumpkins, butternut squash, and eggplants; and I just put some gladioli and clematis in the ground, plus a Sarah Bernhardt peony root.  I have sugar snap peas and glass gem corn that will probably do better if I sow it directly outside. May 30 is the magic day! But this weekend, I will take the straw covering off my strawberries and asparagus. And the rhubarb is visibly growing day to day. The Brussels sprouts survived the winter, but I think I’ll pull them out, because I’m a little tired of them. Definitely doing more collard greens this year. I am also going to direct sow more sunflowers, marigolds, and cosmos with the rest of the seeds I saved from last year. I know some people do ten times this much every year, but this is by far my most elaborate planting effort, and I’m pretty excited!

Anyway, five paragraphs in, let’s talk about food. Here is what we ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Chicken salad with blueberries and almonds

Saturday, shopping day. Nothing spectacular, but a pleasant salad of roast chicken breast on greens with almonds and blueberries. This salad is better with feta cheese or goat cheese, diced red onion, and some buttery croutons, but I made up for that by eating it outside, which is the butteriest crouton of them all

in a certain sense. 

I need to figure out what’s going into the St. Joseph garden once the tulips and daffodils pass by. It’s shaded about half the day by the peach tree, and I’d love some suggestions for a bright perennial or two I can plant on top of/alongside bulbs!

SUNDAY
Chicken shawarma, pita

Sunday was Cinco de Mayo, but I hadn’t planned anything spectacular, and Clara is home for the summer and Moe was over to learn how to change oil, so I changed it to Shawarma de Mayo.

Same old yummy shawarma recipe

Jump to Recipe

except maybe I bumped up the hot pepper flakes a little, because it did taste a little peppier than usual. No complaints! Boneless, skinless chicken thighs is the best kind of chicken for this dish.

I also decided to make pita, and I’m not really happy with the recipes I’ve tried in the past, so I tried a new one, because I was enthralled by the sheer puffiness of the photo in this recipe. This one had you fry the pita for thirty seconds on one side, then thirty seconds on the other, then brush it with oil and fry another five minutes, flipping it frequently. I thought six minutes sounded excessive, but I’m trying to swear off going straight from “why does my food never turn out like the picture” to “she’s crazy, I’m not doing that” to “why does my food never turn out etc etc,” so I did it by the timer. 
GUESS WHAT? The pita burned. 

This doesn’t look too burned, because I wised up about halfway through and decreased the time and temperature, but I’m telling you. I have some kind of middle eastern curse on me, and my pita just never turns out, no matter what I do. I mean everybody ate it and said nice things about it, but I was a little sad. 

Can’t be too sad when you’re eating shawarma with tomatoes and cucumbers and olives and feta cheese and parsley and garlicky yogurt sauce, though. 

Simply can’t! 

MONDAY
Shepherd’s pie

Speaking of Cinco de Mayo, the local supermarkets seem to have noticed that there’s some trickiness around an overwhelmingly white population suddenly making a lot of tacos and margaritas on May 5 because it’s the Fourth of July or something; so they hedge their bets by putting ground beef on sale and suggesting some chili recipes, but not saying why. 

It’s possible I’m overthinking this, but I do spend a lot of time looking at supermarket flyers, and I know I’m right. The upshot is that I bought quite a bit of ground beef, and for Cuatro de Mayo I made shepherd’s pie. 

I remembered that I had written a wonderful recipe for this

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so I checked it out, and discovered that you guys are very polite, and never mention how terrible my recipes are. I didn’t, for instance, feel the need to write down ANY MEASUREMENTS. The recipe is basically, “Hey, remember how good shepherd’s pie is? You should make that! With corn.”

Sorry about that. Anyway, I did make that.

But for some reason I can’t remember, I put tin foil on the top and then left the house. I texted one of the kids to remove the tinfoil toward the end, and when I got home, I turned on the broiler to brown it up. This gave the potato top a nice crisp top, but unfortunately the inside had kind of steamed inside the foil, so it was just so gloppy when I served it up. 

Or maybe I made the white sauce for the meat too thin because I hadn’t written down any proportions, who can say. It tasted great. Just kinda gloppy. 

Also on Monday, I suddenly faced a truth I had been avoiding: The wooden ramps I was planning to make into the bog bridge has some very rotten spots on it.

So I dragged out the reciprocating saw, which is a truly terrible tool. It seems designed, in a way that other power saws aren’t, to turn on you and carve you up. So I was talking out loud to myself, as you will not be surprised to learn that I do, and I said, “Oh, I hate this machine. I’m always afraid I’m going to hurt myself” and then immediately whacked myself in the eyeball with the end of the power cord. 

This minor injury apparently propitiated the power tool gods, and I didn’t lose any limbs or even digits. I did cut off a bunch of rotten wood, which was satisfying

and then got out the drill, which doesn’t scare me as much, and screwed on a long beam to replace the part I had removed. Got that on nice and tight.

Then I noticed that the new beam also had a rotten part.

Then I said some other things out loud to myself, and went inside. 

TUESDAY
Burgers, party mix, corn, birthday cake

Tuesday was Moe’s birthday, and he requested burgers. That’s a can do. 

He asked for a chocolate cake and to be surprised with the decoration, even knowing what . . . mixed . . . results this can sometimes yield. But I had a brain wave and remembered that he used to be absolutely crazy about One Piece. I remember some rides home from school where it was nothing but him shouting “AND THEN THE MONKEY WHO HAS BILLIARD BALLS FOR HANDS ATE THE MAGIC TOOTSI FRUITSI BEAN AND HE GOT THE POWER TO MAKE PEOPLE THINK HE WAS A POTTED PLANT EVEN THOUGH HE WASN’T ACTUALLY AND THAT’S HOW HE DEFEATED THE SEWING MACHINE CLAN THAT LIVES ON THE ISLAND OF PICKLE JUICE” while I just focused on not driving off a bridge. Apparently it’s actually a fairly tragic story, but that part eluded me, because of all the shouting. 

The thing I do know about One Piece is that is has a logo that is mostly made of circles. So I says to myself, I says, this is a job for fondant. I haven’t really used fondant before, and it turns out they are not kidding when they say you should wash your hands a lot. Which I did, but it was still one of my smudgier cakes. But he liked it!

I liked working with fondant. Gum paste is good for molding 3D figures, but the fondant was super easy to roll and cut flat shapes. I was rushing, so I didn’t make it as smooth or even as I might have, but I know how to if I have time next time!

And I, perhaps alone in the world, like the taste of fondant. So there. 

Oh, it was just a box cake, but for the chocolate frosting, I used this King Arthur recipe, which turned out well. 

WEDESDAY
Tacos and beans

For Seis de Mayo, we had tacos. (For those keeping track, this is ground beef incident #3 for the week.) I seasoned the meat with garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder. I also made a pot of black beans in the Instant Pot

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and they looked so good to me, I just had beans on tortilla chips. 

Thinking about those beans. 

Also on Wednesday, I faced the fact that I really truly need to put some kind of waterproof stain on the bog bridge, if I don’t want it to go right back to being rotten, or more rotten, or rotten fixed with things that also turn out to be rotten. Truth be told, I’m feeling a little bit down about stuff in general! Ah well. 

So I bought some stain and got the kids to move them into an upright position for me, and that is as far as that’s gotten. 

THURSDAY
Pizza

Nothing to report, except that I wanted to use up some sandwich pepperoni, so I cut that into fourths and put it on the pizza, and then filled in the gaps with normal small, round pepperoni. The result was something that struck me as slightly rad, somehow. 

Doesn’t this look like an early 90’s pizza? Like a Rugrats pizza or something? I don’t know. I’m disabled, I got attacked by a reciprocating saw and I’ve never been the same. 

FRIDAY

Mac and cheese, I suppose. We have to go see the endocrinologist so the doctor can say the kid’s numbers are good, and I can pretend that’s somehow due to my attentive maintenance, rather than sheer luck. And then there is a family dance party this evening that Corrie desperately wants to go to, and she is planning to wear her dress with the mushroom print and her green cloak. I love that she goes to a school where this is FINE. People will say “cool cloak!” and that is all. 

I think the last time I danced was . . . yes, at my own wedding. Maybe I’ll wear a cloak, too. 

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. 

 

Leftover lamb shepherd's pie

This recipe uses lots of shortcuts and it is delicious.

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.

  2. Prepare the mashed potatoes and set aside.

  3. Heat and drain the corn. (I heated mine up in beef broth for extra flavor.)

  4. In a saucepan, melt the butter and saute the onion and garlic until soft. Stir in pepper.

  5. Add the flour gradually, stirring with a fork, until it becomes a thick paste. Add in the cream and continue stirring until it is blended. Add in the cooked meat and stir in the Worcestershire sauce.

  6. Add enough broth until the meat mixture is the consistency you want.

  7. Grease a casserole dish and spread the meat mixture on the bottom. Spread the corn over the meat. Top with the mashed potatoes and spread it out to cover the corn. Use a fork to add texture to mashed potatoes, so they brown nicely.

  8. Cook for about forty minutes, until the top is lightly browned and the meat mixture is bubbly. (Finish browning under broiler if necessary.)

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."

What’s for supper? Vol. 302: “Blueberry” is a complete sentence

Around 3:30 a.m., I thought of a really good joke to begin today’s post. I considered writing it down, but then I realized that it was so good, there was no way I would forget it. 

Welp. Here’s what we ate this week: 

SATURDAY
BLTs, Boba Fett cake

Saturday was Lucy’s birthday. She frolicked at the beach and came home to have BLTs. If you are wondering what it looks like when you slowly and methodically burn five entire pounds of bacon, wonder no more. 

Happily, the cake turned out better. When I asked what kind of cake she wanted, she just said “Boba Fett.” When I asked for more details, she said, “His slappable bald head,” which is a little strange, and I may or may not take these lines out before I publish.  What I came up with is Boba Fett in his luxurious bacta tank/Polynesian spa. You guys, I spend way too much time online.

But check out this cake:

It is made of one flat, rectangular cake for the base, one cake baked in a loaf pan for the tanks, and for the rounded end pieces, a small circular cake baked in a glass dish in the microwave (which I only recently found out you can do) and cut in half. A microwaved cake turns out rather dry, but if you need a cake in a particular shape and you don’t have an oven-safe pan in that shape, this could be your solution. 

I used gum paste for Mr. F

and for a few of the trimmings on his tank, with some chocolate details dabbed on, and the rest is frosting from a can and melted candy wafers piped with a sandwich bag with a hole bitten in one corner, I mean hygienically cut with scissors that I can easily find. 

Lots of toothpicks in there. Gum paste dries fairly quickly, and you can fix mistakes somewhat by getting it wet and rubbing them out, but … only somewhat. Not my favorite medium. I only got it because it was a dollar cheaper than fondant.

But this is one of the few times a cake turned out exactly like the picture in my head. (In my head, I also only have butter knives, baggies, and toothpicks to work with.) 

I briefly considered making some kind of transparent lid, or even a shaped dome of “water” to shield Mr. Fett’s modesty, and even went so far as to buy a package of unflavored gelatin, but I came to my senses in time. 

A success!

SUNDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips

Sunday I went shopping, and Elijah grilled the sandwiches for me. 

MONDAY
“Souvlaki,” dolmas, pita crackers and feta, cherries

Pork was very cheap this week, so I bought to large, boneless pork loins. What to do? I had written “Greek pork” on the menu, but I don’t really know what that is. I ended up cutting the pork into long, thin strips and marinating in for several hours in olive oil, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, garlic powder and oregano, and a big handful of lemon pepper seasoning. Then I threaded it on skewers and broiled it.

It was, as expected, okay, not amazing. I wish I had made some garlicky yogurt sauce. That would have made it delicious. It also would have been great grilled outside, which we can try some other day. 

I did have fun making stuffed grape leaves with Benny. The grape vine has ramped all over the side of the yard and the leaves are nice and juicy, so she went out and picked 40 or so. 

I boiled some water and poured it over the leaves and let them sit for two minutes, then drained the water and added ice water. Then we drained that, trimmed off the stems, and died the leaves off for stuffing. Fresh grape leaves are slightly rubbery, but have a mild but distinct tart taste, like wood sorrel. 

I know some people roll their dolmas with raw or perhaps sauteed rice, and let it cook entirely by steaming, but the house was already incredibly hot and steamy, and I didn’t want to have a pot on the stove for hours and hours. So I halfway cooked the rice, then added some chopped scallions, plenty of fresh mint leaves (also from the yard) chopped up, salt and pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice. If you want a recipe for no-meat dolmas, here is one we kinda sorta followed, but not really

We lined the bottom of a heavy pot with about a dozen grape leaves to keep it all from sticking, and then we rolled the rest. You put the leaf on your work surface, bottom side up, points facing you, and put a heaping tablespoon or so of rice mixture in the middle. Fold in the sides, fold up the bottom, and roll it up as tightly as you can, from the points up.

This startlingly patriotic picture is brought to you by the fact that I wanted to put away the giant flag we hung up for the 4th of July, but it kept raining in between the searing heat waves, and I had to dry it somehow. 

It was, as I mentioned, very hot, and we were rushing a bit, so these are pretty sloppy, but they did hold together.

I added about a cup-and-a-half of water, a big slosh of olive oil, and a big squeeze of lemon juice on top, loosely covered it, and let it simmer for about 40 minutes. 

You’re supposed to eat them chilled or room temperature, but we ate them right out of the pot. I put out a plate of lemon wedges and squeezed that all over everything on my plate, including the cherries. 

 Again, it would have been really nice to have some yogurt sauce, but with the crackers and cheese and cherries, it made a very pleasant summer meal.  Corrie said, “Mama’s really outdone herself this time!”

TUESDAY
Shepherd’s pie

I had to go out of town on Tuesday, and Elijah volunteered to make something he’s apparently been craving: Shepherd’s pie. His version uses mixed frozen vegetables, condensed cream of mushroom soup, and Worcestershire sauce, and he sprinkled cheddar cheese on top of the potatoes, and added chopped bacon in with the ground beef. 

If you take your left hand and stretch it out as far as it will go, and then hold it there and take your right hand, and stretch it out as far as it will go in the other direction, that’s how much shepherd’s pie I ate. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken thighs, cherry tomatoes, peppers, and onions tray bake

Wednesday continued extremely hot, and I just gave up trying to get anything done, and took the little girls to the pond. Wonderful, wonderful, cool, cool pond. 

My original plan had been this recipe from Sip and Feast, but there was no fennel to be found at the store, and I certainly didn’t feel like de-boning anything, so I just put the chicken thighs on a pan, sprinkled cherry tomatoes in between them, threw some chopped Bell peppers and red onions in there, drizzled it all with olive oil, sprinkled it heavily with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano, and cooked it in a hot oven until the chicken was done. 

Not sophisticated or dazzling, but it was fine. I do love blistering hot cherry tomatoes. 

THURSDAY
Spiedies

Oh look, another sand worm, I mean boneless pork loin! I cut it into chunks and marinated it for several hours in a marinade of oil, lemon juice, wine vinegar, fresh mint, lots of crushed garlic, red pepper flakes, and a little sugar.

This is an actual recipe that you can follow, if you so desire.

Jump to Recipe

At dinner time, I spread it on a pan and broiled it

then served it on toasted rolls with mayonnaise, with chips and salsa and a big bowl of just plain blueberries, because it is July, and like my therapist is always saying, “Blueberries is a complete sentence.”

(Nobody is actually saying that.)

A slightly weird but not bad meal.  People went to Burger King anyway, but I take comfort in the fact that this is not actually a reflection on my cooking; it was done solely to hurt my feelings. And it worked! 

FRIDAY
Bag o’ tentacles lo mein 

This “mixed seafood” lo mein turned out really well last time, so I got the pouch of frozen ocean misc. from Aldi again.

Here’s my lo mein recipe:
Jump to Recipe

Pretty sure there is some tuna in the cabinets for people who don’t like it when their dinner waves at them. They have no idea how easy they’re getting. Off. Gosh, I cannot get that sentence to work out right. Well, goodbye. 

pork spiedies (can use marinade for shish kebob)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup veg or olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup red or white wine vinegar
  • 4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4-5 lbs boneless pork, cubed
  • peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, cut into chunks

Instructions

  1. Mix together all marinade ingredients. 

    Mix up with cubed pork, cover, and marinate for several hours or overnight. 

    Best cooked over hot coals on the grill on skewers with vegetables. Can also spread in a shallow pan with veg and broil under a hot broiler.

    Serve in sandwiches or with rice. 

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.