What’s for supper? Vol. 236: Lardum et labora

What’s for supper? WEWLL, as Corrie used to say, if you read Wednesday’s post about menu planning and shopping, you already know most of it! Nevertheless, here is the thrilling conclusion to my story about sale pork and such.

We’ve had multiple snow storms and slush storms and whatnot, so this is the week for winter cooking to shine. Damien did this

and Corrie did this

and I just mainly hovered around the stove and cooked. 

Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Spaghetti with sauce and sausage

As anticipated, the people who went sledding on Saturday were happy to come home to a big pot of hot spaghetti and sausage. 

Sorry it’s a terrible picture, but I was starving and didn’t feel like messing around.

I also grabbed a few boxes of brownie mix and made brownies. I have a long and dopey history of accidentally buying brownie mix when I meant to buy chocolate cake mix. Once I even went to buy cake mix, bought brownie mix by mistake, went back to the store to correct my mistake, and bought brownie mix again. (You may think this is because I secretly like brownies so much and am subconsciously sabotaging my plans so as to have more brownies, but, as I am constantly whining about, I can’t even eat chocolate at all! I’m just stupid.) So I was expecting to get razzed about the brownies a bit, but everyone was distracted by the fact that I made the brownies, put them in the oven, set the timer, let them bake, and turned off the timer, but forgot to take the brownies out of the oven, and so we got a giant chocolate brick for dessert, and nobody could tell what it was supposed to be. That’ll larn ’em.

SUNDAY
Hamburgers, chips, homemade ice cream

Sunday was the Lunar New Year Festival in Brattleboro. We didn’t eat much because it was a potluck and we hadn’t brought anything, but I did daringly try some kind of exotic egg dish which turned out to be hard boiled eggs with a little splash of soy sauce. We had fun, though. Here’s a few albums:


 

Corrie did a Korean rope tug, the girls and I tried to learn a circle dance, and we followed a dragon through the downtown. Then we came home and had hamburgers. 

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this in a while, but my method for making hamburgers, when we can’t grill them outside, is to use high fat ground beef, flatten the hell out of them, and then broil them in the oven on a pan with drainage. They come out yummy and juicy and you don’t throw grease all over your kitchen. 

Sunday I also made some ice cream. I made two batches of plain sweet cream base (2 eggs, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 cup milk, 2 cups heavy cream per batch), and put chocolate chips in one, and maraschino cherries and mini marshmallows in the other.

That ice cream maker has been an unfailing bright spot in family life. Maybe that sounds silly, but it’s been a tough year, and it’s nice to have something that just straight up worked out great. It’s a quick creative outlet, it almost always turns out well, and when people hear the machine churning, they go, “OOH, what are you making?” and they’re not disappointed like they are when they hear what I’m making for supper. And we get ice cream! If I could change one thing, it would be not having to remember to put the freezer bowls in the freezer the night before, but I usually manage. 

MONDAY
Roast chicken, mashed butternut squash, salad

The dreaded roast chickens. I’ve been trying harder to stick to what we have in the house and not be constantly running out to buy this and that, so I used what we happened to have, which was two elderly lemons, some rather decrepit garlic, and some rosemary that I bought for the soup later in the week.

I just kinda rubbed these on the chicken and then shoved them into the cavity, then added a little olive oil and salt and pepper and hot pepper flakes and more garlic powder to the skin, and roasted them chickens. They were fine. 

The reason whole chickens are dreaded is mainly because we had sooooo much chicken when we were poor, because it was cheap and I could get several meals out of it. I got extraordinarily sick of every part of the process of dealing with a whole chicken, and it hasn’t worn off yet. The whole thing just feels bitter and sad. Feel free to share your special tasty wonderful recipe so other people can enjoy it, but I don’t think I will get over my chicken resentment! 

I did put the carcasses in the freezer, so I suppose we’ll be having soup or something at some point. 

The part of the meal I did enjoy was the mashed squash. This is a surprisingly pleasant and tasty dish.

Jump to Recipe

I loosened up the squash in the microwave for a few minutes so it would be easier to cut, then I sprinkled the quarters with baking soda and kosher salt and put them in the Instant Pot with water, and cooked them for a good long time. 

Removed the seeds, scooped out the flesh, and mashed it up with plenty of butter, some brown sugar, and a little nutmeg, and man, it is cozy, fluffy, and delicious.

It’s like sweet potatoes went to finishing school and learned how to entertain. 

TUESDAY
Bo ssam with lettuce and rice and pickled radishes

The night before, I mixed a cup of salt and a cup of sugar together like an absolute criminal and rubbed it all over a big fatty hunk of pork, and sealed it in a ziplock bag in the fridge overnight. Tuesday, I put it the pork a foil-lined pan at 300 around 11:30 and, boop, the main part of supper was taken care of. 

You make a simple sauce (7 Tbsp brown sugar, 2 Tbsp cider vinegar, and 1 Tbsp sea salt) and spread that on top of the meat and turn the heat up for the last ten minutes of cooking, but that’s the only other thing you have to do. 

Then I needed to figure out what to do with the radishes.

A lot of Korean radish dishes are for Korean radishes, which are a whole other vegetable from radishes, and are also called daikon, which they had at the store but I did not buy. ACTUALLY, a Korean radish is something called “mu,” which is a kind of daikon radish. All I know is they don’t seem to sell mu in the store, and what I had were western radishes, the little round, reddish, peppery kind. The round, reddish peppery kind that are 𝓕𝓞𝓡 𝓨𝓞𝓤

So I pickled them, yay! A cup of rice vinegar, a cup of water, a cup of sugar, and a little sea salt, and a pound of radishes. I simmered the sauce ingredients until the sugar was dissolved, sliced the radishes thinly in the food processor, then poured the sauce over the radishes.

Then I refrigerated it until dinner, and they had turned a delightful pink

Not quite as dark as they look here, but more of a flamingo color. 

They were very nice. Quite sweet and tangy, and truthfully you could’t taste more than a faint a radish taste, but mostly just the texture. It was like pickled ginger, but not, you know, gingery. I thought they made a very pleasant accompaniment to the bo ssam, which is ferociously salty. 

Everyone was very happy with this meal and nobody was mad at me. So I guess it was 𝓕𝓞𝓡 𝓜𝓔 after all.

WEDNESDAY
Tomato bisque, grilled cheese

All week, I was looking forward to this soup. I made a few adjustments to this recipe since last I made it (more tomatoes, more garlic, and add the bacon right at the end), and man, it was scrumptious.

Jump to Recipe

Garlic, onion, tomato, rosemary, boom, you taste it all. (There’s also a bay leaf but I’m starting to believe that’s mainly a superstition.) 

I made cheddar and sourdough sandwiches and grilled them in bacon grease, which probably wasn’t absolutely necessary, but it did make them CRRRRRISP and nobody complained.

Just an excellent little meal, so cozy and good. 

I could eat this meal every week. Gotta have it at least once while there’s snow on the ground. 

THURSDAY
Gochujang bulgoki, pineapple, nori, rice, leftover pickled radishes, a little broccoli

The second pork hunk. It was a two-hour school delay, so the day got all messed up and I really wasn’t feeling terribly ambitious about dinner, but I had painted myself into a corner. So I sharpened my knife and started to hack away at the meat. I was listening to a radio show about people who are lobbying for the right to have more fixable appliances, and how they make videos for other people about how to fix things, and they give free advice about what kind of glue to use and stuff like that, and by the time I was halfway through that pork butt, the magic of doing things with your own two hands had taken over. I could have stood there all day, locating the direction of the muscle fibers, carefully trimming the fat, and thriftily separating away only the most inedible layers of onion skin with the tip of my freshly-honed knife. I even decided to trim a bag of baby carrots into matchsticks, which is insane, but the spirit of imaginary stick-to-it-iveness lay about me like a mantle, so that’s what I did.

I snapped out of it, though, because I had shit to do. Like yoga. I had to change out of my pajama pants into my yoga pants and do yoga, which was a special cardio glute burn, and then I took a shower and changed into my leggings so I could pick up the kids, and then I changed back into my pajama pants. Truly the American spirit breathes through my every pore.

I forget what we were talking about. Oh, bulgoki. Well it marinated all day and then I pan fried it, and it was tender and delicious. 

And you know what, it really is better with matchstick carrots than any other kind of carrots.

I made a pot of rice in the Instant Pot, cut up a couple of pineapples, and set out some lettuce and nori, and that is one super meal.

You make little bundles, either with the lettuce or nori, and grab up a little meat and rice and pop it in your mouth, and it’s so tasty, honeyed and savory with just a little gochujang burn. You can easily adjust the marinade to make it sweeter or spicier, but you should know that cooking takes the heat down quite a bit, so if you taste the marinade, it won’t be as hot as you expect.

Jump to Recipe

Although gochujang sneaks up on you a bit. 

FRIDAY
Pizza

Today I shall make four pizzas. And then this week can bite my butt. We are all so exhausted! Life is tiring! Better than the alternative. 

Hey, thanks for being interested in my shopping and planning post. I was unexpectedly moved to hear that people actually read through the whole thing. There is just so much dang work in the world that goes unwitnessed and unacknowledged, not just in big families, but in every family, in every life. It’s a lot of work to keep ourselves alive, isn’t it? I salute you, my dear reader who is getting it together one more time to figure out what’s for supper, whether it’s for a crowd or for your own self, whether you feel up to it or not. You made it to Friday, and you did good. L’chaim. 

5 from 2 votes
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Instant Pot Mashed Acorn Squash

Ingredients

  • 1 acorn quashes
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Cut the acorn squashes in half. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt on the cut surfaces.

  2. Put 1/2 a cup of water in the Instant Pot, fit the rack in it, and stack the squash on top. Close the lid, close the valve, and cook on high pressure for 24 minutes. Do quick release.

  3. When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop it out into a bowl, mash it, and add the rest of the ingredients.

 

5 from 2 votes
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Tomato bisque with bacon

Calories 6 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 lb bacon (peppered bacon is good)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 56 oz can of whole tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 46 oz tomato juice
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • crispy fried onions (optional garnish)

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon until crisp. Remove from pan, chop it up, and drain out all but a a few teaspoons of grease.

  2. Add the diced onion and minced garlic to the grease and sauté until soft.

  3. Add tomatoes (including juices), bay leaves, rosemary, and tomato juice, and simmer for 20 minutes. Save some rosemary for a garnish if you like.

  4. With a slotted spoon, fish out the bay leaf, the tomatoes, and most of the rosemary, leaving some rosemary leaves in. Discard most of the rosemary and bay leaf. Put the rest of the rosemary and the tomatoes in a food processor with the 8 oz of cream cheese until it's as smooth as you want it.

  5. Return pureed tomato mixture to pot. Salt and pepper to taste.

  6. Heat through. Add chopped bacon right before serving, or add to individual servings; and top with crispy fried onions if you like. Garnish with more rosemary if you're a fancy man. 

 

5 from 2 votes
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Gochujang bulgoki (spicy Korean pork)


Ingredients

  • 1.5 pound boneless pork, sliced thin
  • 4 carrots in matchsticks or shreds
  • 1 onion sliced thin

sauce:

  • 5 generous Tbsp gochujang (fermented pepper paste)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 cloves minced garlic

Serve with white rice and nori (seaweed sheets) or lettuce leaves to wrap

Instructions

  1. Combine pork, onions, and carrots.

    Mix together all sauce ingredients and stir into pork and vegetables. 

    Cover and let marinate for several hours or overnight.

    Heat a pan with a little oil and sauté the pork mixture until pork is cooked through.

    Serve with rice and lettuce or nori. Eat by taking pieces of lettuce or nori, putting a scoop of meat and rice in, and making little bundles to eat. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 325: (salad)

Okay, this may be a little obnoxious but I am not spending more money on groceries these days. I’m just being more strict with the budgeting habits I’ve followed for years. Would people be interested in a separate post explaining how I plan my weekly menu and how I make my shopping list? It won’t be useful for everyone, but it might be interesting. I promise not to try to sell you a $60 planner. 

Anyway, here is what we had this week: 

SATURDAY
??

I certainly do not remember what we had for supper on Saturday. It was the kind of day that made me google “minimum age child at home alone legal NH,” because there were a lot of duck-fox-basket of corn situations, including the celebration of Sophia’s birthday.

Halfway through our first batch of teenager birthdays, we discovered that, for a surprisingly reasonable price, you can rent an entire small theater a couple of towns over, and they will play a DVD you bring. So she obviously brought The Mummy and invited some pals, and Damien popped a ton of popcorn and they had a nice time. Clara made this snazzy chocolate BTS cake:

and we got some Aldi pizza for lunch. By the time dinner came around, it was a blur. 

SUNDAY
Pork ribs, rice, honey roasted Brussels sprouts

Everything with very simple seasoning. Pork ribs heavily salted and peppered, and roasted right under the broiler, turned once; rice cooked in chicken broth, which the kids desire most ardently; and Brussels sprouts roasted with olive oil, honey, and sea salt. 

I had to do a little fancy footwork with the pork and the brussels sprouts pans, to make sure they both got a turn under the broiler and the brussels sprouts didn’t get overcooked, but Somehow I Managed. Little blorp of bottled sauce and you got yourself a decent meal. This concludes this week’s Spotlight On Pork. I will spare you the other pork photos I took, which look disconcertingly like Martin Luther King Jr’s uhhhhh arm. 

MONDAY
Beef barley soup, butternut squash muffins

They had big hunks of beef on sale for $2.99 a pound, so I got two big ones and cut one up for soup. Here is my trusty, hearty, cozy beef barley soup recipe:

Jump to Recipe

I’m still waiting for my Instant Pot replacement float valve to arrive, so I cooked this on the stovetop, and forgot to keep an eye on it, so the barley and mushrooms gobbled up most of the broth. So we had a savory assemblage of beef, barley, tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots, garlic, and onions, graced with a little whisper of beef broth. Honestly, no complaints. 

I really wanted some bread to go with, but I didn’t have time to let anything rise, and we didn’t have any beer to make a beer bread (which is a great easy quick bread to know. Here’s that recipe: Jump to Recipe); and we didn’t have any canned pumpkin to make pumpkin muffins. 

We did, however, have half a butternut squash left over from last week’s one pan chicken thighs. So I covered it with damp napkins and put it in the microwave for about 15 minutes, three minutes at a time, until it was forkable.

Then I scooped it out and mashed it and used it in place of pumpkins in this very reliable pumpkin bread recipe, which makes two loaves or 18 muffins

Jump to Recipe

and hoooo doggie they were delicious muffins.

Light and kind of buttery and very tender. (I don’t know why I felt it was necessarily to get right up in this muffin’s face for the only photo I took, but at least you can really see the texture!) This is a nice, easy recipe (which any muffin recipe should be), and I often turn to it when I need a quick side for soup. 

I like the pumpkin muffins very much, but these squash ones were clearly superior. More flavor, more interesting texture, lighter. I don’t know if it’s because butternut squash is a better vegetable than pumpkin overall, or because I was using fresh squash instead of canned pumpkin. Probably both reasons. Anyway, I’m going to do it this way from now on, whenever I can. They were a good accompaniment to the soup, as a sweetish quick bread, but if you added a cream cheese icing, they would easily work for a dessert. 

Some of the kids had them for breakfast the next day, too, so I felt massively accomplished. 

TUESDAY
Pizza

Tuesday was my first band practice! Very exciting! I started playing clarinet in 4th grade and continued playing in the school band all through high school. I noodled around a bit after that, but this is my the first time playing in a group in more than thirty years. What an absolute joy. It’s a band for adults just like me, who used to play and are getting back into it, or who are just learning to play, so it’s very friendly and encouraging, and I absolutely love it. Damien got me a clarinet that packs up into a cute little backpack for Christmas, and I got myself a folding music stand, and my fingers are all, “yep, we remember this,” and away we go. It’s awesome. If you are an old bat and feeling a little bit now-what-ish about your life, I strongly recommend checking to see if there’s a New Horizons band in your area. I also dropped my high school band director a note just to let him know I’m still playing and that I have happy memories of band. Wish I could write to Mr. Faro,  who taught me to play all those years ago, but he passed away quite young. Sweet man.

Speaking of sweet men, Damien made pizzas because I was in a bit of a tizzy about my first practice. He made two cheese, one pepperoni, and one garlic, onion, anchovy, and artichoke heart. Veddy good.

WEDNESDAY
Chicken burgers, leftovers

I’m trying to throw away less food, and I can’t seem to actually cook less food, so I cooked some frozen chicken burgers and then heated up some of the massive amounts of leftovers clogging up the fridge, so we had chicken burgers, rice, Brussels sprouts, and nachos. The kids complained a lot, which tells me we need to do this more often so they get used to it, because it was perfectly good food! 

Oh, you know what, we must have had nachos on Saturday, because there were leftover nachos in the fridge. 

THURSDAY
Steak and pear salad, french bread

Not really steak, but I don’t know what to call it. “Beef salad” just sounds gross, and this meal was actually delightful. Damien took the other large on-sale hunk of roast beef, chuck roast or whatever it was; seasoned it, and seared it in oil with garlic cloves, then cooked it slowly in the oven

until it was beautifully rare inside, which I swear I took a photo of, but apparently it was on my imagination camera.

I served it with mixed greens, sliced pears, toasted walnuts (microwaved for two minutes), crumbled blue cheese, diced red onion, and white wine vinegar for a dressing. 

Absolutely delicious. 

I got it into my head that there was’t enough meat (there absolutely was), and we needed a side, so I made some french bread. I started somewhat late in the day, so the bread came out of the oven right at supper time

and my poor family was forced to eat piping hot french bread with melted butter sliding off the top. 

If you are wondering why one of the loaves has a little jog at the end, that’s what happens when you balance a large pan of rising dough on top of a toaster when people are rushing around in the kitchen, and it gets knocked onto the floor but miraculously flips over and the dough lands on the floor on top of the plastic wrap because, well, God loves you all the time, and sometimes he shows it by not letting your bread dough get all crapped up on the dirty floor. So that was nice! One loaf got a little jog at the end of it, but who among us. 

FRIDAY
Tuna noodle or salmon 

It is a snow day! See?

A snow day that they announced yesterday, so we could turn off our alarms, and they sent the kids home with work packets, so the day off won’t get counted against their summer vacation, and the kids industriously did their packets yesterday. I am rewarding them with tuna noodle (which I was planning to make anyway, but they do like it), and the big people are having salmon of some kind, because I happened to be at Aldi right when salmon hit the “sell or freeze by” date and it was 50% off. 

Not sure exactly how I will prepare the salmon. I might just pan fry it and serve it with, hmmm, steamed potatoes and peas or something. My goal is not to run out to the store. Or make anyone else run to the store. 

Anyway, let me know if you want that “how I plan and shop” thing. It might just be annoying, I don’t know. 

 

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. 

 

Beer bread

A rich, buttery quick bread that tastes more bready and less cake-y than many quick breads. It's so easy (just one bowl!) but you really do want to sift the flour.

This recipe makes two large loaf pan loaves.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups flour, sifted
  • 2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 12-oz cans beer, preferably something dark
  • 1 stick butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375

  2. Butter two large loaf pans. Melt the stick of butter.

  3. I'm sorry, but you really do want to sift the flour.

  4. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients, and stir in beer until it's all combined and nice and thick.

  5. Pour the batter into the loaf pans and pour the melted butter over the top.

  6. Bake for about 50 minutes until it's crusty and knobbly on top.

 

Pumpkin quick bread or muffins

Makes 2 loaves or 18+ muffins

Ingredients

  • 15 oz canned pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup veg or canola oil
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 3.5 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • oats, wheat germ, turbinado sugar, chopped dates, almonds, raisins, etc. optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter two loaf pans or butter or line 18 muffin tins.

  2. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.

  3. In a separate bowl, mix together wet ingredients. Stir wet mixture into dry mixture and mix just to blend. 

  4. Optional: add toppings or stir-ins of your choice. 

  5. Spoon batter into pans or tins. Bake about 25 minutes for muffins, about 40 minutes for loaves. 

 

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. 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. 

Jump to Recipe

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.

Jump to Recipe

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. 317: Little Bear food

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Happy Friday! Another week of nippy weather, and I’m really settling into cozy fall cooking. I’m doing some planning for Thanksgiving, by which I mean I bought a second potato masher at the thrift store. I have always been a wiggly line potato masher kind of gal, but now I’m branching out into the grid-on-a-circle style, and I have high hopes. Because I just don’t make very good mashed potatoes, and it’s probably the masher’s fault.

However, I am happy to announce that I used up the last of the apples! Very satisfactory. Read on. 

SATURDAY

I’m skeptical Saturday even happened. I have no idea what we ate. 

SUNDAY
Pizza

You may recall how, last time I made pizza, I committed the high crime of not making any just-cheese pizza. Well, this time I did! And the kids made exactly as big a fuss about it as if I hadn’t (“Well SHEESH, Mama, the only reason we’re ASKING is because LAST time . . . “). But I did make a cheese pizza. I really did.  I also made one pepperoni and one olive, fresh garlic, and anchovy. 

Man, I need to do something about that grout. Good pizza, though. 

MONDAY
Pork ribs, applesauce, mashed acorn squash, risotto

APPLE ARMAGEDDON. There were dozens and dozens of soft, spotty, dinged-up apples hanging around the dining room in bags and boxes and government-owned mail cartons driving me mad, so on Monday I gathered them up, hacked them  into quarters, threw them in my biggest pot, added a little water (too much, like I do every year), and let them simmer loosely covered for a few hours. 

I left everything intact, peels, cores, everything, and when they were soft enough to collapse under the weight of a wooden spoon, I ran them through my wonderful food mill, very similar to this one (affiliate link):

 

The food mill is one of the few once-a-year kitchen gadgets I allow to take up space in my tiny kitchen, because nothing else does exactly what a food mill does (i.e. not only smooshes the food, but separates out the undesirable parts). I was a little dismayed to dismayed to discover that someone had put it away last year after using it to make applesauce but not necessarily super duper washing it out, bleh. It has a pot with handle and bowl clips, a crank and blade, and a screw with a sweeping arm for underneath, and [deep shuddery breath] you really do need to take it apart to clean it properly. 

But a little scrubbing did the trick, and I was soon cranking out sweet, beauteous applesauce.

I didn’t take a picture of the refuse because it’s just not pretty, but I’m always impressed at how efficient the food mill is. If you keep cranking, it really gets every last possible scrap of edible material, and just leaves the barest minimum of waste behind. Then you crank it backwards a few turns and it scrapes the leavings up into a little heap for you to whack out into the trash. Very satisfying activity altogether.

After several batches, I was left with a heavy, steaming bowl of fragrant, rosy applesauce, and it smelled so nice, I was tempted to just leave it at that. But I did pitch in a bunch of cinnamon, a generous drizzle of honey, and a lump of butter, and mix it up.

I covered it and left it alone, and it was so dense, it stayed warm until dinnertime. I felt like a fairy tale mother. Everyone was very pleased. 

I served it with pork ribs, just roasted quickly on a rack in a very hot oven with salt and pepper, and some rich, cheesy Instant Pot risotto, and some mashed acorn squash

What an excellent meal. Here is the recipe for Instant Pot risotto, which isn’t quite quite as creamy and luxurious as stovetop risotto, but it’s pretty darn close, and it’s easy enough to throw together on a weeknight, with onions, sage, white wine, and chicken broth.

Jump to Recipe

You can add in any number of things, including squash if you’re not already serving squash. 

But I was, and I was trying a new method. Normally I roast it in the oven and then mash it. This time, I cooked it in the Instant Pot, and I learned a tip to sprinkle it with kosher salt and baking soda first, allegedly to help caramelize it, before mashing it with your add-ins. Here’s the full recipe:

Jump to Recipe

and whoa, it was excellent.

I have no idea if the process really made that much of a difference or if i just got hold of some really tasty squash, but it was amazingly flavorful. Yay! Damien really liked it, so I’ll definitely do it this way from now on. 

TUESDAY
Ima’s Everything Soup and overnight bread

On Monday night, I started some bread dough using an exceedingly vague recipe someone, I’m sorry I can’t remember who, put on Facebook. To wit:

Ingredients
3 cups All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
 
In a large bowl combine flour, active dry yeast and salt. Mix together. Add water, and stir until blended; dough will be sticky. Give it ten good folds. Cover bowl with a tea towel. Let dough rest overnight for 10 to 12 hours at room temp.
 
In the morning, your dough will have grown x2- then give it a few folds (I basically scraped the dough off the sides of the bowl towards the middle), empty it out onto a piece of parchment paper and let it rest for 30 minutes. If dough is sticky and hard to work with, add a bit of flour so it doesn’t stick to your hands. Score your bread with a knife. (I made an “x” on the top.)
 
While dough is resting, preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Put a covered 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (Dutch oven, enamel, ceramic) in oven as it heats for about 30 minutes.
 
Carefully remove pot from oven. IT’S VERY HOT. Pick up parchment paper with dough and slide directly into pot (ie dough sitting on the parchment).  Cover with lid and bake 35-40 minutes at 425 Degrees F. LID WILL BE HOT – remove lid and bake another 10-15 minutes, until loaf is golden brown.
 
You can eat it warm with butter or wait until it cools.

Okay, that seemed simple enough!  I tripled the recipe and left it in a big bowl to rise overnight. I ended up using more flour than it called for because it was not just “sticky,” it was like batter, and really couldn’t be called dough. 

The next day, it had risen nicely and was more dough-like, but I did add yet more flour to be able to handle it. I poured it out in two batches onto parchment paper and let it rest 30 minutes as directed. 

I don’t seem to have any dutch ovens (the contents of my kitchen are always vaguely mysterious to me), so I heated up a glass casserole dish and a large iron frying pan, and baked it in two batches in that. You’re supposed to bake it with the lid on, then uncover it and finish baking. Since my containers didn’t have lids, I used tin foil, which stuck to the dough, so when I pulled it off, it peeled some of the bread crust off with it. I could have avoided this by spraying it with cooking spray, or covering it with a bowl or something else with more clearance. 

But overall, it came out of the oven looking like bread!

Quite dense and rather chewy, but real bread, a really good return for the miniscule amount of labor and very basic ingredients I put into it. 

So that was nice. It was pretty good with a little soft butter and a sprinkle of salt, and it hit the spot along with the hearty soup I made.

This seems to be a version of Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread that everybody got all worked up about a while ago. He gives more precise directions and his technique requires more time, but does seem to produce a nicer loaf. So now you know everything I do. 

The soup is an adaptation of my mother’s minestrone soup, which she used to call “everything soup.” Minstrone soup usually has vegetables, greens, beans, tomato, and some kind of pasta or rice. My mother’s version doesn’t have tomato and it does have meat. She used ground beef; I used mild sausage. She used celery; I swapped in zucchini instead. She specified frozen spinach, and I used fresh. I skipped the wine and used fresh parmesan. But otherwise, this is basically her recipe, which is basically minestrone. Or not! It has onions, garlic, carrots, zucchini, chick peas, sausage, spinach, beef broth (and wine) and is topped with a little parmesan.

I cooked it a little too long and it got a little blurry, but it was tremendously nourishing and cozy. This is Little Bear food. 

Together with the world’s most basic bread, it was a very fine little meal for a chilly day. 

And here is where I have to express my admiration for people who cook but don’t enjoy the process. I salute you! I like to eat; goodness knows, I like to eat. But I like to cook almost as much, if not more. The sight and sounds and sensations, the smells and textures and patterns of food being processed are a constant delight to me, even when I’m in a hurry. Peeling and cutting and chopping and grating, rinsing and stirring, steaming and simmering and tossing. Every onion is different inside! Every head of lettuce has its own music when it’s torn. The colors, the colors. It is all absolutely my jam.

What a treat to peer down through the top of a shiny box grater and watch the little torrents of parmesan billowing through the holes as I shred, and then sensing that the grater is stuffed full and needs to be knocked empty against the scarred wooden board, until it spills out its little bounty of delicate curls into the sun.

And then I also like to eat! Lucky me. 

WEDNESDAY
Shawarma

Honest to goodness, I thought it was Thursday, and I was so annoyed at myself for putting off this meal all week, so I was painted into a Thursday corner and had to make a slightly laborious dinner twice in a row, first the soup and bread, then the shawarma. I had been up all night with a cold and fever, struggling with the delusion that I had hidden a terrible, purple secret on top of a mountain and so needed to get my socks off. Then I got up and I was like, OH NO, AND NOW I HAVE TO MAKE SHAWARMA, I HAVE NO CHOICE BECAUSE IT’S THURSDAY. In retrospect, I may still have been a little sick. Luckily, shawarma is actually easy enough that you can make it when you’re a little loopy. 

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs were on sale, and that is the best kind of chicken to use for shawarma, so I didn’t have to do much processing, just trim the fat off a bit. The marinade is easy, and the rest is just really chopping and opening  jars and cans. And crushing plenty of garlic. 

Jump to Recipe

So I set several pounds of chicken to marinate in the morning, and made up a big bowl of yogurt sauce

Jump to Recipe

Corrie was home too, so she juiced lemons for me, and also cut up the cucumbers. So we had pita, cucumbers, tomatoes, black and kalamata olives, feta cheese, yogurt sauce, and hummus. I marinated just the chicken and then spread red onions over the top of the chicken before I cooked it. And that was it! Great meal. Everyone loves it. A little bit of work on the front end, but it’s all easy, with no exotic ingredients, and it’s just so tasty. 

Sometimes I make homemade pita or stuffed grape leaves or fried eggplant with this meal, but this is the basic form and it’s great as is. 

THURSDAY
Taco Thursday

Thursday turned out to be Thursday, for whatever reason, and so we had tacos. I don’t make the rules. (Well, I do, but I don’t have to explain myself.) 

FRIDAY
Spaghetti pangrattato

Something new for us. Pasta with lemon, parsley, seasoned breadcrumbs, capers, and bits of fried egg!! from Smitten Kitchen. I think this is one of those delicious, delicious poverty dishes the Italians are so good at. I’m guessing most of the kids will just want plain pasta, but you never know.

Or maybe we’ll just have spaghetti! The kids have the day off for Veteran’s Day and maybe I’ll do the weekend shopping on Friday and have the actual weekend off for once, to do something fun. Although so far all I have managed to do is sleep for twelve hours, which I haven’t done in years, and I think that means I am still sick. 

Oh, I just remembered what we had on Saturday. Corn dogs! Corn dogs and hot pretzels. With a side of mustard. 

5 from 2 votes
Print

Instant Pot Mashed Acorn Squash

Ingredients

  • 1 acorn quashes
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Cut the acorn squashes in half. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt on the cut surfaces.

  2. Put 1/2 a cup of water in the Instant Pot, fit the rack in it, and stack the squash on top. Close the lid, close the valve, and cook on high pressure for 24 minutes. Do quick release.

  3. When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop it out into a bowl, mash it, and add the rest of the ingredients.

Ima's Everything Soup

heavily adapted from a sort-of-minestrone soup my mother used to make

Ingredients

  • 1+ lbs loose mild sausage (my mother used ground beef)
  • olive oil if necessary
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1-1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced with the skin on
  • 6-12 cups beef broth
  • 4 cups fresh spinach (frozen is also fine)
  • 1/4 cup red wine (optional)
  • 1 cup small pasta like pastina, raw
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. In a pot, cook the sausage, crumbling, until it's cooked through. Add olive oil if necessary to keep from burning. (If using an Instant Pot, use the sauté function for the first two steps.)

  2. Add in garlic, onion, oregano, and pepper. Cook another several minutes until the onion is soft.

  3. Add in the carrots and zucchini, and pour in the broth (and wine if using), and stir. If cooking on stovetop, cover loosely and let simmer for twenty minutes. (If using an Instant Pot, add all the ingredients except the cheese, close the lid, close the valve, and press "soup.")

  4. Add in the spinach and chickpeas and continue simmering another ten minutes. Add in the pasta ten minutes before serving and cook until soft. If the soup is too thick and too much broth has been absorbed, add another 4-5 cups of broth. Top with parmesan.

 

Instant Pot Risotto

Almost as good as stovetop risotto, and ten billion times easier. Makes about eight cups. 

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground sage
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups rice, raw
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • pepper
  • 1.5 cups grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Turn IP on sautee, add oil, and sautee the onion, garlic, salt, and sage until onions are soft.

  2. Add rice and butter and cook for five minutes or more, stirring constantly, until rice is mostly opaque and butter is melted.

  3. Press "cancel," add the broth and wine, and stir.

  4. Close the top, close valve, set to high pressure for 9 minutes.

  5. Release the pressure and carefully stir in the parmesan cheese and pepper. Add salt if necessary. 

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. 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.

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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!

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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. 
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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. 

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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

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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. 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.

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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. 

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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. 282: In which I completely change my mind about Indian food

Not gonna lie: We ate like kings this week. Here’s what we had: 

SATURDAY
Aldi pizza for kids; Indian food for adults

The plan was for me and Damien to meet my brother on Saturday, and the kids would have Aldi pizza at home. But we had a bit of a storm and the roads were too bad for much travel. But the sacred words “Aldi pizza” had already been intoned and the wheels of deep mozzarella magic had already begun to turn, so there was nothing we could do. We had to leave some boxes of pizza on the table and go try the new Indian restaurant. 

Now, Damien and I . . . have never had Indian food before. Or, he has had lackluster, room temperature Indian food buffet at work parties a few times, and I have tried making butter chicken based on some hazy ingredients shouted at me by a rather aggressive Indian woman one time. So in practice, Damien and I have never had Indian food before, and didn’t especially want to start. But for some reason, I got it in my head we should try this little place, Royal Spice in Troy.

My dears. It was the best meal I’ve had in ages. Everything was completely CHARMING in my mouth. Just a delight. We had an appetizer platter with vegetable pakora, a big potato samosa, and some kind of little . . . thingies . . . round ones, and also some other ones, and then three kinds of sauce, a minty green savory one, some kind of bright red sweet pepper chutney, and then this amazing purplish sauce that turned out to be tamarind. I especially enjoyed the pakora. The insides reminded me of the spinach pies we make for passover, and the outsides were crisp and crinkly. Just lots of fun to eat, and with wonderful, lively flavors. 

Everything was so good! I ordered lamb korma with medium spice for my main dish, and Damien had full spice lamb biryani. 

I didn’t really know what korma was. It turned out to be big chunks of tender meat in a creamy, savory sauce, almost like a stew. The spice level was just right, just enough to wake up my face but not enough to be painful. It had a wonderful nutty, earthy, faintly sweet flavor, and came with a large portion of basmati rice. We also ordered two kinds of naan, which also came in generous portions.

The restaurant space is just a basic eatery, nothing special, but they were playing lively Indian music, the food was hot and fresh and plentiful, the prices were great, and the waitress was jolly and friendly and willing to talk about the food, even though the joint was jumping and she was doing everything herself. 

We each had a large bottle of Flying Horse lager, which is a mild, bready-tasting beer that was very refreshing with the spicy food.

They ran out and Damien ordered a Tag, which is also an Indian lager, but he said it wasn’t as good. 

Totally worth a visit if you’re anywhere in the area. We’re definitely going back to explore the menu some more. I’ve utterly changed my opinion of Indian food, and want to learn how to make pakora. Yay!

SUNDAY
Roast beef sandwiches, potato sticks

Damien made the roast beef, and very tender and juicy it was. This is his technique:

Sear the beef for a few minutes per side in olive oil and whole garlic cloves in a pot, then roast uncovered in a pan in the oven with the garlic at 325. Start checking for doneness at about 45 minutes. Let it rest for a few minutes and then slice. Serve with the juice and the roasted garlic cloves. 

I had mine on a toasted roll with horseradish sauce, tomatoes, and provolone.

Every time we have provolone, I have to google “kinds of cheese,” because I cannot remember the word “provolone” on my own. I don’t understand why this is.  I love provolone. 

MONDAY
Clam chowder, ham and cheese sliders, veg and dip

I like clam chowder a lot, but hardly anyone else in this house likes it, or any other kind of chowder, or creamy soup, or soup in general. Since there’s nothing I can do in the face of such enormity [she said, using the word “enormity” correctly], I went ahead and made a big pot of clam chowder. The only regret I have is that I didn’t start it with a hunk of salt pork. It costs as much as a pound of good bacon, and I couldn’t quite face the experience of filling the house with bacon smells and then explaining over and over again that the smells were a lie and all we were having was this soup. So I just used butter, which is also good.

Clam chowder is so delicious. The recipe I cobbled together has celery, onion, and garlic in butter, white pepper, then chopped clams and clam juice, chicken stock, and flour and lots of half and half, and then some fresh parsley. Easy peasy, creamy and mild, full o’ clams. 

Jump to Recipe

I though I’d appease everyone by making some ham and cheese sliders. I found some recipes that call for making a sauce with dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce and all kinds of things, but I downgraded it all so they would be more willing to eat it. I just sliced a bunch of sweet Hawaiian rolls sideways, put in a layer of baby Swiss, then ham, then more Swiss on the bottom half, put the top roll slab back on, poured melted butter on top, sprinkled it with everything seasoning, covered it with tinfoil, let it sit and think for a while, and baked at 350 until the cheese was melted.

I honestly can’t remember if I put mustard in there or not. It doesn’t matter, because they decided the sandwiches “smelled weird” and didn’t eat them. The crumbs! The absolute crumbs. This is primo kid food, bright yellow and pink, cute little buttery mini sandwiches, an adorable little plate, but no.

Oh well. 

I also put out carrots and peppers and dip. Probably they ate dip for supper, and oyster crackers. The crumbs.

TUESDAY
Burgers and chips

Tuesday was supposed to be bo ssam day, but I forgot how early you need to get it started, so I instead started marinating the bo ssam on Tuesday, and made burgers for supper. No one complained. 

WEDNESDAY
Bo ssam, rice, fruit salad, crunchy rice rolls

Just an excellent meal. I forgot to even finish following the recipe, and it ended up being just fatty pork that had been sitting with salt and sugar for 24 hours, then cooking uncovered in a low oven for another six hours, and that’s it. Here was my reward:

It was FABULOUS. 

I couldn’t find the doenjang that I’m pretty sure is in the fridge somewhere, and they definitely didn’t have any in the stores, so I had to skip making the amazing spicy, nutty dipping sauce that goes along with the meat. So I just grabbed a bottle of sesame shoyu sauce for dipping.

I made a big pot of rice and a big bowl of fruit salad (pineapple, strawberries, and grapes), and we also had some of those sweet crunchy rice rolls. I served lettuce leaves for rolling up the meat in, and oh boy, it was just fantastic. There’s enough salt and sugar in this meat to keep you going all week. Totally worth it. The meat gets a dark, caramelized crust on the outside, and clinging to it are these wonderfully moist, tender shreds of meat that just fall apart.

You can dip the meat in sauce and wrap it up in lettuce with a little rice, or just eat everything separately. The strawberry, in particular, made a great complement to the salty, savory meat. It’s important to serve something mellow and unchallenging to go with the meat, which is very delicious but very loud in flavor.

Altogether a wonderful, gratifying meal, lots of fun to eat. Corrie packed a little sandwich bag of bo ssam in her lunch, and when they asked her (for the 100th day of school) what kind of food she could eat 100 of, she wrote “bo ssam.” Crumb status revoked!

THURSDAY
Chicken nuggets and party mix for kids; Asian food for adults

Damien and I snucked away for a little early Valentine’s Day overnight getaway. 

For dinner, we tried Kogetsu in Peterborough, which is decorated like an Asian fever dream, with giant picture windows looking out over a waterfall. We had egg rolls and steamed pork dumplings in peanut sauce, and I ordered the nabe yaki udon, which is a noodle soup with an impressive assortment of strange and delicious mushrooms, vegetables, and proteins lurking in the broth, plus a poached egg and two enormous tempura shrimp.

The broth was oddly bland, but I liked it anyway. 

Then we went back to the inn. Last time we visited this inn, I was extremely pregnant with Irene, and you know what? Even when you’re not heavily pregnant, which I am not, it’s still super hard to get out of a hot tub. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that. 

Breakfast was lovely. They cook everything from scratch to order, and much of their food is locally sourced. I had an English muffin with a poached egg and roasted tomato, with bacon and toasted whole wheat bread with raspberry jam. 

They also have a wonderful, elderly dog who limps around, collapsing into various sunbathing spots. The dog and the cheerful innkeepers were the only other people in the whole place. The other thing I like about this place is that it’s not haunted. I don’t mean to be a weirdo, but most inns and hotels are at least semi haunted. If you get up in the middle of the night, you will feel the misery and oppression in the air and in the hallways, presumably because sad and bad things have happened there. Take it or leave it, it’s just what I think. I have been in a lot of hotels! This one just had a Paul Revere bell ringing out the hours, and also a bird nest in the porch outside the window. I really love New Hampshire. We’re having a little thaw right now. It’s in the high 40’s, the puddles are glittering, there’s a little drip-drip-drip action going, and it feels like spring is something that might actually show up at some point. A good day. 

FRIDAY
French toast casserole, hash browns,  OJ

This meal is an excuse to serve orange juice, which I cannot seem to shift off the “unutterably expensive; for treats only” list in my brain. 

To make french toast casserole, tear up whatever stale or leftover bread you have in the house and heap it in a buttered casserole dish. Make enough egg and milk mixture to saturate the bread, and pour it over the bread pieces. You can add sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon to the mixture before pouring it out, if you like. Thin slices of apple is nice, as well. Dot with butter, and sprinkle with a little more sugar and cinnamon to make a nice crust. Bake at 35o until the egg is set. Serve in wedges. 

Here’s an old picture, back from when the sun would shine and we had stone fruits, oh my.

We survived the 100th day of school (Corrie had 100 bells on her shirt, and Benny dressed up as a tortoise, because tortoises live to be 100? I don’t know) and now we just have to make valentines for Monday. I bought a bunch of silicone molds (hearts, fancy hearts, roses, and dinosaurs) from Walmart, and we’re going to melt Jolly Ranchers into them and call it fancy. I have popped 20 bags of popcorn for the school dance tonight, and Irene’s gorilla mask has arrived in the mail (also for the school dance tonight). I’m sitting here kind of befuddled because I ate breakfast today, which I don’t normally do, and I went away on a Thursday, which I don’t normally do, and so my stomach and my brain have no idea what time of day or what day of the week it is. I will probably fall asleep at adoration. Will pray for you cheese bags before I do. 

New England clam chowder (without bacon)

You can certainly add bacon or fat back if you want! Rather than starting with butter, fry up a few pieces of meat first, take the meat out and break it up, fry the vegetables in the fat, and add the meat back in later.

Ingredients

  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 16 oz clam juice
  • 4 cup water
  • 6 tsp chicken bouillon powder (to make a concentrated broth)
  • 4 small potatoes, diced (peeled or unpeeled)
  • 3 6.5-oz cans of chopped clams
  • 3 cups half and half
  • 1 cup flour
  • fresh parsley (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a heavy pot, melt the butter. Sauté the celery and onion until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two longer. Stir in the white pepper.

  2. Add in the clam juice, the water with bouillon in it, the potatoes, and the clams, undrained. Simmer, uncovered, for about 20. minutes until the potatoes are cooked.

  3. In a small bowl, slowly whisk the half and half into the flour, then add this mixture gradually into the pot until blended.

  4. Heat through. Continue to cook at a low temperature to cook out the flour taste. If the chowder is too thick, add more chicken broth.

  5. Add chopped fresh parsley before serving if you like. Serve with oyster crackers.

What’s for supper? Vol. 278: (val)Challah Rising

Happy mid-January! I don’t know about you, but I finally worked up the nerve to get up on the scale, and I have gained ten pounds over Christmas! Ten pounds, hooray! Wait, I mean, ten pounds, booooo.  And I’m very annoyed at myself. But I know how to lose it, so, away we go. 

Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Damien’s birthday!

The kids had, I think, chicken nuggets. The adults went to The Winchester, and it was good. 

SUNDAY
Linguine and ragù, bread

Damien made a beautiful savory pork and veal ragù using this Deadspin recipe

It’s always tasty, but this one was especially good. This recipe has hardly any tomato in it. Not that there’s anything wrong with tomato; it’s just very different from a typical red sauce with meat thrown in. Very different indeed.

MONDAY
Meatball subs, veggies and dip

My meatballs are like me, large, uninspired, and soft in the middle. I did throw a bunch of Worcestershire sauce in there to jazz them up, which resulted in them being salty. Hey, it’s hot meatballs in January. Nobody complained. 

Jump to Recipe

I’m pretty aggressively shoving vegetables back into our diet after a very vegless Christmas season. 

TUESDAY
Beef barley soup, challah

It was fuh-reezing out — actually far below freezing — and just raw and bleak and rotten, so a good day for a hearty soup and some bumptious, golden bread. 

This soup starts with carrots, onions, and garlic, and then beef, then tomatoes, then beef broth and wine and plenty of pepper, and then barley.

Jump to Recipe

I actually had a pouch of barley and lentils, and nobody noticed the lentils. I also added an extra cup of wine, which was not a bad idea. I forgot to take a photo, so here is some soup of ages past:

The day was frigid but sunny, so I put the challahs out for their second rise in a sunbeam on the table, where they all but rang a bell and demanded another strawberry daiquiri from the pool boy. 

They came out of the oven looking like respectable matrons, though

and everyone was pretty happy, and nobody pointed out that part of the middle was extremely damp and heavy and totally could have used another 6-7 minutes in the oven.

Next time I’ll bake it longer. I’m actually thinking of trying some different recipes, though. Here’s mine:

Jump to Recipe

The flavor is exactly what I want, and the texture of the bread inside is perfect (when it’s well-baked), but I would like the crust to be a little more crisp. Any recommendations? Or would it help to knead it longer or something?

WEDNESDAY
Pork bulgoki with nori and rice, sesame broccoli

It’s been a while! This is a cheap, easy Korean dish with lots of flavor and lots of heat. Literally “fire meat,” made with that wonderful gochujang, plus honey, sugar, garlic, and soy sauce, and whatever pork is on sale (you can use it on beef, too). I sometimes marinate ribs or chops and grill them whole, but today, I cut . . . some kind of giant pork hunk, I wasn’t paying attention . . . into thin strips.

I threw a bunch of onions and baby carrots in the food processor, rather than doing matchstick carrots like I usually do, and I liked it this way, with the carrots cut thin. Marinated several hours before stir frying on the stove in a little oil. 

Jump to Recipe

I also . . . and I still can’t even believe this  . . . did not crowd the pan when I cooked the meat. I used two big skillets and I cooked the food in batches, transferring it to a dish in the oven as it finished, so it had a chance to brown up a bit, and it didn’t end up coddling itself to death in its own moisture. 

I made a big pot of rice in the Instant Pot and roasted a tray of sesame broccoli, and served the meat with sheets of seaweed. You pull off a square of seaweed and use it to grab up a little meat and a little rice, and you pop the bundle in your mouth.

So tasty and lovely. You can also use lettuce instead of seaweed. If you made the gochujang sauce spicy, it’s definitely good to have something green to cool your tongue a bit. 

I also made a tray of sesame broccoli, easy peasy. 

Jump to Recipe

Few things give me more satisfaction than making three different dishes that are all hot and ready at exactly the same time. 

THURSDAY
Pizza

One cheese, one pepperoni, one olive, and one with feta, ricotta, fresh-shredded parmesan, olives, red pepper flakes, garlic powder and oregano, artichoke hearts, red onion, fresh garlic, and anchovies. The cat was watching closely and I realized I was blocking his food dish. Poor little kitty cat! So I moved the pizza aside. He promptly jumped up on the counter and ate an anchovy right off the pizza! I don’t know why this surprised me so much. I guess I spend a lot of time with the dog, who would have done exactly the same thing, except he would have been furtive about it. The cat is too dumb to be furtive

I also got the idea to brush the crusts with olive oil and sprinkle them with garlic salt. I got this idea from Domino’s. Domino’s has been on my mind lately because the only local one burned down last week (actually the bar next to it burned down, and the whole building is a total loss). Some people heard fire engine sirens, but others heard it for what it truly was: A shrieking judgment directly from heaven, calling down doom on the heads of disorganized moms who have been getting through the day by telling themselves that if it all goes to hell by 6 PM, we can just order Domino’s. 

Anyway, here is the pizza. It was delicious. Yes, I cut it like a sociopath.

The oil and garlic salt really didn’t make a difference on the crusts, though, to my disappointment. This may have been because I did it in the morning and the pizza had several hours to sit before it baked, so the dough had risen more than usual before baking, and maybe the effect was kind of dispersed. Next time, I’ll do it right before I put it in the oven. 

FRIDAY
Tuna noodle

The kids requested this when I was feeling weak, so I agreed. I actually kind of like this meal. I guess it’s mostly the draining of the tuna I resent. When I worked at Subway, we would drain vast quantities of canned tuna by squeezing it by hand in a giant colander. That was one of the best jobs I ever had. But I guess it was only fun to hand-squeeze tuna if I was getting paid. [makes note under “ideas for only fans”]

Well, here are the recipe cards for the week! I’m starting my second full day of not eating things just because they are sitting on the table and nobody else is eating them. Who’s with me?

 

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. 

 

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. 

 

Challah (braided bread)

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup oil (preferably olive oil)
  • 2 eggs
  • 6-8 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp yeast
  • 2 egg yolks for egg wash
  • poppy seeds or "everything bagel" topping (optional)
  • corn meal (or flour) for pan, to keep loaf from sticking

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, dissolve a bit of the sugar into the water, and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir gently, and let sit for five minutes or more, until it foams.

  2. In the bowl of standing mixer, put the flour (starting with six cups), salt, remaining sugar, oil, and eggs, mix slightly, then add the yeast liquid. Mix with dough hook until the dough doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl, adding flour as needed. It's good if it has a slightly scaly appearance on the outside.

  3. (If you're kneading by hand, knead until it feels soft and giving. It will take quite a lot of kneading!)

  4. Put the dough in a greased bowl and lightly cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm place for at least an hour, until it's double in size.

  5. Grease a large baking sheet and sprinkle it with flour or corn meal. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Roll three into "snakes" and make a large braid, pinching the ends to keep them together. Divide the fourth piece into three and make a smaller braid, and lay this over the larger braid. Lay the braided loaf on the pan.

  6. Cover again and let rise again for at least an hour. Preheat the oven to 350.

  7. Before baking, make an egg wash out of egg yolks and a little water. Brush the egg wash all over the loaf, and sprinkle with poppy seeds or "everything" topping.

  8. Bake 25 minutes or more until the loaf is a deep golden color.

5 from 2 votes
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Gochujang bulgoki (spicy Korean pork)


Ingredients

  • 1.5 pound boneless pork, sliced thin
  • 4 carrots in matchsticks or shreds
  • 1 onion sliced thin

sauce:

  • 5 generous Tbsp gochujang (fermented pepper paste)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 cloves minced garlic

Serve with white rice and nori (seaweed sheets) or lettuce leaves to wrap

Instructions

  1. Combine pork, onions, and carrots.

    Mix together all sauce ingredients and stir into pork and vegetables. 

    Cover and let marinate for several hours or overnight.

    Heat a pan with a little oil and sauté the pork mixture until pork is cooked through.

    Serve with rice and lettuce or nori. Eat by taking pieces of lettuce or nori, putting a scoop of meat and rice in, and making little bundles to eat. 

 

Sesame broccoli

Ingredients

  • broccoli spears
  • sesame seeds
  • sesame oil
  • soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat broiler to high.

    Toss broccoli spears with sesame oil. 

    Spread in shallow pan. Drizzle with soy sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds

    Broil for six minutes or longer, until broccoli is slightly charred. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 274: In which we all need a nap

Hey! My apologies for being absent this week. I was working on some other writing projects and then also unexpectedly got ambushed by my dining room. We didn’t end up having any guests for Thanksgiving, so I didn’t end up doing a thorough “HOLY CRAP, PEOPLE WILL FIND OUT HOW WE LIVE” cleaning of the house before Thanksgiving. But apparently the late November cleaning frenzy is baked into my system, so I ended up doing it more or less involuntarily on Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving anyway, and I couldn’t stop thinking about that can of ceiling paint I had bought, and you know how this story goes. I’ve been wanting to redo the floor, which is horrendous, but there’s no sense in doing the floor when you know the walls need painting, and what kind of lunatic would paint the walls when the ceiling is in such a state. So I painted the ceiling, and then while I had the Killz out, I just touched up the trim a little bit, and that made everything else look so dingy, I went out and bought more paint, and now my dining room is Glidden Sunbeam instead of Behr Sea Glass.

And my ceiling is Extremely White instead of Spaghetti Sauce. The floor is Still Horrendous. But it’s a small room and reasonably level, so I’m seriously eyeing some peel-and-stick tiles, for a treat. Of course once you have fresh ceiling and walls, you can’t just put everything back the way it was, so I put up so many hooks and shelves, and I threw out so many moldy backpacks, and I have a whole new theory of mitten storage, and there’s a shelf for plants that doesn’t collapse and dump soil on your head whenever you touch it, and there’s a white board with magnetic markers on the door so people can put down their schedule, and there’s a spot for mail that isn’t the table

But I never did a Thanksgiving food post. So I’ll do a separate post for the dining room. (I know some of you don’t care at all about my dining room, but some of you care very much indeed. I know this.)

Okay, here’s what we ate last week! It was all easy peasy food while I prepped for Thanksgiving, except for one meal, which was Albert Burneko’s sausage bean soup with escarole from Defector. I followed the recipe (or “recipe”) slavishly, except I couldn’t find any escarole, so I used a bunch of mixed greens. This soup was truly delightful to make. Wonderfully pungent and colorful every step of the way.

I think I’ll make it again when I can find some escarole, though, because the greens didn’t quite pull their weight, either with flavor or texture. 

Olive oil, big hunks of loose hot sausage, onions, garlic, pickled peppers and their brine, wine, greens, and cannellini beans. The final soup was incredibly hearty and warming, with a pleasantly sharp and slightly bitter tang in the broth. I served it with freshly-shredded parmesan cheese.

The kids, it goes without saying, did not appreciate it, which is why I made a bunch of buttery garlic knots out of pizza dough. 

And now for the Thanksgiving food! We ended up with mulled cider, cranberry orange muffins, cranberry sauce, parkerhouse rolls, garlic mashed potatoes, spanakopita, and two roast tequila turkeys, one with regular vegetable stuffing and one with sausage oyster stuffing, and gravy. Dessert was pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and apple pie with whipped cream or ice cream. All the recipes for all of these dishes are gathered here.

Corrie helped me make the cranberry muffins, and boy did she talk a lot.

In the background you can see the dozens of gingerbread cookies Clara made to be sold at the tree lighting ceremony to raise money for the D.C. trip we kind of forgot two of the kids will be going on. Damien took the kids out in the dark and the rain while I . . . made myself useful in some way, I’m sure. 

The muffins turned out flat and faintly sticky like they always do, and I guess I just like them that way, because I don’t feel motivated to fix it or seek out another recipe. 

The spanikopita were fab. 

Turkeys were gorgeous and the sausage oyster stuffing was to die for. 

The parkerhouse rolls were an abject failure. I haven’t made them in years and I screwed them up in at least three distinct ways. People ended up gouging out the insides and extracting a few bites of edible bread-like substance from them. 

The pies were a big hit. Well, except for the pecan pie. It tasted great — it’s a nice recipe, and is more muted and less screamingly treacly than many — but I had carefully cut out leaves and branches and arranged a lovely pecan tree, and it quietly sank into the custard and disappeared during baking. Oh well!

The other pies were more successful. Here are the pumpkin pies, with a readymade graham cracker crust and decorations made of standard pie crust dusted with powdered sugar:

I guess I was subconsciously thinking “stars and stripes,” I don’t know

and I was highly pleased with my two apple pies. I did a checkerboard one with butterflies and a fringe

and a basket weave one with leaves and other doodads:

I brushed them both with an egg white wash and sprinkled them with sugar before baking, and this is how they came out:

and

Me gusto. These were baking while we ate dinner, and when they came out of the oven, I felt much better about the parkerhouse rolls. 

Okay, on to this week! Not very many adventurous meals, but some pretty plating, anyway. 

Saturday was burgers, which Damien cooked. 

Right before I went shopping, a giant shelf tipped over and dumped all its contents all over the room, smashing glass, dumping flower vases, and scattering boxes of beads and crafts and miscellaneous junk. Damien graciously shooed me out the door and dealt with the chaos, but I think that may have been what triggered my renovation frenzy. That and Thanksgiving, plus the ongoing seasonal outerwear changeover, and . . . I don’t know, everything. More covid testing. The threat of school going remote again. Fundraising. The footprints, yes footprints, on the ceiling. Somebody Do Something. These kinds of things work out so much better when you have an understanding husband who is willing to cook dinner while you decide the solution is to make everything yellow instead of blue on the same week that we’re also doing Chanukah and the Advent wreath and the Jesse tree.  

SUNDAY
Mexican beef bowls

Also made by Damien. He swears he just followed my recipe, but they were insanely delicious. Possibly it was “someone else made dinner” effect, but he’s a very good cook. It is a good recipe, too, a lovely, zippy marinade that makes the beef very tender.

Jump to Recipe

He marinated the meat in the morning, then roasted it in the evening and sliced it, then served it with its gravy over rice with a bunch of fixings: sautéed sweet peppers, chopped cilantro, shredded cheddar, corn, sour cream, and corn chips, and some wonderful black beans. Wonderful beans, I say! 

Gosh, I love this meal.

I cannot tell you how delicious that meat is. 

MONDAY
Harvest Salad with Turkey and acorn squash

I had, like the rest of the country, a lot of leftover turkey. So I cut it up and served it over salad greens, along with a bunch of other autumnal toppings: Sliced almonds, blue cheese, dried cranberries, and dried sugared dates. I also put out feta and sunflower seeds, and I meant to cut up some green apples and red onions, but I forgot. It was pretty good. 

I roasted up a couple of acorn squashes, correcting guessing that no more than four people would want their own squash half for dinner, despite how ravishingly beautiful they are.

I cut them in half, scooped out the seeds, plunked in a blob of butter and brown sugar, and roasted it at about 400 for about 45 minutes or longer. Could have used a schpronkle of sea salt. You can mash and scoop your own little tender squashy cup right on your plate. I could easily see putting a scoop of ice cream in there, and some pralines, and serving this as a dessert. I threw some almonds and dates in there, and it was very cozy. 

TUESDAY
Pulled pork on potato buns, coleslaw, tater tots

The pulled pork turned out fantastic, and, according to tradition, I didn’t write down how I made it. I think it was a can of Sierra Nevada beer, some leftover onion, some pepproncini and brine, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and . . . maybe that’s it? In the slow cooker all day. 

It was bright and spicy and delicious. I had mine with some bottled Baby Ray or Baby Somebody sauce, and more pepproncini, because it’s cold out. 

The coleslaw was actually a little bland, but the picture was pretty, so here you go:

I made it with mayo, cider vinegar, sugar, and pepper. Couldn’t find the celery seed.

WEDNESDAY
Quesadillas and chips

 Nothing to report, except that I splurged on silly fancy red and green tortilla chips. They honestly taste a little weird, and I probably won’t do that again. 

I also sprinkled cilantro all over my quesadilla, and then it turned out to be parsley. Why did we even have parsley in the house? It was fine, just not quite the olé experience my mouth was prepared for. I drowned my sorrows in sour cream. 

THURSDAY
Spaghetti and meatballs

I guess I didn’t even take a picture. These were honestly the world’s blandest meatballs. I had put all my creative powers into rearranging the pictures on the dining room wall, and formulating new and compelling reasons why the kids should put their backpacks on the backpack hooks which I have installed for them, or at very least, please please refrain from flinging spaghetti at the freshly-painted ceiling. After dinner I fell asleep and it was like sinking into a narrow grave. Just down, down, down, and it was so black and still. In a good way! In the best way. You know the nap grave. It is good.

FRIDAY
Shrimp ramen, I guess? 

I know there is shrimp in the freezer, and all I have to do is defrost it and peel it and sauté it, and cook up some ramen, and assemble a variety of vegetables and crunchy noodles and sauces and sprouts, and then boil some eggs for the top.

Maybe . . .  I will just make scrambled eggs.

I will close with a photo of Benny offering cookies to the family. Maybe she needs a nap, too. 

 

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.