What’s for supper? Vol. 102: Barely soup

IT IS OCTOBER AND NOW WE CAN HAVE SOUP! I’m trying to pace myself, though. Just one per week. BUT OH BOY!

SATURDAY
Jalapeno chicken quesadillas, tortilla chips and salsa

I had tons of leftover chicken from last week, so I roughed it up a bit and added it to the cheddar quesadillas, along with some sliced jalapenos from a jar and some chopped scallions. Excellent, if a little difficult to flip intact. Jarred jalapenos are finding their way into more and more of our meals.

Also on Saturday, we harvested the last thing from our garden

and thanked the Lord of the harvest that we don’t have to survive on things we grow in our garden.

***

SUNDAY
Beef vegetable soup, pumpkin bread, caramel apples

This was supposed to be beef barley soup, but I lost my list

at the beginning of a 3.5-hour shopping trip involving five stores.

 

Guess what? I remembered every last damn thing on the list, except barley. So I threw some macaroni in the pot, instead, and it was fine.

This may be my favorite soup. First I sauteed up two diced carrots and a diced onion in olive oil, salt and pepper, then I added a few pounds of cubed flank steak and lightly browned it. A couple of cans of diced tomatoes with the juice, about a pound of sliced mushrooms, about eight cups of beef broth, a little water, and a bottle of hard cider (I usually use red wine, but I think the cider is even better), and let it simmer all day. I added the pasta twenty minutes before it was time to eat.

As I made the pumpkin bread, I thought happily to myself what a foolproof, reliable recipe it is, and how it never, ever comes out bad. So you know what happened next. It was flabby and dense, with a harsh, unpleasant taste.

I have no idea what I did. I think maybe the baking soda was too old, and . . . the pumpkin was cursed? I don’t know. I’ll make it again, because I’ve made it fifteen times before with great results. But I’m buying new baking soda first. Oh well.

The soup was so good, I ate it for lunch the rest of the week. Every time I reheated it, the macaroni got a little bigger. It was like an edible coming of age story.

After years of struggling with candy thermometers, I have discovered that those caramel wraps you can buy are so worth the money. The kids can make them almost unassisted, and there is no mess.

We put ours in the oven to soften up and then tried to press rainbow sprinkles in. That was probably the most labor intensive part, and they didn’t stick well. Next time, we’ll just leave them be.

***

MONDAY
Pulled pork, roast butternut squash, tater tots

Another excellent meal for fall weather (and also a good one to prep ahead, if you are going on a Girl Scout hike and coming home hungry from all that confidence-building).

I have a picture of this meal, but where? Well, pulled pork doesn’t look like much of anything anyway. The squash is so pretty, though.

I put a pork shoulder into the slow cooker with salt and pepper, a quartered onion, several cloves of garlic sliced, and a can of beer. Nice and easy.

I was feeling all cozy and nostalgic about the return of squash season, until I tried peeling the squash. Ten minutes later, I was out of breath, my arms were trembling, I had removed about three square inches of squash skin, and Corrie was looking at me anxiously, trying to figure out why I was so mad.

Happily, I found this cheat. You poke the skin with a fork, cut off the top and bottom, and microwave it for three minutes.  So easy! Then, it says, you “Delight at how easily the skin comes off.” That was the only part that didn’t work. I ended up cutting the squash into pieces and microwaving it several times. It became slightly easier to peel, but there was definitely no delight involved.

I eventually cubed the squash, mixed it with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and laid it on a shallow pan and roasted it at 400 for maybe 35-40 minutes. To me, the sweet, buttery taste of squash goes perfectly with pulled pork. To everyone else, there certainly was a lot of squash for Mama to eat.

(Dramatization)

***

TUESDAY
Frozen chicken, chips

We tried one of those bags of violently red, ludicrously spicy chicken things, plus a bag of some kind of batter fried honey chicken things. We ate them.

***

WEDNESDAY
French toast, sausage, grapes

That was for the kids. Damien and I went out to Applebee’s because did you know they have $1 margaritas all through October? Normally we avoid Applebee’s, because the food is shiny and limp, the service is indifferent, the music is worthless and way too loud, and the decor makes you feel like you’re inside a pinball machine. However: $1 margaritas. I had some kind of Asian shrimp and rice ladyfood vegetable nonsense, and Damien had a bacon burger, and we both had . . . kind of a lot of margaritas. Oh, we’ll be back.

(Reminder from a friend: If you send your waitress back and forth many times to fetch you lots of cheap margaritas, calculate your tip based on all that trotting, rather than on the artificially low bill.)

***

THURSDAY
Sausage spinach skillet

Almost good. It certainly is easy and cheap (recipe from Budget Bytes). It’s supposed to be a stand-alone dish, but I made fettucine to serve it over, because I can see into the future and I knew we’d need a back-up dish. My husband thought it would be better in some kind of garlicky sauce, possibly a light cream sauce. Maybe I’ll come back to it. Or maybe I’ll just sit on a mountain and watch my tail grow.

***

FRIDAY
Pizza

Birthday party! The theme is Clash of the Titans, so we’ll see how that goes. The one thing I know is if you invite a bunch of rail-thin teenage girls over for a party, there needs to be a lot of pizza. A lot.

***
Book illustration photos from Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel and The Funny Thing by Wanda Ga’g

What’s for supper? Vol. 75: Garlic will save the world

Good grief, Vol. 75? What do you know about that?

The little rats stole my chalk, so my weekly menu blackboard isn’t telling me anything. Here’s the best I can recall:

SATURDAY
Calzones; birthday cake

We had four extra 13-year-old boys in the house for a sleepover, and the birthday boy requested calzones for dinner. Easy enough! I used premade pizza dough, and divided each ball into four calzones. Roll ’em out, add a scoop of filling, fold the dough over and pinch it closed. We made twenty calzones, plus an extra pizza for weirdos who don’t like calzones, plus a gluten-free pizza for that one guest. This is one of the benefits of being used to cooking for twelve. You  might as well cook for sixteen, and you might as well also make cupcakes, plus special cupcakes, plus this, plus that, why not. Your life is already ruined anyway.


For the filling, I used either eight or twelve cups of shredded mozzarella, probably eight, and 32 oz. of ricotta, plus a bunch of parmesan. After you crimp the edges shut, you can press on them to distribute the filling more evenly. Lay them in a greased pan with space to expand (I put three on a full-sized cookie sheet), and brush with egg wash.

Bake for about 20 minutes in a 450 oven. Serve with warm tomato sauce for dipping.

The cake was just one disaster after another. It was supposed to be chocolate, but I got yellow mix. So I was going to add cocoa powder, but we were out. So I told him I’d make chocolate frosting. Then I somehow bought cream cheese frosting. Then I reversed the colors on the design by mistake; then the sugar sheets I bought were too dry to use, so I piped in the designs with frosting in a sandwich bag that I bit a hole in.
But, I did NOT spell his name wrong.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the cake I was trying to copy and the cake I eventually presented to my beloved son:

Ehhh, whaddaya whaddaya. He liked it. We also made a Super Smash Ball pinata, which turned out just as malformed and blobby as the cake, even though a Smash Ball is just a round ball with different colors all over it. He liked that, too. We like him!

***

SUNDAY
Spaghetti carbonara; salad; garlic bread; ice cream sundaes

Unaware that the Solemnity of St. Joseph was moved to Monday, we went ahead and celebrated with bacon and ice cream on Sunday. A not-great photo of a terrifically yummy meal here:

If you’re not familiar with carbonara, it’s easy and wonderful. You fry up some bacon and cut it into bits, then cook up a bunch of pasta. Drain it, add in the bacon and a truly ridiculous amount of parmesan, butter, and tons of pepper, and mix it up. Then, you stir in a bunch of raw egg, which cooks itself right onto the strands of pasta, melding with the cheese and the bacon. Heavenly.

Here’s the recipe from Fannie Farmer. Please note that the very next recipe is for Spaghetti with Lima Beans. This shows that even the great Fanner Farmer has her limitations.

***

MONDAY
Beef barley soup; garlic knots

A tiny bit disappointing, but I’m not sure why.
I cut up the beef (chuck roast or something) into cubes and sauteed it in the Instant Pot along with diced onions and garlic. When it was almost all browned, I added diced carrots, a can of diced tomatoes and juice, some beef broth and red wine, and most of a little pouch of mixed grains.

I couldn’t find barley anywhere, and last time I asked a stock boy for help, he was a huge jerk about it, and I was mad for ten days. I just want barley! You work at a supermarket! Do you even understand that you wouldn’t have a job if people like me didn’t need things like barley? Maybe I’ll just go home without buying anything, and then you can have your ideal work day of nobody bringing money into your place of employment! That seems like a solid business model! Jerk.

I pressed the “soup” button, because I was making soup and feeling belligerent, and didn’t feel like checking if that’s how you’re supposed to do it. Looking back, there was a lot of belligerent cooking this week. Hence all the garlic, I guess.

The soup was fine; it just didn’t live up to the Platonic ideal of beef barley soup, and this grieved me. Should’ve added more garlic.

For the garlic knots, I used readymade balls of pizza dough. Cut each ball into twelve pieces, roll them into snakes, tie them in a knot, and top each one with garlic or garlic powder, parmesan cheese, and a little salt. Bake on a greased pan at 425 for . . . I dunno, eleven minutes. Always a hit.

***

TUESDAY
Hot dogs; cucumber salad

There are suddenly these giant, beautiful cucumbers for really cheap, so I bought . . . kind of an inappropriate number of giant cucumbers. They just looked good, okay?

Tito Edward’s eye just started ticcing, and he doesn’t even know why.

I sliced them pretty thin and mixed them with a dressing made of plain yogurt, tons of minced garlic, a little lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and salt. Wish I had had some parsley and red onions. It was tasty and interesting, although it probably wasn’t necessary to add nuclear holocaust levels of garlic; but I’ll probably do it again next time.

I took a picture, which I’m adding only because I forgot to take a picture of the next meal, which was actually good to look at.

The other day, my son woke up and couldn’t find any clean jeans or khakis, so he was forced to put on dress pants. He evened it out by wearing a ratty T-shirt.

***

WEDNESDAY
Pepperoncini beef sandwiches with provolone; french fries; raw stringbeans

A swell and laughably easy meal in the slow cooker or Instant Pot.

You just dump a hunk of beef in, empty a jar of pepperoncini in with the juice, and let it cook until it’s tender. I’ve always made this dish in the slow cooker, and it comes out ready to fall apart, like pulled pork. This time, I used the “slow cook” button on the IP, which runs for four hours. It wasn’t quite done when I checked, so I pressed the button again, and let it run for another hour-and-a-half. It wasn’t shreddy, but nicely tender, so I sliced it. I think I prefer it that way. Less time probably would have worked even better.

I forgot to cut the tops off the peppers before adding them to the pot, so it was only mildly spicy.

I served the meat on ciabatta rolls with sliced provolone and horseradish sauce. Tragically, I had snacked so much before dinner, I wasn’t hungry enough to eat it. But it smelled fab-u-lous.

Stringbeans finally look decent again. Just popped the stems off and served them raw. Spring is coming, dammit. We can have juicy green things again.

***

THURSDAY
Roasted chicken on salad; grapes

We were home for a total of about eleven minutes on Thursday, so it’s a miracle I got dinner made. I doused the chicken breasts with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and shoved them under the broiler for 25 minutes or so, then sliced it up and served it on bagged greens. Bagged greens will save the world.

***

FRIDAY
Eggs and risotto and . . . frozen peas? Salad? Maybe green peppers?

It’s been a week without risotto so far! This aggression will not stand, man. (For more on risotto and how it alone can justify the purchase of an Instant Pot, see last week’s post.)

***

What’s for supper at your house? What’s the longest you can go without garlic?

What’s for supper? Vol. 70: The Instant Pot and the Wild, Wild West

Better late than never, eh? Sorry about no post on Friday. It’s a long, tiresome story full of technical details that I don’t understand at all. If you’re reading this, it means my brother fixed it because he is great. If you’re not, then it means that there is no reason at all for WordPress to be dominating the market the way it does. NO REASON AT ALL.

Here’s what we had last week.

SATURDAY
Birthday party! Pizza, ice cream sodas, birthday cake

Kid asked for a Wild West party for her 11th birthday, and I jumped at opportunity to not try and replicate some trademarked character. I got a bunch of cowboy hats from the dollar store, searched “player piano music” on YouTube, and set up an ice cream soda bar with a This End Up chair and a wooden shelf. My son was the bartender.

We also made a few “Wanted” signs for photo ops.

wanted signs

We also dipped some pretzel rods in green candy melt to make cactuses, which I understand were a big feature of the wild, wild west. They would have been better with some needle-shaped sprinkles, but all I could find was sugar crystals. I made a few with arms and stuck them on the cake.
Oh, the cake! A full week ahead of time, I thought, “I’ll get ahead of this for once, and I’ll get some cake mix now, and then I can make the cake whenever I have a chance, and freeze it.” So smart!
The night before the party, I finally had a chance, and guess what? It was three boxes of brownie mix. So I ran out to the store in the morning and bought three more boxes of cake mix.
And they were brownie mix, too. So my husband went out to the convenience store and paid, I don’t know, $11.99 each for three boxes of actual cake mix from 1992. And lo, there was cake.
 
The child had her heart set on a cake with the silhouette of a galloping horse wearing a cowboy hat. I was actually pretty pleased with the way the background turned out:
sunset cake

I took a picture before it was done, because I said to myself, “Self, you are about to wreck up this cake.”
The horse itself . . . well, you can see it has a hat on.

cowboy cake

I stuck on some cactuses and Hanukkah candles (BECAUSE I FORGOT TO BUY CANDLES) and called it good.
We also got together a bunch of cards and poker chips, but when it came down to it, Sophia and six of her closest friends honestly just wanted to paint each other’s nails. And that’s what became of the wild, wild west.

SUNDAY
Hot dogs; chips, carrots, and dip; cheesy bacon bread; brownie sundaes

Sunday was the Superb Owl, and I completely ignored all of your delicious recipes and just made that swell bacon cheddar ranch garlic bread again. No complaints! We had tons of leftover ice cream from the party; and for some reason, we had a lot of brownies in the house — like, six boxes worth — so we had brownie sundaes for dessert.

MONDAY
Beef daikon soup; white rice; brownies

This is where I start to question my dedication to my pre-planned weekly menu. Guess how many stores in our area carry daikon? That’s right, one. Guess how many daikons that one store had in stock? That’s right, also one. Guess how big that one daikon was?
Screen Shot 2017-02-12 at 11.16.10 AM

That’s right, the size of a newborn child.

I followed the recipe in this very cool cookbook, Cook Korean!
Screen Shot 2017-02-11 at 10.43.45 PM
It’s “a comic book with recipes,” and nice and easy to follow, very attractive (which is why I haven’t used it yet. The kids keep stealing it). Here’s the page with the recipe I used, to give you an idea of the layout:
korean cookbook

Very clear and encouraging, full of neat little details.
The soup went together really fast. I made it on the stovetop, but kept it warm in the slow cooker all day. THEN, all on fire with TRYING NEW THINGS, I went ahead and tried making rice in My Instant Pot.
The two pots, small, dark, and slow and big, shiny, and fast, sat together on the stovetop and looked at each other.
instant pot and slow cooker
It was a little awkward.
“Now I am needed no longer,” thought the little black Crock Pot. “My pot is so little and this one so big! Perhaps they will give me up. Perhaps they will unplug me. Perhaps they will give me to the baby to fill with chewed-up fruit snacks and chewed-up legos.” It stood waiting and waiting. It felt glum and anxious and queer.
But the Instant Pot was like, “Get over it, crocky. You keep soup hot, I’ll make the rice, and then the kids do the dishes. Each to his own place, little brother!”  And if you don’t believe it, you can come by my house and see for yourself, and then you can do the dishes, too.
It was marginally easier to make rice in the Instant Pot than it is to make it on the stovetop. It takes about the same amount of time, if you factor in the time it takes to build up pressure and the time it takes to vent it afterwards. (I LOVE VENTING STEAM, by the way. It’s just fun!) The rice turned out quite sticky, which isn’t a bad thing. It would probably be much better if I ever get around to making sushi. Here’s a pic, to give you the general idea:
instant pot rice
The soup was yummy. It’s not a complex soup, but it’s quite nourishing, and the taste is pleasant, not too spicy or strong.
beef daikon soup pot
I’ll definitely make it again. Although the doctor says it’s idea to wait at least a year before trying for more daikon.
Boy, that joke just never came together. Ah, well.

TUESDAY
Pulled pork, fries, mashed butternut squash

Back to the slow cooker for pulled pork. This time I made it with a can of Coke and some salt and pepper. It’s never going to not be delicious.
Now, butternut squash is a pain in the neck. It’s a great taste, but I have the worst time peeling it. Everyone tells me to buy one of these-type peelers
Screen Shot 2017-02-11 at 10.59.29 PM
to make it easier.  But do I listen? No, I do not. So instead, I just hacked the two squashes in half and scooped out the seeds, chunked them in the Instant Pot on top of the rack, added a cup of water, and set it on “manual” for about 15 minutes. I let it do its thing, vented that sucker, and opened the lid to find squash that was perfectly cooked and that separated so obligingly from the skin, I wanted to cry.
squash instant pot
I scooped the flesh away and mashed it up with butter, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. So good, and significantly easier than other cooking methods. Next time, I’m going to cook it for a shorter time, cut it into cubes, and then roast them. We’ll see how that goes.

WEDNESDAY
Bagel, egg, and sausage sandwiches

Nothing to report. I was mad about something, I forget what, so I didn’t make any vegetables.

THURSDAY
Grilled pretzel brat sandwiches; roast cauliflower

I got the idea for these sandwiches on one of those lists of “Grilled Cheese Sandwiches That Are Better Than a Boyfriend.” My husband and I agreed that we’d definitely rather have this sandwich than a boyfriend. The recipe calls for cutting the pretzel in half to make the two “bread” pieces of the sandwich, but that seemed like it would lead to heartache, so I just used two pretzels for each sandwich.

I let the frozen pretzels thaw completely, then made sandwiches from pretzels and muenster cheese, and fried them in butter just enough to brown up the pretzels a bit. Then I put them in a warm oven to let the cheese finish melting. I put sliced, grilled, smoked brats, mustard, and sauerkraut on the table, and let people make their own combinations.
Check it out:
pretzel sandwich
It’s ridiculous, I know. But don’t you want some, right now?
Because brats and cheese and sauerkraut wasn’t farty enough, I also cut a head of cauliflower into florets, tossed them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and paprika, and roasted them in a shallow pan in the oven. Then I blasted off to the moon and didn’t come down until the next day, where I found a Facebook message reminding me that I am vulgar and should be ashamed.
So far, that method has not worked, but I guess you can keep trying, Jacinta.
The sandwiches were very good, and so was the cauliflower.

FRIDAY
Instant Pot macaroni and cheese, salad

I do like homemade mac and cheese, but it somehow fills the entire kitchen with gummy pots and pans. So I looked up a mac and cheese recipe for, you’ll never guess, the Instant Pot. I found this one from Copy Kat, but I made a few changes. Here’s my recipe:

Put in the IP:
two pounds of raw macaroni
eight cups of water
two tablespoons of hot sauce
a good squirt of mustard

Set IP to manual for four minutes.
Get distracted by public radio, hear pot beeping, forget how to work it, decide you might as well vent it now.
Look on in horror as IP sends plume of greasy orange water at the ceiling.

A frothing, foaming, white-hot plumy, greasy, geyser of orange water, and it goes on,
and on,
and on,
and on,
and on.

Finally it stops. Gingerly open the lid, stir up the macaroni.
Discover that the Monterey jack has gone moldy.
Add eight cups — well, seven and a half cups. The baby has made off with a handful of cheese — of shredded mozzarella and a cup of milk. Forget to add butter. Add in a bunch of salt and pepper.

Mix well. Pour into casserole dish, forgetting to butter it first. Spread buttered bread crumbs on top, put in 350 oven until top is toasted.
SUCCESS.
mac and cheese IP
It tasted at least as good as the kind with lots more steps, and it was way faster. And it did not fill the kitchen with dirty pots and pants. The ceiling . . .
yellow ceiling

well, you can always wash the ceiling.

And that’s what became of the wild, wild, wild wild wild west.

What’s for supper? Vol. 68: A peaceful transfer of power, yum yum

At least we still have food.

I cooked my little heart out this week. No particular reason. Next week, it’ll be all hot dogs and heavy drinking, and then we’ll see who transfers what.

Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Bagel, egg, cheese, and sausage sandwiches, frozen hash browns

 

bagel-sandwiches

Great meal for a busy day. I love it.

SUNDAY
Broccoli, cheese, chicken pockets, French onion soup

broccoli-cheese-pockets

There was a recipe, but I made a ton of substitutions, so I’ll just tell you how I made it.

Put oil, salt, and pepper on some chicken breasts and roast them, then slice them.
Cut broccoli into small florets and steam them.
Mix together a tub of French onion dip, a few cups of shredded cheddar cheese and 3/4 cup of pepper jack, and about 1/4 cup of mayo.
Mix the broccoli and chicken in with the cheese mix, then stuff pita pockets with the mixture. (If you open the pita pockets by cutting them open in a straight line, they are more likely to tear, so cut them in a curved line.)

Preheat oven to 350.

Heat up some oil in a skillet and fry the pockets on both sides just until the pita bread is golden brown. Then move the pockets onto a pan in the oven and heat them up until the cheese is melty and nice.

This recipe would make a lot more sense if you already had leftover chicken, which I did not. Kind of a pain in the neck to do all those steps, but it sure tasted good. The kids didn’t like them, probably because I worked hard on them.

We also had sorta French onion soup. I should have done more than glance at the recipe, and I used chicken broth instead of beef, which was a mistake. I forgot to add sugar, and I couldn’t find any cheese, and I was too lazy to make croutons. Still, I spent over an hour hanging out in the afternoon sun, babysitting a heap of onions as they cozied up with melted butter. I regret nothing.

MONDAY
Zuppa Toscana, pumpkin bread

zuppa-toscana

See how it shines? That’s how soup is supposed to look. A shining soupy on a hill.

I fried up some sweet sausage (after squeezing it out of the casings, blushing faintly and calling upon Paul VI for aid and comfort) and fried it up with diced onions and minced garlic. Then I added in some diced up bacon (I still have five boxes of Christmas bacon that I now refuse to give to the poor. Let them start a tax-free savings account and withdraw their bacon from that, the lazies) and some thinly-sliced potatoes with the skin on. Red potatoes would have been good, but regular Idaho whatever was fine.

Then I added in several cups of chicken broth and let it simmer until the potatoes were soft.
Then a ton of half-and-half, and a bunch of chopped-up kale, and more simmering until the kale was soft. I had some mushrooms, but they didn’t seem quite right for this soup, so I skipped them.
A little salt and pepper at the end, and it was really swell. The bacon was fine, but it didn’t actually add much.

Here’s the recipe for pumpkin bread. The crumbs ran off with my can opener, so I was reduced to chopping the can open with a knife that I tapped with the other can of pumpkin, since the crumbs also ran off with my hammer. (Here are directions for how to open a can with a knife.)

pumpkin-bread-fox-plate
Since I needed one can to open the other can, I could only make one can’s worth of bread. This was actually good luck, because, as I always forget, a single recipe makes three loaves of bread. I sprinkled steel cut oats on the top, which was pleasantly crunchy.

This is a sweet, moist, fluffy bread, really almost cake. I usually reduce the sugar somewhat and put nuts or oats on top, so as to pretend it’s not cake.

TUESDAY
Shakshuka, pita 

Shakshuka has been on my radar forever, so I finally tried it. I guess it is Israeli, or maybe North African.

My husband came home unusually early, just in time to see me stirring feta cheese into the tomato sauce. The skepticism in the air was so thick, you could cut it with a knife and then fry it up with garlic, cumin, paprika, pepper flakes, onions, peppers and tomatoes and stir feta cheese into it, then crack some eggs on top and slide it into the oven, then overcook the eggs by just a minute or two, sprinkle parsley and a little hot sauce on top, and serve with pita.

shakshuka

Even my skeptical husband thought it was tasty, and several kids said it was better than they expected it to be, which is sky high praise. It didn’t rock my world, but it was good, very filling, and cheap. Next time I have the time, I’ll make challah. That would be a splendid meal.

Hey, now we have another meatless meal for the rotation, so that’s a win.

WEDNESDAY
Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, salad

I honestly can’t tell if this meatloaf picture looks amazing or horrifying. Look how it glistens!

 . . . look how it glistensssss . . . 

two-meatloaves

Pictures of food are weird.

I more or less followed the Fannie Farmer recipe (using five pounds of ground beef and two pounds of turkey). Feeling impulsive and jazzlike, I embellished the whole thing with ketchup before I put it in the oven. Baked ketchup tastes good on meat. (This is why you read my food posts: Because I have the guts to say stuff like that.) It’s like meat ketchup taffy. (Too far?)

We also had ten pounds of mashed potatoes, which, to my relief, turned out to be too much. Sometimes I feel like there can be no such thing as enough food, but there can.

Here is Corrie coaching Benny on proper mashing technique:

girls-mashing-potatoes

“It HAHHHT!” she counsels. So young, such wisdom.

THURSDAY
Roast chicken drumsticks, rice made with chicken broth, salad, mangoes

chicken-rice-salad-mango
Nothing thrilling, but I felt very good about going from zero to hot meal with vegetable in about 35 minutes. Mangoes keep being on sale.

FRIDAY

Corrie got into this week’s raw pasta, too, so we’ll see.

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 67: Tiramiswho?

It’s a race against time as my battery dies, so never mind the intro, here’s the weekly menu:

SATURDAY
Nachos, root beer floats

Very basic. Tortilla chips, seasoned ground beef, cheese on top, served with sour cream and salsa. No complaints. Oh, I happened to have some cilantro, which I used copiously.

nachos-with-cilantro

I even took some off before taking the picture, because I’m not kidding about the copious, but then I put it on again before eating it. I try hard to taste cilantro as soapy, but it just tastes like freshness, hope, and summertime to me. You are all crazy and I refuse to affirm your stupid life experience.

SUNDAY
Antipasto, fettucine with ragu, garlic bread, tiramisu

Sunday was my husband’s birthday, and he wanted nothing more than to spend the day cooking, so I let him. I also let him take the kids sledding. My generosity is boundless.

The antipasto dish was nothing inspired, just some fresh mozzarella, dry salami, and olives and marinated artichoke hearts, served with pita chips.

The ragu, however, was completely amazing. He used two pounds of ground pork and one of beef, and by the time it was done cooking, the meat was velvety. You will read this recipe and think, “Well, this is just a meat sauce,” but it’s not. Try it, trust me. It’s heavenly.

ragu

 

You could almost feast on the smell alone, but then you also get to eat it! This picture is so sadly inadequate. The worst thing about winter is that by the time it’s dinner time, it’s too dark to take a decent picture with my rotten camera. YES, it’s the WORST THING.

Here is the tiramisu recipe he used. He made it the day before, so it soaked all night. Benny helped him by putting on a tutu and licking the beaters.

benny-licking-mixer

He also grated a chocolate bar over the top before serving.

tiramisu

The tiramisu was perfect. Never had better anywhere. I woke up in the middle of the night with a horrible stab of guilt because I forgot to put birthday candles on it, but I suspect I am the only one losing sleep over that.

MONDAY
Beef vegetable soup, beer bread

This was supposed to be beef barley soup, but I forgot to put barley in. It had a great flavor, but it was weird to have an obvious missing ingredient. It was like listening to someone with a not-unpleasant speech impediment. It doesn’t bother you, but it’s hard not to keep noticing it.

I fried up minced garlic with diced onions and carrots in a little olive oil, then added strips of a chuck roast or something, and fried that until it was almost done.
Then I added a can of diced tomatoes, a few cups of beef broth, a bunch of red wine, and a bunch of sliced mushrooms and some pepper, and let be cozy in the slow cooker all day.

We also had two loaves of beer bread, which I got my teenage daughter to make. For reasons I trust I don’t need to explain, we had some leftover chocolate bock (ptui, ptui) in the house. I mean that I trust I don’t need to explain the “leftover,” as in “undrunk,” as in “not ever,” as in “chocolate? Why would you do that to beer?” part. I can explain why it was in the house in the first place, but my battery is dying fast and I don’t have a charger today. So I’ll just give you the recipe and let you know that beer bread tastes fine with chocolate bock, and getting baked for an hour is a fitting sentence for the crime of being chocolate bock.

TUESDAY
Chicken nuggets, baked potatoes, peas

All undercooked! I like to have a theme.

WEDNESDAY
Slow cooker sweet and sour chicken mango wraps, rice

This was my new recipe for the week, from A Year of Slow Cooking. I liked it! I’m predisposed to like this website because she’s got several recipes tagged as “flops,” to warn you away from trying them. I appreciate that approach to cooking and to blogging.

I made one crock with just the jam and soy sauce, for very mild chicken for timid children, and one with all the stuff, jalapenos and ginger and everything. The flavor was great. I took a terrible picture which will probably dissuade you from trying it, but I recommend this dish.

chicken-mango-wrap

It would, as the website says, make a nice light summer meal. I also bought some spinach-imbued wraps for those who can’t see their way to clear to wrapping up meat in lettuce, and those were good, too.

THURSDAY
Quesadillas, chips, carrots

I had “grilled ham and cheese” on the menu, but I bought shredded cheese, apparently thinking of quesadillas, so that’s what we had, because there are always millions of tortillas in the house. Benny insisted on grilled ham. No cheese, just hot bread with ham in it.

FRIDAY
Giant pancake, scrambled eggs

 

BYE, WEEK. I HATED YOU.

And now I have a yen for some new kind of meat soup. Who’s got something exciting for me to try?

What’s for supper? Vol. 62: So near, and yet so farro

I’m fat, it’s cold, my dreams are all tragic, and nothing ever gets done. Must be December. Come along with me, won’t you?



SATURDAY

Pizza, birthday cake 

Birthday party! Birthday girl asked for pizza after a Frozen-themed party. This was pretty easy to pull off, thanks to the Dollar Tree’s seasonal aisle. Decorations were blue table cloths, white tissue paper garlands and cotton balls strung on thread to make snow:

benny-and-ainslie

and some blue punch in my spectacular new $2 punch bowl from the Salivation Army.

I got a bunch of plastic and foam snowflakes, plus blue and white plastic gems, sparkly pipe cleaners, and a bunch of spools of ribbon, and the kids made snowflake wands.

wand-craft

I like doing a craft at the beginning of a party, to help break the ice and give the kids something to do while they’re waiting for everyone to show up. It’s also nice when your sister drives three+ hours to get to the party, and then you immediately hand her a hot glue gun.

Or, it gives you something to be haughty and suspicious about, depending on your mood.

corrie-frozen-party

Some of the guests had wheat allergies, so we made two cakes and decorated them with marshmallow creme, mini marshmallows, sparkly decorator’s sugar, and “broken glass” candy for ice.

So, marshmallow creme is very easy to use, and makes a lovely, smooth, alpine surface, very much like a heavy snow kissed by the wintery sun. The only catch is that it’s such a smooth surface, it tends to keep slowly flowing long after you’ve already achieved the effect you like.

cake-2

Bloop. This can be passed off as intentional when it’s just the top layer that’s in motion, but when the marshmallow is between layers, the top tier of cake may just migrate right off the plate and onto the floor, tra la la. So you may want to secure the the tiers in place with dowels or skewers or

cake-3

whatever you have on hand before you finish decorating it.

Here’s the other cake, which is chock full of splintery skewers and cussing:

cake-1

These cakes were supposed to have little Frozen figurines on top, but of course the only one we could find on party day was Sven, who happened to be headless. So we just shoved some candles in and sang louder. Kid loved it.

The broken glass candy is a pain in the neck to make (it’s not hard to make, but it takes forever to get up to the right temperature), but it’s useful for all kinds of things, like a campfire cake:

campfire-cake

or just a general angst cake:

broken-glass-cake

And actually that’s probably about it.

It’s really hard to get it to come out clear, so it’s best to plan to add food coloring. Now you know how I spend my evenings, besides drinking.


SUNDAY
Hamburgers, chips

This is our standard “don’t worry about supper” meal from Mr. Husband when we’re super busy. Hamburgers are good.


MONDAY
Chicken tortilla soup, corn bread

I liked Pioneer Woman’s chicken tortilla soup very, very much, and was pleased to see that she has a slow cooker version. SO EASY. You throw the chicken breasts in raw and whole, along with everything else, and shred them up after the soup is done cooking. Just delicious. I skipped the adobo chipotle peppers, because the kids are getting sick of spicy food.

tortilla-soup-and-cornbread

I ran out of cumin, so I used a premixed packet of taco spice for one pot. The non-premade-spice pot was slightly nicer, but they were both good. I used two breasts per recipe, not the three she calls for, and it was plenty chickenfull.

This is the cornbread recipe I use. I run a pat of butter over the top when it comes out of the oven, to give it a pretty sheen.

Can I just? Spellcheck has no problem with “chickenfull.” Hey, fork yuo to, spellchick.


TUESDAY
Grilled ham and cheese pita pockets, salad, cheezy weezies

I love grilled pita pockets. So nice. I fried them in a little olive oil, and they get the thinnest little bit of crunch on the outside, but stay chewy on the inside. So nice.


WEDNESDAY
Cheesy chicken rice broccoli casserole

On the menu this week was chicken farro salad with beets and feta. I’m telling this so you will understand how well I do, considering I spend most of my days working around this long, deep, and wide streak of idiocy I have.

See, I know perfectly well that I’m the only one in the house who likes beets, and even I don’t like them very much. Plus, the recipe calls for you to include the beet greens, and you have to blanch them first. I want to go to my grave without ever having blanched anything.

But in case my death-without-blanching doesn’t keep me busy enough, I’d also like, please, to spend a certain amount of time waiting for the hipster supermarket stock boy to decide that he’s ignored me for long enough, and now he can smirk stupidly and agree that, yup, it’s pretty hard to find farro, smirky smirk.

I left in a snit, cherishing the fantasy that, even though I couldn’t find farro on my three-hour, four-store shopping trip, I could probably just zip by Farro-B-Us and easily pick some up on the way home from school at some point.

Which I could not. Pasta, then! But we had no pasta. Fine, then rice will do.

Well, we are out of rice, aren’t we.

So I borrowed some rice from the Christmas box my daughter was planning to deliver to Vincent de Paul. Yes, I did. Then I took the overpriced beets out of the refrigerator, thought one last time about blanching, and threw them away. Vincent de Paul would have been so proud.

Then I cooked up a bunch of rice, poached a bunch of chicken, and mixed it together with some leftover steamed broccoli I found in the back of the fridge, and then searched around for the Cream of Anger soup I knew there must be in the back of the cabinet. There wasn’t. SO I WENT TO THE STORE ANYWAY, and bought two cans (one cream of chicken, one cream of mushroom, because apparently I can’t read), and also some more broccoli, because I noticed that the broccoli I had already mixed into this misbegotten casserole from hell had gone spoiled, making the entire kitchen smell like an olfactory illustration of my state of mind.

Then I shredded in some cheese, spread buttered panko crumbs on the top, and crammed it in the oven.

And guess what? It looked like this:

casserole-2

but it tasted exactly like this:

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-10-18-05-am

Everyone loved it, which made me feel even worse.

I’m not mad at anyone. I’m just mad, okay?


THURSDAY
Hot dogs, cookies

I already told you about Thursday.

Oh, the cookies my daughter made were these foolproof sugar cookies that you can roll and cut and which require no refrigeration. She put a thumbprint in each one and added a spoonful of jelly, but you can all kinds of things with these cookies. They don’t taste like much, but they make a great smooth canvas for decorating.

The original plan was to make stained glass cookies. You make standard sugar cookies with a cut-out in the middle, and bake them until they are set, but not browned. Then you carefully spoon crushed hard candies into the cut-out and finish baking for the last few minutes. The candy is supposed to melt and make a stained glass effect.

But it turned out we didn’t have parchment paper to line the pan, so I shut that down. Last time we made these, I thought tin foil would work. Which it does, as long as you like foily cookies that wake up your tooth nerves.

I had already crushed up the candy, though, so I funnelled it into a bowl for later use. This morning, I found Corrie sitting at the table with said bowl and a spoon, having a fine, crunchy breakfast for herself.


FRIDAY
Fish tacos; tortilla chips

Fish sticks, shredded cabbage, avocados, lime juice, cilantro, sour cream, and salsa on tortillas.

I just realized I forgot to buy avocados. Well, goodbye.

What’s for supper? Vol. 9: Tortellini Entropy and Bread Machine Challah

whats for supper

My mother used to eat leftovers for lunch, and sometimes for breakfast. Her method was to take whatever she could find, put it in a pot, douse it with the salsa that she bought by the half-gallon, and stir until it was all hot and horrible. You may think that she did this just so she wouldn’t have to share it with her eight locust children, but she actually liked it that way!  Although there is that disconcerting thing that happens to you when you’ve been a mother for a while, when you honestly can’t remember if you like something, or if you’ve just put up with it until it feels familiar, and that’s close enough.

Question of the week: Do you have a crazy food combination that only you think is delicious?

SATURDAY
OMELETTES; HASH BROWNS

Omelettes (mushroom, leftover ham from last week, and cheese) and frozen hash browns, served with a shining lake of ketchup.

There are really only a few times when I feel like we have a really big family. When I stand over the counter cracking 36 eggs into a bowl is one of those times.

food blog eggs

I always catch myself thinking, “Why don’t they sell giant bulk egg?” I know they sell bags of frozen egg product, but can’t someone just make chickens bigger, so I can just be like, “I’ll take one egg, please, 48-oz. size, and a hammer. And this lamp, and that’s all I need.”

 

SUNDAY
HAMBURGERS; CHIPS; ICE CREAM SUNDAES

Hamburgers! Chips! Ice cream sundaes! I’m the best mother ever. Also I let them eat donuts

food blog donuts

 

and ice off the wading pool

 

food blog ice

 

MONDAY
SPINACH TOMATO TORTELLINI SOUP; QUICK GARLIC CHEESE BREAD

This meal had such promise. The soup (recipe from Damn Delicious) was very fast to throw together, but it would have tasted much better if we had eaten it right away. But I made it in the morning and let it simmer all day, out of soup habit, and by the time we ate it, tortellini entropy had set in, and the spinach was not a pleasant color. I’ll make this recipe again, but I won’t overcook it.

And next time I won’t BURN IT *sob*. So depressing. I kept telling myself I couldn’t really taste the burn, but people who can’t taste burn don’t have to say things like that to themselves.

Does this look burnt? WELL, IT IS.

Does this look burnt? WELL, IT IS.

 

The quick garlic cheese bread was quick, and it was bread. I know it was also garlic and cheese because I put those ingredients in with my own two paws, but you sure couldn’t taste either garlic or cheese. It’s good to know there is a quick bread that doesn’t taste like dessert, but I’ll keep looking for a different recipe.  And someday, oh someday, I will master the art of Mixing Batter All the Way Down, so I don’t get Surprise Flour.

 

food blog cheese bread

So these are my new silicone pans! They were $2.99 at Aldi. All my loaf pans are rusty and gross, so I thought this would be a good time to find out if silicone is really so great. So far so good! The loaves popped right out, no trouble. My hope is that some kind of horrible petrochemical leeches into our food and we all turn into monstrous hybrids, half human, half Aldi loaf pan.

TUESDAY 
AMAZING SQUASH PORK FOOD

Either I invented something amazing, or I was very, very hungry on Tuesday.

Acorn squash mashed with butter and brown sugar,
topped with raw red onions,
topped with pulled pork,
topped with barbeque sauce,
shoved into my face with unseemly groaning noises.

Yeah, I was probably just hungry.

 

WEDNESDAY
NACHOS; RICE

According to local son Moe Fisher, “They were so good! I ate until I almost puked!” No picture was available at publication.

 

THURSDAY
PIZZA

We tried Aldi pizza dough for the first time. It stretched pretty well, and it tasted okay.  Kind of tough, but I never know if that’s a bad thing, or just a style of pizza dough. Anyway, it was cheap! I know you can make your own pizza dough, but I don’t feel like it. We make four extra large pizzas.

Oh, that reminds me, I saw an unspeakable thing at Hannaford (which is where I usually buy pizza dough) in the pizza ingredients section:

Bacon Dust Vegetarian Pizza Dough.

Yes. That is what it said. With those words together in one line on the label, like they actually meant something edible.

I tried to find a picture of it, but the closest I could come was this:

bacon dust vegetarian pizza dough

Does it make me a jerk that I didn’t blank out the guy’s name? It’s only because I think he’s a hero, that’s all.

 

FRIDAY
SHAKSHUKA; CHALLAH; SWEET PEPPERS and HUMMUS

 

NYT:

Shakshuka may be at the apex of eggs-for-dinner recipes, though in Israel it is breakfast food, a bright, spicy start to the day with a pile of pita or challah served on the side. (It also makes excellent brunch or lunch food.) It’s a one-skillet recipe of eggs baked in a tomato-red pepper sauce spiced with cumin, paprika and cayenne. First you make that sauce, which comes together fairly quickly on top of the stove, then you gently crack each of the eggs into the pan, nestling them into the sauce. The pan is moved into the oven to finish. Shakshuka originated in North Africa, and like many great dishes there are as many versions as there are cooks who have embraced it. This one strays from more traditional renditions by adding crumbled feta cheese, which softens into creamy nuggets in the oven’s heat.

I’ve never made shakshuka before, but I’ve been assured it’s delicious, especially if you are drunk. Does it count if I wish I were? Here is the recipe we’re going to use.

Since some of the kids have the day off school, we’re going to seize the opportunity of actually being home, and make some challas to go with it. Here is a recipe for making the dough in your bread machine. (I don’t think that your bread machine will braid it for you, though, so you should do that part yourself.)

In the bucket of the bread machine, in this order, put:

1 1/2 cups warm water

1/2 cup oil

2 eggs

6 cups flour (I used bread flour – not sure how important that is)

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp. salt

Make a dent in the top and put in

1 1/2 tsp. bread machine yeast

 

Set it to knead the dough.  Watch the dough ball — it should be smooth and elastic and not stick to the sides.  Add water or flour if necessary.

When the dough is done, divide it into four pieces.  Roll three pieces into snakes and braid them together, pinching it together at the ends.  Take the fourth piece, divide it into three, and braid it, too — then lay the smaller braid on top of the larger one.

Grease a baking pan and sprinkle it with corn meal.  Lay the loaf in the pan, cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth, and let it rise in a warm place until it’s almost double in size.

Beat 2-3 egg yolks up with a little water and brush the egg wash over the loaf.  Sprinkle it with poppy seeds.

Bake uncovered in 350 oven for 20 minutes until the loaf is a deep golden brown.

You can slice it or tear it into hunks.

***

Okay, I probably wouldn’t have chosen a new recipe and homemade bread for Friday if I had remembered that we’re having a Hobbit birthday party on Saturday, but there it is. We are using a few ideas from An Unexpected Cookbook: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery.

unexpected cookbook

You know I’ll let you know how it comes out, whether you care or not.

***

Last week, I skipped the InLinkz button, because it was giving me grief, and I didn’t think there was much demand for it anyway; but I’d be happy to put it back if people want. What do you guys think?  I’ll keep up the Friday food posts either way.

Don’t forget the question of the week!

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 8: The Fanciest Soup Picture I Have Ever Taken

whats for supper

Question of the week:
What childhood meal are you always trying to recreate?

For me, it’s beef stroganoff. I’ve used lots of different recipes, many fancier than the one my mother used, but I haven’t been able to get it to taste quite as good. Maybe the missing ingredient is walking home from school, trudging up the hill in the snow (we really did live on top of a big hill!), slogging up the porch steps, opening the front door, and stepping into a warm cloud of stroganoff aroma. Mmmmmmmmm.

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, potato chips

Like I said, grilled ham and cheese, potato chips. We did some prep work for the Sunday meal: I made the risotto for the suppli, and Damien prepped the pork roast so it could sit overnight.

 

SUNDAY
Columbus Day Feast!

Porchetta Pork  I had my doubts about this recipe, because I don’t like that licorice smell of fennel; but by the time it came out of the oven, it had melded together with a symphony of other smells and flavors, and it was

food blog roast pork 2
it was

 

was

 

wa

oh, sorry, I fell into a short coma thinking about how this pork tasted.

Suppli. I made 28. They looked great, because I didn’t crowd them in the pan for once;

food blog suppli frying
but I was so determined to prevent them from falling apart in the pan that I chilled the risotto too long, and the cheese in the middle didn’t melt completely, even after I put them in the oven after frying. Kind of sad. Still delicious.

Caprese Salad (fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil leaves drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper)

food blog caprese salad
(this photo is blurry because my eyes glazed over with desire)

and Bruschetta with two kinds of pesto (from jars) and marinated artichokes.
Not the most coherent combination of foods, and it was funny to have an Italian meal without any pasta, but it was all good stuff.

Dessert:

Lemon and strawberry ices.
We were supposed to have cannoli, but no one in town had cannoli shells. I did findthis list of 22 things to do with cannoli filling, but didn’t have time. I would gladly devour any of these.

 

MONDAY
French Toast Casserole, Cantaloupe, Leftovers

Last time I shared  a French toast casserole recipe, I shared the wrong one. I like this one better. I also recommend not using rye bread or tortillas. Bleh.

Cantaloupe: I have recently discovered that it’s faster to take the fruit off the peel than vice versa. So you cut the cantaloupe into quarters, scoop out the seeds, and then slice a grid into the fruit, making sure you go all the way down to the rind. Then you just slide the knife in the end and make the final cut to separate all the chunks from the rind.


Making sure, of course, to be careful where you point your knife.

Seppuku-2

“Seppuku-2″ by signed Kunikazu Utagawa (歌川 国員), pupil of Kunisada – scan of photograph of ukiyoe woodblock print now in my possession, original work by artist kunikazu utagawa. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – 

TUESDAY 
Ham and mashed potatoes

And the dog said, “O fair and mighty goddess of ham, I abase myself before thee! Ohhh, do I abase myself!”

food blog boomer ham
P.S. Can I start a Gofundme for a new kitchen floor? Echh.

 

WEDNESDAY
Frozen chicken burgers, cheez puffs or something, and salad

See that? Salad!

applause sign

Image by darkuncle (license)

THURSDAY
Chicken Tortilla Soup and Cornbread Muffins

Tortilla soup:

I wouldn’t say I followed this recipe from Pioneer Woman, so much as I skulked around in its general vicinity. I skipped a few ingredients, made a few substitutions, eyeballed measurements, and more or less just chucked everything in together at once. It was DELICIOUS. We put sour cream on top. Just fantastic.

I like how she says

Cut the tortillas into uniform 2- to 3-inch strips. Stir most of them into the soup just before serving. This is what makes tortilla soup tortilla soup!

This is why she’s the expert and you’re just an idiot.

But check out this picture I took! It is easily the fanciest soup picture I have ever taken:

food blog tortilla soup
Corn muffins:

Clara made the corn bread muffins from the recipe on the side of the Quaker container . What do you call a cylindrical cardboard container, anyway? I feel like there is a word.

I tried to take a photo of her holding the fruits of her labor, so of course Irene shoved in and gave the corn muffins bunny ears, because CAMERA.

food blog clara corn muffins(1)

FRIDAY
Spaghetti with jarred sauce, salad

Just resting on my homemade soup laurels.

***

There you have it. Don’t forget the question of the week! And if you link up, please do link back to this post. Happy weekend!

What’s for supper? Vol. 5: Shut up, bouillon cubes. You don’t know me.

whats for supper

First, I just wanted to check in with you guys, because I worry.

The last thing I wanted to do was make one more place on the internet where women go to feel bad. That’s not what these posts are, are they? It was just supposed to be a place to talk about food: the triumphs, the tragedies, the baloney sandwiches. Not a place to feel bad!

If you don’t feel like listing/aren’t capable of remembering/are too ashamed to admit what you ate this week, here’s a quick way to participate, without even going into your weekly menu:

 

FOOD QUESTION OF THE WEEK

What is the kitchen task you absolutely hate, whether there’s a good reason or not?

Me? I hate unwrapping bouillon cubes. Maybe it’s because if I’m making some kind of meal that requires broth, I feel like it should be quick and easy because I’m cheating by using bouillon cubes; but it’s impossible to unwrap ten bitsy little cubes quickly, and I resent every last second of it.

The solution is, of course, to buy powdered bouillon, but I don’t want to, okay?
The other solution is . . . BENNY!

food blog bouillon
Benny loves to unwrap bouillon cubes. I recommend getting a Benny of your own. In other news, this is the week I finally started going to therapy, because I’ve decided that forty years of getting overwhelmed by things like unwrapping bouillon cubes is about enough. (Probably doesn’t help that my mug says “Looks like it’s time to hang it up!” Shut up, mug. You don’t know me.)

And now, onto the weekly menu.

 

SATURDAY
CHICKEN SHAWARMA; FRIED EGGPLANT WITH YOGURT SAUCE; ROOT BEER FLOATS

When Iron Man says, “I don’t know what shawarma is, but I’ve always wanted to try it,” I thought, “Me, neither. And ME TOO!”

Most days, I’m the lady in black tights mopping up (except that I never mop), but this Saturday, we all got to be the Avengers.

Oh, the shawarma. You guys, it was easy to make, and it was one of those foods that makes you feel like your head is going to fall off because it just can’t handle this level of deliciousness, but you pull yourself together because you made ten pounds of it but it’s going fast.

food blog shawarma

I was so disappointed in how this picture turned out. It just looks like food lying on a plate. The reality was . . . so much more.

I used this recipe from the New York Times Cooking page: Oven-Roasted Chicken Shawarma. True shawarma is meat roasted on a spit, but it’s hard to imagine it tasting any better than this. I didn’t have any tumeric, but the internet tells me you can live without tumeric, and so we did.

The recipe for fried eggplant, it turns out, is basically this: Take some eggplant, and fry it. For a few more details, here’s the recipe I used, from “Almost Turkish Recipes.”
The sauce for the eggplant, which was also great on the shawarma, was plain yogurt with some mayonnaise mixed in, plus fresh garlic and lemon juice.

I had to restrain myself from buying anything that looked delicious and vaguely middle eastern, but I settled for several kinds of olives, chopped cucumbers, triangles of pita, and a hummus party tray from Aldi. It really could have used some feta cheese, and something with tomatoes to go with all the spicy, savory and creamy stuff. Either just tomatoes, or a tomato-based sauce.

We were a little baffled about dessert. Something authentic would probably have involved dates or sesame seeds, and no one was too enthusiastic about that. So we went with root beer floats. Perfect.

This is definitely going on the rotation. It’s fairly time-consuming (especially since I had ten pounds of chicken thighs to skin, bone, and trim), and you need to plan ahead to marinate everything, and the side dishes got pricey in large quantities; but everyone loved it, and in would be fantastic for a dinner party. We ate every last scrap.

 

SUNDAY
MEATBALL SUBS WITH FRIED ONIONS; SALAD; ICE CREAM

Saturday was one of those “I’m glued to the steering wheel” days, so I threw theFannie Farmer meatball recipe at my 14-year-old daughter and her friend, and they did a great job turning five pounds of meat into 80 meatballs, which we served on rolls with jarred sauce and fried onions. Fried green peppers would have been good, too, but we ran out of time.

food blog meatballs and onions

Rather than frying up the meatballs, I put them on broiler pans and cook them at 400. It’s much easier and faster if you’re making a lot, and the grease drains off, and you don’t fill the kitchen with smoke. They also keep their round shape, which is important to me for some reason.

food blog meatballs

If you are feeling ambitious, the greatest meatball recipe in all the world is from Henry Hill from Goodfellas. Damien makes these sometimes, and they are heavenly, assuming heaven involves meatballs, which it does.

 

MONDAY
HAM; MASHED POTATOES; STRING BEANS

Great make-ahead dinner. Already-cooked ham was 89 cents a pound, so I bought a big one and sliced it up ahead of time and put it in a casserole dish to be reheated. Made about eight pounds of mashed potatoes and put that in another casserole dish to be reheated. Two bags of frozen string beans, and you have a dinner that looks like dinner is supposed to look, even though I was on the radio at dinner hour.

A nice way to cook string beans is to steam them, then toss with pepper, lemon juice, and sliced almonds. Easy and delicious.

 

TUESDAY
CHICKEN BURGERS, CHIPS, SALAD

This is a “You guys go eat, Mama’s going to go lie down and let the baby hit me in the face for a while” meal. Does the trick.

mama and corrie are tired

 

WEDNESDAY
BEEF BARLEY SOUP; BEER BREAD

Because it’s fall, so we can have soup! 87 degrees, but still, fall!

I make soup all wrong, but I don’t care. Also, I used steak instead of stew meat, because it was cheaper. To satisfy my thrill-seeking gene, I play fast and loose with rules about cuts of meat.

Basic beef barley soup recipe:

2 lbs beef
two carrots
one large onion
six cloves of garlic
two small cans of diced tomatoes
3/4 cup wine
eight cups of beef broth
red wine
about a pound of mushrooms
2/3 cup uncooked barley

I diced the meat and threw it in a heavy pan with some olive oil, diced onions, diced carrots, and crushed garlic.
When the meat was almost done, I put it in a pot, and added a bunch of beef broth, some water, two cans of diced tomatoes with the juice, and a few glugs of wine, plus sliced mushrooms, then let it simmer all day.
About 40 minutes before dinner, I added the barley, then seasoned it before serving.

Remember, barley isn’t like rice or pasta — it needs extra time to get tender. This soup is also great with farro, or you could add small pasta, like orzo, or even rice.
This does NOT need extra salt, because the broth is salty; but lots of pepper and maybe some red pepper flakes are nice. You could also add celery, string beans, or whatever vegetables you have lurking about.

food blog beer bread

Here’s the recipe for beer bread. This turns out great every single time. I mixed the dry ingredients ahead of time, and added the beer right before it was time to put in the oven, so it felt like it took no time at all to make.

Benny saw me pour a half cup of butter over the batter, and said, “Oh, dat is beautiful.” Dat’s my girl.

 

THURSDAY
TERIYAKI PORK STIR FRY OF GUILT; RICE

Another “Mama’s dying; here’s some meat” day. This time, one of my other teenage daughters saved the day.
Slice up a bunch of pork, saute it, drain the juice, steam a bunch of frozen veggies, mix them together with some bottled teriyaki sauce, and serve with white rice.

food blog stir fry

She took this picture. Is it just me, or do those fancy-cut carrots look like they’re looking down on me? Shut up, carrots. You don’t know me.

 

FRIDAY
TUNA BURGERS, CHIPS or FROZEN FRIED; ONE VERY TIRED SALAD

This is what’s on the menu today.

Tuna burger recipe:
One can of tuna, drained, plus half a cup of bread crumbs and one beaten egg.
Mix together, form into two patties, fry in a little oil.

Dense and serviceable; suitable as bachelor chow. I’m sure you can fancy this up in some way with chives or what have you, but I’ll let you figure that out.

***
I noticed that last week, the InLinz link-up didn’t include thumbnails, and you had to click through to see other links. That’s what I get for not reading the fine print. Should be fixed now! Thanks to everyone who forged ahead and left a link anyway. I am really enjoying these windows into other people’s kitchens. Because I like to look into other people’s windows. Shut up, you don’t know me!

Leave a comment or a link, and don’t forget to link back here! And don’t let the bouillon cubes get you down. They don’t know you.

I refuse to worry about what my kids eat for dinner.

boy eating beet for some reason

If you were a better mom, this would be your kid.

Today, I’m making Zuppa Toscana. When I share recipes I’m trying, people often ask, “Will your kids really eat that?” The answer is: some of them, yeah. Some of them, no way. A few of them, maybe. And I am fine with that. I have two goals when I serve a meal: at least half the family should eat it, and mealtimes should be reasonably pleasant.

My policy is: I decide what to cook, and they decide whether or not to eat it.

We don’t have food battles (or food cold wars). We don’t save plates of untasted food and keep serving them, meal after meal, until the child consents to take just one bite. I know that other parents have done some variation of this, in hopes that a child will eventually begin to develop a taste for some nutritious or delicious food. But I’ve found that learning to eat new foods is a lot like learning to read or learning to use the toilet: you can either teach the kid when he’s ready, or you can teach and teach and teach and teach a kid until he’s ready — but either way, it ain’t gonna happen if he’s not ready.

I guess it’s possible that an especially serene parent would be able to patiently, consistently insist that a child try some despised food ten thousand times; but I do not possess that serenity, and things would get ugly fast. I’m already warping my kids enough over other issues. I don’t need to add “But WHY don’t you like kale?” to the list. The table is no place for guilt trips or power struggles.

So, I bring a dish to the table, and I ask each kid individually if he wants some. They have to say either “yes, please” or “no, thank you” — no retching noises or horrible faces allowed. If they want it, great. If they don’t want it, I just move along. With this approach, and with the passive peer pressure of older kids visibly enjoying different foods, I’ve had kids refuse a dish fifty times, and then gradually develop a taste for it, with no prodding or nagging from me.

If they don’t want what I’m serving, they are allowed to fill up on side dishes or fix themselves toast, eggs, a sandwich, cereal, or leftovers.  A child as young as four or five can get himself a simple meal.

Wait, wait! Don’t I want them to be healthy? And don’t I want to avoid wasting time and money on cooking foods that no one will eat?  Sure. This is why I aim for meals that at least some of them will eat. But I don’t worry about each kid having a balanced meal three times a day. I don’t even worry about having a balanced diet each day. I take the week-long view: as long as they have a reasonably nourishing, balanced diet over the course of the week, that is good enough.

And sometimes kids will just eat one food for a long, long time. This is common, and it is fine. Just keep offering a variety of foods and not making a big deal out of it. Give your kids daily vitamins to make up whatever deficits are in their diet, and don’t keep a lot of complete crap in the house for them to fill up on.  They will survive, and there will be peace in your house. As long as your kids have energy and are growing normally, there is nothing to worry about.

There is (probably) something beyond picky eating called Selective Eating Disorder, where adults not only won’t but can’t get themselves to eat more than a few, bland, nutritionally questionable foods; but I’m 99% sure your kid is not developing this disorder. Keep this in mind: the eating disorder researcher in the article says “Kids are at greater risk of becoming picky adults ‘anytime the food environment is coercive or tense.’” So avoiding that situation should be your first focus if your child is a picky eater.

To sum up: offer variety. Don’t cater to them too much. Don’t make a big stinking deal out of it. Take the nutritional long view. And if they don’t like the tasty soup you made? More for you!