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
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.

 

5 from 2 votes
Print

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
Print

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. 324: O tempora, o meatballs

What a weird week!  Anyone else having a weird week? Just a weird ol’ week. But I just opened the curtains and there was a bluebird sitting on roof of the shed. First one I’ve seen this year. Bluebirds are neat. They’re a little bit boisterous, but very graceful, and they are happy to hang around in gangs at the feeder, without chasing other birds away. Very decorative birds, always a welcome visitor. 

Here’s a slow mo video I took last year:

Anyway, here’s what we had while boistrously hanging around our feeder: 

SATURDAY
Chicago style hot dogs, chips

These were not quite 100% authentic, which would require poppy seed buns, some kind of bright green relish, and sport peppers, but we did have tomatoes, pickled peppers, relish, mustard, pickle spears, chopped onion, and celery salt. 

Really delicious. I got the idea for this from that meme that says the existence of a Chicago style hot dog implies the existence of an MLA style hot dog, which is a silly joke, but on the other hand, mmm, hot dogs. 

SUNDAY
Steak, pork dumplings, cheesecake, strawberry ice cream

Sunday was my favorite husband’s birthday, so we had some of his favorite foods. He cooked steaks for everyone, pan fried in butter with garlic

(sorry, I know it’s Friday, sorry!)

and I used the pork dumpling filling I had stashed in the freezer from New Year’s Eve which is this recipe. I had seen one of those amazing videos where someone’s twinkling fingers forms dumplings into all kinds of beguiling shapes with a few simple pinches and folds, and woop! You have a dahlia and a lotus and a pinwheel. So even though I had dumpling wrappers that were fairly stiff and paper-like, and the video showed dumpling dough that was soft and pliable, I thought, “I CAN DO THAT.” 

Friends, I could not.

But I gave it the old college try, and I did get some raw pork on my phone. And then I went back to using my dumpling press, which works great. So everyone had steamed dumplings while waiting for their steaks. In fact, I had leftover filling after I used up all the wrappers, so I added some panko bread crumbs and made little meatballs

so some people had little birthday meatballs.

I also made a bunch of strawberry ice cream

following the Ben and Jerry recipe, which always turns out light and sweet and lovely 

Jump to Recipe

and I made a gigantic cheesecake. I have been sworn to secrecy about the particulars of this recipe, but LOOK AT MY CHEESECAKE

I think this is the first time I’ve achieved no cracks. I put all the ingredients out to come to room temperature the night before; I mixed it very lightly, so as to introduce as little air as possible, and scraped down the bowl often; and I baked it in a water bath, and then turned off the oven and let it sit in the cooling oven for a few hours before I took it out and started to chill it. 

It was luscious.

I wish I had started 24 hours sooner, so I could have chilled it over night after baking it, but it was rich and smooth and lovely, and about a mile high. 

MONDAY
One-pan garlic chicken thighs and roast veg

I used to make these one-pan chicken thigh meals a lot, and got kind of burnt out on them, so I backed off for a while. I guess it’s been long enough, because this was very popular.

Jump to Recipe

You can add whatever vegetables you want. My advice is to think about how long they need to cook, and try to cut them to the appropriate thickness, so they end up done at the same time. 

I used about three pounds of potatoes with the skin on and few zucchinis and half a large butternut squash in wedges. In this variation, you season the vegetables, then lay the chicken on top and brush them (well, really smear them, as it’s pretty thick) with a garlicky brown sugar sauce, and then just chunk it in the oven. 

Quite tasty. The sugar runs down into the pan and caramelizes the bottom of the potatoes, giving them a nice little crunch, and the chicken is juicy and the vegetables are tender. 

TUESDAY
Meatball subs, fries

I wish I could remember what I did to these meatballs, because they were much better than my usual meatballs. Humph. I have become aware that I tend to underseason things, so possibly I just took a heavier hand with everything I sprinkled. 

I briefly considered pan frying them, but then I remembered the shortness of life and just threw them on a broiler pan and baked them in a hot oven like I usually do, then transferred them to a crock pot with plenty of jarred sauce.

Good enough for the likes of us. O tempora, o meatballs. 

WEDNESDAY
Chili verde, chips and pico de gallo, cornbread, pineapple, vanilla and peach-mango ice cream

On Wednesday, our friend Fr. Matt from Louisiana came for supper! My chili verde recipe

Jump to Recipe

is reasonably spicy, and calls for specific peppers. Well, the supermarket didn’t have those specific peppers. It just had bags of mixed peppers called “hot pepper combo” or something, and the label was one of those “may contain one or more of the following.” This is what I got:

I liked the looks of that, so I roasted them. I also tweaked my recipe a bit and roasted the onions and garlic along with them, rather than putting them onions and garlic into the food processor raw

then I puréed it all up with some cilantro, browned up a good amount of fatty, salted and peppered pork chunks in oil, and —

here is the point where I was already several hours behind schedule, because the school called to say that Benny had bruised her eyeball, and what should they do??? I had no idea, so I spent the new few hours calling various doctors and trying to get an appointment with the right person, and sending a kid to the store with a list of stuff I forgot to buy, and making other kids clean up the hideous house because we are really still in shock from Christmas and the house was looking PRETTY ROUGH, and by the time I got back to my chili, it was laaate. So I threw it in the Instant Pot, because it could tenderize the meat faster.

Unless, of course, the Instant Pot float valve is mysteriously missing. Which it was. So I put everything back in the regular non-instant pot, hoped it would cook fast enough, whizzed through making some corn bread (I just used the recipe on the package, which is fine)

and some pico de gallo

Jump to Recipe

and rescued the kitchen from complete squalor, and then one kid went to pick up some of the kids, and I called the school to tell them to tell Benny to wait for me to pick her up, and we went to the eye doctor and her eye is fine, thank God, just a little creepy; and when I got home, the chili was, if I may say so, perfect. The pork shredded readily with a wooden spoon

and when Fr. Matt got here, we had a lovely meal. 

I made two kinds of ice cream: Plain vanilla, which is just two eggs, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 cups milk, one cup heavy cream, and a dash of vanilla; and then I wanted to make mango, which I made for our anniversary baked alaska, but I couldn’t find mango pulp anywhere. (Here’s the recipe anyway, in case you can.)

Jump to Recipe

In theory, you can use your big brain and make mango pulp by pureeing mango, but I was being smart (even bigger brain time), and I knew that was a bridge too far. Just altogether too much work, and I definitely didn’t have time for that. So instead (tiny brain time) I went to the other store and bought some canned peaches, and pureed those, and also bought some fresh mangos and cut them up and macerated them in sugar with (possible big brain?) a little ground cloves. 

The ice cream was . . . fine. I think peach and mango would have been fine, and peach and mango and cloves might possibly have worked, but peach, mango, cloves, and onion . . . now that really is a bridge too far. Yep, everyone was too polite to mention it, but I had cut the mangos up on the wooden cutting board and they had picked up an undeniable onion flavor (very tiny brain). Oh well! That’s why I made vanilla (big brain, with vanilla ice cream on top).

THURSDAY
Old Bay drumsticks, risotto, leftover cornbread

On Thursday I collapsed like a bunch of broccoli. I did something I almost never do: I got the kids to school (which took two trips, because one kid promised twice that she was awake, but then when it was time to go, she was just stumbling out of bed, so I had to come back for her) and then just went back to bed and conked out for another three hours. And then when I did get up, I was so dang dopey. Really the only thing I accomplished all day was to make risotto. 

BUT WHAT RISOTTO. I was planning a butternut squash instant pot risotto, because I still had half the squash in the fridge left over from the chicken thigh meal; but oops, the instant pot pin was still missing. So I was tragically forced to spend a good amount of time slowly stirring ladles of chicken broth into the creamy rice and dreamily stirring it around, smelling the fragrant, buttery clouds of steam, and occasionally tasting it to make sure it was still, uh, I don’t know, I was just eating it. 

Toward the end I threw in a giant mound of freshly-grated parmesan cheese and a big fistful of chopped parsley. You know what, no one complained that it didn’t have butternut squash in it. 

The drumsticks were fine. I just roasted them in melted butter with plenty of Old Bay seasoning, and I set out the leftover corn bread. 

We had to run off and get to an art show that the two high school girls had pieces in. Arty kids! We met the art teacher and warned her about the kid who’s coming next year. The general principle is that, if you’ve met one Fisher kid, you’ve met one Fisher kid, but this is especially true with Irene. 

FRIDAY
Seafood lo mein 

And finally Friday. Man.

I haven’t made lo mein for a while. It’s easy, and Damien and Lena and I and maybe one other person really like it, but no one else does. 

Jump to Recipe

When I made the chili verde, I got some cup o’ noodle for the kids who wouldn’t want it, so I expect they’ll be returning to that well for this meal. I don’t insist that people eat what I make. They’re welcome to fix themselves something else, as long as they’re not rude about it and don’t make a huge mess. I aim to make foods that most of the family will enjoy for about five days a week, and then one or two meals can be things that people with more cultivated palates will enjoy. I have found that this no-pressure constant exposure to different foods is as good a way as any to introduce kids to a variety of foods, and pretty often, they start venturing into new territory of their own volition, just out of curiosity. But if they don’t (and some kids don’t), that’s okay, too. Because it’s just food. There are plenty of other things to fight about! I do care about food, a lot, but I care more about not making anyone miserable over food. 

Guys, I’m trying so hard to bring this back around to bluebirds, but it’s just not working, so I’ll just say goodbye. 

 

Ben and Jerry's Strawberry Ice Cream

Ingredients

For the strawberries

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

For the ice cream base

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

Instructions

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

Make the ice cream base:

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

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

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

Put it together:

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

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

One pan honey garlic chicken thighs with fall veg

Adapted from Damn Delicious 

Ingredients

  • 18 chicken thighs
  • 2 lbs broccoli in spears
  • 4-5 lbs potatoes in wedges, skin on if you like
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed

sauce:

  • 1/3+ cup honey
  • 1/3+ cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp dijon or yellow mustard
  • 9 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • olive oil for drizzing

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Prepare the sauce. 

  2. In a large, greased sheet pan, spread the potatoes and squash. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. 

  3. Lay the chicken thighs on top of the potatoes and squash. Brush the sauce over the chicken skins. 

  4. Roast the chicken for thirty minutes or more until they are almost cooked.

  5. Add the broccoli, arranging it on top of the potatoes and in between the chicken. Return the pan to the oven and let it finish cooking another 10 -20 minutes so you don't die. The skins should be golden and the broccoli should be a little charred. 

 

Mango ice cream

Ingredients

  • 30 oz (about 3 cups) mango pulp
  • 2 cups heavy or whipping cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 mango, chopped into bits

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, whisk the milk, sugar, and salt until blended.

  2. Add in the mango pulp and cream and stir with a spoon until blended.

  3. Cover and refrigerate two hours.

  4. Stir and transfer to ice cream maker. Follow instructions to make ice cream. (I use a Cuisinart ICE-20P1 and churn it for 30 minutes.)

  5. After ice cream is churned, stir in fresh mango bits, then transfer to a freezer-safe container, cover, and freeze for several hours.

Spicy Chili Verde

You can decrease the heat by seeding the peppers, using fewer habañeros, or substituting some milder pepper. It does get less spicy as it cooks, so don't be alarmed if you make the salsa and it's overwhelming!

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs pork shoulder
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for cooking
  • 2 cups chicken broth or beer (optional)

For the salsa verde:

  • 4 Anaheim peppers
  • 2 habañero peppers
  • 4 jalapeño peppers
  • 4 medium onions
  • 12 tomatillos
  • 1 head garlic, cloves peeled
  • 1 bunch cilantro

For serving:

  • lime wedges
  • sour cream
  • additional cilantro for topping

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler.

  2. Pull the husks and stems off the tomatillos and rinse them. Cut the ends off all the peppers. Grease a large pan and put the tomatillos and peppers on it. Broil five minutes, turn, and broil five minutes more, until they are slightly charred.

  3. Take the pan out and cover the peppers and tomatillos with plastic wrap or tin foil for ten minutes. When they are cool enough to handle, pull the skins off the peppers and tomatillos. At this point, you can remove the seeds from the peppers to decrease the spiciness if you want.

  4. Put the skinned tomatillos and peppers in a food processor or blender with the onions, garlic, and cilantro. Purée.

  5. In a heavy pot, heat some oil. Salt and pepper the pork chunks and brown them in the oil. You will need to do it in shifts so the pork has enough room and browns rather than simmering.

  6. When all the meat is browned, put it all in the pot and add the puréed ingredients.

  7. Simmer at a low heat for at least three hours until the meat is tender. If you want thinner chili verde, you can add chicken broth or beer. At some point, if you don't want the pork in large chunks, press the meat with the back of a spoon to make it collapse into shreds.

  8. Spoon the chili verde into bowls, squeeze some lime juice over the top, and top with sour cream and fresh cilantro.

 

Pico De Gallo

quick and easy fresh dip or topping for tacos, etc.

Ingredients

  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced OR 1/2 serrano pepper
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/8 cup lime juice
  • dash kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Mix ingredients together and serve with your favorite Mexican food

 

Suppli (or Arancini)

Breaded, deep fried balls of risotto with a center of melted mozzarella. 
Make the risotto first and leave time to refrigerate the suppli before deep frying. 

Ingredients

  • 12 cups chicken stock
  • 8 + 8 Tbs butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 4 cups raw rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

To make suppli out of the risotto:

  • risotto
  • 1 beaten egg FOR EACH CUP OF RISOTTO
  • bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs
  • plenty of oil for frying
  • mozzarella in one-inch cubes (I use about a pound of cheese per 24 suppli)

Instructions

  1. Makes enough risotto for 24+ suppli the size of goose eggs.


    Set chicken stock to simmer in a pot.

    In a large pan, melt 8 Tbs. of the butter, and cook onions slowly until soft but not brown.

    Stir in raw rice and cook 7-8 minutes or more, stirring, until the grains glisten and are opaque.

    Pour in the wine and boil until wine is absorbed.

    Add 4 cups of simmering stock and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until the liquid is almost absorbed.

    Add 4 more cups of stock and cook until absorbed.

    If the rice is not tender by this point, keep adding cups of stock until it is tender. You really want the rice to expand and become creamy.

    When rice is done, gently stir in the other 8 Tbs of butter and the grated cheese with a fork.

  2. This risotto is wonderful to eat on its own, but if you want to make suppli out of it, read on!

  3. TO MAKE THE SUPPLI:

    Beat the eggs and gently mix them into the risotto.


    Scoop up about 1/4 cup risotto mixture. Press a cube of mozzarella. Top with another 1/4 cup scoop of risotto. Roll and form an egg shape with your hands.


    Roll and coat each risotto ball in bread crumbs and lay in pan to refrigerate. 


    Chill for at least an hour to make the balls hold together when you fry them.


    Put enough oil in pan to submerge the suppli. Heat slowly until it's bubbling nicely, but not so hot that it's smoking. It's the right temperature when little bubbles form on a wooden spoon submerged in the oil. 


    Preheat the oven if you are making a large batch, and put a paper-lined pan in the oven.


    Carefully lower suppli into the oil. Don't crowd them! Just do a few at a time. Let them fry for a few minutes and gently dislodge them from the bottom. Turn once if necessary. They should be golden brown all over. 


    Carefully remove the suppli from the oil with a slotted spoon and eat immediately, or keep them warm in the oven. 

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. 317: Little Bear food

This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

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. 314: The sound of stroganoff

Happy Friday! Before we go any further, I have to show you last Friday’s lo mein. I posted the WFS post before I made dinner, so there was no photo, but it turned out so good. I made the basic recipe but added shrimp, zucchini, yellow bell pepper, and matchstick ginger. 

Fabulous. Here’s the recipe in case you need it.

Jump to Recipe

Very easy and fast. I usually use fettuccine for the noodles, and that makes it cheap, too. I think I got everything at Aldi except the rice vinegar.

Okay, on to this week! Here’s what we had. 

SATURDAY
Burgers, chips

Not tired of burgers and chips yet. Especially when Damien cooks them outside. 

SUNDAY
Italian sandwiches, fries 

On Sunday we went apple picking, and then stopped at my parents’ graves to say a decade and plant a bunch of crocuses. Very glad to see the two rose bushes and the lilac tree I planted in the summer are still alive! 

Here’s a little album from Facebook because I’m lazy. 


 

Then we came home and had Italian sandwiches. I had mine with plenty of red pesto, yum yum.

Damien got an extra package of prosciutto for later in the week, as you shall see. I flubbed dessert (I had bought some Halloween-shaped rice krispie treat kits that you had to make and decorate spookily, which not even the kids felt like doing after a couple of hours in the car), but Damien had had the foresight to buy a sack of cider donuts at the orchard, which he put in the microwave for dessert, and they were delightful. I was feeling the teensiest bit emotionally bruised after the cemetery visit, and a hot sugary donut definitely helped. 

MONDAY
Oven fried chicken, roast butternut squash, apple hand pies

The fried chicken I made a few weeks ago was so very tasty, but such a pain in the pants, so I took the advice of my friend Patti and tried oven frying it. It was quite good, and so much easier. 

Early in a day, I let the chicken (drumsticks and thighs) soak in milk and eggs with salt and pepper. Then at dinner time, I put a few inches of melted butter and canola oil (half and half) in a couple of roasting pans in a 425-degree oven. While it was heating up, I rolled the chicken parts in flour seasoned with lots of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. I put the chicken in the pans, skin side down, and let it cook for about half an hour, then turned it and let it finish cooking for another fifteen minutes or so. 

Not quite as spectacularly crackly-crisp as pan fried chicken, but still crunchy and delicious, and moist and tasty inside. Will definitely do it this way again. 

I wasn’t able to fit all the chicken in the oven pans, so I pan fried the extras, got distracted, and burned the ever loving hell out it. Completely black. Then I turned it over and, just to be fair, did the same thing to the other side. Then I threw it away. 

I also made hand pies. Corrie loved the pumpkin empanadas from last week so much, and it made mornings so much easier when she had something tasty and homemade to grab for a car breakfast, so I decided to make pineapple empanadas with the rest of the Goya dough discs I bought. I’ll spare you the details, but I managed to ruin quite a lot of pineapple, and then light dawned on blockhead, and I realized we had 9,000 apples in the house. So I pulled out my lovely old fashioned apple peeler-corer-slicer and made apple empanadas, or really just little pies at this point. See my pies! See my pies!

Chicken and pies, Mr. Tweedy. 

The pie filling was apple sliced and dusted with flour and sprinkled with sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and a little butter. I forgot salt. I folded them into the dough, cut some vents, and brushed the tops with egg, then sprinkled them with sugar and cinnamon, and baked them on parchment paper at 375 for about half an hour. 

I’m not gonna lie, I was also doing a lot of running around and shouting and waving my arms about something completely unrelated to food, while I was making 20 pies, and ruining pineapple, and rolling chicken in flour, and burning it, and burning the other side, and snatching apple peels away from the dog, and so on. It is an actual miracle that I get dinner on the table every day, even when I’m not all worked up about something, which I was. It’s like a Greek tragedy in there every day, I don’t know what goes on. But eventually everything got cooked, and I had it in my head that we needed butternut squash, too, so I chopped that up, drizzled it with honey and olive oil, sprinkled it with kosher salt and chili powder, and broiled it until it was a little blistered, and I guess we had pie for supper and squash for dessert, I don’t know. ἔξοδος.

TUESDAY
Beef stroganoff

Yeah! Stroganoff! Someone, and I’m very sorry I don’t remember who, posted this on Twitter

and the vision that was planted in my brain/still remains./And I haaaaad/ to make stroganoff. 

I usually make stroganoff with ground beef, but honestly, it’s gotten so expensive that it was only like three dollars more to get a big hunk of roast. It’s called “budgeting,” sweaty. I followed the Deadspin recipe. These recipes are invariably delicious, but incredibly obnoxious, so I went ahead and made a card. 

Jump to Recipe

I was very busy on Tuesday, so I did all my chopping and slicing and mincing in the morning,

and when dinner came, it all came together in a flash. It’s very easy, and is a great way to furnish yourself with enough calories to survive an eighteen month siege.

First you lightly fry the sliced meat in butter

And I was very determined that this stroganoff would turn out tender, not tough, so I fried the meat very lightly indeed. Then you remove meat from the pan and fry up the onions in more butter, salt it, then add in the garlic 

then the mushrooms and tarragon and pepper.

This is the point where you add brandy if you have any, which I did not.

Then you put your meat back in, heat it up, blorp in an insane amount of sour cream, heat that up, adjust your salt, and that’s it. 

While you are cooking this, you boil up a pot of egg noodles, and you serve the stroganoff over noodles.

So delicious. My only disappointment was I didn’t taste the tarragon much. I don’t use tarragon often, so I was looking forward to it. Maybe I should have saved some out and used a bit to garnish the top and bring up the flavor a bit. We all have colds, though, so it’s a miracle we can taste anything.

WEDNESDAY
Pizza

Three pizzas, and I made the mistake of not making one plain cheese pizza. Oh, there was howling and complaining. I have heard the cries of my people, and next time I will make one plain cheese pizza. 

This time, I, monster, made one pepperoni, one mushroom and olive, and one prosciutto and arugula (that’s what the extra prosciutto was for. That’s called building suspense. Look it up, sweaty). That third pizza was just remarkable. Fresh little curls of parmesan frolicking on top, so nice.

First you make an arugula salad: A few handfuls of baby arugula, the juice of a small lemon, a few drizzles of olive oil, and kosher salt and pepper.

Then you make a normal cheese pizza but spread plenty of thinly-sliced raw garlic on it, and some fresh rosemary if you have it (which I did not), and drizzle a little olive oil over that, and give it a little salt and pepper. Bake as normal, and when it comes out, spread it with torn-up prosciutto, and top it with the arugula salad.

It’s so good, it almost makes me mad. What the hell is this? Why is it so delicious? Who comes up with this stuff? Gosh! 

THURSDAY
Kielbasa, potato, and Brussels sprouts

The kids were helping me make the shopping list on Saturday morning, and more than one shouted “Kielbasa!” They are prone to shouting things like “Kielbasa!” without meaning anything in particular by it, but I wrote it down anyway. But they were all pretty adamant that they didn’t want any cabbage, and they seemed to mean it. I don’t really know any kielbasa dishes besides the one-pan deal with potato, kielbasa, and cabbage, so I thought why not make the same basic thing but swap in Brussels sprouts, which people do like? 

It turns out lots of other people have had this idea, including the New York Times. I followed an uncharacteristically simple recipe by them (well, they sort of sheepishly suggested tossing some mustard seeds and almonds in there, but they admitted that it wasn’t really necessary), and it turned out fine. I’m a fool and didn’t save the recipe when it let me in for a free view, but it’s just a basic sheet pan deal with potatoes, some kind of sausage, and Brussels sprouts cooked with olive oil, salt, and pepper for a while, and then you toss it with a honey mustard dressing and continue cooking it. 

I used three ropes of kielbasa, two pounds of Brussels sprouts, and probably three pounds of potatoes (red would have been nice, but they were like a dollar a potato, so I just cut up some baking potatoes), and I think the honey mustard was four tablespoons of mustard and six tablespoons of honey. Something along those lines. 

So I cooked it at 425, I think, for about 25 minutes, I think, stirred it one time and then drizzled the honey mustard on and finished cooking it, then pulled it out about twenty minutes later

I guess the almonds would have been pretty good, and it would have been good to use dijon mustard instead of cheapo yellow mustard, but it was fine as it was, and it certainly was easy. Maybe a tiny bit dry.

I think next time I will make extra honey mustard sauce for a little dipping after it’s cooked. 

The original plan was to make King Arthur hot pretzels to go with this meal, but there was nothing anywhere near enough time for that. Next time! 

Come to think of it, I do know another kielbasa meal: Jambalaya. Ooh, it’s been quite a while. I think I’ll make that next week. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

Just whatever. 

And now! Next Tuesday is our twenty-fifth anniversary! We will be going out for a little outing at a later date, but for the day itself, we thought it would be fun to just cook a nice meal for the family. We like cooking together, as long as we’re not too rushed. 

Damien is probably going to make Korean fried chicken, which is guaranteed scrumptious, and I am thinking of making a baked Alaska, probably with strawberry, coconut, and mango ice cream. You’re supposed to spread softened ice cream onto the cake in layers and let it freeze, so that will work well with homemade ice cream, which comes out of the machine soft anyway. 

I have had baked Alaska only once, in 8th grade when our French class went to Quebec and were horribly obnoxious to everyone in the entire hotel and city and country the whole time, but never so much as when they wheeled out the baked Alaska. I am very sketchy on the details besides that everyone was screaming, especially my friend Becky, so if anyone has any more useful details or experience with baked Alaska, please share! We do have a small blow torch. It seems like the individual components are easy, and it’s mainly a matter of starting well in advance, sticking to the plan, and not panicking, and that’s how you earn the moment where you set it all on fire. Kind of like,,,, twenty five years of marriage.

Anyway, I may get someone else to make the cake part, because I’m not great with cake. I’m good with ice cream, though. And setting things on fire. 

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.

Deadspin beef stroganoff

The tastiest, coziest, most calorific cold weather comfort food known to mankind. You can make this with ground beef, but it's so good with thin, tender slices of beef. Please don't ask me what cut of beef to use, as I don't know.

Calories 500000000 kcal

Ingredients

  • 2-3 lbs beef, sliced into thin, flat pieces
  • 4-6 Tbsp butter
  • 2 medium onions, diced or sliced thin
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup red wine (optional)
  • 16 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • bunch fresh tarragon, minced (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • 32 oz sour cream
  • egg noodles that you will need to cook while you are making the stroganoff

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, melt most of the butter and cook the beef pieces very lightly, until they are just a little brown but still partially pink.

  2. Remove the beef from the pan, put the remaining butter in, and put the onion in, and cook it until it's slightly soft. Sprinkle it with salt, stir, and add in the garlic and cook for another few minutes.

  3. If you are adding wine, splash that in. Add in the mushrooms, tarragon, and pepper, and continue cooking until the mushrooms are soft and fragrant.

  4. Add the beef and any juices back into the pan with the mushrooms, and heat it up. Stir in the sour cream and continue stirring and heating.

  5. Add salt if necessary, and serve stroganoff over hot egg noodles.

What’s for supper? Vol. 312: It’s butternut squash season, martha martha

Sometimes I can’t believe a whole week has passed. This time, I believe it. 

Here’s what we had this week. Some very tasty food, that’s what! including some highly seasonally appropriate dishes.

SATURDAY
Pizza! and then lobster!

Saturday was busy-busy-busy, so we decided to try out the new Domino’s in town and see how their pizza is. You might think that of course all Domino’s will be the same, but I always remember how my grandparents went on a safari in Kenya in the 80’s and went to the Kentucky Fried Chicken there, and the chicken tasted very different, because the chickens had a very different diet! So you never know.

I sat here for a few minutes trying to figure out if this story is racist in some way, but I’m 90% sure it’s just stupid, so I’m going to leave it. The last Domino’s, you may recall for some reason, burned down back in January. For a college town, there are shockingly few places to get terrible take-out pizza, so now the order of the universe has been restored a bit. 

Then, to restore it even more, Lena, who works at the meat counter and fish counter of the supermarket, brought home three hefty steamed lobsters, and butter, lemons, and crusty bread, and a shrimp ring with cocktail sauce.

I made a complete goblin of myself with my lobster while the kids looked on in horror and disgust, which is just the way I like it. Some of my kids think I’m horrifying, some of them bring me lobsters. Balance. 

SUNDAY
Hobbit party!

Clara threw herself a belated birthday party and invited some friends. This is the first time she’s planned and cooked an entire meal, and she did a spectacular job, and everyone had a lovely time. The menu: 

Cinnamon garlic chicken
Roast potatoes
Stuffed bread with cheese and mushrooms
Mulled cider
Olive oil rosemary cake

Here’s my recipe for the chicken (she made two). 

Jump to Recipe

Turned out great, juicy and flavorful. It’s a very simple recipe but the flavor really permeates the meat. 

The hobbit bread recipe is in this post, and this time she did follow the recipe for the bread from scratch. The recipe is from An Unexpected Cookbook. Sometimes Clara makes large loaves, but this time, everyone got their own little loaf.

Stuffed with onions, mushrooms, herbs, and cheese. 

Amazing.

I don’t think there was a recipe for the potatoes. She just added good things to chopped potatoes until it looked tasty, then roasted them. I didn’t manage to get any good pictures of much of anything, but here is the mulled cider and the roast potatoes. 

We just tossed some cinnamon sticks and orange slices in with the cider and heated it up. Cider is expennnnnnsive this year, oh my!

And finally the cake!

The cake was a lemon rosemary olive oil cake from Parsley and Icing. This is a light, spongy, gorgeously-scented cake with plenty of rosemary in it. Clara used the icing in this recipe, except she used rosewater instead of vanilla. 

So pretty. 

We were going to set off a few fireworks I found under the bed, to make it a true hobbit party, but so many people were wearing cloaks and tops with long, flowing sleeves, we decided to go ahead and not set anything on fire. 

And it was a great party! 

MONDAY
Pork ramen 

Some of the kids absolutely delight in this meal, and I’m partial to it myself. I fried up some boneless pork chops in sesame oil in the morning, then sliced them up and reheated the meat in the evening with a lot of soy sauce. This isn’t a recipe so much as a confession, but darn it, I like soy sauce. 

I also boiled a bunch of eggs and then completely massacred them trying to get the shells off. I seriously lost at least 40% of the egg material in the process, and the more careful I was, the worse it got. I know you’re going to give me your tips about how to slide the shells off in one easy piece, just as simple and peaceful as a spring morning, and all you have to do is simmer them for three minutes and forty seconds in a copper-bottom pot with enamel sides with the lid 2/3 of the way on, fitted with a little cone made of parchment paper (not wax paper) to redirect the steam, then quickly dump the eggs into an iron crock that is standing on the floor with coffee grounds in the bottom, cover it with newspaper, rap sharply on the lid five times with a wooden spoon and shout “AWAY! SHELLS, AWAY!” in a commanding voice, and then, if you recall Sonata form, you just sort of shake the whole pot in that pattern, but don’t burn yourself when you get to the recapitulation! Everyone does. But it’s easy, and then just like that, the shells come off, easy.

I like my way better, though. I like throwing away most of the egg and getting pieces of shell in with the food, and swearing a lot. So we had the eggs, and the pork, and also some crunchy noodles, sugar snap peas, baby spinach, sesame seeds, sriracha sauce, and hmmm I guess that’s it. Oh, I fried up some leftover mushrooms from the Hobbit bread.

I lined the bowl with spinach before ladling the hot broth over it. Oh, it was good. Salty supermarket bulk purchase good. 

TUESDAY
Tacos

Couldn’t get regularer. I just fried up a bunch of ground beef with salt, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, chili powder, and onion powder, and served it on tortillas. I had mine with jalapeños and sour cream. 

I remember thinking I should put salsa on, but then thinking I didn’t want heartburn, and then putting jalapeños on. It really just wasn’t a very good taco, but it was undeniably a dinner. 

WEDNESDAY
Chinese pork roast, rice, mango and pineapple

Started the pork marinating the night before. I made it while the tacos were cooking. It really is easy as can be: Just equal parts of soy sauce, hoisin sauce, honey, sweet red wine (alas, I had no Manischewitz), and then a good scoop of Chinese five spice, and a large hunk of fatty pork. 

Jump to Recipe

I got it in a 300 oven about noon (I poured all the marinade in with it), and let it cook for five hours. I wish I had covered it, because it got fairly grisly looking. If you have been to the La Brea Tar Pits, it was like that, but it smelled much better. I made an effort to baste it, which you’re supposed to do throughout the sixth hour of cooking, but the marinade had gotten so thick and sticky, it was a lost cause. Behold, the Chinese roast wooly mammoth:

Still, you bash the side open, and my goodness, it was juicy and tender inside. 

The outside is crazy rich, and a little goes a long way. I served it with just plain white rice (again, if I had covered it halfway through cooking, I would have had some of the marinade to serve as a sauce, but did I cover it, no), and then some pineapple and mango on the side. 

Pretty popular meal. I had some complaints myself, but everyone else was pretty happy. This would be great meat to serve over something else, like ramen or bibimbap, but it was good on its own. Could have used some sauce.

THURSDAY
Harvest chicken salad and roast butternut squash

The first butternut squash of the season! And first, a butternut squash tip. They’re just about impossible to peel raw, but if you cut the ends off and stab them all over with a fork and microwave them for three minutes, they become possible. 

I peeled and seeded the squash and cut it into thinnish chunks, tossed it with olive oil, honey, a little kosher salt, and kind of a lot of chili powder, spread it in a pan, and shoved it under a hot broiler. It let it blister a tiny bit and then turned it once and moved it down lower in the oven, so it would be cooked all the way through and also done on both sides. Turned out perfect. 

Sweet and tender with a little fire. Just great. 

I’ve been putting off the salad part of meal for three weeks now. I guess I’m a little burnt out on salads. But the time had come, and it actually turned out really delicious. Roast chicken breast slices on salad greens with your choice of blue cheese or feta cheese crumbles, toasted walnuts (toasted in the microwave for three minutes), and dried cranberries, with a creamy Italian dressing. Diced red onion would have been good, but I forgot to get any.

This was a good meal! It had all those sweet and smoky autumnal flavors, like a Thanksgiving dinner, but without being too heavy. Very satisfying. Here’s another picture, just because it was pretty. 

FRIDAY
Fish burgers

I got some frozen battered fish fillets of some kind, some sort of soft, rich rolls whose name escapes me at the moment, and . . . that might be it. We must have pickles somewhere, and no doubt I can throw together some tartar sauce. I wonder what I bought to go with it. What do people like me buy? Chips? That seems likely. 

And we have a four day weekend, with some kind of workshops on Friday and then Columbus/Indigenous what-have-you on Monday. I do believe we’re contractually obligated to go apple picking this weekend, even though we’re already up to our bum bums in apples around here. And we did manage to buy pumpkins (they sold out absurdly early last year), and maybe we’ll plant some bulbs, and it’s well past time to change over the skeledecor. I’m so embarrassed, they’re still holding American flags, and they should be fighting a giant spider with swords by now. And now we’re off to try to trade in two bad cars for part of one okayish car, and make it back in time for adoration. Wish us luck! 

Cinnamon garlic roast chicken

This is the chicken we usually serve at passover, but of course you can make it any time of year. Faintly sweet and nicely cozy, it's popular with kids and tastes good cold.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 lb whole chicken
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 5 cloves garlic, smashed

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 500.

  2. Mix the spices together and rub them all over the outside of the chicken.

  3. Stuff the cavity with the garlic.

  4. Put the chicken breast side down on a rack and roast for 15 minutes.

  5. Reduce heat to 450 and roast for another 15 minutes.

  6. Turn chicken breast side up, baste with pan drippings, reduce heat to 425, and continue cooking for another thirty minutes or until temperature reads 180.

  7. Let chicken stand 20 minutes before carving. Also can be refrigerated and carved later, to be eaten cold.

 

Chinese pork roast

Marinate the meat overnight, and leave six hours for cooking. Serve over rice

Ingredients

  • 10 lbs pork
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup sweet red wine
  • 1 Tbsp Chinese five spice

Instructions

  1. Mix the marinade ingredients together and marinate the meat overnight.

  2. Drain the marinade and put the meat on a pan with a lip. Cook at 300 for five hours. Cover with tinfoil if the meat is cooking too quickly.

  3. After five hours of cooking, pour the reserved marinade over the meat. Every ten minutes for an additional hour, baste the meat.

  4. Let the roast rest for ten minutes before carving.

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.

What’s for supper? Vol. 237: Follow me for more potatoes with butts

Hey, the world didn’t end! Per se! And I didn’t even pack up to go live at the P.O., although I was tempted. Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
One pan chicken thighs with squash and potatoes

Old reliable. This is even better when you have a big variety of vegetables, but just potatoes and squash is good, and it’s stupid easy to make, and nice, honey garlic, mmm. In conclusion, you may think it’s easy to be a food writer, but it’s actually hard, with words, booo. 

Jump to Recipe

Speaking of stupid, it was only some technical difficulties that prevented me from starting a Twitter account called @potatoeswithbutts.

I uhhhh have a collection. This poor fellow appears to have a pilonidal cyst, which is unusual in potatoes, and you can see by his posture that it’s really getting him down. Yes, I have work to do, what do you mean?

SUNDAY
Chinese roast pork and vegetable lo mein

Here was something new I tried, because I’m bored to death of all my pork recipes. You marinate the meat in chunks in a simple sauce, then roast it over a pan of water, then cut it up. 

I had mine with some excellent pepper jelly we got for Christmas, and it was a great match. It would also be good with that super strong Chinese mustard, or any number of sauces. 

This is most certainly an Americanized Cantonese recipe, and there’s nothing wrong with that, especially if you don’t like five spice because, try as you might, you just can’t get used to *ptui* anise.  I’ll go ahead and write up a recipe card

Jump to Recipe

but I expect to change it a bit. Next time I will buy fattier meat and cook it in bigger chunks before slicing it. It was a tiny bit dry. If I make those changes, I’ll be able to cook it longer and work up a little crust on the outside. The boiling water made it tender and taste was good, though, if slightly bland. It would also be great cut up and added to stir fries or lo mein. 

SPEAKING OF LO MEIN, this continues to be a popular dish around here. I had bought some flat rice noodles intending to try some kind of Vietnamese noodle bowl (which is what I bought the pork for), but for once in my life I listened to the “nobody’s going to eat that” alarm going off in my head, and made lo mein instead. The only vegetable in the house was green pepper, so I added that, plus some red onion and . . . and this was a most excellent choice . . . some fresh minced ginger, which I’ve started keeping in the house routinely. 

Jump to Recipe

I was careful not to overcook the vegetables, so they were still crunchy. Man, what a high-yield dish for flavor, with very minimal effort. Sometimes I will add a little fish sauce or oyster sauce, but it’s honestly fine without. 

MONDAY
Tacos, tortilla chips

I do not remember making or eating tacos. I do remember people saying, “You should have made this on Tuesday for taco Tuesday!” and me going “bahhhhhh” in a growly voice. 

TUESDAY
Chicken caprese sandwiches, grapes

Tuesday was grocery shopping day this week, so I needed something very easy. Aldi had big cartons of frozen breaded chicken cutlets, so there was my answer. 

We had basil from the Vietnamese noodle bowls I never made, and no end of cheese from various cheese adventures. I was planning to make a shortcut version of the lovely chicken cutlets Damien makes for special occasions, but while shopping, I became confused, and bought a large amount of tomatoes, so we had caprese chicken sandwiches, which I usually make with grilled chicken, but it turned out nobody cares about the arbitrary chicken rules in my head, especially when it’s very late and everyone’s hongry.

WEDNESDAY
Meatball subs, raw broccoli and hummus

Again, nothing special, but always a popular meal. 

Jump to Recipe

This was my third day of watching Bridgerton for a review, and let me tell you, if you have to lock yourself in your bedroom and watch four episodes of Bridgerton in a row, getting up and making eighty meatballs is a good antidote. 

THURSDAY
Beef barley soup and pumpkin muffins

A couple of the kids have been begging for this meal. Benny and Corrie were done with their school work early, so they made the muffins with just a little supervision. This is a good recipe, very reliable.

Jump to Recipe

This is a light, tender pumpkin bread, not some kind of challenging artisinal loaf-log. It has a hearty flavor but is pretty fine-grained. We made a double recipe which gave us 18 muffins plus a small loaf. 

You can add all kinds of things to these muffins (or bread) — oats, nuts, raisins, dried cranberries, chocolate chips if you’re a monster, sunflower seeds, chunky sugar, etc. You can add more sugar to make them more dessert-y, but as is, they make a fine dish dish.

The soup was good, too.

Jump to Recipe

Although, as you can see, I couldn’t find the barley, so I used pasta rings instead, because I happen to have a lot of different kinds of pasta in my cabinets. Which immediately led the kids to assume I had WASHED OFF SPAGHETTIO-S AND PUT THEM IN THE SOUP. I told them I had not and would not, but they just stared at me. And that’s why, if I lived at the P.O., why. 

The other reason I might live at the P.O. is that, before Christmas, I bought about nine boxes of different kinds of pasta in various shapes, because I made myself believe we were going to make Christmas tree ornaments out of pasta, hot glue, and gold spray paint, and now here we are in January and I can’t find the barley because my cabinets are crammed with pasta. Shut up, it’s a good craft. We just didn’t do it, that’s all. Hey, have you seen my potato butt? And my food writing? It’s very good. 

FRIDAY
Tuna noodle casserole and Brussels sprouts

That’s a little weird, but that’s what the blackboard says. I feel like the Brussels sprouts were expensive, too, so I better actually make them. And you know what, maybe tuna noodle can be made with pasta rather than egg noodles. Because I have–

Aw, skip it. Here’s the recipe cards: 

One pan honey garlic chicken thighs with fall veg

Adapted from Damn Delicious 

Ingredients

  • 18 chicken thighs
  • 2 lbs broccoli in spears
  • 4-5 lbs potatoes in wedges, skin on if you like
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed

sauce:

  • 1/3+ cup honey
  • 1/3+ cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp dijon or yellow mustard
  • 9 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • olive oil for drizzing

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Prepare the sauce. 

  2. In a large, greased sheet pan, spread the potatoes and squash. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. 

  3. Lay the chicken thighs on top of the potatoes and squash. Brush the sauce over the chicken skins. 

  4. Roast the chicken for thirty minutes or more until they are almost cooked.

  5. Add the broccoli, arranging it on top of the potatoes and in between the chicken. Return the pan to the oven and let it finish cooking another 10 -20 minutes so you don't die. The skins should be golden and the broccoli should be a little charred. 

Chinese Roast Pork

This is a recipe in progress, but it's easy and reasonably tasty as is. Serve with any number of sauces.

Ingredients

  • 6-8 lbs boneless pork
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2 Tbsp bean paste
  • 2 tsp salt
  • RED FOOD COLORING, DO IT

Instructions

  1. Cut the pork into long chunks

  2. Mix together all the sauce ingredients and marinate the meat for several hours or overnight.

  3. Preheat the oven to 375

  4. Boil some water (I used a tea kettle)

  5. Line a large roasting pan with tin foil and put cake racks over it. Lay the meat on the racks, put it in the oven, and then carefully add the boiling water to the pan.

  6. Roast for an hour or more, adding water if it cooks away. Turn meat once during cooking. The outside of the meat should be dark and glossy.

  7. Slice and serve hot or cold.

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.

 

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. 

 

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. 

 

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. 

 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 235: In which we fight in the shade

Today, we are having potato latkes and noodle kugel, as described here. This is because, being only Jewish, I thought today was the last night of Chanukah. It was actually Thursday night, as we discovered when we ran out of candles on Thursday night. Oops! But there’s definitely no rule you can only have latkes and kugel during Chanukah, so away we go.

I’m about to put my kugel in the oven. I goosed my childhood recipe with apple bits and blonde raisins soaked in rum, and a little of this and that, and I think it’s going to be delicious. The kids are positively disposed toward it, because “kugel” is a silly word. 

Latkes recipe:

Jump to Recipe

Kugel recipe:

Jump to Recipe

Here’s what else we had this week:

SATURDAY
Lasagna, birthday cake

Speaking of delicious, we had Benny’s birthday party this weekend, and she requested Damien’s famous lasagna.This is a Burneko recipe and he really puts you through your paces, with a béchamel sauce, a pork ragu, fresh mozzarella and parmesan, and the works. It takes about 300 hours to make and it is heavenly. I always get bad pictures, but it is pure bliss. 

Slightly better picture from the next day, when I had leftovers for lunch:

Since we couldn’t invite people over for a party, we had a spa day in the living room. I decorated with yards and yards of tulle, and we hung paper birds from threads, and blew up dozens of balloons.

We had assorted fancy snacks (mini eclairs, chocolate kiss pretzel bites, chocolate covered cherries, etc.) and grape soda with bendy straws, and then we proceeded to put on terrifying facial masks and tried to balance chilled cucumbers on our eyes.

When we had enough of that, we painted each other’s nails while listening to Taylor Swift. It was everything a spa day ought to be.

Benny and I made some birds out of marzipan, which is harder than I expected. We colored them with gel food coloring and watercolor brushes. Then we made little nests out of melted chocolate and shredded coconut. The end result was . . . really something.

Anyway, we had fun, and Benny was happy. Here she is wearing her new bird dress and wearing the glasses that make rainbow hearts appear around light sources, including birthday candle flames. 

Oh, we also made these cute little caprese ladybug snacks. A cracker, a slice of mozzarella, a basil leaf, and a tomato half with an olive head. 

The dots are, unfortunately, icing. We need to figure out something savory that clings like icing. 

SUNDAY
Meatloaf, roast potatoes and squash

I honestly don’t remember Sunday. We were definitely running around. Damien made the meatloaf

Jump to Recipe

and I cut up some butternut squash and questionable potatoes, and roasted them with olive oil, salt and pepper. 

Yes, we are eating meatloaf on paper plates. I started using paper plates when I was pregnant, and oopsie, never stopped. 

I feel like I always say this, but just in case: To easily cut and peel butternut squash, stab it several times with a fork and the microwave it for 4 minutes. This doesn’t cook it, but loosens it up enough that you can process it without needing a machete or chainsaw.

MONDAY
Nachos

Easy peasy. I cooked up some ground beef with orange powder from some envelopes, sprinkled it over tortilla chips, and topped it with shredded cheese from a bag, then heated it up. I set out red and green salsa, sour cream, and jalapeño slices, and I think that’s it. Bloop.

I also have this little jar of corn queso that I keep taking in and out of the fridge. I’m afraid to open it and heat it up, because what if nobody wants it, and it goes to waste? So I put it out on the table unopened, and if someone wants it, they can open it. Of course they don’t, because it’s not open, and they’re afraid I’ll yell at them for opening it. Then, after everyone’s eaten, I put it back in the fridge. I wish there were some way of getting paid for being this stupid. At this point, it’s an actual achievement. 

TUESDAY
Sandwiches, carrot cake

Tubesday was my birthday! I only had a little work to do and barely lifted a finger, while Damien did all the driving and meal prep. He made (and, this is important: shopped for) the delicious sandwiches I requested.

He splits some baguettes and gives them a good olive oiling, then lays on — I don’t even know what, prosciutto, capicola, salami, provolone, fresh basil, sun dried tomatoes, and misc. They are delicious.

He also bought an assortment of frozen appetizers, and some excellent carrot cakes. 

Well, first, for reasons unclear to me, the girls brought in an invisible cake

then Damien brought in the carrot cake

and I managed to blow out the candles with only eleven tries

Now I am 46. I had a lovely day and am happy to be alive with this family for another year!

WEDNESDAY
Pepperoncini beef sandwiches, fries, pomegranates 

A very tasty meal with minimal effort. You chunk some roasts into the slow cooker with a jar of pepperoncini and juice and shake in a good amount of Worcestershire sauce. I’m very excited about Worcestershire sauce these days. Cook, shred the meat,

pick out a few peppers, and serve on crusty rolls with provolone and mayonnaise.

A fine sammich. 

THURSDAY
Hamburgers and chips

It was supposed to be a meal of summery picnic food (honey mustard chicken drumsticks, biscuits, coleslaw), but we all spent the day digging out of two feet of snow, so I switched to something heartier. I did make a big pot of hot chocolate, and we also fed the birds (recipes in the post). We got our first junco yesterday! We’ve had lots of chickadees and tufted titmice, plus regular visits from wrens, nuthatches, cardinals, and the occasional bluejay. We like to watch birds, and we also like to watch the dog watching the cat watching birds. At least it’s an ethos. 

If that stimulus money ever comes through, we may actually buy a snowblower this year. There was so much snow, I was reduced to actually helping with the shoveling, and I’m too old, dammit. I have a horrible feeling a snowblower is going to be one of those things you spend more time fixing than using, but it can’t be worse than shoveling your driveway by the light of the headlights. 

FRIDAY

Today, the potato latkes with sour cream and applesauce, and noodle kugel with rum raisins and apple! I’m waiting for the boy to come back from the store with eggs. Yes indeed, another child with a license. 

Word on the street is you can rinse your shredded potato in cold water and that will prevent them from turning grey. I always thought they had to be actually covered in cold water to prevent discoloration, which makes them harder to squeeze out properly. I will report my findings. I don’t actually care if the potatoes turn grey — it doesn’t affect the taste, and they turn golden brown when they cook — but it would be nice not to frighten the children. 

And that’s it! It’s the kids’ last day of school. We’re all going to confession, and then I’m taking the little girls Christmas shopping. This feels like the wrong order of events. I may sedate myself first.

Potato latkes

Serve with sour cream and/or apple sauce for Hanukkah or ANY TIME. Makes about 25+ latkes

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs potatoes, peeled
  • 6 eggs beaten
  • 6 Tbsp flour (substitute matzoh meal for Passover)
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Grate the potatoes. Let them sit in a colander for a while, if you can, and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. 

  2. Mix together the eggs, salt and pepper, and flour. Stir into the potato mixture and mix well. 

  3. Turn the oven on to 350 and put a paper-lined pan in the oven to receive the latkes and keep them warm while you're frying. 

  4. Put 1/4 to 1/2 and inch of oil in your frying pan and heat it up until a drop of batter will bubble.  

  5. Take a handful of the potato mixture, flatten it slightly, and lay it in the pan, leaving room between latkes. Repeat with the rest of the mixture, making several batches to leave room in between latkes. Fry until golden brown on both sides, turning once. Eat right away or keep warm in oven, but not too long. 

  6. Serve with sour cream and/or applesauce or apple slices. 

Noodle kugel with apple and rum raisins

A cozy baked noodle custard. Some people make savory kugels, but this one is decidedly sweet.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups raisins, regular or blonde
  • 1 cup spiced rum
  • 1 lb egg noodles
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 2 lbs cottage cheese
  • 4 cups sour cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 12 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 4 apples peeled, cored, and cut into bits

Instructions

  1. Put the raisins and rum in a dish and let them soak for at least half an hour.

  2. Preheat the oven to 375.

  3. While the raisins are soaking, boil and strain the noodles.

  4. Strain the raisins. In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients and stir in the raisins, then stir in the drained noodles.

  5. Pour the mixture into a greased casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes or more, until the custard is set and the top is golden brown.

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. 

 

5 from 1 vote
Print

Beef pepperoncini sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 1 hunk beef
  • 1 jar pepperoncini
  • several glugs Worcestershire sauce
  • rolls
  • sliced provolone

Instructions

  1. Put the beef in a slow cooker with a jar of pepperoncini and the juice. If you like, cut the stems off the pepperoncini. If there isn't enough juice, add some beer. 

  2. Cover, set to low, and let it cook for several hours until the meat falls apart when poked with a fork. 

  3. Shred the meat. If you like, chop up a few of the pepperoncini. 

  4. Serve meat on rolls with mayo if you like. Lay sliced provolone over the meat and slide it under the broiler to toast the bread and melt the cheese. Serve the juice on the side for dipping. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 233: The secret ingredient

Back in the saddle again! I didn’t do a WFS on Friday because I already did a Thanksgiving recipe round-up, and the rest of the week was just basic food made while prepping for Thanksgiving. If you twist my arm, I can share some pie photos, though:

This is my hugs and kisses salted bourbon pecan pie, with which I hoped to ingratiate myself with the eight-year-old (it worked):

Jump to Recipe

This is my “oh no, this pie is full of buttons or something” apple pie, which I made while Damien was telling me something upsetting about the Legion, and which made me forget that I was making pie, so I just slapped a plain crust on and then slashed at it a bunch of times. When I calmed down, I tried to make it less of an anger pie, so I made some long slits at an angle and folded the triangles down, then stuck a bunch of dough circles into the openings. It certainly was a pie.

I also made some pumpkin pies, a chocolate cream pie, and another apple pie, but they weren’t much to look at. 

I will share my cranberry brie tart recipe again, because it’s a great one for Christmas or New Year’s, too – very pretty, and easy to make. I messed mine up eleven different ways, including thinking I had phyllo dough when really it was puff pastry, and I ran out of honey, and just screwed it up generally. They just weren’t as nice, and I overbaked them, so the brie kind of vanished into the dough. Still nice, though. Just not top notch.

Jump to Recipe

This year, we also had the best gravy I’ve ever made. I have no idea what made the difference, but it was just so rich, dark, and delicious. And salty. Probably that was it. I really like salt. 

One final picture: We didn’t have guests and didn’t set a formal table, but I did ask a child — a child who is old enough to drive! — to open up some cans of cranberry sauce and arrange them so they look fancy and nice. This is what he did:

Onward and upward! Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Aldi pizza

Friday we had Thanksgiving redux, and Saturday we were ready for something completely different but very easy. Aldi pizza it was. 

SUNDAY
Roast beef sandwiches, chips

I had bought a couple of roasts when they were on sale a while back, and forgot to take them out of the freezer in time to roast them Sunday, so they weren’t fully thawed. It turns out this is actually a life hack, and keeps the center nice and rare like we like it.

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

MONDAY
Chicken parm sandwiches, cheesy bread sticks

I went shopping on Monday, rather than the weekend, for fear of the plague rats, I mean fellow human beings who are worthy of being treated with dignity but dammit, it’s December and masks are now officially keeping your face warm so just WEAR THEM for crying out loud, sheeeesh, and we got home extremely late. We had ciabatta rolls with frozen chicken patties, topped with a slice of provolone and a scoop of warm sauce.

If you, too, were wondering, it is fine to call this chicken parm even though there is no parm involved, as the dish was originally from Parma, Italy, which is coincidentally where Aldi was invented. Check here if you are still reading: ___ YES ____NO

Not a spectacular meal, but quick and somewhat more satisfying than just frozen chicken burgers. 

TUESDAY
Ham, peas, garlic mashed potatoes

The favorite meal of a surprising number of Fishers. I did get a pre-cooked ham, which makes it super easy, but forgot my (literal) ham hack, which is to cut it up while it’s cold and then heat it in the oven. So boo hoo, so people had to heat theirs up in the microwave. 

I made ten whole pounds of mashed potatoes, and boiled an entire peeled head of garlic along with the water, and then dumped in a whole canister of parmesan along with the butter and milk. RECOMMENDED, as long as you like being fat, which, you know, [ragged panting sounds] evidently. 

Jump to Recipe

I also recommend using Aldi’s sweet and spicy mustard on your ham. It’s nicely tangy and really dresses it up. 

WEDNESDAY
Pork ribs, risotto, roasted acorn squash rings

A pretty good meal that could be thrown together in about half an hour, if you have an Instant Pot. Hwitch I do. And which now sports this amazing steam-breathing dragon, thanks to my friend Laura.

 

 

(It’s actually a useful device because the valve sends steam straight up in the air, so if your IP is under a cabinet, it can wreck things. This diverts the steam to the side. There are several cute styles for sale on Amazon.)

Sadly, I only had a little white wine in the house (somebody drank it, me), so it was a tiny bit bland. Great texture, though, very melty and creamy. I’ve updated my recipe to include butter and a longer cook time, and it’s a vast improvement. 

The pork ribs, I just sprinkled heavily with salt and pepper on both sides and broiled them, turning once. 

Actual footage of me, turning once:

 

via GIPHY

I tried a new recipe for acorn squash, and it was okay, not amazing. You cut the top off and scoop out the seeds, then cut the squash into thin rings. This is the neat part, as they come out looking like 70’s flowers. 

Then you brush the rings with maple syrup, olive oil, sriracha, and salt and pepper, and broil them. I don’t know, they were just kind of greasy and spicy. I wanted to like them, but either they need different proportions, or better quality syrup, or something. You were supposed to sprinkle cilantro over the top, but I don’t see how that would have helped. I thought the kids would like them because they were at least cute to look at, but they simply admired them from afar while shoveling in more risotto. 

THURSDAY
Bibimbap

It’s bibeen too long! I got the pork sliced nice and thin and marinating in a gochujang sauce in the morning

Jump to Recipe

and set some carrots to pickling

Jump to Recipe

and even measured out the water and rice in the IP ahead of time. None of the stores had alfalfa sprouts or pea shoots, so I grabbed some baby spinach and bok choy, plus some crunchy noodles. Then I lost the spinach I bought, but it was still lovely. I love this meal. Fry up them eggs in hot oil and give them a crunchy edge, but leave the yolks runny. 

I don’t know if I was especially hungry or what, but this was the best bibimbap I’ve ever made. I made myself a second egg when I was halfway through, just to prolong the experience.

The runny egg yolk with the spicy tender pork and the fluffy rice and the crunchy noodles and bok choy — oh boy. We’ve had a lot of rainy, dreary days and this hit the spot. This is a popular meal because people can pick whatever they want and assemble their own bowls. One kid just has rice and egg, and that’s fine with me.

FRIDAY

Friday I drove up north a ways to go see my mom in the nursing home, then did some Christmas shopping, and when I got home I was so wiped out, I just made a plate of scrambled eggs and a tray of toast, and burned it all. The kids were very nice about it. There was also some leftover risotto, which helped. 

Oh, about the title. The secret ingredient is salt. Oh, and after most of the kids went to bed, Damien and I sliced up a baguette and toasted it with olive oil and freshly ground salt and pepper, then topped it with brie, smoked salmon, and cheap caviar. [heart explodes]

Here’s some recipe cards! Have fun, you crazy kids, and don’t forget the salt. 

Salted bourbon pecan pie filling

This pecan pie is somewhat more mellow and less screamingly sweet than some. A one-crust pie, but it's nice if you have some extra pie dough to make leaf or other shapes to arrange over the top.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp bourbon
  • 1-2 cups raw pecans (whole)
  • sea salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.

  2. In a standing mixer, cream together the sugar and butter until well combined.

  3. Add eggs one at a time until well combined. Then add the maple syrup, salt, vanilla, and bourbon. Continue mixing until well combined.

  4. Add half of the pecans and stir in with a fork. Pour the filling into an unbaked pie shell.

  5. Carefully arrange the rest of the pecans over the top of the filling.

  6. Bake pie for 45-55 minutes. Center will still be slightly jiggly when it comes out of the oven, but it will firm up.

  7. Cool completely. Sprinkle with sea salt before serving.

 

Cranberry brie tarts

This recipe looks complicated, but you can simplify or alter it however you like. Basically you want some kind of pastry, brie, cranberries with sugar, and honey, and an herb on top. A delicious and beautiful little appetizer, great for Thanksgiving or Christmas parties.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 roll phyllo dough
  • 6-8 oz brie
  • small bunch fresh sage or thyme, coarsely chopped

cranberries:

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • dash salt
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter for cranberries

honey mixture:

  • 2 Tbsp butter for honey mixture
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425

  2. In a little pot, combine the honey, the butter, and the extract. Heat through and set aside.

  3. In a bowl, mix the cranberries with melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and a dash of salt. Set aside.

  4. Cut brie into 24 equal pieces and set aside.

  5. Prepare a 24-hole mini cupcake pan with butter or spray. You can also use a full-size cupcake pan, but the tarts will be a little unwieldy and won't hold together as well.

  6. Unroll the phyllo dough and cut it into twelve equal stacks. Cover the dough with a damp cloth while you're working so the dough doesn't get brittle.

  7. Pull out one stack of phyllo dough squares and use half the squares to line a cupcake tin, fanning them out to make a little cup. Make sure the bottom of the tin has several layers of dough, so it won't fall apart when you take it out of the pan.

  8. When you have arranged all the pastry cups, drizzle them with half the honey-butter mixture.

  9. Lay a piece of brie in the bottom of each cup, then put a scoop of sugared cranberries on top of that. Drizzle with the rest of the honey-butter mixture.

  10. Bake for 15 minutes or so until the pastry is just golden brown.

  11. Top each cup with a bit of chopped herbs.

  12. Let the tarts sit in the pan for five minutes before serving. Serve hot.

 

Garlic parmesan mashed potatoes

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

 

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. 

 

Korean sauce for bibimbap or other dishes with meat

A sweet, spicy, savory Korean sauce for cooking, marinating, or brushing on to grill. Susceptible to many adjustments if you like it sweeter or spicier, thicker or thinner. This recipe makes enough to cook 4-5 lbs of meat.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup gochujang (fermented pepper paste)
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar or plain vinegar
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Blend all ingredients together. If you're cooking in the Instant Pot, you may want to add 1/4 cup water or so to make sure there is enough liquid to prevent burning. 

 

quick-pickled carrots and/or cucumbers for banh mi, bibimbap, ramen, tacos, etc.

An easy way to add tons of bright flavor and crunch to a meal. We pickle carrots and cucumbers most often, but you can also use radishes, red onions, daikon, or any firm vegetable. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 lb mini cucumbers (or 1 lg cucumber)

For the brine (make double if pickling both carrots and cukes)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar (other vinegars will also work; you'll just get a slightly different flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Mix brine ingredients together until salt and sugar are dissolved. 

  2. Slice or julienne the vegetables. The thinner they are, the more flavor they pick up, but the more quickly they will go soft, so decide how soon you are going to eat them and cut accordingly!

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

  3. Cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight or longer. Refrigerate if you're going to leave them overnight or longer.