What’s for supper? Vol. 187: In which I make good choices and bad choices

I know I said I was ready to start cooking cold weather food, but this time, I mean it. Come for the honey chili acorn squash, homemade applesauce, and heavenly bacon tomato bisque, stay to feel better about the birthday cake you bought at Safeway. Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Beer brats with onions, chips

The kids unexpectedly begged for beer brats with onions, and that could be arranged. Damien boiled them in beer and onions and then browned them up in a pan. For me, however, he bought a surprise steak, since I was feeling low. 

It helped!

SUNDAY
Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, chocolate cake

This was a birthday meal for Moe. Moe’s birthday is in May. 

Now, you may think it’s pathetic that we wouldn’t get around to celebrating a May birthday until October, but you are mistaken. That’s not pathetic! THIS CAKE IS PATHETIC! 

You will have to take my word for it that the theme was not “mangled remains of a once-proud city after a nuclear holocaust.” It really wasn’t. He is very into theater, so the theme was “comedy and tragedy,” and I made a comedy and tragedy mask with ribbons, and a bunch of olive leaves.

See, last time we made little garnishes out of melted chocolate, they turned out great.

What’s for supper? Vol. 144: Chocolate garnicht

It was easy, even. I don’t know what the hell happened this time. I guess maybe possibly I was rushing a bit. And also, it’s possible my confidence was a little shaky after the cake I had made last week, for Clara’s birthday. 

Now Clara, if you will recall, already had a huge blowout birthday in August when we went to Hadestown

A quick review of Hadestown, which you should sell a kidney to see

So I’m not saying I didn’t try to make a good cake, but after a birthday like that, I did feel less pressure to absolutely nail the cake part.

That being said, this was one garbage cake.

I had meant so bake it the night before, but it turns out I bought cake mix that requires egg whites, and we were out of eggs, and the quik-e-mart was closed, and there’s really no substitute for egg whites. So I asked Damien to bake it the next day while I was shopping. I couldn’t find the right pans, so I ended up giving him two round pans and one flower-shaped pans. 

In my head, it would look something like this:

A sort of grim, underworld nod to a wedding cake, topped with a glowing red blossom and dripping with shiny, dark chocolate. EASY ENOUGH, RIGHT?

So I set about fashioning a glowing red blossom out of fruit rolls and toothpicks, as one does. That part was actually not terrible, except that I got tired of feeling sticky, and didn’t make enough petals.

The inspiration:

And the execution:

To be fair, this was halfway through. It did end up looking a little better. A little.

Then the cake cracked a bit when it baked. That’s fine, that happens. But then, I decided to put the layers together without leveling them off. Why? Who can say? Maybe I suffered a mental injury while trying to fashion a blossom out of toothpicks and fruit rolls. Of course the unleveled cake cracked even more, and continued to crack, in a way that was no longer fine. So I broke up some wooden skewers so they’d be nice and splintery, and jammed them in to keep the layers together. 

But wait, it gets worse! Let’s talk about the chocolate ganache, which was going to rescue the whole wobbly mess by gracing it with a rich, glossy chocolate coating that dripped decadently down the sides.

I have never once in my life been able to make a chocolate ganache. It’s just beyond my capability. Doesn’t matter what recipe I use, what ingredients I splurge on. It never comes out. I’ve wrecked it so many times, and so consistently and so thoroughly, that we’re way beyond the point that there’s anything remotely admirable about trying again. There is a section in the DSM about people who still try to make a chocolate ganache with my ganache history. So naturally, that is what I tried.

You’ll never guess. It didn’t turn out.

It was grainy and soupy and bad. I slopped it on the cake anyway, hoping that a last-minute birthday miracle would make it magically coalesce into something edible. That did not come about. It did not come about, even though I helped it along by dumping a lot of gold sugar into the crack in an effort to make it look symbolic!

So.  That was what I had in my arsenal of cake confidence while approaching this other cake. Yeah, remember the other cake?

I didn’t mean for it to look like a photo you show to a cricket when threatening him about what you could do to his family if he doesn’t spill what he knows. I didn’t mean for it to be straight out of the “this is why you never go to sleep with a cell phone charging under your pillow. Poor Madyson now has a plastic bag where her jaw once was, and she wants you to look at this picture and think hard about your choices” file. It just turned out that way, all by itself.  

The good news is, there are no birthdays in November. 

MONDAY
Buffalo chicken salad

This actually tasted far better than it looks.  And yes, that is a sheet in the background. I was eating salad in bed. 

I wanted to make something like the salad I had at Wendy’s. I love Wendy’s salads. They are fresh and delicious, and let’s face it, sometimes you get a little surprise, especially if Pilar is working that day. 

I bought two bags of breaded chicken strips, one regular and one buffalo. I cooked those and cut them up and served them along with mixed greens and shredded pepper jack cheese, with buffalo ranch dressing and some of those crunchy fried onion things people put on that gross Thanksgiving string bean casserole. I thought it was very good! And of course extremely easy. The cheese didn’t really hit the spot, and I did mean to get tomatoes. I think maybe blue cheese next time. But there will be a next time for this salad.

TUESDAY
Pork ribs with applesauce, mashed squash, mashed potatoes

It’s edible squash season, motherfuckers.

I had the kids pick all the terrible apples they could reach from our terrible apple tree, Marvin.  We don’t do anything at all to take care of this tree, and the apples aren’t great for eating, but most of them are just a little spotty and weird, so fine for cooking. 

Well, some of them are terrifying. 

Doesn’t it look like it wished it could scream? This one didn’t go into the pot.

We also had an awful lot of bruised, dinged, maltreated apples left over from apple picking. 

I cut out all the bad spots, quartered them, and chucked them, peels and cores and all, into a big pot with a few inches of water, and set it to simmer with a loose lid. A few hours later, the apples were mushy and collapsed, and the kitchen smelled heavenly, and I suddenly remembered I had gotten rid of my food mill. So I was reduced to shoving the cooked apples through a strainer to get the peels, cores, and seeds out. Bah.

 I still stand by leaving the peels on when you cook the apples, for color and flavor, but if you don’t have a food mill, be smart and core them before cooking. Bah. What a stupid week. Anyway, I put the strained applesauce back into the pot and added a hunk of butter, some cinnamon, and some honey and let it cook down a little bit more. SO GOOD. There is nothing like warm, homemade applesauce.

I had two acorn squashes. I cut them in half and scooped them out, then put them in a pan in a 400 oven for about an hour, until the flesh was soft. Look how October it is:

Then I scooped it out, mashed it a bit, and added butter, honey, a little salt, and chili powder. I figured I was the only one who would eat it anyway.

I thought it was delicious! And yes, I was the only one who ate it. 

The pork ribs, I just sprinkled generously with salt and pepper on all side and put them in a 450 oven for about 25 minutes, turning once. This is the best way to make pork ribs. Fight me. 

Behold, my Salute to October:

WEDNESDAY
Meatball pizza

Aw yisss, leftover meatballs! I did not take a picture. Too busy eating meatball pizza.  

THURSDAY
Bacon tomato bisque, grilled cheese

This really is the soup of all soups. It takes even less skill than some soups, but it tastes both delicious and fancy. It is absolutely packed with flavor. I tweaked it a bit after last time I shared the recipe card (below). Bacon, garlic, onion, rosemary, tomato, and so creamy and rich. 

I also sprinkled the top of mine with some of those crunchy onion things we had left, and that was an excellent choice. 

I made a bunch of grilled cheese sandwiches with sourdough bread and American cheese, because dammit, I like American cheese. It melts good. I cooked them in the pan that the bacon, onions, and garlic had been cooked in. 

FRIDAY
I don’t know. I think I wrote spaghetti. 

***

4 from 1 vote
Print

Tomato bisque with bacon

Calories 6 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1/2 - 1 lb bacon (peppered bacon is good)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 35 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, and top with crispy fried onions if you like. Garnish with more rosemary if you're a fancy man. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 144: Chocolate garnicht

Welcome, again, to new readers! And also old readers, you old bats. Most Fridays, I write a food post, wherein I describe the meals I cooked over the past week. I have ten kids and not a giant budget, so if you’re here to find recipe ideas or just to gawk, please pull up a chair. That sounded rude. I didn’t mean it to be rude. I gawk at myself all the time.

Anyway, I haven’t written up the recipe cards for this week yet; will add them when I get back.

And my big kitchen revelation this week: I have needed a paella pan all my life. I got one on sale last week. I still haven’t made or ever eaten paella or fully understand what it is, but boy, is that a useful pan. It has a lot of hot surface area and high, sloped sides, which makes it ideal for cooking or heating large quantities of sloppy food for large quantities of sloppy people. Get you one!

Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Chicken basil cutlets, garlic bread, salad, chocolate cupcakes

Birthday! The birthday girl — or technically birthday adult. We now have three technically adults children. Gevalt — requested Damien’s world-stopping chicken cutlets with fresh basil and provolone with homemade red sauce. If there were no heaven but only food, this is what the saints would be served. He made it with panko crumbs, too, cranking the scrumptious fluffiness up to eleven, and the sauce was bright and sweet and a little spicy.

You pound the chicken, bread it, and fry it, then lay a basil leaf on top, cover that with provolone, and ladle the sauce over all to make the cheese melt.

It only takes about eleven hours to prepare, and the rest of us who don’t spend eleven hours preparing it think we should eat it every day! So freaking good, especially since he cooked it in the wonderful, dark olive oil he found for cheap in this weird, off-brand store that carries such things for cheap.

The Birthday One requested chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting for dessert, but I had just been diagnosed with bronchitis that morning and knew that my already feeble and pathetic baking skills would dialed down to be nil; so I got boxed mix and canned frosting, and concentrated my efforts on the garnish.

Speaking of garnish, in German, gar nicht means “not at all.” This doesn’t mean anything; I just can’t stop thinking about it, and maybe now that I’ve told you, I can move along.

So I — well, I didn’t look up a recipe for some reason, but texted my husband to pick up a bar of Baker’s chocolate and some confectioner’s sugar. These I melted in a double boiler until it was more or less smooth. Then we put the melted chocolate in a sandwich bag (we had a pastry bag once, but do we have one now? Gar nicht.), lined a pan with waxed paper, and piped the chocolate into different shapes. Here she is, doing her magic:

She just piped out whatever popped into her head.

I was afraid it wouldn’t set, so we put the finished designs in the freezer for a few hours. They came out great! They peeled right off the wax paper and held their shapes perfectly when we stuck them in the frosting. Here are a few. A chocolate fishie:

 

a chocolate pumpkin:

a chocolate rose:

and of course a chocolate duck:

Changes I will make next time: I will use bittersweet or semisweet chocolate. The sugar I added barely made a dent in the baker’s chocolate taste! I will maybe add a little shortening, to make the chocolate smoother and a little more viscous. Or do I mean less viscous? I mean squeezy. And I will let it cool a bit in the bag before squeezing it (ow). Other than that, this turned out great. It was quite easy, and I’m sure we’ll be using this technique in the future. One friend said she doesn’t have much artistic talent, so she prints out designs and puts them under the wax paper to trace in chocolate. Brilliant!

 

SUNDAY
Basil chicken on spaghetti

There was so much food left over, we ate it again. Damien cut up the chicken and heated it up in the sauce, then served it all over spaghetti. Scrumptious.

MONDAY
Aunt Rosie’s Thai steak salad

Steak was on sale and my husband’s sister texted him about a salad that sounded good, so I took a stab at it. We had mixed greens, chopped red, yellow, and orange peppers, chili lime cashews, chopped cilantro, and mandarin oranges

and sliced steak, which I cooked under the broiler with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then sliced thin. Okay, it was actually a roast, not steak. I realize there is a difference between different cuts of meat, but deep in the cheapness of my heart, I refuse to acknowledge that it really matters, especially if it’s the difference between pretending roast is steak and just buying pork again.

It was good. It was tasty and fun.

But here is where I went wrong: I made a dressing which would have been excellent as a marinade for the steak. But as a dressing, it was savage. I mean, I had seconds, but it was savage. The dressing was rice vinegar, sesame oil, fish sauce, minced garlic, and cilantro. I know, fish sauce. The children reminded me once again that it smells like cat frow-up, and once again, they were right.

Anyway, this meal is definitely going on the list, but next time I’ll marinate the meat in the sauce, and then we’ll just have a little vinaigrette to dress the salad. And I won’t open the cans of mandarin oranges until dinner is ready; or else I’ll buy five cans just for Corrie. Conversation we had about the mandarin oranges:

Me: No more, now. We have to save some for the others.
Corrie: Awwwwww!
Me: Okay, two more, but that’s all.
Corrie: Siddy Mama. [helps herself to six more]

And I let her get away with it, too, because I’m just so old. So old.

TUESDAY
Honey garlic chicken thighs with broccoli, potato, and squash

Sheet pan meals! They’re the best. This one is really easy, and susceptible to many adaptions, depending on what vegetables you have hanging around. I’ve somehow turned into the kind of person that gasps in delight to see squash on sale at the supermarket, so I snapped up a nice big one.

Butternut squash is about as easy to peel as a cinder block, but I know a trick! Cut both ends up and chuck it in the microwave for three minutes. Then you can peel it. It’s also helpful to have one of those horizontal peelers, rather than a vertical one.

So you put the vegetables on the pan, put the chicken on the pan, make the sauce and slop that over the chicken, and cook it most of the way. Then add broccoli and finish cooking, then lay on table next to decorative gourds.

Easy squeazy broccolisi, and if someone doesn’t like some part of it (squash), it’s easy to pick it out.

I like squash, though, and I love this meal. The honey sauce makes the chicken skin crisp and tasty, and the sweetness of it seeps into the vegetables in a lovely way. You don’t have to season the broccoli, even though it sits on top, gar nicht! It draws up the juice like a sponge.

WEDNESDAY
Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, peas

Oh, the hosannas. I don’t know how many times I could produce this meal and still be considered a hero by my kids, but I haven’t hit that number yet. Behold the splendor of this meal above all other meals:

My meatloaf is nothing special. I used five pounds of ground beef and two pounds of ground turkey, seven eggs, four cups of bread crumbs, Worcestershire sauce, minced garlic, salt, pepper, and oregano. I form the loaves on a broiler pan with drainage, so it doesn’t get all soggy as it cooks.

Where I really shine, though, is in my mashed potatoes. I make them with potatoes, butter, and milk, and also salt and pepper, if you can believe it. For the peas, I used my special technique of grasping a bag between my fingers and then opening it. I also use a pot and some water, but I don’t want to overwhelm you, so I’ll tell you about that next week.

THURSDAY
Bacon, eggs, and Brussels sprouts in balsamic honey sauce

Another excellent sheet pan meal, very tasty and satisfying. We got home so freaking late because of a cross country meet, so I was glad I had halved four pounds of Brussels sprouts and chopped up three pounds of bacon earlier in the day. Then you just make up a quick sauce, mix it with the sprouts and the bacon, and spread it in a pan and cook. Once the Brussels sprouts are tender and the bacon is just about done, you crack a bunch of eggs over the food, sprinkle with parmesan and red pepper flakes, and let the eggs cook up. That’s it! It would be great with a crusty bread or maybe pita or even cinnamon buns.

It’s a shame the daylight was gone by the time we ate, because this doesn’t look nearly as good as it tasted (even though I did undercook the bacon and overcook the eggs).

FRIDAY
Pizza

And not a moment too soon.

Well nuts, I still haven’t put together those recipe cards. I’m not on trial here! This week, I’ve been to urgent care, my old therapist, my new therapist, adoration, and my new spiritual director. So this is basically me now:

However, I will get those recipe cards to you soon.

Thai Steak Salad

Ingredients

  • steak
  • mixed salad greens
  • cashews (chili lime are good)
  • bell peppers (red, green, yellow, or orange)
  • mandarin oranges, drained

marinade:

  • 3/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Mix together all marinade ingredients and marinate steak a few hours. 

  2. Grill or broil steak; slice thinly. 

  3. Put together salad, add steak on top. Dress with more wine vinegar if you like. 

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:

  • 6 tbsp honey
  • 6 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp dijon or yellow mustard
  • 3 tbsp minced garlic
  • 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. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 114: Hello, chicken, my old friend

Sorry for the light posting this week! It’s just been crazy-go-nuts.
Thanks so much for the prayers for my father as he recovers from his triple bypass surgery on Monday. He has had some ups and downs, as you can imagine. He is recovering, but it is a tough road for sure, especially as they work on managing his pain without too many bad side effects.

At the end, I have a few things to say to Etsy merchants and other craftsmen, plus a hat recommendation, because it’s a food blog. I don’t know.

**

SATURDAY
Chicken blueberry salad

Blueberries were 99 cents a pint at Aldi, so I changed my menu on the fly. I roasted some chicken breasts and sliced them thin. We had mixed greens (no Romaine lettuce, just to be safe) with the chicken, plus minced red onions, toasted walnuts we never managed to bake with over Christmas, feta cheese, blueberries, and balsamic vinegar dressing.

So pretty and delicious.

***

SUNDAY
Chicken cutlets with basil

The Husband wanted to cook, so he made homemade marinara sauce and these magnificent chicken cutlets. Very labor intensive, but so worth it, especially when your husband is making it.

You pound the chicken, bread it (he used panko bread crumbs, which are so nicely fluffy), fry it, top it with a fresh basil leaf and a slice of provolone, and then ladle some hot marina sauce over it all so the cheese melts and tucks in the basil leaf like a sweet little sleeping child which you then devour.

 

Whenever he suggests making this dish, I think, “Oh, we should have some pasta. Just chicken and sauce isn’t enough.” I am always wrong. This meal is paradise in your mouth. Even the savages appreciate what a treat it is.

We also had a ridiculous chocolate trifle for dessert. I made enough for two nights, which was not truly a problem, as problems go.

I baked one box of triple chunk chocolate brownies, then broke it up into little pieces. I made four boxes of instant pudding, two chocolate and two mocha, and I grated one giant chocolate bar and six or seven Heath bars, and then whipped up some cream with sugar and a healthy amount of Kahlua. Then I just layered everything up in several layers in two glass bowls.

I only got lousy pictures, but this is truly a fail-proof dessert, and is going on the list of fancy-danciness. I don’t yet own a trifle bowl, but oh, I see more trifle in our future.

***

MONDAY
Hot dogs and chips

Monday we had my sister’s little kids over so she could drive up and be with my father during and after his surgery, so we kept dinner simple.

***

TUESDAY
Kids still here. Arms getting tired. Chicken nuggets and . . . something. Oh, frozen corn. It turns out I am old and frail, and yell a lot.

***

WEDNESDAY
Chicken quesadillas with cheddar and jalapenos.

Wednesday I drove up to see my father in the hospital, an Damien took a sick day to hold down the fort at home. When he makes quesadillas, he folds the tortilla in half on the pan, and then he turns the tip over again, to seal it like an envelope. Maybe I was feeling sentimental, but this seemed so tidy and brilliant and wonderful to me. No chicken escaped.

It was also on Wednesday that everyone noticed I had made a weekly menu that was just wall-to-wall chicken. This was unintentional. I guess we were simply having a wonderful Chickentime.

***

THURSDAY
One-pan chicken thighs with roast vegetables

Everyone loves this dish from Damn Delicious.

I used a large butternut squash, two pounds of Brussels sprouts, three pounds of red potatoes, a pound of baby carrots, and about 18 or 20 chicken thighs. It was way too much food, but I can’t help myself. I filled my two giant quarter sheet pans, which, by the way, continue to be my smartest purchase ever. No warping, and they are useful for so many things — containing the mess when rolling out cookie or pastry dough, for instance, or keeping beads or buttons from rolling away while the little guys play, or for preserving unfinished board games if you have to clear the table to eat. We also use them as serving trays to organize meals with lots of little bowls and saucers and bottles of things. Pans!

I am old and frail. I yell about pans.

I was able to prep all the vegetables in about 25 minutes in the morning, and then I finished it up pretty quick right before supper. It’s a lot of chopping, obviously, but then you just season everything, put it all in the pan together, and chunk it in the oven. It takes slightly longer than the recipe says. Here’s an old pic of pre-cooked veg, because I have lost track of the ones I took yesterday. Isn’t it pretty? You want color in January.

I cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise and scooped out the pulp, then put it in the microwave for 4-5 minutes to soften up a bit. Then I could peel it pretty easily with a sharp knife. I have lost my potato peeler, so I’ve been using a cheese plane, but I lost that, too. Somehow I can always put my hand on a knife, though, she said somewhat ominously.

Why is it “omInous” instead of “omEnous?” I protest.

Ah, I found a picture! Here’s the cooked dish:

So nice. I’m having leftover veg for lunch right now.

***

FRIDAY
Fish tacos

Frozen fish sticks on tortillas with shredded cabbage, sliced avocado, salsa, sour cream, cilantro, and lime. Good schtuff. Here’s a picture from a previous meal:

Oh, I’m trying out a new affiliate program called Skimlinks. It’s sort of an umbrella affiliate system that works with hundreds (maybe thousands?) of merchants. So the links above, to the pans, the cheese planer, and the trifle bowl are affiliate links which can earn me a small profit. So click away, me hearties! (As far as I can tell, Skimlinks just requires bloggers to follow FTC regulations about disclosing relationships with merchants, so fingers crossed I’m not violating anyone’s arcane TOS this time!)

I’ve also become an Etsy affiliate, and will be doing a monthly Etsy artisan feature. In the meantime, may I point you toward an awesome shop called Hats By Charlotte? We ordered this hand-knit Samus hat for our oldest for Christmas, and it’s awesome.

It’s soft, comfortable, and well-made, and Charlotte was a pleasure to communicate with. We ordered late and the hat came sooner than we could reasonably expect. Highly recommended! Lots of neat, geeky patterns.

ONE MORE THING. I’ll be doing a handmade Valentine’s Day feature here in a few weeks. If you have romantic or relationship-related gifts to sell, especially unusual or hard-to-find items, please drop me a line at simchafisher[at]gmail[dot]com with “Handmade Valentine Feature” in the subject heading, with links and photos of one or two items with a short description. Deadline is January 26. Thank you!
(Open to all, not just Catholics. Not all submissions will be featured. No essential oils, please. They give me a headache even just online.)

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 104: I put the fannie in Fannie Farmer

The theme for the week is YOUR FRIEND BUTTER. Butter is your friend. Don’t listen to your doctor. Your doctor is DOO-DOO. You need more butter!

And you also need my pal Fannie Farmer. This week, what with the cold and the colored leaves and the swirling mists and the ennui, I found myself turning again and again to this cookbook I’ve been using for over twenty years now. Good old Fannie taught me how to roast pork ribs, how to make pie crust and pie filling, how to wait for the onions in onion soup, and so much more.

Fun fact: The author, Marion Cunningham, was briefly married to a then-unknown Thurgood Marshall when they were both teenagers. The couple broke up within days of the wedding, apparently after a bitter all-night dispute over rigatoni.

That’s . . . that’s not true. I’m sorry.

Short version of what we had this week: Butter.
Long version:

SATURDAY
Chicken burgers, chips, carrots and hummus

I have no memory of Saturday.

***

SUNDAY
Chicken pecan salad; apple pie

They keep asking for this dish, so I keep making it.

Coat chicken breasts in oil, salt, and pepper, and roast them in the oven, then cube the meat. Serve over greens with dried cranberries, toasted pecans (or almonds or walnuts), crumbled blue cheese or feta cheese, diced red onions, and some kind of sweet vinaigrette. This time we had pomegranate. I burned the nuts, but they were still good.

I finally got around to making a pie, long after we ate up all the apples we picked at the orchard. I used the Fannie Farmer pie crust, but used butter instead of shortening. I also did the trick of freezing the sticks of butter for half an hour and then shredding them with a cheese grater. This does 90% of the work of incorporating the fat into the flour without overworking it, and this crust turned out light and supple without sacrificing taste. It won’t work on Thanksgiving, though. It only works if I make a pie for no particular reason. On Thanksgiving, my pie crust will be doo-doo.

I rolled out the dough for the top crust and turned it over to the kids, who used Halloween cookie cutters to make a pie of great spooooookiness.

They used kind of a lot of them, so it has sort of an indeterminate “well of souls” look, I guess.  I wet the crust a bit and sprinkled sugar on the top, also spooky. You could also brush on a little beaten egg white to give it some gloss, if you’re into that.

***

MONDAY
Oven roasted pork ribs, rice, mashed butternut squash, apple pie

A very fine autumn meal

and still the best way to prepare pork ribs indoors. Just plenty of salt and pepper and a very hot oven and turn the ribs once, until they are browned. So juicy and easy. Be a meat hero!

For the squash, I cut them in half, scooped out the pulp and seeds, and just cooked them as-is in a medium oven until they were soft, maybe 30 minutes or so. Peeled off the skin and mashed the squash up with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Cozy.

The kids were by far most excited by the rice, which I cooked in beef broth instead of water. This is their idea of Ultimate Fanciness.

We had an entire leftover pie from Sunday! I don’t understand what is happening to our family. “Leftover pie.” Clarification?

***

TUESDAY
Taco Tuesday! and corn chips

I learned from previous weeks that too much cumin can make your taco meat taste like angry dirt, so I eased up on the cumin and added plenty of salt, pepper, chili powder, and garlic powder.

The iceberg lettuce I was saving turned out to be cabbage. So I shredded that, and it was fine. Our fridge has a trick of freezing everything in back, and it turns out sour cream does not recover from being frozen. It gets separated and mealy, bleh. But we did have tomatoes and plenty of cheese, plus jarred jalapeno rings. Good enough for the likes of us.

***

WEDNESDAY
Onion soup, Italian sausages, beer bread

Just sausages! I really wanted onion soup, but a significant faction in the family needs to have meat. A few pounds of sweet Italian sausages in the pan, and there it was: Supper.

I absolutely love this simple onion soup recipe. I used about 6-7 pounds of yellow onions and just acres and acres of butter. I used beef broth instead of water (skip the salt if you use broth), and tons of pepper and Parmesan cheese at the end. Nothing to it, and it doesn’t look like much, but it’s so good.

Beer bread is another recipe I won’t shut up about. It’s so easy, a . . . a . . . I don’t know, a naked toddler could make it.

You don’t need quite as much butter as the recipe says (and it’s not strictly necessary to bathe in the flour, either), but as long as you don’t be a big lazy baby and you take the time to sift, this bread comes up fluffy and golden and moist every time, with a gorgeous cobbled crust.

It’s much less crumbly and cake-like and more chewy and bread-like than most quick breads. And you can make it all in one bowl. Mix up the dry, add the beer, stir it up and chunk it in the pan. It says to bake an hour, but start checking at 40 minutes or so. It has an earthy, slightly honeyed taste. (This varies with the beer, of course. I used Narragansett.)

***

THURSDAY
Grilled cheese with ham and apple

Extremely popular here. They didn’t even ask if there were chips coming. (There were not.)

I put a layer of cheddar cheese top and bottom, with the ham and apples in the middle, and then put the sandwiches in the oven for a bit after grilling, to make sure it’s all melted. I have been using this wonderful sourdough bread from Aldi lately. It’s perfect for grilled sandwiches.

We make our grilled sandwiches with a thin layer of mayo on the outside. It doesn’t give it a mayonnaise taste, but it adds a sort of thin, crunchy crust to the entire sandwich. (Yes, you still use butter on the pan after spreading mayo on the bread. Yes, this is why we’re fat. WORTH IT.)

I really wanted some leftover onion soup, but the sandwich was completely filling, and I had to admit, I was truly stuffed. So I just ate the sandwiches the kids didn’t eat. Whatever, I went running this morning. Whatever!

***

FRIDAY
Giant pancake with chocolate chips, scrambled eggs

I felt guilty about something last week, I forget what, so I bought a bag of chocolate chips.

Giant pancake, if you don’t know, is this: You take an entire box of pancake mix and add enough water to make thick batter. Butter a pan, spread the batter in, and bake at 350 for ten minutes or so. Serve in wedges and go lie down. Bring a stick of butter with you, just in case.

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

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

SATURDAY
Jalapeno chicken quesadillas, tortilla chips and salsa

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

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

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

***

SUNDAY
Beef vegetable soup, pumpkin bread, caramel apples

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

MONDAY
Pulled pork, roast butternut squash, tater tots

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Dramatization)

***

TUESDAY
Frozen chicken, chips

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

***

WEDNESDAY
French toast, sausage, grapes

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

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

***

THURSDAY
Sausage spinach skillet

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

***

FRIDAY
Pizza

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

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

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

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

Here’s what we had last week.

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

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

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

wanted signs

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

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

cowboy cake

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

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

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

MONDAY
Beef daikon soup; white rice; brownies

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

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

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

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

TUESDAY
Pulled pork, fries, mashed butternut squash

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

WEDNESDAY
Bagel, egg, and sausage sandwiches

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

THURSDAY
Grilled pretzel brat sandwiches; roast cauliflower

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

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

FRIDAY
Instant Pot macaroni and cheese, salad

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

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

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

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

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

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

well, you can always wash the ceiling.

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