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.