What’s for supper? Vol. 99! The best meal in town!

Not really. Do they have The 99 Restaurant and Pub where you live? Do I have a jingle stuck in my head that no one else remembers? I can’t recall if I’ve ever eaten a meal there, but I have definitely been there, and it did not feel like the kind of place at which the best meal in town could possibly be provided.

I just Googled “The 99 the” to see if the slogan in my head is still in current use, and here is what I got:

Now you know as much as I do.

***

SATURDAY
Grilled cheese with ham and apple on sourdough, chips, Siberian pickles

Got the idea from a Kraft ad on Facebook. Deli ham, cheddar cheese, and granny smith apples on sourdough bread, with lots of mayo spread on the outside before grilling. Really delicious (made by Damien). I seem to have lost the photo, though.

I don’t know if they were really specifically Siberian pickles, but my husband was visiting #1 daughter at college, and they popped into a Siberian market, as one does. He brought home pickles, pumpkin seeds, and . . . something. White, poofy balls, sort of like gritty meringue marshmallows. My cyrillic is not up to speed. I ate one and got a blinding headache, so I stuck with the pickles.

***

SUNDAY
Beef bourguignon, fresh bread

I’ve been hearing about beef bourguignon for years, and didn’t really know what it was. It turns out it’s . . . stew.

This is exactly how I make stew. I followed this Sur La Table recipe, designed for the Instant Pot, and served it over noodles, and baked three loaves of bread from readymade frozen dough.

It was good, and the meat was very tender, but not blow-your-face-off-amazing, as I’d been led to expect. And it did taste better than my regular stew, which kind of ticked me off.

I think it’s the same principle at work as when someone loses weight and feels more energetic, and their skin clears up, when they start eating acai berries or rubbing charcoal in their armpits or whatever stupid bullshit people are doing now.

It’s not that the thing itself is especially effective. It’s that once you’ve done some research and bought some products and committed to using it, you’re signalling to yourself that you’re worth the effort, and that makes you feel better, which triggers other good self-care habits. And those are what’s making you feel better, but you paid money for it, so you’re like, “Wow, this acai charcoal is changing my life!”

In this case, I was actually following a recipe for something with a French name, rather than just schlepping around my kitchen making some fwiggin’ stew; and that prompted me to take the trouble to slice the garlic thin and patiently brown each piece of meat, or whatever. So it tasted better than stew. Whatever.

We had chocolate pudding with cool whip for dessert. I was planning to make tiny, individual pie shells by cutting flower shapes out of pie crust and folding up the petals before baking, but I forgot I had to write a thing, so I ran out of time. No one complained about pudding that wasn’t in piecrust flowers. I heroically didn’t have any dessert, but then I ate the leftover cool whip for lunch the next day. I did use a spoon, even though no one was watching.

***

MONDAY
Hamburgers, broccoli

That’s what it says. I have no memory of Monday. Oh wait, here’s a picture:

I do remember! It tasted so good, because we went running in the dark, and then Damien cooked me a burger and made it all gloppy with ketchup and mustard, just the way I like it. It was good.

***

TUESDAY
Hot dogs, hot pretzels, grapes

We had fixings left over from our Hot Dogs O’ Many Nations buffet, so I really had to buy more hot dogs. I had a buffalo dog with bleu cheese, scallions, and buffalo sauce. It did not disappoint.

***

WEDNESDAY
Kids had pork ramen, we went running and then went to Chili’s

I haven’t adjusted to having two fewer teenagers in the house yet, so I bought way too many pork ribs last week, and then sliced up the leftovers and froze them. On Wednesday, I heated the meat up in a little water while the ramen was cooking. Cooked up some frozen spinach and boiled a bunch of eggs, and put it all on the table in separate bowls with sesame seeds and crunchy chow mein noodles, which were the most expensive part of this meal.

Because my special gift is ordering food a restaurant doesn’t specialize in, I had Chili’s unfamous clam chowder and fresca salad, plus about eleven cubic yards of those hot, thin, salty, greasy tostada chips, and a couple of margaritas.

***

THURSDAY
Meatball subs, watermelon

I used about five pounds of beef and a pound of ground turkey, six eggs, three or four cups of breadcrumbs, and whatever seasonings were in the front of the Clementine box. I put the meatballs on a double pan with drainage and put them in a 450 oven for probably 25 minutes, then moved them to a baking pan with tomato sauce to warm them up before supper.

I hope this is the last watermelon of the year. The kids insisted on buying it, but it makes me sad because you can’t find watermelons with seeds anymore. I like watermelon, but it’s so sad that it doesn’t have seeds.

Probably I should note that on my chart. “CD 26: Fatigue; irritability; food cravings; thinks it’s sad that watermelons don’t have seeds anymore.”

***

FRIDAY
The ever longed-for tuna noodle casserole.

Tuna fish, cream of mushroom soup, and egg noodles, topped with crushed potato chips and corn flakes, drizzled with a sauce of ketchup, mayo, and vinegar. If you didn’t grow up eating it, you’ll never enjoy it. If you grew up eating it, it will make you feel five years old again, in a good way.

***

Guess what? I just remembered it’s actually “The 99! The best deal in town!” not the best meal in town. That explains a thing or two.

What’s for supper? Vol. 73: Detachment à la mode con Fleischenttäuschung con Dan Brown

First, a reminder! If you subscribed more than a few weeks ago, I’m afraid your subscription no longer works! I’m so sorry. You’ll need to resubscribe using the form on the right sidebar.

Second, another reminder. If you’ve bookmarked this site and your bookmark isn’t working, please try changing the “https” to “http.” If anyone knows a free or very cheap way to redirect this automatically, please let me know!

Okay, I think that’s all the blog business, except a reminder that the weekly podcast went out last night. It’s password protected for subscribers only. To subscribe, pledge $1 a more through Patreon. I know, I know, it’s kind of involved, but once you get it set up, it’s easy peasy. I do the podcast with my husband, and it’s fun and stupid and drinky, and often has sound effects, offensive jokes, and poetry, all for less than 25 cents a week. WHAT A DEAL.

***

Now for the food.

This week’s food post has no food photos.
Holy reason: It’s Lent, and tempting images of food would not be in keeping with the spirit of the liturgical season.
Real reason: Can’t find my iPad. Instead, please enjoy this photo of Dan Brown being allowed to be in front of a microphone that is turned on. That should be suitably penitential.

And we’re off!

SATURDAY
Sliced ham, fried eggs, raw peppers

Because Jesus is coming, ham is on sale, so I bought a big ‘un. Here is my genius idea: You slice it up first, early in the day, and put it in a pan with a little water and cover it with tinfoil. Then you can throw it in the oven and heat it up quickly before dinner. I fried up a few dozen eggs and sliced up about a bushel of red, yellow, orange, and green peppers.

We still had my nephew and three nieces on Saturday, and this dinner was a big hit with all the kids. Very bright and pretty.

I rate this meal zero Dan Browns, because it was easy, cheap, and well-received. Not penitential at all.

***

SUNDAY
Bò Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew), French bread and butter

The big disappointment of the week. On the penitential food scale, it rates a full three Dan Browns, which is not good.

This Instant Pot recipe from Nom Nom Paleo calls for all kinds of thrilling ingredients. Lemongrass! Curry powder! Fresh ginger! Star Anise! Fish sauce! I followed the directions pretty closely for once, and it smelled wonderful. But the taste was harsh and metallic, yet boring. I just didn’t like it at all. It was like regular old ‘Murkin beef stew, except angrier. What a waste of meat. I felt overwhelming Fleischenttäuschung

Happily, we also celebrated Corrie’s birthday on Sunday. We had chocolate cake (box mix) and cream cheese frosting using this recipe, except I used about half the sugar they called for.  I made a heart-shaped cake, frosted it yellow, and pushed fancy jelly beans into the frosting all around the edge. Then we remembered a pack of little candy hatchets with blood on the blades that I got on clearance after Halloween. They seemed about right for Mama’s widdle axe murderer, so we stuck those in, too.

Suddenly becoming the other kind of two-year-old, she ran away and hid in her crib when we brought the cake out. You guys. It is so hard being two.

***

MONDAY
Hot dogs, baked beans

Nothing to report, nothing to regret. No Dan Browns, because we like hot dogs.

***

TUESDAY
Carnitas with guacamole and chips; hot fudge and butterscotch ice cream sundaes

Taco Tuesday was, of course, Fat Tuesday or Carnevale, which literally means “farewell to meat,” so I thought carnitas make a good send-off. And they were good. I’ve made pork carnitas a few times, but it somehow escaped me until now that you are supposed to fry the meat after slow cooking it; and then you douse it with its own oniony gravy while you fry it. So carnal.

This meal gets half a Dan Brown, only because the salsa turned out to have fermented, and not in the good way.

Sorry you got the half with most of his chin in it.

I used this Instant Pot carnitas recipe from Paint the Kitchen Red. This is a good site if you’re new to the Instant Pot. It really walks you through each step, with copious photos of the Instant Pot buttons and screen, and it warns you how long everything will take. Tasty meat, too.

Now I’m really suffering. I took such gorgeous pictures of that guacamole. There is no more attractive kitchen rubble than guacamole rubble, n’est pas? The shining avocado pits, the papery garlic skins, the feathery cilantro, the gleaming limes. OH WELL. I hope all the souls in purgatory appreciate what I’m going through.

***

ASH WEDNESDAY
Spaghetti, bread and butter, salad

Spaghetti from a box with sauce from a jar with bread from a bag and salad from a pouch never tasted so good. No D.B. at all.

***

THURSDAY
Broiled chicken breast, salad with croutons, pinkaroni salad

I made a marinade of olive oil, lime juice, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and basil. Not terribly coherent, but it tasted okay. You let it marinate for a couple of hours and then slide it under the broiler, turning once. Slice it up and serve it over salad for a Meal of Great Virtue.

I used up the old hamburger buns for croutons. These are so good if you don’t burn them, which I did. Cube the bread, drizzle it with melted butter or olive oil, and then toss them with whatever seasonings you like. I just grabbed some adobo powder, which was fine, if a bit too salty. Then you put them in a shallow pan in a 300-degree oven for forty minutes or so, stirring them up occasionally, until they are toasted all the way through. You can make a ton at a time and store them in an airtight container for a long time. Or, you can just burn them and then eat them all up.

There wasn’t as much green salad as I thought, so I made some macaroni salad, more or less following this recipe. But instead of peppers, I used chopped beets, which turned the mayonnaise dressing pink, which delighted the kids.   Two Dan Browns for the burnt croutons and some expired Thousand Island dressing.

***

FRIDAY               
Fish sticks, chips, broccoli(?)

Current mood:


If you find my iPad, please tell me. Thanks.

What’s for supper? Vol. 72: Pork spiedies, haunted chicken, and gluey stew

OKAY HERE IS WHAT HAPPENED.

SATURDAY
Hamburgers, chips, salad

On Saturday, our vacation week house guests arrived! One nephew and two nieces, aged 6, 4, and 2, respectively. I knew I would need anywhere from five to seven pounds of hamburger meat, so I got eight. There were no survivors.

***

SUNDAY
Orange garlic chicken; mashed potatoes; salad; biscuits; strawberry shortcake

On Sunday, we went ahead and had my parents over for dinner, too. I had a couple of big chickens I was planning to roast, but at the last minute I stumbled across this recipe, where you slice oranges and poke them up under the chicken skin; then you stuff the cavity with garlic cloves and more oranges.

The effect was, as Benny would say, “TWEEPY.” The voodoo look was enhanced by the splintery skewers I used to truss up the chicken in lieu of twine. I had to go spend some time thinking happy thoughts about puppies and lollipops after that.

The recipe said to put them breast up in a 340-degree oven, which I complained about bitterly. 340 isn’t a real number! And what about the other side??! But I did it anyway, and the chickens turned out very moist indeed, and festive-looking:


The flavor didn’t knock my socks off, but it was good. If I do this recipe again, I’ll definitely flip them chickens over at some point and let the other side brown up. The flabby, pale underskin bursting with hot orange mush was an unwelcome addition to my mental book of Terrible Chickens I Have Known.

When it was time to whip the cream for the strawberry short cake (I just used store-bought pound cake for the cake, because my time on a Sunday afternoon is worth six dollars), we discovered that my beloved Kitchen Aid standing mixer wouldn’t mix. Nothing we tried made it work. I don’t have another electric mixer. I have one of those hand-cranked rotary beaters, but the model I own was designed for an earlier age when people’s hands were smaller and/or they didn’t mind grating their knuckles into a pulp in the service of whipped cream. Also, the handle is broken off, and the stump is really sharp.

So I resigned myself to forty minutes of whisk action, and started singing a sad song in my head about how Kitchen Aids come and Kitchen Aids go, and all flesh is like grass anyway, and to everything there is a season, turn, turn, turn, only sometimes *sob* the Kitchen Aid  . . . won’t . . . turn . . .

Then I heard a loud whirring sound from the kitchen. My husband had hit the mixer really hard, and it started working again. Lesson learned!*

*The lesson being: Here, have some whipped cream.

Oh, and it was early enough in the week that I thought it would be great to have the kids help with the biscuits. I used this basic recipe, except with some butter and some shortening. Butter gives a better flavor, but shortening makes it lighter.

They used the leftover dough to play a three-hour game of Castlemania. It involves a lot of screaming and, apparently, dough. Within the first hour, Benny (5) had gotten Mickey (6) to marry her, and she was waddling proudly around the house with their first babydoll stuffed under her shirt. By noon, I heard her shrieking, “Mitty! Oh, Mitty! Oh, oh, I’m having the baby!” I asked if everything was okay, and she explained that it was just pretend, so that was okay.

By the next day, they had eleven children, and the twelfth was due at midnight. This was exciting enough, but to make tensions even higher, their pretend Castlemania washing machine was broken!!!!!! Would the repairman get there in time??????

***

MONDAY
French toast casserole; sausages

To break up all the rampant childbearing, we went sledding on Monday, so this was a nice cozy supper afterwards. I followed this basic recipe, but just mixed it up and baked it right away, rather than waiting overnight. Very nice with raspberry jam.

When we went sledding, I decided to be Fun Mom and went down the hill myself. First I went on the toboggan with the seven-year-old, and we both fell off, and that hurt, it hurt, but I got up again. Then I took a break for a while, and then I tried one of those snazzy foam sleds.  This time, I fell off much sooner, rolled over once, kept skidding, and did a complete somersault on my head, yat! It was so awful. My belly was flapping in the wind and everything, and there was this fringe of moms watching me with this very familiar mixture of concern, horror, and relief that they were they and not I.

***

TUESDAY
Beef stew; butter and bread

I was running hideously late on Tuesday, which would have made it the perfect time to make Instant Pot beef stew for that instant beef stew experience. But it would be something new, and as my therapist keeps telling me over and over again, new is bad. NEW IS BAD. When I’m already frazzled, I’d rather work ten times as hard and eat at midnight than look up a new recipe.

So I made my regular recipe, and just skipped the “let it stew” part. Perfectly adequate, if a tiny bit gluey.

(My regular recipe: Fry up some crushed garlic in oil. Cube the beef, shake it up with flour, salt, and pepper, and brown it up in the oil. Add wine and beef broth, and then add cubed potatoes, carrots, and string beans. Let it simmer until the carrots and potatoes are soft. I sometimes add sliced mushrooms, diced onions, and/or diced tomatoes.)

***

WEDNESDAY
Chicken nuggets, corn chips, mashed butternut squash

Wanting to reassure the Instant Pot that I still cared, I used it to steam the butternut squash. It turned out so well last time. This time, I must have crowded the squash or something, because only 3/4 of it got cooked. On the other hand, last time I made two squashes and mashed them, and the kids only ate about a third of it. This way, I was able to save time by throwing it away before it even hit the table. That Instant Pot really is a time saver.

***

THURSDAY
Pork spiedies with peppers and onions; salad; chips; pineapple

By far the best meal of the week. I cut up a big pork loin into chunks and started marinating it the morning before, so it got at least 36 hours to soak. I used this NYT recipe for spiedie marinade.

It was warm on Thursday, but not so warm that the BBQ could be extracted from the ice in the back yard, so I put the meat cubes along with wedges of green pepper and red onion in some shallow pans, rather than threading them onto skewers

and slid them under the broiler. The meat turned out a tiny bit dry, but still wonderfully flavorful. We ate it on grinder rolls.

Can you imagine a world without sandwiches? I can’t.

***

FRIDAY
Pizza!

Oh, I forgot. Last week, I said I was thinking of trying to make pita bread to go with the shakshuka. Well, I did it, and it turned out swell! So pillowy soft and nice. I made about twelve 8-inch pockets with a double recipe (see below). They puffed up like magical bread balloons in the oven, and the gently collapsed when they came out.

I baked three at a time. They only bake for three or four minutes, which is enough time to roll out another three pitas. This is not a recipe for when you’re in a rush, but it wasn’t hard, and the recipe really spells out how to handle each step. Labor intensive, but miles better than any store-bought pita I’ve had.

Today it’s raining hard, so I’m working up my nerve to go to the children’s museum with kids ages 11, 9, 7, 6, 5, 4, 2, and almost 2, and the two youngest are guaranteed to spend most of their time trying to murder each other. That seems like a good idea, right? Something I should pay money to make happen? Maybe we can pick up some new germs to go with our old germs while we’re there.

What’s for supper? Vol. 71: Your feta has given me wings!

Another week has come and gone and kicked my butt. Here’s what we had to eat:

SATURDAY
Aldi pizza 

All of Saturday was consumed with the installation of our new couch from Craigslist. Sometimes, living in a 5/8ths-scale house is just stupid, especially if you just got a swell deal on a truly enormous overstuffed sectional.

If you think Valentine’s Day is romantic, you should see my husband obligingly sweating his way through an absurd, five-hour, perpetually escalating “if you give a mouse a cookie” situation, and not even swearing.

Here, we see the old, faithful couch cast out after years of service, and the new one being broken in with My Little Pony and cheese sticks.

That’s how it goes. It’s a hard knock life for couch.

***

SUNDAY
Chicken shawarma

Shawarma is one of the greatest contributions the east has ever made to the west. Almost makes up for algebra. It’s even better if you marinate it starting the night before, but marinating all day is good, too.

Like a maniac, I bought sixteen pounds of chicken thighs, and by the time I skinned and trimmed them all, I was pretty much over the raw chicken experience, so I left the bones in and marinated and cooked them that way, rather than de-boning.

It wasn’t a mistake, exactly, but it definitely detracted from the delectability of this dish (NYT recipe here). This is a meal that you want to be able to gather up with eager fingers and pop into your mouth with glee, while mumbling insincere resolves to stop eating soon. Bones just slow you down.

We served it with pita bread, cucumbers, feta cheese, red pepper hummus, olives, parsley, and yogurt mixed with fresh garlic and lemon juice.

I also fried up some eggplant, but that did not turn out great. I couldn’t get enough of that cool, sharp yogurt sauce, though. Man.

I give this meal a A for content, B+ for execution. Wish I had gotten some tomatoes.

***

MONDAY
Penne with sausage sauce, salad

Snow day! Again! A good day for hearty pasta. Damien took the kids sledding, while I bravely stayed home and fried up diced onions and loose sausage, basil, and oregano, added a few jars of spaghetti sauce, and some red wine, and let it cook for a while, then served the sauce over penne with parmesan.

I also made hot chocolate again, which is why, this morning, I had to stop at the minimart and buy a gallon of milk for $4.79 to get us through the day. Humph.

***

TUESDAY
Corn dogs, chips

I have no memory of Tuesday. Oh, wait: I remember seeing a plate holding a pile of tattered and discarded corn dog batter. Animals.

Oh, wait, I remember more. It was Valentine’s Day, which I like, so there. I made a cheesecake using this basic Philly cheesecake recipe, and it turned out just fine. (It did crack, but I don’t care.) I made a chocolate ganache which turned out garbage, so we just had strawberries on top. I also made some fudge using Skaarup’s Lunatic Fudge recipe, which is fast and easy, no candy thermometer required. I made it in a heart-shaped pan, because I like that.

***

WEDNESDAY
Panic omelettes, biscuits, leftover chicken, salad

Because supper was going to be easy, I thought I’d go lie down for ten minutes and surf through Facebook until it was time to get things going. Next thing you know, I’ve accidentally made the acquaintance of some extraordinarily imaginative folks who, when they open their eyeballs in the morning, see nothing but a menacing horde of their fellow Catholics who are using NFP for the wrong reasons.

You know and I know that there is no worse use of one’s time than trying to make sense of a conversation like this, but I did it anyway. And so, suddenly, it’s half an hour after we should be sitting down to eat, and I’m just now staggering into the kitchen, wondering what would in the world would motivate someone to try and make marriage harder, and also where all the friggin eggs went.

(They went into the cheesecake, and also everyone has to make eggs on a snow day. It’s the rule.)

I usually make omelettes to order; but since I could only find eleven eggs, that seemed futile. So I made a six-egg omelette with pepper jack cheese, turned it too soon, got mad, and burned the rest. Then I ripped up some ham and did the same thing with the rest of the eggs. I divvied them up, and then discovered that my 12-year-old son was waiting for the next batch, which there warn’t none. SADNESS. Good thing I had made sixteen pounds of chicken not long ago.

We also had biscuits, which I made with Benny. Come to think of it, we made them before supper, so I can’t have been arguing about the scourge of wild, unrestrained Humanae Vitae parties at the same time. I guess that was a different day. Well, we used this recipe, anyway.

***

THURSDAY
Japanese-style beef stew, rice, rice rolls

This seemed like a really swell dish — chunks of beef and sweet potatoes and fresh ginger slices in chicken stock with soy sauce, pepper, honey, and lemon juice —  but it turned out no better than adequate. I don’t know what I did wrong, but it must have been more than one thing.

There weren’t any clean bowls, so I served it angrily over rice.

You know what’s going to make my cooking a lot better? Spring. So I can have some natural light to take food pictures with.

I also managed to cook it in a skillet, transfer it to a dutch oven, put it in the fridge, take it out of the fridge, transfer it into the crock of a crock pot, and heat it up in the microwave. Thank goodness for all these labor-saving devices. Next, I plan to pour the leftovers into one of those plastic bags that you seal up with a vacuum cleaner, then store it under my bed, sell the house at a stunning loss, and move into a wood-panelled van in Martha Stewart’s back yard.

Also on Thursday, I made 53 stained glass heart cookies, and Damien dipped sixty strawberries in chocolate, because I signed up to bring treats in for three separate classrooms for a belated Valentine’s Day party.

The cookies are not hard to make, but they take forehhhhhhhhver. You use this basic, no chill sugar cookie recipe, and cut out large cookies with a cookie cutter. Lay them on the baking sheet on parchment paper or silicone baking mats, cut out a smaller shape inside each cookie, and fill up the cut-out with crushed hard candies; then bake as usual, or a tiny bit longer. The candy melts and makes a little colored window, very pretty.

They turned out fine, if a little bleary. But they took forehhhhhhhhver.

***

FRIDAY
Shakshuka 

Here’s a pic from last time I made it:

There are many things to love about shakshuka, and not least is that you can sing it to the tune of “Volare” and really bother the children. If I have time, I want to try this pita recipe. I have until 3:45 to come up with an irritating pita song.

Oh, Dean. Just shut up.