What’s for supper? Vol. 382: All hands on deck

IS it Friday? Apparently it is Friday! Happy Friday. Today, the last kid has her last day of school (the other schools let out last month, last week, and earlier this week, respectively).

We’ve had hot, sunny weather all week, and countless numbers of ceremonies and little parties and I don’t even know what else, and I’ve been spending every spare minute working on the pool deck, and it just this minute started raining. Which is good, because I have been neglecting my garden in favor of working on the deck. 

We had some quick but delicious meals this week, with a real summery feel to them. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY

Saturday was Sophia’s graduation! Little Baby New Year, all done with high school. 

Our first kid to graduate from Catholic high school. And that’s six out of ten kids done with high school!

After graduation she went to a friend’s party, and then we went out to eat, to the restaurant of her choice. Which was CHILI’S, because we have raised her right. Then we got ice cream, and I picked ginger ice cream, which is now on my list of things to make this summer. So refreshing. I want to make ginger ice cream with coconut, and mango ice cream with pecans, or some combination like that. 

SUNDAY
Roast beef sandwiches with swiss and chimichurri

Sunday after Mass I made some chimichurri

Jump to Recipe

and got started on the deck, and Damien cooked the roast beef. I attached three legs with carriage bolts on one side and screwed a big X, to reinforce it.

I didn’t bother trying to make the legs even because the ground is so uneven. Just literally leaning into that whole situation.

I’m using all salvaged wood, so a lot of the work is removing old nails and screws and extra bits of wood, and also I’m determined to do as much by myself as possible, so everything took a million billion years, and I truly don’t know what I’m doing, andI disturbed an awful lot of angry ants, so by the time it was dinner, boy oh boy, did that sandwich taste good.

Damien cooked the meat by seasoning it very heavily, like absolutely crusty, with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and then he sears it in hot oil with a bunch of whole garlic cloves. Then he roasts it at 350 for about 45 minutes, and begins checking it for doneness. We like it quite rare, and it turned out juicy and tender and perfect. 

The chimichurri was also excellent.

Jump to Recipe

It’s like the flavor equivalent of if a toddler who just took a bath and escapes from his mother and goes and rolls around in the newly-mowed grass, and it’s the best thing that ever happened to him. 

MONDAY
Scrambled duck eggs with sausage on homemade biscuits

I prepped the biscuit dough in the morning, mixing the dry ingredients in one bowl, and the eggs and milk in another, and I shredded the butter on a box grater and then froze it. (If I’m going to make the dough right away, I freeze the butter first, and then grate it directly into the dry ingredients.) 

Jump to Recipe

Spent some more time on the deck, drilling out the holes for the leg bolts. I couldn’t put the legs on yet, because the deck still needed to be flipped, and I didn’t want it to be too heavy. I also worked on leveling out the ground to seat the post bases, close enough so you can jump off the deck into the pool, but not so close that it damages the pool. 

As I dug and measured and dug again and measured again and cussed and dug, I started having some massive flashbacks of the neverending pool prep we did a few years ago, when we kept digging and digging, trying to find some magical, mystical strata of ground that was not rocky (so it wouldn’t ruin the pool floor) but level (so the pool wouldn’t tip over), and every time we removed a rock, it turned out to be a GIANT ENORMOUS BOULDER, and when we got it out, ope, look at that, the ground wasn’t level anymore. And we DID truck in sand to level it off, but somehow it wasn’t that simple, and I remember it taking something like seventeen years to finish. So that’s why I want to do the deck myself! Because if I’m gonna suffer, at least I’ll only have one person mad at me (myself). 

So about half an hour before dinner I rushed in started sausages cooking, and threw the biscuit dough together, and baked twelve enormous biscuits. They turned out with a wonderful texture, just pillowy soft inside with a thin, crackly, buttery shell on the outside

but they tasted like straight baking soda. I have no idea what happened. Same recipe I always use. Is it because I broke up the assembly process? Is it because the butter was frozen? No idea. But I scrambled up a bunch of eggs and had the kids make orange juice, and it was a good enough meal.

After dinner I did get the kids to help me flip the deck over into the bases, and then while they held it, I attached the other three legs. 

Not! Quite! Straight! But pretty close. And, unlike me, more stable than it looks. 

TUESDAY
Tacos

Totally Unremarkable Tacos.

I took this picture of my taco resting on the arm of the living room chair, and you can see the piles of projects the kids brought home and boxes of miscellaneous stuff cleared out of the laundry room so Damien could work on the dryer and the living room not having been cleaned because I have been working on my deck and not yelling at people to clean more, and just THINGS AND STUFF EVERYWHERE. It’s fine. All manner of things shall be fine. But as you can see, it seemed like too much work to put salsa on. Startin to get a little tired. 

WEDNESDAY
Italian sandwiches, chips, watermelon, birthday cake

Tuesday, Dora and her friend came over to belatedly celebrate her birthday. I scurried around getting the sharpest wood scraps out of the yard, and made a bunch of meat and cheese platters

and we had nice sandwiches

and Clara made a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting. Sadly, she ran out of time and wasn’t able to complete her plan, which was to recreate the Carvel cake that Kelsey Grammar and Jenna order to pull the misspelled cake refund con. So the cake just said FRAJER and we all had to just sort of sit with our choices in life. 

I heard it was delicious, though, unsurprisingly. Clara’s very good. 
And if I may toot my own horn for a mo, I’m sometimes pretty good at buying birthday presents

It was a book from her childhood, which we have been trying to remember the name of for years and years and years.

It’s about an alligator, and whenever I described it, everyone always thought I was talking about Lyle Lyle Crocodile. No! Not Lyle! I know I sound like the guy who is convinced there is a little mouse with a big hat, and he goes very fast, but no, NOT Speedy Gonzales. He’s a mouse! Anyway, she liked her present. Phew. 

I also did some laughably bad work on the deck, reinforcing the legs on the other long end

It was just one of those “all it has to do is not fall down” moments, and I think I arrived. The X I made on the first side has one plank on the inside of the legs crossing over the plank on the outside , but this second side of the deck is too close to the pool wall, so it had to — you know what, never mind. I’m the one who has to live with this; why should you get involved? It’s fine. 

THURSDAY
Poke bowls, potstickers

Thursday I attached a ladder to the short end of the deck

and reinforced the legs a bit more, replaced a few planks on top, annnnd started removing the side of the existing lifeguard station thingy on the other short end, with the intent of making it all into one big deck. Which wasn’t the original plan, but what is, these days? 

This may or may not work out. But it may! I added a fairly chimpy joist to join the two platforms, and now I need to buy some hardware to reinforce that, and then I can start adding to the floor, and putting up a railing. 

I haven’t yet decided what to do with the one long end that you see when you look straight at the pool. I have some pallets I could just attach to it, to make it more finished, kinda like this, but two of them

Or I could just attach some kind of other wood. I’m really trying to use just salvaged wood and only buy hardware, so I dunno. I may just save it for another year. My plan is to build steps to replace the ladder next year, and I’m going to stain it when I’m done building this year. 

Dinner was blessedly simple. I had remembered to take the ahi tuna out of the freezer in the morning, and although the cat did find it and start nefariously dragging it across the house like an absolute cartoon character, it was double bagged, so it survived. I started some good rice in the instant pot, got Clara to cut up a bunch of mangos, chopped up some sugar snap peas, and diced up some ahi tuna. So we had rice, tuna, mango, pea sprouts, sugar snap peas, and those spicy chili lime cashews from Aldi, and also the hot sweet Polynesian sauce from Aldi. 

It was SO spicy, but incredibly tasty. What an entertaining treat this meal is. 100% mouth party time.

I wasn’t sure there would be enough food, so I grabbed a couple of bags of frozen potstickers from Alid and just boiled ’em. Everyone was pleased. 

FRIDAY
Not actually sure

Last Friday (after I shared last week’s food post), I made lemon garlic shrimp on pasta, and it turned out spectacular.

I used this Sip and Feast recipe and I’m probably gonna make this exact thing again this Friday, because this time the other store had a sale on shrimp and I’m not made of stone. The recipe has a couple more steps than I would do if I were just throwing it together on intuition, but it’s totally worth it. Every flavor just popped right out, and the texture of the shrimp was absolutely perfect. 

Sophia is talking about celebrating the honest-to-goodness start of summer by taking the other kids out for pizza, and if that doesn’t pan out, there is tuna in the house, so there will be something for every palate. 

Oh, last Friday was also the feast of the Sacred Heart, so I also made something I’ve had my eye on for a while: Coeur à la Crème, following this recipe from Mon Petit Four. It was really quite easy, and I think I will make it every year for the solemnity. I need to work on the presentation, but I did achieve that Catholic What-The-Hell-Am-I-Actually-Eating feel.

and everybody thought it tasted good. I thought it would be like cheesecake, dense and heavy, with a light garnish of fruit, but it was actually kind of reversed: A thick, intense fruit compote on top of an airy, not-too-sweet creamy heart. Very pleasant. 

I didn’t have blackberries the recipe called for, so instead I made a compote with about a pound of strawberries and a pint of blueberries, to which I added two or three tablespoons of sugar and two tablespoons of water.

I simmered it for a bit and mashed it from time to time, and then mixed in a good slug of lilac jelly; and then I spooned out some of the liquid and mixed it with a few tablespoons of cornstarch, and added that back into the sauce, cooked it for a bit longer, and then took it off the heat and let it cool until dessert time. 

I don’t think I mentioned what the lilac syrup tastes like! It’s lovely. It does taste floral, but different from rosewater (which I don’t really like). It is sweet, of course, and a little bit citrusy, but not cloyingly sweet, and it just has a bright, lively but not too intense flavor, faintly like blueberry but brighter. I really like it, although it never completely gelled and is more like a very thick syrup than jelly. I think next year, I will put some of the lilac petals into the food processor and put them into the jelly, to give it a little more body. 

Oh, so I made a double recipe of the cream part, and one was in a large silicone heart mold, lined with cheesecloth as the recipe suggested. The rest, I made in small heart molds sprayed with cooking spray, and they did not come out at all. We had to spoon them out. Lesson learned! 

I also learned you can help your cream cheese achieve room temperature by not going shopping until the very last minute, and panicking a bit on the ride home

But like I said, it was hot and sunny!

And now, like I said, it is raining, so I can’t work on the deck, but can only sit here and think happily about not having to water my poor, neglected garden. I think I put 500 miles on the car this week, just to-and-fro-and-to-and-fro, and I’m so happy about today finally being the last day of school, you cannot imagine. I bought Corrie a wooden crow call for some reason, so we have that going for us. 

While I have been doing my completely voluntary deck and bridge projects, Damien has been incredibly busy with far less glamorous projects: The dryer, of course, and his car, and my car, and Moe’s car, and Lena’s car, and now today the dishwasher, and I’m almost certainly forgetting some stuff. The things that man has taught himself how to do just blows my mind. Somebody should make him some shrimp, at the very least. 

Chimichurri

Dipping sauce, marinade, you name it

Ingredients

  • 2 cups curly parsley
  • 1 cup Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup dried oregano (or fresh if you have it)
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients except olive oil in food processor. Whir until it's blended but a little chunky. 

  2. Slowly pour olive oil in while continuing to blend. 

 

moron biscuits

Because I've been trying all my life to make nice biscuits and I was too much of a moron, until I discovered this recipe. It has egg and cream of tartar, which is weird, but they come out great every time. Flaky little crust, lovely, lofty insides, rich, buttery taste.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, chilled
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450.

  2. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and cream of tartar.

  3. Grate the chilled butter with a box grater into the dry ingredients.

  4. Stir in the milk and egg and mix until just combined. Don't overwork it. It's fine to see little bits of butter.

  5. On a floured surface, knead the dough 10-15 times. If it's very sticky, add a little flour.

  6. With your hands, press the dough out until it's about an inch thick. Cut biscuits. Depending on the size, you can probably get 20 medium-sized biscuits with this recipe.

  7. Grease a pan and bake for 10-15 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

On my summer list: Less screen time

This is the time of year when I make a list of things I definitely want to do this summer.

Some of it is just for fun, and I consult with all the kids to make sure nobody’s idea of fun gets overlooked (which can happen to the quieter kids in a big family). Visit that aquarium before our membership runs out! Learn how to make mozzarella! Go back to that state park with the waterfalls! Try our hand at paper marbling! Spend time at the ocean!

Some of it is things I must force myself to do: Teach at least one teenager to drive! Do something about the attic! Do something about the bathroom ceiling and the mold thereon! Do something about the teenagers in general!

There is also one thing I must force myself to do, that the kids definitely don’t want to do, but it’s so we can all have fun: Institute a weekly screen-free evening. We already do this during Lent, and most years, we do it during Advent, too. It’s stupidly hard. But the rewards are almost immediate; and I hope they are long-term, as well.

The thing about screen time — whether it’s video games, or TV, or movies, or social media or whatever — is that it doesn’t just take up the time it takes up. If you spend two hours staring at a screen, it’s very hard to just snap back into other activities where you use your body and heart and senses and imagination at the end of those two hours. Screen time leeches the life out of the rest of your day, and makes everything non-screen begin to feel arduous and irrelevant, and before you know it, you can’t really remember how to do anything else. So you don’t. You just look at your screen.

I say this as a screen fiend. I have a very hard time putting my phone down, even if I’m busy and really need to do something else, or if I’m exhausted and really need to sleep, or if everything I see and hear on my screen is intensely irritating or deathly boring. It’s just so easy to scroll, scroll, scroll, and the more I scroll, the harder it is to do anything else. So I have a lot of sympathy for my kids when they don’t want to put their devices down.

But I’m still their mom, and I still get to say what goes on in my house. Here’s one of the great secrets of doing what’s best for children: It often forces you into doing things that are good for you, too, even if only so they can’t accuse you of hypocrisy (which is a child’s greatest joy in life).

Read the rest of my latest for Our Sunday Visitor

What’s for supper? Vol. 340: Happy new sandwich to me!

Friday again! It’s Friday again. I remember when the weeks were long, but they ain’t long now. 

Here’s what we ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Sausage and pepper sandwiches, raw veggies and dip

Satisfying little meal. Fried peppers and onions, sausages in jarred sauce. Easy peasy.

Aldi didn’t have any sausage-shaped rolls, so we had kaiser rolls and did not die. 

SUNDAY
McDonald’s

Sunday we went to Mystic Aquarium! A wonderful place with some very personable belugas. 

We also fed the cow nose rays, who have the most alien faces I’ve ever encountered on a creature that size. Their noses are bifurcated, sort of like a cow’s, and then when they want to eat, the bottom of their face sort of unfolds like origami;

but their actual mouths are  underneath this part, and you can feel them avidly vacuuming up the food between ridged plates of teeth. Freaky!

We also caught the seal show, and we saw the jellyfish that light up, and the octopus with his toy, and the leering sharks, and the little tiny baby sharks thrashing silently around inside their egg cases, and everyone had fun. We packed sandwiches for lunch, and grabbed McDonald’s on the way home.

I’m still getting used to having family outings that are so straightforward, because everyone’s so grown up. No diapers, no nursing stops, no need to pack three changes of clothes and a plastic bag to sequester the pants that have become unspeakably soiled; no constant terror that someone’s going to wander off and drown; no random meltdowns because small people are having too much fun. We didn’t even have drama in the gift shop, because some people have their own spending cash, and others have started to catch on that a smushed penny really is a cooler souvenir than a stuffie that you could get at the dollar store back home. I am somehow managing to feel sad about this, because I have the superpower of turning any experience into melancholy, hooray. 

Anyway, our family is still big enough that a family membership is cheaper than buying individual tickets, so we hope to go back within the year! It was extremely hot, so it would be nice to go back on a day when it’s less tempting to dive into the pool with the sea lions and take your chances. But if you’re within driving distance of this aquarium, I recommend it. Mystic Seaport is also really cute and fun to explore (they have a drawbridge in the middle of town), but we didn’t have time to go there this time. 

MONDAY
Korean beef bowl, rice, crunchy rice rolls, sugar snap peas

Monday, I suddenly couldn’t stand the mess in the dining room for one more second, and I sorted shoes and threw out about 1/3 of them. This isn’t even the most Converse we’ve ever had at the same time, and all but one pair was in absolutely disgraceful condition.

So I swept and wiped and organized, and now you can actually walk through the room, rather than dodging and sashaying and squirming your way through a clear path down the center.

Won’t last long, but it feels good for now. 

Supper was quick and easy: Some rice in the Instant Pot, and some Korean beef bowl on the stove.

Jump to Recipe

Aldi had those yummy crunchy rice rolls in stock, so I bought several packages, and we had raw sugar snap peas. 

Sugar snap peas are one of the few vegetables that really do satisfy the craving for something crunchy. Love ’em. 

It was also my turn to clean the kitchen. I have Mondays, Damien has Tuesdays, and the kids who don’t have jobs do the rest of the days, and the older kids fill in as needed. There were so many fruit flies and I was so hot and aggravated by the time I was done, I set my phone to play some Bach guitar music, slithered into the pool, and just sloshed around by myself in the dark until I felt human again. 

Also on Monday, Clara moved out! Oh me oh my. She’s still close by and we’ll see her soon. 

TUESDAY
Oven fried chicken, peach salad

Chicken wings were 99 cents a pound, and everyone liked the oven fried chicken from last week so much, I figured I’d do that again. Tuesday was the Assumption, so I quietly told myself we would have wings for the assumption, ho ho ho. Got to the noon Mass. 

The oven fried chicken recipe: Make a milk and eggs mix (two eggs per cup of milk), enough to at least halfway submerge the chicken, and add plenty of salt and pepper, and let that soak for a few hours before supper.

About half an hour to 40 minutes before dinner, heat the oven to 425. In an oven-safe pan with sides, put about a cup of oil and a stick or two of butter and let that melt and heat up.

Then put plenty of flour in a bowl (I always give myself permission to use a lot and waste some flour, because I hate it when there’s not enough and you have to patch it together from whatever’s left, and it gets all pasty) and season it heavily with salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and whatever else you want – chili powder, cumin, etc. It should have some color in it when you’re done seasoning! Take the chicken out of the milk mix and dredge it in the flour. 

Then pull the hot pan out of the oven and lay the chicken, skin side down, in the pan, return it to the oven and cook for about 25 minutes. Then flip it and let it continue cooking, probably for another 15 minutes or more, depending on how big the pieces of chicken are. 

It turned out fine. It wasn’t as good as last time, probably because last time all I had in the house was olive oil, but this time all I had was canola oil and margarine, which I haven’t used in years.  

The side was a peach salad, which I had qualms about, and I should have listened to my qualms. I follow this recipe except I skipped the corn, because that just didn’t sound right. I don’t know what the problem was. The goat cheese just kind of went pasty, and the peaches were maybe overripe, and –oh, one big problem was I used real maple syrup in the dressing, and discovered too late that it had gone rancid, which I forgot syrup can do! 

It looks okay, but it just wasn’t great. The whole meal was just a bit disappointing. It was STODGY. 

What I really want is to recreate this amazing peach burrata dish with cherry tomatoes, prosciutto, and a balsamic reduction that I had at a restaurant a while back:

Man, that was outstanding. Oh well. 

Anyway, we had fried chicken and fresh peach salad with goat cheese and toasted almonds on a Tuesday, so I did try! Sometimes it just doesn’t come together, oh well. Excelsior. 

WEDNESDAY
Pizza

Wednesday we had to hit urgent care with Lucy with a possible broken foot, but happily it’s just a sprain. The doctor recommended, rather than an ice pack, filling a bucket with cold water and soaking it for 20 minutes while spelling the alphabet with your foot. So on the way home from the hospital, I bought a bucket, and also some other things we needed: milk, half and half, and a sack of duck food. Lucy said that sounded like a tasty bucket of breakfast. And that’s why I’m in charge of the menu and she is not. 

Got home, made some pizza. All they had at the store for dough was wheat dough and something called “bac’n dust,” neither of which are food words. It tasted okay, not bad, but not something I’d ever make any effort to recreate. I made one plain cheese pizza, one olive, and one with pepperoni and leftover sausage. 

Here we see one of Van Gogh’s less known sunflower works, in which he experimented with both a limited palette and leftover meat.

Look, these are the jokes. Excelsior. 

THURSDAY
Spicy chicken sandwich with peppers, chips

On Thursday, the big kids all had plans, so I decided to take Benny and Corrie out school shopping. We usually do this with everyone at the same time, at the last possible minute, to create the maximum stress, but apparently you don’t have to do it this way.

So we got school supplies, and also TMNT shirts, unicorn headbands on clearance, new shoes, a fuzzy pink hoodie because we’re still planning to go see Barbie, and so on. We also stopped at a thrift store I like, and I got a Ninja blender for $20, so we’ll see what smoothies may be. 

We have this very wimpy Oster blender that can only manage, like, chocolate milk. Looking forward to pulverizing stuff. Also Corrie got a recorder at the thrift store, which I said yes to. 

Supper came together fast, and it was an absolute triumph, as far as I’m concerned. I followed this recipe from Sip and Feast, which has so far never steered me wrong. The only thing I wasn’t sure about was what he calls “blackened seasoning.” I thought I had some Tony Chachere’s, but couldn’t find it, so I used a stray bottle of McCormick Perfect Pinch Cajun seasoning. 

First I blistered the shishito peppers. You just cut the tops off and blacken them quickly in a hot pan with oil and a little salt, turning once. 

You’re supposed to do this after you cook the chicken, but I did it first and just kept it on the stove on the plate, and it stayed warm enough.

Then I took boneless, skinless chicken thighs (one per person) and seasoned them heavily with the Cajun seasoning, and cooked them slowly in hot oil on medium heat, turning once. 

When the chicken was almost done cooking, I put a slice of American cheese on each one and covered the pan, and let the cheese melt for a few minutes. 

Then I toasted some brioche buns (he recommends putting them in the pan to toast, but the rest of the food seemed greasy enough), put a little BBQ sauce on the bottom (we like Sweet Baby Ray’s), then the chicken with cheese, then the blistered peppers, then some sliced red onion, more BBQ sauce, and the top bun.

Guys, this is one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had, at home or anywhere. Sweet, tangy, spicy, with the little crunch from the peppers and onions and the melty cheese . . . wow. The whole thing was just a treat, and I would absolutely serve this to guests.

 Of course you can grill the meat and peppers, if you don’t want to pan fry them. Definitely spring for the brioche buns. The shishito peppers (which I’ve never had before) were great, mild and sweet, like bell peppers in jalapeño form. If you can’t find them, the guy suggests poblano for a substitute, or you could go with jalapeños if you really want it spicy. I loved having whole peppers with their skins on piled onto the sandwich, though, so it was nicer than bell peppers; and it was very easy to just wash them and chop the tops off and chuck ’em in the pan. I also didn’t bother trimming the fat off the thighs, so it was just simple all around. 

FRIDAY
Tuna noodle for kids; for adults: ??

The kids wanted tuna noodle casserole (canned tuna, cream of mushroom soup, and egg noodles in a casserole dish, topped with toasted corn flakes and potato chips, served with “pink stuff” dressing, which is ketchup, mayo, and vinegar) and I didn’t want to make it, but then they said they would make it, and I’m no dummy. But I think Damien and I may run away and get some supermarket sushi and take the kayaks out. What with one thing and another, it’s been a hell of a week, and the urge to just  . . . paddle away . . . is strong.

But we always come home again. That’s the deal. You can leave, but you have to come back. 

Hey, my garden is finally getting going. I’ve had a bunch of big hearty butternut squashes so far, but that was it; but suddenly there are cucumbers, four or five eggplants, some bitty little ghost peppers, and a watermelon the size of a gumball. And more collard greens, and some cute little Brussels sprouts, and a steady trickle of strawberries. Asparagus and rhubarb are just getting started this year, but in a few years, I expect a nice little harvest from them. 

And grapes!

We’re just going to make juice this year. UNLIMITED JUICE. 

 

5 from 1 vote
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Korean Beef Bowl

A very quick and satisfying meal with lots of flavor and only a few ingredients. Serve over rice, with sesame seeds and chopped scallions on the top if you like. You can use garlic powder and powdered ginger, but fresh is better. The proportions are flexible, and you can easily add more of any sauce ingredient at the end of cooking to adjust to your taste.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar (or less if you're not crazy about sweetness)
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 inches fresh ginger, minced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-4 lb2 ground beef
  • scallions, chopped, for garnish
  • sesame seeds for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, cook ground beef, breaking it into bits, until the meat is nearly browned. Drain most of the fat and add the fresh ginger and garlic. Continue cooking until the meat is all cooked.

  2. Add the soy sauce, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes the ground beef and stir to combine. Cook a little longer until everything is hot and saucy.

  3. Serve over rice and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 334: Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high

Happy summer! This is the week that always starts to feel like real summer to me, because the big family party is over and we get going on all the other stuff we haven’t quite had time for, mainly lounging around, eating ice pops, and watching Buffy

I didn’t get a WFS out last week, because of all the running around, so the quick version is: I don’t remember. Probably really easy, fast, boring stuff; except one day we had 

Kielbasa, Brussels sprouts, and potatoes sheet pan dinner with honey mustard sauce

I have stopped consulting a recipe for this meal.  (Here is one if you want, though! Jump to Recipe

I had three ropes of kielbasa cut into chunks, three pounds of Brussels sprouts halved, and probably three pounds of potato wedges with the skin on, tossed with salt and pepper and olive oil and spread on a sheet pan, and I cooked them at 425 for about 20 minutes. I mixed up a sauce from a bunch of dijon mustard, honey, balsamic vinegar or maybe wine vinegar, and pepper, kosher salt, and crushed garlic, then drizzled the sauce on the food

and stirred it up, and slid it back in the oven for another maybe 10-15 minutes until it was a little browned.

Sorry, not really a recipe, but you can just make it according to your taste and then cook it until it looks done. 

I used to make this meal with wedges of cabbage, but the kids vastly prefer Brussels sprouts. I also used to make it with the sauce to dip, but now I do the “cook, then add sauce and finish cooking” thing, and it comes out flavorful and keeps everything from drying out. Great summer meal, easy and hearty. 

And another day we had

Taijin chicken with scallions, mango, hot pretzels

This was supposed to be a NYT recipe, buuut I forgot to buy oranges, and you’re supposed to add orange zest and juice. So instead, I looked around furtively, opened a can of mandarin oranges, smushed up the contents, and dumped it into the sauce. 

The original recipe calls for 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sea salt, 1/2 cup honey, 1/2 cup orange juice, 1 tsp orange zest, 3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce and 1/4 cup adobo sauce, 6 garlic cloves, 2 Tbs. olive oil, and 1 Tbsp Taijin, which is the ingredient that caught my attention in the first place, but which we turned out to have two almost-empty bottles of, along with only a small can of chipotle chiles and only a little honey.

I also broiled this in the oven, rather than grilling it; so it was basically a Ship of Theseus recipe at this point.

But honestly, it still tasted fine. Kinda citrusy, quite spicy. If you like the taste of Taijin, you will like this chicken. It didn’t knock my socks off, but it was easy and tasty.

(I threw in some scallions, as directed, but those didn’t fare very well under the broiler, and weren’t terribly appealing.) For sides, I cut up a bunch of mangoes and served the hot pretzels I was too tired to cook the other day.

A decent if slightly weird meal.

SUNDAY
Independence Day Party!

I spent most of last week scurrying around finishing the infamous patio, (which I am sitting on right now, and let me tell you, it is birdy and lovely)

and getting all the other stuff ready for the party, knowing all along that it was going to rain all day. I did have the option to change the party to Saturday, which was supposed to be sunny and hot, but not everyone could make it. Argh!

Eventually I decided it made more sense to have a family party with rain and all the family, then a family party with sun and lots of people missing. It was a good choice! It did rain quite a bit, but we had two canopies and a tarp, 

and my sister brought another giant tarp which two of my brothers-in-law set up like a giant tent. 

Easy for me to say it was the right choice, since I didn’t have to drive home long distance in soggy clothes, but it seemed like everyone had a nice time. I love my family and I’m so glad we get together like this every year. I didn’t put up my father’s monstrous (in size, I mean) American flag, because of the rain, and we forgot to read the Declaration of Independence, but it was still a very good party.

Glow sticks, snappers, sparklers, fireworks, shiny necklaces, and the dog got bossed around by so many little girls, which is his heart’s desire.

Our July 4th menu is not very exotic; we go for volume, rather than novelty. Damien cooked hamburgers and hot dogs, veggie burgers and tofu dogs, and three racks of pork ribs

Jump to Recipe

This year, in addition to the rub he usually puts on them before smoking, he sprayed them with cider vinegar as they cooked. They were done a long time after the rest of the food,

which actually worked out great, because it had gotten a little chilly by then, and we were all ready for a second course, and it was pretty great to sit by the fire gobbling up sizzling, tender ribs

I made potato salad and bought I think 18 bags of chips, and made several big platters of raw veggies. My brother’s BF also brought some delicious spicy peanut noodles, which everyone loved. We had watermelon, which we shared with the ducks, and for dessert, the traditional red and blue Jello cups with Kool Whip

as well as ice cream cups and brownies, which Benny made.

And then candy after the fireworks, to ease the pain of the party winding down. 

Bunch more photos here if you want to take a look.

MONDAY
Leftovers

Monday we were all smooshed into a paste of exhaustion, so I cooked the leftover hot dogs and set out some cold ribs and that was perfect. The town fireworks we were planning to go to got rained out and postponed until July 28, to my great relief. 

TUESDAY
Burgers

Tuesday we went with some friends to The Caterpillar Lab, which we’ve been meaning to do forever. If you’re anywhere in Southwest NH and looking for a way to spend an hour or two, this is an excellent little free visit, fascinating and educational for kids and adults.

We saw amazing things unfolding right before our eyes, on the counter at eye level, and also magnified on a big screen; and the staff was very chill and well-informed and ready to answer questions and chat about what we were seeing. There were lots of things for the kids to touch, and I liked how it was set up in a beautiful way, including a long wooden table set with decorative bottles, each holding a green branch with a different kind of caterpillar living on it, with an informational card on the table. Sort of reminiscent of a Victorian curiosity cabinet, but with things you could handle. A very pleasant and exciting way to spend a rainy morning. 

(I actually have a bit of a moth and butterfly phobia, which I have been working on, but there was nothing flapping around being horrible and out of control, so the experience was well within my tolerance zone. Very different from a butterfly garden, for instance, which is a nightmare for me.) 

Then we came home and played Forbidden Island, which I reviewed here.

Damien bought more meat and cooked more burgers.

We ate late and they were absolutely scrumptious. Definitely starting to get that vacation feel. 

WEDNESDAY
Aldi pizza

Wednesday Benny hosted a tea party, with animal crackers topped with Kool Whip, hot dog ends on toothpicks, and candy, and of course tea

and then we went to the library, and Damien brought home Aldi pizzas. Then I went on the library website and looked up their actual policies, and discovered that, newp, I’m not imagining it, the librarian is actually being a jerk to our family and possibly breaking the law. So we’ll see about that. Humph. (This is why, don’t talk to me about “ohhh, if only WXMYN could be in power, THEN we would see an end to all this terrible CORRUPTION! You give women a teensy tiny bit of power and they will find a way to abuse it. Which is not to say that women shouldn’t have power! Just don’t expect it to magically fix corruption.)

THURSDAY
Italian sandwiches

Thursday it was HOT HOT HOT (for New Hampshire), so I finally broke down and put in the air conditioner

Then I couldn’t put off shopping any longer, so I got some sandwich ingredients, and then when I got my other work done, I took four of the kids to the town pond, ahhh.

They swam for a while, and played Parco Molo, and then we had Italian sandwiches, cherries, and cheezy weezies. 

What a lovely spot it is. I opened my Merlin app and it picked up something like twenty different birds. I did some actual reading from an actual book (The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope, who is so unkind to some of his characters), and wow has my life gotten easier than it used to be. 

FRIDAY
Fish tacos

Moe and his lovely GF and I think Dora are coming by for dinner, and we’re having fish tacos (just frozen batter fried fish fillets) on tortillas with shredded cabbage, sour cream, limes, salsa, and I guess guacamole.

Jump to Recipe

Am I forgetting something? Maybe I will make some lime crema. 

Jump to Recipe

I started some ice cream this morning, but it was so hot in the kitchen, the first batch (made with that Neopolitan trail mix from Aldi) didn’t freeze properly, so I turned on the AC and I’m currently making the second batch (strawberry with a little lime) in the cooler room. 

The ducks are frolicking in the sprinkler

the birds are singing, lots of things are blooming, I’m sitting in the shade in my own yard for the first time ever, and if this ain’t the life, I don’t know what is!

***

sugar smoked ribs

the proportions are flexible here. You can adjust the sugar rub to make it more or less spicy or sweet. Just pile tons of everything on and give it puh-lenty of time to smoke.

Ingredients

  • rack pork ribs
  • yellow mustard
  • Coke
  • extra brown sugar

For the sugar rub:

  • 1-1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp white pepper

Instructions

  1. Coat the ribs in yellow mustard and cover them with sugar rub mixture

  2. Smoke at 225 for 3 hours

  3. Take ribs out, make a sort of envelope of tin foil and pour Coke and brown sugar over them. close up the envelope.

  4. Return ribs to smoker and cook another 2 hours.

  5. Remove tinfoil and smoke another 45-min.

  6. Finish on grill to give it a char.

 

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

 

Lime Crema

Keyword Budget Bytes, crema, lime, lime crema, sour cream, tacos

Ingredients

  • 16 oz sour cream
  • 3 limes zested and juiced
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. 

Recipe Notes

So good on tacos and tortilla chips Looking forward to having it on tortilla soup, enchiladas, MAYBE BAKED POTATOES, I DON'T EVEN KNOW.

 

One-pan kielbasa, cabbage, and red potato dinner with mustard sauce

This meal has all the fun and salt of a wiener cookout, but it's a tiny bit fancier, and you can legit eat it in the winter. 

Ingredients

  • 3-4 lbs kielbasa
  • 3-4 lbs red potatoes
  • 1-2 medium cabbages
  • (optional) parsley for garnish
  • salt and pepper and olive oil

mustard sauce (sorry, I make this different each time):

  • mustard
  • red wine if you like
  • honey
  • a little olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400. 

    Whisk together the mustard dressing ingredients and set aside. Chop parsley (optional).

    Cut the kielbasa into thick coins and the potatoes into thick coins or small wedges. Mix them up with olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread them in a shallow pan. 

    Cut the cabbage into "steaks." Push the kielbasa and potatoes aside to make room to lay the cabbage down. Brush the cabbage with more olive oil and sprinkle with more salt and pepper. It should be a single layer of food, and not too crowded, so it will brown well. 

    Roast for 20 minutes, then turn the food as well as you can and roast for another 15 minutes.  

    Serve hot with dressing and parsley for a garnish. 

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.)

What’s for supper? Vol. 305: We all scream “bastani!”

Hi! Hi! I meant to do a food-and-ocean pictures post last week, when we were in Cape Cod, but I became overwhelmed and it languishes unfinished in my drafts folder. It’s worth summarizing, though, because I realized I actually have a routine down for vacation week, though, which takes into account limited budget, limited packing space, and a desire to avoid that “Mom Spends Beach Vacation Assuming All Household Duties In Closer Proximity To Ocean” effect, but also a desire to not just eat boring everyday food, because we are near the ocean. (I should note that, at home and at the beach, Damien does all the laundry! And in fact he did most of the cooking while we were on vacation, too, so there.) Here is what we had (and what we did): 

First day: Sandwiches on baguettes (the most portable bread) and fake Pringles (the most compact chips). We have to bring a cooler anyway, for use at the beach, so I cram it with as much deli meat and cheese as possible, and we have this for our first meal, plus for lunch throughout the week. I also brought coffee, milk and cereal for the first breakfast, so we don’t have to leave the house until at least mid-morning of the second day.
Here are some pics on Facebook from our first day, discovering that the water on this part of Cape Cod is amazingly warm. 

Second day: 
Pics on Facebook from day 2. Our lovely house was literally a one-minute walk from the beach, but we wanted to see what else was in walking distance. Turns out, other beaches! But this one had a sign warning you not to swim there if you are bleeding, and not to wear dangly, shiny jewelry, or be too delicious. 

This picture is for all the haterz who ever wanted to BURY ME (I got out)

Before the beach, I went shopping, came home with rotisserie chickens and salad and chips, plus food for the rest of the week.

I had beach town supermarket sticker shock, so between that and the fact that Corrie came shopping with me, I came back with an awful lot of Jello, which came in handy later in the week when it was rainy and we needed something to fling around the kitchen.

Third day: 
We went to Paine’s Creek Beach and explored the tide pools. A dreamlike spot I’d love to go back to someday.

I think we actually went to a second beach that day? It’s all a blur. Damien grilled tasty burgers outside and made fries in the oven for dinner.

Fourth day: Seafood boil. We had some half-assed plans to dig our own clams, but there were complications with the permit and the equipment, so we decided to buy the seafood this year and plan to plan ahead next year. Still a huge treat. Recipe from the Narraganett beer can:

Damien made this meal as well. He got a bunch of littleneck clams, a few oysters, lots of mussels, and some kind of other big clams, and some kind of Spanish sausage, and we had cute little red potatoes and onions, bay leaves and peppercorns and parsley. Skipped the breakfast sausage. It’s all supposed to get boiled together, but we ran out of room, so he grilled the corn in its husks on the grill, and that turned out great. Man, that was a delicious meal. 

The tragedy was we didn’t think of getting some crusty bread to sop up the broth, which was tremendous. I liked the little neck clams best. Oh, what a feast. I had, uh, four helpings.

Most of the kids had chicken nuggets and corn, because what do they know. 

This was the day we rented kayaks and canoes! We paddled up Swan River, out into the ocean a bit, and then back down the river. A most excellent adventure, and now I am absolutely on the prowl for some used kayaks so we can do this more often. 

Fifth day: Restaurant

It rained and thundered, so we went to the movies, and then went out to eat and got ice cream. We always have one restaurant day when we go on vacation. We descended upon Kate’s Fried Seafood and Ice Cream in Brewster, which was very good. I kind of regret not ordering a big fried platter like the others did, because it turned out to be not greasy and just nice, but the salmon burger and sweet potato fries I picked was also very tasty and fresh.

That night we played poker for Swedish Fish and I believe it was also that night Damien and I both fell asleep on the couch for some reason. 

Sixth day: Frozen pizza
The weather cleared up enough for some more swimming, and there was a spectacular sunset for our final evening. 

Last day: Supermarket sandwiches on the way home. We had to be checked out by 10:00, so we had a quick breakfast, cleaned like maniacs, drove for a while, stopped for cheeseburgers, drove more, fulfilled my recently acquired lifelong dream to tour the U.S.S. Constitution, which is the world’s oldest ship still afloat!

and then to be honest the day started to go downhill, but Damien always listens to my stupid plans, so we walked a mile to the T station and rode the train to Chinatown. This would not have been a bad idea except that it was at the tail end of a very long and exhausting day and week, and nobody was at their best. So we got some reasonably tasty treats,

wandered around for a bit, and discovered they were having some kind of amazing food and dance festival at this very spot tomorrow, and decided to call it a day. Back on the T, another mile walk, couldn’t super duper remember where I parked the car, found the car, drove about an hour, stopped and got sandwiches at the supermarket, drove another two hours home, and BOY was the dog happy to see us. BOY WAS HE. 

And that was vacation. It was beautiful. 

Here’s what we had this past week: 

SUNDAY
Spaghetti with marinara sauce, garlic bread

Damien shopped for and made dinner. Absolutely delicious. 

His recipe, and I’m running so ludicrously late today, I don’t have time to make a recipe card at the moment:

One chopped onion per can of tomatoes, (he used 4 cans) and a diced head of garlic. Heat olive oil and red pepper flakes until you can smell the oil in the room, then add the onions only and cook till soft. Add a little salt. Add the garlic and cook some more, and then add tomato paste (one can per can of tomatoes, so four cans.) Cook that a bit then add sugar and some glugs of wine. Add the tomatoes and simmer, adding wine and a little olive oil as needed/wanted. When most of the tomatoes are broken down it’s pretty much ready.

It was good to be home. And the weather was suddenly autumnal, which was kind of unnerving. We expect to have some more summer heat soon, but we have definitely rounded a corner. 

MONDAY
Chicken sandwiches with marinara sauce, provolone and basil; lemon rosemary olive oil cake

There was lots of wonderful sauce left over, so I bought some chicken burgers and cut up some baguettes, and we had sandwiches with a slice of provolone, a few basil leaves, and generous scoop of hot sauce to melt the cheese over everything. 

Always tasty.  

And then Clara made an amazing cake for the Assumption: A lemon olive oil rosemary cake with rosewater. She said there was a lot of prep work, with all the chopping and zesting, but the baking itself was quite simple, and it came out light and luscious, and you could really taste all the elements. 

So pretty. So nice to have someone else spontaneously coming up with cakes!

TUESDAY
Tostadas

Tostada Tuesday! Like Taco Tuesday, but when all the stores are out of taco shells so you suddenly realize that you can buy that bag of tostada shells you’ve been walking past and not buying your whole life, and no one will stop you. 

I’m not going to say tostada Tuesday changed my life, but it was fun, like discovering a new shape of pasta or a new . . . uhh, I don’t know, I got nothing. I gave up alcohol over a week ago and I’ve been sleeping through the night every night for the first time in many years, but it’s just made me stupider, which doesn’t seem fair. Anyway, I wonder what else I’ve been walking past all these years, week after week, and never even considering buying, besides tostada shells. 

I also made a big bowl of guacamole.

Jump to Recipe

The avocados looked fine, but they tasted so pale and watery. No one else noticed, but I was really dismayed. Hope it’s a fluke. Not an actual fluke. That would be disgusting. 

WEDNESDAY
Vermonter sandwiches

I planned these solely because people were kind of cranky and I wanted them to like me again. A Vermonter sandwich is thick, crusty bread (preferably sourdough or ciabatta, but I got baguettes), thick slices of roast chicken or turkey, lots of bacon, thick slices of sharp cheddar cheese, slices of tart green apple, and lots of honey mustard dressing. 

It is a very hearty, cheering sandwich and it will make you friends. Corrie claimed that, once, I bought cheddar cheese that was so sharp, she cut her finger, and she absolutely insisted that this literally happened, and she will die clinging to this story. 

THURSDAY
Bo ssam, rice and lettuce, Asian cucumber salad, watermelon; saffron rosewater pistachio ice cream 

Thursday was supposed to be pork ribs, and they were supposed to be $1.49 a pound, but the supermarket flier lied to me, so I ended up pacing back and forth in front of the meat section, snarling quietly to myself, and then gloomily purchasing a giant fatty pork butt with no particular plans. 

Sometime during the week, the bottle of rosewater left over from the Assumption cake began to work on my brain, though, and I realized I had a jar of saffron threads I had never used, and Lucy had given me a mortar and pestle for mother’s day that I had likewise never used, and all that was lacking was a bag of pistachios, and then I could make . . . BASTANI. Bastani is persian ice cream made with, as you no doubt surmised, saffron, rosewater, and pistachios, and the idea of it has been haunting me. If you’ve never been haunted by the idea of persian ice cream, then baby, you are missing out. 

So from there, I says to myself, I says, what kind of pork goes with this kind of ice cream? And of course the answer was bo ssam. Usually I make bo ssam and then figure out what kind of soothing, mild thing I will serve along with it, but this time, I worked in the other direction. 

I have made bo ssam half a dozen times, and I keep simplifying the recipe, until I’m not even sure if it’s bo ssam anymore. All I do is, starting the night before, I mix a cup of salt with a cup of sugar and rub it all over a fatty piece of pork butt or shoulder, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate it overnight. Then around noon I heavily line a pan with tinfoil, unwrap the meat, and put it in the pan, and cook it for six hours at 300. That’s it. We eat it with lettuce, rice, and whatever Asian sauce I can find, and something soothing to the palate.

I’m telling you, I could make this with recipe with my eyes closed. I could make this recipe with my feet. It’s so simple, and everybody acts like I’m some kind of conquering hero genius, and they gobble it up. It is so tender, it is just barely holding itself together under the caramelized salt and sugar crust. It’s ridiculous meat. There should be a law! 

I cut a watermelon into chunks, I made a pot of rice in the Instant Pot, and I made a bowl of Asian cucumber salad, which is always refreshing and pretty and takes literally five minutes to throw together. 

Jump to Recipe

And there it all was. I brought my plate outside and ate alone so no one would see me acting like a monster with it. This was just a spectacular meal, an absolute festival of flavors. 

Everybody ate a lot, and had to rest up for a while, and then I brought out the ice cream! PERSIAN ICE CREAM.

Not gonna lie, this was kind of a pain in the pants to make. I am going to write a whole separate post about various ice creams I have been making since I got my ice cream maker, so I will go into more detail there, but I made a triple recipe, and it just took a long time because you have to stand there whisking the custard until it thickens, and I have a special knack for making custards take a ludicrously long time to thicken (well, probably because I’m always making triple recipes). I thought it turned out great, though. About half the family liked it, which is not bad. You could smell but not taste the rosewater. It was a wonderful color, and I was very pleased with how the saffron tasted warm, because it was saffron, but cold, because it was ice cream. I used plenty of salted pistachios (the recipe calls for unsalted) because that’s what I could find, and that turned out perfect. I did not use vanilla, and didn’t miss it. All in all, a success. But I have promised them to go back to something like chocolate chip or rocky road for the next batch. They are pretty good sports, but they have their limits with my globalist nonsense. 

FRIDAY
Pizza

There are four balls of pizza dough defrosting on the counter, and that is as far as I have gotten. Next thing you know, people will want me to get dressed. 

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

 

5 from 3 votes
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spicy cucumber salad

A spicy, zippy side dish that you can make very quickly. 

Ingredients

  • 3-4 cucumbers, sliced thin (peeling not necessary)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar or white vinegar
  • 1+ tsp honey
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Optional:

red pepper, diced

  • 1/2 red onion diced

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Serve immediately, or chill to serve later (but the longer you leave it, the softer the cukes will get)

Childhood is a wild bird

The first time I took my kids out to hand feed wild birds, it didn’t go well.

I had hit upon the activity out of desperation at the beginning of spring vacation. The kids were so bored, but I had COVID and was much too tired and contagious for outings. We had long since exhausted the charms of reading books via FaceTime, with and without silly filters, and even the kids were tired of TV.

But maybe we could feed the birds together! We could sit in chairs, safely distanced, enjoying nature, being quiet, doing something wholesome and memorable, and did I mention being quiet?

It didn’t go so well. But that was okay. It was pleasant enough just being outside, and I’m a firm believer in the value of unstructured, unplugged time for kids. We thought we might get a nibble or two, but you really do have to be quiet to attract birds, and my youngest is made out of monkeys. The first few times she squirmed or chattered, I fondly and gently shushed her; but I recalled that our goal was to have a nice time together, so before long, I released her, and we dispersed without having fed or even seen a single bird.

We agreed it was fun, though, or at least potentially fun. Apparently you really can train birds to get to know you. I talked about our attempt on social media, and people shared photos and videos of their kids’ success in making friends with these wild creatures.

The idea began to take hold. I started to see hand feeding wild birds as the ideal summer activity. By the end of vacation, I thought, this is how we would greet every morning: We would step into the backyard with a handful of seed, and our feathered friends, who knew our gentle ways, would flock to us like a gang of modern day St. Francises.

A eager twittering grew in my heart. It was everything I wanted for my kids: A break from screen time, a memorable bonding experience, and a naturally contemplative pastime that would sweetly, easily open the gates for all kinds of other goods of the spirit.

The idea took flight. This could be about so much more than birds, I thought…

Read the rest of my essay for Catholic San Francisco here