What’s for supper? Vol. 239: Nobody tell Marcella Hazan

Wow, is it Friday? Sorry for the radio silence on the site. I’ve been working on a bunch of other projects, like, a BUNCH. It’s a real feast-or-famine life for a freelancer. By which I mean I don’t know how to budget my time and I’m a mess. No, a planner would not help, because I would lose it. Yes, even if it was a special holy planner with stickers and lifestyle bookmarks or whatever you people are doing. 

My mother has COVID. She had her first dose of the vaccine before she tested positive, and her symptoms are fairly mild so far, no fever, just bad cold symptoms. Of course we can’t visit her, and I keep thinking how she used to be such a stoic, but now she doesn’t have any means of understanding what’s happening to her. But she does appear to be recovering, and they are taking good care of her. I keep thinking how this is her favorite kind of weather right now: Sparkling bright, dry, cold, plenty of snow on the ground. She absolutely loved shoveling, for some reason, and I remember being awestruck at her going at it without a jacket on. Here’s a picture of her when she had some dementia but was still living at home:

In the background you can see her beloved grapevine, which she pruned and netted, where she poured out Elijah’s cup after the Passover seder, and where she buried precious things. At some point we are going to have to figure out what to do with that house, but NOTTTTT NOWWWW. P.S., does anybody want to buy literally 12,000 used books? DM me.

Anyway. Distance schooling has been extended for another week. I have lost one of the slippers I got for Christmas, and it’s so dang cold. But, I had a massive craving for cheese before bed last night, and managed to muscle it into submission and just go to bed cheeseless, so **feeble cheer for minor victory**

I need to shake up my menu. People just aren’t eating what I’m cooking, and I’m throwing away so many leftovers. Also, the kids have taken to storing any and all leftovers in ziplock bags, which works, but it’s just so squalid. We need to either buy a goat or,  you know what, maybe I’ll stop buying so many delicious snacks. The snacking situation is UNTENABLE. I’m going to start a system where they can eat as much as they want, as long as they’ve grown it themselves on windowsills in little recycled egg cartons. Then we’ll see who’s hungry for . . . [checks notes] . . . slow cooked . . . thing. Anyway, I need to shake up my menu.

You know who likes my cooking? The birds! Chickadees, tufted titmice, and nuthatches, with the occasional cardinal and dark eyed junco. Here’s my recipe for birdseed cakes, and I’ve discovered a coffee filter makes a great liner when you freeze it. Helps keep the shape and peels off easily. 

5 from 1 vote
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bird seed cake

This recipe makes a sturdy hunk of bird food full of fat and protein. It's best for the kind of bird feeder with an enclosure or support system to hold it as the birds peck at it, but you can make your own free-hanging "bird bell" by feeding a loop of thick string into it before you freeze it, or by making a spot for a hole and then threading a rope through afterward.

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We like the kind of bird feeder that has a little platform and a central prong, so I make the seed cake in a round food storage container lined with parchment paper or, even better, a coffee filter. To make a hole, I roll up a wad of tinfoil to make a column for the center, and pour the bird seed mixture around that, and then dig the tinfoil out when it comes out of the freezer.

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This recipe makes TWO flat, round cakes about 5" in diameter and 2" deep

Ingredients

  • 1 cups peanut butter
  • 1 cups shortening (can add bacon grease)
  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 2 cups oatmeal
  • 1 cup birdseed

optional:

  • raisins, popped popcorn, cranberries, seeds, nuts

Instructions

  1. Prepare a container for the birdseed for a mold. If it's not a flexible container, line it with parchment paper.

  2. In a pot, melt the shortening and peanut butter over low heat, and stir to combine.

  3. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Pour the mixture into the prepared container. Remember, if you want to hang it or put it on a prong, you will need to put something in so there will be a hole.

  4. Freeze for several hours until the cake is solid. Remove from the mold and put it out for the birdies!

Here’s what the humans had this week:

SATURDAY
Pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw, tater tots

Not much to say about this. I put beer, apple cider vinegar, fresh jalapeños, and a couple other things in the slow cooker and let it cook all day, then fork shredded it. It was fine. Nice with some raw red onions.

We briefly discussed learning how to make actual BBQ sauce, but the concluded that Baby Ray’s or Sugar Ray’s or Honey Ray Ray’s or whatever it’s called is fine, and we always have 11 open bottles anyway.

SUNDAY
Pizza

I made six 16-inch pizzas, and was relieved to discover that was too much pizza. I made one cheese, two pepperoni, one olive, one olive-basil-ricotta,

and one basil-ricotta-fresh garlic-artichoke hearts-red onion-anchovy-red pepper flakes

which melded together verrrrry nicely.

They all got mozzarella, parmesan, and garlic powder and oregano. That last one was magnifico. 

I also had a lovely lunch of scrambled eggs mixed with various fajita beef bowl fixins from last week, so I got rid of some ziplock bags that were sloshing around in the fridge. I was excitedly telling my son about this wonderful lunch option, where you scramble a few eggs while heating up leftovers in the microwave and then jumble it together in a nice bowl, and he just looked at me. In a way that reminded me how we used to look at my mother when she would take whatever was leftover and heat it up in a pot with a giant glug of salsa from her giant salsa jug. 

Ohh the cat’s in the cradle and the salsa jug
Little boy blue and his ugly mug
When you shutting up, kids?
I don’t know when
I just wanna eat my lunch, guys. 
Let your mother eat her lunch.

To be fair, I was the one who called him over to look at my lunch, which is a rookie mistake my mother never would have made. 

MONDAY
Asian meatballs, rice, steamed broccoli

I went grocery shopping on Monday and didn’t get home until after dinner, partly because it was Benny’s shopping turn and she had some business to conduct at the Dollar Store, and these things can’t be rushed; so dinner was a real group effort. Started to make meatballs, sent son out to buy crackers, got daughter to finish making meatballs, asked husband to cook meatballs plus rice and broccoli.

Here are some meatballs I made back when there were sunshine and vegetables

I do like these meatballs. A few ingredients, simple preparation, mild flavor, and not too heavy. If you’re feeling inspired, you can dress up the meatballs with nice sauces and dips, or you can just have soy sauce. Soy sauce, brownest of the brown sauces. So tempting. 

TUESDAY
Spaghetti with bolognese sauce

I got it into my head to make a bolognese sauce, but really what I wanted was a ragu. Don’t ask me why I didn’t use the ragu recipe Damien always makes, which is superb. Well, the reason is that it looked a lot easier. I don’t know what I messed up, but it was extremely watery and kind of bland, despite all the lovely ingredients. I ended up having to siphon off about a quart of liquid, and probably ended up sopping up all the flavor with it.

I used Marcella Hazan’s recipe via Epicurious, and I sized it up x4, and that’s probably where my mistake came in. Also, I guess you’re supposed to use broader pasta with bolognese and save the spaghetti for ragu. This is not Marcella Hazan’s fault. She has been very clear about which sauces go with what pastas, and I just didn’t listen.

Oh well, it was still good. Just not the heavenly treat I was anticipating.

You can see I did buy a block of parmesan and shred it right before supper, so that was nice. 

WEDNESDAY
Instant pot beef teriyaki with rice and steamed vegetables

Another okay meal. I used this recipe and it was fine, but a little sweeter than I’d prefer, and it didn’t thicken up very well. No sauce I have ever made in my life thickens up well. IN MY LIFE. 

I meant to serve this with fresh broccoli very lightly steamed, but I ended up with microwaved bags of mixed vegetables that turned out to have sauce on them already. It was fine. Nice and easy, and the meat did come out very tender.

THURSDAY
Chicken nuggets and pasta salad

I reorganized my cabinets and weeded out a lot of stuff I will want at some point, but not right now. It’s pretty great! Now when I want peanut butter, I can just get it, rather than shoving around coconut cream and matzoh meal and molasses and packets of unflavored gelatin to find it. I know this is why you come to this site: For the amazing kitchen hacks. Tired of having cabinets that need cleaning out? Try cleaning out your cabinets! It really works!

The pasta salad was pretty good.

I had some sun dried tomatoes, fresh garlic, basil-infused olive oil, wine vinegar, pepperoni, feta cheese, and some more of that freshly-shredded parmesan, and plenty of freshly-ground pepper and sea salt. The feta cheese was probably not a great match, but nobody complained. 

I guess I had some kind of spasm at Aldi and bought four bags of chicken nuggets, which is 200 chicken nuggets. At the last moment I didn’t open the fourth bag, but of course that was still too many. But if I had only cooked two bags, there would have been a riot. I don’t know. I don’t know anything. 

I also managed to use three more boxes of my Ludicrous Pasta Backlog. There’s another hack for you. Tired of having nine boxes of pasta hanging around? Try cooking some of it! It really works!

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

Truthfully, only some of this will be macaroni, because in yesterday’s Pasta Hack, I only managed to use three boxes of pasta. They are not the ideal shape to receive cheese sauce. Nobody tell Marcella Hazan.

Here’s the one and only recipe card for the week, unless you want my recipe for chicken nuggets.

Vaguely Asian meatballs with dipping sauce

Very simple meatballs with a vaguely Korean flavor. These are mild enough that kids will eat them happily, but if you want to kick up the Korean taste, you can serve them with dipping sauces and pickled vegetables. Serve with rice.

Servings 30 large meatballs

Ingredients

  • 2.5 lbs ground beef
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed finely
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 head garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped (save out a bit for a garnish)
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp ground white pepper

For dipping sauce:

  • mirin or rice vinegar
  • soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.

  2. Mix together the meat and all the meatball ingredients with your hands until they are well combined. Form large balls and lay them on a baking pan with a rim.

  3. Bake for about 15 minutes.

  4. Serve over rice with dipping sauce and a sprinkle of scallions.

What’s for supper? Vol. 123: House of carbs

Sometime before dawn, a shelf holding my son’s swords collapsed, falling on the hamster cage, which released the hamster, which caused the cat to go berserk and knock over some boxes of tools. That’s what woke me up, and I leaped out of bed thinking this was clearly the noise of my daughter struggling to get to my door before she crumpled into a diabetic coma.

Which hasn’t actually happened yet. Yay! We’re doing fine, overall. She’s doing great. I’m trying to strike a balance between reading enough real-life accounts of managing the inevitable crises so I know what to do when it happens, and not reading so much that I feel like we’re always about to fall off a cliff. We’re doing fine, overall. Oh, and the hamster survived, who cares.

Anyway, CARBS. We’re counting them, and starting to venture into figuring out how different kinds of carbs affect blood sugar. Most days, diabetes management feels like a hassle, more than a calamity, and basic recipes have suddenly become unfamiliar territory, because I can’t eyeball anything anymore.

I won’t bore you with more details. I’ll just say that even though I wasn’t grateful to Mrs. Dootlittle when I was in third grade and she made us learn math, I’m grateful now. (Yes, we have a calculator. You still have to know what the hell you’re doing.)

So here’s what we had. You can see that Lucy is not on a special diet, exactly, except the “for crying out loud, let’s get some meat on your bones” diet. She eats normal food; we just have to know exactly what’s in it and how much she gets, and keep an eye on her. I’m going to include the carb counts at the end, in case anyone’s interested. Let me know if this is something you’d like to continue to see in food posts.

SATURDAY
Cranberry pecan chicken salad

I had a migraine, so Damien roasted some chicken breasts, and served them sliced up over mixed greens with dried cranberries, toasted pecans, feta cheese, and balsamic vinegar. Always a popular meal (although I noticed that the younger kids ate everything except the greens, so I probably shouldn’t call it salad. Salad bar, maybe).

This meal was so low carb, Lucy had an entire chocolate bar for dessert and still stayed within her target.

SUNDAY
Shrimp linguine, garlic bread, roast Brussels sprouts

There was a crazy sale on frozen whole shrimp at Aldi, so I bought . . . kind of a lot. Damien used this Deadspin recipe, which starts with boiling a big pot of saltwater. Not salty water, but saltwater, “like the ocean, briny and harsh and intense.” Then you shell and devein the shrimp and dump the shells in the water, too, and then fish them out, and then you cook the pasta. The recipe notes, “You may now dump those shells in the trash and tell them that you will see them in hell.” Then you cook up the shrimp with olive oil, minced garlic, hot pepper flakes, and white wine. There are more steps, but you can see what kind of ridiculously flavorful deliciousness this is.

Normally, a dish like this will have you working through some insipid pasta to get to the occasional bright light of the shrimp, but this dish was worth your full attention with every bite.

I ate so much, and I’m not even sorry. I had it for lunch the next two days, too.

The Brussels sprouts were cut in half, mixed with olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper, and I think parmesan cheese, and put under a hot broiler until they were gorgeously charred. The chompy texture was the perfect accompaniment to the creamy shrimp linguine.

We had Italian ices for dessert.

And here is Clara getting the garlic bread ready, so you can see exactly how well our kitchen renovations are going.

MONDAY
Tacos and tortilla chips

Nothing to report.

TUESDAY
Pork ribs, risotto, frozen peas

Still the best way to serve pork ribs, if you’re not going to get all fancy with smokers and three-day commitments. Sprinkle the ribs with plenty of salt and pepper, put them on a shallow pan with drainage, and shove them under a hot broiler for a few minutes on each side until they’re browned and sizzling. Juicy and wonderful.
I made a double recipe of risotto in the Instant Pot, using this recipe minus the squash. I forgot to take pictures.

WEDNESDAY
Beef teriyaki stir fry, crunchy noodles, white rice

Blithely ignoring what cut of meat it was, I trimmed and sliced the hunk of beef as thin as I could in the morning, then set it to marinate in half a bottle of teriyaki sauce. At dinner time, I sauteed the meat, then added two bag of frozen mixed stir fry veggies and the rest of the bottle of sauce. Made a bunch of white rice and put out crunchy noodles. No complaints.

THURSDAY
Chicken nuggets, raw veggie platter and dip, deviled eggs, chocolate milk

Sort of a “preschooler’s delight” meal. If we haven’t hit Lucy’s carb target for a meal, we often make it up with milk, and this time, we had so much to make up, we had chocolate milk. So of course everyone had to have chocolate milk. Again, no complaints.

Well, Corrie threw up, but we think that was more because she ate most of a bag of salted pumpkin seeds not long before dinner. But it was good for a good two-hour terror while I thought about what would happen if it was a virus and Lucy started throwing up. This is why there is Buspar in the world. Not that I took any, because I am stupid.

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese, raw veg

I haven’t worked out the carbs yet, but I’ll probably use this Instant Pot recipe, and maybe add a layer of buttered bread crumbs on the top.

And there it is. Now I’ll list the carb counts for these meals. Don’t forget to let me know if you feel strongly, either way, about me including these in the future!

Cranberry chicken salad:

2 cups Aldi Simply Nature organic spring mix: 3
chicken:  0
pecans 1/4 c : 3
dried cranberries 1/4 c: 25
2 Tbs Italian dressing: 3
(doesn’t want feta)

Shrimp linguine meal:

1 cup cooked linguine 43
shrimp – 0
garlic and white wine – 2
garlic bread – 1/8 baguette from Hannaford – 28
1/2 cup brussels sprouts – 4

Italian ice: 26

Tacos:

tortilla: 18g each per small fajita size (20 count bag)

ground beef: 0
Alsi Casa Mamita taco seasoning mix is 2 tsp, 3 g; 12 tsp total in package; usually use 2 packs
cheddar cheese: 1 g
roma tomato: 3 g per whole tomato
sour cream – 1 carb per Tbs
salsa – 3 g per 2 Tbs
tortilla chips 19 g per 7 chips

Pork, risotto, peas:

rice 4 cups uncooked: 576

beef broth 8 cups: 5.6

olive oil: –

onion medium red: 11
garlic minced 1 Tbs: 3 g
sage 1 tsp: 1.2
salt and pepper: .5 (1/2 tsp pepper)
parmesan cheese 8 oz (full jar): 0
risotto total: 597.3 for ten cups of cooked risotto

about 60 g per cup

pork: 0
peas: 2/3 cup is 13 g

Beef stir fry with rice and noodles:beef: 0

cooked rice: 45 g per cup
sauce: entire bottle, 192 Kikkoman teriyaki original sauce
vegetables: 48 g total in TWO bags Birds Eye broccoli stir fry vegetables (broccoli, carrots, onions, red peppers, water chestnuts, mushrooms, and celery)
MeeTu chinese noodles: 20 g per 1/13 of a bag
10 cups of meat, veg, and sauce: entire = 240 entire batch
1 cup rice: 45
1 meat, veg, sauce: 24
2 moderate daddy handfuls of noodles: 20

Chicken nuggets meal:

I guess I forgot to save this info.

Mac and cheese:

Not ready to face this yet.

What’s for supper? Vol. 87: Mango, Mango! Can’t trust that day!

And we’re off! Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Pancakes with strawberries, sausages

That’s what the kids at home made and ate. Damien and I took our latest high school graduate out to eat for a celebration meal, and we all ate long past the point of regret. Someone’s gonna put fresh, hot bread and herbed olive oil, seafood chowder, fried calamari, and shrimp scampi in front of me, what am I gonna do? I’m not made of stone. But I said no to the berry mascarpone torte, mainly because I was still finishing my beer.

My daughter made us proud all through high school, and graduated with honors in math (MATH!). Here is her crowning achievement:

Isn’t she cute?

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SUNDAY
Burgers, hot dogs, chips, brownie sundaes

This was Father’s Day, and maybe not our best effort. Something about everyone feeling about as peppy and energetic as a, a, a thing that is tired and having a hard time coming up with interesting descriptions. So he cooked up meat on the grill and it was good.

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MONDAY
Turkey avocado provolone wraps, raw veggies and hummus, grapes

For some reason, everyone was super enthusiastic about this meal. We had some leftover rolls and a bunch of leftover tortillas, which I set out with deli turkey and salami, avocados, onions, provolone, and various kinds of dressing. I chose honey mustard, which doesn’t even go.

I mean, it didn’t taste bad or anything, but I wasn’t prepared for the choruses of hosannas. I think it may have been the grapes, actually.

Here is a moment that Benny wanted to memorialize:

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TUESDAY
Blueberry chicken salad

I intended to use this recipe, but ran out of time to make the special dressing or chop anything small, so we had chicken, mixed bagged greens, bleu cheese, sliced almonds, red onions, and blueberries, with balsamic vinegar. I can’t seem to find the picture I took, so here’s the pic from last time:

Again, I was taken aback at how delighted everyone was. I do love these hearty salads with nuts, cheese, meat, and fruit. Very pretty and filling.

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WEDNESDAY

It was the LAST DAY OF SCHOOL FINALLY, and we went to the beach, and by the time we got home, I had zero interest in making dinner, and 100% interest in letting the kids make French toast while I languished on the couch. Then I got up and ate scrambled eggs and the ice cream I virtuously declined on Sunday.

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THURSDAY
Pork kebabs, white rice, mangoes

I was planning to make oven pork gyros using this NYT recipe, but I was just too lazy to try a new recipe with that many steps.

Instead, I put together a triple recipe of this teriyaki sauce and mixed it up with cubed pork and big wedges of onion, and let that marinate a few hours. Then I put the meat and onions on a pan with a rack and shoved it up right under the broiler, turning it once. Yummeh.

The rice, I made in the Instant Pot (affiliate link) using the 1:1 method and the rice button. I don’t understand why you have to rinse the rice, but it always comes out perfect, so I won’t argue.

We had five large mangoes which I peeled and cut up in no time using a metal cup. You try to figure out which way the pit lies and then cut the “cheeks” off the mango, leaving the pit inside a flat section of fruit.

Then you take a glass or metal cup with a thin rim and just, vooooop, slide the cup rim just under the skin and scoop the flesh right out in one piece.

Very satisfying and efficient.
It’s a little tricker to trim the rest of the flesh off the pit, but overall, this method makes mangoes worth eating, rather than an exercise in sticky, pulpy futility.

Because I must always be shilling something, and because I’m as sick of hearing about the Instant Pot as you are, these are the aluminum cups we have (affiliate link):

My damn wiener kids do lose them and bend them, but they do not break them! Ha!

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FRIDAY

Child requested tuna noodle casserole. So let it be written, so let it be done. My husband despises this food, but he will be out picking up my oldest kid from the airport, hooray! We sure missed her.

Okay, the Fourth of July looms! We’ll probably do burgers and hot dogs and pork spiedies using this recipe, plus chips and corn on the cob (maybe fancy corn on the cob with lime, paprika, and parmesan), watermelon, and potato salad. As predictable a menu as Thanksgiving, but with food you actually want to eat. Who has exciting ideas for a picnic dessert for a big crowd? Or some kind of razzle dazzle side dish that kids would like?