What’s for supper? Vol. 146: Tutto il Formaggio

What did we eat this week? Oh, wait till I tell you.

Recipe cards at the end.

SATURDAY

On Friday and Saturday, l’uomo and I went away! We did! It’s our anniversary this month. Twenty-one years, my friends, and it gets better and better. We had three days and two nights at the beach — longer than we’ve ever been kidless together since the day we got married — and enjoyed ourselves immensely. But I’m only gonna tell you about the food.

First night, he had the surf and turf

and I had about a bathtub’s worth of lobster formaggio.

Sharp, creamy, and wonderful. We also had lobster-stuffed mushrooms and lobster rangoon. We, um, we like lobster. I only ate half and then of course accidentally left my leftover package in the restaurant, rather than bringing it to the hotel and then accidentally leaving it in the mini fridge.

We staggered back to our room, with its sweet little ocean view balcony and there were champagne and strawberries waiting for us, plus a lovely little plate of cheeses and fruits

I’m finding it hard to believe that we ate this that same night, to be honest, after all that lobster. Maybe we ate it the next day? I do recall having a hearty breakfast the next day, and then we spent a lot of time clambering around on rocks gawking at tide pools and snickering over the people waiting in line to get into the Social Distortion concert. Someone had written BRIANNA I WILL NEVER FORGET YOU on one of the shuttered souvenir shops. And then there was this:

This has been my approach, as well, and it’s worked well for me. Hey, it’s the off season. And then more tide pools! Tide pools are the best. Look at all those little baby mussels!

We weren’t ready for dinner, as such, but a little light snack sounded all right, so we had some cocktails with a dozen oysters with plenty of horseradish, and a charcuterie board. I didn’t know what that was, but food that comes on boards has never yet disappointed me. This one was exceptionally good, with various dried meats, roast beef, pickled vegetables, sharp and tender cheeses, hot crusty bread, honey, fig paste, and the most amazing mustard.

It seems silly, but I can’t say enough about this mustard. It just transformed everything. Tell me about fancy mustards that you know about! I don’t even know what to search for, but I have a food processor and I want to be a part of this.

I think maybe it was now that we brought the strawberries out? And the other cheeses? What I’m trying to say is, salt air really gives you an appetite. We didn’t drink the champagne, because we never drink the champagne. We now have three bottles of champagne in the refrigerator, left over from last Valentine’s Day and also our 20th anniversary. I honestly don’t know why we keep buying it. If you want it, you can come over and get it. The mustard is all gone, though, so don’t get your hopes up.

Anyway, we had a nice time. Such a nice time. I love that man.

SUNDAY
Vermonter sandwiches

Back to life! Back to sandwiches without even a little bit of lobster in them. These particular sandwiches are a favorite around here. Slices of roast chicken or turkey, slices of tart green apples, bacon, thick cheddar cheese, and honey mustard on ciabatta rolls.

You can toast the whole thing for a few minutes if you like. Yum yum.

MONDAY
Various antipasti; suppli; linguine with ragu; lemon ices; pizzelle cannoli

So, on some random Monday in early October, we have a day off school for no reason and eat Italian food. Fine, it was for Columbus Day. Fight me.

We start with suppli, also sometimes called arancini. These are breaded, deep-fried balls of risotto with a core of melted mozzarella. YEAH, SORRY ABOUT COLUMBUS DAY. I’m so glad you don’t celebrate Columbus Day, because then you don’t have to eat suppli. They’re really not very good. They aren’t the food of the gods or anything. You wouldn’t wet yourself because of how meltingly fabulous they are. Don’t be silly.

When they’re frying, you don’t have to physically restrain yourself from reaching into the hot oil to grab a wonderful golden ball of glory

They don’t rest on the plate, fragrant and smiling, inviting you to break through the tender, crisp shell into the creamy risotto within

and when you break it open you won’t whimper with delight as the mozzarella meltingly swoons across your plate

It’s just food. It can’t possibly be that good, my stars. Get ahold of yourself.

We also had an assortment of antipasti, into which I put very little effort, because making suppli is exhausting, man. I cut several Bosc pears into wedges and wrapped them with paper-thin prosciutto, and that was nice. We also had various olives and marinated vegetables, cheeses, salamis, breadsticks, artichoke hearts, pesto, sun dried tomato bruschetta, and whatnot. Very pretty.

I knew I shouldn’t eat another suppli, but I did it anyway.

The night before, Damien had made his magnificent ragu, which is a tomato-less meat sauce with ground pork and beef, celery and carrots, garlic, lots of red pepper flakes, and tons of anchovies that just sort of melt. We briefly considered grinding up some pancetta, but life suddenly seemed short, so we went with a mere two meats. I haven’t written up a recipe card yet, so I’ll just link to the Deadspin recipe for now. You must try this. It’s so simple and so amazingly good.

Does it look like much? No, it does not.

But it smells and tastes like if pasta went to heaven, and this is who it gets to spend eternity with: ragu. I don’t know where me eating it fits into this cosmology, but there you are.

I had made a desultory supermarket search for cannoli shells, but quickly gave up and bought those snowflake-shaped pizzelle cookies

(photo from Wikimedia Commons)

and topped them with a scoop of simple cheese filling (ricotta with confectioner’s sugar and a little almond extract), shaved dark chocolate, and a few maraschino cherries. Nobody complained! But I forgot to take a picture.

And! I just found out this minute that you can actually make cannoli shells using pizzelle cookies. You put them in the microwave on high for 30-40 seconds and quickly roll them around something round, like a broom handle. They harden right up, and then you can fill them. What do you know! Next year in Jerusalem or what have you.

TUESDAY
More ragu on spaghetti and garlic bread

We had so much leftover food, I didn’t even need to cook more pasta. I just boiled some water and dunked the cooked leftover linguine in for a minute, swished it around, and then drained it. Good enough for the likes of us. We even had leftover garlic bread, which is unheard of in these parts.

WEDNESDAY
Pork ramen and roasted Brussels sprouts

I’ve never had “real” ramen, but it’s on my list, and in the meantime, this is a happy little meal. In the morning, I sliced up a bunch of carrots on the wide blade of the cheese grater and put them in a bowl covered with vinegar and sugar. Then I soft boiled a dozen eggs, and then cooked up some boneless pork chops in olive oil until they were almost done, then sliced them thin and finished cooking them with soy sauce.

When it was dinner time, I re-heated the pork in the microwave and cooked up a big pot of ramen, and served it with the pork, the carrots, the eggs, plus some hot sauce (where did my sriracha sauce go? I don’t know) and sesame seeds and crunchy noodles. Good stuff. So many nice variations for Fancy Ramen Nite.

The Brussels sprouts were actually supposed to be part of the Italian meal, but the very idea of green vegetables had been forced vehemently out of my head by vengeful and jealous risotto god. I trimmed them and cut them in half, then mixed them up with plenty of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted them in a shallow pan. Oh gosh, the crisp little charred leaves on the outside. Magnificent.

Roasting is by far my favorite way to prepare Brussels sprouts. You could add bacon or balsamic vinegar or honey, but it doesn’t really need it.

THURSDAY
Beef barley soup and pumpkin date muffins

It suddenly got chilly and rainy after a weirdly hot and humid week, so I was glad I had put off making soup until Thursday. I do a nice, basic recipe: garlic, red onion, carrot, and beef, then beef broth, red wine, and diced tomatoes with the juice, then mushrooms and barley toward the end. You can make the whole thing in the Instant Pot pretty quickly, if you can’t leave it simmering on the stovetop.

 

I also made pumpkin muffins, the first of the season. These are so fast and reliable, with a cozy, spicy flavor, and you can add all kinds of friendly toppings — oats, almonds, wheat germ, or turbinado sugar. This time, I stirred some chopped dates that were lurking about in the cabinet for some reason.

These muffins always turn out wonderfully tender and moist. I got the original recipe from Allrecipes, but I use half the sugar it calls for, and they’re still quite sweet. We usually have these as a quick bread along with soups, or to put in lunches so I feel like a good mother, but you could increase the sugar (or not) and add cream cheese frosting for a pleasant dessert.

Of course you can use this recipe to make loaves, as well. We do muffins because it’s easier to keep track of carbs that way. Speaking of which: T1D kid has over six months under her belt and we haven’t killed her yet! High fives all around! She’s even running cross country now, the maniac.

FRIDAY
Pizza

We have a birthday! I have made some vague promises of a cake. We shall see.

5 from 1 vote
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Suppli (or Arancini)

Breaded, deep fried balls of risotto with a center of melted mozzarella. 
Make the risotto first and leave time to refrigerate the suppli before deep frying. 

Ingredients

  • 12 cups chicken stock
  • 8 + 8 Tbs butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 4 cups raw rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

To make suppli out of the risotto:

  • risotto
  • 1 beaten egg FOR EACH CUP OF RISOTTO
  • bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs
  • plenty of oil for frying
  • mozzarella in one-inch cubes (I use about a pound of cheese per 24 suppli)

Instructions

  1. Makes enough risotto for 24+ suppli the size of goose eggs.


    Set chicken stock to simmer in a pot.

    In a large pan, melt 8 Tbs. of the butter, and cook onions slowly until soft but not brown.

    Stir in raw rice and cook 7-8 minutes or more, stirring, until the grains glisten and are opaque.

    Pour in the wine and boil until wine is absorbed.

    Add 4 cups of simmering stock and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until the liquid is almost absorbed.

    Add 4 more cups of stock and cook until absorbed.

    If the rice is not tender by this point, keep adding cups of stock until it is tender. You really want the rice to expand and become creamy.

    When rice is done, gently stir in the other 8 Tbs of butter and the grated cheese with a fork.

  2. This risotto is wonderful to eat on its own, but if you want to make suppli out of it, read on!

  3. TO MAKE THE SUPPLI:

    Beat the eggs and gently mix them into the risotto.


    Scoop up about 1/4 cup risotto mixture. Press a cube of mozzarella. Top with another 1/4 cup scoop of risotto. Roll and form an egg shape with your hands.


    Roll and coat each risotto ball in bread crumbs and lay in pan to refrigerate. 


    Chill for at least an hour to make the balls hold together when you fry them.


    Put enough oil in pan to submerge the suppli. Heat slowly until it's bubbling nicely, but not so hot that it's smoking. It's the right temperature when little bubbles form on a wooden spoon submerged in the oil. 


    Preheat the oven if you are making a large batch, and put a paper-lined pan in the oven.


    Carefully lower suppli into the oil. Don't crowd them! Just do a few at a time. Let them fry for a few minutes and gently dislodge them from the bottom. Turn once if necessary. They should be golden brown all over. 


    Carefully remove the suppli from the oil with a slotted spoon and eat immediately, or keep them warm in the oven. 

5 from 1 vote
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Vermonter sandwiches

Ingredients

  • ciabatta rolls
  • grilled chicken or turkey, sliced
  • crisp bacon
  • Granny smith apples, cored and sliced
  • cheddar cheese, sliced thickly
  • honey mustard sauce

Instructions

  1. Layer all sandwich elements on roll. If you like, toast the sandwich before adding the apple slices and honey mustard. 

5 from 1 vote
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Cannoli filling

Use to fill cannoli shells, or put a scoop on top of pizzelle cookies. Top with shaved chocolate, rainbow sprinkles, maraschino cherries, etc. 

Ingredients

  • 32 oz ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp almond extract or vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Mix ingredients together and refrigerate until you're ready to use it.

5 from 1 vote
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Beef barley soup (Instant Pot or stovetop)

Makes about a gallon of lovely soup

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion or red onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 3-4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 lbs beef, cubed
  • 16 oz mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 6 cups beef bouillon
  • 1 cup merlot or other red wine
  • 29 oz canned diced tomatoes (fire roasted is nice) with juice
  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy pot. If using Instant Pot, choose "saute." Add the minced garlic, diced onion, and diced carrot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions and carrots are softened. 


  2. Add the cubes of beef and cook until slightly browned.

  3. Add the canned tomatoes with their juice, the beef broth, and the merlot, plus 3 cups of water. Stir and add the mushrooms and barley. 

  4. If cooking on stovetop, cover loosely and let simmer for several hours. If using Instant Pot, close top, close valve, and set to high pressure for 30 minutes. 

  5. Before serving, add pepper to taste. Salt if necessary. 

5 from 1 vote
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Pumpkin quick bread or muffins

Makes 2 loaves or 18+ muffins

Ingredients

  • 15 oz canned pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup veg or canola oil
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 3.5 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • oats, wheat germ, turbinado sugar, chopped dates, almonds, raisins, etc. optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter two loaf pans or butter or line 18 muffin tins.

  2. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.

  3. In a separate bowl, mix together wet ingredients. Stir wet mixture into dry mixture and mix just to blend. 

  4. Optional: add toppings or stir-ins of your choice. 

  5. Spoon batter into pans or tins. Bake about 25 minutes for muffins, about 40 minutes for loaves. 

Hilarious family game: Fictionary

Here’s an excellent game for family night, especially if you have older kids home for Christmas: Fictionary. It’s the basis for the boxed game “Balderdash,” but simpler, and the only equipment you need is a large dictionary, paper, and something to write with for each player. It’s best for players at least 8 years old and up, and you need at least four players to make it fun. More is better.

BASIC RULES: The person who’s “it” finds a word that no one is familiar with, and he writes down the real definition. Everyone else writes down a fake definition. The person who is “it” reads them all out loud, and everyone but “it” has to guess which one is real.

Then “it” reveals the true definition. You get a point if you guess the real one, if someone votes for your fake one, or if you’re “it” and no one guesses the real one. Everyone gets a turn being “it” to complete one round of play.

Details: Proper nouns, foreign language words, acronyms, and abbreviations are out. Spell and pronounce the word for everyone, and say what part of speech it is.
If you’re “it,” you can simplify the real definition a bit, as long as you don’t significantly change it. Read all the definitions over silently to make sure you understand and can pronounce everything before reading them aloud. Be sure to shuffle them before reading aloud, so there are no clues about who wrote what.
You can’t vote for your own definition. The person who’s “it” does not vote. If there is one person who is head and shoulders above all the others when it comes to guessing, that person can vote last, so as not to influence the others.

The brilliance of this game is the psychology that goes into it. You have to use your knowledge of the people involved, not just your knowledge of language. And there’s always that one person who doesn’t care about the score and just wants to mess with people.

Here’s some examples from last night:

Smilax:
The real definition turned out to be:
-A kind of oak or bindweed
Fakes:
-A state of disquiet, nervousness
-A smiling climax
-A substrate of xylem in some ferns
-A type of mountain sheep bred in Algeria
-A kind of soap commonly used up until the 19th century, when industrialized factories rendered it obsolete [this one was a joke, as the smarty pants who wrote it thought the pun on “rendered” was too good to pass up]
-wiggly worm

Purdah
The real definition:
-In India, a curtain used to screen women from men and strangers
Fake definitions:
-Disgrace
-Keeping from one another
-A type of ink used commonly in newsprint
-a fog, especially one though to carry illness
-Scottish term for spitting noises
-A very purdy thing

Drogue
Real definition:
-A cone-shaped device towed behind an aircraft as a target
Fakes:
-A unit of measurement equal to two miles
-Boring, dull
-Dreaded, a tyrant
-The feeling of morning dew
-Swamp, marsh, Elijah

At one point, the person who was “it” had to drag one of the less scholarly players into the other room to find out what was meant by “MARGOLD GROWING PLAL.”

Have fun! It’s a good game, and thorough.

What’s for supper? Vol. 106: Thaint Thylvethter, pray for uth

Imagine an introduction here, won’t you? Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Us old folks WENT AWAY TO THE OCEAN. It was, as I’ve mentioned, our 20th anniversary, and we had a quick getaway. It was wonderful.

 

As we pulled out of our driveway on Friday night, my husband apologized profusely and then asked me to read him a letter from the ACLU to the Board of Alderman protesting the unconstitutionality of a proposed ordinance to require candidates to disclose the names of donors who help pay legal fees for an individual suing the city. Then he dictated a news brief about it, and I typed it out and we edited together in the dark as we drove south. This will give you an idea of how hard it is to switch gears into leisure mode. But we did it!

And oh, did we eat a lot. For dinner, the bacon-wrapped scallops arrived at the table still sizzling heroically in the pan, and then I ordered a lovely crab roll with gruyere. Luckily, the band was loud enough to cover the sound of Siri telling me how to pronounce “gruyere” to the waiter. Damien had some kind of good steaky thing, and we had cocktails until our brains caught up with the idea that we were on vacation. The fireplace and jacuzzi didn’t hurt, either.

Next morning, we had brunch out on the terrace with the bay sparkling below on two sides, the seagulls coasting past, and the trees fluttering in a breeze that was just stiff enough to scare away all the other guests, who kept getting their sorority hair in their mouths. I had a bagel with smoked salmon, chive cream cheese, copious capers, and vegetables, and Damien had eggs benedict with lobster, and a bloody mary.

We spent a contented day just wandering around this sweet little town, looking at stuff they don’t have any of back home. A very happy day. We had a late lunch of some beer with a dozen raw oysters. I ordered a cajun seafood bisque and a “tower of garlic bread,”

and Damien had some kind of good steaky thing, and candied bacon, which arrived on some kind of ridiculous bacon gallows.

We even had dessert! I had some kind of pumpkin praline cheesecake affair, and Damien had some kind of cavalcade of chocolate thing.

 

We came home late bearing pizzas, and the kids had cleaned the house like we told them to, and no one was dead. Good deal.  They got salt water taffy.

***

SUNDAY
Cheese burgers and chips 

We had to scramble and get caught up from our leisurely Saturday. We still had pumpkins to carve and costumes to finish, and I had cleverly scheduled two dentist appointments on HALLOWEEN MORNING, and two more the next day! I feel like there was a sleepover in there, somewhere, too. We just pretty much swore off sleeping for the week, and I steadfastly ignored no fewer than six volunteer sign-up sheets for parties. Also one kid suddenly had to be Louis XVI for something completely unrelated to . . . anything, as far as I could tell.

***

MONDAY
Zuppa Toscana and beer bread

Blustery wind and rain all day, and we were one of the few areas that didn’t lose power, so I felt very smart for choosing this cozy meal.

For the soup: I squeezed the meat out of about two pounds of sweet Italian sausages and browned it up with lots of minced garlic and diced onions. Then I added eight cups of chicken broth, some red pepper flakes, and four large potatoes sliced in thin wedges with the skin, and simmered it for a while. Then I filled up the pot with chopped kale, covered it, and waited for it to magically shrink down where it belongs. Then I added a whole quart of half-and-half, and let it cook for the rest of the day.

You can add bacon, and you can thicken this soup up with a little flour if you like, but it’s splendid as is, and so simple.

I made this easy, excellent beer bread again, and it turned out great. I made two loaves, with a bottle of Corona and a can of some kind of summer ale, and it turned out sharp and sour, which I love. This is the breadiest quick bread I have ever found.

***

TUESDAY
Halloween!
Hot dogs and Doritos

Gobbled down quickly as we raced to get costumes on. Here’s the gang this year:

Moe was a hungry vampire:

who nevertheless needs to keep in touch with folks:

Clara was a cheerful vampire:

and Benny was a vampire queen:

with somewhat loose teeth.

Elijah was Dr. Eggman:

Sophia was a fall fairy:

Lucy was Squirrel Girl:

and Irene was Rey:

Corrie was Wonder Woman earlier in the day

but by the time it was evening, she had become a puppy:

This year, I splurged on those fancy individual fangs that stick to your actual canines, but boy, were they a lot of trouble. Benny had lost her second front tooth in the morning, and her mouth was too raw for adhesive, so I got fanged up myself.

They weren’t really uncomfortable, but I sounded unspookily like Sylvester the Cat.

***

WEDNESDAY
Deconstructed pork shish kebab

This is usually one of those “why is this so unreasonably delicious?” meals, but not this time. Either I skipped too many good ingredients in the marinade, or I didn’t let it marinate long enough, but there just wasn’t that much flavor. Or maybe I just have a cold and can’t taste anything. Oh well. In the past, I’ve used this spiedie marinade from the NYT, which is fabulous.

I cut up a bunch of boneless pork ribs into chunks, and mixed them up with chunks of green pepper, red onion, and mushrooms, and spread it all, with the marinade, in shallow pans in a 450 oven until they were cooked, then I charred the edges under the broiler for a second.

***

THURSDAY
All Soul’s Day: Eggs in purgatory and soul cakes

My little joke. Usually, liturgically-appropriate cooking is far, far beyond me. Everyone else is making Divine Mercy Sundaes and stocking up on smoked paprika so they can be sure their homage to St. Engratia is Portuguese enough, and we’re all, “Christ is risen! Pass the gefilte fish.” But this year, I was on top of it.

Eggs in purgatory is just eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce, similar to shakshuka, which I’ve made a few times. It’s supposed to be a good hangover brunch, I dunno. I looked over a few Eggs in Purgatory recipes and made a very simple version. I ended up making about twice as much as we needed, so I’ll give you a normal-sized version:

Brown up a pound of loose, spicy sausage meat in a wide, shallow pan (to make room for cooking the eggs later). Add about 30 oz. of diced tomatoes, several cloves of minced garlic, and about half a teaspoon of red pepper flakes, and let it simmer for a long time. (You can add all sorts of things: peppers, onions, chili oil, etc. and you can stir in some tomato paste if you want it firmer.) Make about eight shallow indentations and carefully drop an egg into each one. Cover the pan loosely and let it poach for six or seven minutes, until the egg whites are cooked and the yolks are as solid as you want them to be. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese toward the end.

Then scoop out individual portions to serve.

You could add hot sauce or parsley or scallions toward the end, too.

The soul cakes turned out nice, if a slightly odd side dish for this meal. They are not much to look at, but they have a pleasantly old-fashioned, cidery taste.

I used this very easy recipe so I wouldn’t have to fiddle with yeast, which always turns on me. I again used the trick of grating the chilled butter, which makes it very easy to incorporate into the flour. My family doesn’t like raisins, but raisins would go well with these.

***

FRIDAY
Pizza!

Thufferin’ thuccotash, I’m exhausted.

What’s for supper? Vol. 90: We put the “amp” in camping

Hoop de doo! Here we go.

SATURDAY
Meatball subs, fruit

On Saturday, armed with only a sledgehammer, a reciprocating saw, and a thirteen-year-old boy, my husband built a new floor for our gutted murderboat, tentatively named “The No Regerts.”

Still ahead: sealing the wood and dragging it down to the stream. I SAID NO REGERTS. So I thought we could all use a hearty meal.

***

SUNDAY
Beef cabbage stir fry, rice, roasted rustlebutts

Here’s a nice recipe from Budget Bytes I make every six weeks or so. It’s easy and tasty and pretty cheap, and you can easily adjust how sweet or spicy it turns out.

Brussels sprouts were very cheap, so I got a ton and cut them in half and spread them on one of my fabulous new giant pans with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, and just roasted ’em up under the broiler.

Corrie recoiled in horror and angrily refused . . . RUSTLE-BUTTS. So let it be written.

By the way, the best purchase I’ve made in a long time those two 15″ x 21″ baking sheets (affiliate link). I measured my oven and bought the biggest pans that would fit, and they make life so much easier. You can just cook everything up all at once, rather than trying to Tetris various small pans in there. They also double as serving trays for parties, and are useful for moving board games intact when we need the table.

***

MONDAY: Camping, day 1
We packed ever so slowly, and then had to go to urgent care for an ear infection, and had to stop to tighten the canoe that wanted very much to become a wild, wild canoe that hops on the nearest jet stream and resettles in Canada, so we didn’t get to the campgrounds until late, and then it turned out the lake was closed because of bacteria.

HOWEVER, the yurts were still airy and cool, and dinner was pork spiedies, watermelon, and Pringles, with S’mores for dessert. The spiedies were insanely delicious.

 

even though I forgot to pack tongs, and Mr. Husband had to make ridiculous BBQ chopsticks with a hair rubber band

I had made the meat at home the night before and packed it in ziplock bags along with the marinade, which leaked all over the inside of the cooler. I also forgot soap.

Faced with these realities, I decided pretty early on that I was going to take a three-day break from believing in cooties, and so what if the baby wanted to paddle around in the puddle under the spigot where I washed not only the pork juice with no soap but also her poopy bathing suit? I don’t want to hop on a jet stream and resettle in Canada! Not at all. Hey look, a yurt! So airy and cool.

I actually spent most of my time putting my feet up and complaining, while my husband made fires, told ghost stories, read Treasure Island to the kids, and grabbed flying children out of mid-air before they burned or impaled themselves.

Oh, and we took turns being fruit ninjas.

and I did get some rare photographic evidence that Corrie’s brain is, indeed, on fire.

***

TUESDAY: Camping, day 2
The kids had their hearts set on roasted apples for breakfast, but they ate most of the apples on day 1, so with a heavy heart I threw a box of Honey Buns at them while Damien went to Dunkin’ Donuts and got us coffees. Just kidding about the heavy heart part. Whatever it was in me that once relished the idea of waking up early and building a fire before breakfast, it’s dead now.

Lunch was sandwiches and cookies on the beach (a different beach, without water cooties), where we swam in the rain. Then the sun came out, so we bought a ton of candy and went to see Wonder Woman. Look, I never said we were good at camping.

Dinner was walking tacos, which taste so much better than is reasonable. I cooked ground beef and seasoned it at home, and we heated it up over our lovely propane stove. Each person got a personal little bag of Doritos, into which went meat, shredded cheese, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, and salsa.

We also had grilled corn on the cob. You cook it in the husk over the coals until the husks are blackened, and it comes out so sweet.

For dessert, I couldn’t resist these cute Little Debbie brownies with animal tracks in them.

WEDNESDAY: Camping, day 3
Breakfast: scrambled eggs, bagels, hot chocolate with rainbow marshmallows!!!!
Next time, I’ll remember to pack a real pan. And butter. And a decent cooking utensil. I did, however, remember the salt!

Never, ever forget the salt.

Lunch: Candy.
I would say we had something else, but really we basically had candy. And then we went home. Some more more pleased about this than others.

 

Supper (at home): Bagel, egg, ham and cheese sandwiches. I had to run to the convenience store for more eggs, and since I was already conveniently paying top dollar, I ponied up a little bit more for local eggs. This is one “fresh, local, organic” food that truly lives up to the hype. The yolks are darker and more flavorful, the whites are fluffier and lighter, and it’s very charming to see how many different egg sizes find themselves together in one box.

But lorramercy

I feel like they could wash them.

We’re home again. Cooties are real.

***

THURSDAY
Pork ramen, broccoli

On Thursday, my true love took the sledgehammer we found in the murderboat and smashed up my kitchen, just liked I’ve been asking him to do.

So I made dinner on a dining room chair.

I browned up some sliced garlic in olive oil using the saute function of the Instant Pot, then browned up a bunch of pork ribs. I took them out and sliced them, sauteed them some more, then took them out again. In the same pot, I hard boiled a bunch of eggs, then took them out, peeled and halved them. Then I added water and scraped up all the yumminess that was in the bottom of the pot, and cooked ramen noodles in it with the flavor packets, then added the pork and some chopped spinach. I served the noodles and pork with the eggs, some scallions, sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, and crunchy noodles on top.

Not an especially sophisticated or complex taste, but it was fine and filling. And I cooked it all on a chair! And that’s why people love the Instant Pot.

***

FRIDAY
French toast casserole, I guess? I think Damien and I are going out for pizza. A full week of family togetherness is about enough for now.

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. 66: Food is magic

We certainly ate a lot this week! Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips, carrots and dip

Saturday we were winding up vacation, so we took the kids ice skating and to a Chinese buffet for lunch, where we proceeded to eat so much that most of us swore off food forever. That didn’t last, so we had grilled cheese for supper. For some reason, I took a picture of it.

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At the buffet, I thought briefly of viruses and plagues and a citizenry innocent of basic hygiene practices, and then I threw caution to the wind and loaded up on stuffed mushrooms, sushi, and tapioca, because if you’re going to die, you might as well have some stuffed mushroom, sushi, and tapioca first.

It was a pretty good spread, with crab legs, barbequed ribs, and probably more than a hundred other yummy items to choose from, all you can eat. The most popular choice with the kids? That ancient and venerable dish of the far orient: Banana halves with strawberry syrup on them. They also each ate their weight in Oreos.

We had a pretty good time ice skating, but nothing lodges in my mind like last time we went ice skating, about six weeks before Corrie was born:

benny-on-ice

An attendant came over and told us to get off the ice. I almost kissed him.

Here’s Corrie now, with her widdle nose pushed up against the glass.

corrie-watching-ice-skating

She then had hysterics and had to be driven around the byroads of rural Vermont until she fell asleep, and she and my husband hung out in the van while the rest of us did a year’s worth of damage to muscles that we normally don’t even acknowledge.

At home, we salved our pain with hot chocolate and popcorn. Gosh, we eat a lot. Sometimes, I think, “Shouldn’t we be encouraging the kids to learn how to mark happy occasions, respond to strong emotions, and pass the time, day and and day out, with something other than food?” And then I think, “There, there, you seem overwrought. Here, did you know there was leftover goat cheese?”

Look, food is magic. It just is.

SUNDAY
Calzones

Birthday! Damien took the kids sledding at the stupendous sledding hill over by the town dump:

sledding-hill

and then the birthday girl very brilliantly suggested pepperoni and olive calzones for supper.

Yes ma’am! I used three balls of pizza dough to make twelve calzones, and followed this recipe for the filling, only I never heard tell of putting breadcrumbs in calzone filling, so I skipped it.

This is an easy meal, but it takes forever. When you make twelve of them, anyway. The thing to remember about calzones is you can manhandle them pretty badly before they go into the oven (say, if you want to get the cheese distributed more evenly after you have crimped the edges) and they will still puff up beautifully anyway. The other thing to remember is don’t crowd them, because they need room to puff up!

image2

 

YUHM. Heat up a little sauce for dipping, and you have yourself a lovely birthday meal. We also happened to have some salami and muffaletta salad in the house, so those went out too. Would have been better with some bruschetta and maybe some cheese, but it was a good companion dish.

image3

The birthday girl requested cheesecake for dessert, but I thought that would be . . . I’m sorry for what I’m about to say . . . too much cheese for one meal. So we had banana splits instead. With cheese!

MONDAY
Hot dogs, chips, salad

No memory of Monday.

TUESDAY
Pulled pork o’ my heart

We were a little low on beer, so I cooked the pork in the slow cooker with salt, pepper, and a can of Coke. GOOD CHOICE. I hear that Dr. Pepper is also a winner with pork.

I did buy rolls for sandwiches, but then I realized that I could make a sort of pyre of tater tots, pile some juicy pork on top of that, drizzle it with dreadful hot cheese from a jar, scatter some winsome red onions on top, and launch the whole thing off to a toward a delirious dream of the afterlife by blessing it with a final smattering of barbeque sauce. Of course those jerks had loosened the top, so most of the bottle fell out onto my plate, but I did not care. I didn’t even use a fork. Good heavens, it was good.

Food. Is. Magic.

WEDNESDAY
Pork posolish, corn bread

The plan was to make pork posole with this recipe, but it turns out that hominy is some kind of corn, I guess? And not really the same as polenta, which is what I had. Also, I forgot to buy chile peppers. So I made some soup this way:

I fried up a bunch of diced red onion and several diced garlic cloves in olive oil. Then I threw a bunch of leftover pulled pork, a can of drained black beans, a can of diced tomatoes with juice, a can of tomato paste, some cumin and chili powder, and several cups of beef broth, and a little water.

I let it cook for several hours, and then served it with chopped cilantro and sour cream, and some fresh lime juice squeezed over the top. The lime was a great addition. The soup tasted a lot like the chicken tortilla soup I made the other week (duh, lots of the same ingredients), but it was sturdier, almost like a pot roast, and very warming. I was the only one who ate it, of course. The jerks had toast.

There is a photo of this fine soup on my daughter’s phone, but I’m writing this at 11 PM and I don’t want to message her to send it to me, because that would make her phone buzz and would wake her up, and I’m a good mother. Not only do I make them soup, I let them sleep while I write about it. A+ And what do they do? They laugh at me when I get half a bottle of barbeque sauce slopped all over my pulled pork prye. F-.

The cornbread was terrible. I didn’t check the temp and baked it at too low of a heat, so it was dense and mushy. Bleh. I mean, I ate it, but it wasn’t magic.

THURSDAY
Beef and cabbage stir fry, rice, raw broccoli

I love this recipe from Budget Bytes. I made the sauce and shredded the veg ahead of time, and then it went together so fast when we got home stupid late. Very tasty.

image1

Very satisfying, and the ginger, garlic, and sriracha cleared up everyone’s stuffy noses at least for the dinner hour.

FRIDAY
Pastahhhhhhhh?

Corrie has actually taken to eating raw ziti when she can get her hands on it, so we’ll see what’s left.

What’s magic at your house?