What’s for supper? Vol. 213: Pied beauty

Holy cow, that was a fast week. We worked hard and ate hard this week.

Wow, that does not sound right. 

Well, here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Meatloaf, cheezy weezies

Saturday was big dig day. Dig dig dig!

Why dig? Well, like everyone else, we don’t know what the summer is going to look like, so we went and bought a 20-foot above ground pool! To prepare the ground, you have to make it level, and remove all the rocks from the soil, so nothing pointy or poky makes a hole in the bottom. 

Well, as you can see, there are a lot of rocks. 

The ground is also not level, so we’re just . . . digging some more. And in some cases, hitting a giant hunk of gneiss with a sledgehammer until it’s flat enough to cover with soil. It’s an immense amount of work, but I am openly, obnoxiously enjoying having the whole family working wholesomely outside together on a project. Eventually we’ll get this done, and then we’ll level it, cover it with sand, level that, put down some foam, then a ground cover, and then POOL. Pool pool pool!

Oh, so I didn’t want to stop digging, so I sent Dora in to make some meatloaf. 

Jump to Recipe

SUNDAY
Cobb salad

Well, approximately. We had lettuce (which I didn’t bother chopping), tomato, cucumber, avocado, hard boiled eggs, bacon, chicken, and some kind of shredded cheese, and some kind of dressing. 

You’re supposed to have chives and Roquefort cheese, but nobody was complaining. They were too busy complaining that I only made four pounds of bacon. 

You know, I’ve been beating myself up over my careless, slipshod ways because the grocery bills have been so high lately. So high, for like . . . two months now . . . oh. Yeah, right about the time we started having twelve people home 24 hours a day, I started spending more on food. SHAME ON ME. 

Next time I’ll get more bacon.

MONDAY
Chicken burgers, raw veggies and dip

This picture makes me laugh because at first you’re like, “oh, good for her, look at all the vegetables” and then you’re like “wait, is that a demitasse cup brimming with french onion dip?” Yes, it is, and I licked it clean. 

TUESDAY
Buffalo chicken salad, hot pretzels

Tuesday I went shopping. This is a great meal to throw together in a short amount of time: Salad greens, buffalo chicken cut into strips, crunchy fried onions from a can, shredded carrots, and either blue cheese or shredded pepper jack.

It’s better with ranch dressing, or buffalo ranch dressing, but it’s also good with whatever you have, if you’re hungry enough.

WEDNESDAY
Grilled pork ribs, cole slaw, strawberry rhubarb buckle

Damien made a sugar rub for the pork ribs, and grilled them over the coals. Nice and juicy.

Lena made a nice snappy peppy coleslaw.

Jump to Recipe

Look at that lovely color on the pork (no filter!). That sugar rub is magic– lots of flavor, and it gives it a wonderful caramelized crust.

Jump to Recipe

 

It says “chicken thighs,” but you can use it on all kinds of meat. 

Now let’s talk about rustic fruit desserts!
Rus!
Tic!
Fruit-des-serts!
[clap!clap!clap-clap-clap]

There are a lot of them, with lots of subtle variations, but there are more names than there are variations. You know what pie is. You know what a crumble is. But what about cobbler? What about crisp? What about betty, buckle, slump, and grunt? The answer is: some are oven, some are stovetop, some are steamed, some have streusel, and some are just from Connecticut, so who knows. And honestly, which is more fun? Just quietly knowing something, or looking it up and then insisting your kids stand there and listen while you read out loud about it? I think we know. 

I wanted to make something that was just fruity on bottom and sweet and crumbly on top, but I couldn’t find any cornstarch, so I ended up making a buckle, which is a sort of coffee cake with fruit layers. It was quite easy, and pretty delicious. And pretty. 

It has a layer of cake, then a layer of strawberry, then cake mixed with sugared rhubarb, then a streusel. We had it with whipped cream on top, because it is Wednesday, my dudes.

When I shared this picture on Facebook, I captioned it “O my chevalier!” It’s okay if you didn’t understand right away that I said that because it’s a buckle. That’s a weird joke and doesn’t make sense. HOWEVER, don’t you think I should write a cookbook in the style of G.M. Hopkins? You’d buy that, right, you weirdo? I could call it Sprungform Rhythm Pans. I could call it Carrot Cake Comfort. I could call it . . . PIED BEAUTY THAT IS MADE OUT OF ACTUAL PIE. 

I use my college degree all the time, why do you ask?

THURSDAY
Meatball subs 

Dora to the rescue again. I was so useless on Thursday, and I’ll tell you why, so you can feel smart. I got up and grabbed my two morning pill bottles, which have my green thyroid and purple blood pressure pills in them. I thought to myself, “Huh, they’re white, that’s weird,” and I swallowed them. Then I thought, “Ooh, I need to call in a refill for these.” So I started calling it in, and then I was like, “Hey, how come these bottles have someone else’s name on them? That’s so weird!”

So yeah, I took someone else’s drugs, for no reason at all. That’s how dopey I was before I started to feel the side effects of someone else’s drugs, which included dopiness. (Luckily, the dopiness and a headache, because of course there had to be a headache, was all that happened.) I can’t explain how I could have come to do something so stupid, but there it is. I’m sure this brain fog will get better as I get older though, HO HO HO HO HO HO HO.

Anyway, here is the meatball sub:

And here is the oven-baked, less-mess meatball recipe:

Jump to Recipe

 

FRIDAY
Pizza

All I have to say about this is we are now a six extra large pizza family. Five pizzas is enough for dinner, but not enough for people to have cold pizza for breakfast the next day, so now we make six. I’m a good mother.

 

Meatloaf (actually two giant meatloaves)

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground beef
  • 2 lbs ground turkey
  • 8 eggs
  • 4 cups breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 cup milk

salt, pepper, garlic powder or fresh garlic, onion powder or minced onions, fresh parsley, etc.

  • ketchup for the top

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450

  2. Mix all meat, eggs, milk, breadcrumbs, and seasonings together with your hands until well blended.

  3. Form meat into two oblong loaves on pan with drainage

  4. Squirt ketchup all over the outside of the loaves and spread to cover with spatula. Don't pretend you're too good for this. It's delicious. 

  5. Bake for an hour or so, until meat is cooked all the way through. Slice and serve. 

 

Smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups brown sugar
  • .5 cups white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 20 chicken thighs

Instructions

  1. Mix dry ingredients together. Rub all over chicken and let marinate until the sugar melts a bit. 

  2. Light the fire, and let it burn down to coals. Shove the coals over to one side and lay the chicken on the grill. Lower the lid and let the chicken smoke for an hour or two until they are fully cooked. 

 

Coleslaw

Ingredients

  • 1 head cabbage, shredded
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 5 radishes, grated or sliced thin (optional)

Dressing

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 cup cider or white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Mix together shredded vegetables. 
    Mix dressing ingredients together and stir into cabbage mix. 

 

Strawberry rhubarb buckle

You can substitute in all different combinations of fruit. Makes two buckles in 9-inch pie dishes. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 4 stalks rhubarb, stringed and diced

For the cake:

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 cup milk

For the streusel:

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp almond extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and grease two 9" round pans

To make the cake:

  1. In a bowl, beat together the butter and sugar.

  2. Beat in the vanilla and sugar.

  3. Stir in the baking powder, salt, and nutmeg

  4. Alternate adding in the flour and the milk, a bit at a time. Set the batter aside.

To make the streusel:

  1. Cut the butter into pieces, and then add in the other ingredients, mixing until it is crumby but not pasty.

To put it together:

  1. Spread about 1/4 of the cake batter in each buttered pan.

  2. Spread the sliced strawberries on top of that.

  3. Add the rhubarb to the remaining batter and stir to combine. Spoon the rhubarb-batter mixture over the strawberries in each pan as evenly as you can (it's okay if it's gloppy).

  4. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the batter in each pan.

  5. Bake for about an hour, until the top is a bit browned and a toothpick comes out clean.

  6. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

 

 

Meatballs for a crowd

Make about 100 golf ball-sized meatballs. 

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground meat (I like to use mostly beef with some ground chicken or turkey or pork)
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese (about 2 cups)
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.

  2. Mix all ingredients together with your hands until it's fully blended.

  3. Form meatballs and put them in a single layer on a pan with drainage. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or more until they're cooked all the way through.

  4. Add meatballs to sauce and keep warm until you're ready to serve. 

Making ashes out of you and me

 

What a shame that Ash Wednesday comes but once a year. For many of us, that’s the only opportunity we have to experience what many people consider the lyrical poet Thomas Conry’s masterwork. Let’s take a closer look.

The first lines are something of a ruse, are they not? Listen:

We rise again from ashes,
from the good we’ve failed to do.
We rise again from ashes,
to create ourselves anew.
If all our world is ashes,
then must our lives be true,
an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

We are lulled by the conventional rhyme scheme, ABABABB, into expecting that the theme will be conventional, as well.  The speaker cannily completes the rhyme by using the same word, “ashes,” three times, as if to signal, “Nothing new here, no  particular reason to pay attention.” Even the finial sounds of the words, “ashes,” “do,” “ashes,” “anew,” and once again “ashes,” followed by “true” and “you” — do you hear it?  the “sh” followed by “oo” . . . it almost sounds like the soft, untroubled breath of a sleeper. “Shh . . .ooo.”  Our narrator appears almost to be snoring, does he not? He is deliberately lulling us to sleep.

But a surprise awaits us in the second stanza.

We offer you our failures,
we offer you attempts,
the gifts not fully given,
the dreams not fully dreamt.
Give our stumblings direction,
give our visions wider view,
an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

Gone are the soft sibilants of the previous lines, and instead, we are confronted with deliberately jarring plosives (/b/ /p/ /t/ /d/) in  “Gifts not fully given, / … dreams not fully dreamt.” Not fully, indeed.  The very percussive violence of the sound is a statement:  the speaker has awoken, and he is in distress, perhaps stuttering and spluttering like a confused patient who was supposed to be etherised upon a table, but they ran out of ether. “Give our stumblings direction,” he haltingly pleads – but then subsides again into the inarticulate vagueness, perhaps experiencing a swollen tongue:  “give our visions wider view,” he mouths with a wagging jaw, in an achingly poignant parody of the semi-conscious man struggling to make sense of a world where significance seems always to be verging on the horizon.

Notice that in this second stanza, the rhyme scheme has subtly shifted from the pedestrian ABABABB to the chaotic and freewheeling ABCBDEE. This indicates that the speaker is confused.

The third stanza seems to find the speaker in a contemplative mood, lapsing again into what appears, at first, to be conventional, even clichéd imagery:  rising from ashes, sunshine turning to rain, and so on:

Then rise again from ashes,
let healing come to pain,
though spring has turned to winter,
and sunshine turned to rain.
The rain we’ll use for growing,
and create the world anew
from an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

But what are we to make of those troublesome conjunctions “then” and “though”? They can’t merely be metric placeholders, can they, with no intrinsic significance?  Don’t you believe it. Every syllable in this concise little jewel of a work is freighted with meaning. Some of the meaning is so subtle, it would wither under the strong light of scrutiny, much like a seedling which is brought to light in the springtime which, in an unprecedented meteorological event possible only in poetry, turns to winter, and then is sunny, and then rainy, and then becomes ashes, or possibly used to be ashes. Delicate seedlings just can’t take that kind of abuse; and so it is with conjunctions in the hands of the poet Conry. Exquisite.

And now the tour de force:  the final stanza.  Here we discover at last the full blown expression of the hints and murmuring suggestions sprinkled like so many ashes throughout the rest of the poem.  The speaker proclaims in triumph:

Thanks be to the Father,
who made us like himself.
Thanks be to his Son,
who saved us by his death.
Thanks be to the Spirit
who creates the world anew
from an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

Do you see?  Do you see?  It was the ashes all along. Ashes!

***
This essay originally ran in the National Catholic Register at some point, I forget when
photo credit: mkorsakov Asche via photopin (license)

Making ashes out of you and me

RELIGION_PLAYS_AN_IMPORTANT_PART_IN_THE_LIVES_OF_RESIDENTS._THE_LARGEST_GROUP_OF_CHURCHGOERS_ARE_ROMAN_CATHOLICS._A..._-_NARA_-_558387

What a shame that Ash Wednesday comes but once a year. For many of us, that’s the only opportunity we have to experience what many people consider the lyrical poet Thomas Conry’s masterwork. Let’s take a closer look.

The first lines are something of a ruse, are they not? Listen:

We rise again from ashes,
from the good we’ve failed to do.
We rise again from ashes,
to create ourselves anew.
If all our world is ashes,
then must our lives be true,
an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

We are lulled by the conventional rhyme scheme, ABABABB, into expecting that the theme will be conventional, as well.  The speaker cannily completes the rhyme by using the same word, “ashes,” three times, as if to signal, “Nothing new here, no  particular reason to pay attention.” Even the finial sounds of the words, “ashes,” “do,” “ashes,” “anew,” and once again “ashes,” followed by “true” and “you” — do you hear it?  the “sh” followed by “oo” . . . it almost sounds like the soft, untroubled breath of a sleeper. “Shh . . .ooo.”  Our narrator appears almost to be snoring, does he not? He is deliberately lulling us to sleep.

But a surprise awaits us in the second stanza.

We offer you our failures,
we offer you attempts,
the gifts not fully given,
the dreams not fully dreamt.
Give our stumblings direction,
give our visions wider view,
an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

Gone are the soft sibilants of the previous lines, and instead, we are confronted with deliberately jarring plosives (/b/ /p/ /t/ /d/) in  “Gifts not fully given, / … dreams not fully dreamt.” Not fully, indeed.  The very percussive violence of the sound is a statement:  the speaker has awoken, and he is in distress, perhaps stuttering and spluttering like a confused patient who was supposed to be etherised upon a table, but they ran out of ether. “Give our stumblings direction,” he haltingly pleads – but then subsides again into the inarticulate vagueness, perhaps experiencing a swollen tongue:  “give our visions wider view,” he mouths with a wagging jaw, in an achingly poignant parody of the semi-conscious man struggling to make sense of a world where significance seems always to be verging on the horizon.

Notice that in this second stanza, the rhyme scheme has sutbly shifted from the pedestrian ABABABB to the chaotic and freewheeling ABCBDEE. This indicates that the speaker is confused.

The third stanza seems to find the speaker in a contemplative mood, lapsing again into what appears, at first, to be conventional, even clichéd imagery:  rising from ashes, sunshine turning to rain, and so on:

Then rise again from ashes,
let healing come to pain,
though spring has turned to winter,
and sunshine turned to rain.
The rain we’ll use for growing,
and create the world anew
from an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

But what are we to make of those troublesom conjunctions “then” and “though”? They can’t merely be metric placeholders, can they, with no intrinsic significance?  Don’t believe it. Every syllable in this concise little jewel of a work is freighted with meaning. Some of the meaning is so subtle, it would wither under the strong light of scrutiny, much like a seedling which is brought to light in the springtime which, in an unprecedented meteorological event possible only in poetry, turns to winter, and then is sunny, and then rainy, and then becomes ashes, or possibly used to be ashes. Delicate seedlings just can’t take that kind of abuse; and so it is with conjunctions in the hands of the poet Conry. Exquisite.

And now the tour de force:  the final stanza.  Here we discover at last the full blown expression of the hints and murmuring suggestions sprinkled like so many ashes throughout the rest of the poem.  The speaker proclaims in triumph:

Thanks be to the Father,
who made us like himself.
Thanks be to his Son,
who saved us by his death.
Thanks be to the Spirit
who creates the world anew
from an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

Do you see?  Do you see?  It was the ashes all along. Ashes!
***