What’s for supper? Vol. 269: In which I push my luck

Happy Fribeday! Today’s edition includes several delightful foods I certainly did not cook myself, plus some rolls which no one but me could or would have made. And I am wined and dined and manage to complain about it. 

So, Saturday and Sunday and part of Monday, Damien and I were away at a little getaway for an early anniversary trip. 24 years, just about! We somewhat randomly decided to go to Canobie Lake Park Screeemfest, which means their normal amusement park with miscellaneous spooky decorations, plus some haunted houses and shows.

American Halloween is weird, man. It’s such a mishmash of different aesthetics. We both discovered that we don’t like haunted houses at all anymore. I honestly think I would have just gotten completely overwhelmed and not been able to find my way out, so Damien basically grabbed me and pulled me through as fast as possible, and then we sat on a bench for a while until I could stop saying, “My goodness.”  We did go on a bunch of normal rides, including bumper cars, my favorite ecstatic swings-on-chains one, and one that is the same as a washing machine spin cycle, except that, instead of the dirty water going out, it is your blood trying to escape. 

The first thing we did was eat, though, which may have been a tactical error, but I was starving! We both had a smoked brisket sandwich with jalapeños, coleslaw, and beer. Holy cow, it was delicious.

Can’t remember the name of the vendor, but they were set up near the flying rooster ride. I really must learn how to smoke brisket. We used to occasionally have brisket when I was growing up, but Jewish brisket is not the same as smoked brisket on a sandwich. I have no desire to recreate the occasional brisket of my childhood. 

We stayed at the park for a few hours until we began to feel too old, and then made our way to the hotel. We had requested a second night, but hadn’t heard back, so Damien called the front desk, who rather rudely told him to talk to Priceline, who had him wait for a long time before letting him know that they didn’t really know what was going on and he should talk to the hotel, who then informed him that the hotel was all booked up. I was a tiny bit relieved, and it smelled somewhat like wee in there, and I also had it in my head that there might be bedbugs (there weren’t). Damien then booked a room at a much nicer hotel at Hampton Beach for the second night with no problem. This becomes important later. I was a little nervy, with the imaginary bedbugs, and my blood trying to escape, and only slept a few hours, but we were still having fun! I brought orange juice. 

SUNDAY

We got up, went to Mass — well, went to what turned out to be the wrong church, and then launched ourselves to the right church only a few minutes late for Mass — and then proceeded to Newburyport, MA. We didn’t really have a plan, but it looked like a pretty town, so we stopped for lunch.

I quickly realized that it was an aggressively nice town. Half the roads were cobblestone, either original or put in just to be cute, it was hard to say. Absolutely adorable architecture, gift shops selling silver and crystals and mermaid everything everywhere, touristy to the max. A trans woman with long white hair and a long white dress playing a harp in the town commons, and every single damn dog I saw was in a stroller. I quietly renamed it Painintheass, MA in my head. Honestly, a really nice town, but just Too Too Much.  However, after I browsed around the shops and Damien got some work done at a café, we got a table at a lovely restaurant by the riverwalk, and had a magnificent brunch at Sea Level Oyster Bar

We had an order of fried calamari that included batter fried hot peppers, very nice

but the real star was the oysters. I have never had such wonderfully fresh, luscious, tasty oysters. There were three different kinds

and one of the accompaniments was a tart pineapple mignonette. Wowzers. 

I ordered something called Sluice Juice IPA from Bent Water beer. Terrible name, but a really wonderful beer, very citrusy and refreshing, with lots of different flavors. I don’t really like beer unless I’m eating, and this was the absolute perfect beer to go with seafood. 

 

The only non-chocolate dessert was apple pie in a jar, so I ordered that. It came with what must have been a sugared mermaid or fishtail crust garnish, but it looked more like antlers and didn’t taste like much. The rest was lovely, though, tart and fresh with plenty of whipped cream and a kind of streusel on the bottom. 

We had a seat near the water (I think it’s the Merrimack River), the service was fast and friendly, and I would absolutely go back to that very pleasant restaurant.

We spent a little time browsing the antique market (which requires vaccines and masks), and stopped at a Greek gift store, where I had spotted a blue icon sun catcher I wanted, and then got bullied into buying a quite expensive bottle of olive oil from Sparta. Yia Yia was very persuasive. She kept shouting at us, and there was something about her three grandchildren in heaven that she cooks for every night using that same oil. I swear I only had one beer, and that’s what she said. I narrowly avoided buying an entire can of the oil, which was $50. She also threw in some oregano. 

We eventually got back on the road and found ourselves in Seabrook, which has a nuclear power plant, but it turns out you can only see it in the summer. And then we got to Hampton Beach. 

Here’s the short version of what happened next: We had allegedly checked in online, and should have been able to go straight to our room, but it didn’t work. When we tried to check in at the desk, the clerk seemed a little flustered, and asked if my name was [something other than Simcha]. Then she said that there was another family also called Fisher, and that was unusual.

Ok? I didn’t think much of it until we got up to our room and unlocked the door, and … There were already some people in that room! Goodness gracious. So embarrassing. 

At first we apologized, but then we realized our key had opened the door. So I said, “Wait a minute, is your last name Fisher?” And it was.

It turns out the other Fisher family’s credit card had been declined, but the clerk thought we were all together, so they went ahead and put them in the room and charged our card! And then when we checked in, they charged our card again! So we got charged twice, but did not get a room! So I sat down in the hall with our luggage, and Damien went to the desk to straighten things out. And see if they actually had a room for us!

Which they did, eventually. With an upgrade, as is meet and just. We had a great ocean view and a big ol’ bed and a big ol’ balcony, and I opened the door to the ocean and cranked up the heat and we just put our feet up for a while, whuffing the breeze and not doing anything for a while, because it was already evening by this point.  It was at this point that I began to think we had packed in too much walking for someone with arthritis in her hip, and too much driving for people who are supposed to be relaxing, and possibly not accounted for this much ridiculousness for a very short weekend, but what can you do.

We eventually made our way to the hotel restaurant, where I ordered maple bacon scallops and a white Russian

which tasted exactly like it sounds, hot and tasty if not terribly sophisticated. Then I ordered a Reuben and another white Russian, and we just kept reminding each other that there is an employment crisis and the waitress is obviously trying her best, because it took about five hours to get that damn sandwich. 

At this point, I was fairly white Russian, and wasn’t able to make much headway in the sandwich. I will say that that was the most goyishe pickle I’ve ever had in my life. It was just a piece of cucumber having a hard time, that’s all. (Yes, we tipped well. Everybody’s having a hard time.) 

So up to the room and I stashed my leftover Reuben in the mini fridge. All night long, the fridge was making these peculiar clattering, howling sounds, and I kept thinking, “This is the second night in a row that I’m not sleeping at all! I should get up an unplug the fridge! But no, my Reuben is in there!” Finally, around 5 a.m., I drifted off to sleep. At 7 a.m., the neighbors STARTED UP A KARAOKE PARTY. Sweet Caroline, You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, the whole nine yards. Who does that?? Damien called the front desk to complain. This being the same crew that so adroitly arranged the whole Schrödinger’s Fishers rooming situation, they honestly did not do a great job making the neighbors be quiet; but eventually they sang themselves out, and we dozed off again, and then it was time to check out. We somewhat blearily packed up our stuff and put it all in the car, and then we had a few hours to enjoy the beach; only, to be honest we were both freaking exhausted, and it was cold. So we spent a little time breathing in the salt air and watching the seagulls swoop around, then picked out some candy for the kids, and then we were all done. And I forgot my Reuben.

It was a very pretty ride home, though, really the very peak of foliage glory. A few times, we would come around a bend and get smacked in the face with so much color, we both just started laughing. I do love that man. We have the weirdest anniversaries, though. 

MONDAY
Chili

We used to do a big Italian feast for Columbus Day, but we’ve moved that to St. Joseph’s day, because, c’mon. We didn’t have a lot of time to put together anything indigenous, but Damien made a highly delicious chili.

Jump to Recipe

Do you know, it’s not easy to take a photo of chili that shows it looking delicious, but I tried.

I might have knocked down the salt content a bit, but it was nicely spicy and the balance of meat to bean and corn was great. I had mine with sour cream, cheese, and chives.

Did eat leftovers for lunch.

TUESDAY
Chicken caprese sandwiches

On the theory that we may be dead tomorrow anyway, I went ahead and set out the good Greek olive oil and weakly warned the children that it was Very Expensive Indeed, and then just walked away. 

As you can see, I sloshed on as much as I liked. Maybe we’ll be dead tomorrow. It was really good. Tasted like olives. 

WEDNESDAY
Meatball subs on homemade french bread

On Wednesday, Dora borrowed my car and did my afternoon school pick-up, meaning I had the afternoon free to fritter away in whatever manner I pleased. So I made a bunch of meatballs in the morning.

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I made them with about four pounds of ground beef and two pounds of ground turkey, which happened to be on sale. This lightens meatballs up quite a bit, and I prefer them this way. I cook my meatballs on a broiler pan in a 450 oven, and then transfer them to a pot with sauce. This is ten thousand times easier, neater, and faster than pan-frying them, and they’re not quite as scrumptious, but they are meatballs, absolute balls of meat, and nobody every complains.

The roll, though.

Aldi was completely out of rolls when I went shopping. Aldi is like that. They have such great prices and some really wonderful products and treats, but then they’ll be like, “Oh sorry, we’re not doing the whole bread thing today” or they’ll act like they never heard of potatoes. You have to assume, when you go to Aldi, that you’ll also be going somewhere else afterward.

OR, you could think, “Wait, I don’t have to go anywhere this afternoon! I could MAKE MY OWN ROLLS!” Forgetting for the moment that you’re kind of a cruddy baker and your bread turns out well maybe one in five times. 

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Well, I did remember a good tip, which is that you can proof your dough in the Instant Pot. Grease the pot, plonk your dough in there, cover it with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and press the “yogurt” button. If you need more of a cover, use a plate or a pot lid, not the regular Instant Pot cover, because, as a few friends warned me, you’ll have a horrible time picking the dough out of the sealing ring and the valve and such if it rises too much. 

My dough rose pretty well the first time, but then I decided to start a huge bulb planting project, and I think here is where my bread went wrong, because I had to keep setting timers and dashing in and out of the house, and not always hearing the timer because I was planting bulbs next to the highway and it was pretty loud, what with trucks rushing past and people honking at me. I had a giant tub of cayenne pepper I was spreading around to keep the squirrels from digging up my bulbs, and the wind was blowing, and the cars were honking, and my alarm kept going off, and I kept running in and out, I don’t know. It always goes wrong somehow. Also I was kind of low on flour, so I had to throw some cornmeal in there. Anyway, I decided to make a bunch of short, skinny rolls, and some of them looked so flabby, I tried to scrunch them up a bit before putting them in to bake, and THAT  . . .

IS HOW I GOT TARDIGRADE ROLLS.

Water bear rolls!

Moss piglet(?) rolls!

A lot of them actually turned out looking like normal rolls, but I didn’t take pictures of those, because this isn’t actually a cooking post, sorry. 

They tasted okay. Slightly mealy, no doubt because of the cornmeal. 

THURSDAY
Yakitori chicken, rice

Damien made this fabulous Japanese chicken on the grill. He made a triple recipe of this sauce, and you’re supposed to use it on boneless, skinless chicken on skewers, but I got offended at the boneless, skinless chicken price, so I came home with about 20 intact chicken thighs, and he opted to cook it that way. Great choice. I don’t know if “yakitori” means that it’s on skewers, or if it refers to the sauce. I just don’t know. But look at this chicken!

This is how he prepared it: He whisked together the sauce ingredients and boiled and stirred for 5 minute until it thickened up. He set aside half the sauce and then smoked the chicken for about an hour, coating it on both sides with the sauce a few times. Then he grilled the chicken and coated it over indirect flames, and coated and smoked a little more to make sure everything was cooked all the way.

He served the chicken with the rest of the sauce, plus sesame seeds and chopped scallions. I made a big pot of rice cooked in chicken broth, which the kids consider a delicacy.  

Deee-licious. The sauce is sharp and dark savory and tasted wonderful with the charred chicken skin. I really hope we have this again. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese for the kids, possibly fried calamari 

On the way home from our wanderings on Monday, we stopped to pick up the chili ingredients, and I happened to see a bunch of frozen calamari rings, which I couldn’t turn down because they don’t sell it at my normal supermarkets. How much should I push my luck? How hard could it be? Actually I think Damien is going to make fried calamari. I don’t even know what I’m for around here, anymore. I guess I do yoga and eat, and sometimes I plant flowers for the spring, just in case. 

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. 

 

French bread

Makes four long loaves. You can make the dough in one batch in a standard-sized standing mixer bowl if you are careful!

I have a hard time getting the water temperature right for yeast. One thing to know is if your water is too cool, the yeast will proof eventually; it will just take longer. So if you're nervous, err on the side of coolness.

Ingredients

  • 4-1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 4-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
  • 10-12 cups flour
  • butter for greasing the pan (can also use parchment paper) and for running over the hot bread (optional)
  • corn meal for sprinkling on pan (optional)

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, put the warm water, and mix in the sugar and yeast until dissolved. Let stand at least five minutes until it foams a bit. If the water is too cool, it's okay; it will just take longer.

  2. Fit on the dough hook and add the salt, oil, and six of the cups of flour. Add the flour gradually, so it doesn't spurt all over the place. Mix and low and then medium speed. Gradually add more flour, one cup at a time, until the dough is smooth and comes away from the side of the bowl as you mix. It should be tender but not sticky.

  3. Lightly grease a bowl and put the dough ball in it. Cover with a damp towel or lightly cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about an hour, until it's about double in size.

  4. Flour a working surface. Divide the dough into four balls. Taking one at a time, roll, pat, and/or stretch it out until it's a rough rectangle about 9x13" (a little bigger than a piece of looseleaf paper).

  5. Roll the long side of the dough up into a long cylinder and pinch the seam shut, and pinch the ends, so it stays rolled up. It doesn't have to be super tight, but you don't want a ton of air trapped in it.

  6. Butter some large pans. Sprinkle them with cornmeal if you like. You can also line them with parchment paper. Lay the loaves on the pans.

  7. Cover them with damp cloths or plastic wrap again and set to rise in a warm place again, until they come close to double in size. Preheat the oven to 375.

  8. Give each loaf several deep, diagonal slashes with a sharp knife. This will allow the loaves to rise without exploding. Put the pans in the oven and throw some ice cubes in the bottom of the oven, or spray some water in with a mister, and close the oven quickly, to give the bread a nice crust.

  9. Bake 25 minutes or more until the crust is golden. One pan may need to bake a few minutes longer.

  10. Run some butter over the crust of the hot bread if you like, to make it shiny and even yummier.

Damien's Indigenous Chili

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs ground beef
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 head garlic, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2 jalapeños, chopped
  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 16 oz canned kidney beans, drained
  • 16 oz canned corn, drained
  • 16 oz beer
  • 16 oz chicken broth
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2+ Tbsp cumin
  • 2+ Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 bottle (?) Frank's Hot Sauce
  • olive oil for frying

sour cream, chopped chives, shredded cheese for serving

Instructions

  1. Cook up the onions garlic and peppers in a little olive oil until soft.

  2. Add meat, brown, and add salt and pepper.

  3. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir and then cover loosely and simmer a couple of hours.

  4. Serve with sour cream, chopped chives, and shredded cheese.

What’s for supper? Vol. 267: The ramens of the day

Cozy foods this week! Brussels sprouts! Some fish sauce comparison! Amusing tricks with lemon! The rediscovery of fennel! And more. Come see what we ate. 

Despite my excitement, I didn’t get around to using my new foley mill last week, for applesauce or anything else. We do go to an apple orchard; we did not pick apples from our own tree yet. I did buy a second single-use appliance, though: One of those cast iron apple slicer and peelers that clamps onto the counter and does everything with a crank. Pretty ingenious. 

The kids like to put apple slices on their ham and cheese sandwiches, so this will probably get regular use, beyond just the production of tasty, tasty apple peels

We are really slipping as a family, though. In the past, we would have been knee deep in denuded onions, potatoes, and baseballs,  with little peels of doll heads all over the floor. Now we’re just, “tee hee, I can peel all the apples I want.” We’re slipping.

SATURDAY
Hot dogs and chips

An extremely drivey day that started out with a Saturday morning alarm and two loads of cars through the drive-thru flu shot clinic, and kept going like that. Benny had a pal over, Damien cooked hot dogs on the grill, and we had a campfire and roasted marshmallows. I did buy a skeleton. We haven’t settled on a ludicrous display for the year, but we now have two fully posable skeletons. 

SUNDAY
Salad with chicken, feta, walnuts, cranberries

Sunday was the day we chose to go apple picking. We’ve gotten pretty good at planning day trips. Damien cooked the chicken after Mass, and we had the kids make their Monday lunches and do their evening chores in the afternoon, so when we got home late and full of apples and smelling faintly of goat poo, all we had to do was eat the prepped food and slither into bed. Truly, the greatest organizational hack of all, though, is to not have a baby or a toddler. Nothing beats it. Also, let people go apple picking in their pajamas if they want. 

I myself wore a sweater and leggings, which are pajamas. As I mentioned, we are slipping. (If you care to see our apple picking photos, they are here.)

The dinner we prepped was salad with roast chicken, toasted walnuts (toast on a pan in the oven for a few minutes or, even easier, in the microwave for a few minutes), feta cheese, and dried cranberries. I had mine with wine vinegar. 

Decent and filling. I feel like there was some kind of bread component, but maybe I’m confused.

MONDAY
Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, roast honey balsamic Brussels sprouts with walnuts

My big secret with meatloaf is only to make it a few times a year, so it doesn’t become an emotional burden. The other thing I struggle with, with meatloaf, is the desire to get cute with it. I want to make adorable little meat muffins, and I know nobody wants that, even though I feel like deep down they would enjoy it. 

Or I start pulling out my silicone pans

or I start felling sculptural, and we end up with meat horrors

Or, not pictured, giant meat boobies. It’s just . . . you give me big hunks of raw material, and I want to create. Anyway, this time I just made three big loaves, that’s it. That’s what kind of month it’s been. Here. Here’s yer meat. 

It’s a serviceable recipe, though, as long as you don’t underseason it.

Jump to Recipe

I use red wine and Worcestershire sauce inside and ketchup outside, and it has a pretty good savor. It would make good leftover sandwiches, but that doesn’t fit into my current calorie arrangement, so the leftovers are just hulking in the fridge, awaiting their doom. And who isn’t. 

We also had ten pounds of mashed potatoes, which I meant to make as garlic parmesan mashed potatoes

Jump to Recipe

but I just plain forgot, so they were just plain with milk and butter and salt

and I also forgot how dang long it takes potatoes to cook, so we had supper pretty late.

I also had four pounds of Brussels sprouts, first of the season. They turned out swell, with very little effort. I stemmed and halved them, spread them in a pan, and drizzled them with olive oil and honey, and some balsamic vinegar, pepper and kosher salt, and then – aha! – tossed in a few handfuls of chopped walnuts, and roasted it under the broiler. 

I don’t know why I have two photos of this, but here you are. 

To think that I spent most of my life not knowing about roasted vegetables. You throw a few nuts in there, and it’s almost a meal in itself. Thank you, Aldi, for cheap nuts. 

TUESDAY
Banh mi, pineapple

I have, in the past few years, tried banh mi from various places, and mine is the best. It just is. I recommend mine. I’ve also tried making my same recipe with various meats, and it always tastes the same as very cheap pork, because the sauce is just that powerful. 

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I use a lightly toasted baguette with plenty of plain mayo. I put out sriracha mayo for anyone who wants it, but for me, there are enough other spicy elements. Pork, sweet pickled carrots, plain cucumbers, plenty of cilantro, a few jalapeños, and that’s it. It’s just the best sandwich going. 

Here’s the recipe for pickled carrots, which I may fiddle with. It’s a bit sweet.

Jump to Recipe

I served pineapple on the side because I got confused. It was supposed to be for Wednesday, but I had already started cutting it up, so it was too late. 

I also used a different kind of fish sauce in the sauce this time, and it was just as savory and salty and weird, but the smell wasn’t eye-watering. I mean, my eyes were a little concerned, but they weren’t absolutely streaming. Fish sauce is made by mixing anchovies with salt and then I guess letting it sit in giant fermentation vats for several months, and then collecting the runoff, or something? I haven’t looked into this deeply. Anyway, I’m drinking more. 

Now you know everything I know. The less stinky sauce was considerably cheaper, too. 

WEDNESDAY
Pork ramen

I cleverly timed this so we would have leftover vaguely Asian sandwich fixings from Tuesday to top the ramen on Wednesday. Oh, I’ve got a few tricks up my sl– ope, nope, sorry, that’s a carrot. Damn shredded carrots got everywhere. I’m not joking, it was terrible. 

So we just had a big pot of ramen, and I cooked up some boneless pork ribs in sesame oil and sloshed on a little soy sauce toward the end

and sliced them up. I considered messing around with some garlic and brown sugar, but then I remembered how lazy I am.

Also set out soft boiled eggs, cucumbers and carrots from the previous day, some nori, pea shoots, crunchy noodles, sesame seeds, and all the various sauces I could find that seemed like they came from the right hemisphere. 

I do like this meal, and it’s so easy and cheap. I think the most expensive part was the nori.

Top view. Dive in!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THURSDAY
Ina Garten’s roast chicken with carrots and fennel

Damien was in charge of Thursday’s meal, and he went for this spectacular roast chicken and vegetable dish. The chickens are stuffed with garlic, lemon, and thyme, and wow, can you taste it. It’s so juicy and absolutely packed with flavor, not to mention hilarious to look at. 

Hello, lemons! The chickens get roasted on a bed of vegetables, and I think Damien made a separate platter of just vegetables so there would be plenty. I always forget about fennel in between having this dish, and it’s so good. It’s like all the best parts of onion and cabbage, but it takes up other flavors very nicely. People describe fennel as having a licorice-like taste, and I guess it does, but I don’t like licorice (or anise), and I like fennel a lot. It’s just sort of fancy and peasant-y at the same time, sort of elegant and cozy, juicy and crunchy. I don’t know. Don’t even get me started about the carrots. 

This is a very fine meal, very cheering on a gloomy, rainy day. We served it with plenty of baguettes and soft butter to sop up the lovely lemony juices. 

Look at that beautiful fennel, so elegant, so cozy.

FRIDAY
Grilled cheese

Finally Friday. Kind of a draggy week. Just a lot of covid tests and . . . I don’t have to tell you, the same nonsense everyone is dealing with. Everything is medium terrible and I feel medium guilty for not managing it better. Whatever. We live to grill another day. My stupid hip is still endlessly healing up from ??mysterious non injury maybe arthritis?? so I’m on day 2 of a yoga program. It’s this one, which is on Amazon Prime, if you’re interested. It’s not too woo woo, and she’s pretty good at explaining what you’re actually supposed to be doing with your parts. Then at the end she’s like “and now we will pray to honor the body” and I’m like “sorry toots, gotta shower and get to adoration” and I boop it off. 

 

Meatloaf (actually two giant meatloaves)

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground beef
  • 2 lbs ground turkey
  • 8 eggs
  • 4 cups breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 cup milk OR red wine
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

plenty of 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. 

 

Garlic parmesan mashed potatoes

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs potatoes
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 8 Tbsp butter
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 8 oz grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Peel the potatoes and put them in a pot. Cover the with water. Add a bit of salt and the smashed garlic cloves.

  2. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer with lid loosely on until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.

  3. Drain the water out of the pot. Add the butter and milk and mash well.

  4. Add the parmesan and salt and pepper to taste and stir until combined.

Pork banh mi

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs Pork loin
  • 1 cup fish sauce
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 minced onion
  • 1/2 head garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1.5 tsp pepper

Veggies and dressing

  • carrots
  • cucumbers
  • vinegar
  • sugar
  • cilantro
  • mayonnaise
  • Sriracha sauce

Instructions

  1. Slice the raw pork as thinly as you can. 

  2. Mix together the fish sauce ingredients and add the meat slices. Seal in a ziplock bag to marinate, as it is horrendously stinky. Marinate several hours or overnight. 

  3. Grill the meat over coals or on a pan under a hot broiler. 

  4. Toast a sliced baguette or other crusty bread. 

 

quick-pickled carrots and/or cucumbers for banh mi, bibimbap, ramen, tacos, etc.

An easy way to add tons of bright flavor and crunch to a meal. We pickle carrots and cucumbers most often, but you can also use radishes, red onions, daikon, or any firm vegetable. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 lb mini cucumbers (or 1 lg cucumber)

For the brine (make double if pickling both carrots and cukes)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar (other vinegars will also work; you'll just get a slightly different flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Mix brine ingredients together until salt and sugar are dissolved. 

  2. Slice or julienne the vegetables. The thinner they are, the more flavor they pick up, but the more quickly they will go soft, so decide how soon you are going to eat them and cut accordingly!

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

  3. Cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight or longer. Refrigerate if you're going to leave them overnight or longer.

What’s for supper? Vol. 266: Ready or not, soup season!

Hup! Here we go! Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Sandwiches and fries

Damien brought home some baguettes and and assortment of deli meats and cheese and some jarred peppers and things. Very tasty. Forgot to take a picture. 

Which reminds me, people complain about Twitter, and sure, it can be rough, but there’s also this:

SUNDAY

Nobody can remember what we had on Sunday. It has been erased from the books, wiped clean from the slate, carved clear of the tablets of history. Probably burgers.

Oh, now I remember: Sunday I was picking up Lena from Granite State Comiccon. She did really well, selling prints, stickers, and masks. I happen to have one of her stickers on my laptop

and these apparently sold very briskly. I’ll let you know when she gets her Etsy store restocked. 

MONDAY
Beef barley soup, pumpkin muffins

Corrie has been begging for beef barley soup and Benny has been begging for pumpkin muffins, so even though it was in the mid 70’s, I caved. The leaves are changing, the ducks are flying south, there’s a fog rolling across the dried grass in the mornings, and people who live within a mile of actual corn fields are paying $7.88 for disinfected stalks of corn from Walmart to attach to their porches with zip ties. Sounds like soup weather to me. 

The beef barley soup turned out very nice, although I forgot to buy mushrooms. I made it on the stovetop, but here is a recipe you can easily make in the Instant Pot if you’d prefer

Jump to Recipe

I also made about 18 pumpkin muffins, and they turned out a little weird. The can of pumpkin I was counting on turned out to be pumpkin pie mix, which already has spices and sugar added to it, plus who knows what else. 

(It’s a good, reliable, hearty recipe IF you use actual just plain canned pumpkin! Jump to Recipe)

Then I didn’t help matters by somehow bobbling the hot pan and dumping every single muffin out onto the oven floor, which is currently foul and horrible. So a bunch of them got charred and a bunch of them picked up miscellaneous oven crap, and they weren’t sweet enough, and they had a weird texture, more like cake than muffins, but somehow not in a good way. 

Corrie has been putting them in her lunch every day, though, so it wasn’t a total loss. Her lunch gets inspected because there is a kid with a nut allergy this year, so either the teacher is impressed that I bake a lot, or the teacher is horrified that I’m sending my kid to school with charred pumpkin lumps, not sure which. 

TUESDAY
Chicken burgers, chips, veggies and dip

A very deluxe meal, as you can see.

I’ve been putting bowls of fruit on the table, to dissuade myself from eating chips. It works, in the sense that I eat fruit with my meal, and then go back after supper and eat everybody’s leftover chips. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken soup with matzoh balls, challah, Earl Grey cake with vanilla bean frosting

Clara’s birthday! She requested this coziest of meals. I more or less followed my mother’s recipe for chicken soup, and the recipe on the can for matzoh balls. I made the soup the day before, so it could cook all day long and get very rich and golden. Forgot to take a pic of the finished soup, but here it is being made. I used just some legs, plus carrots, celery, onions, dill, and parsley, and lots and lots of simmering time:

I made two big challahs and they turned out pretty nice. It was chumid as chell, which maybe made the loaves a little flabbier than strictly necessary, but they were pretty good. 

The Early Gray tea cake from Liv For Cake was quite a project. I am not much of a baker, and have long since resigned myself to making box cakes for most birthdays. I followed this recipe slavishly, though, and it came out well. Maybe a little dry; I guess I baked it a hair too long. And my oven really needs leveling!

You have to make tea milk and add that to the batter, as well as adding ground tea. You can also make tea syrup to brush over the baked cake, which I ended up not having time for. Very pleasant, cozy, old fashioned flavor, almost citrusy, not too sweet, and the cake has a very fine grain. 

The vanilla bean frosting that goes with it was also a little more labor intensive than I normally attempt, and I will be honest, it didn’t taste that spectacular to me. You cream egg whites and sugar, then whisk them over a double boiler, then put them back in the stand mixer and keep whisking until they are stiff, then add in the butter and vanilla bean paste. The texture is extremely light and has a creamy flavor — like it tastes like there is cream in it — but it also tasted like shortening to me, which was pretty disappointing, since the actual ingredients (unsalted butter, vanilla bean paste) were actually pretty expensive. Maybe I just don’t like buttercream that much. Everyone else liked it, and it was very easy to work with. 

For some reason I got the idea to make a Great Wave off Kanagawa cake.

I guess the sort of frothy buttercream looked wavy. If I had planned ahead, I would have bought some nonpareils for the foam, but I just piped it in with a sandwich bag and a butter knife. I forgot to put the boat in. Anyway, Clara liked it. 

THURSDAY
Pizza

Damien made pizzas. He tried toasting the pepperoni before adding it to the pizza, just to give it a little extra crunch. I didn’t try any, but he said it was good, not spectacular. He also made one cheese, one pepperoni, and one with anchovies, artichoke hearts, and garlic. Guess which one I held out for.

FRIDAY
Penne

The kids requested pasta that is shaped like tubes, in sauce that comes in jars. That I can do.

And now I’m excited, because my Foley mill arrived in the mail!

This is a lovely little machine, very well designed. It clips onto the side of a pot or bowl, and when you turn the crank, the high end of the inside blade catches food underneath it and forces it down through the little holes as it turns, so it crushes it and also sorts out the seeds and skins and whatnot; and at the same time, a little pin turns on the bottom

to keep it clear as you work. Very nice. 

I bought it from eBay, to replace the food mill I threw out at some point last year. I guess I was doing some kind of kitchen purge and thought, “What is this dumb thing taking up space? I can’t use it more than once a year!” Well guess what, stupid? Here we are at the one time of year when I want to make applesauce, and a food mill is really the only thing that works. I like to cook the apples with the skin and cores in, and then strain them out afterward. You can do it with a sieve, but it’s horrible work and takes forever, and a food mill is just fun to use. Our terrible little apple tree also has plenty of terrible apples on it this year. They’re not really good for anything else besides apple sauce, but they have an intriguing smoky flavor that makes very pleasant sauce. The tree’s name is Marvin.

If you’ve never made your own apple sauce, it’s super easy, and a good way to use the million apples your toddler took one bite of and then discarded. Cut them into quarters, leaving on the skins and cores, and put them in a big pot with an inch or two of water on the bottom. Cover loosely and let it simmer for . . . okay, I don’t remember how long. Maybe forty minutes? Long enough that, when you poke the apples, they don’t resist at all, but collapse into mush. (Softer apples, like Macintosh, are best for applesauce, obviously.) Then you dump everything into a food mill (or sieve) and crush out all the skins and cores.

Add however much sugar and cinnamon you like, and a little butter, and stir. That’s it. Best applesauce you’ve ever had, and the smell is heavenly.  Warm, rosy homemade applesauce with a little vanilla ice cream on top will bring tears to your eyes.

You can also trim the cores and peels off first, and then you can just use a blender or whatever to make the apples into sauce, but the flavor and color won’t be nearly as nice. 

And that’s it! Headed out to adoration in a bit. Praying for you all, cheese bags. 

 

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. 

 

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. 

 

Challah (braided bread)

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup oil (preferably olive oil)
  • 2 eggs
  • 6-8 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp yeast
  • 2 egg yolks for egg wash
  • poppy seeds or "everything bagel" topping (optional)
  • corn meal (or flour) for pan, to keep loaf from sticking

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, dissolve a bit of the sugar into the water, and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir gently, and let sit for five minutes or more, until it foams.

  2. In the bowl of standing mixer, put the flour (starting with six cups), salt, remaining sugar, oil, and eggs, mix slightly, then add the yeast liquid. Mix with dough hook until the dough doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl, adding flour as needed. It's good if it has a slightly scaly appearance on the outside.

  3. (If you're kneading by hand, knead until it feels soft and giving. It will take quite a lot of kneading!)

  4. Put the dough in a greased bowl and lightly cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm place for at least an hour, until it's double in size.

  5. Grease a large baking sheet and sprinkle it with flour or corn meal. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Roll three into "snakes" and make a large braid, pinching the ends to keep them together. Divide the fourth piece into three and make a smaller braid, and lay this over the larger braid. Lay the braided loaf on the pan.

  6. Cover again and let rise again for at least an hour. Preheat the oven to 350.

  7. Before baking, make an egg wash out of egg yolks and a little water. Brush the egg wash all over the loaf, and sprinkle with poppy seeds or "everything" topping.

  8. Bake 25 minutes or more until the loaf is a deep golden color.

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 265: U jelly bro?

It’s fall! This means grapes! It means squash! It means . . . Korean food, why not! Come along and see; we have some lovely recipes this week. 

SATURDAY
Hamburgers, chips, veg and dip, watermelon

There was a little resurgence of summer weather, so Benny’s pal came over and helped her pick some grapes, and we had a little cookout. I spent a few hours working on my never-ending project, this ultra deluxe raccoon-proof garbage enclosure, with Real Hinged Door that Opens and Closes. 

Eventually it will have a corrugated tin roof, and a locking latch, and it will be wrapped in welded wire fencing, and I really do believe I’ll finish it someday. Someday.  Maybe I can be buried in it. 

SUNDAY
Ragù on fettuccine, garlic bread

Damien made his scrumptous Deadspin ragù, which uses ground pork and veal, shredded carrots and celery, and is just heavenly. You could feast on the aroma alone.

We spent a good part of Sunday and Monday evenings making grape jelly. Sunday we picked grapes, pulled off the stems, and cleaned them,

[this is supposed to be two sets of photos embedded from Instagram, but I can’t tell if they’re showing up properly or not]

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Simcha Fisher (@simchafisher)

 

and Monday we did the actual jelly-making.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Simcha Fisher (@simchafisher)

We ended up with about twelve pounds of grapes, and I got to startle a few family members who weren’t aware we were making jelly.

I firmly told myself that the main goal was to have a nice time with Benny, and not necessarily to come out with some grade A jelly, and that was a good thing, because we achieved the former, but not the latter. We ended up with 4 jars of decent jelly,

and another ten jars of something more like syrup — in some cases, because I didn’t realize that, if you decrease the sugar, you need to buy special low-sugar pectin, and in some cases because I used the right amount of sugar but ran out of liquid pectin and used powdered, misread the directions, and just screwed it up generally. This is after I mouthed off about how my mother never used to read the directions and that’s why her jelly was always turned so weird. 

Oh, I just used the recipe on the pectin boxes. I used Ball RealFruit liquid pectin, which was simple and easy, and Sure Jell powdered pectin, which was a little more involved.

I did learn that Concord grapes are very high in histamines, and if you get impatient with the potato masher and decide to mash them by hand, your hands will light up like Christmas trees. I learned that grape flavored Laffy Taffy is the exact flavor of Concord Grape jelly foam, which is kind of startling. And that’s all I learned. Maybe next year, we’ll just make juice.  

MONDAY
Italian sandwiches

Ciabatta rolls with spicy salami, prosciutto, mozzarella, tomatoes, red pesto, olive oil and vinegar, and a little fresh pepper.

We’ve been having this sandwich about once a week and I’m nowhere near tired of it yet. I mean not this specific sandwich.

TUESDAY
Honey mustard chicken thighs with fall vegetables

A one-pan meal, nice and easy. Let’s launch the beginning of butternut squash season with a useful tip: To easily peel butternut squash, cut off the ends and pierce it several times with a fork, then microwave it for 3-4 minutes. You should be able to peel it with a vegetable peeler and cut it fairly easily after that. 

So for this dish, you cut up your squash and potato, drizzle it with oil and season it with salt and pepper, lay the chicken on top, and then stir up a simple sauce and brush the chicken with the sauce. Then you just roast it all together. 

Jump to Recipe

The sauce runs down into the pan, and vegetables pick it up, it all melds together, nice skin, everybody’s happy. 

I had some leftover broccoli and carrots in the fridge, so I added those in halfway through the cooking, and that worked nicely. 

This meal is subject to endless varieties of vegetables and seasonings, and you can make it all ahead of time. It all goes in one pan, but it’s easy for picky eaters to fish out the things they like.

Win win win. I don’t know why this picture looks like I took it through a butterscotch wrapper, but there it is.

WEDNESDAY
Regular tacos

Nothing to report. I do remember that I kept calling everyone for supper and they kept wandering off, so I got mad and left, and then two hours later Corrie tearfully claimed no one told her it was supper time, and I felt so bad, but then they told me she was on the couch reading Calvin and Hobbes and wouldn’t answer them, and they actually went over and shook her, but she refused to respond. I heated up a taco for her anyway, but by this point, I was confused about who I was supposed to be mad at, so I just sat on the couch and felt mad in general. Does it usually take this long to get used to getting back to school? I don’t remember, but I feel like I’m-a-gonna die. 

THURSDAY
Instant pot bo ssam with spicy walnut sauce, rice, pineapple

This recipe looks like more work than it really is. If you skip most of the extras, basically you just have to find the fattiest hunk of pork you can, slather it with big handfuls of salt and sugar, wrap it up, ignore it for many hours, unwrap and cook it for many more hours, slather some sauce on at the last minute and cook it a little more, then chunk it on the table to gasps or admiration.

Okay, so you have to make two sauces, but one only has three ingredients, and you can make the other one in the food processor. It contains your entire yearly recommended allowance for salt and sugar. This is one of those foods where people are just silent while eating it, and you think, “Maybe they don’t like it very much” but then they get up and RUN to the platter and get more. IT’S VERY GOOD. Especially the parts where the caramelized fat has basically turned into pork candy. Pork candy that makes you weep. 

It’s supposed to cook at least six hours in a 300-degree oven, and I put it in way too late, so after a few hours, I moved it to the Instant Pot and cooked it on high for 45 minutes on the rack with a cup of water, then put it back in the oven for ten minutes to finish the sauce crust. You guys, it was PERFECT. Here is when it came out of the IP:

And here is after ten minutes under the broiler (and yes, I could have moved the rack down a few notches):

When you broke through the shiny, charred exterior, the inside was beautifully shredded and incredibly moist and full of intense flavor. I’ll be using the IP for this recipe from now on. 

The pork itself is quite sweet and salty, not spicy, and most of the kids really liked it. The sauce that goes along with it is spicy and savory and strange. A little goes a long way, but you won’t want to miss it. 

Bo ssam is supposed to be wraps, and I forgot to buy any lettuce to wrap it in, but nobody minded — we just ate the shredded pork with rice. You definitely want rice or something else mild to give your mouth a rest from all that intense flavor. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

I used up only about 20% of the vast stores of leftover cheese that are cluttering up the fridge. However, I only made three pounds of macaroni, which is close to what people will actually eat, so maybe I won’t have created vast stores of leftover macaroni and cheese to clutter up the fridge. Maybe.

And now the adoration chapel has finally opened up again, and we signed our vaccinated asses up for a weekly hour on Fridays. I’ll pray for youse!

One pan honey garlic chicken thighs with fall veg

Adapted from Damn Delicious 

Ingredients

  • 18 chicken thighs
  • 2 lbs broccoli in spears
  • 4-5 lbs potatoes in wedges, skin on if you like
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed

sauce:

  • 1/3+ cup honey
  • 1/3+ tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp dijon or yellow mustard
  • 9 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • olive oil for drizzing

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Prepare the sauce. 

  2. In a large, greased sheet pan, spread the potatoes and squash. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. 

  3. Lay the chicken thighs on top of the potatoes and squash. Brush the sauce over the chicken skins. 

  4. Roast the chicken for thirty minutes or more until they are almost cooked.

  5. Add the broccoli, arranging it on top of the potatoes and in between the chicken. Return the pan to the oven and let it finish cooking another 10 -20 minutes so you don't die. The skins should be golden and the broccoli should be a little charred. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 264: Banger? I barely mashed ‘er

With an audible wrenching sound, I have forced myself to start cooking real meals again, even though we are fully back in school and having to set alarms in the morning and everything. Well, with a few exceptions, like Damien cooking and us buying pizza. Well, I made a few things, anyway. Look, I found my potato masher, and now you have to look at my sausage pictures. 

SATURDAY
Athens pizza

I remember when I used to think that people who went to the Saturday vigil Mass were technically not sinning, but rrreeallly, I mean my goodness, maybe if they just tried a little bit harder, they could make it to actual Sunday morning Mass like a real Catholic. 

Ehh, sorry about that. Anyway, we decided to go to Saturday Mass for the sole purpose of being able to sleep in on Sunday, and then we decided to go out for pizza after Mass for the sole purpose of I don’t wanna cook. I forgot it was some kind of community art festival, and this band had set up across the street in front of a tire store. Lena went over and asked them to play Wonderwall, but they pretended not to hear, which was not very Freebird of them. 

SUNDAY
Chicken quesadillas

I was working on my pallet garbage enclosure all day, and Damien shopped for and cooked dinner, and installed the faucet in the bathroom sink and caulked the vanity into place. I know it sounds like I’m coming out way ahead here, but consider: My husband has allowed — nay, encouraged — all the children to pronounce it “kwassadillas.” They also say “gwack-a-mole.”

MONDAY
Burgers and brats, clams, chips, onions three ways

Labor day! I love Labor Day, because you get to go, “Workers are important; go, unions!” and then you’re all set to have a day off, and you don’t have to carefully arrange your attitude and make sure you’re celebrating properly or enjoying your hamburger in a fashion that’s appropriate to the season or something. Damien grilled up a bunch of burgers, brats, and clams. Oh man, the smells. The smells!

The brats, he boils in beer and onions and then grills. He also fries up a bunch of onions, and also chops up a bunch of raw onions. We just like onions, okay? There are also onions in the clams. 

Here’s the clam recipe, which works with all kinds of shellfish:

Jump to Recipe

TUESDAY
Honey garlic pork ribs, rice, tangy cucumber salad

The pork rib recipe was a real “ship of Theseus” situation. You’re supposed to brine the pork (which is supposed to be chops, not ribs) for 24 hours, then pepper it, then cook it in a low oven for an hour, then pan sear it with this lovely sauce. I ended up brining them, yes, but then broiling, then pouring the sauce over the meat and finishing cooking it covered it foil. It was tasty and juicy, but of course it lacked any kind of glaze. Also I uh ran out of honey and chucked in a bunch of orange marmalade, and used white wine instead of sake. Don’t own a probe thermometer. Sauce never did thicken up. Didn’t even consider garnishing with thyme. And it was kind of undercooked so I had to put it in the microwave. Whatever! You don’t know me! It had a nice sweet, garlicky flavor and just about everyone who likes pork liked it, and I made plenty of rice, which I only burned a little bit. 

I served it with a tangy cucumber salad, which turned out a little more vinegary than was strictly necessary, because as previously mentioned, I was pretty low on honey, and I also couldn’t find my sesame oil, so that made it considerably less flavorful than it might have been.

Jump to Recipe

It’s a nice simple salad, though, and tastes sophisticated and refreshing along with something savory. Just don’t skimp on the honey. 

WEDNESDAY
Bangers and mash with onion sauce, cheesy pretzel bites

The day started off damp and dark, with a shivery, chilly mist enveloping the world. Brr, I thought, how perfect would it be to welcome my family home at the end of the day to a huge platter of steamy, hearty sausages smothered in creamy, garlicky mashed potatoes topped with a rich, savory onion gravy. The only flaw in my plan was that, by the time dinner time rolled around, it was in the high 70’s, sunny, and humid. OH WELL, TOO BAD. EAT YOUR TATERS. 

I made ten pounds of mashed potatoes, intending to make garlic parmesan mashed potatoes,

Jump to Recipe

but unable to find the parmesan cheese. 

I more or less followed this recipe for onion gravy, except I used even more corn starch than it called for and it still didn’t thicken up properly. This is my cross to bear. My gravies don’t thicken. 

I also made several boxes of frozen pretzel bites stuffed with pepper jack cheese from Aldi, which were exactly as advertised — chewy and sour on the outside, melty and salty inside.

Pretty tasty hot, pretty un-tasty as soon as they cooled down. 

THURSDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips, broccoli and carrots

Around 6 PM, my kitchen was full of gigantic adult children shouting at each other about how disappointed they were about how the movie Candyman ended, which caused me to burn half the sandwiches. Not my fault. 

I, virtuous, skipped the chips and just ate vegetables (drowned in french onion dip).

The kids asked me why some of the sandwiches didn’t have ham in them, and I just stared at them, bug-eyed, and shrugged like I couldn’t even believe they would ask such a dumb question. It actually was a perfectly reasonable question, but on the other hand, let’s see how they like it! Ha ha! 

FRIDAY
Shrimp lo mein

It’s been a while since we’ve had lo mein. It’s been . . . lo these meiny months. I don’t know. Some of the kids said they didn’t really like it, and I said what should I make instead, and they said wah wah wah, so I’m making lo mein. (Actually they suggested tuna noodle casserole, which I just don’t like making, so there.)

I cut up some peppers and red onion and scallions, and cleaned the shrimp, and any minute now I’m going to get up off my bed of pain and make some sauce. Then all I have to do is boil up the noodles before supper and we’ll have a lovely little meal to throw together. I really love lo mein, and was delighted to discover what a simple recipe it is.

Jump to Recipe

You can put in whatever vegetables and proteins you like. Here’s one with shrimp and sugar snap peas: 

And that’s my story.

 

Grilled clams or mussels in wine sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 white or red onion
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • live clams or mussels
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cups white wine
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Prepare sauce: Coarsely chop the onion and sautee it in the olive oil with the red pepper flakes. Add salt and pepper. 


  2. Add two sticks of butter and let them melt. Add the wine and lemon juice. 

  3. Light the fire and let it burn to coals. While it's burning down, sort and clean the shellfish, discarding any damaged or dead ones. (If they're open, tap them. If they don't close, they're dead. If they're closed, they're fine.)

  4. Lay shellfish on grill until they pop open. The hotter the fire, the shorter the time it will take - five minutes or more. 

  5. Add shellfish to sauce and stir to mix. 

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)

 

Garlic parmesan mashed potatoes

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs potatoes
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 8 Tbsp butter
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 8 oz grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Peel the potatoes and put them in a pot. Cover the with water. Add a bit of salt and the smashed garlic cloves.

  2. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer with lid loosely on until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.

  3. Drain the water out of the pot. Add the butter and milk and mash well.

  4. Add the parmesan and salt and pepper to taste and stir until combined.

 

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 5 tsp sesame oil
  • 5 tsp sugar

for the rest

  • 32 oz uncooked noodles
  • sesame oil for cooking
  • add-ins (vegetables sliced thin or chopped small, shrimp, chicken, etc.)
  • 2/3 cup rice vinegar (or mirin, which will make it sweeter)

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

  2. Boil the noodles until slightly underdone. Drain and set aside.

  3. Heat up a pan, add some sesame oil for cooking, and quickly cook your vegetables or whatever add-ins you have chosen.

  4. Add the mirin to the pan and deglaze it.

  5. Add the cooked noodles in, and stir to combine. Add the sauce and stir to combine.

What’s for supper? Vol. 263: Cardiologist’s delight

Let’s go! No tears! No tears! Where is your mask! Where are your shoes!!! Here’s what we ate this week, which was BACK-TO-SCHOOL WEEK: 

SATURDAY
Prosciutto sandwiches

Damien handled dinner while I took the kids shopping for school supplies on the absolute last possible day I could get away with it. I don’t remember if I actually ate some hemp gummies beforehand, or just planned to, but I’m here now, so I clearly survived somehow. 

My particular sandwich was a length of baguette with prosciutto, provolone, tomato, olive oil and vinegar, fresh pepper, and a schmear of red pesto. Yum yum. I wish I had one right now. 

Sometimes people ask us, “Simcha, Damien, your household seems to run so smoothly, and your children all seem so capable and well-rounded. What’s the secret to your success?” We always smile and gently explain that it’s simple: We invite our children to help us in the kitchen. This not only teaches them skills they’ll lean on for the rest of their lives, it keeps them invested in the immediate well-being of the family, and shows that their actions in the here and now truly are, in a very real way, who we are as a community. Here, for instance, is a tomato one of the children sliced up for dinner in a very real way:

Nice slicing, jerk. I’ll invest you in a very real way.

SUNDAY
Ape law

Clara and I were at the Green River Festival, as I mentioned.

Those are my migraine sunglasses. I know they look stupid but they’re the only frames that don’t squeeze my head. I had a falafel wrap for lunch from Ahli Baba’s Kabob Shop based in Burlington, VT (fresh and tasty, and the pita was top notch) and some kind of pork dumplings and coconut curry for dinner, but I paid cash so my bank statements aren’t reminding me who that vendor was. I also bought some peaches and cream ice pops from Crooked Stick Pops, and they tasted exactly like peaches and cream, so that was nice. 

I am not sure what the people at home had? Possibly grilled burgers and hot dogs. We call this “ape law,” which just means I’m not there and didn’t make any plans or buy any groceries, which just means Damien usually makes burgers and they watch SpongeBob or something. In order to get a really good Ape Law situation going, you have to be not exhausted, and we are all exhausted. 

MONDAY
BLTs

First day of school for college kids and Catholic high school. We had LEFTOVER BACON after supper, can you imagine? I truly just do not know how much food to buy anymore. 

Benny and Corrie made a back-to-school cake together, very cute.

They accidentally added three times too much water, then bulked it up with flour. They then gave this brand of cake mix low ratings because the texture is fine, but it’s kind of bland. And their mother officially has no opinion about that. 

TUESDAY
Vermonter sandwiches, broccoli, bacon-roasted corn on the cob

Orientation day for elementary and middle school charter school kids. This turned out to be a half day, but I somehow missed that detail, so what could have been a mere 3/4 of a day of driving around like an idiot turned into a full day of driving around like an idiot (because they were two different halves of the day and two different towns, but not the same town we live in). This is what people are referring to when they say some parents are just too lazy to homeschool their own children [skin falls off from sheer exhaustion].

Anyway, Vermonter sandwiches are: Roast chicken breast, bacon, sharp cheddar cheese, green apple, and honey mustard on sourdough or ciabatta. 

A good, hearty sandwich, and you can of course make everything ahead of time. If you rinse the apple slices in lemon or lime juice, they won’t go brown.

I also cut up a bunch of raw broccoli, and then forgot I had done so and thought we still needed a side, so I shucked a bunch of corn. I then got a brilliant if not precisely heart-healthy idea: I put the corn on a giant baking pan and poured a bunch of bacon grease and bits over it and rolled it around, and sprinkled it heavily with salt. I covered it loosely with tin foil and roasted it for several minutes until it was making a little noise. Then I uncovered it and let it brown up a bit, and turned it a bit and browned the other side. 

It was pretty fab! Not monstrously, earth-shatteringly wonderful, but it tasted special and crisp and savory, and it sure was easy. Definitely worth doing if you have bacon fat around, especially if you do not feel like heating up a giant pot of water, which I could go the whole rest of my life without feeling like. 

WEDNESDAY
Mexican beef bowls

First day of public high school and first full day of everyone in everything. I wanted to make a hearty and popular meal, but I bobbled it a little bit. I didn’t buy enough meat, and I cooked it too long, and I forgot to get corn chips or avocados, and I accidentally put basil-flavored tomatoes into the beans instead of chili tomatoes, and I burned the rice a bit. Come to think of it, everyone must have been absolutely starving, because I screwed that up pretty bad! Oh well. 

It’s a great marinade, though,

Jump to Recipe

and a good meal if you don’t screw it up. So we had rice, beef, corn, sweet peppers, cilantro, sour cream, beans and tomatoes, cheddar cheese, and limes. I didn’t get around to sautéing the peppers. I did use Taijin powder liberally, which always helps.

I cut the corn off the leftover corn on the cob and heated it up in a pan. Hey, I actually burned that, too. You know what, it was a very trying day, but everyone got fed. 

THURSDAY
Omelettes, sausages, cinnamon buns

I didn’t burn a single omelette, and even managed to do a fancy trifold on some of them, but the photos didn’t turn out great, so you’ll have to use your imagination. We just had your choice of cheddar cheese and ham, and the cinnamon buns were from a can. Everyone was happy. 

FRIDAY
Stuffed shells

Benny has been longing for this meal for weeks, but it’s been way too hot and steamy to even consider it, but I have to admit, today it’s chilly and foggy and perfectly fine for stuffed shells. I always think, “Just because school starts, that doesn’t mean we have to stop going to the beach and stuff! We can still have summer fun on weekends for a while!” but it seems like the temperature plummets the very moment the school year begins, and bam, it’s fall. Oh well. At least we have stuffed shells. I guess I have to heat up a big pot of water, though. 

My recipe isn’t spectacular, but it’s serviceable, and has nutmeg. Gonna shave up a ton of fresh parmesan, which makes a big difference, too. 

Stuffed shells

Just a basic recipe. You can add meat to the sauce or spinach to the cheese, or anything that strikes your fancy. Serves about 10.

Ingredients

  • 2 12-oz boxes jumbo shells
  • 2 32-oz tubs ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp dried basil
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 4-5 cups pasta sauce

Instructions

  1. Cook the shells in salted water, drain, and rinse in cool water. Mix them up with olive oil so they don't stick together.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350. Mix into the ricotta cheese all the seasoning, the parmesan, and 3 of the cups of mozzarella.

  3. Spread a little sauce in the bottom of an oven-proof pan or dish. Stuff each shell with about 1/2-1/3 cup of cheese filling and lay the stuffed shells close together.

  4. Top with the rest of the pasta sauce, and sprinkled the remaining mozzarella on top of that. Cover loosely with foil and cook for 45 minutes or longer, until it's bubbly. 

 

Beef marinade for fajita bowls

enough for 6-7 lbs of beef

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 head garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together.

  2. Pour over beef, sliced or unsliced, and marinate several hours. If the meat is sliced, pan fry. If not, cook in a 350 oven, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. I cook the meat in all the marinade and then use the excess as gravy.

What’s for supper? Vol. 262: Tearwater margaritas

Now I officially only write about two things anymore: Weight loss, and things I ate. Oh, and crying. 

I have other stuff going on, but it’s all . . . yargh. I shalln’t lie, I have been having Kind Of A Hard Time Lately, as who isn’t, and the doctor wasn’t really able to discern if I am Medication Crazy, Lady Crazy, or Actually Crazy. The truth is that I might just be extremely tired from — you know — [waves hands ]–THE THINGS.

Everyone has their THE THINGS these days. Everyone’s so tired. You start out writing about going to an amusement park with your kids, and 900 words later: Oh look, it’s another excruciating personal meditation on

f e a r 

how nice. Already did one of those this week, but let’s have another, waiter.

So Damien took me out for margaritas and I cried at him, because I am fun. Also I got a bundle of papers in the mail, and one of them was a handwriting analysis my mother had done for me. Basically an unexpected letter from my dead mother saying what kind of person she thought I was. And she charged me $7.50! Because she was trying to raise money for a Nigerian seminarian, who, of course, turned out to be a scammer.  What I’m trying to say is, there’s been some ups and downs. But probably it’s the medication. (Brophy voice: That was no medication.) 

Every spare moment has been taken up with the bathroom renovation that never ends, countless trips to [ptui] Home Depot, and neverending speculations on what might possibly bring the world’s weepiest toilet to finally dry its tears and — okay, now I’m projecting, but we really do have a massive condensation problem in there. But we are actually fairly close to the end of this renovation job. I myself put in three portions of actual wall, and waterproofed it all, and tiled and grouted it, and caulked it and put in trim. Where once there were moldy holes, there are now sound walls and floors, and it feels pretty good. And my parents’ house may actually go on the market in a week. And we managed to get to the beach, and we managed to do this thing and that thing, and we’re shopping for school supplies today, and just about everything is crossed off the list. There was a moment where I was applying grout to the wall and literally had my face right in the hole where the toilet used to be and a child came in and asked what was for dinner, and all I said was,”Please ask Daddy,” so if it seems like I had a lot of margaritas this week, that’s why.

Gawd, I never shut up. Let’s talk about food. Here’s what we ate last last week, because I never got around to writing a food post:

FRIDAY
Shrimp tacos

I think I actually mentioned making this, but posted about it before I took a photo, so here it is:

They were delicious. I peeled, deveined, and dried the shrimp, dusted them with … I think cumin, sea salt, and cayenne pepper, or something like that. Let them rest for a bit and then sautéed them quickly in olive oil and chili oil. Served on flour tortillas with shredded cabbage, cilantro, chunks of avocado, hot sauce, and a squeeze of lime juice.

Perfect summer meal along with some cool watermelon. 

SATURDAY
Meatball subs, grapes

Damien made the meatballs. I don’t know what he put in them, but they were tasty. We had them on rolls with sauce from jars.

SUNDAY
Chicken caprese sandwiches, cucumbers, ice cream pies (?)

I split a bunch of baguettes and heated up some frozen chicken patties that were a special buy at Aldi. The “special” part turned out to be that they were in a box, rather than a bag.

Served with tomatoes, basil, sliced cheese; sliced some cucumbers. 

We got home from Mass and I felt the strong urge to make pie. Then I was like, “No, don’t be silly, you’re far too busy for that.” So instead, I made 12 mini pies. Because they’re . . .  smaller. I don’t know. 

I made a double recipe of this reliable Fannie Farmer pie crust recipe

Basic pie crust

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 sticks butter, FROZEN
  • 1/4 cup water, with an ice cube

Instructions

  1. Freeze the butter for at least 20 minutes, then shred it on a box grater. Set aside.

  2. Put the water in a cup and throw an ice cube in it. Set aside.

  3. In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Then add the shredded butter and combine with a butter knife or your fingers until there are no piles of loose, dry flour. Try not to work it too hard. It's fine if there are still visible nuggets of butter.

  4. Sprinkle the dough ball with a little iced water at a time until the dough starts to become pliable but not sticky. Use the water to incorporate any remaining dry flour.

  5. If you're ready to roll out the dough, flour a surface, place the dough in the middle, flour a rolling pin, and roll it out from the center.

  6. If you're going to use it later, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. You can keep it in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months, if you wrap it with enough layers. Let it return to room temperature before attempting to roll it out!

  7. If the crust is too crumbly, you can add extra water, but make sure it's at room temp. Sometimes perfect dough is crumbly just because it's too cold, so give it time to warm up.

  8. You can easily patch cracked dough by rolling out a patch and attaching it to the cracked part with a little water. Pinch it together.

and cut it into 12 pieces, and stretched them over upside-down muffin tins sprayed with cooking spray, and then baked them until they were browned, about 25 minutes. 

They turned out great.  Well, a few cracked, but that would be easy to avoid in the future with a little patching. Not terribly decorative, but perfectly functional. 

The idea was the kids could fill them with ice cream and top them with cherries or whatever they wanted. I don’t know if they actually did this, as I was out drinking a tearwater margarita.

It was a Silver Star Margarita made with Hornitos Plata Tequila, triple sec and elderflower liqueur. When I ordered, the waitress said, “Oh, top drawer!” which made me feel guilty and defensive and angry, which, in retrospect, was probably not her intention. Did I mention how much fun I am? I am twelve miniature empty pie shells worth of fun.

MONDAY
Chicken caesar salad wraps (?)

Roast chicken breast, romaine lettuce, some leftover tomato and cucumber, some of those crunchy parmesan crisps, freshly shredded parmesan, and caesar salad dressing from a bottle, and pita bread. You do what you like. I think most people made wraps.

We used dressing from a bottle, but if you’re feeling ambitious, my renegade homemade dressing has no technique and is pretty snappy. 

5 from 2 votes
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caesar salad dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about two large lemons' worth)
  • 1 Tbsp mustard
  • 4 raw egg yolks, beaten
  • 3/4 cup finely grated parmesan

Instructions

  1. Just mix it all together, you coward.

I ended up tearing up my pita and just having a dinner of bits of things, which is the kind of meal I like the best. 

TUESDAY
Pizza

I went on such an insane snacking frenzy, I had no desire to eat dinner, but I made some pizzas that looked nice, anyway. One cheese, one pepperoni, one garlic, olive, anchovy, and ricotta, and one garlic, olive, and feta.

WEDNESDAY
Canobie! Lake! Park!

Last Wednesday was the last day trip on our list for the summer, and it was a pretty great day. Canobie Lake Park is a wonderful place, clean, friendly, beautiful.  You can head over to my Facebook page to see a few photos of I posted if you like.

We brought a picnic lunch to eat in the parking lot, and the only park food be bought was Dippin’ Dots, the Ice Cream of the Future. I didn’t have any, so I still am unclear about what constitutes its futurosity. At this point, I’d rather it remain a mystery. We stopped at Wendy’s on the way home, and it was hands down the absolute worst Wendy’s experience of my life. I was openly mocked for hoping they would give us our drinks, and the fries were about 30% full. Still, the Son of a Baconator is a damn fine sandwich.

THURSDAY
I think we had nachos 

This was 47 years ago 

FRIDAY
I have no idea

Still with me?  That was the previous week!

Now here’s what we had this past week:

SATURDAY
Sandwiches

Damien shopped for this meal and put it together.

It looks like . . . a baguette with prosciutto, provolone, spicy salami, tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and fresh pepper. Gosh, I wish I had some right now. And some nice green grapes. Grapes are coming back in season, so that’s fun! What would we do if there weren’t always some fruit coming into season. 

MONDAY
Chicken bakeadillas and guacamole

Feeling like an absolute degenerate, I bought a couple of rotisserie chickens to make into quesadillas, because I knew I wasn’t going to be up for shopping, then cooking chicken, then frying quesadillas. Well, it turns out I also wasn’t up for frying quesadillas, even though Clara shredded cheese for me. So I got the idea of making a giant baked quesadilla in the oven.

You guys, it turned out great. Not quite as tasty as an individually fried quesadillas, but more than serviceable, and so much easier. I sprayed a large pan with cooking spray, then covered it with six large overlapping tortillas, then shredded cheese, then shredded chicken, more cheese, chili lime powder, and another layer of overlapping tortillas. Then I drizzled it with olive oil and spread it around a bit and sprinkled it generously with salt, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Baked at 400 about 15 minutes.

We cut it into slabs with a pizza cutter and served it with sour cream and guacamole.

You could easily add all kinds of things to this: Salsa, beans, whatever. You could make several layers of tortillas with different fillings in between layers. You can do whatever you want; you’re the chief of police!

TUESDAY
Vaguely middle eastern chicken

I doused some chicken breast with spices from a jar that said “KAFTA” and broiled it. Sliced it up and served it with raw spinach, carrots, tomatoes, feta, all kinds of olives, and some yogurt sauce. I didn’t have much pita, so I cut it up into triangles and made a nice fan shape, and this created the illusion of plenty. 

Or maybe it actually was plenty, and I’m just insane.

I also cut up a watermelon into chunks and served that along with dinner.  A fine summer meal, if not quite the shawarma everyone kept asking if it was when they saw me setting all those olives and feta out on the counter.

If you do want to make shawarma, AND YOU DO, here’s my recipe:

5 from 2 votes
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Chicken shawarma

Ingredients

  • 8 lbs boned, skinned chicken thighs
  • 4-5 red onions
  • 1.5 cups lemon juice
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 entire head garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Mix marinade ingredients together, then add chicken. Put in ziplock bag and let marinate several hours or overnight.

  2. Preheat the oven to 425.

  3. Grease a shallow pan. Take the chicken out of the marinade and spread it in a single layer on the pan, and top with the onions (sliced or quartered). Cook for 45 minutes or more. 

  4. Chop up the chicken a bit, if you like, and finish cooking it so it crisps up a bit more.

  5. Serve chicken and onions with pita bread triangles, cucumbers, tomatoes, assorted olives, feta cheese, fresh parsley, pomegranates or grapes, fried eggplant, and yogurt sauce.

And don’t forget the yogurt sauce:

5 from 2 votes
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Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

WEDNESDAY
Confused alligator noises

I spent most of the day working on the bathroom and making multiple trips to Home Depot and various other supply stores, and around dinner time, I left the house while hastily voice-to-texting the kids that I had left frozen hot dogs, frozen meatballs, and a leftover rotisserie chicken on the table, and they should heat everything up and eat it while I was out. They opted instead to let the hot dogs and meatballs thaw out, eat the chicken cold, and have some ice cream. This is fine. Damien brought home some sushi for the two of us, and then I stayed up past midnight tiling behind the toilet. 

THURSDAY
Pork?

I think the people at home had pork. On Thursday I took a bunch of the kids to the town pond for several hours, and then Lena and I went fabric shopping because the living room curtains are moldy (I mean they have been moldy for years, but it suddenly got to me), and then we went to Margaritas, which we’ve been talking about doing all summer, and here it is the end of August. 

To a casual reader, it may seem like I go to Margaritas and drink margaritas and cry constantly, but it’s really only about once a week that I do this. And I only cried a little bit! I would say that, considering how many margaritas I drank, I really barely even cried at all. They were delicious, thanks. We both had the steak chimichangas and told some very funny stories. Or so it seemed at the time. Listen, I’m a good tipper and I didn’t spill anything. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 260: In which I say tomatermorts

It’s been a while! We’re in a bit of a summer fun frenzy and going on a lot of day trips and side quests, so I’m busy and confused. There are only a few food photos on my phone and lots of zoo, planetarium, concert, birthday, swimming, yard project, and campfire photos (along with flat tire, dumb dog, flooded basement, calamitous kitchen, and ER parking lot photos). We also bought a used ice fishing house and Damien’s converting it into an office. More on that later, you bet.

I’ll just do highlights of the last few weeks’ suppers, to bring us up to speed. And you know, I’m pretty impressed at what yummy meals I made. My secret is that now I have more time and more money. And that’s my secret. 

Here’s what we had:

Buffalo chicken wraps

Another meal-turned salad-turned wrap, like the chicken caesar wrap of last edition. I cooked some frozen buffalo chicken tenders and served them on pita with tomatoes, lettuce, crunchy fried onions, and blue cheese dressing. I think there was also shredded pepper jack cheese. 

Not mind-blowing, but tasty, and a good addition to the rotation. 

Taquitos and cowboy caviar

Aldi’s chicken taquitos are really tasty. They include discernible bits of meat and the flavor is nice, and they get crisp in the oven. Plus they are called “Casa Mamita” which makes me laugh, because you have to say all their food names with a German accent. 

I made a big bowl of what’s apparently called “cowboy caviar,” which is one of those completely unnecessary cultural phenomena, like a Polaris Slingshot, or neufchatel cheese, or the state of Arizona. Cowboy caviar itself is delicious, but I’m talking about that name. They should have named it literally anything else. The zoo has an anteater named “Giacomo,” so that proves we have more freedom than we may realize. 

Anyway, I made it with  . . . well, I didn’t write it down, but squinting at this photo, it looks like tomatoes, avocado, green peppers, scallions, corn, black beans, and red onions. Probably cilantro. I think I made the dressing with white vine vinegar and olive oil, but I honestly don’t recall. There are tons of variations of this dish, so if you mooch around on Google, you’ll get the idea.

I skipped the chips and just had extra cowboy caviar. No ragrets.

I also tried not one but two TikTok recipes. I’m too old to be on actual TikTok, but I found websites that describe what may be found there, without any danger of having to see sassy nurses dancing and pointing to things. I went with the tomato feta pasta bake and the suggested cream cheese sausage balls.

The first was a win. It’s a very easy dish to make. You throw all your vegetables in a pan with a few seasonings and olive oil. As you can see, I added onions and basil. 

Then you chunk some feta and stuff on top and just bake it. People tell me the secret is to use the kind of feta that comes in brine, so it melts well.

It’s done when the tomatoes are squashy and the feta is toasty.

While that’s cooking, you make a big pot of pasta and then throw it all together and mix until the feta is a creamy sauce, and throw some lemon zest in there just for nice. 

I wish I had roasted it just a tiny bit longer to make those tomatoes really piping hot and collapsed, but it was very, very good. Tonys of melty flavor, very filling and pleasant. I might add the basil after cooking next time, so more of the flavor comes through. 

The little meatballs, made of sausage, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and bisquick, were easy enough to make (although it took a LONG time to get the ingredients blended), and they were fine.

but if something is going to taste, and be, that fatty, it really needs to be magnificent, and these were just fine. (To be fair, I didn’t make the suggested dipping sauce, so maybe that would have made a big difference.)  We only ate half, and I froze the rest so I’ll have a quick meal on hand, but I won’t bother making these again. The feta pasta was a hit, though. Very happy to have a new meatless meal, with tons of variations possible.

Chicken shawarma again!

Well met, old friend.

Jump to Recipe

I marinated the chicken overnight and just threw the onions on top of the meat before I cooked it. This is the way. 

Served with pita, garlicky yogurt sauce,

Jump to Recipe

feta, tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives. Still the tastiest low-skill meal around.

Mexican beef bowl

Actually, all the bowls were dirty, so we had Mexican beef plate. This is sounding less and less like an actual recipe, and more like one of those foods that can’t quite bring itself to be specific. I wish I could remember what I saw, but it was something like “chewy munch snacks” and it did not inspire confidence. But anyway, this is an actual recipe and quite a delicious one.

Jump to Recipe

The marinade is simple but excitingly tangy and rich. 

I served the marinated meat strips with rice, fried peppers and onions, a mixture of tomatoes and chili peppers and black beans, slightly charred corn, and cilantro, sour cream, and lime wedges. It was so much food I forgot to eat corn chips, which is saying something. 

Looks like I have one more photo: 
Chicken caprese sandwiches

Grilled sliced chicken on baguettes with tomatoes, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella, with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and freshly-ground salt and pepper. If your stupid refrigerator freezes your cheese, you can defrost it gently by submerging the sealed package in warm water for a while. The vital part of this dish is the fake Pringles in a violent shade of orange. This is the way. 

***

5 from 2 votes
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Chicken shawarma

Ingredients

  • 8 lbs boned, skinned chicken thighs
  • 4-5 red onions
  • 1.5 cups lemon juice
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 entire head garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Mix marinade ingredients together, then add chicken. Put in ziplock bag and let marinate several hours or overnight.

  2. Preheat the oven to 425.

  3. Grease a shallow pan. Take the chicken out of the marinade and spread it in a single layer on the pan, and top with the onions (sliced or quartered). Cook for 45 minutes or more. 

  4. Chop up the chicken a bit, if you like, and finish cooking it so it crisps up a bit more.

  5. Serve chicken and onions with pita bread triangles, cucumbers, tomatoes, assorted olives, feta cheese, fresh parsley, pomegranates or grapes, fried eggplant, and yogurt sauce.

 

5 from 2 votes
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Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

 

Beef marinade for fajita bowls

enough for 6-7 lbs of beef

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 head garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together.

  2. Pour over beef, sliced or unsliced, and marinate several hours. If the meat is sliced, pan fry. If not, cook in a 350 oven, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. I cook the meat in all the marinade and then use the excess as gravy.

What’s for supper? Vol. 259: Totus Foodus

It’s Totus Tuus week! We haven’t been for a few years, so we were delighted to sign up again for this Catholic day camp. Well, I was delighted. The kids were jerky about it in that very specific way that signals to parents that it’s actually a good thing, but they don’t want you to feel like you’ve done something right. 

The only catch is that the church is 35 minutes away, and we have kids in the day and evening programs, so that makes . . . a lot of driving. That means it’s week for easy peasy meals. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Steak sandwiches, fries, watermelon

Well, this was before camp week started, so Damien grilled some steaks and sliced them up, and we had the meat on toasted rolls with mayo, provolone, and roasted red peppers. Mighty tasty. 

I love sandwiches that look like they’ve been tucked into bed with a blanket of cheese, and also I don’t really understand why all my pants are tight. In this essay I will explain

SUNDAY
Vermonter sandwiches

A favorite cold sandwich, great for prepping ahead of time. I usually use ciabatta rolls, but had sourdough bread this time. Cold chicken, bacon, thick slices of cheddar and green apple, and honey mustard. I took a picture of the fixins

But not the sandwich. Here is a Vermonter of ages past:

Shoutout to everyone who’s recently accused me of journalistic sloppiness, when in fact I’m the kind of person who feels the need to disclose that the sandwich pictured above is a previous sandwich and varies slightly from the current one. 

Anyway. Such a pleasant combination of sweet and savory, and all kinds of textures. 

MONDAY
Chicken caesar wraps

I forget who suggested this on Facebook, but thank you, genius! Really trying to use up leftovers, rather than throw them away. We had chicken left over from the Vermonter sandwiches and from whatever chicken dish we had last week, as well as some freshly-grated parmesan cheese from the pasta on Friday, so I just bought a bunch of pita bread, romaine lettuce, bottled dressing, and cherry tomatoes, and it went very nicely together, very pretty. 

I know tomatoes don’t go on caesar salad, but it was a very good addition to this wrap, which just about everyone liked. It turns out almost no one in the family likes the kind of flatbread they sell around here, but they do like pita. You hear that, pita?

It’s funny, I’ve been making all these salads that are modified versions of full, carbier meals, and now lately I’ve been reverting them back into sandwiches. It’s the circle of salad (ingonyama nengw’ enamabala).

TUESDAY
Burgers, veg and dip

Nothing to report. Lots of vegetable action happening around here lately.

This is the proper amount of ketchup and mustard, by the way. I am a professional and I should know.  

WEDNESDAY
Domino’s pizza

I know it’s not exquisite, but I like Domino’s pizza. I like how pillowy soft it is, and I like the salty, somewhat gritty crust. There is far better pizzas in the world, and I like them too, but Domino’s pleases me. 

Also, Damien discovered that, if you order it online, it’s $12 a pizza, but if you call up the local store, it’s $7. We did the math and it turns out we’re not quite willing to pay $20 for the privilege of not talking to anybody. But there was a struggle. 

THURSDAY
Whatever you want from the fancy part of the supermarket.

Listen, Biden just paid us to be lazy, and I’m not made of stone. On the way home home from camp session one, I turned them loose in the supermarket and we came home with an assortment sushi, pizza rolls, chicken tenders, pizza, and misc.

Then Damien and I both dropped off the older kids at session two and got Chinese food while we sat back and waited for a couple of seminarians to secure our children’s spiritual future. 

This particular restaurant mayyyy be a grandparent restaurant. They don’t give you chopsticks, and everything is sweet, sweet, sweet, and we’re pretty sure the music they were playing was a jazzy synth version of “How can I keep from singing?” for some reason; but the food was hot and delicious and nobody yelled at me. That has been my standard for an excellent experience lately: Did anybody yell at me? No? Then A+. I had some kind of prawn and vegetable thing that was very tasty, and it did not yell at me.

Then we killed some time at a sort of rural Walmart store called Runnings, which featured some unsettling taxidermy and the biggest frying pan I’ve ever seen. You’ll have to imagine it, because I do have a photo, but while we were out yesterday, someone, reportedly “maybe the cat” knelt on my computer and now it doesn’t work. It’s under warranty, and Lena’s graciously letting me use her computer for now. I don’t know any of my own passwords and I don’t know how to do anything and am suffering greatly. Anyway the upshot is that if I have to process one more photo on an unfamiliar laptop, I’m going to have a nervous breakdown. 

FRIDAY
Spaghetti? I don’t know.  Maybe I will just put out all the extra snacks and lunch treats I bought while suffering from inappropriate guilt over making them go to fun camp for five days! How about that! How about that!

What’s for supper? Vol. 258: There’s always enough food. What if there’s not enough food?

I have an overwhelming desire to talk about cheese! Who’s with me?

Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Pizza

I took myself by the scruff of the neck and bought a mere four balls of pizza dough, with which to make a paltry four pizzas for our diminished little miniature family of eleven. We just can’t eat six pizzas anymore. There’s so much left over, it’s ridiculous. We are ridiculous with food. 

We had one olive pizza, one pepperoni, one cheese, and one with red and yellow peppers, salami and pepperoni, and fresh mozzarella. Made me want more salami, red pepper, and fresh mozzarella in my life. I would eat that on a sandwich, wouldn’t you?

SUNDAY
July 4th cookout!

We didn’t get to have this party last year because of covid. Cancelling it was especially hard, not just because it’s much-anticipated annual family reunion, but because it was supposed to be the party in lieu of a wake for my dad, which we also couldn’t have because of covid. So, this year, we did it! Almost all my siblings were there, many of their children, and also a dear friend from college that I haven’t seen in something like ten years. It was a wonderful, wonderful day.

Plenty of food, great weather, tons of sparklers and kind of a lot of fireworks, and poppers and glow sticks and tiki torches, temporary patriotic tattoos, candy, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, and everything. 

The only thing approaching a disappointment was that my brother’s dog didn’t like our dog. Our dog was too dumb to realize this, though, so he, at least, was spared the disappointment. I did make frozen ham balls for both of them (you put ham and various dog treats in a bowl or bag of water and freeze it, and licking it it keeps them entertained and cool at outdoor events), but that wasn’t enough to forge a friendship over. 

We do a basic American cookout food, no fancy tricks with fish sauce or shallots or bechamel anything. Hamburgers, hot dogs, brats and sausages, veggie burgers and dogs, and smoked chicken thighs. Damien also made some clams in white wine and lemon juice just for fun, and we had pasta salad, and potato salad, veggies and hummus, chips and dip, and watermelon, and more store brand soda than you could shake a stick at (oh yes, there was Dr. Perky and Mountain Lion), and cheap domestic beer, and dark and stormies. For dessert, we had ice cream cups, chocolate and vanilla pudding cups, and red and blue jello cups with whipped cream. U.S.A!. U.S.A! It was a good, good party. Nobody even got burned or drowned.

I think we ended up with about 4o people. Damien got a bird’s eye view with his drone. You can see the kids lining up to get their sparklers lit.

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0245.JPG

I didn’t get a lot of food photos. The potato salad was potatoes, mayo with cider vinegar and sugar, fresh dill, celery, and salt and pepper. The pasta salad was farfalle, fresh basil and parsley, red onions, artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, black olives, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper and oregano, and fresh parmesan. 

MONDAY
Leftover chicken, hot dogs, and brats, and salads

So, maybe we made too much food. Plenty of leftovers.

Oops, I forgot to share the smoked chicken recipe. Here:
Jump to Recipe

TUESDAY
Leftover burgers, chips

Yep, still plenty of leftovers. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken caprese sandwiches, watermelon

Hoping to avoid an insurrection, we threw out the rest of the leftovers and had chicken sandwiches with provolone, tomato, and basil on ciabatta rolls.

There was some leftover watermelon, but I craftily cut it into chunks, rather than serving slices.  They weren’t fooled, though, and I had to eat most of it myself. 

THURSDAY
Steak and blueberry salad with lemon feta crisps; cherry pie

Something completely different. Steak was on sale, so Damien made a sugar-salt rub, grilled them and sliced them, and I served the meat on salad greens with blueberries. 

I wanted to try making cheese crisps, which I have heard are very easy. Well, they were easy, but I would not call them crisp in any way. Cheese disks, I guess. Cheese blips. 

It was probably the type of cheese I used. I crumbled some feta cheese and mixed in some shredded mozzarella and the zest of a few lemons, put the mixture in little piles on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper, and baked for 6-7 minutes. I tried 375 and 400, but they really just came out chewy, even after they cooled on a rack for a few hours. The flavor was excellent, though, and really perfect to go with the steak and blueberries. Next time I will try just parmesan and see how that goes. 

We had some guests and I was a tiny bit concerned there wasn’t enough food (even thought there is always always always enough food. There is always too much food), so I decided to make some cherry pies. I was planning a lattice crust, which I usually manage without any trouble, but I was rattled due to trying to make a lattice crust while simultaneously getting embroiled in one of the wildest goose chases I’ve been in in years, involving Facebook marketplace and some wooden pallets, heavy rain, an allegedly disgruntled ex-tenant (not mine), a security camera, LOTS of screenshots, at least two people taking photos of each other’s license plates, and the police force in two different towns; and the kids were playing Dungeons and Dragons very loudly the whole time, which is not to say this was their fault, but it definitely did not help. I may possibly write it up at some point, but the short version is I never did get my pallets. We saw a nice turkey family on the way there, though, and some pretty fawns on the way home. I never got any pie. 

And look! I have a video of Benny showing us how to pit cherries with nothing but a bottle and a chopstick (and a cherry). This must be about a year old, because it’s shortly after Benny’s haircut, but before I painted the kitchen yellow. And it’s cherry season.  

Anyway, I ended up making one pie with a sort of twisted spiral crust

and one rather tacky flower one.

Did I mention I never got any pie? Too embroiled. I hope there is some leftover. (Of course there is some leftover. THERE’S [waves arms like deranged orchestra conductor] ALWAYS ENOUGH FOOD AND THERE’S ALWAYS SOME FOOD LEFT OVER.)

FRIDAY
Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce and pasta, garlic bread

Marcella Hazan to the rescue. 

Jump to Recipe

It’s still raining. I believe we’re having another dinner guest. What if there’s not enough food? Maybe I should run out and get more food. I would hate to not have enough food. 

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. 

Basic pie crust

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 sticks butter, FROZEN
  • 1/4 cup water, with an ice cube

Instructions

  1. Freeze the butter for at least 20 minutes, then shred it on a box grater. Set aside.

  2. Put the water in a cup and throw an ice cube in it. Set aside.

  3. In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Then add the shredded butter and combine with a butter knife or your fingers until there are no piles of loose, dry flour. Try not to work it too hard. It's fine if there are still visible nuggets of butter.

  4. Sprinkle the dough ball with a little iced water at a time until the dough starts to become pliable but not sticky. Use the water to incorporate any remaining dry flour.

  5. If you're ready to roll out the dough, flour a surface, place the dough in the middle, flour a rolling pin, and roll it out from the center.

  6. If you're going to use it later, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. You can keep it in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months, if you wrap it with enough layers. Let it return to room temperature before attempting to roll it out!

  7. If the crust is too crumbly, you can add extra water, but make sure it's at room temp. Sometimes perfect dough is crumbly just because it's too cold, so give it time to warm up.

  8. You can easily patch cracked dough by rolling out a patch and attaching it to the cracked part with a little water. Pinch it together.

Cherry pie filling for TWO pies

Keyword cherries, cherry pie, desserts, fruit desserts, pie

Ingredients

  • 7 cups cherries pitted
  • 2-2/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 3 Tbsp butter

Instructions

To pit cherries:

  1. Pull the stem off the cherry and place it, stem-side down, in a bottle with a narrow neck, like a beer bottle. Drive the blunt end of a chopstick down through the cherry, forcing the pit out into the bottle.

To make the filling:

  1. Mix together the pitted cherries, sugar, and cornstarch in a bowl and let it sit for ten minutes or so until they get juicy. 

  2. Stir the almond extract into the cherry mixture and heat in a heavy pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, for several minutes. Stir in the butter.

  3. Let the mixture cool a bit, then pour into pie shells. 

Recipe Notes

This would also be fine over ice cream. 

Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce

We made a quadruple recipe of this for twelve people. 

Keyword Marcella Hazan, pasta, spaghetti, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes, broken up
  • 1 onion peeled and cut in half
  • salt to taste
  • 5 Tbsp butter

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a heavy pot.

  2. Simmer at least 90 minutes. 

  3. Take out the onions.

  4. I'm freaking serious, that's it!