What’s for supper? Vol. 194: Cranberry brie tarts! Spanakopita pockets! Sausage oyster stuffing! The Thanksgiving 2019 feast.

Just a one-day post this week, and you know which day! All week we had no-brainer meals like hamburgers and hot dogs while I baked and shopped and cleaned, and then we had a very delicious Thanksgiving. I tried two new recipes this year, and both are keepers. Here’s what we had:

There was so much phyllo dough left over from the youth group shawarma feast, I decided to make two appetizers: cranberry brie tarts, and spanakopita. Both were delicious! They didn’t take much skill to put together, but the tarts were a bit of a hassle. I assembled them ahead of time, and then threw them in the oven when the guests arrived. 

Phyllo dough cups with honey, then brie, then sugared cranberries, baked then topped with fresh sage and a little honey-butter-almond syrup. They would make lovely Christmas party treats, and were just melty and tart and exciting.   

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I wish I had let them sit in the pan a few more minutes before attempting to pull them out, but they eventually all came out intact. 

These are little tarts, made in a mini muffin pan, but I also made some bigger ones in a standard-size muffin tin. I prefer the mini ones, but both were tasty. 

Aren’t they pretty? I may spring for some better brie next time, but the creamy, slightly earthy cheese with the sharp snap of the cranberries was very nice indeed. You could also use thyme instead of sage, but I thought the little breath of green on top of the honey was wonderful. Altogether a really great cold-weather appetizer, very festive. 

While people were eating the cranberry tarts, I baked the spankopita pockets, which people ate while the turkey was resting. I’ve never even seen spanakopita before, but these little pockets were quite easy to make and tasted wonderful. Fresh spinach sautéed in butter with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, mixed with plenty of feta, then wrapped up in buttery phyllo dough, brushed with more butter, and baked. YUHM. Very filling and cozy.

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I read the directions on how to fold them up and just kept going, “. . . what? . . . . WHAT?” so I finally looked up a video, which helped tremendously. I’ve included a link to the video in the recipe card. I need to do this again to get my folding technique down, and maybe use a bit less filling so it doesn’t burst out, but they sure tasted good.

Then of course the turkey. We think brining delivers very little for the hassle, so Damien seasons the birds with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, stuffs them, and cooks them at 350 on a rack, basting every thirty minutes with melted butter and tequila. We had two large birds and they were swell. 

One had stuffing with onions, celery, and mushrooms, and one had stuffing with sausage and oysters. It was freaking delicious. You could skip the turkey and just feast on the stuffing. 

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On Thanksgiving morning, I make a giblet broth with the hilarious neck and any organs they give us, other than the liver, and some celery and onions and carrots, and set that simmering to use later in the gravy. I fry up the liver with with some onions, then cut that into pieces and fry some more until it’s in little crisp bits. Then, in a heavy pot, I melt plenty of butter, then add flour and salt and pepper, then add the giblet broth a little at a time until it’s the right consistency. Then I stir in the little liver and onion bits, and after the turkey is removed from the pan, I shove in a ton of pan scrapings and some of the fat from the turkey. It was some very fine turkey this year, a rich, dark brown and full of exciting savory bits.

My dad brought mashed potatoes made with cheddar cheese, sour cream, and cream cheese. Fantastic. I need to get that recipe. 

My brother’s friend brought some sautéed asparagus, which was very tasty, and we also had roasted Brussels sprouts and butternut squash, broiled with salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic, and balsamic vinegar, and a bit charred. I skipped the honey, because there were so many sweet things in the meal, but here’s a recipe that explains how to process butternut squash for cooking.

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See? Vegetables!

Clara made her famous hobbit bread, from An Unexpected Cookbook (Which would make a great Christmas present for Lord of the Rings fans, by the way). It’s a braided loaf (well, three braided loaves) stuffed with mushrooms, onions, herbs, and cheese. I guess the theme here was “every dish could have been a meal in itself.”

A little burnt, as we were cramming pans in on top of other pans. We really need a second oven, or at least a third oven rack. 

Of course we had mountains of cranberry sauce, and I made a ton of cranberry orange bread

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which was a bit dry but still pretty, and some banana bread

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which I was too stuffed to even look at. This was half of the bread pile:

We had wine and various beers and hard ciders, plus mulled cider, which I cleverly set up in the crock pot in the morning with some cinnamon sticks. Dessert was pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and apple pie, with ice cream and whipped cream (both canned and freshly whipped, both!), and some eclairs courtesy of my mother-in-law. See my pies! See my pies!

I’m finally able to make pretty reliable pie crust.

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 The secret is to freeze the butter and shred it on a box shredder, and then just lightly mix it into the flour and salt, then sprinkle with ice water until it’s the right consistency. Then you go ahead and manhandle that crust however you like. I heard a great tip on Milk Street Radio: Lots of people think their pie crust needs more flour or more water, but really it’s at the wrong temperature. My pie crust is often too cold, making it crumbly and stiff, and giving it an extra half hour to warm up before I try and roll it out really helps. 

The lattice top pie came out nice. 

The free-form floral one turned out kind of confusing. 

Then I made this:

If I hadn’t been at a low ebb, I would have made little owls to sit in the holes, or little flowers, or even little tentacles. But the best I could come up with was a sort of progressive eclipse theme, which didn’t end up looking like much. Oh well! IT IS PIE. 

For the pecan pie, I used real maple syrup and whisky instead of corn syrup, and it made it so much more palatable. I made the pecan pie section of this insane mega pie. Still not my favorite pie, but a far more reasonable pie. [Marvin the Martian voice:] Isn’t it lovely, hmmm?

I also made three pumpkin pies using ready-made graham cracker crust just like Squanto showed us. 

I put the pies together earlier in the week and froze them, then thawed them Thanksgiving morning and baked them while we were eating dinner, so they were warm for dessert. I think I’ll be doing it that way every year.

I was planning to make some rolls and some sweet potatoes, but you know what? That would have been too much food. And the last thing we want at Thanksgiving is too much food. 

As you can see, I don’t exactly lay an elegant table. We didn’t have enough seating for everyone at the table, and we couldn’t get all the food laid out at once anyway, because the oven is too small. So we just kept hucking more and more platters of food at people as they finished cooking, and they kept loading their plates and then carrying them off to whatever spot they could find. There was a dog and four-year-old scrambling around under the table. People had birds in their pockets. The cat almost had a stroke. I had crock pots plugged in in weird places. Corrie flossed to “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah.” I do believe everyone had a nice day! I hope you did, too. 

And here are the recipe cards:

Cranberry brie tarts

This recipe looks complicated, but you can simplify or alter it however you like. Basically you want some kind of pastry, brie, cranberries with sugar, and honey, and an herb on top. A delicious and beautiful little appetizer, great for Thanksgiving or Christmas parties.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 roll phyllo dough
  • 6-8 oz brie
  • small bunch fresh sage or thyme, coarsely chopped

cranberries:

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • dash salt
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter for cranberries

honey mixture:

  • 2 Tbsp butter for honey mixture
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425

  2. In a little pot, combine the honey, the butter, and the extract. Heat through and set aside.

  3. In a bowl, mix the cranberries with melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and a dash of salt. Set aside.

  4. Cut brie into 24 equal pieces and set aside.

  5. Prepare a 24-hole mini cupcake pan with butter or spray. You can also use a full-size cupcake pan, but the tarts will be a little unwieldy and won't hold together as well.

  6. Unroll the phyllo dough and cut it into twelve equal stacks. Cover the dough with a damp cloth while you're working so the dough doesn't get brittle.

  7. Pull out one stack of phyllo dough squares and use half the squares to line a cupcake tin, fanning them out to make a little cup. Make sure the bottom of the tin has several layers of dough, so it won't fall apart when you take it out of the pan.

  8. When you have arranged all the pastry cups, drizzle them with half the honey-butter mixture.

  9. Lay a piece of brie in the bottom of each cup, then put a scoop of sugared cranberries on top of that. Drizzle with the rest of the honey-butter mixture.

  10. Bake for 15 minutes or so until the pastry is just golden brown.

  11. Top each cup with a bit of chopped herbs.

  12. Let the tarts sit in the pan for five minutes before serving. Serve hot.

 

Spanakopita triangles

Ingredients

  • 1 lbs spinach
  • 1 stick butter, plus 1 Tbsp for sautéing spinach
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups crumbled feta
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 roll phyllo dough, thawed

Instructions

To make the filling:

  1. In a big pan, melt the 1 Tbsp butter and sauté the spinach until it's soft. It will be a giant heap of greens at first, but it cooks way down and will fit in the pan when you're done!

  2. Let the spinach cool and then squeeze out as much water as you can.

  3. In a bowl, mix together the cooked spinach with the salt, pepper and nutmeg, and stir in the feta until it's combined. Set aside.

  4. Preheat the oven to 375

  5. Melt the stick of butter and set it aside. You'll need it handy for assembling the triangles.

  6. Unroll the phyllo dough and cover it with a slightly damp cloth to keep it from getting brittle. Take what you need and keep the rest of the stack covered.

To assemble the triangles:

  1. Carefully lay a phyllo dough square on your workspace, long side horizontal. Brush it with melted butter. Lay another sheet on top of it and brush that with butter.

  2. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into three strips.

  3. Put a scoop of spinach mixture at the bottom of each strip. Then fold that section of dough up diagonally, enclosing the spinach, so it forms a triangle. Continue folding up to make triangles, like you'd fold a flag, until you reach the top of the dough. If you're having trouble figuring out how to fold it, here is a helpful video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVwA3i_tmKc&t=2s

  4. If there's a bit of leftover dough on the triangle, fold it under. Lay the finished triangle on a baking sheet, seam side down. Brush with butter again.

  5. Continue until the phyllo dough is gone. I made 18 pockets, two sheets thick, with one roll of phyllo dough, but you can change the proportions and make lots of smaller triangles if you like.

  6. Bake about 25 minutes until golden brown. Let them sit in the pan for a moment before removing. Serve hot or cold.

 

Sausage oyster stuffing for turkey

Ridiculously savory and delicious. Stuff as much as you can in the turkey and bake the rest in a separate pan, covered with tinfoil to keep it from drying out.

Ingredients

  • 16 oz stuffing mix (we used pre-seasoned, for simplicity)
  • 1 lb loose sweet Italian sausage
  • 2 8-oz cans of oysters
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1-1/2 cup broth
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • salt ad pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Sauté the onions, mushrooms, and celery in the butter.

  2. In a separate pan, fry up the sausage, crumbling it as you cook, until it's browned. Combine the sausage, including the fat, with the vegetables, and add in the oysters with their broth.

  3. Put the dry stuffing in a bowl. Add the broth and stir gently until it's all moistened. Add the vegetable-oyster- sausage mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.

 

Cranberry muffins or bread

A pretty, sweet loaf or 12 muffins.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 stick butter, chilled and grated into shreds
  • zest of one orange
  • juice of two oranges
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup cranberries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Prepare muffin tins; butter and flour loaf pan.

  2. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients and lightly incorporate the shredded butter.

  3. In another bowl, mix together the egg, orange juice, and orange zest.

  4. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir just until dry ingredients are incorporated. Lightly mix in the cranberries and walnuts. Pour batter into tins or loaf pan.

  5. Bake muffins for about half an hour, loaf for an hour or more.

 

Banana muffins (or bread)

Makes two loaves or 24 muffins. Quick, easy, and pleasant. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium ripe bananas
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 cups chopped nuts (optional)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter loaf pans or muffin tins, or use cupcake papers.

  2. Mash the bananas in a bowl. Beat the eggs and blend the into the bananas. 

  3. In another bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients. Add the dry mixture to the banana mixture and stir just until blended. Stir in nuts if desired. 

  4. Pour batter into pans or tins. Bake about 28 minutes for muffins, about 1 hour for loaves. 

 

Roasted butternut squash with honey and chili

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash
  • olive oil
  • honey
  • salt and pepper
  • chili powder

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler to high

  2. To peel the squash: Cut the ends off the squash and poke it several times with a fork. Microwave it for 3-4 minutes. When it's cool enough to handle, cut it into manageable pieces and peel with a vegetable peeler or sharp paring knife. Scoop out the pulp and seeds.

  3. Cut the squash into cubes.

  4. In a bowl, toss the squash with honey and olive oil. You can use whatever proportions you like, depending on how sweet you want it.

  5. Spread the squash in a shallow pan and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and chili powder.

  6. Broil for 15 minutes until the squash is slightly charred.

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.

Sausage oyster stuffing for turkey

Ridiculously savory and delicious. Stuff as much as you can in the turkey and bake the rest in a separate pan, covered with tinfoil to keep it from drying out.

Ingredients

  • 16 oz stuffing mix (we used pre-seasoned, for simplicity)
  • 1 lb loose sweet Italian sausage
  • 2 8-oz cans of oysters
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1-1/2 cup broth
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • salt ad pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Sauté the onions, mushrooms, and celery in the butter.

  2. In a separate pan, fry up the sausage, crumbling it as you cook, until it's browned. Combine the sausage, including the fat, with the vegetables, and add in the oysters with their broth.

  3. Put the dry stuffing in a bowl. Add the broth and stir gently until it's all moistened. Add the vegetable-oyster- sausage mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.

What’s for supper? Vol. 192: Paremsan paprika chicken! Gochujang bulgoki! Sesame broccoli! Cranberry muffins! And more

How is it Friday? How?

Here’s what we had this week: 

SATURDAY
Chicken burgers, Smartfood, string beans 

Nothing to report. Thank goodness for frozen chicken burgers.

SUNDAY
Bagel, egg, cheese, and bacon sandwiches; roast chili butternut squash 

I was the only one who ate the squash, but boy did I enjoy it, and it tasted fantastic with the bacon and eggs with a runny yolk. Jump to Recipe If you’re thinking you won’t bother reading it because butternut squash is so hard to peel, hang on! You cut off the two ends and jab it all over with a fork. Then microwave it for 3-4 minutes. When it cools, you should be able to peel it with a vegetable peeler and cut it without too much trouble. 

This is the time of year when I really lean into food prep as something to savor. I love eating, as my pants size will attest, but I also adore so many of the things that go into cooking. The secret patterns inside onions and Brussels sprouts and red cabbages. The hidden juices that emerge under heat. The gratifying sensation of sliding a knife into just the right spot to separate fat from flesh. It’s a whole thing, let me tell you, and when everything is brown and grey outside, I needs me some butternut squash. I eat up the color with my eyes long before it’s cooked and ready to eat with anyone’s mouth.

I made the squash with olive oil, honey, freshly-ground pepper and sea salt, and a little chili powder. 

Look!

Did I mention that a little runny egg yolk with bacon and roast squash is a thing? It’s a thing. 

Screw you, November. 

MONDAY
Beef barley soup, cranberry muffins

We just had this soup recently, but there were some bad feelings about how I used orzo instead of barley, so I made it again, with barley. Jump to Recipe

This time, there were bad feelings because I made cranberry muffins Jump to Recipeinstead of pumpkin muffins. Jump to RecipeIt’s a shame how I never put much effort into cooking for my family. I am ashamed. 

The truth is, the muffins were a bit of a flop, literally. I made the batter but got distracted by something or other, and didn’t bake it until later, and I guess it rose and fell before it hit the oven, so the muffins came out flat. 

Still a good flavor, though, even though the kids requested no walnuts.

TUESDAY
Paprika chicken with tomatoes and peppers

New recipe! I got this recipe from the NYT and went ahead and bought expensive smoked paprika for it, too. Solid choice. This is a gorgeous, fragrant, satisfying one-pan meal, and very easy to throw together. Jump to RecipeNext time, I might make a hearty bread like challah Jump to Recipeor maybe some buttered egg noodles, but it was good by itself, too. 

I simplified it a bit, so I’ll put my card at the end. You toss chicken parts in a simple little dressing including paprika and apple cider vinegar, and put them in a pan with lovely tomatoes and peppers

top with parmesan

and cook it all together. You can fuss with the sauce at the end, but I just sprinkled some more cider vinegar on top, and a little parsley, and it was yummy.

Sweet, bright, and moist, with that wonderful smoked paprika giving it some good depth of flavor. 

Easy and popular! The hardest part was cutting up all those tomatoes, but if you’re not cooking for a crowd, that won’t take long. Definitely going into the rotation. Jump to Recipe

WEDNESDAY
Hamburgers and chips, carrots and dip

Nothing to report, except that, for over twenty years, I’ve been making hamburgers in the oven, instead of on the stove top. I make nice, flat patties between two plates, season them heavily, and put them on a broiler pan with drainage, then slide them under a hot broiler, turning once. This way, I don’t get all greasy while cooking, a lot of the fat drains away, and the patties don’t puff up into balls. This is, as I say, how I’ve been doing it for over twenty years. 

So on Wednesday, I made a bunch of patties, seasoned them, and started cooking them in pans on the stovetop, for no reason at all. I didn’t even know I was doing it until I heard them sizzling and wondered where the sound was coming from. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Now if you’ll stop hassling me, maybe I can get back to my RV and do another cook. 

THURSDAY
Gochujang bulgoki with rice and nori; roasted sesame broccoli

This was a sad day for me. I was so excited that the boneless pork ribs I forgot to freeze hadn’t gone bad, but once I got them all sliced up, and cut up a bunch of onions, and chopped up a bunch of carrots using the hand grater after ordering a new slicing disk for the food processor I bought at the Salvation Army, I went to make the gochujang sauce and discovered . . . we were out of guchujang. 

https://www.maxpixel.net/Statue-Venice-Ancient-Myth-Sculpture-Orpheus-3153008 (Creative Commons)

Last I knew, I was the proud owner of a one-pound tub of gochujang (Korean fermented hot pepper paste) and a five-pound tub of gochujang. But all I could find was a pathetic little tube of gochujang sauce I had bought one time in a fit of weakness. It turns out I had paid one of the kids to clean out the fridge and told him to use his judgement about what to save, and this was the choice he made. 

https://pixabay.com/photos/eye-manipulation-tears-art-sad-2274884/ (Creative Commons)

Well. Sometimes these things happen, and you just have to pick yourself up and go on with your life, so that is what I did. I used the gochujang sauce in place of the gochujang in my gochujang sauce, and it bore a passing resemblance to gochujang bulgoki. I went ahead and ordered some more gochujang, and it arrived this morning. Sometimes these things happen. Jump to Recipe

It was actually decent meal, just not what I was expecting. You can take a piece of nori and use it to grab up a bite of pork and rice and eat it in little bundles. 

The broccoli is a nice, simple recipe. Cut broccoli into spears, drizzle with sesame oil and soy sauce, sprinkle with pepper and sesame seeds, spread in a shallow pan, and roast. Delicious. Jump to Recipe

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

I have gone back to making the cheese sauce in a pan and then adding it to the cooked macaroni and then baking it in the oven. The Instant Pot recipe is okay in a pinch, but we really prefer it the old fashioned way. I do like adding some hot sauce to the cheese sauce. Good stuff. Jump to Recipe

There are a lot of recipes this week, so I’m going to make them on a separate page. It might be a bit hard to find until I figure out a better way, so be sure to look for the little box with a 2 in it, and click on that! That will bring you to the recipe page. Happy Friday, cheese bags.

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 190: Beef barley soup! Pumpkin cranberry walnut muffins! And more!

We have hurtled through another week! I did a few site updates, so let’s see if the new “jump to recipe” thing works:

Jump to Recipe

Works? I think it works. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Nachos, pineapple

Easy peasy. Damien cooked the ground beef and added some sort of proprietary blend of seasonings, and I dumped it over some chips and shredded a bunch of cheese over it and slid it in the oven. We had salsa and sour cream and cilantro. 

If you squint, it looks sort of like salad. 

SUNDAY
Roast beef sandwiches, onion rings, veg and dip, strawberry shortcake

I had worked up a wonderful migraine overnight, which turned me into a blob of glup, so I stayed in bed for most of the day while someone covered my faith formation class and Damien took the kids to Mass and made dinner. He seasoned the roasts and sauteéd them in a pan, then put them in the oven to roast slowly. We had the sliced meat on rolls with provolone and horseradish sauce and tomatoes.

I put mine in the oven to toast up. If I were running away from the Visigoths and had a sandwich with me and someone said, “Would you like that toasted?” I would take the extra time to toast it.

My MIL came over with strawberry shortcake. It looked very promising, but my head was just starting to recover by evening, and I didn’t want to jinx it with anything sugary. 

MONDAY
Beef orzo soup, pumpkin cranberry walnut muffins

A much-loved cold weather meal in this house. Jump to Recipe

This was supposed to be beef barley soup, but I forgot to get barley, so I subbed orzo, which was a little disappointing in the texture department. Beef, carrots, onions, tomato, garlic, wine, beef broth, salt and pepper, mushrooms, some kind of grain, and that’s it. Bay leaf if you’re fancy. Always a hit.

I had it for lunch as the week went on, and the orzo got bigger and bigger.

When it becomes one single mighty grain of orzo having within it all soupiness, then it’s time to rinse out the pot and start over. 

The kids have also been clamoring for pumpkin muffins. Jump to RecipeI made 12 regular:

and 12 with dried cranberries and chopped walnuts. I may have gotten a little carried away with the stir-ins.

They turned out more like cranberries and walnuts trifles with a light coating of muffin.

TUESDAY
Pizza

One cheese, one pepperoni, one pepperoni with leftover provolone, one olive, and one mushroom, onion, olive, and provolone. Corrie has been very, very busy in the kitchen this week, and cut up a bunch of mushrooms of her own initiative. Come to think of it, that explains why I discovered an entire garlic clove, still in its wrapper, baked right into the cheese. (Yes, I ate it.)

WEDNESDAY
Cheesy chicken chili with bacon, corn bread

This is one of those recipes that has “crack” in the title, and yet doesn’t contain any cocaine at all. I think they mean “bacon, cheese, and ranch flavoring” and I will acknowledge that that is a fine combination, but that is as far as it went. 

Chicken, tomato with chilis, corn, black beans, pieces of bacon, cream cheese, ranch dressing powder, and some seasonings. Dump it all, cook, shred the chicken, and put shredded cheddar on top. I wasn’t expecting it to taste sophisticated, but it definitely looked easy and flavorful. The most labor intensive part was cooking and chopping the bacon. 

This is a crock pot recipe, but it was almost 5:00 before I got started, so I used the Instant Pot. Which would have been fine, except I chose 15 minutes, and that wasn’t quite long enough. So I put it in for another 8. The thing about the Instant Pot is that if you cook something for 8 minutes, that means waiting about 10 minutes for it to come to pressure, then cooking it 8 minutes, then releasing the pressure for another 5 minutes. This is fine, as long as it’s what you’re expecting. It’s less fine if you are winging the recipe and have to go through the process twice so you don’t die of salmonella. 

Of course there was little chance of that happening since not one of the kids even tasted it, even though it had bacon in it. I thought it tasted pretty good. It definitely had that “everyone at the potluck wants my recipe, tee hee hee!” flavor to it. 

I also made corn muffins, for reasons unclear. It used to be that only I was the one who liked corn muffins, but my taste for them has decreased over the years, possibly soured by loneliness and crumbs. It also doesn’t help that every time I say “corn muffins” someone says “OH HONEY YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE SAYING” and I get a long treatise on  pre-industrial revolution corn and how sugar factored in to perceptions of class, and how people who don’t use cast iron corn-shaped molds can just go straight to hell, bless. Just let me make my bad muffins and then throw them away, okay? 

Here are my muffins: 

I like to run a little butter over the top while they’re still hot, so they will be shinier in the garbage. 

THURSDAY
Hot dogs, smiley fries, pomegranates

We had parent teacher conferences, and then I spent the rest of the day driving around like a silly person and then finally getting going on Halloween costumes. This year we have Scooby Doo and Daphne, Star from Star Vs. the Forces of Evil, Naruto and Kakashi or something, and some Dragonball whathaveyou. And I think an Autumn Fairy. I leaned on the kid whose costume was giving me the most trouble, and she made dinner. I also taught one kid how to use the sewing machine! I foresee a whole new generation of lopsided cloaks, puckered curtains, and pillowcases that are a tiny bit too small.

FRIDAY
Boxaroni for the kids. 

We’re going out, because it’s our anniversary! 22 years. A few months ago, I needed some nighttime reading and grabbed Turgenev off the shelf, and this photo was tucked in the pages.

 

1997. (Yes, it looks like we had just had a roll in the hay, but the photo surface is just scratched up. My goodness, you people.) 

A friend remarked that we looked so joyful and innocent, and didn’t I want to kind of warn the people in the picture that life is coming for them?

I responded, “Do you know, I think I was more cynical then. I didn’t know how hard things could be, for sure, but I also had no idea how good things could be.” We have had some really hard and awful times. Some of them were not that long ago. But still, it feels like the joy and innocence we have together are building, not waning. I don’t know if it was dumb luck or if we can take any credit at all for finding and choosing each other, but it was the best thing we ever did.

Well! Here are the recipe cards:

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. 

 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 189: Suppli! Canolli! French onion soup! Jacques Pepin’s chicken thighs! Parmesan asparagus! and more

Come, come away with me, on a magical food journey withouten any potatoes in it! 

SATURDAY
Hamburgers, chips, broccoli and dip

I can’t even remember what we were doing on Saturday. Running around, no doubt. 

SUNDAY
Pork ribs, cole slaw, mashed squash

This is my new favorite way to make acorn squash. Cut in half, scoop out seeds, roast, scoop, mash with butter, brown sugar or maples syrup, kosher salt, and a little chili pepper. It’s easy enough that I don’t mind making it for the very few people who like it. As I was eating, I asked Damien if he remembered that wonderful squash we had in the hospital after Corrie was born, and he reminded me that he and I have very different experiences of that first post-delivery meal. (He did not remember the squash.) 

I sprinkled the pork with salt and pepper and put them in a roasting pan under the broiler, turning them once. 

The cole slaw was very simple, just shredded cabbage in a dressing of mayo, vinegar, a little sugar, salt, and pepper. 

MONDAY
WELL. LET ME TELL YOU. 

Monday is our annual “I don’t want to talk about it; we just really like Italian food and there aren’t any birthdays in October, so we have some free time” October 11th meal. We had a houseguest this week (my oldest kid’s friend from college), and my son’s girlfriend was here, and so was my father.

Excellent guests, all. I poured a little wine, and away we went!

For antipasto, we had two kinds of salami, fresh mozzarella, provolone, purple olives, giant green olives stuffed with garlic, fresh bread, toasted bread, artichoke hearts, pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, breadsticks, pears wrapped in prosciutto.

And something called “pepper drops,” which turned out to be sweet, tender, marinated infant peppers. I didn’t get great pictures, but this is the basic idea, in the middle of my “everything happens here” kitchen:

While they were munching on that, I made the suppli.

Suppli are breaded, deep-fried balls of risotto with mozzarella in the center, and if that doesn’t sound good to you, I just don’t know what to say to you. You can add various things — mushrooms, pancetta, herbs, tomato sauce, etc. — but that is the basic form. 

It’s much easier to make suppli if the risotto is chilled, so I made it the night before. I love my Instant Pot for easy, weekday risotto, but nothing beats creamy, fragrant, labor intensive, stovetop risotto for suppli. I formed them in the morning

and fried them while people were eating the antipasto. I am extremely proud of my suppli, and they turned out so well this year! Next year, though, I’ll let them all warm in the oven for at least five minutes, to make sure all the cheese is melted. 

Then Damien served his course, which this year was pasta and homemade tomato sauce with sausages, and a mountain of garlic bread. Because I am frail, I skipped this course, and just ate some pomegranates. 

Totally worth extra time in the underworld. 

Finally, we had mini cannoli and Italian ices. I had to call around a bit and get a bakery to set aside some empty cannoli shells for me. I don’t really have a recipe for the filling — just ricotta cheese with powdered sugar and vanilla or almond extract. You can pipe it into the shells with a ziplock bag, and then sprinkle them with rainbow sprinkles or chocolate shavings, and pop a maraschino cherry in the end. 

And that, my friends, was a very good meal, and a very good day.

TUESDAY
Leftovers.

It was such a good meal, we had some of it twice.

WEDNESDAY
Jaques Pepin’s insanely crispy chicken thighs with mushroom sauce; parmesan asparagus

Someone posted this recipe after I asked for truly easy meal ideas last week. I was skeptical then, since it looked complicated and weird. 

WELL. This is definitely going in the rotation. It’s a weird cooking method, but it’s almost brainless, and comes out ridiculously tasty and oh ye gods and little fishes, that skin is remarkable. You may never in your life have had chicken thigh skin this good. Recipe from this site

Basically you take chicken thighs, turn them skin down, and slash the meat on both sides of the bone, then salt and pepper it heavily. You put the thighs skin down on a COLD SKILLET, turn it way up until it sizzles, then turn it to medium, cover it tightly, and walk away. Well, you can check it a few times to make sure it’s not burning, and loosen the meat up off the pan, but that’s the only thing you have to do for it.  

When it’s done cooking (about 25 minutes), you keep it warm in the oven while you sauté some mushrooms, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and white wine in the chicken fat, and then you have a lovely sauce to spoon over the chicken. Sprinkle some chopped chives over the top, and there it is.

You are thinking, “But what is a French recipe without butter? Surely this needs some butter to add richness and flavor and moisture.” Do me a favor and try this one time without butter, and see how it goes.

You will also think, “I’m only seasoning under the thighs? Surely the skin needs some flavor as well.” It turns out I was supposed to season them on both sides, but it didn’t matter! I don’t know how it works — I guess those slashes help the seasoning rise up into the whole thigh? — but the whole piece of chicken was flavorful. The thighs get sort of flattened, and the skin turns into . . . argh, how do I say this so it doesn’t sound gross. It sort of becomes a crisp cap or a rind to the meat. It’s just great. You really have to try it.

I will admit I made a huge mess with this, but that’s mainly because the skillets I used have almost no rim, and I slopped hot chicken fat everywhere. Next time I’ll just use some big frying pans, or maybe keep a baster on hand to keep the fat under control. I do recommend cast iron if you have it, but any stick-resistant pans should work. 

Oh, and if you have mushroom-haters in your family, you can easily serve the chicken plain, since the mushrooms get cooked separately. 

I didn’t get around to serving the asparagus with Monday’s feast, so I spread it in a pan, drizzled it with olive oil, shook on plenty of salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese, and roasted it.

Perfect, and so fast and easy.

THURSDAY
French onion soup, smoked turkey and Swiss sandwiches

‘Tis soup season. I follow a very simple, flexible recipe where you slowwwwwwwwwly cook a ton of onions in a ton of butter, maybe stir iin some sugar, then stir in some flour and pepper, then add chicken or beef broth and parmesan cheese, and let it simmer for as long as you can. Top with more parmesan. I don’t like having a thick layer of cheese on top. I hate it when you’re supposed to bust through a layer of something and all you have is a spoon. Life is hard enough. 

Infected with some madness, I picked up a gallon of glue so the kids could make slime (no school because a nor’easter left a lot of downed power lines and debris in the road) which I’ve somehow managed to resist all these years. We made the kind with glue, baking soda, and contact lens fluid.  It turned out well, but it needs a lot more contact lens fluid and mixing than they say! We also had a dentist appointment, and we needed to hit the flu clinic, so it wasn’t exactly the sleepy, cozy, rainy day at home I envisioned. I rushed the soup a bit, so it was a little on the light side, but it was still delicious, buttery, sweet, rich, comforting. No leftovers, which is rare in this house. 

I made a bunch of leftover hot dog and hamburger buns into big croutons. I drizzled them with olive oil and shook on plenty of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano, and toasted them slowly in a 300 oven. 

We had smoked turkey from the deli, Swiss cheese, and ciabatta rolls. I had mine with dijon mustard and pickles. We all went to a flu shot clinic at 5, so it was good to come home to hot soup and easy sandwiches. 

This was the swankiest flu clinic I’ve ever seen. They had apples and cider, and the kids got stickers, pencils, and candy, and then they were allowed to pick out a teddy bear and bring it to a nurse, who would then put a cast on it wherever you wanted.

The place was absolutely mobbed. I am very proud of NH. I know nobody was showing up with all their kids on a Thursday evening just to get a teddy bear. 

FRIDAY
Quesadillas

Just quesadillas, I believe. 

Okay, here’s the recipe card for the suppli and risotto. Will add more cards later as time allows! Get your flu shot! 

Suppli (or Arancini)

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

Ingredients

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

To make suppli out of the risotto:

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

Instructions

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


    Set chicken stock to simmer in a pot.

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

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

    Pour in the wine and boil until wine is absorbed.

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

    Add 4 more cups of stock and cook until absorbed.

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

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

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

  3. TO MAKE THE SUPPLI:

    Beat the eggs and gently mix them into the risotto.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

What’s for supper? Vol. 188: A week of truly fast, truly easy, mostly decent meals

Today’s post will be pretty bare bones, as I have cleverly arranged my schedule so that every time I say, “Whew, that big thing is done!” I suddenly remember I now have to do the other big thing. At least I was smart enough to plan quick and easy meals for this week. Everything on this list goes from cold kitchen to hot food on the table in about half an hour, if you don’t shilly shally (and that takes into account that I’m making massive amounts of food, which you are probably not).

Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Domino’s

This wasn’t actually the plan. The plan was to use the huge collection of french bread we forgot to make into garlic bread last week, and turn it into french bread pizza. But the “last week” part turned out to be important, and the bread was all moldy. So we got Domino’s.

SUNDAY
Beef stroganoff and caramel apples

Nice simple recipe, which I actually prefer to stroganoff made with good beef that you have to cut up and cook slowly. I cooked up a bunch of chopmeat in a heavy pot (does anyone else call ground beef “chopmeat?” Or is that just something my mother would say, like “dungarees?”), then took the meat out and drained out most of the fat, then sauteéd up some chopped onions and garlic (pre-minced garlic from a jar, thank you very much) in the fat. Then I put the meat back in, added some beef broth, wine, salt, and pepper, and sliced mushrooms, and let it cook down a bit, and got some egg noodles cooking.

Just before serving, I stirred in a bunch of sour cream to the meat, and served it over the noodles. Very tasty and filling, if not photogenic. 

The caramel apples were made with those caramel wrap sheets, and the kids handled it after I demonstrated one.

You just stretch the wraps over the apple, jam in a stick, and put them in a warm oven for a few minutes, and you become an Accomplished Autumn Homemaker, so you can check that off the list for the year.

MONDAY
Chicken burgers, roast brussels sprouts, grains and veg, chips

Cut them stems off the Brussels sprouts and cut them in half. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on plenty of salt and pepper. Roast in a hot oven until they are slightly charred. So good. I fleetingly considered mixing them with some dried cranberries I happened to have, but I didn’t want a mutiny on my hands. I still think it would have been good, though. 

As you can see, I bought some kind of frozen thing with various grains and vegetables mixed in, that just needed to be heated up in a pan. It wasn’t very good, but it made me feel better about serving chips. 

TUESDAY
Chicken stir fry on rice

I set a bunch of rice cooking in the Instant Pot using the 1:1 method, which makes it turn out sticky and good. 

I cut up a bunch of chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. I cut up a bunch of broccoli into bite-sized pieces. I cooked the chicken in sesame oil in a big pan, drained out the moisture that accumulated, then added the broccoli and cooked it just lightly. Then I dumped in a few bottles of sauce and heated it through. 

I used something called Citrus Ponzu Sauce, which claimed to be “Japanese inspired.” It was, as advertised, a blend of bright citrus, savory soy sauce, and red chili peppers. I also sprinkled some red pepper flakes on top of mine. 

WEDNESDAY
Giant pancake, bacon, eggs

You know about giant pancake. Even the NYT now knows about giant chocolate pancake, and they have the nerve to put it behind a paywall. (They also did a thing about how neat Funfetti is a few weeks ago, so I don’t know why I ever feel bad about anything I cook.) You preheat the oven to 350, take a whole box of “just add water” pancake mix, and add enough water that it looks like, you know, pancake batter. Then you can stir stuff in. I had a bag of chocolate chips on hand, so, boop. You butter a pan and throw it in the oven for about half an hour until it’s a little brown on top. Cut it into wedges and be adored. Your degenerate children will want to put syrup on it, and you will let them.

While it was baking, I fried up five pounds of bacon and scrambled a few dozen eggs. While I was cooking, Irene goes, “It’s funny, they call it ‘breakfast for dinner,’ but I never have bacon or eggs for breakfast.”
“Yeah,” I said; “If it were breakfast, we’d be having–”
“Cold Pizza,” she said. “Cold cake. Or nothing.”

So, I need to step up my breakfast game, then.

Or they can get out of bed when I tell them to get out of bed, how about that. 

THURSDAY
One-pan kielbasa, cabbage, and red potato

This one may have taken a little longer than half an hour, because you have to cut three things and also make a dressing, but it’s stupid easy. Recipe card at the bottom. It’s delicious. 

I did buy parsley and chop some up for the top, and it still qualifies as stupid easy. 

FRIDAY
Macaroni and cheese, my dudes. 

There may even be a vegetable of some sort in the fridge, who can say. 

***

 

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

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

Ingredients

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

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

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400. 

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

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

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

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

    Serve hot with dressing and parsley for a garnish. 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 186: The world is cold, but food is warm.

Everyone is sick and mopey and overworked, and there is frost on the windshield in the morning. And we’ve decided that Corrie is watching far too much TV, so we are doing a little detox there, which is hard on everyone.  So I focused on cozy, unchallenging meals for this week. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Steak, hot bread, salad

Well, London broil. That’s a steak, right? Everyone looked so droopy and sad, I thought we could all use some steak, and it happened to be on sale. Damien seasoned and broiled them, and I bought a few of those pull-apart bread rings and threw them in the oven right before supper. I put out some salad but it remained largely unmolested. 

The pictures are lackluster but the meat was great. Much better than the other way around, as sometimes happens. 

SUNDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips

Sunday we went to Mass and I led my first faith formation class, which went great! Overall. Some of those kids know a lot and some of them know hardly anything, but they are all interested in Jesus! And why not? He is an interesting guy. 

We came home for lunch and some of us were clever enough to fix ourselves steak and cheese sandwiches. 

Then we met my dad and went apple picking at our absolute favorite orchard, Wellwood Orchards in Springfield, Vt. It’s way up in the mountains where the air is so clean and good. You buy your bags and then get into a wagon, and a tractor pulls you wherever you want to go. We wanted mostly Macintosh, Macouns, and Cortlands, although some of the younger and more naive children were swayed by the deceit of that apple that calls itself “delicious.” 

This orchard has a little farm animal petting zoo, with cute little goaties and fancy ridiculous chickens, and the sun shone down, and the air smelled like apples, and it was just a good day. There are a bunch of pictures on my FB page. Here’s my favorite:

We also stopped at the Vermont Country Store and spent more money on candy than I have ever imagined it was possible to spend on candy. Irene bought wax lips with fangs, because Monday is school picture day and she’s not made of stone. 

MONDAY
French toast casserole, sausages, plums, OJ

Continuing the theme of “life is cold; here is some food that is hot.”

I’ll do my best to make a recipe for french toast casserole, but it turns out different every time. It’s definitely a good meal for kids to help you make. Although I would not recommend letting your very contagious four-year-old mix the orange juice in the other room. We ended up making a whole separate batch for those who did not wish to drink plague juice. 

I browned up some frozen breakfast sausages and set out a bowl of sweet little plums, lovely, dusky little plums. 

TUESDAY
Pork and ricotta meatballs on spaghetti with Marcella Hazan’s sauce

Sometimes you see a recipe and you just know. This one, from the NYT, calls for ground pork, ricotta, parmesan, bread crumbs, eggs, and salt and pepper, and that’s it. You bake them, so it’s nice and easy.

They don’t look like much, but they are delightfully fluffy and so full of flavor (although I thought the amount of salt it called for was way too much), with little creamy pockets of cheese. I ended up using three pounds of pork and one pound of ground beef, and more parm than the recipe called for, and panko bread crumbs; so I guess that’s a good enough reason to make up my own recipe card. I had to cook them ahead of time and then heat them up in the sauce, but next time I want to cook them right before we eat them, so they can be as light as possible. They did soak up a lot of the sauce, which was unexpected. Possibly because of the panko bread crumbs.

I made Marcella Hazan’s miraculous three-ingredient sauce in the morning in the crock pot.

Boy, does it not look like it’s going to be delicious. BUT IT IS. 

This was a popular meal, and we have been snacking on meatballs all week. In fact, the other day, I was working and thinking about meatballs and asked Benny to snag me a couple. This is what she brought me:

WEDNESDAY
Hot dogs, beans, fries

This meal was just a gift to myself. I actually asked Benny and Corrie to make it for me, and they somehow didn’t do a very good job, but still. 

THURSDAY
Nachos

Again, no culinary adventures, but everyone was happy. I spread tortilla chips in a pan, spread cooked, seasoned ground beef over that, and sprinkled it heavily with shredded cheddar, and then topped it with chopped scallions. The scallions were third gen, if anyone cares. 

I had mine with salsa and sour cream. And very good they are, nachos. 

FRIDAY
Fish tacos

I splurged on batter-fried frozen fish instead of the breaded kind. We have tortillas, shredded cabbage, cute li’l cherry tomatoes, lime wedges, sour cream, and ooops, I forgot to buy avocados. 

Here’s the recipe cards!

 

5 from 1 vote
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French toast casserole

An easy, kid-pleasing meal, pleasant and cozy for breakfast, brunch, or brinner. Use any kinds of bread you have in the house. You can also add raisins, slices of apple, or whatever sounds good. 

I'm not putting measurements in, because you can make this so many different ways, so it's more pastry-like or more custardy. Use the same proportions you'd use to make regular french toast and it will be good. 

Ingredients

  • bread, torn up
  • eggs
  • milk
  • dash of salt
  • white or brown sugar
  • cinnamon
  • vanilla

Instructions

  1. Grease a casserole dish or cake pan. Preheat the oven to 350.

  2. Tear the bread up into chunks and spread them in the buttered pans.

  3. Mix together the eggs, milk, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla, and pour the batter over the bread. Stir up the bread so all of it is wet. 

  4. If you like, you can let the casserole sit for a few hours to let the egg soak in, but it's not essential.  

  5. Sprinkle the top with more sugar and cinnamon, if you like. Bake for 40 minutes or so, until the egg is all cooked and it's a little toasted on top. Serve in wedges and drizzle with syrup, sprinkle with powdered sugar, or serve with jam or fruit toppings. 

Pork and ricotta meatballs

Adapted from a NYT recipe, found here.  Very easy to put together, and the extra creamy, fluffy, cheesiness make these remarkable. 

Ingredients

  • 1 lbs ground pork
  • 1 lb ground beef or turkey
  • 2+ cups panko bread crumbs
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 32 oz ricotta
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 4 tsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.

  2. Lightly mix together all ingredients in a bowl. The ricotta doesn't need to be completely incorporated. Form into balls. This makes about 75 walnut-sized meatballs. 

  3. Grease a rimmed baking sheet and arrange the meatballs on it. 

  4. Bake for about half an hour, until the meatballs are slightly browned. 

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!

What’s for supper? Vol. 183: Sandwiches, sandwiches, barely even human

Dramatization of me making the menu for the week:

Me: Okay, now, concentrate! What’s for supper all week long? Let’s make a list! Good! Fun!
Me: Can’t.
Me: Yes, you can! 
Me: Can’t.
Me: Yes you can. This is your job, and it’s easy. Just think of what people like to eat. What do people like to eat?
Me: I mean . . . I guess . . . food?
Me: Yes, good! And what kind of food? Can you think of some?
Me: Like . . . like . . . the kind you put in your . . . mouth?
Me: Good! You’re doing so well! And what kind of food do we put in our mouth?
Me: Like . . .
. . . .
. . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . sandwiches?

Me: YES.

[feebly writes down “sandwiches” several times, lets pen loll out of fingers. Late August housefly coasts in and lands on my shopping list. It marches across the page with arrogance and disdain. A single tear of weariness leaks out of my eyeball and trickles down my cheek and onto the paper, zig-zagging across the crumpled page until it seems to spell out b-a-c-k-t-o-s-c-h-o-o-l.]

SATURDAY
Pizza

Saturday, Damien had a hunting safety course all day and I had a planning session for faith formation (I’m going to teach second grade, hoop de doo!); and then I drove Lena back to college. We both got home quite late, and Damien got pizza of some kind, either Domino’s or Aldi. 

I tried bubble tea for the first time. I had sesame matcha. I will tell you, if the very idea of bubble tea repels you, then bubble tea itself will definitely repel you; but if you’re thinking to yourself, “I could go for some gummy black blobs in my beverage right about meow,” then you will love it. I loved it.

Sending your kids off to college is bullshit, though. SIGH SIGH SIGH.

SUNDAY
Hamburgers, chips, cannoli

Sunday Damien had more training and I had to do the shopping I didn’t do Saturday. I had a hunch we’d be pretty wiped out and I was not wrong, so I bought pre-made burger patties, because such are the blessings of capitalism, and who am I to turn them down? 

It was Elijah’s shopping turn, and as fall approaches, a young man’s fancy turns to cannoli. We didn’t see cannoli shells, so we got some pizzelle. I made very simple cream filling with ricotta cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla, and we had a scoop of cheese on the cookie topped with shaved chocolate and maraschino cherries. I know I have almond extract somewhere, but it was hiding. 

MONDAY
Sandwiches, chips, watermelon, candy

Monday was the very last day of summer vacation, and it’s become our tradition to spend “all day” at the beach. In practice, this meant running around like a maniac doing errands all morning while the kids focused on being disgruntled, and then heading out to the town pond around 2:00. We did spent about four hours there, which is definitely long enough to get that “no one tells me what to do” feeling. We had the place to ourselves, except for a few silent, stringy old people and many, many dragonfly engaged in l’amour

Sometimes I think my kids are getting spoiled and worldly, and then I realize at least half of them still think it’s a huge treat to get the really big jar of pickles and to be allowed to just stick their hands in their and wipe them off on the grass. So we are doing okay. 

I took many pictures, but this one sums up the tone of the meal pretty well:

I texted Damien that we were on our way home, so he started a fire in the firepit, and we gathered around and told moderately spooky stories in the sorta-getting-dark. I did this knowing full well that it was exactly the kind of thing that would immediately become a Very Important Tradition That We Always Do. 

TUESDAY
Pork ramen

So Tuesday school finally happened. We have two in college, one taking a gap year and working on a big illustrating job, two in high school, and the rest are in 8th, 6th, 5th, and 2nd, and Corrie is home. I actually expect this year to be somewhat easier than last year. When I ask myself why, I’m not sure, but even thinking so is a pretty good sign. According to my therapist. What does he know, the giant weirdo. 

I keep forgetting it’s a food blog today. Let’s see, I cut up some boneless pork chops and sautéed them in oil, then sliced them and dashed in some soy sauce and finished cooking them. I chopped up some scallions and sugar snap peas, and I soft boiled a bunch of eggs. I sliced some mushrooms and sautéed them in the pan with the porky oil. We had crunchy noodles, sesame seeds, and hot sauce for toppings.

Everyone came home hungry and they were happy with a big pot of ramen and pork.

WEDNESDAY
Banh mi

Oh look, sandwiches! But to be fair, these are the greatest sandwiches known to mankind. I made the marinade and sliced a boneless pork loin in the late morning and let it marinate the rest of the day. I quick pickled a bunch of carrots, but decided to let the cucumbers just be plain, so there was a cool taste with all the bitey tastes. I chopped up a bunch of cilantro, and made some spicy mayo (I couldn’t find sriracha, so I just used hot sauce. Not as good). And I had a jar of jalapenos. 

I did toast the bread, which I hate doing, for some reason, but it makes a big difference for these sandwiches. Gosh, I love this meal. I prepped everything in the morning, and then before supper I just had to fish the meat out of the marinade, spread it on a pan, and broil it.

If you haven’t made these sandwiches before, they’re delicious way out of proportion to how hard they are to make. However, when you’re cooking the meat, it smells horrendous way out of proportion to . . . anything. Really, nothing this side of hell should smell like that. But it’s worth it! Recipe card at the end.

Wednesday was also the day this happened:

We had to leave to pick up the kids, but Corrie didn’t want to get out of the bath. I did everything I could think of to get her out, and she ended up on the floor, screaming and writhing. She’s amazingly heavy and strong, and when she’s wet, she’s just about impossible to pick up and hold, much less dry off and get dressed. I was getting madder and madder, so I stepped away to collect myself, and when I came back and opened the door, the stool and wastebasket were knocked over, the towels were all dragged onto the floor, and I could hear violent splashing.

I thought, “Oh great, she’s back in the tub and I’ll have to start all over again.” But when I pulled back the curtain, she wasn’t in the tub.

And that’s when I realized she was so mad, she had jumped right into the toilet.

THURSDAY
Grilled pizza sandwiches

We used to have these a lot, but haven’t for a while, so the kids were pretty excited. I was honestly not at my best as a chef by Thursday. We’re still staying up stupidly late, but now waking up stupidly early. I like to spice things up in the middle of the night by stupidly worrying about stupid things for a while, too. Put it all together, and you get someone who is not going to do a great job flipping heavy sandwiches stuffed with shredded cheese. 

Even the sandwiches look skeptical.

This particular one actually looks kinda like Attorney General William Barr, shown here with Lamar Alexander, who is also full of cheap cheese:

Office of Senator Lamar Alexander [Public domain]
Office of Senator Lamar Alexander [Public domain]
I feel like I haven’t sufficiently made my case here. Look at this:

Maybe? 

I know you want to know how to make these wondrous grilled Wiliam Barr sandwiches, so here is how: Sourdough bread spread with sauce, then cheese, then pepperoni, then topped with another piece of bread spread with sauce. Then the outsides are brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with garlic powder and oregano, then fried in a pan with more butter. It’s actually better to spread them with softened butter with garlic powder and oregano mixed in, but I accidentally melted it.

It would also be a heck of a lot easier to manage if it had slices of mozzarella, rather than wads of shreds, but did I think of that when I was shopping? Nopey.

I grill them and then slide them in the oven for a few minutes to make sure the cheese is melted and can prosecute on behalf of our Lord, the King. This is a attorney general joke and it’s the best I can do right meow.

FRIDAY
Quesadillas, chips and salsa

Not technically a sandwich! And we made it through the first week. There were no guarantees.

***

Pork banh mi


Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs Pork loin
  • 1 cup fish sauce
  • 12 Tbs sugar
  • 1 minced onion
  • 4 Tbs minced garlic
  • 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 sale, preferably kosher

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. 182: It’s still summer, dammit

Here’s what we ate this week!

SATURDAY
Caprese chicken sandwiches

We are awfully tired of grilled ham and cheese for dinner on Saturdays, but I get home from shopping so late, and then it takes eleven hours to put away all the food, so Saturday has to be something quick and easy. This was quickish and easy.

The chicken was just broiled with olive oil, salt, and pepper. We had ciabatta rolls with tomatoes and fresh basil, mozzarella, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. It’s still summer, dammit!

This sandwich posed a bit of a challenge when assembled, but I just unhooked my lower jaw and dominated it.

Here is another sandwich picture, since I have it:

As you can see, I like plenty of balsamic vinegar. I like to put the dressings and salt and pepper on several layers of this sandwich, and use freshly-ground pepper and salt if I can get it. Mmmmm.

SUNDAY
Hamburgers, potato salad, broccoli and dip, blueberry pie with whipped cream

Damien’s mom came over, so Dora and I decided we would celebrate with potato salad. I said, “I’m so excited you’re making potato salad!” And she said, “Oh. I was so excited you’re making potato salad.” So I made the potato salad, and guess what? It wasn’t very good. It was just kind of bland, and also I forgot I was cooking potatoes, so they cooked into mush. Oh well.

I realized I’d gone all summer without making any fruit pies, and that aggression will not stand, man. The pie had some structural problems when we cut it, but look how pretty!

When I served it up, what people got was less a slice of pie and more of a . . . pie area. Everyone got a pie area with whipped cream. It tasted good, anyway. I don’t use a ton of sugar either in the pie or in the whipped cream. I didn’t have enough dough for a lattice crust, so I rolled little balls of dough and stuck them around the edge, then flattened them with a fork. If I had remembered to do a sugared egg wash, it would have been like little cookies.

My pie crust trick is that you freeze the butter, then shred it on a vegetable grater. Then it’s easy to incorporate into the flour without overworking it. I use Fannie Farmer’s basic pie crust recipe, and I honestly don’t remember what I used for the filling. Blueberries, flour, sugar, lemon juice, salt, butter, I guess. Probably I should have used corn starch instead of flour. 

MONDAY
Chicken berry salad

I actually don’t remember eating this meal. It’s possible I skipped it and just ate leftover pie for supper. It’s still summer, dammit. 

Here’s an old picture of this meal: Roast chicken breast sliced up, mixed greens, diced red onion, feta cheese, toasted almonds, and a vinaigrette dressing. 

The trick is to serve salads with chicken just a little too often, and then people are really raring for some squash and Brussels sprouts and stews by the end of summer. 

TUESDAY
Taco Tuesday

Hweat! Tuesday Clara and I abandoned our family and drove away to New York City to see Hadestown on Broadway for her birthday, as I mentioned. I’m immensely proud and still slightly baffled that I drove to New York City, found our hotel in Hell’s Kitchen, found a place to park, found the theater, didn’t have any problems with the hotel reservations or tickets, didn’t get lost, didn’t get into any accidents, had zero combat with rats, roaches, or bedbugs, didn’t create any international incidents with furriners, didn’t get mugged, didn’t throw up, didn’t cry except during the show, and kept us fed and on schedule, and even tipped the parking lot attendant appropriately. Not bad for a country mouse

Clara was not terribly interested in exploring any restaurants that smelled of curry or sumac, so we went for good old American food. She had a burger and fries and I had a Reuben. This is a place called Jax BBQ on 9th avenue. I guess we were supposed to order barbecue, but we do what we like. 

We were pretty wiped out, so we went back to the hotel room (we stayed at the Casamia 36 hotel, where I got a pretty good price through AirBNB. It was small and very much no frills, but very clean and pleasant enough) where Clara worked on her Hadestown drawing

At home, they had tacos. 

WEDNESDAY
Spaghetti with Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce and sausages, garlic bread

Wednesday morning, we set out for make sure we knew where the Walter Kerr theater was, about a mile away. It was nice traveling with someone who has almost the exact same anxieties as me. We had a lot of conversations that went, “Okay, I know this is crazy, but can we just…” — “Oh, sure, sure, I completely understand!” So we found the theater, then decided that we could check out Times Square without getting too lost. It was . . . well, it was different from home. 

Despite my best efforts, we did see the apparently famous Naked Cowboy. We saw a lot of people who had persuaded themselves it made sense to buy national brands of clothing and jewelry in Times Square, even though you could easily find the exact products online or in, you know, Biwabik, Minnesota. It was very hot and muggy smelled like different kinds of garbage, and sounded like Hell. I know New York City has innumerable nicer things to offer than Times Square, but we really didn’t want to get lost, so we lurked about for a while with our eyes bugging out, and then had lunch at a deli. Look, here is my sandwich:

Damn fine pickle. Then it was time to head over to the theater! And that’s when things really got great! I was expecting something extraordinary, and it was even better than I expected. 

After the show and after Clara got a few autographs on her drawing, it started pouring rain, so we schlopped the mile back to the parking garage. Okay, we got a little bit lost, but that’s because my phone sometimes insists on showing me upside down maps. We did pop into a little Greek grocery and bought some olive oil soap and some kind of honey apple pastries to bring home. There was a nice orange cat and some Greek men who thought it was pretty cute how wet we were. And then we retrieved our car, I recovered quickly at the shock of how much it costs to park your car for 24 hours in New York City (SO MUCH. OH MY FRIENDS. SO MUCH.) and away we went! We stopped in Connecticut to put dry clothes on.

It was a pleasure to travel with an art student as we zipped over and under all those spectacular stone bridges on the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut. They are all different, and some of them even have two different sides! Normally I don’t care for art deco, but when it’s mitigated by creeping vines and those lovely trees on the median of the highway, it’s great. (They are not all art deco, of course, but that’s the easiest style to identify when you’re driving under it.) Here’s someone who did a 60 MPH drawing challenge. When I was little and we would drive to NY or NJ to visit family, we would always look forward to the one with wings

Back home, they had Marcella Hazan’s miraculously simple and confoundingly delicious tomato sauce, with sausages and spaghetti and garlic bread. Recipe card at the end. 

THURSDAY
Pork spiedies, fries, pineapple

On Thursday, I made some spiedie marinade (recipe card at the end) in the morning, but half the pork had gone bad. So I set what I had to marinate, and then threw raw meat-tainted oily marinade all over the inside of the refrigerator for no reason at all! Then I went out for more pork and had some pharmacy adventures (not in the fun way), set the rest of the meat to marinate, and took the kids to the beach, because holy crap, it may still be summer, but not for long. 

Got home, shoved the pork under the broiler, and we had the meat on toasted rolls with mayo, plus pineapple and fries.

This is a good marinade. You can adjust it as you like, and it really tenderizes the meat.

You can see that I had leftover broccoli instead of fries. This may seem virtuous, but you have to remember that I had consumed about a cubic yard of meat in the last 48 hours. Also, the kids ate all the fries while I was toasting my bun. 

FRIDAY
Tuna?

It says “tuna.” I may want to run to the store. Actually we are going out to shop for school supplies today. This is actually the last possible day to do it, because we start on Tuesday and we’re going to the beach one last time on Monday. It’s still summer, dammit. 

***

 

Chicken Caprese Sandwiches

Keyword basil, chicken, mozzarella, prosciutto, provolone, sandwiches, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • Ciabatta rolls, Italian bread, or any nice bread
  • Sliced grilled, seasoned chicken
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Sliced prosciutto
  • Sliced mozzarella or provolone
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • Optional: Pesto mayonnaise

Instructions

  1. Preheat broiler. Drizzle chicken breasts with olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, whatever. Put chicken on shallow pan with drainage, and shove under broiler, turning once, until chicken is browned on both sides. Let cool and slice thickly, you animal. 

  2. Toast bread if you like. Spread pesto mayo on roll if you like. Slice tomatoes. 

  3. Pile chicken, tomatoes, basil, cheese, and a slice or two of prosciutto, sprinkling with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper a few times as you layer. 

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!

 

pork spiedies (can use marinade for shish kebob)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup veg or olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp dried mint
  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4-5 lbs boneless pork, cubed
  • peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, cut into chunks

Instructions

  1. Mix together all marinade ingredients. 

    Mix up with cubed pork, cover, and marinate for several hours or overnight. 

    Best cooked over hot coals on the grill on skewers with vegetables. Can also spread in a shallow pan with veg and broil under a hot broiler.

    Serve in sandwiches or with rice. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 181: Omnipod, oyakodon, and Eggos

They tell me it’s Friday! Here’s what we apparently ate this week:

SATURDAY

Even though we had just come back from vacation that afternoon, I really put myself out there for my family and came up with an entire four-course meal, including chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, coleslaw, and biscuits.

Man, am I a good mother! 

SUNDAY
Grilled ham and cheese on sourdough, chips

Corrie helped with ham placement.  

MONDAY
Spaghetti with sausages

A request from the kids. I remember cooking this, but not eating it. I  think maybe Damien and I went running and then got half price sushi at the half price sushi place? That sounds right.

TUESDAY
Oyakodon on rice noodles, sesame broccoli, spicy honey cucumber salad

Almost a really good meal, if I had been just a smidge more competent. Oyakodon is apparently a staple in Japan. It’s chicken and onions cooked in a savory broth with a little runny egg on top, and served over rice. It turned out we didn’t have rice, but only rice noodles. And then I couldn’t find dashi, so I substituted beef broth with a dash of fish sauce. Since I don’t know what it’s supposed to taste like anyway, I figured it couldn’t hurt. But then I also, um, accidentally tripled the amount of sugar it called for. 

It was still a tasty, cozy dish. You slice up chicken thighs and onions and cook that in the broth, then drizzle beaten egg over that and let it cook just a minute, and then slide it over your rice with some scallions or whatever, and spoon broth over it.

I may make it again, but probably when it’s cold out. I made a recipe card but somehow lost it. Bah! Here’s the more authentic recipe I based it on

I cut the broccoli into spears, spread them in a pan, drizzled it with sesame oil and a little soy sauce, and sprinkled it with sesame seeds and pepper, and then roasted the whole thing. This is ridiculously tasty and takes, like, six minutes start to finish. 

The cucumber salad is a snappy, refreshing summer side dish, also very fast. Vinegar, honey, red pepper flakes, kosher salt, and a few other things. Recipe card at the end if I can find it.  Here’s a terrible picture. 

I feel like we went to the beach after supper. I must really be feeling the pressure to end summer right. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken burgers, corn on the cob

I really don’t remember Wednesday. I was doing . . . something. I remember a lot of driving around, like a lot of driving around, some unpleasantness at Home Depot, and then I think we had a guilt trip to the playground, so we ate late. What an exhausting week it has been. I keep accidentally staying up until 2 a.m. and then dreaming I’m pregnant. 

THURSDAY
Pulled pork sandwiches, french fries

Thursday was a bit nutty. We were gone for many hours for the training for Lucy’s new insulin pump. Damien took a small detour because the town we used to live in was cordoned off with a naked man shooting at police, and that’s his territory. The town, I mean. Not being naked and shooting at police. Then we dashed home, gobbled up supper, and went to Mass. I remember behaving rather badly, I forget why. 

Lucy’s pump just has saline solution in it now, not insulin, while we learn how to use it. So she is pretty pleased to be a daughter of Neptune, with salt water running through her veins. 

I made the pulled pork by dumping a hunk of pork into the crock pot with some Coke, cooking it all day, draining it, shredding it, and dumping in a bottle of barbecue sauce. It was indeed food. 

FRIDAY
Birthday party!

I cleverly got Clara to bake the cake on Thursday night before staying up till 2 a.m. and dreaming I was pregnant. Then I frosted the cake this morning ,and then I dropped it on the floor. Actually I dropped it, rescued some of the layers, reassembled what was left, and then dropped it again. Why? Well, WHY NOT?

So I ran out for a store-bought cake and it came together pretty okay. 

The candles are grouped around the letters “L-U-C-Y.”
I knew this party was coming, but somehow didn’t really make any plans. Happily, I did have garbage bags, paper bags, and thumb tacks. Voilà, The Gate. 

I mean, it does look ominous. I briefly considered tearing up bits of paper and threading them on threads and hanging them from the ceiling so you got that Upside Down effect with the drifting ashes or whatever it’s supposed to be, but even I could tell that was a bad idea. 

The kids are upstairs at this very moment making a Scoops Ahoy sign. The guests will be here in a little bit, and then we’ll have ice cream, then have a little beach trip, and then come home for pizza and cake. Phew. 

Okay, here are some recipe cards, quick, before the guests get here!

Sesame broccoli

Ingredients

  • broccoli spears
  • sesame seeds
  • sesame oil
  • soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat broiler to high.

    Toss broccoli spears with sesame oil. 

    Spread in shallow pan. Drizzle with soy sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds

    Broil for six minutes or longer, until broccoli is slightly charred. 

 

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)

 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 180: The stupids at sea

Maybe you noticed a dearth of new writing here last week. This is because the Fishers went on a Real Actual Vacation! In 22 years of marriage, the longest family vacation we’ve ever taken was three days, and that involved a yurt, a skunk, a bathroom made of corrugated tin, and another skunk. So a full week in a real house near the honest-t0-goodness ocean before any of the kids move away for good is pretty swanky! I found the place in December, and all this year, I’ve been getting knotted up in tighter and tighter balls of anxiety, so sure it was going to fall through and be terrible in one way or another.

It was magnificent. A nearly perfect week from start to finish. Not only did no one drown, throw up, get burnt to a crisp, get bitten, get lost, or get escorted off any premises, we had no other problems at all. Except one night I thought there was a ghost in my room, but that was my problem. Actually, I threw up once, but that was just a migraine triggered by the unwise choice to eat fried dough with sugar. And also Corrie briefly had fake meningitis, but she got better. 

Some people, upon arriving at the beach, instantly become sun-kissed and  smashing in their flowy cotton caftans, silver toe rings, and sporty sunglasses, and they know how to work the umbrella and stuff, and they don’t get attacked by their own kites. We, on the other hand, look and act like a bunch of giant weirdos, because that is what we are. But we were all there!

I assumed that, for the privilege of living four blocks from the ocean, we’d have to put up with thumping music, clouds of pot smoke, and drunken morons with firecrackers all night, but no! The house was just beyond the fried pickle-frozen daiquiries-overpriced boogie boards-half price baja jackets-your name on a grain of rice-tarot card-freehand henna-Led Zeppelin tribute band tonight only zone, and our block was remarkably quiet and staid. And the view from our bedroom window was a water tower and church steeple on one side, and on the other, this serene, wild-smelling salt marsh, populated only by egrets and cormorants. Amazing.

Since I’ve somehow missed the last two weeks of What’s for Supper posts, I’ll do one now, although we firmly resolved to cook as little as possible, and we never did get around to cooking live lobsters.

SATURDAY
Deli sandwiches

We arrived at the house in the late afternoon, unloaded, dibsed rooms, and headed straight to the beach. Woo hoo!

There is nothing better than the ocean. Just nothing at all. It’s impossible to be unhappy when you’re up to your thighs in frigid, frothing salt water, the breeze is whipping through your hair, the sun is glittering, and the foam really does look like little white horses galloping madly to the shore. Oh boy!

The tide was out and hardly anyone was there. A perfect way to begin. 

SUNDAY
Frozen pizza

Sunday, we made our way to St. Patrick church, two blocks away, which has a gorgeously preserved, 105-year-old carved wooden altar and communion rail. The kids have never been to an ad orientem Mass before, so that was cool, as was my little impromptu lecture about common misunderstandings surrounding it and how it ties in with the final scene of The Dawn Treader. They enjoy my lectures so very much!

Then we came home for a quick lunch and then WENT ON A WHALE WATCH. I delivered all the appropriate warnings about how there’s no guarantee we’ll see anything, and it’s just nice to be on a boat. But we came across a bunch of frolicking dolphins before we even left the harbor, and then we saw SO MANY WHALES.

Humpbacks and finbacks, including two mother-and-calf pairs

just swashing around, flipping their tails, blowing sighing rainbow sprays, and rolling over. Extraordinary! We learned that whales don’t breathe involuntarily, so part of their brain is always awake to make sure they keep breathing. So they go into a sort of half-sleep and slowly, dreamily rise and fall in the water. This is what the mother and calf were doing. 

I cried like a 44-year-old white lady seeing her first whale. 

Not that I’m planning to give birth with the aid of a humpback midwife or anything (I’m not pregnant, also. Sheesh, settle down), I really do understand why people think whales are mystical beings with some special wisdom to impart to humanity. They are so graceful and numinous, and they clearly understand . . . something, anyway. They were both gravely aware of and regally indifferent to our stupid little boat, and they move as if they’re operating in some slightly other reality.

Here’s one especially curious calf. Check out that green glow:

 

NUMINOUS. I highly recommend Al Gauron Deep Sea Fishing and Whale Watching if you’re in the area.

MONDAY
Burgers, chips, broccoli and dip, watermelon

There was a grill in the yard, but it was smelly and weird, so we just cooked inside. We had good long beach day, and the kids discovered riding the waves.

We had a sandy lunch wrested manfully away from the seagulls, who have no respect for a diabetic child’s medicinal pop tarts with unicorns printed on the frosting. Sheesh, sea gulls! 

Corrie made the executive decision that Monday was arcade day. You guys, the arcade has not changed one tiny bit in forty years. Skee Ball is still a quarter. I still suck at Skee Ball. I still don’t understand the thing with the sliding platforms that push quarters around. I have yet to whack even a single mole. It was awesome. 

I also very much enjoyed graciously handing out stacks of quarters to children who desperately wanted another stack of quarters. 

TUESDAY
Rotisserie chicken, veggies and hummus

Rotisserie chickens currently cost less than raw chickens, for some reason.

Two of the teenagers bailed out and went home in their fancy pants teenager car before evening, leading to yet another rekajiggering of sleeping arrangements. Although we had three bedrooms with five beds, a sleep-in porch, and three pull-out couches, and an air mattress, Corrie ended up sleeping on a quilt on the floor in our room, and in the morning, she changed her name to “Puppy Stupendous.” I mean. She’s not wrong. 

She did not especially want to leave the beach on this day. Her protest took the form of repeating, “Hello. My name is Sandy McGoo” over and over and over and over and over again, all the way home. Then when we got home, she refused to hose off because, HELLO, she is SANDY MCGOO, who is SANDY. Using all my powers of We Are All Having a Happy Vacation, I persuaded her that it was at least as much fun to be Lipstick Lady, who takes showers before applying lipstick. I still can’t believe that worked.

Then we found a touch tank that was $1 a head instead of $6 a head. At least we think it was a touch tank exhibit. Anyway, we touched a lot of things.

 

WEDNESDAY
Fried food

We beat the thunderstorms and got in some swim time in the morning. But first we bought some shovels. My goodness, if I had known how much joy could come from being shovel owners, I would have bought them shovels long ago. 

We also got a kite. When I was little, you could get just a scrap of plastic with a stick on it and some string, and you would run and toss it up in the air, and it would catch an air current and you could just sit there and watch it swoop around for hours. Now all they have is these complicated trick kites with multiple tethers and flexible joints, and they go up only to immediately hurtle down at your face at top speeds. We gave up pretty quick, because we were there to swim and don’t need that kind of hostility at the beach. 

We had dinner at the Clearly Just Someone’s House, But It’s By the Water and They Have Enough Chairs Café. The kids had burgers; Damien and I had lobster rolls. One kid had a falafel wrap, which made me wonder if she had gone vegetarian and I, bad mother, didn’t notice, just like I didn’t notice when one kid got a nose ring; but then I remembered she had a burger for lunch. Kids these days with their falafel.

You’ll notice I don’t actually have a ton of pictures. That’s because I LEFT MY PHONE AT THE HOUSE ON PURPOSE. I am working at being more present in the moment and not having the freaking thing on my person at all times, and it felt pretty good.

There were supposed to be fireworks on the beach, but most of the kids were too wiped out, so Damien, Lena, and I headed out, and waited a pretty long time in the surprising August cold before realizing there were no fireworks. I was so relieved. Even though they didn’t want to go, I felt so guilty about seeing fireworks without them. We did go get a cocktail, though, and I didn’t feel guilty about that at all.

Moe got a video of the storm gathering power:

 

THURSDAY
Hot dogs for kids, sandwiches for grown-ups

Beach in the morning, with some clambering around on the rocks and tide pools before the tide came in. Some promises involving shell bits and hot glue were made. Ice cream was consumed. Then the kids went home for hot dogs while we headed out for something other than hot dogs. 

We walked for kind of a long time looking for the perfect restaurant, and finally settled on a place that was made by assholes for assholes. It was basically La Grunta, except with lobster instead of deer. After a bunch of assholes wearing leis and toe rings cut us in line for the Hospitality Hut, we overheard two assholes saying it would be a half hour wait, and that wasn’t even for the asshole deck. So we got the hell out of there and went to a little hole run by Lebanese people who just wanted to make you a sandwich without any bullshit. We got two sandwiches to go and gobbled them up by the water.

We could have gotten closer to the water, but I felt a strong need for a seat with a back on it. 

FRIDAY
Domino’s

Only a few kids still wanted to swim by this point, as we had been in or on the water every day for the last six days. I wanted to, but not as much as I wanted to complain about my sore neck and stress out about what we had done to the rug; so Damien took some kids to the beach and I went to lie down while the other kids packed and vacuumed. Apparently  Benny buried Corrie in the sand up to her neck and then ran away. No jury on earth would convict. 

Then they came home and de-sanded one last time, I dragged seaweed out of the drain one last time, and then I took the little girls to the playground one last time, which was a leetle bit further away than we remembered. Benny was pretty exhausted and melty on the walk home, and she wanted some help for the last few blocks. So Corrie got behind her and pushed. 

Saturday morning we checked out, and then made one last pilgrimage to Ocean Boulevard to eat fried dough and purchase the long-promised souvenirs. This is a good technique if you are feeling a little blue about vacation being over. By the time all the kids have found something they like, everyone will be thoroughly sick and tired of that town and you will be overjoyed to leave. 

I bought myself an artificially-colored capiz shell wind chime made in Indonesia for white ladies who cry about whales, because I’m on vacation, dammit, and that’s what I wanted.

And that’s how the stupids went on vacation!