What’s for supper? Vol. 236: Lardum et labora

What’s for supper? WEWLL, as Corrie used to say, if you read Wednesday’s post about menu planning and shopping, you already know most of it! Nevertheless, here is the thrilling conclusion to my story about sale pork and such.

We’ve had multiple snow storms and slush storms and whatnot, so this is the week for winter cooking to shine. Damien did this

and Corrie did this

and I just mainly hovered around the stove and cooked. 

Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Spaghetti with sauce and sausage

As anticipated, the people who went sledding on Saturday were happy to come home to a big pot of hot spaghetti and sausage. 

Sorry it’s a terrible picture, but I was starving and didn’t feel like messing around.

I also grabbed a few boxes of brownie mix and made brownies. I have a long and dopey history of accidentally buying brownie mix when I meant to buy chocolate cake mix. Once I even went to buy cake mix, bought brownie mix by mistake, went back to the store to correct my mistake, and bought brownie mix again. (You may think this is because I secretly like brownies so much and am subconsciously sabotaging my plans so as to have more brownies, but, as I am constantly whining about, I can’t even eat chocolate at all! I’m just stupid.) So I was expecting to get razzed about the brownies a bit, but everyone was distracted by the fact that I made the brownies, put them in the oven, set the timer, let them bake, and turned off the timer, but forgot to take the brownies out of the oven, and so we got a giant chocolate brick for dessert, and nobody could tell what it was supposed to be. That’ll larn ’em.

SUNDAY
Hamburgers, chips, homemade ice cream

Sunday was the Lunar New Year Festival in Brattleboro. We didn’t eat much because it was a potluck and we hadn’t brought anything, but I did daringly try some kind of exotic egg dish which turned out to be hard boiled eggs with a little splash of soy sauce. We had fun, though. Here’s a few albums:


 

Corrie did a Korean rope tug, the girls and I tried to learn a circle dance, and we followed a dragon through the downtown. Then we came home and had hamburgers. 

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this in a while, but my method for making hamburgers, when we can’t grill them outside, is to use high fat ground beef, flatten the hell out of them, and then broil them in the oven on a pan with drainage. They come out yummy and juicy and you don’t throw grease all over your kitchen. 

Sunday I also made some ice cream. I made two batches of plain sweet cream base (2 eggs, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 cup milk, 2 cups heavy cream per batch), and put chocolate chips in one, and maraschino cherries and mini marshmallows in the other.

That ice cream maker has been an unfailing bright spot in family life. Maybe that sounds silly, but it’s been a tough year, and it’s nice to have something that just straight up worked out great. It’s a quick creative outlet, it almost always turns out well, and when people hear the machine churning, they go, “OOH, what are you making?” and they’re not disappointed like they are when they hear what I’m making for supper. And we get ice cream! If I could change one thing, it would be not having to remember to put the freezer bowls in the freezer the night before, but I usually manage. 

MONDAY
Roast chicken, mashed butternut squash, salad

The dreaded roast chickens. I’ve been trying harder to stick to what we have in the house and not be constantly running out to buy this and that, so I used what we happened to have, which was two elderly lemons, some rather decrepit garlic, and some rosemary that I bought for the soup later in the week.

I just kinda rubbed these on the chicken and then shoved them into the cavity, then added a little olive oil and salt and pepper and hot pepper flakes and more garlic powder to the skin, and roasted them chickens. They were fine. 

The reason whole chickens are dreaded is mainly because we had sooooo much chicken when we were poor, because it was cheap and I could get several meals out of it. I got extraordinarily sick of every part of the process of dealing with a whole chicken, and it hasn’t worn off yet. The whole thing just feels bitter and sad. Feel free to share your special tasty wonderful recipe so other people can enjoy it, but I don’t think I will get over my chicken resentment! 

I did put the carcasses in the freezer, so I suppose we’ll be having soup or something at some point. 

The part of the meal I did enjoy was the mashed squash. This is a surprisingly pleasant and tasty dish.

Jump to Recipe

I loosened up the squash in the microwave for a few minutes so it would be easier to cut, then I sprinkled the quarters with baking soda and kosher salt and put them in the Instant Pot with water, and cooked them for a good long time. 

Removed the seeds, scooped out the flesh, and mashed it up with plenty of butter, some brown sugar, and a little nutmeg, and man, it is cozy, fluffy, and delicious.

It’s like sweet potatoes went to finishing school and learned how to entertain. 

TUESDAY
Bo ssam with lettuce and rice and pickled radishes

The night before, I mixed a cup of salt and a cup of sugar together like an absolute criminal and rubbed it all over a big fatty hunk of pork, and sealed it in a ziplock bag in the fridge overnight. Tuesday, I put it the pork a foil-lined pan at 300 around 11:30 and, boop, the main part of supper was taken care of. 

You make a simple sauce (7 Tbsp brown sugar, 2 Tbsp cider vinegar, and 1 Tbsp sea salt) and spread that on top of the meat and turn the heat up for the last ten minutes of cooking, but that’s the only other thing you have to do. 

Then I needed to figure out what to do with the radishes.

A lot of Korean radish dishes are for Korean radishes, which are a whole other vegetable from radishes, and are also called daikon, which they had at the store but I did not buy. ACTUALLY, a Korean radish is something called “mu,” which is a kind of daikon radish. All I know is they don’t seem to sell mu in the store, and what I had were western radishes, the little round, reddish, peppery kind. The round, reddish peppery kind that are 𝓕𝓞𝓡 𝓨𝓞𝓤

So I pickled them, yay! A cup of rice vinegar, a cup of water, a cup of sugar, and a little sea salt, and a pound of radishes. I simmered the sauce ingredients until the sugar was dissolved, sliced the radishes thinly in the food processor, then poured the sauce over the radishes.

Then I refrigerated it until dinner, and they had turned a delightful pink

Not quite as dark as they look here, but more of a flamingo color. 

They were very nice. Quite sweet and tangy, and truthfully you could’t taste more than a faint a radish taste, but mostly just the texture. It was like pickled ginger, but not, you know, gingery. I thought they made a very pleasant accompaniment to the bo ssam, which is ferociously salty. 

Everyone was very happy with this meal and nobody was mad at me. So I guess it was 𝓕𝓞𝓡 𝓜𝓔 after all.

WEDNESDAY
Tomato bisque, grilled cheese

All week, I was looking forward to this soup. I made a few adjustments to this recipe since last I made it (more tomatoes, more garlic, and add the bacon right at the end), and man, it was scrumptious.

Jump to Recipe

Garlic, onion, tomato, rosemary, boom, you taste it all. (There’s also a bay leaf but I’m starting to believe that’s mainly a superstition.) 

I made cheddar and sourdough sandwiches and grilled them in bacon grease, which probably wasn’t absolutely necessary, but it did make them CRRRRRISP and nobody complained.

Just an excellent little meal, so cozy and good. 

I could eat this meal every week. Gotta have it at least once while there’s snow on the ground. 

THURSDAY
Gochujang bulgoki, pineapple, nori, rice, leftover pickled radishes, a little broccoli

The second pork hunk. It was a two-hour school delay, so the day got all messed up and I really wasn’t feeling terribly ambitious about dinner, but I had painted myself into a corner. So I sharpened my knife and started to hack away at the meat. I was listening to a radio show about people who are lobbying for the right to have more fixable appliances, and how they make videos for other people about how to fix things, and they give free advice about what kind of glue to use and stuff like that, and by the time I was halfway through that pork butt, the magic of doing things with your own two hands had taken over. I could have stood there all day, locating the direction of the muscle fibers, carefully trimming the fat, and thriftily separating away only the most inedible layers of onion skin with the tip of my freshly-honed knife. I even decided to trim a bag of baby carrots into matchsticks, which is insane, but the spirit of imaginary stick-to-it-iveness lay about me like a mantle, so that’s what I did.

I snapped out of it, though, because I had shit to do. Like yoga. I had to change out of my pajama pants into my yoga pants and do yoga, which was a special cardio glute burn, and then I took a shower and changed into my leggings so I could pick up the kids, and then I changed back into my pajama pants. Truly the American spirit breathes through my every pore.

I forget what we were talking about. Oh, bulgoki. Well it marinated all day and then I pan fried it, and it was tender and delicious. 

And you know what, it really is better with matchstick carrots than any other kind of carrots.

I made a pot of rice in the Instant Pot, cut up a couple of pineapples, and set out some lettuce and nori, and that is one super meal.

You make little bundles, either with the lettuce or nori, and grab up a little meat and rice and pop it in your mouth, and it’s so tasty, honeyed and savory with just a little gochujang burn. You can easily adjust the marinade to make it sweeter or spicier, but you should know that cooking takes the heat down quite a bit, so if you taste the marinade, it won’t be as hot as you expect.

Jump to Recipe

Although gochujang sneaks up on you a bit. 

FRIDAY
Pizza

Today I shall make four pizzas. And then this week can bite my butt. We are all so exhausted! Life is tiring! Better than the alternative. 

Hey, thanks for being interested in my shopping and planning post. I was unexpectedly moved to hear that people actually read through the whole thing. There is just so much dang work in the world that goes unwitnessed and unacknowledged, not just in big families, but in every family, in every life. It’s a lot of work to keep ourselves alive, isn’t it? I salute you, my dear reader who is getting it together one more time to figure out what’s for supper, whether it’s for a crowd or for your own self, whether you feel up to it or not. You made it to Friday, and you did good. L’chaim. 

5 from 2 votes
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Instant Pot Mashed Acorn Squash

Ingredients

  • 1 acorn quashes
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Cut the acorn squashes in half. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt on the cut surfaces.

  2. Put 1/2 a cup of water in the Instant Pot, fit the rack in it, and stack the squash on top. Close the lid, close the valve, and cook on high pressure for 24 minutes. Do quick release.

  3. When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop it out into a bowl, mash it, and add the rest of the ingredients.

 

5 from 2 votes
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Tomato bisque with bacon

Calories 6 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 lb bacon (peppered bacon is good)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 56 oz can of whole tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 46 oz tomato juice
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • crispy fried onions (optional garnish)

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon until crisp. Remove from pan, chop it up, and drain out all but a a few teaspoons of grease.

  2. Add the diced onion and minced garlic to the grease and sauté until soft.

  3. Add tomatoes (including juices), bay leaves, rosemary, and tomato juice, and simmer for 20 minutes. Save some rosemary for a garnish if you like.

  4. With a slotted spoon, fish out the bay leaf, the tomatoes, and most of the rosemary, leaving some rosemary leaves in. Discard most of the rosemary and bay leaf. Put the rest of the rosemary and the tomatoes in a food processor with the 8 oz of cream cheese until it's as smooth as you want it.

  5. Return pureed tomato mixture to pot. Salt and pepper to taste.

  6. Heat through. Add chopped bacon right before serving, or add to individual servings; and top with crispy fried onions if you like. Garnish with more rosemary if you're a fancy man. 

 

5 from 2 votes
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Gochujang bulgoki (spicy Korean pork)


Ingredients

  • 1.5 pound boneless pork, sliced thin
  • 4 carrots in matchsticks or shreds
  • 1 onion sliced thin

sauce:

  • 5 generous Tbsp gochujang (fermented pepper paste)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 cloves minced garlic

Serve with white rice and nori (seaweed sheets) or lettuce leaves to wrap

Instructions

  1. Combine pork, onions, and carrots.

    Mix together all sauce ingredients and stir into pork and vegetables. 

    Cover and let marinate for several hours or overnight.

    Heat a pan with a little oil and sauté the pork mixture until pork is cooked through.

    Serve with rice and lettuce or nori. Eat by taking pieces of lettuce or nori, putting a scoop of meat and rice in, and making little bundles to eat. 

How I plan my weekly menu and shop! In excruciating detail!

Many people said they would like a post about how I plan my meals and how I shop. I don’t have any amazing tricks or methods. You could sum up my system in three steps: Plan ahead, pay close attention, and be flexible. And everybody already knows that! But I said I would write it, so here we go. 

(IT’S FREAKING LONG.)

The planning part is horrible and I hate it. I started planning my weekly menu back when we were flat broke, like we had $22 for the week and I was rationing apples and serving oatmeal onion soup, and I had to watch every penny. It turned out to be an incredibly useful habit, though. Making a detailed menu and shopping for exactly what I need is a weekly investment that makes life easier every single day. 

The cost of food varies very widely by region, but I know you’re curious, so here you go: I spent about $360 on food this week. There are ten people (including five adults) living in our house full time, two working from home, and we currently do not get SNAP or WIC or free school lunch or anything, so that works out to $5.14 per person per day (and the adult kids do buy themselves lunch sometimes). 

I do not cut our costs to the bone. I buy treats and convenience foods and lots of little things to make our meals nicer, because we can afford it right now, and it’s something we enjoy. But I have made adjustments to compensate for inflation, so I’m not spending much more than I was a few years ago.

I shop once a week, but I usually end up stopping at the store once or twice because I’ve forgotten something. I keep the house stocked with staples, and I replenish those even if I don’t expect to use them during the week. But I only shop for one week of perishables. I would love to stock up on meat when there’s a good deal, there is nowhere in the house that I could possibly fit an extra freezer. We also don’t have a Costco or any other bulk warehouse retailer in driving distance.

I do not mess around with coupons or rebates or points. I have found that coupons are rarely worth it, and I like knowing how much money I have to spend for the week, and when it’s gone, it’s gone.

I plan to go to at least two supermarkets, because Aldi is wonderful, except sometimes they’re like, “Oops, no bread”; and also some of their products are cheap but terrible, like their bananas that go from green to brown, or their Asian food that tastes like baked beans. So I always assume there will be a second stop. 

I honestly don’t know if any of this will be useful or tedious or stupid or what, but people did ask, so here is how I do it. 

The actual menu planning

On Saturday morning, I write out the days of the week along the left edge of my shopping list. I like to plan my menu right on my list so I can see what the hell is going on, and make adjustments and additions as I shop.

Next stop: Check my calendar and note down time and energy gobblers for the week. This includes things that will take me out of the house (dentist appointment or a kid’s concert) and also things that might exhaust me physically or mentally (intense telehealth therapy meeting), or even “Friday is the day before a party and I’m going to be stressed out and wanting to focus on cleaning.” I just take a look at what the day will actually look like for me, and be reasonable about what kind of cooking can happen on such a day. I write these things in on my menu to make it real for me.

I also note holidays and feast days that might warrant an extra dessert or a particular ethnicity of meal, but I’m not Little Miss Liturgical Living, and this either happens or it doesn’t. Also, if it’s a birthday, the person gets to choose what’s for dinner.

Then I write the names of the stores I plan to go to on the list, open the online flyers of those stores, and note down “anchor foods” that are an especially good price (mostly meat, but also cheese, fruits, and vegetables). I include the price to remind me of what the sale price actually is, in case they try and pull a fast one (yes, I will argue with the store), and so I can scoop up unexpected bargains they didn’t advertise. Sometimes the flyer in one store brags about blueberries for $2.50 a pint, and then the other store has them for $1.99 and doesn’t think to mention it. So it’s good to know that, if I happen to go to the $1.99 store first. I skim through the whole flyer, because sometimes I get ideas for meals from the photos, even if I don’t intend to buy the foods advertised. Like, “oh yeah, soup! I forgot people make soup” or “hey, we haven’t had a vegetable and dip platter for a while” or whatever. 

I also check the preview for next week, and if there’s a great deal coming up, like chuck roast for $2.69 a pound, I’ll plan a meal around that, and plan to stop by after Mass. I put “buy roast” or whatever in my calendar right then so I don’t forget. 

Then I check my bank account, to see how much money we actually have! I usually spend about the same amount of money, give or take $40 or so, but there are some weeks when I’m like, “oh crap, we need to reel this in.”

So now I have an idea in my mind if the overarching theme of this week is going to be “as easy as possible” or “as cheap as possible” or “I’m actually going to be home for once; let’s have some fun in the kitchen” (remember, I like cooking, so it’s fun for me when I have some time to mess around) or maybe “we have all been subsisting on brown things cooked in grease for several weeks, so maybe we can remember vegetables” or whatever. Or sometimes (I don’t think they realize I do this), when someone in the family is feeling low, I will plan a run of their favorite meals to give them a little lift. 
No matter what the theme is, I have some basic rules that I follow, unless we’re really flat out. 

The rules

Don’t make anything more than twice a month; ideally, no more than once a month. This is as much for my benefit as it is for the whole family’s, because if I make a popular meal too often, they’ll stop eating it, and then I’m screwed. 

Shoot for one new recipe per week. This one gets overridden pretty often, but I do make a stab at it, because I get bored easily, and frankly, making public posts about what we ate is a big motivator to keep things interesting.  (Things like substituting fresh squash for canned pumpkin in the muffins totally counts as “new.”) I subscribe to a number of food and cooking sites and social media groups (I’ll list those at the end), and I listen to a few food radio shows, and if something looks promising, I email it to myself with the heading “food blog” so it’s easy to find. Damien sometimes sends me recipes that sound good, too, either for him or for me to make. So all week long, I’m on the lookout for new ideas. Sometimes if something unusual is on sale or in season at the supermarket, I will grab it with the intention of finding a recipe when I get home. This week, I picked up some radishes that I didn’t have a specific plan for, other than to match the with one of the two Asian meals I was planning.  

Shoot for variety of type of meal throughout the week. So pasta, soup, casserole, breakfast are all one-timers. Sandwiches or wraps, Mexican food, Asian food, and Middle Eastern food, I can probably get away with doing twice a week, but not three times. 

Shoot for a variety of easy and hard meals throughout the week, so I can swap things around if unpredictable things happen. There is no penalty for leaving a planned meal in the freezer for another week and buying Aldi pizza on the way home from school, if we can afford it and that’s the way the day is shaping up. 

Finally, I skim the entire week and see if I remembered to serve vegetables. Yes, I actually do this. I don’t really try to serve a balanced meal every day, but I do aim for a balanced week, if you squint, and I try to get some vegetables in there at least three or four times. 

One more thing: While I’m meal planning, Damien sometimes comes by and takes a look, and either volunteers to make one or more of the meals I’ve planned, or else he volunteers to come up with a meal to fill in one or more blank spaces. 

How an actual week got planned: 

I wrote “dentist” and “S band” on Tuesday, and Sunday was Lunar New Year and I wanted to go to a festival, but those were the only unusual things. So I knew there would be at least two days I would want to have something easy. 

There weren’t any very inspiring sales. Bone-in pork butt for I think $1.69 a pound, which is good, but I’m pretty tired of it, and the bone makes it hard to judge how much meat you’re getting; drumsticks for 99 cents, which I just made and people didn’t eat very much of; whole chicken for 99 cents, which I despise, and that’s about it. Boo. Nothing great next week, either. 

The first thing I did was write in “pizza” on Friday. Pizza can be either a meatless Friday meal or a meat meal, but people have been a little grumpy about my Friday meals lately, and I wanted to make something I knew everyone would like. We’ve had a lot of pizza lately, but we’re still on the right side of that line. One meal. 

I was getting a late start shopping because a lot of people needed rides, so I needed a quick, easy meal for Saturday; but we’ve had a lot of frozen chicken burgers and hot dogs lately. Also I knew Damien was taking the kids sledding while I was shopping, and the would work up a big appetite, so I figured they’d welcome pasta with sauce and sausage, which cooks up quick, is relatively cheap since not everybody likes sausage, and is great for cold, tired people.  So that’s two meals. 

Sunday was the Lunar New Year festival. They were going to have some food there, so maybe people would fill up and not be hungry for dinner, but hmm, I couldn’t count on the kids eating a lot of unfamiliar Asian food, so I figured hamburgers would be a safe choice. I could make them quickly when I got home, and everyone likes them, so if people are crabby after an outing, which sometimes happens: yay, hamburgers! Three meals. 

Four spots left. I had to face the cheap meats. I really despise cooking whole chickens, but I’ve avoided it for months, and it’s a great price, so I bit the bullet and wrote that down for one day. I knew we had some potatoes in the house, and I wrote “veg,” figuring I’d see what there was that looked decent. If I had been home, I would have looked up a recipe, like that nice one with fennel, but I was making my list in the parking lot for various complicated reasons, so I didn’t have the chance to check my supplies, and ended up having to find a recipe that matched what I happened to have (half a head of garlic, some rather dejected lemons, and a bit of rosemary), rather than vice versa. That’s four meals. 

The other really cheap meat was the bone-in pork butt. Good choices would be pulled pork or carnitas or chili verde, but we’ve had all of these a lot lately. So I did what I often do: I did an image search for “simcha fisher pork” and remembered about gochujang bulgoki. Yes! So that goes on the list. Too spicy for some kids, but I serve it with nori and rice and maybe a pineapple and they can eat that. (My original thought was actually that we’d have an Asian dinner on Lunar New Year, but I considered my audience and decided not to push my luck.) Five meals. 

Pork is really cheap, though, so I try hard to think of a second thing. But I’m going to be busy on Tuesday, in the morning and in the evening. Aha! Bo ssam. All you have to do get it going with salt and sugar the night before, and pop it in the oven by noon, and it’s done by dinner. Six meals. 

So this illustrates one of my big meal planning revelations: There are different kinds of quick and easy meals, and they all have drawbacks and advantages.

There is the kind where you open a box and throw the food on a pan and heat it up, which really is quick and easy, but it’s expensive for a big family. Sometimes that’s the right way to work the equation, though. My time is worth something! I don’t always have to immolate myself on the pyre of dinner. 

Then there is the kind where you assemble it quickly and cook it right before dinner time, like a stir fry or breakfast for dinner or sandwiches. These are often quick if you have a few people to feed, because the individual portions come together quickly; but they can end up taking forever to fix for a big family, especially if all your burners don’t work, which they never all do. 

Then there is the kind of quick meals that you do a moderate or large amount of prep work for, but it’s mostly just prep work, and by dinner time, it’s just a matter of opening the oven and enjoying it. This is what bo ssam is, and also many other favorites, like shawarma. 

I am at a time in my life right now where the third variety of “easy” is by far the easiest on me, and it often ends up being a cheaper option, too, because a lot of stinko cuts of meat get tenderized with long cooking or marinating times. Spending a lot of money and eating mediocre food too often is stressful for me. It makes me feel bad, and doesn’t feel good; it just feels yucky. And my mental state is a big part of this equation.

So I’ve discovered that for me, figuring things out and doing things ahead of time gives me lots of peace of mind, which is energizing in its own way. I can do the prep work when I have time and strength, which is often in the morning or late at night, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of seeing a decent meal come together at the end of a busy day, because I planned it well.

This has a lot to do with the fact that I enjoy cooking, I’m home a lot during the day, and I don’t have little kids! None of this is a moral issue. It’s just where I’m at right now, and who I am. I’m just telling you this because people often say to me, “Oh, you make such elaborate meals. I don’t go to that much trouble for my family,” and I often feel like I’m giving people the wrong idea about what they should be doing. When I had a bunch of little kids and less time and money, we had a lot more hot dogs and blah chicken, believe me. 

So I guess to “Plan ahead, pay close attention, and be flexible” I would add “know yourself.” Be realistic about your state in life and your actual strengths and your actual responsibilities, and work within that framework, not someone else’s framework. Not your mother’s, not your sister’s, not some blogger’s curated version of reality. If people you’re responsible for aren’t going hungry, you’re doing fine. 

So, back to my menu! I had the weekend figured out (pasta and burgers), and also Friday (pizza), plus three weekdays (roast chicken, bulgoki, and bo ssam), including a busy day. That just left one day to fill in. I was still pouting about having to roast some chickens, so I decided to make soup, which is something I like. I thought back over all the soups we’ve had so far this winter, and the only one I could think of that we haven’t had yet is tomato bisque. I had noted that bacon is $3.99, so I could add that in pretty cheaply and maybe make the soup more attractive. Add some sandwiches and, boom, that’s dinner. Seven dinners! A whole week!

After I have written in the main courses, I cross out the good price items I decided not to use, and note that I will need two hunks of pork. Then I look at each meal and make sure I have all the ingredients I will need to make it, and if not, I write them down on the list under the correct store name. I visualize every bit of the meal, and I look up the recipes I don’t know by heart, because I often forget important ingredients. 

Then I go through and see what can be the side dishes for everything. I write in “chips” with the hamburgers, “veg” with the chicken (to be determined; turns out to be squash, because I didn’t feel like dealing with sad old potatoes); rice for both the bulgoki and bo ssam, so I wrote in “rice” at the expensive supermarket, because Aldi rice cooks up chompy; sourdough bread and extra cheese for the sandwiches; make sure we have mayo to fry it in, and tomatoes and rosemary for the bisque; and I grabbed a pineapple and some radishes and lettuce and nori, which could go with either Asian meal. 

Then (assuming I am home), I walk around the house and check to see what else we are out of or low on, and add in those items; then I look at my blackboard and see what unintelligible nonsense people have scratched onto it throughout the week, make my best guess, and add those items in. There are things I buy every week, like seltzer and milk and coffee, and I don’t bother writing those down. 

I do the Walmart shopping (for non-food items) at the same time, so I also walk around and figure out what we need from there, and write that in its own column. And then it’s time to go!

But first I take a photo of my list! Because I lose it about 30% of the time! But I only lose my phone about 10% of the time, so it’s helpful to have a photo. 

The actual shopping

I do the Walmart shopping first, so the perishable foods don’t sit in my car for long (yeah, it’s winter, but a habit’s a habit). We don’t have a Walmart grocery, so their food items are fairly limited; but I usually grab one or two school lunch items that I know are cheaper than they will be at the supermarket, like Valentine fruit snacks or little bags of Halloween pretzels, and also fancy cereal on clearance or whatever. Basically I know the price of everything at all times and am constantly comparing it in my head and making ten thousand decisions for three hours straight every Saturday. This is just a thing that happened to me, and I don’t know if it’s something you can learn if it doesn’t come naturally because of how your life is, but it’s the main component to my budgeting. 

When I’m done with Walmart, I reward myself with a Wendy’s salad. This is my one weekly meal out, and it is not part of the food budget, so if you’re wondering how I itemize this kind of thing, it’s by fluttering my hands and saying “Oh no, I bought myself a salad, lock me up!” 

Next is the Aldi shopping. I try to buy things in season, especially fruit, because they taste better, they’re cheaper, and it just makes life more piquant not to have all the things all the time. I also try to vary what I buy so the kids don’t get too bored. I will buy bananas three weeks in a row, then take two weeks off, to build up a little banana excitement. One week, pretzels rods; next week, pub style pretzels; next week, those weird flat pretzel cracker things. It’s a real whirlwind around here. 

I noticed that Aldi bacon was an unadvertised $3.69 pound, which was better than the sale price I had noted down for the other store. Score! I know it’s only forty cents, but this is the game I play. It was the same with a three-pound bag of oranges. Forty cents here, sixty cents there. Like I said, I’m not spending more than I was a few years ago, so I guess it works. 

If there is anything they unexpectedly didn’t have at Aldi, I transfer that to the other store column, and then shop there. The main reason I have settled on this supermarket as our secondary one is because our prescriptions are here. I sometimes go to a third food store if I’m looking for something unusual like oysters or some unusual spice, but my time is worth something. Sometimes I know very well that I’m paying extra for something, and if I feel bad about it, I think, “This meat that’s closer is costing me an extra three dollars. If someone offered to make the trip for a further-away, cheaper meat for me for three dollars, would I pay it? Yes, gladly. So I’ll pay myself three dollars, and not make the trip.” It’s possible you have to be crazy for this to make sense, but it makes sense to me. 

Then I come home and collapse like a bunch of broccoli. All the kids lug the groceries inside, and we pay one kid $5 a week to toss out leftovers and put the new week’s groceries away. 

The next day, when I can stand to think about food again, I write all the meals in on the menu blackboard. I make on last stab at variety, and don’t serve pork twice in a row, for instance. Everyone still asks me what’s for supper every day, and I tell them to look at the blackboard, but this is another game we play. Half the time someone has added “and cheese” to every meal, or else they’ve cleverly altered my letters so it says we’re having — well, I can’t think of anything funny right now, but my kids usually can. They’re very funny. 

And now you know!

Oh, the other thing is that I have to have my list clutched in my paw while I shop, or else I won’t remember anything, but I never look at it, because the act of thinking it through and writing it down lodges it in my head. I wrote a poem about this one time, but it was pretty bad. 

And yes, I had to pick up some milk on the way home from band last night because I forgot to buy milk. Right in the middle of hot chocolate season, too. 

Sites I refer to often lately:
New York Times cooking (I get their emails, and usually end up googling around and finding a simplified version of their fancy pants recipes, but it’s not bad for inspiration)
Damn Delicious
My Korean Kitchen
Milk Street 
Saveur
Sip and Feast
But honestly, I usually start with the major ingredients and I have and then google that + [ethnicity] and just see where that takes me. And as I mentioned, I will very often do an image search for my name and “sandwich” or “soup” or whatever, just to jog my memory. I have no idea what people eat every week, and I have to start from scratch every time. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 325: (salad)

Okay, this may be a little obnoxious but I am not spending more money on groceries these days. I’m just being more strict with the budgeting habits I’ve followed for years. Would people be interested in a separate post explaining how I plan my weekly menu and how I make my shopping list? It won’t be useful for everyone, but it might be interesting. I promise not to try to sell you a $60 planner. 

Anyway, here is what we had this week: 

SATURDAY
??

I certainly do not remember what we had for supper on Saturday. It was the kind of day that made me google “minimum age child at home alone legal NH,” because there were a lot of duck-fox-basket of corn situations, including the celebration of Sophia’s birthday.

Halfway through our first batch of teenager birthdays, we discovered that, for a surprisingly reasonable price, you can rent an entire small theater a couple of towns over, and they will play a DVD you bring. So she obviously brought The Mummy and invited some pals, and Damien popped a ton of popcorn and they had a nice time. Clara made this snazzy chocolate BTS cake:

and we got some Aldi pizza for lunch. By the time dinner came around, it was a blur. 

SUNDAY
Pork ribs, rice, honey roasted Brussels sprouts

Everything with very simple seasoning. Pork ribs heavily salted and peppered, and roasted right under the broiler, turned once; rice cooked in chicken broth, which the kids desire most ardently; and Brussels sprouts roasted with olive oil, honey, and sea salt. 

I had to do a little fancy footwork with the pork and the brussels sprouts pans, to make sure they both got a turn under the broiler and the brussels sprouts didn’t get overcooked, but Somehow I Managed. Little blorp of bottled sauce and you got yourself a decent meal. This concludes this week’s Spotlight On Pork. I will spare you the other pork photos I took, which look disconcertingly like Martin Luther King Jr’s uhhhhh arm. 

MONDAY
Beef barley soup, butternut squash muffins

They had big hunks of beef on sale for $2.99 a pound, so I got two big ones and cut one up for soup. Here is my trusty, hearty, cozy beef barley soup recipe:

Jump to Recipe

I’m still waiting for my Instant Pot replacement float valve to arrive, so I cooked this on the stovetop, and forgot to keep an eye on it, so the barley and mushrooms gobbled up most of the broth. So we had a savory assemblage of beef, barley, tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots, garlic, and onions, graced with a little whisper of beef broth. Honestly, no complaints. 

I really wanted some bread to go with, but I didn’t have time to let anything rise, and we didn’t have any beer to make a beer bread (which is a great easy quick bread to know. Here’s that recipe: Jump to Recipe); and we didn’t have any canned pumpkin to make pumpkin muffins. 

We did, however, have half a butternut squash left over from last week’s one pan chicken thighs. So I covered it with damp napkins and put it in the microwave for about 15 minutes, three minutes at a time, until it was forkable.

Then I scooped it out and mashed it and used it in place of pumpkins in this very reliable pumpkin bread recipe, which makes two loaves or 18 muffins

Jump to Recipe

and hoooo doggie they were delicious muffins.

Light and kind of buttery and very tender. (I don’t know why I felt it was necessarily to get right up in this muffin’s face for the only photo I took, but at least you can really see the texture!) This is a nice, easy recipe (which any muffin recipe should be), and I often turn to it when I need a quick side for soup. 

I like the pumpkin muffins very much, but these squash ones were clearly superior. More flavor, more interesting texture, lighter. I don’t know if it’s because butternut squash is a better vegetable than pumpkin overall, or because I was using fresh squash instead of canned pumpkin. Probably both reasons. Anyway, I’m going to do it this way from now on, whenever I can. They were a good accompaniment to the soup, as a sweetish quick bread, but if you added a cream cheese icing, they would easily work for a dessert. 

Some of the kids had them for breakfast the next day, too, so I felt massively accomplished. 

TUESDAY
Pizza

Tuesday was my first band practice! Very exciting! I started playing clarinet in 4th grade and continued playing in the school band all through high school. I noodled around a bit after that, but this is my the first time playing in a group in more than thirty years. What an absolute joy. It’s a band for adults just like me, who used to play and are getting back into it, or who are just learning to play, so it’s very friendly and encouraging, and I absolutely love it. Damien got me a clarinet that packs up into a cute little backpack for Christmas, and I got myself a folding music stand, and my fingers are all, “yep, we remember this,” and away we go. It’s awesome. If you are an old bat and feeling a little bit now-what-ish about your life, I strongly recommend checking to see if there’s a New Horizons band in your area. I also dropped my high school band director a note just to let him know I’m still playing and that I have happy memories of band. Wish I could write to Mr. Faro,  who taught me to play all those years ago, but he passed away quite young. Sweet man.

Speaking of sweet men, Damien made pizzas because I was in a bit of a tizzy about my first practice. He made two cheese, one pepperoni, and one garlic, onion, anchovy, and artichoke heart. Veddy good.

WEDNESDAY
Chicken burgers, leftovers

I’m trying to throw away less food, and I can’t seem to actually cook less food, so I cooked some frozen chicken burgers and then heated up some of the massive amounts of leftovers clogging up the fridge, so we had chicken burgers, rice, Brussels sprouts, and nachos. The kids complained a lot, which tells me we need to do this more often so they get used to it, because it was perfectly good food! 

Oh, you know what, we must have had nachos on Saturday, because there were leftover nachos in the fridge. 

THURSDAY
Steak and pear salad, french bread

Not really steak, but I don’t know what to call it. “Beef salad” just sounds gross, and this meal was actually delightful. Damien took the other large on-sale hunk of roast beef, chuck roast or whatever it was; seasoned it, and seared it in oil with garlic cloves, then cooked it slowly in the oven

until it was beautifully rare inside, which I swear I took a photo of, but apparently it was on my imagination camera.

I served it with mixed greens, sliced pears, toasted walnuts (microwaved for two minutes), crumbled blue cheese, diced red onion, and white wine vinegar for a dressing. 

Absolutely delicious. 

I got it into my head that there was’t enough meat (there absolutely was), and we needed a side, so I made some french bread. I started somewhat late in the day, so the bread came out of the oven right at supper time

and my poor family was forced to eat piping hot french bread with melted butter sliding off the top. 

If you are wondering why one of the loaves has a little jog at the end, that’s what happens when you balance a large pan of rising dough on top of a toaster when people are rushing around in the kitchen, and it gets knocked onto the floor but miraculously flips over and the dough lands on the floor on top of the plastic wrap because, well, God loves you all the time, and sometimes he shows it by not letting your bread dough get all crapped up on the dirty floor. So that was nice! One loaf got a little jog at the end of it, but who among us. 

FRIDAY
Tuna noodle or salmon 

It is a snow day! See?

A snow day that they announced yesterday, so we could turn off our alarms, and they sent the kids home with work packets, so the day off won’t get counted against their summer vacation, and the kids industriously did their packets yesterday. I am rewarding them with tuna noodle (which I was planning to make anyway, but they do like it), and the big people are having salmon of some kind, because I happened to be at Aldi right when salmon hit the “sell or freeze by” date and it was 50% off. 

Not sure exactly how I will prepare the salmon. I might just pan fry it and serve it with, hmmm, steamed potatoes and peas or something. My goal is not to run out to the store. Or make anyone else run to the store. 

Anyway, let me know if you want that “how I plan and shop” thing. It might just be annoying, I don’t know. 

 

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. 

 

Beer bread

A rich, buttery quick bread that tastes more bready and less cake-y than many quick breads. It's so easy (just one bowl!) but you really do want to sift the flour.

This recipe makes two large loaf pan loaves.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups flour, sifted
  • 2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 12-oz cans beer, preferably something dark
  • 1 stick butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375

  2. Butter two large loaf pans. Melt the stick of butter.

  3. I'm sorry, but you really do want to sift the flour.

  4. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients, and stir in beer until it's all combined and nice and thick.

  5. Pour the batter into the loaf pans and pour the melted butter over the top.

  6. Bake for about 50 minutes until it's crusty and knobbly on top.

 

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. 

 

French bread

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

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 323: We are an Epiphany people are we are going to bed

Happy Epiphany! It’s Epiphany, right? I get all my liturgical information through social media, and generally through a lens of people arguing over whether it’s actually [whatever day] or not, and if not, which bishop is to blame for this outrage. The impression I have today is that Benedict XVI is in heaven going, “This Beatific Vision is prettty good, but BOY AM I MAD THAT SOME PEOPLE HAVE ALREADY THROWN OUT THEIR TREES.” This is what’s known as “being an Easter people.”  

What I know for sure is this is the time of year when we just have massive dump trucks of food crashing through the walls of the house and unloading food after food after food, and I am powerless to stop it. And I guess I didn’t do a WFS last week, because I didn’t know what day it was, not for liturgical reasons, but just because I am self-employed and my boss is kind of an idiot. So I’ll just do a highlights reel, and you must imagine crowds of cinnamon buns and leftover egg rolls and fudge and buckeyes and rapidly staling tree cookies pushing in from the wings, clamoring to be eaten.  

TUESDAY after Christmas
Chicken salad with pears, pecans, blue cheese

Absolutely desperate for some kind of vegetable two days after Christmas, I made a salad with mixed greens, grilled chicken, sliced pears, toasted pecans, and crumbled blue cheese, with something called “champagne dressing,” which turned out to taste sort of fruity and violently salty, and not in the fun way.

The rest of the salad was good, though. It really was good to have something green that wasn’t green icing. 

WEDNESAY 
Spaghetti carbonara 

I made it with plenty of butter, flat leaf parsley, and freshly-grated parmesan, and it was fab.

Spotlight on carbonara! I think the eggs cost more than the bacon, alas. Strange times.

I think my recipe plugin should be functional again, so here’s the card:
Jump to Recipe

THURSDAY
Chicken shawarma

Everybody was mad on Thursday and nobody said anything nice about my shawarma, so humph, I said it to myself. This shawarma was simply delicious.
Jump to Recipe

Boneless skinless chicken thighs were on sale, which is the easiest, tastiest thing to make oven chicken shawarma with.

Marinate in the morning, dump it in a pan with onions in the evening, and do a little chopping and stirring, and you have a top notch meal.We had all the usuals, olives, tomatoes, cukes, feta cheese, pita, and yogurt sauce.

Briefly considered making homemade pita or fried eggplant, but I’m toooooo tired. 

SATURDAY, New Year’s Eve
Lamb, sushi, pork dumplings

I bought a boneless leg of lamb back when it was $4.99 a pound a few months ago, and Damien slow roasted it all day until it was tender and lovely. We have tried more laborious recipes, but this very simple one always turns out the most toothsome.
Jump to Recipe
Turns out it’s scrumptious with a little dab of wasabi. Boo, I didn’t get any pictures. Too busy eating lamb. 

My contribution was something new this year: Pork dumplings. I followed this recipe for the filling. I had my doubts about a Chinese recipe by someone named Emma Christensen, but man, it was perfect. It only has a few ingredients — ground pork, Napa cabbage, kosher salt, soy sauce, scallions, cilantro, fresh ginger, sesame oil, and eggs — and it’s easy. You shred the cabbage, sprinkle it with salt, and then squeeze it to get the moisture out, and the mix it together with everything else. 

This was my first time using my dumpling press. You just put the wrapper on, plop a heaping tablespoon of filling on it, wet half the wrapper edge, and close the press firmly. 

Very quickly fifty dumplings took shape!

When it was time to eat, I set my bamboo steamer in a pan of gently boiling water and steamed 8-10 dumplings at a time for ten minutes.

It is a double-decker steamer, and you have to line the inside trays with something so the dumplings don’t stick to the bamboo. At first I tried coffee filters with steam holes poked in them, because they were the perfect size, but they still stuck, so I used parchment paper with steam holes, and that worked perfectly, and I used the same paper for all the batches. 

They were just scrumptious. The perfect blend of sharp and savory and gingery with a tiny bit of crunch from the cabbage.  I had some with some jarred sauce, but they were wonderful on their own. Just delighted to have this in my repertoire. 

I made a 2.5X batch of the filling, because that’s how much pork I had, and I ended up only using half of it before I ran out of wrappers; so I froze the left over, and we shall have dumplings again! You can also fry them or boil them. 

New Year’s Eve is also . . . .SHUSHI DAY. Clara had a friend over and Moe came over and we had a lovely time. I made a giant bowl of sweet, sticky sushi rice.

Jump to Recipe

I sprang for a couple sacks of really good short-grain rice

rinsed it a propitious number of times and cooked it in the Instant Pot, and then the next part takes three people: One to dump the rice into a bowl, one to slowly add the sauce and fold it into the rice without mushing it, and one to fan it vigorously so it dries. 

I have no idea if this really makes a difference for how the rice turns out, but it’s part of the tradition at this point.

Then we also had . . . 

raw tuna (frozen at sea and sliced thin)
cooked shrimp
fake crab legs
coconut shrimp
red roe 
pickled ginger
cucumber
avocado
mango
sesame seeds
furikake
and also 
duck sauce
hot mustard
wasabi
soy sauce
and then honestly just whatever asian-looking bottles I could find in the fridge

The kids gave me lots of little bowls and ramekins for Christmas, because that’s what I like, so had fun arranging things prettily. 

This is a really neat way to set up a party, because it encourages people to keep circulating and trying new combinations of things.

And we had fun! Everyone at plenty of food, and we had store-bought cheesecake and cream pies, and we watched Duck Soup and toasted the new year. Phew. 

SUNDAY
Calzones, tiramisu

Sunday was Sophia’s birthday, and she requested calzones and tiramisu, which meant an easy supper for me
Jump to Recipe

and a rather more time consuming dessert for Damien to make. Here is the recipe he uses. I never seem to get a good photo of tiramisu, but it is luscious and wonderful. 

MONDAY
Taco Bell

No bones day. We just got a bunch of tacos. 

TUESDAY
Italian meatloaf, french bread

New recipe! It was a chilly, drizzly, grey day and the recipe email from Jim at Sip and Feast featured this very cozy-looking meatloaf smothered in mushrooms and crushed tomatoes, and I knew what I had to do. It’s just a regular meatloaf, with a few elevated ingredients like plenty of freshly-grated parmesan, fresh parsley, and minced garlic, and you drench it in dry red wine and surround it with crushed tomatoes. Put it in the oven to cook and start frying up a generous bunch of mushrooms and onions in olive oil with a little salt, and then add those to the meatloaf, and let it finish cooking.

I mean, how could it. not be good. It was so good.  Hands down the best, happiest meatloaf I’ve ever had. (I used 5.5 pounds of meat and made two loaves, so it took closer to an hour and a half to cook.)

I had the opposite of the zoomies, and so Damien shopped for me and Clara picked up the kids for me, leaving me at home to putter around the kitchen with my meatloaf, and I thought how nice it would be to have some fresh bread to sop up all that lovely mushroom and tomato sauce.

So I used my trusty french bread recipe

Jump to Recipe

and turned out four pretty, golden loaves.

Every time I make french bread, I’m grateful and astonished that I happened to stumble upon some kind of success accidentally. But I have to admit that this happens every time I make bread, and if it were anyone else, I would conclude that this means this is, you know, a person who knows how to make french bread. Not me, though. I’m a moron who gets lucky every time. But who cares, as long as there’s squishy hot bread! Bread now, self-worth later. 

WEDNESDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, fruit salad

Wednesday I finally finally went shopping for the week, and let me tell you, it was again a no-bones day. We had some grilled ham and cheese and a fruit salad made of pineapple, grapes, blueberries, and kiwi, which is a special recipe made of only the most carefully selected elements that were on sale at Aldi.

Then I went to lie down for a minute and suddenly it was nine o’clock and someone had drooled on my face (me). So I got up and watched a little TV and then went back to bed, because I am an easter people and I am going to bed. 

THURSDAY
Chicken burgers, chips

Nothin to report. Well, except that I had an apple instead of chips [insert medal].

FRIDAY
Fish tacos

Yeah! It’s been a while. Got some batter fried fish fillets, tortillas, avocados, cabbage, limes, sour cream, and salsa. I also grabbed a bag of frozen shrimp I could sauté up with a little lime juice or whatever, but I may just pretend I forgot about it by the time dinner rolls around. 

I’m vaguely considering putting together some kind of king cake, but I usually palm that off on Clara and I don’t have any experience with it. Anyone have a very simple recipe? I have all the normal staples in the house. 

Spaghetti carbonara

An easy, delicious meal.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs bacon
  • 3 lbs spaghetti
  • 1 to 1-1/2 sticks butter
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • lots of pepper
  • 6-8 oz grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon until it is crisp. Drain and break it into pieces.

  2. Boil the spaghetti in salted water until al dente. If you like, add some bacon grease to the boiling water.

  3. Drain the spaghetti and return it to the pot. Add the butter, pieces of bacon, parmesan cheese, and pepper and mix it up until the butter is melted.

  4. Add the raw beaten egg and mix it quickly until the spaghetti is coated. Serve immediately.

 

Chicken shawarma

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

  2. Preheat the oven to 425.

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

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

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

 

Tom Nichols' Grandmother's Leg of Lamb

Ingredients

  • boneless leg of lamb
  • olive oil
  • garlic powder
  • garlic salt
  • oregano

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325.

  2. Slash the meat several times, about an inch deep.

  3. Fill the cuts with plenty of garlic powder.

  4. Slather olive oil all over the meat.

  5. Crust it with garlic salt. Sprinkle with all the oregano you own.

  6. Cover meat loosely with tinfoil and cook three hours. Uncover and cook for another 30 minutes.

 

Sushi rice

I use my Instant Pot to get well-cooked rice, and I enlist a second person to help me with the second part. If you have a small child with a fan, that's ideal.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups raw sushi rice
  • 1 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp salt

Instructions

  1. Rinse the rice thoroughly and cook it.

  2. In a saucepan, combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt, and cook, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved.

  3. Put the rice in a large bowl. Slowly pour the vinegar mixture over it while using a wooden spoon or paddle to fold or divide up the cooked rice to distribute the vinegar mixture throughout. You don't want the rice to get gummy or too sticky, so keep it moving, but be careful not to mash it. I enlist a child to stand there fanning it to dry it out as I incorporate the vinegar. Cover the rice until you're ready to use it.

Calzones

This is the basic recipe for cheese calzones. You can add whatever you'd like, just like with pizza. Warm up some marinara sauce and serve it on the side for dipping. 

Servings 12 calzones

Ingredients

  • 3 balls pizza dough
  • 32 oz ricotta
  • 3-4 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup parmesan
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-2 egg yolks for brushing on top
  • any extra fillings you like: pepperoni, olives, sausage, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. 

  2. Mix together filling ingredients. 

  3. Cut each ball of dough into fourths. Roll each piece into a circle about the size of a dinner plate. 

  4. Put a 1/2 cup or so of filling into the middle of each circle of dough circle. (You can add other things in at this point - pepperoni, olives, etc. - if you haven't already added them to the filling) Fold the dough circle in half and pinch the edges together tightly to make a wedge-shaped calzone. 

  5. Press lightly on the calzone to squeeze the cheese down to the ends. 

  6. Mix the egg yolks up with a little water and brush the egg wash over the top of the calzones. 

  7. Grease and flour a large pan (or use corn meal or bread crumbs instead of flour). Lay the calzones on the pan, leaving some room for them to expand a bit. 

  8. Bake about 18 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Serve with hot marinara sauce for dipping.  

 

French bread

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

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 321: Fly me to taboon (and let me play among za’atar)

Busy busy! Aren’t we all! Here’s what we had this week, including two birthday cakes (and this is why we don’t really do St. Lucy’s day or St. Nicholas day or what have you. December is already full up): 

SATURDAY
Benny’s birthday party! Pizza and cake

Benny had an ancient Egypt-themed birthday party. More guests than expected showed up, and it was a little bit bananas, and they were less interested in the activities we planned (making necklaces out of clay cartouches with their names in hieroglyphs; getting eye makeup and posing in the sarcophagus photo booth; and doing a toilet paper mummy wrapping contest) and more interested in running around screaming. But we powered through. We decorated with gold and blue plastic tablecloths tacked onto the walls, with details added with a Sharpie. 

and we did get a few sarcophagus shots

and the birthday girl was highly pleased with the cake.

I made two nine-inch square cakes and one deep loaf cake, and just kept carving them up and stacking the pieces on top of each other and sticking them together with icing, and by the time it looked like a pyramid, there was very little left over

I frosted it with tub frosting and pressed colored sugar into the sides, added lines with a toothpick, and then made some camels and trees with chocolate melting discs, and pressed those into the sides, with crushed graham crackers for sand. 

Uh, the reason it says “HAPY BIRTDAY” is because I showed her the cool golden letter candles I had bought, and asked if they were good for her cake, and she said, “Yes, as long as there are 11 of them.” Of course there are 13 letters in “happy birthday,” so I suggested “hapy birtday,” and that worked for her.

This is my #1 parenting rule: Discuss expectations ahead of time, and you will save everyone so much heartache. 

SUNDAY
Chicken burgers, chips, broccoli 

Aldi had a clearance on their bottles of that garlic aioli mayo stuff, so I bought several bottles. I complain a lot when people clutter up my limited cabinet space with unnecessary bottles, but we’re talking about garlic aioli may stuff here. I’m not sharing a picture of my chicken sandwich because I put a disgusting amount of mayo on and it looks obscene. 

I also got crafty real quick on Sunday and did a fast project I’ve been saving the materials for for a while: This pretty pinecone zinnia wreath. 

Some pinecones, not all, really look like zinnias on their undersides, especially if you paint them. I clipped the tops off with garden shears, leaving the central “spine” mostly intact; hot glued them to a grapevine wreath from the thrift store, painted them with tempera, and then picked out a few of the vines of the wreath in two shades of green. I considered adding ribbon or berries, but it’s so bright and simple, I think I like it this way.  The wreath has a kind of wild grass look, which reminds me of Cape Cod, which is where I gathered the pine cones. 

MONDAY
Ham, peas, garlic parmesan mashed potatoes

Just in case they forgot who’s the best mother in the whole world: Ham, peas, and mashed potatoes, that’s who. 

Here’s my garlic parmesan mashed potato recipe, should you need it:

Jump to Recipe

TUESDAY
Mussakhan and taboon, feta cheese, pomegranates, meghli and sahlab

This meal really got away from me, in the best way. I had spotted this recipe for mussakhan a while back. It’s apparently the national Palestinian dish, and it’s easy and delicious: Sumac chicken with onions. If you like middle eastern food, this hits all those best notes. It has not just sumac, but allspice, cumin, cinnamon, lemon, and garlic. You slash the chicken (I used drumsticks and thighs) across the grain and rub the marinade in, and let it marinate several hours with sliced red onions, and then you just roast it in the oven. 

What puts it over the top is, right at the end, you brown up some pine nuts in olive oil and sprinkle these over the top, along with some flat leaf parsley and a little extra sumac. 

What puts it into the stratosphere is you serve it oven taboon, which is a dimpled, chewy flatbread which is supposed to be made in a clay oven or at least on a pizza stone, but guess what? I made one big giant slab o’ taboon on a sheet pan in my regular oven and it was AMAZING. 

I had to run out and buy bread flour, so I almost decided to just pick up some store bought pita instead, but I’m so glad I went for the homemade taboon.

Here’s the recipe:

Jump to Recipe

IT’S SO EASY. You guys know I’m kind of a dunce with baking and with bread in particular, but this was an unqualified success. I just mixed up the ingredients in my standing mixer, let it rise for an hour or so, scronched it and let it rest for ten minutes, and then rolled it out and stretched it into the pan, and baked it while the chicken finished cooking.

So at dinner time, I put the piping hot taboon on the table and then I served the chicken right on top of the bread, and poured all the cooking juices over it, and sprinkled the sizzling pine nuts over that, and finished with the parsley and sumac. 

Everyone just grabbed some chicken and tore off whatever bread they wanted and, oh man, it was fantastic. 

I wish I had taken some pictures of the inside of the taboon, but it was just barely browned and crisp on the bottom; the top was a little bit chewy, and the inside was fluffy and pillowy. So nice. The little dimples sop up the juices. 

I also had some feta cheese because I bought too much for spanakopita for Thanksgiving; and I had a bunch of pomegranates I got for Benny’s Egypt party and forgot to serve. So that went perfectly. 

I also suddenly remembered that, this summer, I had bought two pudding mixes: meghli and sahlab.

I had no idea what either of these were; I just liked the names, and I love puddings of all kind. The sahlab required you to add four cups of milk and heat and stir until it thickens, and then you can either drink it as a hot beverage, or else chill and serve as a pudding; the meghli required four cups of cold water, heat and stir to boil, and then chill. 

I chilled them both and served them with dried coconut. (Sorry about the inelegant picture. I was absolutely stuffed with food and could not be bothered to get up and find a pretty ramekin at this point.)

The sahlab had a pleasant silky texture, but tasted very strongly of rosewater and not much else, and I’m not a big fan. Rosewater just tastes like perfume to me. The kids liked it, though. If you like rosewater, I definitely recommend this mix. It was very easy to make.

The meghli was weird but nice. I liked the flavor, which is apparently predominantly anise, caraway, and cinnamon. I didn’t really taste the anise, but really mainly the cinnamon. But the flavor wasn’t really strong enough, though, and it tasted watery, and that was a little off-putting. It was also kind of pulpy. It’s possible I made it wrong, although all I had to do was stir it, so I don’t know how I could have messed it up! I might try it again and see if it comes out different. 

But all in all, a fantastic meal, very popular. Four new foods! It was a little expensive just because of the pine nuts and sumac, but I’m going to shop around and see if I can find them for cheaper, because I want to make this whole meal again. 

WEDNESDAY
Muffaletta sandwiches, fries 

It’s been a while. The olive salad turned out particularly nice, who knows why. I threw in two cans of black olives, one jar of green, and one jar of kalamata, a few pepproncini, some mild banana peppers, a bunch of red wine vinegar and olive oil, and a bunch of flat leaf parsley, and I think that’s it. I had some marinated red peppers, but they got shoved into the back of the fridge and froze. 

I served it on baguettes. For meats and cheese, I came up with leftover ham, genoa salami, hard salami, and some good provolone. None of this – not the olive salad, not the meats, not the bread, not the proportions of any of it – is authentic muffaletta, but it tasted good, and hardly anyone went and had cereal, so. 

I’m trying SO hard not to eat a meal’s worth of snacks while I wait for supper time, so instead I made a salami rose 

and that has made all the difference.

THURSDAY
My birthday!

Now I am 48! So far, it’s better than being dead.

The day started out a little squalid, and I drove the kids to school while Damien drove some to the dentist, then I drove to the dentist, while he drove one of them home because we got confused about the work schedule, then I drove some of them from the dentist to school, then I did a little Christmas shopping, then home, then drove the kid to work and picked up a prescription, then went home and had a telehealth doctor visit where I was like “I’m not really fine” and she was like “yes you are” and I was like “oh ok”; and then we had to go to a meeting where they were like, how are you suckers going to pay for your kid to go to Rome, eh? And we were like, duh, I dunno, she managed to sell three pots of poinsettias and we thought that would cover it, but apparently not.

BUT THEN, that was all the things we had to do! and Damien offered to take me wherever I wanted to go, and I really wanted to go get pizza. I chose eggplant, artichoke, anchovy, and garlic, and it was frickin delicious. 

I also laughed my head off because, as I ate, I watched as the cashier tell this teenage boy that he had been noticed trying to walk out with one of the restaurant’s two-foot glittery reindeer decorations hidden under his shirt, and they weren’t going to make a big deal about it because it was Christmas, but he needed to give it back. Teenage boys are so dumb. Just, so dumb. How are they even alive. 

And then we went home and everyone showered me with lovely, thoughtful presents

and Clara had baked me a spectacular cake

It was a coconut cream cake from Sally’s Baking Addiction, to which she had added lime zest and crushed pineapple, both brilliant ideas. Oh, what a moist, wonderful cake. So it was a great birthday! I felt very cherished and cared-for. Also, earlier, I was supposed to pick up the kids from school, but instead Damien did it, and I just took a nap. And he came home with flowers. 

FRIDAY
Pizza

It is a snow day. A snow day that they told us about the day before, so we just turned off the alarms and slept in! I slept kind of late and now I’m scrambling to get caught up. Good thing we’re having pizza. 

 

Garlic parmesan mashed potatoes

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

taboon bread

You can make separate pieces, like pita bread, or you can make one giant slab of taboon. This makes enough to easily stretch over a 15x21" sheet pan.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups bread flour
  • 4 packets yeast
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp + 3 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. Mix the flour, salt, and yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer.

  2. While it is running, add the olive oil. Then gradually add the water until the dough is soft and sticky. You may not need all of it. Let it run for a while to see if the dough will pull together before you need all the water. Knead or run with the dough hook for another few minutes.

  3. Put the dough in a greased bowl, grease the top, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm spot for at least an hour until it has doubled in size.

  4. Preheat the oven to 400. Put a greased pan or a baking stone in the oven to heat up.

  5. If you are making separate pieces, divide it now and cover with a damp cloth. If you're making one big taboon, just handle it a bit, then put it back in the bowl and cover it with a damp cloth. Let rest ten minutes.

  6. Using a little flour, roll out the dough into the shape or shapes you want. Poke it all over with your fingertips to give it the characterstic dimpled appearance.

  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes until it's just slightly browned.

What’s for supper? Vol. 319: In which I rest on pie laurels

Hap the Friday! I didn’t do a What’s For Supper last week because of course it was the day after Thanksgiving, and I assumed you already knew what we were having for supper. We aren’t amazing turkey leftover wizards anyway, so the following week wasn’t too spectacular. How about if I just do the highlights of the last two weeks? Who will stop me?

Here’s some of what we had the last few weeks: 

Pulled pork, cole slaw, french fries, Hawaiian rolls

Damien made this yummy pulled pork using the Deadspin recipe. For me, pulled pork is what you make when you have lost all interest in life and yet there is this hunk of meat to deal with, so you conceal it inside some kind of pot as quickly as possible and then pull it out at dinner time when it’s too late for anyone to get away; but Damien took a lot more trouble over it, and it showed. 

The next day, Damien also made a gigantic lasagna or possibly two lasagnas, also from Deadspin

Somewhat less photogenic, but ravishingly delicious. This recipe requires you to make a ragù and a béchamel sauce and let me tell you, any time I have to use the ålternate keybœard twïce in a sêntence, you know it’s going to be tæsty. 

Beef barley soup and store bought croissants 

Yaas, beef barley soup. This one, I made, and it was a cold, drizzly day, just perfect for building up a hearty, heartening soup. Garlic, salt and pepper and olive oil, carrots and onions, beef broth and red wine, beef, barley, and then mushrooms. 

Jump to Recipe

That was the week before Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving went great! I started baking on Tuesday. On Thursday, all my weird little chickens came home to roost, if temporarily

and my son’s gf also came over, and my brother and his bf, and we all had an excellent time, talking and laughing and shouting important opinions about obscure movies. Damien made the turkey injected and basted with white wine and lime juice and stuffed with sausage and oyster stuffing. I didn’t see or get a photo of it roasted, but here is the carving:

and he also made the gravy. He also made the mashed potatoes at the very last minute, because I put all the food on the table and told everyone dinner was served and then wandered around with a confused expression, and then he suddenly realized all I had done was boil a bunch of potatoes. So he mashed them and threw in a bunch of milk and butter, and mashed them, oops! Everything he made was scrumptious.

You can find the recipes for all my Thanksgiving foods here. 

I did fully made candied sweet potatoes using this recipe from My Forking Life, and they turned out great. This recipe includes a little fresh orange juice, which is nice. I think next time I may include actual slices of oranges. 

I had my annual internal query about what the difference is between yams and sweet potatoes. Sometimes I look it up and sometimes I don’t, but it doesn’t matter, because I never remember. So I thought about it for a while while I was cutting them up, and then I double-checked the bag, and it said “Mr. Yammy Sweet Potatoes.” So there you go. 

I also made parker house rolls using my own recipe, and they turned out nice and cute,

hard as a rock, and dry as a bone, and just about tasteless, so I need to find a new recipe.

I made cranberry orange bread which was fine, a little dry

spanakopita triangles to start us off, which were delightful

and we had a cranberry sauce vortex!!!

and three pumpkin pies, and a festive pecan pie that turned out rather pretty

I learned how to make pie crust roses from this website. Good to know! Very easy.

and I was inspired to make an apple pie that turned out quite lovely.

Refrigerating the pie for half an hour before baking helps all the decoration keep its shape). I gave it a little egg wash and sugar sprinkle and it was nice

Although the apples inside were a little chompy, to be honest. Can’t have everything.

I also made a few quarts of vanilla ice cream, and a quart of butternut squash ice cream with curry candied nuts, following a recipe from Blue Apron. (I ran out of pecans and they were like a dollar each this year, so I made it with 3/4 walnuts.) 

I really really liked the squash ice cream. It distinctly had all the flavors in the title — squash, curry, candied nuts — and it just worked. Really good autumnal flavor with just a little fiery edge from the curry. 

And finally, Dewey brought a lovely dense, moist gingerbread made using the Smitten Kitchen recipe,  plus a jar of heavy cream that the kids shook to whip up into whipped cream, so that was fun

Oh and I made a bunch of mulled cider with cinnamon stick and orange slices. 

And that was Thanksgiving, and it was great! 

Moving on!

Turkey ala king

When I was little, we had turkey ala king constantly, and I really loved it. I don’t know if it was the fun of having toast with dinner or what, but it felt like such a treat, and it was just so cozy and comforting, even with the mushy, muddy peas. So I was determined to recreate it, even though I knew in my heart that not many people would want it. I think my mother used to make it just by adding some cream of mushroom soup to leftover turkey, and throwing in some canned peas and heating it up; so I decided to elevate it by making a cream sauce with real cream, and adding fresh mushrooms, and using frozen peas (well, that’s not elevated very high, but it’s better than canned!). 

And it tasted . . . fine.

I think I was the only one who ate it, except for also one kid who came home super late and would have gladly eaten microwaved roadkill. So I guess I got that out of my system. I’ll probably forget and try it again in five years or so, and rediscover that this is just an intrinsically medium-okay dish and I can just move on with my life. 

Anyway, we used up the turkey. 

I also threw the picked-over carcass in the Instant Pot with water and some carrots and celery, onions, salt and pepper, and a little cider vinegar. I would have added herbs and whatnot, but we were fresh out.

I cooked it on high pressure for two hours, and I got about a gallon of good, golden bone broth, which I put in the freezer for future souping. 

Chicken broccoli stir fry and rice 

Boneless skinless chicken thighs were on sale, so I cut it in strips and fried it up with broccoli spears, sliced mushrooms, and two bottles of teriyaki sauce, and served it over rice.

Right after Thanksgiving, I always jump at the opportunity to buy bottles of sauce, because it’s one of the few weeks of the year I know I won’t give myself a hard time about it. It’s normal and fine to buy bottled sauce. It’s there for a reason, and people should never feel guilty about it. Except me. I’m different, and I should feel bad. 

And that’s it! Today I’m running away to go see the great and glorious Leticia Ochoa Adams speak, so I don’t really know what they’re having for supper at home! Spaghetti, I suppose. Maybe they can have nothing ala king. 

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. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 317: Little Bear food

This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Happy Friday! Another week of nippy weather, and I’m really settling into cozy fall cooking. I’m doing some planning for Thanksgiving, by which I mean I bought a second potato masher at the thrift store. I have always been a wiggly line potato masher kind of gal, but now I’m branching out into the grid-on-a-circle style, and I have high hopes. Because I just don’t make very good mashed potatoes, and it’s probably the masher’s fault.

However, I am happy to announce that I used up the last of the apples! Very satisfactory. Read on. 

SATURDAY

I’m skeptical Saturday even happened. I have no idea what we ate. 

SUNDAY
Pizza

You may recall how, last time I made pizza, I committed the high crime of not making any just-cheese pizza. Well, this time I did! And the kids made exactly as big a fuss about it as if I hadn’t (“Well SHEESH, Mama, the only reason we’re ASKING is because LAST time . . . “). But I did make a cheese pizza. I really did.  I also made one pepperoni and one olive, fresh garlic, and anchovy. 

Man, I need to do something about that grout. Good pizza, though. 

MONDAY
Pork ribs, applesauce, mashed acorn squash, risotto

APPLE ARMAGEDDON. There were dozens and dozens of soft, spotty, dinged-up apples hanging around the dining room in bags and boxes and government-owned mail cartons driving me mad, so on Monday I gathered them up, hacked them  into quarters, threw them in my biggest pot, added a little water (too much, like I do every year), and let them simmer loosely covered for a few hours. 

I left everything intact, peels, cores, everything, and when they were soft enough to collapse under the weight of a wooden spoon, I ran them through my wonderful food mill, very similar to this one (affiliate link):

 

The food mill is one of the few once-a-year kitchen gadgets I allow to take up space in my tiny kitchen, because nothing else does exactly what a food mill does (i.e. not only smooshes the food, but separates out the undesirable parts). I was a little dismayed to dismayed to discover that someone had put it away last year after using it to make applesauce but not necessarily super duper washing it out, bleh. It has a pot with handle and bowl clips, a crank and blade, and a screw with a sweeping arm for underneath, and [deep shuddery breath] you really do need to take it apart to clean it properly. 

But a little scrubbing did the trick, and I was soon cranking out sweet, beauteous applesauce.

I didn’t take a picture of the refuse because it’s just not pretty, but I’m always impressed at how efficient the food mill is. If you keep cranking, it really gets every last possible scrap of edible material, and just leaves the barest minimum of waste behind. Then you crank it backwards a few turns and it scrapes the leavings up into a little heap for you to whack out into the trash. Very satisfying activity altogether.

After several batches, I was left with a heavy, steaming bowl of fragrant, rosy applesauce, and it smelled so nice, I was tempted to just leave it at that. But I did pitch in a bunch of cinnamon, a generous drizzle of honey, and a lump of butter, and mix it up.

I covered it and left it alone, and it was so dense, it stayed warm until dinnertime. I felt like a fairy tale mother. Everyone was very pleased. 

I served it with pork ribs, just roasted quickly on a rack in a very hot oven with salt and pepper, and some rich, cheesy Instant Pot risotto, and some mashed acorn squash

What an excellent meal. Here is the recipe for Instant Pot risotto, which isn’t quite quite as creamy and luxurious as stovetop risotto, but it’s pretty darn close, and it’s easy enough to throw together on a weeknight, with onions, sage, white wine, and chicken broth.

Jump to Recipe

You can add in any number of things, including squash if you’re not already serving squash. 

But I was, and I was trying a new method. Normally I roast it in the oven and then mash it. This time, I cooked it in the Instant Pot, and I learned a tip to sprinkle it with kosher salt and baking soda first, allegedly to help caramelize it, before mashing it with your add-ins. Here’s the full recipe:

Jump to Recipe

and whoa, it was excellent.

I have no idea if the process really made that much of a difference or if i just got hold of some really tasty squash, but it was amazingly flavorful. Yay! Damien really liked it, so I’ll definitely do it this way from now on. 

TUESDAY
Ima’s Everything Soup and overnight bread

On Monday night, I started some bread dough using an exceedingly vague recipe someone, I’m sorry I can’t remember who, put on Facebook. To wit:

Ingredients
3 cups All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
 
In a large bowl combine flour, active dry yeast and salt. Mix together. Add water, and stir until blended; dough will be sticky. Give it ten good folds. Cover bowl with a tea towel. Let dough rest overnight for 10 to 12 hours at room temp.
 
In the morning, your dough will have grown x2- then give it a few folds (I basically scraped the dough off the sides of the bowl towards the middle), empty it out onto a piece of parchment paper and let it rest for 30 minutes. If dough is sticky and hard to work with, add a bit of flour so it doesn’t stick to your hands. Score your bread with a knife. (I made an “x” on the top.)
 
While dough is resting, preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Put a covered 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (Dutch oven, enamel, ceramic) in oven as it heats for about 30 minutes.
 
Carefully remove pot from oven. IT’S VERY HOT. Pick up parchment paper with dough and slide directly into pot (ie dough sitting on the parchment).  Cover with lid and bake 35-40 minutes at 425 Degrees F. LID WILL BE HOT – remove lid and bake another 10-15 minutes, until loaf is golden brown.
 
You can eat it warm with butter or wait until it cools.

Okay, that seemed simple enough!  I tripled the recipe and left it in a big bowl to rise overnight. I ended up using more flour than it called for because it was not just “sticky,” it was like batter, and really couldn’t be called dough. 

The next day, it had risen nicely and was more dough-like, but I did add yet more flour to be able to handle it. I poured it out in two batches onto parchment paper and let it rest 30 minutes as directed. 

I don’t seem to have any dutch ovens (the contents of my kitchen are always vaguely mysterious to me), so I heated up a glass casserole dish and a large iron frying pan, and baked it in two batches in that. You’re supposed to bake it with the lid on, then uncover it and finish baking. Since my containers didn’t have lids, I used tin foil, which stuck to the dough, so when I pulled it off, it peeled some of the bread crust off with it. I could have avoided this by spraying it with cooking spray, or covering it with a bowl or something else with more clearance. 

But overall, it came out of the oven looking like bread!

Quite dense and rather chewy, but real bread, a really good return for the miniscule amount of labor and very basic ingredients I put into it. 

So that was nice. It was pretty good with a little soft butter and a sprinkle of salt, and it hit the spot along with the hearty soup I made.

This seems to be a version of Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread that everybody got all worked up about a while ago. He gives more precise directions and his technique requires more time, but does seem to produce a nicer loaf. So now you know everything I do. 

The soup is an adaptation of my mother’s minestrone soup, which she used to call “everything soup.” Minstrone soup usually has vegetables, greens, beans, tomato, and some kind of pasta or rice. My mother’s version doesn’t have tomato and it does have meat. She used ground beef; I used mild sausage. She used celery; I swapped in zucchini instead. She specified frozen spinach, and I used fresh. I skipped the wine and used fresh parmesan. But otherwise, this is basically her recipe, which is basically minestrone. Or not! It has onions, garlic, carrots, zucchini, chick peas, sausage, spinach, beef broth (and wine) and is topped with a little parmesan.

I cooked it a little too long and it got a little blurry, but it was tremendously nourishing and cozy. This is Little Bear food. 

Together with the world’s most basic bread, it was a very fine little meal for a chilly day. 

And here is where I have to express my admiration for people who cook but don’t enjoy the process. I salute you! I like to eat; goodness knows, I like to eat. But I like to cook almost as much, if not more. The sight and sounds and sensations, the smells and textures and patterns of food being processed are a constant delight to me, even when I’m in a hurry. Peeling and cutting and chopping and grating, rinsing and stirring, steaming and simmering and tossing. Every onion is different inside! Every head of lettuce has its own music when it’s torn. The colors, the colors. It is all absolutely my jam.

What a treat to peer down through the top of a shiny box grater and watch the little torrents of parmesan billowing through the holes as I shred, and then sensing that the grater is stuffed full and needs to be knocked empty against the scarred wooden board, until it spills out its little bounty of delicate curls into the sun.

And then I also like to eat! Lucky me. 

WEDNESDAY
Shawarma

Honest to goodness, I thought it was Thursday, and I was so annoyed at myself for putting off this meal all week, so I was painted into a Thursday corner and had to make a slightly laborious dinner twice in a row, first the soup and bread, then the shawarma. I had been up all night with a cold and fever, struggling with the delusion that I had hidden a terrible, purple secret on top of a mountain and so needed to get my socks off. Then I got up and I was like, OH NO, AND NOW I HAVE TO MAKE SHAWARMA, I HAVE NO CHOICE BECAUSE IT’S THURSDAY. In retrospect, I may still have been a little sick. Luckily, shawarma is actually easy enough that you can make it when you’re a little loopy. 

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs were on sale, and that is the best kind of chicken to use for shawarma, so I didn’t have to do much processing, just trim the fat off a bit. The marinade is easy, and the rest is just really chopping and opening  jars and cans. And crushing plenty of garlic. 

Jump to Recipe

So I set several pounds of chicken to marinate in the morning, and made up a big bowl of yogurt sauce

Jump to Recipe

Corrie was home too, so she juiced lemons for me, and also cut up the cucumbers. So we had pita, cucumbers, tomatoes, black and kalamata olives, feta cheese, yogurt sauce, and hummus. I marinated just the chicken and then spread red onions over the top of the chicken before I cooked it. And that was it! Great meal. Everyone loves it. A little bit of work on the front end, but it’s all easy, with no exotic ingredients, and it’s just so tasty. 

Sometimes I make homemade pita or stuffed grape leaves or fried eggplant with this meal, but this is the basic form and it’s great as is. 

THURSDAY
Taco Thursday

Thursday turned out to be Thursday, for whatever reason, and so we had tacos. I don’t make the rules. (Well, I do, but I don’t have to explain myself.) 

FRIDAY
Spaghetti pangrattato

Something new for us. Pasta with lemon, parsley, seasoned breadcrumbs, capers, and bits of fried egg!! from Smitten Kitchen. I think this is one of those delicious, delicious poverty dishes the Italians are so good at. I’m guessing most of the kids will just want plain pasta, but you never know.

Or maybe we’ll just have spaghetti! The kids have the day off for Veteran’s Day and maybe I’ll do the weekend shopping on Friday and have the actual weekend off for once, to do something fun. Although so far all I have managed to do is sleep for twelve hours, which I haven’t done in years, and I think that means I am still sick. 

Oh, I just remembered what we had on Saturday. Corn dogs! Corn dogs and hot pretzels. With a side of mustard. 

5 from 2 votes
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Instant Pot Mashed Acorn Squash

Ingredients

  • 1 acorn quashes
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Cut the acorn squashes in half. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt on the cut surfaces.

  2. Put 1/2 a cup of water in the Instant Pot, fit the rack in it, and stack the squash on top. Close the lid, close the valve, and cook on high pressure for 24 minutes. Do quick release.

  3. When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop it out into a bowl, mash it, and add the rest of the ingredients.

Ima's Everything Soup

heavily adapted from a sort-of-minestrone soup my mother used to make

Ingredients

  • 1+ lbs loose mild sausage (my mother used ground beef)
  • olive oil if necessary
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1-1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced with the skin on
  • 6-12 cups beef broth
  • 4 cups fresh spinach (frozen is also fine)
  • 1/4 cup red wine (optional)
  • 1 cup small pasta like pastina, raw
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. In a pot, cook the sausage, crumbling, until it's cooked through. Add olive oil if necessary to keep from burning. (If using an Instant Pot, use the sauté function for the first two steps.)

  2. Add in garlic, onion, oregano, and pepper. Cook another several minutes until the onion is soft.

  3. Add in the carrots and zucchini, and pour in the broth (and wine if using), and stir. If cooking on stovetop, cover loosely and let simmer for twenty minutes. (If using an Instant Pot, add all the ingredients except the cheese, close the lid, close the valve, and press "soup.")

  4. Add in the spinach and chickpeas and continue simmering another ten minutes. Add in the pasta ten minutes before serving and cook until soft. If the soup is too thick and too much broth has been absorbed, add another 4-5 cups of broth. Top with parmesan.

 

Instant Pot Risotto

Almost as good as stovetop risotto, and ten billion times easier. Makes about eight cups. 

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground sage
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups rice, raw
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • pepper
  • 1.5 cups grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Turn IP on sautee, add oil, and sautee the onion, garlic, salt, and sage until onions are soft.

  2. Add rice and butter and cook for five minutes or more, stirring constantly, until rice is mostly opaque and butter is melted.

  3. Press "cancel," add the broth and wine, and stir.

  4. Close the top, close valve, set to high pressure for 9 minutes.

  5. Release the pressure and carefully stir in the parmesan cheese and pepper. Add salt if necessary. 

Chicken shawarma

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

  2. Preheat the oven to 425.

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

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

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

 

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 316: All Fall

We made it through Halloween and the Spooky Triduum! Plenty of cozy fall foods this week, although no applesauce as of yet. Here’s what we did have: 

SATURDAY
Vermonter sandwiches

By popular request. Your choice of ciabatta rolls or sourdough bread, roast chicken breast, bacon, thick slices of sharp cheddar, slices of tart Granny Smith apples, and honey mustard dressing.

Just an excellent sandwich. Nestle plate in among fabric paint and other craft materials because you are still frantically finishing up Halloween costumes. 

SUNDAY
Spaghetti and ragù; garlic bread; blueberry and pumpkin walnut ice cream 

Damien made this, following the Deadspin recipe. It turns out a little different each time. This time was a little spicy, and wonderfully — look, nobody likes it when I describe a meat sauce as “fluffy,” but the English language is just not helping me out. Here, have a picture:

If you’re thinking of pasta with a standard sluggish tomato sauce with some ground meat thrown in, think that no more. This is entirely different, and absolutely scrumptious. 

The kids miraculously scooped out the pumpkins on Friday while we were out of town, sorted out the pulp and seeds, and cleaned up. I know! So over the weekend, they carved their pumpkins, and all I had to do was roast the seeds.

I spread them in shallow pans, drizzled them with oil and sprinkled them with kosher salt, then cooked them in a 250 oven, stirring them occasionally, and switching the pans once so they’d cook evenly, until they are crunchy but not burnt.

I never know how long this takes because I always, always forget they are in the oven and almost burn them. Maybe forty minutes? I have no idea. 

I had a slightly better handle on dessert. Blueberries were on sale, so I bought a few pints, planning to make ice cream, with lemon pound cake from a mix. But then I felt bad that I hadn’t made any kind of Halloween-themed meal or dessert, so I decided it was important to make pumpkin ice cream.  (In the past, for Halloween I have made SPOOKY MEATLOAF

and once I made those mummy hot dogs

and you know, that was not a good use of my time. As usual, I’m the only one putting pressure on myself to come up with this stuff. Anyway, the ice cream turned out to be a great idea. I thought the two flavors would be terrible together (Watch: This Food Blogger Thinks Dessert Will Be Terrible But Makes It Anyway For Some Reason!), but they were actually great.

The blueberry was sweet and a tiny bit tart, and the pumpkin had all the comfy, custardy flavors of pumpkin pie, and somehow together they worked in the same way that peanut butter and jelly work together. They didn’t taste like peanut butter and jelly, you understand; it was just the same kind of combination. Fruity + earthy, or something. 

I did also make the lemon pound cake mix, but overbaked it, and I was worried the lemon would not go well with the other flavors (I had bought it just thinking lemon + blueberry), and this time I was right. Should have just skipped the cake. Oh well!

Imma have to come back later and write out the ice cream directions. I used Ben and Jerry’s recipes for both, except that I doubled the amount of blueberries for one, and added walnuts to the other, and increased the spices a bit. They both use the basic sweet cream base and do not require cooking. I will say that double blueberry was too much, and the berries clumped together in a way that wasn’t completely pleasant, because the tiny seeds get a little gritty one you get a certain volume of blueberry (they were macerated but not cooked). Next time I’ll just follow the recipe! But the walnuts were an excellent addition to the pumpkin ice cream, and I stand by that. I may make this again for Thanksgiving, or possibly this butternut squash ice cream with candied curry pecans.

MONDAY
Chicken nuggets; candy

Halloween! Dinner is only there to keep child protective services away. The kids had parties at school and ate all kinds of nonsense, then we zipped home and hurried to get costumes on for trick or treating. 

Benny and Corrie were Sarah and Duck

and I assisted them as Scarf Lady 

Lucy, Sophia, and Irene were Doc Ock, Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle, and a robot 

You can’t really tell, but the robot has three special features: It lights up in several colors, it has a little secret compartment for storing things, and it is wearing a fanny pack full of diabetic supplies for its sister, so as not to mess up her Doc Ock costume.

The other kids dispersed to various parties and promised me they would send pictures, but they did not!

TUESDAY
Bagel, sausage, egg, cheese sandwiches; caramel apples

On Tuesday I had an easy meal planned (bagels with sausages, egg, and cheese)

because everyone was exhausted and of course we had to get to Mass for All Saints Day, but I also suddenly couldn’t stand how there were apples all over the place, so I made caramel apples. We usually get the easy-peasy kind where you just stretch a sheet of caramel over the apple and warm it up to meld it on, but the boxes can be a little misleading, so I had two kits of the kind you need a candy thermometer.

Which reminds me of the last time we attempted this, which was one of my favorite Irene moments, when she was about seven. 

Irene, stirring caramel: “We don’t want it to get too hot. Not hard ball. Or hard crack. Or . . . [peering at thermometer] fish donut.”

WELL, THAT’S WHAT IT SAYS. The adult world can be very confusing, and you just have to go with it, even if it sounds a little fish donut.

So I made about 20 apples. 

They turned out lovely, but I surely did not have room for 20 sticky apples to cool and harden in the fridge, so I just left them out all afternoon. Usually our kitchen is about as cool as a refrigerator anyway, but we’re having a little warm snap, and by evening, the caramel had ooooozed its way downward until what I had was a panful of apples, each with its own caramel penumbra, sitting in a pool of caramel. Oh well! At least I got rid of the apples. Some weeks, cooking is like a game whose goal is to get rid of all the food. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken and salad; soul cakes

This was an okay idea that didn’t quite come off. I had the vague idea to serve a Greek-inspired salad with chicken. While I was out, Damien roasted some chicken breasts with plenty of lemon pepper seasoning, and I sliced up the meat and served it with a big green salad, black olives, feta cheese, pomegranate seeds, chopped walnuts, and cucumbers and tomatoes.

I think the tomatoes were the mistake.  You really can’t have tomatoes on pomegranates in the same plate. They threw the whole thing off. Also I forgot to buy any kind of dressing, so we were forced to dig through the fridge and take our chances. Damien found some creamy Italian dressing, and I was trying to tell him that we also had some kind of vinaigrette, but I couldn’t think of the word, so I called it “greasy Italian.” Which goes to show that describing things accurately is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I also just this minute remembered that I bought pita chips to go with this salad, and totally forgot about them. 

Regarding the pomegranates, I briefly considered looking up some clever TikTok idea for how to get the seeds off the rind in no time flat, but these things never, ever work for me. It’s always a video of some sun-kissed woman with shining, blue-black hair and a peasant blouse, standing in her garden going, “Oh, you cut up your pineapple with a knife, you DUMBASS? Try it like this!” and she grins at the camera and sticks a toothpick in the bottom, and all the pineapple just falls out into a basin in perfect little edible chunks and she eats one with very white teeth. Or else there is some perky dude with weirdly inflated biceps bopping around a spotless kitchen showing us how, when he wants 400 cloves of peeled garlic, all he does is make a little slit in the side and then tap it with a spoon, and the garlic absolutely cannot wait to scurry off and arrange itself into useful rows, all perfectly peeled and not a bit wasted. So I watch this stuff and it looks quite easy, so I imitate them exactly, and somehow slice the tips off my three favorite fingers, and then I have to explain to the ER nurse that I was trying to be like someone on TikTok.

So I decided to just cut the pomegranate into quarters and then just sort of scrabble at it until the seeds came out. And I got a bowlful that way. 

And then I took a picture, so there. 

OH, I also made soul cakes on Wednesday. I guess soul cakes are the original treats that people would give to beggars who would come to their house, and offer to pray for the souls of the dead in exchange for a cookie? I don’t know. I still had a shit ton of apples left, so I was getting ready to make applesauce when I suddenly remembered that the kids had asked about soul cakes, so that’s what I made. 

Jump to Recipe

It’s a very quick recipe, and I do like the taste. They have a faint cidery flavor from the cider vinegar, and they’re soft and a little spicy, very nice. I cut out two kinds and told the kids they represented souls before and after being prayed for. 

Raisins in purgatory, and then you upgrade to half a dried apricot when you go to heaven. That’s some high octane theology for you. 

THURSDAY
Mexican beef bowls and beans

Everyone was pretty excited about this meal. I actually started marinating the meat the night before. 

Jump to Recipe

I had already cut up the meat before marinating it, so I just fried it up in a giant pan along with the marinade. 

Earlier in the day, I made a big bowl of guacamole

Jump to Recipe

and a pot of black beans. The beans were completely yummy,

Jump to Recipe

but I wish I had cooked them with the lid off for a little longer (they were in the Instant Pot on “slow cook” most of the day) to simmer off more of the liquid. 

But all in all, a very tasty meal.  I made a big pot of rice, put out salsa, chopped scallions, sour cream, lime wedges, and corn chips, shredded some cheese, and heated up some corn. Everyone found something they liked to eat.

Mmm, I think I will have leftover beans for lunch. 

FRIDAY
Quesadillas

Lots of leftover fixins from Thursday’s meal, so I’m just going to make plain cheese quesadillas and people can dress it up as they like. I also bought some plantain chips, which I will no doubt forget to serve. 

Happy Friday! If you want some apples, come over. I have a lot. 

Soul cakes

Servings 18 flat cakes the size of large biscuits

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, chilled
  • 3-3/4 cup sifted flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp allspice (can sub cloves)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar (can sub white vinegar)
  • 4-6 Tbsp milk
  • powdered sugar to sprinkle on top

optional:

  • raisins, currants, nuts, candied citrus peels, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350

  2. Put the flour in a large bowl. Grate the chilled butter on a vegetable grater and incorporate it lightly into the flour.

  3. Stir in the sugar and spices until evenly distributed.

  4. In a smaller bowl, beat together the eggs, vinegar and milk. Stir this into the flour mixture until it forms a stiff dough.

  5. Knead for several minutes until smooth and roll out to 1/4 thick.

  6. Grease a baking pan. Cut the dough into rounds (or other shapes if you like) and lay them on the pan, leaving a bit of room in between (they puff up a bit, but not a lot). If you're adding raisins or other toppings, poke them into the top of the cakes, in a cross shape if you like. Prick cakes with fork.

  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes until very lightly browned on top.

  8. Sprinkle with powdered sugar while they are warm

 

Beef marinade for fajita bowls

enough for 6-7 lbs of beef

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together.

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

 

Instant Pot black beans

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 16-oz cans black beans with liquid
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Put olive oil pot of Instant Pot. Press "saute" button. Add diced onion and minced garlic. Saute, stirring, for a few minutes until onion is soft. Press "cancel."

  2. Add beans with liquid. Add cumin, salt, and cilantro. Stir to combine. Close the lid, close the vent, and press "slow cook."

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 315: When in doubt, add butter

Another week! Nobody told me that Halloween was Monday, so now I’m scurrying around like a DIY rat, scouring the local stores for yellow duct tape and a green knit hat and other things that ought to be easy to find but aren’t. And it just now occurred to me I could spray paint a hat the right color, couldn’t I? And so I shall. Anyway, despite the scurrying, we had some pretty spectacular food this week, and that has made all the difference. Read on!

SATURDAY
Hot dogs, chips

Saturday we went to the local pumpkin festival, which they had carefully renamed “Gathering of the Gourds.” The festival has been a Whole Thing, because for several years they tried to beat the world record for greatest number of illuminated pumpkins. It was fun, but also very overwhelming and expensive for the town, as tons of people poured into town to see the giant towers of jack-o’-lanterns.

Then came October of 2014, and I think I was in . . . Georgia? I forget where, but definitely away from home giving a speech, and I came down to the hotel lobby to get my free continental breakfast and blearily became aware that the TV was saying there had been riot with tear gas and rubber bullets, fires in the street, and a car tipped over, and I recognized the street. Called home and established that, while Damien and the kids had indeed been at the festival, they had not personally torn a parking meter out of the ground or thrown a beer bottle at anyone’s head. So that was okay.

Anyway, the pumpkin festival has been pretty hit or miss since then, and Covid was really the kiss of death. This year it was basically some stores giving out candy, a pile of pumpkins you could carve if you wanted to, and a bunch of vendors in a parking lot — including Clara and Elijah, so that was cool.

So we did that, and Benny had a party to attend, and I think we worked on Halloween costumes and baked Alaska, and days like this is why they make hot dogs. We also had a Wolf Man movie to watch. We started with Frankenstein, then Bride of Frankenstein, then Son of Frankenstein, and then we had to watch The Wolf Man so we could watch Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. The kids keep saying, “Well, that has to be the last one, now, because he clearly died at the end” and then we explain once again the concept of a movie studio backing up a truckload of cash to one’s house. I think next is a movie that has Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, and Dracula. And a truckload of cash. (I recommend all of these movies, by the way, especially the Frankenstein ones. They are gorgeous, they move right along, and their entire agenda is to be creepy and scare you with spookiness, which is very refreshing.)

SUNDAY
Bastardized jambalaya

Last week I heard myself say I didn’t really know what to do with kielbasa except make a sheet pan meal with potatoes, but then I immediately remembered: hark! you can make jambalaya. I told my husband that I was probably going to make some kind of bastardized version, but he said that was okay, because he was kind of a bastard himself. Who among us.

Jambalaya is one of those things people get a little huffy about, but I myself feel that you should cook what tastes good to you, and as long as you’re not running up to first generation immigrants and saying “try it like this, stupid! It’s so much better my way!” then THERE IS NO PROBLEM. It’s food, food is for eating, boom. 

So here is my quickie whatever jambalaya, made with kielbasa and shrimp.

Jump to Recipe

I was planning to throw some leftover chicken in there, but I did ask the kids to clean out the fridge really thoroughly, and I forgot to specify to save the chicken. Well, it was completely delicious, really filling, and it was done in about 45 minutes, start to finish. Obviously you can adjust the spices as you see fit. 

MONDAY
Chicken cutlet sandwiches, fries

Monday was supposed to be chicken burger day, but I can only find frozen chicken burgers half the time these days. I blame Hunter Biden, for some reason. So I had a sudden memory of the delicious chicken cutlets my mother used to make, and that became the plan. 

I don’t even really have a recipe. I sliced chicken breasts lengthwise, dunked them in beaten egg with a little milk and salt and pepper, then dredged them in panko crumbs seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. Then I pan fried them in canola oil and melted butter. 

Much faster and tidier than whole pieces of fried chicken, like thighs or drumsticks. I easily could have served them as is, maybe with a lemon wedge, but I was already on a sandwich track, so I put out sliced cheese, sliced onions, and sliced tomatoes. I couldn’t find the aioli mayonnaise, so I just had regular, and it was scrumptious. 

I love things fried in panko crumbs. If you fried a socket wrench in panko crumbs, I would be like, “Ohh, it’s so fluffy and nice” and I would have seconds. The chicken stayed juicy, and it was just a tasty treat all around. I also bought some malt vinegar for the fries, and that was a hit. 

TUESDAY
Korean fried chicken, roast broccoli, rice, baked Alaska

This was our anniversary meal!  The baked Alaska, I already wrote about in excruciating detail yesterday Now we must talk about the meal we had, that Damien made. It was magnificent. 

He took a chance with a new recipe, and I think it was the best chicken I’ve ever had. It was one of those twice-fried recipes, with a sauce that dances around in your taste buds in three distinct phases. It has a crackly, crunchy skin and is coated in a sticky, sweet, gingery sauce that is just TRANSPORTATIVE. I can confidently say that it was totally worth all the time and energy Damien put into it.

Didn’t hurt my feelings at all that he spent the afternoon cooking and wearing the kilt I got him, either. Ahem.

The chicken recipe is from delish.com, and it also has a recommended side dish of large pieces of grilled broccoli in a hot garlicky sauce with parmesan, which Damien also made, and which was also fantastic.

I made a big pot of plain rice in the Instant Pot and man, what a feast.

It was really hard to stop eating. 

WEDNESDAY
Zuppa Toscana, french bread

Wednesday was supposed to be nacho day, but it was rainy and chilly and just begging for soup, so I complied. I made a big pot of Zuppa Toscana, which only has nine or ten ingredients (which is not a lot for soup) and is absolutely the soul of comfort and coziness. Mild sausage, red potatoes, cream, and kale.

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I had heavy cream left over from all the ice cream making, so I used that along with the half and half, and wow, it was rich. 

I was in a rush, so you can see I ended up putting the soup out before the kale was completely soft. It was cooked all the way, but it wasn’t noodle-soft. It wasn’t bad, just different! 

I also made four loaves of French bread. I was literally running around trying to get stuff done, and was trying to sell emergency raffle tickets that it suddenly turned out we had to unload twenty of before tomorrow, and we had to get to a soccer game, and I kept forgetting I was making bread, so it’s a miracle it turned out at all. This should be a testament to how easy this recipe is!

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The loaves were not terribly photogenic, and I suspect someone squonched one of them before I put it in the oven, and if I were on the Great British Baking Show and they really wanted me to produce four completely identical loaves, I would not have gotten a handshake

but man they tasted good! Piping hot from the oven, so perfect with the rich, creamy soup. 

I did run a little butter over the tops when they came out of the oven. The purpose of this is to make them more buttery. Look, I’m working on building up my neck fold. For winter. 

I also did the trick of throwing a few ice cubes into the oven along with the unbaked loaves, which is supposed to produce a cloud of steam, giving the bread a thin, fragile crust. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. This time it worked great. The inside was pillowy soft, and the crust absolutely shattered when I cut it.

Couldn’t be more pleased.

THURSDAY
Pork nachos

Didn’t have a super solid plan for this. I had a big bone-in pork shoulder, and put it in a shallow pan with a bunch of cider vinegar, then rubbed it with mustard and rubbed in a bunch of salt, garlic powder, a little chili powder, and lots of cumin, covered it loosely with tinfoil, and cooked it at 325 for several hours. 

Usually I will shred the meat and distribute it over the chips and melt cheese over it for nachos, but this time I made the chips and cheese separately (one pan with jalapeños, one without), and let people make their own choices about pork, which they appreciated. 

The best thing about this picture is that I labelled it “nacho table” and my phone was like, uh, no, ‘scuse me, that a macho navel.

FRIDAY
Kids are making tuna noodle, Damien and I are scooting away for a little day trip to round out anniversary week. Smell ya later! 

Oh, here’s some recipe cards for the week: 

bastardized jambalaya

completely inauthentic, just things that seem tasty to me

Ingredients

  • 2-3 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 rope jambalaya, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 5 stalks celery, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp oregano
  • 2 tbsp cajun seasoning
  • raw shrimp
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 5 cups raw brown or long grain rice
  • 10-oz can diced tomatoes with chilies

Instructions

  1. In a heavy pot, heat up the oil. Brown up the kielbasa. Add in the onions, celery, and green pepper and continue stirring and cooking over medium heat until the vegetables are somewhat soft.

  2. Add in the garlic and spices and cook a few minutes more. Add in the raw shrimp and stir.

  3. Pour in the chicken broth, rice, and tomatoes with any juice. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes or until rice is cooked.

Zuppa Toscana

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. sweet Italian sausages
  • 1-2 red onion(s), diced
  • 4 medium red potatoes, sliced thin with skin on
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 3 cups kale, chopped
  • 4 cups half and half
  • 9 cups chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • olive oil for cooking
  • pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour

Instructions

  1. Squeeze the sausage out of the casings. Saute it up in a little olive oil, breaking it into pieces as it cooks. When it's almost done, add the minced garlic, diced onion, and sliced potatoes. Drain off excess olive oil.

  2. When onions and potatoes are soft, add flour, stir to coat, and cook for another five minutes. 

  3. Add chicken broth and half and half. Let soup simmer all day, or keep warm in slow cooker or Instant Pot. 

  4. Before serving, add chopped kale (and sliced mushrooms, optional) and cook for another ten minutes (or set Instant Pot for three minutes) until kale and mushrooms are soft. Add pepper. Add salt if necessary, but the sausage and broth contribute salt already. 

  5. This makes a creamy soup. If you want it thicker, you can add a flour or cornstarch roux at the end and cook a little longer. 

French bread

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

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 314: The sound of stroganoff

Happy Friday! Before we go any further, I have to show you last Friday’s lo mein. I posted the WFS post before I made dinner, so there was no photo, but it turned out so good. I made the basic recipe but added shrimp, zucchini, yellow bell pepper, and matchstick ginger. 

Fabulous. Here’s the recipe in case you need it.

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Very easy and fast. I usually use fettuccine for the noodles, and that makes it cheap, too. I think I got everything at Aldi except the rice vinegar.

Okay, on to this week! Here’s what we had. 

SATURDAY
Burgers, chips

Not tired of burgers and chips yet. Especially when Damien cooks them outside. 

SUNDAY
Italian sandwiches, fries 

On Sunday we went apple picking, and then stopped at my parents’ graves to say a decade and plant a bunch of crocuses. Very glad to see the two rose bushes and the lilac tree I planted in the summer are still alive! 

Here’s a little album from Facebook because I’m lazy. 


 

Then we came home and had Italian sandwiches. I had mine with plenty of red pesto, yum yum.

Damien got an extra package of prosciutto for later in the week, as you shall see. I flubbed dessert (I had bought some Halloween-shaped rice krispie treat kits that you had to make and decorate spookily, which not even the kids felt like doing after a couple of hours in the car), but Damien had had the foresight to buy a sack of cider donuts at the orchard, which he put in the microwave for dessert, and they were delightful. I was feeling the teensiest bit emotionally bruised after the cemetery visit, and a hot sugary donut definitely helped. 

MONDAY
Oven fried chicken, roast butternut squash, apple hand pies

The fried chicken I made a few weeks ago was so very tasty, but such a pain in the pants, so I took the advice of my friend Patti and tried oven frying it. It was quite good, and so much easier. 

Early in a day, I let the chicken (drumsticks and thighs) soak in milk and eggs with salt and pepper. Then at dinner time, I put a few inches of melted butter and canola oil (half and half) in a couple of roasting pans in a 425-degree oven. While it was heating up, I rolled the chicken parts in flour seasoned with lots of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. I put the chicken in the pans, skin side down, and let it cook for about half an hour, then turned it and let it finish cooking for another fifteen minutes or so. 

Not quite as spectacularly crackly-crisp as pan fried chicken, but still crunchy and delicious, and moist and tasty inside. Will definitely do it this way again. 

I wasn’t able to fit all the chicken in the oven pans, so I pan fried the extras, got distracted, and burned the ever loving hell out it. Completely black. Then I turned it over and, just to be fair, did the same thing to the other side. Then I threw it away. 

I also made hand pies. Corrie loved the pumpkin empanadas from last week so much, and it made mornings so much easier when she had something tasty and homemade to grab for a car breakfast, so I decided to make pineapple empanadas with the rest of the Goya dough discs I bought. I’ll spare you the details, but I managed to ruin quite a lot of pineapple, and then light dawned on blockhead, and I realized we had 9,000 apples in the house. So I pulled out my lovely old fashioned apple peeler-corer-slicer and made apple empanadas, or really just little pies at this point. See my pies! See my pies!

Chicken and pies, Mr. Tweedy. 

The pie filling was apple sliced and dusted with flour and sprinkled with sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and a little butter. I forgot salt. I folded them into the dough, cut some vents, and brushed the tops with egg, then sprinkled them with sugar and cinnamon, and baked them on parchment paper at 375 for about half an hour. 

I’m not gonna lie, I was also doing a lot of running around and shouting and waving my arms about something completely unrelated to food, while I was making 20 pies, and ruining pineapple, and rolling chicken in flour, and burning it, and burning the other side, and snatching apple peels away from the dog, and so on. It is an actual miracle that I get dinner on the table every day, even when I’m not all worked up about something, which I was. It’s like a Greek tragedy in there every day, I don’t know what goes on. But eventually everything got cooked, and I had it in my head that we needed butternut squash, too, so I chopped that up, drizzled it with honey and olive oil, sprinkled it with kosher salt and chili powder, and broiled it until it was a little blistered, and I guess we had pie for supper and squash for dessert, I don’t know. ἔξοδος.

TUESDAY
Beef stroganoff

Yeah! Stroganoff! Someone, and I’m very sorry I don’t remember who, posted this on Twitter

and the vision that was planted in my brain/still remains./And I haaaaad/ to make stroganoff. 

I usually make stroganoff with ground beef, but honestly, it’s gotten so expensive that it was only like three dollars more to get a big hunk of roast. It’s called “budgeting,” sweaty. I followed the Deadspin recipe. These recipes are invariably delicious, but incredibly obnoxious, so I went ahead and made a card. 

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I was very busy on Tuesday, so I did all my chopping and slicing and mincing in the morning,

and when dinner came, it all came together in a flash. It’s very easy, and is a great way to furnish yourself with enough calories to survive an eighteen month siege.

First you lightly fry the sliced meat in butter

And I was very determined that this stroganoff would turn out tender, not tough, so I fried the meat very lightly indeed. Then you remove meat from the pan and fry up the onions in more butter, salt it, then add in the garlic 

then the mushrooms and tarragon and pepper.

This is the point where you add brandy if you have any, which I did not.

Then you put your meat back in, heat it up, blorp in an insane amount of sour cream, heat that up, adjust your salt, and that’s it. 

While you are cooking this, you boil up a pot of egg noodles, and you serve the stroganoff over noodles.

So delicious. My only disappointment was I didn’t taste the tarragon much. I don’t use tarragon often, so I was looking forward to it. Maybe I should have saved some out and used a bit to garnish the top and bring up the flavor a bit. We all have colds, though, so it’s a miracle we can taste anything.

WEDNESDAY
Pizza

Three pizzas, and I made the mistake of not making one plain cheese pizza. Oh, there was howling and complaining. I have heard the cries of my people, and next time I will make one plain cheese pizza. 

This time, I, monster, made one pepperoni, one mushroom and olive, and one prosciutto and arugula (that’s what the extra prosciutto was for. That’s called building suspense. Look it up, sweaty). That third pizza was just remarkable. Fresh little curls of parmesan frolicking on top, so nice.

First you make an arugula salad: A few handfuls of baby arugula, the juice of a small lemon, a few drizzles of olive oil, and kosher salt and pepper.

Then you make a normal cheese pizza but spread plenty of thinly-sliced raw garlic on it, and some fresh rosemary if you have it (which I did not), and drizzle a little olive oil over that, and give it a little salt and pepper. Bake as normal, and when it comes out, spread it with torn-up prosciutto, and top it with the arugula salad.

It’s so good, it almost makes me mad. What the hell is this? Why is it so delicious? Who comes up with this stuff? Gosh! 

THURSDAY
Kielbasa, potato, and Brussels sprouts

The kids were helping me make the shopping list on Saturday morning, and more than one shouted “Kielbasa!” They are prone to shouting things like “Kielbasa!” without meaning anything in particular by it, but I wrote it down anyway. But they were all pretty adamant that they didn’t want any cabbage, and they seemed to mean it. I don’t really know any kielbasa dishes besides the one-pan deal with potato, kielbasa, and cabbage, so I thought why not make the same basic thing but swap in Brussels sprouts, which people do like? 

It turns out lots of other people have had this idea, including the New York Times. I followed an uncharacteristically simple recipe by them (well, they sort of sheepishly suggested tossing some mustard seeds and almonds in there, but they admitted that it wasn’t really necessary), and it turned out fine. I’m a fool and didn’t save the recipe when it let me in for a free view, but it’s just a basic sheet pan deal with potatoes, some kind of sausage, and Brussels sprouts cooked with olive oil, salt, and pepper for a while, and then you toss it with a honey mustard dressing and continue cooking it. 

I used three ropes of kielbasa, two pounds of Brussels sprouts, and probably three pounds of potatoes (red would have been nice, but they were like a dollar a potato, so I just cut up some baking potatoes), and I think the honey mustard was four tablespoons of mustard and six tablespoons of honey. Something along those lines. 

So I cooked it at 425, I think, for about 25 minutes, I think, stirred it one time and then drizzled the honey mustard on and finished cooking it, then pulled it out about twenty minutes later

I guess the almonds would have been pretty good, and it would have been good to use dijon mustard instead of cheapo yellow mustard, but it was fine as it was, and it certainly was easy. Maybe a tiny bit dry.

I think next time I will make extra honey mustard sauce for a little dipping after it’s cooked. 

The original plan was to make King Arthur hot pretzels to go with this meal, but there was nothing anywhere near enough time for that. Next time! 

Come to think of it, I do know another kielbasa meal: Jambalaya. Ooh, it’s been quite a while. I think I’ll make that next week. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

Just whatever. 

And now! Next Tuesday is our twenty-fifth anniversary! We will be going out for a little outing at a later date, but for the day itself, we thought it would be fun to just cook a nice meal for the family. We like cooking together, as long as we’re not too rushed. 

Damien is probably going to make Korean fried chicken, which is guaranteed scrumptious, and I am thinking of making a baked Alaska, probably with strawberry, coconut, and mango ice cream. You’re supposed to spread softened ice cream onto the cake in layers and let it freeze, so that will work well with homemade ice cream, which comes out of the machine soft anyway. 

I have had baked Alaska only once, in 8th grade when our French class went to Quebec and were horribly obnoxious to everyone in the entire hotel and city and country the whole time, but never so much as when they wheeled out the baked Alaska. I am very sketchy on the details besides that everyone was screaming, especially my friend Becky, so if anyone has any more useful details or experience with baked Alaska, please share! We do have a small blow torch. It seems like the individual components are easy, and it’s mainly a matter of starting well in advance, sticking to the plan, and not panicking, and that’s how you earn the moment where you set it all on fire. Kind of like,,,, twenty five years of marriage.

Anyway, I may get someone else to make the cake part, because I’m not great with cake. I’m good with ice cream, though. And setting things on fire. 

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

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

for the rest

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

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

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

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

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

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

Deadspin beef stroganoff

The tastiest, coziest, most calorific cold weather comfort food known to mankind. You can make this with ground beef, but it's so good with thin, tender slices of beef. Please don't ask me what cut of beef to use, as I don't know.

Calories 500000000 kcal

Ingredients

  • 2-3 lbs beef, sliced into thin, flat pieces
  • 4-6 Tbsp butter
  • 2 medium onions, diced or sliced thin
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup red wine (optional)
  • 16 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • bunch fresh tarragon, minced (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • 32 oz sour cream
  • egg noodles that you will need to cook while you are making the stroganoff

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, melt most of the butter and cook the beef pieces very lightly, until they are just a little brown but still partially pink.

  2. Remove the beef from the pan, put the remaining butter in, and put the onion in, and cook it until it's slightly soft. Sprinkle it with salt, stir, and add in the garlic and cook for another few minutes.

  3. If you are adding wine, splash that in. Add in the mushrooms, tarragon, and pepper, and continue cooking until the mushrooms are soft and fragrant.

  4. Add the beef and any juices back into the pan with the mushrooms, and heat it up. Stir in the sour cream and continue stirring and heating.

  5. Add salt if necessary, and serve stroganoff over hot egg noodles.