What’s for supper? Vol. 367: I knead you so badly

Happy Friday! We’ve been eating a little too well for Lent. Don’t tell my bishop. Or, actually go ahead and tell him. I went and got fired from the diocesan magazine already last week, so do your worst. (I don’t really know why it happened, other than that I am annoying. It’s fine. Something else always turns up, and I can go be annoying to a slightly different subset of readers, inshallah.)

Anyway, here’s what we had this week, which was February vacation for most of the kids:  

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips

Usually, for grilled cheese, I buy a few loaves of sourdough bread that comes in very large pieces, but they were out of them at Aldi, so I got some pleasant-looking Italian loaves that seemed likely. Dinner time comes along, I open the bag, and here is what the individual slices look like:

and I’m like, huh. Possibly I’m a pervert, but this feels slightly awkward. Maybe they will look more normal if I put mayonnaise on them

Ah well, we’ll just call it theology of the body and fry ’em up. 

Yes, they all looked like this. 

So everyone got one and we also had pickles and let us never speak of this again. Definitely not to the bishop. 

SUNDAY
40 garlic whole chickens, orzo al limone

I have mentioned in the past how allergic I am to cooking whole chickens, because we had them SO often when we were super poor and they used to be like 49 cents a pound, and I just feel so gloomy and oppressed by whole chickens now. But I’m trying really hard to shop the sales, so I made a tremendous penitential Lenten effort and bought two whole chickens for cheap, which I prepared using this recipe for 40 garlic clove chickens

You melt butter and oil in a dutch oven and brown the chickens on all sides, take out the chicken and drain off some of the fat, and stir in the garlic cloves. Yes, we peeled 80 cloves of garlic.

In fact, it was after we peeled about 65 cloves of garlic that I more carefully read the recipe I was going to use, and discovered that it calls for unpeeled garlic. So I quickly switched to the recipe I linked above, which doesn’t specify. No, I will not read to the end of a recipe before starting it! You can’t make me!!

So then you put the chicken back in along with a little water, and lemon juice, salt, thyme (it calls for dried but I had fresh), and pepper, cover the dutch oven, and bake it in the oven for 90 minutes.  I don’t actually have a dutch oven, so I browned the chicken in a pot and then transferred it to a giant oven pan, covered it with tinfoil, and then put a second pan on top. 

Good enough! When I opened it up, the chickens were [Danny Kaye doing his drooling Clever Gretel voice] nicely cooked

I cooked them breast-side-down in “humble frog” position, because I knew the skin wasn’t going to be the star of this chicken anyway, and I really wanted the meat to be juicy. It was not the most visually stunning chicken I have ever met, but it was extremely juicy and full of flavor. I actually used quite a bit more lemon juice than it called for, and I have no regrets.

Before I made the chicken, I started on the orzo. I was using this recipe from delish, and if it sounds tasty to you (and it will), I recommend taking a screenshot, because they limit how many free page views you get. I assemble the ingredients and knew this would be a winner. Just look:

It’s basically the same as risotto. Sauté some garlic, then lemon zest, and oops, I threw my chives in there too soon 

then add your orzo with salt and pepper and toast it a bit. Then you add chicken broth, a bit at a time, so the orzo slowly absorbs it.

Yeah man. 

When it’s cooked, stir in the cheese (it called for Pecorino Romano, but I had parmesan) and the parsley, lemon juice, and chives. 

I actually cooked the orzo first and then put it in the slow cooker, and then got to work on the chicken.

They were SO nice together. 

Some asparagus or spinach would have put this meal over the top, but it was pretty great as it was. The cloves of garlic were as soft as boiled potatoes, so what I did was just fork-mash them onto my chicken 

and we were all in garlic heaven. “We” being the chicken and the orzo and me. 

The orzo is amazing. I loved it so much. It was rich and creamy and cozy, but also piquant and sharp with the garlic and lemon and herbs. Some of the kids did not like the texture, probably because they are used to risotto and it’s not the same. But Damien and I thought it was great. 

On Sunday, I also did some winter sowing, which is something I only recently discovered. The idea is that you can start seeds outdoors in late winter even if it’s cold and snowy out, because you’re planting in milk jugs that act as little greenhouses; and then when the frost is past and your seedlings are big enough to transplant into the ground, you don’t have to harden them off, because they’re already acclimated. I have never successfully hardened seedlings off, because I take it too personally and all I can think is that nobody ever carried me in and out and in and out because my little leafies might get cold. 

You cut the milk jugs about four inches up from the bottom, leaving the last bit intact for a hinge. Fill the bottom with seed starter material, plant your seeds, water, and put the top back and tape it shut. That’s it. 

I was delighted to find a sack of seed starter I had bought on clearance last year, so I got out my saved seed stash and did three jugs of eggplants, three of pumpkin, and two butternut squash; and I did two jugs of morning glories for my friend Millie, who is in the nursing home again. And I got some more spiles and tubing for maple sugaring! But I used up all the milk jugs, so we have to build up some more supply before I can get going on that.

MONDAY
Spicy chicken sandwiches, fruit salad

Monday I went to see Millie in the morning. If you could keep her in your prayers, please, I’d appreciate it! She’s going to be 90 the first week in March and she’s hoping to be able to get back to her house and garden soon. 

I had some boneless, skinless chicken thighs I had stashed in the freezer when they were on sale a few weeks ago, and I made these wonderful sandwiches that everybody likes. They come together really fast. You just season the chicken thighs with Cajun seasoning — actually I used Tony Chachere’s, which is creole, but close enough — and then pan fry them on both sides. While they are cooking, you cut up some shishito peppers (just cut the tops off) and slice some red onions. When the chicken is done, you blister up the peppers in another pan, and lay some American cheese on top of the chicken and put a lid on it so it melts. 

(I didn’t actually cook the chicken this close together; I used two pans, and then transferred the chicken to one pan for the cheese treatment.)

Layer the chicken, peppers, and onions on brioche buns, with BBQ sauce top and bottom. Boom, amazing sandwich.

I just love this sandwich because it’s so SIMPLE. One bottle of spice, one step with the peppers, easy sliced cheese, bottled sauce. You really couldn’t improve it if you made it complicated and fiddly (although I’m sure Sam Sifton would like to try). 

You can see that I made a fruit salad, which we haven’t had for a while. Strawberries, blueberries, grapes, and kiwis. Nice to have some color. 

TUESDAY
Beef barley soup, french bread

Beef was on sale, so I got a likely-looking hunk and made some soup. Garlic, onion, and carrots, chunks of beef, tomatoes, beef broth, mushrooms, and barley, and plenty of pepper. So good. 

Jump to Recipe

This is the soup I sometimes make in my head when I can’t sleep. 

While that was simmering, I thought it was high time to test out my lovely new marble countertop, which I purposely installed lower than the rest of the counter, to make it easier to knead dough. (I’m kind of short; I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this.)

IT WAS PERFECT. Made such a difference. I never realized I was struggling with dough on the higher countertop, but now that I have a lower one, it was so much easier. 

Here is the simple french bread recipe I use:

Jump to Recipe

It makes four long loaves — or, in this case, three long ones and three shorties, because I was sending some food over to one of the kids. 

I do love rolling the loaves out. Zoop!

Then I set them for a second rise and managed to drop BOTH pans as I was moving them, so they got kind of wadded up, but they baked up well enough. 

They had a really nice thin little shattering crust on the outside, and they were soft and tender on the inside. Good stuff. 

So we had the soup and the bread

and at this point I’m just dragging the narrative out because I have more pictures. 

And now I’m done!

WEDNESDAY
Korean beef bowl, rice, raw veg, crunchy rice rolls

Wednesday we had a bunch of errands – haircuts and what have you – and I started supper late, but it was a quickie: Good old Korean Beef Bowl. I had bought extra ground beef when it was on sale for the Super Bowl, and this is a fast, easy recipe, even if you do go for fresh garlic and fresh ginger, which I did. 

Jump to Recipe

So I put the cooked beef in the slow cooker, and made some rice in the instant pot, cut up some cucumbers and took out the packages of crunchy rice rolls I had been saving. 

Tasty little meal. The beef has sesame seeds and chopped scallions for garnishes. I don’t know why I feel the need to point that out, but there you are. 

On Wednesday I cut up the leftover chicken and made a simple chicken salad (just mayo, I think maybe lemon juice or cider vinegar, salt and pepper, celery, and green apple), and then I made soup with the rest of the carcasses, just so as not to waste it. I had a brainwave and realized I could freeze it all and get a jump start on Passover cooking this year! I really hate making the chicken soup some years, so I’m delighted to have this already done. I will need to add parsley and dill, but it already has the chicken, carrots, celery, and onion in it

THURSDAY
Pizza

The kids had mainly been playing board games all week (including Dixit, which was a Christmas present, and turned out to be a hit) for vacation week, but I did promise/threaten a trip to an art museum; so five of the kids and I went to the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester. Great stuff. Admission is reasonable (one adult, two students, two youth, and a kid got in for $35) and their descriptive cards are good, providing enough context and explanation to help you see, but without leading you too much. They have a really solid, varied collection for a small museum.

Interesting things happening in the contemporary art world! There is still a certain amount of “hoo HOO, I bet THIS transgressive bit of plastic really pushes your conventional little buttons, DOESN’T IT??” getting churned out, but also some far more interesting stuff. (Yes, I realize I opened this post with some penis sandwiches, so maybe I should shut my yap about who’s childishly transgressive. On the other hand, they were just sandwiches.) I was especially taken with two large works by Kara Walker, who will have an entire exhibit there soon, but there were other thoughtful, skilled, intriguing, moving contemporary pieces as well. I shared a few images on Facebook:

It is a small museum, so we did a thorough tour in two hours. Then we hit a few thrift stores just for fun, and then we got pizza and talked about art. Lovely day with my lovely kids. On the way there, they played an ice breaker game (“If you were an animal, what kind would you be? What is your favorite movie” etc.), but they played as different characters, so everyone had to guess who they were. Let me tell you, if we had run out of gas, we could have made it home under the sheer white hot heat of the quantity of in-jokes flying around. I had no idea what was going on, but they had fun. 

FRIDAY
Tilapia tacos and guacamole

I don’t really have a solid plan for this fish, but I’m tired of having it in my freezer. It was on clearance at Walmart quite some time ago, and I don’t want to look at it anymore. Hoping the avocados I got aren’t totally overripe by now. 

And I need to make a cake! A Squirtle cake! For tomorrow is Corrie’s birthday party. It’s going to be Pokémon-themed, and Sophia is making a treasure hunt and Irene is making a piñata. This has honestly been one of our nicest February vacations, despite some trials which, nay, I shan’t mention. Love seeing my kids enjoy being with each other. 

My other thing is that I’m a little frustrated with yoga lately, partially because I managed to injure both knees (one by falling on the ice, one by doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING; the little fucker just started hurting for no reason, and now I go up and down stairs looking like I imagine Strega Nona would, on stairs), so I have started pilates. I kind of hate it, but it keeps my attention because you have to be SO SPECIFIC about what muscles you’re using, so at least it’s not boring. I did one random class on YouTube and then I found this lady, Banks (that’s how she refers to herself, as “Banks”), and I have done three of her thirty-minute core classes for beginners. Tough stuff, but I’m hanging on. She is very specific about what you’re supposed to be doing and how it’s supposed to feel, which I appreciate, and she’s not especially annoying. So, now you know everything I 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. 

 

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.

 

Korean Beef Bowl

A very quick and satisfying meal with lots of flavor and only a few ingredients. Serve over rice, with sesame seeds and chopped scallions on the top if you like. You can use garlic powder and powdered ginger, but fresh is better. The proportions are flexible, and you can easily add more of any sauce ingredient at the end of cooking to adjust to your taste.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar (or less if you're not crazy about sweetness)
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 inches fresh ginger, minced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-4 lb2 ground beef
  • scallions, chopped, for garnish
  • sesame seeds for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, cook ground beef, breaking it into bits, until the meat is nearly browned. Drain most of the fat and add the fresh ginger and garlic. Continue cooking until the meat is all cooked.

  2. Add the soy sauce, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes the ground beef and stir to combine. Cook a little longer until everything is hot and saucy.

  3. Serve over rice and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 364: Char who?

In haste! In haste! I am running out to buy a new (to me) cabinet and countertop from Facebook Marketplace. Where will it go? There are several reasonable possibilities, but I have my eye on this spot:

which is . . . fine. I JUST cleaned the floor a couple days ago, and it already looks like this again because of that huge gap, and there is an immobile piece of wood that makes it really hard to get pans in and out, and the open shelves mean everything is constantly filthy, and the whole thing wobbles, and SO ON. But it’s fine. 

The countertop itself is also kind of

. . .not the worst thing I have ever seen. HOWMEVER, I am pretty excited about the new piece! A cherry cabinet WITH DOORS and little sliding drawers on the shelves, and a marble countertop. Don’t tell me anything bad about marble. I cannot hear it right now. Tell me later. 

Okay, here’s what we ate this week!

SATURDAY
Turkey wraps, hot pretzels

Slightly weird combination of things that we either happened to have, or happened to be on sale: Turkey, salami, capicola, some kind of cheese, and lettuce. 

I guess that’s not actually that weird. I had mine with ranch dressing and it was pretty tasty. The wraps are allegedly spinach-flavored, but this was not discernible. 

SUNDAY
Jambalaya, corn bread

Kielbasa was on sale and I found a bag of shrimp in the freezer, and I thought there might be leftover chicken in the fridge. There turned out not to be, but I made the jambalaya anyway

Jump to Recipe

which is my own cobbled-together recipe, and is reasonably spicy and easy. I did start out with the “holy trinity” of onions, pepper, and celery, and here’s that with the kielbasa and shrimp added: 

Purty. 

I had a little corn meal, so I made a corn bread just following the recipe on the bag: 

Que bella luna!

Then I finished up the jambalaya and took a rather arty photo of it:

It was a little dry, but not bad. 

MONDAY
Bagel, egg, and cheese sandwiches with sausages, OJ

What’s not to like? 

and yes, American cheese is the correct cheese for this meal. 

TUESDAY
Oven fried chicken, mashed potatoes, terrible kale

Oven fried chicken delights again. I got the thighs and drumsticks soaking in milk, egg, and salt in the morning, and made a bunch of mashed potatoes and put them in the slow cooker to stay warm. Then I tried to figure out what the third thing would be. I settled on kale cooked in the manner of collard greens

This . . . should have worked. I sauteed up the garlic and onions and spices and added in the cider vinegar, and then started stuffing in the kale

and then I stirred in the broth and liquid smoke. Then my Instant Pot had a fit, and started exploding steam (I just about caca’d myself, let me tell you) and then started burning, so I had some doubts about how it would come out. I think it could have survived those things, but I made some kind of fatal error with measuring, and it tasted FOUL. Hard to believe, when it has such an exquisite appearance, I know:

but take my word for it, it was disgusting. It tasted like rotten greens soaked in penny juice, with gym socks. Bleh.  

However, the oven fried chicken turned out great. Did I put the recipe yet? Here it is:

Jump to Recipe

then seasoned the flour and dredged the soaked chicken in in. I put a pan in the oven with the oil and butter. I took a picture of this for some reason, so here’s that: 

and then you just lay the chicken down in the heated-up pan, and you have to turn it one time, but otherwise it just takes care of itself

Comes out really nice. Crisp skin, juicy meat. What’s not to like. 
The potatoes were good, too. I took this picture before I realized what I was in for, kale-wise:

Can’t win ’em all. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken burgers, guacamole and chips

I had a bunch of avocados I had bought for the wraps, but they weren’t ripe, so I made some guacamole

Jump to Recipe

and picked up some tortilla chips.

Boop, dinner. 

THURSDAY
Cheater char siu . . . bowls? 

I don’t know what to call this. The plan was bibimbap, but I just had this hunk of pork without a specific recipe in mind, and Thursday instantly revealed itself to b a crazy-go-nuts day. So I threw the pork in the Instant Pot along with this easy sauce I invented

Jump to Recipe

and cooked it for I think 25 minutes. I also cut up some cucumbers, dished up some raw sugar snap peas, and quick-pickled some carrots. 
Here’s my recipe for quick-pickled vegetables

Jump to Recipe

but I was rushing too much to look it up, so I did a cup of white vinegar, a cup of water, and probably 1/4 cup white sugar, and it turned out fine. 

I won’t bore you with the details, but we had an insane afternoon (the low point was me yelling into the phone in the hospital lobby, “Well, they must have somebody else’s blood, then!” [they didn’t]), so I asked Damien to take the meat out of the IP and start some rice cooking; and when I got home, I sliced/shredded the meat and put it in a pan on the stove along with most of the sauce, and simmered and stirred it until the sauce thickened up and coated the meat

it took probably 25 minutes. Would have gotten thicker and stickier if I had kept going, but everyone was hungry! I fried up some eggs for anyone who wanted one (including the dog, because we’ve had some sharp words lately, and I had regrets).

For an insane day, it was a really good meal!

I don’t know what it was, exactly, but I’m not going to argue with a hot bowl of tasty things. 

FRIDAY
Pizza

Oh, and Corrie’s box turtle came! In the mail! He’s just a baby, and is about the size of a half dollar.

This is her early birthday present, and she was and is absolutely smitten.

His name is Captain Cheez Whiz. 

Here he is getting a tender and loving bath:

He’s surprisingly charming! He marches around intrepidly and is quite alert and bright-eyed, and when he gets tired, he just goes into his corner and buries himself. We all agreed that he may be onto something. 

Okay! That’s it! 

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.

 

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. 

Oven-fried chicken

so much easier than pan frying, and you still get that crisp skin and juicy meat

Ingredients

  • chicken parts (wings, drumsticks, thighs)
  • milk (enough to cover the chicken at least halfway up)
  • eggs (two eggs per cup of milk)
  • flour
  • your choice of seasonings (I usually use salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, and chili powder)
  • oil and butter for cooking

Instructions

  1. At least three hours before you start to cook, make an egg and milk mixture and salt it heavily, using two eggs per cup of milk, so there's enough to soak the chicken at least halfway up. Beat the eggs, add the milk, stir in salt, and let the chicken soak in this. This helps to make the chicken moist and tender.

  2. About 40 minutes before dinner, turn the oven to 425, and put a pan with sides into the oven. I use a 15"x21" sheet pan and I put about a cup of oil and one or two sticks of butter. Let the pan and the butter and oil heat up.

  3. While it is heating up, put a lot of flour in a bowl and add all your seasonings. Use more than you think is reasonable! Take the chicken parts out of the milk mixture and roll them around in the flour until they are coated on all sides.

  4. Lay the floured chicken in the hot pan, skin side down. Let it cook for 25 minutes.

  5. Flip the chicken over and cook for another 20 minutes.

  6. Check for doneness and serve immediately. It's also great cold.

Quick Chinese "Roast" Pork Strips

If you have a hankering for those intensely flavorful strips of sweet, sticky Chinese roast pork but you don't want to use the oven for some reason, this works well, and you can have it in about an hour and a half, start to finish. You will need to use a pressure cooker and then finish it on the stovetop.

Ingredients

  • 4+ lbs pork roast

For sauce:

  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup oyster sauce
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp Chinese five spice

Instructions

  1. Blend all sauce ingredients together. Put the pork in the Instant Pot, pour the sauce over it, close the lid, close the valve, and set to high pressure for 22 minutes.

  2. When pork is done, vent. Remove pork and cut into strips, saving the sauce.

  3. Put the pork in a large sauté pan with the sauce and heat on medium high, stirring frequently, for half an hour or more, until sauce reduces and becomes thick and glossy and coats the meat.

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

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

Ingredients

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

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

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

Instructions

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

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

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 363: Do you reject garlic and all their little paperwork?

Happy Friday! Happy February, finally! Let’s get hoppin.

SATURDAY
Beer brats, fries

Saturday and Sunday were unusually busy for us. I went to one of Danielle Bean’s very fine You Are Enough day retreats in Plymouth and got home in the late afternoon, so I didn’t have time to shop. Damien bought and made beer brats (brats boiled in beer and onions and then grilled), which we haven’t had in quite some time. Yum yum. 

A retreat! A long chat with my friend! A dinner made by someone else! What a Saturday. 

SUNDAY
Hamburgers, chips

Sunday we had a QUITE long family “retreat” for the faith formation. Our parish has switched to the family model, which means that the parents come in for regular lecture and discussion sessions, and then we go home and teach our kids; and there are also all-family events. It’s good stuff, and I see the benefit, especially when there are parishioners coming from all different backgrounds and different levels of . . . having been catechized. (I can’t figure out how to say that better.) But man, some of the events are long. 

So we did get home late, but Damien had had the foresight to make burger patties the night before. So I just broiled them up, so that was easy. 

I was going to clear off the island for this picture, but this is how it be. 

MONDAY
Smoked pork ribs, coleslaw, salad, loaded baked potatoes; king cakes

Monday we had a GUEST. Fr. Matthew from Louisiana, who comes for an annual visit while visiting family up north. I briefly considered making an authentic Louisiana meal, but I remembered the video where Gordon Ramsey confidently gives some pad Thai to an actual Thai chef.

and I don’t need anybody looking at me like that, even internally. So Damien dug out the smoker and made some of those luscious ribs, which I would defend with my life no matter where you’re from.

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He smoked them for about five hours and then finished them in the oven. I baked a bunch of potatoes and kept them warm in the crock pot, which I forgot you could do. I mean, then I remembered, and I did it. I served them with crumbled bacon, shredded pepper jack cheese, sour cream, and scallions. I also made some simple coleslaw and a nice salad.

When we were eating. Fr. Matt (who loved the ribs) asked what I call the coleslaw. I said “coleslaw.” He said okay, because he was once at a Mardi Gras dinner where they served something they were calling “Authentic Louisiana Cabbage Salad,” and he wanted to know if I had ever heard of such a thing. I had not! But that’s why I decided not to make gumbo or étouffée or something! I know my limits!

OR DO I. I decided to make a couple of king cakes, because I asked around and learned that, even in New Orleans, there are a million variations, and sometimes real live cajuns will make king cake out of refrigerated cinnamon rolls.

So I made a triple recipe of just the dough for Alton Brown’s Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (which is the recipe I use at Christmas every year, so I know it turns out well) and also a triple recipe of just the cream cheese filling from this King Arthur king cake recipe. I divided the dough into two and rolled each one into a long rectangle. 

The first one, I made a very long, thin rectangle and just spread the cream cheese filling down the middle of it, and then sprinkled a bunch of brown sugar and cinnamon on top of that. Then I just sort of rolled it up into a big tube with the cream cheese in the middle and pinched the long seam shut, and uncomfortably wrestled the whole thing onto a greased pan and squashed the two open ends together, so it was a ring shape, sort of. It was leaky as heck and not round in any meaningful way. 

I was getting pretty strong “this can’t possibly be the way to do it” alarms in my head, but without any accompanying “you should actually look up how to do it” signals; so for the other cake, I rolled a less skinny rectangle, spread on the rest of the cream cheese filling and the contents of a can of strawberry pie filling I found, and then rolled it up in a spiral like I do with cinnamon rolls. This one, I rolled out on parchment paper, so I carefully squashed the open ends together and then just slid the whole thing on the paper onto a pan. This one was more respectable looking. 

I covered the cakes and refrigerated overnight, and took them out in the morning to get up to room temperature; and then I baked them at 350 for . . . a while. I lost track of how long they were in there, because I was so nervous they’d be doughy and underbaked, I kept adding 3-4 minutes. Probably 35 minutes all together. 

Then when they came out, I poured cream cheese icing over them and sprinkled on some colored sugar-sprinkles. The icing was not exactly a recipe, because I forgot to buy powdered sugar, so I ended up just whipping up a bunch of sugar, a little butter, some vanilla extract and a little lemon juice, a tiny bit of salt, and then a bunch of warmed-up cream cheese when I realized it was too runny. They came out so pretty!

The center of the ring disappeared, though, and it was really just a big dome that was kind of crinkly in the middle. To my vast relief, though, both cakes were thoroughly baked. 

ctually a little over-baked, as you can see by the browned bottom. But the somewhat dry crumb was rescued by the abundance of creamy filling, which was delicious. The spiral-rolled one didn’t turn out discernibly better than the one that was just a stuffed snake, except that the shape was a little more regular. 

So now I know how to make very respectable king cakes! At the last minute, I remembered to shove some “babies” in (what we could find was a couple of plastic figurines on loan from Elijah). We didn’t find them until the next day.

I guess traditionally, whoever gets the baby has to buy next year’s king cake, and I’m the one who found it anyway, so I suppose that can be arranged. Definitely one of those things that I got all worked up over for no particular reason. But with a happy ending, because we had cake. 

TUESDAY
Walmart pizza

Oh no, it was Tuesday and I still hadn’t gone shopping! I got some pizzas from Walmart because I developed a sudden aversion to going to Aldi.

WEDNESDAY
Nachos

On Wednesday I dropped off the van at the mechanic and was astonished to discover that I still hadn’t gone shopping? So I took Damien’s car and went to Aldi and did shopping for one day, because apparently I was determined to save myself the trouble of going shopping, and instead wanted to go shopping. 

For nachos, I usually make 2/3 spicy meat and 1/3 plain, in two separate pans; and I got two bags of “hint of lime” tortilla chips, and one bag plain. But then I was seized with a sudden doubt, and had a long, inadvisable, circular conversation with the kids about whether a desire for spicy meat matched up with a desire for seasoned chips, and if so, how many people experienced that desire, and if not, how many people felt strongly about not experiencing that desire, and so on. I’m not exactly a people pleaser, but I don’t like getting yelled at about nachos, so I really tried to narrow in on what they wanted. I was starting to get a pretty clear picture about what I should do, when the chief kid I was interrogating said, “Actually, I don’t like nachos.”

So I ran them over with my van! Just kidding, the van is in the shop. I made two pans of nachos, with jalapeños on the spicy meat and lime chip one

and ate mine in the kitchen.

Then I ate the last piece of king cake. 

THURSDAY
Chicken shawarma

Thursday, you’ll never guess what I did: I went shopping. But this time, I, genius, bought enough food for TWO days. We had chicken shawarma on Thursday, with pita, yogurt sauce, olives, feta, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

I was in a bit of a rush while I made the marinade, and my recipe

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calls for crushing an entire head of garlic. Which is fine if you have nice garlic with big, swollen cloves and loose skins. But what I had was that triflin’ little shrinky dink garlic from Aldi, which has puny, miniature cloves and tight, sticky skin. Then I remembered it was my kitchen and I could do whatever I want, so I put the head of garlic in a mug with about half a cup of water, microwaved it for two minutes, and then just pulled that garlic right out of its skin. It’s not really cooked, but it’s soft and loose that way. Then I put the skinned cloves in a sandwich bag and beat the hell out of them with a meat tenderizer. And that’s how you do it when nobody is looking. 

Oh, the title comes from a funny tweet I saw 

and that’s how I always think of it now. Sometimes it can be a satisfying, meditative little task; sometimes you just don’t have time for all the effing paperwork. (Yes, I know you can crush garlic with the skin on, and then pick the skin out, but I hate and resent doing this, for reasons I can’t really explain.) 

Then I remembered I also needed to put garlic in the yogurt sauce, as well, so I was like HEY GARLIC POWDER EXISTS. 

Anyway, the meat turned out great

and everyone was happy

Really no way to be unhappy with a plate like this. 

FRIDAY
Tuna noodle

This was actually Damien’s idea, even though he not only dislikes tuna noodle, he can’t stand the smell of it. But I did manage to buy the ingredients yesterday, so at least nobody has to go to the fwiggin store. As I write, the plan is for him to make himself a grilled cheese, but maybe I can pull rank and insist on some supermarket sushi or something. OR, I think there is a bag of shrimp in the freezer. So we shall see. 

I just remembered I also have a ton of egg whites in the fridge. The cinnamon bun recipe called for an awful lot of egg yolks, and I didn’t want to just throw the whites away. How long would you trust egg whites to keep in the fridge, and what should I do with them? Maybe a pavlova. Maybe a SHRIMP pavlova. Maybe I’ll ask Gordon Ramsey what he thinks.

sugar smoked ribs

the proportions are flexible here. You can adjust the sugar rub to make it more or less spicy or sweet. Just pile tons of everything on and give it puh-lenty of time to smoke.

Ingredients

  • rack pork ribs
  • yellow mustard
  • Coke
  • extra brown sugar

For the sugar rub:

  • 1-1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp white pepper

Instructions

  1. Coat the ribs in yellow mustard and cover them with sugar rub mixture

  2. Smoke at 225 for 3 hours

  3. Take ribs out, make a sort of envelope of tin foil and pour Coke and brown sugar over them. close up the envelope.

  4. Return ribs to smoker and cook another 2 hours.

  5. Remove tinfoil and smoke another 45-min.

  6. Finish on grill to give it a char.

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.

What’s for supper? Vol. 362: Add sugar and stir

Happy Friday! I just ordered oil (we are out), set up a car inspection (it is trash), started some evaluation forms for some of the kids (just plain nuts), and I bought new batteries for my hungry hungry ClearBlue monitor, and wrote a RATHER DIRE scripture reflection about how if you are faithless, your children are gonna get burned up in demon fire; so I’m all ready to have a nice weekend now. How are you? I’m thinking of getting into winter sowing. I know there will be flowers because I’m planting seeds blah blah blah. Well, there will be squash, anyway. And I just got new glasses, and I feel like someone cleaned out my tank. 

We had some decent food this week. One new recipe and a few variations on old recipes. Read on, and please applaud for how much leftover food I thriftily used up!

SATURDAY
Rotisserie chicken and pizza rolls for kids; Mexican food for grownups

First, before getting thrifty, we all needed a little break, so I got some kid-pleasers for the kids, and Damien and I went to the local Señor Tadpole’s, where we were seated quickly, but they seemed to be a bit understaffed. About half an hour later the waitress brought over my taster’s plate and part of Damien’s order, and nervously explained that someone else had taken his fajita.

Which was unfortunate, because he had actually ordered a chimichanga. ANYWAY, eventually he got his food, and fellas, let me tell you something: A hungry man being kind and patient and understanding toward a harassed waitress is a really good way to impress a lady, for instance your wife. 

SUNDAY
Chicken cutlet sandwiches, chips

The plan for Sunday was caprese chicken burgers, easy peasy lemon squeezy; but they were out of chicken burgers, difficult difficult lemon difficult. But chicken breasts were on sale, and I was determined not to blow the budget this week, so I somewhat grumpily bought some chicken breasts, sliced them, pounded them flat, egged and breaded them, and oven fried them. 

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They turned out good, maybe a little greasier than I would like.  

Actually I tried a slightly different technique this time. I was a little short on breadcrumbs, and I was afraid the chicken might be bland; so rather than seasoning the breadcrumbs, I heavily seasoned the meat itself, and sort of massaged it in with a rubber spatula. Then I dipped it quickly in the egg mixture so the seasonings would stay on, and breaded it.

It worked great! I don’t know if it would work with chicken that has the skin on, which is what I usually use for oven frying; but chicken breast, especially if it’s been tenderized with a mallet, is basically a sponge for flavor, so why not. Get them spices in there.

I sliced up a bunch of baguettes and served the chicken with sliced tomatoes and basil, sliced cheese, and olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and it was a pretty popular meal. 

MONDAY
Japanese chicken thighs, sesame broccoli, rice 

I have this nice recipe for yakitori chicken, which is pieces of saucy chicken on a skewer. I had a bunch of thighs and definitely didn’t feel like de-boning it and threading it on sticks, but I did pull the skin off and make this lovely, easy sauce.

I divided the sauce, and coated the chicken in some of it and broiled it, and used a bit more to brush on when it was halfway cooked. I added sesame seeds and chopped scallions when it came out of the oven.

Savory, sweet and sticky, and really good! I sure wish I had thought to line the pan with parchment paper, though. But the chicken came out moist and delicious. I’ve made this recipe with the chicken grilled outside, and that’s even better; but the broiler did a pretty good job. 

The other part of the sauce, that I saved out, I put into the amazing gravy boat/pitcher/pouring vessel Clara made for me. Check it out:

But wait, check out the inside:

Boogie boogie boogie! I heartily recommend having artistic children with ancient tastes, to dress up your Japanese chicken. 

 

 

I made a tray of quick sesame broccoli

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and it was a good little meal, with just a little prep work and tons of flavor. 

The sauce was really great on the rice and broccoli, too. I may make a big batch of it and just keep it on hand for all-purpose Asian use. 

TUESDAY
Pork meatball soup, fried rice, steamed buns

Tuesday, I was set to give blood, so I did my cooking in the morning. I’m sorry if this is pushy and obnoxious, but PLEASE GIVE BLOOD IF YOU CAN GIVE BLOOD. There’s a horrible shortage and there’s just . . . not a substitute for blood. 

Anyway, I took the leftover pork dumpling filling out of the freezer, where I put it on New Year’s Eve. Here’s the pork dumpling recipe, and I discovered that if you forget to drain the extra moisture out of the cabbage, it still turns out fine, so you can probably skip that step. Just another service I provide by being dumb!

So I had decided I didn’t have time to make dumplings, but I did have time to fry up little meatballs. But I had used up all the breadcrumbs making the chicken cutlets, so they were a little slumpy, and not really “balls” in any meaningful sense. 

Still tasty, though, and that’s what counts. I made the soup more or less following this recipe using the leftover matchstick carrots from last week’s gochujang bulgoki. I’m determined to use up more leftover food and not throw so much out.

When the soup was simmering, I started on the fried rice. I’m so smart, I deliberately made extra rice for the previous day’s meal, so I would have some leftover for this day. I had also saved last week’s ham, which I diced up. I chopped up some carrots and the white part of the bok choy (the greens went into the soup) and a bunch of ginger and garlic, and sauteed it up in sesame oil.

Then I dumped on some brown sugar and continued heating and stirring until the sugar got a little dark

then I threw in the diced ham and the leftover rice, and then I sloshed on a lot of oyster sauce, a medium amount of soy sauce, and a little fish sauce. I also scrambled up some eggs and threw those in, and some leftover scallions. 

This is very much American Chinese food. Sometimes that’s what the people want! It’s delicious. 

Then I ran around trying to catch up with my dumb schedule, and I almost decided to just leave the meal at that, but at the last minute I decided to go ahead with my plan to make steamed buns, partially because I had bought a bamboo steamer at a thrift store. Yes, this is my third bamboo steamer, what of it? Some people use heroin, I collect bamboo steamers. 

I followed this recipe, which using baking powder instead of yeast.

And I suddenly realized I’ve been using my steamers wrong, slightly. I’ve been setting them inside larger pots or skillets of water, but really they should be on top of a vessel with a smaller diameter than the steamer, so all the steam goes into the steamer. Duh! So I did that.

The buns turned out. . . goodish? The kids liked them. The dough did not get as tender and soft as the recipe said it would, and I definitely didn’t make them as round and smooth as you’re supposed to. I think they were a little too dense; but they did get cooked all the way through (I was afraid they’d be wet and doughy). This was one of the smaller ones; some of them were puffier: 

They are sweet (but you can decrease the amount of sugar if you want) and I think it’s fair to describe them as tender. They have a lot of cornstarch in them, which gives them a silkier texture, so they’re not biscuit-like. Definitely easy, and you just have to let the dough rest for a bit, not do a full rise, so you can make it late in the day. I dunno. Will probably take another shot at them at some point. [Verna Maroney voice:] I GOT THE STEAMERS.

So all in all, a good meal, especially considering I was out of the house most of the day. 

I don’t think I said anything about the soup. It was pretty good. The meatballs were a little soft, but all the flavors were there. I left the ginger in, so it was beautifully gingery. Just a sort of non-specific Asian soup, hey. 

 

WEDNESDAY
Deli sandwiches, potato puffs, veg and dip

Wednesday, I don’t even know how we arrived at this point, but I had a strange combination of deli meats and some brioche buns, so that’s what I served. I also, as you can see, cooked some tater tots, and cut up a bunch of raw vegetables. 

And that’s my story! Thursday turned out so stupid in the afternoon, I was ridiculously consoled by those ketchup-drenched tater tots. 

THURSDAY
Chicken quesadillas, HINT OF LIME chips and salsa

You’ll never guess: Thursday was also stupid. But I did remember to take the bag of shredded chicken out of the freezer (leftover from that nice Persian chicken barley soup from two weeks ago), and fried up a bunch of chicken quesadillas.

The real kicker was the Hint of Lime tortilla chips, which for some reason are rarely available around here. I don’t know why they’re so good, when they’re clearly just doused with some kind of horrific citric acid solution. But they’re just so good. 

FRIDAY
Spaghetti with Marcella Hazan red sauce

I haven’t started it yet, but here’s the stupid-easy, three-ingredient recipe:

Jump to Recipe

or if you like it in picture form, here’s that:

Last time I made this, I did it in the Instant Pot, forgetting that you really need this to simmer and reduce on the stove; so it came out really thin and soupy, rather than rich and savory. Oh well! You live and learn, and then forget, and feel bad about it, take it out on the dog, try again, and eventually end up with some decent pasta. 

I am going to try to go to this women’s retreat in Plymouth with Danielle Bean, which is … tomorrow. Ooh, that snuck up on me! It looks like there are still spots, though, so maybe if you’re nearby, you can come? That would be nice. Danielle is the real deal and I haven’t seen her in quite a while. 

I also finished a thirty-day plank challenge. It took me forty-three days, but did you hear that I FINISHED it? I started a little Facebook group to support and encourage each other, very low-key, no pressure. I’m thinking about starting a new challenge, but if you’re interested, you can take a look at the group, and join if you want to know when the next challenge starts. These things are always so much easier to stick with when there’s other people also suffering, I mean supporting and encouraging each other. 

Oven-fried chicken

so much easier than pan frying, and you still get that crisp skin and juicy meat

Ingredients

  • chicken parts (wings, drumsticks, thighs)
  • milk (enough to cover the chicken at least halfway up)
  • eggs (two eggs per cup of milk)
  • flour
  • your choice of seasonings (I usually use salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, and chili powder)
  • oil and butter for cooking

Instructions

  1. At least three hours before you start to cook, make an egg and milk mixture and salt it heavily, using two eggs per cup of milk, so there's enough to soak the chicken at least halfway up. Beat the eggs, add the milk, stir in salt, and let the chicken soak in this. This helps to make the chicken moist and tender.

  2. About 40 minutes before dinner, turn the oven to 425, and put a pan with sides into the oven. I use a 15"x21" sheet pan and I put about a cup of oil and one or two sticks of butter. Let the pan and the butter and oil heat up.

  3. While it is heating up, put a lot of flour in a bowl and add all your seasonings. Use more than you think is reasonable! Take the chicken parts out of the milk mixture and roll them around in the flour until they are coated on all sides.

  4. Lay the floured chicken in the hot pan, skin side down. Let it cook for 25 minutes.

  5. Flip the chicken over and cook for another 20 minutes.

  6. Check for doneness and serve immediately. It's also great cold.

 

Sesame broccoli

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat broiler to high.

    Toss broccoli spears with sesame oil. 

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

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

Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce

We made a quadruple recipe of this for twelve people. 

Keyword Marcella Hazan, pasta, spaghetti, tomatoes

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a heavy pot.

  2. Simmer at least 90 minutes. 

  3. Take out the onions.

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

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 361: Who then, my mother?

Happy Friday? I meant to put an exclamation mark, but I’ll let it stand. Up until yesterday, I kept seeing memes about how awful and long and exhausting January is, and I kept thinking everyone is being silly, and this is just a normal month; and then today I realized I’ve been feeling that way for four months, and all four of those months have been January. Bah. Boo. But at least it must be almost over, anyway.

[checks date]

WELL GREAT. 

Anyway, some of that January futilitism crept into my cooking this week, and despite making as much as my second-best efforts, everything turned out . . . basically tolerable. Oh well. I also wrote 40% of several essays and they all suck.

However, I did do a really neat interview with an artist yesterday, someone you may not know about, but should. So there’s something to look forward to! There’s always something to look forward to, even if it’s just bidding farewell and good riddance to the week. 

Here’s what we had, and it was all FINE:

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips, chicken barley soup

We had lots of leftover soup from last week, so I reheated that and then burned every single grilled ham and cheese sandwich. Some of it was because I forgot to spread mayo on the outside of both sides of the sandwich, and some of them, I just burned for fun. 

I did get a few people who hadn’t done so before to try squeezing lemon juice over their bowl of soup, and they agreed it was very tasty that way. Here’s the soup recipe. Definitely worth making. Still plenty of winter left. 

s  t  i  l  l   p  l  e  n  t  y   o  f    w  i  n  t  e  r

SUNDAY
Gochujang bulgoki, coconut stringbeans, pineapple; kalakand

On Sunday, it just happened to work out that all my kids could come for dinner! So I was planning a big Indian meal, with vindaloo, coconut string beans, tomato yogurt salad, naan, rice, and dessert. But I did the thing I will apparently never ever ever stop doing, and I just skimmed the recipe, and discovered too late that you’re supposed to marinate the meat for at least eight hours. Soooo did some quick menu switches, and ended up with a half-Korean, half-Indian menu. I had little warning bells going off in my head that this was not a good idea, and I was right! Bah. 

The food was . . . fine. I made gochujang bulgoki with thinly sliced pork, matchstick carrots, and plenty of onion

Jump to Recipe

because that does need to marinate, but it can be just a few hours. I had much less gochujang (the actual fermented hot pepper paste) than I thought, though,

and it just didn’t hit the mark. Also I severely crowded the pan, so the meat was more braised than pan fried. It was tender, but just bland and slightly watery.

I decided to forge ahead with the string bean recipe I was originally planning to make, because they are Aldi string beans and you use ’em or lose ’em. But she called for cooking the string beans for twenty minutes, which is insane. It’s one thing if you want string beans cooked to a mush, which might work out for certain recipes, but she specified not to overcook, so they don’t lose their crunch. Insane!

I have since discovered that string beans in India are a different variety, and they are tougher, and do need a lot more cooking. So I did just cook them for a few minutes, and then added them to the mustard seeds heated till “spluttering” in hot oil (I love how many Indian recipes use the word “spluttering,” and I wonder if there is some cognate in some Indian language. 

Anyway, the result was . . . fine. 

Maybe I would have enjoyed them more if they had accompanied a dish with seasoning that made more sense along with the mustard seed, coconut, and jalapeno, but watery gochujang was not it. Boo. 

I made a big pot of rice and cut up a bunch of lettuce and also put out the last of the seaweed sheets from New Year’s Eve, and I did have fun making the little grabby bundles of seaweed, bulgoki, and rice

I do like some bundled food. 

Oh, it looks like we also had pineapple, which, again, was fine, but just . . . not quite the thing. 

There was enough food, anyway, so that was a relief, and everybody had a good time and I heard uproarious laughter coming from the dining room, so that was lovely. I was a little bummed about the meal, though, and then suddenly realized wait! I had made dessert!

The dessert was something called kalakand, which is a sort of sweet milk cake which you make with paneer, but not THAT kind of paneer; you are supposed to make your own paneer, which is soft set. OR, you can use ricotta cheese. It so happened I had a bunch of ricotta left over from birthday calzones, which is why I decided to make this recipe. 

It does say you will need to stir it longer if you use ricotta, and Swasthi was not kidding about that. It says “ten minutes,” and it took me at least forty minutes of stirring. 

Corrie had a friend over, and it was just as well I had to park myself in the kitchen and stir, because I could keep an eye on them, rather than ducking and covering, which is what my animal instinct tells me to do when these two get together. So I stirred that mofo forever and eventually decided that it was as thick as it was ever gonna get, and put it into a lined pan and pressed slivered almonds into the top. 

I let it chill in the fridge for several hours, and then brought it out after dinner with lots of caveats about how uncertain I was about the whole thing. 

People liked it, I think? I don’t think it came out right. It certainly wasn’t cake-like in any way. It helped that nobody had any idea what it was supposed to taste like. I suggested “Cheesecake Play-Doh,” and that got the most votes. 

In conclusion, I kept forgetting what it was called, and when I was searching for the recipe today (because I keep dozens of tabs open, but not the ones that I know I will need on Friday), I turned up this:

I don’t know what this song is about, and if it’s offensive, you have only your polyglotismo to blame.  

MONDAY
Regular tacos with pico de gallo

Monday was a day off, and I thought we all needed something a little more normal, so I just made regular tacos. Actually I sneaked a pound of ground sausage into the three pounds of ground beef, because it somehow worked out to be cheaper that way, and nobody noticed. 

I had the tomatoes I was planning to make into yogurt salad, so I made a bowl of pico de gallo with them. I was super tired and didn’t feel like chopping, so I just threw tomatoes, onions, and cilantro into the food processor, and then added some olive oil, salt, and some lemon juice, because I ran out of limes. 

It was fine. Everything is fine. 

TUESDAY
One-pan kielbasa, red potato, Brussels sprouts; challah

The kids have been agitating for kielbasa, so I made this one-pan meal

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(well, two pans of it), except I used Brussels sprouts instead of cabbage, and rather than serving the sauce along with the meal, I cooked the food for 20 minutes, then added in the sauce, switched the pans and finished cooking it for another 12 minutes or so.

It was super cold out, and I kept thinking about fresh, hot bread, and I had some work to avoid, so I made challah. 

Jump to Recipe

I made a double recipe, which is what I usually do, but usually I make one batch in the standing mixer and one batch by hand. It’s not dumb if it works! But for some reason I decided to make a double batch all in one bowl, with the very predictable result that it spurted jets and fountains of flour all over the kitchen. 

Then I put the bowl to rise on top of the coffee maker, which is the warmest spot in the house right now, and then I completely forgot about it. So it rose plenty. 

Oops. I wisely decided I was in no mental state to make another attempt at a four-strand braid, which I try from time to time, and it always makes me cry. I just divided the dough monster in half and then cut each one into four balls, then rolled out three and made a big braid, and cut the remaining ball of each batch into thirds and made it into a smaller braid to lay on top. I let them rise again, brushed them with egg wash, and then baked them. 

They turned out pretty!

I made them with duck eggs, including a duck egg for the egg wash on top. You will never find an eggier egg than duck eggs. 

I couldn’t find the poppy seeds, so as you can see, I used sesame seeds on one. Which made me think of this quick little bit from You Don’t Have To Be Jewish:

 

If I didn’t clip it right, the whole album is here, and the bit in question starts at about 20:17. 

Anyway, it was an okay-to-pretty good supper. The bread was a tiny bit underdone, so it was a little damp in the middle, but just a tiny bit; and even though I switched the meat and potato pans, one got a lot crisper than the other. But it was fine. 

Fine, I tell you! 

WEDNESDAY
Pizza

Wednesday I didn’t even feel like messing around one tiny bit, so I just made three pizzas, one cheese, one black olive, and one pepperoni. I took a picture so I would remember what we had

A perfectly fine pizza, with pre-shredded cheese that doesn’t taste like anything, and I couldn’t find the garlic powder or the block of parmesan. It was so cold in the kitchen that the dough didn’t 100% defrost, so the crust was a little bit CLAGGY. But I managed to stick to my meal plan for once, so it tasted pretty great anyway. 

THURSDAY
Glazed ham, baked potato, mysteriously spicy mashed squash

On Thursday morning, I remembered that we still had leftover coconut string beans in the refrigerator, so I put them out for the ducks, who were incredibly rude about it. 

Possibly angry at me for making their children into challah, but I don’t think so. We have to run and get the eggs in the morning before these dopes step on them and crush them. 

On Thursday morning, driving the kids to school, I turned on the classical music station and tried to guess the nationality and era of the piece that came on. I guessed German, 1820. And guess what! It turned out to be Karl Maria von Weber, written in 1815! I felt SO SMART. Then the dog turned on the hazard lights and I couldn’t figure out how to turn them off, so I had to pull into a parking lot and watch a short YouTube video. 

If you are wondering, the hazard light button is the giant, centrally located button with the big “HAZARD” symbol prominently displayed in red, which is why I couldn’t find it. Probably my Instant Pot gasket is in the glove box, where I put it while not reading all the way through the vindaloo recipe and buying the wrong kind of beans. 

Anyway, Thursday was the day we were supposed to have the bulgoki, but I had already used the meat, and I had Corrie with me at the store when I was shopping for a replacement; and if you take Corrie to the store with you, you’re going to come out with ham. 

So I got a big spiral-cut ham with a glaze packet on sale, and she pushed really hard for peas and mashed potatoes, but nobody felt like peeling potatoes, and I felt like I had to assert some kind of authority, so we had baked potatoes and mashed squash.

I usually cook the squash in the Instant Pot to save room in the oven,

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but when I was dealing the challah flour explosion, I also decided to thoroughly clean the IP top and had hidden the gasket from myself, so I shoved things around and just cooked the ham, baked potatoes, and squash  all at 400, which is not the right temperature for any of them. My motto is, if we can’t all be happy, then we’ll satisfy justice by all being miserable.

I sprinkled some baking soda and sea salt on top of the squash before roasting it, and it came out perfectly nice

and then I grabbed some butter and some spices that were handy: Cinnamon, cayenne pepper, salt, and scooped out the flesh and started adding lots and lots of cinn– ope, actually that was cayenne pepper. Wuite a lot of it. Corrie advised me to cover my mistake by also adding lots and lots of cinnamon, so that is what I did. I skipped the sugar because you really don’t need it with a decent squash. Some nutmeg would have been nice, but it didn’t seem like the time to rummage through little tippy bottles, so I just mashed that mofo and set it out. It was actually pretty good! Spicy! For some reason. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

Just mac and cheese. I’m sure it will be fine. 

When I insisted on making squash instead of peas, I told Corrie that I only recently started liking squash. In fact, the very first time I had mashed squash was in the hospital, right after giving birth to her, and it was the best thing I had ever tasted in my life. And from then on, I’ve had a thing for butternut squash. So it was really her fault. The rest of the kids then turned on Corrie in anger like Joseph’s brothers, because she was the cause of their cruel, heartless mother sometimes making mashed squash for dinner and not making anyone eat it or anything. I am truly a monster! Next time I’ll feed them all to the ducks. Then we’ll see who gets mashed. 

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. 

 

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

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

Ingredients

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

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

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400. 

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

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

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

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

    Serve hot with dressing and parsley for a garnish. 

 

Challah (braided bread)

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

What’s for supper? Vol. 360: A secret soup that Simcha made and pleased the group

I lied. I lied for the sake of a title. It only pleased about half the group. But it was a wonderful soup! Read on. 

SATURDAY
Domino’s pizza, birthday cake

Saturday was Benny’s birthday party, finally. She asked for a Gravity Falls-themed party, but she is old enough that her friends basically entertained each other, so I just did decorations and a cake and then let them go. So, just a bunch of red, yellow, and gold balloons, and a Bill Cipher zodiac tablecloth

plus a levitating, rather wrinkly Bill Cipher, who was still dripping glue when the guests came

and then outside, I set up a nice propane fire with a hot chocolate station and a s’mores station.

and that was that. Nobody’s been happy about the so-far-almost-snowless winer, but it does make it easier to throw a party!

The cake was well-received.

Just a chocolate box mix cake with frosting from a tub, decorated with details made of gum paste and colored with edible gold spray. 

Gum paste stiffens when it’s exposed to air, much more so than fondant, and you can roll it very thin, so it’s a good choice for small or flat decorations. Some day, I’m gonna make gum paste roses. If my kids ever stop asking for weird cakes (challenge: impossible).

Then Damien picked up Domino’s pizzas and the guests jumped on the trampoline in the dark and screamed a lot, and it was a good party! I ran out to clean everything up off the patio afterward, because I knew there was a storm coming, and I managed to knock a glass bowl full of mini marshmallows onto the bricks. Smash! Marshmallows! Candy canes! Shards of glass in the darkness! Really wished I had made friends with the ants and the sparrows, but you always think of these things too late. Did not go to the ball. Instead dozed off on the couch while drinking seltzer and watching NYPD Blue, which was just as good. 

SUNDAY
Corn dogs, chips

Sunday it snowed alllll day, and it had been snowing all night, so we were prepared. Damien went to the vigil Mass on Saturday and then got up early to clear the driveway, and the rest of us went to the late Mass on Sunday, which was Epiphany. We were prepared for the strident guitars and the off-pitch, hairy-sounding violin and the whitest tambourine in the western hemisphere. We were not prepared for A RETELLING OF THE ENTIRE CHRISTMAS STORY SET TO LEONARD COHEN’S HALLELUJAH. 

Epiphany indeed. Usually I sternly tell my kids not to criticize the Mass because it’s the Mass, but I am not made of stone. I did shut it down when they started proposing new liturgically-appropriate lyrics for “Blood On the Tracks.” 

Anyway, we had corn dogs. 

But you don’t really care for mustard, do ya?

MONDAY
Bacon cheeseburgers, Doritos

I still hadn’t gone shopping, because of the snow and I am a delicate flower, so Damien shopped for and made bacon cheeseburgers.

And very good they were, bacon cheeseburgers.

TUESDAY
Oven roasted pork ribs, mashed potatoes, peas

I planned a simple make-ahead meal for Tuesday, because three kids had dentist appointments. One got sick the night before, so we cancelled her appointment, one got sick that morning, so we cancelled hers and then then dentist said they didn’t super duper want to get in the mouth of the remaining kid with two sick siblings. Fair. It was still nice to have an easy meal. I made the mashed potatoes in the morning and then put them in the slow cooker to stay warm, and made the pork ribs heavily salted and peppered and roasted until sizzling under the broiler. 

I had mine with mango chutney, yum yum. 

WEDNESDAY
Oven fried chicken, chips, veg and dip

Wings were 1.99 a pound, so I got a bunch of wings and drumsticks and made oven fried chicken. Finally got around to making a card for this recipe, which is so easy and honestly comes out better than when I try to pan fry chicken. 

Jump to Recipe

I know this because I ran out of room in the sheet pan in the oven, and I didn’t want to make a second pan dirty, so instead I pan fried a few pieces (because it’s okay to make a second pan dirty as long as it’s on the stove? I don’t know) and I burnt the hell out of them, like I always do.

The oven ones turned out perfect, though. 

This is a terrible picture. I’m just including it to show that it actually was just cooked in the oven, easily peasily. The chicken was actually amazing, and SO gratifying because I knew how hands-off it was. 

Yes, I served chips for the third time this week. And also vegetables! With dip. 

But do try oven fried chicken. It makes everybody happy, and you don’t end up with grease spattered everywhere.

THURSDAY
Persian chicken and barley soup, pita

Thursday I knew dinner time was going to be crazy, because the kids had to be at the gallery to set up their life-sized Barbie house at 5 PM, and then the show actually opened at 6, so it was a great reason to try this soup I’ve had my eye on: Persian chicken barley soup. I followed the recipe exactly as written, except that it called for two chicken breasts and I was doubling it, and I only used about 2/3 of the chicken, and it was still the most chickenful soup I’ve ever encountered. I’m just saying, the chickens who contributed these breasts were on track to dominate at Sharky’s wet t-shirt contest at Hampton. So I ended up throwing a bag of shredded chicken in the freezer, and I’m sure you’ll be hearing about it again. 

I also lost my phone and didn’t take any process photos, but it was an enjoyable soup to make. You fry up onions and then add garlic and shredded carrots (holding some back to add in later). I didn’t soak the barley, as suggested, because I knew I’d be simmering the soup all day. 

Oh, I also turned out not to have any celery. You know, I don’t think I really followed the recipe all that closely. But usually when I make a soup, I just saute some stuff and then dump everything else in and just walk away, and this was a tiny bit more involved than that! Anyway I did pull some of the soup out and whir it up in the food processor and then add it back in, as suggested. I stirred in Greek yogurt, and used fresh cilantro and freshly-squeezed lemon juice. 

I moved it to the Instant Pot and used the “keep warm” feature, and it thickened up even more, as I expected, with all that barley. 

I threw some more cilantro on top, ground some pepper over it and squeezed on a little more lemon juice when I served up a bowl, and I put out some store-bought pita and rolls. 

Heavens to betsy. What a charming soup. It’s just as nourishing and comforting as any chicken soup ought to be, but it had just the merest thread of complexity because of the cilantro and lemon. It was thick but not gluey or pasty or even heavy. Just . . . nice. A nice soup, through and through. Will absolutely make again. The recipe makes a lot, too.

Speaking of a lot, here are the girls in front of the Barbie house!

You can see some more pics of the interior here:

 

This was for their 3D art class, and the assignment was to make something using materials you find lying around. They acknowledged that the original task kind of got lost in the pink fever dream, but it was extremely impressive. So much work, and very nicely designed. 

Oh, but speaking of soup, I meant to remind you that you can use your standing mixer (or a hand-held mixer, I suppose!) to quickly and evenly shred cooked chicken. For some reason I hate shredding meat, even when it’s nicely cooked and comes apart easily. The standing mixer takes care of it in a very short time. Hallelujah. 

FRIDAY
Poke bowls

I recalled when we made sushi a few weeks ago that ahi tuna is actually not prohibitively expensive, at least not in a world where everything is prohibitively expensive. And when everything is prohibitive, nothing is prohibited. So I bought a bunch of frozen ahi tuna from Walmart, and today we’re having poke bowls, which is just diced raw fish along with whatever you want, as far as I can tell.

I am, in fact, still in bed (I basically work from bed in the winter, so sue me) and haven’t even taken the fish out of the freezer yet, but this is a super easy meal to throw together. Look!

I got some mangos that should be ripe by now, and we still have some nice short-grain rice left over from New Year’s Even, and I bought a pouch of those yummy chili lime cashews from Aldi, plus pea shoots and sugar snap peas, and people can just add whatever they want from the various bottles and jars of red and yellow and brown sauces rolling around in the fridge. 

I think I also got some frozen shrimp, so I’ll probably just sauté that up in sesame oil or chili oil with a little salt and lime juice.

And even if it all goes wrongI’ll stand right here like a big ding dongWith nothing, nothing on my tongue but What’s for supper?

What’s for supper? What’s for supper?
What’s for supper? 
What’s for suuuuuuu

perrrrrrrrr

rrrrrrrrrr.

Leonard Cohen is a novelty act, there I said it. 

Oven-fried chicken

so much easier than pan frying, and you still get that crisp skin and juicy meat

Ingredients

  • chicken parts (wings, drumsticks, thighs)
  • milk (enough to cover the chicken at least halfway up)
  • eggs (two eggs per cup of milk)
  • flour
  • your choice of seasonings (I usually use salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, and chili powder)
  • oil and butter for cooking

Instructions

  1. At least three hours before you start to cook, make an egg and milk mixture and salt it heavily, using two eggs per cup of milk, so there's enough to soak the chicken at least halfway up. Beat the eggs, add the milk, stir in salt, and let the chicken soak in this. This helps to make the chicken moist and tender.

  2. About 40 minutes before dinner, turn the oven to 425, and put a pan with sides into the oven. I use a 15"x21" sheet pan and I put about a cup of oil and one or two sticks of butter. Let the pan and the butter and oil heat up.

  3. While it is heating up, put a lot of flour in a bowl and add all your seasonings. Use more than you think is reasonable! Take the chicken parts out of the milk mixture and roll them around in the flour until they are coated on all sides.

  4. Lay the floured chicken in the hot pan, skin side down. Let it cook for 25 minutes.

  5. Flip the chicken over and cook for another 20 minutes.

  6. Check for doneness and serve immediately. It's also great cold.

What’s for supper? Vol. 359: Angel eyes

Happy Friday! We just about made it through the first week of 2024. Hey, I have a great idea! Let’s eat. 

SATURDAY
Chicken burgers, chips

Frozen chicken burgers reporting for duty. 

SUNDAY
DIY sushi, steamed pork dumplings, red bean and Nutella taiyaki

New year’s eve, a.k.a. a reason to eat sushi and dumplings! In the morning, I made about fifty pork dumplings using this recipe. You’re supposed to salt and then drain the extra moisture out of the shredded Napa cabbage, but I flaked out and forgot, and just shredded the cabbage and dumped it in. 

I had some consternation, but I didn’t have any more pork, so I just went ahead and made the dumplings, using my smallest dumpling press.

Zip zap zop! Fifty dumplings. 

Later in the day, I started prepping the sushi ingredients. I got ahi tuna and Damien found some lovely salmon, and we also had pre-cooked little shrimpies, some fake crab (I also dug up an old can of real crab, but it looked horribly mushy, so I tossed it), cucumber spears, mango, avocado, radishes, carrot matchsticks, pickled ginger, and then just all the bottled Asian things I could find, plus sesame seeds, panko breadcrumbs, and red and black caviar, and a nice big package of nori sheets. And crunchy noodles.

I made some nice short-grain rice in the Instant Pot and then folded in the seasoning sauce

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with the help of some avid fanners armed with paper plates.

Truth be told, I didn’t come up with any amazing combinations, and my rolling and cutting skills were not at their peak. Luckily, even boring sushi is delicious. 

I think this one was tuna, radishes, and mango with red caviar and some kind of spicy mayo on top. 

I also bought some calamari rings, which I read somewhere you can use to make sushi inside of (I can’t think of a better way of saying that), but I forgot about it until the last minute, so I just boiled them and then doused them with seasoned rice vinegar. This is not the ideal preparation, but I did take a stab at making a calamari-ring sushi by cramming some rice and salmon inside, and sprinkling black caviar on top

and it tasted exactly like what it was! What do you know about that. 

I got to use my new thrift store bamboo steamer for the first time. I now have two double-decker steamers, which means I can make fifty little dumplings in just two batches. I mean eight batches, but in just two . . . installments. 

I love these dumplings. I don’t even use a dipping sauce; they’re so tasty and lovely on their own. 

There was absolutely no problem with the non-drained cabbage. The dumplings held together fine, and the filling was not drippy or anything. I honestly didn’t notice any difference, so I’ll probably just skip that step in the future. 

I ended up with some extra filling, which I froze, and will probably make into fried meatballs at some point, which I have done before. 

Poorhaps I will put them in soup.

Then Benny made a bunch of taiyaki with her new taiyaki iron. It has a simple recipe that came with the machine — basically waffle batter, but it uses cake flour and additional corn starch, which I believe makes them more tender. (We made cake flour by subtracting a tablespoon from a cup of flour and adding a tablespoon of corn starch.)  They are fluffy inside and have a pleasantly thin, crisp outside.

She made some with Nutella and some with red bean baste, which I ADORE

In conclusion, this is the logo on the can of red bean paste:

Indeed. 

Then we watched A Night At the Opera and at midnight Damien fired off a $5 confetti blaster I got at Walmart, and that . . . was the end of 2023. Whew.

MONDAY
Calzoni, “Angel” cake 

Monday was Sophia’s birthday. She requested olive and pepperoni calzoni, which is nice and easy.

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I label them with a little piece of what’s inside, which is inelegant but effective. 

I asked her what she wanted for a cake, and she said a strawberry box mix cake with lemon cream cheese frosting. Decorated how? She said surprise her with something cool and silly, and I could ask Lucy and Irene for ideas. 

Okay. Now, I don’t know if you have ever had three teenage girls at the same time, but if you do, you will know that EVERYTHING’S A TRAP, especially for moms. All you can do is do your best, and remember that you are a human being with dignity, no matter what they say about you. 

So anyway, Lucy and Irene agreed that Sophia would want Angel from Buffy doing that Angel pose with his hands. I can’t find a picture of David Boreanaz doing it, but it’s like this:
 
 
and this has become part of some kind of running joke that I don’t fully  understand. 
 
Perfect. I told Damien my plan, and HE said he heard Lucy, Sophia and Irene discussing how the one thing she DIDN’T want was Angel.
 
So I went back to the girls and said that I had further intel, and needed clarification. They said they were now unsure, and maybe she would like it, and maybe she would hate it. So then I was telling Elijah about this whole situation, and Corrie said SHE was in the room when they were discussing it.
 
Corrie said, “They were doing one of their ‘what-if’ scenarios, and the scenario was if Sophia said she didn’t want a thing, and she said surprise me with anything but that thing, and then someone did surprise her with that.”
 
See what I mean about traps? Somebody was clearly setting somebody up, but I didn’t know who. So I made a strawberry box mix cake, and I made some lemon cream cheese frosting, and I made an Angel cake. More or less. 
 
It even had the right number of candles! And it . . . sort of looked like Angel, kind of. 
 
 
Maybe more like Peter Lorre crossed with the Fonz, but what are you gonna do. The dude is basically shoulders, hair, and eyebrows, but mostly eyebrows, and it’s really important to get them right. 
 
I . . . did not get them right.
 
 

Frosting is an unforgiving medium! Next time I’ll just do this:

 
 
 
But I did do the hands thing:
 
 
Which I also did not nail. But it made her laugh!
And as you may have noticed in the above picture, I had another trick up my sleeve. After we established that it was sort of unclear to me whether Sophia actually wanted an Angel cake or not, I whipped out a little addition I had made of melty candy and toothpicks, and added it to the cake:
 
 

See? Ha! Angel cake, OR NOT. Your choice! Take that! I outwitted them all. And that’s what birthdays are all about. 

 

TUESDAY
Chicken caesar salad

After all the Christmas and New Year’s food and whatnot, it felt like high time to have a salad. But not without some dressing! I made this caesar salad dressing,

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but without anchovies, because we didn’t have any anchovies. Still very rich and kicky

and incidentally about the same color as my dining room walls. 

I roasted some boneless, skinless chicken with oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano, and served it over romaine lettuce with shaved parmesan cheese and homemade croutons. 

A very fine meal. 

That night, I prepped a giant pork shoulder for tomorrow’s meal . . . 

WEDNESDAY
Bo ssam, rice, raw broccoli, pineapple 

Bo ssam! Everybody loves bo ssam. I have whittled the recipe down to the very basics, which means dry brining a fatty pork shoulder in a cup of salt and and a cup of sugar the night before, wrapping it up in plastic wrap; and then just unwrapping it and chunking it in the oven low and slow (a 300. oven) for about six hours on a pan you’ve covered with a few layers of tin foil; and then right before dinner, you spread a paste made of seven tablespoons of brown sugar,  sea salt, and two teaspoons of cider vinegar on top

crank the oven up to 500 and put the pork back in for ten minutes or so until it has a lovely glaze.

And that’s it. It has a wonderful, caramelized crust on top and the meat inside is outandingly juicy and tender.

Bo ssam is supposed to be eaten with lettuce wraps, but I forgot to buy lettuce. Somehow we forged ahead. This is such a great meal because you don’t even have to cut it up. You just give everybody a fork and let them go to town. 

I made a big pot of rice, cut up some raw broccoli, and cut up a pineapple, and that was that. 

Live forever, bo ssam. 

THURSDAY
Old Bay drumsticks, baked potatoes, mashed squash, coleslaw 

Thursday I knew we were going to go out in the evening (nothing amazing, just a family faith formation meeting), so I oven roasted the drumsticks with a bunch of melted butter and Old Bay seasoning, and then served them cold

along with big hot baked potatoes. I very rarely serve baked potatoes, mainly so it will seem like a treat when I do. 

There was a cabbage in the house (which someone mistakenly bought thinking it was lettuce for the bo ssam, oops), so I made a quick coleslaw with leftover matchstick carrots from the sushi and a dressing of mayo, cider vinegar, and pepper

and, feeling like an absolute homesteader, I took out of the freezer the cubed butternut squash cubed I had prepped a few weeks ago. I usually make mashed squash by cooking it in the Instant Pot

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but the trivet has gone missing, and there’s no good substitute if the squash is already cubed! So I roasted it with a little baking soda and kosher salt, and then mashed it up with butter, cinnamon, and a little cayenne pepper. I also usually add brown sugar or honey, but decided to see how it was without it, and it was great!

Definitely sweet enough on its own. So now I know! Nobody noticed the difference. 

FRIDAY
??

I wrote “scrambled eggs and biscuits” on the menu board, which is a little weird. I guess I can make biscuits,

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but Damien and I are going to adoration and then First Friday Mass, so maybe we’ll just ditch the kids and get a pizza. I did one of those “see if you have money in various places you forgot about!” things, and I got a check from the state for $6.42, so I feel like throwing money around. And that’s my story. 

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.  

 

caesar salad dressing

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Just mix it all together, you coward.

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.

 

moron biscuits

Because I've been trying all my life to make nice biscuits and I was too much of a moron, until I discovered this recipe. It has egg and cream of tartar, which is weird, but they come out great every time. Flaky little crust, lovely, lofty insides, rich, buttery taste.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, chilled
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450.

  2. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and cream of tartar.

  3. Grate the chilled butter with a box grater into the dry ingredients.

  4. Stir in the milk and egg and mix until just combined. Don't overwork it. It's fine to see little bits of butter.

  5. On a floured surface, knead the dough 10-15 times. If it's very sticky, add a little flour.

  6. With your hands, press the dough out until it's about an inch thick. Cut biscuits. Depending on the size, you can probably get 20 medium-sized biscuits with this recipe.

  7. Grease a pan and bake for 10-15 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

What’s for supper? Vol. 358: In which we end strong (thinkin about beans)

Heyy! Merry Christmas! Happy goodbye old year. Happy indeed. Let’s end strong with FOOD. 

It’s been a bit since I’ve done a WFS, so I’ll just do a highlight reel of the last few weeks.

I published the last one before I finished making my VERY FIRST PAVLOVA. Turns out to be very easy. I used this recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen. You beat up a bunch of egg whites and sugar, then mix in lemon juice, corn starch, and vanilla. Then you just glop it onto a pan with parchment paper and bake it in a low oven for an hour; and then you turn the oven off and let it cool down verrry slowly. 

Then you whip some cream and sugar and plop that on top, and then you throw berries on it. That’s it!

I forget exactly what boneheaded thing I did, but I ended up putting the pavlova into an oven that was warm, but not actually turned on; and I didn’t notice for something like forty minutes. So then I turned it on for a while, and then I turned it off for a while. Guess what?? The pavlova still turned out fine! 

I was skeptical that I would want to eat this much meringue, but it’s got more to it than meringue, and was very pleasant, and not as blindingly sweet as I expected. I think the outer crust was a little tougher than it’s supposed to be, but it was still delicious. The outside is sweet and glossy and crisp, and the inside has a marshmallowy, almost custard-like flavor. It’s supposed to have more cream on top than you see here, but the whipping cream had frozen, so I didn’t have a lot to work with. 

As you can see, I put blackberries, blueberries, pomegranate arils, kiwi slices, and mint leaves on mine. That was a very pleasant combination. I thought the mint would taste weird, but it was very nice having that green freshness along with the hot sugar taste. Some people make wreath shapes, which would be very pretty. I also made a bunch of individual pavlovas. Lots of possibilities. Many more pavlovas in our future!

One of my birthday presents was this wonderful cookbook: Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni.

That week, I ended up using a lot of odds and ends of meat we already had in the freezer, so my budget had a little room, and I splurged on a giant hunk of lamb. I cut it up and divided it, and froze 1/3 of the pieces along with the bone.

The first portion, I made into lamb braised in aromatic cream sauce (rogani gosht). You can see that recipe here. You can also make this dish with beef, which I’m sure I will end up doing, because it was fab. Fab fab fab.

Eating a hot bowl of rogani gosht is like being cuddled by a gigantic, affectionate, fluffy cat (that’s the fragrant cream part) who keeps licking you with its rough tongue (that’s the warming spice part). I know that’s weird, but normal descriptions just won’t DO for this dish. It’s not super spicy, but enough to get your attention, and the meat was insanely tender. It just fell apart with the merest nudge from a spoon. 

I also made a giant taboon bread. I wanted naan, but it was too late to get it started, so I went with this recipe, which is so easy, and you bake it in the oven all in one big slab.

Jump to Recipe

The only thing I forgot was to dimple the dough with my fingertips, and it had already been baking for 7-8 minutes, so like an idiot I stuck my hands in the hot oven and attempted to dimple it anyway. Did not get very far. 

But the meal was worth a little burnt fingers. I made a pot of rice in the Instant Pot and we had a really wonderful meal. 

The braised lamb doesn’t look like much, but I’m telling you. IT WAS MUCH. My goodness, what a treat. 

Let’s see, what else? 

For the last day of school, which was December 22 (ridiculous), I made cookies for Benny’s class party. Just good old reliable no-chill sugar cookies,

Jump to Recipe

which I cut out with little holes, and then filled the holes with crushed Jolly Ranchers, so when they baked, they had little candy windows in them.

We frosted them with royal icing and whatever miscellaneous decorations I could find in the cabinet,

and they turned out looking like a bit of a crime scene, but we did have fun. 

Another nice meal: Pulled pork on tater tots with red onions and corn. Maybe I was just hungry, but this meal was so freaking delicious.

I made the pulled pork using the apple cider vinegar and cloves recipe I have developed

Jump to Recipe

and it was just so dang tasty. 

Oh, and then we had this over-the-top bacon risotto for the last day of school. Heavy cream, egg yolks, bacon, salami, freshly-grated parmesan, white pepper, and so much butter . . .

I knew it was gonna be amazing, and it was. I didn’t even make anything else for dinner, and nobody complained. I had arborio rice in the house, leftover from the suppli I made for our anniversary, and now I don’t think I’m gonna be able to go back to my old cheap regular rice risotto ways. It was just so luxuriously creamy and rich. 

I think people will be asking for this dish for their birthdays. It’s really special.

On Sunday, it was finally Christmas eve! We went to Mass in the morning at our normal time, because Benny was altar serving. Then I got everybody to clean up the house. We weren’t expecting any guests, but we had SO much incredible extra clutter in the house — giant cartons of things, random baskets with other random baskets on top and wads of torn-up leggings flopping around, extra pieces of furniture, dying plants, half-finished crafts, and of course a million Amazon boxes, and of course all the cartons of Christmas decorations that I didn’t manage to put up. And there was this TREE in the living room, and some idiot had strung garlands all over the place, and the line between “merry merry” and “mental breakdown” was getting a little thin. The thought of starting with this mess and adding dozens and dozens of presents and half an acre of discarded wrapping paper and forty six tons of candy wrappers with little wet wads of candy still stuck to them was more than I could deal with. 

So I cracked the whip a bit, and we all cleaned that shit up. Even though we weren’t having guests! Then I made everyone take showers, and then we had supper, and then we decorated the tree, and then I started Alton Brown’s overnight cinnamon rolls.

I made a triple recipe

and had some help from Corrie spreading on the cinnamon sugar, rolling them up, and cutting them out. 

and then they got wrapped up and put in the fridge to rise slowly. 

Midnight Mass was lovely. They’ve started having it at actual midnight in the last few years, which is not so hard when your kids are older, and also it’s been warm out, so there wasn’t that horrible “venture out into the icy wind with your flimsy little spangled dress on” challenge. Corrie immediately went to sleep with her head on my lap, so I was tragically forced to sit down the entire time. 

We had the foresight to take pictures at the beginning of Mass, rather than at the end. Here are the goons (some of them still in the Covid window, UGH):

and Ma and Pa Goon:

Got home, Damien and I put allll the presents and stockings out

and then we tottered off to bed at around 2:30 a.m. 

Dora and Moe came over for Christmas, and we had an excellent Christmas day. We had cinnamon buns and bacon, orange juice and eggnog, and plenty of fruit. Several of the kids made each other homemade presents, and everyone just went above and beyond with thoughtful and amusing gifts.

 

For dinner, we had our traditional Chinese takeout, acquired in the correct volume by pretending to be four different people (it’s a long story); and Irene got her traditional Jersey Mike’s sub because Chinese food makes her throw up; and then we all played with our new toys and ate lots of candy and then eventually we went to sleep and slept SO HARD. 

The next few nights, we had easy dinners: Leftover Chinese food one day, and Italian sandwiches the next, and then we watched Baahubali: The Beginning. 

This is one of the most gorgeous, violent, insane, joyfully ridiculous movies I have ever seen, and the very last thing that happened on screen made me go, “WHAT???????” So we’ll be watching part 2, believe me! In the mean time, I went back to my Indian cookbook and pulled the rest of that lamb out of the freezer, and this time I made a curry with tomatoes and potatoes, and also a big pot of rice and some spinach yogurt salad. 

Sahni describes this curry as having a “garnet-colored sauce” and that’s just what it is. It’s so rich and the spices blend so nicely, I just don’t even know how to tell you how tasty it was. 

I had my doubts about the spinach salad (you cook some spinach, squeeze it out and chop it up and mix it into some heavily seasoned yogurt and sour cream), but it was a completely delightful accompaniment to the curry, very cooling and refreshing along with the savory meat. 

I think one kid ate the curry or the yogurt salad. The rest of them had leftovers or eggs. Too bad! Damien and I both had seconds and it made us very happy. 

I chose this meal because the recipe called for stuff I already had in the house, but I am so hyped about making more recipes from the book. Her style is nice and clear, and I’m excited!

And that’s it! That’s the year. We have New Year’s Eve coming up, and we usually have a DIY sushi party; then New Year’s Day is Sophia’s birthday, and then we have Benny’s birthday party that we had to postpone because we all got Covid, and then it’s Damien’s birthday, all in the first eight days of the year. I may just make a series of pavlovas. I can see it now: Turning the oven on, turning it off again, turning it on again, turning it off again, whipping more cream, eating more whipped cream, turning the oven on . . . .

I can think of worse fates. 

Oh, one last thing: Benny got a taiyaki maker for Christmas.

She made her first batch with Nutella filling. If you’ve had yummy taiyaki, what filling did it have? I’m thinking of red bean paste for New Year’s Eve, if I can find the right kind of beans. 

That’s it. That’s my final words of 2023: IF I CAN FIND THE RIGHT KIND OF BEANS. If the world ends and this is my legacy, estoy contenta.

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
  • 2 Tbsp 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.

 

No-fail no-chill sugar cookies

Basic "blank canvas"sugar cookies that hold their shape for cutting and decorating. No refrigeration necessary. They don't puff up when you bake them, and they stay soft under the icing. You can ice them with a very basic icing of confectioner's sugar and milk. Let decorated cookies dry for several hours, and they will be firm enough to stack.

Servings 24 large cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla and/or almond extract. (You could also make these into lemon cookies)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups flour

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.

  2. Cream together butter and sugar in mixer until smooth.

  3. Add egg and extracts.

  4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder.

  5. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar and mix until smooth.

  6. Roll the dough out on a floured surface to about 1/4 inch. Cut cookies.

  7. Bake on ungreased baking sheets for 6-8 minutes. Don't let them brown. They may look slightly underbaked, but they firm up after you take them out of the oven, so let them sit in the pan for a bit before transferring to a cooling rack.

  8. Let them cool completely before decorating!

 

Clovey pulled pork

Ingredients

  • fatty hunk of pork
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for browning
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2/3 cup apple juice
  • 3 jalapeños with tops removed, seeds and membranes intact
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp ground cloves

Instructions

  1. Cut pork into hunks. Season heavily with salt and pepper.

  2. Heat oil in heavy pot and brown pork on all sides.

  3. Move browned pork into Instant Pot or slow cooker or dutch oven. Add all the other ingredients. Cover and cook slowly for at least six hours.

  4. When pork is tender, shred.

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 357: Ich bin ein ludicrous display

Happy birthday to me! Today, for my birthday, I wish for you a very happy take your vitamins and drink some water, and many happy returns of the move your body and thank God for the day. 

Yesterday, we got some . . . medium-rotten financial news, which I delivered while Damien was replacing his brakes on his car, one of the kids called because their car had broken down, and while I was picking her up, my check engine light came on, and then we got home and one of the kids tested positive for Covid, which would explain a thing or two. We’re supposed to be getting ready for Benny’s birthday party, but of course we had to cancel. El bummer supremo.  

However, excelsior. Right? What is the other option? This year was better than last year, and I can only conclude that the coming year will be even better. I am 49 and I thank God for the day.

Hey, this is the year I finally got the hang of deep frying things without freaking out or trashing the kitchen. AS YOU WILL SEE. 

Here is what we ate this week!

SATURDAY
Chic-ken-bur-gers! [clap! clap! clap-clap-clap!]

And chips. 

SUNDAY
Ham, peas, and mashed potatoes

The supermarket Dora works for got a shipment of . . . mislabeled hams, or something? So everybody got hams. Some days, the two most beautiful words in the English language are “fully cooked.” 

On Sunday I decided it was time to finally get around to dealing with the rugelach dough I made last week or possibly the week before. If you are wondering, the dough is still good! It’s just butter and cream cheese and flour, so it’s hard to hurt, as long as you wrap it up good. 

Jump to Recipe

The dough becomes sweet, and it gets a lovely little fragile crisp outside, because you roll it out on drifts of sugar. It’s really surprisingly tender, considering how dense the ingredients are.

Then you spread your fillings over the circle you’ve rolled out, cut it into triangles with a pizza cutter, and roll them rugelachim up

Then you do it 4,000 more times, and bake them on sprayed baking racks. This was my big breakthrough with rugelach production, because the filling leaks out now matter what I do. This way, it leaks onto the pan below (which you have lined with parchment paper), and the rugelach stay above the fray.

Let the rugelach cool for about ten minutes before you try to remove them from the rack. The easiest way is to push up on them from underneath, to pop them off the rack in one piece. 

So I ended up making some Nutella, some apricot walnut, some strawberry jam, and some with honey, cinnamon, and pistachios.

These are unbaked, demonstrating that you can re-use the parchment paper and bake several batches without having to clean the pan. 

And here are the honey pistachio cinnamon ones, baked. I made some with the pistachios sprinkled over the dough, and some with the pistachios rolled right into the dough. I also drizzled more honey over the top of the second variety. 

And I could not taste the difference. They were all good! 

It’s always a little startling to see how few you come up with, after such a long time rolling and baking, but on the other hand, I think we still have a few leftover today, Friday (after giving away several tins of them), so I guess it was the right number. 

You can save time by rolling the dough into a rectangle, rather than a circle, and spreading the filling on and then rolling it up in a log, like you would cinnamon buns; and then you just slice it into a bunch of little pastries all at once. Much faster. But then you get spirals/rosettes, rather than these sort of snail-shaped treats, and I just like them better this way. Why can’t more things be snail shaped? 

Tonight is the last night of Chanukah, but I am here to tell you that you can still make rugelach all through December and beyond, because nobody says “no” to rugelach. 

MONDAY
Muffaletta sandwiches and raw veg

I started (I mean years ago) trying to make these sandwiches as close to the authentic originals as possible, but now we just do whatever. This time it was baguettes for the bread, ham, turkey, salami, pepperoni, and I think some Italian speck, and provolone, and I used the food processor to make an olive salad with black and green olives, banana peppers, and red onion, with olive oil and wine vinegar, salt and pepper.

Maybe not authentic muffaletta sandwiches, but they were good. 

I made a big platter of raw vegetables

and I’ve been snacking on it all week. There is a time of day, every day, when I’m really not hungry in any meaningful way, but I cannot seem to convince my mouth that it doesn’t need to be chomping on something, so it’s helpful to have some pre-cut vegetables. Easy to transport, easy to grab.

So I snack on these, and THEN I start gobbling leftover cookies and whatnot. Follow me for more strategies on putting a ton of energy into not losing weight. 

TUESDAY
Chicken biryani, pomegranates

Been thinking about biryani for several weeks now. I use this basic recipe and adjust the seasoning as I see fit. It’s not hard at all. You just have to brown up the chicken, which you have opened up by slicing it along the bone

and then cook up your onion and ginger and spices in the hot oil, and then add in the rest of your stuff. It’s a little more involved than that, but it’s all in one big pan.

I didn’t have golden raisins, so I chopped up some apricots

So I cook it all up as early in the day as I can, and then transfer it to the slow cooker and keep it warm all day. This almost always makes the rice/liquid proportions come out even, and you don’t end up with soupy biryani or chompy rice

I accidentally threw the cilantro in with the chicken when I was cooking it, so I just added more fresh on top, along with some toasted almonds. Yum. We also had pomegranates. 

Oh, the apricots kind of turned to mush, which was disappointing. I didn’t think of it, but I guess raisins are better because they cook inside their little skins. It wasn’t bad, but the apricots didn’t really add anything. 

WEDNESDAY
Pizza

I was informed that one cheese, one olive, and one pepperoni pizza would “do numbers,” so that’s what I made. 

I also felt a sudden urge to make sufganiyot before Chanukah was over. I used this recipe from Once Upon a Chef. I made the dough in the early afternoon and set it to rise while I did my afternoon errands. When I got back, I rolled it out and cut it into 48 squares

and then you just fry them in a few inches of oil, about six at a time, and they puff up.

I always have a larf when I get out my candy thermometer. I can’t remember if I’ve told this story before, but when Irene was little, we were making caramel for something, and she said, while stirring: “We don’t want it to get too hot. Not hard ball. Or hard crack. Or . . . [peering at thermometer] fish donut.” 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Little kids are heroes. They are so willing to accept so much NONSENSE from the adult world. They’re just like, “Welp, I guess fish donut is a thing, and I just have to deal with it,” and off they go. 

We just made donuts, though. No fish involved. 

When the donuts are cool enough to handle, you cut a little slit in the side and get some filling in there. I used pastry bags and did half raspberry jelly

and half vanilla pudding.

Then you dust them with powdered sugar and eat them up. They were nice! They didn’t inflate as nicely as the ones in the recipe picture, so they stayed pretty square-ish, which was a little odd; but they were cooked all the way through, and had a nice crisp exterior and fluffy interior. I’ll probably use this recipe in the future. Everyone was very impressed, and 48 turned out to be the right number. (They’re smaller than, say, Dunkin’ Donut donuts, but bigger than Munchkins or whatever they’re called.)

THURSDAY
Roast turkey, cranberry sauce, brussels sprouts and squash, potato latkes

I had bought an extra turkey while they were still on sale for Thanksgiving, and Damien roasted it slowly with lemon halves and an entire head of garlic shoved inside, and salt, pepper, and garlic powder outside. Delicious and moist. 

I roasted a pan of Brussels sprouts and butter nut squash wedges along with, I don’t know, olive oil and honey, salt and pepper, and shoved that in the oven while I was frying up the potato latkes. 

Jump to Recipe

Every year I think I’m going to try some interesting variation on the recipe, or at least some onion or something, but every year, Chanukah comes right when I’m barely keeping my head above water with a million other projects. So basically just potatoes, eggs, flour, and little salt and pepper it is! And lots of oil, of course, which is what makes it a Chanukah food. 

They turned out pretty good. 

I served them with sour cream and mashed-up whole berry cranberry sauce, which turned out to be not really a great companion for latkes. So now I know! But it was a nice meal. 

We also discovered our dreidels are all missing, so I made one out of a paper plate and a matchstick,

annnnd then drew the letters on upside down by mistake. 

But it spun fine and fairly, and that’s what matters. I had bought chocolate coins back when everyone else was getting ready for St. Nicholas day, so that was set, anyway. The kids had a surprisingly good time playing dreidel. 

 

We have been doing okay keeping up with Chanukah candles and Advent candles and the Jesse tree. By “okay,” I mean we mostly didn’t skip it, and when we did do it, nobody got into a fist fight. Mehr licht

Thursday was the day I put up my annual Ludicrous Display (this began years ago, when I nailed a giant garbage bag spider on the shed for Halloween, and I kind of thought Hurricane Irene would take care of it after Halloween, but it didn’t, because I used so many nails; so we just put a Santa hat on it and let it stay. Thus began a tradition of putting up Halloween decorations with an eye toward longevity, so if there are skeletons, they put on bunny ears for Easter, and so on.

This is less funny than it used to be, because lots of people now have permanent skeletons; so I was looking for something a little different this year, and for some reason I got it into my head that we needed a Sacred Heart. So I made one out of foam and zip ties.

and added some lights and gold whatnot. Then I took the Groucho glasses and bats and whatnot off our front skeletons and made them look like they were paying impressed, and I put the heart up, and 

ehhh, I thought maybe it would look better in the dark

but it still looks kinda dumb! I guess it needs some work. Or whatever. I was okay with weird, but this is just confusing. Anyway, I took the bats down. 

The mailbox looks pretty good

and we haven’t gotten one of those chiding postcards from the post office yet. 

FRIDAY
??

I don’t know, I got tuna and fries for the kids, thinking Damien and I could go out for my birthday, but I think I’ve done enough plague superspreading for one week, going to the store 5,000 times and not realizing we all had Covid. (This year’s Covid seems to look like feeling kinda low and yucky for a few days and then throwing up one time, and then feeling much better, but sneezing.)

Oh, speaking of feeling better, I started a 30-day plank challenge group on Facebook, if anyone wants to join. We’re on day 4 today. No pressure, and nobody’s a super athlete or anything. It’s just easier to get this kind of thing going if you’re not alone! 

And that’s my story.  Next year, I’m gonna make blintzes. Blintzes with blueberry and pot cheese. Then we’ll see a ludicrous display. 

Rugelach

These are tender little pastries for Chanukah or any time. Use whatever kind of filling you like: Jams, preserves, cinnamon sugar, nutella, etc. These are time consuming, but don't take much skill, and they freeze well, so they make pretty little gifts.

Servings 80 rugelach

Ingredients

dough

  • half pound butter
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup or more sugar, for rolling

filling

  • 1/4-1/2 cup preserves or other filling
  • 1/4-1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, combine the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Slowly add in the flour and keep mixing until smooth. You can do this by hand, but it will take a while! The dough should be fairly stiff and not sticky when it's done.

  2. Divide the dough into 8 balls. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

  3. Preheat the oven to 400.

  4. Prepare a pan by lining it with parchment paper, then spraying a baking rack and putting the rack on the parchment paper. Line a second pan with parchment paper, to which you will remove the rugelach when they come out of the oven.

  5. Use the sugar to cover your work space, and use a rolling pin to roll a ball of dough into a round shape the size of a large plate. It should be thin enough to flap a bit when you give it a shake. If your rolling pin sticks, sprinkle more sugar on. You can turn the dough over to make sure both sides get sugared. It doesn't have to be perfectly round, as it will be cut into pieces.

  6. Spread the jam or other filling over the dough, leaving an open space in the middle. If you're adding nuts, sprinkle them over the filling.

  7. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 16-20 triangles.

  8. Roll each triangle up from the outside in. Place each rolled rugelach on the sprayed baking rack on the pan, with the skinny point down. They puff up a bit, so leave the space of one rugelach in between.

  9. Repeat for each ball of dough.

  10. Bake for ten minutes. If the dough isn't golden brown, give it another two minutes. These go from perfect to burnt very quickly, so be alert.

  11. When they bake, the filling will ooze out and pool and burn on the parchment paper, but the rugelach will not burn.

  12. When the rugelach come out of the oven, immediately use a butter knife to transfer them to another pan or rack to cool.

  13. Once they are cool, they can be wrapped in plastic and kept in the freezer for weeks without harm.

Potato latkes

Serve with sour cream and/or apple sauce for Hanukkah or ANY TIME. Makes about 25+ latkes

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs potatoes, peeled
  • 6 eggs beaten
  • 6 Tbsp flour (substitute matzoh meal for Passover)
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Grate the potatoes. Let them sit in a colander for a while, if you can, and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. 

  2. Mix together the eggs, salt and pepper, and flour. Stir into the potato mixture and mix well. 

  3. Turn the oven on to 350 and put a paper-lined pan in the oven to receive the latkes and keep them warm while you're frying. 

  4. Put 1/4 to 1/2 and inch of oil in your frying pan and heat it up until a drop of batter will bubble.  

  5. Take a handful of the potato mixture, flatten it slightly, and lay it in the pan, leaving room between latkes. Repeat with the rest of the mixture, making several batches to leave room in between latkes. Fry until golden brown on both sides, turning once. Eat right away or keep warm in oven, but not too long. 

  6. Serve with sour cream and/or applesauce or apple slices. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 355: I like my men like I like my Kentucky Hot Brown. . .

. . . not necessarily especially brown, but actually just named after a hotel. 

I swear this seemed like a joke in my head.

Anyway, here’s what we ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Turkey sandwiches, spanakopita triangles, chips

The last of the Thanksgiving leftovers. Not spectacular sandwiches, just a split baguette with turkey, lettuce, tomato, and Swiss cheese.

Damien reheated the last of the spanakopita triangles, and even though they’re amazing when they’re piping hot fresh out of the oven the first time, they’re still pretty darn good when they’re a little soft and old and leftover. As who among us is not. 

If you’re having a party in December, I do heartily recommend spanakopita triangles. They’re easy to make if you get ready made phyllo dough (what are you, crazy? of course get ready made) and they come out great if you make them ahead of time and keep them in the fridge until the guests are almost there, and then you just pop them in the oven. 

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So nice. 

SUNDAY
Green masala beef curry, rice, naan

I had bought a couple of of those weirdly cheap lamb breast plates several weeks ago, and threw it in the freezer, planning to make this excellent green masala curry. I also picked up a few extra lamb chops just to make sure there was enough meat. 

So, but, when it was time to cook, the lamb just did not smell right. I inquired on social media, and most folks claimed lamb is supposed to smell weird. Gamey, metallic, and so on, especially if the butcher wasn’t careful and let the wool contact the meat, giving it a lanolin flavor. I just kept sniffing and sniffing it, and I wasn’t sure if it was normal-weird or rancid-weird. 

Then I recalled that a few kids already had a stomach bug even before eating potentially bad meat, and I threw that meat away. No ragrets. I had been planning to make beef barley soup later in the week, so I cut up the beef I have saving and used that instead of mutton.

This is quite an easy recipe. I ground up everything in my food processor and set it to marinate with the meat in the morning. Then the only thing left to do is wake up some spices in oil (I didn’t have everything, just cinnamon, cloves and bay leaves)

and then add the meat and marinade, and let it cook. 

I do prefer lamb or goat, but the beef was great. Extremely tender, and the sauce is lovely, not too spicy but very warming. I actually did quite a few substitutions: I had black cardamom instead of green; I forgot jalapeños, so I just threw some green Tobasco sauce in there; and I forgot cilantro, so I used Italian parsley and extra mint (I had some of those cubes of frozen mint I saved from before the frost). I forgot the poppy seeds, and of course it was beef instead of mutton. STILL GOOD. Indian cooking is so forgiving. 

I decided we wanted homemade naan, so I pulled up the King Arthur recipe and made a double batch. It needs about an hour to rise, and then you separate the dough into balls

and let it rest for twenty minutes. Then you just fry each one on both sides in a hot pan, and brush it with butter or ghee

I find it helpful to keep a damp cloth by the stove to wipe the flour out of the pan in between each piece. Otherwise, it just hangs around and gets black and makes your naan taste burnt when it isn’t.

I put the naan in a pan and kept it warm in the oven, but I forgot to cover it, so some of them were a little too crisp and dry by the time it was dinner; but a lot of the were still chewy and reasonably tender. Nothing I bake really comes out very tender, but fresh hot naan is fresh hot naan! 

I splurged on basmati rice and made a big pot of that. I moved the meat into a pot on the stove, and used the Instant Pot to make the basmati rice. I did a 1:1 with rinsed rice and water, taking out a bit of the water afte measuring, to compensate for what would be on the rice after rinsing it; and I cooked it for ten minutes with ten minutes of natural release before venting. And we had a lovely meal.

I want to try more Indian recipes, but the few I have are so tasty, I just keep coming back to them. Maybe next week!

MONDAY
Turkey barley soup, hot pretzels

When I pulled the last turkey off the Thanksgiving bird over the weekend, I simmered the carcass all day in water with carrots, onions, and parsley, thinking it would be nice to have some good stock for later. So I figured Monday counted as later, and just pulled that out again and threw some more carrots and a bunch of barley and some mushrooms in, and we had some okay soup. 

I guess I just don’t like turkey soup that much. It was fine, just nothing to write home about. I heated up some frozen hot pretzels and it was fine. 

TUESDAY
Ham, mashed acorn squash, green beans with cashews

The kids were a little dismayed that I had not planned their ideal dinner, which is ham, peas, and mashed potatoes, but I’m not ready to mash potatoes again yet. Instead, I mashed squash! That’ll larn ’em!

I cut two acorn squashes in half, scooped out the seeds and gunk (and I saved the seeds! My empire of saved seeds continues to expand), sprinkled them with baking soda and a little kosher salt, and put them in the Instant Pot with half a cup of water. (The reasoning behind the baking soda is that it raises the pH of the squash, which hastens and deepens the caramelization that happens when you cook it. Does this really work? Nobody knows, but it’s so easy that I’m not gonna do an experiment and risk having slightly less flavorful squash.) I cooked the squash at high pressure for like 24 minutes. 

I couldn’t find the little metal trivet that keeps the food from touching the bottom, so I put some mason jar rings in there under the squash, and it worked fine. Probably raised the pH even more, who can say. 

Then I scooped them out, burning myself forty-six times; and then mashed it up with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon and cloves. The recipe I usually follow

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calls for nutmeg, but it had disappeared. My kitchen is like a shifting mirage, where things drift in and out of reality without regard for the fact that I am trying to get supper on the table. But the cinnamon and cloves tasted great. I love this dish. 

The ham was already cooked, so Damien heated it up the oven while I went to get the kids, and then while the squash was cooking, I made some quick string beans. 

I had cashews left over from the green curry, so I chopped up a bunch. I trimmed the string beans and cooked them in boiling water for like four minutes. Then I drained them and ran cold water over them until they were cool. (This is because, when they get hot enough, they will continue cooking away inside their little skins, even if you take them out of the hot water, and they get overcooked very quickly; so you need to cook them just a little and then make sure they stop cooking!)

Then I heated up some olive oil in a pan, slightly browned up the chopped-up cashews, and added the string beans back in and kept them moving until they were hot. I guess I added salt and pepper at this point. 

And it was a nice little meal!

If I had to do it over, I’d cook the string beans in butter, rather than oil. They were a little greasy. But still pretty good. 

WEDNESDAY
Regular tacos

100% regular. I heard the kids reading the blackboard menu and commenting that “regular tacos” sounded a little suspicious, like probably I was trying a little too hard to lull them into thinking that it was going to be a normal meal, WHEN IT WASN’T. Joke’s on them: They really were just normal tacos. Everybody wins, except the taco. 

THURSDAY
Kentucky Hot Brown

So, in retrospect, what would have made my turkey soup better is if it had had more turkey in it. But actually I had pulled the meat off the carcass and frozen it, and then I took the meat out on Thursday to try this sandwich recipe. But because I’m the queen of making things hard on myself for no reason, preferably over the course of several days, the meat I saved was enough meat for soup, but not really enough for sandwiches. So we ended up with sub-par soup, and then I had to run out anyway and buy some chicken and roast it so we’d have enough meat for the sandwiches, which are perfect for when you have tons of leftover turkey in the house and you don’t know what to do with it, and/or you are crazy. 

NEVERTHELESS, they were good sandwiches! I had some thick Italian bread which I toasted in the oven, and on top of that you put the turkey, then some sliced tomatoes, then a mornay sauce (which is just a white sauce with cheese in it. I used freshly grated parmesan, some cheddar, and a little pepper jack) with plenty of nutmeg (which had graciously appeared again), and then bacon on top of that. 

You’re supposed to toast the whole thing under the broiler, but I forgot. Still good!

I made the mornay sauce in the pan that the bacon had been fried in, because fat.

FRIDAY
Quesadillas I guess

I think I saw the writing on the wall (the writing saying “Mene mene you keep using up food that you meant to save for another meal, you dope!”) and, when I was making the mornay sauce, I actually hid some cheese from myself, so I would have some for the quesadillas and not have to go to the supermarket yet again. I don’t know where I hid it, but it’s gotta be in the fridge somewhere, and WHEN I FIND IT . . . I’m gonna make some quesadillas. 

And that’s why they call me Kentucky Hot Brown. (They do not.) 

Spanakopita triangles

Ingredients

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

Instructions

To make the filling:

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

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

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

  4. Preheat the oven to 375

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

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

To assemble the triangles:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.