What’s for supper? Vol. 199: Exit, pursued by lion’s head

So! Next week is Vol. 200 of What’s for Supper. You know what that means, don’t you?!?!?!

I don’t know. It means what it means. If you have any neat ideas for how to mark the occasion, I’m at least partially ears. In the mean time, thanks for playing along for two hundred weeks! I have all these tabs open with upsetting stories about troubling new violations of bioethics and stuff like that, and I love having a little section of the internet where we can just talk about dang ol’ food.

Here’s what we had this week.

SATURDAY
Lasagna, garlic bread

I wasn’t sure what to make when I got home from shopping, so Damien was all, “Hey, how about if I shop for and make my special homemade lasagna?” You know, I argued a little bit, but eventually I let him. You have to let husbands have their way sometimes, for the health of the marriage. This is called “dying to self,” and it’s delicious.

I still don’t have an actual recipe, but here is his description of how it’s made:

For the meat sauce: You take some cut-up onion and garlic and cook it in olive oil with a few red pepper flakes. Then you add the meat [we had ground beef] and brown it up. Then add a can of tomato pasta and a can of whole tomatoes crushed up a little, and a splash of red wine.

For the cheese mixture: You put a shit ton of shredded mozzarella in the [three tubs of] ricotta cheese, a bunch of garlic powder, salt and pepper and oregano, and some cinnamon [couldn’t find the nutmeg]

He cooked up a few boxes of pasta and layered that with the meat sauce and the cheese mixture and lots and lots of sliced mozzarella and parmesan and chopped Italian parsley. Then he sprinkled parmesan cheese and olive oil on the top, and baked it. 

SUNDAY
Carnitas with guacamole

Jump to Recipe

Pretty mediocre carnitas, to be honest. I started the meat in the slow cooker somewhat late in the day, so it didn’t get very tender, and then I had a kid shred it and I seasoned it okay, but then I overcooked it, so it was dry and chewy. Boo.

Avocados are still 69 cents, so I made another big bowl of guacamole, but it, too, was nothing to write home about. I couldn’t find the cilantro. The refrigerator is out of control. I can’t find anything. I also forgot to buy tomatoes, and made the dubious chose to use canned diced tomatoes. I was just kind of guacamediocre, I guess. You don’t even want to know how long I thought about which was funnier, “guacamediocre” or “mediocamole.” I decided they were both stupid and maybe we can just move along. 

Here’s my guac recipe that’s really good if you actually follow it. 

Jump to Recipe

MONDAY
Chicken burgers, fries, carrots and broccoli with hummus
Chinese food for adults

So I was supposed to review Jojo Rabbit but, like a dummy, I missed the local viewing. So I threw some frozen food in the kids’ general direction we drove about an hour to Amherst, MA, which turns out to be a pretty neat little town.  We picked out a Mandarin Chinese restaurant Formosa, that looked, let’s face it, quiet. We didn’t want a place that looked fun or cute or neat or awesome. We wanted one that looked quiet. It turned out to be a pretty serious Chinese restaurant! By which I mean there were a lot of Chinese people eating there, and there were lot of intestines on the menu, and, like, salted fish heads.

Now, Damien and I really diverge, here. When we are away from home, he wants to know exactly what he is in for, so he ordered crab rangoon, miso soup, General Gao’s Chicken, and white rice. I, on the other hand, feel like this could be my one and only chance to open a whole new door to a whole new world and what if I’m afraid to take a chance and I miss it!!!!!!!

This has never worked out well for me, not even one time. I always end up with a giant portion of something weird and upsetting. Nevertheless, I went ahead and ordered Lion’s Head Sizzling Pot. I mean, how can you not? It said it had shrimp in it, and it was called LION’S HEAD SIZZLING POT. 

The waiter tried to talk me out of it, and showed me two other items which were also called Lion’s Head; but I pushed back pretty hard, and I got my Lion’s Head Sizzling Pot. It turned out to be . . . I really can’t call it a bowl of soup. It was a tankard of soup. A tub of soup. A basin of soup. A CASK of soup. I could have soaked my feet up to my calves in this dish.

Note not only the diameter of the dish, but how far away from the table the spoon is.

It had soft, grey pork meatballs the size of softballs lurking around in it. There were veritable rafts of scrambled eggs adrift in the bowl. Also some kind of leafy greens, maybe bok choy, although it seemed leafier than that; comb-shaped bamboo shoots; vast logs of tofu, squares of ham, chewy, bulbous, dark brown mushrooms, vermicelli, and a few lonely shrimp. It was kinda bland, to be honest. I ate as much as I possibly could and barely made a dent in the volume.

They packed the leftovers up for me in several containers and I exited, pursued by Lion’s Head.

Jojo Rabbit was interesting, but boy oh boy, I have thoughts. Review should be up soon in America if they like it. 

TUESDAY
Spaghetti and meatballs

Damien kindly offered to make dinner again, as I was freaking out about something or other. He makes very fine meatballs. I don’t seem to have a picture of them, though.

Here’s my meatball recipe

Jump to Recipe

He likes to pan fry his and add lots of diced onions. My recipe is less exciting but way easier, as they are made in the oven. (Whispers: ***It doesn’t really matter. If you put them in sauce the end up tasting the same.***)

Dora also invited a friend over and they made knishes, reasons unclear. Not that you need a reason to make knishes! I’ve just never woken up on a Tuesday morning and thought to myself, “Hey, I know what!” and ended up with knishes. 

WEDNESDAY
Ginger garlic chicken kabobs, string beans, pineapple

New recipe! I more or less followed Damn Delicious’ recipe, so I won’t make a new card just yet. This was pretty tasty and easy, although the fresh ginger I bought vanished without a trace, so I had to use powdered. I must say, it was plenty hot without fresh ginger. It’s a zippy, warming dish, and attractive. I over cooked it a bit, oops. 

It’s an easy marinade (oyster sauce, ketchup, honey, chili garlic sauce, dijon mustard, garlic, and ginger). I let it marinate for about five hours, then stuck the chicken on skewers and put them on an oiled broiler pan right under the broiler. I turned them once, slathered on some reserved marinade, and cooked the other side. Sprinkle on some sesame seeds and scallions, and there it is. 

Surprisingly filling. 

THURSDAY
Gumbo, brown rice

I more or less followed this recipe from The Spruce Eats.

I actually started prepping this Wednesday night, because I took a look at my Thursday schedule and did not like what I saw. So I cooked chicken thighs in the instant pot, browned up some sausage, and then sautéed the shrimp in the sausage pan; and Clara diced a bunch of celery, peppers, and onions.

(Shh, don’t tell anyone, but I bought Italian sausage because I live in NH and I don’t know anything.)

I thought I was sooooo smart, and cooking day was going to be soooo easy because of the prep work we had done. I’ll tell you what, this dish was still a pain in the ass to make. I was stirring that freaking roux for an hour, and it never did get “chocolate brown.” And it turns out I don’t have any cajun seasoning in my pantry (by which I mean two old taped-together clementine boxes on top of the microwave) because I live in NH. So I made some cajun seasoning, but by this point, I was feeling awfully cranky about the whole project, and there was really no way this gumbo was going to taste good enough to make up for the pain in my ass. 

I mean, it was good? Sometimes it’s hard to tell how good something tastes when you’re already full of resentment. 

Damien and I ate it, Corrie and Moe tried it, and the rest of them went straight for frozen pizza. And I mean frozen pizza, as in they did not cook it. They are complete degenerates and I don’t know why I bother. And yes, I brought this entire debacle upon myself by choosing to make gumbo for no reason at all. My Saturday morning ambitions do not always mesh well with my Thursday afternoon realities. 

I had delusions of making some french bread, since it turned out so well last week.

As the day flew by, I downgraded my ambitions to beer bread. But it turns out I was out of flour. This is not because I live in NH; it’s because I forgot to buy flour. Anyway, I’ll put the beer bread recipe card at the end and Imma make it soon. Beer bread is great! It only uses one bowl, and it comes together as quickly as any quick bread, but it’s much more bready and less cakey than most quick breads, and it has a wonderful yeasty, honeyed taste, and the knobbly cobbled crust is very nice. The secret is a ludicrous amount of melted butter.

Anyway, this was all in my imagination. In real life, I made a big pot of brown rice, which the kids also did not eat. Benny tried to comfort me by remarking on how chewy it is, and how funny that is. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

I don’t have a recipe, really. Just make a white sauce until it looks like enough, then dump in a bunch of shredded cheese and plenty of pepper and SOME HOT SAUCE. Then you mix this with the cooked macaroni, pour into a buttered dish, top with buttered panko bread crumbs, and bake until you can hear it. 

My kids eat it with mustard. I told you they were degenerates. 

Okay! Don’t forget to comment with ideas about what to do for Vol. 200! If it were the summer, I’d make a whole week of greatest hits, or a whole week of reader-suggested recipes. But it’s not. 

4 from 1 vote
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Slow cooker carnitas

Serve on tortillas with sour cream, guacamole, beans and rice, salsa, cilantro, or whatever you like.

Ingredients

  • 1 pork shoulder
  • 1 can beer (or soda)
  • cumin
  • chili powder
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Put pork shoulder in slow cooker with beer. Cook on low for five hours or more, until pork falls apart when poked. 

  2. Preheat broiler. 

  3. Shred meat, mix together with spices, and spread in a thin layer on a shallow pan. Broil for a few minutes until meat is slightly crisped.  

  4. Serve on tortillas with whatever additions you like. 

 

4 from 1 vote
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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. 

 

4 from 1 vote
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Meatballs for a crowd

Make about 100 golf ball-sized meatballs. 

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.

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

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

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

 

4 from 1 vote
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Beer bread

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

This recipe makes two large loaf pan loaves.

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375

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

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

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

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

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 198: In which I do not die

Sorry about the dearth of posts this week. I’ve been busily tapping away at other stuff that will bob to the surface eventually. Also I thought I was dying, which was distracting. (Spoiler: I did not die.)

On Monday I stopped being able to ignore these chest pains and unexplained swelling that sounded a lot like some very un-fun heart attack/lethal blood clot nonsense, so with my family history, I chewed up some aspirin and had a kid drive me to the ER. My heart is okay, thanks be to God. I think it is stress, which is embarrassing, but there it is. So now I have to do these fricken breathing exercises like a stupid hippie. 

Nobody said I had to stop eating like someone who’s trying to induce a heart attack, though.  Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Buffalo chicken with salad

This is quickly becoming my new fast and easy but not-quite-junk-food meal (which means that the family is quickly becoming sick and tired of it). It’s mixed greens topped with shredded carrots, crumbled blue cheese, crunchy fried onions from a pouch, and buffalo chicken from frozen, drizzled with buffalo ranch dressing. 

Quite a nice combination, sharp and yummy, but there’s an actual salad involved, so, santo subito

SUNDAY
Bacon, eggs, Brussels sprouts; homemade french bread

One of my favorite one-pan meals, and it’s so easy.

Jump to Recipe

You just have to cut up a bunch of Brussels sprouts and cut up a bunch of raw bacon, stir up a quick balsamic honey sauce, mix it all together, and cook it all in a big sheet pan. Shortly before it’s done, you crack some eggs on top and cook it a little longer, then top it with parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes.

SO GOOD. These flavors together are just so cozy and savory. 

Every time I make this dish, I say it needs fresh, warm bread, so this time I went for it.

I was feeling peppy after a successful faith formation class (we acted out the visit of the magi and the flight to Egypt. You should have seen that little star of Bethlehem waving and waving and waving her hands. Here’s the baby! Here He is! It was adorable) and didn’t need to do anything right away, so it was a good time. I chose this french bread recipe, which looked reasonable. I haven’t made french bread for something like ten years, and I was very nervous about the yeast. 

Someone told it’s better if the water is a little too cool, rather than too hot. So I erred on coolness and gave it almost 20 minutes to foam, and it foamed!  Hooray! The rest was pretty easy. I used the dough hook on my standing mixer to do the kneading for me, so it came out plenty smooth. And the idiots who designed my kitchen built a cabinet and countertop over the heating vent. We’ve since torn out the cabinets, but there is still a little makeshift shelf there, so I have the perfect warm, protected dough-rising spot.

So I let it rise in the bowl, then formed the loaves (I made a double recipe, so I had four big loaves) and let them rise, and slashed them after the second rise. Then I went out of the room for a minute. When I came back, one of my children was leaning on the loaf with her elbow. Just . . . .leaning on it. And it wasn’t like, “Oops, oh no, my goodness, I can’t believe I leaned in your dough!” It was more like, “Yeah, I can see spending my life here. What’s she yelling about now?” 

Anyway. I reformed the loaf, even if it’s not possible to do that with the child.

This recipe calls for tossing some ice cubes into the oven along with the bread, to put moisture in there and give it a nice crust.

I thought it came out a little soft and pale for my liking, but I didn’t want to over bake it and dry it out; so I melted some butter and brushed that on. They were so glossy and golden and lovely, I just about died, I was so proud of myself.

The taste was a little bland, which is okay, since the purpose of this bread was so sop up the spectacularly flavorful balsamic-honey-bacon-egg yolk pan drippings of the meal. 

Sorry, one last bread picture. I made bread!

I don’t feel confident enough to write up my own recipe card yet, but I’ll try this a few more times and then get that going. Yay, bread!

MONDAY
Domino’s

So this was the day I decided I was actually dying, and not from bread pride, so instead of the planned meal, we ordered pizza. And yes, I pulled off my cardiac electrodes, put my back shirt on, came home, and ate cold pepperoni pizza standing up. We die like Americans.

TUESDAY
Chicken quesadillas and guacamole 

Broiled some chicken in the oven, well crusted with salt, pepper, chili powder, and cumin, and sliced it up, then sliced up a ton of cheese, and fixed a big bowl of guacamole. The rest of the day is a bit of a blur. I think I went to bed and Damien made quesadillas. 

I do remember how remarkably perfect the avocados were, though. I bought them on Saturday and chose exactly the right day to cut them up. Aren’t they lurvely?

The guacamole was not, to be honest, my very best. I should have mashed them avocados more, cut the tomatoes smaller, and juiced some more limes. Still tasty, though. 

 

Jump to Recipe

WEDNESDAY
Bacon cheeseburgers, Doritos

Wednesday was, despite his best efforts, Damien’ birthday, and he requested that he be allowed to shop for and cook this meal. What a prima donna, right? We also had stuffed clams, because why not. (Here I would like to remind you that the doctor said my heart is entirely healthy and all my numbers are good. I only ate half a bacon cheeseburger, though, because I was full of stuffed clams.)

Now the kids are supposed to stop harassing me about being older than Damien, as we are now both 45, but they have not stopped. 

THURSDAY
Pulled pork sandwiches, tater tots, coleslaw

Easy peasy. I bought one of those giant shrink wrapped sandworm pork hunks at Aldi and chonked it in the slow cooker with some beer and hot pepper flakes, and let it cook all day. Shredded it and mixed it up with a bottle of BBQ sauce

and let that warm up while I made coleslaw

Jump to Recipe

 

which we ate by the light of the it’s-still-Christmas lights.

We also had the birthday dessert I had purchased on Wednesday but which we were all too stuffed to eat. This is what you get when you can’t say what you really want for your birthday. You get this:

No, he doesn’t especially like Raisinets.

Not pictured: Two kinds of ice cream, fresh whipped cream, hot fudge, and cherries. 

FRIDAY
Grilled cheese and tomato soup. 

Tomato soup from a can, I say! *shakes fist whats-for-supperly*

Recipe cards below!

Bacon, eggs, and brussels sprouts in honey garlic balsamic sauce

Adapted from Damn Delicious.  An easy and tasty one-pan meal that would work for any meal. Great with a hearty bread like challah. 

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 3 lbs uncooked bacon, cut into 1- or 2-inch pieces
  • 18 eggs
  • oil for greasing pan
  • salt and pepper to taste

Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed

Garnish (optional):

  • parmesan cheese, grated
  • red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Grease two large oven sheets. 


  2. Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Mix Brussels sprouts and bacon together, spread evenly in pans, and pour sauce all over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

  3. Cook until bacon is almost done (almost as crisp as you like it) and Brussels sprouts are very slightly browned, 18-20 minutes.

  4. Pull the pans out of the oven and carefully crack the eggs onto the Brussels sprouts and bacon, here and there.

  5. Return pan to the oven and cook a few minutes longer, just enough to set the eggs. The yolks will get a little film over the top, but don't let them cook all the way through, or you'll have something resembled hard boiled eggs, which isn't as good. You want the yolks to be liquid so you can dip forkfuls of fod into it.

  6. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes and serve. 

 

4 from 1 vote
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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. 

 

Coleslaw

Ingredients

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

Dressing

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

Instructions

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

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 197: Latkes! Jelly donuts! Sushi! Oh the sushi! and Calzones.

Happy new year! If I had stayed on track back in October, I would have hit Vol. 200 of What’s For Supper right on Christmas. Instead, here we are, starting out the new year and new decade with . . . Vol. 197. The good news is, I won’t wake up at 3:45 a.m. feeling bad about this, because I’ll be too busy feeling terrible about not doing a podcast, not exercising, why is my fat head so fat, not inculcating my kids with a love of the saints and the arts, and the fact that one of them saw a bumper sticker that said “GOD BLESS JOHNNY CASH” and disagreed. Also, one of them heard Bob Dylan for the first time and said, “Who crawled into a hole and found this guy crouching there?” but I can’t really argue with that. 

Anyway, here’s what we had this week, spanning 2019 and 2020 or whatever it is:

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips, broccoli and dip

I had to spell “broccoli” three times before the red line went away. 

SUNDAY
Hamburgers, cheezy weezies, more broccoli

I ate broccoli with the fervor of someone who needs vegetables like fresh meat needs salt and vegetables. 

MONDAY
Beef barley soup, jelly donuts

Monday was the last night of Hanukkah– 

Wait, did I show you my lovely latkes? I guess that was during that weird in-between week after Christmas day, during Hanukkah, before New Year’s. Weird, man. Anyway, we have some lovely latkes, which I will now show to you:

It was a Friday and we finally decided that Friday within the octave of Christmas was a very nice day indeed, but not a solemnity, so it had to be meatless. I dunno, we get scrupey sometimes. But I really wanted latkes, so I went to the store and brought home the following side dishes: Frozen cheese blintzes, which I served with blackberry jam; frozen cheesy bread sticks, which I served with marinara sauce; crab cakes with lemon wedges; almond stollen; and crackers with sour cream, smoked salmon, and caviar. This is how we preserve Fridays as a day of penance and I don’t want to talk about it. 

Latke recipe card at the end. See my latkes! See my lovely latkes!

Gosh, they were so good. Crispy on the outside and soft and mealy inside, just right. 

Okay, so I was saying how Monday was my final chance to try making jelly donuts. (It’s traditional to eat foods cooked in oil, to commemorate the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days in the temple lamps.) I didn’t feel lucky about using yeast, so I found this King Arthur recipe for easy donut holes that just uses baking powder. It really was easy. (I did use a candy thermometer to make sure the oil was hot enough, and was very surprised at how long it took to come to 350. If I had been winging it, I would have started frying much too soon.)

You just mix up the batter (and if it seems too thin, let it sit for a bit, and it becomes more dough-like) and blop it into hot oil. It puffs into cute little balls,

which you then roll in sugar and fill with jelly. 

Actually the recipe says to put the jelly in first and then roll them in sugar, which makes no sense to me.

See, you get sugar on your jelly. It’s weird.

It also makes no sense to attempt to make jelly donuts when the most advanced jelly-squirting equipment you own is a sandwich bag, and yet that is what I did. 

They became somewhat less cute in the process, but the kids did like them, so I may make it a tradition. But I will make sure I have some kind of pastry bag or injecting tool, because yeesh, what a mess. 

Oh, the soup was good. Beef barley soup is always good. 

Jelly donuts were a strangely good match for the soup, I thought. Although I may have become deranged from breathing in hot oil. Honest to goodness, Hanukkah is going to kill me. Don’t tell my doctor. Tell him about the broccoli. 

TUESDAY
NYE Sushi party!

I took most of the kids to the vigil mass while Damien and Lena covered some political thing. Corrie was . . . she wasn’t even being bad. She was just being Ultra Corrie. Right at the elevation of the Host, she turned to me with a scratch pad picture clenched in her teeth, and, through clenched teeth, said, “This is a picture of you, dead.” Which it was. 

Then we came home and STARTED MAKING SUSHI. This is our New Year’s Eve tradition, and I like it. Normally we make DIY sushi cones (which just means you take a sheet of seaweed, slap some rice in one corner, poke whatever you want on top of the rice, and then roll or wad it up and stick it in your mouth; but this year, I attempted actual rolled sushi. It wasn’t that hard, with a bamboo rolling mat, but you can see, these are a little rough.

Oops, forgot the fishy eggs! Shprinkle, shrpinkle, fishy eggs. 

Next year I’ll watch some videos first, but we muddled through. I also bought a few kits of something called sushi candy, which turned out to be plastic trays with little packets of powder marked “tuna,” “seaweed,” “rice,” etc. , and you mixed the contents with water from a little dropper and used a tiny plastic paddle to make various kinds of gelatinous heaps of gel that actually resembled tuna, seaweed, rice, etc. Then you could shape them into sushi. It was simultaneously ingenious and very terrible, which has been my experience with every single kind of Asian candy. 

I made a batch of good rice (Nishiki brand. They look like mother of pearl) and mixed it gently with a mixture of rice vinegar, sugar, and salt (I cooked eight cups of raw rice and used 1 cup of rice vinegar, half a cup of sugar, and 3 tablespoons of salt. You put the vinegar, salt, and sugar in a pot and heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved, then fold it gently into the cooked rice while someone stands there fanning it with a paper plate so it doesn’t make the rice mushy). The Instant Pot makes great, sticky rice for sushi. 

We had raw salmon and raw tuna, seared mahi mahi, sautéed calamari, black caviar (couldn’t find any of that neat red-orange roe), little cooked shrimpies, sticks of cucumbers, avocado, and mango; wasabi sauce, sriracha mayo, pickled ginger, and of course soy sauce. We needed more crunchy elements. Maybe next time I will do a shrimp tempura. Or even just toast up some panko flakes. You know, it takes a lot of sushi to make twelve people feel like they ate too much, but we managed. 

We did make a bunch of hot dogs just to make sure everyone had something to eat (and this accounts for the bottle of ketchup you may see in some photos! We may be uncultured swine, but we do not put ketchup on our sushi). Then, according to tradition, we watched a Marx Brothers movie. This time it was A Night At the Opera, one of the best. Boogie boogie boogie!

WEDNESDAY
Calzones, banana splits

Birthday! She was the first child born in that city on New Year’s Day. They sent a reporter and photographer to the hospital and tried to get me to say that it wasn’t a big deal because we already had a bunch of other babies. I remember saying that it was a big deal, though, so there. Sophia is still a big deal, and always will be. 

We went to see a Star War (and I am exactly the right level of Star Wars fan, which means that I had a vague idea of who most of the people were, and found the movie entertaining and nice, and then as soon as the lights came on, I forgot about everything I just saw) and then came home for calzones and banana splits. A few of them spilled their guts in the pan

But most of them retained their dignity.

Corrie helped me with the egg wash, which she called “polish.” 

THURSDAY
Nachos

The high school kids had to go back to school on Thursday, can you believe it? The other kids were still on vacation, and had an “argh, vacation is almost over and we didn’t have enough fun” sleepover. I went to visit my mom and somehow persuaded myself that I’d be back in town in time to take the little guys to the caterpillar lab thing, but I barely had time to buy extra meat and fry it up before dinner. You can see that I went all out with the exotic seasonings.

Today, caterpillar lab o morte

FRIDAY
Pahster.

And very find pahster it was. I decided I didn’t want to deal with caterpillars, and we went to the children’s museum instead. Here is a photo of Benny and Corrie, intergalactic heroes, running out of oxygen shortly before crashing into the sun.

(Ten years later, they returned triumphantly to earth with a dog they had rescued from space, so don’t worry!)

And here are your recipe cards! Smell you next week. 

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 handfuls of potato mixture and squeeze out any excess moisture. Flatten mixture slightly and lay them in the pan, leaving room between latkes. Fry until golden brown on both sides, turning once. Eat right away or keep warm in oven. 

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

 

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. 

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.  

What’s for supper? Vol. 196: CAKE OR PIE?

Merry Christmas! Merry merry Christmas! I hope you are still celebrating the season by finding stray candy canes in the couch cushions, and I hope some of them are the good rainbow kind.

I don’t seem to have done a food post last week, so before we get to Christmas ridiculousness, here are a few of the more notable things we had:

Harvest chicken salad, which I thought was delicious. 

It was greens with  . . . listen, I had kale for mine. I really like kale. I don’t know why people have to act like it’s going to refurbish your entire immune system, remove generational curses, and restore the childhood enamel to all your molars; but I also don’t know why people have to act like it’s some kind of undigestible, grotesque torture food. It’s just got a nice ribbony texture and a pleasant, slightly sweet flavor. It’s just a kind of salad guys, yeesh. Now if you want to talk about frisee lettuce, there is some nasty, bitter stuff that should not be ingested. Ptui. 

So over the kale, I had roasted chicken breast, bacon, chopped dates, chopped pecans, green apples, feta cheese, and a honey mustard dressing. Very tasty.

I like to fill the house with the heavenly aroma of frying bacon, and then chop it up for salad. It reminds the kids I have the power of life and death over them. 

I also made a meal that was sort of Thanksgiving But With Pork, with pork chops, stuffing, mashed butternut squash, and cranberry sauce. I always feel like Thanksgiving is so exhausting, I don’t fully appreciate the stuffing, so I wanted some more stuffing, with plenty of butter, mushrooms, onions, celery, and of course butter. Sidenote: Due to shoddy work ethics among textile workers, my pants are all tight. 

This was the day I launched into December’s rendition of that wonderful song “You People Don’t Appreciate What I Do For You,” which had enough choruses to last me right up until Christmas. I did shut up eventually, but I feel like I could start again at any moment. 

Oh, and Benny had a birthday party and I made her this Starfire cake, which pleased her:

For a snacktivity, I gave the party guests a bunch of fruits and veggies, soft cheeses, nutella, etc, and they made little bugs. These kids are 8 years old, which is apparently the perfect age for this activity. They had such a good time. 

As long as I’m dumping all the food pictures, at some point we had a snow day and seized the opportunity to make buckeyes:

We only had time to make the peanut butter balls and freeze them, to be dipped in melted chocolate later. We still have not dipped them in chocolate. They are still in the freezer. Many of my kids thought buckeyes are supposed to be eaten frozen, which will tell you how often we get to this stage and then stall out. 

Oh, I also made a ton of chocolate pretzel snacks for the kids’ school party. I have become completely resigned to the fact that I just don’t make good cookies, at all, so this is fine. You just put a Hershey’s Kiss on a pretzel, put it in the oven for a few minutes, and then press an M&M into it, then freeze it. 

I guess that’s really all we had that was interesting. There was some kind of stew I remember eating, but that was 400 years ago. Onward. Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Steak, chips

I misread the flyer and thought it was some kind of chuck roast on sale, so I planned sandwiches or whatever. To my delight, it turned out to be steak for $1.99 a pound! I bought so many pounds. Damien seasoned it heavily and broiled it in the oven. Corrie said, “The red part is the good part!” and I ogree. 

We all got to confession on Saturday, so that was a relief, although I must say that was the most misbegotten travesty of a confession line I’ve ever seen. Nobody knew where to go and everyone was being so terrible! In the confession line! Why can’t they just put a sign? 

SUNDAY
Ham, mashed potatoes, peas

This meal was half convenience, half wish fulfillment. Benny and Corrie consider this to be the ideal meal, and who can blame them? It was also very easy to set up ahead of time and eat when we got home late from the musical of A Christmas Carol, in which Moe was Bob Crachit. Moe did great. I’m not gonna lie, it was kind of a weird production. I did not expect the Ghost of Christmas Present to go into a razzle dazzle soft shoe number with a chorus line of sexy puddings, but, you know what, this paragraph is like a gift that you think is going to be a fun cool robot, but it’s actually a STEM kit that you have to put together yourself. Acting. Ham. You put it together, kid; Mama needs more coffee.

Sunday was also the first night of Hanukkah. We’ve been lighting the candles and saying the prayers, but have postponed latkes and other more elaborate fun until after Christmas. 

MONDAY
Pizza

So at some point in December, I promised two of my daughters that I’d take them out dress shopping. On Monday, I remembered about one of them. (I didn’t remember the other one until we were getting ready for Christmas Mass and she reminded me that I never did take her dress shopping. She also reminded me that she had reminded me several times throughout the month. I am sorry. I am sorry about many things.) So we went to . . . .seven stores. And found a dress! It was a nice dress. Damien made the pizzas, and they were good. 

I think it was Monday that we did a final gift reconciliation survey and discovered that we had screwed the pooch and given one kid something that was on her sister’s list. So Damien did the one thing he swore he wouldn’t do this year: He went to GameStop. Greater love hath etc. etc. It all worked out in the end.

Also on Tuesday we finally got the tree lights up. We started putting lights up before Thanksgiving, because it’s so freaking dark and nobody likes that. I’ve been gradually adding strands, and by Christmas eve, the general theme was “LOOKIT ALL THE LIGHTS.” 

TUESDAY
Deli sandwiches, fries, shrimp cocktail, White Russians

At some point during the day, I had decided it was Very Important to have new homemade decorations for the tree, so I sliced up a bunch of lemons and clementines and put them in a 170 oven to dry for several hours.

Promising, right? They smelled great, and I ran out to the store for miscellaneous whatnot and also the food items for the St. Vincent de Paul giving tree that I had completely forgotten about. I also lost the tags, so I grabbed a big bunch of stuff that I would have wanted when I was poor. I also for some reason promised Corrie a new dress, which we miraculously found at Walmart. It was a ridiculous Anna dress with a little tulle cape and she looked both regal and puffy, which she does every day. So of course I forgot the citrus slices were in the oven, and most of them burned, especially the lemons.

This is why you come to this site: So I can go, “Look at my burned lemons!” and you can go, “This is why I come to this site.” I did salvage a few of the orange slices and made some dubious items with embroidery thread, ribbons, beads, and star anise. 

Sometimes you finish stuff just so you can say you freaking finished something for once.

That evening, we decorated the tree. Actually Damien told me to go lie down, and the kids decorated the tree while singing “Monster Mash.” Works for me. We went to the 10 PM Mass (they don’t have midnight Mass in our area), and to be honest I spent most of it crying because apparently that’s what I do now. Here we are with our goons:

Yes, this is the best picture of the lot. No, Corrie was not sleepy. FAR FROM IT.

But we did pack them off to bed eventually and did all the final preparations

and then collapsed. 

WEDNESDAY
CHRISTMAS!

Our traditional Christmas breakfast is eight pounds of bacon, dozens and dozens of cinnamon buns, grapes and cherries, eggnog, and orange juice. 

I made Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon rolls earlier in the week and froze them, then defrosted them overnight in the fridge. I made so many rolls that I baked the second batch for lunch and made some more juice and we started all over again. 

For dinner . . . Well.  We have been ordering a pu pu platter for 15 from the restaurant down the road for something like 11 years. Never any problem. But hours after we placed this year’s order, shortly before we were supposed to pick it up, they called us and said there had been some miscommunication between the front desk and the kitchen and they couldn’t accommodate us! Hate speech!!!  They said that they could only take orders for pu pu platters for five. Damien asked if three of us could call and order pu pu platters for five, and the poor woman mumbled that it was “a gray area.” I have no idea what kind of big trouble was going on in that little Chinese restaurant, but we shook the dust from our feet and heroically called the other Chinese restaurant down the other street, and ordered a pu pu platter for 15. I think we squeaked in just under the wire. When we came in to pick up the food, half the staff was close to hysteria, and the other half was all in. A family came in after us and the waitress screamed, “NO! NO COME IN! NO ROOM!” and flapped a stack of styrofoam takeout trays at them until they ran away.

But we were the lucky ones, and we collected our fragrant bags and left. It turns out this particular restaurant doesn’t consider egg rolls to be part of a pu pu platter, but it was still good. This meal fills my heart with gratitude for a family that would really, truly rather have Chinese takeout than an elaborate homemade feast. 

Christmas day was just wonderful. Everyone was happy, everyone was nice, everyone got along. It was great. The worst thing that happened was that one kid got a Godzilla toy that he already had, but luckily his parents are so insane, they had a spare Godzilla present in their bedroom just in case, to save the day. Here is a bit of Christmas morning, in which we fulfilled the sacred ancient ritual of Cake or Pie? (You will want the sound on.)

I could explain it, but I don’t think you’d come away knowing any more than you do right now. It’s my favorite part of Christmas morning. 

THURSDAY
There were many, many leftovers from the day before, so I made a pot of rice and Damien picked up some egg rolls and sushi from the supermarket and we did it all again. 

FRIDAY

I honestly don’t know what we’re having for supper today. We do have some crackers and mascarpone, smoked salmon, and caviar that I somehow thought we’d have room for on Christmas day, but we did not. We’re still drowning in cinnamon buns, and I vastly overestimated how much eggnog twelve people could ingest.

It’s a good thing that, as Catholics, we understand that the main point of Christmas is eating. I think we nailed it. 

Ooh, maybe we’ll have latkes tonight. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 195: Pork gyros! Buffalo chicken salad! Zuppa toscana!

I think I forgot to do a food post last week. Sorry! I don’t think you missed much. I think we had leftover turkey sandwiches, because if you can believe it, last week was the week after Thanksgiving, and here it is already almost judgment day, I mean Christmas.

Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Beer brats and chips

The kids demanded this meal, with plenty of onions. Damien boils the brats in beer and then browns them up. Sometimes he makes Onions Three Ways (onions cooked in beer, fried onions, and raw onions), but this time we just had raw onions. 

SUNDAY
Birthday lasagna, brownie sundaes

Sunday was Benny’s actual birthday, and she requested lasagna, which Damien made while I wrote a bunch of stuff I suddenly realized was due on Monday because I definitely know what’s going on. 

He said he didn’t follow a recipe, but here is how he described it:

For the meat sauce: You take some cut-up onion and garlic and cook it in olive oil with a few red pepper flakes. Then you add the meat [we had ground beef] and brown it up. Then add a can of tomato pasta and a can of whole tomatoes crushed up a little, and a splash of red wine.

For the cheese mixture: You put a shit ton of shredded mozzarella in the [three tubs of] ricotta cheese, a bunch of garlic powder, salt and pepper and oregano, and some cinnamon [couldn’t find the nutmeg]

He cooked up a few boxes of pasta and layered that with the meat sauce and the cheese mixture and lots and lots of sliced mozzarella and parmesan and chopped Italian parsley. Then he sprinkled parmesan cheese and olive oil on the top, and baked it. 
 

He made two lasagnas. This was the small one:

 
It was magnificent. So ridiculously good. Sometimes he makes a béchamel sauce with mozzarella and ricotta and uses that for the cheese part, which is also heavenly.
 

MONDAY
Pork gyros

I was pretty excited about this meal, but I think we were just too busy to enjoy it properly. It doesn’t take any particular skill. You can make a quick marinade in the morning with the food processor, slice up some pork, and then just broil it up in the afternoon. I made my marinade out of tomatoes, onions, lots of fresh garlic, kosher salt and pepper, olive oil and lemon juice, an absurd amount of paprika, and fresh oregano and fresh mint. It’s a good marinade, sweet and spicy. 

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It’s really better if you can cook the meat outside, but under the broiler is fine. I think I got too excited about the marinade and put too much of it in in the pan, so it was just too wet. It did come out extremely tender, though. 

I had mine with cukes and hot sauce on pita. The yogurt had gotten frozen and thawed, so the sauce I made tasted okay, but it was kinda grainy, which is always discouraging.  Oh well. I really need to start making less food. We’re in that part of life where I need to start making less food. And I keep dreaming I’m stealing babies. Bah. 

TUESDAY
Zuppa toscana, rolls

This is a very fine soup, simple and delicious. Only a few people like soup, but those who do (me) eat it for lunch every day for the rest of the week. 

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This soup is made of Italian sausage, thinly-sliced red potatoes, garlic and red onions of course, lots of kale (this is what kale is for, if you were wondering), chicken broth, half and half, and a little olive oil and some flour to thicken it up, and pepper. You can add mushrooms if you like, but it’s fine without them.

This is supposed to be a brothy, lightly creamy soup, but I added too much flour and not enough broth, and it came out as almost a chowder, which honestly was not a problem. 

I bought a bunch of frozen rolls because I am, as one of my kids used to say, soaking tired. 

WEDNESDAY
Hamburgers, chips

I guess? I barely remember this. We had a nutty week where Damien’s car broke, then my car broke, then Damien’s car broke again. So we had a lot of chicken-fox-basket of corn-type problems to work out. 

Happily, I had leftover soup to sustain me.

THURSDAY
Buffalo chicken salad

Thursday we had yet another concert. I had strong armed Clara into baking cookies for the bake sale, so that was fine. I finished up all my writing for the week, so that was great, and I had an appointment with my new therapist, and that was also, I don’t know, we’ll see, and I also had my act together enough to have a quick and easy meal planned for when I got home with the kids, but not enough to remember where all the kids were, so someone else had to make supper while I dashed out in the dark to go back into town to get the one I forgot, so we could wolf supper down, throw on some dress clothes, and zip back into town for the concert, and we had to park six blocks away in the dark, and Corrie was so terrible, Damien had to take her home before they even got to hear Feliz Navibla. Then back home to drop off the kids (I didn’t even wait to get my cookie tray back. We just had to go) and go out so we could finally start Christmas shopping and pick up the other kids working at Target and Michael’s, and also I had to get some cake mix. We honestly didn’t find anything good for presents in the whole store, but I almost bought a baby doll for myself, because it was cute.

We got home at 10:30 and I was already feeling a little gloomy about having to make a cake at 10:30, even though it was just a mix cake, but then we discovered that the kids at home somehow didn’t realize that we expected them to do the dishes, or any kind of cleaning at all. At this point, I did cry, just because, I don’t know, my feet hurt and I’ve been trying so hard to keep the tub clean and nobody even noticed. So Damien thanked me sincerely for how good the bathroom has been looking, and did all the dishes, and poured me a drink while the cake baked, and I ate all leftover cookies. I’m different from other people! I don’t like being tired. 

So, the salad is greens, buffalo chicken from frozen, crunchy fried onions, and blue cheese dressing. It’s a pretty good salad. The concert was really bad, though. 

FRIDAY
Aldi pizza, birthday cake

Time for Benny’s party. She has asked for a Starfire cake. The other day, Damien and I were shopping and feeling so very old, because we didn’t understand a lot of the toys. This, for instance. As you can see, it is a Fart Jacobs slime display case to go with your Poopsie Surprise Unicorn, and it costs $44.99.

I mean, we didn’t buy it or anything, but still. If you will direct your eyes to the part where the unicorn is wearing a sexy diaper

I don’t know, I mean, are we in hell?  

Anyway, the kids had told me that when I do a search for Starfire to make the cake, I might want to do a safe search, and they were right. You know what, I’m going to find that sun lamp we got. I need to get some balloons for the party. We are having Aldi pizza for supper. In conclusion, we, the undersigned, feel that this would be a good time for the Messiah to come back, but in the meantime, let’s start packing. 

Well! Here are some recipe cards. 

Marinade for pork gyros

Marinate thinly-sliced meat for several hours, then grill over the coals or broil in the oven. Serve wrapped up in pita with cucumbers, tomatoes, french fries, hot sauce, and yogurt sauce. This marinade is enough for about five pounds of meat. 

Ingredients

  • 4 medium tomatoes diced and smashed a bit
  • 2 onions grated
  • 2 Tbsp oregano (or a large handful of fresh oregano, chopped)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • 12 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • kosher salt and pepper

 

 

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Zuppa Toscana

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jump to Recipe

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

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

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

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See? Vegetables!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The lattice top pie came out nice. 

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

Then I made this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here are the recipe cards:

Cranberry brie tarts

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

Ingredients

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

cranberries:

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

honey mixture:

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Spanakopita triangles

Ingredients

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

Instructions

To make the filling:

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

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

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

  4. Preheat the oven to 375

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

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

To assemble the triangles:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sausage oyster stuffing for turkey

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

 

Cranberry muffins or bread

A pretty, sweet loaf or 12 muffins.

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

 

Banana muffins (or bread)

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

 

Roasted butternut squash with honey and chili

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler to high

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

  3. Cut the squash into cubes.

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

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

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

Basic pie crust

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sausage oyster stuffing for turkey

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

How is it Friday? How?

Here’s what we had this week: 

SATURDAY
Chicken burgers, Smartfood, string beans 

Nothing to report. Thank goodness for frozen chicken burgers.

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

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

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

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

Look!

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

Screw you, November. 

MONDAY
Beef barley soup, cranberry muffins

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

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

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

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

TUESDAY
Paprika chicken with tomatoes and peppers

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

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

top with parmesan

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

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

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

WEDNESDAY
Hamburgers and chips, carrots and dip

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

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

THURSDAY
Gochujang bulgoki with rice and nori; roasted sesame broccoli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

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

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

 

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

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

Jump to Recipe

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

SATURDAY
Nachos, pineapple

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

If you squint, it looks sort of like salad. 

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

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

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

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

MONDAY
Beef orzo soup, pumpkin cranberry walnut muffins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TUESDAY
Pizza

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

WEDNESDAY
Cheesy chicken chili with bacon, corn bread

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

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

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

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

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

Here are my muffins: 

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

THURSDAY
Hot dogs, smiley fries, pomegranates

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

FRIDAY
Boxaroni for the kids. 

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

 

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

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

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

Well! Here are the recipe cards:

Beef barley soup (Instant Pot or stovetop)

Makes about a gallon of lovely soup

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion or red onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 3-4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 lbs beef, cubed
  • 16 oz mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 6 cups beef bouillon
  • 1 cup merlot or other red wine
  • 29 oz canned diced tomatoes (fire roasted is nice) with juice
  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy pot. If using Instant Pot, choose "saute." Add the minced garlic, diced onion, and diced carrot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions and carrots are softened. 


  2. Add the cubes of beef and cook until slightly browned.

  3. Add the canned tomatoes with their juice, the beef broth, and the merlot, plus 3 cups of water. Stir and add the mushrooms and barley. 

  4. If cooking on stovetop, cover loosely and let simmer for several hours. If using Instant Pot, close top, close valve, and set to high pressure for 30 minutes. 

  5. Before serving, add pepper to taste. Salt if necessary. 

Pumpkin quick bread or muffins

Makes 2 loaves or 18+ muffins

Ingredients

  • 15 oz canned pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup veg or canola oil
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 3.5 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • oats, wheat germ, turbinado sugar, chopped dates, almonds, raisins, etc. optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter two loaf pans or butter or line 18 muffin tins.

  2. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.

  3. In a separate bowl, mix together wet ingredients. Stir wet mixture into dry mixture and mix just to blend. 

  4. Optional: add toppings or stir-ins of your choice. 

  5. Spoon batter into pans or tins. Bake about 25 minutes for muffins, about 40 minutes for loaves. 

 

 

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

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

SATURDAY
Hamburgers, chips, broccoli and dip

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

SUNDAY
Pork ribs, cole slaw, mashed squash

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

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

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

MONDAY
WELL. LET ME TELL YOU. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Totally worth extra time in the underworld. 

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

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

TUESDAY
Leftovers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perfect, and so fast and easy.

THURSDAY
French onion soup, smoked turkey and Swiss sandwiches

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

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

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

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

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

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

FRIDAY
Quesadillas

Just quesadillas, I believe. 

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

Suppli (or Arancini)

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

Ingredients

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

To make suppli out of the risotto:

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

Instructions

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


    Set chicken stock to simmer in a pot.

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

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

    Pour in the wine and boil until wine is absorbed.

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

    Add 4 more cups of stock and cook until absorbed.

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

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

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

  3. TO MAKE THE SUPPLI:

    Beat the eggs and gently mix them into the risotto.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Domino’s

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

SUNDAY
Beef stroganoff and caramel apples

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TUESDAY
Chicken stir fry on rice

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

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

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

WEDNESDAY
Giant pancake, bacon, eggs

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

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

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

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

THURSDAY
One-pan kielbasa, cabbage, and red potato

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

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

FRIDAY
Macaroni and cheese, my dudes. 

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

***

 

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

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

Ingredients

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

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

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400. 

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

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

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

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

    Serve hot with dressing and parsley for a garnish.