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

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

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

and Corrie did this

and I just mainly hovered around the stove and cooked. 

Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Spaghetti with sauce and sausage

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

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

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

SUNDAY
Hamburgers, chips, homemade ice cream

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


 

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

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

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

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

MONDAY
Roast chicken, mashed butternut squash, salad

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

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

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

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

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

Jump to Recipe

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

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

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

TUESDAY
Bo ssam with lettuce and rice and pickled radishes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEDNESDAY
Tomato bisque, grilled cheese

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

Jump to Recipe

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

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

Just an excellent little meal, so cozy and good. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jump to Recipe

Although gochujang sneaks up on you a bit. 

FRIDAY
Pizza

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

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

5 from 2 votes
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Instant Pot Mashed Acorn Squash

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

 

5 from 2 votes
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Tomato bisque with bacon

Calories 6 kcal

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

5 from 2 votes
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Gochujang bulgoki (spicy Korean pork)


Ingredients

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

sauce:

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

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

Instructions

  1. Combine pork, onions, and carrots.

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

    Cover and let marinate for several hours or overnight.

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

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

A cold day a long time ago

On the very coldest mornings, my mother used to wake us up by saying, “It’s cold out, girls! It’s ten below! It’s twenty below! It’s very, very cold!” 

Why she did this, I cannot imagine. I was already, and still am, the most reluctant bed-leaver possible. Like so many things, getting out of bed made me cry, and I used to try to explain what a shame it was to ruin such a good thing, such a shame, as if they didn’t understand it was warm and soft and comfortable and safe under the covers, and cold and dark, harsh and demanding outside. 

But my mother did make hot cereal most mornings. Incredibly, she often made several different kinds, so we could choose: Corn meal mush and Maypo and Wheatena, or oatmeal and Maltex and farina. These are things my children would reject with horror and alarm, but imagine coming down on stiff cold legs in holey socks into the chilly kitchen, and there in the double boiler, your mother has made something just for you, something warm and fragrant and faintly sweet, and you can pour a river of milk and sugar over it and bury your face in it. Maybe even get the nice wooden bowl that smells a little weird, and the spoon with the flying noodles carved in the handle. My kids think Pop Tarts are a treat in the morning. They have no idea.

There were hot water radiators in every room, and when we could afford to heat them up, I kept a lump of wax from my Halloween vampire fangs stuck handily to the warm side, to keep it supple and chewable. But we had some lean years when the radiators stayed stone cold through the winter, and the whole entire house, with its many large, high-ceilinged rooms, had to grab a little heat from the coal stove in the living room downstairs. My father, a Brooklyn boy, found himself knocking apart frozen lumps of coal with the blunt end of an awl so he could shove them into the black belly of the stove, where they would hiss and fry demonically and eventually send out green and blue and white waves of hot, hot flame, hot enough to burn your skin off if you ran or roller skated past the stove too fast and let your arm touch down. Which we always did, every winter. We could proudly point to the scraps and patches of grey skin that used to be ours, now part of the stove. 

And we walked to school. I was in first grade and my sister was in third, and the school (I looked it up) was over a mile a way, but nobody thought twice about sending us out all winter to struggle through the snow to school together. Well, my mother did think twice, which is why she insisted we wear our humiliating one-piece belted snowsuits purchased at some godforsaken Army Navy surplus store. My classmates were all decked out in glossy, two-piece ski sets in quilted mint green or lavender, but I had some miserable olive green monstrosity, or is is possible they were bright orange? They were the color of humiliation, that no other child was ever forced to wear or even know about. For the first few days when it was cold, very cold, ten below, twenty below, tears of humiliation ran down my chin and froze onto the heavy duty zipper as I trudged to school.

But when we got to school, I forgot my shame. Because on that playground, there was something excellent.

Behind the school was a hill, a hill that was tremendously steep, so steep you had to scramble on your mittened hands to get up it. You would scramble as high as you could, until you met the line, and then you would wait with all the other kids, bouncing your butt against the chain link fence, knees trembling in the cold, sucking anxiously on the strings of your knit hat, waiting your turn.

This was a sliding hill. A sliding hill extraordinaire, a rocket hill. The sun beat down on this hill all day long, and it turned the steep slope into one long, solid, glittering tongue of ice. All you had to do was sit at the top and wait for gravity, or a little shove between the shoulders from the kid behind you. Down you would zip with a high singing sound on your bum, no sleds needed or allowed. The teachers only let you near the hill if you had on the proper snow pants, SUCH AS A BEAUTIFUL THICK ONE-PIECE OLIVE MONSTROSITY FROM MARSEN’S ARMY NAVY DEPARTMENT STORE.

And sometimes a kid would flip over and bloody their lips or bonk their skulls, but mainly it was a wild shot through the frigid air straight into the afternoon sun. Pure blind glory. It was over too soon, and you’d be left spinning and scrabbling at the bottom like an upended turtle, trying to get out of the way of the next kid hurtling down the chute.

Sometimes, when the teachers weren’t looking, that bully Lance would give you a “whitewash,” shoving your face into the snowbank and scrubbing it back and forth brutally until you cried, your face burning red with melted snow trickling down your neck. But nothing could make you give up your spot in line. Three or four times you could go down after lunch recess, if you didn’t waste time.

Anyway, they turned that school into condominiums a few years ago. It’s a nice building, so why not. High ceilings, hardwood floors, huge windows. I haven’t driven by to take a look. What if the hill isn’t as steep as I remember? 

It really was colder then. We were further north than I live now. And the winters were really longer than they are now. And the sky was bluer, and the air was sharper, and the snow was deeper. The snow isn’t white; it’s blue, and it’s yellow, sometimes purple, or green. People think that, because New Hampshire is cold, it’s dark all winter, but it’s not. The sky is blue, high blue, and the sun shines in a particular, piercing way, that hurts and gladdens at the same time.

What cold days we had. How hard it was to get out of bed. How fast we went down that hill. 

 

Wednesday Throwback: In which I try desperately to edify myself

(This post originally appeared in my old blog a few years ago.  I know it’s Wednesday, which is not a good day for a Thursday Throwback, but at the last minute [specifically, 2 a.m., when I was up getting my son some codeine for his throat], I decided that the post I had scheduled for today was too personal, to weird, too easily misconstrued, and above all too full of lady talk.   So,  you’re welcome!  And yes, it is Wednesday.)

I’ve read a few religious mommy blogs in my time, so I know the routine. You’re doing some unpleasant task, and you hates it, you just hates it. It’s hard, it’s boring, if only you had some money you could hire someone, and why did you go to college if you were just going to end up thisaway, and you bet Julia Roberts doesn’t have to do it, and she’s not even very talented! And so on.

You go on, you go on, you’re pouting and grousing as you work, when suddenly, right in the middle of your lousy attitude, the sun comes out and suffuses the workaday haze with a glow straight out of Zeffirelli; or else your chubby little toddler toddles up and says, “You wook pwetty wiff that smudge on your cheek, Mommy”; or a triple amputee you happen to know calls to thank you kindly for the used tea bag you sent him as a Christmas gift.

Everything comes into focus. Right there on the bathroom floor (or whatever), you get on your knees and thank God, or repent, or just generally get a new outlook on it all. The rest of the day is sanctified, and as you drift off to sleep that evening, you murmur a sleepy prayer of thanksgiving for the lesson in grace.

Well, me too! Why just today, I

oh ha ha, no, just kidding. Not me.

Here’s what I do.

I start off really great. Today, the crummy job was shoveling. I’m shoveling away, and in the first four minutes alone, I thank God for, in no particular order: the fact that I have a driveway to shovel in the first place; the fact that I’m strong and healthy; the fact that it’s not icy snow; the fact that it’s so beautiful out here; the fact that my husband cheerfully got up early to do as much shoveling as he could before heading off to work; the fact that the older kids can watch the baby and keep her safe while I work; the fact that my husband gave me a lovely warm scarf just yesterday; and the fact that we found the shovel.

(And if you want to know whether 1.25 acres is a lot of land to own, picture yourself shuffling around in that 1.25 acre yard hoping to stumble over your only shovel, which the kids were playing with but abandoned somewhere before it snowed 18 inches.)

That goes on for a good half hour! I am a thanking fool. I’m Corrie Ten Boom, thanking God for the fleas. I’m Padre Pio and St. Francis. I’m the Pilgrims. (At a certain point, I tell myself to relax — it’s just clearing out the driveway, after all, and the canonization process can be extremely slow even in these lax times.)

After another 20 minutes, the industrious glow cools a bit, and my mind is more or less a blank. I advance to myself certain theories for making the job go by more quickly, such as:

–Probably this will get easier if I switch hands and start tossing the loads of snow forwards like a discus thrower, rather than slinging it backwards over my shoulder. (Ow; no.)

–Probably I will be more encouraged at the magnitude of the job still undone if I go ahead and delineate the area I hope to clear with little chops. There! (Crap; no.)

–Probably the driveway would get cleared faster if you wouldn’t dump the loads of snow in the spot you’re going to shovel next, yuh idiot.

–Ditto for flinging a giant boulder of snow on top of a peaked heap of snow, from which it will tumble down and land on your feet.

–”Hey, Eddie, Can you Catch Us A Ride,” while probably underrated in the Springsteen canon, loses some of its frisson of urban despair after about minute 46 of the mental loop that it’s playing on.

I spend a certain amount of time “neatening up” what I’ve already cleared (because everyone knows you can’t park your car on un-neatened driveways). I get a drink of water. I check on the kids. Seeing that they’re all happily trying to claw each other’s eyes out, I go back outside.

I make another stab at being of good cheer. “Thank you, Lord,” I begin, “forrrr . . . um, well, I certainly thank You that I’m not in a concentration camp in Siberia. Because I know that some people were, and that was worse than this.”

Then I think, If I don’t get mail tomorrow after expending 4,600 calories digging out the mailbox alone, I am going to assassinate that delicate genius of a mailman, whodoesn’t even have to get out of his car seat, but only to stick his precious little paddy paw out the window and put the Netflix in the little box, see?

At this point, a song from Annie starts playing in my head. Figuring it for divine retribution for the provisional curse I put on the mailman’s head, I submit to the will of God and just dig, dig, dig. Don’t really care, as long as they’re miiiiiiiiiine . . . how long, o Lord?

Well, it’s done now. And thank God for that.