What’s for supper? Vol. 147: Kimchwho?

When I sat down to plan my weekly menu, I looked through all my recipe emails, supermarket flyers, my bank account, and my calendar.

They all said in chorus: You will be eating a lot of chips and frozen food this week. And so it came to pass.

SATURDAY
Hamburgers and chips

That is what we had. Not even the pretense of a vegetable.

Oh, I forgot, though, I have a pretty cake to show you! This was Friday, and I was pooped. I had finished two essays, sent off invoices, did an interview, prepped dinner and did not strangle the toddler, even she was super asking for it.  Time to go! As I grabbed up my keys to launch into afternoon errands before I could go home and collapse, I suddenly realized . . .

I had to do another interview and make a birthday cake.

The sound that escaped the gates of my teeth was not a happy sound.

But I made my excuses for the interview, filled my pockets with fruit snacks, dragged the toddler where she needed to be dragged, and made all my stops, including buying cake stuff. (Just a box cake and a tub of icing. I am not a masochist.) Got that thing baked, cooled, frosted, and decided it was going to be an autumn tree cake. Not well-thought-out, but look! It’s bright!

The leaves are hard candy that was smashed, melted into thin sheets, cooled, and re-smashed.

I put waxed paper on a pan and sprayed it with cooking spray. Then I put butterscotch and cinnamon hard candies in bags (double bags, because the seams break) and smashed them with a can, because I couldn’t find a hammer. Then I spread the pulverized candy in the pan and put it in a 250 oven for . . . sorry, I don’t know how long. Maybe 20 minutes, until it was melted. I let it cool, then snapped it into jagged little bits for leaves. It would have been better if I had had more colors and had let them mix more. I also sprinkled little red balls and gold sugar over it to give it more texture. This actually works better with Jolly Ranchers, but they weren’t in the colors I wanted.

I have used this technique for a campfire cake

I think I may have shared these cake pictures before, actually. Oh well. I have also made some cakes with sugar glass, which I made from scratch, but now I’m wondering if I could just use those terrible clear minty hard candies and save a lot of work. Anyway, kids are always impressed. Here is a Frozen cake, with sugar “ice”:

and a “broken glass” cake, with food coloring blood:

We also use crushed and melted hard candy for stained glass cookies, very pretty.

and — ooh, this is an old picture! That baby is Benny — for  a”make your own lollipop” party activity.

 

SUNDAY
Sausage subs with onion and pepper, onion rings, ghost pops

Sunday is usually the day I’ll make a more complicated meal, but we went apple picking after Mass. You think I’m going to have a ton of apple recipes now, but no. The apples were kinda spotty and weird. But there was a horse!!!!!!!!!!

Knowing we’d be home late, I opted for an easy and crowd-pleasing dinner. Lot of sweet Italian sausages browned up and cut lengthwise, lots of onions and green peppers sauteéd in olive oil, served on rolls with pasta sauce and parmesan. Frozen onion rings.

I had the older kids supervise the younger kids to make rice krispie ghost pops.

This picture kills me. Look at Benny’s face. Look at Corrie’s ghost’s face.

Hee hee.

It was a kit that came with ghost-shaped molds, icing, and sticks, but it would be pretty easy to make these without a kit, she said while lying on the couch and telling other people what to do. Pretty easy indeed.

MONDAY
Hot dogs and fries

I don’t remember Monday. I never remember Mondays. I think there was a cross country meet. I think it rained and froze and the morning glories died. I think I cleaned out a closet and found what was making that dead mouse smell (a dead mouse).

TUESDAY
Chicken burgers and chips

There was a concert on Tuesday. I liked it, and no one was beatboxing, so I didn’t have to say “boo-urns” under my breath while I clapped.

WEDNESDAY
Greek chicken salad with toasted pita

Wednesday was a bit less busy, so I bestirred myself a bit for supper. I coated some chicken breasts with olive oil, and put on plenty of salt and pepper, garlic powder, and dried basil and oregano so they were really crusty with seasonings, then roasted and sliced them, and served that over salad with various olives, feta cheese, cukes, grape tomatoes, diced red onions, and hummus.

I also made up a batch of yogurt sauce with Greek yogurt, lemon juice, minced garlic, and salt, and I cut pita bread into triangles and toasted it in the oven with olive oil, garlic powder, and salt.

Toasted, salty, garlicky pita bread triangles, with crunchy tips and warm, chewy insides are way more delicious than they have any right to be.

Although if you put olive oil, salt, and garlic powder on dead leaves and toasted them, I’d probably eat that, too.

THURSDAY
Korean beef tacos with kimchi and Sriracha mayo, and rice

Bit of a chance here. I tried a new recipe from Damn Delicious. Much of the family likes the Korean Beef Bowl recipe, and this beef is basically that, but not quite as sweet. I cooked it in the morning and then put it in the crock pot for the rest of the day.

Okay, so, kimchi. I’ve never had kimchi before, but have long enjoyed a sort of low-simmering curiosity about it. I didn’t think most of the family would like it, so it didn’t seem worth making myself; so I bought a jar. I was a little alarmed at the warning on the cap:

Hm, bulge. My mother had always regaled us with horrible stories of people whose cans of lima beans were bulging, but they ate them anyway, and then they had to have their legs amputated or something. If you even smell it, it could kill you! Your eyeballs would go bursting out of your skull with a sickening pop! Or something. I wasn’t really listening, because I didn’t like lima beans at the time. Anyway, this jar was definitely bulging. Sure, it said it was supposed to be, but what if it was intentionally bulging and botulism bulging? How would I know?

I figured I would taste a little bit, and if I died, well, at least I would die knowing what kimchi tastes like. So I leaned carefully over the sink, draped a napkin over the lid as suggested, and twisted as hard as I could . . .

even harder . . .

sheesh, hard lid to get off . . .

. . . GRRRRRRRRR . . . . .

. . . RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

–and then KABLAMMO! The cabbage came surging out like a living thing! Like the violent urgency of life itself! I’m telling you, this kimchi needed a Rite of Spring soundtrack!

It also got on my shirt, bleh.

So I sauteéd it up with some sugar in a pan, and we had tortillas with beef, caramelized (okay, it didn’t really caramelize. It never really caramelizes) kimchi, mayonnaise with Sriracha stirred in, and a bunch of cilantro and fresh limes. It was . . . a little challenging. It was sort of like when an Afro-Cuban bembé comes on the radio and you’re like, “Oh, this is neat! This is so — wait — it’s — what? — help!” because you really want to dance to it, but you’re just too damn white. What I’m trying to say is, I liked it, but I also only ate one.

Actually, I made a bunch of rice, and I had extra rice with lime juice and kimchi. I’m like Area Grandmother. Very familiar with rice, thanks.

FRIDAY
Tuna boats

So I went to my new spiritual director and he asked how I was, and I said I was pretty good, and he said, “Oh, we won’t be needing these today!” and he jokingly took the tissues away, but then I cried anyway. And that’s what kind of food blog this is. Natural bubbling and pressure. Just lay a napkin over the top, it’s fine.

What’s for supper? Vol. 142: In which I hit nobody with a baseball bat

No real new recipes this week, but no complaints, either. Except from me. I complained nonstop, and I’m still just warming up. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Caprese sandwiches with salami

I guess this is technically new, actually. And so much tastier than I expected, and easier than the chicken version. I toasted a bunch of ciabatta rolls, and set them out with sliced mozzarella, sliced tomatoes, basil, and genoa salami, plus olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Simple and fabulous. Everyone loved them. A nice valediction for summer.

I recommend putting more than one layer of olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in among the other ingredients.

SUNDAY
Chicken shawarma, zaatar pita and yogurt sauce

I forget why I planned a rather involved meal for the day before a big party. Probably because someone told me about zaatar paste, and I had to build a meal around it.

The oven chicken shawarma recipe, which I’ve simplified from the NYT recipe, is on a recipe card below. I put together the marinade the night before and cussingly skinned, trimmed, and boned about eight pounds of chicken thighs (worth it. We’ve had this dish with bone-in meat, and it’s good, but not scrumptious) and set it to marinate in a ziplock bag with a couple of sliced red onions.

That’s the hard part (and it’s not hard if you have boneless meat!). Before dinner, it’s quick enough to spread the chicken out in a shallow pan and broil it up. I like to chop it up a bit a few minutes before it’s quite done, so you get more crisp pieces.

While it’s cooking, you assemble the fixings. We had it with chopped cukes, parsley, green and black olives, plenty of pita, feta, and of course yogurt sauce (whole Greek yogurt with minced garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and a little fresh parsley). And grapes. You just put everything you like on your plate, and hop to it.

I planned to make zaatar bread by mixing zaatar with olive oil, spreading it on the pita, and heating it, but shortly before dinner, my will to do even one tiny speck more of work leaked out the back of my ankle

so I mopped that up with a baby wipe and just set out zaatar paste for dipping, and that was lovely, too.

We sometimes have this meal with tomatoes, many other kinds of olives, or something made of eggplant, or pomegranates. All good. So good. The zaatar was a welcome addition, too. Now that I think of it, it does taste like sumac smells, which is also very summery.

MONDAY
Cookout!

Back in July, our annual family reunion was sparsely attended; so we tried again for Labor Day. It was nice! Cousins galore, and such lovely ones.

Some of them needed to become acquainted with the lizard:

and some of them just needed to cool their heads with a little chess:

My father brought burgers and hot dogs, and Damien made his sugar rub chicken thighs and, well, all the mahogany clams in the world. Fine, just all the clams in the supermarket.

Look at that price! I’m not made of stone! I bought all 75. He scrubs them good, then sets them over the coals until they pop open (and they really do pop. I watched them this time. It was pretty cute), then put them in the sauce (white wine, melted butter, lemon juice, and chopped onion cooked in olive oil with red pepper), and mix ’em up, then row back to Spain like there’s no mañana!

Or, just suck down four or five helpings while your family politely averts their gaze. If you don’t have memories that include buttery clams in wine sauce with a reflection of the blue September sky in ’em, I feel bad for you, son. I got ninety nine clams, but I don’t actually know this song.

TUESDAY
Chicken berry walnut salad

Back to school. Back to school. (We started last Wednesday, but had Monday off.) In the morning, I put dem chicken breasts under the broiler with some olive oil and basic seasonings, and when they were cool, I cut them into cubes. Spread some walnuts in a pan and let them toast for a few minutes. (Yep, the microwave way is easier, and gives more even results. But someone broke our microwave, and now it cooks for three seconds and then it goes ZUUUUUUUUL. I haven’t thrown it out yet, in case it fixes itself, but it hasn’t yet.)

Mixed greens, crumbled feta, dried berries (cranberries, blueberries, and cherries, but to be honest, they tasted all the same), and diced red onion. And some broccoli we happened to have, which went along with the rest better than I expected.

A little balsamic vinegar, and it’s a nice, filling meal. Everything was set up ahead of time, which makes me feel so smart.

WEDNESDAY
Pizza ala furry bastard

Now you’ll see how smart I really am. I had twenty minutes before it was time to go, so I buttered and floured five pans and stretched out the pizza dough, and left them on the counter to finish up when I got back. And when I got back, here is what I found:

So I took a baseball bat, and I . . . no I didn’t. I threw out the dough and complained about the cat for the next 48 hours. This is also the day that we went for a run and got a dramatic flat tire on the way back, and then the tire wouldn’t come off, so while we were waiting for AAA to come and hit it with a stick, we saw we had missed a phone call from the kid at home, who wanted to know how much to worry about the smoke that was coming out of the dryer. I blame the cat. He did catch a mouse the other day, though. I came pretty close to emitting an “eek,” let me tell you.

THURSDAY
Chicken burgers, chips, carrots and hummus

I called one of my teenagers to make this meal while I was teaching one of my other teenagers to drive. She did fine. They did fine. We all did fine. We needed new tires anyway.

FRIDAY
Tuna noodle

I must have been feeling guilty about something to agree to this. I bought them all new shoes! What the hell do I have to feel guilty about? Do I go stomping around on vulnerable pizza dough? No! Do I buy up all the clams? Well yes I do, but it was for a good cause. Do I hit anyone with baseball bats? Not at all. And yet here I am feeling bad and squeezing the juice out of six cans of tune. Line-caught tuna, because I feel guilty about the frickin’ dolphins, too. What a world.

Well, here’s your recipe cards.

Caprese sandwiches

Ingredients

  • Ciabatta, baguettes, sourdough, or other dense bread
  • sliced tomatoes
  • sliced mozzarella
  • fresh basil leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • vinegar
  • prosciutto, genoa salami, or sliced grilled chicken (optional)
  • pesto sauce or pesto mayo (optional)

Instructions

  1. You know how to make a sandwich. 

Chicken shawarma

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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



  2. Preheat the oven to 425.

  3. Grease a shallow pan. Take the chicken and onions out of the marinade and spread it in a single layer on the pan. Cook for 45 minutes or more. 

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

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

 

 

 

 

Yogurt sauce (tzatziki)

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. 

 

Grilled clams or mussels in wine sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 white or red onion
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • live clams or mussels
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cups white wine
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Prepare sauce: Coarsely chop the onion and sautee it in the olive oil with the red pepper flakes. Add salt and pepper. 


  2. Add two sticks of butter and let them melt. Add the wine and lemon juice. 

  3. Light the fire and let it burn to coals. While it's burning down, sort and clean the shellfish, discarding any damaged or dead ones. (If they're open, tap them. If they don't close, they're dead. If they're closed, they're fine.)

  4. Lay shellfish on grill until they pop open. The hotter the fire, the shorter the time it will take - five minutes or more. 

  5. Add shellfish to sauce and stir to mix. 

Smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups brown sugar
  • .5 cups white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 20 chicken thighs

Instructions

  1. Mix dry ingredients together. Rub all over chicken and let marinate until the sugar melts a bit. 

  2. Light the fire, and let it burn down to coals. Shove the coals over to one side and lay the chicken on the grill. Lower the lid and let the chicken smoke for an hour or two until they are fully cooked. 

Chicken berry nut salad

Any number of variations. Use whatever fruit is in season and whatever nuts are on sale. Dried fruit is also fine. 

Ingredients

  • chicken breast, seasoned, cooked, diced
  • salad greens
  • blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, fresh or dried
  • toasted walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc.
  • feta or blue cheese, crumbled
  • diced red onions
  • balsamic vinegar or other light dressing

Instructions

  1. To toast the nuts: Spread them in a single layer on a plate and microwaving them on high for three minutes. This is the easiest, most reliable way to toast nuts, which improves the flavor and texture immensely for salad. 

    You can also toast them in the oven in a single layer on a pan in a 350 oven for 6-7 minutes, but watch carefully, as they burn quickly. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 123: I got the no bo ssam blues.

The thing you need to understand about this week is that, for no good reason, I was up until 1, 2, or even 2:30 a.m. most nights, and got stupider and stupider as the week went on. We had multiple snow days, multiple storms, and my car was in the shop having all its brakes worked on. Then we ran out of sugar. I put it on the list, and then proceeded to visit no fewer then four stores that sold sugar, without buying any, and then two more stores the next day, also stores with sugar, also with me no getting any.

It was downhill from there.

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, chips

You can picture this, surely. It looked like sandwiches.

SUNDAY
Chicken and chickpeas with tzatziki; grapes; cheesecake with fudge sauce and strawberries

It was supposed to be bo ssam Sunday. Bo ssam Sunday! I’ve been led to believe that bo ssam is one of those miraculous recipes where you spend mere pocket change on ingredients and make some casual nodding gestures toward the kitchen while putting your feet up. Then, just a short time later, you pass around chopsticks and wasabi, and the local news is pounding at your door, wanting an exclusive interview with you, the greatest cook of the century.

But when I opened up the recipe in the early afternoon, it started out all “So, having marinated the meat overnight, you will then cook it for three days in a low, low oven” deals.

So fine, we can have bo ssam later. Instead, we had the chicken and chickpea thing, which is a very fine Sunday meal.

The recipe is a simplified version of this recipe from the NYT), and serves 10- 12 people.

Make the marinade early in the day or the night before. Take half a large tub of full fat Greek yogurt and mix it with four tablespoons of lemon juice, four tablespoons of water, and two tablespoons of cumin, and mix this marinade up with chicken parts, thighs or wings. I had about eight pounds of chicken, and started marinating it about five hours before dinner.

About an hour before dinner, preheat the oven to 425.

Drain and rinse four or five 15-oz cans of chickpeas and mix them up with a few glugs of olive oil, a few more spoonfuls of cumin, salt and pepper, and two large red onions sliced thin.

Spread the seasoned chickpeas in a single layer on two large sheet pans, then make room among the chickpeas for the marinated chicken (shake or scrape the extra marinade off the chicken if it’s too gloppy). Then it goes in the oven for almost an hour. That’s it for the main part.

The chickpeas and the onions may start to blacken a bit, and this is a-ok. You want the chickpeas to be crunchy, and the skin of the chicken to be a deep golden brown, and crisp. The top pan was done first, and then I moved the other one up to finish browning as we started to eat. Sometimes when I make this, I put the chickpeas back in the oven after we start eating, so some of them get crunchy and nutty all the way through.

While the chicken is cooking, you prepare your three garnishes:
-Chop up some cilantro.
-Slice another two red onions nice and thin, and mix them in a dish with a few glugs of lemon juice and salt and pepper.
-Then take the rest of the tub of Greek yogurt and mix it up in another bowl with lemon juice, a generous amount of minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
I just set these three dishes out and let people use them as they liked.

I like serving this meal with pomegranates, but I guess the season is over, so we had red grapes, which was almost as good. I completely lose my mind over that chicken skin. It’s just stupidly good.

***

And now dessert! The child whose shopping turn it was decided she wanted cheese cake in a graham cracker crust with fresh strawberries and chocolate sauce. It being still the weekend and me being not dead yet, I agreed.

I bought readymade graham cracker pie crusts, and so should you. I used this recipe from My Cultured Palate, which is What’s For Supper? for the Upside Down. Good cheesecake, though, and not too sweet. I made a double recipe, which was enough to fill three pie shells plus some batter left over, which we certainly didn’t eat, as it is full of raw eggs. We certainly did not.

Nice simple recipe, and they came out pretty, but you do have to bake them, then leave them in the oven for an hour, and then refrigerate overnight. I must have made these Saturday night, come to think of it.

On Sunday, we sliced up about three pounds of strawberries and put them in a bowl with some sugar. I cautioned everyone to give that fruit some privacy, as it would be macerating. And that’s my cultured kitchen!

And that was the frickin’ last of the sugar, and I had already run out to the store sixty-three more times that day, each time returning triumphantly without sugar. Why? Because I am stupid! So I found a chocolate sauce recipe that’s just condensed milk, cocoa powder, and butter. Melt a stick of butter, stir in 6 Tbs cocoa powder, add a can of condensed milk, stir it up. It’s the consistency of hot fudge sauce, and if you let it harden in the fridge, you can soften it again by heating it up.

MONDAY
Ham, mashed potatoes

One of my ham lovers has been campaigning hard for ham and mashed potatoes. And let me tell you, this pig lived a life of leisure. The damn thing was 3/4 fat. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was fluffy. You don’t want your ham to be fluffy.

The mashed potatoes, though, were of sterner stock, and were trim and worthy specimens. I ran out and bought three potato peelers (I don’t want to talk about it) and we got the job done.

I thought for a moment that, since supper was so easy, I could start marinating bo ssam for tomorrow, until I discovered that the same sugar we were still out of that morning, when we wanted it for coffee? Is the same sugar we were out of for making bo ssam marinade. So.

TUESDAY
Beef stew

Kinda mad about this. Beef stew is one of the things you should be able to make in the Instant Pot very easily, but I always screw it up.

Here’s how I did:
Cube the beef, sprinkle it with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, dust it heavily with flour.
Heat oil in the pot, add the floured beef, and brown it slightly.
Add a bunch of beef broth, some red wine, and some baby carrots, a few diced onions, several cubed potatoes, some sliced mushrooms, a can of tomato paste, and some thyme. I think it was thyme. I think I added some brown sugar and soy sauce. Look, I was following a recipe.
Then I closed the lid and set it for something or other, I forget.  I was following several recipes by this point, to be honest.
So the damn thing cooks forever, and then it starts screaming that it’s burning, oh, mother, mother, it’s burning! I vent it, which takes forever, and open the lid. It’s nowhere near burning, and the carrots are still raw. There’s tons of liquid.
So I stir it a bit to placate it, then close the lid and reset it. Same thing happens. What burning? What? Vent forever, open the lid, and it’s cooked.

It tasted pretty good, but I was mad. You really take the edge off convenience when you don’t know what the hell is going on. I’ll show you burning!

We also had rolls. And I bought some sugar.

WEDNESDAY
Chicken nuggets, fries, leftover stew, leftover ham

So remember how I gave up sleeping for Lent? We also got eleven feet of snow in twelve hours, and my husband had to be gone for three days and two overnights in a row and I’m not making that last part up. I really missed him. I wanted to be kept awake by him snoring,* instead of being kept awake by him not being there. Humph. Finally having sugar in the house just did not make up for that.

THURSDAY
Pork carnitas, rice

So I had to face that enormous pork butt. In the fridge! I was still telling myself that, now that there was sugar in the house, I could easily whip up a sherry ginger sauce, and maybe a peanut lime slaw for sides, and bo ssam would happen. This is what I told myself, up until about 11 a.m. on Wednesday.

Then I interiorly took myself firmly by the shoulders, administered a few bracing shakes and maybe a remedial smeck or two, and said, “You are not making bo ssam this week. Nobody is making bo ssam this week!”

So sulked a little, then trimmed the fat, cut the pork into hunks, and put it in the slow cooker with a can of UFO beer, a tablespoon or more of adobe adobo powder [yes, that is the whitest typo I’ve ever made], and about 3/4 cup of pickled jalapeno slices with the juice. I let it cook for about six hours, took the meat out of the juice, and shredded it.

Then I spread it in a thin layer in a flat, greased pan and put it under a hot broiler until it was a little browned up.

I served the meat with some of the ten thousand tortillas I’ve diligently collected over the last few months, plus sour cream, chopped cilantro, salsa, and fresh limes. And rice.

It was no bo ssam, but it was good.

FRIDAY
Sleepover! Make your own pizza!

I have tons of dough, cheese, sauce, and toppings, and disposable foil pans, and those boys can just make their own pizzas.

The boy is making his own chocolate birthday cake, which he would like to be frosted with chocolate frosting, and then covered with Oreos. I think I can manage this. Especially since we now have sugar in the house. And three potato peelers.

*I also snore.

What’s for supper? Vol. 120: TeamDonutEyes

Oh, what a week. Let’s talk about food.

SATURDAY
Pork ramen

Still not tired of it. Kyra (you know Kyra) reminded me about Chinese five spice, so I dusted some boneless chops with it and sauteed them in olive oil. Succulent and delicious.

Big pot of ramen noodles with your choice of sliced pork, soft boiled eggs, frozen stir fry veggies, chopped scallions, sesame seeds, soy sauce, and hot sauce. So cheap, fast, and delicious.

SUNDAY
“Greek nachos,” birthday cake

Corrie’s birthday!

 

Yep, we bought one of those helium tanks from Walmart. It comes with 30 balloons and ribbon, and, well . . .

The “Greek nachos” recipe is from Damn Delicious. It wasn’t as outrageously delicious as I remember, but the kids all loved it, and it was very pretty and satisfying. Lots of prep work, though. LOTS.

Basically you make homemade pita chips (these are the best part of the meal). Cut pita into triangles, drizzle them with olive oil, and add a little salt, then bake them. On top of these, you have pieces of grilled chicken, olives, feta cheese, cucumbers, red onion, fresh herbs, and roasted red peppers. And of course tzatziki sauce. Full fat Greek yogurt is my middle name.

I decided to roast my own peppers, for some reason. It wasn’t hard, but I don’t think they tasted any better than the jarred ones. Cheaper, anyway. I used Ina Garten’s directions.  You preheat the oven to 500, put them peppers on a pan, and roast them for 35 minutes or so, until they’re all wrinkly and a little charred. I forgot to turn them. I lost the pic I took, but they were pretty ghastly, very alien autopsy.

Then you let them cool a bit. The stem and seeds come off pretty easily, and you can pull the skin right off, which is fun. The peppers make juice while roasting, so you put that in with the skinned pepper flesh and add some olive oil, and there you are.

Corrie wanted a rainbow cake, and she and Benny decorated it together with Skittles.

MONDAY
Pork and peanut dragon noodles, garlicky string beans

New recipe! Only a few of the kids liked it, but Damien and I thought it was fantastic. This is from Budget Bytes. So easy and cheap. The sauce has just three ingredients.

You brown up the pork, add the sauce and chopped peanuts, and simmer it while you’re cooking some ramen noodles. Then put it all together. That’s it!  Very savory and peppy, with a great texture from the peanuts. I don’t usually like peanuts in meat dishes, but this combination of flavors was perfect. I made a quadruple recipe, with two pounds of pork.

It calls for chili garlic sauce. All I had was sambal oelek, for some reason, which is marinated crushed pepper paste. It seemed fairly strong, if sweet, so I used about half of what the recipe called for, and it was great.

We couldn’t not have garlic, so I heated up some olive oil and browned up a tablespoon or so of minced garlic, then added a few pounds of trimmed string beans and some sesame oil. Then I just kept it moving in the hot pan until the string beans were a little charred. Tons of flavor, and nicely crunchy.

TUESDAY
Quesdillas, corn chips

I added leftover scallions to mine.

The children insist on pronouncing it “quassa-dillllas.” They also say “GWACK-a-mole,” to rhyme with “whack-a-mole.” They do this because they are savages, savages, barely even human.

WEDNESDAY
Egg in toast?

I forget. We made homemade bagels, which I intended as dinner, but the day got away from me.
I used this recipe from King Arthur Flour, appreciating the detail that if you’re using a mixer, the dough “will ‘thwap’ the sides of the bowl.” I couldn’t find my dough hook, so there was somewhat less thwapping, sadly, but it’s very stiff dough.

I also didn’t have as much yeast as I thought, so I was only able to make a double recipe, or 16 bagels.

They turned out . . . okay. With bagels, you make the dough, let it rise, make the dough into balls, let them rise, poke holes, boil them, add toppings, and then bake them. The main problem was that I was yakking with another mom the whole time, and made the grievous mistake of using 1-1/2 cups of water for the water bath. That’s the amount of water that goes into the dough; the water bath is supposed to be two quarts.

Here you can see me in the act of thinking, “Something ain’t right here . . . ”

This is the same kind of thinking that led me, in 7th grade Home Ec class, to read the directions to take the two skirt panels and sew the side together, and to conclude that I ought to I sew both sides of one panel together, and then sew both sides of the other panel together. Rather than sewing . . . you know, let’s just move along.  Poor Mrs. Dakin.

In my defense, look at my kitchen. Look at it! It’s ridiculous. Although I did buy a hutch yesterday, and that tangle of cords is soon going to be moved away from the stove, so people can stop accidentally charging their phones in the toaster.

So, the poor bagels had to splash around in a little kiddie pool of a water bath, rather than being dunked into the deep end. Also, the sugar-to-water ratio was way off, so they were quite sweet. Here is how they looked after their water bath, before baking:

They still would have been all right, except that I burned half of them. OH WELL. They did all get eaten! I made eight sesame, four poppy seed, and four kosher salt.

And we had a pretty good time. Some of us had a very very good time.

THURSDAY
FISHERS DINE OUT!

Vacation’s almost over, so we went to the local children’s museum, which I love. It’s quite low-tech, and very lovingly designed by someone who really understands kids. There is also a pretend dentist section with a really comfortable dentist chair just the right size for a tired mother and her cell phone.

By the way, I am solidly #teamdonuteyes

Corrie did quite well, and only flipped out once, in the dress-up section, where she literally had to share the stage with another toddler, and she didn’t want to.

Then we went out for pizza. It was early, so I thought it would be empty, but it was jam-packed.  This is just a casual pizza joint, not a place that takes reservations. There’s not really any room for waiting for a table, so it was very awkward.

Then the manager came over, beamed at everyone, gave the kids enormous homemade cookies to ease the wait, and made sure we knew he had a table in mind for us, and would seat us as soon as possible. They made us feel like they were glad we were there.

Waitresses and hostesses, please be more like this to big families, if you can.  Act welcoming, just like you would for any customer. I know it’s stressful to have a large party, but most big families don’t go out very often. Please don’t make us feel like we’re nothing but a hassle for you, even if that’s what we are. It meant so much to me to feel like a normal, valued customer instead of a problem. We went to a different restaurant for Mardi Gras, and I felt like they couldn’t wait to get us out of there.

I also ordered one of the pizzas half anchovy, because that’s how mothers get leftovers for once.

FRIDAY
Grilled cheese, salad, chips

Damien and I were supposed to whisk ourselves away to NH’s tiny little bit of coast for the night, but of course it’s March, and so we must have a nor’easter with flooding and catastrophic winds predicted. And so we change our plans, tra la la.

What’s for supper? Vol. 117: Cumin is king

Ready, set, food.

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, pickles, chips

This weekend, the kitchen ceiling fell in. We knew it was on its way out (here was one hint from earlier that day:)

but the schedule got pushed up abruptly in a shower of dirt, pencils, and mouse poop. We mulled it over, did a few tests for lead paint, and decided our lives were already ruined anyway, so I tacked up some plastic sheeting and spent the day pulling down the stained, droopy, acoustic tiles that remained.

Underneath, as we suspected? A very promising stamped tin ceiling

with, um, a few problematic areas.

and

for instance.

Also we found a very fetching mouse skeleton, which, in my frenzy of productivity, I threw away. I now regret this. I also wonder where his head went.

We bought out house from the bank with no information, and have had to do some sleuthing to patch together a history. The previous owners’ home improvement choices are a mixed bag. When the basement was on fire, they just walled that area up. Okay, fair enough. But after the kitchen fire(s), they apparently decided that re-insulating was too much of a hassle, that the ceiling could easily be four inches lower, and that cheap and crappy never goes out of style. And who can fault them?

Oh yeah, us. We fault them! We fault them!

Anyway, here is what the ceiling looks like now:

When we have the emotional wherewithal, we’ll take those beams down (they were just nailed to the tin as a base for the acoustic tiles), remove as much paint as possible, shove a bunch of insulation (and a soupcon of mouse poison) into the holes and patch them up, and paint. Onward and upward.

Here’s an account of some of our previous half-assed kitchen renovations.

SUNDAY
Enchilada bake

Several friends tipped me off about making enchiladas so much easier by simply layering the components in a pan, as for lasagna, rather than rolling individual enchiladas.

The result: Yes, far far easier. Not much to look at, though.

The taste is, of course, just the same. I used too much sauce, so they turned out flabbier than even I would like (and I like flabby foods a lot). Verdict: will make again, because they were tasty and satisfying; but will also roll individual enchiladas again, if I have the time, because they’re nicer.

To make them, I coated some chicken breasts with oil, chili powder, salt, pepper, cumin, and garlic powder, and broiled them, then shredded the meat. In some casserole dishes, I made layers of tortillas, chicken, canned enchilada sauce (I did one pan with red and one with green), shredded cheddar cheese, and sauteed, diced onions — probably 3-4 layers of each ingredient– and then baked it in a 350 oven for maybe forty minutes.

We also had sour cream, but I personally declined. I was prepared to scarf down eleventy million calories in chicken and cheese, but forbore to indulge in a dollop of sour cream on top. Please! I am not from Havana!

MONDAY
Moroccan (?) chicken with chickpeas, pomegranates

Pretty fancy meal for a Monday! I was having such a productive day on Sunday, I went ahead and started the chicken marinating then. The rest comes together very quickly. It’s a simplified version of this recipe from the NYT Cooking.

 

And this is the recipe that taught me I’ve been spelling and saying “turmeric” wrong my entire life. I solved that little problem this time by being clean out of turmeric. I never did have fennel. I decided that as of now, cumin is king.

Let me tell you, there was nothing lacking in flavor for this meal.

It was just screamingly delicious. My husband who hates chickpeas loves this meal.

To make the marinade, I took half a large tub of Greek yogurt and mixed it with four tablespoons of lemon juice, four tablespoons of water, and two tablespoons of cumin. This I used to marinate probably eight pounds of chicken thighs and wings. I normally don’t like wings — they don’t seem worth the trouble — but for this dish, they were perfect. I let it marinate for 36 hours, but a few hours would work, too.

About an hour before dinner, I drained and rinsed four 15-oz cans of chickpeas and mixed them up with a few glugs of olive oil, a few more spoonfuls of cumin, salt and pepper, and two red onions sliced thin.

I spread the seasoned chickpeas in a single layer on two large sheet pans, then made room among the chickpeas for the marinated chicken. Then it all went in a 425 oven for almost an hour. The chickpeas and the onions may start to blacken a bit, and this is a-ok. You want the chickpeas to be crunchy, and the skin of the chicken to be a deep golden brown, and crisp. The top pan was done first, and then I moved the other one up to finish browning as we started to eat.

While the chicken is cooking, you prepare your three garnishes:
Chop up some cilantro.
Slice another two onions nice and thin, and mix them in a dish with a few glugs of lemon juice and salt and pepper.
Then take the rest of the Greek yogurt and mix it up in another bowl with lemon juice, a generous amount of minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
I just set these three dishes out and let people use them as they liked.

The sweet, tart pomegranate seeds are just delightful with the crunchy, savory chicken skin and the creamy yogurt sauce. Everyone got a quarter of a pomegranate and just dug in.

This is one of those meals where we kept shouting “SO GOOD! SO GOOD!” like a, like I don’t know what. But it was so good! This is a fairly cheap dish, too. Especially if you skip the turmeric.

TUESDAY
Spaghetti with jarred sauce and sausages, salad

I had about a dozen long Italian sausages, which I started to cook and then forgot about. Miraculously, they did not burn; but by the time it was dinner, I was so enervated that I just couldn’t bring myself to cut them into normal pieces. So everyone just got a bowl of pasta with a giant sausage lounging on top. No complaints.

WEDNESDAY
Taco Tuesday

Oops.

THURSDAY
Pizza

Nothing to say about that, except that I tried out one of those pizza pans with holes in the bottom (affiliate link through Skimlinks), and it did make the bottom more crisp. Usually we slide the pizza out of its pan for the last several minutes of baking, but this method is far less of an invitation to cheesy disaster.

FRIDAY
Tuna boats, roast cauliflower, french fries

Ooh, I think I have some sweet pepper and hummus, too.

Make the chicken! You won’t be sorry! Cumin is king!!!!

What’s for supper? Vol. 111: Make America grate again

I have a doctor’s note that says I don’t have to write a pointless introduction today. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips

Aldi was out of those wonderful sourdough loaves, so we had our sandwiches on ordinary bread. It was sadder than I expected. Thank goodness there were pickles.

***

SUNDAY
Pork gyros

New recipe!  Pork gryos from the New York Times. And it’s a doozy. I found myself standing in the kitchen on a Sunday morning, still in my pajamas, and grating a tomato. Worth it. (I had purposely bought large, firm tomatoes for this recipe.) The marinade (olive oil, lemon juice, grated onion and grated tomato, minced garlic, paprika, salt and pepper, and fresh oregano leaves) on its own is extremely delicious, and would not be out of place as bruschetta topping.

So you slice the pork shoulder thin, marinate it, add a quartered onion, and roast the meat and onion in a shallow, oiled pan at 450 for 40 minutes or so. When it was close to being done, I took a rocking knife and broke it up a bit, then put it back in the oven, and then used the broiler toward the end to crisp it up a bit. I wish I had sliced it even thinner so it roasted up a little more crisply, but we were too hungry to keep messing with it. It was fantastic.

I gave the kids plain pita bread, because I’m lazy, but Damien browned up a few pitas in olive oil for the two of us. Lordy. I served it with triangles of cucumber, grape tomatoes, crisp french fries, hot sauce, and a basic yogurt sauce (Greek yogurt with lots of minced garlic, lemon juice, and a little salt). If you’re somehow not familiar with gyros, you wrap everything, even the french fries, up in the warm pita bread

and just cram in into your face.  You look at your husband, who is doing the same, and you just nod wordlessly at each other as you chew. Gyros.

I think the NYT recipe is locked, but really all you need to know is the marinade ingredients for 2.5 pounds of pork shoulder:

  •  Juice of 2 lemons
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 medium-size tomato
  • 2 medium-size yellow onions, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon smoked or sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, approximately 5 sprigs

One onion is for the marinade, and the other gets quartered and added to the meat when you cook it. Next time, I’ll get more fresh oregano to sprinkle on top, or maybe some mint leaves. I made a double recipe, which was juuuuuust enough for everyone.

***

 

MONDAY
Roasted kielbasa, cabbage, red potato, cauliflower

Everyone except my husband likes this dish. I was extremely hungry while shopping, and this head of cauliflower looked amazing to me (?), so I cut that up and added it to the mix. It wasn’t mind-blowing, but it wasn’t out of place, either. I love the texture of roasted cauliflower, as long as I’m not required to pretend it’s rice or pizza dough or some friggin thing.

Here’s the recipe from Budget Bytes. Cheap, tasty, and very easy to prep right before dinner time, and it’s a true one-pan meal. I like the sauce, but reduce the amount of oil by quite a bit.

This is an old picture, sans cauliflower, plus parsley. I remember being very proud of that parsley.

***

TUESDAY
Beef barley soup

In this topsy turvey world in which we live in, steak is cheaper than stewing beef, so I got a few pounds of steak. Cubed it and sautéed it gently in the Instant Pot with a little olive oil, a diced onion, a tablespoon or more of minced garlic, a few diced carrots, and oregano and fresh pepper. When the meat was brown, I added three small (15 oz?) cans of tomatoes with the juice, about eight cups of beef broth, and about 15 oz of sliced mushrooms. When the vegetable were all soft, I added some more water, about a cup of red wine, and about a cup of barley, and gave that a little boil until the barley was soft (probably half an hour or more).

I like adding wine toward the end of soup-making, so you can really taste it. That may be uncouth, but I like it. Also, I kept eating this soup for lunch for the rest of the week, and the barley and the broth just kept improving.

It was the first night of Hanukkah, so I planned to make potato latkes, but it turned out that doing the Advent wreath, the Jesse tree, and the menorah was enough to keep me busy on a Tuesday night, so we had bread and butter.

***

WEDNESDAY
English muffin pizzas, salad

I have no memory of Wednesday. Something about cheese.

***

THURSDAY
Chicken burgers, tater tots

I actually took a nap before supper, and then decided someone who was that tired could legitimately be excused from making another salad.

***

FRIDAY
I think mac and cheese?

There’s no end of cheese in the house from various dinners, so I’ll use this yummy and reliable recipe from Copy Kat for Instant Pot mac and cheese. If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll put it in a casserole dish and add some buttered bread crumbs on top.

And it’s my birthday! I’m 43. I’m sitting here on the couch sharing a blanket with my curly-headed toddler, watching Masha and the Bear, still feeling nicely full from the special breakfast my husband made me before he left for work, and looking forward to presents and cheesecake tonight. Muy contento. We’re super busy this weekend, so I’m gonna request a birthday outing in January to see the Winslow Homer oil exhibit in Worcester. Eeee!