This week’s takeaways

Jan 1-7 takeawayI’ve realized that posting nightly is just not doable at this stage in my life, family and work-wise. So this month, we’re testing a weekly takeaway-style format.

Without further ado, this week we learned that (clockwise from top left):
1. Navy Bean & Escarole Soup with Olives and Feta is excellent – even if you don’t have olives or escarole, and can only manage beans from a can.
2. This guy isn’t as mean as he looks, but he still makes the meanest pizza pie around, even while recovering from pneumonia.
3. When all else fails, feed the toddler ramen noodles – it’s got more nutrition than air…
4. Make extra pizza. Shane’s pie is one of the few leftovers my family (me excluded) is willing to take for lunch and/or re-heat for dinner.

New Year’s Eve

For one reason and another, it’s been a good long while since we had a proper New Year’s Eve celebration with lots of friends and family.

We almost didn’t make it to this one. It’s been a not-so-awesome week off with illness, daylight deprivation, and some disappointing news on the new home construction front. I just barely persuaded Shane—who has bronchitis at the least, and more likely pneumonia—to make a brief appearance with some of his Gratin Dauphinois.

Shane’s poor health excepted, it was a perfect evening. Warm, cozy and relaxed, with favorite people and excellent food… and only one significant temper tantrum from Sid.

On the menu: prime rib roast from Adams FarmGratin Dauphinois (aka potato gratin), roasted carrots and beets from an organic farm in western Mass, Jenya’s mom Carole’s popovers, my grandma Lillian’s Company Carrots, delicious green salad, and New Year’s Eve Cake (aka Baked Alaska) for dessert.

Highlights included Chris’ idea to fill his popover with potato gratin (an idea akin in it’s brilliance to the cake ‘n cone). The baked Alaska wasn’t as good as usual, maybe due to hectic circumstances at home, or maybe because we forgot the penguins, but if you follow this recipe, it usually works every time.

I can’t imagine a nicer way to end 2016 and since I’m a post-apocalyptic fiction junkie, I’m completely prepared for 2017.

Happy New Year!

Christmas Eve weird

img_5902For as long as I can remember (except for the year Sid was born) we’ve celebrated Christmas Eve at my parent’s house. It’s a warm bustle of activity. Lots of folks coming in and out, the decorating of a huge tree, some kind of craft, food, warmth, good friends, love. Lots of preparing for the huge dinner for 30 or so people that my parents host every year. Here‘s a link.

My sister reads a falling-apart copy of The Night Before Christmas (from the 1940s) to whomever is a kid that particular year, before they go to bed. Then there is a wrapping frenzy. Honestly, I’m not sure my mom even goes to sleep at all.

This year is not like that. This year is totally weird.

First of all, we don’t have the house. I mean, we do, but it looks more or less like this:img_1100

My parents ate out tonight. The house is cold, and unfinished. We’re living in a crappy basement apartment. Tomorrow, we’re eating dinner at a Chinese restaurant with only 16 people because 14 had to cancel for some reason or another.

I sat down with Shane and told him we had to find the joy. He’s got some kind of horrible respiratory thing, I’ve had a stomach bug for a week and half and Rose puked last night.

But we HAVE to find the joy, if for no other reason than for our kids, and my mom who is also taking this break from tradition pretty hard.

Tonight, we found our joy right here:img_5916Shane and the kids had Parmesan Chicken Goujons aka “chicken noogits” and I had the mildest of mild butternut squash soups. And then Sid told us he wanted to leave Santa “chicken noogits, and ketchup, and rice, and seltzer, and milk and a juice box and a cookie” And isn’t that the kind of magic that Christmas is all about for us agnostics (and christians alike)?

Also joyful was reading an ancient copy of The Night Before Christmas (twice) while fielding questions about why it’s broken and who broke it.img_5911

As Santa says: Merry Christmas To All And To All A Good Night!

 

A regular old weeknight post

Vegetarian optionIt’s been so, so long since I did a regular, non-special occasion, weeknight post. This kind of breaks my heart because the whole point of this blog was dinner, every night. We still eat together, I just don’t have time to post. I feel like I’ve said that before.

Tonight was inspiring. Everyone was sitting down at the table (sort of). Everyone (except Sid) was eating. It was (almost) perfect. It was delicious, because it was Better Miso Glazed Salmon (which I don’t eat).

Vegetarians do not despair! It was also baked tofu (recipe below) with some of the butter-miso sauce put aside before it went on the salmon. Add to that roasted carrots, roasted little potatoes, salad and I’m hooked.

• Baked Tofu •

Ingredients:
1 package extra firm tofu

a few glugs of peanut oil
salt

Press tofu between several layers of paper (or clean cloth) towels, weigh down with a cast iron skillet or something else heavy for 1/2 hour or so until a lot of the water has been squeezed out. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut tofu into 1″ squares and toss with olive oil and salt, be generous!

Lay tofu squares out on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet – separate them so they’re not touching. Bake for about 20 minutes or until starting to become golden but not firm (they firm up after the come out of the oven). Remove from oven and let sit for a moment or two. Serve with your favorite tasty sauce (such as butter-miso sauce)

Oh, and here’s that salmon:

Salmon

 

The wee laddie is 3

Sid turned 3 yesterday. Figuring it was probably our last chance to do so, we had a very small gathering in the afternoon, planned somewhat at the last minute.

Shane had the forethought to makes meatballs from the Polpo cookbook, not because people would be expecting a meal at 3:00 in the afternoon, but because he knew most of us would probably linger past party time and end up wanting some dinner. And that’s what happened.

But first we had cheese, crackers, berries and juice boxes. The boys ran around in circles with balloons until Sid asked to have cupcakes. He cried when we sang for him but quickly recovered and ate his cupcake with several requests for candle re-lighting (but no singing) which we obliged.

The cupcakes were chocolate (Hellman’s Mayonnaise) cake, which we adapted by filling standard tins 2/3 of the way, and baking for 15 minutes. We frosted them with cream cheese and butter frosting (recipe below). After that Sid opened his presents, asking each time “Is this one my present?” and responding with delight when we said yes.

The Polpo meatballs make me happy, even though I don’t eat meatballs, because they don’t take very long to make. Shane made a batch of Marcella’s sauce for me—and anyone else not wanting meat—and my mom made two salads. The boys had plain pasta and wheat thins while watching Frozen on somebody’s phone.

At the end of the night, I asked Sid if he liked his party and would like to have another one next year. He said yes and that he would like a Bobcat.

Happy birthday our Siddy. We love you.

• Butter & Cream Cheese Frosting •

1 to 1.5 lbs confectioner’s sugar, sifted
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 8oz package cream cheese at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream butter and cream cheese in an electric stand mixer until combined and smooth. Add the the vanilla and blend. Add confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time until desired consistency and level of sweetness is achieved. You will use approximately 1 to 1.5 lbs of sugar. Makes enough to frost a 2 layer 9″ cake or 24 cupcakes.

Comfort food favorite: tortilla soup

Tortilla soup - adultIn case you’re not crazy about consuming a stick of butter’s worth of dairy fat in one sitting, here’s another comfort food favorite from our archives: tortilla soup.

The thing that makes tortilla soup so awesome is the broth which you make by roasting tomatoes, tomatillos (in a pinch, use extra tomatoes instead), poblanos and onions and then pureeing them up with vegetable stock (or chicken, if you’re into that kind of thing).

The other thing that makes it awesome is the toppings. Our standards are salty cheese that you can crumble or cube (farmer’s cheese, feta, haloumi, etc), cilantro, lime, freshly-fried corn tortilla strips and avocado. My kids like to add rice. You can do some dried chiles or even shredded chicken. This recipe is way flexible.

My kids love DIY dinner. Rose eagerly consumed two bowls. Sid tried two bites, which is two bites more than he tries 95% of the time.

Here’s the recipe. More posts and inspirational images here and here, and that’s Rose’s bowl below.

Also, tortilla soup would not exist without Mexico. Just sayin’
Tortilla soup - kid

Comfort me with cheese

Penne with five cheesesDear Almost Everyone in the Entire World,

You’re probably feeling pretty fucking depressed right now. I know I am. People everywhere are walking around like zombies, looking for hope, and trying to figure out how they’re going to get through the next four years.

Enter comfort food. When drinking and chocolate fail me, I turn to cheesy, creamy baked pasta with tomatoes and butter. Al Forno’s Penne with Tomato, Cream and Five Cheeses is all I have to offer you. It’s literally a melting pot of many diverse kinds of cheese, that’s why it works and that’s why it’s good. I hope it brings you comfort.

Do yourself a favor and add a side of broccoli, I promise you won’t regret it (unless you don’t like broccoli).

Love,
Me

Beautiful birthday

“Do you want to have dinner on your birthday?” Shane asked me on the evening of Rose’s birthday (which happens to be exactly a week before mine). “In general, I like to have dinner every night.” I replied.

“Would you like pasta primavera for your birthday dinner?” he asked a little while later, as he perused the cookbook Rose gave him for Father’s day. “I would LOVE pasta primavera.” I said. “Let’s do dinner at my parent’s house. With the usual people. And early, so that Sid will be less likely to melt down. I know! A non-sit down dinner at a non-meltdown time!” Oh, I’m good.

Oh… I have good intentions.

Despite Sid’s numerous meltdowns, it was a lovely birthday dinner because the pasta was amazing and all of the salads were amazing and the cake—which was cut so fast I couldn’t get a picture—was my grandma’s recipe made by my mom, and had lots of chocolate in the middle and extra chocolate on the side. And most importantly, the people I love were there.

And we played Pictionary.

Happy birthday to me. xoxo

 

This kid is 9

Rose turned 9 today. I’m not freaking out about it because I know I’m going to freak out big time when she turns 10. She asked to have sushi for her birthday dinner, and instead of a cake, she wanted to make Rice Crispy treats with me and put candles in them.

Our sushi order for 3 (Sid doesn’t really eat dinner) usually arrives with at least 8 pairs of chop sticks and a 3 figure bill. I asked Shane to help us economize this time by making himself a filling side dish. He made a cheeseburger.

After our weirdly satisfying sushi/burger dinner, we had the aforementioned treats, with candles and chocolate covered strawberries. It was a beautiful evening. Happy, happy birthday our Rose. We love you infinitely.

 

Vegetarian chicken cacciatore (and regular chicken cacciatore)

veggie_chicken_cacciatoreOh hey there! It’s been a long, long while hasn’t it? We don’t have room for The Light in our tiny temporary basement apartment, but we added a new lamp in the kitchen so now I can take semi-decent pictures of dinner that don’t look all gross and flourescenty.

Shane and I recently became weary of our months-long, and very steady rotation of beans & quesadillas, penne alla vodka and pasta with Marcella’s famous sauce for dinner. He mixed things up when he had a week off of work, bringing recipes out of retirement and adding some new things to the mix from a cookbook Rose got him at a yard sale.

I was inspired to do the same with dinner tonight. There were a lot of mushrooms in the fridge so I resurrected easy chicken cacciatore, and while I was at it made vegetarian chicken cacciatore—aka white beans with garlic, rosemary and tomatoes—for myself. Rose said the chicken was amazing, especially the “soup.”

The chicken seemed like it would have been nice with some crusty bread or rice or pasta. The beans were just right with a side of roasted eggplant. chicken_cacciatore