What’s for supper? Vol. 33: Bumpkins gonna bump

Hamburgers, probably chips and salad. Long time ago.

Friday we went to the CIRCUS and got home late, and Saturday we had a birthday party in the afternoon and a new trampoline to assemble and shopping and cleaning and First Communion Workshop and a bunch of other stuff, haircuts, new jobs, oh boy. By the time it was dinner halfway through this Weekend of All The Things, the only meal I could think of was hamburgers.

It was a wonderful weekend! We learned how to deal with a crisis as a family long before we learned how to have big, exciting, fun days together, oddly enough; but we’re definitely there now.

Here is the birthday girl:

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Vermont Turkey Sandwiches; Potato Puffs; Corn on the cob

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Sandwich of the Week, week 2! We attempted to recreate the delicious sandwiches we had at a restaurant the other week.

Smoked turkey, lettuce, tomato, bacon, cheddar cheese, and green apple slices on ciabatta. This we could recall. But what was that dressing? We spent a good week returning again and again to the conundrum of the mysterious dressing. It had some sweetness, but a bit of an edge, too, and we both felt that we had tasted this particular balance of flavors before, but we couldn’t think in what context. Was it camembert and Vidalia onion? Was there buttermilk involved? We just couldn’t place it.

So we looked it up.


It was honey mustard.

C’est si exotique! Honey . . . and mustard. All together, in one place! We had to travel north all the way to central New Hampshire to have this unusual culinary experience. Someday, when I get the nerve, I hope to sample some authentic South American cuisine. I’ve heard good things about — and forgive me if I get the spelling wrong. These foreign names make my head whirl — Taco Bell. But I don’t want to shock my palate too much.

We gotta get out more.



I made four pizzas in the morning and instructed the kids to cook three of them while I was on the radio in the evening. To make pizza, I stretch the dough over the edge of the pans and let it stay there, and then I roll it back to make a raised crust before I put it in the oven. I did this with two of the pizzas, but forgot to finish the third. So when they pulled the third pizza out of the oven, this is what they got:

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A baked crust that was trying to devour the pan. So of course we had to turn the pizza over to get a picture. So of course when we put it right side up again, half of it had flipped over there and remained dangling like a cheesy sunburst of incompetence:

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And that was Monday.


Sausage, Mushroom, and Cheese Omelettes; Oven Roasted Potatoes; Salad

When you’re poor for a long time and then you stop being poor, it takes a while for all of your expectations to level off. I have finally stopped feeling guilty for buying avocados when it’s not even my birthday, but it only just now occurred to me that, yes, oh yes, I can have a two-burner griddle that costs $12. I don’t have to keep wishing and hoping and crossing my fingers that someone will leave one by the side of the road. I can just put it in my cart.

So, with my new griddle and my wonderful T-fal sautée pan, I cooked made-to-order omelettes for 12 13 (okay, yes, I cook special eggs for the dog because he’s my special guy) in under 15 minutes, rather than 40 minutes.

By the time I sat down to eat my food

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I wasn’t too shattered and footsore to care what it tasted like. Amazing! Money isn’t everything, but it is definitely something.


Hot dogs; Beans; Chips

The kids made this. I think I drove about 400 miles on Wednesday, all in about a twenty-mile radius.


Halmonee Chicken; Spicy Almond String Beans; Rice

Here’s the chicken recipe from my friend Elizabeth:

Put chicken thighs in a pot in a single layer. Pour this sauce over it so the chicken is covered halfway up:

equal parts soy sauce and apple juice
a squirt of honey
a dash of sesame oil
lots of garlic

Boil on about medium heat, but a good steady rolling boil for about 45 min, turning periodically. If you’re cooking with skin on, it will be loose enough to pluck off with tongs about halfway through.

I actually forgot the garlic — a phrase I never thought I’d utter — but it tasted great. Very flavorful, super easy. The key is to keep the chicken in a single layer (I used three pans).

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Just about everyone liked it!

I happened to have almonds in the house (I bought them to decorate the birthday cake but forgot), so I found this recipe for “tangy almond garlic string beans.” After I found the ginger under the trampoline (no, it doesn’t grow there. The kids just put it under the trampoline, for reasons) it was pretty easy to throw this together. I cooked the string beans and prepped the ingredients in the morning, and finished cooking it in the evening. Really zippy and flavorful. Definitely going into the permanent collection. A nice meal all around.

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Even if I did have to eat mine in (sigh) the van.

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Penne with jarred sauce; salad

Oh, I forgot: when the kids asked what was for dinner on Saturday, I said, “Nice sandwiches, potato puffs, and corn on the cob.”
And my son says, “What on a cob?”
Because so many things come on cobs. Oatmeal on a cob; venison on a cob; fluffernutter sandwiches on a cob. How was he to know?

And he wasn’t even trying to drive me crazy. It just happens naturally.


This boastful pun game is so odd, I can’t even.

Thursday! Game day! My brother-in-law Bill Herreid came up with this game of boastful puns  or punful boasts. Either way, you’ve been warned.

Here are Bill’s punny boasts:

I’m so hip your grandfather broke me.
I’m so quality, I’m just an accident of something’s essence.
I’m so classy, half the freshmen dropped me.
I’m so out of sight Berkley thinks I don’t exist.
I excel so much, I have a spreadsheet of the birthmarks on my left big toe.
I’m so incredible, you can’t even believe this statement.
I’m so macho I’m covered in cheese.
I’m so complex Oedipus’ mom wants to marry me.


My brother Joey:

I’m so strong, you can smell me from a mile away!

 I’m so mean, there are as many people meaner than me as there are people less mean than me!
 I’m so rich that if you ate me you’d get gout.
 I’m so fine I’d fall through a mosquito net.
I’m so fit I’ve got apoplexy!
I’m such a stud you’ll forget to find me when hanging a picture.
I’m so butch, I’ve got blood all over me and my hands smell like sausages.
I’m so tough that when people order me, they say “Well done.”


Fr. Denis Lemieux (not technically a relative, to our sorrow):

I’m so dope I’m still illegal in Colorado.
I’m so ill I can’t get out of bed.
I’m so legit I am actually really, really boring.



My sister Abby Tardiff:

I’m so articulate even my little toes have three joints.

 I’m so rad I have 101 ergs per gram.
I’ve got so much swag that I sleep until noon because the sun can’t shine through my windows.
I’m so smooth that physics textbooks use me when they want to ignore friction.

My brother Izzy:

I’m so real I don’t include √(-1).
I’m so loaded I’m about to go off.
I’m so jacked I was reported by OSHA.
I’m so interesting the problem is compounding.
I’m so humorous they had to bleed me.
I’m so buff I shimmer.


And my contributions:

I’m so cutting edge that, ever since we met, you’re better by half.

 I’m so fly, I’m being eaten by a spider as we speak.
I’m so random, lemur chandelier towards;
I’m so flush with cash, I found a dead goldfish in my wallet.
 I’m so sincere, you can’t hold a candle to me.
***In the words of Mark Shea: I’M NOT SORRY! I’M NOT SORRY!
All right, you terrible people who should be working.  Lay it on me. I’m soliciting your comments so shamelessly, I got picked up by the vice squad.

The How-To Book of the Mass is a great gift to Catholics

We’ve started Michael Dubruiel’s The How-To Book of the Mass: Everything You Need to Know, But No One Ever Taught You (OSV, revised 2007), and I couldn’t be more pleased. My older kids are certainly quiet and respectful at Mass, but I would love for them to be more engaged, and I think this book will be transformative — not only for them, but for me and my husband, too. Let’s face it, we have some gaps in our educations, too.

Read the rest at the Register.


This is why all American mothers are crazy

Because we are driving them crazy.

This woman, Chrissy Teigen, had a baby ten days ago. She is famous — I guess she is a model or something — so when she went out to dinner with her husband, John Legend (?), lots of people took pictures of her.

So then this happened:

You just had a baby stay at home

Dumb. No normal woman would want to leave her baby so soon

Years of infertility struggle finally had a baby and peaces out after a week

Maybe it’s just rich people but I have two children, I had them at a young age also. I don’t think I let anyone watch my child without me til a month or two.

That spotlight pull be strong. One week. Who wants to leave a one week old baby to go to a bar?

And so on. These are comments on social media, in response to a woman who committed the outrageous and vile act of . . . going out to dinner with her husband. She didn’t fly off to Antigua and leave her baby in a box on the floor at the airport. She didn’t accidentally forget her at the hospital. She didn’t turn the kid over to the first maternal-looking dog she could find so as to lead a “Babies Bore Me” rally at the local Bad Mother Sodality.

She just. Went out. To dinner. And then presumably went back home and hung out with her baby, as women do.

My friend Laura Broussard, who has a knack for getting to the point, said:

America: where we shred you for going on a two-hour dinner date at a week postpartum but give no sh*ts if you have to go back to work 40 hours a week at a week postpartum.

Seriously. It’s a couple hours. A healthy nine-day old baby is probably sleeping at this time. If my healthy nine-day old is sleeping well and my friend called and said, “Can I pick you up and take you out for calzones down the street before you start trying to lose the baby weight?” I would say OK JUST LET ME FIND MY DRY SHAMPOO. (Because ain’t no paparazzi care about my look while I’m grubbing at Rotolo’s.)

Leave. Mothers. Alone. Stop picking picking picking at them. You want to know why American mothers are all crazy? This is why they’re all crazy. Because there’s nothing they can do that won’t get them yelled at by strangers. If you think that doesn’t make people crazy, then try it some time — and add in all the normal hormones and stresses and insecurities of motherhood.

I invite you to carry a baby for nine months, give birth, and spend a scant week healing up and dealing with the exhaustion and wackiness that every mother deals with, and find it in yourself to shrug off criticism — yes, even if you’re a rich mom, even if you’re a mom with lots of help, even if you’re a mom who can fit into slinky pants right away, and even if you’re a mom who is married to someone named John Legend. This is the stuff that makes people crazy, and there is no way to avoid it.

Teigen dealt with the criticism with humor and grace. I didn’t do as well when I had just given birth and decided to get back to work after a short time, because I could do it sitting down, and because we needed the money. As soon as I said something people didn’t like, I got a rousing chorus of “YOU’RE A BAD MOTHER TO BE WORKING.” Not that they wanted to help pay my mortgage, or anything.  Not that they had anything good to say about WIC, or mandatory maternity leave laws. It was enough that I was a woman who had publicly admitted to giving birth. Suddenly, any misstep I made could be magnified by a thousand because [fill in the blank] isn’t supposed to be how mothers act. 

How about we let the lady eat? Or at least stop using motherhood as another stick to beat women over the head with. And yes, I’m speaking to women at least as much as I am to men.

First person to say, “Hey, fatherhood is hard, too!” gets a hundred lashes with a pair of maternity compression hose.


Angry Mob photo by Hans Splinter via Flickr (Creative Commons)



The spark of life meets IVF (and Uncle Andrew)

What do you get when a sperm meets an egg? A new life, a new soul . . . and a dazzling flash of light. According to a science story in the Telegraph UK

An explosion of tiny sparks erupts from the egg at the exact moment of conception.

For the first time, researchers have caught these intimate little human fireworks on film.

The bright flash occurs because when sperm enters and egg it triggers calcium to increase which releases zinc from the egg. As the zinc shoots out, it binds to small molecules which emit a fluorescence which can be picked up my camera microscopes.

When I saw the headline, I caught my breath. “It’s almost,” I told my husband, “As if something amazing is going on! Something that shouldn’t be messed with!”

Then I read the rest of the story, and I let my breath out in a sigh. One of the researchers involved in the project called the zinc flash “breathtaking,” — and then went on to explain:

This means if you can look at the zinc spark at the time of fertilization, you will know immediately which eggs are the good ones to transfer in in vitro fertilization.

Breathtaking indeed. We stand in a dark doorway and behold the brilliant spark of life itself, and we say to ourselves, “Think of the commercial possibilities!” I’m thinking of venal, wretched Uncle Andrew in C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew. Accidentally graced to be present at the creation of Narnia, Uncle Andrew saw that flash, too, as life came into being:

Far overhead from beyond the veil of blue sky which hid them the stars sang again; a pure, cold, difficult music. Then there came a swift flash like fire (but it burnt nobody) either from the sky or from the Lion itself, and every drop of blood tingled in the children’s bodies, and the deepest, wildest voice they had ever heard was saying:
“Narnia, Narnia, Narnia, awake. Love. Think. Speak. Be walking trees. Be talking beasts. Be divine waters.

Narnia here is only minutes old, and the rich new soil is so fertile and fresh that everything that touches it springs into life and flourishes and bears fruit. Even gold and silver coins that spill from his pocket, even bits of toffee. And Uncle Andrew rubs his hands and hatches a plan to dash back home and find some bits of trains and warships that he can grow into iron trees and sell for a profit.

Thus the researcher as she witnesses that dazzling flash of new life:

[Y]ou will know immediately which eggs are the good ones to transfer in in vitro fertilization. . . It’s a way of sorting egg quality in a way we’ve never been able to assess before.

You can just hear her rubbing her hands and she mentally fondles the potential profit.

I’ll let the honest Cabby, destined to be the king of Narnia, answer her:

Oh stow it, Guv’nor, do stow it. Watchin’ and listenin’s the thing at present; not talking.

Am I being too hard on these researchers? It is true that they’re making money as they force human life into being. They profit from sorting through tiny persons, flushing the inferior ones away, and inserting the heartiest specimens back into a likely uterine home, hoping their investment will pay off.

But they do want to help. They do not want to harm, surely. The researcher says:

“There are no tools currently available that tell us if it’s a good quality egg. Often we don’t know whether the egg or embryo is truly viable until we see if a pregnancy ensues.

“That’s the reason this is so transformative. If we have the ability up front to see what is a good egg and what’s not, it will help us know which embryo to transfer, avoid a lot of heartache and achieve pregnancy much more quickly.”

Surely more life, less heartache, is always a worthy goal? Surely if we can, we should? To increase life, to sustain life, to avoid heartache. We can do it. Shouldn’t we?

Here is what Aslan says:

“Alas … Things always work according to their nature. She has won her heart’s desire … All get what they want; they do not always like it.”

Light brings heartache. Darkness brings heartache. You will not be spared heartache, no matter how hard you try to catch that spark in a jar like a lightning bug. If you love life, then do not quantify. Do not sort. Do not coax, and do not discard. If you love life, you will let it flash out its brilliance in its own time, and you will let it go out when it will. It is not ours to coax into being, and it is not ours to snuff out.


Image: “Ancient of Days” by William Blake – William Blake Archive, Public Domain,

In which I feel sorry for Donald Trump, bad father

My husband sent me this collection of excerpts from interviews with Donald Trump: Donald Trump Thinks Men who Change Diapers Are Acting ‘Like the Wife’.  Trump displays a few fairly mild examples of his trademarked unabashed sexism and general jerkitude, saying that he doesn’t change diapers and would never be seen pushing a carriage. When he discovered Marla Maples was pregnant with his child, his chivalrous response was, “‘Excuse me, what happened?”

Nothing shocking here. It’s not as if we all imagined him spending hours fondly dawdling by the crib talking baby talk before leaping up to help one of his wives with the household chores. Nobody who likes Trump is going to be astonished to hear that he’s proud to be a caricature of a hands-off, inattentive, sperm donor of a dad who look at his own baby daughter and saw a potential set of gorgeous legs and perky breasts.

Trump is gross, blah blah blah. The thing that struck me was how sorry I felt for him. Five children, and in all those years, he apparently never let himself enjoy them. He’s happy to use them as props, but they don’t seem to have made him happy.

The other day, I posted a picture of my husband at what must be our . . . mathmathmath . . . yes, about the hundredth kid’s birthday party we’ve had at our house.

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The baby is obviously enthralled, but notice my husband’s face. This is a man who is having a good time, and not because he’s really into Dollar Store fashions. Having kids is fun. Having kids makes you happy. Having kids gives you something simple and straightforward to be joyful about.

Of course, there’s also some of this kind of thing, when your four-year-old wants to tell you all about . . . whatever it is that she is going on and on and on and on and on about . . .

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And there are other, less photogenic moments, too — long days, long nights, frustration, disappointment, sorrow, doubt, and fear. These are things that come to every father, too.

Some men are naturally good dads, and take to it instantly. Some men intend only to fulfill their duty, and are delighted to learn that they actually like their kids. Some men love playing with their kids, but are slower to realize that they need to take part in the less pleasant bits of childrearing, too. There are all kinds of good dads who work out all kinds of arrangements with their families. It’s all right to take some time to grow into the role of father. It’s a big one.

But ladies, if you are thinking of marrying a man and starting a family with him, please, please, first take a hard look at how he interacts with children. Talk over your expectations ahead of time. Does he understand that his kids are going to need him — not just his money, but him, himself? Is he even open to the idea?

It’s not just about the kids, and their needs, and their happiness. It’s also about him. If you love a man, you’ll want him to enjoy the gift of a joyful, involved relationship with his children. There’s nothing masculine or conservative about refusing to accept the fullness of the great gift of fatherhood. Have the conversation!


What’s for supper? Vol. 32: Sandwich of the week!

This was spring vacation week, so I put up a little effort. In retrospect, I can see that my effort did not extend to vegetable preparation. Oh well.



Corn dogs, chips, and Hobbit bread for the kids;
amazing sandwiches and exhilarating fries for me and Damien.

I gave a talk in Hanover on Saturday, and we stopped at Everything But Anchovies for dinner. The sandwiches were so good, I thought it would be fun to do a sandwich of the week, now that it’s getting warmer.

Meanwhile, back at home, honorable daughter #3 made her amazing stuffed Hobbit bread. She used pre-made pizza dough, and baked two large woven loaves stuffed with a savory filling of mushrooms, onions, and cheese. A fine time for me to leave town.

I’ve mentioned Hobbit Bread a few times, so I figured I might as well finally share the recipe. As you can see, it’s long, complicated, and adorable. You can easily adapt it to make it simpler and quicker, and it’s still ridiculously delicious.

Here is the recipe from An Unexpected Cookbook: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery (link is to Kindle version of the book – thanks to my friend Stasa for getting a digital version of the recipe for me!):

Braided Bread Stuffed with Mushrooms, Onions, and Cheese

This hearty bread is practically a meal unto itself. In celebration of Hobbits well known love of mushrooms, this is stuffed with mushrooms, onions, cheese, and English country herbs. It’s best fresh from the oven while the cheese is still runny, but the leftovers are almost as good served alongside supper to help soak up a hearty plate of mutton or venison gravy.

1 ½ c / 300 g water
1 tbsp active dry yeast
4 tbsp / 85 g honey
4 eggs
½ c oil
6 ½ -7 c / 825 – 850 g bread flour
1 tbsp coarse salt
8 cloves minced garlic
1 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves
1 tsp fresh basil leaves, minced

2 tbsp butter
2 c / 200 g sliced mushrooms
2 onions, diced
2 c / 250 g shredded mozzarella
2 cloves garlic in filling
1 tbsp rosemary in each
1 tsp basil
1 tbsp coarse salt
To make a loaf , start by dissolving your yeast in the warm water. Feel free to add an extra tsp of honey at this stage to help kick start your yeast. Walk away for ten minutes. When you come back, the yeast should have bloomed so it looks like a mushroom cap rising up out of your bowl. It knows its fate.

Mix in the eggs, oil, salt, and the rest of the honey. When you achieve a soupy mass, add the minced garlic , fresh rosemary leaves, and fresh basil. It should smell delicious.

Now mix in the bread flour. Modern cooks with a stand mixer can attach the dough hook and let it knead away for 6-8 minutes. If you want to get a real feel for the period, knead it by hand for 8-10 minutes. The dough should be soft, pliant, and not too tacky.

Form it into a ball, cover it with a clean dishtowel, and let it rise for an hour, or until double in size.

Meanwhile, make your filling. Melt your butter in a large skillet over a medium-high heat. Add your onions and cook until they start to brown . You want them to lose a lot of moisture while gaining some flavor.

Once the onions start to brown, add your garlic, rosemary, and basil. Keep cooking for another 3-4 minutes, or until the garlic barely starts to brown . Finally add the mushrooms. You don’t want to overcook them. Mix them in and cook for another 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Take the pan off the heat and finish it with the coarse salt. Set it aside to cool while the dough continues rising.

Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down. Flour a clean surface and roll the dough into a rectangle . Put that rectangle on a sheet of parchment paper so you can easily move the finished loaf to a pan. Trim away any rough edges.

Now that you have a trimmed rectangle of dough, mentally divide the rectangle into thirds. The center third is where you place your filling. The outer two thirds will be cut into braid strips. To give it an attractive , braided top, make neat, even, 1 inch 2.5 cm wide cuts along each side. Make a bed of cheese in the middle ⅓ of your bread. Pile the mushroom filling on top of that. Cover the filling with any remaining cheese. Fold both end pieces inwards so they cover some of the filling.

To create the braided top, pull the cut edges of dough over the center, alternating sides and tugging tight, so the dough completely covers the filling. This makes a single, massive rectangular loaf . Slide it onto your largest cooking pan. If you don’t have any oversized baking sheets, just slide it into a heavily buttered 9×13 glass baking pan. Either way, let it rise for another hour. You put this much work into it, so you might as well make the bread pretty. Whisk together an egg and 1 tbsp of water to make an egg wash.

Use a pastry brush to paint the surface of the bread. If you’d like, sprinkle another 1 tsp of coarse salt on top. Bake the bread at 350F / 180C for 35-40 minutes. If the top starts to get too brown, cover it with foil.

Due to the moist interior, the bottom of this bread has a tendency to get soggy if you leave it out overnight. That means it’s your duty to consume the entire loaf before bedtime. If you don’t have a party of dwarves or a couple teenagers on hand to help you finish it, you can always use the leftovers to make savory mushroom bread pudding for tomorrow’s dinner.




Reubens and onion rings

I’ve never had a reuben sandwich before! SO GOOD. I boiled a hunk of corned beef that was on sale from St. Patrick’s day (the age made me hesitate, but then I remembered that even brand new corned beef is only just barely food, so it probably hadn’t spoiled), sliced it thin, and made grilled sandwiches on rye. Corned beef, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing. I followed these directions, and weighed the sammiches down with cans of tomatoes.

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FABULOUS. I had two, which made me feel like this:

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Pancakes and sausages, chocolate covered bananas

Boy, those bananas were not great. We had made these once before, for a jungle-themed birthday party, and they were really delicious. This time, they tasted fine — frozen bananas have a pleasant custardy taste — but they were a mess. I don’t know what went wrong, but the chocolate never melted properly, and it wouldn’t stick to the bananas. I tried adding some shortening in to smooth it out, but it didn’t help. It sounds crazy, but I think maybe Aldi brand chocolate chips aren’t good for melting. Anyway, the kids had fun.

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Chicken enchiladas, guacamole and chips, corn, waffle iron churros

Pioneer Woman’s recipe. I used chicken thighs instead of white meat. I always run out of onions before I run out of chicken and cheese, so this time I made triple the amount. Then I forgot the stove was on and burned the hell out of them, so they got compacted right down to a third of their size. They weren’t so much caramelized as carbonized.

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I guess in terms of atomic value, we ingested the same amount of onionness, but in practice, there weren’t enough onions. Still a very tasty meal.

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Kids made the guac. Husband made the waffle iron churros while I hid in my room neglecting my domestic duties.



Beef stew and dumplings

Most of my kids didn’t even know what dumplings are, that’s how long it’s been. Dumpling suspicion:

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I grabbed this basic recipe off allrecipes.com.

(I made double this recipe.) Mix together dry ingredients, cut in the shortening, then add the milk and stir until just blended.
Drop clumps of dough into the simmering stew, cover tightly, and simmer 20 minutes.

They turned out great!

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Light and fluffy, couldn’t be easier. Hooray, a new thing!



Pulled pork, cole slaw, baked potatoes

Holy hell, this was some fatty pork. By the time I was done trimming it, half of it was gone. It got all et up, though. Oh, also we were out of beer (!) to cook it in, so I used Coke.

Cole slaw was made with cabbage and carrots, and a dressing of mayo, sour cream, vinegar, sugar, and pepper. Tasted exactly like cole slaw.


I am now collecting exciting sandwich ideas for sandwich of the week. Next week, we’ll be recreating the yummy ones we had at that restaurant. Tell me all about your favorite sandwiches, hot or cold!