A Japanese Feast for the Opening Ceremonies

It seemed at times like today would never come, but finally, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have begun! Whether or not they should be held no longer matters, because they’ve gone ahead, and as long as they Olympics are going on, I’m doing all of the things I meant to do last summer, starting with a special dinner for the Opening Ceremonies.

We started with homemade pork gyoza and rayu. I’ve made the gyoza before, but making the rayu from scratch was a new experience!

The main course was spicy ramen/udon with ajitsuke tamago (ramen eggs). The broth was made with dashi, kimchi, soy sauce, leeks, garlic, miso, gochujang, and shiitake mushrooms. It was served over spicy chicken and bacon, and topped with nori, bean sprouts, and green onions.

For dessert, I made coffee jelly:

We waited a long time to have this meal, but I think it was worth the wait!

Revenge of the Fifth

There are so many good recipes in The Official Black Spire Outpost Cookbook that we couldn’t limit our Star Wars celebration to just one day, so I bring you The Revenge of the Fifth!

Tonight’s dinner wasn’t quite involved as last night’s, but it did fit well with Cinco de Mayo as well as Star Wars Day: Part Two. I made ronto wrappers (herbed flatbread) as the foundation for ronto wraps, plus a really delicious beverage, the blurggfire, which included a homemade habanero-lime syrup:

For dessert, I made a zoochberry surprise:

I can’t wait to try more recipes from the cookbook!

May the Fourth Be With You

Happy Star Wars Day!

I promised the Fab Five that we would do something special to celebrate this year, especially since we were so excited about the premiere of The Bad Batch, so I planned a special Star Wars themed dinner featuring recipes from The Official Black Spire Outpost Cookbook. I chose stuffed “puffer pig”, roasted chando peppers, fried zuchii, and for the evening’s beverage, the cliff dweller:

For dessert, I made Bespin cloud drops (and we’ll just ignore the fact the I had to ask what Bespin is):

May the Fourth be with you!

Tasty Tuesday–Breakfast for Dinner

We have always enjoyed having breakfast-for-dinner, and for the last year, I’ve tried to make it a regular item on the menu (once or twice a month), instead of just an occasional treat. But I definitely didn’t want to make the same meal over and over, so I’ve tried to expand our breakfast-for-dinner options to include things like omelettes, breakfast sandwiches, waffles, breakfast casserole, breakfast burritos, shakshuka, and French toast, in addition to the traditional bacon and eggs. I also often make smoothies to go with dinner, and that has been a huge hit…we’ve really enjoyed trying different fruit, juice, and yogurt combinations. One thing we haven’t had, though, is pancakes, which seems like a weird omission…I should probably work on that!

Tasty Tuesday–Chicago-Style Hot Dogs

If you’ve never had a Chicago-style hot dog, you’re really missing out!

What makes a Chicago dog so special? It’s an all-beef hot dog topped with mustard, white onions, a pickle spear, sliced tomatoes, sport peppers, neon relish, and celery salt (in other words, you “drag it through the garden”), and served on a poppy seed bun (which are hard to find around here, so I had to settle for plain old hot dog buns this time). The most important step? Never, ever put ketchup on your hot dog! I’m not a huge fan of regular hot dogs, but there’s something really fantastic about the flavors of the Chicago dog…I’m very thankful I can usually find most of the ingredients locally!

Tasty Tuesday–Carrot Fritters

I adapted this recipe from Mount Vernon’s website…their recipe is for a more sweet carrot fritter, and I wanted something a bit more savory…no matter how you look at it, though, they’re basically carrot donuts!

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 cup cooked, mashed carrots
  • vegetable oil for frying

Mix together flour, baking powder, egg, salt, lemon juice, and carrots. Heat oil to 375 degrees. Carefully drop mixture by spoonful into the hot oil and cook until golden brown, turning once. Drain, sprinkle with additional salt, and serve.

Easter in the Time of COVID-19

Time for another look at a Markel Family holiday in the time of COVID-19!

Last year, I was all about keeping as many things as normal as possible for everyone. This year, I decided to embrace the new and different as much as I could. For starters, even though I’m now back to grocery shopping once a week instead of every two weeks, and could have bought hot cross buns from the bakery, I decided to make a batch again this year:

We went to our new church for the evening Maundy Thursday service to begin the Holy Triduum, and it was short, but very nice:

On Good Friday we were back at our new church for an equally moving (and equally short) Tenebrae service:

On Holy Saturday, we watched Rick Steves’ European Easter and made our Paschal candle for the year, as is our tradition. This one didn’t turn out so well, but it still gets the job done!

We attended the Great Vigil of Easter at our new church…I’m so glad they offer that service. More of it was spent outside than we are used to, and that was really nice!

After church, instead of getting sundaes from McDonald’s like we usually do, we got Frosty’s and fries at Wendy’s, and I introduced the Fab Five to the culinary experience that is dipping the fries in the Frosty:

We didn’t have a sunrise service this year, but I was still up early enough to see the sunrise:

And even though we didn’t need to leave the house super-early, I still bought our traditional Pop-Tarts:

It was a beautiful morning!

I took pictures of the Fab Five in the garden outside of church:

Since I couldn’t really take pictures of them inside the church (and especially by the baptismal font) like I usually do, I did that the day of Chickadee’s confirmation:

Our new church is beautiful!

After church, we came home and made Easter breakfast…eggs and sausage, English muffins, pomegranate juice, and every flavor of mini donut I could find…seven varieties. Maybe we’ll be able to go to Easter breakfast at church again in the future, but for now, it’s nice to have the meal at home!

I may have completed all of the Bunny Day goals in Animal Crossing: New Horizons last year, but I still checked in with Zipper T. Bunny:

We had fun watching some of our favorite Easter movies today, including My Big, Fat Greek Wedding, Easter Parade, and It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown. While we did that, I made sure the table looked pretty for dinner:

And made our Easter feast for dinner. I tried a new leg of lamb recipe in the crock-pot, which was both amazingly delicious and easy. We also had Greek potatoes, carrot fritters, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, breaded artichokes, cherry Jell-O, and popovers:

For dessert, I made carrot cake Oreo truffles:

No matter what stays the same or what is different from year to year, our reason for celebrating remains constant. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!!!

Tasty Tuesday–Cooking Through a Pandemic, the Twelfth Month

One final monthly wrap-up to round out a full year of pandemic cooking. Well, a year-plus. I stretched this one a little long, because I wanted to come full circle with the two birthday celebrations that were part of the beginning of the pandemic last year, and celebrated within the last week this year. I can only hope that by the time March 2022 rolls around, we’ll have a more “normal” set of birthdays!

We tried a few more new recipes in the last weeks (I made picadillo and gnocchi for the first time, as well as carrot fritters!) , and had several celebrations, including Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, a dinner for Washington’s Birthday, St. Patrick’s Day, and Turkey’s and Chickadee’s birthdays. We also indulged in both Beast Craft BBQ and Wing Runner.

I made lots of desserts and baked goods this month, too, including Oreo truffles, my first attempt at homemade pączki, a cherry pie, popovers, Frango mint brownies, a cannoli cake, pies for Pi Day, a Guinness cake, more cookies than I can count, and birthday desserts in the forms of a trifle and an elephant cake. We also had a Green River Soda cheesecake shipped from Eli’s, and it was amazing!

So there it is…a full year of cooking through a pandemic. I’ve pushed myself hard over the last year to make more special meals for my family, because it was one of the few things I could actually do for them. I also worked hard to try new things, because it was something exciting in the midst of a very dull time. When I look back on this period in our history, I hope I’ll remember the special meals and weekly cookie-baking sessions with Bunny as one of the bright spots in an otherwise dark time!

St. Patrick’s Day in the Time of COVID-19

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Can you believe this is the second time we’ve celebrated this holiday in the time of COVID-19?!? Of course, last year, we really didn’t know what we were in for yet, and this year, we’re all hoping that we can see a light at the end of the tunnel, but either way, our family celebration remained largely unchanged, although this year, we did start celebrating pretty early in the month with Shamrock Shakes (almost impossible to find in our area this year, so when we did pinpoint a location that was offering them, we jumped on it!) and a Green River Soda cheesecake from Eli’s:

We started the day with Lucky Charms and the leprechaun trap…spoilers, we didn’t catch him (again!)!

We read all of our favorite St. Patrick’s Day books, watched all of the Ireland episodes of Rick Steves’ Europe we have on disc, and also watched Aerial Ireland. I really enjoyed “Shamrock Day” in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. While it wasn’t a huge event like some, there were some special items, including what look suspiciously like Shamrock Shakes!

I also enjoyed giving a few of my favorite neighbors a Shamrock Suit to match mine:

The highlight of the day (for me at least) was dinner. I love corned beef and cabbage and all the trimmings!

And of course we had Guinness cake for dessert, which is a family favorite!

We had a nice St. Patrick’s Day, as we always do, but I really hope that next time the holiday rolls around, things in the world are a little more normal!

Tasty Tuesday–Beast Craft BBQ: Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Beast Craft BBQ currently has a delicious winter special on the menu…buttermilk fried chicken!

This item is a staple on the menu at Beast Southern Kitchen & BBQ, and I’m happy that they’ve temporarily brought it over to the original Belleville location. It’s not your basic fried chicken, because it’s dusted with creole spices, which give it a delicious kick. The breading was perfectly crunchy…it didn’t get soggy on its journey from the restaurant to our house. And I love that they put a piece of white bread under the chicken to catch the spices and the drippings. The plate comes with four pieces of chicken, plus two sides, and of course if you’re smart one of those should be Beast’s amazing sprouts with pork belly, but there are plenty of other options, too (we especially love the bacon mac). I love seeing the new ideas the Beast family comes up with at all of their locations (check out their sandwich pop-up in the Grove, a perfect example of how they’re rolling with the punches and thinking creatively to make the best of a rough time for restaurants!), and I can’t wait to see what hits the menu next!