Yesterday was a toss-up for reasons not to send the kids to school: on the one hand, it was a snow day, and on the other, they were both sick anyway. So I kept dinner simple and made a stew out of all of the leftover bits and pieces I had in the fridge. Honestly, a traditional stew (at least the way I learned it) is a bit of whatever you’ve got around anyway, so it seems fitting.
The stew contained beef, onions, garlic, carrots, baby potatoes, celery, homemade beef broth, store-bought beef broth, pearl barley, red wine, fresh thyme, fresh sage, a bay leaf, and salt. I whipped it up in the Instant Pot in about 45mins, including preheating/venting time. It wasn’t the best stew I have ever made, but it was tasty, hearty, warm, and went down easily for those with sore throats. I’ll consider it a win.
The plague, aka the nasty cold with a sore throat and a cough that has been going around, hit our house hard this week. While I am desperately trying to fend it off, Thing 2 and my husband have succumbed, and Thing 1 is starting to show symptoms. It’s also been ridiculously (if seasonally) cold the last few days, averaging about -35°C (-31°F) at night with the wind chill. All of this together means that the best thing for everyone to eat is a nice, hearty soup.
So last night I made Hearty Hamburger Soup in my Instant Pot. It’s actually a stove top recipe, but it’s easy enough to adapt; I just did all the sautéing in the cooker, drained off the fat, added the rest of the ingredients and then pressure cooked for 30min. This is a dish that I’ve been meaning to make for years, and the ingredients are generally the kind of thing I have stocked in my pantry and freezer. I’m told that my aunt makes a killer version of this dish, but I haven’t been able to wheedle her recipe away from her. The Allrecipes version was quite nice, though. I made the accompanying bread earlier that day in the bread machine; it was Egg-Enriched White Loaf on page 67 of Bread Machine: How to Prepare and Bake the Perfect Loaf by Jennie Shapter (2002).
The cold/flu that flattened our family for a good three weeks seemed to have gone away, but over the last few days it reared its nasty head again, albeit in a more subdued form. Thing 1 ended up home with a fever, while at the same time Thing 2 has a nasty, chesty cough. I am not immune, and still have sinus congestion and pressure issues. This means that, on our least-energetic days, we all want comfort food, and I haven’t felt up to cooking anything complicated.
This is where chicken noodle soup came in the other day. I didn’t even have to go out to get the ingredients! I had homemade broth in the freezer (I try to always keep it stocked), along with some chicken thighs that I baked. Then I boiled up some ditali noodles, threw them in a pot with half of the broth and half of the chicken, and there was chicken noodle soup for the family. Earlier in the day I also managed to throw on a loaf of herb-free Bread Machine Fluffy Herb Bread (it’s become my go-to loaf for a nice, light white bread), so we had fresh bread to go with the soup.
Now, you may have noticed that I only used half of the broth and chicken, and that was so that I would have leftovers. Chicken noodle soup doesn’t generally refrigerate well because the noodles swell up and absorb most/all of the liquid over time. Instead, I refrigerated the ingredients separately, and last night I threw them all in a pot with a half of a cup of rice and simmered it all together until the rice was cooked (about 20 minutes).
It’s nothing fancy, but culturally our first go-to around here is chicken noodle soup when we’re not feeling well. If chicken noodle soup isn’t available, something bland, nutritious, and warm is the next option on the list. It seems to have worked this time, because the girls are already getting their energy back. I hope this means we’ve managed to kick this thing for good — knock on wood!
It was inevitable. At least one of my kids has been sick since Saturday, and I’ve finally come down with whatever they have. Some kind of cold. But everyone needs to eat, so threw some ingredients in a slow-cooker and called it dinner. I’d never made pulled pork before, but a friend of mine taught me the basic technique:
– Cut a cheap cut of pork (in this case, pork loin) into large chunks, removing as much fat as possible.
– Put it in a slow cooker with the entire contents of a 500mL bottle of your barbecue sauce of choice. Stir.
– Cover and cook for four hours on high, until the meat pulls apart easily with a fork.
– Remove the meat from the cooker, pull it apart/shred it with two forks, and then return it to the cooker. Mix the meat back into the sauce.
– Cook for another hour on high.
The end result tastes really good, but it takes very little effort. I served the pulled pork in open-faced sandwiches that I made with homemade dinner rolls. Lest you think that it this took a great deal of effort, I just put the ingredients into the breadmaker and let it do most of the work. I used the Dinner Roll recipe from page 176 of Betty Crocker’s Best Bread Machine Cookbook (1999). Now, once the kneading is done, I did have to form the rolls by hand and bake them in the oven, but it was only about a dozen and a half of rolls, so that didn’t take long. I served the open-faced sandwiches with some of my homemade pickled beets, dilled carrot spears made with some of my monster carrots, and dill pickles. The acidity of the vinegar cut nicely through the sauce of the pulled pork.
We’re not quite at the stage where machines can do all of the cooking for us. However, having the option to just thrown ingredients into a something automated and then leave it ’till it’s done is a saving grace when you’re under the weather.
Much to my dismay, I feel like death warmed over today. So I’m going to go curl up in bed around a bottle of Pepto Bismol and try desperately not to even think about food. For those not laid low by illness, I would highly recommend the Gastro Obscura (the food section of Atlas Obscura), which I have been greatly enjoying perusing lately. For example, there’s a great article on narutomaki, which is a type of Japanese fishcake that you may have seen floating on top of the last soup in my fast food ramen entry.
For today, please enjoy this photo of our Elf on the Shelf Candy Cane perched atop my kitchen cupboards, “helping” me cook. Hopefully I will be well enough to write properly tomorrow.
I was sick yesterday. It’s just a cold: body aches, chills, sinus pressure, and a headache. Nothing major, but pretty miserable. I’d planned on heading out to the Ottawa Antique and Vintage Market, but after taking Thing 1 out to shop for Christmas gifts at a school craft fair, I was beat. I curled up in bed, unable to quite feel warm, until dinner time.
Needless to say, I wasn’t up to cooking. My husband, an unenthusiastic cook at best, thought that I should have soup for dinner to help me feel better. He reheated some frozen shoyu broth I’d made a while back, to which he added ramen noodles, shrimp, soft-boiled eggs, enoki mushrooms, and a square of nori. It was exactly what the doctor ordered.
After dinner, and after the kids were put to wrangled into bed, he also made me a hot apple cider (non-alcoholic; I know in some places calling it “apple cider” presumes an alcohol content, but around that we call it “hard apple cider” to differentiate). He also looted me a few mini chocolate bars from the kids’ extra Halloween candy. I feel very loved. It’s nice to be taken care of every once and a while. Now, if only the cold would disappear as quickly as my hunger did.