Monday, September 26, 2022

Menu plan for the week of September 26

 Last week, the same friend who gave me some of her sourdough starter handed me a box that was labeled "banneton proofing basket kit."  Take this, she said, I have an extra.

I think most people, when they hear sourdough, picture those round crusty loaves with intricate patterns carved into their tops.  And one of the tools that the folks who make those types of loaves use is a banneton, which is a fancy name for a basket that holds the dough during the second rise.  And I can not, for the life of me, figure out how those folks get their loaves out of their fancy baskets and into their Dutch ovens for baking without totally deflating the dough.  My friend said she couldn't figure it out either.  Because of that, and because there are so many other ways to use sourdough starter that my family is more likely to actually eat, I honestly had never given serious consideration to making one of those artisan loaves.  

But then, the kit came into my life.  When I opened the box, I was expecting to find a banneton and a banneton liner.  I did find those things, along with a few other tools, but on top of all that laid the gorgeous book, Artisan Sourdough Made Simple by Emilie Raffa.  I am a sucker for a beautiful cookbook, and this, my friends, is a beautiful cookbook.  And now I need to make all the things, including the things that require a proofing basket.  Up first, a Cinnamon raisin swirl loaf (without the raisins).

And here's what else is on the menu this week:

  • Chicken fettuccini alfredo, green beans
  • Burritos or tacos, taco toppings, carrots
  • Beef stroganoff or fend for yourself
  • Fend for yourself
  • Pizza, salad
  • Hamburgers or hot dogs, buns, chips, raw veggies
  • Grilled pork chops, mashed potatoes, grilled broccoli


Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Being kind to my future self

 I've been thinking a lot about being kind to my future self lately.  

As you may have gathered from last week's menu post, mealtimes have been a bit ... scattered ... around here.  Sporadic.  Chaotic.  There has been a breakdown in our usual mealtime routines, which means, among other things that, while I usually wash dirty dishes that don't fit in the dishwasher immediately, or at least within 30 minutes, after supper, I have not, lately.

And so suddenly, it'll be 9:30 or 10 p.m.*, and the dishes will have not yet been washed, and have I mentioned that I am exhausted?  Yes, yes, I have mentioned that.

But lately I've been deciding to be kind to my future self by washing the dishes, even though I'm exhausted.  And my future self is always so appreciative of my past self.

Also, I feel like I need to mention** that the dish fairy hasn't shown up around here for weeks, which makes it that much more difficult to wash dishes.  I mean, without the dish fairy putting them away, the clean and dry dishes from yesterday take up all of the room where I want to put the clean and wet dishes from today to dry.

I feel like it's a really good idea to ask myself, every day, "what can I do to make things easier for future Scarlet?"  And I've been coming up with things each day to set future Scarlet up for success.

I'm still exhausted, though.

How about you?  Do you ever think about how you can make your future self's life a little easier?

* For reference, bedtime is usually 9:01 p.m.

** I feel the need to mention this so you will feel sorry for me.  I mean, no dish fairy, for weeks!  How can I be expected to cope with such drudgery? 

Monday, September 12, 2022

Meal plan for the week of September 12

 Remember how I asked for meal ideas last week?  Well, one of you actually responded!  Isn't that exciting?  Someone actually read a blog post, and was so moved by it that they took action.  

That person suggested chicken burrito bowls, which you may recall we actually had on the menu about a month ago, and we really liked them.  And by we really liked them, I mean I really liked them and no one else complained verbally about them.  So it's on the menu again this week, because who cares how anyone other than the cook feels about the meals?  

I'm strictly using the whole eat it or starve philosophy of meal planning at this point.  Of course, they don't actually starve, because they are all either adults or teens (and one of them happens to be both adult and teen), and they are fully capable of feeding themselves.

Great idea, dear reader!  Thank you.

And, uh, if any of the rest of you would like to be thanked publicly in this space, feel free to send your meal ideas my way, too.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Yup, there will be other things.  Just not sure what yet.

What's on the menu at your house this week?

Friday, September 9, 2022

Italian Sausage Cauliflower Soup: a low carb interpretation of Zuppa Toscana

 I gotta be honest with you.  I'm publishing this recipe mostly because I want to remember what I did this time that made it taste so good.  But if you want to try it too, you should.  It's really yummy.

I first tried Zuppa Toscana on the day our previous slow cooker fell victim to inertia.  So delicious.  On that day, I modified the recipe for stovetop, and the next time I made it, this time in my new crock pot, I discovered that I preferred the stovetop method, although the slow cooker is really convenient.  I think it's because I like a thicker soup than the original recipe provided in the slow cooker.  If you prefer a thinner soup, feel free to add water or additional broth.  Later on, I found a lower carb Zuppa Toscana copycat recipe.  This recipe is inspired by both.

This low carb soup is creamy and thick, with a slight spicy kick from the sausage and crushed red pepper.

Italian Sausage Cauliflower Soup

Makes about 6 servings
Click here to print this recipe

  • 1 pound Italian sausage
  • 1 medium onion, diced (use more or less to your taste)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes (use less or omit if you don't like a spicy kick; use more if you do)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 16 oz frozen cauliflower florets
  • 12 oz frozen riced cauliflower
  • 4 c chicken broth or stock
  • 1/2-1 c heavy whipping cream
  • 10 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled, or a couple of handfuls of real bacon pieces--measure with your heart
  • 2 c chopped kale or spinach, optional 


  1. In a large pot, sauté 1 lb Italian sausage with 1 diced onion until sausage is cooked through.  
  2. Add 2-3 cloves of minced garlic.  Cook and stir for a few more minutes until fragrant.  
  3. Add crushed red pepper and salt and pepper to taste*, 16 oz frozen cauliflower florets, 12 oz frozen riced cauliflower, and 4 cups chicken broth.  
  4. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.  
  5. Add 1/2 - 1 c of heavy whipping cream, 10 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled, and kale or spinach, if using.  Heat through.  Serve and enjoy!

* I used 1/2 t pepper and 1/2 T salt, but my homemade chicken stock didn't have any salt in it. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Important Information

 At the beginning of August, I got a text message from the school district telling me to check my email for an important message about transportation.

I duly checked my email, and found a message about transportation.  It was a message that I didn't necessarily think was important, but the school district probably thinks every message they send is important.  The important message about transportation from the email was that they would be sending a letter through the US postal service about my student's transportation.

Yup.  That's what it said.  And they did.  They sent a letter via USPS telling me about my student's specific transportation arrangements.  Which is, definitely, for sure, important information.

Now, I am a big benefit-of-the-doubt-er, so I can see why the school district might feel the need to warn me via text message that they'd be sending an email, which in turn warned me that they'd be sending a letter.  I mean, they probably wanted to get the message out through as many channels as possible, so parents wouldn't miss it.  And it worked, in my case.  I was totally on the lookout for that important transportation information for the next couple of weeks, and I did not miss it.  

The school district also probably wanted to avoid having to field 38 bajillion phone calls from parents asking about bus information, although I bet they still got many, many phone calls in the intervening weeks, because no matter how many ways one communicates, and no matter how many times one communicates, there are always those who don't get the message, for whatever reason.

But it just struck me as comical that the school district felt the need to do that.  Why not include the information in each of the communications?  Why build our anticipation so?  I wonder how many more times this school year this same sequence of events will occur regarding important information.

Monday, September 5, 2022

(non) Menu plan for the week of September 5

 I did a thing the other day.  I canned potatoes for the first time.  See, we needed potatoes, and the 10 lb bag was just a couple of pennies more than a 5 lb bag, so I bought the 10 lb bag, even though a week or two prior to that, I had composted three moldy, smelly*, and oddly juicy rotten potatoes.

It was quite the internal debate, in the store.  Should I buy the 5 lb bag, which we are much more likely to use before they go bad?  Or should I get double the potatoes for about the same price, knowing it would be much more challenging to use them up?

Well, in the heat of the moment I chose double the potatoes.  And after I cooled down, I realized that with only one potato-eater currently in the house, there is no way I would use them all.  Of course I berated myself mentally, because that's how I roll.  I mean, by purchasing the 10 lb bag, I was virtually guaranteeing that I was going to be throwing away potatoes in a month or so.

When I told Bubby I didn't think we'd be able to use the potatoes, he told me that sure we could.  He still remembers the week that he and his brother ate mashed potatoes every. single. day. with fondness‡.  He didn't seem too enthusiastic when I told him he was welcome to try†.

So I decided to can the potatoes.  Our most frequent preparation of potatoes is mashed, and by canning potatoes, I'll be able to get mashed potatoes on the table in about 5 minutes.  Based on the instructions in the Ball Blue Book of Canning, I expected to be able to get 2 quarts, that I thought I could probably stretch to 3, which didn't seem worthwhile canning, but I was committed.  I ended up with 5 quarts, which for me is a full (pressure) canner load, plus enough extra for a Bubby** sized serving on Saturday.  So yay!  I'm looking forward five easy-peasy mashed potato preps, and zero rotten potatoes.

Also last week, I canned salsa (it's super hot this year), zucchini "pineapple", green beans***, and pinto beans.  I think I'm done for now, but I do have some tomatoes in the freezer that I will eventually have to do something with.

The menu plan is a mess this week.  School started, and I am exhausted.  So we'll probably have breakfast for supper this week, along with fending for ourselves a couple of times, plus pizza, maybe hot dogs, possibly tacos or nachos.  I don't know.  I feel like this is awfully early in the "new year" to stop caring about what I'm going to feed my family.

What's cooking at your house this week?  I could use some ideas.

* * * * *

*I honestly thought I was smelling unshowered teenager whenever I caught a whiff.  Which was so weird, because sometimes there were no teenagers around, showered or otherwise.

‡I do not.  

†Bubby generally does peel and cut the potatoes when we have mashed potatoes, but the last time he did the actual mashing there was an incident with the salt shaker, and he's been reluctant, since then, to mash the potatoes himself.

**A Bubby sized serving is equivalent to 3-4 normal person servings.

***I know.  I said I wasn't going to can green beans anymore.  But they just keep coming, friends.  And I had to do something with them.  And we already have 4 family sized portions in the freezer.

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