One of my favorite bloggers, Simcha Fisher, started a recurring — or not — feature on her blog I have to Sit Down called “What’s for Supper?”. Because I also feed a crowd every day and because I’m not one to miss a good link-up (I like having a topic picked for me, I’m that kind of lazy), here is my contribution.
The ground rules as far as our family of 11 is concerned are simple:
- The meals must be simple and contain easily identifiable ingredients. Casseroles rarely fly here, unless they are a simple gratin.
- My husband and I try to avoid grains during weekdays. Fresh corn doesn’t count as grain.
- We don’t eat dessert on weekdays.
- Normally I make a meal plan on Saturday, shop for food on Sunday and will often need another produce run midweek. For the last 9 months, I’ve been out of meal planning and our grocery budget is running amok.
- Supper needs to be figured out and started by 3:30pm if we want to eat by 5:30pm, clean-up the supper dishes and have the five younger kids in bed between 7:00 and 8:00 pm. Lately — because of absentee planning — supper gets going around 5:30pm, we eat at 7:00 and we’re lucky if the kids are in bed by 9:00pm. We are still in “summer mode” but we’re fraying at the edges. Chaos and exhaustion are threatening our entire livelihood and we hope to return to normal as soon as we can find the energy to turn this boat around.
- My husband is often gone from home from 7 am until close to 7 pm. We live in a rural community so we avoid evening engagements such as extracurricular activities as much as possible: driving into town at supper/bedtime was in fashion in 2010-2012, now we’re traumatized.
Eye of round roast (this one has to be started in the afternoon)
Roasted potatoes: I just quarter a whole bag of baby potatoes from Costco, lay them on parchment paper, drizzle with oil, salt and pepper, and bake at 415F for about 20 mn.
Red cabbage slaw. Or as we are expected to call it “red-but-should-be-purple-cabbage”, with vinaigrette (1/3 red vinegar, 2/3 olive oil and a splotch of Dijon proportional to what you used as a basic measurement. I do 1 cup red vinegar, 2 cups of oil and a heaping tablespoon of Dijon. There’s leftovers.)
Broccoli . Because everyone here eats broccoli but red cabbage slaw is touch and go. I like giving the kids a chance to win.
Fish and fries. That’s what I make when I forget to take meat out of the freezer. I don’t consider cucumbers to be a real vegetable, it’s mostly water and seeds, but I just can’t sleep unless there is something green on offer. And cucumber is green.
Roasted chickens and fresh corn on the cob. I use the organic chickens from Costco, throw them on a roasting sheet with salt, pepper, onion flakes and smoked paprika and roast them at 415F for 45mn or something. Two chickens and 12 corns fed my “small” family: the three oldest were out of the house.
When I cut the chickens, I throw the carcasses and drippings straight into a large Dutch oven. Add a splash of apple cider vinegar, fill with water and make broth right away. I used to keep the bones in a ziploc bag in the fridge until I had the optimal broth ingredients, also known as “until the carcasses turned moldy and my husband threw them out.” Water, bones, vinegar, boil forever.
We had friends for lunch and I made quesadillas with the leftover chicken and corn.
For dinner, I roasted sweet peppers, carrots, garlic and a Lego wheel — just kidding! I removed the wheel before roasting. Then I had afterthoughts and checked the oven again. Phew! I did remove the wheel… — and made some orange soup with the chicken broth.
I also made a tomato salad with cherry tomatoes from my sister’s garden and basil from our garden. I used the same dressing as earlier this week.
Here comes Friday. I follow a few Catholic bloggers from the United States and was curious as to why they seemed to universally abstain from meat on Friday. It picked my curiosity because I know some very legit Canadian Catholics who do not abstain from meat on Friday. Recently, I spoke about it with my spiritual director, as I was really struggling with the concept of abstaining from meat on Friday. The problem seemed to be twofold. First, meatless dishes in my family are mostly party food. They are also really easy to make for me. I felt like pancakes were too much fun for a Friday observance of the death of Jesus, fish is too good, soup and bread are comfort foods, sandwiches are a get-out-of-jail-free card for me, and so on. I came to the conclusion that the only sort of meal that would look like a universal family sacrifice would be a dish that is really complicated to make for me and that the kids don’t like, like vegan moussaka or lasagna. But making food that everyone hates is wasteful. Back to square one. Making an elaborated, suitably mortifying, vegan dish also prevented me from going to Mass and Adoration on Friday evening, the only weekday Mass offered in my Parish at a time later than 8:00 am. My spiritual adviser wisely noted that in Canada, the Conference of Catholic Bishops did not require the faithful to abstain from meat on Fridays outside of Lent but encouraged us to keep Friday through some kind of penance, prayer or act of charity. Maybe, she added, organizing your day and your evening meal so that you are able and ready to leave home at 6:00pm to go to Mass and Adoration is all the penance you need to keep Friday? Well… Now that you mention it yes, having supper ready, served, eaten and cleaned-up by 6:00 pm requires my entire day to shift 2h early.
So we had hamburgers. And Mass was cancelled that night. Oh well.
I make hamburgers using an entire pallet of ground beef from Costco. That’s in the vicinity of 3-4 lbs I think. I season the meat with my usual suspects (onion flakes, salt, sage and smoked paprika) and beat it into large but thin patties. As you can see from the picture above, they fluff-up as they cook. If you make them small and thick, you’ll end-up with a meatball on your bun. Know what I mean?
On Saturday, we traveled to Kingston, Ontario to attend our son’s entrance ceremony to the Royal Military College. We called-up some old and dear friends and asked if we could stop at their house with our burgers and sausages for a last minute BBQ. We left home with a cooler full of meat and ice packs for the supper and a picnic lunch. When picnicking with van full of little kids, simple is key. I bought a big bag of round buns from Costco, some ham, celery sticks, apples and go-go-squeeze tool of the devil and a big jug of lemonade. The picnic by Lake Ontario quickly degenerated into underage skinny dipping and we made it to the ceremony well-fed, bathed and relatively dry.
For the history buffs amongst you, the middle picture in the collage above is the parade square at Royal Military College. In the very background on the left hand side of the picture is Fort Henry, a National Historic Site of Canada. The building immediately behind the parade square is HMCS Stone Frigate. Yes! The building is a boat! It’s Colin’s dorm and it’s called affectionately “the boat”. It’s the oldest building at RMC and it even has its own Wikipedia page. Can your dorm say as much??
After the ceremony, we headed to our friends’ house for an impromptu BBQ. There are a few things I enjoy more than seeing old friends, especially when our children get along well. Feeding 4 adults, their 9 children and the 6 children we had with us in one sitting was impossible so we took turns. First thing children, then the teenagers and eventually the moms and dads got to have a seat. Their 4 year-old twins Binh and Phuoc ate through all three sittings, a wonderful sight when you think of everything these girls have been through. ← (The article linked there is excellent. You should really read it.)
And there you have it my friends, what we ate last week. Now I must hang-up and run make supper. Another week awaits.