Quarantine Week 10 – 10 weeks…

As week 10 comes to a close, I am just baffled by how long it has been. My hair has reached the point of “it may not come back out of the bun.” Our city plans to allow salons to open soon, but I am definitely not ready for that. I haven’t seen my oldest two girls except on video calls and for the oldest a couple of brief moments at a distance as we exchange things. It’s a little crazy, but I think my cooking and being creative is what keeps me going, so I keep cooking.

Thursday (5/28), I decided to revisit one of my earliest blog recipes, Disheveled Josephs. These are just sloppy joes, but my husband insists the recipe is too good to not have a more formal name. I have two variations on it, which you can find in my recipe section. I chose the tomato sauce version because I had a can that had reached its sell-by date…or as my husband put it, had sailed right on past that date. It was fine. Obviously, I checked it by smell, taste, and look before using it. We had it on the instant pot sandwich bread with some shredded cheese.

Friday (5/29), I smoked that pastrami! It had marinated 5 days and then air dried in the refrigerator four more days. I kept that Weber right around 200-225 degrees the entire time. This required a lot of baby sitting, as it was a very windy day, but it was worth it. In hind sight, I should have trimmed the fat a little more, but the meat is still amazingly tender and flavorful. I also started a loaf of bread based loosely on an overnight recipe by Ken Forkish.

Saturday (5/30) started with bread baking. I had a tough time sleeping and then crashed out until after 10 am, so I got up and took the bread from the refrigerator, let it come to room temp, gave it a couple of more folds over 2 hours, and then baked. I did one loaf in a Dutch oven and the other just on a sheet pan. Both came out very nice.

For dinner, I made a beautiful warm shrimp and barley salad. I based it on a recipe I had from back when we subscribed to Hello Fresh, but substituted based on ingredients I had available. We had gotten shrimp in our last Imperfect Foods order. I made a beautiful mise en place, and then we ate dinner on the deck with some wine. Afterwards, we went for a nice long walk around the neighborhood. It was a fantastic date night.

Then the craziness started. Protests started across the city, and then riots. I categorize these two happenings separately, as I believe they are. But it was a pretty sleepless night, and when I finally crashed, I slept very late Sunday morning.

Sunday (5/31), I made a nice pastrami and potato hash for…brunch??? I don’t know what to call it since it was after 1 pm, but it was good with an over medium fried egg. I put a post on Facebook asking my family and friends whether I should make tater tots or curly fries for dinner. The results were 40% tots, 40% curly fries and 20% who just can’t make up their minds. I went with tots in the end because they required the least amount of work. Tossed them in the air-fryer while I deep fried some crispy chicken legs in my Dutch oven. This was the recipe from The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cooking Book. I also baked a pineapple upside-down cake for my daughter, but I forgot to take a picture of it.

Monday (6/1) was my oldest’s 22nd birthday. It was hard knowing I couldn’t do our usual big family dinner out to celebrate her existence, but I made the best of it, I think. We packed up a box with the cake, some pumpkin cranberry bread, and a loaf of the sourdough bread I had baked Saturday. I had made a Happy Birthday poster for her using my Cricut to make things a bit more festive. We took them over, and I got to see her for a couple of minutes, from a safe distance. She seemed to appreciate it, but I’m gonna have to take that girl out for a real dinner when it feels safer. I needed to use up some sour cream, so I made a nice mushroom stroganoff for dinner. I definitely missed the meat, but it was good. The kid did not particularly like it, though she admitted there was no ingredient she didn’t normally like. I think the tanginess the sour cream added was a little outside her pallet.

Tuesday (6/2), again trying to use up some ingredients, I made sourdough discard buttermilk corn cakes. I based it loosely off a recipe I found online, and it was good, but I think I want the corn to flour ratio adjusted a bit. I like to really taste the corn. I also wish I had red peppers to make a roasted red pepper dip like the one we used to have at a favorite restaurant. I was able to obtain that recipe from a friend, so next time! For lunch, I made up a very delicious fried chicken salad after trying experiment #2 with boiling eggs in the instant pot. This time I cooked them for 4 minutes on high pressure and used the instant release. They were perfect!

I also baked up some carrot and zucchini muffins using my instant pot. These were a slight variation of my Morning Glory Muffins recipe. I used 1/2 the egg (because we’re running low) and used a combination of whole grain bread flour and AP flour. I also added molasses, since I didn’t have apples and wanted to have a little sweetness. It took a while to bake them because I could only do 4 at a time in the instant pot, but not having to turn on the oven on a hot day was well worth it. It’s also good that they freeze well, as I definitely made plenty of them.

Wednesday (6/3) was the beginning of Phase 3 of Chicago’s reopening plan. Basically, restaurants are limited to outside service, but most everything else is open with some extra precautions like masks and social distancing. I’m somewhere at the beginning of Phase 2 in my personal reopening comfort level, so this doesn’t really change how we are going about things. We had pastrami scrambles for breakfast. We are down to a snack size portion of pastrami left that I am sure my husband will happily make disappear.

undefinedFor dinner, I had planned manicotti. As I was pulling out things to prepare to start dinner, I realized I didn’t have manicotti shells! After a moment or two of panic and trying to decide if I would just make a spinach Alfredo (the frozen spinach was already thawed in my refrigerator), I did a little Google search. I found a recipe on the Food Network Kitchen app by Katie Lee for homemade manicotti using a crepe style “noodle”. My husband and I loved them! The kid did not. There is no discernible reason except that I think the softness of the crepe combined with soft filling was not a good mouth-feel for her. Either way, the husband and I are definitely going to try those with some meat in them!

While the week was filled with many disturbing news stories and online posts that drove me away from all social media for a day or two, my cooking and meal planning continues to keep me somewhat stable. And the family members I cook for (and the ones who are not here now, but I will remake some of these new dishes for when I can) are what keep me wanting to get out of bed every morning.

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