Quarantine Week 18

Well, it’s the end of July, and we’re still quarantining. The governor and the mayor of our city are both threatening to re-institute some of the more severe restrictions as the numbers continue to rise again for diagnosed cases and deaths. Both them and the scientists are warning this is going to continue for a while. And the newest raging debate is on whether we should pack 30 kids from different homes into a room five days a week and just see what happens. We (myself, my husband and his ex-wife) are all on the side of keeping kids home. Luckily, we have that option, so our 10-year-old will be doing remote learning this fall. And so far, my husband’s job is allowing him to work from home for the foreseeable future. So we will keep living our best quarantine life, and I’ll just keep cooking and telling you all about it.

Thursday (7/23) – I forgot to take any pictures, but I grilled chicken and made mashed potatoes as a side. We also had some Brussels sprouts, but those are from a steamer bag, so not real cooking. I seasoned the chicken with salt, pepper, garlic and paprika. This has become my go-to seasoning blend for chicken on the grill. You get a little spice from the paprika, and it’s delicious. And Katie always loves my mashed potatoes. Also, I used the instant pot to cook the potatoes, which left plenty of room for the two halves of the chicken on the grill. It does turn out that all four of us meat eaters like the legs and thighs, so maybe a whole chicken is not the best option.

Friday (7/24) – I finally made corn dogs. I had been talking about doing this for two weeks. We had done a curbside pick up from the hardware store to get skewers. It was also the first Cubs game of the season, so corn dogs and onion rings felt appropriate. No, there were no real vegetables. I figured I wouldn’t be eating a salad if we were actually at Wrigley Field, so I had to be authentic. I loosely based the batter for the corn dogs on an Alton Brown recipe, though his called for actual corn and jalapenos in the batter. I made mine a little simpler. They came out good, but I want to work on that batter to get a little more rise out of it. I used a milk, sour cream, egg and flour mixture for the onion ring batter. It was fantastic. My husband loves onion rings, so if he says they were good, I’ll believe him.

Saturday (7/25) – I made dirty rice in the instant pot. Katie had requested it before coming home. Her and the boyfriend actually ended up having to drive back to Wisconsin for some medication, so she got it as leftovers. I diced the chicken livers very small this time because, while my husband likes the dish, he doesn’t like getting a large chunk of iron-y chicken liver all at once. I also used beef broth instead of the usual chicken broth just because I had it and wanted to see if it made a difference. I think it was my best batch of dirty rice yet.

Sunday (7/25) – I did baked chicken and potatoes in the instant pot. I used chicken thighs because…well, they are the best part! Go ahead and fight me on that, but you’ll be wrong. I seared them using the saute function and then deglazed the pot with white wine. Then I added tiny potatoes and put the rack over them and cooked the chicken on the rack so the juices would drip into the potatoes. It was good, although I want to work on getting the chicken skin a little crispier.

Monday (7/26) – Katie decided she wanted to make fresh pasta. Yes, some of you have probably read my blog about making pasta from scratch and are ready for the horror story. However, I had ordered some semolina flour from Imperfect Foods recently. It turns out that it is much easier to work with than the dough made from AP flour. She used 3 cups semolina and 1 cup AP flour. The pasta machine did give her some headaches, though not as bad with this dough. And in the end, we had some really good spaghetti. She made a delicious creamy tomato sauce.

Tuesday (7/27) – I took the leftover spaghetti from Monday, which there was plenty of, and made a baked spaghetti. It turns out 4 cups of flour makes a lot of spaghetti. I added some homemade Italian sausage to it and topped it with a good layer of Parmesan. I baked it in the instant pot using the air fryer lid and the bake function. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, and my husband has eaten the leftovers for two days after, so I guess it was good. I thought it could have used another creamy component. I’ll experiment with that next time.

Wednesday (7/28) – I made a burst tomato and spinach pasta with an olive oil, garlic and Parmesan sauce. I actually did the sauce stove-top despite the heat since it was a pretty quick cooking, but I “boiled” the pasta in the instant pot to reduce the overall heat. It came out delicious. The 10-year-old even asked for seconds. She even ate the leftovers at lunch the next day! That’s a raging success in my book.

I feel like I’m getting some of my creativity back when it comes to cooking. I can also feel fall approaching, and that always gets me excited. Fall is perfect for all types of cooking. Grilling is better in the fall. Baking is obviously better in the fall. And many of my favorite dishes are hearty and just better when the weather is cool. But for now, I’m very happy we invested in that instant pot before this whole quarantine life started.

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