Quarantine Week 26

Remote schooling has officially taken over our lives a couple of days a week. My husband and I negotiate the command center (this is his name for my desk because it is equipped with multiple monitors) on a daily basis depending on our work needs. We are still getting everything through curbside pick up or mail order. We did almost have a socially distanced happy hour, but a work thing gave us an excuse to put that off a little more. The holiday season is looming with its ever increasing complexities due to Covid, family dynamics, and custody agreement-created joys. But for now, I seem to be getting my cooking mojo back. I am sure I need to give a lot of credit to fall, my favorite season.

Thursday (9/17) – We had leftover beef stroganoff. I know it’s not a good sign of that mojo I mentioned, but I had made a lot of it, and it was very good. Also, I spent much of the day organizing and unpacking, so I just wasn’t in the mood to try to create anything. Some days are like that.

Friday (9/18) – I made chicken paprikash. For some reason, I had taken out 2 packages of boneless chicken thighs, so I made a lot of paprikash. I used Michael Symon’s recipe as a basis, but adjusted based on what I had on hand for ingredients. I nearly had a panic attack when I realized I was down to the last of my onions! In hindsight, I might increase the spice on it with a little more cayenne or even siracha, but it was really good. And I got to use up some jumbo shells I had leftover from making stuffed shells.

Saturday (9/19) – I had vowed to have leftovers, so I stuck to the plan for dinner. However, for breakfast I made a homemade breakfast sausage, cheddar and egg galette. I have my breakfast sausage pretty much down to a science. When I first started making it, the heat factor was always a gamble. I have finally found a good blend of seasoning that gives it a peppery kick without it being overwhelming.

Sunday (9/20) – I made lasagna. Of course, I made my own Italian sausage for it and used my homemade marinara sauce. I experimented with forming the sausage layer into a solid sheet like a pizza place in town does on their deep dish and baked it in the lasagna without cooking it first. It was good, but I think I like charring the sausage first. Maybe I can figure out a way to combine the stovetop charring and sheet methods? I don’t know. That seems like a lot of work for a dish I love because it is simple but tastes like a lot of work.

Monday (9/21) – I had planned pita pizzas, but I used all the mozzarella on the lasagna. If I haven’t mentioned it, my food planning is still a bit out of sorts since our move. I’m slowly getting my rhythm back there. But I had to pivot on dinner. I ended up making pesto vegetable farfalle with a side of brussels sprouts. The kid loves pasta, so this is never a bad default plan. After checking the ingredients, however, the vegetable in the pasta is really just a natural coloring and adds no extra nutrition value.

Tuesday (9/22) – We had hot dogs and watched the Cubs lose to Pittsburgh. Ya, I’m still salty about that part. Anyway, I had gotten some Boar’s Head all beef franks that were on special at our neighborhood grocery store, so I ordered some hotdog buns so we could at least pretend baseball season was normal. I steamed the hotdogs because my husband likes them that way, and they are really growing on me. Don’t worry, we added some relish and onions, so there were vegetables.

Wednesday (9/23) – Okay, here is where the mojo starts showing up again. I made lentil, barley and mushroom “meatballs,” served with my homemade marinara sauce, and pommes Anna-ish. It was the pommes Anna recipe from Julia Child, but I just didn’t quite execute the presentation. Still, both the meatballs and the potatoes were delicious. I will also say these “meatballs” are great without sauce.

Having moved to a new building, I don’t yet know my neighbors well enough to know if “Hey, I made too much food, have a doggy bag” is a welcome gesture. Obviously, the quarantine lifestyle doesn’t really lend itself to getting to know them much yet. We don’t have the same outdoor space where we can chat across our porches in this building, so there is little opportunity to naturally connect. So, I am having to build in more leftover days. But maybe it’s good practice for if the world ever returns to a “go out of the house for work” lifestyle again, and we need to have food that is easy and fast and requires little effort after a long day. I do have a lot of ideas on how to supplement my need for cooking without generating as many leftovers by way of freezer stocking ideas, so get ready to hear about those in the upcoming weeks.

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