Lent 2013 Challenge Day 41: On the Road Again

Yesterday our homeschool field trip club visited a museum in the city where Mr. M works.  Because of our schedule, we would be eating lunch at the museum, and all five of us would be eating dinner in the inevitable traffic jam on the way home.  Thus, I had to make all three meals for the day before leaving the house in the morning.

Breakfast was the usual:  yogurt or Instant Breakfast (depending on the kid), cereal, fresh fruit.

Lunch was hummus wraps with whole-wheat tortillas (hummus was homemade because it’s cheaper and I’m allergic to tahini; tortillas were store-bought because I can only do so much with my time).  We also brought along small Tupperware snack cups of apple sauce,  the last three juice boxes someone gave us, and a large tumbler of water for myself.

Dinner was spiral noodles and peas in cream cheese mushroom alfredo.  It was mushroom alfredo because, surprise, we were out of evaporated milk; I subbed a can of cream of mushroom soup from our emergency stash.  We gave the Tupperware microwave pasta cooker one.  last.  try. The results were passable, though they were a bit gummy and did take longer than the 9 minutes the recipe promised.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that our dinner was still hot by after 7 hours.  I made sure to preheat the Thermoses with boiling water for five minutes, then I heated a rice bag in the microwave (the kind you use for sore muscles) and placed that between all the Thermoses in a bag in our trunk.  So, the meal itself took fewer than 20 minutes to cook, but I may have gone over with the prepping of Thermoses.  Thermi?  Hm.


A Festival of Firegrilled Flatbread

Here’s another one so easy that I can barely call it a recipe.

  1. Heat up the grill.
  2. Make a batch of quick thin-crust pizza dough (we were very hungry after a day of creek trekking, so I made a batch and a half).
  3. Stretch out dough into 2-4 circles.  Brush with olive oil.  Grill 3-4 minutes/side.
  4. Cut flatbreads into wedges.
  5. Serve with toppings, such as:
  • Shredded cheese
  • Goat cheese crumbles
  • Teeny Tiny Taco Topping
  • Flavored cream cheese
  • Mushrooms in olive oil and thyme
  • Obatzda
  • Hummus
  • Black bean spread
  • Tomato salad, aka chopped tomatoes with olive oil, minced garlic and fresh basil.  I made a batch of this while the dough was resting; my kids dug into it, and then I had to make more while the pizza was on its first side; my kids dug into it, and then I had to make more while the pizza was on its other side; then I put the tomato salad on top of the refrigerator and told the children to go away until dinner was actually served.
  • Whatever bits of vegetable and meatless protein you have on hand.  This is a great way to use up leftovers.


Wild Pain in the Behind of a Mushroom Soup

I have to fess up here:  I do not have a mushroom soup recipe of my own.  My experience yesterday making Barefoot Contessa’s Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup has now enlightened me to the fact that I really need a mushroom soup recipe of my own. 

My husband asked me to make this for his birthday on Wednesday, then come Wednesday he wanted to go out to dinner instead (it’s a monstrous buffet that gives you a free meal on your birthday and prime rib on Wednesdays–worth skipping meat the rest of the day, if you ask me).  So when Thursday rolled around, I had all the ingredients lined up, I had the toddler napping…what more did I need?  What I needed was a sous chef.  And a scullery maid.  And an extra hour of the toddler napping.  That recipe makes a delicious soup that involves way more time over the stove than I am used to or willing to take.  How long did it take, you ask?  It took just shy of three hours over the stove to accomplish this soup.  Again, tasty, but I really need to streamline this if I’m ever going to attempt cream of mushroom soup again. 

Here’s my game plan for the future attempt: 

  • Make the stock in the slow cooker one day, puree it (for a thicker finished product than the original recipe produces) and combine it all either shortly before serving or reheat it all in the slow cooker during naptime. 
  • Sautee the leek-and-mushroom component ahead of time, fridge it all, then see above.
  • Using super-thick homemade rice milk should make it vegan, not to mention cheaper. 
  • Try cornstarch instead of flour as a gluten-free thickener.  However, if I’m using the aforementioned rice milk, that might be overkill.  I want mushroom soup, not mushroom dip. 

So, lesson learned, like with the Eggplant Parmesan Debacle.  When I do have my own recipe, maybe I’ll call it “Barefootandpregnant Contessa’s Easy Mushroom Soup.”  Yeah.  Catchy.  I like it.

Breadbowling You Over: a recipe-in-progress

When I first started looking up recipes for a mostly-meatless Lent, I came across a post on Rorate Caeli, asking for recipes for fish-free, meatless meals for our Catholic brothers and sisters in England, now that their bishops are encouraging afresh keeping all Fridays meatless. I have been longing to make one of the suggestions (well, several in fact, but there’s one that had been niggling at my brain the most ever since I first saw it), but it didn’t come with a specific recipe and was for something I’d never tasted before. So didn’t get around to it until yesterday. I’d been calling it “the breadbowl thing.” The amazing Aunt Nada suggested Breadbowl Quiche. We’ll call it that for now. What we made needs some tweaking, so if you try this at home, I’m open to any suggestions for improvements.


Breadbowl Quiche
1 1lb round loaf of bread (double the following ingredients for a 2 lb loaf)
1 c shredded cheese
1 c bite-sized, par-cooked vegetables (such as mushrooms, carrots, onions, broccoli)
2 t dried tarragon
1/2 tsp salt
dash black pepper
3 large eggs
3/4 c milk

Heat oven to 300F. Slice the top off of the loaf and hollow it out, leaving about a 1/2″ inch crust. Cube the top of the loaf and the “innards” you’ve scooped out. Place crust bowl and bread on a large baking sheet and toast in the oven at 300F for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set oven temperature to 375F. In a large bowl (one not made of bread), combine bread cubes, cheese, vegetables, tarragon, salt and pepper and toss until ingredients are evently distributed. Return this mixture to the bread bowl. Whisk together eggs and milk in a separate container and slowly pour over the cubed bread. Bake at 375F for 35 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool for 5-10 minutes, then slice into wedges and serve. Can also be served cold, just like a quiche.


  • We did the initial bread toasting for 20 minutes. I think that made the bowl so porous that the rest of the ingredients seeped out and make a bit of a mess. Hence why I’m suggesting halving the toasting time.
  • We did have a lot of bread cube mixture that would not fit into the bread bowl. I dumped that into a microwaveable casserole dish and put that in on high power for 7 minutes, and it turned out nice and soft. That’s what the toddler ate, and it’s what I had for breakfast this morning. I’m wondering if the whole thing could be done in the microwave for a more quiche-y consistency, but I’m not sure if I want to take that risk.
  • For my gluten-sensitive and/or egg-sensitive friends… I’m sorry. I can think of no way around the egg or wheat. I guess you could do a gluten-free loaf and see what happens, but I imagine it can’t be easy to find an unsliced loaf of gluten-free bread.


T-minus 5 days: The Lent 2012 Schedule

I’m getting ready to go shopping for my first (well, partial) week of the Lent 2012 Challenge. I’m posting this here for two reasons (that I can think of). One: it’s going to help me get my head together for this wholly unfamiliar way of grocery shopping. For instance, out here in the far eastern branch of the Bible Belt, the week leading up to Ash Wednesday is the week of the THREE DAY MEAT SALE EXTRAVAGANZA!!!!! So I have to reset the brain to turn down that bulk pack of 99cent/pound chicken breasts (ouch!) and instead pick up vital wheat gluten, eggs and so on. Two: What I’m hoping to do is regularly update this post with links to each recipe, so if you want to try this at home, but not on the same schedule, you can just click the link and get the recipe you need.

This “schedule” is by no means written in stone. Expect changes. I’m telling you that as much as I’m telling myself

Also, here’s the thing about Wednesday “Just Desserts.” For those of you just joining us, our family can’t have dinner together on Wednesday nights because First Shift of Kids has choir practice around the time Mr. Mackerelsnapper gets home from work. So we usually eat dinner separately and then share dessert (the “real” most important meal of the day). Much to my surprise, First Shift of Kids really wants to keep to the PreVII rules, to the point that they have volunteered to skip snack time at school. So we put our heads together and came up with “Wednesday Just Desserts.” Each Wednesday, we will still eat our dinners separately, but after choir, instead of eating dessert together, we will work on a family service project focusing on one of the Seven Corporal Works of Mercy.

  • Saturday, February 18: Last Hurrah Weekend Challah Donut Breakfast!
  • “Fat” Tuesday, February 21: Bread Machine King Cake Dessert
  • ASH WEDNESDAY, February 22: Seitan Parmesan & Spaghetti
    Wednesday Just Dessert: Feeding the Hungry
  • Thursday, February 23: Eggplant Curry Couscous
  • Friday, February 24: Stromboli bake-n-take (with our Little Flowers Girls Club)
  • Saturday, February 25: Pretzels & Cheese
  • Sunday, February 26: MEATFEAST TBD
  • Monday, February 27: Breadbowl Thing
  • Tuesday, February 28: Falafel & Pita
  • Wednesday, February 29: Good Friday Soup
    Wednesday Just Dessert: Give Drink to the Thirsty
  • Thursday, March 1: Tuna Alfredo
  • Friday, March 2: Shrimp Risotto
  • Saturday, March 3: Potato-Cheese Bake
  • Sunday, March 4: MEATFEAST TBD
  • Monday, March 4: Eggplant Parmesan
  • Tuesday, March 6: Mediterranean Garlic Shrimp
  • Wednesday, March 7: Baja Fish Tacos
    Wednesday Just Dessert: Clothe the Naked
  • Thursday, March 8: Roasted Veggie Penne
  • Friday, March 9: Fisherman’s Catch Slowcooker Chowder
  • Saturday, March 10: Leek & Mushroom Quiche
  • Sunday, March 11: MEATFEAST TBD
  • Monday, March 12: Pancakes
  • Tuesday, March 13: Calzones
  • Wednesday, March 14: Wild Mushroom Soup
    Wednesday Just Dessert: House the Homeless
  • Thursday, March 15: Ratatouille
  • Friday, March 16: Grilled Salmon
  • Saturday, March 17: Feast ofSt.Patrick! McMeatfeast TBD
  • Sunday, March 18: MEATFEAST TBD
  • Monday, March 19: Feast ofSt. Joseph! Meatfeast TBD
  • Tuesday, March 20: Linguine & Clams
  • Wednesday, March 21: Black Tie Taco Beans
    Wednesday Just Dessert: Visit the Sick
  • Thursday, March 22: Pizzas
  • Friday, March 23: Obatzda
  • Saturday, March 24: Omelets
  • Sunday, March 25: MEATFEAST TBD
  • Monday, March 26: Vegetable Lasagna
  • Tuesday, March 27: Crumb Salmon
  • Wednesday, March 28: Alfredo Pizza
    Wednesday Just Dessert: Visit the Imprisoned
  • Thursday, March 29: Shrimp-n-Grits
  • Friday, March 30: Fish’n’chips
  • Saturday, March 31: Seitan Burgers
  • Palm Sunday, April 1: MEATFEAST TBD
  • Monday of Holy Week: Chickpea Rice Pilaf
  • Tuesday of Holy Week: Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup (finally, right?)
  • Wednesday of Holy Week: White Pizza
    Wednesday Jus Dessert: Bury the Dead
  • Holy Thursday: Stuffed Shells
  • Good Friday: Tuna Noodle Casserole
  • Holy Saturday: Popcorn Shrimp
  • EASTER SUNDAY, ALLELUIA!!!! (Ham, ham, and yet more ham)

So… who’s with me? Even for some of it? What’s the point of a meatless Lent, anyway?

“Pizza. The answer is always PIZZA.”

As mentioned in my very first post on lemon balm pesto pizza, I am a spoiled brat when it comes to pizza. I grew up in a town that was very heavily influenced by Italian immigrants, and by “heavily influenced,” I’m not talking early 1900s immigration. I’m saying most of my classmates had an Italian-speaking grandmother who lived in the basement and emerged only to cook, to babysit neglectfully, or to yell at her daughter/son-in-law in Italian. So, my idea of good pizza is unattainably high. The cheese has to be the right blend. The sauce can’t be too peppery, too sweet, or too oregonized. And the crust MUST be the perfect balance of crunchy to chewy, not too yeasty, but not too crackery. If it’s not any of those things… meh. I’ll eat it, but I won’t like it.

Now that I live out where chow-chow is easier to come by than a good pizza, usually we got our pizza dough out of the bread machine, which works fine but produces yet another “meh.” Then one day I did a random search using the term “quick pizza dough instant yeast” (because that’s what we have on hand–sorry yeast-snobs). After a bit of experimenting? JACKPOT. We now have a crust recipe that is crisp yet chewy, sweet but not cloying, and it makes a pizza or four in less time than it takes to have one delivered out here to the cornfields. And the price comparison? I’m tempted to say “fugeddaboutit,” but I’m holding back. Self-respect and all.

Quick Pizza Crust (can be doubled or halved)

1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 c lukewarm water (bathwater-temp)
1 T olive oil
2 1/2-3 c bread flour
1 tsp salt
sauce & toppings to your liking

Preheat oven to 425F. Place sugar and yeast in the bowl of a food processor fitted with dough blade, and pour water over all. Let yeast bloom for five minutes, then add olive oil, 2 1/2c flour and salt. Process until the dough comes together in a smooth ball that rotates around the bowl. Touch the dough; if it’s sticky, add another 1/2 c flour and process until smooth and just slightly tacky to the touch. Remove dough ball from food processor bowl, and let rest 5 minutes. Then stretch dough to fit a greased 12″ pizza pan or large cookie sheet, or divide into smaller balls and stretch to fit smaller pans. If you like a higher crust around the border, “dock” the dough by piercing with a fork at 1″ intervals, leaving a 1″ edge undocked. Now, here’s a little Mackerelsnapper secret on how we like to keep pizza toppings from browning too much: bake the crust UNTOPPED at 425F for 10 minutes. Then remove the parbaked crust from the oven, top as desired, and return to oven for 10 more minutes. Let it cool enough that mouths don’t burn, and nosh away.

If you want to skip the parbaking step but don’t want burnt cheese… freeze your cheese. Seriously! Shred cheese, put it in the freezer, then sprinkle the shreds on top of your pizza before baking. You’ll thank me. And I’ll say “you’re welcome.” One of my favorite, non-classic ways to top this crust is with olive oil, goat cheese crumbles, sliced crimini mushrooms and thyme leaves. So good.

Thursday I asked facebook friends if we should make pizza or McIndian food, and my friend and fellow papist Mary answered with the quote I used for this entry’s title. So this was last night’s dinner:   

Half plain, half mushroom, baked on a stoneware pan

Just mushroom, baked on a round cast iron griddle

Lemon balm pesto alfredo pizza, baked on a “personal” pan, at the request of the oldest two saints-in-training

Anyway, I still haven’t found the perfect sauce or been able to mimic the cheese blend from back home, but what we have is so good that I’m not sure I’ll put too much effort into the rest. In the meantime, I hope you’re still enjoying Christmas. Yes, Christmas. Yes, still.