Hello, week № 52.
Ah, the last week of the year. It’s easy to think back on the whole year, but then this wouldn’t be a pick of the week, it would be a pick of the year. So let’s narrow the focus onto this seven-day stretch that was spent at home with little contact with other people. How 2020!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links; I may earn a tiny commission from purchases.
Here are my five favorites this week:
- Mulled wine
- Family video chats
- Mail order pierogis
- Homemade beef pho
- Kroger in-app coupons
— Mulled Wine
I made my first mulled wine this week! I’m not sure how I’ve never done this before because it’s everything that I like; wine, spices, a warm drink.
I made a batch for afternoon sipping and it was perfect for these bright and cold winter days. I lightly modified Ali’s recipe at www.gimmesomeoven.com/mulled-wine-recipe/. Here’s exactly what I did:
- six whole cloves
- one star anise
- one cinnamon stick
- ~6oz fresh cranberries
- one orange
- 25oz zinfandel (I poured from a Bota Box)
- Dry toast cloves, anise, and cinnamon in empty Instant Pot (no oils or liquid) – sauté setting
- When fragrant add wine – this will immediately steam!
- Add cranberries and orange slices as the wine warms up
- When the first cranberry pops (like popcorn!) remove from heat
I removed the insert from the Instant Pot entirely for a few minutes
- Change Instant Pot setting to “keep warm”
- Return the insert – let infuse at least 15 minutes before serving
- Ladle hot mulled wine into glasses or mugs and enjoy!
Notes: Be advised that this wine gets more tart the longer the cranberries sit, so remove them if you want to minimize face puckering. Sweetening is optional, popular options are honey, maple syrup, or molasses to taste. Additional liquor is also optional, think brandy or bourbon. Red or white wines can be used.
- Link to small packet of star anise if you need some (on Amazon)
— Family Video Chats
Video chats have been the MVP and bane of 2020. We’ve been on more calls than we would like to admit, but we can’t discount the convenience.
This year we started weekly chats with different family households. We’re not always 100 percent perfect – I forget entire calls, maybe we start late, and sometimes schedule conflicts require us to skip a call. Slight imperfections aside, Kid Jupiter gets to see his grandparents each week and we’re seeing (and meeting new!) family members from the comfort of our home.
Seeing our family in person is nice, but we’re the only ones in Arkansas so distance and travel time is a significant factor. Throw a pandemic into the mix and our compassion for our family elders…we’re not willing to risk their health for anything. So the inconvenience of several weekly calls is quickly mitigated by everyone’s smiling faces as they play peek-a-boo with Kid Jupiter across a screen.
- 10.5″ iPad Air (on Amazon)
- Our favorite iPad stand (on Amazon)
— Mail Order Pierogis
This year a lot of family members received fancy food gifts, and I didn’t want to miss out either!
My and Mister Jupiter’s anniversary was this week, so I wanted to give us a fun gift. Usually we travel for our anniversary, but not this year, and I didn’t want to buy anything that could possibly collect dust – so food. I found GoldBelly.com and was not disappointed. I bought two dozen handmade pierogis from Aurora, Colorado’s Baba & Pop’s. Holy cow. Best decision ever.
One dozen chile relleno pierogis for lunch one day, then one dozen tomato basil pierogis a few days later. We are so happy with these that we may have started a new tradition and I can’t wait to order from them again. Maybe next year we will travel to Aurora just for Baba & Pop’s? We would love to share their 50oz Buddy Mary alongside some hot pierogis. Until then we are ordering online for special occasions where we want something easy and delicious. We browned ours in plain ghee.
— Homemade Beef Pho
This week’s pho has been years in the making.
Years ago I started making “faux pho” because I had a lot of spices, but was still intimidated by the idea of real pho-from-scratch. I made batches each year, usually when I had a lot of bones in the freezer to make a multi-beast stock. Each year my faux pho got more detailed, and this year I was finally ready to jump in and make it the right way. This broth is surprisingly easy, but it requires a lot of work in the beginning. I mostly followed Amy and Jacky’s recipe here on pressurecookrecipes.com/instant-pot-pho/. Here’s exactly what I did:
- 1 onion, quartered
- 1 small knob ginger, halved lengthwise
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- 4 whole cloves
- 1 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1tsp coriander seeds
- 1tsp fennel seeds
- 2 baby bellas, chopped (optional)
- 1lb beef oxtails
- 7 cups water, divided (1 cup and 6 cups)
- 2Tbsp fish sauce
- 1tsp sugar
- Char onion and ginger in Instant Pot with olive oil. This step is essential, and may turn on your smoke detectors, so I actually char in the Instant Pot on the stove so I can use the vent hood. Conversely you can broil the onion and ginger, or you can char over an open flame – any way you do it, charring is a must to get the deep flavors.
- In hot Instant Pot add garlic, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, coriander, and fennel. Stir until spices are fragrant.
- Deglaze the IP insert with one cup water. When the initial steam subsides, scrape the tasty charred bits off of the surface. Add mushrooms if using.
- Broil oxtails just long enough to char a few bones.
- Add broiled oxtail to the Instant Pot, then add 6 cups water.
- Apply lid, and turn knob to sealing. Cook on high pressure for one hour, wait for natural pressure release.
- Carefully remove lid, and remove oxtails.
We de-bone and mince them to add to our individual bowls.
- Strain entire pot, discard solids.
- Add fish sauce and sugar, stir well.
- Ladle hot broth into bowls and dress as you like!
Notes: We usually just add salt to taste, and squeeze fresh lime juice.
The big Jupiter House modification is that we serve this broth over rice, instead of rice noodles. The next time I make this recipe I will let it boil without a lid to reduce the liquid by about a half cup for a little more rich stock.
- Link to a replacement IP insert to strain liquids into, so convenient (on Amazon)
- Link to large strainer that perfectly fits 6qt Instant Pot (on Amazon)
- Link to my current fish sauce (on Amazon)
— Kroger In-app Coupons
I know that not everyone has access to a Kroger or their family of grocery stores, so pretend that I am talking about your favorite grocery store application that enables coupon clipping and online ordering.
In our pre-COVID lives, I loved looking at the bottom of our December grocery receipts to see how much money I’ve saved over the year. But now that 9/10 grocery grabs are curbside pickups I no longer have a physical receipt to see (digital just isn’t the same). Luckily the Kroger app keeps up and knows what I want, so I was happy to see that this year I’ve saved over $800 with coupons and Kroger’s in-store savings. That’s a lot. That’s two (pre-owned designer) leather jackets.
Kroger gets the specific shout out here because they’ve kept great care of their app before curbside pickup, and offered smooth experiences years before COVID-19 turned us all into online-ordering curbside-pickup customers. I generally use the paper coupons in-person because I can’t trust the cashier to scan them correctly (I know this sounds snooty and pedantic, but when I hand over $10 in paper coupons and my digital receipt only reflects a $0.65 coupon – I cease trusting). So I only use paper coupons indoors (a rarity), and digital coupons both in store and when ordering curbside. I don’t mind making these minor adjustments if I can save hundreds over the year!
Looking for something specific? Scan the Picks of the Week, Index.
Otherwise, here are more picks if you’re feeling clicky: