A Corn Chowder that Won’t Make You Sick and Kill You and a Picture of a Possum

George has somehow come to the conclusion that he cannot sleep comfortably unless his head is pressed up against my head. Have you ever slept face-to-face with someone? It’s hot.  I would prefer to sleep flat on my stomach on the far end of the bed, not touching anybody, but when I try to roll away, George’s head finds me again. Last Monday, in the middle of the night, I was trying unsuccessfully to move away from him, when we both sat up to the sound of the most horrible screaming. My first thought was Henry, and I thought he must have been badly hurt somehow, but then I realized it was the chickens. I ran to the backdoor and fumbled with the lock before my brain realized I would need a light and some kind of weapon, so I ran to the garage door and fumbled with that lock, grabbed a broom and a flashlight, and ran out into the rain in my underwear, thinking “please don’t be a raccoon, please don’t be a raccoon.” It was a possum. When the beam of the flashlight hit it, it let go of the shrieking, ruffled chicken and scampered up a tree. I tried to corral the chicken, Bronze, into the coop but she was just running around like a maniac, so I had to use the broom to push her gently to the ground, and then I picked her up, put her back in the coop, and locked it up. It was my own fault it had happened- I didn’t lock the coop because it was rainy and I didn’t feel like it (Let’s be honest- I don’t feel like it even when it isn’t rainy), but I still felt like a chicken superhero for saving her.

I don’t have a lot to share with you this week. My parents were in town and we ate out a lot, and I didn’t take a lot of food pictures. Also, I went to the store without a list, so the dinners we did eat are mostly not remarkable. I will remark upon them anyway. Here’s what we ate this week.

Unrelated PSA: My friend (and cultural attaché) Jeffrey  informed me that season two of The Katering Show is now available in America! Go watch it! Episode 2, Yummy Mummies, is about eating your own placenta and being a new mother and is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.

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Tea with Gangie! Henry is reading a book and ignoring us.

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Telling Grandpa how he’s gonna shoot all the bad guys. George is obsessed with shooting bad guys! Where did this come from? He’s like a spokesperson for the NRA.

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Love this one. Gonna have a food picture for you any minute now.

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Oh this guy! Thanks for the Harry Potter costume, Auntie! She joked that the shirt must have been Dudley’s. We finished book six yesterday and we’re reading The Tales of Beedle the Bard before we go on to book seven. I’m going to be so sad when we’ve finished the series- we’ve been reading Harry Potter before bed every night, a chapter or two at a time, since May and it just feels like an established part of our day- after tooth brushing and before turning off the light, it’s Harry Potter. Do you know a wonderful series we should read next? Is The Lightning Thief good? The Golden Compass? Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children? I’ve never read any of these and need to have something at the ready to fill the void.

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This one kills me. I love kids in glasses. Especially my kids in glasses.

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First food pic of the week and it’s reheated Indian food leftovers. We had a big take-out feast from Tarka the last night my parents were in town and we had enough left over to eat it all over again on Tuesday. I thought about injecting a point of interest into this paragraph by noting the correct pronunciation of tarka, but then realized that that would be of interest to no one, so let’s just move on instead.

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Corn Chowder. This soup conjures up bad memories. The first and only other time I made it, we all loved it, and then a tupperware of leftovers sat in the fridge for a week or so. I would notice it from time to time and think that I should throw it out, but I didn’t. I tend to let a critical mass of expired food accumulate in the fridge before doing one sweeping cleaning, rather than getting rid of things piecemeal. I keep a mental inventory of what I can serve to people and what I can’t. It’s a flawed system. To wit, a week after I made this soup, I was mad at Andy for reasons I don’t entirely remember. It might have had something to do with him pausing a video game when I didn’t want him to, which is not an interesting or worthwhile story. I searched my blog for the last time I made corn chowder and found that bit, and also was reminded of the time I got hit in the face with a corn dog, which I had forgotten about. Andy didn’t do that though, and that has nothing to do with anything. Anyway, because I was mad at Andy, for reasons which may have been but probably were not legitimate, I told him he should figure out his own lunch. So he brought that week old chowder to work and got food poisoning. Anyway, when Henry asked for it this time, I wondered if I shouldn’t make it because maybe Andy wouldn’t want to eat it with the memory of all that this woebegone soup brought with it, but then I was in the store without a menu plan and the corn was right in front of me and I went for it. Andy liked it! And I froze the leftovers immediately so we can eat it again later (hopefully) without repercussions.

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Buttermilk Pancakes, Frozen Sausages. We are not going back to school, because we are unschoolers, but I still feel the tug of buying new clothes and school supplies at this time of year, so on Thursday we went clothes shopping to a real kids clothing store- the boys had never been in one! Almost every article of clothing they own has been gifted or handed down to us, and the remaining items have been thrust hastily into the cart during a trip to Target. The kids walked in and were surprised that there were clothing stores that were so small (compared to the giant Target warehouse, I guess). They played in the racks, hiding in the middle of those circular ones just like I remember doing when my mom bought us clothes, and I bought them shorts that fit and do not have holes in the butt. My only criteria. And then we bought a bunch of books at Half Price Books. Henry recently discovered the collection of leveled beginning reading books we got from (former teacher) Grandma Mary, and thrilled at reading through level one, then two, then three, books. He saw that there was a level four series from the back covers and so we went to the bookstore and bought some. They’re mostly garbage. One particularly shitty one is about a guinea pig named Fluffy meeting a groundhog on groundhog day. Riveting. There was a decent one, a guide to what kids can do to save the earth, as outlined by the Lorax. As we were eating our pancakes, Henry suddenly and mysteriously climbed on the table and turned off the light. Andy and I were like, don’t climb on the table while we’re eating! Don’t turn off the light! What are we, animals? And Henry said that the light from the windows was enough. So it was a Lorax thing and we decided we would eat in the dark.

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A second possum sighting this week. I went out to close the chicken coop, like a responsible chicken owner, and found this guy on the roof of the coop. We regarded each other silently for minute, then I took his picture and he walked away.

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Parmesan Chicken, Buttered Noodles, Roasted Broccoli. We spent the whole damn day at IKEA. I had a list of six things I wanted to get, and still. We got there at 10:30 and didn’t leave until 3:15. There were highlights, like the horse meatballs that I really do enjoy, but lots of lows too, like the rest of it. Loading up huge boxes on those carts that roll away from you the instant you try to slide a box onto them, and then negotiating said cart through the hordes of people wandering aimlessly near the checkout while also dragging a cart full of angry kids and cheap pillows. Helen took over pulling the two cart fulls of kids while I pushed the big cart full of boxes, and then mercifully sat with the kids while they ate a second lunch of cheap pizza and ice cream while I stood in the home delivery line for another half hour. Anyway, we did it. We listened to Jewish folk songs and ate IKEA raspberry cream cookies on the way home.

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I tried again and again to get a decent picture of these kids on this butterfly chair but the images got progressively more disturbing- George leering at me aggressively with the fake smile he employs for photos and Henry looking despondent in spite of his delicious hibiscus mint popsicle.

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Turkey and Bacon Sandwiches. We spent most of Sunday assembling all that IKEA furniture, and then I left the house for five hours to take a hand sewing basics class with two of my friends. They said you were allowed to bring food and we brought a veritable smörgåsbord, as my IKEA friends would say. We learned how to tie knots and ate sushi and truffles and ginger cookies and it was pretty fantastic. Also, one of the other two people taking the class was Kate Payne, and I have her book and I saw her teach a crowd how to fold a fitted sheet at the Literary Death Match at the Texas Book Festival a couple of years ago, and that was neat too!

And that was the week! To sum up: possums will try to tear the head off a chicken if they’re hungry enough, I would like any and all of your geeky YA book series suggestions, and you should stop what you’re doing right now and go watch these two ladies cut apart a placenta. Happy Back-to-School or Not-Back-to-School Week, however you choose to celebrate!

Bo Bun Salad, Wonton Soup, Fig Newtons, and Making Fun of Other People’s Houses

My parents are in town (Gangie and Grandpa, we call ’em!), my niece turned two, I dressed up like a swamp monster, my sister and her husband are looking for their first house and I’ve been going along for the ride to offer helpful comments about the relative plushness of carpets and whether or not our children will plunge to their deaths from the second floor balconies, and I’m reading a book that is not related to, but not entirely dissimilar from, Twilight and is therefore hard to put down. All this to say, I’m having a hard time feeling motivated to write a blog post. It’s so many things! But I also want to get back on track and I do like writing these things, once I can get past the overwhelming desire to not write them, and I’m overdue anyway so I’m doing it. Here’s what we ate this week. And last week.

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Bo Bun Salad. This is the first of many recipes I made from Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook, It’s All Easy, this week. And there’s a lot of hate for this recipe online. Reviewers have hated the number of ingredients (25, sort of- the marinade for the chicken and the dressing have a lot of the same ingredients), the eccentricity of the ingredients (Armenian cucumbers, coconut sugar), and that you have to have a spiralizer. But if you’re really embracing the “It’s All Easy” mindset, you could chill the hell out and make this recipe work for you. I didn’t have coconut sugar, so I used regular sugar. This is okay! I did, by pure happenstance, have Armenian cucumbers on hand because the boys and I saw them while we were loading up on a lunch of olives and baklava (this was really our lunch) at Phoenicia, and these cucumbers were too cute and cheap to pass up. But just use a regular cucumber and move on with your life! You don’t own a spiralizer? Use you vegetable peeler to make long ribbons, or skip the zucchini noodles all together. I didn’t want to buy a cabbage for this recipe so I didn’t. And it was so delicious! The dressing is fish sauce and lime and maple syrup and ginger and is so good that George drank the small pool of it at the bottom of his bowl. It’s funny that Gwyneth gets hate for her recipes being too easy and streamlined from the fancy blogs and hate for them using weird ingredients and equipment from newspaper blogs and other people who don’t seem to like to cook but are inexplicably reviewing a cookbook.

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Chicken Wonton Soup. The food52 review of this recipe notes that the strips of wonton you drop in the soup along with the meatballs (saving you the trouble of forming real wontons), “sank to the bottom of our soup bowls in a gummy clump.” This happened to me too, but I happen to like gummy clumps of noodles and I loved the rest of the soup too. And it took 20 minutes.

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Zucchini Cacio e Pepe. I made this for myself as a first lunch before going out to meet friends for a second lunch at Midway Food Park. It was delicious, but I think the only way I could happily sit down to a plate of zucchini for a meal is when I know I’m on the cusp of eating another meal. This just doesn’t count as a proper plate of food to me, even with the generous ratios of parmesan cheese and olive oil to squash strings. Why a first lunch? The only food truck that is reliably open at Midway is a lobster roll truck, and my kids want nothing to do with it, so I had to make them lunch before we went. And it’s expensive and I didn’t want to buy a bunch of food that wasn’t going to get eaten. So we ate at home and then went out and ate fistfuls of mini cheesecakes from a cheesecake truck and tater tots I stole from Helen.

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Venison Frito Pie. I follow recipes for dinner way more than I improvise, but chili is one place where I almost always wing it. It’s just the perfect vehicle for the odds and ends of leftover beans and weird bits of meat. This batch turned out so well. Andy brought the leftovers for lunch and texted me to say that it was one of the most satisfying lunches he’d had in a long time. Which was sweet! But also made me sad, since I’m the one making all the other unsatisfying lunches! You don’t feel satisfied with a thin broth dotted with six tiny chicken meatballs and some gummy clumps of wonton wrappers, Andy? Frito pies all day, every day.

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Leftover Berry Crisp. I was the happy recipient of a berry and pecan fruit salad left over from a potluck. I turned it into a crisp, because it’s what I do when I have berries in the fridge. You know this though, because I’ve linked to this fruit crisp recipe 17 times already this year.

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Pastelitos, Picnic Treats. I managed to get five knees from four separate people into this picture. We saw the Zilker Hillside Theatre’s summer musical, Shrek, last Thursday. My friend Molly and I have gathered on this hillside to watch the summer musical every year that we’ve both been in Austin since we were little kids. Usually her mom is there too, and brings us pigs in blankets to eat, but she couldn’t come this year. I missed you, Candace! And the pigs in blankets! Anyway, it has been really hard the last four or so years, because the kids were little and difficult to talk into sitting quietly on a blanket in 98 degree heat for four hours while people sing and dance in front of you. But this year was really pretty damn good. We got there early and had time to go jump in the frigid water of Barton Springs before the show. Andy played Pokemon Go with the kids on the walk to and from the water, which meant that they didn’t complain about having to go on a hike. I hadn’t been shopping in a while but managed to cobble together a few things to share, including these pastelitos (A Dominican empanada) with the rest of the package of venison I used for the chili the day before, and Molly and Dustin brought tons of fresh fruit and olives and brownies and dips and things that made it really feel like a party. And then the kids sat and watched the show! When we got home and the kids were in bed, Andy said that, while at no point did he think, wow! this is a really wonderful time!, that the overall experience of going out and doing something outside of our routine had made him feel happier and more alive. I couldn’t agree more.

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Eggplant and Ground Turkey Stir-Fry. The kids were both extremely skeptical when they saw the mountain of diced eggplant that went into this recipe, but everybody loved the finished dish. Henry asked where the recipe was from, and when I said it was another one from Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook he said, “She can’t miss!” He’s the dearest.

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Socca with Burrata and Shaved Veggies. This was good, but not my favorite It’s All Easy recipe. And the kids hated it. Even though I put tomato sauce and burrata on their fried chickpea pancakes to make something that looked very much like pizza, they both turned up their noses at it. Also, it’s really hard to shave asparagus spears and I don’t want to do it again.

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Cardamom and Orange Fig Newtons. It’s that time of year again- our neighbor came over with 4 pounds of figs from the tree in her backyard. We have an unspoken agreement that whenever she brings me figs, I’ll give her half of the batch of fig newtons I make with them and a dozen eggs. I love these cookies, and they really do get better the next day. This recipe is perfect if you have access to a fig tree, because it’s one of the few fig newton recipes I’ve seen that uses fresh figs instead of dried ones.

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Black Bean Soup. This was good, in spite of looking like dirty dishwater. The kids mostly ignored the soup in favor of eating mounds of fried tortilla strips.

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Soft Polenta with Roasted Asparagus and Crispy Salami. Someone who’s good at polenta, please tell me- how do I get soft polenta to stay soft? I want it to be like grits, or mashed potatoes, but every time I’ve made it it congeals into a block as it cools. This did that. It was soft and supple when I spooned it onto the plates, but firm by the time we took the plates to the table and ate our first bites. I still liked it, and I definitely liked the toppings of roasted asparagus and crispy salted meat and a runny egg, but it felt like I had messed up the polenta.

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Pinthouse Pizza and Homemade Garden Salad. I made a salad and some lemon bars, and Molly and Dustin bought pizza. Dustin and Andy chased the kids up and down the street outside their house while Molly and I talked about bras. I’m going to stop wearing nursing bras, you guys! After 5 years of nursing on demand, I was feeling overwhelming aversion to the whole thing. George was still nursing all the time and I just started hating it. I decided that I had to put limits on it- he now has milk before bed and first thing in the morning, and every other time he asks I say no. Even in the middle of the night. If he wakes up and asks for milk I say, “Can we snuggle instead?” He’s been really understanding about it. Honestly I feel ready to be completely done, but I didn’t want to cut George off cold turkey. Both because he loves the stuff and because I think my boobs would get engorged and that’s the worst. Anyway, it means I can wear real life bras again, and shirts and dresses that I don’t have to be able to pull a boob out of and this is so so liberating.

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Sandwiches. My parents came to town! The last couple of times we’ve flown to Portland, my mom has had a big bowl of tuna salad ready in case we want sandwiches after the long flight. I figured this amounted to a tradition, so made a big bowl of tuna myself, along with a platter of other stuff to put on sandwiches, to welcome them. Henry tends to keep his cards close to his chest (or is it vest? it’s chest, right?) but when he saw me expand the table and add the little booster seat for Phinnie he said, is Auntie coming too? And I said “Auntie, and Phinnie, and Gangie, and Grandpa, and maybe Jordan are coming for dinner.” When Henry said, “Oh! I’m so excited!” I was surprised, because for years he has barely tolerated dinner guests, no matter who they are, and asked him why he was excited. He said, “Because I really love them.” This is probably the sort of thing most kids say all the time, but to hear it from the mouth of my dear surly Henry really made my day. I was so happy to have them gathered around the table too.

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Lemon Bars, Magical, Marvelous, Memorable Cookies. By some miracle a few lemon bars survived to see the dawning of the day after they were baked. We polished them off, along with some of my very favorite ‘kitchen sink’ cookies- these have potato chips and gingersnap granola and cashews and chopped dark chocolate in them- after dinner.

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Noble Pig. We spent the next day celebrating Phinnie’s second birthday! She is so darling. We started the day with a trip to the Austin Aquarium, which was actually pretty fun. I guess I wasn’t expecting to like it, either because I’d heard that it was operated by the same people who treated animals questionably in a Portland-area aquarium, or because I just don’t get excited about looking at fish. So it was a pleasant surprise. I got to feel the rubbery mouth of some bat rays, we got to sit in a room swirling with parakeets and laugh as one landed on Henry’s head, and the boys got glitter tattoos from a lady in a revealing foam-y mermaid costume. Phinnie seemed to love every minute of it, thrilling at the idea that we were there for her, that this was Phinnie’s special day. She didn’t care for that mermaid though. We ate lunch at the Noble Pig because it’s close to the aquarium and is the greatest restaurant in the world, and then, later, we all ate dinner at The Macaroni Grill.  I hadn’t been to one since I was in high school. Back then, it was the cream of the crop in my mental rolodex of places I liked to eat. That big block of bread, with a salty parmesan butter on top, the waiters signing their names upside-down with a flourish, I liked it all. And honestly, I liked it this time too. The pasta was perfectly cooked. The meatballs were good. It was so wonderful to get to spend the day celebrating Phinnie!

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Cobb Salad. The next day we all drove down to Kyle to look at houses in Plum Creek, the neighborhood where Helen and Jordan want to buy their first home. We looked at seven of them, making asses of ourselves in front of the realtor by getting super excited when a house had a ‘cupboard under the stairs’ and making fun of people who had big flashy pictures of themselves above their fireplaces. Or when the first painting you saw when you walked in the door was of the Confederate army carrying the rebel flag. Or when people cemented floor tiles together and called it a counter top. Our houses definitely wouldn’t stand up to the scrutiny of outside eyes but that didn’t make judging these people any less delightful. At the end of the day, Helen and Jordan picked out two houses that they loved- both beautiful two-story houses close to the park and pool, with enough room to have an office for Jordan and a homeschooling room for Phinnie. Both sellers hinted that they were really motivated to sell, and we were all really hopeful that the house hunt would be over just that easily. Over the course of the next day, we talked about their offers, reviewed the drafts of the proposed contract, ate cobb salad, and waited to hear back. The news wasn’t good. Both sets of sellers suck and we hate them for being greedy and not acknowledging that their peel-and-stick faux wood vinyl floors and fogged up windows with torn screens should bring the cost of the house down to at least the neighborhood of the comp houses. We gave up and made a new list of houses to look at.

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And then we stopped thinking about houses for a few hours to celebrate Phinnie some more with a birthday party! And it rained, in August, and was glorious. Isn’t she the best person in the world?

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I came dressed as a princess, but at Helen’s suggestion (and with a face full of her green airbrush makeup) slipped off halfway through the party to change into a Mossy the Swamp Monster costume, a character Phinnie has been curiously enraptured with from Sofia the First. I had to speak in a British accent, which I find almost impossible, but Phinnie was really excited about the whole thing all the same. She called me Yay Yay at first, what she always calls me, but then went along with the gag when we insisted I was actually Mossy. She definitely didn’t want to take a picture with me though. Fair.

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We made sand art, bobbed for apples, played a coin toss game, and ate a lot of food, all of which I forgot to take pictures of. It was so much fun.

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Then we all ate heaping scoops of a fantastically over-the-top ice cream cake. Get this, y’all. There’s a layer of brownies, then a layer of cookies, then a layer of chocolate ice cream, then vanilla, then an oreo/cream cheese combo, then purple whipped cream. We all marveled at this feat of engineering. And then the kids hit each other with balloons for a while.

After the party we went back to Plum Creek to look at more houses, and this time, we’re really hoping, we found the one. It is one story, so we got to skip the discussions about whether or not the kids could fall from one story to the next. It has big beautiful trees, and a lovely front porch and the inside is immaculate. No ugly counters, no vinyl floors, no fogged up windows. And it’s inexplicably cheaper too! It’s got it all. The offer was submitted tonight and we’re all crossing our fingers that it works out. I’ll keep you posted!

Happy Monday, you guys!

 

Mango Sushi, Frozen Bananas, and an Exciting and Embarrassing New Cookbook Obsession

Every time we go to the library I run, daringly, from my children to see if there are a few cookbooks I’ve heard of that I can snatch up quickly from the 640 row and return in time to stop Henry and George from throwing books at one another’s heads. Over the last few weeks, I’ve checked out a Nigella book, a Giada book, Honey and Co., Bar Tartine, My Paris Kitchen, and The Art of Simple Food. And none of them have interested me. I couldn’t find a single recipe in Honey and Co. or Bar Tartine that would work for my needs- it’s all restaurant food that was too fussy or time-consuming or had no components that would be appealing to my children. I had high hopes for My Paris Kitchen, after reading all the glowing reviews of it in The Piglet last year, and while I think I’d love it in the late fall or winter, I just can’t get on board with eating a ham-and-cream-sauce sandwich in August in Texas. (His writing is wonderful though- if you start reading one of the essays between the recipes, any one of them, I bet you won’t stop until you’ve finished it.) Nigella was easy enough, but it seemed like every recipe was built around big piles of meat or carbs. The Art of Simple Food was uninspiring. I do most of that stuff already. Also, I want the glossy pictures. The line drawings of red onion slices in the borders of the salad pages are simply too austere. My long string of cookbook failures ended last week though, though I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, with a sudden and surprising love affair with Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Easy. Yeah, there are a lot of pictures of GP, as they somewhat obnoxiously refer to her throughout the book, in chunky sweaters with her beautiful Ralph Lauren-esque children. But between those are 130 gorgeous recipes. The pictures are beautiful, the recipes are simple and clear, healthy but not too healthy, and the whole thing is inspiring. I’ve made eight recipes from the book so far, and all of them have been delicious, easy, healthier than my standard fare, and were enjoyed by my family too (scrambled eggs with parmesan and arugula, pita bread pizzas, sesame noodles, taquitos, zucchini cacio e pepe, chicken wonton soup, bo bun salad, and thai-style crab cakes). I have made pita bread pizzas, taquitos, and scrambled eggs without a recipe plenty of times, but I got better results than I usually do on my own by following GP’s techniques. And there are so many more recipes I want to try. There’s not a lot of love for Gwyneth in the foodie scene. At least, not in the snootier echelons of it. This food52 review implies that this book won’t teach you anything, won’t inspire you, and that only rabid fans desperate for a look at Gwyneth’s sweaters will buy this book. What a shame! I’m so glad to have found it.

I’m way behind in sharing the food we’ve eaten with you. I’m gonna go through this in a dead run, stopping only for the stories that stand out in my memory (yelling at a Target employee, a tragic story involving my face and a cup full of spit, etc) and then we’ll be all caught up and everything will be right with the world. Here’s what we ate in the last two weeks.

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Mango Sushi. This is the day I yelled at the Target employee. It was the day after our camping trip and I needed dog food, groceries, and stuff from Target to make a little bag of gifts for Phinnie to open on the plane when she and Helen flew to Portland the next day. I had parked at the dog food store and walked with the kids down to Target- they play this game which they love and I find exhausting where they hide behind the concrete pillars holding up the strip mall’s awning and I have to say, “Wheeerrre’s George? Wheeerrrre’s Henry?” And then I see them and we all laugh and laugh. Them sincerely, me, not. Anyway, then we buy the stuff from Target and I push the cart as far as it will go before the wheels lock up and abandon the cart and carry the stuff back to the car. Except that when we walked out of Target, the cart full of my kids and our purchases, an employee was just finishing up clearing out the carts that had collected at the wheel-locking point. I knew it would be super rude for me to push the cart to that point after he had just cleared them, so I lifted the kids out of the cart, put the bags on my shoulders, spun the cart the other way and down the ramp and aligned it in front of the five other carts the guy had just assembled. I said, could you take this too? And he glared at me and said “Yeah. I guess.” In a super shitty way that I can’t convey in print. I was instantly furious. I said, “Forget it!” and I put the bags back in and pushed the cart, dragging the kids with me, to the cart corral place in the parking lot. And the dude followed me! Cuz he’s gonna take the cart of course he is. And he starts grabbing my bags to take them out so he can take the cart and I yelled, “Don’t touch my bags! I was trying to help you!” He didn’t say anything at all. I’m a disaster, pathetically worked up over this encounter, and I know it. I ran away with as much dignity as I could muster while pulling along two little kids and a bag full of Li’l Woodzeez and My Little Ponies. I was and am embarrassed to have been so desperately lame about this. I still haven’t worked out what a cooler person would have done in this situation though.

We headed straight to Wheatsville, where they were out of the avocado sushi that I had promised Henry he could have. I thought, okay, I’ll just make some, but then they only had $2.29 organic avocados and come on! I stood there contemplating them for a while, and decided to buy one. When we got home, I cooked the sushi rice, got out the nori, and cut open this precious avocado, which turned out to be rotten through and through. Can’t anything go right in my life, I thought? I’m a hugely privileged asshole, yes, and I just wanted this fucking avocado to do its job. I made mango sushi instead and the kids loved it and we all moved on. From the sushi, I mean. I still spent a lot of time brooding over the Target cart guy.

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Roasted Chicken, Stove Top Stuffing, Peas, Gravy. I’m a hypocrite in addition to being privileged. I won’t cook a beautiful croque monsieur from My Paris Kitchen because it’s too hot outside, but I will make a roasted chicken and a box of stove top doused in a gravy that’s 50% chicken fat. Oh but it was good!

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Chocolate-Covered Frozen Banana Slices. You know, there’s not much to say here. I had a couple old bananas that sat in the 130 degree trunk of my car the whole weekend we were camping, and I had the ends of two melty chocolate bars that didn’t get used for s’mores and I put ’em together to make something way better than the sum of its parts, like a fucking banana wizard.

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Red Beans and Rice, Chicken Salad. Christy dropped off a bag packed full of sausages that didn’t get eaten on the camping trip and needed to be used up right away, so I put a half dozen of them in some red beans and rice. Molly had a bunch of old chicken that needed to be eaten too, so okay, we ate a big chicken-y salad with mustard vinaigrette. There is nothing I can add that will make this story interesting.

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Cherry Crisp. And then we ate this. Everybody loved it and everybody loved me because I made it.

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Sausage and Mushroom Frittata. Green Grape Salad. I put the rest of the old sausages in a frittata. Grapes in a green salad doesn’t work.

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Asparagus and Ham Strata. And this dinner was to use up old camping ham! And also 8 hot dog buns that were supposed to go with the sausages that we mostly didn’t eat. The kids wouldn’t touch it, so I had eight pounds of strata leftovers and no one to eat it. So much for minimizing waste- I fed the rest to the chickens.

When I was serving the kids dinner, I asked what they wanted to drink. Henry wanted milk, George wanted apple juice. I got them. I sat down. George immediately looked over longingly at Henry’s milk glass and said, “I was just wishing that Henry had milk, and I had milk.” And Henry, without missing a beat, said, “Well George, looks like you got half your wish.”

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Enchiladas Suizas. We have enneagram once a month, and every time I underestimate how hard it’s going to be to put together a dinner for Andy and the kids and a snack to share at enneagram before I have to leave the house at 6:15. The kids won’t leave me alone, I’ve got to reassure Henry about the smoke detector a hundred times when I’m broiling the poblanos and tomatillos for the enchiladas, George eats all the monterrey jack I’ve grated, and I’ve got to go balls to the wall for the last half hour to get everything done, and every time I think, why did I chose this? Make Andy figure out dinner! Bring a pile of cheese to enneagram! But then next month I’ll do the same thing- convince myself that it will be easy and then be freshly surprised when it’s not. Fun fact: did you know the expression “balls to the wall” is not about testicles? It’s about pilots throttling levers, which itself sounds rather sexy, but is also not. Unless you want it to be. Choose your own adventure.

For the one of you that care (Tyger?), I felt like I improved on the soggy enchiladas from a couple of weeks ago. I ignored the step to bake the things for 25 minutes and instead warmed the sauce and filling, wrapped it all up, and put the pan under the broiler for a minute just to melt the cheese. It was a lot better this way, without tortillas that were soggy in some places, dried out in others.

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Raspberry Buttermilk Cakes. I brought these little cakes to enneagram to celebrate Christy’s birthday, and also this vegan cold cucumber and avocado soup which I forgot to photograph. Happy Birthday, Christy! I sure do love you! Thanks for helping me learn how to be the best asshole I can be!

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Sopa Rejia. That enchilada recipe makes at least double the sauce you actually need. I tossed it with pasta and more grated monterrey jack for a weirdly delicious dinner.

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Peanut Butter Avocado Shake. Garbage. Two bananas, an avocado, peanut butter and milk does not produce a drinkable thing. The kids looked at me like I was out of my mind when I served it to them.

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Molletes on Homemade Bolillos. These again!

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Hash Browns, Scrambled Eggs with Arugula and Parmesan. My first Gwyneth recipe, everybody! Are you so clever that you’ve already figured out you can put parmesan and arugula in your scrambled eggs? Well bully for you. I needed to hear it from an internet lifestyle guru.

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Shaved Ice. This place is in the parking lot of a bowling alley and is so much better than you would expect from that description. They have corn hole! (Which is a game, not a shaved ice flavor). And a whole suite of “gourmet” flavors, including Thai Iced Tea, Mango Lassi, and Cucumber Lime. I got a Moscow Mule one, which did not contain vodka but did have real ginger root and lime syrups and tasted amazing.

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Carrot Salad, Sheet Pan Sauasage, Onions, and Peppers. This lady calls this “carrot pasta with a creamy zesty garlic sauce” and doesn’t that sound like its a pile of warm carrot strings in a gloppy alfredo sauce? It’s nothing like that. It’s fresh and light and has ginger and tahini and very little garlic. Everybody loves Elgin sausage, cut up and roasted in a 400 degree oven with peppers and onions for 30-40 minutes, until the sausage is nice and crispy.

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Pineapple Cilantro Smoothie. This comes from a “three day detox” menu on GOOP. I think we’re all in agreement that this is a little bit stupid, because your liver, kidney, and intestinal tract remove the toxins from your body, not your smoothies. Still, it was delicious. It was leaps and bounds better than the funky avocado banana slurry from a couple of days ago. It seemed weird to put vanilla extract in a smoothie with arugula and cilantro, but once again, it would appear Gwyneth has it all figured out.

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The Couch No One Wanted. Andy and I brought this back into the house last week, defeated. The Salvation Army was supposed to come and pick it up, but I saw the truck pull up, examine the couch, and then drive away. Then two separate craigslist mouthbreathers said they would come pick it up and then didn’t. So now we’re gonna have this thing for the rest of our lives.

 

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Pinepple, Greens, and Tofu Salad, Sesame Noodles. I used the rest of the pineapple and coconut milk from my rich-person green smoothie to make my favorite salad. We ate it with sesame noodles from It’s All Easy. They were easy! And you top them with your own homemade furikake mix, which isn’t authentic but is a fun topping. Unless you’re a kid who wants unadulterated noodles free from the fishy taint of seaweed flakes.

At dinner every night, Andy reads us five food trivia questions from a blog he follows. This night it was five questions about food/state puns. When Andy showed us a picture of Oklahoma crafted out of some pasty substance, Henry worked out that it was Oklahummus before I did. It was a nice intersection of Henry doing well at something that’s a combination of me (food!) and Andy (puzzles/brains).

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Black Bean Taquitos, Cilantro Lime Salad. Helen, who I usually hang out with at least three times a week, was in Portland for a week visiting my parents (the boys and I get to go at the end of September! In honeycrisp season you guys!!) and I missed her! I celebrated her return by making her a lunch of the taquitos and avocado and cheese salad. These are all Helen foods.

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Cats and Dogs. George rediscovered the costume bin and was delighted to find that he fits into this cat costume, which I made for Henry when he was two. He asked if he could wear it for Halloween and I was happy to oblige. He was probably gonna have to wear it anyway, so I’m happy he’s going to do so willingly.

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Thai-Style Crab Cakes, Lemongrass Sauce, Cucumber Salad. I felt real fancy putting a tub of crab and a jar of vegenaise into my cart at the grocery store. I’m just like Gwyneth! If Gwyneth never washed her hair and wore the same jean shorts every day.

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Samosas with Cilantro Chutney, Cauliflower, Cashew, and Pea Curry, Naan. I made all the Indian food! It was so good. My favorite were the samosas and that spectacular cilantro chutney. I could drink the stuff.

Henry and I read Harry Potter every night before bed. We’ve just finished book five and he loves them so much. He spends much of his downtime flipping through the books we’ve read so far, memorizing the chapter names and lengths. An unschooling friend mentioned that she was in chapter five of book two and Henry said, oh, The Whomping Willow! And he was right. I looked it up later. Anyway, usually while I’m reading, he’s bouncing around on the bed next to me. On this night, he was moving around the bed and standing by the ladder up to his bunk bed playing with a little Play-Doh ice cream cup. The next thing I know, a liquid has splashed into my eyes and hair and all down my neck. I leaped up, horrified, rubbing my eyes. “What is this liquid?! Is this water?! Please, is this stuff water?!” It was spit. A whole cup full of spit that Henry had collected. To his credit, he was mortified. He apologized profusely and hid behind the curtains. I decided to call it a night though.

I wrote too much, but at least we’re officially caught up again. See you next week, friends!