This morning was cool and cloudless and green after four days and eight inches of rain. The kids and I went outside and walked around the neighborhood. There’s a neat old man who lives a few doors down and has a flock of chickens that he lets out of his backyard every evening around dusk and they peck at the bugs in the yards surrounding their own. One of them is a black-and-white spotted variety, and she looks just like our old chicken, Noodles, who was the smartest of our chickens by a wide margin and who was beheaded when a hawk picked her up by the face and tried to fly off with her. (A macabre chicken tale to get you in the mood for Halloween!) Anyway, the neat chicken guy was outside and he asked me if I wanted his chickens because he’s got to get rid of them to build a workshop. I said no. I said we didn’t have a coop anymore anyway. NCG (neat chicken guy) said he’d give me his coop and all the chicken stuff, and that they’re laying well too. I said I’d think about it and I sort of am. In the pro column: lots of eggs fresh from our own backyard! In the con column: literally everything else. Feeding the chickens, even if we got the bottom-of-the-barrel grain instead of the organic stuff we bought the last go-around, costs way way more than the $5 a week I spend on eggs now. They produce more eggs than we can eat until they don’t produce anything but still need to be fed or run through with an ax or something. They destroy every living thing in the yard- they eat all the greenery and also catch and eat the butterflies and other pollinators I’ve worked hard to attract. And last time Andy did all the work feeding, cleaning, and collecting eggs from the coop and so if I sign on for more chickens it will be with the understanding that it’s my turn to do all the things. That’s a lot of cons. But, I really like the one pro. Also I guess I could add the pro of being able to say that I’ve got chickens in my backyard again. I think it makes you cooler. Tell me what to do. Should I do the clearly right thing? Or throw caution to the wind and spend too much money and ruin our backyard? I honestly don’t know.
Thai-Style Squash with Masses of Herbs. My squash only had one mass of herbs because, though they’ve said it couldn’t be done, I managed to kill all the mint in my garden. And it was in three different places so I had to be diversely negligent to make that happen. When you change it from ‘masses’ to ‘mass’ it sounds like a cancerous growth on the squash, so I’d encourage you to use a plurality of herbs. That is an incorrect use of the word plurality. Also, we had a roasted kale thing with ginger and soy sauce with this ungodly quantity of rice, but it was still in the oven and I needed to get the food on the table before the kids revolted so it didn’t make the picture. I could be lying about that to make you judge me less but (in this case at least) I’m not. I must have spent the week in a fog because somehow I planned and cooked two (two!) thai-style squash entrees and didn’t notice until I was putting this post together. That’s a really weird thing to do. I just loved the sound of winter squash with peanuts and lime and herbs, more love than one dinner per week could contain it seems. This version and the one you’ll see on our Friday dinner were both just about exactly what I hoped for. I think this one eked out a win though.
Take Out. This was the day we hosted an unschoolers meet-up at our house, which was a blast, truly, but a messy one. I am not a tidy person. I never sweep or dust or clean windows or any of those things unless a party is happening, and then I’ll do one or several of them. Except dusting, because who except the delightful children in the All-of-a-Kind Family has time for that? After the last unschoolers had gone home I turned on the TV for the kids and cleaned for three hours. It was as if the house had been picked up and shaken like a snow globe, so that all the little odds and ends from each room had been swirled around the house and dropped softly into new places. My favorite discovery was that some little mouth had taken a single wee bite out of the top of each of the last six banana muffins. What a satisfying endeavor that must have been! Anyway, I was definitely not interested in cooking dinner. Andy picked up Tarka (Clay Pit’s fast-food cousin), which meant that the kids ate a second dinner-in-a-row of mostly white rice. I had vegetable pakoras and samosa chaat and fell asleep quickly thereafter in a clean house.
Cochinita Pibil, Black Beans, Guacamole. This day had all the things. Stunning highs (this dinner), shameful lows (you’ll see), and a drab visit to the dentist too. George had a dentist appointment at 11:15, so at precisely the moment I had planned to get in the car he decided he had to poop, which is an ordeal I won’t go into, but it took time to get through it. I got the kids in the car and pushed the garage door button and it went up about two feet and stopped. I tried it 14 more times to make sure, and it didn’t work any of them, so I had to figure out how to open it manually. For anyone who has done this, you know that it is as easy as pulling a cord and then lifting up, which is to say, very easy. But I pulled the cord over and over and nothing happened. This isn’t the shameful low, if you’re wondering. This is just to help you feel the general tone of the day. I eventually got the garage door open and we left and were late to the dentist and it was all ok in the end. After the dentist, we swung by my friend Abbie’s house (she of the food52 taco party fame from last week’s post) and she gave me ALL HER LEFTOVERS because she was going out of town, which if it were any other person’s leftovers wouldn’t be exciting, but because they were ABBIE LEFTOVERS it was all-caps-level-exciting. I got the rest of her cochinita pibil (my favorite!), her gorgeous pickled onions, tortillas, and the most fabulous Cracker Jill (I need to find a recipe for this- it was like cracker jack except a little spicy from sriracha and a lot more delicious from bacon lardons) and Spicy Pimento Cheese leftover from the talented Mrs. Wheelbarrow. The kids and I killed half the bag of cracker jill before we got home. Then we had to go to parkour class, but right before we were about to leave George fell asleep on me. I woke him up and told him that we had to go and he could sleep in the car on the way to class but it was too late- he was inconsolable and screamed, really screamed, the whole drive until finally passing out as I turned into the parking lot. He slept through Henry’s class, and then woke up and wanted milk when Henry was done, so we all headed over to the active play room, and I nursed George in the windowless snack room while Henry played on the equipment in the main room. Henry would come in every few minutes to check in with me. The room smelled strongly of some sort of febreeze-y scent and Henry said “It smells fresh in here. Like air cake.” I liked it! He ran back out to play and a few minutes later a kindly lady holding a little baby came up to me and said “Is the boy in the blue shirt your son?” I nodded, fearfully. “He’s grabbing other kids…” she trailed off as I unlatched George and tried to (gracefully?) slip my boob back into my shirt so I could go out and fetch Henry. “I can tell he’s really excited to be here,” she added diplomatically. I was really embarrassed. Turns out Henry was hangry. I only had pretzel rods with me so he ate 5 of them and then we tried the play room again. Constant vigilance this time and the rest of the afternoon went ok. I’m gonna do better on the snacks this week, and just nurse George in the big open room because who cares. It was so nice, so really and truly wonderful, to get to just reheat the cochinita pibil in a pan and be done with dinner.
Beer-Battered Fish, French Fries, Onion Rings, Homemade Mayo & Tartar Sauce. George has been sleeping badly, which means I have been too, but in spite of that, he woke up in a great mood. I still had my eyes closed when he said, “Let’s do something else. Let’s throw a baseball up in the air.” I like that the baseball somehow ended up on the table at dinner that night. I’d been craving fish and chips for a while, and I had two tiny russet potatoes in the pantry and fish and a single beer in the fridge, but I didn’t have enough oil to fry all the things I wanted to fry. So we walked around the block to the Mexican grocery store near our house to pick up some more. We can’t go there without getting paletas and every time (every time!) the kids pick out the worst flavors. George got a baby blue bubble-gum flavored one that had two shiny gumballs shoved into the undercarriage of the thing. Henry got something yellow and tubular with the label “rompope” on it, which means nothing to me. It was an icy vanilla nightmare. Why yellow? I don’t know. But the kids ate them on the walk back to the house as the wind picked up and blew leaves off the trees in swirls around us. I had tons of leftover batter after frying the fish and used it to batter onion rings, which Henry went wild for. The fries were thrillingly good. The fish was ok.
Five-Fold Challah. Oh my heart! This bread is everything I’ve ever wanted. The recipe is beautifully simple, but does require that you hang around the house for several hours because you’ve got to do an eight-sided fold on it and flip it over every half hour for 2 1/2 hours. Then the recipe says to let the dough rest in the fridge for a day, which is sage advice and which I completely ignored. I skipped right to the braiding step, let the two loaves rise until puffy, and then baked. The taste is incredible, the texture is light and airy and perfect. You’re probably going to see this bread a lot more in future posts.
Broccoli, Lemon, and Parmesan Soup. I waxed poetic about this soup a couple weeks ago, and had wanted to eat it ever since. I only had one bunch of broccoli though, which isn’t enough. But I didn’t want to halve the recipe either because that wouldn’t have fed all of us plus provided leftovers for Andy to take for lunch the next day. So I just watered it way down and the results were, as you might expect, watery. We ate one and a half loaves of the challah with our sad thin soup, so I’d call the dinner a success.
All the Half-and-Half You Have. On Friday we had breakfast tacos at Casa Alde in Buda, which are the best tacos in the known universe. Listen to this- their migas taco has queso in it. Every time I talk about this place I share that fact, but I think it is the surest way to convey to someone who hasn’t been that it is legit. Also, homemade flour tortillas. Also, all the half-and-half in tiny cups you can drink! This picture has nothing to do with stuff I cooked this week, but I liked the tiny plastic cup tower so here you go!
Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai. Thai squash dinner #2! The flavors are great, the texture was mushy. I think I overcooked the squash, because the squash noodles in the linked picture look distinct and mine were soggy and homogeneous. Still, not a bad way to eat a heap of vegetables for dinner.
Gluten-Free Double Chocolate Cookies. These are this week’s version of baked ziti, in that I have nothing interesting to say about them. They’re good cookies. They’re gluten free (cup4cup instead of wheat flour, again). They’re soft on the inside and crackly on the outside. Make em as written or toss literally anything into the batter. I’ve made a version with tiny marshmallows and cornflakes and another (last week) with chopped up pralines. All good uses of your time, I can assure you.
For my birthday last month, my sister threw me a craft party with all manner of tasty snacks. We’ve been having these craft parties on a semi-regular basis, and have come to view them as the best possible use of child-free party time. You get to bring whatever craft you want to work on for yourself and eat and talk to friends while you do it. We all loved it so much we decided to celebrate Helen’s birthday the same way, so here is my spin on craft party-snacks!
An All-the-Things Board. Here’s how you make this: you buy everything you can and heap all of it in piles on one small board. Has anyone ever put yogurt raisins on the same platter as maple honey ham and a variety of pitted olives? Probably not. But that didn’t stop anyone from eating the damn thing in all its eclectic glory. First item to disappear from the board? No points for guessing, it was obviously the ham.
Caramelized Onion Dip, Crudite. I made half the recipe for this dip and it was plenty. No way was I going to chop up five pounds of onions for a dip. Everyone loved it!
Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Spicy Pimento Cheese with Candied Chiles. I froze this log of pimento cheese I got from Abbie so I could defrost it and serve it at the party. The recipe is a genius mayonnaise-less spin on the classic dip, with the stunning addition of home-canned candied chiles, which are sweet and spicy and addictive. The recipe’s not online so you’ll have to buy the book! Do it, do it now. I also froze and then defrosted and served the rest of that bag of cracker jill. Did you know you can freeze popped popcorn? You can! It’s science!
Oreo Truffles. Second only to a regular package of Oreos. Not really, these win hands-down. So swallow your foodie pride and head over to the website of the fine folks of the Kraft Foods Corporation. They’ll instruct you to pulverize a package of Oreos, then use your fingers to mix the mountain of crumbs with softened cream cheese, roll it into balls, and dip em in melted chocolate. They taste like chocolate-y Oreo cheesecake balls! Except more Oreo-y, which is to say, even better. I also put a bowl of double-stufs on the table because I’m an adult and I can.
Christy’s Cheesecake. No party is complete without a Christy. She’ll show up early to help ease you through your frantic last-minute preparations with a gorgeously decorated, perfectly smooth and creamy cheesecake in tow. Then she’ll entertain your babies for you and also go ahead and sew your kid a winter coat instead of doing her own craft because she does all these things! A true domestic superhero. Also, she washes your dishes before she leaves. So yes. Superhero.
A happy birthday party for Helen, leftover Oreos for me, the chance to be a better parent at parkour this week, and the excitement of getting a flock of chickens or else the thrill of not getting a flock of chickens. Lots of good things, you guys. See you next week ❤