Last week’s post sounded so dire, so full of angst, that several of you dear readers checked in to see if I was okay. You’re all really nice! I’m okay. This week was the same, plus lots of vomiting, which is to say it was worse. The kids got some sort of stomach flu on Wednesday and it persisted, with a rotating cast of exciting symptoms, through the weekend. We watched a lot of TV and barely left the house, so by this morning, we were all miserably unhappy. We got out and went to a park for an unschooler meetup and helped a very small amount in assembling bags of supplies for people who are homeless. There’s a sensational playground 20 yards from where the supplies were being assembled, but Henry and George were aghast at the thought of venturing over to the playground without me. Blaaarrrggh. So I sat grumpily on a bench and watched them climb, and a lovely little girl, another unschooler, sat down next to me and said “I know I only just met you, but I just had to tell you I’m getting a dog on Wednesday!” She was so earnest and full of enthusiasm that she really made me feel better. The rest of the day was pretty great, in fact. We went to the library and nothing bad happened, we went on a walk and collected pretty leaves and acorns in a little basket, we made salt dough ornaments, and no one threw up! Plus, Andy’s mom came over to watch the kids and I got to surprise Andy with an impromptu date night. It was so nice to be out of the house with just Andy that I could have cried. I got to sit across the table from him and look at his face while he talked, and no one interrupted us. And after dinner we walked together and it was dark and warm and peaceful outside. And then we ran errands, because we had to, but even that felt glorious and easy and fun. I know there will be so much to miss about not having very small children, but there’s a lot to look forward to too. Here’s what we ate this week.
Pumpkin Waffles, Hash Browns, Sausages. No, I’m not going to put applesauce on my waffles, Simply Recipes. I’m a goddamned American. I put powdered sugar on my waffles. We ate this exact dinner a couple weeks ago, but I again had leftover pumpkin after making muffins (can’t stop, won’t stop) and I didn’t want to expend the brain power required to come up with something else to do with 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree, so waffles it was! I’m happy to have another excuse to mention these hash browns to you, though. They’re from Make the Bread, Buy the Butter and they, along with those pitch-perfect chocolate chip pumpkin muffins, would be reason enough to buy the book. I’ll make them both for as long as I live. Also there’s a recipe at the end called Skippy’s Apricot Cake that includes a can of apricot nectar that I am dying to try. Stay tuned. Back to the hash browns though- I’ll give you the bare bones of the recipe because you’ve really got to try them. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Peel and shred a pound of russet potatoes and spread them out in the skillet. Let it cook, untouched, until deeply golden brown, about 10 minutes, then add 1/3 cup heavy cream and season with salt and pepper, flip (it’s ok if it breaks) and let it get golden brown on the other side. Run, don’t walk. Buy the things, make this thing.
I was thinking that this would be the first week in the last three-ish months that I didn’t make muffins, but then I remembered I did, so the muffin streak continues. I made the apple muffins again to bring to an unschoolers meetup in Pflugerville, and they were loved by all. They are humble and easy and perfect. The meetup was awesome- one of the kids had hooked up his laptop to the projection screen in a home theater room and was playing Minecraft. Henry sat, in rapt attention, in a leather recliner and watched this kid play for two hours, until I was finally able to convince him to come eat lunch. Henry and George fell asleep on the long drive home, and whenever that happens I think of Bill Nighy’s line in Love Actually when he messes up and says (with my apologies), “oh, fuck wank bugger shitting arse head and hole.” Any nap, of any duration, starting anytime but especially late in the afternoon, from either kid, means we’ll all be up until 11. They simply cannot fall asleep before that. Still- does that mean we should be housebound in the afternoon to avoid the risk of an accidental car-nap? I refuse.
Vegan Crispy Stir-Fried Tofu with Broccoli. It hurts me to damage my powdered-sugar-loving-American cred by sharing this vegan tofu dish with you. But it is dipped in a vodka-spiked batter and deep fried, so it’s as unhealthy as tofu has ever been. It’s shatteringly crisp out of the fryer but gets soft and limp really quickly after tossing it in the sauce. Still good! Last week we drove to parkour and Henry fell asleep on the way. I woke him up when we got there, but he said he just wanted to relax because he was so tired. Poor kid. So this week was our first time there since the embarrassment of having another mom fetch me while I was nursing George because Henry was grabbing kids. I wanted to make jerky and pack Henry full of it before class, but I hadn’t gotten around to it yet, so instead I stopped at Sonic and bought him a hamburger. Desperate times and all that. I think it worked though- he was in a way better mood and much more patient with the other kids.
Venison Milanesa and Kale, Green Apple, and Lentil Salad. Ok, fine. I’m a pinko commie bastard. The powdered sugar waffles were just a ruse. There’s no way to not look like a hipster when you’re eating a combination of kale, apples, and lentils. I really like this salad though. It keeps well and is crisp and bright and filling. It went beautifully with this milanesa, made from venison backstrap that was sourced from a deer my father-in-law shot. I didn’t know how to cook the stuff so I searched food52 for backstrap and one lone recipe came up. That’s a scary feeling- there’s some crazy shit on food52. I won’t link to it, but I did recently read a recipe there for a peanut butter and banana sandwich that also included miracle whip and lettuce. All on one sandwich! But my fear was short-lived because this is an Abbie recipe! Saints be praised! It was delicious. I didn’t have time to make the bechamel she recommended so I just spritzed lemon juice on the stuff and it was swell.
This dinner was the tipping point of our week, where everything started to go to hell. Henry came in to the dining room and took one look at the kale salad on his plate and burst into tears. He was horrified at the sight of it and left the room screaming. This was really uncharacteristic of Henry- he’ll try anything usually. He eventually calmed himself down, and even came back and sort of apologized and said he would try it after all. He took a couple bites of everything and then decided that he had been right in the first place and he really didn’t want to eat anything. Later that night, Henry threw up all the things. All over the bed, of course, because that’s where these things happen. George was already asleep on one side of the bed though, and he’s not the sort of kid that you can jostle about and he’ll stay asleep- he’s instantly awake and full of rage- so instead of risking it, I rolled the thrown-up on bedclothes up into a tight roll and left it in the center of the bed, and spread another quilt over Henry’s side. I actually slept with my head resting on the throw-up blanket roll that night because I am a disgusting human being.
Hummus. The kids were both sick all day, so we mostly just laid in various places doing nothing. I didn’t have time to peel the chickpeas for this hummus but I did add an egregious amount of tahini, which really makes a huge difference in how delicious the final product turns out.
Falafel, Yogurt with Cucumbers, Tahini Sauce, Hummus. The kids were on the BRAT diet for this dinner, because problems abounded, but Andy and I were still feeling fine, so I made falafel. If you are a juvenile sort don’t click on the link for this recipe. You’ll see. Actually, no one should click on the link for this recipe because it sucks. Through no fault of my own (NB: it could have been my fault, but I don’t know what I did wrong- I thought I followed the recipe exactly), the falafel balls completely disintegrated when I placed them gently into the exact temperature oil the recipe called for. Such a mess. I ended up pan-frying the rest and then baking the browned patties on a sheet pan for 15 minutes to make them edible. They were pretty good that way, but I won’t make this recipe again. We can do better, can’t we?
Orange and Date Salad. This brings us to Friday! Which is good news for two reasons, no three! A weekend means less active childcare for me, the kids seemed to be on the mend, and we were having our dear friends Molly and Dustin over for Molly’s birthday dinner. We had this gorgeous salad which has one thousand ingredients, several of them weird (orange blossom water, fennel seeds, cinnamon, radishes), but, as it turns out, they taste delicious together.
Roasted Red Onions with Walnut Salsa. Plus this salad, which is even better. The onions needed an extra 20 minutes in the oven beyond what the recipe called for to get deeply soft and roasty with a few crisp edges. Then you make a simple walnut salsa with red chile (I used fresno) and vinegar, and layer everything with arugula, parsley, and dollops of goat cheese. Fun fact- anytime you mention goat cheese around my mom she screws up her face and says that she finds it “too game-y.” Helen and I thought this was ridiculous- goat cheese is delicious! Mom probably just hadn’t had a good one. So Helen bought a beautiful, sweet, creamy one and didn’t tell Mom what it was. One bite and mom screwed up her face and asked if it was goat cheese. So, okay! Mom, make this salad and replace the goat cheese with feta- you’ll love it!
Pumpkins Stuffed with Everything Good. And then the main course, which was the best thing on the table. Molly loves pumpkin, and when I was thinking about what to make for her dinner I remembered reading about Ruth Reichl’s swiss pumpkin, which I think is sort of like fondue and bread baked in a pumpkin. I wrote in to the food52 hotline to see if anyone had made it and was pointed to the linked recipe, by Dorie Greenspan, instead. It’s super easy- you cube stale bread and toss it with shredded gruyere, crisp bacon, and herbs. You pack that into a carved pie pumpkin and fill the cavity up with cream(!) and the whole thing bakes for two hours. It comes out burnished and tender, the filling like a deliciously rich stuffing which goes beautifully with the soft roasted pumpkin flesh.
Fresh Ginger Cake. We finished the meal with this lovely cake, which has 1/4 pound of fresh, finely chopped ginger in it. It’s not too much. The spice level is perfect and the little bits of ginger have a pleasant chew to them. The cake is that wonderful sturdy sort that unmolds beautifully, and which you can flip onto your hand and then onto a cake plate without fear that it will fall to pieces. We ate it with mounds of whipped cream and it was the perfect end to a delicious meal until George threw his cake up all over my pants. So much for ginger’s anti-nausea properties!
Eggs and Hash Browns. And tea. We were home all day and the kids were sick and miserable and Andy and I were just miserable. The kids were back on a diet of bananas and toast, and by the time dinner rolled around I had no ideas or stamina so I made more hash browns plus some scrambled eggs for Andy.
Croissants a la Plancha. I had purchased the kids each a croissant at the farmers’ market. Henry insisted that he really did want his, but just not right now, so it sat on the counter all day getting stale. There’s a genius recipe for stale croissants though, which renders them even better than the fresh ones, so we all had bits of griddled croissant with honey butter for breakfast the next morning.
Okonomiyaki. By Sunday night, the kids still weren’t eating real meals, but I figured they could just eat white rice and Andy and I could eat these cabbage and onion pancakes. Except I screwed up the rice- it came out undercooked and oversalted, so no one ate it. The okonomiyaki is a great, easy, filling vegetarian dinner though- try it the next time you have cabbage and don’t know what to do with it. After dinner Henry ate one milk dud from his Halloween bucket and threw up on the rug. Are you sick of hearing about vomit? Me too, you guys, me too.
Salty Oat Cookies. I wanted to end on a high note so I sound like less of a miserable asshole, and these cookies certainly qualify. I’m making these for a friend’s party next weekend, but wanted to give them a test run first- they’re glorious. It’s not just an oatmeal cookie with salt on top- they have a shattering, light and crispy melt-in-your-mouth quality that I think comes from a dough made mostly out of butter. I omitted the white chocolate chips listed in this recipe because I don’t care for the stuff, and cooked that way they are just exactly what I was hoping for.
And now it’s Monday night and we’ve officially gone a full day since someone in our house has thrown up. The kids ate real meals today, we turned off the television, and we all basically got along and even enjoyed each other. These are not small things. Tomorrow we’ll go back to parkour, this time armed with 2 pounds of homemade venison jerky so I don’t have to resort to fast food hamburgers, and we’re gonna try to keep this tenuous peace going. See you next week!