Banana Cupcakes, Two Kinds of Latkes, and A Lot of Slapdash Meals

This morning the boys and I went grocery shopping at Central Market. They always insist on getting one of those ridiculously long carts with the two kid seats attached. These carts can only barely be maneuvered through the aisles, and if you pull up too close to the side of something it can take a good dozen back-and-forth micro-adjustments to get the thing away from the wall so you can push it freely again. I just hate it. Also, George can never just sit in the seat. He stands and rides. He sits on the floor of the kid-seat part and drags his feet on the ground. He gets off and walks absentmindedly beside me. Today he found a new way to ride- he crawled under the basket and sat on the bars that are just a few inches off the floor. I saw his feet dragging on the ground and wondered briefly if I should make him move. At that moment another shopper, a childless one, I’ll note, cocked her head in our direction and said “You know, it looks like they’re having fun,” (Henry had joined George under the basket) “but I’m worried they could get hurt doing that.” I hate it, hate it when strangers chime in with an opinion on my parenting. Obviously, lady, I know this isn’t the safest option! But they’re happy down there and I’m just trying to get through a trip to the grocery store with two kids. I don’t need someone to point out to me what my kids should or should not be doing. You can guess how this story ends, right? Half an aisle later we stopped for eggs and cream. Before I pushed the cart again I said, “I’m going to push the cart again, watch your fingers.” I pushed and immediately felt resistance, and George burst into tears. He’d pinched his little finger in the wheel :(((( So, I’m the worst. I sat in that little kid seat and held him while he cried. I’d imagine that lady saw the whole thing and felt completely vindicated. But she had the grace to not say ‘I told you so’ to my face. Oh, me. George is ok, thankfully! I guess I won’t let him ride under the cart anymore. Does reading this story make you hate me?

I’ve been working on a catering project for a big party next week, so most of my discretionary cooking time went to making and freezing stuff for the party. I’ll get to share that stuff with you in my next post! I’m noting it here, though, because our regular meals were put on the back burner, so to speak. I never made a meal plan nor shopped for specific meals, so every day at dinner it was a race to see what I could throw together out of the stuff we had on hand. It turns out that this technique doesn’t lend itself to food-blogging. I’ve got a sandwich, a pan of beans, and a really unfortunate-looking fried rice to share with you. But I’m here all the same! Let’s see if we can’t make these things interesting.


Potato Scallion Cakes, Rainbow Chard Agrodolce. By Monday, we had eaten or frozen all of our Thanksgiving leftovers with the exception of three cups of mashed potato. So I decided to try out a double-batch of these potato scallion cakes on food52 that were developed as a way to use up mashed potatoes (after the gravy is gone I have no desire for them). If you have ever made latkes from the Manischewitz box mix then you know exactly what these taste like. They’re great! Soft and subtly oniony. I bought a few random green things at the farmers’ market thinking I’d use them as the inspiration for my weekly menu plan. I never did that, so mostly they languished (or are currently languishing) in the fridge. But I did use up a bunch of chard in an agrodolce inspired by the linked recipe. I love the honey and vinegar- it made the chard feel almost like a condiment for the potato cakes- the sharp/sweet taste went well with them.


Tortilla Mash-up, Beans. I stayed up late Monday night finishing up George’s advent calendar. When I had only one child, I made the foolish decision to make an advent calendar by sewing 24 miniature stockings, numbering them, and stringing them on the wall with baker’s twine. Now that George is two and fully aware of when things are fair or not, I had to make a matching set for him. But I did get it finished, and got all 48 tiny stockings stuffed with a variety of seven types of novelty gummies. My kids really love gummies. Henry knew what would be waiting for him in the morning and slept terribly and woke up early to bask in the glow of a month’s worth of gummies. He was so happy! George loved his too. And watching Henry lead George to his little stocking each morning has been endlessly delightful. These brothers have been acting more and more like friends lately and it makes my heart feel like it’s going to explode. What a joy to watch them play together! We spent a happy day outside and at parkour, and then it came time for dinner and I had no plan and no real ingredients. So I made tortillas- a combo of the two recipes I’ve talked about here- this fluffy and pliable Homesick Texan one and the other more authentic bare bones one from Make the Bread, Buy the Butter, with just flour, oil, salt, and water. I think I liked it the best yet! Andy agreed. It went a little something like this: 3 cups flour, 1.5 teaspoons baking powder, 2 heaping teaspoons kosher salt mixed, then blended with 1.5 tablespoons of oil, then mixed with 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk. Kneaded briefly, rolled into 15ish golf ball sized knobs, rested 30 minutes under a towel, rolled thin and griddled. Tortillas! Still soft and pliable, a little less fluffy, and with more chew. We got this, y’all.


Potstickers, Vietnamese Glazed Butternut Squash, Roasted Cauliflower. We’re skipping Wednesday here, because we ate pizza from Conan’s for dinner. My fabulous mother-in-law took my kids for the whole day and I was able to spend the day doing a bunch of the stuff on my to-do list, including spending around 5 hours cooking stuff for that big party that’s happening next week. I didn’t pick the kids up until six, and we were all super hungry and I, once again, had no plan for dinner, so Andy got us a pizza.

I did a little better on Thursday, though, you see, I spent no time plating things attractively. The boys and I stayed home all day reading books, painting pictures, and building a fire in the backyard with twigs and dead plants from around the yard. It felt so nice and warm and we sat so close to it for so long that we all smelled of campfire when we finally came inside. That orange cauliflower was one of the farmers’ market things I didn’t have a plan for, so I just roasted it with coconut oil and garlic and then seasoned it with soy sauce. It was whatever. I love this soft pan-steamed and fried squash though, seasoned with a little sugar and fish sauce. I thought the rice and potstickers would be a hit with the kids, but they ate both things modestly, leaving me with a ton of rice.


Fried Rice. We went to a new-to-us park, and the kids loved it so much we spent a full six hours there. It’s a beautiful spot, in spite of being nestled right next to an 80 mph toll road. Onion Creek passes through it, and it has some of the biggest pecan trees I’ve ever seen, along with a lake where you can fish if you like, an innovative playground, and an archaeological dig! We left at four and the kids both fell asleep on the way home and slept until 6:30, which would normally have been devastating to me (because it meant they would be up until midnight), but we’ve had a good week and it didn’t feel like such a big deal. I made the choice to stay at that park all day, and I knew it would mean that they’d be up late, and I didn’t mind, which is progress, I think. We took the opportunity to have our first family movie night since we’ve abandoned screen time and watched The Princess Bride. Henry talked through the whole thing, but I think he liked it. George liked the shrieking eels and then lost interest until the ROUS scene. That is such a fun movie.

We needed another quick dinner after the kids finally woke up (George was asleep on me and Henry was asleep on Andy, so we were stuck until they woke up). I had leftover rice, a fennel bulb from the farmers market, a few eggs, a few slices of inferior Applegate farms ham (Henry only has eyes for DaBecca honey maple ham, and I’d have to agree with him that it’s light-years better than the Applegate stuff), and raw brussels sprouts. I crisped up some ginger and garlic a la this recipe, sauteed half an onion and the fennel bulb, and then stirred everything else into the pan. It was a lot of weird shit altogether, but it tasted ok! I think the radiant pink ham flecks in the picture make it look like a nightmare, though.


Banana Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing. I also made these banana cupcakes to take with us to Budafest the next day. I’ve been needing to use up bananas all week, but I’m feeling tired of banana muffins and didn’t know what else to do with them. Then I remembered the cream cheese frosting in the fridge leftover from the oatmeal cream pies last week and decided to make banana cupcakes. If you’re picturing a muffin-y thing with frosting on top, you’ve got it all wrong. Banana cake is amazing! It’s got a quarter the amount of banana you’d use for muffins and easily double the fat and sugar. They’re soft and fluffy and gentle little banana pillows. They are my new love.

Budafest! It’s the Christmas festival in the town where I grew up and we still go every year. We always start with breakfast tacos at Casa Alde. Helen got there first and held down a big table for us while bands of people challenged her right to hold the seats, so we texted her our order so it’d be ready when we got there. Andy wanted two tacos, but I thought that was inadvisable because the other big draw for Budafest is a food court where churches and boy scout troops and groups like that sell Texas-y foods like Frito pies and sausage wraps and beef fajitas, and that’s so great too, and if you eat two tacos you might not be hungry enough for all these other things! So he got one and so did I and then I was still so hungry that I ate Helen’s extra taco and Andy gave me the stink eye, so I shared it with him. George rode a pony and walked around with us while Andy and Henry spent two hours riding all the carnival rides. Henry got a wristband for unlimited rides for $20 and Andy figures he got about $54 worth of rides out of it. By the time we were ready to leave (we were doing a big Christmas-y double header and driving straight from Budafest to Elgin to cut down a Christmas tree) I, tragically, wasn’t hungry for the beloved food court fare. You see, I was right about the two tacos! I got Andy a beef fajita, and a sausage wrap for each of the kids. We drove to Elgin and the kids fell asleep and I ate the lower third of Henry’s sausage wrap (I’d have eaten George’s but he unwrapped the thing and put the fat sausage in his filthy cupholder and dropped the tortilla on the floor). It tasted like liquid smoke and had the texture of a pasty hot dog but I liked it just fine. And that brings us to the Christmas tree farm!

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A family picture! With a bow saw, no less! Thank you, Helen!! My eyes might be closed- let’s see if we can do better!


Hmm. Naw. Let’s just try for a goofy one!

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Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

I am the clear champion. A goal for the new year: make goofy faces in front of the mirror until I can develop one that doesn’t make me look like a snake preparing to swallow a large egg. Maybe incorporate a middle finger to the camera as Henry subtly demonstrates.


We do better with the candid shots, I dare say! Look at my loves!


Oh, this kid! He’s judging us all, we can be sure of that.

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Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

This guy hasn’t learned to judge us yet! Isn’t he a peach?


Sandwich. On the drive home from the Christmas tree farm we talked about what we would do for dinner.  I asked what everyone would eat if they could have any dinner in the world, and I think I was the only one who came up with something. Or maybe I just wasn’t listening. I wanted a beautiful sandwich. On really good sliced bread. Maybe a thick turkey, avocado, bacon affair. But I don’t know anywhere around us that sells something like that, and besides we had already eaten out once this week and then dropped a ton of cash at Budafest, so we decided to eat at home. We were scraping the bottom of the barrel in the fridge and pantry. The kids opted for buttered noodles with parmesan. There was just enough (stale) bread for Andy and I to have sandwiches. The salami on it had a slight funk- like it had been sitting in the sun for a bit. But we ate it anyway and didn’t get sick, so there’s a feather in our caps. The only chip-like thing in the house was really stale pirates booty, which I don’t care for much even when it’s fresh, but given the choice between a sandwich and no chips and a sandwich and bad chips, I’ll take the bad ones every time.


Matzo Ball Soup, Latkes. And that brings us to today! The first night of Hanukkah! We celebrated by driving down to Wimberley to see a children’s theatre production of A Christmas Carol. It was only about half an hour and both kids loved it. Henry laughed like a madman at almost every line. Yeah, even the not funny ones. We got to meet the cast afterwards and several of them complimented him on his laugh- it was delightful. We walked around the grounds of the Emily Ann Theatre after the show- they have a fun trail of lights there every year with a ton of Christmas-y vignettes to look at. In an effort to keep George awake on the long drive home we stopped at a gas station and the kids both got to pick out a treat. Henry picked Cheetos and George picked an enormous cream-filled Oreo brownie bar. It turned out to be terrible, but Henry graciously shared his chips with George and the kid stayed awake! It’s a Hanukkah miracle! I made a quick dinner of matzo ball soup and latkes. I bought stuff for salad but forgot to make it- ah well. I lit the shamash and the candle for the first night and sang the Baruch Atah Adonai blessing thing very badly. But oh, I love it. I wish we sang and lit a candle before more things.


Sufganiyot. And we had jelly donuts for dessert too! Henry was displeased with the meager amount of raspberry jam I’d filled them with, and with the announcement that the gas station Cheetos were his Hanukkah present, but it was a lovely evening all the same. After donuts we went to bed and Henry and I finished a chapter book he had selected because it has the words “Poop Fountain” in the title, and both kids were asleep by nine. Pretty sweet, y’all.

We’ve got a beast of a week ahead of us. It’s that week where every group you are tangentially related to is having a holiday gathering and you have to make food for all of them. Plus, we’ve got the graduations of two of our favorite people to celebrate and a big party to throw! Plus gummies to eat and candles to light. These are all great things, you guys. I can’t wait to share them with you. Happy Hanukkah! Happy Week!


2 thoughts on “Banana Cupcakes, Two Kinds of Latkes, and A Lot of Slapdash Meals

  1. Gangie December 7, 2015 / 4:37 pm

    I have vague memories of sitting under the shopping cart. It’s fun, not the finger part though.

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