Burned Empanadas, Perfect Palmiers, and the Tuna Noodle Casserole Nobody Wanted

Today I made a poorly constructed volcano and a piggish dog body out of cardboard. I dug up crowded plants in the backyard and moved them to a new bed in the front yard. George ate a whole prune, which will hopefully be helpful later. Henry and George did not hurt each other once! Not one time! We played baseball with Helen and a cheez-it branded plastic bat and rescued a stray ball from behind the neighbor’s fence with a big broom and a folding chair. We looked at the peas, radishes, lettuce, and beets that are sprouting in the vegetable garden. Both boys sat happily with me on the counter while I cooked a fun dinner. And then everybody ate it. Today was amazing.

Here’s what we ate this week.


Mini Apple Muffins. Anytime I make muffins in the giant mini muffin pan that Helen gave me I think of the line from Arrested Development when Lindsay is talking about why she needs a new diamond cream. A million fucking muffins! I made these for a little unschoolers hang out at our house. Lots of friends came over and blew bubbles and made art and fed muffins to the dog and fought over one short length of nylon rope, I don’t know why.


Creamy Chicken Empanadas, Red Cabbage Salad with Dates and Feta. This is what I served my family for dinner. While I was making the empanadas, Henry was asking me about them- were they like the beef ones I made a few weeks ago? What kind of empanadas do you like best? Are these going to set the smoke alarm off? Sort of, any kind, and NO! Stop asking me that! I checked on these empanadas at the 22 minute mark. They looked beautiful, but were a little pale on top so I did the stupidest thing in the world and turned on the broiler to give them some color. I forgot about them for 11 minutes. At which point I smelled them, freaked out, pulled the tray out of the smoky oven {cue the smoke alarm and panicked Henry} and hated myself. I have made this exact same mistake at least three times in the past year and yet I keep doing it! Never walk away from the broiler. Anyway, I tasted one and it was burned and overcooked and somehow still delicious. Is it ridiculous that I’m going to talk about how good these empanadas were? It is, I know. But they’ve got a cream cheese dough that’s super flaky, and cream cheese in the chicken filling too, which, yes. The cabbage salad was ok. Pretty bad I guess, since it’s in second place against a tray full of burned empanadas.


Chorizo, Chickpeas, Kale, Roasted Butternut Squash. This dinner is one of my favorite ever quick meals. This batch was all the better because the greens were from an unschooling friend’s garden, which she brought to little unschoolers on Monday. I wish I were the charming sort of person who thought to bring a bouquet of greens to a friend for no reason. Life goals!


Croissants. These are my first croissants. As it turns out, this is what an undercooked batch looks like. I learned my lesson and left the second batch in until they were a rich deep brown. The process of making these was an absolute joy. You soften butter, beat it with a little flour, then spread it into a perfect 7 inch square with a little offset spatula, firm it up in the freezer, and then fold and roll it into a soft buttery dough over and over again. The dough was so silky and it rolled out to the exact size it needed to be almost effortlessly. You get to measure your dough with rulers! I love this. They take a long rest, then are cut and rolled into crescents, then rest again, then baked. Both my batches were a little dense, a bit less flaky than I was hoping, and I reached out to Mrs. Wheelbarrow to troubleshoot (I won the cookbook where this recipe appears, The Everyday Baker, randomly from Cathy’s blog). She offered her advice and promptly connected me with the cookbook author herself! I felt like a supreme asshole writing to pester her about my novice baking questions but she was absolutely wonderful and helpful too. I’m going to try again as soon as I have an extra pound of butter and can piece together 12 interrupted hours of free time.


Palmiers. You cut a little bit of dough off the corners when you’re making croissants, and those scraps are enough to roll into a whole sheet pan full of palmiers! Which are the greatest. Please ignore Ina’s ridiculous suggestion that you need 2 cups of sugar- preposterous. Just roll the dough out with a few generous fistfuls of sugar on the board and on top of the dough, and add a sprinkle of salt too.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Tuna Noodle Casserole. Oh but the kids hated this one! I improvised the recipe using stuff we had on hand- noodles, bechamel, thyme, tuna, peas, potato chip crust, like my mom used to make. I thought it was delicious. Andy had mentioned last week that he didn’t want to take fish leftovers for lunch at work because reheating it makes the whole place smell and people get mad. I sort of forgot about that immediately, since I never cook fish, and only remembered once he got home and the casserole was almost done. He grimaced and said he’d just eat it cold. Which made me mad. And is ridiculous right? What tyranny is this? Down with the anti-tuna establishment! He did eat the leftovers cold though, so we lost this round.


Rustic Country Bread. Another recipe from The Everyday Baker, and an easy and delicious one at that. You’re supposed to knead the dough for a few minutes after it comes out of the stand mixer, until it passes the windowpane test. I kneaded for a few minutes and tried, not even close. I kneaded more and tried again, a little bit closer. 30 minutes and another dozen tests later, I called it done, even though it only sort of passed. I could feel that the dough got a lot softer and slinkier after a while though. I have so much to learn about baking.


Bread, Summer Sausage, Radishes with Butter. After eating a radish dipped in soft butter made from grassfed cow milk, sprinkled with Maldon sea salt:

Henry: Mmm, this radish is really good!
Me, thrilled: Oh yay! I’m so glad you like it! Would you like another?
Henry: Hm. I was mostly being sarcastic.
Me, mouth agape: ….
Henry: I mean it’s like the Australian mango [which I had bought for him at central market for the outrageous price of $5 and which was decidedly not worth the money]. It’s not good and it’s not bad. It just is.


Meyer Lemon Curd Shortbread Tart. This was the tart from Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s citrus cooking class. When I found a vendor selling meyer lemons at the farmers’ market, I knew just what to do with them. This is it before I piled on huge spoonfuls of whipped cream.


Hummus, Roasted Chickpeas with Smoked Paprika, Crudites. I got this book from the library and was immediately inspired to rip out the grass on the thin strip of land between the road and our sidewalk, which is known, affectionately, as the hellstrip. The first paragraph of the introduction says:

“Many of us own or manage pieces of land that are part of the public landscape, a landscape that other people interact with every day. That public environment uplifts our mood or sends it plummeting, rivets us in the present moment or fails to distract us from our busyness. Attractive scenes invite us to open our senses and our hearts, while ugly or barren surroundings train us to block those sensory messages.”

Do you love that? I love that. It’s so true, too, in my experience. Most of the houses in our neighborhood have lawn yards with the occasional boxwood. But around the corner there’s a small, anarchist cluster of homes that have ripped out the lawn and replaced it with huge flowering rosemary bushes, muhly, lantana, cacti, and succulents. I love walking by these houses and brushing up against the rosemary, watching for the first prickly pear or cactus flower. So I got to work. And the amazing thing, the really amazing thing, is that I was able to get it done while the kids entertained themselves! This is a milestone. Henry and George played together in the front yard while I hoed up the turf grass. Henry got hungry, went inside and got a bag of pretzels, cut the bag open, and came back out and shared them with George. He wanted to play with bubbles and got everything he needed and opened the (literal) gallon of bubble liquid and poured an appropriate amount into a dish without help. I just hoed! It was brilliant. We brought this vegetable and hummus platter to a playdate later in the day, and it was good. I ran out of lemons and made the hummus with lime juice instead which was a little weird.


Crispy Thai Pork. With herbs from the garden and ground pork in the freezer, this was a pantry dinner for a night when I had no planned meal. It’s a lot better with the lettuce and cucumber, but meat and rice is alright too, you guys.


Seven Layer Burrito, Spicy Tostada. I’m sure there are a whole host of people who routinely VSCO cam their taco bell meals, but this was a first for me. Andy and I got to drop the kids off at Andy’s parents house and the two of us drove down to San Antonio for the day to attend PAX, a huge gaming expo. Huzzah! We wanted to grab a quick lunch before we got there so we wouldn’t have to wait in a huge line to spend $14 on a bag of chips and a banana. So, Taco Bell. Andy searched for one on his phone. We pulled up to the place and it turned out to be the fabled Taco Bell/KFC/Pizza Hut of our youth, that Andy and I would visit every single time we went to San Antonio. The thing’s got a giant plastic flag out front heralding passersby at the wonders that await them inside. A meal of breadsticks, biscuits, and chalupas! A personal pan pizza, mashed potatoes, and doritos tacos locos! Excuse me, locos tacos! But being an older, wiser person, I just ordered from the taco bell side of the menu. I am not ashamed to say I enjoyed the hell out of it, even if my burrito was stratified into two distinct layers, one for beans and rice, the other for sour cream and guacamole.


PAX was so much fun. We wandered around the expo hall and did nothing and enjoyed not having kids strapped to our chests. We met an NPL friend for a drink, who happened to be friends with every celebrity present at the convention, all of whom stopped by to say hi(!). We played board games, including this one, which has stolen my heart. The premise of the game is to forage and cook as many mushrooms as you can! You get extra points for higher quality mushrooms like morels or porcini, and extra extra points if you cook them in butter or cider. Come on, that’s adorable.

Now that I stop to think about it, I bet today was so great because I fell asleep with the kids at 9:30 last night and slept until the sun came up around 7. And also maybe because the kids are getting more self-sufficient and I can, if everyone has eaten and pooped successfully, do some of the things I enjoy doing during the day. I mean, this is really something! I hope the sleep + growing up trend continues into next week. If not, I’ll at least have more to complain about here, which is probably more interesting than the ‘life is amazing’ posts. It’s a win-win! See you next week.


2 thoughts on “Burned Empanadas, Perfect Palmiers, and the Tuna Noodle Casserole Nobody Wanted

  1. Abbie February 2, 2016 / 2:30 pm

    What a great week! Except you HAVE to stop broiling things :-). The tart looks amazing, and the bread. Yay you!!!

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