Carnitas, Okonomiyaki with Bacon, Porky Egg Rolls, and a Birthday Brunch with 62 Discrete Pieces of Pig Products

My post on breakfast tacos for the AFBA city guide is due next week, and I’m trying to shovel in as many tacos as possible before that time. I’ve got a list of 15 places I wanted to document and so far this month we’ve eaten at eight of them. That means this is gonna be a taco-heavy week. No way will I get through all seven though. I’m shooting for four. It also means I have to remember how to write a post about food, as opposed to the melodramatic child-rearing journal my blog has become (and which I prefer writing, don’t get me wrong!). The post will likely bring more traffic to my blog than it’s ever seen, but it will be people who just want to look at pictures of tacos, not hear about who punched who because of what at the HEB buddy buck machine. So how to be interesting without being overly personal? I don’t know yet. My very clever friend Molly suggested comparing each taco place to a famous Austin landmark, which is a cute gimmick. Like Veracruz All Natural could be barton springs because parts of it are awesome (the migas taco/lying under the trees while a naked hippie practices capoeira next to you) and parts of it are shitty (the overcooked and crumbled egg and chorizo taco/the frigid water and aggressive squirrels that will steal the giant plastic clamshell of cookies you’re not supposed to have in there in the first place and drag it up a nearby tree). Does that work? I think it doesn’t. Maybe I’ll devise a simple rating system of whether or not the taco is worth punching your brother in the back for, and that would cover the taco part while simultaneously giving the visitors a chance to get a taste of life on this blog. I’m just thinking out loud here. Let’s get to the food. Here’s what we ate this week.

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Carnitas and Guacamole. I’ve been trying to take notes on what we do every day so that when it comes time to write my blog post I have a roadmap for what I can talk about. This week I took no notes, and so I have to search for clues to try to remember what we did. My memory is total garbage. I look back at photos to see if I took any extra (non-food) ones that can help. From this day, there’s one of the kids lying in the tall grass next to Stumpy, the foot long stump of 2014’s Christmas tree that Henry and George play with occasionally. He can jump great distances- Henry carries him halfway down the block- and he likes to take naps, reclined in the grass. Dear Stumpy! Anyway, that’s not much of a story so what other clues are there? This pork! How could I manage a six hour pork roast on a Monday? Ah, it was President’s Day and Andy was home! The day was notable for me because I got new glasses. I mean because it was a beautiful day spent in the company of my family. I only really remember the glasses though. My old ones would slip down my nose and didn’t stay on my head because the kids used to grab them and bend the arms the wrong way. And when I would try to clean them the lens would pop out. I hated them. The kids were with us at the glasses place, and we read the only kids magazine, a High Five, if you’re familiar, cover-to-cover in about 8 minutes. It was hard to keep them from tearing the place apart, but still, I took my sweet time picking out my new frames while Andy entertained them. I tried on so many glasses. I’ve worn narrow rectangular frames since I got glasses in the sixth grade and I yearned to wear some of the oversized hipster-y frames I admire on other people. This place had one thin mirror in the center of all the glasses cases, so I’d pick out a frame, walk to the mirror, scrutinize my face, and then walk back and start the process all over again. Is the one mirror thing a standard glasses store feature? Is there some psychological reason for this, like the no clocks in casinos thing, to exploit the consumer? Is it to try to discourage you from trying on a lot of glasses? You’ll have to get up a lot earlier in the morning to discourage me, glasses store! I narrowed it down to two: a big hipster-y one that felt strange and new on my face, and a pair very much like every other pair I’ve ever owned. Andy picked the boring pair, which made me lean toward the hipster pair because I’m contrary. I asked an employee for help and she said the hipster ones brought “a lot of energy” to my face, which has to be one of four canned lines she uses when people ask her for help, right? Anyway, it worked. I picked the weird pair. Then we came home and ate a big pile of crispy pork. I follow the roast pork recipe in the link, then shred the thing in the skillet, leaving all the fat in the pan, and put it back in the oven for a bit to crisp up. It’s the bee’s knees. Unless it’s the knees of all bees, cuz then it’s the bees’ knees.

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Ham Sandwich, Buttered Noodles, Carnitas in a Tortilla. We drove out to Cedar Park for an unschooling friend’s birthday party. I made another platter of raspberry buttermilk cupcakes to share. It looked exactly like the one from last week’s blog post so I didn’t take a picture. It was such a wonderful party! The kids played outside- pulled each other in wagons, swung on a big disc swing, and got glitter tattoos and balloon animals. I got to sit with some cool people and eat a pile of delicious snacks while they did that stuff, so all the better. It was such a beautiful house too, on an acre of land and with a big pantry with bulk ingredients lined up in tidy canisters- I love that shit. Henry had one complaint about the design though- the bathroom had a black toilet. He was totally weirded out by it but eventually gave in. I thought about making a joke here about needing to work on toilet diversity training with him but then thought that might sound racist so I’ll just stop there. We stayed  until the sun went down and then hurried home to throw together this half-assed dinner.

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Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai, Pork and Cabbage Egg Rolls. The linked egg roll recipe contains neither pork nor cabbage, and are baked instead of fried like mine, but are otherwise the same. I’m aware that that’s a lot of changes, but it worked. They were so good. The pad thai is surprisingly easy, and good too, I think, though it was the clear loser in a match against the egg rolls.

We spent the day at the wildflower center. We used to go to the sprouts program there every week but stopped because Henry started to hate the structure of the class- he’d rather just walk around and learn on his own than have an instructor create sensory bins and focused activities. I have to say, I sort of agree. We all enjoyed the class this week, which started out with making crayon rubbings of plastic prehistoric life molds, reading a silly story about a stegosaurus, and going on a scavenger hunt nature walk of prehistoric stuff that’s still around, like fossils, ferns, and cypress trees. But on the walk, the kids would stop to look at something, a plant or a flower or something, and the volunteer would point out that we were getting too far behind the group. Stop observing nature kids and catch up so the teacher can observe it for you! I thought that was dumb. Isn’t the whole point to encourage kids to stop and investigate the world around them? After the class we stayed another four hours and had so much fun that we’re going to try to get back to going every week again.

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Okonomiyaki with Roast Pork and Bacon. Let’s not beat around the bush here- I know I did a really shitty job with that sauce squirting. And it’s not really a sauce, it’s just mayonnaise squeezed out of a ziploc bag by an inexpert hand. There’s a red sauce too which is basically just ketchup and a lot of worcestershire sauce, so it’s a classy operation from top to bottom. The sauces and brilliant idea to top the pancakes with bacon strips comes from the linked recipe, but otherwise I followed my standard one with all of the leftover carnitas folded in, because why not.

This was Thursday, the day of the week my mother-in-law comes to hang out with the kids so I can not hang out with the kids. It is the best thing. I got to go out and eat breakfast tacos with Molly and lost track of time as we ate the crispiest tortilla chips and talked about how we’re unrelatable as human beings. Then I got to go grocery shopping by myself and to pick up my new glasses. I tried to take a selfie to send to my mom and Helen and failed miserably. I held the camera 12 inches from my face and smiled widely and looked like a serial killer. I tried to hold the phone above me like I’ve seen Helen do, but then I just looked like a serial killer photographed from above. I gave up and sent the first one, but this is something I’d like to learn how to do properly. Helen, please teach me.

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Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwiches. The next two dinners were slap dash ones because I had lots of stuff to cook and make for a birthday party we hosted on Sunday. Still, a grilled ham and cheese is delicious, and I stand by it, the pile of potato chips, and the one sad orange wedge.

George fell asleep on the way home from a playdate where we made butter (I got to keep the buttermilk! I was so excited.) and where Henry grappled with the concept of using your words instead of headbutting people, which meant we were gonna be up late. So we made the best of it and took the kids to South Park Meadows after dinner, which I’ve complained about before, and is not a meadow, but instead a sprawling strip mall where a meadow once stood. What a shitty name for the place. But it’s the home of my beloved Joann Fabric store and I needed ribbon and pretty teal papers for the party, and I got to go there by myself while Andy watched the kids on the playground, which was crawling with kids in spite of it being totally dark. Before I had Henry, I remember seeing kids out with their parents at the grocery store or somewhere when it was late, and judging them for it, because kids are supposed to have structure and predictable schedules and early bedtimes. I cringe at my asshole-iness. I knew nothing about what it was like to have kids and was still sure that I knew the best thing for these strangers. Now I know better. Sometimes your kid takes a nap at three o’clock and then stays up until midnight and you have got to, got to get out of the house. After the playground, we went to a bubble tea place nearby to get one to share. When I asked the guy if any of the tea drinks were caffeine free he somewhat patronizingly explained that if it has tea in it, it’s gonna have caffeine. So he made us a bubble non-tea that was just coconut cream and a whole lot of sugar and tapioca pearls. It was rad.

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Ham Sandwich, Quesadillas, Leftover Frozen Pizza, Toasted PBJ. Andy and I spent Saturday getting ready for the party- him mowing the lawn, putting the final coat of polyurethane on a patio box he built for a gift, and watching the kids for hours while I cooked everything that could be made ahead. We had breakfast tacos for lunch, and then another phoned-in dinner of simple carbs on a plate.

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Sunday! Time for the big party! Andy’s mom, my mother-in-law, is having a milestone birthday on the 22nd and we wanted to celebrate her. Mary does so much for us. Every week she gives me the greatest gift in the world- time for myself. The kids adore her and so do I. I got real, real lucky in the mother-in-law department and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Turns out that sign was a little crooked? Also, I’m so so sad I added those squiggly things at the bottom of the p’s in happy. They are the worst!

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Another set-up shot. Thanks for the gorgeous flowers, Joanna!

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The bulk of the spread. Turns out 30 sausages is not enough for 13 people when one of those people is Henry. He ate only sausage and pineapple. George is a bacon man.

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Spinach and Comte Quiche with Gluten Free Buttermilk Crust. I used the buttermilk from the homemade butter activity in the crust and should have added bacon to the quiche but didn’t want to sacrifice any of the 32 slices I had on hand.

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Crispy Herbed Potatoes, Kale Salad with Cranberries, Pecans, and Parmesan. I’ve got nothing to say about these things. I liked the potatoes and I ate some of the salad.

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Double Coconut Granola. It’s more of the granola I keep shoving down your throat! It’s a good one.

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Fruit. The blackberries and raspberries went quickly. There was lots of everything else leftover. People seemed suspicious of the oranges cut in rounds.

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Deviled Eggs with Tarragon. Making deviled eggs is a sure sign I love somebody. I hate peeling hard boiled eggs more than anything in the world, but I’ll do it for you. I add a splash of champagne vinegar to the yolk mixture because I think the eggs are better with a little acid. The recipe is otherwise perfect, IMHO.

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Apple Muffins, Raspberry Zebra Cheesecake with Gingersnap Pecan Crust. The muffins are the same muffins I always make, but more enjoyable because I served them with soft salted plugra butter. But the cheesecake is new and was so much fun. It didn’t crack on top and was insanely creamy, and pretty easy all things considered.

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I ate another slice after dinner and took a picture to show you the swirls inside, which are not nearly as well defined and lovely as the linked recipe’s photo, but are fun all the same.

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Dinner. We ate brunch again.

Sending you all my love on your birthday tomorrow, Mary! You are the knees of all the bees.

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2 thoughts on “Carnitas, Okonomiyaki with Bacon, Porky Egg Rolls, and a Birthday Brunch with 62 Discrete Pieces of Pig Products

  1. lolakb February 25, 2016 / 1:08 am

    After reading Arielle’s weekly blog, I’m always hungry, always smiling, and always happy that writes so well and with so much enthusiasm and amusement. 😄

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