Sometimes I want to write an opening paragraph and other times I have no idea what to say. I’m gonna make the executive decision to make this paragraph optional. This week, I’m opting out. I’ve got lots of fun stuff for you below though, lots of stuff. Lottery tickets outside a gas station, the supreme ennui that leads a person to opt out of garnishing their kale salad with coriander blossoms, and having your ass handed to you after daring to feel smug about your parenting. Also, hot and wild chicken dreams. That last one’s not really in there, but I do talk a little about chicken at the end. Here’s what we ate this week.
Roasted Fennel and White Bean Dip, Sausage Balls. You can’t taste the fennel and the dip gets a crusty spittle around the edge. It tastes like under-flavored hot hummus and I hated it. Andy said it was ok! No matter, I will happily eat a meal of sausage balls. That half-dish of white bean dip is still sitting in our fridge as of this writing.
We had a beautiful day on Monday. It was one of those days where it feels fun to have children. They were playing happily with each other. We spent hours outside together, doing fun experiments that the kids invented, and I had a smug happiness about what a great job we’re doing as parents. This feeling, the feeling that you’re doing something right, at least in parenting, is a harbinger for bad things on the horizon. Fun fact, I wanted to type ombudsman instead of harbinger in that last sentence and looked it up to see if it meant something like harbinger but it doesn’t. It’s not even kind of close.
Pepper-Crusted Yellowfin Tuna with Avocado Orange Salsa, Onigiri, and Stir-Fried Spinach with Peanuts. George was awake for what felt like the whole night, and I was too, sneering angrily that he needed to let me sleep and exhibiting a complete lack of patience. In the morning, of course, he had a fever. We had had plans to have a big fun dinner that evening. I was going to recreate the citrus cooking class meal I ate recently for our friend Dustin’s birthday, I had spent $35 on duck breasts and another $12 or so on pomelos and blood oranges and weird citrus fruits, and had made lemon curd and we had to cancel the whole thing. The day was just horrible. On Monday, I posted a slow-motion video of Henry popping a balloon full of water and I had to talk myself out of captioning it with “back to the grind!” in a sarcastic, boasty way that was meant to convey how joyfully we live our lives. Don’t you hate me? But Tuesday really felt like a grind. I texted Andy to say “Dinner is cancelled, parkour is cancelled, we’re just going to sit here and hate each other instead.” And that’s mostly what we did. The kids fought the whole day. Lack of sleep left me feeling short and angry, and I felt resentful that I didn’t get to cook my fun dinner. Andy mercifully came home early though, and I decided to cook a bunch of different fun stuff (I froze the duck breasts) as a pick-me-up.
The dishes I cooked don’t make any sense together, but I made them all anyway. When I had originally made a menu plan, this meal was going to be teriyaki salmon, rice, and the linked stir-fried spinach with peanut recipe, which I read about on Tipsy Baker and had been meaning to try ever since. But the frozen salmon I buy at Wheatsville was $12 a bag and the frozen tuna was $7. And tuna shouldn’t be cheaper than salmon right? And this was legit sustainable tuna, not the stuff that comes packed in a can of dolphin blood. Fresh tuna is fancy and salmon is mundane, everyone. So I bought the cheaper tuna and figured I’d do something Asian-y with it. I ended up finding a recipe in The New Best Recipe that used all stuff I had on hand, and used up some of that mountain of citrus I bought for the dinner we wouldn’t be having after all. I swapped out onigiri for plain rice because Henry is obsessed with the stuff and I wanted to see how easy it was (it’s super easy), and taken all together it was dinner. Everybody ate it, and the mood in the house improved. We went to bed immediately after and slept all night.
Banana Bread. Wednesday was dark and stormy and wonderful. We stayed inside all day and listened to the rain and made banana bread and ciabatta together. I remember nothing else and I’ve written about this banana bread approximately 800 times already, so I’m gonna stop talking.
Creamy French Lentils with Mushrooms and Kale, Ciabatta. I had put this on the menu plan a couple of weeks earlier, and bought the stuff for it too, but kept putting it off. I guess a dark part of me didn’t want to eat a bowl of lentils and kale made creamy with “plant milk.” By the time I got around to making it, one of my mushroom containers was moldy. Did you know mushrooms could get moldy? That seems weird to me, that a fungus can grow other different kinds of fungi. I threw that package away and made the recipe anyway, even though the other package of mushrooms was probably suspect. My picture won’t inspire anyone to make this, but you ought to click through and look at the photo of the dish on The First Mess (I accidentally typed The Fist Mess at first, which would probably lead you to a very different sort of blog)- it will inspire you and it should- this dish is beautiful. You sort of make a creamy mushroom soup and then toss it with tender lentils and shredded kale, and it’s good and vegan, unless you eat it with warm, thickly-buttered bread like we did.
Lemon Bars. Since I had extra lemon curd on hand from our not-party on Tuesday (which is obviously not a problem), I made lemon bars to take to my sister-in-law on her moving day. Joanna and her family are moving to Buda! To a farm! They’re going to raise pigs and make honey and plant an orchard and do all the most wonderful and exciting things and I’m so excited to be close enough to them to benefit from all these things (think of all that pork, you guys!), and to get a taste of what it’s like to run a farm without actually having to run a farm. If you’re interested in following along on their adventures, check out Blue Earth Farm on facebook. More updates as they happen! Meanwhile, lemon bars. These are made gluten free with cup 4 cup, and the crust is a sort of standard shortbread, but with an egg yolk thrown in, which makes the crust beautifully rich and tender, but still sturdy enough to support the weight of that jiggly curd. They’re from The Everyday Baker and I wish the recipe were online for you!
Lacinto Kale and Pecorino Salad. I also brought them this kale salad and a mountain of honey ham. I feel like a super fan mentioning Tipsy Baker twice in one week, but I loved her assessment of Heidi Swanson (this is her salad recipe) in this recent post, where she takes issue with Swanson’s suggestion to garnish a dish of yogurt with rose petals or “a bit of bee pollen” for being offensively twee. I love twee, but I just don’t live that life. I can’t imagine a time when I’ll care to garnish anything with rose petals. Even this salad, which is actually pretty hearty and straightforward, calls for a garnish of “any herb flowers you might have.” I actually have a garden full of the ‘cilantro blossoms’ she specified in the recipe, but I was unwilling to walk out into the garden to snip them for this. So maybe laziness is the main factor separating me from a Heidi-like lifestyle.
Pepper Jack Quesadillas, Avocado and Lime. Are you squinting? This photograph is the last of the long dark (72 degree) winter. With the start of daylight saving time, I should be pretty much guaranteed to have natural light for all my pictures, and things will hopefully look a little better around here. As a celebration, I decided to max out the exposure and saturation in this sad quesadilla picture to go out in a bad-lighting, retina-burning blaze of glory.
Skirt Steak Fajitas, Smoked Paprika Sweet Potato Fries, Black Beans. Fajitas were on the docket for Friday night, but it rained all day again (not that I’m complaining! I want every drop of the stuff), so I broiled ’em. I’m going to be exiled from the state for fajita negligence a la Matthew Sadacca. Not only did I miss out on the smoky flavor of charcoal-grilled fajitas, I set off the damn smoke alarm, which is Henry’s waking nightmare. He stood outside the back door and screamed in abject terror while Andy fanned at the detector to get the wailing to stop. Dinner was otherwise good and uneventful.
First Springtime Strawberries. I was so excited to see these at the farmers market. I left them on the counter for a few hours, and they made the whole kitchen smell incredible. Then I cut them up and dusted them with sugar and served them at lunchtime. And do you know what? I had to needle and cajole my kids into trying one. I thought to myself, because I am an insane person, that if there’s ever a zombie apocalypse or the global food market ends because of peak oil/climate change/what have you, then they’ll be sorry they didn’t eat all the warm local strawberries they could when they had a chance. That’s fucked up, isn’t it, but that’s what I thought.
We went to a friend’s birthday party down in Buda in the afternoon and then decided to go out to dinner with my sister and her family. It was a Saturday night, the start of spring break, and maybe the start of SXSW(? I have no idea when this starts), so we wanted to stay close to Buda and not risk battling throngs of people with three tired preschoolers in tow, which meant our choices were limited. So we went to The Texican Cafe. We grew up going to this place, eating soft flour tortillas out of the plastic warmer with big pats of land o’lakes butter, and I loved it then, but it is objectively not great. The same sort of generic Tex Mex you’d get anywhere, really. Andy and I weren’t all that hungry because we had eaten both our own slices of cake and the boys’ slices of cake 30 minutes earlier, so we just split an appetizer plate. It came with 4 jalapeno poppers, which were, delightfully, resting in a pool of warm pepper jelly(!), 4 chicken taquitos (I will eat taquitos in any form, from any source), and little red tortilla chip bowls filled with queso (100% melted velveeta with no pesky vegetables to get in the way), sour cream, and guacamole. So basically, I loved it. Helen even ordered us a round of flour tortillas with butter, for old times sake. Also Andy had a margarita in a glass large enough to hold a baby head. After dinner we walked down the strip mall sidewalk to the gas station at the end, the U-Pak-M, where we bought ring pops and lottery tickets and sat on the sidewalk in the warm evening twilight for an hour. The stuff dreams are made of. I really mean that. Also, Henry won $9 in his outrageously complicated Bingo scratch-off game!
Roast Chicken with Dill and Leeks. The Piglet is upon us, and oh I love it. Food52 starts with a list of their favorite cookbooks from the last year, asks a series of judges to pit one against another, tournament-style, and ultimately crowns a champion. The judgments are thrilling. Either because the writing is fun, or innovative, or informative, or because it’s not any of these things and some dark-hearted know-it-alls tear the judge to ribbons in the comment section. Those are fun to read too. Judges are told that they must test at least two recipes from each book, but woe to the person who does the minimum! That’s sure to get you at least 90 comments seething with outrage at the presumption that you could judge a book by cooking two measly recipes from it. I’m secretly in that camp too, though I’m not the type that would ever log in to a website to berate someone for disagreeing. Anyway, so far this piglet season, I’ve added three books to my Amazon wish list: The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, The Violet Bakery Cookbook, and A Bird in the Hand: Chicken Recipes for Every Day and Every Mood. Before the reviews, I had zero interest in a book all about chicken, but I have become a woman obsessed. Every recipe mentioned sounds glorious. Here’s the review that put it on the top of my wishlist. I hope to buy the book soon, but in the meantime, I googled around for recipes from the book that are already online, and found this one- a roast chicken with dill, potatoes, and leeks. I had bought a bunch of dill at the farmers market because it smelled intoxicating to me, but didn’t know what to do with it, so this fit the bill nicely. The preparation was easy, with the exception of smearing a dill butter all over the raw bird- the butter, though softened, absolutely would not stick to the bird and I ended up dropping wads of the stuff anywhere I could get it to balance without slipping off. Oh also, the linked recipe is from the UK and I had to look up celsius to fahrenheit conversions and also had to measure out what 4 centimeters looked like and also guess what “put it on the hob” means (I presume it’s what they call a stove burner?) but you guys, I am smitten. Smitten, I say. The smell from the oven while this thing was cooking is extraordinary! The potatoes and leeks are swathed in a rich sauce, bright from lemon and dill, deep and roasty from chicken stock and drippings, and the chicken is absolutely perfectly moist and crisp-skinned and glorious. I loved it beyond measure. Andy said it was good, but not great, because he doesn’t love dill. Bah. If you love dill, you should make this immediately.
I’m out, y’all. Have a great spring break! We’re going to go see Zootopia and spend the rest of the week actively avoiding other spring-breakers. Until next week!