We went around the table on New Year’s Day and talked about our resolutions. George planned to “lie in the grass in the front yard” and Henry vowed to spend less time reading and more time with his family(???). Andy is not a real resolution-y person, but he does want to spend more time on personal video game projects this year and also learn one of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances piano duets with me (imagine I’ve inserted lots of heart eyes emojis here). I am a resolution-y person. I love it! It’s a time for action! And change! Fresh starts and renewed commitments! I didn’t set the bar too high this year, though. I want to eat more vegetables and go to the dentist. I haven’t been to the dentist in three years, so, it’s round about time for that. So I called this week and made an appointment. That’s one resolution done- I am a god among men. For the other resolution, I joined the JBG CSA, and they’re gonna deliver a giant box of vegetables to my door every week that I will then be forced to incorporate into my meal plan, so that’s definitely gonna work out, right? No chance I’ll let those vegetables grow old and withered in the crisper drawer before eventually throwing them in the compost pile and canceling the CSA delivery. No. Chance. Also, speaking of CSAs we’re in the Blue Earth Farm chicken one too! So I’ll have a box of chicken and a box of vegetables and be all set.
My only other New Year idea is to spend one hour a night doing something productive. Andy has dubbed it (without a hint of mockery, I’m sure!) the “Power Hour.” When the kids finally go to bed I have so many things I should work on and I want to do exactly none of them. I think the hardest part is getting started, especially with the prospect of working on something during all my free-time evening hours looming ahead of me. So I’m hoping this “power hour” idea will help me get a little accomplished every night and also give me permission to not spend the whole night on it. But last night I skipped the power hour altogether and Andy and I made cocktails and played Rummikub (I won, but barely) and Morels (Andy won, again! I have proven to be a remarkably poor fictional mushroom forager). So that was good too.
Here are some things we ate and babies we held and rocks we moved!
Latkes with Apple Sauce and Sour Cream, Hummus, Olives, Pita. I made over a hundred latkes this Hanukkah and only photographed these ones, which I weirdly ate with a lot of hummus. I follow the recipe formula in the link, except with potato starch instead of flour which makes them lighter and crisper and also gluten free.
Easy Alfredo with Roasted Broccoli, Hot Dog Bun Garlic Bread. Andy is a ride or die Mrs. Baird’s hot dog bun enthusiast, so when I came home from Wheatsville with real-bread-bakery-highfalutin hot dog buns a few weeks ago they were soundly rejected and I froze them and turned them into garlic bread instead. This alfredo is the best of all time. And this dinner had broccoli in it so it’s not a total loss.
Creamy Tomato and Fennel Soup, Roasted Brussels Sprouts. This soup is my everything. It is 50% cream. It is exquisite. You can make it with coconut cream instead of heavy cream and then it’s Whole 30 and also still delicious! But obviously not as delicious as the real one.
Grilled Old Ham and Cheese, a Salad. George has woken up every morning for the last six months and asked for a ham sandwich, so I was in the habit of buying a lot of ham. That all ended a couple of weeks ago, when he abruptly switched over to butter and jam sandwiches instead, so Andy and I ate sandwiches packed full of old freshly-expired ham along with a salad. That’s why this picture is here. I am 100% more likely to photograph my lunch and share it with you if it has green bits in it.
Kale Caesar with Broken Eggs and Crushed Croutons. I got the Smitten Kitchen Every Day book from the library and I have really loved it so far. This salad has a super easy cheater’s caesar dressing made with mayo and worcestershire sauce that tastes just fine to me. Also I liked the toasted breadcrumbs and soft-boiled eggs.
Crispy Tofu and Broccoli with Sesame-Peanut Pesto. Also from Smitten Kitchen Every Day, this is the recipe that convinced me to buy the book. It was fantastic and easy, and Henry loved it, declaring it his #4 favorite dinner. A Henry favorite that includes both vegetables and protein definitely earns a place in the dinner rotation.
Roasted Chicken with Miso Butter, Miso Turnips, Fried Rice. I’ve had this recipe for miso turnips, from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Easy cookbook (which I am a slightly-apologetic fan of), in my head since I first saw it. But I hadn’t seen Japanese turnips anywhere so I hadn’t tried it. A lady at the Buda farmers’ market was selling big lovely bunches of them a couple of weeks ago, so I bought some and slathered them in buttery miso maple slurry. They are wonderful! I doubled the miso butter mixture and used the surplus to spread on a roasted chicken, which was also pretty rad.
Tiny Quiches. Fresh off the high of making three dozen tiny pot pies, I decided to make four dozen tiny quiches to bring to my sister’s ornament making Christmas party. I forgot that quiche crusts have to be blind-baked though, until after I had made the pie dough and the fillings and was thereby committed to this task, so I had to line all these tiny pie cups with parchment and fill them with beans and pie weights and it took an irresponsible amount of time, but the crusts did turn out beautifully. The only trouble was that the quiche shells, once filled with that magical onion confit, held only about a teaspoon of custard, which is not nearly enough. They still tasted good, but the crust-to-filling ratio wasn’t ideal. Not everything should be tiny.
Christmas Party Line-Up. Isn’t Adelaide’s side-eye the best?
We got together again for a no-kids allowed crafting tea party, because my dear friend Amanda was in town! We ended up doing no crafting (we had planned to make tiny embroidered lavender pillows! So twee!) and just ate a bunch of snacks instead. I made this assorted cookies and treats platter and a bowl of black bean and corn salsa and Helen photographed them, which is why they look better than all the other pictures in this post.
Chewy Molasses Cookies, Brown Butter Rice Crispy Treats, Gingerbread Houses, Sea Salt Caramels, Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies. I brought treat tins to my neighbors too because I’m the best person in the world. This is a box of all my favorite things. I made three different gingerbread cookie recipes this month in search of one that tastes as magical as the Sweetish Hill Gingerbread Person cookies. The first one wasn’t chewy enough nor adequately spiced. The second was much too dry. I finally found what I was looking for in The New Best Recipe Thick and Chewy Gingerbread Cookies recipe. It’s not online near as I can tell, so Imma share it here. A good gingerbread man is hard to find! That’s a stupid joke for you.
Thick and Chewy Gingerbread Cookies
from The New Best Recipe
- 3 cups (15 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup packed (5 1/4 ounces) dark brown sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened but still cool, cut into 12 pieces
- 3/4 cup light or dark molasses
- 2 tablespoons milk
- In a food processor, process the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt until combined, about 10 seconds. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture and process until the mixture is sandy and resembles very fine meal, about 15 seconds. With the machine running, gradually add the molasses and milk; process until the dough is evenly moistened and forms a soft mass, about 10 seconds.
- Scrape the dough onto a work surface, divide in half. Working with one portion at a time, roll the dough 1/4 inch thick between two large sheets of parchment paper. Leaving the dough sandwiched between the parchment, stack the dough on a baking sheet and freeze until firm, 15-20 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Remove one dough sheet from the freezer; place on the work surface. Peel off the top parchment sheet and gently lay it back in place. Flip the dough over; peel off and discard the second parchment sheet. Cut the dough with your preferred cookie cutter and transfer the shapes to the prepared baking sheet. Bake the cookies until set in the centers and the dough barely retains an imprint when touched very gently with a finger, 8-11 minutes. Do not overbake. Cool the cookies on the sheet pan set on a wire rack. Repeat with second sheet of dough.
We also made terrible tiny gingerbread houses! I highly recommend this royal icing, which has rum in it and tastes like it. Speaking of Stella Parks (that’s her icing recipe), her book Bravetart, is coming in the mail today and I’m super excited about it. Homemade nutter butters, potato doughnuts, cakes, cookies, candies, pies. It’s all there, you guys. She puts potato flour in her yellow cake recipe to achieve the moist fluffy texture you get from a box mix! Science! It’s gonna be great.
Update: Oh man, y’all, it came and it surpasses my wildest dreams for a baking cookbook. I’ve seen other bakers recommend using Gold Medal flour (Christina Tosi, for example) and I was dismissive of it- why use that garbage grocery store flour when you could use King Arthur? But Parks explains in the ingredients section that White Lily flour is made of soft white wheat, which works well for tender biscuits, King Arthur is made with hard red wheat, which works well for chewy breads and that both of these are at opposite ends of the “all-purpose” spectrum. Gold Medal is made from both white and red wheat, so it’s a true all-purpose flour. Isn’t that neat? The recipes provide the same degree of attention to detail. The apple pie recipe has you macerate the apples to tenderize them, thicken the juices with a precise amount of a specific starch, and then cook the pie low and slow, because the apples get mushy at temperatures beyond 195 degrees, so the resulting pie is perfectly slice-able and features tender apples that hold their shape without gloppiness. The headnotes are so fun, and so are the notes on the history behind the recipes in the book. I’m gonna read the rest of the headnotes after I finish this post and then I want to make each and every recipe in the thing.
Also I just realized I should acknowledge George’s tongue in this picture. There, I’ve done it!
Speaking of moist and fluffy delicious things, (that transition made more sense before I added my update on the cookbook and acknowledgement of George’s tongue) look at this fat baby! Let’s all bite great greedy hunks out of his upper arms! Also, my mom looks cute! She and my dad were here for Christmas and we ate a lot of food and held this baby and saw Coco and had a good time!
Here’s my dad with the big fat baby!
We spent a lot of time sitting around and admiring the baby.
Chorizo and Green Chile Breakfast Casserole. Aka Southwestern Frittata. I tasted this breakfast casserole at a party Amanda hosted a few months ago- her Aunt Debbie made it and graciously shared the recipe with me. I brought it to Andy’s parents house on Christmas morning and it was just the perfect thing. I’m really into the texture that the sliced corn tortillas add to the casserole, and I’m a huge fan of chorizo, and this is naturally gluten free! It’s got it all.
Chorizo and Green Chile Breakfast Casserole
- 2 cups chopped mild green chiles (or 1 cup chopped roasted green chiles)
- 6 corn tortillas, sliced into 1/2 inch strips
- 1 pound chorizo (the fresh Mexican kind)
- 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 9 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 large ripe tomatoes or 1 pint chopped grape tomatoes
- sour cream and salsa verde, for serving
Grease a 9×13 baking dish and line the bottom with half of the green chiles, half the tortilla strips, half the chorizo, and half the cheese. Repeat the layering. Whisk the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Pour over the layers evenly. Slice or dice the tomatoes and arrange over the casserole. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight to cure. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake, uncovered, for 45-50 minutes, until the filling is set. Serve with sour cream and salsa verde.
Aren’t these the Christmas-iest kids you ever saw? They’re killing it!
One of my big projects over Christmas break was designing and working on a new backyard for the Big Yawp location that will be up and running soon. I use the term “designing” loosely because my ideas are mostly stolen from two places- my friend Amanda, who made a similar plan for my own backyard, and the Wildflower Center. When we started, that yard was just bermuda grass and weeds and poison ivy and invasive plants. After a work party last week, we’ve got all the grass and weeds out and repurposed to create a berm (the crescent-shaped hill on the top of the grass circle in the drawing), invasive plants and poison ivy removed, and trees trimmed. Still lots to do but I think it’s such fun to get to makeover a space and to have so many people pitch in to help to make the work go quickly!
We spent another day moving giant rocks from a pile of free rocks in Buda to the Yawp Backyard, where they will become seats around a fire pit, climbing rocks around a slide set into the berm, and part of the dry river bed along the right side property line. And we looked good doing it (see above). I broke my phone by trying to move a rock and falling over and landing hard on the phone while it was in my back pocket, that was bad. Helen and Jordan brought me a Whataburger chorizo taquito, that was good. And we got to push giant rocks off the back of a trailer with our own strong human arms, also good.
Flour Bakery’s Famous Banana Bread. Y’all, it’s SO fluffy. I had heard that the Flour banana bread was great, but had never tried it. It’s got all the normal banana bread ingredients, but the technique is wildly different. You whisk eggs and sugar for a long time, and then emulsify oil into the fluffed up eggy sugar stuff and then fold in the dry ingredients. (If you have a stand mixer you can whisk the eggs for 5 minutes, if you hand-whisk, it’s 10). This bit of trickery produces a banana bread that is so much lighter than any other kind I’ve tried. It’s great.
Fried Rice with Crispy Kale and Carrots. Anytime we have leftover rice it becomes fried rice for Henry’s breakfast or lunch or breakfast and lunch.
Roast Chicken, Yellow-Eyed Pea Baked Beans, Country Collard Greens, Cornbread. The collard greens and cornbread are both from Melba’s American Comfort, a surprise Christmas present from my mom, and both are the best in their respective categories that I have ever made. The cornbread is of the sugary variety, and is fluffy and buttery and very nice. The collard greens are of the soupy variety and have just the perfect amount of vinegar added at the end for a nice tang. She calls for cooking the collard greens with smoked turkey wings which I didn’t have and will never have, but I did have a big chunk of almost-all fat smoked brisket that I’d put in the freezer to save and add to pots of beans, so I added a chunk of that and it made a perfectly salty, smoky delicious pot of greens. This cookbook is full of indulgences, many of which, like the honey bun cake, are just too rich for my blood. To give you an idea of the level of extravagance, the first entry in the Salads section of the index is “candied bacon for.” But there’s a lot of stuff I will cook too. Her sweet potato pie is supposed to be great. And I made the salmon croquettes for lunch today with a can of Trader Joe’s salmon that’s been kicking around the pantry for half a year or more and I super loved those too. I think it’s a good book.
Country Collard Greens
from Melba’s American Comfort
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup water
- 2 pounds fresh collard greens
- 1/2 pound smoked turkey wings or a ham hock or any chunk of smoked meat
- 2 yellow onions, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons sea salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce of your choice
- Bring the chicken stock and water to a boil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat.
- Wash the greens thoroughly in cold running water and cut off the tough stem ends. Lay the greens on top of one another and cut them into 1/2 inch wide slices.
- Put them in the boiling stock/water mixture along with all the remaining ingredients. Stir, reduce the heat to low, and cover.
- Cook on low for 45-60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until the greens are tender.
Classic Corn Bread
from Melba’s American Comfort
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/3 cups yellow cornmeal, plus extra for dusting the pan
- 4 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3 eggs
- 1 2/3 cups buttermilk
- 2/3 cup melted unsalted butter, plus butter for greasing the pan
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- In a bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, combine the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, and sugar. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture.
- Grease a 9-inch cast iron skillet or a 9×13 inch baking pan with butter and dust it with a little cornmeal. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 30 minutes (mine was done in 25, but I started with a hot pan), until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cornbread cool a bit before slicing and serving.
These kids grew these crystals with their own four hands and a couple crystal growing kits. The water was so murky in George’s crystal jar and the crystal formed below the water line, so we were super worried his hadn’t grown. We were all delighted to discover his beautiful crystal lurking below the surface. Thanks for the kits, mom!
George showing off more of his Christmas presents. His dream of owning a second pair of purple scissors (to be used to cut open peanut shells) came true.
Leftover Collard Greens and Potlikker Soup. This was what was left in the bottom of the collard greens pot- I heated it up and ate it as a soup for lunch the next day and it’s up there with the most delicious things I’ve ever made for myself.
Aren’t these a lot of wonderful things? Good cookbooks and fun new recipes and moving rocks and purple scissors and red silk capes and very fat babies? It’s an embarrassment of riches, really, and I’m grateful for all of it. I’m wishing you a New Year full of pleasantries and good food and Whataburger chorizo taquitos.