Soon the whole state will be full of drive-thru wheatgrass shacks

I would like to dedicate today's post to my marble rolling pin. In the past week, it has smashed peppercorns, dried chilis, and cloves, lightly crushed cumin seeds, and flattened out pork loin. Actually, it....hardly ever does any rolling. It's more my beating things pin. Do you hear that, potential home invaders? Anyway. You, sir, are a giant among kitchen tools. A giant that I enjoy smacking against stuff.

Ol' Smashy.

Having lived in Louisiana for four years, I really expected Louisiana's Cooking Secrets to provide one of the more sinful of the week's recipes when I first grabbed it, but although the phrase "Smothered Boneless Porkchops with Lentils" has a slightly lardy feel to it, it was really a light meal, especially by recent standards.

This is that famously healthy Louisiana cuisine everyone's always talking about.

I put ranch dressing on the salad to keep us from getting too disoriented.

Lean pork, lots of veggies, lentils, and about 1/10th the olive oil of a Jamie Oliver recipe. What's up, Louisiana? How's a body supposed to stomach six daiquiris on a meal like this?

In other news, Anna is going to start reading just as soon as she can get the right angle on this thing.

To be cont.


Where there's smoke I was too lazy to clarify my butter

Good news: our first stint as playdate hostesses passed without any significant trauma or breakdowns. I was a little concerned that our house wasn't really toddler-ready, since my strategy in dealing with Anna so far has been to randomly move one small item at a time to higher ground. And I think when someone asked yesterday if my kitchen was baby-proof I gave her a "sort of" hand wave, which for future reference means: "couldn't be less baby-proof if I had a tiger crammed in the dishwasher." But still nothing disastrous, and I don't even think anyone drew blood. So there's my rousing endorsement for bringing your child to my house. Chances are neither of you will leave bleeding.

I was also wondering how Anna would deal with sharing her toys. Generally no problem, but when it came to the Big Red Car, she got a little protective. She didn't seem to mind if another kid sat in it, but she sort of hovered the whole time all, "Dude, please be careful with the clutch."

She's just checking to make sure nobody messed up her ride.

What do I do at the end of a long hard day? I eat eggs for dinner. And I suggest you do the same. In this case, we had hard-boiled eggs in a Moghlai sauce from Foolproof Indian Cooking. I'm making sure to specify the name of the sauce, because when I told Dan we were having egg curry he promptly informed me that "Alton says there's no such thing as curry." Sassy! And kind of inaccurate. But you can rest assured I'm being kept on my toes around here as far as nomenclature goes.

So I guess I'll also tell you that the flatbreads I made were called parathas and that they were aaaawesome. But if a recipe says you can use either melted butter or ghee, please use the melted butter if your greatest desire is to fill your home with smoke. Otherwise, ghee it up.

Six melted tablespoons of Giant Mistake.

If you were in the neighborhood last night and were concerned that our sofa was on fire, it was just this.

Unfortunately, some of the tastiest things are the least interesting-looking, but I really loved this dish and will be giving it a permanent spot in my Things to Smother Eggs With folder. I keep that one in the Happy Drawer of my filing cabinet, between Bad Reviews of Movies and Cheese: Practical Applications.

Enjoying her Indian food or just relieved that I didn't burn the house down?


I have read too much true crime to follow this recipe properly

Last night I tackled a cookbook in which everything is so ambitious and authentic that I felt really ashamed to be using store-bought tortillas in one of its recipes. I'm sorry, Essential Cuisines of Mexico. I know I let you down with my lack of a tortilla press and motivation to remove corn hulls.

I tried to cover them up, but there they are, mocking me.

At any rate, Enchiladas de Fresnillo were more or less achieved. (That's real chorizo on top, just so you know.) There were a lot of steps in the process, and a lot of dirtied kitchen equipment, and I think I confused "toasted ancho peppers" with "dried ancho peppers," which made the sauce so bitter that I had to add some sugar to it. But despite these roadblocks, and the crippling humiliation of being too lazy/scared to make tortillas (I know you're supposed to use lime, and I'm pretty sure people fill up bathtubs with that stuff to dissolve bodies, so I actually mean "scared" in a different sense than when I say I'm "scared" to make my own pie crust), it ended up being pretty good. I have high hopes for it in leftover form. I also like that the recipe just says that it makes 12 enchiladas, instead of putting some judgmental number of servings on it.

Mandoline and tequila in the same picture. Safety first, everyone.

I'm starting to wonder how much of my weekly budget is devoted to avocados.

Kitchen clean-up time was increased due to Anna reaching a very exciting milestone yesterday: discovery of the Tupperware cabinet.

I like how I capitalized "Tupperware" even though it's mostly used yogurt containers.

Don't worry, she didn't just sit around destroying the kitchen all day.

I let her destroy the garden a little bit too.

I've been reading a book called The Happiest Toddler on the Block, which I hate to admit because now you know that I sometimes make non-sarcastic attempts at effective parenting. Oh well. The gist is that toddlers are basically cavepeople and you need to be an ambassador of the modern world to your little Neanderthal, but the author never specifies whether you are supposed to be the Sean Astin character or the Pauly Shore character.

I guess there are some aspects of parenthood that you just have to figure out on your own.


If you see the anchovy paste hanging out on the corner, go find an adult

First of all, this morning when I went to put in my contacts I discovered about 10 stray eyelashes under my right eye only. Is it possible to get alopecia on one side of your face? Is this a delayed stress reaction to my facial? Should I have made a bunch of wishes? Help me, Internet. Help me before I become half-bald and am forced to wear a jauntily tipped hat that fools no one.

Last night I went a little fancy and made seared scallops and crispy prosciutto with roasted tomatoes and smashed white beans from The Naked Chef Takes Off, which is the cookbook I usually put in my cookbook holder for display purposes because I want people to think that I cook out of it constantly. Oh, Jamie Oliver. So British. So delightful to me. This recipe calls for things like a pinch of oregano and a wineglass of water and 28 pints of olive oil. Metric! Okay, not quite 28 pints, but in a relatively short and simple recipe there are five different occasions for adding either a "glug" or a "drizzle" of it.

"Glug" is British for a cup, right?

He also called for anchovy fillets, but I had a little moment of cowardice right there on the weird stuff aisle of Whole Foods and grabbed anchovy paste instead. I avoided the oily little fishes that made me nervous, but when I took the tube of paste out of the box, it was completely white and blank, like a tiny unmarked van. So, that was kind of worse. I had to label it lest it look too freaky just hanging out on my refrigerator shelf, making the nicely decorated tube of tomato paste uncomfortable.

Stop being so creepy, anchovies.

Anna was concerned that I was giving her too much of a "party girl" image so she asked that today's picture be of her focusing on her work.

I'm pretty sure she's just checking Twitter.


Texan hippiness and couscous

After my harrowing morning at the spa on Saturday, obviously I needed a little break, so we went to Kerbey Lane for a late lunch, and dinner ended up being the resulting doggie bag. I had a veggie chorizo quesadilla. Yeah, not veggies and chorizo....veggie chorizo. Why do I have a fridge full of pork products yet still love fake sausage? Because I am an enigma. I do realize that at the point one is ordering alternatively proteined specialty sausage sandwiched between chipotle flavored tortillas, one should abandon the idea of ever living anywhere other than Austin. I accept this.


Sunday night was a use-up-bits-from-the-fridge night. Usually a frittata is my go-to vehicle for that job, but something about the particular bits I had on hand (red pepper, onion, grilled chicken breast, chickpeas, artichokes, ripe olives) seemed to call for couscous instead. I like couscous because (as far as I know) it's the easiest way to eat one million pieces of pasta in one sitting. I sauteed everything in a little olive oil, then threw in some cumin, smoked paprika, and garlic powder. Sunday night meals generally aren't too labor intense. Who needs hard work when you have the cutest little form of starch ever?

It's so adorable, the teensy pasta.

Still some congestion, but Anna is now back to constant-party.

This is after having rock n' rolled all night.


Messy fish, icy sorbet, semi-abandoned ridiculous complaint

Did I say no more weekend posts? Oh. Well, some weekends have more downtime than others. Don't get used to it! You won't always have the magical, magical gift of Erica's boredom!

Anna is continuing her convalescence apace.

The flash from the camera is disguising the sense of pleading in Hopper's eyes.

Last night I made tilapia with the Texas Home Cooking version of Salsa Veracruzana. I'm actually not sure I should even attribute it to that august volume, as I mangled it pretty badly. Their recipe calls for fresh snapper, and I used frozen tilapia. I ran out of capers making Salt Mussels earlier this week (it's cool Belgium, I ain't mad at you). I don't even understand what "white wine Worcestershire sauce" is, so I used the regular kind. And my green olives aren't pimento stuffed, so I added a few dashes of that fancy pepper I got because it has the word "Piment" on it. I only mention that particular feat of culinary logic because I did the exact same thing with the egg salad the day before, so I guess it's like...a thing. That I do now. Just trying to get my $12 worth.

Mangled, I tell you.

I also made some Watermelon Sorbet, but I cut the sugar in half and increased the vodka by 900%.

I'm just kidding, I didn't reduce the sugar.

This morning I cashed in the very first Groupon I ever bought, which for some reason (beer?) was for a spa that specializes in facials. I had a whole thing in my brain where I was going to bitch about how miserable I was for an hour and a half, but then I decided to take pity and not subject you to an extended version of the most first world problem complaint ever (my expensive facial was bad for my self esteem!). Instead, I will say that the mood of the entire exercise is best summed up by the lady's surprised/concerned "No lip wax?"

And now for some CSI: New Toys Edition.

He was so close.


This is extremely momentous and also fried in peanut oil

The focus of last night's dinner is going to be the side dish, rather than the main, for two reasons. One, and this is very exciting, it's my first ever requested food project on this blog. Two, it's freaking fried avocado slices. I want to officially encourage this type of strange yet intriguing food suggestion. Seriously, keep 'em coming. But no cookie balls please, that's a little too hardcore for me.

Because the avocado fries were a specific request, I tried to be more thorough than usual in documenting the process. Here we go!

Let's do this.

Sort of like coconut crusted shrimp, but 100% different.

I had to add an extra hand-washing to get this in-process picture, so, you're welcome.

Look how thirsty they are for sweet, sweet peanut oil.

Fry, my pretties!

Et voila.

Difficulty level: pretty low, really. The only tricky part is being very gentle when you bread the avocado pieces so that they don't mush up. So if you have any inclination, I say definitely make an attempt on these guys. Flavor: I mean....it's fried avocado, so if you like avocado, it's delicious. It's nice to have that crunch to balance out the creaminess. Maybe because I'm used to my avocados coming in spicy guacamole form, I think they could have used a little more seasoning. Personal preference. I also couldn't eat much, which is probably a good thing, but the richness is a bit overwhelming. In the end, they are very tasty but also lily-gildingly unnecessary.

I served them alongside egg salad sandwiches from Big Orange. The egg salad was pretty good, and to be fair to Bon Appetit, the onion bagel was my dumb idea, not theirs. Egg salad on a bagel: yummy in theory, logistical mess in practice.

Just upstaging the hell out of that sandwich.

Quite some time ago, my dad and I determined that the appropriate wine to accompany fried pickle slices is a Fume Blanc, so I figured it could carry over to this other culinary abomination. I think it did the job nicely.

Fume Blanc: for when you need to wash down gratuitously fried things.

Anna is still a little congested and droopy, but she is more or less back to her normal cat-pursuing activities.

I think she feels better.


This post is Belgian flavored

Did you know that yesterday was Belgian Independence Day? No, you did not. Did you, like me, think, Congratulations, Belgium! Uh...independence from whom? I mean really, would you know without looking? My guess was France, but it turns out to be the Netherlands. I blame They Might Be Giants for never having written a song about it.

I feel like it could have gone either way.

This is exactly the type of tidbit you come across when almost all of your knowledge of the outside world is filtered through food blogs, in this case, the kitchn. I'm usually pretty organized about my weekly menu, but when I saw that post and realized I had some mussels in the freezer, I knew that this year we would be adding Belgian Independence to the list of "extremely tenuous reasons to celebrate with themed food and drink." Seriously, though, Belgium is known as "The Land of Beer and Chocolate." You know I didn't make that up because I could never have even conceived of a world where such a fairyland existed. Why not go ahead and throw July 21st in with St. Patrick's Day and Cinco de Mayo?

There are a lot of reasons to like Belgium. A) waffles B) they have like 20 major political parties, and their Green Party has an exclamation point in its name because they are so pumped up about the environment C) the only Belgian I ever spent significant time with had a huge chip on her shoulder about speaking French with a Belgian accent, and as a Texan, I relate (because I also speak French with a Belgian accent) D) THEIR WHOLE THEME IS BEER AND CHOCOLATE.

Anyway, mussels. I had never cooked mussels before, but it's really easy if you just get the frozen package and don't have to deal with cleaning them up. They definitely looked pretty for a first attempt.

I even bought a fancy kind of pepper I had never heard of before.

Quick review: costs $12 and smells like paprika.

They were sort of half successful. The flavors were really good together, and the mussels were good if you didn't get any of the broth vegetables in the bite, otherwise it was crazy salty. I think it's possible that Dan and I, being uncultured, were approaching it more like a soup than a salt bath for the protein. I have no idea. It was very salty. I think I would try it again with half the capers and twice the Belgian ale on the side. To...wash down the salt.

All in all, thanks, Belgium! I'll try to remember you again next July.

Anna, who is never sick, is sick. Can you tell?

Sweetie, I'm sorry for posting a picture of you in this state, but at least it wasn't the one with the Cheerio stuck under your nose. And that one was hilarious.

We had to cancel our first ever playgroup at the house because at this point she's just covering every surface with snot and I don't want to involve any additional surfaces in the form of other babies. I always figured hey, she's not talking or walking or getting most of the food to her mouth, but at least she's healthy as a horse. Now I don't know. "But at least her fingernails grow really fast"? I'll work on it.


Paella, Monkee, Sheep-Cow

Last night I made "Farmstand Paella" from my Easy Vegetarian Dinners book. Good way to get in a ton of vegetables AND use some saffron (thanks to Emily, my partner-in-saffron).

You can see the sippy cup reflection in the table, which is why I am never featured in aspirational lifestyle magazines.

The book claims that the start to finish time on this recipe is 25 minutes, but it should probably read "25 minutes plus however long it takes you to go out to the garage and find the machete in order to cut through a raw cob of corn and also if you thoughtlessly substitute brown rice for Arborio, go ahead and add another half hour, you idiot." If they want to cover all their bases.

I thought it was a little weird to have to fish out the pieces of corn on the cob, eat them, and set the cob bits on the rim of the bowl, but I guess it's normal in a traditional paella to serve meat on the bone and seafood in the shell, so I believe it's intended to be in that spirit. Pretty worldly of you, $3 clearance section cookbook!

Like many vegetarian dinners, it actually looked prettier in its mise en place form, so here's that as well.

Check out all that healthiness waiting to happen.

Because she was a total pill yesterday, Anna is taking a blog Time Out.

No screen time for you today, Missy.

Instead, we will discuss some of Anna's stuff. For me, one of the highlights of becoming a parent was discovering that there are a ton of They Might Be Giants children's albums. What did you think I was going to say, watching the amazing transformation of an infant to a person? Learning to appreciate life's small moments? Gaining a capacity to love that I never knew before? No. Finding out that the "Particle Man" duo has a lot of new music that it's now appropriate for me to purchase. High. Light.

All I have so far is Bed, Bed, Bed which is really a book with a four song CD accompaniment. But just so you understand what I'm talking about, one of the songs both defines a gavotte and references Mr. Peter Tork. I figure if TMBG put out enough of these, I won't have to worry about gaps in her public school education.

These are extremely good things to know about.

One of Anna's brand new birthday gifts is also turning out to be awesome for me, even though she's not as into it as I am yet. It's a Leapfrog magnet thingy for the fridge, and you can mix up animal halves and then it'll sing a little song about a "pig-duck" or whatever.

It's a little bit Dr. Moreau, and I like it.

You know how some people stick pictures of swimsuit models on the fridge to remind them not to pig out? This is serving basically the same purpose for me, because every time I go into the kitchen I get super distracted making sheep-cow monsters.