Project Dread and Fear Summer Less is a go

Did you all use your holiday weekend productively? By which I mean, making Whoopie Pies?

There was actually a lot of other food this weekend, including grilled sausages and hot dogs, beans, queso, (all Loontjer-provided, thanks guys!) as well as crash hot potatoes and grilled corn on the cob. But I didn't really manage to take a picture of it and here is the reason: I was very, very busy embracing summer. Or, more accurately, making elaborate plans to embrace summer. Or at least not let its approach cause me to curl into the fetal position, nestled against the freezer.

I realize that there are many areas of the country and world that actually delight in this season and consider it "fun" as opposed to "four months of staring into the mouth of hell itself." And because I live on the internet, I have seen a lot of to-do lists of seasonal activities with names such as Project Summer and Summer of Awesome and for some reason I am actually feeling inspired this year. I think maybe it's because I'm not pregnant this time around and can drink caffeine! A lot of caffeine! Or because last year broke me so completely that fighting is really not an option, only acceptance.

I actually think this whole thing started when I noticed that the cover of the June issue of Bon Appetit boasted "60 SUMMER RECIPES" and my brain said "YES OKAY LET'S MAKE THEM ALL." This was based solely on the cover and my love of themes and my laziness about meal-planning and when I actually took the time to look through the magazine it started to seem like less of a good idea. HOWEVER, despite not having announced this project or made any preparation regarding it, it was already too late to retreat because my brain had made the decision that cooking everything in this magazine was somehow the key to embracing summer. (My brain is really fun and not at all unreasonable.) So we are moving ahead with a couple of caveats, those being: 1) I am almost certain I will not bring home a live lobster, and 2) I am not making a salsa comprised of twenty-five habenero chiles because that is just UNSAFE. I mean, honestly, Bon Appetit. Mercy. I also want to note that the words Shrimp and Cucumber Salad with Horseradish Mayo make me want to stop liking cucumbers just by association but I will make it anyway if that is what summer wants me to do.

Also, um, does anyone in the Austin area want to come to my house for an all-day Danish Smørrebrød spread? There might be Aquavit. And I won't make you eat the pickled herring. I'm seriously asking.

Other summerphilic plans: read books, visit splash pads, maintain my short haircut for the first time ever, actually do 30 Day Shred for thirty days in a row. (I know that this is where my realistic defeatist backpedal on that one belongs but I'm not even going to do it because it's not in the spirit of embrace...ment.)

Okay, anyway, who's with me? Yay! Summer! Yaaaaaaaay!

Okay, what if we add a SUMMER HAT?

There we go.


It should come as no surprise that I can hard-boil the hell out of an egg

The last time I made this seared scallop dish I was in my first trimester with Ivy and everything sounded disgusting, and then it turned out they were really good! So I thought, how much better would they be when every morsel of food in the world sounds good to me and the answer is: exactly the same amount of good. Maybe not even as. "The best sauce in the world is hunger."--Cervantes. "Really dreading something that turns out okay also works."--Erica

Sorry for being so excited about you, scallops. That's on me.
This next dish might be the most pretentious-sounding thing I've ever made even though it doesn't include any arugula: Chickpeas and Swiss Chard in Parmesan and Sun-Dried-Tomato Broth. Also...I used Swiss chard from our garden. It's all pretty despicable. The effect is further heightened by the fact that the recipe is from Food and Wine, but what you can't tell until you actually look at it is that it involves about four ingredients, including JARRED PESTO. Busted, Food and Wine! So busted.

Thanks for the soup recipe though, it was nice.
I know that Cobb salad is the poster child for Not All Salads Are Healthy, which is probably why I quietly murmured "Mmmmm" the entire time I was eating it.

Needs more bacon.
I was trying to do a more-competent-than-usual job of cleaning the house the other day in preparation for a play date, so Anna solemnly stepped forward as keeper-of-universe-balance and ground every stuffed animal in the house into the garden-bed mulch. Okay, it was actually because she was infected with the cleaning spirit and wanted to bathe them, and if there's one thing she's learned living in this house it's that there's no point in bathing unless you are really thoroughly filthy.

Also, she was wearing pants at the beginning of the day.
She organized her headwear as well.

Also, she was wearing pants and a shirt at the beginning of the day.
Oh, Ivy. I forgot you were over there, sweetie. How's food-eating going?

Good girl, I'll check back at dinner.


And then I ate nothing but plain oatmeal and cups of broth for the rest of my life

After spending Thursday in what can really only be described as a ridiculous manner, I felt like we should take it easy on Friday night and just stuff ourselves with pizza and artichoke dip. To the Brick Oven!

Gooey things on toast are a fine way to say "Happy birthday for the 12th time this week, seriously."

When you see how I spent the rest of the weekend, you will look back at this as the ascetic period.
Having had that brief bit of down time, I was definitely ready for a Girls Weekend. I needed to relax, as you can obviously imagine. I was also starting to wonder whether actually being present to see your children grow up is kind of overrated.

Kay and I put on our stretchy clothes and our drinking faces (note: very similar to my "awake" face) and headed down the Fredericksburg Wine Trail for some girl-time fun. I will be sticking with pictures of the food, so you'll have to imagine the 3,624 glasses of wine we drank on your own.

First we sat on the porch of the lovely Becker Vineyards and ate an entire package of crackers, an entire package of prosciutto, and a lot more of that giant slab of Havarti than you are currently thinking is possible for two people to consume.

No. More than that.
At this point in the day there was already an empty wine glass in my purse.

That usually doesn't happen until at least 4:30 or 5:00.
We had dinner in town at The Auslander in Fredericksburg. Started off with Bavarian potato skins, obviously.

And before you get all, "I don't think that's a thing" on me, go check out the menu and the German spring rolls we resisted.
Then we made our only intelligent choice of the weekend and decided to split an entree.

It's....Texaschnitzel. It has guacamole on it. The intelligence had petered out right around "So what are we splitting?"
By the time we were at the Rathskeller for breakfast, I was just ordering things wontonly.

Absolutely no regard.

I even let some vegetables sneak in, that's how out of control things had become.

Kay, however, made the measured decision to get biscuits and gravy, which we all know has a place on every breakfast table. In my defense, I ate some of this as well.
Anyway, I was glad to get home and see my babies! Hey girls, Mommy's home!

So I guess we'll be spending this week getting reintroduced. Anyway, I wouldn't say my past week has been excessive or anything. I think I hit on the perfect amount of indulgence!

If you're Henry VIII.


It's a shame no one ever does anything nice for me

We had a pretty big week here, but I'm going to lead off with the most important story, which is: I stole from Tim Love figured out the best possible way to hide beets amongst normal food. And I'm counting the ice cream that tasted like chocolate and orange and only the tiniest bit of dirt. The answer is smoked salmon. Something about smoked salmon makes roasted beets seem weirdly palatable.

Meanwhile, adding beet greens to potatoes really elevates the beet greens but kind of ruins the potatoes.
And then I had breakfast tacos on a weekday because it was my biiiiiiiirthdaaaaaay! Congratulations to me for existing for a quantifiable period of time!

Morning tacos really take the sting out of being a very slightly higher age.
And then I had...some champagne!

One glass of champagne is for regular, non-awesome Thursdays.
But everyone knows it's weird to have champagne by yourself in the middle of the day if it isn't accompanied by goat cheese beignets with honey and lavender.

No worries.
So I did make my own birthday dinner, and here is why: I did not trust anyone else to make the exact perfect combination of Mexican food and egg-topping. It was the CORRECT DECISION. Homesick Texan's stacked enchiladas proved to be one of the more fantastic plates of food I have ever had and I say that with the authority of someone who had them again for breakfast this morning.

Egg, cheese, spice, tortillas. I owe the state of New Mexico a huge debt of gratitude.
And not only did Dan give me the entire day off to flit about town buying sandals and cookware and eating LAVENDER for lunch like the fancy lady that I am, he and the girls also made me a chocolate cake.

I think it was good? Can't quite remember, better go to the fridge and check YEP still super, super good.
Anna was her usual indifferent self about the cake. Oh, just kidding, you guys. She IS human, after all!

In less self-centered news (boring), Anna "graduated" from "school" this week. I was pretty impressed by what a good job the teachers did getting a group of two-year-olds to participate in the program.

I mean, within reason.


Happy Mother's Day! Here's your muumuu.

So I'm just wondering if any of you guys ate as well as I did this weekend OH WAIT TRICK QUESTION: not possible. My parents sent Dan and me to the Lonesome Dove Western Bistro in Fort Worth (sans monkeys!) because they are just lovely people. On the other hand, I took pictures of every course and also mentioned that I was doing so on Twitter because I am a terrible person. I DID IT FOR YOU. And also myself. Mostly myself. Please excuse me while I relive this particular meal for my own gluttonous reasons.

First course: blue corn lobster hushpuppies, seared diver scallop, house smoked salmon with roasted beet. The scallops were so good that I want to go back in time and punch the non-seafood-eating Erica in the nose. On principle.

Also, I went to a fancy restaurant and paid my hard-earned parents' money for beets.
Second course: I had the squash soup. It was insanely good. Kind of spicy. And...also it was soup, which is enough for me. There was a weird gelatinous strip in the center of it that frightened me because I know how top chefs are with their offal and their bone marrow and such. Fortunately, I had ordered a pre-dinner cocktail that contained an injudicious amount of tequila, so I took a chance.

It was cheese.
Dan had...an...egg forest?

I mean, I clearly see the appeal.
Main course that I was too full to enjoy: roasted garlic stuffed beef tenderloin. It was wonderful. But when I looked at it my vision got blurry and it turned into a giant fluffy bed with lots of pillows.

Sleeeeeeeepy meat.
Dan ordered elk. With some kind of fungal growth.

Now I'm curious about what was in his pre-dinner cocktail.
At this point you might be thinking that you also had excellent food this weekend and who am I to brag about such restaurant excursions but we aren't even close to done so please just hold on to your hats.

My father made an excellent Mother's Day dinner all by his lonesome self, since all mothers are contractually obligated to stay outside of the electrically-enforced perimeter of the kitchen lest they be shocked and immediately transferred to a day spa. (At least, this is my understanding.) To Dan's credit, he was stuck dealing with both children because I was sitting very still and quiet on the sofa with my computer, trying to make it look like my hands were busy.

Grilled pork tenderloin with peach sauce, broccoli salad, some sort of devilishly scalloped potatoes.

I don't know what terrible thing the potatoes did to deserve this fate, but I applaud it.
Homemade peasant bread!

Right next to the roses in crystal. Peasant-style.

"Mom. Hey. Move it along."

Okay, okay. The children were there as well. Anna had a pretty good time playing "dinosaur extinction."

She's the extinction.
I actually really like that she gave them a chance to team up against their destiny.

They're ready to rumble.
Anyway, by last night it was apparent that my weekend had been lacking in one thing, and that was fiber decadence. Bacon, egg, and leek risotto, anyone?

I have never yet regretted 1) making risotto 2) putting an egg on something.
You know, you'd probably be cuter if you could just grow out those eyelashes a little bit.


I'm getting tired of your sarcasm, hypothetical reader

Listen kids, I'm in kind of a hurry and also kind of a MOOD today! Did you enjoy that little peek behind the curtain? "Thank you for pointing out that you don't feel like writing a blog post when no one even asked you to write a blog post, Erica! You're great! And really pleasant to be around, I bet!" is what you're all thinking to yourselves right now.

Okay, I'm sorry, I'm just going through some difficult stuff, namely having to pack up for a nice weekend at my parents' house, so you understand. I have to put clothes and snacks into the car. These are trying times. Let's discuss vegetables.

Jicama: seems like I should have had it before? But I've definitely never prepared it before. I made it in salad form with Yucatan pork tenderloin. It tasted...crunchy. Like flavorless carrots. Or I have actually lost my ability to taste things.

Maybe lacking a sense of taste means I will lose weight? Haha, no, I'll just eat twice as much.
Fennel: again it seems like I've probably encountered  it before, but I don't recall ever cooking with it.

Our muppety-est vegetable.
Anna was intrigued.
Or was just realizing with concern that her infant sister was again Bumbo'd on an ELEVATED SURFACE ACROSS THE ROOM. See? If I were in less of a hurry I would probably remove this proof of parental incompetence.
I mixed the fennel with chickpeas and olives and couscous and...couldn't taste it. Okay, yeah, this might actually be a problem.

I can still taste olives, so let's hold off on full panic.
Swiss chard: I have cooked this many times, and yet every time I say it out loud I worry that I'm pronouncing in incorrectly. Okay, this website tells me I was ALMOST right, just not quite British enough. I'm wondering if that's the case with a lot of words.

Oh, the food--it's pasta and chicken sausage. Just take a minute and let the inspiration wash over you.
Not sure if Anna was trying to swaddle this duck or truss it up for dinner.

I'm very proud either way.
Ugh. Ugh to everything. Let's at least go into the weekend on a good note, with some baby side-eye.

Hello, weekend! I greet you with mild suspicion!