Unless your weekend involved a pudding tower, I think I win

I've spent all day circling around how to recap this weekend's party in Arizona, but as I already mentioned on Twitter, it's not an easily recappable event, made up as it is of small delights rather than grand events. Fortunately, many of those small delights were of the edible variety, so my PJ's at TJ's roundup is pretty much just going to consist of 800,000 photographed calories. (The same as a regular weekend but better-organized.)

Snack Wall. It's sort of like the Banana Republic/Bluefly/Piperlime/Lord&Taylor accessory wall on Project Runway, but it involves more Starburst.

Good, solid chip-based spread.

I guess I could have taken a picture of the pub cheese before it was demolished but there was no time no time gotta eat the pub cheeeeeeese.

Fruit! Right there. Under the chocolate.

And that looks like some vegetation! I'm not sure, I was on the pub cheese other side of the counter.

Did have to step out for a hot meal, obviously.

I stuffed almost all of these in my purse on my way out the door. No, seriously, I did that.

Haaaaa, I mean, come on. Beautiful.

Good, solid chip-based spread: evening edition.

Bowl o' exotic Canadian delights from the Far North.

Is there anything more appealing than pudding in a tower formation? That's how you know you're at a fancy party.

Chocolate things.

Squishy things.

The cornerstone of any self-respecting slumber party.

Don't get me wrong--as fun as it was, it wasn't a perfect, magical experience across the board. There was...an incident.

The pain is still so fresh.
Anyway, if you've never had the exquisite pleasure of filling a suitcase with nothing but elastic waistbands, I recommend that you start making arrangements to do so as soon as possible. It is a beautiful experience. In fact, by Saturday afternoon, my brain was in such a relaxed state that when I encountered purple jeggings on clearance while wandering aimlessly through Target, it didn't just seem like a good thing. It seemed like the best thing.

Cheers, you guys!

Lite Week: just a wan precursor to Snack Weekend

I'm splitting today's post into two parts, mostly so that people looking for a recap of the weekend don't have to slog through Cookbooks #22 and #23 (not you, you stay here and slog), and also because I feel like my first encounter with pub cheese deserves its own entry. Deserves its own blog, really.

But first, important business: you are here to look at vegetables. Last week was my first cookbook repeat, as I went back to the vegan well for this 2nd Avenue Vegetable Korma from #4, Appetite for Reduction. I guess when your entire diet is plant-based, you need to be pretty skilled at making vegetables taste delicious, so it's no surprise that this was very good.

Most of us can just add bacon and cheese to things.

I used Cookbook #22: Healthy Cooking For Two (or Just You) (Frances Price, 1997) to make amends for my shameful lack of noodles during Thai Week. I'm not sure how authentic this Hong Kong Primavera with Spicy Peanut Sauce was, but noodles + peanuts = good enough for me. Provenance: I bought this one. Previous recipes on this blog: none that I can find, but I used to cook out of this a lot when there were actually only two of us.

I don't know why cabbage so thoroughly enhances pasta, but it does. It does.
Verdict: no pictures, but a nice variety of simple recipes. I'll probably keep using it on nights when we don't need a whole pile of food, assuming such a scenario ever arises.

Okay, hang in there, we're almost through this Cookbook #23: The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook (Cathy A. Wesler, 2000). Provenance: I think my grandfather got this at a library book sale and I snatched it right up. Previous recipes on this blog: none. Recipes: Tuscan Cod and Green Beans with Bacon Balsamic Vinaigrette.

See? Just have to add bacon.
Verdict: this meal was really good, there are tons of nice color pictures, there are about one million recipes in this thing. It's 13 years old, so I doubt you can find it outside of random library book sales, but in general I would give a thumbs up to the Cooking Light franchise even if (because?) those green beans were coated in brown sugar.

The girls have been busy boldly facing down the elements.

It was sunny and 75 degrees when I took this picture. Once it drops below 80, you really can't be too careful.

And there was crazy-ass 18-wheeler-toppling wind when I took this one.  Unfazed.


Leeeeeavin' on a jet plane, know exactly when I'll be back again

Can't do any proper blogging this morning because I'm about to head out to Phoenix. For...blogging. Look, it's a complicated system and I don't have time to explain it to you. Anyway, that means that my recap of Lite Week will have to wait, and I know you're disappointed because you wandered over here this morning desperately hoping to see some vegetables, so I just hope this is enough to tide you over.

These pictures of Ivy are pretty blurry, but I'm guessing in the first one she's prostrate with grief at my impeding departure and in the second she's...rending her garments or something.

Okay, this one's a little more focused, I guess that's...that's her putting on a brave face. Good girl.

And Anna too, with the bravery.



Lite Week kicks off with a BEEP BEEP BEEP

First off, a correction to last week's post: I indicated that there were no previous recipes from Louisiana's Butter Cooking Secrets in the archives, but I was mistaken. I did in fact make Smothered Boneless Porkchops with Lentils a couple of years ago and joked about the austerity of the thing. So, you know. Pretty much the internal consistency you have come to expect from this beacon of journalistic integrity.

Anyway, after a week containing Mardi Gras AND Valentine's Day excesses, we probably should have spent the weekend eating kale or bran or smothered boneless porkchops with lentils or something, but no! We had a wedding weekend in San Antonio before us, so instead of quiet recovery, it was gut-check time. (Fortunately, my gut is increasingly visible and therefore easy to check on.) (Yep, there it is!)

Just look at this giant marble slab of goodness. And it was only one of the options during the cocktail hour before dinner.


And for dinner, steak AND shrimp AND risotto. I know I don't like shrimp, but I sometimes just appreciate its presence.

Classin' things up.

And I suppose we could have used the next day to get things back in line, but say (hypothetically) that one were attempting to soak up about a bottle of tequila, one is probably more inclined to seek out table-side guacamole from Boudro's.


But now it's time to buckle down and lighten up and let me tell you, Cookbook #21: Southern But Lite (Avis and Ward Nutrition Associates, 1989) is bringing the pain. Provenance: Mom (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM! Um, thank you for the thoughtful gift!) Previous recipes on this blog: Oh, I think you would remember.

You have no idea the gothic horrors that lurk inside.
So let me first point out that 1989 was a different time than our own. Most nutrition experts weren't so much into "Cut out processed foods" as "Better living through chemistry! Processed foods are your only hope, fatty!" Let me also point out that this book has a five star rating on Goodreads and I pretty clearly don't know what I'm talking about. I mean, one of the first pages contains signatures from multiple cardiologists and the mayor of West Monroe, LA. It is heartily endorsed!

But I started to feel a twinge of concern when I flipped through and could hardly find anything that didn't call for margarine. Or sometimes "diet margarine." Or, in one very special case...well, take a look.

That might be the most distressing combination of three words I've ever seen.
There were other ingredients I had never heard of--something called "liteline American cheese" makes several appearances, as does "oil-free Italian dressing," which I assume is just...dried herbs floating in vinegar? But I did track down a recipe for Spinach-Stuffed Chicken Rolls that contained all recognizable actual-food items and I was sold.

And then I actually read through the directions.

And the entire thing is cooked in the microwave.

Honey! Dinner's ready!
The good news is, I had so thoroughly tamped down my expectations for this meal that the fact that these turned out not only edible but not even disgusting was pretty thrilling. It tasted like chicken and spinach and radiation!

This is one of my greatest triumphs.
Verdict: I have to say, this is the first time I'm going to go ahead and commit to never cooking out of something again. However, this is also the first time that a cookbook has made me gasp in horror, and overall it was my favorite thing to read through so far. As much as I would like to photograph every single page for you because it is a jewel, seriously, I'm just going to leave you with this authentic recipe for Russian Tea.

Seems legit.
Being out of town all weekend, I barely saw the kids. I assume this is what Anna looked like the entire time.

And actually, now that I think about it, I haven't see Ivy in like a week.

I bet wherever she is, she's fighting the power.


Fat, Fat Love Week

As much as I think it's important to persevere, stick with it, get back up on horses, etc. etc., I also think there comes a time when one must face up to one's limitations.

"Creating holiday-themed donuts that are both edible and attractive" is just not in my wheelhouse, you guys.

They're beautiful pink strawberry donuts for Valentine's Day, obviously.

No worries, though. For one thing, Anna talked excitedly about her "pink" donuts the entire time she was eating them, which I'm choosing to attribute to the power of suggestion and not a worrisome deficit in her knowledge of colors. Also, there's plenty of other holiday fun to go around this week.

Pancake Tuesday was of course also Fat Tuesday, which made Cookbook #19: Louisiana's Cooking Secrets (Kathleen DeVanna Fish, 1997) especially appropriate because guess what you guys the secrets are all "butter." Provenance: Mom. Previous recipes on this blog: none. I figured I would go all out, since the holiday is designed specifically to use fattening ingredients, but New Orleans chefs and I have different ideas of what constitutes "all out" and I am ashamed to say I had to back down in the face some truly inspired amounts of fat. I know you are tsk-tsking my cowardice now, and rightly so, but just so you have some idea of what we're dealing with here, the Pecan Stuffed Salmon from Broussard's serves six people and contains four cups of butter. I'm going to give you a second to scrunch up your eyebrows and calculate the fact that four cups is EIGHT STICKS IT'S EIGHT STICKS OF BUTTER FOR SIX PEOPLE.

So I didn't make that. I'm sorry. I promise there was still quite a significant amount of butter in Galatoire's Trout Cod Meunière Amandine. And the Green Bean Bundles from Twenty-four Thirty-nine in Shreveport are wrapped in bacon and cooked in brown sugar, so it's not like I wasn't trying.

It's still really, really fattening. Please don't be sad.
Verdict: no pictures of food, but come on, this book is amazing. Eight sticks of butter.

Cookbook #20 is a dear old friend: The Bon Appétit Cookbook (Barbara Fairchild, 2006). Provenance: I bought, and it came with a subscription to the magazine, and we all know how that turned out. Previous recipes on this blog: Tomato-chipotle soup with peach salsa, open faced crab burgers, curried couscous with roasted vegetables, Provençal-style short ribs and lemon curd ice cream with blackberry swirl, chicken mole, peanut noodles with gingered tofu and vegetables. Probably more, but I don't feel like carefully sifting through recipes to figure out which came from the book and which came from the magazine.

I decided Valentine's Day deserved a fancy three-courser, seeing as how timidly I approached Mardi Gras and all. Recipes: Curried Parsnip Soup, Garlic and Rosemary Steak with Potato-Green Onion Cakes, Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse.

Spicy soup! To...start the meal! I have made better decisions! Also worse ones.
Yes the potato cakes are shaped like hearts and you are JEALOUS.

I didn't do a great job with the texture of these, but that bottle of cava washed it right down all the same.

Verdict: it was all pretty good, but there wasn't nearly as much butter as I have become accustomed to eating. I guess I'll keep it around.

Anyway. Did you all have a nice Valentine's Day? Did you get enough butter this week? Anna is concerned.

Good rule of thumb: 1 1/3 sticks per person.


Merry Sprengidagur!

As you all know, there is nothing on God's green earth that I love more than eggs cheese sitting down themes. But man, when it rains it pours, you know? I have to admit that with Lunar New Year, Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras, and Valentine's Day all happening in the span of five days, the calendar has almost gotten the better of me this week. Oh, I could not plan elaborate menus around each of these events, you say? Okay, cool, I'll just start raising money for my brain transplant because what are you even talking about.

Ahem. But we are going to split up the holidays to make them more manageable, so here we go, PANCAKE TUESDAY YAY! This morning Dan sleepily whipped up some Orange Cloud Pancakes and they were light and fluffy and holiday-worthy indeed.

I'd say this is Dan's favorite of all the Tuesdays.
I know there are other things afoot today, but we are SAVING that for next time. I am also INVESTIGATING this Bursting Day situation in anticipation of next year. Just for you.

And Sunday of course ushered in the Year of the Snake, so I gave the interwebs a quick once over and come up with Asian Slaw with Ginger Peanut Dressing plus Crispy Salt and Pepper Tofu and lo, it was good. Seriously, start coating your tofu in cornstarch and frying it up, this is Erica's Non-Joke Tip of the Day.

You only get one, use it wisely.

This is to appease those who were upset at my lack of eggs during Thai week: I was just saving them to cover up the spectacular jumble I made of these spaghetti squash cakes.

See what happens when a meal is non-themed? Disaster.
I might throw an egg on top of the Tuscan White Bean and Roasted Garlic Soup leftovers just to soak up a little bit of the extra garlic because whoops! By tripling the garlic in this recipe, I may have very slightly exceeded Ideal Garlic Balance for the first time in my personal history.

So maybe only 2.5 heads next time.
Oh, I did sneak a cookbook in on the sly, #18: Bread (Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter, 2003). Provenance: Dan's pre-Erica bargain-bin spree. Previous recipes on this blog: none. Recipe: Anadama bread, featuring molasses and cornmeal. 

A loaf of random pantry ingredients!
Verdict: I like that the name of this book is "Bread." You pretty much know what you're getting into here. The loaf rose, the house smelled great, I honestly don't ask much of bread recipes. Once again worth $6, so Dan is two for two. We should celebrate with pancakes or something.

Hey, Ivy's BFF Scarlett turned one this weekend and look at the cute Pinteresty veggie cups!

I always suspected what our vegetable garden was lacking was "dip."

There was also a brand new and very cute playhouse in the backyard, although I didn't go inside it, as it appeared to be guarded by a rather cross troll of some type.

Well, I wanted to add a picture of Ivy, but I can't seem to find her anywhere.

I'm sure she'll turn up eventually.

Maybe we can even track down that troll.