Tom Kha Soup

I told myself I would go back to making soup once the weather broke and lo and behold, earlier this week we had an extreme cold front that brought the high temperature down to about 82 degrees. It was a really good day. I wore a sweatshirt for a few minutes. The high today is 96. It's October 10th. My sweatshirt is back in its drawer.

Anyway, "try my hand at Tom Kha Soup" was one of my stated goals from the outset, which is funny because of three listed ingredients, I actively dislike two of them. Such is the incredible lure of a Thai-flavored broth, I guess? I had to specifically search for "Tom Kha shrimp" because it seems like the default version is chicken, which sounds much better to me. But, alas, we do not eat the chickens in Stardew Valley. We are pescatarians.

Middling reviews from the children. Thumbs slanted, faces iffy. It should be said that after giving her rating, Anna noted that she did not especially like the texture of the chicken, which makes sense given that there is no chicken in the soup and what she was eating was mushrooms. I guess if you ever want to trick a hardcore carnivore into eating this you can pretend that it's full of chicken and you are just bad at cooking it.

ASSESSMENT: It's just...so full of shrimp and mushrooms.

PROJECT STATUS: My back still hurts but I have learned to enjoy my time on the torture mat. It distracts me from the weather. No more soup until the high drops back under 90. 


Pancakes, Hashbrowns, Fried Egg, Complete Breakfast

There are a couple of factors weighing heavily on all of my decision-making this week, and they are as follows: 1) I am solo parenting, and 2) three days ago I pinched a nerve in my lower back and I am finding it excruciating to walk, stand, sit, lie down, exist in this be-curs├ęd corporeal form, etc. You would think that my number one goal in recipe selection, therefore, would be "least amount of standing required to prepare," but no, it was in fact "least likely to cause anything in even the ballpark of whining from my children." My patience for whining, which is, on my best day, rather lower than one would hope after a decade of parenting, becomes absolutely non-existent in the face of complicating events.

And thus, Complete Breakfast...for dinner.

The beauty of this meal is that it incorporates three other Stardew recipes within it: Pancakes, Fried Egg, and Hashbrowns, which makes this pitiful attempt to placate my daughters the most productive output I've had in quite a while.

ASSESSMENT: This is the best batch of hashbrowns I have ever made, lending credence to the idea that all great art requires suffering, or perhaps that I have finally landed on a recipe that works for me.

PROJECT STATUS: Man. I don't know. My bottle of ibuprofen and this medieval torture device I bought on Amazon and I will have to get back to you on that.



When Alex and I were first conceiving ways to make this project more complicated than necessary, one of the ideas was to add some element to the "cookies" recipe to make it seem as though they had been pulled out of a trash can. In the game, you can dig around the garbage in town (don't get caught though, people uh...don't like that for some reason) and sometimes pull out useful things and there are often cookies next to Evelyn and George's house.  My personal theory is that Evelyn is such a masterful, perfectionist, Michelin-star-craving baker that many batches of perfectly good cookies end up in the bin. At least that's what I tell myself while gifting them to some other random townsperson. At any rate, I had been mulling over various things I could sugar-glue to a batch of chocolate chip cookies to give it an edible yet trashy sheen for several months when my 10-year-old came home from school and said "I want to make chocolate chip cookies." And letting her do that seemed a lot easier than, you know, whatever nonsense I was planning.

Since Anna was the one making the recipe this time, it didn't make sense to record her reaction to it.

ASSESSMENT: Chocolate chip cookies are a perfect food, and I feel very good indeed about having created a small human who can provide them for me.



Farmer's Lunch, Coleslaw

Things got very theme-y this week as I decided I was due for a Farmer's Lunch, having embarked on some Actual Gardening Out of Doors. I have to admit I wouldn't have thought to pair an omelet with a side of parsnips, but then I've never been a farmer before, have I?

Worth it just for the reminder that I can eat eggs midday anytime I feel like it

Anyway, I wasn't about to waste a +3 Farming buff on a day when I wasn't literally attempting to coax living things out of the ground, come on.

No reaction shot from the children, because they were enjoying non-farmer's lunches at school at the time, but let's see how my beautiful pea shoots feel about it:

No complaints

I also threw in some coleslaw this week, which as you may recall I kind of tried to make in July? Maybe? Anyway, I included all the listed ingredients this time, and also made some schnitzel, which I highly recommend!

Appraisals of the coleslaw were mixed, with Anna presenting a favorable rating with a face betraying a deep well of ambivalence, and Ivy giving it a so-so rating that she seems quite confident about. The schnitzel was enjoyed by all.

ASSESSMENT: I'm so excited to be a farmer now! Real salt of the earth type. I expect any day now someone will come to a diner and interview me about my political opinions.

PROJECT STATUS: Sowing, reaping, etc.


Ice Cream

Look, I think we allllll deserved a break after the snails, I'm not a monster. I'm just an anxious person with weird coping strategies. Clearly the people around me, many of whom are innocent elementary-aged children, were due for a Stardew recipe on the pleasant end of the spectrum. I, on the other hand, was in a mental space that required some culinary hair-shirting, and "ice cream" seemed like it provided the most baroque possible path to having a treat. It's also a fun way to celebrate the fact that summer will never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never end.


Since the only ingredients listed are milk and sugar, I had to decide what flavors would be represented by pink, green, and white ice cream all on one cone. I considered several combinations, some of which would have been amusingly unappealing, but finally landed on raspberry, lime, and vanilla. (I did goose the color of the lime ice cream with a couple drops of green food coloring.) 

And then. I made. The cones.

*Hold for applause*

ASSESSMENT: "It's hard to find someone who doesn't like this." My sample size was admittedly small, consisting of one husband, two children, and one mother-in-law, but as far as I can tell this is accurate. 

PROJECT STATUS: Going to go distribute these to the townspeople, finally make some friends



I would not characterize my children as especially picky eaters, but they do tend to be deeply skeptical eaters. Any dish that is set before them is met with concerned frowns and many, many questions: what is in this, what else is in this, what is that red thing, what are those green flecks, is that onion, is that sausage, is the black pepper spicy, etc. etc. It doesn't mean they won't then proceed to eat whatever concerning combination of ingredients I have given them, it just means that all meals have to run the gauntlet of inquiry first.


I say "I need you to try this Stardew recipe so I can take a picture of your reaction." In which case, they will just...do it? Without asking questions? Even if my follow-up sentence is "It's SNAILS" with absolutely no reassurances attached?


Although Ivy did hang back a little bit on this one to gauge her sister's experience first.

 ASSESSMENT: Snails are an inoffensive yet slightly expensive delivery system for a stick of butter and some garlic when you consider that those things could just be smeared on a baguette instead.

PROJECT STATUS: Probably going to start claiming that every meal is a Stardew recipe just to elide ingredient-suspicion going forward.



Please know that I made this pizza journey as difficult as I reasonably could, what with the handmade dough and two-hours-on-the-stove sauce and yet my child still does not consider it "from scratch" because I did not grow the tomatoes or...grind the flour and cure the cheese, I guess? So, there's my admission right up front, I bought the mozzarella the bag of flour at the grocery store like a lazy monster. If you can move beyond your sneering disgust for me and my modern decadence, please just look at the picture below and know that the pizza was delicious.

Even when it's bad it's good, so when it's not bad WOW just imagine

Even the Authenticity Disapprover thought so.

ASSESSMENT: Pizza is never bad, even if you did not personally harvest the salt used to season it from the sea with your bare hands. I know we're not even halfway through, but it's hard for me to believe that I will enjoy a Stardew description more than "It's popular for all the right reasons."

PROJECT STATUS: Slightly derailed, as the half-from-scratch pizza dough gave me the confidence to try making flour tortillas (pretty good) and embark on many, many days of trying to get a sourdough operation off the ground (nope). Mad respect for everyone successfully making sourdough out there, I believe you should be charging at least $100 a loaf. 


Blackberry Cobbler

It's so deeply August right now. Everything is brown and the air itself is actively hostile to human existence. It's the point in the year when I ask myself every day, why do I live here? Why has anyone ever lived here? Only armadillos should live here. The sun can't kill them through their little shell. I need a little shell. And then I curl into a ball on the couch and hiss at the sunlight streaming through the window, as is my tradition. A fruit cobbler really seemed like the only option this week.

And even that was pushing it, honestly. It's bad when you're straining to cobble something. Right, Merriam-Webster?

Anyway, Anna gave it a thumbs up.

Although, notice the barely-perceptible shift in her smile and thumb position as the tartness of the blackberries hits.

No reaction from Ivy because she did not have enough of her dinner to get dessert last night, but she did have enough astigmatism to get some sweet new glasses, so there's that.

ASSESSMENT: I believe "There's nothing quite like it" is the vaguest description in the Stardew arsenal, and it's...impossible to argue with? I guess there's nothing QUITE like it, but like...a lot of similar things. They're all good, though. Put sweet biscuit dough with fruit, what have you got to lose? Always going to be good.

PROJECT STATUS: *hisses until you close the blinds*



Spaghetti is one of the Stardew dishes so far to the positive side of both the Effort and How Much They Appeal to Me scales that I could not, in good blogging conscience, go forward without throwing several wrenches into the operation, and by wrenches I mean various pieces of a meat grinder/pasta plate attachment for my mixer that I have no idea how to use. That's right! Frrrrrrresh pasta, baby.

ATTEMPT #1: I made this Bon Appetit dough with the dough hook and the mixer and it was...I don't know. Too dry? Or hard? Or overworked? And/or/plus I had not figured out all the parts needed to make the pasta extruder actually extrude? Into the garbage it went.

ATTEMPT #2: I called in some backup and in the form of Ivy and decided to make a hand-mixed dough with a higher egg-to-flour ratio. That dough worked! It went through the extruder!

It also...had a bunch of gray flecks and spots on it. Apparently my cursory rinse of equipment that I had not used in maybe ten years was not sufficient to actually clean it. Who knew? GARBAGE TIME.

ATTEMPT #3: Called in even more backup.


What's that? What recipe did I use for the tomato sauce? Since I went to all the trouble of making three batches of fresh pasta and it's tomato season and obviously making a sauce is a lot easier? Mmm yes well I already had an open jar of pasta sauce in the fridge and in this battle the home economist side of my brain beat out the deranged blogging side. For once.

ASSESSMENT: Man, a package of dried spaghetti costs like 89 cents and is pretty good. I dunno.

PROJECT STATUS: Slowly extruding

BONUS INSTANCE OF HAVING SOME FEELINGS THIS MORNING: When the girls were really little and people would talk about how sad they were that their babies were getting older or that they missed having babies or worse tell me how lucky I was to spend every waking second with my baby/toddler as I looked back at them with dead eyes and contemplated walking into the soothing embrace of the sea, I was extremely confused by this sentiment! Why wouldn't you want babies to get older? Like, as quickly as possible? They're so miserably, despairingly, unceasingly difficult!

But now, my babies have gotten older, to the point that we embarked on our last year as an all-elementary-school household this morning, and they are not miserably, despairingly difficult anymore. Sometimes they help out with pasta, even! And I realized that I feel...an undercurrent of low-key sadness all the time because they won't always be seven and ten and helping me out with the pasta. So what I'm saying is, I will never fully understand you, but I see you, baby people (???) and toddler people (????????????????????????????????????????????), I get it now.

Parenting: an exciting adventure in shifting unhappinesses