Dinner Diaries: February 11, 2021

A successful challah.

Last weekend I made another challah, this time using the New York Times recipe and a mix of half all-purpose and half bread flour. It was so good! Perfect texture and flavor. The only issue was that I did a four-strand braid and the sections were too thick, so I’ll try the traditional six-strand braid next time.

It has been very cold here this week–unusually cold–and on Monday the temperature is going to dip to about 0. The high that day will only be 12! And it’s likely to snow. I’ve brought in all of our potted plants, and we’ve been dripping the faucets at night. The bird bath is frozen solid.

Although I like cold weather, but this is really frigid and wet and gray, and it’s making the week drag by very slowly. We had this weather in Utah for sure, but the snow made it look and feel much nicer. I picked up fire logs and Negroni ingredients for the weekend, but it feels like Friday evening is still days away.

Our dinner adventures are still going well. Tonight is broccoli, potato, and cheddar cheese soup with toast. Earlier in the week we had yakisoba noodles with greens and chicken, breakfast tacos, and black beans and rice with plantains. Tomorrow night we’re getting takeout, some sort of seafood–I really want po’ boys or fried shrimp platters or something like that.

I think that the COVID-19 monotony is getting to me again. I’ve gone through phases of feeling totally fine, and feeling bored out of my mind, and feeling desperate for this mess to “be over,” and feeling perfectly cozy with my family at home. In the peaks and troughs, this week is definitely a trough.

Dinner Diaries: January 28, 2020

This week has been different because we changed our evening routine: we’ve started eating dinner as a family. This was something we had planned to start when our kids’ bedtimes got a bit later, but after a pediatrician appointment where we realized that most kids go to bed pretty early through much of elementary school, we figured we should start now.

Salmon fishcakes with cucumber salad, peas, and remoulade.

The challenge is getting dinner prepared by 6pm(ish) so that the boys can still be in bed by 7:30pm after baths, reading, and other evening activities.

Other than that, it’s been great. I’m less grumpy in the evenings because I’m not hungry for hours before an 8pm dinner, and I’m not rushing through bedtime so that I can start cooking. The kids eat surprisingly well, and they’re trying pretty much anything we put on their plate. It’s much better for them not to have “kid food” so frequently, and it means we have to buy less stuff from the store. My husband and I also have a lot more time available in the evenings, because by the time the kids are in bed around 7:15pm or 7:30pm, we’re done. All we need to do is clean the kitchen a bit, and then we have the entire evening free. I’ve been doing a lot more reading, and my husband has practiced music a bit.

Thanks to some drama in my extended family, this week has been a bit of a drag. I’m looking forward to enjoying some Indian takeout and fresh beers on Friday night, and watching the boys play in the backyard all weekend.

Dinner Diaries: January 20, 2021

My first challah.

My husband cooked last week and again this week. We’ve had green shakshuka, zaatar chicken pitas, Singapore noodles, sweet potato tacos, and many more vegetarian meals. Tonight it’s vegetable paella, complete with bomba rice from Spain.

Over the weekend I attempted this challah. It looked, smelled, and tasted amazing, but the texture was incredibly dense. A friend told me that using at least 50% bread flour instead of 100% all-purpose can help the bread get a better rise, so that’s going to be part of my next attempt. Despite the texture, we finished the entire loaf in two days. Once toasted it was delicious.

My oldest child turned four last Sunday and requested takeout hamburgers for his dinner. We ordered from Rodeo Goat and I had one of the best burgers of my life: their turkey patty with tomato, onion, hydroponic sprouts, cranberry Boursin, and grilled jalapeños. Easily the best non-beef burger I’ve ever tasted.

One of my favorite parts of being the kitchen cleaner rather than the cook for a week or two is that I get to sit on the couch watching TV while my husband makes dinner, from around 7pm to 8pm. It gives me a chance to catch up on Coronation Street, the only current show I watch. I never thought I would be a “soap” person, but I only had to watch one episode to become totally hooked on this insane drama. It’s even more insane than you think if you delve into CorriePedia and figure out what happened to all of the characters before you “met” them.

Dinner Diaries: January 6, 2021

A renewed effort to get writing again. It seems like a good idea to tie it together with the one thing I always feel like writing about: food.

As it always does, January brings with it an inevitable effort to exercise more, eat better, and drink less. This year’s iteration on the theme includes preparing only vegetarian meals every other week, drinking alcohol only on weekends, and continued use of the exercise bike. I don’t have trouble with exercise, but resisting overindulgence in food and drink is much more difficult.

I’m sorry to say that I’ve downloaded the Peloton app–free for two months–and I’ve really been enjoying it. The RPMs are much more realistic for me than they are in videos from GCN, and the music is great. So yeah, I’m BASIC.

Alex and I trade sets of weeks as far as dinner-making: I do two weeks (one vegetarian and one not), and then he does two weeks. Last week my best menu item was this salad:

  • roasted cauliflower
  • sliced endives
  • kidney beans
  • sliced red onion
  • toasted walnuts
  • artichoke hearts
  • feta cheese
  • vinaigrette
  • parsley

A great combination served warm, inspired by this similar salad from Smitten Kitchen. This was the first time I included endive in any version I’ve made, and I’ll definitely buy them every time from now on. At Central Market they’re sold by weight, so two pretty large ones were barely $1, and they have a unique texture that adds a lot to this salad.

Last night was traditional shrimp & grits, and tonight I’ll be making this Ottolenghi salad, but with dates and feta cheese instead of figs and goat’s cheese. I’m crossing my fingers that the sweet potatoes I bought are decent, because if you get mealy ones, the salad is ruined.

Despite the bike and Peloton app, I’ve actually been doing a lot more walking lately than I was, say, two months ago. I figure I should make my exercise seasonal, the way some people can their eating, and do it outdoors as much as possible before the Texas summer heat is back.

Life Update, November 2020

Although it feels like the rest of Texas has “gone back to normal” in the past couple of months, we have not. I continue to work from home. My husband teaches only half of his classes in-person, and those are reduced, distanced, and masked. All performances are outdoor. Our children won’t be going back to childcare until May or June 2021–we’re lucky enough to have family to help us, and lucky enough to have kids too small for school.

It’s very difficult. Everyone is bored, everyone longs to socialize, everyone conversely longs for time when they aren’t with other people. The paradox of the pandemic, for us, is that although we’re isolated socially, we’re always with family, and that wears on you in its own way.

There was a lot of backyard water play in the summer. Halloween was actually fantastic–our neighborhood did a great job of making it safe and fun. Thanksgiving, which is tomorrow, should be nice. My father drove here from Florida after isolating for over a week (he is quite isolated anyway, but he didn’t even go on his usual weekend bike ride with his best friend). My father and brother will be here for Christmas, all without flying.

I’ve thought a lot over the past several months about how lucky we are to be financially well-off, to have a nice house with a safe yard, to live in a safe and beautiful neighborhood, to have our own transportation. All of that has enabled us not only to stay safe, but to stay relatively happy.

Now I’m going to move on to some more trivial things: what I’ve been doing for entertainment when I’m not working, parenting, or sleeping.

Doing

A few weeks ago now, I bought an exercise bike (no, not the ubiquitous Peloton). We aren’t returning to OrangeTheory any time soon, and running so regularly was starting to affect my knees. Both of my parents have had knee surgery, so I decided to back off and do what my dad did: start spinning.

I love the bike. I do a Global Cycling Network workout 5-6 days per week, weight training 1 day per week, and take 1 day off to just walk or do nothing. No knee pain and I find it easier to push myself on the bike than while running.

Watching

I’ve watched a lot of “comfort TV” recently, which for me means British detective shows like Midsomer Murders, Morse, and Cracker. But I’ve also got into Coronation Street, an excellent British soap that updates in almost real time on BritBox. Highly recommended for some engaging but easy-to-watch TV.

Because my oldest son is obsessed with bikes, we started watching the Tour de France when it began in August, and this has evolved into a near-daily habit of watching cycling. Because of the pandemic, the season was heavily condensed, so for the past few months there has nearly always been an event to watch in the mornings, or to catch up on the following morning. To my surprise, I’ve become very invested in cycling and have been following it very closely. I’ve always loved watching the Tour–since 2010 when I worked at a bike shop–but this is the first year I’ve really followed all of the road events.

Reading

In that same vein, I’ve been reading cycling books. First The Secret Race, then The First Tour de France, then Slaying the Badger, and now The Beautiful Race. All great.

I also finally read Portnoy’s Complaint.

Listening

Cycling podcasts. Food podcasts. True crime podcasts. And I’ve been rediscovering a lot of older Bob Dylan albums after listening obsessively to Rough & Rowdy Ways for a while.