Dinner Diaries: April 2, 2021

Vietnamese chicken skewers

Some of our favorite meals recently:

  • Marinated and broiled chicken skewers with rice noodles and quick-pickled vegetables
  • Falafel with hummus and vegetables
  • Breakfast tacos
  • Cheeseburger macaroni
  • Halloumi and eggs with pita bread
  • Shrimp and vegetable pilaf

There have been some major flops that the boys didn’t eat at all, like a roasted vegetable salad with feta cheese and a chicken curry that turned out much too spicy for them to eat. Overall, it’s been a lot of fun cooking together and planning dinners that the kids can help make.

My father-in-law is arriving mid-April to help us take care of the kids while my mother returns to Florida. My parents will be visiting together later in the summer, which I’m really excited about. And the boys return to daycare in June. It feels like so much activity after an entire year of…same-ness.

Spring in Dallas is gorgeous. Primroses are blooming everywhere, our canna lilies are coming up in huge clusters, and I’ve planted serrano peppers, basil, tomatoes, watermelons, hibiscus, hydrangea, azalea, and a bunch of elephant ear and calladium bulbs. If we’re lucky, the yard will be looking extra gorgeous in a couple of months.

Dinner Diaries: March 8, 2021

Bread for the bread-obsessed kids.

Our weekend routine now involves making loaves of bread. I’ve been using this really easy recipe that makes two loaves, and they turn out perfectly every time. My kids can power through both loaves in 48 hours if they’re not rationed.

The past two weeks were good dinner weeks. One of my favorites was when I made shwarma marinated chicken roasted with chickpeas and onions, and stuffed it into pitas with yogurt, feta cheese, and cucumber. I also made Ina Garten’s Israeli couscous salad with tuna, a red pepper pesto pasta dish, and Madhur Jaffrey red lentils. Now it’s Alex’s turn and I’m looking forward to marinated shrimp, Vietnamese chicken skewers, and arepas with cheese and plantains.

News has seemed especially gloomy to me lately. I hope we reach some kind of pandemic turning point soon, because the tedium is real. At the same time, my own family will reach a turning point regardless in June, when the kids go back to preschool. It’s exciting, but it will also be scary if we still haven’t been vaccinated by then. If we have, things will “go back to normal” for us, although probably a normal without indoor dining, dates at bars, unnecessary shopping trips, etc. The kids’ social circle will be confined to their preschool friends, and I imagine we’ll either still not socialize in person, or only socialize with other fully vaccinated adults (assuming we’re in that category by then).

Most of all, I’m tired of thinking about all of this. I want this layer of concern removed. I now understand why people get “pandemic burnout” and stop trying to protect themselves. It’s just like compassion fatigue! There’s only so much you can care.

On a positive note, things here remain okay. Lots of outdoor time. Lots of cooking projects. Lots of yard work. It’s almost spring, and soon we’ll be able to see which plants were killed in The Big Freeze and which will be back.

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.