Meal plan: May 23-28

Image link from 101 Cookbooks

Image linked from 101 Cookbooks.

Monday: Sea Salt baked potatoes, probably with some shaved Parmesan and maybe some prosciutto tossed into that arugula salad. Arugula from Johnson’s Backyard Garden.
Tuesday: Antipasto pasta salad, perhaps eaten before or after a trip to the pool
Wednesday: fish tacos
Thursday: Dinner at Uchiko for Mom & Dad, fish sticks and mac & cheese for the kids (by their request)
Friday: Italian chicken wraps. I plan to use these wraps.
Saturday: Dinner at Arancini with the Strokes and the Skywestern Crazy Billionaires

Baked Sunday Mornings: Cowboy Cookies

It’s been a while since I participated in the Baked Sunday Mornings project. I fully intended to make the tomato soup cupcakes two weeks ago, but Mother’s Day intervened. I didn’t do the crumb cake because that was Easter weekend and we were so busy hosting our annual Easter egg hunt and doing Easter activities that there was no time to bake and blog about it. But here we are on Cowboy Cookies week and there was no way I was going to skip this one!

As promised, these cookies are quite tasty. They are somewhat reminiscent of the monster cookies from Baked in that they have the oatmeal chocolate-chip base with extra yummy stuff added (the monster cookies also call for m&m’s and peanut butter). I kind of fudged the instructions with the pretzels because I found it annoying to fuss with them after scooping out the dough. I also had a problem with the cook time for these; I let the first two dozen cook for 13 minutes and they were undercooked when I took them out. I let them cool for 10 minutes on the cookie sheets and they had done that thing that undercooked cookies do — they got kind of gummy in the center. I let the second two dozen cook for about 15 minutes and they were also a bit undercooked, but a bit better as regards the gummy center.

I sneaked a half-cup of whole-wheat pastry flour into the batter to ease my conscience. I also deeply regret allowing my kids (especially the Big Kid) eat a couple of these cookies because even though that teaspoon of espresso powder was spread out over four dozen cookies, I suspect it was the culprit in turning my kids into vibrating perpetual motion spazz machines yesterday.

Click on over here to see the recipe and others’ writeups of the cowboy cookies!

Strawberries three ways

Much of my childhood is pretty hazy, but I do remember really loving going to my Great Aunt Edna’s house in the spring and raiding the strawberry plants in her back yard. My cousins and I would pick as many as we could, snitching unwashed berries while we picked, then taking what remained of our spoils back into her house for a dish of fresh strawberries with cream poured over them.

I think I had forgotten what insanely fresh strawberries tasted like into my adulthood, growing accustomed over time to grocery store berries. I remember getting some strawberries out of season, probably imported from Chile or something, and thinking that they didn’t taste like strawberries. In fact, they didn’t really taste like anything. It was very disappointing and a stark reminder that I just really, really need to always buy produce in season, preferably from local purveyors, because nothing beats the simple pleasure of a strawberry that wakes up your taste buds with the intensity of its strawberry-ness. All politics about sustainability and the like aside, eating local, in-season fruits and vegetables is an unparalleled pleasure.

To that end, back on Good Friday, I canceled my class and took the kids out to Sweet Berry Farm to pick strawberries. We discovered Sweet Berry a few years ago, probably through the Mama Mafia, and have gone once or twice in previous years. We have never really picked very much while there, mostly because the last time we were there, the Big Kid was still pretty small and the pleasures of picking strawberries was pretty much lost on him.

But this time, we were primed and ready! Big and Little Kids attacked the berry plants with gusto, moreso when our friends I and C (and their parents) arrived. The Little Kid wasn’t too excited about the fact that the rows were fairly muddy, which made things a little slippery (and dirty), but we did our best to find the driest rows possible. We picked and picked and picked and picked — I had a hard time stopping because every time I thought to myself, okay, this is the last one, I’d see another perfectly ripe and plump gem a few feet away, calling out to be plucked.

We filled two boxes (I and C’s family filled three!), to the tune of nearly $30 (10 pounds of strawberries x $2.75/pound!). I had strictly budgeted $20 for berries, so I had to borrow $10 from our friends (and I’m reminded that I have, to date, neglected to repay that $10! Whoops!) to cover the rest of the bill.

We fed the goats, took some pictures, picked up some pie at the Blue Bonnet, ate lunch, then headed home. I had the daunting task of hulling those 10 pounds and figuring out what to do with the darn things, and in a hurry. Berries as ripe as the ones we picked had about a 2-day window before going to mush.

I started out with an embarrassingly easy freezer jam, the supplies for which I picked up at HEB for a measly $5 (freezer jars and a packet of Ball freezer jam pectin). A friend of mine had gifted me with a jar of her freezer jam a couple of years ago and I had always wanted to make more. So I did. And that knocked out four cups of the 10 pounds. This jam is really delicious and simple: it captures the sweetness of the fresh berries without sacrificing their inherent tartness. It goes well on bagels, but might be a little runny for a pb&j. I really like to spoon a couple of tablespoons of it over some reduced-fat Greek yogurt for breakfast.

Next, I made a dessert for Easter dinner at my folks. I had seen this recipe on Facebook via my friend Jillian last summer and made it for the family fourth of July barbecue. It was a HUGE hit — people were taking seconds and thirds even after stuffing themselves on burgers and the like — so I decided to make it again.

It doesn’t look very pretty, but believe me: this icebox cake is DELICIOUS and crazy easy. You can even lighten it up by using reduced fat graham crackers and light Cool Whip, depending on your feelings about processed foods. I did compromise and use Honey Maid graham crackers, but I made the whipped cream and the chocolate ganache from scratch.

Finally, because the Big Kid got really excited by the prospect of strawberry ice cream, I used a couple of cups of the berries for that. I used a French Vanilla base, the recipe for which came in the booklet accompanying my KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment; you add the cut-up berries in the last few minutes of freezing. I thought it was delicious, but Big Kid rejected it, saying it was “too lumpy.” (The lumps being the strawberries.) Sigh.

Fortunately, the ice cream did not go to waste. I took it this past week to a house party (hosted by Stephanie and Megan) celebrating the release of Kate’s book. Kate had brought a DELICIOUS rhubarb crisp to the party, and the ice cream paired with it beautifully. In fact, I may need to use the remaining four or so cups of berries (currently languishing in the freezer) to replicate that blissful pairing (or I might just make a strawberry-rhubarb crisp, if I can find some rhubarb at the farmers market this morning).

Meal plan, May 15-21

Oh hey! Here’s a meal plan for the first time in months! I’ve been remiss in blogging, yes, and in making a weekly meal plan. This has led to many impromptu, less-than-balanced meals, many shortcuts, and just a general sense of chaos. I just completed my first three weeks of a temporary full-time copyediting job that lasts through the end of June, which means that I’ve spent the past three weeks juggling the end of the semester (tonight = paper grading marathon!) with working full time, trying to squeeze in workouts, and trying to live life. I’ve missed having the sense of order that having a plan provides. I also miss having a proper family meal.

Sunday: Richardson Farms sausage, crispy potato roast, steamed broccoli, watermelon
Monday: black bean tostadas with portabellos
Tuesday: pork tenderloin, mac and cheese (with whole wheat pasta), salad with greens from Tecolote Farms
Wednesday: baked chicken, rice, carrots (or maybe leftovers)
Thursday: crockpot short ribs, whole wheat fettucine from Pasta & Co., salad
Friday: tilapia, potatoes, broccoli
Saturday: dinner out

Shameless self-promotion

While I continue to plot a post on our mega-strawberry-picking excursion, please allow me to take a moment to point you to a guest post I did at Celebrity Gossip, Academic Style. It’s a little sneak peek at Chapter 1 of my dissertation, and it involves my Internet bête noire, the Pioneer Woman.

Franklin BBQ is a class issue

I’ve been thinking about barbecue for a long time now. Not only because I worked at the Salt Lick in high school, but also because of my participation in this project. That book contains an essay by me called “The Feminine Mesquite,” in which I consider the feminist implications of barbecue (there are some! Trust me!). What Republic of Barbecue taught me is that barbecue really is the intersection of so many different cultural phenomena, from feminism to globalization to environmentalism.

My point is this: Once you start thinking critically about barbecue, it’s hard to stop.

Let me put this out there: I love Franklin BBQ. I think their brisket is the best I’ve had in the state of Texas (and I don’t eat brisket anywhere else). The pulled pork sandwich is to die for. The sauces are creative and bold, and I think that Aaron Franklin is, simply put, a genius. He started out in a small caravan next to a canoe shop on the 38th street access road about 18 months ago, and was an instant hit. Despite having posted hours of 11-4 Weds-Sun, if you got there at 1, you were slap outta luck on getting lunch. He recently moved into the space formerly occupied by the beloved Ben’s Long Branch, but that has done nothing to mitigate the crowds. Basically, if you want to eat at Franklin, you have to commit to queuing up long before the doors open at 11am.

Which is why I was deeply amused when I saw this making the rounds a couple of weeks ago:

And then it struck me: Franklin BBQ is a class issue. If you want to eat at Franklin, you have to have access to the time to go stand in line of a Thursday morning, perhaps even as early as 10am, waiting for the start of business, then wait in line while Aaron serves everyone (he makes sure to make eye contact and chat with every customer, which is charming when it’s your turn, but frustrating when you’re melting in the Texas heat at the back of the queue!) until it’s your time to order. Then you eat (or take it away, but it’s best eaten fresh and hot) and go about your business. You’ve just spent two hours on a half-pound of brisket or a pulled-pork sandwich in the middle of a workday.

They were open on Easter this year and Matt was meant to head down there while I took the kids to church so that we could supplement the big family dinner with some brisket, which my dad loves. I was dismayed when I called Matt a little after 11 on Easter Sunday and he was EN ROUTE to Franklin, rather than already having arrived and lined up. I knew there would be no brisket, and I was right: when he got there, he saw that the line snaked out the door and around the building. He didn’t even stop the car.

So. What’s my point? I’m not sure. It’s late and I’m tired. But I do know that barbecue is a humble food of humble origins, and I think it’s ironic that something so simple and humble, and, dare I say, working class, is pretty much out of reach for those who work in jobs that don’t allow for a cushy two-hour dawdle over smoked meat. Which is probably also why it’s that much more impossible on the weekends.