Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Food Forts and Other Fun

JP's headlights just flashed up the driveway, home from his first "fight knight" at the Krav Maga studio since he took his summer break. He broke two fingers quite badly during a Spring fight night, and they are still quite broken, so I didn't understand why on earth he needed to go play fight, kick, and block people when he still can't get his wedding ring over his crushed knuckle, but I would also never in one thousand years sign up for something like Krav Maga and look forward to each class like Christmas morning. So, to each his own, though if he breaks any more bones or more permanently hurts his already crushed fingers I swear I'm canceling his membership, but the point of this little interlude is that it must be after 9:30 p.m. and we've both promised each other we'll go to bed before 11 tonight, so I need to write quickly. 6:15 barre class is only a few hours away!

bedtime story selfie

This past weekend was lovely- both our use of it and the days themselves. It was in the 60's. The 60's! In mid-September in Texas! I wore leggings and a tank and a drapey long top with riding boots and it was so glorious I wore the exact same outfit on day 2. I bought the season's first candy corn- bringing the one and only food I CANNOT control myself around into the house and then immediately failed to control myself around it. I made two loaves of pumpkin bread. I made the greatest beef stew ever (more below). I got to dress the kids in their shiny new unstained fall clothing. Claire and Cora wore matching shirts (Cora with purple polka dot skinny jeans!) and everyone was delighted. Claire took full advantage of all the accessorizing cold weather allows and dug out many outfit add-ons from last year's clothing bins.

The kids made a gigantic fort. We took multiple family walks, including one audacious one in the MIDDLE of the afternoon just because it was only 72 degrees. I'm smiling just thinking about it. It's like Fort Worth knew I was missing Chicago.

But on to the food. I made the most amazing beef stew. I have made many a beef stew- we don't eat a lot of beef and when we do it is always in ground beef or stew meat form; it's cheap and versatile and goes a long way. (Side note: when I write things like that I can tell that I started cooking "real" dinners when we were in Chicago and lived on 1/5 of what we do now; I still think of chicken breasts as a once a week treat.) So I've made many stews, but this recipe from Jacques Pepin resulted in by far the best finished product- tender, falling apart bits of meat, vegetables that weren't mushy or overcooked and still retained some of their own flavor thanks to the brilliant idea of cooking them separately, and the braising liquid, oh my lord, the rich, thick, flavor filled gravy at the end... the best way to capture it is to note that JP and I both scraped every little bit of it out of our bowls and the kids' bowls and then I found him licking the dutch oven I cooked it in as if it were a bowl of brownie batter.

So now that I've built it way up too much, the recipe is below. I must admit I doubted the full bottle of red wine called for in the recipe, concerned that the meat would boil rather than braise, but as JP and I fought over every last teaspoon of liquid at the end, I regretted reserving that last half-cup, so don't be like me. Don't doubt Jacques Pepin or his mother, dump in the whole bottle. I also skipped the pancetta step because I didn't have any and JP frowns in the face of bacon, but I'm sure it makes everything even more delicious. This week's menu:

Saturday: Beef Stew in Red Wine, mashed potatoes (to soak up the wine), country wheat bread, glass of red wine, candy corn. You need all of these things.

Sunday: Black bean and spinach enchiladas, cilantro lime rice (couple cups jasmine rice, the rest of the bunch of cilantro that I didn't use in the enchiladas, juice of 1.5 limes leftover from my margarita-filled girls weekend, dash of cumin, salt, pepper, garlic). SO GOOD. I freaking love that enchilada recipe.

Monday: Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice soup, crusty wheat bread, sliced sharp cheddar cheese.

Tuesday: Penne with Vodka Cream Sauce (use less chicken broth and/or simmer it longer than the recipe suggests), garlic bread.

Wednesday: Mexican Quinoa Salad, tortilla chips, salsa.

Thursday: Corn dog bites, as sampled at Trader Joe's on Sunday and so delicious and magical, I actually put hot dogs on our dinner menu for the first time maybe ever. According to the sample person, you slice up a few nice Kosher hot dogs, place them in mini muffin tins, top them with corn bread batter, and bake for 15 minutes. Maybe I was just hungry at the time, but they were delicious. There will be sides too, probably a vegetable and then something else starchy and terrible like baked beans or mac and cheese. We're already having hot dogs, so a blue box seems right. And beer. It's going to be great.

Friday: At my parents' lake house, so something I didn't cook, though I am bringing pumpkin bread, brownies, and maybe this too (schedule permitting) along for the ride.

The fort making has continued. I believe it is now a small apartment complex.

There are multiple rooms, pets, babies, and flashlight lamps involved.

Tonight I let Landon read his bedtime book to Claire in there and it was adorable. I did find a rather disturbing image of the baby and all the animals in some sort of jail cell, but the kids assured me it was just a pet shop and the baby worked there and they were all VERY happy there.

As long as Cora doesn't end up in there the first time she exuberantly attacks their fort, I suppose I'll buy the "pet shop" story.

And now I'm just sliding in under my 11 p.m. bedtime deadline. JP is home safe and unbroken, though exhausted because a marine took over their class tonight and there was a lot of long and complicated boot camp like drills going on between the sparring and I kind of stopped paying attention because it all sounded awful, but he was wearing a huge grin along with his sweat and bruises, so I suppose he had a good time. I head to my nice calm barre class in the morning where no one will touch me and I'll move up and down to the stylings of all my new favorite songs. To each his own (but my workout is better). Night all! And go make some beef stew! (Or black bean enchiladas, if you're a non meat-eater, and even if you are a meat eater, you should also make the enchiladas, and then you should have some candy corn.)


  1. Long time reader and also mama lawyer (although across the nation in MT) - I love Claire's boots in these pictures and my almost 5 year old would love a pair. Where did you find them?

    1. I got them at Target! I forget what they're called, but they were in our store and also online. Cora has a coordinating pink pair too :). I'll warn you that I can't vouch for the quality- Claire has already rubbed some of the pink off the top of hers after only a few wears, but I can't say if that's a Claire thing or a boot-quality thing. For $17, it's likely a combination of both ;).

    2. Thanks, I'm going to take a look at Target! We've had Old Navy ones for years, but they no longer make her size. The color rubbed off the toes easily, but the rest of the boot generally held up well for daily wear and playing hard. And, for $17, I'm not too concerned -- I just want something she'll put on the morning without a battle, and now that the cooler weather is coming, Crocs aren't going to cut it much longer!

  2. That beef stew looks amazing. I will try it (with a pressure cooker because I can't imagine doing the oven thing- I am not an oven person).